How We View Death

Sometimes my posts from my author site and my mommy site seem to cross over. This is one of those cases..

Kids really put things into perspective sometimes. Even things that are scary or uncomfortable or incomprehensible. My four year old daughter did just that the other night for me as we were reading books, discussing them, and getting ready to go to bed.

The sweet angel of a face turned to me dead (no pun intended) serious and said, “Mommy, I think Pops is going to heaven soon, because he has gray hair. But Mimi dyes hers black, so she’s gonna live a lot longer.”

At first it made my heart sink, and I wanted to say, never! Pops is never leaving this planet without us! He is my dad, and all.

But then I thought, wow. That really takes something very complicated and turns it into something very simple. Just dye your hair. You’ll live longer.

Is that really how these innocent young creatures view their own mortality? I mean, she really didn’t think it was all that big of a deal. It made me wonder what else did she have such simple solutions for. Death is a big thing. What were her thoughts on Peace? Cancer? Were they so simple as well?

In a few years, that perspective will take a new shape, and she’ll start to understand what death means on a deeper level, and she’ll fear it every now and then, for herself, and for others, but for now, it actually gives me comfort that she can be so at peace with something most people can barely internalize without slight desperation to have some kind of understanding. Maybe it’s that very perspective that we should take on. We only have a certain degree of control over death, about as much control as we have over choosing our hair color. And once we dye our hair, we have to throw up our hands, recognize the rest is up to God and just simply live life. Simply.

The Daily Storm

The storms on the east coast got me thinking about other kinds of storms in our lives. Like the ones our kids cause, maybe?

Each day starting at 3pm, this photo perfectly illustrates what my life feels like until bedtime. Looks peaceful, doesn't it?

When we're young and single and living it up, we really don't have any idea what we're in for when we catch that twinkle in our spouse's eye and say, "Sure, let's have children."

Now, I have four, remember? So, I'm not saying I wish I didn't have them. I'm just saying life is a freaking tornado every single day. So, the challenge is to embrace the storm. I'm still working on that. Take all that stuff that gets broken down and thrown around each day and rebuild it somehow. Reinvent it. Reinvent yourself.

I recently bought one of those trashy celebrity magazine (called like, OK! or something), and I read a quote that officially made me feel better about this life full of some serious Mommy Chaos (join the conversation on Twitter at #mommychaos).

They asked Gwen Stefani about balancing music and motherhood. Her response: "Every day is a challenge. It doesn't work most days, but some days you get up and it's all good."

Nice Gwen. I actually feel like that pretty much sums it up.

In Good Company

I have friends that run marathons (not me), or half marathons (nope), or 10Ks (still incredibly not likely). I have friends training to be triathletes and body builders and equestrians(no thanks, way too much work). And I say to you ladies, how do you do it?

Some of you love camping with your family so much, that in the summer, you spend Thurday and Friday packing and Monday and Tuesday unpacking. That's hard work, and lots of it. And I know you do it because the reward of spending that kind of quality time with your family is totally worth it. And yet still, I'm thinking, how do you do it?

Some of you keep a beautiful house and somehow know how to clean up and stay organized despite little people that drag their crap all over place 24-7. Yet, your house is spotless (not mine). So again, I say, how on earth do you do it?

Or maybe you cook all of your meals from scratch, or you NEVER go to McDonalds, or you even sew your kids their clothes. OR even grow your own food! I mean, hello!

Or maybe you are in the PTA, you volunteer in the classrooms, at church, you coach your kid's team, you're always treat mom, and you sub on days the school is desperate. I don't do hardly any of that, at least not right now!

And you 9-5er moms, who come home to empty mouths and hungry stomachs and homework and messes and likely a whole heck of a lot stress and stuff on your mind. Or maybe you've gone back to school? Or maybe you do both! My goodness, I bow to you. How do you do it?

And you that have husbands who are deployed, or work on business out of town, or who do not have a hint of family around, or who home school!!!!! How do you do it?

So, I guess my point is. I wrote a book. Because I love telling stories. And I have a whole bunch of them in my head, and they really need to come out. This past winter, I didn't do much else. Every free moment I could possibly find, I ran to my computer. And after a while, I realized that it was what I wanted to do (besides mothering) and that I needed to just go for it. So, like my friends who are runners, and they wake up some days thinking, 'I really don't want to run today', but they do anyway, and afterwards are so glad they did. That is how writing is for me. Somedays, baby goes for a nap and I am thinking of all the things I should be doing, or maybe the words just aren't there right away, but I make myself sit down, and I just do it. And eventually, the words come. And when I have to stop mid-sentence in the middle of some super emotional scene that I just think there is no way I can make it until tomorrow, I close my computer, and get my baby, and then, of course, I can't lie, I try to sneak in a few shots at the keyboard to finish up a scene! And when I think about the fact that I almost didn't write that day, I can't even believe the thought crossed mind, because afterwards, similar to the runners-high, I am exhilerated.

But when people say 'How does she do it?', I am of course grateful that you understand how difficult it is for a mother to do anything beyond keeping her own family fed. But I also feel like writing my novel has not been hard. And following this journey to publish my book has not felt hard. Frustrating, yes, because I need more time, a LOT more time (don't we all?). But maybe it's because I have a business and marketing background, and I tend to be an entrepreneur, and I am insanely driven, and have super supportive family and friends, but I really think that when we are doing something we love, something that we find value in, something that we think can be something good in the world, something that might inspire another person, or at the very least show my daughters that they can achieve their own dreams, then it's worth doing at any cost.

As a writer, when you move past the idea that authors have to be megastars, or be bestsellers, or that everyone just has to love your story (good, thick rhino-type skin is key, you can't please everybody!), or that you have to see your book in lights, and instead look at what you might have to offer the world, it really changes things, and it allows you to look deep inside and explore your options and your opportunities. I figure if I enterain even one lonely heart, or inspire even one Indie writer who is considering taking this trek on their own, or even just make my family proud, then I've done my job. And have had a heck of a good time doing it!

So, for all of you that wonder how I do it, you can be assured that whatever it is you do in your life that is affecting others, or giving you joy, or changing the world, I am equally wondering how do you? And for those of you that have a dream, I can only say that the best investment you will ever make is in yourself. Go for it. Go big! I'm totally behind you, the way so many have been behind me. There is this super cute sign I have above my desk that reads "The best way to predict your future is to create it." The grass just has to be greener when you do. So I say, go. Create. And enjoy this life we are so blessed to have. :)

"Whatever You're doing inside of me, it feels like chaos, but somehow there's peace. You're up to something bigger than than me, larger than life, something heavenly." --Sanctus Real

The Mommy Spa

I love the spa. Seriously, I'd live there. For real. Forever. But it just doesn't happen.

It's intensely rare that I get manicures or pedicures, and maybe one massage every six months or so thaI can remember from a gal that now just comes to my house. But that whole spa experience where you feel like you are a queen and have absolutely no worries in the world? Yeah, doesn't happen.

So, I guess things have come down to the at-home Mommy Spa. Or at least that's what I call it, because in this chapter of life, it's about as close as I get. In case you're in need of one, here's how it goes.

Mommy makes the bath water super extra uber hot, because then maybe no one else will want to get in for awhile. That hopefully buys you about 10 minutes, until everyone has found where you tried to hide out, and is begging you to make it cooler so they can get in. Eventually, the whining wins, and suddenly your leisurely solitary soak turns into a tub of splashing chaos. (YOu're totally relaxed already, right?)

So, spas are all about those lovely aromas, right? Make sure you buy some really good (sample size) spa shampoo. Even Aveda works, they've got some great scents. Just lie back, close your eyes (only open them every other second so the baby doesn't drown), open the top, and take in a big whif. Ahhhhhhhhhh. Try to get about three big inhales before some little person nails an elbow to your boob.

When the small bottle of mood enhancing smelly stuffy gets swiped from you too, try throwing in some bath salts, lavender maybe. THis again is good for at least two minutes, until the baby tries to eat them, or screams because you won't let him put the top on and off repeatedly.

Finally, when you get out and wrap the tiny towel around you (because all of the small people stole the big ones), and get ready for bed, forget brushing your teeth, or smoothing some lucious nighttime wrinkle cream on your face, because little people are 'cold' and 'thirsty' and once you get them in bed, you all just fall asleep.

So, as you see, it actually does work. Because if nothing else, you are either so relaxed, or so friggin exhausted that you collaspe, and end up getting your beauty sleep.

Hopefully for all of you that don't get to the spa, you'll find some solace in the opportunity here. :)

The So Totally Cool Mom

We all know the opposite of the totally cool mom. They're the ones that give you that look when your kid is the one melting down at the grocery store, spinning around in circles on her head and then protesting by laying in the isle refusing to move. 'That look' is the one that gives off the aura that their child would never do such a thing. That you must be so much of a mess of a mom that you would allow it, first of all, and second of all, how wrong you must be doing in every mom department that your child could even conceive of the idea to behave so badly.

These so totally not cool moms also feel the need to openly whisper to their friend or husband, loudly enough for you to hear of course, about how much they would so NOT do what you're doing. They also make it clear by their expression that 1) They don't seem to particularly like everyone else's children, and 2) They probably don't even really enjoy their own.

If the so totally not cool mom knows you, then the situation is one gazillion times worse, because then they are fueled with some great new gossip, about how they so totally have it all together and you so totally do not. And if you know her, you try to be brave and act like you don't care, but instead, you are humiliated, you know there will be social circle backlash and plenty of backstabbing about your so not perfect children, and all you want to do is tell everyone to go away so you can sulk with your own cup of hot cocoa and marshmellows. So there!

Well, here's what I say to the so totally not cool moms out there. I can identify you with one simple glance. Eat dirt.

I prefer the So Totally COOL moms. The ones that walk up to you while you're breaking a sweat trying to just get your flailing kid off the grocery store floor, lay a hand on your shoulder and say, "That happened to me yesterday. And since I'm so fortunate right now to not have my little monsters, could I give you a hand?" Oh, how I love you, so cool mom.

Or the super uber-cool one that smiles and pulls a really big sucker out of her purse, makes eye contact with you as she raises a brow to get your approval, and then after you nod 'yes' so hard you pull a muscle in your neck, she hands it over to your screaming child and just bought you one full minute of peace.

Or the so over the top incredibly cool mom that goes out of her way to make your kid comfortable (which of course puts you at ease) and will let your kid take things out of her purse, even her wallet full of non-expired credit cards, if it helps you for five seconds or will let your kid tear her house apart when all you meant to was 'stop by real quick', because she 'totally gets it.' That mom can be my best friend anytime.

All you so totally cool moms out there, you rock the world, and you make it go around, rather than stop it cold and miserable the way the so totally not cool moms do. I am grateful for you cool moms more than you know. You help me breathe. God did some really good in you. :)

Imaginary Friends

I don't recall having any of these when I was a kid. I'm sure I did, because any young girl that would 'gallop' around on all fours around the dining room table enough times to make a lap in the carpet (yes, horse lover) surely had an imaginary rider, at the very least. But I don't remember relying on that imaginary friend to be that one person I rely on in my quiet times, and to whom I give so much of myself and my energy.

Well, I do now. In fact, I've got whole boatload of them. That's what happens when you immerse yourself into the world of the novel you are writing. My two best imaginary friends are Adie and Dannika and I sooooo want the best for them. Sometimes, it hurts me to have to put them in certain situations, but it would be way too boring if we just all sat around sipping tea all day.

I remember reading about how Stephenie Meyer just 'fell in love' with her characters and that's why she couldn't stop writing. I was like, that's just weird. Until I felt compelled (apparently) to give that whole concept a whirl and boy was I wrong. Well, actually, I'm probably not wrong, it probably is weird, but it's true! I told my husband the other day that I was so excited to write the sequel because my characters have choices to make and are in limbo and have love on hold and I just am so anxious to ignore my own life so that I can continue theirs. He just smiled and gave me a big hug and left for work, sure thinking 'that's just weird'.

I'm pretty sure my kids have imaginary friends. And they seem to take up all my time, too.

But I've determined that imaginary friends are lovely. And when the ones on paper talk about you behind your back, you can just hit delete. :)

I'm in the final phases of preparing to introduce my imaginary friends to the world, and it is so exciting. My imaginary friends are getting all gussied up for their big debut---hoping early Julyish, maybe even 7/7, like in my obsessively favorite movie, We Bought a Zoo (hey, that date worked for them). And yes, there are horses in the story.

No such thing as a 'free lunch'

I was out to prove my Economics professor wrong.

Engrained in the back of my head, for some odd reason, is a phrase that my Economics professor said on the first day of class the first year at Carroll College.

"There is no such thing as a free lunch."

At the time, I had no idea what he was talking about. He went on to explain that everything has value, and therefore, everything comes at a price...even when it is supposedly 'free'. After a semester of the mind-boggling theories that proved him correct (and a feeble attempt at accomplishing anything beyond simply passing the class), I somewhat understood what he meant. And of course, once you graduate and are forced to enter the real world, it becomes very clear. Crystal.

However, I made the mistake of once again trying to cram too many things into a day, and forgot to feed my two toddlers before running a 'quick' (hahaha) errand to Costco. Fortunately, Costco came to the rescue, where around every corner and conveniently holding post at the end of each isle, was a friendly person with a hairnet serving up something yummy. After sampling each and every item we crossed (and I made an effort not to miss a one), both of my toddlers were no longer hungry.

Hmmmmmmm. I said. Maybe there is such a thing as a free lunch. It's called samples at Costco.

Before even checking out, I was already developing a plan. Three days a week, we would make a lunchtime appearance at Costco and stuff my kids full of food samples. I am sure I am not the first to figure this out.

But this is where my plan goes horribly South, like not Key West, or the beautiful Islands just below there, but into the treacherous ocean waters where hurricanes are a plenty. Because many of those samples are actually quite delicious (at which point I purchase an entire box or two). And Costco in itself is dangerous, with all its new kid's coats and dresses, and great wines, and yummy dips, and new chip flavors, and holiday candies, and the books...oh the books.

So, my 'free lunch' turns into a cart full of stuff I probably don't need, and would never have purchased had I not decided to pull one over on my professor.

Turns out he was right after all. In fact, I think a 'free lunch' might actually cost more.


I am happy to say that we have successfully completed our fourth plane trip with all four kids.

I honestly don't know where it comes from--that impending desire to put on a iron clad front that traveling this way is a piece of cake--but I am starting to believe it has something to do with those oh so glorious compliments of how brave and amazing we are and please, dear stranger,feel free to go on about what great parents we are and how good our kids were and how you didn't hear a peep(because obviously if you did, that whole conversation would be entirely different beneath your scowl and vow to never, ever sit in front of kids on a plane again). But fortunately, dear stranger, we are not the family today that caused you to pay whatever it takes to upgrade to first class from this point forward. Because today, we had success. From the dear stranger's point of view, at the very least.

But despite our calm and have-it-all-together picture we unconsciously are painting for the lovely plane audience, deep down, I am exhausted. And I'm annoyed that my three year old is whining (soft enough that you, dear stranger can't hear her, but loud enough to set my hair on end). And my sweet, precious 18 month old sits still for a maximum of .09 seconds, and the squirming has me gritting my teeth and checking my watch every, oh, twenty seconds or so, just somehow hoping that an illusion of an hour may have actually passed. And we just read our new book "Worm is stuck" fifteen gazillion times and the three year old wants me to read it again. I assure her she can pull it off this time, and mommy is resting her eyes so that she can 'visualize' the story while the three year old lets the story of a stuck worm unfold in her own voice. But that doesn't fly for three year old, she wants mommy's eyes open and alert, and watching worm with an admiring stare.

Thank God they grow up into 8 and 6 year olds. I'll say that again, thank God they grow into 8 and 6 years olds, that will simply lay on a pillow and listen to music or read their own friggin book and are generally don't make you open your resting eyes unless it's to climb over you to go to the bathroom. And a lovely 8 year old that willingly offers to take the three year old to the bathroom for you, and even remembers to wash their hands--three times, while singing ABC forwards and backwards. So love my 8-year old.

So success, is subjective for one thing, as are most things in life, but however long the day seem to roll on, nothing was destroyed on the plane (that we are aware of), despite our lack of memory to bring a diaper (which of course, dear stranger, we played off like we are no such parents who forget diapers on a plane ride), we are home safe, and everyone is happy. That is success to me.

Did I mention I am grateful for our 6 and 8 year old?

Parade of Tailgates

Last weekend, Stan and I were in San Antonio, Texas for a wedding. It happened to be St. Patrick's Day and we were down on the Riverwalk where the party was going on. There was all kinds of fun from beer gardens to cloggers to bagpipers, but I must say the most hysterical of all was what they were calling a St. Patrick's Day water 'parade', which rolls on through the river that cuts through downtown.

First, they dye the water green. Very cool. That certainly brought on the excitement and expectation of much to come. The first float had a bunch of men in plaid skirts playing the bagpipes loud and clear. Of course. Very cool. Totally what we would expect in a parade.

But as the anticipation built for what might follow these lovely pipers, it proved to be bit disappointing. The remaining boats were simply of bunch of party barges, with adults dressed in green and advertising either a bar or a singing group, which I never heard actually sing. As in the photo, they were all holding books and drinks, but at least in the long stretch that passed me by, I didn't hear a single note come from their mouths. Note the guy holding the red cup, he looks like the subject of one of those pictures where you circle what doesn't belong.

The entire parade consisted of about six barges of what looked to me like a bunch of tourists that might have jumped on and grabbed a nice cold one from the mobile keg. All dressed for the occasion, but the requirement to be on the float was clearly to have the ability to 'smile and wave.'

I guess I just expected something different. I mean, San Antonio is a huge city. I certainly had it in my head that we would be viewing a glorious water display with bells and whistles and who knows, maybe even a flying Leprechaun. Our own Bigfork parade kicks that one in the pants big time.

But if you enjoy a good party to celebrate this particularly fun green day, the bars and gardens were full of fun-loving folk. So, I'd give San Antonio a thumbs up for St. Patrick's Day destination. Just don't give up your barstool for the parade.

Things are Not As They Appear

Every now and then, we are caught off-guard. Thrown aback by something we discover that is going on in the lives of our oh so resilient children. It's a funny thing about listening to kids; their truth is absolute and kind of cloudy at the same time. Either way, it doesn't pay not to listen, because there is something at the core of what they are telling you.

Recently, I've allowed a slightly later 'lights off' policy, when the conversation is flowing and they're opening up beyond the typical, 'Yeah, school was the same' kind of thing. If I ever wondered if it was worth it to allow an extra half-hour to let the soul arise in the words of a child, I am forever in debt to whatever unusual piece of knowledge within myself to not throw a fit that the rooms weren't all silent at 8:30pm.

Of course, we live our lives unaware of what goes on in the homes of others. It is always a possibility that children sway their story towards the regards of something of hope, or belief, or love of one parent over another, but regardless, stories of despair that flow from the mouth of one child to another have meaning in some sense, and should be considered.

So yeah, in case you were wondering, I'm totally talking in code, in some respects. Just can't be naming names here. But my children, however imperfect themselves, have shared equal stories of friends' at school and various predicaments that they might be working through. It's hard for me, as I have a passion for the justice of children, to hear such things. But I suppose it's also my reckoning, of the fact that things are rarely as they seem. And there is often not a damn thing we can do about it except pray, for them of course, but also for ourselves, not to be in that same awful place.

Hey, I suck as a parent sometimes. I yell at my kid for stupid stuff, like you forgot to hang up your coat, and because I'm so freaking at the end of my rope, I think you should have remembered that today. I apologize later and we practice the routine of hanging up coats with humor and cupcakes. What parent isn't guilty of that?

But lately I hear of stories wandering home from the school desk murmurs; parents fighting and slamming doors, taking it out with a hand on the child, or simply having a voice so loud as to keep the house awake for hours. My own kids wondering if Stan and I, too, might get divorced and who should they plan to live with. Oh dear, it's so sad.

These are the nights that I hold their hands tightly as we drift to sleep together, and I remind them that this is the very reason that I love to lay beside them at night, and hold their hand, and assure them that even thought their Daddy drives me crazy sometimes (and vice versa), and he tickles too much, and occasionally loses track of time, and eats ketchup on nearly everything, that we will be old and gray and wrinkly loving on our grandchildren, and while the things they hear at school are very real to those other children, they are quite unlikely for our family.

I am so sad for those kids. I think you can often tell, those ones. The ones whose parents fight much, thinking the kids are fast asleep, or maybe they don't even care if they hear. It's damaging in a quiet way. What child doesn't want Mom and Dad to be happy together, and to feel like they are a part of that happiness?

So, to clarify, this house is far from perfect. We don't fight much, and when we do, it's simply stupidity and pride, but it's rare. No two people will agree on everything and we try to bite our tongues in our differences. It's hard, I know that. But man, kids suffer. They often become a great, convenient source of venting. Maybe even of the physical type. But even if it's only the words they hear, it's brutal. It sticks. So much, apparently, that they finally break, and they share all with those they trust at school. And despite how exaggerated and bias it might be, there is something very fierce going on within those sweet kids, and God only knows who might be able to help them.

I guess in some scenic route sort of way, my point is, when your kids talk, listen. And try to sort out the garbage from the real stuff; because frankly, I'm not sure they honestly know the difference yet. But more than anything, try to asses how the situation, or the conversation, that they had with a friend will impact them as a person, an individual and how they might use that information to perceive the days ahead of them.

We all only get one chance at this. I know there are areas I messed up real bad in life, and I'll do anything for my kids to not do the same. Listening to them, at a very young age, and paying attention, and addressing it with them, and having honest, meaningful conversations; yes, that's where I believe the difference really becomes.

A scary glimpse into the future.

We often ponder over what our kids will be up to in their later years. Looks like I need seek no further for these two.

Numero tres and quatro are clearly developing an interesting relationship. She takes whatever she wants from him, and he chases after her simply to worship the ground she walks on. Okay, fine. That will shift when little miss princess discovers that we do actually have a little prince in the family. He's proving to be a charmer, no doubt.

But today, when princess(3) was taking prince (17 months) for an early Spring thrill ride in her pink hotrod, the writing was all over the pavement. I'm doomed.

Little man giggled for more, as my lead foot of a daughter spinned out and cranked turns in her Barbie car. All I could see about thirteen years from now is my strongest willed child convincing my mellow man to pull wheelies in the mall parking lot, likely taking out lamp posts and parking meters; and thinking it all to be quite funny.

Seriously, just look at those grins. We're in trouble.

You'll notice the binky in tact. Yeah, that'll probably be there when she's sporting an E-brake in her self-bought Honda Civic. License in hand, binky in mouth.

It's all good.

Update on the binky battles.

Just a quick reminder that the photo to the right is what we are working to avoid. And after our morning 'binky removal' episode this morning, I'm starting to think we're going to have to get a little tougher on the tough love.

We have now, as of this morning, reverted to the binky as only being allowed when one is in bed. This was after screaming fits so loud over the idea of simply giving it up for the day entirely, so I decided since the other four of us home today would like to keep our hearing, I'd give a little and allow the binky only for naps and bedtime. So, after only being awake for 1/2 hour, Caitlin says she is tired and would like a nap. Fine. She fails to forget to ask about the binky. Fine. We go get the binky. I place her in bed, and she sucks the binky.

I've busied myself with various productive activities that are sure to boost intelligence, such as picking small bits of cheetohs from the carpet and trying to remove sharpie from it's last visit to our walls, and I go to check on the binky-addict--still sucking away happily snuggled under warm blankets and flipping through board books.

So I'm torn, you know, about where the grass is greener on this one. On one note, the house is certainly quieter and my arms are much freer when the binky addict is happily sucking away in her bed. On the other note, will she just stay in her bed the rest of her life? Letting her stay there is probably a selfish motive, and the other a potential psychological nightmare. But seriously, the rest of us need to stay sane too. And I suppose there's the thing with my Dad being an orthodontist, so a few extra binky years shouldn't be what breaks the bank for us. But I'm tired of translating full stories through the binky, when she has perfectly lovely words without it.

Yes, it's our fault. In certain areas, we tend to do what's easiest so that our other children can get at least a little bit of attention. Or so we can sleep in order to have the energy to meet the attention demands of the binky addict. They really are all so different, aren't they?

Our second child ditched the binky overnight, happy to fill the void with a ridiculous amount of stuffed animals and Lofthouse cookies. But this one? If she was a stranded on an island, she'd choose that binky even over me. I'm sure of it.

Hmmmmm. [Sip of really strong coffee]. I'm guessing I've got about eight years before we get to the dreaded fate of the girl in the photo. So today, I'll allow her to plead her case. And surely, we'll settle. And we'll have one more day with that stupid plastic thing in her mouth for half of it. And I'll convince myself that our little binky trial was good practice for when she's some badass lawyer kicking butts and taking names in the courtroom. All because Mommy taught her how to make a case for one of the silliest looking baby products ever invented.

We do what we have to, right?

Just a Wii bit

Santa was good to us this year, hauling one of those big red bags down our tight squeeze of a chimney to deliver us one of those gadgets that guarantees to keep our kids inside for extended hours, ignoring their chores and homework, requesting their meals on a tv tray, and pretending that I don't exist. You got it, we got a Wii.

And I really love Santa and all, but when I think of video games, all I can see is Toby (Zackary Levi) from Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel. Only in my nightmare, it's a tall, lanky blond that mixes stripes and plaids (and somehow pulls it off) and has the brains to be President (oh wait, do you need brains to be president?), okay, to be a neurosurgeon, but instead of holding a scalpel, she holds this black , or turquoise, or pink, remote control, and instead of saving lives, she is pretending to destroy them.

Now let's back up, because I'm the one that told Santa we needed a Wii. Mommy needed something to occupy at least two out of four children simultaneously so that some food might make it to the table, and a diaper or two might get changed before the rash sets in. But it turns out, to my pleasant surprise, that (so far) our girls are not glued to the Wii, and when they do play, they beg us parental units to play with them.

Maybe this Wii thing is kinda cool after all.

So I'm feeling pretty good that my girls are not going to turn into potato chip eating couch slobs whose strongest muscle in their bodies is their fingers. Instead, I'm realizing that the Wii might have some really great parent-kid bonding potential.

Until I dive in, and discover the real problem with Wii. It's not a concern of my kids losing brain cells, or not getting in the NFL's suggested hour per day of physical fitness, or eating from Michelle Obama's health plan, or even whether or not my child will be a victim of The Last Child in the Woods. My real concern with the Wii? Doctor bills.

Now I've been an athlete all of my life, three sports in high school, college basketball, supplemented with all sorts of recreational activities. And I've had an injury here and there, usually due to physical contact with another player, or some weird act of nature, and of course I've sprained my ankle fifteen million times. But I expect that from being active in that way.

But injured on the Wii? You could have never convinced me.

One game of Wii tennis--one game--and I crawl out of bed this morning gripping at my shoulder, a twinge of pain shooting out to my shoulder blade. I can't turn my neck so good and I feel some kind of strange referral junk down in my lower back. The base of my neck tingles when I hold my arm in certain positions, and when I hold my cup of coffee (and this is the one that is really brutal, not due to the pain, but because it inhibits my caffeine potential), I actually have to support it with my other hand. Seriously. This is no joke.

Now I know that I'm getting up there in the age department, but come on. My neck feels the same way it did in the last car accident I had when I got whipflash. Is there a disclaimer on Santa's little toy of joy?

I should have known. When my six year old daughter was complaining of pain in her neck and the back of her knee after a four hour session of Just Dance on Christmas Day. I should have just packed that sucker back up and signaled for a reindeer to come on back and retrieve it. Save us a few chiropractic bills.

But then I think hard about that tennis game, and my six year old smiling at me every time she won a shot. Her huge smile and high five when she'd ace me. Her funny laugh and sweet little voice saying "Mommy!" when I actually did win a game. Her big hug afterwards saying, "Thanks for playing with me, Mommy." Her excitement as she jumps up and down and wants to do it again over and over and over. With me. Bonding. And I realize that my Wii bit of an injury is worth it.

Let the Query Wars Begin

Writing a novel while managing a family of six is no easy feat. I sat tall with pride yesterday, as I carefully chipped away at my epiloque, grinning with a big sigh when I typed that last period and hit 'save'. Whew!

I've been editing my manuscript and will keep at it, but I knew I was ready to jump onto the real battlefield; querying.

From everything I've read, the query process is fierce and damn near debilitating. But I believe perseverance is they key. Writing is subjective. You gotta find that letter in a sea of words that loves your idea and your story as much as you do. A tough feat, no doubt.

But the battle has begun, as I sent a query yesterday and another today. I look at this part of the process as an opportunity to learn and explore and change and gain and eventually, sign a contract. Positive thinking only here, people.

But there is a lot of encouraging information out there; like, for example, that Stephen King wrote ten novels before being published (not sure if true, but read it somewhere), and that John Grisham received 29 rejection letters before an agency requested his manuscript. Then, of course, the infamous story of Stephenie Meyer, whose debut novel initally called Forks was way over the word limit for YOung Adult and should have been trashed immediately, but something caught the eye of an editor's assistant. Crazy how things finally get discovered, but can you imagine if they hadn't? I can't.

So a little faith, okay...a LOT of faith, and belief in yourself, and it will happen. Keep you posted.

Those Teary Moments.

It is Valentine's Day soon.So here is the Daddy/Daughter dance. So sweet. And comical. Clare, the oldest, was like, "Seriously, Mom, do I have to, like, slow dance?" This, as she rolls her eyes. I mean, I'd expect that from maybe junior high, but 2nd grade. My goodness. Fortunately, she was so excited to see Daddy in his coat and tie. She suddenly felt very 'grown up-ish.'

The middle one, "Mom, if they don't play China Anne McClain, then we will have to leave." (It's a county radio station hosting the dance). yeah, there will be some adjustment there. I also spent about 1/2 hour curling her hair only to wet it down and straighten it. Can you say, Diva? yeah, that's her. On the nail.

The youngest, "Since I am performing my ballet dance, I better put on my best leotard and don't forget my ballet tights and shoes." --Um, it's not really like dance class, per say.

Regardless, I am sure they will have a good time. The best of all? I showed them some photos of some other little girls and their Daddy's that had been posted on Facebook and were all dressed up and headed to the dance. They were like, "Mom, we will see that girl on the dance floor." I said, "Well, what about Daddy?" Response: "Oh, you know it goes, Mom, he'll just be talking to everybody." (Crack up---yeah, I know how that goes!) :)

Mommy and baby boy will catch some really great movie on Netflix and oh, I don't know, roll some cars around on the carpet? Me, a wine glass. Him, a lovely bottle with nothing but the best Whole Organic Milk. We're hanging in style tonight baby.

Anyway, I love this for these girls. What a special night. Such loves, aren't they all?

Lessons we learn from ourselves.

Four kids, 8 and under, home all weekend, with a husband that works full time and is getting his master's degree. Two of those kids are three and under. Do you think we get out much? Hell to the no.

It's not that we don't want to. We used to go all out, lug all that ski gear up to the mountain every single weekend, head out camping for a night or two so far in the middle of nowhere, it might as well have been Alaska. But then came number four. And life as we knew it stopped.

In other words, all you dear, sweet, lovely, sincere friends of mine that said, once you have three, the fourth is like, nothing. Well, I'm just one big sucker, cuz YOU LIE!!!!! I bet as soon as I got pregnant you just snickered away behind my back, probably just wanted a little company for that misery. But I love you anyway. :)

See, we were doing okay with three. Everything was a hassle, but it was still doable. I didn't feel like we were TOTALLY killing ourselves. We were, but I didn't feel like it. We even had our 18 month on skis and things were looking good to go in say, about two more years. Then we go for even numbers. And we get ourselves a strapping young lad. Now, this part is great, and of course, we wouldn't change a thing. But boy, did number four change us.

Andrew sleeps. A ton. More than the others combined, I swear. Everyone says, "How on earth did you write a novel?" My response? "I can't leave the house because all my baby does is sleep." What else should I do? Zumba at home is out of the question. I'm too lazy.

Truth is, I just don't want the hassle anymore. I don't want to go to the grocery store with more than one child. I don't want to drive all over the valley every night taking my kids to activities (I used to do this. And I would still be doing it if I only had two. But four. Damn near impossible.) It's a good thing, really. Teaches my kids to make choices. Teaches me to make choices. Slows us down. God gives you what you need and apparently we needed to put on the brakes. Enjoy it all a little more.

So now I go for the hand out at home kind of days rather than the kill yourself fitting in ten activities kind. It's all good, except for one thing. The fighting!! Oh, the fighting. Over ridiculous stuff. I lose my head. I knew I had to get them out of the house at least once a day over the weekends (Sunday is easy because it's church), but I don't want the friggin hassle. I figure if we do anything, it's gotta be some big thing where everyone gets dressed and I have to take a shower (heaven forbid) and the baby can't be gone long and can I just say hassle, hassle, hassle. I'm over it.

But today. The kids were fighting and driving me bonkers. So I dug deep and decided we would go to a sled hill nice and close by. Just the five of us. And to my overwhelming surprise, my two oldest cooperated, helping me with the younger two, carrying their own sleds. That's right. I'm still blinking twice to make sure it wasn't a dream, but they did not ask me to carry their sled even once. In fact, my oldest was carrying the three year old's sled too, and sometimes with her in it. When the baby was crying, my oldest picked him up and carried him up the hill too. Shock. Utter shock. I'm telling you. Your kids can really throw you for a loop sometimes. The good kind. We had a really, really fun time. And I didn't feel like it was all that hard of work. Did I mention that this whole sledding thing is about 99% cheaper than downhill skiing?

Best part, and the lesson learned is this. When we got home, everyone snuggled together on the couch, SHARED (are you kidding me?) popcorn and water and snacks, and quietly watched a movie without a single cross word to one another.

The lesson? Nothing earth shattering or new. Just that if you work hard, the reward will come. It was worth the effort to go outside and take the crew sledding by myself, because first, it taught them to help one another and helping me. And secondly, it helped them to blow off some steam together, bringing them closer, helping them to enjoy the quieter activities when we get home.

Ahhhhhhhh. It might only last a couple of hours, but I'll take it.

I know, I know. It will all get easier. But right now, I'm in the trenches. So I say, forget Apres ski, chica, I'm cracking a cold one to Apres sled.

The Christian Journey

When I was 23 years old, I got down on my knees and prayed for Jesus to save my weary soul. Then no more than two nights later, I was back at the town bar, propping up onto my old bar stool of bad habits. The Christian journey is not a straight path for everyone.

The Christian Journey is so different for every person, just as every person was created different by God. Good Lord, I have no idea why He waited until I was 23 to bonk me over the head, but then again, I'm sure I wasn't listening. But what I have found is that that is not entirely my fault. I was exposed, as most young people are, to super unrealistic ideas of what makes people happy, via television. Seriously, MTV was my favorite channel, and I had free reign of it for some reason. So all those sexy ladies...yeah, I pretty much thought that was what life was about. Sad, right? Yeah. Sad.

Because oh my goodness, guess what? I have this amazing's called a brain. And it just so happens that mine works pretty well. I wish I knew that twenty years ago.

But back to my journey. For about ten years, it was a curvy road, where sometimes I was cruising along, nice and straight, and then WHAM, out of nowhere, a hairpin turn. Learning to slow down and anticipate those turns was the key, and for a while, I must have had the wrong one.

Then I got married to a seriously ridiculously amazing man. The kind you think, how on God's greener grass earth do I deserve him? But he's mine. And I've got four incredible kids to prove it. So a different part of the journey began. The kind where all of a sudden I am a wife and a mother, and the part where I thought it all meant that I was supposed to be a saint. Oh my dear Good God Lord in Heaven.

So I swore off cuss words, and cut back on the vino and tried to focus on the family. Let me clarify, focus on the family is good, unless that is ALL you can manage to focus on. Can you say miserable? Yeah? In how many languages, because I'm pretty sure this one is universal! If we don't allow ourselves a little guilty pleasure, and admit we aren't perfect, and don't have to be, and force ourselves to give ourselves as women a little time to just be women, then we will want to go jump a cliff instead of be some friggin nun. Trust me, I was there.

Then there is the interim period. Where you know you don't have to be perfect, because Jesus says he did so we don't have to, so okay, I can finally accept that. But you walk on eggshells. What is okay and what is not. If I do this or do that, will I be a bad example as a Christian? And can I be myself and still believe that I am doing as God wishes I should? These are hard things, people. I do yoga, where it's all, be true to your inner self and all that crap. Seriously, what does that even mean? Well, I think it's all interrelated, and we can be all new agey and Christian at the same time. So when I get that one cracked, I'll be sure to let you know.

But now, I am at a new stage of my journey. The one where I finally feel comfortable letting loose, and if I feel like being a badass, I can throw on my shitkickers and I'll be a badass and cuss and let it all hang out. I spend 99% of my time taking care of my family, and I'm nice to people, and I don't really do anything all that bad that I know of. So seriously, can I just say a bad word every now and then or if I think my neighbor is whack? I mean, what else is repentance in Sunday church for anyway? Okay, just kidding. I know repentance is major. But we are human, and we are never more more Christian than when we admit that.

Best of all, I pray to an awesome God. And just feeling it when He hears me is enough to know I'm on the right path. Right, God? Yeah, I thought so. Amen.

Biting my Tongue

A strange thing has happened to me over the last few years. I'm learning to keep my mouth shut!

You could say that I've been a compulsive oversharer, like everyone cares why I do what I do, when, where, and with what outfit on. I've learned that not only do they not actually care, but they take that excess information and derive their own ideas about who you are and what you stand for. Usually, they're totally wrong.

The whole 'what they don't know won't hurt them'? Yeah, I'm pretty much buying it.

For me to admit this, it took me to realize how much I was telling people for the simple sake of filling silence. Why was I so afraid of awkward and quietness, and open tension in the air. I mean, I'm a writer, for God's sake, aren't I supposed to be all weird, and intraverted, and mysterious? It's time I live up to who I am, and I decided that to do that, I need to keep my mouth shut, and my fingers on the keyboard instead.

At least you can hit delete there.

That is the other point. On my way taking Caitlin to dance, a radio minister was talking about how we think we can say awful things, or expose ourselves to the world, and then just say, "oh wait, I take that back." Hell no, sister. You say it, it is on the record. For good. No take backs. No emotional erasers. The minister mentioned how if throw a bomb into your yard, there's gonna be some serious damage. Someone has to clean it up. Well, our tongues do major damage, and it takes some serious suck up to mop up that mess. So why not just hold tight to your words, and type them where you can backspace and pretend you aren't talking to or about anyone in particular.

Another good reason to stay silent.

Lastly, I have found that it makes me feel better. I also felt the need to explain myself to people. For the smallest, silliest things. Like why I let my kids have cheetohs, or why our house is always a mess, or why we have way too many animals causing us to further have too many damn mouths to feed, or why we aren't doing a certain activity at the time, or why my kid went out in public with make up on, or a tutu, or in a darth vadar costume. Or why I might be wearing a darth vadar comstume. I used to wonder if I was the 'keep up with the Jones's type', you know that ones that that tell you things you really don't need to know, like that their underwear are laced with diamonds, but then I realized that's not it for sure. Those people shower.

I definitely haven't mastered shutting up. Just yesterday I found myself over answering some mom's question about something with my kids. Most questions require a very simple answer, and I'm determined to deliver it.

It's also why I've backed off the facebook thing, from a personal status-posting standpoint. I used to spout off all day long worthless, meaningless status posts; like hey, I'm about to make a sandwich. Hooray. No offense, I have lovely friends that share lovely things on facebook. It's just not me anymore. The grass is just greener for me as an observer of facebook right now. I mean, I absolutely am thrilled to make comments on other people's muses. I think if I had a business, I'd be all over it. But I stay connected because there is way too much valuable information not to be. And if there is something really important going on with me personally, my good friends will know about it. And not on facebook. If I have universally educational informational that might transform a person or the world, I'll post it on facebook (but you'll see it here first.) :)

What I have figured out is that why it makes me feel better to shut up is that it validates that I don't need to explain myself. To anybody. I'm me. My family is what we are. We do the things the way we do things because we just do. We have happy kids. A happy marriage. A really friggin disastrous of a messy house. And dirty animals. But our house is full of more love than the universe can handle.

No need to explain that.


This is just quick shout out to my friends who homeschool their children. You are amazing. I seriously don't know how you do it. My patience would go, then my sanity, then my ability to not run away from home. I'm pretty sure my children would not only learn absolutely nothing if I homeschooled, but they would lose their mother as well, to a tropical island and a really tall, strong margarita. Maybe after a while, I'd come home. Maybe.

What made me realize how incredible these homeschooling women are, is that some Saturday mornings when we actually sleep in until 7:30 am, I get to thinking, 'this is why homeschooling would rock. We could sleep in, and just do our 'schoolwork' via the Wii or something, and then we could go outside and run some laps so everyone is so friggin tired that when I'm ready to take a nap, they feel up to eating popcorn on the couch and watching a movie. Then I'd teach them some good ol home ec, so that they can do the laundry and cook Daddy's dinner.' It was starting to sound really good to me, until about 9am hit, and everyone was whining they were hungry again, and the baby was swinging from the light fixtures and the toddler had taken fingerpaint to the walls and the second to the oldest had built forts using every blanket we own in order to make shelter for her stuffed animals and my oldest is applying way too much make-up to her sweet little innocent face.

That's when I think about filing a petition for Saturday school.

So, my hats off to you homeschooling mothers. Clearly, you give up probably all of yourself to do something important. And if you ever want a few more, just tell me what time to drop mine off.

Writing while mothering

It is not easy to be a writer when a kid or two still only come up to your knees. And if those aren't the only ones you have, then you're really in trouble, because not only are your days freaking nuts, but your after school is probably nearly catostrophic.

I started my second novel in November. It's almost done. Well, the first draft that most likely has eight million typos and plenty of conflicting scenes and most likely some really underdeveloped characters. It took me three months to get that far. Lord knows how long it will take me to revise the thing. How Stephenie Meyer did this with her kids all at home, I'll never know. I remember reading about how she would be writing with her toddler crawling in her lap and watching cartoons over her shoulder. Seriously, that is patience I definitely come up real short on.

I often look around and think, what are some things I could 'let go' in order to have more time writing. The dust is three feet thick on the mantle, the floor covered in all kinds of really unnamed stuff, and the dishes are piled high. So obviously, that's already gone. Today we went to the dentist and my kids have mouthfuls of cavities. I guess the bedtime routine wouldn't be a good one to sluff off. If I ignored our animals, they'd all die. Not good. If I ignore my husband...oh wait, he'd say I already do. And yes, our kids are still playing musical beds, so forget getting up early. So, it's a real predicament.

Right now as I try to write this, my second daughter is pouring over little stuffed animals on some internet site, asking me which ones she should get. For the sake of buying myself a few more minutes, I don't have the heart to tell her that we ain't buying anymore damn stuffed dogs.

But I still want to be mothering and I still want to be writing. So I suppose until one of those things change, it will just be a juggle. And a struggle. But so far that's all I've ever heard trying to write a book (or even more so, sell a book) is anyway. Just grin and bear it, right? Might make my jaw sore.

The Caffeinated IV drip

Someone needs to invent one of these for mothers. For the majority of us who at the very least suck down a couple of strong, black cups of JOe first thing in the morning (the required amount to be able to remember my first name), most days are good with a few good cups in the morning and maybe you even make time to brew a quick pot in the early afternoon. But what about those know the ones...where you absolutely feel like you need another cup the INSTANT you throw back the last sip in your mug. Today is one of the those days. I often don't understand my fatigue. For the most part, I get a lot of sleep. Extremely interrupted sleep, but a good amount of it nonetheless. Kids are just exhausting, awake or asleep.

I really wish someone really smart and savvy out there could invent the Caffeinated IV drip for mothers. Our hands are always way too full to be able to actually hold a cup of coffee all day. That's where the drip comes in. Just hook 'er up and you're on full tilt, dusk to dawn. This is what I need.

For now, I'll continue to balance my cup o' survival liquid in my arms with the eight million other things, usually including a kid or two, and all the while that lovely dark, unique smelling liquid spills over everything and burns my arm, black stains on the kids pants and on the floor of the car. But it's all worth it. Until one of you smart scientist type peeps out there does this world a tremendous service, and develops the must needed Caffeinated IV drip.

Please make it versatile too. Occasionally, at the end of a long week, we might want to sneak some wine in there as an alternative. Survival liquid number two.

This mothering thing is great. But none of us can do it alone. Many moms all on one another, usually the moms that are part of big mom groups. Talk each other through their droopy eyes, yawning mid-sentence, joking it up with one another to get through the day. As a mother of four busy ones, and trying to complete a novel, I spend my days either glued to my computer, or juggling small people who have mistaken me for a permanent rag doll. So, since we can't do it alone, but we all aren't cut out to get our fix from social engagements, we need a different kind of friend to offer up continual, unconditional, repetitive support.

The Caffeinated IV drip. Your creation is in my prayers.