Danica Davidson #Minecrafters #BlogTour

Minecraft 101 for Clueless Moms

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When I was asked to be part of a Minecraft Blog Tour, I jumped at the chance- mostly because it meant my nine year daughter, Emerson, might think I was really cool and that is happening less and less these days! But, also because I was curious about what it was about Minecraft that captivates so many kids- and adults, alike!

I agreed to review a new book titled Adventure Against the Enderman by Danica Davidson. Minecraft is a huge interest to my children and although; admittedly, I only knew it as the game with blocks and block people. My daughter had to fill me in on most of it! I wasn’t expecting to be drawn into a world that I didn’t really understand.

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Adventure Against the Enderman starts by introducing you to a boy named Stevie, who lives in the Overworld (like Earth but pixelated and with a lot of monsters). Stevie and his friends from Earth have just defeated the evil Herobrine and saved the Overworld. In this book, the Overworld is once again in trouble as villagers go missing and these tall, lanky monsters called Endermen are attacking more and more. Stevie and his friends are summoned by the mayor and they become the task-force (the Overworld Heroes)  that will once again save their world.

I was surprised by how well I followed this book! I had no trouble connecting to the main character, Stevie, as he set out to prove himself to bullies, doubters, and to his dad. It reminded me what it was like to be 11 years old- being a little insecure and having to make hard decisions. In the book, Stevie is afraid of the Endermen but never afraid to do what is right!

There were certain aspects of the book that reminded me of a Harry Potter novel. The book is fast paced with twists and thrills around every corner! I think kids will love the adventure and fantasy! And, I have to admit, Adventure Against the Endermen ends with a cliff-hanger that will leave you wondering what is going to happen in Book 2?? Seriously… I want to know!

20171013_163434Here is what Emerson has to say about Adventure Against the Endermen: “Its a great book. You should read this book because its exciting. I’ve never knew that people from Earth could go to the Overworld! My favorite part of the story was when Stevie and his friends are surrounded by the Endermen and I didn’t know how they were going to survive!”

Two years ago, Minecraft became a THING at our house. Emerson talked about it. She watched videos posted by her favorite YouTuber. She would spend the next five days trying to explain the ins and outs of Minecraft to anyone who would listen. Emerson is an avid reader and she started requesting Minecraft books from every school book fair- I didn’t even know there was such a thing but we fed her fascination. 
When I ask, “What makes Minecraft so interesting to you?” My smart, articulate daughter would say, “Dunno… because its cool.”
Seeing that I am not going to get a more in depth answer, I turn my attention to someone who might provide some helpful insight, Danica Davidson, the author of Adventure Against the Endermen (and six other Minecrafter’s Adventure books).

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SM: What attracted you the Minecraft Universe?

DD: A sense of adventure, and the ability to tell many stories inside the Minecraft world. I want my books to be adventure stories first and foremost, but Minecraft as a game has a lot to offer as a background. So in my first series (which contains the books Escape from the Overworld, Attack on the Overworld, The Rise of Herobrine, Down into the Nether, The Armies of Herobrine and Battle with the Wither) we have characters going into the different fantasy worlds in Minecraft, but they also deal with real world kid issues, like cyberbullying and going to a new school. Minecraft lets me mix and match with what’s real and what’s fantasy. In my spinoff series, which starts with Adventure Against the Endermen, we’re getting set for a new set of adventures, exploring different parts of the Minecraft game and mythos. 

SM: How would you describe Minecraft to us (moms) who don’t really understand what it is?

DD: It’s definitely different from other video games out there. In Minecraft, you have your own little world and you decide what you want to do in it. Sometimes people want to play in survival mode, where they have to start from scratch and build their homes and get their own food and fight off monsters. You can also make portals to the Nether or the End, two different worlds you can find in the game. Other people like to play it in peaceful mode (you decide what mode you want to play in). Minecraft has all sorts of supplies that let you build and create, so people might build their own home just the way you want it (I built myself a house made of diamonds with bookcases all over the walls) or make incredible and detailed buildings, like castles. It’s kind of like Legos in the sense you can create what you want, but in Minecraft the supplies can be limitless. A lot of kids also like to play with friends when they play Minecraft, so it can be a fun social activity. 

SM: What kind (if any) of values/ morals can children learn from your books/ Minecraft books?

DD: I can only speak for my own books for Minecrafters. A main element in the books would be the importance of friends and family, and also of kindness and thinking about our actions. In the first series, I talk a lot about cyberbullying, and Stevie and Maison have to stop cyberbullies from taking over Minecraft. It’s done in a fantastic setting, but it still talks about what makes a person lash out and what you can do if you’re the brunt of the bullying. 

 SM: Give us some insight into the main character, Stevie. What makes him special?

DD: Stevie always means well and wants to help out anyone in trouble. But he also feels uncertain about some of his skills and is well aware whenever he messes up (which, like the rest of us, he sometimes does). In each book, I like to see Stevie grow as a person and learn new things. 

SM: What other adventures are in store for Stevie and the Overworld Heroes?

DD: Adventure Against the Endermen is setting the stage for the rest of the series. There are a number of mysteries in the first book — what does the crystal mean? Whose evil voice does Stevie hear? These mysteries, and more, will be answered during the course of the series. While the kids go on a series of adventures, it will also bring them closer to learning the truth about mysteries going back thousands of years in the Overworld. 

SM: Stevie questioned whether he was a hero. In your opinion, what characteristics does he have/ actions did he do that make him a hero?

DD: This is a theme that’s going to continue during the series, especially as he learns about the man considered the Overworld’s greatest hero. You have the idea that a hero is perfect, but no one is perfect. In the first series we see Stevie and his friends regularly risk their safety for the safety of others, knowing sometimes we all have to step up when something goes wrong. We’ll see a lot more of that in the new series. 

SM: Stevie wasn’t friends with the village kids. What advice would you give to kids that feel like they don’t “fit in”?

DD: I think we all feel that some of the time. I still do sometimes. My advice is to look inside yourself and learn who you are and continue to grow. We’re never going to please everyone, but we can all grow and be happy as individuals. 

SM: What’s the BEST advice would you give to young writers?

DD: Write! I hear lots of stories of, “I want to be a writer, but . . .” The first step, before anything else, is to write what you love and you enjoy. This will bring our your passion and help you find your voice. No one else can give you these things. 

SM: How can readers discover more about you and your work?

DD: Please check out my website, www.danicadavidson.com, and my Twitter @DanicaDavidson. Besides my books for Minecrafters, I also write how-to-draw manga books and graphic novels, and I’m interested in writing for more genres and age groups. I love writing all sorts of stuff!

 SM: Just for fun: Assuming that the Overworld celebrates Halloween- What would Stevie be for Halloween?

 DD: I love Halloween! They do celebrate Halloween in the book The Armies of Herobrine, when Maison takes Stevie to her school Halloween party. He thinks all the costumes are monsters! And the other people think he’s dressed up like a Minecraft character in a really good costume. Since it’s all about creating your own stuff in Minecraft, I think Stevie would make himself a costume as opposed to buying one from a store. Maybe he can disguise himself as an Enderman (wink-wink: that’s a reference to something later in the series!).

SM: Anything else you would like to add that might be useful for us clueless mommas?!

DD: If your kids love Minecraft, I hope you’ll check my books out. Some parents have told me Minecraft makes more sense after reading them. But my biggest thing is that I want to tell a good story, whether someone is a Minecraft fan or not. And mommas aren’t clueless — if you’re a mom, you know all the important stuff!
Thanks for your time, Danica! I’m looking forward to keeping up with Stevie’s adventures and sharing your books with young readers just like my daughter!

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DIY Halloween Costumes

Cheap and Easy Homemade Costumes

Five years ago, I learned that buying Halloween costumes for two kids (that they would only wear once) is expensive! I had this idea that MAYBE I could make costumes and save some money. I should note… I can only do a simple hand stitch. I hot glue almost everything!

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We decided to do a Wizard of Oz theme and have Dorothy and a Scarecrow. I found the Dorothy dress on a local resale site for $3. It was a few sizes too big but lucky me, my mother-in-law was a seamstress and was able to take it in. We found a small wicker purse for Dorothy’s basket, added a stuffed puppy to be Toto, and added red glitter to an old pair of tennis shoes. I had a bit more fun designing a Scarecrow costume! I shopped consignment shops and found a overall dress, striped stockings, and boots. I added patches of different fabric, straw, a hat, a crow… and I had their costumes! After I got SO many compliments and my little scarecrow won a costume contest AND I saved about $40, I decided I wanted to keep making their Halloween costumes.

IMG_5366This year, we decided to do Batman and some villainesses- Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. I always like to start at thrift stores, consignment shops, and local resale sites- finding things I can use without spending a lot of money. Luckily, I found a new in package $5 Batman costume at the thrift store. The costume had a small seam out and the Velcro on the cape was on backwards, but these are easy fixes.

 

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We wanted to do the classic Harley Quinn because I felt the Suicide Squad version was too mature for my five year old. I bought a $4 red shirt at Once Upon a Child. I did make a red and black tutu. I had hoped to find the red and black leggings or stockings but I couldn’t find them in a small size. I settled for an old pair of black leggings. I bought red and black felt and made diamonds for the shirt and the pants. I made a jester hairband with a red hairband, the felt, and some jingle bells. I made a collar with some coffee filters. My daughter wasn’t crazy about that idea… but I turned out so cute! To complete the costume, I could have painted her mask, but I chose to buy a cheap black mask to save a mess and some time. Harley Quinn’s costume costs was $18 and took just under two hours to make.

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My oldest daughter doesn’t own anything green for Poison Ivy so I was going to need to shop for everything. I found a $3 green shirt at Once Upon a Child that was perfect. I was planning on making a green tutu but when I found a green jungle-looking skirt at the Goodwill, I knew it would work just fine. I tried to find ivy at the thrift stores but I couldn’t find any- so I actually bought that at JoAnn’s with a coupon. I bought some green tights at a Halloween store. Poison Ivy’s entire costume was $20 (the ivy being the most expensive part).

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Poison Ivy Tutorial

You will need:

  • Green Shirt
  • Green (or mostly green) skirt
  • Green tights
  • Lots of Ivy*
  • Scissors
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Safety Pin
  • Green make-up (optional)
  • Red hair color spray (optional)

*I got 2 strands of small wired ivy and 1 medium ivy vine from JoAnn’s

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IMG_5320First, cut some of the large ivy off of strand and place it on shirt. I tried different designs but settled on shoulder to waist. Once I was happy with the placement, I hot glued the leaves down.

 

 

 

 

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Hot glue some large leaves to the top of the skirt but do not glue around the tips of the leaves. Hot glue strands of ivy underneath the tips of the leaves so that the ivy dangles down the skirt.

 

 

IMG_5341I cut off one sleeve and wrapped the wired ivy around one arm. You can glue this to the shoulder and guide it down and around the arm. I cut off excess ivy and made a crown. Once she put on the green tights, I took the other strand of wire ivy and wrapped it around the opposite leg going down to the ankle. I secured it in place with a safety pin at the back of the skirt, cut off the excess, stopping just at the boots.

She is wearing green nail polish and green glitter eyeshadow. We will add the red hair spray on Halloween but we didn’t have it when we took this picture.

With kids costumes costing $30-$50 each and having three kids, I’ve learned to be thrifty and creative and save our money for the pumpkin patches and fall festivals! Here are some other costumes I’ve made:

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Clown and Cotton Candy

 

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Witches and a Spider (Spider costume was a gift)

 

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Our Circus: Ring Master, Clown, and Strong Man

 

I hope this post inspires you and helps you see that with a little bit of creativity you really can save money and make your own Halloween costumes!

The Best Halloween Movie List

October 1st kicks off my 31 days of Horror… okay, okay… Not necessarily all HORROR. I do scatter some family movies, some dark humor, and some of my Halloween favorites! I have compiled two list: a Family-Friendly Halloween Movie List and an After-the-Kids-go-to-Sleep Halloween Movie List. The list are broke down into 4 weeks of 7 movies- one movie per day but you can mix and match to create your own list!

Family-Friendly Halloween Movie List

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These first movies are perfect for the even the youngest boos and ghouls!

1. Spookley the Square Pumpkin
2. Alvin and the Chipmunks meet Frankenstein
    Alvin and the Chipmunks meet the Wolfman
3. DreamWorks Spooky Stories
4. Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest
5. Pooh’s Huffalump Halloween Movie
6. Spooky Buddies
7. Mickey Mouse’s House of Villains- a personal favorite in our house (even for the older kids)
8. Toy Story of Terror

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8. Casper
9. The Haunted Mansion
10. The Corpse Bride
11. The Nightmare Before Christmas
12. Halloweentown
13. Vampire Dog
14. Daddy, I’m a Zombie
      Mummy, I’m a Zombie

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15. The Addam’s Family
16. Hotel Transylvania
17. ParaNorman
18. Book of Life
19. The Monster Squad (this one is PG-13, parents use discretion)
20. Frankenweenie
21. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad

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22. The Witches- This one might be TOO scary for little ones!
23. E.T.
24. Scooby-Doo
25. Coraline
26. Girl vs. Monster- My girls really love this movie- especially the concert scene.
27. Beetlejuice
28. Monster’s vs. Aliens

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29. Ghostbusters- I listed both because I liked the girl version but I love the classic Ghostbusters, too!
30. Goosebumps
31. Monster House- We love to watch this one as a family! Chowder will have everyone laughing!
And… Hocus Pocus- Which is always a must for Halloween!

(I realize this family list has more that 31 movies listed. Some of these movies are PG-13, so if you have young ones, you might want to skip those!)

 

It was hard to narrow down my After-the-Kids-Go-to Sleep Halloween Movie List to just 31 movies because my scary movie knowledge is quite extensive. I tried to include some classics, some comedy, some terrifying, and some movies that you have probably never heard of!

 

After-the-Kids-Go-To-Sleep Halloween Movie List

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  1. Drag Me to Hell- The perfect combo of horror and humor
  2. Zombieland
  3. Shaun of the Dead- This is mostly comedy with some zombies thrown in!
  4. Dead End- Creepy and the has a very unexpected ending
  5. Cabin in the Woods- This isn’t for everyone but I liked it
  6. House of Wax
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  8. Night of the Living Dead (1990)- The first movie I got to stay up late to watch!
  9. Nightmare of Elm Street
  10. The Wolfman (2010)- Its a remake of the classic and got a dark, gothic feel!
  11. Scream
  12. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)- This version is the best!
  13. Friday the 13th- Yes… Its really is Friday the 13th
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  15. The Babadook- This is not a mainstream horror film- this is creepy and disturbing
  16. Sinister- The music alone will give you nightmares
  17. The Pact- Seriously… one of the scariest movies I’ve EVER seen!
  18. Lights Out- You might want to watch this with the lights ON!
  19. It Follows- I wasn’t sure about this one. Its not mainstream and not everyone will enjoy this one. If you give it a chance, its got some absolutely eerie and unforgettable scenes!
  20. Don’t Breathe
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  22. The Ring
  23. The Conjuring 1 & 2- Double Feature! Both of these are truly frightening!
  24. Insidious 1 & 2- Probably the scariest PG-13 movie ever!
  25. The Strangers- Don’t watch this alone at night.
  26. Dawn of the Dead
  27. Annabelle
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  29. Sleepy Hollow- The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is my favorite ghost story of course this makes the list!
  30. It- NEW or remake… you pick!
  31. Halloween- A classic and a must watch on Halloween night.. and about 3 other times during October!

 

So… There are over 62 movies here to add to your Halloween Movie List! I usually pull some from family and horror for my movie schedule. PLUS… throw in Walking Dead which premieres Sunday, October 22nd and Stranger Things Season 2 coming to Netflix on October 27th… my October is pretty full!

Enjoy my list!

When “For Richer or Poorer” means Poorer

When David and I said our wedding vows 12 years ago, I really doubted we would be “poor.” No one goes into their wedding day thinking about those worse, poorer, and sickness days- some people write them out of their vows all together- but those days come just the same.

Most of the time, those poor days come early in the marriage. I liked our date nights on the couch, the “Charlie Brown Christmas tree,” and the ramen dinners because it meant we were figuring out finances together. Some days it was tough but we enjoyed that newness and it connected us on a deeper level.

Years went by and we were NEVER rich but we lived comfortably in our means. We were able to travel. We treated ourselves to fancy date nights, gave each other surprise gifts, and overfilled our closets with things we would only wear once.

 

Then, kids came and budgeting became a necessity. David taught P.E. at a private school and I became a stay at home mom. It was a sacrifice but we made it work! Life was good. We made a home in Mount Dora, Florida and we saw our whole future there. We didn’t buy much “stuff”- instead accepted hand-me-downs and shopped at thrift stores. Still, we had date nights, surprised our girls with gifts, and planned fun vacations.

If we only knew how tough things were about to get….

In September of 2014, my husband came home from work with news that no stay at home mom ever wants to hear… he had been “let go” due to certification issues (long story for another time)… and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. I had just announced that I was 3 months pregnant with our third child. We had just got back from a Disney vacation, where we spent a chunk of our savings. Schools had already started their school year and as much as he searched, no one was hiring teachers. While he was searching for a job, our money was dwindling.

David didn’t find a teaching job. He didn’t find ANY job. We struggled to feel at home in a community that we were no longer part of. It was hard to go to church and see our happy friends and we began to grow bitter. We put on masks and pretended we were fine but inside we were falling apart. We couldn’t afford to pay rent any longer. We were down to our last $200 when we decided to take my parents up on their offer of living with them, and we moved to northeast Alabama.

David continued to search for a job, applying at everywhere from teaching to selling shoes. He went to interviews- traveling from Alabama, to Georgia, back to Florida. In December, he was offered a teaching job and that joy was short-lived. Once they found out that our baby was due in the middle of their testing schedule, and that David leaving for the birth during that time would be unacceptable, he had to pass. I even started applying for jobs and ended up interviewing at a chiropractor’s office. But, as soon as the young male interviewer saw my pregnant self waddle up, I saw him shut down. I couldn’t blame him, I would be going on maternity leave in 3 months… what was the point?

It took six months for David to find a job. For the first time in our lives, we relied on government assistance for food and insurance. A man from church (that we barely knew) paid our car payment. Christmas gifts for our kids was supplied through generosity of friends and even some strangers. I cried most days- whether due to the situation, the stress, or the pregnancy hormones.

During that time, I watched my broken bitter husband become the strongest man I knew. It was hard. His greatest desire was to provide for his growing family- and he couldn’t even do that. He struggled in the beginning, but every time I met him with doubt he would remind me that God has always taken care of us and that He would continue to take care of us. Every time my faith grew weak, David helped restore it.

2015, wasn’t any better for us. In fact, financially- it was WORSE! We moved into the ghetto- yes, gunshots and drug deals were common in our neighborhood. We both taught at a small private school and still relied on government assistance. I thought two incomes would make everything better. It didn’t and I became more and more depressed. I couldn’t afford personal upkeep. I couldn’t afford make-up. I couldn’t afford new clothes… which meant I was still wearing some of my maternity clothes. I had one bra and my underwear was falling apart. This, my friends, is when your marriage is tested. Sometimes, the poorer doesn’t go away.

You want to know what its like to be poor… ask me. We’ve been there. I know the embarrassment of having a cart full of groceries and hearing the cashier tell you your card was declined. I know what its like to ask for a hand-out when you can’t afford diapers. We can tell you what its like to live in a neighborhood where you are fearful to let your kids play outside. I know what its like to have rats the size of small dogs run through your kitchen while you are cooking dinner. We’ve come home to a cold, dark house when the power has been cut. Our family of five has huddled into one small bedroom with one small space heater to keep warm because we couldn’t afford the gas bill. We’ve boiled water to make warm baths. David and I have done without over and over again just to make sure our kids have everything they need.

Here’s what it comes down to- I can tell you all about those POOR times and how stressful and scary it is but that is not why I am writing this.

I would rather tell you how surprised we were when someone secretly dropped off groceries on our doorstep, and how humbling it is when the stranger behind you offers to pay for the things in your cart as you are embarrassingly going through deciding which ones you REALLY need! I would rather talk about how much relief I felt when my friend showed up at my door with diapers and Gripe Water that helped my baby finally get some sleep and how many thankful tears I cried when we found our car loaded up with our kids’ Christmas Wish List items.

 

This is the lesson:  In our poverty, we have witnessed the most amazing selflessness in others; we have be the gracious recipients of strangers’ compassion and kindness; we have gained a deeper faith in God and we recognize the blessings in hardships; and we have a greater strength and resiliency in our marriage.

Our marriage has been through what would break other’s and going through this only reaffirms my vows to David- even if the richer never comes!

Last year, David and I moved back to Florida and he started a new job. Financially, we still haven’t quite recovered from the last three years. We have learned to make do with less. Our furniture is a collection of hand-me-downs and thrift store finds. We still have an old box TV. Our closets are bare. Our bank account is empty. But… our hearts are full. We have learned that money doesn’t buy happiness. We have game nights and movie nights. We find creative and cheap ways to have fun. In our poverty, I’ve come to realize that what really makes you rich is your ability to find happiness in the simple things… and in that case, we are millionaires!

 

P.S. After reading this, if you want to hire me to write something- I am available because, you know… I still need diapers!

 

 

 

Kid-Friendly Fall Decorating on a Budget

Hi! I am Kim and I have a problem. Well, my husband would call it a problem. I call it a TALENT! I decorate by the season! And, maybe, like most things I do… I am a little over the top! That means, this time of year I am pulling out fall and Halloween décor and always looking for a good deal on cute decorations. Well… it has to be a really good deal because we live on a VERY tight budget (HELLO… we live on the 1 income of a private school teacher)! I learned a long time ago, if I was smart, I could make my own decorations with a little bit of money and whole lot of creativity!

I should go ahead and explain that I decorate (mostly) for my kids. I love sophisticated, modern, expensive decorations.

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I love these Pinterest decorations… But NOT in my house!

You might not consider my decorations anywhere in that beautiful realm. My children are all under the age of ten… the youngest is a curious, hand-sy two year old who likes to throw balls in the house! I don’t have a lot of breakable things. Most of my décor is child-friendly. It saves me the headaches of repeating “don’t touch” and the stress of having to clean up after they “accidently” do touch! And, because its all pretty cheap… its easy to replace!

Remember, one of my first post where I am explained that I like to create magical moments for my kids… well, this is just another way I get to do that! I love being creative and crafty and decorating allows me to create a fun and playful environment for my kids that we can all enjoy!

2017-09-27 12.09.17 1Let’s start with what you can do for FREE- Every season I change out my picture frames. This time of year I fill my frames with pictures from pumpkin patches, farms, and Halloween. You’ll notice just by adding those picture that the fall colors start to pop out!  I got lucky, and my mother-in-law gave me an old scarecrow, light up pumpkins, and some other décor which I have added to over the past five years. If you have decorations, you are half-way there! I put some of our favorite fall books on the shelves. Put a nice warm throw over a chair. Search the outdoors for pinecones (you will need to de-bug those), and acorns- you can put those in vases, bowls, or baskets and add a string of lights to create a little warmth! Light some fall-scented candles or simmer some cinnamon sticks, orange peels, and a drop of vanilla extract into a pot so the scent of Fall fills your house.

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Vase is filled with pinecones and fairy lights. The flowers are from the Dollar Tree.

 

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This is my Entryway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, let’s talk about WHERE to shop FIRST- You would be amazed about what decorations are sitting in garage sales and thrift stores! Some need a little cleaning, painting, or tweaking- and some are in perfect used condition! Things to look for: old canvases (for repainting), floral arrangements in fall colors, unused plaid/ flannel/ fall colored fabrics, strings of lights (that work), Leaves, apples, pumpkins, or anything else that screams Fall or Halloween to you. I have young kids so I don’t do super scary decorations!

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The Living Room
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I got these leaves at Dollar Tree and taped them on fishing wire.
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I love these glittery bats I found at the Dollar Tree.

My favorites stores to shop at are Target, JoAnn’s, and Kohl’s. Target has an assorted style of cute and spooky decorations- and what momma doesn’t love to run into Target for one thing or another from time to time (or like EVERY day)! JoAnn’s is my go-to for all my crafting needs. I feel like my creativity awakens when I go there! You can always find a good coupon for JoAnn’s if you sign up for their emails! Kohl’s… it is my FAVORITE store, and I can always think of a reason to shop there especially with Kohl’s cash!

 

 

 

 

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This is on top of my China Cabinet. I love these fall colors together!
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More leaves hanging with fishing wire. Found the glittery pumpkins at Dollar Tree and the Apples in the $3 bin at Target.

 

 

 

 

But… this year, to complete the look, Dollar Tree had everything I needed! I only spent $12 to put on some finishing touches! I love the way it turned out!

 

 

 

Here are two canvases I made YEARS ago.

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Do It Yourself: Paint Canvas Black. Let dry! Wrap gauze around canvas, leaving an opening for some eyes! I added buttons, but you can paint on some eyes. I painted and hot-glued wooden letters to the bottom. Easy!

 

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This is my favorite artwork I’ve done! I love the button tree, the colors, the GLITTER, and the moonlight hitting the cemetery. I do take orders, if you are interested!

 

For me, decorating is a way to make your home fun and festive! Right now, its all about being kid and budget friendly… maybe one day I’ll do the more sophisticated décor but for now we are perfectly content with our Dollar Tree and thrift store finds! How do you decorate for Fall?

Let me know how your Mummy Canvas turns out!

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One of my favorite Halloween pictures from 2014. My Silly Clown and Sweet Cotton Candy. I made both costumes. Be on the look-out for an upcoming costume tutorial!

 

 

*I am not paid or any way endorsed by any of the store I mentioned above.

Saturdays are for Football and Family

Ahhh… the weekend.

I don’t know how it is at your house but our week is jammed packed full of activities. My husband coaches golf in the fall- this means practice after school Monday and matches on Tuesday and Thursday. He also has taken on some of the Athletic Director’s duties while she is on maternity leave. This means NOT only does he have golf- but also volleyball AND cross country. Some nights he doesn’t get home until 9pm and then its a mad rush to get dinner, homework, and baths squeezed in by bedtime! Trying to squeeze family time into the week is a REAL struggle for us.

Right now, Saturdays is the ONE day we get to devote to FAMILY TIME…. only thing is, college football is also on Saturdays! My husband made it clear to me 16 years ago when we were just dating that Saturdays are for Florida Gator football. I kind of knew that- because for my entire life my father had the same thought- except his team was the Alabama Crimson Tide.

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Easton has been a Gator all his life!

 

I’m from Alabama and in the South its almost a crime to not to watch football! I did not like to watch it when I was younger. Now, I don’t mind football… it is such a tradition engraved in my life that it would be WEIRD not to at least have it on in the background. I watch some games; but mostly I just like sitting beside my husband, blankets piled on top of us, the kids playing on the floor (or laying across us), knowing we have nothing to do but enjoy each other’s company.

Our Saturdays are pretty lazy and I love it! Its not like we do NOTHING. We plan all of our activities and outings around when the Gators play. If they play early, we wait to go out until the evening. If they play late, we enjoy a morning out instead. Please don’t think we revolve our WHOLE life around football (Really… our baseball schedule is even MORE crazy)! Occasionally, we have to miss a day of football games because of other obligations.

Let me share how some secrets on how to make your Saturday as lazy as mine! First, let’s talk meals… If you are going to spend the whole day in front of the T.V., you don’t want to have to waste time in the kitchen cooking! We don’t do 3 square meals on Saturday. Sometimes we do a big, late breakfast to hold us over until dinner- maybe snacking in between…

Here are some of my favorite Football Snacks:

Slow Cooker Cocktail Smokies

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Ingredients:

* 2 packages Little Smokies Cocktail Wieners
1 bottle of BBQ Sauce
* 2 cups grape jelly
Directions:
Combine BBQ sauce and grape jelly in the crock-pot, stir it up. It will look lumpy, but that is OK, it will melt down smooth. Next, add the cocktail wieners! Cover, cook on LOW for 2 to 3 hours.

Chili Cheese Dip 

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Ingredients:

* 1 can of Hormel Chili
* Velveeta Cheese
Directions:
Heat Chili on stovetop. Cut about half the block of Velveeta cheese into cubes and add to chili (you can add more cheese, if you would like). Stir until Velveeta is completely melted.
Serve with tortilla chips, crackers, or fresh vegetables.
And… of course, one of my family’s favorite snacks… Rice Krispies Treats
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Now, you have food taken care of- you can turn your attention to more important matters. Your family… do the football thing and when football is over get out of the house and create fun memories with your family!

*If you HAVE to clean and run errands on Saturdays- these are great recipes to make your day a little easier. AND… If you don’t LOVE football- just make Saturdays all about family!

How do you spend your Saturdays?

Life Lessons from Irma

 

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Early last Sunday morning, Hurricane Irma rolled through Florida, leaving a path of destruction in her wake. Our family lives in Tampa but fearing the eye was on a projection to come right over our house, we evacuated 3 hours northeast to my in-laws house.

We lost power around 11pm as the wind started to pick-up. We tried to sleep but the wind, by then, was raging. We could hear branches falling and things blowing away in the dark. The house shook as Irma threw out tornadoes during the night. A tree cracked nearby and crashed on the front porch. I gathered my girls and laid them in the bathtub, where they slept (mostly) peacefully. My husband laid in the doorway, tossing and turning on a squeaky, deflating air mattress. I, on the other hand, laid wide-awake on the bathroom floor, surrounded by blankets and pillows, shielding my two-year old from the howling winds that were determined to tear off the roof. Just as I would start to close my eyes, another gust of wind would prove to be louder and more terrifying than the last.

I checked my cell phone many times. Oh, how I wished I had charged it completely before the power went out! I was left with a 70% charge and felt like the power was just getting sucked out of it every time I touched it. I checked social media but the phones signals were weak so it loaded very slow. On Facebook, my Tampa friends were reporting the storm had passed them. I updated my status often to assure my family and friends that we were safe. I couldn’t get any information on just where the storm was. I was pretty sure it was over us, going by the sound of things, but I couldn’t determine just how much longer we had to go. I searched the internet as best as I could for information and then at 4am, my service went completely out. It didn’t stop me from checking every few minutes to see if anything changed. Nope… still no service.

It was hot. It was so hot in my in-laws house, despite the cool air that Irma was whipping around outside. Inside, in that tiny center bathroom, the air did not circulate. I heard a small voice from the bathtub complain that she was hot and asking if she could get out. Emerson was sleeping in fleece pants, so I knew that couldn’t be comfortable, but fearing the storm had more to come, I didn’t let her get out. I ran to our suitcase and grabbed her some silky shorts instead. She said she was going to stay awake with me… but she was barely awake when she said that. My shirt soaked up my two- year old’s sweat as he cuddled my left side. I relied on the cold tile floor and side of the bathtub to cool me off. It worked. I began to cool off and the winds began to mellow.

Then morning came. I had fallen asleep. I saw faint sunlight spreading into the hallway. The wind was still pretty intense but it didn’t seem as angry as it has sounded hours ago. I checked the time. 7am. Did I dare leave the safety of the bathroom? I did. The house stood firm. I walked into the backyard. The pool was full of debris. Panels of the wooden fence were blown down. The powerful wind swayed the trees back and forth. In the dark, it had sounded so scary, but seeing it in the morning light was almost peaceful. We had survived the storm.

Not everyone was as fortunate as us. Hurricane Irma ravaged towns, ripped up trees, flooded cities, washed away homes, and destroyed businesses all over the state of Florida. I have been in a few hurricanes, and this one was truly a terrifying storm.

Here are some things I learned:

  • It would have been ALOT easier if we had taken the Hurricane Preparedness Kit seriously. Every year, we hear the media talk about “Having a Plan”, “Knowing your Evacuation Route”, and putting together a Hurricane Safety Kit. People, DO IT! It would have saved us SO much stress and many headaches if we already had some bottled water, flashlights, batteries, and candles ready to go! Instead, we had to search stores, battle the crowds, wait in long lines HOPING to those things… and we didn’t!

Get your Hurricane Safety Checklist here: http://hurricanesafety.org/prepare/hurricane-safety-checklists/

  • Storms can bring out the best and worst in people. I was a nervous wreck this past week. I couldn’t relax. I was a control freak. David and I could not agree on how to prep. I wanted to know EVERY detail. I’m sure I drove him crazy. He was far too relaxed. He wasn’t taking the impending storm seriously. It caused us to have silly arguments- seriously, we argued over how much water we needed, if we needed flashlights or candles, and where we would go if we had to evacuate. This would have all been so much easier if we had had a PLAN!

People all over Florida were rushing to stores to buy supplies. Some people were hoarding more bread and water than they would ever use. Water and gas were in high demand and almost impossible to find. There was price gouging. In some cases, the price of water multiplied by six! Bread- white, wheat, hotdog bugs, bagels, English muffins, EVEN raisin bread- was gone. People grew impatient waiting in long lines, trying to get the last of the store’s supplies. Some people decided to leave the state and the roads became congested. Traffic was a headache. We all were stressed out and frustrated. I heard about a people dressing up as utility workers and robbing homes as families prepared for Hurricane Irma. I saw on the news that some people were taking advantage of the weather and looting empty stores stealing… tennis shoes?!

But, not every one was behaving badly.

Some people were going out of their way to do something generous for their neighbor. Neighbors were helping each other. Strangers became friends, realizing this storm would affect us all. On the news, I watched a man in Home Depot give up the last generator to a crying woman who couldn’t afford to lose power because her dad was on a breathing machine. I had friends I hadn’t talked to in years offering their house as shelter. I had several people reach out to me and offer to help me search for supplies. We couldn’t find water anywhere. A friend (who had already evacuated) sent her boyfriend to our house to drop off 3 cases of water at our house. A lady from church made our family a care package of snacks and flashlights. There were people like this all over the state! 10,000 people came to our state to volunteer. I am so thankful for the compassion, generosity, and kindness I witnessed this past week.

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Yay!!! We have water! Thank you, Jessica (and Rick)!

 

*David and I finally got on the same page. He will probably NEVER be as planned and prepared as I would like him to be. But, when things got tough we worked things out TOGETHER. That meant me giving up control and trusting him. That meant him buying supplies that he didn’t think we needed and doing his best to sleep on the cold, hard bathroom floor with us (He killed his back and he ended up on a half deflated air mattress which wasn’t much better).

  • Having no power means that your kids actually resort to reading, playing games, talking and using their imagination. I witnessed my kids, in their boredom, create ways to have fun! The made up flashlight games, they pretended, they told stories, they asked questions! People– It is OK to let your kids be bored!

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  • Prayer and Laughter can get you through any situation! Do both a lot and often! It is amazing how much peace you can get through prayer and how much joy you can spread by choosing to laugh!
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Memes like this helped lighten the mood.

 

 

 

 

September Reading List

September reminds me of apples, pumpkins, and crunchy, colorful leaves. Every year, I scrounge the libraries, bookstores, and flea markets for children’s books about fall to read to my kids. Fall books make me so happy! I hit up the library yesterday to pick up some of these titles. This is my September reading list. You can find most of these books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or maybe even your local library, if you’d like to do some light reading, too!

Look at these awesome, colorful book covers- don’t they just make you want to grab a comfy sweater and a Pumpkin Spice Latte?

Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Park

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Johnny Appleseed by Jodie Shepherd

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Apples and Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell

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Fall Mixed Up by Bob Rackza

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Bad Apple by Edward Hemingway

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Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert

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Flora’s Very Windy Day by Jeanne Birdsall

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The Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Steven Kroll

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I Love Fall by Allison Inches

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Every Autumn Comes the Bear by Jim Arnosky

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Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller

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Too Many Pumpkins by Linda White

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Squirrel’s Fall Search by Anita Loughrey

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Apples, Apples Everywhere by Robin Koontz

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Fall Ball by Peter McCarty

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Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rowlinson

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Yellow Time by Lauren Stringer

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Applesauce Season by Eden Ross Lipson

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The Roll-Away Pumpkin by Junia Wonders

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The Little Scarecrow Boy by Margaret Wise Brown

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The Biggest Apple Ever by Steven Kroll

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Mouse’s First Fall by Lauren Thompson

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The Runaway Pumpkin by Kevin Lewis

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The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall

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Pumpkin Town by Katie McKy

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The Autumn Visitors by Karel Hayes

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Annie the Apple Pie Fairy by Thomas Nelson

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The Very Best Pumpkin by Mark Kimball Moulten

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Possum’s Harvest Moon by Anne Hunter

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Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell

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I will also be compiling a October Reading List so be on the look-out!

I’m a Bad Friend and You Are, Too!

When I was in college, I wrote an essay on how to be a good friend. My professor read it to the whole class, praising how beautifully written it was, telling me to save it and try to get it published. My thinking at the time was… HOW LAME MUST ONE BE TO NEED FRIENDSHIP LESSONS?

I was pretty popular in college. I had lots of friends and I enjoyed bouncing from one friend to the next filling my nights and weekends with fun outings and activities. I was constantly busy… and I loved it.

Fast Forward 15 years- Marriage. Pregnancy. Children… three children. Careers. Moving FOUR times in two years. My circle of friends got smaller and smaller.

It happens.

 

It is not because of fights, and falling-outs because when you get in your 30’s, you are over that petty stuff (or you should be)!

We live in a digital age and social media makes it really easy to keep up with everyone you might have the slightest interest in seeing every now and then through your newsfeed. I was content with likes, comments, messages- you know, to let them know we are still friends. Weeks would go by, and I would get too busy to say “Hi.” Months would go by and saying “Hi” began to seem silly when I see that two months ago they announced they are expecting a baby and I’m just seeing it. Then a year would come and go without a word from me and at that point it seemed a little weird to creep back in their life.

Sometimes, you don’t even know it happened. You are busy building a marriage… a family… a career… a home… memories.

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So, our friendship sits out there- in moments lost in time. They are still such sweet memories and the mention of your name may still bring a smile to my face and while I miss you, I rarely reach back out. I’ve missed too much and it takes too long to re-cultivate a lost friendship.

It sounds so terrible. What a horrible friend I must be! Maybe I did need those friendship lessons! I’ve been so busy, I’ve lost all my friends! I’ve been busy building a marriage- no easy feat, for sure! Most days are easy, some days are REALLY tough. In the beginning, LOTS of days were trying but he was still the only one I wanted to hang out with- whether it was a fancy date night or sitting on the couch, in silence, as I read and he played the XBOX. I gave up my friend time for my husband. I’m okay with that.

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Oh Happy Day! Our Wedding Day

 

The moment I found out that two of us were becoming three… my circle became even smaller. I didn’t have time for meaningless friendships. My first pregnancy was not beautiful and glow-y. I was tired, fat, hungry, hormonal, hot, with heartburn and hemorrhoids! I didn’t want to get dressed. I didn’t want to hang out. I wanted to sleep and prepare for a baby… that is it. Friends where replaced with “ME” time. I’m okay with that.

We became a family! A baby began to take all of our time- date nights became further and further apart. It was no longer two of us on the couch. I was almost always nursing. We were learning to take care of this sweet little baby that God blessed us with… this sweet little baby who totally missed the memo on “At Night We Sleep.” She didn’t. She took cat naps. She did not sleep until she was 6 weeks old. My husband and I, sleeplessly, figured things out together. And it took a while to get on a routine. I had no time to build friendships, I was building a family.

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We added two more kiddos, who kept me pretty busy. I stayed at home.

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I cooked, cleaned, washed, dusted, swept, mopped, folded; I changed diapers, mended boo-boos, nursed, rocked, bathed, fixed hair, searched for lost things, potty-trained, reasoned, listened, explained, disciplined, taught; drove back and forth; waited at the doctor’s office, waited in carline drop-off, waited in carline pick-up; attended school events, cheer practices, ballet recitals, planned parties, planned holiday surprises, shopped, organized playdates, spent sleepless nights watching a baby with a fever or cautiously waited for the throw-up sound from a kid with a stomach virus; I’ve cried, I’ve worried, I’ve prayed, I’ve cared, I’ve loved over and over and over again.

I never got a career up and going because I was busy raising a family. I don’t consider it time wasted. I love being at home. I know some people say, “I’d go stir-crazy if I was at home all day,” but there is always so much to do at home. I always have a project- whether its organizing, planning weekend activities, updating tired decor, or trying a new recipe. My days are also filled with cuddles, hugs, kisses, and so much love that I never feel like I’m missing out on something.

So, while I consider myself a terrible friend… I’m an AMAZING mom and wife!

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The rare Date Night- We clean up nice!

 

I am happy to give every ounce of my energy, time, and focus to home life. I want to build a firm foundation built on our love and faith in God- and each other. I will work everyday to ensure that we are happy, safe, comfortable, and that we have a little bit of fun, too! And sometimes, it means we just have down time. Time that is devoted to sitting, resting, and sometimes- doing absolutely NOTHING together!

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Date Nights tend to end with cuddles on the couch.

 

Friends, we have lost touch. We don’t see each other often enough- or not at all. We haven’t cultivated our friendship. I will assume that you, too, are busy building your marriages, families, careers, homes, and memories, too! So, while that might make you a bad friend, too; you are an incredible mom and wife. You are a diligent, hard-worker. Your priorities are as they should be. You are filling you life with the absolute best, most rewarding things. And, I’m okay with that!

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Keep up the good work and maybe we can hang out in about 10 years.

 

 

 

 

The Little Old Blogger Who Was Not Afraid of Anything

I LOVE FALL! I love the vivid oranges, golds, and reds. I love colorful leaves. I love the crunchy sound under my feet as I walk through them. I love sweaters and boots. I love pumpkin spice and apple cider. I love corn mazes, pumpkin patches, Halloween, and Gator Football. August/ September in Florida doesn’t scream “Fall is around the corner!” The rest of the country sees the leaves change and experience the temperature drop to the low 70’s, while we sit in sweltering heat and pray for a breeze. Our state skips right over my favorite season and I know if I want to see a FALL… I will have to create it!

Last week, I decorated with apples and sunflowers. I pulled out my Apple Custard candles (yummy). I put out my favorite pictures from pumpkin patches and Halloween. I will add pumpkins and autumn leaves next month (and Halloween decorations, soon after that)! I started a bucket list of Fall Activities. My bookshelf displays stories of fall, pumpkins, and ghosts.FB_IMG_1503436169031FB_IMG_1503436673504

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You might consider it a bit early to read a spooky story but, for me, there is no better way to put you in the mood for fall than with a good Halloween book (even if its a children’s book).

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The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams is the perfect spooky story to teach that if fear is chasing you, you can stare it in the face and say “I’m not scared of anything!” In the end, the little old lady puts that fear to good use!

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Illustrations by Megan Lloyd

 

 

We have to do a lot of scary things, don’t we? We take chances. We, sometimes, have to make changes. We battle doubt and insecurities. We can choose to be chased by fear or to stop running and face it!

Raising children… that is pretty scary.

Do you give up on child-rearing when it gets tough?

Finding a unwelcomed spider in the shower when you are home alone… that is pretty scary.

Do you close the shower curtain and never take a shower again?

Doctor appointments… that can be scary.

Do you avoid the doctor just because you don’t want to know if something is wrong?

Have you been afraid of judgement and criticism? Have you ever been afraid of failure? Have you had that fear keep you from doing something you’ve always dreamed of doing?

Recently, I did something absolutely terrifying. One year ago, I wrote a children’s book. A story that I found really sweet and so perfect that I decided to pursue publishing. I went between extremes of saying “this would be an amazing book” to saying “I’m not good enough.” I let doubt and fear keep me from pursuing what I really, really wanted. Over and over again, I weeded through publishing companies, typed up an email, attached my manuscript, and chickened out before I hit ‘SEND‘.  I let that fear chase me for a year!

I can’t tell you what made me wake up one day and say “Its going to the publisher TODAY.” I can tell you there were millions of reasons why I could have continued to put it off. My computer was broken. My manuscript wasn’t saved on a flash drive. It was the perfect Sunday afternoon for napping. I’d rather not put on “real” pants. I had to get in my car and drive to the public library and re-type my manuscript to send it off. I could have said that I wanted to do more research on publishing companies. I could have said that I wanted to show it to one more person to get their opinion. But for that split second my dreams were bigger that my fears and I wasn’t afraid of anything.

Its scary to put something you love so much before scrutiny- Especially the scrutiny of someone who has the power to “Make or Break” you. Its terrifying. I don’t want to fail. I can see my book being successful… but maybe they don’t or at least, not with their company. I may never hear back from them. I can’t help but think that never having tried would leave me filled with so much regret that I am so thankful I found the courage and decided to go for it.

Doing something scary is useful for us. Facing fear teaches us that we have courage and strength. Doing something scary produces growth and just maybe– success. I am so relieved to finally have that book in the hands of someone who MIGHT see potential in my work. I feel like I accomplished something JUST by hitting that send button. I anxiously await to see how this unfolds… without fear!

Life Lesson: Fear is temporary. Regret lasts forever. And also…  if you want to decorate for Fall in the middle of August, by all means, DO IT!

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