Saturday, November 29, 2008

Wii Love Our Wii

We've had our Wii for quite a while now and are just learning that there's a way you can go in and download (for a fee) the old 'classics' to play on the Wii. Games such as Zelda and PacMan and Galaga and Super Mario. The Wii comes with a built-in wireless network so it's pretty easy to get up and running. And if you have a husband who is in the computer security profession, it's even easier. ;)

As Hubby was setting up the optional router, he asked us what we should name it. Matthew replied, "Call it 'wii love our wii'!"
Hubby chuckled and said, "Well, that tells people what we are using the network for and we don't want to do that."
Matthew asked, "Why don't you want people to know what we're using it for?"
"Because people will snoop and some people will try to hack in and do bad things to our game and computers."
I added, "They already know we have computers just by our connection - we don't want to broadcast that we also have a Wii to strangers."
Matthew paused as he pondered that and then laughed said, "Mom, that's ridiculous - how would *anyone* live without a computer?"

Monday, November 24, 2008

Great Early Reader Chapter Books

Somewhere between picture books and chapter books, there is a category that's not totally named. If you go to your local bookstore, they probably have bright numbers on certain books like "Step 1 Reading" or the like. But I find that there are better ones out there. Here is a list of books and/or authors who have chapter books that are heavily illustrated so they're great for those kids who want to step out of picture books but find chapter books just a bit too daunting...

And as a side note, you might check your library for "Jim Trelease's Read Aloud Handbook" - this is a book full of reviews about children's books. He reviews the storyline, tells you what age would like it, how it's illustrated, etc. I've gotten a lot of good ideas out of that one.

The Cynthia Rylant books (Mr. Putter and Tabby)
Zach's Alligator
Magic Tree House series
Beatrix Potter books
Alice in Wonderland (Try the one illustrated by Alison Jay, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.")
Marguerite Henry's books
Beverly Cleary books
Jigsaw Jones mysteries
Nate the Great series
Pixie Tricks series
Rainbow Fairies and Weather Fairies
Barbara Cooney books
Brian Wildsmith books
Horrible Harry
Ramona Quimby series
Bunnicula Tales (which is an early reader form of the Bunnicula books)
Amelia Bedelia books (for homeschoolers, this is heavily centered in school)
Junie B Jones books (for homeschoolers, this is heavily centered in school)
Little House books, I believe, have younger versions.
I've heard the Incredible Journey books are great - and just might spin you off into studying geography or history too. :)
The series by Gerinomo Stilton - I just found these myself and they're *very cute* and lots of colorful small pics throughout the books (20+). You can view a few pages on Amazon.

And don't forget comic books and graphic novels!!! Like Peanuts, Bone, Garfield, etc.

For a little bit older (or if you are reading to him/her), there's a really great series by Bill Myers (he co-wrote the McGee and Me series if you're familiar with that). It's very funny Christian stories for kids. Both my newly 8yr old son *and* I have been howling reading the series. We're on "My Life As Reindeer Roadkill" right now - a great Christmas story where the main character gets invited to Jesus' bday party by an angel in a dream. He spends a while trying to determine if it was real...and if it was, what in kind of a birthday gift could you get for the Son of God??? It's an older series but if you have a big church, it might be in their library.

I googled "early reader chapter books" and some good lists hanging around. You might try that too. Here's one that looked good

If you have any to add to my list, please add it in the comments!

Happy Reading!!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Christmas Conversations

Last Saturday, Hubby was gone hunting. So my mom and I decided to take the kids 'hunting' too. We hunted at that big store with lots of toys in it that has a famous giraffe on the logo. We were putting together their Christmas wish lists.

I'm one of those cheap thrifty frugal moms who refuses to purchase a toy for my kids on every shopping trip. First, I'd be flat broke in all of seven days because you know that with my scattered brain, I'm at Wallyworld at least 12,743 times a day. Second (and most important), I believe that if gifts are given *all* the time then they're never special. So in this house, gifts are saved for birthdays and holidays. Of course, Christmas is probably the biggest gift receiving event in our family. We know that the true reason to celebrate Christmas is to remember that God sent his son to Earth to die for our sins...the *ultimate* gift that could ever be received by anyone.

Our MOPS group made Advent candle wreaths today. I've never done Advent, unless you count the Santa-centric "25 days of chocolates" cheap cardboard thing, which I don't. They turned out beautifully. The youth pastor then talked to us about Advent and different ways to keep Christ in Christmas.

So when the kids were talking about what they wanted for Christmas this afternoon, I interjected with, "I can't wait until Jesus' birthday!" They all stopped mid-sentence as they pondered that for a moment. Rose was the first to break the silence as she asked with profound sincerity, "How old is he gonna be?"


Back to our hunting story...
Grammy arrived on Saturday morning and as we were excitedly getting our coats on, Matthew stepped forward, with a sad looking face and said, "Grammy, I'm sorry but I'm just afraid I won't get to buy anything today, what with the economy and the election and all." Classic. "Kids these days."

We get in the car and the three oldest kids are all chattering about making their Christmas lists. Even though I'm properly prepared (for once) with a notebook and pen, they've each brought something to write on (the back of an old Christmas card, a Hello Kitty mini-notepad and a piece of construction paper) and a writing utensil (a pink pen in the shape of some creature with rubber-band sprays of hair coming out the top, a teeny crayon stub and a watercolor pencil...I've learned not to ask and so should you).

Rose (5.5yrs) is reading signs outside and Matthew starts spelling them after she reads them. That's all it takes for Grammy (The Ever-Teacher) to ask.
"Matthew, can you spell Christmas?"
"Ummmmmmm...." he trails off.
"Just try it - I bet you can spell it!" she encourages.
"Well, it's just 'Christ' and 'mas' put together," he says.
I think that's a great answer. It probably also means he has a photographic memory like his mom does. But Ever-Teacher wasn't satisfied.
" how do you spell it?" she continues.
He reluctantly whines and says he can't do it. She sighs, guessing he probably can but just won't. I stifle a laugh to myself, knowing he probably can but just won't.
In the rear-view mirror, I see Rose whisper something to him (the two of them whispering is never good so I pay attention).
After a moment, he declares excitedly, "OK! I'll try it!"
Delighted, Ever-Teacher exclaims, "Great!"
I can see what's going on but I stay silent. I'm *almost* not sure that I'm correct in what I think is happening.
"C...h...........r...i......s..........t...............m...i........s," he slowly says.
Ever-Teacher gushes, "That was really good! It's actually m..a..s but you did a great job getting that close!"

At this point, I can't keep quiet anymore.
"Mom," I hysterically laughed out, trying to hold back the tears now streaming down my face, "Rose found the word written down on something back there and he was tricking you into believing that he was really sounding it out."
Grammy, humiliated that she was bested by an eight year old, said, "That wasn't very funny," despite the guffaws emanating from the van that proved otherwise.

Saturday, November 08, 2008


No matter how old I am, Mom can still 'make it all better'. When I was young, Mom was the one I went to when I forgot how to pedal backwards to stop my bike and instead, ran my out-of-control bicycle down the hill straight into a tree, giving myself a concussion. The time we were on vacation in Florida and the heavy hotel door slammed on my foot and I lost my toenail, Mom was the one I wanted. Even at the age of thirty-three, when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, my gut instinct screamed, “I want my mommy”.

What makes Mom so unique in her ability to comfort me? Perhaps, after thirty five years, she just knows me better than anyone. Perhaps I really am 'just like her' as I have heard often in my life. How is it that when things go wrong, I still yearn for her comfort first?

This is my third year in MOPS. I have four children ages one to eight, who I home school. My husband works from home as well so all six of us are here all the time. For the past two weeks, my group has been preparing for an early Holiday Bazaar. We invited vendors to come and sell their goods and donate a percentage back to us as a fund raiser for our group. I decided to make gifts in a jar. The $5 S'Mores Bar mix and scented bath salts sold like hotcakes last year so I thought it would work great again this year. I spent two weeks price shopping (with four kids), purchasing (with four kids), mixing (with four kids), filling (with four kids), decorating (with four kids), tagging (with four kids) and lugging jars to my van (with four kids). I also made items for the bake sale, crocheted bookmarks and made a display board as I'm the Publicity Coordinator for our group. My house was neglected, we ate prepared meals more often than usual and my patience level was lessening each day as I worried over the display board and measured more marshmallows than I ever want to again in my entire life. Finally, the big day was here.

By the time our first customer arrived, the bazaar was beautiful! Christmas tablecloths and decorations abounded, holiday music played in the back, the smell of hot cider hung in the air. Appetizers were warm and the bake sale was filled with goodies you can only dream about. We were ready to make some money for MOPS!

However, I'm sure in no small part to the current economy woes, we didn't have many shoppers that evening. In fact, I didn't sell one single jar. What was I going to do with these jars that I'd put so much money into? A friend told me about another local MOPS bazaar nearby for the following weekend. With a renewed zeal to get the jars sold, I signed up for a booth on Saturday. The booth cost $35 and I sold $27. Eight more dollars in the hole...and the worst part was coming home with all those jars to a house that needed cleaning, kids who needed their mom's attention back and a husband who'd been covering extra for me the last few weeks. Depressed and worried about how to sell the jars, I tried to vent to my husband. Bless his heart, he gave it a great shot but after about twenty minutes, his eyes started to glaze over. I called my coordinator but she was out of town. So I turned to Mom.

“Hey, are you busy?” I asked her on the phone.
“Well...I just walked in the house. Why?” she answered.
“Do you have time for a coffee?”
“Sure,” she said.

After we settled ourselves in the corner donut shop with a couple of coffees, I poured my heart out about my jars. I was beating myself up because I'd taken this risk with my money upfront and it hadn't worked out like I'd expected. Our bazaar hadn't turned out like we expected and I'd wasted my Saturday away digging myself deeper in debt at the second bazaar. Mom listened patiently and added empathy at just the right moments.

“So how many jars did you actually sell?” she asked.
“Only six S'mores, two salts and three bookmarks,” I replied sullenly. “And that was only after I lowered the prices down to two dollars on the salts!”
“But that doesn't equal twenty seven dollars.”

After replaying the day in my head, I realized I'd forgotten about a check someone had written me. When I recalculated, I had actually made four whole dollars for my Saturday efforts! Four dollars wasn't anywhere near what I'd spent making the jars but somehow, I felt better. She got our her checkbook and told me that she needed four jars for Christmas presents herself.

“There. Now you've made twenty-four dollars today!” she said. Seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, our conversation shifted for a few minutes. Then she casually asked me what I was serving for dinner. When I admitted that I hadn't even thought about it yet (and it was already 6pm), she said she had a frozen pizza that I should take home. I tried to refuse but Mom wouldn't let me. So when I dropped her off at home, she ran inside to get the pizza for me and returned with our prior MOPS fund raiser...frozen pizzas that we sold last month. Catching the look in my eyes, she said quickly, “I can't eat pizza anyway – it messes with my stomach. I really only bought it to support your group.”

On my way home, life seemed so much brighter in the dark skies of the evening. I had made twenty-four dollars back already. I had gotten my depressed thoughts off my chest over a good cup of coffee. I had a free dinner with me. And I had a mom who could *still* make it all better.