Friday, May 30, 2014

Perler Beads in High Gear

Our dining room table is usually covered in projects.  We sort through it all periodically when we have guests coming and need the dining table for, you know, dining, but most of the time it's more of a mail sorting station and an art project area.

For the past couple of months it's been dominated by perler beads.  I know I've written about them before, but for anyone who doesn't know what I'm talking about, perler beads are little plastic cylinders that you organize on a pegboard, then iron to melt them together to form a single, flat, plastic piece.  Normally people make junky little things with them that nobody knows what to do with (I have some set aside for coasters), and the loose tiny beads get all over and are unpleasant to step on in bare feet.

My kids started off like everyone else making basic shapes such as hearts or circles, sometimes in patterns, sometimes with random colors.  But then they decided to start using the plastic shapes they created as building blocks for larger things, piecing them together into walls of small structures.  They create accessories for use with other toys like hover-boards or food or things from Minecraft.  Quinn even made all his Valentines out of perler beads for his class this year.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Weekend Getaway

What a marvelous thing a three day weekend is.

I was recently considering the fact that it's a bit wearing that I don't normally get two days off in a row from work.  I have an assistant who takes one day at the store for me in the middle of the week, and I have Sundays off, but to not have two days off in a row means when I am home I have to decide between getting something done or enjoying myself, but not really both because time is limited.

Working outside the home means the house kind of slips into disorder while I'm gone, and my "days off" end up being cleaning and errand days.  Unless I decide to use that time to write or do something fun with the kids, but then I have to make a conscious decision to let the house remain a pit.  Two days off in a row means one day to clean and another to relax, but that hasn't happened in a long time.

For Memorial Day Weekend it was tempting to get a lot of house and yard work done and then just enjoy that whole Monday off.  But instead it sounded better to simply flee all of it and go to the cottage.  The house could be a pit by itself where I wouldn't have to look at it, and the cottage is easy to clean because there is so much less of it.

I love the cottage.  I've been missing my grandma a lot lately, and I feel like she's with me when we're in her cottage again.  She would have been so happy to know we still use it.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Three Plus Two

One of my original editors at Babble when I used to blog there (before the site was bought by Disney and turned into a useless collection of bland click bait) recently invited me to submit an essay for her current parenting site  She was looking for a parenting piece with a military theme for Memorial Day.  At the time we were in the middle of watching two kids for a friend of ours who was off doing two weeks of service with the National Guard.  I had started a blog post about it, so I just reworked that into an essay she could use.

If you'd like to read it, the piece is up on already.

I've also recorded it for the local radio show Lake Effect for air on Memorial Day.  (I'll post a link when that becomes available.)  UPDATE:  My piece is at the 46:20 mark. was also kind enough to name me among their favorite military parenting bloggers.  It's a list I'm honored to be a part of.

Although, thankfully, my own personal experiences of late have been very dull on the military front and I hope it stays that way.  Ian recently finished his job as a military history teacher for ROTC at Marquette and is now with a unit that specializes in training other units in mechanical jobs, so it's not a group ever likely to get deployed.  Of course, when I ask him to say those words out loud to make me feel better, he can't quite do it.  He says our current situation with wars winding down and the Army weeding people out using things like renewed tattoo restrictions makes the odds of his being sent anywhere very low, but his actual position anywhere has no relation to what he can be asked to do.

It's been interesting looking at my life from a military mom perspective again, however tangential that status may seem now.  I'm amazed how even stressful events can fade given enough time and new distractions.  I was reviewing some of my old posts from during the last deployment and was surprised what I'd forgotten.*  For instance, Mona used to panic every time I dropped Aden off at school.  I had the very clear sense that from her point of view we had dropped her dad off somewhere and he never came back, and reducing her family down further to just her and pregnant me was unacceptable.  She did not let her sister go without a fight every morning.  Until I reread those words on my old blog I had forgotten the intensity of it.  It was a good reminder.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Reading Buddy

I love to read.  I'm putting more effort into making time to read lately, because that was one of those things that went out the window when I started having kids and now I want it back.  It's not due to just a lack of time in general, but a lack of uncluttered brain time.  Having small children jumbled my mind up in a way that made reading for pleasure difficult for years.

My kids, until fairly recently, have not been much into reading on their own.  They love to be read to (we are currently in the middle of the second Harry Potter book and they beg for me to keep going at the end of each chapter), and they certainly have plenty of books, but they don't read the way I did as a kid.  Aden did get sucked into the Warrior series (which is some epic drama about cats), and Quinn does go poking through his shelves from time to time, but most of the reading my kids do is at school.

This past weekend I read Divergent because I needed a page turner after having struggled to finish The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan for my book club.  I normally like Amy Tan, but am confused by the good reviews this particular book has gotten.  I can't recommend it, and it took me forever to get through.  Divergent wasn't great, but it was enjoyable, and it was nice to read straight through something in a weekend.

Quinn has been reading The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White.  His teacher is reading it to the class at school, and somehow or other Quinn missed hearing the first few chapters, so he's going back on his own and trying to catch up.  He confessed to me about a week ago that sometimes he stays up late and reads with a flashlight after I've put him to bed.  I told him that was fine.  My kids can stay up as late as they want if they are reading.  (Or cleaning something.)

So this weekend Quinn and I became reading buddies.  On Sunday we wanted to hang out together but we both wanted to read, so we just cuddled up close together on the couch and read our own books.  It was honestly one of the best days of my life.  I had Quinn snuggled up against me on one side and the dog all curled up asleep on the other and we just read.

I asked Quinn if we could make this a regular thing and he looked delighted.  I have a reading buddy.  (Now if I can just find a way to make eating cookies an activity that burns calories while we read life will be beyond perfect.)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Sometimes Yes Begins With No

I was invited recently by someone compiling an anthology to send in a submission for consideration.  The project was called "The Book of Yes" and she was interested in essays that embodied whatever "Yes" meant to any of us.  Ultimately my essay was not selected.

I think she was looking one of my more tear-inducing pieces (despite being someone I like to believe is somewhat fun in person, the reaction I get most often to much of my writing is "I cried buckets"), but that wasn't what I was inspired to do.  When I tried to think of something I specifically chose to say "Yes" to, what came to mind was opening my store.

In any case, I thought since she can't use it I would share it here.  Hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Source Material

We first instituted Friday Night Movie Night in our home when Ian was deployed the second time.  I found it easier to keep the kids (and myself) distracted from his absence if we always had short term goals to look forward to.  Having Movie Night never be more than a week away helped more than you can imagine.

The challenge has always been finding movies for all of us to enjoy; nothing too scary or complicated for the youngest and nothing that will annoy or bore the adults to death.  So far we've done pretty well (and I will list suggestions for family movies at the end of this post if anyone's interested).

In the past year or so, we've decided to focus on what Ian and I term "Source Material."  Our kids are old enough that they've been exposed to a ton of media, and they constantly take in references to older movies and shows without realizing it.  We find ourselves regularly trying to explain certain jokes that go right over their heads during programs like Futurama, the Simpsons, and Phineas and Ferb.  (Thank goodness for YouTube.  I have paused episodes of Phineas and Ferb just to show the kids the opening themes to The Love Boat and Gilligan's Island--among other things--so they would appreciate the spoofs.)

But explaining things only goes so far.  Why not go right to the source and let them see for themselves?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

No Helmet

Today was "Bike (or walk) to School Day" around here.  We have two extra kids staying with us for a couple of weeks while their mom is out of state with the National Guard, so it was a bit more of a production for us to participate, but the kids were motivated so we did it.  It was Quinn's first time biking to school since he learned how to ride last summer, so he was really proud of himself, and I was impressed that he had no problem doing the nearly two mile route.  Our youngest guest doesn't bike yet, but she took her scooter about a third of the way before that became too much and we packed her up into the bike trailer for the rest of the trip.  It was a lot of fun, and definitely something worth making the effort to do again.

This got me thinking, though, about one of the choices I make that diverges from the norm in parenting circles nowadays:

I prefer not to wear a bike helmet.  I hate them.  I have a nice one, and I do wear it when I know I will be using busy streets or I'm participating in an event where it's required, but otherwise?  No thanks.  And when just biking around the neighborhood?  I don't make my kids wear them either.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Almost Where?

In May last year I took the plunge and self-published my first novel, Almost There.  It was a scary thing to do, but I'm glad I did it.  I'm proud of that first attempt at fiction, and the responses I've gotten from people who have read it have been good.

The thing I have learned in the past year, however, is that I am uncomfortable with self-promotion.