Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Family Guide to Your Favorite Apocalypse

At this time of year, we find ourselves looking over our shoulders for zombies, ghosts, vampires and witches. Which brings me to the crux of this post—how to protect your family when the paranormal day of reckoning descends.

Twilight Movie PosterAny survival guide will instruct you to stockpile food, drink, and medicines. But did you know that bug spray will repel vampires? They hate the bitter taste of Deet and citronella on your skin. This is a great trick to use if you’re loathe to kill the fanged creatures via sunlight or some other method. And since some vamps reportedly play piano and have sparkly skin, teenage girls may become enraged should you choose lethal protection when a simple mosquito repellent will suffice. We don’t want a teenage girl apocalypse. Think of the make-up, the glitter, the tears. Slammed doors, stomping feet, shrieks reaching pitches only bats can hear. No. We certainly don’t want that.

Oz the Great and Powerful


Now, a witch apocalypse is something civilization has already faced, at least in Oz. A barrel of rainwater will come in handy should witches try to enchant you or stir you into a melting pot of humanity. Most witches dissolve under a deluge of water. Those who are more resistant can be fought off using glow sticks. Their warts and crooked teeth look hideous under such lighting, causing them to flee in shame.


Warm Bodies


We’ve survived an endless trope of zombie movies, merchandise and even businesses. From these, one thing is clear—with an impending zombie apocalypse, it’s essential to hide your brain. Adults and young children must master a glazed look that will trick zombies into believing they are already zombified. Teens, on the other hand, have a head start due to their intense involvement with smart phones and video games.


Ghostbusters movie


Ghosts are a different matter altogether. Unless a Ghostbusters unit operates in your neighborhood, you must rely on online ghost removal tips, the most pertinent, being to clean your house. If that’s the best solution, I better figure out how to get along with ghostly intruders. So don’t be surprised if you visit and hear moans and howls, although that could just be my children.



The Lego Movie


Speaking of children, what I really need to know is how to survive a lego apocalypse. I swear they’re popping up everywhere, forming themselves into spaceships, chariots and warriors. I’m sure one stabbed my toe this morning.




Or a glitter apocalypse. What with all the Queen Elsa costumes this Halloween, we just may drown in a tide of glitter. It’s swelling to fill my house already. And what about a laundry apocalypse? I can just imagine my old, moldy clothes gaining a life of their own and taking over known civilization. Quick! Get the Oxy Clean!


Ah…the life of a family in October, full of fun and fantasy, a world I love to live in.

What’s your favorite apocalypse and how do you plan to survive?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Family Camping Fun--Spooks, Pranks and Meaning

Happy Camper

As the weather cools, bugs all over the countryside run for cover. Unfortunately, so do many of us! What better time for us apex predators to trek out into the woods? No mosquitos to bat away, no sweat dripping down our backs, and no tick-checks or chigger bites to discover when we return home.

Fall is perfect for camping and hiking (and hunting—if you really get into that predator bit!). What could be better than huddling around a campfire, roasting hot dogs or toasting marshmallows? I’ll tell you—scaring the bejeebers out of the person standing next to you, especially if they’re you’re kiddo!

It’s best to start out with creepy stories, maybe something out of Tolkien or a nice reading of Lord Voldemorts’ revivification ceremony. Or whip out your one of your old favorites, such as The Golden Arm. Then have someone snap branches in the woods or jump out of the shadows with a shout!

Honestly, I’m not one for anything too frightening or gory and I certainly don’t want to give my kids nightmares or send them screaming into the tents. That only results in wet, smelly sleeping bags and weeks of munchkins trying to climb in my bed at night. But a fun little prank or a campfire story that makes our hair stand on end, well, that’s what family camping is all about. That, and building memories and family bonds that will last a lifetime.

What are some of your favorite campfire stories and pranks?

Thanks for reading!! Please share my blog on facebook or tweet this post! Then get on outside and enjoy this beautiful weather while it lasts  :)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Four Great Ways to Control Family Chaos

PelicansSo, it’s pelican time here in northeast Oklahoma. Grand Lake is covered with the huge white birds. Flocks of them wheel across the sky, landing on the water, diving to score scrumptious fish. Any time in the month of October, they can be spotted soaring over our green hills and valleys. They’re quite beautiful, their white wings edged in black paint, stark against the clear blue sky.

Normally they fly in gorgeous, precise vees, winging their way south. This, apparently, is a great way for birds to travel. The leader takes the brunt of the air resistance, creating a slipstream that eases the way for the birds that follow. As they fly, they rotate positions so no one bird is always breaking the wind. Other times, they move in flocks, sweeping back and forth in orderly motion. Either way, they’re breathtaking.

But they don’t always behave how we’d expect. A couple days ago, when I picked my kiddos up from school, half the students stood outside, staring up at the sky. Hundreds of pelicans flew overhead, in chaotic paths, with no visible rhythm or coordination. They looked more like a frenzy of bats exploding from a cave than the graceful avians that usually fly formation across our October sky.

And it got me thinking. There’s a strange likeness between my family and the pelicans (no, it’s not the beak). Sometimes my home runs smoothly, with my husband or me leading our fledglings in a graceful dance through school, chores, church, community. Sometimes we even let them lead, just for the practice (not to mention a much needed break for us!). At other times, all hell breaks loose and we are more like the crazy, chaotic flock I saw that afternoon. Lost shoes, forgotten homework, urgent papers to sign, five bucks here, another three there…right now, right now, right now!! An orderly day dissolves into turmoil.

After some consideration, I came up a few tips that help me prevent the chaos and regain my balance after it (inevitably) descends.

Pre-flight checklist

The Night Before

Gather them in: Encourage everyone to collect their backpacks, shoes, instruments, etc. Choose tomorrow’s outfit. This saves a few precious minutes in the morning and can prevent fashion-related meltdowns (not that I’ve ever had one of those myself *furtive glance*).

What’s the plan? Shortly before bedtime, remind the family of the next day’s activities. Coordinate who is picking up who where—very important in large flocks like mine where we also have a teenage driver.

Managing Mornings

Meaningful Moment: Rise a little early so your family has time for a meaningful moment. We do a 5-10 minute family worship each morning at 645. This typically involves Bible stories or scripture reading. We’ve been doing this for about 12 years and have seen a huge improvement in our family unity. Adapt this to meet your family’s needs.

Feed the monsters: There’s a lot of ways to do this. Several of my kids eat at school while the others have band practice. For those needing to eat at home, I keep quick breakfasts on hand—bagels, fruit, oatmeal, cold cereals. I might confess to providing poptarts—just don’t tell the PTA! For our family, Saturday mornings are the best time for homemade breakfasts.

Avert last-minute disasters: Keep jackets, hats, gloves, umbrellas, hair-ties, and extra socks (we always are losing socks!) in an easy-access area so they can be grabbed on the way out the door.

Give ‘em love: Life is tough in the big, bad world of school. Deadlines, testing, bullies, and unreliable friends are just a few of the stressors facing our sweethearts. They need a safe haven and the constant assurance that they are loved at home.

Regain Sanity

Meditation. After the kiddos are off to school, I take a jog (my form of meditation). Some days I work out before they leave. Either way, I feel better physically and mentally. That makes me a better mom and leader.

Music. On days when I need to rush off to work, I queue up my favorite songs on my phone and unwind during the drive.

Mmmm… A cup of hot herbal tea soothes my spirit after a hectic morning. Hot chocolate works even better, but I gotta limit those!

Afternoon Rush

Munchies. Need I say more?

Pushing Papers. As soon as the kids return home, or as soon as possible, sort through papers, sign important stuff, get homework started.

Even with careful preparation, raising a busy family is often hectic. But a little extra planning and a hefty dose of patience can smooth the way for teamwork, cooperation, and lots of smiling faces. Happy flying!

What are some of your tips for keeping your family life running smoothly or recouping from an off-kilter experience?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Savor the Final Days of Summer--Here's How!

red leaves

Today, on my morning jog, I discovered a tree, albeit a small one, brimming with red leaves. Not the dusky magenta ones that grow on Japanese maples and other ornamentals, but real, bright fall-is-around-the corner red. They’re a gorgeous splash of color against the overgrown green along my trail. I love them for that. And for the promise of cool afternoons, crisp apples, schooldays and routine.

But their appearance set me thinking. How do I want to spend the waning weeks of summer, to make sure I eke out every juicy drop of sunshine, every fresh slurp of lemonade, and even more important, every memory-making moment with my family? So here’s my end-of-summer bucket list. I may not get to them all this season, but lucky for me, summer rolls around every single year.


  • Go fishing.

  • Explore woodland trails or take a challenging hike.

  • Ride rollercoasters.

  • Try out horseback riding.










  • Take a bike ride.

  • Go bird watching.

  • Tackle a home improvement project.

  • Search for turtles or toads.













  • Make homemade popsicles or ice cream.

  • Wake up with the sun and the chirps of songbirds.

  • Go canoeing or rafting.


















  • Host a nature scavenger hunt.

  • Read stories.

  • Do a family puzzle

  • Swim in a pond, lake, or pool or visit a splash pad.

Holiday World












  • Watch a sunset.

  • Go to a drive-in movie.

  • Compile a photo book of all the summer fun.

What are some of your favorite summer activities?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Tips and Traditions for Amazing Family Reunions

Rock climbing

  • Set the dates well in advance so family members can plan, scheduling off work and saving funds as needed. Sites large enough to accommodate a reunion must often be scheduled 6-12 months ahead of time.

  • Choose the location wisely. Consider the needs of your family. Are you active and outdoorsy? If so, camping is an excellent option. But be aware of any special needs that some family members may have due to age or other limitations. You may need to reserve a few cabins along with tent sites.

  • Split up important tasks such as food preparation, camp cleaning duties and responsibility for activities. A central kitchen area, while not essential, makes cooking for a crowd much easier.

  • Include activities that will keep the kiddos occupied and wear them out so that everyone else can sleep at night. Some of our favorites are tie-dye, watermelon football (in a lake, not advisable on land…might be entertaining to watch, though), hiking, canoeing, water balloon wars, physical games such as kick the can or mission, and rock climbing.

Tie-dye sweeties           hiking

  • Consider limiting use of electronic devices so the family actually interacts instead of just staring at their phones, ipads, etc. We don’t have an official rule about this, but our last campsite had no internet or phone access. There’s no doubt that the kids (and even adults!) spent more time enjoying each other and building memories together.

  • Bring along quiet activities such as cards or board games for the evening so the teens can still have fun while the toddlers are being put to bed.

  • Popsicles. Lots of popsicles. Our group of 40 went through several hundred in a few days time. Yummy and hydrating, too! Bring lots to drink and plenty of snacks.

  • Be sure to pack the gear you will need to be safe. Sturdy tennis shoes, life vests, sunscreen, and bug spray are a must. If you plan to hike into a camp site, be sure to bring adequate water and backpacks. We managed such a hike this year with children as young as two years old, although they didn’t carry their ow

    n packs. Tough, but fun, activities build character. More on that in a future post.

family backpacking trip

  • Develop traditions that can be repeated each year. This helps build memories and cultivates a desire for gathering together again.

Some of our Family Reunion Traditions

  • Work projects to benefit the camp where we stay.

  • Firesides each night. Each family is responsible for hosting a fireside. Usually there’s a lesson, some singing, a fun activity and s’mores. This is also a great time to address any issues that have come up during camp and to do some quick planning for the next day. We also allow for time for sharing talents—singing, joke telling, reciting Shakespeare. Whatever. The fireside time draws our family together as we tell family stories and share our personal thoughts. This has been a vital part of developing a strong family culture.

                       Cousins singing "Let it Go"

  • Morning runs or hikes. Many of the adults rise early for a little extra exercise and visiting time. We also have a tradition of swimming across the lake each day (accompanied by canoes—also known as sag wagons—for those who grow tired). There’s a great sense of accomplishment for all who participate in these activities and it’s fun seeing the older cousins joining in as well.

  • Jumping off the bridge. My brother-in-law joked that someone told him to take a hike, jump in a lake, jump off a bridge…so he did! Ironic that these great activities can be insults. The bridge is the biggie. My kids start talking about it months before we go to the reunion then brag about it for months after. I admit, it’s scary. But there’s nothing like beating out your own fears. Our seven-year-old son made his first jump this year with his dad. If you try cliff-jumping or bridge-jumping, check to see that the water is deep enough and there are not obstacles such as submerged boulders or tree stumps. We always keep a few people down below in case anyone needs help (no one ever has, thank goodness) and require life vests for young children.

bridge jumping     Bucks Lake hike

Spanish Falls  Matt's sister and her husband
  Matt's sister and family  Matt's brother's family


Roberts Family Reunion 2014 The Roberts Clan

The Outlaws (inlaws)

Friday, June 27, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

writer and quillRecently, my writer friend, Letty Stapp Watt, invited me to join in a blog tour. This is my first time to participate in one of these and I am excited! On this tour, we are exploring the writing craft by answering three key questions then inviting three friends to do the same. More from those three friends later…

For now, check out Letty’s blog for a slice of creative retired life sprinkled with book reviews, history, and inspiration.

What am I working on?

I’m completing final edits on a middle-grade underwater fantasy. Because of this, I spend most my time drifting through the Pacific Ocean, charging into submerged volcanoes, and wrestling giant squid. At least I pretend I do. Over the past few years, I have done a bit of snorkeling and learned to SCUBA. Not quite the same as facing down a water demon or angry shark but it gets me in the mood.

I’m also partway through a novel featuring an orphaned gypsy girl who must choose between breaking the curse that fell on her when her family died or saving her only friend. Although this book differs from traditional Romani culture, their rich traditions of music, trade, and travel pervade the story, along with a hint of magic.

Why do I write what I do?

In fiction, I strive to craft a compelling world (usually fantasy) where my readers can find a second home. I love reading books that fill my senses, that make me feel as if I’m really there. I long to slip into a story then return to real life feeling invigorated and relieved that the demons I battle can’t actually burn me to a crisp. I hope my stories provide a way for people to face danger and learn that they are stronger and braver than they realized.

My nonfiction writing revolves around themes of gratitude, humor, and inspiration. I strive to bring beauty, peace, and joy to my readers. Life is full of tough choices and challenging experiences. I hope my writing can, in some way, lighten the load we all must bear.

What is my writing process?

My writing process is an ever-changing beast, sometimes growling at me from under my bed or luring me back to my desk with purring and leg rubbing. Okay, maybe I’m in fantasyland on that last part, but what better place for a writer to be? Whenever I start a new project, I spend a hefty amount of time brainstorming and outlining my planned story and character arcs. I’ve found great inspiration from interviewing my characters. You’d be surprised what secrets lurk in their histories if you just take the time to ask. When on the fly, I jot down ideas on my phone or on whatever scrap of paper I have nearby then organize them on my computer later.

Then, when I sit down to write, my mutinous characters try to take over. The plotter in me itches to retake control and sometimes I do. But my free spirit (you know, the one that leads me down unmarked paths and up into climbing trees) loves to see what mysteries and adventures they discover. This sometimes leaves me dazed and pulling my hair out trying to make my plot work. But it also results in exciting twists, layers of meaning, and complex characters. I just have to find a balance that doesn’t threaten my sanity!

With six kids, two part-time jobs, church service, and volunteering, it’s tough to find time for my writing career. During the school year I try to have my fingers at the keyboard crafting new worlds by 9 each morning. Even though I must be flexible, the schedule motivates me so that I rise early enough and move fast enough to finish jogging, chores, and our family devotional in time to actually get in some writing. On most days, I take my computer everywhere so I can sneak in a few moments of writing at ballparks, while waiting at school, doctor’s offices, or in any unexpected downtime. Summer throws my schedule into a tailspin, so I just write whenever I get the chance.

But I write.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Welcome to Girls Camp-the Braid Capitol of the World

I’ve spent the past few days in the braid capital of the world—girls camp. From zigzagging waterfall braids tied back in on top of themselves to side braids, fishtails and more, the girls raised the craft of plaiting hair to pure art, with the added bonus of freedom from sweaty manes and irritating flyaway hairs. Here’s a few pics highlighting some of my faves. See if you can spot my braids, courtesy of my friend April.

zigzag waterfall braid







my braids







We had a great time with the girls, chanting camp cheers, canoeing, crafting, and staying up late around the camp fire (or the charcoal grill when the soggy logs refused to light!).














One of my favorite times was the “Night of Lights” when we gathered in a dark clearing, each holding a candle. As each group sang, they shared their flames with the next, until the music and light spread around the circle. When candles blew out, neighboring girls relit them. I loved the symbolism of sharing hope, joy and friendship.













As much as I loved all the skits, the swimming, and the fun, the best part was seeing our girls strengthen their values as they deepened relationships with each other, new friends, and the leaders.

What do you love about camping?