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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.


Look what bloomed at my house this week...

Spring!


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tips on Tuesday: Pay it Forward with Virtual Easter Baskets

Hershey has partnered with the Children’s Miracle Network for over 20 years. CMN is a non-profit alliance of children’s hospitals dedicated to providing state-of-the-art care, life-saving research and preventative education across North America.

This Easter, Hershey’s will donate up to a total of $5,000 to the Children’s Miracle Network together with bloggers.

How can we do this together? It’s simple:
•Participate to Hershey’s Better Basket Blog Hop of giving away virtual Easter Baskets by creating a blog post with specific rules described here.
•Hershey Company will donate $10 per each blog post to CMN, up to total of $5,000.
•One blog post per URL counts towards the donation, but you can give as many virtual Easter baskets as you want.
•The Hershey’s Better Basket Blog Hop will officially begin at 12 AM EST on March 18th and end at 12 PM EST on April 4th, 2010. Blog posts submitted to us before or after that time period will not be counted for.
•The blog post link has to be submitted to us for the donation to be counted.
•In addition copy and paste the following text in your blog post:

HERSHEY’S BETTER BASKET BLOG HOP RULES
•Copy and paste these rules to your blog post.
•Create a blog post giving a virtual Easter Basket to another blogger – you can give as many Virtual Baskets as you want.
•Link back to person who gave you an Easter Basket.
•Let each person you are giving a Virtual Easter Basket know you have given them a Basket.
•Leave your link at
BetterBasket.info/BlogHop comment section. You can also find the official rules of this #betterbasket blog hop, and more information about Better Basket with Hershey’s there.
•Hershey’s is donating $10 per each blog participating to the Better Basket Blog Hop to Children’s Miracle Network (up to total of $5,000 by blog posts written by April 4th, 2010).
•Please note that only one blog post by each blog url will count towards the donation.

I just found out about this yesterday so I'm joining late in the game and I apologize for the short notice to my giftees. I hope that
Cheryl St. John, Keesler Chaos, I am Pooped and Beauty From Ashes all enjoy a virtual Easter Basket that's easy on the waistline.

You can join too! Even if no one gives you a virtual Easter basket-you can still write a blog post, link it up and pay it forward! (This morning there are just over 400 blogs listed so we still have time to pay it forward by blogging.)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Toontown Unwritten Video--Starring Duke (Andrew)

Andrew (aka Duke on Toontown) met another toon who makes these Toontown videos. The song is "Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield.

In the video you'll see two dogs, a cat and a mouse. The mouse is Duke/Andrew. He had a blast filming this with the cat, Midnight Magic. I think he's hoping to do more of these videos.

Enjoy!!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Book Review: Where Do We Go?

I recently had the opportunity to read and review the book "Where Do We Go" by James F. Weinsier.

Where Do We Go
Written by James F. Weinsier
Illustrated by Cliff Beaman
Publisher: Wondrous Publications L.L.C.
Fernandina Beach, Florida
Price: $12.95 U.S. Softbound
ISBN: 978-0-61523-805-0
Pub Date: 2008
Website:
http://www.goodgriefbook.com/

My review follows below.

From the publisher:
WHAT IS THIS BOOK ABOUT?
The death of a loved one is difficult enough for an adult to understand and cope with; imagine how much more difficult it is for a child! Where Do We Go? delicately explores the theme of death in a child-friendly fashion with reassuring, thought-provoking text and cheerful illustrations. With compassion and sensitivity, James F. Weinsier addresses the age-old,

complex question: Where do we go when we die?


In the words of Laura Duksta, author of the New York Times bestseller I Love You More, "Where Do We Go? Brings joy, play and ease to what is often an awkward conversation. Its message is a precious tool that will open the hearts and imagination of its readers to a greater awareness of love, life and beyond!"


Where Do We Go? is as helpful to children as it is to the adults challenged with the bewildering task of discussing death with them.


WHAT MAKES THIS BOOK UNIQUE?
James F. Weinsier's child-friendly, non-secular exploration of death compatibly blends with any religious, spiritual or nondenominational framework, opening a pathway for parents, caregivers and other adults to approach the subject of death within any given belief system, while giving children the comfort they desperately need. Where Do We Go? helps them find the answers to the mystery of death within their own hearts.



MY REVIEW:
To be honest, I wasn't sure I'd like a non-secular explanation of death. That doesn't sound like the family values we promote in our home. I was pleasantly surprised by the book. "Where Do We Go" is a great opener and broaches the topic of death in a way that matches a child's natural curiosity.

While there is nothing that promotes any religion, I was able to read the book to my kids and explore the topic of death using our religious framework as a backdrop to the discussion. Since my kids are currently 12, 8 and 3.5, we have a wide range of ages and levels of discussion. The 12 year old agrees the book was 'a little young' for him, but he could participate in our talk and speak to his younger siblings in a way that matched the story of the book and matched their level of understanding. The 8 and 3 year olds loved the book. The pictures are totally engaging, the point of the story meanders the same way their minds do. James Weinsier wanders through t
he seasons and asks if that's what it is like when we die, he addresses the idea of 'how old are we in death?' and even mentions pets and if they will be with us, too.

I cry at the ending of the book where it says that no matter where we go, you will live forever in the hearts of those who love you. I would rate this book a 4.5 out of 5. The subject of death is explored in a creative way that is respectful, yet involves words and pictures that captivate and engage young people.

For more information or to order this book, click the amazon link to the left.




Disclosure: This is a Mama Buzz review. A copy of the book was provided by Wondrous Publications L.L.C. for this review. Providing me a copy of the book does not influence my review and all thoughts are my own.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.



Here is more of Sean's handiwork. After he slaved over my vinyl quotation and getting it hung 'just so', I set him to work on these photos.
They are now hanging in the big blank space above our bed. And yes, the wall is faux painted; and yes, Sean did that when we moved in; and yes, it's purple...really, really purple; and yes, Sean agreed to purple in the bedroom. He even suggested it...twice, because I turned him down the first time. And yes, I'm much happier in a purple bedroom than in the tan with purple accents that I originally suggested.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tips on Tuesday: Give me a break!

As I was knee deep in the 'woulda, shoulda, coulda's', I got an email. Just a quick little weekly note I get from MOPS International. In it, a mother laments having to give her daughter cheetos and raisins for lunch because life was interfering with a trip to the grocery store. And she had a profound realization...one meal of cheetos and raisins won't malnourish or mentally harm my child.

I don't know about you, but those are liberating words! As I am concerned and fretting about giving my kids extra kool-aid for a treat or having using M&Ms as a bribe for potty training...I forgot about the bigger picture. I tend to focus on every minute of every day being the 'perfect mom'. Do this, don't do this..."good moms" would or wouldn't do this.

Give me a break!

I need to remember that one bad moment or one meal of junk food won't kill my kids. One lapse in behavior where I 'lose it' won't send them to years of counseling or cause them harm or traumatize them for the rest of their lives.

So I want to encourage the rest of you. Give yourself a break! This motherhood stuff ain't easy. Did you ever think that some of the time, we are our own worst enemy? If you want to have 'junk food Friday' or 'Dessert before Dinner Day' or let the kids stay up late to watch for the ISS to fly by...on a school night...or whatever 'bad' thing of the day you do, give yourself a break!


Let's make a pact--if you (and I) can give ourselves permission to not be perfect, I'll share with you next week some of my greatest offenses in the less than perfect parenting department. I promise, I've done all sorts of stuff that I could use to label myself as a bad mom. If you have some really great moments in your own life, send me an email and let me know if I can share them, too.

Let's all take a deep breath together and let ourselves off the hook.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Andrew's Jazz Band Performance

Andrew's Jazz Band was invited to play at a fundraiser for the high school band. It was a great experience and because of where they fell in the day, we were able to stay and hear the top jazz band from the high school play.


I snapped a few photos before they started playing, then took videos of their songs. Here's Andrew paying attention to last minute instructions from the director.




Here's a little smile for me. He's hoping I'll stop taking photos now.


Instead, I kept going by switching to taking videos of the jazz band playing. I thought they did really well. It's an audition only jazz band so the kids have a decent musical background coming into the band. Andrew plays piano for Jazz Band. There are two pianists. They take turns as the other kid also does some drums.



Their first song was "Flight of the Foo Birds" (If you receive this via email, either download attachments at the bottom of the email to see these or click on the title to go to the blog page and view there.)

video


Here's "El Taco Rocko" (my favorite)

video


Here's "Thriller" (the kids' favorite)

video


I didn't realize that the piano (Andrew) and Bass Guitar kicked it off. So you can hear his piano right after the intro. It's setting the tempo with the drums. If you watch the video, you'll notice I quickly zip across the entire jazz band to focus on Andrew. Right before that dizzying ride, you'll hear him and the bass guitar start it off.

Bravo, Jazz Band!! They should all be proud of their accomplishments!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!




Wordless Wednesday

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

At the Circus: Elephant balancing on a ball.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The events preceeding "Can you believe what my kid did now?"

If you remember my post "Can you believe what my kid did now?!?!?!", I had promised to tell you about the earlier events in the day. For those inquiring minds who just need to know, this post is for you!

We went to the CIRCUS!


We were invited through the Autism Society to attend a performance of the circus. This was a Special People show so there were a lot of wheelchairs. They took out the 3rd ring and did a 2 ring circus instead. They took out some of the louder events (human cannon and motorcycle ball) for our friends with sensory issues.
All in all, it was a fun time and we didn't really miss not having the 3rd ring. Two was plenty to watch!!


Before the show, one of the clowns came to visit. Rebekah was hiding at first but as soon as we mentioned a photo, she made nice with the clown. I couldn't get Nathan in this shot (he was next to Andrew)...but he really was there. Then we had to take a picture of the Alligator Clown. He's Rebekah's favorite.

The acrobats were amazing. They walked on these balls and went up three ramps to get to the top.


The exotic animals included a horse, a llama and a camel.


What circus would be complete without elephants?? They also had tigers, but my photos didn't turn out the best.
It was a lot of fun. Nathan was out of school and we might have pulled Andrew out a bit early to go. Didn't seem fair to make him miss for his math class and his homeroom. He had fun and was a big help in keeping his brother and sister herded in the right direction.
It was fun, but exhausting!


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Teacher Appreciation Lunch

I keep forgetting to post about our Teacher Appreciation Lunch. It was a great time and the teachers all appeared to enjoy themselves. You have to give them credit for keeping their cool when they are faced with the theme of "Survivor" for their appreciation week!


I think the menu inspired confidance in them as they realized they would get Fried Dodo Bird, Ground Root Slop and drinks like Fruity Leaf Boil. They were very good sports and enjoyed a nice meal.




We decorated by covering the tables with beach towels instead of tablecloths. One gal borrowed a couple gross of leis and we piled those in the middle of the table and put one around each chair. Another gal found a floral centerpiece and used a grass skirt to 'dress up' the vase. There are also Soy Candles for each teacher to take with them. (More on the 'soy' part below.) I did reassure them that we wouldn't be putting out any candles to vote teachers off the island today.


Here was their most creative decorating. They took another grass skirt, coconut bra, lei and wrist flowers to make the menu into an island girl. I thought it was adorable!



I found a couple large (5 ft tall) Tikis to hang up and we got umbrellas for all the drink glasses.




To end the luncheon, we gave each teacher a 'survivor pack' to help them get through the week. If you can't read it, it says:
Teacher Survival Kit
Halls Strawberry Refresh — to keep you from biting your tongue
Halls Tropical Wave Refresh — to bring tropical refreshment to you
Toothbrush and Toothpaste — to keep the smile on your face
Deodorant — to keep you cool and refreshed
Chapstick — to moisturize and nourish your smile
Lotion — to keep your hands soft
Aspirin — no explanation needed
Soy Based Candle — We’re ‘soy’ glad you’re a teacher because you are ‘soy’ special. We wanted to say thank you ‘soy’ much for all you do.

You are all “Survivors” to us.

Thank you again to all of our teachers everywhere!! You are all truly a 'survivor' to me and our family appreciate all that you do for us and our children.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Nathan's Smashing Talent Show Performance

Nathan's school had the annual talent show last night. It was so fun to see the kids doing such a wide variety of acts. Nathan chose to play the piano. His song is Road Runner. I thought he was going to sit and play nicely like he does at home. Who knew there would be so much comedic shtick in his performance?

If you receive this post via email, click on the title above to get to the web page to see the video. Or download the attached file to see Nathan's performance.

video

Friday, March 12, 2010

Review: The Handmade Marketplace Book


I was recently given the opportunity to read and review "The Handmade Marketplace."



The facts:
Title: The Handmade Marketplace
Author: Kari Chapin
Publisher: Storey Publishing
Ages: Mothers, Families
Price: $14.95


Back Cover Blurb:
Turn your craft into a successful business! Even the most expert crafters may find it challenging to market and sell their wares, but with Kari Chapin you have an experienced guide at your side. Learn to determine your cost of goods, set prices, identify the competition, and understand the ins and outs of wholesale and retail sales. Explore the various sales venues available, including independent craft fairs, Web sites such as Etsy, and traditional stores, and learn to maximize your visibility and sales in each one. Want to start your own Web site? Chapin shows you how to style and prop your crafts for photography and explains how the most popular Web marketplaces operate. You’ll find everything you need to turn your talent into profits.

My review:
I really enjoyed "The Handmade Marketplace." It is a comprehensive step by step approach to turning your crafting into some extra spending money or a second income stream. The information has stories sprinkled throughout to keep it from becoming very dry reading. Reading what other people did that worked (or didn't work) really puts a practical application to the tips.

My recommendation is to sit down with "The Handmade Marketplace" in one hand and a notebook in the other. This is the type of book that you should make careful notes of your own personal ideas and the things you need to do to get started. While not every item will be needed by every person, it gives the total picture on what to do for your own situation.

If you have something you love to make, I'd recommend this book as a practical, step-by-step guide to taking your passion and making a little money (or a lot of money) with your craft.



This is a mama buzz review. I received a complimentary copy of the book from Storey Publishing for the purpose of doing this review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own. For my full disclosure policy, click here.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Tips on Tuesday: Support Team N.A.T.H.A.N.

Normally, I try to give pearls of wisdom from myself and others on Tuesday. This week, I'm taking time to be selfish and use my platform to promote my son and his participation in the Autism Puzzle Walk.


Nathan is our officially diagnosed Twice Exceptional (2E) child. Don't get me wrong, watching the other two, I think they are probably also 2E, but able to mask it with better social skills. For more info on 2E, please check out my other site http://www.coolestchildren.com/.


Nathan is gifted off the charts...and he has autism. He's at the very high functioning end of the spectrum, but it is still there. I used to try to hide this from him, but remember when I said he's gifted? He figured it out on his own. And a short year ago, we were floundering in a sea of figuring out IEP meetings, trying to find out all his areas of deficit and how to help him overcome. We've spent the last 12-18 months getting him classified with the school and then in private therapy to augment what the school does.


We wouldn't have made it without the support, encouragement and information we received from our new friends at the Autism Society. We met a couple people at an Autism Society fundraiser that I found out about by chance. They told us about the support group meetings at the local 'bounce house' and we decided to go.

At first, my motivation was to meet a few people...but mainly it was to allow my kids to jump at a greatly reduced cost. The local business donates their staff and evening to the support group and we pay a very nominal fee (about the cost of one child) for all three of ours (and sometimes a babysitter for Rebekah) to jump.

What I found were other dads and moms struggling with the many questions and very few answers that we have. I found a place where people just accepted me and my kids for who they were. They understood that my kids cry if it gets too loud for them. I got information, tips, but most of all, acceptance.


Through our participation in the Autism Society, we have been able to do a lot of great things with our kids. When we go to movies or museums or outings with our group, we do so to practice how to behave and what to expect. It has been incredible to watch Nathan get more comfortable with situations that would have knocked him for a loop in the past.


And now, here is my plea...
Our family has benefited so much this past year from the Autism Society. We want to give back. The Autism Society is holding it's annual Puzzle Walk and we want to be a big part of that. We created Team N.A.T.H.A.N. which stands for Nathan's Awesome Team Helps Autism Network. We set a big goal for Team N.A.T.H.A.N. and we need your help. We are hoping to raise $2000 for the Autism Society. You can either click here to donate or click on the box on the top right of my homepage.


If you would like to join our team, you can become a Team Member by going to our donation page and clicking where it says Team Name: Nathan's Awesome Team Helps Autism Network. A virtual walker is free, but you receive a Tshirt mailed to you if you raise $25 or more. If you can join us at the walk, the cost is $10 per adult and $5 per child and your shirt will be given to you the day of the walk. Email me for more details or information.

I'm happy to say that 100% of the money raised will stay in our state to help kids here. We've discovered that other groups don't give very much back to the state after a big fundraiser.


Thank you in advance for supporting Team NATHAN in this worthy cause.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

New Style BK

Anyone else been to one of the 'new fangled' Burger King restaurants? There are very few booths. Some around two edges. There are a cluster of large, comfy lazy-boy types of chairs with a swivel table to put your laptop onto. In the center are high tables with chairs. There are three tables/booths with computer game consoles on them. You can play all kinds of games like Chuzzle, Luxor, Paint (for the kids) and lots more.

The kids wanted to go to this one almost daily. We made it over 3-4 times. Tried to go at odd times when there wasn't a rush. We often had two of the three computers for ourselves. Tried to always leave one open for someone else...I know, we're nothing if not generous.


Sis had a great time with the games. She LOVED the paint and the sticker game. Thankfully, there's a timer built into the system so the kids all got equal minutes of play.


Nathan showing off his skills.
The other cool thing was the center menu board was digital and showed clips of items or scrolled specials. The interior is really a lot more like a Starbucks with games. It was fun for adults and kids!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Freebies

Here are a couple offers I received to pass along to you.


Friday, March 05, 2010

Oh, to be warm at the Beer Can House again

The Beer Can House, Houston


Ah, the warmth of Houston...missing it. Although it's getting warmer in the midwest, there's still snow...lots of snow...everywhere. When we were in Texas, we went to the Beer Can House as part of Tia's Fun Day. Here are Andrew & Nathan at the gate and my sister & I outside the house.



The owners/creators of the beer can house are now deceased. No, they did not die of liver problems. John & Mary Milkovisch owned this house. John worked as an upholsterer for the railroad and began by hand-cutting vinyl tiles to do the floor of their home. He couldn't afford the more expensive ceramic tile, but he made beautiful floors out of vinyl. Then he started adding marbles and things to concrete in the yard...because he didn't like to mow the grass. Eventually, he started putting aluminum siding on the bottom of their home. (Aluminum can siding, that is.) Eventually, he covered the whole house which saved them a great deal in utilities.


Here is the front of the house. He also used the tabs and can lids to create chains that he hung. It is a unique wind chime.


A close up of the siding.




I remember these types of tabs, but wanted a picture for my kids to remember. They've never seen a pull tab before. Those were long gone by the time I got married and had kids.



Tia by an assorted stack of cans in the kitchen of the house.


Mary contributed this artistic project to the back yard.




This is the back fence. It's made of bottles and cans. There's a covered patio area where you can sit in the shade and listen to the sound of the wind chimes on the house.



Some of John's work with stones and marbles in cement.



This fence is also covered in aluminum cans and runs between the house and the house next door.



Mary & John's beer drinking bench.




Front porch and porch swing.



John's artwork. He built a golden ladder with one black rung and added the sign, "Live by Golden Rule."


Before and after of the house.



John even covered the mailbox. If you look at the final picture, even the cement step has cans worked into it. The gate and fencing are cans, if it didn't move, it was covered.
It was a unique house and a lot of fun. Next visit, we're hoping the Orange Show will be reopened so we can visit it, too.

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