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Monday, May 5, 2014

Random Updates

Because I'm sure everyone is sitting around out there wondering what in the world is going on in the life of Jen Baxter, I thought I'd put you out of your misery and share some of the excitement with you. Well, at least one of the things I'm going to share is exciting. To me...

Fun Facts About My Life:

1. Finding Shemballah, the sequel to my first book, Laryn Rising, just went live on Amazon!!! (Abrupt end of excitement.) (But I personally am very, very, very excited :).

2. This is the second list of random facts I've written today. (To see the first, go here.)

3. My husband has a twenty-plus hour commute these days. To Wyoming. But...

4. ...his schedule is two weeks on, two weeks off, and I must say there's something to be said about having your husband home from work for two weeks at a time.

5. For instance, my husband loves to crockpot. And he does things like clean underneath the fridge, vacuum patterns into the carpet, and police the cleaning of the children's rooms when he's home for extended periods of time.

6. Number 5 is kind of awesome, and it definitely makes up for the two weeks of single-parenting craziness I go through when he's gone. Mostly. There was that week when my three boys (10, 13, 15) had eight basketball games between them... Definitely could have used some vacuuming and crockpotting that week!

7. Speaking of the number eight, my youngest child turns eight on Friday. Yikes. I kind of can't stand how old and big they're all getting.

8. About that. My oldest is 6'1 and weighs 195 lbs. He turned fifteen on tax day. My poor, poor, grocery bill. Well, actually it's getting money thrown at it all the time, and I'm the one who's poor around here. Let's all just pray that he won't have another growth spurt any time soon because I don't think my wallet can take it.

9. My thirteen-year-old son has 12 inch biceps. I do not know how this has happened. He's just a baby, for heaven's sake! Does he really need muscles already? And hairy legs???

10. And then there's my ten-year-old. The good news is that since I've already had two other ten-year-old boys, I am not worried that he is socially challenged. The obnoxiousness, the strange noises, and the sense of humor that only other ten-year-olds get are all out in full force, but this time I'm not panicking because I get it. And even if he does occasionally get a bit smelly as we venture into the world of manage-your-own-hygiene, I still love him to death. (What is it with ten-year-old boys and hygiene, anyway? I mean, shouldn't the use of soap in the shower be a given???)

And there you have it folks, my life all wrapped up in ten fun little facts. Hopefully, now that all those pressing questions you had about life in the Baxter household have been answered, you can relax and get back on track. And if you find yourself bored this week and in search of the perfect book (or books), I have the perfect suggestion...(see number 1 :).


Thursday, April 17, 2014

True Love

I've been a mom for fifteen years as of yesterday. I have four kids. What does all this amount to? A lot of puke.

Vomit, throw-up, puke - whatever you want to call it, I have spent the best years of my life dealing with it. It's been everywhere. Beds, cars, new carpet, right next to the toilet (a personal fav), on my person, and on my children. And, like mothers everywhere, I have done my duty. I have choked down the gag reflex, pushed through the smell (oh, the smell!), and cleaned up mess after mess. (I'd throw in 'without complaint' here, but I do strive for honesty...)

Have you ever noticed that each kid has their own puking personality? My youngest, for instance, is of the silent-but-violent variety. One minute she's sitting there peacefully, and the next - well, you get the picture. And the worst part? Even when she's actually throwing up there's no sound. You know that pre-puke cough that can wake any mother from a dead sleep? The one that has you on the run before your conscious brain has even registered what's going on? Ya. No pre-puke cough for number four. After years of dealing with the no-warning aftermath, I've decided that God gave kids that cough for a reason, and any time I feel like he doesn't love mothers I immediately think of the pre-puke cough that has saved me from so many vomit-disasters, and know that I am loved.

I bring all of this up because my children are getting older. They no longer vomit on their way to tell me they might need to vomit, because they're now all smart enough to head straight for the toilet. I can't even remember the last time I had to deal in puke, and I am so, so, grateful.

And then last night happened.

It was C, my ten-year-old. He got sick. He had pains. He wasn't sure which end would be affected, so I gave him a bowl and sent him to the bathroom. He threw up, assured me it was just a little, and looked so much better that I was sure the crisis had passed and gave him the following instructions: dump the bowl into the toilet and then put it in the laundry room sink. I told him I'd take care of it when I was done doing whatever very-important thing I was doing.

Then he threw up again.

The good news? He was self-sufficient enough to go fetch his bowl from the sink in time to make it back to the toilet (he required coverage on both ends.) (Is that too much information? Sorry...). The other good news? He was so self-sufficient that he didn't even tell me he'd thrown up again until after he'd taken care of things.

Now for the bad news: He forgot the order of operations for puke clean-up.

In his defense, he knew there was a problem as soon as the contents of the bowl filled the bottom of the sink and failed to go down the drain... That's right, people, instead of dumping into the toilet and rinsing in the sink, he went straight for the sink. Which had other stuff in it. Stuff that was now floating around in the usual flotsam that happens when a ten-year-old loses the contents of his stomach. And you know what? I couldn't do it.

Maybe it's been too long, maybe there's just been too much vomit in my life, but for whatever reason, I looked in that sink and knew that I didn't have it in me to clean it up. I didn't even know this could happen to someone who had suffered through the pains of labor and child-raising, but apparently it's possible to hit a wall - the Puke Wall, we'll call it. The wall which stands as an impenetrable barrier between a mother and her ability to clean up puke.

This is where the true love comes in.

My husband was innocently sitting in the family room, watching a movie and minding his own business. I looked at him, felt a brief, fleeting moment of guilt, successfully suppressed it, and proclaimed the following:

me: Honey? I've been cleaning up puke for fifteen years. I can't do it anymore, so this one is on you.

him: (brief moment of silent staring as if he's not quite sure he understands the language I'm speaking, and then, miraculously,) Okay.

He said okay. Not only that, but unlike the 'Okay,' that really means, 'Sure I will...eventually...if you don't get to it first because you can't stand waiting for me to take care of it,' this was the real thing. In other words, it was accompanied by action, and he immediately got up from the couch and took care of the sink.

And when he was done he even shrugged off my thanks as if it hadn't been a big deal. As if. This was the singular most big-dealish thing any husband that I know of has done for his wife in a long, long, long time. I mean, technically, I found the puke, I was over-seeing the 'process', so I should have been on duty for clean up. Right?

But he did it. Immediately and without complaint. This is True Love at it's greatest, and to every woman who will someday hit the Puke Wall, may your husband also show such unconditional True Love, and save you from one puke too many.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Laser Hair Removal: The Approach You Should Avoid...

My sister just got a laser hair removal machine. As in, zip-zap-zappo and the leg hair is gone. And we're talking one of the big, fancy, commercial kind that spas use, not some dumb little diy at-home model. Can I just say how exciting that is? Especially when she says things like, "Hey Jenny, your pasty white skin and dark hair just happen to be perfect for laser hair removal. Would you mind growing out your leg hair so I can take before pictures of it and then letting me zap it ALL AWAY FOREVER?"

I had to think about it. For about a millisecond. Then operation grow-out-my-leg-hair commenced. (Of course I already had about a week's head start on it. It's like I'm psychic or something, because I'm sure I never went that long without shaving my legs before...)

That was about a month ago, and today was the big day. My sister has a friend who is training people to use the machine, and I was to be the practice subject for today's student. I admit that I wasn't crazy about the idea of someone 'practicing' on me, but if the end result is no leg hair, sign me up. So this morning I took my hideously hairy legs over there for a little laser action.

I arrive, and she (the trainer/friend) takes a few pictures of my lovely legs and then tells me to shave. See, a laser burns the hair out of the follicle, and the more hair you have above the skin the worse it hurts. Cause it burns. Unfortunately, being the optimistic person that I am, I disregarded the implications here. You know how pamphlets for stuff like this always say things like, "You may experience some minor discomfort," or "The sensation is something like a small pin prick,"? Yeah, as a matter of course I always assume these things to be gross exaggerations made for the faint of heart.

You know what assuming makes you, right?

And so, with my usual disrespect for such precautions, I whipped out my little electric shaver. It's true that the batteries were low, but that didn't worry me. A quick (and not very close or thorough) shave later, and I was ready to have my hair follicles burned out by a high powered laser.

Have you ever smelled burning hair? Have you ever heard the sound of hair follicles popping as they're disintegrated by the beam of a laser? Have you ever seen wisps of smoke coming off your own legs in the aftermath of said disintegration? Let me tell you, it may sound bad but it feels much, much, much worse. And the whole time the teacher and trainee kept saying things like, "Wow, that whole patch really popped, didn't it?" and "It's starting to smell like burnt popcorn in here," (chuckle, chuckle, chuckle). (I was not chuckling.)

The ankles were the worst. Especially because the 'trainee' didn't seem to get the part about keeping the laser pressed straight down on the leg. You see, if you tip it or lift it THEN IT ARCS. You know, like what lightning does when it causes a building to burst into flames? Or like a 50,000 volt electric fence will do if you get too close to it? Yeah, she couldn't seem to get that memo despite the fact that I kept saying  things like, "Um, I think your TIPPING IT!!!" (This last would come out as a shriek as the arc of the laser made contact. Popping and wafts of smoke would generally follow.)

Finally, however, it was done. Over. Finished. Kind of. Because I'll need at least one more treatment, and probably two or three to get rid of all the hair. Is it worth it? Definitely. People get their hair ripped out with hot wax repeatedly, so I think I can take little laser arcing and follicle burning in the name of hairless legs. But will I shave, and then shave again, and then shave again before I go back for round two? Uh, yeah. And I recommend you do the same if you ever get a chance to get any of your hair lasered, because the amount of 'slight discomfort' you will experience will be significantly more if you fail to pay heed to that one, simple, and vastly important step.

The things we do. All in the name of beauty, right?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

To Wave or Not to Wave?

My kids very possibly have the nicest bus driver in the history of the world. When I went into the 1st grade and started riding the bus my bus driver's name was Mrs. Horn. The name was fitting, and I was terrified of her. You know the bad guys' 'Mama' from Goonies? Well, she wasn't quite that bad, but to my already-terrified-and-anxiety-ridden self she might has well have been. She was not warm and fuzzy, she didn't smile and learn your name, she certainly didn't hand out candy every Friday, and I'm not actually positive that her name wasn't granted to her because of her very loud, very commanding voice.

(Now that I think about it, I may have my older brother and his friend to thank for Mrs. Horn's presence on our route. They were not good bus passengers. For instance, there was some song {Van Halen maybe???} in the '80's that started with the sound of a train whistle. Well, remember the boom box? My brother and his friend had one, and they decided that it would be an awesome idea to cue the tape, turn up the volume, and hit play just as the bus was passing over the railroad tracks...)

(I think that may have been the last time they rode the bus in their high school careers, but they still claim that it was worth it.)

Anyhow, Mindy is not Mrs. Horn. She gives candy. She smiles. She ALWAYS pulls over when there is a car coming from either direction. (Seriously, I've been completely spoiled, and I now have no patience for driving behind a school bus. I can also always tell when she has a sub because apparently she is the only pull-over-and-let-the-cars-pass bus driver in the world.) And despite pulling over she always gets my kids to school on time. And she always waves.

Always. Which leaves me to the question at hand: how many times in the same day do you have to wave at the same person when you pass them on the road? And I don't mean 'if you pass them and wave in the morning do you have to wave again in the afternoon,' I mean within a five-ten minute period.

See, it's like this: My younger kids' school (which is out of district, so they don't ride the bus) is west of my road, and my older kids' (who only ride the bus home from school) is east. When I drive west to drop off the younger kids, Mindy is driving east. We wave.

Then I drive east and (often times) have to go back up my road to pick up my older kids, or get something that one of us forgot. On my way up my road Mindy will be driving down. We wave.

Then I'll be going back down my road and invariably catch up to the bus (because it keeps stopping to pick kids up) and of course Mindy pulls over to let me pass. As I pass - we wave.

AND THEN, after I drop my kids off at school and head west for home, Mindy is driving east (because I passed her on the road and got ahead of her again, remember?) AND WE WAVE AGAIN!

Do you think she gets as tired of waving as I do? (And have any of you had to draw a map to keep all of this straight yet?) I admit that sometimes I'll put my visor down or pretend to be texting because waving repeatedly gets SO AWKWARD! I begin to feel like an idiot. In the meantime, I pass my sister when I leave my younger kids off and she's on her way to drop hers, and we wave, and then after I drop my older kids off and head back home we usually pass again and I have to wave again.

And there are at least three other moms I dance this I-pass-you-a-million-times waving dance with, and I keep wondering why we're all still waving.

I also have to admit that occasionally I'll be driving a car no one's familiar with and I blithely make my entire drive without waving at any of them, all the while feeling so happy that they don't know they passed me. It's so much easier. Am I the only person in the world who has ever had this problem? (Other than the poor people who have to keep waving at me, of course.) Do other people just hit their limit and start refusing to wave on principle? Can I do that?

I don't feel like I can. I feel compelled to wave. I tell myself I won't and then my hand flies up on it's own and does it anyway. After all, they're all still waving, right? Are they just nicer and more polite than me, or are they rolling their eyes when they see me and quickly pretending to tune their radios so they can get out of at least one of our morning waves?

Okay, this is kind of going on and on. Enough. Enough with the waving. For now, anyway. I'm sure that by Monday morning I'll be right back at it again...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

One of the Many Reasons I'm Glad I'm Not a Teenage Boy

Apparently nothing is the same for a teenage boy. Even going to Walmart.

As usual, my whole family exchanged names this December for the annual Christmas Angel thing we do. For the most part it's just an opportunity to be extra nice to someone/everyone. The most important goal is to be extra nice to whoever you drew. The over-achiever's goal is to be so nice to everyone that they all think you have their name. On Christmas morning when we tell who we had, the person who fooled the most people into thinking he/she was their angel gets to play Santa. C wins every year.

Anyhow, back to teenage boys and Walmart. This year, since all the kids are older and (most) have their own money, I decided we'd also purchase gifts for our special person. The logistics of taking four kids shopping with only one parent around to help while trying to maintain secrecy gets a little sticky, so I decided to take the kids on two separate trips. First I'd take my fourteen-year-old son and my sever-year-old daughter, then the two in the middle.

So last night L, M and I get to Walmart. I look at my mature teenage son and have no qualms at all about sending him off on his own. (Well, other than the fact that he has no watch or cell phone, and absolutely no sense of time. But at least I knew we'd meet up again eventually...) I told him to do his shopping, check out, and go to the benches at the front of the store. We'd either be there before him, or he could just sit there and wait for us.

Good plan, right? Did I mention that he's six feet tall and weighs 190 pounds? This is no helpless little adolescent here - I was not worried. (Which says a lot if you know me.)

I'd told him we'd plan on meeting back up in about forty minutes from when we separated, but my daughter and I got bogged down in electronics, and when I checked my phone for the time it was dead. But I wasn't worried. It wouldn't hurt him to wait for me. He'd be fine...

When I came out of the electronics section, I saw a wide-eyed L coming at me. Here's how our conversation went:

L: Mom! Where have you been!

Me: Shopping. Why?

L: I have been waiting and waiting for you!

Me: Why? Is something wrong?

L (Looking at me as if I am an errant child who has just asked a very stupid question as he lists off the following on his fingers): I have been sworn at, flipped off, threatened, and offered drugs. Get me out of here!

All of which happened while he was sitting on that bench, minding his own business and waiting for his mother.

Can I just say that nothing like this has ever happened to me anywhere? Let alone Walmart! I've sat on that bench and waited for people lots of times, and no one has ever done more than nod at me as they walked past. My poor little giant son. Sitting there with his crew cut hair and big dimpled smile, just minding his own business and bothering no one. I mean, maybe if he were decked out in chains with huge gauges in his ears (like the drug salesman's), or had missing teeth (like the girl who called him a naughty word and flipped him off - I guess she was rather threatening looking) I could understand, but L just has the look of a nice person!

Suffice it to say that when I took C and N (10 and 12, respectively) shopping tonight, we did not split up. The secret of the Christmas Angels was pretty much sacrificed, but better that than my children, right? So glad I am not a teenage boy!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

About My "Other" Blog...

So I've been blogging over on my author blog, like a good authoress should, but...

I feel boring over there.

I can't help it. I mean, I'm interested in the kind of stuff I'm writing, but is anyone else? I'm not exactly a famous (or even established) writer, who has loads of writing wisdom to share with poor little beginning authors like me, so what are the chances there are lots (or any) author-y type people being edified or even entertained by my musings on writing and the pains - uh, I mean the joys - of self-publishing? Unfortunately, although people stop by semi-regularly, no one leaves me comments so I don't know that any of them really care a whit for anything that's going on in my author brain.

Somewhere in the midst of sighing over this I made a grave tactical error. I found the place on my blogger dashboard that let me read all my comments from this blog. Like all of them, as in Every. Single. One.

It was so fun. I stayed up till after one in the morning (even though I had to get up at 5:15) laughing over all my old (and long since gone-from-blogland) friends. They were so funny! I had so much fun blogging with them, and trading comments, and caring about what was happening in their far off lives. There is no doubt that my blogging year was a great little chapter in my life.

Apparently, however, I wasn't the only one who needed to tune in to other things in my life, because almost all of the people on my sidebar have been off the radar for two years or more. They probably all facebook and twitter now, but let's face it - it isn't the same. Catching little snippets of a person's life is something, but it's not the same as the quality of entertainment and interaction we all found in blogland.

And those women could write! And they were funny! Now that I've been editing for the last six years, I have a much better appreciation for all of those (supposedly) non-writing women who could sit down at their computer for twenty minutes and dash off a hilarious, or thoughtful post. Reading all of them was like an education in how to get someone to care about what you write. I didn't realize it at the time, but blogging was like an great big, super fun writing workshop for me, and I am so grateful for all the things they taught me about writing - and marriage, motherhood, tragedy, laughter, hard times, good times, and all the times in between. If even half of them were still around to trade stories with, there is no doubt in my mind that I would go back to writing regular posts on this blog just for the chance to associate with others who are interested in sharing life's noteworthy moments.

Even without anyone around, I admit that blogs have once again been popping into my brain. I soooo almost wrote one the night I made my fourteen-year-old son give my twelve-year-old son The Talk - and eavesdropped in on the whole thing (like any good mother would). (And by the way, can I just say that it was possibly the greatest bit of inspiration I have EVER had as a mother?) Once I managed to extricate the need-to-blog bug in my brain, I got to the point where I hardly ever had those blog-writing moments. Now that I'm writing on the other blog, I find myself noticing all the noteworthy things again, and drafting blogs in my head... I do miss capturing those moments, and I have no doubt that someday when my kids discover this blog they will all want to know why I ever stopped recording the history of our lives.

Great. Now I have guilt.

But enough of this. I either need to forget it, or write it for me, and it's time I made up my mind about it. So even if no one is out there anymore, I just may begin popping in here every now and then to let off some steam and entertain myself. And at least I know about the magical comment place that will now let me know if random people stop by and comment on old posts. (The other night I had to go leave a comment for a girl who'd admitted to lurking on my blog in a comment she left two years ago. So sad that I missed her! I love lurkers!) So if anyone does stop by, I just want to say thanks. Thanks for taking the time, and thanks for sharing in a few moments of my life. And in the meantime (and just for old time's sake) in honor of Thanksgiving, check out this old post. It's my Thanksgiving Dinner limerick contest, and the entries are fabulous. All the entries are in the comment box, so scroll on down and enjoy!

Monday, October 7, 2013

I Have a Confession...

I've been writing a book.

I'd been working on a novel before I started blogging, but the sad truth is that all my friends in blogland were just way too interesting, and before long my book project was pretty much shelved. When I finally did get another computer I had a choice to make: give back in to my blogging addiction, or focus on my writing.

And so I wrote.

I have to admit that it was very difficult to stay away from blogland and all the fabulous friends I have here, but it was worth it because MY BOOK IS OUT!!! The title is Laryn Rising, the pitch is here, you can buy it here, and here's the amazing cover created by my good friend Olivia:

Can I just say that I am so excited?!? I also have a new 'author blog', but I have to admit that it isn't nearly as much fun to write over there, because I don't have very many friends in the writing world yet.

But enough of my book and on to a more entertaining subject - my children. Specifically, my oldest son, who is now a freshman in high school. For homecoming this year we made a deal that he could ask a girl to the dance as long as he went with a group of three or more couples. So, he picked a good friend of his (not the girl in the picture)and got all set to go.

Enter 'Shopping For Homecoming Clothes'.

We go to Ross. I select five pairs of slacks for him to try on. I send him into the dressing room with VERY clear instructions that he is to show me every single pair of pants he tries on. And then I wait.

And wait.

AND WAIT.

I am not exaggerating when I say that I waited for at least ten (TEN) minutes before he finally came staggering out of the dressing room in his first pair. The following conversation ensued:

Me: What took you so long! Did you try them all on without coming out to show me?

Liam: No. I fell asleep.

Me: You did not, you're joking.

Liam: I'm not joking, Mom. I sat down to take off my shoes, and I just kind of leaned back, and then...

I have never heard of this falling-asleep-in-the-dressing-room syndrome before, but if anyone has I'd love to know that my son is not the first to have this serious condition. The dance was a success, however, and he had a blast with his good friend Maddie. Here they are in all their homecoming finery!