Saturday, July 21, 2018

Vacation and VBS Crafts, or Why I've Been AWOL

So... it's summer, and everyone's busy, so maybe you haven't even noticed that I haven't been posting much, or that I've almost entirely dropped off the blogosphere map since mid-May, but both of those have totally happened.  For good reasons, honest.  Let me explain.

No, that takes too long.  Let me sum up.  (Thank you, Inigo.)

First, I went on a three-week-long family vacation.  It was wonderful.  We went to a wedding, we went camping in the Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota (my kids' first time camping, and they loved it!), and we saw all of Cowboy's siblings and their spouses and kids, plus his mom and a bunch of other relatives.  Good, good times.  Here are a few photos.




When we got home, we were home for one full week, then took off for a long weekend to attend my dad's retirement & farewell party.  Very emotional weekend saying goodbyes to the people who have been my "church family" since I was 12.

And ever since we got home from that, I've been preparing crafts for our church's Vacation Bible School (VBS).  This is my first time being in charge of VBS crafts, and when I looked through the options offered by the place we ordered our VBS program materials from, all their crafts were really junky.  I remember doing amazing VBS crafts when I was a kid, making things that were so cool, I still have some today.  So I decided to come up with my own crafts to go with the theme and lessons this year.  Which was a lot of extra work, but I think it's going to be worth it.  I ended up with a couple crafts that are kind of standard, though I tried to find ways to make even those unique and cool.

And today, I finished prepping the last of the crafts.  Here are most of them:

The ones that took the longest to get ready for the kids to work on have been the prayer journals.  Each one has a different combination of outside and inside papers, which I had to glue onto the cover boards.

My sister-in-law designed the interior for me -- the first part of the book will have prayers printed out that kids can learn, interspersed with illustrated Bible verses about prayer for them to color.  The second part of the book has lots of prompts with spaces for kids to fill in people and things to pray about.  I can't wait for the kids to make this craft!  They'll be sewing the pages into the book and personalizing them.

I also really love this craft.  Our VBS has a shipwreck theme, so the older kids are going to be using stamps to create treasure maps!  For this one, I aged paper that I'd cut to the right size so that when it's rolled up, it will fit inside these adorable plastic bottles. 

(That day, the preschoolers will be making "I Spy" bottles filled with "lost" things from some of Jesus' parables, like sheep, a coin, and a boy, plus a heart and a cross.  But I don't have one of those made up to take photos of cuz I don't have any extra bottles.)

This is another craft for the older kids -- a tin-punch lantern with a battery-operated pillar candle inside.  They'll be punching the words "Jesus is the light" and a cross into the tin, then using paper fasteners to hold the ends together to form the tube shape.  I ended up making my own pattern for this one.

The preschoolers won't be doing the tin-punch, they'll be decorating these windchimes instead.  I bought the chimes and the dove-shaped wooden cut-outs, but I had to drill the holes in the doves and string all the chimes for them.  I'd originally planned for the kids to string the chimes, but when my 6-year-old couldn't manage that, I knew preschoolers wouldn't be able to.  So I found some awesome stick-on gems for them to use to decorate these instead.

Here's another craft where my original plan didn't work out.  And in this case, the improvisation turned out way cooler!  I originally got "suncatcher paint pens" for painting these cross-shaped suncatchers, but the pens were really gloppy and hard to use, and the paint took days to dry!  Plus, it wasn't washable.  So then I had the bright idea of using glitter glue instead, and that was SO MUCH BETTER.  I love that these crosses have stands too, so they're not just another thing to hang in your window.  You can put them on a kid's dresser, the family display table, a mantelpiece, whatever.  And the glitter glue makes them so pretty and translucent!  And glittery.  Plus, it's totally washable.  I'm using it for suncatchers from now on.

This is my least-favorite craft because... they're just bracelets.  Pretty ordinary.  But they DO involve glow-in-the-dark beads!  The older kids are making the one on the left -- the glow-in-the-dark beads spell S. O. S.  And the preschoolers will make the ones on the right that have the words "Jesus helps me" interspersed with glow-in-the-dark beads.  So those are fairly fun.  Worth wearing for a few days, anyway.

After VBS is over, I'll finally have more time and energy to return to writing and reading blogs and hanging out with all my favorite bloggy people again.  Until then... hope you're having a happy summer!

Monday, July 16, 2018

#WIPjoy in July -- Food Week

Week two of the July #WIPjoy challenge is over!  So it's time for my second recap of what I posted on my Facebook author page in response to some of the prompts.  Like last week, I only managed to do some of the days -- I'm just too busy this month to be on Facebook every single day, and some of the prompts just didn't work for my book or its characters.  

Anyway, week two focused on food, which was a lot of fun because... my book obviously involves food in some important ways, as the title Dancing and Doughnuts probably hints.

Day 9:  Main character's favorite food

My main character is a drifting Civil War veteran named Jedediah Jones who's looking for work.

Day 10: A food your main character can't eat -- and why

This was such a fun prompt!  This actually gets mentioned throughout my book.

Day 11:  A line about food

This was hard to choose because I describe doughnuts in several different places.  But this is one of my favorites.

Day 14: What would your main character feed to unexpected dinner guests?

This one was tougher!  Jedediah Jones doesn't have a home, so he couldn't really whip up a meal for them.  But I figured out an answer anyway :-)

That's it for this week's recap!  Tune in next week to see more -- it's "character takeover week" this time, so a lot of the answers will be from the perspective of different characters!

Again, if you're participating in #WIPjoy this month too, leave me a link so I can check out your prompt answers!

Monday, July 09, 2018

#WIPjoy in July -- Intro Week

Thanks to author Abby Jones encouraging me to join up with the #WIPjoy challenge, I've been sharing some random stuff about Dancing and Doughnuts on my Facebook author page.  And I've had so much fun with it, I decided to share them here too, with a little weekly recap of sorts through the month of July.  I meant to post this over the weekend, but got busy, so here we are on Monday instead :-)

Day 3:  Introduce your main character with a line from your book, a song, and a visual.

Here's the line and the visual:

And here's a song that fits well with his personality:

(Please ignore the fact that this YouTuber spelled Bobby Darin's name wrong.)

Day 4:  A line to hook readers.

I chose this one from very early in the story:

Day 5:  Three side characters you love

I hereby give you three of the "twelve dancing princesses" from my book, along with a line about each from their introductory scenes.  Pictured are the kinds of dancing shoes women wore in the late 1860s, which is when Dancing and Doughnuts takes place.

I'm not doing every single prompt because... sometimes I run out of time, sometimes I forget, and sometimes they don't appeal to me.  But here's the official list for July, in case you're curious about what's coming up next.  I'll do another recap post next weekend, or thereabouts :-)

Oh, and if you're participating in #WIPjoy either on Facebook or Instagram, leave me a link in the comments so I can check out your posts too!

Saturday, July 07, 2018

"Ant-Man and the Wasp" (2018) -- Initial Thoughts

This paragraph is only here so that, if you haven't seen the movie yet, and this pops up in your GFC feed, it doesn't give away lots of spoilers.  I promised DKoren I would not say any words she could see or hear about this movie until she's had a chance to see it, so this is just a paragraph of filler that's keeping all spoilers out of her sight AND YOURS... just in case.  I think this paragraph is long enough now, so I'll stop. 

I totally dug Ant-Man and the Wasp.  It was extreme amounts of fun!  The first Ant-Man (2015) is just a jolly heist adventure, and this one one hundred percent kept up that vibe of "Normal People Can Be Heroes Too, Even If They're Not Very Good At It."  That's one of the things I love most about Ant-Man -- he's a normal dude.  He's not a god, he's not a genius-billionaire-playboy-philanthropist, he's not a brilliant scientist, he never got bitten by anything radioactive, he's not a king, nobody did science experiments on him -- he's like Falcon, you know?  I LOVE Falcon too because he's just a normal guy doing the right thing any way he can.  Including wearing a super-powered suit designed by someone else.  (I should love War Machine too, by the same logic, but I liked Terence Howard in the role better than Don Cheadle and I just... haven't gravitated toward him.)

ANYWAY!  The movie was awesome!  And by the end of it, I was like, "Yes!  I forgive Marvel!  I am a full-fledged MCU fan again, there is hope for the future, everything will be okay.  My summer is all bright and happy again, and I'm going to go have a really great day cleaning up my house and busting out a bunch of chores."

This is the spot where you stop reading if you haven't watched the movie.  Okay?  For reals.  After this picture, there are possible SPOILERS.

Because then I watched the stinger.  And now I have gone from being angry and frustrated with the MCU, thanks to Avengers: Infinity War: Part One (2018) to being disgusted with the MCU filmmakers.  Again with the emotional manipulation!  I was happy, I was cheerful, and then you just killed all the joy I'd filled up on, and now... I'm bitter and annoyed. 

I talked in my post on IW about how I need a solid dose of happiness in my superhero movies.  It's why I shy away from the DC movies -- they're dark and morose and have a very pessimistic vibe to them.  In fact, I haven't seen The Dark Knight Rises yet because The Dark Knight was too disturbing.  It's just a thing with me, I guess -- if I want to be sad, I'll watch a tragedy like Hamlet.  I don't watch superhero movies when I want to be sad.  I watch them for a jolt of actiony happiness.  I'll try explaining this more fully sometime, but I think it ties in to how I don't like dark and broody Robin Hoods either.  I need cheerful Robin Hoods.  I need superheroes where the world gets better by the end of the film, not worse.

So yeah, this is kind of a rant.  Because I was ready to leave the theater pumped up and ready to go fix our broken bathroom faucet and do all kinds of great stuff, and now I'm feeling bitter and depressed, and you know what?  I JUST GOT OVER THE FUNK THAT INFINITY WAR PUT ME INTO!  I'M SICK OF THE FUNK.

Monday, July 02, 2018

"How to Train Your Dragon" (2010)

It took me eight years to finally see this, but now I've seen it three times in a little over a week.  Because I LOVE IT!!!  Everyone has been telling me to that I would, and so I finally borrowed it from a friend and watched it.  And then watched it again with my kids.  And then took my kids to see it on the big screen today because it was playing as part of a local theater's summer kids movie series thing.  And then bought our own copy on DVD.  Because yeah, my kids love it too.

They think it's weird, though, that I cry during it.  And I cry quite a bit, in four main spots.  Like, have-to-blow-my-nose kind of crying, not just tearing up a little.  Because wow, parents and kids not understanding each other, and then learning to understand each other?  That always hits me.  And people proving themselves when everyone has told them they're useless or bad at something or whatever?  HUGE sweet spot for me.  And people befriending beasts?  Love that.  And someone sacrificing themselves to save others?  Can never get enough of that.  And happy endings?  Always my favorite.  So yeah... I cry a lot during this movie.

But I also laugh a lot too, cuz the Vikings are all pretty hilarious, and Hiccup's a great wry narrator.  Also, Hiccup?  Is basically my son, only a teenager instead of a ten-year-old.  Brainy, weedy, a little awkward, but so brave and loveable and kind.

This isn't really a review, just me gushing about how awesome this movie is.  This is totally going to end up on my "favorite new-to-me movies of 2018" list.  I can't wait to see the sequel.  And I saw the trailer for #3 in the theater last weekend and I cried over it too because... feels!  All the feels! 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Well. How 'bout that.

My book Cloaked was Peacemaker Awards finalist!  I just found out today when I got the above certificate in the mail.  I'm so excited!

For the complete list of finalists and winners, go here.

The Best Thing I've Seen on the Internet in Years

I'm not even kidding.  This is hilarious and brilliant and I love it.  Thank you, Eva, for linking me to it!  It's such a perfect mashup of The Greatest Showman and the tempestuous brotherly relationship between Thor and Loki.  Good, good stuff.