Out of My Comfort Zone

Two years ago, I had a miscarriage. That same autumn, my father’s health took a turn for the worse, and over that winter and spring, he deteriorated until he finally passed away in June of last year. Over that time, especially when I came home from the hospital after losing the baby and found myself dealing with depression, I wrote.

It wasn’t a planned out story. There was no outline, nothing specific I had in mind. I simply put words down on the page, as fast as my fingers could type them, as if the thoughts were bleeding out of me faster than I could staunch the wound.

And what came out was not something I had tackled before. My previous stories were… cleaner. This one was definitely more mature. It was darker, more “rough” as one friend put it (though not rough in writing style, she pointed out, but rough as in subject matter), and something I had to think about whether or not I would ever publish.

But I did want to publish it. It was something I had created, something I had finished, and yet for a while I toyed with the idea about whether or not I should put it out under a pen name. That lasted for almost a year. I created my pen name, I began various social media accounts under the name, and then… I realized it didn’t feel right.

I wrote this story, and even though it was something that readers of my previous works might not expect from me or even like, it was still a part of me. It came out of me when I was in a dark, dismal time in my life, and the story very much reflects that. But I’ve been told there is hope in the story as well, and the promise of a happy ending.

So here I am, with a new book up for pre-order, and still dealing with a bit of shyness about putting myself out there, or rather putting myself out there with my name on this book. This is not a clean story. This is not YA. It is dark and sexy and maybe even a little bit scary. It is called The Crimson Gown, and I am its author.


Here is an excerpt from The Crimson Gown:

The air pushed through the interstices of the old house, seeming even colder than when Lydia had still been beneath the burnished blue of the winter sky. She clutched her shawl around her shoulders and ducked through the low doorway, the strike of her heels on the bare floor sounding too loud to her own ears.

Before her, only a few paces ahead, the housekeeper—an older woman who introduced herself as a Mrs. Latimer—drifted on silent feet, only the swish of skirts and the rattle of keys at her waist marking her progress from one room to the next.

“The rugs will all need a good beating,” the woman said, her voice hard, as if she were a mouthpiece for the very bricks and beams that made up the walls surrounding them. “And the draperies need to be washed, some of them mended…” Her words trailed away as they passed into yet another room, all dark wood and darker furnishings, the walls bearing streaks of soot from untended candles and lamps left to burn with wicks untrimmed.

Lydia’s eyes drifted towards the artwork that decorated the walls, the frames thick with dust, some bearing the remains of tattered cobwebs that drifted softly, their ragged tendrils caught by an unseen draft. The canvases were nearly as dark as the panelling behind them, but what could be seen of the images portrayed in the muted shades of paints and charcoals was nothing that could be described as entertaining to the eye.

Grotesque beings gazed out at her, yellowed eyes gleaming, teeth bared, malformed bodies writhing. They were scenes she remembered from her childhood, evenings spent learning her letters over the family Bible. Too well she recalled that good book, filled with etchings meant to remind her of the sin that she nurtured inside her heart, of monsters and demons waiting to tear the flesh from her still quaking limbs should she stray too far from the righteous path.

She turned away quickly, blinking as she allowed the stentorian voice of the housekeeper to draw her attention back from the darkness of her own thoughts and memories.

“What was your name?” the housekeeper asked, her eyebrows lifting with the impatience of one repeating a question for the second or perhaps third time.

“Lydia, ma’am.” She allowed her head to dip in a deferential manner, though she suspected her height would count against her in this instance. The housekeeper was a short thing—broad across the shoulders, yes—but still so near to the floor that she gave off the unnerving appearance of having only recently sprung out of it. Lydia, on the other hand, was tall. Too tall, her father had often taken to reminding her. As tall as a man, and yet her twenty-four years had still not allowed her enough time to grow accustomed to the length of her offensive limbs.

“Well then, Lydia,” Mrs. Latimer pronounced, as if even her name were repugnant to her. “You will remember to keep your place while you are here. I’ve no knowledge of what you’ve learned from labouring at your father’s inn, but to work in a grand house such as Mowbray Hall? You must remain invisible.” Here, the old woman’s grey eyes surveyed Lydia’s tall frame. “Or as invisible as one such as you can manage.”

Another nod, this one tinged less with deference than with the inability to gaze upon the housekeeper’s disapproving expression. It was work, Lydia reminded herself. Work for which she would earn actual pay, unlike her long days at The Lamb’s Head, where the never-ending drudgery was gifted with nothing more than a few cold meals and a colder bed once the inn’s guests had received their proper attention.

“Come.” Mrs. Latimer gestured before turning away. The woman’s hurried, silent steps led her back towards where the tour had begun, in the kitchens. “I’ll show you where you can keep your things, and then I’ll set you to work.”



If you’re on Wattpad, you can read it here: https://www.wattpad.com/story/83933563-the-crimson-gown

If you’re interested in nabbing a copy of your own (it releases November 22nd!), you can go here: https://www.amazon.com/Crimson-Gown-Quenby-Olson-ebook/dp/B01MG6TVN6

Real Women Have… Shapes. All Kinds of Shapes.

**This was originally written on July 10th, 2014**

I was probably doomed from the start.

My parents were both slender. My father was 6′ 3″ and almost too skinny to join the Navy. My mom was 5′ 6″ and not even 100 pounds. So once the baby fat wore off, I was a bit of a twig.


But honestly, I didn’t even realize it. I was homeschooled, so I didn’t have to endure any taunting about my gangly limbs from that quarter, and the kids at church had known me since I was a baby, so there really wasn’t anything to comment on.

And then I started taking dance lessons when I was nine years old. Dance lessons meant being in a leotard and tights for every class. Leotard and tights that were actually baggy on me. Every costume had to be taken in. EVERY SINGLE COSTUME. And all through this, I kept growing taller and taller, my arms and legs and back getting longer, so I was obviously gaining weight, but the weight kept going straight into more and more height and it was just a whole lot of awkwardness all around.


And then… I became a teenager.

Until then, no one had really pointed out my resemblance to a toothpick in a negative light. But, of course, when you’re a teenager, and you’re surrounded by other teenagers, then suddenly everyone becomes SO WONDERFUL about pointing out your flaws and just being generally catty and awful to one another. As hormonally-charged, insecurity-ridden teenagers often do. All of a sudden, I couldn’t be skinny just because I was a naturally skinny person. No, I must be anorexic. I must be bulimic. I needed to eat more. And more. And more. And more. And while surrounded by other girls who were constantly stressing about wanting to LOSE weight, I wondered why I was different, and what on earth was wrong with me.

And so I started to notice my body. I saw the bones of my rib cage sticking out. I saw my spine, my shoulder blades, my twiggy little thighs and the bony arms and wrists that people just loved to come up and wrap their fingers around in order to better illustrate how small and abnormal I was.


I stopped wearing shorts, first. And then skirts and dresses that showed off anything above the knee. (Funny enough, my mother is probably one of the few mothers who encouraged her teenage daughter to wear short skirts and cute dresses while stressing that I had “great legs”. I, being fifteen years old and wallowing in low self-esteem, did not believe her.) I layered my clothes. I wore bulky, heavy outfits – even in warm weather – to hide my body.

I also started to keep track of everything I ate. I became obsessed with counting calories. NOT to keep myself from eating too many, but because I had to make sure that I was consuming enough. I filled notebooks with daily lists of everything I’d eaten and how many calories were in each serving (I also made sure to round the numbers down in order to keep the totals low and thereby make myself eat more). If I hit my daily goal (usually around 3000 calories) I put a little foil star sticker next to the total. If I didn’t hit the goal? It went into a deficit account that I had to make up by the end of the week.

Into my early twenties I continued to keep the notebooks and the lists and the numbers. (Seriously, you know you have a problem when you voluntarily introduce MATH into your daily life.) I kept layering clothes, putting on leggings under jeans and tank tops under shirts to make me look “thicker”. I would hear the saying “Real Women Have Curves”, and I would get angry at my hip bones, at the sharp angles that made up my body.

Then, when I was twenty-eight, I met my husband. (CORRECTION: I started dating my husband a second time. But this is the time that stuck so it’s the one that goes in the books.) I still – STILL – felt bad about my body. I didn’t want him to see me. I wanted him to think I was curvy, that I had a bosom, that I looked like the other women that he most definitely-obviously-no-doubt thought were better looking than me. But he always made me feel beautiful. He always made me feel like I had the most perfect figure imaginable. He made me feel confident and gorgeous.

I stopped stressing about my weight… a little bit. Gone were the notebooks, the constantly checking out the Nutritional Information on every package to see if it something was fatty enough to even be worth my time to eat. And then, I found out I was pregnant.

Morning sickness was evil. I hardly ate anything for about six weeks, and having started out at 125 pounds, losing ten pounds was a bit scary. But I knew my body, and I knew I would bounce back as the constant illness began to wane. I remember going in for my first prenatal appointment. I remember the ultrasound and hearing my baby’s heartbeat for the first time. And then, the doctor sat down to ask me a few questions.

The first question? Did I have a problem with gaining weight?

My first thought was that she meant did I have difficulty gaining weight? Which I do. I’ve always been skinny. And I started to point this out to her, and then something in my head… clicked. She didn’t mean would it be physically difficult for me to gain weight, but would it be mentally difficult for me to gain weight. And at that moment, as tears pricked my eyes, I felt all of my teenage insecurities rush back at me, hitting me with the force of a flash flood.

So there I sat, pregnant for the first time, knowing that my life was about to change in so many wonderful and amazing and frightening ways, and I had to defend myself. No, I was not anorexic. No, I had never had an eating disorder. Yes, I was just naturally skinny. No, I didn’t need to speak to a counselor. Yes, I was sure my baby would be fine without any sort of an intervention. I don’t know if she believed me. Frankly, I didn’t care. But I wanted to be out of there so much, because just a little bit of my pregnancy happiness was suddenly sucked away from me.

Over the next six months, I gained forty pounds. I loved those forty pounds. I gloried in them. My arms, my legs, my belly, my CURVES were gorgeous and spectacular and I wanted to bottle them up and keep them on a shelf so I could bring them out again whenever I was feeling down. I had the pregnancy glow in spades, and I didn’t even mind when someone got a glance at my legs or my upper arms.


And so here I am, nearly five years after the birth of my first child (and with two more children tagging along behind her), and I have to ask myself: Why am I writing this?

Well, I have daughters. Two daughters. Two daughters born to tall, skinny parents (I’m 5′ 11″ and holding steady at about 130 pounds, while my husband is 6′ 2″ and averaging around 170 pounds) so I won’t be surprised if they end up tall and slender, too. But my hope – my fervent, fervent hope – is that after going through what I went through, after hating my body for so many years, after feeling myself pull further and further inward every time someone would tell me I needed to eat something, or would ask if I was TRYING to lose weight (in that oh-so-concerned tone that still sets my teeth on edge), that I will be able to tell them that they’re not alone. They’re not abnormal. They’re not ugly.

Will their ribs be visible during the worst of their growing years? Probably. Will they have the “coveted” thigh gap (that I loathed with every fiber of my being)? More than likely. But I want them to know that they are beautiful, that they don’t have to worry about how others look at them, what others say about them, what others accuse them of when it comes to health and nutrition, AND that they absolutely, positively do not need to eat a sandwich just because their upper arm is not as wide as their elbow.

Oh, and shorts. I definitely hope they wear lots and lots of shorts.

May I Throat-Punch You Now?*


I have four kids. I’m saying that now to get it out of the way, because it will come up throughout this post. I have four kids, ages 6 (almost 7), 5, 3, and 3 months.

Of course, when you have children, that means that anyone and everyone can come up to you and deliver all manner of unsolicited parenting advice. That’s right, because once you stumble upon the sight of someone else herding their children about, you have now earned the badge of Designated Parental Advice Giver, whether or not you even have children of your own.

Also, if you are planning on having children, or adopting children, or standing somewhere in the vicinity of children, know that things like “conversational etiquette” no longer exist. No question is too personal! “Are you going to have more children?” “Did you breastfeed?” “What color are your child’s stools?” “Do you and your husband ever get any alone time anymore?” Because what happens in my home, my bedroom, and/or my child’s diaper is TOTALLY your business. We could go ahead and blame social media for this disintegration of private barriers, because we all know that nosy people didn’t exist until Al Gore invented the Internet, right? Thanks, Al Gore.

But the comments I hear the most when I’m out with my kids always tend to prick on the matter of how many children I have. The first one is, “Are you done having kids?” My response to this is to go into a lengthy discourse about the current state of my reproductive organs, my family’s monetary budget, the size of our house, our vehicles, and other things that I don’t need to discuss first with my husband and family, because this helpful stranger or borderline acquaintance is much more suited to help me come to a decision about whether or not I should thrust more life upon the world!

The other comment is not a question, but a statement. And hearing it makes me immediately ragey and eager to kick someone or something in its approximate hoo-ha or ding-dong area.

“Boy, you must have your hands full!”

I have four kids. OF COURSE I have my hands full. But thank YOU, kind sir or madam, for stating the obvious. I shall now go over to this person who owns multiple motor vehicles and state, “Boy, you must drive places!”

It also is often a comment I receive when I’m busy making certain that none of my children are climbing the walls or about to somersault down the frozen food aisle of the grocery store. “Boy, you must have your hands full!” then becomes code for, “Boy, what a bunch of ill-behaved children! You horrible, horrible parent, you.” Now, this might not be what it translates to, really. But when I am exhausted (which is always) or hungry (I’m nursing a baby, so again… always) it is what my protein-deprived mind IMMEDIATELY hears it as.

I understand that there will never not be a time when people no longer go up to other people and tell them things those other people will find annoying. I am not going to tell you not to speak to me when you see me in case my fist accidentally** flies out and makes contact with your proboscis. I have probably said many (MANY) things to other people that they have found irritating. I am socially awkward like that. It is my gift to mankind.

But I also know families that have twice as many children as I have. Even three times as many. And I hope that I will never walk up to them and say, “Well, are you done now?” or, “Man, when was the last time you made it through the day without finding peanut butter on yourself?” (For the record, I did not have to produce children in order to always reply to that last question with a resounding “NEVER.”)

So what is the point of this post? I’m not sure it’s a post as much as just brain diarrhea trickling out of my fingers and into your eyes. (I’m sorry for that analogy. I didn’t realize how gross it sounded until I typed it.) But maybe the next time you see a large family somewhere, or a frazzled mom trying to corral multiple children (or even just one child having a bad day) maybe just smile, tell yourself they’re doing their best, and just walk away.***

*No, I will not throat-punch anyone, nor have I ever. I imagine my ability to inflict pain with my fists is about as great as my ability to come off as the successful, cool one at some sort of reunion or get-together with my peers.

**ACCIDENTALLY. I am repeating this here for lawyerly-type reasons, despite the fact that we have already established I have the upper-body strength of a lazy T-Rex.

*** Maurice Moss says it best.  JUST WALK AWAY.




Another Week Slips Away



My kids are upstairs, running around between batches of schoolwork. My son is sitting on the potty, playing Angry Birds on my banged up, scratched up tablet, because it’s one of the few things that will get him to sit long enough on the potty for anything to “happen.”

It’s been one of those weeks. Nothing terrible occurring, but just a week that seemed to only move forward because something was nipping at my heels. Exhaustion, stress, that lingering bit of a cold and sinus headache that has not broken since New Years. The kids wake up every morning with a cough and runny nose, though by the time breakfast has been cleared away and the cartoons turned off so schoolwork-type things can commence, they’re fine and back to their crazy, rambunctious selves. Just with a few extra coughs thrown in.

But the house is a mess. I’m slowly catching up on a few things, but… no, it’s a mess. And three kids later I think I’m only just now beginning to understand that this is how it’s going to be. I homeschool. The kids don’t go to daycare. They’re always here with me. We will soon be a family of six in a house that measures round and about 900 square feet. There will always be a mess. So I can’t look at pictures of other people’s houses on Facebook, with their toys all picked up and in bins, and their windows free of fingerprints, and everything so neat and tidy when I know their life is not my life.

I mean, I could spend all day chasing my kids around with a vacuum cleaner. I could be in the kitchen right now, washing dishes or scrubbing the stove top or scraping Tinkerbell stickers off the linoleum floor. Or I could write this and empty my brain, or do some puzzles with the kids, or bake something and add more mess to the grime already accumulating on my kitchen counters.

Because I’ve learned that I can’t do both. I can’t have the immaculate house that I want with everything scrubbed and de-cluttered and folded AND sit and watch a movie with my kids or let them help me make pancakes or spend hours cutting out paper snowflakes to tape all over the walls. And I’m sure there are magical women out there who can do all of these things and also not walk around their house wondering what that smell is. But I’m not that woman. I don’t have the multi-tasking skills to pull it off. And when faced with the choice between going outside to play or attacking my bathroom sink with a toothbrush, I will choose going outside Every. Single. Time.

In other news (that is not the unplanned, several-hundred-word posting from above), other things are moving forward. I’m 24 weeks pregnant, and Torsten is constantly moving around in there, but it’s still at the pleasant baby kick stage, not the oh-I-think-you-took-out-a-rib baby kick stage. I’m writing, steadily, and should have another excerpt to share in the next few days. And good reviews for The Half Killed and Knotted are continuing to trickle in, which is always wonderful.

And now I think I’ll head into the kitchen (my messy, cluttered, grimy, Tinkerbell-stickered kitchen) and make some hot chocolate. And then maybe I’ll watch a movie with the kids once Freja has finished her handwriting practice for the day. We’ll see.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Monday


First off, I need to stop abandoning my blog so much. I have so much mind dribble and it needs to go somewhere, so I’m not sure why I resist funneling it all into here.

So consider this a quick recap post of the last few months. And then some.

In various news items (and I’m not certain I mentioned it here, because children do things to your brain power) I am nearly four and half months pregnant (HALFWAY POINT WHOO-HOO! FIRST DOWN! SPORTS TERMINOLOGY! I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT! *eats nachos*) and will be finding out if it’s a boy or girl this time next week. At the beginning of the pregnancy I thought “boy”, but now I feel like my Mommy Radar is off, and it could be a llama in there, or something.

But we’re excited, of course. And a little scared, no matter that we’ve already done this three times before. I’ll have get a new car (unless one of the kids wants to ride in the trunk or in a pet carrier strapped to the roof), we’ll have to figure out some kind of bunk bed sleeping system to accommodate six people in our little two-bedroom condo, and also sleep. I already miss it.

Writing has been going well, oddly enough. First Position was published on November 21st (my birthday!) and has done well, so far. I’m also this close to finishing about two or three other stories (novellas and full-length novels) that Spring should wind up being a busy time for me. Aside from the whole birthing of a new life thing. That should keep me fairly occupied, too.

And after two weeks of everyone in the family passing everyone’s sick around to one another, I’m finally jumping back into school work with the kids after giving them a full week off. Little do they know this means they’ll be working over Christmas break. Muahahahaha! Ha. *ahem*

Tomorrow, I’ll post some bits and excerpts of where I am in my writing, and try to get back into posting here more regularly. I also have some book reviews to catch up on as well. Jeez.

Come on Christmas break. I’m ready for you.

To the Pain

Autumn 2013 090

This has been a difficult year. In November of last year, a week before my birthday and with Thanksgiving right around the corner, I had a miscarriage at just shy of thirteen weeks of pregnancy. Three days after losing the baby, after coming home from the hospital and being ordered to rest and recuperate from what happened, I picked up my laptop and wrote this:

One out of every four pregnancies ends in miscarriage.

That’s the statistic they gave me as I laid on a stretcher in the emergency room, after they’d changed the sheets and various bed-sized pads for the second and third times, the previous sets sitting on the floor in sodden piles, amid smears of blood and so much worse.

I was nearly twelve weeks pregnant, almost to the end of the first trimester and that point when it’s supposedly safe to proclaim to the world that you’re pregnant. But on a Saturday morning, six days before my thirty-fourth birthday, I woke up and realized I had started to bleed.

It was my fourth pregnancy, the first three all having culminated in bouncing, screaming, healthy babies being delivered into this world. I knew what was normal for my body and what would trigger a call to the doctor. Blood was bad. I knew this. So I picked up the phone and dialed the number.

I wasn’t having any cramps or pain. The bleeding wasn’t heavy. I was told to stay home, to rest, and see if it stopped. At lunchtime, it nearly did. But by dinnertime, the bleeding picked up in strength, and by bedtime, I was having contractions.

I called the doctor again. They told me to go to the emergency room.

My mom came down to watch the kids, who were all slumbering peacefully in their beds, and my husband and I braved the cold for the fifteen-minute drive to the hospital.

As we waited to be admitted, and as we were asked the same questions over and over about when the bleeding began and how many pregnancies I’d had and whether I smoked or drank or took my prenatal vitamins, the contractions grew in strength. When we’d arrived, I would’ve put them on a 4 or 5 on the pain scale. By the time they led us back into the ER, they’d leapt up to an 8.

The nurses tried to remain positive and optimistic at first. Bleeding didn’t necessarily mean a miscarriage. Even the contractions could be a symptom of something else, something not connected with me losing my child. But then a particularly strong contraction swept over me, and a particularly large amount of blood came out of me. The nurse rushed in to check on me and change the pads and the sheets beneath me. She glanced down at the soiled pads. Her expression changed. She announced that it no longer looked positive.

At that point, I knew I was in labor for a child that would not live, that probably was no longer even alive. I had never been in that position before. Me, the one who had gone through three complication-free pregnancies and complication-free deliveries. Had I started to think too highly of my fertile body? Or was this merely a fluke, my turn to add to the statistic stated to me by the doctor who came in to assure me that I had done nothing to bring on this miscarriage?

As the night wore on, my husband dozed as much as he could and I flipped through the cable channels, settling on Phineas and Ferb and hideously awful purses on one of a half-dozen shop-at-home channels. And as I laid there, dizzy from morphine and exhausted from everything else, I continued to bleed, and I watched as my belly slowly shrank down, as if there had never been a baby in there in the first place.

What I don’t want is for this fourth pregnancy, the first of mine not to make it to full-term, to become nothing more than a statistic. I was pregnant. I went through morning sickness, just like the others. I had already started experiencing weird food cravings and a constant need to pee, just like the others. I had looked forward to feeling the baby kick, to finding out if it was a boy or a girl, to holding that messy little newborn as it blinked through the goo on its eyes and took its first breaths of stale, hospital air.

But because those things didn’t happen does not make it any less than the others, relegating it to a lower status. I have been pregnant four times. I am a mother four times over. Should I become pregnant again, it will be my fifth pregnancy and my fifth child.


I didn’t write any further than that. I’m not sure I needed to. By the time I tapped out that last paragraph, I was spent. Some of the pain and the grief had drained out of me, leaving me feeling numb.

I went through a difficult time after that. A hard winter with bitter cold and a tremendous amount of snow and ice didn’t help matters. I was probably depressed, though I hadn’t experienced anything like it before and didn’t understand until afterwards what was going on. But I felt very little, simply moving forward through each day, thankful for making it to the end of it, and going to sleep at night, hoping not to dream.

My father’s health took a downturn at the same time. The winter was even harder on him. By spring, we knew it was going to be his last year with us, perhaps his last summer. But he didn’t even make it to summer.

And the pain is different now. With losing the baby, it was immediate and sharp, leaving a grey void in its wake that slowly faded into nothing. With my father, perhaps because there was such a build up towards the end with his chronic health problems, it doesn’t feel the same at all. I feel it constantly, but only if I allow myself to. After the baby, there was the cold emptiness. With my father, the sorrow is a living thing, always alert, waiting to pounce on me the moment I let down my guard.

My urge to write, then, is different, too. After the miscarriage, it was like pushing poison out of a wound. Putting my chin to my chest and writing as many words as I could, as quickly as I could, without a thought as to typos or mistakes. Just going, going, going until I was too tired and I could finally close my eyes and sleep. Now, I’m distracted. Wanting to take on a bajillion projects at once, unable to concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes at a time.

Because pain and grief are these strange, intangible things. There’s no right or wrong way to approach them, because they are never the same animal. One might be strong enough to always hold you in its grip, while the other might release you with nothing more than a sigh.

And here I sit, the words still pouring out of me, not even sure if I have a particular point to this post or any kind of message I wish to impart to the world. Beginning, middle, and end is how these things are supposed to go. But our lives, and the pain left behind when a life leaves us, don’t always seem to follow that arc.

Beginning… middle… end.

And still it hurts. And still I write.

Don’t Talk To Me Before Coffee

While stripping all the beds in the house of their sheets this morning (It’s Clean Sheet Day! Huzzah!) my husband fiddled around on the computer and changed the wallpaper. Where there had been a lovely photo of all three of our children crammed into a cardboard box (as children do, much like cats) was now a picture of my husband at his shop, holding a six foot trophy over his head.

Me: *blinks* What am I looking at?

Husband: Yesterday, Justin (guy he works with) found these two karate trophies in the alley, so he brought them in and made one huge trophy out of them that’s taller than me. Look – *points at picture* – you can see two little guys fighting on top of it.

Me: Why…

And that was about all I could say. It was early, my arms were recently full of dirty toddler sheets, and I had yet to consume anything with caffeine in it.

But before:

Summer 2014 230-002

And after:

majorawardThis is what he thinks he can do to my laptop? Oh, it’s on, people.

It. Is. On.



I was absolutely exhausted yesterday. I have no idea why. Well, I have some suspicions. Eating too much pizza with a side of Toblerone with a side of coffee with a side of Doritos is probably not helping. Also, not getting to sleep until two in the morning and then being woken up four hours later by a toddler walking on my face. And the heat. I don’t do well in the heat, and not in a Delicate Flower kind of way, but more in a My Face Is Oily and My Stomach is NOT HAPPY and Should I Sweat This Much When I Sleep? way.

So I’m thinking some salad and real food should be on the list this week. And more water, less caffeine. I’m not going to give up chocolate, because that would just be silly. And maybe a nap in there somewhere. Because I’m sure I’ll find the time to take a nap and have a proper bath and maybe paint my nails while watching some British-y Masterpiece Theater selection with lovely men in cravats and Hessian boots. (The lovely men would be in the Masterpiece Theater selection, of course, and not actually in my living room with me while I hike my bare feet up onto the coffee table in order to paint my nails. Of course.)

I keep telling myself that things will settle down at some point in the not-too-distant future. Our cars will no longer need to go to the garage, and the weather will recede from a point of stepping out the front door and feeling as if one were slapped in the face with a boiling wet sponge. And my kids will magically learn to love sleep as much as I do, rather than fighting it until they pass out at midnight after watching a marathon of My Little Pony meets Peg + Cat. Maybe I’ll even have weekends again, as in a day that feels marginally different from the rest of the week.

Which… No. No, I won’t. Aside from the usual “I Have Kids So Nothing Will Ever Be The Same” song that is often sung, everything else is… different. I feel it throughout the day, and especially at night, when I’m in bed and trying to turn off my brain enough so I can fall asleep. For the last few years, our lives have gone a certain way. And a lot of that direction circled around my father and his poor health. And now that he’s no longer here, it’s like a huge exhale. Not a sigh, nothing as calm as that. More of that expelling of air one experiences when getting punched in the gut. And we even knew the hit was coming, but bracing ourselves didn’t really do any good.

So things have been crazy. Cars are being fixed up after a few years of neglect, and houses and yards and schedules are being put to rights. And it’s a slow process, and strange for the most part. I feel as if we need a Handbook For The Recently Deceased, but instead, a second volume for the ones who were close to the deceased and have to find their way forward again.

And it’s also interesting that I began this post talking about how hectic everything is, thinking it would stay on an even keel of kids and poopy diapers and trips to the grocery store in which said kids all fight over the same seat in the race car shopping cart. But instead, it became this. Which should probably tell me where my head is right now, how forty days (See how I still know exactly how many days it’s been since he died?) is nowhere near enough time to even chip away at the surface of the… the utter strangeness in which everything is currently suspended.

So, as I said, I was absolutely exhausted yesterday. And my stomach is still in knots. And my face is decorated with chains of little stress pimples. And I don’t dream much when I sleep. When I sleep, which isn’t as often as I’d like.

And maybe it’s not completely due to the pizza and the summer heat, now that I sit back and think about it.

The List Doesn’t Matter

Tomorrow is another day.

I really hate that quote. Of course tomorrow is another day. Just like water is wet and my Swedish heritage makes me recoil from the sun like a vampire. Tomorrow is another day, and no doubt I’ll be sitting up in bed a few hours before Tomorrow gets here, scribbling down all the things I should and need and will have to get done.

That was exactly how today began. I had my list playing on a loop in my head, constantly scolding me for every moment I dithered in front of the computer or stood in the kitchen eating Hershey’s Kisses for breakfast. I had an overflowing hamper full of dirty laundry to take care of, and chili and cornbread to make for dinner, and words to write, and emails to reply to, and that’s without even mentioning the ten thousand little, unplanned chores that three children under the age of six can – and will – create.

But before I would tackle everything on The List, I would take the kids to the playground. Just for a little while. Maybe a half an hour or so, and then I would put an end to their fun and march them back towards the car so we could all go home and irritate each other while I sorted socks and played a game of “Poop or Chocolate?” with a stain on the couch.

When we arrived at the park, the playground was off-limits. They were putting down a fresh layer of those wood chip things under all the slides and swings, and wouldn’t be finished until the end of the day. In an attempt to make the best of things, I told the kids we would take a quick walk around the park, throw some stones in the creek, and go home again. I mean, those zucchini weren’t going to chop themselves.

Two minutes of walking took us down to the creek, and I let the kids go down to the edge of the water. I chided them not to get too muddy, not to make too big a splash with the rocks they threw. I didn’t want to add “de-mud three kids” to my ever-growing list of things to do.

And then… something happened.

While I sat on the grassy bank, with blue sky and puffy white clouds over my head, and a cool breeze whipping my hair into my eyes, I realized that I didn’t care about all of those things waiting for me at home. When a couple other kids arrived with buckets and cups and nets for catching crayfish and minnows, and my daughters looked back at me with pleading eyes as those other kids waded out into the water, I smiled and gave them a quick nod.

“Put your shoes in the grass,” I said. “And don’t go out where it’s too deep.”

While my son toddled around the edge of the stream, digging in the dirt for the muddiest rocks he could find, my girls hiked up their skirts and waded out into the water, squealing at every crayfish that was found, at every little fish that darted around their ankles. We stayed there for hours, until my son fell asleep in my arms and the girls, muddy and bedraggled creatures of the water, clambered out of the creek and walked through the grass until their feet were dry again.

And now we’re home again and it’s almost evening. I haven’t done any laundry. Dinner hasn’t been made yet. No one did any schoolwork or watched anything educational. That weird stain is still unidentified. But my kids had an amazing day. I had an amazing day, too. I sat in the shade, my eyes dazzled by the reflection of the sunlight on the water as it flowed over the rocks. And they keep telling me about how much fun they had, and asking when they can do it again.

“Maybe tomorrow,” I said. Because all that laundry? I never wanted to do it anyway.


No Amount of Caffeine Will Save You


I am currently hunkered away in my bedroom, with the door locked and the laptop in front of me.

This is “getting away” now that I have children.

This morning, I woke up a half hour before everyone else simply so I could take an uninterrupted shower and have time to do something with my hair before church. Of course, Ola forced her way in to complain that Daddy wasn’t letting her have a turn with a particular toy or the television or I have no idea what she was going on about because I had shampoo running into my eyes and I was trying to work a new blade into my razor since my old one had all the hair-shaving effectiveness of a dull plastic spoon. But I did manage to get my hair tamed. Sort of. Before I gave up and pulled it all back into a ponytail.

Last night, I stayed up late to read. It’s the only time I have to read, that golden hour after all the kids have been wrestled into bed but before I’m left taping my eyelids open in order to stay awake just that few minutes more. I also try to sneak in a few minutes of reading every time I’m in the bathroom, but then someone else usually has to use the bathroom, and even though we have two bathrooms, only the upstairs bathroom is the “good” bathroom, and then they have an urgent need to brush their teeth, or to sing to me, or to push trains across the bathroom floor, so I’m left to tuck the book away and finish up as discreetly and quickly as possible.

Right now, even as I type this, I’m debating whether I should throw the laptop aside (well, not “throw,” since laptops are expensive and I don’t exactly possess a bank account full to bursting or a swimming pool filled with gold a la Scrooge McDuck) and take a nap, or continue to chip away at my non-chore-related to-do list.

This blog post, I believe, is a form of procrastination before I’m forced to make a final decision.

But every time I’m gifted with that extra ten minutes outside of my usual routine, I go through the same debate: Should I try to rest? To read? To watch a bit of television that isn’t My Little Pony or Thomas the Tank Engine? Or should I instead tackle that overflowing basket of unfolded laundry? Or sweep something? Or load all the kids into the little red wagon and take them for an educational and inspiring death march walk through the neighborhood?

So far today, I’ve done a bit of both. I read two Batman books to Ola (okay, one featured Aquaman who is TOTALLY INSUFFERABLE and Batman needs to just leave him to his dolphin friends and head on back to Gotham posthaste) and I built a train track for Will and I forced Freja to eat green beans (What? That’s quality time right there. Honest.) but I also took all the garbage down to the garage and cleaned the bathroom floor and tried to figure out what that stain in the carpet was next to the coffee table.

And now I’m writing. And typing up this post. And dreaming about the day when I’ll be able to afford to hire someone to come in and wash my dishes for me and identify that weird smell coming from the downstairs closet.

This is my life, now that I have children. Always a debate, always a bargain, always a balance of figuring out what has to be done immediately and what can be put off until later. And it’s not a bad thing. But it’s a new world, and a completely new way of thinking. And it’s easy to get completely overwhelmed with the belief that I’m going about it all the wrong way. Did I choose the right homeschool curriculum for Freja? Should I give them snacks between meals or let the hunger build so they’ll actually eat what I put in front of them at dinnertime? Should I continue to buy diapers or just turn my son out into the backyard when he gets that scrunchy look on his face when I think he’s about to poop?

And what about me? Will I fit in that little bit of reading time for myself? Will I be able to bathe more than two times this week? Have I completely given up and allowed jeans and a t-shirt to become my “dressy” clothes?

Yes. Maybe. More than likely.

Because it’s all about balance. And waking up at three in the morning in order to use the bathroom in peace.