Thursday, January 26, 2012

Family by Design by Heather Justesen

From the back cover:

Before he could think better of it, he blurted out, “I understand your concerns. I’m going to speak to my commander about getting an early discharge. My girlfriend, Rena, and I have talked about getting married. There just hasn’t been any rush.”

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he wondered what he was thinking. Yes, they had discussed marriage, but not to each other! He and Rena had never even dated.

Tucker’s on his way to the biggest challenge of his life. Rena already has it all—except a family of her own. But neither one expected their friendship would take such a dramatic turn.

When Tucker becomes the guardian of his newly orphaned niece and nephew, he knows he can’t handle them alone, not when he might be shipped out with the Marines at any moment. Desperate, he turns to Rena for a major favor. His marriage proposal would give her everything she wants, but can she learn to live without the romance she’s always dreamed of?

As time, prayer, and a life-changing kiss work a little magic in her heart, Rena wonders if someone up there has a plan for her that’s better than anything she could’ve come up with on her own. And though it seems crazy at first, this could become her chance for a marriage that will last for eternity.

My Review:

I really enjoyed this book. I loved Rena's character and Tucker was very attractive--the kind of guy I'd like my daughters to date. The kids were adorable and realistic, including the tantrums. Justesen cleverly wove in plenty of conflict and drama throughout the story to keep me turning pages. And I loved the ending. It was perfect.

A minor character, a teacher, really irritated me and each time she appeared my pulse would race. I wanted to tell her off in the worst way. Obviously, Justesen characterized her well enough to really get under my skin. I think Justesen did an excellent job of characterization in this book.

I enjoyed the story and the unconventional romance. I thought it grew naturally, especially given the hurried circumstances of the plot. Toward the end of the story, I was very distressed when Tucker was deployed because Justesen did such a good job of showing Rena's stress.

And the kissing scenes are excellent!

I recommend this book. It was a fun, unique romance. The story is well-written and the characters felt realistic.

Also, as a special promotion for anyone who buys a book before January 31, you can get a free ebook for her companion novella, Shear Luck. Once you buy a copy of her book go here to get your free copy.

As if that weren’t enough, Heather’s holding a host of giveaways on her blog throughout the next few weeks, see the rules at the bottom of this post to enter.

From the back cover:

Chelsea Robison has never forgotten the older boy next door whom she crushed on as a teen, so when she runs into him at the restaurant he’s preparing to open, it’s a delightful shock. And learning he’s available again is more than a little tantalizing.

Vaughn Krenshaw had never seen his neighbor as more than a nice kid—but Chelsea had definitely grown up in the decade since they saw each other last. He’s attracted to the feisty red head, but still struggles over his wife’s death the previous year. And then there’s his five-year-old daughter, Molly, who really liked Chelsea—until she realized the woman was dating her dad.

As Chelsea starts to wonder if their love for each other will be enough to make things work, a specter from Vaughn’s past rises, making her question whether she really knew him at all.

Here's the blog tour schedule:

Wednesday, Jan. 18 Nichole Giles
Thursday, Jan. 19 Liz Adair
Friday, Jan. 20 Susan Dayley
Saturday, Jan. 21 Keith Fisher
Monday, Jan. 23 Robbin Peterson
Tuesday, Jan. 24 Julie Bellon
Wednesday, Jan. 25 Cindy Hogan
Thursday, Jan. 26 Rebecca Talley
Friday, Jan. 27 Kathleen Brebes
Saturday, Jan. 28 Debbie Davis
Monday, Jan. 30 Mindy Holt
                          Kim Job
Tuesday, Jan. 31 Tristi Pinkston
Wednesday, Feb. 1 Joann Arnold
Thursday, Feb. 2 Christine Bryant
Friday, Feb. 3 Rebecca Blevins
Saturday, Feb. 4 Maria Hoaglund
TBA Danyelle Ferguson

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sight Reading Cards

Any of you who have read my blog know that I have a son with Down syndrome. He is 5 and is currently enrolled in a virtual kindergarten class. He's doing well. He continues to surprise me with what he learns.

As much as I love seeing him learn the kindergarten curriculum, I am more interested, at this point, in helping him use speech as his primary form of communication. To this end, we have been working on sight words. I've made flashcards out of index cards and I've written down the words that are most useful and pertinent to him.

Every day we go through flashcards. To introduce some new words this week we decided to include the whole family. I read the person's name on the card, showed my son the name, and then asked him to give it to the correct person. I want him to associate those words/names with the people in his life. We then went around the house and put flashcards on the refrigerator, oven, dishwasher, bathroom, plate, cup, bowl, spoon, knife, fork, table, and chair. I'm hoping this will form a connection in his brain between the words and the items they represent.

I've also introduced him to names of animals, clothing, colors, and food by showing him the word and then associating it with a picture and/or sign. That seems to work very well.

A great idea someone shared was to take a favorite book and make sight words from the book so the child would then be able to read that book.

I don't send my kids to kindergarten at school because I prefer to teach them at home that year to make sure they learn to read and understand simple math concepts. I have taught my kids to read using a phonics program and all of them have entered school reading, some even reading 2-4 years above grade level. I'm sold on phonics programs.

Then, I had my son. I've learned that phonics is much harder for him to learn than sight words. I've had to relearn and reteach myself so I can work with him. It feels like I'm doing this all backwards. But he is learning and that's what's important.

And I'm learning, learning, learning, I'm thankful for the opportunity to see reading, and learning, from a different angle. Supposedly when kids with DS master over 200 sight words, they begin  to speak more. I'm sure hoping that's true because I can't wait to hear all that's on my son's little mind.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Unwanted Christmas Gift

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas I gave myself an easy, but unwanted, Christmas gift--extra weight. I don't know what it is about that time of year, but all of my resolve hitched a ride to outer Mongolia and left me incapable of resisting the cookies, candies, chocolate, breads, desserts, turkey, mashed potatoes, yams, and ice cream. I just shoveled it in. In my defense, I did try to exercise a bit, but when all of my kids came home and wanted to hang out and do other stuff, I let that slide as well (we did do Just Dance several times so that counts, right?).

So, now I have this extra weight, but I don't want it. I don't like it. I want to return it and exchange my fat self for a thinner one.

Of course, we all know it ain't that easy so . . . .

I've gone back to my regular eating habits--no sweets, no ice cream--basically no white sugar or flour. Lots of salads, fruits, fiber, lean meat, and water. And I'm back to exercising every day.

I'm trying a new exercise program called KettleWorx. It's a 20 minute routine, 3 days a week, with a kettlebell. I add an extra 10 minute routine, use a heavier kettlebell, and do it 5 times a week. I like the routine and it feels like I'm getting stronger. Now, if I can just get that extra weight to drop off. Why is it so much easier to gain weight than to lose it?

Anyone know where I can return my unwanted Christmas gift? Do you think Walmart will take back these extra pounds--they take back everything else :).

Friday, January 20, 2012

Write Here in Ephraim Writing Conference

Would you like to attend a writing conference? What about a free writing conference? What about a free writing conference at Snow College in Ephraim, UT? What about a free writing conference at Snow College in Ephraim, UT on April 14, 2012?

Well, you're in luck because on April 14, 2012 we are having the 2nd Annual Write Here in Ephraim at Snow College.

Save the date because you won't want to miss it. Did I mention it's free?

Registration begins at 8:00 am and the conference runs until 5:00 pm. There will be about 20 authors in attendance teaching classes on self-publishing, writing mystery/suspense, writing for the YA and MG markets, the nuts and bolts of writing, writing romance, and many more. We'll have door prizes and opportunities for you to meet your favorite authors.

I'll be teaching a couple of classes so I'm very excited about this!

Stay tuned for more details, including a list of instructors and classes. This is going to be AWESOME!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pam's Story

I received the following email and checked to verify its truth. Apparently, it's true according to online sources.

In a recent email, I read about a woman named Pam, who knows the pain of considering abortion. More than 24 years ago, she and her husband Bob were serving as missionaries to the Philippines and praying for a fifth child. Pam contracted amoebic dysentery, an infection of the intestine caused by a parasite found in contaminated food or drink.

She went into a coma and was treated with strong antibiotics before they discovered she was pregnant. Doctors urged her to abort the baby for her own safety and told her that the medicines had caused irreversible damage to her baby. She refused the abortion and cited her Christian faith as the reason for her hope that her son would be born without the devastating disabilities physicians predicted. Pam said the doctors didn't think of it as a life, they thought of it as a mass of fetal tissue.

While pregnant, Pam nearly lost their baby four times but refused to consider abortion. She recalled making a pledge to God with her husband: If you will give us a son, we’ll name him Timothy and we’ll make him a preacher. Pam ultimately spent the last two months of her pregnancy in bed and eventually gave birth to a healthy baby boy August 14, 1987.

Pam’s youngest son is indeed a preacher. He preaches in prisons, makes hospital visits, and serves
with his father’s ministry in the Philippines.

He also plays football.

Pam’s son is Tim Tebow.

The University of Florida’s star quarterback became the first sophomore in history to win college football’s highest award, the Heisman Trophy. His current role as quarterback of the Denver Broncos has provided an incredible platform for Christian witness. As a result, he is being called The Mile-High Messiah.

Tim’s notoriety and the family’s inspiring story have given Pam numerous opportunities to speak on behalf of women’s centers across the country. Pam Tebow believes that every little baby you save matters.

I couldn't agree more. 

Thank you, Tim Tebow, for reminding the nation that prayer matters. That every life matters. That every baby deserves the right to live.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Yearbook Fiasco: Scantilly Clad Young Woman

Our high school has garnered some notoriety as of late because the yearbook staff refused to include a photo for a student's senior picture. Rumor has it that this student turned in the photo just to make waves because she was angry with the administration over another matter, but looking at the photo in which she is scantilly clad may suggest otherwise. I've seen the shot, but will not link to it here because that would only further her attempt to gain as much publicity as possible. Suffice it to say that I would never, ever, allow one of my daughters to take such a photo never mind submitting it to the yearbook. It's provocative, in very poor taste, and looks like it belongs in a Playboy magazine.

She is crying that her right to self-expression has been violated. Her mother, who has apparently sought publicity herself on other occassions, has supported her daughter by holding posters and picketing at the high school. Her mother counters that none of her friends  find the photo offensive. Some men have commented that they find nothing offensive--well, of course they don't. It's a  photo of a half-naked teenage girl.

I'm all for self-expression, but I believe there are limits. The yearbook is meant to be  a recounting of that year of high school. It should not be filled with titillating photos of young girls with only a shawl wrapped around their chests. It's in very bad taste to use a school yearbook to further a "modeling" career with a photo that seeks to elicit such base reactions.

The school, in its great wisdom and in an attempt to compromise, offered to let her put that picture in the back of the yearbook as a paid senior ad. Um, still completely inappropriate. If they allow such a photo for a senior ad, where will it stop? Will we have yet more provocative photos, perhaps showing two people in a compromising pose? If it comes to that, we will no longer purchase the yearbook.

The school administration needs to put its foot down and refuse to allow that photo in the yearbook. Period. I am not paying $50 per yearbook to see soft porn. Sorry.

I guess what baffles me is that her mother, a supposed adult, would allow her daughter to 1) take a photo like that, and 2) submit it to the yearbook. The student is young and immature and may not have the capacity to understand the implications, but her mother should.

So far, they have taken this to newspapers, The Today Show, and other publicity places. They plan to sue the school district. It's shameful, in my opinion. Why fight for such a degrading photo? Why allow your daughter to look like an object and diminish her as a young woman? Why focus on her sexuality?

It's embarrassing, really.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Making Memories: Ridiculous Gingerbread Village

Christmas was fantastic. I had the very best present ever: all of my kids were home to celebrate Christmas with me. My whole family! It was wonderful. We had a great time hanging out, playing on the Wii (LOVE Just Dance), watching movies, eating lots and lots of yummy food, eating even more popcorn, going Christmas caroling, baking cookies, and making the most ridiculous gingerbread village. In. The. World.

I envisioned a cute little town scene with houses made of graham crackers (I may be a Domestic Goddess, but making enough gingerbread for an entire village was beyond my call of duty I decided) decorated with frosting and hard candies. I even got ice cream cones so they could make cute little trees, animal crackers, and plenty of colorful frosting.  What I got was a Jedi Temple where Anakin killed all the younglings, a car that ran over and squished (with lots of red frosting) an animal cracker, and an animal cracker massacre. Yes, I do have boys. So much for my sweet little festive Christmas village.

I loved the two weeks off from school, seminary, rehearsals, Scouts, and all of our regular commitments. Sometimes, I think we do run faster than we are able and it's nice to have a chance to slow down, enjoy doing nothing, and make some fun memories (even if there was far too much red frosting used for other purposes in my quiet little village).