Thursday, July 14, 2016

NEW RELEASE! Night Night, Farm

This adorableness released July 12, 2016!

My childhood was nourished by the trees and creeks of Watertown, Tennessee (pop. 1200). Growing up with two brothers, I had a hard time finding Barbie playmates (unless you count the time that G.I. Joe’s tank crushed her pink corvette). So I conceded to spending my days with the boys, climbing the peach trees out back, convincing my little brother to chew the gummy sap, and impatiently waiting for the fuzzy fruit to ripen. 

My brothers and I would cross the road and climb down into the creek that stretched out in front of Slim Winfree’s big white house. Rumor had it, he buried jars of money all over his yard. But we never found any. We did find other treasures: crawdads and minnows and, my brothers’ favorite, snakes. They would chase me around, trying to put the green, scaly nose in my face, and I would run screaming—that is, until I figured out the game: it wasn’t much of a chase when I didn’t run. They wondered how I suddenly became so brave.

In the summer, the three of us would spend our days at my Mema's house, where she grew elephant ears taller than we were and let us slide down the banister in the front hall. We would scamper up the chestnut tree that shaded the front yard, and when the time was right, we’d carefully gather the spiky spheres, sit on the front porch, and crack open the shells to harvest the crunchy, golden chestnuts inside. 

“Can we check for eggs?” we’d ask no less than ten times a day, and she would walk us to the chicken coop in the backyard. We scattered crushed corn at our feet, giggling when the chickens came running and squealing when they’d peck at our shoes. 

“Easy, now,” she’d say, as we reached into the feathered nests in rows of wooden boxes. She held her wildflower-blue apron out in front of her like a net, where we’d gently place our bounty for safe transport, back up the porch steps, past the cellar and the wringer washing machine, and into her 19th century house. 

I can still see it and feel it and smell it, as if I were standing there now.

There is an unforgettable, heart-aching beauty in a childhood nourished with the wonder of God’s amazing creation. I want everyone to experience that wonder. And we can help them by taking kids and their parents on a walk back through the farm.
The sun sinks low down on the farm, 
So for now, we'll say, "Night night"
And sleep until the rooster crows
To wake the morning light.
     Night night, farm.
Three woolly lambs, like puffy clouds, 
Float gently down to sleep
And dream of hoppy, happy days
While they are counting sheep. 
     Baa baa, sheep.
Mice and pigs, chicken and cows—
Squeak, oink, cheep, and moo . . .
Oh, the animals God has made!
And, hey, He made me too!  
     Night night, God.
Your preschooler will mosey through the bedtime routine and say night night to the piggies and cows and kittens with oinks and moos and meows. There's also the repetition that kids love to recite and the soft rhythm and rhyme that lulls them to sleep. Above all, the illustrator, Virginia Allyn, has outdone herself with this adorable art, inspired by real farm animals in pajamas . . . 

We hope that all of this comes together to offer you another tool in your bedtime arsenal. Let me know if it works! Here's hopin'! 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Precious Child, Precious Life

We lost my nephew this past week. We are shocked and saddened, but most of all, we are reminded of how precious this life is. 

I tried to write a Facebook post with the news. I debated posting it at all. A Facebook post seemed so trivial. But wise Hubby said, "It will get them prayers," and the debate was over. I searched for the word. Sweet? Not enough. Beautiful? Yes, but not it. Precious. Yes. In every way. Johnathon was precious.

In making the most horrific preparations a parent could ever make, his mom (my sister . . . "in law," if you must) called to see if we could put a song on disc for the funeral service. "It's called 'Precious Child,'" she told me. Yes, precious child.

A former teacher, Ms. Jones, at the visitation told me, "He was just a precious child." Yes. Yes, he was.

But it's not only Johnathon. It's all of them. 

The one beating her fists on the floor for an audience of glaring eyes at Kroger. Precious.

The one sitting at the table for an hour refusing to eat his broccoli. Precious.

The one who kept you up all night projectile vomiting. Precious.

The one who yelled, "I hate you!" and slammed the door. Precious.

The one who totaled your car. Precious.

"Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him." (Psalm 127:3 NLT)  I have no doubt that this was written because we parents would need the reminder. But there are no conditions on this statement. Each and every child is indeed a gift. A reward. A precious, fragile thing. If this past week--no, this past month of graduations and a wedding and one, heartbreaking funeral have taught me anything, it is Psalm 127:3. Your child, my child, every single child is a gift from the Lord. 

Love them well. Treasure them tenderly. They fly away much too soon.

Johnathon, in the back, with his arm around the principal.
During the funeral service, Johnathon's principal read a list of Johnathon's future plans that he had written. Within the first few, John had listed, "Impact the world," "Make the world a better place," "Find a way to make the world better." 

So I'm asking you this, for Johnathon, for me, for the world here and now and the world yet to come: treat your child, every child, every human, like the precious gift he is--even when they don't seem so precious, even when they don't deserve it, even and especially when they need it most. 

Then together, we can make Johnathon's future plans come true. With the lesson he taught us by leaving us, we can simply and profoundly "make the world a better place."

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Pelted with Milestones

Originally posted in May 2009, this post is all too true for me again today--and probably true for you too. My little redhead is now graduating to middle school, and the older son just graduated from college. I don't even want to think about seven years from now. . . . Nope. I think I'll just enjoy today.

Last night, Ethan and I were on the front porch when a little ball of fluff fell into the soft net of ivy below our shrub. Our baby cardinal had just launched from its nest. 

We had been watching the nest for weeks--the parents as they swooped around, heightening their guard when humans or other intruders entered the perimeter (which we had to do frequently, since the nest is right by our driveway).

Today, however, was a milestone for our neighboring bird family. Their little one had outgrown the nest and ventured out alone--albeit just a few feet below--to assert a newfound independence.

Coincidentally (or is it?), May is the month of many human milestones as well. Graduation announcements from preschools to universities have continually pinged newspapers, calendars, and mailboxes. 

It's the season for learning to fly. 

I empathized with Daddy Cardinal as he fluttered around, trying to figure out how to get the little one back in the nest, using his smoke-detector chirps to announce possible danger, the little one answering with squawks to identify his location. I knew that Daddy had a worrisome knot in his stomach, twisting just below the swells of pride that filled his heart--the two forces wreaking havoc in the mind of a parent.

Just this week our family has been pelted with our own set of milestones. A few days ago, we matched our son's savings to buy his first vehicle: a 1981 American CJ-7 with a dented hood and a reputation for stalling. It's his pride and joy. And my new source of concern. But despite my chirps, I know he'll soon be driving it. Alone.

Then, on the day the little cardinal pounced from his nest, my own little redhead finished his last day of preschool, outgrowing his nest of loving teachers and sweet friends that had nurtured him for the past three years. In two short months, he'll be venturing into strange, new surroundings, full of uncertainty and opportunity. All the while, mother bird will be here chirping and fluttering helplessly about.

God, in his wisdom, gave parents no control over the advancement of time. And while we can do our best to nurture and shield our little (and not-so-little) ones, we can only stand helplessly by and be pelted by their milestones.

This morning, writing from the front porch, I notice a calm has settled over Daddy Cardinal. Still flitting around the young bird, Daddy has conceded to bringing the little one's breakfast down to the ivy. The alarming chirps have subsided, and moments ago, I even saw Daddy--now 
with a fed and quiet child--high above singing a much more relaxed song.

As for this mama bird, I smiled and sighed knowingly as I read my key verse for today. Coincidentally (or is it?), "He will shield you with his wings. He will shelter you with his feathers. His faithful promises are your armor and protection" (Psalm 91:4 NLT).

For a little while at least, I'll relax a bit, knowing that my little ones--as well as I--can always run for protection in the wings that shield the world.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A Scavenger Hunt for Autographed Books!

Because I love a little challenge . . . and I LOVE giving away books (ask Hubby ;) . . . and I love, love, LOVE the entire concept of the Little Free Library (<--Seriously. Check it out NOW.), I'm going to use all of the above to celebrate my latest two releases!

So here's the deal: I'm placing autographed copies of Night Night, Mommy and Night Night, Daddy in secret locations around the country. Watch my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or blog for clues, and you may just find an autographed book at a Little Free Library near you!* The book is yours to keep, give away, or read and return. Up to you!

(Of course, you could always order them from my website--but what fun is that?! ;)

Have fun, and happy reading!

*Still not close enough? Wanna help in my little scheme? Comment below!

Monday, March 28, 2016

* New Releases + Free Bookplates! *

April 5 marks the release of two new adorable titles from Tommy Nelson: Night Night, Mommy and Night Night, Daddy! They're sturdy board books, perfect for buying alone or as a set, with a subtle foil print on the cover (see below).

The story is told from a grateful child's point-of-view, a soft and sweet recount of a child's day with Mommy or Daddy, set to a slow rocking rhythm, perfect for settling down at the end of the day. And as always, they're both inspired by my own two (not so little) babies. (Look especially for "my eyes are getting sleepy," a quote from Michael's toddler days. :) 

And to sweeten the deal, if you pre-order now--in this one week before release--I'll send each and every one of you signed bookplates to personalize the books.

For your free bookplates, just go to to order, then email me your mailing address through the Want Updates? form.

Easy peasy, right?

So, if you've got kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, or know someone with a baby on the way, you've now got the perfect, personalized gift.

You're welcome. ;)

See the lovely foil on the cover? :)
Really, I hope you love these just as much as you've loved all of the others before them. I hope most of all that the love of a parent and child rings through, reflecting the love of our Heavenly Father too.

Happy reading! And I hope to be hearing from you soon!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Review of the Week: The Plans I Have for You

My favorite review this week just happens to come from my favorite test market: the Smith household. 

Laura Smith, a dear friend and fellow author, has four kiddos in her house, ranging from elementary to high school ages. For that reason, I am always eager (and a bit apprehensive) to hear her kids' all-too-honest reactions to the books and manuscripts I send for their review.

One that got the thumbs up, apparently, was my latest, The Plans I Have for You picture book, which Laura says in her review "is more than a picture book--it is a life book." 

And wow--she captured my hopes so perfectly in those two words: "life book." I pray that the message of The Plans I Have for You (from Jeremiah 29:11 and the best Life Book ever) is a message that will stay with kids--and adults--for life.

You can read her review of that book and her other favorites from 2015 here. 

And you can check out the adorable trailer for The Plans I Have for You here: 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Seven Parenting Wins That Matter . . .

Thank-you note: win! Penmanship: total loss. ;)
Parenting is a daily battle. You win some. You lose some. And you pray to God that in the end, you will survive victorious.

I, for one, have lost a bunch. But after two decades of parenting (wait--not possible), here are a few wins that I can note. And to me, they are wins that are totally worth the battle.

1. Teach your kids to write thank-you notes. We use the basic format: 1) Thank you for the specific item. 2) I will use it in this way. 3) Thank you again. After asking (okay, forcing) the older child (and eventually the younger child) to write thank-you notes for the last, oh, fifteen years, I finally see the payoff. He has learned to be brief, witty, and sincerely grateful in the space of a note card--a tool that better equips any man for life.

1b. Teach them how to address an envelope. You'd be surprised. And that's all I'm gonna say about that.

2. Eat dinner together, around the table, as often as humanly possible. So many important conversations have casually spilled out over the dinner table--when we're not competing with the television or tech devices. And do I even have to mention the money we've saved and sodium we've avoided by eating home-cooked food? (And the gratitude we've learned for burnt, under-seasoned, disastrous food . . . but I digress.)

3. Teach your kids to do laundry, even--no, especially--the boys. Several years ago, when I had to teach a twenty-something-year-old man how to work his washing machine, I vowed to send my boys into the world with a working knowledge of the laundry room. I'm not saying they're gonna like it, but they're sure gonna learn how to use it.

4. Teach your kids basic hospitality. There's really one rule: the guest comes first. We've had to have this discussion after debates at sleepovers over which movie we're watching or who gets to ride which bike. The guest comes first, period. Not fair? Well, you can just hope the sentiment is reciprocated when it's your turn to visit his home.

5. Record it all. Be the obnoxious, photo-crazed parent. Take all the photos. (Hear all the groans.) Write it all down. You will absolutely cherish every letter, every pixel (or else, in my case, sometimes regret the lack of them).

6. Embarrass them with love. Hug them. In public. Tell them you love them. Out loud. In front of their friends. Don't make them forever regret pushing you away--and being successful at it.

7. Show them a daily relationship with God. Pray with them, every day about everything, big and small, math tests and tragedies alike. Read daily devotionals. Show them an unforgettable, invincible, unshakable place to turn to when you're no longer around to parent them.

Yep, out of two decades, those are my seven wins (and really, they're ongoing battles). I do realize that I veered recklessly from thank-you notes to faith. But isn't that the scope of parenting? Every day, right here in our homes, we are tackling the ordinary and extraordinary, giving vitamins and and growing leaders, changing underwear and changing the world.

Don't ever take it for granted. Their very lives depend on it. It is as simple and serious as that.