Fixing Books

Today, my son finally ripped a library book. I’ve been expecting this for the past year or so (as long as I’ve been getting him library books), but he’s been surprisingly respectful so far. Today, however, he got bored waiting for me to read G is for Gzonk (which I was hoping not to have to read at all), and he experimentally ripped a few inches of the page.

So I gave him a time out (which he loves), then considered making him return all the library books without checking any out (which would be torture for me, because I would have to read the same old books we have), and at my husband’s suggestion, settled on making him “pay” for the damages.

And by that, I mean I made him do some extra chores and paid him small change for them. Then we took a little plastic container (filled with his glorious 40 cents) to the librarian.

“Will you tell the librarian what happened?” I asked.

The librarian patiently waited while I prodded a “I ripped a book” out of him.

She started to tell him it was no big deal, but I gave her a look and whispered, “I know, but I’m trying to teach him a lesson.”

She nodded knowingly, then wiped the smile off her face and said thoughtfully to my son, “Well, thank you for telling me. We’ll fix it with some tape.”

“Give her the money,” I said.

She started to protest again, and I whispered, “It’s just 40 cents. Just take it.”

She nodded again and took the money, thanking John for his responsibility. John actually looked really concerned about the book, and I gave him a hug and thanked him for fixing the problem. And then we went about our normal library activities of checking out about a bazillion books. ♦


An Embarrassment of Pandas

I don’t usually tell people what my works in progress are. This is for several reasons. One is that I want the creative license to dramatically change my writing at the drop of a hat. That means I don’t want people to say, “But I really liked that idea! (or character, or what-have-you.)

Another reason is because I figure there are only a few select people who really care about the writing before it’s finished.

But the biggest reason is probably that when people know I’m working on a project, they ask me how it’s going. And then I stress out about it, because sometimes it’s not going so well. Or not going at all. Or I’ve completely abandoned it and started something new. Long story short, I don’t tell people about my works in progress because I’d rather give someone a pleasant surprise than look like a flake.

So… I have a pleasant surprise! I’ve just finished a book! It’s a poetry collection inspired by the absurd names we have for animals. For example, a group of crows is called a murder. A group of sharks is a shiver. Monkeys literally come in barrels. And the book is called An Embarrassment of Pandas. (Yes, that’s the real name for a group of pandas.)

And—added bonus—my good friend Holly Black agreed to do the illustrations for me (which is why that panda on the front cover looks so svelte and put-together.) The whole thing ended up with a kind of Shel Silverstein flavor, if I may flatter myself.

I’ve got a book signing here in Provo on Dec. 2 (and I’m only freaking out about it a little bit.) The event is at 11am at Pioneer Book (450 W Center Street), and there will be snacks. Obviously. The book is perfect for poetry readers of all ages, so everybody’s welcome.

And if you want to buy it online, click here!


The Best Fruit Snacks

John and I were at the grocery store last night, stocking up. He was helping me make decisions, like what flavor of yogurt he wanted (strawberry and raspberry), and he was in charge of holding the shopping list (which he dropped several times before it finally ended up in his pocket.) And, since he’s the primary eater of fruit snacks in the household, I asked him what kind he wanted.

I parked the cart in front of the fruit snacks and he looked them over, then said “peecha!”

That didn’t sound familiar, so I asked again, and he pointed. “Peek-choo!” Pikachu fruit snacks. That’s what he was pointing at. And they were 3/$6, which is more than I usually spend.

I looked at the $1 options again and told him, “No, let’s get Curious George, or fishies, or Snoopy, okay?”


“Great. We’ll get Snoopies.” I put them in the cart, and then realized he would eat his way through that box in a matter of hours if I let him. “Let’s get another box, okay? What kind do you want?”

He didn’t beg or whine. He just kind of sat there, looking at me, looking at the Pikachu box, and then back at me; he had this look on his face that said, “I want those ones, but you already said no, so…..”

And then it hit me. I had $80 worth of food in the cart, and I was arguing with a 2-year-old about one dollar.

We got the Pikachu fruit snacks. And—added bonus—they also have Squirtle, Charmander, and Bulbasoar shapes in there. And Gengar, for some reason. I guess they needed something purple for the grape flavor. Anyways. They’re the best fruit snacks I’ve ever bought. ♥

The Search for the Dream Job

We’ve been without income for a while now, while Ethan’s been looking for a teaching job. And while Ethan’s started substitute teaching, I’ve been considering getting a part-time job to help out. The primary reason I’ve been putting it off is anxiety; I quit my last job because the stress was really getting to me. And I’m afraid I’ll have to quit again. Or I’m afraid I’ll get the wrong job, or I’ll get fired, or I’ll do it wrong, or I’ll accidentally vandalize company property and get four people fired again, or what-have-you.

But I finally had a liberating thought a few weeks ago: what’s really the worst-case scenario? I mean, death and vomit come to mind, but the likely worst-case scenario is that I end up quitting or getting fired. And then—oh, no—I’m unemployed again. Whatever will I do.

So I thought I’d take this opportunity to try out those jobs I’ve always wondered about, but never thought were a great career option. You know how you’ve always wanted to act in an off-Broadway show? Of course you never pursued it; you were busy following your prescribed plan to become an actuary. But let’s say for a minute that you had a good 18 years (give or take) when you wanted to be home with your kid for at least part of the day. The actuary plans are on hold. Why not try Broadway?

First of all, I have never wanted to become an actuary. And my little experience in drama class has convinced me that the actress idea was not for me, either. But here’s the list of jobs I’ve always wanted to try:

  • Grave digger
  • Flower shop
  • Breaking up dog fights (literal dog fights. Like, me vs. a rottweiler.)
  • Actress
  • Midwife
  • Witch doctor… or herbalist… or whatever you call it
  • Massage therapist
  • Bookseller (check!)
  • Selling cosmetics to men
  • Cheering up lost children at corn mazes
  • Rescue helicopter pilot
  • Special needs aide (check!)
  • Bartender
  • Diner waitress (the greasier the spoon, the better)
  • Author (check!)
  • Interior design
  • Garden center
  • Stained glass artist
  • Disaster clean-up
  • Demolition
  • Construction worker
  • Child literacy
  • Roofing
  • Taster/food critic
  • Dancer
  • Musician (check!)
  • Work with animals (nicer than the dog-fighting one)
  • ASL translator
  • Put things together
  • Taxicab driver

So, a few of these are things I’ve already done. Which is nice. And a few of these are out of my reach. The Provo Cemetery position, unfortunately, has already been filled.

But I think this has given me a good perspective—there are a lot of things I’d like to do. And some of these things are positions I still wouldn’t mind getting fired from, if my anxiety really strikes hard. I mean, I’m not planning on getting fired. But it makes the worst-case scenario a little less daunting when my long-term plans aren’t on the line.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I don’t want the fear of failure keeping me from trying. Or having fun. And also, if you know a midwife or gravedigger who’s looking for an assistant, hook me up. ♦

This Is Why It’s Called “Fall.”

We went to a fall carnival last night, thinking it would be a great experience for all of us—especially our two-year-old. It was cold and a little rainy, but we came equipped with jackets, and fall is still going to be new and novel for a few weeks until we get used to summer being over. We were excited.

On the way in, we saw the train ride, which looked perfect for Jonathan’s age. It was one of those “trains” made up of a go-kart or tiny tractor or what-have you, followed by a bunch of hollowed-out oil barrels on wheels. The most promising part was seeing that the driver was actually excited about it. Most of the time when you see a train ride at one of these things, they’ve got some old, boring guy driving the thing in slow, loopy ovals. This chick was driving fast, snaky zig-zags. Perfect beginner’s carnival ride.

We bought some tickets and I ushered John away from the ring toss game, thinking we should make sure to start on a fun note. We waited in line, and the attendant asked if I was going to get on the ride with him. I said no, because it was the first answer that came to my mind, and I figured it was a pretty easy ride. He’d be fine. So the lady gladly lifted John into the train just behind an older boy, and they took off.

Halfway down the parking lot (I mean “train track,”) I turned to Ethan and said, “I really hope he doesn’t try to get out.” Up till then, I had only assumed he might scream. It didn’t really occur to me he might stand up or something. The train was nearing the end of the line, and we realized that was exactly what he was doing. Ethan took off running, but the train was too far away. John was standing and very carefully trying to climb out.

To his credit, he was handling it all very calmly. He wasn’t screaming or crying. He had just decided it was too scary, and he wanted to get off. Unfortunately, he decided this while the train was going full-speed, and turning around. So his brilliant idea to step out was disrupted. (Of course, the train was as tall as he was, so it’s not like it was going to go beautifully anyway.) He fell out of the train, landed face-first on the asphalt, and then got run over by the car behind him.

Spoiler alert: he’s fine. My child is alive.

But he wasn’t very happy about it. His head had a bunch of bloody scrapes and one really nasty-looking bruise full of broken blood vessels. As we cleaned him up in the nurse’s office, he slowly stopped screaming and moved more toward just crying and sniffling. The woman cleaning him up was very good with him, and offered him far more band-aids than he could possibly need. (This is when we found the tread-marks on his leg; that’s how we knew he got run over.)

So the kid is fine. He’s got a great story about “that one time when he jumped out of the carnival train and got run over,” but he’s fine. His poor cousin just broke his elbow (same day, I believe) falling on the playground, so now the family is debating whether the injury or the story is the more important bragging point.

I’m starting to forgive myself for letting him ride the train alone. And we’re emphasizing the importance of asking for help instead of jumping out of moving vehicles. And who knows? Maybe this will give him some context next time we emphasize checking for cars before crossing the street, now that he has some idea what it’s like to be run over. Right? This could be good, right?

Poor kid. ♦

Loving Our Enemies

There’s been a little bit of hometown hell in Charlottesville this past week. Apparently, when the city decided to remove a Confederate statue, a group of protesters showed up with torches and Confederate and Nazi flags. Alarmed (by the torches and Confederate and Nazi flags,) a group of anti-protesters showed up to argue that symbols of White supremacy were not the way to solve this country’s problems. At some point, violence broke out between the two groups, ending(?) with someone driving a car through the counter-protester crowd, killing 1 person and injuring 19 more.

These are the facts, as far as I’ve found them. I don’t live in Virginia, and I don’t know anyone involved, so I’m relying heavily on news sources. But what’s clear is that there was a violent clash between two groups, and now the news (and social media) is exploding about it.

I can’t tell you who’s right here. Because, let’s be clear: I don’t think anyone was really “right.” I don’t think Nazis are a good group to join. But even Nazis have freedom of speech in this country, and I don’t think it’s a good idea to violently oppose a peaceful protest, even when the ideals presented are potentially violent. Hate doesn’t solve hate. At any rate, I’m not here to tell you what happened in Virginia, because I wasn’t there. I’m here to tell you what’s happening to my friends online.

As far as I see it, there are two kinds of people on Facebook right now: those who are talking about Nazis and those who aren’t. There would be more groups, except that those who are talking about Nazis insist there are only two. Because those who are talking about Nazis insist that if you’re not talking about the problem right now, you’re adding to the problem.

By remaining silent, they argue, you’re tacitly accepting it. You’re refusing to act on something that’s obviously wrong in this country. And I agree we should be talking about it. But there are a lot of people outside of Virginia who simply don’t know what they can do about it besides feel awful. And that still doesn’t solve the problem.

We need to address the problem. But that doesn’t mean remaining silent is acceptance.

Remember the women’s march in January? Everyone was talking about it. And every other post I saw about it was condemning those who weren’t participating in some way—why would you be betraying half the population of the world by not talking about Feminism right now? Why would you not be excited about this? What could possibly be more important than women’s rights?

My brother’s funeral was that day. That day, I had something to think about that was more important to me than women’s rights.

If someone you know isn’t involved in your troubles, maybe they have troubles of their own. Maybe they hurt, too. Maybe you should ask them, instead of accusing them.

Please, people. Stop calling people “the enemy” when they disagree with you on something. That’s exactly how the Nazis came to see good, hardworking Germans as “the enemy.” Because of small differences.

We know you’re hurt. We’re hurt, too. But if both groups in Charlottesville had just ordered pizza and sat down and talked about their differences, maybe we wouldn’t be in this mess. Stop lashing out. Start reaching out. ♥


Edit: I’ve been called out for doing shoddy research on the event itself,  for which I apologize. I stated the facts as best I knew them at the time. The worst of the violence clearly came from the Nazi protestor who ran his car into the crowd.

The purpose of my article,  however, was not to provide a substitute for the news.  I’m calling in people to stop calling each other bigots and Klansmen because they’re Republicans, because they’re Conservative,  because they voted for Trump, because they’re White, or because they’re not sufficiently outraged. I don’t want Nazis in my country,  because they thrive on hatred.  But hating people won’t solve that problem.   There’s a divide between Americans, and we need to work on healing the rift. Casting blame on our neighbors won’t do that.

Why My Husband Has 5 Staples In the Back of His Head: A Dating Story

We haven’t gone on a date for a while. A long while. So last Saturday, we got a babysitter, headed to the ice rink, and rented some skates.

We got about 3/4 of the way around the rink.

Ethan’s a pretty good skater. I, on the other hand, enjoy ice skating as a date activity because it gives me  cling to my date. So we started out slow (about 1-2 mph), and watched for good skaters to emulate.

After two turns, Ethan fell. And I laughed at him, because I’m a jerk sometimes, but also because it was really funny. His arms went straight out, his head went straight back, his legs went straight up, and his glasses flew straight off. It was like watching Charlie Brown trying to kick a football. I did stop myself from laughing once I realized how hard his head had hit the ice, though. I’m not a total jerk.

Ethan stood up and we started moving slowly off the ice. About this time, I noticed there was a heavy trickle of blood coming down behind his ear and dribbling down his neck. We stopped at the first-aid station.

The girls running the ice rink were very nice, treated Ethan’s head wound, and recommended we call the paramedics to see whether he would need stitches. This we did, and the paramedics said we should go to the hospital. He wasn’t bleeding anymore, thankfully—but apparently he was going to need a lot of stitches. I think she said about 20.

A loyal alumnus, Ethan split his head open in a Y-shape. BYU fans will be disappointed to know, however, that alumni don’t actually bleed blue.

We stopped at home to clean up and told the babysitter (who was remarkably chill) we were going to the hospital. As we arrived at the ER, Ethan got a prompt on his phone from Google, asking if he’d like to add pictures of Peaks Ice Arena. We decided it might look bad on their ratings if we added a picture of his wound.

Ethan got his head numbed up, and then shot 5 times with a staple gun. (I’m sure the medical terminology is different, but it sounds better if I call it a staple gun.) And we brought home some ice cream, because we deserved it. ♦