Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen or in This Case an Emma

I'm taking a week break from writing. My house is a disaster and I'm feeling domestic. This afternoon I decided to bake.

I used to bake. I used to bake a lot, but my kids don't eat baked goods and I end up eating them all. But baking makes me feel good-- homey, comforted, useful. So today I baked. Two apple pies, two loaves of sandwich bread and a loaf of cinnamon bread. From scratch. My Little House on the Prairie roots were showing.

Emma had a great day at preschool and came home to "help" me. While I mixed the flour, sugar, yeast, and milk, Emma made her own concoction.

Her ingredients? Flour, water, sugar and a stolen half can of Diet Coke. Yum.

But that got old, so when Mommy wasn't looking she moved to Mommy's side.


Uh oh.
(Why, yes. That is half of an apple on the floor.)

What's this, you ask? Emma has moved the bar stool to access the water dispenser. Never underestimate the power of water added to a floury paste mess. What the camera fails to capture is the standing water spread across the floor. The puddle I slipped and fell in. Sorry, no cameras around to capture the special moment.

Fifi is doing better today. She is falling less so the steroids must be working, but she's not all there either. The only thing we can do is wait. Thank you for all your kinds words and prayers!

Monday, September 13, 2010


She's just a dog. A stupid dog.

When she was young, around one or two, she liked to bolt out the front door and we'd have to chase her down until we finally gave up. I'd tell her if she didn't like living with us she didn't have to come back. But she always did.

After she got older, sometimes she'd run off into the woods behind my house and be gone for hours, coming back covered in mud and cockleburs. I'd curse and yell, and wash the chunks of mud down the drain, cut out the thorn branches stuck in her hair. I told her if she wasn't careful some wild animal would eat her. I fenced in my yard.

She stands at the back door wanting in and out, in and out, worse than a kid and annoying the hell out of me. Or she barks at nothing at all, even in the middle of the night, until I tell her to be quiet. Once, she knew there was mouse under our house and shredded the carpet and the baseboard trying to get to it.

Five years ago she was attacked by a German shepherd. She was in bad shape. She almost didn't make it. But I insisted we fix her, spending more money than we had, more money than a person should on a dog.

But she's my dog. That's what I told Darrell that Sunday morning in the Emergency Clinic. She's my dog. We have to fix her.

This weekend, while I was gone, something happened. She started walking into things. Sunday night she fell down the stairs. Twice. She continued falling down, her legs on her right side giving out. I thought it was her back, which was injured when she was attacked. Why didn't I know better? Yet, I did.

The vet sent me home this afternoon with a pharmacopoeia of medicines. Predisone, muscle relaxers, pain pills. The vet said it could be a pinched nerve until I mentioned she went to the neighbors house, thinking it was ours. Then she leaned heavily to a neurological cause.

Brain tumor.

I left, shockingly numb. It wasn't definite. It could still be a nerve, but it a nerve didn't fit. I spent the afternoon in denial.

I've watched her get worse and worse all afternoon and evening. She can hardly walk. When she tries to stand, she falls until she finally gets her sea legs and stumbles around. I just took her outside and watched the wind knock her over and over, until I was sure she was done and carried her in. I set her in front of her food and water and waited, the shield I erected around my heart crumbling every time she slipped and fell on her side, smacking her face on the hardwood floor.

All too familiar feelings wash through me. Foreboding hovers over my head. A cloak of grief I know to well.

I have lived this before.

I asked myself, when I allowed myself to release the tears-- how many times will I lose the ones I love? Will I always feel so helpless?

She's lying at my feet now, waiting for me to finish this post. She's always near, waiting. I call her my shadow, but I can feel the darkness slipping in, the fingers of death creeping close to do what it does best. Steal.

She's a dog. A stupid dog. But she's mine and I love her.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Latest Accessory

I've made no secret of the fact that Ryan has some OCD tendencies. He likes things neat and organized. He likes to arrange things just so.

So it should come as no surprise that his latest accessory, that one item you just can't leave home without would be--

Go figure.

He carries that bottle EVERYWHERE (except school, I'm not sure they would allow it at Pre-K). He even uses it. Sparingly. Guess what he's getting for Christmas!

One kid down, five to go.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Part Two: Who ARE Those Kids?

I am the single mother of six children. Some people are amazed by that fact. To me, it's just who and what I am. My oldest moved out last spring, so I only have five children living at home.

Yes, I can SEE you shaking your head at my use of the word only.

My three oldest children are biological. My three youngest are adopted. Three are boys and three are girls. Yes, I have my own Brady Bunch. *snort* Hardly. Otherwise I KNOW I would have an Alice. And a Mike. For the record, at this point I'd prefer an Alice. I hate housework.

If you want to know the story about HOW I became a single mother read this.

Some of you know my kids from when I wrote before. Others are getting introduced. After this post, you'll all be up to speed.


My oldest, Trace, is twenty-three now. He moved out last spring and into a condo with his girlfriend Cody and her four-year-old son Gauge. Trace works full-time at a pizza restaurant and is finishing his last semester of collage. He is eager to get out of the food service industry and begin a career.

His girlfriend Cody is the owner/creator of LuandEd She makes the cutest monster bags and tutus. Be sure to check her store out.


Ross just turned twenty. He lives at home and splits his time between working as an assistant manager at a convenience store and going to our local community college. His major is still undivided. He currently has a girlfriend. Ross lives in a man-cave, otherwise known as our basement, where he happily resides with the 50" plasma screen TV he bought last spring. Needless to say, I don't see a lot of Ross, but he often bring me Starbucks mochas. I think I'll keep him.


Julia is thirteen and now an eighth grader. Julia is into everything drama, whether it be in real life or on a stage. She just found out she got the lead role as Millie in her school musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie. She is in Show Choir (think Glee) and Honor Choir. Julia has a heart of gold and loves children. She is a much coveted babysitter. If only she liked watching her siblings as much as she enjoys watching other people's kids.


Seven-year-old Jenna is a second grader. A product of the Disney Channel, Jenna is hip and sassy, but is actually more sensitive than I expected. She's a girly-girl through and through and would rather play with her American Girl doll than kick around a ball. Jenna is very social and love her friends.


Ryan is now four and in Pre-K where he gets speech therapy. Ryan was born with a cleft lip and cleft palate, but they were repaired in China before we adopted him at two and a half. Ryan likes things neat and tidy. He loves nothing more than to boss people around and tattle on them when they don't follow the rules, which explains his nickname: Officer Ryan. When Ross isn't around (most of the time,) he is the only boy in a sea of estrogen. God bless him.


Three-year-old Emma is the baby. Since the day I met Emma at three months, she has always had a strong will. A character trait to be admired, most of the time, but not when you are battling over the appropriate place to poop-- the toilet versus your panties. It's her very stubborness that helped her survive malnutrition in a Vietnamese orphanage and a case of RSV when she was four months old that left her on a ventilator for six days. While her tenacity can be annoying at times, I wouldn't change it for anything.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Part One: Where'd You Go?

It's no surprise I fell of the face of the earth last winter although it might be a surprise I came back.

Last November, I wrote a novel. It was okay. It had some good parts but it had a lot of bad parts. A LOT. It is unedited and sits on my external hard drive where it will spend eternity. Some might consider it a huge waste of time but I call it an incredible learning experience. I learned that I write pretty decent characters that have great chemistry, but I needed to work on realistic plots.

So I wrote a paranormal thriller next. Wait. Wasn't I supposed to be writing a more realistic plot? Here's the amazing part. I did. I love Chosen. The first half was written in a near panic-attack, sure there was no way I could pull it off. But I kept going and before I knew it, I had a completed and edited novel. It only took me five-and-a-half months. I began the query process, the part when you start sending a query letter about your book to agents. I'm ashamed to say I only sent it to seventeen agents. (Ashamed because its an embarrassingly low number) One agent requested to read the full book. Another requested to read the first fifty pages. The partial turned it down, but the agent who requested the full LOVED it. HOWEVER. She didn't think she could sell it.

It was a very sad, soul-searching day the Saturday in June I received that email.

The problem was I didn't know WHY she didn't think she could sell it. The only explanation I could come up with was it's a paranormal book with a romance. There's a glut of them in Young Adult right now, even though Chosen isn't YA.

So two days later I started another book. Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes. A mystery. I call it a cross between the humor of Janet Evanovich and the sweet-southern of Sarah Addison Allen. I love this book too and I think it's more marketable. I am finishing up a round of revisions on it and plan to pitch it to an agent at a writing conference in Denver this weekend.

All of this to say, I stopped writing my blog because I put so much time and energy into my novels I felt like I didn't have anything left to write a decent blog post. Along the way, even though I would think "This would make a good blog post," I was smart enough to know I couldn't tease my readers. Either I committed to writing this blog or I didn't.

In the end, I committed. I STILL had readers email and tell me they missed it. My kids missed it. But the bottom line was *I* missed it. I missed telling funny stories about my kids, our crazy life, and pontificating my crazy views on things. If I write this blog, I want to do it right and not half-ass. If you take the time to read it, the least I can do is make sure I post a half-decent quality blog post. Hopefully better.

I want to thank those of you who still love me and my kids, even if we "abandoned" you. You have no idea how much I love hearing you missed us, because let's be honest, everyone wants to feel loved. Next week, I plan on doing giveaways to show you all how much I love YOU.

Thanks for being patient with me. I hope I was worth the wait.

Tomorrow I'll give you an update on the kids.

Here's the book trailer I made for Chosen. I STILL love this thing. ;-)

(Little known secret-- that's Ross' arm with a Sharpie marker tattoo.)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Cutting the Strings

Today, Emma started preschool. For a couple of weeks she had told everyone she encountered that she was going soon. Her enthusiasm for school put her older siblings to shame.

Last week, was Meet the Teacher Day. As we pulled up to the school, she practically squealed with excitement, something that Ryan couldn't relate to. (Ryan started his Pre-K year a couple of weeks ago with the school district early childhood center.) Emma marched right into the school and her classroom. She eagerly sat at the table with her folder.

Because, hello! Who doesn't like candy?

Emma's class is The Stable Room. Amazingly enough, she wasn't tested before her class assignment to insure the proper room placement. Talk about serendipity.

Emma and Ryan explored her new room. Ryan was very hesitant at first and Emma led the way.

Her favorite area was the Home Living Center. Notice the folder in her hand. She wasn't about to let that go!

Fast forward to today.

Not so happy.

I think Emma figured she did her 20 minute stint of preschool, it was fun while it lasted, and it was a done deal.

Uh, no.

The only thing she got excited about was her lunch box. Actually excited might be the wrong word. Let's try POSSESSIVE. All of my children have their first day of school pictures with their backpacks. Emma's is lying on the ground. She's got her lunch box looped over her shoulder.

Toudee and Foofa came along to make sure she got to school without incident. She still has her lunch box.

On her way to class. The fact she is walking on her own two feet was progress.

Toudee and Foofa had to rest in Emma's backpack while she went to class. Convincing her of this was fairly easy. Giving up the lunch box? Not so much.

Then it was time for me to go and my baby cried as though I was never coming back. After six kids, I'm supposed to be immune to such displays of hysterics.

Someone forgot to tell my tear ducts.

I walked away in tears, wishing I'd had time to give her another kiss. That I had reminded her to tell her teacher if she had to potty. But I didn't. There wasn't time.

It occurred to me that this is really life in a nutshell. I sent Trace to college and drove away wishing I had warned him to not wash his darks with his whites. To eat less Ramen and more veggies. Then Trace moved out into a condo with Cody last April, and I wanted to tell him to change his furnace filter every three months and try not to park on the street.

The truth is when you are in the moment of separating from your child there isn't enough time to tell them everything you think they need to know. Honestly, they're not listening anyway. As a parent, we're still clinging to them and they are ready to be set free. As it should be. Sure they might cry, or scream as in Emma's case. But they need to be set free.

It hurts like hell, but that's our job. It's not to cram the information we think they need to know at the last minute. It's to teach them along the way.

When I picked Emma up from preschool, she was exactly how I expected her to be. Happy.

But her teacher told me when she asked the class who wanted to come back on Thursday, Emma was the only one who said she didn't want to go.

Guess I still have some time to teach her about those air filters.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Descending into the Circles of Hell

As parents, we do things for our kids that we would never do if left to our own devices. I can promise you I wouldn't spend mindless hours watching kids swing at the park or willingly sacrifice my brain cells, one by one, to spend quality time with an over-sized rodent known as Chucky Cheese.

Sometimes my children will request an activity and my answer requires little thought.

"Mom, can I have half the 7th grade come over for a party?"

No brainer. "No." Although I confess, sometimes depending on the request, the no might usually has a bit more drama attached.

"You want to do what? Have you lost your mind?"

Okay, so I need to work on my responses.

Lately, I've been in full edit mode on my novel, preparing for a conference I will attend in Denver next weekend. I feel guilty. I've spent more time on my book and less time on my kids. Everyone knows it's a temporary thing. Nevertheless, I feel guilty.

Here's a motherhood truth no one warns you about, along with too many others to mention here: the moment your child is placed into your arms, your life is ruled by guilt. The only way to escape it is to... I got nothin'. There's no escape.

When Julia and Jenna begged and pleaded to go to the American Girl Store GRAND OPENING on Saturday, the reasonable, sane part of me would have said:

"I would sooner cut off my right hand and feed it to the lions at the zoo."

But guilt-ridden Mom said:


And so began my slow descent into hell.

Now to be fair and before the canonization process for my certain sainthood gets underway, let me confess, I was not little Miss Molly Sunshine the entire way through. Even the night before I had a bit of an attitude. Julia wanted to leave at 8 am to arrive for the 10am opening of the doors. (I think they actually opened at 9.) I might have been suckered willing to wait in line for hours but I sure wasn't going lose precious sleep for it.

We left at 10, with a Starbucks detour on the way. Of course. We arrived at 10:45 and encountered the crowds gathered to visit the mecca of young girls everywhere.

Trust me this line was nothing.

They divided the pilgrims into groups. The group entering the store was 5. We were given tickets for group 11. Then we were free to wander, meander and shop in the mall , checking a digital display that announced what number of group they were lining up like cattle on the way to the slaughter house. (note: photo above.). I was with FIVE children (Julia brought a friend), in a crowded mall. On a Saturday. Did I mention that I had FIVE children? And one was Emma.

I descended into another circle of hell.

Shopping with teenage girls.

While Dante's circles of hell were Seven Deadly Sins, my own personal circles of hell were Aeropostale. The Disney Store. Claire's. Navigating a maze of ramps with a Sit-N-Stand stroller is my idea of torture. I tried really hard to remember being thirteen and wanting to shop for hours on end. I must have killed those brain cells at Chucky Cheese.

I confess, I did do some shopping. I bought the kids more school clothes. I bought an outfit for my pitching session with a literary agent next weekend. If I had to be there, I might as well get something out of it, too.

Around 1:00, we tried to eat lunch at the food court, but that was impossible. The eating area was overrun by eighteen-inch dolls and their dressed alike chaperones. Instead we went across the street, ate a quick fast food lunch and went back to the mall.

Amazingly enough, it was time for us to enter the cattle guards. Equally amazing, Emma had had enough.

Talk about bad timing.

Emma did NOT want to wait in line anymore. She was done. But little things distracted her. Like these paper cone cups.

That came from these. You would have thought Emma was a camel replenishing after a two-week trek in the desert. After about five cups of water, I had to drag her away. As you can imagine, that went over well.

Which explains why she's not in this picture outside the entrance.


The Promised Land*
*enter at your own peril

There's a happy face.

Emma was happy too. When the girl is upset, all you have to do is give her a stroller. I see a great future as a dog walker ahead of her. Or nanny. Or rickshaw driver.

THIS is when I decided I would descend to the lowest circle of hell, wallow around like a rutting pig and not shower for three days. Ryan wanted a "boy doll" and I decided "why not?" So I got Bitty Twins -- a boy and a girl. When I opened the box and handed the boy to Ryan, his face lit up and said with great excitement, "He looks like me!"*

*Not exactly. While we requested the ASIAN Bitty Twins, we actually received the Hispanic Bitty Twins. But hey, Ryan doesn't care so why should I?

And what did Ryan name his new friend? Little Ryan.

We came home, SIX HOURS after we left and the girls dressed their dolls up in the new outfits. I sat down at the computer and frantically tried to catch up on the work I missed and I wondered: Will my kids remember the time that Mom took them to the American Girl Store Opening and bought their dolls' outfits? Or will they remember tired and crabby Mom, whose back was killing her from a poorly designed mall? Only time will tell. Until then, the only thing I can do is to keep on trying.

Even saints are human.**

Hey, those dolls look just like my kids.

** Some might suggest that I am not actually eligible for sainthood after my trip to the AG Store. Some who know the actual criteria for sainthood would scoff and say that MIRACLES have to attributed to the person suggested for sainthood. They would propose that no miracle had occurred. And they would be wrong.

You tell me that one over-caffeinated, stressed-out Mom can take five kids to a crowded mall for five hours and not kill ANYONE doesn't qualify as a miracle.

Saint Denise. I like the sound of it.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Free to be Me

Anyone who read my blog back when I actually wrote it, knows that Emma is a free spirit.

{Note: I intend to a do a post next week reintroducing everyone and let you know what they are currently up to.}

One of Emma's newest accomplishments is that she is now capable of opening doors. This is a big deal. Huge. Because this means that Emma can now escape. And does. Hence the fence I put in my backyard last winter.

Emma also loves to go pantless. She doesn't mind wearing a shirt, but bottoms? Pleaaase. Too confining. Is there a term for half a nudist? Because that's Emma. (and if there is could you please let me know?) I often put her in dresses for this very reason, although she has been known to lift up her dress and give peep shows. Multiple peep shows. Then again, I've already had to start worrying about her and boys in her pants.

So honestly, it should have come as no surprise when I found her yesterday afternoon. Outside. Pantless.

Yes, my daughter is only wearing a shirt.

What will the neighbors think now?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Conversations with a Forensics Team Captain in Training

Meet Ryan. Ryan is the future caption of his high school debate team.

Ryan is different than the rest of us. While the girls and I have more creative, free spirited personalities, Ryan's tends to run into OCD tendencies. I did a blog post back-in-the-day about a then three-year-old Ryan packing his own lunch because I didn't do it right. One of the happiest days in his life was the day I taught him to make his bed. He ran around making everyone else's too.

Let me take a moment to wipe away a tear of joy. Okay, better now.

In a house full of creative souls (aka slobs) Ryan is like a cool breeze on a hot summer day. But just like everything, there are some negative aspects to Ryan's rigidness. Ryan believes he is always right. Always. While some might call this a birth defect attributed to all humans with a Y chromosome, I will refrain from making that "leap." HOWEVER, if that is your own personal philosophy, I'm not gonna argue with you. Whatever Ryan's reason, I confess some days he drives me batty. This is the kid that argued with me for ten minutes this summer that he couldn't to bed at 9:00 because it was still light outside.

Emma proves to be frustrating to Ryan. She loves to argue back out of pure stubbornness. As you can imagine, the provides HOURS of entertainment.

Conversations Yesterday Morning:*

Time: 9:30 am Scene: Mommy's office aka the dining room

Emma: {jumping up and down} I'm a monkey!
Ryan: No, monkeys don't jump!
Emma: {jumping} I'm a monkey!
Ryan: {growling} I said monkeys don't jump!
Mommy: {sitting at laptop, accidentally typing the word "jump" into scene in book} Ryan, monkeys can jump.
Ryan: No, they can't. I never saw them.
Mommy: {drinking coffee like a tequila shot} Yes, they can. I have seen them.
Ryan: No, they can't.
Mommy: Yes, they can.
Ryan: {sobbing} Monkeys can't jump.
Mommy: {Pours Kahlua** into coffee and guzzles.}
Emma: {jumping gleefully} I'm a monkey.


Ryan hides in pantry broom closet. Emma tries to enter. Jostling ensues.

Ryan: Emma! There's no room for you!
Emma: ARG!
Mommy: {tuning out children}
Ryan: {Pushing Emma out and shutting door} There's no room!
Emma: {crying}
Mommy: What's going on?
Ryan: Emma wants in and there's no room!
Mommy: Emma, come sit in a minion chair*** and color.
Ryan: {Opens cabinet door} I'm Diego. {shuts door}
Emma: {sitting in minion chair, coloring} You're a spaceman!
Ryan: {opens door} No! I'm Diego!
Emma: {sweetly} Spaceman!
Ryan: Diego!
Emma: Spaceman!
Ryan: {sobbing} I'm Diego!
Mommy: {draining the Kahlua bottle} Jesus, take me now.****

Just a day in the life people.*****

* I am now rethinking my career as a novelist and considering expanding upon my obvious screen writing skills.

** While Mommy has been known to ask Starbucks employees at the drive thru window if they would add a shot of Kahlua or Bailey's, she has never actually tried it.

***Minion chairs
Yes, I have chairs at my "desk" that are known as minion chairs.

**** I am neutral on the post/pre Tribulation theories. However, if I'm gonna be raptured, that would have been a good time to go. Just sayin'.

*****Mommy's reactions may have been slightly exaggerated for entertainment purposes. But only slightly.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Love Notes

My kids take their lunch to school three to four days a week and they love it when I send them notes. But when you're writing that many notes, sometimes it's hard to come up something original.

Today was an original day.

Yes, my notes tend to be illustrated. Haters, don't be so jealous of my artistic abilities.