Friday, December 28, 2012

O Christmas Tree

I'm running a bit late this year on my holiday blogs. Actually, I pretty much just scrapped every thought I had in that direction about three weeks ago.

I put up my tree just after Thanksgiving, like a good girl. I had everything ready and did the Advent with the kids just like I planned. However, my Soldier wasn't home, so a lot of the day to day stuff got chucked out in favor of surviving long enough as a good mother until he walked off the plane.

My usual white/silver/clear tree decorations changed a bit this year. In the past several years, I have had a themed decoration on the tree. You can see previous years' trees here and here. For my theme this year, I made some assemble-yourself gingerbread people. They added a splash of color as well as a child-friendly element of unbreakable-ness.

The gingerbread people will be recycled next year as gift tags, because I'm crafty and earth-responsible that way.

The new mingled with the old. We still have some of the first ornaments we ever bought back when we were newly married. Some are looking a little worse for wear, but they all come together nicely. Most of them are glass or at least very delicate and I hold my breath every year for the tragic possibilities of irreparable destruction.

Many of or shaped or special ornaments are symbols of Christmas.

Santa brings us a new ornament every year. This year, straying from the traditional symbol, he commemorated our first Christmas as an Army Family.

We are slowly collecting nativities. We've been fortunate thus far that only one set is horribly breakable. The other two sets can be handled by the kids with little worry of broken glass or porcelain. 

At the top of the Christmas Advent House, Santa watches the whole scene.

I do have pictures of Christmas morning. Those will be coming soon.

I hope you had a wonderful, warm and safe Christmas surrounded by those you love.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Flash Mob

Just about everyone I know has some idea of what a "flash mob" is... I've even known some people who have participated in one. For those of you who don't, a flash mob is when a group of people in a public setting will pretend not to know each other and will slowly, one by one, start singing a song as if they are in a musical. (Only in musicals do people spontaneously sing together and know all the words in spite of seemingly making it all up on the fly.)

I've seen a few good ones. I've seen a few not so good ones...

Mostly, I love the surrealism of spontaneous song in a place where it doesn't seem to fit.

A friend of mine posted the link to a flash mob that was performed at a wedding.

It gave me chills. It made me tear up.

Though I have never seen Le Miserables on the stage, I grew up with the music in the house because my parents had seen it and loved it. I'm looking forward to the movie coming out later this month.

So, really, more than anything, this is for my Mom.


Monday, December 3, 2012

30 of 30: 10 Things Remembered

Finally finished the last one... the real question now is: What should I blog about? :)

If you haven't been following along from the beginning, click here.

List 10 things you would hope to be remembered for.

In no particular order...

1. I want to be remembered for my writing. I believe I have some good stories to tell and I would hope those stories will stand the test of time.

2. I want to be remembered for being a loving and wise Mother. I want my children to one day look back and see that all I wanted was for them to grow up happy and well-equipped to deal with this life.

3. I also want to be remembered for being a faithful and supportive wife. Even if it's just my husband who remembers me for that, that would be enough for me. :)

4. I want to be remembered as someone who lived their beliefs. It's one thing to say what you believe in and quite another to actually do it.

5. I want to be remembered as having love for everyone. I try my best to accept everyone around me because I would like the same done for me.

6. K, so this one is kinda shallow, but I want to be remembered for being the best hostess, EVER. I want people to talk about my parties for YEARS! :) (Of course, I need to acquire my own abode first in order to accomplish this.)

7. I want to be remembered for my humor. That means that I have to meet some people who actually GET my sense of humor...

8. I'd like to be remembered for my wisdom. I'm not there yet, but I am gathering it up little by little. I figure I'll be considered wise in about ten thousand years.

9. I'd like to be remembered for being courageous. Again, this is something i'm still acquiring. But, eventually, I'd like to be capable of bravery no matter what the circumstances.

10. I'd like to be remembered for being a good cook. I'm a passable cook now, but I'd really like to learn to be a really great cook!

So that's it. The end. It took me a lot longer than I originally thought it would, but finishing feels GREAT! Why not do a 30 Things yourself? Your friends and family will learn a lot about you and, in the end, so will you. :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

29 of 30: Misunderstand

If you haven't been following along from the beginning, click here.

What do you think people misunderstand most about you?

I think this is a funny question because I could very easily misunderstand what people misunderstand about me. :)

However, these are my impressions.

I think people are under the impression that they need to protect me from difficulty because I can't handle it. Over the years, I've had people tell me that they didn't want to put me into situations that would be too "hard" for me.

Before I tell you the way that makes me feel, let me tell you why I think they do this.

I think they believe I am a sensitive soul who wears her emotions on her sleeve. This part is very true. I am sensitive and I am an emotional person. But that does not make me weak in any sense of the word. In fact, I think some of the strongest people are often those who are well-connected to their emotions.
I do cry easily. That doesn't make me weak either. It can be embarrassing sometimes, but it's part of who I am and I do my best to control it when necessary. You don't have to have a dry face to be strong.

When I was still working, I was told that I was denied extra responsibilities (that would have been good for my career) because they thought I would get my feelings hurt. I was too sensitive. At the time I was shocked. I was the best in my department in this particular skill and the responsibility was given to someone else because she was "tough."

On the flip side, I've seen others who think they have to be tough, loud or mean in order to be "strong." I think that just makes them look weaker. Confidence isn't loud. Strength isn't aggressive. The attributes that I want to incorporate into myself don't shout or hurt other people's feelings. I believe you can be confident and humble, strong and gentle. True strength emanates from a person and speaks for itself.

Now, let me tell you how it makes me feel.

I think it's insulting. When someone tries to "protect" me from something difficult, they're basically confessing their lack of faith in me. In my mind, they are telling me that not only do they believe I can't do it, but that I'll never be able to do it... ever. If you never give me a chance, how can I become more and better than I am? I am well aware that I certainly have my own way of doing things, but that does not mean I CAN'T do it. I find that I do best when I know those around me have confidence that I am capable. I don't NEED the people around me to cheer me on, but I'll be honest, everyone could use a little cheering on.

I've learned more about how strong and capable I am in the last two months than in the last five years. I've also learned where my weaknesses lie, but that doesn't stop me. I'm a work in progress, just like everyone else.

Let's all just have a little more faith in each other. We can all benefit from that kind of give and take.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pin Fail

Okay, so I'm a Pin-whore. I admit it. I love Pinterest and I must pin all the things. Well, not really. Just a lot of things. Okay, everything except for the things I think are ugly or too lame to pin.

On that note...

I pin tested this:

"For the Christmas tree- Glue 2 of these, back to back and insert a silver metallic cord for hanging. Fill the insides of the tree with these after putting on the lights, but before putting on the ornaments. The sparkle will be tripled."

Tripled, you say?! Sign me up!!

So, about two weeks, or so, ago, I went to the craft store to look for mini mirrors. I was actually looking for round ones, but I would have been satisfied with whatever they had.

As it turns out, all the other crafty mormons must have seen the pin too because the selection of mini mirrors was pitifully small. I also found that the square ones tended to get chipped, cracked or completely broken into finger-slicing shards of pain. For a bag of about 20 square ones, it cost $2.50.

That's not too bad, you say? Well, considering that in order to do this pin properly, you have to glue these mirrors back to back with a little loop of twine in between so that you can hang it up. So, each bag would only make 10 of these little darlings. If I had wanted the round ones (which were more asthetically pleasing and not so much broken) they only had bags with mixed sizes which didn't appeal to me at all.

Well, I mulled it over for about 10 minutes while my children started whining about going to the fabric section.... really, I have no idea why they like it so much.

Finally, I noticed that they had some round, flat and mostly reflective silver sequins right in the same area. I could get a bag of about 250 of those for the same price as 20 mirrors! I reasoned with myself that they certainly wouldn't reflect as much as a tiny mirror, but I could buy a lot more of them for the same price and that would make up for it!


So, I bought those.

About a week ago, I set out to glue those babies together, but first I had to cut all those little lengths of string.  250 divided by 2 equals... uhhh... 175. Yay, I'll cut 175 little lengths of shiny silver string. Wee! Before you say anything at all about that, yes, it wasn't until I ran completely out of sequins that I started to realize that there might have been something wrong with my math.

So, the half hour that it took me to cut the string.. didn't think about it. The next hour and a half to two hours that it took me to glue them all together... didn't think about it. It wasn't until I ended up with a pile of string and no sequins that I thought there might be something wrong.

However, I didn't immediately assume that it was my bummer math skills. I thought that maybe I didn't find all the ones that had fallen on the floor when I tried to make piles of the slippery devils and they squirted straight out of my fingers and all over the desk and floor. So, I searched the floor for what would have been 100 sequins if my math had been completely correct to begin with.

Yeah. I have sad math skills... especially when I'm excited about a project, I guess.


So, I had to wait almost a week before I put up the tree. I have pictures for you. There is a slight difference in the light in the room from the before and after, but in the end, I don't think it makes a difference.


Here is the tree before putting in the little sequin "ornaments/light enhancers".


Here is the after. See any difference? Me neither.


This is a closeup of the sequins. See, they're reflective and they were brighter in person than the picture shows. They were even really close together. Bummer.


I even started strategically placing the sequins right next to the lights. I didn't bother putting them at the back of the tree because those wouldn't be seen anyway.

In the end, I think that the style of my tree with it's thick, drooping branches is what killed it.

I don't consider it a true loss. I'm sure those little sequin ornaments would be really cute on a twig tree centerpiece.

Friday, November 23, 2012

28 of 30: Love Language

If you haven't been following along from the beginning, click here.

What is your love language?

Alright, I wasn't sure what this was talking about at first, so I looked it up. There is a website where you can take a test that assesses your emotional communication preferences. You can take the test as a wife, husband, single person, children, parents of teenagers, etc. Here's the link:

The five love languages are Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service and Physical Touch. In the email I got it says, "The highest score indicates your primary love language (the highest score is 12). It's not uncommon to have two high scores, although one language does have a slight edge for most people. That just means two languages are important to you. The lower scores indicate those languages you seldom use to communicate love and which probably don't affect you very much on an emotional level."

My scores are as follows:

8 Words of Affirmation

7 Quality Time
5 Receiving Gifts
3 Acts of Service
7 Physical Touch

This is what is says about Words of Affirmation
"Actions don't always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, "I love you," are important--hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten."

I find that this test was pretty accurate. I'm very much a verbal communicator and receiving positive feedback is very important to me. I also found it interesting that I had two second-highest scores that were very close to the top score. Unfortunately, I don't have the descriptions on that. If I were to want to know about those, there is a book I can purchase.

So, for those of you that have any interaction with me at all, here you have it. You now know how to best communicate with me. ;)

I just think that it's hilarious that I don't follow the "Actions speak louder that words." rule. For me, actions have the lowest score of all. Though, I think there is a little overlap in these categories. I mean, someone who is willing to spend quality time with me and help me feel good about myself, in my opinion would be performing an act of service for me.

As far as receiving gifts, I was surprised that it was higher than service to be honest with you. I suppose it has to do with the fact that I like to have things around me that remind me of people. And, I suppose you could also look at a gift as something non-physical if you want to go that far... :)

So, what's your Love Language? Seriously. I'd really like to know!

Until next time...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

27 of 30: Favorite Body Part

If you haven't been following along from the beginning, click here.

What is your favorite part of your body and why?

This one makes me laugh just a little bit. But, I won't go there.

My favorite parts are my eyes. This isn't just because I think they are beautiful. I'll break it down for you.

I like my eyes because they ARE beautiful. They are deep blue with silver facets running through them. When I was young, my mother told me that I had the darkest blue eyes she had ever seen. They've since gotten a little bit lighter but they're still fairly dark. When I was younger and not ashamed of vanity, I used to say my favorite color was Sapphire Blue because my eyes were the same color. My son has very similar eyes and that makes me smile.

I also like my eyes because of the emotion that is always expressed through eyes in general. They tell so much about a person.

My final reason for liking my eyes is because of how useful they are. My first thought about this particular blog was that my hands were my favorite because I write with them. Then I thought, I need my eyes to write and I also need my eyes to read what I write. If not for my eyes, my hands wouldn't be able to what they do in this case. I can also track my love for writing back to my love for reading. If not for my eyes, I wouldn't have been able to read like I do.

So there you go.. :)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

26 of 30: Popular Notion

If you haven't been following along from the beginning, click here.

What popular notion do you think the world has most wrong?

There are a lot of hot button topics out there and there's a reason why they're called "hot button topics". I really hesitated about writing this one. However, I respect that other people have their opinions and I would hope that people can respect mine. I mean, this blog is about what I think. In the end, it's not me (or anyone who might happen to read my blog) who makes the decisions about what is really right and wrong. Thank heaven for that.

Marriage is a complex, diverse and emotionally driven subject. On this blog, today, I am not going to talk about same-sex marriage. I do have an opinion. However, the climate on both sides of the argument is deadly and I just don't want to put myself out there.

I want to talk about the frivolous nature in which people today treat marriage. I want to preface this by saying that I'm not an expert in any way whatsoever. I am simply someone who happens to have some experience being married, watching my friends and family who are married or not married and I've spent some time thinking and coming to my own conclusions. You may not agree with me and that's okay. That's the joy of being an individual with your own experiences and mind. I won't step on your ideas if you promise not to step on mine. I also want to say that I'm not writing this as an advice column to help you work out all your issues. I don't have the magic formula to make marriage work. I'm still working on that, myself.

I once had a conversation with a young single mother who had lived with her boyfriend/father of her children for years. I said, "You've been together for so long, why don't you just make it official and get married?" In my mind, marriage was a beautiful way to dedicate yourself to the person you love. I suppose I was a little naive back then about the world-view on marriage. She simply stated that she didn't want to get married because it was just a piece of paper. At the time, I was so bowled over by her trivialization of marriage that I didn't have a response. As a side note, I discovered later that if she had gotten married, she wouldn't have qualified for all of the government assistance she was receiving. While I am not passing judgement, I felt this was dishonest since she lived with the guy and was benefiting from the money he was bringing in, anyway.

When we view something like marriage as "just a piece of paper", we cheapen it significantly. If it's just a piece of paper, then all you need is just another piece of paper to get out of it once things don't turn out the way you want them to. If you never got the piece of paper to begin with, all the easier to just split when things get rough.

Marriage is a commitment, a contract, a promise that we make with another human being that we love. Or at least, in my opinion, love is the ideal. I understand that some people will marry for reasons other than love, and more power to them if it works out. As for me, I choose love. We make this commitment that binds us to a person and we become responsible for them as they become responsible for us. I don't see it as an imprisonment, shackling us to another person, but a partnership in which two people can work together toward a common goal.

Marriage may not always be perfect and this is one of the areas where I also think the world in general has it wrong. For so many people, if your marriage isn't as perfect as a fairy tale, Disney movie, chick flick or romance novel, it's a failure and not worth the work of making it better. How can two imperfect people make a perfect marriage? It's simply mind-boggling that anyone would expect that. Most stories in movies and books end on or around the wedding. The epic culmination to any romance. But what about after? What about the rest of the story? The real adventure begins AFTER the wedding!

It's not always easy, in fact, most of the time it's really challenging. You're talking about sharing your life, hopes, dreams, secrets, weaknesses and strengths with another person. Your spouse may not always understand where you are coming from, and you'll frequently wonder how they can function the way they are. Yes, you might have some arguments or fights. Yes, you might have to work out some disgusting habits on either side. In the end, I believe, it just makes both of you stronger and wiser.

Every marriage has challenges. EVERY marriage. Anyone who tells you differently is a liar or deluded. Some of your friends or family may appear to have a perfect marriage when you look at it from the outside, but I guarantee that it's not. But that doesn't mean in the least that they aren't happy or that they don't love each other. You're setting yourself up for disappointment if you try to compare or model your marriage based on someone else's. The point is, you don't give up just because your spouse has some bad habits or gets on your nerves. Respect, honesty and communication go a long way.

The world says it's okay to run away if things aren't perfect. The world says we can can sweep all that under the rug and try again with another person. The world doesn't tell us to stay and do our best to build a marriage that is mutually satisfying and joyful. It's work. A marriage fails when one or both members give up.

However, I will say that there are circumstances where a divorce might be the best thing. Unrepentant abuse in all it's forms, and I include infidelity as a type of abuse, is not to be tolerated. No one should suffer through a situation like that. If the abusive spouse is willing to get counselling and try to mend their ways, there may yet be hope in those marriages.

My point is that, no matter what, each and every marriage is worth hard work and dedication. You have to actually TRY. If you can honestly say you have done everything you can to try to make a beautiful and healthy marriage, one of two things will happen. You will have a beautiful and healthy marriage that is worth every second, or, you have a spouse who won't or can't work along side you. Either way, you haven't failed. You have done your best.

Marriage is not frivolous. I am passionate about my feelings on that and unapologetic.

13 years and counting...

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Final 20!

Okay, so as far as the 100 Books before Kindergarten goes, we did make it and read all 100 books before Kindergarten started. I just became a giant mess by the time the end of summer came and neglected everything in my life that wan't breathing. I even stopped my own personal reading! I KNOW! It shocked me, too, when I realized. As of this moment, I'm re-reading The Hunger Games series. I find it isn't as confusing the second time around. But I digress.

If you remember my original post, which you probably don't because that was way back in May and I can hardly remember last week, I mentioned that we only owned 12 of the 100 listed. We have since acquired a couple additional books from the list and we only had to buy one brand new! That's right, ONE. Between the library, thrift stores and friends/family, we were able to get our hands on all the other books.

I decided to write out the final 20 in one blog. I know it's long, but it may be months before I get my life back on track again. Actually, I happen to know that my life is going to be an inconsistent mess until next summer and maybe even then since I am anticipating a move. Hm. Maybe I'd better get used to the craziness I call life right now. It may not ever go away.

Anyway, without further ado, the final 20.

21. Eddie’s Garden: And How to Make Things Grow by Sarah Garland () This book was similar to the other book we read by Sarah Garland, Doing the Garden, which I reviewed here. Another sweet story by Sarah Garland, the kids and I enjoyed the simplicity and realism of this story. The simple joys of life never get old.

68. One Some Many by Marthe Jocelyn () This was an interesting take on a counting book. The title seemed strange to me before we read it but it was all about words we use to count. One. Some. Many. The pictures were in the style of color block cut outs, bold and clear. Though the book didn't elicit any strong reactions from my kids, I know they were just soaking it up. Of course, I'm always pro-vocabulary. This may be one to buy.

71. Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me by Eric Carle () I love Eric Carle. His books are engaging, quite educational and memorable. This story was tender and a lot of fun. A daughter asks her father to get the moon for her and he goes to great lengths, literally, to get it for her. Several of the pages opened up quite large, which had quite an impact on my kids. It was a little longer than the usual Carle book, but it was just as entertaining.

73. The Perfect Nest by Catherine Friend (★1/2) This story is about a cat who wants to make the perfect omelette  He reasons with himself that if he built the perfect nest, the perfect chicken will lay an egg on it and his omelette is as good as his. His nest turns out to be a bit too perfect and trouble ensues. The kids loved this silly book and were able to follow the story easily. The pictures were really funny, too.

74. Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin () Pete the cat is walking along with his white shoes on singing a song. He steps into a pile of strawberries which changes the color of his shoes. Then he steps in blueberries, changing them again (but, oddly, not blending the colors). All along he sings while he continues to step in stuff, changing the color of his shoes again. While this was a cute book, I found it unfortunate the educational opportunities were not taken. Why not blend the colors? Why didn't Pete learn to look where he was going? Is there a moral to this story? If so, it's: Life happens, you can't or don't need to take control. Good thing they're too young to read into it too much. Maybe that's the point?

83. Stanley’s Party by Linda Bailey () Stanley the dog's people go out a lot and he is left home alone. Normally, he is a good dog, but eventually he realizes that he can sit on the coveted couch and they'll never know. One thing leads to another and the dog takes over the whole house. I can still picture my 5-year-old shaking her head at the dog's naughtiness. In the end, Stanley had to mend his ways and his people learned a thing or two as well. Cute story. Beautiful, detailed illustrations. Worth the read!

84. Stella, Star of the Sea by Marie-Louise Gay (★1/2) Stella and her brother go to the beach. Stella's little brother, who has never been, is brimming with questions to which Stella always has the answer, right or wrong. But the real question is whether Sam will ever get into the water. This is a sweet story about a girl's relationship with her little brother. I'm a sucker for big sister/little brother stories for obvious reason. What a cute tale!

85. The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf () I think everyone must know about Ferdinand. I remember watching the cartoon when I was younger. Ferdinand is the gentlest bull you could ever meet. While all the other bulls run and butt heads, he just wants to sit in his favorite spot and smell flowers. The pictures are simple ink drawings but beautifully detailed. This classic story has lasted through the years as a favorite for a reason. May it last through many more generations. 

86. Strega Nona: Her Story by Tomie dePaola (★3/4) For those of you unfamiliar with the Strega Nona books, she is called a "witch" but is more like the town healer. For those of you familiar with Strega Nona, this is the story of her birth and learning to be a healer. Fun retelling of an old folk-tale with enough humor to keep the kids interested an entertained. Great story.

87. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig () Sylvester finds a magic pebble that makes all his wishes come true. Unfortunately he makes a hasty wish in a moment of danger that separates him from his family. Miss A was very invested in this story. She was very concerned for Sylvester and was practically yelling at the book when his family was nearby and just didn't recognize him. Any story that engages my children gets a thumbs up from me!

88. Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester () Tacky is an odd bird. The other penguins know it an are often perplexed by his oddness. In the end, however, it is Tacky who saves them all because he is different. What a delightful romp this book was. While there are a lot of books out there celebrating individuality, I especially liked that this little bird used his strengths to help others. A message worth reading.

90. The Three Pigs by David Wiesner () This traditional tale literally gets blown away. While the story follows the typical pattern to begin with, the story soon comes to life when the wolf huffs and puffs a little too hard and blows the pigs straight out of the book! This story won a Caldecott award for it's beautiful illustrations and it is well deserved. The twist on the story was refreshing as well. Win, win!

91. The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka () I remember my mother reading us this story when I was younger. I've read a lot of story books and it says something for any book that I remember fondly after so many years. This version of the Three Little Pigs tale is told from the perspective of the wolf who paints the pigs in a very bad light indeed. According to him, the real story is about a sneeze and a cup of sugar. I'm glad my children were old enough when we read this to be familiar with the original story so that they understood the humor in this new one. While I don't think my daughter enjoyed the ugly-interesting style of illustrating, I'd say she got into the spirit of the story and had fun, which is exactly the point!

92. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Pam Adams (★1/2) While this books follows the classic poem/song almost exactly, the pictures are what make the book (as well as the amusing moral in the end). In eye-popping color, the old lady continues to eat what isn't good for her, looking progressively more unhinged with every page turn. Instead of merely drawing each page with the newly added critter in her stomach, this book gradually increases the size of the die-cut hole in the page to include the newest creature. No matter how this story is told, it always amuses children, but this book adds a new dimension with gorgeous illustrations and well-placed windows.

93. Tuesday by David Wiesner (★+) The unassuming title of this book belies the stunning nature of this Caldecott winner. Every turn of the page brings new wonder to the odd happenings on what should be a normal Tuesday evening. But who wouldn't love the magic of ordinary bullfrogs flying through the air on their lily pads? The expressions on both the frogs and the other creatures they pass just as priceless as the wonder and magic this book brought into my children's lives.

95. A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker (★1/2) Bear simply doesn't want company, but that won't stop Mouse from trying in a sweet, polite and gentle way. While Bear becomes frustrated, my children were amazed at all the unusual places Mouse would show up and wonder aloud how in the world he could have gotten there. I will never get tired of a book my children interact with!

96. Wheels on the Bus: A Book with Parts That Move by Paul O. Zelinsky () The classic song is brought to life by moving parts in this fun book. We enjoyed this book very much, but I would hesitate at buying it myself as my children are not as gentle as I would like. Though, I would recommend this beautiful book to parents with children less inclined toward book destruction!

97. Where Is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox (★1/2) This book keeps you turning pages as you try to find the green sheep. There are red sheep, blue sheep, thin sheep, fat sheep. If nothing else, this is a great book for teaching colors, opposites and vocabulary to young children. My five-year-old might have been a bit older than the targeted audience but she enjoyed it anyway.

99. Where’s Spot? by Eric Hill () This is the one book I had to buy new because I couldn't find it at either library in my area. As it turns out, it's a good thing because this is one of those lift-the-flap books that certainly would have been in poor condition if I had acquired it any other way. Spots mother is looking for her puppy so that he can have dinner. She searches all through the house, looking in every possible place. My children loved discovering each new place and lifting the flaps to try to find Spot. As it turns out, this book has not left their room since we bought it. They love it!

100. Yoko by Rosemary Wells () Yoko's mother sends her off to her first day of school with her favorite food: Sushi! Her classmates, however, are appalled by the unusual meal, branding it "Yuck-o-rama" Yoko's teacher has an idea up her sleeve, however, to help broaden the horizons of all her students! The author of the famous Max and Ruby books sends her adorable little animal characters on a food tasting adventure in the sweet book. If nothing else, it enforced what I always tell my own kids: Don't say you don't like it until you try it!

So that finishes the 100 book challenge. I do have another list somewhere of more books to read, but I'll be darned if I can't find it. Once I get the hang of the school year, I think I'll buckle down and find the list, strike off the ones we own or read this summer and start visiting the library again.

If nothing else, I reinforced my desire for my children to love reading as much as or more than I do! There's a magical world of books out there!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Stalking My Husband

Hello All,

I discovered today that there is a website for Basic Training at Fort Jackson. They list all the units and companies as well as their Facebook pages for friends and family to send their "Hooah!"s and well-wishes.

Unfortunately, Ben is only going into Basic officially today, so the units and companies are still in the formation process. Hopefully, in the next few days, I will be able to find out which one he is in so that I can stalk him effectively.

In my great desire to find out more about where he is, I looked up the google map of Fort Jackson. As it turns out, there aren't any specific flags for the military base, only a Watch & Jewelry store that appears to be permanently closed. It took me a while to find out where the entry gate is and I only did when I tried to use the street view on the map.

Interesting Fact: Military Bases don't let street view camera cars on grounds.

Well, duh!

So, for you lovely people, I made a few pictures of the map showing a rather large area of buildings and streets that have no street view. I find it interesting... I think Ben's Map Geek-iness is rubbing off on me!

This is a close-ish view, showing a large chunk of human habitation without the blue lines of street view.

Here is a further away picture showing what I assume to be the entire base outlined in blue. The base buildings are on the lower left of the non-blue area.


Anyway... If you want to stalk Ben too, here is the link to the Basic Training page. As of today at 10:12AM, neither of the two Units listed are Ben's. So, just ignore those.

There are links on the side on how and when to get letters to Ben, but I'm percolating an idea on how to get him as many messages as possible without singling him out. The first comment on my last blog made me stop and think a bit about it. I certainly don't want Ben to suffer any grief via his NCOs. More on that when I get his address. 

Keep the prayers up, I know it helps! (I got a call from Ben late last night and he sounded much better!)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My Man in Uniform

Because I love you all so very, very much, I am now going to share with you one of the awesomest things EVER!


I got a nice call from Ben this afternoon and he got to talk to his kids. He told me that it may be the last call he can make for a while... a long while.

By way of compensation, he sent me a picture of him in uniform! I think this might hold me for a week or so. ;)

My handsome, brave soldier.


You notice the super comfy-looking bunkbeds behind him? He's going to think his memory foam mattress is heaven when he gets back!

He's hoping to have a mailing address sometime in the next few days. I will post that up as soon as I have it and I expect LOTS of mail to get sent in his direction!

More soon!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pretty as her Picture

I know I've derailed from my projected blogging. My life imploded and exploded at the same time, defying all laws of physics. I will get back to my blogging schedule soon!

In the mean time, check out this gorgeous school picture of my baby girl!!

I love my girl!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Blatant Plug

You may or may not know that Ben is leaving to go to Basic Training for the Army tomorrow. TOMORROW!

What I know you DO NOT know is that I've had a secret blog going for the past four months. This blog features the thoughts and feelings I have had about this new part of our lives. Essentially, they are letters to my husband that relate directly to our life in the Army.

I have opened this blog to the public today. It is important to me to not feel alone in this adventure.

The blog isn't extensive, yet. There are only four posts so far and I encourage you to read them all if you are interested in following along.

The URL is:

You may cry, you may laugh... I know I have.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

First Day of Kindergarten

I almost thought I'd never get to the point where I'd have a school-age child. Yet again, my life has proved to me that time will march on no matter what you're doing, so take advantage of NOW.

Because I'm Pinterest addicted, I have found about 2.3 million different ideas on First Day of School pictures. I found a few cute ones and couldn't decide how to combine them all together. I also didn't have the outrageously cute I-made-this-myself-with-homemade-chalkboard-paint chalkboard. Yeah, I know. I'm a Pinterest Failure. I can live with that... today.

So, at the last moment, I muddled my ideas together and came up with a super fun idea. I hadn't seen any First Day pictures that included siblings and I just knew Henry would be sad if he didn't get to join in the fun.

"First Day of Kindergarten" with the date and a place for her to write her own name. Little Brother gets to hold a sign stating what she wants to be when she grows up!
Our new First Day tradition will include the school child's sibling holding a sign, too! Yeah, I know! I'm brilliant!!

While this looks "posey", she was actually stretching. She was not used to getting up and going so early! I must say, though, that she looks fabulous! ;)

Skeptical, much?

My big girl!

Amazingly, there were no tears when she followed the line of her classmates headed to her classroom. She was absolutely thrilled. She HAS been talking about going to school since she was two and a half, after all.

Henry had other ideas. He was completely crushed when he realized he was without his playmate for several hours each morning. There have been a lot of tears from his corner.

It's been nearly two weeks since school started and Audrey is just as excited as the first day. She's made some friends, though she doesn't always remember their names, and has even had a couple of class parties. Henry, for his part, had adapted reasonably well, though he is still clingy and sad when Audrey leaves. I'm sure it will get better as time goes on. As for me, I've been inundated with notices and forms. I can't believe Picture Day is next Tuesday. I'm panicking already about how to keep Audrey's hair where it belongs.

Pinterest, here I come.

More blogging soon, I promise. Too much to say!

Friday, August 10, 2012

It wasn't ME, I SWEAR!

This story is how my paranoia got the better of me... not for very long, but long enough to feel like a flooded pantry was my fault.

It started yesterday. Our toilet wasn't flushing properly. It would drain super slow and then make a weird glugging sound. Ben discovered shortly after that each time we flushed, a small amount of water would bubble up into our tub. Ew.

Ben had to go to work and the toilet/tub problem preyed on my mind. I researched plumbing problems online and found that you aren't supposed to put Drano down the toilet. How the heck were we supposed to take care of the offending toilet if we couldn't put Drano down it?? (Well, you CAN.. it just has to be a certain type.) I ended up getting so antsy about it that I grabbed my purse and keys and ran to the store at 10:20pm, but not before I collected money from my virtual dragons, planted seeds in my virtual garden and looked at a bunch of stuff on Pinterest to calm myself down. I got the strongest stuff I could find. I didn't get the stuff that said you could put it down the toilet because you have to measure out 10 oz and that required too much effort. AND it said that you couldn't run water in the shower for 6-8 hours after putting it down the drain.

Ben did the honors and took care of the Drano... he waited the required 30 minutes and went in to flush and encourage with a plunger. It did... nothing. Around the time he started using the plunger in the tub, I decided I had gone slightly crazy.

I don't know why a clogged shower is so horrible, but it really, really is.

Fast-forward to this morning. I wake up to the sound of Ben snaking the toilet. Oh, yeah... my bathroom is broken.

Whilst I was lying in my bed, my brain started trying to reason what could possibly have caused such a disaster. This unsavory scenario flashed unpleasantly into my head:

Whether you are grossed out by this or not, I just happen to be on my period right now. (I'm calling this particular blog a loss at this point, anyway. I mean, it's about plumbing.. er.. issues, for Pete's sake.)

Because of my monthly concerns, I immediately blamed myself in spite of my usual carefulness. I discovered a long time ago that a tampon and any.. um.. solid waste would not flush down together. That's just asking for a clogged toilet. So, to save myself that embarrassment, I learned to first flush the tampon and then take care of the rest of it.

As it happens, for the first time ever since potty training my kids, both of them had to go #2 right after I did. It all flushed okay, so I didn't worry about it at the time.

Back to this morning, I worried about it... obsessively. In my head, my imagination conjured up an impossible situation... That tampon had gotten stuck in the drain... SIDEWAYS.. THEN the deposits left by me and my children were backed up behind it. It made so much sense. Drano would NOT dissolve a tampon.. so we were screwed.

I also wondered if the new over the toilet shelf we installed the day before had somehow put weird weight on the floor and was pushing a pipe out of shape or cracked it or something... yeah. I'm not a plumber for good reason.

Ben's attempts with the snake were not successful. I thought something magical would happen, but it didn't. So, he called for a plumber. They said they would be able to come and give us an estimate at 4... PM.

Then I started to notice a... smell.

Ben did too, and he looked in the pantry where the water heater and whatnot are kept... yeah... flooded.

At that point, I realized that it was ludicrous that a silly little tampon could have caused so much havoc. I started to postulate wildly.

"Well.. that's it.. Mom flushed something weird down one of her toilets and we're flooding down here because we're below ground level."

"G-G must have flushed a toy down her toilet." Yeah.. like she has action figures in her room... I can just see her cackling as she shambles to the toilet to throw in an Iron Man toy she's hoarded for this purpose for two years.

"Someone killed someone and is flushing body parts down the toilet one at a time.. they are SOOO going to jail for this."

Mom told me later that she was worried that the non-flushable wipe she put down the toilet a month ago must have done it. (See, I'm not the only paranoid one.)

All this time, Ben was using a shop vac to get the water off the pantry floor. When that got full, he attempted to get it back up the stairs and it landed on his foot and slopped icky water all over the carpet. I was slightly more worried about his foot than the carpet. It went purple really fast.

Dad noticed that there is something wrong with the drain outside. The one in the street. I never went and looked, but whatever was wrong prompted Dad to call the City and tell them to get their people out here to fix it.

At that point, I was completely vindicated. Yeah.. it wasn't me. The clog wasn't my fault. One of my neighbors killed someone and flushed them down the toilet. Or flushed a diaper. Or put grass clippings down the manhole... Or.. well, it doesn't matter, because IT WASN'T ME!

So aside from my room smelling a bit like an outhouse for a few hours and my children complaining that their room smelled "stinky", it wasn't too bad.

But that's probably because Ben did most of the dirty work (literally) and got everything cleaned up.

I love my husband. I really, really, really do.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

12 More, A Short Break and 20 Left!

So, it's been a loooong time since I last posted anything. It's been quite a summer and we've been busy. We haven't given up on reading, however. We try not to miss a single night (though sometimes we do... I'm not perfect... just almost perfect!) If I can get my tush in gear, I'll have some blogs about what we've been up to the past month or so.

At the time we read these books, I was starting to feel the pressure of our busyness and we took a short break from this list and let the kids pick whatever books they wanted. I figured we were so close to the end that it wouldn't make much of a difference in the end. At the time of this writing, we have 3 stories left to read/find. I have one in my hot little hands right now, figuratively speaking, and the final two have proven to be quite tricky to find. I might have to break down and buy them. *GASP!*

65. No Sleep for the Sheep! by Karen Beaumont (★★★★) The sheep in this story is tired and all he wants is to go to sleep, but all the barnyard animals, one after another, keep coming to his door.The pictures were cute and easy for the kids to interpret what was going on. They enjoyed this story quite a lot.

66. No, David! by David Shannon (★★★★) David just can't seem to stay out of trouble! We had a couple of the David! books already, so the kids were familiar with how the stories go. Audrey, especially, has reached that age where she knows that David is doing (or about to do) something naughty. The narrative and pictures were fun and easy to follow.

69. Owl Babies by Martin Waddell (★★★1/2) Three owl babies wake up one night to find that their mother is gone. Where could she be? The pictures are beautiful and the story simple enough for my 3-year-old.

70. Pancakes for Supper! by Anne Isaacs (★★★) This story is about a young girl who gets lost in the woods and is forced to give the various woodland predators items of her clothing to save herself from getting eaten. Though my kids were new to this particular tale, it was reminiscent of the old folk tale of Little Black Sambo or The Story of Little Babaji. (Both Sambo and Babaji were written by the same author, only adapted in the newer version.) I felt that, aside from a few details and character changes, the story was almost identical. The kids were amused by seeing the large animals wearing clothing that was much, much too small for them.

72. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch (★★★★★) The princess of this story is just like so many other princesses. She lives in a castle, wears beautiful clothes and is going to marry a handsome prince. When a dragon comes and destroys her castle, burns her fancy clothes and carries off her handsome prince, what is a princess to do? This feisty little princess doesn't just take it lying down. She simply puts on a paper bag in place of her ruined clothes and goes to rescue her prince. This story doesn't end predictably at all and the kids enjoyed it very much. I'm all for a story that features a strong female character who goes after what she wants (or what she thinks she wants...)

75. Princess Pigsty by Cornelia Funke (★★★★1/2) The youngest princess in this story is tired of being a princess. She doesn't want to be waited on. She doesn't like the pretty dresses or having to smile all the time. When her father finally gets fed up, he sends her to the pigsty. This punishment doesn't get the results the king expected! Another story about a spunky princess who knows her own mind. Though, I think the humor was a little beyond my kids, they enjoyed the story, anyway.

76. Rain by Manya Stojic (★★★★) This story has a rhythmic quality when read aloud. The statements are simple and the pictures vibrant. The animals on the Savannah are waiting for the rain. First the porcupine smells it, then the zebras see the lightning and the message gets passed along from animal to animal until all the senses are touched.

77. Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins (★★★★★) Rosie, the hen, goes for a walk. Fox follows quietly behind. As Rosie goes on, blissfully unaware of the danger behind her, the fox gets caught up in obstacle after obstacle, each one worse than the last. This gently humorous book was good for both my 3-year-old and my 5-year-old.

78. Scaredy Squirrel by Mélanie Watt (★★★★★) The kids enjoyed this book so much that I picked up several more in the series the next time we went to the library. Scaredy Squirrel is afraid of EVERYTHING. He even checks to make sure there are no sharks around his tree. My husband read this one to the kids and was chuckling just as much as they were laughing.

79. Silly Suzy Goose by Petr Horácek (★★★★) Suzy Goose realizes one day that she is exactly like every other goose. So she goes out and meets other animals, wishfully thinking how nice it would be to be like them.. that is, until she meets a hungry lion! This was a cute story that both encouraged individuality and being happy with who we are, even if it SEEMS like we just like everyone else.
80. Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner (★★★★★) I was confident that this book would go over well with my kids. We already have two of the Skippyjon books and my kids love them. My son is especially obsessed. The first book in the series didn't disappoint. In this story, the little Siamese cat who wishes he was a Chihuahua, must save his friends from the huge bumble-beeto! Energetic and exciting storytelling is a crowd-pleaser at my house!

82. Some Dogs Do by Jez Alborough (★★★★★) Sid the dog gets a happy feeling on the way to school and suddenly finds himself flying! When he tries to tell his friends, no one believes him. After all, who ever heard of a dog that flies? Sid becomes so sad that he can't fly anymore. In the end, he figures it all out with the help of his dad. This was a cute story and the kids really liked it.

I have plenty to write about and just need to buckle down and do it. More books, summer fun, crafting and sewing projects, camping and other stuff I can't remember right now.. so, stay tuned! ;)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

25 of 30: Dinner with Anyone

If you haven't been following along from the beginning, click here.

If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be and what would you eat?

Okay.. since this is my dinner party, I'm inviting two people. ;) Got a problem with that? Well, then, you're not invited to my awesomely awesome dinner party.

My first guest would be Nephi. Yeah, I know... what a church-y response. I've mentioned this before. I admire his strength, passion and tenderness. He courageously did what he knew was right in spite of peer-pressure and many, many other trials. His writings reveal a little bit about who he was as a person. Even though he was serious in his personal history, he was kind and forgiving, which means he must have had a wonderful sense of humor too. ;)
I think a conversation with him, person to person, would be inspirational and fun. Plus, he's supposed to be pretty buff and kinda cute (I imagine), so that's the reason for the other guest.. we can't give people the wrong idea, here! Ha! Ha!

My second guest would be Diana Wynne Jones, the author. She was a major influence in my desire to write. I found out several years ago that she was also dyslexic. I don't have a disability that directly effects my ability to write. If she can write dozens of books without dyslexia stopping her, I can certainly write my stories too!
Her sense of humor is charming as well as hilarious.

As for food, I'd really like to say that I would be so engrossed in my conversation with Nephi and Diana that I wouldn't care what we had for dinner... but, honestly, I'm too much of a control freak when it comes to hosting to do something like that.

I'm pretty sure that Nephi wasn't a vegetarian... yeah. Hunted with a bow and his brothers kept trying to kill him... I guess he was in the original Hunger Games. As for Diana, I have no clue, but we'll just assume that she ate meat.

So, we'd have fat, juicy burgers from the grill. We'll have a variety of toppings: bacon (was Nephi kosher?), onion, lettuce, cheese, grilled pineapple, pickle (not for me.. ew), tomato, sauteed mushrooms, avacado, etc... with all the appropriate condiments.

I'd make my bacon-stuffed cherry tomatoes. Everyone loves them.. it's too bad I can't claim the recipe as my own.

My mom's cottage cheese jello salad with mandarin oranges, pineapple and whipped cream! YUM!

I'd splurge on the drinks and get Henry Weinhard Root Beer, Cream Soda and Orange Cream Soda.

For dessert, we'd have warm chocolate chip cookies and milk...

Then we'd sit in front of the TV with a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream for each of us and watch a Jane Austen film... yes... of course Nephi would like it!

I'd cuddle up with........... Ben. Of course.

And it would be perfect.. :)

Next time: What popular notion do you think the world has most wrong?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

12 More, 32 left... Sprinting for Home!

Here is the other half of the list of 24. After finishing these books, we took a short break. We read a few books off the list and signed the kids up for the summer reading programs with both of the local libraries.

51. Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems - (★) The kids liked this one a lot. It was easy to follow what was going on and the kids were very concerned for the little girl who lost her bunny. I love Mo Willems' books. They speak to young children in fun and simple ways.

52. Ladybug Girl by Jacky Davis; David Soman - (★) A friend of mine recommended the Ladybug Girl books to me several years ago, but I procrastinated checking them out and then forgot all about them. Lulu dresses up as Ladybug Girl and, when she does, she can be a super hero in her own way. We got one other Ladybug Girl book when we checked out the first one because I had a hunch that the kids would like it. Boy, was my instinct right on! We might just have to read every one there is!

53. Lemons Are Not Red by Laura Vaccaro Seeger - (★) This was another window book. On the first page was a plastic window shaped like a lemon, but the color showing through the window was red. It stated on the page that lemons are not red. When you turn the page, there is an apple there: But apples are! The lemon shaped window is now showing a color from the previous page, which is yellow. This continues through the book, explaining that fruits and vegetables are NOT this color, but this other fruit or vegetable is. This was a fun discovery-style book for my kids. I think I might check it out again some time to see if my kids (instead) can tell me what color is right and what fruit or vegetable the wrong color might belong to... ;)

55. Llama, Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney - (★) We love the Llama, Llama books in our house. We were given Llama, Llama Misses Mama as a gift from my mother several months ago and my kids love it. So, it was a no-brainer to check out this one as well. The messages are fairly subtle in these books, helping to ease the worries of young children. In this case, the little llama was worried that his mama left after he went to bed. My kids have expressed this same worry to us. I think this is yet another series that we will have to collect for our own shelves.

57. Madlenka by Peter Sís - (★) My kids liked this book fairly well. I had difficulty reading it because quite a lot of the important bits were crammed into the perimeter of each page and were frequently sideways or upside down. It was a fun exploration of different cultures that can be found in a simple neighborhood. In the end, Madlenka tells her mother that she spent the afternoon traveling around the world. If it hadn't been difficult for me to read and explain the tiny details on the edges of the pages, I think this book would have been more meaningful to my kids.

58. The Mightiest by Keiko Kasza - (★) This book reads like an old folk tale. Several large animals find a crown in the forest with a sign saying that it is for "The Mightiest". The animals compete for the crown by seeing who can scare a sweet old lady the most... if you have read many folk tales, you can probably guess how this tale turns out. If you haven't, you should check it out. This is a simple tale that makes for a great introduction to this style of story-telling.

59. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton - (★) I found this story slightly dull, since I am a bad person. My kids liked it though. Mike and his steam shovel attempt to finish a big job in one day. The big question is: Will they finish in time? Like I said, my kids liked it. My son especially likes any book about construction machines. :)

60. Moose Tracks! by Karma Wilson - (★1/2) The story's narrator tells a tale of how his house has many animal visitors but there are inexplicable moose tracks all over the place. The kids were just as perplexed as the narrator and I must admit that I wasn't quite sure what was going on until nearly the end. Cute story!

61. Mr. Gumpy’s Outing by John Burningham - (★) The title of this story is rather misleading since Mr. Grumpy really isn't grumpy at all. In fact, he's an incredibly patient and kind man, inviting everyone he passes on his outing. It was a fun romp for my kids, completely immersed in this little book.

62. Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! by Candace Fleming - (★) This was super fun to read aloud. The gardener plants a garden and looks forward to eating the lovely vegetables. When the night comes, however, some little bunnies hop in and "Tippy, tippy, tippy, Pat!" they hop into the garden and "Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!" on the gardener's vegetables. The gardener goes to great lengths to stop the bunnies from getting to his garden, with little success. I shall repeat, this book is completely worth reading out loud. The rhythm was half the fun!

63. My Friend Rabbit by Eric Rohmann - (★) Mouse and his friend, Rabbit are having fun playing with Mouse's airplane when it gets stuck in a tree. Rabbit enlists the help of many other animals to get the airplane out of the tree, much to the other animal's irritation. The pictures and story were simple and cute. It was easy for my kids to see how Rabbit's plan wasn't the best.

64. My Garden by Kevin Henkes - (★) We all liked this story quite a lot. The little girl featured in this story talks about the gardens that she can see, but then imagines what she would grow in her own garden. She would grow chocolate rabbits, tomatoes as big as beach balls, flowers that change color and seashells! The pictures are beautiful and imaginative. While Audrey knew that you can't grow chocolate rabbits in a garden, she was charmed by the story, nontheless! Very cute!

I have a few more that we have read since these, but I've let the kids pick out most of the books the last few times we've gone. I'll be getting back to the list very soon! :)


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