Free Cards from HP

I have an HP Printer, which I love. Of course, I use HP ink. Well, inside the package of ink cartridges, there's always a little flyer for other cool HP stuff. Usually I just throw it away without looking at it.

Last week I started working on creating my daughter birthday party invites. I have an old HP program called Print Master (like 10 years old!) that lets you design and create cards using the clipart, etc on the program. I usually come up with some pretty fun stuff. This time, I really wanted something different for my daughter's invitation and was having a hard time coming up with something.

I just happened to change an ink cartridge and pulled out the little flyer inside. This flyer was advertising HP's Idea House, where you can create everything from recipe cards to greeting cards. So I thought - Hey, I'm going to see what they have!

I went out to their website, and clicked on the link to Cards & Stationery. I went right to their birthday invites section, and found some pretty darn cool cards! MJ decided she really liked the Celebration card. We even uploaded a picture of her for on the inside. It's very cool.

It was very easy to personalize the card, add her picture, etc. I used HP's Half-Fold Card Paper & Envelope set, which I purchased from Wal-Mart. And when I printed them, they were gorgeous!!! Perfect clarity and totally cute.

And best of all . . . FREE!!! (I love that word!)

The only drawback to their program I found was I printed most of the cards out, then needed to take care of some bickering kids. I left the program open over-night on my computer. Then the next day when I went back to print, the program didn't save the info. It was confusing because the info was all on the card, but when I printed the inside, it printed the info as blank. So, I closed the program, re-typed in the info & uploaded the picture again. But it didn't take long. It was a little inconvenient, but not totally annoying.

Go check out their offerings. I think you'll enjoy them. There's not a huge selection in each category, but the selections they have are nicely put together. Enjoy!

Ferguson Fashion Show

Our 8 year old daughter asked for dress up clothes for Christmas this year. Do you have any idea how expensive dress up clothes are for older kids? Holy guacamole! Thankfully, my daughter told me her wish list the day before Halloween. So Halloween and the day after, I was out bargain hunting for costumes marked 50-75% off.

Ta-da! Dress up clothes!

I not only found awesome costumes - everything from Hannah Montana to Renaissance dresses - but also some very cool accessories. Glittery microphones, a child's long blond wig, fairy shoes, princess wands, and fuzzy hats, purses, and boas. Heck, I even found Star Wars Light Sabers for all the kids for $1 each! But we'll save that for another post . . .

My daughter was ecstatic! She's been dressing up and putting on fashion shows ever since. And she's not the only one who's gotten into it.

Our oldest son is too macho to dress up, but I guess being the fashion show announcer and using the microphone is pretty cool. Although, I must admit that he sounds more like a circus announcer than a fashion show announcer. Shh! Don't tell him!

Here are some fabulous pictures and an absolutely hilarious video for you to enjoy . . .

Introducing Roberta the Rock Star . . .

Our son sure looks good in a dress, don't you think? He can sing too - check out the video below!

Our oldest son's new Bionicle even got into the fashion show! See how these incredible wings accent his outfit and coloring?

And now introducing our Super Model, MJ . . .

Very well done, everyone. Take a bow!!!

Super Model MJ and her Announcers Isaac and Rob.

The Marie Antoinette Award

My good friend Ali over on Girl in a Whirl received the Marie Antoinette "Real Blogs Real People" Award, then she graciously passed it on to me. She said some really nice things about me . . . and I didn't even have to bribe her!

"I would like to pass this award along to Danyelle at Queen of the Clan. Danyelle has a smile that lights up a room, but even if you hadn't ever met her in person you could tell she smiles like that just from the way she writes. She has a beauty that shines through every post and I find very word to be true to who she is and what is in her heart. Danyelle's blog is a happy place to be."

Thank you, Ali! On a side note, this award is very appropriate right now as Marie lost her head (quite literally by execution) . . . and lately I feel like I'm losing mine as well between all this hospital/illness stuff. Just a little funny similarity between me & Marie. :)

Now I get to pass the award on to someone, too. I'm going to send it to my friend Amy over at What a Kick in the Pants. I love her blog. She writes about what she's really thinking and shares her sewing and knitting experiments, too. She's one funny, down-to-earth chick!

We're Home Again!

After three days in the hospital, Isaac was discharged Tuesday afternoon, which is good and not so great.

Isaac does have a 2 inch cystic type mass in his lower right lung. Two inches doesn't sound very big until you see it on his small child-size lungs. The mass is pushing against the diaphragm and causing Isaac a lot of pain. Right now, we do know it's not cancer. There are a couple of different possibilities it could be, but we won't know for sure until after the biopsy. One problem the surgeons came up against is that they can't tell if there's an infection inside the mass or not. So Isaac is home for the next few weeks taking some very powerful antibiotics and pain meds. He needs to be on antibiotics for at least two weeks to knock out any possible infection before the surgery. We have another appointment in January with the surgeon to set the surgery date. It will be towards mid-January.

As for the colon, they think the thickening of the walls is from when he had the flu a few weeks ago. They said it can take a while for the colon to return to normal.

Isaac is actually doing pretty well as long as he's nicely medicated. I'm happy that so far, the meds he's taken have not made him loopy or drowsy, but comfortable enough to be himself. When the meds start wearing off, you can really tell though because he wants to sit with me and run his hands through my hair to comfort himself. He has been able to tell me when he needs more pain meds and when he's feeling okay.

Are you ready for a photo tour of our time at Children's Mercy?

The day after Isaac was admitted, Tony Gonzalez of the KC Chiefs and David Cook from American Idol came to Children's Mercy to pass out Shadow Buddies. Even though Isaac had no clue who they were, he thought it was fun to meet them and receive his doll.

While we were getting pictures taken, Isaac started doing all these funky Star Wars poses. Tony Gonzalez actually got right down with Isaac and copied his poses with him. I have some of the pictures, but they turned out really silly and not a really good shot of the two of them posing together. But it was fun!

Isaac absolutely loved it when Mr. Todd came to visit. Mr. Todd is one of Isaac's autism specialists at school. He was Isaac's first visitor during his stay. Of course, he was excited Mr. Todd brought him a new Bionicle, too. Thank you, Mr. Todd!

Isaac's next visitor was Miss Jill, who is Isaac's other autism specialist at school. She works with Isaac in the afternoons, while Mr. Todd works with him in the mornings. Isaac just loves Miss Jill. Can you tell?

The food was actually really good while we were there. The coolest part was that they had a whole Milk-Free menu they sent up just for Isaac. He got to order anything he wanted from the menu each day.

Our friends, Shelley and Kelly, brought us more clothes from our house . . . and also brought MJ & Rob to visit, too. Isaac was happy to see them!

Us being goofy with Shelley and Kelly. Poor Rob got his head cut off. It's a good thing we were already at the hospital, eh? :) That evening, Miss Bobbi (Isaac's first para when we moved to KS) came to visit him, too. She brought him some fun balloons. I thought we took pictures of them together, but I couldn't find them on my camera. They must be lost somewhere with all the pictures from Isaac's class party. I can't find them either. Hmm . . .

As you can see, we did our best to keep Isaac happy between all the yucky blood tests and poking and prodding. When we were in the car to go home, I asked Isaac if he thought staying in the hospital had been okay. He looked at me funny and said, "Mom, hospitals are bad, yucky places."

And I said, "But Isaac, that's where we've been for the last three days. You've been in the hospital so the doctors and nurses could help you."

He replied, "Oh! I didn't know that."

So, I guess we did a pretty good job at keeping him happy. :) A huge thank you to everyone who came to see him. Also, thank you for all of your prayers, emails, and phone calls. We appreciate all of your friendship and love. We'd like to ask that you keep praying for Isaac that he'll continue to do well with his pain meds as he completes his rounds with the antibiotics. I will keep you updated and let you know when he'll have his surgery. We hope you'll all have a wonderful Christmas with your families!

An Unmerry Event

It's been a very long two days.

On the evenings of Friday and Saturday, our oldest son complained that his stomach hurt. Thinking he had gas, we gave him some gas meds and he went to sleep. Then Sunday morning during sacrament meeting, our son began to cry and say his back and stomach hurt. My hubby took Isaac to another room and called our 24 hour on-call nurse, who suggested taking him to urgent care.

After ruling out strep, Urgent Care then referred him to Olathe Medical Center to have his appendix checked out. A CT scan was ordered and showed that his appendix was fine, but that he had problems with is colon and a mass located on the lower portion on his right lung, which was pushing on his diaphragm (most likely the source of all the pain). OMC then transferred Isaac to Children's Mercy Hospital in downtown Kansas City. He was admitted late that night and was assigned a team of surgeons.

We are having more tests done today, but will be here again over night. Right now we are just trying to keep him happy. And it seems that as long as he has some good pain meds available, he can manage okay.

On a more fun note during this not so fun time, he did get to meet David Cook (American Idol) and Tony Gonzalez (KC Chiefs) this morning. They came to meet the kids and pass out Shadow Buddies from the Tony Gonzalez Foundation. Isaac was thrilled to receive his angel doll, which he decided to use markers to make look more like a Bionicle. (is anyone surprised?) Tony even wanted to sign the doll's leg, but Isaac told him he had to sign the shirt so he could color the doll. My favorite part was that while we were having our pics taken, Isaac was posing like a star wars/bionicle figure and Tony got into the act with him and modeled all of his poses just like Isaac. It was really cute! Isaac and I were even interviewed by one of the KC news stations there covering the event. I have no idea which station or if we were even included in the final cut of the broadcast, but Isaac enjoyed answering the questions and talking into the microphone. There is a video on David Cook's website of his visit today. I couldn't view it here from the hospital, so I don't know if Isaac's in it or not. But you can see more of what it was about. Kind of a bright spot while being stuck in a hospital being constantly poked and prodded.

At this time, we are waiting for more test results to come back. I'll update you again when I have a moment. Until then, please keep my little guy in your prayers. Thank you for your love and friendship. Merry Christmas!

School's Out!

It's the first day of Winter Break at our house. Our school district has a long winter break - a little over three weeks. We're going to have soo much fun! I'm sure we'll schedule a few family outings so we aren't stuck in the house the whole time. And if things go well, my hubby and I may get out for one or two daytime dates. We'll see.

But for today, my post is going to be nice and short. My kids and I have board games to play, holiday movies to watch, and I need to make a pecan pie for our family Christmas party at Great-Grammy's house.

I thought you'd enjoy this cute video of my youngest son and daughter playing the piano while singing "I am a Child of God". Happy Holidays!

Sentimental Christmas Memories

I love the happiness and joy of the Christmas season. Our home feels so much warmer with the kids playing nicely with each other, a wassail scented candle burning, and lights twinkling from our tree. The kids come home from school singing Christmas songs and excited to count down the final days until Santa arrives. It's such a wonderful time of year. And today it actually snowed! I think there's about six inches outside, which is quite a lot of snow for Kansas City. If you come by this afternoon, you just may find me and the kiddos building our first snowman since moving to the midwest!

I'm in a very sentimental mood today. Do any of you feel like that around this time of year? I think of Christmases past . . . getting my first Chatty Patty doll and my first Cabbage Patch doll - both of which I cried because I was just so excited!

I remember the year my parents wrapped a HUGE package for both my brother and I and put it next to the tree. We made so many guesses about what it could be. But my secret, dearest wish was that it would be a great big doll house to play with my Barbies in. Christmas morning, my brother and I ripped that box open first. We were just so excited! You cannot even imagine my disappointment when I didn't find my Barbie house, but instead a big color TV. I still have the picture of me with my arms folded and a big scowl on my face. Of course, my brother was jumping for joy in the background.

One of my favorite Christmas memories comes from watching my own kids. Every year, we hide our gifts so the kids can't snoop. Then we wait until they are all conked out in their beds Christmas Eve before putting them under the tree. Of course, Dad has guard duty and sleeps on the couch just to be sure we don't get any early morning snoopers (cause that's exactly what I did! Hee hee!). My favorite memory is from when my two oldest were quite young. In fact, I think I was pregnant with our third and still had morning sickness. I sat on the couch watching my son and daughter walk down the hall towards the living room. When they reached the entry way, their expressions went from sleepy excitment to awed wonder as they saw all the pretty packages under the tree. And how reverent they were as we kneeled before the tree and prayed to thank Heavenly Father for our Savior's birth and all the blessings our family had received that year.

This year, I am grateful for Christmases past and present. I hope you each take a moment to remember special past Christmas moments from your life as well and just enjoy the feeling of peaceful gratitude that seeps into your soul. Merry Christmas!

The Twilight Before Christmas

I discovered this on Tristi's blog.. It's absolutely hilarious! Enjoy!!!

The Mom Song

I know I've posted this before, but it's still my FAVORITE!!! It makes me feel so good to be a mom . . . hee hee!

Lego Lovers Meet Characters from the Book of Mormon

I recently found this totally awesome book called Brick of Mormon Stories and just had to share it. Our nine-year-old is addicted to anything Lego. He absolutely loves the little Lego guys that come with the sets and uses them to role play all sorts of things. One of the things that caught my attention about this book, is a parent who reviewed it said her kids started role playing the stories from Brick of Mormon Stories with their little Lego guys. That cinched the deal for me right there! My son is getting this book!

You can find out more about Brick of Mormon Stories on their website and their blog.

Free Books from Richard Paul Evans

Visit Richard's website, where he is giving away boxes containing 25 copies of The Christmas Box for only the price of shipping - $15! This is a wonderful (and affordable) gift for family, friends, neighbors, teachers, etc. Enjoy!

The Christmas Box

“Whatever the reason, I find that with each passing Christmas the story of the Christmas Box is told less and needed more. So I record it now for all future generations to accept or dismiss as seems them good. As for me, I believe. And it is, after all, my story.”

“The most popular holiday tale since Tiny Tim.”


So begins The Christmas Box, the touching story of a widow and the young family who moves in with her. Together they discover the first gift of Christmas and learn what Christmas is really all about. The Christmas Box is a Christmas story unlike any other.

When I wrote The Christmas Box, I never intended to publish the story-it was simply an expression of love for my two young daughters, Jenna and Allyson. Though I often told them that I loved them, I didn’t believe that they could ever really understand the depth of those feelings until they had experienced the joy of rearing their own children, and by that time our relationship would have already changed. Forever. In writing The Christmas Box, I hoped that at some future time they could read this book and know of their father’s love.

As I began to write, I was amazed at the inspiration which flowed into my mind and heart. I completed the book in less than six weeks and, when I had finished, I produced twenty copies to give as Christmas presents to my family and friends. In the next four weeks those twenty copies were shared from family to family, and friend to friend. I never imagined that what began as a tale for two little girls would spread to millions throughout the world. The inspiration, which began with the The Christmas Box, is continued with Timepiece, the story of David and MaryAnne Parkin, in which we learn where the Christmas box and the angel statue had come from and the powerful lessons of hope the couple learned from their little girl, Andrea. I have learned from those who have read my stories that books can heal, and characters like MaryAnne Parkin, though fictitious, can provide warmth and companionship. My hope is that the stories of The Christmas Box and Timepiece fill your heart and home with inspiration, hope, and healing that you, in turn, may share these gifts with those you love.

With love and Christmas,

Richard Paul Evans

Lovin's Land

Sunday morning, our kids came bounding into our room and jumped up onto our bed. This is pretty typical for a Sunday morning. We have church later in the afternoon this year, so usually my hubby and I can hear the kids playing together while we enjoy the fact that we don't have to be out of bed by 7 am for a change.

Well, this particular morning, the kids had decided to rename our rooms. Our oldest son's room was named Lego Land. Very appropriate as he has tons and tons of Legos. Our oldest daughter's room became Ballet Land. Again, very suiting as she loves anything to do with dance. Our youngest son and daughter share a room next to ours, and it was renamed to Coloring Book Land. The kids even pulled all their coloring books off the shelves, grabbed all their coloring containers, and put them in Coloring Land.

As for Mom and Dad's room, we got a new name, too. Again, one that's very appropriate. We're now Lovin's Land. This is fun because we often ask our kids for "Lovin's" which means it's hugs and snuggles time. I was so happy to be associated with hugs, rather than something like "No Land" or "Go to Your Room Land".

Hugs are good. Yes indeed.

From My Wedding to Yours . . .

I've been asked to join the yourLDSneighborhood blogger team. I'm now their official wedding blogger. Yep, I get to write all about engagements, bridal showers, weddings, and receptions. I'm also going to talk about some more serious issues such as how to help your non-LDS family understand a temple marriage. I'm very excited to be a part of this incredible online community!

I'll be posting every Monday and Friday on my blog, From My Wedding to Yours.

For more info about yourLDSneighborhood, click here. They also have a fabulous newsletter!

Mormon Tabernacle Choir Midwestern Tour

I'm so excited! The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square is coming to Kansas City on June 25th, 2009 as part of their 2009 Midwestern Tour! Yeah!!! I can't wait to get tickets!

You can find out more about the tour here. Be sure to check out the ticket info. Some of the concerts have already started selling tickets.

Movie Review: Twilight

Saturday, my hubby and I splurged on a babysitter and extra date night money and went to see the new movie, Twilight. I've heard many mixed reviews from friends who loved it and went to see it every day for the first four days to professional movie reviewers who gave it lukewarm reviews.

I was excited to see what I would think of the movie, especially after thoroughly devouring the entire book series not just once, but multiple times.

Overall, I'd have to say I thought the movie was pretty good. Maybe 3 1/2 to 4 stars.

There were certainly parts of it I loved - the tension between Bella and Edward was fantastic.

I loved the cast chosen for the Cullen family and Jacob. Up until I actually saw the movie, I just couldn't picture anyone chosen for the cast as filling the characters I made up for them on my own. I was happily surprised to see just how masterfully each of the actors and actresses portrayed their Twilight characters.

So what didn't I like? There were so many chapters from the book that were combined into one scene. I understand there's just so much information in the book and it can't all go into the movie exactly as is. Things get combined or, sadly, deleted. The scene where Bella confronts Edward about being a vampire was actually parts of three different chapters. In the book, Bella learns gradually about the life of a vampire, whereas in the movie I felt it was all thrown on in at once - to the point that it was unbelievable for her to say, "None of that bothers me. I'm not afraid of you."

I was also very, very sad that some of my favorite scenes from the book never made it into the movie. Such as when they do blood-typing in science and Bella passes out. Of course, Edward rescues her from Mike who's struggling to get her to the nurse's office. Another favorite scene that didn't make the cut was when Edward "spies" on Bella during gym class and gets a laugh at how clumsy (and dangerous) she is. And another favorite is when Jessica corners Bella in trig to ask her all about Edward & Bella's mysterious meeting in Port Angeles, as well as her feelings for Edward. Of course, Bella is acutely aware that Edward is "listening in" to Jessica's thoughts during the conversation.

So, while I was disappointed in missing out on some of my favorite chapters on the big screen, I really did enjoy the portrayal of Edward, Bella, Jacob, and the Cullen's family.

Would I go back to see it over and over and over while it's in the theaters? Naw. I'll save my moolah and wait for the DVD to come out and indulge in a Twilight marathon in a much more comfortable theater - my family room.

Traditions: Turkey Leftovers

Thanksgiving was fantastic. I enjoyed visiting with family and stuffing myself full of turkey and all the trimmings. This year, we went to Grammy Thompson's, so we don't have any leftovers. But normally, we have tons of turkey lurking in our fridge.

What do you do with all that meat?

We'll, here's what I do. I bag about half of the leftovers into quart-sized freezer bags, label with Thanksgiving Turkey, and (you guessed it) I freeze it. Amazing concept, eh? Over the next three months, I will pull the turkey out for sandwiches, soups, casseroles, stir-fry recipes, etc.

The day after Thanksgiving (or Christmas), I usually put together a Turkey Vegetable soup in the crock pot. Bake up some rolls, and you have an easy and delicious meal ready.

I also love to make Hot Turkey Sandwiches. My very favorite layering technique is (from bottom to top):

Gravy, slice of bread, turkey, gravy, slice of bread, turkey, gravy, slice of bread, gravy.

Mmm . . . Add a side of potatoes, pop it in the microwave until it all toasty and warm and you're in Turkey Leftover Heaven.

If you're looking for something a little lighter, try these delicious wrap recipes. Just replace the chicken with turkey.

I hope everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving. Now I'm off to start my Christmas decorating!

Traditions: Count Your Blessings

One of my favorite church hymns is Count Your Many Blessings.

1. When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Count your blessings;
Name them one by one.
Count your blessings;
See what God hath done.
Count your blessings;
Name them one by one.
Count your many blessings;
See what God hath done.

2. Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings; ev’ry doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.

3. When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you his wealth untold.
Count your many blessings; money cannot buy
Your reward in heaven nor your home on high.

4. So amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged; God is over all.
Count your many blessings; angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Text: Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1856–1922
Music: Edwin O. Excell, 1851–1921

There have been many times in my life when I've been jealous of what others have, or feel like everything is crumbling around me. Sometimes I talk with my kids or my husband about all the blessings we have. Other times, I have to literally get on my knees and count every blessing I can think of and thank my Heavenly Father for them. Either way, I find comfort and those negative feelings are lifted.

During my Unwritten Contest, I asked contributors to share a story of someone who was a blessing to them as they've been writing the "novel" of their life. Here are their responses . . .

Cindy Beck: Someone who has blessed my life. There are so many people, that this is a tough one to answer. However, from an eternal perspective, the one who blessed my life for forever is the missionary who introduced the gospel to my husband and me ... Elder Richard Delewski.

Tristi Pinkston: This was a lovely post, Danyelle, and I want to point something out. Not only have you been blessed through these challenges, but as you've faced them with faith, you've allowed them to turn you into the incredible person you are. You've influenced me positively in a hundred different ways.

Rebecca Shelley: As for someone who has blessed me. My 9th grade English teacher, Mrs. Brown, was the first person to really believe in me and my writing. She told me I could write a book. I believed her and did it. I wish I knew where she is now so I could thank her.

Kim Nelson: My hero in that regard is, without question, my own dear mother, who left us so suddenly on March 12, 2008. On the evening of her viewing, what touched me the most was how many people came who worked with her. These people knew her in a situation outside a religious setting. They did not necessarily share her values or her beliefs, but every person who came had positive memories of how my mother had treated them. Every kid in the neighborhood was welcome in her home, and there were some who actually LIVED in it! There was always company for holidays. The missionaries, or a struggling single, or a family from the ward who had just moved in, or the parents of her childrens' friends. All were welcome in my mother's eyes, and I owe my own outgoing, positive nature to her. I am happy to be much liker her, and I miss her more than I can say.

Gaynell Parker: All of you in AuthorsIncognito have inspired and uplifted me, but the person I have to point out, was my mom. She took me in as an 18 year old foster child who had no one to love her. She taught me what it was to be loved unconditionally and showed me what it meant to be a mother. All I learned (the little it was) I learned from her fine example. She went on to be "back on the bird committee" as we jokingly tell each other (she loved birds and claimed she was in on the creation of them)about six years ago. I still keenly feel the loss at times. I feel more sorrow with her being gone than my own mother, since I didn't even know her.

Weston Elliott: I have had many influences, but the most poignant example comes from my father. His dying words to me were "You can do anything you set your mind to."

Ali: As for a previous chapter in my life and the person who most influenced me, I'd say my sister, Heather. I have been blessed by so many, it's hard to name just one, but at this time of year I'm always reminded of the loss of my mom when I was 19 and the friendship I discovered with my sister because of mom's death.

Heather and I had sort of a love/hate relationship before Mom became ill. But when Mom was dying, we had to work together and serve Mom together. We discovered that she was weak where I was strong and I was weak where she was strong. We came to have a great love and respect for each other we wouldn't have had otherwise.

After Mom passed away, Heather took me in. Mom was my only parent and when I lost her I kind of lost my way for a while. Heather and her husband took me in while I got my feet back under me. She was not only kind and loving, she was also a tough drill sergeant who taught me so much about growing up, about being an adult and how to face life with my chin up.

When I was ready to fly on my own, Heather let me go. But she's never really let me go of me. She is my mother now, by choice, because she loves me. We are the truest sort of friends because of the trial we faced together. Our hearts are knit together with more than just love, but with service and sacrifice as well.

Sara Register: So many people have influenced me throughout my life, but one person that sticks out is my Pennsylvania grandma, Annie. I have not met a person yet who can live up to her spunk and kindness. She helped me move from Utah, my comfort zone, to way NOT comfort zone! She is amazing!

As for me, I keep trying to narrow it down. There are many, many people who have blessed my life. The person who helped shape my life into who I am today though, would be my mom. She had a huge heart. Our door was open to anyone (or any pet) who needed help and love. Our home was a humble little trailer, but it was filled every day with friends, love, and laughter. All because of one generous and strong woman - my mother. What an incredible example she was to me. I miss her every day, but am extremely grateful to know that families are forever and that we'll have an eternity to laugh and love each other.

Thank you to each of you who share my "online" life. Your comments and support uplift me every day. I hope you each have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving!

Traditions: Thanksgiving Feast Recipes

Growing up, my family's holidays were centered around a huge extended-family feast.

On Easter, it was ham baked in pineapple and brown sugar. Thanksgiving and Christmas we had a wild turkey thanks to my hunt-a-holic brothers and a store-bought turkey, each roasted to perfection. The dining room table would be piled high with side dishes galore. And the side bars were lined with pecan pie, shoo-fly pie, fruit pies, and pudding pies. Once the prayer's Amen was heard, we'd all descend on the food like we hadn't eaten in years. We'd eat, and eat, and eat some more until we were gorged to the point of unbuttoning and unzipping our pants for comfort.

If there is one tradition I have passed on to my children, it's this one - only on a smaller scale. Since we don't have a lot of extended family nearby, our feast has less variety. I admit I do miss the three different types of corn and two different stuffings. But we aren't feeding 30-40 people. (Thank goodness!)

I'm really excited to share some of our family's favorite Thanksgiving recipes. Enjoy!

Sweet Basil Rub (for the Turkey)

2 Tbsp Salt
1/2 tsp Granulated Garlic
1/2 tsp Granulated Onion
1/2 tsp Paprika
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1 tsp Black Pepper
2 Tbsp Whole Basil
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Mix salt, sugar, garlic, onion, paprika, and lemon juice together. Next add pepper, basil, and olive oil. Mix until well blended. Rub all over the outside and inside of turkey. Bake according to the turkey instructions. The drippings make an incredible gravy!

Great Aunt Erma's Baked Stuffing

1 loaf of Bread
1/2 cup Onion
3/4 cup Celery
1 Egg
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
Milk (or rice milk & water)

Saute onions and celery in butter.
Grease a 9x13 casserole pan.
Break up bread into small chunks in a large mixing bowl. Add onion and celery; mix together. Sprinkle parsley, salt, and pepper on top of mixture until top is well covered; mix together.
Mix milk (about one cup), egg, and baking powder in a small bowl. There should be enough liquid to lightly moisten the bread mixture. If needed, you can add more milk. Add 1/2 to bread; stir gently. Add remaining liquid; stir gently until bread is lightly moist.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or brown on top.

Great Aunt Erma's Creamed Mushrooms

1 box/container of fresh Mushrooms
3/4 cup Milk
1 Tbsp Flour

Slice mushrooms and cook in a skillet with butter until all water is cooked out.
Add milk and flour. Constantly stir until the sauce thickens. Serve hot.

Fabulous Fruit Salad

1 can (29 oz.) sliced peaches, drained, with juice reserved separately from other juices
1 can (20 oz.) pineapple chunks, drained & juice reserved separately from other juices
1 c. mandarin oranges, drained & juice reserved separately from other juices
3 whole or 4 whole bananas, sliced
1/2 jar maraschino cherries, drained
1 whole egg
1/2 c. sugar
1 tbsp flour
3/4 c. peach juice (from drained canned peaches)
3/4 c. pineapple juice (from drained canned pineapple)
15 large marshmallows

1. Mix peaches, pineapple, oranges, bananas and cherries together in 1. a bowl. Set aside.
2. In saucepan, mix egg, sugar, flour, peach juice* and pineapple juice*.
3. *Add reserved mandarin orange juice, if necessary, to make 3/4 c. peach juice and 3/4 c. pineapple juice.
4. Cook until soft custard stage, stirring almost constantly.
5. Remove from heat. Add marshmallows.
6. Stir until blended. Pour dressing over fruit. Chill.
7. Store salad in refrigerator overnight.
Serve Chilled.

A Happy, Happy Birthday

Saturday was my 31st birthday. Isn't that awesome?

It's been a great year. I finished my first book last August and sent it in to my publisher. I was hoping to hear back from my editor about an acceptance (hopefully!) before my birthday, but oh well. Maybe before Christmas? My editor did tell me they sent my manuscript out to readers and the feedback has been very positive. So that's a fabulous birthday present right there! Seriously, this past year has been filled with many, many blessings and wonderful events. There were some hard times and sad times mixed in there as well. But all in all, my 30th year was great.

Saturday was lots of fun. I woke up with the urge to clean everything in sight. Now, that normally wouldn't sound like fun - cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. Yuck, right? But when I just feel like cleaning, then it's fun! I was surprised how much I got done in one morning! John went to run some errands and the kids even joined me in cleaning without a battle (a rare occasion indeed!). By the time John got home, we had cleaned and vacuumed the dining room, all of the kids bedrooms, and the playroom; started a new load of dishes in the dishwasher; started and folded a load or two of laundry, and straightened up the living room. All before 11 am. Now that's what I call on the ball!

After my cleaning frenzy, I showered and went to lunch with a few of my girlfriends. We went to Chipotle and just enjoyed chatting away. Wow, it was soo nice! We were there for over 1 1/2 hours, just talking, laughing, and enjoying being together.

Then I went grocery shopping. Hey, it was Saturday - that's grocery day at our house. John and I compromised though. We only made up a short list so I wouldn't spend my whole afternoon shopping and fighting lines. That worked well. Then I was able to spend the rest of the afternoon with the kids and John. We played Sorry (my four-year-old's new favorite game) and watched a movie. We all got caught up in other things, that we didn't have enough time for dinner and cake before John and I needed to leave for an evening Church meeting! Oh well. At least our babysitter can cook.

After our meeting, a few of our friends joined us for ice cream at Dairy Queen. I had a wonderful Oreo Brown Earthquake. YUM!

One of the nicest parts of my birthday was all the emails and phone calls from friends and family throughout the day. Wow! You all made me feel so special. Thank you!

I thought I'd post a few cute pics and a video from my postponed birthday dinner on Sunday. Our youngest has recently started setting the table. Isn't she cute?

My oldest daughter . . .

. . . and my youngest daughter. They both love cake!

Thank you all for being my friends and for being a part of my life. Here's to a fabulous 31st year!

Rest for the Weary

This past week has been long, difficult, and sleep-deprived. My two younger children both had the croup. My youngest little girl's croup finally went away, only to be replaced by a runny nose. Yuck!

The poor girl has been so tired! Yesterday, my hubby put her down for her afternoon nap about 2:30 pm. When we left for the adult evening of Stake conference at church, she was still sleeping. The babysitter said she woke up around 6:30, but fell back to sleep before she could even make her some dinner! So she put her back into her crib . . . where my little girl slept straight through until 7:30 this morning!

Now, it's only 10:30 am, and she came up to me and said, "Nap, nap." Off we went into her room, where she curled right up into her pillow, popped her binky into her mouth, and closed her little eyes. Her poor little body is just so very tired. I hope the rest gives her body what it needs to recover and get rid of this nasty cold.

Now, if only we could pass some of that nap time over to Mom and Dad . . .

Nordic Bo Peep and Long Lost Sheep Costume GIVEAWAY!!!!

Check out this awesome giveaway!

Nordic Bo Peep and Long Lost Sheep Costume GIVEAWAY!!!!

Queen of the Clan Giveway Update!

Commissioned Watercolor Portrait GIVEAWAY! This giveaway is absolutely beautiful and precious. Be sure to check it out!

Commissioned Watercolor Portrait GIVEAWAY!!!!

Unwritten Contest Winner

Courtesy of my four-year-old, the winner of the Unwritten Contest is . . .

Gaynell Parker!!!

Congrats! Please email me your mailing address & I'll get your autographed copy of Red Dragon Codex by R.D. Henham in the mail!

Thank you to everyone for their stories. Be sure to check back next before Thanksgiving to see your stories in the "Count Your Blessings" post.

Autism Benefit Concert

Friends of GIANT Steps is hosting a holiday concert on Friday, November 21st. All the proceeds go towards enhancing the GIANT Steps Ausitsm Preschool program. This is the preschool my oldest son attended. It's absolutely incredible! If you live in the Provo, UT area - be sure to check out more info about this wonderful family-friendly event.

Here's the official press release:

Proceeds to Go to GIANT Steps Autism Preschool

Noteworthy and the Utah Valley Handbell Ringers will be the featured performers at "A Family Holiday Charity Concert" on Friday, November 21, at 6:30 p.m. at the Provo Tabernacle. All proceeds will go directly to the GIANT Steps autism preschool in Orem.

Founded in 2004, Noteworthy is a nine-voice, all-female contemporary a capella ensemble based out of Provo, Utah. The group performs for thousands each year in Utah, the west, and throughout the United States. Additionally, Noteworthy has taken home numerous awards for its unique arrangements, choreography, and vocal percussion.

The Utah Valley Handbell Ringers was formed in 1993 by director Karen Eskew-Wyllie. Choir members volunteer their time and perform with 56 bells cast in bronze or aluminum, each tuned to a single note.

The concert – organized by Friends of GIANT Steps (FOGS), a nonprofit organization comprised mostly of parents of current or past students in the GIANT Steps program – is intended to be a family-friendly event.

"I couldn't be more excited about the upcoming Christmas concert," said Annie Campbell, president of FOGS and mother of two children with autism. "It's not very often that we go to a concert that children will enjoy as well as parents. It only makes it better that all proceeds go directly toward helping children with autism."

Tickets can be purchased at the door and are $10 per person ages 12 and older, $5 per person ages 3-11, $25 per family (up to two adults and three children), and $7 with student ID. Children ages two and under are free.

Refreshments will be available for purchase during intermission.

Traditions: A Thankful Tree

Last year, our family started a new Thanksgiving tradition called a Thankful Tree. I can't take the credit for coming up with the idea though. I read about it in Family Fun magazine. Our whole family loved creating the tree, then writing what we were thankful for on the leaves. Here's how to make your own Thankful Tree . . .

You'll Need:
Tree Branches
Silver or Gold Glitter Spray
Construction Paper (red, yellow, orange, brown)
Leaf Templates
Hole Punch
Craft String or Yarn

1. To begin, you'll need some fun branches. Be sure to choose branches that have already fallen to the ground. Cutting branches off a tree is not only unhealthy for your tree, but results in sappy branches. Last year we had a big wind storm come through and I found some wonderful branches in our own yard. This year, our yard (and the neighbors' yards) all had slim pickings. But I found a wonderful branch full of long and short smaller branches in our church parking lot. I was so excited to bring it home (although I'm sure some people wondered why I was making the kids move around so I could fit a fallen branch in our van!)

2. Once you've chosen your branches, get out your vase. If you have young children, be sure to use a vase that either unbreakable or that you won't cry if an accident does occur. Lay out your branches, and begin removing some of the smaller branches and putting them in your vase until you like the fullness. You may need to "trim" your branches. Try to do this at the end that will be in the bottom of the vase. Discard all unused branches.

3. It's time to make those branches extra pretty! Remove them from the vase. Take the branches and the glitter spray outside. Hold one branch at a time while you spray it with the glitter. Be sure to turn the branch so you get all the sides. Once they are dry, replace the branches in the vase.

4. Now for the more tedious part of this project - making the leaves. If you know somewhere that has leaf die-cuts, you may want to purchase them. I couldn't find anywhere that had the right size. But I did find these wooden craft leaves for about fifty cents each. They make great templates that will last year after year. Pull out your construction paper. Be sure to use lots of reds, yellows, oranges, and browns. Trace & cut out your leaves.

5. Use your Hole Punch to place a hole on the end of the leaf stem. Then thread the string through and tie a knot at the end. I used a brown craft string. Yarn works well too. I found brown to be a good color because it blends in with the branches. Once the leaves are done, arrange them around the tree. Place some pens nearby. Last year, I put the leaves and pens on a silver tray next to the tree. This year, I placed the leaves all around the tree, with a pen holder filled with pens next to it.

Voila! Your Thankful Tree is complete! All you need to do is place it somewhere everyone can access it. Last year, I placed our tree on a side table. This year I decided to try the fireplace hearth.

I was surprised how many leaves our family filled out last year. Each day, the kids filled out one leaf with something they were thankful for. Our then three-year-old told me what he was thankful for, and I wrote it out for him. The older kids had fun coming up with things they thought our one-year-old was thankful for. Be sure to remind your family members to put their names on their leaves! The kids loved putting their leaves on the branches. Our oldest daughter put a lot of thought into the placement of each of her leaves. It was amusing to watch! Our tree was gorgeous with all the fall colors. The best part was on Thanksgiving Day, we each took turns taking a leaf off and reading it to our family. We saved them all in a Ziploc bag and labeled it with the year.

Here are a few samples of last year's leaves. You may be surprised by some of the things your family is thankful for. I laughed when our three-year-old said he was thankful for the vacuum and carpet cleaner. I asked "Why?" and he replied, "Because they make the house so pretty!" (Too bad they don't do the work all by themselves, eh ladies?)

With all the hustle and bustle of early Christmas preparations, Thanksgiving sometimes gets lost in the holiday shuffle. This is a wonderful activity to help our families remember the spirit of the Thanksgiving season.

I would love to hear what your family does to celebrate Thanksgiving. Please leave your ideas in the comment section! Also, don't forget to enter the Unwritten Contest! It ends on the 15th!

Unwritten Contest

For the past few months, the song Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield has been going through my mind, over and over again. I've been thinking a lot about the choices I've made over the past fifteen years - choices that have led me to where I am today.

If you're not familiar with this song, here are the lyrics:

by Natasha Bedingfield

I am unwritten
can't read my mind
I'm undefined

I'm just beginning
the pen's in my hand
ending unplanned

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find

Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions

Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in

No one else, No one else

Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten

I break tradition
sometimes my tries
are outside the lines

We've been conditioned
to not make mistakes
but I can't live that way

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find

Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions

Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in

No one else, no one else

Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins

Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in

No one else, no one else

Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins

The rest is still unwritten

The writer in me loves the analogy of my future as an unwritten book. It's up to me to chose how to write the words that will be in each of the chapters that will make up my Book of Life.

And just like writing a book where the characters "take over" and make choices the author wasn't expecting, my life has turned in directions I would never have expected.

As an idealistic teenager, I never would have pictured finding myself in an abusive marriage and divorced before even turning twenty years old. I wouldn't have written my Mom's graduation to Heaven when I was the tender age of nineteen. I never thought of motherhood as filled with IEP's, speech therapy, and behavior interventions.

But with each "wouldn't have", I've grown and received tremendous blessings.

My bruised soul couldn't have imagined that less than a year after my divorce I would find an honorable, incredible man who has treated me like a valuable and loved queen - even after ten years of marriage.

There are no words that accurately express the love I still feel from my mom, and the tenderness I feel knowing she and I will be together again for eternity after this life. Families are forever.

Thanks to my incredible son, I have been blessed to be immersed in a world full of people with all different abilities, each of whom have touched my life in a special way. I have been blessed to learn that motherhood isn't just having a child grow under your care, but rather it's a journey full of discovery, acceptance, and love.

Through this short journey of fifteen years, I have not only grown - but have been uplifted by incredible people along the way.

My sister had the courage to chase after her dream of graduating from the state police academy.

Natalie put her career as an incredible artist on hold to bring her beautiful daughter into the world and be a stay-at-home mom.

After her dear husband passed away, Helen found joy and purpose in helping others by volunteering at her local hospital and organizing a neighborhood ladies group for other widows. They each enjoy having a "family night" every Monday, going to plays, celebrating their birthdays, and supporting each other.

Karen didn't just raise her children with autism, instead she advocated for young children throughout her county by working with other parents to raise money for an autism preschool and served as president of the Autism Society in her area for many, many years. Today, she is attending college to get a Masters degree as she continues her journey to help educate children with autism.

Pam and Kevin have adopted seven children into their loving family.

Many years ago, Sue, with her husband, created the Olathe Special Olympics team and has continued supporting and organizing activities ever since.

Dana calls her friends just to ask how their day is going and to let them know she's thinking of them.

Some things we do are "big". Other things seem small, possibly even inconsequential. But both have big impact on those around us. We've each had many, many experiences that have taken us through our own personal refiner's fire. And we've had many blessings along the way as well.

What I love about Unwritten is that it reminds me the journey is not over. No matter where we are in our lives today, our tomorrow is unwritten.

If you're in the middle of a chapter, you get to choose what to write on the next page. And if you find yourself at the beginning of a new chapter, you get to explore and discover what that chapter will hold.

I'm sure you're thinking this is an odd way to introduce a contest. You're right. And that's because this contest is unusual in itself.

To enter the contest, leave a comment on this post and tell me two things:

1) What do you want written on your page tomorrow?


2) Share a story of someone who was a blessing to you as you've been writing the "novel" of your life.

Be sure to post your entry before noon on November 15th. I will post name of the winner that afternoon. Each of the stories submitted will be compiled for a "Count Your Blessings" blog before Thanksgiving. Submissions can be humorous, uplifting, etc. But they should all be sincere!

The winner will receive an autographed copy of Red Dragon Codex by R.D. Henham (a.k.a Rebecca Shelley). If you have a Dragonlance fan on your Christmas list, this is THE perfect gift!

From Amazon:
For fans of The New York Times best-selling A Practical Guide to Dragons, a new series of fantasy fiction focusing on the power of dragonkind.

The Dragon Codices chronicle adventures with each of ten dragons of Krynn. From the fiery, evil red dragon to the playful copper, each dragon's tale is unique. Sindri Suncatcher, narrator of A Practical Guide to Dragons, shared these tales from his travels with library scribe R.D. Henham.

Mudd lives a peaceful life in his small town, tinkering with the mill and any mechanical devices that he can find. But his peaceful life soon changes when, out of nowhere, a red dragon attacks, burning the town and kidnapping Shemnara, the village seer. Only one clue is left behind--a cryptic note telling Mudd, "Seek the silver dragon."

About the Author
R.D. Henham is a scribe in the great library of Palanthas. In the course of transcribing stories of legendary dragons, the author felt a gap existed in the story of the everydragon: ordinary dragons who end up doing extraordinary things. With the help of fellow scribes, R.D. had filled that gap with the Dragon Codices.

“Red Dragon Codex is fun tale of wonder, adventure, and dragons aplenty. R.D. Henham is a fine new storyteller, off to a very promising start.”

—David Farland, New York Times best-selling author

Whitney Benefit Auction

Are you looking for something totally unique and fabulous for Christmas this year? Well, I've got just the thing for you!

The Whitney Awards is holding an online benefit auction. The Whitney Benefit Auction will run for the month of November, with new items being added every day. All items have been donated, along with shipping, from a variety of donors.

There's a huge variety of items to choose from - autographed books, jewelry, clothes, art, collectibles, services for writers, photography, etc. The list goes on and on.

Be sure to check this one out! It's going to be awesome!


Yesterday, my older kids' school held a mock election. My daughter was so excited to come home and tell me all about it.

Her class spent the day learning about all the candidates running for president. They studied their views on different issues, as well as learning more about their backgrounds. MJ said it was really neat.

I asked her who she decided to vote for.

"I voted for McCain!" she told me proudly.

"Why did you vote for McCain?" I asked.

"Because when I was reading about what he said about education, he said that parents should have the right to choose where their kids go to school. I think that's important. We should be able to go to school wherever we want."

Wow. I just about cried. She had a real reason! She knew something about the candidate she voted for! It wasn't because he was popular, or because of what color his skin was, or if the candidate was male or female. It was because he said something she felt was important to her and her family. What an awesome seven-year-old!

Of course, then she told me something quite funny . . .

"Mom, did you know McCain is going to have a party?" she asked.

"A what?"

"A party!" she said.

Of course, I was thinking about the ball the candidates have after the election. "You mean after the election? All the candidates have a party after the election, honey."

"Yeah, but McCain's is party is special cause it's a Republican one!"

Hmm . . . I think the next thing we need to work on is learning that each candidate belongs to a political party - which doesn't mean balloons and cake!

I hope each of my readers takes the time to go out and vote. No matter who you choose to vote for - vote for the candidate you feel will lead our country wisely. Every vote is important!

Happy Election Day!

A Very Busy Halloween!

This year, Halloween was a very busy affair for our family. Here are some pictures from a few of the parties we attended . . .

Last Wednesday, our Church held a Trunk or Treat for all the kids. It was lots of fun! Our friends Michele, Dusty, & Charlie joined us for the early trick-or-treating fun.

Charlie (Monkey), MJ (Princess Genevieve), & Rob (Lion)

Michele & Anna (Pooh's Honey Pot!) on their way to the first trunk.

Enjoying the candy . . . Anna's perfectly puckered face!

A happy smile from Isaac

MJ looks pretty happy with her candy

Some pixie stick fun . . . Anna saw Daddy help Rob do this first, then wanted to get in on the fun! Aren't they funny?

Rob's yummy bubble gum!

On Halloween, we had several parties to attend. First, Rob's preschool . . .

Rob's class with their teachers - Miss Devine & Miss Steinhouser

My fabulous friends - The Mighty Preschool Moms! Danyelle, Amy, Hillary, & Michele Missing In Action - Laura!

Some mommy silliness. To see something TOTALLY cool - you should check out Hillary's blog. She's eight months pregnant,and for her Church Halloween party, she & a group of adults did the Thriller dance. Hillary posted it on her blog. It's AWESOME!

Yes, Rob still sucks his thumb. But doesn't he look cute in his lion costume?

Anna & Daddy

Next, we went to Anna's Kindermusik class party . . .

Anna's class and her teacher, Miss Amy

Isn't Anna just the cutest honey pot ever?

Next, we went to the older kids Halloween parade & parties at school . . .

MJ and her fabulous teacher, Miss Sharp.

Isaac's afternoon autism specialist, Miss Jill, and me! (yep, the lady with the horns - that's me. Isn't the Maleficent costume awesome?)

MJ in the parade

Isaac (the blue & orange Stitch costume) and Miss Jill in the parade

And a few pictures from Halloween night . . .

John was having fun taking pictures. Here's me as Maleficent.

And a few fun pictures of Isaac as Stitch!

Halloween was lots of fun. The kids had a great time and are now loaded up on candy for the next twelve months. Seriously. :) I hope your Halloween was fabulous!

Now, on to Thanksgiving!!!