Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Joshua's Favorite Things

Oprah has list of favorite things to market specific products.  I've decided that Joshua should have list of favorite things to help market his awesomeness.  So here you are.

Favorite Toys: 

1.  Balls
2.  Mr. Monkey
3.  Balls of other sizes.

Favorite Foods:

1/  Blueberries
2.  Oranges  (Are you sensing a ball-like theme.)
3.  Broccoli

Favorite animal.

1.  Dogs ... just dogs ... any dogs ... all dogs

Favorite books:

1.  Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do YOu See?  
2.  Bugs, Bugs, Bugs
3.  Goodnight, Moon

Favorite Things To Play With (Not Toys)

1.  Pots and Pans
2.  Hairbrushes
3.  Daddy's Ties

To be continued ...

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Ramblings of a Toddler

Look! A rock - oh there's some leaves!
I'll stuff the brown ones up my sleeves.
They're itchy  - oh look the rock
I should stick it down my sock.

That hurts a bit - I see a bug
It looks dead. I want a hug.
Mommy, will you carry me?
Down, down!  Another bug!  See.

Mommy, watch me climb those stairs.
One step, two - now it's a chair
Tap, tap my legs against the stone.
Look up - no let's just go home.

Running, running, now I walk.
Let's go – Hey, look, a rock!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Literary Tourism - Virginia

Most of my experience in Virginia has been in the Washington D.C. area.  It's quite a lovely state.  Most of my literary experience in Virginia has been with a series of novels about a high school that trains female spies.  While those books are fun, they didn't really meet my goals for the project.  But thanks to my book group, I have visited Virginia through prose.

The Cross Gardener by Jason F. Wright

John is born on the side of Route 11 in the Shenandoah Valley when his mother gets into a fatal car accident.  John is shuffled through a few different foster families, but finally finds home on an apple orchard with a good father who has adopted two other sons.  John's life is constantly impacted by death.  His oldest brother drowns while on a school trip.  His father dies of lung cancer.  But worst of all his wife and soon-to-be born son die in a car accident traveling home from the county fair.  John and his daughter, Lou Lou, are left to cope.  In John's struggle to grieve, he meets a man who calls himself the Cross Gardener.  He maintains roadside crosses and asks John to help him.  Along the journey John learns to have faith despite his sadness.    

The sense of place in this book is excellent.  When doing research for another book the author loved the Shenandoah Valley so much that he moved thereThe descriptions are accurate and detailed.  (I looked it up.)  John's love for his home mirrors the author's passion for it.

I liked the book.  You may have guessed by the title that it is Christian literature.  It's refreshing to find literature that extols virtue as a virtue.  The language was clean.  The characters were all people doing their best to live a good life - religious or not.

I have a few criticisms.  First, and this is mostly for Christian literature in general, it was melodramatic.  It was trying too hard to make me feel things.  I felt like I was being manipulated.  Second, the characters were pretty hollow.  Third, at times I felt like I was reading the summary of a story while at other times the author gave me every minute detail that I didn't need.  Fourth, the symbolism was overt.  I prefer a little subtlety. 

But overall it was a good book.  I felt uplifted and surprised at the end, and I liked the peaceful tone of the Cross Gardener.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Family Photos 2015

What do you think?  Should we put them on our Christmas cards?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Faster, Faster by Leslie Patricelli

It's been awhile since I have used my blog to gush about how much a love a specific picture book, but we recently found a new family favorite on the library shelves.  (Seriously, using the library is starting to cost me more money than it is intended to.)

In Faster, Faster, a little girl and her daddy are playing at the park.  Her daddy is giving her a ride, then suddenly a wild adventure ensues riding on a horse, ostrich, and even a sea turtle.  All the while the little girl commands, "Faster, Faster."

This book is for young toddlers and could not be a better fit.  It's very simple.  I counted eleven distinct words.  The illustrations are full of foreshadowing and humor, if you're willing to look beyond the simplicity of the book.  Subtle details in the background of the story lead to the next page.  And the daddy's tie .. well ... it tie's it all together.

And this book was personally tested on my toddler, and I thought he was going to asphyxiate with laughter each time we read it. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Wilds

To celebrate our anniversary, we went on a family trip to The Wilds. The Wilds is the largest animal conservation and breeding area in North America. Most of the animals in the park are endangered or extinct in the wild. The goal is to breed and reintroduce the animals into their natural habitats. There were a lot of species that I had never heard of and aren't commonly found in a traditional zoo.

We took an open air bus tour which we felt like was the best choice.  Joshua loved being up close and personal with the animals.

 Przewalski’s Wild Horse

When we first saw the zebras, they were too far away for me to get a good look, but we went around the bend and part of the herd had moved and we got a great view.

We saw two types of rhinoceros, the southern white rhino and the greater one-horned Asian rhino.  The rhino is actually one of the most endangered animals out there so they are working hard to breed more before they become extinct.

Southern White Rhino
There were a lot of herds of horse and antelope type animals from both Africa and Asia.  It was a little difficult to remember what everything was.  I'm fairly certain this is a sable antelope.  I did some checking on their website. 

We had a lot of fun and Joshua liked watching the animals roam and he got to feed the fishies.

He was pretty exhausted by the end though.

Monday, June 29, 2015


Dozens of bubbles drift in the air
Over your shoulders and around your hair.
Your hands clap and bubbles pop.
Your giggles call, Don’t stop! Don’t stop!

Around and around soap bubbles fly,
Whisked by the wind towards the sky.
A shiny bubble slowly twirls
And rests unbroken on your curls

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

New Words

Joshua babbles a lot, but is going at his own pace when developing distinguishable words.  His first word was "dada," of course.  And in the past weeks he has his own versions of cheese, kiss, and fishies which all sound remarkably similar.  Thanks to grandma entertaining in the car for an hour or so with "This Little Piggy," he says "'iggies" with delight.

But on Father's Day, he mastered a new word, "mama."  But it is more like a desperate command, "mamaMAMAMamam."  We felt the timing was ironic.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Mastadon of the La Brea Tar Pits

Only fragments remain
Bits of millennia-old bone fossilized
In tar that bubbles below
Los Angeles’ overcrowded avenues.

In the Ice Age, Mastodon was master.
Trampling sloths, skunks, lizards, insects
that scurried beneath feet, 
Deflecting predators with a flick of the head.

But a Mastodon was no match for a lake of tar.
Feet became shackles. 
Tusks a weapon of self-destruction
Digging him deeper into the pit. 

After paleontologists harvested
Teeth, tusks, and jaw, they pieced
The world’s most difficult puzzle together.
Bone stained by centuries of black,

Now the grinning beast
Is suspended from a museum ceiling.
Eye sockets stare through six foot tusks.
Past school children and tourists,

At traffic on Wilshire Boulevard, 
Skyscrapers built over tar
Trampling fragments of prehistory
And humans who scurry across pavement.

Monday, June 1, 2015

A Boy and HIs Books

Joshua loves to read books on his own.  It's as if he studying for his "Intro to Board Books" final.  He is working on skills like turning the pages, reading right side up, and imprinting teeth marks.  His favorite authors are Anna Dewdney, Sandra Boynton, and Eric Carle.  He gets an A+ in my book. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

After Winter

The obedient tulip
Awakes to the alarm
Of Spring mornings;
With water’s grace
Stretches its stalk.
Then sways with winds’ whispers,
And opens flaming petals
In the afternoon sun.

*As an aspiring writer, I've been taking a poetry class.  During Joshua's nap time, I will pluck out a line here or there.  I'm always a bit hesitant to reveal myself through real writing, but have decided since I have so few readers, that I should share a bit.  I think it might help me improve.  When I was about to post this, I stopped and revised it into a completely new and better poem.  Having other eyes will hopefully be an important editing tool. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Summer Hat

Last year, I had a lot of trouble finding a summer hat for Joshua, but I did find a pattern to sew one.  It would have been too big for him last year, but is just right for this year.  The pattern itself was a little girly, but I found the perfect fabric for a boy (or a girl who likes superheroes.)

It was easier than I thought it would be and came out a little snug, but I think it will last the summer.  Now to convince him to keep it on his head.  The hat looks smaller than it is in real life because Joshua was fairly stubborn about not wanting to keep it on his head. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Literary Tourism - Wyoming

Whales are one of my favorite things, but romance novels aren't.

When I was in college, some of my neighbors wanted to shoot off fireworks.  They wanted to do it legally so they went to Wyoming and I went with them.  My experience in Wyoming was eating at a truck stop and covering my ears while fireworks exploded.

Longing for Home by Sarah M. Eden

Katie Macauley has traveled all the way to the Wyoming frontier to work as a housekeeper and earn return passage to Ireland where she has left a tortured past.  Her goal is to get out of Hope Springs as quickly as possible.  But Irish are not welcome in that town and her employment brings responsibilities she can't handle.  Her prickly presence and refusal to be bullied cause a rucous in the town and thwart her plans.  A love triangle ensues..

I debated long and hard whether or not to count this for Wyoming because I find that romances are often weak on historical facts.  But this author really put the time and energy into creating an authentic period despite the all too convenient town name.  The land is dry and barren.  Each villager had to struggle to build irrigation and plant crops in a difficult terrain.  Conflicts between the Irish immigrants and long-time citizens of the United States felt real and deep.  In a place with limited resources of course there would be tension.

I read this book for my church book group and was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it.  I tend to avoid romance, but I thought this one carried more depth than others I have read. The book is 100% clean which I think makes it feel more appropriate to the period as well.  I'm even excited to read the sequel. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Lord of the Rings

The world is my toy box
and I am the King.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Five Days of Joshua

This week has been characterized by snot, drool, and sleepless nights.  And yet, I still think about ninety percent of what Joshua does is absolutely adorable.  I'm constantly tempted to update Facebook every three seconds with the utterly genius thing that Joshua just did.  I've decided to document this week  by the happy things Joshua did.

Monday - Joshua took Peek-a-Boo into his own hands.  While sitting on my lap he would push my face away.  Then, pull it back.  He would giggle wildly as if he didn't know he was going to see my goofy faces.

Tuesday - Joshua stood up on his own without support.  First, he pulled himself up on the laundry basket, then just let go.  He stood there looking around while I praised him.  Without wobbling, he decided he was done and grabbed the basket again.  Great changes are coming!

Wednesday - I went through a bag of hand-me downs from a friend and found overalls.  Every little boy should have a pair of overalls.

Seriously, I can't stop looking at this picture.

Thursday - During pizza night, Joshua ate and loved his first olive.  This guy eats anything we give him.  Now I can pick the olives off my pizza sans guilt.

Sunday - Friday and Saturday were rather unremarkable, but today after months of coaxing Joshua decided that clapping is a pretty cool thing to do.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Easter Egg Shakers

I put in a request to the Easter Bunny to hold off on a basket full of candy for at least a year.  Instead he came up with musical shaky eggs made from Easter eggs.  He said it was easy, inexpensive and far less time consuming than those blasted JELL-O Easter eggs that seem to be trending.

What You Need:

  • Plastic Easter Eggs
  • Fun Patterned Duct Tape 
  • Food Storage Items - For Joshua the Easter Bunny used dry pinto beans, rice, and popcorn kernels.
  • 10 minutes 
Fill the plastic eggs with various dry foods.  Ir you want to get fancy get some tiny bells from the craft store.  The Easter Bunny used varying amounts and types in each egg to create different sounds.  Wrap duct tape around the slit in the egg.  Voila!  Your easy, healthy, and fun Easter basket is done.

The only candy this kid gets to enjoy this year are the gummy bears he can look at on the tape. 

Joshua absolutely loves songs that involve shakers.   This is his favorite.  The version we listen to uses shakers instead of body movements.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Princess Academy Series

Last week, I posted a picture of The Forgotten Sisters, the final book in the Princess Academy series on Facebook which spurred some discussion about why I love these books.  Now that I've finished the third book, I would like to elaborate on why I love this series.  I will do my best to avoid spoilers.

For books with princess in the title, they aren't that princess-y.  Seriously, The Hunger Games has more of an emphasis on fashion than these books.  Miri, the main character, is a frail girl who sleeps with the goats in her small home on Mount Eskel, an impoverished village.  She and the other girls in the village are forced from their home to train for the possibility of becoming a princess.  What they are really given is the chance to educate themselves and improve the lives of their families.

Strong female characters.  These books are full of young women, who seize the opportunities they are given, make their lives happen, and don't wait around to be acted upon.

Linder - The mystical qualities of this light fantasy come from the stone Miri's village quarries.  By the second book, I had such an affection for linder.  Weird, right!  It's almost like the stone is character in the story.  I absolutely love it.  

The writing style is stunning.  Many successful books have compelling story lines and I get sucked in.  But when I finish, I think to myself, "Wow, that was some clunky writing!"  Not so with these books.  Shannon Hale took great care to craft each sentence and each word.  It feels like I'm in a bubble bath of beautiful language.

They are cliffhanger free.  I'm growing weary of series with no resolution at the end of each installment.  Authors use the last sentences of the book to leave you hanging.  I hate that!  Each book in this series could stand alone and has a separate setting and plot.  It's a personal preference, but I like it. 

It may or may not strengthen my argument, but I don't love all of Shannon Hale's books.  Some are fun one time reads, others I couldn't get into, and some I'm not interested in at all.  This is how I am with most authors.  This series does the job of entertaining, enriching, and making you feel great at the end.

Here are links to descriptions of each book.

Princess Academy - the first in the series and my favorite.

Palace of Stone - This is probably my least favorite in the series, but it is still very good.

The Forgotten Sisters -  This book was a wonderful surprise.  

Friday, March 6, 2015

LIterary Tourism - British Columbia

Since I'm Canadian by marriage and I came across a fun book set in Vancouver, I figured I would expand my literary reviews to the north.  It may be difficult to find books about every province and territory in libraries here in the States, but I'll see what I can do. 

I visited Vancouver about two years ago.  There was a lot going on and we didn't have a lot of time to explore the city, but I loved what I saw of it.  I'm a city girl so this isn't surprising.  This book helped add to my list of what to do on our inevitable next visit.

Word Nerd by Susin NIelsen

When bullies almost kill twelve year old Ambrose by slipping a peanut into his lunch, Ambrose's mom makes him begin correspondence courses.  Utterly lonely and bored, Ambrose becomes friends with Cosma, his neighbors' ex-convict son.  Behind his overprotective mother's back, Ambrose begins attending a Scrabble club and eventually enters the tournament.  Through Scrabble Cosmo and Ambrose bond and get into some trouble along the way.

The setting in this book was excellent.  The author really brings you to Jericho Beach, Granville Island, and Chinatown.  Ambrose and his mom rely on public transportation which feels real.  The Canadian phrases like the hydro poles, washrooms, and marking papers made it even better.  This book was a ten out of ten for fitting with my goals of the project.  Nothing was in there as a stereotype.  The details were naturally included.

As a word nerd myself, I enjoyed this book.  Ambrose was a perfectly developed twelve year old character.  He is big-hearted and smart, but also brutally honest, obnoxious and sometimes gross.  The story is more than a synopsis of scrabble games and really had some depth to it.  This is definitely a YA novel, not a children's novel.   

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Let Him Eat Cake

Yesterday, we had a little party for the little man.  Jerry recently got one of those phones that you can take pictures of your food with.  We took approximately 3901 photos of Joshua and his cupcake with daddy's new toy.  During this time, he had everything from a questioning look to a grimace.  He took the experience very seriously.

I've been dreaming of this moment - party hat included- for about 11 months.  Here are some of my  favorites with captions.

"So, this is that thing called sugar mommy loves so much."
"She knew what she was talking about."
"Wait! Why isn't she letting me eat the whole thing?"
What you can't see is the table cloth strategically placed under the table which caught about 3/4 of the cupcake.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

One Year

A year ago, I trembled
as the doctor's withdrew you from my body.
Your fingers were miniature matchsticks
Your body no longer than my forearm
Sensors, tubes, IV's and a steamy incubator
replaced my womb.
Your body, fragile as rice paper
was too brittle for my weak arms.

But today is not that day.
Today we praise toothy grins and husky laughter.
Chunky hands smear crumbs
and frosting over face and fluffy curls.
Your round belly wobbles
as you teeth on new treasures.
Your cheeks are pillows for
the thousands of kisses you receive
before you fall asleep in my arms.  

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Book Love 2015

In keeping with my tradition, I have returned for a third year to gush over a favorite book.  In breaking with tradition, I've decided to share a "new classic" rather than a piece of nostalgia.  I discovered this gem early in my career and have a high success rate with it.

Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas 

Four dust bunnies set out to prove their rhyming expertise, but Bob doesn't seem to understand the game.  Or is it the others who don't understand Bob's warnings?  This book has simple and humorous illustrations and dialogue.

At 11 months, Joshua seems to think the way I read is hilarious, and he is captivated by the illustrations.  At 11 years, one of my nieces truly understood the utter hilarity of simple story.  I love that many a child has giggled while I have shared it.  Read this book!  It will make your day a little happier. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Neonatal Follow-Up

I took Joshua to Columbus yesterday, and learned that my little preemie isn't so little anymore.  At 19 lb. 2 oz., he's the size of a typical 11 month old.

First, we played with the physical therapist who thought that he was on target for a nine month old (which is where he should be).  She gave me some exercises to do to help him along.  After that the nurse practitioner said that he looks great in all other ways.  We sure love this kid.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Scrapbook Paper Bags

In preparation for Valentine's Day I needed two goodie bags.  I neither wanted to buy them or use lunch bags and colored pencil.  I have oodles of scrapbook paper and access to Youtube.  This is what I came up with.  It was quick and required no money that I haven't already spent.  I'm not as fast as her, but I have a new skill. 

Also, feel free to judge me for my cheesy Valentine's Day-ness.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Joshua's Favorite Things to Play WIth

Joshua has a fair number of toys.  Our home isn't overflowing with gizmos for him, but he has enough.  He has a beautiful rolling wood whale, a ring stacker, tons of plush animals, and balls.  Besides constantly wanting to carry around his O and 0 from his alphabet floor mat, other traditional toys don't seem to interest him.  His favorite part of the saucer toy is the tag; his favorite thing in the toy box is the toy box.  Three dozen times a day, I am pulling Joshua away from computer or lamp cords.

Keeping a close eye on him can be exhausting, but we sure love his goofy grins. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Changing Fast

It seems that Joshua is growing and changing even more quickly than ever.  Two weeks ago, he could barely sit on his own.  Now he is doing ...

... this
,,, and this
...and this.

This rapid change in abilities has left me feeling 1/3 relieved that he is developing at the appropriate times, 1/3 heartbroken that he is leaving his littleness behind, and 1/3 terrified that if I turn my back my house will be torn apart.

Jerry jokingly scolded me saying, "Remember when you thought he was too small and would never grow?"

Monday, January 12, 2015

Pumpkin, Zucchini, and Walnut Pasta

I love fall foods like pumpkin, cranberry and gingerbread and wish that companies understood that some people would like to eat it year round.  When pumpkin puree went on sale after Thanksgiving I loaded my cart.

With the new year, I've been searching for recipes that are deliciously different.  I wanted pumpkin that wasn't always in the form of a bread, or pie, or cream-filled roll.  I finally found pumpkin, zucchini, and walnut pasta and it was a refreshing change from my rotation of six recipes.

I found the recipe in a book (those old fashioned things made from trees), but found a similar recipe on  The print recipe had a few substitutions/additions that I would recommend.

  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • Sage instead of parsley (Although on the next round, I think I will try basil.)
  • 1/2 teas. cayenne pepper  (This gave the pasta a nice kick without being overpowering.)
The best part is that you can cook in in less than 30 minutes.  Enjoy!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Oilers vs. The Kings

While we were in Edmonton for the week of Christmas/New Year, Jerry's brother graciously gave us second row tickets to the hockey game.  I enjoyed my first NHL game in style, while Joshua partied at his auntie and uncle's house.

Our seats were amazing and afforded us views such at this.

Players were constantly being checked immediately in front of us.  If the glass hadn't have been there, hefty toothless players would have landed in our laps, and we would have had a couple pucks in our face.

Suffice it to say, the Oilers are not #1 in the NHL, but at this game they ended a lengthy losing streak and beat the Kings 3-2 in a shootout.  

Unless I'm mistaken this was our first recreational time away from Joshua since he came home from the hospital.  We were glad to see his cute sleeping self when we arrived home, but were immensely grateful to be given a chance for a little break.