Monday, November 26, 2007

November/December Book Giveaway

For the rest of this month and all of December my sister and I are holding a contest for 2 copies of Mosaic: Pieces of My Life So Far by Amy Grant. The rules to this contest are simple. Visit our review blog at Reviews By Two and answer this question:

At what age did Amy Grant begin her singing career?

Be sure to leave your email address so we can contact you if you are the winner. (We respect your privacy.)

How Thankful is Thankful?

How was your Thanksgiving? We had a wonderful weekend here. My mother-in-law joined us for our Thanksgiving meal complete with a 23 lb. turkey. Yes, I know, a 23 lb. turkey wasn’t really necessary for 7 people - and four of them children! But I love making hot dishes with leftover turkey so have no fear, the 16 cups of chopped turkey I froze will not be wasted. :)

But beyond all the turkey, stuffing, potatoes and pumpkin pie that didn’t set up quite right, I also left the weekend behind being truly thankful. Traditionally we take turns going around the table and mentioning the things we are thankful for. Most of the time the children are thankful for the pie and ice cream and I, like most mothers, usually mention my family. Of course we mean it, but God occasionally uses a moment or two in our lives to make us really mean it.

This weekend He gave us such a moment.

Ty, our 7-mth old, was in his red ExerSaucer in the basement family room with our 7 and 3 year old sons. My husband and I were sitting at the table playing a spirited game of Monopoly with our oldest son.

Pounding feet and a shrill voice interrupted the battle for Kentucky Avenue as Wyatt warned us that Ty was choking. Everyone raced downstairs and after a quick glance, I swept out his mouth. What I found made my heart stop. He had apparently gotten a hold of a foam toy piece about the size of a silver dollar and, like all babies, put it straight into his mouth.

Because it was round and slippery when wet, there would have been no way to get it out had he swallowed it.

After I’d checked him over, cuddled and kissed him and my heartbeat had returned to normal, it dawned on me that this was thankfulness. The moment in life when all time stops and you realize that a minute or two more and it would have been too late. I mention my thankfulness for our family over a Thanksgiving meal, but it wasn’t until I contemplated what it would mean to wake up each morning without a drooly kiss and a squeal of happiness from my baby that I became thankful in a much deeper sense of the word.

As always, God astounds me with the way He reveals these insights into our lives. For this I am truly thankful.

Monday, October 22, 2007


I'll be the first to admit it. There was a time of my life when I wasn't very good with directions. Even now I do better with, "turn left by the red barn and go for two miles" rather than "turn east on 35th Ave.".

One of my most embarrassing moments was a time I was lost with my twin sister. We were driving three hours south of our hometown on our way to my boyfriend's home for the weekend.

I usually visited him with a friend of mine who was double-dating a friend of his. While my friend did the driving, I did the talking-and-not-paying-attention part. But this time it was Gail and I, and we were on our own. No map, no written directions. Just my vague notion that we turned left by the big round silver thing (which turned out to be a grain bin :)) and the thought that I would recognize land marks as we got closer.

Of course my dad asked me, one last time, if I thought I would know how to get down there. Knowing he wouldn't allow us to go if I hesitated in my answer, I nodded vigorously in the affirmative. All lights turned green -- and we were down the driveway chattering like the seventeen-year-old magpies we were.

It was going well until we turned by that big round silver thing and the landmarks I expected didn't appear. Hmm. Maybe we should turn around and come at it at a different angle. Ya think? Yeah, we thought. But that direction didn't work either.

Now this was in the days before cell phones. And this was also in the days that my stubborn pride would not allow me to stop and call my boyfriend or to stoop so low as to buy a map at the nearest gas station and admit I was lost.

Down in this part of Minnesota there is a lot of farm land and not a lot of houses. The sky was turning dark, so when we reached a town that had a vaguely familiar name to it, we stopped. My sister and I ran in to a gas station and asked the equally naive seventeen-year-old magpie behind the counter where we were and how to get where we were going. Amid the neon pink bubble gum, we were pointed out the door and told to go on 'that road down there'.

And yes, we took her word for it and started down the road. I can roll my eyes now, but at the time I was speeding along in the dark without the faintest idea whether or not I was going the right way and praying that I'd suddenly end up in front of my boyfriend's house -- and expecting just that to happen.

Well, to make a long story shorter, we ended up near the Iowa border, which, do I even need to tell you, was NOT the direction we were supposed to be going. Big surprise there, huh.

Back into our little gray and red Horizon and off we went down the road again. This time we did end up in my boyfriend's hometown but by now it was completely dark and I had no idea how to get from town to his house which was ten miles into the boonies.

So, I stuffed my pride in the back seat and found a phone to call him. To his credit he was frantic with worry. He gave explicit directions to his farm and made me repeat them. How we drove right past is still a mystery to me . . .

By the time we found another phone, he made me promise not to move. He jumped in his truck and came to me. I don't know if I crawled over to him or not, but by the time he'd enveloped my in his arms I felt like it. I was now about 4 hrs late and he was simply glad he could call my dad and say we were safe and sound - albeit thoroughly embarrassed.

To his credit again, my understanding boyfriend became my beloved and understanding husband, Travis. He's certainly had to fit the job description after the broken tailgate, the shattered window, the busted toilet tank cover, and the hole in the house siding . . . and yes, they were all accidents!

My point in telling this long-winded story is that directions and I have never been on the best of terms. But how often do we travel through life without directions, either physically or spiritually. How many times do we stare into a bleak future and have no idea where to turn or who to ask?

Isn't it funny that the very God who created direction and the best book on directions you can own, is often the last one we turn to. God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105). Asking our directions from Him should be the first thing we do. Come to think of it -- we'd never be lost again . . .

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Book Contest

Well, it's not really a contest per se. You don't have to juggle or sing in front of an audience. Of course that might be fun to see! :) That reminds me . . .

Once a year our church family has a talent show at our Valentine's Banquet. Mostly it's Carl, our comedian, or one of the younger generation that happily skip up to the front of the room and tell a side-stitching joke or perform a neat trick or routine. But one year our quiet and reserved pastor's wife stood up, walked calmly to the front of the room, and with the guitar accompaniment from her husband, began a cute little tune that went something like, "What would you do in a little canoe with the moon shining all around . . ." It floored us that she got up and sang in front of everyone. The song was pretty cute too! :)

This contest is much simpler. Really. All you have to do is pop over to the book review blog I share with my twin sister at Reviews By Two and read about our latest review on Marilyn Rockett's book, Homeschooling at the Speed of Life: Balancing Home, School, and Family in the Real World.

Then, post a comment here or on that blog and your name will be entered to win. The winner will be announced on October 1st. Don't forget to leave your email or I won't be able to contact you. (And I won't spam, sell or do any of that stuff.) Either that or check back and if I don't have an email to contact the winner with, I'll post their first name and can be contacted through my email.

Okay, the contest is officially open!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


It's amazing the diversity of interests and talents people have. I recently looked through a Taste of Home magazine and saw the most amazing cakes. These cooks had spent countless hours decorating cakes for wedding, celebrations, baby showers etc. and the art they created from their imagination with frosting and fondant was incredible.

One woman created a three layer stack of cakes that resembled suitcases with a camera on top for a newly wedded couple. She had the tiniest details down to the buckle on the suitcases looking so real I would have never guessed the whole thing was something you could eat. The really amazing fact was that she'd never had schooling for cake decorating; she just played around with something she loved and found a talent she didn't know she possessed.

One afternoon some of my girlfriends and I were discussing the intricate details our grandmothers put into quilt making. Hand-stitching, tiny pieces of fabric sewn together to make beautiful patterns and the love and time that went into each piece. They all loved making quilts for new babies, grandchildren's graduations and weddings that they continued to do so even when arthritis crippled their hands and their eyesight dimmed.

Talents are so much more than the ability to make something, the ability to sing or dance or speak to large groups of people with eloquence. Talents are more often those gifts which hover in the background of life but are noted even more than those used publically. Things like making a hotdish for someone who just had surgery. Mowing an older neighbor's lawn just for the sake of doing it. Calling someone just to see how they are and to encourage them through a tough time.

All this thought of talents made me start thinking about my own talents and how I used them. Did I use them for my own purposes or did I use them to bring joy to others? Did I use them so people would marvel at my skills or thoughtfulness or was I genuinly thinking of them and their needs?

I recently had an interview with Favorite PASTimes and some of the questions asked made me really think about why I write and what my purpose in doing so is? I learned a lot about myself - and I wasn't pleased with everything I discovered. It makes me go back to my 'motto' from 1 Corinthians 10. Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

What are your talents? How do you use them?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

It Has Arrived - Part II

Yeehaw! We are done getting our school supplies. Our Sonlight box came - it was HUGE! And silly me, I forgot to order a few things even though I went over my list about 5 times. Still, the box was enormous and we had a ball opening it and digging everything out.

Yes, that new book smell sent goosebumps down my arms - and I think it's catchy. My oldest son Cody loves to read and he seemed just as excited as dear old mom.

My second son Wyatt has stated that, "Cowboys don't need ta read." But I think I caught a glimpse of excitement in his eyes too. Either that or the prospect of learning to read this year made his eyes glaze over. That's one of the main reasons we chose Sonlight--to encourage him to read and show him it can be enjoyable.

Right now he'd rather carve a stick into a spear and go hunting. But, as I've told him, reading will come in handy at least once or twice in his life, so he will have to learn. I'm just trying to make it fun for him and I think we'll accomplish that with Sonlight.

Now that my school supplies are bought, I'm moving on to Christmas. Yes, I realize it's the end of August, but I've formed my mother's habit of shopping early. One of my favorite places to browse for gifts for the boys is Vison Forum.

They have the coolest toys for boys. Slingshots, swords, knife throwing, great biblical and historical books (that's always a plus), ropes, etc. It's great.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

100 Things You Didn't Want to Know About Me

I saw this on another blog, and thought it would be fun to do. But let me warn you-it's boring.

1. I've chased a mouse with a lawn mower
2. Pepsi or Root Beer? Root Beer
3. I never knew the difference between a tractor and a combine
4. I married a seed corn Technician so now I do
5. I like old westerns
6. John Wayne or Clint Eastwood? John Wayne
7. I don't like public speaking
8. last year I spoke publicly 24 times
9. we have a dog who qualifies as a small horse
10. I've never ridden him
11. my three year old has tried
12. I'm still scared of the dark
13. we drive 40 miles to church one way
14. voluntarily!
15. I make five loaves of bread a week - they smell wonderful when they are rising
16. I have an identical twin sister
17. she's not evil; she's my best friend
18. we played tricks on our teachers in elementary school
19. we were once so lost we nearly ended up in Iowa
20. she finishes my sentences and we laugh in the exact same way
21. I've never been in a car accident
22. my husband is my best friend too
23. I met him when I was seventeen
24. I knew I would marry him the second time I met him
25. I married him when I was eighteen
26. when he passes gas he sticks my head under the covers
27. I have retaliated
28. we've been married for almost 11 years
29. we've never had a fight
30. he once mistook my twin for me and did something embarrassing to her
31. I won't tell what it was
32. my twin's husband once mistook me for her and did something embarrassing to me
33. I won't tell what that was either
34. my sister and I will never let them live it down
35. I can't stand wearing turtlenecks
36. I do not have gray hair - yet
37. I love chocolate
38. no, I mean I really, really love chocolate
39. if I were on a deserted island and had to choose one food to sustain me, I would pick brownies.
40. with chocolate frosting
41. I exercise more than one hour six times a week
42. it's because of the chocolate
43. in reality it's because I have a hard time saying no to food
44. I have prayed about that many times
45. I've come to realize I can't say no by myself
46. God is slowly molding me
47. I've been an at home mom for nine years
48. I wouldn't trade it for all the tea in China
49. I have five children
50. my four boys are spittin' images of one another - and they aren't twins
51. they range in age from nine to three months
52. they all have western sounding names - Cody, Wyatt, Riley and Ty
53. between them they've had two broken bones
54. I think the gray hair is coming
55. I'd still like more children
56. my daughter is in heaven
57. she was stillborn
58. that was the hardest time of my life
59. God used it to draw me closer to Him
60. for that reason I am thankful it happened
61. I believe God is sovereign in all things
62. even the things we term 'disasters'
63. I homeschool my children
64. I couldn't imagine sending them to public school
65. I'm horrible at math
66. I learned how to do fractions with my son last year
67. it made more sense than it did twenty years ago
68. I just finished reading Dee Henderson for the first time
69. she has become my favorite author
70. right next to Lori Wick and Stephen Bly
71. the last movie I watched was The Cat From Outerspace
72. our T.V. does not get a single station
73. we did that on purpose
74. we have a family night once a week
75. I've never been on a plane
76. I've been out of the country twice - Mexico and Canada
77. I've never been drunk
78. I've never smoked
79. I've never had a tattoo.
80. I think that makes me an oddity
81. I've laughed so hard I thought I would pee my pants
82. now I don't even remember what was so funny
83. my favorite movie is five hours long
84. I've never seen any of the Star Wars movies
85. I don't think I'm missing much
86. someone who read the above statement has just become my sworn enemy
87. I used to live in a town where Pa Ingalls bought supplies
88. at one time I collect shot glasses
89. now I collect flowers in my yard
90. daylilies are my favorite
91. I've never grown roses - they scare me
92. I was born in Lewiston, Idaho
93. If I could visit any country, I would choose Scotland
94. my favorite color is purple
95. I'm scared of spiders
96. My son has chased me with a spider
97. I screamed
98. A mouse has run up my shorts
99. I screamed even louder then
100. I have acrophobia and I wonder how many people will google it to find out what it is

Monday, June 18, 2007

It Has Arrived! - Part 1

Okay, you'll forgive me a little squeal when I tell has arrived!

Our first shipment of homeschool curriculum came today. (Squeal!) I ordered from Rainbow Resource - I love them, by the way - and the box arrived today.

I'd ordered the boys' spelling (Bob Jones), science (Switched On Schoolhouse), and Wyatt's math (Saxon). I like to mix and match.

The books were still in their wrappers. Maybe I'm the only one who gets a thrill when opening a BRAND NEW book and fanning the pages. That 'new book' smell and the unmarred pages represent a new year with a fresh start.

I'm a horrible mom though.

I let the boys look at the books for a few minutes and then I snatched them away. "You can't look at them again until school starts," I told them. I know, I know, how cruel is that! But really, if I let them look at the books all summer, then there won't be that excitement for school to begin this fall. Half the fun is just getting the new books, freshly sharpened pencils, and the resolve to have the best school year we've ever had. It might not last long -- but the thought is there.

I'll be ordering from Sonlight for the first time this year. That's where It Has Arrived - Part 2 will come in. I'm even more excited about that shipment because it will be full of books! (Squeal!)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Promoting Yourself

I hate promoting myself. My mother used to tell me never to use the word 'hate'. So, okay, I VERY STRONGLY DISLIKE promoting myself.

It's one of those things I could live without. Like weeds in the garden, bad hair days, and sushi. (Don't ask me how those three are connected.)

Promoting, to me, has always felt like I'm waving a big flag in front of my face and saying, "oh, here I am. Look at me!" I'd really rather stay hidden in the background, behind the curtains, with the door closed . . .

But when you are an author, promoting yourself is something you need to do. In the past publishers used to handle all of the promoting, but no more. Most publishers won't consider working with you if you have no desire or ambition to help get the word out about your books.

We need to let people know about our books. If no one knows, no one will purchase them. And to be blunt, if no one purchases them, we aren't going to have our publisher knocking our doors down to sign another contract.

So what's a gal (or guy) to do? Bite the bullet and promote. But in promoting, there's also something to be said for leaving that big flag at home -- at least for me. You can promote yourself without hiring a plane to fly a banner across the sky.

No matter where we go or what profession we are in, there's going to be days we need to do things we don't like. Welcome to the world. But having a good attitude and a good plan of action will eliminate most of the headaches. (I did say most.)

For authors it's fairly simple. (Really, it is.)

1. Get your book reviewed - Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the hundreds of review sites on the web.

2. Do a book signing - make sure you have plenty of books, pens, maybe even a bowl of candies. Some authors like to wander through the aisle at the bookstore and visit with the customers. Make a colorful and eye-catching sheet of paper with some of those reviews to pass out.

3. Set up a website - nearly everyone has a website. It's almost a crime not to have one.

4. Set up a speaking engagement - children's books are easier to my way of thinking. Schools love having authors visit. Libraries love having authors visit. Homeschool groups love having authors visit. Get the idea?
If you don't write for children you write for someone else. Women, men, teachers, do-it-yourselfers, pastors, mothers, etc. Set up a speaking engagement at your local library or through your community center.

These are just a few tips - I know you all have great ideas of your own. What is your favorite way to promote? What have you done that has made the biggest impact?

Monday, March 12, 2007

24 hours in a day - is it enough?

Sometimes I wonder if 24 hours in a day is enough. Do you ever feel like you run ragged from the time you get up until you flop down in bed? I do.

On one particularly busy day I began a litany in my head: There aren't enough hours in a day. If I could squeeze 2 more hours into a day, just think of all the pages I could type. How can time fly so fast? If my internet were faster, I wouldn't have to sit here for so long . . .

Sound familiar?

Then I started my list of things yet to do: fill the washer, empty the dishwasher, correct homeschool assignments, check my email, call mom, thaw something for supper . . .

But where on my list was: welcome my husband home with a kiss and a hug, ask him about his day, sit for a moment, or two, or three in prayer, read a book to the boys . . .

It sounds like I'm adding onto my first list and making the day even shorter, but isn't 24 hours enough to get those REALLY important things done? Yes, it is.

Is 24 hours enough to praise God for the ten loads of laundry waiting to be done? Yep.

Is 24 hours enough to thank God for leftovers? You bet.

In fact, 24 hours seems pretty adequate. God must have known that when He created the first day. :)

March FREE book giveaway

Hi all,

Just wanted to let you all know that in March we're giving away 2 great Christian books at the book review/author interview blog my twin sister and I share. You can read our reviews and interviews for Too Much Stuff: De-cluttering Your Heart and Home by Kathryn Porter and Violent Sands by Sean Young and enter the contest at

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Congratulations to our winner!

This month's book giveaway winner is G. Scott Hughes. He won 90 Minutes in Heaven, by Don Piper with Cecil Murphy. Congratulations Scott, and enjoy your book!