Blessing in Creation!

Blessing in Creation!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Countdown Day 1 Finding Passion in the Finale

I have been described as passionate, focused, driven, and intense. I tend to pour everything into what I am doing.

For the past 31 days, it has been blogging! I did it - today is the last day of the blogathon!

For almost 20 years my passion has been social work. Problem is social work is a burn out field. I found that my passion kept changing. It was child welfare, then hospice, then medical social work, then elder care. As a mom, I was also passionate about parenting, educating, homeschooling, protecting. I began to question my own passion. Why was it waning, changing? Were those issues just moments of intensity, but not true passion? I discovered my true passion is research and writing. My passion encompasses all of those other things and more. With writing, I can explore all of my interests with intensity and not burn out; I can just put the project aside as I work on another.

I became a social worker because I was passionate about helping people. I am still passionate about this and know that I can pour this passion into my writing and continue to help people as I tackle the tough issues that plague our society.

What issues concern you? What do you want to see tackled?

(Note: I will not be blogging daily again until the next blogathon. But I hope to blog regularly about things that interest you, so please provide me with comments and feedback!)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Countdown Day 2: Self Promotion is hard work

I totally understand that as a writer, you have to self-promote to gain an audience for your writing and be successful. But it is hard to self-promote. It is not an issue of knowing I can write well and that I have a story to tell, but more of humility versus bragging. To toot my own horn seems like bragging. But yet to not toot my horn and expect someone else to toot it for me when I am an unknown is a little like thinking I am more important than I am.
I had visions of being the humble pseudonym that helped the world. I realize now though, that as a writer, you can't help the world if the world doesn't read your work, and the world won't read your work if they don't know you.
What are your impressions of writer’s self-promotion tactics and motives?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Countdown Day 3: Learning to Handle Critique

I am used to having my writing critiqued, especially after writing a 120 page thesis that was edited line by line by 3 professors for months! But that was a while ago. Now I am writing again and I just finished an article for the local newspaper. My friend said she would look it over for me. Great - or maybe not? My first reaction was panic. What if she didn't like it? What if she suggested I change it? I liked it. I thought it was good just the way it was. Wait, calm down - she will only make it better. Yes. And it was true - she gave me good, solid, sensible feedback that I could understand and agree with. My husband also found a few typos and grammatical errors. Don't want any of those! I quickly recovered from my initial panic and reassured myself that constructive critique is extremely valuable. I look forward to more feedback. I want my work to be readable and quality and the more eyes, the better.

How about you? Do you cringe at the thought of your work being critiqued or embrace it?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Countdown Day 4- Blogging Workout

Blogging everyday is a workout. It takes discipline, strength, determination, and will power. It is a lot like running. It is hard to get started. You spend a lot of time thinking about it, preparing, finding the right shoes (topic), comfortable clothing (or comfortable place to right), etc. Then you get going and it feels good for a while. Oh no, the difficulty breathing starts, you have to muster through the pain, the writer's block, or the leg or writer's cramp. You see the finish line, the end of the blogathon is near, you can do it! Only a little more and then you can relax. Once you are done with the run, you feel good, maybe even great. I can run more you think. I could continue to write daily, you have lots of new ideas, goals, Marathons maybe?

3 more days after today. I have almost crossed that finish line. I feel energized and inspired to create, to write, to reach my goals.

In January, I made 2 goals for the year - to launch my freelance writing career and to run 2 miles by the end of summer. It is nearing the end of May and I have run 2 1/2 miles (not without blistered toes, but I exceeded my goal). I have also sent off tow articles for likely publication. I am inspired to continue.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Countdown 5 Days of Gratitude

As the school year winds down, I have noticed that gratitude has become the major theme. We are no longer worried about perfecting the curriculum, adapting the assignments, or making the grade. As we finish up last minute things and write out teacher thank yous the focus has been on being grateful for all the hard work and time investment teachers and staff have put in to educate, Care for, and encourage students and their parents.

Looking back, it was often frustrating and difficult to work through conflicts over assignments and homework loads. But I do believe it is the heart intent of teachers and staff to do what is best for the children. And when the motives are pure, the details can be worked out to benefit both student and teacher.

Today was our last day of school and I can honestly say I am grateful to each and every teacher at the school. I'd like to throw out some of the curriculum, modify some of the teaching styles, and revamp the assignments, but I am grateful for their hearts and their service.

I may be even more grateful for the time they spent with their teachers mid summer when I hear the I'm bored mantra one too many times in the midst of unfinished chores!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Countdown Day 6 FInding Your Audience

As a blogger (now that I've blogged for 26 days, I think I can call myself that), I have learned that the purpose of blogs varies. As a writer, I want to write with a purpose. I hope to use my writing and this blog to teach, help, inspire, motivate, challenge, and educate. I seek to learn and pass on what I have learned to others.

In seeking to do this, I need to know who I am writing for. If writing for myself, there will be a lot of gut spilling, processing thoughts, and plan making. If writing for my family, there will be pictures and stories of kids and family activities. If writing for parents or homeschoolers, resources, tips, and encouragement. If writing as an educator, I seek to help others master concepts and gain understanding. To reach others spiritually, I hope to impart some lesson learned from the Bible or impart some grace received on to others.

I realize that my desire to do do all of these things and to reach all of these audiences. Difficult to do in a single blog. Perhaps multiple blogs with more focused topics are required.

So far I have received feedback to blog about all of it. I don't yet have a large audience, but it appears I have a diverse one. Please help me know what you want to see and read and what would best be on a separate blog. I need you, my audience, to help me find my audience.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Countdown Day 7 Determination

I have wanted to be a writer ever since I can remember. I have so many ideas for books, articles and curriculum that I have lost track. Today I was asked if I had determination? YES! I have often thought about writing the books and articles swimming around in my head, but other things, life for instance, always seemed to get in the way. It seemed that demands of being an employee, wife, mother, volunteer, homemaker, teacher, etc were always coming first leaving little or no room to write. This year I was determined to begin my writing career – no excuses! I’ve journaled, entered a blogathon and blogger daily, written and submitted queries, had two articles accepted, participate in an awesome Book giveaway and won some amazing books. Determination has paid off and inspired to me to continue!

7 days left to this blogathon and then I will take a break, but not a long one. I am determined to make this blog something you can look forward to. So please leave a comment and tell me how I can provide that article, that inspiration, that tidbit of knowledge that will make your day!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Countdown 8 Days To Go.

Reason 8: Learning From Others

Blogging daily has encouraged me to search out other blogs. Viewing others creativity has inspired my own. Some blogs out there are amazing. Colorful, informative, inspiring blogs sharing tips, ideas, stories, and inspiration. I love it. I dream of having a blog that entices, teaches, and encourages others. This goal has urged me to learn both the technical aspects of blogging and enhancing my blog as well as given me ideas to add depth and variety to my writing.

If you blog, or have thought about blogging, I encourage you to view other blogs, follow ones you like, swap ideas and tips. If you don't feel you have the time, I have seen some that just share seasonally, or use it as an online photo album to connect with family who do not live nearby. Yes, blogging can be time consuming, but it can also be fun, adventurous and rewarding. Why don't you give it a try? And share it with me so I we go on this journey of life together.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Countdown Day 9 Lessons Learned about Blogging

Reason 9: Learning from Mistakes

One of the most beneficial things I have gained from participating is this blogathon is about blogging. I really had no idea what a blog was or what I was supposed to do with it when I started (which explains the lack of posts!). Now, after blogging daily, reading other blogs and gaining some insight from Michelle, I have a better idea of what I am doing and where I am headed. I also know all too well, that I am not there yet. Hope you will continue on the journey with me.

Here is a post on Blogging mistakes from Michelle:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Countdown 10 Days of Blogging

There are 10 days left to the 2011 Wordcount Blogathon. So I thought I would post 10reasons the Blogathon has helped my writing. One reason for each of the last 10 days.

Reason 10: Discipline
Writing everyday has given me discipline. I have heard that it takes 21 days to create a habit. I have been blogging daily for 22 days now! There were days when I was tired, there were days, I almost forgot to blog, and there were days when I couldn't think of anything to say. (If you know me well, you may find that last statement hard to believe!) But I pressed on and I did it. It really has become easier and I am actually enjoying it. Now I may not continue to blog daily, but I do plan to blog regularly.

I hope you will continue to follow me on this journey, and together we will boldly go where I have not gone before! I'm not sure where that is, but it sounded catchy! :-)

Satisfying Sunday

Sunday is my favorite day of the week. It is family day. We go to church and are blessed to serve and be served by our church family. Today I was given the surprise privilege of teaching the Sunday School class and hearing the sweet, but energetic children tell me how much they know about our loving God and shower me with hugs. Hugs from a child are truly heart warming!

My Sunday had a little excitement too as I was able to watch my son play an indoor soccer game with his new team. They are a great bunch of skilled players and I think basketball's "Stockton to Malone's" has been replaced with soccer's "Jayden to Dylan"!

Tonight, we went to Dave Ramsay's Financial Peace University class and had a lively discussion on the woes of credit card debt! Then home to relax before our last week of school begins.

Once again, I am blessed. It was a truly satisfying Sunday.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sauntering on Saturday

Today is Saturday. Sleep in day!

We haven't entered the early soccer game season yet so Saturday mornings are still free form busyness. Today was especially laid back as the kids were both at sleepovers. I actually had a rare date night with my husband! It was perfect. We went out for sushi, took a walk along Salmon Creek where we saw deer and a bobcat. Yes, what we think was a bobcat ran across our path about 20 feet in front of us. It was exciting but a little scary as it was getting dark and we weren't sure where it went. The next exciting part of our date is that we almost go locked into the baseball enclosure. We were on the way back to the car and taking one of Jim's famous Shortcuts, but the gate was locked and the employees were leaving out the other side. Jim was confident we could scale the 20 foot fence to escape, but I wasn't so sure.

We did make it back to the car and home for popcorn and a movie. With no kids, it was a nice uninterrupted time and assured me that we will have plenty to do and talk about when the kids are grown (which seems to be approaching fast and faster as they are nearing the teenage era).

We slept in Saturday morning and then made a trip to Barnes and Nobles for a browse through the shelves and a Frappacino. Then Jim went off to do some errands and I took advantage of the opportunity to leisurely browse the bookshelves of local thrift store for literary treasures.

It was a wonderful day of sauntering. I am happy and blessed! If you haven't taken the time to enjoy the company of your spouse lately, I urge you to fit it in. It is essential to a healthy relationship and this weekend reminded me of how busy a mom's life can be and how important taking time to nurture my marriage is.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Finally Friday!

Okay, let's be honest. How many of you woke up today with the thought, "I'm glad it's Friday"?

There is something about knowing it is Friday that causes a huge sigh of relief for most of us. Friday brings both endings and beginnings. The end of the work week, the last day of school, the beginning of the weekend.

Although I am trying hard to value each day and appreciate the wonderful moments that life brings to us on any day of the week, I can't help but feel that surge of energy and excitement that Friday is finally here. And with that excitement comes an array of ideas for how I will spend each weekend minute.

Adding to this energy is the fact that today is sunny! Yes, a wonderful clear and sunny day in the Northwest after a long winter of rain and a seemingly endless spring of dreary weekends! I can already smell the barbecue and hear the laughter of children running around chasing soccer balls and rescuing kites from trees.

And as much as I am glad it is Friday, I have to admit I am looking forward to Saturday too. How about you?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thrifty Thursday

Today is Thursday. The weekend is coming! Like so many others, I tend to want to delay gratification for the weekend. I look in the fridge to figure out what to make for dinner,but spend more time deciding what I don't want to make until the weekend. Burgers, steak, pizza are all favorites around here but something in my subconscious tells me they taste better on Friday night before popcorn and a movie, or on a sunny Saturday afternoon with the smell of the barbecue. So dinner on Thursday usually ends up being something simple or simply leftovers.

This wait for the weekend mentality often crosses over to other areas of life too. I decide to hold off on picking up something needed if it is something I can pick up on Saturday night while in the vicinity of my favorite coffee shop or restaurant. Yes the price of gas lends to this thought process too, as I consolidate trips into one.

If I do stop at the grocery store on Thursdays, I usually pause by Starbuck's, but then decide to wait and share that expensive mocha with my hubby on a weekend outing. I truly am more apt to order a Starbuck's coffee on Monday or Tuesday than Thursday.

Am I alone in this thrifty Thursday undertaking? Or do you also wait that one extra day when pizza and popcorn taste so much better?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wednesday Work Day

As I continue to reflect on days of the week and how they affect our attitudes and outlooks, I can’t help but think of the focus and energy that Wednesdays seem to bring. It is the middle of the week, past the dreaded Monday and well on the way to Friday and the weekend. Wednesdays seem to be a day where we can get a lot done both at work and home. We are well into our weekly routines and able to accomplish tasks at hand easily and often quickly.
I often hear from my husband how Wednesdays is a day that he “was able to accomplish a lot!” Sound familiar? It’s a day when getting up early doesn’t seem so hard and waiting for lunch doesn’t seem to take so long. It’s not usually an exciting day, but one approached with confidence , energy and positive outlooks. At least in my home it is. How about yours? What are your thoughts on Wednesdays?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tuesday Talk

When I think about Tuesday, I am often reminded of Wimpy's famous line from the old Popeye, "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today", No one wants to have a to do list on Monday, so it is pushed to Tuesday. Tuesday isn't special, just a day in the middle of the week. Ah, but today is Tuesday and it is special just because it is. It is a day to live and rejoice in living.
I've had a good Tuesday. How about you?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Moans on Monday

Today is Monday. This morning, I was met with moans and groans from my children as I woke them for school. “I hate Monday”, my daughter said as she turned over and covered herself with her pillow.

I looked outside. It was actually not raining as the NW forecast had warned, and blue sky peaked out from the clouds. It’s a beautiful day I thought.
Why do we often let the day of the week affect our mood? Why on Monday do we wish for it to be Friday. And on Friday, yearn for Saturday. Then on Sundays, why do we grimace at the thought of Monday. Now, I know it is because it is the beginning of the work and school week. But I am talking about why we let the day and the necessities of the day keep us from enjoying to the fullest the fact that we are alive, living in a free country, likely in healthy bodies and surrounded by people we love.

Life is short. I can vividly remember being a kid, a teen, a twenty-something and so on. But those days are gone and before I know it, I will be sixty something or eighty something . . . We can’t get yesterday back. Tomorrow isn’t here yet.
Today is all we have and we can’t get it back either. Do I want to spend today wishing it away? Instead of focusing on the negative or dreary or mundane parts of today, I want to learn how to focus on the good of today. I want to cherish the moment, seize the day, and remember that today is the first day of the rest of my life.

Monday doesn't have to be a day to dread, it can be a day to be glad I am alive. If the day doesn’t hold anything positive for us, perhaps we need to change what we are doing with our days. Maybe we need to change jobs or add something fun to the calendar. Most of all, I believe that we need to change our attitudes to see the day as a blessing.

I am not always a half full glass person. I often see the negative, the boring, and the empty. But I can change my attitude. I can find the good, I can create the positive. I have a pen and I am heading to my calendar to add something to look forward to on Mondays. How about you?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Freelance Writing: How I Began my Journey

I have wanted to start my writing career for a long time, but life kept getting in the way. I decided that this is the year – no more waiting or procrastinating. Let’s face it; I will never be organized so waiting until I am is futile. And there will always be mom duties at hand, So I can learn to juggle both.

I had an idea for an article and wanted to send it to a newspaper. My friend Melissa suggested a local magazine as well. She told me to send a query letter. A what? Oh yeah, that thing Christina Katz talked about in her book, Writer Mama, which incidentally Melissa made me go buy a few months ago. I looked up query letters in the book, typed up a query and sent it to the two destinations. Within a few weeks, I had a go ahead from the local magazine and a meeting with the newspaper editor. Now I’m not published yet, but I am currently working on the two articles for submission.

I am definitely learning as I go, but then that, for me, has always been the way I learn best. I could spend forever preparing and never doing, or I can just jump in feet first and figure it out. So far it is working! Now there is a lot of sense in doing my homework and figuring out the do's and don'ts to avoid failure and increase chances of success. I have a dozen books on tips to successful writing careers stacked up in the other room and I intend to glean all I can. But I cannot wait until I am an expert on this before taking risks. There will always be more to learn and I am prepared to continue learning each step of the way. I hope you will join me on my journey.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Technology Free Teen???

In my earlier blog, Press On or Stress On, I discussed how trying to provide our kids with every opportunity can sometimes lead to overload and stress instead of enriching and enhancing their lives. Finding the balance between motivating and challenging kids to succeed and allowing them to enjoy their childhood can be a delicate balance. We want them to learn and become proficient at computers and technology to survive in this technologically advanced society of ours. So we buy them the latest games and digital appliances. Dr. Archibald Hart, however, suggests that technology has actually made our lives more complicated rather than simpler. His premise is that kids have learned to rely on electronics for work and play and are losing the ability to find creative outlets for expression.

Calculators, for example have taken away our basic ability to calculate. Even my husband now automatically reaches for the calculator for even the simplest math problems. IPods and Mp3 players have taken place of listening to the sounds of nature on hikes and reduced the need for good old fashioned conversations. With the latest movies at our fingertips, there is no anticipation of special outings to the movie theatre. Why call a friend up for a tennis match when the Wii is within reach? Dr. Hart asserts that kids today face boredom when they do not know what to do without the technological stimulation. Without the Wii, IPod, and DVD player, kids are at a loss of what to do because they have lost the ability to create fun out of the mundane.

This became evident to me yesterday as my nearly 13 year old complained of boredom. Not liking my suggestion of going outside during our only rain free day in weeks, she replied that there was nothing to do outside. She wanted the computer or the TV and pleaded for us to purchase a Wii. She frowned at my suggestions of taking a walk with the dog, reading, visiting our horse, or even picking flowers. With the option of extra chores, she begrudgingly went outside and eventually busied herself with the horse and then other things.

Today I did not make the suggestion of outside play, but I was quite pleased when I looked out the window and saw her on the swing. A little while later I saw her with the horse, and then I discovered her in a tree. Soon she came in for her homework and took it outside to read, stating she had better spend some more time outside before the rain comes back!

It may take a little discipline and a lot of coaxing, but simple creativity can be regained. I will not feel the least bit guilty limiting the use of technology this summer!

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Blog about Nothing

It is Day 13 of the Blogathon and I have faithfully blogged and researched and blogged some more. In between blogging, I have readied kids for school, made lunches, dinners, gone to work, done laundry and other household chores, played with the parrot and cats, helped with homework, sorted through some boxes of old junk, cleaned out my closet and made a mountain of things that don't fit or are so out of style they embarrass my teenage daughter.

Tonight, I relaxed on the porch and watched my kid's mow and rake and play with the dog and horse. I had to take advantage of the one nice, dry, sunny day we have had in the NW in, well, it seems like forever! Sigh - the rain is coming back tonight and staying for another extended period of time.

So, tonight there are no clever tips or profound thoughts. I am tired and do not want to think too hard. Day 13's blog, as you can see is not about much of anything. Maybe tomorrow, maybe?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Summer Parades and Special Fun in Clark County WA -Frugal Fun Tips

Where I live in Clark County, WA, there are many small local events that give our growing county a hold onto the small town atmosphere. Taking advantage of these local events can be a fun, frugal way to entertain the kids as well as learn a little about your community. I am listing a few special events as well as the annual ones.

May 20 is Luke’s Lego’cy Carnival at King’s Way Christian School 78th St, Vancouver WA from 5-9 pm. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Luke, he was a courageous and inspiring young man who fought a tough battle with leukemia 3 times and went on to heaven last May. This carnival is to remember Luke’s love of Lego and to keep his memory alive in our hearts.

May 21st Hazel Dell Parade of Bands. A tradition since 1964. Parade starts at 10 am.

May 21-22nd Dozer Days – Playing with the Big Machines. Held over in the Quarry in Fisher’s Landing. For more info

June 3-5 Hockinson Fun Days. A great Pancake Breakfast and a fun Parade For more info

June 16-19 Planter’s Days, Planting good seeds by doing good deeds, is this year’s theme for our northern neighbor, Woodland’s fun and historic civic celebration. The kid’s made great pirates on last year’s VBS float in the Planter’s Day parade! Aargh! For more info

4th of July Parade in Ridgefield is the Saturday before the 4th.

July 4th Don’t forget the celebration at the Fort!

July 8-10 Amboy Territorial Days will be featuring the Rockin Dixie Wrecked Band again!

July 16-18 Harvest Days in Battle Ground. More info at

July 22-23 Camas Days has chosen Jungle Safari as its theme this year. Sounds exotic! Go to for more info.

August 5-14 Clark County Fair. Okay, this isn’t really a frugal event but there are ways to do it on a tight budget. With a Fred Meyer coupon, the first day offers free admission and a free Pancake Breakfast. Bring a small backpack with snacks and water to save on exorbitant fair prices. Lots to see and do that won’t cost money. I love the 4H displays. My son loved the Lego creations and my daughter enjoyed the sewing projects and photography. There are some very talented kids in Clark County. Several places including the Columbia Credit Union have discounted ride tickets and bracelets. After last year’s dizziness, I think I will pass on the rides this year!

August 25-28 La Center’s Our Days Festival takes place. Let’s end the summer with some fun!

Hope you can take in a few events and have some frugal fun!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Frugal Fun Tip for a Rainy Day

Summer will definitely have a few rainy days, and for us in the NW, rainy days are a common occurrence. After a few rainy days the kids are eager to go out and mom is likely just as anxious for a change of scenery. When on a budget, however, it is important to not visit places that could be too costly. One thing I have often done, especially when the kids were young is go to the local Barnes and Nobles. We would browse the books, read a few stories, and sometimes treat ourselves to hot chocolate. The kids will sometimes ask for a book, but instead of spending money on books at each visit, we would make lists of books that we could then look for at the library. This gives the added benefit of handwriting practice! And of course making a trip to the book store a special outing, places reading in the fun and sought after experiences.

Even now my daughter and I love to take trips to peruse the aisles rich with history, culture, and adventure, and spend some girl time over a hot chocolate. She never begs for me to buy her books, although she or may mention a special book she might like to have next birthday or Christmas, and she still makes a list to check for at the library.

I’ll have to admit that it is my favorite place to go when my husband and I get those rare evenings alone too!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Press On or Stress On - Finding the balance for your teen

As I have been researching teen depression, I have come across several articles linking stress and depression. It has confirmed many of my concerns and suspicions that the busy 21st century family life has aided in making life more complicated rather than simpler. And this busy complicated life can lead children to experience stress and anxiety, or even depression.

As I race around town taking my kids to music and sports activities while they squeeze homework in between one appointment and another, often grabbing dinner on the the run, the reality of the busy live is evident. We live in an era where we have so many opportunities at our fingertips that we don't want our kids to miss out an anything lest their application for college be passed over for a more well rounded and more developed applicant. So we fit in music lessons, sports, attend as many cultural events as possible, and take advantage of every enhanced educational opportunity there is.

I calculated the other day that my kids spend an average of 35 hours a week at school, 6-15 hours a week on homework, and 5-10 hours a week with music and sports. Then there are chores and church added on. They spend more time on requirements than the average adult does at a full time job or a full college schedule.

Now I believe chores, church, and family events are important additions, even for adults with full time schedules, but I am talking about kids here, who will never have the chance to regain their childhood after it's over. Are we expecting too much and pressuring them only to succeed in changing carefree childhood memories into stress and anxiety that can plague them into adulthood?

Now, I am not saying there shouldn't be expectations or that we shouldn't take advantage of opportunities. Only that we need to find a balance between striving to excel and allowing childhood to be fun and full of happy family memories. I want my kids to like going to church, have fun at family events, and enjoy being home. I hope for them to develop a healthy relationship with their dad and I that will last into their adulthood. I long for memories of laughing together at the dinner table, and being beat at Monopoly. Spending time playing baseball in the backyard can be just as important as making the select soccer team and singing songs together off key can make a much better memory that daily music drills. Good memories help kids develop into healthy adults; too many expectations for achievement and performance can lead to stressed out adults. The teen years are key to developing healthy adult lifestyles and perceptions. This is their last chance to be kids and our last chance to parent with this degree of influence.

If kids are showing signs of stress, it may be a good time to reevaluate the schedule. Are they sleeping well, has their appetite changed, how about their grades, interest in activities? Are they acting out, isolating themselves, or beginning self destructive behaviors such as smoking, drinking, or drugs? Is it time to slow down, reevaluate, or seek help?

As I reflect on our own busy schedule, I long for the simple life when families actually had time to sit together and talk during meals. I admit, I am envious of the Waltons. My kids are now 11 and almost 13. We are just approaching the teen years and I realize it it is not too late to slow down and change course. I don't want to pressure and overload my kids; I want them to succeed, but I also want to enjoy every minute of their childhood that they still have. And I am starting with today.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Teen Depression - Help Hurting Teens

I'm writing an article on Teen Depression, so am taking a break for now from writing on Frugal Fun.

What are your experiences with teen depression? Causes, symptoms? What helped? What didn't? What information on depression among teens is lacking?

If your teen is hurting? Do you know what to look for and how to help?

It often seems that depression is one of the old "family secrets" to be hushed. But the reality is that it is real and needs to be talked about. It isn't going to just go away.

About one in five teens experience depression at some point and suicide is the third highest leading cause of death in young people in America. Our culture has put a lot of pressure on, and teens are incredibly susceptible to that pressure. They need to dress right, look right, act right, get the right grades, make the team, live in the right place, and have the right gadgets. And all of these external pressures are going on during the period of time in their lives that there are the most changes internally. This pressure often causes stress that leads to depression.

My daughter will be a teen next month. I hope and pray that depression is not something that plagues her, but I do not want to be misinformed or blind to her hurts and her needs. I want to be prepared to reach out and help her or one of her friends. According the the statistics on teen depression and suicide, chances are I will have that opportunity. And so might you.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Tribute to Mom

"A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove.....
but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child."
Attributed to Francis Whitworth.

I thought this a fitting quote for Mother's Day. Mother's are immensely important in the lives of their children and often other children as well. Mom's are there to hold you, scold you, protect you, love you, worry about you, and are usually your biggest fans. At the end of a mom's life, it is not how good she cooked or how clean the house was that matters, but how much she loved you that fills your memories.

My mother is one of those special mom's. She was raised in foster care and later became of of the most dedicated moms, foster parents, and grandmas. She taught me much about forgiveness and selflessness. My mom taught me to reach out to others, to love people, and to extend my circle to encompass others. My beautiful mother turned 75 last December and I wrote her the following tribute:

♥Seventy five years ago today, God made a miracle. He molded and shaped this miracle into a precious being - a mother. This gentle, kind mother full of God's love and grace then inspired others. Without her tender, forgiving heart, the world would have been a sadder place. But with this mother's loving, adoring, caring, dedicated, and loyal spirit, the world is brighter and happier. And those inspired by this amazing, strong woman full of God's grace are richer because of her. I thank God for giving me this wonderful woman to teach me how to truly care unselfishly for others. I am blessed to call you Mom.

♥Happy Birthday Mom♥
Love Laura
December 7, 2010
Happy Mother's Day Mom
May 8, 2011

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Frugal Fun Tip

As summer approaches, I find that my kids and I are ready to have a break. We are longing for the day we can sleep in, laze around in our PJ's all day and not have to rush out the door with backpacks and sack lunches in hand. But soon, this changes to the "I'm bored and ready to do something fun" stage.

I am always on the lookout for new fun things to do that won't cost a fortune in the process. One thing we are going to try this summer is bowling. Now I am not a huge bowling fan and have only bowled a few times in several years, but I do have some good memories of bowling adventures. I remember the awkward feel of those funny shoes the smell of the hot dogs and smelly feet, and if I close my eyes, I can picture the bowling ball curving it's way to give me that rare strike!

This summer, bowling alleys across the country are letting kids bowl two games every day for free. Yes, that's right, for free. Bowling is not a popular summer activities and so bowling alleys lose money over the summer months. They are offering the free kid's bowling in hopes that more families will come and they will enjoy a little revenue from adults and shoe rentals.

So yes, there is still a cost for shoes rental, unless you have some or can find some at at resale shop. But it cuts the cost of bowling down with only having to pay for the shoes. If you plan to bowl a lot, you may want to consider buying a pair. The bowling alleys are even offering discounted family passes for adults and friends which are quite reasonable. You can find all the details at

Now, we could just go bowling a few times and that would be fine. But being the perpetual educator that I am, I have already been thinking about how to make this fun, frugal activity a learning experience. Many thing come to mind. We can look at the history of bowling. Research where it came from and how it spread. We can look at where it is played across the world and find the countries on a map. And keeping score is great hands on math practice.

You could even have your child journal or write about the bowling experience or what they have learned. And if you bowl anything like I do, it can be a great lesson in encouragement and sportsmanship. I hope to see you at the bowling alley soon!

Friday, May 6, 2011

It Takes a Village to Raise a Reader

Encouraging literacy is a community effort. Although home is the most important source to improve a child’s reading skills, it is wonderful to see community programs aiding parents and teachers and instilling the importance of reading to the young. It really does take a village to raise a reader.

We are lucky enough to live in a county with a fabulous inter library system and we have taken advantage of the Fort Vancouver Regional Library regularly.
Both of my kids look forward to trips to the library, especially during the summer months while the reading incentive rewards them with prizes. I was so happy to discover last year that middle school students can now earn Barnes and Noble gift cards. My daughter earned $15 worth last year and this year my son has challenged her to read more as he, too, can earn the gift cards now.

For younger children Barnes and Noble and Borders have reading incentive programs to complement the library’s reading incentive. Since some of the pre-chosen books weren't my kid’s top picks, I told them I would buy them each a book at the end of the summer if they completed all reading requirements. So for approximately $15 in books, my two children read for three months solid!

Additional reading programs include And for those of you in the eastern United States, TD Bank offers to deposit $10 into your child’s account for summer reading participation. Half Price Books also had an incentive offer last year for those who have one of their stores nearby I am on the lookout for more community reading programs and encourage you to look into what your community may offer too!

With all the fun incentives, neither of my kids considers reading to be school work. They like that they can read whatever they choose (as long as it is appropriate) and that they earn books and prizes. My son often picks Star Wars, but we also return from library trips with a stack of science, history, cooking, fantasy, and adventure books.

I’ll have to admit that trips to Barnes and Noble and the library never leave Mom empty handed either. My list of “to reads” is growing” even faster than my “have reads”. The last few library visits have loaded me up with books on freelance writing. And I am excited for summer reading too!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Encouraging Kids to Write

I want to share with you one of the best memories I have of turning reading into a great learning experience. I plan to do similar things this summer.

A few years ago, I decided to home school for the year. When I first this home schooling adventure, I assigned the kid's a writing assignment only to discover that they were not yet able to write at the level I had asked. I realized that I was going to have to start almost at the basics. We went to the library and picked out Pinocchio. After reading it aloud to them, I gave them the beginner writer pages where you can draw on the top and write on the bottom and had them draw a scene from the book and then write a sentence or two about it. By the end of the week, they had a page for the beginning of the book, the end of the story, and several of the in between scenes. We put it together and I showed them how they had just written a whole book report. We then rented and watched the movie and compared the movie to the book.

After that, there was less reluctance to write, and we gradually graduated to full paragraphs and summaries. I am happy to report that my daughter now wants to write her own books. And to aid in that I discovered a great website The use of the website is free and only costs if you deside to print one of your kid's stories. They can write and illustrate their own books of varying levels and lengths. I am excited to have fun with it this summer and read my kid's masterpieces! They even have a way to sign in as your child's teacher and leave comments for them to encourage editing.

We plan to do a lot of reading and writing this summer and enter exciting new adventures. And, oh, I still have their Pinocchio books!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Top Pick for Frugal Fun

One of the most beneficial activities you can do with your child is Read to Them. And guess what? It's Absolutely Free!

We started reading to our kids in the womb. My husband would read The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh to them each evening. We still have the book and it is still a favorite. Both kids recognized Jim's voice from infancy too. I believe it is from that early reading experience. We continued to read to them almost nightly for a decade.

When I home schooled the kids a few years ago, I started reading to them at the beginning of our school day. There is less time for regular reading now with busy school and activity schedules but we read when we can. Even now during Christmas and summer breaks, we read a book or two.

Some of the benefits of reading aloud to your child include developing their imaginations, instilling creativity and curiosity, building vocabulary and grammar skills, and encouraging family bonding. Reading increases their skills in English, as well as igniting a love for history, science, culture, and adventure.

One of my favorite memories is sitting on the recliner with a child on each arm as we read the Poppy series. We started the series while homeschooling, continued it over subsequent summers, and Amethyst just finished the series on her own after going back and reading each one herself.

I am actually looking forward to this summer and we are already picking out the books we will read. As Amethyst would say, "Reading takes you into new adventures!"

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Beating Budget Blues with Frugal Fun

Once you turn it on, it goes full steam ahead. I am talking about the creative juices in my brain. I read once that you would make a great writer if almost everything gives you and idea for an article or a book. I have more ideas than I can count or keep track of.

It is times like this that I wish I had taken more note of all those organizationsl ideas suggested to me over the years! But then that is another idea!

I like to come up with titles for my ideas and then I mold my idea to the title. Here is my latest, "Beating Budget Blues with Frugal Fun". Any thoughts?

I was thinking along the lines of what to do with the kids all summer long when budgets are tight and gas prices are outrageous. How do we ensure the kids still have fun in spite of the economy?

Being the naturally frugal person that I am, I take advantage of every free or low cost event I hear about. And I decided that it would make a great article to share. So . . . stay tuned for more insight into the frugal fun loving mind of mine!

And feel free to share your penny pinching entertaining activities with me too!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Going in Circles

Do you ever feel like you are going in circles? Do you ever open your calendar to plan out your week, only to discover that it looks exactly like your last week?

Life sometimes seems to be like going around a track. I walked 4 miles today. Since every lap looked the same, it was easy to forget which lap I was on. I had to make a conscious effort to be aware of where I was as well as keep myself focused on the ultimate goal. Life can be like that. We have goals, we make plans, and then the mundane, everyday happens. We wake kids up, have breakfast, make lunches, go to school/work, come home, make dinner, feed the pets . . . I think you are seeing the picture.

So how do we make each day fresh and new, while continuing to value the everyday life we have been blessed with. I am reminded of an old saying, "Bloom where you are planted". Don't just exist, but bloom! Rather than going through the motions of the mundane activities of daily life, look for the ah ha moments within them. Instead of being bored, look for new opportunities, new friendships waiting to be discovered, and new ways to shine God's love to those around us who may be lonely, hurting, or trapped in their own mundane existance.

My Bible School Principal, Billy Strachan, used to say that if life was hard and you were in the midst of trials or disappointment that you should pray for others. He said that soon you would discover your life wasn't so bad after all. His advise was very wise. If we stop looking in the mirrow, but instead look forward, we will see opportunities all around us. Opportunies to learn, love, grow, and share.

God is good.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.

It often seems that when I make headway in one area, I find that I fall behind in other areas. I think, perhaps, it is essentially a lack of discipline. One of the many reasons I took the challenge to participate in the 2011 Workdcount Blogathon. If I can be disciplined enough to blog every day for the month of May, perhaps, I will be able to overflow this discipline into other areas.
Do any of you experience this challenge? Do you start to focus on something you've been longing to do, only to find that other things - the not so interesting or fun things - vie for your time?
I was determined to write daily for 2011. I started a journal and did well for a while but kids, job, house, church, and so much more seems to steal my time. And when I put writing first, the mundane builds up to be overflowing and overwhelming and then takes longer to get under control.
I often feel as though I take one step forward and two steps back. My goal - as well as writing daily for 31 days - is to find balance. I seek organizational discipline. Perhaps the long awaited sunshine bringing longer daylight will trick my brain into thinking there is more time to fit it all in. Hmmm? Here's hoping. . .