Monday, March 31, 2014

a Monday Morning Mommy Moment

This Mama wants to show off a little. If you are not my children's grandmother or other close relative, you may wish to click away (because there is no other point of this post other than to do a little bragging).


My three oldest kids are entering a local art competition.  The directions are simple.  Draw, paint, or doodle a migratory bird that can be seen in our area. 

Owen (7) knew immediately he wanted to draw a goose.  He settled at the dining room table and got to work, finishing in 20 minutes-- not because he was in a hurry but because he knew exactly what he wanted to do.  That is so indicative of his personality.

Maddie (9) was not so decisive.  She considered many, many different varieties of birds.  Then she doodled ten or fifteen on a scrap piece of paper.  "To practice," she said.  When she finally settled on the bald eagle, she asked if we could check out some books at the library so she could study an array of photographs before she decided how she wanted her eagle to pose. 

Gavin decided on a sand piper easily enough, but finishing his drawing took multiple hours over several days.  He is precise and particular and a bit of a perfectionist.  He was terrified that he would need to erase something and leave marks on his page.

The artwork went into the mail on Thursday. The deadline is mid-April and winners are chosen in May.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Spring Goal Check-In

I love reading other blogger's goal posts.  It's a nosy little peek into their lives.  It's inspiring and informative and fun, but maybe that's just me.

I also love writing goal posts.  It's a way to put my goals in writing, track my progress, see what I still have left to accomplish, and evaluate if each goal remains important to me. I abandoned a few goals last year...without guilt!

With a quarter of the year behind us, I figured it was time to do an update and include a few links and pictures. My goals are bulleted while my notes are written in teal.

I accomplished much in the kitchen over the first quarter of the year.  The only item left on my list is vanilla.  I have the beans, but still I need to purchase the vodka.  I attempted other new recipes, too, like this delicious Giant Cinnamon Roll Cake.

  • Eat at Chipotle.  (Am I the only one who hasn't been?!)
I crossed this goal off in February and I talked about it on the blog here.  I met a great group of friends for lunch on a cloudy mid-week afternoon.  The weather didn't zap our spirits. The conversation was fun and the food was delicious.  I've requested Chipotle as my pre-half-marathon dinner.  Yum!

  • Run a 2-mile race with Brian.
We ran our race together on a cold, drizzly February morning.  Brian had a head cold and didn't feel at his peak, but he met his goal and ran the entire course.  I met both my conservative and my ambitious goals.  I shared another photo and details from the race here. 

  • Train and run a 1/2 marathon. 
Brian says that 2 miles is enough for him and he'll leave the longer distances to me.  My half-marathon is in less than a month. I'm at the greatest intensity for my training right now, but I'll be entering the taper in about 2 weeks. I'm using a combination of training plans, but am relying most heavily on this one. This plan is different than many plans in that it has you running fewer days a week (3 days versus 4 or 5), but each workout focuses intensely on a specific area (speed, tempo, or distance).  To date, I've run 206 miles in 2014.

  • Build my upper body and core strength.  Hold a plank for 4 minutes.
I started the 30 Day Plank Challenge  last November, but could not get past 2 minutes, 40 seconds.  Brian and I started The Challenge together in February, but we kept forgetting about it and lacked consistency.  Maybe we'll try again in April or May.

  • Learn to change the oil in the van and learn to change the wiper blades, too.
No progress so far.  This is a leftover goal from 2013 and I will do this someday!

  • Take each child out individually for a meal at a restaurant they would enjoy.
Accomplished...almost! We decided to pair up the kids who especially enjoy each other's company so I took Alaine and Maddie out for a Sunday afternoon lunch together.  A few weeks later, Brian took Ben out for pizza and a milkshake.  Tomorrow the two older boys have a planned dinner outing with Brian.

  • Read 50 books-- not including books I read aloud to my kids or books we read for school.
I think this goal was too conservative.  I will be finishing my current read today and bring my total to 21.  In this quarter of the year (winter) I read more than any other time, but still... it will be surprising if I don't exceed this goal. 

I've added 2 secondary challenges to my goal.  I want to read most of the books from the 2014 Sisters Book Challenge I'm doing with my sister.  I've read 3/10.  Plus I've chosen 4 classics I want to read by the end of the year.  I've read 1/4.

  • Develop a new chores system for the kids, including responsibilities for the two youngest.
Brian and I sat down in the first week of January and talked about how to reboot our chores system.  We both agreed that we wanted to require more responsibility and encourage initiative  We changed up which child was responsible for certain chores.  We added some new jobs.  We re-thought how we pay allowance. We presented our new plan to the kids and gave it a trial run for the remainder of January.  When we started back to school in February, it became official.  One big change: Benjamin (5) has a small list of chores he must complete on his own without reminder.  He is doing wonderfully! We decided to keep Alaine  (3) in "training mode." It doesn't mean she doesn't work or contribute to the family, but she does it close by my side.

  • Take (or have someone else take) new non-candid photos of my kids. 
I've been waiting for warm weather before even considering this and the warm weather has been slow in coming this year.  My sister has volunteered to do the photography, but she is having surgery in April so maybe May or June.

I'll do another goal check-in at the end of June.  Did you make any goals this year? How do you plan to accomplish them?

Monday, March 24, 2014


This is part 4 of my Based on the Book series and also a book review for the 2014 version of Sisters Book Challenge.  When Kati gave me my list of ten books for the year, there were so many good choices and I wanted to read them all at once.  Instead, I broke the list down into manageable pieces and decided to read 1 selection a month. My choice for March matches perfectly with my discussion of books and their movie counterparts.

For every Sound of Music {swoon}, there is a Seven Brides For Seven Brothers {ugh!}. Not every musical is created equal.  For me, My Fair Lady sits neatly in the swoon category. However, I had never read the play on which it was based, Pygmalion(affiliate link) by George Bernard Shaw.  I snapped it up for free on my Kindle and started reading it in the van while waiting for Brian to run an errand.

In the beginning, I found it hard to read.  While a story fills in details and uses creative imagery, a play states it directly.  Instead of describing how a character may be standing, a play simply says [Character] standing upright by the desk with her hand on the corner. It took some getting used to. 

The other thing that surprised me was how bare-bones the play was compared to the movie musical. It shouldn't have surprised me, given that the play was short, but I kept waiting for certain plot points from the movie that never happened.  And I hope this is not too much of a spoiler alert, but the ending of the book and the ending of the movie are complete opposites.  All through the play, I thought I knew how it would all turn out in the end, but I didn't know at all!

Have you ever read a play?  Maybe Shakespeare? What did you think? Did you find it awkward or did you love it?

Come back next week when I discuss a list of books I want to read before they are made into movies. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

It's Too Close to Call

Today I move into gray area.  I want to discuss books and movies that are so good I can't pick a favorite.  The three that stand out to me are all classic books, but their movie counterparts are also excellent.  Maybe the movies aren't quite the same caliber, but I love them anyway because they hold their own without greatly compromising the integrity of the books.

The discussion is the fun part. I want to hear your opinion, too.  Do you agree with my choices? What books or movies hold a soft spot in your heart?

Too Close to Call
{All book and movie titles are Amazon affiliate links.}

The one that quickly comes to mind is Anne of Green Gablesby L. M. Montgomery.  I fell in love with the movies first.  I can't even begin to imagine how many times I've seen them. When I was in highschool I invited a few friends  over and we had an all-day Anne movie marathon.  When I was gifted the entire Anne series of books as a teenager, the books became some of my all-time favorites.  Obviously, the books have far more detail and they go beyond the timeline of the movies, but it is hard to discount the near-perfect performance of Megan Follows in the movie series.  She is Anne Shirley.

Many people may disagree with my second pick.   For years, another of my favorite books has been Little Womenby Louisa May Alcott.  I've seen several movie adaptations, but nothing compares to the 2000 versionstarring Winona Ryder. A 2-hour movie cannot include every detail of a 500+ page book, but I loved that the movie incorporated much the book's dialogue.

I'm really taken with Sherlock Holmesby Sir Arthur Conan Doyle right now.  I've read 1 of his full-length novels and 3 of his short-story collections and I plan to read more. I also have a slight obsession with all 3 seasons of the BBC's Sherlock series, though after the original episode, none of the following 8 have been able to top it. I also love both  Sherlock Holmes moviesstarring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. I have a difficult time rewatching movies, but these movies are so mentally fast paced that I discover something new each time.

An odd little tidbit: when I read the Sherlock Holmes books, I picture Benedict Cumberbatch (from the BBC series) as Sherlock Holmes, but I imagine Jude Law (from the movies) as Dr. Watson.

How about you?  Can you think of a book-movie combo that you like equally?

Come back next week for a book review.  I saw the movie years ago, but only got around to reading the book this month. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

This and That

It has been a long, cold, snowy, windy winter.  The weather has not been conducive to much playing or working outside.  It's not been ideal for half-marathon training either!  I stretched the borders of my comfort zone throughout January and February-- often running in the cold and wind, and even in rain and sleet.

Tomorrow is the first day of spring, but this was our scene on Monday afternoon. 

Kind of reminiscent of the beginning of last spring.   To be fair, last weekend was gorgeous.  We spent most of Saturday outside.  I ran 11 miles {!}. Then the kids made kites out of garbage bags and flew them in the front yard while Brian and I put up a small fence at the entrance of our driveway.  Two days later, the mercury plummeted and we had 4 inches of snow.

Brian stayed home from work because of the weather so I used the snow day to do a little baking for the week.  I made a batch of sourdough bread for the freezer, a dozen banana crumb muffins for weekday breakfasts, a loaf of egg bread in the bread machine for sandwiches, and a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (some for the freezer and some for eating warm from the oven). 

I also experimented this week with a slow-cooker rice pudding that uses coconut milk.  It had a delicious coconut undertones, but the rice absorbed too much of the liquid. I prefer a creamier pudding. My other kitchen experiment was making hard-"boiled" eggs in the oven.  I eat an egg every morning with my breakfast and I thought this might be an easier method, but I found the baked eggs harder to peel. 

Temperatures promise to be in the 60s again by the weekend, but in the meantime, we are bringing touches of spring to the inside of our house.

Our van is the repair shop so we are using that as an excuse to stay home for few days.  The kids have been asking to play with the Kool-aid Play-Doh again. 

They like its bright color, but they like even more than it smells like cherries. I need to try making another batch with a different flavor/color of Kool-aid, too.

I'm not sure what to do with my at-home time. Maybe I'll do some spring cleaning...or maybe I'll just settle for vacuuming the Play-Doh crumbs out of the carpet. A little readingsounds more appealing. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Art for Little Hands

Benjamin is five, and like many boys his age, he is not entirely comfortable holding a pencil.   Forming letters is a cumbersome, painstaking process. He likes to color and draw pictures but only if he can do it his way.  If a workbook requires him to write the number 2 or color the tree green, he sighs.  I didn't plan art program for him in school this year because I thought he would resist, but he feels left out when the older kids get creative with their art books once a week. 

One day on a whim, I pulled out Ed Emberley's Great Thumbprint Drawing Book(affiliate link) and asked Ben if he would like to give it a try. 

The book is designed for young elementary age children, and I'm finding that it challenges Ben without frustrating him.  I start by giving him an ink pad and asking him to make 4-5 (or 10) thumbprints on his sheet of paper.  He always wants to wash off the ink immediately so while he is gone, I put away the ink and open the book. 

I  select something for Ben to try-- a pirate or a cat, maybe-- and then he follows the very basic, very simple step-by-step directions for turning his thumbprints into works of  art. 

Sometimes we stop at 1 design, but often, Ben will ask to try another.  Man with glasses was a recent favorite, as was man with a monocle!  Not only is he working on his fine motor skills, but he is also learning to pay attention to detail and follow directions to achieve a final result. 

We were given our copy of the book, but it is available at many libraries or for purchase inexpensively on Amazon.

For a slightly more advanced art book, Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Animals(affiliate link) is an alternative choice.  I borrowed it last week from the library for Owen, my second grader.  While most how-to-draw-type books are still too advanced for him, he spent an hour with this book covering a page with his doodles. It is currently less than $4 on Amazon!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

More Half-Marathon Talk

One of my goals for the year is to run a half-marathon.  I talked last week about some of the things I'm learning while training to run the race. I hesitate to ramble on about running because I'm afraid I'll bore my readers who stop in here to read about books, homeschooling, and my kids.  However, I've been getting questions from friends here in blogland and other friends in real life so I want to do a question-and-answer to cover the basics. 

If you have a question I missed, let me know and I can address it in another post or in the comments. And if reading about running is not your thing, I'll be talking about my kindergartener's favorite art book on Monday.


How long is a half-marathon?  A full marathon is 26.2 miles so a half-marathon is 13.1 miles.

Do you have to run the whole thing or can you stop to walk?  My goal is to run the entire course (with the exception of water stations), but I am free to walk as often as I need to. There is a 3 hour, 15 minute time limit on the race which I can accomplish even if I need to take extra breaks.
What is the farthest you've run? My longest run to date is 10.2 miles.  Several weeks before the half-marathon, I'll do my final long run of about 12-13 miles.  It is said that if are able to run 11 miles in training, you can run 13 miles on race day. 

Will you be able to eat or drink during the run? There will be aid stations along the course with water, sports drinks, and sports gels.  I will stop for water, but I plan to bring my own mid-run fuel since that is what my body is used to.  I've found that pitted dates keep me from hitting the proverbial wall.  I eat one at mile 4 and then continue eating one every 1-2 miles until I'm finished.  At the post race party, every runner is given a plate of  "recovery" food, high in carbs and protein. 

What do you eat after you run to maintain your energy?  I learned the hard way that I need to eat right away after I run.  I keep a container of power balls  in the refrigerator for quick fuel after a run.  I've tried other recipes, but this one has a delicious blend of  oats, peanut butter, coconut, flax seed, honey, and chocolate chips.

I've read that chocolate milk is an ideal post-run snack because it contains the perfect ratio of carbs to protein.  Brian loves it after he works out, but I'm a diva and prefer peanut butter hot chocolate instead.  It still has milk and chocolate, but kicks it up a notch with peanut butter, too.

Other things I eat pre- and post-run are cottage cheese with banana or pineapple, sourdough toast, hard-boiled eggs, oranges, or oatmeal.  

How can you run with bruised toes and a black toenail? I curl the toes on my left foot when I run and it has resulted in several blood blisters and a black toenail.  It is not nearly as painful as it sounds. My toes were sore for a few weeks, but never near excruciating.  Once I realized what I was doing, I made a conscious effort not to do it and aside from waiting for my black toenail to grow out, I'm all healed.  In the meantime, I keep purple polish on my toes to disguise the ickiness. 

Will you ever run a full marathon? I've been asked this question multiple times, most recently by my husband yesterday.  (I think he was hesitant to hear my answer.)  When I first started running, I couldn't run even half a mile without gasping for breath so the idea of a marathon was ludicrous. Now that I am training for a half-marathon, a marathon does not seem so far out of my grasp.  The reality of it, though, is that training takes significant time and effort.  I'm choosing to make it a priority right now, but when the race is over, Brian will be in his busiest season at work.  I am looking forward to dialing down the intensity on my running and spending extra time with my kids and on other hobbies.  Maybe plan for a marathon in fall 2015? Maybe.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Movie Was Better

Last Monday, I talked about 4 books that I thought were superior to their movie counterparts.  Now I want to point out 2 movies that I liked more than the books on which they were based!  It doesn't happen often because it is hard to improve upon the depth of the written word and movies rarely live up to our imaginations.  Sometimes, though, filmmakers have that special touch.  I suspect that in most instances, I only like the movie better if had issues with the book that I thought were improved by the movie.

I'd love to hear your opinions, too.  Have you seen a movie that you liked better than the book?

The Movie Was Better
{All book titles are Amazon affiliate links.}

I had heard people rave about The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  In fact, the day I checked it out from the library, one of the librarians swooned over it!    It was an easy and captivating read of a young girl who lives with a foster family in Nazi Germany.  I dove into the story right away and flew through the pages. However, I kept waiting for excellency... and I kept waiting.  I kept waiting for something to stand out as the purpose of the book. 

By the time I finished, I was disappointed.  It felt like the story wandered on, building up momentum and then deflating, building again and yet going nowhere.  Even the ending, while emotional, didn't seem to have a point. 

I was interested enough to see the movie anyway.  I went to the theater with a friend who had also read the book.  We both agreed the the movie stuck closely to the plot of the book.  Most of the characters were the same and the plot points weren't greatly altered, plus it kept the original ending.  Already knowing the story going into the movie, I actually liked the movie better.  I still feel the same way about the story-- meh-- but the movie left a better taste in my mouth.

Unlike The Book Thief, I saw the movie of Mary Poppins long before I read the book by  P. L. TraversI have happy memories of watching the movie as a child and humming "Supercalifragalisticexpialadocious" and "Spoonful of Sugar."  I remember learning about women's suffrage for the first time and watching the chimney sweeps dance on the rooftops. 

When reading the book as an adult, I was disappointed.  The Mary Poppins of the book is nothing like her movie version.  She is grumpy and smug, and the book has an overall dark feel. Though I know the author intended her written description to be the true Mary Poppins and the idea of a bubbly, musical Disney imagining was not her cup of tea, I am partial to the movie version.

How about you?  Can you think of any movie you liked better than the book?

Come back next week when we discuss book and movie counterparts that are too close to call.

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