Saturday, August 24, 2013

Percy Jackson and the Olympians

I was honored to write a guest post about the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series on Pete Quily's blog Adult ADD Strengths.  This was a really fun series to read, full of adventure, gods and monsters, and likeable heroes.  Riordan wrote the series for his son, who was struggling in school and eventually diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia (his son has now completed a 500 page manuscript of his own).  Most of the demigods in the series have ADHD and dyslexia, which makes school challenging but also gives them their great battle reflexes (and signals that they are wired to read ancient Greek, not English).  Percy Jackson, rare son of the sea god Poseidon, is an endearing hero on par with the likes of Harry Potter.  Read my review on Pete's blog here

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Moving Day

Okay, so I was just going to get on here and tell you, my dear friends, that I wasn't going to be around today!  Helping move my parents today (right now I'm just waiting out a little one's nap!).  Instead here I am, posting a whole bunch of unedited photos.  I just couldn't resist!  I'm so happy that we can finally get outside again!  And I love how beautiful the world looks in the spring.  I'm looking forward to some more adventures with the kids this summer just like last summer.

Moving my parents is a little bittersweet.  Moving has never been easy for me-- I get attached to places way more than I should.  My parents have been in their current town ever since my oldest kids were small.  I love thinking back to happy times visiting my parents from out of state, playing in a backyard pool, jumping on the trampoline, popsicles, barbeques, chasing kids across the lawn, swings, walks, cookies, crafts, extra hands to help me and love my little ones, and treasured time with my parents (lots of great talks!).  Maybe that is why the memories are especially sweet- so many people I love in one place, without the usual distractions.  And any place I watch my kids grow will always have a special place in my heart.

But, on the flipside, I am happy that my parents can make any place feel like home!  The reason the places they leave are so bittersweet is that I have happy memories in those places.  So I guess the fact that these moves make me a little sentimental is a sign of my blessings-- that I have made happy memories with people I love.

And...I am so excited to have them moving closer to me!  SO excited!  It has gotten harder to travel to them since my older kids have gotten involved with school and sports.  Looking forward to happy memories in their new place.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Motherhood Poem

Fresh Start

The day we brought

You home from the





The trees were frosted in

Delicate neon


Cluttered with milk-white popcorn blossoms;

The robin was busy

Building her


Under the eaves of the


Everything bright, clean, new,

As if the world’s beginning

Were just for me and you.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

One More Ode to a Good Grandpa

I visited my grandparents home on Thursday as planned, to be greeted by my sister, who told me my grandpa had passed less than an hour before.  It was hard to say that last goodbye, but it was also good to see him at peace.  His face, at rest, made all sorts of thoughts go through my mind.  One is that his face is so familiar to me-- one of the earliest faces ingrained on my memory, one that has been to birthdays and baptisms and special days, given hugs to my little girl self and my grown up self and welcomed my children.

Just a month before his passing, I walked into my grandparent's garage all  alone. Even though they live in a different home than they did when I was growing up, the smell of their garage smelled just like it did when I was a little girl.  It brought back some potent memories.  I calmed my usual rushing self and just stood there in their garage and took in the smell and let myself reminisce about happy cousin days and sleepovers and my grandma's strawberry jam.  I let it soak in.  I knew I wouldn't be able to keep my grandparents around forever, but for now I just wanted to remember.  Little did I know that a month later I would be saying goodbye.  Before he passed I wrote down a very rudimentary collection of words to help me remember, since I won't always have their garage to smell.  :)   As you'll notice, many of the memories aren't directly related to him, but it was his was an abiding presence that helped make them possible. It's not very refined, but here goes:


Old green truck
In a clean-swept
Musty garage.
Brown tweed chair
an old-fashioned Doris Day movie.
Knee-high grass
Crunching beneath our feet
As a dark,
Robust younger you
Called sheep--
They're running to you,
Skitting from me (darn).
Red brick
Roundabouts on cousin Sundays,
Fabled ditches,
Banana-colored longboards
And red,
Ranged in a line
Raced on rear ends
Over click-cracks
Under a tipsy
Orange moon.
Cushy additions,
Jennie's mystical
Orange-lighted room
Complete with organ.
Sleepy movies,
Jam on toast in
Red strawberry
Vinyl chairs,
Juice in tiny
Clinking glasses
Poured shallow with little
Ball games.
Big(ger) family.
Long-forged rolls.
Cherry pies,
Busy family coming and going.
Delighted hugs.
Smith smiles.
Sad goodbyes.
Driving directions.
Carrying my little ones
With pride and happy
Whooshes across a new
Family baptisms.
Corralling the greats now.

Popcorn at a brown bar,
Cousins abounding,
The smell of
Yellow scrapbooks,
Grandma's house.
Grandpa's too.
In his big chair,
But inside--
Someone thinking, measuring,


No more hunting,
no more sheep.
Children gone.
A longing for home
Shines back from the
Resided chair.
It's time to let you go
Your knees and your sheep will thank you.
So will hungry mother's arms, ever waiting.
But we're lingering,
Not knowing what to say,
Just that we'll
Miss the long-gone days of
The musty garage,
the movies,
Even the snoring.
I look at your peaceful face
And remember how
You wrapped me in
Grandpa arms,
Happy to see this little girl.
You go now,
And wait for me there,
Till I've done what I came here
To do.
Then you can catch me in your arms
Like old days.
Get your sheep ready--
Maybe we can finally make
Them like me.

FYI- I added some photos on to the last post.  See you tomorrow!  

Monday, April 1, 2013

Some Favorite Family Movies

Did you have a good Easter weekend, dear readers?  I had the stomach flu all day on Saturday, but that didn't prevent us from attending a beautifully done Easter egg hunt at a neighbors house (then I went home and collapsed on the couch for the rest of the day).  We enjoyed the day yesterday by going to church and then high-tailing it to my in-laws for a family get together that we have really come to look forward to each year.   Photos forthcoming sometime this week!

This is our spring break week!  I'm so excited!

So, lets face it.  We try to minimize the amount of TV our kids watch.  Sometimes we succeed and sometimes, its, well....harder.  These are all movies that I have watched with my kids on our family movie nights, and some of my favorites, for reasons I'll list below.  Enjoy!  (and please follow your own instincts when it comes to anything that might be inappropriate for your own unique child, since some of these would scare younger children or more sensitive children, I always look up movies on this site before I let my kids watch, I've learned this the hard way.  It gives guidance as to an appropriate age range, too, which helps a lot!)  :)


1.  Ratatouille

For any foodies out there who enjoy cooking and eating as much as I do, this movie is a real treat.  It is a beautifully animated story about a rat who dreams of doing more than eating garbage all day.   He learns all about cooking from a famous chef on TV whose claim is that "anyone can cook."  He meets up with a young man named Remy who is also socially isolated and they create a partnership that allows both of them to thrive and learn more about themselves as they are thrown into the center of a kitchen in a busy Paris restaurant.  I love this movie because it shows the power of following your dreams in spite of social pressure and about friendship and being your best.

2.  How to Train Your Dragon

Another story about a young man who doesn't quite fit in (there is a pattern here, hm), in his Viking village of dragon fighters.  He captures a dragon and surprises himself by refusing to kill the dragon (which would have finally brought him honor and respect at home) and instead befriending it.  Together he and his dragon forge a friendship that helps them overcome their individual handicaps, learn the courage to stand up to forces that kept them down, and bring understanding and change to the village.  A touching story about a parent-child relationship and finding the gifts in our children or ourselves that may be different than our own.

3.  In Search of the Castaways

Ok, this is an old movie (1962) with pretty rudimentary special effects.  But I LOVE it.  A story about two children whose father was lost at sea and their attempt to find him after a French professor found a message in a bottle, it is a fun and upbeat adventure story.  My favorite is the Frenchman and his optimism-- his song "Let's Climb"-- love it.

Meet the Robinsons

4.  Meet the Robinsons

A movie about the value of family and following your dreams in spite of setbacks, this is a great movie for all ages.  A young orphan named Lewis is a budding inventor who can't seem to find the right adoptive parents. When he receives a couple of mysterious visitors from the future, he discovers what family is all about (this one is so quirky and hilarious!) and is challenged to keep moving forward in spite of failure and find peace with his past as he races to save the future.

5.  Rise of the Guardians

This is one of our new favorites, though there are some parts that could scare young children.  Jack Frost is uncertain as to how he became who he is, and wonders why human beings cannot see him.  When the Boogeyman threatens to destroy children's belief in the "Guardians" of childhood-- Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and the Sandman-- by instilling fear, Jack must discover who he is inside and why he has suddenly been chosen to help protect children.  The animation is amazing and imaginative, providing a fantastical and fresh glimpse into the characters and worlds of what could have been stale over-told stories (LOVE the Santa with his naughty and nice tattoos and the Australian accented Easter Bunny).  Instead it is fresh and inspiring story about the power of belief and childhood.

6.  Wreck-it Ralph

This is yet another story about someone on the fringes who goes in search of meaning and inclusion.  Ralph is the "bad guy" in an old-time video game.  Always taught that being bad was important and not to be questioned, Ralph gets tired of being marginalized and ignored for his contributions.  And yes, the poor guy has to sleep in the dump.  One day, in his frustration, he enters a different video game, and then another, in order to earn a medal to bring home.  The chaos that ensues is both cathartic, funny, and painful, as you watch Ralph learn about himself and others finally learn to appreciate him.  He meets a young girl who has also been socially rejected (a "glitch" in her game), and helps her discover her inner talents.  I really enjoyed the animation in this movie too-- the creative and humorous old, nostalgic games (remember Pac Man and games of us 80's brats?), as well as the incorporation of newer themes.

7.  Cars

This has been on my mind a lot because I've got a Cars addict on my hands that I have to fight off a lot around here.  But this truly is a great kids movie, one of my favorites as far as messages go.  Lightning McQueen is a young, arrogant racecar who only thinks of himself.  Until he gets lost on his way to a big race and has to do service in a little lonely run down town off of Route 66, for some damage he did to the road while evading a police car.  He finally learns to see outside himself as he becomes endeared to the various cute and quirky personalities in the small town.  What was once a one-man show turns into probably one of my favorite movie endings of all time, as McQueen finally learns that winning isn't everything.  This movie is chock full of funny automobile references and details that will delight people of all ages (little tiny car bugs?  Click and Clack?  Bring it on!).

I have some more I'm saving for another day!  Are any of these movies a favorite of yours too?

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Week That Began With Creepy Bad Guys and Ends with a Bunch of Crap

For a recap of a little over a week or so, here goes.  We began two weekends ago at a book launch party for Brandon Mull's new Beyonders book.  My eleven year-old had been begging and begging and begging to go (and giving me minute by minute status updates from Brandon Mull's website for several days),  so I mustered the courage and took all five kids and stood in line outside a brown brick high school in a mild March evening with other excited (geeky?), book-toting fans and a demon or two.  Because I'm such a stellar planner, I invited my husband a little too late and then my phone battery died, so I never knew whether he was going to be meeting us or not (not).

At first it was a very exciting party, which involved other authors in addition to Brandon Mull, some fun background from Mull's wife (one of my favorite parts of the night-- when she showed all these slides of her husband "zoned out" at different activities, lol, I can relate), and some fun from a comedy group.  Perfect timing too, because we have just started listening to Fablehaven together and my seven year-old has been riveted.  But after trying to keep the littlest ones suppressed and oppressed :)  on no dinner for over an hour, they had enough and wanted to run around.  So we had chips for dinner from the vending machine, licked up dusty orange handfulls of end-of-bag goodness, and waited.  And waited.  And ran around.  My littlest was in explore mode, and didn't care one bit about being out of my sight.  Keeping track of him was hard.  I somehow made my four year old mad at me at one point, and she ran the other direction. 

After the show, we waited for an additional tortuous two hours before I finally begged for them to make an exception and let us just meet our authors and go home! (we would have still had over an hour to two to wait and it was already 10pm)  (right after I chased down baby and lost my four year old simultaneously, then heard someone announcing that they had a cute little girl in cowboy boots up front and would her mother please come claim her!  aaaaaaagh!)  My older kids just could.not.leave.without.meeting Christopher Paolini and Brandon Mull.  We ended up inhaling a little In-N-Out on the way home while the older kids breathlessly exclaimed between fries that it was the best. night. ever.  (are we on the same planet?)  Of course it was worth it.  I hope this extra long run-on paragraph was worth it, too.

For a quick re-cap of the rest of the week, lets just say this:  pink-eye, sinus infection= dr. visit number one (he said she was pretty much the poster child for bacterial pink eye).  Next night, company from out of town.  My house a wreck.  Next day= dr. visit number two, for a double ear infection, sinus infection, another, single pink eye, and some antibiotics for the momma too, who, along with the littlest ones, has had a cough and sinus yucky stuff for three weeks.  Saturday= we decided to top off the week with a bunch of crap.  Yes, my husband noticed one of the walls in the basement was damp, so he and the kids dug a hole (the big kids have been spending all their free time digging a hole in the garden) and found that our sewer line was cracked right in half.  Yum.  So we spent the day not being able to use the facilities or the sinks.  Creative.  Uh-huh.  Its not like we have tools for outdoor usage around here.  Good news, I finally cleaned the house (hey, I couldn't do the dishes!  Blessing in disguise), and we went out for dinner.  Then had our previous wonderful company come and stay again, as if nothing had happened.  So glad I have a handy hubby, thankful for sewers, and even for adventurous weeks that I get to spend with my favorite people, even if we are miserable together.

Whew!  It wasn't an all-bad week, but I'm glad its over!  How about you? 

Morning routine update:  two days of practice turned into a whole week.  Ha.  But the kids were on time to the bus today, with very, very little nagging or reminding!  Getting better!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Under the Weather and an Unexpected Attachment Object

We are still under the weather around here.  I have some fun photos for tomorrow.  For today, let this suffice:

This cute little car has not been put down for probably three weeks (unless it is involuntarily reliquished).  He always carries it in one chubby fist or the other and he even sleeps with it.  He vrooms it across my shoulder while he nurses. He has been resisting a bath for a while now and today I realized that it's probably because I don't let him take it in the bath (today I relented).  It is sort of interesting to watch him try to manage manual dexterity-requiring tasks with his little forklift nestled in his hand.  After a nap, during which time it invariably falls out of his little hand, he is fussy or inconsolable until it is found.  Because I was at first confused as to which actual character it was in the movie Cars, he calls it interchangeably "Wee-doe" (Guido) or "Wee-Gee" (Luigi).  So super cute.

Back tomorrow. :)

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Date With a Crazy Driver

Sorry for so much blah blah blah the last few days.  Time for some silent photos soon. kids are keeping me honest now that they have discovered I scheduled dates with them on my calendar (back when I worked on organization...I have one child scheduled for a date each month, so they'll get one every 4 months-ish).  Friday I was able to go out with my oldest son to a local boy heaven-- it had laser tag, arcades, go karts, and bowling under one roof (I happened to have some credits there from a couple of years ago, oops).  We did a couple of arcade games first; he had a good laugh at my terrible target shooting and I was duly impressed by his.  We also sat in some kind of motion simulator (only for him, let me tell you, I usually hate those things) and got our brains jiggled out against the jittery yellow vinyl backed seats, as we catapulted through a "haunted" mine.

Then he decided we should earn some tickets.  So we tried shooting some hoops, whereupon I introduced him to some good old fashioned "Skee-ball."  (best way to earn tickets, in my mind)  He liked it so much we used up the rest of the allowance on our cards and disappointedly tried to push the yellow button even though we knew we had no money left (just in case?).  He did eventually redeem our tickets for a couple super cheap plastic spiders to give his sisters when we got home.

Next up, laser tag.  Who knew how fun laser tag could be?  It was the two of us, a middle aged couple and their princess daughters (probably 5 and 7?), their son, and the acne-ridden guy who worked there (without him, lets just say....we'd have been annihilated  against a whole big group of twelve year-old boys.  It was so fun sneaking through the neon black darkness, hiding behind pillars, running, dodging, and trying to shoot the glowing vests of the deviously evil boys on the other team.  :) 

Then we visited the bowling alley.  On the way there, we laughed about my adventures in bowling as a twenty something, when I got three strikes in a row, impressing all the boys in the process (no one more surprised than myself), and then proceeded to bowl nearly straight gutter balls the rest of the game.  Lol.  I had a near repeat of this experience, in different sequence, as I'd bowl a strike and then a couple of gutter balls, etc.  He had a good laugh about that, though he often remained good naturedly concerned as he watched some of my shots veer toward the gutter, right until my ball was sucked silently into the bowling abyss.  He did pretty well himself, and we had a good laugh in a virtually empty bowling alley filled with eighties music.

Last of all, we went outside in stinging winter air to try out the go-karts, my son's favorite.  He offered to drive, and I got to be the giddy passenger.  He had been sharing his go kart driving exploits from a friends birthday party all weekend, so I was all prepared for some crazy driving.  And boy was it crazy!  He is normally pretty mild mannered, but he was aggressive in that machine, keeping the pedal to the metal all the way around the tight corners (I noticed his neck had some purplish marks from the seat belt for a couple of days afterward), and as I white knuckled a bit when he tried to pass some other swerving cars driven by boys of similar age.  I think I laughed most the way.  It was pretty fun, minus breathing in some heavy fumes between breath holding.

I love letting the outer adult go in times like these and remembering how it felt to be a kid.  Especially since my kids just seem to eat it up when I act like a kid with them for a bit.  And also letting the child I'm with lead the play.  Fun for both of us.

He thanked me a lot of times for our little "date."  That night, he curled up on my bed and said "Mom, I want to ask you something."  We ended up having a heart to heart conversation.

Have a wonderful weekend!  I will miss you, friends!  Goals next week, because I'm feeling lazy right now.  :)  Love to all.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

How I Teach My Kids Their Colors

I don't know how other people do it, but with my five kids I have found this method to work when teaching young ones their colors.  I like to point out different objects of the same color (this works great on a walk-- I like the color red to start with, because there are things like fire hydrants and stop signs), or similar objects of different colors.  I have used these blocks to teach each one of my kids, because it fits the similar object theory, and we can organize the blocks according to color.  With my others, I started shortly after their first birthday and expect that the colors and concept won't click completely for six months or so.  I know this feels like a young time to start, but in some ways it reduces pressure because you know there is plenty of time, and they really are sponges at this age.

I don't know how many times I had to make a concerted effort to sit down and work with them on colors, but I'm sure it took less than ten.  Once they get it, it is pretty easy for them.

I waited longer than usual with my last little boy.  Today we finally got to spend a little more quality time together than we have over the last couple of weeks as we had no doctors to visit or places to be  (by the way, our little girl is doing well!  she got a "clean" X-ray yesterday and her blood markers are showing back to normal!  Wahoo!).  I'm not sure the color part sunk in, but he loved the tower building and matching up the colored cars to the different colored towers.  I forgot how therapeutic it can be to play cars with little ones.  So fun.

How do you teach your kids their colors?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Little Boy Playing

Off to the zoo today with the littles.  Enjoy this video.  I caught this little one playing and loved watching the world through his eyes for a few minutes.  Sure going to miss watching those new little eyes and discovery some day.  If you don't have time for the whole thing, skip to 1:45 (to 2:05) and watch how he spontaneously shimmies to the music.  :)