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Thursday, December 29, 2011

For My 11 Year Old

Eleven years ago today, after two miscarriages, one ectopic pregnancy, many rounds of Clomid, four years of "trying", nine months of puking and unbelievable weight gain, four days of induced labor, and one C-section, Girl 1 finally "decided" (after much cajoling) to be born.

And that's sort of how things have been since Day One. Or even pre-Day One. She sorta does things on her own time and in her own way. But I'm always trying to get her to do stuff on my time frame and in my way. No doubt she was sent her to teach me how to be patient and to let go of control.

You'd think I would have learned it be now. But nope. After eleven years (fifteen if you count all the pre-birth stuff) I'm still ramming my head up against a wall, trying to get through, instead of just looking for the door in.

And maybe it's because I have so much to learn from her that my love for her is so deep, but sometimes so hard to show.

So today, this blog is for my eldest. so everyone will know just how much I love her. And because she is 11, easily embarrassed, and a follower of this blog, I will only post one picture of her doing the thing she loves very best:

Happy Birthday Emma C.!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Me vs. Christmas

I haven't heard much this year about that whole War on Christmas thing that was going on last year (or so I heard through the grapevine). Maybe it's because I don't listen to anything--and  do mean anything, I don't care what it is-- Glen Beck says. Or maybe that war really is over and I just missed the announcement.

I'll tell you what is still going on though: my war WITH Christmas.

Now before you run screaming to personally contact Mr. Beck and tell him his war is back on, let me explain. I'm not talking about the baby Jesus, reason for the season Christmas.Let me assure you, I am totally on board with that Christmas.

It's the card sending, present purchasing, treat making, party attending, holiday complicating Christmas that keeps trying to take me down.

It started when we decided to bag our plans to spend the week of Thanksgiving at my parents' house in Utah-- partly due to exhaustion and sickness and partly due to the fact my brother in New York decided to spend Christmas there. So, hubby and I decided, instead of buying a bunch of presents this year, we would surprise the kids by taking them to Utah for a big family Christmas.

At first this was an easy surprise to keep secret since hubby kept forgetting this was our plan. But then, my darling tween--who is acting very much like a teen--found out all her cousins were going to Papa and Grandma's house. And that we weren't. Thus she has spent the past month alternating between begging us to go, begging Grandma to come pick her up and stomping around the house yelling that this is going to be the worst Christmas ever. But mostly that last one.

There have been days when I have been so irritated with her that I've wanted to yell, "WE ARE GOING! THAT'S YOUR CHRISTMAS PRESENT! SURPRISE! HAPPY NOW?" And maybe one day I did yell this before she stormed out the door to school and I spent the day in bed feeling very sad that I had ruined Christmas.

But Christmas can not beat me. Because what I learned was that, when I yell, all my daughter hears is noise, not actual words. So when she came home from school and asked, "what did you scream at me this morning?" I lied. And then hubby lied too, saying, "your mom is crazy when she's mad, (okay maybe that part is true) you shouldn't believe what she's saying when she yells."

Christmas - 0. Crazy, Screaming Mom - 1

Of course in the days leading up to the exploding Mom and near Christmas win, Christmas launched a sneak attack.

Since we are not doing a bunch of toys this year-- or basically giving our kids anything on their lists-- I decided to do something special for my girls by making them some photo albums. Not the kind that require actual cutting and sticking and creating, (been there, done that, not going back) but the kind you can do on one of those photo websites--like that one that rhymes with butterfly--and all you have to do is drop the pictures where you want them, then write a little something about them. Still a lot of work, but a lot less mess.

And, luckily, a friend of mine had a coupon she forwarded to me for 50% off + free shipping + another $10. So how could I pass on that deal? Except I only had a day and a half to put together three photo albums before the coupon expired. And so I spent an entire day in front of my computer working on the albums. An. Entire. Day.

But I did it!


By the time my last project finished downloading, it was 12:02 a.m. Two minutes past the deadline. I frantically fired off an email begging them to still honor my coupon. Then the next morning I called and spoke to a very nice lady. And do you know what she told me after speaking to her supervisor?


But she kindly pointed out that they were now 40% off. I then, very politely, pointed out that 40% is still less than 50% plus $10 and that I had been a customer for really a lot of years, but would no longer be. Then she secretly took another $20 off my order.

Christmas- 0. Crazy, Picture Lady - 2.

Christmas lodged one more feeble attempt at keeping me from doing everything by getting me sick one day before the start of my Seven Parties in Three Days Christmas Extravaganza. Really Christmas? Did you think a little sore throat/laryngitis + mucousy cough + lack of sleep would keep me from hot glue gunning graham crackers to milk cartons so that 32 first graders could make gingerbread houses? Or keep me from playing Just Dance and gabbing with friends? Or bowling? Or teaching 3rd graders how to make the most awesome snowflakes ever? Or Journeying through Bethlehem with the rest of my ward? Or watching fifth graders decorate cookies? Or win a totally awesome snowboarding jacket for my husband (who doesn't even snowboard)?


Christmas - 0. Crazy, Party Lady - 3.

And, in a pre-emptive strike I had already hired someone to make delicious cookies for my friends and neighbors ( go there, try them, they are so very yummy. Find them on Facebook too). So they still got my treats, but without my sick germs!

Bah Ha Ha!

Christmas - 0. Crazy, Treat Lady - 4.

You can not beat me Christmas.

You. Can. Not. Beat. Me!!

At least not until I get my credit card bill.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Who Knew A Leopard Print Christmas Could Be So Much Work?

Remember when I said I would post a picture of my girls' leopard Christmas dresses that made me happy?

You don't?

Well I said it right  here. But it's okay if you've forgotten, because it has been awhile since I wrote it. Or since I've written anything really, due to the fact that Christmas is kicking my butt. And it's not even here yet.

So anyway, the best I can do for a blog post today is share the promised picture.

Here's another picture that my sweet-- and talented-- friend, Jen took

Do you see any differences in their leopard attire? If you noticed that Girl 2 (the one on the right in both pics) is wearing something just a little bit different, you win the award for being Most Observant.* 

How is this girl lucky enough to own not one, but TWO leopard outfits? you ask. Well, I'll tell you.

She's not. It's all an illusion created by the magic of photoshop. Because while Jen was taking the picture I realized it would be so much cuter if Girl 2 were also wearing a leopard top under her bolero jacket instead of the cream one she had on. (Actually I thought this earlier in the day before the picture, but was too busy cleaning my bathroom to go shopping).

When I mentioned this to Jen she said she could just photoshop a little leopard top onto her. But only in the picture. Not in real life. Which meant I had to go shopping that night for one so G2 could wear it to church the next day.

So that's what I did. Jen was kind enough to join me and, I gotta tell ya, it was kind of a lot of work. There were no gray leopard shirts to be found that would work under her cute bolero. But I did find a black shirt at Kohl's and a darling little furry leopard vest (faux of course, as I assured G2 who feared an actual leopard had been harmed in its making).

And when I saw "little vest," I do mean little. Because even though I found it in the big girl's department and it had an M on it, it was about a size 5. Fortunately, G2 tried it on that night so I didn't have to break the Sabbath the next day to return it for a bigger size in order to complete the coordinating ensemble I had planned for church. Unfortunately, that was at 10 pm. Fortunately, Target had started their holiday hours. So I headed back to find a big girl vest.

But guess what. That cute, furry vest only came in cute little sizes. Apparently whoever designs for Target has decided big girls should only have ugly, hairy vests. And the biggest little girl size they had in the vest was an L. Which is size 6. G2 is 8 1/2.

But she is little and all the other stores that might possibly carry something leopard were closed. So I took it. And she squeezed into the next day, but kept the tags on. (Maybe I've mentioned this before, but she is willing to sacrifice comfort in the name of fashion. Her big sister, on the other hand... not so much).

The beauty of living in a thriving metropolis is the plethora of Targets all within a ten minute drive. So on Monday I went to another Target and found another vest, only this time an XL. Which fits tolerably well and looks pretty darn cute. And makes G2 pretty darn happy.

And the moral of this blog?

Well, there are two really.

1. Shopping should always come before cleaning because, in the end, it will end up saving you time. And picture retakes. (Plus, people see what you wear a lot more often than they see your bathrooms).
2.  If you are thinking "there may be a reason why Christmas is wearing her out, and it doesn't have much to do with what the season is supposed to be about" you pretty much hit the nail on the head. (And also, I'm not even going to mention the snowflake tutorials I googled so I could make really cool ones--some in leopard print, of course-- to hang from my banister).

* Disclaimer: there's is no actual prize that goes with this award other than the satisfaction of knowing you are good at noticing things. Use this skill at the next baby shower you attend where they play memorize-all-these-stupid-baby-things-before-we-hide-them-and-then-make- you -remember-them (I hate that game). You can win a prize there.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Guess What I Did...

It took nine months and 102,239 words.
And there is still much cutting and editting to be done.
Not to mention the revising and querying.
it's official.

I wrote a book.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ten Awesome Things...Plus Six Things That Suck.

Anybody else feeling a little crazy right now? (Please only respond if you are not one of those "I finished all of my Christmas shopping is September" people. Because I hate you if you are).

I haven't had a lot of time to blog lately, what with all the Christmas decorating I've been doing in order to avoid the shopping for gifts part of the holiday. So imagine my surprise today when I checked my blog stats and found people were still reading something I wrote ten days ago. It's like my blog is a classic now! And, even better, someone found their way to it by putting the phrase, "uppity negress" in their search engine. I don't know how that led them to my blog, but I think it's pretty awesome.

Here are a few other things I'm thinking are awesome this week:

1. My husband cleaned the garage. Every time I look at it, I get a little turned on.
2. Christmas decorations. My dining room table kind of looks like Michael's threw up on it. And I like it. Maybe I will post pictures.
3. I came up with some rockin' coordinating Christmas outfits for my girls that involve leopard print. Pictures will definitely be posted. If I can convince my almost eleven year old to wear hers again.
4. My eight year old wore her long-sleeve black sequined shirt with the furry leopard print vest over it to church. And it was 80 degrees outside. SO awesome that she will suffer for fashion's sake!
5. The maple trees in my backyard are all red and gorgeous. And the gardener raked up the fallen leaves today, so husband doesn't have to.
6. The purple flats I found on clearance at Target.
7. Target. But I kinda always think it's awesome.
8. One of my favorite cousins and his family just moved nearby.
9. I have a new nephew, born today, all healthy and chubby.
10. My kids are all asleep and it's not even 10 yet. That has not happened in a very long time.

And just so I don't make you want to puke with all my chipper, "Life is Awesome" list-iness, here are a few things that suck:
1. That movie Like Crazy. Unless, of course, you are one of those people who think a revoked visa, very little dialogue-- but lots of longing looks-- and ugly chairs, constitute "art". If so, please take your place in line behind those early Christmas shoppers on my list of not-so-awesome things.
2. The temperature inside my church is somewhere near -20, so my daughter was actually a bit chilly in her winter wear.
3. This is probably the last Christmas I can bribe/coerce my oldest into wearing anything remotely resembling what her sisters are wearing.
4. Another favorite cousin and his fam will be moving away from here. Sad for me, but sadder for them. Cause there's snow where they're going.
5. Black Friday shopping. Except for that done for me by others. And the awesome lighted garland I got. Plus a few other deals. Okay, so maybe the shopping didn't suck, but the lines and people did. Except for that friendly Syrian lady who told me she was in line behind me, then wandered around for fifteen minutes expecting me to fight off the hoards of people who actually got into the line-- rather than staking an imaginary claim in it--and, when she finally did reclaim her spot, talked very loudly in Syrian on her phone while aalternately complaining just as loudly that they should open another register. Despite the fact there was no other register, thereby making it impossible to open one. But she did hold my spot for thirty seconds while I ran to get something, so that was nice. Though I'm starting to see why maybe there's some upheaval in that region of the world.
6. Texts at 3 and 4 a.m. from my personal shoppers to tell me they got me what I wanted in their Black Friday shopping extravaganza. Kind of defeats the purpose of staying home in bed if you can't stay asleep there during all the madness.
6. It seems my kids aren't actually asleep, but were only fooling me.

But, as you can see, there is a lot less that sucks than is awesome.

So I guess make that number 11 on my list.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Uppity Women Unite Part Deux

Since my last post I've had a lot of people tell me they want an Uppity Women Unite t-shirt. Which I think is a marvelous idea, just marvelous. I'm not a t-shirt sporting slogans wearer myself, but that doesn't mean the rest of you can't be.

 But here's the thing. With the money it would cost to buy that t-shirt, you could do something even better to show just what an Uppity Woman you are. See that sidebar over there? On the side? In the bar? Well, by donating to that fund you will be helping a single mother go to college. And everyone knows, if you improve the life of a mother, you improve the life of more than one person.

So come on Uppity friends (that includes you too, guys. You don't have to be a woman to be uppity), let's unite and support our sisters. I'm going to throw in $5, and if every one of my followers did too, that'd be like fifteen bucks.

Now I'll be honest. My motive for supporting this cause aren't completely altruistic. By posting this and donating, I'll be entered in a contest wherein I could win a reprieve from writing my own Christmas letter. Now, now, I know many of you are fans of my annual Christmas letter and look forward to its arrival each year. But that's some pressure people. And I may not be up for the task this year. But my hilarious friend DeNae is more than able and I assure you, reading about the 2011 exploits of the Larsen family in her words will not disappoint.

And I guess that's about all I've got to say today. A little less wordy than usual, I know. But I'm the co-chair of my kids' school book fair this week. Which means I'm up to my eyeballs in books, words and kids. So I'm kind of tired of looking at all of those things and am having a lot of trouble thinking straight.

Not too worry though. It's nothing that a Diet Coke can't fix. Just trying to make it to 7 a.m. before I crack it open.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Uppity Women Unite

When I was a freshman at the BYU, there was a girl on my floor who had a poster of an upright fist with the words: Uppity Women Unite! at the bottom. I don't remember this girl's name (though I do remember a rumor she left the Y for Berkley) and I had no idea who the Uppity women were or why they should unite, but man was that poster cool.

I've thought about that poster a lot over the past few days because I've done a lot of uniting in celebration with some pretty awesome friends.

With Friend 1, we celebrated a new beginning

Friend 2 and I celebrated her 40th birthday by going on a girls' trip with two other friends.

And for Friend 3, I threw a party to celebrate the good news that Covenant Books wants to publish her book.

All good news, right? So what do these friends have to do with uppity women, you ask? Well, let me tell you a little more about them..

The new beginning Friend 1 and I celebrated is her courage to get out of an abusive relationship. Sometimes, know matter how bad things are, it's easier to stick with what you know than face the unknown. But she's got a lot of women surrounding her-- lifting her up after years of being beaten down--united in helping her start over.

Friend 2 has had some knock down, drag out fights with depression over the years. When she lost her mom to cancer this year, we worried we would lose her to depression. But she's feeling better physically and emotionally than she has in years. So we celebrated her and her strength and listened to stories about her mom. Then cried with her when, for the first time, her mom didn't call her to say "Happy Birthday."

And talk about strength. Friend 3's book is about the grief-- and the miracles--she experienced when her son was killed in a sledding accident just before his fifth birthday. She spent two years writing and editing that story. The day she found out it was going to be published was the first day I had seen my old friend in four years.  The one without the sad eyes.

It's not the publishing part she's excited about. It's the part where her pain can hopefully be a balm for those who are in need of comfort. You can get a sense for how she does that here:

The women who came to my house to celebrate Friend 3's accomplishment have felt her pain. Even those who didn't know her when it happened. But those of us who were there in those days and weeks after her son's death, prayed to take on some of her burden. And I know that Heavenly Father allowed us to do that. And in doing so, we gained a better understanding of the Atonement and what the Savior suffered for us. We learned what her book aims to show: there are blessings that come from tragedy.

The past few days have taught me, once again, just how amazing the women are who surround me. I'm in awe of the things we can do when we unite to lift each other up. And we don't even need the rallying call of "Uppity Women Unite!"

We only need to follow our instincts and the Spirit.

I do really like to say those words though..



Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My Top Ten

Have you seen those status updates on Facebook? The ones where people are saying what they are thankful for EVERY SINGLE DAY this month?

I keep thinking I should jump on that bandwagon, but I don't want to be a follower. Even though I totally am. I'm just not comfortable doing it so publically. Plus, I'm eight days behind now and I hate catching a trend at the tailend. It's like the time in college I finally broke down and bought a pair of Birkenstocks, only to find out a few months later everyone had moved on to Doc Marten's. (Did I just age myself there? Pretty sure I did.)

So, because I'm not taking time to update my gratitude status every day--or even update my status at all, for that matter-- I've decided to get all my thankfulness out in one fell swoop with a Top Ten List ala David Letterman. (See what I mean about catching trends at the tailend? I think this one is so long gone it's no where to be caught).

So here it is...

Top Ten Things I'm Thankful For, But You Will Not See In My Facebook Status...

10. Chik-fil-a, which I can never remember how to spell. Their name is tricky, but their fries are yummy.

  9. Limes. They make Diet Coke taste good.

  8. Breakfast. Because once a week I get to eat it with three of my favorite people and sometimes more of my favorite people come along.  

  7. School. My house is quiet when my kids go to there.

  6. Chocolate. No explanantion necessary.

  5. Nice memories from my childhood of snow days, safely viewed from my sunny spot in California where I never have to worry about my children having them.*

  4. Parents who live somewhere snowy so we can have a white Christmas, and then a warm January. 

  3. Friends. Lots and lots of them. And they are the best in the world.

  2. My kids. Who I do miss when they are at school. Until they get home and we enter Homework Hell. Then I wish I could miss them again.

  1. My husband. Seriously, he is the best. Even when I suggest something and he says, "let's sit down and talk about it," when we are already sitting. And talking. And I know what he really means is either, "if I ignore it long enough, she will forget about it," or "I'm gonna have to gear up for this one, because there's no way she's letting it go." And he usually let's me have what I want if I just "sit and talk about it" at him for long enough.

(There are also lots of other things I love about him. But I'll wait and post those on Facebook. Because if there's one thing he hates, it's public affection of the sentimental type).

* There was the time my kids got out of school for a week because it was under threat of being burned to the ground by wildfire. And the smoke was too thick to actually leave the house. But that's only happened once in the past twelve fire seasons since I have lived here.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Just In Case You're Wondering

Angie at Live to Write... Edit When Necessary... passed along these questions for me to answer. And it's a good thing too, because now I don't have to think up something to write on my own. I mean, other than my answers to these questions:

If you could go back in time and relive one moment, what would it be?

I would go back to the boat I was on in Belize just over three years ago when the dive guide asked who was going to be doing the 140 foot deep dive into the Blue Hole. And this time I would say yes instead of asking if reef sharks eat people. The snorkeling far away from the sharks was beautiful though.

If you could go back in time and change one thing what would it be?

Wow. Only one? I would go back to the years I was at BYU and take a class from Eugene England. That's how cool I think he was. (BTW, I'm married to the guy who wrote that article about Prof. England. He's pretty cool too).

What movie/TV character do you most resemble in personality?

Hmmm. That's a tough one. I've been told I look like Sarah Jessica Parker, who I think is a terrible actress and kinda looks like a horse-- but must be an all right gal cuz she's married to Ferris Bueller-- but you be the judge. Do we look alike?

SJP                         Me
 As far as personality though, maybe Angela from The Office. Because I am kind of little and very judgmental. Not to mention self-righteous. I don't like cats though, or numbers, but I do have the word "cats" in my blog title. And I do use numbers on occasion. So, yeah, let's say Angela.

If you could push one person off a cliff and get away with it, who would you choose?

Another tough one. There are so many people I'd like to push over a cliff. But let's go with Ashton Kutcher. I find him, his acting, and his little camera very irritating.

Name one habit you want to change in yourself.

I could curse less. But I kinda like doing that, so maybe I won't change that one. How about yelling at my kids every morning? I bet that's one they'd like me to change too.
Why do you blog (answer in one sentence).

Because I'm a narcissist and a procrastinator of housecleaning tasks and I like to write, so blogging fulfills all of those needs and people tell me how much they like to read it, which is awesome because no one ever says how my clean house made their day. And sometimes I don't like to follow rules so I'm answering in one really long sentence and a pointless second sentence.

And now I have to pass these questions along to three other people. So here goes...

Take it away

1. Kristy at Kristy's stories
2. Karen at Karen's Make Believe World
3. Jenny at Mommy Snark

Monday, October 31, 2011

And the Mother of the Year Award Goes To.... Not Me.

Another Halloween has come and gone and with it all of my hopes and aspirations of being nominated for Mother of the Year.

And here's why:

For at least eight months Girl 1 has been planning on dressing up as a horse for Halloween. (She's ten and a girl, so, of course, she loves horses). She envisioned a costume for her and her best friend made out of chicken wire, fabric and a lot of help from me and my mad sewing skills. Which she's sure I have because I have a sewing machine. In a closet. In the garage. That she's never seen me use.

So, yeah, that didn't happen. Instead I've spent the past eight months saying, "Halloween is still months away; let's at least get to October before we start talking costumes." And by "saying" I may mean "yelling in frustration."

And then last week I started "saying", "Fine. I will look online for a horse costume, but I am not buying anything."

But I did buy something. Ninja accessories. Because when we couldn't find a horse costume big enough to fit someone over eighteen months old, that's what she came up with. And I'm sure I could have borrowed daggers, swords , and masks from one of my many friends who have boys, but after eight months of horse costume talk, she broke me. So I spent the $6.

And then she gave the sword to her BFF so she could also be a ninja. She asked me to find something black for BFF to wrap around her face, so I made some suggestions, like, "Seriously? She can't find anything at her own house?" But I drew the line at actually getting up and looking for a costume for someone else's kid. Much as I like that kid and her parents.

Then I sent all my kids over to their house on Saturday. And again today. Because I needed a nap and I figured she kinda owed me for making her kid's costume.

But at least Girl 1 got a choice. Her two younger sisters I just tried to guilt into wearing the poodle skirts I made for them in June so they could go to a sock hop. On My Birthday. And I bought saddle shoes for them to wear--which aren't going to fit either one of them next year because even though they are 2 1/2 years apart, they are the same size.

It worked with Girl 3, but Girl 2 opted to wear something from the dress-up box and then borrow some tights from me. Despite the fact she is two feet shorter than me. But hey, neglect has made her resourceful. And Girl 3 looked awfully cute as a 50's girl. She even had cat eye glasses to wear. I mean, sure, they're her older sister's. And they're prescription glasses. And she complained they hurt her eyes. But man, did she look like an authentic 50's girl!

Also, I may have forgotten today was Halloween because we had a church trunk-or-treat activity on Friday where they sure got a lot of candy. So, in my mind, Halloween was over. Until someone mentioned something about trick-or-treating on Monday. But that was on Saturday night. And when I realized we would have to do the whole dress-up thing again, a wave of horror washed over me. Because by this time the kids had eaten much of their candy for breakfast. And lunch. And a little more for dinner. Which meant there was none left over for me to re-gift to actual Halloween night trick-or-treaters.

 And no way was I going back to Target for more.

So I raided the snack drawer. Which was chock full of some pretzel cheese sandwich cracker things that my kids refused to eat. So those went in the give away bowl.  Plus a whole lot of lame plastic bat rings and pumpkin erasers my husband was convinced no one would take. He advised me thus, "Don't let them see what's in the bowl. Just reach in, grab something, then put your hand all the way in their bag before you drop it so they can't see what it is." (Have I mentioned he's a lawyer?).

Sound advice, I know. But instead I sent hubby with the kids to knock doors and beg for candy while I set the bowl on the porch, turned out all the lights, and watched TV.

Best. Halloween. Ever.

* One more reason--and there are a lot-- I won't be nominated for Mother of the Year: I don't always make it home before my kids do because I know Girl 3 can get into our locked house through the doggie door and then let the other two in. At least until she grows another inch or two.

Friday, October 28, 2011

In Honor of Baby Kegel. And Some Other People Too.

Today's post is a tribute to some friends of mine. Which, for some reason, brings to mind that old Willie Nelson song, To All The Girls I've Loved Before. I'm really not sure why. Maybe because of that part where he sings:
I'm glad you came along
so I dedicate this song
to all the girls I've loved before...
But honestly, I can't explain how the soundtrack in my head works. I mean, I do love these two girls. Just not in the same way I think Willie Nelson would love them.


Moving on to the actual tributary part of this blog, I'd like to start with Sheridan. And if I were any kind of technical computer genius person, I would make that name light up and flash. Maybe even do a little dance.

Sadly, I think we've already established here, I am not that girl. Which is okay. Because Sheridan is not a flashy, name- in -lights kind of gal anyway. Quite the opposite, actually. In fact, Sheridan is the kind of gal whose husband once said to me, "please take her shopping and I don't care how much you spend. I just want my shirts back."

And what I heard is, "shopping spree at Nordstrom on somebody else's dime." 

So we went. But I told her before we left to wear a bra, because I knew she wouldn't if I didn't make her. Except she still didn't. Instead she packed one in her purse. Her small purse. (Here's something you should know about bras. If you have borne and nursed three children, you should be wearing a bra with cups and underwire. Not one that can be wadded up and stuffed into a purse. Those days--and those boobs--are gone my friends).

But Sheridan's boobs had been hiding under her husband's shirts, and she didn't know this. So, being the charitable woman I am, I sacrificed my own bra for her use so that she could see how nice clothes look when breasts are properly positioned inside them.

She's still not convinced. Which is actually pretty awesome, because it gives me something to tease her about. And thank goodness there's one real woman in the sea of plastic that is Orange County (not that there's anything wrong with the plastic--no judgment here).  

But her courage in the face of conformity is not why I want to pay tribute to her today. No, the real reason she deserves my kudos is for her tireless and underpaid efforts to educate women about childbirth. Not the sterilized, hospital, let's-make-this-as-convenient-as-possible kind, but the beautiful, calm, women's-bodies-are-amazing kind. Which I think is really cool. Because what we go through to have children--whether naturally, with an epidural, by c-section, or adoption--should be celebrated and not feared. And if you want to go to a place where it is, check out Sheridan's blog While you're there, take a look at the book she helped write, whose button I would grab, except... well, that whole computer brain deficiency thing I've got going on.

Let's move on now to friend #2, Nikki, who is as good at birthing children as Sheridan is at teaching people how to birth them. For example, one time Nikki gave birth to twins. Then about two years later she gave birth again.

To triplets.

Because she's efficient like that. Five kids in two pregnancies gets things done pretty quick if you're looking to have a big family. Which maybe she wasn't so much, but, hey, she's sure made life fun for those kids. Even if they don't always make it fun for her

Including the one that came a few years after the triplets. If you're counting, that's three pregnancies, six kids, and four years. See what I mean when I say that ability to have children is pretty amazing? Especially when you can have so many, so quickly.

And guess what Nikki did today. She went ahead and had another baby. Just one this time. And she waited seven years. But still, pretty amazing, right?

Before she had that baby, though, she got a little training from Sheridan about how to do it. Even though she'd already done it. Three times. But it never hurts to learn a few new tricks. Like how to hypnotize a baby using Sheridan's hypnobabies tactics (still don't think I have the definition of that right). Plus Sheridan gave her these cool stickers to put on her purse, and her steering wheel, and lots of other places, to remind her to "exercise"*

And when Nikki's kids found these stickers they thought they were really cool and wondered if they were for the baby. Because, did I mention? Her boys' names all start with K.

Oh, and the new baby is a boy.

So wouldn't Kegel make a great name?

Her kids thought so.

Nikki did not.

But welcome to the world anyway Baby K (but not Kegel). You are blessed to have such a fantastic mom who entertained herself in the hospital this week-- while waiting for you to be born six weeks early--by letting one of your big sisters do this to her:

Pretty awesome mom, right? Just imagine how much fun you're going to have once you're out of that pumpkin!

* If you don't know what a Kegel is then you 1) have never given birth or 2) have some serious bladder issues if you have.  Either way, you should look it up so this post will make a little more sense

Monday, October 24, 2011

Be Careful What You Joke About

Yesterday I thought of a really awesome blogpost. But I've slept since then and now it's gone. That's sort of how things work--or don't work--in my head.

So, until I remember what I planned on writing today, I'm going to tell you a little story about a friend of mine from high school. He was a Catholic boy and I was a Mormon girl. And there were a lot of us Mormon girls (and boys too) around because, as you may remember, I'm from southern Idaho. Which, while not the heart of the Jello Belt*, is definitely the nuts and carrots.

There weren't a lot of Catholic boys around though. Only two, in fact. And a lot of us Mormon kids didn't get that my friend was a pretty good Catholic. Like go-to -Mass-while-his-parents-were-out-of-town good.  Many of my Mormon friends and I, on the other hand, were the kind of kids who tried to get out of going to church when our parents were in town. There was no way I would have shown up at church without my parents. Which is probably one reason they never left town. Ever.

But, I was the "right" religion, so clearly I was on a more direct route to Heaven. We Mormons tend to think that way sometimes. (Although, I don't think we're the only religion guilty of that kind of arrogance).

Then one day I moved. To Cleveland, Ohio. Where there are more than two Catholic boys. Many, many more. But not many more than two Mormon girls. Especially at the Catholic school where I taught. In fact, there was only one there. Me.

And I figured out that there were really a lot of good people of all different religions. And maybe I didn't have all the answers. And maybe I could learn something from all these other people that would increase my own faith in Jesus Christ and help me live my own religion a little better.

I also decided that not everybody needed to be Mormon. Actually, I think it's best that not everybody is. Things tend to get a little weird when there are too many of us in one place. Case in point: Utah. (No offense, Utah. Love you! Your mountains are awesome!) And maybe that pastor guy who offended my cousins, Mitt and John, has been there and that's why he thinks we're a cult. (He's wrong, btw).

Anyway, my point is, I'm not really a send-the-missionaries to your house kind of gal. I live my life so people can see what I believe, I talk about my beliefs, and I'll answer any question someone may have about my religion. But, unless you ask me to, I'm not gonna send any nineteen year old boys to your doorstep.

So when I saw my old high school friend this past summer, I shared this philosophy with him. And we talked about lots of other things, including the fact that he should join Facebook so he could stay in touch with me and everyone else he's tried to avoid for twenty years. I may have mentioned this a few times. Like maybe a hundred.

And guess what? He did join. So the first comment I posted to him was a very funny one about how now that I'd converted him to FB I had a book he should read and I was sending some boys in ties over to hand deliver it to him. And I laughed and I laughed at my cleverness. Because what were the odds of some missionaries showing up at his door in Boise, Idaho?

Well, pretty high actually. Because they did. And he was kind enough to offer to weed whack their ties for them (I'm sure in a very friendly way. He's not the kind of guy to seriously threaten somebody with a gardening implement). And they offered to help him with his yard work. Which probably would have been easier for them to do if they hadn't been wearing suits and ties.

I don't know if they left a copy of the Book of Mormon with him-- or if he'll read it if they did-- but, just in case, here's a little message from some of my Baptist friends.

* the Jello Belt is the region of the United States from about Boise, Idaho, through all of Utah down into Gilbert, Arizona where many, many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints live (aka, Mormons) and consume large quantities of Jell-o concoctions they refer to as "salad". These salads often include the unlikely ingredients of vegetables-- such as carrots-- and nuts.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wanted: New SAHM

That's it folks. I've decided to resign. Larsen Inc. will have to find a new CFO, chef, cleaning lady, driver, personal shopper, hairdresser, life coach, and drama queen.

Because, you see, rather than find a more effective method than nagging and yelling to get what I want, I'm just going to quit. Who needs that kind of stress anyway? The pay is terrible, the benefits often unnoticable. And don't even get me started on the hours. 24/7 with very few breaks.

So the next time you come to my house, just be warned, the following are likely to occur:  you will (1) get stuck to the floor after tripping over backpacks, shoes and underwear; (2) gasp at the lack of running water and electricity; (3) smell my bathrooms and realize the toilet is not actually supposed to be brown; (4) find my children--their hair tangled and bodies filthy-- trying to BBQ the dog (5) my husband desperately trying his hand at paying bills in order to get the magic lights and flushing toilets back (yeah, good luck without the computer)

Once you've taken all this in, look for my chaise lounge. There you will find me, flashlight in one hand, book in the other.

You'll have to take your complaints to someone else, though.

Because I'm not in charge anymore.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A-Tiltin' And A-Whirlin'

I've climbed on folks. The lap bar's down and I've already started tiltin'. Next comes the whirlin'. And I don't see this ride ending before January.

It started this past weekend with the first of two trips within a month to Palm Springs. Or, as I like to call it, Las Vegas's older, hotter (not in a good way) and gayer brother. You know a city is full of old people when its major streets are named after Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and Dinah Shore (Dinah, who?) and not Martin Luther King Jr. But, on the bright side--and I may be perpetuating a stereotype here--I think the large gay population is the reason Palm Springs is so much cleaner and tidier than its younger (and wilder) brother.

 So why would a straight woman who doesn't golf or like the heat, go to Palm Springs twice in four weeks? Well, I do like weekends alone with my husband. Especially when the hotel room and dinners are paid for by someone other than him. Which is why I went last weekend. And I like girlfriends who are celebrating their fortieth birthdays. Which is why I'm going next month. (Also, I like outlet shopping--hubby does not, girlfriends do--and there is that there).

Speaking of girlfriends, I've got another quick trip planned with some more of those this coming weekend. That is, if my parents don't show up to go to a friend's funeral. In which case, I'll get to see them for a minute or two, so that's okay. Even if they are sad. Because who likes to lose a friend unexpectedly? (That may be the vomit part of this ride, actually).

Then there's that whole week-long school book fair I'm co-chairing. That's the week I'll really be spinning. But the next week is our Thanksgiving break, and all I have to do then is drive twelve hours to Utah, make  dinner for a lotta people, and then help with my cousin's wedding reception. Then drive twelve hours back home. So that should be relaxing.

And did I mention I signed up to be Girl 3's room mom in her school class? Why, you ask? Because being room mom is kind of like giving birth. Once it's over, you forget how painful it was until you're in the midst of labor again. Then you wonder why in the hell you signed up for this again. But it's too late because you can't go back now.

Plus you love the teacher. And your kid...

Most of the time.

All this is on top of the one to three hours a week I'm volunteering in all three kids' classes. Oh, and I think there are some holidays coming up too. I maybe should put those on my calendar so I don't forget.

Then there's the book I'm about 10,000 words from finishing. Which I thought I could do in a couple weeks, but it's taking a lot longer than that. I can't imagine why. But I've gotta have it done, edited, and revised before December so I have something to brag about in my Christmas card.

And I may be thinking about doing a triathlon this summer. Which means I've been learning how to swim; because I don't want to be the only one out there wearing those little arm floaty things. There's been some running involved with that too. And some thinking about biking.

I've started to think instead of trying to do everything--none of it very well,--I should  pick one thing and get really good at that. But maybe that one thing I'm good at is taking on too many things at one time. That's something to think about.

In the meantime, I'm just hoping I make it off this ride without a lap full of puke. Because I'm already wondering why I climbed on.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Stop The Whirl; I Want To Get Off

It's been a while since I wrote about vomit, so I think it's about time I did again. Because who doesn't like a good puke story?

For this one we'll need to go back in time--late nineteen eighties/early nineties (I can't remember for sure. I am old.)--to the fair city of Burley, Idaho. Surely you've heard of it, because everyone knows someone from Burley. Apparently they are a prolific people there.

And if you've heard of Burley then you've no doubt heard of the Cassia County Fair & Rodeo (and carnival, though that part is not in the title). "THE Fair", as it is more commonly known, is the biggest event of the year.

Of. The. Year.

Which gives you a pretty good idea of how little went on the other 360 days of the calendar.

It always falls on the week before school starts which gives the kids (like me) an opportunity to show off a few of their new school outfits before the official start of the year. You know, like a fall preview fashion show for your fellow classmates and the ex-cons working the rides at the carnival.

It's also a time to meet up with friends you haven't seen or talked to very much over the summer because 1) you all have things called jobs,  2)you  don't have a cell phone because, remember, we've gone back in time to pre-texting 1989/90, and 3) Mark Zuckerberg is still in diapers, so how could anyone be aware of where you are or what you're doing?

So there I am at the biggest Fashion Week event west of the Snake River and east of the Nevada border that includes not only farm animals, but also a variety of rickety rides that spin. And how could I resist those? (The rides I mean. I found the animals very resistable).  When a ghetto Disneyland is dropped in your backyard once a year, you don't pass up that kind of fun.

My friends and I--we'll call them Candice, Steph, Nate, and Jeff--decided to ride the Tilt-A-Whirl. Which, if you are not familiar with, is a poor man's version of the Tea Cups. You sit in a giant tin can which goes around a track in a circle and then--if you're really dumb--you make the tin can itself spin around and around as fast as it can. Because you're 17 and invincible and nothing can make you throw up.

Unless your name is Jeff. And then the Tilt-A-Whirl can make you sick. Very, very sick. So sick, in fact, that you will puke about thirty seconds into the ride. While the ride is still spinning. And spinning. And spinning. Very fast. Which will, essentially, turn the ride into something like those machines that make cotton candy. Except instead of sugar, you add vomit and new school clothes. And nobody wants that flavor of cotton candy.

Especially the carnies who are running the ride. And keep running the ride--ostensibley to rid the tin can of vomit chunks through centrifugal force, though their laughing made me question their motives--even though every time you go by you plead with them to SSTTooopp TTHHHe RRIIIdddeee!!! But of course they only hear ST...
TH... RI....

Maybe they misinterpretted those sounds to mean, "Please, kind gentlemen without teeth, let us ride this ride for no less than three minutes or until we are thoroughly covered in puke. Thank you." Because that's what they did.
By the time they finally did stop the ride, Jeff was the lone passenger on the left side of the car while everyone else was piled on my lap on the right side. Which worked nicely for me--despite the pain in my legs--because my friends shielded my brand spankin' paid-for-with-my-own-money new clothes from the flying vomit.

You might think this experience forever ruined the dizzying joy of the Tilt-A-Whirl for me. Wrong. I'll still go for a whirl occassionally, but not without remembering-- and laughing about --that one puke-filled ride.

But it doesn't take a carnival ride to bring this memory back. Every time life starts getting a little crazy, a picture flashes through my mind of the five us shouting "STOP THE RIDE!" begging to be let off and rueing the moment we decided to get on.

It reminds me of a line I heard somewhere, sometime, from someone:  Stop the world. I want to get off.

My life feels like that some times. Like maybe even right now.

You know what, though? It didn't take us long after we got off that ride to start laughing about it. And I don't regret going on it.

Sometimes you've just gotta hang on and enjoy the ride--even the projectile vomiting part--knowing you'll laugh about it later.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Here's a challenge for my writery friends: Describe the kind of kid who would draw this picture

Just in case you can't tell, that is a bus screaming, "Aaaa." Why? Because of the wolf perched on top of it with blood dripping from its fangs. Got it? Good. Now go. Then come back when you're done because I'm going to describe the kid who actually did draw it.

She is my Girl 3 and six years ago this week, she looked like this:

But now she looks like this:

And this is the picture we sent out in her birth announcement:

But this is the one we should have sent out:

Because, lo these six years, her sisters have been pretty convinced she is the favorite child. And according to a recent Time magazine article, they may be right.

She certainly brought  a new level of joy to our family when she was born. And she still does--despite the occasional screaming and all too frequent whistling.

I'll admit it, some days she is my favorite. Especially when she skips and twirls. Oh, how I love the skipping and twirling.

Except when we're late (which is often). Then I don't love it as much.

But I still love her just the same.

And because she had a birthday and this post is about her, here are five more things I love about her:

1. She laughs so loud when she watches the Muppet Show or Donald Duck that you can't help but  laugh with her.
2. She asked for fizzy bath balls for her birthday.
3. She likes to wrap her arms around my neck when I lie down next to her at bedtime.
4. She likes to chase lizards, but never actually catches them.
5. She says "I'm happy that...(insert things like, Lola (the dog) got a haircut") at random times, sometimes long after the thing that made her happy happened.

Oh, and her artistry skills. Let's not forget those. It's not every little girl who, when given the assignment to draw a picture for her school calendar, will draw a bus being mauled by a wolf.

Or a turkey pooping--which is what we got last November. Can't wait to see what she comes up with this year.

Happy Birthday Birdie!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It's A Pondery Sort Of Tuesday

I keep trying to find the path I want this blog to take: is it a place for some funny stories, a record of what's going on in my life and my childrens' lives, a writery place, a Mormony place? What is it supposed to be?

And I think I've decided it's all of those things. At least for now.

It's the Costco of blogs. You can get yourself some food, but also a coffin. Because while you need the food every day, one day you'll need a coffin too. So maybe most days you need a laugh--and hopefully I can provide that--but maybe one day you'll need one of those other things this blog has to offer.

Today if you're shopping for a little spirituality/religion/Mormony stuff, I've got that. I don't know why. That's just what my brain is delivering this morning.

This past weekend the fam and I went to Las Vegas and while the kids watched movies for hours--which they'd never be allowed to do at home--in the backseat, husband and I listened to a podcast called Mormon Stories, which sometimes I like and sometimes I don't. But this time I really liked it because the interviewee was Terryl Givens.

You can find the podcast here, but I will warn you that it is long. Well worth a listen--particularly if you have to drive from California to Las Vegas and back again--but very long. And it will make your brain hurt because there is so much to think about.

Like this quote: "We are mired in banality, but within the gospel [of Jesus Christ] there are eruptions of the divine in our life that occur from moment to moment."

Which pretty much sums up how I feel about my religion and why I live it. I don't always enjoy going to church on Sunday for three hours or the meetings that go along with whatever job I'm currently performing within the church. And, more often than not, I don't hear anything I haven't heard before when I listen to the speakers or the teachers. That's the banality part.

But then there are moments when I can feel a divine presence in my life which makes all the banality worth...well, the banality of it all.

My friends and I were talking about this at our weekly breakfast get together this morning and when I said this, one of them said (or something like unto it):

"It's like this time about a year ago when I had all four of my kids at church by myself. I was trying to keep the baby quiet and my son from poking his younger sister and my oldest daughter kept squeezing my leg trying to get my attention. I felt so frustrated and mad that I even tried to take them all by myself and I kept ignoring her squeezes. Finally I turned and listened to what she was trying to tell me and I saw her eyes were welling up with tears. She said, 'did you hear what that man just said?' I hadn't heard a word of what anyone had said, but she obviously had so I asked her, 'did it make you sad?'  She answered, 'no, it made me really happy and I don't know why I'm crying.'"

My friend explained to her daughter-- who was only seven-- that she was feeling the spirit. Which is, essentially, the love of our Heavenly Father. And not only had her daughter felt it, but knowing her daughter felt that love helped my friend feel it too. And it was, as Givens calls it, "an eruption of the divine."

And it's moments like those-- even when they're not my own--that help me understand why I do what I do and live the way I live.

Even when I don't want to.

And isn't that what religion is supposed to do? Help us recognize the divine?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Am I The Only One Who Is Freaked Out By This?

I don't often pay attention to those ads that pop up in the sidebars of my Facebook and Hotmail pages, but occasionally they can't be ignored.

Like the one that advertised a program wherein I could become a social worker--or maybe it was a nurse-- in only a few months. Now, aside from the fact that I can't think of any personal information about me on the web that would lead an advertiser to believe I have any interest in working socially. And nursing? Puh-leez. I think I've made my feelings about band-aids pretty clear a number of times on the www, so why any advertiser would think me a suitable candidate for a job that requires bandaging people is mind-boggling.

But even more mind-boggling is the picture included with the ad:
Because not only does that person have some weird fingers, but she also HAS A BABY IN HER POCKET!

And who goes to school to learn how to put a freakishly small baby in her pocket? I'm no nurse or social worker, but I'm pretty sure that's something one would be told not to do if she did want to go into one of those professions. I mean, are there really courses that teach people how to carry babies in their pockets?

The only place I can think of where this would be a possibility is Australia. Perhaps they have some kind of Marsupial Model Of Nursing /Social Work program wherein the students are given some kangaroo training. I've heard those Aussies are having some problems with an over abundance of roos. Maybe this is their solution. Train the kangaroos to train people--who are supposed to be professionals-- how to pack a baby around.

But have they not heard of Baby Bjorns? Cuz those people have figured it out without any help from giant rodents.

And what kind of person sees this ad and thinks to herself, Hey, I've always wanted to be a carrier of babies in my pockets. How do I get in on this? and then clicks that button?

Not this gal.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Quiet Makes Loud Even Louder

You know what the biggest problem with having all of my kids in school for most of the day is?

The quiet.

Sure it's lovely while they are gone. But then they come home.

They always come home.

And I am grateful for this-- I really am. And I know I should be happy to hear all  of their little voices after so many hours of silence.

But I am not. Because there is suddenly all this talking at the same time--where before there was just my voice, in my head (mostly).  And the talking gets louder and louder so that one can be heard over the other. Until finally, there is much yelling. Accompanied by loud banging of cupboards and drawers being repeatedly open and shut in the frantic foraging for "something to eat." Which is always followed by a collective moan of, "there is nothing to eat in this house" as three underpriveleged girls stare at a pantry barren of the Hostess products they so wish I would buy.

Then there is the fighting. Oh, the fighting. Which magically disappears when they are gone. And is never missed. Which is followed by more yelling. Yelling of things like, "WILL YOU PLEASE JUST SIT DOWN AND DO YOUR HOMEWORK?" (That one is me).

The whole thing reminds me of the time my last baby was born and I brought her home after spending two days in the hospital where the only sounds I heard were the beeps of hospital thingermagigs and the soft voices of nurses as they woke me to push on my stomach in an attempt to get my uterus back to its old un-stretched-out-to-smithereens self. And I should have taken the opportunity to ask them, "but what of my bladder? Will it ever be the same?"

Now-- of course-- I know their answer. I knew it the first time I couldn't make it more than one hour in the car without needing a potty break.

But even then I knew what the answer would be if I asked if my boobs would ever be normal again: Only with a good doctor and a lot of money.

But I digress.

When I got home with that sweet baby who only cried occassionally-- and didn't talk or yell at all-- we were greeted by two excited little girls with excited little voices who wanted to climb on me and jump on the couch where I sat with the baby wondering how they had gotten so much louder in only two day's time. Every word they said bounced from one side of my head to the other, until my head was so full of words and noises bouncing and bumping into each other that I thought it would explode. And I begged my husband to take me back to the hospital and convince them I hadn't really checked out.

Turns out I had a spinal headache from the epidural, but at the time I thought it was from my kids. After a few days the pounding stopped.

But the loud?

That's only gotten worse.

Friday, September 23, 2011

And The Winner Is...

I'll give you a hint:

Also known as:
The New Adventures of Wonder Woman Poster

That's right readers, Wonder Woman is now the proud owner of an autographed copy of Melanie Jacobson's book, Not My Type.

I realize it isn't quite fair she now has an awesome book to add to her already awesome arsenal of accessories, but it is what it is. Her name was the one drawn--much to my comic-book loving husband's excitement--and if I were to lie about that, she could use her Lasso of Truth to get me to confess.

So, rather than take any chances, I will send you your prize,Wonder Woman. Just let me know if you would you like it sent to your Paradise Island address? Or one the post office can actually find?

But wait! Because I am so excited and grateful for all my new readers,--and because I'm having so much fun with this whole Wonder Woman angle--I think it only fair to give you all one more chance to win. So, whoever responds with the correct answer to the following question first, will also win a copy of Melanie's book:

 What is the metal from which Wonder Woman's bullet-deflecting bracelets are made ?

(Obviously, Wonder Woman, you are disqualified from answering since 1) you already won, and 2) you know the answer without having to google it).

Ready? Go...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Because Prizes Make A Nice Thank You

So here, as promised, is my post wherein I give things away.

But really it's only one thing, this: The List by Melanie Jacobson

What is that?, you ask. It looks awfully cute.

Well, it is the very fantastic book I read that got me thinking about the thank you note I blogged about on Friday.

Tell me more, you say.

I will gladly tell you more--but not too much. I don't want to ruin it for you. Plus, you can read the actual book blurb here. That's also a good place to order the book, (you know, just in case you don't win). But, in the interest of full disclosure, there are some things you should know before I rave about this book.

The author, Melanie Jacobson, is a friend of mine. We go to the same church, we're in the same book club, our husbands can talk for hours about music and Latin American literature, and sometimes we even jet ski together. So I have every reason in the world to say nice things about her writing.

Except for this fact.

Until six months ago I refused to read any fiction written for, by (I'm looking at you Stephanie Meyer), or about (Wallace Stegner being the exception) Mormons. Which would include Melanie, because her genre is what she calls "Mormon chick-lit".

Chick-lit? Also something I took great pains to avoid. Mostly. (What can I say? I read one of those Shopaholic books).

That is, until I read Melanie's first book, The List. She is such an engaging writer that I had to put aside all of my prejudices and admit I loved her book. Not only did it make me laugh, but I couldn't put it down. And I'm a pretty picky reader, so that's saying something.

Anyway, her new book Not My Type is even better. Which is why I want to give/recommend it to you. And one of the best things about it is, even if you're not Mormon, if you like clean romance, you'll enjoy this. Because, sure there's Mormon-y stuff in it, but not so much that you will feel like you've been accosted by two young men in white shirts with name tags brandishing a book they'd like you to read.

It's the story of twenty-three year old Pepper Spicer (I know-- I had to get past the name-- but in the end it totally works and I loved it) whose life has fallen apart and she's forced to move back home. Instead of living in an apartment swapping clothes with some fun girlfriends, she's sharing a room with her seven year old sister, has a job that sucks, and no dating prospects on the horizon.
Of course those things all change because, after all, this story is a romance. But it's all the layers that Melanie adds that give this book a lot more depth than the cover would lead you to believe.
Like the layer where her dad "encourages" her to write a thank you note to a different person every week. For a year! But, not only do the thank you notes help put an end to her pity party, they also made me laugh. Because they say things like this:
"Thanks for teaching me all those swear words back in second grade. Even though my mom grounded me for two weeks wehn she found the list under my pillow, they came in handy this past week. Wtihout your crash course in profanity, I never would have understood half the insults that were hurled at me the other day."

Funny, huh? There's more where that came from and here's how you can get it for free if you do one of the following by Friday:

1. Become a follower of my blog either by subscribing by email or clicking the "join this site button" then comment below to let me know you want to be entered in my contest.
2. Already a follower? Share this post on Facebook or Twitter (just click on the things on my side bar there), then comment below and tell me you did.
3. Want more than one chance to win? Grab Melanie's button from my side bar and put it in your own and I'll enter your name five more times!

Easy, right? It's just my way of saying thank you!

P.S. Just because I like you so much and I've got connections, your copy will be signed by the author herself!

Friday, September 16, 2011

More Gratitude, But In Fewer Words.

You know what my high school didn't have? Well... lots of things.

But one thing in particular:  the Cool Kids Lunch Table.  

You know why? Mostly because we weren't in a John Hughes movie, but also because we could leave campus for lunch.

And the cool kids had cars.

Actually, a lot of kids had cars whether they were cool or not. I, however,--even though I was at least moderately cool--did not. Thus, I occasionally found myself stuck at school during the lunch hour when I couldn't bum a ride off anybody else.

On those rare occasions when I couldn't ride along with somebody to the Taco Bandido or the Dairy Queen, I had the choice whether to go through the hot lunch line or eat out of the vending maching. And every once in a while I would give into my hunger and bypass my standard Dr. Pepper and Snickers bar for an actual lunch. But that meant going through the dreaded "lunch line." Which, in all my sixteen year old wisdom, I had deemed as very uncool.

Every time I walked through that line there was a classmate on the other side of the glass partition who served the food. And if it was uncool to be on my side of the glass, it was definitely uncool to be on her side.

I didn't know her well, but in a class of fewer than 200 students it's pretty hard not to know everyone. So I would say hi to her. No big deal. Why wouldn't I? It seemed kind of silly not to when I knew her name and she was standing right in front of me. I mean, clearly I could see through the glass between us.

I don't know when it was--I sort of think at the end of my junior year--but this girl gave me a thank you card.

For saying hi to her.

And, because this is a week of gratitude posts, I'd like to write a thank you to her now.

Dear D...,

Thank you for your card. To you it may have looked like I--walking around in that silly cheerleading skirt-- had all the confidence in the world. But I had all the same insecurities that every teen-ager has. Except I thought I was the only one who had them.

I didn't think I was very special when I didn't make cheerleader my senior year and when the boys I liked didn't like me back. And, I'm embarrassed to say now, it was pretty important to me to have people think I was special back then. I beat myself up over all the stupid things I did -- and there were a lot-- and every little mistake I made.

But your card made me feel like I had done one thing right. I made someone else happy--at least for a moment--without even really trying. All it took was a smile and a hello. And I wish I had realized then how much more important that was than the things I chose to focus on.

So thank you, D, for teaching me how important those two little words are. And for showing me how little it takes to make a difference.



P.S. It's been twenty years and I still have that card.

**Come back Monday when you will see how this post ties into a free giveaway I will be sponsoring to show a little gratitude for you, my readers.***

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Key To Happiness

This week I have a theme for the posts--all two of them-- I have planned. Neither of them will be about writing, so I apologize in advance to those of you who've come to this site expecting to see things of a writery nature. But there will be writing for you to read, so I hope you'll stay for that.

And, while lacking writery things, there will be things of a Mormon-y nature. So, again, I'll give fair warning to anyone reading who was looking for something else. I hope you'll stick around anyway.

Because what my posts this week are about is Gratitude. And not just because it's the first full week of school--even though I am VERY grateful for that--but because it's something everyone can give. Whether you are a writer--or not-- or a Mormon, a Catholic, a Muslim, or an aethist. We can all make the world a little better place by showing more gratitude.

If you've been here for a few weeks, you may remember how my big city girls went to the country and learned how to herd cows. If not, here it is. Read it, then come on back.

Or not. It's not really necessary.The point is, I never said  why my children were herding cattle. I mean, besides me wanting them out of my hair for a few hours the chance it gave them to learn the value of hard work.  They also did it to earn a few bucks. Not to spend on themselves, but because of this (you do have to watch this video. Sorry, it is a requirement to understand the rest of this post. But it will be worth it):

Cute, huh? But I have to believe that mom sometimes yells at that kid. It can't be all cookies and lemonade at their house. Right?

Anyway, that is beside the point, so let's get back to it. My Relief Society* President--who is awesome and one of my favorite people in the whole world--saw this video and decided to organize a ward (this is a funny name for a Mormon congregation) humanitarian mission where families who wanted to participate would earn money to donate for wheelchairs, just like Zach did. She especially encouraged us to get our children involved.

Pretty great idea, right? You know what's even better about it? We live in a place with nice houses, good schools, fancy cars and lots of people who have a lot of stuff. Sound like your neighborhood? And sometimes when life is pretty good, you forget it's not that way for everybody. Especially if you're a kid and you've never seen anything different. Having a lot of stuff seems like the norm, rather than something to be grateful for.

Our family wanted to be involved, but had to figure out a way to do it since the kids and I were going to be gone for a big chunk of the summer. That's why my girls asked my parents' neighbors if they could help with their horses and cows. They came up with the idea themselves and it worked pretty well.

But it didn't earn them nearly what they needed for the wheelchair. For that we had to go to Plan B. Which involved my surfng Afro uncle, his sons and the distribution warehouse they run, and my aunt's idea to set up recycling cans in each of the five breakrooms at the warehouse. The nuts and bolts of this plan were to 1) buy five plastic laundry basket thingys from IKEA 2) make posters about why my kids wanted to recycle cans and bottles 3) take the posters and baskets/make-shift garbages to the warehouse 4) ride around in a golf cart--much to my kids' delight--to the five different breakrooms to set up the garbages and hang the posters. 5) Leave the posters and garbages there for six weeks and  6) let my cousins do the actual work of  emptying the recycling bins when they got full, into garbage bags and then storing them for us.

And guess what? Plan B totally worked. By the time I got back from vacation my cousin, Chris, had a room full of giant garbage bags full of soda cans, water bottles, and juice containers. Many of which were empty, save for the last few sips. So you can imagine that smell after they'd been sitting in a hot room for six weeks.

Chris offered to drive them all down to me, but I sure didn't want those things in my house. Plus, I have a friend who owns a recycling business in Fontana that pays a little better than the ones in Orange County. And, since it was only a thirty minute drive from the warehouse to Fontana and-- having never been to Fontana-- I thought it made perfect sense to just drive the forty-five minutes from my house to the warehouse, then the thirty minutes to Fontana, and finally the hour back to my house. Because somehow the extra few dollars we would earn by going to Fontana would offset the $100 in gas the trip would cost. (This is maybe why I am not an accountant.)

Also, did I mention this friend (who is an accountant and did the math to figure out letting other people haul this stuff around for me would save me a lot of time and money) offered to take all the bags up to Fontana himself?

Yeah, maybe should have taken up those offers.

Instead, on our last real day of summer vacation, I loaded the kids into my still pretty new SUV--which I had just barely paid $40 to get the dirt and cow poop washed out of it-- and drove them to the warehouse where our pile of garbage awaited. The pile, as it turned out, was much larger in real life than in the picture Chris had sent me. Go figure. Again, he offered to let me use his truck to haul it all away, but I refused. Ah, hindsight -- it really is 20/20.

I put down the  back row of seats in my car, looked at our giant pile, then put down one of the seats in the middle row. Girl 1 would have to ride in the front seat, which, instead of illiciting excitment, evoked a panic attack on her part over whether or not I could turn off the airbags. What, the what?  What kid doesn't want to ride in the front seat?

After covering every surface possible with plastic, my cousins and I began shoving garbage bags in my car. The SUV got more and more full, but the pile somehow didn't get much smaller. But, in the immortal words of Tim Gunn, we determined to "make it work." Finally, we made the kids get in and started piling the garbage around them--praying we wouldn't have to pile it on them-- until they were all smushed in there together.

Except for the last bag, which somehow we had missed. Our solution for getting it in was to roll down the back window and then, while I rolled the window back up, Ty kept the garbage from falling out and Chris  shoved the last bag in. Which actually worked, much to the amazement -- and amusement--of the warehouse guys watching their bosses help some blonde chick with three kids haul away garbage in her fancy car.

And, just so you're not left out, here are the pictures:
Do you see how my car-- nay, SUV-- literally runneth over? (Do you also wish I could get these pictures all in one row? Yeah, me too). And, remember that sticky smell of rotten mango juice coming from the room where the garbage was stored? It accompanied the garbage into my vehicle.  

And then-- looking very much like an episode of Hoarders on wheels and without the benefit of vision out of any windows other than the front windshield--we drove to  Fontana. The closer we got to our destination the more grateful I was for the protective cave of garbage my kids rode in. Because Fontana, if not literally, then figuratively, lies somewhere along the border of Tijuana and Las Vegas. Had my kids been able to see out the windows, I'm pretty sure they would have asked why only adults could go to the windowless "bookstores" we passed.

Minutes before we reached the recycling center the realization dawned on me that we wouldn't be able to just drop and go. No, we would have to sort. Because bottles and cans may mix and mingle, but they can't actually go to the recycling dance together. It was also about that time that Girl 2 announced she had to go to the bathroom.. Like, right now.  

After confirming the little cement building constituting the "offices" of the recycling center did not have a public restroom, Girl 2 danced around for the next hour while Girl 1 and I sorted a truckload of bottles and cans into separate wire baskets. Girl 3 chose to sit in the car cowering in fear that one of the five million wasps attracted to the sugary sweetness of our garbage, would mistake her for a giant soda can.

Every so often when Girl 1 and I came across a bottle with water left in it, we would pour it over our hands and feet to wash the sticky away. When we got down to the last of the bottles I wished I'd thought to keep a half empty one for when we finished. Luckily we found one that had a drop or two of water left in it. Also, did I mention how unrefreshing the hundred degree temperature was?.

But here is the result of our efforts:
It might not look like a whole truckload, but those baskets hold a lot bottles and cans and we filled five of them. That was more than anyone else there. I checked.

But then I felt a little bad because I was pretty sure the other people there weren't recycling for charity. And I remembered when we were between houses and lived in an apartment for six weeks. A man would come in his truck and go through the apartment garbage looking for recyclables. When I figured out what he was doing I started saving mine and would watch for him. That man taught me a lesson in gratitude when I handed him those bags.

As we were waiting in line for our turn a man handed me a paper. I looked at it confused until he said, "Use it. You'll get more money for your stuff." It was a coupon that gave me a couple more cents per pound. He didn't know why we were there and there were plenty of other people who he could have given it to. But he gave it to us. Maybe because he thought I didn't know what I was doing and could use all the help possible. Which would have been a pretty fair assessment.

The very nice man who weighed our stuff didn't hide his surprise when I showed him my license and he saw my address. "This is where you live?" he asked. "You came all the way out here?" I just nodded and smiled. He was very happy for us when he announced our total. One hundred and thirty-eight dollars.

We were very happy too because that was more than enough to buy a wheelchair. The good kind. For
someone like this (I know you've been here for a while, but you should get tissue and not skip this part):

or this:

Did you see the looks on their faces? That's gratitude.

And it's priceless.

But it only cost us $138.00 and an hour in Fontana.

We celebrated by driving the hour back to Orange County and eating pizza. And going to the bathroom. Then we went to the lake with some friends and as I watched my kids play in the water with the sun dipping in the horizon, I tried not to think, why me? What have I done to deserve this life?

I don't have the answer for those questions. I just know I won't take what I have for granted when I look back on this experience.

And I hope that's what my children will learn from it too.

* Relief Society is the organization that all Mormon women belong to--whether they want to or not (I personally do want to)--that has been providing relief, as a society, since 1842. Often this relief comes in the form of dinners after one has had a baby, ill health, death in the family, etc. But really, it's so much more than that.