Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy Holidays

I will be taking a blogging break to enjoy the holiday season with my family. I will leave you with some thoughts on books and creativity. I will be back to blogging on January 5, 2010.

Quote comes from Wisdom Quotes

Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality. ~ Beatrix Potter

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Happy Holidays

I will be taking a blogging break to enjoy the holiday season with my family. I will leave you with some thoughts on books and creativity. I will be back to blogging on January 5, 2010.

Quote comes from Wisdom Quotes

All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.
~ Pablo Picasso

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Holidays

I will be taking a blogging break to enjoy the holiday season with my family. I will leave you with some thoughts on books and creativity. I will be back to blogging on January 5, 2010.

Quote comes from Wisdom Quotes

The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover is yourself. ~ Alan Alda

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays

I will be taking a blogging break to enjoy the holiday season with my family. I will leave you with some thoughts on books and creativity. I will be back to blogging on January 5, 2010.

Quote comes from The Quote Garden.

TV. If kids are entertained by two letters, imagine the fun they'll have with twenty-six. Open your child's imagination. Open a book. ~ Author Unknown

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy Holidays

I will be taking a blogging break to enjoy the holiday season with my family. I will leave you with some thoughts on books and creativity. I will be back to blogging on January 5, 2010.

Quote comes from The Quote Garden.

My test of a good novel is dreading to begin the last chapter. ~ Thomas Helm

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Favorite Holiday Memories and Traditions

I have many fond memories of Christmases past...
  • Every year as a kid, I got a stuffed animal in my Christmas stocking. I looked forward to that every year. It is a tradition I would love to keep (for me - not for my son - he'd rather have Legos), but I have no where to keep all those stuffed critters.
  • When I was young, I would leave a note for Santa on a Snoopy dry erase board and Santa would leave me a note back Christmas morning.
  • Many Christmases were spent with my mom's sister and her family in northern Illinois. I don't have specific memories of events, but I remember a general feeling of warmth and happiness and family togethernerss.
  • I remember a game I got one year - The Electronic Detective. I remember sitting at the dinner table with my parents playing the game, solving the mystery. I loved that game!
  • I remember how Christmas changed when I became a parent. There is something magical about watching a child take in the lights and the holiday decorations and the stories of Jesus' birth.

I hope you make some wonderful holiday memories this year with your family and friends!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

How Do You Know You Belong?

I have a new "assignment" at church, helping with the development of a group to oversee the assimilation of people into our congregation. Another word we have used for "assimilation" is a "ministry of belonging." It has me wondering what makes me feel like I belong.

I feel like we belong in the community for my son's school because people know us by name. They welcome us. They invite us to engage on a deeper level than just showing up for school. I feel like I belong when I hear the teachers share real things with me or in front of me - things they are concerned about with their students or families. I feel like I belong when people trust me enough to be themselves.

I feel like we belong at our church for the same reasons - people know us, people know our "story" to some extent. They invite us to engage in the day to day life of the congregation rather than just show up on Sunday mornings.

How do YOU know when you belong to a group?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Some Trust in Chariots and Some in Horses...

... but I trust in the Department of Transportation.

Some of you may recognize the first part - a reference to Psalm 20:7. The ending should read, "but we trust in the name of the Lord our God." This time of year, though, I sometimes forget that.

I hate driving in the winter. I blame it on one accident many years ago on icy roads one night when I was driving to class for graduate school. Ever since then, I grit my teeth through the winter months, wishing away the snow and ice, waiting for the return of spring temperatures. Part of the issue is that I now live far enough "south" that we get more ice than we did in Wisconsin where I grew up. I hate driving on that stuff. The anxiety leads to tense muscles and a short temper.

A couple years ago, I noticed my growing fondness for the DOT trucks I would see out and about bearing their gift of salt and sand. I would cheer inside when I saw them, thinking, "Now, it will be safe." I realized, though, that I was placing entirely too much trust in salt and sand and road temperatures and those large yellow trucks. They bring no guarantee of safety. Instead I remind myself that my trust in the Lord is far better placed than my trust in the Department of Transportation.... although I do pray a prayer of blessing and protection on those plow drivers whenever I see them!

Safe driving this winter season!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

My December Birthday

I have a December birthday, and I love it.

Not only is my birthday in December, but it is also in the same week as Christmas. I wouldn't change that for anything. In fact, my father frequently offered to celebrate it in June, instead, but that would not have been the same. I like my birthday in December because the preparations for Christmas make it feel like a special, magical time. A birthday at another part of the year would just sneak up on you. One day it's not your birthday and the next day it is, and then it is over. A December birthday is surrounded by festivities.

There are downsides, of course. My birthday is late enough in the year that I never celebrated my birthday at school. It is easy for it to get lost in the shuffle of holiday plans when people have too many things on their minds already. I was fortunate that my mother also had a December birthday, although hers was between Christmas and New Year's. She knew what it was like to have a birthday during the holiday season, and she went out of her way to make sure my birthday was no less celebrated than it would have been at any other time of year.

So, to all my fellow December birthday folks I say, "Happy Birthday and Happy Holidays!" I hope your special day is filled with the wonder and magic of this season.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Only Children

At my son's school the other day, I overhead a couple teachers in conversation about a student. One statement was that, often, the child was in charge of the dynamics at home. Then came the words I dreaded. " [The student] is an only child." In fact, this particular teacher has a few only children in her class. Apparently there are some similarities.

These are conversations that make me wary. I am an only child, and my husband and I are raising an only child. I know what a bad rap only children get. I have even known some of "those" sorts of only children - the ones who are self-absorbed, bossy, etc. I work really hard to make sure that (a) I don't act that way and (b) that my son doesn't act that way.

But it is hard to teach an only child not to be bossy. My son has an active imagination that drives 90% of his play. When he plays with others, they can't read his mind and therefore don't play the way he wants them to. I am proud of how he works at this, but it is something that will have to develop over time.

We also work very hard to have clear boundaries with him that we are the ones in charge. But, again, the dynamic of a three person family is just different than a five person family. We include him in decisions about where we want to go for the weekend or what we want to have for supper or what movie we want to watch. I have had to learn, as a parent, to tell him when he doesn't get a vote. We have to make a conscious choice to say it's "Daddy's turn to choose" or else he will think that he is an equal to the adults when it comes to making decisions.

Some people think it is easy to parent just one child. And it some ways it is. But, if the parents are aware of the pitfalls for only children, they have to work hard to parent in a way that diminishes those pitfalls!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I realized the other day that something my son and I have in common is that we are "wonderers." We wonder a lot. He asks all the time about how things work. Often, I have no idea. At first, I looked at this as a way we are different. He asks about things I would never THINK to wonder about. I don't care how my car or email work - just that they do.

I, on the other hand, wonder how people work. Someone tells me a story about something another person has done, and my first thought (or even my first audible response) is "I wonder why he does that?" I am far more interested in the things that motivate people -like the experiences from their past that cause them to act a specific way now. I wonder how it is that one person in a family is driven and knows exactly where he or she is going while another flounders. Part of it for me is the idea that if I can figure out what is behind the behavior, maybe the person could change it (if he wanted to).

I'm sure there are Myers-Briggs applications in all this. Perhaps my son is a budding NT, while I am ever more convinced of my NF nature. Whatever it is, I find it more fun now to listen to his wonderings because I know, in a way, that I wonder just like he does.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

More on NaNoWriMo

If writing a 50,000 word novel in the month of November wasn't enough, here are more writing opportunities throughout the year. This was originally published on the NaNoWriMo site here. - National Novel Finishing Month (December). Goal: 30,000 words.

FAWM - February Album Writing Month (February). Goal: Write 14 original songs in a month.

NaNoEdMo - National Novel Editing Month (March). Goal: Commit to 50 hours of novel editing.

Script Frenzy - NaNoWriMo's sister challenge (April). Goal: Write a 100-page screenplay or stage play in April.

RePoWriMo - Refrigerator Poetry Writing Month (April). Goal: Write poetry using only refrigerator poetry magnets.

NEPMo - National Epic Poetry Month (May). Goal: Write 5,000 lines epic poem in May.

SoCNoC - Southern Cross Novel Challenge (June). Goal: Write 50,000 words of fiction.

WriDaNoJu - Write a D*** Novel in June (June). Goal: Write 50K in the 30 days of June. It's perfectly situated six months from November so you have optimum time to prepare for WriDaNoJu and NaNoWriMo.

SoFoBoMo - Solo Photo Book Month (Between May first and June 31). Goal: Create a solo photo book within 31 days.

JulNoWriMo - July Novel Writing Month (July). Goal: 50,000 words for a new or unfinished manuscript.

24 Hour Comics Day - (Changes annually, lasts 24 hours). Goal: Draw a 24-page comic in one 24-hour period.

48 Hour Film Project - (Varies; operates via tours around the USA, lasts 48 hours). Goal: Create a short film in 48 hours.

Book in a Week - (Begins on the Monday of the first full week of each month, lasts one week). Goal: Write a novel.

April Fool's - (April). Goal: Set a word-count goal for yourself and fulfill it by the end of the month.

AugNoWriMo - August Novel Writing Month (August). Goal: Write a novel in one month.

3-Day Novel Contest - (September). Goal: Write a novel in three days. They've been doing this since 1977. So cool!

SeptNoWriMo - September Novel Writing Month (September). Goal: Set a word-count goal and edit, write, or edit and write throughout the month of September!

NaPlWriMo - National Playwriting Month (November). Goal: Write a play in one month.

NaBloPoMo - National Blog Posting Month (Year-Round). Goal: Post every day for a month.

WriYe - (Year-Round). Goal: Set a word-count goal for the year and work towards it between January 1 and December 31.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Meet the Author - David Slonim

I lead a writing club at my son's school, and we had an author/illustrator visit yesterday with David Slonim. The kids were squirrelly with excitement. We heard great information and watched David draw a character from ideas suggested by the students. My son was able to come and get his books autographed. It was an excellent experience.

It was enlightening for me to hear how he came up with the idea for the book He Came with the Couch as well as how things work when he illustrates for another writer. I wrote a picture book a few months ago for an assignment and my mentor said I included too much in the text about how the characters looked - that those things could be taken care of in the illus
trations. Now, I like to sketch and paint here and there but I have no delusions of artistic grandeur. I will not illustrate my own story. But I learned today that the illustrator gets to create the characters on his/her own based only on the story text provided. This gives me a lot to think about as I edit and revise and tweak this story I have drafted based on a particular child near and dear to my heart.

You can find out more about David here. His site has great informati
on, coloring pages and other cool things. And I will be posting more about his visit at my other blog on Friday. Here are a couple pictures from his visit (some faces have been blurred for privacy).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

NaNoWriMo is finished

As I said on Saturday, I did it. I wrote 50,000+ words on one story in less than 30 days. It was crazy and fun and frustrating and exhilarating all at the same time. In the span of 8 days I went from completely stuck and contemplating quitting to finished.

Is it a great story? No. It has a lot of dead spots that weren't all that exciting to write and I am afraid they will be even more dreadful to read. But there are moments that I really got lost in the story. I am hoping when I revisit those spots, I will still feel that way.

What's next?
1) Nothing, at least as far as this story goes. I have had a couple ideas of how to make it into a real novel - a way to cut out the dead spots and to beef it up to a word count that would work for an actual novel. I want to get those ideas down on paper and then walk away. I have some other writing projects I would like to work on between now and the end of the year, along with enjoying the holiday/birthday season around here.

2) Read it - in January. I will read through it once and see what I think.

3) Type and revise/edit. I tried not to do too much editing. I might have fixed something that was glaringly off base for something I wrote later, but I only did something with it if I could fix it with a different word or two. I did insert some dialogue or draw some arrows to move thoughts around. But it will need a lot more help. As I said before, some of my conflicts aren't big enough. In life I prefer to avoid conflict when I can, but I have realized that even though it makes me uncomfortable, it is a necessary part of an interesting story. Also, if I go ahead with the changes I have been thinking about, it will mean a complete overhaul of this story and a lot more writing. We'll have to wait and see.

So, that's it. A quick summary of my journey to write 50,000 words in a month. We'll have to see what the next year holds to see if I am going to do it again in 2010. I'm not opposed to it, but I am not ready to commit again to the craziness just yet.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

NaNoWriMo Update

Well, it is almost the end of November. I technically have today, tomorrow and Monday to finish this thing. I should be pretty close to the 50,000 word mark. Am I?

Drum roll, please....

50,154. I am finished. It is after midnight when I am typing this, even though it won't post until 10am. I have a lot of feelings about this, but the words aren't very coherent right now. I said to my husband when I was done that this is probably one of the most ridiculous things I have ever done. But at the same time it is also one of the coolest.

I will compose my thoughts a little more and give a final report on Tuesday. Until then, off to bed and then back to life.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

So much to be thankful for today - friends, family, faith, work, home... The list could go on. I hope you enjoy some thankful moments today with people you love. Happy Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Holiday crafts and treats

It is getting to be that time of year and I thought I would share some Christmas things I am finding these days.

I love this wall decoration for Christmas - just beautiful. The small size on the plate is another great idea. I could also see it on a long mirror as a table centerpi
ece. Follow the link to find out where to get it and how to apply it to a wall/plate.

I love these "place cards" for your Thanksgiving table. I saw this posted at U Create, a great little craft blog. Follow the link on her blog to instructions to make these for your own Thanksgiving table. It's a simple craft that could be done very easily.

Now, this isn't exactly a holiday craft, but I think it could be a fun way to spend some time with the kids on the holiday breaks from school. This picture and the "paint chip family word game" is from the great Pink and Green Mama blog. Go here to find out how she uses this game with her kids. She includes links to where she got the information for the game, which includes a great list for what to include on your cards. I could totally see my home-schooled nieces having fun with this one. My son will love it, too. Could be a good educational stocking-stuffer or classroom gift.

Just had to add this Thanksgiving turkey craft, too. Makes a darling t-shirt for the holiday!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

NaNoWriMo Update

To stay on track with my goal of writing a 50,000 word novel by the end of November, I should be at approximately 37,500 words today.

Drum roll, please....

29,525. I am seriously short. I had two days of subbing this week and one day of household chores (the laundry had really, really piled up!). At least two of those days, I still met my daily goal. That left me two days "to write." On one of those, I knocked out almost 5000 words. On the other, maybe 200. (I had a migraine that drove me from my writing straight back to bed.)

Scheduling excuses aside, my novel has some problems which is making it hard to write.
1) My conflicts aren't big enough. I am trying to write a huge, turning point kind of conflict, but I haven't given myself enough to work with. It is hard to go back and fix that, so I feel stuck.

2) I have wanted to do something unusual - something outrageous to just get the story moving, but I can't come up with anything.

It is tempting to pack up my 29,525 words and go home. I miss my regular life. I don't read, but I have a bag of library books calling to me. I have another bag full of writing club projects from my students at school that I need - and want - to read and assess by the end of the holiday weekend. Last night, I watched a movie with my husband - actually watched it rather than half-watching while I wrote. It was nice.

At the same time, I am not a quitter. I have 10 days to go - that's about 2000 words a day. Completely doable in scope, if I could just come up with some idea of how to move forward. It would be one thing to be 10,000 words behind on the last day. I would call it good and move forward, but I am not willing to just stop here.

If you have any ideas of crazy things I can do in my story, send them to me! I am open to suggestions.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Writing by Hand

I mentioned on Saturday that I am writing my story for NaNoWriMo by hand. I have a one-subject, wide-ruled spiral notebook that I am using, and this last weekend I picked up two more to keep the story going as the first is almost full.

The first Sunday of NaNo, I met with other writers at the local library. One was making notes and outlines in a small notebook. The other three had computers. I planned to start in my notebook just because it was Sunday and my husband had the computer for his Fantasy Football tracking. It is a Sunday tradition. Besides, I prefer to draft by hand. So, I pulled my neon-green notebook out of my purse and one of the other writers said something like, "Oh... you're going to write by hand?"

It made me a little self-conscious, especially since the question was raised by a teen-ager who had a small pile of his first novel sitting next to him. But as the afternoon went on, I scribbled away, happily, in my notebook. And when I did a word count at home, it turned out that I had written more in my notebook while I was there than the computing folks had in the same amount of time.

I have discovered that writing by hand is actually the most convenient method for me. My notebook fits comfortably in my cavernous purse, so I can have it with me wherever I go - a coffee shop to write, school when I have a break while subbing, or in the pick up line while waiting for my son.

Not only is it wonderfully portable, but I love the feel of the pen on paper as I try to record the things I see or hear in my head when I write. I love being able to draw arrows and scribble something out and then decide I want to keep it - and I can! Drafting and editing/revision by hand has always worked well for me.

Anyway, I read recently that writing by hand can be better for the writing process. I found a few sites that talk about it. This one is a short article. This one includes an interview with a writer who has written about creative writing. My favorite part is where the writer talks about student writing samples and the difference between those who draft on paper and those who draft on the computer. Finally, I found this one that talks about one particular student who was struggling with writing. Check it out and find out the difference for this student in the pieces she wrote by hand and the ones she did on the computer.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Book Sites

You may have noticed that I am doing a lot of posting this month about internet resources. This is because I am working on a novel for National Novel Writing Month. Hope you are finding some good links and things while I am working away at this story!

Here are some of my favorite websites about books for kids/reading:

Boys Rule Boys Read!
I linked to this last week, too. I think linking boys to books is an important task and am happy to link to this site again.

A Year of Reading
This is probably my favorite of the ones I am posting today. This site builds my list of books I want to read faster than any other.

Check out her header on the blog: "The heart of a Mother. The soul of a Reader. The mouth of a smart***." Hilarious! I really enjoy her blog and her comments about the value of books/reading.

Another good resource of books for kids.

The Graphic Classroom
A blog about graphic novels. I enjoy graphic novels - the Lunch Lady series, the Dodgeball Chronicles, Babymouse, and The Secret Science Alliance are some of the ones I follow. Check this site out for more about graphic novels.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

NaNoWriMo Update

To stay on track with my goal of writing a 50,000 word novel by the end of November, I should be at approximately 25,000 words by the end of today. Wow, that is a lot of words! Let's see how I am doing. Drum roll, please....

As of this morning, I am at 18,914 words.

That is 6,000 words short - a lot of words to write in one day to get to 25,000. Probably not going to make it by the end of today. But here are my thoughts so far about this endeavor.

1) I don't think I have ever written this many words in one creative project before. One unit of curriculum has four or five lessons in it. A four-lesson unit I wrote for 2007 came to almost 11,000 words. Maybe a policy manual that I wrote in my last full time job might have come close, but I don't think so. And 18,000 words of fiction? I am feeling pretty empowered by the effort and my progress so far.

2) I saw an email about a short story contest this week, and for the first time ever, I didn't delete it outright. Why? Because I am actually writing a story. It is no where near ready for submission, but I am 18,000+ words closer than I was 2 weeks ago.

3) The idea of NaNoWriMo is to just write. To save editing and revising and research for December. Even if I have to write three pages describing the room the character is in - or make things up about something I need to research later, just to keep the pen (yes, pen - but that is a topic for another blog entry) moving while my brain catches up is okay, even though I know those pages will never survive a round of editing. I write things and think, "That's lame" or "This is so dull, no publisher would ever want to publish this." But those things aren't the point. The point is the word count. The point is setting a goal and finishing it. The point is to just write and write and write.

And that's what I am doing.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Author websites

I was scrolling through my internet bookmarks the other day and noticed that I have a lot of author websites bookmarked, but I can't remember the last time I visited any of them. I find out about new books through Amazon or one of the book-related magazines I read. I rarely go to an author's site to find out about materials unless they are offering something unique (like a giveaway).

But there are a few author sites that I check out regularly:

Mo Willems Doodles
I think Mo Willems is a genius. His blog is simple and funny, which means I can swing by for a minute, chuckle at the latest posting, and move on. I learn about upcoming materials, but I am entertained, too, even if there is nothing "new" coming out.

Guys with Books
Four authors on tour together post pictures of their presentations, themselves in crazy costumes, and other news from the road.

WWdN:In Exile
This is the blog for Wil Wheaton, author and actor, "geek" extraordinaire. This blog has no clear emphasis - some entries are behind the scenes information on shows he is taping or conventions he is attending, some entries are about his family and some are about his books. Sensitive readers should be warned that Wil doesn't hold back about what he thinks about religion or politics, and he uses colorful language to state his opinions. I don't always agree with him, but his transparency and honesty about the writing process, the business of writing, the business of acting, and the business of every day life inspire me.

Joanna Campbell Slan
This is an author who seems to "get" how to use the internet - at least she gets readers like me. Her blog talks not only about her family and her books, but she also talks honestly about writing. As a writer who aspires to publish a book (or two, or twelve) someday, the entries about writing are invaluable.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Just for the boys

Found some things online recently at my favorite websites that might appeal to the boys in your life. I am always looking for things for my favorite little boy!

Boys Tool Belt
This is a tool belt you can make, if you are so inclined. I think it is pretty cute. Younger boys would definitely love it (6 and under), and so might older boys who want to work with Dad on a project or who like to imagine being a builder.

Argyle Tee
Cute little do-it-yourself idea for adding argyle to a plain tee or onesie. Very cute. Could be fun to do for kids in a family to have matching shirts for portraits.

Boys Rule Boys Read!
I may post this link again when I talk about favorite book sites, but since this one is targeted especially to boys, I thought I would post it here, too. Great book recommendations for the boys in your life! Another site about books for boys is here.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

NaNoWriMo Update

To stay on track with my goal of writing a 50,000 word novel by the end of November, I should be at approximately 12,500 words by the end of today.

Drum roll, please....

As of this morning, I am at 10,384 words.

I can't believe it. I don't think of myself as a fiction writer. Non-fiction comes more naturally to me. But I am enjoying this process. I struggle at times with the idea of not fixing the things I don't like. I keep telling myself "December is for revising and editing. December is for revising and editing." I don't like some of my character names and I realize I am leaving out some details that would round out scenes. I try to just make notes and move forward. I know I am going to hit a wall some time soon and I want to have as many words as possible written before that happens. I may or may not make it to 50,000 by November 30th, but one week in I feel like the effort has been a great learning and growing experience so far!

For today, though, we are visiting with family and I have 2200 words to finish to hit my goal by bed time tonight. I don't think I can top Friday's word count of 4,325 (thanks to the three hours my husband gave me to write at Panera while he did the parenting), but I at least want to get to that 12,500 mark. Here's hoping for a productive writing day for all the NaNos out there!

Thursday, November 5, 2009


I am taking the plunge this year. I thought about doing it last year and then determined I was too busy. But this is the year I try National Novel Writing Month. Crazy, huh? The idea is to compose a 50,000 word novel - from start to finish - in the month of November. Over 100,000 people are signed up to give it a try this year, and I am one of them. I started writing on Sunday and plan to put an update here every Saturday to track how it is going. If I am staying on track, I should be at around 12,500 words by Saturday. We shall see....

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Make your own Mitts

Found a tutorial here for making your own oven mitts (thanks to U Create for highlighting this one). This is one of those crafts that looks fairly easy... if only I had a sewing machine. I like the design. Rather than a large, bulky mitten, this is like a hot pad with pockets for your fingers and for your thumb. Great idea! Check it out.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

It's Halloween again. We do the usual trick-or-treating around here and my son is still young enough to dress up and go out.

How will you be spending your Halloween? Hope you have a safe one!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

We have been looking at research about kids from the book Nurture Shock. This will be my last entry from the book, and today I want to talk about relationships between kids.

*The more educational media the children in one study watched, the more relationally aggressive they were. Preschoolers don't always "get" the message of the shows, so they just pick up the behaviors displayed. Often these shows spend more time setting up the problem than they do on the solution, so the behaviors seen are the problematic ones.

*In one study, 96% of children's programming included verbal insults and put-downs - on the average of 7.7 insults per 30-minute program.

*The behaviors modeled on these shows then come out when children relate to one another at home or at school.

I don't know about you, but I though the more educational shows were "safe," but apparently not. What do you think?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Truth Will Set You Free

I'm still looking at some of the research cited in Nurture Shock - a great book about research on best practices with kids, whether they are in your house or your classroom. Today I want to look at some of the research about lying - the experiments included in this chapter were really interesting.

*When kids are old enough to really understand the difference between a lie and the truth, they are also old enough to be more skilled at lying. And if it works, they stick with it.

*The story of George Washington and his father's response to George's admission of cutting down the cherry tree is more effective as a deterrent for lying than The Boy Who Cried Wolf - whether George is part of the story or not (if it is told with a non-famous person). Children know lying will get them punished. The idea that they might not get punished, and that the parent will be happier with the truth makes a difference in their behavior.

*Kids lie because they want to make the adult happy. They think the lie is telling the parent what he/she wants to hear and that would be a good thing. What matters most to kids is getting back to good-standing with the parent/authority figure.

Do your kids lie? Mine does. And I know I did when I was his age. I always got the boy-who-cried-wolf treatment when I got caught. Do you think George would work better for your kids?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sleep - I never get enough

Riley Armstrong "Sleep" - video here.

When I think about sleep, I think about that song. "Sleep - I never get enough. Always waking up tired..." Sleep is one of the topics covered in the book Nurture Shock. Here are some of the things mentioned in the chapter on sleep.

*Kids today get an hour less sleep than kids did 30 years ago.

*Teens do better at school with later start times, and they feel better emotionally. Some of what we consider typical adolescent angst and behavior could actually be more about sleep deprivation! {I really appreciated the statement in the book that the reasons school systems start high schools when they do has less to do with optimal educational environments for students and usually more to do with bus schedules and other external factors}

*When kids sleep, their brains are doing hard work for development and shifting learned information from the day into more efficient storage regions.

* In one study, kids who got one hour less sleep consistently over a few days showed a gap in IQ larger than that between the average 4th grader and the average 6th grader.

*Obesity odds increase with a decrease in amount of sleep.

[Check out the book Nurture Shock to get more details on each of these statements]

What do you think? How much sleep do your kids get? Is it enough? Would you advocate for later start times for high schoolers?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Praise - Too Much of a Good Thing?

This week on my book review blog, I am reviewing a new book called Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. You can see their website here.

This book looks at research about children and what it says about "best practice" for our kids. And some of it might surprise you! So, for the next few posts I thought I would highlight a few pieces of information from the book and ask you what you think. Today, we will talk about praise.

*Parents can over-praise, leaving kids either feeling like that can never measure up to parental expectations or feeling like the praise is empty and fake. Praise should be genuine and specific.

*Telling kids, "You're smart" can actually leave kids feeling fearful of trying something new or difficult. They think, "If I'm smart, this should be easy." Instead, praise hard work, perseverance, and process.

*The brain is a muscle. It grows new neurons when it works on something hard. When kids know this, they can see the value in trying new or hard things and "exercising" their brains.

I have to work hard on praising specific things and not using "smart." What about you? What do you think about praise? Can it be too much of a good thing? or a bad thing?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Calvinist or Arminian? Which are you?

In the Summer 2009 issue of Leadership Journal, an article referenced "New Calvinism." I have heard of "emergent" and "reformed" groups, though I couldn't really tell you much about either, but I hadn't heard of New Calvinism. It actually was a part of an article in Time Magazine back in the spring about ten ideas changing the world. You can read it here. (And there are plenty of blog posts out there responding to the article if you want to search those out and get some different perspectives.)

Anyway, I can never remember which is Calvinist and which is Arminian, so I did a search and found lots of websites that spell out the differences - and several that will tell you which one is "right." I got curious - what do YOU think? Do you align yourself with the Calvinists or the Arminians? Do you think it matters?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Should the Church try new and different things to reach a new generation?

One of my favorite magazines is Leadership Journal. I talked a little bit here about what I like about it. There were several things in the Summer 2009 issue that caught my attention and I thought I would blog about them.

This particular issue looked at "iGens," the twenty-somethings. This is not my generation. I am part of Gen-X. I can remember days before VCRs and microwaves, cable TV and Atari. I remember my Algebra 2 teacher in 9th grade talking to us about computers and floppy discs that were about 5 inches across, and actually "floppy." The iGens have grown up in a completely different culture - they don't know life without personal computers, cell phones, MP3 players, etc.

Question 1: Should the Church try new and different things to reach the "iGens?" or should the Church stay on message and trust that the truth of Christ will impact this new generation as it has the ones that have come before?

[Hey - There is an interesting article here about what has been happening with Gen X ministries in the last few years to help with the discussion.]

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Reading Report

I started a new book this weekend called Reading Together: Everything You Need to Know to Raise a Child Who Loves to Read by Diane Frankenstein. I stumbled across it at the library and I can't wait to dig into it.

As I was reading through the introduction, the author referenced the 2008 Kids and Family Reading Report from Scholastic. You can find it here. She highlighted a few bits of data (on page 4 of her book) that I want to report here.

*Kids reading drops off after 8 years.
*Parents can have a direct impact on getting kids to read
*When kids start reading independently, parents need to become more, not less, involved.
*Kids say that one of the main reasons why they do not read more is because they cannot find books that they like to read.

This last point is exactly why I started my book review blog in the first place. I love reading children's books and then passing those titles and recommendations on to kids and their parents in the hopes that the kids will connect with some great stories and characters.

So, let's try to get some discussion going today - how do you/would you encourage your kids to read? Do you like to read yourself? If not, why not?

If you check out the Report, tell me what you think of it. Leave a comment below.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cathy Z scrapbooking resources

I am a huge fan of scrapbooker and graphic designer, Cathy Zielske. I have talked about her here and on my book review blog about some of her design books. They are among my favorite resources for scrapbooking.

On her blog a couple weeks ago, Cathy highlighted Quick and Creative Quizzes, an e-book designed by Ella Publishing.
Cathy then designed a printable resource to go with it with quizzes and sketches.

There were two things about this that caught my eye. The first is that the "schemes" or templates are PDFs. I have not invested in digital software for scrapbooking, but I can manage PDFs. The other thing is the price - $4! The price of the e-book from Ella is only $6.

I already have a magazine of quizzes and questions, so I'm not looking for that kind of material. But they are a great starting point for a scrapbook page if you haven't tried them before (and the $6 price is great. I am pretty sure I paid more for my magazine.). But I do like the idea of these PDF pages I can print. If you are a scrapbooker, looking for new inspiration, check out these resources.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Strongest Life, final

Let's wrap up our look at some bits from Find Your Strongest Life by Marcus Buckingham.

I wasn't really surprised to hear that multitasking isn't good for us - that it drops our IQ. I know that feeling of divided attention where a lot of things are getting done, but few if any are done well. I was surprised, though, that Mr. Buckingham thinks our quest for "balance" is off target. In his opinion, we should skew our lives toward our strengths, our strong moments. If we build more of those into our lives, we will have the energy we need for the things that aren't our strongest but have to be done anyway, and the things that don't have to be done will fall off our to do lists in time because we are doing the things that strengthen us most. This ties in nicely with the discussion about Sabbath and about learning to say no to some things so you can say yes to the things that matter most.

If you go here, you can take the Strong Life Test for free and find out what your leading and supporting roles are. You will need a copy of the book to find out what they mean and how to apply them. I came out with a Lead Role of Motivator and Supporting Role of Creator. When I first read those words, I was not convinced - not when other choices were Teacher or Caretaker or Advisor. But when I read the descriptions, I was more convinced. I have been writing a lot lately about my passions and philosophy of life and some of those things were reflected in these terms and their descriptions. Now I am spending time looking at specific activities in my life that are "strong moments" and figuring out how to have more of them.

Hope you have enjoyed thinking about finding your strongest life! Let me know what you find out if you try the test!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Strongest Life, part 2

Okay, let's jump in a little farther with Find Your Strongest Life by Marcus Buckingham.

This is how he defines a "strong woman."

*A strong woman feels successful - effective and capable.
*A strong woman instinctively looks forward to tomorrow with positive anticipation. She has a gut-level sense of being on the right track and enjoying the ride, bumps and all.
*A strong woman feels she is still learning and growing, no matter her age. She operates in the "flow," meaning a sense of focus, ability to concentrate, getting lost in a task and losing the sense of time. [This reminds me of how my son is with drums. He plays at least once or twice a day and loses himself in what he is doing. With the piano, there is NO flow - only fidgeting, and stalling.]
*A strong woman feels that her needs are fulfilled.
[from chapter 4, Signs of Life]

So, do these describe you? Every day or just some days? Can you think of things you do during the course of the week that would fit this idea of "flow?"

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Strongest Life, part 1

Yesterday I reviewed a book at another blog called Find Your Strongest Life by Marcus Buckingham. It was a great book for women about determining your strengths and strongest moments and playing to those. There is a LOT of good information in the book, so I thought I would highlight three parts this week here.

Today, I want to set the stage with some of the research reported in the book.
*Women are less happy today relative to where they were 40 years ago (and relative to men)
*Women begin their lives more satisfied than men and then gradually become less satisfied in every aspect of their lives.
*Each extra hour of free time doubles a man's feelings of relaxation, but does nothing for a woman's.
*Your IQ drops 10 points when you try to do two tasks at the same time.

So, what do you think about those things. Do they surprise you? They sure surprised me! Why do you think these things might be true?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Profound Husband

I often find myself wondering how much is too much when it comes to activities for my son. This fall he has school, piano and soccer, plus two long afternoons at school for activities (one is mine, so he goes to aftercare and the other is one we do together). I realized how busy we are right now when I thought about trying to schedule an afternoon doctor or dentist appointment! There are few days we could fit that in with our other commitments, at least for the next few weeks until soccer ends. Evenings for young children are very short. He starts preparing for bed between 7:15 and 7:30, so when you squeeze in homework, piano practice, and dinner, some days there isn't much time for play - especially if there is a soccer practice or some other unusual activity. But the activities we have chosen are in the schedule for a reason. And we stand by those reasons.

One day as my husband was relaying this all to a friend as they talked about scouting, my husband said something profound that I wrote down so I wouldn't forget it:

"It is much easier to add programming for a bored child than it is to break commitments."

That is so true! And our son is NOT bored. But once we start something, it is painful to break the commitment. We thought about changing from piano to drums this year, in mid year, and those conversations with his piano teacher were painful. She came up with enough things to excite him to stick with it until May, but practicing is still a chore. It isn't something he looks forward to or is eager to do. [Drums on the other hand are often the first things he runs to when he is finally "free" to do whatever he wants!]

We are still learning to find the right amount of activity and rest. My husband's declaration will help us keep perspective.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

For the love of a dad

My son's school had an event a couple weeks ago where they invited the dads to drop the kids off in the morning and come in for a donut. My husband couldn't go, so I took our son and asked a friend to meet us there. My son and our guest had a great time together and I was dismissed fairly early on to visit with other parents and the teachers and then go home.

For awhile, I just stood in the middle of the gym and watched. The energy in the room was different than on a usual morning. I saw kids hanging on dads, laying across dads so they wouldn't leave, dads meeting and visiting with one another. I saw dads wedged into bleacher seats with their children pressed up close to them, surrounded by backpacks and chattering children, staying until the last possible moment.

It was beautiful. Precious. Inspiring.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Back to Business

Okay, I think I have exhausted all I want to say about Sabbath. Here are some nifty things I have come across recently

Organization - I am always looking for a better way to organize things, and I love office supplies. Right now my torn out magazine pages are overflowing an office file box, awaiting the week I take the time to sort and organize them. But even when that is done, I don't really have anywhere to put them. (I have a 4-drawer file cabinet on the family wish-list!) It is tempting to run out and get some binders (some now qualify for Box Tops!) and sheet protectors and do as this crafter did.

Things like this make me want to quilt. I am not big on Halloween decorations, but the shoes are cute and I bet the pattern could be modified to some classy, girly fabrics.

Bouchercon - the annual mystery convention is coming to Indiana next month. One of my favorite mystery authors posted this on her page. I think there is a day at the convention that includes crafts. I would love to go....

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Final Thoughts on Sabbath

I'll leave you with these final words from Barbara Brown Taylor on the Practice of Saying No. Would love to read your thoughts and comments about Sabbath.

[from An Altar in the World]
"Your day begins when you let God hold you because you do not have the slightest idea how to hold yourself - when you let God raise you up, when you consent to rest to show you get the point, since that is the last thing you would do if you were running the show yourself. When you live in God, your day begins when you lose yourself long enough for God to find you, and when God finds you, to lose yourself again in praise."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sabbath - part 5

[from An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor - a portion of her personal Sabbath vision, which she recommends each person develop]

"At least one day in seven, pull off the road and park the car in the garage.... Turn off the computer. Stay home not because you are sick but because you are well.... Take a nap, a walk, an hour for lunch. Test the premise that you are worth more than you can produce - that even if you spent one whole day being good for nothing you would still be precious in God's sight - and when you are convinced that this is not so, remember that your own conviction is not required. This is a commandment. Your worth has already been established, even when you are not working."

For me, this is the big moment in a discussion of Sabbath - personal worth and value. Helping people feel valued and loved by God is one of my deepest passions, but deep down I know that I struggle with this, too. I feel worthwhile when I am busy, when I am accomplishing something. Last year I attended a conference where Kevin Lehman was the primary speaker. (It was fantastic!) In one of his books he asks you to finish the phrase, "I only count when...." My answer at first was "I only count when I get it right." And that is still accurate. But lately I have wondered if there is another answer, something like "I only count when I check things off my list." I'm sure there is therapy-fodder in there aplenty, but for the moment I think it ties directly into my ponderings about Sabbath. If I believe my value is in getting things done (and getting them right), setting those things aside for a day messes with the core of who I think I am.

What do you think of Taylor's Sabbath vision? What would your Sabbath vision include?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sabbath part 4

This chapter on Sabbath is so meaty, I am not done working through it yet, so here is another entry on Sabbath.

[from An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor]
"Anyone who practices Sabbath for even an afternoon usually suffers a little spell of Sabbath sickness. Try it and you too may be amazed by how quickly your welcome rest begins to feel like something closer to a bad cold. Okay, that was nice. Okay, you're ready to get back to work now... You are beginning to feel sluggish.... What if you get used to this and never want to go back to work? Plus, how will you ever catch up after taking a whole day off? Just thinking about it makes me tired. Is weeding the garden work if you enjoy it? Is looking through a catalog really shopping? This, I think, is how the rabbis were finally forced to spell out all the kinds of work that are forbidden on the Sabbath - because people kept trying to get to yes instead of no."

I feel so much better when I say yes. I have a friend who once insisted that I have the spiritual gift of helps because of the compulsion I have at times to jump into something in an effort to make it go smoothly for someone else - whether this is at a wedding when I have no official role or at my son's school when a new family walks into meet the teacher day and I volunteer to walk them to their room (and I'm not working at the time). Helps never comes up on my gifts inventories, though. I think in a way it is this compulsion to say "yes."

Recently I received an email from my son's school, asking me to coordinate the fall book fair. I love the book fair! I am crazy about books and I usually set aside my own stash of money to buy things at the book fair for myself. I blog about books every day. And I love to say "yes." I said maybe, which is a good step in the right direction. I mentioned it to my father who said, "And you said, 'I would be happy to volunteer but I can't coordinate it,' right?" My husband was more subtle, pointing out that I have been expressing a lot of dissatisfaction with the lack of balance in my life and the feeling that I am trying to do too much. But I prefer to say "yes." It seemed like a timely test of my resolve to simplify my life and practice saying "no." So, I said no.

I felt guilty, like I was letting people down. But at the same time, when I listed my priorities and the peripheral things I want to get done someday, there was no reasonable room for another responsibility.

So, how are you at saying "no?"

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sabbath part 3

[from An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor]
"In the eyes of the world, there is no payoff for sitting on the porch.... If you want to succeed in whatever your 'field' of endeavor, you must spray/plow/plant. You must never turn your back. Each year's harvest must be bigger than the last. That is what the earth and her people are for, right? Wrong god. In the eyes of the true God, the porch is imperative, not every now and then but on a regular basis.... Sabbath is the true God's gift to those who wish to rest and to be free."

Do you find yourself longing for this freedom, this rest? I do. Last Saturday my family watched my son's soccer game and came home, planning to go to a shopping center later in the day. My husband, son and father went to our family room and started watching some TV. I went to our bedroom and just sat on the bed with my eyes closed. I had a book and notebook with me to do something, but I was craving rest. So, I took a nap. It was glorious.... Until I started thinking about what I didn't get done.

I think at the core of my struggle for balance and to better understand this idea of Sabbath is my own expectations. How do I set realistic expectations for productivity that keep room for rest and for God?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sabbath Part 2

[from An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor]
"I know people who can do five things at once who are incapable of doing nothing.... Since I have been one of those people, I know that saying no is a more difficult spiritual practice than tithing, praying on a cold stone floor, or visiting a prisoner on death row - because while all of those worthy activities may involve saying no to something else so that I can do them instead, they still amount to doing more instead of less. Limiting my activities does not help me feel holy. Doing more feels holy, which is why I stay so intrigued by the fourth commandment."

I have been pretty clear on this blog, and anyone who has spent any significant time with me also knows, that I am one of those five-things-at-a-time sort of people. Recently I was talking to my dad and he mentioned that a friend had asked him what I was doing with all my free time now that school has started and I am not teaching part time this year. I felt like I had to list every little thing I was doing each day to validate myself. I worry that mothers who work will think I am a slacker when I stay home when I have a school-aged child. When friends in other communities sent their kids off to school for the first time last week and posted on Facebook about their time at a coffee shop or other leisure activities for that first day, I realized that I haven't done that much since school started because I feel guilty. I feel compelled to be busy to justify my time at home.

This is so ingrained in me that it makes it difficult to switch gears once a week and experience a true Sabbath. I have no idea what that looks like. What is allowed and what isn't? Can I watch TV? Read a book? Do something crafty? If it goes on a to-do list is it off limits? If I am enjoying time with the Lord most days during the week, how does that time look different on the Sabbath?

Taylor refers to the Sabbath, calling it "the consummate act of divine freedom by doing nothing at all." What do you think of that description?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sabbath Part 1

My Sunday School class has been reading through the book, An Altar in the World. The premise is that sometimes we are too focused on finding God in a church or other religious settings. Instead, we can connect with God in the world He created and as we interact with others whom He made in His image. It has led to some interesting discussions as we have talked about chapters like "The Practice of Waking Up to God" and "The Practice of Encountering Others."

The chapter I have been dealing with this week is "The Practice of Saying No." The main topic is the Sabbath. I plan to spend this week - Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday - blogging about some of her statements from the book and how I am processing them.

I tend to think of Sunday as the Sabbath, though I know that in the Jewish system, it runs from Friday evening to Saturday evening. Our Sundays tend to involve Sunday School and a church service and hanging out at home. While we are home, I am often trying to squeeze in whatever chores didn't get done during the week, although I prefer to use it for just reading and resting (and watching football in the fall). I know I need to rest, and I know how I feel when I set my to do list aside for awhile and just "exist." But I am inconsistent in my observance of a true Sabbath.

I tried to Sabbath this past Sunday. I think I did okay. After church I read, napped, watched football and hung out with the fam. I tried to avoid anything I thought was work - reading about writing, actual writing, working on my to do list for the coming week, blogging notes, etc.

Mrs. Taylor writes [with some paraphrase from me]:
[It is interesting - alarming - convicting to think that we] put "Thou shalt not do any work" in a different category from "Thou shalt not kill..." especially since those teachings are on the same list.... There is no saying yes to God without saying no to God's rivals. No, I will not earn my way today. No, I will not make anyone else work either. No, I will not worry about my life...."

I have been challenged by this thought that we put the observation of the Sabbath in another category from the other commandments, as if the Sabbath is more optional or open to personal interpretation.

So, here are some questions for thought and comment. How do you observe the Sabbath? When do you observe it? What do you think about this idea that it requires the same attention and adherence as the other commandments? Does your life reflect your beliefs?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Girly Crafts

Here are a few recent discoveries from some of my favorite blogs. I already have plans to make some of these in the very near future!

1. Play makeup without the mess

Doesn't that look beautiful? I think so - so cool and shimmery. Just like make-up should look. But the best part is that little girls can plan without any mess because that is dry nail polish! So cool! My nieces are so going to get some of this play make up someday!

2. Activity Purse

I am already stocking up on composition books to make up a batch of these for the girly-girls in my life! I love the idea that it looks pretty, but it is also functional. I think it would be great for church! The only downside will be for those girly-girls who want a purse to put things in. But for those old enough to love to draw, this could be fabulous!

3. Yummy!

Doesn't that look yummy?! This site has a great recipe for cookies, plus instructions to make these gift jars. She even includes a PDF for the labels. A terrific find!

So, check these sites and crafts out! You might even want to follow the blogs all the time so you can enjoy even more craft ideas! All of these were originally posted at U Create, one of my favorite blogs.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Cathy Zielske is one of my favorite scrapbookers and bloggers. When Simple Scrapbooks was out, I could usually pick out her pages without even trying, either because I recognized her style or her family. She has posted a great challenge on her blog, and I decided to pass it along. Please check it out! I have watched the video and it is inspiring!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Pros and Cons on the Kindle

Because of my overwhelming affinity for books, we are in need of several more bookshelves for our home. Every time this comes up, someone suggests I just get a Kindle. And I have thought about it. It would be a large investment of money I don't have, but my hesitation is more than financial.

While I would love the storage capability of a Kindle, I don't know if I would like to read something without having an actual book in my hand. When I write, I often draft on paper first before typing up something, making that first entry on the computer as my first revision/edit to a piece. I just don't know if I would want to give up the physical book....

I recently found this entry about the Kindle at a book blog that I enjoy. It is one of the most helpful and informative discussions of the pros and cons that I have ever read. I still don't know if I could ever make the switch, but the writer gives me a lot of points to think about.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Too much of a good thing

I have been thinking a lot lately about having too much of a good thing. There are so many great things available to us - things that fill our free time, things that make life easier, etc. - but there is a tipping point where those things are no longer a help but a hindrance.

For example, I blogged the other day that my need to be busy, to check things off a to do list, can go too far where I get burned out and just shut down, not wanting to do anything. Or I take on too much and can't keep all the balls in the air without something crashing.

This happens other places, too. You love your computer at work and all the things it allows you to do - until it crashes or the power goes out. You love your cell phone and the ability to have it with you where ever you are in case of emergency. But when it dies, you lose your phone book, pictures, and the ability to seek help if you need it. Facebook is a great way to stay connected to old friends and to make new ones. But sometimes old friends should stay in the past and not mix in with your present life. Or you hear stories about teenagers who are getting harassed on Facebook by "friends" or who use things that happen on social networking sites as a way to manipulate others. It is so easy to get out of balance.

Balance is something I am seeking but rarely finding. Maybe you are that way too. How do you find balance in your life?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Warn those who are idle

Recently I spent a whole day in bed, sick. Other than school drop off and pick up and dinner with my family, I hung out in my bedroom. I did a few things on the laptop, took a couple nice naps, went through half a box of tissues... and read 3.5 books. It bothered me all day that I had a huge list of things to do, but I felt too crummy to do them. But I also couldn't just lay there.

I tried. My husband came home that afternoon from a business trip, and after we put our son to bed, we watched some TV while he got on the computer. For a couple minutes, I just rested my head on his shoulder, but I was restless. It felt like "wasted" time if there wasn't something I could accomplish or cross off a list. So I read a book.

Looking back I have to laugh at my inability to be idle. I guess I must have taken the admonition that "Idle hands are the devil's tools" too seriously at some point in my life. Usually this is an asset. I can get a lot of things done and I am pretty organized. I juggle projects well, for the most part. But there are moments when it can be too much of a good thing. Either I get so tired from juggling or so bored with my usual activities that I get burned out and have to set everything aside for a couple days to regroup (which makes me tense because I am not getting anything done).

In a perfect world, I would give myself a day of grace every week or so to do "nothing" - to be crafty, or veg out and watch a movie. But there is always something to be done, and I just can't help being the one to do it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I resonated with this blog post recently. It's called "It's Only Money." I found myself with these same thoughts not too long ago.

My husband was wrapping up a four-week sabbatical from work (what a great perk, by the way). We had taken two trips to see family, and had done more shopping than our budget could handle. So we started scaling back, eating out less, staying home instead of running to the book store (and you should know after blog entries like this one, and my book blog, that I love the book store!) or Target, etc.

So we came to the end of his time off. Our son started school on a Wednesday, leaving us three days to spend together - something very precious. We used one day for errands and chores we hadn't yet completed. We used a coupon I won in the library summer reading program to eat cheaply at a restaurant we never would have tried otherwise - and it was great. Another day was for him to golf (something he paid for back in the spring) and me to spend some time on personal projects. For the last day, we had entertained the idea of going to the bookstore (vetoed because it was too tempting to spend money, plus the gas it would take to get there), just going to a coffee shop in town (less driving, no shopping), or just plain staying home.

Then I started thinking of how pathetic that was - to end a great season together by sitting at our house, where we were likely to do chores or go to separate rooms of the house to do our own things. So, we scrounged up a BOGO coupon for Denny's and went out to breakfast together. We lowered our expenses, didn't drive a long way, and got to spend a couple hours together (talking fantasy football). Technically, we didn't have the money to go out for breakfast or for the lunch a couple days before. But we made a choice to spend a little to celebrate a lot - the sabbatical, and being together. And those are some of the things I want to remember from the month together.

I think the lesson here is balance. We need to shop less and spend less than we were, but we need to remember that we are making memories together. And I don't want all of those memories to be of my son asking to do something and me telling him we don't have the money. When we exercise balance in the every day things, we have more opportunities to say "yes" for the extra-ordinary.

Monday, August 31, 2009

BONUS BLOG: Back to School Giveaway for Writers

For the third year in a row, The Writer Mama, Christina Katz, is giving away thirty books in thirty days. All you have to do to participate is answer the question that Christina will pose daily. One lucky winner will win each day. There is no limit to how many times you can enter. The drawing is for U.S. residents. You don’t have to be a mom, but of course, the event is created with moms in mind, so please tell all the writer mamas you know! See you in September at

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Service with a smile

Today my family and I will be serving with Angel Food Ministries at our church. Angel Food is a food ministry where people can purchase a box of food for less than what they might pay at the grocery store. Our church has provided Angel Food distribution for almost 2.5 years now and we love the opportunity to be in service to our community together. This is something I was praying and thinking about as the New Year's 2007 was approaching. I wanted a way for my family to serve together and start showing my son how great it is to be of help to others. Angel Food is a way we can do that.

Each month, Angel Food publishes a menu for the next month. Customers can order online or at a distribution point and the food is delivered on a set date at a set time. People come with a large box (or cooler, or laundry basket) and pick up their food.

If you are looking for a way to reduce your grocery costs, or a way for your family to serve in ministry together, consider Angel Food Ministries. If you follow the link above, you can see where Angel Food might be in your area.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Doesn't that look yummy?! Ghirardelli Chocolates! We found a Ghrirardelli outlet when we were on vacation in Wisconsin. They had a deal where you could get as many squares as you could fit in a bag for a certain amount. We stacked our chocolate squares very carefully into the narrow bag - just big enough for a square to fit flat on the bottom. We carried our bag to the counter and the clerk shook her head at us and started stuffing squares down the sides of the bag. She handed it back to us, now only half full and told us to keep going. She sent us back for more chocolate 4 times until we had crammed the bag as full as possible. The squares were just the right side for a treat. Most grocery stores will carry bags of the squares, but nothing will beat the deal we got at the outlet store. Can't wait to head back there next year!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Home Science Experiment

I found out about this site from a blog I checked out last week. Some homeschoolers used this as part of their science materials. You can order a butterfly pavillion that comes with live caterpillars that will turn into butterflies. I can't think of anything cooler to do with an inquisitive kid than this! Just imagine how fun it would be to watch the caterpillars change! When you visit the website, you can request a catalog to see what other cool things they have to offer.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Gift Potential

Think of the potential with these! Find out your kids' teachers' favorite candy and fill up a custom decorated bucket. Use assorted chocolates, like Ghirardelli's, and make a bucket for the secretaries in the school office - or YOUR office. This was another find from the U Create blog. If she keeps posting all these great ideas, I won't have time to do laundry or make dinner because I will be too busy crafting!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Felt Food

I found this at one of my favorite blogs the other day. I can't wait to carve out some time to make some of the foods referenced here out of felt. I can picture my 4 year old niece playing tea party with the cupcakes and cookies and my son making his own pizzas. So much potential for little cost!

And apparently felt food is trendy because I found another blog talking about it this week - here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sorry I missed out on this!

I started following this blog a week or so ago and caught this entry and wished I had seen this sooner.

A couple bloggers hosted a summer swap. Participants (kids) were partnered up with another child around the same age and the partners sent each other treats in the mail. I so hope they do this again next year! This is something my son and nieces would love!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Training Camp Comparison

As a Green Bay Packers fan, it has been my great pleasure to attend training camp a couple times in past years. We didn't make it to Lambeau this year, but our whole family has thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We would go up, watch the players bike over to the field, watch practice and then enjoy the two-story pro-shop and the Hall of Fame tour.

Instead, we went to training camp for the Indianapolis Colts. My son chose the Colts has his team and we thought the two hour drive was worth it for him to see his favorite players up close since he isn't really old enough to sit through a whole game.

It was clear to me early on that we have been spoiled by the Lambeau experience. The Packers have a great set up with their camp on the same grounds as their other facilities. We could watch practice for as long as he was interested and then go see the Hall of Fame and enjoy some air conditioning. We could get ice cream, shop, and my son could play in the
kids area.

There are fewer of those options at Colts camp. The practice was a walk through in shells instead of position drills, so there were fewer things going on at any one time on the field than what we usually catch in Green Bay. We chose a day when they had some extra activities on site (inflatables, etc.), but they didn't capture his attention. We watched the 75 minute practice, walked around for 30 minutes or so and we were done. We enjoyed our picnic lunch and left for home an hour earlier than I had originally planned.

I was a little concerned that my family wouldn't feel very satisfied with our experience, but my concerns were unfounded. I love any opportunity to take pictures, so I was happy to sit behind the camera all morning. My husband used it as a chance to scout out some folks for Fantasy Football. And my son enjoyed it so much that the rest of the day at home - for
hours - he played imaginary games of football.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Library Love

This is one of the libraries in my home town in Wisconsin. I took this picture on a recent vacation as a reminder of one of my "great" acts of teenage rebellion.

In my early teens, my parents still had me taking swim lessons. It was probably so I had some physical exercise since I wasn't very sporty, but I was completely tired of them. I knew how to swim and was being pushed to do things like diving that terrified me. So, when my dad would drop me off for lessons, I would watch his car drive away, then walk to the library which was on the other side of an open field/park from the pool. I would spend my lesson time reading and then walk back, wet my hair and my suit and wait to be picked up.

My parents never found out. I almost got caught one time - I was in the middle of that open field walking back to the pool and my parents were driving by on their way home before my dad would come back for me. They didn't see me and my secret was safe for over 20 years until I finally confessed. My father still looks at me and shakes his head every time we drive by the library when I am home for a visit.

In the grand scheme of things, this is a pretty pathetic attempt at rebellion. I got "better" at it when I was a little older. But I always laugh when I think about the library as my safe haven at that point in my life.... That really hasn't changed, either.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Lettering Delights

Generally speaking, I am a traditional scrapbooker (even though I haven't scrapped in awhile). Papers, adhesive, stickers, etc. I have never gotten into digital scrapbooking. But I will use my computer to print "doo dads" for my pages or journalling or titles. Lettering Delights is one of my favorite sources for these sorts of things to add to my pages or use for cards.

Here is a card I made recently for a friend's son who is a HUGE Harry Potter fan for his eleventh birthday.

I used what they used to call a "journalling delight" (now they seem to be part of their "graphic" section). You buy the one you want (which for me is never just one) and install it on your computer. They have their own software to use the materials. I chose the large piece I wanted, added my text and placed it using their software. Then I printed it. Super easy!

[Hey - if you are a Harry Potter fan, check out my other blog, Bring on the Books, where I have been blogging about the series!]

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Pajama Party, Part 2

Last week I posted a PJ pillow I made for my son. I had also bought some Transformers material and decided to also try a PJ bag - something a little bigger for those bulky winter PJs, and something that he could take along when we aren't at home. It also had to be something simple that I could make with just hand sewing. So, here it is!

I cut the material at random - no measurement. I would have preferred it to have the fold at the bottom, but I didn't buy enough of the material to work that way, so the fold
is on one side.

Then I used the seam seal to make a nice edge for the tie and to enclose the tie (shoe string). Then I sewed the shoe string in place and sewed up the sides. Once it was done, the top would cinch up and tie. I was pleasantly surprised at how it turned out!