Look Out, Annie Oakley

30 08 2009

Stan took Zack and Eden to the gun range last week.

I was thrilled.

Even more so when they got back, and Eden was holding a can of root beer to her brow.

But you know what they say whenever kids want a gun:

You’ll shoot your eye out!

eden eye

A bullet didn’t really hit Eden’s eye. She had pushed her safety glasses to the top of her head to keep her hair out of her eyes while she was shooting. A hot shell casing flew from her gun and burned her eyelid.

She really did lose her first tooth, although not by a bullet.

Thank goodness.

Our Week of Redecorating, Part 1

28 08 2009

There is a reason I haven’t painted for over three years, and that reason is this:

Painting is a huge pain.

The painting part itself isn’t so bad, but the stringing of belongings willy-nilly about the house (and, in this case, it was mattresses), the loss of any previous semblance of order, and the complete lack of schedule (“Whoa, is it two? I guess we should have some lunch.”). Also, the need to “just get it done” is exhausting, especially to one of my generally procrastination-happy personality.

The painting, I am happy to say, is done. We’re trying to get everything “accessorized” still, but at least the mattresses are out of the living room.


I have never liked those cows, not in the six years we have lived here. The lavender under the chair rail has also never been my first choice. Definitely time.


Here is Eden, with the drooping shoulders, valiantly scrubbing the walls. (I’m extracting a promise from my children to never hang pictures with a glue stick ever again. Please.)


We unceremoniously shoved everything from under the beds into the closet.


This the bookcase and all the junk that was on top of the dresser got scuttled into the hall (and continuously tripped over) for the duration.


Our first coat was magnetic paint, where I hoped to stop putting so many pinholes into the walls by hanging posters and pictures with magnets.


Unfortunately, it could have used another coat, and magnetic paint isn’t something everybody carries. I had this stuff left over from an enrichment idea (cough, cough) five years ago. Anyway, turns out that we either need stronger magnets or lighter posters.


I also painted the kids’ beds (two coats of primer, two coats of paint)  because I wanted them to blend a little bit. They really take up the whole room.


Note the repurposed bookcase: Stan helped me cut down the old one (which is much more involved than that sentence sounds) and Eden helped me paint it white. It really helps open the other end of the room up (where it used to be), but now I’ve got to figure out what half of the books we can stand to get rid of. That’s on my list today.


We also got rid of the bureau, which also didn’t fit very well into the room. I got Zack and Eden each a clothes tower from IKEA. So far so good.


Today is the day we finish up, and I’ll hopefully get some more pictures posted. Later.

I will say this: I had drawn a picture of the room with measurements and placement of furniture. Eden said to me after we got the clothes towers put in, “Wow, it looks a lot better in real life than in that picture you drew.”

(That’s good, right?)

Skirting the Issue

23 08 2009

People always ask me if I made “those cute skirts your girls are wearing.”

I always have to say no.

My mom did.



They are especially good for twirling. Thanks, Grandma!

Altared Plans by Rebecca Talley

20 08 2009

We interrupt Our Week of Redecorating to bring you a book review. But before I start, let me just say if I never have to clean a paint roller again it would be okay with me.


Now that we have that out of the way, I can tell you about this great book I read last month. I’ve been reading quite a few ponderous, non-fiction books lately about autism, relationships, and the Atonement. That is not like me at all, so I’ve balanced those heavy books out with some lighter fare. Altared Plansby Rebecca Cornish Talley falls into the second category.


Sometimes I think about the “standard” romance plots–you know, amnesia, marriage of convenience, Montague and Capulet–and wonder what they’d be like if re-written for LDS fiction. Another popular theme is where the bride is jilted . . . on her wedding day! She’s left waiting at the altar!

In Altared Plans, this happens to our heroine, Caitlyn, by page 8. A couple of months later, her mom convinces Caitlyn to return to BYU. Caitlyn acquiesces, but only because she has completely sworn off men and has no plans on noticing (let alone dating) any of them.

Unfortunately, despite her plans to not notice anyone, her bishop calls her to be the “mom” of her FHE group. Which means she has to not only go to FHE, but participate in it. With that participation, she ends up being noticed . . . by two guys.

With witty dialogue, a fast pace, likable characters, and amusing (including some that were amusingly uncomfortable) situations, I’m so glad I read this book. I sincerely enjoyed getting to know Caitlyn and watching her date two men, and seeing how she finally chooses one. 

Now for my first blog interview! I had a few questions for Rebecca Talley, and she was gracious enough to answer them for me.

I’ve heard this book is loosely based on the story of you and your husband. Is that right?

Yes. We met when we were called to be the “mom” and “dad” of our FHE group at BYU, I met his mother (my future mother-in-law) while dressed as a clown, he offered to feed me one of his steers named Frank, and he grew up in the country while I grew up in the city. Of course, I added a lot of fictional elements, but the initial meeting in the book was very similar to how we met. Oh, and the story that Travis tells at FHE was based on an incident with my husband at the dorms when his roommate locked him out after he’d taken a shower.

Okay, people. Don’t you want to hear the meeting-the-mother-in-law-as-a-clown story? I thought so.
Of course, everything is bigger and “better” in fiction, but I just have to know: was there really an Alison?

Actually, there were several “Alisons.” My husband thought he was pretty suave dating several girls at a time and keeping us all in the dark about each other. That worked until he was in his car accident and we all ended up at the hospital together. Alison is a compilation of lots of girls. They say, “Don’t ever be mean to me or I might make you a character in one of my books.”

Several Alisons? Hmm. I thought that was a timely car accident. Sounds like your husband fit himself in to a perfect case of dramatic irony.

Even though they were minor characters, I had a lot of sympathy for both Alison and Chase. Technically, they’re the antagonists of the book (along with Justin, but let’s not even go there). How did you, as a writer, shape their characters so that even though we don’t agree with them we can still feel sorry for them?

Alison is manipulative because she truly believes that she and Travis belong together. Everything she does is focused on marrying Travis. I didn’t want to portray Alison or Chase as bad people, only that they were standing in the way of Caitlyn’s and Travis’s goals. I think the best antagonists are ones that aren’t purely evil but rather just have different goals, and those goals cause conflict for the protagonist. 

It definitely makes them more believable. Thanks for the tip!
What is your favorite line in the book?

The last one. “Love can’t be planned. It just is.”

Oh, that is a good one, especially in light of the first page where it says, “It couldn’t be anything but perfect because that’s how she’d planned it.”

My favorite line is this one: “Thinking of Travis made her mind turn into mush, so she turned to her scriptures and decided to read. Today, even Isaiah would make more sense than her feelings.” That made me laugh out loud. I’ve certainly had times where Isaiah was clearer than the way I was feeling.
I know you have ten (10!) children. In my opinion, that definitely counts as a quiver full. When and how do you write with the demands of caring for such a large family?

Whenever I can. Summer is a hard time to write when they’re all home. When they’re in school I can generally find a bit of time while my youngest naps. I just have to take what I can get and use my time as wisely as possible. And, yes, it is a houseful.

I am amazed. Some days, we barely manage to get dressed around here . . . and I’ve only got four.
Not only do you write books, you also have several blogs. Can you tell us a little bit about them?

I have my personal blog, http://www.rebeccatalleywrites.blogspot.com/, where I post my thoughts, observations, and ponderings (and occasionally some rantings). (Yes, I read the one about Sears.) I also blog with other Cedar Fort authors every other Tuesday at http://www.cedarfortauthors.blogspot.com/ . I maintain my personal website http://www.rebeccatalley.com/that contains information about me and my books. I also post regular blogs at http://www.pursueyourwritingdream.com/ which is dedicated to helping aspiring writers find publication success.

That is why Rebecca defines Awesomeness.

Thanks so much for the interview, Rebecca. Let’s do it again when your next book comes out, okay?

For about another week, you can enter a contest to win a copy of Altared Plansfrom the Cedar Fort Authors blog. Click here, and good luck!

Our Week of Fun!

17 08 2009

The week after our extended vacation was our Week of Appointments. Doctor, hair dresser, therapist, etc.

This last week, though, was pretty much constant fun all week long. (I think that’s why I’m so tired. My sister-in-law once said that it takes a lot of work to make memories. I concur.)

Tuesday night I took the kids to see my cousin in the Bremerton area. Where I live is beautiful, but I have to say that the peninsula is one of the most gorgeous places on God’s green earth. Her husband was at scout camp for the week, so we had a sleepover! Between us there were eight kids ages 9 and under, which of course spells L-O-A-D-S  O-F  F-U-N.


This is most of the kids watching a movie. (Eden is posing. Zack is not.) Besides watching a movie, we played the Wii, played the computer, had dinner at the “Tiger Cafe”, made caramel Chex, drew some trading cards, tried to eat their baby no less than four times, rode bikes and scooters, swung on their giant swing, and generally made nuisances of ourselves. (We’re good at that.)

We had so much fun, we didn’t want to leave.

On Friday, I had a dear, dear friend come and visit. Unless you’re going to Alaska, Seattle isn’t really on the way to anywhere, so we don’t get many visitors around these parts. It was so good to see her and catch up . . . and I didn’t take any pictures. Too busy talking. Come again anytime, Mandi!

That afternoon, I headed out to the ward campout with the kids.

We’d been to the campsite once before, but it was three or four years ago and Stan was driving at the time. When we drove past the place I thoughtwas it, there weren’t any cars or people or welcome signs (although there were quite a few that said “No Trespassing” and “Keep Out” rather ominously). I kept driving.

It was a dirt road, bumpy and not much more than a couple of tire tracks through the grass in a few places. At one point, it edged close–very close–to the river. Branches kept scraping along the sides and roof. As we passed several other campsites, I kept up a cheery monologue for the kids’ sakes. “Well, I’m pretty sure that’s not it. Maybe it’s just around this bend!” Soon, though, we reached the end of the road.

“Huh.” I said. “I guess we should turn around and go back.”

By now, the kids were getting a little bit anxious, the “Keep Out”s and “No Trespassing”s looming larger every second. Eden said, “I don’t want to drive by the river again. It’s freaky.”

“There’s no other way to go,” I told her. “In fact, we’re in trouble if another car comes this way.” Then, as if belatedly noticing I used the word “trouble” in a sentence, I laughed weakly.

We got back to the first campsite, and I actually pulled in. “I’m pretty sure this is it, guys.”

“No! Turn around! Call Dad on your cell phone! This can’t be the right place!”

“My cell phone is broken, so I can’t call anyone.” I studied the directions again. “I’m pretty sure this is it.” Before they could be convinced, I had to drive back out to the main road and show them the small sign with our ward’s name on it, and an arrow pointing to the dirt track we were beginning to know like our own street.

“Why don’t we just get out and look around?” I said. “Maybe somebody left a note.”

The ward campout several years ago slowly came back to mind as I looked at the pavilion, the army tents, the fire pit, and the location of the river. There was a large tee pee off to one side that I didn’t remember seeing last time, but otherwise it was spot on. “This has got to be it,” I said. “But where is everybody?” I don’t think we’ve arrived first for anything in our entire lives.

Eden, who was practically glued to my side, tugged at my sleeve. “Mom,” she whispered. “What if that’s a real tee pee?”

I laid my hand gently over hers, informed her that I hadn’t heard of any hostile Indian tribes on the warpath, and made a mental note to find something other than “Little House on the Prairie” for her to read.

I moved the van over to a different area and said, “This looks like a good spot to put up the tent.”

The kids were still not convinced.

Luckily, two other cars pulled in right at that moment. Not only was my childrens’ confidence restored in my sense of direction, I also had help putting up our tent.



If there is anything a nine-year-old boy likes better than a campfire, I don’t know what it is. Unless it’s a river, and we had one of those there, too. Zack was in heaven


What’s a campout without s’mores? No campout at all.

I didn’t even get any pictures of Eden; she spent her hours running around with her little pack of friends and finding sticks that I absolutely would not allow her to bring home.


I love the fireside, when all the lights are low . . . (everybody, now!)


Our home away from home.


If you look closely at the top of this picture, you can see a little red head amongst the covers. I was right next to it, so close, in fact, to be considered underneath it for much of the night.

I slept so well.

This week, after almost six years of planning on doing it, we are actually going to paint my children’s bedroom.

Let the Week of Redecorating begin.

Li’l Red

10 08 2009


I was having a rough day, so Stan took the kids to a friend’s house and told me, “Do something for yourself.”

Despite my lack of posts the past while, I truly do enjoy blogging. I have big plans for vacation updates and book reviews . . . but today I decided I would tell you about my Colby.

He’s 31 months old and doesn’t say any words at all. He babbles some (more frequently now), and occasionally gets out a “Da!” or “Mum-mum-mum”, but most often we rely on a tug-Mom’s-hand-until-we’re-in-the-general-area approach. Luckily I’m a pretty good guesser.

We suspected autism early on, but there were lots of things to try first: hearing tests, walking (some kids start talking once they aren’t focused so intently on walking), triadic eye gaze, etc. About last November, I got to the point where I realized this child, the son who has my name along with a gigantic portion of my heart, had a disability.

I grieved.

There were so many expectations I had to let go of, and I hadn’t even realized they were there: graduation from high school, college, mission, marriage, grandkids.

It hurt.

I hurt for him when I thought of so many experiences I’ve had and enjoyed that he might not have. And I hurt for me, wondering if he’d ever speak to me and be able to tell me he loved me.

It took some time, but I realized that Colby is the way he is for a reason: for him, yes, but probably more so for our family. We need him. He might go on to do all those things and more, but he might not. We will love him (love him, love him!) no matter what.

At the beginning of July (talk about waiting lists–autism evaluation is CRAZY), Colby was evaluated and given the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Even though I was expecting it, I was still surprised at the blow it gave me. There was still a tiny little flame of hope in my heart, one I didn’t even know about, that was holding out for, “Guess what–he doesn’t have enough vitamin A. Give him these drops and he should be talking in no time!”

However, the shock was brief. I had already grieved the child I thought I had, and was embracing the one I was blessed with.

He truly is a blessing.

If you could hear his laughter, you would know why.


Colby is joy personified.


And the world needs more of that.

I am beginning the daunting task of coordinating various therapy efforts. I’m not good at things like this, appointments and whatnot. It’s scary to me. I also don’t understand the school system at all for special needs kids, and what I need to do to ensure he gets all the services he should. I need to be his advocate, but I’m not good at advocating. I’m good at accommodating, but that’s not the same thing. I’ve been praying for a backbone, for the courage to be the squeaky wheel. Because you know what they say about squeaky wheels . . .

They’re the ones that get the grease.


(squeak, squeak)


And who deserves grease more than this munchkin?


(This picture makes me want to hug him until his eyeballs pop out.)

No Photoshop–these are GENUINE FAKES!

4 08 2009

Okay, my brother just posted some pictures from our family reunion on his blog. See if you can find me. (Hint: I am in disguise.)

Also, if you click the arrow a couple of times, you might see a couple of my offspring (also in disguise).

Click here.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way Home from Vacation . . .

3 08 2009

Potty training has been my biggest parenting nightmare to date. Zack is neither submissive nor meek, and he was still young enough when I started potty training him that I hadn’t yet fully learned to work around his personality type. (Ask his teacher from last year–I’m still figuring that one out.) Add to him two siblings in rapid succession, and potty training seemed my full-time occupation for awhile. After years (that is not a joke) of wet and/or stinky pants, we finally hit a pretty good stride about 3 years ago, and potty issues while travelling pretty much cleared up a year after that.

I seriously don’t know what was going on this trip.

“I gotta go to the bathroom!” was uttered more during this trip than any other, frequently followed by, “I can’t hold it!” I should have counted how many times we stopped at the side of the road, just so I could share it all with you.

Generally, we were able to pull off at an exit, affording the chillins a bit of privacy while they did their thing. And while we’re on the subject, why are boys able to go so easily in the wild? Another object lesson on the unfairness of life. It took several stops before I got the girls to miss hitting their shoes. Anyway, at one particularly frantic stop (“I really can’t hold it!”), a sibling decided to hop out since we were stopped anyway, and proceeded to say, “I guess I’ll go, too.” When nothing happened, I started to hoist her up (we found a modified chair-sit with me holding under the armpits worked best under the circumstances) and she said, “Wait! I’ve got to go [number two].”


So the deed was done, tp was found, and we were (finally) back on the road, when just around the next bend we saw the big blue sign letting us know a rest area was two miles away.


But that isn’t all. Oh, no, our strange potty adventures don’t end there.

One daughter (who wishes to remain anonymous) had been whining about using the toilet for miles. We were about to stop for dinner (as soon as we made it to a sizable town), when Stan suddenly said, “I’m toast.”

He was right.

He got pulled over (13 miles beyond seems to be the magic number for us) and had already handed over the ol’ lice and reg, explaining that our “daughter needs to pee” (vernacular has not been changed). While the officer ran the numbers, daughter glibly jumped out of her car seat, opened the door, and said, “C’mon, Mom.” (No prompting necessary. I’m telling you, we’d done this way too many times already.)

The kids hadn’t even noticed the policeman, and my daughter already had her pants down by the time I got out of the car, as well as her arms held up for me to help her sit. There were cars–oh, so many cars–racing by. She went. She got it all over her shoe, and we had to use an extra pair of socks hanging around in the van to wipe them off, since we finished off the tp earlier. Back in the car. Buckle up.

Officer returned. “If she had to go that bad, you wouldn’t have made it to the next exit, anyway,” he said.

Stan gets off.

He is SO lucky.