Thursday, June 22, 2017

Books my 9 year old loves

My son Noah just gobbles up books. It make my author-heart so proud. School got out less than three weeks ago and he's already read 6 books. (I may be a tad bit jealous.) . . . And now we need to take another trip to the library. 

His favorite books are fantasy/adventure type books, so if your child is into those here are some more they might like. I've also included a very helpful synopsis/review from Noah (my nine year old) for each one.  

The Familiars

Noah: "It's a book about magic that's just like awesome and most books are about wizards that have magic but this is about animals that have magic . . . but also wizards . . . but animals use the magic more."

Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher

Noah: "It's a book where dragons are real. Its about a boy who's suddenly in this place and he finds this shop that's a magic shop and he finds this things that glows on all sides and later on he finds out its a dragon egg and then later on he has to let it go."


Noah: "It's a mixture of fun adventures and magic." (And this is all he has to say after reading three books of about 500 pages each. No but really, this one has been one of his favorite series.)

The 39 Clues

Noah: "It's like a mystery book but its also not exactly a mystery book . . . it's about magic, well kind of. And it's like an irresistible mix of mystery and magic."

The Candy Shop War:

Noah: "It's the only place where wizards make magical candy."

Sky Jumpers

Noah: "There's two so far but the series is still getting written. Also, it's in the future and it's just a place where there's a gas that can kill you in one breath but if you hold your breath gravity goes slower inside of it and people save their city using the power to go through it." 

So there you have it. Take it from a nine-year old, these are books you simply cannot live without. Especially if you like magic . . . well kind of. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Be a mom and eat your cake too

"Ignoring your passion is slow suicide. Never ignore what your heart pumps for. Mold your career around your lifestyle not your lifestyle around your career." -Kevin Claiborne

I saw this quote on Instagram the other day at at first I was like "Huzzah!" Especially since it was accompanied by a photo of a person horse-back riding. 

I'm a big believer in following your passions in life but lets be honest . . . one and a half weeks into summer vacation and the only passion I'm following is a passion for my kids to have fun, learn lots, and not kill each other. There's just not a whole lot of time for anything else. 

So my Huzzah quickly petered into an Uggggg. It's hard to read that quote as a mother and feel anything but despair. Molding my career around my lifestyle seems rather impossible as a mother currently.

Don't get my wrong, motherhood is my passion . . . but it is not my only passion. And is it fair to myself to say I can only have one passion? Even if it is my most important passion?

Most of the time I find a way to be more than "only" a mother. I schedule things in, I am blessed with moments of quiet or I sign up for things like conferences and retreats. But during these summer months when all my kids are home, I have to say that my once daily times for writing or reading or meditating have been almost non-existent. Which was leaving me feeling, like I said before, rather discouraged. But then things started to click and I came up with a plan.

Someone once told me that there will never be a time that I will be 'completely caught up' or finish my 'to do list' and suddenly be blessed with buckets of free time. The moment I put out one fire another one will start blazing. There will always always be more to do.

But it also occurred to me that it's within my power to choose to do whatever I want to do, and how and when to do the things I want/need to do. I choose what's important. When I take the time to make a nutritious meal for my kids instead of just giving them cereal I need to embrace that choice and not feel sorry for myself or the "time I wasted" when I could have been fulfilling some other passion like writing. But at the same time I need to realize that when I have some kind of deadline or conference planned I do choose to let some other parenting things drop and maybe my kids do get cereal for dinner or miss some classes because a babysitter is watching them. I need to embrace that too--and the possibility of  bending my schedule/responsibilities to my own will.

I guess my point is that I need to be conscious of and deliberate with my choices. It is possible to be a mom and "eat my cake" too. But I'm probably not going to be a perfect Mom all the time for that to happen and my slices of cake are probably not always going to be even. There is a time and a season for all things and I need to embrace the fact that my 'Jenny time' is not going to look the same during the summer months.

But that doesn't mean I have to dump everything else during this season. I am just going to have to be a bit more disciplined and organized with my time. Maybe sacrifice some mindless Facebook time or TV time for some more important passions of mine. And perhaps I am going to have to get back into waking up earlier. But I'm also going to be honest with myself and the fact that I really enjoy sleeping in sometimes so I'm not going to completely deny myself of that particular passion either. Ha!

One way I thought of to be more disciplined and organized with my time is to create myself my own "mommy chart." My kids have their own charts with things like cleaning their room, brushing their teethe, practicing their piano etc... So it occurred to me that I might make my own chart as a visual reminder of the things that are important to me, and to help me remember to find ways to fit them in. Another thing I've learned is that if I take the time to take care of myself with things like scripture study, journaling and writing, the other "must do's" find a way to squeeze themselves in. But it doesn't work the other way around--my passions won't squeeze themselves in, I have to make a conscious effort to give them a space.

And I'm not really interested in a slow suicide, so I'm going to live for all of my passions--motherhood and all. Huzzah!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

I Am Otter book review

Have you met Otter? He is pretty much the best. We discovered him at the library the other day when we picked up his first book.

We were seriously laughing out loud. Otter is so lovable and super silly. Imagine Curious George but with more personality. It will make you want to go out and get yourself an otter so you can be an otter keeper . . . although that might be a bad idea because according to the author, Sam Garton, the one time he met one in real life it bit him. But that's okay because you can still enjoy the silly antics of the cartoon otter in book form as well as on the internet. I've discovered he has more books, which we are very anxious to check out and a website narrated by Otter himself with all kinds of fun things like his Diary and a little game called Dress Otter. It's a definite must see.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Believe you can--like a mushroom pro

Watching ball-type sports is not my thing, which is why I am so incredibly lucky to have all three of my kids in gymnastics. I actually enjoy watching it! And during my observation in their classes I have come to learn something that I’ve taken as a life lesson: Starting is everything. Take the mushroom for example; the mushroom is a mat-covered cylinder they use to learn to eventually do the pommel horse. The idea is to put your hands on the top and swing your legs around. (Noah makes it look super easy—but it’s not.)

The thing I’ve noticed is that I can tell, before even a second into their attempt at it, whether they can actually do it or not. Their stance is different. It’s about ability and skill—sure—but it’s also about belief. The ones who know they still can’t even make one full circle around don’t start as if they know they can do it. They don’t hold their hands and body in such a way that would allow for the momentum to make a full swing.  And if a person who has the ability started the same way the beginners do, they wouldn’t be able to make a full swing around either, even though they have the capability, because they wouldn’t have the right momentum. There is a difference when we believe we can.

This is a sign they have in their gym.

What a difference it would make if we could believe—even if we have never done something before—that we can do it. That we will do it. That it is within our grasp.

We could leap with full faith that we will stick that landing. Maybe it won’t happen the first or the second time but it will happen.

As I am imagining myself going forward with this new perspective another quote comes to mind: “Fake it ‘till you make it.”

It sounds silly but it’s true. Confidence goes such a long way. Compare dance-challenged people (such as myself.) The ones who just throw themselves into it as if nobody is watching, even when they have absolutely no real skill, look so much better than the ones hugging their bodies and swaying from side to side nervously.

Next time you’re faced with a challenge or a new skill you want to acquire remember to square your shoulders and throw it everything you’ve got like a mushroom pro. Believe you can and you're halfway there.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Junkyard book review

I've started to drive my kids a little crazy. I'm always stopping to check things in our picture books. Like if the author and illustrator are the same person.

"Mom! Keep reading!"

"So sorry. Mommy has to do her book research."

I've discovered most of my favorite books are authored and illustrated by the same person. #Lifegoals. (Long term time life goals.) Maybe by the time I'm ninety I will have reached that summit. That's okay though. As I always tell my kids, we are always growing and learning and it is never too late to learn something new.

So then I keep reading, but I have to stop again and see who published it . . . and when . . . and study the author bio in the back . . . etc . . . etc . . .

My poor children.

It's worse with books I particularly like, such as this one: Junkyard by Mike Austin

We just love robots at our house and these munching machines are seriously huggable. It's a really sweet story where the machines eat all the junk and clean up the junkyard to make it into a fun and beautiful playground. It could be a great story to teach about recycling or earth day or really just to enjoy the adorable pictures. I especially like all the thumbprints worked into the art. All of my kids 3, 6 and 9 loved it.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

How to train your chickens to come when you call

I am the chicken whisperer. Just kidding. I'm not really, but everyone always seems so impressed when they come over and see my chickens sprinting across the yard to me. I'm not sure if this is normal chicken behavior or not but if you like the idea of your chickens running to you like puppy dogs I can teach you my ways.

The most important thing is to pick a consistent sound to call them with. I use a kiss kiss sound, mixed with (apparently) baby talk. I was a little embarrassed when I realized I did this. My neighbor told me that one day she was talking to her baby when her son came in and said "Why are you talking to him in Jenny's chicken voice?"

So there's that. And then the second thing is to use the sound in conjunction with food. Chickens eat pretty much everything but their favorite thing seems to be my children's left over chocolate cereal. Yum.

I don't always give them food when I call them though. It's not really on purpose, sometimes I just want them to come when I don't have food. I also don't give them the same reward each time. Sometimes they only get a few veggie clippings and sometimes they get a mother-load of leftover rice. This kind of unpredictable rewarding makes the call even more effective. Think gambling!

Chickens are smart. My kids try the kiss-kiss call and it doesn't work. They only come when I call them, because they know I'm the one with the food . . . most of the time.

So get your baby voice ready and some yummy treats, and give it a go!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

4 ways to get showered with writing inspiration

Writing is hard. There, I said it. I'm sorry. I know everyone out there who hasn't tried it thinks us writers just stay at home eating bonbons all day, typing away merrily in our jammies. Okay so maybe the jammie part is fairly correct (we've got to at least have some perks to the job right?) And if I knew what a bonbon was I'd probably be eating it because writing brings out all the food cravings. And even though I love writing and wouldn't want to do anything else it's not always merry. It's more like a battle.
The thing I struggle the most with is just starting. There are always a million different excuses of other things to do, things that don't require me to "bleed", as Red Smith put it, "There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein."

For example, I really had to push myself to write this post. In fact I was pretty much ready to just throw this whole blogging business out the window. Keeping a blog is like writing a "talk" every week because I choose to. It's insanity. And yet, I persevere.


Because I've learned something! It's a secret! Are you ready?

Drumroll please . . . .

Inspiration has come to me more stronger and more readily since I've started writing this blog. And there are two reasons I can think of for that. #1: God seems more willing to give it to me, I think because he knows I'm listening and because I'm willing to share it with others. #2: My mind is more open and looking for it. It's like the classic Barney song, "Standing outside with my mouth open wide, Ah, ah, ah, ah , ah , ah , ah , ah, ah, ah." For inspiration to come we have to be like good 'ol Barney. We have to go outside an open our mouth, ready to receive the showers of inspiration.

Plus the truth is, even though I'm sharing things with others, I'm definitely the one getting the most out of all this writing. So I could lie and say I'm doing this for you, dear reader, and maybe it even started out that way but the truth is I'm going to greedily take all this inspiration and keep on rolling with it. If others benefit because of it then even better!

But standing outside with our mouths open wide is not always easy, so here are some ways (in addition to keeping a blog) that I've discovered to help catch those raindrops of inspiration:

1. Morning Pages (Journaling):
I've always been a journaler. I have a whole shelf of notebooks filled with years of teenage angst. Super entertaining stuff. But it wasn't until I read Julie Cameron's book, The Artist Way, that I discovered the true power of journaling.

 You should totally check out her book, but the basic gist of what she teaches with the Morning Pages is to get a notebook and every morning to wake up, and before anything else, take a pen to paper and write down--whatever! It can be venting, remembering, rambling . . . absolutely whatever you want for about 3 pages. This helps any inspiration I receive to stick, because if I don't acknowledge it, ponder it and write it down, I feel like it just flies in one ear and out the other.

This stands for butt in chair hands on keyboard. Something I've learned about writing is to keep going, even when inspiration isn't hitting me across the head. When I show up, and plug through the trudge, inspiration usually catches up and takes over. It's not always there to hold my hand and drag me down to the water and shove me in. Usually I'm the one who has to take that leap but then it jumps in after me and buoys me up and lights the way.

3. Take an actual shower:
Isn't that where all the best inspiration comes? Ever wonder why that is? I think one of the reasons is because we aren't distracted by other things, such as . . . Facebook. I don't even sit on the toilet without my phone in my hand, providing me with some kind of mindless distraction. So maybe the key is to pocket that phone and take more time to let our minds open to the inspiration that's waiting to rain down on us.

4. Set a daily goal:
This can either be a timed goal or a content goal. The good thing about setting a content goal such as writing 500 words a day is that you are probably going to train yourself to write faster and be more focused during your writing time. I usually set myself time goals, and I find myself getting distracted and coming up with excuses to take breaks for different things like . . . bonbons! (Or researching things such as . . . what the heck is a bonbon?)

Oh look! Apparently it's a french chocolate truffles. Yum! Yes, I'll take some of those please. You can buy some for you (or for me) here.