Month: June 2011 (page 1 of 2)

Reaping the Benefits

I love the idea of gardening. My dad is a champion gardener, and I have decades-worth of weeding memories, eating the warm-tomato memories, corn-shucking-on-the-run memories, overwhelming zucchini harvest memories, and random other garden memories, including the time that snake slithered right over that foot. (It wasn’t my foot. But I remember the skin-crawl as though it might have been.)

I inherited a lot of traits from my dad, including but not limited to freakish memory, long phone calls, and a love for cheese and red meat. But I didn’t get the green thumb. Which occasionally makes me sad. I try. Often. I spend way more money on plants and gardeny stuff than I ever save on actual edible produce. (*boo*)

This year I let myself off the hook. I didn’t plant anything. In fact, in that spirit of honesty, I’ll tell you that I haven’t actually managed to weed out the garden yet. But. I have a couple of volunteers. We’re eating a lot of chives, because they come back. Over and over. Yea! And their flowers are so beauteous. We’re using chives where normally we’d use green onions and everyone’s pretty glad about it. Also, the lettuces I planted last spring, but they never grew? Remember those? Surprise! They’re coming up now. So hooray for the surprise benefits.

Yesterday at church, Brother Bob asked us if we wanted any spinach. Um, hello? I guess, yes. So we went over there and he cut off a bunch of gorgeous greenies, and I ooh-ed and aah-ed over his growing things, and he also whacked off a bunch of rhubarb for us. I told him to leave the leaves on, because I had to go all Miss America pageanty and wave to the Kids while holding this incredible bouquet of rhubarb. We went home thinking how grateful we were that we could reap the benefits of someone else’s work. Thanks, Brother Bob.

So this morning I made a pie. A strawberry-rhubarb pie. I haven’t had one of those in at least 25 years. And it made me miss my mom like very few things do these days. I don’t know if my mom loved-loved strawberry-rhubarb pie, but she made it, and I ate it with her. She would have been proud of my pastry today, you know. It was a thing of beauty, if I do say so myself. We just cut into the pie, and only Kid 1 ate her whole piece (well, I did, too), and she laughed and said, “Well, Mom, you and I can eat this pie.” And my heart was happy-sad and I wished again that Mom was here to know my Kids. Because she’d think they’re delightful, I guarantee it. She’d crack up at Kid 3’s sense of humor. She’d be jealous of her hair, too. She’d swoon over Kid 2’s Vivaldi abilities. And she’d snuggle up with her in a blanket on the couch. She’d answer all of Kid 4’s questions, even when she knew he was only asking to keep her talking. She’d practice his duets with him, too, because she had the skills to do that thing. She’d hold her own hands together over her heart (that physical manifestation of *squee*) when she saw Kid 1 sing on stage, I know it. She’d practice songs with her, and help her work through tricky harmonies. And she’d pretend to be amazed at all the kid-ly braininess, when really, she’d pretty much expect it.

And every day, when I work on this Mom business, and sing songs to my kids, and read them books (with the voices)and bite my tongue when the unkind/impatient/snarky remark wants to escape, and when I say, “B-flat, b-flat,” and cook meals every day, I’m reaping the rewards of her seed-planting. Thanks, Mom.

Reading for Privileges

Because I’m the Mean Mom, the Kids have to earn their plug-in time (computer, wii, tv/movies) by reading. Minute for minute. I wondered how Kid 4 would handle this. (He occasionally grumbled when I upped his after-school reading from 20 required minutes to 30.) But guess what.

Go ahead. Guess.

He’s eating it up.

This week, he picked up Brandon Mull’s FABLEHAVEN and read. The whole book. (Remember that he’s seven years old?) He’s averaging 2 hours each morning. Now he’s in Book 2.

And then, after the reading, he practices the piano without being reminded.

Yes. I DO in fact know how lucky I am. Thanks for asking.

Shall we discuss what I’ve been eating?

Oh, yes. Let’s. It was Father’s Day this weekend, remember? Mmmm. I remember. We ate. Lots. We had Caramel Apple French Toast for breakfast, which is every bit as sinful as it sounds. If you threw on a scoop of ice cream, it would be dessert. Then, after church, we hurried right up and had our first serving of Tres Leches cake. Remember that cake? If you like dessert (even if you don’t like cake, so much, like I don’t — but I think you have to like sweetened condensed milk and whipped cream — but then, don’t we all?) click here to find my best recipe for it. After a few hours of digesting (and watching Megamind, because that’s how we roll) we ate steak, red potato fries, a yummy green salad, and pink lemonade.

Can we talk about steak for a minute?

I love steak. Insomuch that I have just, right this minute, composed a haiku to steak. Behold:

Juicy, rare red meat!
Thanks for giving up your parts,
Oh blessed bovine.

Don’t worry. It’s out of my system now. (The poetry, I mean.) (Also, probably the steak.)

I know a guy who does meat smokery and barbecue-ism as a side job (in the other hours, he’s a sheriff’s deputy) and he recently talked about meat rubs. I have never tried a meat rub. In fact, I’ve never been much good at steak-making. But I found out why — it’s because I tend to follow the Cheap Is Beautiful philosophy that is the root of my couch-in-the-basement troubles. Even when it comes to food. And can I tell you a secret? Cheap is not beautiful when it comes to steak. But I’m learning. And I looked up some rub recipes, and I made one. And it is lovely. It smells divine, it crunches perfectly, and it looks like the prettiest sand art. Here is my compilation, if you care to try it.

Ingredients:

4 tbsp course salt (I’m afraid I’m becoming a salt snob. Kosher Real Salt, that looks like it came off the beach. Yes.)

1 tbsp course cracked black pepper (cracked by a willing child laborer Right That Minute)

1 tbsp onion powder

1 tbsp paprika

1/2 tbsp granulated garlic

1/2 tbsp dried rosemary, lightly crushed

1/2 teaspoon cayenne or something similarly hottish

1/2 tbsp dried thyme

Then you stir it all up and rub it all over the steaks. It can sit there while the grill gets good and hot. Because with saltiness on your steak, you know, you have to sear those babies. After the pretty lines are all marked, I turn the grill down and cook it till I want to eat it. (The Husband likes his done-er than the rest of us barbarians. We want it still mooing at us.)

Did you want to know that after a few games and a little sitting around, we had another serving of Tres Leches? Well, we did.

Coming up around here: It’s Birthday Week. So I’ll be back to tell you the adventures and foibles of the Adorable Wilhite Kids. Cause I know you’ve just been dying to know!

Remember that?

Remember when “rebates” used to come in the form of a check, that you could deposit or (better in every way) cash, and use just like… money? And that they’d come addressed to you, so you could be the one to use the… money?

I miss those days.

Fie, debit/credit cards in the name of my 9-year-old. What good are you to me, I ask you?

Joy in the Journey

I read Ann Cannon’s lovely blog post this morning, and I wanted to clap. And cheer. And say “Amen.” But since everyone around here is still sleeping (except Kid 4, who is [coincidentally] reading a book by the same brilliant Ms. Cannon) I refrain from noise. I will just link to her post about enjoying the writing part even if there’s no publishing part. JUST CLICK THESE BIG LETTERS if you want to gain some insight and glean some wisdom. Or, read below. Because sometimes that extra click is too much work. But, in the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that Ann’s blog is one of the very few I check almost daily, because she is wonderful. And hilarious. And also, wonderful.

So last night at the WIFYR mingle at The King’s English (I love you, The King’s English), Claudia Mills and I had a conversation that inspired me. (Not unusual to have that type of conversation with Claudia. She IS inspiring.) Here’s what we decided.

1. While publishing is very nice, of course, you can have a satisfying writer’s life w/o it. You can go on writing retreats with writer friends. You can join and enjoy critique groups. You can host a reading. In other words, you can introduce those parts of a writer’s life you think would be fun into your own life.

2. And speaking of fun, what’s the point if it isn’t? There are published authors (with a LOT of titles even) who can still grumble with great bitterness, “Look at everything I’ve done and what did it get me?” Where’s the joy in that?

Let’s have fun, you guys.

I love, love the idea of making The Fun a part of the writing experience. Because it should be fun, indeed. (And also work.) (But also fun.) This is why we choose to be writers, instead of paralegals or plumbers or tap-dance instructors — because writing and the write-y lifestyle can be so much fun. [1]

On that note, writing is happening here. (Insert happy noises.) A little at a time, and complete with some fun. The words come, the ideas come, the story grows, the word-count increases (why, why is that so important to me? oh, yeah. i’ve become one of those type-A types.) and It Is Good — the doing part. I’m not yet sure about the actual words. But that is not to be decided now. This is a first draft, remember?

[*DING*] Oh, look. It’s time to get outside with the kids and dig up more bulbs.

(Pray for us.)

[1] I am certain that paralegal work can also be fun. And tap dancing. Plumbing? I’m receptive to arguments either way. But for me, it’s all about the writing. And the reading. Oh, the good, good reading. (Ha! Made you wait!)

All the Stuff (today)

* Update: Many thousands of new words. No new terrors transferred to the Boy. (*sigh of relief*)

* Summer is upon us. At least, school is out. The weather is acting exactly like Spring, which pleases me as long as I see the sun shining now and then. Which I do. So, I’m pleased.

* It appears to be the year to dig up my bulbs. They are crowded. And I think they’ve sunk since I planted them. Because who in her right mind would have planted tulips and daffodils 18 inches belowground? Nobody. That’s who.

* Which brings up the slave-labor plan. Kids up and out of the house by 8:00, gloved and weeding. They are sick to death of the sight of bulbs. Alas, there are many, many beds to go before they’ve seen the end.

* Kid 2 is running cross country. It’s awesome. She’s seeing weekly improvements, and I am terribly, terribly proud of her. She’s keeping track of all her runs and it makes me giddy that she decided to do this without any nudging from me or her dad. Yea for self-motivators.

* I finished our production of Oliver! this weekend. It turned out just great. I had my doubts right up to the first performance – which is pretty ┬ánormal, I guess, but I was nervous that I had told anyone to come see the show. Aside from the poltergeist in the lights/wiring, and some significant microphone trouble, all went fine. I remembered all my lines, and sang the right words to all my songs. (*whew*) I played Nancy, which is a great role, and I recommend it if you get a chance to play her. Also my picture was in the newspaper (without the false eyelashes, which I will no longer wear because of the unfortunate eyelid-swelling side effects) and I only looked 40% weirder than normal. Also my costume was fantastic.

* You know how sometimes you pray for something and then you get it? I love it when that happens.

* Kid 1 is an excellent shake-maker. If you find yourselves in my part of the mountaintops, stop in her burger-and-shake joint for a taste. She’ll offer you food with a smile, I promise.

* Baby birds – four of them – are living in the nest in our wonky pine tree (the one that must be related to a saguaro cactus). They are so cute, but their mama is not amused by the man taking many photos of her babies. I, however, am amused. A lot.

* So far, Kids 3 and 4 have practiced the piano every weekday of summer vacation, without argument. That’s almost a miracle, isn’t it?

* I have started reading a book that I am so very much adoring that I wish I had nothing planned at all and I could just sit on a chair and read and grin. Oh, to write something grin-inducing like this. (Details to follow, don’tchaknow.)

Conflict (and how I hate it)

I know it’s important. No story can move without it. And I’m learning how to write it. I am. But the thing is, it gets tricky sometimes.

Like this time.

When the horrible consequence I wrote for my character to experience shows up in the nightmares of my baby. I did NOT read my words to my boy. Not even one of them. And I didn’t talk to anyone about the struggle my MC is going through. But hey, last night Kid 4 woke up several times, sobbing at the things he’s hearing in his head during his nightmare. Specifically, the same sorts of things I wrote into my story, waking my sleeping baby from his peaceful night.

This is a guilt I can’t figure out. I know that my writing doesn’t harm my Kids, [1] but I FEEL like I’ve done this to him. I made up this thing, a punishment for my MC’s line-crossing, and now my Kid 4 is suffering for it. (As am I. Co-sleepers, I am in awe of you. I have never, never encouraged kids to sleep in my bed. I do not love it. There is no sleeping for me.)

Is this even sane? Probably not. Remember, I didn’t sleep last night either. But I have to say, when I got up to write this morning, I wondered “Why am I not writing about ponies and cupcakes and birthday balloons?”

Oh, yeah. I remember, Because conflict drives story. And I want a story.

With all that implies.

Sorry, Kid 4.

[1] but that would make an interesting idea for a book, wouldn’t it? And I suddenly want to rewatch Emma Thompson’s Stranger Than Fiction.

REVIEW! CONCERT EDITION!

Okay, don’t go falling off your chair in surprise. I didn’t really go to a concert. Not lately, anyway.

I watched one.

This one.

I know. It doesn’t make me any cooler. But it is so, so good, and I want to tell you everything in the world that I thought of it. Ready?

Go.

* Oh, Les Miserables. I love you with all my heart and soul, and I’m not even being a tiny bit insincere. For more than twenty years, I have loved you. And this concert was nearly perfect. The orchestra? Phenomenal. Also? There were fireworks. I do not make these things up.

* I found Jean Valjean strangely handsome. Does this mean I’m getting old?

* I always fall a little in love with Enjolras. When I see the show, or read the book, or even listen to the music, my heart goes lurch for him. What can I say? I’m a sucker for the doomed emutee-leader. *Sigh* for revolutionaries. Also? He may have been played by the following middle-Eastern god (behold):

Even had he been a troll, I’d have loved him. But, notice? Not a troll. Yes, the dimple may have helped. Also? He could sing. Oh, yes he could.

* Cosette’s teeth? Distracted me. (The two in front were long. And curved. Unto a beaver, a little bit.) I had to look at her beautiful eyes or the cute mole on her cheek in order not to be sidetracked completely from her perfect performance. I am shallow. I know.

* Shall we talk about Nick Jonas? Firstly, he bears a striking resemblance to my cousin’s husband Ron. And pondering this, I realize that I’ve never seen the two of them in the same room. Hmmm. But I don’t think Ron sings. And, it turns out, Nick Jonas does. (Even if, in Crash’s opinion, [1]┬áhe doesn’t hold his notes long enough.) The short notes did not bother me. Want to know what did bother me? Nick Jonas’s propensity toward the earnest eyebrows. Yes. Marius is earnest. But really? Nick was distractingly earnest. Want to see?

Those eyebrows came at me all night. Both times I watched it. I stifled the urge to rub the lines out of his forehead. Through the screen. Eyebrows notwithstanding, he was terrific. Really. This was my first taste of any of the Jonas brothers, and I approve. Of his performance, anyway.

* Eponine. After all these years, at least 10 readings of the novel, and many, many hours spent singing along with her, I still want to be Eponine. Not in real life. Just on stage. (Yes. I know I am too old. I don’t care. Not at all.) This Eponine (Samantha Barks from the London cast) was stunning. Vocally and costume-wise and characteristically. I wanted to bring her home with me. See her up there, singing “A Little Fall of Rain” at Nick’s earnest eyebrows? She also had a killer dimple and glorious eyebrows.

* Costuming/makeup did something to both Mr. and Madame Thenardier’s teeth. A gruesome, yellowy-brown something. Fascinating. I want to know how that happened.

* Gavroche looked like a tiny Aladdin, and I wish he’d been able to do all the “Little People” song, or die on the barricade. Alas.

* Lea Salonga played Fantine. If that sentence means nothing to you, we can still be friends.

* At the end of the show, there’s some Family Reunion-type stuff which made a tear or maybe two fall out of my eyes.

* I borrowed the movie from Netflix. But don’t be too surprised if I end up spending too much money to own it forever, as long as a DVD shall live. I loved it that much. The traveling show was in a City Near Me until today, actually, and I decided not to sell an internal organ in order to take the Kids to see it. So I made them all watch the concert with me after church today (with the added bonus of fast-forwarding through the Lovely Ladies scene, you’re welcome, small Kid 4). I remain of the opinion that this is a piece of literary genius turned musical genius that will (or at least should) remain for generations. At least.

[1] I love that Crash and I watched this at the same time. I’d drafted this, and then I read her post, and then, saw that we even stole used the same images from Goooogle — except hers are big, and mine are teensy. Perhaps I’m stalking. Or maybe it’s just a Great Minds moment… or something.