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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

How did you come up with the name Tingling Touches?

I'm pretending that someone actually asked that question, although no one did. Have you no curiosity for my ultra-cool and exclusive club, people? None?

I believe I've mentioned before that we (me, my sister Linz, and my sister Bucky) are writing romance novels just to be funny (well and also to get on "Oprah", because how could she not want to interview these three sisters who have written really cheesy romance novels?). I believe I've also mentioned that we call ourselves "The Tingling Touches Club". But I don't think I've mentioned how this club received its name.

Well, it started as a way to poke fun at our favorite cheesy romance novelist (I will not put her name, as that earned me some nasty blog comments the last time I did that--stupid Internet search function . . .). SHE has an internet romance club that you can join to receive clean romance novels each month. I don't want to end up on HER search computer thingy again, so I'll just tell you that HER club title is something like this: Endearing Encounters or Loving Ladies. Except it involves the word captivating, coupled with that thing that people do with their lips. . . See the alliteration? See the cheesiness?

Well, while we were mired in the very important issue of trying to come up with a good name for our club, we decided to skip to the good stuff and read our novels out loud to each other for feedback. We found this little jewel in Linz's novel:

"When Cam touched her arm, Blair felt a tingle that ran through her whole body, but she was determined not to let it show on her cheeks."

Thus, thanks to that one classic line, we became "Tingling Touches". And thanks to my deep love for chocolate and sugar, we also started having snacks at every meeting. And in a way, we are also responsible for the formation of another exclusive club, "The Financial Fascists".

"The Financial Fascists" is made up of Rhett and Linz's husband Jordy (they are the only two tight enough to be members). Because we got together so often, they got together too, and decided to form a club as well (So really their club is just an offshoot of the Tinglers; we consider them junior members--sort of like the Brownies to the Girl Scouts). Although theirs is a much dorkier club (I know, you thought it wasn't possible to be dorkier than a romance novel club) because they get on the Internet and research mutual fund returns, stocks, etc. Also, they discuss strategies for curbing their wives' spending habits. Sounds like a winner, doesn't it? I wouldn't join it if they paid me.

Because they don't have treats. Too expensive!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Revenge is Sweet . . .

Rhett gives the kids their baths at our house, which is great because otherwise my kids would be about as clean and fresh smelling as river otters (I have no idea if this is a good analogy or not). I'm just no good at it. Plus, I figure it's good bonding time for Rhett and the kids. Nothing brings a family together like a little water, some soapsuds, and washcloths. Well, unless the water and soap make their way out of the tub, then Rhett gets a little hot under the collar. It sounds something like this:

Rhett: Spe, don't dump water out of the bath, okay?

Spe: Ko-kay. (At which point, he promptly dumps more water out of the tub.)

Rhett: SPE! I said don't do that anymore! It makes a big mess!

Spe: Ko-kay. (Do I even need to tell you what he does? You already know, don't you? Yes, he dumps more water out of the tub.)

Rhett: SPENCER CARL HADLEY! I have asked you very nicely not to do that! PLEASE STOP! (This is all said in a very firm tone, which makes Spe look a little sad.)

Spe: (Sadly) Ko-kay. (And yet, as if he cannot control himself, his hand reaches out and dumps more water out of the tub.)

There are no more words, because Rhett is a man of action. And he also believes in retribution. So he takes a cup full of water and dumps it over Spe's head. Spe has gotten so used to this that he no longer even splutters. He just closes his eyes, lets the water fall, and then keeps on playing. Spe is a man of action too. And, he'll have his revenge. When Dad's back is turned, you can bet there will be some more water poured over the side of the tub. Or, he might drink the water (another thing Dad doesn't let him do). One way or the other, he'll get his retribution.

I think you can see why I think this bonding time is so good for them. Oh, you can't? Yeah, actually, I don't see it either, but at least I don't have to bathe them. Sometimes, that's all that really matters. . .

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Hey, look at me!

At my church, I'm in charge of leading the littlest ones in songs of praise. It's really a fun job most of the time, and I really enjoy it. However, today was our "program" meaning that we took the entire first hour and the little kids had the spotlight, singing and reading their parts.

Or rather my rear end had the spotlight. Because the little ones are so little, the ones behind the piano had a hard time seeing my hands (Although they're not missing much, as I just wave my hands however I want. I rarely am on the beat, and I don't care. And neither do they. They are, after all, just little ones.), so I ended up standing up on a chair in the middle of the front row, with my backside directly to the entire congregation. Do you blame me for wearing Support Everything (hosiery, bra, girdle, etc.)?

There's nothing worse than having your bootie (why, oh why, does my spell checker not recognize "bootie"? I must have an uptight spell checker . . .) upstage 100 beautiful children from the ages of three to twelve. But I believe I accomplished it. Lucky, lucky congregation. Oh, there's more where that came from. Just let me take off my Support Everything, and you'll see exactly what I mean.

My dear friend said, "Don't worry, I made sure we're sitting right behind you." Well she didn't, but her husband did. "Tim's making sure no one gets a good peek," she assured me.

"Oh, honey," I replied, "you better be careful because I think Tim's sitting there so he'll have the best show in the house."

My husband was a little sad not to be in Tim's spot. He tells me he wanted to reach up and give me little pats throughout the program. I told him I think I already stole the show enough. But hey, there's always next year!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Temper Tantrums from a 31 Year Old

You know, you expect temper tantrums from your two year old. Or from your four year old. But I'm kind of past the age where temper tantrums are socially acceptable. Nonetheless, I still throw them. Occasionally. It kind of makes me feel better to let go of all that pent-up anger.

The last couple of nights I've (okay, we've) been up a lot with our kids. Spe has an ear infection and baby Wristy has some bizarre illness that makes him wake up every two hours with a strong desire to eat and eat and eat and eat (okay, it's not really an illness; he's just a trained night feeder who is spiraling out of control). I'm just so tired. I just feel obliged to tell you that at one point baby Wristy was a fabulous sleeper. I mean really fabulous. But then he got a cough/cold and all his wonderful sleeping habits disappeared. And in their place, I got this lovely baby who wakes up all night long.

Last night we went to bed around 11:00. I just got a good sleep going (and trust me, I'm a great sleeper), when Banshee Boy (this is my new nickname for Wristy as he has the loudest cry of any child I've ever heard. Seriously, he hurts my eardrums.) started wailing. I get up, put the pacifier back in, and crawl back into bed. At 12:00, again, Banshee Boy lets it rip. I get up, put the pacifier in, and crawl back into bed. He's not buying it this time, so I kick Rhett (this is my patented move that always gets great results), and make him go give it another go. But Banshee Boy just keeps screaming and screaming and screaming. So I go in his room, nurse him, and put him in bed.

Guess who's up again at 2:30? And guess who wants to eat? And guess who's up again at 3:30? And guess who wants to eat? Finally, I snap.

Rhett: (calmly and casually) So what's up with baby Wristy?

Me: (freakily and nastily) I DON'T KNOW, OKAY? All I know is that I'm NOT going back in that room again tonight! He can cry all night!

Rhett: (calmly and casually) Okaaaay.

He did cry for almost half an hour, and I held my ground. No seven month old is a match for the temper tantrums I can throw. I've had years and years of practice and I ALWAYS WIN! (Is anyone else getting the feeling that I'm unhealthily competitive? Is it normal for a mother to be locked in a contest of wills with her seven month old? Yeah, I should do something about that.)

Finally Rhett realized we were in a lose/lose holding pattern here and he intervened. He went and slept with the baby. But I've already told him: tonight is the night for Baby Banshee Boy to cry it out. Because I can only take so much . . . and I want my fabulous sleeping baby back.

Friday, October 26, 2007

My BIG Three

The time has come. I can no longer fob you off with pathetic excuses. I know you are dying to know the plot to my romance novel. (Actually, no one has even asked about it. Hmmm . . .)

Here's my big three:

Character Names: Meghan and Grant. Fortunately there is no one close to me with either of these names, so no one will think I am basing these characters on them. Not that anyone would think that anyway, as these characters are so out of touch with real life it's scary.

Setting: O, Pioneers! Sort of. This takes place in the Oklahoma Territory sometimes during settlement (so like mid-1800ish). I have done absolutely no research whatsoever for this novel, so I have no clue what that means. That's what I like about writing romance novels. It ain't rocket science! Plus, I've read all of The Little House on the Prairie series, AND I've read Sarah, Plain and Tall so I feel well-qualified to write this novel about prairie life. I mean I AM well-qualified.

What's Keeping This Perfectly Matched Couple from Realizing Their Destiny? Tragedy. Plain and simple tragedy. See, Meghan was married previously to a man who was abusive. She finally worked up the courage to leave him, but he walked in on her packing. One thing led to another, yadda, yadda, yadda, and she ends up shooting him. She leaves him in a pool of his own blood, and flees, catching the first train out of there. Oh, tragedy! She ends up in Oklahoma City, now a murderess, and gets a job teaching school (just the kind of person who should be shaping young minds!). Because she teaches in a small town, she boards with local families. Grant is the understanding, sweet, kind, handsome and patient son of one of the families she boards with and so . . . well, let's just say tragedy bows to the power of love. As always. Except. Her husband really didn't die, and he comes looking for her! Eeek!

Hope this satisfies your need to tingle for the day.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Pantless Wise Man

This is Rhett and Spe (pronounced SPEE; we're not very picky nicknamers, obviously) being The Wise Men in our family nativity pageant. I'm not quite certain why one of the wise men doesn't wear pants, but Rhett assures me it has its root in Bibilical tradition (Haven't you heard of the pantless wise man? Yeah, me neither). I'm also not certain why I ever let Rhett be in charge of the kids' costumes, but that's neither here nor there.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Chick-a-Bam-Bam-Ban-Ow!

We're not nice people. I'm just forewarning you so you won't be too surprised when I tell you this next weird, quirky thing that we do. Just keep in mind, I already know we're not nice, so don't pepper me with comments about how mean we are. I already know!

In the course of our married life, Rhett and I have had the opportunity to move around a little bit, and every time we do we have to meet a whole new group of people at church. But sometimes we're a little bit lazy about learning names at first. But we still like to talk about people (especially crazy comments that they might make in church, etc.), so we have our own system of describing people to each other. And it's kind of mean.

We nickname people. Here are some of the nicknames we have used over the years to help each other understand who we are talking about: Man-Talker (obviously a woman with a very, very deep voice), The Giants (This whole family was over six feet tall! They were huge!), Big Hair Lady (I think this one speaks for itself), The Weasleys (a family of redheads), and my favorite, Chick-a-Bam-Bam-Ban-Ow! (let's simply say that there was a very . . . um . . . interesting sense of style associated with this one).

The problem is sometimes (like in Chick-a-Bam-Bam-Ban-Ow!'s case) occasionally we would get to know these people and really like them. But still, we called them by their nickname in private because as I think I've mentioned before, we're just not that nice. But we did feel a little bit of guilt . . . but not enough to make us stop nicknaming. Another drawback was that Ivy picked up on the Chick-a-Bam-Bam-Ban-Ow! nickname and she started saying it whenever she saw that lady too. She was two years old, so we really should have been teaching her to be nice. But whatever.

One time my brother Josh (you know, the famous organist power player) came to church with us. Rhett was pointing out all the people whom we had nicknamed. He looked at us like we were crazy mean (which we are), and then he pointed to a woman in a wheelchair. "So, what do you call her? Hot Wheels?"

"That is SO mean!" I protested. But I have to admit, that's what we called her from then on. I just recently thought that maybe other people do this too, and I wonder what they would nickname me. A few thoughts: "Lady who can't dress her kids in matching clothes," or "Horsey" (since I rarely am seen these days without an accompanying ponytail . . .) or maybe "Pauncho" (since I haven't quite lost the belly from my three children).

What nicknames have you had for people? (And don't pretend you're all better than me, you know you do this, too!) What do you think people would nickname you?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Justify my love . . .

Who lets their child run around with hair like this? I'm just saying . . . it's not a pretty picture!

Do you ever feel like you have to justify your love for your kids? I totally do all the time, and I wonder what it says about me.

For example, Veevs wanted to wear her own outfit, which as any mom out there can tell you, meant she wanted to wear something that didn't match. Not even close to matching, really. And then the shoes! Oh, laws, the shoes were from a different world. So, all day long I found myself trying to work it into the conversation that she dressed herself. I'd even start up conversations with people so that I could casually drop in that she is generally dressed fashionably (okay, at least matching) but today was a DIY (do-it-yourself) moment.

Walmart checker: How are you today?

Me: Fine, except my little girl wanted to dress herself today.

Walmart checker: Oh.

See what I mean?

McDonald's drive-through attendant: That will be $7.68 at the first window.

Me: When we get there, I just want to clarify that my daughter dressed herself.

McDonald's drive-through attendant: Oh.

Okay, that didn't actually happen, but I really had the urge to say stuff like that all day. And a few days ago we had a cold snap and I couldn't find the socks that I tossed into the car for my little Wristy (seven months) so he had to go barefoot. I felt compelled to tell everyone, "I'm not a bad mom, really, I just can't find the socks!" I can be pretty tricky though. So I might pretend I'm talking to my baby and say, "Oh, Wristy, I'm so sorry I can't find your socks. Your feet must be so cold!" 1) Wristy doesn't care, and 2) neither do the people I'm trying to make sure hear, and 3) why do I care so much? (I eventually did find the socks, by the way, shoved into the butt pocket of my blue jeans. Not only a bad place to keep something I'm looking for, but I have a hunch my butt wasn't looking too hot, either!)

It's like I have to justify the fact that I really do love my children despite not being able to dress them properly. But then I remember my sister, Bucky, as a baby. That girl brushed her own hair (with a wet toothbrush!?) from the ages of two to five. And she looked awful. And I remember some of us trying to get her to wear matching clothes. And my mom told us to leave her alone. My point here is that this need for justification is not genetic. But then again, Bucky was the eighth child. I guess by the time you have eight kids you don't have to justify anything to anyone anymore.

I'm going to take a page out of my mom's book. I love my kids, but I don't have to prove it to you by dressing them all cute. And from now on, I'm going to start judging everyone else--if your kids match, it probably means you're stifling their individuality and creativity! So there.

Belly Up . . .

This is a picture Rhett took of my sister Linz and her husband Jordy. I think they thought he was taking a nice portrait of their faces, but Rhett's like that. I can't tell you how many pictures I have of my pregnant belly. I wish he would tell me, so I could at least drop the smiling act and look miserable, like I tend to do through all my pregnancies. I bet when Linz sees this, she'll think that too.

If I were a . . .

If I were a doctor, I'd be a really crappy one. Because the sight of blood makes me sick, and also, I'm just not that sympathetic. I probably would diagnose half my clientele with hypochondria. Really. When Rhett stays home from work sick it makes me so mad that he lays in bed all day that he forces himself to get up so that I won't keep coming into the room, glaring, sighing loudly, banging things, etc. Poor baby.

If I were a dentist, I'm pretty sure that I'd get bitten a lot. Because I think I bit the heck out of Dr. Joe, my pediatric dentist, and there is poetic justice. Oh yes, there is.

If I were a zookeeper, I'm pretty sure that I'd play favorites. You know, keep the big gorilla from bullying the others (I'm aware that I would forfeit my life if I tried to PHYSICALLY force him not to, but hello! that's why we have shock collars! It's time those bully animals learn what it feels like!) I've always had a thing about underdogs and sticking up for the weakest link.

If I were a piece of punctuation, I'd choose to be the semi-colon. Because, you know, it's pretty powerful, being able to link two sentences together without any help. And plus, it doesn't get used that much, and I'm kind of lazy that way.

If I were a construction worker, I'm pretty sure they'd make me just hold the slow/stop sign. Because, again, I'm kind of lazy that way. And you know what? I'd bring treats, drinks, books to read, and a chair to sit in. No one said you have to STAND to do that job. And if they tried to make me stand, I'd quit. Because you can't push around this slow/stop sign girl like that. Oh no, you can't.

If I were a businesswoman, I'd make sure that I wore bookish looking glasses all the time, even though my vision is 20/20. Just so people would take me seriously. And because you can give better dirty looks when you're wearing glasses.

Wow. I'm really glad I'm not any of those things, because my house desperately needs cleaning, and you know me: I wouldn't miss that bit of fun for the world.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Bucky's Big Three

Right, have you been on the edge of your seat waiting to find out how Bucky solved the big three dilemma? Me too. Except I already know. Just for those who are behind on my blog (which is about everyone, I'm sure), here's the deal--my sisters and I (aka The Tingling Touches Club) are writing romance novels mostly to be funny and I'm recapping the plots and high points for everyone. Sounds like fabulous blog material, doesn't it?

1) Setting--Bucky's not exactly sure when her novel is set, but from the conveyances, dresses, and plot, we kind of think it must be Regency England time period. Except for her hero is always saying things like "heck" or "darn" which I don't think existed back then. At least the main characters in Pride and Prejudice never say them . . . Oh, well, everyone has their right to break their setting (it's a little reminiscent of the A-line dresses with cap sleeves, right?).

2) Main Character Names--Kate and Caden, which you know, could happen. I once had a gym teacher who's first name was Kelly and then she married a man whose last name was Kelly. What are the chances? She became Kelly Kelly, but she had the good sense to use her maiden name. Phew! I know the alliterative and similar nature of these names might be off-putting, but I have to say, Bucky knows how to work it, because it doesn't really bother you after you read all of their kissing scenes. Now, their kids (am I ruining the plot to tell you that they do end up together?) should be named: Cort, Callie and Carla. You know, just to keep it real.

3) What's keeping this perfectly matched couple apart? Well, a couple of things, really. Kate's a runaway socialite who discovered her parents had arranged a marriage for her. So she becomes a governess to (can you guess?) Caden's nephews and niece who he has custody of because their parents died. So she feels like their relationship is based on a lie. Caden seems to have no qualms at all about their relationship. In fact, this is the touchiest, most affectionate "apart" couple that I have ever seen. So kudos to Bucky for making that work. Another plot twist comes when the kids' grandparents try to wrest guardianship of the children (and the fortune) by kidnapping Kate (it makes sense in the book, I promise). Kate runs away, and decides to succumb to the arranged marriage. Wait for it! You'll never guess . . . or maybe you will . . . the person she is promised to just happens to be CADEN! Oh, my heck, you never saw that one coming, did you? Yeah, it's a sweet deal.

Next up: My BIG Three! It will totally be worth the read, I promise. Well, really it will be five minutes of your life that you will never get back, but still. Read it, just to make me feel better.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Ingrates in my House

Is it too much to ask for my family to respect my phobia? I mean, really. If one of my kids were agoraphobic, I would hardly drag them kicking and screaming outdoors every day. If my husband were an arachnaphobe (I think I made this word up) I wouldn't ask him to kill every spider in the house (just the really big ones, because hey, I have my limits).

So what's up with my family watching the PBS special on giant killer crocodiles tonight? Honestly. The worst part is this: THEY'VE SEEN IT BEFORE! My four-year old keeps running in to tell me that they're watching the crocodile show. She can't keep the glee out of her voice. Gee, thanks. I will continue to barricade myself in my room until further updates. I feel quite confident that she and her father have pacted to drive me absolutely nuts (got news for you, though, that happened long, long ago).

So here I am in my bedroom, trying to block out the giant killer crocodile facts that filter through to me. For example, did you know that giant killer crocodiles don't need to breathe for up to two hours? So don't bother looking at the water to spot their eyes, because it won't work! They will still ambush you at the water hole (or at your friendly neighborhood pool, I would imagine). Also, they can grow to be twenty or more feet long. Yes, I KNOW! They are HUGE! (And I am using caps, because I really am screaming on the inside.)

And what's up with my Veevs deciding that her whole life would be a waste if she doesn't become an alligator scientist? Ingratitude, that's what it is! I'm going to refuse to cook or clean until a) I receive an apology for this blatant disregard of my phobia, and b) Veevs changes her mind about the future and decides to become something more useful when she grows up. Like a pirate. Or a mermaid. (These are past favorites, but have fallen on hard times as the alligator scientist has gained momentum.) Now I'm just worried that no one will notice my cooking and cleaning strike.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Romance novels in a nutshell

So I promised you synopses of mine and my sisters' romance novels. My two younger sisters, Linz and Bucky (clearly a nickname, but the story isn't nearly as funny as what you are imagining, I'm sure, so I won't bore you with it) are my fellow Tinglers. I have two more sisters but they are using maturity as an excuse not to join us. Pfft. I keep telling them that membership in the Tingling Touches Club can only boost their resumes should they choose to find new employment in the future, but apparently, they have their doubts.

Anyhow, let me first say that when you decide to write a romance novel there are several immediate decisions that are both important and difficult.

1) You have to decide on a setting. I mean, it makes a big difference to your story if it is set in Napoleonic France or China during the Boxer Rebellion (yeah, I don't really know what that is either). You can't imagine the hours of agony that we spent (and the number of homemade cookies that we ate) before we all were sufficiently inspired.

2) You have to decide on the names of your main characters. This is equally important, because let's be honest, NO ONE wants to read about a Mildred and a Horace making out. True? But EVERYONE wants to read about a Madeleine (it must be spelled like this) and a Brent sharing passionate kisses (By the way, has anyone read a Madeleine Brent novel? I love those!) Again, agonizing decisions that must be resolved before even a single word can be typed!

3) You have to figure out a reason for these people to stay apart, and that's not as easy as it sounds. Because, you know, generally two people who are "made for each other" or "destined to be together" don't have nearly as much conflict as a romance novel requires. I mean, really. In most romance novels the couple is either a) fighting most of the time or b) kissing each other passionately. There's no middle ground. Don't you think if you were in this kind of relationship you would head for the hills, relationship-wise? Of course you would! So the real challenge is trying to figure out how to make it seem plausible that these two perfectly matched, ideally suited, future best friends are unable to see their deep and abiding love for each other. Tricky!

Well, here's how Linz solved the big three:

1) Setting--I have to say, Linz took some big risks on this one. Because her setting is the deep South during Civil War times. Not only is she treading on Scarlett O'Hara's legacy, but she also doesn't like the dresses from this time period at all. Not to worry! Linz's heroine eschews fashion dictates and wears A-line dresses with capped sleeves. I think she's very, very ahead of her time. . .

2) Character Names--The hero is named Cam and the heroine is named Blair. I'm not sure why Linz picked these, but they are pretty sweet, don't you think? Plus, I'm almost positive they are traditional Southern names. Or not.

3) Why are these two not falling into each other's arms and declaring undying love? Well, it's complicated. See, Blair, who lives in the deep South, is also (shocker!) a fervent abolitionist. She just morally can't marry a man who owns slaves. Cam is a plantation owner and horrors! a slave owner! But don't worry. It's all an act, because Cam is secretly a link on the Underground Railroad and he just PRETENDS he owns slaves so that his fellow Southerners don't lynch him or find the runaway slaves he is assisting. All of his slaves are actually PAID workers! So they stay apart because he doesn't want to involve her in his dangerous work (such self-sacrifice is ALWAYS a sign of true love) and she can't let herself love him because he owns other human beings. Wow, Linz. That is sheer genius!

Next up: Bucky's Big Three!

Friday, October 19, 2007

All the Famous People I Know

Let me start off by saying that famous, in this blog, is going to be a pretty loose term. Some of these people you'll have heard of, some not.

1) I'm starting off with someone that everyone knows . . . of. You know that sweet, hip band "The Killers"--yeah, I totally went to junior high with Ronnie Vanucci, the drummer. He was in band with me (surprise, he played the drums! Me, not so lucky, I played the clarinet). Actually I remember him as being quite juvenile and immature, but hey, he was like thirteen so I'm sure he's become a mature, responsible rock star. Right. Here's the thing that's weird to me: when I was teaching high school all these girls in my class were seriously in love with this band. And these band members are my age. It's kind of like how all of a sudden teenage girls are in love with Johnny Depp again--hello! he was hot originally when I was in junior high. Maybe it was more than just the age gap that kept me from being cool in my students' eyes? Oh, right. It was probably because I assigned them huge amounts of homework. That's a real damper on the cool factor, right there.

2) One of my former students, Todd Herzog, is totally kicking trash on "Survivor: China" this season. I'm pretty sure that it's because of my inspirational guidance during his formative teen years. He recently told my brother that the reason he liked me as a teacher is because I was "kind of naughty". What? Yeah, I know! That makes me sound like I was doing stripteases, but I promise I wasn't. I did, however, get a lot of protests that The Good Earth was a dirty book, so maybe that's it . . .

3) Anyone seen the cover of Southwest Art? If you did, you've seen the work of my childhood best friend, Justin Taylor. If you missed it, you can hit his blog/website/thing from my links. Super talented, and pretty humble, too. I mean, really, the guy is so nice he condescended to paint my nursery in my old house. Talk about a waste of brilliance. . . those ducks, sheep, pigs, and cows were paltry compared to the sweet stuff he's turning out these days. I'm surprised when I asked him he didn't say, "Hey, I'm big time now, crazy neighborhood friend from when I was five. I'm not going to draw crappy cows on your crappy walls, because I've got better things to do." But he didn't. So, thanks, Bustin'--you're the best!

4) Also, I've been chewed out via my blog by two of my favorite romance authors. That's a pretty intimate connection, right? I'll cherish it forever!

5) I've probably saved the best for last. My brother, Josh, an organ performance geek (really, did I say that?), was featured on Cleveland's public radio. I mean, they played his recital on the airwaves! It's like he's a national power player now! Well, I thought it was cool.

How about you? What famous people do you know?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Not for the faint of heart . . .

Seriously. If you are weak stomached, don't read this. Because I'm not going to edit my four-year old's comments just for you. It is what it is. I realize in blogging this that I'm pandering to the lowest common element, but I have brothers and this is what it takes to make them check my blog every four months. . .

So, yesterday, I was changing Wristy's diaper (this is my new nickname for my baby, as he has just discovered that he can pivot those wrists. Man, does he work it!). Veevs is really the most feces-fascinated girl I've ever met. Honestly, there does not go by a diaper change without her there: watching, advising, and even commenting on quality and quantity. For some reason (aka, I didn't tell her), she missed the beginning of this particular diaper change (Hey, I don't have to indulge her scatological inquiries, do I?). This is the conversation that ensued (I'm putting my thoughts in italics):

Veevs: Was that a poopy diaper, mom? Oh, great. Here we go again.

Mom: Not really. It was actually just a squirt, but we don't need to go into that.

Veevs: So was it like a squirt? Uh-oh. This conversation is quickly heading south, and I'm not talking directionally, if you know what I mean.

Mom: Yes, it was like a squirt.

Veevs: How does he do those squirts? I don't know, Veev. Ask your dad. I'm sure he has plenty of insider knowledge on this issue.

Mom: Um, I don't know. Evade! Evade! Evade!

Veevs: I think he probably farts and then instead of gas, poo comes out. Don't you think so, Mom?

Mom: Uh-huh. Maybe if I stop responding, we'll stop having this conversation at every single diaper change! (Sorry--but keep in mind I have two children in diapers. This conversation is just one of many I could transcribe for you.)

Veevs: So, he just does squirts sometimes, right?

Mom: Right.

Veevs: Okay. Phew! That wasn't as bad as it could have been. I mean at least I got out of that conversation without her mentioning . . .

Veevs: I know boys have penises, Mom. And there it is. Why does this always come up?

Mom (a little hysterically): Good for you, honey. Oh, wow! Let's go see if the mail is here yet!

So there you have it: life at my house every time I change a diaper. Hey, if your kids don't know about either the digestive system or the reproductive system, send 'em over. Veevs is happy to fill them in on all the details!

Pressure

I'm feeling a little bit of pressure now that I know my Aunt Kay (an English professor) and my cousin Celia (a technical writing degree holder) are reading these. Not that the rest of you aren't equally intimidating, it's just. . . you know. Is this how everyone felt around me when I used to say I taught high school English? Oh, the humanity!

Coming Out

Right. Not many people know about this, so I have to admit I'm a little nervous to out myself. And not only me, but also my two younger sisters, Lindsey and Courtney. But, I'm sure they won't mind. Probably. Maybe. Okay, they will, but I don't care. It's time that we stepped forward.

We have a secret club. Well, not secret in terms of like "Skull and Crossbones" but still. Secret. Secret like in we're all writing really bad romance novels, and reading them out loud to each other, and giving each other suggestions on how to make it even cheesier and truer to genre. I'm ashamed to admit the next part: our club is called "Tingling Touches". Truly. Veevs saw me typing on the computer yesterday and asked, "Are you tingling, Mom?" No, but I should have been!

How did this start, you wonder? How did three college educated girls decide they suddenly wanted to write romance novels? Oh, you don't care? Well, I'm telling you anyway. It's really my sister Ginnie's fault. She used to make and sell bracelets (I don't know, Ginnie, do you still do this?) and she went to the county fair and set up a booth to move some inventory. Well, as fate would have it, in a neighboring booth was a writer of really cheesy romance novels. But they're clean, because she's in Utah. But there's more kissing in one chapter than in my whole marriage up to this point. But we LOVE them! Why? Because my family a) has a really high tolerance for kitsch and b) because we don't need good writing to feel good about a book. (Seriously, I think I read every Nancy Drew, Cheerleaders, Couples, and Babysitters Club book ever written. I'm not really that picky.) So long story short (I know, can you believe this is the short version?) she and Ginnie traded bracelets for books and we all started reading these really passionate, badly written, clean romance novels.

Well, it didn't take my sister Lindsey too long to figure out, "Hey, this ain't rocket science." So she started writing her own, kind of as a joke and kind of not. So then Courtney and I started writing our own too, kind of as jokes and kind of not. Well, I wasn't an English major for nothing--I know that if you really want to hone your writing you should belong to an author's group. So we started it (I insisted on treats at every meeting), and we met once a week when we all lived close together.

But Tingling Touches lives on, even though the Tinglers (yes, we call ourselves Tinglers) live apart. Courts has finished hers. Mine's on perma-hold currently, but as soon as I can figure out how to start a prairie fire in the middle of winter (I just think every good romance novel should have a prairie fire, but it's Christmas time, and it's so much work to keep them apart for another six months!), I'll get going again. And Lindsey's girl is destined for happiness, as soon as she can control her swinging emotions which cause her to slap the hero on one page and then make out madly with him on the next page.

I know you don't really care, but there are so many facets of this club to explore. I'll post more later . . . come on, admit it, you really want to know the plot lines! Synopses next time, then! Right now, I think I'll go tingle . . .

Monday, October 15, 2007

As Halloween Approaches . . .

Apparently, I've done too good of a job teaching my kids what Halloween is all about. Because suddenly, everything is very, very "spooky" in our world. To them, a pumpkin (even without the carvings) is "spooky". And their Halloween costumes (a pirate, Superman, and a lion--hardly the stuff of nightmares) are "super-spooky".

We've also been enjoying a renaissance of small ghosts. This is achieved by my two oldest throwing their blankets over their head and intoning "OooOOOOoooo!" Trust me, it's very spooky. Even Wristy (seven months) can't keep a straight face.

Veevs loves to "decorate" her room for Halloween. In the months leading up to October, she can often be found drawing and coloring a pumpkin, a ghost, or a bat to hang up in her room. The finished effect, which seems to fall under the fashion label "Halloween Junk Chic" is apparently quite frightening. In fact, this year, the morning after we put up her decorations she woke up with a scream. Apparently, waking up to a cartoon skeleton is too much for any four year old.

But the best of all is that both Veevs (four) and Spe (two) are "banishing" witches and ghosts from their rooms constantly. This is done in the following manner: you go to the doorway of your chosen room, and you throw your fist into the room while yelling, "BANISH!" at the top of your lungs. Apparently, evil creatures cannot withstand this kind of treatment, and leave immediately. Interestingly, mom can also be banished. Now that is really spooky!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Perfection

Who says this perfection thing is tough? I think we had a perfect day yesterday and we weren't even trying. We started out at the pumpkin patch, which was all that a pumpkin patch should be and then some. I won't bore you with the details, but will instead post equally boring pictures (unless you love my children as much as I do and then you will be as enthralled as I am by these pictures) that will suffice to cover our time at the pumpkin patch. We went early, left before it got too hot, and stopped at a convenience store for treats on the way home. Perfect, right? Well, the kids thought so anyway.

Veevs had a birthday party to go to (fairy-themed), and I went along. We had to leave a bit early so we could make it to her soccer game. Dad and the boys met us there and after we shoved a bag full of pretzels into Spe's hands he was as good as gold throughout the entire game. Veevs hustled, waved, and cried when she was pushed over--all the drama you expect from a soccer game.

We spent a lovely evening together, and I even took a little catnap (I know, you don't think I'm capable of just a "little" catnap, but I am. Sometimes.). Rhett bathed the kids, we put them to bed, and Rhett started his homework and I read a book. Really, although this day sounds perfectly boring it really was so relaxing and fun. I don't know why people think perfection is so difficult.

Oh, wait, yes I do. Because at about 11:00 Wristy woke up and started coughing and his coughing started him barfing and he threw up all over his sheets and himself and his blanket. Rhett bathed him (again) and I had to hit the Wal-Mart for cough medicine (Hey, I may not be perfect but I'm not going to hell for buying medicine on Sunday! I believe I barely made the purchase on the Saturday side of midnight. Phew!)

Need I say more? I can now say with certainty that there's no such thing as the perfect day. There's just not enough good vibes to last twenty-four hours. If your day goes well in the morning, you might as well just lose your temper in the afternoon to forestall late night puking. Seriously, don't try to be perfect. It's not worth the vomit!

Friday, October 12, 2007

My Phobia

I have a phobia. Like a real one that makes me do crazy things that no normal person would do. It's not the fear of heights, people, or spiders. I have a serious fear of alligators and crocodiles. I mean, a SERIOUS FEAR of alligators and crocodiles.

I have never lived in a place where either alligators or crocodiles are indigenous. I technically have never had anything to fear. However, this does not keep me from taking anti-crocodile measures. For example, if I can help it (and I usually can) I don't take baths or showers in lower level bathrooms. Because, you know, you never can tell when a rogue crocodile will be lurking in the two inch pipes that lead up to your shower. In my mind, they are incredibly resourceful. This worked great for me when we lived in Utah, as our house had a basement, and there was no need to worry. This also works great for me in Texas, where all of our bathrooms are on the second story. This does not work so well for me when I go to visit my in-laws or my parents, where I have to shower in the basement. Let's just say I can shower very, very quickly if I need to.

Another anti-crocodile technique that I use: I never, NEVER, NEVER go swimming in the deep ends of pools. Because, again, you never can tell when a rogue crocodile will have picked your pool to take a nap in. This was true even when I lived in Las Vegas, where no wild crocodile has ever been spotted. My parents have a lovely pool, but I stay in the shallow end. This has become less noticeable now that I have children, because everyone thinks that I just am staying close to them because I'm so protective. I know the truth, though. I am really avoiding the crocodiles that lurk in the drain.

When we take our kids to the zoo, I'm not even tempted to look in the crocodile cage. You will see me steer completely around it with whatever child happens to be in the stroller at the moment. You never can tell when a rogue crocodile will give that Plexiglass a nasty whip with his tail and decide it's time to eat that lady pushing the stroller.

Where does this bizarre phobia come from? I have a distinct memory of watching a show when I was really young that I think had something to do with it. I believe it was creatively titled Alligator! and it was in the same genre as Arachnophobia, and Snakes on a Plane. Here's the gist: an alligator wrestler (I know, who knew this career path existed?) gets angry because a friend of his gives his daughter a baby alligator as a pet. In his rage, he FLUSHES it down the TOILET! Well, of course, alligators are resilient, and so for fifteen or twenty years, this alligator not only survives but THRIVES in the city sewage system. It emerges one day to eat the bride at a wedding ceremony. It emerges another day (into a neighborhood swimming pool) to eat a birthday boy. They finally free the city from the alligator's predatory ways by blowing it (and half of the sewage system) to bits with huge amounts of dynamite. I believe I was four when I saw this movie, and it has dramatically changed my life, I think for the better. Because, you know, I will never be the one who is eaten by the rogue crocodile, thank you very much, because I have taken all the necessary steps to prevent it.

Of course, I've told my four-year old daughter that I'm not such a fan of alligators and crocodiles. But if you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, she'll say, "An alligator scientist." To me, that's a real clue that it's time to rent Alligator! just to give her a realistic picture of what her future might look like. And as an anti-crocodile measure for myself. Because who knows when she'll bring home a rogue crocodile? Ah, well, if she does, I'll just flush it down the toilet. . .

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

All these years I've been lied to . . .

Okay, I finally figured it out. All these years people have been lying to me. First my mom, and now Rhett. You know how when you get your house perfectly spotless, people say things like, "Doesn't it feel great to have a clean house?" or "This is the way a house should look!" But you know what? Those are lies.

First, it doesn't feel great to have a clean house, because you know the second (and I really mean nanosecond) that you have to actually live in your house, it will suddenly be filthy again. Like in twenty minutes! So when you have a clean house, it's actually the worst position to be in, because there's nowhere to go but down from there. And what a depressing downward spiral it is.

Second, a house shouldn't look that way. A HOTEL should look that way because no one lives in it for real. A MODEL HOME should look that way because no one is actually blow-drying their hair in it, or spraying hairspray on the mirror. But a real house, honestly, just likes to be dirty. So I've been expending all this energy and time trying to make my house be something it's not (hmmm, there's an interesting parallel here, and perhaps connection, between this and my mom and my husband trying to get me to be more tidy).

I'm not filthy by nature. I'll clean it up at some point. I don't like to live in squalor and I don't like my toilets to be dirty. But, I don't put everything I touch away immediately (this is where Rhett and I differ). I have piles (of clothes, of paperwork, of stuff to take downstairs, of stuff to take upstairs). But my piles aren't like the ones you see on Oprah where you only have little paths that lead from room to room surrounded by giant piles of who knows what. My piles are little. Really. And they get taken care of eventually. Usually.

I try really hard to overcome my natural untidiness. I even have a laminated chore chart that I'm supposed to cross off each day, wipe it clean it that night, and then recross off the same chores the next day. Here's the daily list: Help Veevs with her chores (she also has a laminated chore chart), Help Spe with his chores (again, another laminated chore chart), Dress and feed Wristy (I DO remember to feed him, but I like to be able to cross things off the list), Read scriptures, Make bed, Tidy up my room, Tidy up Wristy's room, Tidy up the living rooms (of which there are three!), Unload the dishwasher, Load the dishwasher, Clean the kitchen, Do a load of laundry, Tidy up the bathrooms (again, three!), Tidy up the toy room, and Make Dinner. Don't even get me started on the chores I do once a week. Today I had to dust the house and vacuum the downstairs. I'm making a good effort, right?

But, I realized today as I was cleaning that I was fighting the Vietnam War of house cleaning. Because no matter how many times I tidy up the living room, my kids will drag more toys into it. And there we are, back at the 16th Parallel North. So for the rest of the afternoon, I'm going to grab a book, sit on my couch, and let my house enjoy itself. And you know what? I'm not even going to put the book away when I'm done.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

10 Things I Love About Rhett

For those of you who hang out with us a lot, you may find it hard to believe that Rhett and I really do like each other. The best part is that we really like each other despite, and because of, all the quirky things we do. So just to give you a glimpse into the weirdness that is my husband: here's ten reasons why I really find him fascinating.

1) He loves to watch "The Bachelor." Seriously--it's his dirty little secret. He can't get enough of the "hi-jinks" (his words not mine) that they get up to. You should've heard how excited he was when they pulled a twin switcheroo in this season's third episode. He loves Monday nights just because "The Bachelor" is on. We have to put the kids to bed early and everything.

2) He loves my mom. Really, they could go on vacation together without me or my dad and have a much better time than if we were there. He calls her "Mare-mares" (her name is Marilyn) to her face. He's tried to get our kids to call her "Maa-maw Memma". Fortunately, they have resisted this.

3) He hid the fact that he bought a Dodge Caravan from his father for almost four months. He knew that it didn't get the best Consumer Reports ratings, and his dad loves Consumer Reports, so voila! He avoided the topic completely.

4) To him, social awkwardness is comfy. He loves breaking social rules. I thought this was funny when we were dating, but now it's just embarrassing. He always asks our waiters and waitresses personal questions. And he LOVES to embarrass me. Like how he always tells everyone that our first kiss was on our mission--totally not true, but still embarrassing.

5) He's one of the tightest people with money I know. He hates the word tight: he prefers frugal or careful. But, he's tight. When we were first married, he used to work at the credit union where we banked (or credit unioned, I suppose) and he would call me ten minutes after every purchase I made questioning it's necessity or cost. He and one of my brother-in-laws have formed a club called "Financial Fascists" because they are both like money Nazis. Really.

6) He's extremely careful about keeping things nice. When we were engaged, I got in the car in the autumn and he had cut out cardboard to lay down over all the carpet in his car so that no one could ruin his carpet with their wet feet.

7) He's pretty confident. He's not ashamed of much about himself. He'll tell anyone who will listen about how he got ringworm from StyleAmerica, yet he goes and gets his hair cut there every time, even after they gave him ringworm.

8) He's a little bit zany. I went into a place where he worked about five years ago and the receptionist (who was pushing 70) said, "Oh, we just love your husband. When it's a slow work day, he and I will pretend we're ice figure skaters and we skate all around the lobby floor." Hmmmm . . .

9) He's a fabulous dad, but sometimes he forgets all his kids are four and under. For example, Ivy's favorite show to watch with her dad is Nacho Libre. And both of my kids think "Another One Bites the Dust" by Queen is about the best song ever. This morning, I took the kids to preschool and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" was on when I turned on the car. To my surprise, they sang along and requested to hear it again, and again, and again. One guess about who introduced them to that!

10) He has the biggest appetite of anyone I've ever met. His parents call him "Garbage Gut" and I understand why. The man can pack it down. His favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, and not for the company--he really just loves the food!

Bookstore Encounters

It was my birthday last week, and after dinner Rhett took me to a bookstore so I could choose out some birthday books (and thanks to my mom who gave me a gift card!) I went and asked a guy who worked there if he could help me find a book that I was looking for. My first clue that this chance meeting would become an "encounter" was the fact that he called me "hon'", despite us being relatively similar in age, as in, "Well, hon, this book isn't for the faint in heart."

They didn't have the book I wanted in, so he special-ordered it for me ("Hon, do you want to special order this?"). Then, with no invitation, he orders my husband to show him the other books that I've selected so that he can judge my taste in books and recommend other books that I'm sure to love. Right. So, he sees that I have the book The Lovely Bones, which I was unsure about getting because it's kind of violently graphic, and I'm not so good with that. Immediately he leads me over to the YA section (which I love) for a book with "the most evocative cover" he's ever seen.

Unfortunately, there is a group of teenagers standing in front of the bookshelf where the most evocative book ever is. He makes a hand motion that seems to say, "Teens, remove yourself. You are dust, and I am dusting." So, they move, and he pulls out the book, all the while lecturing me on the benefits of this beautiful, thoughtful, moving book, which focuses on pain, healing, and redemption.

The teens whom he dusted away are a little bit loud at one point, and so he says, "GIRLS! If you need a book I WILL HELP YOU find it, but if you are not going to purchase anything, you need to remove yourself IMMEDIATELY from MY store." I'm a little bit uncomfortable because, a) these are teenaged GIRLS, b) these are teenaged GIRLS who are at a BOOKSTORE, C) these are teenaged GIRLS who are at a BOOKSTORE on a FRIDAY NIGHT.

Do you see my point? These aren't exactly hooligans from The Outsiders here, and he's treating them like dirt. As a former high school English teacher, I actually have a vested interest in teenagers reading. However, I simply continue to listen to him expound on the virtues of the book. Then, the girls move to a different aisle, and he waves down a colleague and says, "Breeanne! Can you please either help these girls find a book or escort them to the exit?!" He's not one bit nice about it. He says the word "girls" like he might say "dirt" or "worms" or "prostitutes". But he's made one big mistake. Because D) these are teenaged GIRLS who are at a BOOKSTORE on a FRIDAY NIGHT with their PARENTS!

"Excuse me, but that's what we'd like to talk to you about," a perfectly-coiffed, icy-toned woman says, "When you're finished here, of course." I took the book, said, "I'll take it." And then, Rhett and I turned to go. I have to admit that I bit back a smile and the desire to say, "We'll just leave you to that, hon!"