Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Day at the Beach

Last week we spent a day on Mustang Island. Ever since J was small, we've made a trip to the Texas coast about once a year.

My kids are so care-free at the coast. I love that they can just let loose and run through the waves and throw sand and dig and dig and let the water run over their toes and find seashells. And they could do it all day long. I love that my (now) three year-old fell asleep in my arms because she was so tired.

(But honestly, it's not as carefree for me because I'm watching out for my kids most of the time, particularly K. She thought she was a mermaid and kept trying to run into the waves to join her under-the-sea family.)

K running out to sea.

A throwing her arms up in excitement because THE OCEAN!

A throwing her arms up in excitement because SEAGULLS! (And also she's feeding them.)

J sitting by the ocean, chilling with his cousin.

K deciding if she can't stay in the ocean, she will bring the ocean back with her...bucketful by bucketful by bucketful.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Happiest Place on Earth (Sometimes)

Over a month ago, we went to Disney World. It was a first trip for us. My husband went as a child. I've been to Disney Land, but my kids have never done Disney. And it was THE. HAPPIEST. PLACE. ON. EARTH.

We saw PRINCESSES. We rode lots of rides. (My five year-old had the stomach for Expedition Everest. My eight year-old did not.) We ate lots of yummy food. This was my favorite from the princess breakfast in Epcot's Norway.

I don't often take pictures of my food. Just if it's that good. My children enjoyed the food, too, especially all the fun things we picked up in off-meal times with our snack credits. (Truthfully there was a little bit of stress with those dining credits. Will we have enough? Will we have too many by the time our trip is over?!)

The above is one of the many times K and I sat out on a ride together. Not being a fan of standing in line but sitting in the shade and eating things, this suited me just fine.

My son got to do Jedi Training at Hollywood Studios and fight Darth Vadar in person. Then when Darth Vadar asked the Jedi trainees if any wanted to join the dark side, J raised his hand. (Nice.)

He was also chosen in Fantasy Land to pull the sword out of the stone because he was "small of stature and large of courage."

AND PRINCESSES! (I know I already said that).

A with her new jewelry box. (I didn't expect to actually buy things while I was there. But I did. And so did my mother-in-law. Oh did she.) My little Anna and little Elsa got to see the real Anna and Elsa. It was epic. It was also epic for me because I got a fast pass, and we didn't have to wait an hour and a half.

So PRINCESSES! Darth Vadar! Swords! All the rides! Swimming at the resort! Lots of fun and lots of happy.

But it was also really exhausting. My two year-old became very talented at falling asleep. For the amount of sleep the kids didn't get and the sheer number of long days, they held together pretty well...considering. Even this one.

I'm glad we went. Really.


I was kind of glad to just get that out of our system, and I think I'd like to go to the beach for our next family vacation.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales

My son and I are big fans of Nathan Hales' One Dead Spy. It is the first of a series, and we are very excited to read the rest.

He is just so funny, and the humor doesn't escape my son. Before I even cracked the book, J kept pointing out all the funny parts.

Best thing? It's history, and he does such a good job with making it come to life. It's also a graphic novel. I'm finding there are graphic novels I really hate, and some I really love. This is under the I really love category.

When I went to the library, the librarian had a couple other Hazardous Tales...according to her computer. Then she couldn't actually find them in the library. (Strange.) So I might just have to buy the rest of the books. There are some books that are good pick-up-and-read-once library books, but there are others that you just need as part of your home library. This is one of those books.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Oliveros Mining Company

When we visited Grandma and Grandpa in Kansas a few weeks ago, we went to one of our favorite places--the Deanna Rose Farmstead. It's been around since I was a kid, but has grown significantly. Most of it is interactive and geared towards learning. My kids love to bottle feed the baby goats, milk the "cow" (next to the real dairy cow), visit the Indian sod house and the one-room schoolhouse, and  fish in the pond among other things.

Their favorite activity this time? Mining for "priceless" rocks. (Actually, they cost way more than they're worth. The farmstead is free on the weekdays, but some activities cost.) Here are a couple pics of their mining adventures.

Our current read aloud is Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. There have been a few times I've referenced the farmstead in our reading. When Almanzo described his school house I reminded the kids of sitting in desks in the one-room school house and writing on slate boards. When the stove was described, I could remind them of the school house's wood-burning stove they opened and looked into.

Coordinating the book and the activity wasn't done on purpose (but I'll pretend I was that good of a planner). I'm a big fan of hands-on activities for my kids--they stick better than classroom learning alone.

(I lied. Mining was a second favorite. My kids' first favorite was eating ice cream.)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Things as They Really Are

My son and daughter gave a talk on the Holy Ghost last Sunday during Primary. It was the same talk. J gave the talk for Senior Primary. A gave the talk for Junior Primary. (I whispered a simplified version of the talk into A's ear, which she repeated into the microphone. A couple months ago she refused to give the prayer in Primary. She's come a long way.)

They held up objects which described the different roles the Holy Ghost plays in our lives: A's baby blanket to emphasize how the Holy Ghost can comfort us, a compass to demonstrate how the Holy Ghost directs and guides us, and a mirror.

A mirror because the Holy Ghost helps us see things as they really are. I love that. I love that in this crazy, mixed up world, there is Someone to help me unveil the truth. It's hard to see sometimes. There are so many lies that repeated over and over almost make sense. And so I'm grateful for the discerning power of the Holy Ghost.

For more on the Holy Ghost, read this.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Your Idea, Not Mine

My sister called me the other day. She needed backup. My niece was writing a story for school, and she was stuck. My sister threw out some ideas, but my niece said, "I can't use those ideas! They are your ideas!"

I told my sister who told my niece that you can take an idea and make it your own. (I mean, obvious exceptions of course. There is Real Life Plagiarism. I'm not going to write about an eleven year-old boy who goes to wizarding school.) So many books that are out there have similar ideas, but they are their own story.

My son and I are working on two different books right now but with the same idea. It's been a lot of fun. His cousin actually made up the character, which my son turned into drawings. My son threw in an angle on said character which I seized. We've bounced ideas back and forth as I work on my chapter book and he works on his ongoing comic book. It's been a lot of fun. In spite of our sharing of ideas, these books are going to be very different.

On the other hand, I've found myself working on a novel with a brilliant, original idea and then come across another book that sounds similar. Yet, its author and me came up with these ideas independently of each other. It's like the Universe is bouncing ideas off of us.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Need for Gratitude

***Huge blogging break due to traveling and sickness and old-fashioned laziness.***

I recently visited my parents for a couple weeks. My husband drove us from Texas to Kansas, stayed for a few days, and flew home to work while we visited family. At the end of our sojourn, he flew back to Kansas and drove with us back to Texas. This has been the arrangement of the last few summers and it seems to work. He visits the family, but doesn't have to take time off work. I don't have to drive alone.

However, I always forget that it's hard to be without my husband. I have my parents, but it's different somehow. My kids aren't nearly as well-behaved. Perhaps it's because I discipline less. The relief I get from my husband seems to be more, although my mom and dad help in their way. This time, it seemed harder because our space was tighter. My parents are staying in an apartment while their house is built. It's large as far as apartments go, but there were days we were stuck inside due to sickness and both my parents were working.

There was this stay-inside-with-sick-child moment when I was feeling particularly down and stifled. And so I prayed. Immediately my mind turned toward my friend who was fighting for custody of her children. And the blog post I'd read that morning of my college roommate's cousin who had lost her husband. It came to my mind that I must be grateful.

And so I tried. I tried to be more grateful that day and think about the blessings who are my children who I get to see everyday. I tried to consider that my husband may be gone for a couple weeks and not for forever.

I began to think of gratitude as something of a need, a spiritual need. I treat it much like something nice, like frosting on the cake. But it's the cake's leaven and what makes it rise. (There I go with the cake analogies again...) Gratitude can lift us. We need it to lift us.

Gratitude is a Spirit-filled principle. It opens our minds to a universe permeated with the richness of a living God. Through it, we become spiritually aware of the wonder of the smallest things, which gladden our hearts with their messages of God’s love. --Bonnie D. Parkin, former General Relief Society President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.