Saturday, December 29, 2007

How to Take Your Five Children to Disneyland and LOVE IT!

For Christmas this year we asked the children if they would like a ticket to Disneyland in lieu of any other presents. They all jumped up cheering "DISNEYLAND!" and so the decision was made.

Taking five children anywhere is a daunting task. I will now share with you what we did right and what we will do better next time.

What We Did Right:
  1. We stayed with friends. Yes, we are lucky enough to have friends who live within thirty minutes of the park. This was really great because the children had a place where they could play, feel comfortable, and get a good breakfast before going to the park. It was also so much fun hanging around and talking with our friends that we missed morning rush traffic and rolled on over to the park without any difficulty.
  2. We bought the one day- one park passes. These were $66 for adults and $56 for children. That is a great deal! To get into the park was $50 when I was eighteen, so the ticket prices have not kept up with inflation. If you're going to be there for four days, go ahead and get your park hopper, but we only had one day and there was more than enough to do at one park.
  3. We went to the Jedi Training Academy. Awesome show! Don't miss it! About half of the kids in the audience got to go up and learn a light saber routine.
  4. After dark, we bought one of those flashing necklaces and put it on our five-year-old. That made him really easy to spot and hard to lose in the crowd.
What We Will Do Better Next Time
  1. We will bring a picnic lunch. While my husband stood in the long line for food, my kids had enough time to run all over Tarzan's Treehouse. Then when we rejoined him and got our lunches, there was no where to sit! We had to wait until someone else finished their lunch and then we could finally eat. We could have gone on one or two more rides if we had just brought a picnic and ate it at the picnic area.
  2. We will not go into the Innoventions pavilion. There were VIDEO GAMES in there. My boys can play video games for free at home, but at Disneyland we are paying to even be there!!! I could not believe they wanted to play video games at Disneyland!
  3. We will not leave the park after ten o'clock and then drive all the way to Ventura.
Yes, the scariest part of the trip was not the spooks in the haunted mansion, but driving through Los Angeles at midnight on Christmas Eve, trying to stay awake after hiking around Disneyland all day. Thrills for young and old alike.

I always used to say that going to the beach was better than going to Disneyland. So, to prove my point, on Christmas Day we went to the beach. The trip began auspiciously when my husband drove the van's front tire off the pavement and got us stuck. We called our roadside service, but how are you going to get a tow truck on Christmas Day at some remote place on Highway 1? The dispatcher said she'd have to call us back. Then, in the true spirit of Christmas, another family noticed our situation and the father and teenage son propped the tire with some rocks and pushed the van onto the road while Russel backed it up. It was our best Christmas present all day!

The beach in December is NOT more fun than Disneyland. It was windy and cold. We got sandblasted and pretty soon everyone was crying for their shoes. So much for dipping our toes in the icy Pacific! Still, the thrill of seeing the ocean was enough that none of the children wanted to leave. I had to promise my daughter a return trip in the summertime to get her to leave the beach.

So that's the report on our Christmas Vacation! Happy New Year! Happy Three Kings Day!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I Had a Bad Feeling

For a long time, I just had a bad feeling about that upstairs bathroom floor.

I thought that the floorboards were rotting. There was a squishy spot. If I put my heel down on it just right, it gave a little bit. I wanted to rip up the vinyl flooring and see what was going on. My husband assured me that there was nothing wrong with the floor, and that I was only suffering from old-home-owner's anxiety.

Then, one day as I was scrubbing the floor, I noticed the vinyl had already started to peel up in one corner by the vanity. Experimentally, I pulled it up a little more and saw that the wood underneath was WET! Soaking WET! AHHHH! DISASTER! Where had that water come from? We were going to have to tear up the whole entire floor and rebuild the house!

I started digging in the cupboard under the vanity and found several ruined rolls of toilet paper and a puddle under the sink. It turns out the little lever that controls the sink stopper had been dripping water every time someone ran the tap. This had seeped down along the back wall and then into the floor, all without me noticing!

Fearing for my floorboards, I ripped up the vinyl until all the wet wood was exposed. At first I felt terrible, but after a while of working at it I started to calm down. I let it all dry out for a few days, then treated it with chlorine bleach to keep it from getting rot. The floorboards are fine. That squishy spot wasn't the wood at all, but a place where the vinyl wasn't stuck down well enough.

Now I get new vinyl for my floor! My kids have been having fun peeling up the rest. In fact, I think I'm going to paint the bathroom and maybe even get a nicer vanity to replace the water damaged one. Every disaster is a triumph waiting to happen!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Gingerbread Church

My daughter and I made this gingerbread church complete with "stained glass" windows and a little bell in the bell tower. We've never tried a church before and I thought it turned out rather well.

My daughter handled all the drafting. She got out paper and a ruler while I mixed up the dough. I discovered I was out of molasses, so dark corn syrup had to do. To create the stained glass effect, I rolled the dough out on cookie sheets lined with greased aluminum foil. Then I cut the excess dough away from the wall pieces, and lastly cut out the delicate windowpanes using templates my daughter designed and drew. She smashed up Jolly Rancher candies with a hammer, and we carefully spooned the crushed candy into the windowpanes. Bake for fifteen minutes at 350 degrees Farenheit, and then cool completely before removing the foil. Spectacular!

I used an egg white based frosting to glue the house together, but all the decorations were made with ordinary shortening based icing. I like the way the roof turned out, with just the suggestion of shingles. Next year we can cut a hole in the bottom of the board and run a light up inside.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Some Enchanted Ending

We went to see "Enchanted" over the weekend. It was a great film! Fabulous! Everyone should go see it! But it needed a better action climax. So, I’ve decided to re-write it. Maybe they can use my action climax for “Enchanted: The Broadway Musical Stage Version.”

If you haven’t seen the film yet, STOP! Go see the movie, then come back and read my improved version:

NARISSA transforms herself into a fearsome purple CG dragon. Laughing maniacally, she throws back her scaly head.

NARISSA- Mwuf mworwr mummuffle mwom mwor!

ALL give her quizzical looks.

PRINCE- (to NARISSA) I beg your pardon, what was that?

NARISSA - (Sounding exactly like a falsetto version of Elliot in Pete’s Dragon) Wummor wum ruwowor wum morfurumuf!

(Suddenly NARISSA realizes she can’t speak. She goes through the exact reaction PIP wnet through earlier in the film, only much angrier. While she is ranting, PRINCE recovers his sword.)

NARISSA- Wummor wuf MWAR!

(NARISSA lunges for GISELLE, but PRINCE is there with his sword to block the attack. LAWYER pulls GISELLE to safety. NARISSA, sneering, amused, blows fire on PRINCE’s sword until it is too hot for him to hold.)

PRINCE- YOW! (Drops sword).

Cackling, Narissa creeps forward, intending to eat PRINCE. She is distracted by a violin bow striking her in the head. She turns to see HENCHMAN and several musicians using their stringed instruments to fire upon her. Furious, she turns on them. HENCHMAN dives under the grand piano just before NARISSA reduces it to matchwood. HENCHMAN scrambles out the other side, unscathed.

But NARISSA is no longer interested in HENCHMAN. She hunts around the room for PRINCE, and spots him showing his reddened sword hand to a sympathetic GISELLE . Meanwhile, NANCY has discovered the control panel for the chandelier. She flips the switch that will lower the chandelier. It is coming down far too slowly, so in frustration she whacks the control panel with her shoe. With a small explosion, the chandelier falls and drops directly on NARISSA’s head. NANCY is surprised by how effective the chandelier was. PRINCE looks impressed.

By the time NARISSA recovers from being hit by a chandelier, everyone has her surrounded with some form of makeshift weapon, a chair, a trombone, a bottle of champagne, what have you. Even the ball guests are ready to throw food. Realizing she can’t face so many opponents, NARISSA gives GISELLE a leer, grabs LAWYER and makes a spectacular exit through the window, knowing that GISELLE will follow her out onto the roof.

GISELLE- (Taking PRINCE’s sword, which is now cool enough to touch) I need to borrow this!

PRINCE- (Protesting) GISELLE!

GISELLE- (As she follows NARISSA out through the window, accidentally leaving behind a shoe) Go find PIP!

PRINCE is a little miffed that GISELLE would prefer a chipmunk’s help to his own, but he turns to HENCHMAN

HENCHMAN- Come on, he’s in the car.

The rest of the action climax proceeds as it does in the film, only shorter and better because the dragon doesn’t say anything.

See, now everyone is well motivated and we play a couple more of our favorite cliches. In fact, if they had wanted to, they could have had a really big fight scene in the ballroom and included a nod to every single Disney Princess Movie action climax that has come before. I would have loved it. Anything would have been better than listening to that dragon monologue-ing.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Exciting News!

The day before Thanksgiving I planned to do some baking. I wanted to get a head start on the day to come.

Then I went out to the mail box. I do have a few query letters out so going to get the mail holds that certain thrill of suspense. Lo and behold, I spotted a SASE! "Oh, what a shame," I said as I pulled it out. This wasn't about my novel. It was concerning a short story I had sent to the Friend magazine six weeks ago. I worked so hard on that story, I really thought they were going to buy it, and here it was, rejected.

As I got back in the house I began to get suspicious. The envelope didn't feel thick enough to have my whole manuscript in it. I opened it up, and out dropped a contract! They bought my story! They bought my story!

I didn't think I could get any happier, and then my brother Jon called to tell me he got the internship at Pixar Animation Studios! Click on his digital painting blog over there at the right to see his demo reel.

The last time I sold a story to a magazine was seven years ago. The day I got that letter I was trying to cook caramel flan. I was so excited I burned three batches of sugar in a row. This time, not wanting to serve my family scorched pies for Thanksgiving, I saved all the cooking for Thursday.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Vampire in Love

Shortly after reading Stephanie Meyer's "Twilight," I happened to be watching the Muppet Show episode where that blond headed girl singer performs "Teenager in Love" with a back up group of tall, pink furry monsters. Inspiration struck, and this was the result:

I'd like to dedicate this song to Edward, Bella, and all you Twilight fans out there:

Vampire in Love

Each time I want to bite you
It almost breaks my heart.
If I should suck you dry, dear
Then we would have to part!

Each night I ask the stars up above
Why must I be a vampire in love?

My looks have got you charmed, dear.
My diet makes you sad.
You'll have to learn to take
The good with the bad.

Each night I ask the stars up above
Why must I be a vampire in love?

My folks would like to meet you.
Come over for a bite.
But then they just might eat you,
And I'd be alone tonight.

Each night I ask the stars up above
Why must I be a vampire in love?

I'll cry a tear for no victim but you.
I'll be a lonely one if we can't see this through.
Well, if you want to become like me,
to do that won't be hard,
But then where would the fun be?
You're delicious as you are!

Each night I ask the stars up above
Why must I be a vampire in love?
Why must I be a vampire in love?
Why must I be a vampire in love?
Why must I be a vampire in love?

Note: Original lyrics to "Teenager in Love" are by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman.
To see Dion and the Belmonts singing the original, check out this classic clip:


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

You Sunk My Battleship!

This morning while I was working on my author profile, my two year old sunk my ten year old's aircraft carrier in the fish tank.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Samurai, Leopards, and Pirates, Oh My!

Today was a great day! Let me tell you about it!

Yesterday I had called everyone on the church choir roll who has showed up to practice at all in the past six weeks and told them that rehearsal would be at eight fifteen this morning. At eight o’clock this morning all my children were dressed and in the parlor for morning family prayer. After a song and a prayer I noticed that the two year old had gone missing. I found him at the sink, splashing, with his sleeves soaked to the elbow and the front of his dark blue shirt stuck to his belly with day-old dirty dish water. I had to run him upstairs and get him a fresh shirt.

At least he had a fresh shirt. There was a time when I would have had no choice but to take him to church in a wet shirt simply because there was no other Sunday shirt in his size. As I went upstairs I could see the black sock collection spread out on my bed. Every week I find myself hunting for at least one more match out of the basket, but there was a time when each child had only one pair of Sunday socks and if it was missing, too bad! There was a time when Russel and I got a big laugh out of an article that lamented that young families with only one income often had to get by on less than $30,000 a year, as if this were some great hardship. Oh wouldn’t it be nice to make $30,000 a year, we thought!

But now we all have extra shirts and extra socks, not necessarily because we have enough money to buy clothes now, but just because over the years I’ve amassed enough hand-me-downs from friends and neighbors. As I brought the toddler downstairs in a shirt that my friend Mati had handed down to him just two weeks ago, I heard the sound of a machine running in the garage. It didn’t quite sound like the car. I opened the door to the garage only to find my husband vacuuming up pieces of a shattered mason jar off the cement floor. I didn’t even ask.

When I got in the van I realized that the five year old had climbed over the back seat. I climbed back there to grab him. He was hiding under the old picnic blanket. As I pulled the blanket off I saw spots of scarlet on his white Sunday shirt! He was bleeding. I looked him over. Was his nose bleeding? No. His mouth? No. At last I spotted it. His ear was bleeding! He handed me a small, sharp piece that had broken off the handle of my big yellow pressure canner, explaining that it had cut him. Telling him once again that he was not to climb into the back of the van because he might get hurt by something, I pulled him into the house, took off his shirt, put it in the sink, and went upstairs to find him a fresh one.

At last we were all in the car with no broken glass waiting to pop the tires and everyone in a clean, dry shirt. Hunting for the booster seat, I looked in the back of the van again and saw four gallons of milk sitting there. Just sitting there! “Russel!” I bellowed. On our Friday night date, Russel had told me that we needed to stop at Albertsons on the way home because I hadn’t bought any milk when I went to Costco on Thursday. I couldn’t believe it. I was sure I had bought milk on Thursday. Four gallons of it. I could remember walking up to the milk case and loading it onto my cart, or was I remembering the week before? Had I really forgotten to get the milk? It was possible. I looked in my purse for my receipt, but I couldn’t find it. I wondered if I had left the milk in the cart in the parking lot. No, I thought, I would have seen it. Puzzled, I sat there and wondered when I had gone insane as we drove to Albertsons to pick up some milk.

The mystery milk had reappeared. Russel had left it in the van when he had brought in the rest of the groceries. “When did you first think I hadn’t bought any milk?” I asked after I had told him what I had found in the back of the van.
“When there wasn’t any in the kitchen to put into the fridge.” He said.
“Why didn’t you ask me about it then?” I demanded.
That, I guess, was a rhetorical question.
At last I just laughed, “Well, at least I know I’m not going insane.”
“No, I am,” Russel said with chagrin.
Twelve dollars down the drain!

By the time we started the car it was 8:20. We were late, but not later than the choir director.
The choir sang "Now Thank We All Our God" a capella. I love that song, and it sounded great.

In Primary, one of the little eight year olds got up to read. He had this great big Bible that he could barely manage. When he got it lying open on the podium he began to read the story of the ten lepers. But when he read it, it was the ten leopards. You see, Jesus was passing through Samurai. Ten leopards came and stood afar off and cried unto him, have mercy on us! When Jesus heard them he said, go and shew thyselves unto the pirates. And as they were going they were healed. And one of them turned back and glorified God, and he was a Samurai.

So if kids knew there were Samurai, leopards, and pirates in the Bible, maybe they would be more eager to read it!

I made biscuits and gravy for dinner. Afterwards, the toddler insisted on me holding him instead of washing dishes, so I called a friend to pass the time while I held the toddler in my lap. While I was on the phone the doorbell rang.
“It was Mati,” Russel said, “She brought these,” he had a plate of cinnamon rolls.
“Mati?” I cried, “Stop her!”
“Too late,” Russel said, but I was already charging for the entry way. I grabbed the cheese grater off the little candle shelf just as her tail lights were pulling out of the view through the front door. Out the door and down the sidewalk I ran, “Mati!” I shouted, waving the grater in the air, “I have your cheese grater!” She didn’t see me.
I left Mati a message on her answering machine thanking her for the rolls and telling her I tried to chase her down with a cheese grater.
“Dad said he enjoyed your article,” my husband told me. He was on the phone for his weekly call to the folks.
“My article?” I asked, “The one in Toccare?” I was surprised. That wouldn’t come out until December. How had he seen it?
“I guess,” Russel said. “The Revolutionary Alarm Clock?”
“You mean they used my story?” I asked. This was another matter entirely, “They printed it in BYU Magazine?” I had submitted that story so long ago I had forgotten about it. I figured they would let me know if they were going to print it or not, so I gave up on thinking about it months ago.
They did print my story! I got the first slot on the page, and a very cute illustration! I want that cartoon of college student me napping in the grass with a back pack for a pillow for my web site! Click here to go take a look! I was so excited I called my mom. I could hear my sister in the background groaning when she found out that they hadn’t told me they were going to use it. They owe me fifty dollars! That’s the most I’ve ever made on a piece of writing.
To top off the day, I took the cover off my big harp for the first time in months. I had just volunteered to play background music at the church Christmas dinner in three weeks, and figured it was time to start practicing. After I replaced a string, tuned up, and tightened the screws on all the levers, Russel ran upstairs and got his new penny whistle! Whee! I had so much fun playing carols with him. Maybe the two of us should play together at the dinner.

Oh happy day! When have I had so much fun?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Busiest Day of my Life

Yesterday I had four major events scheduled:
  • Music Time: Every Wednesday I teach a one hour singing and movement class for toddlers. The first Music Time of the month always takes a little extra because I have to swap out the props for the new monthly theme. Then I dash off afterwards to pick up my kindergartener from school.
  • PTA Meeting: As the newsletter editor, it really helps if I actually attend the meetings to get the scoop on what's going on. From three thirty to four thirty I scribbled notes, then ran home to get some food in the kids before. . .
  • Red Mountain Choir: Last night was the first rehearsal for the Red Mountain Choir, a community group that my husband and three of my children belong to. I drove them there, then sat in the car with the two youngest ones. Fortunately I had brought the lap top computer, so on half the screen I put on "Fantasia 2000" for the kids and on the other half of the screen I used Red Mountain Choir's wireless internet signal to check the blogs and message boards while I waited for rehearsal to be over.
  • Book Club: After the choir rehearsal, I left my children watching "The Castle of Cagliostro" in Japanese while I went to a ladies book club meeting. We discussed "To Kill A Mockingbird." This was fun, since all of us had read it in high school but got SO MUCH more out of it reading it this time as adults.
At book club mostly sat there looking dazed, though I enjoyed listening to the other ladies talk about the book. At last I came home and, blessedly, was able to get to bed by ten! HOORAY! I SURVIVED THE BUSIEST DAY OF MY LIFE! I probably won't catch up on the housework until Saturday, but there you have it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Got Mail?

"Get Mail!" my two year old son insisted as we reached our driveway. Of course the mail had not come yet, it was only nine in the morning. The flag was still up. My query letter was still in there.

I opened the mail box and for a moment I felt like taking the letter out. It was not the fear of rejection, no, I expect that. It was the fear of success. There is a tiny, remote possibility that the letter in my mailbox this morning could set off a chain of events that would lead to my becoming a successful, published author. As badly as I want that, I know it could also destroy me. Success is dangerous, even in small doses. It tends to make one think one is somehow more important.

I left the letter in the mailbox.

Monday, November 5, 2007

How Not to Query

They say you learn more from failure than success. If that's the case, I've learned a whole lot about getting a novel published these past few months. Allow me to share my wisdom so that those who come after me do not have to tread such a thorny path:
  • TARGET YOUR QUERY: I noticed that many agents say they will look at fantasy, but few actually publish it. So, before you send the letter, make sure the agent has a recent publishing deal in your genre. You want to make sure that she knows how to sell what you've got. Besides, agents who don't publish books like yours are a lot less likely to seriously consider your manuscript.
  • HONE YOUR PARTIAL: Before you send the letter, make sure your first fifty pages are in top condition. Read them over carefully. Did you get to the plot? Did you begin to develop the interesting aspects of the characters? Did your exposition succeed in enticing the reader to want more? Hand out the first fifty pages to some people you trust, have them read, and get their honest opinion. If they're not dying to read the rest of the book, little chance an agent will be. The second agent I heard back from wanted a partial, but, alas, my first fifty pages did not impress her. I have since rewritten the first fifty pages. If I'd done that in the first place I might be signing a contract right now.
  • NEVER GIVE UP: Someone will be my agent. If I don't get any takers in this next round, I'll revise the book, revise the letter, revise the synopsis, and try again! This is a game of luck and skill. I have the skill, and luck will come with time.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Vacuum of Love

Good Morning, everyone!

I was having so much fun posting blog entries on my writer's site, but I didn't have it set up for comments. What's a blog without comments? So I decided to start blogging here too. And here in this blog I can rant about my whole life, not just my frustrations at being an under-published author.

I was doing the rumba while vacuuming this morning and thought all you other ballroom wannabes might find it amusing. Sorry about the camera shake and tilt, my ten-year old son was the camera man.

Now I'm really entangled in the world wide web! I have e-mail, a facebook page, a blog, and three web sites to upkeep. No wonder I'm getting behind on my housework!