Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas Post

This year was a little different since Christmas landed on a Sunday.
I have this hard and fast rule that my kids wake up in their own home on Christmas morning. There's just something about walking running downstairs early in the morning to see what is under the tree. Here's a little hint: I would probably change that once in a while if we were on a cruise or something wonderful like that.  The big deal about a sunday morning christmas is my volunteer job at church.  Since I had to be at church early, we opened all out gifts on Christmas Eve instead of just our jammies.  

Just Dance 3
Can you tell the middle schooler is more than a little excited about a new game for the Wii?

Gloves for's the little things that make us happy.

The girls were very pleased with their christmas gifts

Family photo
can you tell I raced to get in the picture?

 Right after church we loaded the (new) van for Smith Center. 
We spent 2 days with mom and dad. Now that they own the house next door as well, our family has a lot more room to spread out. If I could just get my mom to use paper plates instead of the good dishes and silver the trip would be nearly perfect.
Aw, a snapshot with my Daddy!

The middle schooler with Oma
Before diving into the puzzle (that turned out to be very difficult) Emma worked her
creative magic on everyone's fingernails.

Just imagine Chris there in the back row.

After the many many trips to Smith Center over the years, 7th grader finally
got her picture taken by the marker.  The claim to fame in my small town growing up
was our amazing football team and living in the center of the 48 states.

More Christmas pictures to follow as I get them from my mother-in-law.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Exceptional Showings by Father and Daughter

Here she sweet little Kindergartner, ready to perform in front of a
sold out gym.  Every mom, dad and grandparent armed with a camera, video recorder and tripod.

I grew up in a school with a place large enough for parents to watch their little darlings perform.  Anymore, school districts can not afford such luxuries so we cram into cafegymatoriums in hopes we snag good seats before all the other crazy parents arrive.  Turns out we were in the second row but still had a hard time seeing little Liv because of her placement on the risers.  As you can see, that didn't stop this mama with a super duper zoom-in lense.  I will prevail!!!

Monday both Olivia and Reagan performed with their classes but we attended on the Tuesday show.  Too bad I didn't sneak in while Reagan was singing on Monday because she went home sick and didn't make it back to school.  So it's not that I like to just take pictures of Liv, I didn't have a chance to see Reagan sing with her classmates.  Never fear, she did recover just in time to make gingerbread houses on Wednesday.

Again, because my sis-in-law lives near by we were able to do lunch on Tuesday before the concert.  Holly, we are so happy to have you and Stephen in the metro.

 A snapshot of Chris and the publisher, Cindy at Brewsky's Bar and Grille for the second book signing of

Again, a fun night visiting and getting books into the hands of young readers.  I want to give a shout out to a few friends who have been so great to support us everywhere we go. 
Good to see the Vints, Christensens and Gerdes Families!
We also ran into some old college friends, thanks Pattersons!

Time and time again, I step back and look at the blessings in my life.  If I didn't ever have trials, I don't think I would recognize the beauty.  I don't want to ask God to take away the trouble just help me through it.  The sun shines so much brighter after a week of cloudy days.  My body feels so healthy and alive after battling off the flu.  And I feel the Father's loving arms around me after I have tried to make it on my own.
Thank you God for loving mankind so much that you sent your son to Earth for our benefit, not yours.

For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son,
that we would not perish but have life everlasting.
John 3:16

Purchase books at Chris' website  click the "buy" button at the top.
Please submit book reviews to and  We love 5 stars (wink wink) but do leave your honest opinion.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Love me some RAK

In case you are not familiar with the term RAK, it stands for Random Acts of Kindness.  It is by far one of those things that gives me a buzz.  I can't say too much but it has been a joy to spread some RAK around. 

Just try it out for yourself.  Start on an easy one, when you are in the drive through pay for the  person behind you.  They won't ever know who you are but it will bless their socks off, even if it's only a $3 cup of joe.  Other ideas: shovel a neighbors driveway, send a gift card in the mail, make dinner for someone just because, send a kind note, the possibilities really are endless.  Lately I have been hearing on the KLOVE radio station report of individuals going into KMart and paying off strangers' lay-away.  How cool is that?  Trust me, you can not out give God.  He is so much bigger than your little checkbook.  He will bless you back.

You can do this without spending a penny.  Look each person you meet on the street, in the eye and warmly greet them.  It is a gesture that has been forgotten. 

Blessings to you as you go out of your way today and tomorrow to make someone else feel loved.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Not So Christmas Concert

It's not a Christmas concert any more, in fact, it's not even a Holiday Concert, it's just a
winter concert
In years past there were Christian songs like "Away in a Manger" those were dropped for "Frosty the Snowman".  Now it's just a bunch of songs that have nothing to do with any season at all. 

Last night was Emma's middle school Winter Choir Concert and 30 minutes after that the stage was reset for her Winter Orchestra Concert.  Both were wonderful but 3 hours on hard folding chairs is a little tough on my backside.  Just as I was about to make a comment to my hubby about no Christmas music all 3 grades came out to sing "We Wish You A Merry Christmas"  Hallelujah!!
Emma made the swing choir this year.
I would love to tell you about the dress debacle but I don't want to get negative. 

 Emma and choir friends

 Yes those are leggings under her dress. 
Have you ever tried playing a cello in a short wouldn't be a pretty site! 
Em and her cello buddy Andi.

 Silly girls!
Emma was so excited to have Aunt Holly at the concert
We'll see a lot more of Holly now that she and Stephen have moved to the metro area

 Aunt Holly teaching Emma how to OPEN her mouth when singing.

There they are. 
Emma and Dax are first and second chair. 
I have very few pictures of Emma playing that don't include our buddy Dax.

May the music and festivities of this Christmas season bring you closer to the love of our Savior.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

White Chili

I have to tell you about our amazing dinner tonight. A few months ago the girls' school had a chili tasting event.  That night I tasted some fantastic White Chili and have been wanting to get the recipe since then but have not done it.  Finally tonight I went to and found this one.  As with all things I tweeked it just a little but this has become a family favorite after just one meal. Click HERE for an easy, yummy dinner.

Here are a few of my alterations:
1. I used part of a whole cooked chicken, not just the breasts
2. I did not use the cayenne pepper because our family is whimpy
3. I used 3 cans of beans because that is all I had and did not have time to soak dried beans.
4. I added about half a brick of cream cheese before adding the beans
5. I had some parmesean and mozz cheese instead of Monterey Jack.
6. I also smashed some of the beans so the soup would be thicker.

Next time I will try it without the cream cheese.  No need to add the dairy or calories.

Happy Eating~

Books to Sign

Last night we got a shipment of books so today the author is hard at work signing.  I'm trying to crack the whip but the poor guy has been sick for 2 days.  Luckily it is possible to sign books in sweats, on the couch while the television is on.

Truly, this is another very exciting time.  I remember when...
*the book was finished, July 2nd, 2009.
*we found out that Write Life was going to publish Chris' novel,October 2009.
*Chris had a couple students read the book and they loved it.
*we didn't think the book would ever be released.
*we saw the proof copy...a REAL book in our hands.
*we witnessed the masses file in at the book launch party.  We couldn't believe so many people were there to support this effort.  And then we sold out in 50 minutes.
And now this, six boxes of books arrive and we have the privilege of sorting, signing and mailing off books.

Thank you to everyone who has encouraged, supported and prayed for us. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

It's Beginning To Look Like...

I love this time of year...the decorations are just one of my favorite things.
Below you will find many photos of our preparation for the season of Christ's birth.

We had some problems with the star!
Guess it's time to buy a new one.


(I have 3 of them)

This year I had the girls get out all the ingredients, measure everything and start mixing all on their own. This recipe calls for 14 cups of flour so towards the end requires mom's help but until then, they did a great job.  This is a bitter sweet event for Emma.  Eating this time of year is a constant reminder for her that she can't eat many of her favorites.  Never fear Emma...I'm working on some very special recipes just for you.  Hang in there!

This is my tree and now that I look at the picture, it really isn't all that flattering.  To see it in person, it is beautiful.  Growing up we always had a "beautiful" tree and as a child, I did not appreciate the beauty.  All I wanted was a fun tree like the Grothous (neighbors) tree.  Remembering that, I have my pretty tree in the front room and the fun tree in the family room.  I love them both.
The girls have so many ornaments, they love digging through the box each year to rediscover interests from past seasons.  Next year I plan to add a vintage tree.  I need to remove some of my snowmen and stars to make more room.

This wreath was made for me by my dad several years ago.

I should have a picture of peppermint ice cream too but haven't bought any yet.

Chris went hunting this morning.  Now my freezer has a bunch of goose in it.  His plan to make goose jerky.  I'll taste it but sounds like a man food more than a Melanie food.
FYI: he didn't shoot all of these, that would be over his limit but he did clean them all.

I don't get christmas card mailed out, or even made.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Giving Life

This is one of my favorite things to do...Donate Blood!
It's either something you CAN do or CAN NOT do.
My friend Liz would like to but can not because of the places she lived in her youth.
My friend Amy can't even look at this picture without getting woozy, so actually donating might send her over the edge.

The first time I gave was in college and it gave me a great feeling of helping out those in need.  With every whole red blood donation you save 3 lives.  That's amazing.  I make my appointment for 1pm on Monday, every 8 weeks.  That means I could be saving 18 lives a year.  Woo Hoo!!  This post isn't to pat me on the back, it's to show how easy it is to do something HUGE for a total stranger. Talk about RAK (random acts of kindness)  In less than an hour (40 minutes usually) I am in and out of there...the paperwork takes the longest.  Actual giving time this week was 5 minutes and 14 seconds.

If you are able I challenge you to add this to your routine.  I don't wait around for the Red Cross to call, I just sign up and then plan around my appointment. In Nebraska I call...
To learn more about blood donation opportunities, visit or call
1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733 2767).

BTW, yep that's my nook in the bottom of the that thing.

I'm a Slacker!

I know, I haven't done my best in the world of blogging lately but I just don't have time. It will get day.  :)  I have been doing book orders, digging out the Christmas decorations, loving on my kiddos, getting rid of more Aunt Delma stuff and realizing my baby has a birthday coming up and I haven't planned a party.  YIKES!!

Today I'm sharing a quick book update.  All is going well.  Praise God!  Funny how we can plan, scheme and think we have it all under control and then God steps in to take care of everything that we couldn't.

THE NEW PHENOMENON got another GREAT review today.

I'm telling you (all of you) this is a must read.  If you haven't bought the book yet, go to our publisher's website and purchase it at a reduced price while it lasts.

Our calendar is starting to get filled up with speaking engagements and book signings. 
*December 20th we have a signing in Omaha. 
*January 3rd we hope to be in Red Oak IA, where the book takes place. 
*January 4th we'll be back in Omaha at a school.
*January 7th a signing at The Book Worm in Omaha. 
Exciting stuff going on.

The bible tells us that He (God) can do immeasurably more than we could ever hope or dream of.  So true!  Don't forget to give God praise for the amazing blessings you see every day.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The New Phenomenon Has Been Launched!

It's our new record (ok we have nothing to compare it to) we sold out of books in 50 minutes.  I do recall a convo about the number of books we would need for the book signing.  The publisher ordered 100 books.  We said we'd need more. 
The final count was 127. We probably would have sold more if we would have had them there.  Still an amazing night.
God is Good!
Kelly was our first purchaser tonight.
Kelly and I go way back to when we played volleyball
together in college.

Look at this cake!
Hy-Vee Bakery at 144th and Stony Brook in Omaha.
Tonya rocks!!!

We had so many friends come through tonight, it really isn't fair to put just one picture on here but it's the only one I got on Emma's little camera.  I will load more pictures in a few days.
The Foleys are dear friends from Grand Island.
Some of our other travelers were...
Kelly from Lincoln
April from Table Rock
Tami from Grand Island
Julie from Des Moines, IA
Mom and Dad from Smith Center, KS
I guess the people who drove over from Bellevue probably feel like they need a shout out too.  (Bellevue is part of the Omaha metro but a bit of a drive.)

Thank you Abby Snyder for taking pictures tonight,
can't wait to see them.
Thank you Susan for your cake cutting expertise.

Chris you rocked the book signing.  Love you babe!

The First Review

Here we are!  Today is the day!  Chris' book has been available since early November but today is our launch party for the book.  I am so excited!!! 

All the feedback we have heard on THE NEW PHENOM3NON has been positive.  We've had friends, colleagues, family, students, editors, etc. read the book and everyone liked it but they all had some kind of connection with us.  Today a review came out from a 20 year old gal who does not know us, we don't know her...there is no connection.  She liked the book!  That stamp of approval confirms what we already thought but couldn't be sure if we were just biased.  I have included her review below.

Nancy's Review from
This book was surprisingly good! I completely thought that it was about aliens, which I am not too fond of (they scare me a little), but it wasn't. The concept of "phenomenon children" was very cool, they had special talents that no one else could do and the government was after them to kidnap them and use them for experiments. At the beginning of the book I wasn't sure what was going on and so I was a little confused. It didn't take long for me to fully understand, as everything was explained very well as the story progressed. The book reminded me a little of Twilight (in a good way!) and I Am Number Four. The phenomenon children were amazing, their talents were very unique and the plot of the story was very exciting! I really grew to like Christian as a character. At the beginning of the book I saw him as the jock-type of person, but he wasn't like that at all. He was actually very down to earth and smart! He was completely different from how I thought he would be and it made me enjoy the book so much more. I'm thinking that there's a sequel to it and I really want to read it if there ever is one.

It's important to remember (I'm talking to myself) that there may be negative reviews as well.  It happens to the best artists, directors, authors and people in general.  So taking what one person has to say about your work/creation and focusing on it too much is dangerous. But for today, I am happy to share these great words. 

"This book is surprisingly good!...I really want to read (the sequel) if there ever is one."

That is all for now.  Wishing you and yours a relaxing Thanksgiving.  Remembering to give thanks to our Lord and Savior.  He is Good, All the Time!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thankful for... (part2)

Oh wouldn't the FlyLady be proud of me?  All except for the fact that I actually had all this extra stuff in my house.  I am so thankful to have a place like the Open Door Mission to donate good used items for people who are in need. One man's trash is another man's treasure.

Emma played volleyball for the first time this fall.  She did a great job
and even played in the championship game. I was a proud ex-volleyball
playing mama!  All three of my girls give me great reasons to have a camera. I
enjoy capturing moments of their ever changing lives.

Creativity is important to family is proof of that.
I love my brothers and pray for them daily.

I have an amazing husband who can do it all...well not fix the car.  :)
I know God has special plans for you, he saved you as a baby so that you could
accomplish great things for his kingdom.  Already you have done so much,
all by God's grace. This month marks another great accomplishment...
The New Phenomenon!
To God all the glory!  Christopher, I love you. 

Fifteen months ago Chelsea and Allen (and sweet Naomi) came into our lives along
with several other amazing couples.  It started as a weekly bible study in our home.  It
has turned into a weekly gathering of people who love and support each other.
Friends are a blessing!

 If I could keep my girls in a bubble of protection forever, I would do it.
Looking in those big blue eyes and seeing nothing but innocence
is about the sweetest thing I can think of. 

Spending Thanksgiving 2010 with Aunt Delma was special but I had no idea
it would be our last one.  I am so grateful for the time we had together.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thankful for...

I started keeping a gratitude journal about a year ago.
There are days that I am down in the dumps and feel like nothing
is going right.  All it takes to change my attitude is to look through
that journal.  How embarrassing it is to think that for one minute
I can feel anything but gratitude for the many many blessings in my life.

November is here and what better time than this to highlight some of those
blessings I journal about.  Keep in mind, these are in no particular order.

I was very excited when Chris asked me to help him pull vocabulary words from his manuscript for the teacher resource section on his website.  Most of my involvement with his novel has been holding down the fort so he could write or doing research.  This was a fun activity for me.

I know there have been years in the past that snow came in October, so November 2nd isn't that bad but I was very grateful to see the snow go away as quickly as it came.  So I was thankful for the beautiful scene and the warmer temps on the 3rd.

Emma loves music whether she is singing, dancing, playing her cello or just listening to the radio.

Not only did God give me a wonderful husband but He also gave me a man who loves his children and is willing to support them in whatever they do.  He even took a day off of work to spend at their elementary school (totally out of his comfort zone).
When I first told Olivia I had signed her up for basketball camp (one hour on 5 Saturday mornings) she firmly told me she was NOT going to go.  I talked her into going just once and then she loved it!

All three of our children are healthy and active.  What a blessing it is to watch them grow.
The girls eat well, exercise through play and have a healthy spiritual life.  Thank you God!

Today is the first day of Chris' birthday week which makes me remember all the nice things he did for my birthday last month.  (Again, he's a great guy!) So today my mouth waters as I look at this picture...I am thankful for yummy carrot cake.  I wish I had some hidden in the frig.  I guess I'll have to settle for a carrot instead.

It's easy to dwell on what isn't going right.
Sometimes I'm a Debbie Downer...I just hate that!
Today I chose to remember the blessings and give thanks for all I have.