Saturday, May 30, 2009

Book Review: The Omega-3 Connection

I really stumbled upon this book. Back when I was looking for a hard-copy version of Restak's Poe's Heart and the Mountain Climber, I noticed a few other books in that section which looked interesting. Dr. Andrew Stoll's book, The Omega-3 Connection, was one of them. It didn't surprise me when my husband grabbed up the book from my pile before I could even begin to read it. He is quite interested in health matters and subscribes to the "Nutrition Action Healthletter" (billed as "the world's largest-circulation health newsletter"), which is put out by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). I believe I remember reading something about the importance of Omega-3 in their newsletter.

What caught my eye was a tag above the title, which read "The groundbreaking omega-3 antidepression diet and brain program." I am not thrilled about taking medication to control health issues. If I could, I would treat my health problems with diet and more natural courses of action.

However, having said that, I know that sometimes the medication is absolutely necessary. I asked my doctor if I could try to manage my high cholesterol with diet and exercise. He indicated that the diet and exercise will help and natural supplements would bring the numbers down a bit, but in order to keep those numbers in a healthy realm, I will probably have to continue taking the Zocor.

Moreover, even though I've had some difficulty nailing down the best antideppresant for treating my current clinical depression, I'm not about to go off the medication and attempt to treat my depression entirely through diet. For one thing, I doubt I would have the self-discipline to limit myself to the foods which promote better mental health (i.e., I can't imagine giving up chocolate and sweets entirely). But, I would be more than willing to alter my diet to include more of the foods which naturally boost my own body's ability to fight the depression.

Dr. Stoll is the Director of the Psycho-pharmacology Research Labratory at Harvard's McLean Hospital. He has done extensive research in treating bipolar disorder (manic depression). During his search for medications with fewer side effects, he began to realize that omega-3 fatty acids (common fish oil) held tremendous power for healing psychiatric ailments and boosting the power of the brain.

His explanation is simple, yet profound: "Until the 20th century, omega-3 fatty acids, derived largely from cold water oily fish from the ocean or freshwater lakes and rivers, as well as wild animals and plants, were common elements of the human diet. Today, with the advent of processed foods and the reduction of omega-3 fatty acids in the typical Western diet, that has changed." While he admits that far more proof needs to be gleaned, he highlights evidence from the statistics taken from various cultures (like the Japanese and those from Mediterranean regions) where depression and heart disease seem far less prevalent.

Both omega-3 and omega 6 fatty acids occur normally within the brain. The problem develops when these two elements are out of balance. Our modern diets tend to favor the omega-6 fatty acids. This delicate balance appears to be relevant in many different illnesses. Dr. Stoll mentioned connections to the problems of Chrohn's disease, arthritis, asthma, lupus, heart disease and even cancer (though he clearly states that "Although omega-3 fatty acids may lower risk for cancer, they are unlikely to be the primary therapy for any form of cancer. Much, much more research needs to be done to explore these connections. Nonetheless, there is reason to believe they may prove valuable as health-promoting adjuncts to chemotherapy, radiation and surgery."

He cites numerous studies where the benefits of a healthy omega-3 and omega-6 balance clearly altered participants risk of depression and disease. Yet, in a section titled "Why Don't More Cardiologists Recommend Omega-3 Fatty Acids?," he identifies the sad fact of our country's moral battle with greed. He writes, "omega-3 essential fatty acids from fish oil are considered a food or an over-the-counter dietary supplement, and therefore no pharmaceutical company is promoting fish oil supplements to physicians."

Dr. Stoll outlines the research behind his belief in the power of omega-3, discusses the various supplements currently available in health food stores (included risks and benefits of other supplements, like St. John's Wort), and outlines his "Omega-3 Renewal Plan" with supplement guidelines and healthy recipes for incorporating more omega-3 fatty acids into your diet. The appendices provide a wealth of information and resources.

This was a helpful, informative book. My only complaint would be his belief in evolution. I can overlook that and still glean the important information concerning the brain's need for a healthy balance of the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. I have been taking a supplement (although not at the level suggested by Dr. Stoll) ever since I began reading this book and I will continue. I have made attempts to increase our intake of omega-3 (even purchasing margarine's which boast a higher omega-3 content - although I'm trying to limit my own margarine use).

Friday, May 29, 2009

Book Review: The Mother Load

When this book, by Mary M. Byers, caught my eye at a thrift store a few months back, I had to purchase it. It was like the title and subtitle (The Mother Load: How to Meet Your Own Needs While Caring for Your Family) were really just another language spelling out, "You need to learn these truths." It was true.

The back cover said it clearly: "If you're taking care of the kids, who's taking care of you? Motherhood is an intense, round-the-clock job that does not come with scheduled breaks. But to stay healthy and happy, moms need friendships, laughter, solitude, and spiritual renewal."

I figured, if there ever were a mother in need of this advice, it was me! I've often marveled at the fact that I never felt overwhelmed when I was rearing my first son. It wasn't that he was necessarily an easy child. Indeed, I spent a long time engrossed in a book called Raising Your Spirited Child, by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka . Others would attest to the fact that my ES is every bit a spirited child and many tried to convince me that he was an ADHD child.

Yet, there are many differences in my life now, as compared to my mothering role when ES was small. Back then, I taught one high school class for two hours a day, during his nap time. Thus, I had meaningful involvement in an identity outside of the home. I enjoyed my students and even had the luxury of bringing my baby to the class, if necessary. Since my husband was in graduate school and working part-time, I was able to continue swimming laps for down-time and exercise. I was involved in a vibrant church and plugged into the small cell-group ministries. Even during the time when my husband and I were separated, I had structures in place to provide me with the personal space, solitude, spiritual growth, laughter and friendships necessary for coping with the challenges of motherhood.

However, when my third son arrived, mere months after our move to this isolated location, I entered a world which was diametrically opposed to supporting my needs during the intense "mother load." It is not really surprising that I slipped into a post-partum depression given the dynamics of my personal situation here. Even my best efforts at creating structures of support seemed to fail. I could not establish a solid church home for my family. A few attempts at establishing friendships fizzled. My exercise regimen became more and more difficult to fit in and I had very little personal space to call my own.

Mary M. Byers identifies 10 things mothers of small children NEED: solitude, friendship, balance, physical well-being, order, intimacy, spiritual and personal growth, self-forgiveness, laughter, and help. She breaks these down into chapters and provides stories to illustrate, suggestions for meeting the needs, and feedback from other mothers.

I would say that the book felt like a good "pep-talk" for me. It was encouraging. It reminded me that my own cup must be full before I can pour out any blessings or support on those who rely upon me. Moreover, it provided evidence (again) that plenty of other women are in the same boat as me, wishing someone would throw them a life-preserver.

However, many of the suggestions fell hollow for me. The primary dilemma I have faced is in my isolation here. Suggesting a babysitting swap with a friend, to carve out a few extra hours for meeting personal needs doesn't really help when one has no local friends to call upon. You don't walk up to a person you don't even know at the park and say, "Hey, I noticed that you have two small children about the same age as my boys. Would you be interested in doing a child-care swap once a week?"

Still, I realize that all of the points in the book were things I have clearly identified as intense needs in my life during this season of stay-at-home-mothering. It is both funny and tragic, but even my little boys know what my intense needs are. The other day, when I was having a mommy meltdown, my MS said, "Mommy, you need to take a few days and visit some friends in DeKalb." They recognize that I'm a much-better mother when I partake of that all-important breather to embrace old friendships and enjoy laughter.

I'm really thankful that my husband and children are aware of the intensity of my role and the particular needs in the midst of that role. I continue to pursue possible solutions for meeting my own needs alongside of theirs. I continue to strive to be a better mother (both in my mood and outlook and in my energy levels).

At the same time, I'm often reflecting on the fact that my mother-in-law, who is dealing with the intense load of caring for an ailing spouse, suffers from similar stresses and often with far less support than I receive. Thankfully, for both of us, this is a season. A season we will weather and a season we will one day look back upon and treasure (even if there are a myriad of details we wish we could alter).

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Favorite Things Thursday: Games and More Games

I had high hopes of accomplishing a lot of household purging this past weekend. I wanted to present my husband (who loathes clutter and the accumulation of needless things) with photographic evidence of my efforts on his behalf. His birthday is coming up and I can honestly say that he would rather receive proof of simplification than any item or gift. However, because of my tendency to own far more than we need, it took the whole weekend just to get the house cleaned and orderly. Groan.

When I looked at my game cupboards to prepare this post, hubby's desires for the simple life were like devils on my shoulder. I have always enjoyed playing games. I suppose this love was nurtured in my childhood because my siblings and I spent a good deal of time playing games. I have fond memories of playing Battleship, Monopoly, Life, Yahtzee, Probe, Mille Bournes and many other games with my family members.

Even when we grew older, we made time for game play when we gathered at the holidays. I remember one Christmas when we met together at my oldest brother's house. We sat around their table for hours playing "Know Your America." This is an educational game intended for 2 - 4 players, ages 8 and up.

The night that we played this at my brother's house will forever be a fond memory for me. I'm not sure how to explain why it was so much fun or even how a game about United States facts can spur on so much laughter and hilarity, but we were laughing and carrying on so loud that my sister-in-law had to beg us to quiet down or we would wake the children. One of the funniest players that night was my sister's husband. It was really stunning because he is normally such a quiet and reserved guy. I would eagerly jump at any opportunity to play this game with him again.

As kids, I can remember going to my paternal grandmother's house and playing the game of "Skunk." This was one of our favorites, back then. You roll the dice and accumulate points. However, if you roll and get a skunk, you lose your turn. If you roll and get double skunks, you lose all the points you had accumulated up to that point. It was a simple game and we anticipated playing it every time we headed to visit our grandmother.

My maternal grandmother gave me a game as a gift one year. It was called "Jotto" and it was an excellent game for playing on long car trips. Each player would select a five letter word and place it in the boxes beneath a top flap. Then they would take turns making guesses about the other person's word and receiving clues as to how many letters occur in the other person's word. It is a game which exercises word knowledge and strategy skills.

I still have my two Jotto pads and play it from time to time with my ES. When I searched for it on-line, I discovered that you can go here to play several various difficulty levels against the computer. If you go here, you can print out an actual game sheet (similar to the ones my game came with). Thus, if you were searching for an easy word game to play with your children, you could enjoy this game without cluttering up your house and filling enormous game cupboards.

Alas, it is too late for me. The enormous game cupboards have already been filled. Even when I look over my games with an eye for reducing the number, I feel a sense of hesitancy because these are all games I purchased with the hopes of playing with my children. They are games I love and games I wish to create memories with. If my kids have even a handful of memorable experiences, like I did with my siblings, then it will have been worth the garage sale purchases and the extra space they have taken up.

Still, I can easily see several games that will never be played unless I force my children to sit down and play them. For example, a while back I came upon several inexpensive grammar games. I purchased four or five of them and gave them away as gifts. Looking back, I believe several of my relatives were chortling (or maybe severely disgruntled). I mean, who gives a child a grammar game for Christmas???

But, there are plenty of games in my game cupboard which have, indeed, been played with my children. Moreover, I fully intend to spend time with my younger sons playing board and card games. Despite the advent of technological options, I still crave that time sitting together and playing a game around a card table.

Anyway, here is a sneak peek at my accumulated games:

*Escape the Mad Mummy (ages 7+) - MS loves this one because it has a magic spinning cube and mummy game pieces
*Junior Monopoly (5-8) - this is perfect for little ones; they love landing on roller coasters and carousels and pushing the cars around the board
*Checkers (6+) - rarely used, though it should be
*Once, A Storytelling Game (12+) - this could be serious fun with my grown siblings
*Jeopardy (12+)
*Mind Trap I & II (12+) - I played this somewhere and loved it, so I purchased both sets when I noticed them at the thrift store - sadly I have never managed to get anyone to play it with me, think intellectual puzzle game - my husband would love it (and win) if he would ever give it a try
*Phase 10 Dice
*Scrooge card game
*Uno Spiderman - MS should be ready to play this finally
*Boggle (8+) - lots of fond memories of playing this, but no takers in my home
*Mille Bournes (French auto card game) - same as with Boggle
*Wordsters (12+)
*Gram-R-Fun (8+)
*Mission Command (8+) - could be a great boy's game, but for now the little boys just like playing with the fighter planes
*Sorry (6+) - a ES favorite
*Aggravation (6+) - have played this loads of times
*Ring-a-Round (7+) - a highly versatile math game which ES and I used to play a lot
*S'math (think Scrabble, only math - ages 6+)
*Scotland Yard (10+)
*Jenga - an ES and MS favorite
*Go Fish (ages 3-7) - falling apart because of overuse
*Clifford Pick-Up Bones - a kid's meal toy worth keeping
*Ants in the Pants - purchased for a quarter at a garage sale and played well over 25 times, easily

*Bikini Bottom Book of Games - somehow Spongebob games are as loved as the cartoon?
*Spongebob Squarepants Game
*Guzzlin' Gators - ES picked this one with b-day money long ago and all the boys have loved it
*Safety Game - the bug which lights up to reveal how many spaces you move, really makes this game for little ones!
*Simpsons Clue and Simpsons Jeopardy - purchased at great expense for ES during a Simpsons phase, yet never once played - grrrr! - although the Simpsons characters are carried around all the time
*Spiderman & Friends Match-up - again the plastic characters are the big hit
*Shapes (a game like Tangrams)
*Scattegories Junior (8+)
*Domino Rally Dino Roar
*Operation (6+) - a hit
*Upwords, a pyramid version of Scrabble (8+) - if I put down "loop," you can guess what ES changes it to!
*Spiderman Make-a-Match - well worth the 50 cents for all the play with MS
*Bug's Life Birdie Builders
*Memory Game
*Mousetrap - the little boys beg my husband to put this up, but usually destroy it within ten minutes
*Bulldog Dozer (6+) - this simple game is fun because you build structures and the bulldog randomly knocks them down - another thrift store winner
*Know Your America (8+)
*Pooh's Musical Hide-n-Seek (3+) - waste of money - this one is going

Card games:
*I Spy (a fantastic memory game)
*Yahtzee - not played nearly as much now that we have an electronic hand-held one which makes the game go super fast
*Old Maid
*Authors and Quartet - my absolute favorite card games
*Skip-bo - I love this one, but haven't really played it with ES much
*Phase 10 (kind of a longer version of Uno)

These games are from ES's closet. The large box one is called "Labyrinth" and ES brought it home from his paternal grandparents' house. He was determined to beat the thing. You have to get a marble to travel all the way from the start to the finish without dropping in one of the hundred holes. When he mastered the game, he took a video of himself and talked his dad into giving him money!

There are a few more games in the little boys' room, like the Thomas the Tank Engine letter game, a flipping frog game, and "the game at the end of the book." Plus, there are games I would like to replace - games which were lost in a basement flood several years ago (like Stratego and British Monopoly). So, I doubt I've purchased my last game. Most of these games cost between a quarter and $2.50. Some were received as gifts. Several were handed down.

I'd like to think my boys will be smarter individuals because I took the time to play games with them. Even if they aren't though, I will still continue to love games and want to play them with others. I'm striving for no dull minds and no dull moments.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Only Clues

I only have time for some clues tonight. Our computer has been out of commission for a full day. It has been an interesting day.

ES inadvertently caused some of the computer issues. He knows far more about computers than I do, but still ... Anyone want to make a guess about that?

MS was desperate to watch Goosebumps (on the computer) today, so I thought it was safe to put him in front of the television with Spongebob Squarepants (his second choice) while I went downstairs to exercise. Alas, while I was busy working out, he was busy cutting up. Any guesses as to what he did?

YS joined MS and I in a quick run to the library after his nap. I should know better than to try to shop in the library sale room when they are offering books for $1 a bag. As it was, I only perused the children's books. However, YS decided to add a little excitement to our visit. Take a stab at guessing. You know you want to!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Very Quiet Birthday

This weekend, my husband decided to give me the best birthday gift I could desire these days - some peace and quiet and downtime from my intense boys. Originally, he was supposed to take only the two little boys on a trip to visit my in-laws for Memorial Day weekend. ES planned to remain here to hang out with friends.

Friday was ES's first official day of his summer break. I wanted to make it a good one, so I took the boys out for Pizza Hut. The two little boys had earned a free pizza from the Book-It program through their preschool. I had a coupon for the lunch buffet, but I wasn't sure it would be honored in conjunction with the Book-It certificates. Still, I went ahead and asked my waitress anyway. She told me that she would check.

The little boys were able to get the buffet (instead of a small personal pan). ES ate 10 pieces of pizza (no stomach issues rearing an ugly head these days, thankfully). They were all well-behaved (except for one moment, when I was up at the buffet and MS yelled out for all to hear "Mo-om, B----- spit on me!"). It was really a lovely experience.

Then, our waitress went and made it even lovelier. She brought me the bill and attempted to explain what she had done. I still don't really understand it. She handed the buffet coupon back to me and said "Use that next time, dear." Our bill came to $8.52.

I left the little boys home with ES and went to two local garage sales (hoping to find a twin bed frame for ES, who is getting a bit lanky for the loft bed). I was thrilled to find an extra booster for MS for only $5 (now we won't have to swap the car seats out of the van and into the car when hubby drives them) and a turtle sandbox, with lid, for only $5. (I had hoped to upload a photo of a twin bed frame being offered for $50 on one of our country side-roads, but first I must learn how to blur the phone number.)

At some point, on my drive the tire pressure light came on. Later that night, when hubby checked it over, he couldn't find a puncture so he merely refilled the tire.

O.K. That was our lovely Friday. Enter not-so-lovely Saturday. I woke to a note from hubby, informing me that the tire on the van was flat again and that he would have to take the car to my in-laws' house. He didn't think anything would be open for fixing it since it was a holiday weekend. I had visions of a weekend stuck at home with my ES and his social agenda. (Thankfully, I asked hubby to refill the tire before they left and I drove it to Wal-mart and they had it patched in a little over an hour - ya-rah!)

It would be nice if I could blame the little boys Saturday morning behavior on the pop-tarts I allowed them to have for breakfast, but alas, I would only be fooling myself (they behave this way even on whole grain cereal). They were whirling dervishes of disaster. They trashed literally every room in our house. They pulled all the costumes out of the costume boxes. They pulled the cushions off the couches. They dumped every container of toys. They sent a push toy hurtling down the stairs and ... surprise, the wheel broke off.

When ES called from his friend's house (after a sleep-over), I had to tell him to walk home. The minute he got in the door he wanted to invite friends over and wanted my camera. On Friday, ES and a friend had begged my camera off of me, saying they wanted to make videos of themselves doing stupid things. For some reason Saturday morning (little boy behavior??), I just didn't want to hand the camera over. The more he begged, the more suspicious I felt.

When I viewed the camera footage, I began to understand exactly what they had been up to. I was livid. So livid, in fact, that when hubby returned home from work, I informed him that ES would be joining them on the visit to my in-laws. I won't upload the videos, but I'm pretty sure he was thinking he was going to upload them to You Tube at some point. I don't think so.

In one video, ES has shoved two small balls into his shirt to provide a make-shift bust. He is standing by the side of the road, holding a sign which says "Honk if you like my b@@bs!" In another, he has a basketball under his shirt, with a sign reading "Honk if you support teen pregnancy!" In another video, he is beating himself on the legs with a prickly plant to reveal the large welts and boils which quickly pop up as a result. The most infuriating one, shows him offering a suggestion for curing a stomach ache. He sprays his stomach with AXE (hmm, shall I now confiscate all AXE and allow him to smell like the ripe teenager he is au' natural?) and then lights it on FIRE!

Oh my word. This is the very start of summer, for crying out loud. Of course, I wanted to tell him that he will now be spending the rest of his summer in his room reading a thousand pages (which could feasibly take that boy far longer than one summer to complete). Instead, my camera and the lighters have all been hidden. The signs have been shredded into the trash. He won a free trip to Grandma's house for Memorial Day Weekend.

What did I win? A very quiet birthday. Today, I slept in this morning. I lit into the house with an enthusiasm that only comes when I am home alone without whirling dervishes to destroy every effort I make at cleaning this house. I spent 7 hours cleaning. Then, I took myself out to dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant and ordered a cheese and a spinach quesadilla (yum-yum). I sat in the booth, ignoring the Indy 500 coverage and reading a good fiction book (forget those darn non-fiction ones I keep trying to complete). It was an odd, but truly wonderful, relaxing and productive birthday. And did I mention it was QUIET?? Oh, the bliss!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Favorite Things Thursday: Walks in the Park

Today we had a fabulous walk in the nearby park. It was a beautiful, warm day. We didn't bother trying to bring MS's bike, so I didn't get frustrated over a chain coming off. Plus, I didn't stress over making sure the walk was brisk enough to be considered exercise. Instead, we had loads of fun just enjoying the opportunity to take in so many simple pleasures.

We happened upon an unexpected encounter with a turtle. Of course, I thought I would never get MS away from the scene. We decided to take a chance and walk back to the van for the camera. Thankfully, when we returned to the original spot, the turtle was still there. Now MS has changed his pet requests to a turtle.

The boys also loved watching a big machine working on scooping dirt over some pipes they are placing (I'm guessing they are trying to improve the drainage in case of another flood like we had last May). A few days ago, when we walked in the park, the pipes were sitting by the side of the parking area. Both boys had a blast yelling into them and hearing their voices echo back.

Of course, we also ran into a dog - another must-stop for the boys.

Plus, they wanted to run up on the bridge. I wanted a photo of them, but I'm thinking I should have skipped the bloggist impulse to turn everything into a photo-op. YS ran all the way across the bridge and down the other side. Thankfully, no cars were coming along the road, but still, I had to hoof it pretty fast to catch up to him.

It was a wonderful morning and I hope we can enjoy many repeats throughout the summer.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Out of the Mouths of Boys

YS - favorite saying, lately, which comes up at odd moments unexpectedly:

"Torcher! Did he say 'torcher'?" (which translates: "Torture! Did he say, 'torture'?") - from a Goosebumps movie, he slightly overheard while playing with his trains. My second favorite from him lately - also picked up by osmosis -"Duuude, how did you do that?"

MS - as we were driving ES to marching band practice the other night, MS piped up with "Now that's a weird place to store your tools!" I was perplexed and asked him what he was talking about. He explained that there were tools on the roof of a house. Sure, enough, it was a house where a new roof was being laid. HA!

My favorite from this week:

ES - Tonight I was assisting ES in studying for his final exam in Social Studies. The students must correctly identify the capitals to about 30 countries. As I went over the list, we came to Syria. He looked stumped. I tried to give him a little prompt, saying "Jesus walked in Jerusalem in Israel and he walked in "D" in Syria ..." He looked at me and said, "I can't remember, but I know it sounds kinda like "dumb a$$." I cracked up. Yes, Damascus or "Dumb A$$ Cuss" - how's that for a mnemonic (memory tool)? I doubt I'll ever forget the capital of Syria again!

Makes Ya Wanna Sing

I saw this over at Lisa's blog and had to add it here. What great fun (watch out, I've already felt compelled to watch it three times over!). Wish I had been there to see it LIVE! Alas, I couldn't because ... I'm incarcerated, remember!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Incarcerated with Toddler Delinquints

Being in jail ain't pretty. And being in jail with toddler delinquents ain't neat or tidy ... or calm ... or controlled. There was a time when my life was neat and tidy. I know I kept our small apartments orderly and clean. There was a time when life was calm and controlled. I remember going out for KFC on a Sunday afternoon, after church, and returning home to snuggle in bed and snooze the afternoon away. My life was my own to plan and execute as I saw fit.

Tonight as I drove off to the high school to pick up my ES from marching band practice, I noticed a young woman out for an after-dinner power walk. Unbeknownst to her, she oozed freedom from her pores and I felt a prickle of jealousy and longing. Granted, she could be incarcerated with children as well (don't know if hers are delinquents, however), but merely has the good fortune of momentary reprieves into the sunlight for solitary reflection and recreation.

I must be in lock-down. I'm feeling the bars and the weight of my sentence very heavily today (probably because school is out for the little ones and ES is done Thursday afternoon). I know they are just being children, but sometimes, it really feels like delinquency - and schemed delinquency, at that.

The past several days have been full of the usual. It seems my boys manage to break between one and three things each day. I have toyed with the idea of beginning a running log (with dates and offences and particulars), but honestly don't have the energy to keep up with the delinquency, let alone the documentation of delinquency.

Here are a few details from the past several days: YS, during my attempted video workout time, snuck into the bathroom and dispensed the remainder of our BFI powder all over the bathroom and his face and hair. MS, before I even had a chance to clean it up, went to the bathroom and decided to hold his hand directly beneath the faucet to watch the water spray out in all directions, thus soaking the counters, the open drawers below the counters, and all the BFI powder. Let me tell, that clean-up was a thrilling operation (the top drawers contained various items like toothbrushes, flossers, etc and the bottom drawers held towels - all of it, caked with a wet, pasty yuck). Thanks boys.

YS believes he is the head of the Lego Witness protection program. He keeps, surreptitiously, dropping small Lego pieces into the dehumidifier downstairs. This, in addition to his goal of dumping every container of toys we own if they are ever picked up for more than one half hour.

Tonight, the little boys were playing outside and throwing buckets up in the air (surprise, surprise - one of them cracked at the bottom - are you singing, "There's a Hole in my Bucket, Dear Liza"? I am.) As the time approached to take ES to marching band, I told MS to stay with YS at the sand table while I ran inside quickly to go to the bathroom. I returned, moments later, to hear hubby reaming them out. Apparently, MS brought YS into the garage, to the sink and proceeded to open the cabinet door and then kick out the drawer. The metal hinges (or sliding bars - whatever they are called) came off and the drawer was spilled out onto the floor.

Now, if I have little patience with their endless escapades and destructive sprees, my husband has no patience at all. He takes the utmost care of his things. His shoes are all in boxes. His shirts hang according to color and his constant motto is: "A place for everything and everything in its place." Honestly, I don't know how he manages to stay with the boys and I. Perfection is quite far from our radar. It drives hubby to insanity when the boys handle things with intentional roughness. He has sworn to not purchase another toy for MS and even threatened to return any toys which others might purchase for him.

Thus, it is not only the chaos level in this house which makes the walls cave in on me. It is also dealing with the frustration level of my hubby. We don't recall our ES giving us nearly this much difficulty. Then again, we were ten years younger. Still, there are days when it does seem like other children play with toys in the manner they were intended (sitting quietly, acting out little scenes), while ours harbor evil plots (throwing action figures across the room to see if they can dismember or amputate them).

Boy, does freedom seem sweet. Hopefully, I will be able to experience a prison leave this weekend. For my birthday, hubby has promised to take the two little boys over to my in-laws for a brief visit Saturday afternoon through Sunday evening. The walls of my cell seem pretty solid. I'm hedging bets that my father-in-law will not feel up to a visit from my little boys (heck, I don't even feel up to a brief spell with my little boys, and I'm not in constant pain).

If I do manage a prison break, I'm hoping I remember to take a nice after-dinner power walk and allow the freedom to ooze out of my pores. More than likely, I'll be knee-deep in clothes and junk (since my intended birthday gift to hubby is a few photos of the loads of junk I got rid of in their absence - believe me that is the only birthday gift he wants). Wish I had a friend nearby who could come over to help me purge the junk and then sit back with popcorn and a movie.

At least, I know I didn't get a life sentence. Freedom is dancing in the railway stations when I peer through binoculars into my future. Please, Lord, help hubby and I to get there intact.

And if you are living large, without toddlers or children, take a moment to breathe in the air around you and realize the freedoms you may take for granted.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Trying our Hand at Hand-made Cards

Thursday was the last day for the little boys to attend their Parent's Day Out/Preschool program. We wanted to be able to afford giving their classroom teachers a gift certificate, so I told the boys we would try to make our own cards to express our thanks. MS was immediately up for the idea.

At first, he wanted to draw a card covered with snakes. Yikes! Not sure that would go over very well. I suggested we make a pop-up card. We searched for instructions on the computer and found several options. He was very fond of a pop-up bat card, but it looked a bit intricate. We finally settled for a spider pop-up card, which looked easier.

After I executed the pop-up cuts and folds, MS drew and colored the spider. MS was especially thrilled to add the fangs they suggested. We also put little googly eyes on the inside of the front cover, but they didn't show up very well. Still, it was a lot of fun and MS thought his card was the coolest!

Here he is, showing off his card for his teacher:

For YS's card, I wanted to include a photo of Mrs. Carol (his fabulous teacher) in the card. Unfortunately, YS doesn't ham for the camera quite as eagerly as MS does. It took a while, just to get him to take his hands down from his face. Still, the card turned out well and expressed how much we appreciated Mrs. Carol, while at the same time, giving her some photos to remember YS by. (If you click on the photos, they should enlarge enough to read the text.)

During the final hour of their class sessions, a small graduation ceremony was held in the sanctuary for the class going on to kindergarten next year. I'm guessing they wanted more vocal strength, so they included MS's class in the program for the singing performance.

Every minute MS was on stage was agony for me. The boy is convinced that everyone in the world should pay utmost attention to him (middle-child syndrome?). As his class walked in the back doors, he noticed me and left his line to run over to me. I had to direct him back to his class line.

When the first song had just begun, MS called out, "Hey, Mom! Look what Devin gave me ... (moments of struggling with his pocket to procure the shiny nickel) a PENNY!" Despite the universal "Boy, just be quiet" sign (a finger to my lips), he continued to shout out to me. Ay-yi-yi!

By the second song, he began to realize that he had been placed within two feet of the microphone. He leaned over and said something like "Hey, Mom! Can you hear me now?" Thankfully, the third song was uneventful and his class was sent from the stage to sit with the parents.

Just when I had started to suspect that my child alone was unconsciously wearing a "Look at Me" badge, I noticed one of the graduates sitting in his chair on the platform. He, too, had shouted down to his parents. But, it was even more fun to watch him bobbing his head all around to get the full effect of the tassel on his graduation hat! He lobbed that thing back and forth for a few minutes, giving the audience a good laugh. And the girl seated next to him heightened the amusement factor, by sitting prim and proper and stealing glances at him without ever moving her face from a forward position (as if to say "What in the world is that boy doing?").

Good thing we've got another whole year to work on decorum skills and graduation behavior! Then again, this is MS we're talking about. He may never learn to be silent.

Friday, May 15, 2009

All I'm Up for is Trivia

Cardiogirl revved up my mental engine yesterday by bringing up the topic of card and board games. Since I am a game enthusiast, I wanted to write up a post about some of my favorite games. However, my brain is feeling addled this evening. Plus, when I began to search for images of some of my favorite games (the ones I have played, but somehow fail to own at this moment in time), it led to lots of interesting trivia.

For tonight, I will merely focus on what is considered the most popular board game of all time: Monopoly. This was certainly a popular game in our household, while growing up. Many of my family members displayed their cut-throat competitive natures while playing this game. Still, all of my memories are fun - even the ones of games where arguments broke out (for example, my older brother believes it is unfair and unethical to skip paying rent merely because the person whose property you have landed on is not paying attention and doesn't call upon you to pay up - I believe, during that particular game, I begged to differ!).

However, I don't really remember enjoying the length of time required to play this game. Too stinkin' long! For a while, it was a favored game with ES, but we primarily played a computer version of the game. The computer cuts down on lots of wasted time, moves the game along more quickly and handles all those touchy questions about "house rules." Still, I can't really say that it is my absolute favorite game to play. Many others edge this one out.

But, it was interesting to learn some new information about the game. The first thing I discovered was a "Mental Floss" article concerning use of the game to deliver maps to POW's during World War II. I had never heard this fascinating information before. Several commenters doubt the veracity of the article, but it does sound plausible to me.

Next, I discovered that the game of Monopoly has gone into space. In June of 2007, several game pieces (specifically made for a "Here and Now" version) went up with the Space Shuttle Atlantis. These pieces were miniatures of various popular things these days. They included my parent's model of car, my mother-in-law's favorite brand of walking shoe, my sons' favorite fast food fare, and the type of dog I wish to own (when I am up for the challenge of adding a dog to our fast-paced mix).

And if I thought the game, as I've played it, goes too long, imagine my surprise when Big Site of Amazing Facts taught me that: " The record for the longest Monopoly game played by four players was set from December 26, 1974 to January 5, 1975, for a total of 264 hours!"

I can't think of any game I would be willing to play for 264 hours. I may have to use this tid-bit of trivia on my husband next time I am trying to convince him to engage in a family game. He is not interested in games at all. Surely, he should know that I'm not asking very much of him when we want him to play a short game of Yahtzee or Scrabble. After all, there's no way in the world that those games will go anywhere near 264 hours long. Those must have been gaming enthusiasts EXTRAORDINAIRE.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Have You Ever Been Blindsided?

This morning, a small blue bird flew directly into one of our porch windows. The little boys and I were at the kitchen table eating breakfast and heard a resounding THUMP! Poor YS is strapped into his booster, so he could not join in the fray, but MS and I bolted out to the porch to see what had happened. Just below the window, we saw an exquisitely beautiful bird, lying on its side, legs slightly twitching and chest heaving in and out.

MS is a great lover of animals, so he was immediately concerned (and secretly hoping to touch the small creature). He clamored to go outside and investigate, but I made him call for Daddy. Daddy took him outside and they squatted down beside the bird. It was clearly still alive, but for how long? Daddy picked up a small twig and gently placed it beneath the bird and pushed it into an upright position.

I could swear the bird heaved a sigh of relief. Still, it remained in its motionless state, breathing intensely. Daddy explained to MS that the bird might merely be stunned from the impact of flying into the window. After great cajoling, we finally managed to get MS back into his seat to finish his breakfast (thankfully pancakes this time, instead of soggified cereal - I believe I just made that word up, since spell check doesn't accept it).

I promised that if the bird was still there after breakfast, I would take a photo of MS with the bird. Perhaps this will be an annual photo shoot, since we captured a photo of MS last spring, with the baby bird he had caught in his butterfly net. MS forgot the promise and ran off to the playroom.

When I took the camera out to the patio, the bird flew off into a nearby bush. I did manage a few photos, but haven't uploaded them yet. Still, I have been thinking about that bird on and off throughout the day.

I feel a bit like that bird. At some point in my life, I thought I was flying steadily in a fitting direction, only to be blindsided by an unexpected obstacle. Upon impact, I fell to the ground and didn't think I would ever get up again. I'm sure I wanted to check my wings to determine whether they would allow me to fly again, but didn't really have the strength to pull it together.

In my case, others helped to stand me upright. But, like that bird, I know that I lingered in that stunned position for much longer than I anticipated. And, like that bird, nobody else could muster the spirit and strength to resume flight. The bird had to ride out the stunned moments, when the wind had been knocked out of his chest, until eventually fear (perhaps of pending peril or permanent paralysis) prompted him to fly at least to a nearby branch (which felt safer than the patio).

Then, I began to wonder if that bird will ever be blindsided again. During the first months that we lived here, we had a "crazy bird" that would continually fly directly into the window. When I asked someone about it, they repeated a speculation someone else had passed on, that the bird sees its own reflection in the window and mistakes it for another bird. The action of propelling itself, voluntarily, into the window over and over is a matter of territorial claims. (Or perhaps that bird had early Alzheimer's, like me - ha!)

I know I am not a scientist of bird habits, but birds crashing into our windows is not exactly an uncommon occurrence. I have a feeling, life could blindside me again. Hopefully, some kind soul will be there to help me into an upright position. Then again, we've had a bird or two that we've had to scoop off the patio pavement and bury out in the draw.

I hope that little blue bird flies free and strong. I trust he will avoid our windows in the future. Mostly, though, I hope I can get to flying free and strong again as well and that I will somehow be able to avoid the figurative windows in my life, too.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Good News and the Bad News

I used to love those old jokes, which began, "I have good news and I have bad news ..." (to read a few you can go here or here). However, my good news and bad news isn't really a joke. It feels all too real.

I'll start with the good news. On Thursday, my little boys had an awesome time going on a field trip with their preschool/Parent's Day Out program. They rode on the school bus and went to a fantastic entertainment center full of inflatables and games. They were beyond excited, asking every day whether or not it was the day for their special surprise field trip.

What a time they had! When I arrived to pick them up, they were in the throes of toddler thrills. Both boys were climbing the steps to a giant inflated slide. At the top, MS put his arm around YS and they both came down together. Then, they came running over to tell me about all the fun they had (pizza, chocolate chip cookies, and playing so hard that their heads were sweaty). I tried to snap a few photos, but I'm realizing now that I should have taken a video because they were moving so fast and so continuously that they were difficult to capture.

They both fell asleep in the van on the way home, even though MS doesn't take naps any more. It was humorous watching MS try to fight it (his eyes roaming back and forth and the intensity of his efforts to find something to talk about to keep him from zoning). Moreover, I loved the opportunity I had to watch YS run to his teacher, Mrs. Carol, for hugs and loving (she is really a fantastic teacher who has shown him calming and enduring love this year).

Which brings us to the bad news. The bad news is that their wonderful program will run for one final week and then will not be available next fall. I have been regretting this turn of events, ever since we received the news several weeks ago.

Of course, I dragged my heels on trying to find a replacement program. I was really hoping to find something where both boys could attend on the same two mornings. Unfortunately, most of the programs in this area, seem to offer classes for 2 year olds on Tu/Th and classes for 4 year olds on M/W/F. I couldn't afford (and didn't want) to put them in a full-time program.

In the end, I have secured a spot for MS for M/W/F afternoons next fall, but will keep YS home with me all the time. I know he is really going to miss going to school (because of Mrs. Carol, he looks forward to it so much - even asking on Saturdays and Sundays, if he can go to Mrs. Carol's class). I'm just praying he doesn't decide to fully ditch his naps, because then I will have no scheduled down time from the boys.

Still, the good news (which often feels like bad news, even though I know I will look back and treasure these days) also includes being able to spend more time with them when they are in these wonder years, the years when they are learning new things every moment of life and take it all in with such open enthusiasm.

At least for the summer, I have determined to require ES to supervise them for at least an hour every day, so that I can fit in time for exercise. I will have to discipline myself to get more cleaning done while they are around (any of you who have several small children will know that this is like an exercise in futility, because while I am cleaning one room they are destroying another and they move at the speed of light to dismantle what takes me hours to restore).

Of course, my mind is still struggling with the imminent loss of Mrs. Carol from our lives. I keep trying to finagle a way to keep her. Shall I try to buy her out, despite the fact that we can only offer her the same amount we were paying the school, to have her come here and spend time with YS? It really brings home the value of finding a person who loves and adores your child and provides excellent care in your absence.

On one of my recent trips to DeKalb, I stopped in Glen Ellyn, IL and drove into the neighborhood where I used to babysit (on a very regular basis for a family) while I was in college. I was such a regular, that when they built this home, they actually told me that they had built a room for me in the house.

I loved those two girls, Missy and Megan Phee, as if they were my own - heart and soul. What I wouldn't give to find a sitter with the passion and dedication I felt back then. What I wouldn't give to find a sitter with the availability I was able to provide (since I never had a single date in all my college years and jumped at any opportunity to see those sweet girls). On Mother's Day, I'm very thankful for the wonderful sons I have been able to love and raise and call my own, but I'm also grateful for those few years where I felt that I had daughters I could call my own.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Book Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Roderick Rules

Last year, when I read Jeff Kinney's first book, I could definitely tell why his book kept my reluctant reader ES reading well into the night. Jeff has an uncanny ability for capturing the angst and humor of middle school boys and his illustrations add extra oomph to the stories he tells. This second book in his Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, is no wimpy sequel.

In Roderick Rules, Greg Heffley bemoans his boring summer and actually looks forward to the start of another year in middle school. However, with an older brother like Roderick, life can never really be boring. Roderick gets by with quite a bit, because he holds a humiliating secret over Greg's head.

I read most of the book in one sitting, on Tuesday, while waiting to see the doctor and then waiting for a blood test (to test my liver function since starting the new meds six weeks ago). I couldn't help but chuckle out loud at several of the hilarious illustrations (like the one where Greg decides the swim practice water is too cold, so he excuses himself to the bathroom, which is unfortunately so cold that he ends up wrapping himself in toilet paper in an attempt to stay warm). With illustrations on all but 3 pages, you can see why adolescent boys are scrambling to read this series.

I will have to check to see if the library has the third in the series. I didn't purchase the third book for ES's birthday. He received the first two from his brothers for last year's birthday.

Perhaps, I should have, since he gave one of his presents away to MS shortly after opening it. It was a shirt with Animal, from the Muppets, jamming on the drums and it said "I Rock!" MS thought it was a perfect gift for YS, since he plays the drums and he does, indeed, ROCK. However, ES said he could never wear a shirt with some Elmo-like dude on it.

As far as I'm concerned, Animal is way cool and ES ought to be proud to wear it. Still, I think next time I will consult the web site my friend, Tammy, mentioned. They do sell the Animal shirts there as well, but my favorite on that site is a t-shirt with a variety of drums and the line "Weapons of Mass Percussion."

ES loved the first two Wimpy Kid books. He was actually happy to receive them and read them quickly. That is unheard of. So, I'm thinking MS can sleep in the Animal shirt (after all, he rocks too, just not on the drums ... yet).

I'll plan on purchasing the third and fourth Wimpy Kid books as a Christmas gift, since I learned that the fourth book is due out in October of 2009. I don't think I'll make the additional purchase of this book, however. (If you follow the link, you can watch a two minute interview with the author of this series.) ES might be willing to read Greg Heffley's diaries, but there is no way in the world I'm going to convince him to write one of his own! I think he'd give that one away to MS, too, but MS would really use it (Mr. Artist and Grand Storyteller).

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Favorite Things Thursday - McVities and Music Tin

I have always felt a very strong affection for Dr. Lyle Dorsett. He gave me a job, transcribing C.S. Lewis' personal letters, during my very first week at Wheaton College. He is a jovial and generous man. His wife, Mary, (whom you might remember as the source of another favorite of mine - my travel Bible), would often bake delicious cookies.

On one occasion, when I had stopped by the Dorsett's house for a brief visit, they didn't offer me Mary's cookies. Instead, with a conniving grin, Lyle brought down a large tin and offered me a "digestive" biscuit. I wasn't quite sure how to take this. He did seem unusually enthusiastic about the gift and I began to wonder if he was trying to trick me into eating one of their dog's biscuits. When I politely declined, he seemed affronted. He indicated that these biscuits were so good that they ration them in their home. I glanced down at the "biscuit" in my hand and it did indeed say "digestive" right across it. Would he really try to coax me into eating some health-nut concoction for improving one's digestion?

After the first bite, I began to understand the pedestal on which Lyle and Mary placed the digestive biscuit. It was a light, sweet taste. Of course, they also taught me that it is best consumed with a fine cup of British tea.

The following year when I went on the Wheaton-in-England program, I purchased many a package of McVitie's Digestives. (Thankfully, when Lyle christened me with a nickname, it was after a candy bar I loved, and not my favorite biscuit.) They always come in a long tube-like wrapper.

(Here's a little tidbit from Wikipedia, which I noticed when I went to double check the spelling on McVitie's:
"The McVitie's Chocolate Digestive was created in 1925. Over 71 million packets of McVitie's Chocolate Digestives are eaten in the United Kingdom each year, giving an average of 52 biscuits per second.[4]"
That's a whole lot of digestive biscuit consumption! Wikipedia also explains the origins of the biscuit's name.)

Once I spent more time in England, and more time in the Mitchell's home, I began to realize that British people often have special tube-shaped tins to store their biscuits in. As much as I wanted to buy one when I was over there, I suppose I was already maxed out in my luggage (which I'm sure were stuffed with six or seven packages of McVitie's Digestives and Hob-Nobs).

But, a few years ago, a dear friend from Littlejohn (the school I worked for back in DeKalb, IL), gave me a lovely tube-shaped tin for a Christmas gift. I doubt she realized how special it seemed. It was the perfect shape for storing McVitie's biscuits and it even had a musical decoration on it. This is another one of those gifts where the gift itself is very special, but the person who gave it (the music teacher, Dr. S. Jones) is equally special.

When I first moved to Indiana, I was a bit worried that I wouldn't be able to find a store which carried my beloved McVitie's (there are American grocers who carry the Carr's brand, but it is not nearly as good as McVitie's). For a while, I was purchasing the biscuits only when we made a trip into Indianapolis. However, at Christmas time, I discovered that our local Marsh store in a neighboring town also carries the McVitie's biscuits.

Now that the warmer weather is here, I will be sure to make time, several mornings a week, for a cup of Twinings Earl Grey tea and a McVitie's biscuit or two.


Plus, I wanted to encourage others to stop by Janae's Caringbridge site to wish her a hearty congratulations. I'm sure yesterday was one of her favorites, since it was her last chemo treatment for her Wilm's tumor. She's a sweetheart and deserves lots of praise for enduring all those pokes and treatments (you can see her beads of courage on her necklace - each one stands for a treatment or poke or blood draw on her journey).

If you are in a really generous mood, you could also go to her dad's St. Baldrick's participant page and make a small pledge on his head. He will be raising money for the St. Baldrick's event being held in DeKalb, Illinois, tomorrow night!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tool Shed Treasure Trove

What could be better than having an oasis of beauty full of trees to climb, space to run and things to explore? A tool shed full of treasures! It seems that every time I turn around ES, (who is now a full-fledged teenager, by the way) is coming up with another scheme.

Last Saturday, he decided to ask if he could use several strips of long plastic from the tool shed. I'm guessing this was purchased to protect the carpeting during remodeling projects. His dad gave the o.k. and off ES went to create another boyish diversion. Once his plan came together, he called his friend K.

Here is what he created:

You really can't enjoy a slip-and-slide without a video visual:

The little boys wanted to try out the slip-and-slide, too, but they were starting to develop a bit of a cold, so I kept them in. Lest you think they suffered in silence, here are photos of the little boys enjoying a movie and popcorn (ES had gone to the movies and brought home half a tub - unbelievably, the little boys polished off almost the entire thing).

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Powerful Prose and Poetry

If I had been more on top of things last month (and had kept up with my blogging friends), I would have known that it was National Poetry Month. I believe I did hear of it briefly and thought it might be fun to write a poem (especially given the incentive from Lucy's fabulous venture into poetry as a new experience for 2009). However, I quickly nixed that idea, since poetry for me is something that only comes when I am really beset by strong emotions and then it is usually not something I am ready to share with the world at large.

Tonight, I have been catching up on my blog-friend, Amy's blog. She calls herself the English Geek and I feel a certain kinship with her. When I visit her blog, it often reminds me of why I was a literature major in college and why I wanted to be an English teacher. It is also a plus that now she is a librarian and I am feeling a tug in my heart to lean that direction instead of returning to teaching when my little ones enter school full-time.

I have been blown away by her posts from the month of April. I can't even direct you to just one post. I want you to share in all of them (although, if pressed for time, I've narrowed it down to five: April 6, 7, 8, 18, 23). My favorite thing about her April posts is that so many of them reflect on her own personal experiences and then tie in with an outstanding poem. I had forgotten how much I love reading poetry (I'm really not too good at writing it, although I did love writing poems when I was in high school). Amy's prose, discussing the poetry, is every bit as much a fine literary experience as the poetry. Thanks, Amy, for reminding me of the power of poetry, even if I am a month late to the ball game.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Rambling Recap

I must confess that my blog has gotten a bit beyond me this year. There are plenty of times when I wish to write about something, but simply cannot carve out the time. It does not help that my own personal writing style requires absolute quiet and isolation. Oh, how I envy those writers who can plug away while children are screaming in the background, several televisions are blaring, and dinner is cooking on the stove.

When it comes to writing, I have to be able to concentrate and the slightest noise interrupts that. During my first year in college, I couldn't study in my dorm room because my roommate would study at her desk and eat potato chips! She wasn't talking to me. She wasn't trying to distract me. She was merely having a snack while studying, but it drove me to insanity.

In my mind, I covet an Annie Dillard location. She obviously craved isolation for writing, spending a year at Tinker Creek before writing her famous book, The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Not that I am in any way comparing myself to Annie Dillard. I merely share similar requirements. She even clarifies this herself, on her website.

The funny thing is that, in many ways, I already have an Annie Dillard location. If I am not working full-time when my little boys attend school full-time, then I will have the optimal opportunity for writing. I even have a novel already in the works, which is set here. Alas, for now, I have the beauty, without the quiet; I have the ideas, but not the time.

In fact, several weeks ago, I wanted to share about my experience with our blue heron. I am always thrilled when I see the heron fishing down in the creek. I love to watch the way his bill juts out ahead of him as he walks through the water on his long, stiff legs. The first time I saw the heron, I couldn't believe the wing span on that creature. His wing span is easily as long as my arms (or longer).

As National Geographic puts it, "Great blue herons' size (3.2 to 4.5 feet/1 to 1.4 meters) and wide wingspan (5.5 to 6.6 feet/1.7 to 2 meters) make them a joy to see in flight. They can cruise at some 20 to 30 miles (32 to 48 kilometers) an hour." For a great professional image (didn't think I could legally copy it into my page), go here.

Of course, now my photos will pale by comparison, but here they are anyway:

I was really quite surprised to see the heron, since my son has been back in the woods so much, enjoying and dealing with his fort. At first, he had to deal with the fort because they began to realize that a flat roof isn't helpful during hard rains. Thus, he and his friend, remodelled the roof to give it a slope.

Then, ES mentioned the fort to several others at school and we ended up having kids coming into our woods searching for the thing. This made ES feel quite threatened, so he began a new remodelling project to safeguard his private sanctuary. We are not so much worried about kids coming to see the fort. It is more the concern this brings for their safety, in case a trespassing hunter might be back there at the same time. ES and his friend found two chains and an old door out in the shed. They attached the chains to the entrance trees and put the door against the opening and lock the chains together to seal off the entrance.

Perhaps, next, they will begin begging for the purchase of a watch dog. Ha! At this point, the only watch dog any of these boys will have is a cute little dog YS brought home from Parent's Day Out the other day. This craft was absolutely adorable. As far as I'm concerned, it has all the qualities I'm looking for in a family pet: cuddly, sweet, quiet, and low maintenance.