Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Day in the Life - Birthday Boy

Pile of new *free* Legos + Insomnia until 3 am =

A Crazy Creation by "Mommay"!

I'm quite proud of my funky little Lego vehicle.

The fact that the vehicle is still intact this evening says the boys also liked it!

Jack kindly allowed Tom and I to sleep in this morning, despite it's being his fifth birthday.

I use "sleep in" loosely, since I was up at 7:30 and Tom by 8:00.

We met some friends, and my Geology Professor, who's also an Anthropologist, was kind enough to give us a private, guided tour around the college's dinosaur exhibits.

While Jack usually loves the dinosaurs, he was looking a little tired, and kept wondering around.

We adults learned quite a few new things though, which we'll be able to share on future visits with the kids.

Jack enjoyed playing with his friends who came to celebrate with him, while we went about looking at the many free exhibits.

Jack wanted a brown (chocolate) inside and out cake "this big" (as far as his arms could stretch.)

I made a 9x13 cake, then cut it in thirds lengthwise and shoved them together on a foil covered board.

The design would have lent itself to a train, but since we were looking at the dinosaurs, we choose to put some dino toys on the cake so the kiddos could each have some toys.

I am always loving the faces (and sounds) this boy can make. I wonder if he'll be a comedian (I mean and get paid for it, for he's already perfecting his act!)

Even tired out, Jack is just always HAPPY!!!

Tic-Tac-Toe. Franks favorite way to wait at restaurants.

I picked up this Crayola "rubbing" toy in a Thrift Store last year for fifty-cents... it was one of Jack's favorite gifts! Gotta love that!!!

I missed the funny, foamy face in the mirror, but you get the idea of what it's like to brush kid's teeth.

When I returned from reading with and tucking the Birthday Boy in, I found Tom and Frank engaged in a Pokémon battle.

Hope you enjoy the pictures, sorry for the sparseness of anecdotes, but, as I said, I had just four hours sleep for the second time in three nights. I'm going to bed!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

It's Gonna Be A Great Day!

I must admit, the way today started I am surprised at how well it turned out and how happy and satisfied I feel at it's close.

It started with Tom tripping (as he often does) over something in the early (still dark) morning hours. Tom didn't just trip, he fell flat on his face (narrowly missing hitting his head on the way down). When he stumbled up, it was apparent he was in a great deal of pain, so I fetched a Tylenol, an Advil, and an ice bag. By this evening, his middle toe, on the left foot, is completely purple and black and, quite obviously, broken. Poor guys' been working (and hobbling around) on it all day.

Then I came down to check the paper and found my story lead on the front page, but none of my photos. Instead there was a photo from the staff photographer. I was bummed. My pictures sent another photographer out. I tried to focus on the fact that the cause made it to the front page, and that was, after all the main goal of my taking the photos, but you know how I *love* to see my pictures in print!

Next, I went to Physical Therapy and wore myself out.

Frank went with Tom on a long drive for work, and then the fun started... with Jack! I suppose this is the source of my Great Day. Jack. I allowed his natural energy, enthusiasm, excitement, giggles and smiles to invade my very core today.

After a little play time on the computer, Jack and I worked on a paper chain to help him track upcoming events (his birthday, our anniversary, my departure, some silly "Fairy" holidays, and our vacation in March). All-in-all, we created a colorful chain over 50 links long (all of which he cut and glued).

Jack now has a visual clue as to how long until all these things are happening... and also a memory of putting it together with Mom, which I hope will help any blues he might possibly have while I'm gone.

When Frank returned home, the first thing he wanted to do was play with his neighbor-friend. I said they could play, after chores and vacuuming was done. Frank sat and read for another ten minutes, then, in under twenty, had all his chores finished. Proper motivation, I tell you!

During the afternoon, Jack had been cracking a whip on me to clean out the garage more (we've burned out our projector bulb, and LOST the $400 spare *somewhere* in the garage). Since it's loss the end of last week, Tom and I have cleared out over 40 boxes, donating 1/3 of the contents and pitching quite a bit in the process. Today I discovered some of my father's antique bowler hats. They were *gently* packed UNDER a big pile of books. The dents, coupled with dust from past display, warrants these Stetson Hats essentially worhtless (to sell, I mean). But for fans of Disney's "Meet The Robinson's" they make for a perfect "Doris" and "Bowler Hat Guy".

Now, these hats have value and worth once more!

Funnest part of the evening with the neighbor boy? When I walked through and hear Frank say "J. it hurts my feelings when we always play your games and when it's my game you play for a few minutes, then quit." Then little brother pipes up and says "I don't like to play Frank's games!" At this point, the friend says "Jack, that's not very nice. It probably hurt Frank's feelings." Then, the three of them spent about five minutes talking, listening, and negotiating how they were going to play the game. They started playing again, only to pause after about two minutes to clarify some of the "rules" of their new game.

I was so pleased to hear these five and seven year olds involved in calm negotiations and discussions about feelings. No one ever said "I'm sorry", but they perhaps did something better... they listened and immediately modified their behavior. Also, of note, they didn't say "you're wrong to feel that" or "no I didn't" they just listened and responded.

Later, after a casual dinner, I was beat. Jack started rubbing my back, so I got out some back rubbing tools. Next thing I know, I'm getting pushed around by two eager beavers wanting to rub "Mommay's" back. Instead of grumping or yelling, I lay down on the floor. They each took two tools and went to town on my back. This was all well and good until Jack discovered my ticklish spots... then it turned into a silly giggle fest.
During the process, I rubbed (and tickled) two little backs, and Frank rubbed (and attacked) Jack.

I went upstairs to call some people and tell them about our fun and funny day. Then, I tucked sweet, silly Jack into bed. When I returned, I was delighted to find Frank and Tom engaged in Homeschooling Lessons. They'd already read (during their long drive) and were doing writing and math. Soon, Tom expanded on a basic science lesson. Instead of just teaching Frank about vinegar and baking soda, he showed him salt, sugar, flour and water. They tasted them and blended various combinations.

In the end, they wrapped a packet of baking soda in paper. Mixed water and vinegar, and put a lid on it.

I lost count of how many times Frank put the lid on and watched it pop off. He was SO EXCITED. More than that though, it was heartwarming to watch how focused and attentive he is. When Tom speaks, Frank listens.

I love my husband and boys!!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Photojournalism and Speaking Out

I am realizing something about The Law of Attraction. I know that it is critical to *feel* your intentions. Not just think or wish, but actually FEEL them. The new thing I am learning is that, at least for me, it helps me to speak them, out loud, to someone. Not like “I want…” or “I wish…” but “I AM GOING TO…”

Today, for the second time I have had a photo published on the front page of our newspaper. This week, for the second time, I said a variation of “I am going to have a photo on the front page” ALOUD. Two front page pictures and two verbal statements that it would be so. Hmm… I see a connection!

Today’s photo excites me for two other reasons, it is artistic AND a story was published along with it.

When I say it is artistic, what I mean is that my photographic forte has been artistic first and portraiture second, only recently adding journalistic to the mix. Journalistic photography tends to be different (to me), in that is usually is more raw and rough. The paper has published a few photos that I feel were portraiture or artistic, but usually, when I look through the folder I keep of photos published, my artistic eye thinks “blah!” Today’s photo documents a story, and tells a story, but I also like the balance and color and lines I see in it. Here, let me show you what I mean…

Boring front page photo:

Artistic front page photo:

See how the curving line of snow and ice pulls you through the photo? How it’s rough and bumpy and bright, while the concrete asphalt is smooth and dark. Looking at the concrete asphalt, it’s shiny on one side (where the ice was just broken loose) and dry on the other, except a set of tire tracks. As your eye follows the curve, you notice the trucks at the end, lifting the ice and preparing to carry it away. And what’s this on the side? People, little people walking along and working with the ice, even throwing it by the shovel-full. It’s a picture that is dynamic and tells a story. One more thing… the sky. I love the blue sky on top of it all, which to my mind is in contrast to the snow and ice so prevalent in most of the image. So; yeah, that’s what I mean about it being artistic. These are the things I see when I look at this photo of mine.

As far as there being a story. Every other photo which has been published has had a caption under it, but nothing more. Last summer, when I first spoke with the publisher of the paper about submitting photos, she indicated that if I sent in a photo that moved them, they might expand on it by sending out a reporter to do a story. Today’s photo HAS A STORY! On the front page! The story is about the winter weather clean-up that the city does every year, often in January. It’s a first for the story, AND it made it to the front page too! Whoo-hoo!!!

What’s interesting to me about submitting these photojournalistic photos is not only the challenge of finding and taking a compelling image, but also the randomness of it. I recently compared it to gambling, for while I might take a truly interesting and great photograph, if there’s another story that’s more interesting, my photo may never make it to print. There’s a bit of mystery in waiting to see if and when my photos will appear. This photo was actually taken and submitted five days ago; it just now became significant enough (and complete enough with the story) to find the space on a printed page.

Another thing of note is that I’m thrilled EVERY time I see one of my photos in the paper (like this one of frost from last Sunday)...

I get happy and excited every time a photo is published.

Here's another one from last Sunday that was also taken on a morning of beautiful frost...

Though I’ve only woken the family jumping and screaming with the first front page photo, they all make me happy and smiley for the rest of the day.

What do you do that brings you joy every time you accomplish it? Is there something you’ve been dreaming of and have yet to try? I challenge you to go out and start doing it, but first, make certain to speak aloud to others “I am ____” and then go forward, knowing you will succeed!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bringing it Back Home

Last Spring, when I decided to return to College, I made the difficult decision to stop Homeschooling Frank and enroll him in Public School. Homeschooling worked amazingly well for our family! I went to great lengths to interview different school's and enroll him in one where I thought we'd have the best chance of success.

Since September, we have been integrating ourselves into Public School. Not only attending school, but also PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) meetings, volunteering, and kibitzing with the other parents. Frank has now been attending Public School for an entire semester.

Frank Reading Aloud at Bedtime

I consider this to have been a Valiant Effort on our part, but in the end, it just doesn't work well for Frank or, for that matter, for our family. Tomorrow will be Frank's last day at Public School for First Grade. I have made arrangements to bring treats in at the end of the day for a little "Going Away" party.

Honestly, I have not been happy with the idea of Public School since the beginning, but in order to clear my mind (and schedule) for College, I knew I needed to "Grin and Bear It". It is important to note that I fault the system as a whole, and not the individuals at the school, for our dissatisfaction. We have had great interactions with the people at Frank's school! There are just so many problems with the way the program is set up! I'm not sure if I should go into all the details here, or just suffice it to say we are not happy with it.

A big part of the challenge with returning to homeschooling is the fact that I will be serving in the Wyoming State Legislature as part of my college courses. I will be an Intern in Cheyenne for four weeks (beginning February 5th). So, Tom needed to feel comfortable with whatever schooling was in place. Since I injured my back over Thanksgiving Weekend, Tom has been spending a lot more time at Frank's school, taking him, dropping him off, and even joining him for lunch and recess at school. With all the extra time around the Public School, what Tom saw infuriated him.

Tom and I talked extensivley, then a kind and generous friend loaned us her WinterPromise curriculum to review. We were quite excited to see that one of Tom's favorite topics (American History) is the basis of the curriculum she had. Last week we talked with Frank, and were quite frankly astounded by his hesitancy. (Then again, Frank has always been cautious about change.) Frank was ponderous and ask a lot of questions. He was also sad about the idea of not seeing some of his friends and teachers. After some more discussions, Frank thought some more. He actually went to school the next day and came home and still didn't give us a decision. Finally, on the way in to Ice Skating, Frank said "I've decided about school. I want to homeschool again, but first I want to finish the semester." Wow! Seven years old and such responsibility! I actually swelled with pride a bit at this point.

This week, Frank's been saying his good-byes and taking my small digital camera with him. Frank is taking pictures of his teachers, and tomorrow, during his party, I'll take pictures of him with his friends. We are also collecting phone numbers, and have made some "Trading Cards" for Frank to hand out. They include my cell phone number and his picture, so people can call him. We've already begun talking about the Pros & Cons of school, from Frank's perspective. Tomorrow night, we'll start a written Pros / Cons List so we can make certain to include things he likes and can restructure other areas that weren't working.

Jack has been fairly quiet about all of this, but he did say he liked Frank "going to work" every day. So, I'm sure that there will be some sibling issues to iron out again, but I suspect they will be minor.

Tom will Homeschool Frank until I return from the Capitol in March, then we will Team Teach. Tom has been studying the materials in preparation for him starting the teaching next week. Right now, I'll be in the role of Coach, helping to guide and direct them, but realizing the Tom and Frank will have to find their own groove as school begins again here at Shadona Central.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Getting my Feet Wet

Tonight I got dressed up and had Tom drop me off (he and the boys went to Taekwondo) at a Legislative Reception. Turns out it was hosted by the three local school entities (two school districts and the Community College). In addition to meeting seven members of the Legislature (Representatives and Senators), I met several members of the College Board of Directors, including the President. Should I be worried that the President of the College knew my name? I don't think so...

Going to Cheyenne in exactly three weeks will be very interesting....

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A "Break" in *Something*

When a

"break in the weather"

(up to)


feels *nice*

to me....

it's time


question my sanity!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Knitted Toy

I've started and finished my first One Day Knitting Project!!!

I used the free Teeny Tiny Knitted Toys pattern by Little Cotton Rabbits as found on Ravelry .

I intended to make a rabbit, and did follow the stitch count instructions, but the ears wound up looking like a mouse or pig's ears, so I've changed my mind and made this a "Gloomy Day Piglet".

I was thinking of making a rabbit for Frank and a bear for Jack for while I'm gone in Cheyenne... this one took me about four hours, in part because I knitted the limbs into the body as I went instead of stitching them on at the end. I really do want to make a rabbit, so I'm sure I'll be doing it again soon...

Thursday, January 07, 2010


I haven't written resolutions since I was a kid.

I should. Probably.

My Mom always had us sit and write them after Christmas, then we'd stick them in our stockings to find next December and review. We never seemed to keep the papers them beyond that.

Making goals and working towards them, integrating them into my daily To-Do lists. I need to do that. Perhaps I'll make it my resolution. That and taming my PAPER TIGER which lays claim over all my paperwork and consumes an "extra" counter in my kitchen.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Flip-Flop Knitting

I've been knitting so much this week that my hands have literally dropped the needles. I've also been enjoying knitting as never before. Why then is everything feeling like it's flopping and needs to be frogged (a knitting term for ripping something out, you know "rip-it, rip-it")? Do I dare rip all my work out and start over?

My Swyaze Socks. My socks, mine. The first is ready to bind off, and guess what... they don't fit. I can't get them on. So, do I send them off to an Aunt and mourn my lost yarn or do I frog them and mourn the lost sock and time?

My Sunrise, Sunset Shawl. I LOVED the first yarn. I don't like the second. I've also realized I just don't have enough yarn to finish the pattern the way I've done it. So, do I frog a whole 170+ yards and change the pattern? Do I add the first color back in? Do I keep going and see how big it is, then add more of the darker color at the end, by the faded color?

Why do I expect *everything* to be perfect? Can't I just let something go and be imperfect? Would I be able to enjoy the finished object, or would it ALWAYS bother me?

On a positive note, I am making progress on some projects for my Mom and her friend's costumes for the Arizona Renaissance Festival. They run a play place for kids called "Toy Island", and all three members of the troop wear red and yellow. I'm working on quilted hats, knitted mitts, and here is one of the crocheted scarves for them...

Thanks for listening to my rambling. Last week I was so excited by my knitting and this week it all feels like a flop! ;P

Puppycakes and Cat Biscuits

Talking with Jack about his upcoming birthday I asked "what do you want to do for your birthday?"

"Eat cake!"

"What else?"

"Not pupcakes, a BIG cake. Pupcakes are for grown-ups, kids get CAKE!!!"

"And what should it be like?"

"Brown... inside AND out!"

So, one big-ol' Chocolate Cake coming up! ;)

When I called to relate this story to his Great Aunt, I mentioned all it would take to make Jack happy was a big cake, when from the backseat I hear "AND PRESENTS!" So. Apparently, he *needs* presents too! ;)

As we were finishing our errand run, Jack added, "No Puppycakes and NO Cat Biscuits!"

Gee Tom, thanks for that one! How did we go from talking about birthday cakes and presents to cat poop? These are the things Mommy's of small boys the world over wonder about. At least This Mommy wonders!


PS: The photo in this post was snapped the same day as the photo used in my header (in fact Jack's fingers were cropped out as they moved the red piece (notice how it's not lined up with the others)).

No one came close to guessing the origin of the colored squares... does this photo of Jack help?

Friday, January 01, 2010

Favorite Holiday Tradition

Whenever I am queried as to my "favorite holiday tradition" I always refer to The Gingerbread House. First of all "Mom" builds a stable gingerbread house form.

Then the children spend an evening getting rid of their old Halloween Candy.

Tricky as it is, the kids don't realize they are getting rid of "good" candy!

It can be delightful to listen to the sounds of joy when the children's collaborations come to a successful conclusion as they reach a consensus on the "perfect" roof design!

This house decorating is serious business... it takes concentration (and a steady hand)!

I *really* wish I could get a photo of their excitement about making the Gingerbread House AFTER they finish. Instead, they are usually tired out and turn to goofy-picture-making-antics...

Finally, we enjoy our creation throughout the Holiday Season.

You know how after Christmas, Santa's Elves don't have a lot to do? Well, many people don't realize it, but The Elves actually go around the world filling Gingerbread Houses with popcorn and treats!

The grand finale arrives on New Year's Eve!

On New Year's Eve, the children get to stay up as late as the littlest one can. Then, just before going to bed they smash up the house, Pinata style.

The kids also like to try the stale gingerbread and candies, but seldom eat much of it.

Often they also enjoy a special sweet drink (link Orange Soda or Raspberry Frapee) before heading off to bed having brought in the New Year in the best way a kid can... with a little bit of destruction leading to sweet treats and tiny toy surprises!

Did you notice another "sneaky Mom tactic"? Getting rid of the prized creation, through it's untimely destruction, at the hands of it's creators, with hammers? Yeah. We Mom's are tricky that way... of course, I learned from the best, my very own Mom!

Here's wishing you a Happy New Year!