Category Archives: Thoughts & Such

Guest Post: Six Ideas for Effective Time with the Kids

Greetings! I’m in the somewhat unusual position of being a man writing for a middle-grade audience. I love the freedom of being able to be childish when I write while still using a real vocabulary and hopefully making kids think a little as they enjoy a story!

In our post-economic crash world, parents have to work very hard to provide for their families, potentially leaving less time to spend with their children. Today I’d like to share six ideas for making the time we do have with our children more effective:
1. Whatever you’re doing, bring the kids and give them a job as part of it. Even if it’s a trip to the grocery store, or almost any errand, they can have a list of things to find or do. Having shared responsibility builds bonds and teaches them to be self-sufficient.
2. Get involved in their computer and video games. This has the side benefit of letting you screen out the bad ones. Do they love Minecraft? Play it with them. Play an Xbox game with them. You don’t have to do it for long, and they’ll probably annihilate you, but this is OK. They’ll love being better than you at something and you will then be able to talk more intelligently with them about it. I think most parents have given up long ago trying to entirely ban these, so turn it into a positive. Showing interest in their things builds a common base for communication that will pay dividends when they’re older, making it easier to “slide” onto more difficult topics.
3. Volunteer to help with class activities, their team sports, or other activities. You’re missing an opportunity to be part of their activities if you don’t volunteer. All organizations need help and you get the extra advantage of your children seeing you doing service. Plus it makes the activity come more alive to them compared to a “drop-off” activity. And you’re helping the kids whose parents weren’t able to be there.
4. Do schoolwork with them. There is no question a child will do better and learn more if you can find time even infrequently to do their schoolwork with them. This is the very definition of “quality time.” Learning together (you may not remember what they’re learning about!) creates bonds and far from taking away the initiative and learning opportunity, helps them learn more and helps them understand how important schoolwork is because it’s important enough for you to spend time with them on.
5. A hug works better than a fight. Every time. Even if they’re entirely at fault and throwing a tantrum. Hard lesson (for me) to learn, but nearly 100% effective. I know, spare the rod, spoil the child, and this doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be consequences (there should be), but if you start with the hug, you may realize it was all just overblown. Our time with them is so short that wasting it fighting with them usually just isn’t worth it. And what an example if they see a loved one returning love in spite of their anger!
6. Read their books. Take away TV and computer time and replace it with reading assignments. And since you’ve read the book first, you can talk about it deeply afterwards. They will grumble, but weeks later, they won’t remember the TV show or game, but will remember the book, and since you have also read the book, it can be a source of conversation.
In case you didn’t pick up on it, the theme is building common ground, then using that common ground to build a relationship to prepare for those teenage years where they will go biologically and hormonally insane.

Jon Thomason

Author of Max Xylander and the Island of Zumuruud, a middle-grade fantasy novel
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Max Xylander and the Island of Zumuruud

Max has anger management issues. But she has a secret, too. She can make things happen. Like magic. She almost killed a loser skate punk and nearly used it on her stuck up older sister. The question is, can she do anything other than blow things up? Can she learn to control it? And is it really possible that an obscure teenage girl is the key to keeping all of humanity safe?

Philip just got his ring back. He got it taken away for messing with his teacher’s mind so he can cheat on a test. Now that he has his ring, he thinks he should be able to use his power to make his life better. A lot better. The problem is that people want him to be responsible. But if you could do magic, wouldn’t you use it to escape work in any way possible?

Aaron wants to be a soldier. He knows there are lots of people who would try to take over, and he’s determined to stop them. The problem is that there’s this new girl. And she might be not be on the right side of things. She’s really talented and pretty, but she might be able to destroy everything he believes in. Whatever the case, he knows he needs to learn to be world class with the magic sword while he figures out what to do.

Brynn never gets out. Her grandfather won’t permit it. Her only access to the outside world are high fashion magazines, so she has an unusual idea what she should wear. She’s dying to get out and travel. And adopt animals. Any kind of animal. Is she a lonely future granny with cats or are her ridiculous clothes actually the next fashion craze? What possible role could she play in the destiny of the world?

Max Xylander and the Island of Zumuruud is a fast-paced fantasy adventure for all ages (10 and up) and is the first of a planned trilogy. Fans of magic, swordplay, secret agents, and conspiracies set in a modern everyday world will not be able to put the book down. Jon Thomason is a debut author and paints a vivid world of magic right under our noses and delivers rapid-fire action that keeps the pages turning.



“Impressively inventive and enjoyable…vivid storytelling and exceptional characterization…Max’s personality is layered and complex…conveyed flawlessly…keeping readers intrigued and engaged…writing style is smooth, and a subtle sense of humor comes through…narrative tension builds at a good pace and easily flows toward a satisfying and exciting conclusion…parents are likely to both approve of the story and enjoy reading it themselves…talented writer…sure to find an appreciative audience that will eagerly anticipate the next book in the series.” — ForeWord Clarion Review

“Thomason shines in his heroine’s characterization…magical” –blueink Review

Author Jon Thomason

Jon Thomason lives with his family in San Diego, after many years living in the beautiful Seattle area. He has a successful career in high tech where he’s been fortunate enough to participate in many big-name industry releases.

Storytelling permeates everything he does. In the moments when Jon is not helping build the story of the tech world, he can almost always be found working on a project: writing, photography, videography, graphics design, or 3D art.

And he’s always careful to conceal his jinni magic abilities, though perhaps might slip one day and be discovered…


Originally posted 2013-03-14 05:00:00.

Balancing Busy Motherhood with a Wonderful WIP Guest Post

Balancing Busy Motherhood with a Wonderful WIP

1. Be stellar 80% of the time. No need to have the house sparkling or a gourmet dinner prepared (was this even a goal?), being a part-time writer, part-time busy mother, part-time wife and all else means that something has gotta give. The great news is that being eighty percent fabulous is usually plenty. So let go of searching for the perfect Halloween costume, reuse another sibling’s with new extras. Help out at the school but once a week instead of three. Make dinner but use paper plates until dirty dish piles are diminished. Take a few shortcuts and you’ll find some of the to-do fat is gone and you’re savoring the good stuff.

2. Create a place and purpose for your writing. Most moms don’t have the luxury of a writing office (it’s usually the craft/sewing/computer/general abyss junk room). Clear a corner, chair, or tote bag for your WIP binder, notes, and techie gadgets. That way you always have a writing “home.” I use my bedside desk for administrative items for my business, Back to Basics, and for writing nonfiction like my blog posts, magazine articles, etc. For writing fiction, I use my husband’s massage chair by the picture window overlooking the forest. Using two places for two different kinds of writing helps my brain make those neuro-associations with my writing needs and does the subconscious prep work for me.

As for purpose, don’t put “Write today” on your To Do list. Instead, put an appointment on your smartphone, with details like “Review last chapter, check research on two locations, type voice memo notes 1-4.” You’ll find yourself more productive and enjoying the process all because you know exactly what to do with your time.

Give one of these try and let me know how it works for you!

Written By Author Connie Sokol

Connie Sokol is a mother of seven, and a sought after national and local speaker. She is a monthly contributor on KSL TV’s “Studio 5” and regular blogger for KSL’s “Motherhood Matters” blog. She is a former TV and radio host for Bonneville Communications, and columnist for Deseret News and Utah Valley Magazine. Mrs. Sokol is the author of several books including the award-nominated romance Caribbean Crossroads, Faithful, Fit & Fabulous, Life is Too Short for One Hair Color Series, and Motherhood Matters as well as talk CDs and podcasts. Mrs. Sokol marinates in time spent with her family and eating decadent treats.

40 Days with the Savior
by Connie E. Sokol

Do you desire a more Christ-centered Easter?
You’ll experience a more fulfilling Easter season with this collection of inspirational thoughts on trying to become more like the Savior. For forty days, enjoy a daily scripture and personal insight on a character trait of Jesus Christ. Learn more of who He was and what He taught.
As you read these daily devotionals, you’ll feel a joyful connection to the character of Jesus Christ, understand how much He is involved in your life, and discover how knowing Him better makes your life better, too.

~Connie donates 100% of the profits from her books to charity~

Originally posted 2013-03-06 06:00:00.

Dreams. Interpretations. Truths.

Let me start this post by giving you some background. 

Chief and I have been married almost 6 years.  I love him more than I ever thought possible, and my love for him grows daily.  We’ve been through so many rough spots and so many blessings and I am always amazed at how our love emerges.  I have a very close friend who brought something to my attention once.  She pointed out that a Godly marriage wasn’t just about you and your spouse.  The vows you took are a covenant between three: God being the most important.  With that, God doesn’t break His covenants, so when you get married and make a covenant with God He holds together that bond even when our ignorance and satan’s best is in front of us.  Many times I know that God has held together our covenant and I am so thankful for an almighty powerful God who keeps His Word.  I am also thankful that we chose to put God first in our marriage, so that our covenant indeed included Him.

That being said, I didn’t always listen to God.  I still don’t, but that’s not really relevant right now and I’m working on it.  I got married to my first husband when I was 17.  When I say I didn’t always listen to God, I mean it.  I STILL remember God telling me a hundred times, SCREAMING in my head not to get married, the day before, as I was getting ready, and as I walked down the aisle.  Yeah, I know, dumb.  I can’t even say I didn’t know, I knew.  I knew it was God, I just didn’t want to listen.  I had something to prove.  Well, we suffered through 4 years and I think I paid for not listening a million times over every time he did something.  And boy oh boy did he do stuff.  Again, neither here nor there.  I was young and I would do anything for him.  Ignorant is probably the best term.

Anyway, to the point.  Dreams.  Often I have terrible dreams and nightmares about my ex-husband.  Dreams where I’m asking his permission, where he is assaulting me, just plain bad dreams.  For years these dreams have occurred, haunting me.  Sending doubt into my mind about my life, about my relationship with God, about all sorts of things. 

A little more (relevant) background.  My baby brother, who is today 22 has been on drugs since he was 15.  I don’t know exactly when or how it started, I just know it has been bad.  He is in rehab now, has been for a while.  *Praises to our God*  Today he called and told me he has been having dreams too.  Dreams about drugs.  He didn’t give me the details, just that they sent him into a terrible mood that kept him angry for days. 

Given my dreams, you can imagine that I can relate.  Perhaps he is seeing the wrongs of his past like I do of my own.  This knowledge gave me two things that I am thankful for:

1.      I was able to take something that haunted me and use it to witness God’s greatness to my brother. 

a.      There are scriptures about dreams being used by God, but also by satan.

b.      Satan wants in our head, he’ll do it through any means he can.  We are weak in our sleep, as we can’t control what goes through.  Though I do believe that with prayer his ability will be diminished, I speak God’s power to keep my thoughts.

c.      We need to make a distinction between visions that come from God and those that come from Satan and his demons. In Matthew 17:1-9, Jesus gave Peter, James and John a vision of the kingdom of God coming to the earth—this is a case of God using a vision. In I Samuel 28:3-20, a “familiar spirit” was “brought up,” disguised as the deceased prophet Samuel, to inform Saul of his impending doom—this is a case of Satan using a vision.  (Taken from here)  

2.      God was able to use my brother to help me to realize how satan was using my past, the part of my life that has died and had not been reborn, to pull me back.  The devil used my dreams to put doubt and fear into my mind, taking away from the love God has given my husband and I.

Most of you know I don’t normally write about this kind of thing, but today I felt like I needed to.  Maybe one of you needs to hear about it, maybe I just needed the catharsis that comes from writing.  Regardless, I hope that it helps you.  If nothing else, I hope that you’ll take a minute today and pray for my baby brother.  He has yet to experience life as an adult without drugs and has many challenges to overcome before he will, but I know that God can prevail.  I’d appreciate any prayers you could send up with me, asking that God guide him, keep him, and use him.

I’d love comments.  Any really.  What are your thoughts?  Know any scriptures that relate?  If you have a message for my brother, I’ll gladly send it to him.  We never know how God will speak to us.  Maybe He will use you to say something no one else has. 

Thank you for reading and may God Bless you.

Originally posted 2013-01-31 06:00:00.

Friday 5: What I love About Having a Teenage Daughter

Okay, having a teen is rough.  Especially when you acquired one at 14!  I love my daughter, and the many daughters I couldn’t bring home with me.  Sometimes I think I’m gonna go insane though, so I thought I would give us all a reminder to look at the little things.  *Will be referencing the post when it’s NOT so good!*  LOL

  1. She sings silly songs while doing chores.  Even if she has no music to sing to or doesn’t know the words!
  2. She knows just when I need a hug.  Always.
  3. The sound of her laughter echoing through our house.  Music to my ears!
  4. She often offers me a perspective I hadn’t thought of on things.  Like my reaction to rude people or other things that may annoy me.  Her views aren’t yet tainted by cynicism!
  5. The lessons I learn from her.  Though I may be on a mission to teach her, often I find the roles reversed.

Originally posted 2012-10-26 05:00:00.

Friday 5 Wisdom from the Book of Life

Hey Everyone!  Today I went to a Bible study at our church and feel so blessed to have the wonderful group of women there to fellowship with.  I wanted to spread the joy I felt, so I thought I would do today’s five on wisdom from the Book of Life.  We all have blessings, even in our darkest hours. 

1. God answers prayers.
Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  Matthew 7:7

2.  He will never reject you.
Those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them.  -Jesus  John 6:37

3.  God loves you without fail.  Always.
For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ.  John 1:17

4.  Faith in God will heal you.
Daughter, Jesus said to a woman who had touched his garment for healing, your faith has made you well.  Go in peace.  Luke 8:48 
Are you reaching out for Him?

5.  Our own words ruin us.
It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.  Matthew 15:11

Hope these have given you home and something to think on for the coming time.  Many blessings to you all.  I feel so very blessed and I hope you do as well.

Originally posted 2012-10-05 05:00:00.

5 Ways to Make Yourself #Smile & Blessings List

Okay, I don’t know about you but I have a tendency to get aggravated for no flipping reason.  For example, I have recently noticed I severely hate change.  To the point that my first reaction is to get mad.  Yeah, I know.  BaD!  So, I thought this week we’d do 5 ways to make ourselves smile.

1.  Do something totally ridiculous.  For example, if you see someone staring and they just can’t seem to stop, stick your tongue out at them.  It will make them stop staring, I SWEAR, and instead of getting annoyed you’ll laugh at yourself.

2.  Make silly faces in the mirror and compliment yourself.  If the sheer act of doing so doesn’t make you smile, then I challenge you to figure out how many faces and/or compliments it takes you to get there!  *I’d love to hear*

3.  Hug someone you love.  Not just a short, one handed hug, those are lame.  Hug someone and just allow yourself to take a minute to feel the emotions that come forth.  Works wonders when you do it on a regular basis!

4.  Do something nice for someone.  Whether it be helping an elderly person load their groceries or taking someone a baked goody for no reason, I assure you it will make you smile when you see how good it makes the recipient feel.

5.  Make a list of your blessings.  Not in your head, on paper.  Even if you aren’t in a positive place, force yourself to avoid sarcasm and write down your blessings.  You’ll smile at the reminder, so don’t throw it away when you are done!

My Blessings List:  (A Synopsis)
A God that is Alive, All Knowing, Merciful, and Forgiving.
My Husband.
My Monkey.
My Family.  Immediate and Extended.  Craziness and Sanity.  😀
My Pets.
Our home.
Food in the fridge.
The ability to bless others.
Electricity.  Water.  Clothing. Vehicles that run (most of the time).

What’s your blessings list or how do you help someone else???

Originally posted 2012-09-21 05:00:00.

A Confession and The Skinny on Plastic

Hey Everyone!  Got a little sidetracked, but we’re back with Thankless Tips and Tricks Thursdays!  I hope you are enjoying them!  I’d love to hear any ideas you have for them!  I’ll gladly do the research and find tips and tricks on whatever subjects you suggest!!!

Okay, so I have a confession to make:  when I was a teenager, throwing stuff out the window and wasting didn’t even get a second thought.  I just did it.  No remorse.

Now, that being said I have to also say this.  I’m not a believer in the whole global warming thing.  I don’t think we have enough of an impact that we are altering the temperature.  Well, except in cities with all that asphalt.  Anyway, I know that science shows that the earth goes through natural periods of warming and cooling.  We aren’t all that powerful in the grand scheme of things.

However, I have become aware of some important things, like we really are wasteful people and we are killing nature.  A prime example is the birds nest in my front yard.  The bird has used plastic and remnants of a coke can in her nest.  How sad is that!?!  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is just the first example I get stepping out my front door!

So, this week I’ve decided to post about how long it takes for plastic to break down!  Let’s find some ways to re-use them!

PET(E) – This is the easiest plastic to recycle. Add to it that these materials are relatively cheap and you have the perfect container for soda bottles, water bottles, clamshell packaging, potato chip bags, produce bags and several other grocery-type packaging. Actual breakdown time for this type of plastic under perfect conditions can range from 5 to 10 years.

HDPE – This is probably the most recognized recyclable plastic and is used to make detergent bottles, bleach bottles, milk cartons, shampoo and conditioner bottles, motor oil and many other non-food items. These plastics will degrade in just under 100 years depending on the thickness of the plastic used.

PVC – PVC can be found in a number of items from pipes to children’s toys. PVC does not readily degrade and when it does it gives off a number of toxic materials. This is the single worst plastic according to several health organizations. Greenpeace has been lobbying to stop the use of PVC because of the dioxin produced during its manufacture.

LDPE Low – This is what our current plastic grocery bags are made of. If exposed to ultra violet light, these bags have been estimated to break down in as little as 500 years with a conservative average time of 1000 years. If there is no exposure to a light source, say at the bottom of a landfill, the plastic may remain intact indefinitely.

PP – This material is generally found in more permanent capacities such as rope, clothing and performed shower kits. It is highly resistant to photo degradation and will not decay for millennia.

PS – This is the plastic in Styrofoam packaging peanuts, cups, coolers and many other lightweight applications. This type of plastic will break down in under 50 years. The surface area exposed to sunlight will determine the exact rate as the more surface area will mean more photons reaching the plastic and a quicker photo degradation process.

Other Types – This includes anything not in codes one through six. Most plastics in this section do not breakdown and are considered permanently, chemically bonded.

So are you as shocked as I was???  
How do you re-use plastic????

Originally posted 2012-09-06 05:00:00.

Free Gospel String Magic Lesson

I absolutely love the creative ways out there to teach children!  Check out this Gospel String Magic as a new & unique teaching aide!  You creative people that think of this stuff, hats off to you!  You are amazingly awesome!  I am totally jealous!

Free Gospel Magic

Let the Little Children Come has come up with their very own gospel magic to help share the gospel with children all around the world!  I love that once they learn it, they can share it with their friends as well!  I’m sure we all remember the games done as kids where you make a steeple with your hands.  Though unable to remember how it goes (anyone wanna remind me?), I do remember that it ended with church and tons of people inside church!  A very good indicator of just how well those tools work to help us remember things!

In order to teach, we must have attention and with media being everywhere, it’s almost impossible to get kids to pay attention these days.  Activities such as this one, will help you keep their attention and help to teach them the most important of lessons!

This activity can can help teach lessons to demonstrate:

  • God is Eternal
  • God is the Creator
  • Eternal Life
  • Relationship with God
  • About Heaven
  • Sin and being Tangled in it
  • God sent Jesus to save us
  • Forgiveness

What a fun way to help them understand being tangled up in sin!  I LOVE that part.and can honestly say it’s my favorite lesson of all from this activity!  One could even use different colors of string for various lessons,  This way, once the children think they know the lesson, it can be modified to teach different aspects.  What fun, especially for home school children as a variation on what they are learning for the day!

Be sure and check out the Free Sunday School Gospel Plane printable and the Magic Bag as well!



Intoducing: Friday Five – Time Savers

Hey Everyone!  As some of you know, I’ve started back to school (yay).  I am beginning work on my Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Counseling.  (Appreciate all the support and prayers I can get!)  So, in the meantime to help with the load, I have decided to do a series called Friday Five.  It can be five of anything and will vary from week to week.  I’ll put the subject in the title.  So, if you are a blogger, I’d love to start a group of us!  We can all use the extra help to keep us busy and inspired!  If you aren’t a blogger, (and even if you are) I’d love to hear your ideas on what I should do the Friday Five about! 

So, here goes. 

Friday Five: Time Savers

1.  Get Organized! 
Sure, at first it will take up a LOT of time but that’s temporary!  Once you are well organized, you will no longer have to spend hours searching for thing or worry about what bills have been paid.  You’ll have it all together…  Well, it will look that way anyway!

2.  Rid yourself of distractions!
Yep, I said it.  Now, think about all the things that steal your attention while you are trying to think of something else.  I have a terrible time trying to stay on topic, so I’ve begun lists.  Of everything.  This enables me to write it down and move on.  I no longer worry about forgetting it!

3.  Discard Junk Immediately!
Okay, this is not simply limited to mail.  I will admit that I’ve placed the recycle bin on the way into my house (out of view, of course) and junk mail ends there.  Also, eliminate junk emails.  I love getting special deals, but sometimes I don’t need them or won’t be shopping.  On those times, I go through and delete all of the solicitations or things I don’t have time for, then go back and read the important stuff.  You can also create a folder of stuff you want to read later, that way you don’t have to worry about forgetting them.

4.  Plan ahead.
Get a planner.  It will become your best friend.  Keep your to do list there, your grocery list, and anything you need to remember in your schedule.  Taking a few minutes each evening to glance at what needs to be accomplished tomorrow will save, according to one website, 30 minutes of running around time!  Plus, you can plan your errands so that they are all completed in a shorter time and trip!

5.  Productively Use Wait Time
Going to the doctor?  Taking the kids to a check up?  Take along something that you can work on in the meantime.  These are perfect times to get your list in order, check your schedule, make a grocery list, budget, read Crafty Zoo with Monkeys on your mobile (had to throw that in) or schedule appointments.  Using your time wisely will help keep it in line for other times!  I don’t suggest using this time as your me time, it’s not going to let you truly relax and therefore so does not count as me time!

Originally posted 2012-08-10 05:00:00.

Family Game Night

Family time is a very important time.  I can honestly say I am not a fan of board games but my daughter and husband love them.  So, from time to time I suck it up and we play.  We always have a good time when we do things as a family.  This evening, we chose Monopoly.

Let me start this by saying: from my husbands point of view, Monopoly is meant to be a series of business deals, shady or not.  One person suggested to us that we play Monopoly because it was a game of chance and we vehemently disagreed on that one.  There is a strategy to it.  It is meant to be fun, yes.  It is also, in my husband’s opinion, meant to teach us about business deals. 

Now, for any successful game night junk food is a must!  I know, healthy eating and all that.  Honestly, we typically DO eat healthy.  However, eating a meal of fried foods once in a blue moon isn’t going to kill anyone!  So, this particular night we had tator tots, fried mushrooms, fried green beans, homemade tortilla chips, cream cheese jalepenos, and sloppy joes.  The wanted them, I made them, no idea why.  You can find that recipe here

Anyway, the point of this post was to ask you what you and your family do together?  I had noticed this particular week that we did the same thing….  Repeatedly….  Game night shook it up some.  It was great.  We had some laughs and junk food and the next day no one died of a heart attack.  Life is good!

What’s your favorite around the house family activity????
Seriously, we need more ideas!!!

Originally posted 2012-07-24 05:00:00.