Jul 11, 2015

Motherhood doesn't mix with writing

Well, here I am again, same spot, same story, but with another little addition to our family.  I still haven't finished my first book, I don't blog the way I wish I could, I'm still not funny, and I'm still lacking in the old wisdom department.  Is this how all famous people start?  Boringly ordinary, until they catch their big break?  Or do the greats all start out as greats?  Maybe being great isn't my destiny.  Maybe even being a great writer isn't my destiny, either.  I work hard at being a great mom, but as it turns out, I'm great at failing.  That's something, isn't it?

I have a writer friend who swears that it's okay to put off dishes and laundry to write, but I can't do that.  I can't submerge myself into something when my job as a homemaker comes first.  Maybe in a few years, when the kids are all in school, things can change for me.  It's hard gathering my thoughts when the baby is in the back room, crying and fussing, and refusing to go to bed (STILL, after trying multiple times for the past hour and a half).  It's hard getting in the mood to write, when the house is in complete disarray, the dishes are piled up, and if I don't get those bowls and spoons washed before morning, I'm going to have to do them while the kids are grumpy and hungry, and waiting.  The thing about motherhood is that it is so consuming.  SO CONSUMING.

They say to sleep when the baby sleeps, but that only happens after the other children have been fed.  Then, if I'm lucky, I can get them all into their rooms for quiet time and I can have a few minutes to myself before the baby wakes.  It usually turns out that as soon as I lie down to get my much needed nap, that's when baby's decided that nap time is over.  And then I get her out of her crib, feed her for the millionth time that day, and look around at the house as it slowly disintegrates around me, and wonder how will I ever get this place cleaned, much less find time to even think about writing?

I sit here, frazzled, wondering how to even end this blog with my baby screaming in the background, echoing off the monitor, and feeling about twelve of my hairs turning stark white.  I've got lots of those now, and I'm way too young to have this many.  Is this what parenthood does to you?

Jul 20, 2014


Writing is exhausting.  I don't know if it is for anyone else, but for me, it takes a lot out of me.  My book that I began over three years ago has suddenly turned into a trilogy.  It was definitely unexpected.  As my story progressed, I realized that several things needed to happen.  The first two books were easily written, but book 3 has been my greatest challenge.  As my characters have faced difficulties, I, too, struggled.  It's hard writing about things I just want to hurry up and be done with.  It's hard hashing out the difficult times, knowing that better things are ahead.

I got stuck in denial for several months, not wanting to even touch my book, because I couldn't bear the thought of my characters interacting.  I hated them.  I hated who they had become, and what was to come.  But...I had committed to going to a writer's retreat with some friends for several days of just.  writing.  in.  complete.  silence.  So, I needed to pick up my book again, and face the music, however ugly it might be.

It was difficult, because every paragraph was painful to write.  Every hour I sat in my hotel room, tearing at my brain while developing my story, was agony.  Finally, on the last day, my story started flowing, and my fingers flew across my keyboard.  But I must have been in some sort of trance, because when I finally opened up my book to write some more last week, I didn't recognize it.  Any of it.

"What the heck?!" I asked as I read the last paragraph.  I had absolutely no clue what was going on.  I read the previous page, and was still lost.  Where on earth had my characters gone, and what did they think they were doing?  I had to go back a couple of chapters before I remembered what had caused this strange chain of events.  I couldn't believe how completely different my book had suddenly become without me even knowing it!  I was so certain my book was still in that horrible stuck place from before my retreat, that it was a surprise to see that it had progressed without my knowledge.

Unfortunately, I am once again stuck.  I know a simple freewrite will free me from the dilemma I am now facing, but it seems like too much work.  There's so much planning, so many more problems my characters need to face and overcome, that I don't wanna do it.   I just might be the laziest writer out there.  Or maybe, my life just isn't in the right place to dedicate my time to writing.  It almost seems like a waste, though, to give up when I'm so close to being done.  I need to find the motivation to pick up where I left off, and finish off my book!

Feb 8, 2014

Gingerbread Winter

White icicles dangle down rooftops
On our gingerbread village
Snow-covered trees become
Pretzels dipped in white chocolate
As fog clings to crispy branches
Tiny gumdrop lights
lining all the houses
Sweeten even the harshest of blizzards
That threaten to tip
The marshmallow-melted snowmen
Whose grins have warped like licorice
Sweet candy cane winter,
Teasing us to take a bite
But gingerbread isn't always pleasing
And your claws can be
Like dried frosting.

Dec 31, 2013

Life from a child's view

Over the past year, I've collected hilarious things that my children have said.  I thought it might be fun to share some of these.  Jacob was 6, Gabriel was 5, and Jarod was 3.

Gabriel (to Daddy, who squashed a mosquito):  “Are you petting the mosquito?”

Jacob (to Caleb, who's learning to say sounds):  “Say guh.”
Caleb:  “Guh.”
Jacob:  “Say juh.”
Caleb:  “Duh-duh.”
Jacob:  “Say microwave!”

Mommy (hiding and jumping out at Jacob):  “Boo!”
Jacob (jumping):  “You didn’t scare me.  I just bounced up for fun.  I was trying to see past you.”

Jacob:  “Why, instead of graduation hats, were they ingenious hats?”

Gabriel:  “Are giraffes made of meat?”
Mommy:  “Yes.”
Gabriel:  “Then why are they yellow?”

Gabriel:  “So, after garbage gets taken to the dump, the garbage turns to newspaper?”

Jacob (talking about Christ's manger):  “All the animals live there, except for bats.  And vampires.”

Jarod (watching movie on Christ’s resurrection and seeing nail prints in His hands):  “Jesus need Band-aid?”

Gabriel:  “I hope Santa gives me a hook for Christmas so I can cut off my hand.”

Jacob (hugging Mommy):  “Your hair smells like a dirty diaper!  You need to wash it.”

Mommy (to Jacob, who’s fanning himself):  “Are you hot?”
Jacob:  “No, it help me not be tired anymore.  When I swish myself, it gets me smarter.”

Gabriel:  “Is there whirlpools in our necks?”
Mommy:  “No.”
Gabriel:  “Then how come our food goes down to our tummy?”

Gabriel (watching Mommy put on eyeliner):  “Does that make you see better?”

Gabriel:  “Is one throat a yelling throat?  Do we have three throats?  One is a breathing throat, one is a cereal throat, and one is a yelling throat.”

(Mommy was explaining necks to Jarod)
Jarod (looking down shirt):  “Go?  Where neck?”

Jacob (examining hands):  “Am I glued together?”

Jacob:  “Belly buttons don’t talk, right?”

Jacob (asking about T-ball):  “Will there be any older kids?”
Mommy:  “No, T-ball is only for 5-year olds and 6-year olds.
Jacob:  “How about any tall-year-olds?”

Mommy:  “Did you brush your teeth?”
Gabriel:  “Yes.”
Mommy:  “Let me smell your breath…Gabe!  You didn’t brush.”
Gabriel:  “I drank some water, and my breath went into my tummy.”

Jarod (pulling on head):  “My head’s stuck!  Can you take off my head?”

Mommy:  “Jacob, will you bless the food?”
Gabriel:  “What?!  He said the blessing tomorrow!”

Gabriel:  “What’s in the bag?”
Mommy:  “Carrot skins.”
Gabriel:  “So are carrots alive since they have skin?”

Mommy:  “Did you write ‘hi’ on the bathroom wall?”
Jacob:  “No.  I never learned it in school.”
Gabriel:  “I did it.”
Jacob:  “That’s not fair!  He’s smarter than me!  No, I’m just joking.  I’ve got more brains than him because I go to school.”

And this was my all-time favorite:

Jacob:  “After I go pee, I’m making a fairy house.  I just love fairies.”

Dec 26, 2013

Burn Out

Sometimes I check my blog, just to see if a new post magically appeared.  It never does.  It's hard to find inspiration and time with things as crazy as they are.  I always wish that I could be one of those bloggers, faithfully posting away and inspiring many with their wit or life-changing insights.  However, I'm a mom to four very rowdy, loud, and very tiring boys, so it's hard to want to sit and write.  Maybe I'm not the writer I always dreamed I'd be, or maybe the timing just isn't right.  Either way, that story that I thought was finished ended up not being finished.  I read it again with a fresh perspective, and realized that it lacks a certain charm.  I think I've got an idea that will make it unique, based off of an idea I got from another book I read and fell in love with.  If time and sanity allow, I hope to revise my book, and add in some spice to make it better.  It's pretty shallow and bland right now as it is, and that's not something I'd feel proud of sending off to an agent.  It might be a couple of years before the end product is something I can be excited about.  Or at least a progress of some sort that I can be excited about.

I wish I had some insights to share, but the only thing weighing on my mind currently is the cheese ball I indulged in after wrestling the kids into bed.  And the fact that I have the next two days with my husband for his days off, and he'll get the pleasure of getting everyone down for the night.  Boy, it's tough being a mom, especially on nights like tonight.  Thank goodness I had that cheese ball to get me through it.

Nov 1, 2013

Halloween Frights

Halloween frights for a child are completely different than for an adult.  Well, okay, different than a parent, anyway.  I no longer have to face the horrors of haunted houses (thank heavens), but there are others that are longer lasting.

The day before Halloween, I learned that instead of having Grandma join us for some trick-or-treating, I was going to have to take all four boys out...by myself.  I put on a brave face, and said that it wouldn't be a problem.  But anyone with four young children knows very well that it was going to be a huge problem.  

Another fright I faced happened just before dinner on Halloween night, and one hour before we left for trick-or-treating.  My 3-year-old's most favorite costume, the one he's been wearing all week, was NOWHERE.  Absolutely, positively, nowhere.  We looked all over the house, beneath beds, behind couches, and inside toy boxes.  I suddenly realized with great horror what had happened to it.  Just the night before, I had been thinning out our totes of baby clothes, keeping only what I really wanted for a possible future baby.  The main light in our bedroom had stopped working (no, it didn't need a replacement bulb), so I was working by the dim light of a lamp.  My kids, of course, as hyperactive as they were, were jumping on the bed, messing up my piles of clothes, until I finally ordered them out.  Annoyed, I quickly stuffed all of the clothes into a garbage bag, then e-mailed a lady who was in need of baby clothes.  We arranged a pick-up time for the following morning, Halloween morning, at 11 a.m.  The only place Jarod's costume could possibly be was inside one of those two garbage bags, which were currently down in Brigham City.  Had the light in my room been brighter, or had there been less chaos, I can't help but think that I would have been more careful, double-checking what went inside each bag instead of quickly stuffing a pile of unknowns into bags.  So, yes, my young child had no Halloween costume.

Okay, I might be acting a little dramatic.  Technically, we had a whole tote of costumes downstairs, but that's beside the point.  I gave my child's beloved costume away.  Go me.  Luckily, we had a really cute caterpillar costume in the tote, and Jarod quickly forgot about his dog costume.  He looked a bit silly with a painted on nose and freckles in his big, fluffy bug costume, but with a runny nose that he kept wiping across his cheek, the makeup quickly wiped off.  Disaster averted...until we went out for the night.

I always am unsure of when to take the kids out.  What time is appropriate?  I didn't want to go knocking on doors when no one was even ready, but one place that was a sure bet was a townhouse complex we've been to for the past two years, where hundreds of kids trick-or-treat.  I took the kids, only to learn that my greatest fear had been realized.  Not even half of the houses there had their porch lights on, which meant we wouldn't be knocking on their doors.  Thirty minutes later, after we'd knocked on the last door, my kids only had probably 15 pieces of candy.  

I remembered that a ward was having trunk-or-treating at our church, so I headed over there.  We parked on the opposite side of the parking lot when I saw that only a few cars were there, and decided it hadn't started quite yet.  I took the boys down the street to hit a neighborhood or two before heading back into the parking lot.  As we approached the corner, I tried herding the boys onto the lawn of the nearest house, which was a bit of a problem since Caleb (my one-year-old) was more interested in picking up leaves then collecting candy.  When I finally convinced him to walk towards the house, I realized that my wonderfully independent Jarod had somehow appeared across the street on the corner, waiting for us!  Another Mom-of-the-Year award should have been given to me.  I called him back, and luckily, he obeyed. 

We trekked around the busy neighborhood, collecting juice bottles, miniature popcorn bags, and tons and tons of candy.  My children were eager to say thank-you and "Happy Halloween" to everyone who filled their bags, and little Caleb got a few extra sometimes just because he was so gosh-darn cute.  However, what lurked down the street, glowing with red and yellow lights, was a haunted house.  Gargoyles, ghouls, and the Grim Reaper greeted the hordes of children both young and old, who swarmed the house like a beehive.  At the driveway, we were greeted by a gypsy, who not only handed out candy, but a blue ticket as well.  "Take this to one of the booths to play a game," she said.  "Then you can go in and get your prize!"  We followed her finger to the carport, which had been transformed into what looked like a spook ally.  Reluctantly, I gathered the kids around a booth for games.  Honestly, I just wanted to continue on.  I was anxious that the kids were going to start getting tired and grumpy, but I wanted my kids to have a really cool experience.  They spun a wheel or chose a floating duck, then got a prize ticket.  I led the boys into the prize room, where I pushed aside a wall of beads.  We found ourselves in a dark room, beneath the gaze of hanging monsters, and walked over to the prize table.  That was when I realized that Jarod was not with us.  Oh, no, not again!!  I raced through the curtain of beads, and luckily found my son standing nearby, looking around for us.  I brought him in the room with us, and he and Jacob chose miniature bottles of bubbles, while Gabriel and Caleb received silly glasses.  I couldn't believe how these people had gone all out!  The boys all enjoyed themselves, and I was grateful we'd stopped there.
We hit several homes, and things were finally going smoothly...until we came to a house on a corner.  The front porch light was off, so we dismissed the house, only to see that around the corner, they had a back porch light on, with a back porch that was decorated.  I noticed that the gate to the backyard was open, and also saw that there was another open gate on the opposite end of the yard.  To me, it was an open invitation for trick-or-treaters.  Self-consciously, I took the kids through the yard, and my oldest knocked.  Nothing.  We headed out of the yard quickly (before anyone caught us), and then my 1-year old Caleb decided that he didn't want me carrying him anymore.  As I put him down, his trick-or-treat bucket spilled into my arms, and my kids all ran off, leaving me in the yard alone to clean up.  I cradled his bucket while trying to awkwardly tip the candy from my arms into it.  I suddenly heard a noise, and when I turned around to see what it was, I was terrified to see an adult-sized gorilla approaching me, arms outstretched.

Now, normally, I'm a pretty big scardy-cat.  Had I been all alone, I'm pretty certain I would have screamed and taken off running.  But, as a mother with an obligation to her young children (and feeling totally embarrassed for both being in a forbidden yard as well as picking up spilled candy), I simply said, "Oh, hi!"  It clearly made gorilla-man bored, and I was safe.  But then again, how would Jarod feel when he saw this massive gorilla on the dark streets?  We couldn't even get him to go into a costume store without him freaking out.  What was I supposed to do when he saw it?  Well, the beauty of trick-or-treating for young kids is that they're either too busy looking down into their candy bags or searching for the next door to go to to even notice what was lurking above their heads.  We all escaped the gorilla without any problems.  

Finally, we reached the final house on our route.  The way the door was situated was pretty strange.  In order to get to it, you had to follow a narrow sidewalk up against the house, with a railing between the sidewalk and the yard.  Because it was such a narrow path, I had to wait on the other side of the railing on the grass, holding Caleb, while my other three boys got their candy.  The plan was wait until they were done, and then lift Caleb up over the railing so he could get his candy.  Everything went according to plan, until, when the door was shut, Jacob suddenly yelled, pointing across the street, "Oh, no!  Jarod's way over there!"

I looked across the dark yard, the dark, wide street, and onto the dark grass of the churchyard, where a fuzzy green caterpillar was standing, clutching his Halloween bucket.  OHMYGOSH, how did he get across the street?!  My first instinct was to take off running and carry him back to safety.  But then that would leave my three other children.  What if my one-year-old took off after me?  I yelled across the street to tell Jarod to stay where he was, praying he'd listen and not try to cross again without me.  I gathered my other children, and we quickly crossed the yard and into the street.  How that little boy made it across the street under the dark, cloudy sky all by himself without getting killed by a car is beyond me.  But, there he was, safe and sound, and completely unaware of the fear he had just given me.

We finally headed over to the church parking lot to pick up a few more pieces of candy (the boys had been dying to go trunk-or-treating), but when we turned the corner, I saw that no one was outside.  Maybe they took it into the gym, like they'd done last year in the rain.  We went inside, only to learn that there was no trunk-or-treating, but a Halloween carnival, instead.  Well, it was getting late anyway.  I was honestly relieved that we would be heading home, because frankly, I was getting tired.  My boys weren't too happy, but they quickly forgot their disappointment when they looked down into their bags, which were bulging with candy.

Despite a frightful Halloween night, we all made it home, safe and sound.  Everyone was happy, and everyone got to enjoy some of the fruits of their labors.  But, just as all scary movies have one last terrifying scene, so did ours.  It was time to put the kids, all high on their sugar rush, down for bed (cue the scary music).

Oct 30, 2013

Overcoming Writer's Block

The first time I wrote my book, everything just sort of fell into place.  Everything felt brilliant, hilarious, and it was a project I fell in love with.  But when it got rejected over and over again, it was time to adjust some things.  I rewrote my book, doubled its size, and ended it in a completely different way.  Ah...NOW it was perfect.  Again, I sent it out, only to have it rejected once again.  Hmmm...I was sensing a problem.  I sent it out to a trusted friend, and found out some suggestions that would require a total rewrite, and that would introduce a character that I was reluctant to add.  I mulled it over for months, and at last, came to terms with what I had to do.

 Rewriting my book from humorous non-fiction to young adult fiction was no easy task.  Instead of a bunch of funny anecdotes, I now had to have one long, continuous plot.  People had to actually talk to each other, and I needed more characters.  Because I was no longer reminiscing, I had to actually make up scenes and conversations, and that took some brain power, trust me!  There were many, many times where I reached a road block, and I had no idea what on earth I was supposed to do.  I did everything I was supposed to do:  I took a break from it, I did a freewrite, but nothing was working out for me.  I finally decided that the reason I could no longer move forward was because I didn't like where the scene was headed, or I was bored by it, and didn't like reading it.  It's always hard deleting several pages worth of story, but in the end, it was worth it, because I opened up another path, and that ended up being one that allowed my story to move forward.  If you're not in love with what you're writing, no else is going to love it, too.  Sometimes, you have to accept the fact that your plot is dry, or just simply wrong.  You can't be afraid to start over.

Another road block can come from lack of character personality.  By knowing your character's personality, you can let them direct your story.  My favorite parts in my books are when my characters created their own scenes, and where I felt that they were in charge of what was happening.  When I feel like I don't know how my character is going to react to a situation, or don't know what they're going to say, it's time to reevaluate who they are, and develop them better.

And finally, freewrite, freewrite, freewrite!  This can sometimes be hard for me, because I feel like I can only write when I know what I want to say.  I've forced myself to just write what I'm thinking, even if it looks completely dumb written out.  This is my "thinking out loud" process, because I write exactly what's on my mind, even if it's my dumb little inner conversations (please tell me others have them, too!).  I've actually gotten a lot of my problems solved this way, and have developed a more interesting plot.  Most of what I write is garbage, but every now and then, something huge pops out, and that's what makes the freewrite so valuable.  I also like to go through my freewrite, and highlight parts that I definitely want to put into my book, then make a list in chronological order of events I want to have happen.  It's nice having a road map to look at!

I just read an article on writing novels, and it said that if you aren't absolutely completely in love with and devoted to your book, you'll never get it finished.  If you've reached a road block or writer's block, or whatever it is that you want to call it, make sure you're loving what you're writing.  Don't be afraid to start over.  Cut and Paste is one of my most favorite Word features, because I've been able to rewrite without having to start from scratch!

Writing a novel is hard, but with enough passion, it can get finished!  Good luck, and happy writing!