Monday, April 27, 2015

Social Anxiety, or You Are Going to Talk to Strangers Whether You Like It or Not!

I'm pretty sure I don't have a shy cell in my body. I have no trouble talking to anyone, anywhere, and I don't remember ever having a problem doing so.

Imagine my surprise when I gave birth to a child petrified of talking to adults. Imagine my complete and utter shock when 4 more kids were struck with the same affliction.

Some were worse than others. Some outgrew it. One has not.

Basically, I've been encouraging kids to talk to adults and ask questions for many, many years.

I wish I could give you an easy, magical solution to the problem of social anxiety, but it's not easy.

It's simple, but not easy.

The only thing that I've found to work is preparation and practice.

When Buttercup was in preschool, she would not talk to her teachers. Ever. Months and months went by, and still, despite the fact that her teachers were awesome and continued to ask her questions, she wouldn't answer.

It all changed on one particular day.

For her birthday in March, she and I made cookies for her to share with the class. I had a gut feeling her teachers would ask her about them, so I had a chat with her.

Me: If your teachers ask you if you helped make these cookies, what can you say?
Her: Yes.
Me: If they ask you what you put in them or what you did, what can you say?
Her: I poured everything into the bowl and helped hold the mixer.
Me: Awesome. Do you think you can be brave enough to say that?
Her: Yes.

I reminded her of the conversation before we went into the classroom.

When I picked her up, one of the teachers was holding up a sign that said, "She talked to us today!"

I asked what she said, and the teacher replied, "We asked her if she helped make the cookies, and she said yes. She also told us how she helped".

I finally figured it out.

My kids weren't talking because (1) they didn't know what to say, and (2) they didn't want to say the wrong thing.

After that day, Buttercup quickly shrugged off her shyness and by the next year became the mouthpiece for all of her shy friends.

All of my kids have outgrown.learned to work through their shyness except for one.

I have a teen who still wigs out when confronted with a new scenario in which speaking is required.

Until I had this child, I did not know that asking a librarian for help in finding a book was scary.

I did not know that paying for lunch at a restaurant was anything to worry about.

I did't know that calling to order pizza could cause stress.

I was blissfully unaware that asking a hotel clerk for extra towels was akin to being held at gunpoint.

But I know now. And I know that this teen needs to be able to function despite his fear. So, I don't let it go. I make him do all of the things he is so afraid to do.

He is not happy with me.

(That is an understatement.)

He gets so scared, he actually becomes defiant, which is completely out of character for him.

I still don't let it go. It really just makes me more certain that he needs to face his fears.

Perhaps an example would be helpful...

At the library last year, this particular teen wanted a book that should have been on the shelf. When I suggested he ask the librarian for help, he replied, "No. It's OK. I don't need it".

That is basically my Batsignal. Red flags waving all up in my face. By saying that, the boy is unknowingly telling me that he is petrified of doing any such thing and would rather not have the book than actually talk to the librarian.

Batman does't ignore his signal and neither do I. I don't let him get away with not talking. Instead, we discuss the situation in great detail. I walk him through all of the possibilities, basically giving him a script.

"Here is what will happen. You will walk up to the librarian's desk. She will look up and ask you if you need some help. You will say, 'I was looking for a book the computer says you have, but it's not on the shelf. Can you help me find it?' She will ask you for the title, look it up on her computer and say, "It is probably in the back waiting to be shelved. I'll be right back." You will wait for her until she returns, most likely carrying your book."

Him: No. I really don't need it.

Me: We aren't walking out of this library until you talk to the librarian.

Him (more forcefully): NO!

Me: What are you most afraid of? What is the worst possible thing that could happen?





Him: I don't know.

Me: This is her job. This is why she is behind that desk. No one is going to die. No one will even get hurt. No matter what you say, she will not come after you with a pair of scissors, claiming you are an idiot of epic proportions. You can do this. You will do this. And you will be ok.


Me: Any questions?

Him: I don't want to do it.

Me: That wasn't a question. What are you going to say to her?

Him: I was looking for a book the computer says you have, but it's not on the shelf. Can you help me find it?'

Me: Yup. Now off you go. (I actually have to give him a bit of a shove.)

He did it. Yes, I was standing right behind him, but he did it.

And no one died. No one got hurt. No one was humiliated. The librarian simply left and came back with his book.

I always ask, "What are you most afraid of? What is the worst thing that can happen?" Sometimes he tells me, sometimes he doesn't. Either way, I find it is helpful to go to that worst scenario. Naming that worst fear takes away some of its power. Making a plan about what to do in the unlikely event that the worst will happen gives him a bit more confidence, since he knows he can and will live through it.

It would be so much easier for me to just do these things myself. To not put him and me through the ordeal. But that isn't my job. My job is to prepare him for life outside of our home. He MUST learn to do these things himself in order to function in the world. So I make him.

He will thank me some day.

And I probably won't even have to make him.

Have a lovely day!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

I Am Thankful to Be a Big, Fat Quitter, TToT#97

You might have heard, I'm out of the A-Z Challenge that so many of our friends are doing. Between our laptop breaking, our internet going wonky, and volleyball games and play stuff keeping me out until 10:30, I just couldn't write AND get to bed before midnight each night. So, I'm out. And I'm perfectly OK with it.

With all my extra non-writing time, I've been able to appreciate some thankfuls this week.

1. With the need to be all advice-giving during the challenge, I was beginning to have laughter withdrawals, wondering if I was ever going to be able to get my funny back. Those who follow (and get notifications, it seems) my Facebook page know that it came back to me in spades soon after I dropped from the challenge. I still laugh when I read this post.

Sure, I'm laughing in horror, because every word is 100% truth, but I'm still laughing.

2. I'm thankful that my days of participating in sports which require me playing in all sorts of miserable weather is over. While my kids suffer through, I can watch from my cocoon made of a coat, blanket, and umbrella...

poor, poor Star

or if I'm really lucky, from inside my car.

Don't be fooled. It was frigid out there. 50 degrees with a wind chill of -120. 
3. I am so thankful for our music teacher. Each year, she finds the hidden talent of so many middle school kids, and gets upwards of 60 kids to pull of a fantastic musical. I'm forever astounded at how much talent 12,13, and 14 year olds have. Star and Giant were both in this year's musical. They have a blast learning something completely new to them.

4. I'm thankful for Benadryl. My eyes have been itching like crazy, and I'm afraid they are going to start swelling. (I have some unknown allergy that pops up out of nowhere every once in a while.) I've been keeping a constant flow of antihistamine flowing through my veins, and so far it's been taking taking the itch and swelling at bay.

5. I am thankful that my mom got to come for a visit this weekend to see the play, watch Phoenix's volleyball tournament, and go to the high school's fundraising dinner with me.

6. I am thankful for the fabulous coaches my kids have this year. They are learning a lot and having a blast doing it.

7. I am thankful for Cuckoo's sense of style. Guess what the weather was the day this photo was taken.

8. I am thankful for Cuckoo's recent desire and ability to take on more chores. He is finally tall enough to reach the lock on the door into the chicken coop, so he can let them out in the morning without my assistance. He collects eggs, waters the dogs, feeds the chickens and dogs. This has been especially helpful this week, since the big kids haven't come home after school a single day this week.

9. I am thankful to have learned from my kids (when they are little) to appreciate the smallest, prettiest things, like rain drops on blades of grass.

10. I am thankful that my grandma is doing so well at the independent living facility. All of her worries are gone. Her blood pressure is the lowest it's been in years. It's also giving her the confidence to do things she's wanted to do, but has been afraid to. Next month, my 90 year old grandma is flying by herself to visit my aunt in South Carolina. I could not be happier for her.

OK, time for me to go to bed and catch up on all the sleep I've missed this week.

What happened in your life this week to make you appreciate the life you've been given?

Have a lovely day!

Ten Things of Thankful

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

1,622 Minus 1

It was only a matter of time, I suppose.

Actually, I'm surprised it took this long.

I am officially taking myself out of the A-Z Challenge.

Have no fear, though!

I will still write the posts I already planned on Social Anxiety, Tattling, and Encouraging Independent Play.

They just won't be today.

To those of you still in it, be strong! I'll still be reading!

 Have a lovely day!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

My R Word Is Reminisce, Mostly Because I Wanted to Show You What I Found in the First Grader's Folder

Do you ever watch The Goldbergs? It is one hilarious show, especially if you lived through the 80s. Each episode is based on actual video footage of the real Adam Goldberg's family, and they show the video at the end of the episode. (Wednesday nights at 8:30 on ABC)

One of the most recent ones I've watched dealt with the mom, Beverly, going through the crafts her children have made throughout their entire lives. She kept everything. (See a clip here.)

While I'm not as bad as she is, I can relate.

One of my favorite days of the week is Friday, and not just because it's Milkshake Day. On Friday, all of the work Turken did at school that week comes home. There is at least one gem each and every week.

For example, last week gave us:

I love that kid.

And then there was this:

That would be a picture of Turken falling down our stairs. (I'm telling you, that fear is real.) It seems the big kids are not nearly as sympathetic as I am when it comes to injury, which is astounding, as I'm not all that sympathetic, either.

And then there are the bajillion crafts preschoolers bring home. So. Many. Crafts.

What are we supposed to do with them all? We can't live like Beverly.

In the basement is a tote for each of the kids. (I have no idea what size it is based on gallons. I just know it's not the biggest one offered. Small-medium size, I guess.) Inside, one will find Baptism certificates and the newspaper from the days they were born. In some one will find a favorite shirt or a jacket that all the kids wore. School photos and report cards and award certificates are there, too.

My favorite things, though, are the papers. The crafts and stories and homework assignments that made me laugh or get all mushy inside.

The beauty of this system, though, is that there is limited room. Each child gets one, and only one, box. When a stack of things comes home, I need to decide which ones are keepers and which ones are not. It has to be pretty good to make the cut. I can't keep just any old hand print. It has to be a special hand print.

I tell the kids that these are their boxes.

And they will be.


When I die.

For now, they are mine. As they get older, I will want to go through them every once in a while to think back to the adorable little beings they once were.

I will want to pull them out to show my grandkids in that window of time that they are interested in such things.

In a few months, my oldest will be 17 years old.

His box is almost full.

Hey Dyanne, do you happen to have any good ideas for a hand-print craft I could do with a 6'3" teenager?

What do you do/have you done with all of the things your kids have brought home? Be honest. Are you a Beverly?

Have a lovely day!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Quick Meals

Our evenings can sometimes be a little out of hand. With 5 kids each playing a sport, it's going to happen. We do not like to eat out very often, mostly because my kids eat a mountain of food and would put us in the poor house if we ate out often, so I have to be ready to feed them at odd times and with little time.

Of course the best way to deal with this is to have meals or partial meals in the freezer, ready to be whipped out and heated up.

That doesn't happen too often around here, partly because my kids eat a mountain of food. I don't have pots and pans big enough to double a recipe.

Next best thing is to make the meal while I'm home during the day, stick it in the fridge, and heat it up when we're ready to eat it that night. (or have it in the crockpot)

That happens sometimes, but not always.

Basically, I stink at planning ahead. Planning ahead means taking the meat out of the freezer the day before, and my day-to-day brain doesn't remember to do it.

So, what do I feed my family?

Breakfast is an easy and popular choice. Pancakes, french toast, and eggs are very quick and easy.

Spaghetti falls into the easy and popular category as well. Too bad we can't have that 5 nights a week.

Chicken Caesar wraps are not only easy (especially if the chicken is precooked) but they are also very transportable. I sometimes make these when we have to eat dinner at the park between games.

But the fastest, easiest, and (almost) most popular meal for us is Campers' Casserole.

Slice up some smoked sausage and throw it into a hot pan. Once it's done (2 minutes tops) throw in some (drained) canned green beans and (drained) canned potatoes. Have some brown rice or bread and some fruit on the side and dinner is done. It takes 5 minutes, tops.

We only have 6 jars of green beans from the garden this year. All 6 of them were earmarked for Campers' Casserole. Six of the jars of potatoes were at the ready as well.

Does your family (or you) have a favorite meal that is super quick and popular? I'm always on the lookout for more!

Have a lovely day!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Because 6 Days Per Week of Posting Just Isn't Enough, TToT #96

Ya'll, I have to say, having a child in a play is way more difficult than having kids in sports. At least for the last few of weeks leading up to opening night. It is wearing us all out.

But we've made it through one more week without losing anyone or getting a practice or game time wrong. (1)

The play is this week, so only one more week of crazy. (2)

Most of the week was warm and dry, ending in complete gorgeousness on Friday and Saturday. This meant that while we waited for big kids to finish with practice of some kind, the little kids could play on playgrounds. (3)

The red bud trees are in full bloom, turning our side yard into a swath of purple. (4)

Pay no attention to the grass that needs cut. 

My two oldest children are gainfully employed reffing soccer games. It is a great job for teens, as they can do it whenever they have the time, and they can do it for the rest of their lives whenever they need some cash. In one tournament weekend, a ref can earn up to $200. (5)

Star's team had a game on Saturday, but they were missing a few players. They asked Giant to play with them. They played a fantastic game. (6) Giant scored the team's only goal, and Star blocked many, many shots. The most unbelievable was this block of a penalty kick:

Thanks, Kris's dad for taking the photos for us!
My kids have a fantastic high school to attend. The prom was this weekend, and although I don't have kids old enough to go, I worked the after-prom check-in. With every event I attend, I am just more impressed with the faculty and children. (7)

Bryan was out tilling the garden, preparing it for the seeds we'll be planting soon. (8)

Phoenix is more than halfway done with the required hours to get his license. He will be ready by May 22, the first day he is eligible to take the driver's test. (9)

A few people actually read my post yesterday, despite the title "I Won't Be Offended if You Don't Read This". It's about poo, but it's the first funny thing I've written during this entire alphabetical challenge. I'm grateful to everyone who has stuck with me and keeps reading through this long month of many posts.

So, what are you thankful for this week?

Ten Things of Thankful

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

I'll Understand if You Decide to Skip This One

You say "movement", I say bowel.

Even if you're talking about a prayer movement sweeping the nation, my brain goes straight to poo.

I'm guessing it's because when it comes to poo, I have some experience.

With both human and non.

Unfortunately, it is a part of my life.

A sad, smelly part of my life for over 16 years now.

Today, I'm going to help those of you with less experience. Sometimes, a pootastrophy happens, and you just don't know what to do. I'm hear to help.

Below, you will find scenarios I've lived through, followed by steps on how to best deal with them.

In the middle of a long night of baby crying and spitting up, at 4:00am your baby needs a diaper change. You sleepily un-Velcro the tabs, lift the baby's legs, and hear a pop. Aghast, you watch poo fly. All over the wall. All over the diaper genie. All over the floor.

To do, to do... First and foremost. Cry. Just stand there and cry, because honestly, a poop-covered nursery in the middle of the night deserves it. After the cry, dress the baby, go into your bedroom, wake up your husband, tell him that there is baby poop on the wall, and climb right back into that bed while he takes care of it.

With the spring weather, you are all outside enjoying some fresh air. Unfortunately, someone steps in one of the hundred piles of doggy-do-do that was uncovered when the snow melted.

To do, to do...If the mess is on farm shoes, they are probably covered in chicken and pig poo anyway, so don't even worry about it. Playing in the yard will get most of it off. If a child's school shoes are covered in excrement, scold the child for wearing his school shoes outside, then have him get a stick. He can dig the poo out of the grooves as best he can. Then, use the hose to spray the rest off. Be careful to point the shoes and the water in a way to prevent the poo water from coming back and spraying you in the face. Finally, stuff the shoes with newspaper to facilitate drying.

While doing a puzzle on the floor with your child, he suddenly gets a horrified look on his face and mutters, "I poop-tooted. I tried to toot, but poop got in the way".

Keep the laughter in your head, and when you can finally talk without cracking, reassure the child that it's OK. It happens to most people at least once in their lives. Clean him up, double or triple bag and throw away the messed up underwear, and never speak of it again.

Ok, I'm going to have to pull a Clark and end this post right here. It has taken me 24 hours to get this far, and there ins't much time left for me in the day.

Sorry about that.

The only quick advice I can give is to ask the next question when potty training a child.

When driving home in the car, and your child says he had an accident, ask the next question. Don't assume that by "an accident" he means he wet himself. You really, really don't want to end up with a mess like this:

Have a lovely day!

P.S. I've written about potty training before. It doesn't have anything to do with movements.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Opining. Because, Really, This Challenge Is LONG.



Oh my word, I've got nothing.

The only O words I've got come with obvious opinions.

One-on-one time with your children...It's important.


Organization...I love it. I know how to do it. Yet my house doesn't reflect it, because I have 6 people who don't give a rat's patootie about being organized.

Orthodontist...Find a good one, or your children will complain and tell you how horrible the experience was for the rest of your life. I'd write about my horrible experiences with one when I was a kid, but I did that 2 years ago for the A-Z. B is for braces. As of Wednesday, I now have two kids with torturous metal appliances in their mouths, and while they don't like the braces, the orthodontist's office and people are nothing but lovely.

Orbits...If your kids are struggling to understand the solar system, try acting it out. I still remember doing this when I was in 4th grade. Have one person be the sun, one the moon, one Earth. Have them rotate and revolve accordingly, with the Earth spinning and revolving, and the moon always facing the Earth. Discuss positions as the "year" goes on.

Origami...I have always been fascinated with origami, mostly because I know how difficult it is. We made origami swans in 5th grade art class when I was a kid. I've tried doing more, but getting that paper folded perfectly is apparently beyond my capabilities and attention span. I've given the kids origami books and paper, and Buttercup was able to make some flowers. Just last week, Cuckoo found the origami book, and guess what he asked me to make. OK, don't guess. I had to make that exact same bird I made in 5th grade. Let me just say, inside reverse folds have not gotten easier with age.

Organic...We don't buy it, but we grow it. Not sure I get the organic processed food. Really, I can't imagine that organic boxed mac and cheese is any better for you than regular boxed mac and cheese. But I have done zero research, so what do I know? Nothing. I know nothing, so it really shouldn't even be in an advice post. Oh, unless you are talking organic chemistry. Loved that class in school.

Ostrich...Not a fan, but it does rank above a creepy emu. I am a fan, though, of Mike Rowe and the episode about an ostrich farm. Mike trying to catch an ostrich is a lot like me trying to catch a chicken.

Outdoors...send the children there as much as possible, and join them often.

Outfits...From newborn-1, take advantage of your ability to dress your child in adorable outfits. From 1-the rest of the child's life, when he or she has an opinion on the matter (sometimes very strong opinions), just let it go. As long as the child is dressed modestly and appropriately (no sweats to Mass), let. it. go.

Overwhelmed...We all feel it now and again. Sometimes we just need to get through that busy week/month. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed all the time, and something needs to change. It may not be a big change, but a change is necessary. No one can be happy, productive, or pleasant when constantly overwhelmed. Perhaps it's as simple as making sure to get a shower before your spouse leaves for work. It may be as drastic as a job change. Regardless, don't live constantly overwhelmed.

Oxymoron...I just like the word.

Onomatopeia...Even better word. Learned it in a high school English class. BOOM!

Oxygen...Very necessary when working with children. In all cases of frustration, stopping to take a deep breath is very helpful. Breathe, people. BREATHE!

Okie doke.

That was probably the most unhelpful post I've ever written.

Ah well. At least Mike is in it to give you a chuckle.

Tomorrow will be better.


Have a lovely day!

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Young kids are very good at wielding that two-letter word weapon whenever they aren't in the mood to do something. There's no wishy washy in it. There's no guilt in using it. If they don't want to do something or if they don't want something, that no is made known quite clearly.

While that no from a two year old can cause us some frustration, we parents can learn from those very same children's use of the word.

I am of the mind that we need to serve others. We need to volunteer and help people who need help.

When the kids were little, before soccer and school activities took over, we had a whole lot of down time. Bryan and I were finally meeting people at church and getting more involved with activities there. I would see shout outs for needs in Sunday's bulletin, and I'd happily respond with a, "Sure! I can do that!" As we got to know more people, people started personally asking us to do certain things. "Can you take the photos for the anniversary directory?" Sure!

I had plenty of time to fill, I liked having the interaction, and I was helping people, just like I should. Plus, I had a small photography business, mainly because people had asked me to take photos of their kids. (When you have a lawyer for a husband, things have to be done "properly".) I was happy to be doing it.

Until it got to the point where I was a stressed-out mama, dragging my kids hither and yon, putting layettes together, taking photos, making meals, counseling engaged couples, teaching VBC, and who knows how many other things. And to top it off, the photography business was getting bigger and requiring more time.

I would snap at the kids, because I HAD to get something done. I would tell my kids to give me 5 minutes to do this one thing and then I'd play, then 30 minutes later get annoyed when they reminded me that I never stopped to play. Guilt took hold, and it made me realize one very important thing.

Every time I said yes to a photography client or someone at church or school, I was saying no to my kids.

I am a stay-at-home mom for a reason. That reason is not so I can be at everyone's beck and call, but so I can be present with my kids and be the best mom I can be.

I had to learn from my young kids that it is OK to say no. With no hesitation or guilt.

I took my name off of the email list for making dinners.

I got off the Birthline volunteer list that required me to go downtown to put layettes together.

I closed the photography business.

I took time off of everything to regroup and decide what I really wanted to do and what was actually feasible.

Were other people happy when they called and asked me to do something, and I replied with a resounding, "No"?


Was it the end of the world for any of us?


I still volunteer, but I am much choosier about what I agree to do.

As time goes on, and kids go to school and leave the house, there will be plenty of time to volunteer more and do other things that I want to do.

For now, I'm a mom. With kids who need direction, help, and guidance. And fun. There has to be fun. I have to say no to others, so I can say yes to them.

So, if you find yourself over-committed and frustrated, learn a lesson from a two year old.

Say no.

But take heed, that no will be received much better if you are not rolling around on the floor screaming it over and over again.

How are you at telling people no? Is it something you had to learn the hard way? Tell me all about it.

Have a lovely day!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Did I Get Any Mail?

Expect this question a lot if you follow today's suggestion.

At least one of my kids will ask daily.

We have purchased magazine subscriptions for each of our kids.

They love it.

For one, it is a reason to get mail. Who doesn't like getting mail (that isn't a bill)?

And secondly, it's something fun to read and look at. Magazines always have great photos to go with their information.

If a subscription isn't in the budget, it is a great gift to suggest when a grandparent or other relative asks you what to buy your sweet darlings for Christmas or a birthday.

We've gotten many different ones over the years, but the favorites have been:


Sports Illustrated Kids

National Geographic Kids

chickeaDEE (Printed by the same publisher of Owl and Chirp, two other favorite magazines.)

And of course, Highlights (or the version for younger kids, High Fives).

Have your children ever gotten magazine subscriptions? What was their favorites?

Have a lovely day!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Lists of Literature

Literature might be a strong word for some of these.

I'm OK with that.

As far as I'm concerned, as long as the kids are reading appropriate content, I don't care what they read as long as they are reading. They'll get to better quality once they get better at reading.

I decided to go straight to the kids.

"Favorite books you've ever read. Go."

Picture Books

Purple, Green, and Yellow by Robert Munsch (and all other 20+ books he's written)

A Is for Salad by Mike Lester

Verdi by Janell Cannon

Bear Snores On (and all the other bear books) by Karma Wilson

Froggy series by Jonathon London

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (and all other pigeon books)

The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak

Moosetache (series) by Margie Palatini

Elmer by David Mckee

Early (ish) Chapter Books

Ready, Freddy series by Abby Klein

Junie B Jones series by Barbara Park

Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner

A-Z Mysteries (No relation to A-Z Challenge, for which this post was written) by Ron Roy

Lexi's Tale by Johanna Hurwitz

The World According to Humphrey (and series) by Betty G. Birney

The BFG by Roald Dahl (and all other books by him)

Sports books by Matt Christopher

Sports books by Tim Green

Big Nate series by Lincoln Pierce

Wayside School series by Louis Sachar

Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney

Hardy Boys series by Franklin Dixon

Not So Early Chapter Books

Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz

I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President by Josh Lieb

Chicken Soup for a Kids' Soul

The Last Newspaper Boy in America by Sue Corbett

A Dog's Life: Autobiography of a Stray by Ann Martin

Great Illustrated Classics series (Great way for kids to be introduced to books before they are able to read the full versions (Giant said his favorite of the bunch was Count of Monte Cristo)

The Candymakers by Wendy Mass *** even Star gave this a high recommendation, which is rare, 'cause he's a sulky teen who doesn't like much of anything. :)

Chasing Lincoln's Killer by James Swanson

The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill

Fish by Gregory Mone

Baseball Card Adventure Series by Dan Gutman

The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, and Treachery by Steve Scheinkin

Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull

Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan

Brotherband Chronicles series by John Flanagan (read after Ranger's Apprentice)

Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins

Picks Specifically Made by Buttercup, 'Cause She's the Only Girl (She likes many of the books above, but she's the only one that likes these.)

Anne of Green Gables (and rest of series) by L.M. Montgomery

Chasing Redbird by Sharon Creech

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

When I asked her why only three recommendations, she replied, "I've read lots of good books, but these are the ones I've read over and over and over again."

So, have your kids read any of these? What would they add to the list?

Have a lovely day!

Monday, April 13, 2015


In Bermuda on Good Friday the entire island shuts down, and everyone heads to the beaches to fly kites. It's one of the prettiest and most calm events I've ever been to.

Because I didn't fly a kite.

Flying a kite is not one of my favorite things to do. Flying a kite with a little kid is even worse as far as I'm concerned. Yes, I enjoy the giggles and awe from a child who sees a kite up in the air for the first time, but the effort it takes to help that child get a kite in the air is just not the kind of effort I want to expend.

Does that mean my kids never get to fly kites??


Shopping at Meijer for Easter basket fillers a couple of years ago, I found a MicroKite.

Best. Kite. Ever.

It's only a few inches wide and a few inches tall, but it has what seems like a 10-ft. tail.

And, AND it only cost $2.

(It can be found on Amazon, but Walmart and Meijer are cheaper.)

Best part? With a bit of wind, a kid can get it flying in no time. No running necessary, which is good, since running with a kite through our yard would mean a sprained ankle or dog poo covered shoes.

I bought some for my nieces and nephews for Easter this year, plus an extra one for Cuckoo. He's been asking to fly a kite every single time a good, stiff breeze blows through.

There is a nice, long string, so the kite can get up pretty high.

I assume it's the tail that gets it to dive and weave and really make the kids giggle.

What do you think about flying kites? Any good kite-flying memories?

Have a lovely day!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Thankfully, No Little Monkeys Are Jumping on the Bed, TToT week #95

Back in March, I announced that I was doing this here A-Z Challenge, and I asked people to suggest problems for which they could use some help, especially problems that start with the letter J. My faithful friends and readers came up with:

A child puts a jelly bean up his nose.

1. I am thankful that I never had a child get a jelly bean or anything else stuck in his nose. However, I will always remember an episode of "Everybody Loves Raymond" in which there was a question as to how to get a stuck cocoa puff out of a child's nose. Robert's answer was the correct one: Crunch and blow. Crunch the cereal by squeezing his nose, then blow it out. Now, jelly beans don't crunch so... well... try some tweezers? Or make the kid drink some milk then tickle him to get the milk to come out his nose and flush that piece of candy out?

Kids jumping on the bed.

2. I am thankful that my kids do not jump on the bed (anymore). When each child moved out of his crib, he moved to a twin mattress on the floor. No box springs. No bed frame. We figured a kid new to a bed might fall out more often than normal, so we kept the height of the bed nice and low. And let him jump on it to his heart's content. (Mattresses on hard floors do not bounce much, thus the kid didn't bounce much.) We left the bed like this for at least a year, well after the child got bored with bouncing on a non-bouncy bed. By the time the bed frame came along, he had gotten it out of his system, I guess. They never went back to it.

I have some non-J thankfuls from this week, too, since I've really fudged my lists the last few weeks.

3. I am thankful that we were able to go to my favorite Mass of the year. (Easter Vigil) Most people have never been to the Easter Vigil, because they are worried about how long it is and how late it starts. Yes, it is longer than a normal Mass, but it is just plain beautiful. There are so many things that happen that don't happen at a normal Mass. Yes, it starts after the little kids' bedtime, but, in fact, Cuckoo behaves better during the 2 to two and a half hour service than he does during a normal one hour Sunday Mass. If you've never been, I highly recommend you try it at least once.

4. I am thankful that Lent is over and we can go back to having our Friday School Is Over for the Week celebratory half-priced milk shakes.

5. I am thankful for awesome friends who think of us when they have extra tickets. Bryan and Giant were able to go to the Duke vs. Wisconsin game on Monday. I'm pretty sure Giant would rank it as one of the best nights of his life. The boy loves, loves, loves March Madness (He actually debated going on vacation because it would mean missing so many games.), so this was like a dream come true, except he never would have dreamed he'd be sitting in the seats he was in. (16th row!)

6. I am thankful for people willing to help a girl (who can't be at 4 places at the same time) out. Bryan was out of town most of this week, which just happens to be when all sports went into full swing. Games and practices were all going on at the same time all over town, and some families were nice enough to drive my kids where they needed (or I needed them) to be.

7. I am thankful that rain and storms caused the cancellation of several games and practices this week. Sure, our schedules changed by the second, and we had to be prepared for any and all eventualities, but we survived and I didn't lose track of a single kid.

8. I am thankful that after three weeks off, I finally had the time one morning to go to the gym again. Being sore feels really good.

9. I am thankful that I managed to get some much-needed cleaning done. Granted, some of it got done because I had Cuckoo skip preschool on Thursday, but it got done.

10. I am thankful that (thus far) I have been able to keep up with the writing of posts for the A-Z Challenge, and so far they seem to be well-received. Can't say I've kept up on reading new ones from the gigantic list, but I'll get to that this weekend.

So, what has happened this week that made you smile? Got any advice for people who have kids with jelly beans up their noses? Speak up!

And have a lovely day!

Ten Things of Thankful

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Insouciant Injections

Tell me the truth...did you click over just so you could find out what insouciant meant? (I found the word when I searched for an "i" word synonymous with calm.)

Yes. Calm. It is possible for a child to get four injections (aka shots) in one doctor visit without screaming, crying, and forcefully holding him down. And the kid doesn't have to cry, either.

Keep in mind I said possible. I will not guarantee this to work for everyone, but it worked for all 6 of my kids. And really, it can't hurt to try. The worst that can happen is the screaming, crying, and holding down that you've heard about.

How we do kindergarten shots:

1. I tell them before we leave for the appointment in a very emotionless, matter-of-fact way. They always want to know if it will hurt, and I always tell the truth. It will hurt for just a little bit, but it hurts way less than stubbing a toe or scraping a knee. I do not offer ice cream or any other sort of reward for shots. To me, that is just basically telling the child that this is a REALLY REALLY BIG DEAL that they will barely live through and must get a treat if they survive. A shot is just a chore everyone has to do, just like feeding chickens. No one gets rewarded for that, either.

2. If a child begins to get anxious, I make them laugh by telling him that I had to get two horribly awful, painful shots IN MY BOTTOM in order for him to be born. (O- blood type in the house!)

3. I take the best distraction tool in my gigantic distraction tool box. I actually save it for this very purpose. The children are not allowed to touch it before the day of their kindergarten shots.

I won't even make you guess what it is...

A photo album full of baby and toddler pictures of the patient.

I know it's not true for all kids, but my kids LOVE to hear stories from when they were little. Getting to go through an entire photo album devoted to him is a dream come true. I tell him if he would like a distraction during the shots, I'll be happy to tell him all about the photos. He, of course, wants the distraction.

So, while the nurse gets the needles ready, we look at photos. The nurse cleans the patient's arm while we look at photos. The nurse sticks a big needle in the patient's arm, and the kid winces, but continues to look at the photos and listen to the stories.

For all four shots.

Kids take cues from us. If we make something a big deal, it is a big deal. If we are nonchalant, there is a much better chance that the child will remain calm.

So, if you have a child getting ready for some injections, consider this yet another reason to sit down and get those blasted photos off of your computer and onto paper.

This post was written for the A-Z Challenge, also known as the Good gravy, is this thing even half way over yet?? challenge.

So, how did your kids take their shots? What did you do to get through them?

Have a lovely day!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Homework. A Doozy of an H Word.

When Buttercup was in 7th grade, we had this conversation:

Me: I checked your grades and it says you are missing a math assignment.

B: I know. I asked him which problems I was supposed to do, and he hasn't told me yet.

Me: Um, he did his job 3 weeks ago when he assigned the homework. He told you then which problems to do. You chose not to write it down or do them, so it's now on you. Do the entire page.

B: But there are 40 problems!

Me: Well, I guess you'll get plenty of practice for the test then, won't you?

Soon after that, I had a conference with the math teacher, and this assignment came up. I told him what I told her. He was astounded and replied, "I really wish more parents took that stand. I get so many emails from parents asking which problems their children need to do."

In 7th grade.

I have seen it. As a teacher and as a parent, I have seen so many parents taking charge of their children's work. I know they do it thinking they are helping their kids. I know they do it out of love for their kids and their desire for them to succeed. Unfortunately, while it may help a child get a certain grade in that class, it isn't helping the child to prepare to be successful later on in life.

From the beginning, kids should own their homework. It is not my job to stand over them while they do it, making sure they do every problem correctly. It is my job to give them tools in order for them to be successful and to assist them when they come across a problem or assignment they just can't figure out themselves. Some kids need this more than others.

I have three kids who have never had to be reminded to do homework. It's a rare day that they ask me for help. I have no idea what they are doing on any given day.

I have a first grader who would lose his head if it wasn't attached. Oftentimes, he forgets instructions 5 seconds after they are given. I have a teenager who was flunking classes, all because homework wasn't getting done. These two kids need help.

Some ways to help without taking over:

Have a routine. As much as possible, have the same order of events each day. We may not get home after school at the same time every day, but once we are home, we follow the same schedule of do chores, eat snack, do homework. Things aren't forgotten as easily when it's the same every day.

Have a place to do homework and the supplies he needs to do it. Some kids need quiet and separation from the family noise. Other kids like to be in the middle of the activity and can get things done in the midst of it. Figure out how a child does best and figure out a way to give it to him. We have desks situated around the house, and kids that need them use them. Make sure pencils (and a pencil sharpener) and paper are available so he can actually do the assignments.

Give the child a planner and check to make sure he's using it. Both of the schools our kids attend give planners to everyone. If yours doesn't, buy one. I know a lot of schools have homework online now, but the child has more ownership if he writes things down as they are assigned. He (not you) can check the website to make sure he got everything.

When a child says he's done, compare his planner to the assignments he did. It is amazing the difference in attitude a child can have when he knows he has to prove he's done his homework. Simply asking him if he finished isn't enough. (Even good kids lie.) I don't go through to make sure he did the homework correctly, but I do take a glance to make sure he finished all of the problems. This takes all of 45 seconds.

Teach your child how to study. When the kids are little, quizzing your child on his spelling words is normal and helpful. As the child gets older, though, studying needs to be done more on his own. Some kids need to be taught how to study. Making flashcards throughout the chapter, outlining, answering questions at the end of the chapter, taking online practice tests...all can be done without a parent once he knows how. In high school, Phoenix found that doing homework or studying with someone in his class was very beneficial. I agree. Talking through difficult questions oftentimes helps organize thoughts.

We learned one lesson the hard way. Constantly fighting and arguing about homework is nothing but destructive. The conversation that made this very clear for me was another one I had with Buttercup. Phoenix had been on a Boy Scout camping weekend, and she said to me, "I miss Phoenix, but I really don't miss the arguing. It is so much more peaceful when he's not here."

If your child is struggling with homework, find out why. Is the material too hard? Perhaps he's in the wrong class. Is he just too tired? Perhaps he's involved in too many activities. Is he having trouble sitting still? Perhaps he needs a break before or in the middle of homework time. (Give him a timer, so when he takes a break he doesn't forget to go back to the homework!) Does he just want some attention? Play a game or read a book with him before homework time.

But while you are figuring it out, don't turn your house into a war zone, where every night involves a fight over homework. Let it go. After that conversation with Buttercup, we gave up the fighting. Our kids are with us such a short time, and we don't want them to look back on it and remember our home as a place of turmoil.

If you are having trouble with your child regarding school work, let me know. I'll be happy to pray for you.

Have a lovely day!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Using Gift-Giving to Teach Empathy

A big part of parenting is getting children to realize the entire world does not think like them, feel like them, or revolve around them. It is imperative to teach children to think of others and to be able to put themselves in someone else's shoes. Gift-giving has been very helpful in teaching this concept to my kids.

In this busy world we live in, giving gift cards has become the norm. While giving gift cards is easy and usually well-received, it completely takes away the chance for a child to learn. He misses out on using what he knows of the other person to make a good gift choice. He's not getting the chance to make the receiver feel special. What are the best gifts you've received? I'm going to bet they weren't gift cards.

I have discovered that being a good gift-giver is a learned skill. ((And some people never learn it.) So we have to teach our kids how to do that, too.

Kids + Christmas + a dollar store = a marvelous annual tool in the instruction of empathy and good gift-giving. 

The dollar store (NOT Dollar General. Things cost more than a dollar there.) is the perfect place to let kids loose to choose presents. Since everything in the store costs the same, it doesn't have to become a budgeting lesson, with the child having to worry about a set amount to spend. It is all about being creative and finding something the gift receiver will like. And since it's only a dollar per gift, kids can get plenty of practice, buying gifts for all siblings and both parents. It only costs $42 for all 6 of our kids to shop. Plus, the store isn't huge, so the kids don't get too overwhelmed with choices.

If you ever decide to do this, be prepared before walking into the store. Make sure your child(ren) hear more than once that this will be a shopping trip for them to buy things for other people. No one will be buying a gift for himself. Make a list of people for whom gifts will be purchased, emphasizing the fact that the child's own name is not on that list. If you have two (or more) small children, it helps to have another adult with you.

When arriving at the store, I suggest you start looking for a gift for an adult, far away from the toy aisles. Get the child in the frame of mind of shopping for someone else without the temptation of seeing all of the things he himself would like.

Questions to be asking while at the store...

What do you think Dad would like?

Why? How would he use it?

What kinds of things does Mom like to do? Can you find a gift that has something to do with that?

Is there something Sister needs? Have you heard her say she could use something?

If a child is having difficulty answering the questions, be more specific. Ask something like, "Grandma likes to bake. Can you find something she could use in the kitchen?"

If a child picks up something that is more for himself than for the receiver, ask leading questions.

Why would Brother like that? Does it seem like it would be more for someone your age instead of his? How about we look at ______, since he likes to ______".

For the kids, half the fun is sneaking around the store, making sure their siblings and parents don't see what they are buying. Having two adults is very handy for this. When it's time to buy a gift for you, hand the little one off to the other adult.

You may be surprised at how well your child does. I am always amazed at how observant the kids are and their ability to find something the receiver would actually like and use.

The best indicator I have of the success of these shopping trips?

On Christmas morning each and every year, the kids choose to open the dollar store gifts from each other before they open the gifts from us or from Santa.

What sorts of things do you do/have you done to encourage kids to put themselves in other people's shoes?

This post was written as part of the A-Z Challenge, where participants write every day of April, with the posts corresponding with the letter of the day.

Have a lovely day!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Feeding Children on the Go

If someone were to ask me what the best purchase I have ever made in my life has been, without hesitation I would say our Tupperware divided lunch boxes.

I bought them for $10 each when I was pregnant with Star.

I would have paid way, way more.

Ours are something like this.

Unfortunately, Tupperware doesn't make them anymore.

I apologize for Tupperware's inability to see the goldmine they had.

In the past 14 years, we have used them hundreds upon hundreds of times.

Here's why:

1. Money is saved. There are no baggies, as everything just gets put into the boxes. And think of the money I haven't spent on eating out!

2. Everyone eats healthier meals.

2. The boxes can be packed depending on each child's taste.

3. When it's time to eat, there isn't a bunch of time-wasting divvying up of food. Just pass out the boxes.

4. There is no concern about food being placed on dirty tables.

5. When eating outside, while a child is eating his sandwich, the lid can be closed so as not to attract flies and bees.

6. When traveling, the boxes are easily held in the kids' laps, enabling them to eat while the car is in motion.

7. The words "HE ATE THE LAST ONE AND I DIDN'T GET ANY!" or "HE GOT MORE THAN ME!" or "I WANTED THE GREEN BOX!!" are never screeched, since the food is dished out beforehand into identical boxes.

Road trip with Phoenix, Buttercup, and Star.

But what to put in those boxes??

Sandwiches, of course, are the easiest to pack. That is the usual for us. However, I've packed salads and wraps in there, too. Really, anything your kid likes to eat. (And if your kids are anything like mine, they will want to eat the same blasted thing every single day. I usually let them.)

I have packed breakfast foods in there, too. In fact, 180 school days in a row, my kids ate breakfast in the car. Scrambled eggs, cereal, bagels, french toast with's all good.

No joke. If you have little kids and you like to picnic or need to eat on the go a lot, get these.

Well, something similar to these, seeing as how Tupperware is a doofus.

Have a lovely day!

This post is part of the A-Z Challenge, whose motto should be, "Stressing bloggers out while keeping them asking for more since 2010".

Monday, April 6, 2015

Electronics and My Enmity* for Them

Some people may feel that I'm a bit extreme.

I will own it. I'm OK with being extreme in this case, because really, I don't see a downside to being extreme.

I can't stand to see my kids playing video games.

I hate it.

I'm not a big fan of them watching TV either.

I don't hate it, but I don't like it.

Because of this, my kids' screen time is severely limited.


As in, the little kids don't see a screen on school days. On each non-school day, they each get 30 minutes. That's it.

The big kids don't get to touch their PS4 Monday-Thursday, and they only watch TV with us after the little kids go to bed. Between homework and sports, it doesn't happen every day, and it's never for more than an hour. On Friday-Sunday, they each get to play approximately 30 minutes per day. If we're home.

The big kids do have iPods, but they only get to charge them on Sundays. When the charge runs out, they are done for the week. (The iPods are so old, they don't even hold 2 hours of charge.) With their iPods they can use Instagram and play Clash of Clans or whatever game they are currently playing.

Even though we're the ones who bought them, and we bought them 5 years ago, I still cringe every time I see them playing.

Nothing good comes from video games. The time spent on them can be better used exploring in the yard, coloring, bouncing a ball, watching a caterpillar crawl across the porch, playing a board game, dancing to the music in their own heads, reading, jumping in puddles, painting, building something with Legos, and a million other things. Things that improve motor skills, teach patience, build self-esteem, teach math concepts, encourage curiosity, and perfect social skills.

I know parents who say that playing a video game taught their 3 year olds their ABCs or watching Dora taught their kids to speak some Spanish.

I say, "Big deal!" A 3 year old may learn to identify letters from playing a video game, but it makes absolutely no difference to that child's future reading or learning skills. He would learn them anyway at an appropriate time. (From a human person, in context, I would like to add.) But he will not be able to get back the time he could have been riding a bike or creating with Play-doh. Activities that will actually help a child's brain prepare for learning in school.

You can probably guess that I don't let the kids have electronics at restaurants or waiting rooms or anywhere else in public. They need to learn how to interact with strangers, including thanking a waitress when she refills their drinks. While in a waiting room, if their noses were buried in a video game, they wouldn't see the elderly woman who doesn't have a seat, which leads to them not getting up to offer their seats. We can't have that.

"But what about when you or a child is sick?" you ask.

Yeah, the TV goes on immediately. As far as I'm concerned, screens are a tool. There needs to be a purpose for using them. If the TV is on as background noise all the time, it won't be very helpful to me when I am sick and need that TV to draw their attention and keep them from destroying the house and themselves while I suffer on the couch. Luckily, it's a rare day that I get sick.

You can also probably guess that my kids will not be getting iPhones from us. Ever. But that's a post all unto itself.

I wrote 5 different versions of this post. I'm aware that there aren't many tips in it, as my theme was supposed to be. I tried. It just wasn't working. I decided that with this post, I was just going to put my thoughts out here and give people something to think about. If you are a person who would like to cut their kids' screen time down and don't know exactly how, I'll be happy to chat with you. Send me an email or a message on FB or comment here. 

So, what are your thoughts on electronics? How much do you let your kids use them?

Have a lovely day!

*A big word I hope I used properly. It's a hard one to pronounce, so I never use it.'s E day.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Destination: Unknown (and Some Discoveries Revealed), TToT #94

This post, as all posts in April will be, is part of the A-Z Challenge.

As far as I'm concerned, no-plans, back-road, road trip vacations are fantastic. The opportunities to see odd and rare and fun and beautiful sites are plentiful. And you can do it all without getting stuck in a traffic jam. If something on the side of the road catches your eye, you can stop, because you don't have anywhere you have to be.

If you are thinking of taking a trip like this, keep these things in mind:

1. First and foremost, travel in the off-season in off-areas.

For the most part, people from the north (east of the Mississippi) make a beeline to Florida for spring break. Do not do a no-plans type of vacation in Florida over spring break. Go to places that are almost into their busy season. You can still get nice weather, but you will avoid the crowds if you end up going to touristy-type places. Most importantly, you will be able to find a hotel when you decide to stop.

2. Let everyone have a say in which activities you do and not do, but adults get final say.

Most of my children are not fans of history tours through old mansions, so we have agreed to skip these on our spring break trips. Most of my kids wanted to try stand-up paddle boarding, but I made the executive decision that the water was way too cold.

3. Make sure everyone knows the most important rule of the road trip: Even if an activity isn't one of your choosing, you will not pout. You will find a way to have fun doing the activity.

'Cause this is vacation, and you are going to have fun whether you like it or not!

It works best if you say this with a smile on your face and sarcasm in your voice. :)

4. Bring a lot of (healthy) food.

Yes, it saves some money you would normally spend on all those lunches, but it also really, really helps when you are on some teeny, tiny little road with no restaurant and your 6 kids are about to eat each others' arms off. And make it healthy, because it's a lot harder to find healthy in restaurants. We pack applesauce, fruit cups of mandarin oranges, pineapple, or peaches, raisins, peanuts, sunflower seeds, cheese sticks, apple slices, clementines, grapes, carrots, and hard boiled eggs. We also have pseudo-healthy granola bars (of various brands and flavors), fruit leather, pretzels with peanut butter to dip, and cracker snack packs.

5. Pack properly.

When taking this sort of trip, you will sleep someplace different almost every single night. Dragging the entire contents of the van into a motel each night, especially after a long day of fun, is just plain miserable. Help yourself out. Pack smart.

I packed 10 bags for this trip.

Inside one gigantic bag were 7 smaller bags, each containing all of one person's socks, underwear, pajamas, and bathing suit. A second bag held toiletries, shampoo, Band-aids, and meds. These two bags came in every night.

Bag 3: one pair of shorts and one t-shirt for each person
Bag 4: one pair of long pants and one long-sleeved shirt for each person
Bag 5: one pair of long pants and one short-sleeved shirt for each person
Bag 6: one pair of shorts and one t-shirt for each person

Etc. Etc.

This system has two benefits. First, only one of these bags needs to be brought in, and you choose it depending on the next days' weather. Secondly, once everyone is dressed in the morning, the dirty clothes from the day before can be put it the now-empty bag. There is absolutely no mixing of the stinky and the fresh.

OK, now that you know how to travel, I'll let you in on some of the places we found last week.

Blanche Manor in Copper Hill, Tennessee

This place is wonderful. The staff at the horse barn was kind, fun, helpful, and patient. The trails were interesting (We were able to trot and go through a stream, as well as up and down some serious inclines.) and the view was pretty.

This is also where we managed to stay in a yurt. (Well, with 8 of us, we needed both of their yurts.) The rooms and bathrooms were clean, the heaters kept us warm when the temps dipped down overnight, there is a hot tub on the deck, where you can see the sun rise, and there are no TVs or WiFi to distract the kids.

We loved it. However, we did make the observation that if other people were renting the bunk house nearby, or if we only had one yurt and another family had the other, it wouldn't have been quite as nice. Having the whole mountaintop to ourselves made the experience that much better.

The boys' horses started nipping at each other while we stopped for a photo. Ages 7 and up can ride the horses. There are ponies (that are taken in more than just a circle) for the younger kids.

The view from the yurt.

Wits and Wagers, one of the best games for parties or big families.

Fields of the Wood, middle of nowhere Tennessee, (30 minutes from Ducktown, which is a small town with a fascinating history and a sandwich/pizza place called Copper Station that has delicious food)

This is a park run by the church across the street.

That would be the 10 Commandments on that there far hill. 

from above the 10 Commandments, from left to right are the prayer walk, the gift shop/bathrooms, baptismal pool, replica of Jesus's tomb, and Golgotha (where the kids were standing in the other photo)
We did the prayer walk, and when we reached the top I asked the kids if they noticed anything. They all gave me a look like they were trying to come up with the right way to say what they were thinking. I helped them out. "It's not exactly Catholic is it?" They breathed a sigh and agreed. We then had a small chat about how it was OK. We can still learn things and appreciate what is offered. We Christians all agree that the 10 Commandments are rules to live by, and that Jesus did die and rise for us.

Route 64, which runs across the bottom of Tennessee

It is one of the most beautiful drives I've ever taken. I was actually perturbed that I was the one driving, because I couldn't look around much. (The road is really, really curvy.) I just kept hearing people say, "Oh, look at that!"

We just happened across this park while driving along Rte. 64. We spent over an hour in the river hopping from rock to rock. That's my mom on the bridge, which leads to some hiking trails. The kids were a bit bummed that the alarms didn't go off to alert people in the river to get the heck out, as the dam was being opened and would be flowing through this area shortly.

Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga, Tennessee

When driving into Chattanooga, signs advertising for Ruby Falls and Lookout Mountain are everywhere. The admission for these two places was ridiculously high, and the reviews had lots of people saying it wasn't worth it. One lone reviewer said to keep driving past Ruby Falls and head to Point Park. It is only $3 and you get the same, if not better, view. We would have to agree with that guy.

Plus, besides the view, there weren't gobs of workers there to herd us from place to place. We were free to roam. Within reason.

To top it off, there was a hiking trail. The kids decided they wanted to take Craven's Trail and hike halfway down the mountain.

The village that time forgot, middle of nowhere, Tennessee

We stopped at this little village's gas station, (Another tip for back roads vacations: Fill up the tank whenever you get the chance!) and it took me a minute to open the door to get out of the van. When I finally did, I saw that a guy was there, and he was taking my gas cap off. I was baffled. I asked, "Are you going to pump my gas?" "Yes," he replied.

I closed the door and looked at my mom. "There's a guy out there who said he would pump it for me. Do you think he works here?"

Another car pulled up and the elderly gentleman sauntered over and started pumping that guy's gas, too.

After we paid and were pulling out of the lot, we saw the sign:

That's the guy!
Seriously, when was the last time you saw a full service gas station?!!?!? I think I was 16.

Stone Mountain, Atlanta, Georgia

We were originally in Atlanta to go to Six Flags, which is a giant amusement park with lots of big roller coasters. Unfortunately, it is only open on weekends, and that weekend was rainy and cold. We found something else to do.

There is a place called Stars and Strikes, which is one of those bowling alley/arcade games/laser tag places. On the day we were there, the specials were 99 cent bowling in the morning, and $1.99 laser tag in the evening. So, we bowled in the morning...

went to Stone Mountain in the afternoon...

(where I discovered that Stone Mountain Park has a whole lot more than the touristy mountain and little "village". There's a whole, beautiful park!)

I'm sure it's beautiful when it isn't 55 degrees and raining.
and played laser tag in the evening.

I would have taken a photo for you, but I was way too busy trying not to be shot by lots and lots of kids, some of whom weren't even mine.

All for WAY less than Six Flags would have cost. :)

Escape Experience in Chattanooga, Tennessee

This was one of the best things we did last week. Phoenix would say it was THE best. Basically, up to 10 people (it was us and a couple we had never met) are handcuffed together and locked in a "cell" (that had no bars but a steel door). The team is given 60 minutes to use the clues in the room to get themselves out. 58% of teams do NOT make it out.


It was pricey, but I would do it again if given the choice.

As you can see by the sign and our smiling faces, we made it out with almost 17 minutes to spare.
And I am thankful for all of it.

Have a lovely day!

Ten Things of Thankful

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Friday, April 3, 2015

With This Many Kids, Ya Gotta Get Creative When You Clean

We spend a lot of time running hither and yon in the van. Since we live 20 minutes from school (30 from the high school) it isn't always feasible to run home before heading to an activity.

This means lots and lots and lots of junk ends up in my van.

Water bottles.




Food containers.




Oh, the list goes on and on.

The kids' hands are always full when they leave the van, but unfortunately, they don't have 10 hands each to actually be able to get everything in one trip.

And two trips are considered cruel and unusual, especially in the winter.

(We have no garage, you see.)

When I can no longer open the side door without something falling on my foot, it means a cleaning-out is necessary. Yet the van is huge, and climbing around to gather everything is a pain. Literally.

My solution?

It came from my experiences of coming to a light that turns yellow at just the wrong time. Speed through or slam on the brakes.

(12-passenger vans don't stop quickly, you see.)

It's the slamming of the brakes part that is helpful.

On cleaning out the van day, I make a point of picking up speed as I make my way up the driveway.

At the end, I make a nice, solid slam of the brakes.

All of the flotsam and jetsam in the van comes flying to the front.

I simply need to grab a bag and pick it up.

No climbing over, under, and on the seats is necessary.

While I really, truly do this to clean out my van, I understand that this might not be all that helpful for most of you. For you, there are posts that give seriously helpful cleaning tips.

Cleaning with vinegar

and other eco-freindly ways to clean

Lay it on me. What are your favorite cleaning tips?

Have a lovely day!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Bikes! (and Making Bike Rides Easier for You)

When I was a kid, I wasn't all that concerned with learning to ride a bike without training wheels. Our house was surrounded by evil dogs in the front (which prevented me from playing in our driveway), two families that our family hung out with in the back, and a neighborhood park with mature trees, a fabulous sledding hill, and a playground on the side. There wasn't really a need for me to ride a bike. There was no place to go.

One day, my sister (younger than me by a year and a half) came home from spending the night at a friend's house. She asked to have the training wheels taken off of her bike. I still clearly remember standing on the sidewalk as she jumped on the bike and rode down the sidewalk.

She had the nerve to learn to ride a bike at her friend's house while I sat at home completely unaware.

I, being a ridiculously competitive person, couldn't stand for my younger sister to be able to do something as momentous a thing as ride a bike while I stood on the sidewalk watching. As soon as she stopped, I grabbed the bike and took my turn.

It wasn't pretty.

It wasn't straight.

But I rode that bike without falling on my face.

Unfortunately, my kids didn't learn how to ride their bikes at a friend's house nor on their own to prove their worthiness. I had to teach them. 

Recently, we had Turken out for the first time without training wheels. I basically do what these people say to do.

Start by getting the feeling of trying to balance

Practice balancing while coasting downhill

Start trying to pedal while coasting downhill. This is the step that includes some falling.

Impatient parent scraps the plan and goes with helping child to balance/choke the child.

Go back to original plan.

He managed to ride all the way down the hill by himself several times.

And moved on to trying on flat ground. He's almost got it!

What I want to help you with, though, is how to avoid becoming a crazy person when you go for a walk and let your new bike rider ride his bike.

You know, the crazy person who runs behind the bike rider screaming, "SLOW DOWN!" and "WAIT FOR ME!" and "FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, STOOOOOOOP!"

The rules are simple.

1. I give the kids a landmark where they must stop. Examples are the second mailbox, the purple flowers, or the driveway with the red car.

2. They ride ahead as fast as they want to go.

3. They reach the landmark and stop.

4. They wait for me to get to the landmark or ride back to me.

5. When I get to the landmark, I give them another one.

6. Repeat steps 2-5 until you make it back to your house.

The first time you do this, and you watch your child pedaling off away from you, your heart will be thumping in your throat. You will probably be praying the entire time...Please stop. Please stop. Pleasestoppleasestoppleasestoooooooop!

And then he will.

Stop, that is.

I have been using this...this...strategy?...for 13 years, and not just with bike riding. When we hike, play at the playground, leave preschool, or do anything in which the kids want to run ahead, we do the landmark thing. In all of that time, through 6 kids, they have always stopped. Even before they were old enough to ride a bike. (Every once in a while, they get a bit confused by the directions and stop at the wrong thing, but they always stop.) And so have their friends.

Just make sure you explain it to them and practice it in a safe area. Perhaps on a sidewalk or the park.

If you try it, let me know how it goes!

How did you learn to ride a bike? How did you teach your kids?

Have a lovely day!