Mama Diaries

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Little Engine That Could

Do you all remember that cute childhood story about the blue train that tried to climb a mountain? "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can..."

Well, that's exactly what was going on with my little blue car as we climbed the mountains of Kentucky and Tennessee.

This past weekend, I took a trip with my kids to Ohio to visit my dad. We drove. Going there was no problem. (It's a 14 hour drive.) Coming home? Well, that was another story. As we got into the mountains of northern Kentucky, my engine light went on. Something was wrong. I didn't get too bent out of shape over it because I thought it might've had something to do with needing an oil change. But then the car started knocking and bucking and stuttering...right when we were going up a steep mountain. I thought for sure it was going to stall right there in the middle of the mountain.

"What's going on?" my daughter asked, her voice rising a few pitches.

"I don't know," I said, navigating to the far right lane. "The engine light is on." 

"Is the car going to blow up?"

"I hope not."

"I don't want to die!"

"I'll do my best to not have that happen."

When the trouble started, we were 5 1/2 hours from our home in Atlanta. I struggled trying to decide if I should find a mechanic in Kentucky or try to get closer to home. I opted for the latter.

We crawled through the mountains, barely faster than 40 miles per hour. First through Kentucky, then Tennessee, and then over some smaller ones in Georgia.  Even the giant semi-trucks flew past us. And of course it rained on top of it. It was the most harrowing ride ever!

I don't know how we made it, but nine hours later, we did. All the way through it, I kept thinking, "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can." Just like the Little Engine Who Could.

Apparently, positive thinking helps!

Endnote:  The car is getting repaired now. Something short-circuited in the engine and caused it to not allow enough oil into it. It was in complete "limp mode." It should be better shortly.

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Best Time to Set Up a Zipline

Teenagers do the strangest things.

So, the other night, my boy was out with his buddies in the woods. You might wonder what he was doing, because most teenage boys who are out in the woods at 10:00 PM are usually up to no good.

My boy was setting up a zipline–across Johns Creek. We're not talking a tiny rivulet of water. We're talking a significant body of water. When it's rainy season, the water comes up over eight feet high. People have drowned in Johns Creek. (For those who like geography, Johns Creek is a tributary of the Chattahoochee River.)

So, my boy and his friends decided it would be a good idea to string this zipline they had bought at a garage sale for $5.00 (manufacture date: 1972) across the creek in the dark. There are three ways to cross the creek:  Over the bridge (recommended way), through the water (not comfortable, and not recommended during rainy season) or over a very large tree which conveniently fell and formed a bridge to the other side. The boys opted for the latter. I have crossed this log a few times, and let me tell you, you need a really good sense of balance to do it. I can't even imagine crossing this thing in the dark. But somehow the boys did it, zipline in tow.

They secured the zipline so that it went from a tree on one side of the bank to a tree on the other side. After they were done, they tested it. It worked. They had a grand time flying over Johns Creek in the dark.

The next day, I inspected their work. It seemed secure, but there was no way I was ever going to test it. My boy had no trouble, though. I watched as he zipped over the creek.

"Dude," I said. "Why couldn't you do this during daylight hours? Why did you do it in the dark?"

"Because we're adrenaline junkies. It's more of a rush to do it when you can't see what you're doing."

Uh. Okay. I guess they're right about teenagers' brains not being fully developed!

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Impossible Door

I'm back from my vacation in Florida. It was a girl trip–me, my daughter, and her friend. We had a great time, except for one thing:  The sliding bathroom door in our hotel room.

I don't know what was wrong with it, but it wouldn't slide. At least not easily. I was able to open and close it, but not without bracing myself, or using every muscle in my body to do it. And I'm strong. My daughter couldn't get it. Not once.

"I'm stuck!" she'd call from inside. And either me or her friend would have to rescue her. It was ridiculous. But I will give it one thing:  It was the most memorable door ever!

Have you ever had to struggle with a door when you were on vacation? 

Here are some pictures of the beach at Fort Walton, Florida:

Hope you've all been enjoying your summer!


Monday, June 18, 2018

Power Washing the Boys

First of all, congratulations to Virginia, Cammie, and Liz who are the winners of the giveaway of my upcoming book, Bubba and Squirt's Big Dig to China. Thanks to all who entered!

Now for the story:

The other day, my husband decided it would be a good idea to power wash the driveway, the sidewalk, the porch, and anything he could reach. I don't know why he thought this was a good idea, because it was 95 degrees outside. The last thing I'd want to do is heavy work in the heat!

Somehow he convinced my son, Bubba, to join him. By the time they were done, they were both disgusting, sweaty messes.

When they were finished, they came into the house.

I took one look at them. "I think you missed a couple of things."

"We didn't miss anything," they said.

"Yeah, you did. Yourselves. You both are in dire need of a power wash!"

So they each marched into a shower and power washed themselves.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Giveaway and Saga of a Snail

Before I begin, I'd like to let you all know that I'm doing a giveaway of my upcoming book, Bubba and Squirt's Big Dig to China. The publisher has three extra review copies, and we thought it would be fun to give you a chance to win one. This is open to US residents only. If you are interested, please say so in the comments below. The winners will be selected on Monday, June 18th. If you are selected, I will contact you for your email address, which I will give to the publisher. The book will come directly from the publisher. Good luck!

Now for the story:  Some of you who are friends with me on Facebook may have seen the photo of a snail crawling up my back door. We had affectionately named this snail, Gary. Here he is:

Gary was a very messy house guest. He left trails of snail poop all over the door. When he disappeared for a day, we thought he was gone. But he wasn't. He reappeared leaving more trails of snail poop. Quite frankly, I was getting tired of cleaning up after Gary. My husband decided he'd had enough, too. He peeled the snail off the top of the door and relocated him under a bush. 

But poor Gary didn't fare so well. If you are a sensitive soul, you may not want to read the rest of this story. Our ferocious cat, Bootsy, decided to take matters into his own paws. Bootsy is a critter killer. He kills anything he can find:  frogs, chipmunks, birds, cock roaches (which we don't mind). . . and snails. We found poor Gary's shell in pieces, deposited outside the back door. We are quite certain that Bootsy is the guilty party. Guess Bootsy didn't like the poop on the window, either! 

One more thing I heard about which I thought was interesting:  Do you remember how I told you that my son had to get a permit to sell lemonade at his stand? Lots of kids get fined if they don't. Well, Country Time Lemonade is taking a stand to raise money to pay lemonade stand fines. It's called Legal-Ade. Kids can get help here. 


Monday, June 4, 2018

Special Guests: Stephanie Robinson and Jessica Haight, Co-Authors of the DMS Series

Today I have two very special guests:  Stephanie Robinson and Jessica Haight, the co-authors of the DMS Series. Their newest book, Fairday Morrow and the Talking Library was recently released. They are here to tell you a little about it.

The Talking Library is so imaginative with many Alice In Wonderland-like qualities. What inspired you to write the book?

When we decided to start The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow we had a plan to write a series. We began Fairday Morrow and the Talking Library right after we’d finished the first book. The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow has a general theme around The Wizard of Oz, so we thought it would be fun to have each book in the series loosely based on a classic children’s story. Alice and Wonderland fit well with our ideas for the storyline in Fairday Morrow and the Talking Library.

That's clever. I'll have to re-read the Secret Files of Fairday Morrow and look for the Wizard of Oz similarities.

Talk about the writing process. How did the two of you work together to write this story?

We collaborate using the Google Drive and Google Docs. It’s a fantastic way to write together and keep projects organized. Our writing is done on the cloud, so we have flexibility to work on our projects any time and from any place that has the internet. We’ll chat on the phone, discuss a chapter, and then pick away at three chapters we keep up in the “queue”. One is almost finished, one is in the middle, and one we’re just beginning- this makes for smooth chapter transitions, and it’s easy to see where you are in the story.

Google Drive is great for sharing files. You two have done a terrific job of making the collaboration work.

What did you enjoy most about writing it?

The Talking Library was super fun to write. There’s lots of literary magic, and many of the scenes were inspired by situations that occurred while we were promoting The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow, so that makes it special. We are very good at drawing story ideas from our personal experiences. Plus, it’s super fun to create stories with a friend.

Creating stories with a friend does sound like a lot of fun!

How did you come up with all the riddles that needed to be solved?

Jessica thinks in rhymes and both she and Stephanie love words and stories. Writing riddle clues with literary references was fun and challenging. Luckily, Jess gets a lot of practice writing riddles for Fairday’s book blog each week.

I love the riddles on your blog. They're cute!

Will there be more adventures for Fairday Morrow and her friends?

The next case in the DMS files is Fairday Morrow and the Master’s Emporium. 

Awesome! Sounds like fun, and I can't wait to read it!

Describe your earliest memories of writing.

Jess: There is story I wrote in 6th grade that I won a “Young Authors” award for. I remember the cardboard cover had a pegasus and a rainbow, but can’t recall the story. I wish I could! That is my earliest memory of completing a writing project. 

Stephanie: My first memory of writing has to do with getting in trouble in first grade for writing my paper the wrong way.  I wrote starting at the bottom right hand corner and make my way left and then up- so the opposite of how we write in America. I didn’t understand that there was a right way to write and and wrong way, and I remember my teacher reprimanding me and having to go back and redo the assignment the correct way. Although this memory has stayed with me because I was embarrassed and ashamed, it didn’t deter me from wanting to put stories on paper. I loved storytelling and writing in general. In 4th grade I created a picture book about my cat, Kitty Calico, and her adventures at an amusement park. I even did the illustrations (and drawing isn’t my strong suit). My mom had the story for a long time, though I am not sure where it is now.

I wrote a story that involved unicorns and rainbows when I was eight. Must be something about those two things that makes young girls want to write about them. Congrats on the Young Authors Award! And the story about writing the wrong way is funny - you were just flexing your creative muscles! 

What were your favorite books when you were kids?

Jess: My favorite children’s book is Frederick by Leo Lionni. I also adored fairy tales and Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes. My first chapter book ( I still have the original) was Ellen Tebbits by Beverly Cleary.

Stephanie: After taking a while to learn to read, I became a big fan. I tended to get hooked on an author and read all of their books. Some of my favorites were: Roald Dahl, Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Shel Silverstein, and all of the Nancy Drew books.

I don't believe I've ever read Ellen Tebbits. I'll have to check it out. The others listed are all great books!

What do you do when you're not writing or promoting your books?

Jess: I enjoy nature photography, meditative drawing, spending quality time with my cats, and working in my garden.

Stephanie: I love to travel and hope to one day see all 50 states. Only 4 states left- Hawaii, Alaska, Louisiana, and Alabama. I also spend a lot of time getting lost in books!

Those all sound like good, restful activities! Stephanie, you're making great progress on visiting all the states. That's on my bucket list, too! 

What advice would you give to new writers?

Jess: First and foremost, finish your story to your satisfaction. Hire professional editors to polish your words. Believe in yourself, and love the process of your work. Protecting creative space is the key.

Stephanie: Don’t be afraid of rejection. As a writer, you will need to build tough skin. Because reading is subjective there will be people who love and dislike what you write. That is okay- be open to criticism, but believe in yourself and know that there are a lot of different types of readers out there. Everyone gets rejected. Make sure to dust yourself off when it happens and put yourself back out there.

Great advice from both of you!

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Jess: I would want to fly.

Stephanie: Invisibility. This would come in very handy when I want to run a few quick errands.

I think I'd want to fly AND be invisible! :)

Thanks so much for being guests on my blog!

Blurb for the Talking Library: Fairday Morrow had no clue that moving from Manhattan to the small town of Ashpot, Connecticut, would lead to an unsolved mystery. Her parents’ dream of renovating a crumbling Victorian, called the Begonia House, into a bed and breakfast had seemed like treachery at the time. But Fairday found out that her new house kept secrets, and once inside its twisted front gates, anything was possible. When mysterious notes start showing up warning that a librarian is in trouble and a bookworm is eating words, Fairday thinks the Begonia House has more skeletons in its closets. What happens to stories when their words get eaten?

Back quote:
“Remember to consider all angles. Just as shadows are revealed by light, truth lies betwixt the lines.”

My Review: In this second book of the Fairday Morrow Series, eleven-year-old Fairday Morrow and her friends (the DMS squad) have to figure out why words are suddenly missing from their favorite stories. The search takes them deep into the walls of the mysterious Begonia House where they discover the Talking Library. Using their riddle-solving skills, they must discover the identity of the bookworm who has been eating the words and stop more books from being altered.

The Talking Library is a very imaginative book. Many of the fantasy aspects are reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland. With poisonous punctuation characters and a shadowy rook, the world building is this story is unique and fascinating. Readers will also enjoy the sprinkling of illustrations throughout the book. It's a good, quick read for middle grade kids who enjoy mysteries.





Jessica Haight and Stephanie Robinson are co-authors of the Fairday Morrow series. They met freshman year of high school in English class, where they discovered they liked the same books. Their friendship grew, and over the years they went on to work as servers together, go to the same college for a short time, and they even became roommates for a while. Many books were discussed, but none were ever written. Now, after the release of their first middle grade novel, The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow, Stephanie and Jess are continuing to build suspense in book 2: Fairday Morrow and the Talking Library. 

Monday, May 28, 2018

Stuck in a Tree

First, I'd like to thank my awesome friend, Tara Tyler, for the shout out on her blog. You rock, Tara!

Now for the story:

My fourteen-year-old son thought it was a good idea to climb the maple tree in the front yard. He wasn't happy getting to the middle of the tree. Oh, no. He had to go as high as possible.

"You know, cats get stuck doing things like that," I shouted up.

He laughed it off. "Yeah. But I'm not a cat."

Uh huh.

After he had spent about five minutes swaying in the breeze up there, he decided it was time to come down. Except he had a little trouble.

"I'm stuck," he admitted after several attempts to find a descent route.

I analyzed the situation. "If you shimmy down like a fireman's pole, you can probably get your foot into the next fork."

Apparently, that suggestion was too terrifying. "You need to get the ladder, Mom,"

I sighed then fetched the step ladder and brought it out. It wasn't nearly tall enough.

"Get the painter's ladder."

Let me tell you how heavy the painter's ladder is. I can barely lift the thing. And I'm pretty strong for a middle-aged woman. Anyway, I dragged the darn thing out, and then spent the next five minutes trying to figure out how to open it up and brace it against the tree. I got it opened, but bracing it safely against the tree for him to get down was not possible.

"Dude, I don't know what to say. You're either going to have to figure this out, or we're going to call the fire department." 

He tried the shimmy thing. But his foot got caught on a smaller branch. He put his weight on it and promptly snapped it off.  It was a terrifying slide down to the before-mentioned fork. 

Somehow, he managed to get out of that tree. But not without some scratches, bumps, and pain to his man-parts.

I think he learned his lesson.