Sunday, July 21, 2013

This is an essay I wrote years ago (maybe 4?), but have been looking for during the last 2 years.  So, I'm putting it here for you to enjoy and, so hopefully, I won't lose it again.

My Security

It's my fortress- it protects me from the stares of strangers in a restaurant, on a bus, or in a doctor's waiting room.  It protects me from boredom or an uncomfortable conversation.  I'll carry it even when I know there's no chance of my pulling it out of my purse, like when I go out to eat with my husband or to a friend's house for a 4th of July barbecue.  When I'm feeling really insecure, I carry more than one.  Who knows which one I will want when the time comes?  Better take two, just in case.  Then I'm really prepared.  I have a big purse.  I use them at traffic lights and while waiting in line.  I tell myself that it helps me be patient, and therefore I'm being virtuous.  I know I'm fooling myself when I say that.  I just feel better when I have a book.

As a kid, I never minded when my parents would send me to my room, or tell me I couldn't come out until it was clean.  That's where my books were.  I'd spend hours in there, and when my mom came in to find out if my room was done, I could at least tell her truthfully that I hadn't left the room.  I learned to walk home while reading, glancing just above the book every now and then to make sure I didn't walk into traffic.  Books kept me safe from bullies and the trauma of being a 7th grader.

The worst punishment my parents ever gave me was taking my books away.  For the second time, I had failed math, and for the second time, I had lied about it.  My teachers told my parents that part of the problem was my reading in class, instead of paying attention to the lessons.  So, in addition to being grounded for 6 weeks, all of my books were packed in boxes and put in the attic.  I remember standing in the pantry reading cereal boxes and the ingredients on canned goods to tide me over until the punishment ended.  My friends smuggles library books for me which I hid in me locker at school and under my mattress at home.  (Later, my mom told me how hard the punishment was for her to give.  She never thought she'd have to try and stop her child from reading.)

When I go on a trip, one of my biggest decisions is which books to take.  This one is serious, this one is lighter, this one is from an author I know, this one is an unknown.  What if I start reading one and then I don't like it?  What if my mood changes?  What if I finish that one and want another from the same author or series?  I guess I should just take them all.  Luckily they don't weigh carry-on luggage yet.  My husband laughs when I go to a bookstore while on a trip to buy more books to supplement the ones I brought with me.  One of my favorite trips was to Portland, Oregon, because that's where Powell's Books is located.  It's a bookstore that fills an entire city block.  How could you not love that?

Last summer, I had to go to the hospital (a 3 day stay for a minor surgery.)  I planned the 5 or 6 books to take with me very carefully.  They were engrossing, ones I'd been looking forward to reading for a while, so I knew they would keep me entertained while I was lying in bed.  I hadn't realized that being on morphine would make me sleep most of the time and make it hard to focus while I was awake.  So, instead of reading, I just held a book and that was close enough.

I've always known which books I will take to that desert island because they are the ones I can read over and over again.  Watership DownThe Lord of the Rings trilogy.  The Dark is Rising series.  Those went with me to Ecuador and Australia in high school and then to Europe in college.  They aren't the only books that made those trips, but they were the first ones I packed.  I'm not sure their stories are even the point any more.  Is till lost myself in the words and it's like coming home.

I might add more to the desert island list now- I think Harry Potter would be another that I like reading and re-reading.  Also, this was definitely written pre-kids- while I certainly do still carry books with me, I get much less chance of reading these days.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

It's hard to find children's entertainment with good parental figures.  The great majority of offerings out there seem to have absent parents, no parents at all, or disinterested ones.  This is especially true of dads.  This topic came up in a facebook conversation with some other moms I know, so I thought I'd create my own resources for future reference.

Books/ shows/ movies for young kids with good depictions of involved and caring dads:

Charlie and Lola- we love them!  It's a little weird to have them on the list (especially first) as neither mom nor dad are characters in the books (or tv show).  They are mentioned frequently, however (mom and dad took us to the park, dad helped build a guinea pig run, etc.) I also really like how positive the sibling relationship is here.  And, the characters and stories are fun, creative and engaging.

Richard Scarry's Busytown (any of the books or tv shows)- another favorite series around here.   They have lots of different family groupings- all showed in positive ways with parents who are involved and siblings who care about each other. 

The Babar books- I loved these books when I was little, but the boys haven't embraced them yet.  Babar and Celeste do a lot with their kids in a positive way.

Curious George (if you count the man with the yellow hat as a father figure- and there is also a tv show).   The only problems I have with the series is that George always gets into trouble (and that he 'solves' the trouble by running away) when the man leaves him alone in some area.  But, he obviously cares for George and is always present in the story.  (I like the original stories better than the new tv show ones, but that's just my preference.)

Bob the builder (tv show only- we haven't read any books).  2 factors here- Bob is grown, but he and his father have a good relationship and every so often they show a flashback of he and his dad working together from when Bob was younger.  Also, Bob is a type of father figure to all the vehicles- and my boys love construction!

The "How a dinosaur..." books by Jane Yolen.  They tend to show moms and dads in the books.

"The way I feel" books by Spelman- we have When I feel Jealous, Sad, Scared and Angry.  These are great books for a couple of reasons- first they deal with "negative" emotions in a good way, giving kids some positive ways to address them.  Second, they show moms and dads having the same emotions and dealing with their kids emotions in positive ways.

The Berenstain Bears- Again, I loved these as a kid, and my boys have found some that they like, but haven't fully jumped in.

Sparkle Stories- a recent find for me: It's an audio story service providing a story per week in subscriptions or you can also buy single episodes.  The Sleepytime stories we've heard so far all have good and caring parental models and the Marvin and Sylvia ones do, too.

Single books or movies:
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang- Dick Van Dyke's character is a great dad and it has a car that turns into a boat and a plane- the kids loved it!  Although, we did have to have the conversation that just because someone has candy, doesn't mean they are nice.

Tubby time by Leslie Patricelli- she has a number of books, but this is the only one we've actually read- mom and dad are giving the baby a bath- very fun.  Was THE favorite book around here for a while.

Guess how much I love you- could be mom or dad

Finding Nemo- still a little scary for my boys- we skipped the shark and jellyfish scenes completely and fast forwarded through a couple of parts.

Monsters, Inc.- Good father figures- haven't watched it with the boys yet, though.

Another mom mentioned these shows, but I haven't watched them yet, so can't really comment on them:
  • Caillou
  • Sid the Science Kid
  • Rescue Heroes
  • Dinosaur Train (I've heard really good things about this with a variety of reasons- we just haven't gotten around to watching it yet.)
  • Maya and Miguel
  • Liberty's Kids (generally positive male role models)

Some lists that are out there- I don't know much about most of the books listed:

Anyone know any others?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Talking about politics, unpolitically?

I have decided that the biggest problem we have in politics today is self delusion.

There are many self delusions that could be spoken of here- basically we are willing believers in most propaganda techniques.  That person drinks the same beer/ coffee/ soda/ whatever as me?  He/she must have great political ideas, too.  That person drives a different car/ reads a different newspaper/ grew up in different circumstances than me?  His/her political ideas must be horrible.  Someone who is a celebrity has labeled that person as a "hot button" word- whether good or bad- and I ALWAYS believe what celebrities say.  They're famous- they must be smart- why else would they be on or have their own talk shows?  And so on, and so on.

The particular delusion that I'm currently thinking about runs like this...
"I am a sensible, rational person.  Therefore, other sensible, rational people would come to the same conclusions as I do in regards to a particular issue.  Therefore, my stance (along with those who agree with me) must be the sensible, rational one, and thus the one that counts as 'mainstream' or moderate or centrist.  So, those who disagree with me must be on the fringes of thought on this issue, and are likely to also be irrational or misinformed." 
Even when we label ourselves as "conservative" or "liberal"-which you think might clue us in- we somehow still think that our point of view is the middle/ centrist/ moderate one.

I hear this from all corners of political debates.  People on the right accuse those who disagree with them of being socialist/ communist/ Nazis/ Stalin.  People on the left accuse those who disagree with them of being ultra-right wing/fascist reactionaries/ Nazis/ Hitler.

**This is a good time to bring up a rule- whoever calls their opponent a "Nazi" or Hitler first- loses the argument.  I would also like to amend the rule slightly- if you use the words: Nazi/ Hitler/ Stalin/ Communist to describe your opponent or their ideas, you lose.  Unless they actually ARE Hitler or Stalin, of course, in which case you should totally be on a talk show!**

**The historian in me also wants to point out that someone being both a communist and a Nazi at the same time is pretty farfetched.**

So, back to my point.  Somewhere, there is possibly a person whose political ideas put them in the exact middle of political thought in our country.  (Or, if we go with the 1 in a million theory, then there are about 311.6 people who could possibly be in that spot.) 

So, the grand majority of us are NOT in the middle.  We fall somewhere else on the spectrum, whether to right or left.  And that is fine- but we need to realize that.

Democracy as our founding fathers and mothers conceived it to be involved having people of differing viewpoints argue it out until a compromise was reached somewhere in the middle.  **Compromise generally means BOTH sides miss getting exactly what they want.  If one side gets everything they want?  Not a compromise.** 

Just because the solution actually reached is either a little to the "right" or "left" of where our own political viewpoint lies does not mean that the country is either becoming fascist or communist.  It's probably still muddling it's way down the middle of the road/spectrum.  We veer a little right sometimes, and a little left sometimes, but we tend to not go too far in either direction.

**Interesting historical trivia- one of the reasons George Washington was chosen as our first president was that he was one of the moderates for his time.  The other main moderate of that group?  Benjamin Franklin.  Imagine what he would have been like as president.  It makes me giggle- but he's always been my favorite of that group.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I think they drugged my baby!

Ok, this is not a post about daycare abusing my innocent child- but instead a post marvelling at what they were able to do with him.

For Mother's Day, the daycare sent home a wonderful present "from" Ben.  They do this kind of thing a lot, where the child "creates" a lovely work of art for the parent.  This particular piece was a a little canvas with a perfect handprint from my angel.  Wonderful, lovely, so special and perfect.  However, here is where things began to go downhill.  Seeing that lovely handprint (and being seduced by craft ideas on Pinterest- which will get its own post sometime in the future), I decided to try to make a Father's Day present for D.

My idea was to get D's hand and foot prints and layer the boys' ones on top.

(Those of you who can figure out where this is going to end can point and laugh now.)
Things worked out pretty well with getting D's.  He surely knew something was up, but he's a good sport, so he gave them to me without too much teasing.  J was pretty cooperative, too.  He got to pick his paint color and liked having the paint spread on his hand and foot.  The prints weren't perfect, but pretty darn good.

Then came B's turn.  The foot print was ok- if a little awkward to get.  Babies tend to clench their toes a lot, so the footprint came out a little odd looking.  Then, there was the hand.  Remember the perfect handprint above?  Yep, so this should be easy, right?

Along with clenching their toes, babies tend to make their hand into fists whenever you touch their palms.  So, imagine, if you will, me spreading green paint onto my baby's palm- which immediately turns into a fist.  Then, once there is paint on his hand, arm, face (in addition to making fists, babies like to put those fists in their mouths), his other hand and other arm, my hands and arms, the floor, the sink, etc., comes the time for me to press his little hand onto the paper and make the perfect handprint.  I'm sure you can guess how well this turned out.

How did they do it?  I lean toward the drug theory or the possibility that they have a hand "stand-in" whose only job is to come in and make perfect little handprints on canvasses so they can lull ambitious crafting parents into thinking they can achieve the same results.  My mom, of course, provided the voice of reason and said that they could have just waited until he was asleep.  I'm not convinced, however.  When I get another crafty urge (I have an idea for Christmas cards!), I will test it and see how it works out.

Luckily for the sake of my crafting sensibilities and present idea, my husband remained a good sport when I came back to him and asked for another hand and foot print.  Then, J was just as happy to play with paint the second time around, too.  And third, I finally remembered that the hospital had given us a hand/footprint kit that did not require anything to be spread on the baby.  Instead, you just lay it on paper and press their hand or foot onto the film and you get a black hand or foot print on the paper- no mess, no fuss.  It seems that someone besides me had perhaps found the difficulty in getting baby cooperation.

So, here is the final result.  I liked it.  :)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Quiet Book Pages

What's a quiet book you might ask?
A quiet book is a book- usually of fabric, but also possibly of other materials, in which each page or double page spread is an activity that a kid can do.  The idea is that this is a book to help kids keep quiet in places where they need to- the doctor’s office, an airplane, a restaurant, church, etc.

My busy bag group had a bunch of people interested in swapping these pages with one another, and then we split off and created a separate group- with probably about 25-30 people total.  We split into groups and end up making 6 or 7 pages of the same thing.  We keep one and mail the others out.

I have found that etsy is the key to my quiet booking.  I am only so crafty- but I am very willing to find things other people have made to incorporate onto my pages.  I figure that as long as I make the page and most of the stuff, I can still keep my “crafty credentials” and my group members will get much better pages- and on time, too!

For my regular group- meaning group with no theme- I have made 2 pages so far- an abacus page and a weather page.  The abacus page was very simple- beads on cotton yarn that I strung across the page (plain white cotton).   I used foam stickers on the sides and the top.

The weather page was much more complex.  For the background, I used blue flannel (felt sticks to flannel pretty well) for the sky, and then added green flannel for grass and a little felt house.  The hill is actually a pocket to hold all of the weather icons.

So, I first thought about what I wanted to have, weather-wise.  I decided on sunny, puffy white clouds, partly sunny, gray clouds, rain, lightning and snow.  I REALLY wanted to have an icon for ‘windy’ but couldn’t come up with any way of showing that easily.  I ordered the light gray and puffy white clouds and some of the snowflakes from a shop, and was very happy with them (the other snowflakes came from this shop:   The rest I made (including the blue-gray rain clouds- which I made using the other clouds as a template-  the shop didn’t offer them in a darker gray- just the light gray.)  For the sun, I just used 2 different sizes of mason jars for the circles- using chalk to mark on the felt.  For the rain, I used light blue yarn and sewed it onto the clouds. 
Here is a picture of all of the symbols, spread out over 4 pages.

One of my groups is an ABC swap.  My letters are B, H, M and R.  For B, I made a beach page with a “build your own sandcastle” activity.  I got the idea from a blog, here:  This woman is much more crafty than I will ever be.  I did not make mine exactly like hers- mine are single layers instead of double- and not as decorative either.  I found some felt seashells online and ordered them, as well as ordering the ‘B’ and ‘b’ from an Etsy shop,  I started with the templates from the Imagine Our Life page, drawing them onto a cereal box to cut and use as my templates.  I also added a “bucket” shape, because that’s part of sandcastles to me.  

My ideas for my other letters are as follows:
H- house- a big house with slits in it where little popsicle stick people can be inserted to be at the windows or behind the door
M- build your own monster page  (I thought I knew how I wanted to do this, but now am trying to avoid having 20 billion little pieces stored on the page, so am unsure.)
R- Race car/ race track.

My final group for April (yep, I got a little carried away that month) was a Seasons group.  Each of us chose a season to make a page of.  2 other members did “all seasons” pages as we had a group of 6 and no one wanted to double up.

I chose to do a counting page with leaves- as fall is my favorite season and I LOVE the leaves turning colors and falling from the trees.  So, back to etsy for my leaf shapes (  I got a large variety, because I wanted to mix the leaf colors on each page, instead of just having 1.  The page has a tree shape on one side, green patterned flannel at the bottom for “grass,” and numbers on the blue “sky” background.  The felt leaves can be stored in 2 pockets in the green flannel.  I used liquid gems to put dots on the leaves to match the numbers.  The numbers are just drawn on with permanent marker, since I am completely uncoordinated with fabric paint.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Sneaky Chef

Book Review: The Sneaky Chef

My mom gave my sister-in-law and I this for Christmas.  Well, one of my sisters-in-law.  The one sister-in-law I had at the time, as one of my other brothers married since that time and now I have TWO awesome sisters-in-law which for someone who grew up with only brothers is pretty fantastic.  Anyhow, back to the book review.

The concept of the book is hiding nutritious things in food.  My mom did this to us- we have family jokes about the things that she added wheat germ and chicken broth into that normally wouldn’t have had those things.  She really tried to convince us that wheat germ was a great ice cream topping, but we rebelled against that.  I was a little skeptical about the book going in, though.  I want my children to eat their vegetables KNOWING that they are eating veggies.  We had joked with one of our other friends as her husband won’t eat veggies that maybe this was a way to help him.

J, however, is a picky eater.  Not picky in the sense that there are certain foods he likes and certain ones he doesn’t.  Picky in the sense that he will like something one day and refuse to eat it the next time we serve it or that he sometimes refuses to eat altogether.  Dinner has been a very frustrating experience numerous times and it felt like we were getting to the point that it was always a battle just to get him to eat anything.  So, we started trying out some of the recipes from here- on the belief that if I could only get him to eat 3 bites at dinner, I wanted those to be the 3 most nutritious bites possible.

I have been pleasantly surprised by how well the additions have gone over.  Hands down favorite?  The Orange puree.  The book’s recipe calls for carrots and sweet potatoes to be steamed and pureed together.  We usually add butternut squash as well.  We also don’t worry too much about the stated amounts in the recipe, instead we just get a bunch of all 3 veggies and have at it.  Then we freeze it in various portion sizes (this last time I did portions of about 1 cup) to use in recipes as needed.  The puree works really well in anything tomato based and thickens sauces very nicely.  J likes the puree so much  that he will eat it by itself.

We’ve also tried the “white” puree- cauliflower and peeled zucchini.  This one comes out a very light green instead of white, but does mix in well with light colored sauces.  It doesn’t add much flavor to the sauce, so I use this in cream based sauces and soups and it works very well for that.  J will eat it plain, but isn’t nearly as keen on it as the orange.

The Green puree- spinach, broccoli and peas.  We haven’t used this one as much- as it is REALLY green and has a strong flavor.  So, I have to use it in things where the flavor will work, and that I don’t mind being obviously green.  I’ve put it in tuna casserole- which gave it a funny color, but the tuna flavor was strong enough to work with the veggies- and J liked it.  I’ve also put small amounts in spaghetti sauce and that sort of thing.  I’m going to try it in a ham quiche- probably tonight and will let you know how that works out.  Maybe I can make an omelet for “green eggs” and ham. 

I tried the white bean puree and that didn’t go over as well.  It gave a very “beany” flavor to things and J wasn’t thrilled by that.

The purple puree.   This is a mix of blueberries and spinach. My brother and sister-in-law tried this in the author’s recipe for chocolate cookies and raved about the results.  I tried it as “quick fix” for brownie mix (along with the recommended wheat germ- my mother would be so proud!)  The results were pretty ok.  Flavor was fine- no spinach taste at all- maybe a slight hint of fruitiness from the blueberries- although I may have been looking for it since I knew it was there.  The texture wasn’t as unnoticeable, however.  There was a slight graininess, whether from the blueberry seeds or the wheat germ is unclear.  Very edible, and I don’t think J will really notice or care since he is not yet a brownie connoisseur.

Altogether?  I would give the book 4 out of 5 stars.  Some great stuff and some ok stuff.  I think I will also try her other book which focuses on quick fixes for things.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


I don't have a one topic post today.  So here are some snippets.

Lately we have welcomed another sweet baby into our group of friends.  Lebean has a Little Bean.  She is adorable and has the cutest cheeks in the world.  (I keep telling B that I am going to see his future girlfriend whenever I go to see her.  Of course, her could be like his brother, J, and like older women, but I have matchmaking hopes, I do!!)  Unfortunately, I have no pictures of her to share, but you can see some at her momma's blog, here.  I'm sure you will agree about her cheeks. 

This leads to another random thought.  Our friends group has and is changing.  A number of us have brought children into the world, some have married, we are all getting older.  When I was younger, I "knew" things about my future life.  (I always saw myself with children, but didn't always see a husband there.  Luckily for me, I got both!)  I knew that when I had kids, my life would revolve around them and their activities as well as my own and I knew they would change my life.  I never really pictured how things would change groups of people though.  It's kind of a weird dynamic.  I don't want to force my kids on my friends- but my friends seem to enjoy seeing them almost as much as they enjoy seeing me (or more?)  It's a really cool thing.

School is a bit rough.  I still haven't really regained the passion for it that I used to have.  I am still planning to go back in the fall, but large parts of me just don't really want to.  (I have a significant case of the "I don't wanna's".)  I don't have a particular big reason- B and J both seem to be doing fine with the schedule.  I just would rather be with them than at school.

I am still working on craft projects and will, some day, exercise again.  Really, I will.  I have the urge to go running- or rather, I have the urge to run the way I used to be able to when I was in better shape.  I will not enjoy the process of getting there again.  But, at least I have the urge!