29 December 2013

Chapel Children's Christmas Pageant

Butterfly and Little Man were in their very first Christmas Pageant this year, which took place at the base chapel where we worship.

It was so sweet to see all the kids up on the stage stairs singing. A few of the other ones had some readings to do as well, and they did a really good job.

The children sang several favorite Christmas carrolls (or didn't sing, if they were my kiddos), including Away in a Manger, Silent Night, O Come All Ye Faithful, We Three Kings and a few iothers. We had rehearsal every weekend for three weeks before, including a full dress rehearsal the day before. Little Man took a face dive off the steps during the dress rehearsal, poor thing, but survived. Thankfully he didn't do that during the actual pageant.

I thought the costumes were really cute, although the boys were pretty put out about wearing a "dress" no matter what explanation we gave them about angels being fierce warriors. There may or may not have been chocolate bribery going on behind the scenes. Little Man actually is wearing his angel outfit backwards and inside out because after waiting in the hallway during most of the service, he had to go potty, and we thought we had time, but then the kids were called out while Mike was with Little Man in the potty and so Mike, in a hurry, put it as fast as he could and sent him out, and just in time. So backwards and inside out was the result. It all worked out all right.

All in all, the kids did a beautiful job and it was great to sing along with them and see them up there dressed up to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. :)

28 December 2013

Christmas Events and the Nutcracker Ballet

This Christmas season I did a sort of Christmas "events wish list" on the calendar. Some days had two events scheduled at the same time, and in reality we didn't do most of them, but it was nice to put things on the calendar that I wanted to do. It helped me remember things and actually do them (instead of thinking about them and then forgetting the date) and it also gave me things to look forward to in Christmases future.

Here's a few of events I had written down:

Handel's Messiah
River of Lights at Botanical Gardens
Polar Express Reading at Barnes and Nobles
Christmas Carol Play at Highland Theater
Nutcracker Ballet by New Mexico Repertory Theater at Kimo Theater
DMOC Christmas Party
DMOC Children's Christmas Party
Chapel Christmas Pagaent

We didn't make it all of them, or even half of them really, but we did make it to a few, which is a start. Some we didn't to because of bad weather - we had an early season snow storm and I don't like to go out in bad weather. The DMOC (where Mike works) Children's Christmas Party we actually missed because I wrote it down on the wrong day and didn't realize until after the party. I was pretty bummed about that. Others we didn't make because we couldn't get a babysitter. I previously wrote about the River of Lights, which was really amazing.

Another big one that we actually made it to was the Nutcracker Ballet put on by New Mexico Repertory Theater at the Kimo Theater. I didn't actually buy tickets until a few hours before, so I think we were pretty fortunate to be able to get seats. It was almost sold out for the day and time that we went to. There were actually three or four versions of the Nutcracker Ballet being put on by different production companies in Albuquerque this year, so the one put on the Repertory Theater is the one we went to.

I took Butterfly and we went with my friend Liz and her mom Sharon and her children and two of her friend's children. It was nice to all ride together and then walk together to the Kimo Theater. The Kimo Theater is a historic theater located on Central Avenue downtown, which is also the historic Route 66. It's just a tad shady, especially at night, to say the least. Because I bought tickets so late, we sat near our friends, but not with them.

It was a really special time with Butterfly. This was Butterfly's third live theater production and she absolutely loves going to the theater. She sat on my lap and was perfectly glued to the ballet production and the dancers the entire two hours. There was an intermission, which was great for a potty and snack break, but she during the show she was riveted.

The production was so beautiful. The dancers did an amazing job, the music was great, the sets was beautiful and magical, the costumes were colorful and resplendent and we both loved the whole thing. I had never seen the Nutcracker Ballet in its' entirety before, so it was really neat to see the whole thing, and with my eldest daughter too. Hopefully we will be able to make this a Mommy-daughter tradition for years to come.

River of Lights

This year our family finally made it to the River of Lights put on by the New Mexico BioPark Society at the Botanical Gardens! It was really amazing!

In past years it has been either too cold or we haven't had the time or the funds to make it to the River of Lights, so this was our first year to go. Now that we have gone, I so wish that we had braved the cold and made the time and found the funds to go in previous years. Oh well - it will definitely be something we put at the top of our Christmas "to see" list as long as we are in Albuquerque.

It left like some kind of magical Christmas light wonderland that we got to walk through - it was a pretty special experience and I am so glad that we got to go this year. 

This really is something that words are hard to express, so I'll just post some pics for you to enjoy.

The Pegasus that was swinging between four trees in the castle courtyard was one of my favorites.

The kids really loved the dinosaurs.

Here we are all bundled up. :) The kids really had a great time.

22 December 2013

Christmas Thoughts

Tis the time of year for all to be merry, make plans, travel or stay home and celebrate the season, each in their own way. (I will not be writing a blog about why I do or do not participate in "elf on the shelf", lol).

This year, we are in Florida visiting my Dad and that side of the family. And we drove. From New Mexico. To central Florida (west coast). Last week. Actually, the road trip wasn't that bad. The kids were super good and it went pretty smoothly. Mike and I were extremely tired; I think it was harder for us than the kids. Anyway, more about what I did to make a 28 hour, 4 day drive with a 4 year old, 3 year old and 2 year old smooth later.

We stopped to eat at Cracker Barrel two nights of the four that we were traveling and at our last night eating Cracker Barrel, or "Chairs" as it is affectionately known as in our little family, I couldn't help but occasionally glance over at the family that was eating next to us, with their small children. And in my mind I sort of began this Christmas conversation comparison between us and "them". Them being any normal, non-military family in the US.

See, while we were at Chairs for dinner, Mike had to go outside to take two different phone calls from his supervisor at work. This kind of thing never happens, so I had to keep explaining to the kids over, and over, and over, (and the family next to us undoubtedly heard) that Daddy just had to take a call for work and he'll be back in a few minutes. And when Mike returned to the table, he updated me on the status of his orders.

No, we aren't moving.

We did find out, just a few days before our trip that Mike will be deploying to Afghanistan for six months in the spring. And that before he deploys he'll have a month of training to do. So since the minutes that I found out this news, I feel like my thoughts have been divided between "now" and "pre-deployment training" and "deployment". And I think "maybe you'll be home for the kids birthdays" was mentioned in a hopeful, other extremely doubtful tone.

We also found out while on the road that the time that we thought we had together before his pre-deployment training got cut in half and the time he would gone for training doubled. Hence the phone calls. He was getting updated on where he had to be and when and for how long.

So while other families are talking about how they'll celebrate Christmas and who'll they'll see or where they'll go, or what they'll do to ring in the New Year, or how they are looking forward to the activity of the season, Mike and I were talking about pre-deployment training, and how we're going to tell the kids that Daddy will be gone pretty much for most of the year (thank God Mike isn't doing a year long deployment), and deployment home life coping strategies and how we're going to communicate and how we were each feeling about things, sharing our own fears and worries.

We'll still do the best we can to celebrate Christmas as planned, and so far we are making the most of things, but we do so with the weight of the knowledge always in the back of our minds and the tug in our hearts of the long months ahead of us, each alone in a different part of the world, handling new and different stressors. Of not being together, which really is the hardest part.

It's all just apart of military life. We've been very fortunate that Mike hasn't deployed yet. It was bound to happen sooner or later. So we'll do what we have to do, and we'll make it through with God's help and life will go on.

But for now, we're relishing each others company: each kiss, each touch, each small little comment to the other. And we're heading back home early from our vacation so that Mike can get things ready and we can have a little bit of treasured and precious normalcy before the months of chaos hit the ground running. 

So to all you out there, Merry Christmas and may you be cherish and treasure your spouse and your children that you have with you and all the small, wondrous and special moments that each day brings, especially at this, the happiest, time of the year.

03 December 2013

All Settled In

I realized that I haven't written very much about life lately, at least, life around here.

I wrote last summer (Aug/Sep) that things around here were pretty . . . rough . .. for me with the kids and such and how I was struggling to adapt to our new schedule. Having the freedom of the summer suddenly squelched like a chocolate kiss under a car tire was a bit of an adjustment. However, I am glad to say that we have indeed adjusted, and perhaps, just perhaps, we - being myself and the kids - are flourishing under our new schedule.

Every week, pretty much, since the beginning of August, we've averaged three appointments per week. Appointments being either speech or occupational therapy, doctor's visits of some kind, Flower had her VCUG and ultrasound at the hospital in October, I finally got around to scheduling the kids to see the dentist, so we had those visits, and anyway, it's just been a busy schedule. Some weeks we've had as many as five appointments - those weeks were rough. And all of that does not include science camp every other week.

Homeschooling Little Man and Flower kind of went out the window as the merry go round of life gathered speed, what with the centrifigul force of everything, it just got lost somewhere. Maybe the printer continually running out of ink had something to do with that . .. I don't know. I think they'll be okay, I mean, I do other "academically inclined" things with them - letter puzzles, talk about letters/colors/shapes/etc as we are out and about.

At first it took me a little while to get coordinated in the morning, getting three kiddos dressed (all three of them needed help at the beginning of the autumn, least of all Little Man), but now Butterfly and Little Man can get dressed completely by themselves (a miracle in and of itself, people, let me tell you!) and I have a pretty good spinning routine in the kitchen where I can make toast and tea and cereal and juice happen by swirling around the kitchen, as long as no one gets underfoot. If they do, then my rhythm goes to hell and ten whole minutes are added to the process, just like that.

The kids have gotten pretty behaved and they know the procedure when we go to speech therapy. The place where we go has a wonderful (amazing, life-saving, sanity-preserving, delightful) room with all kinds of toys for Little Man and Flower to play with while we wait for Butterfly to finish her therapy. The place where we go for OT doesn't have this, so I found a babysitter for when Butterfly has OT, after that one horrible-humiliating-no-good-incredibly-horrible-cried-the-whole-way-home OT session. That is not to repeated, if I can at all help it.

We've been doing park outing twice weekly with a wonderful new friend, I may have written about this, when the weather is good and no one is sick and everyone is behaving. We love those days! The warm sun on our backs and in our hair and playing and running around (well, the first two are me and my friend, the latter two are the kids).

Butterfly is doing very well at school and has made great progress since school started. I love her teacher, Ms. Michelle, and her therapists at school are very good as well. Butterfly has a best friend at school, which she talks about constantly, everywhere she goes. I'm hoping to be able to get the two girls together for a playdate outside of school, but so far that hasn't happened.

Butterfly's parent/teacher conference was last week and even though she is making really good progress, I and her teachers and therapists feel that additional testing should be done to see if Butterfly has Autism. So the paperwork will be started on that and she will mostly likely get that testing sometime in March. If all goes well.

I also brought up Butterfly continuing at the school she is at next year, because she will started Kindergarten and the school she is at now is not her "home district" school. The elementary school here on base is. But since I have heard some really horrific things about the special-ed department at that school, Mike and I really don't want Butterfly to go there. I have to put in a transfer request, which will have to be approved by the school I choose, and I will have to provide transportation. Meaning the bus will not be able to pick her up to take her school.

There are pros/cons to all of this and Mike and I have a lot of thinking and praying to do on that. Should we give the base school a chance? (We'd rather not right now.) or Should we put in a transfer to the school Butterfly is at now (most likely to be denied because the school is already filled to capacity) or put in a transfer to another school Ms. Michelle recommended (not too much farther away, actually). Much to decide, visits to make, people to talk to. For now, I'm waiting until after the holidays to start making official inquiries.

I can't tell you how many times I have wished that things were black and white and I had all of life's answers laid out before me. Not the answers to the big questions, like what is the meaning of life and all that, although sometimes I wonder that too, but the answers to the little questions. Where should Butterfly go to school? What should I do with Little Man and Flower in regards to homeschooling? Should I wear the purple shirt today or the gray one? You know, the little questions.

I've pretty much come to accept that I suck as a house wife. I realize that it's not my thing and I'll just always have a messy house unless I hire someone and well, there you have it. Mike just says that I pile too much on my plate and then berate myself as lazy, etc when I can't do everything, but I don't agree. I'm just lazy. It's the truth. In the meantime, I'll just ignore those lunchable boxes on the coffee table from our picnic lunch in the living room a few hours ago. They'll sprout legs eventually and make their way into the recycle trash can.

I'm sad to say that I haven't been working on my novel very much this week. I feel like I'm neglecting it, although I'm not meaning to. I picked up a novel, The Time Traveler's Wife and when I'm reading a book, especially one that good, I just can't put it down (except for that one scene that I really felt I should not be reading in the therapy waiting room) and so I tend not to write much when I'm reading. Kind of same with blogging I guess.

Although, it did dawn on me last night when a friend made a comment about her ADD husband not being able to finish all these projects/etc and since I'm ADD too, I thought, hmmm . . . maybe that's what's really going on. Or if I don't finish it, then people can't read it and criticize it. And it will be safe and protected, albeit unfinished, in my computer and my mind forever. I told my friend I understood that, and why, and she was surprised, and I remarked "Well, you saw my house, didn't you?" - touche.

Mike and I are doing pretty well. He's been making time for me even with his busy schedule of work and school and I really appreciate that. I think we need to stop making out in front of the kids so much though . . . Flower was trying to lay on Little Man and kiss him the other day. Things that make you go hmmm. .. Although part of me things that's healthy for them to see how much we love each other. Thoughts?

What else, what else? Oh yes, Little Man has been going to "science camp" every other week at Explora Children's Science Museum and I think that he loves it. While we're there, it's really hard to get him to sit with the other kids (he always wants to sit on my lap) and to participate in some of the experiments correctly (he's usually building a house or a railroad out of whatever we're supposed to be using for our science experiment - i.e. rocks. pieces of bone, etc). Eventually I let him do his thing and I do the experiment, which is pretty fun actually. But then he talks about it all week. So I know he is learning . . . I just don't know if we'll do Science Camp again in the spring. They don't offer it in the summer, so if we don't, we'll have to wait until next fall. Flower is old enough to enroll for the spring (although only just), and the few times that she has come with us, she actually does everything - sits with the other kids and listens to the story, then does the experiment and generally listens and obeys. Maybe I"ll enroll them both. I don't know.

So that's been what's going on with us, in our little lives.

29 November 2013

Finding Your Hearts Desire by R.T. Kendall

Do you ever feel ambitious about a goal in life - you know, really ambitious? Do you sometimes wonder why you were made to seek seemingly so much more than others around you (or, at least, it feels that way)? Then you feel guilty about not being satisfied with what you do and what you have - so you wonder whether your ambition is a curse or a gift from God?

If you're me, then the answer is yes. Perhaps you are like me too . .. if so, then read on.

I wonder those things, so that's why I chose to read Finding Your Hearts Desire by R.T. Kendall. Using Biblical insights, Kendall explores why ambition is not a curse, but can be a gift from God. Kendall sums it up best this way: "that we [should] truly become ambitious to seek after the glory that comes from God alone and not from people." The motivation behind the ambition is the thing.  Kendall explains that ambition can bad, if we have the wrong motives, for example if we are motivated by greed, or glory of man, or selfish desires. On the flip side though, if we are motivated by expanding God's Kingdom, bringing glory to God and working for His desires, then ambition is a very Godly, and indeed, God-given trait.

If you are an ambitious person (like I am), then I highly recommend this book. I love how Kendall backed up everything he wrote with numerous quotes and character examples from Scripture and then went on to explain the theology behind what he was saying. As Kendall wrote, "the thesis of this book is that we should channel our ambition into one direction: seeking the glory of God and, with that, if possible, getting all of Him we possibly can."  Kendall's book was certainly thought provoking and I really enjoyed reading it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Chosen Books Publishing Company book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

25 November 2013

Where have I been?? NaNoWriMo!

Well, that's a good question. And I have a good answer for you. :)

I have been participating in NaNoWriMo this month! NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, and their website can be found here. The purpose of NaNoWriMo is to encourage novelists, whether they are new or been-there-published-that, to start a new novel and write 50,000 words, at least, in the month of November.

So I decided to do this. I'm not really sure what motivated me and I didn't join until a few days into the month. So I missed all of the October training and all that, but that's okay, because . ..

 . .. that's right, I am an official NaNoWriMo winner!!

Basically this means that I have written 50K words and validated them on their website. In case you don't know what 50,000 words looks like, because I had no idea when I started this what that would look like, 50,000 words is about 65 single spaced, typed pages in regular font. (I still can't believe I wrote all that).

How did I do it? Well, I broke up the word goal into many, smaller word goals and I just wrote when I got a chance. I have to say that when I first told Mike about it, he immediately encouraged me from the very beginning and never doubted that I could make it to 50K. I think that if he had doubted, even the tiniest bit, I might not have gotten there. So anyway, my first goal was 2500 words, then 3000 and so on and I set time limits for them. I also worked out about how many words I needed to write in one day to meet the goal, which was about 2500 a day. Some days I wrote a lot more, others not at all.

I did not write every day and I did not spend my weekends writing away (except this past weekend when I was at 37,500 and really wanted to get to 50,000 and I stayed upstairs in my bedroom and wrote the whole morning (I got to 49,000 that night) and then at nap time and after the kids went to bed. Actually, the previous weekend I didn't get one word written because Flower was a very sick two year old and I spent the weekend holding her and catching vomit. Fun times. Anyway, basically I made sure I had my priorities straight (mostly) from the very beginning.

That meant, that if there were dirty dishes in the sink at the end of the day, I didn't write until they were done (talk about motivation though!!). If the kids were awake and Mike was at work, I didn't write. If there was laundry to be sorted and folded, I didn't write (mostly). I think I mostly followed this fairly well. Also, if Mike wanted to hang out when he wasn't studying, I didn't write, I hung out with Mike. Bottom line, I tried really hard not to put the novel in front of my family. You can ask them how well I did, or did not, do this.

So when did I find the time to write in my busy schedule? You know, between those average of three appointments a week (this week we have four) and taking Butterfly to school and doing all my normal activities? Well, I'll tell you. First, I spent a heck of a lot less time on Facebook (there's a lesson for everyone there I tell you), I also only read one book this month - so I cut back on books that I read to review and books I read for pleasure, I didn't blog (obviously), and I tried to make the best use of my time. I carried a notebook in my purse and when I was at therapy or anywhere else for that matter, and an idea came to me for the novel, I started writing. I also stayed up late a few nights because I had some really great thoughts flowing and didn't want to miss them.

I will tell you that I constantly had interruptions. Except for when Mike was home (although even then) I don't think I could write for more than ten or fifteen minutes without an interruption of some kind: kids, cat, phone calls, door bell, laundry timer, kisses from husband, text messages, you name it. I was interrupted seemingly all the time. I did try to not let this bother me though. :)

One more thing, because I know this has been super long. :) If I can do, you can do it! If you want to write a book, you can do it. :) Even if you have three kids ages 2,3 and 4 and have a ton of stuff going on and are super busy, if you want to then you can do it. For me, this has been more fun than anything and I have really looked forward to all my times of getting to sit down and work on my novel. Lord willing, I'll see it published next year. Be watching for "Made"!

05 November 2013

A Family First - Halloween Edition

Last week was Halloween and this year our family decided to dress up and celebrate Halloween. Never before have we dressed up or gone trick or treating or done anything to celebrate Halloween. I actually haven't dressed up for Halloween since I was 18, and that was really the only time I dressed up.

It was more or less a success. Butterfly and Little Man really enjoyed dressing up and going out for trick or treating. It took them a few houses to understand the whole concept; it was actually a little bit cute that they didn't know what to do. We didn't stay out for very long at all; it was freezing, especially the wind, so 15 or 20 minutes was all I was willing to do. Flower did not participate. She was super tired and was one very cranky two year old. So she had an early bath and an early bedtime, courtesy of Daddy.

Butterfly went as Merida from Brave, Little Man was a train engineer and Flower was supposed to go as an owl.

Butterfly also had a Literacy Day Parade at the CDC and I was able to make it to that after Mike's work Oktoberfest and I thought I was going to die of cuteness! All the kids were dressed up and then went through the hallways in pairs, holding hands. Butterfly was just beaming! The CDC is doing to do this again at Thanksgiving and Christmas; I'm pretty excited about that. 

Mike's work had an Oktoberfest that everyone dressed up for and that was pretty fun. I didn't have time to get a costume until after the work party, so I went as a "worker" (as opposed to being a SAHM, ha ha ha). Mike went as a biker and man, he was very good looking, if I do say so myself. :) After I got my costume, I ended up going as a pirate. It was pretty fun.

I think this might be a family tradition that we do something together each year. We were going to go to Bootastic on the base, but I forgot about all it until a friend asked me what we were doing for Halloween the next day and I answered that we were going to go to Bootastic and she said it was the night before. Oops! I guess next year.

I'll close for now with a few pictures: (not all were from Halloween, as Flower refused to put on her owl costume).

02 November 2013

Peace on Earth by Mary Engelbreit

Mary Engelbreit's Peace on Earth is an enchanting and lovely collection of Christmas stories, songs and Mary's beautiful, magical artwork. Mary's art so timelessly captures the spirit of the season in this picture book, from the Nativity scene done in various renditions (love the children's re-enactment!) to the Three Wise Kings journeying from afar to the small ways that families celebrate the birth of Christ and the Christmas season. My children really loved looking at this book and exclaiming over the pictures and pointing out their favorite part of each one. I think this book will become a beloved Christmas tradition to read and reread each year in our house.

I loved this book as well. Mary Engelbreit's artwork stirs a warm and familiar feeling from deep within me; her art work betrays love, hope and joy and all the good things that this world has to offer. Her art moves me to a time of innocence and curiosity in the world and the magic of family and the Christmas season. I would recommend this book for anyone and everyone who celebrates the Christmas season; it is sure to become a family favorite with everyone.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

28 October 2013

An Untamed Heart by Lauraine Snelling

Ingeborg Strands longs to be a midwife, to help others bring forth life into the world, and perhaps she has a gift for it. Her fathers allows to her to help with the animals, even though such things are generally not permitted among women. Her mother seems to approve, but then refuses to help her learn, even though her mother is usually the one the local women turn to when they need assistance in birthing.

Ingeborg knows that she won't find love in her community, so she pushes those thoughts aside, until she meets someone and finds that she can love him. Suddenly though, the chance for love is gone and she is forced to make a tough decision when Roald Bjorkland comes along. Should she go with him to America and start life afresh? His young son desperately needs a mother to love him, but this is not what Ingeborg had in mind at all. And how will being a midwife fit in this decision?

I really enjoyed reading An Untamed Heart by Lauraine Snelling. Snellings' way of telling a story is very thought provoking and I love how she is able to capture the details of the landscape and the Strands' way of life in Norway. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or adventures in a culture different from their own.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Bethany Publishing Company book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

15 October 2013

Smiles can go pretty far sometimes .. ..

Today, I was reminded that sometimes a warm smile can really go a long way . . . in today's case, it went all the way to Iraq.

And it had nothing to do with my husband and his job.

Little Man, Flower and I were at Target today picking up a few things, and since it was lunch time, I treated them to lunch at the Target Cafe. We ordered our food, and went around to sit in the little cafe area.

Seated at one of the small tables was a young Middle Eastern woman sitting in front of her i-pad talking with someone. Little Man and Flower brightly smiled at her and said "hi!", just like they do with everyone they see. She looked at me and I gave her a big smile and said hi.

Then I got the kids out the cart and seated at the next table and she went on with her conversation on her i-pad in Farsi. The kids were pretty well behaved during lunch and towards the end of our lunch, she politely interrupted and explained that she was talking to her family in Iraq. She said that they wanted to know if Americans are friendly and that they had heard my kids talking and wanted to know if they could say see them and say hi.

I said sure, and turned around, as I had had my back to her to give her privacy, and turned Flower's high chair more towards the young lady. She turned her i-pad around and there was her family, half way around the world in Iraq. There was even a little boy Flower or Little Man's age running around.

We smiled and said hi and waved, and Little Man and Flower said "hi!" in their bright, friendly manner and her family smiled and said hi and waved and thus we continued on in our native tongue for a minute or so. The young lady thanked me and turned the i-pad back around and that was that.

We were just about done with lunch, so we cleaned up and headed out. I gave the young lady one more smile and said "have a good day!" and she nodded and said likewise.

I have to say that I felt a bit like an American ambassador. I think it was a really good reminder that sometimes a smile can go so far, so very far in a person's day or week . . . even half way around the world. I hope that this young lady and her family thought that we were friendly Americans and showed that there are people willing to ignore any differences and just be kind and smile to others.

14 October 2013

Author Give Away!

 No, I'm not giving away an author! But Lauraine Snelling is hosting a giveaway for her latest novel, An Untamed Heart. Check out it below!

In An Untamed Heart, the latest novel by bestselling author Lauraine Snelling, twenty-year-old Ingeborg Strand is certain she is destined to be an old maid.
When tragedy strikes, and the future looks bleaker than ever, Ingeborg considers leaving Norway to start afresh in America. But how will she accomplish that with little money and no one to accompany her?
Then she meets Roald Bjorklund, a widower who plans to go to America with his young son. He’s a good man, a hard-working man–and his son desperately needs a mother. But is he the answer to her prayers? Could love grow between two people whose hearts are filled with grief?  And can Ingeborg leave her treasured Norway for such an uncertain future?
To celebrate the novel, author Lauraine Snelling and Bethany House Publishers are pleased to present the TREASURES OF NORWAY Sweepstakes, and your chance to win one of three spectacular prizes, all closely connected to the story.

Timeframe & Notifications:

This giveaway starts October 5, 2013 and ends October 24, 2013 @ 11:59 pm (PST). Entry is open to US residents only, age 18 and over. Winners will be selected Friday, October 25, 2013, and announced at laurainesnelling.com.
Treasures of Norway Grand Prize
In An Untamed Heart, young Ingeborg Strand is tasked with cleaning her Onkel Frode's house, an ominous task indeed! But Ingeborg never backs down from tough tasks, and the result is a house so clean, any woman in Norway would be proud to call it home.
We might not have the luxury of a housecleaning visit from Ingeborg, but our Grand Prize winner will win the next best thing: a $200 housecleaning gift card to Maids.com, plus a handmade Tokheim Fjordhorse Mug and a bag ofIngebretsen's Viking Coffee so you can brew a cuppa, sit back, and relax while your house is transformed.
       Treasures of Norway Second Prize
Ingeborg and her cousin Gunlaug are some of the best cooks in the in the mountain village of Valdres, Norway. Cookies, cheeses, flatbreads, jams...their cooking and baking is a culinary-lover's dream!
Our Second Prize winner will have Gunlaug's and Ingeborg's favorite Norwegian foods delivered right to their door with this $120 Norwegian gourmet prize pack.
This package includes fresh Norwegian lefse, cheeses, flatbread, Nordic butter, jelly, Romme Grot cream porridge, Gjende shortbread, Uff Da chips, Fattigman cookies, and Norwegian chocolate.
       Treasures of Norway Third Prize
Ingeborg and the Strand family prepare for Christmas with music and handmade decorations, while secretly weaving and carving special gifts to give each other in celebration of Gott Jul.
Our Third Prize winner will have the chance to bring Gott Jul to their home this holiday season, with this $100 Christmas In Norway prize pack.
This prize includes a Norwegian Christmas CD, a set of 2 Norwegian wood spool candle holders, and a woven, 14" wide x 43" long, Åttebladrose Christmas table runner, perfect for dressing your dining table in the warm colors of Norway.
How to Enter:
Go to http://www.laurainesnelling.com/html/giveaways.html and complete the entry box, anytime between October 5 and October 24.  

12 October 2013

A Plain Disappearance by Amanda Flower

It seems trouble has followed Chloe Humphrey since she moved to Appleseed Creek, a small town in Ohio Amish country. Just when it seems things are settling down, and Chloe can focus on her budding relationship with Timothy Troyer, trouble strikes again, this time in the form of the murder of a young Amish girl. Clues point to a friend of Timothy’s, and Chloe and Timothy must work together to figure out what is going on before danger strikes again.

A Plain Disappearance by Amanda Flower is my first Amish mystery and I really enjoyed it. I haven’t read a mystery in years, and Flower’s story telling really had me turning the pages to find out what happens. The scenes in Amish country that she paints are amazing, I felt like I was right there with the characters in the snowy, cold Amish countryside.

I would recommend this book for anyone who is a fan of Amish fiction or mysteries.  As mysteries go, the twists and turns kept me guessing and I was really surprised by the ending. There was plenty of drama and suspense without going over the edge. The Amish aspect was very interesting and I thought it added a whole extra layer of intrigue to the story. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

06 October 2013

An Enchanted Morning

This weekend was the start of the annual International Balloon Fiesta here in Albuquerque. Come every October, the bright blue skies are filled with beautiful colors floating gracefully through the sky across the city. Not one or two balloons, but hundreds upon hundreds as balloon pilots descend upon the city from around the world.

It is an amazing sight! There is nothing like driving through the city and high, and sometimes not-so-high above you, float these amazing feats of men. It's like being in a fairly tale.

This weekend, we did not attend the actual Fiesta (although there is still time!), but today we did drive down to a favorite "Balloon-landing" spot off of Osuna Road at our old church, Desert Springs.

And this morning was THE morning to be out to see the balloons descend from the lofts and land upon the ground as gracefully as a bird upon a branch. We saw dozens of balloons, of all colors and patterns gracing the skies with their presence. Some floating slowly down to the ground, others descending in rapid fashion to meet the ground quickly. All stunning and brilliant in color.

Butterfly, Little Man and Flower were so excited! We parked in the parking lot, got out of the van, and walked to the street where we stood on the sidewalk to witness this colorful spectacle. It was the perfect morning for it: October cold, October clear, October blue, October Enchanted for Balloons.

There is not much more I can say, so I will leave you with a few pictures. :)

That's our van! (Gives you an idea of how close we were).

Balloon eclipse

Reading Bucket List - BBC's Top 100 Books

Apparently a few years ago BBC came out with a Top 100 Books to read. I heard that they thought the average person will have only read 6. I have read a few more than 6 from the list, however, my goal, as of today (well, last week when I saw this) is to read them all before I die. So no timeline, since I don't know when I'll die, but just to read them within my lifetime. I'll try to put a date down (if I remember.) Some of the titles on the list actually consist of several books, for example the Lord of the Rings by Tolkien (3). Also, I have read of some these in abridged version, and that doesn't count (except for the Count of Monte Cristo because the abridged version is still 1000 pages).

 Anyone want to join me? :)

I am 23/100 complete as of 1 Aug 2015. :)

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen June 2010
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien Christmas 2014
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte (1/2 way done)
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling Jun 2015
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible The New Testament 2008
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte 1999
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell -
9 His Dark Materials - Phillip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens -(1/2 way done)
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott 1 Aug 2015
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien  Jan 2014
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulkner
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegge Dec 2013
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell Apr 1996
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald -1999
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis Dec 2007
34 Emma-Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen 26 June 2015
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis  Oct 2007
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell 1998
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown -
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding 1998
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen 2010
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens 1997
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas July 2011
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens -
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett 1994
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Inferno – Dante
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens Dec 2011
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White -July 2009
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton 1992
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad -(1/2 way done)
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare -Dec 2000
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo