Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Backrub Emporium II

Son: Backrubs are now 15 cents, because you like them, Mom.
Daughter: Can I buy a backrub?
Son: Of course. You'll have to wait. Mom has three minutes left. But I like rush hours.
Daughter: Let me get money. [Returns with a quarter.] How much will this get?
Son: Two minutes.
Daughter: Do you accept chocolate coins too?
Son: In some situations. But not today.
Daughter: Darn it. Can you give one of my minutes to the kitten?
Son: Yes, but you still have to pay for it.
Daughter: Okay.
Daughter: Now I want to pay for the other kitty.
Son: Okay.
[Cat enjoys backrub.]
Son: That'll be fifteen cents.
Daughter: Again? I don't want to give you all my money.
Son: Mom! She won't pay!
Daughter: But he's taking all my money!
Me: If you don't want to spend, then don't contract for services. But once the service has been rendered, and you agreed to it in the first place, you have to pay. That's what the law says, too.
Daughter [getting tearful]: But he just wants a lot of money! I want to make money too!
Me: You can. Set up your own business.
Daughter: Oh, I can sell backrubs too?
Son: NO. That's my business! Mom?!
Me: You don't actually have a patent on them, so she can set up her own business doing the same thing if she wants to.
Daughter: I'm only going to charge FIVE cents for mine.
Son: But then... nobody will buy my backrubs any more!
Me: You have a choice. Either compete with her prices, or advertize something different. What service do you provide that she doesn't? That I would be willing to pay more for?
Son: A cafe option. I'll make you tea.
Daughter: Me too!
Son: Hey! That's not fair! It was secret!
Me: Well... advertizing isn't secret, or you'd have no clients.
Son: Well then, I'll have something else as well. Cookies.
Daughter: I'm building a CIRCUS in mine!
Son: I can't compete with that!
Daughter: You can buy my circus.
Son: Mom, can I buy her out?
Me: You could join together and make one business that offers whatever you want.
Son, to Daughter: Do you want to join my business? You can be my employee.
Daughter: Okay.
Son: I liked it better when it was my business. It's hard having a little sister.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Because They're Purdy

See my new socks, a gift from a fellow (but far superior) knitter? Aren't they wonderful?

So now I am inspired to knit more and better socks. We had a knitting marathon yesterday, and clocked around 8 hours. My kids' teachers will both have fancy pants scarves for Christmas!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Meta Ewwww

Daughter, staring in horror at slab of cooked (cow) tongue on her plate: Can that taste ME?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Well, She Says She Is

Son: Friend hyperventilates a lot. If he was a demigod, Ares would not be his father.
Me: Well, the two of you like theater. Maybe you're sons of Apollo?
Son: I tell you. If Artemis wasn't a maid...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Son's Backrub Emporium

As the lemonade stand business tends to dry up somewhat in the cold season (and who wants to sit in the front yard in sub zero temps anyway), Son decided to go into a new off-season business. He sells backrubs. As his first customer, I was treated to the following observations, during a ten minute backrub:
  • I think ten cents a minute is a good rate, don't you? Because then ten minutes is a dollar. Boy, if I go for an hour, I can make it big time! Wait; it's only six dollars. Hey, but still, that adds up fast, doesn't it Mom?
  • My hours are: after my homework is done, until seven or eight o'clock. Tonight I'm workin' late. But only for tonight.
  • Sometimes, I give free backrubs. Samples. But samples are only three minutes long.
  • I want to open a spa, too. But I'll have to use the bathtub if that's okay. Because I don't have my own hot tub or anything.
  • You have three minutes left.
  • You're at time. You should know that it's still ten cents a minute. Do you want me to rub your back some more? For ten cents a minute? Mom?
  • Thank you for being a customer. You'll find me here tomorrow, too. After my homework is done.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I do! I do!

Hearts to student group who asked, sincerely, if "I have a favorite font." I do! And just asking shows that you know your audience, at least, and that all fonts were not created equal, and that these "nit picky details" are what makes Technical and Professional Writing so interesting. And that I've seen so much Times New Roman default in my life that it brings me out in hives.

And so, if your paper is in Garamond, you will earn extra credit, or at least goodwill-while-grading, which often amounts to the same thing.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Haven't We All?

Me: Tomorrow, we need to get a gift for Girlfriend's birthday party.
Daughter: Oh, this is bad. This is bad, this is bad, this is bad, bad, bad.
Me: What? Why?
Daughter: I have no idea what to get her.
Me: Well... the best gifts to give are usually the ones you would like best yourself.
Daughter: Hm. Well, I've always wanted a water bed.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Handling Contradiction is the Sign of a Sophisticated Mind

Daughter, on her Christmas parade costume (a wrapped box): I didn't like it. I felt cold, and hot.

Daughter, on eating spare ribs: This is both yummy and disgusting, at the same time.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Have Kindle. Am Now Important.

What really did it for me was seeing all the chic commuters in London clutching their kindles as they rode the rails. And not having watched commercial TV in ages (thanks, Netflix) I was quite defenceless for the week-long advertizing bombardment during my trip. And the kindle commercial sure is cute.

And I bought the more expensive one, because it works in other countries! You can download books from amazon in less time than it takes to get pickpocketed on the tube! And it's such a shame that the covers for them aren't cheap, which feels like a scam but probably isn't.

And now, I'm multi-tasking. Because although my kindle hasn't even arrived yet, some cool techno-voodoo called WhisperNet has delivered books to it, as it travels along in its box on its way to me! And that, my friends, is just so unbelievably cool I can't stand myself. I have a kindle avatar. Admire me.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Things that were wonderful:
  • Meeting my new(ish) niece for the first time, and observing my brother and sister-in-law as wonderful parents;
  • Reintroducing my mother to the UK many decades after her emigration from there;
  • The pub lunch;
  • The Tower of London, because every time I find another room I haven't seen before, and because you really do feel as though you stepped back in time;
  • The winding roads, hedgerows, manor houses, ancient forest that looks like Watership Down (before the apocalypse);
  • The British Library "treasures" collection, because yes that is the _________ (fill in the blank with any authentic document you can think of), for real;
  • The underground, on the first day for novelty value, and on subsequent days just for being efficient;
  • The windows at Harrods, which were decked up to show scenes from Peter Pan and which looked amazing;
  • London A-Z, because maps rock, and a pocket-sized map of London really rocks;
  • The Woman in Black, now in its 21st year, because every time I go it's like the first time and the hair stands up on my arms;
  • In-flight movie screens that play through take off and landing, that work by touch, and give access to more than eighty movies, not to mention TV shows, so that nervous fliers have something to do every minute of the flight;

Things that were less wonderful:

  • The cost to get into Westminster Abbey: now 15 pounds, just to get in, which is nearly the entrance price for the Tower of London. I understand it's a landmark, and needs expensive maintenance, but it's a cathedral, and I'm sure you just boosted the price because it's been picked as the wedding venue for William and Kate. But for that price, you could heat the place, and the bones of the kings and queens of england could be more comfortable, as could I;
  • The underground, because you look at people working in holes in the wall down there and think what the state of their lungs must be like. Besides, who wants to spend an hour in each direction to commute, standing?
  • The weather, because although snow is lovely, it stresses the infrastructure like the apocalypse, and minus temps in London just aren't fun;
  • Showing up at St. Paul's to discover it's been closed for a US Thanksgiving service. I'm happy they did it, but our timing was way off.
  • The interior design of Harrods, which is modeled after a Venus Fly Trap;
  • The design of the touch screens in the plane. Seriously, who didn't realize that people obsessively poking the back of your head for a ten hour flight wouldn't be fun? And I know there is technology for making other people's screens less visible. Every screen for rows in each direction was perfectly visible, so that all children on the flight had a nice clear view of every action film, shoot out, sex scene, crime scene, and ... oh year, Dexter, whenever they turned their little heads.
  • Heathrow airport. Because although flying just isn't much fun anymore, it's a wonder anybody makes their flight from Heathrow!

So glad I went. By next year, I'll be ready to go again!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Moderation, and Other Mythical Animals

A writing-oriented blog, as there hasn't been one in a while... I've been revising the 45,000 word middle-grade novel, and am nearly done, and then stalled with the general duties of my day job. Shifting writing to the office was a good move, when it works. When my day job actually needs more of my day to do it, though, it seems like I should be up at some ungodly hour of the morning writing or something, but that hasn't ever worked very well for my sanity and therefore our family schedule.

So, revisions stalled, but I'm trying to see that as a positive thing. At the point where they stalled, temporarily of course, I was tempted to rush to end them. By having a break from the process I will aim to be more patient on returning to it. Meanwhile, I'm strongly tempted to dive off and get back into work on the dystopian YA novel that has me utterly interested in it. I keep promising myself it'll be the reward for finishing the revisions on the other.

And yesterday when I checked my email there was one from an editor asking for another non-fiction piece for a national magazine, which I'm very happy about. I think juggling short-term rewards like magazine writing, which goes to publication comparatively quickly, with the longer-term rewards of novel writing, is a good combo.

But already I wonder how much writing time I'll manage to carve out in the near future. I tried the "staying up until all hours because art demanded it" and that just doesn't work for me as a maintenance plan for productive writing, given the aforementioned day job, and the fact that I am a much better mother when I don't have dark and forbidding circles under my eyes. I'm loaded up on a full-time teaching schedule, which includes a graduate seminar, next semester. I have an intern, which should mean "helper," but actually means a lot of supervision. And a visiting international scholar from China for whom I'm the official mentor. It's a paying gig, which is awful to say, but really the only reason I take on extra duties at the moment in order to save up for an upcoming sabbatical.

So I need to think longer term all the time! Maybe it'll just be maintenance writing until the summer next year. Or maybe I'll figure out how to work in an hour or two of an evening, and go for moderation. I'm a boom or bust kind of person, so that's a challenge. Still, I'm reading up a storm, which these days counts as "pre-writing," so it's not all wasted!

It's been a luvverly week in London, not least for having time to think about such things, but I'm looking forward to getting home and back into the fray, and the magazine assignment.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Don't Play a Playah

Me, to Son: See if you can sweet talk your father into putting up the Christmas lights on the house while I'm away.
Son: Okay. Dad, mom said I had to try and sweet talk you into putting up the Christmas lights.
Me: Heyyyy!
Hubby: That's right! Us men have to stick together!
Son: Yep. But for that piece of information, you're gonna have to let me stay up late tonight.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mother of Godot

Daughter: I've been waiting eight days for this!
Me: Waiting for what?
Daughter: Eight days.
Me: No, for what?
Daughter: Eight days!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Things That Make You Go ... What is That?

Daughter, to her delight, won two raffle draws at the school carnival. The adult XL tee shirt she has wisely decided will work as an art shirt. It came with a gift certificate to a local florist, so it wasn't a bust for her. Still, she was happiest with this little guy. She has named him... Little Jake.

Oh, sure. He looks cute enough in his freckles and coveralls.

He even looks kind of dopey, if you like Precious Moments memorabilia, which I don't.

But in dim light, he begins to resemble another little doll. Someone I don't want wandering around my bedroom at night:

Because, imagine waking up to this:

Quite seriously, I had to remove him and shut the door.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Why I Love "Fall Back"

Because with that precious extra hour, we:
  • played at the park. Really, for some reason it takes creating an hour that wasn't there before to discover the time on a Sunday to do that.
  • had this conversation. Hubby, to kids: What do you want for breakfast? Daughter: Oh, a giant bowl of ice-cream, with chocolate sauce. Son: And this time, dad, we mean "literally."
  • made and ate pancakes instead.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


The children are in very different places emotionally at the moment. Son is very grounded, and utterly happy in school. Comments from him tend to be like this one, at bedtime last night and after I'd spent a long time chatting with him:
Son: Sit with me longer.
Me: That'd be nice. But I'm going back to watch my show now.
Son [laying it on thick and with humor]: I'm a kid. That's more important than your show. And your knitting, don'tcha know.

Whereas Daughter is in this frame of mind [sobbing]: I don't know what perceive means!

If only a dictionary superhero could solve all of her problems...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tricks and Treats


  • To the kids, for coming up with several great costumes, and rotating them through several Halloween events over the past few days;
  • To the people who build a "fire house" every year, transforming their charming two-storey into a house full of fire and a mandatory stop on our trick or treat route;
  • To all the folks who sit on their front stoops, in costume, and make our kids' Halloween night fun;
  • To the students who run Safe Trick or Treat on campus every year, and give our kids props for their costumes;
  • To the places you go to paint and carve pumpkins, ride haycarts, and drink hot cider;
  • To the weather gods, who allowed October 31, 2010 to be a balmy mid-70s in the not-usually-so-balmy midwest.


  • To the folks who stole our friends' yard decorations, even those made by their kiddoes;
  • To the folks who make pumpkin smashing an annual sport;
  • To grandma's candy-ometer, for deciding that a pinata for two kids is "not that much candy";
  • To the students who think that 5-7 pm means packing up your booth at 6.20, because you all have some other place to be;
  • To the folks who decided that two separate field trips by bus on one day, followed by a party and a parade was both a good school day and an appropriate amount of turmoil for first graders;
  • To the parents who let them do it (yes, we take our share of blame in this too).

Okay. We'll do it all again next year.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

It'll Be Sad Then, Too

Daughter emerged from her bedroom at 10pm the other night, sobbing.
Us: What on earth is wrong?
Daughter: When I'm in 4th grade, my brother will be in a different schoooooool!

The next day, she and I discussed her worries in more detail. She doesn't really understand what comes after twelfth grade (we hope), as evidenced by this exchange:
Daughter: So, when I'm in Middle School he will be too?
Me: Yes. And then he'll go to High School.
Daughter: Without me?!
Me: You'll go there and he will still be there.
Daughter: Oh, so when I'm in 9th grade, he'll be in... 11th?
Me: Yep.
Daughter: And when I'm in 10th grade, he'll be in ... How high does it go?
Me: Twelve. 12th grade.
So, when I'M in 12th grade, he'll be dead?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It Didn't Go Well In the Princess Bride...

Son: Mom! I have a great idea for an April Fool's joke.
Me: Wow. You have months to plan that.
Son: I know! Well, I tried some of the candy from the Spanish store, and it had chili powder in it. I could take some of that to school for the whole class, and me too. So nobody would suspect a thing!
Me: But then you'd be eating it too, right?
Son: Well that's it. I'd have developed an immunity to it. Do you have a bit of chili powder? I need to have a small amount, every day.
Me: ...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Love Notes

The children got to decorate the front porch, and yard, for Halloween. They then created a carnival style game, beta tested it with each other, and then invited us to try our hand (25 cents for three tries, and a few freebies thrown in).

Then, in an apparent fit of gratitude, they sat down in bed together and wrote us a card. It reads (with a few hearts sprinkled in):

"Dear Mom and Dad.
We love you guys. And girls.
We really, really love you guys.
And girls."

And then, they signed it.

How cool is that?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I've Been Spanked By a Boy Scout

Grocery store dude: Paper or plastic?
Me: [fatal pause] ...
Son: Paper! [turns to me]: Plastic stays in the landfill for ages. Paper is much better for the environment. [Narrowing eyes in accusatory fashion]: And you know that!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Oh, So That's How That Sounds

Daughter: Mom, we need more potions stuff.
Me: I told you I would help when I was finished unpacking groceries and have had a minute to use the restroom.
Daughter, to Son and Playdate: She said "she'd be there in a minute, for once in a million years!"

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Words To Live By

Son [dispensing words of wisdom from personal experience]:

Mom. When you have a mild concussion, a kid really likes having a bit of sugar. It takes my mind off the headache, for just a second. It's like: "Mmm! Taste! Ow."

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Like Apollo 13, But With More Duct Tape

You take this:

And one each, of these:

You send this guy to the office, for boxes:

And you can make this: a cat condo, with 3 storeys, a big-screen TV, and a gift shop in the lobby.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Careful What You Wish For

Last week on the long drive to horse riding lessons, daughter sang, loudly and well, the same song. All the way there. After two hours with horses, we hopped back in the car for the ride back, and she launched back into the same song as if she'd never left it: Galump went the little green frog one day!... I asked her to read me her library book aloud, twice, instead.

So, last night, when we got into the car and began the same drive, the song popped back into her head: Hey, mom! Remember last week when I sang this song all the way there? Galump...

I realized we had no homework to do. No library book to read. I had not planned well. It was going to be two very long drives.

Me: Can you think of something different?
Daughter: Like what?
Me: Like anything?
Daughter: Oh, like "camel poop"?
Me: Yeah...
Daughter: Antelope poop? Caribou poop?
Me: Uh-huh. Okay.
Daughter: Bear poop, elephant poop...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ks SCBWI Conference Year 2

So I went to the Kansas Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference last Friday night and all day Saturday. I went last year as well, and my brain just about burst with all the new information. I wondered idly if, now that I was savvy and dug in, if I would feel the same way about Year 2.

Yep. Only this time, I found I was learning less "new stuff" about genres, agents, hooks, dialogue and all (not that there isn't a lot more to learn) but that there was room in my head for people. The networking! Last year was a blur of business cards. This year, familiar faces. Fun at the hors d'oeuvres table. Remembering names, at long last.

And I'm happy to report that our regional writers write a LOT!

I have ordered four books from Kansas/Missouri writers at the conference and will post them here once I've read them.

In the meantime, I leave you with this utterly unrelated tidbit, from the grocery store last night, which I should title: You're Not a Biology Major, Are You?

Grocery store checkout guy: [blowing nose, copiously, and at length]
Me: [quietly dismayed, putting groceries on the conveyor belt]
Grocery store checkout guy: [finishes with that tissue, and, dear god, picks up another, and repeats the grisly process then wads up second tissue, and reaches for my keys to scan my barcode]: How are you this evening?
Me: Oh, I'll be fine if you use hand sanitizer now.
Grocery store checkout guy: [freezes in mid-reach, and then looks offended. Makes a great show of asking the other checkout guys and gals if they have hand sanitizer. While using it says in mildly accusatory tone]: I think it's just allergies.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Fun Problem to Have

I am due some writing moneys from pieces coming out in print this fall (yay!). The fun problem is this:

It makes sense to roll the writing money back into writing, and thus help offset the amount for taxes. That much is a given. I could go on a mad spree in a bookstore, of course. Who couldn't? But it makes more sense to buy something longer lasting. Like: a kindle? an electronic notepad? an iphone with e-reader? all of them?!

If you had around 700 to spend on "writing support tools", what would you do with it?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

SCBWI extravaganza!

This week I'm in writer's heaven. Last Sunday I drove to Kansas City to meet with my critique group peeps and had a fun time (always a blast in Borders, especially with some writing money to spend!). This week: lots of time with the YA novel on my computer, and am having fun reading The Shifter (YA) while I wait for my next cool read to be delivered (This World We Live In).

This coming weekend: back to Kansas City for the SCBWI annual conference there. Had a blast last year, and came away with lots of good info and had fun schmoozing with like-minded folks. Can't wait!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I Love Me a Good Book

The other morning after taking the kids into school, hubby and I were walking back to the car when another mom friend called across the street to us. She asked: If you could do anything at all today, what would it be?

Ever wary of striking deals that might backfire, I asked a question or two of my own in reply: With kids, or without? On our current income?

Anything, she replied.

Well, it so happens that I was two books into a threequel, and had already checked the local library and bookstore for number three to no avail. Friend has it on her kindle, but as it's her phone it doesn't really matter that I'm a fast reader; she's holding out on me. So I've ordered from amazon, and am now in bookless limbo.

Oh, I have books. I have them in several rooms of the house and all over the office. The books by the bed were all selected by me as fun-future-reads. But they may as well not exist. I just want book three!

And the only good thing about frustrated instant gratification is that I get to enjoy the agony of knowing I love me a good stay-in-bed-and-turn-the-pages-til-it's-done book.

So, with kids or without, on my current income or not, on a plane or on a train, that's how I'd have spent the day. Preferably with some heavy rain on the roof, and a snack supply. (And kudos to hubby: he answered "with her"--and he meant me! Even though I was briefly annoyed in my book-in-bed-rain-on-the-roof fantasy, because I immediately thought he'd be snoring and that wasn't in my fantasy at all.)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Jury's Out

Son is lately obsessed with imagined scenarios in which two forces clash. Which would win?

Son: Humans vs. all the spiders in the world.
Me: [Shudder.] Spiders. Humans have to sleep.
Son: What if we didn't?
Me: Then humans. But if we won, there'd be too many bugs.
Son: What if we left some of the big and most poisonous spiders to be carnivores?
Me: [Shudder.] Let's not.

Son: Yoda vs. Dumbledore.
Me: I don't think they'd fight.
Son: But what if they did? I'm betting on Dumbledore. He can do levi corpus.
Me: Yoda can levi his own corpus.
Son: Expelliarmus?
Me: Yoda doesn't bear arms.
Son, rolling his eyes: Light sabre, mom.
Me: Okay. I think magic might beat the Force. But the Force is life, and Dumbledore wouldn't do anything anti-Life, so I don't think they'd fight.
Son, rolling his eyes: But what if they did?

Friday, September 3, 2010


Hubby: Cruds.
Son: Dad!
Hubby: What?
Son: You said "cruds."
Hubby: That's not bad.
Son: Oh. Not like "son of a b****"?
Hubby: Uh. Yeah. Not like that.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Well, At Least She's Well Hydrated

Daughter: I need to pee.
Me, incredulous: Again?
Daughter: Yep. It's what I was born to do.

Daughter, watching me serve up dinner: Yum. I think I'm drooling. Hey, mom! I'm actually drooling!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Work It, Baby

Last weekend's lemonade stand was such a success (home made! hand squeezed! made with simple syrup! best in town...) that the kids decided to reprise. Bigger. Better. Three times the number of lemons! They were assisted in this by friendly neighbor having yard sale who invited them to set up in her yard.

The kids have had lots of teachable moments. They are now investment savvy and profit addicted. They understand much about selling consumables (eg: don't pick your nose while making. Absolutely don't pick your nose while selling).

I'd say, based on these two comments, they are now cresting the learning curve.

Me, to Son: Can you get the other pitcher?
Son: Could you? I need to be here, looking cute.

Customer, to Daughter: Here. And keep the change!
Daughter: Oh, we will.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I'm A Believer

Daughter has a knack for bringing about coincidences. Maybe she heard something in the distance, or smelled sugar on the breeze, but as we were walking home today, she produced.

Daughter: I wish I had an ice-cream truck. I mean, it's not like I can snap my fingers [snap] and have one here. [Chimes in the distance. Unmistakeable sound of ice-cream truck. Son's jaw drops open.]

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Real Deal

Son had Girl over for another playdate. Son, who usually sprints to any table to grab the biggest slice of whatever's on offer, was overheard thus: You take this one. It's bigger, and it has more chocolate on it.

Daughter, skyping with her girlfriend, now living in Korea: Life is weird without you in it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Little House Fever Continues

So, Daughter has made her way, wide-eyed and asking many questions, through Little House on the Prairie (the book). On the way, we survived [spoiler alert]: the lake, the swollen creek, meeting Indians (the word "massacre" appears several times), prairie fire, buffalo wolves, a panther, cholera, an Indian council of war, and several "waiting for Pa, who should have been home by now" moments. Not to mention being put off the land and walking away from the glass windows at the end of the book. It was gripping.

We have acquired the other 8 books in the series as a going back to school present.

We have done Film Adaptation 101 watching the TV series pilot, in which there were several inconsistencies. Between the two Melissas playing Mary and Laura in the series and the drawings in the book we already have confusion, and Daughter doesn't realize she hasn't actually seen the real Laura Ingalls in either of those two places.

We plan visits to the nearby houses later this Fall with visiting Australian grandma, so three generations can take them in at once.

But along the way, we have also had these fairly amusing epiphanies:

  • Daughter, watching smoothie being made in bookstore by woman tamping ice cubes down into the blender: Hey look! It's like she's churning butter!
  • Daughter, watching Ma pluck the Christmas turkey Pa just shot: Hey! What is she doing now? ... Ohhh. Well why isn't he helping?
  • Daughter, on being told that she has just met a Native American: Hey! Why is she wearing so many clothes?
  • Daughter, now with a keen eye for period detail: And there's the potty at the new house!
  • Son, on hearing the Little House TV music for the umpteenth time: I'm gonna be downright murderous if I have to keep hearing that music.

Friday, August 13, 2010

In Which I Am Demoted

Hubby: Mom made you bacon for breakfast?
Son: Yep.
Hubby: She’s a goddess.
Son: Yep. Which one?
Hubby: Athene?
Son: Umm… Who’s the minor god of food?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Big Dog Has His First Eighth Birthday

At the tail end of summer, earlier “late” bedtimes have become much, much later bedtimes… Monday night, Daughter wandered out of her bedroom at 10.35 pm:

Daughter: I just need a glue stick. And scissors.
Us: ---? It’s long past your bedtime!
Daughter, getting tearful: But I just realized it’s Big Dog’s *birthday tomorrow! [*stuffed animal.] And I have to make him a card!
Us, in soothing tones: That’s great. You can make him a card in the morning.
Daughter: But he’s going to be eight!

Daughter could only be mollified and sent back to bed if Hubby wrote “Big Dog’s B/day” on his hand (because neither child trusts to our memory, wisely). As a result, Big Dog scored: a homemade cake, frosted and with his name on it, candles, cards, and song. Daughter made an elaborate birthday hat for BD.

Her first words to me this morning: Hooray! Now it's Blankie's birthday today!

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Best Excuses

Two weeks ago we babysat three adorable wee girlies while their parents went on a (much needed) overnight vacation. Wee girly #2, a four year old, made this fab excuse, as she and I together surveyed her lap full of spaghetti: "Oh! I'm not a messy eater. I just got bad spaghetti."

I was reminded of it yesterday, when Son knocked over something on the kitchen counter, and blurted: "Wow. My elbow just got a growth spurt. No really!"

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Back in Biz

Hi all! Hope your Julys were fun/productive. I hoped to be back blogging a week ago but instead went on a writing retreat to a friend's cabin on the far, far side of Missouri, with no internet connection. So my "unplugged" extended an extra week, and just as well! I am now 25K words into my YA dystopian novel. (Pause for self-congratulations here.)

In case you're wondering/jealous, here is how the writing retreat(s) work. I team up with a colleague from work who also likes to write, mostly academically. We go about once a year. The last time we took an entire week and drove to her sister's cabin on the far, far side of Missouri was over two years ago, and I spent it editing my academic book (bleuch!). If we "only" have a 3-day weekend, we instead rent a cabin much closer (but still in Missouri, because it's purdy).

We split the meal plans, and shop for extravagant foodstuffs. We go for a walk every day that weather permits. We get straight to our respective work right after breakfast, break for lunch, and then continue to work until 6pm. Then, we have a glass of wine, compare notes about our day's work/frustrations, make a gourmet feast, and settle in for a movie. My favorite movie of this trip was re-watching Whale Rider, in case you were wondering.

On the way there and back we passed Mansfield, the later life home of Laura Ingalls Wilder, about whom I wrote earlier. We resisted going to visit, because my mother is visiting from the Antipodes later this year, and I would like to see the Ingalls houses for the first time with her and my daughter. Daughter has become entranced by the experience of reading Little House with me this month, and I have the TV pilot for the series awaiting the end of the first book.

I look forward to reading your blogs over the next day or two, and resuming the writing and parenting business as usual!

Monday, July 12, 2010

99 Bottles of Pop on the Wall...

Our annual vacation spawned the following variations of "Bingo" (yellow cars, excluding trucks, buses and motorcycles):

Bing... no. Translation: it doesn't count if I can see for myself the car isn't yellow after all.

Fingo. Translation: fake bingo, or: that car looked yellow, and totally had me fooled. But it's white. Or tan.

Chingo. Translation: you are a cheater. I had that one first.

Squingo. Translation: squirrel!

Gringo. Translation: green car. Just to change it up a bit, and make my parents turn both ways to see who overheard me.

And, for the remainder of the month of July we are fun-electronics free. Translation: I don't get my Netflix, facebook, or blogs. Hubby doesn't get online gaming. Kids have no xbox, nintendo, wii, dvds (except the magic instructions one), or tv. So, dear readers, I'm signing off temporarily. See you August 1. I will be sure to back up and read your blogs for these next 3 weeks after I'm back.

Happy writing, all!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Horror!

Angst Moment #1

Daughter: The earth is always turning, isn't it?
Me: Yes it is.
Daughter: So, sometimes we're upside down?
Me: Exactly.
Daughter, with rising hysterical notes: We're upside down... right now! I can feel it!

Angst Moment #2

Voice over loudspeaker: Free sample of jerky at the jerky counter!
Daughter: Do they have beef jerky here?
Me: They have all kinds of jerky here. They even have elk jerky!
Daughter, with rising hysterical notes: Elf jerky??

Monday, July 5, 2010

Uh, Yeah.

Observing the police department's automatic doors, Son wondered why police cars needed to be enclosed.
Me, making it up as I go along: Probably so that people who might be mad at them for something don't spray paint them.
Son: So let me get this straight. Teenagers when they get mad at people paint their cars?
Me: Sometimes, yes.
Son: What color?
Me: More like... swear words.
Son: Like, "You suck"?
Me: Exactly.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Reading Like a Writer

So, I figure I'm a well-read person. I have been reading for a long time, and I teach literature, so it's all good.

But just when I thought I was out of world-changing paradigm shifts (the last two being: motherhood, and film literacy, which forever changed the way I view visual media) along arrives another. For the first time ever I am reading and re-reading fiction from a writer's perspective. It goes something like:

Speech marks, moderately long sentence minimally punctuated, grade level vocabulary, attribution tag not necessary because of context, a short paragraph to punctuate the last three longer ones.

And at the same time, all that lit-crit stuff, like: plot, conflict, characterization, description, rising action, etc.

I've never read for chapter length before. Or how many turning points a middle grade plot can sustain. It's like The Matrix! It was there all along and I had no idea. So after decades of reading, I've finally logged my first full year of reading like a writer.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Best Place For Them, Really

Took the kids to Toy Story 3 the other night (Pixar does it again: yay!). Daughter decided to fund her own megabox of Nerds candy.

On leaving, I confiscated the box and its remainders for another day, telling her that since there was 60 calories in a serving, and 11 servings in the box (!), it would have to keep.

In the course of handing it over, she then accidentally spilled some. Being Nerds, they bounced and spread far and wide on the hard floor, and there wasn't much we could do except apologize to whomever would be the cleanup person for the mall.

Daughter: "I'm sorry I left calories all over the floor!"

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I'm Easily Played

My kids are on summer time. Nonetheless, when Daughter popped out of bed rubbing her eyes, after 9.30pm and for the umpteenth time , I wasn't thrilled.

Me, in Big Voice: What do you need now?
Daughter, in Tiny Voice: Umm... where are the library books? So I can practice my reading? [bats her eyelashes].
Me, in Regular Voice: They're piled on the desk.
Me, in Thought Bubble: Well played.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It Was a Young Newbery Back Then!

I'm working on a new novel. As background reading I reread Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins, for the first time in *cough, indistinct* years. In the process, I re-loved these things about it: the stakes are high; understatement does much of the work; action and pathos blend so well. But I also loved that I could still hear the voice of my school teacher who read it aloud to us, a chapter an afternoon. I don't remember his name any more, but I do remember that I was furious he wouldn't let me take the book home and just finish it. He knew I'd bring it back. He knew I'd read it overnight. And (being a teacher, I guess) he knew it would be better if I had to wait. It was torture to have to wait for a single chapter a day, but I loved it.

I had eye surgery when I was ten or so, twice. As an avid reader, I also remember being frustrated at not being allowed to read. And I do remember my mother reading to me from Enid Blyton's Famous Five series, which was my fave. And I remember how mad I was when she had to go make a start on dinner, instead of reading another chapter. We found out this morning that, like Son, Daughter also needs glasses, and prismatic lenses, as we suspected. (Hey, at least they'll both appear to be bookish types!) I'm glad there are so many alternatives to eye surgery these days, after *cough, indistinct* years.

Still, I enjoyed Daughter's take at swim classes this week: I can't see. I need gobbles.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Well No, But She Was Tired

Son was invited to the skating rink after drama camp. Next day, I told Son he was missed.

Me: You know, your sister cried for ages after you left for skating last night.
Son: For how long?
Me: Fifteen minutes or so.
Son: Well, but that's not her record.

Last week was the busiest of the summer, and although it was all "fun" (or, you know, income earning), I'm glad to see the back of it. We had:

  1. first week of hubby's summer class (at 8am, no less)
  2. first week of mine
  3. only week of Son's British soccer camp, every morning
  4. first week of swim classes which only Daughter got to attend (see previous entry)
  5. first of two weeks of afternoon drama camp
  6. first week of summer soccer league (two practices and a game, all on week nights of course)
  7. doctor's appointment for scout camp physicals (early in the blasted morning, due to 3 and 4 above)
  8. a scout hike
  9. gymnastics*

    *I felt like a cruel parent taking Daughter from drama camp to make her weekly gymnastics appointment. It was a tough decision to have her in summer gym at all, but she has physical therapy needs and gym serves them. It was a tougher decision to take her from one busy activity into another (change of clothes and all), but since drama camp is two weeks long I decided she should not miss two weeks in a row (being therapy, and all) and took her. And there were: two kids, two teachers, and the entire 5,000 sq foot gymnasium for them to work in. It's not often I go from "awful mother" to "vindicated mother" so quickly, but it's the one time all week I could have cried about our schedule, for the right reasons!

Monday, June 7, 2010

What Are We Feeding Them, Anyway?

Daughter, at breakfast, in musing tone and a propos of nothing: What I don't understand is why hippopotamuses have their head so low. It's like they have no necks.

Son, at dinner, in slightly accusatory tone and a propos of nothing: I now know what you and dad did to make me.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Son tromped all over Silver Dollar City yesterday refusing to spend his pocket money on Frivolous Items like those his sister bought: slushees, and lollipops. Instead, he remained determined that there was a Magic Shop he remembered from last year, and We Had To Find It.

Won over by his persistence, we backtracked through the entire place, reading maps and getting lost, because that is how one arrives at a Magic Shop. I swear it wasn't there when first we passed by that street.

The resident Store Owner, a Magician named Mark, was very taken with Son's dedication to the craft and his patient deliberations over products for sale, and suggested The Best Buy. Son deliberated further, and agreed on the purchase.

Mark then took Son aside to teach him a Magicians Only trick, going so far as to turn away a customer who came close enough to see. (Being the anxious/responsible sort of mother, I hovered in the doorway, because I don't know Magician Mark.)

Mark said if Son practices and shows him a trick or two on our next visit, Mark will include him in his live show (outside the Magic Shop). Son is ecstatic.

We were waylaid home by severe weather, having to hide out in a bookstore (my choice, of course) until 11pm when the sirens were all turned off before continuing our drive home. Both children were of course up early, wanting to work on their tricks.

I've discovered the best part about having Magician's Apprentices for children: parents are simply not allowed behind the scenes. So I'm looking forward to much time with children behind closed doors working on their Magic Skills, showing up every now and then to be admired!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Cashing In

Daughter surprised us all by growing a big tooth behind her current baby teeth, none of which had yet fallen out. We were given varied advice, from: it's not a problem, to "my son had five teeth pulled." The orthodontist we visited last week (for Son) asked us when we were having Daughter see a dentist next. "Tomorrow, at 10am," I replied. "Good," she said. "Those bottom teeth have got to come out."

I was not happy at the idea that Daughter had to have two teeth (one wiggly, one not) yanked out, but she was doing the happy dance at the prospect of the Tooth Fairy's first visit to her room. Sure enough, Daughter came home smiling, dried blood on her chin, and one (sabre-like) tooth in a bag. (The other had been thoughtlessly tossed at the dentist office. Really, people! They were apologetic, and went through their trash, but still.)

Daughter composed a lisped tome to TF, and then insisted that I type it, and print it off in 4-point font, "to make it easier for her to read!" The fact that the type was a blur to the human eye made it all the more charming. We explained about the mitthing tooth, and unlike in Son's letters, there was no request for unicorn teeth.

TF obliged with: the premium amount for healthy teeth, plus a bonus for healthy dentist-extracted teeth, and a deer tooth for Daughter's new collection.

Daughter is well satisfied. But I wasn't quite ready for Daughter's new smile. Those were the first two teeth to grow in. Also, her face has changed shape again, and she is getting older!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

At Least He Knows It

Hubby makes the blog! Here's how that came about:

Son, looking at flabby vegetarian lasagna on his plate: Well, I'm not all that hungry.
Hubby: Hang on. [Goes to fridge, retrieves leftover marinara sauce, heats it in microwave.] Put some of this on it.
Me, to hubby, in Very Superior Voice: You do realize that the entire purpose for me buying vegetarian lasagna is so that, on days like today, when we all ate meat at lunch, we aren't eating meat again at dinner?
Hubby: And aren't we glad you also buy meatless grounds, to make meatless marinara sauce with?
Me: Oh. Yeah.
Hubby [leaps out of seat and does Victory Dance, laughing immoderately]: I'm sorry. But it happens so rarely! [Sits down again.] Boy. I'm gonna live off that one for three years.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Didn't See That Coming, Either

Daughter to me, as I'm lying in bed, reading: We're going to play.
Me: I'm snuggling.
Daughter: We can play Snuggle, then. But you have to pick a color. I'm white snuggle.
Me: I'm red snuggle.
Daughter, lying across my tummy: Mmm. I like snuggling. Now, a hawk picks us up, and flies us to the nest, ready to be eaten.

And in other news, I am wading through many pounds of paper sent home from elementary school over the last week or two. Son's homework includes a book about Godzilla in Australia fighting a monster kangaroo ("dedicated to my grandmother who lives in Australia, who gave me the insperation" [sic]).

And also, a list of proverbs to be creatively completed by Son. Herewith, a couple:

You can lead a horse to water but... not a bird.
Don't bite the hand that... gives you stuff.
A penny saved is... better than none.
The pen is mightier than the... eraser.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Fight. For Your Right. To Party...

Hubby, to Son: Come on, now. We just don't have time to goof around.
Son, indignant: No time to play? That's just sad. We're kids!

And on another note, my work building is undergoing heavy construction this summer, and we aren't allowed in. Which means, taking all our teaching/writing/computing stuff out with us. We were to have until the end of this week, but the building is already cordoned off with caution tape. Personnel have been moving everything out, and plastic sheeting what remains. I'm in my office with the eery sense that dynamite has been laid in the basement, and it's all over but for the sirens. I feel like a lone holdout. I'd hate to miss the crucial memo about a change in the date! (Just another comma! Boom.)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Notes from My Daughter

My daughter writes, all the time. She passes me notes, all the time. These are four from the past few days, as written.

Wonderful Notes:
"You are a speshl mom. You are a rile speshl sheshl speshl mom."

"Hapey muthrs day. This is a book of you. We will put pickchrs."

Serviceable Note:
"Can you help me finde a little toy that looks like this: [drawing]."

Downright Threatening Note (Handed to Me to be Passed Along to the Relevant, Offending Girlfriend):

"You nede to pickup the note that you hide rite now or i will tel yor mom that you littered. the end."

I think she must have asked me how to spell "little" and "littered." But I wasn't aware in the latter instance that I was participating in the creation of a blackmail letter.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Real Praise

Me, to Daughter: Well, you look aDORable.
Daughter, irked: I'm not "adorable," like a puppy or a kitty.
Me: Fair enough.
Daughter: But I am adorable like a leaf that blows.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Chapter 13...

I went to KC for a novels workshop on Saturday. Lisa Harkrader was a fab presenter, and it was fun to hear snippets of others' novels-in-progress. Ironically, when discussing endings, she mentioned being in the middle of Chapter 13, and wondering how to pull it all together. I happen to be in the middle of my own Chapter 13, literally, and daunted at the task of finishing the thing. I know what has to happen, but everyone is so scattered around the place, in the middle of something. It seems like hard work to interrupt them.

So I'm taking a couple more days of down time, and then will gird the proverbial, and get them all home again.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Like Indiana Jones... but with more screaming.

Son, in back of car yesterday afternoon, musing about school: Well, that part was boring.
Daughter: Don't include me.
Son: What?
Daughter: I'm not boring.
Son: No, not at all. You're not boring. You're a whole different adventure.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lost in Translation?

Two conversations with the kids yesterday proved enlightening.

Daughter was having another after school weep in the car. No amount of logic had worked to stem the flow.

Me: I'm not sure why you're crying, and I don't think you know anymore either.
Daughter: I know, but I can't stop yet.
Me: Oh, okay. We can wait.
Son: Have a little cry. It's good to let the pressure off.
Me: Yes, good idea. Sometimes I do that too.
Son: Well, not very often you don't.
Me: True. I don't cry often.
Son: Usually, you just shout Ow, or something.
Me: True.
Son: And sometimes, you just Grrr, like a dog.
Me: ---.
Daughter: [laughs]

Son: When will we go to France again?
Me: Depends on what happens in a couple of years. We may go spend some time that way, or go to New Zealand.
Son: To live?
Me: No, just to spend some time.
Son: Will we go to school there?
Me: Yes, for a short time.
Son: But we don't speak New Zealand!
Me: I speak "New Zealand" to you all the time.
Son: Only the mean stuff!
Me: What do you mean, only the mean stuff?
Son: We only know "Ai, ai, ai!" and "OY!"
Me, laughing: "Oy is short for Oyez. And I only say it when I want you to listen up.
Daughter, very loudly: OY! You do say that all the time.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I Won't Tell!

Son has liked a girl since kindergarten. Same one he insisted he had to buy Valentine's candy for because it's common knowledge that she likes him.

Son requested that we invite this girl, a fellow second grader, over for a play date. I was a little leery, but only because when he was in first grade I foiled a plot to invite two classmates over so Son could set conditions whereby they could kiss. But he assured me he had no ulterior motives, and Girl arrived.

Moms compared notes, and Girl has written that she hearts Son in her books, for going on three years now. We think it's cute, but have both reminded them that they are too young to marry.

Son was extremely solicitous throughout Girl's visit. He ran to fetch cushions because she "looked tired." He ran to fetch her a drink (milk or water? glass or plastic cup?) because, presumably, she looked thirsty too!

Play date was a smashing success. A day or two after, he asked if his sister could invite Girl to attend his own future birthday party (months away), presumably so his Guy friends wouldn't know he wanted her there.

So yesterday, driving home from school with a Guy friend of his in the car, I overhear this conversation from the back. Such lies!
Son: my sister had Girl over to play the other day. They got along really well.
Son's friend: Yikes.
Son: yeah, I know. I just stayed out of their way.
Son's friend: Yeah.
Son: It was surprising. They managed not to kill me.

I looked up in the rear vision mirror and met Son's eyes imploring me not to say anything to contradict him. And of course I wouldn't!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Critical Thinking

Daughter having a bad day at after school pickup, pitches a fit in the back of the car. Son, attempting to calm her down, makes nice and very complimentary comments about her photograph from teacher, which is a class photo of all of them in their Halloween costumes. Daughter is wearing, in the picture, a kimono.

Son: You look really great in this.
Daughter: NO, I DON'T.
Son: You really do!
Daughter: I don't WANT to be a chinese girl when I grow up.
Son. ---?
Daughter. I WANT to be a PONY!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

It's in COLOR

As in, my first story, now out on (Australian) newstands in Explore magazine. It's a two page spread, and has a really cute/cool illustration, as an added bonus. No article I've ever published looks this jazzy. I think we need to rethink the design of academic journals!

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Son Shone this Week

4 things Son has said to me this week:

  • Sorry to wake you at 5.51, but...
  • Females are sooooo into chocolate.
  • All hail, the Great Mommy!
  • I'm dubious about that.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Post 101

No really; it's post number 101! I haven't done a writing update in a while, so here goes. Middle grade manuscript has dominated my writing landscape of late. I had finished chapter book format AND a sequel, so two 15K word manuscripts. The first of these had two fulls requested by agents, and one by editor, and all three responded positively... but did not pick up the ms. So I decided to send it to an editor for critique purposes, and got invaluable feedback. And decided that rather than try to revise the existing comic masterpiece to ... start over with an older voice and more layered story.

I tinkered with tone and (third person) voice for a while, and got comfortable with it. My beta reader (holla!) was loving it. So I wrote six chapters with many new plot elements and then paused to "get my story straight." Wonderful editor has given great feedback on The New Plot now, so I think it's just a matter of finishing the novel, which I'm finding a lot of time to work on at present (lucky, I know!).

In the interim, I met with a lovely agent at Agent's Day in St. Louis, who has graciously requested a full read when it's done, so I'm happy at the prospect and hope he likes it when it's all done. He really liked the tone and voice, so it's just a matter of making sure the plot satisfies as well, I think. Fingers crossed, anyway.

In other writing news: I have been contracted to write TWO pieces for the NATIONAL children's writer's newsletters. The first is completed and has gotten positive feedback from the editor. The second is nearly completed. I hope to contribute there regularly. It's a good mix of my academic background and my writing interests! And I got an email from the editor of KC Baby, asking if I'd like to do another piece for them for this summer, so I feel happy to be in a "stable" of writers for a regional mag.

In other news, I did get a lovely typed personal rejection from a picture book editor who urged me to send the ms elsewhere because 1) my "story telling talent was obvious" 2) "the story was really very good," and 3) he wasn't going to be able to afford to publish any new title this year, and possibly next. It is a mark of the unkillable optimism of a writer that I saw the positives in this letter, more so than the rejection!

Well, I'm hoping that this doesn't come off as (too much of a) brag fest, but I'm only wanting to say that I'm in my happy place, and that planets may yet align!

Do tell how your writing, creative or otherwise, is going!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Daughter, at dinner: Am I dreaming? No, really. Am I?
Son: Well, if you are then maybe this won't hurt.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Springing It

Daughter penned her first poem in bed last night:

Daeses [Daisies] blossim
I do not hear them.
They are sweet.
Boys rock

She also requests: Mom, when [grandma next door] dies, can you and dad move there so me and my husband don't have to drive to see you?

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Daughter decided at bedtime last night, with wet hair, to have pigtails AND a pony tail put in. Evenly spaced around her head, she looked quite Junie B. Jones-esque. Surprisingly, they were all still in place this morning, so she wore them to school. Given that it was "wear your sweats to school" day, and that she has a matching set of pink athletic top and pants, she looked like she was headed out to a gymnastic meet.

And she looked... older, in addition to a little bizarre.

I'm wondering if this entire week has been a way to get parents to pay attention to school pictures day, which is tomorrow. They wore crazy socks on Monday (well, those who remembered to, after a week's vacation); sunglasses on Tuesday, clothes inside out (and/or back to front) on Wednesday (which had me wondering about the efficacy of flies on trousers when in the back...), and sweats today. Or maybe it was just a way to get all the different things kids could do for picture day OUT of their systems so they would submit to being dressed up nicely tomorrow?

Son, who didn't realize we would SEE school photos once they had been taken, scowled for them last fall like it was a mug shot. We pointed out that we actually paid for pics, and they got sent around the planet to the walls and wallets of relatives elsewhere. We pointed out that Son would have to pay for the retake with his own pocket money if he did not attempt at least a pleasant countenance. His teacher, who has a good sense of humor, has used the "mug shot" version in any school hallway affair, while reserving "pleasant countenance" for Christmas ornaments sent home from school, and the like.

I recollect telling my mother that "everyone" would be wearing party dresses in our school photo, and then being shocked that she had physical evidence to the contrary when the pics came home with me... and I was the only one in a full-length party dress (hey, it was the 70s).

What tales of school photos do you have?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I'm Back!

Did you miss me? Did the taxes (check); cleaned out the raised beds from last year (check); rescued daughter who had tripped backward over some yard obstacle (first frightening dash through the yard as son screamed Help! Help! ... not recommended); drove five hours to St. Louis for FAB agents day and spent time with three interesting agents and a mess o' interesting kidlit writers while family wandered the zoo in sudden inexplicably cold temps; survived long drive home on snow-covered I-44 while kids watched movies and occasionally announced they had waited until bladders were on Defcon 4 before sharing the info with us, the drivers.

I may actually be ready to go back to work tomorrow!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Much Like Our Tax Return

Our spring break hasn't even arrived yet, and it's been "spent" several times over. Somehow, without benefit of a warp in the space-time continuum, we are supposed to :

  • Do our taxes (I know, I know);
  • Go to Kansas City for writer's workhop (yay);
  • Go to St. Louis for two nights for another writer's workshop (yay) this time taking the fam along to do zoo/museum/hotel pool/restaurant/arch things on the side;
  • Hook up with family 1 for lazy afternoon of games, letting the kids play and generally run amok;
  • Spend a day or two in PJs (because how else will we know it's a break?);
  • Get one day at work each;
  • Plant a garden;
  • Paint the MIL's porch;
  • Reorganize, declutter, and generally "spring clean" the joint;
  • Take the kids bike riding...

    You get the idea. Daughter wrote her own list last night after baths. It said:

    Snow cones [I wasn't going to tell her NOT to use the "w" now, was I?].
    Remy's house.

    I prefer her list. We still get a garden started, but no tax return to do, and we don't have to go to work at all.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Network

Son, feeling expansive after I let him eat a candy he produced from some pocket, and in answer to my question: Good grief, where does it all come from?

Well. (Hands in pockets.) Y'see mom... We kids look out for each other. We really do. And all kids know how important it is to have a supply of candy. Now, Gunnur's mom's treat bags really pack a punch. I think she's my favorite kid-party mom.


It's quite exasperating how much candy there IS to produce from pockets. When I ask where each specimen has come from, I get, variously but consistently:

-a friend at school, (insert name), gave it to me.
-the Art teacher gave them out at the end of Art Class today.
-the Music teacher gave them out at the end of Music Class today.
-the (classroom) treasure box.
-the Computer lab teacher gave them out at the end of Computers today.
-it's (insert name)'s birthday.

By the time weekend birthday party treat bags are factored in (no need to even invoke those other Candy Holidays of the Year) the kids really do have a constant supply. So much for parental constraints!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Kit

1 pair of pyjamas;
2 skirts;
2 pairs of tights;
2 tee shirts
1 long sleeved shirt
2 dolls
1 small bedroll

This was the kit Daughter packed in her first ever: "I don't like you, I'm running away and moving to a different house (but you're coming with me)" bag.

On another note: my business card, designed by Christel Benson, and from which the web banner here and on my site is derived, won a gold ADDY award from the Joplin Ad Club. Thanks and congrats, Christel!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Pretty Incredible

There's a moment in the DVD extra on the Pixar disc of The Incredibles in which Jack Jack, a pre-verbal toddler, has Mozart played to him by the babysitter. His eyes go out of focus for a moment and you can see the switch in his brain go on. From this point on, Jack Jack has super powers too.

Well. Daughter had a similar experience at Family Art Night at the university late last fall. Supplied with toothpicks and styrofoam, she hasn't looked back. Son even commented at the time: "She's gone 3D on us."

A recent epiphany at home (epiphany: daughter cannot make all her structures with paper and staples) has resulted in Art Supply Extreme Home Makeover. Daughter now has megabox, with clean recyclables, duct tape, masking tape, bubble wrap, tissue paper, ribbon, egg cartons, yarn, straws, and anything else it seems safe and feasible to provide. She draws blueprints, and then attempts to build what she has drawn. It's highly architectural, and her parents are so proud.

But we're also living in an art installation. The Art Supplies are taking over the house. I've also noticed that recyclables are a lot less recyclable after they are taped with ribbons and waterproofed with bubble wrap...

Sound familiar to anyone?

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Tooth Fairy II

Me, to Son, at bedtime: Show me that molar again after you've brushed. I think there may be a spot on it...
Son, far too cheerfully: If it's a cavity, can you make the appointment during school hours?

I mean really. (It wasn't a cavity, BTW.)

And now for something completely different: if you would like to brush up on your lie/lay/laid/lain business, here's a short post for you at WD blog.

Happy trails!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

... And Other Mythical Creatures

Son's note to the Tooth Fairy last night: "Here is my tooth. If you have any teeth of mythical creatures, or gods (Hades, Poseidon, Zeus, etc) please leave them."

The Tooth Fairy (paternal version) was gracious about not having mythical teeth to leave, and while she did point out that gods don't tend to lose teeth, she conceded that son's 6th tooth was indeed beautiful enough to have belonged to "one of the big three."

Son has read The Lightning Thief (great series to read), and now flings around references to the Greek pantheon with ease. The Tooth Fairy is jealous, in fact.

Thanks for voting on the "talent show" poll! Seems we are all singers and jokers, with a bit of stage fright thrown in for good measure. Watch for the new poll, coming soon!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Ice Dancing Fun

"So, they just go out there and do beautiful things?" Daughter, on the olympic skaters...

Yup! But first, they learn to skate really well, sign up for Indian dance lessons at college, and get authentic materials for their costumes...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Talent Show

We have been picking ourselves up this week after the Big Birthday Bash last weekend. There's frosting on the blades of the ceiling fans... Oh, the horror. (But a great time was had by all!)

This week's dilemma: the talent show. Which used to be called the school lip synch, but one of the co-organizers this year whose daughter plays the violin finally put in her vote for some actual talent, which is both a relief and a gauntlet.

My kids are undeniably cute and talented. But what talent, exactly, translates to 3 minutes of stage time? "I could skate, and juggle," suggested Son, which would solve the problem beautifully if he could do either of those things already let alone at the same time and in front of an audience.

Lately, if I hush him he quotes somone from Jimmy Neutron: "You have silenced a great talent!" which is funny, but (wince) untrue.

Meanwhile, Son has been anxious about auditioning for the fall show. I pointed out that his father could teach him how to audition: it wasn't something he had to just know how to do. So we settled on a twofer: learn a short audition piece, and perform it for the talent show. His little sister has gamely agreed to be a sidekick, with just one question: "Who will be bossing us?" "Your father. And it's directing."

It's no violin solo, but it'll do.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Are We There Yet?

  • Valentine's Tea party at the library... check.
  • Valentines written, candied, and delivered to two classes... check.
  • Valentine's chocolates to teachers... check.
  • Birthday cookies ordered for the day prior to birthday so as not to get lost in the class Valentine party shuffle... check.
  • Class Valentine parties... check, check. (Oh, the madness.)
  • Valentine's candy bags brought home: sugar orgy... check.
  • Birthday presents wrapped, delivered, opened, to the accompaniment of singing, and sushi for dinner... check.
  • Birthday cake for party collected from bakery in town doing a booming Valentine's weekend business... check.
  • Treat bags (no candy, because mommy can't take it anymore) made and ready for party... check.
  • House cleaned, hot dogs and cakes and ice cream at the ready, awaiting the pitter patter of fifteen sets of kindergarteners' feet... check.
  • Daughter, every five minutes: When are they coming? Is the party NOW? ... check.
  • Hubby's Valentine card and present ready, stashed in a drawer ... check.
  • Mother-in-law's chastisement (You're going to a writing group in Kansas City on Valentine's Day???) ... check.

Nervous, high fructose corn syrup- laden breakdowns: still pending. Check please!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Pink Edition

Valentine's tea party at the public library last night was wonderful, as ever. The youth services personnel all wore hats and over the top formal wear, with many a feather boa (the turquoise zoot suit was a nice touch), and stood along the red carpet from the front door to the juvenile library room and applauded and admired the kiddos in their formal dress. Daughter still fits her flower girl dress from 2008, thankfully.

The annual Valentine's edition of the puppet show was followed by song and dance (chicken dance, and London Bridge), and then the much anticipated tea: pink lemonade and petit fours served on miniature china, with a rousing rendition of I'm a Little Teapot lead by Mrs. Teapot.

Many balloons and treat bags later, including one for Son who was officially too old for full participation this year (to his chagrin, although he did manage to sigh with some resignation: "Well, I had my years..."), we have launched the Sugar High that will now continue through the weekend.

Monday, February 8, 2010


Son has danced the Snow Dance, invoking all manner of precipitation. But there are more types of snow than dreamt of in his philosophy, and the kind he perhaps invoked is the one that doesn't stick. Or even stay frozen once it hits the ground. It has "snowed," steadily, all day long. Quite pretty, and very visible from inside our respective (oh so un-cancelled) schools.

On another note, tomorrow is one of my fav classes in the Romantic period: the ballad. I get to take in my ipod. Woo hoo!

Friday, February 5, 2010


I arrived home late last night, after an on campus event, to find a folded note on my pillow. "To mom" it said, from my daughter.

Inside I found a lovely drawing of two fish swimming toward two hooks which were dangling temptingly in front of them. I was in raptures.

My husband's translation: "Mommy sleeps with the fishes."

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

And So It Begins...

Children slaved over valentines cards for their respective classes last night.

Daughter's mishap caused tears (hers) frustration (mine) and jubilation (ours): when I turned my back for two seconds she decided not just to write her teacher's name on giant, hersheys heart shaped box of chocs, but to open said box, and rearrange all of the contents, with her hands. She cried, I sighed, and then we all ate chocolate. I know where we can get more.

Son (second grade, you will recollect) announced that he was giving a valentine to a girl in another class: "because it's been all over the school for two years that she likes me, mom, and this will keep her under control."


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Say It Ain't So...

I just learned, from yesterday's Children's Literature class mind you (Poetry week), that children don't like figurative language, or imagery.

Denotative poetry? Seriously??

Monday, February 1, 2010

Surprise Ending!

Me: How was your visit to Grandma's this afternoon?
Daughter. Fine. Until she yelled at me. Then, she pushed me down, and called me an Idiot.
Me: ?????
Daughter. Wait... Some of that is a story.

Friday, January 29, 2010

School Concerts of Yore (Long Yore)

So, when in elementary school (in New Zealand, remember) this is the type of thing we would attempt for school concerts. Not so ambitious, or professional, but we did learn poi in school! Enjoy this. It's really fab.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Eleventh Hour

Since we were all a-scramble to get the pinewood derby cars and rockets ready to race last Saturday, we have left other things undone. Last Friday night, we were still adding wheels to cars, and sorting out rocket propellers. The results were as follows:
Son's rocket placed 4 out of 4 in his den. Son cried.
Son's car placed 3rd out of 10 in his den. Son gets to race at Districts. Son wants to know how to make the car go faster yet. Parents wonder why Son didn't care about that last week.
Daughter's car won the popular vote for "most colorful car" out of all the entries... some 40 cars. Daughter was at pinnacle of happiness.

Now, it is Wednesday night. The eve of the science fair. Parents divided and "conquered." I let hubby pick the child. He picked Son, and his gravity project. Daughter and I got to work on her trifold: "What spiders eat."

I spent some time staring, horrified and unable to turn away, at computer images of spiders eating things. Like: a bird. (Hubby's comment: "That's Australia for you." He can say such things, being married to a kiwi wife.) Daughter roller painted her trifold with pink glitter paint. She has adhered lacy cutout webs, drawn spiders sidling up to flies, and typed or wrote all her labels. Things hang off her trifold from poorly rolled scotch tape that daughter insists is the way to adhere paper to glittery, shiny trifold. Points to OCD parent for not interfering.

Hubby played while the sun shone. Son also played. Right this minute, at fifteen minutes past bedtime, Son is dressed and messing with helium balloons. Hubby is desperately trying to explain how gravity is acting on mass.

I feel superior. However, the snow is coming, and there are terrific odds the science fair will be canceled.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Poor, Slighted Laura Ingalls

Well, the polls are soon to close, and Laura Ingalls is not someone we own up to being like. BUT, here is why we should?

Ahem. Herewith, my journal entry on Laura Ingalls acting out in LHBW:

The textbook Children’s Literature, Briefly (4th edition) recommends a list of indicators for “good” children’s books for classroom inclusion, and the list includes: “not depicting inappropriate behavior.”

In Little House in the Big Woods, Laura acts out spectacularly: “Laura’s throat swelled tight, and she could not speak. She knew golden hair was prettier than brown. She couldn’t speak, so she reached out quickly and slapped Mary’s face.”

For this indiscretion, Pa “whipped Laura with the strap.” I was surprised by how my memory of Laura Ingalls had blurred over the decades.

The debate over who has the "prettiest hair" has been brewing all day. Furthermore, when Laura’s pocket fell off her dress for the weight of stones she has put in it, Laura compares her fortunes with Mary’s:

“Nothing like that ever happened to Mary. Mary was a good little girl who always kept her dress clean and neat and minded her manners. Mary had lovely golden curls, and her candy heart had a poem on it.”

Right before Laura slaps her, Mary has just boasted that “Golden hair is lots prettier than brown.” The wonder becomes not that Laura slaps Mary, but that she waited so long to do it.

Pa whips Laura with a strap, and she is not so “naughty” again in this book. Cousin Charley, by contrast, who cries wolf three times “and still, Uncle Henry did not tan his hide,” gets his comeuppance in the form of hundreds of yellow jacket stings.

Pa’s comment?: “‘It served the little liar right.’”

Oh, Pa. I fondly misremembered you from the TV series... In any case, while the textbook has me unconvinced on this point I voted for Madeline, who doesn't stay in line either! Why did you vote the way you did?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bottle That (And Make a Fortune...)

Daughter, appearing in manner of Peter Pan in our bedroom door, hands on her hips, announces: "I have cuteness!"

Son, same morning (yes, terrible parenting) playing video game: "Yep. I'm that good."

Isn't it nice to have such good self-esteem? I think I'll take those two to heart, and see what happens when I apply them systematically (and silently) through the week. What will you recite?

And a "why I heart hubby" moment yesterday. Daughter has a new set of "keys" from the checkout aisle of Wally world (yes, terrible parenting again). She seems to think they actually work, and keeps trying them in locks. The keys have three sound effects: alarm, double-pip locking sound, and remote engine startup. As hubby was running late, daughter "locked" the car with her keys. Hand on the car door and about to yank it open (running later by the second), hubby stopped, took a deep breath, and said: "Would you unlock it for me please?"

Also, am reading for the first time: A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle. Not sure how I missed out on it in childhood, but did. Now must acquire (borrow! must borrow from the library!) the remaining four books of the quintet. Without giving away spoilers if possible, have you read these?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Those Blasted, Pasted Tenses!

Daughter, contrite: I'm sorry! I spillded it, and it leakded out, so then I calleded you right away!

Tomorrow is my first day auditing Children's Literature, as taught by the Curriculum and Instruction department on campus. I'm so excited! I had to rearrange the schedule (now hubby will take Son and Daughter to school 3 mornings a week, for which I will do 4 of the daily pickups after school) but now get to go to class three days a week. My expedited (cheaper) textbook arrived today, and I have never been so excited to start reading a textbook. I'm looking forward to the whole topic presented from the other side of the curtain: teachers-in-training, and early childhood development.

I will have to jog from that class to the two I teach back-to-back immediately following, but at this stage it all seems completely worthwhile.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Three Day Weekend

Today's edition of he said/she said:
Son got in the middle of dispute between Father and Daughter, thus getting himself into trouble. I attempted to comfort him by telling him that I, as the oldest child, had that same tendency and used to get into trouble for inserting myself in parental vs. sibling disputes too. "So," I added with a sense of maternal sufficiency, "I know how you feel." Son's victorious reply: "So THAT'S where I get it from."

Good news from Australasia: acceptance of my first ever published fiction, a story called "Monty is from Mars," forthcoming in April 2010 issue of Explore Magazine, an Australian kids' mag published by an education publisher!

Finally, after enjoying Julie/Julia (the book, but of course with Meryl Streep the film was great fun too), and now reading Not Buying It (a year without shopping), am wondering what great venture I would task myself with for a year. I tried to read a book about a family who only ate what they grew for a year, but it was unspeakably exhausting to read if you just aren't a large scale (or competent) gardener to begin with. I then realized that I am in fact still in my first year of writing for children (begun May 24, 2009), so if I can get something amazing to happen before the end of May, I could reverse engineer a wittier blog and write a book about it. Don't worry; I think that was a joke!

Met in KC at Borders with my critter group yesterday, and it has been a big month for two of them, at least. They have launched new and exciting ventures in the web. One, similarly inspired by the Julie/Julia project, has gone live with a commercial blog meshing nursing/parent advice/humor called, appropriately enough: NurseMommyLaughs. Already she has pediatricians beating a path to her door! Another is growing Blessing Beans, a devotional website with spinoffs, and already has a trademarked product. And for a third, with whom I meet for chapter book critiquing, she says she has given up lucrative employment possibilities to carve out 90 minutes of writing time a day and stay home with her three children. Vacations have moved from Florida to nearby St. Louis instead, but she and her husband are bucking the trend of the Joneses they run with. So we're back to Not Buying It again! (But of course, I had to buy the book.)

Saturday, January 16, 2010


We are trying to honor the unfolding catastrophe in Haiti by being mindful of our circumstances: fresh water, house, food, ordinary lives. That seems to be a way to have the children aware of things, without having them be traumatized by the images in the media. I think about the kids in Haiti who will have this in their minds for the rest of their lives.

But I can't believe it's taking so long to get aid in. Didn't Katrina give us any tools to do it better (at least faster) this time around?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Sweet Nothings I Love to Hear

Things I really do love to hear in this first week of 2010.

From the surgeon, after surgery that was going to reattach a torn tendon in my rotator cuff: "We didn't have to do open surgery, and in fact it wasn't the tendon at all. We removed an inflamed bursa, and shaved down your bone a bit."
It makes me wonder, retroactively, about the efficacy of the two MRIs I had that diagnosed the problem, but hey. No tendon or muscle cutting = fast recuperation. I'm already typing with both hands!

From the lovely editor of KC Baby:
"Would you like to do that piece on Baby Signs you pitched for our spring issue?"
YES! Yes, I really would. I will have it in early. It will be no more than 750 words. I can't wait to get started.

From the school automated phone call system, Thursday morning:
"Due to extreme cold temperatures and blowing snow, school is canceled today and tomorrow."
Because I am still on vacation, and getting up early to get kids to school in frigid sub sub zero temps is actually no fun for the parents either. So yay! Snow days!

From the editorial staff of a certain Australian kids' magazine:
"We are considering your story for our next issue."
Really? I'm thrilled. I think it's a neat story too, and it would be a first fiction publication in magazine format, and my mom lives in Australia, and she could read it fresh off the newstand... Ahem.

If 2010 can just hold on like this, it's gonna be sweet.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Little House in Town, With All the Modern Conveniences, Please

I found myself rereading Little House on the Prairie these holidays, after... some 30 years or so. Two of the actual houses are within an hour's drive of here, and although I have not yet been to see either of them, they are on my resolution list for 2009. I skipped past the first two books in the series to get straight to Kansas.

Apart from the obvious appreciations I have thereby rediscovered (my microwave, dishwasher, and central heating, topping the list this week as we sit under inches of snow) the story is more phenomenal than I remembered. I can't imagine riding over a frozen lake in a covered wagon, and hearing it break up the day after the crossing. I'd never ride over a frozen lake in a snow covered wagon again after that, if it was up to me, let alone ford a swollen river in one, and then spend a summer getting to some predetermined destination in a field of tall grass in "Indian country." The charm of the story barely disguises the constant threat to life and limb from wolves, malaria, prairie fire, chimney fire, and such. Every time Pa goes off to trade furs, I worry he won't return and that his four women on the prairie won't even have the wagon to get to Independence in.

I've gone back to read The House in the Big Woods, in an attempt to discover why on earth they ever left their cozy log cabin beset by bears. But there is so much incident in every chapter, I'm keeping a close eye on craft along the way. I had been wondering if it was time to begin reading them to Daughter, but she is nervous enough about robbers and other picturesque disasters of contemporary life. I don't know how useful it would be to scare her silly with buffalo wolves to boot.