Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve at Our House

Tonight's SCRUMPTIOUS Menu

Special Drink

(non-alcoholic pomegranate-lemonade sparkling drink)
(and Root Beer in a bottle for Thing 2)

Main Course
"Surf & Turf"

Seared Tuna with Wasabi Butter and Cilantro Sauce
Grilled Sirloin Tips with Sauteéd Mushrooms

Side Dishes

Roasted Carrots with Rosemary
Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots and Red Peppers
Sweet Potato Casserole
Twice-Baked Potatoes

Dessert

Homemade Dark Chocolate Pudding Parfaits
with Chocolate Shavings

There was not a SINGLE thing on the table
that would've received less than 5 stars.
I kid you not.


It was AMAZING.
Thing 1 counted my exclamations
throughout the meal and there
were no less than 22.

It was SO delicious,
I could cry.

I love good food.
I love the holidays.
I love my family.

I love that we celebrate Christmas
on Christmas Eve.
We have SUCH a good time!

We've feasted.
Santa has come to fill our stockings.
We've opened our presents.

And now we're all playing, resting,
talking to relatives on the phone,
relaxing, reading, enjoying.

I love this time of year --
the week between Christmas and New Year's
is sooooooooo kick back.

Aaaaaaaaaaaah.

(I'm not uploading pictures tonight,
because I'm tired and not feeling great.
I've been sick for a week
and the excitement of the holiday
has officially run me down.
More to come later.)

Happy Holidays, all!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Digital Nativity

This is a super clever video that my MIL sent to me. It's very well done and deserves a post of its own -- so, here you go!

What
the original Christmas would look like if it were now...

WELL DONE!!!!








If you can't see the video, here is the link ............

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkHNNPM7pJA

Monday, December 20, 2010

14 Years Ago Today . . .


I married my best friend.

Definitely the best decision I've ever made in my life.

I could not be happier.

Happy Anniversary to us!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

2010 in 10 sentences (more or less)

I love choosing not to resist these.

1. 2010: How do you pronounce it?

Twenty-Ten. No, Two Thousand Ten. No, maybe I do say Twenty-Ten. Okay, I'm not even sure.

2. Make a facial expression that shows how you feel about the year.

(Picture me sticking my lips out deep in thought).

3. The best thing I bought was some new shirts for the summer.

4. For me, 2010 was
a total mix. [Answer with three words]

5. I totally cringed this year when my friend's son got diagnosed with leukemia .

6. The best thing on the Internet by far was NaNoWriMo.

7. I'm pretty sure I overshared on Facebook this year when I . . . nope, got off Facebook over a year ago and haven't missed it, so no oversharing on Facebook for me.

8. The best day of the year was witnessing Ellie's birth.

9. The best place I visited was Rehoboth Beach, DE. (The 2nd best "place" I visited was the Michael Bublé concert).

10. Next year, I'm planning to use the Internet less.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ooh, Ooh. Yes, please.

I love that Emily answered the Harry Potter questions in the previous post. I would LOVE to hear more people's answers, too. Please feel free to play along in the comments of the "Harry Potter Interviews" post below! Thanks! :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Harry Potter Interviews


Yesterday, sometime after 11pm, Thing 2 finished the entire Harry Potter series! With both kids, we've read/listened to the audio version (FABULOUS, by the way) during their first time through the series. Both kids have read the whole series around the same age (ages 6-7ish).

I think Harry Potter is PURE MAGIC. Well, duh, right? No, seriously. I think JK Rowling is a genius, her series nothing short of an inspiration. I'm amazed every time I read the books. She leaves nothing out. She has no unimportant details. Everything checks out. She's a genius. Genius! And I really love, love, love the whole series. Love them!

And I *love* reading them with my kids. That's probably why they've both read the series so young -- I'm impatient to share Harry Potter with the kids!!

We've dressed up, eaten Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Bean, made three kinds of Butterbeer, read the series a bazillion times, listened to the audio, played Harry Potter Uno and Harry Potter Clue, made pumpkin pasties, had adventures all over the house, turned our house into Hogwarts, hosted Harry Potter birthday parties, attended midnight release parties for books, attended midnight premieres of movies, played Harry Potter video games, played Harry Potter trivia, written Harry Potter fan fiction, put up Harry Potter posters. It borders on obsession.

I love Harry Potter! I also cry like crazy every time I read the books, too.

I told the kids I was thinking of doing Harry Potter interviews with them and they thought that sounded fun, so here goes (and after doing it with the kids, I wanted to do it, too):

*****WARNING -- THIS MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!!*****

1. What is your favorite Harry Potter book?

Thing 1: The 7th one -- Deathly Hallows
Thing 2: The 5th one -- Order of the Phoenix
Stacy: Some order of 7, 4, and 6 (It's hard to choose favorites sometimes!)
Mark: The 6th one -- Half-Blood Prince

2. Who is your favorite major character (of the 3)?

Thing 1: Hermione
Thing 2: Ron
Stacy: Ron
Mark: Ron

3. Who is your favorite minor character?

Thing 1: Dobby and Dumbledore
Thing 2: Cho (and Luna and Fred and George)
Stacy: Neville and Luna (I also like Kreacher)
Mark: Neville and Fred and George

4. Do you have a favorite scene? If so, what is it?

Thing 1: The big showdown at the end and The Epilogue
Thing 2: When they're going after the prophecy in the ministry
Stacy: When Fred and George leave Hogwarts
Mark: My favorite chapter is when he reads Snape's memory.

5. Do you have a favorite line? If so, what is it?

Thing 1: "Why are you worried about you-know-who? You should be worried about you-no-poo!" And the line in number 6 when Dumbledore tells Harry, "I'm not worried, Harry. I'm with you."
Thing 2: ""I...must...not...look...like...a...baboon's...backside."
Stacy: "NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU B----!" :)
Mark: "NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU B----!" :)

6. If you were a student at Hogwarts, in which house do you think the Sorting Hat would place you?

Thing 1: Ravenclaw
Thing 2: Ravenclaw
Stacy: Ravenclaw
Mark: Gryffindor

7. Would you want to play Quidditch? Which position?

Thing 1: Yes, Chaser.
Thing 2: Maybe. Seeker, because Seeker you can hardly get hurt.
Stacy: Nope.
Mark: Yes, Chaser.

8. Who is your favorite teacher or staff member at Hogwarts?

Thing 1: I have 3 -- Dumbledore, Hagrid, and McGonagall
Thing 2: Probably Lockheart, because he's funny. But my favorite is Dumbledore.
Stacy: Dumbledore and McGonagall
Mark: Dumbledore

9. Which is your favorite magical creature/animal in the book?

Thing 1: I have 3 -- I like the unicorns, Buckbeak, and Hedwig.
Thing 2: Hedwig and Fang and Pigwidgeon
Stacy: Dobby and Kreacher
Mark: Dobby and Kreacher

10. Who is your least favorite bad guy? Who can you really not stand (besides Voldemort)?

Thing 1: Bellatrix.
Thing 2: Oh, Bellatrix. I'm glad she died. She drives me crazy.
Stacy: Bellatrix and Umbridge
Mark: Bellatrix

11. What magical power from the books would you like to possess?

Thing 1: I'd love to have a Room of Requirement. That would be awesome!
Thing 2: I'd like to be able to do spells like Stupefy! Reducto! Impedimenta! and Petrificus Totalus!
Stacy: I would love to have food magically appear every night for dinner.
Mark: I just want a magic wand.

12. How did you feel the first time you finished the series?

Thing 1: Sad. Shocked. Happy.
Thing 2: Awesome. I felt like I could do anything!
Stacy: I was glad to have finished it, but sad to be done.
Mark: It was really good, but I didn't want it to end.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Elf Yourself!

Along with writing novels, we've been choreographing dances.



This is us doing hip-hop.





80's. (I especially like how Mark does the "ReRun Dance" on this one).





Disco.






We even went surfing.

Back to novel writing . . .

One more day . . .

We have until midnight tonight to finish our novels and verify our word count and be declared "winners!"

Please be patient with us. Over the past few days, we've gotten some phone calls and emails and texts. We're not ignoring you. We just can't answer yet. Come December 1st, we'll be back in action (albeit sleepily).

But for now, we're barely sleeping or eating. Mark and I got desperately behind and now we're playing massive catch up. The kids got their word goals a while ago.

It feels like our brains have turned to mush. This has been a challenging NaNoWriMo year for different reasons, but we learn new things every time.

Anyway, gotta run. Mark and I have thousands of words to write before tonight. We'll be back!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Overheard at Christmastime

Thing 2 was busy describing all the reasons why one of our decorative Santa Claus figures couldn't possibly be the real Santa. For example, he has a magic wand, he has no feet, and he's lined with a large plastic cone for starters.

Thing 1 then turns to me and says:

"If you were Santa, wouldn't you look in the mirror and stop eating milk and cookies? Why can't he be a skinny guy that eats carrots and water?"

Carrots and water wouldn't give him a belly that shook like a bowl full of jelly, though.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I touched Michael Bublé!

I can't seem to concentrate on anything else right now. It's like I MUST blog this, never mind that I have a Thanksgiving meal to prepare, a novel to write, a book to read for book club, and a million other things to do.

So here goes.

Yes, I touched Michael Bublé! Or rather, he touched me! I kid you not. Row 18 at the concert and he walked down the aisle, saw me, reached out while singing and looking and smiling right at me (yeah, that's right, completely and utterly intentionally AT ME!) and touched my hand. Exciting, huh? And that was just one exciting tidbit from the night, because . . .

HOLY FABULOUS, PHENOMENAL, AMAZING CONCERT!!!!!!

I really should take a class on camera settings --
a little washed out, but hey, we're happy. :)

Not washed out, but looks more like a reflection
in a Christmas ornament, but hey, we're having fun!


I don't have enough adjectives to do it justice. It was just AWESOME. Best concert we've ever been to, hands down. Simply spectacular!

The warm up act warmed up for over an hour and were incredible -- Naturally 7. They are a group of 7 guys who do incredible music sans instruments. This was one of their songs -- (sorry, can't embed it -- you'll have to click over to see it, but then come back, because I have things to tell you!) -- everything they did was amazing. They did a fabulous rendition of The Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and they did some Motown stuff and generally fun, fantastic stuff.

They got us PUMPED for Michael Bublé and then it was almost like an intermission while we waited and waited and people started buying popcorn and drinks and going to the bathroom and all that jazz while we all waited.

And I wondered if a break after getting SO very warmed up would kill the mood, but nope, not with the intro and stage that Michael Bublé had! WOWZERS! It blew everyone away!! I'm talking grand orchestral intros, sliding stage, and pyrotechnics. It was awesome!

I'll try to post some pictures, but of course it really just won't do it justice, because OMIGOSH, he is SUCH a fantastic performer! Mark and I went as an anniversary present to ourselves and it was SO MUCH FUN! We're still sort of floating on air!





Remember the parade scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off?




Yeah, well he referenced that (as well as all kinds of other 80's stuff -- LOVED it!) and told us that that has always been his approach with his concerts -- he wants people to feel like they've been to a party. And that's exactly how it felt! Like he was hosting a gigantic party!

He even sang "Twist and Shout" just like that scene in the movie and there were GIGANTIC bouncing balls that we were all hitting in the air to one another. I wish I'd taken pictures of that in some ways, but not really, because I was having fun playing with them!

He interacted with the WHOLE audience, including those up in the nosebleed sections. He had a stage set up in the middle of the audience and he went out there and sang just to them (after turning around and saying over his shoulder to those in the front row, "Boy, I bet you're wishing you hadn't spent so much on those tickets now!").

Look how close he is to us
even on the audience stage!


There he is making his way back to the stage --
like 2 seconds after that,
he looked at me, smiled at me, sang to me,
and touched my outstretched hand
(also pictured). Swoon!


He told us up front that this concert was a party -- you want to dance? Dance. You want to move up the aisle and get closer to the stage where the bouncers tell you not to? Do it. You want to sing? Sing. And he told us that if someone near us shushed us and got all snotty about how they were trying to hear Michael Bublé, to just give them the finger. Oh yes, he did.

He was HYSTERICAL, often cracking himself up, goofing around with the audience, messing with the band members, messing with all of us. I didn't realize that Hershey was the kick-off city for the American leg of his world tour -- BOY, was it a party! He was PUMPED!! It's his "Crazy Love" tour, but he sang SUCH awesome songs from across all of his albums.

I loved this concert!!

He did an incredible job of putting on a FABULOUS concert, hosting a REALLY FUN party (I was sweating, laughing, and hoarse by the end from dancing, singing, jumping, yelling, cheering, screaming -- it was so much fun!), and also making you feel like the concert was JUST for you (and I'm not saying that just because he touched me -- have I mentioned that Michael Bublé touched me?!?!?!).

Mark and I have both commented that we feel like we had a friend come visit and now we're missing him. You know that feeling you get after having had a GREAT time with visiting friends, the one you feel after they leave? That's how it feels post-concert with him. He was simply PHENOMENAL. (Lbs, he even mentioned "more cowbell" and I thought of you).

He sang all kinds of songs including "Home," a ton of standards, "You're Everything," and so much more. It was just AWESOME! Have I mentioned we had a great time and it was an amazing concert? We LOVED it!

He ended the concert with "Haven't Met You Yet" and everyone went wild. Confetti was flying EVERYWHERE and then we all cheered and screamed for a good five minutes or more and he came back to the stage and sang at least 4 more songs, one of which was "A Song For You" -- the trumpet solo was played back in the audience, so while we were all turned to see him, the curtains closed on the AMAZING stage and all the band members and it was just Michael Bublé in front of the curtain, and us. And then he put his finger to his lips as we cheered, pushed the microphone aside, and sang a cappella and without any mic and just BELTED out such an amazing, intimate solo. It was UNBELIEVABLE. That guy doesn't sing a single off-key note at all.

"I Just Haven't Met You Yet!"
The audience went crazy for this finale song.
SO MUCH FUN!


Awesome encores!

One of my favorite parts of the encore --
the a cappella solo.

FABULOUS!

We had a GREAT time -- I don't have words, I really don't, to describe how INCREDIBLE it was. I've used all these words so far and I'm just not even getting close to describing the fun, amazing concert we got to be a part of -- SIMPLY AMAZING!! AMAZING!!

If you ever get a chance to see him in concert, DO NOT PASS IT UP! I promise you will NOT be disappointed. And, bonus, he might touch you, too! :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

At 12:01AM on Friday . . .

Guess who's going to the midnight premiere of Harry Potter?

Me and my beautiful daughter!!
And yes, we're dressing up.
We're meeting friends there early
and playing games while we wait to get in.
OH MY GOODNESS, we are SO EXCITED!!
We are counting down every hour.
We are serious Harry Potter fans in this house.

Thing 2 is cruising through Book 7
and will finish it this weekend.
He prefers watching the movies at home
where we can warn of him of scary parts. :)

He and Mark are having a camp out
in the living room while we're at the movies.

Mark gets to see it with Thing 1
(yes, she gets to see it in theaters TWICE!)
when she goes with her BFF sometime soon.
Her BFF is Jake's sister.
Jake is the one who is battling leukemia.
There is an organization that does neat things
for families who are dealing with cancer.
They try to make things special
not only for the one going through treatment,
but also the other family members as well.
So, Thing 1's BFF got tickets from them as a gift
for both her and Thing 1 to share!

10 hours to go!!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

We have a winner!

Though many got some right, Katie, of "Our Freshman Year of College" fame, guessed all four authors correctly! Nice job, Katie! As a "prize," you get to name a minor character in one of our books. Choose any name you wish and one of us will find a way to work it into our novel. My barrista still needs a name . . .

Here are the answers:

Douglas sat on a rock outside the cave, trying to figure out what cruel twist of fate brought him to this point, awaiting certain death. (Mark)

It was an unexpected reunion. (Stacy)

I woke up with a start. (Thing 2)

There is no "once upon a time" in this book.
(Thing 1)

We're all busily writing away and Mark and I are already behind on our word counts, but hoping to be caught up by tonight.

Briefly . . .

Mark's novel is about an accidental hero and is in the Youth Fiction genre.

Mine is a tragic, fictional story about 4 acquaintances from high school who all find themselves in a psychiatric hospital for different reasons. They meet weekly at a local coffee house and their lives begin to intertwine . . . it will have an ambiguous and hopefully unexpected ending.

Thing 2's book is about wizards!

Thing 1's story is the TRUE story about unicorns, not all those myths most people hear.

Current approximate word count (adults must write 50k; kids set their own word count goals -- Thing 1's goal is 20K and Thing 2's goal is 2K):

Mark - over 10K
Stacy - close to 9K
Thing 1 - over 1200 words and counting . . .
Thing 2 - over 8K

Monday, November 1, 2010

First lines

Here are the first lines of our NaNoWriMo Novels for the month. Can you guess what lines belong to what authors?

Douglas sat on a rock outside the cave, trying to figure out what cruel twist of fate brought him to this point, awaiting certain death.

It was an unexpected reunion.

I woke up with a start.

There is no "once upon a time" in this book.


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Books

So, I think that 3 of my favorite books so far this year include:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Olive Kitteridge
Girl with a Pearl Earring

I should also add that I also enjoyed my own 2009 NaNoWriMo novel (I recently re-read it and have to admit I enjoyed it!).

But I'm about to read The Hunger Games and I've heard great things.

What are you favorites so far this year?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I really love homeschooling


Over the past several weeks, we've been reading/listening to Harry Potter 5 together.

Monday, we finished reading it.
Tuesday, we watched the movie and ate popcorn and pumpkin pasties.
Today, the kids are building Hogwarts Castle out of Legos.

Life is good.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Out of the mouth of babes

Our family loves watching "The Amazing Race" together every time it's on TV. We enjoy the concept, the visits to other cultures, and the hilariously sarcastic editing.

Usually, as the show starts, they edit in some brief interviews with some of the teams. Often, teams effuse about how communication is so important to doing well in the race. These interviews almost always foreshadow what's to come.

Those interviews remind us of the "I Love Lucy" episodes that start with Lucy, Ricky, Fred, and Ethel singing around a piano declaring their undying love and friendship with one another. Inevitably, the teams, just like the Ricardos and Mertzes, ends up in a massive fight.

This past week, the heavily tattooed, Harley-riding team from Nevada looked into the camera and then into each other's eyes while the guy spoke of the importance of good communication between teammates. His girlfriend nodded her agreement.

We paused the TiVo, looked at each other, and predicted, "They are so going to implode."

Now, Thing 2 has always had a penchant for the badass teams (be it Diesel 10, Siths, or punk rockers on American Idol -- the one exception being Harry Potter where he neither aligns with Voldemort nor Harry, but rather, being the class clown that he is, with Fred, George, and Ron Weasley). So, I wondered what he'd think of the bikers losing their cool and duking it out.

Predictably, as the episode wore on, we saw what we expected. During one of the tasks where they were to transport brick-building materials, they didn't carefully read the instructions and so they showed up without enough equipment to get their next clue. They were then forced to go all the way back and repeat the task again. This team, who had earlier proclaimed the virtues of good communication skills in achieving success, proceeded to crescendo into a name-calling, finger-pointing, TV-bleeping yelling and screaming match.

(I'm paraphrasing because I don't feel like sitting through online ads to rewatch the episode).

Nick: I can't believe you messed up the clue! You're such an idiot!!

Vicki: I'm sorry. I didn't mean to. Don't talk to me like that.

Nick: *&#$%* &%$*@#$ *#$#%&

Vicki: We can't work together if you have that attitude. Let's just do this.

Nick: You have NO common sense!!

This is when I heard mumbles from the seat next to me.

Me: What was that?

Thing 2: Maybe he has no common sense.

Me: What do you mean?

Thing 2: Well, he says she has no common sense, so maybe he has no common sense since he's with her.

Who says Reality Television can't teach insightful life skills to children?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

100 Books Every Child Should Read

There are all kinds of articles out there touting which 100 books the expert/compiler feels every child should read.

This delightful list gives a nice introduction about fostering a love and enjoyment of reading and then proceeds to list 100 books with a short, fun synopsis of each book. The list is broken down into 3 parts -- early years, middle years, early teen years.

This list is compiled by teachers. I think there are some great selections on there, but some of the sections are sorely lacking (good thing they link over to additional suggestions by grade)!

There are books that move you, stay with you, haunt you, infuse you with a feeling so strong you swear the book has magical powers, and forever cause you to smile with melancholy fondness at the very thought of them.

Some of mine include:

Little Women
Little Men
The Secret Garden
The Mouse and the Motorcycle
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
The Nancy Drew Series
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
The Diary of Anne Frank
The Trumpet of the Swan
(my first "big" book I read by myself)
Harriet Tubman: Conductor of the Underground Railroad (my first biography)

Books I'd add to that list, but have discovered as an adult include:

Harry Potter
(all of them)
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (I have literally fallen in love with it)
Jane Eyre
To Kill A Mockingbird
(the only book --besides Harry Potter and possibly Little Women --that I've ever read three times . . . I read it as a teenager, but have had a growing love affair with it with every subsequent reading)

Books that I'm excited to read and am not sure how I didn't read as a kid include:

The Phantom Tollbooth
The View From Saturday
Tuck Everlasting

I know there are more in each of those lists, but those are what come to mind for now.

So, here's my question, what books would you put on your "must have" list? What books from your childhood stand out in your mind? What books hold a glorious, nostalgic spell on you that follows you wherever you go?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Summer Videos

I've had these videos ready to go for a LONG time, but for whatever reason I'm just now getting them up.

* * * * * * * * * *

Thing 1 went to a theater day camp earlier in the summer and part of that included the kids writing their own one-act plays. They got to write a mystery and then perform it as part of the end-of-camp performance. The play is SO her and it was a lot of fun to go see.




* * * * * * * * * *

Thing 2 has been getting his Tae Kwon Do on since early spring, and he is awesome at it. We recorded his promotion test for his White Belt--he puts on quite a show. He is always bouncing on his feet, keeping ready. It reminds us of the Cobra Kai in Karate Kid, but of course he's so much nicer. He not only passed this test but also got his Yellow Belt about a month ago. We're really proud of how hard he's working.




Thursday, September 30, 2010

Little bits of excitement

I wrote this several days ago (Thursday). I'm hitting "Publish Post" now (Sunday) -- just know that some of the stuff that I said we were about to do might've already happened. And stuff that we said happened yesterday really happened several days ago.

We haven't posted anything in a while. We're busy, busy, busy these days (all days?). And I just haven't been feeling "it" -- that draw to blog. It'll come, I know, especially as the weather gets cold, but for now, we're having fun reading, playing, visiting with friends, learning, cooking, and generally hanging out.

But I thought I'd quickly check in and post some mini updates on each of us, since we've all had exciting stuff going on . . .

Mark
Mark scored BIG points recently by making something happen for us -- a beach trip! We haven't done a beach trip since 2005, mostly due to finances or just not getting it together. We always talk about doing it, but somehow time goes by and we don't get out there as much as we'd like. Well, this year, he found us a great little beach house to rent and we got ALL kinds of deals for going off season!

Homeschooling is grand -- the flexibility it gives us is amazing. We love the beaches in Delaware and going off-season is the way to do it! The beach houses are significantly cheaper, the restaurants are cheaper as they try to draw in the locals after the summer season, you don't have to feed the parking meters, the beaches aren't crowded, and you can take your dog on the beach!

We're making this a yearly tradition -- the beach, cheap lobster dinners, the beach, getting away from it all, the beach, renting a cute beach house, the beach, hanging out and watching movies, the beach, collecting sea shells, the beach, watching the sunrise over the ocean, oh, and have I mentioned the beach?

And professionally, Mark's just awesome. He's getting so much great feedback from patients on the work we're doing here. He has helped a lot of people and continues to do so. We recently hosted our annual tradition of hosting a backyard BBQ for our patients and clients to celebrate our business anniversary (now entering year 4!) and it was a great success. Everyone had a lovely time and the food was awesome.

He was also recently made vice-president of the board for the local community concerts. They really value his opinion on the board and seek him out for advice on the direction of the program series and selection of performers.

Me

I got invited to be the Municipal Liaison for our area here for NaNoWriMo! I'm crazy for doing it, but I just can't resist, because it's so fun!! There are several of us who already know each other who are doing it and several more from the area joining us as well! I just sent my paperwork in yesterday and soon it'll be all set up. I'm so excited!!

We're all doing NaNoWriMo again this year -- the kids have declared it their favorite part of our school year and something they want to do every year.

I was also recently invited to pursue a part-time job at the college doing counseling with the students there. I would have loved to do it, but it's not the right time/season yet (given our work schedules and everything else, there's no way we could make it work without other things suffering in the process). Someday, though. I'm flattered that they approached me and have me on their radar.

Thing 1

Thing 1 is excelling in all that she does. Of course, she's always reading and writing and her stories are just fabulous. There is no question in my mind at all that she will always write and will someday publish books. She is also doing so well with her music. This weekend, she begins taking part in a multi-generational string ensemble at the college. It's such a neat opportunity and she's excited to have fun doing it. She practices piano and violin daily with genuine enjoyment. Her violin playing is just gorgeous, so this will be a great chance to play in an ensemble setting with others and we're excited for her to participate!

Thing 2

Thing 2 recently earned his yellow belt in Tae Kwon Do! He has such a natural agility and is quite athletic and coordinated. He learns his forms quickly and can kick and jump with such power! The teachers there are constantly telling us that he has a natural knack for it. Thing 2 has his eyes on the prize -- he is enjoying advancing through the belts and talks about teaching there someday when he's older. He'd be great at it -- the kid makes friends everywhere he goes and is comfortable talking to anyone.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Funny Kids

Today in the backyard after playing a game together as a family in which Thing 2 could barely contain his humor, comments, and general self:

Me: I'm done. I know! Let's play that game where we come up with obstacle courses all over the backyard and the kids run them and race.

Thing 1: YES! . . . Wait. This is one of those grown up tricks where they try to wear us out.

Crap. They're on to us.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

We're here!

We're here. Just swamped. I haven't blogged in a while and I'm pretty behind on blog reading, too. I'll resurface eventually, but for now we are super busy with back-to-school stuff and activities and home stuff. We're having a great time -- just not in my blogging groove (yet).

Some of the stuff we're doing includes:

tae kwon do
violin
group violin
scouts
4-H
ice skating
playing games
getting together with friends
keeping busy with our clinic
harvesting from our garden
reading/book clubs
Hershey Park
piano
cleaning out and organizing rooms of our house
library, library, library
getting organized for schooling at home
getting organized in our homeschool group
Hershey Chocolate World
entertaining house guests
beach
enjoying these beautiful 70-80 degree days

You get the idea. So, my inbox is filled to overflowing and I don't dare log in to Bloglines right now. I'm trying to return texts and phone calls (but I really stink at that--well, phone anyway). We have a lot of stuff coming up over the next couple of weeks, so it may be a while, but just wanted to say we're here. Somewhere. :P

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Random Thoughts - Saturday Version

We do about 3 giant loads of laundry every 2 weeks on average.

--------------

If I were to come up with a personal fashion style,
it would involve not wearing a bra.
Not so much for the style, just because I hate wearing them.

--------------

I was just sitting down enjoying a handful of Oreos with milk . . .
. . . until I saw a 60-something year old man jogging down the street.
Then I just felt pathetic.

--------------

What ever happened to after school specials?
I loved those.

--------------

I am reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for book club this month.
I've wanted to read it for a long time, so I'm glad someone suggested it.

--------------

I have an old high school friend coming to visit next week
for a couple of days.
He and I always got along okay,
but not as well as we did afterward.

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Beach, beach, beach.
I love the beach.

--------------

I also love Indie films.
We're watching a promising one tonight called "$5 A Day."

--------------

We've created a really cool organizing system on one of our walls
involving cork tiles and cool-looking sticker letters.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Things To Do

Not in any particular order . . .

1. Nothing
2. Watch "Freaks and Geeks"
3. Read
4. Talk
5. Play games
6. Eat
7. Cook
8. Go out
9. Stay home
10. Laugh
11. Cuddle
12. Do home projects
13. Visit places
14. Host visitors
15. Run a business
16. Raise great kids
17. Swim
18. Exercise
19. Meditate
20. (**private**)
21. Analyze
22. Grow
23. Learn
24. Love
25. Kiss
26. Sarcastic stuff
27. Thoughtful stuff
28. Order Chinese Take Out
29. Get massages
30. Watch Redbox movies
31. Try new restaurants
32. Watch various sitcoms at night before bed
33. Watch Amazing Race
34. Look stuff up online (nerds)
35. Hug
36. Be fully in the moment

These are 36 things I love to do with my best friend.

Happy Birthday, Mark!

I love you.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Summer Beauties

This is part of why I don't blog much in the summertime:







I'd generally rather play outside in the sunshine with these guys.

Is it me or are they growing up so fast right before our very eyes?

I love them!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Milestone

Today, my 10 and 7 year olds learned the F-word.

10 and 7? Not bad, if you ask me.

I wasn't there to witness this milestone, but Mark told me all about it. They (with Mark) went to the library to turn in this week's sheet for the summer reading program. While driving through the downtown area, our 7-year-old noted the graffiti.

"Hey Daddy, there are 3 gangs here: P.O.E., Tooku, and Fuk." (So the vandals can't spell. Give them a break.)

So, Mark texts me and says he's going to have to "address some issues."

Soon after, I get this text: "They now know what not to say."

To which I replied: "You told them?"

His response?

"Had to. They're chanting songs and telling stories about P.O.E. going to get some F-- with Tooku. They left me very little choice."

And then this:

"I didn't tell them what it meant. Only that it's really bad."

Lost innocence. It sucks.

Though it was funny hearing Mark later tell me how he tried to tell them it's bad without laughing. Their songs already had him stifling laughter before he started his, uh, teaching moment.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Random Thoughts - Movie Edition





Toy Story 3 is so so so so so so awesome.
We saw it the weekend it opened
and loved every minute of it.

-----------------------

I love the Toy Story movies, because I can totally relate to them.
When I was little (and at times still today), I was/am convinced that toys have feelings.

-----------------------

We sneak treats into movies,
because what they charge is highway robbery.
(Why do we still use that phrase?)
Don't judge me.

-----------------------

Our treat of choice these days is pretzel M&Ms.



Have you tried these?? They are the best.
Like I'm-going-to-write-the-company-and-tell-them good.

-----------------------

I forgot to take tissues into the movie.
Stupidest thing I've done in a very long time.

-----------------------

I had to do things like discreetly sniff like crazy
and use my hands and sleeves.
Thank goodness for the outtakes during the credits.
Gave me a chance to gain composure.

-----------------------

Almost everyone stood up when the movie was over
and then sat down again for outtakes during the credits.
Had they never seen a Pixar movie?

-----------------------

Going to the movies to see the new Pixar movie
is an annual tradition for us.
Otherwise, we don't go to the movies very much.
Too expensive.

-----------------------

After the movies, while using the restroom, I wondered WHY
Kimberley-Clark is always the industrial toilet paper of choice.
They seem to never have considered 2-ply.

-----------------------


It reminds me of back in college
when my freshman roommate Kimberley
was dating a guy named Clark.
Every time I'd see a box of TP, I'd wonder if they were meant to be.
(They weren't).

-----------------------

Somehow I've veered from good movies to bad toilet paper.
Welcome to the workings of my mind.

-----------------------

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"I Want You To Be There"

Remember this post? Well, there's another part to the story.

Jake's mother is my good friend. And she has been dealing with a lot. A part of the story that I didn't mention is that when she found out about Jake's diagnosis, she was also 8 months pregnant.

That was a month ago. This past month has been filled with phone calls and emails and tears and updates and information and meals and child care. It's been filled with an outpouring of prayers, generosity, and kindness that has astounded me.

That baby that she's been carrying . . . number 8 . . . was a surprise. They weren't planning to have her. But after Jake's diagnosis, it occurred almost immediately to many, especially the doctors, that that baby's cord blood could be an enormous life-saving blessing to Jake.

Jake's mom and dad had talked about several different name possibilities for the baby. But after the diagnosis, they told Jake that he could name the baby. He thought about it for a minute and then said decidedly, "Hope."

I can't tell that story without crying.

Not too long ago, my friend told me, "I want you to be there." I was very touched and I also thought she was just saying that she would love to have me there. But she actually meant it.

I am so incredibly honored by that invitation.

Hope entered the world today and I was there to see it. I was holding her mother's hand and crying as I saw that beautiful baby be born. It was an incredibly spiritually uplifting experience. That family could use some sunshine and happiness and they got it in the form of a beautiful baby girl.

As I drove home from the hospital, the thought came to my mind, "I feel more spiritual in this moment than I could possibly ever feel from one hundred church sermons." This is what life is about -- life, babies, friendship, family, love, hope. This is the good stuff.

A few weeks ago, I left the hospital and came home and cried. I was so down and so sad from having seen Jake in discomfort and pain. I came home feeling like life is hard and unfair. And then today, I got to witness Ellie's (that's what they're calling her -- her middle name is Elizabeth) birth and I left that same hospital feeling happy, peaceful, uplifted. I am so grateful for that gift.

On my way in to the hospital, I saw the word "Hope" no less than three times without even trying. I smiled each time and took it as a joyful reminder of what was to come.

As I walked out of the hospital today, with a feeling of such happiness and peace in my heart, I stepped outside and felt the sun warm me, enhancing even more the feelings I was experiencing. And then I looked up ahead of me and I saw a woman walking toward me and she had a shirt on with four big letters -- HOPE.

I cannot help but think that those aren't all coincidences. The word "hope" everywhere, that super long cord (the doctors and nurses kept exclaiming that they had never seen one so long!), the abundance of cord blood, that beautiful little girl, and the lucky and loving family that just welcomed her to be a part. I cannot help but feel very full of HOPE for Jake, for Ellie, and for their family.

It was a beautiful experience. I haven't felt this good in a long time. It feels fantastic--beautiful, happy, and peaceful. And oh so uplifting.



Hope is grief's best music.
~Author Unknown

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I've Come To Realize . . .

I love, love, love these writing prompts. I can't resist them! I saw this on someone's blog and immediately copied it to fill out for myself.

1. I've come to realize that my chest-size...isn't a bad thing. No sagging when I'm older! See? Glass half full.

2. I've come to realize that my job...reminds me how lucky I am. If I could go back in time, I would still choose to do the same thing. I don't know that everyone can say that, so I feel extraordinarily lucky.

3. I've come to realize that when I'm driving alone...or with people, the fact remains-- I don't parallel park.

4. I've come to realize that I need...to get a lot of stuff done before my Mom's 70th birthday.

5.I've come to realize that I have lost...some free passes to Hershey Gardens, but I know they're around here someplace.

6. I've come to realize that I hate it when...people think they're better than someone else.

7. I've come to realize that if I'm drunk...it must be on something like love or chocolate. I don't drink alcohol.

8. I've come to realize that money...tends to stress me out. Well, debt does. Money is useful, but there are some things that just don't have a price tag -- love, family, friendship, etc.

9. I've come to realize that certain people...push my buttons. Mostly, though, I really like people.

10. I've come to realize that I'll always...ooooh, this one is tough. I don't get into "always" and "never," so let me think. Oh, I know! I'll always love my children.

11. I've come to realize that my sibling...and I are very, very different, but I still love him.

12. I've come to realize that my mom...is someone I VERY much enjoy. I am really enjoying our adult relationship very much and am grateful for her love, openness, generosity, advice, and respect. I think she's great.

13. I've come to realize that my cell phone...has capabilities of which I am grossly unaware.

14. I came to realize when I woke up this morning...that I am tired when I get under 7.5 hours of sleep!

15. I came to realize last night before I went to sleep...that I don't like going to bed as late as I used to.

16. I've come to realize that right now I am thinking..."I should stop filling in this writing prompt and go use the bathroom." Too much information? Too bad.

17. I've come to realize that my dad...is someone I miss so much that it hurts. I especially grieve his absence as a grandfather to our kids. He's so warm and loving and generous with us and our kids and I miss that more than I can say. He is exactly what you picture when you hear the word "grandfather" (or "Vavô" as the case may be).

18. I've come to realize that when I get on Facebook...I am reminded why I closed my account and then didn't ever get back on. I don't miss it at all. So many time-sucking, inane conversations. It's great for some stuff, but for me, the cons outweigh the pros.

19. I've come to realize that today...is less crazy than yesterday.

20. I've come to realize that tonight...I might go out with a friend to the local coffeehouse! And that's something I really enjoy.

21. I've come to realize that tomorrow...brings me hope. :)

22. I've come to realize that I really want...some homemade cookies. Oh, and the ability to travel by "beaming up" like Scotty used to do in Star Trek.

23. I've come to realize that I value...thinking for myself and those who support me in that quest.

24. I've come to realize that life...is precious and something I value greatly.

25. I've come to realize that this weekend...is already July! How can that be?!

26. I've realized the best music to listen to when I am upset...is probably none. As much as I love music, sometimes I need quiet, down time.

27. I've come to realize that friends...are awesome. I love having friends, making friends, reconnecting with friends. I love seeing our children make friends and nurture their friendships.

28. I've come to realize that this year...'s phrase of the year ("live intentionally") isn't going as well as this past year's phrase ("live authentically"). It may get a 2-year stint. At least.

29. I've come to realize that my ex...is one of the most pious people I've ever met. Refer to number 6.

30. I've come to realize that maybe I should...get up and go to the bathroom. Just kidding. Already did. Maybe I should stop writing about my bathroom needs on our blog.

31. I've come to realize that when I love...I feel profound joy.

32. I've come to realize that I don't understand...why some people are super zealous about the health benefits of breastfeeding and then feed their kids cheese curls and soda pop. :P

33. I've come to realize my past...is part of who I am and something for which I am grateful.

34. I've come to realize that parties...are something I love to plan and organize for others.

35. I've come to realize that I'm totally terrified...of heights.

36. I've come to realize that my life...is great. I often, often find myself saying, "I love our life!" to my husband and kids. So, I feel pretty dang lucky in that regard.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Funny Thing 1 Stories (and a Thing 2 story)

The older kids get, it seems the less "little-kid" funny stories there are to tell. As they gain more knowledge of the world around them and acquire more street smarts, the innocent humor seems to fade a little (though potty jokes remain very much alive and well).

Thing 2 is at a great age for those kinds of stories. That being said, I'm excited that I have two Thing 1 stories that I've been itching to share for a couple of months.

Two-Minute Mystery

I so wish I had written this down sooner, because now the details are fuzzy, but here goes. You'll get the gist, though the actual story was really far more clever than I'm recalling at the moment.

The other day, we were trying to get some stories straight involving money buckets, the amounts therein, and a big sister and her little brother. Thing 2 vehemently said that he did NOT switch money around or mess with it in any way.


Thing 1 claimed she was missing a $5 bill. Thing 2 had a $5 bill in his jar that he claimed was his. We were trying to figure out what was what. We went over and over (and over) the stories again and again (and again). And it seemed there was no way to prove what happened. (Incidentally, this is when we started having them keep ledgers, which has been a brilliant money-teaching tool as well).

We started to rehash how much they make each week and what they'd each recently spent. We figured out that Thing 2 had saved 8 dollars and then he said, "Wait a minute! I spent $4 on (something I don't recall)."

That's when the light bulb went on for me and Thing 1 at about the same time. We looked at each other and that's when she said, "Wait! Then he can't have a $5 bill! If he had 8 and spent 4, he'd have only ones!"

I stood there impressed. Thing 2 looked sheepishly caught.

Thing 1 then excitedly declared, "It's like an Encyclopedia Brown case!"

And for the record, it turned out to be a different mix-up. He really hadn't stolen 5 bucks from his sister. They have multiple money jars (savings, tithing, and fun money) and there had been a slighter mix-up among them. Again, I don't remember details. But the point is . . . ledgers? Good. Encyclopedia Brown? Funny.

Sacred Catholic Rituals

Around the same time, we picked Thing 1 at her friend's house. They'd spent the afternoon together and Thing 1 had stayed for dinner. Thing 2 missed her VERY much, by the way. Thing 1 hopped in the van, excitedly telling us all about her adventures. After a while, she started this story:

"Oh! And Kirsten (her BFF) told me something you shouldn't do with your finger. She says it's like swearing at the other person."

"Oh?"

"Yeah, her little sister was pointing with that finger and Kirsten yelled, 'No! Sophie, don't use that finger!' and then she explained it to me like this."

Thing 1, holding up 3 fingers said, "She told me, 'Now, imagine if I put this finger down and this finger down.'" Thing 1 pointed to her pointer finger and then her ring finger. "'The one left? That would be like swearing at someone.'" (Her cute friend didn't actually put the other fingers down, but merely explained how to imagine it. So cute.)

And then the best part.

Thing 1 then shrugs and says, "I don't know. I think it's part of their religion or something."


7-year-olds and hell

Well, this was going to be a Thing 1 post, but Thing 2 graced us with this gem today.

Thing 1 is sitting on the chair playing a lute she bought as a souvenir at President James Buchanan's house (AWESOME field trip, by the way).

Thing 2 is sitting there listening and then says, "That sounds horrible, because you're blowing the hell out of your head."

It took me a minute and then it registered, but I thought I hadn't heard him right.

"What did you just say?"

He happily responded, "She's blowing the hell out of her head!"

"The hell out of it?" I verified again, just to be sure.

"Yeah."

"Where did you hear that?"

"I don't know."

"It's not a nice thing to say."

"Oh."

And that was that.

It's reminiscent of this story when Thing 1 was 7. I love that story, too. :)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Can you come to my house right now?

That's what the text said. And then there was a missed call from the same number.

I looked at it, saw that it was from my friend, and knowing that she wasn't the type to demand anything, thought, "Oh, funny. Her kids got a hold of her cell phone and sent me a text trying to get us to go over. Ha!"

I put the phone down and started to walk away.

But then I thought, well, I better check just in case. So I called her back and happily said, "Hey Kristie, this is Stacy!"

Her voice answered, between sobs, "Can you come to my house right now?"

"What's wrong?!?!?"

"Jake has cancer."

That sentence. Her voice. Her cries. They haunted me for days.

And it's been craziness ever since.

What do you say to your friend who has worried for months about her son's health and who, 5 minutes before that follow-up phone call from the doctor's office, had been relieved to learn that it was arthritis?

You go over and cry with her.

And then you jump to action finding ways to help them with the hellish reality that has become their life as their 11-year-old starts bone marrow draws, spinal taps, and chemo treatments.

And you try to explain to your children why their friend is so sick.

And you don't blog, because 1. you don't have time and 2. you don't much feel like it.

So, that's partly what's going on around here. We're totally difficult to reach these days and I know I haven't blogged much, but that's okay.

Sometimes things that once seemed so important suddenly seem pretty insignificant. And you're reminded about what really matters.

About a week ago, I had a whole list of things that I wanted to do. I know they seemed like a big deal at the time. But for the life of me, I can't remember what they were.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Winner is Crowned

As you know, I don't usually recap a rundown of the finale, so I'll just hit some highlights.

Fabulous finale as usual. It's like a huge party and we get to be a part of it.

We turn up our TV really loud and make a lot of food and we even make signs.

Our clever kids came up with the clever signs themselves:

Thing 2, a Crystal fan, has a sign that says "Crystal Rox" (Get it? She rocks. And she rox (as in Bowersox). I could cry, he's so smart.

Thing 1, a Lee fan like her Mommy, has a sign that says "Lee is De Winner!"(Get it? Lee DeWyze . . . De Winner).

I didn't take notes. I just ate, sang along, and screamed excitedly (and scared the dog) when I saw the famous people they brought out on stage tonight. (Off the top of my head, I was pretty pumped to see Joe Cocker, Chicago, and Janet Jackson). Long live the '80s! (There's a reason John Cusack is my Hollywood crush).

I loved the tribute to Simon with all the past idols (minus David Cook, who was hosting a charity event in Kansas City).

I loved that they brought out the "Pants on the Ground" guy. I hate stupid auditions, but I loved his.

Kris Allen is adorable.

I thought the Crystal-Alanis Morissette duet was fabulous. They sounded so, so good.

Oh! Oh! And Casey James and Bret Michaels?!?!?! How freaking cool was that?!! I was so happy to see Bret Michaels! I've been following all his health stuff in the tabloids and it was such a huge surprise to see him on stage and he and Casey did AWESOME work up there.

I love, love, love Paula and was so happy to see her pixie self. She has been missed this season and it was good to have her back. The other 3 judges seemed to melt into obscurity a bit tonight.

Lee was a class act. I absolutely love when the winners sing with such raw emotion. I loved every minute of it.

(And I won't say "I told you so.").

Great, great Idol night. I loved it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lee vs. Crystal

I read on TMZ today (because, yes, that's what I do) that in rehearsal, both contestants were such bundles of nerves that Crystal stopped mid-song and forgot the lyrics and Lee supposedly got angry and left the stage when he was accidentally hit with a violin bow.

Watching the intro, I thought Lee looked collected. But Crystal and the cameraman? That was another story.

Ah, live television. Poor Crystal dropped her mic while high-five-ing everyone down the aisle. Lee, on the other hand, coolly placed his mic in his pocket while strolling down the aisle seemingly nonplussed. Crystal seemed flustered when she couldn't figure out where to stand among the audience and then it turned out she wasn't supposed to stand there at all, but rather get on stage, so Lee beat her there. Is that a foreshadowing of what's to come?

Crystal won the coin toss, so she of course chose to go 2nd. 3 songs tonight. Here we go.

1. Contestant's Choice:

Lee - "The Boxer"
His video intro made me like him even more. What a cute kid. His song was great. Simon calls it a kiss on the cheek rather than a kiss on the lips. Using that analogy, both kinds of kisses are nice and getting both enhances the effect of either. I like how he kisses either way. :P

Crystal - "Me and Bobby McGee"
Her video intro made me wonder, where's her mom? Crystal was excellent and totally gave me chills.

Round 1 goes to Crystal.

2. Producer's Choice

Lee - "Everybody Hurts"
Awesome choice. I don't think I could've predicted that song choice at all, but as soon as I heard it, it fit like a glove! I don't know if I would've made a connection between R.E.M.'s sound and Lee's, but it works. Plus this was R.E.M and a gospel choir and that's just extra cool. It was fabulous on him and I love his stage presence.

The audience, however, drives me crazy . . . Shut. Up!

Crystal - "Black Velvet"
This song has been done to death on this show, so it was hard to imagine her pulling it off as anything other than stale. However, they rocked it up and she did the song (and the arrangement) justice. It's just too bad they made her wear such an unflattering dress and awful heels to walk down those stairs. It was all very distracting. But her voice? She gave me chills again!

HOWEVER. When Ryan talks to her in between songs, she's a little too "Macy's Day Parade" - ish when she talks with him. Maybe it's her constant use of the word "Ryan." I suppose anyone would sound "Macy's Day Parade" - ish if they kept saying someone's name after every sentence. Especially if they threw in a "Thank you" (or 19) along with it. Gag.

Round 2 was tied.

3. Winner's Song

Wow, so this year they went with already-produced songs instead of the same old crap they've used for the past 8 years. No amount of song writing contests or Kara DioGuardi lyrics has been able to de-cheese the winning songs, so stick to already-awesome songs? Winning concept. Give that guy a raise.

Lee - "Beautiful Day"
I love this U2 song. It's so . . . NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! Yes, that was the sound in our living room tonight as our local cable company cut out about 10 straight minutes of the show. Well, thank God for the internet, because I don't watch countless horrid auditions and 5 months of this show, week after week, to miss the final performances of the season. So, we high tailed it to my computer and watched Lee and Crystal perform the winner's songs. I'll keep it simple. Lee did great (and I can totally see how he might've gotten hit with a violin bow). And . . .

Crystal - "Up to the Mountain"
So did Crystal.

That's really all I have to say about the final songs. Maybe it's the distraction of the video cutting out. Maybe it's that I'm trying really hard to be open to the idea that Crystal could sound more deserving than Lee. Maybe it's that I'm tired and have a headache. I don't know, but I will say this.

I do think Crystal sounded fantastic tonight. And Lee sounded great, too. They are BOTH excellent. I like both their sounds. Heck, I'd even buy BOTH their albums.

That being said, Crystal almost swung me over to team Crystal tonight. ALMOST.

You see, I was thinking, as the show progressed tonight, that it worked very well in her favor that they weren't allowing time for them to TALK between songs, because I find her ingratiating when she does. And it was all going so well. Until. Until . . .

That girl doesn't know when to stop or shut up. Her little "Can I say something?" tribute to Simon took the energy (that, by the way, she had totally and successfully unleashed in her performances, creating a fantastic high in the crowd) and sucked it right out of the gigantic room.

If she'd not talked, I might, might have liked her more than Lee tonight. MIGHT. Because she did sound really, really good tonight. BUT. She reminded me why I love Lee (and yes, I vote based partly on personality--always have, always will). It's the nature of the show. It's not just about a sound (though a large part of it IS). It's a love story. I love both of their sounds, but I think America has fallen in love with Lee AND his sound.

They will both put out albums, because they are both incredible performers.

But Lee will win, because he has stolen our hearts.

I can hardly WAIT for the finale. I *love* American Idol finales. And Simon's final show should be a doozy. Bring on the group songs, the keys to the new Fords, and the celebration!

The Last Hurrah

I entered this night with high expectations, and a healthy dose of realism. It's long been my assertion that eventually fans of American Idol stop caring about who performs better and vote for who they like the best. So even deciding who was best tonight does very little to help us decide who will win. It's still fun to review it and debate it, though, isn't it?

First, a couple of general observations. Simon Fuller and whoever picked the winners' songs did Lee no favors tonight. First of all, Lee was given the much more mellow "Everyody Hurts" to Crystal's overdone, but more overtly exciting "Black Velvet." Then he was given the unenviable task of trying to improve on what is one of U2's better songs, while Crystal gets the benefit of a song that is so naturally suited to her soulful voice and great guitar skills.

I was happy to see that American Idol has done what many of us thought they should have done a long time ago: get rid of the cheesy, formulaic, mock inspirational winners' songs in favor of more relevant, established songs. Kara seemed a bit bitter about not getting a chance to create more cheddar for the winners, though. I would advise Kara to go back and look at the final performances of such contestants as Bo Bice, Blake Lewis, and David Cook as they tried to put their spins on the winners' songs. It wasn't pretty. There is some music that was just meant to be sung by the David Archuletas of the world.

I also enjoyed hearing Will Young sing tonight. What a tribute to the Idol process to see the original Pop Idol having such a successful career. He's got a really good voice.

OK, now my contestant-specific reviews . . .

Lee DeWyze: I completely disagree that Lee seemed nervous. He may have been a little awestruck and humbled by the whole setting, but he seemed very comfortable on stage all night. "The Boxer" was a great choice, especially since I get a little tired of the over-the-top arrangements that always surface during the finale. I prefer an emotional performance of a great song to a forced cliche of a presentation. Lee's voice is perfectly suited to sing R.E.M., so his second song was great in my opinion, even if the judges seemed underwhelmed. "Beautiful Day" is a great song, but there is no way to really compare to Bono on this one. I do disagree with Kara, though--he was not "swallowed up" by the song. All in all I thought it was a very solid set of performances.

Crystal Bowersox: Crystal got off to a rough start with dropping her microphone in the aisle in the opening, and it seemed like no one knew where she was supposed to be. The biggest challenge for her tonight seemed to be getting to the stage because once she got there she was just fine. All of her songs were great selections, and she had probably her best night of the season. She seemed herself, complete with attention-seeking ingratiation (is that even a word?). I can't take anything away from her performances tonight, though, because she was in the zone. I think she probably had a better night than Lee, and it pains me to say it since I'm a Lee fan.

With that said, I still think Lee is the next American Idol. He just seems to be a fit for the typical voters, or at least the ones that will vote for the entire four hours, risking the development of severe arthritis as adults.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The evolution of interest (or media-free weeks)

I wrote this on Wednesday, but am only now posting it.
I don't know why.


We're enjoying a (mostly) media-free week. We're not big regular TV watchers (other than American Idol and Amazing Race), but we do love our computers. We use them for reading, writing, researching, playing games, using our library system, pictures, organizing, videos, communicating, you name it.

The kids don't generally use the computers until after dinner, except for some stuff in the mornings that we do almost daily like typing tutor, Portuguese, and looking stuff up that we're studying. And when the weather is nice, we are outside as much as is humanly possible -- usually in the backyard, but also at a park, at the pool, or something.

So usually, after dinner and when we don't have other, outside or out-of-the-home plans, they like to play Webkinz, Wizard101, and other super fun games. But every once in a while, we declare a media-free week for ourselves and see where that leads us. We always, always enjoy it.

It's kind of like being Amish for a week (only, not really).

Suddenly, they play with toys they haven't maybe noticed in a while. Or they pick up those how-to-draw books they love. Or we do puzzle books. Or we listen to more books on tape (something we do a lot anyway). We read even more (even more than "a lot"). We cook. We bake. We play games. We get stuff done. We work on projects.

Well, this week is a media-free week (and we've even put off Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon to after dinner and, astonishingly, they haven't even made many appearances!). So, we've been doing whatever strikes our fancy.

Some of the interesting things we've done so far this week include:

* A violin recital
* A 4-H cooking class
* An art class
* Writer's group
* Homemade Orange Rolls
* Poker (5-card draw)
* Pretzel M&Ms (for gambling while playing poker) :P
* Letter writing to companies to let them know we like their products (yes, we're hoping for letters back and maybe coupons for free stuff)
* Silent movies
* Zorro!

One of the things I love about go "au natural" (as far as technology goes--c'mon now, what kind of a homeschool do you think we run around here?) is seeing where our interests carry us.

Buster Keaton

I'm on a mailing list for homeschoolers and someone there mentioned that their child was interested in silent movies. "Huh," I thought. "That kind of sounds like fun." So, I got on our online library catalog system and ordered 2 Buster Keaton movies and 1 Charlie Chaplin movie.

Yesterday, we watched "The General." We absolutely loved it. I hadn't ever seen a Buster Keaton movie before! Why? I have no idea, but now I get why people love him. It was fantastic!

I remember him being referenced in Friends and also in Benny and Joon (I think), but he was just some iconic figure to which people referred, not someone I actually had ever seen. Until now. Love him! And so do the kids.

Little interesting tidbit from Wikipedia:

Orson Welles has stated that Keaton's The General is the greatest comedy ever made, the greatest Civil War film ever made, and perhaps the greatest film ever made. A 2002 worldwide poll by Sight & Sound ranked Keaton's The General as the 15th best film of all time.

Trains/Civil War

Well, watching "The General" got Thing 2 interested (yet again -- he went through a major train phase when he was about 3) in trains and how they work. It also got both Thing 1 and Thing 2 totally interested in the Civil War. So, now we're in the midst of gathering documentaries, activity books, novels, and other fun stuff for us to research and enjoy, as we learn more about that time period. And we are all excited about it! Nerds.

Baking Bread

I've been craving good breakfast bread for a while now. So, yesterday, I decided to pull out an old recipe I got from an old college roommate and make some orange rolls. They were delicious! It was an all-day affair to make them. During the early stages, I worked on the bread while the kids practiced their instruments, did some spelling stuff (we watched the documentary "Spellbound" this past week and played a bunch of word games and did a bunch of activities, and researched some of the contestants, all in preparation for the televised National Spelling Bee coming up), and played poker. When it came time to roll them out, spread the filling, cut them, and roll them, the kids totally helped out. It was so much fun (and so, so yummy to celebrate a great Idol night by eating warm, glazed rolls afterward). Mmmmm.

Poker

On Monday at the library, we found a free book (they always have a whole lobby of free books you can take and we usually do a quick scan to see what's there) on card games. Well, by that afternoon, the kids had read up on several games and were begging us to play.

So we tried out some new games and one of the games they like best? Poker. They're now using poker chips, but we started out using those new Pretzel M&Ms (have you tried them? They are DELICIOUS!!).

It's actually really fun to learn math by betting, figuring out odds, strategy, and chances instead of some boring, old worksheet. Plus, we got to play poker! It's a riot to hear our kids toss in a chip and say, "Ante up!"

Letter Writing

Eating the M&Ms also got Thing 1 wondering, "Why do they call them M&Ms?" I looked it up (and found myself reading the entire wiki page on M&Ms -- who knew a candy's history could be so interesting?), but Thing 1 didn't want me to tell her. She wrote a letter to the company to ask them herself. She thought it would be more fun that way.

Birds

And while we're playing poker, eating dinner, baking rolls, we look out the window and watch the bird feeders and see red cardinals, gray sparrows, brown finches, red-headed house finches, blue jays, golden finches, and more. We use our bird book (that we keep in that room) to figure out what the birds are called and to learn more about them. We love our birds (and Scout mostly does, too, unless they're big birds -- crows, starlings, and mourning doves? Not so much.).

Nutrition

Speaking of eating dinner, a favorite game around here is "What's the healthiest thing on my plate?" Anyone initiates it anytime and we rank order the foods we're eating. It always, inevitably, leads to more discussions on healthy eating, nutrition, good eating habits, the food pyramid, vitamins, avoiding the not-good-for-you stuff, etc. We, of course, balance this by eating M&Ms and donuts now and then. :)

Zorro!

Today, we've had some other things going on -- mulch delivery for some yard work, planting our garden (kids have their own sections, too), figure skating lessons, etc. But the kids have started watching Zorro! (the old, black and white version) and we've also played a game called Calamityville (kind of like Monopoly for the Wild West/Gold Rush era) that we're borrowing from a friend in our homeschool group.

Data Entry

Not sure what we're doing for dinner yet, but we've all been working on organizing our recipes into an online and book form. The kids have been using their typing skills and doing data entry (.25/recipe) and that's been a lot of fun, too.

Jobs/Budgeting

Thing 1 has been saving up her money to buy herself a Nintendo DS and I'm really proud of her for doing so. Thing 2 is saving up, too, for a Yu-Gi-Oh card, but sometimes he changes his mind on what he wants to get. I'm hoping he saves up for a DS, too, because I think it's a great experience for them to work and save like that. They will always treasure them and care for them, because they've worked so hard to save for them. (Update: inspired by his sister's saving and our success in finding her an awesome deal, he's now saving for a DS!)

They both have regular jobs helping out in the clinic and they do side jobs to help out, too (extra money for bigger outdoor jobs, data entry on the recipes, etc.). Thing 1 even gets paid to be a "Mother's Helper" now and then by a friend of ours. She gets to go over and help with the little ones so the mom can get some stuff done. A brilliant concept.

Both kids track their earnings and expenditures in their own ledgers, which has really been a nice way for them to see how this whole money thing works.

Natural Learning

I guess what I'm loving most about our media-free weeks, besides the fun, relaxed feel of it and how much we're enjoying it in general, is watching the process of natural learning. I didn't come up with some kind of rigid lesson plan and make our kids stick to it, whether they were interested or not. I have a vague idea (and a checklist) of what we hope to get to each day, but we approach it with flexibility that allows for natural interest, curiosity, and excitement. After all, that's how we learn before school. And that's how we learn after we graduate. Naturally.

When I'm interested in something, I look it up, read a book, talk to someone, watch a movie, take a course. So, we try to incorporate that same attitude in our own "schooling." It's really such a natural process anyway, that if I can let go and trust (easier said than done at times), it's amazing where it takes us. I love it when this happens.

Is it all roses, pretzel M&Ms, unicorns, and poker chips? No.

Some days/weeks are hard or don't flow quite so easily (therein lies the challenge--being in tune with the energy of the good weeks and learning from, instead of getting sucked down by, the rough ones). It's challenging to find time for myself or to keep up on things around the house or in my work in our clinic. It really takes some serious finagling at times for me and Mark to simply touch base and stay caught up on things we share with each other (read: we use the instant messenger a lot, but how cool is that? Our kids can literally look up our marital conversations and read transcripts! What other generation can boast that? Or maybe that's not boast-worthy? :P).

It can be tricky to find the balance of all that we do. It's not easy to keep the house clean (ha!) or stay caught up on laundry or dishes or work on organizing that closet. It's an enormous responsibility to home educate and it's one we do not take lightly. It's a trick to try to stay ahead of the calendar and be on top of what we're doing day to day, let alone what's coming up. I do a lot of research. I do a lot of reading. I worry about finances sometimes. I get tired and even downright grumpy sometimes, but all in all? I love, love, love spending time together as a family. I love the flexibility it affords us. I love the learning. We love our homeschool group. We love what we do.

The noise and activity level can sometimes test the limits of my patience, but I can't think of anyone else I'd rather spend daily time with--I absolutely love my husband, my kids, and yes, even our puppy. And learning together? Naturally? For us? Thankfully, it's a perfect match. Because these kids are growing up so quickly right before our very eyes and I'm glad we are together so much and can honestly, even though we all drive each other crazy sometimes, call each other "friend." That's another benefit to our days -- learning through trial and error, through time together and quiet time apart, how to daily work on lasting relationships together. I love, love, love my family.

Oh, and thank you, media-free week.