Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Good-bye 2008, Hello 2009!

Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right! Oprah Winfrey

Isn't that the truth. In the next couple days I plan to make a list of things I want to do better in 2009. A new year is a fresh start, a way to erase the bad and start over again. I know I have made some mistakes in 2008 and I know I will make some in 2009. I just hope I learned from them and can make some changes for the better. Once I get my list figured out I will post it and hopefully be held accountable for it. I know my list will be full of practical items as well as personal ones. I hope that you take a few moments to reflect on your 2008 as well and who you want to be in 2009.

May your 2009 be full of God's Blessings and please celebrate the New Year Safely!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Review: Ridemakerz



Previously I posted about the company RIDEMAKERZ and their cars. So, after we customized our cars on the computer I posted about our experience here
http://sincerelystacie.blogspot.com/search/label/coupon
We had the boys wait until Christmas to open them and actually put them together. They were very excited about their new cars. We did not get the remote control option so they could drive them around themselves. I would also suggest that you get a sound card different from the standard as the others have more options for sounds. But, the cars are WAY COOL! I think my husband was secretly wishing that he had one of his own. So, if you haven't checked out their website it is http://www.blogger.com/www.ridemakerz.com and for a few more days you can still use a coupon code to save $10 off a $30 purchase. Enter in 93474 in the checkout! This offer expires January 4, 2009.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas to You!

"Christmas waves a magic wand...and behold everything is softer and more beautiful." Norman Vincent Peale.

I wish each of you a Very Merry Christmas and may you remember the magical gift we were all given...the birth of Jesus Christ. I pray that you know Him and will celebrate His birth.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

JOY!

"The joy that you give to others is the joy that comes back to you." E.B. White

If you have run out of time and didn't get all your Christmas shopping done, the best gift you can give is yourself. Give someone a gift of your time, your attention, your ear, your heart, your shoulder, your hand. This will be a gift remembered long after they open that scarf or kitchen utensil. It is a gift of you. If you are creative...make a little certificate on paper and state what you are giving to that person. Does your friend need a day off, so you are going to give her a few hours of babysitting her children? Does your mom need some help cleaning out a closet? Does your sister need a night out for dinner? Does your neighbor need a meal delivered to her door? All of these ideas will cost you little more than your time and effort and what better a gift is that?

Review: Miles From Nowhere


Teenage Joon is a Korean immigrant living in the Bronx of the 1980s. Her parents have crumbled under the weight of her father's infidelity; he has left his family, and mental illness has rendered her mother nearly catatonic. So Joon, at the age of 13, decides she would be better off on her own, a choice that commences a harrowing and often tragic journey that exposes the painful difficulties of a life lived on the margins. Joon's adolescent years take her from a homeless shelter to an escort club, through struggles with addiction, to jobs selling newspapers and cosmetics, committing petty crimes, and finally, toward something resembling hope.
I received an ARC of this book from First Reads. This book will be available in January 2009.
This was a fast read, but an extremely depressing story. Joon is a teenage runaway in NYC in the 80's who falls into prostitution, drugs, and alcohol. She is frequently beaten, homeless, and continues to make poor decisions. Aside from all that, the reader is still drawn to Joon and her story is hard to put down. You want to think that she will kick her drug habit, find a job and maybe even reconnect with her parents. I won't spoil the storyline, but will say she does find some comfort by the end of the story in someone least expected. There is a hope for Joon at the end which is much needed. The story at times turned vulgar and gruesome. Joon confronts abortion as well as serious "cutting". These were the most difficult for me, personally, to read through. One passage I connected with was this...He had no idea that grief was a reward. That it only came to those who were loyal, to those who loved more than they were capable of. The story was one that I wanted keep reading, although the storyline wasn't enough to make it a fabulous read for me. The writer has a great talent for making the scenes believeable and visible to the reader. I appreciated the writer's talent to tell Joon's story in such a painful and poetic way. I do think this will be a much talked about book in 2009. I give this book 3 stars.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Movies






Last night we all snuggled up in front of the fireplace and the big screen tv and watch 'The Polar Express". This is an annual Christmas tradition for us as well as watching other Christmas movies. I store all of our Christmas movies and books away with all the other Christmas decorations so that we can only have them out at Christmas. I think that makes them more special when they are only out for 6 weeks at a time. Some of our favorite Christmas movies to watch are "Elf", The Wiggles "Yule Be Wiggling" and "Santa's Rockin", "Sponge Bob's Christmas", "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", and of course, "The Polar Express. Our daughter will be 4 in 3 weeks and last night, it was like she was watching "The Polar Express" for the first time. She became very emotional during the scenes where the boy is in danger, she was in awe of the North Pole and Santa, and ran over to her bell on the tree when the movie was over to make sure she could hear it ring! It was a joy to watch her experience it and know that she and her brothers feel that magic of Christmas.



This year we also added a new Christmas movie to our list, The Little House and the Prairie Christmas. This is one of my favorites. In the Christmas at Plum Creek, the children are all young and the family has very little to spend for Christmas. Everyone in the family is sacrificing in order to purchase a gift for someone else in the family. But, Laura makes the biggest sacrifice. It was a very good lesson for our kids and even my hubby got a little misty!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Review: Katie Brown Celebrates


A few weeks ago I won the book "Katie Brown Celebrates" from the book blog bookingmama.blogspot.com and the Hachette Book Group. I received it the other day and couldn't wait to look through it. I LOVE cookbooks! I could sit and read through cookbooks all day long. But, this is more than a cookbook, it is a party planner and a cookbook all in one. The photos are amazing and make everything look so easy and beautiful. I am hosting my Niece-to-be's wedding shower in April and there are a few ideas from this book that I would like to incorporate. There are also some great ideas for a kids party as well. There is a theme for each month including decorations, food, and even party favors/crafts. Some of the recipes are so easy I was amazed how they end up looking so delicious and elaborate! I can't wait to try some of them! So, if there is someone in your life who loves to throw parties, cook, or create unique crafts, this book is for them! You can go here to get more information about this book http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/books_9780316118187.htm

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Snow Is Magical!


We had a snowstorm yesterday and another expected tomorrow. This morning when I woke up everything was quiet and covered in that footprint free, perfect snow. This quote from J.B. Priestley describes it quite well for me... "The first fall of snow...is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of world and wake up in another quite different." The snow may cause disrupted travel plans, traffic hassles, school delays, or cancellations of events, but snow is also a beautiful event that not everyone in the world gets to experience. Even though I may not always like it and by February can be down right tired of it, I do appreciate the fact that I live in Iowa and get to experience it. Snow is a magical gift and today I am enjoying it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A House Full of Memories!


Yesterday we celebrated the day we purchased our house. I thought it was a fun way to remember the day we brought the kids out to see their new house and all the memories we have created here over the last 5 years. I still remember the boys running from empty room to empty room saying what each room would be. Then the next night we came out and put up our tree in the empty living rooom and decorated it. It was important to me to have that done since we were moving so close to Christmas. So, this year we had a special supper of tacos and then all of us made a gingerbread house. We shared some special memories that we have had in our home. I am so grateful we chose to move to this little community. We love the school system, we love and appreciate all of our neighbors, and we truly are grateful for our friends. It is hard to believe we have only been out here for 5 years, but the friends we have made I know will last a lifetime. This is the house that I expect to live in for the rest of my life. I can imagine our kids coming home here with their own families. Over the years it may look different, have different furniture (except the couch in the basement is stuck there forever), or new paint colors, but it will always be home to us and a place where they can feel safe and loved!




Monday, December 15, 2008

This is what is so great about small town Iowa!

This weekend was our small town of 700's Christmas celebration. It is a chance for us to get everyone together and share in the Christmas spirit. On Saturday, they served pancakes, eggs, and sausage to everyone and then each one of the kids picked out a toy and visited with Santa. Then on Sunday, there was a lighting contest as well as a silent auction for 14 decorated trees that various businesses donated. Chili and Chicken Noodle Soup and homemade cinnamon rolls were served. A wonderful opportunity to get together with your neighbors, your friends and celebrating Christmas together! This is one of the things I love about small town Iowa living! We were able to win a bid on one of the trees...a sport related tree that the boys were very excited about! Here is a short video clip from the weekend. Our kids aren't featured but, our friends kids are! Van Horne is such a great community. Come check us out....there are even building lots available!

Lands End Survey Opportunity




Mom Select and Lands End are offering an opportunity to win a Lands End $100 Gift Card. All you have to do is fill out their very quick survey. It only took me 4 minutes to complete the survey. Click on the link to complete the survey....http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=v1XWko6pU98QYbCX2rp9hw_3d_3d Once complete you will be entered to win the $100 gift card! Good luck! The survey must be completed by December 19, 2008, to be entered into the drawing!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Stress Is Over!


Tonight I got my haircut (very relaxing for me), and then went to Toys R Us where I was able to COMPLETE my Christmas shopping, at least the stuff I am responsible for. (I can't speak for my husband.) It was amazing that I found everything I was looking for...exactly what I wanted...some even "on sale"... for our kids as well as other kids I am buying for. What a great feeling to walk out of the store knowing the stress of Christmas is over! I head on over to Starbucks for my favorite treat...an eggnog latte and then on home only to find that....the kids are all in bed AND ASLEEP! WOW! So, I carry in the packages, kiss my husband and head to the gift wrapping station where I (pause) WRAP ALL THE PRESENTS AND PLACE THEM UNDER THE TREE! It is amazing! Tomorrow is DECEMBER 12! Woo hoo! I am just feeling so good right now that I had to share my joy with you. What a great feeling to have the stress of all that shopping gone. Now next week I can spend my time doing what I really love to do....baking!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It's a Snow Day!

Today was our first No School Snow Day of this school year. Our kids didn't have school on Monday for a prescheduled teacher work day...so this is day 2 of them being home! I decided we needed to be a little more structured today or we might all go crazy! So, this morning Bennett and Reagan helped me make some cookies and muffins (Patrick chose to play video games). This gives us a little head start on our Christmas baking. We had a great day with minimal fighting, good conversation, and a lot less stress! I am hoping to be able to get back to our normal routine tomorrow as I am sure the kids are too. I am going to share our cookie recipe from today! I got this recipe from my friend Jodi and we think they are yummy!

Jodi's Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies
2 C sugar
1/2 C milk
1 stick margarine
3-4 tsp cocoa
1/2 C peanut butter
3 C quick oatmeal
1-2 tsp vanilla

Bring the sugar, milk, margarine, and cocoa to a boil and boil for 1-1.5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add peanut butter, oatmeal, and vanilla. Mix all together and drop onto waxed paper with a spoon. Let cool.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Merry CHRISTmas!

I wanted to introduce you to a song and a group that our family loves! The Go Fish Guys are a Christian group of 3 guys who "make music that kids love and won't drive parents bonkers". If the kids and I have tasks to complete...I frequently put a Go Fish CD on because it is sure to get us moving and makes our chores more fun! Check out their website at www.gofishguys.com

Here is a video of one of their Christmas songs talking about keeping the "Christ" in Christmas. Everywhere you go, people are saying "Happy Holidays", but keep in mind that Christmas is all about the birth of Christ, and make sure you are saying "Merry Christmas" to everyone you meet.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Snowman Idea and Storytime





A few months ago I offered to lead a storytime for toddlers at our small town library. So, in November I held my first storytime with 4 little ones. We learned about leaves and it was a fun hour in my day! This month my theme is "Snow". So, thanks to my friend Tina, a former teacher and current stay-at-home mom who has all the best ideas, I am giving each of the kids one of these treats to take home with them. I don't remember what Tina called them, but I just thought they were the cutest! So, if you need to take treats to school, send goody bags for a party, or have gifts to give...here is your great idea for the day...heck, maybe even the week!

SNOWMAN COCOA
1 ziploc bag
2 T cocoa mix
11 or so mini marshmellows
1 snowman peep (yes they make these...I had no idea)
All you need to do is add 1 cup of hot water!

So, I hope the kids like them tomorrow and I plan to file this idea away for future use! Thanks Tina!

I will be reading SNOW by Cynthia Rylant who is the author of the Henry and Mudge Book series and ALL YOU NEED FOR A SNOWMAN by Alice Schertle which is one of our kids favorites.






Monday, December 1, 2008

First snowfall of the Season!



This weekend we had our first snowfall of the season. The snow was wet and perfect for snowman making and snowball throwing. The kids couldn't decide what to do first....decorate the tree (as we had originally planned) or go out and build the snowman! Both got accomplished and we have a new addition to our front yard!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Review: Shelter Me by Juliette Fay


After the sudden death of her husband, Janie LaMarche is swamped by tides of grief and rage. Yet she's forced to confront the onward march of her life by an unlikely cast of interventionists: her two small children, her Ipecac-toting aunt, the "unflinchingly nice" parish priest, and the contractor hired by her husband to build her a porch, whose involvement in her family's life becomes more ingrained with every beam he installs. Shelter Me reminds us that the terrain of one's future is best navigated iwth the help of others - even the ones we least expect to call on, much less learn to love.
I was fortunate to get an ARC of this book from Harper Collins. I was very interested in this book because I think it hit at one of my biggest fears. As a mother and wife, I can't imagine losing my husband. Janie's emotions in the story were so raw and yet so believable. I felt her pain and have often shared the same thoughts when I dare to think about "What if?" The story deals with family relationships, friendships, motherhood, anger, grief, forgiveness, fear, and love. Really anyone could relate to some portion of this book.
I loved the way the author brought in the letter writing at the homeless shelter. "Beryl" one of the homeless says to Janie "A typed letter is so cold and impersonal. It can be sent to so many people at once! Only a handwritten letter can convey the sense that the writer is actually with you, saying the words to you alone. When you write a letter with your own hand, you give a tiny piece of yourself" This was a great reminder for me and after just reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and how that was also completely letters written back and forth, I am even more driven to write more to those I love.
I loved Janie's journal writings as they allowed the reader to see that real raw emotions Janie was having over the death of her husband and whatever else may be bothering her that day. I just think it made her more believable and identifiable. I liked that she too, made mistakes with her kids. No one is perfect and it's ok, if you feed Rice Krispies to your kids for supper once in a while!
There were so many other parts of the story that I reflected on, cried, and laughed about. Even though the book is over 400 pages, I quickly became wrapped up in the story and hated to put it down. I believe Ms. Fay has a winner of a novel and would gladly give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Review & Coupon: RIDEMAKERZ

Our family was given the opportunity to try out RIDEMAKERZ which we were very excited about. We have 2 boys ages 8 and 7 and they were thrilled to check out these cars. Please watch the video to get an idea of what RIDEMAKERZ is all about. Their website is http://www.ridemakerz.com/. They also have several stores throughout the United States. Unfortunately there isn't one near us, but the website worked just as well. RIDEMAKERZ is the modern day version of model cars that go together quickly with no glue. The cars also include lights, sounds and radio remote-control and other add-ons if you choose. The cars can be assembled in minutes and taken apart and reconfigured. They are durable enough to play with and cool enough to collect.
RIDEMAKERZ was modeled after the Build-A-Bear stores with the owner collaborating to formulate the RIDEMAKERZ stores.
The boys had a blast picking out their very own cars. They are relatively inexpensive and can be made into a remote control car for an additional $25. We were able to purchase 2 cars for $72. You could do it for less or more depending on the options you choose.
Please check out the website www.ridemakerz.com and consider purchasing one of these cars for your son, nephew, grandson, or brother. For a limited time you can save $10 off a $30 purchase by entering the code 93474 at checkout. This offer will expire on January 4th, 2009.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society


It's January 1946 and London is emerging from the shadow of WWII. Author Juliet Ashton is having a terrible time finding inspiration for her next book when she gets a letter from Dawsey Adams from Guernsey, a British Island that had been occupied by the Nazis. He found her address in an old Charles Lamb volume and thinks she might be able to help him learn more about the author. As Juliet and Dawsey exchange letters, she learns about the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a unique book cllub formed on the spur-of-the-moment, as an alibi to protect its members from arrest by the Germans. Captivated, Juliet sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds there will change her life forever.
First of all I have to thank book bloggers for talking about this book. I never would have picked up this book on its own. The title threw me off, but after hearing about it, I was intrigued. I am so grateful because I absolutely LOVED this book. The style was very different. No chapters, just letters or telegrams back and forth between the characters in the book. So, it made it a quick and easy read. You could read a few letters and come back later if you needed to. But that would have been difficult because the letters were so enjoyable. I wanted to keep reading.
As someone who did not like history in school at all...I have found in my adult like I am drawn to historical fiction. Stories that are often based on true historical events. I became very drawn to the characters and could actually picture each one in my mind. The author did a fabulous job of describing the characters as well as the locations in the story. I really felt like I was there.
I loved the style of writing in letter format. It made me miss the art of writing and receiving letters from family. I think my New Year's resolution will be to stay in contact with far away family by writing letters...not emails! The storyline flowed very well through the letters and even though obviously not every letter sent was printed in the book, I was still able to fill in the gaps of the storyline.
I laughed and cried throughout the book. After I finished it, I actually felt all warm and cozy inside and hated to have the story end. One part that stuck with me was in a letter from Amelia to Juliet talking about the war and death. Amelia's son had died in the war and people were telling her "life goes on" and she thought, of course it doesn't. It is death that goes on. Her son is dead now, he will be dead tomorrow and next year and forever. There's no end to that, but perhaps there will be an end to the sorrow of it. I loved the truth in that. I used to work in Hospice and was always very careful about my choice of words when working with the family. I know how the wrong words can hurt a grieving person. I loved that Amelia had the strength to say what she was truly feeling!
So, I absolutely recommend this book. I give it 5 out of 5 stars. Let me know if you have read it too!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Christmas Carols

Yesterday was our second After School Jams. As I said last week, we had 22 kids and I challenged the kids to each bring a friend. Well, this afternoon we had 28 total kids with 2 kids from last week not attending. So, we had 8 new kids. It was very exciting to see. One of our priorities of our After School Jams is to reinforce the Christmas Carols with the kids. When I grew up, we were singing Christmas carols in Sunday School, in regular school, jr choir, etc. Today, so many of the kids don't know the traditional Christmas Hymns like Joy to the World, Silent Night, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Away in a Manger, etc. So, until our Christmas break, we are teaching the kids Christmas Carols each week. This got me thinking about my favorite Christmas Carols. I love Christmas and the hyms that come with it. I am always frustrated because it seems we never get to sing them very much in church because so many of them aren't to be sung until after the birth of Jesus. I wanted to share with you my favorite Christmas song. This version is sung by Josh Groban, one of my favorite performers. I hope you enjoy it and it reminds you of that one HOLY NIGHT!
I think it is time to get my Christmas CD's out of the storage box! How about you...What is your favorite Christmas song? Sing with your child.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Blessings and a Recipe

Yesterday was our 1st afterschool program at church that I talked and prayed about in a previous post. We knew for sure we would get 8-10 kids, we hoped for more, we planned for 25 and we had 22 kids in attendance! We were blessed by each one of them and excited to have kids from Kindergarten - 6th grade. Even those hard-to-please 6th graders had fun! It was also great to have 8 volunteers show up to help out. Everything went smoothly and you would have thought we had done this before! I had a lot of fun and know God was with all of us yesterday afternoon. I challenged each child to bring one friend next week and see if we can get 44 kids there! Now if that happens we may be pretty crowded in our little area, but wouldn't that be a great problem to have! I will keep you posted!

So, because I was going to be busy from 2:30-5:30 and my husband had a 6;30 meeting, I needed a supper that could be ready when we got home. So, I was searching through one of my favorite cook books, Fix It And Forget It when I found a recipe for Slow-Cooker Pizza. It was fabulous. All I had to do was add some garlic breadsticks to the oven when I got home and some salad and we had an awesome supper. I wanted to share the recipe with you because I know it is one that will be added to our menu. It is best if it is only in the crock-pot for 3 hours. So, if you work outside of the home it may be a better weekend option for you! But SO EASY and adaptable to your own personal likes and dislikes! Enjoy!









CROCK POT PIZZA

1 lb of ground beef or italian sausage
1 med. onion
1 green pepper
half a bag of rigatoni, cooked
7 oz jar of mushrooms
3 oz sliced pepperoni
2-15 oz cans of pizza sauce
10 oz mozzarella cheese
10 oz cheddar cheese
1. Brown ground beef and onions in sauce pan. Drain
2. Cook rigatoni
3. Layer half of each of the following in the order given into the crock pot:
ground beef/onion, green pepper, noodles, mishrooms, pepperoni, pizza sauce, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers.
4. Cover and cook on low 3 hours.
Note: Keep rigatoni covered with suace so they don't become dry and crunchy.

My note: I used sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms and cheese. You could certainly change the pepperoni for canadian bacon or ham, you could add olives, more onions, pineapple, etc. Make it your own with all your favorite toppings. The recipe only called for 1 can of pizza sauce, but I added 2 because it just wasn't enough to cover the pasta. I also used my 5 quart crockpot and everything fit perfectly. Let me know if you make it and how your family liked it!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Honor our Veterans!


I was proud to attend the Veteran's Day program at our school this morning. We have gone every year since the boys were in school since they sing at the program. It is always a moving experience for me. Sometimes it is the songs that are sung, the speech that is given or the sight of all the elementary children waving flags. This year it was when the band was playing each of the Armed Forces individual songs. As each one was played, the veterans in the audience were to stand during their branches song. During the Air Force song, I noticed an elderly gentleman standing proudly and singing along to his song. I looked over to my sister-in-law to make sure she saw it too, and then the tears welled up in my eyes. Many years later, he is still obviously proud of his service and I am grateful for his service as well.

My father is a veteran of the Korean War as a member of the Army. He never wants to talk about it much and that is ok with me. Our son had to write a letter to a veteran for a school assignment. So, he wrote a letter to Grandpa B thanking him for his service to our country and for being brave for fighting in the Korean War. My dad received the letter this weekend and on Sunday he proudly showed it to us... in a frame. He was very surprised to receive the letter and I know will he was glad to be honored in that way.

I remember as a "tween" I went with my parents to Colorado Springs to the Air Force Academy. My cousin, Jamie, was graduating from the Air Force and were invited to be his guests. That weekend is something I won't forget. The patriotism, the music, the formality of the event are still clear in my mind. At the end of the ceremony, the graduates all threw their caps and I even got one of the caps that day!

Who knows what the future holds for our children, but I know I appreciate the freedoms they have now and the freedoms our service men and women are fighting to keep. Who knows if any of the kids will be interested in the military, but if they are, I will be one proud military mom! God Bless America and God watch over our service men and women!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Go Vikes!


This weekend we surprised our boys with tickets to the Vikings vs Packers game. Now for some people this may not be a big deal, but it was for us. None of us have ever been to a NFL game. It was difficult for me to wrap my brain around spending $500 on something that lasts 3 hours, plus food, plus hotel, plus gas, etc. But, it was an experience that was worth every cent! The boys were so excited when we showed them the tickets. Their excitement was off the charts compared to the best Christmas present they could find under the tree. We had fun getting into our Vikings attire and arriving at the game early to take it all in. We even got to watch Chad Greenway warm up! The metrodome was packed solid with nearly 64,000 people. It was Armed Forces day and it was amazing when nearly 64,000 had a moment of silence to remember those lost in the wars. Who would have thought the dome could be that silent? The game was exciting all the way to the very end and luckily our team won! We had a great time, made some amazing memories, and had a experience that I know our boys will appreciate for a long time. Who knows, we may even try another game some day!

Friday, November 7, 2008

God is good!


A few weeks ago I agreed to be a part of a new program at our church. We are starting a weekly "After School Jams" program for kids in the community to come and hang out after school. We are having music, snacks and activities. Now in our small town (700) and our even smaller church membership, I was thinking this was a big undertaking. As we started to plan yesterday, I started to get a little stressed out and think, "What am I doing? I can't take on one more thing right now!" I started to think about all the kids that could potentially show up and how we would handle that. I questioned how we were going to fill the whole 1 1/2 hours and keep the kids interested, etc. etc. Doubt was filling my mind. Then, I decided I would just pray about it and "Let go, Let God". If this is what I am supposed to be doing, then God will be there to help us. One way we were talking about keeping the kids interested in music was incorporating musical instruments. But, we knew that would be costly and we currently have no budget. So, we put that in our hopefully in the future file. Then today I got a phone call from one of our church members who is helping to organize this new program. She said she has $200 to donate to our cause in memory of her father and wanted it to be used for instruments. Would you believe the instruments cost $197 and will be able to be here by Tuesday? Our program starts Wednesday. So, after meeting again today to plan, order the instruments, and mail out invites to 25 families, I am so excited for this new venture in my life and in our church's life. I pray that the kids in the community come and we can share how God can work in their life. God is so good! I will let you know how the first week goes!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Lipstick Boost


Today I received a new lipstick. It was a color I had been interested in, but unwilling, until recently, to buy it for myself. But, I decided I deserved a new lipstick and it arrived today! I have a cold and am feeling a little crappy (for lack of a better word), but I opened up my new lipstick, tried it on, and "poof" I felt better. So, in case you need a little Lipstick boost...you can check out my new lipstick at www.marykay.com. I chose the color Berry Kiss. It isn't too dark and not to red. Just right for a little bit of color.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Reading Traditions

Reading has been an important part of my life as long as I can remember. I remember my parents reading to me and then "pretending" to read the newspaper, magazine, or books in our home. As a child, since my sisters were 15 years older than me and out of the home by the time I was 4, so I was basically like an only child. I learned to read very early and have always loved it. Now that my father is retired and in his 70's he is a voracious reader. He reads more books than I can ever keep up with. I enjoy going to bookstores and finding the perfect book for his next read. Since I belong to a book club, I frequently share with him the books we have read. No one else in my family is in a book club, but I have numerous aunts and cousins who enjoy reading and we often share our great reads with eachother. My nephew, Eric, is also an avid reader and used to be a high school English teacher. So, we would often share our "good reads" with eachother. It has been great because my dad and I have found a new way to connect with eachother...through our love of reading! Now, as a mom, I want to be sure I carry on that tradition to my children. Our oldest was reading by the age of 4 and has always found reading enjoyable. Our middle child would prefer to be read to, but still enjoys reading. Our youngest is almost 4, but can already identify certain common words. I enjoy reading to them and am always eager to purchase new books for our library or to travel to the library for some new material. As we are coming up on the holiday season, I love to pull out our Christmas and Winter themed books that are only out during that time of year. It makes them more special since we can only see them once/year. The important thing is that we are a reading family. I want my kids to see that I enjoy reading and that it is important. That is one tradition I am not willing to break.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

5 Years Ago

Five years ago, on another Saturday morning, I was sitting at the table having breakfast, reading the paper while our 2 and 3 year olds were playing. My husband had left for his office to do some work. We had just had a fun night of trick-or-treating with my husband's family and found out that not just us, but his brother and his wife were pregnant and expecting at the same time! Both of us were elated and shocked since we had been pregnant together before! So I am sitting there and next thing I know I am on the floor and can not get up. I had to have my 3 year get the phone so I could call my husband and have him come home. I had no idea what was going on, but I instantly did NOT feel well. He came home and helped me to the couch where I proceeded to feel worse and painful. THANKFULLY, I had just found out I was pregnant, so I called my OB because I was worried about the baby. (If I hadn't know I was pregnant, I probably never would have called a dr and just thought I had the flu.) Since I wasn't bleeding, she thought I probably had the flu, but to keep her posted if I got worse. Well, I got much worse and eventually became unconscious. So, after an ambulance ride to the ER, emergency surgery, and a week in the hospital...I had an ectopic pregnancy that had burst. I am so grateful to the quick thinking of everyone involved who came together to save my life. I was bleeding to death inside and couldn't have lasted much longer. Dr Brown and Dr Wisnowski saved my life as well as a nurse who constantly rubbed my shoulder while I was having excruiciating pain (a trademark of burst ectopics). Also, during all this, our house was on the market and we were trying to purchase a home in a separate town.

So, basically, I am just saying that I am remembering this day, five years ago. I am remembering a day that I lost a baby who was loved, even if only for a few days, a life that was saved, and all the people involved to save me physically and emotionally. I am grateful for the second chance of life and for the second chance to have another baby. (Not always easy when you only have one fallopian tube left.) On January 11, 2005, we were blessed with a baby girl that I never thought I would have.

Life is short, and family is precious. Make sure you let all those special to you know how much they are loved and appreciated today. You just never know what is ahead of you and if my last day would have been 5 years ago, I know that I hadn't said all that needed to be said to those I loved.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pumpkin Carving 2008



Every year we gather up all our pumpkins and search for the coolest designs and get to work. Typically it is Pat and I doing all the work, but the kids love seeing the designs come out on the pumpkins and then the real excitement of lighting them outside.

For me, it is all about creating those traditions and memories for the kids. Very soon, they will be able to do the creating and cutting while we sit back and watch the creations come to life. Until then, we are having fun creating the "magic". This year we chose to support our favorite teams, The Cubs, The Iowa Hawkeyes, as well as doing our name with a bat and the typical halloween fare of a jack-o-lantern, RIP and pirate skull. Tomorrow the kids will continue with our tradition of trick-or-treating around town with cousins and I will stay home and hand out candy! Then everyone comes back here for food, candy trading, and great fellowship!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What I Love

Lately I have been thinking about things that I LOVE! The things that just bring joy to my life. I think it is easy to think about the things we hate (house cleaning, smoking) and spend our time focusing on them. Instead, I thought it would be fun really think about those things I LOVE and try to list them and see if anyone else loves the same things I do! Then on those days when I am feeling down, I can refer to my list and pick something on it to pick me back up!










Things I Love!
God
My hubby, Pat
My 3 Kids, Patrick, Bennett, and Reagan
My parents
My extended family...too many to mention
Lindt Lindor White Chocolate Truffles
Reading
Time all to myself
My blog
Smiles
My mom's cinnamon rolls
Lemon Meringue Pie
My friend, Tammy and all my other gal pals who each fill a need in my life
Sleeping in
Family photos
Having a bathroom all to myself
Hugs
Flowers (especially from my hubby)

Who knows, I may have to keep adding to this, but for now, this is what comes to mind. Just writing these things down have brightened my spirits. What do you LOVE?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Review: I Know This Much Is True



On the morning of October 12, 1990, my twin brother Thomas entered the Three Rivers, Connecticut, public library, retreated to one of the rear study carrels, and prayed to God the sacrifice he was about to commit would be deemed acceptable...This is a story of alienation and connection, devastation, and renewal, at once joyous, heartbreaking, poignant, mystical, and powerfully, profoundly human.



This was definitely a difficult book to tackle. It was our book club choice for the month and I was eager to read it because, over the past 10 years since it was published, I have heard many things about it. It was also part of Oprah's Book Club, so it has gotten a lot of publicity, so I figured it must be a great read. The daunting part was that it was 900 pages! That was a huge commitment to read over the month, but it was definitely worth it!

The story was about Dominick and his identical twin, Thomas who was also schizophrenic. The book also takes you through the stories of Dominick and Thomas' childhood with their mother and abusive step-father. Then the story travels through the lives of their grandparents in a "manifesto" that their grandfather wrote to tell of his life. This story explores mental illness, abuse, anger, love, family secrets, power, and even grief. The character Dominick is someone you hate one minute, feel sorry for the next, and then are rooting for by the end. The book travels back and forth from their childhood to the present and eventually back in time to the life of their grandfather. With all the characters and time changes, it is not difficult to stay connected to who the characters are. The book was heavy (literally too...all 900 pages of it) and at times I had to take a break from reading it. I kept thinking, when is Dominick going to get a break? How can all this bad stuff keep happening to one person? I did at one point put it away for a week and read a completely different book, but I am glad I picked it back up. The story made me want to keep coming back to it and as I said, I wanted to root for Dominick. As he travels through therapy you struggle along with him as he deals with his anger, fear and grief. The last page was such a powerful ending to the story, it brought me to tears. I truly enjoyed watching Dominick grow and change in the story and was reminded about the power of forgiveness and moving forward and how that can impact the course of your life. This was a story that I was intimidated by, but am now grateful for the time I spent and for the effect it had on me.

To purchase I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE, click the photo below:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Review: The Safety of Secrets by Delaune Michel


"Now we're just alike." So Begins Fiona and Patricia's friendship that warm autumn morning in first grade in Lake Charles, Louisiana, their bond forged ever closer by Fiona's abusive mother and Patricia's neglectful one. Their relationship is a source of continuity and strength through their move to LA to become actresses; through Fiona's marriage and Patricia's sudden fame. When husband and career pressures exact a toll, the women wonder if their friendship can survive. Then a dark secret from their past emerges, threatening to destroy not only their bond, but all they've worked for as well.
I won this book from www.bookclubgirl.com and was very anxious to read it. I was not disappointed. It was a quick and enjoyable read. I loved the storyline of a true lifelong friendship. As a mom, I was troubled by how the mothers treated Fiona and Patricia as children, but am glad they had eachother to grow up with. The storyline travels back and forth from childhood to the present. The secret between them isn't revealed until the last part of the book, but I was able to pretty much figure out what it was. Fiona and Patricia have a troubled friendship as adults and I did tend to take Fiona's side most of the time. Secrets are a big part of this story, both in their childhood and as adults. It made me think about secrets and when is it ok to have those secrets and when not and how they can carry on into your adulthood. Everyone has secrets that we have kept from their parents or spouses or family or friends. But, at what point do those secrets affect your relationship with those you love and at what point do those secrets need to come out. I think this book really showed a true-to-life example of how secrets can affect the decisions you make and the reason behind those choices. I loved when Fiona finally let her mother have it. I don't want to say more and spoil the story, but that was something that I felt needed to happen in the story and was glad the author included it. I just think the author really gave a great example of a friendship that has a deep history, has some betrayal, intimacy, and is strong yet fragile. Any woman with a best friend will love this story and identify with the struggle of shared secrets. I would give this story 4 out of 5 stars! I am sending my copy off to my cousin as a surprise and because she is one of my few "lifelong friends".

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Final Days of Giving


So, my final days of giving were days spent with friends and family. On Friday I spent the evening with my friend Tammy having a girls night out. We had such a great time, but fortunately I was more of the receiver because Tammy treated me for my recent birthday. But, while we were out, I bought a couple shirts and a dress for my kids and a birthday present for my hubby. Saturday we headed up for my nephew's wedding where I helped to watch my niece's 3 children while they were all getting ready for the wedding. Then my husband videotaped the wedding and I took some candid shots. Then Sunday was my great-nieces baptism. Since my sister (the grandma) had gotten sick overnight, I took photos and then helped at the house getting all the food ready. Of course gifts were given and lots of hugs and smiles and everyone had a great time. We even took a detour on the way home to watch my husband's nephew play soccer and win! So, it was a fabulous weekend. Unfortunately, whatever my sister got, several of the rest of us got as well. At least 10 of us have gotten a virus and we have been down and out since Sunday including myself and 2 kids. So, the giving even spread to the sharing of this nasty virus. Anyway, hopefully we will all be on the mend soon, and the giving that was done in the last 10 days will help me realize that I can be a giver every day in some small way if I just look for those opportunities!

The Secret Life of Bees


I read this book quite awhile ago and truly enjoyed the book. Then on Friday, I went to the movie. WOW! If you loved the book, you will truly love the movie. Usually my typical line is "The book is always better than the movie", but this time I think both were equally fabulous. The actors for the movie were well chosen for the roles they played. Numerous scenes in the movie were powerful enough to resort me to sobbing (sorry Tammy for sniffling through the whole movie). I was just drawn into the book in a whole new way and was very impressed with how the movie followed the book. Dakota Fanning is brilliant and many of her scenes were amazing. So, put this movie on your "Must Watch" list and if you haven't read that book, that needs to be on your "Must Read" list too!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Still Giving: Days 5, 6, and 7


On Tuesday I spent the afternoon with my family and husband's family watching our nephew play football. On Wednesday, I did the same thing I do every Wednesday. I attend a Bible Study called BSF (Bible Study Fellowship). Every Wednesday morning I go early and watch a few children while the leaders pray before we get started. I truly enjoy attending this Bible Study and if you would like to learn more about this international organization go to http://www.bsfinternational.org/ and find a class near you! I then got a haircut and gave my stylist a bigger tip than I usually do. Today was a crazy day for me. I was trying to get stuff done here at home and then run into town as I had to buy some gifts, groceries, and clothing. We have a wedding and a baptism this weekend in our family and had to make sure we all have proper attire. So, my son got new shoes, and the kids got new clothes. Then tonight I made a big meal for the family including fried chicken, mashed potatoes, squash, corn, and cantalope! This weekend we have a lot going on, and know there will be a lot of giving going on. I am helping to watch my great nieces and great nephew during the pre wedding/wedding festivities, we are video taping the wedding, we of course are giving gifts at both the wedding and the baptism, and of course, all the special family moments that will be shared will be the best part of giving!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Giving days 3 and 4


How's the giving going for you? Is it easier than you thought? Yesterday we went to church, so it was easy to write a check and give to the church. We also had friends over in the afternoon, sharing food and fellowship with eachother.

This summer I was in charge of our Vacation Bible School at our church. I didn't want to do the usual crafts that we do every year and spend the money on things that sit around and get thrown away after a few days. So, I combined our mission project into our craft project. I bought enough fleece for the kids to make 15 fleece blankets. I got them all trimmed and cut and ready to go, so all the kids had to do was tie them. I left 1 blanket undone for the older kids to do from start to finish. So, during our craft/mission time that week, the kids tied 15 blankets. The blankets were then to be given to our church members who were hospitalized, home bound, in a nursing home, or maybe just needed their spirit lifted. The preschool children who were too young to tie blankets, made cards to go with the blankets. So, after VBS, we have handed out 8-10 blankets to members of our church and all have been so appreciative of them. The children have been able to be a part of the delivery of the blankets and see the enjoyment of those who have received them. So, today, since we didn't have school, myself and another mom took our kids to deliver a blanket to a man who has been in ICU off an on for months following a stroke and is now in a nursing home. We took him the blanket and we were able to chat with him a bit. I hope it will lift his spirits and, of course, I hope we are instilling the giving spirit to our children!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

my giving days 1 and 2


I have begun the 10 DAY GIVE!


So far, nothing that I have given is earth shattering or huge on any level...but I haven't really gone anywhere to do anything big. Yesterday, I took time to sit down and play my daughter's favorite game, Cariboo with her. Tonight, we were treated to a visit from a praying mantis in our driveway. The mantis "Manny" we called him is an amazing insect. We watched him for quite a long time! So, I shared him with my neighbors kids as well. I called and invited them to come over and see "Manny" which turned into a mini football game and an hour of enjoyment by all! So, here is a photo of our praying mantis and the football game! Thanks Em for sharing in our day! Tonight we also had a visit from my sister-in-law and niece and I made apple crisp for them to enjoy! So, giving on a small level, but I still have 8 days left...who knows what is to come!

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Give Begins

A week or so ago, I signed up to participate in the 10-Day Give being sponsored by a Christian blog. I thought it was a great idea and wanted encourage others I know to do the same. I want to be a part of making other's lives better, but with everything going on in my life, sometimes I just ignore those opportunities. So, this is my chance to make sure I give of myself at least once a day to someone, anyone, whether I know them or not. There are numerous chances in any one day to accomplish this. You can start by looking in your own home, at your workplace, at the store, on your drive home, in your neighborhood, in your community, or even in the world.

You could give money, your time, your expertise, a token of appreciation, or even a smile. It could be taking someone out to lunch, buying a coffee for the person behind you in the starbucks drive through, it could be babysitting for an overworked mom, it can be as simple as giving your precious time to your child, or an elderly neighbor. There are no rules, no judges, and no right or wrong ways of doing it. Will you join me and give whatever you can? It’s only for 10 days, and maybe it will become a habit.

So starting today, I am going to give something to a different person, each day until October 19th, 2008. It doesn’t matter what the gift is, how much it costs, who it is given to, or how it is given. The point is to just to give - on purpose. I hope you'll join me! I will try to let you know what I have been doing each day! Feel free to share with me what you are doing!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Review: Every Freaking Day with Rachell Ray by Elizabeth Hilts



This book is an unauthorized parody of Rachael Ray who is well known for her cooking and travel shows on the Food Network, and her daytime talk show, as well as her magazine "Every Day with Rachael Ray".

I recently won this book and since I am a subscriber to the real Every Day magazine and watch her shows once in awhile, I wanted to read it right away. I read this book in an hour, but it was an enjoyable hour. I was very impressed with the way Hilts was able to mimic so much of Rachael Ray's style in her magazine and put it into the book...with a twist. Some of my favorites from the book were: 1- The Big Deal Kitchen Fix. They showed before and after photos of a kitchen with basically dirty dishes, poor lighting, clutter and then an after photo with a new sparkling kitchen with all items put neatly away and a new rug on the floor!

2- The Burgers of the Month. She listed a breakfast burger with eggs, bacon, and a burger on 2 powdered donuts, or the Thanksgiving burger with ground turkey, stuffing, cranberries, and gravy on corn bread.

So, obviously Elizabeth Hilts has a great sense of humor and a creative flair. Hopefully the real Rachael Ray is laughing along as well. It was an enjoyable, humorous, quick and easy read. I plan to donate my copy to our local library so others can enjoy it as well! Thanks to http://www.myfriendamysblog.com for sending me this copy!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

36 is here!

So, I turned 36 on Friday. Where did I think I would be at 36 when I was 18 and dreaming about my future. I know I imagined I would be married and a mom. I know at 18 I imagined that I would be married to someone different than who I am now...and that's a good thing. I was a senior in high school and dreaming of going off to college. I knew I wanted to be a social worker. After I went off to college, so much of my life changed. I did become a social worker, but didn't get married until I was 26. I was a mom at age 27 1/2 and no longer a social worker. This is my last year of being a complete stay-at-home mom. Our youngest will go to preschool next year. Now 18 years later I am thinking about what my future will hold. What do I want to be when I grow up? What do I want to do with my time when the kids are in school? Who am I if I am not "just a mom"? It isn't that I haven't thought about things I could do, but just which of those are the best fit for me. Being a mom has been my best fit. No matter what career I dreamed about or what college classes I took, all I ever wanted to be was a mom. How can I do anything to top that? How can I ever get that same fulfillment from any other job choice out there? So, as I move through my 36th year, I will look for those small opportunities that may step in front of me. I will cherish those mom moments because I know before I am ready, those hugs and kisses each morning and night will soon be "see ya mom" as they run out the door. But, most of all I will be grateful for the fact that I have the ability to choose what to do with my life and take which ever path is leading me forward!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Giveaway: Hannah's Dream



Booking Mama is giving away 3 signed copies of Hannah's Dream by Diane Hammond. You can read her review and a chat with the author herehttp://bookingmama.blogspot.com/. I really think this sounds like a fabulous book and thought you might too! If you fell in love with the elephant in the book Water for Elephants then this book is for you. Just leave a comment on her blog to be entered to win.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The letter H

Today I was working with my 3 year old on her letters. She was matching the upper and lower case letters and did a great job. She rushed off to show Daddy her papers. He asked her why the H and h looked different. Reagan replied, "This h is the real h and this H is the Caps Lock H." Do you think she is on the computer too much?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Determination!



On Saturday, as I was watching our sons play soccer and snapping photos, I noticed something that was very obvious to me. Their determination! These 2 photos are just a couple examples of their determination they showed throughout the game to go after the ball and make a goal. They ended up tying the game 2-2 and scored in the last minutes of the game.
This got me thinking about some quotes that deal with determination.
The difference between the possible and the impossible lies in a person's determination. Tommy Lasorda
The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand. Vince Lombardi
I have no doubt that the boys played to the best of their abilities and gave it their all, so I was definately proud of them. But, do I give it my all every day. Am I determined to be the best wife, mom, friend I can be? Am I dedicated to the task I am completing at the time? Maybe...most of the time...but also, I could do better. I need to be an example of determination to my kids. Let them see me working hard towards a goal, especially since I don't work out of the home. They need to see that I too can accomplish a task, and win or lose, as long as I put forth my best effort, I can be proud. Maybe if we all put forth a little more effort, our determined spirit would spread to others as well.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Author: William Kent Krueger


A few weeks ago, I was privileged to meet and visit with mystery author, William Kent Krueger. He came to my small Iowa town on a library tour, and even though I had never read any of his books, I couldn't miss the chance to hear an author speak. He was a wonderful speaker and I was able to have a conversation with him as well as have him autograph a couple books. You can find out more about him on his website http://www.williamkentkrueger.com/. His newest book, Red Knife was recently released.


Mr Krueger prefers to be called Kent. He started writing at the age of 40 and has 9 novels to his credit. His books create magic in the Northwoods and as Kent says, "if magic doesn't happen, why write?" (The Northwoods are in Northern Minnesota near the Boundary Waters.) He chose to write mysteries because of their structure. In a mystery 1-something happens, 2-there is an investigation, and 3-answers are found. He felt this structure worked best for him. It took him 4 years to write his first novel, Iron Lake.


Kent also stated that in learning how to write a novel, developing the character is more important than the plot. I would have to agree...most of the books that I didn't enjoy was because I didn't think the author took the time to develop the characters. Kent also feels that working with words is like working with jewels. Also as a mystery writer, you have to understand what would motivate ordinary people to do strange things out of their realm.

Kent feels to be a writer, you have to write every day. You should MISS it when you aren't writing. Kent has several stops on his current book tour. Check his website to see a listing. If you get the chance to go see him, I highly recommend it!

I had such an enjoyable time listening to Kent talk and even though I am not a huge mystery novel reader, I am very anxious to read his novels. I have nightmares easily so I usually shy away from mysteries, I know I am a wimp :( Please check out Kruger's books, he has a huge fan base and readers are anxiously awaiting his next novel. Some of them use the same characters, so you may want to read them in order.

Check out all of William Kent Krueger's books, HERE

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Book Giveaway



Booking Mama is having a contest to giveaway 5 copies of The Self Esteem Trap by Polly Young-Eisendrath, PhD. You have until Oct 3 to comment on her site under this book heading. Be sure read her review and sign up to win!http://bookingmama.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Review: Jackie and Me by Dan Gutman


Like every other kid in his class, Joe Stoshack has to write a report on an African American who's made an important contribution to society. Unlike every other kid in his class, Joe has a special talent: with the help of old baseball cards, he can travel through time. So for his report, Joe decides to go back to meet one of the greatest baseball players ever, Jackie Robinson, to find out what it was like to be the man who broke baseball's color barrier. Joe plans on writing a prize-winning report. But he doesn't plan on a trip that will for a short time change the color of his skin - and forever change his view of history and his definition of courage.
Joe was a baseball player who was teased by another kid because he was Polish. He got mad and ended up fighting with the boy and getting kicked off the baseball team. When he had to do the book report he chose a baseball player because he loved the sport. He used his baseball card to travel back in time to Jackie Robinson, but went back as an African American boy who lived in Jackie's house. He then witnessed how Jackie handled bullys and teasing on the field. He witnessed many incidences of prejudice towards Jackie. Jackie taught him to turn the other cheek and how to shut them out while he was playing the game. Joe was taught a valuable lesson from Jackie and ended up back in the present time being let back on the baseball team. He played in the championship game and was able to meet face to face with his bully and handle it the way Jackie showed him to. This book had a great message for kids about teasing and bullying and how to handle those situations. The story was also full of great American history regarding baseball. The boys gave this an "I liked it a lot" ranking.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Review: The Last Summer (of You and Me) by Ann Brasheres


Ann Brasheres is the author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series for young adults. This is her first novel for adults.


This story is one of a beach-community friendship traingle among three young adults for whom summer and this place have meant everything. Sisters Riley and Alice have been returning to their parent's modest beach house every summer for their entire lives. Riley is a tomboy and a lifeguard. Alice is beautiful and gentle, a reader and a thinker, and worshipful of her older sister. And every summer growing up, in the big house that overshadowed their humble one, there was Paul, a friend as important to both girls as the place itself. Paul has now returned to the island after being away for three years. His return marks a season of tremendous change, and when a simmering attraction, a serious illness, and a deep secret all collide, the three friends are launched into a unfamiliar adult world, a world from which their summer haven can no longer protect them.


This was my book club read for September and was a little difficult for me to get interested in. First of all, I know nothing of summers where you leave your home and live on the beach in your summer home. I am not familiar with Fire Island and the kind of lifestyle that comes along with living on the beach for every summer of your life. I could connect with the familial relationships and friendships that were between Alice and Riley and Paul because they were like most other kids who have grown up together. The story was slow to come through as there was a lot of back stories to go through in the beginning of the novel. If you haven't had a chance to care about the characters, I think it is hard to be interested in their back stories. I think Riley's character was the most developed, but with Alice being the storyteller, that made it difficult, I think. The storyline was equally frustrating in that no one was honest with eachother throughout the whole story. Everyone was keeping something from someone whether it was Riley, Alice, or Paul or one of the parents. So, the storyline just didn't flow for me. I could see how maybe someone in their early 20's might relate to this story better, but for me I still saw this as a young adult novel with too much immaturity attached to the main characters that made it too frustrating for me to enjoy. There was a paragraph in the story that did stick with me. Alice is sitting in her parents inland home noticing all the items in the kitchen, like the pot she formed out of clay snakes that still held the salt and two ivy plants that Alice and Riley had purchased for their mom still thriving after all this time. "There was love expressed in the places you usually forgot to look." I had to stop when I read this sentence. It made me think of all the things sitting around my parents home...things that have sat there for years and were part of my childhood...things that I overlook....would I miss them if they weren't sitting there anymore? What are the things in our home that are overlooked. What will our children look back on as those expressions of love in our home?


So, for an adult in their low to mid twenties who understands the culture of living and growing up on the beach in the summer, this would probably be a great read. For me, it was just ok. The story did pick up towards the middle, but to late for me to have much of an interest in the characters. If not for book club, I would not have finished it. So, out of 5 stars I give this 2 1/2 stars.
Addition: My book club met last night and we had an extensive discussion about the book. So if a book encourages a lot of discussion, then that must mean the author has gotten the reader thinking, which is good. There were many discussions about the way the writer left certain situations of the book "unknown" like what happened to Amy and Riley's beach house, did Riley resent Paul and Amy for being the reason she lost her bag with medication in it which resulted in her further illness? I think we were all equally frustrated with the lack of communication between the characters, but several of our members enjoyed the book. That is why I love book club so much. It gives me a chance to hear different perspectives about the book andhelp me sees situations in a book in a different way. In fact it may lead me to see the book in a completely different light. The younger members in the book club seemed to have enjoyed it more, which leads me to think that again, women in their 20's might relate better to this book than someone in their 30's or 40's. Thanks to Emily for making us "Sex on the Beach" drinks to coincide with the story!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Smile!

My motivation for moms today stated...Smile often and let kindness be a cloak you wear as an example to your children. I needed to hear that today. I used to have a saying, "Smile at everyone you meet" and I truly tried to live by that. Sadly I think I have gotten away from it. The motivation was a reminder for me that I need to do that again. You never know what kind of day the cashier at Target, or your daycare provider, or the bus driver, or your spouse, or the lady on the sidewalk, etc is having and your smile might just be enough to brighten their morning or their whole day. Another great quote I think about often is...In one minute I can change my attitude, and in that one minute I can change my entire day. So, as you go about the busyness of your life and as you interact with those around you...make sure there is a smile on your face and who knows it may change your attitude as well as the person next to you. What a great example you can lead for your child and those around you!
SMILE!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Review: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch


Randy Pausch was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer when he gave his "Last Lecture" on childhood dreams. His lecture wasn't about dying, but the importance of overcoming obstacles, enabling the dreams of others, and seizing every moment. This book is about living and what we want to be our legacy. Randy Pausch as since passed away, but his dreams live on through his family and this book.

I absolutely loved this book. I first learned about Randy Pausch on Good Morning America. I was drawn in to his spirit and amazing ability to face his struggles with such an uplifting attitude. I have not watched the actual lecture although I would like to. The book is an amazing life lesson from an amazing man who is sadly no longer with us. You can't read this book and not take a second look at how you are living your life. I have dog-earred so many pages that I can't possibly talk about all of them, so I will just offer up some highlights.
The first is a quote of his, "We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand." For those who are chronic complainers and would rather pout, whine, or b**ch about their life, I hope this gives them another perspective. I hope that I play the hand as it was dealt me without cheating or throwing it in too early! Randy also states, "if you took 1/10 the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you'd be surprised by how well things can work out."
I loved his giant stuffed animal story. He spent many hours and who knows how much money winning giant stuffed animals at fairs and parks throughout his life. It reminded me of the giant stuffed animals I had won. As a child I tended to win a lot of drawings and I remember my friends and family being "envious" of the fact that I won frequently. I wish my luck was still as overflowing as an adult, although I have won a lot of books lately. Anyway, one of my big wins was a giant stuffed Kangaroo. At the time I won it, it was bigger than me. I can still see that Kangaroo sitting in my bedroom..over the years...the head getting to heavy and leaning forward so it didn't sit up straight anymore. I have no idea where that kangaroo is now...probably long thrown away, but it certainly was something I truly adored. Then as an adult, I went to an amusement park with my current boyfriend who won a huge Tweety Bird for me. I remember carrying it around the park with me the rest of the day and the thrill of everyone looking at you with envy of your big prize. The tweety bird is now our family reunion mascot. So, he gets pulled out of hiding every 3 years to help direct traffic to the reunion location!
Finally, I was extremely interested in his Tigger vs Eeyore philosophy. As Randy sees it, there is a decision to make...am I going to be a fun-loving Tigger or a sad-sack Eeyore. Unfortunately I seem to know too many Eeyores and not enough Tiggers. I am trying to remove myself from the Eeyores in my life. All they do is make me want to complain and feel bad for them. They have no intention towards bettering themselves or their situation but instead tend to dig deeper into their negativeness. I don't want anyone to see me an Eeyore, I don't want my kids to be Eeyores, and I don't like being around Eeyores. So, I am going to look for those Tiggers in my circle of family and friends and ask them if they would like to go for a bounce!
These are just some of the messages that spoke to me, but there were many others. I highly recommend this book to anyone, whether you are struggling with something, whether you need a boost, if you are working on achieving a goal, if you are a parent, or if maybe you think you might be one of those complainers or Eeyores. You won't be disappointed!
Bennett and one of his many lego creations.
Tonight I had the rare opportunity to spend over 3 hours with just our middle child. First of all I was thrilled that he chose to spend the evening with me rather than going into town with his dad and siblings. I get one on one time with our youngest every day. But the opportunities are few when I can give my full attention to our older kids. So, Bennett and I spent the evening just hanging out. I let him chose our activity (legos) and our supper (Breakfast supper). We built a house out of legos that at the end turned into a garden shed because we forgot to add windows. The best part of the lego building was the conversation that we had. Bennett shared with me stuff that happens at school, things he thinks about, questions he has had, things he likes and doesn't like, etc. We just had a wonderful time and I wish I could spend 3 hours like that everyday. During our conversation we talked about reading and so we took a break from building and ran to the library and picked out some books. After supper he asked if we could run to the Quick Stop and get his favorite treat...a zebra cake...so off we went. Then we played outside until the rest of the family came home. I am so grateful for the chance to have this night. I had no idea how much I was missing out on what goes on in his head each and every day. As a parent I need to make that effort to reach out and give him that full attention more often. While we were outside, Bennett asked if we could do it again and offered that next time, we should go into town and maybe just the 2 of us go to a restaurant. I think I will be having that date very soon.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Soccer Mom




Bennett and Patrick as the Van Horne Vipers! Reagan, their cheerleader!
Last weekend I officially became a soccer mom. Soccer was something that I was never sure about. We didn't have soccer where I grew up and neither did my husband. We just didn't understand it. We have been to a few of our nephew Zach's games but didn't know much more than kicking the ball into the goal was a good thing! A new league began that involved all the neighboring towns in our school district, so the kids and us decided to give it a try. As a "football loving" family this was a big step. My nephew Eric is a college football coach (Go Beavers!) and I worried about telling him that the boys were going to play soccer. He just wants to be sure they play football too! But, we have come to enjoy soccer. My parents came to watch the boys' first game last weekend and we had such a good time. The boys are still figuring out the rules and realizing 3 kids on the same team can't all go after the ball at once. They both got kicked by another kid, they made mistakes (kicking the ball the wrong way), got a good workout in, and most of all had fun! We even won our first game 1-0 with Bennett scoring the only goal! So, as much as I didn't ever want to be "a soccer moms", I am now proud to be a Viper Soccer Mom and their biggest fan!