Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Public Speaking...sort of

So my boys have been working on memorizing a poem to perform in front of an audience. This was our first attempt at this kind of memorization and public speaking, and they have been pretty nervous about it.

A few weeks back, they each picked a poem (or 2) to practice. We kind of have a thing for Shel Silverstein, so they all gravitated toward his books. They've got good taste. And very mature. Although I haven't quite sold them on the merits of Walt Whitman...yet.

Well, I told them they were going to have to stand up in front of an audience and recite.

And then I said it would happen "soon."

About a week later, they started to doubt that I was going to follow through on this one little bit of the lesson. Likely with good reason, seeing as how I had no real plan for finding said audience. Obviously this has not been my finest homeschool teacher moment. I'm sure there will be worse ones to come, though, so I'm not sweating it.

In order to salvage the lesson and not chalk it up as a complete mommy fail, I am counting the world wide web as the audience.

And so, without further ado, I present to you our poems:

Mr. N, reciting Shel Silverstein's "Hippopotamus Sandwich"
Mr. W, with both "Snap" and "Skating" (he liked the shorter ones, so had to pick 2)
Mr. L, performing "The Worst," also by Shel Silverstien
What he whispers at the end is "who is standing right behind you." He got a bit caught up in the drama of it all, I think.

Our main goal was NOT to sound like this:
It was actually much more difficult than you would imagine.

Sunday, November 1, 2015


Mary : Does everyone who dies become a ghost?  
Archibald: They’re only a ghost if someone alive is still holding onto them.
(The Secret Garden, musical)

My Octobers are haunted.

October has been my favorite month for as long as I can remember. There are still deliciously sunny days that let you know that you have just left summer behind, and they are so much sweeter knowing they won't last. The nights are crisp with autumn's chill, just right for sitting around a fire. Everything seems to smell and taste of apples, cinnamon, and pumpkin. And those colors?

And as if that weren't enough to make me love this month so much, it all ends with one giant costume party. I'm like a little child when it comes to playing dress up. Seriously. I think one day a week should be designated to dressing in costume. It never gets old.
Perhaps my favorite thing about October, though, is that  October made me a mommy. I love celebrating my little men, and the fact that their birthday falls squarely in the best month of the year is the icing on the cake.

Even though I'm already in love, October woos me again year after year. *swoon*

But my Octobers are haunted.

Two years ago we were balancing the amazing weather, food, beauty, birthdays, candy, and costumes with watching my mother die. I'm not going to lie. There were some pretty rough days. On the whole, though, we managed to create some wonderful memories, and no celebrations were interrupted or overshadowed by funeral arrangements.

In fact, we had arrived back home after the Halloween parade, had changed into pjs, and had the kids all tucked in bed for the night before the phone rang with the news that she had gone.

"Well," I thought, "she gave me October. Thanks for that gift, Mom."

I didn't realize it then, but she also took October.

Every leaf.

Every cool breeze.

Every sip of warm cider.

Every costumed child.

She's there. Haunting my Octobers. Casting a little shadow of sorrow and memory over every glorious day. Sometimes it makes me cry. Sometimes I get mad at her. Sometimes it makes me smile, albeit often through tears. And sometimes I am grateful for the painful memories, for they make the good ones so much sweeter.
Sometimes I think she might just have planned it that way. She is forever engraved upon my favorite time of year.

I miss you, Mom, you crazy old witch. I expect you to keep on haunting my Octobers for many more years.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Double Trouble

Eight years ago my life  was changed completely when I became a mama of not one darling little boy, but two. That first year was a whirlwind. I am not sure I had time to exhale during those early days. And I know I didn't have time to shower. My apologies to those who knew me then.

I was thrust into motherhood, and much like the Grinch, my heart grew three sizes. I don't think I had ever known the depth of love...or exhaustion...that these two little men would teach me.
2015 Mr. N.

2015 Mr. W.
Their energy is a force to be reckoned with. Their personalities are as distinct as their fingerprints -- two unique halves of the same whole. Their rivalry is fierce, but their friendship grows stronger every day. Both individually and as a team they are capable of great things and never cease to amaze me.

2014 at Grinter Farms
2015 at Grinter Farms
When you've lived in 4 different states, it makes it difficult to have a party with all your friends. No matter what, you are going to have to pick and choose. This year they decided to have their party back in Illinois. Luckily, Grandad has a nice back yard and a kitchen to use. I didn't have to try to load everything into the car. Only some things. And I had to have a clear plan of what needed to happen in the limited time we would have before friends started ringing the doorbell.

Star Wars.

It's just a minor obsession of ours right now.

It's our Halloween theme. Our birthday party theme. It might just be the theme of our day-to-day existence, if I'm honest. The moment-by-moment struggles not to let our passions, our fears and our anger control us...not to be wooed by the the Dark Side.

The struggle is real, people.

Naturally, every young Jedi apprentice needs to have his or her very own lightsaber as a party favor. And to avoid injury (as much as possible, anyway), those should really be pool noodles.

The snack table was complete with cake, veggie sabers, Leia's braids, and more!

The Trooper Army was an adorable way for me to give up my need for control. And as I've mentioned a few times before, it doesn't have to be beautiful for it to be perfect. The boys loved taking ownership of their own party by drawing the faces on the marshmallows storm troopers (among other things). It was perfect.
 The Trash Pit Pudding came complete with an one-eyed gummy worm trash monster.
 Freeing Han Solo from the Carbonite Jello was a tasty diversion.
 No party is complete without an EPIC lightsaber battle!
These very intimidating boys were the real champs of Tug-of-War Dark vs. Light, although we recruited a few adults to give the smaller kids on the other side a fighting chance.

We also defeated the Clone (balloon) Army, took some Target Practice against an X-Wing and a TIE Fighter (cornhole), used the Force (to play blind man's bluff), and destroyed the Death Star (piñata).

It was crazy, chaotic, exhausting, and so much fun. Everything a party should be.

Happy 8th birthday, you silly boys!

Mr. N, you make me so happy. I love your big animal-loving heart, your tender spirit, and your desire for peace, fun, and comfort in every situation.

Mr. W, I am so proud to be your mama. I love your drive and determination, how you crave encouragement and give it to others, your sense of humor, and your desire to always to your best and be the best you can be.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Did I forget to mention...?

This amazing boy had a birthday a month ago.
He took us by storm 6 years ago and has manged to melt my heart just about every. single. day. since.
2014 at Grinter Farms
Our creative little man wanted to celebrate his big day with a Lego party. He was voting for Lego Star Wars, really, but we settled on just plain Lego to make Mommy's life easier.

After all, we were going to be having this party in a hotel room at the Lake of the Ozarks.

I asked him if he could cut me a little slack. Thankfully, he agreed. We scaled back his dream party enough that it was able to travel in the back of the trusty Honda.

So, off we went to our little piece of Midwestern paradise. Sigh.

Before the festivities got underway, the Birthday Boy had to endure a few hours out on the lake. It's not his favorite part of the trip, but he snuggled in and suffered through some choppy waters while the rest of us had fun. Despite the chill in the air, the water was incredibly warm, and the kids did decide on a dip before we had to turn back.

Back in the hotel room, the spread was ready and waiting. There were snacks and games and presents enough to make a new 6 year old giddy.

Lego head marshmallows were both adorable and delicious.

There was a whole army of chocolate Lego men surrounding the ruins of a chocolate brick wall.

The cake was topped with gummy Lego bricks and multicolored sprinkles. It looked like the floor after an afternoon spent creating. Shorty called the cake "blue surprise" because it looked white until you cut in and...SURPRISE! The cake itself was bright blue.
By the way, those Lego gummy things were just chewy masses of tastelessness. Lovely for decorating the cake, not so much for the taste buds.

 We had a hilarious game of Stick the Face on Lego Luke Skywalker.

The tiny pinata proved difficult to defeat.

So much fun opening the presents (and playing with the new stuff)!

Later on, there was even time for a game of Foosball with Grandad.

And an evening dip in the cave pool, despite the chilly temperatures.

Thank you, Little Man, for the ways that you enrich and liven up our little household. I couldn't imagine our life without you and your effervescent spirit.

We love you tons and bunches.

Friday, September 18, 2015







It's not a luxury to be done only if you have time, squeezed in between hours of structured, adult-directed activities designed to enrich our children's lives.

I'm talking about the unstructured freedom of childhood. 

It's necessary. Vital.


Sometimes you just need to be King of the Hill. Spontaneously. Without coaching. You. Must. Conquer. All. 
"I sound my barbaric YAWP over the rooftops of the world."

Sometimes you find the perfect stick just lying around and you know you must do battle against your foes.
"To struggle against great odds! to meet enemies undaunted!"

Sometimes you need to slop paint around on paper with no objective other than figuring out what it feels and looks like when you do it. Sometimes the result doesn't have to be something pretty to hang on the wall. But you can still hang it on the wall. Because it's awesome.
"The art of art, the glory of expression and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity."

Sometimes you have to run, to kick, to compete. With yourself. With each other. With an unstoppable force you have no hope of defeating. And hope anyway.
"Have you heard that it was good to gain the day? I also say it is good to fall, battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are won."

Sometimes you just have to jump in and dive deep. To soak up the joy that is life and sunshine and water.
"To danceclap hands, exult, shout, skip, leap, roll on, float on"

Sometimes you have to spread your building materials all around you and build. Create. Imagine. Design for yourself a new universe.
"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines."

Sometimes you need to stand in awe. Of the size of the bus which is stuck in the mud. Of the tractor which is pulling it out. Of the farmer who has suddenly become your hero. You need to realize that heroic deeds come from a generous heart. And a tractor can help.
"And there is no trade or employment but the young man following it may become a hero"

Sometimes you need to stop and smell the roses. The sunflowers. The dandelions. You need to go out of your way to find unexpected and beautiful experiences.
"Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers where I can walk undisturbed."

Sometimes you need to stop what you are doing and pick up that beetle so you can get a better look at it. You need to marvel at its antennae, its six little legs, its iridescent exoskeleton. You need to feel the tickle as it crawls across your bare skin. You need to learn to have a gentle touch as you admire creation.
"As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles."

Sometimes you just need to be allowed to roam free and in the wild. To be the Wild Things that your heart longs to be.
"O to have life henceforth a poem of new joys!"

Sometimes you need to realize that there truly is a Walt Whitman quote for everything.
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