Friday, June 29, 2012

Learning New Skills: German Anyone?

Don't ask me why...but I must have been bored because in January I decided to learn some German. This from the girl who at one time didn't want to learn any languages then took ten credits of Spanish and twenty credits of French in college...don't ask!

The kids and I have been working on it together. After lots of research we selected the Rosetta Stone program. I like it, but the immersion system wouldn't work for everyone. The "linguist" in me has also struggled a bit because they don't explain any of the rules for why the pronouns and verb endings change. It's driving me nuts. So I went looking for a book that would help me understand some of those rules. I think I've found it in The Everything Learning German Book. I haven't gotten more than a few chapters in, but I can already tell that it has the why behind the do-it-this-way.

My 8 and 11 year olds have been able to work with Rosetta is effective, just not ideal if you want to learn survival language skills for a trip to the country. But if you just want to use it as a foreign language, then the program is probably perfect.

The other thing I've learned or has been reinforced about me is that I am not an audio learner. I'd bought several CD series. As long as I was listening to them  in the car, I could say the words. The moment I stepped out of the car, anything I'd just heard disappeared.

Maybe between Rosetta Stone and The Everything Learning German Book, I'll actually be able to communicate beyond Danke and Bitte.

What new skills have you decided to tackle?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What are you reading right now?

I'm often sharing books I've read or am reading with you. Last week I read Randy Singer's Directed Verdict (Amazing legal thriller!), Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore (A YA This Present Darkness), The Girl in the Glass by the amazing Susan Meissner (FANTASTIC!!!!! and preorder it now for its September release), and First Date by Krista McGee (very fun YA with a chic lit voice.

I'm almost done reading Tracey Bateman's Widow of Saunder's Creek (an intriguing romance/ghost story with strong spiritual overtones). But now I'm looking for my next book. It's summer time and the pages are flying fast and furious. So today I want to know what are you reading? Do you like it? If so why? Is this an author you like to read?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Have I Disappeared?

What a question to ask, right?

Have I disappeared?

Am I living my life in a way that when people look at me they don't really see me? Instead, they see fruit in my life that points them straight to my Savior? That what they do see of me is offered as a sacrifice to for my King's glory?

I'm in a place right now where I am literally asking this question on a daily basis. Now I need to sit and see what the Holy Spirit wants to tell me.

What do I need to do to disappear? My heart's cry mirrors Moses': "Let me know Your ways that I may know You." Exodus 33:13. That as I know Him, I reflect Him and only Him to those around me. What if I'm the only Christ follower they ever meet? Is there anything about me that is contagious? Attractive?

What's God showing or asking of you?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Blog Hop Recipe: Summer Fettuccine

Today, I'm participating in a blog hop that requested summer recipes. I don't know about you, but summer gets nuts! So here's a recipe you can throw together quickly and one the whole family can enjoy. You because it's simple and healthy. Your kids because it tastes so good.

This is a simple, fast, and oh so tasty pasta dish for a summer evening. I made it last night and the kids inhaled it. Anytime I can find something like that I consider it a victory!

8 oz fettuccine cooked according to package instructions

cherry tomatoes cut in half
one yellow squash cut in thin slices
one zucchini cut in thin slices
2 chicken breasts cut in bite sized pieces

Saute the veggies and chicken in one T olive oil with seasoning (I used a pesto seasoning).

When chicken is cooked pour the mixture over the cooked fettuccine and serve. Yummy!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Looking for a Writer's Conference? Come to ACFW

In a couple weeks I'll start one of my favorite times of the year, running first time orientation for the ACFW conference. A few years ago we realized that approximately a third of our attendees any given year were first timers. I'll never forget my first time at conference in 2005.

I went with a fellow writer from Indiana -- a gal I'd met once or twice -- yet, we became fast friends in the six hour drive to Nashville. I met Tracie Peterson for the first time looking like a drowned cat -- boy, would I like a photo of that first impression! That first conference launched my writing career...introducing me to editors, agents and other writers. Finding out that I wasn't crazy for thinking a bit differently from others.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Summer Getting Long Already?

Sometimes family togetherness can get a bit what's a family to do?

I wish I had a bullet-proof plan. I don't. But here are a few things I do...sometimes with more success than others.

1) Pray. God longs for our families to be places of peace. Which means our enemy wants the exact opposite. So be sure to pray for extra patience and grace. Need to stop and do that myself!

2) Mix things up. Have you gone to the pool six days in a row and it's become blase? Then go to a park. Have a craft day. Come up with something different you can do and ask the kids for their ideas.

3) Remember you're building memories. And often the things that drive us nuts aren't even a tiny memory in a couple years.

Praying you'll have peace in your houses. Do you have any tips to add? I'd love them!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

4 Tips for Traveling with Kids

School is out so that means it's time to travel as a family. No matter how big or small your family is, any time you had children to the mix, it adds to the packing joys. And the traveling angst. So here are a few ideas that help our family as we're on the go.

  1. If you are stopping on the way, pack one bag with everything you'll need for that night. That way you don't have to unpack the entire car. This has really streamlined our travel -- especially with all the kiddos in tow. Shove pajamas, toothbrushes, a change of clothes for each child (and parents) in a smaller bag and keep it accessible. Then when you roll into the hotel in the late hours, you only have one bag to grab along with the sleeping kids.
  2. Try to plan activities for the car ride. Our family is a big fan of listening to audio cds. That means for car trips, we'll often hit the library before we leave and load up on audio books. We've listened to Madeline L'Engle read the Wrinkle in Time. Laughed at the antics of the Gallagher Girls and Heist Society. And Eric and the kids could listen to Adventures in Odyssey over and over. All of these are great ways to help the miles roll away. We've avoided videos because I'd rather have the kids read or use their imaginations with the help of an audio book.
  3. Have a flight coming up? Those can be especially challenging for the younger kids. This is a great time to pull out new books and toys. A friend introduced us to wikki sticks -- a lifesaver for long flights. These wax sticks can be used over and over and provide lots of creative activities. 
  4. Once your there, plan activities for all ages. Sometimes that means we can't do something I'd love because it's not right for the 18 month old. Other times we plan something the 11 year old loves. But make sure the activities are a mix. And be aware that little kids won't enjoy museums unless they're hands-on, so maybe save the art lectures until they are older.
What do you do to make travel work with your kids? 

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Like Supernatural Fiction? Meet author Shannon Dittemore

Today, I'm delighted to introduce you to a new-to-me author who could become a fun friend. Shannon Dittemore's debut novel releases May 29...just in time for summer reading. And the publisher has agreed to giveaway a copy of this book, so be sure to leave a comment here or on the teen blog with a way to contact you.  My daughter received this book when we were on vacation and loved it! That was enough for me to know I needed to get to know Shannon. So let's learn more...
Angel Eyes has a supernatural setting — it always fascinates me when authors can think that way. How did you get the idea for Angel Eyes?

I've always been fascinated with spiritual beings. When I was a teen, our church had a performing arts team and I always seemed to land the role of Satan. Whether Satan was biting the dust or getting knocked out in the Champion (thank you, Carman!) I apparently had the whole demonic thing down. I'm the daughter of a preacher and the wife of another one, so the supernatural is something I've grown up knowing about, learning about, believing   in from a young age. To turn my imagination loose on those ideas was very natural.

2) Is there any part of Brielle that might be borrowed from you?

The fear, certainly. I dealt with fear for a time. It's been a journey and I'm so grateful for God's help through it, but I understand what it is to be frozen by anxiety and terror. I've learned that being fearless isn't the absence of fear, but the refusal to let it govern your actions. I don't have it all down, but God's gracious and He's teaching me.

Brielle also references Neverland from time to time. I'm rather fascinated with Peter Pan myself.

3) What was the hardest thing about writing 
Angel Eyes?
Time. I'm certainly not alone in this, but finding the time with two young children at home is difficult. It's another thing God's helping me with.

4) Can you give people a teaser?
Sure! Angel Eyes is about a girl who returns to her small hometown after tragedy has struck. She has all the potential in the world, but grief and fear have taken over and she feels frozen, unable to move forward. Enter the boy next door. Jake's got a few secrets of his own, and there's something about his hands--his blazing hands--that has Brielle paying attention. Jake gives Brielle a gift that opens her eyes in more than one way and that's when all hell breaks loose. Literally.   

5) Will we get to see Brielle and her friends in another book?
I'm happy to report that Angel Eyes is the first in a trilogy of books. The second book is called Broken Wings and will be out next February. The third book is still untitled and I'm not entirely sure when it'll be released.

6) Why write for this audience? What draws you to teenagers?
This one's hard to answer. I'm not entirely sure why I write for teenagers. Maybe because I am still a teen at heart. Everything's still very raw, very real, and very important at that age. I like that. I think I live like that. Sometimes, like in the lives of teenagers, that makes things much more complicated than they need to be, but it's the way I'm wired. God helps me here too. Feeling is very important for teens and as a first class emoter, I understand entirely.

7) What do you hope readers will take away from Angel Eyes?
That they are not alone. That even when life throws craziness at you and when you stumble into dark places, you haven't been abandoned. If readers come away with something close to that, I've done my job.

Okay, where can readers connect with you? 

I'm everywhere, I think! I even have an 
Angel Eyes board on Pinterest.

My website and blog:

Friday, June 08, 2012

Summer Reading Suggestions

It's the time to grab books and head to the pool. Last week, I read two books in very different genres. Bonnie Calhoun's novel Cooking the Books is a very enjoyable debut novel in the P.I. genre. Lena Nelson Dooley's Maggie's Journey is an engaging historical romance.

Sloane Templeton's life is chaos in Cooking the Books. Her mom's died, she's running a business she doesn't want, and she longs to get back to computer forensics. Instead, she's trying to avoid a bad, old boyfriend while maintaining a relationship with the Greek doctor down the street. She's got her aunt's cooking to avoid, her colleague's group of shooting old timers, and thugs all around.

Bonnie Calhoun's debut novel sings with personality. Sloane's voice is strong and sassy with an edge of sarcasm. She's trying to find herself in her new reality while staying alive. There are moments of poignancy laced with sheer lunacy. This book is perfect for people who enjoy first-person detective novels where the mystery involves a non-professional. Sloane has the skills she needs to solve the murder, but doesn't realize it. The book is a romp with a thread of serious undertones. The faith element is woven in carefully, adding to the story without distracting from the action.

With Maggie's Journey, Lena Nelson Dooley has crafted an engaging first book in a story of triplets separated at birth. Maggie Caine is approaching her 18th birthday, living under the stress of a mother who can't seem to accept her. Then as she explores the attic she stumbles upon a possible reason for the desire to change her. Her world shifts with all she knows or thought she knows about herself changed in a moment. Then her parents let her go on a long desired trip to visit her grandmother in Little Rock -- a woman who shares her love of designing dresses.

This book is well-crafted. The longer I read the more I cared about Maggie, her mother, and the other characters. The angst between Maggie and her mom was so strong at the beginning I had to read past it. Once I did, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. The love triangle has an interesting angle that adds to the fun in the middle of the book.

At the end, this is a charming story about coming home and the journey to know who we really are. Thoroughly enjoyable and I look forward to reading the other books in this series.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Pressing the "Hot Buttons"

Today I'm delighted to turn over my blog to my good writing bud Nicole O'Dell. I love her heart for tweens and teens. And my daughter adores her writing. Today she's here to share a bit about a new series of books I'm excited to see...these books explore Hot Button issues. The ones we as parents can't ignore and the ones our young people will confront. Here's Nicole: 

What are Hot Buttons?

Well, in the broader sense, the phrase Hot Buttons means a lot of different things, anything really, that can get a rise out people. Something that charges them up and receives an intense reaction. For the purposes of Choose NOW Ministries, I've defined hot buttons as those tough issues that teenagers face--the things parents are often more afraid of and most hesitant to talk about. Some examples include:
  • Drugs
  • Alcohol
  • Sex
  • Friendships
  • Racism
  • Internet Activity
  • Faith Matters
  • Divorce
  • Dating
  • Bullying
  • Occult
  • and more

Why press the Hot Buttons?

Why not just leave it alone and let the kids figure it out? We can pray for them and trust it all to work out in the end. In some ways it does work itself out, true. Circumstances happen, pressure hits, relationships change. . .and your teens gets to figure it all out. In the heat of the moment. On their own. Hopefully they'll make the right choice, but it's really hard to know what will happen when the prep work isn't done. Hot Buttons, Dating, Nicole O'DellTake an issue like dating--we talk about the boundaries. We set rules for curfew and other things. We even make sure we apprrove of the date and talk about saying no to sexual advances. Right? And that's great. It really is. But there's something missing. Our teens need to know what to do and what not to do, and what we expect of them, but they also need to understand why that's going to be difficult for them. How does the body respond in ways that make it tough to say no? What will the feelings be like that make it difficult to leave the room or douse the proverbial flames? You see, if we don't hit those truth head on before they become an issue, our teens will think it's a secret, it's specific to them, and we really don't know what we're asking them to say no to. But, if we press those hot buttons in advance, if we have the difficult conversations, then our teens will enter those pressure-filled situations armed with understanding and equipped with the words to say to stay true to their commitments. With every hot button issue, someone is feeding your tweens and teens information--do you really want that someone to be anyone other than you?  

How do I press the Hot Buttons?

Now that you've made the decision to be proactive about helping your tweens and teens battle peer pressure, I love to share the principles behind the Hot Buttons book series and the method of communicating with your teens it prescribes. Hot Buttons, Internet, Nicole O"Dell Each book is topical based on a single Hot Button issue and its surrounding sub-topics. For example, the Hot Buttons Internet Edition deals with social networking, pornography, predators, cyber bullying, and more. The goal isn't to convince parents to keep their kids off the net, but rather to arm them with the tools they need to navigate it in a safe and healthy way. Same with the Dating Edition. It covers early relationships, physical boundaries, date rape, and more. Instead of just handing down rules, parents need to walk their teens through the details and equip them with the understanding of what's out and how to rise above the peer pressure.  

How does Hot Buttons work?

Each book is designed the same way. The first few chapters discuss the hows and whys of tackling hot buttons early and effectively. Part two dives into the topics with statistics and information that every parent should know. Next are the application portions of the book. This is when you put into practice the principles we discuss early on. Strategic Scenarios (up to 15 per book) allow you to walk your teens through a fictional situation and then offer options, choices, as to how they think they'd respond.
Here's an example of the way a Strategic Scenario works:
You really like this one guy at school. You have for a long time, actually. Problem is, your BFF likes him too. And you have to admit, she’s liked him longer, but he seems to prefer you. You just don’t know what to do about it. You don’t want to hurt your friend, but you have to take care of yourself first, right?
Finally, he asks you out. Now it’s decision time. What do you do?
Present the following choices to your teenager:
  1. He obviously like you best and telling him no isn’t going to make him like your BFF. You might as well go out with him and deal with her later. What’s she going to do about it anyway?
  2. You’ll go out with him, but only secretly. Hopefully she'll never find out.
  3. You thank him, and tell him you need a day or two to think about it. Time to have a heart-to-heart with your friend. If she’s okay with it, you’re in!
  4. No, too much is at stake. Your BFF will tell you she’s fine with it, but you know it will break her heart. Then what? It wouldn’t be the same again. Plus, you’re supposed to be the Christian; you need to put her first.
Now let your teen make a choice between the responses without feeling judged or directed. You want the response to be as honest as possible.
Here are some discussion points you can use to lead the conversation after the choice is made:
  • BFs come and go; BFF last a lifetime
  • What would Jesus do?
  • How would you feel in your BFF’s shoes?
  • Talk about this sort of thing ahead of time. Don’t wait until it’s a real issue. Clear the air.
  • Loyalty and honestly are qualities of Christ.
  • A year from now, when you look back on the situation, which choice will make you proud?
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12, NIV)
The final chapters of each Hot Buttons book will lead you and your family through confession and forgiveness and then help you walk into the future with a clean slate, armed with the tools you all need to face those hot buttons. If you're a parent of teens, or you know one, I hope you'll visit to read more Hot Buttons posts each week. Also, the first two Hot Buttons books: Dating and Internet, release on 6/1. Following soon after on 10/1 are the Sexuality and Drug editions.   Nicole O'Dell, Choose HER, Choose NOW ministriesNicole O'Dell, founder of Choose NOW Ministries and host of Choose NOW Radio: Parent Talk and Teen Talk, is a youth culture expert who writes and speaks to preteens, teenagers, and parents on preparing for life's tough choices. The mother of six, including toddler triplets, she’s author of YA fiction, including the popular Scenarios for Girls interactive fiction series and the Diamond Estates Series, and non-fiction for teens including Girl Talk, 2/1/12, based on the popular advice column she writes with her two daughters. Hot Buttons, O’Dell’s non-fiction series for parents pre-empts peer pressure by tackling tough issues. Visit  

Monday, June 04, 2012

Summer Plans? 4 low-cost ideas to try with your kids

Summer is officially upon most of us. The calendar has turned to June and that means school is out for most of us. It also means we need to fill the suddenly empty days. Whether you homeschool or not, here are a few ideas to get you started. Then let me know what ideas you can pass on to the rest of us!

  1. Become a tourist in your own back yard. With just a little digging, I bet you'll find some museums that you've never explored. I can think of an art museum in our hometown that the kids and I haven't visited. Then we've got the local university which I just learned has an Amelia Earhart collection. I'm sure there are lots of other resources like that in your hometown, too. With just a little searching we can created lots of inexpensive outing and day trips for our families.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Crazy Dangerous by Andrew Klavan

At our house right now, my tweens are racing through Andrew Klavan's books. Here's what my daughter says:
Crazy Dangerous is a well-written thriller. Sam is a regular boy who finds himself in extraordinary circumstances. He just wants to be a normal kid, but not pushed around anymore. Jennifer is a school mate with some type of mental illness. She talks crazy and hallucinates. This shouldn't impact Sam but it does because the thugs that are trying to mess up Sam's life are messing with Jennifer, too. Sam has a strong desire to protect Jennifer and stop whatever she's facing.
This was the first Andrew Klavan book I read. I enjoyed it so much, that I've now raced through the Homelanders series. The author's books are great because they are action-packed. They are impossible to put-down. And are perfect for kids who like to read stories about heroic struggles.
My 8.5 year old son likes his books because they are action-packed and heroic. The kid is in trouble the whole way through the book. My husband enjoyed the series because it captured all the angst of the teen years but equipped the main character for the struggles he would face.


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