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Negotiating A Peace Treaty

June 2, 2014

Sibling rivalry is never fun: the tattling, the arguing, and yes, sometimes crossing the line into hitting. This is true under normal circumstances. When you have children who have additional challenges beyond just regular sibling stuff, as we do in our blended adoptive home, along with other medical issues, it can get downright Ugly. Today, after percolating, festering, brewing, and escalating, it moved into Beyond Ugly.

This morning was the straw that broke Mama Camel’s back. I was doing some pre-taping for our African-American Conservatives radio show. The Three (15, 12.5, and 11) were supposed to be getting breakfast and getting dressed. Something so simple turned into a huge mess, with funky attitudes and misconceptions all around. It permeated our whole morning and part of our afternoon, even after we deconstructed it, and I helped them each see where their individual part derailed the speeding train before finally wrecking it.

Finally — because this has been such an issue for so long, and just isn’t getting any better — I did what I often do (and get collective groans from The Three for it!), I turn it into A Teachable Moment. Since we had missed so much of homeschool this morning, I decided to make them each Head of State for three individual, but warring nations. I have decreed that there will be no TV, Wii, electronics — no fun! — until they negotiate a peace treaty. They will make offers, concessions, provisions, etc. and sign (no, not in blood). King Dad and I will review the ratified document, which cannot violate Scripture or our rules for the house. We will set out consequences for violations, with input from the Heads of State. Then, it becomes codified and must be obeyed.

My youngest asked a lot of clarifying questions, but in the end, came up with something profound, as is often the case with him. He said, “So, it’s like a Covenant?” I agreed that was a wonderful analogy. He went on to say, “Then that means we can’t break it.” That’s the spirit, kid, that’s the spirit!

After the treaty is negotiated, they can come up with country maps, a language, flags, etc. but the treaty is paramount.

This could be sheer brilliance or utter madness! Let’s pray for the former, and prepare for the latter.


In Which I Am Quoted on CNN . . .

July 18, 2013

I was quoted on CNN Live today, regarding parenting in the aftermath of the Zimmerman trial verdict.

This represents a very small snippet of the many things I had to say on the topic, and maybe sometime I will blog the rest. Right now, my heart hurts after the many conversations, I’ve had and I’ve witnessed in the aftermath. Sadly, few of them have been cordial. I do think we have a very long way to go, and hope our nation can heal.

Until then, I hope this will suffice: while I was still wound up around the verdict, I delivered one of the rants I’ve become known for on our African-American Conservatives radio show. You can hear my rant after the segment with our guest, Representative Trey Gowdy.

Social Media Platforms: When Working to Guard Privacy Trumps Fun

February 21, 2013

Okay, so a very large social networking site rolled out yet another set of “fine print” for the unwashed masses to blissfully assimilate or pound sand . . . and I think that may have just been the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back — at least for this Mama!

When working to guard your privacy becomes a full time job, and sharing tidbits of your life with people you want to connect with becomes secondary, I think that’s a classic textbook case of the word “disconnect.”

I have a lot of reasons for guarding my privacy (so do you). I won’t go into all of them here, but if you are like me, you sign up for these platforms because it is a convenient way to stay in touch with the grandparents, or connect with friends from years ago, etc. When you sign on, yeah, there are certain rules, rights, responsibilities you understand are inherent in this new “relationship.” In the real world, what would that look like when one person, every few months, adds/changes/renegotiates things that directly effect you . . . and you have no say in the matter? You weren’t consulted and now you have a choice: stay in the relationship or leave.

If you stay, there is a subtle (or not so subtle!) shift in “power” because you’ve “lumped it” to stay in this relationship. And the other party knows it, so it can lead to a slippery slope where this becomes standard protocol.

If you leave, all the time, work, etc. you’ve invested goes down the drain for the most part. And you have to divvy things up: what belongs to you, what belongs to them? And you have to start over. Who’s to say the same thing won’t happen time and time and time again?

I don’t know if I am going to stay with this social network much longer. Even if I leave, I don’t have a lot of faith that my information isn’t still floating around . . . begging the question: so what’s the point? Is it just inevitable? Hound your friends to do all the hard work so your stuff stays private? Do you invest more hours “purging” before you leave?

Given that my day job is in Social Media, I understand how beneficial it is. But when I have to work to stay ahead of the curve (and I know this industry . . . can you imagine for the lay person??), then it seems to me that profiting from me is a larger goal than providing me with a way to connect conveniently, and I have to decide to what lengths I will go to protect it . . . and in essence attach a value to my own brand.


Mama Reviews Poison and Rapunzel Untangled

January 24, 2013

Faithful readers of my blog know I am a voracious reader. I love tween/teen fiction best. And, as a homeschooling mom, I’m very particular about what my kids read, thus, I generally read most titles before they do, unless I am very familiar with the series or author, and they have already made the cut.

Additionally, I just love the genre enough that I often read tween/teen/YA fiction “just because,” and because I am a Christian mom, I just don’t like a lot of the garbage out there in the fiction category for grown-ups (not to say that doesn’t happen with YA literature, too…). Thus, I am blogging about many of my reads, to help Christian parents find good, current literature, and discussing my finds from a Christian worldview to pinpoint any areas that may be of concern.

With that in mind, let’s get to today’s offerings:

I have always loved fairy and folk tales and re-tellings/re-imaginings. In college, as a Child Development major, I was fascinated by Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment, discussing the psychology and need behind these tales to help us resolve conflict in the “real world.”

This was all many years ago. I’ve since become a Christian, and, yes, one of “those” Christians who just doesn’t play around with witchcraft-y things. That said, both of the stories I’m reviewing today have very mild instances, rather more like a backdrop or subplot.

First up:

Title: Poison
Author: Bridget Zinn
Format(s): Hardcover and Kindle
Pages: 288
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Price: Retails for 16.99
Publishing Date: Expected March 12, 2013

Talk about your empowered female! Wow! Kyra (or “Kitty” :::gigglesnort::: *) is one tough cookie! That’s the beauty of this story and what I liked best. This girl is accused of trying to murder a princess (who happens to be her best friend)…um…and it’s sorta true. But….and that “but” is the whole story, so I can’t give it away.

Kyra is resourceful, uses ingenuity, is pretty funny, and really doesn’t “need” some guy rescuing her (though, having one, as Kyra soon finds, isn’t such a bad proposition).

The story is an intriguing one, and well told. The characters are believable, as is the dialog. However, the dialog is one of two negatives I have regarding this book: it contains some mild potty language. Nothing you wouldn’t find on TV during a show for older teens/adults, but certainly enough that a Christian family would probably take a pass on this title. Mild spoiler alert: The other issue that might give a parent pause is the one scene where Kyra is under-dressed for the occasion. Nothing titillating or any fault of either party, but without giving away too much, there is a definite “awareness.”

Title: Rapunzel Untangled
Author: Cindy Bennett
Format: Hardcover (so far)
Pages: 304
Publisher: Cedar Fort, Inc.
Price: Retails for 16.99
Publishing Date: Expected February 12, 2013

Rapunzel Untangled is pretty dark, but then again, most fairy tales are!

Imagine Rapunzel as a teen with an illness that forces her away from the “real world,” where her only outside communication comes in the form of Facebook messaging. What a premise! Seems far-fetched maybe, but so are most of the fairy tale set ups! This one actually makes a bit more sense, when you think of it.

This story has a more prominent witchcraft backdrop, and some of those scenes are so unbelievably “fantastic” that I really skimmed over them, and focused on the fore-plot.

The hardest part about this book (mild spoiler alert) would be the depiction of mental illness. It’s heartbreaking to read, and so infused in the storyline. It’s brilliant, but it’s very dark and uber-tragic.

The story itself is clean. Yes, there is romance, but it’s all very tame, and actually very sweet, considering how naive our heroine is given her lack of outside contact. It’s a re-imagining of a fairy tale, so we aren’t really looking for believability, though I think the author does paint Rapunzel and Fab Fane Flannigan (not crazy about the name!) fairly realistically (despite the names!).

Unlike Poison, Rapunzel Untangled has a heroine that isn’t brassy and independent, and the plot really depends on a “rescuer.” That said, Rapunzel has an inner courage, and frankly, given mental illness issue, one that is so stunning in the face of such abuse, you have to applaud her.

Both books are written for those much older than my own kids, and both slant to the female teen market (though guys might appreciate how cool Poison‘s Fred is!).



* How she comes by this name is the “gigglesnort” ;)

Mama Reviews Samphire Song

January 11, 2013

Mama’s Note: My daughter and I are embarking upon a series of reviews together. This entry represents the first in the series: Samphire Song.

Title: Samphire Song
Author: Jill Hucklesby
Format(s): Hardcover and Kindle
Price: $16.99 and $6.99 respectively
Publishing date: Expected March 2013
Age: 9-13, Grades: 4-8
Pages: 304

Plot Summary: A young teen, Jodie, is dealing with major issues in life: the death of her father two years before, and the chronic illness of her beloved younger brother. In what amounts to equine therapy, Jodie is able to indulge in a long-held dream and purchase a horse. The two bond, until tragedy strikes, and Jodie is forced to sell Samphire.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so let me set up my reaction to the book by divulging a bit about myself. When I was a child, I was not allowed to watch the TV show Lassie. I couldn’t handle “mild animal peril” and would just freak out and cry thus Lassie was banned. At seven, I was dragged kicking and screaming out of the theater showing Disney’s Bambi during “The Scene With Bambi’s Mom.” As an adult, I lost it for a good 45 minutes over “Uncle Elizabeth” in the movie I Remember Mama (in all fairness, I was severely PMS-ing!).

So, I have to tell you, I started crying shortly after beginning Samphire Song. I cried, and cried, and cried so much it was embarrassing — and really never stopped crying until I was done with the book. My kids know about my waterworks, and it’s somewhat of a family joke (as it was with my mom growing up!). At one point my youngest came in, took one look at me, smiled and said, “Sad book, Mama?”

The Good: The book is wonderful. It hits so many themes: love (of family, of pet, of dreams realized), sacrifice, loss, need, crippling fears, single parenting, friendship and so much more! It is written in a warm style, with believable dialog and characters.

The Bad: It’s intense. My 11-year-old didn’t have the reaction I did, but some kids who are very sensitive will. The book discusses parental death, a child whose health is in jeopardy, and animal cruelty.

The Ugly: The book graphically depicts animal cruelty. It doesn’t last horribly long, but it is very graphic and very intense. It is not gratuitous, but it is hard to read through. The younger brother is a hoot, and the humorous banter helps break up the intensity.

Overall, I think it is a well-written book that tells a great story. I think it will engage those who love animals, particularly horse-lovers (my daughter is in the mini-horse project in 4-H). The female protagonist will appeal to girls, and the brother, Ed, may well draw in male readers, thus I wouldn’t say it’s “just” a “girl’s book.” Due to the mature themes, I might question the decision to let a 9-year-old (the minimum suggested age) read this, unless the child is exceptionally mature.

For my daughter’s take on the book, she has written a review on her own blog: Swim Girl Reviews Samphire Song




December 17, 2012

They say kids love getting mail addressed to them, but clearly, that joy never fades as you get older (except when said mail contains bills or junk mail!). Today, was a bonanza here at Casa Stro!

With three kids who eat a lot (and then eat some more!) . . . uh, growing kids, I should be more coupon-y and frugal like my friend Peggy, and lots of other crafty Mamas in my Mama Posse. But, when I like (or in the cases in this post . . . love!) a product, I often drop the company a line, or give them a shout-out via social media.

Thus, without further ado (and because you can’t hear the girl squeal emanating from me!), look what I got in today’s mail!

First up was swag from a Klout Perk via Tillamook! Now, when I first found out it was coming, I was really, really excited and tweeted all about it on Twitter . . . and got back several personalized responses from their social media team (including links to videos in their online kitchen!). Well, my perk arrived today and blew me away with the “girnormous-ness” of it all:

swag 005

Contents: three coupons for their yogurt (not “cents off” but for FREE), toppings (granola, trail mix with dried cherries, and chocolate, but, uh, somehow the chocolate, um, well…okay, I ate it already!!!), mason jar to shake it all up in, recipe cards, a (very soft!) t-shirt and tote! Yay, me & yay, Tillamook! #TillaYum

Next up, I got a couple of $1.00 off coupons from Genesis Juice! A couple of months ago, The Teen had an all day session for high schoolers at a nearby university. We stopped in at Whole Foods to get some lunches to go and I grabbed some Ginger Lemonade. I have to tell you: 1) I savored it. I did. I honestly was sad when I drank the last drop; and 2) because I loved it so much, I tried to find it at another store and couldn’t, so I bought another brand’s organic ginger lemonade . . . and my tastebuds still haven’t forgiven me (and I think the bottle may even still be languishing in the fridge because I couldn’t even pawn it off on my kids!).

So, while waiting for my son at the university session, I pulled up my trusty iPad, and signed up for coupons like I read about on the Genesis Juice label. Thus, I expected the coupons, but not the nice note :)

swag 004

Monday was mail-tastic for this Mama ;)

iVillage: Why Adopt When You Already Have Kids – Marie Stroughter

November 28, 2012

Here is the piece I contributed to for National Adoption Awareness Month:

Why do many families choose to adopt children even after they have biological kids? iVoices Sharon Rowley and Marie Stroughter take you on their adoption journeys and explain why they expanded their family through adoption.

Click here to go to the video on iVillage


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