Thursday, April 30, 2015

Why I Read

I was such a bookworm when I was young. And yup--I was a nerd. I suppose I still am a nerd. This is an acknowledged fact among my family and loved ones, and I'm happy to own it.

When I was young, more times than not I'd be found curled up somewhere with a book. In fact, I remember one family vacation to California spent on my cousin's top bunk reading all her Sweet Valley Kids and Little Sister Babysitter Club books. I also remember the sheer joy of one Christmas morning snuggled in my bed reading my newest gift (although I can't remember which book now) and eating Twizzlers. (Twizzlers are also sheer joy.)

My happy places? Libraries and bookstores. One of my favorite places to go in Provo, Utah when the stress of college got me down (other than the mountains!) was the Provo Library. It was once BYU Academy, and when I began attending BYU, it was just a tumble-down, dilapidated building. While I was there, they fixed it up into something beautiful, and it was there I found peace...among the books and quiet corners.

Reading has always been an important part of my life, a joyous escape. Oddly, when I was in high school, I didn't read as much. I suppose I was busy with other things and so busy reading all my assigned reading that I didn't have much time for it. (Which may be why the middle grade genre gives me much more nostalgia than YA.) But, in college and especially once I married (when I started getting into the classics for some reason!) I fell into it again.

Now I hand it to my children like a platter with a big, iced cake (see? can't get away from those cake analogies) and say here! see this! read this! I spend way too much on books for my children. (Shoes are a close second.) I am good about not spoiling them with toys, but books are another story. I spoil them with books! I haven't decided if this is a good thing or not.

I hope this is a legacy I can hand to my children. My love of reading. I believe you can't go wrong with a well-placed love of reading.

J always has a stack of books and magazines (and some kind of drawing pad) on his headboard. Usually there is a book light perched on top. He listens when I tell him to turn it off because he hasn't yet discovered the art of reading under covers.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Why I Write

Writing has long been a part of me. It began with stories written on ruled paper that involved my Crush (whoever that was at the time--I had many). Truth is, those stories were way better than an actual junior high relationship because Crush was always sensitive and kind (way beyond his twelve years).

Fictional stories gave way to the drama of high school which I thoroughly chronicled in my many, many journals. I lug these journals around with me every time we move. If we moved to a cottage in Scotland, I would lug them halfway across the world. (I really want to move to a cottage in Scotland. Please, Life, make this happen.)

I had a bucket list when I was young, one of those items being write a novel. (CHECK.) The actual novel writing officially commenced in college. I watched a movie with a college girl like myself who wrote a novel on an iBook. So, naturally I bought an iBook. (What? Isn't that all I needed? The right computer?) Now, three (or maybe four) computers, a wedding, and three children later I've written two novels.

But it's become more than that item on my bucket list (which was probably next to live in a cottage in Scotland). It's become something I have to do. I have so many stories swirling around, STORIES and they can't go unwritten. And okay--a lot of stories that have never been finished and since been laid to rest.

I suppose the bare answer to why I write is I can't not write. I can go awhile without writing which happens often as a mother of three. But I always come back to it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Why I Homeschool

I began this journey only a few months ago, but I suppose "experiment" would be a more apt word for it. I do not intend to homeschool my children always. We had a good public school experience. J's teachers were all amazing. J was at the top of his classes. His teachers always said how well liked he was. His kinder teacher even called him her "prom king." He was going to be tested for the gifted program. He was one adjusted, bright, articulate, social, well-liked guy.

We were actively involved. My husband was in the PTA. I was good friends with half the PTA. We donated to our school. We supported the programs. My husband attended the field trips. I volunteered on occasion (partly because my friend was in charge of PTA volunteers). I was room mom. Things were good. Had we not moved, we would have been content to stay in the public schools.

But, we moved. And my husband's new schedule would have him traveling back to San Antonio frequently. We wanted to go with him when he traveled. It just made sense.

But deeper than that, homeschool is something I just wanted to do. I didn't feel compelled to do it. I just really, really wanted to try it. A few of my friends had taken the leap. I loved the idea of teaching my kids. I loved the idea of spending more time with my kids. J was gone so much during the day. A, K, and I always looked forward to picking him up. More days, than not, however, he was so tired and cranky when he got home from all that SITTING. So if I had a strike against public school, it would be mainly that...TIME. (Oh, and all that SITTING.) (So, two strikes.)

I think we'll probably put them back into school in a couple years when we are in a more permanent situation. Then I'll evaluate the year and the child and the option of homeschool intermittently. I have friends who do that, and I think that the middle school years would be a great time to consider homeschool. Bleh, those middle school years. They were not good years for my husband or me. Most people I talk to say the same. Okay, everyone I talk to says the same. (I mean, have you every spoken with somebody who said they loved middle school?) (If you did, in fact, love middle school, I stand corrected.)

Other perks of of homeschool I've discovered: My children spend more time together. I believe that their sibling relationships have strengthened. I get to see them more! (I know, I already said that.) There is less stress at home than at school...especially in a state driven so much by test scores. There is more freedom to do what they want--more time for creative play and more time outside! Family vacations aren't limited to school breaks. They spend more time at home with their family, where their characters and their spirits can form and grow.

At trip to the zoo during homeschool.

This is so right for my family right now, and I am grateful for the opportunity to homeschool my children.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Why I am a Mother

It's pretty straight forward, right? I am a mother because I had a baby--three, actually. But for me becoming a mother was something I'd always looked forward to. Family and motherhood are two major tenets of my faith. My mother was a good example to me of what I could become. And deep down it's just what I wanted.

I was a registered nurse for about six years before I "retired" to raise my children. I remember one misty rainy day (I just love those misty, rainy days!) while working at a cardiology office in Kansas City. I took a lunch break, but not the usual eat-quickly-at-my-desk lunch break. That day, I needed a real break. I left the building and walked down to the Country Club Plaza. The Country Club Plaza is a beautiful shopping district in Kansas City filled with statues and fountains and Spanish architecture. It's beautiful--especially in a misty rain with the golden-hued street lights shining off the wet pavement.

I went to Barnes and Noble, of course. I walked through the children's section, and I thought about...not books. I thought about bringing my children to the store and sharing that moment with them. That was a pretty good indication to me that I was ready to be a mom. I yearned for those days of children and wonder over of my days in the doctor's office. (I did love being a nurse, and sometimes I miss it. I may go back to it! But for now--it's all motherhood for me. I do know a lot of amazing moms who manage to be both a nurse and a mom, including a couple sister-in-laws.)

Not too long after this memorable Plaza walk in the rain, I had my first--my one and only boy. J came into our lives ten days early. Three years and three months later, on the nose of a snowstorm, came A. Last but not least (but hopefully not the last) and with the cord around her neck came K just two and a half years later.

Motherhood has been radiant. It has also been hard and sad and painful and delightful and happy and joyful and hilarious. It has brought me to my knees repeatedly. It has refined my soul and my marriage. It has made me who I am.

Why am I a mother? Because it completes me.

The boy who made me a mom. We called him "Jumbo" because he was HUGE.

Friday, April 24, 2015

A Truly Beautiful Place

Recently, I spoke with a friend of mine about questions in my personal life, questions that needed answers. She asked me if I'd gone to the the temple. I'm sorry to say I hadn't thought of it before she brought it up. But she was right. I attend the temple for spiritual enrichment, to receive blessings, to make promises, and to participate in special ordinances. But the temple is also a refuge from uncertainty. It's a place to go for answers that I seek. I've spent many reflective hours in the temple, particularly during college when my time was one hundred percent my own. Tomorrow I will attend the temple, and I truly believe I will come out with a clearer mind and a clearer direction.


The St. Louis Temple, where my husband and I were sealed for time and all eternity almost eleven years ago. Photo from lds.org

If you'd like to learn more about our temples, you may want to read this.



Thursday, April 23, 2015

I Didn't Fall in Love With Gilbert Blythe

I don't usually grieve the passing of a celebrity. It's sad when anybody dies, but if I didn't have a relationship with the person, there's no personal sorrow. However, when I heard Jonathan Crombie died, there were tears. Because I was once a middle school girl in love. The thing is, I didn't fall in love with Gilbert Blythe.

I fell in love with Jonathan's Gilbert Blythe.

photo from anne.sullivanmovies.com

He brought to life my first fictional love, even before Colin Firth introduced me to Mr. Darcy. My sister and I bonded over our mutual love of Jonathan's Gilbert. I spent many hours of my life watching and re-watching the Anne of Green Gables saga. When I was young, Prince Edward Island seemed as far-off and magical to me as Hogwarts does to my son. Jonathan led me to the pages (all the pages) of Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne books. I remember borrowing each book one-by-one from my neighbor, and then moving onto the Emily books after that.

All the Anne books. I loved each one. So many amazing literary memories.

Lucy Maud Montgomery created Gilbert Blythe, and while he's swoon worthy in print, it was Jonathan Crombie who brought him to life for so many. I believe every girl who fell for Jonathan's Gilbert felt as though she was Anne herself. We unabashedly yearned for puffy sleeves and gabled houses and wide porches and Marilla's kitchen. The image of Jonathan's Gilbert brings to mind more than a love story but everything else Avonlea and Green Gables--sleigh rides in the wintertime, grieving Matthew's passing, standing up to Rachel Lynde, the White Way of Delight. The memories might as well be our own.

There isn't much about Jonathan Crombie's personal life on the Internet, but I'm very, very sorry that he died so young. He who masterfully introduced us to Gilbert Blythe.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Sleeping vs Writing

I read this post on healthy writing habits by YA author, Bree Despain. It's made me think more about my own writing habits. Fortunately, I haven't formed an eating-while-I-write habit. Of course, I've never written on a deadline, and I imagine the stress of a deadline drives bad eating habits. (And I have mastered the eating-while-I-watch-TV habit.) My number one unhealthy writing habit is staying up too late.

The problem is, I don't stay up too late writing. I stay up late doing all the things I want to do as well as writing. These vary from night to night, but they are reading, social media, television shows, Netflix, blogging, hanging with my husband, and cleaning. Some of these things are very good things. Hanging with my husband? Good! Reading? Also good. Cleaning is good, but I can't go to bed until my kitchen is clean and I put it off until midnight. Social media and television? Not a bad thing, but definitely not a priority. (But DEFINITELY a priority when I need to chill at the end of a rewarding but exhausting mom day.) It's just hard to strike a balance.

I have this perfectly imagined (and yet to be realized) schedule in which I have the kids to bed and the house clean by eight o'clock. That gives me time to blog, write in my journal, write for at least an hour, and even dabble a bit in social media while going to bed at the responsible time of ten thirty. (A girl can dream, can't she? Some girls dream of new shoes and travel. I dream of schedules...and travel.)

But what am I going to give up before I become this perfectly disciplined creature? Sleep? I've found that my body and mood don't function well on fewer than eight hours of sleep. (My husband does great on six hours of sleep. I am jealous.) Inspired by Bree's article, I've decided that sleep will no longer be the thing I sacrifice. It needs to be other things. I want to be healthy and write. I think I can do both. (Note to self: This does not mean you can stay up until one and sleep in until nine.)

Sleeping A not long after K was born. Poor, tired, new big sister.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Little Hands Doing

Our hands are some of our most precious means of exploring the world around us. My children are very good at keeping their hands busy. Sometimes their little hands are busy hitting (K) or strewing all the contents of the house onto the floor (all of them), but there are those times when their little hands do lovely things.

Hands playing in leaves.

Hands feeding the cat. (She figured out quickly that plate wasn't going to hold the water!)

Hands playing ball.

Hands playing with cloud dough.

Hands touching fur at the wildlife center.

Hands clutching a wildflower.

Hands hanging from bars at the park.

Hands sharing.

Hands feeling a squishy egg. (Egg soaked in vinegar--try it!)

 Hands building a snowman.

Hands touching her first snow. 


Most of these pictures were taken during homeschooling hours. A perk in the long line of homeschooling perks is more opportunities for hands to be...doing!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Big Brother on Purpose

Last week, inspired by a friend with a fairy garden and a fairy garden sale at our local nursery, we built this:

He found a rock and is writing Silver City, with an arrow pointing to the garden. (The name was inspired by the Boxcar Children, which J has only watched, not read. Next read aloud?)

J, always wanting to make things more interesting and fun, made a mess of the miniature soda bottles after the girls went to bed (enlisting my help). When they woke up in the morning, he showed the girls what fun the fairies had had while they slept.

J excels at being a big brother. He has his teasing moments (oh boy, does he have those!), and he and his sisters have many excellent fights. However, he has just as many happy and fun moments with A and K. He's a great leader, often guiding them in play. He'll set up their dolls, lead them in skits, make up a game, or draw pictures with them. Lately, J has been drawing mansions for the girls. It's really sweet--they peer over his shoulders as he sketches out their dream house on his boogie board. He'll also play the peacemaker at times, attempting to strike a compromise between the girls if they're fighting. (As a mother, I definitely appreciate those moments!)

I try to hug him and thank him when he's playing so well with his sisters. I'm sure I don't do it enough. It's easy to notice the good moments, but I don't always verbalize my appreciation. (On the other hand, when he's teasing and fighting, verbalizing my frustration seems to come so much easier.)

I love this kid. He's such a blessing to our family in innumerable ways, and I believe Heavenly Father placed him first in line on purpose.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Simply Grace

Twice a year the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints speak to us church members in General Conference, which is broadcast to all the world. This is a chance to connect as a people, as well as hear counsel from our prophet and apostles. Many attend the conference itself in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, which I've been to many times but never during a conference session.

My kids love General Conference weekend because they can watch it in their pajamas from home. But...watch it they don't actually do. (I have friends who do an excellent job keeping their children's little hands occupied during conference, while keeping them mostly in front of the broadcast. Also, Pinterest is filled with ideas. Next conference project?) And the truth is, with young children running around, it's difficult to give the General Conference broadcast the attention I want to give it. I end up viewing most of it online in the days following.

General Conference weekend was just a couple weeks ago (Easter weekend). One morning earlier this week, before my older two were awake and while K was snuggled in my lap, I viewed Elder Uchtdorf's Sunday morning talk, The Gift of Grace. While we believe that faith without works is dead (James 2:26), Elder Uchtdorf reminded us of the saving power of His grace.

Salvation cannot be bought with the currency of obedience; it is purchased by the blood of the Son of God.

I loved his explanation of the relationship between grace and works.

Our obedience to God's commandments comes as a natural outgrowth of our endless love and gratitude for the goodness of God. This form of genuine love and gratitude will miraculously merge our works with God's grace. Virtue will garnish our thoughts unceasingly, and our confidence will wax strong in the presence of God. 

After I watched this talk, I dozed on the couch while K played with her Duplo Legos. She was attempting to build a tower on the coffee table, but it was too narrow and too high. It kept falling down, and she would groan and start over. I thought that must be how Heavenly Father sees us when we forget about grace. We keep trying to build a tower to heaven on our own, over and over again. We may groan with rage, but in the end--we need His grace.
 

We cannot earn our way into heaven; the demands of justice stand as a barrier, which we are powerless to overcome on our own. But all is not lost. The grace of God is our great and everlasting hope. Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the plan of mercy appeases the demands of justice "and [brings] about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance."

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You

I adore WHEREVER YOU ARE MY LOVE WILL FIND YOU by Nancy Tillman. We own this picture book, which dolphin copy was featured in a photo with my sleeping K in this blog post. (We also once owned IT'S TIME TO SLEEP MY LOVE which has since been borrowed, lost, or has fallen apart. Sad to say, we love books, but sometimes my kids literally love them to pieces. And I feel like we've repeatedly read ON THE NIGHT YOU WERE BORN which probably means my mother-in-law owns it.)

Nancy Tillman's books are written in verse, both beautiful and lyrical. Her pictures are reminiscent of childhood but also filled with fantasy, whimsy, and magic. Many of her pictures feature a child interacting with animals whether it be dancing, playing, jumping, sitting... The expressions of love in this book are precious and written in second person. Read aloud, it's a statement of love from the reader to the child, which makes it a perfect bedtime story with your little one snuggled in your arms.



My love is so high, and so wide and so deep, it's always right there, even when you're asleep.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Write Stop

One thing I've learned from my writing journey is how to stop. Not how to stop writing, but how to stop one writing session to prepare for another. In short--if I stop writing in the middle of a mess, I won't want to come back to that mess.

I reached a place in TFFP several months ago where I had written myself into a tangle, and I didn't know how to get out of it. So I stopped. I went back and looked at that tangled-up spot several times, but I had no desire or idea how to fix it.

Of course, I could have written on and skipped that part, but I felt like I had to figure out that scene to build on it with other scenes. (I occupied myself otherwise by meddling with other manuscripts, moving my family to another city, and Netflix.)

If my manuscript was a ship, I'd bailed before I reached a proper port, and my manuscript was well...drowning. (If you think that analogy needs work, the novel I'm currently querying takes place on a cruise ship. I spent many years on a fictional ship, and my brain won't let me forget it. This fictional cruise was inspired by a real-life cruise in 2009. Which was awesome. I want to go back.)

The best way to stop one writing session is to prepare for the next. I find if I type a loose outline for the next day, it helps. Ideally, I wrap up an entire scene with plans for the next scene. It keeps the momentum going. This works for both drafting and revision, I think, although some people like to draft without a plan...in which case, this isn't for everybody. But it's for me. It took me months (and a mass writing spree) to get myself out of my last manuscript tangle, but I'm out of it! Which makes sailing so much smoother...

 Copenhagen Harbor, taken on our Baltic Sea cruise in 2009. I love these Danish windmills!

Footnote: This method doesn't account for the times you just have to WALK AWAY from your manuscript and breathe, no matter what tangle it happens to be in at the time.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

To Curriculum or Not To Curriculum

Last fall, when I knew I'd need books to homeschool my child, I researched and researched (and researched) curricula. I decided that an all-encompassing curriculum wasn't for me. Instead, I pieced together a curriculum based on friends' recommendations and all that research.

I plan on reviewing the books I used for each subject in another post, but my opinion may be swayed by the fact that...I may not be a curriculum gal! Perhaps my late feelings for curricula stem from an innate rebellion against being told what to do. It seems too structured and rigid for me. (Or perhaps this is just a passing homeschool phase, and next fall I'll be all about purchasing more curricula. I am nothing if not unpredictable.)

I've done a lot of reading up on unschooling lately. Unschooling is basically loose, unstructured homeschooling guided by the child's interest. I can assert that I am not an unschooler, but I do admire unschoolers. (I'd love to incorporate some elements of unschooling into certain subjects...especially science.) No, I still want guidelines--especially as I plan on placing my kids back into public school at some point. (Another pending post--why I homeschool and why I still love public school.)

Back when I still had warm, fuzzy feelings for curricula (all of a few weeks ago), I liked using this website, which presents TEKS--Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills--in the form of skills tests.  I want J to be on task with his classmates when he returns, and this is my way of ensuring it. I've decided that these make good guidelines to create my own lessons. Using my own knowledge and creativity, all those amazing freebie homeschooling resources on the Internet, library books, and Pinterest (of course) our days can be a lot less rigid and a lot more fun.

Yesterday I printed out these skip counting mazes because J needed some help with skip counting. When he woke up in the morning and saw these worksheets, he immediately sat down and started doing them. This was before he had even eaten breakfast.

 He has bed head. I think it's cute.


His patience for his curriculum-based worksheets has been waning thin (another reason we've reached this stage). For grammar, he watched a couple Youtube videos explaining predicates and subjects. Schoolhouse Rocks was one of these videos. I love Schoolhouse Rocks. He still needs help on predicates and subjects, so I'll find a new and fun way to do this for our next lesson.

I'm happy with this new direction, but I don't call this a homeschool experiment for nothing. We'll see what tomorrow brings. (That should be my new mantra for homeschool.)

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Magic of Grandparents

My parents drove into town this weekend. It was a short visit--only a few days, but they were a good few days. When we said good-bye, my girls ran down the street waving, stopping on the corner until they couldn't see my parents' car any longer. After they left, K repeated over and over, "I miss Gamma Gamma (Grandma and Grandpa)." So sweet.

There is just so much happiness and magic about grandparents. We are going to see my parents again soon, but we are going to Disney World first. Yet, my kids seem more fixated on the fact that we are going to see Grandma and Grandpa again after Disney World...rather than that we are going to Disney World at all. (This is subject to change as soon as they see what Disney World actually is. They've never been.)

My mom arrived sick, which was sad, but she rested quite a bit while we played with Grandpa. And she did emerge from her sick room Sunday to spend more time with the kids. J, always mindful of others, offered to read to my mom. I found him reading to her on and off throughout the weekend--as she lay on a blanket in a sun and as she lay in her room. I think he made it all the way through (or mostly through) an I Survived book.

Other magical grandparent moments: J playing football at the park with my dad--on three different occasions. (We squeezed in a park every day they were here.) The girls digging in the dirt with spoons and filling up an empty rice container with dirt, rocks, and pill bugs as my mom sat nearby. (It was my mom who said get some spoons and let them dig!)

And for me? I love having my parents visit. Late night talks with my mom. After-dark-ice-cream run with my dad. My mom's never-ending attempts to improve my posture with yoga. (I'm really going to do those exercises this time, Mom--I promise!) And this:


As we were walking back from the park Saturday, the girls got into a screaming fit over who got to pull the wagon. Being a little winded from fight intervention, I let them have at each other. My dad stepped in and quietly explained to them that the could each hold part of the handle and pull together. And they listened. Magic, I tell you.

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Home Filled with Light

I want my children to see this world as a beautiful, wonderful place filled with radiant and interesting people. But it's also a world filled with challenges and trials. There will be people and circumstances in their lives that will certainly buffet them about, and they may very well question their faith.

My prayer is that I can teach my children the gospel, help them cultivate their relationship with their Father in Heaven, and feed their testimony of Jesus Christ. Then, when that dark moment comes (and it will!) in which they must choose between their faith and...whatever else may be...that the decision will not be difficult to make.

I understand my children are beings of free will, and it's possible that no matter what I teach them, their choices may not align with their faith. Which would be sad, but there would still be love. Lots of love. And hope. But as my children are still young, I see how their sweet little minds are so tender and teachable.

I remember how I felt in my home growing up. It was such a peaceable haven for me. There was a lot of love and laughter. We often had friends over, who came back again and again because I think they felt that peace, too. We had a home where the Holy Spirit dwelt. We had a home filled with light. And when I went through my darkest times, I'd often go back to my childhood home in my mind. It pulled me through.

Cheryl A. Esplin, second counselor of the General Primary Presidency, spoke at this year's Women's Conference on Filling Our Homes with Light and Truth. 

In order for us and our families to withstand the pressures of the world, we must be filled with light and gospel truth.

I hope to empower my children with the gospel by teaching them and leading by example. I believe it all comes down to family. I love families. They are so sacred and special and blessed. Families are where we are formed from the very start.

Families are the Lord's workshop on earth to help us learn and live the gospel.

And I believe if I fill our home with light, my children will not only have a chance at impending challenges ahead, but they can also--in turn--be lights to everyone else.

photo from lds.org

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Fly Guy

This is a post of appreciation for the FLY GUY books by Tedd Arnold. We've read quite a few. We own some and have picked some up from the library. They're fun and easy reads, comical, and the pictures are entertaining. Most importantly, it's one of the few reading experiences I've had with my kids where I have successfully come up with individual voices for each of the characters...and have been consistent about it.

A, who is five and not yet a reader (see footnote), likes to look at the pictures. J, while he is onto higher reading levels now, read these books as he was just learning how to read. They are perfect for new readers because although they are chapter books, they can be easily consumed in one reading. (It's okay to talk about books like they are food.) And, I recently found him reading THERE'S A FLY GUY IN MY SOUP to his sister. (Best mom feeling ever is when I see J reading to the girls.)

I've always been on the prowl for books that get my son reading, and this is definitely one of my favorites! I highly recommend.



Footnote: She has been bribed with the American Girl Bitty Twins. Once she learns how to read I will fork over $125 for new dolls. Yes, I bribe my kids when it comes to books. J gets a Minecraft Lego when he's ready fifty books. There is no shame in this.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Fondant Covered Words

About five years ago, I attended the SCBWI Conference in Kansas City. The keynote speaker, an excellent author, compared a completed rough draft to a block of marble before a sculptor touches it. While I understand the analogy as meaning the rough draft is the raw material, and it's subject to MUCH change--this analogy doesn't work for me personally.

I am a more meticulous drafter (read "slower" drafter). I'm not sure if it's the best way, but it works for me. If I were to use the block-of-marble analogy, I'd say the rough draft was the block of marble after it had taken on a very vague form of what it was going to be.

A better analogy for me would be cake. (I have actually analogized with cake before, but with a  different approach. This was before I had ever written a rough draft. But it's cake, it works, and it tastes good--taste obviously being pertinent to this blog post.) Last summer, I made my son's birthday cake. This was my rough draft:


Now that "rough draft" took several hours. There was the mixing and doubling of the cake batter (with some mistakes I had to fix), baking at just the right temp with the pans surrounded by moist baking strips, leveling of the cake, mixing of the frosting, frosting said cake and smoothing it out with a smoother so that the fondant could go on top with the fewest bumps possible. It took a lot of work, and it was definitely more than a block of marble. But it was still...ugly.

After hours of "revisions" this was my final result:


I was pretty proud of my little Lego cake, but I must disclaim it a bit. I had a friend mentoring me along the way. I didn't know a thing about levelers or smoothers or baking strips before she came into my life. Also, all of those tools on the table are hers. With the right tools, molds, mentor, HOURS of time (I will probably never do it again), and a little bit of perfectionism (okay, a lot)...you can make an epic Lego cake, too.

And...bringing it back to writing. My current draft for TFFP is taking a while to build. Participating in Camp Nanowrimo is giving it a lot of momentum, but it'll likely not be completed by month's end. However, when it's completed, I'm excited to finally have it all ready for the fondant. And fondant is by far the best part (the best part to decorate with, not eat--because regular icing always wins).

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Texas Castles

It is a truth universally acknowledged that you stop taking a city for granted once you move away from that city. We lived in San Antonio for almost four years, and while we visited the Alamo several times, we never once visited the other Franciscan missions.

This past weekend, when we went back for Easter, we finally made the trips to two of the missions: Mission San Jose and Mission Concepcion. I didn't realize just how antiquated and bare-bones these ruins were. They were beautiful and brought to mind what an abandoned European castle might look like. A said to my husband, "Thank you for bringing us here, Daddy!"





At Mission San Jose, we ran through the ruins, visited the open and echoing granary, walked through the dwellings--which were rooms inside the surrounding wall, and...played in the crushed rock. (It can't be helped. When J was three, we visited the Toompea Castle in Estonia. His favorite part? Throwing rocks against the castle walls.)






At Mission Concepcion, we sat in the quiet chapel for a few minutes. (I love Catholic chapels. Perhaps it is that I come from a long line of Catholics or that I have fond memories of Catholic weddings and masses with our extended family. I truly feel such peace in those beautiful chapels. One of my most spiritual moments was stepping into St. Paul's Cathedral in London just as the choir was singing.) (End tangent.)

As we traveled back from San Antonio, I tried to squeeze whatever educational experience I could out of that. J and I read through the missions brochure, and we gave him the assignment to write a report on what he did and what he learned. Turns out if you direct an assignment from the front seat, it ends up something like this:

I went to the missions and learned a lot of stuff. First I went to San Jose, second Concepcion. I went with my mom, dad, sisters, and my Grandma. 

Yeah, we'll have to work on that tomorrow. After his brief report follows a picture detailing his trip--which is more elaborate than what he'd written. If he could draw his way through school, I think he'd be a very happy boy.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Exploding Eggs

This weekend we had our usual family Easter egg hunt. It is not a modest affair. My kids have nineteen cousins on my husband's side. They all participate (except for the big, tough seventeen year old who is too cool for egg hunts) (but still collects them in his pockets). All of the eggs are labeled with the kids' names, making the hunt last for several minutes. There is even cooperative effort as the cousins help each other find their eggs, especially the big cousins helping the small cousins. It's a highlight of the Easter holiday for my kids...and one that takes a lot of stuffing and sorting and labeling of eggs.



I should add, there are no illusions as to who is responsible for this affair. My kids watched my mother-in-law and me prepare almost 300 eggs. They even helped a little...including my two year-old who liked to stick the candy into her mouth, chew it, and spit it back out. (We put these pieces into an egg for the big, tough seventeen year-old nephew who is too cool for egg hunts.) There are no illusions as to who hides the eggs, either, especially this year--the kids hid each other's eggs. Most of them ended up strewn across the ground. I removed a couple from tail pipes. In the end all the children found their eggs, ate too much sugar, and were happy (until the sugar wore off).

We finished off the hunt with cascarones--dyed, hollowed-out chicken eggs filled with confetti which you break over each other's heads. They are sold by the droves here. We went through about thirty dozen this year. The kids love it although we always have to remind them to smash the egg in their hand, not on the person's head. The older boys and their dads are always the last one's standing, running around like small children, trying to be the last one to "get" each other. My in-laws' front hard now looks like a battleground of confetti and dyed pieces of egg shell (this would be a good analogy for the especially chaotic days of motherhood, but I'll just stop there).


Friday, April 3, 2015

On Easter

I finally pulled out our cute, fuzzy Easter decorations yesterday (of which there are sadly a few). I didn't intend to wait so long to take out the fun stuff, but I'm glad I did. I believe it kept our focus more on Jesus Christ. We worked our way through this activity in the FRIEND. We also watched some of these Bible videos.

Today A asked me to spell Jesus Died. I spelled it for her, and she wrote it out on her little boogie board. (In three lines and no spaces, it looked like this: JES USD IED.) I also reminded her while Jesus did die, He now lives.

I'm grateful that our Savior defeated death through His Resurrection. Death will not be the end for us. There is hope and happiness in that truth. I am grateful that through Christ I am enough.

I highly recommend this video to bring the Spirit of Easter into your home.



picture from lds.org

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Velveteen Rabbit

I recently read THE VELVETEEN RABBIT by Margery Williams to my children. I think that this old classic is a rite of passage book. One cannot (and should not) escape childhood without reading this book or having it read to them.

If you are so unfortunate as to not know this story (and you can get the text online) (so go and read it now), it is about a boy and his stuffed rabbit. It is about how the boy made the rabbit Real with his love.

It's the kind of story you remember always. The other day my sister's son wanted to know how people can go on loving each other in marriage, even after age makes them less beautiful. My sister reminded him of the story of the velveteen rabbit. She told him in marriage you become more beautiful and "real" to each other with time. She said he seemed to really get it.

It's the kind of story you can relate to. My children have a velveteen rabbit of their own: a stuffed brown dog who is Real (and loose in the joints and very shabby). I've had him since I was a child, and now my children sleep with him. (It's important for me to qualify this story: said stuffed dog has been washed--multiple times.)

It's the kind of the story with words that seep into your soul and stay with you forever. Words like...

Real isn't how you are made. It's a thing that happens to you. Sometimes it hurts, but when you are Real you don't mind being hurt. It doesn't happen all at once. You become. Once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand. Once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Camp Nanowrimo

Every November, many writers participate in National Novel Writing Month, and attempt the daunting task of writing an entire novel in one month. The typical length of this "novel" is 50,000 words, and it's an accepted fact in the writers' Twitterverse that NaNoWriMo novels are usually in need of a good revision once drafted. (I mean, all drafts are in need of a good revision, but NaNoWriMo drafts need an immensely good revision because they are written ridiculously fast.) I don't usually participate in NaNoWriMo. My drafts already need so much revision, and the speed of drafting-in-a-month is too daunting for me.

However, I stumbled across Camp NaNoWriMo on Twitter last night and signed up...just a few hours before it began. (Remember, I'm good at doing last minute things?) But I'm not starting a novel from scratch. I'm taking one of my middle grade drafts, the one I think I love most (if I have to pick a favorite), and I'm finishing it. There is so much energy in these mass writing sprees, I'm hoping that will spur me to write the rest (which I estimate will be about 30,000 more words). I'm putting aside my reservations on speed drafting so I can write "the end."

My novel which I shall call TFFP has been growing in my heart (but less so on paper) for over two years now. I began at midnight last night for a late night write-in, not making much progress on my word count (yet) but finally getting unstuck from a spot I'd been stuck on too long. It was very encouraging. Now to write roughly 1,000 words a day...that's all. (This from a person who writes about 500 words on a "good" day.) Wish me luck!