Monday, October 29, 2012

Children's Book Review: The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear

This is a book that I remember from when I was growing up. It was first published in the 1980s (a year before I was born), and has since sold over a million copies. I remember sitting on the couch reading it with my mother, and now I have the privilege of reading it to my own children. And oh how fun it is to see my children fall in love with the story!

So how does a little mouse hide his red ripe strawberry from the big hungry bear? Well, there are numerous ways that include everything from disguises to armed guards, but you'll have to read the book to discover the best way to protect a strawberry. And watch out, because you just might meet a fox along the way!

All in all, this is one of my favorite children's books, and both of my boys (who are different ages and have very different tastes) love this story as well. I suggest you get a copy for your own bookshelf, or at least rent it from the local library. Our library has puppets that go along with this story as well, and my kids love playing with the mouse and strawberry.

So now I'm curious. How many of you remember this book from your childhood days?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

"Hurried Mom's" Dinner Recipe from Carla Gade

We're back today with a quick, easy dinner recipe from Author Carla Olson Gade. Actually, she gave us two recipes. And I must admit, as easy as the second recipe is, the first just my style:

Stouffer’s Chicken Alfredo. Stick it in the microwave for 10 minutes and ta da! LOL!

Hurried Mom’s Dinner:
1 porkshop, 
2 peeled whole carrots (trim ends off, cut in half, slice down the middle), 
1 medium potato (cut in half). 

Wrap ingredients in aluminum foil and bake until done, about 30 minutes. Serve in foil, no plates needed.

Thanks for sharing those quick, easy ideas with us, Carla. I think every mom on the planet need a few of those back up meals in her arsenal (along with coupons for the local pizza place).

Don't forget we featured an interview with Carla Olson Gade on Monday, and we're giving away a copy of Colonial Courtships to one lucky commenter. If you haven't entered the giveaway yet, be sure to stop by and leave a comment. The contest ends on Saturday, October 27, at midnight.

Unexpected adventure has the four Ingersoll brothers rethinking their futures. But will it thwart their plans for good or bring about four colonial courtships? 

Carving a Future - Connecticut, 1753:  Ship figurehead carver Nathaniel Ingersoll has apprenticed for many years under his Uncle Phineas and hopes to become a master ship carver in his own right. Constance Starling was spirited away from England to the Connecticut coast as an indentured servant, arriving too ill for anyone to accept her. When Nathaniel takes pity on her, he purchases her contract. Has he jeopardized the future he has worked so hard to achieve for the welfare of a weakly servant?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Interview and Giveaway with Author Carla Olson Gade

I've got a fun guest to introduce to you today. Her name is Carla Olson Gade, and she's the author of The Shadow Catcher's Daughter as well as the novella Carving a Future in a brand new novella collection from Barbour Publishing, called Colonial Courtships.

I first met Carla last year sometime. It seems that we both got our book contracts, her for The Shadow Catcher's Daughter and me for Sanctuary for a Lady, around the same time. And that's how we hooked up. Carla will be giving away one copy of Colonial Courtships to a commenter. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment with your email address at the end of the post. I hope you enjoy the interview.

Tell me a bit about your family. How many children do you have, and if they still live at home, how old are they? 

I live in central Maine with my husband, Brad. We have two sons, Brandon (24), and Justin (25) who live nearby, but have their own apartments. Justin is going to be a dad in the spring, so I’ll be a Nana!

Why did you choose to work from home rather than find a job elsewhere?

For the most part I was a stay at home mom while my children grew up. I occasionally had a part-time job, including paid ministry work, and did home day-care for a time. When they were older, I worked from home as a web designer for many years, and taught adult education courses. It was important for me to be the primary caregiver for my children. I also home schooled my children for several years, as it was important to me to be involved in their education. After my boys grew up, I worked part-time for an adult literacy agency. Even though finances were tight, I have never regretted my time spent working “inside the home” and I commend moms who can do so, though I know it is not always possible.

What is the most challenging aspect of working from home while raising children?

When my sons were small, I started writing fiction as a hobby with dreams that perhaps someday I might get published. But, given our family circumstances, I had to put some of my dreams on hold, although I still enjoyed writing occasionally, and wrote a newsletter for young mothers. It is important to keep in step with the Lord for his timing for our goals and specific needs of our family.

Over-commitment is something to be wary of for a mom at home, be it part-time work, volunteer activities, or children’s activities. When I do something, I tend to go into overdrive and hyper-focus and I knew my kids sensed my frustration when I felt they were interrupting me. My “just one minute” mantra didn’t cut it. Children don’t like to be interrupted either, but we tend to disregard that. Practically speaking, we learned to give each other time to switch gears while displaying the proper attitude: they knew they were ultimately my top priority, and they need to show respectful obedience. Balance, pacing, respect. And showing by example how to make a discerning choice by not saying yes to everything that comes along so we can better concentrate on our true purpose and not be distracted by the busyness. It’s also important for them to understand what your work looks like, so they know when mom is working or not, especially true when you do computer work.

Did you ever get your children involved with your home business? What advice would you give mothers thinking about having their children help with their business? 

My children often helped with ministry projects, entrepreneurial activities, and business. I wanted them to feel like they were contributing, too, and that their participation was valuable. Both of my sons were hired to help out on occasion. One of my sons did some graphic design and computer work for me, giving him an opportunity to earn monetary compensation for his talents. And when we directed youth camps, everyone had a job. One son worked in the kitchen, another ran the camp store. As adults they are often complimented–and rewarded–for their strong work ethic and helpful attitudes. That, they learned at home!

If you're married, what challenges did working from home present to your marriage, and how did you compensate?
My husband was more objective than about how much I could handle. I have a lot of health issues, and as I said earlier would sometimes take on too much. My enthusiasm didn’t always match my physical state of being. It is important to consider your husband’s opinion and develop a realistic plan for meeting goals together. Nothing can breed resentment quicker, though I am happy to have a very supportive and considerate huz! I found that communication is really important to coordinate schedules and family responsibilities. When you work at home, it affects your husband, too. One thing that helps is setting work hours that fit your family’s and marriage's style.

If you could start all over again, what would you do differently? What would you do the same? 

Be more discerning about how I spent my time and not get so exhausted. But for the most part, I’m happy to have homeschooled my sons for as long as I did, and that I was around when they were teenagers. I’m glad I was able to teach them the benefit of working and serving together with their family and others. One thing I’d do exactly the same is belong a mother’s support group as I did when my boys were young (I was a co-founder and also led a mother’s Bible study). It enriched my life and was invaluable.

Is it worth it? What keeps you home instead of having an outside career?

Yes, it was worth it! I cherish the time I was able to spend at home with my children and now that I have an empty nest, I miss them so much. Since I’m such a homebody though, I’m happy that now I can write full-time as a career from my home office.

Thank you for that lovely interview, Carla! We're so pleased to have you with us this week. Carla will be with us again on Thursday to share a quick recipe. In the meantime, don't forget to leave a comment with an email address for a chance to win a copy of Colonial Courtships. The giveaway will end Saturday, October 27, at Midnight. 
Unexpected adventure has the four Ingersoll brothers rethinking their futures. But will it thwart their plans for good or bring about four colonial courtships? 

Carving a Future - Connecticut, 1753:  Ship figurehead carver Nathaniel Ingersoll has apprenticed for many years under his Uncle Phineas and hopes to become a master ship carver in his own right. Constance Starling was spirited away from England to the Connecticut coast as an indentured servant, arriving too ill for anyone to accept her. When Nathaniel takes pity on her, he purchases her contract. Has he jeopardized the future he has worked so hard to achieve for the welfare of a weakly servant?

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Benefits of Exercising

As moms, we often find our schedules filled to the brim with our children and their activities, housework, meals, personal projects and the list goes on. One thing we busy moms often leave out of our schedules is a little thing called . . .


Yes, that's right exercise. Some days I'm so busy that exercise seems like it should a swear word. But it isn't. It's a time-consuming but beneficial habit that each and every one of us should make time for at least twice a week.

Don't believe me? People who exercise regularly:

1. Maintain better control of their weight.
2. Reduce their chances of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
3. Have more energy.
4. Get better sleep.
5. Have better psychological health.
6. Maintain healthier bones, muscles and joints.

Oftentimes in our quests to take good care of our families, we forget to take good care of ourselves. But in truth, the whole family benefits when mama is healthy, happy, and well rested. Exercise is key to all three of those things. So if you're not already making time to exercise two or three times a week, make some!

I'll have some fun exercise ideas posted later in the week. In the meantime, pencil in a couple hours of exercise this week.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Friend Me (Not)

Friend me, friend me not. 
Should you or should you not be your child’s friend is one of the biggest modern parenting questions. Many parents use the framework “Will my child still like me if I do X?” before making any decision, whether consciously or unconsciously. And having a child scream at you, “I hate you,” and run off crying to her room can devastate most parents.

Fifty years ago, parents didn’t worry about whether or not their children liked them. Fifty years ago, parents realized that being a good parent wasn’t going to be popular with the kids. Fifty years ago, parents knew that when a child yelled “I hate you,” it generally meant they were doing the right thing.

We need to realize that we shouldn’t worry so much about having our children’s approval. Keep in mind that by not concerning yourself with being liked by your kids, you will be a much more effective leader in your home. Someone needs to do the heavy lifting when it comes to the discipline and decision-making that is part of the growing-up process.  

Remember, the right decisions are not going to be popular. Who ever heard of a child protesting vehemently when you told him he was going out for ice cream? Children only protest when they don’t like the decision.

You as a parent should expect that one day, your child will shout to you the heart-rending words “I hate you”—because that’s what all kids do at some point. Children may say they don’t like you, but if you think about when they utter those words, it’s usually because they disagree with whatever decision (or consequence) you’ve just delivered. The reality is, you are giving them what they need, even though they can’t express it (and probably won’t appreciate it) until they are parents themselves.

Whenever the need to be liked by your children hits you, think about the future. Doing our job as leaders when our kids are under 18 lays the foundation for a lifetime of friendship. We only have a mere 18 years to train and mentor our kids, but many times over to be their friend when they become adults.

My mother and I clashed some during the teen years, and there were times when I—much to my embarrassment now—hollered that I hated her. Today, I’m grateful for the many years we’ve had of sweet friendship, of sharing and laughing and praying together, of being mother and daughter, yet friends as well. Years that I hope will continue well into the future.

So preserve in your calling as a parent, the authority in the home, by fixing your eyes on the long term goal instead of a short-term gain of being liked by your kids all the time. If we focus on raising responsible, caring, emancipated adults, we will have done our job well—and found a new friend in our grown children.

How do you handle unpopular decisions with your children?

Sarah Hamaker is a certified Leadership Parenting Coach™ through the John Rosemond Leadership Parenting Coaching Institute. She’s also a freelance writer/editor, author of Hired@Home and her stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Sarah lives in Virginia with her husband and four children. Visit her online at, and follow her on Twitter @novaparentcoach. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Book Spotlight: The Daughters of Bainbridge House Series by Laurie Alice Eakes

Hi Everyone!

I wanted to take a few minutes today to spotlight a series I've been reading, The Daughters of Bainbrigde House by Laurie Alice Eakes. This series is set during the British Regency period, which occurred in England from 1811-1820. While the secular romance market is filled with Regency Romance writers such as Julia Quinn, Loretta Chase, Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverly, Eloisa James, and the list goes on, the inspirational fiction market has seen only a handful of authors write about this period.

Julie Klassen is one of the more recognized inspirational Regency authors. Her books have won numerous awards and hit the Christian Booksellers Association's bestseller list. Laurie Alice Eakes is another inspirational Regency author whose books are quickly gaining in popularity.

In the Daughters of Bainbridge House Series, the three heroines are sisters, and also daughters of a rather controlling and politically ambitious baron, who manages to muck around in his daughter's love lives a little too often. Here's more about the books:

Book 1: A Necessary Deception 

 When young widow Lady Lydia Gale helps a French prisoner obtain parole, she never dreamed he would turn up in her parlor. But just as the London Season is getting under way, there he is, along with a few other questionable personages. While she should be focused on helping her headstrong younger sister prepare for her entrĂ© into London society, Lady Gale finds herself preoccupied with the mysterious Frenchman. Is he a spy or a suitor? Can she trust him? Or is she putting her family in danger?

Readers will enjoy being drawn into this world of elegance and intrigue, balls and masquerades. Author Laurie Alice Eakes whisks readers through the drawing rooms of London amid the sound of rustling gowns on this exciting quest to let the past stay in the past and let love guide the future.

Book 2: A Flight of Fancy

Cassandra Bainbridge may be a bit of a bluestocking, but when Geoffrey Giles is near, love seems a fine alternative to passion for Greek and the physics of flight. With his dashing good looks and undying devotion to her, the earl of Whittaker sets Cassandra's heart racing with his very presence. It seems his only flaw is his distaste for ballooning, the obsession that consumes so much of her thoughts.

When a terrible accident compels her to end her betrothal, Cassandra heads for the country to recover from both her injuries and her broken heart. With time on her hands and good friends to help her, she pursues her love for ballooning and envisions a future for herself as a daring aeronaut. But when Lord Whittaker slips back into her life, will she have to choose between him and her dream?

Book 3: A Reluctant Courtship

A Reluctant Courtship releases in October 1213 and will tell the story of the youngest and most beautiful Bainbridge daughter, Honore. Honore, for all her beauty though, seems rather cursed in love and always tangles with the wrong men. It will be refreshing to see her get things right when she finally has her own story!

This week, at Regency Reflections (where I blog once a month  with the author of the Bainbridge House series), we're having a giant party to celebrate the release of A Flight of Fancy. The author is giving away a Regency gift basket complete with tea, cookies, and even an amazon gift card. To enter the giveaway, you'll need to participate in the fun little Regency quiz we're giving. So if you've got a few minutes, head on over and join the party!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Balancing Motherhood and Expectations: Part 2

On Monday, I blogged on Balancing Motherhood and Expectations, wherein I outlined three things we can do when other people's expectations seem to overwhelm us. Today I've got two more tips to share, plus a little story, about how sometimes life conspires against us, even when we really try our best to meet expectations. These tips continue from the first blog post, which is why they're numbered 4 and 5.

4. Accept help without grudging.

For certain personalities (like mine!) accepting help can be hard. When someone offers to help us, we feel like we're only getting help because were a bit of a failure and our previous efforts aren't good enough. If we were good wives, mothers, etc., then no one would ever offer to help with anything.

Whatever you do, don't fall into this thought pattern. It's a lie, and believing it will bring you little happiness. If you're a mom who gets up every morning and works for her family, if you make choices based on what's best for your children and husband, then you are NOT a failure, regardless of how sticky your kitchen cabinets are, or that there's a mess underneath the kitchen table--where you swept fifteen minutes ago.

Most offers of help are genuine. Have you ever offered to help a friend or loved one and then had a great time doing so? I know I have. The truth is, when someone sees you in need and offers to help, accepting that help can mean blessings not just for you, but also for them. So the next time someone sees a need in your life and offers to help, realize the person is likely trying to be a blessing, not viewing you as a failure. Every person on the planet needs a helping hand once in a while. You're far from the only one!

5. Realize that your efforts will not always go according to plan.

If we live isolated on a mountaintop with only bears and wolves to keep us company, we might find that we can control everything that happens to us . . . or mostly everything. Because if you really lived on such a mountaintop, there would still be threat of wildfire, avalanche, bear and wolf attacks, and the like.

When we live in busy households and share bathrooms, living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, etc. with our children and spouse, our hard work and efforts don't always turn out the way we expect them too. People move that important bill from the table to the counter, and kids spill juice on that thank you note you finally got around to writing. Don't get frustrated. Instead take a deep breath and understand that plans sometimes change because of others in your family.


So, now for my funny story. Last week I FINALLY got around to writing a thank you note, filling out a survey form, and typing a response letter about a book I'd been given to analyze. Keep in mind I should have had these letters written at least three weeks earlier, if not a month. But I blocked out time in my schedule, got everything written, printed, stuffed in an envelope, addressed, and sealed. But I didn't have any stamps. So I left the letter on a corner of the table that usually remains undisturbed.

Had I remembered to get stamps the next day, the letter could have gotten in the mail as it should. Unfortunately I forgot. And forgot and forgot and forgot. At some point in my forgetfulness, I set a water bottle beside the envelop. No big deal.

Except the water bottle leaked. All over my nice, perfect letter. When I held the bottle up to figure out why there was water all over my table, I discovered a subtle crack in the metal along the bottom.

So then I was stuck rewriting and printing everything. The letter got in the mail an entire week late. And as I was going through the process of re-mailing everything to a sweet older couple who probably expected to hear back from me four weeks ago, I decided that I wasn't going to feel guilty about what happened. I'm a mom with two little boys and a very busy life. It while was kind of that couple to buy me lunch, give me a book, and ask my opinion on it, responding to them took a lot of time.

Time that is precious. Time I didn't have. And time I don't regularly allot, because I'm a mom who writes, not a business woman who happens to have children.

But every night when I go to bed, and even twenty and thirty years from now, I don't and won't regret my decision to be a wife and mom first. Because my family is more important than keeping some acquaintances happy.

So what about you? Do you ever find yourself questioning your priorities about motherhood?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Balancing Motherhood and Expectations

Everyone has expectations of us, whether they be our husband or child; boss, parents, or in-laws. As mothers with busy lives, we often find ourselves with not only a long list of housework and children's needs to care for, but with an equally long list of other people's expectations.

Your mother comes to visit, and she expects your house to be clean. Your in-laws come, and they expect your house to be clean. You have friends over for dinner, and they expect your house to be clean. You get together with a new acquaintance so your kids can have a play date, and she leaves in a huff after your son pushes hers.

Yesterday we had a potluck at church, and everyone there expected me to be in the kitchen, smiling as I took food, cut the deserts and dishes that hadn't been cut, find spoons and spatulas for various dishes, and the list goes on.

And often times as mothers, we're supposed to live up to these expectations while the our kids our off playing quietly in a corner. Heaven forbid they get up and run around, or that they get bored and leave that perfect little corner, or that they get mad and start fighting with one another.

So how do we handle everybody else's expectations while still mothering our own children?

1. Focus on your priorities.
Priorities can open up a whole other discussion, but as a wife and mother, your first priority should be your husband, and the next should be your children. You only get one chance to raise your kids, and then they're off on their own, making decisions based on the principles they learned throughout their childhood. So next time someone calls needing you to make something for the bake off, ask yourself if you can feasibly do that task, or if your kids will suffer by being shoved off into some corner.

2. Be polite but firm.
When some well intentioned person (or even a vicious one) starts lecturing you about how your raising your children wrong, or your mother-in-law visits and goes immediately starts washing the fronts of your sticky cupboards, be polite and gently remind that person that keeping them happy isn't your primary goal in life.

3. Don't feel guilty.
Realize that some expectations simply won't get met, and don't feel guilty for putting your family first. You're accountable to God for how you handle your family, not for how many times you make the nosy neighbor across the street smile.

On Thursday I'll be sharing a fun story about how motherhood and expectations conflicted for me last week. But first I have some questions for you. What's the most unreasonable thing a person's ever expected of you? How do you handle other people's rigorous expectations?