Tuesday, June 29, 2010

writing retreat

It’s that time of year again. Time for me to plug the Writing Academy and encourage you to check out their retreat for writers coming up in August. (You can choose from two tracks: the first runs from Thursday, July 29 until Monday, August 2; the second is Friday, July 30 through Sunday, August 1.) Located at the Mt. Olivet retreat center in Minnesota, you won’t find a more beautiful place to hone your craft.

I cannot say enough about this writing group. Truly.

If you’re a writer in need of a writing community, look no further. I attended my first retreat when the twins were two, and was amazed at the talent and depth of this group. Even more amazing? They’ve been meeting for years, yet their ability to welcome a newcomer into their fold is unparalleled.

Show up ready to grow and learn, and you’ll be family by next year.

This isn’t a networking conference. You won’t walk away with a book deal or an agent connection, but Writer, trust me when I say this, you will find your people. I never would have finished my young adult novel if not for this group.

I’m leading two workshops this year, so if that’s not incentive enough to come, I don’t know what is. Ahem.

I should add that this is a Christian writing group, though I’m confident that they would welcome a writer of any faith (or no faith) for the weekend. Just be aware that there is a prayer before each meal (actually, a song. They sing prayers that I've never heard of before. But nobody looks at me funny when I don't participate because, well, they like me. I think.) There's also chapel each morning and the speakers present their material from a Christian perspective.

So…who’s in? (Please don't let the singing thing scare you away. It's not as strange as it sounds...)

Thursday, June 24, 2010


The preschooler has a problem.

He thinks everything in this house belongs to him. He walks around and gathers things up, saying, “Hey! Do you like my new ball/guitar/flashlight?”

There’s only one problem.

None of this stuff is his.

Twin B. is most aggravated by this new development. With a strong sense of fairness and a very black and white approach to justice, this pushes him over the edge. “I just bought that game last week with my own money. Now he’s saying it’s his!”

We remind the preschooler who really owns the stuff he’s pocketing, but he just laughs. In his mind, I think, everything in this house belongs to him. He’s on the receiving end of so many hand-me-downs, he probably figures eventually it will be his.

And I remind Twin B. that his frustration at his little brother might be how God feels sometimes. He gives us so much. Everything we need! A home, plenty of food, clothes, and even some of the stuff we want, like toys and games and vacations. And sometimes we forget it’s all a gift, and we walk around like the preschooler, just grabbing onto it, insisting it’s ours; refusing to share.

And God watches. He’s full of grace. He just wants us to get it.

It’s all His.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

how to host a water balloon fight

I love having fun. And nothing says fun like a water balloon fight.

I know, I know. The mess. The trouble. The work. But stay with me for a minute. I don’t know about girls, but little boys and water balloons are a perfect match. It involves violence, throwing things, water, and making a mess all in one package. And they’re cheap!

Want to be the coolest mom on the block? Here’s the plan:

Buy a lot of water balloons. Start filling them up before guests arrive.

Fill a cooler with juice boxes or put a jug of water outside for kids to help themselves. You don’t want to be running in and out of the house during the fight. (Well, maybe you want to, but the importance of supervision cannot be overstated.)

Lay a thick towel on the floor for kids to walk on when they do need to go into the house and use the restroom. (And, for goodness sakes, don’t sweep or mop the floor before the kids come over. Do this after they’re gone.)

Set ground rules. No water balloons to the face is a good one.

And here’s my favorite tip. During our last water balloon fight, towards the end, I had the boys pick up the scraps of water balloons all over the yard by “charging” for the new ones. So, bring me ten popped balloons and get one full one. When we were fifteen minutes from the end, that number jumped to twenty.

And it worked.

As moms, we all want our kids to just help because they want to and jump in and say, “Wow, Mrs. Llama. You’ve worked really hard and I’m so grateful. Let me help you with that.” But they never will. (At least not at my house.) And so we teach the kids to help. That’s part of having a fun day—cleaning up at the end.

By the time the kids left, the water balloons were picked up. The yard was a muddy mess, but that’s another issue entirely. And as a wise friend once asked me, “Are you raising children or are you raising lawns?”

Someday, my lawn will look great. And I'll be sitting in the backyard sipping iced tea, remembering all the fun afternoons I spent with my boys. Having water balloon fights.

If you're looking for more fun household tips, check out We are that Family for more great Works for me Wednesday tips!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

writer's conferences

I have a love-hate relationship with writer’s conferences.

I love to connect with people, attend readings and workshops, and learn more about the craft of writing.

But I usually leave feeling overwhelmed and inadequate.

Build a platform.
Make a website.
Write consistently every day.
Be organized.

Here is my writing space.

There are a few sleeping bags at my feet (the noisy boys were making a fort), a green froggie towel (the preschooler must have wandered in after bath time and dropped it), a few items I’m selling on ebay, a garbage can overflowing with used Kleenex (I get emotional when I write. Plus, well, allergies), a few printed copies of an edited document that I need to put in the recycling bin, a printed contract I need to mail in for my real job…you get the idea.

Conditions are not ideal.

My website? Um. Right.

The Llama Momma.


Here’s what I know about myself: I’m a writer because I love to write. Mostly every day, and mostly during the fringe hours—early in the morning before the kids are awake or at night when they’re asleep. I write in fits and starts, and don’t keep very good records. It has taken me almost two years to write and edit and rewrite a 55,000 word young adult novel. Two years.

In the fiction workshop I attended, the author cranks out three good novels every year.


Would I have more creative energy if I had a better writing space? Maybe. Would I get more done if I had more writing time? Probably.

But it is what it is.

I have three young children, a part-time job, a volunteer job, a husband, and a big house that insists on getting messy on a consistent basis. Oh, and all these people I live with? They’re always hungry.

This is my life.

I am a mother. I am a writer.

I am me.

Friday, June 11, 2010

quote of the day

Fear is not a sign that you're not called.

- Jane Rubietta (Write-to-Publish 2010)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

because there's never a good time...

We weren’t planning to have a party today. The kids were with a sitter this morning while I ran around getting ready for a writer’s conference later this week. (Write-to-Publish, anyone?)

But I was home this afternoon, and told the boys they could each invite a friend over to play. We left a few messages, and as the kids began calling back, another friend called wondering what A. was up to, and so it goes. When it was all said and done, we had a backyard full of boys, about 400 water balloons, a cooler full of juice boxes, and a whole lot of laughter.

What a blast.

As I sat at my station filling up water balloons, I thought of all the things I could be doing if all these kids weren’t over—dishes, laundry, washing the floor—and I found myself grateful for an excuse to just sit outside and enjoy the kids.

Besides, after an afternoon of running in and out to the bathroom, the floor would just get muddier anyway. And the kids sure don’t care. They’re just grateful for a place to hang out and play.

It wasn’t on the agenda today—invite half the neighborhood over and make a muddy mess in the backyard—but I’m glad we did.

I hope and pray the boys’ friends will continue to feel comfortable and welcome in our home, and we can be the “hangout house” for many years to come!

What are you waiting for, Moms? You know you'll never be "caught up" on everything. Why not just stop and enjoy the kids, just for a few hours? It doesn't have to be perfect. Just be there. And if water is involved, trust me, they'll have a ball.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

time warp

It’s begun. It happens every year around this time. I look at the calendar and it’s Tuesday…and then it’s Friday. Or Saturday.

I’m in some sort of time warp.

We go to the pool and get together with friends and just hang out at home, and the time just slips by.

June and July will pass this way, and then we’ll be moaning that it’s August already. I feel old when I mumble about how fast time is going, but I can’t help it.

We're soaking in summer. How about you?