Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas at Tapper's House

You know me.
I love to wrap presents.
I love to shop for them.
I hate keeping them.
When I see piles of plush and battery-required toys piled around my home and think of the thousands of times I will traipse them upstairs and put them into the correct containers I give a Scrooge-worthy groan.
This year Santa finally heard my pleas for simplicity and thought of a brilliant, awesome solution.
So how do you convince your children they don't want lots and lots of shiny, noisy, new toys?
You distract them with this:

We don't have a name for it. So far I've heard it called the house, the clubhouse, the fort, the dungeon, the castle and the tower.
It has been Gryffindor's common room, an orphanage, a tree house, a log cabin and a mansion. They've decorated it, lowered buckets from the windows, hung lanterns and left secret messages. I don't think they even noticed that they actually own less toys after Christmas than before. I cleared out every toy and piece of furniture in the toy room to make space for it. No one really noticed.
This is just a universal win/win for everyone in the house.
And speaking of wins, the Artist scored major points by driving eight hours to pick up a Christmas present he knew would dear to my heart. He left at four in the morning last weekend, never giving me a hint why or where he was going. On Christmas morning I woke to find this:
A solid wood, antique card catalog for my kitchen. I can't even describe why it is so magical to me. The idea of how many fingers have fumbled through those drawers, on a search for knowledge or distraction or entertainment. It is the smell of old books and the worn brass of used handles. I almost cried when I saw it. I keep running my hands over it, loving every scratch chip. I walk through my kitchen just to stare.
And what did the Artist get since his girls cleaned up?
A few nice tools.
Oh yeah- and three girls who think that having him around is better than Christmas every day.
I hope your day was merry and bright!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Who needs boys?

I was shopping for Christmas gifts yesterday and thumbing through a rack of clothes for the Dancer when I saw a sparkly shirt with the words "Who needs boys?" in glitter across the front.
And I paused between the hurried shoppers and stared at that shirt.
You know I teach my girls to reject the world's definition of beauty  and any pressure they would ever feel to fulfill some boy's lust. 
But never, in all my life, have I thought boys were expendable or accessories to our lives.
When I think of the phrase "who needs boys?" I think of the man who grew up to be my daughters' father.
The one who strums our girls to sleep with the quiet notes of a guitar.

The one who takes them to bowling alleys when their mother complains that bowling alleys smell weird

The one who tells his little girls they don't look nerdy in glasses when they don't believe their mother

The one who can turn a  death trap into a fun adventure

The one who teaches us that bugs aren't scary...

And engines aren't either.

The one who sees the world differently than I do and lets me peek through his eyes and discover things I never imagined.

So... who needs boys?

The girl who wants to marry a man who is smart and funny and strong,

The child whose first hero is his or her dad,

The granddaughter who feels safe when grandpa hugs her close,

The girl who wants someone to admire the frogs she pulls up from muddy ponds,

The children who know that a good tickle fight is one of the finest pleasures in life.

As we empower little girls to be strong and brave and confident, let's not do it by belittling the boys who also need to feel powerful and valuable.
I know that there are dads who are MIA. I know that many families don't have the ideal father or husband. And I know that they can overcome that through their own strength and intelligence and perseverance. But because we do not always have them, does not mean there is no need for them.
To the question, "Who needs boys?"
I answer firmly, "Every single one of us."

Though it goes without saying, I didn't buy the shirt...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

On a day that defies words

It is hard to speak today, difficult to orient myself in this world that feels like a new place I do not recognize.
I have one very brief thought.
Yesterday one man defied every law-  social and eternal- and took the lives of innocent children and those who defended them.
And today I woke up and was tempted to feel like I live in a world of terror, suffering and violence
But then I realized that where I really live is a world where when one person chooses evil, millions stand up in outrage and despair. I live in a world where we cannot comprehend such acts. Where servicemen, policemen (like my brother), and humans in general will give their hearts, their time, their very lives to defend what is good and right.
This isn't just a moment of unspeakable wickedness, it is a moment to see how many loving hearts outnumber the hateful ones.
And that is why I still believe in us.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Elf on a Shelf

I never did drop the twenty dollars to get a cute little elf to sit on a shelf.
But apparently if you rack up a $100K hospital bill trying to have a second child,
they throw one in for free, complete with fuzzy boots and extra mischief.
Nice little perk.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Is there a book inside you? ABNA 2013

The contest that launched my book into the publishing world, Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award, or ABNA for short, has just announced the rules and prizes for 2013!
Get your manuscripts out of your drawers, dust them off and polish them up because the prizes are bigger than ever!
This year there will be Five Winners who receive the $15,000 first prize and one Grand Prize winner who will take home $50,000!
Amazon will also be publishing the winners which means fabulous promotions and publicity!
There's some great incentives to write your little hearts out!
The five categories are:

General Fiction




Young Adult

I know it's a contest. I know 10,000 people enter. I know it's all about luck and who reads your entry. I know no one ever wins those things. I know it's a waste of your time.
That's what I told the Artist every time he told me to enter. And I meant it!
And if you need a reminder of why you should throw your hat in the ring and try anyway just remember  THIS.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Work in Progress

I've been hard at work on my current WIP (that is top-secret author code for work in progress. Don't tell anyone I'm peddling secrets). While I've been typing away I got the first advanced copy of my book in the mail. Like a little pinch- I guess it wasn't all a dream.

But my family members have each been up to their own, wonderful accomplishments.

Working on our skills. (I said that in my gangsta voice, just so you read it the right way)

The Cowgirl is climbing our walls.

and training for- okay I don't know what purpose this has, but she's working on it-
The Dancer is perfecting her culinary skills and now has the scars to prove it. She got her first stove-top burn this week

Big, fat tears on that one!

The Artist is staying in touch with his artistic roots, as well. On Wednesday I took the Dancer to piano lessons and came home to Harry, Curly and Urg, care of my husband.

I asked him how in the world he came up with the idea to turn marshmallows, cheerios and fruit roll ups into martians and he said that he asked the Dancer what she learned about in school. When she said aliens he got a flash of inspiration.
Then half-way through painting marshmallows with food coloring, she said, "Oh yeah, now I remember. It wasn't aliens! We talked about apples!"
Forehead, meet palm.
We are all little works in progress with a few face plants along the way.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It wasn't such a black Friday for us...

Last weekend while people were arm-wrestling and bending over backwards in Walmart over Sally Sadbottom Dolls and Voltar 73 inch televisions made in Armenia, we decided to avoid the crowds on Black Friday.
The Cowgirl demonstrating "bending over backwards"
The only problem was that meant avoiding civilization.
We couldn't think of a public place that would bearable.
So we gave up on public places.

We took the girls to the nature center and started out on nice wide paths
Then meandered to slightly more worn paths
Until we were tromping around in underbrush so thick there was absolutely no path. I was having too much fun to take a picture of that one. But we did see two deer. Our daughters gave them a spirited chase straight into the heart of the forest.
I also made the mistake of telling the Cowgirl that if you're ever in a real bind you can eat pine needles. Two seconds later she was chewing.
"You're right," she said. "They're not bad."

Apparently, a "real bind" is the difficult period between brunch and lunch for a nine year old girl.
One trail climbed a hill until it gave us a view of a shallow river and deep ravine. The Cowgirl put her hand in mine and said, "It is so pretty here."
And I was looking at her hair shining in the sun and her cheeks red with the cold and her lips still sappy from gnawing on pine needles and I couldn't help but agree. "It is beautiful."

Happy Thanksgiving to all. I hope your eyes are open to your incredible blessings.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The biggest typo

I got a little picture in my email today from my editor. She snapped a photo she thought I might want to see.

My book is hot off the presses, ready for advanced readers and reviews. I sat at my computer and looked at those hardcover books and I was happy, of course, but my main emotion was something bigger and deeper than happy.
It was gratitude.
I thought of all the friends and people who cheered me on. I thought of the complete strangers who read and reviewed it and contacted me. I especially thought of every test reader who agreed to inspect my first stab at a novel, the good, the bad and the ugly, and give me honest criticism and just as important, honest praise.
You are the ones who built a little fire of determination under me that kept my candle burning late into the nights. You are the ones who made me want to improve and try again. You are the ones who filled that box with hardcovers.
And then someone printed my name on it. That feels like a typo to me. I want you to know that I don't see my name on the front. I see all of our names. And I hope this feels like a joint accomplishment to you, too, because it certainly does to me. If you ever gave me one ounce of support (and you know who you are, and I know who you are) then I hope if you ever see this book on a shelf you stop and touch the cover and think, "I helped write that."
In this month of giving thanks, I am.
Thank you.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Drats, rats!

I make these plans.
They're not ambitious. Go to Walmart. Get some chicken. Pay a bill. Work on my book.
And then I lose an entire afternoon because I am on the phone looking for a veterinarian who will see a...
Because our ginger rat is sick today. I'm not going to go into symptoms because it's a sick rat and let's just not. But she is. And I didn't want her to be uncomfortable.

So I got to spend an hour in the waiting room at the vet, holding a rat. Everyone else traipsed in with a dog or a cat and there I was, nursing a rat. Getting the image?
And then $100 later I am spooning antibiotics and Chinese herbs into a ... rat.
I know- it's crazy.  But crazy or not, I have a sick rat.
And don't think I'm soft or unrealistic. I know rats die. I know they are rodents. And I would be so much stronger if it weren't for those little squeaks and the huge, dark eyes that look so sad.

Oh, did you think I meant the beady little rat eyes? Because I didn't.
I meant these eyes.

They are dangerous. This critter should have come with a warning label. I am thinking of offering her to the FBI.
What's that? That guy won't crack? If the hot lights don't work, just send in my Dancer.
She has me trying to clot blood with an ancient Asian remedy and it involves a syringe, honey, me, and a... rat.
And there is only one thing left to say about my lost afternoon, worried girls and empty wallet.
Oh rats!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Half and Half

So, what a week!
Half of our country is celebrating and loving life.
Half of our country is in deep mourning and scoping out foxholes to hide.
The losers are scared and angry.
Even the winners seem angry.
And I am craving unity.

So I'm doing what I can do- focusing on my little house and my little children and the places where I wield my little influence.
I've spent the morning working with the Dancer on her reading. She can read four sentences now. I am so excited for her. I do this so someday she can read histories and literature and most of all, the scriptures. I've turned off the news- truly, I know what's going on- and we've opened our scriptures.  There is turmoil and corruption in those pages, and more importantly, a guide for how to survive it and leave the world better. I need the examples of those men and women like never before.

And I've stood up and started my laundry again. My four walls will enclose a space that is clean and  orderly, because heaven knows when my children leave my front door the world is confusing and messy.

And I'm writing again. It took me a few days to find my words in the midst of the chaos, but they are coming back. I hear a voice inside that says "when all seems ugly, make your voice beautiful."
And I will try.

But I got one fun surprise.
This little home that we are trying to make our own  made it to the front of an article on HGTV remodels.
And that is certainly not because we are rich. We use creativity and resourcefulness to turn our limited funds into something we love.
You can see it here:

I'm out of the foxhole.
I'm brushing off.
I'm bruised, but determined.
God bless this divided nation, our children, and our homes. God bless you!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tapper, where are you?

Owl tell you where I've been!

I missed you all this past week!
cough* cough*
Okay. It was three weeks! I am so sorry!
I realized I needed to stop and blog when I was cleaning my living room as if my life depended on it.  Somewhere from the second floor came the shrieking sounds of my children fighting and if I turned right I saw my disaster of a kitchen so I was racing to create a few feet of beauty and peace where I could sit down and close my eyes and channel my inner Winston Churchill who didn't even get rattled by falling bombs.
I was picking up clothes with one hand and pushing a wailing vacuum cleaner with the other when I saw a fruit snack on the floor. I stooped over so it wouldn't get run over by the vacuum cleaner and about three and a half seconds later I had a quick talk with myself. It went something like this:

Tapper, dear, what is in your mouth?
You are chewing. What is in your mouth?
-Oh! oh. Umm. Tastes like strawberry. Chewy. It's a fruit snack.
Tapper, love, did you pick up an old fruit snack off your floor and put it in your mouth?
It's always best to tell the truth. Did you eat the old fruit snack off the floor?
Oh, Tapper, why did you do that?
-I wasn't paying attention?
That's right, dear. You weren't paying attention. No more eating off the floor. Why don't you go do something to help you focus. How about sitting down and updating that nice blog of yours, huh?
-Yes, ma'am.

My head has been muddled. The Dancer got her kindergarten shots ( I cry harder than they do).  We just finished a five day weekend, which was beautiful and fun, but  there was also lots and lots of togetherness with my girls. And for the past two weeks I've been doing copy edits on my book. That won't mean anything to most of my friends, but my fellow writers just gave a sympathetic chuckle.

Copy editing is the last step before they send a book to be formatted and printed. Several editors give it a thorough examination to find any imperfections or flaws.
Only, to a writer, it feels different. Just substitute "editors" for "doctors" and "your book" for "your naked body", add a sinister laugh track and some deadlines and you'll know kind of how it feels.
I would rather be checked for moles any day.

But I am back now. And I am not chewing anything I don't recognize. So that's progress.
I think I will quit while I am ahead.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Smoothie Huts- Tapper Style

I know I've told you that my girls climb.
Vertical surface = opportunity.
You probably thought I meant the normal things like trees and ropes and playgrounds and walls and banisters.
And you'd be right. They climb all those. The dancer likes to curl up on top of the fridge when life on the ground is just too limiting. I cannot go anywhere with them without telling them to Get Down! Even our peaceful evening walks are becoming a problem because as I start out down the block, they are determined to do this:

Please do not call the fire department when you see these. They are not stuck up there. They are just enjoying their natural habitat. And I am formulating a plan to utilize the craziness that is my life.
If I move to Hawaii (I love how this is sounding so far) can I make money sending them up for bananas and coconuts? We can run a smoothie hut.
It is a win/win/win/win situation.
I will be in Hawaii.
The Artist will get smoothies.
And the girls... well, I'll coax them down somehow.

I will raise my glass of pineapple juice to that and see you in Hawaii.

Friday, September 28, 2012

A Little Viking Ship

Do you mind if I get personal for a few sentences? I had a little moment over here last night.
The Cowgirl and I are having trouble getting to sleep lately. I am reading her one of my favorite books from my childhood, the 21 Balloons by William Pene Du Bois.
Every time the clock rolls around to 9 and I know we both need to call it quits we are in the middle of an explosion or invention or crash landing. She begs me to keep going. She doesn't have to beg much. I don't really want to stop either.
But last night I finally declared a stopping point and as she groaned I flipped to the front of the book.
(The book I am reading is a 9th edition from 1966)
And there on the title page was one tiny detail I'd never noticed before. A name.
Viking Press.
New York.
I blinked away tears, surprised by the force of the realization.
Do you know when a dream comes true it hits you almost as hard as when it doesn't? I never suspected that.
For the first time ever I realized what the last year has meant to me.
I am a Viking author now.
The Cowgirl asked why I stopped talking and I just said, "This book is from Viking."
She watched me wipe my eyes and asked if that was bad.
"No," I assured her. "It's really, really good."
The Artist smiled at me through the dim glow of the nightlight, across the bright heads of our sleepy daughters.
I leaned back in my rocking chair and let the truth glide over me, like a little Viking ship over the ocean.
Really, really good.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

No. Maybe. Yes.

I have a mother autopilot.
It's a simple setting.

Mom, can I...
Mama, will you...

I don't know if it's about simplifying or advanced training after living with my children because I know the end of each of those sentences before they ask.

Mom, can I pour some bird food in the sun room to see if the birds will follow me inside?
Mama, can we buy a little airplane? Or helicopter if that costs too much...
Mom, do you think my boots will look better if we glue some sequins on them?

Sometimes they actually say something reasonable while I am still in No mode.
Mom, can I have a piece of gum?
But I ate my dinner.
Yes I did!
What did you say? ( I seriously only catch about one out 48 things they say to me some days )

Sunday the Cowgirl was holding up a jar of peanut butter and her lips were moving and I was about to say no when I registered her question.
Mom, can I put a little peanut butter in a bowl and eat it for a snack?

My brain was pushing the word out, it was hanging on my tongue. Say no. No. No.
A moment of silence before I took the peanut butter from her hand and grabbed a bowl.

It's better if you melt some chocolate chips in it, I told her.

The Cowgirl and the Dancer got big eyes, tried to decide if an alien had invaded their mother and then must have decided that it wasn't such a bad thing.. Apparently aliens let you eat melted peanut butter and chocolate.

Thirty seconds later- bliss!

Deciding that this might be her luckiest day, the Cowgirl asked if she could dip a chocolate marshmallow into the our new concoction.

Why the heck not?
It's so fun to say yes.
I'm still not buying an airplane or helping her catch a squirrel for a pet,
or trying to make a new rat cage out of duct tape
or letting her keep dead cicadas because they look cool

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bird Brain

Our elementary school is fiercely loyal to a certain tradition.
A few times a year we have crazy hair day.
There is a general fight to figure out how to make our children's hair crazier than the child next to them.
I've seen it all- paint, glitter, Mohawks, oddly-placed ponytails and braids, beehives a foot tall- you name it.
I even saw a girl come to school with a fake rat in her hair last year.
So that got me thinking of rat nests and bird nests.
Friday I got to try out my idea of a bird nest hair do.
 This one sort of backfired on me because my girls felt so magical and special with flowers and beautiful birds in their hair that they wanted me to do that on a regular basis.
You know, so they could be the weird bird brain girls.
Can't you hear the conversation at some future reunion?
Remember that girl who always wore fake birds on her head...
I told them it's only special if we do it once. That's holding them over for now.
Now I need to convince them that there are better things in life than having a bird on your head.

Give me a second.
Yep- that might go on my list of weirdest things I ever said.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The worst day

The Cowgirl noticed me drop a few tears on the way to school today.
She asked what was making me sad and I told her they were talking about 9-11 on the radio and I was just remembering.
She looked so perplexed.
Why does that make you cry? she asked.
It was the worst day of my life, I answer.
Again, her confusion was palpable.
Did you know anyone who died?
Did you get hurt?
Did the planes get close to you?
Why was it the worst day of your life?
I swallow empty air looking for my answer. It isn't here. It burned up eleven years ago.

Still, eleven years later-
A hundred and eleven years later-
The worst day of my life.

On this sacred day I reverently remember every life given.
We will never forget.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sometimes it just takes a tweak

My friends,
I am a simple person. As a simple person I am easily overwhelmed. When I see someone who raises their own worms, composts their own dirt, grows their own garden, cans their own tomatoes and brews their own pasta sauce from scratch I get nauseous. I mean jealous. 
I mean overwhelmed. 
It feels like a recipe for failure to me. Just too much. So a long time ago I made a deal with myself. 
Baby steps.
Small trades.
A tweak.
If I can't do everything I can do a little something. I add olive oil and fresh garlic to my pasta sauce. I can totally do that.
So today, a quick tweak that might help you out.

I realized that my kitchen is like a snare set for children.
They look up and see this:
High above them, precarious stacks of glass sitting above big sharp knives. 
Yeah, way to go, Tapper.  
And I hate opening a cabinet and having to shuffle around the Pocahontas sippy cup to get to a grown up bowl. 
So my quick tweak? I gave them a drawer.

Down low where they can reach it and revel in plates with princesses on them and cups with dragons and soft spouts. They never reach up high and risk life and limb.
I never have to fight plastic tumblers falling on my head when I only wanted a glass.

When I say I'm simple, I mean it. I like little tweaks that give me big breaks. 
And since you're here I might as well show you the Cowgirl's newest tweak.
She wanted bangs.
I held her off as long as I could. I was seriously scared. Bangs are a commitment, people.
When she sat in the chair and the stylist held up the scissors I grabbed my face and in one syllable exclaimed "areyousureyouwanttodothis?!!!"
She was.
And she did.
Little tweak.
Beautiful outcome.

Try and tweak something today.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Calling all mothers

There was such a response from my last blog post about little girls growing up with today's expectations of beauty that I knew there are mamas out there who have something to add. You've emailed and facebooked me and I loved your comments. Now I want everyone to hear what you have to say. We need to join our voices together until our daughters can't help but hear us
Here is what I propose:

Send me a picture of a girl you love (writeme at reginasirois dot com)  and a sentence or two telling why you love them just the way they are. 
I love the light in your eyes when you learn something new

I love never knowing what I will find in your hair- one day paint, one day glitter, one day bird feathers. You make life an adventure.

I will compile them into a post so we can celebrate the diverse loveliness that is our daughters and learn from the diverse wisdom from many mothers.
It is a great Sunday activity to think of how our lives are blessed by our daughters.
Please share your girl's spirit with the world to help other girls who struggle with their self worth.

I love how you take care of other girls who need you