Saturday, December 27, 2008

Wo is Us? Wo are We?

There's some serious sadness going on in our house right now, let me tell you. We were supposed to go to Washington to spend the week between Christmas and New Year's with my sister and her family. (Don't tell any of the other cousins, but these are kind of the favorites.) We packed carefully, even filling the cooler with sandwiches and drinks, carrots and grapes. We had a bag of croutons to keep Dad happy driving many hours, and then the storm hit. We live in the mountains, and we expect snow in the winter. But this wasn't about snow. This was ice, wind, gusty drifts, and major yuckiness.

And a closed freeway.

The one to use between here and there.

Oh, the sadness. Whining, moaning, crying, grumbling, sniffling, slumping, and that was before I told the kids.

We watched every weather and traffic camera across each state beween our house and theirs. Each one said said, "You'd probably be idiots to make this drive." Except the ones on the closed freeway. They just shook their heads and laughed at us.

So we did what any normal family would do. We took the kids who were wallowing less deeply and went snowshoeing. Then we all drowned our sorrows in "Bedtime Stories" and buttered popcorn. We even snuck our stocking candy into the theater - a crime I am generally opposed to. It didn't take. Everyone laughed at the movie, but we were all pretty boneless as we slouched out of the theater.

And now I have a week of sad kids and an antsy husband on my hands. And I'm usually the one who can't wait for days together. I love the holidays from school. Any excuse for a vacation day is a good excuse for me.

But this time we're all so depressed.


Monday, December 22, 2008


My girls just answered the door (a neighbor bringing Christmas goodies) and hauled in a small box.

"Mom, it's for you."

Funny. I didn't order anything lately. All my Amazon purchases arrived weeks ago.

"Here. It's really heavy. You carry it."

It had a postmark. From Salt Lake City. Specifically, from Deseret Book. Now I KNOW I didn't order this. And it is heavy, for a 12-inch cube. It has grandma tape on it, the kind with threads running through the tape so nobody can sneak a peek at your stuff. I fingered the tape as my oldest glanced at the side.

Where it said the words "Bright" and "Blue" and "Miracle."

Naturally there were no scissors to be found in the kitchen, so she tossed me some nail clippers with the file/cleaner thingie pulled out. I sliced open the box and pulled out the first copies of MY VERY OWN BOOK.

Let's just take a second to let that all sink in.

I'll wait till you're ready.

(seriously, I'm just sitting here at the computer, feeling a little giddy, but mostly just GLAD, and waiting for you to gasp with delight, or at least nod your head in agreeability)

Here are my first reactions:

The books are cold.
And small.
And paperback.
And pretty.
And mine.


Wow, huh? I mean, big, big wow.

I'm anticipating that you are all thrilled with me, so thanks.

Bright Blue Miracle, by Becca Wilhite. How fun is that?

And wow. Big Wow.

An Angel in Hip Waders

It snowed more than a foot in Heber today. That's plenty of snow, people. And I get to shovel it. Because I'm the wife that wants my husband to come home, dreading the long, long driveway only to discover that, by some miracle, he can actually move from the street into the garage.

So I go out. I start pushing. And hauling. And sweating.


And then, maybe just a little swearing.

Then more pushing and tossing. After about a half hour, I'd carved a pair of skinny, crooked paths from the garage into the street, and cleaned the walkway. I was just looking from the street back to the distant end of the driveway, tears of despair threatening, when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a Polaris quad pulling into my neighbor's driveway.

"Hey, how nice of the snowplow guy to block you in like that," called the ridiculously cheerful man in the quad. I laughed and waved, and he hollered, "Give me a minute to clear these guys out, and I'll come finish your job."

I almost cried. Really. My back was aching, and I had at least twice more to do than I'd managed so far. So I really started to put my guts into it. I shoveled and chucked snow in every direction. (Not really. I'm pretty careful. The driveway gets frightfully skinny throughout the winter if I'm not. So I pushed snow carefully where it belonged.) He finished up the Mortensens' drive and actually asked if it was okay with me if he pushed all the snow into the yard. Was he kidding? The kids would love a huge wall of snow to hike/jump/tunnel around. So in the time it took me to clear the garage floor under Scott's car, he pushed huge amounts of snow from the long driveway to the basketball standard. He worked so fast, I had very little time to think. I asked his name, and he told me Clayne. A friend of Cody's, apparently, but not one I'd ever seen in the neighborhood before. I thanked him as sincerely as I could and wished him a merry Christmas. Maybe he was one of Santa's elves. Maybe he was a Christmas Spirit, ala Mr. Dickens, like the Ghost of Driveways Present. Or maybe he was an angel sent straight from God. An angel in hip waders and a cowboy mustache.

I thought about checking into his details, maybe finding a way to repay him for his efforts, but I really rather like the thought that I will never know this guy's human details. Let him remain my mysterious knight in a shining 4-wheeler, spreading cheer and snow through the neighborhoods of Heber.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It's Christmas Program Time

They still call it that, here. The Second Grade Christmas Program. Forty minutes of singing-and-swinging delight. Even costumes, for heaven's sake. Scott worked at home this morning so he could go witness Ellie's glorious performance (among the crowd). Did I mention that I've already seen it twice this year, not to mention the times I saw it in 2003 and 2005? Well I have. And it's just fine. Lovely, even. Because I had a tiny epiphany this morning. Here, I'll share it with you.

Nobody really goes to these programs to watch the program.

We go so our Ellies and our Jordans and our Kelseys and our Tanners see us watching them. Our Sams and our Evans and our Ashleys and our Haydens get all kinds of kicks out of our presence. The love to see us watching. And they learn to believe that they are worth our time, even the time we usually spend doing other (productive) things.

(Or taking a nap.)

We go and sit on the edge of our frozen folding chair, making eye contact and waving covertly so our sweeties will remember that once we were there. It may never be written on anyone's tombstone "Here lies my Mother. She came to all seventeen performances of the Third Grade Musical Revue."

But it will be written in someone's heart.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Out with the Tooth

Disclaimer: Yes, I do recognize that I have other children. However, they spend all day in school, and only this smallest person is home with me through all these hours of every day.

So Matthew pulled out his very own first loose tooth last night. When he told me, about two weeks ago, that his tooth was loose, I thought, "I wonder who punched him in the face." His big sisters didn't lose teeth this young. In fact, Ellie's first didn't come out till the night before first grade. (Trauma=memory. She was sure she'd be the only first grader in the history of Elementary School with all her original teeth.) But every day since, he's asked, "Remember that I have a loose tooth? Remember my tooth?" Yeah, pal. I remember.

I remember the day that tooth came in, amidst copious drool. I remember the huge eyes, staring at me adoringly from above those cheeks -- those cheeks that beg fir nibbles. I remember your first steps at Disneyland, heavily assisted by us, many months before you were ready to actually walk on your own. I remember Bearnard, the only thing you really wanted for Christmas when you were three. His squishy arms covered in orangey-brown faux fur wrap you up in bed at night. I remember how you loved to walk to the mailbox with me to find kid-movies. I remember how it feels to have you sitting on my lap and reaching up behind your head to touch my face, or hug around my neck, all without disturbing the story-reading mojo.

I remember.

And I hope I'll always remember.

Monday, December 15, 2008

5 years ago right now...

Okay, don't worry. I am absolutely not going to get into dirty details over this. But five years ago right now I was working on having my fourth baby. As far as I know, my last baby.

Okay, maybe a couple of dirty details.

I had a CNM (that's a Certified Nurse Midwife) helping me have this baby. This I recommend. She was incredibly helpful, in the way that wise, understanding women who have been on both ends of the bed (if you know what I mean) can be. It's like having the best L&D nurse, who stays from the beginning to the end.

It hurt. A lot. It was the fastest and most intense of my deliveries. No epidural. (Go, Me!) and very little moaning. I love to give the impression of control (whether I have it or not).

And a boy baby.

I'd waited long for that. I love my girls, each of them. They are peaches, every one. And as much as I love and adore them, there is simply something different about The Boy. Maybe it's because I prayed him here. I did that. I told God, "I am very happy to do this again, provided this time you furnish a boy." He complied. And I'm still so glad.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I'm too tired for that

Today didn't have a red-letter beginning. Ellie and I occasionally butt heads about the morning routine, and today was, for some reason, especially difficult. I could try to convince you (and myself) that I gave all that "validating parenting" crap a shot, but who would I be kidding? I lost it and shouted. Which made me feel tired, right there at the start of my day. Which led to a little more shouting. Which of course led to everything getting worse, as I knew it would. (But the act of shouting did make me feel better for just a minute.)

When we both calmed down, I sought her out and we had a little talk. Mostly me. But she nodded a lot. We (I) decided we should have a new buzzword realting to actions and decisions. Here it is:

"I'm too _____ for that."

Then we practiced.

Me: If someone was teasing a kid in your class, and you thought about joining in, what could you tell yourself?

Her: I'm too kind for that.

Me: If you felt a temper fit coming on, what would you tell yourself?

Her: I'm too old for that.

Me: If someone offered you a cigarette, what could you say?

Her: I'm too smart for that.

Me: If you were having bad thoughts about yourself, what should you remind you?

Her: I'm too fabulous for that.

(Okay, that last one didn't get said, but it should have. I'll be sure to tell her when she gets home from school in about six more hours, and then she can practice it.)

And the point? I should be saying these things to myself everyday, too.

Should I sleep in front of the fire instead of writing my story? No, I'm too talented for that.

Do I fear giving a talk/lesson/lecture? I'm too funny for that.

Will I shout at my sweet little kids? I'm too gentle for that.

Can I say no to watching a friend's kid? I'm too gracious for that.

Will I tremble at the sight of empty fridge and cupboards? Heck no. I'm too resourceful for that.

Should I eat that entire bag full of dried mangoes before the girls get home from school? Um, maybe, because it's fruit.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas is Looming

I live in the Rocky Mountains, so by all accounts I should be digging out feet of snow by now. Not so much. I can still see the lawn. It did snow today, but not greatly at my house. I am not complaining about the lack of snow. I do not ski, and I can wait to go snowshoeing until February. But the snowless state is helping me forget that Christmas is, in fact, a mere seventeen days away.

Matthew has a birthday next week, so I get a regular "I will be five in ____ days" reminders, but that hasn't really helped me kick it into gear, giftwise.

Until today.

Here's the plan: This year, everyone gets the following -- something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read. Done. DONE!

Did I mention DONE?

When my world changes and I have more of a budget for things like Shameless Consumerism, I can still stick to this list. Because I want new flooring on the main level, and I need a vacation, and I can wear a great deal of clothing if I try (not to even mention things that sparkle), and I don't believe I can ever have enough to read. So it's a good idea, I think.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Hooray for You (not so much for Me)

I just finished reading a manuscript for a friend. It was good. Really good, like I feel attached to the characters and want them to live happily ever after on the living room couch reading stories and eating pizza. With my fine and dazzling proofreading skills, I can help my friend polish her story and ready it for submission. I, however, do not have anything ready for submission. Instead I have the following:

1. A story-ish group of words (not enough of which to make a book)
2. A great voice - a really adorable leading lady
3. A male lead that I would be in love with, were I in any position to love imaginary college freshmen
4. A promising beginning
5. A manuscript that is growing brittle from not being handled (this is metaphorical, I assure you - it's all in the computer)
6. A mounting sense of guilt, see above
7. A lack of "what is this story about" answers
8. A growing dread that I may be a person who will write meatless, fluffy romance novels
9. A pathological (as in non-rational) fear of working hard to finish this book
10. A facebook account, reason enough to put off anything constructive

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Burning Down The House

It's not like I have a cooking disaster every day. Or even weekly. Or monthly. Considering how much of my life is spent working in the kitchen, I'd say that I have a fairly good track record. Maybe like an A-. Or B+, at least at the moment.

Here's how it went down. I have a half-batch of cream cheese frosting in the fridge. That won't always be true. So I figured I'd use it. I have this cookie recipe (total girl cookies, Scott won't touch them) called melt-aways, which are butter heavy and frosted with cream-cheese frosting. So I whipped up a batch, but the dough was way crumbly -- not even clinging together enough to make a ball. So I added some more butter, and it whipped up all gorgeous. I rolled out 72 tiny tea-cookie balls and baked at 350 for 10 minutes. Then I looked.

Oh, my.

Not so much "cookies" going on here. More like a sideless pan of white dough swimming in butter.

Remember the "sideless" part? Yeah. So there's butter rolling off the pan, and dough sliding off to join it, and my oven is starting to stink like burnt sugar and a great deal of butter.

So I pull the pan out, switch off the oven, and hit the Clean cycle. If you have never done this, you may not realize that it was a large mistake. Within three minutes, I had my kid and his buddy staring in wonder at the flames leaping inside the locked oven.



And now there's the stink. Burnt sugar and scorched oil was nothing compared to this disaster. So now I've sent the boys outside to breathe clean air, opened all the windows, turned off the heater (see? I was thinking a little) and hidden in the office, where the strategic corners have left the air slightly less toxic.

Yeah, We all need a day like this to remember that we are not, in fact, in every way fabulous. (I just don't think I need these days quite so often.)

Monday, December 1, 2008

What am I afraid of?

Shall we make a list? Alphabetical? Realistic to ridiculous? Fears I'm likely to confront today? Well, maybe just that last. I have put it off far too long. It's time to read the draft. I fear this because I already know that A) it's too short B) it has no plot and C) I should have been into it for the last 15 days or so, and if I had been, we'd be that much farther out of this hole.

However, on the plus side, A) Scott read it and laughed aloud. If you don't think this is a big deal, you don't know the following: Scott does not read, especially not YA romantic comedy. B) Jana has read it and is reading it again in order to make helpful and devastating comments. C) lack of plot can be overcome much more easily than, say, lack of fantastic voice. Which is covered, if I do say so myself.

So I should really stop this, and get on to that.

Friday, November 28, 2008

It's time for Christmas

And I mean now. Thanksgiving is finished. We had a different experience this year. Instead of bingeing on massive quantities of hot white buttered carbs and pie, we served some families from town at a friend's restaurant. It was not as crowded as we had hoped (and she had expected) so there was plenty of "down-time" but the kids all got to help, and Kate played dinner music on her violin for 2 straight hours. It was Scott's birthday, and I'm sure he could have envisioned something a bit more exciting to spend his day on than, say, squirting whipped cream onto slices of pie. But everyone was a champ, and service is always a good idea.

So the tree went up yesterday, and decorations were all over the house until I simply couldn't stand it any longer and swept them all into bins to store again. Why can't I throw away the funky ornaments from our "homemade" years? Why do I keep every tole-painted item that ever was wrapped and put under a tree with my name on it? I'm not a keeper, traditionally. I don't attach myself to "stuff" or even to traditions (see yesterday). But I have a hard time just taking that whole bin of cheesy Christmas junk and dumping it into the can.

Maybe next year.


Saturday, November 22, 2008


Scott comes home from Ecuador! I'm glad he's had a great trip. We haven't talked much, between a ridiculously busy week in North America and pricy cell rates in South America. But texting is so great (even if it takes half a day to appear sometimes) and Skype is a little miracle right in my computer screen.

He's had more success than he could have imagined (and I'm anxious to discover what that means), and his Spanish has improved greatly. Added bonus. I will surely regret the week spent not in rewriting my stories, but in cleaning and reading and playing and visiting and being busy in non-writerly ways. Because if I had ten thousand words to show him, he'd know I was productive and clever while he was gone. But if I had ten thousand new words to show, I wouldn't have clean windows. Or quite so scrubbed bathrooms. Or shiny grout. Or a dusted bookshelf (no, really!) or crisp clean sheets on the bed (not short-sheeted this time) or a long list of things to do, all crossed off.

Maybe ten thousand words next week. Or at least one (thousand, not word).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

They Say...

Among other things, "they" say that time flies, especially when it comes to kids growing up. It struck me today in a moment of pondering (that's what I call it when the house is quiet -- otherwise all my moments are of either listening or avoiding) that next year, I will have a kid entering kindergarten and a kid entering high school. Yes. I am aware that I don't look old enough to have a kid entering high school. That is because I am lucky. And I got married young, and had a baby the next year. But I assure you, I am old enough, and I am still stunned.

I hope so many things for her as she starts off that adventure. I hope for fun, and for success, and for a lot of laughs. I hope for friends who are kind and good. I hope for teachers that challenge and encourage. I hope more than anything for confidence in herself. *That probably needs its own post, because why can't we wrap confidence up in pretty paper and a nice bow and just hand it to someone? I can think of several people I like very much and know very well who could use a gift like that. But I heard someone wise (Hi McNaughtan) say "Confidence can't be given. It must be earned." Hmm. More on that later, I'm sure.


Can I be overextended even when we don't really do anything? It is possible. I have a pretty firm rule that each kid can only do one extra-curricular at a time (mainly for budget reasons, but also for sanity) and we usually keep life fairly in control. But there are hours (last night, for instance) when Organization and Planning both sit back and laugh at me.

The oldest had a surprise meeting at 6. The third had a family party at school, with a jump rope team performance. And apparently "the top of my Christmas list is a jump rope. They're selling them at the party. I sure wish I could get one." Party also at 6. Second and fourth were happy to attend.

(Disclaimer: I know perfectly well how to say no. I think it's my most commonly used word. But I try to let them do something fun once in a while, especially when it's free.)

At 6.40 it was time to head over to the stage to be a Singing Virgin. It's not as cool as it sounds. I'm in a "Parable of the 10 Virgins" musical that is turning out to be more of an eternal commitment than I had any idea. And my oldest has become chief lighting technician for the production. SHe can work a spot like nobody's business.

So I left two, three and four at the school (under the careful supervision of a few friends -- mine-- who were in another room), went to my performance -- did I mention I was sick? -- and when I came home, not only were all three unattended kids home, they'd packed school lunches for next day, and were in their beds and ACTUALLY SLEEPING! How about that?

So I guess even when I have to do more than I'd like (more than sit home and read books to my kids by the fire) I can count on these great kiddies to step it up and get the jobs done. Yeah for them!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Agent thingies

So people who have agents say that the rest of us must-must have them too. Is this like me telling everyone that the Gruyere cheese from Costco is ridiculously superior to gruyere cheese anywhere else? Just because I like it, you should like it, too?


But today an agent told me I should have an agent.

I think he meant him.

The following things he really said and I am not making them up (hence the quotations):
"___ writes in the same style as you, but you are a much better writer."
"Your submission was my favorite that I read for this conference." (In fairness, how would I know if he said that to everyone? I grinned like an idiot anyway)
"Your career"
"Your next book"
"Change" (Just so you don't think I'm being unrealistic)
And finally, "Don't you know that paragraphs should be indented?" To which the answer is, "Yeah, theoretically."

I am still slightly giddy with positive attention and outside validation lo these nine hours later.

I'm going to give his "overhaul" suggestion a try in my next draft, and if it works, I'll send it on to him. Because he wants it. Because I'm great.

On a related but nonlinear note, I looked really great both last night and today at these schmooze meetings, mostly thanks to Bonnie's generous accessorizing assistance. It's so good to have a friend.

And also, I have a new friend called Annie Valentine who is selling hysterical shirts for the "Twilight" movie opening. Find her at or you will laugh, assuming you have any sense of humor whatsoever.

Friday, November 14, 2008


My preschooler and I just snuck in (okay, walked in, brazenly uninvited) to our elementary school to hear adorable author Brad Wilcox talk to first and second graders about how to write their own stories. He said (with actions that unfortunately I can't replicate here) writing is discovering what's inside you, getting it out, and putting it on paper. It was a great talk, inspiring to the kids. He gave my son a signed copy of his latest picture book "There's Always a Way, Annie McRae" which is very cute and all about dreaming big.

It reminded me of a talk I heard while I was a student at BYU. James E. Faust said, "You can have it all. You just can't have it all at once." Good stuff for me, then and now.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Five-year-old Boys

I love five-year-old boys. And the ones that are almost five, and to tell you the truth, I rather liked them when they were three, and two...

Case in point: Matthew has his buddy Dallen over today, and they are listening to Sandra Boynton's second best CD "Dog Train" (see also "Philadelphia Chickens" and "Blue Moo"). The iPod is playing on random -- don't ask me why -- and they've been patiently waiting for their favorite song, "Pots and Pans" as performed by The Bacon Brothers. Naturally it comes out to play as #17 of 17, so I get to watch them act out "I Need a Nap" (courtesy Weird Al and Kate Winslet) and "Settle Down" by Hootie and the Blowfish. Among others. And now the song has finally come. Out come two sauce pans, a metal colander, and a large collections of tea and soup spoons. And they jam. Twice. I take a little video and snap a couple quick photos. Maybe someday I'll become wiser than the technology and post those cute things.

Meanwhile, I could just eat these two little guys up (maybe over a PB&J and Allison Krause singing "Evermore").

Being the Mom

So the thing about being the Mom is that no matter what else needs to get done, Momming trumps it all. If I need to write and Matthew needs to read his Star Wars book, we read Star Wars. If dinner burns while I'm helping with piano or violin practice, so be it. Crispy dinner. If I want to be asleep before, let's just say hypothetically, 9:30 but someone wants some girl bonding, we bond.

Not to say that I'm so totally subverting my own needs and all that super-important pop psychology nonsense, because I defy you to find a more selfish woman anywhere. Really. But I'm just saying that when it's time to Mom, it's time to Mom and that's all there is about it.

Gotta run - Ellie needs a ride to school. NOW.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's Raining

And rain is good news because:

1. It is not snowing.

2. My grass is still green.

3. I can still see my grass (refer to #1).

Tomorrow there may be a different story, but as a girl who grew up in the midwest, I have to cheer for a fall that lasts longer than three weeks. As fall should.

Happy news

Yesterday my editor emailed me a page of positive reviews (they were all in-house, but they were all kind) on Bright Blue Miracle. It was fun to have people actually say nice things about my story/characters/voice and then SIGN THEIR NAMES TO IT!

...although I have to say that my favorite review used the words, "I didn't think I'd like this book". It's good comedy and irony and possibly humility-inducement.

I read Karen Hesse's "Brooklyn Bridge" yesterday -- she's amazing. Good historical fiction, good voice. Bad grammar didn't bother me after the first couple pages, because Joseph's voice was a charming reflection of his "straight-up Brooklyn guy"-ness.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween?

Can I make a confession here? There are very few things that I hate, but I'm afraid that I hate Halloween. I hate the candy overload. I hate the scary, spooky, ugly, decaying decorations. I hate that Satan has his own holiday and it's bigger than Christmas. I hate spending hours (and hours) creating costumes so my kids will be as cute as the neighbors' kids, only to have my very cute kids chuck the costumes at the last minute and wear something that was in the dress-up box already.

However, they almost always come up with great ideas from the box, so maybe what I should start doing is this: I'll tell them I've worked for many, many hours perfecting the best family of themed costumes ever and that we're going to be the hit of the season. Then they will get to work fifteen minutes before trick-or-treat time and make themselves dazzling with whatever they find wrinkled up in the basement.

Hey -- I may be on to something here...

So this year, the homemade costume line-up is as follows:
Ellie is a vampire, costume from the dress-ups, teeth $.65, white-face make-up $.75
Katie is a Star-Bellied Sneech, ala Dr. Seuss, costume -- my yellow t-shirt and hoodie, borrowed yellow sweats, paper star and funky hair.
Jana is a princess, wearing Grandma Bolton's gorgeous silvery formal from the '50s and a pair of fake eyelashes $2.99
Matthew is a Newsie, specifically Les, the small cute one. He's wearing his own brown pants and shoes, a long-sleeved shirt, a vest from the dress-up box, and Kate's brown corduroy hat. I didn't even have to buy a newspaper for him to hawk (**cough, cough** "Buy me last pape, lady?") because there was one in the garage.

Happy Halloween, anyway!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I woke this morning from a dream. I was pregnant with twins (a boy and a girl). I had a routine doctor's visit, and he said, "How about we give you an ultrasound?" I asked him why, and he shrugged -- as if everyone got one of those. So we did. And I saw the babies, sitting up, side by side. The technology was far superior to any ultrasound I'd had before. It was like looking at a photograph. I could tell by their faces that one was a boy and one was a girl. I left the doctor's office determined not to let my pregnancy show, as though I could help it. I show at conception, I assure you. And I knew that I couldn't tell Scott yet -- he's just not ready to handle this news.

When I woke up and told him my dream, he said, "You really shouldn't hold other people's babies at parties anymore."

Men. What do they know?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The D-Word

Okay, so I'm trying this new thing. As previously disclosed, I'm a couple inches too short for my pounds. Now I've decided that the height is not likely to change. And it's not like I'm morbidly obese, or even unhealthy. I'm in decent shape, although riding a scooter with Matthew the other day was more terrifying than I was prepared for it to be. And I can run (to rescue a child from traffic). But there's a number on the scale that I'd rather not be over, and I'm totally over. (But by less than 10 pounds, she adds, justifying.)

So I've tried some things. There was a summer that I didn't eat any refined sugar. That meant, among other things, no white bread, no cereal, no spagetti sauce, no ice cream (!) -- and I lost enough pounds to feel great. But there's no such thing as Christmas without Butter Toffee (with or without the chocolate, but don't forget the almonds). And let's not even talk about what bad company I was, where even salad dressing was off The List. No fun at all.

The next summer (I'm sensing a pattern, here) was the Wheat-Free Experiment. A well-meaning dermatologist informed me that my disgusting eczema-hands were most likely a reaction to a food allergy, and that most people who have a food allergy have it toward wheat. So no flour. At all. For three months. No bread. No pasta (whimper). No crackers, no croutons, no pancakes, no waffles. Then I finally got in to see the Very Busy Allergist for a series of pokes up my arms, only to have him tell me that I'm not allergic to anything I'm likely to eat (we didn't really go into the cats-and-ragweed discussion at that time). Except maybe corn. Just a little.

This may not sound like any kind of disaster, but if you'll notice, the things I declined to eat for the previous summers did not include buttered popcorn. So I'm saying that what kept me from shouting with deprivation was good, buttery popcorn, and lots of it. And now, of course, the popcorn habit is rejoined by ice cream, pizza, and the occasional bag of cinnamon bears.

I've found that I can go long without chocolate, even though I'm capable of telling the difference between good chocolate and the other kind (meaning, of course, really great chocolate). But when I need comfort food, bring on the hot, buttered, white starch. Homemade rolls. Soft pretzels. Rice. Mashed potatoes. And plenty of popcorn. Bagels, biscuits, breadsticks, english muffins, crepes, even scones (but only once or twice a year -- a girl has to have some limits).

But it is time to change some things around here. Above all, I need to be a good example to my kids. My girls need to see me being healthy, happy and strong (as opposed to anorexic or can't-get-off-the-couch heavy). And so I've started this new thing. I'm not really calling it a diet, because that's sort of a bad word to me. I am eating (for three days) very lean proteins and an unbelievable amount of raw vegetables. It only took one day for me to get sick of baby carrots. I'm making great salads, though.

And then, after the three days, I will follow a simple plan (not so much diet) that lets me eat almost anything that's real (meaning fairly close to its natural state) food. Except butter. And cream. And pretty much anything else that's white. So I'm not saying that it's going to be easy, but it is simple. Plan ahead. Buy real food, mostly plants. Eat at home. Prepare to say no. Fill up on garden food. As the pounds go down, reward with stashing money away for good pants (and shoes, and maybe a new purse -- not that I need to have smaller thighs for that, but I can dream).

I'm not really planning to ever be a skinny woman. I have great, healthy bones (bigger than some women's whole selves), and I don't need to be skinny. Fit, yes. In the safe numbers, definitely. Satisfied -- well, soon.

Who needs Butter Toffee, anyway?


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Do you ever have days when you just KNOW that you should do it all yourself and save the hassle of fielding telephone calls all afternoon? Yeah -- delegating is not my strong suit. Apparently I lack the ability to give details concrete enough to get the easy jobs done. How much time/effort/energy did I actually save by NOT doing my own -- let's just say, hypothetically -- carpool? Hmmm. Maybe there's something to learn here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What did I think I would be?

If Life As I Live It isn't quite what I had planned, what was I expecting? What did I honestly think would be my lot? There was a time in the eighties that I was convinced I would marry someone who played the saxophone. Instead I got the guy with the world's greatest talent for buying good music online. I always knew I wanted to be a wife and a mom (in that order, thank you very much). But somehow I was pretty sure I'd get a basketball team of five boys. Hmmm. My first three kids are girls, and that is so absolutely the perfect way for it to be (not what I planned, but wonderful despite me). Then I prayed Matthew here. I tell him that regularly -- that I had a little talk with God and told Him I'd be perfectly happy to do this (motherhood thing) again as long as I got a boy for it. And he is being raised by the three cutest mothers anywhere -- his sisters. They are doing their best to make him a sensitive, gentle, smart Jedi/Ninja/Gunfighter.

Which leads me to another thing I planned -- no weapons in our home. Yeah. That's gonna work. Everything becomes a weapon in the hands of a kid who desires a weapon. Such as (and I am not making any of these up): clothes hangers, paper towel rolls, knitting needles (the girls', I don't knit), staplers, markers, kitchen utensils in all shapes and sizes, fingers, phones, carrots, bouncy balls, scarves, remote controls, marbles and (shudder) books. So we gave in and now own a full arsenal of all the finest plastic instruments of death and torture.

I always thought I'd have a headboard, but that (among other things) falls firmly under the budget category of Furniture We Don't Need.

I planned to reach 5'10" and finally be tall enough for all my pounds. (But I have to say, when the sun's behind me and my shadow is 15 feet long, I look GREAT!)

I'd pretty much assured myself that I would be competent at maintaing a savings account. Oops.

But on the other hand, I always thought I'd have a sweet, handsome, supportive husband. CHECK.
I planned on brilliant children. CHECK. CHECK. CHECK. CHECK.
I figured I'd write books, get them published, and hear people telling me I'm fabulous. CHECK. CHECK. (Always waiting on that last part.)
I thought I'd be the mom who makes bread and ice cream and grows tomatoes in the summer. CHECK. CHECK. CHECK.
I just knew that my kids would love to be obedient. (Can we put a check on three out of four? That's still WAY above the curve.)

So I will probably always make plans. And someone, watching benignly from The Universe, will shake his head and chuckle. But the things that matter, the ones that will bring real happiness, they come through. Every day. CHECK.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Sometimes I'm afraid to write. I lie huddled in fetal position on my bed, hoping that something very interesting will pop into my brain. I avoid the computer, even to read emails. I fear that I have already written any interesting thing that may ever come out of me. I fear that someone will realize that I was a much better writer when I was in college and wonder what happened to me. (I know what happened to me. I found something I love more than words. More than writing. Four somethings: Jana, Kate, Ellie and Matthew.)

But now that I have a book coming out, I know it will be easier to get another published. All that stands between me and a little advance check is sitting down to write. And some days I'm just too afraid to do it.

Confession: I have 4 books started. I am petrified by all of them. One has great characters. One has great voice. One has a plot (!) and one makes me laugh out loud when I read over what I've written. So why can't I just buck up and get one finished? Because I'm a chicken. I'm a little afraid that I'll get my stuff out there and reviewers will thrash it. (That will happen, I'm sure.) I'm afraid that people I love will think I'm a little petty or a little stupid or a little lame or a little childish or a little unimaginative.

But I need to get over it. Because there are good stories in here somewhere, and I am probably the only one who can get them out. Because there are girls and maybe boys who want intelligent, fun, clean stories to read, stories that will give them courage to do hard things. Because life is funny, if you learn to look at it the right way. And I'm pretty sure I can shed a light on that right way.

So get to work, me. Fear not. Be not afraid. Sit down and write. Just do it. Yeah. All that.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Happy Birthday to me!

Yesterday I turned 35. I'm a day and a half into it, and I have to say, so far it's great.

Let me just tell you this.... Having a birthday when your husband is out of town is a very good idea, giftwise.

We are not big gifters at our house. We love presents, but we love our budget even more. We don't give jewels or vacations or furniture or major electronics. But absentee guilt propelled serious present buying this year, comparatively speaking. Here is what I got for my birthday:

A new set of dishes, clean, white, and chipless--with serving pieces.
A hot-air popcorn popper (our wedding gift one died last week).
A Cuisinart countertop ice cream maker (no ice needed, done in 25 minutes).
Ben and Jerry's ice cream cookbook.
More phone calls and emails than I knew what to do with -- guilt had prompted Scott to mass email all my contacts (almost, Jana edited out a few of them) and he told them all to write or call or text. That was a riot.
I went out for lunch with Kristy, and she brought yummy-smelly lotions.
Bonnie brought the cutest dip bowl shaped like an avocado.
Robin brought chips and homemade salsa.
Michelle gave me a cute decoration.
Dad and Mimi and Grandma Wright took us (me and the kiddos) out to Shoots -- great Chinese in Riverwoods, plus early dessert with the sisters, plus a potted orange Gerber daisy.
Scott's parents hosted a family dinner of really good enchiladas and gave me cash (woohoo!).
Karen gave me chips and homemade salsa, apples and caramel dip, a chocolate sheet cake, and wants to bring in dinner later this week.
Elizabeth made luscious gooey chocolate cake loaves and brought a bouquet of gerber daisies.
Jen gave me a pedicure set and a plate of very rich brownies.
Lori gave me a tall candle in fall orange, green and yellow.
Wendy put together a gorgeous basket of apples and caramel.
Plus, tomorrow I'm going out to lunch again with several friends.
And plus again, I'm going out for lunch with different friends on Friday.

Holy cow! This is not normal.

And I love it!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Weather the Storm

So Scott left yesterday to be a StormChaser in Houston. He is ahead of Hurricane Ike by a day or two, because after the storm hits, it may be tricky to get in to coastal Texas. He's gone with a film crew to document the storm and it's effects, but mainly to film Humanitarian Service drops -- getting food donations and hygiene kits to the hungry and the dirty. (There will be some hungry and dirty by the beginning of next week, he's assured.)

The city of Galveston is almost entirely cleaned out. Not only are the people mostly gone, but there is very little left there in the way of bottled water, convenience food, and petrol.

I am not the worrying wife. If I were, life would be no fun at all. Scott is the kind of guy who will routinely, out of nowhere, gasp or bang a table and mutter "oh, no!" only to follow it up with ... nothing. He just lets off a little steam and moves on. When we were first married, I found myself -- blood pressure and pulse rising -- calling out, "What? What's wrong?" an awful lot. If he bothered to answer, it was mainly to tell me that he forgot something (nothing serious, like plane tickets or bill payments, but stuff like washing the car or sending a thank you note). So I have learned to curb my natural curiosity. If he wants to tell me what's bothering him, he will. Eventually.

So I've become the wife who doesn't worry. If he's home a little late, I almost never have visions of fiery car accidents or skid marks leading off the edge of a canyon cliff. If I don't hear from him for an entire work day, I just assume he's been busy, or has left his cell phone on the charger on his bedside table.

But today, tonight, or maybe tomorrow morning, a great big hurricane is supposed to ravage the place he's decided to spend the week. (I very calmly read him a Random History Moment about a very similar storm that thrashed Galveston in 1900, killing eight thousand residents. Thank goodness for tracking technology.) He is possibly in some danger. He's not concerned (except maybe for the hundreds of thousands of dollars of camera equipment that joined him in Houston) and so neither should I be. I told him over the phone last night that I would wait to worry until someone told me I should begin.

And then I asked him to make sure that someone would let me know when it was time to start worrying.

Monday, September 8, 2008

First Crush

I remember my first crush. I think I was always the girl who noticed boys but, being invisible, was rarely-to-never noticed back. My first crush certainly never noticed me back. Sometimes people say this only to discover, years later, that the beloved harbored secret reciprocal desires. Not so much with me. My first crush was Ritchie Cunningham. Opie Taylor was probably more of an age for me, but only the tall, mature, grinning and freckled Ritchie could start my heart.

Fonzie frankly never did it for me. I was always a little scared of him. The leathers, the greased hair, the motorcycle mania – he was too dangerous for this six-year-old. Besides, I think I always feared that he’d turn on my darling Ritchie and take him out.

The idea of Howard Cunningham as a father-in-law gave me heartburn. I despised his temper, if you can imagine. He was so quick to think the worst of my Ritchie, and so consistently grouchy that I worried how I’d fit into the household scheme. Marian I could handle. Any woman who wore an apron around the house had to be a kindred spirit – besides, there was always a table full of food and an open back door.

I knew Ritchie’s friends would adore me – probably to the extent that I’d cause some real friction between them. Ralph Malph would naturally desire me for his own, and I would spurn his advances. Generous Ritchie would choose to pity poor unlovable Ralph, and we would all remain friends with that undercurrent of unrequited love. With Potsie there would be a little more trouble. He and I would probably have a fling. It’s just unavoidable in a circle as tight as ours. But I would always come back to my Ritchie. He’d choose me over his friends in time; because we all have to grow up, you know.

The Cat Gives Me Hives

It’s not that I have a problem with Dr. Seuss. Really, I’m a huge fan. I can quote pages from dozens of his delightful books. I just have an issue with The Cat.

My husband adores The Cat. He is, as a man who (on principle) does not read, fluent in The Cat. The Cat is, as far as I am aware, my husband’s only Machiavellian indulgence. If you ask him to tell you the story of The Cat, he’ll cheerfully describe a boring day saved by a mysterious visitor full of harmless pranks and tricks who puts everything right in the end and makes the world delicious.

My take is different.

Very likely my view is clouded my motherhood. Maybe The Cat gives me hives as I look at it through Mommy eyes. I invite you inside my head to see it my way.

Mom runs an errand and leaves kids home bored. Bad weather prevents playing outside (remember playing outside?) and with a logical leap into the 21st century, maybe the power’s out, so no Wii. Suddenly a strange man appears and forcibly enters the home. Clearly uncomfortable, the kids try to get him to leave. He refuses and begins to systematically break all house rules, overriding each objection from both children and Conscience figure. Again with the go-now requests, this time brushed off by the arrival of more uninvited guests. Havoc ensues in every room. The chaos is at fever pitch when, oh, my! Mom’s coming home. Deftly (as though through years of practice) he erases all traces of his misdeeds and then (wait for it) convinces the kids to LIE ABOUT IT.

How any mother reads this story without a shudder, I cannot fathom. But despite the flood of more suitable and far more clever “learn-to-read” books now on the market, we continue to buy and at least some of us, to read “The Cat in the Hat” until we could achieve self-induced hypnosis or nirvana by simply chanting, “Look at me, look at me, look at me now! It’s fun to have fun, but you have to know how!”

As I type, my four-year-old stands at my elbow, waiting with the patience of a tiny Buddah, holding a stack of books. Spying the telltale blue binding, I can resist even the sigh that is building inside me. I know that within the next five minutes, I will be in my favorite place, indulging my favorite earthly pleasure that does not involve butter. With my boy in my lap, I will read each page of that story. I will read with expression, with drama. I will make him laugh, and he will lean his warm head back so his cheek brushes mine. He will hold my fingers until it’s time for him to turn a page, and I will wait with some semblance of patience to hear my favorite words at story time, “Thanks, Mommy.”

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Defying Death, Maine Style

So I'm talking with the very adorable, frizzy-haired, squirrel-keeping inn owner, and he tells me, in his sharp-as-nails Maine accent, that I ought to hike "the mountain". Then he shows me its photo. Oh, how adorable. Here in this little bay village is an ice-cream-scoop of a hill, covered with trees and topped with some variety of War Memorial. I can even walk to the trailhead from here, he tells me. Forty-five minutes up, forty-five back, he tells me. Great views, he tells me. Or you could drive around the back way... but you'd need a car.

Sold. I'll hike it. Walking to the trailhead, I find myself involuntarily gasping aloud at the most precious homes in the world. So much original glass and functional shutters. I momentarily lose the mountain (can you do that?) behind the tall trees. Glancing across the street to catch the road sign to make sure I'm on the right track, I see what should be a truly adorable house, but it sends shudders of horror from my neck to my knees.

(Note: This is a tangent. We will return to the hike directly after these messages.)

This house is typical for Camden: white wood, three stories, front porch, black shutters. So what's freaking me out? The heads in the windows. I swear, I am not making this up. In every window of this house (and rooms here have several windows each) there are dolls. Creepy, Victorian-style, three-foot-tall children dressed in every clothing style imaginable. Guarding the door are tall Native American dolls, complete with headbands and faux-suede leggings. Most of the windows in the front of the house have three dolls in them. Staggered in height to suggest friendly, age-range groupings, they are each backed by a lace curtain (presumably so the creepy old lady who lives inside with her seventeen cats doesn't actually have to look at the scary dollies). They look like children begging to be set free, hands pressed to the glass, eyes glazed with untold years of longing for freedom. I have such an irrisistable urge to run, screaming from the neighborhood that I do what any normal person would do in this situation. I take a dozen photos so I could show my kids and scare the pants off them.

Then I wish I could write a ghost story.

But only for a minute.

Continuing up Mountain Street (with a smug smile for Camden's adorable little "mountain" -- aw, who's a big, tall mountain? Who can reach up and touch the clouds? You can. Yes, you can! Yes, you can! What a good, brave mountain you are!) I take a right at Spring. Catching a glimpse of a truly fabulous roofline, complete with widow's walk, through the trees, I stare with my hands clasped and little squeaks of delight at another of Maine's architectural treasures. The depth of the front porch alone was worth whatever these people paid for restorations, and whatever they would have to pay this winter just to keep the thing defrosted. In my rapture, I nearly miss the trailhead marker (nailed to a telephone pole).

The corner of Spring and Megunticook basically leads to this great house's driveway. I get the side view of the property, its gorgeous lily garden, wildflowers in abundance, and a couple of boulders the size of my house growing out of the lawn. "Hmmm," I think to myself. "What a strange place to plant an enormous rock." (This is foreshadowing. I'm telling you because at the time, naturally I didn't know and I rather wish I had.)

The lovely woman in her mid-sixties working the wildflowers waves when I call good morning. I ask if this is the trailhead.

"Ayuh," she answers, waving in the general direction of an impenetrable wall of trees. I'm far too tickled by her textbook stereotype accent to wonder how to find a trail, so I barge in. Instantly the light goes all greenish and magical. There is a six-inch carpet of springy pine needles under my runners, and a tree in front of me THAT HAD BEEN DEFACED! This is ridiculous! This is an outrage! This is the East Coast, where people recycle their cooking oil, for heaven's sake! Who would put paint on a tree? Inexcusable! That's what this is! What is the matter with these...


I see.

Trail markers. 3x5 rectangles of light blue paint marked the trees I should be passing. Riiiiight.

I actually stop, right there at the beginning, to photograph this lush, soggy forest. It had poured rain like crazy the day before, and I can feel the water hanging in the air. My skin is drinking it up, and it had never been easier to breathe. Then I start off, my feet bouncing along the padded trail. I see toadstools in ridiculous colors, bright red, yellow, white, growing at the feet of these huge trees. But every time I crane my neck up to see the tops of the trees, I stumble over a root only semi-covered by wet needles. Time to pay attention. Focus.

Out of nowhere, I find the hill.

And not only that, but some joker had clearly come out here with a matching can of baby blue spraypaint and tagged these stones, because there is no way that is the trail. These rocks are 25 feet high and practically vertical. I look around in anticipation to see the real trail. Here? No. Here? No. Come on, little trail. Come out, come out wherever you are... Oh, you have GOT to be kidding me. THAT is my trail? That wet, slippery, frictionless stone is THE TRAIL? As I stand there, totally at a loss, I hear voices from behind me. No, the dolliles didn't follow me. This is a very nice older couple who manage to look thoroughly undaunted by the Slope of Death looming over me.

"Hi, heh, heh." I chuckle bravely. "Have you guys done this hike before? Heh, heh."

"Nope. First time," the man (who has to be my parents' age) tells me.

"Any, um, suggestions on how I'm supposed to get up this thing?" I'm going for casual, but I'm pretty sure they can tell I'll hit the road at the first sign that it's okay to wimp out.

He joins me to inspect the Slippery Slide of Doom. "Maybe you can wedge your feet in that crack along the edge."

Do I look like Spiderman to you?

I would have loved for them to go first, but really, there's something more chivalrous about being the first to walk into the unknown. I slip the camera case around my back and launch my foot into the crack. Lifting myself up, I scramble for a handhold. There's a knob of stone just up there... Got it. Did I just grunt? Oh, brother. Let's get this part over with. Clutching hairline cracks in the stone with my fingernails, I wedge my shoes into the cracks in the side of the stone. Dare I ask these kind strangers to shove my backside? No, I can do this. They're watching from the ground, presumably so they can tell Search and Rescue where to locate missing body parts after I fall to my death and crack various pieces from my skull.

Eventually I get to the edge of that blasted stone. My feet touch real land, complete with slimy forest debris and trickling water. Water! Looking beneath me I can see that the stone wall I just scaled is GLISTENING. As in with water. Can I even contemplate how I will get back down this? A zen home-decor water wall has more footing than this.

Okay, don't think about that now. Watch the elderly folks and make sure they're safe.

What was that?

Do they have metal spikes on the toes of their shoes? These kindly, gentle sixty-somethings just scaled that stone as if it had not, in fact, been conspiring with the forest to murder them.

I'm starting to wonder if I belong here. Sweat is rolling off my face and it's nine o'clock in the morning. Around the next corner, the rocks are growing in normal rocklike formations, edges peeking out around dirt and plants, wildflowers and -- are those blueberries? Why yes indeed they are. Growing here on this hill -- forgive me, mountain -- are zillions of wild blueberries. Oh, Maine. You are so charming.

Monday, August 4, 2008

That Wretched Tooth Fairy

So SnaggleTooth has come back to live at our house. When that first of the Two Front Teeth comes out and the second scoots over to enjoy the improved real estate, there's just something freaky about that dangling, flapping tooth in the middle of a mouth. My oldest had it hard when this one was born (consequently she's smile-impaired in all Ellie's baby photos), and now it's Ellie's turn to look like a bad carton witch. 
I was patient for a couple of weeks. Really. Then I just had to start bugging her. 
"Doesn't that bother you, just hanging there?"
"Hey, want me to put that tooth out of its misery?"
"Maybe that one will bring big bucks from the Tooth Fairy..."
It was a Friday evening, and the tooth was literally swinging in the breeze of her breathing. Dad threatened (in a terribly nice way) to Take Care of That For You. She came to my lap in tears, so I said, "Here. Let me see." She innocently opened, I reached in, gave a quarter twist, and out it came. Plus quite a great deal of blood. Oh, dear. The blood. I hadn't banked on making this ordeal any more traumatic than it had already become. 
I mopped her up for a couple of minutes, gave her a popsicle (nothing but the best of modern medicine for MY kids) and sent her to find her Tooth Pillow. Just something I whipped up one day when I only had two kids and a lot more inclination to be a cute mom. So she's on the hunt for the Tooth Pillow, to no avail. No pillow. It's likely buried under months of the toys/books/laundry she didn't feel like dealing with, which are now heaped beneath her bed. So I give her a baggie. She wants to put her name on it. I do not want to scrub Sharpie out of my countertops, so I tell her don't bother, the Tooth Fairy will find it. Somehow she takes this to mean that the tooth fairy will find it without any further work on her part. So she neither reminds me nor places the tooth in an obvious location. Curses! 
When she wakes next morning, she's crying. Again. Because, apparently, the Tooth Fairy did not find the tooth. The tooth is still on the counter near the keys. Still in the baggie (which is now labeled in Sharpie "Ellie's Tooth"). Not shiny. Not jingling. Not earning interest. 
Blast that wretched Tooth Fairy. Doesn't she realize that Ellie is a third child? Can't she see that this poor kid gets the shaft at every turn? Did anyone make Ellie a cake for her first day at Kindergarten? Nope. Did anyone mail her a birthday card so she could find a surprise in the postbox? Never. Did she ever get to pick the movie/playlist/game/story (insert one)? Not lately. So what's a mom to do about a forgetful Tooth Fairy? 
Put Daddy on it, natch. 
Job done. With interest.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

I think it's time. I might never tell anyone that this is here. Maybe it will be my own little web secret. But here I go. Let's blog...