Thursday, May 29, 2008

Today's Big Treat

Yesterday, I heard a repeated chirping sound and noticed a small bird on the ground near the windows. I was surprised that it didn't fly away when I approached the window to look at it. So, today, I wasn't as shocked when my hubby said that my MS had caught a bird in his butterfly net.

The first picture is actually the last picture I took. He had caught the bird, with daddy's supervision, and admired it in the net for a time. Then, we told him to let it go near where they had found it. Of course, he couldn't help but head back there twenty minutes later to see if it was still there. He found it again and we followed it over to these low branches of trees, where I managed to get a nice close-up shot.

Both the little boys were thrilled with this adventure. YS wanted to reach in the net and touch it. ES couldn't believe that MS had caught a bird in his net. We explained that it was probably a baby bird that had fallen out of the nest before fully learning to fly. I'm sure the trauma my sons inflicted with their curiosity has encouraged this little bird to get the hang of flying.

Just another reason we consider this home to be a paradise for our boys.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Fun Little Site

Just wanted to mention a fun little site to visit. My niece Amelia, has a friend named Amber Dugan, who is fighting cancer. I don't know her personally, but from everything I have read, I can tell she is a creative, determined, up-beat kind of girl. She has her own website at I love the music she has chosen to go with the different pages (especially the Colbie Calliett song on the Children's Inn page). She used to have a picture of Amelia on her friends page, but nothing came up this time. I know she is working on updating the whole thing right now. I'm sure Amber would love more visitors (and I think she is trying to earn a rainbow on her site by gaining more visitors), so take a moment and check out her site. Plus say a little prayer for her as she battles this monster!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Spectacular Summer Start

My ES finished out the school year at the end of last week. Having been a teacher, I tend to view summer the same way students do. I say, "Yippee, let the good times roll!" Although, I'm not generally a list-maker, I've always made lists of things I'd like to do and places I'd like to go during my summers. So, I promptly had my ES make up a list (he thought it was as bad as homework) of all the things he would like to do or accomplish this summer (not that we will, necessarily, get to all of them). I also asked him to think up at least one thing he could do for each member in this family over the summer.

Then, last night, I headed to Testosterhome's site and saw that she is making up a summer reading list for her sons. Every year, I've been able to cajole my ES into joining the library summer reading program. Last year, I was thrilled to learn that summer readers could earn a ticket to Indiana Beach (one of ES's favorite amusement parks in this area, and one of my favorite parks because you can actually pay a small walk-on fee and accompany your family without riding any rides - very helpful the two summers when I was pregnant recently). I'm hoping they will offer that again, because that is REAL INCENTIVE in my son's eyes (especially since Indiana Beach is introducing a new roller coaster this summer).

So far, we have had a great start to our summer. We were blessed with a visit from the paternal grandparents for the Memorial Day weekend and my boys soaked up their love and attention. My hubby and I, actually headed out for dinner alone in celebration of my birthday (we can't even remember the last time we had that option) and found a Mexican restaurant where the food was fantastic. We had been big fans of Eduardo's back in DeKalb, IL, so it was nice to find somewhat of an equivalent here.

Before they returned home, my mother-in-law gave my two older sons money for a Blizzard at Dairy Queen, so I wasn't too surprised when they approached me at breakfast this morning to ask if we could go to Dairy Queen today. I said, "Alas, I have other plans for you. But first we must get this place straightened up, so we can head out." I told my ES the plans (which involved using some Chuck-E-Cheese birthday tokens he had received on-line back in the beginning of May - I was worried they might expire before we got a chance to use them) and he immediately kicked into action.

My MS was putzing all the way. Finally, he only had one task left (putting all the costumes back in the two costume boxes, because he had strewn them all over my room, thank you very much!), but he just wouldn't move. So, I put the lunches, birthday coupon and report card in the van, loaded the other boys and said, "I guess you don't want to go to CEC." It was as if I had lit a stick of dynamite. He will never again be able to tell me that he cannot pick up his room! He did the job in record time!

We had a wonderful time (despite the fact that I struggled a bit trying to keep up with a 3 yr. old and 1 yr. old who both want to wander off in opposite directions) and didn't spend a cent. I should add that we still had a cup of tokens left over from our last visit, but the extra 35 free tokens were a help! My ES saves his tickets for big purchases (I mean the ones which require 10,000 tickets) but my MS loves to get just a little something. He was quite happy leaving with a small spider and a small lizard.

We ate lunch in the van, went grocery shopping and headed home for naps. ES had a friend over for a few hours during nap-time and I enjoyed the quiet. Then, we all headed outside to play and wait for Daddy to return home from work. The boys love to see who can be the first one to spot Daddy's black car approaching.

Finally, a black car loomed. However, our neighbors, who live in a beautiful home across the street and have horses in their pasture, also have a black car. So, the boys groaned when the car turned into their driveway instead of ours. Our neighbor got out of the car and went to get her mail. Then, she began heading our way.

What a delightful visit we had. She apologized profusely for not coming over to introduce herself sooner (especially when she discovered that ES had been through two school years here) but I thought she shouldn't feel badly at all about it. They have grown children and go to and from work. Her husband had come over to help us plow out the driveway at the first horrendous snow-fall and that was a god-send because we didn't have sufficient tools to plow out the snow and ice then.

I have to say, I felt immediately comfortable with her. She was so easy to talk to and I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation. It was fun to discover she has a son who lives in London (yes, you know how that makes me feel, people!). I introduced her to my boys, who were all on the trampoline at that moment. My ES was polite and my MS was desperate to tell her everything about us, but my YS merely continued to play and allowed Mom a chance to have a little visit with a neighbor (something I will never take lightly again - having lived in the country!). When my hubby came home, he chatted with her as well. I am so glad she came over. It really brightened my day (a good one, already) and made for a spectacular start to our summer!

A tiny tinge of guilt - I could have easily gone over and introduced myself to her one day, as well, but didn't! Perhaps, I will make her a batch of my famous (o.k., it is only famous in DeKalb, IL) banana-chocolate-chip bread, to let her know how much I enjoyed meeting her!

Monday, May 26, 2008

How Cool is This?!

When my niece, Amelia, completed her treatments for leukemia, her family decided to hold not one celebration, but two big celebrations in her honor. One was held in May in their hometown of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and one will be held in June in Janesville, Wisconsin, the town where my brother and sister-in-law met and married. From the sounds of things on Amelia's caringbridge site, they had a blast at the first one.

I had been thinking that I would like to find some thing or some way to honor Amelia as we attend this celebration in Janesville. Michelle Kemper Brownlow saved the day! She offered a 24 hour window of time when you could order one of her hand-crafted namesakes. I just happened to visit her blog at the right moment and got my order in. The really neat thing about her offer is that 1/2 of the proceeds go to pediatric cancer. So, not only does this gift for Amelia honor her, but it also gives back to others who are fighting the pediatric cancer battle.

A while back, I received the namesake in the mail. It is perfect. The colors and princess theme fit Amelia to a T! Plus, Michelle added the scripture reference which their family has claimed throughout Amelia's leukemia battle. It might be the most special gift I've ever given. I took a few photos on my digital, but kept putting off posting it on my blog (I'm not that great of a photographer). We have been unable to access AOL for a while (I wish I could blame Comcast like Cardiogirl, but I can't!), so I haven't been logging on as often.

Imagine my surprise, when I logged on last night to find a picture of Amelia's namesake (Michelle decided to tackle it first, since it was needed by a June date as a gift) on Michelle's blog. Plus, she did a video explaining her passion behind this project and talked briefly about Amelia's namesake. Once she completes the first 14 orders, she will do another brief window of ordering.

Michelle also mentions her new site, called 4-the-kids, which is really worth checking out. If you visit this site, you can also see Amelia's namesake in the section about meeting the artists. Be sure to check out the stories of some of the cancer warriors (like Coleman - who is home and doing well after his stem cell transplant, despite some concerns over the spot in the scan still showing). And, if you want to do something to help fight pediatric cancer, without having to purchase a gift or spend a dime, please sign the petition at If my link doesn't work, there is a link on the 4-the-kids site, too. They are hoping for a million signatures. Last I had heard, they had only secured 4,000. Please take a moment and sign the petition.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Future Victorian Cruise Request

Today is Queen Victoria's birthday! Since she was born on May 24th, 1819, in exactly 11 years, people will be celebrating her 200th birthday (o.k., not really, since she's DEAD! - but the 200th anniversary of her birthday). I am putting in my request now for something I would love to receive 11 years hence.

How about we plan to take a cruise on the Queen Victoria in May of 2019? I'm assuming this departs from England (so I guess it will include another trip to England, oh goodie!). The promotional web-site (which I'm too lazy to figure out how to link to at the moment) boasts of quite a few amenities. There is a theatre which I am sure I would want to attend. I wouldn't need the pub or the champagne bar, since I'm a teetotaler (very Victorian of me, don't you think!) Let's see, this will be 11 years hence, so I will definitely need the fitness center and pool (for lap swimming), but we'll see if I still have energy and stamina for that then. Knowing me, I will probably devote all of my time to the 6,000 book, 2-story library (maybe, it will be a 7,000 book library by then) and the Internet centre (will I still be blogging then??).

I'm sure we couldn't afford this trip now (cue wry laugh), but that is OK because the QV (I'm assuming it is called that since the Queen Elizabeth vessel is called the QE or QEII - you can tell I only know that from watching Keeping Up Appearances) offers NO BABYSITTING! Can you believe it? You want a nice luxury cruise, but there is no one to keep an eye on your spry little ones. They do, however, offer supervised youth programs and by 2019, ES will be on his own, MS will be 14 and YS will be 12. No problem, right?

Plus, the site I saw offered teacher's rates (I didn't really check out the discount since I'm not presently teaching and there's really no point in looking)! Perhaps, I will be back to teaching by then! Perhaps I will have published several novels by then and can afford to treat myself. Perhaps instead of taking my family, I will go with my cousin, Karin! That sounds like a treat! Perhaps I will set aside my birthday checks from now until then and see how much money has accrued. Hopefully, nobody will be celebrating the anniversary of my birthday then!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Book Review: Shopaholic Ties the Knot

I think with each Shopaholic book I read, I seem to enjoy them more! This was my favorite one yet. I have come to love Becky Bloomwood (now Brandon) and almost feel as if I know her as a real person. That is the mark of a truly good author, when readers begin to think about the characters as if they were real. And when I listened to the very last bit in the van this afternoon (on a quick KFC run), I was actually fighting jealousy over this fictional character's upcoming plans!

I chose to secure Shopaholic Ties the Knot on audiobooks at the library, even though I purchased a copy of this book last summer at a garage sale (along with three other Sophie Kinsella books). I really enjoy listening to the narrator. I am amazed at how well she reverts back and forth between British and American accents throughout this book. I know that if I ever read one of the Shopaholic books myself, I will probably hear the narrator's voice in my head.

This particular novel follows Becky Bloomwood on her journey from engagement to her wedding day. Although it only covers about a six or seven month span of time, it is a remarkably rocky journey full of typical Becky Bloomwood blunders. Her mother wishes to play an active role in planning a wedding to be held in her hometown with a reception in her own backyard (or garden, as they would call it). Her fiance's American mother then offers to finance an elaborate wedding at the Plaza Hotel. She initially refuses, knowing it would kill her mother, but she finds herself gazing at the Plaza layout and envisioning the grandiosity and she decides to postpone making a decision about which wedding she will go with.

I actually thought I had the solution figured out because there is a minor character from the previous books who shows up again. But all my suppositions were wrong. Sophie Kinsella's ending was fabulous. Truly brilliant! And I think with this novel, Kinsella's characters move beyond caricatures and develop more depth. I will happily check to see if our library has the next in the series on audiobooks. If not, I'll read it with a British accent in my head (when I returned home after living in London for 7 months, I did notice a touch of an accent, but it faded quite quickly).

I'd love to have a conversation with Sarah, from, since she is a Brit who has moved to a remote area in Oklahoma. I have loved viewing her blog over the past several weeks. If you want to learn fun British expressions, via her "Brit-Word-of-the-Day" or view her incredible collection of handbags (one featured each day, I think) or hear what a Brit might miss while living in the US or what she thinks we do better (believe it or not - drive-through banking was her recent rave), you must pop-round to her little roundabout!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What a Day This Has Been!

I know, if you are a "Brigadoon" fan, you're expecting me to continue ... "What a rare mood I'm in, why it's almost like falling ..." O.K., not that kind of mood! Thankfully, for MS's sake, I'm already in love with him!

Let's see. After being put to bed at 8:30, MS was still up and coming out and getting in trouble clear until 10:30. So, I wasn't really ready for my morning to begin at 7, but that is when YS has been getting up lately (even though he didn't fall asleep until 9:30 - groan). From the moment my MS came out of his room at 8 this morning, it has been a VERY LONG DAY!

While lying on the floor near the boys, MS kicked me in the bosom. OUCH! If ES had been home, I'm sure he would have offered to kick MS where he might learn how painful such a kick can be. Thankfully, he was at school (but only through tomorrow, then we throw him back into the mix).

Then, while trying to give YS a cuddle, MS grabbed at us in jealousy and managed to produce a gaping scratch on my left cheek, which looks as if I was knifed! Later this morning, I noticed a similar scratch on YS's leg (I'm going to have to cut that boy's fingernails before it looks like we've all wrestled a cougar).

Our microwave finally died on us (my husband has had that dinosaur for twenty-some years - it was a Hotpoint - not even a big name-brand - and his grandma bought it for him in K-mart when was in college) yesterday. So, this morning I had the privilege of trying to find a new one with the two little boys in tow (and one trying to make the transition from two naps to one afternoon nap). There was the usual irritability while shopping, but MS pulled it up a notch by throwing a fit in one store, where he saw something Spiderman-related, and expected me to buy it. It is always fun to listen to his whines, followed by the glare and the hostile expression, "You, MOM YOU!!!"

We came home without success and the boys wanted chicken-and-stars soup for lunch. Mid-way through, MS felt the call of nature and had to leave the table. So, I ended up putting YS down for his nap and waiting for MS to finish, so I could change him and have him finish his lunch and head for his nap. I had cleared everything away but MS's bowl and was bored waiting, so I began to read my Wheaton Alumni magazine.

Alas, I got too absorbed! I looked up to see a chocolate-mustached mouth. He was grinning and trying to wipe his hands and mouth with the dish rag. I asked where the marks on his mouth came from (thinking, "that little scamp probably ate the mini-Snickers bar that hubby had left on the middle of the table yesterday!"). He replied sweetly, "Chocolate. I didn't finish my soup, but I wanted some bessert! (don't ask me why, but this is one of the few words he doesn't say clearly)" I head into the dining room to see the Snickers bar still on the table.

After a confused look, he points to the special box at the end of the table. The special box my husband gave to me on Mother's Day. The special box which originally contained three small truffles and three large (2 in. x 2 x 2) peanut butter cups from the specialty chocolate shop nearby. The special box which cost hubby $14.89. (This, I know, because I gave hubby a coupon for $3 off a $15 purchase, and after he gave me the chocolates, he sheepishly handed the coupon back and said, "it only came to $14.89." I know I was looking a gift horse in the mouth, but I had to say, "surely they had a ten cent candy in the place!").

He ate my last peanut butter cup! I tried to explain to him why that was just WRONG! It would be like me taking his brand new Spiderman toy a few days after his birthday! Just WRONG!

After a nap (at least that was successful), he proceeded to bicker and whine with ES until dinner. At dinner Daddy kept reminding MS that he couldn't go outside until he finished a certain portion of his meal, so he threw his straw, full of strawberry smoothie, across the table at Daddy, scattering pink spots of liquid all over the tablecloth, chairs, Daddy's white shirt, and who-knows-where-else! Daddy handed down the sentence, "no playing outside with Daddy after dinner and he will spend the time in his room." MS proceeded to throw a fit. I tried to calm him down and remind him that his poor choices led to the punishment. He bit my cheek! He didn't get to finish dinner.

Before finishing the supper dishes, hubby came running in with YS. They had a great time outside together, but YS fell and busted open his upper lip. So, with the excitement of bloody boy, belligerent boy came out of his room.

So, I say, "What a day this has been!" And, again, put the two little guys to bed at 8:50, but MS didn't fall asleep until 10:30. Still, before I go to bed, I should say, at least he amused me with two funny expressions today!

We often tease him and say, "Now who do you think did this? I think it starts with a T and rhymes with --------, it's T---------." So, he looked at me today and said, "Who did this? It starts with an M and rhymes with bomb-a, iiiittt'sss Momma!"

Then, I was complaining about how long the dishes were taking to wash up. He suggested, "Why don't you sing the Spiderman song? It will make your work go faster!" Now, I know he got this from the t.v., because I remember hearing it on something he was watching yesterday or the day before. There is clearly a reason God makes 'em so cute when they are this age or they might not make it to another age!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Book Review: Stuck in the Middle

I'm always on the lookout for books to tempt my ES. Since the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books were such a hit for his birthday, I thought I should keep my eye out for other books with graphic appeal. So, I snatched up this new comic anthology, called Stuck in the Middle: Seventeen Comics from an UNPLEASANT Age, edited by Ariel Schrag. I was hoping it would be something I could leave lying around and find ES peeking in the cover and cracking up. He hasn't noticed it and now that I have read it, I'll put it in the bag and take it back to the library.

It is definitely an accurate portrayal of the angst of the middle-school years. I appreciated that the comics were from a variety of cartoonists. However, I didn't think it was something I would want my middle-schooler to be reading. It was full of swearing and vulgarities. I'm sure there are those who would say that the cursing is realistic for the lives of middle-schoolers today. It may be true that my son encounters cursing, but I wouldn't want to pass a book onto him that was full of it (unless the value of the story really outweighed the cursing - an example would be The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, and I'm not ready to encourage him to read that yet, either).

I think the cartoons didn't have enough value or take-away to make me want to encourage my son to read them. There was no lesson to be learned. It was merely a faithful account of the many difficulties pre-teens face when navigating the waters of middle school. For adults who wish to look back on those years and remember, it might be a fun diversion, just not something I'm going to recommend to any middle-schoolers I know.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Book Review: A Time to Keep Silent

I stumbled upon Gloria Whelan's writings in the same way I stumble upon other great writers - accidentally. I was working as an individual assistant in a 5th grade classroom with Mrs. Brown. She, as I have mentioned before, graciously allowed me to do almost all of the read-alouds for the entire school year. I have to say, if I could get a job just doing that, I'd do it, no matter how low the pay. I get such a charge out of leading kids into a good book and then building up a rapport with them based upon the story. To see their enthusiasm mount as we get deeper into a book thrills my heart.

Mrs. Brown had been on a safari in Africa the summer prior to this particular school year and she planned to share a power-point on her experience with her students. The students were busy creating their own power-points (my student and her partner presented a fun one on cheetahs) and we wanted a read-aloud which would mesh with these plans. I began searching for appropriate books to share. Around the same time, a new book showed up at our library, Gloria Whelan's Listening for Lions.

I absolutely loved the book, but didn't end up using it as a read-aloud, only because the school year schedule required a shorter length of time. We chose a book of short stories about Africa and they worked out well, but I did feel bad that I hadn't been able to share Listening for Lions with my beloved 5th graders. However, one of the other perks to my assistant position was that I often sat at the front of the classroom monitoring and reading during tests and silent work. Students would see me reading and enjoying what I read and, often, they would ask about whatever it was I was reading at the moment. I'm hoping some of them went on to read Listening for Lions.

A few weeks ago, I was at the library looking for another E.B. White book to begin with my MS (he is on an E.B. White kick at the moment - we are listening to Trumpet of the Swan). While in the W's, I noticed a few small books by Gloria Whelan. They were published by William B. Eerdman's, so I wondered if they had a religious slant.

I decided to try one entitled, A Time to Keep Silent, which was originally published in 1979. It was very similar to Whelan's other book. It featured a young, female protagonist (daughter of a pastor, instead of a missionary, this time), struggling with a familial loss and facing a move and difficult decisions. In this book, Clair Lothrop has just lost her mother and has stopped talking (again, elective mutism has always intrigued me). Her father decides to leave their affluent suburban church and begin a mission in the woods of northern Michigan. Despite her silence, she manages to make a friend in Dorrie, a local girl trying to survive life with and without her alcoholic father.

I am now anxious to go back and read more Whelan books. This one, published earlier, wasn't as finely tuned as the other, but it was an equally enjoyable read. It made me wonder about Gloria Whelan's life, now that I have read two books featuring young girls (PK's, no less), who after a move, grow through their relationship with another individual. I tried to search for a biography on-line, but only came up with information that she has worked as a social worker (among other jobs) and moved from Detroit to a cabin in the northern woods of Michigan. Thankfully, she has written many books, so I will have lots of opportunities to explore her writings.

I would heartily recommend both of these books to any young girl in grades 4-8. I would especially recommend both of them to my niece, Paige, who is a PK and has moved a time or two in her life! (Of course, I'd recommend them to my nieces who haven't moved as much, as well!) Neither of the books are overtly religious or preachy, but both of them are effective at teaching lessons about moral and ethical dilemmas, our choices and their consequences, and the value of relationships for personal and emotional growth.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

My Littlest Guy's a Keeper

My YS is starting to acquire more words these days. MS thinks it is a wonderful game to sit at the table and ask YS to say different words (some of his favorite ones to quiz on are: apple, butt, bird, love you, mama, dada, more, owned and "neeee" - which is my ES's favorite sneering sound and YS loves to imitate it). I'm often amazed at how well he communicates for a 16-month old. Even when he doesn't use words, I can figure out what he is trying to get across.

Moreover, he is becoming more firm about his wants and desires. If he wants to watch Barney he will bring me a Barney tape cover. If I fail to get up from the chair or couch immediately, he will begin to pull on me.

Tonight, my husband came into the front room and said, "YS wants to watch The Wiggles." Now, I have to admit, I am not a big fan of the Wiggles. We have never purchased, rented or borrowed one of their tapes. However, on some of the Barney tapes, they advertise Wiggles tapes in the previews. I questioned whether YS really wanted to watch The Wiggles, or merely wanted a Barney tape. My husband said, "Well, ask him?" So, I said, "Do you want to watch Barney?" He shook his head, no. I asked, "Do you want to watch The Wiggles?" and he said "Uh-huh!"

So, we pop in a tape and find the Wiggles preview. This particular one shows them singing a song which goes, "Come on and do the monkey, ooh-ooh, ahh-ahh, ooh-ooh, ahh-ahh, do the monkey ...." ad nauseum. I was sitting at the computer and began to sing along. YS came over to the computer chair and patted my arm and began making a frustrated groan. I stopped singing. His groan stopped. I looked at my husband. I started singing again and got the same reaction. I said, "Do you want me to stop singing?" and he said, "Uh-huh!" Please tell me that isn't starting already!

He also loves to read. He is constantly tugging on my pants leg and holding a book up to me. I sit down and he backs into my lap. His favorites are Barney books, Spiderman books and the Diaper David series by David Shannon (too cute, if you haven't already checked them out!). This afternoon, he wanted Daddy to read him a Barney book, but Daddy was just getting ready to eat his lunch. I offered to sit down and read it. He would have none of that. He tugged and tugged until finally my husband sat down and read him the Barney book.

Another of YS's favorite pasttimes, is playing with motorized robots, the talking Buzz Lightyear, Spiderman or Superman and pushing the buttons to the remote-control Spiderman rescue vehicle. He will spend twenty to thirty minutes sitting and playing with these (something my older two never seemed to be able to do without someone else playing along).

And finally, on my list of why my YS is a keeper. This morning he woke at 5 a.m. and would not go back to sleep. Finally, the smell alerted me that he had a blow-out diaper. Within a half hour of changing that he began to vomit. Never a whimper. A little clingy, but very reasonable. He even stood over the toilet, when I tried to explain to him that we would try to catch the pukies in the toilet the next time. I believe he would have done it, had there been a next time. Thankfully, he seemed to get over the bug quickly. He has been a gem all day (despite a morning flu bout). Now, the other two, today ... let's not go there, shall we!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Let the Games Begin

Two years ago, while we were still living in DeKalb, I received news from my in-laws that the basement of our IN home had flooded. We had many things already in storage there and my efficient, organized hubby had taken time during our spring break visit to put all of his books on the bookshelves. I left my stuff in boxes and as a result lost many precious books and games. Because the things had been in storage for a while and because my in-laws were the ones sorting through the mess, I wasn't really sure what all was lost.

In the past six months, I've been worried that two of my favorite card games had been lost in that flood. I tried finding replacements on e-bay. The first game, called "Authors" was easily found, but I didn't buy another set because the old one held such nostalgic value (it was the deck I grew up playing with my siblings and mother) and I still hoped to find it. The second game, was impossible. I had purchased it at the Tate Gallery in London over twenty years ago. I didn't remember the name, but even searching the Tate's site didn't bring any results.

This past Sunday, my MS brought me a book called Out for the Count and asked me to read it to him. My ES had always loved this book (it was one we purchased from the discard shelf at the library in DeKalb) and we used to play the game on the inside cover and we called it "The Game at the End of the Book." I had a small baggie with extra game pieces and dice, which I kept near the games. When we moved, my husband packed up all the games and toys from my ES's room and then unpacked them when he arrived at our IN house (the boys and I remained in DeKalb and then went to CBLI - how's that for getting out of the work of unpacking!).

On Sunday, in searching for the baggie with extra game pieces, I discovered a box labeled "card games." Makes sense, right? Well, there were my two beloved card games. I had always kept them separate. Thanks to my hubby's organizational skills and my searching, these two lost games are now FOUND!

The authors game has always been one of my favorites. The deck contains four books from 11 authors and the goal is to collect complete sets of authors by asking other players if they hold the cards you require. The Tate Gallery card game is similar and is called "Quartet." This deck contains four paintings from 13 artists. My ES had loved playing "Quartet" with me because some of the paintings had names and images he felt were risque. He enjoyed asking "Do you have David Hockney's Man in Shower in Beverly Hills?" or "Do you have Pablo Picasso's Reclining Nude with Necklace? "

When my ES discovered my MS and I playing the game at the end of the book, he wanted to play too! So, he joined us mid-way and when I won, he asked if we could play again without MS. I think we played three or four games that night and I won every one. OWNED! ES tried to say it was merely "Mother's Day Luck." So, he appealed for a re-match the following night. Again, I won each game played. Finally, on Wednesday night, after several games, he won. I'm glad I can beat him in some games anyway.

I have left the three games on the kitchen table (yes, clutter, I know) this whole week. We have continued to play them. I grew up playing games with my siblings, so I am looking forward to more opportunities to play games with these boys!

Before I close, ES begged me to share his recent stats from Guitar Hero (O.K., he is very good at that game, and he does love to boast about it!). So here are some photos of his 100% endeavors. He wanted me to post video, but I'll spare you that (it takes too long to upload).

What's He Watching Now? - Let's Make a Deal?

Tonight at the dinner table, my MS said, "How about this? If you let me go outside without socks or shoes on to play after supper, I'll give you a quarter?" I promise, I haven't been offering him a quarter to be quiet, although I've always joked about one day needing to do that!

I may not be well-known in our rural enclave, but my MS certainly is! Last week, when we headed off to the library, he was dressed in his Power Ranger costume. He was saving the Spiderman costume for the next day because he wanted to wear it to school (parent's day out). We had just entered and were dropping off our returns in the return slot, when a librarian poked her head around the corner and whispered to me, "Is that Spiderman??"

Apparently, the librarians had a special gift for him. They presented him with a large stuffed Spiderman 2 doll. I was so thankful that he didn't pipe up with, "I already have one like that, only the blue is lighter." Instead, he thanked them profusely and told them that he wouldn't let go of it until he got home. He explained that he would have to put it down to eat lunch, but promised to take it to nap-time.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Book Review: Notes from the Midnight Driver

I would have to say that I tend to enjoy reading books which are written by teachers. The obvious plus is that they really know what kids are like because they spend so much time around them. When I look back on my own classroom experiences, I can clearly see how this career provides endless fodder for writers.

Jordan Sonnenblick, author of Notes from the Midnight Driver, came up with the idea for this book after his eighth-grade honors English students tormented a substitute with a paper-ball fight. When he returned to the classroom, he required the students to write apology letters to their parents. What he received instead, was a fistful of excuse letters.

In Notes from the Midnight Driver, Alex Gregory, a normally decent kid gets drunk, steals his mother's car and ends up decapitating a lawn gnome. As punishment, a judge assigns community service at a local nursing home. Alex is paired with a lively, crotchety old man named Solomen Lewis. As the hours are served, an unlikely friendship develops. Alex struggles with his parents' troubled relationship and a changing relationship with his long-time best friend, Laurie.

This is an excellent book to recommend for pre-teens and teens because the characters were believable and achieved realistic growth. Both the adult and teen characters learn lessons. It is a splendid tale of friendship and forgiveness, with a bit of yiddish, music and romance thrown into the mix.

I do wish the author had been more furtive with some of the details. I felt like I figured out an aspect of the plot too early. And, I think there could have been stronger character development in the relationship between Alex and Laurie. Still, I look forward to reading Sonnenblick's first book, entitled Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie, and other future books he may write.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

100th Post - 100 Authors I Recommend

I didn't have the energy to contemplate a "100 Things About Me" post, so instead, I will give you a list of 100 authors I have read and would recommend. I'm sure I will look back and wonder at someone I obviously neglected to include. I'm sure that this list will continue to grow as the years go by. I have broken them down into two categories: authors of books for adults and authors of books for children. If I have only read one outstanding book by the author, I have added that title - they may have written more, but I've only read the one.

Here are the authors of books for adults:

  1. Mitch Albom
  2. Jeffrey Archer (I've only read his short stories)
  3. Maeve Binchy
  4. Dr. Paul Brand
  5. Emily Bronte
  6. Bill Bryson
  7. Pearl S. Buck
  8. Frederick Buechner
  9. G.K. Chesterton
  10. Ted Dekker
  11. Christopher de Vinck
  12. Charles Dickens
  13. Annie Dillard
  14. Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  15. Theodore Dreiser
  16. Daphne DuMaurier
  17. Kim Edwards (The Memory Keeper's Daughter)
  18. T.S. Eliot
  19. Elisabeth Elliot
  20. Leif Enger (Peace Like a River)
  21. Joseph F. Girzone
  22. John Grisham
  23. Mark Haddon (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime)
  24. Tim Hansel
  25. Thomas Hardy
  26. Torey Hayden
  27. Nick Hornby
  28. Khaled Housseni
  29. Victor Hugo
  30. Karen Kingsbury
  31. Sophie Kinsella
  32. Anne Lamott
  33. C.S. Lewis
  34. Brendan Manning
  35. Catherine Marshall
  36. James Michener
  37. Margaret Mitchell (Gone With the Wind)
  38. Frank Peretti
  39. Jodi Picoult
  40. Edgar Allen Poe
  41. Francine Rivers
  42. Anita Shreve
  43. Nicholas Sparks
  44. Alexander McCall Smith
  45. John Steinbeck
  46. J.R.R. Tolkien
  47. A.W. Tozer
  48. William Trevor (The Story of Lucy Gault)
  49. Mark Twain
  50. Edith Wharton
  51. Philip Yancy

Here are the authors of books for children:

  1. Nicholas Allen (A Pig's Book of Manners)
  2. Tedd Arnold
  3. Natalie Babbitt (Tuck Everlasting)
  4. Blue Balliett
  5. Philip Beard (Dear Zoe)
  6. Judy Blume
  7. John Boyne (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas)
  8. Betsy Byars
  9. Frances Hodgson Burnett
  10. Gus Clarke
  11. Beverly Cleary
  12. Andrew Clements
  13. Roald Dahl
  14. Kate DiCamillo
  15. John R. Erickson
  16. Eleanor Estes (The Hundred Dresses)
  17. John D. Fitzgerald
  18. Louise Fitzhugh
  19. Jean Craighead George (My Side of the Mountain)
  20. Deborah Guarino (Is Your Mama a Llama?)
  21. Carl Hiaasen
  22. Jeff Kinney
  23. Kate Klise
  24. Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird)
  25. Madeleine L'Engle
  26. Astrid Lindgren
  27. Lois Lowery
  28. Mercer Mayer
  29. Katherine Paterson
  30. Richard Peck
  31. H.A. Rey
  32. Cynthia Rylant
  33. J.K. Rowling
  34. Louis Sachar
  35. Graham Salisbury
  36. Dr. Seuss
  37. David Shannon
  38. Shel Silverstein
  39. Donald Sobol
  40. Eileen Spinelli
  41. Chris Van Allsburg
  42. Wendelin Van Draanen
  43. Bernard Waber
  44. Michael P. Waite (The Building Christian Character Series)
  45. Gloria Whelan (Listening for Lions)
  46. E.B. White
  47. Laura Ingalls Wilder
  48. Debbie Wiles
  49. Gene Zion
One of the most gratifying aspects to this little exercise was the response of my ES. I began by perusing all the books on my bookshelves and then looked at the books on ES, MS and YS's shelves. When I was looking over ES's books, I told him what I was doing and he asked if I was putting my name on the list. I explained that I don't have a book published yet. He then mentioned the title of one of my children's picture books and also gave the plot-line to one of my young adult novels. He ACTUALLY knows and remembers what I have written, and HE considers me an AUTHOR!

I do still have hope for him. He received two books by Jeff Kinney for his birthday from his younger siblings. At first, he felt that they were books and began to grumble. But, when he opened them, he was actually thrilled! Yah for good books and double yah for good authors!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Look for Monday's Post

I am so glad that Blogger now allows you to schedule your posts. However, I still need to figure this new feature out. I have been trying since Monday to upload a video of the boys on the go-kart. I was finally able to successfully complete it, but couldn't figure out how to schedule it to post as of today (Thur. May 8th), so please check back to the Monday, May 5th post and watch a brief video of my ES and MS riding the go-kart (plus two photos of the little guys).

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

For Every Life, God Has a Purpose!

When I was three, a medical miracle occurred in my life (I don't have time to share that story now, but will at some point). As a small child, I would stand up in church and give my testimony of that miracle. It usually included all the salient points my parents had taught me. It was very moving. From an early age, I had a story to tell and I wanted to tell it.

The key lesson I came away with, all those years ago, was that God has a purpose for every life and in particular, God had a purpose in allowing my life to continue instead of ending on that fateful day when it, by all means, could have. In the beginning, it was incredibly inspiring. God wanted me to continue living. God had something important He wanted me to do, so He left me here to do it.

But, I have to admit, as the years have passed, this story hasn't always felt inspirational. Sometimes that purpose has felt like an expectation unfulfilled. I have struggled with feelings of inadequacy. I have wondered, "Am I accomplishing all that God desired when He chose to give me a second shot at my life?" I have been prone to line my life up against others and ask whether my life bears enough meaning.

Yet, in the back of my mind, I do fully believe that God has a purpose for my life and for every life that He brings into being. As I have said before, if one of my children had been born with some physical or mental disability, I would have still considered their life to be precious and valuable. I would have cherished their existence and would have, doubtless, grown and learned much through their very being and my role as a mother to that child.

Tonight, while visiting Dace's blog I stumbled upon a YouTube video of a man born with no arms or legs. He has inspired many people with his story. He is further evidence that God has a purpose for every life and that purpose isn't really dependent upon circumstances changing or improving. The YouTube video of Nick Vujicic is six minutes long. If you would rather view a shorter piece, I found an ABC news video which is only two minutes long (I'm sorry I didn't get to see the 20/20 piece back in March). Take your pick, but take a look, and never doubt that God has a plan and a purpose for your life. The tricky part is, sometimes, finding it.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Book Review: Good Night, Sleep Tight

The book, Good Night, Sleep Tight: The Sleep Lady's Gentle Guide to Helping Your Child Go to Sleep, Stay Asleep, and Wake Up Happy, by Kim West, with Joanne Kenen, came out in 2006. Ten years after I first needed this book.

In 1996, I gave birth to my first son and had a very bumpy transition into motherhood. To begin with, he was three weeks late. I had made arrangements to begin my maternity leave from my teaching job one week prior to his due date. That month drove me insane! When he finally arrived via c-section, after two attempts to induce, a breaking of my water, a dose of pitocin, and declining heart tones with every contraction, we discovered that he was fisting the umbilical cord with each contraction. Let me assure you, this is a very appropriate picture of his entry into the world.

We were separated for the first two hours after the birth, and when we met I fell into that delirious love that new mothers experience when your world has been rocked in a way that you never felt possible. Those delirious moments didn't last long enough. They were followed quickly by the realization that, despite years of helping take care of my younger siblings and babysitting loads of other children, I was completely clueless about caring for an infant.

Breastfeeding was the first aspect of care that made me feel like a drowning woman. Try as we might, in the hospital, we couldn't get that boy to latch on. The lactation consultant ended up leaving me in tears, because she went into a personal tirade against my decision to have my little boy circumcised. Then, a nurse offered to help and provided me with a "nipple shield." (If you are an expectant mother - please don't ever take this HELP!) He seemed to finally be getting something, but he refused to latch on without the nipple shield.

The first night at home in our apartment was equally disastrous. Between my husband, my mother-in-law (who had birthed four kids, mind you) and myself, none of us could get this baby to quiet. He would go to sleep and the minute we put him down he would scream. My mother-in-law suggested that we feed him some water. The baby actually took water from an egg-cup that first night.

The first three nights were so similar that finally, my mother-in-law drove us back to the hospital to ask if something was wrong with the little guy. Ah, the condescension you receive. "You have a baby. Babies cry!"

At last, my sister-in-law, Miriam, offered to help. She had been offered the infamous nipple shield as well and her own sister had helped wean her first child from the offensive item! One problem. We lived in IL and she lived in MN. So, my parents came and drove me and the baby to MN (I think it was five days after my c-section - I know for a fact, that it was the bumpiest ride I have ever experienced in my life! and I'm sure there was nothing wrong with my parent's vehicular suspension). Miriam worked miracles and he finally fed properly.

However, at three months in, while on vacation in the home we now reside in, he decided to stop breastfeeding cold-turkey. We drove four hours back to IL to see his doctor and were informed that he had double ear infections and was probably allergic to milk. (I decided to test this theory, because I thought soy formula was more expensive than regular and couldn't they be wrong? NO, after one milk-based bottle, he projectile vomited for five hours - then, I was convinced.)

He persisted with constant ear infections until we had tubes put in when he was 11 months old. It was amazing. Suddenly, he was a completely different baby. Let me just say that I struggled with postpartum depression, we were all severely sleep-deprived and the bonding experience wasn't as smooth as it should have been.

Still, even with tubes, my ES was never a good sleeper. He routinely woke in the night clear up until the time he was five or six years old. When he attended sleepovers, I would have to alert the parents to please force him to go to bed because he literally is capable of staying up all night long. In fact, I began to believe that this child merely required less sleep than the average kid (I knew that my own father would often head to bed at midnight and wake around four or five in the morning to get in some uninterrupted work at the church office and he functioned fine on four or five hours).

According to Kim West, this is just not true. Every child requires a regular amount of sleep, but the theory "sleep begets sleep" also applies on the flip-side, "loss of sleep begets further loss of sleep." This book would have been so helpful back then. As I read, I saw sleep crutch after sleep crutch that I employed with my first son.

Here is a small list of things I did wrong with my first child. I jumped at every cry because we lived in a small apartment. We decided that he was merely a "motion baby" and so we employed motion to get him to sleep constantly. We would swing him in his infant car seat until he fell asleep and then set the seat down ever so gingerly, for fear of waking him. I would drive around in the middle of the night because he was often awake then and screaming. He loved these drives. He would stare out the window at the shadows of lights and houses. He rarely went to sleep as a result of these drives. He rarely slept - PERIOD. At age 2, I would still rock and then sing him to sleep. Clear through age five, I would lie down next to him until he fell asleep (the whole while resenting how much time it took to get him down).

When my second son arrived, I swore up and down that I would not breed another baby like the first. I would not jump at every cry. I would not rock and sing him to sleep. I would put him down in a wakeful state and let him teach himself how to fall asleep. He did just that. He was a wonderful sleeper. When I began to wean him from the night-time feeds, I had to practically hold down my husband to keep him from going in and rescuing the boy with a bottle. I would put the gate down and lie my whole body across his body and whisper, "Baby go sleep, baby go night-night," over and over again. Then, I would leave and return at longer intervals until he returned to sleep. This only took a week and he has always been a fabulous sleeper ... until December of 2007. (Although, he really began to have occasional problems back in summer of 2007 when we moved him to a twin bed - this was when he began to sleep-walk, sometimes waking us, sometimes going back to sleep on a couch or chair.)

My third son was somewhere in the middle. He wasn't a fabulous sleeper like MS, but never as difficult as ES. He, too, was sleeping through the night. I have spent hours trying to determine what happened in December to start our cycle of endless night awakenings.

Here are some of my thoughts: They both had an illness where I jumped up quickly to make sure they were fine. I began telling my MS stories from my head. These are always Spiderman stories and he will often dictate what crisis or event he wants it to be about. I think, after their illness, I was sleep-deprived and I began to lie down with my MS at nap-time to nap with my MS. This was partly due to my exhaustion, but also due to the fact that MS seemed to be fighting naps and the only way I could get him to nap was if I stayed in the room, rocking in the chair and insisting that he lie still and quiet. At some point, I began lying next to him for naps and have continued doing that every day when I want him to nap.

The "Sleep Lady" is right in her theory that sleep-deprivation makes it more difficult to sleep well. I have been experiencing this just as much as the little boys have been experiencing it. I will head to bed exhausted and still find it difficult to fall off to sleep. Yet, my whole morning is compromised because of my loss of sleep in the nights.

So, I have read her informative book - a book I would certainly recommend to anyone who is having trouble with their child's sleep patterns and who is loathe to let them merely cry endlessly. She emphasizes the importance of routines, encourages a "lovey" (which my YS has!) and incorporates a "sleep shuffle" (moving yourself further and further away from the child over a period of days until they are going off to sleep and staying asleep through the night without your assistance and without the endless, unproductive sleep crutches we often turn to).

I will try to make a log of our sleep habits this week and begin using her techniques next week. I will try to alter some of my own bad habits as well (one of which is, staying up too late blogging, she says while staying up too late blogging). I have fully changed my tune with my ES and have informed him that contrary to my previous opinions, he does NOT require less sleep than average and he will have to improve his sleep habits as well (he is forever trying to convince us that no other parents in the world require their 12 yr. olds to go to bed by 9 on a school night and 10-10:30 on a weekend). I have informed MS and YS that if they are not in their beds by 8:30, there will be no "story from mommy's head." We'll try to work our way back to 8 (I have no hope for the 7 p.m., she recommends and I also know this will all be thrown off again when we head to CBLI).

I highly recommend the book, even though it did make me feel like a horrible loser of a parent because I noticed all the myriad of things I have done and am still doing wrong when it comes to training my children in their sleep habits. I sincerely hope that we can get this ship back on course and "leap into dreamland" more effectively, as Bear-in-the-Big-Blue-House says (yes, I have even resorted to searching for sleep-encouraging videos at the library) I'll keep you posted. Until then, good night, and sleep tight!

Monday, May 5, 2008

A Boy's Paradise

Our home truly is a boys' paradise. I keep encouraging friends to visit, but we have only had a few. Perhaps a quick view of fun on the go-kart will entice some of our friends to visit this summer.

My husband tells me that the last time I headed out for the evening, they all went out and rode the go-kart. He even let my ES take the YS out. Boy, is that brave! I was pregnant when ES saw the go-kart at a garage sale and convinced my husband to pay 2/3 of the price. I have to admit, there were times when I really wanted to drive it, but I waited until the spring after YS was born. It is terribly bumpy, so I would have been foolish to attempt it during the pregnancy.

Here are two recent photos of the little guys, too. I am so thrilled that the weather has allowed us to get out more now. I find the winters so long, trapped inside with two little stir-crazy boys. Of course, being outside is a bit stressful because the baby is at that curious age where you have to watch him every moment to make sure he is not eating bugs, rocks, dirt or sand. He also noticed MS walking on the stone wall which surrounds our driveway on one side. So, last week, when I wasn't paying close enough attention, he managed to toddle to the middle of the wall and then fell over the side. I was horrified, but he seemed to be o.k. after the tears subsided.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Good Time Was Had by ALL!

I am very thankful for the blogging community. When I logged on Friday morning and began to read several of the encouraging comments, it really helped me to step back and not feel quite so much panic. I have to admit, Thursday evening, I couldn't even get to sleep. I have been reading another Shopaholic book (well, listening, actually), and I was being Becky Bloomwood all over the place (if you've never read one, she goes off on the most deluded scenarios in her mind).

I imagined myself driving to the school Friday morning to address each of the 6th grade homerooms and explain that the party was not going to happen. I imagined 100 kids storming our house and lawn and me, calling 9-1-1 in the background, hoping the police could contain the crowds of middle-school students expecting a romping good time. I imagined my husband losing it and going ballistic on my son for assuming he could pass out an undetermined number of invitations. I imagined injuries.

Your comments really made me step back and see this for the opportunity that it was. I knew that I would have responded differently if the same scenario had played out back in IL. For one thing, I worked in my son's school, so I knew almost every kid in his grade level. It wouldn't have been quite so daunting to contemplate. But, then, I began to think about what people were saying about looking at it as a chance to meet his friends.

My husband had the day off work on Friday, so he was able to help us get things prepared. We looked at each other and laughed when it began to rain around noon. While the little boys napped, my husband moved the cars out of our garage and cleaned it. He brought out chairs and a table and a foosball table. He laid down plastic to cover the carpeting in the room off the garage. I frosted the cake and brought up the cooler.

The bag of ice, purchased at Walmart, made me laugh. The bag read, "Healthier than Home-made!" O.K., how in the world is store-bought ice healthier than home-made ice?? Both are made with H2O!

I was thankful that my ES was gracious enough to allow my MS to wear his Spiderman suit (something I had warned MS would not be allowed if ES was uncomfortable with that). The guests began arriving at 5:20, and the total count only reached 13. They were having a great time, despite the wet ground. They jumped on the trampoline, rode skateboards and rollerblades, and talked on their cell phones. My two little ones were thrilled to have all those bigger kids around. MS talked to everyone, and settled on one girl, whom he dubbed "B----'s girlfriend," but ended up calling his own girlfriend.

I don't think my ES appreciated my desire to meet and get to know all of his friends. He kept asking, "Are you going to hang out here the whole time?" I merely said I was keeping an eye on the little guys while they played and they would go in to eat dinner soon. But, I did stay out when they went in for dinner. Finally, my ES decided to lead everyone on a walk in the woods.

I managed to get a bite and put candles on the cake, before two girls returned with an injury. Apparently, one girl was up on someone's shoulders and fell off, losing her shoe and landing on a stick. The cut wasn't too bad. We washed it and bandaged it and by then, two boys had returned to check on the girls. They hashed this plan to trick the others and say that the injured girl had to head to the hospital. The girls hid under the quarter-pipe and the boys broke the story.

By the time the larger group returned, it had started to pour. The other kids bought the story (unbelievably) and while a bunch were jumping on the trampoline, in the rain, the two girls snuck into the house. When I took out the cake, the girls headed out the front door and back into the garage, telling everyone that the mom had dropped them off.

Here is a photo of my ES blowing out his candles (MS actually blew them out the minute I had them lit, so I had to explain the process and relight them).

Then, we got a nice group shot.

My husband put the little boys to bed and I hung out talking with the kids. It was nice to get to know some of them whom I have corresponded with through instant messaging when they were trying to connect with my son before. They did break a few things (a squirt gun, the little boys' sand table and a skateboard) - the boys were definitely being hard on things - but I was pleased that they didn't break the trampoline (despite a repeated trend of crowding everyone on it after I had asked them to keep it to 5 at a time).

By 10 p.m., all the other kids had been picked-up and the sleepover began. It was a good thing that I was on party patrol and my husband took parenting patrol. He was quite exasperated by the time we were all in for the night. The little boys don't go down easily and had given him a hard time.

Then, he noticed that his wedding ring was missing. You know how I feel about him removing his wedding ring when he takes out his wallet and cell phone. He had placed them on a table in the room off the garage. I headed to the little boys' room to find MS still awake. Thankfully, our hunch was correct. MS had taken the ring off the table and put it in his Batman slipper. Praise God, it was still there! Perhaps now, my hubby will take better care of it? I'm not really counting on it, though.

Even with the frantic ring search, I would say that we ALL had a good time. The cake was delicious and the kids only consumed half of it. I didn't mind staying up a while with the sleepover, since I'm usually up late. It poured all through the night, but by today the ground was dry and ES was able to invite another friend over. They rode the go-kart and had a bon-fire. I couldn't have asked for a better birthday weekend for my son!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Will I Survive?

For the past three weeks, we have been talking around the subject of a birthday party for my ES. He asked if he could invite a few guys to spend the night. OK. That is do-able. He asked if he could have a bonfire in the back yard and invite a few girls just for pizza, cake and the bonfire (with only the boys staying). We'll see. We asked if he wanted us to buy invitations or merely print some up, as we have always done in the past. He wasn't sure.

At first, he wanted the party to be on Saturday night. Then, one particular girl couldn't come on Saturday, so he switched it to Friday. Then, my husband logged on and saw that the forecast was for rain. Monday, he still wasn't ready to think about invitations. Finally, he decided he would just call the individuals (that makes it sound like a small number, doesn't it???)

Last night, we convinced him that, due to the weather forecast and lack of firm invitations, we should switch the party to next Friday. This morning, he calls from school to beg to put it back to this Friday. Apparently, there is a big walk-a-thon going on next Friday night and everyone will be attending that. He doesn't want to have nobody show up for his party. On the spot, I said, "I don't know. I guess so. We'll have to confirm it with dad, though."

I love it how pre-teens leave out certain bits of information when dealing with parents (I have a feeling this is typical). When he arrived home from school, I informed him that his dad wasn't thrilled with the quick switch and fully expected his room to be immaculate when he came home from work. He accused us of not wanting him to have a party or have a good time to celebrate his birthday. Then, he pulled the "everybody else gets to have a big party." I reminded him that we weren't ever planning on a big party - just a few guys and girls. He finally drops the full scenario of the phone call.

He and his friend, Matt, were in the school office together to make the plea. When I tentatively agreed, they decided to make up invitations there in the office. They wrote down details on a piece of paper and made TWENTY copies! What were the details? Party at B------'s house, address, Friday 5-9:30. Oh joy!

There is an 80% chance of rain. ES keeps saying, "Yes, but weathermen are always wrong." We shall see. I can imagine 20 kids passing the invitations on to 20 more kids. I have visions of 30 kids showing up, traipsing through our house with muddy shoes, running in and out of the house to jump on the trampoline in the rain, spilling pop on the carpet, etc. I'm sure this idea took root a few months ago, when he attended that classmate's boy-girl party (didn't I remember how communication was a problem with the details on that party as well???).

So, tonight I purchased a few more bags of chips, cans of pop, and a cake mix. I tried to search for a clearanced cake. Our Wal-mart in IL, used to have a rack at the back of the store with a sign which read "OOPS, we over-baked," holding baked goods marked down 40%. I couldn't find the rack, so I asked a worker, "Do you have a rack where you have marked down bakery items? The "oops, we over-baked" section?"

The worker looked at me as if I'd gone off my rocker! "If we over-baked it, I'm sure we'd have to just throw it out."

I tried to explain the sign above the rack at my old Wal-mart. Again, appalled, "We wouldn't sell over-baked items."

Finally, I said, "I mean they've baked too many items and now are trying to sell the extra bits at a reduced price!"

At last, recognition. "Oh, the 40%-off-cart! That is only out in the mornings until 4 p.m."

"Thanks, anyway." Groan.

Well, the cake is made. I will frost it tomorrow. I will bake up a huge batch of pizza rolls. I will pour chips into bowls. I will try to keep little boys out of the way and still manage to get them to bed by 8:30. ES had better do his part and re-inform his friends that this shindig is only from 6-9. And if not, well, I'm sure we're all going to learn a valuable lesson in communication through this whole fiasco. Let's hope that at least someone has a good time in the mix. Though, I'm doubting it will be me!