Thursday, December 31, 2009

Y2K, Remember?

Happy New Year! My husband and I were driving home from our adventure up North when I pointed out that it had been a decade sine Y2K. He gasped, OK so probably not a gasp because that seems a bit feminine, but he seemed a little struck.

Yep, ten years. Our reaction was the same, "That went fast." Time does that you know....goes fast.

Then I laughed, "Y2K, wow," anyone see the humor in it now? We were secretly hoping it would all come true and remarkably all our student loans would disappear. We had nothing to lose except out debt. We lived in a crappy apartment with few worldly possessions and no account of worth to be nervous about. We didn't even bother storing up one liter of water. When the clock struck midnight and nothing happened we laughed and cheered. Bummer about the student debt, but ten years later we are now debt free, but not because of a computer glitch.

And tonight we are celebrating the New Year with the same couple we were with those ten years ago. Only this time neither of us will stay up until midnight as we are now parents of children under the age of four.

Happy New Year faithful readers.

(Pst, I had some great comments from some of you in regards to my last post, so if you didn't get a chance to comment, please do. Or at least see what others said was their favorite from this past year.)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Top Ten Posts of 2009

I love the Year-in-Review that various networks and magazines run this time of year. I'm big on nostalgia. So, I decided to post my top ten blog posts: these are some of my favorite, not necessarily the posts that received the most comments...the ones that I liked.

I'm curious, do you have a favorite from my blog? Are any of the ones listed below memorable to you? I'd love to know.

Pathetic Tree-December
God-Sighting 5,792 and Counting-November
Photo Shoot From...-October
Clouds of Smoke-August
A Known Place-August
Of This I Have No Doubt-July
Top Ten Glacier Happenings-July
Homeschooling Conclusion: Choice-July (This whole series started really good conversation for people both on and off the blog. A few people even changed their minds on homeschooling vs. traditional schooling. Not just because of my blog, but I think it was part of a bigger conversation. It is always good to evaluate your choices and beliefs.)
Seasonal Living-June
Dutch Brothers: Oh So Cool-June

If you are curious about why I chose these, ask me. I'd love to let you know.

I hope you take time to reflect over this past year and to look with hope into the next. Thank you for all your comments over this past year and for taking time to read my thoughts. It is a huge compliment and encouragement to me as someone who enjoys writing.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

God-Sighting 8,949....

I see a lot of myself in my second son. Yes, he is his own person, but he mirrors me in a lot of ways. One of these is in his emotions and reactions. He is a bit fire and ice. He can be the most loving, gregarious, and warm child, but then if something doesn't go the way he thought it out, he falls apart. He gets mad, cries, and collapses to the floor. I can tell that even in his rage he regrets it, wants out, and wishes he wasn't totally losing it. How do I know this, I remember these feeling vividly. (Both of us have extremely good memories. We both never forget things. That can be good and bad.)

We also quickly feel remorse, want to change, and genuinely seek forgiveness. This works with forgiveness shown toward others. I see this with his relationship with his brother. His brother is slower to forgive, slower to show true remorse.

Even though my husband and I are often exhausted by his moods and emotions I informed my husband that this is really a good thing, "See, he will recognize his need for a Savior at a young age." I remember at age five coming to this realization.

Another perk of having this certain personality type is that we, my son and I, are extremely relational and love the idea that Jesus loves us and wants to be in relationship with us. What did this mean for me at a young age? It meant that at age five when I asked Jesus to forgive me and live in me, I was more that ready to start chatting his ear off. I remember my mom tucked me in bed, turned out the light, and left me alone...alone to tell Jesus all my thoughts, dreams, and desires. And I did. I remember having a very long conversations with him, and this conversation continued. (Continues even now.)

My favorite chore growing up was mowing the lawn. We had a large yard, and it took a full afternoon. The major plus was that I could talk to God, and no one but him could hear me. My mother would see me and thought I was talking to myself, but I wasn't. And I took time to listen too, although this is a practice I've grown more accustom, silence and listening.

I give you this background so that you'll understand why I was excited by my latest God-sighting.

My middle son walked up to me with a beaming smile, "Jesus likes me. He laughs at me. He plays hide and seek, and Candy Land with me."

"Yes, I know he does."

I know he does. The process of him becoming aware of God in his life has begun and this makes my heart sing.

Emmanuel: God With Us. Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cook 4 Hire

Uninspired. Unmotivated. Underwhelmed. Not about Christmas, but about cooking. I calculated that I cook, on average, 1,075 meals a year. (I cook breakfast for my boys most morning: eggs, sausage, toast etc.) I’m not feeling it this month. I usually gear up for my big monthly shopping trip with a bit of vigor. I sit on the couch (with comfy hot drink in hand), spread my cookbooks out, gather up my coupons, lay out my paper, and vigorously plan. I figure on four major meals a week that I then base leftovers and lunches on. Maybe it is the holidays. Maybe Thanksgiving took it all out of me. Not sure, but this time around I was pooped out. I looked at my cookbooks and sighed, “I just can’t do it this month. I need a break.” (Someone suggested that I needed new cookbooks, but I’m pretty sure that is not the root of the problem.)

My solution... I downsized; I just planned five meals, made my grocery list and went small scale. It felt better. I was more at ease. I could actually take all three boys with me; we did all our shopping in under an hour. It all fit nicely in the van, and no one had to straddle milk or eggs on our drive home. Unpacking went pretty fast too. My short list that now hangs on my fridge seems attainable. Maybe I’m trying to simplify due to the craziness of the season?

However, I’m going to have to do this next week, and the week after, and.....that does not sound especially exciting. Now I regret not planning and pushing myself to do my huge, once-a-month grocery trip. I don’t want quality time with my boys to be driving, shopping, and hauling. I’d rather hear them playing in the other room while I spend my extra moments writing and escaping....quality time, right?

I have some newly acquired friends who seem to thrive under their motherly cooking duties. They derive great joy that exudes to all people when they stir and simmer in the kitchen. I just get it done. I like the results of my efforts. I love sitting and eating as a family. I’d rather eat in the relaxed atmosphere of my home than at a restaurant with boys who turn into monkeys and climb the furniture, chat with random people, and are always finished eating before we, the adults, have even begun our soup or salad. But the process of planning, cooking, and cleaning up is not life-giving to me.

I think my husband has it pretty good. (Not that I would trade places with him. I love that he goes off to work, and that I stay here.) However, I can’t help but be a bit jealous watching him come home each evening to sit down to a meal that he didn’t have to prepare. Isn’t that what is the most fun about eating out? Not having to plan it or clean it up? Order, eat, and walk away. I’d love, just for one month, to hire a cook or even a professional shopper. Actually, I’d like a domestic assistant this year for Christmas. I would have plenty for them to do: fold laundry (including the arduous job of matching socks), prepare all meals, clean the kitchen floor after each meal, disinfect the bathrooms, make all the beds, run daily and weekly errands....oh, and a nightly massage. Just for one month. I don’t think I’m asking too much. I’m just asking for another me, right? In your dreams honey.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Mentos and Coke

The package arrived from CSN stores, and I was as giddy as my kids. Luckily I made it a Christmas present! I was lazy though and didn't even wrap it. I let the brown box be good enough. My kids have 12 gifts (some are shared) under the tree. We open one a day until we leave for our trip to see the Grandparents.

I arranged for this gift to be opened on a Saturday when my husband could use it as a time-killing project. It worked.

They loved it. My oldest said, "This is the best Christmas present ever!"

The science kit came with a fake volcano they could paint before trying out various explosions. The bummer was that all the paint was dried up. That was sad. They would have loved that part and were eager to paint, paint brushes in hand. I loved that the kit came with goggles, test tubes, a test tube holder, and measuring cups. This made it seem more legit.

The kit also came with a book giving instructions on how to make three different types of volcanic eruptions.

The scientist in my husband came out, and he started wanting bigger and better. After this day of science fun I had to replenish my stock of baking soda and vinegar. Oh, and he insisted I go to the store and by Mentos and a coke! The best explosion of all. Warning: do this outside and keep kids a distance away.

I should have realized my husband knew how to make explosions without the instructions, but the kit served its purpose as a catalyst for more volcano fun.

Next time I think I'd rather get a kit with hubby's input, so he could find one that he wouldn't be able to replicate on his own. I thought the pricing was right. ($14.00) My only complaint was the dried out paint.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Three More Great Book Finds

These three books have captivated my boys' imaginations.

I wanted to just do a simple post with the images of the books, but I was unable to copy their images from Amazon. Just trust me, they are good:

Peter Spier's Christmas! This is a wordless book. He has captivated the American Christmas with detailed pictures. Each time we look through we notice different views and perspectives. My favorite is of the family bundling up to go to a Christmas Eve Service, and the picture of the pile of trash after opening gifts.

Harry and Horsie
by Katie Van Camp and illustrated by Lincoln Agnew is brilliant for preschool boys. Doesn't the title say it all? Adventures to the moon, searching for Horsie, equipped with Harry's Super Duper Bubble Blooper. Oh, and Harry's dad happens to be Dave Letterman.

Lastly is Whoo! Whoo! Goes the Train by Anne Rockwell and colorization by Banessa van der Baan. My second loves finding the main character on each page. Don't all boys love trains at some point during their development?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pathetic Tree

Pathetic. I tried to convince myself it wasn’t, but it was. It stood, slightly leaning, its limbs too weak to support our ornaments. I kept encouraging my son to push the ornaments up higher on each branch. Soon all our ornaments dangled at the center of the tree. If I squinted it looked like a skinny-headed alien with a fat bottom had invaded our holiday space.

My husband insisted we go back into the woods and find another. But the boys were happy because they weren’t in the woods, cold and crying---the root of our pathetic find. It was getting dark. So in haste I pointed and said, “Let’s get that one,” a decision my husband and I soon regretted. I humored myself by vainly persuading everyone that it didn’t really matter. I watched from a distance as the boys fingered their ornaments and discussed various memories. It was sweet. Surely I could look past the ugliness of our forest fir.

Then some visitors came over. They smiled politely as I told them I knew how bad our tree was. They even tried to tell me they thought it was fine. “No, it really is bad. Look at the star!”

They looked. The star was no longer vertical but horizontal. They laughed. I was anxious for Christmas, not for the gifts and family, but so I could throw out our tree.

My husband and our oldest trudged back into the woods behind our house and found another. It was beautiful and timely: the second they dragged it into the living room our tree-of-no-splendor collapsed on to the floor. Thankfully no ornaments were smashed in its wake.

I called my sister and said, “Well, we got our second tree.”

She oozed holiday cheer, “Oh, I totally want two trees this year.”

“Uh, no, we don’t have two trees. We threw out our first one. It was really bad.”

No, our act wasn’t practical. It wasn’t environmental. It wasn’t altruistic. It was totally an act of Christmas tree pride, and I’m OK with that. In fact, I’m more than OK. I’m great! It looks good. I think it is our best tree yet... a grand fir with plenty of branches, strong limbs, supportive top, and pleasing overall shape.

The Christmas tree is really the focal point of holiday decorating and cheer, and I’ve learned (in a short span of three days), that if you don’t have one you just won’t feel the Ho Ho Ho of Merry Christmas.

Can you see the limbs? See how they are too weak to hold anything up?

After this shot was taken the ornament was smashed and shattered......a kid-friendly Christmas.

Can you tell how pathetic it is from this position?

This is where it all started....cold, dark, crying kids etc.

I discovered my camera is no good for night shots. So, if that is what you want, stay away from a Kodak Easy Share.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I Have a Little Dreidel

I have a little dreidel. I friend made it for me. I always place it somewhere in all my Christmas decor, somewhere near my menorah. Is this clashing and blending of seasonal cheer offensive? Hope not. This year my boys wanted to know what the dreidel was. So, I told them. Then I found a book at the library, and in the back was a song, recipe for potato latkes, and the correct rules for how to play.

So we played! The boys loved it. Now we've played it every night in a row for the last week. We played it with skittles, but in the book it seems we should play with pennies. My oldest thought that was a grand idea since he's saving up for a new transformer toy.

The book is by Maxie Baum and illustrated by Julie Paschkis.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Meat Stick Haiku-Christmas Flavor

Christmas Flavor

Red compacted meat
Yummy taste on a cracker
Arg, constipation

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas Book Picks


I like reading Christmas books to my boys during the month of December, helps get us all in the mood. I have a few of my own, but it isn't like I need a full arsenal, and that is why I love can get as many books as you want and not pay a dime! Of course, I do, since I always have a fine. It is the one fine I like paying---seems like a worthy cause. I hope they put my funds toward buying more books vs. a staff Christmas party.

The bummer in my search, is that all the Jesus themed stories I found were major disappointments. They were too poetic or metaphorical. Most were deep thoughts by adults that didn't translate to kids. But I don't want to slam those books, so I'm not going to expose their titles. I'm finding that my personal telling of the nativity is pretty good and the chapters in the boys' Bibles are perfect for their preschool minds.

So, here are some good picks of the secular persuasion:

This one is fun because you sing it as you read it, and my boys love that. Plus I do too. I also loved that they kept the traditional verses instead of trying to be modern or clever; instead the publishing company let the pictures be original, detailed, and unique.

I just discovered the series: My First Little House Books. Love them! I'm planning on placing a hold on the whole series! But for December I highly recommend the following:

Last, it is my favorite seasonal read for kids:

We actually own this one and it is quite cozy. I get drawn in to the Spirit of Christmas even when I read it in September.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Cliff Climbing

But why would they just sit on the beach and watch the waves? Why would they think climbing up the paved path was any fun? Why wouldn't they explore and climb. Scale to the highest heights. They are boys......

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Parenting: A Steep Learning Curve

As I drove my son to his first day of preschool I felt the sudden nudge, from within, to remind him, “When you have to go potty, don’t go outside. You need to tell the teacher and use the bathroom.”

These are conversations I could have never anticipated prior to having children. Being a mom has been the most intense learning curve of my life...and I love it. I love growing, learning, and becoming a better person--at least I hope that is what is happening. My sons are the best life-coaches I have ever hired.

I have learned that my wants, desire, and hopes don’t always come true. I’m learning to embrace the scorpions, snakes, and tarantulas. I’m accepting that antlers are a decorating option. I must become familiar with the ways of Optimus Prime and Megatron. I must immerse myself in the language of Star Wars so that the Force will be with us.

I’m learning that I love to be outnumbered. My mother-in-law promised me that I would discover the special bond between mother and son--hard to describe, but real and true. And I get three of these unique and special connections complete with WWF each night on the living room carpet. I’m usually on the bottom of the pile.

I have three little men who adore me. My oldest is always letting me know how beautiful I am, as he strokes my hair and places his hands on my cheeks. My middle is consistently finding me beautiful flowers, and my youngest....well, his looks melt the soul.

I’m already laying plans to scare off the adolescent girls: these boys are mine! My oldest niece is in the 7th grade. I’m getting scared. She is so boy crazy. She reads every look and action from boys in her class as confirmation of their undying love and affection. Great. My boys are doomed. My only hope is that they will find other passions to distract them as they navigate the teenage years.

But for now, I’m loving where we are at. Our kids like us. We are cool. Today my husband and I both visited and volunteered in our four-year-old's preschool class. He loved it, and so did we. Someday he may not, and that is OK. We will take each stage as it comes and enjoy it for what it brings....even if it brings silly girls who giggle too much.

Maybe the antlers will scare them off.

This was first published in The Newberg Graphic.

Monday, November 30, 2009

I'm Just Not Ready

My pumpkins still gleam. I love the yellows and oranges. I'm not ready to let go of fall and embrace winter....Christmas. Plus, I really need to deep clean my house before I cover all the muck with tree and tinsel. I'm not a humbug. I do love Christmas. I love anticipating it. I start shopping in September, sometimes August...if I see the perfect thing.

We have traditions that I embrace. We make sugar cookies, gingerbread houses, we gift the boys a new ornament every year, we go to Storybook Land, listen to Christmas music in the van, read Christmas books, play with the nativity set, open one gift each night (3-5 nights before Christmas), look at lights at night....

I never do an artificial tree. I always want the real thing. We all hop on the tractor and rumble though the woods looking for our perfect one.

I know once I bring down the boxes of decor, dive in, go to a Christmas party...I'll be fully in the mood. But maybe I'm dragging my feet because I want to hold on to Thanksgiving and fall just a bit longer. I really hope I'm not growing old and getting too practical.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


My boys have out grown their toys. Their tubs odds and ends mainly clutter the floor or sit as forgotten individuals in their assigned toy cupboard. I love the fact that they aren't being drug all over my house, but I miss them being a source of mental engagement.

My oldest is interested in games and activities. He wants to do things together as a family. He loves spending time with me on the couch, working on mazes together. He loves it when I do "school" with him.

That is why I'm very excited about testing out a new toy from CSN Stores. I'm going to be checking my mail for our much anticipated package: The Young Scientist Club Adventure Science Series: Volcano Madness.

Oh, yes, volcanoes. CSN Stores has over 36 thematic science kits to chose from. Here is a bit from their site about this line:

Started in 1999 by Esther Novis, a mother of five and a Harvard graduate with degrees in biology, The Young Scientists Club began as a summer science camp for her 5-year-old son. Friends from other parts of the country told Novis they felt cheated that their kids couldn’t go, so she packaged the experiments and sent them off. The idea for a science subscription service was born!

My husband and I had a little fight over which one to get. He teaches science and was excited about getting some curriculum help. There are kits about the human body, crystals and fossils, and germs. Actually, maybe I should get the one about germs since someone in my family has been sick for over a month now.

Right now they are running a special from 11/23-12/1. They are offering 20% off any items from this line, and it is not limited to one per order.

The code to be used when going through the checkout for these online toys is YSC20.

This line has won several recognitions:

2009 Creative Child Award
Recognition from the Parents' Choice Foundation and National Parenting Center
Museum Store Association Buyer's Choice

I can't wait to let you all know how it goes once my kit arrives. I'm planning on some pretty good pictures. Plus, I'm part of a preschool co-op, so maybe it'll be something I can use when it is my turn to do an educational activity.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Oh, But, But, I.....

I know I should do a thankful post. I should make a top ten. I think I might still, but what's actually been on my mind of late is how much I miss summer. I'm just trying to trick myself into liking late fall and winter. I trick myself/distract myself with a few strategically placed holidays, but really....I like the warm. I desire the sun. I want my favorite three months back: June, July, and August. Those are the good guys. My faithful friends of good times and easy pleasure.

Easy pleasure is sitting in the backyard. Easy pleasure is watching my boys in the sandbox. Easy pleasure is not needing a coat, socks, shoes.....(Any other mom dread the routine at the back door?)

Easy pleasure includes not worrying about Swine Flu.

Today was a sunny one, and I was glad. My middle son noticed and asked why?

"Well, no clouds."


"But its still cold."

"Its still winter."

Yep, it still is. The nights are long. The darkness crashes in on our fun. Our toys are drab. We all have colds. My oldest keeps running a fever.

None of this would have happened in July....I just know it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Quaker Silence?

My world is strangely silent. We are all speaking is whispers. There is a creepy lull; I'm even a bit down...this forced monastery atmosphere is dampening my verbal processing spirit! I have lost my voice.

My sons hate it. "Why are you whispering?" "I can't hear you." "Can you please talk normal." "I don't like you this way."

On day one of no voice they mimicked me and responded in whispers. They did it without really thinking about it, and they didn't seem to notice I was forced to speak this way. It was like some fun game we were all playing together. It wasn't until evening that all their frustration came out. I was frustrated too. Still am.

Each night I go to sleep thinking that tomorrow will be the day that I wake up and my voice has returned to me. I can't help but panic a bit; what if this is the new normal? Freaky.

I need to invest in a white board or post-it notes. My mom and I do charades. Random people will say hello, like the garbage man, and I just smile. Getting gas was tricky. I'm having empathy for the mute. I feel cut off from the world.

My mother-in-law is here this weekend. I have lots of questions and things I'd love to tell her. Nope. I sit in silence. I am thinking I need to invest in an overly talkative friend right now. Someone who will just talk my ear off and visit with me even though all I can do is nod and shake my head.

I asked my husband if he missed my voice. He said, "Oh, this is actually nice!" Ha, ha! He thought it was so very funny. I did not.

I think I might need to have a game night soon where all we do is charades. Anyone?

(Note: On Sunday morning my voice began to regain strength. Now I have smoker's voice.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

No Martha Stewart!

Martha Stewart would find me a complete disgrace. I did get her magazine, ages ago....before kids. I got it because it looked so---nice. Those cakes on the cover, so delicious. But I soon canceled after I attempted to make a few of her creations and wasn't even sure where to find many of the ingredients in the grocery store. Perhaps they didn't even carry those specialty items in the grocery store I frequented.

I would never make it on her staff. My ideas would be snubbed and guffawed at. But, still, I have a few good ideas, and so welcome to my version of Home and Garden/Real Simple.

Here is to little tables and art spaces for kids! My mom found this for me last summer at a garage sale for three dollars; it came with three chairs. It has saved our dinning table. Before, I was always having to clean off all their projects to make way for meal times, and then after I got meals all cleaned up....again appeared the creative messes. Also, children love to have a space just their size. Since we embraced this space, my oldest has really gotten in to coloring and drawing and writing. It also makes a perfect spot for their Lego projects. I stole the idea of a ribbon for hanging their art work on, but it is a good one!

I am so glad I gave up on trying to get their crayons back in the crayon boxes. I tried all sorts of other containers, but nothing seemed to stick until I came across this large, glass jar! It is perfect. I highly recommend it.

I am not one of those moms who created a Pottery Barn theme for my kids' rooms. I did get a bit inspired for my son's nursery....we did a simple star theme, but when we moved to our new home I was so overwhelmed by all the other rooms I needed to decorate that the boys' rooms got the shaft. However, this has actually worked in my favor.

My oldest is just now starting to care about his space and how he decorates his room. I'm so glad I didn't go all out with a Cars theme or baseball only to discover that was a passing fancy.

The catalyst for this room ownership seemed to be the shelf pictured above. What I love about this shelf is that it is fastened into the wall and is one less piece of furniture they can move around and launch themselves from. This shelf, nestled next to his bed, made him feel a sense of ownership. The first night he slept next to it he said, "Oh, I just love my shelf. It is perfect." Then he requested a ribbon for hanging art. We put it next to his bed, so he could look at it at night. Then he got inspired and requested a chalkboard. (Pictures coming later. I did a chalkboard that you paint onto the wall.) The best part is he now wants to keep his room clean, spotless! Love it! I never have to ask him to clean his room. The other day we went to the hardware store, and he picked out colors--two different tones of blue. We will work on that next month.

He started receiving posters for each birthday and Christmas. This reflects his changing likes and interests and is way more cost effective than deciding that his whole room is a theme like ships or cars or frogs. His theme: things he likes!

To add a bit of splash and color I let the boys hang these birthday table cloths. They love them; they hang above their beds. Cheap and fun. Also, easy to remove when they no longer like Spiderman or Cars.

My youngest loves cars. He also does not like to sleep in total darkness, so this race car light my mom got him for his birthday is perfect.

It gives off the right amount of light, enough to comfort, but also doesn't keep him awake.

Lastly, the thing that will not only horrify Martha but most of sock drawer.

I hate finding matching socks. I find the whole thing to be rather frustrating. So, when I see a sock I just throw it into this drawer next to my dryer. Then when I can't close it anymore, I know it is time to sort....surely I'll find a few pairs.

Think what you works for me.

Freezing Pirates!

"Shiver me timbers!" the two pirates shouted from atop their ship. OK, so really our play fort. My boys are really getting into imaginative play together, which I hear shows intelligence in problem-solving. (There are plenty of problems to solve!)

Our package came. I love getting packages. There it sits by the backdoor waiting for eager hands and eyes. We were all giddy. I opened it up and announced, "Oh boys, our new stuff for the play fort came!" Luckily it was not raining and was just a chilly, windy fall day. Daddy was home, so it was perfect. They all tromped off to the shop to get the correct tools and then to the fort to rig it up.

We got these products from CNS stores. The boys picked out the telescope and steering wheel. My question was, "Will new play fort items motivate my kids to get out and play even though it is getting colder outside?"

The answer: yes, but not for long. And that is OK. It is easy to get them to go outside now. They are eager to get bundled up. But my boys really do not like being cold, so after about 30 minutes they are ready to come back in. (Compared to summer when they stay outside for most of the day.) I think 30 minutes of outdoor play in November is pretty good. I even think that if and when we get a spontaneous snow day, they'll think the play fort is even cooler with their two new accessories.

I am pleased with the quality and durability of the products, and I thought the pricing was fare. The Scotch in me probably would have made my husband pull a stirring wheel from a junkyard, but I have to admit it is nice to have a new, clean product that will not begin to wear due to the weather.

You'll also notice that the packaging was almost as much fun as the two new toys.

I think these types of play accessories are a great option for Christmas presents, and the best part is that they aren't cluttering our toy room! :)

And that is my very honest product review. (It is a bit of a bummer that the telescope didn't have any type of magnifying in it, but the boys didn't seem to notice.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Not exactly the kind of book you read by the pool while sipping your martini or even between piles of laundry, but a book worth the effort and time spent reading it. That seemed to be the consensus of those who have read Davita’s Harp.

Davita’s Harp is told through the eyes of a young, lonely child living during the 30’s and 40’s on the Eastern Seaboard. She is the daughter of two intellectuals; this is a major understatement. Her mother and father have both rejected the religions of their childhoods by replacing their old beliefs with communism and atheism.

However, Davita is intrigued by the Bible stories her Christian aunt tells her, her father’s sister, and she is drawn to the community of Jewish believers who surround her and represent her mother’s past.

This book tackles many themes. The author seems to be expressing that even though institutions are flawed, we all desire something to believe in and a sense of belonging. Within each of us is a soul that needs to be fed.

Chaim Potok is an author that observes and writes about Truth. On a personal note, I found the book very challenging and encouraging to me. When I see a dear friend who has rejected her childhood faith in God, for many of the same reasons that Davita’s mother did, I am reminded that sometimes we have to allow people to return to God in their own space and time. God is earnestly seeking renewed relationships just as much as he is seeking new relationships with his creation. Even though I desire to rush this process, just like Davita’s mom, it can not be rushed. She had to experience a “Centralia” to bring her back to Judaism.

Davita’s Harp discusses life-changing moments that alter our paths and choices. AKA: Your own personal “Centralia.”

I have only touched lightly on all the themes one could discuss from reading this great book. Chaim Potok is one of my all-time favorite writers. If you’ve never read anything by him, I would suggest starting with: My Name is Asher Lev, The Promise, or The Chosen, which seem to be easier reads.

But, don’t miss out on what Davita’s Harp has to say. You won’t regret it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Oh For Some Good Books

I get it. I know it is hard. A children's writer must please both parent and child, reader and listener. And still I'm disappointed and annoyed when I get a book from the library only to find that I want to hide it between the couch cushions and never read it again.

On our last trip I did find three winners, one tolerable read, and two to be avoided.

I'll start with the bummers:

Surprise Soup by Amary Ann Rodman and Runaway Dinner by Allan Ahlberg. They were great ideas for books! Great titles! Great covers! That is why they tricked me into checking them out. They even had the right amount of words on a page, something I always check for. But, half way through I started making up my own story lines. They weren't good books to read aloud. There was nothing fun about hearing my own voice prance along the sentences. Runaway Dinner had a sarcastic tone. The pictures were pretty good, and the ending was clever. My oldest smiled. I'm still hiding it in the couch.

Surprise Soup also had promise. My kids liked looking at the pictures of the family preparing the soup, cutting up the potatoes, opening the cans of beans....but the whole time the oldest brother bear was teasing and making fun of the younger brother bear. And it was told in present tense....says daddy, I raise my hand, I ask....and for some reason this makes it a tough oral read.

The Two Sillies gets moderate ratings. I won't hide it under the couch, but I won't check it out again. What helped is that is was written in rhyme, which I seem to like. It was also silly, ha, and funny. It held the attention of both my 3 and 4-year-old. The pictures were interactive and complemented the story well. My boys were able to make good predictions from the visuals.

Ok, so I did find three excellent books!

Dark Night
by Dorthee de Monfried was strangely absurd and great all at the same time! Cause and effect were a bit random, but completely plausible for young readers. Felix just happens to be walking in the woods, at night, in his pajamas when he is suddenly scared by a wolf, then a tiger, and then a crocodile. He hides in a tree. In the tree he discovers a doorknob which leads him to the home of a rabbit. The rabbit and him dress up as a monster and are able to scare the wolf, tiger, and crocodile, so that Felix can go back home. The two victors enjoy hot chocolate together. OK, so random, but good and works! Worth a checkout!

Next is Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg. I love his art. This book would not work for my middle boy, but my oldest was able to be fully engaged with its plot. It was a good one for bedtime--when he's calm and sleepy and able to sit still and listen better.

Finally, my favorite, Thunder Boomer by Shutta Crum and illustrated by Carol Thompson. The setting is a farm family in the Midwest. It is a hot summer day. It has been hot for many days now. Time for a thunder boomer. Sure enough, the wind picks up. The family moves into action. They rush to get their clothes off the line, the dad races his tractor back into the barn, chases the chickens into the coop...the family is safe in the house. Then they notice that Maizey, their pet chicken, is caught in the storm. The dad rushes out again.

The story is quite poetic: "Gusting rain pelts the roof. The maple's branches brush and wump against he walls. Then something white goes whipping past the window--through the air. Dad's underwear!"

The crops are not ruined by this storm. The family emerges from their house and discover a kitten that the storm brought in. They decide to name it Thunder-Boomer. The last stanza is the best:

"Now the air smells sweet as butter...everything's washed clean. The puddles have dried up. The clouds have traveled on. And all I hear are the quiet evening sounds---the call of owls beyond the pond, the chuff of toads in Mothers' garden, and the low and sleepy rumble of a tired Thunder-Boomer.

I'm eager to read this book again. It is a must!

Sunday, November 8, 2009


I make running lists of the ways I am outnumbered. I have thoughts, "Wow, this is only happening because I have all boys." I mostly love it. I've always liked feeling special. And I do. Each boy does his part. They all think I'm beautiful. They love my hugs. They depend on my consistency. They yearn for my approval and praise. My oldest told me he wanted to buy me a pretty pink hat, a nice pink shirt, and yellow pajamas. I'm very excited to open my Christmas presents this year.

So, here are some of my random noticings about my current situation:

1. I'm the only one who consistently sits on the potty.
2. I'm the only one who will ever buy a bra, to wear, along with all those other womanly things.
3. I'm the only one in my family who will ever give birth.
4. When I drove my son to him first day of preschool, I had to remind him that he couldn't pee outside. He needed to go inside and use the bathroom.
5. I get to hear my children play and shout, "I'm going to smash your guts!"
6. Potty humor. Just stick poop, pee, bottom, fart, etc. at the end of anything and you've got funny.
7. Boxes routinely become rocket ships.
8. Famous Imaginary Play Duos are: Spiderman and Batman, Chip and Dale, Optimus Prime and Magatron, Darth Vader and Darth Mal.

9. When motivating my boys to clean up the toy room we all became Transformers. I have to be in character the whole time, and am impressed with my Transformer knowledge and verbal skills.
10. I'm the only one not thrilled when Daddy brings home new critters.

11. I don't think decorating with animal heads is decorating.

12. I'm the only one who can't make cool sound effects.
13. If I don't take part in nightly WWF, I miss out on quality touch and affection.

The list continues.....and will morph and change through the developmental stages. And I love it.