Thursday, June 28, 2012

Tax Deduction

If I seriously want to become a writer...

AND

I seem to work best on a large porch...

CAN I

convince the IRS that a new three season room is a business expense?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

On Writing

Dear Mr. King:

I picked up your memoir, On Writing, from the library, and read it with rapt attention.  You are as good at writing non-fiction as you are fiction, which just means I am more in awe of you.

I agreed with many of the points you raised, and will find them useful when I am working on the drafts of my manuscript(s).

I did stumble at one point, though.  You said, and I paraphrase here, that a draft should take about 3 months to write.  If only, I thought.  And then I realized my easy solution.  If you would care to come out and take care of my children (it is okay if you scare them a bit with the bedtime stories), I would be able to get my draft accomplished.

Thank you for writing, for your insight, and for taking the time to read my letter.

Sincerely,
Me

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Finer Things

I have often written about how different Melina is from me.  It is never more apparent when we stop by new places or try different experiences. And the funny thing is, her affinity for the finer things manifests itself in the simplest of ways sometimes.

Case in point:  she entered a room the other day that screamed Melina.  It had light pink walls, a white lamp with pastel decorations on it, white dresser with pink and white knobs, and a bed covered with a flowery quilt.  The look on her face was priceless.  It said, "If I had a room like this, my life would be complete."  Except, of course, it wouldn't be, because she would find something else eventually that she absolutely loved and needed.

The even funnier thing about her reaction to this room has to do with the knobs.  She would go up to them, wrap her chubby little fingers around one of them, and smooch the top.  Then, she'd whisper, "I love these polished knobs," and flash me a grin.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Grillin' Time!

I just used a propane grill by myself for the first time.  What I mean to say, is that I have never used a propane grill before, and I could use it the first time by myself.  What a wonderful experience!  No wrestling with the charcoal, or coming back five minutes after lighting to find the coals not even starting to smolder.  I have a birthday coming up in August, and this year, I might be asking for something a little more expensive (although far less precious really) than some time to myself.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Oh Poopy!

I love the days when a blog post forms, all by itself, in my mind.  When that happens, my fingers are simply a vehicle for the story that needs to be told.  I can never tell when it is bound to happen, and I can't be sure of the subject matter, but today's post falls into one of those times.  Unfortunately for you, dear Reader, it also falls into the I can't believe she had the guts to write that category.  As I always say, you can't say that I did not warn you.

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post that had to do with getting older.  I put together a blog post about anticipated and unanticipated changes that have occurred with me as the years have flown by.  Some changes might be considered funny, depending on to whom you talk.  That is the great thing about a blog; it lends itself to some sort of anonymity.  I can admit to growing 1/2 inch long hairs on my face, and not worry about complete humiliation.

And so I keep writing.  About things that might never be said aloud in certain company.  Aren't you glad I don't consider you certain company

That is a very long-winded ramp up to today's topic:  poop.  (Yep, I know.  You could tell by the title.  I never said I had to keep you in suspense.)  With four kids and 2 animals (that feels strange to say only 2 animals...maybe I should throw Tim in there to put it back up to 3) we've had plenty of poop around here.  We don't usually use that word, but my neighbor runs a daycare and calls the messy diapers poopy, and I just find that funny.  Hence the title and the use of the word poop.  But I am not planning on speaking of the enormous piles of poop that have made their way through our home's pipes.  No, instead I plan on talking about the enormous, or sometimes not, piles of poop that have made their way through my pipes. 

I always considered myself a regular pooper, to be honest.  I don't think I had trouble as a child getting things moving, and I certainly remember as a high school and college student that all was well with my plumbing.  Eventually, I found that my body had a routine:  just about 10:30 in the morning, every morning, my body found the need to eliminate its leftovers.  That time has changed, since I now get up earlier and other parts of my life have changed, but until the kids came, I could count on my bowels like I could count on Greyhound.  Of course, after housing babies inside of me for 9 months at a go, things were bound to change.

The first time I noticed the change was after the C-section I had with the girls.  Of course, I also had to undergo general anesthesia, which can wreak havoc with your system.  In fact, the medical staff won't let you go if they are not hearing intestinal sounds from your body.  They continually asked me if I had to pass gas, which I found hysterical.  And I had to document for a couple of days if and when the stools arrived.  Once the anesthesia was fully out of my system and my insides were somewhat back to normal, I hoped that my daily habits would also reinstate themselves.  I was so wrong.

Prunes became my friend, and sometimes, I'd increase the caffeine in my coffee (when I wasn't nursing, of course).  I added fiber to my primarily vegetarian diet and tried to walk more.  And things did return somewhat back to my normal, until I got pregnant with Aaron.  And then round 2 started.  I won't bore you with the details, but I can say that when I found out I was pregnant with Melina, I realized there would be no hope.  Round 3 was the same as rounds 1 and 2.

And now, here I am, at almost 39 years of age (really quite young still, if you ask me), talking about poop.  My own poop even.  Despite my vegetable intake and my running schedule, it only takes the slightest change in my diet, say perhaps not enough water or fruit for 1 day, to mess with my plumbing.  I admit it, I own it, and I will not shy away from you at the grocery store if I have a bag of prunes in my cart. 


Thursday, June 21, 2012

How Hard Is It?

To put the dish in the dishwasher instead of just in the sink?
To put the paper towel roll on the holder instead of leaving it on the counter?
To throw the socks in the basket on the right side of the bed instead of on the floor on the left side of the bed?
To replace the toilet paper roll when it is empty?
To put the keys in the key drawer so you don't have to ask where they are?
To close the top of the piano so the keys don't get dusty?
To fold the clothes AND bring the basket upstairs when you are finished?
To really listen to your mom or your wife so that she can spend more time doing the nice thngs and less time cleaning up after you?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Thwarting Sleep

Sometimes I wonder if the universe conspires against me in my quest to be well-rested.  I know what you are thinking:  you chose to have four kids and animals...it is my own fault if I don't get the sleep I need.

Well no, it isn't my fault.  Because sometimes, it isn't the kids or the animals, or the husband who wake me up mid-slumber.  Case in point, my experience today.  At the lovely hour of 5:39 am, the carbon monoxide detector chose to tell me, rather loudly I might add, that the batteries needed to be changed.  And because I did not want to have the entire house up at that hour, I took one for the team, and headed downstairs.  Thus, here I sit.

I guess what I need to do is turn the experience around, and thank that detector for helping me find the time to write on the blog.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fathers

When I was a child, on the days I thought I might someday get married, I'd try to envision what my spouse would look like.

I always figured I'd meet someone tall, with dark hair and dark eyes, someone that resembled my father, at least in the looks department.  Most of the men I dated did not fit that criteria, and to this day, I don't know why.  Perhaps the tall, dark, brooding type is not attracted to the lady with the chameleon hair.

And then I met Tim.  Short, with dark blond hair and bright green eyes.  At least that is what he looked like after playing sand volleyball all spring and summer in the sun.  We hit it off right from the beginning, and spent quite a bit of time together over the summer of 1998.  I found out that he was fiercely competitive, athletic and strong, intelligent, and goofy.   Not only that, he was forthright.  Tim told me that he loved me one month into our relationship.

A million things ran through my head the moment I heard him say those words.  I could panic, I could run in the opposite direction, I could just walk away.  I'd done all of those things before.  Instead, I thought better of all that, and just went with being honest.  "I can't say that right now," I remember saying to him, knowing that I might be hurting him in the process.  "It is just too soon."  He looked at me with his eyes glowing of love, and smiled.  "That's okay," he replied.  "Take your time."

To make a long story short, we got married 2 years later, and had 4 kids in the span of 6 and 1/2 years.  Sometimes, I think I have a fifth child in Tim, but when I look at him and how he is with our own children, I realize that while he doesn't necessarily resemble my father in terms of his appearance, I somehow managed to marry a man very much like my father.  Both of them are loyal to a fault, have quick tempers, and somehow manage to throw in a bad joke in any situation. Actually, Tim's jokes are better than my dad's, but I find myself eye-rolling now as much as I did back when I lived at my parent's house.

I couldn't ask for a better spouse and the kids couldn't ask for a better dad.  And despite the fact that I went off to college and got liberal, which only makes my dad's head ache, I still love him dearly.  So Happy Father's Day to the two men in my life that probably shaped me more than I am willing to admit!  

Friday, June 15, 2012

Daycared Out

This week has been full of kids.

A friend of mine called last week and said, "Can you watch the kids for us?  Tom forgot that he wasn't done with school until 2 weeks after the kids were out."

Tom is still in school, and works full-time.  Becky is still and school and works full-time.  Their shift schedules usually allow them to have one person at home with their 3 children.  I looked at my calendar, and realized that nothing was scheduled on the day in question.  I went ahead and said yes.  When I spoke to Tom again he asked, "Can you possibly watch them for 2 days?"

I'd like to think that I am a kind person, but I will tell you this:  I will not watch other people's children if it is going to be a hassle for me, especially all day.  But I know this family well, and while having 3 extra children around would be more work, it wasn't going to be a pain for me.  Our kids like their kids and vice versa.  I was just hoping for good weather!

All is well that end's well.  Tuesday and Wednesday turned out to be meteorologically sound days.  We went to the playground, jumped through the sprinkler, and sold lemonade to two customers.  The kids played Angry Birds outside (don't ask how, but these kids all have great imaginations and managed to put together some form of real-life Angry Birds forum) and when Tim returned on Wednesday night, he pulled together a rousing game of kickball.

I only ended up ordering out once for food (pizza for dinner on Wednesday night).  We fed the 7 kids plus a guest on Tuesday at lunch; the 7 kids plus 2 guests on Wednesday at brunch; pizza fed the 7 kids plus 3 adults at dinner, as Tom had a little when he came to pick up his brood.  I did feel a bit discombobulated with all the noise and mayhem throughout the day, but as I told my neighbor:  "I didn't plan anything else.  My day was scheduled to be kid-centered.  Therefore, I could remain calm in the midst of chaos."

I wouldn't want to watch other children all the time, but we all enjoyed ourselves.  Thank goodness!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Lofty Goals

I just read two very cheesy novels.  I guess I will have to call them romance novels, and while I am not proud to admit that I read them, I have to say I was doing some research.  Get your head out of the gutter...it was not that kind of research.  I read them to see what sort of plot there was, whether or not the protagonist had a clear motivation, and whether or not the books were well written.

My decision?  If I had the time and inclination, I could write a romance novel very easily.  But I have neither the time, nor the inclination.  And when my story or stories are done, I'd like to say that I am proud of the writing, not just that I have gotten something published (assuming that I can find someone to publish these ideas of mine).

I think I might have some lofty goals.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Welcome!

I'd just like to say a quick Welcome to the World to the newest addition to our family.

My older sister, Gina, delivered a healthy baby girl this morning, after having to hold off on pushing until the midwife was ready for her (said midwife was one room over delivering another baby).  I've had the lovely experience of not being able to push (I was in the car) even though I wanted to.  Therefore, Gina gets big props for being able to breathe through those urges.

Anyway, Catalina Francesca entered this world and big sister Eliana is full of excitement.  Congrats to Gina, Dave, Elli and Catalina!  Our kids, too, can't wait to meet the newest cousin.  Road trip!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Dear God, What Is That Thing?

I have never liked my nose.

My parents taught me to be grateful for what I have, so I have always thanked the dear Lord for the ability to breathe and detect smells.  And, it holds up my glasses just fine, thank you very much.  But aside from that, I have never once truly appreciated the schnoz that sits in the middle of my face.

From the front, it looks like my dad's nose; from the side, it resembles my mom's.  All put together, my nose has always had its own issues.  Too pointy, too freckly, too crooked, too long.  You name it, I could find a complaint about it.

In elementary school, I was fascinated by Annie's nose:  short, cute, and just right for her face.  I'd have swapped with her in a heartbeat, but I doubt she wanted a proboscis with two different sized nostrils, never mind the fact that her nose probably would not look right on my face.  But in 6th grade, having a nose you didn't like was a real problem.  And there was nothing I could do about it.

Since that time in my life, I've encountered actual problems, such that my nose really didn't seem to cause me much anguish.  I never thought about it on a daily basis again until Melina came along.  I think the mini-me has my nose.  So far, it looks great on her, but I do wonder if someday, she'll have the same conversations I had to myself

I also wonder if it will take her until she is approaching 39 to look into the mirror and accept herself for who she is.  Better late than never, you know?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Writing Workshop Wrap-up

This past Wednesday was the last day of my writing workshop.  Oh, how I wish there was going to be another one...I'd have signed up in a heartbeat.  Perhaps I will again in the fall.  The class was full of insightful, kind, funny, talented ladies, all of whom I am proud to know.  I am also expecting to see these same ladies on the shelves of the local bookstore someday.  (No pressure or anything.)

So what did I learn?  Two overwhelming ideas first jump to mind.

1. Writing a novel is very difficult.
2. Critiquing another person's writing and making sure your statement is positive is also very difficult.

Of course, I think I knew those going into the class.  But here is what I didn't know, but I know now, and hope to apply to my own writing.  I am only listing the top five.  Anything else, well, you'll just have to sign up for your own workshop!

1.  Start the story off with a bang.
2. Keep the tension high:  the more conflict the better.
3. Make the character's motivation very clear from the beginning, and don't waver.
4. Show, don't tell.
5.  Make sure to find critical readers who aren't afraid to give you good feedback.  Hearing "It's great!" is nice, but hearing "This is how it could be better..." is even nicer.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sometimes You Gotta Eat

I worry about my sugar intake on a daily basis.  Last year, I had a health scare, and since then, I've been watching how much artificial sugar I eat.  Since I love yogurt, especially the flavored variety, I tend to cut back on most other sweet things, but allow myself the yogurt.  I love so many fruits and vegetables that really, it doesn't hurt much by not having the sugar.

But then, along comes a recipe that kills my will power.  A recipe so yummy, that Tim told me if I really loved him, I'd have made these before now.

The story goes like this:

I wanted to find a good caramel brownie recipe.  So I searched for Rolo Brownies, knowing that an easy way to add caramel would be to throw in my beloved Rolos to my from scratch brownie recipe.  Up popped a nice recipe and a link to a variation of it.  I was hesitant at first, because the brownies started with a boxed cake mix, but I tried the recipe anyway.  And I am glad I did.  In the end, I combined the two recipes, made some changes, and almost ate the whole batch.  I brought some to my writing workshop and some to the neighbors before the whole batch ended up in my mouth. 

Interested in these yummy morsels?  Try this:

1 Chocolate Fudge cake mix
1/2 cup melted butter
1/3 cup evaporated milk
12 ounce bag of Rolos, unwrapped
12 ounce bag of small chocolate bars/Milky Way bars, unwrap as many as you want
Peanut butter chips
Chocolate chips
Kraft caramel bits
Anything else you want to put in there

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a pan.  The recipe called for an 8 x 8, but I didn't want my kids having such thick brownies, so I used a 9 x 13 pan.

2.  Combine the mix, the milk, and the butter.  The dough will be thick.  Cut in half.  Press half into the prepared pan.  If you use the 9 x 13, bake for about 4 to 5 minutes.  If you use the smaller pan, bake for 8 minutes.  Cool for 10 minutes.

3.  While the brownies are cooling, press out the other half of the dough onto waxed paper.  Even though the layer was going to be thin, it was pretty easy to do.  Then, take your baked brownies and place the unwrapped Rolos onto the surface.  We placed small chocolate bars and Milky Ways between the Rolos. If you just want to use Rolos, you will need 2 bags.  Sprinkle chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, and caramel bits over the top of the brownie.  Take the wax paper and turn the pressed out layer over the candy layer.  Be sure to peel the paper off, and press gently the edges if necessary.

4.  Bake for about 15 minutes if using the 9 x 13 pan; 20 - 25 if using the 8 x 8 pan.

Let the brownies cool a bit before cutting.  We rewarmed the brownies the next day, too, and they were still delicious!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hidden Veggies

Our kids have always been good vegetable eaters.  I thank my lucky stars for that.  But they aren't always open to change.  So, today, when I substituted fresh kale and other assorted greens from the CSA box for the standard spinach in our spinach enchiladas, I did not tell them.  No one questioned a thing.  Hee-hee.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Day 3

Technically, we are on Day 3 of summer vacation.  Unfortunately, I think I might have used all my tricks up already.

Day 1:  A quick day trip to see my younger sister, complete with breakfast at a favorite diner and a visit to a Natural History Museum.  Top that off with dinner out at a college haunt.
Day 2: Piano lessons for 3/4 of my children followed by lunch outside.  We then headed to the kick-off at the library for the summer reading program, plus had friends over to play for about an hour.
Day 3:  A visit with friends to a local historical park.  We were there from 10:30 am until 3:15 pm, and if Melina hadn't gotten tired, and it hadn't looked like rain, we might have stayed longer.

Writing that up just wore me out.  I am hoping I don't have to keep up this pace all summer!  Happy summer to you all!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Things I Find Bizarre and Frightening...

I received a Williams-Sonoma catalog in the mail today, despite the fact that I never buy from the company.  I do like to look at the pictures, and I have tried some recipes that turned out very well.  Today, however, I was blasted by a picture of something I find very bizarre and frightening:  A stuffed burger press.  I am sure other people would be thrilled to have a contraption that helps build a burger stuffed with cheese, olives, or any other condiment of one's choosing.  I, however, would rather have someone give me a vacuum cleaner as a gift. 

The whole catalog made me think of all the things I find bizarre and frightening that other people might not.  Here is my not-so-comprehensive list.  In fact, I'll stick with the top 10, in no particular order.  Most of these were not in the catalog.

1.  Said burger press
2.  Chicken Cordon Bleu
3. Blue cheese
4. Serrated bags, like the ones that grapes sometimes come in (or they used to)
5. Rings around the toilet bowl
6. Sun burns so bad the skin is purple
7. Naked mole rats
8. Chinese Crested dogs
9. Vomit from kids not related to me
10. Velveeta