Category Archives: Miscellaneous

For those odd blogs that have a category all their own…

A Lesson From Life

Yesterday and today we did some major gleaning of toys and junk and clutter. It was something I’d been meaning to do for a while, but there was always other stuff that needed doing and we (my husband and I) never got past talking about it. Then, yesterday I I was looking around at some of the cluttery bits and decided it was time to do something, so we dived in and got it done.

Today, as I sat back feeling quite accomplished with everything we got done, I got to thinking about life and spirituality. Sometimes we allow a lot of clutter to build up in our lives. Emotional clutter, spiritual clutter. Maybe there’s mistakes we’ve made that we’ve never taken care of, or apologies we never got around to making, or we’re carrying a bit of a grudge around. Maybe we’ve let our prayers & scripture study fall by the way side and voices of the world are filling the corners of our lives with clutter.

Just like it’s important to take a step back and clean out the physical clutter in our lives, it’s important to pause a moment on a regular basis and assess the spiritual and emotional clutter we’re allowing to accumulate and do what we can to clear it out. We can’t necessarily tackle it all at once, but we can clean a little here & tidy a little there to slowly work some of that clutter out of our lives. And, just like I felt happy & accomplished at eliminating the physical clutter, we will feel eternal joy & spiritual refreshment as we clear out the spiritual clutter and refocus our selves on our Savior Jesus Christ.

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Please Join us in a Christmas Tradition of Love & Service

I meant to post this on the 1st of December, but December has just up and run away with me! It’s time to fill Lizy’s stocking with service! It’s hard to believe this tradition started six years ago – it’s hard to believe she’s been gone that long. It seems like yesterday that we stood in front of the hearth wondering what to do with her stocking – we couldn’t bear not to hang it, but seeing it empty come Christmas sounded so heartbreaking. How glad I am that the idea came to fill hang her stocking with service. Instead of sorrow we have been filled with joy as we have read the wonderful things that not only our family, but so many wonderful friends and extended family have done to bring joy and love to others. Once again, we invite you all to send us acts of service that you have done that we can add to Lizy’s stocking. Thank you for not only loving and serving our family, but each other. Merry Christmas!! ❤DSC_0337

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The last 6 months in a nutshell

First I have to say that Toenails & Testimonies last April was a huge success & we were able to beat last year’s record by several blankets. We donated 26 to Fernside – not bad for a 2 hour block of time. I did finish 2 blankets up after though.

Summer rushed in & rushed out… the temperatures sure didn’t. Fall took forever to come and it’s nice to finally be seeing some fall colors – those most of my backyard is still green.

Anyway, since my last post:

Dot Graduated…. what??? How is this even possible when just a year or two ago she was still a little anklebiter! lol. She is doing all collegy stuff now & working – saving all her funds. She wants to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Go, Dot!! She will start her paper work next Feb or March and soon we’ll have one less in the house. Which seems odd & I often wonder how hard it will be. We are used to having one less of our kids in house and knowing she will be coming home, maybe it won’t be so tough. Then again, I’m sure I’ll cry plenty.

We took a family vacation to Nauvoo!! We loaded up the Tardis (our blue mini-van – the great big van we called the ark finally died) and 4 of our children – Dot had be to responsible and stayed home working. We missed her. A lot. and went camping in July in Illinois. It was hot. Really hot. It was humid. We were cranky. It was wonderful!!! No seriously – it really was. Cranky hotness & all. I love that place. We, of course, were able to see both the Nauvoo pageant & the British pageant. And I watched my kids fall in love with the place, their ancestors & strengthen their testimonies of Jesus Christ and His gospel. The humidity, hotness & bajillions of chigger bites were totally worth it.

Em turned 16 and started going on dates…. that’s really weird too. lol

School started. Soccer started. Marching band started. Golf started. Basically, chaos ensued…..

Robert turned 8 and chose to be baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I finished the hardest 1st draft of a book I have EVER written. A middle grade book based on our daughter, Elizabeth. It will be called Testimonies & Teardrops.

I ran away… but I came back! I started this crazy trip last year & I did it again this year & it was the best! So all by my lonesome I drove across the country & back. I started by driving to Arkansas & saw my Bro & fam, then crashed a night in a hotel in ABQ, New Mexico, then I landed at my cousin’s place in Mesa, AZ. And there I attended the ANWA writer’s conference!! Woohoo!! It is awesome. It is wonderful. I got to hang out with some of my best writer buddies ever & make new writer buddies. I learned stuff and I talked to an agent about my manuscript…. as in I had sent in a query & ten pages previous to the conference and she gave me feedback & it was awesome feedback which ended in her requesting 10 chapters of my book (a YA fantasy fairy tale re-telling of Blue Beard). Squeee!!!!   Then I drove to Utah and visited my sister & a plethora of nieces & nephews, & my bro-in-law & his fam. I hit Colorado next & visited my other sister, my mom & a few less nieces & nephews before going on to Kansas City for ANOTHER writing conference – woohoo again! I spent more time hanging out with amazing writer friends & making more amazing writer friends! And then I drove home. 2 weeks. All me… and this time I didn’t even blow a tire!! (last time was, well, interesting?)

I co-hosted our annual writing retreat in PA again a couple weeks ago & it was amazing. I got editing done & got to hang out with…. you guessed it- more amazing writer friends!

The galavanting is over – my amazing supportive husband is probably sighing with relief. And now we stand here at the end of October getting ready to step into the holidays. Golf ended a while ago. Soccer ended yesterday and marching band is about done. Soon we will revert back to minor chaos. It’s been a crazy six months. A wonderful six months. And everyday I feel so blessed. I have an amazing family. I miss my girl through it all, but I am so grateful I have my other 5 with me. Too soon they will all be grown & gone…. but then come the grandkids 😀 wow. did I just say that? I feel way too young to be talking like that. lol. Where have the years gone?

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Dot’s senior year and Emily’s sophomore year! I didn’t get a picture of the girls together since Dot and her date went out before with a group of friends. Em and her good friend, Chase met a bunch of their friends at the dance 🙂

So first here’s Dot & her date, Jackson, with her group of friends….



Emily, since she’s not old enough to go on an official date yet, went with her good friend, Chase, and they met up with a bunch of their friends at the dance.


Neither Dot or Em are girly girls – though Em by far is the more rough and tumble in the pair. It’s quite rare that Em will trade her denim & cammo in for a dress – especially a fancy dress complete with make-up & jewlery! (she’ll do dress or skirts on Sunday but that is about it).

When she came downstairs tonight James exclaime, “Wow! Em, you look like a lady!” and Robert proclaimed, “You beautiful Em!” (I’m sure the boys would have had similar reactions to Dot but I don’t know that they saw her before she left, and she was probably glad since they would have teased her about going on a date as all little brothers do 😀 )

Any way, this next collage sums it all up…


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The first peg doll set I painted was a nativity for my husband one year when finances were tight and I was grasping at any idea to do something special for him. Not long ago a friend suggested selling a nativity in my etsy shop along with my chess sets & play sets. I decided to follow her advice and today I completed & listed a nativity set available in three different sizes. Below are some pictures. If you are interested in seeing more feel free to check out my Facebook Page  or my etsy store directly: WoodenPlaytime


DSC_0113 (2)



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Check out this amazing author & book!!

My very close & amazing friend, Donna Fuller, has published her 2nd book! Her first, Strand of Doubt, is a wonderful, clean romantic suspense & her 2nd, Code Name Scorpion, follows suit. While both are stand alone reads, Code Name Scorpion features a few characters from her first book.  Her characters are engaging and lovable, and I love her use of humor and suspense.

Check out Code Name Scorpion on Amazon!  

When Trevor Willis offers Dani Carpenter her dream job as director of a new camp for children, she is thrilled. Dani intends to keep Trevor, a family friend and confirmed bachelor, at arm’s length. But her heart changes toward him as they team up to protect Ady, the young daughter of a kidnapped scientist. After Trevor testifies against the son of Don Francisco Morales, a major supplier of heroin into the United States, Morales (aka the Scorpion) targets Trevor in a personal vendetta to destroy his reputation and then destroy everyone Trevor loves. With Ady tucked away in a secure location, Dani and Trevor embark on a chase that takes them from the forests of the Pacific Northwest to the jungles of Mexico. They must stop the Scorpion before he strikes again.

Code Name Scorpion


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I Tote-ally Made a Tote!

A few days ago I was faced with a dilemma. I had bought fabric to make a pencil roll for my 72 prisma color pencils – but I got to thinking that would be a pretty big roll and maybe I should make a tote that would fit my journaling stuff (and maybe even more!) I thought long & hard and decided to go with a tote.

I didn’t have a pattern but I had a few ideas & a bag I wanted it to be generally patterned after.  I was really worried a number of time that my mathematics would be way off and that the whole thing would be scrapped, but after only having to pick out stitches a couple times, I wound up with a finished product that I actually like!

I went with denim because I had a bunch of it on hand & frogs because…. well because I love frogs! 🙂Collage2

The two front pockets can hold my erasers or other odds & ends. Once it is flipped open there are mini pockets to hold my pencils – all 72 fit! And a nice big pocket that holds my journal, smaller drawing pen/pencil roll, pencils sharpener & whatever else I want/need. On the back is a fold-out pocket (with a secret pocket behind it). When the fold-out pocket is open I have slots to store all of my pens.

Now instead of throwing everything into a bag and having to juggle pencil trays or pencil bags, etc, I have everything all in one easy to see place.

It’s definitely not perfect (I could never sew a totally straight line…. EVER), but I am thrilled with the end result!

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To the Northeast & back…

One of the wonderful things about growing up on our little farm in western Pennsylvania was how close we were to history. Luckily I had amazing parents who made the effort to take us kids on camping trips to see these amazing places. I have always wanted to be able to do that for my children, and when we moved to Ohio seven years ago, that became a real possibility and this year was the year! We wanted to be sure that Dorothy had a chance to see all these amazing places before graduating next year (yikes!) and taking off to college.

This will be another LONG post and the collages barely scratch the surface as far as pictures and the fun we had, but I expect anyone reading this will want to be done sometime within the next century, so…..

We started by driving to a state park in Pennsylvania near Gettysburg – actually we started with a broken radiator as we started the van and went to leave our driveway… then after lots of prayer & an amazing friend who helped Paul quickly put a new radiator in we were finally on our way. We got in super late, but our tent is a fast set up (yay!) and Day 2 we hit Gettysburg. We got an audio tour CD and everyone – even the younger ones – loved all the history and learning about things as we drove from place to place. We had lots of breaks to walk around and learn. We had a thunderstorm or two and watched a couple demonstrations. I am so grateful for those who sacrificed so much to give us what we have today (and for those who continue to sacrifice for us today by serving in the military or as police officers/fire fighters/ etc.

Gettysburg Collage

Day 3- After another very rainy night we packed up camp and drove to Valley Forge. We obtained another audio CD and drove, explored and learned about George Washington, his troops, and the revolutionary war. We set up camp not to far from Valley Forge and got ready for another rainy night (things were feeling rather damp all around by now.)

Valley Forge Collage

Day 4 we drove into Philadelphia. We were pretty worried about finding parking that would fit our van, but quickly found an open air lot only a few blocks from the Independence National Park Visitor center. The boys by now started to figure out that all these National Parks we were visiting had Jr Ranger programs and were fast becoming obsessed with earning as many badges as they could – we didn’t have time for them to earn it at every location we went, but they earned them at most places. It was pretty cool because it really helped them learn as they went. They also discovered the rangers had trading cards featuring historical people and places and really had fun collecting those as well. Not only were we able to see the liberty bell and visit Independence Hall, but we toured the United States Mint and visited the Benjamin Franklin museum. There was so much more we could have done, but we only had the one day. We packed it as full as we could and trudged back, exhausted, to another rainy night at the campground.

Philadelphia Collage

Day 5 we drove North to our campground just past Boston. On the way we stopped at Morristown National Historic Park – where George Washington and his men spent two winters – and got to tour the home where he had his headquarters. We had lunch at Fort Nonsense. By the time we got to our campground we were slated for pretty massive thunderstorms so we all just slept in the van – Paul still set up the tent though and he wound up in there at some point during the night.

Morristown Collage

Day 6 – We finally had Sunshine! We hallelujahed our way to the subway and treated the kids to their first Subway experience into Boston. It was fun and they really enjoyed it and we enjoyed not having to drive or figure out parking (Boston drivers are nuts!). We walked the freedom trail visiting the Old State House and site of the Boston Massacre, Fenuille Hall, Paul Revere’s Home, Old North Church, The navy yard touring the USS CassinYoung & the USS Contsitution – “Old Ironsides”. We were planning on doing Bunker Hill when thunderstorms hit and our sun dissappeared. We were feeling rather exhausted, so once the rain abated some we started to head to the subway, realized that it was 5:00 and rush hour, so we veared off and spent two hours exploring Beacon Hill and the Boston Commons. We finally caught the subway back and, in the name of sanity, grabbed Little Caesars pizza for everyone for dinner on our way back to the campground. Luckily the sun came back out and we had our first dry night – woohoo!

Boston Collage

Day 7 we did Lexington & Concord – it was a gorgeous day! We started with the video at the Minute Men National Historic Park Visitor Center which was absolutely AMAZING. And then walked a good portion of the old road between Lexington and Concord. The kids kept ambushing each other along the way and “dying” in the road. heh. As we drove to Concord I was met with a special treat – I forgot that this was where Louisa May Alcott and many other famous authors lived so I squealed like a fan-girl as we passed the Orchard House 🙂 We even got to see Walden Pond – squee! We picnicked at the Old North Bridge and saw where the “Shot heard around the world” was fired.Lexington&Concord Collage

Day 8 we packed up and went to Salem, MA before heading into Maine. We had a lot of fun exploring Salem and Dot especially enjoyed the different sites since she had just learned about the Salem Witch Trials this last year. We also saw the House of Seven Gables and got to watch some Morris Dancers and launch a squealing rubber chicken into the air.

Salem Collage

From Salem we took a break from nonstop history and went to Two Lights Park in Maine and the Portland Headlight before landing at our campground for the night. It was pretty chilly – but at least it wasn’t raining! The next few days we kicked back and played, relaxed a little and had tons of fun.Maine Two Lights CollageMaine Portland Head Light Collage

We had a little visitor come checkout our tent – he was hiding between the top of the tent and the fly 🙂

Day 9 we visited the amazingly beautiful Maine Botanical Gardens (the rhodedendrons were divine!) and played at Popham Beach

Maine Botanical Gardens CollageMaine Popham Collage

Day 10 we switched campgrounds and spent time enjoying the area and exploring Lamoine State Park

Maine Lamoine Collage

Day 11 – June 6th – our 19th Anniversary! We spent the day exploring Acadia National Park and wrapped up with a delicious lobster dinner while the girls took the boys to the park to play. (We made sure we saved some for them to try). Acadia is gorgeous and we wish we’d had more time to spend there – I kinda wish we’d arranged it to spend a little more time there, but now we know for the next time we go! It was pretty cold and really windy, but at least we haven’t had more rain! And I’d prefer cold and rainy to sweltering heat when we’re camping anyway.  The kids kept hiding in the rocks to get out of the wind – it was pretty cute. And while Thunder Hole wasn’t booming it still had some pretty good eruptions and the kids got wet a few times – totally fun.

Acadia 1 CollageAcadia 2 CollageAcadia 3 CollageMaine Anniversary Dinner Collage

Day 12 began the return journey home. We drove to Vermont and visited the birth place of Joseph Smith and then camped at a neat campground recommended by my brother, Kimball, called Moosalamoo.

Joseph Smith Birthplace Collage

Day 13 we packed up, drove through the town where Kimball and his family used to live – a charming little place called Bristol, and then headed to Fort Ticonderoga by way of a little ferry. Fort Ticonderoga was a really neat place and the kids loved seeing all the demonstrations and learning about it. From there we drove to Crown Point to camp – not the best campground – it was really marshy everywhere so the bugs were absolutely awful. However frogs abounded, which I loved! 🙂

Ferry&Fort Ticonderoga Collage

Day 14 we packed up again and headed to Palmyra. It was beautiful. We started with Hill Cummorah Visitor Center and took the steeper dirt path to the monument. Then we drove to the temple and walked around the temple grounds. From there we went to the Smith Farm and took the tour that guided us through both homes before walking into the Sacred Grove. It was peaceful and lovely. All of us took a few minutes for quite reflection and prayer. At one point we ended up all back at the van for lunch and realized Jacob wasn’t with us. We figured he had taken a wrong path in the Sacred Grove so Paul went to find him while the rest of us started lunch. We prayed that Paul would find him quickly and not too much longer they both appeared walking down the path.

Palmyra Collage

After lunch we drove to our campground in Hearts Content – a recreation area in the Alleghaney National Forest in Pennsylvania – it was a family favorite place. By the time we got there, thunderstorms were rolling in and it was late. I opted to sleep in the van so as to skip the hassel of filling the airmattress for just one night. So Paul and the kids slept in the tent while some pretty awesome thunderstorms rolled through the night. Paul said a few times all the kids were awake and huddled around, but they also thought it was pretty awesome.

Day 15 we took a little nature walk at Hearts Content before driving through my hometown of Grove City and then around Slippery Rock University where my father used to teach (and where my sibblings and I would have office chair races down the hallways…). Then we went to a family favorite place of my childhood – McConnells mill. The mill was even open, so the kids were excited to have a chance to explore and take a look inside. We walked across the red covered bridge and had a picnic in the picnic area.

Hearts Content&McConnells Mill CollageFrom there we drove to our friends home, The Fullers, in Butler. I am sad to say we had so much fun visiting that I didn’t think to get the camera out!

Day 16 we attended church with our friends – it was especially fun because they attend the same ward (congregation) that my parents did many years ago and many people remember them, so the girls had fun hearing stories about their grandparents – as did I! After lunch we drove home.

It was a wonderful trip – though exhausting! We were able to see and do so much and I hope the kids have some wonderful memories to keep with them. Above all I hope the kids also were able to develop a love for this amazing country we are so blessed to live in. I hope they have gained a deeper appreciation for all those who gave their lives to bring us the freedoms we now enjoy. I hope they gained a deeper appreciation for all those who continue to sacrifice so much to protect our freedoms. We are truly blessed.


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Adventures in Florida (back in February)

I have been remiss in writing about our family adventures. A few years ago the kids voted to give up Christmas one year in order to go to Harry Potter world in Florida. This last Christmas was the one they gave up and in February we took a fun-filled trip to the state of Sunshine (and rain… heh). We did lots more than just Universal Studios though and here are some collages of a few pictures of the different places we went – along with stories. Be forewarned…. this will be a LONG post 🙂 But there are some awesome stories & so hopefully well worth your while.

The first day of the trip we drove to Georgia. All went swimmingly well until we got stuck in Atlanta traffic. Our first campground of the trip was in the Okeefenokee wildlife refuge and not one we could get a reservation at and we didn’t know if they would have any openings. To top it off, we had to be in before gates closed and it was looking like we weren’t going to make it. Upon hearing our worries Jacob prayed and we made it past the gate with 2 minutes to spare. Then we stopped at the camp host and it was looking pretty glum. They didn’t think there were any spots open. Jacob prayed again and we found a spot for the night – we found out in the morning that the only reason it was open was because the people who were supposed to be there didn’t make it. Some might say coincidence or luck – we say miracle & are SO grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who cares about us 🙂 Day 2 was spent exploring the Okeefenokee swamp before driving to our first campground in Florida.

Okeefenokee Collage

After a VERY rainy night we went to church in Gulfport where my parents had served 2 of their missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Then we explored the Marina, Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, & St. Pete Beach

Gulfport Collage

Boyd Hill Collage

St Pete Beach Collage

Day 4 We packed up camp and dried everything in the campground’s dryers (thank goodness for those!) then headed to Tarpon Springs. We took a little boat ride and learned about how they harvest sponges (so cool!) and then drove to Honeymoon Island to play on the beach.

Tarpon Springs Collage

The kids spilled out of the van the moment we parked and took off to the bathrooms to change into their bathing suits. From there it wasn’t long until the were sprinting across the beach to the water’s edge. Water droplets flung in arcing spins, catching the late sunlight, and making magic moments as the children hit the water.  After they tired of playing the water they flopped on the sand and built sand castles and took turns burying each other in the sand. We walked up and down the beach searching for shells and found scads of them – all the kids were thrilled and collected quite the bounty.

Honeymoon Island Collage

As the sun began to dip I walked a long ways down the beach, searching for shells, and just enjoying the view.  Just as the sun was kissing the horizon, a sailboat sailed by, keeping time with my steps and creating the perfect picture, silhouetted against the setting sun. I wished I’d had my camera, but Paul had it at the moment and was at the opposite end of the beach – quite some distance away.  As I neared where the rest of the family still played, a shout of “dolphin!” arose and I spotted in the distance a fin – again wishing I had a camera. I watched, fascinated, as the fin cut a line through the water in the distance, coming and going at times. At one point, as it submerged in the ocean, I saw the tail fin come up out of the water – it was no dolphin tale – I think it was a shark! How cool is that?

Once the sun had disappeared into the depths of the gulf, we headed back to the car, changed and drove to our next campground. We were dismayed to realize that we had forgotten to call ahead to obtain the gate code –  the campgrounds down in Florida, it appears, require gate codes for security. We weren’t sure what to do. We arrived at Alafia State Park and sat at the locked gate. Jacob immediately thought to pray and offered up an earnest plea. Paul got out of the car and entered the park – a little ways down the road he found a ranger station and was able to call and obtain the code. Our prayers were answered!

Day 5 – We started with a favorite place of my parents while there were here on their mission – The Sunken Gardens. They were absolutely gorgeous. They had some birds as well which was a huge hit with all the children – especially Robert. Close to the entrance we found a charming green parrot named Paquita. She would say her name, “paquiiiiiiiiiita!” and then laugh – and my goodness her laughter sounded like a child’s. It was charming and surreal. The kids gathered around her cage and just enjoyed listening to her so much. Robert was smitten by her. We discovered that where ever we put Robert she would travel right to where he was and chatter and laugh. Of course he loved it and decided that this was the best part of the whole trip – EVER. They also had a pair of kookaburras – of course we sang to them! And the kids overheard some guides with a school group demonstrate how to get them to laugh and were able to draw forth the glorious laughter of the kookaburra.

Sunken Gardens Collage

From the gardens we traveled south to Fort DeSoto. We entered the park and decided to start with lunch. Oh! During this whole trip we had been having fun with “Flat Tom” – our version of “Flat Stanley” but using an enlarged photo of a friend’s head – it was hilarious – we kept putting him in all sorts of funny places. Anyway, we parked and the kids found a lizard on the ground – I quite honestly thought it was mostly dead but, her proved alive enough as Em scooped him onto Flat Tom’s face and held him. Dad walked up and said, “You do know that some lizards in Florida are poisonous.” Em squawked and jumped. While I just started laughing. Paul joined in and she realized he had been just teasing and joined in our laughter. Not too long after that the lizard decided to prove just how full of vitality he was and zipped up Em’s arm, around her back, up and over her shoulder and disappeared quite nicely into her shirt.

She let out a shriek and began the greatest “Eek! There’s a lizard somewhere in my clothes, get it out!” dance I have ever seen. Oh how we laughed, and laughed as she shrieked and danced and spun trying to figure out where the little lizard had gotten to. I had an idea of where it might be hiding and was trying to figure out how to suggest it diplomatically when Em stilled and peeked down the front of her shirt. “Well, I found it,” she said and we started laughing. It was where I thought – it had found a cave in her bra, lol. We got the traumatized little guy out and proceeded to a nearby picnic table.

After a thorough explorations of the fort we headed to the pier. It stretch far out on the water and was quite a wonderful walk. All sorts of neat birds perched on the lights and railings. Fisherman fished off the pier as great storks and egrets hovered nearby hoping to make off with the fishermen’s catch. I even saw an osprey – that was neat. After walking the pier, Jacob was first off and desperately wanted to chase through the huge flock of birds roaming the beach. With a nod from his father, Jacob took off, his arms flung wide and charged through the birds. They took to flight in a huge mass and his laughter could be heard at quite some distance as he flapped and ran amongst the swirling birds.Fort DeSoto Collage

Upon returning to the campground we found some firewood and had s’mores. At one point Dot got mad about something and ended up smashing her s’more and storming off to the bathroom without a flashlight because her hands were a sticky mess. She had only been gone a minute or less when we heard her blood curdling shriek and she came hurtling back to camp blubbering about an animal that had attacked her. She was completely unscathed, but hysterical about the animal that had charged her from the bushes. I grabbed a flashlight and accompanied her to the bathroom – look for signs of this attack animal. Near the side of the road I spotted the culprit – a baby armadillo. Oh, how I laughed about that one – Dot even had a good chuckle. Our stories that night involved attack armadillos.

Also, that night, on the way to the campground after the beach, we found out that someone had hijacked Paul’s debit card – we were super blessed to catch them before too much damage was done and the bank credited all the money back to us without a problem. Of course numerous prayers were said – also we had a hard time locating wood and prayed over that too – not long after prayers were said were we able to find a store selling bundles of wood so we could enjoy some fun campfire time. The faith of our children is amazing!

Day 6- More rain. But that didn’t matter since we were planning on spending most of the day at the Florida Aquarium The kids got to pet sharks and sting rays and for $2 we crammed them all in a hurricane simulator, which was absolutely hilarious.

Florida Aquarium Collage

After the aquarium we took the kids to the Manatee Viewing Center and got to see a pelican eating a fish as well as several manatees – it was pretty awesome just seeing manatees in the wild.

Manatee Viewing Center CollageFrom there we drove to our campground in Orlando near Universal studios. When we bought our passes before we left they were running a special that gave us 2 extra days for free. We couldn’t lengthen our trip, but we decided to at least go that evening to experience some of it and get an idea for where things were. We went on the Mummy ride (which Robert wasn’t quite tall enough for), saw the Mardis Gras parade, & did the Shrek ride – which was a hoot.

Day 7 & 8 – Before going to Universal Studios we presented the kids with wands (I made them), robes, ties, & socks. Em & I were Hufflepuff, Dot & Jacob were Ravenclaw, James & Robert Gryffindor, & Dad was Slytherin. We also had letters and everything for them. It was pretty awesome. Then we of course headed right for Harry Potter world. It was aboslutely magical. We did several rides, including the Hogwarts Express, bought treats from Honeydukes and had a round of Butterbeer (SO yummy!) At the end of day seven we returned to the campground to find our tent had blown away, but luckily eveyrthing was undamaged and even the airmattress was still intact. So blessed!

Universal Studios 1 Collage

Our two full days at Universal studios were full of fun and adventure – by far the highlight was Harry Potter World 😀

Universal Studioes 2

Universal Studios 3

Day 9- we packed up and headed north to Kingsley Plantation and Little Talbot Island. We really discovered a gem at that campground and want to go back to visit.

Kingsley Plantation Collage

Little Talbot Island Collage

Day 10 – we packed up and headed home. It was a wonderful vacation and full of fun, tender mercies & answered prayers.


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Writing: Finding My Way Back

Four and a half years ago our world crumbled. After our oldest daughter passed away life became about coping. Making it from one moment to the next. Trying to make sure my family was healing. Making sure I was healing. My brain was a foggy mess. I could barely think and function beyond my immediate needs and the needs of my family.

My words left me.

My stories left me.

For the first time, in a long time, my characters fell silent, as though they too were mourning.

I wondered if any of it would come back and for a while, I almost hoped it didn’t. A year after she passed, I began to try to find the writer. Most of the time I didn’t want to write. It was hard. I usually ended in tears.

But, each time I tried it got a little easier. I healed a little more, and I was relieved to discover that the writer did not die with Lizy.

So, now, after over three years, I am really writing again. Stories flood my brain while characters vie for attention.

And, for the first time in far too long, I have started to query again. 10 queries sent out today. For me, it’s a cause for celebration. I know it will continue to be a long journey, I’m okay with that. It will be fun to see what the future holds.

This last weekend I attended a writer’s conference in Kansas City. On a page on the wall writer’s could write down the best advice they received. I read:

QUIT!  because if you try and you can’t, you really are a writer.



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