Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Winner of Meghan Rose

We have a winner! Our Four Kids has won the book giveaway.

Tomorrow I am posting another interview and another chance to win a great book! So, stay tuned!

PS. Sorry I haven't been posting this week. Things have been crazy around here. More later.
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Monday, April 28, 2008

Winner Of Blue Heart Blessed

Cynthia won the Blue Heart Blessed giveaway! If you didn't win, please don't let that stop you from reading this great book! Thanks to everyone who left a comment-- I am doing several more giveaways, so keep trying. Check out the one that's going on now in the post below!
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Interview With Author Lori Scott--- And Another Giveaway!

Do you yearn for a Christian based fiction book geared for younger elementary children?

If so, then check out the Meghan Rose series!

This new series from Standard Publishing introduces Meghan Rose, the bounciest first-grader in the world! Young readers will share Meghan’s adventures, laugh, and learn important life lessons. Each title also includes a bonus section with discussion starters and fun activity ideas.

I am excited to welcome author Lori Z. Scott, joining us today to talk about the newest releases in her Meghan Rose series—Meghan Rose All Dressed Up and Meghan Rose Has a Secret.

Since 2000, Lori has published over fifty short stories, devotions, puzzles, poems, and articles for children, teens, and adults in publications such as Focus on Your Child, MOMSense Magazine, Spirit Led Writer, Pockets, and Devozine. She is the author of Busy Moms’ Devotions to Go and four Meghan Rose titles. In addition, Lori has contributed to over a dozen books including Real Moms, Cup of Comfort Book of Prayers, and 2007 Eppie Award winner InfiniteSpace, Infinite God.

A graduate of Wheaton College, Lori has worked with children for over twenty years, both as a teacher in the classroom and as a volunteer for local churches, museums, and schools. When she’s not busy driving her two children to various church, sporting, and artistic activities, she moonlights as a speaker for women’s groups and schools.
Lori, welcome. Thanks for taking time to be with us today.

My pleasure.

You often introduce yourself as first a mother, then a teacher, and finally a writer. Why is that?

I feel like being a mother is my highest calling in life. And that means I’m a caregiver, nurse, tutor, cheerleader, counselor, transportation expert, and nutritionist. Doing all those mommy things is a bit like filling a jar jam-packed with marbles. I pursue my own interests in the empty spaces around those marbles because being a mommy trumps all.

I call myself a teacher second because working with kids has been such a huge part of my life. Just as God gifts different people for different tasks, I feel like God has given me a special ability to understand and work with children. Or maybe I’m just not ready to give up playing and comics yet.

I call myself a writer last because I often feel like writing too much fun—and pays too little—to be a real job. But then again, writing is another interest in my life I have felt called to pursue. God blessed me there too. When I decided to start writing, my first submission won second place in a science fiction writing contest. My second submission won MOPS International story writing contest.

I guess what I want moms to realize is, it’s okay to put the mommy part of our lives first and to trust that God will still bless, fulfill, and lead us in other areas as well.
Why would parents like your series?

A good question—one that I have to answer from my own experience. When my daughter was in first grade, her teacher started reading the Junie B. Jones books in class. Since Meghan liked them, I picked up a few copies.

Well, I enjoyed the humor in those books, but had to edit out some of the grammar slips, name calling and attitudes. I thought there had to be an alternative choice—a book that was just as funny, but also had a good take-away value. I scoured the Christian bookstores. I couldn’t find any fiction for that age group, only devotional books and Bible stories.

When I asked about it, bookstore owners often commented that they wished they could offer such a book. In fact, they’d had numerous parents come to the store, all asking the same thing: Do you have a fiction book my young child will enjoy reading? And, like them, I walked away empty handed.

So I wrote the book I couldn’t find—a book for my daughter AND for all those other mothers just like me. I put in everything she wanted—an interesting story filled with giggles and characters worth rooting for—and everything I wanted—good moral values (but with nothing preachy about the story at all). And because I don’t believe I’m alone in those desires, I’m convinced other parents (AND THEIR KIDS!!!) will like the series too.

Why did you include discussion questions and activities at the end of each book?

That’s the teacher part of me flaring up big time! LOL. But seriously, how many times have you as a mother read a book and thought, “There’s a good lesson in here” but didn’t know how to draw your child into a discussion about it? I remember reading Where the Red Fern Grows with my daughter and wanting to talk about the tender topic of death that book touches on. Since I didn’t know where to start, I couldn’t fully take advantage of that teachable moment. (Instead we both just cried all the way through the last few chapters.)

That’s why I included questions for parents or teachers to use after they read the story, so they can capitalize on the book’s underlying message. (Although I hope people laugh through the last few chapters of Meghan Rose instead of cry!)

And the activities are all for the kids. They love extending the story experience by creating their own volcanoes or whatever. I also put a ton of other ideas for parents and kids on my website under the BLAM (Brilliant Little Activities to Make) link.

So each book has an underlying message? Tell us about that.

As I mentioned, I wanted the stories to do more than entertain. I wanted them to have takeaway value. Each book’s message is very subtle but still evident throughout the book. While Meghan Rose on Stage! talks about discovering your talents, it’s ultimately about friendship. Meghan Rose Has Ants in Her Pants explores the idea of patience—a difficult area for most kids to deal with. The newest two books—Meghan Rose All Dressed Up and Meghan Rose Has a Secret—address inner beauty and kind words. But again, none of it is preachy. It’s heavy on the humor and very, VERY light on the lesson…yet neither quality is lost on the child.

Are the books just for girls?

Not at all! One mother of two boys emailed me about how much her sons enjoyed reading them with her. She said they could hardly read for laughing so hard—they were all HOWLING!! The youngest one loved it so much he started sleeping with the first book under his pillow at night.

In fact, the comment I hear most from people who read the books is, “I laughed out loud.” The second comment I hear most often is about how much kids (and parents) like the discussion questions and activities. How can all that just be for girls?

Where do you get the inspiration for the humorous parts of the books?

Most of that comes from my upbringing. My dad was always coming up with puns and jokes. He made them up on the spot, and they were hilarious! I can’t tell you how many hours we spent laughing around the dinner table. I think dad influenced all my sisters. In fact, one of my sisters was part of an improvisational comedy team. (She’s also a pastor’s wife—it’s a fun combination.)

I also grew up on a steady diet of comic books. Peanuts and Garfield were my favorites, and later Calvin and Hobbes. And we’d also watch comedy on television, especially The Carol Brunette Show.

That said, some of my inspiration just comes from everyday life. My kids crack me up. They both have a great sense of humor.

The main character in the Meghan Rose series shares your daughter’s name. Why is that?

She was the foundational basis for the character. When I started the series, I needed someone likable, outrageous, clever, spunky, and sensitive all rolled into one. Well, that’s my Meghan. And since I originally wrote the books just for her, I simply used her name. You’ll also see the names of other people I’ve met, although the character they’re named for is totally fiction. Mrs. Arnold, for example, was the name of Meghan’s real first grade teacher. But she’s not like the Mrs. Arnold in the book.

Are any of the characters like you?

I think maybe there’s a little bit of me in all of them. Certainly a lot of me is reflected in the teacher, Mrs. Arnold. Then Ryan shows the jokester side of me, Kayla has the goofy side, Lynette has the rule-following, show-off side, and Meghan’s Mom has the practical side. The Meghan character herself is about 80 percent of the “real” Meghan, 10 percent of me and my creative musings, and 10 percent total fiction.

Do you ever visit schools to talk about the books?

Yes! I’ve visited several schools and talked about the steps a writer goes through to get from idea to published book. I’ve also shared ways to boost everyday creativity and develop writing ideas. All three presentations seem to fire up everyone, even the reluctant writers. Kids tell me that what they enjoy most about the time we spend together is learning my two-handed drawing trick and discovering how to write their own jokes.

As a teacher, I value school visits. I think it’s important to inspire and encourage all children…to help them see opportunities and possibilities. As a mom, I can’t help seeing my own children reflected in the faces I meet. That gives me extra incentive to make kids want to reach their dreams, whatever they might be.

Can you share one idea for mothers to help their children be more creative?

Sure. Hmmm. Hard to pick one. I guess one great idea is to encourage your children to be involved with artistic endeavors. That can include a whole variety of options, like drawing, painting, or making things out of shoe boxes. Children can listen to or dance to music. Or make their own music. They can dress up and put on a show for family or friends, or memorize a silly poem. And it should be fun, not work.

Where can readers learn more about you and the Meghan Rose books?
They can visit my web site. My award-winning illustrator, Stacy Curtis, designed it. It offers jokes, puzzles, and activities for kids and great ideas for teacher and parents (on Mrs. Arnold’s BLAM page). It also introduces the books and characters, provides links to book reviews, and gives ordering information. I posted a retold fairy tale reader’s theater that gives visitors a good feel for the style of humor found in the books in my Little Red Riding Hood reader's theater.

You can also purchase a copy of Meghan Rose on Stage!, Meghan Rose Has Ants in Her Pants, Meghan Rose All Dressed Up, andMeghan Rose Has a Secret by clicking on the titles here.

That sounds great. Well, thank you for your time!

Thank you for letting me visit with you.

Now for the fun part for you guys! I am giving away winner's choice of either Meghan Rose On Stage! or Meghan Rose All Dressed Up. These books are great-- I even caught my 13 yo reading one! (But don't tell her I told you that!) So, leave me a comment for your chance to win.
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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Menu Plan Monday... A Little Early

In the midst of all our cleaning, cooking and organizing for the open house tomorrow, I decided to create a new menu plan for the coming week while I was being domestic. I found some great recipes out in the blogosphere, thanks to in part, Dee Dee's "Saturday Stirrings" post for both this week and last. There's some good stuff there if you are looking to be inspired! (Which I always am.) Between getting the new issue of Paula Deen's magazine and checking out all these great recipes, I am plenty inspired. So, here it is:

Saturday) hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill, chips and salsa, sliced apples, and strawberry shortcake for dessert

Sunday) leftover hamburgers and hot dogs for lunch after church and before the open house, frozen pizzas for dinner for the kids with purple cows for dessert-- the parents are going out!

Monday) Chicken, Broccoli and Carrot Stir Fry over rice

Tuesday) Spaghetti and Meatballs (I will just add some frozen ones to this crock pot recipe), French Bread, Birthday Cake and ice cream for dessert (my five year old is turning six!!)

Wednesday) Breakfast for dinner, using my friend Amy's recipe for buttermilk biscuits-- yum! We will have eggs, grits, sausage and biscuits, and maybe some fruit with it.

Thursday) Fake Fried Chicken (Made in the oven), homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, peas
Friday) Crockpot Pork Chops served over yellow rice, lima beans (I will be away speaking at a retreat, but will start the chops in the morning before I leave, so all Curt has to do is heat up the lima beans and make the rice.)

Saturday) Grilled chicken, couscous, steamed broccoli (Curt can do all of this on his own as long as I have the stuff in the house to do it with-- otherwise they will eat out, which is expensive!)

So there you have it! A week's worth of dinners for our family. Now, isn't that a great feeling?
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Friday, April 25, 2008

A Writing Day, And Other Things

Today was a writing day for me. I packed up my stuff and took my show on the road. I ended up at our local public library-- which is the equivalent of Cheers for me. The people all but say, "Marybeth!" when I walk in just like they used to say "Norm!" on Cheers. Because I go there so often. Want to know how I get ready for a writing day? Go here.

Before I went to the library, I stopped off at Office Max to pick up a new "to do" notebook. I have written about this before and if I was more energetic, I would include the link to that post. But I do not feel like scrolling back through my archives to find it. Anyone know where it is? I would just love it if you could point me in the right direction!

ETA: Thanks to Lisa B for finding that post for me! Turns out she used my search feature. Who knew? Now you see why I tell people that anyone can have a blog-- even non-techie people like me! So, if you want to read the post on this notebook and my organizational efforts, go here.

To explain briefly, it is an "Executive Planner" that I have adapted for my own uses. Recently, someone told me that she has hunted in every Office Max, Office Depot, Staples, Walmart and Target to find that planner to no avail. She got me worried that they had stopped making it! So, I decided to head on over there and assess the situation. Lo and behold, there it was! I was so glad to see that silly notebook! If you want to find it, try the spiral notebook aisle-- it is not with the planners and calendars. It costs a whopping $3.99. I use it to keep track of everything I need to do-- from writing projects, speaking business, kid needs, shopping lists, etc. It goes in there. And once I write it down in there then chances are it will get done. My favorite part of the planner is that it has a yellow sidebar where you can make special notes. Because I have a lot of special notes that I need to write down, apparently. (Here is a link to the closest thing I could find on their website. Mine is about 5"X7" and this one is larger. Also my sidebar runs, well, down the side and this one runs across the bottom. But you get the idea.)

Also today I went to the consignment store to buy my sixth child some summer clothing because we have had several 80 degree days and the poor child had like a pair of capris to her name. And frankly, I was tired of looking at her in them. So I bought her four complete outfits and 3 bathing suits for a whopping $42! (Whopping is apparently my word of the day.) And then, I had one final stop to make-- Ross Dress For Less. Is it me or am I a little late in showing up for that party?? Yesterday I was at CBS and this girl had the cutest shirt on. So, I told her I loved it and that she looked very hip and happening because, frankly, wouldn't you want someone to tell you that if you, in fact, did look very hip and happening? She thanked me for telling her that and then confessed that the shirt in question costs a whopping $9. "When is the last time you bought a shirt for just $9?" she asked. And I couldn't come up with a time. And it was cute! So of course I had to head over there and see this for myself.

Fifty dollars later I left Ross. My nine dollar shirt, you see, had friends. Actually, I couldn't find the exact same shirt she bought-- which is probably for the best. But I did find others that were just as reasonably priced and cute, cute, cute. I was quite proud of myself, even if I did spend a tad more money than just the nine dollars I went in there prepared to spend. I should have known myself better than that.

At one point, my husband called while I was going through the racks. He asked where I was. "Stopping to get lunch," I sort of lied. (Lunch was next on my list and the Chick fil a was right across the street.) I didn't want him to know that I was spending my "working" hours when I was supposed to be writing shopping for clothes. Babysitters don't come cheap and all that. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, a woman came over the loudspeaker announcing something and he was like, "Where are you?" And so I did what any sensible person would do. "I gotta go!" I said, like an emergency had ocurred. "I'll call you right back!" And hung up. (I did call him back after I got back in the car. And I did fess up as to where I had been... and how much I had spent. He was very understanding but he did mention that shopping was not the reason we hired the sitter. Point taken.)

After that I got my sandwich at the drive through and headed straight to work at the library. I stayed there for the rest of the day, hunkered over my computer and enjoying a block of time to write. Shopping and writing... now that's a good day. Tomorrow does not promise to be as good because tomorrow we will spend the day cleaning and getting ready for an open house we are having on Sunday. If you think of it and would like to, you could pray that God will send us a buyer, or give us clear direction if we need to take the house off the market. It will have been a year (I know) on May 1 since this all first started. I am tired. So we are just seeking God's direction as to what to do next. I know in many housing markets a year on the market is expected but that is not really true where we live. Our housing market has supposedly not been affected by this economic slump. (That's what the "experts" say, at least.) For example, the house up the street just went on the market about two weeks ago and is already under contract. The same thing with another house up the street. Only it was one week til it went under contract. So, you can understand why we would be perplexed. And tired. Did I mention that I am tired of having a house on the market?

Ok, I am going to stop talking about the house stuff. Because who really wants to hear about that? It is a dead horse that has been beat many times on this blog. As I told my husband today when I was having just the tiniest freak out session about it, a house not selling, in the grand scheme of things, is not a huge problem. We have a roof over our heads and food to eat. Our children have clothing, thanks to the consignment store. And I even have cute clothing thanks to Ross Dress For Less. We are blessed. I just have to focus on what I do have instead of what I don't. Some days that is easier than others.
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Thursday, April 24, 2008

As Quoted in The Wall Street Journal

Remember this post? Well, it landed me in The Wall Street Journal! A reporter googled "teenagers and cell phones" and found my blog post, then called me to ask me some questions. Yet another thing to fall under the "I never thought it would happen in my lifetime" category-- being interviewed for the Wall Street Journal. The National Enquirer, perhaps, but not a publication that is known for being intelligent and respectable. Very cool.

Go here to read the article. It is actually a very good article full of information about handling teens and cell phones-- especially those equipped with internet capabilities. Yet another thing for a parent to be on the alert about in this technology-driven world.

You just never know where your blog posts will end up-- or where they will take you.

** FYI: If the Wall Street Journal link does not work, it was only set up to work for seven days for non-subscribers.
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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Blue Heart Blessed-- Review, Interview and Giveaway!

As soon as I read this book, I knew I had to share it with you all. I absolutely loved it-- and I loved knowing that it was waiting for me at the end of a long day. I would crawl into bed and curl up with another chapter, meeting up with these well-developed characters who became so real to me. Not only did I identify with them, I grew to like them very much. The story line is about a girl who has been gilted just before her wedding. As she ponders what to do with her dress (which she will no longer be needing, obviously), she gets an idea for a business selling secondhand wedding dresses. The opening lines of the novel sucked me right in, and the only thing I regretted about picking up this book is that it had to come to an end! When I contacted Susan Meissner to see about doing this interview and giveaway, my first question to her was, "When is the movie coming out??" The book would make such a cute movie! Anyone have any Hollywood contacts??

Sue was so gracious to stop by and share with us about the book, her current project, and offer a little advice to those of us who are writers or wannabe writers. I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I did.

Hi Susan-- or do you go by Sue?

You can call me Sue, lots of friends and family do, and many writer friends call me Sooz.

Welcome and thanks for spending some time with us today! I enjoyed reading your bio on your website about your early desire to write and your time of pushing that desire to the back burner. What did you gain during those back burner years?

I learned perspective for sure. When you are in the thick of raising a family in this wonderful, challenging world, you become an active observer in the fabric of the human experience. You get a firsthand look at what we love, what we fear, what we aspire to, what we pity, what we hunger for. That's the stuff of story. I should have been writing more in the back burner years but at least I was paying attention to what moves and motivates people.

I loved, loved, loved Blue Heart Blessed. It was fun and quirky with just the right balance between real-life characters and spiritual elements. Did you ever struggle with that balance or has that just always worked out for you as a writer?

I wouldn't call it a struggle but it certainly is what I strive for. I want that balance. Really bad. It's what I want in the books I read and what I long for when I read a book that is imbalanced on those ingredients. We don't live all of our lives on a spiritual plane. God has a way of blurring our spiritual lives with the life we live in our skin. I want to read books that don't overshoot the spiritual thread because then I can identify with those characters. And good fiction, in my opinion, invites the reader to step inside the protagonists' very soul. If I can do that for my reader, I am a happy author. I'm glad you think it worked with this one. That makes me really happy. I have a blog for this book, which has also been a blast to write. Just head to my website and the link is there.

How long does it take for you to write a novel usually?

I spend about a month or more not writing at all. I spend it pre-writing, getting to know my characters, the setting I place them in and what they long for. When I feel like I know these imaginary people and what they want and what stands in their way, then I start writing. I can usually finish a book in three months.

What are your thoughts on the length of time one person might spend writing versus someone else?

Some people are crock pot writers, some are microwave writers. Both of these appliances can cook food, really good food, so you just need to be the chef of the way that works for you. There is no right time or wrong time to spend writing a book. If you can write a great book in three weeks, more power to you. If you can write a great book in three years, go for it. No one wants to read a cruddy book, regardless of how long or how short a time the author spent writing it. A great book is a great book.

How did you balance the writing life with being a mom and wife?

I learned to appreciate the time I had to hit control S and back away from the keyboard. I use to begrudge whatever family obligation interrupted me but I learned that when I stopped writing I didn't have to stop thinking. As I sit on a bleacher and cheer my student athlete or make dinner or drive him somewhere or fold laundry, I can think about where I left everyone in my fictive world. I can take them to the next place in my mind and experiment with what will work and what won't. That helps me slide back into the moment I left them.

Any tips you would like to share with other moms who dream of being (or already are) published writers?

Your kids will be young sponges for such a short time. You are in a position of tremendous influence. Don't underestimate it and don't miss out on it. As they age they will need you less. And you will have more time to write. You are investing yourself as a mother into the lives of the people who will inherit the earth after you. Motherhood is a rich place from which to draw truth, which you can use in non-fiction as well as fiction. Big time.

Tell us about your next project. It sounds great!

My next book is called The Shape of Mercy and it's about three women, two living in contemporary times and one living in Salem, Massachusetts at the time of the Salem Witch trials in 1692. The book involves a diary this young woman leaves behind, the descendent who decides to have it transcribed, and the young college student who takes on the job of putting the words of this 400-year-old diary into modern-day language. It's a book about choices, about stigma, about stereotypes and preconceived notions, but it's mostly about love and its extravagance. It's being published by WaterBrook Press and releases in October. The cover is fabulous. Watch my website, I will post it as soon as I can! Here's my webhome,

Thanks for dropping by. I can't wait to see who wins Blue Heart Blessed! They will be blessed by this book for sure! Will you come back and do another giveaway when your next book comes out?

You bet! Thanks for having me!

Be sure and leave a comment to win the book. Please note that I need either an email in the comment or the comment needs to be linked to your blog, which has an email contact link, for you to be eligible to win. I will keep the contest open through the weekend and post the winner on Monday! I can't wait to see who wins!

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Destination Disney!

My friend Jennifer from our trip has decided to do a Disney carnival in an effort to round up some of the information we learned while we were there. I will do my best to add to the conversation each Friday. But Jennifer doesn't want this conversation limited to those of us who went on the trip. Oh no! We want to include all of you who have been to Disney and have a few tips to share!

So, head on over to Jennifer's post all about the carnival and make a note to yourself to return each Friday for some great mom-proven tips. Nothing like the real-life perspective of another mom to help you plan a great Disney magic getaway!

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Disney, The Final Chapter... Or Is It?

Sunday morning came too early! I confessed to the girls there that I considered briefly playing the "my foot hurts" card and staying in bed. But I dragged myself out of bed, reasoning that I can sleep later. I only had a few precious hours to be at Disney with my new friends. Breakfast was at the buffet in the hotel at 7:30, complete with characters. We saw Minnie and Chip and Goofy, though I was in such a daze that I didn't even get any pictures with them! I haven't been that tired since the 2.5 yo was a newborn. But then that wasn't a fun tired-- this was, at least, a fun tired.

After breakfast, we headed to the bus for a last little tour. This time we toured the family suites at the All Star Music hotel. The suites were very nice-- they sleep a family of six with two bathrooms and a decent-sized kitchen. Gotta like that! The rates are definitely cheaper than paying for two rooms. And as one person pointed out, you really just need a place to sleep, as you are hardly ever there! After the tour was over, it was over.

Just like that.

We got off the bus and said our goodbyes, everyone heading off to pack and catch a shuttle or spend the last few hours exploring, etc. We had park passes that we could use, but I was tired of walking. I knew that more park hopping was just not for me. I found out that Kris and Tracey were going to be hanging by the pool, so I joined them. We had a fun time just talking, sharing stories from our weekend, laughing about the fun we had had, and whiling away our last moments away from real life. Soon Kris and Tracey had to leave and I was left alone for about an hour before I had to catch my shuttle. I sat in the sun and read a very good book, which I will be reviewing here soon. Then I caught the shuttle to the airport. Happy to be headed home, yet sad that the whirlwind was over-- trying to process it all was almost impossible.

I rode the shuttle with Mia and Lori. We had a good time together and I was grateful for a few extra minutes to visit with both these ladies. Then before I knew it, my flight was boarding and I was heading for home. Curt and three of the kids picked me up, and I was so glad to see their faces and hear their sweet voices. In a way I felt like I had been gone a week! Curt knew just what to have waiting for me in the car when I got in-- a large sweet tea from McAllisters! (Chick fil a was closed.) If you have been reading this blog for long, you know that sweet tea is my love language. Flowers? Forget about it! Bring me the sweet tea! And considering that I had not had any all weekend, I was so ready for that! Florida, apparently, has decided not to be a southern state and doesn't offer sweet tea. The nerve!

I got home and collapsed (after unpacking of course). The kids all asked a bajillion questions and of course I patiently answered every one because that's just the kind of mother I am. Mostly I just counted the hours til we could all go to bed for the night. I wondered if 7:30 was acceptable? I fell asleep counting my blessings, a sea of new faces and sweet memories springing to mind as I mentally reviewed my amazing weekend. I might have plotted how I could get my husband to part with the money it would cost to take us all back there. Mostly I thanked God for allowing little ole me such a huge blessing.

** Want to check out the posts from others who went? Check out all the blogs and websites in my "Disney Mom Bloggers" blogroll in the sidebar!
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Disney Day Two, Part Two

So, we headed downstairs after a brief time to catch our breath and wash the theme park off our skin. Everyone looked so pretty! We were ready for a party! Michelle, our wonderful host for the weekend, came inside looking so excited and told us that she had our surprise outside. We rounded the corner and there, waiting for us, was three white stretch limos! There was even a little guy popping the cork on champagne and filling glasses! We all screamed and it was just a great, great moment. We got in acting like teenagers going to the prom (minus all the guy/girl drama but with all the squeals of glee). We took tons of pictures and just laughed and laughed. The ride to our dinner location was far too quick. I think we could have ridden all over Orlando drinking champagne and been fine with that.

We reached the California Grill for our dinner. Wow. Awaiting us was a beautiful rooftop dining experience. The view extended far enough to see much of Disney and take in the beautiful sunset. We took more photos out there, then headed inside for trays of sushi and conversation. Our guests that night were two chefs from Disney. One of which was the executive chef of Epcot. She ended up sitting beside me and we just had a great conversation. She has led a fascinating life. But at the heart of all of it was just the fact that we are both moms. I enjoyed meeting her.

Right in the middle of the most glorious molten chocolate cake, we were informed that we had to GO if we were going to make it to La Nouba in time. We shoveled a few bites in and back to the limo we flew. We made it to La Nouba just in time and settled into our seats.

I have to admit here that I had heard that we were probably going to be seeing it. And I was hoping that wasn't true. Because I don't consider myself a Cirque de Soleil kind of person. But boy, was I wrong! I absolutely loved it. I have even told my husband that I would like to go back when we return to Orlando this summer. It was so good and fascinating to watch. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and was sorry when it was over. After the show, we got to stay and talk to two of the performers (the singer and the ballerina if you have seen it). We had fun hearing from them about their struggles to balance motherhood and the demanding performance schedule. By the time we climbed back in the limo to return to the hotel, it was 11:30. We were exhausted but so, so happy. Our only full day was over and we fell asleep knowing that very quickly our adventure would draw to a close.
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Disney Day Two

Saturday morning came early, since we had to be down at breakfast at 7:30 am. I am not much of a morning person, so this was a stretch for me-- but a very necessary one as we had lots to do and just a little bit of time to do it in. We had breakfast in a private area in the hotel and were joined by a mom who works for Disney. She answered lots of our questions and said something that I will always remember. One reason Curt used to give me for not going to Disney when they were younger is, "They won't remember it." She talked about taking her two year old daughter to Disney and how she knows she won't remember it. She put her hand to her chest and said, "But those are my memories. And they are priceless." I like looking at it that way. We moms all have those moments we tuck away in our hearts forever. I can see how Disney would fall into that category.

After breakfast, it was time to head to the Magic Kingdom. We set off in a bus, all laughing and talking but none of us, thankfully, wearing our Mickey ears. We went straight to the castle to have our pictures professionally done by a photographer who followed us around for awhile like we had our own personal paparazzi. I opted not to get my photo made alone but did take a couple in groups. After photos, it was time to ride rides! The first stop? Space Mountain of course!

We got to use special Media Fast Passes at Space Mountain that took us to the front of the ride. This was the first moment that I realized that coming back to Disney as normal folk would be hard. Not impossible, but hard. We joked that we would always call our new friends at Disney whenever we returned.... just in case they were in the mood to continue to treat us like VIPs. One girl (who shall remain nameless) quipped, "Well, I'm just here with my grandchildren."

I hadn't ridden Space Mountain since I was eight years old and went to Disney with my aunt. I remembered it being very scary. Something about becoming adult diminishes the effect. It wasn't nearly as scary as I remember! But still so fun. We all screamed and laughed. Then it was on to Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, and then time to meet up with the group for our lunch at the Brown Derby. I had a delicious Cobb salad, which is their signature item. Yum! After the lunch, we headed to our top secret destination-- something even the press hasn't seen yet. We got to tour the new Toy Story ride which will be opening in just a matter of weeks. It looks like it is going to be so much fun. We also got to meet a Disney Imagineer. The work that has gone into this particular ride was especially fascinating-- and the pride that these people feel for it is evident.

After our tour, it was on to see the Playhouse Disney show, which of course made me miss my little ones like crazy! Then it was on to see the new Block Party parade, which was lively and fun. After that we had a bit of free time. Lori Seaborg and I rode The Great Movie Ride, which was pretty cool. I kept wishing my movie buff 11 yo son was with me for that one. He would have loved it! Then it was time to meet the group and head back to the hotel. We had about an hour to "freshen up" and call home before we had to be downstairs for our dinner and another surprise. I will tell about that in the next post.
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Disney Day One

Ok, I am going to attempt this. I can't say that I will do it justice, but I will try to share all that I remember. I mean, honestly, it was just so HUGE to try to condense into a few blog posts.

But before I can write about Disney Day One, I have to write about the night before I left.

I found out my friend Holly was in town from FL, where she moved a few months ago. She asked me to come out for coffee with several girls, so I did. I told Curt I felt guilty leaving the night before I was leaving for three days away from my kids. He reminded me that I have just spent the last five weeks under my children's noses as I recuperated from this broken foot. He said I had an extra night coming and not to sweat it. So, with his blessing, I went out. We wrapped up our evening around 10:30 and Holly offered to drive me home. We ended up sitting outside my house for over an hour, gabbing away. Swapping stories and comparing notes on life. It was great-- except for we finished talking at midnight and I still had to pack!! I finally crawled into bed about 1am and had to be up at 6:30 to get to the airport. So, I started off on a sleep deficit, which, in retrospect, was not smart. But still worth it to spend time with a friend I don't usually get to see. (So, Holly? Don't you dare feel bad about it!!)

My flight was, thankfully, uneventful. I got there on time and was greeted by a Disney VIP driver. I felt like a VIP! She even gave me the card with my name on it that she was holding just as proof for those days I forget what a VIP I am. The woman that drove me was super nice and we had a good conversation while we drove to the Beach Club Resort on the Disney property. It is a beautiful place. As much as I wanted to walk around it, though, I opted for a nap. I had just walked a lot through the airport and reasoned that it might be good to lay off the walking while I had a chance. This was a smart move on my part. (See! I occasionally do make good decisions!)

After my nap, I met my college roommate (hey Sam!) who was down there visiting Disney with her family. I know. What are the odds? We sat outside and talked for about two hours, just catching up and swapping stories. (Have you gotten that I love to sit and talk to my girlfriends for hours yet?) Before too long it was time to say goodbye as we had to meet in the hotel lobby for a reception in our honor. Sam left and I joined these total strangers who became friends over the course of the weekend. We trekked up to a lovely gazebo area that overlooked the beautiful pools at the resort, where there was Sangria and an assortment of appetizers awaiting us. We made small talk and introduced ourselves all around. Then it was time to head to Epcot for dinner.

We ate in Italy and were treated so wonderfully by the chef and the waitstaff. They even surprised us with a special dessert sampling-- even though we were going somewhere else for desserts! We laughed and said, "Oh well, life's short! Might as well eat both desserts!" We were all starting to get to know each other and loosen up. Then it was time to trek over to our special VIP area to watch the Epcot fireworks over the water while we ate dessert and had coffee. The fireworks were beautiful and the night was perfect. I couldn't believe I was there.

After that we had the option of heading back to the hotel or staying at Epcot. I decided to go with some of the other girls and ride Soarin. We began walking and I walked with one of the girls from the Disney Moms Panel, which was recently formed. These girls were picked out of 10,000 applicants for their knowledge of all things Disney. They amazed me with what they knew!! As we walked, I asked Kim how far away we were. She pointed waaaay up ahead of us. I knew I had pushed my broken foot far enough and turned back towards the hotel. As much as I didn't want to miss Soarin, I also didn't want to overdo it on my first night.

I hobbled my way back to the hotel, talking to my husband on the cell as I walked. He kept me company from hundreds of miles away. The miracle of technology. When I got back to my room, there was a gift bag waiting on me filled with such adorable goodies-- a stainless steel pink coffee mug, a mousepad, a camera, a flashdrive, Mickey ears with "Mom" written on them, a cute little backpack. I was so tickled by all the little extra touches they had waiting for me! I crawled into bed with an ice pack on my foot just for good measure and watched coverage of the Polygamy case on tv. Larry King was interviewing several of the wives. This all seemed very odd to watch from my swanky room in a Disney resort. Very quickly, I got tired of that and fell into an exhausted sleep-- dreaming of the fun I was sure I would have the next day.
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Giveaway Over At Dena Dyer's

Here's info about a giveaway over at my friend Dena Dyer's. She asked me to let you know about it, so here's what she has to say:

Do you love books? Do you like free stuff? Me too! So I'm really excited to announce a HUGE book giveaway. I've recently begun writing monthly devotionals, called "Faith Lifts: Deep Topics with a Light Touch." I'm having a lot of fun writing them, and I'd love to build my subscriber list. (You can see the first devotional here: )So here's the deal: if you sign up for my devotional to come in your in-box once a month (just enter your email in the signup form on my website,, I'll enter your name in the drawing for the giveaway. And I promise, no spam--I won't share your email address with anyone, ever. Nada. Nope. Not gonna do it. :)

I'll hold the drawing on May 25, and ship the books to the winner as soon as I receive their mailing address. Here's what I'm giving away:
A hot-off-the-presses copy of Heavenly Humor for the Woman’s Soul by Martha Bolton, Anita Renfroe, Patsy Clairmont and others (including Dena Dyer)
Fueled by Faith by Jennifer Kennedy Dean
Facing Every Mom’s Fears by Allie Pleiter
Let Your Life Count by Donna Partow
Building the Christian Family You Never Had by Mary DeMuth
Naked Fruit by Elisa Morgan
The Woman I’m Becoming by T. Suzanne Eller
Come, my Little Angel by Diane Noble
After the Leaves Fall by Nicole Baart
A Whisper of Freedom by Tricia Goyer
Quaker Summer by Lisa Samson
Fair is the Rose by Liz Curtis Higgs
Sweet Caroline by Rachel Hauck
Children’s media:
Two books in “The Adventures of Bailey and Canteen” series: Lost and Found and Canyon Rescue by Eddy Bolton, illustrated by Jerry Pittenger (books with read-along CD’s, which include 6 original songs)
Veggie Tales DVD (Where’s God When I’m Scared?) from their “Classics” series
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I Won!

Ok, so I am not the winner of Scribbit's Write Away contest. But I did get an Honorable Mention. Which I will take.
To see the winners, go here. I am in good company!
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Monday, April 21, 2008

Home From Disney

I am back. It will take me awhile to process all that we saw and did there. My brain is still sorting it all out and my body is beyond tired. We ran our legs off-- I don't think I have ever packed that much experience in one weekend. It feels like we were there a week! And yet, it was over so quickly. Today I am sore and tired. My feet and legs are feeling the ramifications of covering so much territory. And my mind is just feeling foggy. In short, I have a Disney hangover!

But I promise to write all about it soon. I don't think I can do it in just one post, though. It will take many to tell it all!

In the meantime, it was great. I had a blast! Check out some of the other Disney mom bloggers in my side panel as some of them are industrious and are already posting their thoughts and photos. They are all great ladies and I thoroughly enjoyed my time getting to know them. Thanks to Michelle and Joyce and all the marvelous people who worked hard to make our weekend extra special. I will never forget this trip-- and I will never forget all of you!

We now resume our regularly scheduled programming-- consisting of diaper changes, laundry (loads of it!), dishes, and yet another battle in the ongoing War Between The Siblings.

I wouldn't have it any other way.
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Thursday, April 17, 2008


Today in CBS, we discussed Acts 26. As usual, there were many riches within this passage that were applicable to life today.

We read Acts 26:24: "At this point Festus interrupted Paul's defense, 'You are out of your mind, Paul!' he shouted." As we discussed Festus' reaction, we compared it to the reaction of some people today.

And then I thought of this song.

Crazy indeed.
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Truer Words Were Never Spoken

My nearly-six-year-old son on the way home from CBS today:

"School is not really that important. Jesus is more importanter than school."

Yes, son, He is. He is more importanter than school.

And everything else.
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Leaving For The Disneyworld Mom Blogger Mixer

So, tomorrow morning bright and early I leave for the airport for the long-awaited weekend at the first ever Disney Mom Blogger Mixer! I have been trying to stave off my excitement just so I could live with myself this week. My clothes are mostly packed and ready and those of us who are going have emailed back and forth to discuss such important things as do we bring a bathing suit or not, do we bring our laptop or not, and, most importantly, what are we wearing? I was all into the conversation until they got off on shoes. Because shoes, for me, are a foregone conclusion. Tennis shoes. So fashionable, I tell you. (Shari, don't roll your eyes.) The good news is, my doctor said I could get rid of the boot, but the bad news is that tennis shoes are to be my footwear of choice for quite some time. Cute flip flops or sandals? Forget about it!
Today at my CBS (Community Bible Study) core group, one of the ladies was talking about her recent trip to Disney and all of a sudden, it dawned on me. I am going there! In a matter of hours!! I had to share with them my good fortune. They were all so nice about it and excited for me. Sharing it with them made me excited for me too. It felt real, somehow, as I told them about it.
I am looking forward to meeting these ladies, sharing our blogging knowledge, learning more about the blogging world from these pros, and just being moms together who are enjoying the good fortune of a weekend trip. Plus, my old college roommate is going to be there the same weekend. What are the odds? So we have already made plans to sit by the pool tomorrow (tomorrow?) afternoon before our "activities" (which are being kept top secret, by the way) get underway for the weekend.
I can't wait to tell you all about it when I get back. I will take lots of pictures and post them here as soon as I can. In the meantime, pray for Curt, who is being left behind with six children and a house on the market. I owe him a weekend away very soon, wouldn't you say? Wonder if I can convince Disney to do a weekend for the dads next?
PS. Ok, the excitement continues... I just got an email telling us to bring closed-toe shoes and jeans or capris for Saturday. (As if the closed-toe shoes would be a problem for me.) They said they just got approval for something very special that they think we are going to love. What is it?? I am now just giddy with the curiosity! I'll let you know what it was when I get back...
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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Baby Einstein Winners! Cup of Comfort Winner!

Well, it's Wednesday! Time to announce the winners of the Cup of Comfort book and Baby Einstein dvd winners!

The winners of the dvds are

Laura at Love is My Guidepost

Mrs. Hewett

Teresa Lock

The winner of the Cup of Comfort book is

Michelle at Delightful Evidence!

I will be emailing each of you to get your addresses. If you see your name, but have not heard from me, that means I could not find your email address in the comment or on your profile with Blogger. Email me with your address so we can get your prizes out to you!
Thanks so much for leaving me a comment and for playing along with these contests. If you didn't win, don't despair! You will have other chances soon-- I am planning several more giveaways in the immediate future. So, keep checking back and keep trying!
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Monday, April 14, 2008

Time To Write!

I knew the minute I saw this book on the Barnes and Noble shelf that I would have to share it with you all. The book is called Time To Write by Kelly Stone. She is a freelance writer and author who decided to ask the question so many writers get asked: How do you find time to write? Kelly interviewed dozens of writers from many different genres to find out-- not how they find the time to write-- but how they make the time. With chapters on balancing family and writing, different tactics to preserve ideas, and different ways to get words down on paper, the book leaves someone who wants to write with 1) no excuses not to and 2) the inspiration that they can indeed find time to write. I loved this book and am glad I can recommend it to all of you who find yourself saying, "But I don't have time to write!" This book will free you from ever saying that again by changing the way you think about writing.

I asked Kelly to drop by and answer a few questions. She was gracious to do that and also to offer a free copy of the book "A Cup Of Comfort For Mothers and Daughters" that she contributed to. So, leave a comment and you will be entered to win-- Mother's Day is just around the corner and this would make a great gift for a mom in your life!

Hi Kelly, thanks for dropping by! Tell us a bit about yourself.
Thanks for having me, Marybeth! It's a pleasure to be here. Several years ago, I started a successful freelance writing career while also holding down a full time job. My articles have been published in Family Circle, Writer's Digest, Cat Fancy, The Toastmaster, and my essays have appeared in numerous Chicken Soup for the Soul and Cup of Comfort anthologies. I published my first novel, Grave Secret (Mundania Press), last September, and it got a 3-star review from Romantic Times who called it "powerful' and "well-written". My book Time to Write: More Than 100 Professional Writers Reveal How to Fit Writing Into Your Busy Life (Adams Media) is out now. I have a master's degree in counseling and have worked as a professional counselor to children, families, and adults for about 20 years. I recently moved back to northwest Florida, which is where I grew up, after living in Atlanta for 18 years. My website is

What made you decide to write this book?
I wrote TIME TO WRITE because after I started getting published in magazines and then landed a publishing contract for my novel, people started asking me where on earth I found time to write because I had a full time job plus all the other typical obligations that adults have these days-- house, family, lawn, pets, social activities, and so on. People were simply stunned that I could live a typical adult life AND write books and articles that got published. So many people have this notion that you've got to have huge blocks of uninterrupted time, sequestered away on a mountaintop in order to get a book written. It's just not reality for anybody, not even the 104 writers I interviewed for my book. So I wanted to teach aspiring authors how to become successful writers while also living a typical busy life. And it's possible-- you can make significant headway toward your writing dreams in as little as ten as minutes a day. Many of the writers I interviewed got started that way. My book shows you how you can do it, too.

Explain the Burning Desire to Write and how it has impacted your life.
The Burning Desire to Write is that aching, yearning feeling that all people who hear the genuine call to write feel. It's that nagging sensation that no matter what else you're doing, you should be writing instead. And when you're writing, there's nothing else you'd rather be doing but that. I've felt the Burning Desire to Write since I could hold a pencil. I still remember the day when, at about six years of age, I started the process of learning to write letters. I remember that being one of the happiest days of my life, because the desire to put words on paper called to me in a way that I really can't explain. I just knew, even at that young age, that writing was all I wanted to do, and I simply couldn't wait to get on with it. Jodi Picoult summed up the Burning Desire to Write in TIME TO WRITE when she said, "I couldn't not write." I know exactly what she means, because that's how I felt, too. The Burning Desire to Write keeps you writing in the face of all rejection and all discouragement. You write because you have to. All of the writers I interviewed for my book said that they would keep on writing even if they never got published again. That's the Burning Desire to Write. You can't not write.

What, in your opinion, is one of the best tips on balancing writing and family life that you heard while compiling the book?
Use a Writing Schedule! I cannot stress this enough. There are 7 of them to choose from in TIME TO WRITE that the professionals use. Most of the bestselling authors quoted in TIME TO WRITE are parents, and they all used a writing schedule before (and after) they were published as a way to balance family life with writing. Here's a tip: every Sunday night, look at your upcoming week and pinpoint time that is naturally free-- maybe it's the 15 minutes between the time the kids leave for school and you catch your ride to work, or after the kids have gone to bed for the night, or while they're doing their homework, or while the family is watching a program on TV. Then, schedule in some time to write during that already unobligated time, even if it's just 15 minutes. Write it down. Put in on your calendar. So now it's there, and the idea that "I'm too busy to write" doesn't wash anymore because you do have the time-- it's right there on your calendar. Just like you schedule in your kid's soccer practices and doctor's appointments and school conferences, pencil in "writing time" too. Otherwise, your day is dictated by other chores and activities and before you know it, it's time for bed and you haven't written anything. There's an activity in TIME TO WRITE that I created called the "24-hour Time Budget" that will help you spot pockets of time in your day where you can schedule in some writing. Believe me, it can be done. A writing schedule also helps your family support your efforts as an aspiring author. When they learn that between 7 and 8 each night, or between 1 and 1:30 every afternoon, you are not available because you're writing, they accept that over time. There's an entire chapter in TIME TO WRITE devoted to tips for balancing family life with writing, with a lot of great advice from bestselling authors like Wendy Corsi Staub, Merline Lovelace, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Carly Phillips, and Susan Grant.

What advice would you give to someone who desires to write but is afraid of failure?
I would say read my book because you'll hear some incredible stories of how much "failure" these bestselling authors went through before they became successful as writers. There's really no such thing as failure, anyway. Each "no" in the form of a rejection letter gets you one step closer to your first "yes." "Failure" is so common in the world of writing, even for the bestsellers that I interviewed who still receive rejections, that over time you become immune to it. And by immune to it I mean that you eventually get to the point where you just don't let it slow you down. How did writing this book help you become a better, more committed writer?Great question. Writing TIME TO WRITE made my own Burning Desire to Write stronger. After I got the book contract, my editor helped me set up the interviews with the writers, and it was incredible to talk to all of those wonderful authors who told me story after story of commitment, perseverance, and tenacity. It was awesome to talk to these amazing people who had had a dream and they let nothing-- absolutely nothing-- sway them from the pursuit of that dream. These writers inspired me not only to keep going with my own dreams regarding writing, but to aim for new heights. They showed me that it CAN be done, and I hope that's something that readers will take away from TIME TO WRITE, too-- that feeling of inspiration that it can be done.

Thanks Kelly for stopping by! Anything else you want us to know about?
I wil be presenting a workshop based on TIME TO WRITE called "No Matter How Busy You Are, You Can Find Time to Write" at the Romantic Times Convention April 16-20 in Pittsburgh. And please sign up for my monthly TIME TO WRITE newsletter, with more tips and advice from bestselling authors on how to make time to write in your busy life! Sign up at, or send me an email at

Don't forget to leave a comment to win a copy of "A Cup of Comfort For Mothers and Daughters"! (Note: this is not a copy of the book Time To Write.) Contest ends on Wednesday, 4/16!

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Our church is doing a series called "Break Out" that has dealt with some pretty tough subjects. I have missed some of them with my broken foot, but I went yesterday and it was SO good. If you get a chance, go watch the one from yesterday, "Breaking Free From Financial Captivity." I laughed off and on all day about one thing Pastor did. He is funny and entertaining and... dead on.

This series has made me think of this quote from one of Nichole Nordeman's songs:

I should let You give me wings
I should let You set me free

And of this song.

Do you want to be free? Funny how we have to let Him set us free. He doesn't force freedom on us anymore than He forces Himself. He will let us drag our chains around until the moment we are ready to break free. Do you need to break free from financial strain? Do you need to break free from bad habits or addictions? Do you need to break free from sin that has a hold on you? Let Him take your chains. Don't drag them around anymore.
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Saturday, April 12, 2008

On Achieving A Dream

I promised myself I would not post this until I was in possession of something I have waited MY WHOLE LIFE to receive. Though negotiations have been going on for about three months, I wanted to wait to "go public" until I knew for sure. Because I have been so close before but things fell through. And I didn't want to jump the gun... just in case that happened again.

But today, in the mail, looking every bit like an ordinary piece of mail, was an envelope that contained:


That's right. It's true. I am finally-- after just shy of five years of submitting proposals and being rejected time and time again-- going to be published. Kregel Publishing has offered me a contract to write a book on marriage and money. Actually, Curt and I are going to do this book together. Because I couldn't write on finances without him. He is the one who does financial counseling with couples and has helped me understand finances like I never would have with my English major brain.

So, under the guidance of our most awesome agent, Bill Jensen, we decided to write a very honest book about our struggles with money and how it hurt our marriage and alllll the many lessons we have learned. In a shaky economy, this book is well-timed and we are so excited that a publisher has taken it and run with it. The book is going to be out, Lord willing, on January 1. Which is super fast for a publisher to turn a book around. But Kregel feels that it is a timely subject that needs to be out there for those couples who are struggling. I couldn't agree more.

One blessing in my broken foot is that I knew that I was probably going to be getting a contract and was able to begin writing during the time that I was sitting. Consequently, I was able to write a lot of the book over the past month. That is a huge blessing. The neat thing is, I was sort of dreading writing this book, as I was afraid the subject matter would bore me. But I have had an absolute BLAST writing it!! I have thoroughly enjoyed remembering all the things we have walked through and celebrating what we have learned all over again.

I am so stinking excited about this book and pray that God will use it in a mighty way to touch the lives of couples who are struggling with money and, consequently, struggling in their marriage too. We were that couple. We know firsthand how money can affect every aspect of your marriage. It is exciting to think that, through this book, our story (and the stories of friends who have also been willing to share) will help others find hope.

A final note about seeing a dream come true. It never happens the way you think it will. When my agent called to tell me that I was being offered a contract, I was down on my knees scrubbing a toilet. I thought to myself, "Well isn't this a fine turn of events?" After we hung up, I walked into the kitchen to find spilled juice on the floor. So, back down on my knees I went to clean that up. I had to laugh. My whole life had just changed, and yet nothing had changed.

If you are dreaming of being published or launching a business or being discovered for some talent you possess, keep trying and don't give up. One day, it will happen. But the funny thing is, by the time it does, it won't be nearly what you have built it up in your mind to be. No one will come busting into your home presenting you with flowers and singing "There she is, Miss America" while confetti rains down. Nope. It'll probably be as though nothing has happened. And yet, everything has happened. It's a strange but wonderful state of mind.

I thank God for allowing me to achieve a dream I have held in my heart since I was a little girl. Curt and I covet your prayers as we write this book.
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T Minus One Week And Counting...

My foot has improved a lot in the past week-- thanks so much for your prayers! I am walking around more than ever with the boot, and am even getting back to doing housework. I am hoping that it will just keep getting better during this next week so that I can be ready to take on Disney World next weekend! For those of you who are new to this blog, I am going with several other mom bloggers on the first ever Disney Mom Bloggers Mixer. We are all very excited and have spent lots of time talking about our trip and, most importantly, what we are going to wear?? Which leads me to what I did today:

I did something I had been wanting to do in preparation for Disney. I went shopping. Curt and the kids drove me to Kohls and dropped me off while they headed to get haircuts. It took a long time to look at everything and it was nice to just have time to meander without little people to keep up with. I went home with several cute things and have already gotten all my stuff organized for the trip. It is hanging in the closet, ready to be packed up. Just looking at it hanging there makes me excited!

Here are a few of the things I learned on my shopping excursion today:
1. It is not a good idea to shop for clothes after you have been sitting on your behind and not exercising for a month. This will make you feel worse than ever.
2. The new, longer shirt styles that are fitted through the bust but hang a little looser in the stomach are a mom of six's best friend. They do, however, lean a bit too much towards the maternity styles you have spent approximately five whole years of your life wearing. However, you can make your peace with it once you look at yourself wearing a tighter, more fitted top. Especially since they are in style. You just try to forget the recent incident where your husband totally insisted that this woman at church was pregnant because she had one of these on. You think instead about how you will not be the only one wearing such a shirt and, therefore, will be less likely to be suspected of being pregnant. One can only hope.
3. Buying pants without trying them on is never the right thing to do. You will only end up having to go back to the store at a later time to return them. It is, however, virtually impossible to try pants on when one is wearing a large black boot with about a million straps on it. In this case, trying them on at home is about the only option.
4. It is always a good idea to go through your clothes before you go shopping so you will remember what items you already have and do not need. This will also eliminate uncessary returns. I mean, how many khaki and denim capris does one person really need, I ask you?
5. There is nothing that will motivate you to clean out your closet more than going to the store and seeing all the latest fashions. I came home and--even though my foot was killing me from standing on it for so long-- went through my closet and tossed out a ton of clothing that was a) horrifically out of style or b) had not been worn all winter and, most likely, will never be. My husband was so excited. Nothing makes him quite so happy than to take a huge pile of my old clothing to the Goodwill.

I plan to post photos of the Disney trip, so you will get to see me in my fun new clothes. My friend Shari always teases me about not being a fashion girl-- but the truth is I absolutely love to buy clothes. I just don't shop that often because it's not good for our budget. I do better to do a shopping trip about twice a year.

And finally, for those of you who have a blog, do you ever not post because you feel like you have nothing to say? Well, this post is an example of the fact that sometimes, if you just make yourself sit down and start typing, a blog post will emerge. I will let you be the judge of whether said blog post was a waste of time or not. Never mind, I don't want to know.
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Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Baby Einstein Giveaway!

I am giving away three copies of this newly released dvd from Baby Einstein. So leave me a comment for your chance to win! I know many of you who come here have older children, but surely some of you still have little ones who would enjoy this dvd. Or you might have nieces or nephews who would enjoy receiving a copy from their favorite aunt! Leave me a comment by next Wednesday, 4/16, and I will select three winners and post their names here. Make sure you include your email in the comment so I can contact you for your address!

Here is a description of this particular installment, called Baby's First Sounds:

Now Available on DVD, Newest Baby Einstein DVD Title Encourages Interaction Between Parents and Babies Through Discovery of Sounds

GLENDALE, Calif. – The newest addition to the Baby Einstein DVD collection, Baby's First Sounds: Discoveries for Little Ears delightfully introduces little ones to some of the first sounds babies hear. From the "ba" sound in baby and the "ah" sound in arm, to the "pa" sound in papa and the "ma" sound in mama, Baby's First Sounds: Discoveries for Little Ears exposes babies to various first sounds familiar to babies around the world.

Hosted by a buzzing Baby Bee puppet and featuring baby-friendly, real world images that are complemented by the classical sounds of Mozart and Schubert, Baby's First Sounds: Discoveries for Little Ears encourages interaction between parents and little ones by inviting them to engage and participate out loud, while discovering the magic of sounds together. "Regardless of the language a baby develops, infants have the capacity to make several sounds that are common to many languages around the world," explains Dr. Karen Hill Scott, a nationally renowned child development expert consulting with The Baby Einstein Company on various projects. "Baby's First Sounds provides parents with a new and playful tool they can use to expose their little one to the first sounds of language they will encounter in their daily lives."

Baby's First Sounds: Discoveries for Little Ears engages little ones' interest by first exposing them to the common sounds from around the world. Each sound is then said out loud several times to encourage little ones to repeat what they hear and to join in the fun. In addition to introducing first sounds, Baby's First Sounds: Discoveries for Little Ears incorporates familiar songs, such as "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and recognizable nursery rhymes, including "Humpty Dumpty" and "Hey Diddle, Diddle," to encourage parents and little ones to sing out loud together.

Bonus features further emphasize parent-child interaction, which is an important component of Baby's First Sounds: Discoveries for Little Ears. Designed to provide caregivers with tips on how to engage and interact with baby around the theme of "first sounds," the bonus features include "Fun With Phonemes" where Baby Einstein puppets introduce little ones to the sounds of the world and feature real-world images that correspond to the sound heard on screen. Baby's First Sounds: Discoveries for Little Ears is the 26th DVD title from The Baby Einstein Company, the award-winning creator of the infant developmental media category and best- selling brand of videos for infants and toddlers, from birth. As with every Baby Einstein DVD, Baby's First Sounds: Discoveries for Little Ears features multi-language viewing options including English, Spanish and French. Available at major retailers and online, the suggested retail price is $19.99 for DVD. Baby's First Sounds: Discoveries for Little Ears is recommended for little ones age six months and up.
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Great Sunflower Project

Looking for something fun and scientific to do with your kids this summer? Check out this free online project you can sign up for! Just go to
Here's an explanation about the program:
The Great Sunflower Project is a continent-wide event to focus attention on Bees. "It is vital that we understand how and where bees are declining in order to start to help them," says project leader Dr. Gretchen LeBuhn. "Having healthy pollinators is important for both natural systems and our food supply."
The Great Sunflower Project raises awareness about the world's most important pollinators -- our native bees -- and the recent threats to their survival. Participants help gain a better understanding of which bees are declining where -- and what habitats they need to survive. The project will continue year-round with activities such as gardening, sunflower and bee watching, art, and science. People of all ages and backgrounds can participate, independently or with a community organization including schools, public gardens, nature centers, museums, and parks.
Participants plant, grow and then watch sunflowers for 30 minutes or until five bees have visited. The information is then submitted by mail or online to scientists at San Francisco State University.
Everyone who signs up for this free project receives the Sunflower Kit which includes data forms for reporting the bee counts, a colorful guide to gardening for pollinators, educational materials about bees, and a packet of sunflower seeds to plant in pots and gardens. The Sunflower Kit may be downloaded online or participants may request to receive a kit by mail. We are now witnessing a dramatic die-off of honey bees, but we can still help the bees and connect with nature.
Now, my dilemma is, do I go ahead and sign up and take my chances that we might move and won't be able to complete the project? Or do I just skip it this year altogether? What would you do?
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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

I Can't Go Home Again

My mom is on the phone. "I drove by the old house," she says. "You better go by there because it looks like they are going to move it off that land and build something else there. If you want to see it before it's gone, I would go soon."

I hang up the phone and try to process what she has just said. The home I grew up in? Gone? That very night I persuade my husband to drive with me over to the house, just to see. As we pull into the driveway in the failing light, there is a large piece of construction equipment blocking our way. We can only pull in so far. Our tires crunch over the gravel and stop. My husband cuts the engine and sits quietly, allowing me to look at the shell of the house that once was but is, clearly, no longer.

I try to take it in. The house is now sitting up on blocks and the red bricks have been removed. The carport has been peeled away and so has the front porch. It is a grotesque skeleton stripped of its flesh. I remember sweeping that porch for one of my chores. I played Little House on the Prairie and sang like Ma while I worked, pretending the broom was fashioned by my own hand from branches and pine needles. Every spring I would set bare feet on the gravel drive for the first time and wince with pain as the sharp rocks stung my tender feet, encased in shoes all winter and now-- finally-- free. My mom would say, "You just need to let your feet toughen up." And I would painstakingly make my way down the long gravel drive as many times as it took. By the end of summer, I was running shoeless without hesitation. A country girl, my father would proudly say.

I lived in that house many summers. Through elementary school and middle school. Through my parents' divorce and remarriages to other people. Through deaths of dogs and the birth of a little calf. I cooked my first meals in that kitchen and got my first call from a boy. Though I didn't know it then, the woman I am now was becoming in that house.

I sit in the car and quietly ask my husband if I can go in, just one more time. He says no. It's not safe. Though I know he is right, I can't believe I will never go inside that house again.

I have often dreamed I still live there. I dream of running through the pasture and playing in the woods. Dream of the sound of my horse, running by my window. Dream of my room with the purple and white checked curtains and the big bay window that was just perfect for sitting and dreaming and reading. Dreaming of who I would be and what I would become. Picturing the children I would someday have, the man who would one day love me forever. Realizing just how rare it is to find such a person.

And now he sits across from me in the car, unable to feel what I am feeling yet willing to sit quietly for as long as it takes. Giving me time to say goodbye. I am slightly embarrassed at my own grief. It is just a house, after all. A place I have not lived in for twenty years. And yet, I always counted on it being there. A touchstone. The place I came from. A place I could return to if ever I needed to.

Finally I say, "We can go now" and we silently back out of the driveway, hearing the gravel crunch one last time. I watch the dark shadow of the house until it slips from view. The next time I go by this place, I know, it will be gone.

Later, as he is telling me goodnight, my husband says, "They can't take away your memories." And I smile at him through tears, knowing he is right. As I fall asleep that night, I hold the memories close to me, counting them as some might count sheep or blessings. In my last few moments of wakefulness, I wish that I could go there just once more. To etch those places in my heart just a little deeper, to record it all in some indelible place untouched by age or change. I realize that the home I am falling asleep in is a place that will, for my children, be what that place is for me. It is the place where they are becoming; the place they will go back to physically and, more often, mentally. I want to help them record these memories of ours, keep them for someday when they are needed. So I can help these little pieces of my future get back to their past. I will hold out my hand and whisper, "Here, let me show you the way." And together we will go home.

*I wrote this for this.
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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Top Ten All-Time Favorite Movies

While I have lots of movies I enjoy, these are my "top ten." The ones I can (and do) watch over and over again. The ones I know the lines to. The ones that come back to me at random times. Movies are powerful mediums. They stay with us. They bring us to tears. They make us think. They make us laugh. These are the ones I come back to again and again. And yes, I cheated and grouped some because I group them in my mind. So, technically, this is more then ten. But you get the idea.

Family Man

Broadcast News

Bull Durham/Field of Dreams (both Kevin Costner baseball movies so they get grouped)

Princess Bride

John Hughes movies (Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink) of my teen years

The Notebook

Spiderman/Batman movies (love superhero movies-- looking forward to The Dark Knight coming out this summer!)

The Goodbye Girl

Jerry Maguire

Notting Hill

Raising Arizona

And a bonus:

Favorite Actors: Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, Steve Martin

Favorite Actresses (do people even say that anymore or is that passe, like waitresses/waiters-- now they are all just servers?) Anyhoo: Julia Roberts, Clare Danes, Jennifer Aniston

So, what are your favorites? You can post a list on your blog and leave a comment with your link or you can just leave it in the comments section.

Note: As you can tell from the So-Called Life post and now this, I am not in a place of having a lot of rich spiritual things to say. My foot hurts. I am worried it won't be well in time for Disney. Several people I know have had houses for sale for one month and sold them while ours still sits for sale and it will be a year on May 1 since we first listed ours. And I am just the slightest bit stir crazy and ready to get back to life. So... movies it is!
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Monday, April 07, 2008

What's Going On

This weekend I ran out of steam. I decided on Saturday to try walking around on my foot. Within a few hours, I was paying for it and realized that perhaps this was a bit premature. I went to bed and proceeded to mope for the rest of the day. I was tired of reading books and writing. I was bored. I spent an undue amount of time reading blogs and looking at websites. And then I discovered that several tv shows are online-- and that led to hours upon hours of pure-tee laziness, staring at my computer screen as I caught up on CSI episodes I have missed since I started watching Lost with my husband on Thursday nights, and on My Name Is Earl.

Understand that I am not recommending that anyone watch these shows, as neither of them are very wholesome. But when you are bored, you find you are less picky.

Then my quest for watching tv shows led to searching on Hulu and YouTube. This was not smart because I found out that YouTube has ALL the episodes of My So-Called Life, from episode one through nineteen. This show came out when I was not that long out of high school and could totally identify with Clare Danes' character, Angela Chase. It helped that the same folks who wrote and produced My So-Called Life were the geniuses who wrote and produced thirtysomething, which is hands-down my all-time favorite tv show ever. So, I didn't miss an episode, and was heartbroken when it was not renewed because of bad ratings (and because Clare Danes was getting tapped for a big screen career and was probably going to leave anyway). It didn't help that the show was up against this other new little show called Friends. So it got beat out in that time slot every week. And only lasted one season.

I spent the rest of my weekend watching old episodes of My So-Called Life. And what I shared with Curt is that, amazingly, something has happened in the over ten years since this show was first on. I have morphed into someone else. I no longer identify with Angela Chase. I identify with her poor mother, who longs to shelter and protect her daughter from all the stuff she is dealing with, but can't. Who struggles with that balance of saying too much or too little and constantly second guessing herself as a mom.

And that was my entertaining and most exciting weekend. Just another episode in my own so-called life.

Want to check out one of my most favorite clips from the show? Go here. (Just be sure to watch to the very end of the clip!)
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Several Chances To Win!

I have some fun giveaways lined up in the near future-- so keep checking back for your chance to win! What am I giving away?

A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Daughters (great gift for Mother's Day, which is coming up soon!)

The newest dvd title from the Baby Einstein collection

Karen Ehman's new book The Complete Guide To Getting and Staying Organized

Leanna Ellis' fiction book, Elvis Takes A Back Seat

possibly a new ebook on planning and scheduling for homeschool moms

Some fun titles! I am currently getting all the information pulled together to post about all these giveaways, so stay tuned...
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Friday, April 04, 2008

My Dolphin Friends

Today I was reading the book "Dolphins!" to my 2yo because, since I have been off my feet, we read a lot of books snuggled up in my bed together. It is one of the things I can still do with her and will be a sweet memory from this time.

Today I was especially touched by this part on page 20:

Dolphins live in groups.
They help each other out.
Sometimes a dolphin gets sick.
Or hurt.
It sinks in the water-- and can't come up for air.
It could drown!

Other dolphins gather around.
They swim under
the sick dolphin.
They push it up and down
until it can swim by itself.

Dolphins are mammals so they can't breathe in water like fish. They have to come up for air every few minutes. If a dolphin gets sick and can't swim up for air, it won't make it. So, its friends come along and push it up to the surface for air, working to keep it alive until it can do it on its own again.

As I read this today, I thought it was a sweet word picture for what my friends and family have done for me these past few weeks. Swimming under me and hoisting me up to the surface-- lest I sit at the bottom and just drown in despair. I could not have made it without the amazing gifts my friends have given me-- too many to list here. But suffice it to say, you know who you are. And I thank you, from the bottom of my little dolphin heart.
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My Left Foot

I haven't posted an update about my foot for awhile, so I thought I would as many of you have written me privately to ask about it or to tell me you are praying. Bless you all for taking the time to do that.

I have to say, "Keep praying!" I can definitely tell it is healing, but it is not there yet. I can put the slightest bit of weight on it now, and can tolerate the boot. Last week I went to small group with the boot on and was able to walk down our steps and into and out of their home. Slowly. But it was walking and not on crutches so I will take it. I am praying for major progress in the next two weeks as I prepare for Disney. I am hoping for additional healing plus just gaining some strength I have lost by being off it for three weeks straight.

We have had meals brought in straight for these past few weeks, which is no small blessing. We are so overwhelmed by the kindness of so many people caring for our family. It has made all the difference to our survival just to have this one thing taken care of. Our meals end on Saturday, so that will be interesting. I am still not up to standing and stirring at the stove, so that means that Curt is going to be doing lots of frozen, "quick-fix" type things. I hope to quickly be back to cooking as, believe it or not, I miss it!!

And so, that's where I am. This imposed time of sitting has been great for my writing. I have been able to get lots done and I have never been more on top of my emails! So, there is blessing in all things. Sometimes you just have to look hard to find it.
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Home Education Week Final Post: Plans

What are your goals for home education? What do you hope to instill in your children? Are you planning any changes to how you educate your children?

Oh boy do I love to talk about goals and planning! It is one of my most favoritest things to do in the whole world. I absolutely love to plan. This points to several things:

a) I am a nerd through and through

b) I haven't yet figured out that all my best-laid plans hardly ever work, making me both a slow learner and a nerd, combined

c) I am a control freak, in recovery but prone to the occasional lapse

d) all of the above

Don't tell me which answer you chose!

But I do love to plan. Not much else in life pleases me more than to have all my homeschool books and notebooks and catalogs scattered around me, deep in the process of figuring out schedules and courses of study for each child. I am content and in my element in those moments. As Martha says, "It's a good thing."

And so, what are our plans for next year? Well, for several months that has been the million dollar question. I have written here before about my desire to have all my kids be homeschool because of some sort of all or nothing mentality that I fell into along the way. I struggled with not being "real" homeschoolers if some of my children were in school. Ultimately, I had to let that go and realize that if you homeschool any of your children, you qualify as a homeschooler.

Which brings me to next year. I have decided that the older three will be in school and the younger three will be home. That means that I will have a sophomore at our local public school (as long as we stay in this district when we move-- if we ever sell this house, which is a rant for another day), a freshman in the charter high school, a 6th grader at the charter school they have been at this year, a third grader at home, a first grader at home, and a three year old at home. Sounds busy! But good. I am, quite honestly, looking forward to it.

I am busily making plans and poring through catalogs choosing things that look interesting, perusing websites and talking to other moms. One very gracious mom came over last week with her girls and they proudly showed us their lapbooks. It was so fun to see what they had done and I have about decided to tackle lapbooking next year. I have decided to choose nine subjects, one per month, to focus on. I will let each child pick at least one of the subjects and the rest will be things we need to concentrate on for their grade level-- possibly using a planned curriculum like Konos or Apologia Elementary Science to give us a framework. Haven't figured all that out yet. In the coming weeks, I plan to start playing around with it and make our first lapbook on hot air ballooning, just to get one under our belt. I will also order several lapbooking instruction books through Tobin's Lab and do some digging into websites. I might also order some of the premade kits from Hands Of A Child or Knowledge Box Central just to get our feet wet.

Most of our curriculum will be chosen and purchased at our state convention. I am so stinkin excited about this weekend!! I am not speaking there this year, so my husband and I can go and just soak it all in. Mark Hamby, Paul Tripp and Jeff Myers are going to be there and they happen to be awesome, awesome speakers. It promises to be a great weekend and a much-needed time for Curt and I to talk in-depth about the direction of our family and reconnect about-- our goals! I highly recommend going if you can swing it with your spouse. The time we have spent at NCHE is more valuable than any marriage conference we could have gone to.

And so, I am sure that at some point I will post more in depth about what I will be doing with each child. For right now I am just in the investigating and information-gathering stage. I love this stage, so I tend to stay in it for quite awhile. Because I genuinely do, as I think I have mentioned, love to plan.

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Home Education Week #6: Their Own Words

Share your children’s home education experience in their own words. What have they said about their education? What are their likes and dislikes? Share some stories, some quotes, or turn your blog over to your children for the day.

I didn't directly interview my children for this post. Though if I did, I am sure you would hear mixed comments. My older ones think of homeschooling in a "been there, done that, moved on" kind of way, to be completely honest. While they readily admit that homeschooling was great for them and served its purpose in their lives, they will also tell you (especially my oldest) that homeschooling is something that was not the solution forever. That they needed to encounter the things they are encountering in school and learn how to handle it. That they were ready to spread their wings and fly. And that they thank me for allowing them to do so.

My younger ones would tell you that homeschooling is awesome and that they are so excited to be with me every day and that they love the fun things that we do and most of all they just love not having to go to school. Because school is not as fun as they thought it would be and they just would rather be home, home, home.

Vastly different. Right?

And thusly, you get the picture of how we have to parent this collection of kids we have. In vastly different ways. We have to be quick-change artists-- ready to have long, in-depth discussions about the meaning of life with our teens one minute and the next minute be ready to calm a screaming toddler or painstakingly help a five year old learn how to make coffee for his crippled mother. Emotionally, it can be exhausting. I ain't gonna lie about that. But it is also rewarding at times-- just enough times to keep us moving forward, pressing on towards that day when we sit at the head of a (very large) table and see them all there, grown, with families of their own and know that we did it. And hopefully, in that moment, we will look at each other and know that it was worth every tear, every sleepless night, every struggle, every worry, every laugh line, every effort we put into it.

While we rarely hear "well done" in their own words in the here and now, I hang onto the hope that we will hear it in the future-- if we just keep moving forward, doing the absolute best we can based on the information we have at the time and seeking the Lord for wisdom every step of the way. After all, that's all any of us can do.
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