Responsibilities and Allowance

Monday, December 28, 2009

I am often asked my thoughts on this subject. This is how responsibilities and allowance work at our house...
Each person in the home has a main responsibility. Father – to work and provide for our family; Mother – homemaker, the one who manages our household; Children – to learn and grow, get an education. Each member of a household also has other things they must do to contribute and make the house run. These basic tasks are done because of the pride in he family and home.  No payment is earned.

"The Continuum Concept" is Jean Liedloff's observations while she lived with Stone Age Indians in the South American jungle. This became a cult parenting book appealing to many of those who believe in Attachment Parenting. One of the things she talks about is the Indians' attitude towards work. She writes,

"There appeared to be no Yequana concept of work similar to ours. There were words for each activity that might have been included, but no generic term."

Liedloff continues to discuss how these people simply went about doing their daily tasks and chores without the dread that we have come to develop in our society. Gathering water and such were simply things that needed to be done in order to live. (You can read more about this in the article WHY WORK) I knew I wanted to adopt this attitude in my own household…

Household tasks are called responsibilities. Awsumb is given new ones each year as he grows and learns to do things on his own. Also expected as a member of our family everyone helps when asked .  I have also teach him to look for things that need to be done. If we want to live in a clean, organized happy home we must ALL do our part. Awsumb is expected to help with anything that we ask such as: cooking dinner, unloading things from the car, special projects etc.

Working side by side
is a very important opportunity for teaching children about responsiblities. A good friend of ours spoke in church about a time that while working in the garden, he had a wonderful discussion with his son... one that might not have come about in any other circumstance. While I am sure that his children may have sometimes complained, I have personally worked side by side their children and experienced their willingness to fully engage in the task and enjoy being together.

Start early.
Since we have been doing this from the beginning our son has grown up with the attitude that it's fun to help out and even when it's not fun, that it's simply something that must get done. Awsumb started helping around the house as soon as he could walk. Even if that meant I had to slow down or he was just following me around. I have noticed that Awsumb is able to find joy is being part of simple tasks and family projects especially when working alongside elders. Do you remember a time that you might have felt accomplished and important working alongside a parent as a child?

DO NOT tie an allowance or reward system to jobs. Because we all have things we have to do around the house to keep it in order, we do not get paid for doing them. No one will pay Awsumb to clean his room when he is in college or when he is married! And who needs to take out the trash to earn $ .50 when Grandma just sent $20 in the mail? How hard you work is not always connected to how much you make. I believe being responsible for basic household tasks gives children personal responsibility and gives them a sense of pride.  When we reward them we can interfere with their feelings of personal worth.  (Read Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars.)

Everyone earns an allowance simply for being a part of the household. To determine how much to pay your child you must first determine how much your child needs based on what you expect him to do with the money. Awsumb earns $1 a week per year of age (this could also work once a month). So right now he gets $8. He is expected to tithe on his money, save some and the rest is spending. He spends his allowance on books, small toys and saves up for larger items. Sometimes he spends his money on activities like going to the movies with Dad. He often puts money towards gifts. Over the years we have also watched him donate money to causes that were important to him.

If there is something special he needs to earn money for we can then help him find ways to make money either by providing special things in our own home or looking for jobs in our neighborhood. Awsumb also has a lemonade stand in the summers and has done odd jobs for small change from the neighbors.

If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.

How do allowance and household tasks work in your family?

The Sounds of Christmas!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

I admit it, I am totally tone deaf! But I love music and I love to sing. Even though it's usually the wrong words to the wrong tune. One such incident of note still haunts me to this day.

About 12 years ago we were playing Cranium. If you haven't discovered this one, it was a favorite around here and we had fun introducing this mix of trivia, pictionary, name that tune, etc. to our friends. So one night we had some new friends over to play and of course I end up with a "humdinger" card. The song was Somewhere Over The Rainbow, but I hummed Kermit The Frog's Rainbow Connection and I didn't even get that tune right! So, of course my team totally lost out on that one. To this day my friend's husband will play that made up tune on the piano whenever he sees me and we all get a big laugh out of it.

That's why when it's my choice and we play name that tune I always choose Jingle Bells!

Nevertheless, I often sing silly songs around the house. Last summer when a friend was visiting I freaked her out a little when upon waking I started singing Beautiful Life at the top of my lungs!

So when it's time to break out the Christmas music it's a pretty exciting time around here. And of course, being as sassy as I am, I am also picky about what Christmas music we listen to. This past year my favorite was Relient K - Let It Snow, Let it Reindeer!, a Christain rock band Kenneth discovered. Because we coulnd't find the perfect Christmas book, we choose this one to send to all our siblings this year. This may have to become a new tradition! The best song is Celebrate The Day. Click to the link to check it out!

Some of my other favorites are Straight No Chaser (Acapella group... You may have seen them on You Tube), Maybe This Christmas (various alternative artists), Barenaked For The Holidays, The Forgotten Carols (and just like the little Angel that wasn't good enough to sing in the Angel Choir, "I will be heard!"), A Very Special Christmas (various artists, vol. 1-7, some songs better than others), A Music Box Christmas (I just LOVE music boxes!).
What's your favorite Christmas Music?

A Virtual Christmas Card

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Nativity by Awsumb

From Our Family To Yours!

A Christmas Story

Thursday, December 17, 2009

For a few years now we have sent a Christmas book to our siblings and their families each Christmas. So today I thought I would share a few of our favorite Christmas books.
Red Ranger Came Calling is the story about a little boy that no longer believes in Santa, if he ever did. Until he calls on well, Santa. Set in the depression about a little boy on Vashon Island. You may recognize the author Berkeley Breathed from the funny papers. The book is hysterical and if the performance by Book-IT theater in Seattle even better!

I have seen many versions of the Nutcracker, but none of them is as good as the production by the Pacific Northwest Ballet. The sets are all designed by Maurice Sendack. This book combine E.T. A. Hoffmann's origional story and Maurice Sendack 's art. LOVE IT!

Mr. Willowby's Chrsitmas Tree by Robert Barry is one of my favorite simple stories to read to little ones. Follow the discarded tree top as it brings joy to everyone who finds it.

A Charlie Brown Christmas is a beautiful book for anyone who is a fan of the classic TV Special. The art of Charles M. Schulz is vibrant and beautiful.

If you haven't read How The Grinch that Stole Christmas you must be live under a rock. Even though it's a classic story, who doens't love Dr. Seuss?

Every year my father read The Night before Christmas by Clement C. Moore. The version we read to our son is illustrated by Mary Engelbreit. Oh, if I could only live in her artwork! Many of her Christmas cards and art appear in Believe Christmas Treasury. Including classic stories such as The Gift of the Maji, poems and the verses to favorite Christmas Carols we reach for this oone over and over again during the season.

A Creature Was Stirring is a silly story about a boy waiting up for Santa told along with the classic version of A Night Before Christmas. Totally cute.

One of Kenneth's favorites is My Penguin Osbert about a boy who writes a letter to Santa asking for a real Penguin from Antarctica. The boy gets a little more than he baragined for.

Wherever the idea of Santa came from, however paegan the symbols of Christmas might be I Believe in Santa Claus is a wonderful book telling us why we should believe in Santa and continue the tradition. As the author simply says teaching children about Santa teaches them about the spirit of giving, "From Santa we learn to give and receive. From Jesus we learn to love and be loved."

I sure you have read or at least know the story of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. One that you might not know about is, The Life of Our Lord. Dickens' testimony of Christ written for his very own children.
(Awsumb as Baby Jesus in the Church Nativity 2001)

And how could I leave out THE Christmas story found in Luke 2. I read this to Awsumb every year and have fond memories of his re-enacting the story with his Little People nativity and telling the shepards, "don't be afraid!"

This year Awsumb and I are reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever...or as Awsumb likes to point out The WORST Christmas Pageant ever... beause we all can imagine a family such as the Herdmans and what it might be like if they took over the Christmas Pageant. I haven't read this one in a long time, but Awsumb is the perfect age for it and loving every chapter.

On my wish list... a book of beautiful illustrations that retell the story of The Little Drummer Boy, a favorite of mine since childhood.

What's your favorite Christmas book?
I love seeing the way other people decorate for Christmas. So just for you, check back for a few pictures of our home all ready for Christmas.

Celebrating Christ

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I have mentioned a bit about scrupulocity being a strict regard to religious morals and beliefs such as in the book The Devil is in the Details. I related to this Jewish girl because as a Mormon I often bring on my own guilt about religious specifics. After I was diagnosed with OCD I began to separate things that actual mean something from things that are just a form of superstition of scrupulocity. But for someone who is religious and has OCD, there is no difference. The anxiety is the same.

A simple one I have been thinking about lately is writing Xmas... Yes, I just deleted and forced myself to retype it! Call me superstitious, but I just feel like it is disrespectful to use an X to write Christmas. I remember as a young child working on a needlepoint that called for this combination of letters and having a total mental block and not being able to continute. I could not force myself to permanately stitch such letters... leaving the Christ our of Christmas? How could I?

A few years ago I started spending time with a new friend. Our boys were the same age and we went to classes together. When Christmas time came around I was suprised to realize that she celebrated Xmas, but not Christmas. What I mean by this is that she loved the holiday, decorated for it, celebrated Santa, etc... but Not Christ. She was athiest. I remember feeling so because for me, there would be no celebration for me without the Christ. For Christmas that year I gave her a small framed photo of the baby Jesus and shared my feelings about why he is so important in my life.

The celebration is about the gift that Christ gave us, the give of the atonement. And without that, there is no way back to our Father in Heaven. The gift is not from Christ, but through him from our Father in Heaven. In my faith we often refer to Jesus as our older brother. Being the oldest in my family I never had an older brother to look out for me. Even better than borrowing an older brother's jacket or tagging along with him for ride in his cool car, we all do have an older brother that gave us so much more.

So, I hear a lot of people talk about putting the Christ back into Christmas. How exactly can we do this?

A few years ago my mother in law told me that her goal for the month of December was to go to the temple. Each week as other seemingly more important things came up, she knew she just had to get this done. It was one small gesture that she felt could be her gift.

The Relief Society sisters in my ward have a tradition of going to the temple together in december and calling it, "A White Christmas." Because the temple is a place where we make covenants with our Heavenly Father, this is a perfect place for us to remember to put the Christ back into Christmas.

Howard W. Hunter said "Let the temple be a symbol of our membership." At Christmas time there are many symbols all around us. And I love this quote because it reminds me to think about my personal covenants, which include following Christ's example of charity and love.

Christmas time is really a gift on it's own... an opportunity for us to serve others. Even in small ways, small acts of kindness put the Christ back into Christmas.

How do you and your family put the Christ back into Christmas?

The Present

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Every year I look forward to a package from my Aunt Laurel because I know it will contain Christmas ornaments!  For the millenium she sent this Lenox porcelain gift box.  Inside she tucked a note that reads,

"The past is history, the future is a mystery.Today is God's gift, that's why it's called The Present."

I have learned many lessons from my Aunt over the years about commitment, family and love... each time I read this I know just where I should be right now. In the present. In a world of past pain and future uncertainty the comfort of the present really is a gift from God.

This holiday season I hope we can all focus less on the presents and more on His Presence... to do this we must live in the present and be present for our children and loved ones. To me this means we must stop rushing around and spend an evening home with our families. Really being present with them is the biggest gift we can give them.

This week we had a wonderful week of quiet evenings at home. Some evenings involved no television, computers or even Ipods, but a family giving the gift of themselves and their time to eachother. To really be present in our children's lives... to play with them, to teach them, to talk to them and to listen to them is something that can last even after the Christmas decor has been put away.

What does being present really mean to you?

Deck The Halls!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

My heart has grown enough to declare Christmas as my most favorite time of the year. And like many people I love decorating for Christmas. The colors in our family room coordinate with Christmas so well (This was planned of course! Pear, crandberry red and green...) that it is only when the room is decorated for Christmas, that it finally feels complete.

The tree is my absolute favorite part of Christmas decor and the focal point of my family room. As we add new ornaments to the tree each year it becomes even more a part of us and our reflection on the celebration of Christ's love.
I also love the Willow Tree Nativity my parents sent piece by piece over the years. I searched for years for the perfect nativity and never found just the right one. So the first year they began this tradition I was thrilled.  I might not  have ever picked this myself, but I absolutely love the soft lines of the simple and beautifully plain figures.

My Aunt sent the most precious advent tree with tiny jewled Lenox ornaments. Awsumb received his own quilted advent tree from his Grandma Thomas and he loves buttoning on each ornament every morning when he wakes up. But, when I informed him that I would do the fancy tree from Laurel by myself he pouted! Awsumb just loves helping me pull the small ornaments out of the drawer to count day the days of Christmas.

But all the festive lights and fancy decorations fade into the background when I read the little quotes that my sister and friends have given me. The first simply says..


A couple years ago my sister sent me "The Magic of Christmasis Not in The Presents, but in His Presence."

And finally, "Wise Men Still Seek Him"

When the days seem short and life is busy these items make me stop and think about seeking out Christ's love and sharing it with others.

I love looking at photos of everyone's trees and other decor on all of your blogs! From the simple ones, with kid proof ornaments, to the fancy ones - I just love them all!

How do you deck your halls?

The Unmedicated Child

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I saw this episode of Frontline a while ago..

The Medicated Child

You can watch the entire program online.

Kenneth just rediscovered it and of course it led to ongoing discussion in our home about this topic. I know that this is a very complicated subject. But I do think that we are medicating kids too fast. I know in my own situation we have done everything possible to keep me off meds. There may come a time where I do need them for a while. And I am not opposed to getting chemical help when needed. But I do feel like it should be the last resort.

If you have never thought about this issues or if you ar struggling with this decision in your own family I recommend this program and the discussion that will follow.

Ironing Party!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Years ago I actually used to love ironing. Maybe because it was so repetative or something... I don't know what it was exactly, but it was a task that I didn't mind. I always try to make everything fun. So, I would make an evening out of it and watch something I had saved on the DVR or a movie. I didn't every really have an "ironing pile" because I mostly did things as I put laundry away... often donning my super cute laundry fairy costume!

Then, sometime around the end of my pregnancy I was ironing a shirt, real quick for Kenneth and burned my tummy... HOT steam... yeah, that one hurt! After the baby came... Well, there are a lot of things you can do with a baby in a sling, but ironing is not one of them! And eight years later I find myself out of the habit and dreading the task.

So that's why I am throwing an ironing party.
And your invited!
My house.
Wednesday, December 2nd.
B.Y.O.B. (bring your own board! LOL!)

A few laundry tips for you...

Pull things out of the dryer while they are still just a bit damp... works great! Thanks Martha Stewart for that one! Martha also taught me (yes, me personally during my tutelage with her every afternoon during the early years of my marriage) that using an ironing board with a thick pad makes your work much easier!

Do you have trouble ironing around the buttons? Flip the shirt over and iron on a thick pad or towel and the buttons will nest into the padding. For items that are really wrinkly (also works on static items) put them back in the dryer with a wet washcloth and a dryer sheet for a few minutes.

Don't get steamed! Get pressed!

Don't Let The Grinch Steal Your Christmas!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I grew up in a home with dysfunctional mother that made holidays well, stressful. Add a retail career managing bookstores during my young adult years and well, I hated the holidays. It’s so great that in our grown up years we get to live out own life. We get to pick and choose our own traditions. Pick the people you want to invest time in and surround yourself with people you want to be around.

Remember How The Grinch Stole Christmas? Oh yeah, that's right, he didn't... because even when the Grinch took it all away...

It came without ribbons, It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes or bags!

Every who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any present at all!

He had not stopped Christmas from coming!
It came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And he thought...

Maybe Christmas,doesn't come from a store.
Maybe Christmas... perhaps...
means a little bit more!

So this Holiday season don’t stress out about all events you feel obligated to go to. You don’t have to attend anything you don’t want to. Don’t freak out over the shopping and gift lists... Give the gift of yourself and simply spend some time with your friends and family.

Here are some ideas...

Are there friends and neighbors you would like to get together with, but who usually spend Thanksgiving with their own family? Host a Black PIE Day and invite your friends over for pie and games. You'll need to refuel if you got sucked into the retail madness of the day anyway!

Later in the weekend you will start to get sick of leftovers... So host a Thanksgiving leftover potluck Sunday afternoon or a Monday lunch with the ladies from church! (If you live near me and your reading this, your invited Monday at noon –Bring something you made out of thanksgiving leftovers! Don’t forget your recipe!)

How about skip exchanging gifts with your children’s friends and plan a fun activity instead. Last year we went roller skating with some friends. We weren’t able to pick a day we were both available until January, but if you count the Holidays as Thanksgiving to Valentines it counts! I had not been on skates in 15 years and it was a ton of fun!

Have a homeless Christmas. Yes, just like on a sitcom Christmas special... you know, when they invite some random homeless person to dinner and by the end of the hour their problems are all solved. Ok, so not really homeless… but having the neighbors over because we are all snowed in is a lot of fun! We did this last year. Totally unplanned, I served them the best Mormon dinner they ever had (ham and funeral potatoes) and we made some lifelong friends. So invite someone random to your holiday dinner.

Buy your children less gifts and let them go with you to buy gifts for an angel tree. We do this every year and it’s a tradition we all look forward to.

Invite your child’s friends over to make gingerbread houses. Ask everyone to bring a bag of candy (red hots, M&M’s, etc.) all you provide is the icing and gingerbread (or cheat and use graham crackers). We have done this for years and I didn’t realize how much Awsumb loved it. I figured it might be something we could skip this year, but just yesterday he was begging to do it again.

Whenever a friend drops by during the holidays invite them in and share short story. A friend of mine does this and we loved being part of her tradition! She even had some of those great break apart oranges on hand and sent one home with us to share.

Invite friends over to work on your Christmas cards together. And don’t forget the soldiers… A few years ago Awsumb colored an entire coloring book of super hero pictures and we made Christmas cards out of them for the soldiers.

And finally, don’t forget the board games! There’s nothing better than an evening of board game fun with good friends!

What do you enjoy doing during the holidays that breaks away from the usual hustle and bustle?

Turn Up the Volume!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Volume is a torment I deal with on a daily basis. The thing is that all volume knobs must be set to an even setting. Sometimes volume dislplays are just lines... other times numbers.. but if it isn't even it bugs me. And I swear I can tell if it isn't set evenly!

In the car the volume is bars and half bars... I MUST turn the knob until the volume is even. I can't just have a half bar just hanging there. The unevenness (I know that isn't a word) is just too much for me to take and I can't stop thinking about it. Even from the backseat I will ask for it to be fixed.

After the purchase of a new TV a few months ago, I realized I have been obsessing over this more than usual lately. First off the volume display is a circle, 1-100 seems easy right? But should it be set in 10's, 5's... 25 isn't an even number and normally goes against my volume setting rules.. but 25 is an even 1/4 of the little cirle display and I like that.

And those volume dials on things without displays... how am I supposed ot tell if they are even?!

I just can't seem to stop thinking about it. And the whole thing goes round around in my head!

This also translates to other things. The furnace is at 66 or 68. Why would anyone want it to be set at 67? Why do they even having odd numbers as a choice. Doesn't everyone use and even number anyway?

Yeah, I like even numbers... unless you ask me to pick a number between 1 and 10 or my lucky number. Then it would be 3. Always has been, always will be.

Just another torment you never knew someone with OCD might have!

I also updated a previous post about Spike and Angel the main love interests of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" check it out...

Close Encounters

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Recent talk about a meteor shower that lit up the sky in Utah reminded me of this story... My very own Close Encounter! Brought to you from... June 3, 2004

We sure had an interesting night. So pictures this... it's pitch black outside and I up up late folding laundry and watching a movie... When all of a sudden there was this bright light shining through the windows. Now, we do live at the bottom of a circle, so cars are always turning around and we are very used to what those lights look like as they shine through the front windows. But this light was more like daylight… Like someone had a spotlight shining it into our family room. And the light was just streaming through the blinds and all the windows on different sides of the house.

At this point I no longer have an accurate sense of time, but there was a pause, long enough for me to think, “that is very strange” and start feeling a little suspicious… Then all of a sudden – BOOM! It was if something had slammed into the front door, but not just the front door, the entire front wall of the house. At this point I jump up and fly up the stairs…

I woke Kenneth up telling him, “Something just hit the front of house. GET UP!” Because I had no explanation for what had just happened I begin to think there must be someone outside, who shined lights into the family room and are trying to get in the house. I told Kenneth to call the police. We were told that a transformer had just blown up over in Redmond, (our neighborhood opens up to downtown Redmond, as we are on a little bit of a hill.) Could that be what it was? No, an entire building would have had to explode to send that kind of a shock wave to our house.

The police are on their way. We are all huddled up in Awsumb’s room looking out the front window trying to see if we can see anything. The dispatcher starts asking me if we have any weapons in the house... I begin to stutter as she says, "M'am, do you have a gun?" She explaing that the officers that have been sent out will make a soft approach to the house... walking down from up the street so they can see if anyone is still out there... And we may see them snooping around and don't shoot them! All we had was little souvineer bat, but about thta point I start wishing we had a gun! Then I remember, the coyotes had been out earlier in the back ravine “crying” and talking to each other (they sound like a pack of hyena's when the really get going). Could a few of them have slammed themselves into the front of the house? Why would they do that? And what about the flash of light?

So, we are all hiding out up Awsumb's bedroom with our little bat. By the time to police arrived we felt very silly, but it was just so unusual. And when we finally talk to them at the front door, did I actually say it was like and "alien encounter?!" Great, now we are on their crazy list. But they did say they recieved a few odd calls at the exact time I did and admited it was odd.

Finally we all just go to bed. Awsumb was wearing his Spiderman PJ’s and kept saying how he “saved the day” and how he helped the police. It was funny. This morning on the radio I heard the tail end of a news report… something about, “If you saw a flash and felt a BOOM, then that’s what it was.” What? I really wish talk radio had a “replay” button like our TV! I called Kenneth and we found out what happened. There was a meteorite that entered the atmosphere at 2:40 am. Reports say, “The sky lit up like day time” and many people felt a sharp boom. Scientists suggest everyone go outside on a meteor hunt! I am sure Awsumb will love that! I will let you know if we find anything. (We didn't, but had a fun hunt!)

Do you have any stories about your own close encounters?

Nurture Shock

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Don't you think it's funny that as mothers we buy books written by men to tell us how to raise our babies?! I truly believe two books saved my life as a new mother: Dr. Sears Birth to Age Two and The Continuum Concept. Reading these books helped me realize that I already knew everything I needed to know about my baby and that I alone could provide anything my baby needed from nourishment to love. They gave me great confidence in my parenting abilities. I believe that by using my natural instincts, or following the attachment parenting 'list' such as breastfeeding, cosleeping, babywearing, etc. that I avoided post partum depression. These methods fall more in line with how mothers have parented throughout time across the world. As I used these methods I began to realize this is the way our Heavenly Father would parent. And as my child grew I saw the benefits come from my choices and determination. By reading my baby's cues and providing for him before he even knew what he needed I avoided having a fussy baby, sleeping problems, attachment issues, etc.

I just finished reading the book Nurture Shock and would now add this to the list to recommend to all parents. Check this one out to find the fascinating answers to questions...

Do we praise our children too much?

Could arguing in front of your child be good for them?

Is lying a developmental milestone?

Could grown -up TV be better than baby DVD's?

Why do some children talk earlier than others?

Some of the answers and specifics might surprise you. Others confirmed my beliefs from previous books and real life experience. For instance, Studies showed the number of times toddler initiated talk was responded to the more words they learned and the more they spoke. A great lesson we learned from the same family that introduced me to Dr. Sears is to simply TALK to your baby. Their example taught me to talk to my baby constantly, to narrate our day, the world around us, what we were seeing, doing and experiencing. This was different from many peers I had who sometimes acted bored or annoyed by the task of caring for an infant or toddler all day. And because I carried or held my baby for most of the day, it was natural to talk to my baby and play with my baby. When the 'in arms" phase was over I then played with my baby. Not only was my baby verbal at an early age has always been very articulate.

Every so many years new books come out to say, "do this or do that" often following the new "politically correct" topic of the day. This book debunks a few of those things. What I have learned is that as mothers we should trust our own instincts more. What instincts did you follow that went against popular belief?

Lies My Teacher Told Me

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I have talked about one of my favorite history authors before, James W. Lowen. I first discovered his book,
Lies My Teacher Told Me
. I told you a little about Lies Across America, which talks about historic sites across America in a previous post about our summer daycations.

Why should we learn about our past? We have all heard George Santayana's famous quote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." But he also said something more complicated, "History is always written wrong, and so always needs to be rewritten."

When I was in college I wrote a paper about history really just being a myth. A history from one point of view is not a complete history. James Lowen tells about a war museum, full of memorabilia, but that chooses to ignore telling the stories behind the war, why we were at war in the first place, or promoting discussion about tactics used by either side and them being ethical or not.

Compare this to the visitor's center at MT. St. Helens, which clearly shows what, why, how and what if it happens again. Think about these two types of museums and ones that you have been to… Which one do you think we learn more from? Which one helps us learn from our mistakes and avoid them in the future? Which one calms fears?

The bottom line is, "War is hell and the United States conducts it, just like any other nation, we too become the devil" (pg. 180) John F. Kennedy said, "The great enemy of truth is not often the lie… but the myth"
Hiding from our past doesn't make it go away. Just like a child who hides from a parent knowing he is in big trouble, punishment eventually comes. "How can we expect our children to develop their own convictions when we ignore those of historical figures?" – Helen Keller

When I was in school, "history" was names and dates. But as an adult I find that history is something we are continually discovering and is best taught as a discussion. As I share history with my child I find myself sorting through myths and legends and hokey stories glorifying historic leaders, searching the truth.

One of the first historical lies we tell our children is about Thanksgiving. Throughout the world people have historically celebrated abundant harvests and I think the idea of celebrating our abundance with family and friends is one of the last holidays that has been relatively untouched by commercialism.

However, I was determined to avoid passing on "the myth of peaceful settlers, inviting some wild Indians over for dinner." 1621 A New Look at Thanksgiving is a children's book that tells the complicated history English settlers and their impact on the Native people that were already here. As the book says, "There was neither cranberry sauce nor pumpkin pie at the 1621 harvest celebration. There were no Indians with woven blankets down their backs. There were no Pilgrims in somber black clothes and tall hats with silver buckles, either. The English didn't even call themselves pilgrims at the time. That's the myth."

The book continues on to tell about the days leading up to that "First Thanksgiving…. The settlers were preparing to have a celebration to give thanks… Four men went out hunting and in doing so began shooting their guns and marching in unison. It was likely that Native people heard the noise, maybe thinking they were preparing for war. A few investigated and called for Massosoit, who then sent a few men out to hunt for deer to contribute to the feast." Years later, painters memorialize this event, romanticizing the facts and hundreds of years later we dress our school children up in tall Pilgrim hats, drab clothes and big buckles made out of construction paper!

Mayflower 1621 A New Look at a Pilgrim Voyage reminds us that, "the Mayflower colonists were not the first Europeans in the Wampanoag territory. Early explores brought trade… they also brought diseases, including plague… killing so many that by the time the Mayflower arrived in Plymouth no Wampanoag were left there. To the colonists, finding tilled fields was a sign of God's favor. They gave little thought to those whose land they were taking over.

Both of these books were a great way to promote discussion about the history of European settlers in America. Check them out! You may also want to check out … The Truth About Columbus and American Exceptionalism

I am thankful to live in a country that lets me freely celebrate and worship how I wish. What are you thankful for?

Give us some flourescent cheese product!

Hallmark features two loud characters, Hoops and Yoyo, on many of their Ecards. Awsumb of course quickly fell in love with these two. Our favorite was a Mother's Day card that features the desperate pair incessantly yelling, "Mom, mom, mom, mom... Give us some fluorescent cheese product!"

While your little rats are enjoying their fluorescent cheese product you may want to check out Chateau Roquefort! Awsumb choose this game with some of his birthday spending money. By Rio Games, this game is for 2-4 players age 6 and up.

Bedsides the ever so important 'cool bits' that make up this game such as little mice and a cool multi layer castle structure this game is easy to play and plays great with 2 players.

Discover the castle by removing roof pieces to view rooms and their contents; the cheese! Use memory and strategy to position your mice on matching pieces of cheese. Beware the labyrinth of moving pieces that reveal dungeons or mouse traps! The first player to collect 4 different kinds of cheese wins!

Awsumb quoted Jimmy Neutron saying, "Now, you gotta admit... THAT is pretty neat!"

While I don't care much for cheese of the fluorescent variety I do love a good brie! What's your favorite kind of cheese?

What's the deal with Halloween?

In the style of Jerry Seinfeld, "What's the deal with Halloween?"

It seems like during the month of October at least once a day I read a post online from someone saying, "Don't you know it's Pagan holiday?" I say, "So What!" Halloween as we know it in America no longer resembles pagan rituals. Like everything else it's been commercialized to death and has become the night (or week) of "get candy, get candy, get candy!"

Then there's the whole trick or tricking paranoia. My generation has been totally convinced that we are going to be poisoned by Halloween candy... or worse, the dreaded razor blade in the apple myth. Remember when you could take your candy to the ER to have it X-rayed! LOL! Did you know there had NEVER been a reported case of razor blades in apples anywhere in the U.S. And the only poisoning scenerios involved family members!

It's like the whole kidnapping thing. Your child is more likely to be struck by lightening than kidnapped! So send your kids out to ride bikes people and let them play until dusk! They need to get some exercise after all that Halloween candy they've been eating!

In the end, our fear of traditional door-to-door trick or treating has lead to a week long of alternative halloween fun such as, Trunk or Treats, trick or treating at the mall or office, and of course halloween parties at every children's activity that week, including dance and soccer practice! The whole mess leads to an over load of candy. Half the parents I knew threw most of it out. Why are we buying so much to pass out, only to throw it out? This is such a waste and is a perfect example of our affluence in America. What about providing other things during the week and saving the candy for Halloween night?

This year we planned to spend Halloween with my parents in Utah. Because we live in a neighborhood with only a handful of children, we were looking forward to a real old fashioned night of trick or treating. We were lucky enough to experience this in 2003 when we visited my Aunt's in California... so we were pretty excited!

After all the cousins arrived we started out under a clear sky and a bright new moon. In just a couple of blocks we were offered, doughnuts and hot cocoa, cider, the sherrif grilled hot dogs and a few families offered bowls of soups and stews. Awsumb collected the least amount of candy hae ever has, but the thrill of real trick or treating, running in the dark from house to house was what this experience was all about.

And my final rant.. what's the deal with teenagers trick or treating anyway? I hear so many people complain about teens trick or treating. They brag about only giving them pixey sticks or just slamming the door in their face. What's the big deal?! I will happily give candy to anyone who comes to my door dressed in a costume! Better than having your pumpkins smashed? Who says Halloween is only for 10 and under.

Click here to see Awsumb perform Halloween by Jerry Seinfeld...

Check back for more about the history of harvest celebrations and the real history of Thanksgiving and my search to find a book about Thanksgiving that doesn't include a fake Pilgrim and Indian Thanksgiving dinner...

Babes in TV Land

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Baby Einstein finally DEBUNKED!

click below to read article...

"Disney Expands Refunds for Baby Einstein Videos" by Wendy Mitchell

I remember when Awsumb was just a couple weeks old a friend brought over some of these videos and suggested since her baby liked them my baby would. I remember thinking she was totally nuts. First of all, why would I put a few week old baby in front of the TV? And did people really think these videos would give their children a head start?

My child had a lifetime to discover the screen and I did not feel any urgency to make that introduction. I felt validated in my opinion when I read this article, "Babes in TV Land" by Chris Beam which states the AAP recommends NO TV under 2 years of age.

Later I learned that the creator of these videos was just a mother, who noticed her baby loved to watch interesting objects. She also knew how important it was to read to a child and that hearing language pattern from other languages was benificial. So she took her home video camera, recorded some interesting children's toys like a mobile, etc. and hoped it would be something she could market. And there you have it, an entire line of products (eventually the name was bought by Disney) with absolutely no research behind them, making parents believe they would really give their kids an edge... or at least enterain them long enough to take a shower!

Later as Awsumb grew into a toddler I remember parents bragging that their child knew how to put in a DVD and start a movie. I would silently roll my eyes... As if my child was going to be behind because I didn't let him at the DVD player. Plus some of these same friends also shared the typical "child put toast in the DVD player story" during other conversations. For me that was just another reason to keep my child away from the DVD player. Now that Awsumb is 8 he has shown to be just as proficient with DVD players and toasters, without leaving crumbs in the living room.

I feel that I successfuly limited screen time with my child. Although he probably saw more decorating and news shows that he needed to I rarely put children's shows on for him. And if we watched a movie, we sat down to watch a movie. Start to finish... no starting a movie just to keep him busy for 20 minutes and then letting is play in the background while he became interested in other things. I am not sure if that helped his attention span or if he was just born with a longer attention span. Studies suggest that in any case, children's TV only damages attention spans.

Sure, there was plently of Bob the Builder and a couple other shows at our house. But Daddy usually put them on in the morning for a bit and then the TV was turned off the rest of the day. Awsumb never really asked to watch TV and to this day didn't realize certain shows came on at certain times. This is probably because we mostly took advantage of the DVR, recording only select shows we thought appropriate. So there was no full days of whatever was on PBS or Nick Jr.

Now that Awsumb is in 2nd grade, he has occasionally comes home and talks about shows he has never seen. If it weren't for his Father he probably wouldn't even know about the select shows he does know about, as they have a few different super hero cartoons they watch together.

THIS study found babies who watched these types of videos might even learn fewer words! Babies require face to face interaction. And that's the worst part. These DVD's were just another way to separate child from parent.

What I find sad about this is how once again, mothers flocked to buy something that might even be more damaging in the long run, when really their own instincts should have given them the right tools. To sing and read to your child, to carry your child, to talk to your child, to let your child lay under a tree and watch the leaves blow in the wind... interact with your child, play with your child, imagine and dream with your child.. these are the things that will really give your child and edge and you don't even need your debit card!

I am proud to say I voted with my dollar on this one! I have not spent one penny on this line of products, nor anything that simply carried the label.

Check back later for my comments about why LYING is a developmental milestone.

Angel vs. Spike

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Edited the below post to add a few things...

If you have watched the Buffy or Angel TV series you know that Angel the vampire cursed by gypsies with a soul. At first he is miserable and alone.. then he gets the advice to get over himself and help others... Of course he is drawn to protect the slayer and Buffy and Angel fall in love. But if Angel experiences "pure joy" he is cursed to loose his soul and turns back into an evil vampire again... thus he and Buffy cannot be together and Angel goes off to start his own TV show in L.A. in which, "he helps the helpless."

Enters Spike, whose entrance into Sunnydale as Buffy's Nrch Nemisis just screams, "Now, this is a cool vampire!" Though he is pretty good at causing mayhem for our little slayer, he somehow gets himself mixed up into the "Scooby gang" (Buffy's friends) helping to protect Dawn (Buffy's kid sister), fighting demons and other vampires - right alongside Buffy, etc. While at first he does this for protection or even some cold hard cash.. he eventually becomes part of the group like it or not. And somewhere along the way falls in love with Buffy.

As the weekly adventures unfold Spike slowly earns his soul and proves his worth as he shows that he does have some kind of humanity still part of his character. While Angel only spends his life trying to earn a soul he was cursed with.

Spikes story of redemtion, going to hell and back is much more powerful to me. Forget team Edward or Jacob (from Twilight)... I am Team Spike all the way!

Buffy vs. Bella

After reading Entertainment Magazine's -"20 Greatest Vampires of All Time"
(click to read) I had some notes written in this magazine of some thoughts I had on the subject and Kenneth threw it away. So this won’t be as witty as I had planned and this is just a quick rant...

Twilight is THE most ridiculous story I have ever read. It is even worse than many of the LDS novels Covenant put out for all those years. Each book the story became more and more ridiculous. The 'Vampire Lore' did not seem planned out well enough. Didn’t anyone close to her proof read and give her suggestions? These books lacked action and character development and I cannot believe how quickly the world was possessed by them. Kenneth refused to even finish reading after book 2, but I followed the train wreck to the end all the while shouting out to him how absurdly insane books 3 and 4 were.

In the article it mentions that Stephanie Meyers did not read or research any other vampire books, TV or movies before writing her story. Well, that’s obvious. There is really no character development. What does Edward see in Bella anyway? She has nothing to offer… just drooling over some guy… like he is the only thing in the world that would complete her? Hello Jerry Maguire! MEN don’t COMPLETE us! We have to be a complete person on our own in order to offer anything to a relationship. Sure the are soft and cuddly and nice to have around... Oh, sorry Bella, your man isn't! But they DO NOT complete us.

When referring to Twilight, Author Laurell K. Hamilton said, "The fact that women are so attracted to that idea – that they want to wait for Prince Charming rather than taking control of their own life – I find that frightening.” I get that young girls love the simple story of Twilight that left out sex and violence...(Until books 3 and 4!!!! Don' t even get me started on the violent sex) but I feel they were cheated as there was not anything to be gleaned from the Twilight saga.

Bella could be compared to Marianne in Jane Austin's Sense and Sensibility. Marianne is just as silly and boy crazy. But she learns a lesson and in the ends picks a very different man that the silly girl she once was ever would. In the end she becomes a complete person, ready to stand alone and be a full pillar in a relationship that will last a lifetime.

But the #1 problem is the whole vampire tie is that the entire concept of becoming a vampire is supposed to be gravely damning to the soul. I much prefer the way the Buffy series by Joss Whedon dealt with this issue. Buffy is a young high school girl who was chosen to be a vampire slayer. The story is about how she deals with this huge responsiblity while living as a 'normal' teenager. The stories of vampires like Angel and Spike (two main vampire characters who are Buffy's enemies, friends and love interests at one time or another), who struggle to live as a vampires with a soul is an amazing story of redemption.

While the concept of vegan vampires could have played into that sort of story, in the end Twilight was more like the episode on Buffy where the goth kids pretend and wish they were vampires only to be eaten alive. Where is the story Stephanie? What is their purpose? What do they learn about themselves and the world around them. This is not a book I would recommend to teens simply because the main character is silly and her journey is pointless.
The entire part about a vampires fight with being once being human is totally left out. What is their place in the world? Do they have a soul? are they damned,?etc. Oh and how did Bella know if she was changed she would be able to resist human blood and be "vegan" anyway?! There was no discussion about the danger SHE might end up being to her father etc. A book about vampires without all this is empty.

If you haven’t seen the complete Buffy The Vampire Slayer TV Series I highly recommend it. We followed the weekly series from the beginning, but I stopped watching when in season 4 because I couldn't get over the introduction of "the initiative." Then the year before last Kenneth convinced me to watch them again and we tore through them in a couple of months. This time instead of the monster of the week I really fell in love the whole arc of the saga. More about Angel and Spike (Kenneth wants me to add, who are REAL vampires) and the vampire with a soul idea later...
Check out the side of my blog for a cool book on my nighstand that combines Zombies and Prejudice!>>>>>>>>>>

Vampires and Witches - OH MY!

I discovered The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova a few years ago and love it so much I have read it quite a few times. It’s not just another vampire story, but THE vampire story… one of the only books I have read that could actually stand up to Bram Stoker’s classic. The Historian is historical fiction that follows three generations as they search for the Dracula. Their journey takes them to olds countries with rich history and tradition. Along they their individual love stories are also told. Not cheesey in anyway. The audio version of this books is wonderful. The actors really bring out the characters and it is better than any vampire story or movie I have seen or read.

This year I found The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, which takes place in modern times and in the time of the Salem witch trials simultaneously. As Connie searches for a mysterious book by her grandmother she learns more about who SHE really is. I enjoyed this quite a bit and it is a quick read.

Both of these books are more mystery books, which is probably why I enjoyed them so much. I will have to share my thoughts on Twilight another day... (eye roll)

I will also add The Egyptologist by Arthur Phillips as part of these suggestions. Set in the 1920's this one is another great adventure that reads much like The Historian. The story is told through journals and letters... If you think it's slow, hang on because you don't want to miss the ending!

Do you have any seasonal book recommendations?

Awsumb's 8th Birthday

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Montessori Classroom has a special birthday ceremony.
Each year the birthday child carries the earth
and walks around the sun as a biography of his life is read.
Today our little Awsumb is 8 years old
and he gets one year closer to taking on the world.
Awsumb Kenneth Hardy
Born October 19, 2001
In Redmond, Washington
Awsumb is named after his grandfather, Dennis Awsumb
His Awsumb grandparents are so excited for his arrival
that they drive overnight from Utah just to see him.

Awsumb goes on a road trip with Daddy and Mommy
through Oregon, California and Nevada
to see the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Utah.

Age 1
Awsumb is talking and walking… can shoot a basketball
and likes sit on the bottom step to look at books,
especially books about fire engines.

Age 2
Awsumb likes to sings songs like, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”.
He is very active and can hit baseballs, kick soccer balls,
and do somersaults, but mostly "Jump Around" (as he likes to say)
This year Awsumb flies to Florida to meet Mickey Mouse,
sails on the Puget Sound and rides a horse.
Age 3
Awsumb drives through the middle of a big tree in the Redwood forest.
He learns to plays soccer with Lil’ Kickers.
Awsumb memorizes books and loves to play board games.
Age 4
Awsumb has a crazy summer camping with his Dad in the rain,
catches two foul balls at the Mariners games. He rides his bike
in the 4th of July parade and digs for dinosaurs bones in Utah.

Age 5
Awsumb can swim across the pool unassisted.
He plays on the Fireballs t-ball team.
At home Awsumb spends all his time building Lego sets.
Awsumb can read!

Age 6
Awsumb explores the Dungeness Spit in Sequim,Washington
and finds frogs on a camping trip.
His father coaches his Blue Rockets baseball team.
Awsumb takes a trip to Utah goes fishing for the first time
and cooks his fish for a big family dinner.
He also visits the largest buffalo herd on Antelope Island, Utah
where he eats his first “buffalo burger”
Age 7
Awsumb moves up to the Micro League in Soccer.
His Sluggers baseball team wins the Jamboree.
Awsumb’s family drives through all 3 “drive-thru” trees
in the Redwood Forest and down the California Coast.
Awsumb learns about Shakespeare and enjoys plays in the park.
Awsumb visits Mt. Saint Helens and Mt. Rainier while doing volcano research
He joins the Little Sammies Swim Team and learns the butterfly stroke.
October 19, 2009
Awsumb is now 8 year old.
His family is excited to see him grow and learn
and take on more responsibilities.
Awsumb is special to his family because
he always has a big smile, a not-so-short story,
and a warm hug for everyone. (And a cape and a stuffy.)

Bacon, eggs, and cheese...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Awsumb's friends were so generous and he got some really great quality games and toys for his birthday. Today we tried out a new game he picked with spending money at Uncle's, our favorite game store.

RattleSnake comes with 12 high powered magnetic rattlesnake eggs. Simple roll the die and play them one at a time on the board on the color snake determined by the die. Be careful, these high powered magnets begin to react and begin moving the other eggs pretty easily. If they clash or crash together you must take them back into your hand. First player to get rid of all their rattlesnake eggs win!

A simple game with lots of excitement. There was much squealing and cheering! Priced just right, I will be adding this to my gift list!

Check back for a review of...

Chateau Roquefort

Played any new games recently?


Saturday, October 17, 2009

It's well known that people who live with OCD love to collect things, line things up, organize things, etc. But what you might not realize is that pertains to everything around you, even things that are not yours.

For my husband there is no safe place in this house that is all his. Not one place that I don't come upon at least once in a while and just starting sorting, throwing out and lining up. I remember at one point he was carrying around TONS of files in his backpack, back and forth to work so that they were "safe" from one of my mad episodes! (until I found them LOL!) Even his office at Microsoft isn't totally safe. I can't stop by for more than 30 seconds with out throwing out all the Dr. Pepper cans that have gathered on his desk, throw out all the trade show crap that is piling up and wiping all the surfaces. I just can't help it.

For my child this means that he doesn't really even own his toys. First, I have always had all sorts of bizzare rules about which toys go in which room... and they have to be segregated. It's like they become contaminated if they enter the wrong room. I simply cannot have toys mix. Even toys of the same brand type (Legos, etc.) MUST be separated by themes, etc. When he was small I would actually COUNT all the little pieces that went with specific sets EACH night when I put him to bed.

Counting is very relaxing for me. But I can also become a slave to it. And for any behavior that I am able to overcome I will just adopt another, most likely one not of my own choosing. So, I count. I count the Little People, I count the blocks, I count cars, I count the socks.

Before you decide I am totally crazy, just remember this... Didn't you see Toy Story? Don't you feel bad for missing toys or missing pieces? What about that little squeaker that got lost behind the dresser!?! And even if the toy doesn't really have feelings, what about the child? That could have been the one special sentimental something... No missing toys in this house!

Somewhere along the line I had to stop counting certain things. But counting gives me a control that I just can't seem to find anywhere else. So about 6 months ago when Awsumb bought his first Nerf gun I taught him how to keep track of the darts. 2 guns, 6 darts each. Easy. Each time he finished playing we collected all 12 darts. Once in a while one would go missing and just like my "sock alerts" we put out a "dart alert" so everyone in the house could be on the look out for the missing dart. When found the darts were neatly placed in the 12 little slots on the guns. Awsumb wanted more darts and I didn't want him to get any more because I didn't want to keep track of the pack of 36!

Then there was the big neighborhood dart gun fight in the front yard one evening and I knew it was over.... right now, at this very moment there are 2 or 3 little darts, lonely and wet out in the front yard, hidden under a bush or a pile of leaves and they will never enjoy the love of a child again! So today at Awsumb's birthday party he was give the Cadillac of all dart guns. AND it came with 100 darts. The battle is over. The darts won. But we will have to search for the perfect size little bag, themed and all for them to live in until they too become lost in the cold, dark world...

Next to tackle the Lego Star Wars Minifigs, which thanks to the XBox Lego Star Wars game Awsumb had to mix 'n match all up... Get ready... there is a sorting day for those in the near future!