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Rachel's Ramblings


Saturday, 28th of April of 2012 at 07:44:44 AM

Amazing Baby and a Free Book

So the other day my baby, then about seven months old, exploded from her diaper. She does this quite regularly, but this time she was covered all the way up her back, in the front, and out the bottom. It was quite something else (and I've raised six other children). On the way to the to the bathtub, I stopped to show Liana, my eight-year-old daughter, what her sister had done. I expected her to say, "Ooo gross!" Instead a huge smile came over her face and and she said, "Lisbon, you're SO AMAZING! Aren't you, sweetie? Yes, you are. So AMAZING!" And she went upstairs with me to help clean the baby.

Then last week Lisbon was a little sick, and when Liana came home from school, she grabbed her from my arms as she always does. She lay down on the carpet, raising the baby above her, up and down. Lisbon laughed. She loves playing with her sister.

Then it happened. Yes, you guessed it. Lisbon threw up all over Liana's throat and shirt. It was really yucky. I know because I had just cleaned the same thing up not thirty minutes before.

And what did Liana do? I admit, I was holding my breath. I mean, that's a little too much for an eight-year-old to take.

But Liana laughed and said, "Oh, Lisbon, you're so AMAZING! Mom, can you pass me that rag?"

So who is really amazing here?

I think they both are. And I think that maybe the fact that we laugh every time something like this happens, no matter how long it takes to clean up or how long it delays whatever we're doing, we're teaching our children what's really important in life. Every day as I hold my baby, I know I'm the luckiest woman alive.

So to celebrate my amazing kids, I'm giving away 2,000 copies of my Kindle chapter book The Problem With Spaceships Book #1: Zero G Saturday April 28th for your child ages 6-10. Once you read it, you'll see why! I hope you find it AMAZING!

Click on here to download for free (April 28th only).

Wednesday, 28th of December of 2011 at 04:59:59 PM

Memories of Christmas 2011

Special memories of Christmas 2011 in no particular order:

Seeing two of my sons pass the Sacrament.

Hearing my eight-year-old on Christmas morning exclaim how well Santa knows her.

Christmas breakfast made by my eighteen-year-old daughter.

Sharing baby's first Christmas Eve hot tub experience.

Watching my husband build the 1870 detailed replica of a kitchen for our daughter.

Seeing the kids playing games together.

Watching my eight-year-old read her letter from Santa.

Finding just the right presents for my adult children that I knew they'd not only love but use.

Seeing my twenty-one-year-old son loving the cool jacket I picked out for him.

Receiving a pair of brown suede, high top, classic roller skates so I can float around the rink like I used to as a child. And so I can go to the track and skate while pushing my baby in her stroller.

Eating dinner and enjoying holiday traditions with all of my seven children together for the first time in two years (Well, actually, the first time ever since baby Lisbon was born the end of this past August, but it was the first time in two years that the other six were all here.)

Tuesday, 27th of December of 2011 at 05:46:57 PM

Santa Present Mix-up

My eight-year-old wrote the following letter to Santa. While she waited for a response, she quite accidentally discovered a present with her name on it from Santa, the day BEFORE Christmas. Oops! Thankfully, Santa (who had brought her a camera) explained the mix-up.

Dear Santa,

How are you? Can you please answer the questions below?

1. How old are you?
2. Do you love Christmas?
3. Was I good or bad?

I think that's all and here are some things I want to tell you. I'm learning a song about you. And I don't know if we are going to set up Christmas decorations and I want to ask you some more questions.

4. What time will you come?
5. How many presents will you give me?
6. Are you going to look into my room because if you do, do you like my birdís nest?
7. How much candy will you give me?
8. Are you giving my friend Avi coal in her stocking because she doesnít believe in you?
9. It is true that even if people donít believe in you that you give them gum because you still want them to believe?
10. Is it true that if children have been naughty that you give them presents?

Well, I think that's it. I hope you don't get really tired by reading this letter, and writing back. I believe in you and also I know that on Christmas Eve you deliver letters and I wish that you would come sooner.

Goodbye,

from Liana

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

December 24, 2011

Dear Liana,

Sorry I didnít get this letter to you sooner. It has been very busy at the North Pole so I barely had a chance to write back before I took off to deliver presents. Usually, my elves help me write my letters, but I wanted to answer your letter personally this year to explain about the present I dropped off at your house a couple days before Christmas. I put it somewhere your parents would be sure to see it so they could peek inside and maybe let you use it for your Christmas Eve celebration. (Hopefully they werenít too busy to see it. :-)

Here are the answers to the questions you asked:
1. I am 166 years old, but because of the magic that exists at the North Pole, I have the health of someone who is 50. My wife keeps me exercising during the year but for some reason I still have a big stomach. I eat a lot of cookies. My hands shake a bit, but I am doing really well besides that, especially for being this old.

2. Yes, I LOVE Christmas. I am so grateful to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and thatís why I give presents to all the good children in the world. The wonderful presents He gave them of His life and atonement are far more important than what I could ever give, but I like to do my part.

3. Well, no one can be good every minute, but for the most part you were a good, helpful, and honest child. Being honest is very important to me and I always give extra points to children who tell the truth. I am so glad you were good and honest this year. Not all children are, you know. I can tell you have been trying very hard to be a good help to your mother. You are a lucky girl to have a little sister, and I know you are so happy about her coming into your family. I also know itís a little hard sometimes, but you are very kind and loving toward her. I am proud of you for that (and thatís the real reason I delivered one of your presents early).

4. I visit houses only when the children are asleep. Usually I plan to come about three or four in the morning, but some houses I can visit earlier because I know the children are already asleep. So somewhere between midnight and four, I will come to your house.

5. I usually give good boys and girls one or two presents plus what is in their stockings.

6. Iím sorry. I probably wonít get a chance to look in your room because I have so many houses to visit. But I bet it looks a lot like the birdís nest Rudolf found in the attic of the reindeer house. I like that one a lot.

7. Ho, ho, ho. By the time you receive this letter, you will already see how much candy!

8. Avi only pretends not to believe in me. She tries to make you and her brothers think she is cool by not believing, but inside she still believes. She has mostly been a good girl this year so I will bring her some candy for her stocking.

9. Sometimes I do put gum in unbelieving children's stockings. But not always. It depends if they are good, kind, and honest. Sometimes when kids donít believe, I will try for a few years to help the understand the true meaning of Christmas and what it means to be Santa Clause. So Iíll give them presents and candy. But only if they have done good things.

10. If children are mostly bad and misbehaving and rude, I donít bring them presents. But often their parents will still buy them presents.

Well, that was the end of your questions. Thatís cool about the song that you learned about me. I hope you liked it. And no, I did not get tired reading your letter. I love your letters. I always read all the letters from children and I write back (or I tell my elves what to say because sometimes my hands get shaky). I am glad you believe in me, but mostly I am glad that you are helping your mother and saying your prayers and going to church to learn about Jesus, who is the most important thing about Christmas and all year long.

I love you. Merry Christmas!

Love, Santa Clause

Monday, 28th of November of 2011 at 05:25:12 PM

Okay, I want to be clear from the outset that this post is going to obtain grossness. If you are a mom, you will completely understand and sympathize, but if youíre a teenager and possibly a dad, you might, well, not want to finish reading this. No worries, this is a G-rated blog but when youíre talking babies, it doesnít get too much grosser than this.

It all started at Maceyís grocery store, where Iíd gone to get my seventh-grader a birthday treat for his class. I had just enough time to dash into the store to choose a treat and maybe some little drinks to go along with it.

My newborn had other plans.

Lisbonís an amazing baby, as I tell her dozens of times every day, and this day was no exception. She decided that it was time to make a mess, so she did. Very thoroughly, clear up her back and through all her clothes. Just as I got her out of her car seat.

I hadnít brought a change of clothing.

What? You say? Is she crazy not bringing a change? Okay, itís been a lot of years, and Iíd forgotten babies did this. Or maybe I hoped that in the past eight years diapers had gotten better. They havenít.

I had a choice. Go home without a birthday treat, change the baby and pick up my children, and have to repeat the trip to the store another day (we were already one day late because Iíd forgotten, which is understandable seeing as I was busy having a baby). The second option was to change the babyís diaper, wrap her in her tiny receiving blanket, and run inside.

I chose to go inside because I didnít know if Iíd make it to the store again that week (or out of the house for that matter, and I didnít want to disappoint my son. I couldnít just carry Lisbon in the car seat and cover her because she hates her car seat and would cry and fuss and kick that blanket off faster than she can soil a diaper. And though it was warm, I didnít think people would look too kindly on me taking a nearly naked newborn into the store. (Nearly naked newbornótry saying that five times as fast as you can.)

I chose to go into the store. Using a ton of wipes, I cleaned her up (and up and up) and went into the store. Having only one free hand, I stuck a large box of Oreos in my diaper bag, and carried another one in my hand. The baby struggled, not pleased with being so tightly wrapped, but I managed to keep the blanket on. I paid for the boxes and ran to the car.

Crises averted. I made it home in time to dress her quickly and get to the school. Lisbon was none the worse for wear. She screamed most of the way to the school (did I mention she really hates her car seat?), but we made it in one piece and I was able to soothe her quickly when we arrived.

Fast forward to when Lisbon was six weeks old. I was on a field trip with my daughterís third grade class to Temple Square. (Yes, Iím one of those paranoid mothers who wonít let her rambunctious eight-year-old go on field trips without her supervision.) They had the great opportunity to talk to the organist there about Bach and to eat lunch before attending a short concert. My husband came along to help me look after the children in our care in case I had to duck out to feed our baby.

Everything went smoothly until the middle of the concert. I sat way in the back all alone so I could nurse the baby with my nifty nursing cover, and as I finished, Lisbon had another incident. Sheíd soaked her undershirt, her top, and the blanket.

Fortunately, Iíd learned from the Maceyís incident, and I had a change of clothing. But I hadnít seen a bathroom and I had no idea where to go. Plus, I had to help with the children sitting rows in front of me, and I didnít want to become separated from them or my husband who was sitting with them.

So I did what any experienced mother would do. Forgetting I had a changing pad to lay her on (I never used one with my other six), I set her on her burp cloth and stripped her. Fortunately, it wasnít cold in the tabernacle, but I canít say that for the wipesóand I had to use a lot of them to get her clean. My amazing baby didnít so much as let out one peep as I washed her entire back and changed every stitch of clothing. Rather disconcerting to see a completely naked baby on a bench in the tabernacle, but I since that was the way she was born, I knew it wouldnít offend anyone looking down on us from heaven.

Using my finely honed mothering skills (actually, I felt like I was all thumbs), I swiftly redressed the baby, leaving off the undershirt as the last song was finishing and Lisbon had a look on her face that told me even sheíd had enough.

I finished just as the children came up the aisles. Whew!

Lisbon is now three months old. Needless to say, we have several of these experiences every week, sometimes twice in a day, and once three times, though usually itís at home. With each adventure, my husband and I just laugh. Hindsight with our six older children (ages 8 to 21) tells us that we are the luckiest two people in the entire world to have the chance to raise one more amazing baby.

Saturday, 3rd of September of 2011 at 03:39:03 PM

Well, by now most everyone already knows I had my daughter. Lisbon Makayla Nunes was born on Tuesday August 30 at 2:41 PM. She weighed 6 lbs and 13 oz and was 18 1/2 inches long. Her parents, five of her six siblings, her maternal grandmother, and her Aunt Mary were all there to welcome her into the world. She was greatly anticipated and celebrated by all, but especially by me, her mother, as it was a long and difficult pregnancy.

I actually began labor in the early morning the Thursday before with pain as real as any I'd ever experienced with my six other children. I told the children Lisbon was coming that day, and one of my daughters didn't go into work. We were all excited. Then things stalled, and I slowed to two contractions an hour, some of which were painful and some of which were not. I was only dilated to a two. I chalked it up to false or pre-labor, though I'd never experienced painful false labor before.

The entire weekend proceeded without change. By Sunday I was only three dilated, and I was frustrated. After all the ONLY reason I was going to the hospital to have Lisbon was so I could have an epidural and Pitocin, and what was the point if I was going to have to experience so many painful contractions before I even got there? But school was beginning for my two youngest children on Monday, so I didn't push the issue. I did worry about poor Lisbon getting squished for so long. If she didn't move for a bit, I would drink juice and wake her up. I was terrified that horrible would happen to her, and after all that I'd been through, that almost pushed me over the edge.

The contractions continued all Monday, two or three an hour. We had scheduled Tuesday for induction, so that was my light at the end of the tunnel. Early Tuesday morning the contractions had increased to five or six in an hour. Most were so painful I had to breathe through them. When the hospital called to tell me to come in, I was more than ready. I hurried through last-minute arrangements for my other children.

At seven-thirty we arrived at the hospital. I was dilated to a four and was 70% effaced. Definitely in labor, but again the contractions had slowed to two every hour. I was convinced that my age was working against me and that my uterus was simply too tired to finish the job. The midwife suggested doing the labor without Pitocin but even when I was younger I would have taken another 24 hours to give birth, and I was already exhausted.

It took until nine to get the epidural and pitocin going. The contractions were still stalled though. A check three hours later at noon showed I wasn't even dilated to a five! I was 80% effaced, but that gave me little comfort. My mother arrived, and so did three of my older children. My sister showed up a bit later with the two youngest, whom she'd checked out of school. The waiting began in earnest. One of my daughters had to work later, and she was afraid she'd miss the birth. She was already missing a college class to be there.

At two I was still a five, but 90% effaced. The midwife was confused at the slowness and asked the nurse about the level of the Pitocin. They upped it a bit. After about fifteen minutes, I could actually feel the contractions (which still hurt less than the false labor I'd been having so I didn't feel the need to boost the epidural). I'd felt all along that I was too numb because if you can't feel anything, how can you tell when you feel ready to push?

Twenty more minutes passed. Finally I was having regular contractions. I continued to pay close attention to my daughter's heartbeat, making sure she was all right. Then with one contraction, the heartbeat disappeared. I found it seconds later by moving the little monitor on my stomach lower. It happened twice more and, worried, we sent my sister for the midwife. She came back in and reassured us that everything was all right. My mother, a lay midwife, recommended that she check me because something had obviously changed. I agreed.

Minutes later the midwife's face showed surprise. I was fully dilated and ready to go! She hurried out to get the nurse. She also called the nursery for the breathing specialists because she had decided the amniotic fluid was a little dark. I was so upset at this because if they are called to a birth, they get the baby first instead of the mom. Grrr. I KNEW my baby was fine and I wanted her first. And I'd fight them for her! They were not going to stick an unnecessary tube down her nose.

The midwife and nurse hurried in, and I told them them the baby was coming NOW. "Can't you wait a minute?" the midwife asked. Uh, no. I absolutely couldn't. I wasn't pushing, it was the Pitocin, which, they should have turned off by that point if they wanted to slow things down. I could feel that my daughter was already coming out.

Sure enough, my husband pulled back the sheet and there was a bit of our daughter's head. The nurse shoved on her gloves and hurried over to help the baby out while the midwife dived for her gloves. In the next minute, my baby was on my stomach, but the cord was short so I couldn't bring her up to my chest. She was screaming. I calmed her, but the nurse said to let her cry a bit in case anything was in her lungs. I talked to my daughter and told her everything was fine, that she was fine.

My husband cut the cord and finally I could hold my daughter. She had calmed and her color looked great. The nurse rubbed her down with warm receiving blankets while I cuddled her. The breathing specialist showed up but left almost immediately when the learned the baby was already there and (of course) breathing perfectly on her own. Minutes later, Lisbon was nursing vigorously, content but alert.

I worried a little that in the end it had all happened too fastógoing from five dilated to giving birth in 41 minutes, but Lisbon seemed fine. She had all her parts, was alert, her vitals were perfect, and as the doctor from Fetal Maternal Medicine predicted, you couldn't tell by looking at Lisbon's back that she has a hemivertebra. While that's definitely something we will have to check into later, it's is NOT something requiring immediate attention or something that will delay her physical progress. No sign, either, of any of the 100 syndromes that are usually attached to an extra half vertebra, something the FMM doctor worried our daughter might have even though she could pick up no signs of one on the many ultrasounds. If I'd never had an ultrasound, as I didn't with my first four natural births, I would never have known about the hemivertibra until it caused Lisbon pain in later life, if it ever caused pain.

The minute Lisbon was out, I began wondering how fast I could get out of the hospital. I wanted my own bed and to be left alone with my precious baby. I'd already told everyone I wanted to leave ASAP, and my midwife had set the wheels in motion. We had to wait for my regular family doctor to come and do a baby check (rolling my eyesóhe was in the room two minutes) before we could go home. At 7:09 PM we were driving away from the hospital. My right leg was still a little numb from the epidural, and I wouldn't be able to walk around with the baby in my arms for a bit, but I knew that would pass.

We stopped off for my favorite strawberry-Oreo shake on the way home. It was really good, and I felt great. Of course I was under the influence of over-the-counter Ibruprofen, but still I felt MUCH better than I'd felt in most of the past eight months.

Two days later, we had a rather terrifying fever scare with Lisbon, which had me back to wondering if I'd endured these past eight horrible months only to lose her to some unnamed syndrome or complication after all. But an internal temperature check showed she was within a proper range. I nixed my plans to go to church that Sunday. Lisbon needs to be a little older before she is around a crowd and even then people outside the family aren't supposed to hold her until she's a month old.

I'd stopped taking the Ibruprofen after a few days, but when my milk came in, I had to take it again because the afterbirth contractions picked up again. I'd also developed a bit of a sore throat and a hoarse voice. With this and the huge cysts of milk that have formed in my breasts and under my arms, it looks like I'd better keep taking it for a while. As long as I remind myself to take it easy, I might as well FEEL halfway good. I also have to be very careful of mastitis, since I'm prone to the infection. I'll know in a few days if I've been successful enough to avoid antibiotics, which is my goal. That and making sure Lisbon doesn't get my cold. So far so good. Lisbon is much more content now that she has plenty of milk. She nursed for about eighteen hours out of every twenty-four the first few daysóapparently that's what it took for her to feel satisfied with only the colostrum. Now she's content between nursings for two to three hours. She even lets her siblings hold her a minute or two without crying for me. :-) I actually slept last night between and through nursing, an old skill I'm picking back up quickly.

It's overóthe long months of waiting and the complications and pains of pregnancy at forty-five. It was ALL worth it. I have my precious reward, and I am enjoying every second of being with her. I can sit and stare at her for hours. In fact, that's pretty much all any of us do around her (you should see how her father dotes on her already). She is a miracle. My miracle. And I'm so grateful to enter this new phase with her.

Tuesday, 23rd of August of 2011 at 01:04:06 PM

After multiple requests, I finally succumbed and had my husband take this picture of me for posterityís sake. I donít know if Lisbon will care to see what I looked like carrying her (my other six children donít seem to care all that much), but this picture will be available if she wants to see it. People who know me will barely recognize me with my puffy face and arms and . . . everything. Ugh. Not my best, but here it is.

Incidentally, my newest book, Before I Say Goodbye, is due out September 3rd, so I will have a new baby and a new book all within a week. I know Iím going to enjoy my baby, and I hope you all enjoy the book!

Monday, 22nd of August of 2011 at 09:33:04 AM

Update #2 on Baby Lisbon

Well, Iíve had four non-stress tests (NSTs) since I last wrote, which means a month has passed since my first update. We are now very close to holding our baby in our arms. If Lisbon does not make an appearance by herself this coming weekend (26-28th), we will induce labor on August 30th. Iíd really rather her come on her own, despite how miserable I am, but they worry about me going later because of my age and possible placenta problems.

My last NST on Thursday was during Lisbonís sleepy time. They had me drink two cups of juice and used a vibrator to wake her up. After that, she was bouncing off the uterus walls. Poor thing. She has been constantly active most of the time, so I wasnít really concerned about her sleeping, but my AFI (amniotic fluid index) had gone down by half in only one weekóitís now 8, down from 16. Though 8 is not terrible, the midwife would rather see it at least between 10 and 12 at this stage. A too-low AFT can indicate fetal stress, and the drop means I have to go in earlier this week for the NST. If it sinks to a 5 they will likely recommend induction. So Iím drinking lots of fluids and resting, which is the only thing I can do to increase the AFI. Since amniotic fluid levels can change hour to hour, depending on how much fluid is in the babyís bladder or stomach, the picture could be quite different when I go in on Wednesday.

At any rate, this is my last week for appointments! The little contractions Iíve been feeling for the past two months have stepped up, and several times since last Tuesday I suspected I was going into laboróonly to have them fizzle out. Frustrating. Iíve never had false labor contractions that actually felt like real labor before. Now I understand why many women confuse the two. I worry that after six full-term babies, my body has forgotten how to do real contractions. Or maybe I simply donít have enough muscles left in working order to do the job spontaneously. At any rate, I know Iíll need pitocin because my four natural labors were between 25 and 29 hours, something Iím not willing to repeat. I have a friend whose longest labor was 4 hours. Four hours! I could do that naturally. Or even 7. But 29? Well, letís just say you donít even know which way is up by that time. That means pitocin and an epidural are definitely in my birth plan.

Thatís the news. I am swollen and pretty miserable. I sleep much of the day and am in bed or on the couch for the rest. I try to force myself out to the pool a few times a week because I can actually swim a bit and all the leg and abdomen pain disappears, but going out there requires a motivation I sometimes canít find. Getting two kids ready to leave for college and three others for school has also been a challenge. Iím so grateful for the Internet and online purchasing. I also discovered that if I use a motorized cart in the store (how embarrassing!), I can go shopping without having to sit down in the aisle to rest or coming home in tears. As long as I bring a child to help me put things in and out of the cart, that is.

I had a couple meltdowns last week because, well, it seems like itís never, ever going to end. Each day stretches out before me like a month (even with all the sleeping). But Iíve had a lot of support from family and friends. Last week my ward brought dinner in twice, and they plan to do it again this week. Iíd declined several offers to hold a baby shower (Iím just too old and besides, I feel rather unsocial right now), but one day last week some people in my ward did a diaper drop at my house. First, three packages arrived mysteriously on the doorstep, and then two more. After that my eight-year-old would go outside to check the front door every so often and come running upstairs to my bedroom with yet another package of diapers. By that night we had 14 packs of diapers, and a few more trickled in later. I ended the week with 20 packs of diapers, 4 packs of wipes, 4 burp cloths, two rattle-type toys, two pacifiers, two outfits, three sleep ín plays, and some onesies. Finding all those diapers and having them arrive so steadily was a lot of fun and certainly took my mind off my torture. It was an unanticipated kindness that I am very grateful for.

Meanwhile, I keep forging on. Nothing else I can do but to take one day or even one hour at a time. This last week is going to be tough, but I know it will be worth it. As Iíve said time and time again in my books: Nothing worthwhile is ever easy, but it is so worth it in the end.

Thursday, 28th of July of 2011 at 08:09:58 PM

(Posted on Blogger Friday, July 22, 2011)

Update on Baby Lisbon

I've been feeling physically a lot better this week, but the three L's have set with in a vengeance. I'm lethargic, listless, and, well, lazy. I just want to sleep all day, which totally goes against all my instincts. I'm not really sure what to do about it, though. I've decided to take baby steps. A few paragraphs on my novel here, a load of laundry there, answering an e-mail between naps. It's slow going.

Yesterday I went to my appointment with the nurse midwives. Just a routine visit, but the midwife told me Lisbon was transverse, which was odd, since she's been head down for months. I'd felt that she was in a slightly different position because she wasn't kicking as much when I try to lie on my right side but to have turned completely sideways? That would be unusual for me.

So when I arrived home, I looked up what I could do about her being transverse and began worrying (that seems to be the primary pastime of expectant mothers). I'd been told once before (baby number 4) that my unborn child was breech a few days before delivery, and they'd been absolutely wrong, so my husband told me they were wrong again. He's good about not worrying before it's time to really worry. (Then again, he's not the one with the pregnancy hormones coursing through his body.)

After reading on the Internet, I forced myself to go outside in the pool and stand in the water on my head (well, hands, really). Just a few times. Nothing very long. I didn't feel Lisbon react at all. I think she was taking a nice nap (which is what I wanted to be doing).

Needless to say, today when I went to my appointment at the hospital with Maternal Fetal Medicine for my regular ultrasound, I was interested in what they would say about Lisbon's position. I also told them about the little Hispanic man who'd come up to me in Walmart where my husband and I had gone last Friday night to buy our eight-year-old a birthday present. He asked me what my baby was and when I told him, he said that, no, the baby was a boy and he was never, ever wrong, so I should prepare myself for a boy.

Okay. Never mind that four different women (three ultrasound technicians and a doctor who is a fetal specialist) had told me she was a girl in four separate ultrasound appointments, I was supposed to believe him. My husband laughed, but I didn't find it amusing. (I think pregnancy stole some of my sense of humor.) It was just weird having a total stranger come up and address me so familiarly.

Anyway, the ultrasound (with a technician I hadn't seen before) showed me a healthy 5.1 pound baby girl (emphatically a girl) with her head down, way down. The technician doubted she had ever moved but the doctor said with the ample fluid I had and after having so many children that it was possible. She couldn't say one way or another, but she did say that it was no big deal. If Lisbon did turn the wrong way, she'd turn her back. I guess it's something she does a lot in her profession.

The doctor took a lot of pictures of my daughter's spine. We could see the extra vertebrae, but even she admitted that it no longer seemed to make any difference in the curvature of Lisbon's spine. At every ultrasound, the curve we'd seen originally seemed to be less and less to me and this was confirmation. (Could it be all the extra folic acid I'm taking? You never know.) The doctor said it would be interesting if Lisbon's pediatrician could detect anything odd in her spine after her birth, and she made me promise to come back and tell her because this is the first time she's ever seen an isolated hemivertebrae (usually the condition is NOT isolate and accompanied with multiple birth defects).

Lisbon was doing so well that the doctor skipped the stress test today, and she said we didn't need anymore ultrasounds at all. The spine will definitely not be an issue for the birth or the after care. All we need to worry about now is my age and the weekly stress tests will show if there is any reason to induce labor early. Good news all the way around!

Wednesday, 13th of July of 2011 at 09:25:41 AM

Part 4: Preparing for Lisbon

One day sometime after the ultrasound, I had a horrible thought. I had absolutely no preparations in place for a baby. Weíd given everything babywise away long ago. Where we now stood, my little girl would be coming home from the hospital completely nude! Provided they let me leave with her since I didnít have a car seat.

I rested up for days and finally dragged myself and my seventeen-year-old daughter to the store to pick out a few sleepers. I only had to sit on the floor once or twice to make it through the shopping experience, but I came home with three sleep and play outfits, a dress, socks, a receiving blanket, and a baby blanket. Later my husband grabbed some newborn diapers from Macyís when he went to buy food. I still need to pick up some white tights, and a long sleeved white shirt for under the dress, but come what may, our daughter will leave the hospital clothed! I should also order a car seat online, but we need a swing, a stroller, and a high chair as well so I want to do it all at once. Itís a little overwhelming.

May and June brought relief from the nausea, and I cracked down, finally able to finish my novel. I was still spending most of the day working from my bed on my laptop. If I did get up, I had to wear support nylons for the varicose and other vein problems in my legs. Exhaustion was a constant battle, and sometimes I'd fall asleep in the middle of a paragraph. But I eventually finished writing Final Call,, the third novel third in the Autumn Rain series. First book I ever wrote completely from my bed. Age really does make a huge difference, even for a normally healthy, active person like me.

The end of June finally brought warm weatheróa mixed blessing. The heat made my legs swell even more, and I began retaining water as though storing a year supply. I couldn't wear rings, my face was bloated, and I couldnít be on my feet for more than ten minutes without serious discomfort. Only a big nightgown was comfortable to wear. At the same time, my pool was ready for swimming and in it I found absolute relief! There is nothing for sore legs like floating in water. No pain, and I can barely feel the extra forty pounds. And with all the extra fat and water, I don't have to do anything to stay afloat. I just have to make sure I don't fall asleep while floating. :-)

Now itís July and more of the same. Except now weíre on a serious countdown for Lisbon to make her appearance, and WE CANíT WAIT! My eight-year-old kisses my stomach so many times a day, it makes me laugh. The lovely Braxton Hicks contractions have kicked in big time, so my body is also getting ready for Lisbon's debut.

Iím doing okay. Really. You can find me either in bed or on the couch writing or sleeping, making food for my children (I'm so grateful for my microwave!), or floating in the pool. If I get desperate, and no one else can go, I may hobble to the store for milk and something to throw into the oven. More likely Iíll send my husband or daughter. For now, everything else is on hold. And that's okay with me.

Monday, 11th of July of 2011 at 09:22:43 AM

Part 3: A Troubling Diagnosis

Less than a week after learning I was expecting, I came down with chronic bronchitis and sinusitis. I spent all of January and February sick and unable to really take anything to alleviate the symptoms because of the pregnancy. No way was I going to risk my baby, not after what I'd been through last year. I kept a close eye on my fever and only took the approved medicine if I absolutely had to.

I rarely left my bed except to use the bathroom. I had to cancel or refuse any speaking engagements. The only good thing about being so ill was that the sickness overshadowed the normal pregnancy nausea, and on the few days I felt a bit better, I was able to finish the remaining two chapters of the novel I had to turn in at the end of January. Only four of my six children lived at home then, and my seventeen-year-old and my fourteen-year-old suspected something, so in February I told them what was going on, and they helped out a lot.

After three months I went in to the midwives and heard the heartbeat. Only then did I tell the younger kids about the baby. I didnít tell anyone else, and I asked my family to keep the baby a secret until the ultrasound said everything was all right. I did only one speaking engagement for the YW in my own ward, and fortunately I was blessed to make it through.

March and April I also spent mostly in bed. I was still fighting the cough, and the nausea became so terrible I only got up to pick up kids from school or to get them food. The couple times I went to the store, I ended up in bed suffering for the next two days. I rarely made it to church and then only part of the meetings. Sometime in April, I learned if I ate breakfast, got the kids off to school, went back to sleep until eleven, and then ate again, I sometimes had a hour or two where I wasnít feeling like I was going to die. I started writing another book. It was horribly slow going, but it was something to distract me and make me feel like I was contributing at least something to the world.

I told my sister Mary and my mother about the baby shortly before the ultrasound but again asked them not to say anything until we had the results. Unfortunately, the ultrasound dropped a huge bomb: our daughter had a extra vertebra on one side in her lower back. Though there seemed to be no sign of anything else wrong and it wasn't severe, we would need more testing at the hospital (Maternal Fetal Medicine) to determine what that meant.

As we waited for the appointment, I learned that in nearly 89% of babies who have this condition also have some other severe spinal, cranial, or skeletal problem. Many die before the end of the pregnancy. All my fears seemed to be coming true. How could this happen after so much turmoil and stress when we were deciding whether or not to have another child? (See Part 2: The Decision)

My husband gave me a blessing, which promised a healthy baby. I kept repeating to myself the words Iíd heard before the pregnancy: ďGo forward in faith not in fear.Ē

Thankfully, after more tests, the specialist said my babyís hemivertebra was isolated and that she didnít seem to have any of the hundred syndromes that are usually present. This isolated hemivertebra happens in only 1 out of 4,000 babies. The hemivertebra wouldnít affect her quality of life, though our daughter may or may not need minor surgery later. What relief!

I had to go back monthly to Maternal Fetal Medicine for additional ultrasounds to keep an eye on the vertebra and because of my age. Every time, it seemed her spine was more and more normal, but that might be just my perception. I have to confess that it has been nice having that wonder female doctor reassure me each time that nothing new has cropped up. Now I have to go weekly to the hospital for fetal stress tests (because of my age, not the vertebra) to make sure Lisbon is still getting what she needs.

So, I was surviving day to day, but I could do that. We were having a baby!

Monday, 11th of July of 2011 at 09:19:14 AM

Part 2: The Decision

Having a baby is always a big decision, but when you already have six children, three of whom are living away from home or will be by the time the baby is born (I have one married daughter, and two children at BYU), and your youngest will be eight before the birth, it is a significantly larger decision. From health to emotional issues, thereís no end of debate.

Early in 2010, we had the surprise of finding out we were expecting. Unplanned. We stepped up to the plate, though, and started changing all our plans for the future. I was so ill I didnít know how I was going to make it through. I spent all day every day in bed. The entire burden of family fell to my poor husband, who was the epitome of support. I dragged myself from bed only to pick up my children from school (every other week). I couldnít work on my novels at all. All this only to lose the baby right after reaching three months. I spent nearly another month in bed with the recovery. That was enough to teach anyone a lesson that having a child at my age (no, Iím not confessing exactly what that is) was not wise.

Time wore on and I couldnít stop thinking about the baby and that perhaps this was Godís way of sending me a message. Life was easy now that I wasnít ill, but these thoughts persisted. I felt torn between what I had wanted before the pregnancy and what I wanted after (for the baby to have lived). Itís one thing to lose a child you planned for and wanted, and something quite different to lose a child you hadnít planned on and even to some extent resented. The guilt is far larger and all-encompassing. I talked briefly to my husband, whoíd taken the loss of the baby quite hard, but he didnít think we should try again. He didnít want A baby, heíd wanted THAT baby. He also never wanted to see me so sick again.

Weeks passed and still I was in limbo. After confessing my turmoil to a friend Anita Stansfield, she advised me to make a decision about whether or not to have a baby and own it as though it was my final decision. Then to wait some weeks as I adjusted to the plan. If I found it wasnít right after all and I was still in turmoil, I could change my mind. So I decided to have a baby. Iíd always wanted five or seven children and had ended up with six, so another baby would give me that odd number Iíd wanted. Not to mention fill the loss I was experiencing.

In the weeks that followed, I researched older mothers and babies in an effort to own my decision. Since we were heading to Portugal for a month, I decided to wait until we returned to act on my decision. But the more time passed and the more I read, I realized I couldnít do it. I couldnít risk that something would be wrong with my baby because I was older. I wasnít so worried about risks to myselfóthough in hindsight and with what Iíve gone through, that should have been more important to meóbut I didnít want to condemn a child to living with a severe birth defect because I couldnít control my grief.

I eventually decided that my first decision had been in error. So I made the other choice. Before that last pregnancy, I hadnít planned on another child, and Iíd been happy and content. I could be that way again. It was the wise and responsible thing to do. All my old plans could fall back into place.

Months passed. I finished deadlines, regained all my health. Physically I was doing great. Mentally I was still troubled. The thought of that child, who I imagined was a little girl, never left me. I did more research, and all along I kept taking prenatal vitamins just in case. Eventually, I realized I wouldnít find peace unless I at least tried to have that child. Still I was afraid of birth defects and of losing another baby. Then one day I was driving in the car and in my head I heard the words, ďGo forward in faith not in fear.Ē Those words pierced me because by this time the only reason I didnít want to become pregnant was because I was afraid.

More time passed, and though I wasnít doing much to prevent pregnancy, I still wasnít expecting. I continued in turmoil, my fear of becoming pregnant and the possible outcome as great as my fear of not getting pregnant. Only when I remembered the words did the fear leave and I felt peace.

So why wasnít I expecting? In our family we joke that to become pregnant, all we needed to do was to wash our clothes together. Then one day I had a prompting: Talk to your husband. I thought What? What did he have to do with this? Oh, thatís right. Heís the father. Iíd started several times over the months to tell him my feelings, but with the trip to Europe followed by a daughterís wedding, time had always escaped me. So I went to him and recounted everything Iíd been thinking and doing.

He looked at me and said, ďSo, it looks like we're having another baby.Ē

I reminded him that heíd said he didnít want another child the last time Iíd brought it up. He shrugged and said, ďI didnít know everything youíve been going through. If you think we should have a baby, letís do it.Ē

Oh. Hmm. Okay. I had the sense that he was far more worried about me physically than whether or not to have a child. Heís like that.

Oddly enough, after a week, the desire, the push, the insane turmoil abruptly vanished. I went to my husband and said, ďYou know. I think Iím okay. I donít think I need to have a baby after all.Ē

He laughed and said if that was how I was feeling, that was okay by him.

Yes, you guessed it. I was already expecting. I took a test the day before Christmas 2010 and it was positive. Now we only had to wait to see how it would turn out. Every time the fear returns, I remember the words about fear versus faith, and I push forward. At this point, I am completely living on faith.

Friday, 8th of July of 2011 at 11:48:06 AM

Part 1: The Secret is Out!

Iím not going to make you read a whole page before I blurt it outóIím going to have a baby next month in August. Thatís the secret.

Iím not sure how it became a secret at all. Well, first I wanted to make sure it was really going to happen because last year we had a huge disappointment. I didnít want the kids upset again. So my husband and I decided to wait three months to see if there was still a strong heartbeat before telling them. Because I was so ill, I did end up having to confide a bit earlier in my middle children (17 & 14), but even that I delayed as long as possible. We waited until the four-month ultrasound before we told the extended family. After that, the secret seemed to take on a life of its own.

It was cold into June, so I wore a jacket whenever I had to drag myself from my bed. No one noticed my growing stomach. It ďhelpedĒ that I seemed to contract every sickness available to mankind, so I was (still am) in bed most of the day, even after the nausea finally left right before six months (or mostly left).

But after that, well, I was kind of embarrassed. How do you announce to your friends and neighbors that, by the way, youíre going to have a baby next month? Besides, these days many couples my age and younger donít have more than four children and while some of my peers still have children at home, they are all in high school. My youngest right now is eight and this baby makes number seven, so I kind of feel like the odd-ball out (and maybe even a little greedy). Last year when I was expecting, one man in my neighborhood told us to ďkeep it on your side of the street.Ē (I'm sure it was a joke, but is pregnancy a disease?)

Iíve gained forty pounds, some of it water in my legs that makes it difficult to walk, and I also did something to my knee that makes every step torture. I donít even want to get into the support nylons and the veins problems that prevent me from being on my feet for more than ten or fifteen minutes at a time. Any of you whoíve had more than five or six children might have some inkling as to what Iím talking about.

Last week I was feeling well enough to go to church for part of the time (yay!). It was hot and I didn't wear a coat. Two women noticed my stomach and said something. A few just stared. Surprise! Everyone who has talked to me so far has been really sweet and supportive.

So, yes, Iím having a baby. A little girl. Her name is Lisbon. She never lets me sleep at night, especially if I try to lie on my right side. She hates fireworks, but she likes being rockedómost of the time.

If youíre curious what brought about this momentous decision at this time in my life, continue on to my next entry.

Thursday, 12th of May of 2011 at 08:57:14 AM

The Toughest Job in the World

For all the women who do so much for their families without a lot of recognition. So many times you've given up what you want to do in order to help your children. So many times you've cried because of their choices. So many times you've nursed hurt feelings because of their careless comments or actions. So many times you've felt all alone and unable to go on. Yet somehow you do. Yes, in the end it's very worth it, and you wouldn't trade them for all the riches in the world, but it's still not easy. Never easy. It's still the toughest job in the world.

I wish you all a Happy Mother's Day!

(I posted this on blogger on Mother's day May 8, 2011.)

Friday, 18th of February of 2011 at 12:14:57 PM

Finally, Some Sense! (This was actually posted on my other blog on Wednesday, February 16, 2011)

On Valentine's Day, my son was hauled into the office at school and lectured on having created an inappropriate Valentine's Day envelope. I went to the school yesterday to talk to the lady administrator involved and to get the envelope. This morning I wrote an e-mail to the principal telling him we were appalled at the idea of our son being punished for so innocuous an enevelop (to see the envelope, click on my previous post). Thankfully after sending that e-mail some sense came to light in this issue, but before I tell you about that, I want to post part of the letter I also wrote this morning to the female administrator responsible for punishing my son. (I snipped a few entire paragraph and used . . . to show where I removed text for length purposes.)

To XXXXX:

After seeing Jaredís artwork and discussing it with my husband, I want to go on official record and say that we do not feel Jaredís Valentine envelope is inappropriate in any way. You mentioned that Jared put a shepherd on a horse, and I guess you see that as a problem, though we fail to understand why. In actuality, Jared, cut off the staff and put it in the church so it would NOT be a shepherd, just a guy, a comedian, on a horse, but he did ask me last night, ďMom, would there be something wrong with a shepherd on a horse?Ē

No, absolutely not. A guy who owns sheep might just have a horse, too. Iím not sure if you are seeing something sacrilegious in his putting a figure who once was a shepherd on a horse, but we donít see the connection. Nor does our son. It is because itís a rocking horse? He just thinks of it as a horse.

Your main concern seems to be that the boys were excited about candy and that their projects had no relation to Valentineís Day. This should not be a problem. In fact, we compliment the art teacher for inspiring such creativity! My husband and I believe that this should have been a fun day for the children and should be continued in the future. They didnít make fun of their classmates, disrupt class, or endanger their salvation in any way. Valentineís Day is not a sacred holiday. It is not related to scripture and really doesnít need to be. It is about friendship and fun, and thatís okay. There will be enough hard and serious things in lifeólet the children have some clean fun! (And if we need any proof that God has a sense of humor, just look at the giraffe.)

-snip-

My family has been at [this school] for thirteen years . . . For the most part weíve had wonderful experiences, and we enjoy the conservatism . . . However, my sonís trust (and ours) has been damaged by what we see as unnecessary discipline and subsequent neglect. Instead of inspiring trust and respect, there is only fear on Jaredís part and incredulity and some defensive anger on ours.

I know you are sorry about how Jared has taken this . . . but we are concerned about how it was handled. In fact, we believe it shouldnít have been addressed at all. One serious concern we have is that if my son had really been so terrible as to need to stay in the office for over an hour, we should have been notified. Certainly in this case, he needed an advocate who knows him and cares about him.

-snip-end-

Okay, back to the regular blog again. Most of this I also wrote in the e-mail I wrote to the prinicipal this morning. Almost immediately he called me back and told me he was so sorry this happened, that he felt terrible, and that there was absolutely nothing wrong with Jared's envelope. Whew! Finally some sense. He asked me what he could do. I told him jokingly that she should have to miss lunch completely like she made him do and write an essay on why she shouldn't have punished the children for having fun. More seriously, I told him that it was enough to know that he would talk to her and that something like this would not happen in the future.

I also requested that if my children need direction in the future and if she is involved, that I be notified immediately, and that she talk to my son about this issue only in my presence. Quite frankly, he's afraid of her, and I can't blame him. There's no excuse for having my son sitting in the office for more than an hour without calling me. Over the years, I have mostly enjoyed everything at this school, but this was a real concern. I mean, a bad teacher might crop up now and again, but they are always let go rather quickly--being a private school, there is no union to protect rotten teachers. But this was something else altogether. I had to know if this was the direction the school was heading (fanatical), or a mistake by one woman. Thankfully, it turned out to be the latter.

I still haven't decided if I'm going to let her apologize for making my son miss lunch and class for so long (which later caused a good deal of homework to make up and more frustration on his part). I mean, what's the point if she doesn't admit she was wrong in the first place? She remains convinced that the boys have committed some grave error.

Oh, and BTW, I also e-mailed the art teacher commending her for encouraging such creativity as I saw in the other boys' Valentine envelopes. Yes, one or two might be considered a little much for this conservative private school, but you know what? I thought they were extremely creative. How can you punish that? Especially when it wasn't hurtful to anyone. In the future the school should definitely refer to parents for such matters. It really isn't in their job. Thankfully, I think that's the direction they're headed.

Tuesday, 15th of February of 2011 at 05:58:34 PM

Ta-Dum! The Terribly Offensive Valentine Envelope

Okay, here it is, the horribly offensive artwork my son created for his Valentine's Day envelope. In the end, it wasn't a drawing at all but glued on figures provided by the art teacher. He says it's a it's a comedian on a horse. For the full story of what happened to him because of this creation, please see the previous post. The second picture is the essay he had to write as a punishment.


As an update, I went to the school today to retrieve the artwork and to confront this woman. To give her credit, she did feel bad upon learning she'd prevented my son from having lunch. I told her not to talk to my son again unless I was present and explained to her that he is scared to death of her and that trust has been completely lost. He feels singled out and no better than scum on her shoe.


Admittedly, some of the boys' artwork really could be considered inappropriate (like the frog shot through the heart with guts hanging out), but even that could have been handled on a different note. When she asked me what I would have done, I told her she should have talked to the parents and let them decide whether or not their child's artwork was appropriate. This envelope absolutely will not endanger my child's salvation. It is not a saving ordinance, it's not disrepectful to anyone, it didn't cause any disruption in class. If they want the children to only glue on hearts, then only hearts should have been made available. This also could have easily been handled on a teacher level, with the art teacher simply saying, "Sorry guys, just do them again." (Instead, she told a boy in my carpool, who was also later reprimanded, that his was very nice.) They didn't need to be singled out. Incidentally, I did learn that the other boys also wrote brief essays when she sent Jared to her office for laughing, but none of them missed out on their lunch. Only my son was kept that long. (And it's strange because Jared has never been one to mock or disobey any teacher.)

My kids have attended this school for thirteen years and this woman has worked there the entire time. This makes the whole situation worse. When she sad she felt bad about the lunch and that she didn't know, I said, "You should have known. You should have asked." Yes, she should have cared enough. She should have taken the time.

She eventually mentioned that maybe they should do away with the Valentine's Day celebration in the sixth grade altogether (like they have sadly done in the older grades). That's what I was afraid of. Let the children have a little fun, for crying out loud! Life is difficult enough as it is.

I was driving carpool today and didn't have a lot of time to stay and discuss the matter with her further, though I feel I clearly made my displeasure and anger known. Nothing like this should happen again without my being called before it goes this far. She does want to apologize for making Jared miss lunch and asked to talk to Jared when I can be there. I'm grateful for that much, though I look at this envelope and I still don't understand why she felt she needed to punish him in the first place. Definitely not her place. As two of the boys in my carpool told their mother, this was definitely the worst Valentine's Day ever.


Tuesday, 15th of February of 2011 at 05:56:08 PM

What Kind of Fanaticism is This?

Yesterday, my tender-hearted eleven-year-old son and several other boys were called out of class at American Heritage School in American Fork because of what they chose to draw on their Valentine envelopes. Though their art teacher had given them free rein to draw whatever they wanted (a great way to inspire boys), a woman in the administration took offense at their designs. My son drew a guy on a horse, a church, and wrote the word candy. Another boy wrote, "Give me candy or give me death!" a phrase actually suggested by the art teacher.

Apparently, these expressions were not acceptable by this woman from the administration (the art teacher had no objections). The boys were told to make new envelopes and that Valentine's Day was about love (as opposed to candy, I assume).

Love? Is she kidding? These boys are eleven-years-old! Like it or not, for children Valentine's Day is about giving and receiving Valentines (and, yes, preferably with candy). The day is only truly about love, if youíre talking about your family or your spouse. I don't know about you, but in the sixth grade, I absolutely do not want my son to consider giving Valentines to classmates as an expression of romantic love, which is what it means to them when presented in this manner. Exchanging Valentines is something fun to do with classmates. End of story. They had fulfilled the art teacher's request, but this woman felt it her duty to teach our children the real meaning of Valentine's Day--without requesting any parental input.

But the story isn't over yet. It gets worse.

When she said Valentine's Day was about love, one of the boys said "Looove," and my son had the misfortune to laugh. Now Jared is not a trouble-maker, but he was having a difficult time understanding what was wrong. He didn't laugh to mock this woman but because how the boy spoke was amusing. Though they are curious about it, love is icky to them. Girls are icky. No way is Valentine's Day about love for them.

What happened next goes beyond belief. Instead of a simple, kind discussion, which is always effective with my little boy (and with most children), this woman dismissed the other boys to go to lunch and kept my son all during lunch period writing paragraphs on what Valentine's Day was all about and why he shouldn't follow the crowd. His paragraphs were never good enough, so he ended up staying there all of lunch and all of the next period's grammar class.

By the time he was released, all lunch periods had ended, and he didn't receive the pizza lunch we paid in advance for that day (non-refundable). He had a fruit and a cookie with him, and that's what he ate for lunch. At no time was was I called or informed that my son missed lunch so we could provide what we had trusted the school to provide in the first place. Nor did they deign to tell me he'd committed such a grievous sin. I learned only when he came home in tears.

Now, the fact that my son laughed was rude and inconsiderate (and I explained this to him), but the fact that this woman singled him out and prevented him from eating lunch was also inconsiderate, as well as neglectful, which is a far worse crime seeing as she's the adult. Who, may I ask, is going to pay him back for the pizza and make her write paragraphs for being neglectful (and disrespectful) of someone else's child? She wasn't even around when he finally made it to the closed lunch room, nor did she check up to see if he'd eaten.

That all this stemmed from what I see as an overly strict, even fanatical view of what was appropriate for Valentine's Day, which is up to parents, not teachers or administration, compounds this gross negligence. None of the boys should have been singled out. If the administration wanted the boys to draw hearts or something else, they should have told them in advance. (Which would have definitely stifled any sign of creativity.)

Instead of this woman inspiring honor, respect, and trust, she instilled fear, disrepect, and mistrust. She has created a negativy that may stay with him all of his life. She was supposed to be trustworthy. Last night I e-mailed the principal, this woman, and my son's teachers about this because I feel her response was over the top, even for a conservative private school. I plan to officially request that this administrator not be allowed to discipline my children unless I am present, or even to talk to my children alone. My son's trust in her is gone--and frankly so is mine. At what point does the lesson lose its value? Well, yesterday it was long lost. Iím still unsure how something so benign could have had this result.

Saturday, 25th of December of 2010 at 02:05:47 PM

TOP 10 REASONS TO GIVE UP ACRYLIC NAILS

This past year I experimented with acrylic nails and I love them, especially the way they always looked great all month without me doing a thing. However, I recently made the decision to go without, and here's why.

1. Cost. My nails would cost between $20 and $35 a month. (Some women I know go every two weeks, which makes the cost significantly more.) I can use that elsewhere.

2. The smell of the chemicals is overwhelming (at least to me).

3. It's hard to open a can of pop.

4. Difficult to pick up coins or other small objects from a countertop or table.

5. The nails sometime break or chip on the edges and dirt can wedge its way between your real nail and the acrylic one, leaving a dark line on the edges.

6. They are impossible to remove alone without a huge investment of time.

7. The chemicals and materials destroy your real nails (I'm hoping mine eventually recover).

8. It's impossible to wedge an acrylic nail between your teeth to flick out a bit of popcorn.

9. Who has the time to drive all the way to the salon and spend an hour getting the nails on? (This was a major decider for me.)

10. The clincher: Acrylic nails make it much harder to rack and shoot your pistols.

Saturday, 25th of December of 2010 at 02:03:33 PM

Posted on Blogger 11/20/2010

WRITING LEADS TO SHOOTING GOOD FUN!

Last night my husband and I took our seventeen-year-old daughter to a local indoor shooting range. Since we're relatively new to the whole handgun thing, this was her first chance to shoot one. In fact, the real reason I've gotten into guns recently is because a few of my characters use them, but I didn't have much experience except for a few range trips as a teen with my parents and once with my own rifle after I was married. It was time to learn.

So after a conceal carry class and several range trips, I made the plunge and chose two weapons my main characters would use, and experimented with others I could have minor characters use. Or bad guys. Heh, heh. Can't forget those delicious bad guys.

And I found out something--this is fun stuff! Though I've always believe in the right to bear arms, I felt some uncertainty about what was involved and whether I should own handguns with children in the home. But now that I'm trained, the scare factor is gone, and the respect factor is, if anything, greater. Since we do have children in the house, the guns must be securely locked away, in use, or in a holster that someone responsible is wearing. There is no other option. Not in the desk, on the counter, or in a purse. That's far too dangerous. I've learned that teaching children about guns and to respect them, and taking them shooting is also vital to safely owning any kind of gun.

Last night with my daughter and husband, I was shooting my new Ruger LCP, and we also had our Smith & Wesson M&P 9C, which by the way is an incredible gun. Apparently, I have a knack for shooting, and with the M&P, I can shoot ANYTHING I want without really taking long to aim. Pull, boom, boom, boom. See the picture (top of the two targets above) for how I did on my first try with this gun. After shredding the middle (see close of picture on right), I finally had to aim somewhere else on the target! The M&P is a fabulous compact 9mm, though for me or my female character it could be a bit conspicuous for conceal carry, depending on what clothes we were wearing. (I know you think I have all control of my characters and could tell them what to wear and exactly how to act, but any writer will tell you that's simply not true.)

My Ruger LCP .380 is signifcantly more difficult to both rack and to pull the trigger. Even so, I can decimate a target with it as well. The lower picture of the two above (see below for close up) is how I did the first time I used the Ruger. The main advantage of the Ruger is that it's easily carried concealed. Yes, the .380 has less stopping power than a 9mm, but even my character knows that a .380 on her body will do a lot more for her in an emergency situation than a larger gun sitting in her safe at home. Especially, if she is using hollow point ammo.

I'd actually been planning to buy the Sig P238, which is about the same size, but the single action movement (instead of the double), makes the trigger almost too easy to pull and so the gun has a safety. Having learned the danger of relying on a safety in my conceal carry class, I really didn't want a semi-automatic pistol with a crutch that could easily be forgotten when carrying, or left on in an emergency situation. Ultimately, the 12 pounds trigger didn't prevent me from buying the Ruger. Turned out to be a good choice as I have no problem shooting it.


After a few practice rounds, my daughter also did well with the M&P and came away loving the gun as much I do. She didn't like my Ruger, however; she could barely pull the trigger and couldn't hit anything. Even my husband couldn't hit much with it. I couldn't explain my success with either gun, or the others I've tried (maybe something left over my my old pitching days), but it was a lot of fun.

As we taught Catia how to shoot, showing her all the tricks we've learned and watching her carefully to be sure there was no accident, it was a testament to how far we've come ourselves this past year--and how much fun a new hobby can be (if expensive.)

This isn't the first time my characters have enriched my life. Over the years I've learned many, many tidbits about hundreds of different subjects, but so far this has been the most tangible extension of my writing. My next personal goal is to take martial arts lessons, because though my son was involved in it for years, there is nothing like writing from personal experience.

In a week or so, we'll take our fourteen-year-old to the range. He won't likely be shooting the Ruger more than once or twice--he probably won't like it--but he'll love the M&P. Then we'll go on to the next child, and so forth. It'll be a family affair, something we can all safely enjoy together.

Monday, 3rd of May of 2010 at 10:08:44 AM

Open Letter to Readers Who Object to Contemporary Fantasy, Sci-fi, and Paranormal Novels at Deseret Book

Note: My new novel Imprints had barely reached store shelves a couple weeks ago when a customer, upon reading the description in the catalog, e-mailed Deseret Book asking them to remove my novel from Deseret Book stores since it was a novel dealing with an "imaginative" or "psychic" element, which in her opinion, though she planned on reading the novel, should not be carried at Deseret Book. This objection prompted me to write an open letter to such readers explaining why everyone who enjoys contemporary sci-fi, fantasy, and paranormal, or anyone who believes all genres have value, should not only buy Imprints (shameless plug), but should contact Deseret Book's publishing division, thank them for publishing a novel in this genre for adults, and urge them to publish and carry more.

Dear Reader:

Thank you for reading my books and for being a supportive reader throughout the years. LDS authors cannot continue to do the work we love without support from readers. I've been told of your objection to Deseret Book carrying Imprints, and though I'm surprised at the objection, particularly by the fact that it was made without first reading the novel, I wish to address your concerns by explaining the great importance I feel that Deseret Book not only continues to publish this series, but also seeks to carry other uplifting books in this genre.

First, you should know that the Deseret Book/Shadow Mountain Publishing Board deeply considered the ramifications of publishing this novel, as they do all the books they publish. The process of approval is rigorous. Deseret Book has a wide variety of readers, from people who read only nonfiction doctrinal books to people to enjoy specific types of fiction, and they want to reach and uplift all their customers. Unlike at an LDS Distribution Center, which carries only nonfiction church items, this means carrying a wide variety of novels in the Deseret Book stores.

The fact is that contemporary fantasy/science fiction novels are growing in popularity, thrilling readers of all ages in the national market. In childrenís and young adult stories, these books are usually classified as fantasy novels. After careful review and consideration, Desert Book has printed several fantasies for children and young adults through their Shadow Mountain imprint, including Fablehaven, Leven Thumps, and the Hourglass Door.

These books are imaginative and have inspired children to reach new levels in reading. This is a positive thing. The lessons learned of obedience, friendship, and sacrifice are just as strong as if the characters were in normal, everyday situationsóstronger, in fact, because children who arenít otherwise interested in reading are able to connect with these books on a level they have never achieved before. They develop reading and social skills they would not have had they not been exposed to such literature. In actuality, child readers of fantasy and science fiction generally test higher in reading and comprehension skills than their peers who do not read these genres. In addition, the lessons contained in the books are typically very moral, especially in the Shadow Mountain releases.

LDS people are in general big lovers of fantasy and science fiction, and we have produced a rather high percentage of national fantasy/science fiction authors given our number of members. For the adult market, we have authors like Tracy Hickman, Brandon Sanderson, Orson Scott Card, and Dave Wolverton (Farland). Their work is popular among LDS and national readers alike. We also have authors who write paranormal romance and urban fantasy. Unfortunately, these romance and urban fantasy novels are rife with explicit sex and innuendos that are contrary to LDS teachings. The language and immorality are not acceptable to Deseret Book, so there is nothing available at those stores for LDS women and men and who want to read this genre. These adults have no interest in reading the available young adult fantasy stories with high school themes, but rather yearn for stories about adults dealing with adult issues or going on adult adventures. At present, they have no choice but to read national paranormal novels and skip offending pagesóor to stop reading contemporary fantasy and science fiction all together. For some, this would mean to stop reading fiction completely, something I doubt they would choose. Yet continuing to read the national novels Deseret Book canít carry exposes them to elements they would prefer to avoid.

As a store that caters to all members and who wishes to inspire all kinds of readers to better heights, I feel Deseret Book is doing adult readers a great service by publishing and carrying Imprints. Adults who love a little fantastic or science fiction element in their novels can now read a book without having bad language, explicit sex, and questionable scenes and conclusions assaulting them at regular intervals. To ask Deseret Book to remove Imprints is paramount to saying that those LDS readers seeking uplifting novels in this genre do not matter and that they do not belong in a Deseret Book store. That they should stop reading what entertains them (or maybe only read nonfiction, as many nonfiction readers believe would be better for all of us).

This saddens me deeply, especially after hearing the excited responses from so many readers who have loved the book. Because truthfully, you cannot expect to find novels for adults anywhere except in a Deseret Book. So basically, your recommendation means that there will be nothing for them anywhere because the national market rarely publishes clean contemporary paranormals.

The greatest teacher of all taught in parables. Lessons can and should be found in all types of clean, uplifting fiction. With Imprints, we have been very careful to separate the fantastic/scientific element from any aspect of the gospel. There is no LDS connection, no LDS characters, nothing that should offend readers or weaken testimonies. There is no element of evil or subversiveness. In fact, the novel teaches lessons of enduring, of helping others, dealing with problems, and developing talents even when it is difficult. It is simply a clean, fun, make-believe novel, like all the other clean, fun make-believe (imaginative) novels in the bookstore.

We have great novels imagining entire histories for people in the Book of Mormon, we have novels imagining challenges in pioneer times, imagining the death or illness of a loved one, and now we finally have a novel imagining what it would be like if a character had a make-believe ability. Some would love Desert Book to do away with all fiction, but I feel it is vital to allow readers access to clean, uplifting novels in the genre they enjoy and connect with. Those are parables they understand.

And you never know how much good those books will be for them. The other day at a book signing, I met a grandmother who was never a reader until, recuperating from an illness, she picked up a national YA novel at her daughterís house and was immersed in what she saw as an exciting contemporary fantasy world. Since then she has eagerly devoured many novels of all genres in the LDS market, spending many enjoyable, even educational hours, but her greatest love remains in the contemporary paranormal (fantasy/science fiction) romance genre, which she can't find in a clean version. Imprints is not only for my regular readers, but for the many women like her. Deseret Book feels it must take care of the one, giving them an uplifting alternative. This is especially true of our young adults, who are particularly at risk in this day and age.

Authors imagine murders, mysteries, action novels, disasters, love stories, fantasy worlds, scientific advances, and so much more. What a wonderful thing to have different novels for different readers, all faithful members of the Church! Novels that use various imaginary plots not only to entertain but to inspire doing good and helping others.

I'm glad to hear you plan on reading Imprints, and I hope after you do that you will officially withdraw your objection. I hope you will agree that clean novels in this genre will enhance readersí lives and help them stay on the right path. Keep in mind that if Deseret Book does not fulfill this need, there will be no place at all to buy Imprints or other clean novels in this genre.

Sincerely,

Rachel Ann Nunes


Thursday, 4th of March of 2010 at 12:01:09 PM

Stop the treadmill! I want to get off. Or even just slap it down a notch. But my publisher is wondering where my next manuscript is, my children need help with scouts and a science project (my daughter could use a bath, too, but that might be asking a little too much of me), and if I donít do laundry my children may have to resort to their dirty clothes basket. (Hey, at least they had root beer floats todayóIím a hero.)

Last I had two major deadlines, including my latest manuscript for my publisher, who has been all kinds of patient. Though I usually write only during the day, this week I spent the better part of three evenings working to finish, mostly after I put the children to bed. Then in order to drag my exhausted body out of bed the next morning, Iíd have to tell myself Iíd go back to bed after the kids went to school. Actually, I use this tactic often. Of course what I really do is turn on the computer and sit there until they get home again because the magic always kicks in and sleep means nothing after that. Sometimes I remember to eat breakfast before one.

Iíd like to say this was a particularly difficult week, but the truth is things have never slowed down in all the thirteen years Iíve been publishing. I find myself increasingly choosing between good and good, instead of bad and good or good and better. Do I help my child with a science project or attend a scout meeting? Do I go to parent/teacher conference or make my deadline? Do I read to my children and help them do their math or do I make a dinner that isnít leftovers or something popped in the microwave? Do I work on marketing for my new release or do I go out to lunch with friends? Do I feed the dog or wash the sheets? (Truthfully, I havenít figured out why I even have a dog, except that my kids are just too persuasive.)

A few days ago I had a nightmare. I was at church and Sunday School had just ended, and I realized with horror that it was my turn to give the Women's Relief Society lesson. Well, that was fine because Iíd read the material and I could wing it, right? Or I could if I had the page with the notes. Except I'd left the notes home and couldnít find my van in the parking lot. It wasnít in the front, in the back, or out in the street. Where was my van? If I wobbled home in my high heels, Iíd never make it back to church in time. My heart pounded as I stumbled frantically to and fro, a sense of impending doom pressing down on me until all I could see was darkness. At last I awoke in a sweat, sighing with relief when I realized I was in bed and not in the church parking lot, and though it was indeed my lesson week, I still had plenty of time to finish preparationsóafter meeting my deadline.

No doubt about it. This was a clear sign that itís time to step back, reevaluate, and reorganize, because my family and my writing must come before other equally demanding but less important activities. This often involves delegation, but more likely cutting things out all together. Step back, reevaluate, and reorganize. I can't do it all well, but I can do some things well.

In this frame of mind I attended my publisherís yearly author dinner. Several religious leaders were in attendence and one urged the authors, artists, and musicians to try something new, something creative that was different from what we were currently doing. Not with the intent to work at it professionally, but to expand and to enjoy the reflection it would allow us.

At first I thought, ďNo problem. All that urban fantasy Iím writing definitely qualifies as something different.Ē But that was still writing after all, so I began to feel guilty and a little bit, well, stressed. After all, I had my book to finish, a science project pending, numerous issues to attend to in my role as president of LDStorymakers, I hadnít slept more than four hours in I donít know how long, I hadnít yet found entertainment for the ward block party, my relief society lesson wasnít prepared, and MY BOOK WASNíT finished (that is worth repeating). Yes, my children were well-fed, their homework on track, and they were even reasonably clean, but MY BOOK WASNíT finished. And I was tired.

Then it hit me. Hard. This was the opportunity Iíd been awaitingófor months, in fact. This was exactly what Iíd needed. In all the mad rush in my life, I havenít been able to do something Iíve really wanted to do for a long, long time. Yes, itís creative, and yes, it might make up just a little for all the exercise Iíve been missing lately. No way would I ever do it professionally.You guessed itóIím going to learn how to belly dance.

Donít laugh. People like me need permission to do stuff like that. If itís not for my children, research for my novels (though I could actually use the experience in my writing), a church calling, or for the betterment of mankind, itís hard to waste time doing it.

Except church leaders had counseled me to, and Iím really excited about it. So excited that I shared the idea with a couple at our table, good friends of ours, and the husband promptly said, in an extremely dignified manner, that to make the challenge more meaningful, next year they should choose several attendees to show what theyíd been working on, and did I want to volunteer?

Uh, no. Not a chance.

So what am I going to eliminate from my current schedule in order to work in this new endeavor? I havenít quite figured that out, but to begin with I have been offered a belly dancing video, which is probably a good place to start, and I own a pair of comfortable sweats.

Life often becomes impossibly full of all the good things we want to accomplish and experience. In order to reach our top goals, the ones we desire most, we must make choices. The best way to get on track is to step back, reevaluate, and reorganize.

What will you eliminate or rearrange in your schedule to make your goals happen?