Thursday, September 29, 2011

Books for Big Kids

About a year ago I was having a tough time finding the boys books to read that weren't too easy or too hard and that would hold their interest. It seemed like it was hard to find books that weren't written for either little kids or pre-teens. Here are a few good ones I found for kids about age 7-10:

The Great Brain - This one took a little while for them to get into, but after the second chapter or so they were asking to read it every night. It's about a kid who is always scheming up ideas to get himself ahead and once in a while his plans help other people too. We have only read the first book in the series so far.

Beast Quest - These are a series of fantasy books that are each based on a different "beast" that the two main characters have to defeat. I couldn't tell you much more about these, but Jack really liked them!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid - These are definitely Dylann's favorite books. I catch him reading them in bed late at night when he's supposed to be sleeping and both boys have read them over and over again. There are five books in the series and they are easy to read with cartoon drawings throughout and lots of (gross and) funny stuff to keep kids interested.

Matilda - This was the first real chapter book Dylann ever read on his own. He loved reading about the tricks Matilda played on her mean and ignorant parents. Since then they've read a few other Roald Dahl books and loved them all.

How to Eat Fried Worms - They haven't read this one yet, but I have the feeling they're going to like it!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Farewell to Summer

We had a wonderful summer this year and even though the boys only get 6 weeks off from school, it seemed like we got the most out of it. The kids and I flew back to the states for the first time in 3 years for a month long visit. I was hoping we could have a good "Minnesota summer" like I remember growing up and we really did. We spent time at a cabin near the lake, lots of time at Grandma's house, and made the trip over to what the boys call "the secret lake", which is a very pretty little lake that has always been a special family gathering place.

It was really nice to see everyone and to be able to stay long enough to not have to rush through the trip.

Shortly after we got back, we celebrated Helena's 2nd birthday with a teddy bear picnic birthday party. It was lots of fun, but we were all still very jet-lagged at the time of the party. Helena refused to even crack a smile for the camera!

Then last weekend we finally threw Jack's 8th birthday party - a month late, but oh well! He had his first sleepover and they had a blast staying up half the night watching cartoons and showering the living room with snacks. Nothing out of the ordinary!

We're having a little extra summer weather here in England at the moment, a whole week of weather that's expected to be in the 70's. One last hurrah before we're all wrapped up in sweaters and huddled under umbrellas!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

January Thoughts

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old
may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even if it's sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young
and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there's never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile

poem by e.e. cummings

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

To be continued...

I just wanted to post a little note up here to say that I'm taking a break from this blog. I've never been great at updating regularly and now I'm just going to leave it for a while, until the mood strikes again (maybe after the summer). If you know me in real life, I'm sure you're already on my facebook, otherwise you can find me occasionally posting ridiculous nonsense on twitter. I'll leave you with this. Have a wonderful summer!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Forward we go

It happened as it has happened two times before. Our baby realized that she could move on her own, after months spent lying in one spot on the floor. She's been trying to get moving for weeks, but has faced the predicament of all fairly new babies - she was stuck. In the beginning that was fine, she was happy to sleep and watch things pass her by. But as those first quiet months passed and everything became more and more interesting, the frustration began. It spurred her onwards to restlessly roll and writhe and push herself up, kicking her legs and squealing until she finally realized the magical combination of arm and leg movements that bring you forward. Her face lit up for a moment, but I knew that satisfaction wouldn't last. Babies are ambitious.

This is a bittersweet milestone. I didn't feel that way when Dylann and Jack were babies. When Dylann was a baby, I was so excited for him to start moving; to see what direction he would choose and what previously unnoticed parts of the house he would decide to explore. I had no idea he would progress from crawling, to walking, to climbing, to running within about 6 months time. A year later he would be riding a scooter and a year after that, his little red bike. Now he's 8 and has been riding without training wheels for years. He rides to the park on his own with his friends. He rides a skateboard, rollerblades, ice skates and desperately wants a dirtbike. He's constantly in motion. And it all started with that first little scoot on his hands and knees.

I don't even remember when Jack started crawling. He moved so quickly from crawling to walking, he practically skipped it all together. I wrote the date in his baby book, but I didn't ponder my emotions about it. There was no wordy blog post written to document it. He crawled to try to keep up with his brother, who ran everywhere he went. It's like Dylann tagged Jack when he was a pudgy little baby, stuck in place on the floor and said, "You're it!" And Jack has been trying to tag him back ever since.

Now we are watching our last baby wake up every day a little bit older and wiser than the day before. And although I'm excited to see what the future holds for her, I also just want to hold her close for 10 years and never let her lose her baby rolls and her nubby little nose. Every time she meets a new milestone, the universe sends me a message that says, "You can't hold on." You can't hold on to the fleeting moments. You can only look forward and be optimistic.

The world is a big place for one baby on her hands and knees. I just have to try to keep up.

Friday, April 16, 2010

A bird could build a nest in it and I might not notice

Linsay from Midsummer Moon tagged me to participate in this and also gave me the sunshine award.

If there is one thing that I cannot resist looking at in a department store, it's the handbags. I am continually on the lookout for the perfect purse. It has to meet a lot of requirements in order for me to buy it. I have to be able to carry about 50 lbs. of junk in it, it has to go well with most clothing, it has to be made of soft, buttery leather, and it must rest on my shoulder and whisper sweet nothings into my ear. For the past two years I have mostly been using a coach purse that I bought out of the trunk of a car (sweet!) and it looks kind of like this:

It turns out what is IN my purse is a lot less attractive. Old receipts, candy wrappers, tissues...okay, I'm boring myself here. The must-have stuff in my purse is usually my crappy little camera, my cell phone (which may or may not be charged), my iPod (which also might be dead or dying), chapstick, a small umbrella, a few diapers and wipes, a playmobil guy with one arm, my dayplanner, a deck of cards, broken crayons, and a lollipop. And my purse has very few pockets so it is a giant mess and it takes me two days to find anything. I can also fit my laptop in it if I have to. Handy dandy!

Now, inquiring minds want to know...what's in your purse? Tell me everything. Extra points if you have a flask in your purse. Also if you participate, you get to steal the sunshine award from my sidebar and put it on your blog. Then pass along the sunshine!

Mommy Wants Vodka
The Only Girl
Quite Dear
From Here to There
Bombadee's Garden

Monday, April 12, 2010

Don't eat the beady little eyes

We have a history of taking a lot of road trips. Over the years they have taken us from one end of the US to the other. Every few months something comes over me and I need a change of scenery. Immediately. It amazes me when I think about how far we've driven and how often we've done it. We've gone from Georgia to Minnesota, from Minnesota to Texas, from Georgia to Texas, and from Minnesota to Arizona, just to name a few. Minnesota and Texas pop up a lot because we have family there.

Normally the way it goes down is the boys spend most of the trip trying to kill each other in the back seat, while continually asking for food, and Donn and I try not to kill each other in the front seat, while continually throwing food at the savages in the back. There is also usually some kind of bathroom emergency at least once a day.

And there's a natural progression of everyone's moods as we go down the road. In the beginning everyone is hopeful, buoyant, ready for the long haul. In the middle we are all turning sour. And towards the end we are ready to drive ourselves off a cliff, but just before things get too dire, we arrive! And then all parties are happy and the world is a good place once again.

Since moving to England we have taken two road trips, both shorter than any of our road trips in the US, but just as difficult to manage because the roads over here are not very driver friendly. On our most recent road trip in February we drove to Spain. I planned it out like I plan out most of our trips. Last minute and by the seat of our pants.

It was a 16 hour drive from our little village in England to the tiny mountain village in Spain where we stayed. We drove across the entire length of France, which was pretty dull. We all yawned a lot. Our drive didn't go through any of the exciting parts of France, it was just mile after mile of flat land with an overcast sky and industrial buildings everywhere. And a lot of graffiti. In French, so that was exciting.

Crossing the border into Spain was fun. I made the kids all sing Never Been to Spain because we love singing together and being wholesome when we're not yelling at each other. Helena was in the back seat making farting sounds the whole way. She learned that just as we left for the trip, so she kept herself (and the boys) entertained.

The village in Spain where we stayed was about as quaint as you can imagine. I think the actual population was around 40 people. It was part of a string of little villages spread out along the Picos de Europas mountains.

The view from pretty much anywhere in the village was amazing. I really couldn't believe that there are people who go about their daily lives surrounded by that view. Truly one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to.

We saw quite a bit while we were there and managed to eat out a couple times, despite our children's requests to only eat items made out of reconstituted chicken formed into a nugget. I had paella with shrimp and octopus and some other sea critter bits in it. I'm used to dealing with shrimp that's already been cleaned, but these shrimp were looking at me with their beady little eyes. Tasty once you pulled their heads off!

Don't eat us!

Every night we wound down with a glass of rioja and Spanish tv. Reality tv is definitely more fun to watch in a foreign language. There was also some strange German helicopter rescue show that was always on. Germans dubbed over to look like they were speaking Spanish - only slightly confusing. People were constantly shouting "Ayudeme!" and then some burly German would toss them into a helicopter and away they'd go.

Our drive back to England was long and torturous for all of us. We got yelled at in French at a toll booth, didn't have cash to pay for our dinners on the ferry, someone (not going to name names here!) wet their pants, and we couldn't find the pounds to pay for the toll when we got back into england (we only had euro), but luckily they let us in anyway.

It's been about 2 months since we took that trip, so according to my calculations we should be due for another pretty soon. Where will we go? Depends which way the wind blows.