Love it; love it not.

In honor of Valentines Day yesterday, here are a few things I love—or not.

I love that my fourteen-year-old and her friend were happy with their “single” status this Valentines Day. Here she is, wearing the shirt she made, celebrating her boyfriendless status and warning guys she’s planning to stay that way.

But . . . It didn’t really matter. Tonight she came in and flopped on my bed and told me about the guy she likes and how he likes her back. ARRGH! I do not like the whole teenage romance thing. Worry #784 to add to my list of things I think about at night when I should be falling asleep.

I love that my husband and I were able to go out to dinner at the Olive Garden last night. I love that I got dressed up and did my hair and met him there after work. I loved sitting across the table from him, holding his hands, and pretty much keeping to our rule of not discussing our offspring. I love that we both had cards for each other. I love that mine made him laugh and his made me blush. Dinner was excellent; the company was even better.

But . . . I did not love the family of six sitting behind us. I did not love their noisy kids who were climbing across the table. I did love that it wasn’t us disturbing the peace this time. Yes, we have been there, done that—-as recently as December when we went out to celebrate my birthday. During that excursion, Andrew kept reaching over the booth to pat the guy behind us on the head (he was bald), he spit rice all over the table, and he knocked over a glass and it shattered in my dinner. I really do get the whole “trying to take your children out to eat with you” thing. But on Valentines? Only in Utah.

I love that we have church from 1-4 this year. Every other week—those weeks it isn’t my turn to get up with our toddler who thinks 5:30 a.m. is an acceptable time to rise—I get to sleep in. I love that we’re making good use of our Sunday mornings (my girls are not loving working on personal progress every week, but I am!). And finally, I love being on time to church and not feeling rushed.

But . . . I do NOT love the 1-4 church schedule because it is right during naptime (some serious extra blessings for the nursery leaders this year!). This is Andrew last Sunday after church. I was fixing dinner as fast as I possibly could, but he didn’t make it.

What do you do with a two-year-old who falls asleep at 4:15? If you wake him up—as we did last Sunday—you suffer the wrath of the two-year-old the rest of the night. He literally cried for an hour. If you let him sleep, he’ll wake up around midnight and realize he’s starving and he’d like dinner and some playtime. Either way it’s ugly.

I love the TV show, The Middle. It makes me feel waaaay better about our family (compared to the Hecks, we are normal), and it’s my comic relief—when I get to watch it.

But . . . I do not love that it is on at 7:00 Wednesday evenings, a time nearly impossible for me to watch TV. I do love that my son set up NetFlicks on our computer when he was home last weekend. I do not love that the past two days I’ve caught my daughter watching Scooby doo when she was supposed to be doing her K12 lessons. Now I’ve got to have consequences and monitor her and—Sigh. One step forward; two steps back.

I love that I’ve been meeting my goal of blogging regularly again.

But . . . I do not love that I still haven’t turned in my next manuscript to Covenant, nor have I sent out all those queries I told myself I would during the first quarter of this year. To that end, I need to start writing shorter posts!

I’d love to hear your love and love nots. It seems to me that everything really does have two sides. I hope your Valentines Day weighed in on the love side and was brimming with romance.

The Provo Tabernacle–My personal Memories

This evening I had the privilege of attending Lex De Azevedo’s Gloria, The Life of Christ, Part 1. In addition to being an absolutely spectacular and moving performance, it was also a dedication to the memory of the Provo Tabernacle and the spirit our entire community enjoyed in that beautiful building. Mayor Curtis urged all in attendance to take a few minutes to write down our own experiences there, to reflect on the “soul” of that special place and what it meant to us. My memories, while not as plentiful or poignant as those President Holland and others shared this evening, are nonetheless dear to me. The Provo Tabernacle was just a building, but it was also a marvelous piece of history which myself and thousands of others were in some small way entwined in.

Back in the good old days–1986, to be exact– when I was a Freshman at BYU, I had my first glimpse of the Provo Tabernacle. I was on a date, headed to a now non-existent dance club on Center Street. Unfortunately, I ended up having a slight problem that evening. I was a young freshman, just seventeen years-old, and one had to be eighteen to enter the dance club. I don’t remember the particulars of how we worked out that evening, but I do remember standing outside, feeling embarassed and frustrated, as we discussed the matter near the shadow of the tabernacle. And while I don’t remember the outcome of that night, I do remember my enchantment with BYU and Provo. It was my first time downtown, and I loved the quaint, old buildings and the small-town feel of things. It was a magical time in my life, and downtown Provo seemed to add to the magic and uniqueness of my BYU experience.

Several years later, I started attending the tabernacle on a regular basis. Instead of returning to our California roots, my husband and I were thrilled when he was offered a job at Provo City and we were able to return to Utah just eight months after we’d graduated and left. Soon we’d settled into our first home and attended the first of many stake conferences at the tabernacle. Our family had a favorite bench, on the first floor, north side, second row in. We sat there for years, freezing a little in January and enjoying the occasional breeze in July, when frustrated parents exited the nearby side doors with their fussy toddlers in tow. Our children often asked when we could move up to balcony seats (as if those required a change in status), and we’d told them we’d consider it when everyone was old enough that we didn’t have to worry so much about one of our children pitching himself or herself over the edge. We were still a few years away from that one. Sorry kids. Wish we’d let you have your way at least once.

I walked the back hall area with our own fussy toddlers, nursed my babies in the way-too-small mother’s lounge, and stood in line with more than one of my little girls hopping up and down as they waited for their turn in the also too-small bathroom.

One year I sat in the choir seats and had the opportunity to sing at conference. I heard my husband’s name read from the pulpit as his ordination from Elder to High Priest was announced when he was called into a bishopric. I looked forward to someday hearing our children’s names announced when they received mission calls. For the past few years our older children have walked up the steps after conference to retrieve the flowers from the podium so their dad, the bishop then, could distribute them to ward members.

In addition to stake conference, we’ve sat in those pews enjoying performances by the Utah Valley Handbell Choir, the Utah Valley Symphony, and numerous other concerts and performances. Probably most memorable are all the years our family Christmas traditions have included the Living Nativity the first week of December. My husband participated in the pageant twice, once as a wise man and once as a prophet. For years we attended the outdoor show and sat huddled in blankets, watching as the lawn outside the tabernacle was temporarily transformed into Bethlehem, animals and all. When the show moved inside a few years ago, we rejoiced in the warmer seats, but admittedly missed the authenticity of the outdoor setting. Just a few short weeks ago–on my birthday, December 3rd–our family sat in the tabernacle, once more enjoying the short program and time to reflect on our Savior’s birth and the Christmas season. I remember looking up at the star suspended from the ceiling and wondering how it had been attached and what a job that must have been, as the ceiling is so high. On the heels of that curious thought came the more profound one of what a miracle the real star of Bethlehem represented to those who saw it and to all who remember it now. As I’d been so many times before in that sacred place, I felt my heart touched as I thought of our Savior Jesus Christ and all his miraculous birth means to me.

Simple memories, yes. But important to me and my family. Seeing the tabernacle on fire brought immediate tears of dismay. Knowing we’ll never sit on that same bench, pry another child’s fingers from those same pillars, or stare up at the beautiful windows and woodwork brings a pang of sadness to my heart. Yet the prayer said before the performance tonight put it all into perspective. We’ve lost a beautiful place we all loved, but let us take away from that sorrow more empathy for those everywhere who have lost so much more. We live in a blessed, beautiful valley. Compared with much of the world, our life here is peaceful, abundant, and happy. May we ever remember that and remember to cherish and feel gratitude for what we do have, simple or grand as that may be.

That’s a wrap!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I love all things having to do with fall and the holdays. I feel a little giddy when September arrives and I notice the first color changes on the mountains. But by the time December and Christmas are upon us, I’m exhausted, positively wiped out from all this joyous season entails. It’s truly the most wonderful and insane time of the year.

As a result, I didn’t post about homeschool for October or November, nor have I posted anything about writing lately. So today’s summary is going to wrap all that up into one—including a note about an opportunity to win Covenant’s 2010 Christmas Anthology, Where Will Christmas Find Us? For more info. on that, keep reading. But first, a quick run-down of the craziness we’ve had around here the past sixty or so days.

With homeschool—science units on Oceanography and the Atmosphere, complete with a boatload of fun experiments. A field trip to the Scera to see The Reluctant Dragon, and another to The Covey Center to see Knuffle Bunny . We made more salt dough models (I think children will recall anything they learn if they get to make it in salt dough), read more of the Sarah Plain and Tall Series, the Fudge series, and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. We visited Pumpkin Land (where my daughter sadly informed me that this is her last year there, as she is getting too big), made Frankenstein Jello, and had a party that used up a good portion of our toilet paper supply.

For Halloween I sewed Woody and Jessie costumes for my two youngest, and on the 29th both started and finished Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head for my husband and I. On the 30th we had about 25 people here for our traditional soup and chili dinner before trick-or-treating. Those same 25 plus a few more joined us for a crazy, chaotic Thanksgiving. Throw in a school play here and a dance recital there, along with a trip or two to visit our son at college and whew! What a couple of months. It was crazy and fun and left me so exhausted that I’ve yet to remove the rotting pumpkins from my front porch. Maybe I’ll just throw some garland on them if I ever get around to decorating the outside of our house for Christmas.

As for writing . . . are you laughing yet? Superwoman I am not, and unfortunately, my writing is the thing that suffers most in all this madness. And that, while as it should be–I have the rest of my life to write, but only so long with our children–is still painful. I miss my characters and creativity. Thankfully weekends like the earlier Authors Incognito retreat, allow me to see that the creativity is still there, hibernating in my brain until a later date when I am allowed more than two seconds at a time for coherent thought.

But I do have some exciting news. First, Covenant’s 2010 Christmas short story collection is now available in stores. Twelve authors, myself included, have shared Christmas memories about poignant moments in our lives. Today, over at Tristi Pinkston’s Blog, you can win a free copy as part of her Merry Month of Miracles countdown to her next release, Dearly Departed. I haven’t had a sneak peak at Tristi’s latest book, but you can read here, how much I’ve loved her other books. I’m looking forward to curling up with this next one on a snowy January day.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying hanging out at Tristi’s blog all month. She is one of those people that make me tired just thinking of all she does. From homeschooling all four of her children, to writing much faster than I do, to blogging, book reviews, editing etc. she is one amazing lady. The first time I met Tristi she was teaching a class at the Storymakers conference in 2007. What she said in that class, about being true to ourselves in our writing, so resonated with me that I felt I knew her well already and that she was a Kindred spirit. Congratulations Tristi, on your upcoming book and all that you do. You inspire slackers like me!

And speaking of slackers, upcoming releases, and miracles . . . Covenant will be publishing one of my historical romances this spring. More on that later. But now, I’ve got a math lesson to teach :)

Happy Holidays everyone. May your days be merry and bright, and may you get more sleep than I do at night!

UEA = Utah Escape Activities

I love Autumn, and living in Utah it is made even better by the annual fall break or UEA (Utah Education Association) days each October. In the past our family has–with half the state–headed south to Disneyland, Seaworld and the like, but this year we’re staying closer to home. We started our week early at a local pumpkin patch where we enjoyed perfect weather and my youngest got to chase a squealing pig around and around the farmyard.

After that it was time for fun without our children–and yes, we sure heard from them what dreadful parents we are for leaving them at home on their school break. I think it’s very important to be dreadful sometimes! A night at the Homestead Resort in Midway, an hour long soak in their mineral hot spring crater, a quiet dinner together—where we didn’t have to clean up any spills, cut anyone’s meat, or referee any teen arguments—and a day spent exploring art galleries and seeing the fall colors was the perfect escape. It is quite amazing what twenty-four hours of peace can do to rejuvenate the spirit.

Perhaps that is what the leaders of UEA had in mind when they first started this long-standing tradition. Teachers, probably more than anyone I know, need a break, need to have their reservoirs of patience, motivation, and inspiration refilled. How wonderful that those of us in Utah have the same opportunity to “take a break” each fall. This time of year, and this time spent with my family has become one of my favorite things.

My wish for everyone–may each of you find the time for your own autumn escape, the time to slow down and simply enjoy.


Off and Running

Last year my both my blogging habits and my blog reading habits changed quite a bit. Instead of spending what little time I had at the computer focused on writing, I found myself lurking on homeschool sites as I tried to hurriedly educate myself on the huge venture I’d undertaken. Many of those sites became my lifeline. Just knowing there were other moms out there struggling through the daily and, at times, overwhelming task of educating their children was an immense comfort. Even more than this comfort, I found inspiration in their ideas and enthusiasm. And now—a scant year later—I feel ready to share some of my own creative ideas and solutions. What a difference that year has made. Our days are certainly not perfect, and my daughter’s learning challenges continue to be many, but we are making this work. More than that, we are making the work fun.

So, aside from my monstrously big goal of finding time to write seriously again, I’ve also set a goal to blog about our homeschool at least once a month this year. It will keep me accountable, and just maybe some other “newbie” homeschool mother will stumble upon my post and find her own inspiration to keep on going.

And with that, here is a glimpse of our first month of the 2010-2011 school year. I’m happy to say that we are off and running.

As a review before our Science Unit 1 test on the water cycle, I filled up water balloons and wrote vocabulary words on them. The girls had several turns to be blindfolded and pick a balloon. If they could give the correct definition of the word on their balloons, then they were allowed to keep the balloons or pop them however they wanted to. But . . . if they got the definition wrong, I got to pop the balloons over their heads. It was a lot of fun, everyone aced the test, and I’m pretty confident they will remember what we learned for a long time.

Hannah continues to be a wonder with clay. One thing I learned last year is that it is important to have fun! As our budget is tight this year (son in college), we’ve had to cut back on a lot of the extra curricular activities we did last year. Instead we’ve incorporated weekly art, cooking, and sewing (she is a crafty type girl :D) into our curriculum. The morning is for being serious; the afternoon is still about learning but less with books and more with hands on.

Andrew is—not a baby anymore! Or at least he doesn’t think he is. Things are a little trickier this year, as he naps less and wants to do everything that we are. I’ve found it best if we let him help where he can. It takes longer to get through our day, but having a toddler around certainly keeps things lively. And no one will ever be able to tell me that homeschooled children are not able to focus like children in a regular classroom can. Have you ever tried taking a math test with a 21 month old driving his muscial fire truck around and around and around your desk?

To ease a bit of our mom stress, and to keep things fun for our girls, a friend and I are trading off teaching science and language arts this year. So far, so good. It’s nice to have friends around, and it keeps everyone on schedule. By the way, did you know that you can inflate a balloon by putting it over the top of a soda bottle and then very carefully unscrewing the lid? Just one of many cool science experiments we did during our Ocean Science Unit. Thanks Bill Nye!
Note: See my daughter with her uncombed hair and PJ’s still on? Some days are just like that—and it’s okay!

Field trip report: Took advantage of Thanksgiving Point’s two buck Tuesdays in August. The museum was crazy crowded, the farm was fun (especially when Andrew tried to climb in with the cows and sampled the goat’s food), the gardens were gorgeous.
We also attended a back-to-school picnic with Alpine Online. Now, if I could just find those scraps of paper that I wrote down all those other moms’ phone numbers on . . .

Loving Literature: I introduced Hannah to Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. I thought she might be able to identify with the main character, Peter, and his frustration with his pesky little brother, Fudge. I was right on. After that we devoured (and I mean devoured, for three days straight we pretty much ignored other language arts related work so we could READ!)Robin McKinley’s Beauty. And that, I admit, was my choice for personal, writing-related reading. Since I really want to write in this genre (and want to make what I’ve already written in this genre better), I am revisiting favorites to see just what it is that makes them so great. Beauty, I am pleased to say, was just as splendid as ever. My daughter summed it up nicely this morning when she sighed and said, “I’m so sad we finished that book.” I couldn’t agree more, though it was the perfect way to spend a couple of rainy afternoons in early October.

Just what I needed

Since the birth of my darling little boy sixteen months ago, I have posted on this blog exactly 15 times. I have been caught up on the laundry twice. I’ve made breakfast for my family perhaps 20 times during all those months (pathetic considering that we used to eat breakfast together almost every day). I’ve purchased, rather than sewn, the Christmas pajamas; I haven’t scrapbooked a page. And, after our recent move (recent being four months ago), I still have a basement full of stuff to unpack. Who knows how long it will be before I get to it? Who knows how long it will take me to finish my next novel (at the turtle’s pace I’m writing at now)? Who knows if my family will ever again have clean clothes when they need them or anything besides cold cereal for breakfast?

To be fair, our little guy is not entirely to blame for my lack of progress in writing and just about everything else. His arrival coincided with several other significant events in our lives, all of which have drastically altered my days, nights, and pretty much every breath I take.

Without going into all that, I’ll just say that I’m hard pressed to think of a time as stressful as the past several months. My husband and I have been dealing with several crisis of varying degrees with our four older children. We continue to love them all dearly, but they are draining us both mentally, physically, and financially. Added to their teen angst, learning disablities, and the like, our sweet, sleepless baby has just about put me over the edge. Since his arrival he has yet to sleep through the night. This has been new territory for my husband and I, as our other children were all pretty great sleepers (three of the four sleeping through the night by six weeks—we didn’t know how good we had it!). Since Andrew’s arrival, and our subsequent sleeplessness, we’ve read all the books, tried all the methods and come rather close to losing our minds in our efforts to get a good night’s sleep once again.

Recently, during a middle-of-the-night, rocking and calming my baby session, I had a frank discussion with our Father in Heaven about the state of my life. My purpose was two-fold. First, I recognized the many blessings he’s bestowed upon me. I have a wonderful husband and five unique, exhausting children. I’m grateful for this crazy family of ours. I love them all dearly; my life revolves around them. I’m doing the things I wanted more than anything else when I was growing up—being a wife and mother. But lovely as that is, lately my life has had its moments. And it was about these moments and our five children, specifically the one on my lap, that the second part of my prayer was concerned with. It was time, I’d decided, to call in the promise from Heavenly Father that he won’t give us more than we can handle.
Because I’m pretty sure I’m there, as in one beat away from total insanity.

It’s one thing to have a baby who keeps me up at night. It’s another to have that baby plus a fourth grader who, in spite of my year-long effort homeschooling her, spending thousands in vision therapy etc. still cannot read. And it’s yet another to have three high needs teenagers all in various crisis points in their lives. In other words—

“Uncle, already!”

And so I pled with our Father in Heaven to please let our little guy sleep so I could. So I could be well rested and level-headed to deal with the events of my days. So the tears I’d probably cry would at least be from true emotions and not sleep-deprivation.

As is often the case, this particular prayer was not answered in the way I hoped. My baby did not fall into an instant, deep sleep. He did, however, wrap his arms around my neck and lay his head on my shoulder—one of my very favorite things in the world. I’ve been a mom long enough to know that hugs like that get farther and fewer between as children grow older. I cherish every one and, tired though I’ve been these past months, I’ve cherished the time, these middle of the night moments, with Andrew.

As I felt his little arms tighten around me, the thought distinctly came that this was exactly what I needed. While I’d been yearning for sleep, Heavenly Father was giving me what I actually needed even more—peaceful moments with the baby we wanted so badly, time alone with him, reminders of the joys that really do come with being a parent. In our crazy, busy, stressful days, there isn’t a lot of alone time for Andrew and I. But for the past sixteen months, we’ve spent good time together anyway, rocking, singing, reading stories. I’ve had plenty of chances to brush the hair back from his face, to look down into his eyes, to kiss his neck. We’ve cuddled and snuggled even more than I did with our other children during less stressful and busy times of life. In short, I’ve been able to do what I promised myself I would—to enjoy and treasure the oh-so-short time when he’s a baby.

It was a revelation that left me uplifted and gave me the energy to pull myself out of bed the next morning and face another day. Our lives and our family are certainly not perfect, but I am grateful for the sweet, middle-of-the-night reminder that Heavenly Father is aware of each of us and knows and provides what we truly need.

Ironman and Ironwoman

Saturday marked the culmination of a year of training and preparation at our house. My husband competed in (and completed!) the St. George Ironman, swimming 2.4 miles, then biking 112 miles, then running 26.2 miles—all in about fourteen and a half hours. Way to go Dixon!!!!

It was an exciting, thrilling day, and it was a lot of fun to be a part of his hard work and success. I am so happy for him. And honestly, I am so happy it’s over, because it was also a difficult year and an exhausting day. Saturday as we stood at T2 (transition area where competitors finish the bike and start the run)for an hour and twenty minutes, I noticed a woman wearing a shirt that said, Ironmate.

No kidding, I thought. Not to diminish my husband’s spectacular accomplishment—something I could never in a million years do—but it also takes a “woman of iron” if you will, to hold it all together while he is training and triumphing. To give you an idea of what I mean, here’s a brief overview of competition day.

4:30 am

IRONMAN—leaves to catch his shuttle out to Sand Hollow Reservoir where the race will kick off (no pun intended) with the swim.

IRONWOMAN—begins packing everything but the hotel sink into the backpack she will wear today. Come to think of it, the sink would be useful too. When traveling with a toddler, it’s always good to have a source of running water.

5:30 am

IRONMAN—begins the arduous task of getting into his skin tight wetsuit.

IRONWOMAN—begins the arduous task of dressing everyone in three layers—a t-shirt for later when it’s hot, a sweatshirt for warmth now, and a jacket to keep out the wind that will inevitably come and go throughout the day. “Layers keep you warm, plus I don’t have to carry a bunch of heavy coats,” Ironwoman explains to her screaming toddler as she wrestles a sweatshirt over his head.

6:30 am

IRONMAN—is psyching himself up for the swim. “I can do this. I can do this. I’ve trained hard, and I CAN DO THIS.”

IRONWOMAN—is psyching herself up to step on the bus that will strand her and her children out at the reservoir for the next three (ended up being four) hours. “Did I pack enough diapers? Did I remember the baby’s leash? I should have brought something for us to sit on, but there is no way I could carry the camp chairs–maybe a large towel would have worked. I can’t believe I left my sunglasses back in Provo. I hope Andrew will keep his hat on today. I need to watch Hannah’s skin too. She is so fair and burns easily. Did I bring enough water? Did I remember to pack . . .”

7:00 am

IRONMAN—is off and swimming.

IRONWOMAN—is staring out at the sea of 2000+ matching swimcaps and praying for the one that is her husband. The swim scares her. People have died doing this event. She will be grateful when he is out of the water.

7:30 am

IRONMAN—is winning the mental battle and getting into his groove.

IRONWOMAN—is feeling pretty good. She packed well. So far she’s fed the kids Mcdonalds scrambled eggs and hashbrowns for breakfast, made a blanket tent for her daughter and set her up inside with a new DVD on the laptop, played bubbles with the baby, and is getting out the puzzles and books to keep him entertained.

8:30 am

IRONMAN—Is hauling. He owns the swim today.

IRONWOMAN—is positioning herself and the kids at the swim finish to see her husband, though he’s told her he won’t cross until at least 9:00 am.

8:42 am

IRONMAN—gets out of the water and runs toward the transition area. He’s stoked at his record time.

IRONWOMAN—is shocked to see her husband so early. He totally rocked the swim!!! She is so happy for him. She knows the hard part is past, and he’ll do great on the bike and run. But because he is so early, she doesn’t have the camera ready for a picture.

10:00 am

IRONMAN—is flying. On some of the downhill portions of the race, he’s clocking 44 mph. He knows Ironwoman would be upset with him if she knew how fast he is going. He goes fast anyway. He is the Ironman. He is invincible. He will be in trouble later.

IRONWOMAN—is still stuck on the bus, waiting to return to the fairground parking lot. The baby is losing it big time. Singing the “Wheels on the bus’ song has lost its amusement value. The bus driver has compassion and allows the baby to pretend to drive the bus while they wait, and wait, and wait . . .

1:30 pm

IRONMAN—is realizing he shouldn’t have pushed it so hard on that first bike lap. All those people he passed are passing him now.

IRONWOMAN—is so impressed and happy with her teenagers for driving down to see their dad compete that she doesn’t freak out at them for making it from Provo to St. George in THREE HOURS AND FIFTEEN MINUTES!!!!

3:30 pm

IRONMAN—is having technical difficulties . . . with his left knee. It is slowing him down considerably.

IRONWOMAN—is at T2 with her kids. She is holding her baby who is hot and tired and arching his back and screaming his lungs out. Ironwoman is developing some seriously iron arms holding this kid. Her youngest daughter really needs to go to the bathroom. She is standing next to Ironwoman and hopping up and down, repeatedly stepping on Ironwoman’s toes. “You have to hold it,” Ironwoman tells her. “We’re not missing Dad finish the bike and start the run. We’re ALL in pain right now.”

4:07 pm

IRONMAN—coasts into T2 and is glad to be done with the bike. His first step on his left leg does not encourage him about the run.

IRONWOMAN—has been standing at T2 with her family so long, that they are all somewhat lethargic and do not spring into action for the coordinated yell and sign waving. Still, Ironman sees them, and that’s something.

4:14 pm

IRONMAN—starts his run, pauses to say hi to the fam.

IRONWOMAN—trying to be encouraging tells IRONMAN he only has a marathon left now. He does not look encouraged. A cheer, a photo, and she waves her husband off. Next order of business: finding a bathroom before daughter wets her pants.

8:45 pm

IRONMAN—is pleased his knee has held up for most of the race, but it is starting to hurt again now.

IRONWOMAN—and her family are as close to the finish line as they can get (in the huge, swelling crowd of people). The cameras are ready. The sign is ready. Youngest daughter has fallen asleep on the ground. She is shivering. Ironwoman puts daughter in the stroller and tucks blankets in around her. Ironwoman holds the baby, who is tired, cranky and all around disgruntled with the situation.

9:15ish pm

IRONMAN—the finish line is in site.

IRONWOMAN—Here he comes! He’s still alive! We’re almost done!!! Both the video camera and the camera suddenly have dead batteries.

9:30 pm

IRONMAN—is sitting on the ground on the finisher’s area. He is not feeling so hot.

IRONWOMAN—finally fights her way through the crowds (while pushing an overloaded stroller carrying a sleeping, possibly sick, child)to her Ironman. She is alarmed that he does not look well. Her teenagers spring into action, getting their dad up and moving toward the food and massage tents.

10:30 pm

IRONMAN—is getting a massage and some pizza.

IRONWOMAN—is sitting on a park bench nursing her nearly inconsolable baby (he was almost weaned before this weekend, but that plan’s out the window for now). Her daughter is still in the stroller, shivering uncontrollably, though Ironwoman has placed every blanket and article of clothing she can find on top of her. A kind volunteer offers one of the ahtletes’ mylar blankets.

11:00 pm

IRONMAN—is feeling like he is going to live. He is gathering his things.

IRONWOMAN—is very relieved to find out Ironman is okay. Aside from simply being glad he is okay she wasn’t sure how she was going to get him, two sick, tired little kids, the stroller, his gear, and his bike the three blocks to the car on her own. Ironwoman bids farewell to the teenagers who have to drive home tonight. She lays down the rules (no going over 75mph; at least two of you awake at all times)before they leave. She knows she will not be able to sleep tonight until they are home safely.

11:30 pm

IRONMAN—is taking a hot shower.

IRONWOMAN—is nursing the baby again while coaxing her daughter out of her clothes and into PJ’s.

2:45 am

IRONMAN—is relieved to hear his kids made it home safe. He is worried about his knee.

IRONWOMAN—can finally sleep now that her kids are home safely. She is out cold in about 30 seconds.

8:00 am Sunday morning

IRONMAN—casually mentions to Ironwoman that he might want to do another Ironman competition someday.

IRONWOMAN—as she is changing the baby’s third messy diaper in the last hour—the result of trying very hard to keep him hydrated with lots of bottles of applejuice the previous day. “Now is not the time to discuss this.”

The Slothful Blogger

For the past few months I have been a slothful blogger, neglecting to post even a sentence or two as the rest of my life has been so crazy and complicated that I literally haven’t found a minute to spare—until tonight that is.

The house is quiet right now. Four are asleep, one is at work, one is at her first Homecoming Dance. While I wait up for her (and try to banish BYU’s depressing score from my mind), I thought I’d do as Rob Wells suggested and blog twitter style. No doubt writing something so short will be a challenge for me, but as it seems to be the wave of the future as well as my only possibility for blogging at all, here goes . . .

Summer is officially over, and I’m not quite sure where it went. But I’ll never forget one week that was spent at Lake Powell with my family. Best moment of the trip? When my nine-year-old said, “you were awesome Mom!” as I hauled myself back into the boat after skiing. After all, how often do we hear that from our children???

After Lake Powell I headed to California and had the privilege of witnessing love at its very best as I watched my grandmother’s devotion to my grandfather, who is suffering through the last stages of Alzheimer’s. This deserves much more than a twitter post, and I hope to write more later about the tender feelings I both saw and felt on this trip.

Love was also at its best in August when my husband worked incredibly hard to get our family moved. It was grueling, exhausting—a literal nightmare as we moved out of our home of 13 years and into a small rental house. Worst moment of the experience: When I returned alone to our empty home to clean. Thirteen years of memories—bringing babies home from the hosptial, first day of school pictures by the front door, family dinners, holidays, and all of the other precious moments of everyday living—assaulted me. I sat on the floor and bawled for a good, long time.

School started—too soon as usual. But this year not everyone went back. For the first time in a long time, I am not alone. Baby Andrew keeps me on my toes and by himself could easily entertain me all day. His older brother, graduated now and working nights, is also home during the day. And our fourth grader is here as well. After months of prayer and researching and more prayer and more researching, we made the difficult decision to remove her from her charter school and teach her at home. It is wonderful. It is hard. It is all consuming. It is what she really needs. I am throwing my whole heart and soul into this, and we are still praying—that it works.

Our rental house is a blessing. It is three blocks from our old home. Our children still ride the same buses. They go to the same schools and dance studio. Their friends can still come over—except that there is no room for them. Our rental house is a nightmare. Two bedrooms, one bathroom, no dishwasher, no air conditioning, and lots of mosquitos. Enough said.

Every morning, bright and early, we hear—through the same open windows that are letting both cooler air and mosquitos in—the sounds of construction. Backhoes, concrete trucks, hammers. It is the most wonderful sound to wake up to. We hear it all day long, and in the evening we go over to see what has progress has been made during the day. We take pictures. We walk through the rooms and dream about the day we will get to move into our new home. What a blessing it is, especially during these difficult economic times, to be able to build our dream home.

No one will have to share a room in our new home, and the timing couldn’t be better. Andrew is now a twenty-pound force to be reckoned with. He moves—fast! He eats—everything! And he is one of the most curious babies I’ve ever had. Oh, for the day I can put up a gate and he can play safetly in his own room. Except that by then he may have learned how to climb over the gate. He is Mr. Mischief, and he is a ton of fun. We all don’t know how we ever lived without him.

Thirteen is a difficult year. It’s worse when your parents make you move to a little old house, when your room in this house is a cubicle made from office dividers, when you don’t make the dance team you wanted to, and when the girl who bothered you at your old school transfers to your new one. As our oldest daughter approaches seventeen and leaves some of her teen angst behind, I’ve been dismayed these past few months to see our middle daughter moving into it. What’s a mom to do except provide lots of chocolate and hugs.

Eighteen is a difficult time. Especially if you’re a boy whose parents reallywant you to serve a mission. Especially if you have a girlfriend who is a great person. Especially if you are working full time and didn’t head off to college in September. Life is full of huge decisions and responsibilities. Everything has changed and keeps changing. Friends are getting married. Friends are entering the military. A year ago our son was a kid. Now it seems he’s expected to be an adult. What’s a mom to do to help him through this strange and hard time of life? Our favorite four letter word. PRAY. A lot.

My daughter is home now. Her date came to the door and thanked me for the opportunity to take her out. Major bonus points for that boy 😀 Carissa looked beautiful tonight. She has always been beautiful, but this past summer between her sophomore and Junior years, she’s really started to blossom—losing thirty pounds, getting her braces off, discovering things she likes and is good at. She’s a different girl than she was a year ago. She’s happy, self-confident. Delightful. I am happy for her and with her.

Being a wife and mother often takes every minute of my day and every ounce of energy and emotion I possess. Though I may be slothful with blogging, my days are a blur of activity from their very early start to their quite late finish. It seems there is no time for blogging, promoting my books, or lately, even writing. I am behind on my email, my checkbook, and my laundry. Yet my life is overflowing with blessings. I am never bored. Each day is full of challenges. And, as a wise character in my current work in progress explained . . .

“It’s all about joy.”

Heading to bed now, so I can cope with the joys tomorrow is sure to bring.

Line upon Line

Since the birth of our son about five months ago (five months already!! Why does time have to go so fast?), I’ve had very little time to write. It isn’t just that having a baby again—after so long— has thrown me for a loop. Though yes, it certainly has. Rather, it’s the combination of all my children and their various ages and needs, which it seems I can never quite meet. The result has been that my new writing pattern is to start at about 9:30 in the evening and write until 11:00. It isn’t much time each day, but I can’t seem to get started earlier and I can’t seem to stay up later, as I’m still getting up with our baby a time or two in the middle of the night.

During these short sessions the most I’m able to get on paper is about 5 pages worth of story. If you do the math, at this rate it’ll take me about 100 days to complete my usual 500 page length manuscript. Factor in editing with my critique group, and I’ll be working at least a month beyond that. But that’s not too bad, so long as those five pages I draft each night keep taking the story where it needs to go. And, for the most part, they do. I have to admit that it’s still always a little bit thrilling to open up that document the next night and reread the pages I wrote the previous night—and find that they make sense! They entertain me. The characters are talking to each other like real people; the story is speaking to me. What a blessing this continues to be in my life. There are plenty of talents I lack, but my imagination is still alive and functioning. And for that I am grateful.

During the crafting of each story I write, there are always a few sentences I come to love. Maybe it’s that they made me laugh as I wrote them, or they tugged at my heartstrings the way I hope they tug at readers. Or maybe it’s that I had to beg my editor to keep them—as is the case with one of my very favorite sentences in All the Stars in Heaven. Why, some may wonder, would I beg to keep a sentence? After all, it’s just one line out of the thousands in each book. Because each is important, as they are the details that make the story and characters ring true and form the tempo of my writer’s voice. That voice is a little different in All the Stars in Heaven than it was in Counting Stars but I hope readers enjoy it as well. Here’s a sampling of some of my favorite lines from the story.

Her father had said they were always watching, and she wasn’t taking any chances.

“Hey, whatcha doing? That’s my moose.”

“I’m a beached boy. You know, like the band, except old and all washed up.”

“You’re just that kind of guy–the kind that does things like clean out the fridge, help friends with their homework, and babysit.”

This was new and dangerous and . . . she could hardly bear to think of giving it up.

I do what I have to to keep her alive, and you’d better remember it keeps you alive too.”

“Get your shirt on Jay, This is a G-rated house.”

“I’m going to have nightmares down here. The Jolly Green Giant attacking on one side, and Charlie the Tuna on the other.”

Let-me-run-my-fingers-through-those-curls-and-taste-that-flavor-on-your-lips—yeah, that’s it.

There had been times of discouragement certainly, but a glimpse of the night sky sprinkled with stars or of the full moon was all it took to remind her to stay on course. After all, if man could walk on the moon, so far away, she could someday walk away from the life she hated.

The Wonderful, Wacky, Whitney Awards

As promised, here are pictures from the Whitney Awards last month. And I should clarify the title of this blog—there is nothing wacky about the Whitney Awards. Rob Wells, as founder of the Whitney Awards and head of the committee the past two years, is all business (no pun intended Mr. recent MBA grad) and works hard to keep everything having to do with the awards both professional and ethical. But this past April he was a little busy with graduation and everything. In fact, Rob’s graduation was the same day as the Whitney Awards Banquet. Talk about being double booked . . . which is probably why Rob left it up to the presenters to do their own thing. Note to future Whitney presidents: This may not be the best idea. Unless, of course, you want wacky. Which is exactly what happened—all night long. Save for the classy duo of Annette Lyon and Angela Eschler, every single presentation was, well . . . goofy. It seems that as writers, most of us found it beyond our abilities to simply read the finalists and present the awards. We felt compelled to write, at times stretching the titles in our respective categories to the absurd. But, hey, we had fun!

Hope you have fun looking at the pictures. And if you didn’t go this year, plan to attend in 2010. Aside from being wacky, it’s really inspiring to see talented, hard working authors recognized for their efforts.