Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mark the Snowman

It's warmed up to 33 degrees today, so it's perfect weather for making a snowman. Rick and Neil just made this one above. Neil named him Mark. He's the brother of Rex, who was another snowman they made last year. I don't know how they keep track of all their names, but they do.

We got our tree set up last night, so now the house is scattered with clutter and boxes. Today we put up my nativities. I collect them, so it takes a few hours to put them all up. I line all my windows with them. Nichelle and the boys helped, so it went pretty quick today. We still have downstairs to decorate, but at least it's coming along. The ground is too frozen to put our little lighted trees on our walkway, so those might have to wait.

How are you spending your weekend?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Grateful ...

As some of you know, I've been on a low-carb/low-sugar diet since the first of October. I was happy to see that I didn't gain any weight after Thanksgiving dinner last night. In fact, I lost two-tenths of a pound. I know that's not much, but it's better than gaining. I was good though and stuck to my diet even on Thanksgiving. I substituted mashed cauliflower for mashed potatoes. Of course, I was the only one who ate the faux potatoes, but that's okay. I love them and now have leftovers for tonight. I skipped the stuffing, cranberry sauce, rolls, and pumpkin pie. That might sound sad, but believe me, I had a plateful of food and was plenty satisfied. The only thing I really missed were sweet potatoes. This is the first time in probably all my life that I didn't have them for Thanksgiving dinner. I'm the only one who likes them though, so it was pointless to make them this year. Maybe next year -- when I'm at my goal weight.

A couple of weeks ago I went through my closet. I've had a stack of jeans and pants sitting on the floor for nearly 2 years. Some of them I've never even worn. I must have bought a bunch of clothes when I was at this weight, but then I put more weight on. I was pleasantly surprised when I tried those pants on and I could get them ALL on! Some fit better than others, mind you, but I could at least get them all on. Today I'm wearing one of those pairs of jeans and I have to keep pulling them up. If I keep up with this program and continue to lose more weight, this stack of new pants will be too big. That's just a chance I'm willing to take -- ha! The other day I was doing school with the boys and we were talking about how much weight Rick has lost. So far, he's lost about 33 pounds. Neil looks at me and says, "You look like you've lost a lot of weight, too." That made me feel really good, considering it came from an eight-year-old boy. I can totally change the color of my hair and sometimes they don't notice for weeks. So, for him to notice I've lost weight made me feel good. I've lost 23 pounds, so it's not as much as Rick, but that's okay. He started off with more -- snort!

I know weight-loss is a pretty vain thing to be grateful for, but this is a big deal for me. After having four kids, losing weight has been really difficult. I got down past my high school weight after having the girls, but then I put it all back on after having the boys. It's just crept up and up since then. I'm on high blood pressure medicine, which I'm sure was from my weight. I hate taking the medicine because it makes me light-headed and dizzy quite often, especially if I stand up too fast. So, one of my goals is to get down to a healthier weight to get off this stupid medicine. Having a big stack of jeans I can fit into is a nice bonus, too!

I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday -- from our family, as well as GI Joe's family, to yours!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Pumpkins

Remember back in October when the boys did Pumpkin Week in school? One of their projects was to make paper mache pumpkins. We decided to make them plain pumpkins and not turn them into jack-o-lanterns. I thought it would be a nice addition to our Thanksgiving decorations. The boys agreed, which surprised me because they love making jack-o-lanterns. So anyway, here is a picture of the final project. We used old wine corks (yeah, I save everything!) for the stems and twisted a green pipe cleaner for the vine. I thought they turned out well and look great with our other decorations -- almost of which are crafts the kids have made.

Do you decorate for Thanksgiving? Our decorations are limited to the dining room and they're only up a short time. And like I said, most everything are crafts the kids have made. We have a few exceptions, like everyone's favorite -- the gravy bowl shaped like a turkey. It's pretty much an annual Thanksgiving tradition to make the turkey barf gravy at dinnertime. And yes, sound effects ARE included! Most everything else are crafts, which is how I like it. The decorations usually get put away the day after Thanksgiving. We seem to be setting up our Christmas stuff earlier, so I try to enjoy the Thanksgiving stuff while it's out. Yesterday the boys made turkey windsocks and today we're making turkeys from bells.

I could devote an entire post to all the things I'm thankful for and the many ways I've been blessed. However, Thanksgiving always makes me sad because of our troops overseas. I wish they were all home. When I think of all the men and women who will not be with their families this Thanksgiving, it really puts things into perspective for me. I have no room to whine about anything. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend, however you decide to spend it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Crabby Pilgrims

Good grief ... how funny are these? We were finishing up school today and were trying to get through a craft project. The boys, for some reason, were really crabby and picking on each other. This is unlike them, so I figured they were tired and wanted to call it a day. So, in between bickering with each other, we managed to get these Finger Puppet Pilgrims created. When the time came for the faces, they both drew these hideous, crabby expressions. I started laughing hysterically, which seemed to lighten up their moods a bit.

Aren't they just the happiest couple you've ever seen? I'm definitely saving these. Most of our Thanksgiving decorations are kid's crafts. The Crabby Pilgrims will receive a place of honor with our other items -- a reminder of that crabby, Friday afternoon in November 2010.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kidlit Critterpalooza!

For over a year now, CRITTER, the creation of artist Ian Sands, has been travelling the world, meeting talented writers and authors and exploring where they live. At each stop he learns more and more about KIDLIT and the importance of literacy and creativity. This journey was the brainchild of Christy Evers, who got her hands on Critter after an interactive art project of Ian’s, where 500 Critters were hidden all over her city for people to find.

Critter has visited PJ Hoover (and the Texas Sweethearts!) in Texas, Beth Revis in North Carolina, Christina Farley in Korea, New England with Nandini Bajpai, Illinois with Kelly Polark, MG Higgins in California, Rena Jones in Montana, Cynthia Leitich Smith in Texas, Bish Denham in the Virgin Islands, Jacqui Robbins in Michigan, Tina Ferraro in California, Cynthia Chapman Willis in New Jersey, Jill S. Alexander in Texas, Ellen Oh in Virginia and is now in Alberta, Canada with Angela Ackerman.

Critter has been to college, rock concerts, national landmarks, a palace, attended his first SCBWI conference, walked among giant redwoods, and met the world famous artist, Robert Bateman. Now that his journey is coming to a close, it’s CRITTER’S hope that you will help him celebrate over at The Bookshelf Muse. His new hosts, together with old hosts, have teamed up to create the Kidlit-inspired event, Critterpalooza! and you’re invited.

There are many AMAZING prizes to be won, all in the spirit of helping Critter celebrate the wonderful creativity & support within out KIDLIT community, and to also raise awareness for his charity, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

If you would like to donate a few dollars to Critter’s charity, just click on the button! Children’s lives are saved every day thanks to the support of people like you.
Link to “I love St Jude” donation button:
Link to donation form:

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Five years ago today ...

Rick and I flew into Helena, Montana to check out possible homes to buy. Helena is the capital of Montana and that was originally where we planned on relocating. We even had a bid on a home, but after an escrow on our house fell through, we lost it. It was a beautiful home. The front hallway had tiles on the floor with images of northwestern wildlife imprinted on them. We were really sad to lose it. We made two flights to Helena to look, but each time something went wrong with the sale of our house and we weren't able to purchase a home. We finally changed realtors and that helped things tremendously. However, it wasn't until September 2006 that we began looking seriously again. This time we looked further north in the Flathead Valley. That's how we settled upon our house in Bigfork.

We've only lived here 4 years, but I often wonder how our lives would be different if we had moved to Helena. One big issue was that Helena is the state capital and more job opportunities would have been available for Rick. It is also much closer to the Yellowstone and Grand Teton parks, so I'm sure we'd be spending more time at those places. However, Helena is a lot flatter and pretty windy. The weather is also milder, from what I've heard, and I like our dramatic seasons. Helena doesn't have the beautiful mountain ranges like the Flathead, such as the Mission Mountains and the Swan Range. I often forget how flat Montana is because I'm surrounded by beautiful mountains. It's another story as soon I drive somewhere and realize how much of Montana is prairie land. We're less than an hour from Glacier National Park, so we're able to experience the park at all times of the year, even in the winter when we've gone snowshoeing around Lake McDonald. To us, "a day in the park" means spending the day in a national park. This is still surreal to me, having come from California where the closest national park to us meant a 6-hour drive.

I was looking through some of the photographs we took on that trip to Helena in 2005. Some of the homes were amazing. I'm sure we would have been happy living in any of them. It just wasn't meant to be, I suppose. I also found this picture above of a painted bear. These bears were all over Helena, but I think this is the only one I got a picture of. This particular one looks like it was painted by children. I can't seem to find a link of them all, but each one was painted different. West Yellowstone, Montana had a similar thing with painted bison, but I believe they were supposed to be auctioned off. We saw some last time we were there, so maybe some were bought by local businesses. I've posted a few of those pictures before. I guess they call them buffalo now. Not sure when everyone changed back to that, but to me they'll always be bison. Cheyenne, Wyoming had giant, painted cowboy boots, though I am not sure if they're still up as well. I hope so. Anyway, it was strange to think that it was exactly 5 years ago today that we started this entire process of moving from California to Montana. It was a huge change for us -- a good change.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Crafts for Kids

I'm a sucker for kid's craft books. Seriously, it is like a disease with me. This picture is one of my shelves with craft books on it. I have others scattered around in various places. Today I was doing the boy's schedule for school next week. Normally, I can whip up the schedule in 15 minutes or so. After doing it so many years, it's not hard to get it done. The crafts, however, are what take up my time. I do themed weeks, especially this time of year with all of the holidays, and finding new crafts is the real time killer.

I find myself looking online and that makes me totally frustrated. A lot of times the directions don't make sense, or the projects are too hard or easy for the boys, or there are no pictures. What's up with that? Craft projects NEED pictures to go with them. Some of my books have drawings instead of pictures of the actual project. I hate that. I like photographs. It's a pain in the butt to have to go to the computer during our art time, find the link, and print out the directions. It wouldn't be bad if just the craft project printed, but that never happens. You get 3 pages of ads and blank papers with only a few words on it. It's a waste of paper and a waste of time. This is why I love real books that I can set in front of us while we're working.

I've often thought about making my own craft books using themes like we do for school. Then after awhile, I start thinking about the gazillion crafts featured online and I start telling myself there probably is no market for another kid's craft book. That just depresses me. But then later, I'll do the schedule and start that time consuming search online for new ideas and the frustration comes right back. If I like craft books then other people have to like them, right? I don't know. I don't know if there is a market still, and if so, how hard it is to get something like that published. However, I do have some ideas that I don't see in my books and online. Maybe someday ...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Paper Bag Scarecrows

Yesterday the boys made these Paper Bag Scarecrows, which I thought turned out really cute. I first saw them last year when Amanda posted them on her blog. Click here to see Crafts by Amanda. She has some great stuff! She's been working with Disney's Kaboose for quite awhile, coming up with great craft products for both kids and adults. She's also on Facebook. If cooking is more your thing, check out her other blog, Amanda's Cooking. She posts some fantastic recipes, too.

Back to the boy's scarecrows -- they had a lot of fun making these. The only thing we didn't have was two paint stir sticks. We only had one, so we used one of those stiff tubes from an empty roll of aluminum foil. It worked just as well, if not better. It also goes to show you that it pays to save and recycle your trash! Amanda's scarecrows featured a foam flower on the hat, and even though we have lots of foam pieces, the boys wanted to skip that. Instead, Nathan made a layered flower out of construction paper. Both boys wanted to stick a black crow feather into the hats for drama. It was a pretty easy craft for them and the end product turned out really cute. So, if you're kids have a long weekend for Veteran's Day, they might want to try this. If you don't have any wiggly eyes on hand, they can easily be drawn on or made with paper. Have fun!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Inspiration ...

This is a picture of my grandmother's Bible. It was given to her on Christmas by my parents and my brother in 1960. That makes it 50 years old. The copyright says 1942, so technically it's even older. I'm not sure how I got ahold of it, but I'm glad I did because I don't have anything else to remember my grandmother by, other than a couple of photos. She underlined a few Scriptures over the years, so it's interesting to read those and see what was important to her.

I have a whole shelf filled with Bibles. Some are basic Bibles in different versions like the KJV, NIV, etc. Others are speciality ones like the one I have geared towards moms, or the life application one, or the one where you can read the entire Bible in one year. I never set out to collect Bibles, but looking at my shelf you would think that's what I do. Even so, when I go to look something up, it's always my grandma's tattered, old Bible I turn to. It's odd because I can find things in this one way easier than some of the more detailed, fancy ones.

I was showing it to my boys today and they noticed the address label my grandmother had stuck in it. She used her husband's name on her labels, so it reads: Mrs. Lonnie E. Allen. I explained to the boys that my grandfather's name was Lonnie and my grandmother's name was Roberta. Then I said all my grandmother's friends called her Bobbi. Nathan's eyes lit up. "Hey! That's the name of the girl in your new story!" Bobbi Allen is the name of my main character in my newest middle grade novel, ENCROACHED.

Yep ... you just never know who or what might inspire you.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Got Crows?

The boys are doing Scarecrow Week for school right now. We made these little guys yesterday. It was nothing fancy -- just a craft stick for the body, a popsicle stick for the arms, a little wooden shape for the head, and then some scraps of felt, buttons, and straw. I didn't have any straw or raffia, so I shredded up some cornhusks. Neil, being the cat lover he is, couldn't resist the leopard print felt when he saw it. Nathan, of course, had to make some fancy 3-D hat. Mine is just the dorky one in the middle. I don't always make crafts with them because I usually like to read to the boys while they're working on theirs, but I made one yesterday. Today we're making scarecrows out of paper towel tubes. Speaking of scarecrows ...

Did you know the first recorded scarecrows came from Egypt? They were built of wood along the Nile River. Farmers would place nets on the wooden frames and then would scare the quail into the net, which they then brought home to eat.

Early Japanese scarecrows were often set on fire. Farmers would hang old rags, meat, or fish bones on bamboo and light it on fire. The stench kept the birds away from the rice fields.

During the Middle Ages, farmers often placed animal skulls on top of poles to keep birds away from their crops. They believed scarecrows had special powers and would protect their crops from diseases.

In Medieval Britain, children were used as human scarecrows. They were called bird scarers and patrolled the fields with a bag of stones to throw at the birds. After the plague, farmers couldn't find enough bird scarers, so they stuffed sacks with straw and carved faces in gourds to make scarecrows that stood up on poles.

Native American Indians also used bird scarers, but they were often adult men. They would sit on a raised wooden platform and would shout or howl if birds or animals came near their crops. Seneca Indians would soak their corn seeds in a poisonous herb mixture that made the crows fly around crazy, scaring away all the other birds.

Farmers still use scarecrows today. In India and some other nations, they still use humans as bird scarers. Many farmers use contraptions like whirligigs that spin around the air like windmills. Some farmers use a shiny ribbon that shimmers in the sun. Others use automatic noise guns to scare away the birds.

How about you -- have you ever made a scarecrow?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Happy Birthday, Nathan!

Today is my son's 11th birthday. We're doing a simple party at home tonight after his sisters get off work. Nothing fancy, but he'll have fun. I talk about my kids a lot, especially my boys, but today I thought I'd tell you some specific things about Nathan ...

Nathan is an avid bird enthusiast. He has two bookshelves filled with bird books. They aren't books for kids, but field guides, books about individual species, books on birds from all over the world, even coffee table books. Nathan's been known to throw members of the Audubon Society off with a question. He once asked one of the members what the little dangly thing was called on top of a California quail's head. She didn't know. We later found out it's simply called a topknot or plume. Another time he was on one of the rides at Disney's Animal Kingdom. All the people were looking at the elephants and other big mammals when Nathan excitedly points out, "That's a Victoria Crowned Pigeon! It's the biggest pigeon in the world." Rick ended up asking one of the bird experts in the aviary and he said the same thing. Amazing. He also collects those stuffed Audubon birds that make realistic sounds. His collection is huge.

Nathan loves to write stories. I've posted a few of these on my blog before. He comes up with some really good plot ideas, too. I'm always encouraging him to write them down while he still remembers them. He literally has stacks of spiral binders filled with stories, illustrations, and other ideas. His new interest is Word though, so now I find him typing away on the computer. He likes formatting his stories and leaving blank spaces so he can come back and illustrate them.

One of Nathan's favorite things to eat are Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies. Seriously, we can't keep them in the house. I wish I could buy them in bulk at Costco. He has been a pretty picky eater up until recently. Lately, he's been trying new foods, like shrimp and halibut. Considering how many brownies he puts away, I still have hope for him.

Nathan is a Lego fanatic and can put even the largest sets together in record time. He sits at the table with the instruction book and doesn't stop until he's done. Some of his favorite Legos are from Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and soon ... Harry Potter. He's getting some of those today for his birthday -- shhhh! Other toys he likes are Hot Wheels, G.I. Joe, Go-Gos Crazy Bones, and remote control cars. He's also really into video games -- both PC and PlayStation. Hell, I can't even figure out how to turn the TV on!

Nathan isn't very athletic, but that's more my fault for not getting him into stuff. He's taken swimming lessons and loves riding his bike, but he's never really been into group sports. He and Neil are just getting into golf. We bought them some used golf clubs and Rick has dug holes in our lawn (sigh) for them to putt around with. He's expressed an interest in taking lessons, so maybe that's something he can do in the spring. He also loves hiking, kayaking (he's getting pretty good at paddling now), camping, sledding, and snowshoeing. He can play a mean game of air hockey, too.

Nathan seems to have an uncanny ability to save money. He has more than me, anyway. He says he's saving for a car. Unlike Neil, who spends it as fast as he gets it, Nathan puts his away. Yesterday he received a birthday card from his aunt & uncle with $25 cash in it. Neil's been spending his money left and right, so Nathan wanted to give some of it to him. Being the mean mom I am, I made him keep it himself. In addition to saving his money, he's also generous. Whatever he decides to buy, I know he'll share it with Neil.

Nathan is pretty smart and I don't think this has much to do with my homeschooling abilities. The other day he was working on his history lesson and one of the questions was to locate a certain capital in one of Canada's providences. We had the globes out and were searching for it, but we couldn't find it. He gets up and goes to the computer and the next thing I know, he's found it on Google Earth. HA! And there I sat like a dummy, squinting my eyes, still trying to locate it on the dumb globe. He never ceases to amaze me.

So, all in all ... he's a pretty cool kid! Happy Birthday, Nathan!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Got water? No problem ...

I love my little waterproof camera. Rick and the kids gave it to me a few years ago for Mother's Day. It's not a fancy one, but it's fun to take out in the kayaks and not have to worry about it too much. It's a little, blue Olympus Stylus 1050 SW. I'm not sure if they even make it anymore.

Rick took these pictures of the boys swimming last month when they went to California to visit. I can't remember which pool this was, but I'm kind of thinking it might be at California Adventure. I've taken a few underwater pictures before and it's a weird feeling to submerge a camera. It doesn't feel right, but that's what this one is designed for.

I finally got around to uploading all the pictures Rick took from the trip last month. If you want to see some more, check out my Facebook page. I've also posted a couple of videos there. One is of Rick and Nathan going down the big flume at Splash Mountain. Because the camera is waterproof, he could keep it out for the big splash at the bottom. It's a fun little camera to have on hand for that sort of thing.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Whoooooo me?

Here are some corny, but cute owls the boys and I made yesterday. We're doing Owl Week for our crafts in school right now. These were pretty simple, as you can see. It's amazing what you can make with pinecones. The best part for me is they're FREE! We have them all over here. One year we were studying snowy owls and we stuffed cotton in the pinecones. Today we're making owls out of foam. Considering I have a big shoebox filled with foam pieces, I'll be glad to put some of it to use.

Great horned owls are my favorite owls -- do you have a favorite?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Nathan's Book

Almost two weeks ago I blogged about a book I found at a thrift store called How To Create Picture Books. It's an old workbook for children to learn how to write and create picture books. Click here if you want to read my original post on it. Anyway, to my surprise, both Nathan and Neil have been reading this book quite often. The other day Nathan came up to me with a book he had made and said he followed the directions in the workbook. He came up with the title, story, made a cover, even printed up his text. Then he cut everything out and arranged it into a book. His little book is called If Men Were Mermaids. He never ceases to amaze me!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Treasures ...

As some of you know, I love picture books, especially older ones. You also might know that I like to scrounge through thrift stores and yard sales for books. Seriously, how can anyone pass up a book for a dime? That's how much softcovers cost at our local Salvation Army. Hardcovers are a quarter. Every now and then I come across a real treasure ... at least to me.

These 3 books are such treasures. I found It Was A Short Summer, Charlie Brown and He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown at the Salvation Army for a quarter each. You're In Love, Charlie Brown I found at a yard sale before we moved. Of course, they're pretty ragged and tattered, but I don't mind. All are hardcover and were printed between 1968-1970. I had all 3 of these books when I was a kid, but they were lost over the years. Because of that, I don't mind that these have ragged corners, are stained, have slight tears, and so forth. It's a thrill for me to find a 40-42 year old treasure like this.

How about you -- find any treasures lately?