Friday, December 31, 2010

2011: Change and Puzzle Pieces

2011 is going to bring a lot of change into my life.
Husband changing career paths.
Moving...again. (at least this move will still be in the same city/country)
Part time work for me (I've been a stay at home mom for the past ten years).
June 3rd.
It's coming.

I got to thinking about this today (ok, I actually think about it most of the time) when I read Wendy's "One Question Friday". Today her question was, "What are you looking forward to?" I wrote something about looking forward to the next chapter in my life. Which is true. But, at this point I'm looking forward to it because by June 3rd, I'm praying all the unknowns are filled in.
What will my husband's "job" look like?
Where are we going to live?
Where am I going to work?
Where will all my kids go to school next fall?

Pieces of a puzzleImage via Wikipedia
What keeps me sane?
Puzzle pieces.
This section of my life is a large puzzle. God has the puzzle box with all the pieces inside. He hands us a couple of pieces at a time. They don't really fit together at first, but we hang onto them and wait until he gives us more.
Then a few fit together perfectly. We begin to see a section of an unknown. It is still unclear, but we see a hint. Hope is restored.

Then more pieces fall and they don't seem to fit with anything.
Hope deflates.
More pieces fit.
Faith builds stronger.
So on and so forth.

Our puzzle is not even half finished, but I know from times past that God can just dump all the right pieces at the same time. It all comes together in the end.  The key is just not to get too impatient and make my own puzzle pieces which I force to fit into the puzzle.  It just doesn't work that way.
So when I start to feel impatient and even scared I think about the puzzle. I remind myself that God is in control of the large and small things. He has all those pieces and is waiting for the right time to give them to us.  Then excitement hits like waiting for Christmas morning. The anticipation of what is to come. And fear seems to just melt as truth burns it up.

How have you walked in the in the unknowns of your life?

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

QBR....Christmas Break Book Wrapup

I read a little over the Christmas break. What else to do when most of the family is too sick to go out and enjoy the beautiful weather we've been having. Not complaining. Not complaining. I did get in a nice bike ride yesterday with Ge Ge and a great walk in this morning with a good friend and Jie Jie in her stroller.
Anyway, back to books....

The hunger games by suzanne collins free giveawayImage by GoodNCrazy via Flickr
1. Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. I'll do these together since they are the first two books in the trilogy.  Katniss is a young girl chosen to "play" in the Hunger Games, a reality TV series that watches children (12-18) kill each other. I know sounds morbid...and trust me, I was a bit nervous even starting this series. But, found them to concentrate more on the relationships and the bigger problem then the actual "hunt". There are some pretty descriptive parts, but none seem forced or overboard, in my opinion.   I did a longer review for Catching Fire on FiG. To read more click here.

Cover of "Wart"Cover of Wart
2. Wart by Anna Myers. From the front of the book, "Will Wart's witch of a teacher turn him into a star....or a frog?"  Not a book that I would have chosen for pleasure, cause it's not my favorite genre. I read it for the school library and didn't find it to be that great.

3. Civil War Spies: Behind Enemy Lines by Camilla J. Wilson.  Another book I pre-read for the library. If you are looking for information on the Civil War, this is a great book. Seven different spies are looked at in this short easy-to-read book. Loved that you could just skip around and not read in order...great research book or for those more interested in learning about people who fought during the Civil War.
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WIP...looking at 2011

Resolutions...New Year Resolutions.  I haven't really set any in years. In high school and college I'd make some up and hope that I'd get them accomplished. But, I found them to be vague and simply unattainable.  I mean, "loose weight", great goal, but not specific.
Yesterday I mentioned that setting specific goals, or resolutions if you want to call them that, is something I plan to do this year. I want them to be attainable, yet stretching and a bit challenging. I want some that are geared towards writing, some towards teaching "Jie Jie"*, and some that are more specific for my health.
Not only do I think that they need to be specific, but also I think they need to be only a handful.  I mean, if I have twenty I will never be able to keep track of all of them. I have a hard enough time keeping track of my reading glasses and cellphone.
So below I'm posting them for you all to see. HA! I need to post them on my computer, my refrigerator, and in my Bible. 

Writing Goals:
*By January 31st finish the first two chapters of my novel therefore finishing my class with Institute of Children's Literature.
*By the end of the year, I will have my novel ready for submission to an agent.
*By November 1st, I will have chosen from my PiBoIdMo list and have complete three picture book stories for submission.
*I will enter at least three writing contests this year.
*I will submit at least three stories to magazines for children, YA, and/or adult.
Teaching Goals:
*I will get back to regular lessons with Jie Jie starting January 2nd, and will continue until June 3rd.
Health Goals:
*I will only drink one carbonated drink a week for the rest of this year.
*I will do some sort of cardiovascular exercise three times a week for at least 30 min. each time. (This one is going to require some scheduling and MAJOR discipline even though I like to exercise.)

*Jie Jie means older sister in Chinese.

Do you make New Year's Resolutions? What are some of yours this year?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


That's right it's Tips, Giveaways and Contest Day!
Every Tuesday I will post at least one tip that I have or have found this past week and post about it. I will also let you know if there are any contests and giveaways that I've heard here it goes.

* C.Hope Clark is ALWAYS full of great information for writers.  This week her blog post, "Why I Want You to Blog" is to the brim with good advise on what to put in a post and what NOT to put in a post.   My favorite ideas was to keep a notebook of ideas for blogging AND having bullet points....keeping it short and sweet.
* Set specific goals. 2011 is just a few days away and setting goals help us accomplish tasks that we'd love to finish.  I'll talk more about this tomorrow as I'm working on some attainable writing goals for me.

Sorry, I've not seen any this week.

* Short story contest with The Bevel Summers Prize for the Short Story. Deadline is March 31, 2011. For more details click here.
* Women on Writing has opened their Winter 2011 Flash Fiction Contest. Deadline is February 28th, 2011. For more details click here.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Free2Eat Winner is.....

Thanks all who joined in the fun blog party to celebrate Matthea getting her feeding tube removed.  We had a lot of fun celebrating with friends and family through this blog party. We also had a "real" party at our apartment yesterday.  We had cake, cookies, and all sorts of fun things.

She dipped her finger in that icing every chance she got.
She took Free2Eat literally. =)
We also had a drawing at the party for a Frosty the Snowman DVD, which our good little pal, Mr. Chow won.  We hope he and his little sister have a great Christmas with that little prize.

And now for the winner of the Asian treats and a master piece of fingerpainting by Matthea is....drum roll......A.L. Sonnichsen.  Email me at umdmaurer at gmail dot com to let me know which flavor of Guai Guais you'd like (coconut milk or hazelnut chocolate) and your snail mail address. =)

Thanks again for all who have been watching and praying for our little miracle child.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Social Network Christmas....

A friend of mine posted this on FB. Maybe you've seen it and maybe you haven't. If you haven't take time to sit and watch. To reflect the realness of Christ's birth. 

Merry Christmas to you all!

Thursday QBR

Yes, it's the Quick Book Review again this week. I have only finished one book this week. It's the Christmas season and I am trying to catch up on the baking that I missed out on last week with the stomach flu. 
So here it is....Matilda by Roald Dahl.  Matilda, the child genius that every teacher wishes they could have once, has started primary school. But, what to do when the parents don't care and the headmistress thinks Matilda is trouble?  If you want to read more about it click here. This was one of the books on my FitG list.

There is still time to enter the giveaway celebrating Matthea's feeding tube being removed. Click here and comment if you haven't gotten the chance.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Matthea's Story: Part Two

If you are just getting in on the action, you need to read Part One first. Some stories make sense and you don't need to read the first book, but on this one...I think it would clear up some questions if you do. So, go here if you haven't read it yet. =)

Before leaving the hospital, our doctor friends from Wuhan gave us a call.  They had been talking and the brought up a diagnosis that we should also look into.  It was Cri-du-Chat. I remember specifically, our friend saying to us. Don't look up anything on the internet. It will only alarm you.
We understood their warning, but looked it up anyway.  The pictures of the children looked like they could all be Matthea's siblings.  The interesting thing was this sense of peace.  You see, we knew that the life expectancy of  people with CF was maybe 18 years old. But, people with CdC could live much longer.
I learned a lot about submission to God and his plan during our stay in Beijing (that is another post in itself!)

We left Beijing on Business class with a traveling nurse. Matthea was out of danger, but the hospital wouldn't release us without buying a nebular machine or the nurse escort.  So, we opted for our insurance company to get us an escort. Matthea had oxygen the entire flight and slept for most of it. I, therefore, slept the best I'd slept in the past week. How could I not with the nurse across the aisle AND my feet up in a reclining position.

Enter the US and lots of testing.  First, was the blood test of Cystic Fibrosis. Negative.
Neurologist met with us and ordered some muscle tests.
She was poked with needles to test the muscle reaction. Negative.
Reflux Tests. Positive
Then a chromosome test was ordered.
I remember that day. I sat in the doctor's office with my mom and Matthea. He walked by and stuck his head in the door, I have good news!
I thought to myself, Awesome! She doesn't have any chromosome problems. But, wait 'Good News' to a doctor is finding the problem. She has a chromosome problem. *deep breath*
The doctor came back in and talked with Matthea a bit. Then he sat down and began to try to tell us that Matthea had been diagnosed with Cri-du-Chat.  I had been reading about it and knew what he was talking about.
Are you in the medical field, somehow? He asks me after I tell him what I already know about this genetic disorder.
I shake my head and explain how our friends had told us to look into this, but I had forgotten until they the chromosome test was ordered.
He nodded.  He then told me that we needed to do one more test regarding aspiration, which was scheduled for that day.
Aspiration Test. Positive

Results? Matthea was scheduled to have surgery in two weeks to stop relux (fundoplication) and have a feeding tube inserted (MIC-KEY Low Profile Gastrostomy Feeding Tube).  But, the following day we were to return and be admitted into the hospital for the NG tube to be inserted. This is the tube that goes into the nose and down into the stomach.  We had to stay overnight and I had to learn how to insert the tube in case it should come out at home.  Let me say this, I'm not a nurse and this was NOT a fun time for either one of us. I practiced on the hospital doll. Then before they would release us, I had to insert it once into Matthea. I guess you could call it my test. I passed and we went to the airport to pick up Uwe and Marcus.  I say, we because my mom was with me the whole time. She was (and still is) a trooper!

So, began our tube feeding days. The NG tube did come out once or twice and I "got" to put it back in. The surgery went well and we began to see therapists weekly.  Thus, our lives changed.

During all this chaos, we were ready to move to the US.  We talked with the doctors, the surgeon, and all the therapists.  Not a single one of them told us we had to return. In fact, when we told them we were thinking about it, many replied "Why?"
 The feeding tube is easy to change. We'll send you with a few extras and if you need more just email our office and they'll get them to you, the surgeon said.
We'll give you some papers with exercises you can do with Matthea. Here is her goal for the next year. If you have questions or problems, email us, said the therapists.

Jaws dropped, we looked to God and said, Okay then, we'll go back until you tell us to leave. What do you have for us to do now?

It's been a long process and one that is by far completed. But, as a Christian, does the process ever end here on Earth? Yeah, that's what we say.  Heaven is gonna be sweet. But, until then we keep moving forward.
Sometimes it's trudging.
Sometimes it's skipping.
Sometimes it's running.
Sometimes it's simply walking.
And this week, we are skipping....celebrating this milestone in Matthea's development.

Thanks to all those who walked with us during those bleak and dark unknown days. I won't name you all because there really are SOOO many.

If you are still wanting to join in on the fun giveaway you still have time. Click here for details!

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Matthea's Story: Part One

I know that each child's delivery story is unique and great. I know this because each of my three kids have amazing stories.  But, since this is the week to celebrate Matthea's feeding tube being removed. I'm sharing her amazing story and how God gave us this little "Miracle Child".

We lived in Wuhan, China at the time of my pregnancy.  But, Matthea was born in Beijing at a hospital with foreign doctors.  When I was around seven months, our mid-wife noted that Matthea was exceptionally small. I was required to spend the rest of the pregnancy in Beijing while my eldest son of two stayed in Wuhan with Uwe.  Uwe, btw, was starting up a brand new school that would be opening around the time Matthea was suppose to be born. A little chaotic when I think back on it all. But, God was good to us.
I stayed with some great friends, Joe and Vivian Peebles.  Marcus did come and stay a few weeks with me, in which he rummaged through unopened dressers....but, we are not talking about him today or me.

Matthea was born in August at 2kg.  She seemed to be fine, so we took her home. She had lung infections at age 3 months and 5 months.  Then when she was 7 months we woke up early in the morning to find her with a very high fever and not really responding well.
Fortunately, we knew three doctors in the city. One was a foreigner and the other two were local Chinese husband/wife.  We called the foreign doctor, and she went with us to the best hospital in town, which was across the Yangtze River and about a 45 min. drive from our apartment.  This hospital confirmed that she had pneumonia. But, they did not have any rooms with oxygen. So, our friend made a phone call to our other doctor friends and we went back across the river to the Women and Children's Hospital.  (only a mile from our apartment).

Let me describe this hospital room for you.  We were told that there was no private rooms and no machines to check oxygen levels. So, we were given a bed in a room that was closed off.  There were three beds on one side of the room and three beds on the other side.  There were three other children in the room with us. All with respiratory infections.  Near our bed was an oxygen tank. It stood about 5foot tall. It was green with rust spots. It had a plastic mask attached to the side. It reminded me of a tank used to fill up helium balloons.
They told us to use the oxygen whenever Matthea needed it. Let me remind you that Matthea was seven months. She wasn't talking.  In our heads we were all thinking, "So, when she turns blue we should give her oxygen?"

That night Uwe stayed with her so I could go home and be with Marcus. He describes that night with this scene. I am feeding Matthea with a bottle while holding the mask to her face. When I see a cockroach scurry across the room towards us. I couldn't get up because I was holding Matthea, so I reached out with my foot and crunched it.  
All three doctor friends were trying to get us out of there asap.
Fortunately, we had insurance for emergencies.  The insurance company sent a doctor and a nurse to pick us all up a few days later.  The morning they were to arrive, we were escorted to the private room that was available with all the machines that were needed.  The nurse that had told us that there was no such room told us that she answered that way because it is so expensive. No one ever wants it. Note, at the time, the room cost about 5USD a day.
We were flown out of Wuhan on a private jet to Beijing.  We stayed in Beijing for about a week. During that time the doctor highly recommended that we go to the US to be tested for Cystic Fibrosis.

So, Uwe's mom came and helped out with Marcus while I took Matthea to the US for testing.

Tomorrow I'll continue with the US side of the story.....

***If you want to enter the giveaway click here and join.  Please note that if you want to be a follower and get the 2 extra points you have to click on the 'follower' icon on the sidebar.
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Monday, December 13, 2010

Free2Eat Blogparty and Giveaway

Yes, it is finally here.   The time to celebrate Matthea getting her feeding tube removed.  I'm calling it Free2Eat because, well....she is now "free to eat" whatever she'd like. (Ok, within the healthy and legal boundaries, of course!)
I have looked, but I have not written Matthea's full story anywhere on this site...or at least I can't find it. So, I promise to write it out on another post this week.
But, here is a few posts about her eating progress this past year.  If you want to read about them more to find out what the "feeding tube" is you can click here.
If you want see progress from the summer click here.

Ok, so to celebrate I'm giving away two of her favorite Asian treats.  Plus a finger painting that she will make this week.
The treats are Guai Guais, which are a puffed cereal type snack.  You can choose the coconut flavor or the hazelnut chocolate flavor (think nutella). The second treat is a rice cracker that has a sweet and salty taste to it.
Hazelnut Chocolate=Nutella

Coconut Flavored

Rules: There has to be some rules, right? They are simple.
1. Leave a comment telling us your favorite snack food. +1
2. Be a follower of this blog +2

That is 3 points total you can get. For each point I will put your name in a jar and let Matthea draw out a name.  Please leave your email address, so that I can contact you if you win.  This IS an international giveaway, so anyone can enter. 
Contest ends December 19th, 2pm in Taiwan
So that is December 19th, 12am Central Time in the USA and
December 19th, 7am in Germany.

Free2Eat is now Starting!

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Homeschool Wrap Up

I had such huge hopes for this week and then Monday hit me with stomach issues. Tuesday they progressed into a fever. Wednesday the fever hit strong, and then left. Thursday I was in bed. Friday still had stomach issues, but could leave the apartment. Today, a bit better.

So, homeschool didn't happen. But,  I do want to report one thing. Matthea has started a class with Ms. Jones, a Special Ed teacher, twice a week for 45 minutes each time. We were able to get those in this week and I am so thankful.  In class they continue to work on Matthea's IEP.  I'm glad for this time because it gives Matthea a chance to be with another teacher. For me this time allows me to see if she can sit and listen, follow instructions, and communicate with another person.  It is going well and Matthea LOVES going to school. Here she is with her backpack ready to go out the door.
The temp just dropped to 65F and all the kids thought they needed winter coats.    
  Since this week was a strange one for me, I will post the giveaway details on Monday.  So, be on the lookout for a fun and eventful blog party celebrating that feeding tube removal!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Thursday QBR

I missed yesterday's post for my WIP because I have been pretty much in bed or in the bathroom. Yeah, not a good week for me or my Hub, which I should call him my Hero. But, no horrific details on that...

Today's QBR, Quick Book Review, is on Twilight by Stephenie Meyers.  If you know me well enough you'd be shocked that this was on my 100 list for Fill in the Gap.  But, I put it down because I should read out of my genre, right? I enjoyed the book more than I thought I would. 
Isabella moves to a small town in Washington where she falls in love with the mysterious, Edward Cullen.  The mystery is that Edward is a vampire.  
If you want to read a longer review and more of my thoughts you can go here to check it out.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tips and Contests

Christmas in the post-War United StatesImage via Wikipedia

I'm trying something new. Instead of having tips and contest on Wednesday along with my wip, I'm going to have one day where I list the tips and contests that I've read that week. And that day will be Tuesdays.
Wednesday will be WiP only.
Thursday will be Book reviews
Friday will be Homeschool Wrap-up

So, to get started. This weeks tips come from Sherrinda and from The Writer's Alley.
1. Sherrinda gave me permission to edit a few pages of the manuscript a day instead of a whole chapter during the holiday time.  She's not my cp, editor, or instructor. But, her blog post December Time Stealer really took the pressure off.  So, if you are like me and trying edit that manuscript from last month or are trying to finish up a novel or story. Feel free to relax and enjoy the Christmas holidays like you are suppose to. And as Sherrinda writes, "It's only for a season, and January will come before you know it and present you with time to rest and recharge. Your fingers will fly across the keyboard with all the renewed energy!"

2. The second tip came yesterday. It is from The Writer's Alley. It is a brainstorming tip which I found really interesting and I think helpful.  Using songs to come up with story lines.  Read here to get the whole article. 

1. Marcia Hoehne is giving away Falling In by Frances O'Roark Dowell. I did a review on this book here. And the contest details can be found here

2. Casey is giving away Christmas Bodyguard by Margaret Daley on her blogsite. You can check out the details here.

3. Watch for details for my giveaway next week to celebrate the miracle of Matthea getting rid of her feeding tube!  I'll post details this weekend!  
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Friday, December 3, 2010

4 QBR (Quick Book Reviews)

The first two are from Fill in the Gap. You can read about them by clicking on the title.
1. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
2. The New Kid at School by Kate McMullan

3. The Nina, the Pinta, and the Vanishing Treasure by Jill Santopolo

This was a good mystery for upper elementary students.  The Christopher Columbus exhibit has gone missing from the town museum.  Alex Flint wants to be a super sleuth and this is his chance to crack a case. Alex and his sidekick, Gina, collect clues together to find the missing artifacts.  Will they catch the thief and recover the stolen exhibit in time?

4. Falling In by Frances O'Roark Dowell
Isabella Bean is not the popular kid at school. In fact, she is not liked at all.  But, she hears a buzz. It's not an ordinary buzz.  She finds herself falling into a janitor's closet and into another world. The world where fairy tales and witches live.  When she if found, the children there all believe that she is THE witch.  She has to convince them that she isn't and help them locate the real one.
I liked the story quite a bit. I'm not a huge fan of fantasy, but this one got me (which surprised me) I sort of liked the narrative excerpts, where the author talks to the reader. Changed it up a bit, which was interesting.
If you are more interested, check out Marcia's blog site for another book review and giveaway.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Another Win!

Yes, I got my 30 Picture Book Ideas in 30 days! In some ways it was harder than I had thought it might be.  I mean, it's 30 have all day to come up with one. Or like I did, come up with five, then not think about it for a few days until you remember that you are behind, then think up a few more ideas.
But it gets hard about half way through. A wall seems to come in between you and the ideas. But, I got over the wall...thankfully.

Here's a few things I learned on the way of this journey.
1. I began to find PB ideas everywhere. Eg. An email from a friend about her son's Thanksgiving play triggered an idea. It's not complete, but it's an idea to play around with.
2. My youngest drives me NUTS with her questions about words and phrases.  But, I've decided to not let it do that, but to instead twist it into a story if possible. Win, win for us both. =)
3. And the last, I now have 30 ideas to play with in the year of 2011. Will they get published? Who knows, but at least I have ideas and not a blank screen to look at, right?

Did you do PiBoIdMo? If so how did it go for you?

Coming Out of Nanoland Unharmed

Doesn't this look like a dangerous place? I mean there is a monkey hanging off a tree into a river!  Or you could look at it adventure with LOTS of twists and turns that take you places you didn't know existed.
Yep, Nanoland is pretty much an awesome place. OK, I can say that now because I passed through it and survived. But here are some things that I did learn from it.

1. I CAN sit and write 1000s words a day (and sometimes more). Seriously, didn't think I could do that.
2. A story board is necessary for me, but I did have some pantser moments when I just dreamed and wrote whatever.
3. I write best after the kids are asleep at night. Mornings just didn't work out for me at all.
4. I'm still a procrastinator. I started off really well the first 1.5 weeks, then I got bored. Seriously bored. Didn't feel like writing anymore on the story. But, just like a good procrastinator, I sprinted the last five days and lost LOTS of sleep...but finished in time. Will I ever learn?
5. I found out I have an inner editor that wanted to just go back and tweak here and change/fix a scene there. But, I was able to keep that little girl locked away by telling myself, "Just write! It may feel like you are vomiting words on the page, but just write them. You have got to finish....clean up the mess later. WRITE!" I think I should have posted that on the computer screen....maybe next year. 
6. I could NOT have done this without the support of the HUB. He was really great and understanding through the whole thing. And my kiddos, too! Plus all the people who where cheering me on! Thanks!

I've enjoyed reading other blogs about Nanoland.  Here are some of my favorite posts. They are great if you are thinking about doing it next year.
1. KarenG writes about why Nano is good for writers to do. Click here to read about it.
2. On The Writer's Alley, Sherrinda wrote how to get your word count in during the holidays. Click here.
3. And Sherrinda wrote what she learned on her own blog here.

Well, that was the last of my Nano News of this year.  I promise NOT to mention it again (that is for the HUB's sake).  But, I will mention my WIP, which is written thanks to Nano.  But, now it shall rest for a week or so, then I'll take a peek at the first two chapters. Those have a deadline with my instructor at the end of December. (So, if anyone out there has NOTHING better to do right before Christmas give me a shout and I'll email those two chapters for you to read through and give your suggestions.)

Good-bye Nanoland, hello family!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Celebration Time!

Yep, I did it. I just completed it and sent it off. It's done.
My fingers are in need of some desperate rest because I did a typing marathon at a sprint speed the last five days and they are just not doing what my brain is telling them to do.
Tomorrow I'll post about what I've learned from this insane month of novel writing. But, for now...I'm off to READ a book.

So, are your fingers panting for breath right now, too?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Just Being Thankful

Thanksgiving Day is ending for me for this year (I live in Asia).  Today was one of those days that tested my "thankfulness". I know, I's Thanksgiving and I should be SO thankful. So, here is my spin on all the "not so thankful thoughts" that kept popping up.  Here it goes....
1. My husband is in S. Korea. Yes, he left the day after the bombing. He is there for a conference.  But, I'm so grateful because, well...I'm thankful for oovoo and skype. I got to oovoo chat with him and see his handsome face. And thankful that things seem to be fine there. God's protection and MY peace.
2. In the shower with suds in my hair and our doorbell rings. No JOKE! Marcus tells me it is our building security man with a package.  Thankful for a helping Son and Candy Corn, fun magazines. And my kids are thankful for all their little gifts, too! (Thanks all who put that care package together!)
3. It was raining this morning....not drizzle, but downpour. And I "got"to walk in that rain with my three kiddos in tow . So, I'm thankful for umbrellas, raincoats and a stroller with a good rain cover.
4. I'm WAY behind on my NaNo writing....but, I'm so thankful for all that I've learned so far. AND, for the fact that I have the next few days to spend countless hours when kids are sleeping to write and not feel guilty because I'm not spending the quality time with the Husband.

Matthea's First Thanksgiving Meal...she's eating
Pumpkin Pie here and LOVIN' it!
And because of all the "taking captive" of my thoughts this day, I became thankful for all the other blessings in my life.
*Invitation to a Thanksgiving meal with a bunch of awesome friends who are so encouraging and uplifting in WORD and DEED!
*Pre-baked sweet potatoes: For pics check out my friend's blog b/c she posted about this same thing too.
TIP, after you buy the pre-baked (or after you bake them yourself) let them cool, then refrigerate or freeze with skin until you need to use them. They peel SO easy this way!
*Matthea's feeding tube removed last month.
*Megan's progress in Chinese language and how she makes me smile listening to her sing in Mandarin and sometimes in Taiwanese.
* Marcus' help while Uwe is gone(note #2) God's blessed me with this young guy (and with my two little girls, too)
*A warm apartment....I haven't had to turn on electric heaters yet. =)
*Friends: from my past, from my present, from home, from here, from all over the world, from my blogging world, from my "real" world. I am so thankful for you all!
*God...who took a small mid-west girl and transformed her into something she thought she'd NEVER be able to be and that HE still continues to work in her life DAILY with PATIENCE, PATIENCE, did I mention PATIENCE? He seriously is so patient with me...for that I'm so grateful!

May you have a blessed Thanksgiving today with your family and friends wherever you are!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Flattened Frogs and Critiques

A frog eye in its protruding eye socket, close up.Image via Wikipedia
A few nights ago I was walking around the track with a good friend. We were chatting away when I noticed this blob on the ground. It was a flattened frog. You know the sun dried kind that is shriveled up.  I didn't want to interrupt my friend, so I stepped over it.  But, as I walked the next lap I began to question myself. Was it truly a frog? On the track? In the city?
So, the second time around, I looked a bit closer. Which is quite hard when you are walking fast and talking. I still didn't say anything about it to my friend.
I did get a better look of it.  I was sure it was a frog.  How did it get there? Who stepped on it? Gross!
The third time around I told my friend. I thought I had better kick it off of the track so we wouldn't have to watch for it every time. We stopped walking and looked at it.
It was a piece of dirt in the shape of a flattened frog. Ya, I should have worn my glasses. 

What's this have to do with critiques?
1.  Take a good look at your manuscript. Slow down. Put it away for a week or two and revisit it. Whether it is 500 words or 50K, make sure it is in good shape before you ask someone to critique it.  I looked at that "frog" twice, but I did't slow down to look at it.

2. Ask people to read it.  Don't assume you don't need anyone to critique it before submitting to a magazine or agent.  Don't be shy of having someone read your work and give you feedback. Don't be prideful and think you can do it on your own.  Most, if not all, published writers have at least 1-2 critique partners.  Remember that critiques are there to only make your story better. If I hadn't asked my friend to stop and inspect the "frog", I would have been stepping over it for the rest of our walk.  

3. Use the critique ideas.  Strengthen your character, clarify relationship, stronger plot...whatever is suggested.  But, remember you do have the right to not make all the changes. *But, remember pride in #2.
Had I not agreed with my friend, I would still believe the dirt clod was a flattened frog.  

4. Give Thanks!  Be thankful for those who took time out of their busy day to read your story or article.  Tell them "Thank-You".
I sure was thankful my friend was willing to slow down and even stop to look at the "frog".

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Coming and Going...Life as an Expat

Today I'm not posting my WIP..mainly because I've not done a whole lot. On top of a busy weekend, the Son and Husband were sick.  They are feeling better, but today I'm feeling it, but no time to be sick 'cause I have to take Matthea to see the surgeon for hopefully the last she has ST and PT today.  So instead of complaining, below is a fun post.

Every year  living overseas has its hard's usually at the end of a school year when one must say "Good-bye" to dear friends who are moving elsewhere in the world. This IS a yearly event. Not fun. During those times, I have to remind my self that it is not "good-bye", but a "see ya later".  For in fact, I will see many of them again. It may be in heaven. Or it could be for a weekend or a night or for even a few hours.  Expats move around. They travel.  They go places.  And they usually find people they know to visit with at every stop.  This is what I love.
 I love it that someone may FB me or call and say,
"Hey, I'm coming to Taipei for the weekend, want to get together for coffee?" (YEAH!)
Or "I have an overnight in Taipei, can I stay with you all?" (Of COURSE!)

Cindy came this spring and stayed with us. Taken at Taipei 101!
Heather came by Taipei for the weekend with her kiddos...spent an hour
with her catching up! That was just this weekend! 

Manuel gave a lecture at NTU last week and stayed with us this weekend.
Good family friend of Uwe's (and now mine! *grin*)
And more are coming this weekend for the day. I'm pumped because, well, more reminders for me this summer...that it isn't "good-bye", but a "see ya later".

Do you have people in your life that seem to come and go?  How do you deal with the "good-byes"? (I tend to deny, avoid, then cry buckets of tears...)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Camping in Taiwan: New Iron Horse Park Campground

This past weekend we camped out with the Cub Scouts Pack 23.  We've been a part of this pack for the last three years and have only repeated a campsite once (and we go camping twice a year).  There are some really great kid friendly campsites near Taipei.
New Iron Horse Park was no exception.  This small campsite is nestled between a hill and a stream. Outlining the campsite is mountains with rows and rows of tea bushes. Lots of tea is harvested in this area and you can watch them make tea oil at various places.
At the site, there were wooden platforms for your tent to sit on and the bathroom facility was simple, but clean.
The nice thing for us was that there was a pavilion that we were able to sit under and eat while it rained. It also had lights, so that gave us a place after the sun went down to hang out and play games.  The camp manager also let us have a campfire in the middle of the site.  Many times campfires are not allowed, so having one made me like this place even more. Of course, there was singing and s'mores around the amazing blazing fire.

We will be heading back there sometime in the spring when the weather warms up.  We are thinking the kids will love to hike up the stream. There is also a nice bike path that looks easy enough for us to manage, so we'll be doing that as well after the winter passes by.

Here are a few pics that I took while there.  If you want to check out more pictures you can go here. For directions click here.  

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Homeschool: Let's go to the Zoo!

These past two weeks have been slightly chaotic.  I could blame NaNo. (btw, I'm 23,000 words or so from the 50,000 goal)
 Or hospital trips for all THREE kids. (ear infection, foot fungus thing, and feeding tube removal...and I still have two more visits in the next two weeks...*pathetic sigh* don't get me started...(=  )
Or the fact that EVERY weekend is booked with some huge family event....does anyone else out there feel that train speeding up out of control yet?
Anyhoo....last weekend some friends came to visit and we took them to the zoo. So, Matthea and I looked at some zoo animals and made some crafts.  She made two of each so we could revisit Noah's Ark...

I traced a giraffe from an online coloring page. Matthea cut brown pieces of paper and glued them on.
We dipped the side of a pop-cycle stick into black paint and printed the strips.
Got the idea from Kids Craft Weekly, even the zebra drawing!  
The Ark now with two sets of animals...we may add more throughout the year.
Cognitive:  We've been working on matching lowercase to uppercase letters...still on a-d.  With numbers we are recognizing 1-5 and now I'm adding #6.  Also focusing on the concept of two.  The other is learning "inside" and "outside" concepts. I had big plans for the last two concepts, but will use them next week and take some pics of how I did it then.

Social: We are working on taking turns in playing simple games. We do this during family time with her siblings, but mainly with me. We've played a few fun games and she is learning.  Right now her favorite game is a bead threading game from Germany called Fadelraupe or in English it's Thread Caterpillar.  It's a great game for color learning, taking turns, and threading beads.

Fine Motor:  Scissor cutting, which we did for the giraffe; using the fingertips to hold and grab...she had to do that with the printing zebra activity.  And we continue to drawing circles and lines. This week our hot water heater started leaking, so we got a new one (one thing I love about being a renter...not having to pay for the new heater) and I let her draw all over the box.

Getting started with her drawing.

Gross Motor:  We are working on stairs, using one hand on the rail going up and both coming down.  Also, lots of jumping going on in our apartment. Thankfully, our downstairs neighbors our out of town for a bit, and are very gracious when they are home.
Then we used the box for a tunnel.

She crawled round and round in it for about fifteen minutes only because...
this was more fun!
Until the box gave out completely. =)
Speech:  We met with a ST last week and have changed Matthea's speaking cards to more simple words....words with a vowel ending.  She still struggles with some blends like "moo" and "boo", but she really tries hard. It'll come.  And her favorite speech activity is horn therapy. We switched to a horn that has a windmill that spins if you blow on it correctly. That is always fun.

 Hope everyone has a great weekend....I'm packing for an overnight camp out with the Cub Scouts and my family.  Praying it doesn't rain...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NaNo...week 2

Postings are choppy and very random this month because I need to stay focused! =)

WIP: Work In Progress
Otherwise known as NaNoWriMo.  I'm doing ok with my word count, I think.  I'm at 18,760 words when I stopped last night.  I wasn't able to write this past weekend and won't be able to write this weekend either, or the, early mornings and late nights for me to push this through. But, so far all is good. Coffee is my best friend right now.  At the end I'll post what I've learned during my first NaNo experience.
PiBoIdMo is going ok, too.  I'm at 12 ideas and it is day 10, so I'm hanging in there. But, again, this is harder than it sounds.  I'm still so thankful for the daily prompts from other authors that is blogged about.

QBR: Quick Book Reviews
1. Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little by Peggy Gifford
Who does not love Stuart Little? I had to find out why Moxy didn't like him. He'd been with her all summer - she was suppose to read the book over the summer. But, isn't there always some distraction for anything you have to do? (like NaNo?) Same for, easy upper elementary read.

2. Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
This book made me laugh out loud in the hospital lobby. To read more about it click here.

TGC: Tips, Giveaways, and Contests
Tip:  Comes from my 9 year old. The Son tells me the best way to up my word count is to write "do not" instead of "don't" little cookie, ya think?  Bless his teacher's heart. HA!

I don't really have any contests or giveaways to report this week. I did win one though. I will be receiving Audra Harders' book Rocky Mountain Hero when it comes out in January.  This contest comes from Seekersville...thanks so much!

Btw, Mom, I'll let you read it first if you want before you mail it here. ;)
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Thursday, November 4, 2010

More Giveaways...and NaNo/PiBoIdMo

Wednesday I forgot to mention how I was doing with PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month)...well, it is the start of Day 5 and I have six ideas.  I like that they have a daily post from published authors to help stimulate ideas from. That has been helpful.
As for NaNo...I'm a little over 8K...I'm going to try to get to 12K by the end of the day.  Why killing myself on my birthday?  Well, this weekend is my birthday weekend bash...sort of. Saturday we are heading to the zoo (not planned for my birthday, but I'm declaring it as if it was).  Sunday my husband is going to make breakfast for me and he and the kids are going to make a cake.  Then we are going to a friend's house for see, I need to write like a crazy woman today so I can play with a clear conscience this weekend with my family.
Yes, today I turned...the big 36 (and I was graciously reminded that I'm over half way to 70, which confused the youngest who asked if I was 80...hmmm, I still love her!)
So this morning, I got hot chocolate mixes from the family...milk chocolate, mint chocolate, caramel kisses, and french vanilla...all go really well with coffee. =)  But, the best just happened seconds ago.  Hubby "forgot" his bag for work and had to come home for it he said on the phone. But, when he got here he informed me that he had taken a personal day to watch Matthea this morning so I could WRITE!  And then this afternoon he has sitters lined up to help out so we can go out on a DATE! I'm almost in tears...seriously! He is WAY too good to me.
But, I mentioned Giveaways in the Title...sorry, I'm not giving away my hot chocolates...but telling you about other blog giveaways. So here they are...

1. Marcia Hoehne is giving away another book...Clementine: Friend of the Week by Sara Pennypacker. Click here for details.

2. Two of a Kind Working on a Full House has two giveaways that I want to mention. Both are DVDs;
The first if for Barney's Fairy Tales. Click here for more details.
The second is for Veggie Tales It's a Meaningful Life. Click here for details.

Ok, I need to finish getting ready so I can'll catch me at Mr. Browns or Starbucks...I'm the one acting out scenes behind the laptop.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

WIP: NaNo Fever!

WIP: Work in Progress
Well it is NaNoWriMo Time!  I have had to slow down today because of doctor appointments (which Matthea is healing slowly, but still ok. We see Dr. again on the 17th), feeding the family, and now am just waiting for the Son to finish his homework and get to bed. Then I can pour a cuppa tea and enter "NaNoLand".  It's best if I can enter when all is quiet in the house. And tonight is especially quiet...the hub is out working and the two little lassies are in bed asleep. YES! (now if they'll just stay that way tonight)
I'm a newbie at NaNo and feel fairly good about the first two days.  I ended day two with 5090 words. But, is that because I'm a fast typist or winded with words. Time will tell as I plod along the path of my storyboard.  Yes, I thought I'd be a little organized for this event. Check out the tips section because this week's tip is on storyboards.  And I found it to be very helpful in planning. It has been quite useful already keeping me focused and going forward, not sideways or backwards.  Here's a picture of what mine looks like. Yes, it's sticky tacked up to the wall.  
As for getting out the other two magazine articles...well, that just didn't happen.

QBR: Quick Book Review
Just Grace Walks the Dog by Charise Mericle Harper was a fun quick read that I'd let my 3rd grader read. Although he probably wouldn't because the MC is a girl. Great illustrations that helped show how Grace tries to convince her parents that she is responsible enough to own a dog.  They even build a life-sized one out of cardboard and tape him to a skateboard to take on "walks". 

Sheep by Valerie Hobbs tells the story about Jake a sheep dog that looses his parents as a puppy and goes from one owner to the next. Some are good and some are mean.  He ends up at a ranch that does not have sheep-but orphan boys.  He meets Luke here at this ranch and finds a friend and a home.  

The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood is a historical novel for YA. I liked this book quite a bit. I'm not into theatre, but liked the history part of it.  If you want to read a full book review on this book click here.

TGC: Tips, Giveaways, and Contests
Tips today come from Ali Cross.  She had two very great tips that have helped me start this NaNo writing mania. They were on storyboards and based on the book Save the Cat by Blake Synder.  To read this two part series click Part 1 and Part 2 to read more.
1. Angelina Ballerina Nutcracker Sweet DVD.  Click here for more details. 
1. Ali Cross is giving away The Lost Hero signed by Rick Riordan!  Click here for a chance to win!

And the Boy is ready for a few minutes you'll find me in Nanoland....
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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Weekend Wrapup

I know most people do a Weekly Wrapup, but this weekend just needs to posted about.  First, the hospital visit for Matthea.  If you didn't read the last post, Matthea has a feeding tube and we were going Saturday to see if she was ready to have it removed.  Well, we saw a doctor who agreed that it was time and told us that we'd probably need surgery and referred us to the surgeon. We saw the surgeon on the same day...btw, can you believe THAT?  Amazing I know...just across the waiting room from the doctor. Anyway, more amazing things to come. The surgeon took a look at her sight and told us that she probably would NOT need surgery.  Yes, you read that I took out the last feeding tube EVER from my daughter and she threw it in the trash herself!  We didn't have a camera...we had no idea that Saturday was going to be the DAY!  We do have a follow up appointment with the surgeon on Wed. to make sure the sight is healing correctly. If all looks good...we are cleared!
So, for a last minute unplanned celebration, we walked in the drizzle (which we could care less that we had no umbrella) to TGI Fridays and went crazy with food orders!  There WILL be a planned party at our house later after we get the cleared checkup and I'm even going to have a Celebration Giveaway to celebrate as well. More details to come!

Can't top off that, now can I?  So, I won't....I'll just add some pics of other things we did this weekend for fun.
Listened to The Pond for a few hours. We have their cassettes.
I know, cassettes? Yes, we got them free from a library that
was upgrading...

Built a scarecrow together..well, minus Matthea.
She was Scared.To. Death.

Made a pumpkin jar craft together. Matthea tearing paper.

Final product. Got the idea from here.