Sunday, December 25, 2016

December Singing Time

For December we worked on a Christmas Medley to sing in sacrament meeting.  I made a recording here for the kids to listen to and practice throughout the month.

video


One of the weeks while practicing we were able to get out the bells and play along with part of the the chorus to Angels we have heard on high.  I made the words match with the colors of my bell set.  I'm just gonna make it available for anyone who maybe has the same bell set.  Click HERE for the link.  



Merry, Merry Christmas!





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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Twenty Five Days of Christmas

My goal this year is to do something "Christmas-y" everyday in December.

HA!  Obviously, not all of these will end up happening because I am good at life and can't get through a week of dinner plans without having a left-over/cereal night.  But December is the season of believing, so I'm gonna have a little extra faith in myself and take the first step by writing this blog post.  

December 1st:
Today is dedicated to dusting off the Christmas decorations in the back of the storage closet. And, also, convincing my hubby of his bravery so he can climb the high ladder to put up the house lights.


This is also a great time to make a Christmas music playlist or find your go-to December Pandora Station.

December 2nd:
Our stake is putting on a nativity activity the beginning of December.  It'll be nice starting the month off right away with the Christmas spirit.  P.S. Can you tell that I have a one year old?


December 3rd: 
Time to take family pictures... which our family is obviously really good at.  If we're able to envelope and mail out Christmas cards, we could write letters to Santa at the same time and ship them all off at once.


December 4th:
There's the Cascade Locks Festival of Lights at 3 PM in the City Hall Gymnasium.  This will be Trekker's first time taking a picture with Santa.  He's kind of going through a "stranger-danger" phase, so it'll be interesting to see how that event unravels.

December 5th: Family Home Evening
I want to try a fun service project to work on together as a family.  My cousin loves helping with Operation Christmas Child, so I think we might give it a try this year.
And no FHE is complete without dessert: Peppermint Eggnog punch please.


December 6th:
Trekker and I can get our Christmas arts and crafts on.  I plan on spending approximately 12 hours on Pinterest picking out my approximately 12 minute 
craft-ivity.  A light/sensory toddler box?
Cheerio Christmas Chain?  Wouldn't you like to know.

December 7th:
According to my weatherman friend, Google, Cascade Locks will be greeted with snow showers on this blessed day.  What could be more appropriate than building a snowman and later coming inside and watching the most wonderful, depressing film "The Snowman"?


December 8th:
I'm cheating and doing two movie nights in a row... Polar Express accompanied by hot chocolate.



December 9th:
Hubby's Holiday work party

December 10th:
Sleepover under the Christmas tree

December 11th:
Watch "Elf" and eat Spaghetti (Maple syrup optional)

December 12th: Family Home Evening
Time to "Elf" the neighbors.
Or if you don't have anything cute to doorbell ditch, you can always buy those ugly birds at the dollar tree and tape them to the door like we did to Ben and Lydia.  


December 13th:
Ginger bread house night.  
Note to self:  Let icing dry extra long this year so the house doesn't collapse again.


December 14th:
Girls' night - Holiday chick flick and Christmas pedicure.  And by "girls' night" I mean me painting my nails and forcing the boys to watch a chick flick with me.

December 15th:
Make a homemade Christmas video or record a song.  A brotherly tradition of Mitchell and family has been to make a Christmas soundtrack.  The results every year are sensational.


December 16th:
Who doesn't like a Dollar Tree shopping spree?  Now that we have baby Trekker to buy gifts for, it may be my new favorite shopping location.


December 17th:
Crossing my finger that we'll have some snow towards the end of the month too.  At some point we're gonna have to go sledding or snowshoeing.  It is just mandatory.



December 18th:
Christmas Mormon Message night.  Some nights it's so relaxing just sitting in bed with a laptop clicking through Mormon Messages.  I could watch those videos for days.

December 19th: Family Home Evening


December 20th:
This might be my most favorite of all favorite December activities.  Jumping in the car and driving around looking at Christmas lights.  You know those Christmas BINGO cards you can find on Pinterest?  I always thought it would be so fun to take some of those on the car ride and play I SPY or whatever.  

December 21st:
How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Grinch Punch


December 22nd:
Wrap presents/last minute Christmas shopping

December 23rd:
Caroling


December 24th:
Everything!  Everything!  Overwhelm ourselves with Christmas!  Christmas pretzels, watch the nativity movie, read scriptures, open one family present, sleep upside-down, enjoy the family, remember the Savior, and wish a MERRY, MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!!!



Tuesday, November 29, 2016

November Singing Time

Something I learned this month:
Kazoos + Singing time = Never again

Right now we're working on a Christmas medley.  I decided to liken the medley to banana splits.  Christmas songs by themselves are wonderful ingredients and if the kids went up Christmas Sunday and sang a cute Christmas hymn the parents would smile, feel the spirit, and be spiritually fed and satisfied.  BUT... if we take all those delicious ingredients and put them together we can make something EPIC and everyone will not only be spiritually fed, but their spiritual tummies will be stuffed full of spiritual deliciousness AKA tears are gonna fall out of their FACE!!!

The kids got to come up and take turns picking a cherry that had a song number on the back.  After we sang they would go to the "Spoon-o-meter" and rate how well we knew each song.  Some of the cherries they picked had a sweet treat and I pulled out my can of whipped cream and sprayed it in their mouths for a little extra motivation.  It was a great Sunday!!


This last week we talked about the song "Samuel Tells of Baby Jesus" and threw bean bags at our little Samuel on the chalkboard.  If they hit him, they were able to pick any primary song to sing.  Otherwise, we just worked on our Christmas Medley and sang it in whatever silly way their bean bag selected.  


P.S. For anyone wondering, the King Candy accent is like King Candy on Wreck It Ralph.  It's, like, my family's favorite person to impersonate.  We are weird.  So incredibly, totally weird.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

I love Christmas music!  Nothing quite brings the Spirit of Christmas like singing.  This last month I have been working on an arrangement for a Primary Christmas Song Medley for the kids to sing in sacrament meeting.  

I'm posting it here to give some of you the opportunity to practice at home throughout the week.

video

The purple lyrics are where everyone sings.  
When we split into two groups there are red lyrics and blue lyrics for the different parts. 
 Enjoy!  Keep practicing!  

I love Christmas!!!!!



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Sunday, October 30, 2016

October Singing Time

I  L-O-V-E-D teaching the young women in my old ward.  It was HANDS DOWN my most favorite church calling of all callings!  I loved those girls so much and they will always have a special place in my heart.

But change is healthy.  Move to a new house = new ward = new calling.  I am SO EXCITED to switch to Primary Chorister.  Do you have ANY IDEA how many hours will be snatched from your life when you search for "Primary Singing Time" on Pinterest?  Don't try it.  It's dangerous.  Deliciously dangerous.

So this is a picture of me taking a selfie with a fish.  Because that's what I do now. 


FIRST WEEK:  The kids went "fishing" when I decorated the piano as my musical pond.  Each fish had a primary song to practice.  When the kids sang really well the fish would "dance in the water" and bubbles would come out from behind the piano.  
*SIDE NOTE: The bubbles might get a bit messy.  Have a towel or something ready to protect the piano keys from getting soapy.


I have a feeling Trekker is going to love this calling too.  Each week I get to come home with new goodies for him to play with.

WEEK TWO:  During the week I called the missionaries and asked if they would help me out with singing time.  I shuffled through my husband's old ties in the closet and picked out a few that he never wore. 


 On Sunday, I snuck the ties to the Elders.  During singing time they came into the primary room and made a bet with the kids.  Not sure if missionaries are allowed to bet...
If the kids really impressed them and sang well enough, the Elders would cut off their ties.  The kids went NUTS!  They absolutely loved it!


LAST WEEK: Obviously, we had to do something Halloween themed.  I took some tape and made a spider web on the ground.  The web was covered with spooky spiders that each had a primary song written on the back.  


After we chose a spider song, the kids would pick a slip of paper out of my pumpkin with a silly way to sing the song.  Sometimes everyone would participate, other times it was just for the person who drew it out of the bucket.


They were all warned that there was one slip of paper with a BLACK SPOT that had something EXTRA EMBARRASSING on it to do!  If a kid picked "the black spot" they could quickly put it back and grab another one before reading it.  But if they were feeling brave they could take it!  They had to commit to taking it before they could read what the action was that they were supposed to do.


Here were the actions:

Before everyone sings, everybody gets a little bit of super special singing spray!  
{Lemonade in a squirt bottle}

Everyone gets to sing this song with their hand on the person's head beside them.

While everyone sings, Sister Blackburn gets to wrap you into a mummy with toilet paper.

Everyone gets to plug their nose while singing and stand on one foot.

You get to wear a wig and sway your head to the music while everyone sings.

Everyone turn to your left.  For the whole song, give the person in front of you a nice back scratch.

Everyone gets to clap to the beat while you sing together.

You get to stand on a chair, put your hands above your head, and yell, "Sister Blackburn is the BEST!"  Oh yeah.  And then sing your song.

Everyone spread out and turn to the wall.  Put your nose to it and sing the entire song to the wall.

You get to dance in the front of the room while we sing.  Everyone gets to copy your dance moves.

You get to be the Primary Chorister!  Everyone gets to watch you lead the song!   Oh.. and you need to wear these goofy wax lips too!

And finally, THE BLACK SPOT CARD: 
What song did you pick?  Great!  You get to go by yourself and find someone in the hallway to sing it to.



The girl who picked the black spot did so great!  She ran to the nursery and sang Book of Mormon Stories to the nursery class. She was definitely braver than I would have been at that age!  High five for the first month of singing time.



Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Inspirations

Today I've been having fun collecting pins for my book inspirations board.

These photos may help better describe what was taking place in my head while writing The Echoing.  Is anyone else like me where you LOVE watching movies based on books so you can yell at the screen, "That's exactly how I pictured this moment!"?


STEVENSON, WASHINGTON
"The town of Stevenson resided on a steep hillside along the Columbia, separating the Oregon and Washington border.  To the south, one could always see the massive flowing river and tree-covered hillsides of the other shore."


STEVENSON HIGH SCHOOL
"Stevenson's modest population allowed the residents only one high school, small enough to fill the entire student class in seven crinkled yearbook pages.  Though I walked these halls every day, it felt like a distant part of my life.  I had no attachment or welcoming feelings associated with the school doors I entered daily."

SIDENOTES: I don't know how big their yearbooks actually are.  I'm also sure it is a very welcoming school.  Main characters always have to start out with some sort of complex, right?


MERRITT'S INTRODUCTION
"Well, if it isn't Rylee Perry!"  He grinned with a half smile... leaning back against a row of paint-chipped, red lockers.


WALK IN THE WOODS
"The overcast of clouds glazed the scenery with a whitish-gray coat.  Even though it was deep cold, the crisp brightness was pleasant.  My lungs welcomed the chilling air, and my eyes watered as the breeze brushed lightly past my face."


BECK
"Beck's nose stayed glued to the ground while she roamed back and forth smelling every crack and crevasse that bordered the trail.  Her white tipped tail bounced in the air as she zigzagged through the trees.  She was supposedly a mutt-mix with her short hair sprinkled in every color of spots imaginable, but based on her pattern of sniffing everything in her path, I always suspected a majority of hound in her bloodline."

Sidenote: Becky was my dog from my childhood that we adopted.  I loved her so much!  So, I thought it would only be appropriate to make her a side character in my story.


DRIVING PAST THE DEAD MEADOW
"Naked trees from fallen leaves reached out toward me with an eerie vibe.  Through the tree lining, I could see a dead, yellow valley of dry grass clumped with wet mud and mossy weeds.  The fog stretched across the field like an ocean of rippling white foam and crept over the roots of the tangled tree trunks..."


THE FOOTBALL GAME
"On the dry, grassy field, a tall player jogged to the bench and unbuckled his helmet.  As he effortlessly pulled it off, steam rose from his wet hair as it mixed with the cold autumn weather."


THE STEAMBOAT DOCK
"I leaned against the railing and closed my eyes.  Inhaling the fresh air, I soaked in the surrounding silence.  My mind deflated and aired out everything that had happened around me."


THE WATERFALL HIKE
The bright green trees clung to the colossal stone walls.  As we crawled over fallen tree trunks and ducked through the wild vines overhead, I truly appreciated the nature that surrounded me for the first time.

SIDENOTE: This is Oneonta.  This is actually where the book cover setting comes from.  I love this hike so much!  I hate how popular it's getting though and how everyone is discovering it.  I guess adding it to a published book doesn't help much.  Argh!  I've become my own worst enemy.


Let me know what you think!  Do these photos go along with the scenes you imagined while reading?  

And if you haven't read it yet...
Well, um, *cough* click below, new friend.

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Monday, July 18, 2016

THE ECHOING Promo Video

Here is my awesome niece being my movie star for my book promo video.  Enjoy!






Thank you readers for everything!  Love you all.
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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

My Writing Adventure

I wanted to post this because I remember once thinking, "Hey!  I want to write a book!" and found it so helpful visiting other authors' websites and reading their experiences.  One of my favorites who was extremely helpful was Veronica Roth.  Click HERE for her post that helped me out A LOT.

Also, there are so many ways to do this.  Some people self-publish and do awesome.  Different things work for different people and I am certainly no expert.  I'm completely a noob.  But here's my story...

I've mentioned before how I had an idea that turned into a character and kept growing into a story inside of my brain.  I shared this with my mother-in-law and how writing was bringing me happiness and she was the first person who really sparked the idea of writing a novel.  She believed in me and gave me faith to believe in myself.  On my birthday she gave me the book White Bees by Amy Jo Wilde and highlighted one of the acknowledgement quotes at the back of her novel:

And thank you to God for whispering into my heart the simple word, "write..."

Oh, how those words stirred my soul.  

I began writing a little bit everyday.  It was like exercising.  There were days where I was NOT in the mood and it sounded more like a chore than a pleasure, but I kept at it.  And I became stronger because of it.  Even if I was having writers block, I noticed after about 20 minutes of tasteless writing, I would eventually get in the zone and my fingers lit up on fire and pitter-pattered across the keyboard.

I didn't write The Echoing in chronological order.  If I was in a depressed mood, I would write a sad scene.  If I was feeling goofy, I'd write a funny scene.  If my hubby happened to look extra handsome that day, I found myself focusing on the make-out scenes.  LoL.

H-E-DOUBLE HOCKEY STICK-YES!  This is definitely a kissing book.

When I had really, REALLY bad writer's block I would find ways to get inspired...
Taking hot showers with the lights off, surrounding myself in nature, the rain, or going to the beach would always help.  Pretty much anything involving water.  I genuinely believe water has some sort of energy in it that helps us unlock our creativity.


Eureka moments were so funny!  I would drop whatever I was doing, shout out in triumph, and sprint towards my laptop to get it out of my brain as fast as I could.

I would keep my notes on my phone and reach over multiple times during the night to record my "light bulb" moments.  Drove Mitch nuts.

Revising was super fun!  The 3rd and 4th draft were my favorites to go through.  The first draft was just... embarrassing.  The second one helped fill in the holes.  But after the bones and organs were functioning and in place, I was able to go in and massage the words into the little details and really turn it into "me".

Beta readers.

More editing.

Then, when I felt like it was polished, I sent it off!  ...which probably goes into my top three scariest moments of my life.  You feel naked.  In front of a stranger (and this was pre-pregnancy, so I wasn't familiar with this type of experience).  I felt so insecure taking this hidden part of me that no one knew and sent it off across the Internet desert to some blah-blah-blah literaryagent@emailaddress.com and hope that they would be nice to my sweet baby.

AAAAAAAAND I got rejected... A. LOT.

And then one day, the beautiful email finally came...

"Dear Jessica,

... We would like to publish your book!  Congratulations!"


Tears.  Forgot how to breath.  Danced with the baby.  More tears.  Uncontrollable laughter.  Apologized for scaring the baby.  Called the hubs.

My advice for sending out a query letter: First, be ready for the rejections.  If you do your research, the Internet prepares you for this very well.  It's still hard no matter how ready you are for it though.  Have a good family of cheerleaders to back you up because you're gonna get down on yourself.  Mitchell was amazing at this for me.  And, second, send it to people who are very passionate about your genre and what you're writing about.
When I first sent emails out, I was sending it to any agents or publishers that fit in the YA fiction genre.  But when I worked with Cedar Fort (Emma was my main editor and she was just lovely) I felt like I was in such good hands with someone who believed in me and believed in my story.  It's so important to work with someone who is just as excited as you about your book!  If I could have gone back and done this part again I would have researched better and found very specific people who catered to my story to save myself a lot of reject letters.  Everyone was so nice, but it was always "this story isn't a fit for me" which was so true, and so right, and I'm so glad I didn't get a chance to work with someone who wasn't quite the right "fit".  It's all about the passion from everyone on the team.

Two more revisions through CF editors.

Goes to press in one week!!!!!!

CALENDAR TIMELINE
The first word of my first draft was typed on November 30th, 2013.  
First draft was finished March 5th, 2014.  
Sent revised draft out November 15th, 2014
Got my acceptance letter November 17th, 2015
Comes out to purchase Aug 9th, 2016


This adventure has been so. stinkin. fun.  

And ultimately, for me, it was all in the hands of God and having Him open the right doors of opportunity that I needed.  


Anyone who has ever thought "what if" about writing a book, DO IT.  And START DOING IT NOW.  Because it can be quite the process.  But it is so fun and so totally worth it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Cover Reveal

Oh my HEAVENS TO BETSY!  Things just got real.  WAY real.

Presenting the book cover to my soon-to-be novel:


I am just crazy excited.  And I have to tell you why...

The story takes place in the pacific northwest.  The setting of one of my scenes was specifically inspired by the Oneonta Trail in the gorge.  In my book I described the hike and the waterfall without ever saying the name of the location.  When I got an email from the team showing the picture they planned on using for the cover I was ecstatic!  This is LITERALLY Oneonta.


It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.  I am just so happy that people will be able to visualize EXACTLY what it is the characters are seeing.  It just puts giddy butterflies in my tummy.

Hooray writing!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

What Is The Purpose Of Life?

I had so much fun with this lesson. It may have been my most favorite one yet! 

Get this week's lesson here.

The topic was introduced with a lively game of Family Feud. There was lots of clapping and "Good answer!" cheering taking place.  Not really.  But that's how I always remembered it when playing the old computer game.  Can't remember the game show host being this good looking though...


Basically I took the answers from the first paragraph of the lesson and google searched the blue number cards to print out and cover the chalkboard.



Afterwards, we read Gary E. Steven's talk "Your Four Minutes" and had a great discussion about how fast time flies and what we need to be doing TODAY to make the most out of everyday.

I ended with a personal story:

We were camping at the Oregon coast and late one night Mitchell and I went to the beach so he could get shipwreck pictures with the dazzling stars.


It took him a while to set up his equipment, so I went off on my own for a walk in the darkness. There was no one else on the beach and all I could see were the stars in the sky.  I fell back in the sand and listened to the soothing ocean creep up and down the shore line.  As I stared at the sky, my soul tugged at the deep questions, "Who am I?", "Where did I come from?", and "Why am I here?"
I felt this overwhelming homesickness for a place far away that I had forgotten. Tears fell off my cheeks and soaked in the sand as the galaxies smiling back at me made me feel so small, like a speck in the universe.  Even though I felt so insignificant, an overpowering love from my Heavenly Father swept over me and I knew I had a purpose and was meant to be here on earth at this time.

I told the girls to ponder to themselves those deep questions about what their purpose was and turned off the lights.  The ceiling glowed with little plastic stars and we sat quietly and listened to the following...




It was such a magical experience for me. I could feel the love our Heavenly Father had for each of these girls and from each of their families.  This song, Lift Your Eyes, is available to download from the LDS youth web page, but I made a version available here with the talk quotes and room at the end so anyone could personalize messages for their YW individually.

So grateful for this gospel.  So gratefully for how this calling has helped my testimony to grow so much!!!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Trekker's Lullaby

Have I mentioned before how incredibly awesome my parents are?  My mom is a music composer and ridiculous piano player.  One thing I love is when she combines her beautiful melodies with lyrics written by my dad.


When my older brother left on his mission they wrote a song just for him.  And after my younger brother got his own arrangement, I realized I kinda got skipped since I was hitched before I was old enough to serve a mission.


Since I missed the missionary train, once I got pregnant I asked my parents if they would write a song for my baby.

And here is the magical result.  I can't thank my parents enough for this perfect lullaby.  It couldn't have turned out better!  Love you guys so much!



You can visit my mom's music blog here to download the free sheet music.

Artwork credit goes to awesome Uncle Adam

P.S. Maybe I'm exaggerating when I say I was skipped. . .  Click here for another amazing piece my mom did for me a while ago that I'm completely obsessed with.