Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Family 'Busy-ness'

Wow!  I can't believe how long it's been since my last post!  We have seriously been busy this summer!  But... if my excuse for lagging in my writing about the family is that I've been too busy spending time with the family, then I think my priorities are in order.  I am proud to say that I have been too busy to blog much because my family has come first.

So... what have we been SO busy doing that I haven't had ten minutes together to sit down and type a blog post for nearly a fortnight? (Aren't I so witty with my British colloquialisms?)  Here is a rundown of what our family has been up to:

  • Outings-  Took my mom and sister-in-law to see 'Les Miserables' when the Broadway production was here touring in Portland (special thanks goes to the Hubster's work for the free tix!). Visited the Zoo a couple times (more to come on that soon). Spent hours playing video games from the past through to the present at the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (otherwise affectionately known to the locals as OMSI) at their current exhibit entitled 'Game On 2.0'.  The sun finally made an appearance in the Great Northwest so we were able to spend a couple hours at Hagg Lake (about 5 miles from our house). TeenStar and Jabberjaw both brought friends along and did a little swimming while I caught up on some reading in a very picturesque locale.
  • Dental/Orthodontic work-  Regular visits for TeenStar's braces. Jabberjaw, on the other hand, had extensive work done to correct over-crowding in his diminutive-sized mouth.  He had 4 baby teeth and the 4 adult teeth behind them, removed all at once. Poor guy!  When they finished with him, he looked like he'd been run over by a pack of wild skateboarders (and a couple of kids on scooters, to boot!).

  • Summer Camps-  I mentioned in a previous post that I helped out at Jabberjaw's Cub Scout Day Camp last month.  TeenStar had Girl's Camp, this month, for our Church's Young Women and although I did not attend, I still had a lot of work to do to get her ready to go.  Also... got Genius off on a Scouting High Adventure river rafting trip.  Lots of fun!
  • Swimming Lessons-  Jabberjaw just finished two weeks of daily swimming lessons.  It's amazing how much time it takes out of the daily routine for a half-hour lesson!  Anyway... he had a great time and did really well in his first attempt at Level 4, learning new and challenging strokes such as the Butterfly and Breaststroke, as well as learning how to dive.

  • Reading-  Our Summer Reading Program has been going very well!  At this writing, we are less than a hundred pages away from hitting our goal of 9000 pages read for the summer, which we will easily complete before the weekend is over!  Everyone participated (even Hubs, who doesn't read books.  In fact, he actually did read a book, but it was still downloaded onto his laptop.  Still counts! Good job, honey!)  I'm very proud of all of my kids on this accomplishment!  They all finished several books each and it was lovely not having the TV running all day long, all summer long! Woo hoo!
  • Bowling-  I signed Jabberjaw up for a Kids Bowl Free Summer Program and he and I have been hitting the lanes quite a bit this summer.  I've always enjoyed bowling and have bowled on various leagues in the past.  I'm trying to brush up on my bowling skills, in the hopes of returning to bowling on a team when the kids go back to school.  This has given me lots of practice time, besides being a fun outing with my boy.  Jabberjaw's skills have improved significantly, as well, with all of the practice time. So much so, that he recently bowled without bumpers for the first time, getting both a Spare and a Strike and scoring a 74!  Way to go, buddy!
  • Movies, Movies, Movies!-  We've spent a lot of time at the movie theaters this summer.  There have been so many  big blockbuster movies that have come out this year... some of which we've loved so much, we've seen them more than once!  I'm  mostly the one who ends up seeing the movies multiple times, with different members of the family.  It helps that I've taken advantage of Regal's $5 Tuesdays and the second-run cheap theater here in town.  Here's a list of what we've seen, including the number of times I  have personally seen it (in parenthesis):  

Thor (2), Pirates of the Carribbean 4: On Stranger Tides (3),  X-Men: First Class (2), Super 8 (1), Green Lantern (2), Cars 2 (1), Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 (3), Captain America (2), The Help (1).  I haven't yet had a chance to see Cowboys and Aliens and I'm debating on Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  I've never been a big fan of the Apes movies, but I'm hearing really good things about this one.  

Wow!  I just counted, and I saw those nine movies that I listed, a total of 17 times!  That's not even counting all of the DVD's we've watched this summer!  As you can see... I LOVE MY MOVIES!!  (Especially the Super Hero ones!)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Thinking Of 'Upgrading' Your Spouse?

The following is an article from an online magazine that I have an email subscription to.  I included it in it's entirety.  As I read it, it spoke volumes to me.  It stands on it's own without any extra commentary from me and it was so good, I just felt the need to pass it on.  We live in such an instant gratification, throw-away society today, I think we've forgotten what it means to stick with things, like marriage and family, for the long haul.  

Food for thought.

Is Selfishness Poisoning Your Marriage?

We live in an economy that survives by convincing us that what we have is not good enough and we deserve better. Advertisers constantly throw this idea in our faces. They need us to believe that we cannot live without whatever they are selling, or that our lives would be better with something new or different. 

For example, it appears that the flat panel TV I spent a small fortune on three years ago is now junk because it is not 3D. We are led to believe that we have never lived until we have the newest, best, or different thing. The problem I consistently see as a marriage counselor is that this selfish way of thinking overflows into our expectations in marriage. We start down the slippery path of thinking that our spouse is not good enough and we deserve better.  

To avoid this tendency we need to take stock of how we think of and relate to our spouse. Are you being too selfish in your marriage? When I ask this question of couples in counseling, I am typically engulfed by a laundry list of all the things the other spouse is doing wrong. However, focusing on what our spouse does wrong can hinder our ability to change whatever we may be doing wrong. Our spouse obviously may need to change as well, but our focus has to be on what we can control, which is ourselves. Here are some questions we should ask ourselves to see if we are being too selfish and 'consumeristic' in our relationships: 

1. Do I confuse my desires with my needs? Often when we want something from our marriage that does not seem to come in the time or way we want, we may begin to demand it more. We slowly convince ourselves that the want is a need. This can lead to increasing and unfair demands on our spouse.

2. Do I care more about “what’s in it for me?” than “what’s in it for my spouse?” I think most of us would like to say we always try to put our spouse first. However, if we are honest with ourselves, do we? I often suggest that people imagine if I could be a fly on the wall for two weeks, would my observations of their actions tell me their focus is on their best interest or on their spouse’s? We often sadly find ourselves in the position of jockeying for our interests or wants on issues. We see a good marriage as one where we can openly fight for our position and our spouse gives us what we want. After all, if they love us they will make sure we get what we want, right? Instead of focusing on jockeying for what we want, we would all be better served if our focus was on making sure our spouse gets what they want out of the relationship. We should fight for our spouse instead of ourselves. If both spouses do this, the wants are still met, but they are met in a way that benefits the relationship instead of just benefitting ourselves. 

3. Do I unfavorably compare my spouse to other people? This is a dangerous trap that many easily fall into. We see a friend's spouse, a co-worker, or the "perfect" couple at church. We may think something like, "I wish my husband/wife was more like that person," or "Why can't our relationship be like theirs?" The important thing to remember is that we don't have all the cards. Sure, that person may seem great, but didn't our spouse seem great when we first met them, too? If we lived with one of these "model" spouses, knew their imperfections, and experienced years of the stresses of life with them, they would likely lose their appeal. They may in reality be a hornet’s nest that no one else sees. Maybe others look at your spouse and wonder if their marriage were better if they had someone like your spouse. The tough reality of marriage is that we know more bad things about our spouses than anyone else in the world. Knowing anyone that well will certainly bring faults to the surface, no matter how good they are. Let's be grateful for what we have and realize that no one is perfect.

4. Do I believe that my relationship should be as exciting and easy as it seemed when we first got together? I am a firm believer that couples can have satisfying, exciting, meaningful relationships long term. However, it is not always smooth sailing. Many couples get married in younger years when the stresses of children, work, school, student loans, mortgages, church callings, etc. are not as severe. Adding those pressures will test any relationship. It may not be as exciting every day as it seemed when you first started dating, but it can still be wonderful.

5. Do I believe that unrealistic relationship fantasies can be reality? We often embark on the path of marriage with expectations, hopes, and dreams; however, rarely do things go as planned. Yet, we often still hope for the perfect marriage we are supposed to have. It is a great goal to have a strong marriage, but marriage is messy; it is not perfect. That is okay, and we need to have that realistic expectation. I typically encourage couples to think of relationship satisfaction on a 1 to 10 scale, with 10 being the best the relationship has been, and 1 being the worst. I think a realistic goal is to get the relationship to average somewhere between 7 and 8. There may be days it is a 10 and days it is a 5, but a 7-8 average is realistic and can be wonderfully satisfying.

6. Do I believe it is my spouse’s responsibility to make my relationship better? Both spouses have a responsibility to make the relationship better. Rarely does lasting improvement occur if only one spouse makes changes. The important thing to remember is that we can't control our spouse. Our focus has to be on what we can do to make the relationship better. Are we too focused on the laundry list of issues our spouse needs to improve? I often hear couples rationalize away their poor behavior by saying things like, "If he/she hadn't said that, then I wouldn't have been so rude," or "As soon as she/he stops nagging, it will be easy to be nice.” The fact is, we are responsible for what we say and do. If what we say or do is not how a loving spouse would act, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Take responsibility. Don't wait for your spouse to change before you do. Take the initiative and get the positive change moving in your relationship.

 If we can all focus on changing ourselves to be the best spouse we can be, marriage problems would largely vanish. President Monson gave incredibly wise counsel in the general Priesthood meeting of the most recent conference that supports these ideas. He quoted Howard W. Hunter who said, “Being happily and successfully married is generally not so much a matter of marrying the right person as it is being the right person.” President Monson added, "If any of you are having difficulty in your marriage, I urge you to do all that you can to make whatever repairs are necessary." 

For a printable selfishness in marriage questionnaire, visit:

Is there a marriage or family relationship issue that you would like our relationship expert Jonathan Swinton to address in future columns? If so, send him an email at

Jonathan Swinton is an LDS Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. He is an approved LDS Family Services Referred Provider, accepts bishop referrals, and is available to provide marriage and family therapy services and weekend couple retreats to anyone interested. He is also available to speak on marriage issues at Relief Society and ward activities. Contact him at Swinton Counseling: 801-647-9951,

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"Spray - Part Deux" or "Phobia, Phobia... Who's Got A Phobia?"

Finally... here is the second part of my post entitled, To Spray Or Not To Spray, which I'm sure you've been waiting on bated breath to read (yes, I am a bit deluded).  In the previous post, I mention that I have overcome a very severe case of arachnophobia.  In this post, I will describe how I managed this.

The World English Dictionary describes arachnophobia as "an abnormal fear of spiders".  Notice the word abnormal.  That is the key word here.  Abnormal  fear of spiders.  I still strongly dislike  spiders and still have a rational  fear of them.  My definition of a rational  fear of spiders would include being afraid of an enormously large individual spider or being afraid of an enormously large combined group of them. Being mortally afraid of one tiny spider is not rational.  Being so scared of said tiny spider, that you are unable to move-- is abnormal. This is when the term arachnophobia applies.

Of course, I am obviously referring specifically to one phobia among many.  Many, many people suffer from ALL kinds of phobias.  Several internet sources conclude that phobias number in the thousands.  The most common phobias include:

  • Agoraphobia- Fear of inescapable situations such as crowds or open spaces
  • Acrophobia- Fear of heights
  • Ophidiophobia- Fear of snakes
and the number one most common phobia reported is:
  • Arachnophobia!! I am far from alone in this.  One source stated that nearly 1/2 of all women and about 10% of men have some type of fear of spiders.

So... how did I overcome the irrational aspect of this fear?  Well, I went to college and got some learnin'!  That's how!  Actually I had taken a psychology class in college during which we did a section on phobias.  I was fascinated as the teacher told a story of a case study in which the patient was cured of hemophobia, or the fear of blood.  The following story will show how the phobia was first developed and how it became progressively worse.  We'll call the patient John.

When John was about 3 years old, he would watch his father shave every morning.  John's father shaved the 'old-fashioned way' with shaving cream and a straight razor.  One day, John's mother was downstairs doing the dishes and realized it was way too quiet.  She went upstairs looking for John and upon entering the bathroom where John was 'shaving like daddy', discovered him holding the very large razor and covered in blood.  She screamed.  John wasn't in any pain, as he had only given himself a large number of surface cuts.  But upon hearing his mother scream, when she saw him, he looked down, saw blood, and started to cry.

As John grew older, he would associate blood with 'bad'.  If he fell, even if it didn't hurt, if he looked down and saw blood, he would cry. Pretty soon, he would become sick or even faint at the sight of blood, whether it was his own or someone else's.  His phobia steadily progressed to where he couldn't be near someone sick or injured; then he couldn't visit someone's hospital room; then he couldn't go in a hospital; then he couldn't drive past a hospital; until he was going out of his way to avoid driving within a certain distance of all hospitals.

John ended up seeing a psychiatrist for his condition.  The doctor prescribed a program that would require John to 'unravel' his phobia by working it backwards, one step at a time.  First, the doctor had him drive within a specified distance of a hospital, then past a hospital. Then the doctor had John go into a hospital, then visit a sick/injured friend, etc., etc.  During the course of these exercises, John was able to trace his phobia back to it's source, helping to reveal to him it's irrational beginnings.

After my humiliating run-in with the spider, that I mentioned in my previous post, I thought back on this Psych class and decided I needed to try to 'unravel' my own phobia by following the same type of program the psychologist had prescribed for 'John'.  My process didn't require nearly as many steps, but I basically pushed myself to face my fears. I forced myself to kill spiders on my own, without anyone else to step in and save me.  It was really hard, at first, but I found that the more I did it, the easier it became.  All the while, I would remind myself that I was far bigger than the little, tiny creature and that it was silly to be afraid of a bug. That's all it was... a bug.

I also traced my phobia back to it's source, recalling that when I was a child growing up in Southern California, we had a breed of spiders there that were whitish/clearish (don't know what kind they are but I've never seen them where I live now).  My mother, being a mom and all, was trying to protect me.  She would warn me to watch out for those spiders when I was outside playing with my brothers.  We often saw them crawling around in the plants around our home.  We had discovered that I was highly allergic to them and would break out in hives all over my body if I was bitten by one.  I had Benadryl (which you could only get by prescription back then) on hand and any time I left home for extended periods of time, mom would make sure I took my meds with me, 'just in case'.  

Understandably I became quite paranoid of being bitten by those little buggers, and thus began my phobia of spiders, which grew more irrational over the years.  Once I traced the phobia back to it's beginnings, I was able to understand how it got started and thereby debunk it, a little at a time.  

Some phobias are understandable, like a fear of heights or flying in an airplane.  But, for me, being debilitated by a little, tiny bug was, frankly, embarrassing.  Especially when my toddler had to come to my rescue...

Do you suffer from any phobias or irrational fears?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Reading is FUN-damental!

For anyone who is tuning in for part two of To Spray Or Not To Spray, my post about arachnophobia and how I overcame it... 

You're gonna have to wait one more post.  I just have to get this little update in quickly.

Our Family Summer Reading Program is going great!  If you haven't read the original post, you can read it here.

I planned to post when we were half way, but the kids are doing so much reading this summer that we got too far before I'd gotten the post written! I wanted to get this post written before we finished the whole thing!

We are a little over two-thirds of the way finished with filling in our thermometer chart and ahead of our schedule for completing it before the end of the summer!  Yay!

As you can see in the picture on the right, we have recently passed 6500 out of 9000 pages!

I wish I could say that I've contributed more than I have.  I would have loved to have the time to read that my girls have had, but alas, I am the mom, and therefore, I rarely have a chance to sit down.

Hubs and Jabberjaw have each completed a book, and Jabberjaw is working on a second. Bookworm (her name is SO appropriate) has been devouring books all summer, as per usual for her.  

The big surprise is that TeenStar has discovered the joy of reading this summer!  She always thought she didn't like to read, but Bookworm helped her discover that there are books at the library that actually keep her attention and she's finally understanding that you just gotta keep trying until you find a book that interests you. Now I can hardly get her to put her books down!  

Oaks Park here we come!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

To Spray Or Not To Spray...

So... I just killed a spider.  It was a really gross, icky, big, black, creepy, crawly thing. Yuck!  I really hate spiders!  Always have. Worse than having to kill it (all by my li'l ol' self, I might add!) was having to watch it crawl across the ceiling above me until it got in a position where I could kill it with my flip-flop without smacking the ceiling too hard and waking people sleeping above me.  Again, I say... YUCK!

'What's the big deal', you may ask?  'So what', you say?  'People kill spiders all the time', you remark.  Well, it is a big deal to me.  A very  big deal.  And that is because as much as I still hate spiders, I am no longer deathly afraid of them.  I used to be horrified, terrified, and petrified by them.  I had full-blown arachnophobia.  But, I'm proud to say that I faced my fears and have joined the ranks of the great and mighty Spider Slayers!

I used to always have to get my dad or brothers, and later my husband, to come and kill them for me.  I couldn't stand to see them crawl and I was always worried that if I didn't smack 'em right, they would scuttle away and maybe end up crawling on me in my sleep later... ewww!!! Finally my fear had built to a climax and become so debilitating that one day I stood frozen with fear, a can of Raid spider spray in one hand and my toddler cradled in my other arm.  I couldn't move.

The spider was sitting still on a stuffed sofa chair, in a spot where I couldn't get a clear smack at him.  I knew if I didn't get him with a first whack, he would start moving (blech!) and then he would go hide somewhere, waiting until I was fast asleep so he could take his revenge on me.  I resorted to the spray because I knew I had a much better chance of getting him.  The only problem was, I had used the spray on spiders before and was well aware that the bigger spiders didn't die instantly.  And this was a BIG spider!  It's body (not counting the legs) was about the size of a pea.  I knew once I sprayed, it would move and it would probably require a few sprays to actually kill the thing.

I stood there, unable to move, for what seemed like an eternity.  I had to kill it... but if I sprayed it... it would move...  The fear inside me was growing.  I was feeling more and more terrified of this little tiny creature.  I knew I was being completely irrational but I couldn't seem to help myself.  After what seemed like hours, finally my 3-year-old son looked at me and said, "I'll kill it for you, mommy!"  My darling little boy was braver than me!  I felt so silly but I just told him we'd do it together and I let him help me hold the can as we sprayed -- and I freaked.

When it was all over, I knew I had to do whatever it took to overcome this irrational fear so that I didn't end up passing it on to my children. I had taken a Psychology class in college where I'd studied phobias and I knew how people developed them, how the phobia can progress and get worse and worse, and how you could overcome them.

Tune in next time to find out how I used this recalled knowledge to help me overcome my crippling phobia once and for all...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

To Be A Pioneer...

Today is Pioneer Day and we were able to celebrate by attending church in our brand new Forest Grove Stake Center for the very first time this morning!  It is a beautiful building and such a long-awaited blessing to our area.  It's located just down the street from our house and the weather was beautiful today so we walked to church.  It was a lovely way to start the Sabbath.

Our new church building was a long time in coming, as our Stake is already four years old!  We've had many struggles over the years with locating land and getting approval and permits from the city.  It was almost surreal to finally be in the building after all the waiting.

One of the speakers today mentioned how we have modern-day Pioneers in our midst that have lived in the Forest Grove area for decades and forged the way to build up the Church here in Oregon. Their dedication to the Gospel and their years of service are a large part of the reason that the Church has grown so much over the years and led us to the building of this new Stake Center.

In Primary today we sang a song called "To Be A Pioneer".  In the song it says that you don't have push a handcart or travel thousands of miles 'to be a pioneer', you just need to have faith and courage and work hard for a just cause.  I hope I can carry on the tradition of both the original pioneers and the modern-day pioneers in our midst, by standing firm in my beliefs and continuing the work of building up the Lord's Kingdom in my own little corner of the world.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Have Her Cake & Eat It Too!

TeenStar got to learn how to make fondant and decorate a cake with it at her Young Women's activity this week.  She's my little baker and made and frosted the cake that she took to the activity, as well.  She had a lot of fun mixing the fondant (including the food coloring) with her bare hands... which ended up quite green (I wish I'd thought to take a picture of them!).

I wasn't aware, prior to TeenStar enlightening me, that you could even make  fondant from scratch.  I'd only ever seen it, pre-made, in craft stores that sell cake decorating supplies.  It's made by melting marshmallows and mixing it together with A LOT of powdered sugar and food coloring.  After that, you roll it out like cookie dough, cut out shapes with cookie cutters and adhere it to each other with water.  The finishing touch is brushing the whole thing with water to give it a glossy shine.  TeenStar's cake turned out SO cute!

I've never liked the flavor of fondant that I've tried in the past, but this stuff actually tasted pretty good, although it was extremely sweet!!  Best part, of course, was the chocolate cake on the inside!

Mmmm... yummy!

Friday, July 22, 2011

"Mischief Managed!"

Thank you, Harry Potter.  Thank you, Ron and Hermione.  Thank you Dumbledore and Snape.  And especially-- thank you, J.K. Rowling for all of the years filled with wonderment and surprise.  They have been phenomenal years full of laughter, tears, shock, and amazement.  I don't know what Ms. Rowling has up her sleeve next, but regardless, she has left a legacy for many generations of Harry Potter fans, now and in years to come.

Many people have been saying that the last HP movie is the "End of an Era" and in a way it is, being as there will be no more new Harry Potter books or movies (as least that's what we're being told at this point). But, somehow, it doesn't feel over  to me.  Not because I think J.K. Rowling will change her mind and write a "Harry Potter: The Next Generation" series (although I would be first in line to buy it!).  It's just the fact that Harry Potter will truly  never die.  Voldemort always said that only he could live forever, but Harry's really the one who is immortal.  And thank heaven for that!

I'm so glad that we can always re-enter the Wizarding World through the books and movies.  I'm thrilled that I can read the series again and again and always enjoy it.  I love that the movies are a time capsule of the books, through which we can re-live the stories whenever we feel so inclined.  I'm grateful that all of the main character's actors (excluding the amazing  late Richard Harris) were able to continue through the entire film series.  Their dedication to their characters and the HP series, as a whole, has always been inspiring to me.  I thank them for their devotion.

It took me a few days to get this post written, and in that time, I've already seen the movie twice (I hope to see it at least one more time in theaters, maybe twice more!).  I don't do midnight showings, and usually Bookworm doesn't either, but she made an exception for Harry!  She's been a huge fan of the books since I started reading them to her as a youngster.  She went with a friend and they dressed in costume.  Bookworm has never been one for conformity and although she would have preferred to dress up as Bellatrix LeStrange, she decided to go as a less popular character.  I got her to pose for me in her Lavender Brown costume, before she left.

I, on the other hand, took TeenStar to see it on opening day (to preview the PG-13 rating for Jabberjaw) and the following day we took the whole family (minus Bookworm) to meet up to see it with my mom and brothers & their wives.  

My very favorite thing about this last installment of the movie series is that Severus Snape finally gets his due.  I've known since reading 'The Deathly Hallows' that all of my suspicions were true.  I always knew he was a good guy!  I've always been a HUGE Dumbledore fan and couldn't believe, for one minute, that Dumbledore could be duped, but not Voldemort.  It just never made sense to me.  And I was right. 

Finally... all of the the non-reader movie fans know the truth, as well. Of course, it changes the way you look at him when you go back and read and watch, but thus it is with any good reveal.  It was a good bit of mischief on J.K. Rowlings part, and as Jabberjaw said as we turned off the car in our driveway after returning home from the movie, "Mischief Managed!" 

We all had a good laugh at that!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Boys Will Be Boys

Summertime means Cub Scout Day Camp for Jabberjaw and I went to be leader for the day.  Thankfully, this year the weather cooperated. Last year was super hot so I was grateful for the milder weather this time around.

Although the weather was improved over last year, other conditions were less favorable.  Generally we have our group of boys split up into two smaller groups, making it much easier to deal with them.  This year the camp was overbooked which meant that they didn't have enough Den Sites for us to have two groups.  So... I had the lovely time of dealing with thirteen 8 to 10-year-olds!  I now understand the term 'herding cats'.

Thankfully I had help from two fantastic Youth Leaders who, when I said "Jump", asked "How high?".  I couldn't have survived the day without them.

All in all it was a good day.  The boys had lots of fun building gliders, shooting water rockets, and doing archery, an obstacle course, and games.  The camp was also visited by firefighters who brought along their firetruck, showed the boys all of their fire-fighting gear, and talked about fire safety.  Lots of fun-- but, boy... was I ever exhausted when I got home!


13 Little Monkeys

Steady as she goes!

Tired yet?

Local heroes

Safety first!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Thirsty, Anyone?

Jabberjaw (on the left) and a couple of neighborhood friends

Jabberjaw came to me the other day with the question I think all parents dread but anticipate, nonetheless, when the summer sun comes a-peekin' out: "Can I make a lemonade stand?"

He had seen his older siblings each have a crack at it in past years and he was so enthusiastic about having his "day in the sun", how could I deny him?

Honestly, it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.  He's 10 now, so there wasn't too much I had to do, other than a little guidance and a short but thorough lesson on giving change.   It was a good learning opportunity, not only in counting money but also in how banks work.  I gave him a starter loan so he'd have cashflow to give change at the beginning, and explained to him that he'd have to pay me back before figuring out his profit.  He paid me back the same day, so I didn't charge him any interest.  Smart boy.

He and his buddy across the street got a card table and chairs from their parents garages and set things up at the bottom of the hill right at the entrance to our housing development where they would get more traffic than in front of our house.  We were fresh outta lemonade so we went to plan B:  Kool-Aid.  Unfortunately, I don't think they were as successful as they probably would have been had we been able to do the lemonade.  Jabberjaw said there were several people who stopped by to see what they had, chuckled (or as Jabber put it- "laughed at them"), and drove away.  Poor kid.

Oh well... they did get a few customers and made a few bucks.  Hopefully Jabberjaw got the whole thing out of his system and we are done for the summer.  Hopefully... but probably not.  He's probably going to still wanna make a 'real' lemonade stand.  Of course, my definition of 'real' lemonade, at least as far as what he's allowed to use for his stand, is still Kool-aid.  But he doesn't really know the difference, anyway.  Ignorance is bliss, they say...

Do your kids like to do sales stands in the summer?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Walk For A Good Cause

Just as most people can't imagine 4th of July without BBQ and fireworks... at our house, Independence Day just seems incomplete without getting our fitness on!

It's a family tradition (well... more like 'mom & kids tradition') in our home to start 4th of July off bright and early with a 5k!  I've participated off and on for several years in the local C.A.T. Walk/ Fun Run 5k that is held every July 4th.  C.A.T. stands for Cancer Awareness and Treatment and is an annual fundraising event. 

All of my kids (except for Teen Star, who did a different 5k with me last fall) have now done the C.A.T. Walk with me, this year being Jabberjaw's first time.

Some years we have walked, other's we've run, depending on individual fitness levels (ok... depending on my  current fitness level!).  A few years back I was doing really well with my running and had both Bookworm (who was training for HS Cross Country at the time) and Genius join me in running the whole thing.  This year Genius will be joining the High School Cross Country team in the fall and ran the whole thing alone.  Jabberjaw wanted to run the whole thing, but as my fitness level wasn't quite there this year, he had to settle for run/walking it with me, as I knew he would not be able to keep up with his teenage brother.

Jabberjaw was just happy to be finally old enough to participate in a full, large-scale event.  He has participated in Kid's Dash's before, but this was the first time he got to be with "the big kids" and actually do the full 5k.  He did great, although he started tiring about half way through and walked for quite a ways before I let him run full out about the last 3/4 of a mile or so and meet his brother at the finish line.  I was happy to come in to the finish in just under 50 minutes and was well ahead of the extremely large pack of walkers.

The weather was beautiful and there is always such a great spirit of community at this event.  They announced over the mic, before the event began, that there was a record-breaking turnout this year of over 1400 participants!  They also mentioned that in the event's 11 years running it has raised over $500,000 to aid in treating and finding a cure for cancer.  What an amazing thing to be involved in!

It really hits you how many people are affected by this disease when you look around at how many people at the event are wearing the cancer survivor shirt (different color).  It was especially poignant when I saw a young boy, probably around Jabberjaw's age, wearing the survivor color.  Many of those who are wearing the regular color have papers pinned to their shirts stating who they are walking either "In honor of..." or "In memory of..." 

 I didn't write any names on a paper, but I, too, had people on my mind as I walked/ran.  I have several friends who have been battling cancer this year or in recent years.  I was grateful, as I walked in their honor, that they are all doing well in their battle against cancer.  After everything each one of them has been through, walking a 5k seemed very small by comparison.  I thought about how grateful I am to be healthy and able to walk and run.  I was honored to spend my Independence Day trying to get the world one step closer to being Cancer Free!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Movie Review-- Disney Pixar's Cars 2

I'll just start off by saying that I didn't love it as much as my 10-year-old son did.  Compared to a lot of the mind-numbing, drool-inducing, waste-of-time movies marketed toward kids, that Hollywood puts out these days, it was very good.  Compared to other Pixar movies... not my fave.

I have to say I was a little disappointed.  The look of the movie was fantastic.  The story, on the other hand, was lacking.  The computer graphics were amazing, the animation superb.  Nothing less than you would expect from the Pixar Studios.  They did a great job with making a whole imaginary "World of Cars" with 'car-ified' characters traveling to exotic 'car-ified' locales.  Where I think the makers of the movie 'took a wrong turn' was in trying to make it more exciting, they lost sight of what was so endearing about the first movie.  The focus was much more on eye-popping action and less on the characters we have come to love and cherish over the years.

My son really enjoyed all of the 'spy action' including lots of shooting and explosions.  What was that?  Shooting and explosions?!  Are we talking about a Disney/Pixar movie or Die Hard?  To say that the movie was as far from Radiator Springs as you can get would be an understatement.  It really felt like it was tailored more toward adults than kids.  The story set-up was much too deep for kids under about the age of seven to understand and during the times when there wasn't a lot of action going on, the story often dragged.  Some of the violence seemed inappropriate for children and I personally felt that what Cars 2 had in action, it lacked in humor.  I only remember laughing out loud less than a handful of times.  I seem to remember most other Pixar movies having a lot more comedy.

I did enjoy that the Pixar group stayed true-to-form with a plethora of inside jokes (little things tucked into the scenery and wording) that only the adults would get, but I was sorry to see that they stepped too 'far off the beaten path' as far as the original characters were concerned.  Unlike the extremely popular Toy Story series, Cars 2 did not give us enough screen time with the original cast of characters from the first installment.  While both Toy Story 2 & 3 brought on new characters, they also made sure to keep the original characters center stage.  While it's true that it would be impossible to bring Doc Hudson back without the late, great Paul Newman, he was not the only interesting character, besides Lightening McQueen and Mater, in the first Cars movie. What kept us coming back for more with the Toy Story series just wasn't there in Cars 2.  I doubt seriously that the Toy Story sequels would have been quite as popular if they had only featured Woody and Buzz.

This latest offering from the folks at Disney/Pixar would have been more appropriately marketed as a Mater movie.  Basically it was 'The Mater Show' and really wasn't worthy of being labeled as a Cars movie. We saw very little of any of the original characters, other than Mater and Lightening McQueen, and what we did see of Lightening McQueen, I found extremely disappointing.  Whether it was due to writing, directing, or acting, or a combination of all three, Owen Wilson's character-voicing of the beloved race car was sullen, bland, and flat-out depressing.  His lines were uninteresting and delivered that way. Even his trademark "Ka-chow!" sounded like he just couldn't be bothered.

If you haven't been out to the theater yet to see it, save your money and wait for the DVD.  As a Pixar fan, I feel it's still worthy of adding to my DVD collection but it will never be one that I sit down to watch anytime my son puts it on.  It doesn't matter how many times I've seen "A Bug's Life", "Monsters, Inc.", or "Finding Nemo", I never tire of them.  Those, along with the original "Cars" and the "Toy Story" series, are classics that I find myself getting sucked into every time we watch them.  "Cars 2" will end up being like so many other kid movies my son watches: mindless noise droning on in the background while I go about my day.  In other words... 'nothing special'.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Oh, What Do You Do In The Summertime?

Our family is not doing much in the way of traveling this summer.  The hubster is taking his two month sabbatical from work next summer (he gets one every seven years) and we are starting to make big plans to go on a major trip about a year from now.  That means we are staying home this year, except for a possible camping trip at the Oregon Coast.  Tent camping?  Maybe. Hotel camping?   Probably.

So... since we aren't going anywhere, but all of Jabberjaw's friends did go somewhere, it means I have been busy being Activities Director to the 10-year-old.  I know, I know.  Everyone says I should let him figure out how to keep himself  busy, but if I left it up to him, he'd spend the whole summer watching TV, playing video games, and whining about how he has no one to play with.

So I've been hard at work planning some fun activities for me and Jabberjaw to do this summer.  My older three children are teens and therefore they have their own agendas and are independent enough to carry out plans with their friends (most of whom are staying around town, like us).  I'm finding that it's working out really well with it just being the two of us for most of our outings.  Jabber is the perfect age now where we have a lot of fun and can actually carry on a conversation.  I'm enjoying getting to know him as an individual, apart from his siblings.  Being the youngest, he is often overshadowed by the older sibs and spending time alone with him is really giving his personality a chance to shine.  He is quite witty and funny and is really enjoying the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with me, without being pestered by the older kids.

First order of business this summer, for all of the children, was to set up ground rules about the TV and video games.  I established a "No TV Zone" between the hours of noon and 8:00 pm every day.  I can't tell you how lovely it has been to not have the television blaring in the background all day long.  It's been quite peaceful, actually.  Video games are limited to 2 hours a day.  The kids can earn a DVD movie during the day by reading for an hour. 

And speaking of reading... I've got the family doing a lot more reading this summer (Yay!).  Not only can they earn opportunities to watch movies, but I have also made a summer reading chart (thanks to Heidi of The Bartle Bulletin) that we are working on together as a family. When we reach our combined goal of 9,000 total pages read, we get to go to Oaks Park, a local amusement park.  It's really motivating to just about everyone in the family.  Everyone except Genius.  My 15-year-old son couldn't give a rip about going to the amusement park, even when I said he could bring a friend.  But I found a different motivator for him.  A certain amount of pages read earns him a dollar toward a video game. He was all over that!  He read for a full two hours in a row today!  He told me he can't remember ever reading that much at one time in his life before today.  Ya just gotta speak their language, ya know?

Besides reading, we are also working as a family to organize and de-junk the house.  The kids earn allowance for chores but they also have to get work done in order to earn privileges such as outings, hanging out with friends, and having sleepovers.  Bribery Blackmail Incentives work wonders!

I've also found some really great free and cheap stuff to take Jabberjaw to do.  Our local movie theater is running a Kid's Summer Movie Program, where we can go see family movies every Tuesday and Wednesday morning for $1.  I also found a Kids Bowl Free program online that is offered in many bowling alleys nationwide.  It's great! My kids can bowl two free games EVERY DAY all summer long (not that we'll go every day, mind you).

Some other places we plan to go and things we plan to do this summer are:

  • Zoo
  • Swimming Lessons
  • Children's Museum
  • Cub Scout Day Camp
  • Drive-In
  • Water Parks/ Aquatic Center
  • Local Fairs and Amusement Parks
  • Library Programs/Events
  • Children's Play Centers (a la Chuck E. Cheese)
  • Lakes & Rivers
  • Hiking, Biking, Outdoors
  • Skating (roller, ice)
  • Berry Picking/Jamming/Gardening
  • Cooking/Baking

What kinds of things do you plan to do with your  kids and family this summer?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Yummy Numminess - Hamburger Quiche

This is a favorite dinner which is generally requested by my boys for their birthdays (especially because I don't make it very often, reserving it for special occasions).  It takes a little planning ahead and extra time for prepping and baking... but ohhh, it is SOOooo worth it!  Yum!!

We just recently had it for Jabberjaw's birthday (per his request).  I generally serve it with quartered muffins and fruit salad.  Enjoy!

Hamburger Quiche

(1) 9" unbaked pastry shell
1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/2 c. milk
2 eggs
1 1/2 T. cornstarch
1 c. grated cheddar cheese
1 c. grated Swiss cheese
1/3 c. chopped onion
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Brown meat in skillet, drain fat and set aside.  Blend mayo, milk, eggs, and cornstarch with hand mixer until smooth.  Stir in meat, cheeses, onion, salt and pepper.  Turn mixture into pastry shell.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, then turn oven up to 400 degrees and bake for another 20 plus minutes (cover edges of pie shell with foil if browning too fast).  Quiche is done when golden brown on top and knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Cut into wedges and serve hot.  Makes 6 servings.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Real Nail Biter!

If you were hoping for that quiche recipe I referred to in my last post I'm afraid you're gonna have to wait.  I have to do a little bragging about my Li'l Slugger.  Jabberjaw had an amazing baseball game!  If you've read my previous post about Little League you'll know that I don't say that lightly!

Jabberjaw's team is in first place in the playoffs right now, so we were on the edge of our seats during this last game, hoping they would keep up their winning streak.  It was 'neck and neck' the whole way through the game, with some great action.  There was a lot of cheering, clapping, and yelling on both sides.  Even I was getting into it!  Thankfully my voice has returned so I could scream along with everyone else!

Bottom of the game, end of the 6th inning, we are tied 5-5.  The coaches and umpire consult and decide to go into a 7th inning for a tie-breaker.  Other team is up to bat first and our guys never let 'em get a run.  We're up to bat and get a runner on to 2nd.  Jabberjaw is up to bat next... I'm SOOooo nervous!  If I were a nail biter, I would have bitten off all ten!

Jabberjaw hits a sacrifice hit toward first and is out before he reaches the base, but he gets the runner to 3rd.  All we need is one run and we win.  The next batter knocks it into the outfield and brings the runner into home!  We win!!!

Wow!!  What a game!!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Perfect '10'!

My baby is a decade old!  I can't believe it!  I no longer have anyone in my home who's age is a single digit number.  Wow, that's hard to wrap my brain around.  Guess that just means I'm getting old (Sigh...)

As per usual in our house, Jabberjaw was asked what he wanted for his birthday meals and what kind of activity he wanted to go do with the family.  He requested french toast and sausages for breakfast and quiche for dinner (a family favorite, I'll share the recipe tomorrow!).  His request for an outing was not in the cards for today so we will be taking the family to Family Fun Center on Thursday.

Since we were unable to fulfill his activity request on his actual birthday, I took him out for some mother/son time, just the two of us.  We had a lot of fun!  In lieu of wrapped presents, I took him to Target and let him pick what he wanted.  When I asked him previously what he wanted for his birthday, he didn't have any idea. When I asked him how he felt about picking stuff out, as opposed to unwrapping 'surprises', he thought it was a great idea. This way he got exactly what he wanted.  He picked himself out some Tech Deck and Lego Pirates sets.

I hadn't told him where we were going for lunch, in order to surprise him.  One of his fave foods is pizza so the day just wouldn't have been complete without it.  He told me to tell him when we were getting close to the restaurant so he could close his eyes.  When we arrived at Papa's Pizza Parlor, he was very excited and yelled out, "I knew it!!".  It has an indoor play area with a climbing castle, ball pit, basketball hoops, and mini merry-go-round and ferris wheel.

On our way back from the restaurant we stopped through the drive-thru of Krispy Kreme donuts and picked out a dozen.  This was to be the birthday dessert later that evening with the intention of putting candles in a maple bar instead of cake (his idea!).  We rounded out the day with some ice cream at Cold Stone.  He ordered Lemon frozen yogurt which he said was (and I quote) 'tart'.  Well... they say a picture's worth a thousand words.  I think this pic I took of him eating said 'tartness' says it all!

HAPPY 10th BIRTHAY, SON!!  Love, Mom

Sunday, June 12, 2011

So Long, Farewell, Alvederzane, Goodbye...

My grandmother passed away recently and we laid her to rest on Saturday.  She lived a long and full 96 years and was loved by many. There was a beautiful graveside service, during which many wonderful memories were shared.  I lovingly dedicate this post to her.  She was one in a million...

Things My Grandmother Taught Me

1.  The most important thing in this life is family.

2.  It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice.

3.  A smile can go a long way and laughter really is the best medicine!

4.  Believe in yourself and that you can have anything you're willing to work hard for.

5.  A simple faith in God and Jesus Christ will get you through life's challenges.

6.  Sing, Dance, Act, Live!

7.  Take care of yourself while you're young enough to do something about it.

8.  Work hard, play hard.

9.  See's really does have the best candy!


10.  I was her favorite grandchild (but so was everyone else!).

It is not goodbye, Grandma, but only farewell.  God be with you 'til we meet again...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The 'Hoarse' Whisperer

I have no voice.

 I'm not talking figuratively about
nobody listening to what I have to say.

(Although, at my house that tends to be true.)

I mean I literally lost my voice.

I cannot talk.
I cannot sing (heavy sigh).
I cannot answer the phone.
I cannot yell at talk to my children.

I have laryngitis.

lar-yn-gi-tis [lar-uhn-jahy-tis]
noun/ inflamation of the larynx,
often with accompanying sore throat,
hoarseness or loss of voice,
and dry cough.


That's me.

Inflamed, sore, hoarse, and coughing.

Oh, and did I mention...

I can't talk either.

I'm on day 6 of this now
and it really stinks!

In fact it bites the Big One!

But at least I have my fingers
so I can still have a 'voice' in the blogsphere!

I can't talk to my actual family,
but I can talk to my blogging family.
So thank you all for being out there to 'listen'!


I've been doing a lot of whispering.

Since I can't talk and all.

(Did I mention that already?)

I've heard that whispering is 
just as straining on the vocal chords
as actually talking.

So I've been trying to not talk

Or whisper.


Do you know how hard that is?
Especially with kids?

Pretty much darn near impossible!!
Especially with MY kids!

Let's see.
I have a 10-yr-old boy who dawdles.

Did you know you can 'whisper yell'?

It's true.
I've tested it out.

I had my doubts that a
whispered yell could be effective.
But it actually induced tears.
I was overjoyed shocked.

And my 13-yr-old daughter
is very perturbed distraught 
by the fact that her mother 
can't talk to her.

It's terribly inconvenient for
her to have to wait
for notes to be written.

It's unfair to expect her
to get off the couch
in the TV room 
and walk a few feet.

 To the front room.

To get an answer
to the question 
she yelled at me.

Not to mention the fact
that when I write a note to 
someone other than herself,
'Miss Nosey' doesn't know
what I said to them.

She says it's like we're keeping secrets.

From her.

Like the secret of asking my son
if he had baseball practice today.

We are so cruel 
keeping that secret from her.

Aren't we?


I'm not making
a very fast recovery
in the vocal department 
it seems.

I'm gonna have to get more serious
 about this silence thing 
if I ever want to 

Answer the phone.
Order through the Taco Bell drive thru
Ask my family what healthy meal 
they'd like me to make.



Therefore I've decided to
post a sign on the back of my laptop
for my family.

(Don't scroll down yet... wait for the reveal!)

So they will know that I am
no longer talking and will only
communicate with them through
the written word.
(Just like I'm doing with you all!)

And it looks like this:

(okay... you can scroll down now)