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


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

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


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!

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!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Politics at home

Last week while watching the Republican Convention, we had our own little convention here at home. Patrick decided to run for Student Council at his elementary and chose the position of Room Representative. So, a campaign poster was made and a speech was written. He even got a "campaign manager" to spread the word to "Vote for Patrick"! Friday was the big day, with the speech and the vote. I was nervous for him. I knew how badly he wanted to win and how disappointed he would be if he didn't. I talked to him about being gracious to the winner if he didn't win and not being upset. But, I really wanted him to win too. I knew he would be good at it. It would be another stepping stone for him and an opportunity to help him grow as a person. So, as the boys are running home from school on Friday, I can hear him hollaring..."Mom, I won! I'm the Room Rep!" He was so excited and so were we! Several years ago I went to a make-your-own pottery place with my best friend, Tammy. I decided to make a plate that we call our Star Plate. On the plate it says "You're A Star!" So, it was a great night to pull out the star plate for Patrick for supper. Who knows, maybe this is just the beginning of our political experiences!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Review: Stanley in Space

Stanley in Space is the story of Stanley Lambchop and his family. The President of the United States has chosen Stanley and his family to become the first humans to fly in the STAR SCOUT, a new top-secret spaceship. Stanley's most exciting adventure is about to begin. He'll meet the Queen of England, have a birthday party in outer space, and save a whole planet of aliens from danger.
If you are familiar with the Flat Stanley books, this is written after Stanley is no longer flat. This is the first in the Stanley books that we have ever read. The boys were very interested through the whole book. The chapters included detailed photos and were short, so you could read 2-3 chapters a night. The story shows Stanley's characteristics of empathy, forgiveness, courage, creative thinking, and his love for his family. The story line is about Stanley and his family being chosen to travel to the planet Tyrra as US ambassadors. Even though it is completely "out-there", it is great for imagination purposes. Stanley's character is easy to identify with and a great role model for children. Stanley comes up with a plan to save all the people of Tyrra. He makes good choices and stands up for those in need. It was a story I enjoyed reading to the kids as well. Patrick even shared that he is reading Invisible Stanley at school during his individualized reading time. That is one book I am sure I don't have to worry about him reading.