Thursday, February 28, 2013

At Conference

Jessica and I are at writer's conference. We'll be here until Sunday.
The cool part is reconnecting with other writers.

Conference director with her grandson. Funny thing is,  Dad is black, but the baby doesn't look mixed at all. 

The grounds are beautiful. We didn't have time to take many pictures around the grounds today.
Eva Marie Everson writes different genres of books.

Deborah Raney critiqued my women's fiction.

Jessica in class.

Steven James and Jessica

in class
Jessica with Torry Martin
 Today I met with an author for a critique of my women's fiction book, and she actually liked the idea and the writing. As most of you know, I haven't written fiction before, so this is new to me. She suggested some changes that I need to make before sending it to an editor. I also have to finish it! She only read the first few chapters.

Jessica and I met with someone who'd critiqued our youth fiction. She wasn't that thrilled with it. We have a lot of changes to make.

Jasmine tried out for track. She ran a 9 minute mile. I think that's great, but there were 100 girls, and I guess they took the times from the mile and the sprints (not her strong point) and took the top 45 girls. She did not make the cut. But today were midterm grades (meaning the kids are half way through the third quarter) and Jasmine has all A's and B's.

We're sitting in evening session right now. Hope you are all having a great day.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What's Cooking?

Jessica made beef stir fry at my request. Love it but we only have it about once every three months. But when we do, she's the one to make it.

Beef Stir Fry
2 tbs cornstarch                    2 med carrots thinly sliced
2 tsp sugar                            6 oz package frozen pea pods thawed
6 Tbs soy sauce                    2 Tbs chopped onion
¼ c apple juice                      2 Tbs vegetable oil divided
1 lb boneless beef round steak cut into strips
8 oz can sliced water chestnuts undrained
hot cooked rice
3 c broccoli florets

In a bowl, combine corn starch, sugar, soy sauce and apple juice until smooth. Add beef and toss to coat; set aside. In a large skillet, stir-fry broccoli, carrots, pea pods and onion in 1 Tbs oil for one minute. Stir in water chestnuts. Cover and simmer four minutes. 

Remove and keep warm. In the same skillet, stir-fry beef in remaining oil until meat reaches desired doneness. Return vegetable to pan. Toss. Serve over rice. 

Kaleb made pineapple chicken.

Pineapple Chicken 
1/4c cooking oil
Soy sauce
1 clove minced garlic
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
4 chicken breasts split
16 oz can of pineapple chunks
2 tbs. cornstarch

Combine oil, 1 tbs. soy sauce, garlic, salt and pepper in large skillet. Add the chicken and brown thoroughly. Add 1/3 cup pineapple juice and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes or until chicken is tender and cooked through.
 Remove chicken and place on serving plate. Combine cornstarch, another 1/3 cup of pineapple juice and tbs. of soy sauce. Add it to the mixture already in the skillet. Add the pineapple chunks. Cook it, stirring frequently, until it has thickened. Pour over the chicken and serve.

Tyler made hobos. I left before they were cooked, so this is his raw.

Hobo Dinner
1 ½ -2 lb lean ground beef           ½-1 cup ketchup or tomato sauce
1 egg beaten                                 ½-3/4 cup uncooked oatmeal
2 yellow squash sliced                  2 -3 lg. potatoes peeled, sliced
4 carrots sliced                              2 lg. onion thinly sliced                           
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix ground beef, ketchup, egg and oatmeal. Form into six patties. Place each on a square of aluminum foil. Place vegetables on top of each patty. Add salt and pepper. Wrap foil tightly around each patty. Place on baking sheet. Bake at 375F for 1 hr to 1 hr 15 min.

Kayla made shells from a frozen package.

Jasmine made Asian noodles from a recipe on the back of a past a box.

We liked it but, we're going to double the vegetables and try a different kind of dressing next time.

Asian Pork and Noodles
16 oz pkg linguine
2 Tbs cooking oil
1 lb boneless pork chops, cut into ¼ x 2" strips
salt and pepper to taste
16 oz frozen broccoli stir fry vegetables (or other)
1 C Asian or Sesame vinaigrette

Cook pasta according to the packaged. Save ½ c of the water.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large pan. Cook pork, stirring frequently until lightly browned.
Add frozen vegetables and cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables are tender and the pork is fully cooked. (10-12 minutes)
Stir in vinaigrette.
Add cooked pasta to skillet and toss to combine. Add the ½ c water if needed to thin the sauce.

Adam made a recipe on the back of the Rotelli pasta, but we've decided not to add it to our recipe collection. It was just "okay." Sometimes you just don't know what it's going to taste like until you try it.

So that's what we cooked this month.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

This Week

Kayla with her weather project. She chose to do thunder storms.

The girls ready for church. Jessica wore a black lacy jacket over the shirt.

Jayden picks the sunny spot every time.


awards night

Jasmine with her coach

We are all done with basketball. Jasmine is supposed to try out for track tomorrow but severe thunderstorms are forecasted.

We had a sad situation where one of our little one's aggression resulted in a little boy having to go to the ER with internal injuries. It was discussed at counseling, but there is no remorse or empathy. We are working on kindness, treating others the way we want to be treated etc. But I've also asked the teacher to enforce a hands off policy for this child (no games that involved grabbing or holding or even tagging) and the teacher did not do that or pass that message on to the playground teachers.

Jasmine's school had the fish fry Friday during a storm. I'm not a fish eater but Rick, Tyler and Jasmine went to that.

Jessica and I leave for writer's conference on Wednesday.

Thankfully, except for some sinus headaches, everyone has been very healthy this winter. I'm hoping it stays that way. We usually avoid the stuff going around, but as soon as I say someone will probably catch something :)

The kids answered the questions asked on previously post. If you didn't have a chance to hear their answers, please take time. If Jessica sounds dragged out, it is because she was. The last couple of semesters have been really tough for her. Leave a comment for the kids if you'd like. I'll make sure they have a chance to read them.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Answers part 3

Here is the last set of anwers to the questions asked.

Jasmine what do you want to be when you grow up? Anonymous

Has Tyler heard more about his program? What will you do if that doesn't work out? Anonymous

This might be too personal, but I know Tyler has aspergers. I know he had plans to go to job core and the funding got cut for that. What are his job prospects at home? Does his aspergers hold him back from applying for certain jobs? Do you think it is keeping employers from hiring him? If he could be anything what would your dream job be for him? Anon

I put both questions about Tyler together, and since he has a good understanding of his abilities and limitations, I asked him to answer them on video. You'll understand much better the problems with him doing interviews as you listen to him putting together his answers. He has normal intelligence, but not fluency in speech. I was hoping he'd go with his plan for digital design, but he did not pass the college classes needed for that program. But mostly I want him to have a job where he is happy and eventually ready to be on his own. I wish the military didn't block kids with autism and would test them individually. There are many jobs he could do and he'd have the chance to travel which is something he likes to do. His dream destination is Japan.

This video is totally unrehearsed. It's in two parts due to length.

I was going to ask about Jessica's college work because it sounds really interesting and I wonder what she has to do and what she wants to do after college. Middle School Mama

I've always wondered what does Rick do? Anon
I work as a small computer technician, and as a screener at an air terminal when necessary (I just don't make them take off their shoes) :-} Rick

 How often do you guys see his daughter? Anon
 Ashley lives on the IL/IN border, our families live on the IN/MI border and we live in the FL panhandle. She was in cosmetology school the past couple of years and schedules did not work out. Rick went up to help his parents move, but it was a very brief trip and not when she could join him at his parents, which would have needed to happen. 

I wish she was closer to I 65 because we could simply stop by coming and going. The kids and I (Kathy) have stopped several times on our way to see my family in Elkhart, but it's three hours off of I 65 and then back to get up to Elkhart so it adds a lot of time. Last trip we were hoping she could meet us somewhere fun where the twins and her two little ones could play, but it was when she had to do her course hours. 

We hope that we can plan something maybe half way between her house and our families where everyone could have a day out. Otherwise we'll meet in one town or the other depending on her work schedule.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Answers part 2

Here is the second set of answers. I still need to corner some people to answer their questions. I may have to resort to bribery : )

So when ru gonna finish writing my story?
- Devonte

It's always interesting when one of my main characters contacts me. I'm assuming Devonte had a little help. Devonte is a 12-year-old boy who ends up in foster care. His foster mom is a single foster parent and he's her first foster child. He's also not exactly what she imagined. I haven't shown this manuscript to anyone yet, but am getting a critique of it at the Florida Christian Writer's Conference next week. I am stuck at the point where everything is going wrong for Devonte, and his foster mother, Carlie.

People tell me to write a book on my life. rocking with Jesus as a child. Where do I start. Many miracles in my life. Anonymous

The kind of writing you are talking about is called a personal experience story. Normally to write that kind of book you either have to have a large following to ensure editors that enough copies will sell to make it worth while. Or you have to be a celebrity because then of course enough copies will sell. Many people end up self publishing personal experience books and that is okay as long as you have a way to sell several thousand of them to make back the money you put up front.

That's not to say that it's not possible to write a personal experience book. What I'd do first, though, is write some article about your life and send them to Christian publications. You could see how well they are recieved and what kind of feedback you get from that. Which magazines depend on your age, the story content, your denomination (some such as Southern Baptist, Evangelical Free, Lutheran, Catholic etc have their own magazines and are always looking for stories featuring people in that denomination.)

Make sure you follow all the rules of article writing and submissions. There are lots of places online to find those.

Some resources for you are:

this is her webpage where you can purchase a book that tells you what different magazines and publishing house buy and offers critiques

Read over this article on writing a book proposal and it will help you know what all you need to do as your write your book.

If you get a chance to attend a good writer's conference, do it :)

About your in laws. It looks like they came for your son's graduation and never again and there are only a few pictures of them on your trips. I just want to say because I have such godly in laws that they are missing out on some major blessings and the chance to make good memories. You only get one lifetime to do good and make memories. Or maybe I'm wrong and there just aren't pictures. Middle School Mama

I can't really answer this because I don't have the answer. I think most of us marry hoping we are marrying into the family. I know this was my hope, especially since my dad has just died and had been an invalid years before that. But in reality, that didn't happen. I guess my charming personality bugs them, and that's okay : ) Any of our family is welcome to visit at any time. 

You are very blessed to have a good relationship with your in laws, and your children are blessed to have their involvement in their lives. I think kids can learn a lot from their grandparents.

Sorry I'm rambling but speaking of trips, it looks like giving your kids those experiences is important to you and I wonder if you have summer trips planned and if it's not too personal, how to choose and how do you pay for them? Middle School Mama

We have all decided that we'd rather do things than buy things. That's why I drive a 2001 SUV with 215,000+ miles on it : ) We have regular TVs without any extras and don't own the newest of anything. When our fridge broke down, we used coolers for a couple of months until we found an old clunker fridge for $100. It's nothing to look at, but it keeps food cold, but no ice or water machine.

Sometimes families with a lot of kids miss out on things, and I didn't want that to be true of ours. While Rick was in the USAF we lived in England, Okinawa for a few months, South Dakota, North Dakota and Georgia. We tried to make the most of the opportunities with the money we had. Which was usually not much! Like, we went to Disney in both Tokyo and France, although the kids were infant when we went to Japan. We caught a hop on a military cargo plane for $25 and sat among boxes. When we went to Euro Disney, we drove to France from England in our old station wagon that we weren't even sure would make it. In England, we took the train into London a few times. We went on the Red Bus tour to see the most.

We travel cheap, and just do what we can afford from my Legacy royalties. We pack our food, drive to our destination and stay in the less expensive hotels. We plan carefully. We've never stayed in a Disney hotel (except France) or a hotel at Universal. We buy the Florida resident passes that have block out dates and just go when we can.

We are planning two trips this summer. I don't know if we'll be able to pull it off!! We want to do a short (three day) cruise that just goes to the Bahamas and back, with all of us. I think it would be the first trip we have all been together since we visited the twins in Haiti in '07. We are waiting to see if prices drop as it gets closer to the trip. We also need to make sure everyone can get off work. This is a problem for Rick and why he doesn't always travel with us. 

Each year there is a Christian book convention that I try to go to. It rotates between Atlanta, Orlando and St. Louis. This year it's in St. Louis. I hope to go, but only Jessica and Jasmine will be with me. The twins will be at mission camp. Tyler and Adam could go with, but we are combining it with a three-day trip to Mt. Rushmore that the girls have been saving for. The guys weren't that interested in it. And that's okay. We hope that we will all meet up in Indiana after the St. Louis/Rushmore/mission camp week.

But all this depends on not having any major car or appliance repairs, and the SD trip depends on the girls making their savings goals. Hint, hint girls!

I noticed that there hasn't been any pictures of Jessica and Anthony lately, did they decide to go their own way? or is he just off at college?

Jessica broke up with Anthony over a year ago--right before Thanksgiving 2011. There were some real differences in maturity and finally the gap just got too big. He is a nice guy, though, and we wish him well. He's going to army basic training on Monday to be a military police officer.

Kayla and Kaleb what's your favorite subject in school and what do you want to be when you grow up?
I asked them separately so they wouldn't give the same answer, although obviously they'd talked about being police officers together. I hope these videos play for you.

More answers to come later.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Answers part 1

I am going to divide the answers to the questions on the question post into more than one post because I got kind of long winded on the answers and I don't want anyone to fall asleep reading! You can still go back and ask questions.

I am not necessarily answering these in the order asked because the kids are going to answer the ones about them. I will probably video tape their answers for you.

How do you choose what activities your kids take part in and how do you keep up with it all? Jan

That has changed over the years. When we had seven children under 12 (due to foster care), we limited them to two activities at a time. This did not include church activities. We were in a church with Awanas at the time. Most of the time they had one continuing activity such as gymnastics or violin (Jessica for two years) and then they'd play a seasonal sport—T ball, hockey, soccer etc. I encouraged them to try a number of different activities while they were young

Now I have a chart on the wall that lists everyone's school schedule and their activities. I look at how much white space there is! We decided to sit out on dance this year because that was both a big time and money commitment. Now that the kids are older, the sports teams take up more time so they are usually only in one thing at a time. Like, Adam is in track and it practices 5 days a week plus has meets on Saturdays. He also works. So that's all he can handle right now.

The three youngest aren't in any activities right now since basketball has ended. Well, Jasmine's ended a couple of weeks ago, and Kaleb's last game is Saturday. Seriously, they have so much homework it's hard to keep up with it without any outside activities.

How we choose is a combination of what it costs, what the child's interests are and if they can be trusted to follow the rules and structure of the activity. The kids usually let me know what they want to try. Often they bring home papers from school about sports teams and other things.

These are just a few of the sports the kids tried. They've been in other sports as well as music and academic things too, but I only have a few of the old pictures scanned in.

Have you always been a writer? Or did you just stumble across it at some point? One Crowded House

I wish I was one of the writers who started writing in kindergarten and never stopped. I did actually write some pretty wild stories in grade school, but then in jr/sr high, I realized I didn't really know how to put a story together. I wrote for the city paper as a high school representative for two years, but I didn't go into journalism because I don't really like news. I liked writing features about classmates, but I knew as a journalist I'd probably end up covering city council meetings and such.

Doing it over with what I know now, I would have gotten a journalism major. But now there are some cool writing majors like Creative Christian Writing that didn't exist back then.

I actually have a masters in elementary ed, but haven't taught in a school situation since Tyler was born. Obvious we all teach our children in one way or another. Teaching isn't fun anymore. It's all about tests and curriculum goals etc. But that's a different topic!!

When I was in college, I had speech class. I did my first speech about video games, and I sent it to a teen Sunday school take home paper as an article and it sold. Then I wrote a couple of short little articles about a couple of minor Bible characters I learned about in my Old Testament class and sold them.  That's how I started.

I wrote a few travel pieces when we lived in England and a feature about one of the guys Rick was friends with.

Years later, I wrote a book for students about study habits, how to make friends, standing up to peer pressure etc. I sent it to editors, but it kept getting turned down. I sent it to Concordia three times because I thought it was something that would fit with their others books. It never got past the secretary. Then at the first writer's conference I went to—Florida Christian Writer's Conference (I flew in from where we were stationed in England)—I got to sit down with the Concordia editor in person. She loved it and asked, "Why didn't you send this to me?" and I got to say, "I did—three times, and it got rejected all three times!" She took it back with her and it became The Junior High Survival Manual, which was updated to be The Middle School Survival Manual.

My new Tyndale book will be out in July and is called The One Year Book of Bible Trivia for Kids.

My only question is why schools think it is acceptable to make fun of the segment of the school population, who are usually already targeted by bullies... and who will, most likely, move the world forward in a lot greater way than jocks? Hevel

It took me a minute to figure out why you were asking this, and then I realized it was probably because of the nerd day picture. Jasmine's school is a charter school and there is zero tolerance for bullying thank goodness. Most schools say they have that policy, but hers has a much higher standard of conduct than the public schools. And being a charter school, there is much more of an emphasis on academic excellence than sports, although they do have sports teams. The school is smaller so they don’t really play against the big high schools.

There are many scholastic clubs at the school, and one of them decided to have a spirit week to raise funds for a student with cancer. I don't know how they chose the topics: sports teams, red and pink day (Valentine's), jeans day, nerd day and one other I can't think of. The students paid $1-2 to participate. I don't think they meant any offense by choosing nerd day because they would have really been targeting themselves. In this school, being academic is a good thing. Jasmine chose to do that day because she wanted to wear the 3D glasses, although minus the lenses. The kids still had to wear their normal uniform shirts and bottoms.

First, about your family. You have a mom, sister and a brother? He's in some early pictures but not later and no dad? Middle School Mama

I have an older sister, Mary Lou—the kids call her Aunt Lou, and an older brother Ken. My sister is almost nine years older than me and my brother is 3 ½ years older than me. My mom miscarried four children so there's big age gaps. My parents separated when I was 8 or 9. I would see my dad on Saturdays, and once I was in high school, we went on vacation to a state park each summer together. He had a stroke when I was in college and never recovered. I think he had a couple of other strokes after that and went downhill for five years or so. He died seven weeks before my wedding in 1988. My brother isn't in recent pictures because he moved to Las Vegas for a job (computers, not gambling) but we are in touch and he helps finance a bunch of the cool stuff the kids get to do.

My sister is married but doesn't have children, and my brother has never married and doesn't have children.

My brother 1991

My sister 1992

The three of us in the 60's
I don't have any pictures of my dad scanned in so I need to do that. 

I always have a lot of questions but never ask.
How is your mom doing? I think I remember reading that she was in poor health. Is she able to visit?

You can always ask questions in the comment section on any post J

I am thankful that my mom has been able to be a big part of my kid's lives. Unfortunately, for the last few years she has been unable to travel. (She broke a hip and has not been able to totally get rid of Shingles) Before that she'd come down each February for a couple of weeks. She went to Haiti with me when we were adopting Jeff. She came when Tyler and Jessica were born and she met us in Des Moines when we got Adam. She was at their dedications too (except Jeff's which took place in England). She visited us in England, ND, Okinawa, SD, GA and FL. She went to Haiti with me and on a cruise with us.

When I was in school, she was always very stressed from her job and not able to attend my sports events, so it's been nice to have her so involved with the kids. My sister has been really involved too. She hasn't been able to come see us lately though because my mother needs her there.
 We go up to Indiana each summer and plan to go this year at the end of June/beginning of July.

And by the way, my brother is my only family member who regularly reads my blog!

In Indiana

In Haiti

In South Dakota

On a cruise

In Florida

More answers to come.