Thursday, June 27, 2013


In summertime there is a new rhythm to my household. Everyone is home, including the skipper. There are more people in my house, more food to cook and lots more fun to be had!

The skipper surprised me for our 22nd anniversary and whisked me away for a few days. Now, anyone would enjoy this, but it is all the more sweet when my "big" kids step up and care for their little sizzler brother. Not an easy task, but they were so willing. What a gift they gave us!

So, off we went! Zipping down country roads til we came to a little town (I mean really small!) we had never been to. What a treat!

I find people very interesting and being in a dinky little town we met several town "characters". If I was a novelist I would have plenty of fodder for my next tale.
Our first order of business was tea time. So we strolled up and down the quaint main street and stopped at the bakery. We grabbed two English breakfast teas and two giant macaroons and sat on the front porch to enjoy our afternoon tea and watch the goings on. I thoroughly enjoyed watching a lady sitting at a table next to us. She had purchased two items. A pie to take home and a pots de creme to eat now. Oh did she ever enjoy her pots de creme. She sat by herself savoring every bite, not feeling a bit guilty about her indulgence. I wonder if she will tell her husband? ;) By the way, if you have never eaten pots de creme, you must, today. You will not believe the goodness, and so easy to make!

                          Oooo la la!

We wandered in a few gifts shops and then popped into a wine tasting room. We were drawn in by the sound of a lively piano. As we walked in the gentleman at the piano stopped, welcomed us and hopped behind the bar. Turns out he is the winemaker and owner of the joint. We sipped his wines and chatted about winemaking, but mostly about education. It seems we can't get away from that subject! Tony was a gentle soul who was very humble about his wines. Funny thing is his last name (and the name of his wine) is Feist. Not the word I would use to describe him. We Happily bought some of his wine.
outside Feist wines

The next character we met was the owner of a burger/ice cream parlor. He was outside taking down his sandwich board as it was closing time. He greeted us and we chatted with him. He was wearing all white except for these bright yellow and reds socks (he was wearing sandals), so I commented on his socks. Oh was he happy I did! He told me all about them and how his friend knit them especially for him. His character was reflected in the name of his business - "Buffalo Chips" where its OK to lick the plate!

The rest of our time was spent wandering the local countryside, tasting more wine, touring cool caves and taking the scenic route. We made a wrong turn and it took us miles out of our way, but we didn't care, it was all about the journey and hanging out with my Skipper!

Where have you wandered lately?

Thursday, April 25, 2013


I think my sizzler feels things more deeply, in fact, I know he does.
This morning he says "What's your most uncomfortable feeling?" Wow. I had to stop and think about that one. First, I was surprised at his question. That's some pretty deep thinking for an 8 year old. Then I wondered what he had been thinking about prior to the question. He had been lost in thought as we drive down the road.
After I thought about it I replied "feeling left out. What's yours ?"
"Being hot" my little guy confesses.
Now that one surprised me. I know he's very sensitive to light and heat but I didn't think he would say that. I thought he might say something about fear or being embarrassed. He was thinking about physical feelings and I was getting all emotional and internal.
So I suggested that when he grows up and choses a place to live it should be someplace that doesn't get hot. So he says "does it get hot at the beach?" And he reminded me that he will be living on his 100 acres by the ocean, so if he gets hot he can take a dip!
Oh yah, I forgot about that. He said the skipper and I could live there too. Can't wait!
What's your most uncomfortable feeling?

Monday, April 22, 2013

How are you smart?

As a classroom teacher I have asked my students many times to explain their thinking. But what I was really asking them to do was write about their thinking. That is hard to do, especially when you're 10.
"Just put your thoughts into words", encouraging teachers say. Nothing. Blank page.
I have learned a few things since my early days of teaching when writing across the curriculum was in style. Some kids have a very hard time explaining their thinking, especially in writing. I know. I have one of those at home.
Now I'm hearing that with the "new" standards in education, Common Core, we are shifting back to writing in every subject. Good grief. Haven't we learned that this kills school for the boys! Have we forgotten about all the brain research and multiple intelligence theory about the way people learn.
In my recent stint in the classroom I spent a lot of time helping kids know how they are smart. One boy had a hard time with academics but he sure could dance. I kept telling him how "body smart" he is. He would grin every time. Or what about the kid who could draw amazing things that others could only imagine? He struggled in math, but you should see his artwork! He's what I call "picture smart". Now the official term for body smart is bodily kinesthetic, and picture smart is visual-spatial. I taught those words as well, but young kids need terms that they understand more easily. These terms come from Harvard's Howard Gardner and the research he has conducted.
Looking at people through the lens of multiple intelligences opens up your eyes. Schools tend to cater to only two of the intelligences; logical-mathematical and linguistic. That's where the three R's come from (reading, writing and arithmetic). Many kids are strong in these areas, but many are not. When our schools tend to focus on a couple of the smarts many don't feel smart at all. Now, I know I'm generalizing and that there are many schools and teachers who strive to make school a place where all feel successful, there are still way too many that do not.
Here's a quick list of the "smarts":

  • Musical - music smart
  • Visual-spatial - picture smart
  • Logical-mathematical- number smart
  • Linguistic- word smart
  • Intrapersonal - people smart
  • Interpersonal- self smart
  • Bodily-kinesthetic - body smart
  • Natural - nature smart
My sizzler is highly picture smart. He thinks in pictures. I think in words. Sometimes we clash because we think differently. When he needs to express his thinking he has to do it with pictures. It's what comes naturally to him.
The other day when our ES was here checking in on us and what we're learning, the sizzler was trying to explain a scientific concept he learned in his zoology lessons. As he's talking to her he stops midstream and runs to get paper and pencil. "Here, let me show you" he says to her and begins to draw. This is what he drew:

You probably have no idea what this is so let me explain. This is his illustration of a shark's ampullae of Lorenzini and how it works. Huh? Sharks have a really cool feature that helps them detect their prey. The ampullae of Lorenzini are small holes on their snout with which they sense electrical signals from other animals. They can detect slight moves or even heartbeats from miles away. So now look at the sizzler's picture. Can you see the shark? Notice the electrical waves that the prey animal is "sending" to the shark? And what does the shark do? He attacks!
Allowing a child to express his thinking this way honors him and how he is smart. If my son was asked to write out this scientific concept he wouldn't, because he couldn't. He's not strong enough in his linguistic skills to do that, yet. In order to feel smart he must work in areas where he is strong. He needs to convey his thinking with his pictures. It's how he thinks and I think its pretty wonderful!
How are you smart?

Friday, April 5, 2013

No more chicken nuggets!

The sizzler made a big decision last night at the dinner table. He was sitting with his dad eating some delicious crock pot Mexican chicken, rice and beans. Something about the chicken got him thinking about, well, chickens. Now he does know that chicken comes from the fluffy, pecking birds we have owned. He knows that bacon is from a pig, but, there is a difference being knowing and really understanding. Last night he reached a level of understanding. He declared himself a vegetarian. He did not eat the chicken on his plate, thank you very much, however, he did ask for more rice with cheese on top.
I'm not surprised he has made this decision. He loves animals dearly and never wants to harm them. He has toyed with the idea many times, but then bacon or sausage would be served and he would happily dive in. Bacon is divinity didn't ya know?
Maybe because we have chickens in the house now it pushed him over the edge. I wonder what he will do when we visit In-N-Out burger again. I will let him know that they have other options like grilled cheese or animal fries. I want to honor his decision and help him be successful as a new vegetarian, even if it means more work for me. That's what Mama's do for their kiddos, right?
So today as we approach lunchtime he reminds me not to make him chicken nuggets (which he happily ate yesterday) because he would not be eating them. Sigh. Chicken nuggets are so easy to make! Then he asks what sausage is made of and what about steak. I tell him and he says, well, I can still eat those because 1) I love them too much, and 2) cows are annoying and I don't really like them. Hmmm, interesting. We've never owned a cow but our neighbors have some. One of them is particularly noisy and the sizzler doesn't like noisy things (funny, cuz he's quite noisy ;)
Then he starts to think about dinner. The sizzler really likes to eat. Friday night is taco night at our house so he says that he will have his tacos without the meat. I tell him that he can have beans instead. He likes that idea.
Good thing the boy likes pasta, tea & cookies. I'm going to have to research some good kid friendly vegetarian recipes. Anybody got some good ones?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Chickee cuddles

There is chicken poop on my kitchen floor. I mention this to the sizzler and he says he dropped it there, by accident. So I say "well, if you dropped it there, why didn't you clean it up?"
His response: "I didn't know I dropped it there."
Now, before you go judging me and my unclean house you must know that we have a new batch of baby chickens. Yep. We do. Five lovely little cheepers who eat and poop, a lot.
The fun part about getting our new babies is naming them. Our chickens are not for eating so they have to have a name! There's five in our family so we each got to name one. My sweet son named his little Araucana, Rosalina. I think that is a spectacular name for a chicken, don't you? El named hers Alice, Big Bubba named his Jed Dowell (after his friend, weird, I know, but it's better than the last time he named his Burnt Fries), the Skipper couldn't make up his mind but I think he's settled on Mr. Winkles. I named my precious baby, Lucille.
So, the other morning the sizzler and I were cuddling on the couch with our fuzzy friends and he had a great suggestion. He says "let's read some chicken stories!" Now those are lovely words to a bibliophile mama!
Yes! Go look for Chicken Sisters. Off he goes. Then I had a real proud mama moment. He brought back several stories along the theme of chickens, farms, etc. Oh, how I love it when things are thematic! And here's my boy picking out stories from our library on a theme. Sigh. Grin.
We took turns reading our chicken themed stories to our babies. The chicks were cuddled up in towels as we pet their heads. The sizzler and I snuggled under a cozy blanket. Pure bliss.

So how did the chicken poop get on my kitchen floor? Well, after this mornings chickee cuddle the sizzler went to dump the turd in the towel into the trash. I guess he missed.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fish are friends

In the sizzler's world every living creature is a potential friend. A moth that slipped inside at night becomes his friend "mothy". The earthworm stuck on the sidewalk in a rainstorm becomes "wormy" and gets saved by the sizzler. I know they have become friends because the critter has a name. If it has a name then it's "somebody". Just like Dory in Finding Nemo when she finds her new "friend", squishy. Well, until it stings her, then it becomes "bad squishy".
I find it quite amusing that kids love to name things with the ending "ee". And usually the name describes who they are or what they look like. A brown dog becomes "browny" and a white rat becomes "Snowball".
So, I would like to introduce our two new fish friends, Rainbow and Redface.
I'm totally shocked that one of them is not named fishey. I guess it's a sign of maturity. I'll take it!
However, their names totally describe how they look. Rainbow is black, orange and white (not quite the colors of the rainbow, but...) and Redface has a big orange splotch on his head (awesome! I love redheads ;)
Now the thought that pops into my silly brain right now is "I'm so glad our parents don't use this naming process when we are born!" My girl would have been named "cone head", big bubba would have been "bruiser" (he seriously looked like he just came out of the boxing ring) and the sizzler, well, maybe "bloody mess" or "hungry"! I'm sure my mother would have named me "peaceful" or "angel face" ;)
Back to our fish friends, or, should I say, fish family members. I blame it all on homeschooling. In our Zoology book we are learning about swimming creatures and just finished the chapter on fish. At the end of each chapter there is an experiment. This one called for a goldfish. Goody. Another mouth to feed. So we got two! Hey, they were only 10 cents each. Except they needed a bowl, colored pebbles, decorations, food, drops for the water........ So 20 cents worth of fish cost me about 10 bucks. Not too bad.
Guess how long it took the sizzler to name 'em?
Yep, about 10 seconds. He looked at them pronounced them Rainbow (because he has lots of colors) and Redface, well, you know. I love that he has to give the justification for the names.
As soon as they had names he begins the conversation. That's what you do when you have a new friend, right? He talks to them all the way home from the feed store (that's about 30 minutes). He's telling them all about life at Appleby Farm. He thinks they will like it. These fish sure got lucky!
I did warn him that goldfish don't always live that long. Then he told me where we would bury them. Poor kid. He has said goodbye to a few animal friends. He suggested we bury them next to Penelope the rat. I told him we need 't make burial arrangements yet. He obviously hasn't heard about burial at sea.
Yesterday we let them settle into their new home and waited until today to perform the experiment. The sizzler loved watching them swim around. "Mom, look, they're by the finger sponges!" "Look, now they're pooping." Who needs TV!
The experiment was to hypothesize (yes, we use that word, we are scientists after all!) about how the behavior of the fish might change if the water temperature was warmer or colder. Poor Rainbow got selected to be in the experiment. We had learned that there is less oxygen in warm water so the little guy had to resort to some serious breathing in order to get enough oxygen in 80 degree water.

Writing his hypothesis
Reading to Redface while Rainbow is under the heat lamp
Taking the temperature reading

Then we had to plunge the water temperature down to 50 degrees. Now our little friend could breathe easier! It was quite a difference. In the warm water his respiration was about 210/minute then when the temperature dropped he was breathing about 108/ minute. It's pretty tricky counting the breaths of a goldfish!
I would have to say Rainbow has earned a new name, "good sport". Even though he didn't really have a choice in the matter he did perform like a trooper.
Now we just have to introduce sissy to our fish friends. She comes home for spring break today. I think she will love her new "brothers".

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Love my girl

I call her sunshine girl, snug bug and Ellie bellie. Never mind that she is in college now. A mama has a right to call her child anything she wants no matter how old they are, Right? Plus, she's my only girl.
This child is the one skipper and I call "the easy one". As a child she was creative, curious and easy going. She loved to play with her brother (15 months apart). They were best buddies growing up. They would play imaginative games for hours on end. Those were good times.
Throughout most of elementary school she was homeschooled. I just wanted to be with my kiddos and learn along with them. They did fine in school but we felt they needed "more". My girl used this freedom to pursue her interests of horses, reading, drawing (lots of horses) and writing. She wanted to be so many things and I wanted to help her.
At 9 she was in full blown horse crazy mode. She had a goofy pony named Sargent and she loved to ride him every day. She read every horse story there was. One of her favorites was Marguerite Henry's Misty of Chincoteague. She learned everything she could about Chincoteague ponies and she really wanted to go see them and experience pony penning day. Lucky for her she has a grandma that loves to send her grandchildren on trips, and since she was only nine, I had to go with her!
It was a girl's dream come true. We were in the water when the ponies swam across the channel. I cried. I couldn't believe we were there. To read these stories to your kids and then get to experience it first hand is just amazing.
She was so enamored with the Chincoteague ponies she wanted to buy one. Where would she get the money? She started a business. Yep, she did. Well, I helped her. It was called el's munchie crunchies. She baked and sold goodies at the local farmers market (back then you could do that without a commercial kitchen). She bought all the ingredients, baked up a storm and sold lots of her munchie crunchies. I had her keep all accounting records (that's real life math there!) She made $200 in four Saturdays. Not quite enough to buy a pony, but, she already had Sarg. She was content.
My girl loved to write. She would spend hours writing elaborate fantasy stories with elves and horses, of course. One day she decided to start a "newspaper". She called it Adventure News. She wrote about all kinds of things going on in our area and put in word searches and other fun stuff. The first issue was all hand done. Then she learned how to set it up with the computer. She gave copies to friends and our local librarian put Adventure News on display in the library (we have very cool rural librarians!). Her creative brain was always thinking up someone new!
At 10, the sizzler was born and my girl took on a surrogate mama role. She was my right hand gal. I don't know what I would have done without her. She was so loving and helpful with her little brother. She learned many lessons such as how much work it is to take care of a baby and how selfless you have to be.
When she was 11 she started a working student position at a local horse riding facility. She worked several hours a week grooming, exercising and helping with the horses and students who came for lessons. In exchange she received riding instruction. This was an amazing opportunity for her. The owner of the riding stable was hesitant to give her the opportunity because of her age. She soon learned that this girl was handy with horses and could work hard! She continued in this "job" until she was 15. The lessons she learned at that barn could not have been learned in a classroom. Real life. Raw. Smelly. Sweaty. She learned the meaning of work.
As a teen she went back to public school but kept up her creative pursuits and her riding. Soon, though, her love for the horses would take a back seat and music would fill her days. She taught herself to play guitar and sing. She joined the choir at school and the worship team at church. She stepped out of her comfort zone and sang and played guitar in front of an audience. I wish I was that brave. Just before she left for college she sang a JJ Heller song in church called When I Leave. I cried, of course.
Now she is finishing up her first year in college and has returned to one of her first loves; Art. She is painting, drawing and designing. She declared herself an art major with an emphasis on education/teaching. I am so thrilled that she has found her niche and is exercising her God given talents and passions. Love my girl.
My girl has always been creative. Whether it's the outfit she puts on, the way she decorates her room or the art she is dreaming up. She has ideas that want to come out!
I can't wait to see what she does next!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Learning to change gears

I'm not a mountain bike rider but the sizzler is. When we're on the trail and we come to a hill he changes gears in order to make it up. He changes gears to make it easier to get up that darn hill.
It's Monday. Mondays are really hard for my boy. Changing gears from the weekend to the school week is painful, for both of us. I just wish we could skip Mondays and all the struggle they bring. Last Monday is not one I want to repeat so today I thought, hmmmm, why not change gears? Let's switch it up! Why has it taken me so long to figure this out? I have no idea. Hard headed I guess.
So after he got his morning jobs done (taking forever) I said we're going out for some sunshine and exercise. He looked at me strangely and then skipped out the door.
I grabbed his faithful canine companion, Tigger. He got his bike and helmet and we loaded up. We headed to one of out favorite spots and set out on a 2.5 mile loop. He was riding, I was walking/running and Tig was sniffing, peeing then running up to meet us. Did I mention it is a gorgeous spring day? Rolling oak studded hills, the sound of the rushing river, sunshine, blue skies and an empty trail - oh my goodness, pure heaven.
Back home and he is reading, outside, on his swing. Love.

He was able to finish his "must do's" without any hulla baloo. He even did his math in the car on the way to an appointment, without any asking or cajoling. A successful day. Yay!
Now sometimes you have to do more than change gears. Sometimes you have to change course. The trick is to know when you need a minor adjustment and when life needs a major change. I can be pretty stubborn and don't like to change my course, if it isn't in my plan. But then God reminds me that it's not my plan but His I need to follow. Why do I always forget that?
Have you changed gears lately? Would love to hear from you!

Monday, March 4, 2013

The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

Maybe you've read the children's story "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" by Judith Viorst. Today I feel like Alexander. The sizzler won't do anything, well, anything I want him to do. It is frustrating and I feel like going back to bed or going to Australia.
These are the days I know he has ADHD. No question about it. He is falling out of his chair, flailing about, can't focus, singing, shouting, throwing things, touching everything around him, literally bouncing off the walls and furniture. And then when I'm completely over the top frustrated he wants a "huggie"! It's really hard to give a hug to a kid you are ready to throttle. Nope, not feeling the love little sizzler!
These are the days I wonder why I am doing this. This is too hard. I can't do this!
These are the times when there is nothing I can do but turn to my Heavenly Father and cry out. I can't do this Lord! I just want to crawl into His lap and cry. "Please carry me through Lord" I pray.
You see The Lord has entrusted me with this child and He will give me the strength, grace and courage to continue. He never says he will take away the burden but that he will guide me through it. I can't run away to Australia. I can't avoid it. I must go through it, but not alone. I am so grateful that His grace is sufficient. I also have to remember that my little boy is struggling too. There are real reasons for his behavior that are out of his control. I must stay steady, loving and consistent. And when I blow it (ahem, like today) I can be washed clean and start anew. Praise God for that.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Doesn't get much better

Today was one one those days you hope comes back again, many times.
Sizzler science experiments

Painting sponges

And mommy art ........... make for a very good day indeed!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Did you see that?

My sizzler is extremely observant. He notices things. Things I don't see until he points them out. I love this about him.
Today we were on the way home from town (we live in the sticks) and stopped at one of our favorite farm stands to get some oranges. Now I have stopped here 100 times (well maybe not that many) in the last 15 years to buy mandarins and other local yummy stuff and never noticed what the sizzler saw today. There it is in the picture above. Can you tell what it is? Right away he says "mom, look it's an old truck" by golly it is son!
Now it's time for the close inspection. What is it? Is it a Ford? Model T? He has to know.
Here comes the farmer. He's an old timer, been here forever. The sizzler asks him what it is and where did he get it. It turns out it is a nurse rig from Southern California used to supply the spray trucks in the farm fields.
You don't say.
"Why is it in the bushes?" He inquires further. The farmer tells him he parked it there and the bushes grew over it.
"Ok" and he returns to his investigation of this oldie truck.
My sweet son loves antique stuff. Old trucks are a favorite. We are always on the look out for them. If we see one we point it out to each other then say "old truck bump" and we do knuckles together.
There are a few oldie trucks on our regular routes. When we get to them I have to remember to drive slow so he can get a good gander at them. So today I decided to stop to see two of our " friends".

For many years the sizzler and I have driven past these two trucks (they are close to each other on the same stretch of road) and slowed way down. I've gotten so used to it that I even do it sometimes when he's not with me. I appreciate that he's given me that. The gift of slowing down and taking a close look at what's around me.
You just never know what you might see.
Enjoy the journey!

You don't have to want to

My wise friend Craig gave me this line to use with the sizzler. I've been using it everyday since he shared this amazing bit of parenting advice at our Valentine's dinner.
When it's time for his "must do's" I often hear "I don't want to!" And now I have the perfect response:
"You don't have to want to!" I say as I smile my most loving, patient smile. "You just need to do it" as I continue to gaze at my awesome sizzler.
He doesn't usually respond with the same loving, patient smile and a resounding "ok mom!"
I get one of the following responses:
  • "Nooooooo!" As he flops on the floor
  • "Can I play angry birds?" Uh, no
  • "I have to go to the bathroom" as he grabs he Lego ideas book and heads to the toilet and spends forever in there
  • "What's your favorite deep sea creature?" Trying to distract me
  • Or my favorite, "huggie" as he runs at me and gives me a super duper bear bug (kinda hard to resist)
Sizzlers are experts at avoiding work, especially if they have to write. Oh how my sizzler hates to write. He has convinced himself that he can't, that it's too hard, that something really bad will happen. But, he is getting better.
I have to remind myself that he is not torturing me on purpose, although sometimes it certainly feels like that.
There is hope though. Here and there I am getting the "ok" response and he gets going on what I asked him to do. When he first starting doing it I was a bit in shock. I had to hide my dropped jaw and surprised look. Oh, so he can do it! I was told not to fall into the trap of thinking that just because he did it once he can do it again.
Sizzlers are regularly irregular. You can't bank on anything. Every day is new and exciting, heck, from moment to moment I hardly know what to expect. Things can be going so well and then bam! He's upset and convinced he can't do something. It is a bit of a roller coaster ride. Weeeeee.......
On the flip side, my sizzler is the most loving and sensitive boy. As we were reading our Zoology book about pinnipeds this morning he got really upset. He was reading about the fur trade and how many seals were killed for their pelts. He could not finish the paragraph. He was angry. He was feeling very deeply about this so I finished the paragraph for him and told him how I see so much empathy in him for animals. That someday he will do great work and I wouldn't be surprised it if involved helping animals. His response:
"I'm going to be an ocean policeman!"
Awesome. Can't wait.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Where o where has she gone?

Holy smokes! I haven't blogged for several days. Where have I been?

Good question!

I've been exploring my creativity. Yep. I have. And it' been quite fun. I must say. And messy, very messy.

I blame it all on Mati Rose McDonough and Kelly Rae Roberts.

After my last attempt to have "art class" with the sizzler I realized that I had so much fun creating that I wanted more. So I looked around on the web and came across Mati and Kelly. I bought their books. Meanwhile, I set up a space to do art. That was super fun. I liked the idea of having a "studio" space. I collected all my artsy supplies and went to work. Then I lost my inspiration, and got busy, so the studio got dusty.

But on Tuesday, the day it snowed and the sizzler spent the afternoon wallowing in the joyous white fluff, my new art books arrived, oh boy!

I decided to cuddle up with a cup of tea and my new books.
I soon realized that I would need a bigger studio. This was amazing stuff and I was going to need to a lot of room to do this. So I moved the "studio" into the bedroom, in front of my big window, under my happy lights.
Mati's book is called Daring Adventures in Paint. Oh dear. I need to be daring. You see when I do art I usually have an idea of what I want the outcome to look like. She wanted me to forget that. Just start painting. Layer on the colors. Be bold. I did. I liked it. (Big grin)

I did start with a small canvas. Seemed safe.

Daring, ok, here I, blue, pink, pistachio. Smear, smudge, scrape. Add a little here, a cute image there. Not too shabby. Kinda fun, sorta childish and playful. I like it!

The sizzler comes in and takes a look at my creation and says "why did you label the sail?"

Good feeling gone.

I work so hard to be positive with him, why can't he say something nice?

The thing is he just says the first thing that comes to mind. I must remember this. Do not take sizzler comments to heart.

So I carry on. I do not need his approval!

I will continue to be daring and bold and silly and have a darn good time doing it!


And it will get messy!

Oh, and if you are looking to get inspired to create watch Kelly's manifesto

One more thing.......

The really cool thing about this new endeavor is that I'm using my father in law's paints, brushes and canvases. He passed away in October of 2011. He spent the last 7 years of his life here on our property as our neighbor across the driveway. The sizzler spent the first 7 years of his life with his British grandparents right next door. Super special. Anyway, as I use grandad's supplies I feel a new connection to him. He painted in a wonderful impressionist style. Never too much green. More inspiration. Cheers Dad!



Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The amazing number boy

My older son, the one I affectionately call Big Bubba, loves numbers. Well, maybe he would disagree with that statement, but he is drawn to them and what he can do with them.
His favorite kind of numbers are statistics. Specifically, basketball stats.
When he was 9 he got interested in NBA. Not so much watching the games, although he did like that too, but he loved the numbers produced by the games. He would sit for hours and compute average points, assists and rebounds per game. He would create fantasy teams and have them "play" each other. Of course all this information was hand written in neat organized sections on lined paper. He had stacks and stacks of these papers. For Christmas we got him a book that had all the stats for every NBA player for an entire season. He used that book so much it fell apart. I had to 3 hole punch it and put it in a binder.

Today, at 17, 6'3" (and growing), he is a walking basketball encyclopedia. He could be one of those sports commentators and fit right in. Each morning I see him checking the stats online. It's like his morning coffee. Gotta have it first thing or the day just doesn't get off to a good start!
Recently, we had the privilege of attending an NBA game. I wanted to sit next to my bubba because he knows what's going on and can give me the background on all the players. Plus, I got to watch him in a state of pure joy. He was watching a live game and seeing the action that produces those numbers he loves so dearly. I think I watched him as much as I watched the game. He is quite entertaining.

The Big Bubba is in his element when he is immersed in basketball stats. It's his passion, his joy and possibly his future.
When he was younger and would spend hours working on stats, time was nothing. He had no idea so much time had passed. He was lost in his work. Adult friends would marvel at his interest and the free time he committed to it. To us it was "normal". That's what he loves to do, so he does it, a lot.
In his book The Element, Ken Robinson talks about being in this state of flow, or being "in the zone", He says:
"You begin to do something you love and the world slips away. Hours pass, and it feels like minutes. During this time you have been "in the zone." Those who have embraced the Element find themselves in this place regularly. This is not to suggest that they find every experience of doing the thing they love blissful, but they regularly have optimal experiences while doing these things, and they know they will again."
Oh, how I want that for my son!

His "team" is the Nicks - note the team colors on his braces :)


Monday, February 18, 2013

School holiday? No way Jose!

Today is a school holiday. The beep of my phone reminded me at 8:15. Everyone is home. But don't tell the sizzler. He doesn't know and I don't want him to know because he can't have the day off of school.
Unfair! Mean!
You might be thinking those things but I know that if the sizzler gets too many days off (like more than two on the weekend) it so exponentially more difficult on the first day back in school. I know. I have lived it and lived to tell you that it is not worth the extra day off.
Mondays are hard enough. Getting back on track after a free wheelin weekend is hard for everyone, but extra hard for sizzlers. They get all comfy in their freedom. They don't want regimen and routine. But they need it. Their lives (and mine) depend on it.
So today I only had 3 things on his list of must do's. Reading, math and a wee bit of writing. That's it! Simple!
Well, not quite. Reading went fine. He is enjoying a good cuddle up with all of Oliver Jeffers picture books. Love. And sometimes he reads like this

But that's ok, he's reading!
Math also went swimmingly. Life of Fred (his math program) is a gift from God. It uses story to engage the sizzler. He loves story. There's a guy named Fred and he is the main character. In his daily adventures Fred encounters math, lots of math. New concepts are just part of Fred's life. Time, money, adding things, even geometry (because your elbow can make a right angle) are learned without the sizzler even knowing it. If I were to give him a page of math problems he would have a seizure. Really. I've seen it. So I have to fool him into doing math. It's not math, it's Life of Fred! Works every time.
Now writing is a different story. The sizzler thinks he can't write. He can, you see, but he doesn't like to. He loathes it. He fights and squirms. He does everything he can think of to avoid writing.
Today we learned about the use of "an" before a word that starts with a vowel. No problem. Now write these 3 sentences. It took an hour (ooh, there's an exception to that grammar rule I just taught him!). That's ONE hour. It was painful for him and for me. Now, he spent most of that time not writing. The actual writing process was maybe 5-10 minutes. The rest of the time was the battle. Wears. Me. Out.
Now if I had let him take the day off it would be a much bigger battle tomorrow. Good thing I know better! Well, I guess we'll have to see about that tomorrow.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Picture book maker

Oliver Jeffers is amazing! He is recent creative influence in the sizzler's life. I could just hug him for inspiring my boy.

What was the inspiration you ask? Watch this



We watched this video a couple of times. We laughed. We marveled. We thought could we be picture book makers. That is pure creative inspiration flowing. You don't pass that up. You jump in your boat and ride that river!

Hmmm, how should we do it? Do you want to draw the pictures and I will type the words? I ask the sizzler.

Then I wondered if there was a cool app for making books. He loves working with the iPad, let's look.

Well what do you know! I found an app called Book Creator. Perfect!

Now for a story idea. One of his latest obsessions is the Lego ghost train, so I suggested we make a story about the adventures of the ghost train. He loved the idea. We make a good team!

So then I guided him through the process of creating a story board, getting him to think through the plot. Then the fun part started. We went outside and set up the scenes and he took pictures with the iPad. We even set a fire on the tracks!

When he had all the photos we went inside and learned how to put the photos into his book. I told him I would type the words for his story as he hasn't learned to keyboard, yet. But Book Creator has this fabulous feature where you can put a sound button on the page. Once we discovered this he could do the whole thing on his own. He would decide what to say and then record himself reading the story. He even included fun theme music. It's quite hilarious!

He was so involved in this project. He couldn't get enough. He decided to make a second story. His new author pride was oozing. He was a picture book maker. Yay!

When his friend D "read" the ghost train story he loved it and he couldn't wait to get started on his own book. The inspiration continues.

So, thank you Oliver Jeffers for inspiring my son to be a book maker too!



Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Let's Google it!

I find it quite amusing that my son uses the word "google" as a verb. "Let's Google it!" , "Just Google it mom" or the basic "google it" are common phrases at Appleby farm school.

In my day it was look it up in the encyclopedia. And I did. Lots. Because when I wanted to know something I knew that the answer was in the World Book. You can get lost in those encyclopedias. One minute you're looking for locomotive and next thing you know you're reading about locusts because it's all right there and so tempting (especially when you see the picture of a swarm of locusts, eew!)
I hear the request "google it" at least once a day if not more. The sizzler has learned if he wants to know something we go to the World Wide Web to find out.
But beware, one can lost out there in cyber space too.
So today it was all about trains, again. He's not tired of them yet so we keep chugging down that "track".
Our ES was visiting today (the teacher who checks in with us to make sure we are actually doing school and not just goofing off) and she wanted to play the Joining of the Rails game with him. This is a file folder game we made that connects to the story of the Transcontinental Railroad.

Now what she didn't know was that the sizzler is quite good at this game. Poor woman. She was humbled by an 8 year old that knew more about this part of American History than she did. I can totally relate.
The sizzler decides to have mercy and help the ES with the questions she doesn't know (show her what you know son!) and she almost wins the game. He beams. She congratulates him. They move on.
Fast forward to the afternoon when all our "must dos" are done. He loves this time because now he can do anything he wants. Well, almost anything.
So, what does he want to do? Make a game like the one he's been playing but it will be based on the Mountain Quarries Railroad that operated near us a long time ago. Brilliant idea! How can I help?
Now, as a homeschooling mama of a sizzler these are golden moments. I want to dance and sing when he has a cool, awesome, even academic project he wants to do. Forget anything else I had to do this afternoon. This is full steam ahead baby!
So, I start with some questions. What will the game look like? How will it work? Do you want to have questions like the other game? Where will you start on the game board? Where will you end up? You get the idea.
Well, we need to start at the limestone crusher and end up at....... Hmmmm, where did they end up?
"Let's Google it!"
I love this part. Researching information and ideas is a hobby for me. My adrenaline is pumping now!
It turns out the railroad ends at Flint Station in Auburn, but we can't find any photos of it. No problem says the sizzler, I'll just draw that part.
Now he is in full fledged board game designing mode. He gets out a Thomas board game to examine it's layout. He gets ideas. He is ready to create the Mountain Quarries Railroad game! Woo hoooo!

Now one thing about sizzlers is they get so excited about what they are doing and they tend to rush things. It's my job to slow that engine down and get him to think about his decisions first, particularly when they involve glue. Luckily for me, he was willing to listen to mama's suggestions today.

Ta da! The track is finished. Now it's time for the details.

Now this makes my mama heart go pitter pat. He is writing. Because he wants to. Because he needs to put the name of the game on the board. There was no bribing or threatening. He wrote. Yay!
We worked together to finish up the game. We used our Google powers again and found interesting facts and turned them into questions for the game. And he let me make water for the river. He's nice that way.
Then we played the game. He won. Of course. All thanks to Google.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Got inspiration?

What is inspiration?
It is:
a : a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation
b : the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions
c : the act of influencing or suggesting opinions

But, what does it look like? Where does it come from?

A couple of weeks back I decided to have a fun art day with my sizzler. We had been working hard all week and it was Friday. Perfect idea! Plus, we had just received some new art supplies and a book called Art Lab.
I get so excited when we get new "stuff". It's like instant inspiration. Right?
So, I cleared the dining table and got it all set up for an awesome art session. I looked through the book for a cool idea to try out. The watercolor with salt idea looked fun and easy.
Ok, we're all set. Well, at least I was.
So I called the sizzler in to paint with me. I got all enthusiastic and jumped right in. See how fun this is? He is not convinced. He wants to know where the "real paint" is. Hmmmm, he's not buying what I'm selling here. I kept painting and hummed a happy tune. Then, he took the bait. He picked up the brush, dipped it in the water and grabbed some paint. He dragged the brush across the paper and was instantly unhappy. The paint was not doing what he wanted. It is stupid. It isn't real paint and he doesn't want any part of this art lab. Humph!
Why isn't he inspired? Look at these cool supplies! And this great book with tons of inspiring artists and awesome projects.
He isn't inspired because these things are not speaking to him. He doesn't care about the art I want to do. This is not his idea of fun. He has an idea of making a zombie vampire (what is it with the fascination with zombies?). OK. What do you need to create this zombie vampire?
Real paint!
Oh, that's right. So I pushed aside the watercolors and got out the acrylics. Now he'll be inspired!
He picked up his pencil and began to draw the zombie guy. It wasn't right. Erase. Frustration was bubbling up. I tried to encourage him to not worry about mistakes but to just keep creating. He couldn't. He was hyper focused on what was wrong with his picture.
How about trying some paint? He agreed. He dabbed the brush in and..........
It didn't look right. He was unhappy. He wanted to quit. Me too.
But I didn't. Well, at least not with my own creation. I gave up on trying to get him to do art, for now.
So I continued to create. After all, I was feeling inspired!

A little while later he was curious about what mom was making. Oh, some sort of collage thingy. I don't know yet.
What's a collage? he asks. I explained that it's a mixture of different things in a piece of art. It could have some paint, some drawing, some images that you cut out, whatever you want, really.
His interest is piqued. Maybe he could do this. I see that he was looking inspired so I moved in with my bag of ideas. He'd been looking at pictures of Lego monster fighters in his magazine (including the zombie vampire guy). So I suggested that he draw a cool action scene and cut the guys out and put them in the scene.
Now I'd gotten him! Hook, line and sinker! He wanted to do this. He grabbed his pencil and got to work. He was motivated now baby! He was in his element - drawing - with pencil. Heaven! (Grin)
The sizzler cranked out the background and put the guys in and proceeded to tell me the whole action packed story.
He was happy.
So was mama.
So, I need to remember to not push my inspirations on him. We are inspired by different things.

Inspires him to create this

I remember now.
What inspires you?