Thursday, December 28, 2006

Oh, dear, I closed my eyes!

Christmas 2006

Christmas has come and gone for another year. It's hard after the holiday is passed to remember all the moments---glad, sad or downright hectic---that herald the big day. I thought I'd try to add a few pictures and short memories. The first photo is Trouble, sitting where she isn't allowed on the fireplace mantel. She's taken a shine to Miah's folk art Santa from the Merry Money store at the library.

Later in the week, Mom, the boys and I went to our local Kroger store to hear some Christmas music. Del and Gwen Clark gave us a lovely holiday break with their musical talents on the keyboard and spoons. Gwen writes a column in the Times Gazette, Clark Bar Devotions, and has been a tremendous help to us in beginning our
Cookies and Milk page.

These two wonderful senior citizens have never let age slow them down. They take their music, their bright smiles and cheerful faces into nursing homes every week. I hope someday to aspire to be just like them!

As one of the last people to buy our Christmas tree---a bare week before Christmas Eve, we got a great half price deal at Lowe's. The boys had a super time decorating it. Miah found the cutest garland--it has different colored stockings along it. Hanging among the tree branches it looks like a bunch of little elves have hung their stockings from the limbs. As the nutcracker fan in the family, Miah also found a set of nutcracker ornaments. Jarrod found a set of Star Wars to give it a futuristic touch. We also had ornaments from years past--the tree Jarrod painted as a four year old, Heather's clay finger print, the origami angels all the children made from doilies at the library and several that have been saved from my own childhood. One, a spun sugar looking covered wagon, can't be hung anymore but graced the mantel.

My only regret about this year's Christmas tree is that I haven't been able to find my special Christmas tree skirt. Several years ago, I took a bunch of old family photos from Christmas' past, scanned them onto iron on transfers and put them on a square of white muslin. I sewed a backing of red and green plaid, added a lacy ruffle and a space for the tree stand. With all the babies we've added the last few years, it's outdated. Thankfully, I can always add pictures in the white spaces.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The long week, the conclusion

By now, I'm pretty tired of thinking about the LONG WEEK. Friday turned out to be another hectic, holiday day. The boys had school at Leaves so while they were there, I managed to do several loads of wash. Thankfully, the laundromat was quiet and empty of patrons so I spent a pleasant couple of hours reading and writing. The clothes swished and dryed.

Only one minor glitch marred the otherwise calm setting. One washer set up a crazy dance in place, frenzied by the amount of wash inside. Or so it seemed. Had the same trouble last week with the same trouble. Still laugh at the expression on one older man's face as he noted the washer, looked at me as if to ask, "what are you doing to that POOR machine," and kept darting glances as if I should DO SOMETHING.

After the clothes were clean, I sat in the car and dashed out 1500 words in longhand on a WIP. It was a good feeling. The boys got out of school and we dashed into phase two of the day. Since it was a holy day and we were going to Mass, we had to wait to meet my sister so we could all ride together. The boys and I whiled away the time going to the library and the Dollar Store. We sat in the car, listening to Christmas songs on the radio, until we got our ride.

Going to church at night is always a pleasant ending to the day. We light by candlelight and it's lovely to have the glow shining out the stained glass windows, welcoming us inside.

Saturday started out as another fast paced day. I actually got to WRITE for an hour or so. Then we raced off to a program at the library--making gingerbread houses. We've been doing this for about five years and it never loses it fascination. The library staff spends a week gluing graham crackers into a house shape. The children each get icing and a bag of assorted candies to add to the tiny house. As an early Christmas present to myself, I paid off my library fine and we loaded up on videos and books. Emma waited for us at home with Grandma and we spent a happy evening watching Garfield cartoons. The boys had never seen Garfield's tv show, except for the Christmas special which they know by heart.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The long week---Part Two

Wednesday. Because all the children(remember there were six in the house) put out their shoes for St. Nick the night before, we woke at the bright hour of 6:45. Mostly to the shrieks of the child who did NOT get a mini skateboarder in his shoe. I managed to drag myself downstairs at 7:30 to semi-silence. The two year old had hidden himself in a corner with ALL the mini skateboarders. New gloves and toboggan hats were scattered all over the floor, as were broken pieces of candy cane. There is something truly indecent about stepping on a crunchy candy cane before 8 AM.

With the promise of a wonderful homeschool field trip ahead, we manged to get everyone to eat cereal, find pairs to the new gloves and get dressed warmly. The weather promised us 40 degrees and it did turn out to be a nice day. We were headed for the BEACH. Since Ohio weather prevents actual swimming during December, we were going to enjoy their Holiday Fest. For a reasonable group rate, we were able to ice skate (and yup, I went around twice without falling), a tractor driven hayride (the horses reserved for the paying customers at night,) a merry go round, paddle boat rides and the toboggan slide. Yes, that's me in the picture. I didn't realize until later that my hat was pulled up in a goofy point. None of the children pointed this out to me at the time--so I went around all day looking like something the elves kicked out of the North Pole. (No wonder the guy in the ticket booth said, no, I'll remember you, when I asked if I could go out to the car.)
We had a super good time, it stayed warm and I rushed home in time to go to the singing Christmas tree with a friend.
Thursday---Our guests were gone so we looked forward to a nice, relaxing day of schoolwork. (Some of us more than others.) We got a freak snowstorm so the boys were primed to work fast. The fact that the sun came out, melting some provided further motivation. They managed a skimpy snowman when they stopped to help Grandpa put Christmas lights on the porches.
This brings us to the annual "Lost Christmas Light Fiasco." Never, as long as I can remember have we EVER found the lights before Christmas without a search. Sometimes a long search. Sister #1 had hoped to avoid the annual repetition by buying news lights. Still, those lights were somewhere and by gum, the men in the family were going to find them. They tore up the basement going through about 50 plastic bins. The coat hall was next, then the search moved out to their domain--the garage and paper room.
We call it the paper room because about 20 years ago we use to roll newspapers in it. Now, it's crammed with everything from a piano, old bikes, bins and various cans of nails and rusty screws deemed too valuable to toss away. You can imagine their delight when one bin of Christmas lights marked "summer toys" was unearthed. The fact that only two stands of twenty worked did not diminish their pleasure. THEY WERE RIGHT and we had HIDDEN the lights.
I'm sure it's childish but I shall have my revenge. I KNOW where all the Christmas tree ornaments are!
The long week, Part 3 tomorrow. . . .

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A VERY Long Week--Part One

Last week turned into a very long, hectic, holidayish week. To give it full justice, now that I'm semi-recovered, I thought I'd divide it into parts.

Monday--I love Mondays. Usually. It's a chance to begin again, a new start to fix everything that went wrong the week before. That being said, it doesn't always work out that Monday is the best day of the week or the easiest. We began with school, moving along quite well. Things fizzled out of control very quickly when I had to stop to rush on errands in town. This is never good. Rushed to town, rushed home and got the boys moving. They go to the Knights club on Monday afternoon so we needed to leave. We technically had plenty of time to get there on time until we encountered an accident. Okay. We can be patient. We wait. And wait. And wait. Finally we are allowed to proceed on our way. Five minutes later, at another intersection we find another accident. Patience ebbs fast. We wait and wait and wait. We are now in the teeth grinding, we better get there on time or else, mode.

I make it five minutes before Fr. S. arrives. The boys jump out, eager to play games in the freezing cold. I rush to meet my cousin who needs me to pick up her boys. They jump in the car, we rush back to the park, they get out and I wait until I'm sure they have caught up with the group. Rush back to my cousin and we proceed to the Library where I sometimes volunteer with the Girls' group. My cousin and her daughter follow me.

In the interest of scouting up people to enter the December, "Cookies and Milk" contest, I ask if anyone wants a copy of our latest contest. They do. Run into the library from the meeting room and find the copier---the only copier--is OUT OF ORDER. And gee, everything was going so well up to that point!

The girls make Christmas cards. It's a relaxing activity after so much rushing. Later, I pick up the boys and my cousin decides to follow us home. Houseguests! Two of the boys ride with me and we listen to the Christmas music channel on the way home.

TUESDAY---All six children wake up early. Very early. Jarrod and Miah are ecstatic. Company to play with. No school work and a free day. I spend the day visiting, picking up, washing dishes and planning for a field trip the next day. My sanity ebbs fast. In the afternoon, my dear friend, Erica, calls and I'm able to make it through the rest of the night. THANKS! You'll never know how much I appreciated talking to someone over twelve, not crying, yelling or spilling toys.

Tuesday evening was the first night of the Merry Money store at our local library. This year the library decided to "pay" children for every 30 minutes they read during the holiday season. The fake bills--$1 for every 30 minutes--could be spent only on three dates at the library. Until we got there and saw the amount of merchandise, I had no idea it would be so well planned and such a blessing. The idea was for the children to purchase gifts for Mom, Dad, Grandparents, Teachers and siblings. Jarrod and Greg (his cousin), found several teacher gifts for their joint teachers at Leaves of Learning. (Despite several hints that I was his teacher 3 days a week, I don't think any of the nice mugs or sewing kits I pointed out made it into his shopping bag.)

Miah decided to get a nice tiara for Gemma (his cousin) because she hadn't signed up fo the program. He found a folk art Santa made from thread spools he couldn't resist for himself.

My Tuesday ended by going to the laundromat so we'd have warm clothes for our field trip the next day. Which brings me to the end of this post---conclusion in Part Two.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Found this quiz on the Ramblin' Writer blog and had to do it!

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
Hot chocolate and lots of whipped cream!

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Under the tree in lovely, towering piles. Family gifts we wrap.

3. Colored or white lights on tree/house?
Whatever lasted from last year--but I love colored best.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
With all these kids and cats---no way!

5. When do you put up your decorations?
Outside early in Dec. The tree the week before Christmas since we use a live one.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
Cole slaw.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child:
Every year on the day after Thanksgiving, Dad would decorate the outside of our house with Christmas lights. My sister and I would go to bed early so we could watch the lights outside the window and sing Christmas carols.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
I think I was around 11 when I stopped believing completely. Until then I really wanted there to be something truly magical in life and Santa fit the bill.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
We use to go to my aunt's house and open one gift on Christmas Eve--usually new pjs. Now we go to church and open everything in the morning.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
I don't. I pass out the ornaments and let my nieces and nephews do the job. We take the Saturday before Christmas and go to a tree farm to cut it down. Bring it home and sometimes we play holiday music and drink hot chocolate.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? It's pretty to look at and now that I don't work outside in the winter--I may be able to enjoy it.

12. Can you ice skate?
My grandma bought me ice skates one year after I saw the Ice Capades. I wobbled all over creation. As a teen, I took my little sisters to a rink and found out I could skate if my skates were very tight. This Wednesday I'll find out if I still know how. Or not.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
A doll from the Sears catalog. I named her Elizabeth. She had a pink, silky dress, a red velvet coat and I got a white wooden doll cradle with it. It's the only thing I ever wanted so much I slept with the picture under my pillow.

14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
Being with family, hearing from friends.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
Anything--but I love chocolate covered cherries.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
I love it all, but my favorites would be going to cut down the tree, taking the kids to the library to make gingerbread houses, watching Christmas movies and hearing the giggles on Christmas morning when the kids see the tree.

17. What tops your tree? A funny oblong star shape my Dad bought in a Dollar store and insists on buying repeats whenever the old one wears out.

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving? Giving. It's more fun to surprise other people.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
"Have Yourself a Merry, Little Christmas," even though it makes me cry and religious, "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear."

20. Candy Canes?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Snowman Season

I love snowmen! Today on the way home I had to stop at the Dollar Store. Naturally I had to check out the Christmas display and found myself another snowman mug. The kids know I can never resist buying anything with a snowman on it. They have more snowmen mugs, plates, bowls and fuzzies than they can count. Pretty funny when you consider the fact that I don't like snow, cold or winter. It's inconsistent, but I love snowmen. Cute. Funny. Fluffy. Sometimes sad.

Yesterday I had planned a block of writing time. If I got up early enough, I'd have two to three hours of free time while the kids watched Saturday morning cartoons. It began well enough. Fixed myself a thermos of hot tea, fired up the laptop, even LIT a candle (apple orchard.) Managed to work on my middle grade book doing edits to the third chapter. My mistake was probably in going downstairs. Turned out if we were going to make it to the holiday parade on time, we needed to eat. In order to eat, someone had to go shopping. Thankfully, it wasn't me, but I had to supervise the kids.

The shoppers came home. I cooked tacos. Whenever Jenny visits, it has to be tacos on Saturday. We ate. Decided against going to the holiday parade and I ran upstairs for another hour of work. Since edits didn't really "count" as "real" writing, I started to work on worksheets I'd printed out for my mystery book.

Managed two before Emma came. It was a lovely, warm day so we went outside. I sat on the porch steps and "thought" writing. Probably should have done it with a pen and notebook in hand, but Emma was too active. She's 14 months now. After we came in, I showed her a snowman in a water globe---the kind you shake to make a snowstorm. She seemed quite taken with it and even managed to shake it herself.

Tomorrow it's back to work after a week. Need to focus and start writing again.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanksgiving Before and After - - - -One thing I can always find to say about the holidays around here, they end up being more layers than a four layer dessert. I honestly didn't do it on purpose (Cross my heart!) but I managed to pull my back out of place on Sunday. This meant I had to be careful with the before holiday cleaning of the house.
I got some unexpected cleaning help on Wednesday by ****** (name changed to protect the guilty.) It was motivated purely by a special he'd seen on tv showing the common allergens in the home. Each dust mote, I was informed, harboured hideous amounts of breathe eating bugs and filth. We were nothing short of murderers if we tried to cook in a kitchen where this could fall in our turkey and stuffing.
To keep this from happening, the kitchen got a thourough vacumming job. The refrigerator and stove were sanitized until you needed sunglasses to hide the gleem of the surface. (Hey, as long as I didn't have to do it.) I especially enjoyed being able to see out the kitchen windows again. Although eventually all good things had to end. When he stood on a cabinet not meant to be stood upon, and it fell through a hole in the new tile, I figured the rest of the ceiling would never get dusted. I was right. It took awhile to repair the hole (left after we closed off a heating vent with plywood and put tile over it.) So we ate a few dust mites, I'm sure.

On Monday, the boys and I did some general cleaning. On Tuesday we did a bit more. By Wednesday, we only had some touch up, grocery shopping and substitutions. The substitutions are in anticipation of our youngest guests--we have ten UNDER six. At Easter, I was under the delusion that as a guest in someone's house, if the host said, "no, you can't play with that," the kid kept their grubby little hands OFF. I was wrong. One enterprising little boy managed to climb to the top of the game shelves and upend the entire contents. It took two days to sort out the Monopoly, Clue, Scrabble and umpteen other games that cascaded to the floor. This holiday, we took no chances. We emptied the shelves.

We also took every toy not suitable for the small crowd and hid it in the basement. We use to keep them in closed bins but found this didn't work. If it could be dumped, poured or scattered through out the house, it was. The boys took everything downstairs and brough up a few plastic Fisher Price houses and one bin full of suitable toddler toys.
Another area that usually grated on my nerves and UNDER my feet were the constant upending of the marker box. The little ones love to draw so I save all my scratch, only used on one side paper for the holiday art fest. It keeps them busy and quiet. Except for the scamp or two who uses the marker box as a game---"How many markers and colored pencils can be scattered over a dining room floor?" "How many times?" "How many adults will trip, stumble or fall scittering across them?" This year I got super smart. I took 3 colored pencils, 4 markers, and a small box of 4 crayons. Put them in an empty baby wipe box and that was it. The sum total of drawing tools I felt ablet to pick up 99 times.
We were ready for the onslaught! And then---the unexpected happened. It was such a nice, warm, sunny day hardly anyone stayed inside. The sandbox and swingset got a workout. All the scooters and pogo sticks and wagons and stroller and toy dump trucks were scattered across the fields. After all that preparation, I only picked up the markers ONCE and the blocks this morning. Oh, and 4 Hot Wheels. I felt a bit cheated.
But, hey, there's still Christmas! It can't possibly be 63 degrees then!
The best part of my day---after the food---was the opportunity to get the group shot above. Not everyone is here---HONEST--that isn't all of us---but it's most of us. I'm on the left wearing a dark blue jacket, standing beside my sister, Sharon, in a white blouse holding a baby in pink.

Friday, November 17, 2006

It's beginning to look a lot like. . . . the holidays are approaching. Everyone ran out of school today with the glad tidings of 'no school for a week.' That's one of the beauties of a homeschool "school," we have liberal holidays. Although I always have great plans to do a lot of catch up work with our school curriculmn from Catholic Heritage, we usually take advantage of the time off to loaf. This week we won't be relaxing as much as cleaning, shopping, cooking and entertaining c0mpany.

My writing may take a short hiatus too. Sometimes it's easier to sink into the other layers of my life than to struggle to make time for work.

Should have taken advantage of "free" time today to write. After I dropped the boys off at school, I had about two hours of laundry to do. Several weeks ago, after two YEARS of driving past it, I made a discovery. I found a coin laundry across from the library where I often go during school. This is handy because I can be near the school. It's cheaper. Larger. And a good point when you have to be out somewhere for four or five hours---they have a very nice Ladies Room. I have to laugh every time I use this facility though. For reasons known only to the owner, it's painted a deep, lacquered black. The light bulb has a pink glow, giving it the look of another scene altogether. It's been a wonderful source for speculation. Were they tired of the standard laundromat look? Had some pain to use up?

I spend as much time laughing over the Ladies as I do the sign stenciled to the wall. PLEASE CHECK MACHINES FOR FOREIGN DEBRIS. Under which some wit wrote in pencil, OR GOOD OLD AMERICAN DIRT.

Poured myself a cup of hot tea while the clothes washed and got out my notebook. Although it doesn't work for everyone, I love to jump around on my various projects. Today I felt no inclination to work on a book---Jenny or the cozy. Instead, I decided to work on a travel piece that's been in my mind for some time. Little Boys on the Prairie. Didn't get much done--two pages, but it's a start.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Just another day. . . .

Two days a week, my nephews go to school in this converted barn. I've managed to get my mornings pretty streamlined. People are shocked when I admit I can get up at 7:45 and be out the door by 8:20. (Although when I told someone I did not bother to put on makeup, they said, yup, that would add another hour. My family think they are all comedians.)
Because it's too far to travel from the school to home--I usually find somewhere to write. Wednesday, I decided to vary my routine and go back to the library where I can hide in a cubby and plug in my laptop. It came as a surprise to me last year that the library does not expect anyone to PLUG IN a laptop. Apparently, one is suppose to have enough battery power to last. When I asked one librarian, she responded, "Well, gee, nobody has ever asked that before. Do they plug in?" When I asked if I could use a plug, she told me that it would be best not to in case someone tripped over the cord. Insurance rates, you know. My thought was that if someone was too HM! to miss a six foot cord sprawled across the floor they should trip. Being of a politer nature, I decided to appear to give in and find an out of the way spot. I pay taxes for the dirty darned insurance rates too.
After snooping around a bit, I found a nice cubby desk in the teen corner with a PLUG! It did require me to sprawl the cord a few feet, pry out a baby safety plug and plug in---but after I did that for months last year, no one said a word. This week, I decided to go back and see if my old haunt was still there. It was. I plugged in and a librarian even came back and made no comment about my plug.
The funny thing was that since last fall there has been an addition to the corner. I didn't notice until I got ready to leave that the whole two hours I wrote, my every action was caught in one of those huge, glassy globes that hang from the ceiling. So much for privacy.
Am not sure how often I'll go there, but this week I managed two hours work on my mid-grade. The day was rainy, gray and a perfect stay inside and write mood. I could hear thunder crashing outside and frequent downpours.
After that, I went to my other library--the one where they moved my plug in table! Going for the cozy corner look, they took out the copier and moved two wing back chairs and a nice table where I use to plug in. I only go there to play on their high speed internet or write in long hand.
Opted to stay in the car, the rain sluicing down the windows with my thermos of hot tea and work out the plot on my cozy mystery. Rain is a wonderful setting for this project!
As a reward for so much writing in a day, I searched through my purse for any stray change and made a quick stop in JoAnn crafts for scrapbook supplies. (Spending change isn't like spending money. And, yes, I made that up!)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

You know you live with a writer when. . . .
You have several funny stories that involve writing. Last night, Sister #2 announces that she might quit her job and write a book about how the whole family got thin. (This is a joke, the writing part.) My nephew, Jarrod, said, "That's going to be a short book. We didn't. The end."

Another writing funny happened this summer. Miah told his mom on vacation, "I wish I was a main character." When she asked him why, he replied, "Because if we were the main characters, we could take a helicopter ride. If the helicopter crashed, we'd live anyway."

This morning, using an unexpected free day to get caught up on some writing, Miah came into the room with a question. "How do you write your books?" I was tempted to answer, "One word at a time."

Today was a nice ME day. Did some cleaning, writing, scrapbooking, walking and errand running. Now that it's coming to an end, I realize the bitter truth. I should have goofed off more and not been so responsible!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Myth Smasher

I turned into a myth smasher last Saturday. Not that I'm entirely to blame. How was I to know that the kids still believed olives grew with the pimento inside? We'd somehow gotten on a conversation about Thanksgiving and food. The number one food of choice was .......OLIVES!

Jenny wanted to know how they grew. I shared what agricultural knowledge I had about how olives grew on bushes. Somewhere in the conversation I let the truth slip out---olives grew with a pit inside, not a pimento. The furor, the uproar, the protests of denial! Olives didn't grow with the red thing inside? Nope. The kids were equally horrified to know you can't just pick an olive and eat it like a pea or tomato. I'm sure they'll never look at an olive the same way again.

For those who enjoy the fictional Jenny, she makes a brief appearance in the November issue of Fandangle online magazine. The piece is a fictional essay called, Thanksgiving Is. . . .

I also started work on a long overdue project. It's a cozy mystery. Figured I could spare a half an hour a night to write a first draft. So far I've managed two session. The first night I kept going and wrote for almost an hour. Last night I did 45 minutes. I also spent my time in the laundromat yesterday morning working on a chapter by chapter outline. It was fun to see how much I could get done racing the washers and dryers. So many surprising characters and situations are popping up it's like making a new discovery every time I sit down to write. I have a tentative plan, some scenes and most of my characters.

We had a glorious two days of summerlike weather. Now the cold and rain has come to stay awhile. A good time to stay inside and write.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Last Wednesday should have been a ME day. Everyone would be gone. I could catch up on a lot of small chores and spend the afternoon writing. Got up extra early, wrote out a list about ten miles long of stuff to do and started work.

Knowing I'd feel guilty for even starting any "fun" stuff when there was cleaning to finish, I did all those chores first. Cleaned the kitchen, tidied the living room and my bedroom. Swept, mopped, washed dishes. I did hold off on flea combing the cats, thinking I'd take a nice long bath.

Naturally, I hadn't been soaking long enough when the phone rang. I ignored it twice, then decided maybe it was important. GRRRRRRRRRRRR.....I raced through dripping all over the floor and it was a blocked call! Debated about getting back in then decided to just stay out.

By then my stomach started to hurt and I realized I hadn't eaten anything. Tried to fix some potato salad (my favorite nobody's home comfort food) but I couldn't eat it. By then I was VERY sick. A virus raced by and slammed me like an ocean wave.

I'm slowly getting over it. Thankfully, I feel better every day. But it sure doesn't seem fair I got the cleaning done before it hit. If you're going to get sick, wouldn't it be better to do it before you clean?

Although I was too sick to care much---November 1st our second, "Cookies and Milk" page hit the newstand! HOORAY! Maribeth called and I was able to have someone get a copy of the paper. Patty later sent an email from Mr. Ryan, our editor, to let us know he liked it and we were getting good reader response. It doesn't get any better than that.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Friday Facts
There are some days that defy description. Have you ever noticed that? There are moments so weird you have to wonder if you aren't still dreaming. Some days where it feels as if you are running in place without being able to get past a set point. Friday was like that.

It began on a calm note--me, drinking my tea while the boys got ready for school. Reality came with one quick peek in my purse. No money for gas or lunches. That meant a fast trip to town to the ATM. No hassle, at that point I still had plenty of time.

Got to the ATM. Temporarily out of service. Okay, time is moving onward, but I still had time to drive to the OTHER side of town and find another ATM. Yikes, the second bank has taken OUT their ATM. I notice a "foreign" ATM on the edge of the parking lot. Will it take my card? It does. I'm asked if I'll pay a dollar fifty for the privledge of using their machine. Okay, okay. After all that it DENIES my request! Dirty darn.

Race home. Time is definitely heading toward late. Count quarters for gas. Toss some cheese on crackers and advise the boys to fill up before we leave. I'll bring them a snack from the dollar store after school.

We manage to get to school with two minutes to spare. Frazzled, I decide to go to Sister #3's house to make a pot of coffee and relax. Jenny is home from school but she's usually pretty quiet. Surprise, surprise. There's a full house coming and going! To be sociable I have coffee with my sister and she urges me to get out my laptop. I do, but then Jenny sits down with a waffle (covered in chocolate syrup) and has an actual conversation with me. Spend time with her then when she decides to watch tv---I work a bit, fill my thermos and head on out.

Have just enough time to run in the library and check email.

For some reason I have yet to fathom, I didn't sit in my usual place. The library has a bank of computers along the back wall of the children's room. I usually sit on one edge near the paperbacks nobody checks out. Friday I happened to sit in the last PC right next to the one with children's games on it. I'd been typing about ten minutes when a little boy popped up at tmy elbow and told me to "Turn on Thomas." Thankfully, his mother came along and did it for him. Then she sat down on my other side to check her email. Now the sensible thing to do would have been to switch with her. But I was right in the middle of emails, not intending to stay long and didn't feel like logging in again.

Mistake. I was sandwiched between the Mom and the little boy who could not read to follow the instructions. I didn't stay long.

Got snacks for the boys, bought a Goo Goo Cluster for myself and a tuna kit--drove back to the school and had my lunch. The rain poured down so nobody stopped at the car for a chat. I got to eat, drink my thermos of coffee and finish a mystery for 45 WHOLE ENTIRE minutes. Sure hope it doesn't spoil me for the rest of the week.

The picture on top is of Trouble. While any stuffed animal will do in a pinch, her real love is a tiny green alligator the boys named, "Croc." Due to her love and saliva based affections, Croc has to be hidden.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Aunt Maggie and the boys Since I don't know how to put two pictures in one entry, here is the photo we took of Aunt Maggie with Miah and Kris. There isn't a lot we can take her, so we usually make sure to give her edible goodies. Although I believe Kris made it back to the car with those chocolate chip cookies clenched in his hand.

Aunt Maggie is the last of my Grandma's family still alive. There were three sisters: Marie, my grandma, Myrtle and Maggie Sue. Aunt Myrtle was a bit of a scamp. The two other sisters were forever remembering a saying she use to tease them with, "There were three sisters, one was too fat, one was too skinny and one (being herself), was just right." The girls had two older brothers, Kenneth and Denneth.

Memories captured While trying to compact the past weekend into a few sentences, I realized that I couldn't look at each day as a whole. Instead, I found there were moments that stood out. Emma eating a fudgesicle---her first, all by herself. The sunshine--warm, golden and daring winter to come. (It did. Sunday was freezing and Monday I saw snow flurries.) Jenny and Jarrod tossing a football in the field. Then later the two having an animated discussion on the difference between pirates and pirateers. Although I know they are both smart, it's times like these when you get an "Ah HA!" moment and realize they actually KNOW things. And I can't take credit for teaching either of them about pirates. Jenny's history class had just had a unit on them and Jarrod learned in "Building History." (It sounds like such a neat class, I almost wish I could go!)

Sunday we all went to the nursing home to visit Aunt Maggie. She celebrated her 87th birthday on the 15th. Jarrod and Jenny baked a chocolate cake the night before and we all trooped in bearing gifts. This picture of her with Miah and Kris might someday be a treasure. Kris has only seen her twice in his four years and doesn't remember her. He might remember the toy cars she unearthed in a basket and gave him. The floors are highly polished and make excellent track for the teeny wheels.

Monday I got an unexpected bonus of time. We were all set to begin school for the day when Sister #2 came for the boys. She had business downtown and would take the boys onto their Monday afternoon club. HOORAY! So did I scrapbook, read, watch "The Thin Man" movies I'd rented at the library? Nope. I cleaned my room and went to the laundromat. Kind of dumb, but I really needed to get the room done. Then I took all my quilts and blankets and sheets and washed them. Went to sleep on sweet, fresh smelling quilts so it was worth it. Plus, I got to read for a whole hour by myself!

Had to rush then to get home, eat and get back to the library for a "Cookies and Milk" meeting and the first session of "Let's Write II."

It was a weekend that reminds me of one of my favorite sayings, "We do not remember days, we remember moments."

Friday, October 20, 2006

MEANWHILE. . . . back at the ranch. . . .

My short burst of pride in my organizational skills has ended. Turns out picture day was NOT Wednesday. Turns out we did not know WHEN picture day was because someone lost the paper with the dates. This someone was NOT me because I brough it in and gave it to the parties responsible.

What this meant to me was that I had to be prepared for picture day happening anytime within the next few weeks. I was sure that the paper said October. Thankfully, today was picture day and we got that over with!

Today turned out well in the writing layer. I managed to do a first draft of a cover letter, outline and bibliography for an article. Also did anohter draft of a short story I want to enter into a contest. Transcribed some notes into Word Imperfect and read some manuscripts for two friends. Also mailed a snail mail letter that only took me a month to write.

After having lost my stride the past few weeks, I feel like I'm getting back into the flow with my work. The revisions on the book are done. (I hope.) Will post the last chapter of my second book with my online critique group. The Nov. "Cookies and Milk" column is put to bed. (That's newspaper talk!) Guess now I can turn my attention to all those small projects and then think about another book project.
There are three ideas calling for atteniton so I'm not sure which I'll choose. Maybe more than one.

The boys went to LOL today so I had plenty of time to write and visit JoAnn's for their sale. Bought scrapbook paper, ribbon, puppets for the boys to make and a pen.
I'm anticipating doing some scrapbooking this weekend. There is something that satisfying about gluing, cutting and arranging pages.

Last night, one of my friends said she had given her son a copy of "Legend of the Lost Miner" to read. When she showed him my name and asked if he knew who it was, he said no. How fleeting is fame! Although I rarely remember an author's name either. When she pointed out who I was, Miss Donna, he replied with "Duuuuuuuuude." I've been told the translation equals something like, "How cool is that?"

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Organization or not. . . . This morning I walked into my closet and actually opened a drawer to take out my clean clothes. While this might sound like a 'so what' or 'ho hum' moment, for me it was a second of victory. (Blast of triumphant trumpet music, please.) On Saturday, there was no hope of even finding the closet door. Honest. Reaching the door meant stepping over, in this order, a box of pictures left over from the Fair in September, six bags of stuffed animals, a wooden shelf I thought I might use, the Hoover, a broom, a cascading bed spread I planned to give my niece, and the top of one of the Christmas bins.

The Christmas bin is a story in itself. Mama cat likes to find the oddest, darkest corners of the room to sleep in. For reasons known only to her feline mind, she decided that the top of the storage bins in my closet were the perfect location. During her residency there, she managed to open and shove away the top of the bin. This explains also the bits and pieces of Mrs. Santa (a three part candle holder), ornaments, bows, and assorted tree lights I also had to step over to reach the closet. When I finally got everything out to reorganize, I found I had a pile of laundry to do. A cat making a bed in a mound of Christmas stockings (red velvet), embroidered pillows and napkins is not a mess free zone.

It took about two hours to get everything back and to free up the floor so I could actually open my dresser drawers. My Christmas bins are on top of the storage containers--in October! My usual record for releasing the Christmas bins are the weekend before we get the tree. The bedspread for my niece is now in a wicker chair waiting for her to come. The only thing I'm still tripping over are the wooden shelf and an impish, round, silver ornament. Everytime I reach for it, it rolls out of sight.

Of course, organization in one area seldom means it spreads to any other layer of my life. Take the morning rush to LEAVE THE HOUSE ON TIME FOR SCHOOL. This year I was determined to keep the boys ahead of their school work for LOL and to make sure we arrived on time each day. We might have to work on the homework the day before. (All day--like yesterday we did fractions, decimals and percents. I think I actually learned something.) We did have a bit of a hassle finding Miah's assignment book. It finally came to light under the pile of library books, games and a very dirty pair of socks on top of the piano.

Miah is studying snakes and how they hear. We managed to decipher his assignment and print out the notes he needed for class. BEFORE dark---I mean, that is some kind of record.
We even had time for an evening that did not involve homework.

Which probably goes to prove that an organized evening does not make for a morning to match. Had to rush out of bed, rush up to the ATM, stop at the grocery for lunch and the Cheerios Jarrod needed to measure out for his fraction class. Stopped for gas---waited and waited and waited in line. Home where I had left the boys getting ready. Miah couldn't find his shoes. Jarrod couldn't find the measuring spoons to take to school to measure the Cheerios. We got a late start out of the driveway and horrors, we were five minutes late for school. Thankfully, a lot of other unorganized people were pulling in as we did, including two of the teachers, so the boys scrambled inside with a crowd. Without brushing their hair---on picture day! At least this year we remembered to make sure Miah brushed his teeth so he could smile.

Organization. It's a great concept but a lot of work.

Monday, October 16, 2006

A Historic Moment. . . . in my life anyway. Just finished putting page numbers and running the spell check on my book mansuscript, The Search for the Madonna. And---drum roll please--I just sent it on to the publisher. Hope she likes the revisions I've made.

One thing I'm finding with selling a book is that it's more a group effort than the result of one person writing. Almost three years ago, I had the idea for a children's mystery. I'd always wanted to set a book in one of my favorite periods of history, the Great Depression of the 1930's.
I wanted a book where the main character, Maggie, could collect and scrapbook articles and pictures of the Dionne Quintuplets. (One of my hobbies use to be collecting Quint memoribila and I still love anything to do with multiples from twins on up.) I also wanted a book that would use some tidbits of family history--my German Brandenburg connection and that would feature twins.

Didn't take me long to make a choice about what kind of book I'd write. For someone who still owns every Nancy Drew book she ever read, it was an obvious decision. MYSTERY. There had to be a treasure, a long undiscovered mystery from the past and a farm. I started writing the book in a hotel room in Dearborn, Michigan and finished on a borrowed laptop on my sister's kitchen table. Then the real work began. . . .I had to rewrite it. Again and again and again.

Two friends, Erica and Kathi, went over it with their red, cyber pencils. They corrected, suggeted and gave me ideas to make it a better book. My editor also had ideas. Back to the laptop. More rewrites. More corrections. I burned disks and passed it around. More ideas. More input. Is it finished? Time will tell.

Right this moment, it just feels good to have sent it. Now, back to the mundane ----we are still searching for "A Pup Named Scooby Doo," although we did find the missing duck. Which is another story for another day.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Learning untaught lessons and goofs. . . .mine.

Columbus Day. One of my favorite things about home schooling are the freebies. We live near enough several parks that have teaching programs. Today, we went to Pattison Park for a lesson in condensation and evaporation, some of us more willing than others. My standard attitude is, "I know you’ll have a great time when we get there." I’m usually right. (No brag, just fact. One has to take one’s gold stars where one finds them.)

As we stepped out of the car, several boys playing touch football called out for Jarrod to join them. It turned out they were boys he knew from Leaves of Learning. Don’t you love it when the unexpected turns out to be pleasantly surprising? The park ranger, Keith, had some good experiments to demonstrate the scientific principles. He made it so clear even I began to understand how hot air rises and what makes it rain. (Rain happens when the big jar filled with water tries to pour into the little jar of water and overflows - SPLASH! Although we were to imagine the jars were clouds. I think.) The boys made barometers and learned how to use them.
The ranger also gave ‘homework’ with some worksheets on predicting weather.

One experiment involved baby powder and a light. The idea was to show how heat rises. Miah loved that. We never use baby powder here, so he was quite taken with the fact you could squeeze the can and powder shot out It wasn’t until the next morning I found out he’d decided to do some experimenting on his own. A gritty white powder covered the dining room table, the PC, the printer, and the piano. It had sifted inside my purse, into the keyboard (imagine trying to type with cornmeal crunching with every key), and over all the books. I’ll be wiping the stuff up for days. I can only hope there is no damage inside my PC. Can you imagine telling the repair tech--yes, it does have a lovely orange scent. Yes, there is Carpet Fresh sprinkled into my computer and printer.

At first I wasn’t sure what it could be. . . . then reality dawned in the form of the crushed box of Carpet Fresh. Tropical Orange. Miah admitted he’d squeezed the box to see if it shot out like the baby powder. Somewhere he’d missed the corresponding lesson that some of the baby powder sifted down like powdered sugar. Instead, he was quite pleased with another idea. "Hey, that’s how the clouds make snow!"

Sometimes it’s hard to see the humor in an event until after the fact. Like yesterday. We "did" school. This week we started a unit on the respiratory system in science. For reasons known until to themselves, the boys decided to read the work in a sing song rhythm. Hey, whatever works! The laughed themselves silly over the word ‘trachea’ which Jarrod kept saying was tarantula. Ever literal, Miah kept reminding him there was no L in trachea.
There were no clean clothes for ‘school’ today, so we knew a trip to the laundromat would be the afternoon’s business. Jarrod also wanted to make his winning recipe, "Upside Down Taco" for supper. (He won first prize in the casserole contest at the fair this year.) We did our errands. Got home and Jarrod decided he didn’t want to cook. Would I?

The casserole is pretty simple so I put on the ground beef to brown and decided to check email. Chatted with a friend. Left to mix in the other ingredients and put the casserole in the oven. I’d layered the refried beans and was spooning out the ground beef when I realized I’d left out a step. Before you layer in the ground beef, you mix in water and taco seasoning and let it cook a few minutes. Oops! Have you ever tried to unlayer a casserole? It is not a pretty sight or an easy task. Finally had the corrected casseroles in the oven—one meat, one vegetarian. Went back to my next task, putting a new cartridge in the printer.

I had no trouble putting in the cartridge. The problem came when I tried to print the alignment page. Every time I pressed the "Install new cartridge" button, an error message came up. Printer is not communicating with the computer. I tried once, twice, three times, four. I jiggled plugs. Turned it off and on. Pressed the help link which is very UNHELPFUL because I’d already tried all the steps. I was about to get a hammer and work on some communicating of my own when a thought jiggled in my mind. Was this the right printer?

Not long ago, I bought a Lexmark 1100 printer. Because I am not the only one who uses the printer and pc in this house, this brought a lot of grumbles and gripes. With the 1100 model, you had to turn on the PC to copy. Everyone missed the last printer where you didn’t need a PC to copy but could just push a button. When a 2300 model went on sale at Wal-Mart, I was the first in line. I was tired of the grumbling and complaining.

Because I am not one of those ultra organized people, I never uninstalled the 1100 printer. I know, I know. So there I was trying to install a cartridge in a printer that was upstairs in my closet. When I went to the 2300 icon, it worked in about two seconds. And did I spend the evening uninstalling the 1100 printer? Ha, and waste time better spent scrapbooking!
I'll spread my wings and learn how to fly. . . .

My friend, Erica, says I have an unscripted life. It’s probably a good thing. If my life were a Hollywood script, no one would believe it. Take, for instance, the past few days. . . .
I love Saturdays. In theory, it’s one of my writing days. It’s also one of the days I’m free of being responsible for anyone but me. If my life were the layers of a parfait, Saturdays would be the whipped cream on top. Yeah - right - and if you believe that, I’ve got some choice real estate over a waterway to sell.

This past weekend turned into one of those glorious, autumn days. You know the kind. The leaves glow, the air is cool enough to feel cozy in a sweater and the time stretches in front of you without a demanding list of to do’s to be done. You can sit on the porch and enjoy the sunshine without feeling guilty. Which is how I began my day with a hot cup of coffee and interruptions.
There is something about my sitting down that brings out the sense of urgency in everyone else in the house. "Can you program the VCR at 10:30?" "Come inside and see this drawing!" "The phone is ringing." "Did you see?" "Do you know where. . . .?"

Then there always seems to be someone stopping by. My niece, Justi, came by to bring the
fund raising things I’d had to buy from her son, Austin’s school. He’s five, in school ONE week and he brings home the inevitable catalog with the fever of SELL, SELL, SELL in his blue eyes.
My standard practice is to buy the cheapest thing I can get away with. Most of the time it’s not anything I want. This time I managed to get a nice package of spring bulbs for under five dollars.

Miah came out to inspect the bulbs and managed to drop bulb dust in my hot coffee. One cup down. . . . Not to be deterred, I went for another cup, sat down again in the porch swing and waited for the next interruption. That’s the nice thing about interruptions, you never have to wait long. This one was of the did I see variety.

Obviously I’m missing something here so if anyone reading this can make sense of it, please let me know. My brother in law needed the title to his truck which was totaled about a month ago. For some obscure reason, it was on the dashboard of my car. My bil does not drive my car, is rarely IN my car and rides in it once every six months. There was no reason for him to have decided the best place to keep his title was in my car - yet, he did. And sure, I saw it. Or I saw an official looking envelope. Thinking it was my insurance and title (which should have been in the glove box ), I left it until I could do something with it. My theory being I could see it, it wasn’t lost, so who cared if it was there? The trouble was, when bil went to get his title out, it was gone.For some round about reason it was my fault. Two hours later, it was his keys which he’d left on the microwave. And sure, I saw them. . . .but once again they’d vanished.
Okay - another cup of coffee down - the dog got into it while I was in the house searching for the missing keys. Time to move along to something else. . . .

Some days the layers of my life overlap with annoying frustration. I want parfait perfection, each layer in a neat stripe in the glass, not cheese oozing through the meat and potato layers. Today was one of the oozing ones. I needed to finish a book review for the November issue of "Cookies and Milk." Patty, our intrepid formatter, had to go away for a week and I wanted her to leave with November off her mind. To find the books I needed, ones that could be easily checked out of the local library, I had to be online. The problem was, I only have one phone line and needed to keep it open until Jenny called. (Yes, there really is a Jenny - -my niece, who is nothing like the created one of my stories.) Most Saturdays she calls for someone to pick her up so she can spend the night out here.

I’d race online. Look up a few book titles and authors. Sign off. Check the answering machine. Back online. In the midst of this, my niece, Emma, arrived. She had too many "sitters" for awhile, then everything happened at once. Jenny called. Lori and the boys went to pick her up. Mom and Dad went to see about a car. So there I was with a sixteen month old, column work to be done and no help.

Bowing to the inevitable, we went out in the golden day. Emma loves the outdoors. Today she kept throwing her hands back as if she planned to fly away. I chased after her with the camera, hoping to get the perfect shot. Just as she’d get her hands in ‘fly away’ mode, I’d lose the picture. The one at the top is the only one that came out halfway right. When she got tired, we went inside and slow danced to "My Hero’s have always been cowboys." Sweet baby, sweet song, sweet moment.

Baby asleep. Everyone gone. I finished the column without interruption and sent if off to Patty. Some rare moments, everything goes right, even if they are unscripted.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Girls Night Out

Last night I had a great time meeting with Maribeth and Patty, the other two members of
“Cookies and Milk.” We got together at Bob Evans for dinner, a planning session, and an
early thanksgiving for the awesome week we’ve had.

On Monday, we had the second meeting of our newly formed, Southwestern Ohio Children’s Writer’s Guild. We welcomed a guest speaker and four interested newcomers. Then on Tuesday, after a month of rapid timing on God’s part, we became newspaper columnists. Or is one a columnist when one gets a whole page? Is there such a thing as a newspaper pagist? Our “Cookies and Milk” page debuted in The Times Gazette.

Isn’t life funny sometimes? Something you never anticipated happens? Like worrying about your tire going flat and instead of that, you lose your keys. (Don’t ask.) Finding myself in the newspaper is like that–a who me moment I never expected.

As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. When I graduated from high school, the options for going to college to BE a writer were somewhat slim. If you wanted to be a journalist, fine. There were schools for that. Fiction, huh? Better get a day job and forget it. These days you can specialize in esoteric topics like gum paste or medieval weapons and no one bats an eye. You can probably go to Gum Paste U, make candied violets for cakes your entire life, and become an ‘authority.’ Not so my senior year. If you wanted to be a writer, there was only one acceptable course—journalism. That would have been fine except for one thing. I thought writing for newspapers had to be one of the dullest job on the planet. It was too rigid. Too formalistic. Too boring. It wasn’t a dream I entertained at all. I’m not a bit ashamed to have my former thoughts proven wrong.

“Cookies and Milk” is turning out to a wonderful learning experience. That the three of us have been able to come together, that we work well as a team and are producing a great page is nothing short of God inspired. Last night we couldn’t help but reflect back on the short time we’ve actually known one another. This truly has all come about as perfect timing. I anticipate working with these two wonderful ladies for a long time

I’m also glad to find there is nothing boring about writing for the newspaper. The opposite is true instead. Tuesday saw the debut of my Jenny character in PRINT. My “baby” went out into the big, wide world. Having people read Jenny is a dream come true. Fiction in a newspaper, what a twist

When I was a little girl, I put myself to sleep with Jenny stories. Jenny came from our family’s love of westerns. If it had horses or cowboys in it, Dad watched it. If we wanted to watch, and what kid didn’t, we watched westerns. My favorite was “The Big Valley.” Oh, I loved that debonair Jarrod Barkley....and it was easy to imagine him having a neat daughter named Jenny. Jenny was my alter ego—the daring cowgirl with her own pony, a houseful of doting family and a whole ranch to have adventures on. A far cry from my own suburban existence as a shy, bookish kid who was afraid of any animal bigger than a kitten.

As I got older, I put Jenny away for a bit with my tattered dolls and Nancy Drew books. There were times when I pulled her out of my imagination at night, using her for comfort as I escaped into the snug world I’d created for her. I didn’t try to write Jenny until I discovered the world of fan fiction. Sometimes people ask me if I’m embarrassed to admit I write fan fiction–Big Valley to be precise. Nope, not a bit. At a time in my life when I thought I’d never be able to write again, I stumbled into the “Valley” and reconnected to a character I loved. Jenny came to life in a way I’d never thought possible. People actually LIKED her.

For the newspaper column, and the Jenny books I’m working on, she had to go mainstream. She’s no longer Jarrod Barkley’s little girl, but she’s still the mischievous character of my imagination. Seeing her in print is a dream come true. It’s been a truly awesome week. Dirty darn, as Jenny would say, life is good

Now if I could just find those lost car keys. . . .

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Johnny Appleseed, a dead mouse and a writer’s meeting–oh, and a missing DVD.

If I were to elaborate on my theme of "layers of life," today would be like the casserole dropped on the way to the church supper. Everything is in there, but it sure doesn’t look like the glossy magazine recipe you followed. Nothing went as it was suppose to, but somehow it all melded together and didn’t turn out half bad.

Monday begins another week of homeschooling. We’d skipped his birthday last week (Sept. 26), so I thought the boys might enjoy a unit on Johnny Appleseed today. Even if they didn’t, it’s September and I LOVE the story of the man who went around spreading apple seeds during the early days of America.

We started off in record time (always be wary of starting anything early.) Miah and I had just printed out the word search to begin the day when we heard company. It turned out to be my nephew, Bret, in between classes at the community college. He joined us for the word search (we’re all word search fanatics and enjoy a challenging race to start the day.) We managed to keep him through our spelling review and quiz. With the added bonus of "showing off," the boys raced through their work with plenty of time to spend the afternoon outside. I love it when a "plan" comes together.

It turned out to be one of those glorious autumn days someone copied from a picture postcard. Warm, sunny, the colors of the leaves and sky POPPING like a Gauguin painting. I took advantage of having Bret entertain the boys to look for a missing DVD.

Ever since we remodeled the kitchen and added digital cable, we’ve been renewing and searching for "A Pup Named Scooby-Doo." It vanished between the layers of pots, pans, boxes, video tapes, toys, clothes and everything else that got displaced. I’d been through all the book shelves, all the games, all the DVD holders of other movies when I decided to move the couch and love seat. I found a month’s worth of dust balls, a pacifier I searched all over for the week before with a baby screaming on my hip, toys and under the couch a very dead, very flat....mouse.
I swept him up and tossed him over the porch in the marigolds before the boys noticed. I didn’t find the DVD.

About that time, Miah came up to search for the binoculars. He’d seen a bug, "with a mustache and chain saw claws" and wanted a closer look. I went along, just in case. We went to the bug’s last known address but he’d vanished. I wasn’t sure if I should be happy at Miah’s vivid imagination, terrified if such an insect did exist or worried it might be watching me from behind some leaf. We tried to find the insect’s identity in a bug book, but none of them said anything about "chain saw claws." I was too intimidated to search for a bug with a mustache.

Tonight was the second meeting of the Southwest Ohio Children’s Writing Guild. We had a guest speaker, a wonderful teacher named Becky Storer, from Southern State Community College. She gave an informative presentation on children’s books. A few new members showed up----HOORAY!–so it looks as if we are growing. Who ever thought so much could happen in such a few short months?

I have to take time to mention my newest writing friends, Maribeth and Patty. The three of us met at Carol Cartaino’s "Let’s Write" series at our local library. We discovered we enjoyed writing for children and decided to form the SOCWG. Our main goal for the last two months has been to start a column for children in our local paper. We owe a debt of gratitude to another super lady, Gwen Clark, who writes the Clark Bar Devotions in the paper. She went to bat for us, interested the editor in our idea, and before we could catch our breath, we were columnists!
"Cookies and Milk" made it’s debut today in the October issue.

The three of us consider our meeting, the column, and the encouragement we’ve been able to give one another as gifts from God. In the scheme of writing possibilities, things rarely happen this fast or this wonderful. Guess it’s given new meaning to the verse, "With God ALL things are possible."

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Most people who know me also know that I homeschool two of my nephews. Two days a week, the boys take enrichment classes at a "school" for homeschoolers called "Leaves of Learning." Three days a week are our "at home" school and two are our "away" days.

Today was a Thursday an at home day. We went through our spelling, some review work and did a two part play from Rare Catholic Stories and Poems. There were three parts---Thomas, the "Evil Advisor" of the title, Frank, the boy who does wrong and Father. The boy's real life Dad got home in time to take that part.

Jarrod read the part of Frank with a Swedish accent. Miah took the part of Thomas and the prompter. Each of his lines of dialogue were read like this: "Frank: What happened to the letter? Thomas. You talk, Thomas." We had a great time with the play and a lively discussion about picking the right companions.

Most Thursday nights we go to "Storytime" at the local library. This week turned out to be Fire Safety week. The firemen came with the Smoke House--a trailer set up like a play house with a fire alarm, escape window and a ladder the children can climb out of to "pretend" escaping from a fire. Usually, the firemen simulate a fire by using "fake" smoke. Miah informed me it's not really smoke. "It's just fog. You pretend the house is filling up with smoke and you have to crawl to the window and get out before you die." It was cold and rainy tonight, so the firemen couldn't use the fog. Everyone got a turn to listen for the fire alarm, crawl out the window and down the ladder.

Once back home, Jarrod remembered he has homework for "Leaves of Learning."
"I need to look up the Winkle Trio."

Never having heard of this particular topic, I searched. I Googled. I Asked Jeeves. We got lots of Winkles. Lots of Trio. No Winkle Trio. "Are you sure that's what you wrote down in your assignment book?" Unlike last year, we are stressing the importance of writing NEAT and LEGIBLE in the notebooks this year. Three weeks into the LOL year, we have hit our first glitch.

"Well," he decides, "I think it's Winkle Triple."

Ah, a minor spelling error. Surely there is something called a Winkle Triple. Do you know how many hits you get that have Winkle and Triple without being together? Clearly, we are not searching for the right topic. It's time for a question that might narrow down the search.

"What class is this for? What's it about?"

"It's something about a map."

I read the scribbles in the assignment book. Yes, I can make out the word, "map" three times. We're onto something here. The Winkle is there..but it is not trio or triple, it looks like Tripei. Is that a foreign country? Or is that slash after the e another letter? An L? An I?

Back to the search engines. Finally, one takes pity on me and asks: Are you searching for Winkel Tripel? Do I know? I press it and----oh, JOY! It is WINKEL TRIPEL--there is such a thing and it has to do with maps. It takes more research before we can find out what exactly it is because every page only wants me to buy a map. No one cares if I learn more about it.

Persistence pays off. A Winkel Tripel map is a map that shows the ROUND earth on a FLAT paper with minimal distortion. It was the creation of a cartographer named Oswald Winkel. It's probably one of those facts I could have lived without, but who knows?

If I ever make it to "Jeopardy," I might need to know about Oswald.

Friday, September 29, 2006

I never planned to write a blog. Ever. Until two of my persistent friends (names withheld to protect the guilty), decided I needed something else to do with my time. So here I am with a--gasp---blog. People can dress it up with a "fancy" word, as my Grandma use to say, but don't let anybody fool you. A blog is just a blank cyber sheet of paper you have to fill with words.

In order not to bore the reader more than necessary, I won't begin at the beginning of my life. (Although I am of the firm opinion a fair amount of boredom is a requirement in any life. If you are never bored, how do you know when you aren't?) Readers will not be given a recital that starts as Charles Dicken's did in David Copperfield: To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born.

So, where to begin? How about my reason for naming this blog, Layers of Life?

It's often seemed to me that my life is layered like a one dish casserole or a parfait. Living in a multi-generational household, finding time for writing, homeschooling, carpooling, day care and a thousand and one other things are the layers in my life. No day, just as no bite of a casserole, is ever the same. Around here, some days are chunk full of the meaty, melted cheesy, best bite you've ever eaten layers. Other days are the, yuck I got the burnt crust on the bottom with the hidden zucchini days.
While some blogs focus on one theme, I knew that would never work for me. I could never squeeze my life into a main dish or single entree' version. (And everyone thought all those hours I watch Food Network would never amount to any good!)

If you are one of those people who likes to read blogs where all the tidbits are in tidy separate compartments---like a tv dinner tray---you probably won't enjoy this.

But, if you think life should be layered like a yummy four layer dessert, then I hope you enjoy it. I can't promise whipped cream in every post, but there will always be another layer to try.