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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Letter to Young Me

Want to see some really, really bad hair....and glasses?

Head over to Home and School Mosaics and see what I would say in a Letter to Young Me.

Friday, April 24, 2015

People Are All....People

Recently,  a friend of mine shared her life story at my kids at their youth group meeting.  They came home with a lot of exclamation point statements!  "Did you know...?!?"  "Did she tell you....?!?!?" Some of the things I knew about and some of them surprised me too.

It just reminded me that we all have a story.  We are boring as we think we are... interesting. We are all....people with interesting tidbits and twists and turns to our lives.  We are all...people....with a story to tell, and none of us should be swept aside.

Steve Hartman used to do a thing on my local news station in Minnesota where he would throw a dart at a map and then go wherever it was and  then randomly pick a name from the phone book.  That is whose story he would tell.  Whoever he just randomly ended up finding in any little, old, hole in the wall place.  They all had a story.  They were all interesting in some way.  You never knew what it was going to be just by looking at the person. That was sort of the beauty of it.

We really do all have a story.

I was reminded of that again, when Emily Phillips, that woman in Florida wrote her own obituary...and it went viral. It reminded me of the fact that even though we don't have any buildings named after us, or library wings dedicated to us, we all have a story.  We are all people.  We are all important. We are all interesting.

I have had interesting twists and turns in my life.  I have done interesting things.  I have traveled interesting places.  I have been wild and stupid.  But, I know, that for most people that see me, I am just a middle aged, overweight, mom to many.  That is all.  I am not really a "real" person anymore.

This seems to happen as you get older.  It also seems to happen as you gain weight.  You become invisible and a place holder or seat filler, in the eyes of the world.

Or like Alice, you are "just" a little old lady in a nursing home.

Except, nobody is "just"....anything.

It is easier to stuff people into a little labeled box than try to understand all the ways that they cannot and should not be labeled and fit into that neat little box.

I do it too.  Which is why, when my kids came home exclaiming about all the cool stuff they didn't know about my friend, I was determined to take more time to learn people'e stories and not label them and file them away to be forgotten.  Not just have them be invisible.  No just have them be seat fillers in my life.  Not just be  the little old lady/man from church.

We have all done interesting things.

We have all done embarrassing things.

We have all done stupid things.

We have all made bad choices that are funny stories now.

We have all lost people we love.

Don't just let yourself be stereotyped or labeled.

Don't let the world's perception of you be the only voice you listen to.

That is probably the more important statement of my two "don't" messages.  You will be stereotyped and labeled.  You will.  But, whether you choose to listen to or embrace those labels given to you from outsiders is the big thing here.  Don't let the world's perception of you by the only voice you listen to.

I am not just an overweight, middle aged mom.  I am much more than that, whether you choose to actually "see" me or not.  I need to remember that.

In the words of Emily Phillips....
"So in the end, remember…do your best, follow your arrow, and make something amazing out of your life. Oh, and never stop smiling."

My life is pretty amazing, but, I could do a better job of following my arrow.  So, I am going to work on that.  And, maybe, when I am old and gray, people won't forget about me.  I don't necessarily need strangers to come visit and show me video clips of my life, but, if it happens, I will just be sitting there smiling my Mona Lisa smile remembering all the awesome stuff I have gotten to do.

(By the way, did you notice that Alice and Emily have something in common?  They both talked about being happy, naked, and dancing.  Emoji LOL)  

Something I just might have to try sometime.  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Star Toaster - Review

Oh, what a wonderful thing this was for us to try.  Eventually.

It is from a company called Star Toaster and the product is called Orphs of the Woodlands, which was designed with 4th through 7th graders in mind.

It is wonderful.....and.....sort of hard to explain.  But, I will do my best!

It is a book.

It is a video game.

It is an adventure.

It is a job.

It shows responsibility and accountability.

And, it even gives you a taste of parenthood.

Confused yet?

Here is how A-man explains it.

"It is sort of like Reading School, but you can do other things.  Math, language arts, history and stuff like that.  By doing this stuff, you earn gold stars.  You earn 6 gold stars after you finish one lesson.  Then, you use those gold stars to give the orphs water and food and stuff.  The orphs are little mice that are orphans that you rescue by doing projects and you give them a place to live.  Then, you go read some more and keep going back and forth.  I get to be the squirrel that saves them.  There was a bad guy that came and burned down the squirrels house with his little minions.  There was a prophecy that I (the squirrel) would be the person that would stop them and free all the orphans and help them get actual homes.  The squirrels parents threw me out the window to save me and yelled something out the window when they tossed me out.  I couldn't hear what they said and they died in the fire.  So, part of what I am doing as the squirrel is searching for the evil guy's secret lair where he keeps his minion guys.  I am not going to kill him or anything when I find him, I am just going to put him in jail....or something."


So, do you understand yet?

Here is my interpretation/explanation of Orphs of the Woodlands for you:  You read a chapter in their on-line book.  Then, when you are done with the chapter, you can go do "jobs" to earn stars to then turn around and feed, clothe, medicate your orphans.  It is really kind of ingenius.  You work on vocabulary, reading comprehension, memory skills, math, and even sneaky school stuff like developing character and learning recipes.

Super cool, right?

That being said, we got off to a rough start.  This was designed with A-man's age and gender in mind.  I was so excited because he hasn't really embraced fiction reading the way I would like him too.  He always has bigger and better things to do than sit down and read a book...even if it was a great one.  So, yes, unfortunately, when we started the Orphs of the Woodland, I briefly turned into a nag.  I totally had to force everyone to log on.  Well, not entirely true...L-girl went on with no trouble.

But, S-girl and A-man.....moaned and groaned....complained and whined.  Every.  Single.  Time.  If I hadn't had the obligation to keep pushing on because this was a review product, I would have let them quit and that would have been a shame.  Because somewhere around the middle of Chapter 2, actually probably closer to the beginning of Chapter 3, everything changed.  Somehow it was interesting.  Somehow there was concern for the orphs and their lack of parents.

I only have one negative/drawback.  It is small and sort of petty.  But, I will admit to it anyway.  I don't like that one of their selling points is "improved standardized test scores".  I understand why it is there.  That kind of thing just bugs me because, it is just seems a little like teaching to the test.  To me, it implies that they aren't really learning....they will just do better on the test.

But, that is my only disappointment with Orphs of the Woodlands.

Take a look at a little video explanation of some of the cool things you can find whilst saving little orphaned mice.

You can get the 60 day subscription to the first book in Orphs of the Woodlands, The Treasure of High Tower for $19.99.  The good thing is that you can use the same subscription for up to 3 children, at the same time.  You also have the option to extend the subscription another month for a small fee, if your kids move mine did in the beginning

It took a little bit, but we all love this one now.  It isn't just one of those ones that mom thinks they should love, but, in reality, they hate.  They are interested.  They are engaged.  They have a sense of responsibility for their orphans and want to see how good of a spy they are.  All good.  Really.  You can even get a free trial, if you aren't sure.  We are excited about the second book....coming soon!

Take a look at what other TOS Reviewers thought of Orphs of the Woodlands.  I suspect that we were not alone in loving this one!

Before and After Hair

I got a REAL haircut last week.

I was nervous, but excited.  I showed up with my Pinterest hair pictures and crossed my fingers.

I went to a place with the chair that goes up and down and everything!

She even washed my hair. (Honestly, it took her 3 shampoos to get through all my hair!)

It was a big deal.  I haven't had anybody wash my hair for me in a LONG time.  I was sort of magical and relaxing.

When I lived in Minnesota, I went to a friend who cut hair in her kitchen.  And, then, I didn't really trust anyone/know anyone down I just haven't gotten my hair cut.  I took to trimming own split ends.  Then, we found another friend who trimmed me in her kitchen.  But, she quit before I got the courage to get a "real" haircut.  So, as a result, my hair just got long and longer and longer.

Here is what I looked like when I showed up in Georgia.

(Seriously....look at how little and cute S-girl was!  I forget how young she was when we moved here.)

So, here is my before hair....

Those are my natural waves that come out more and more the older I get....and the longer my hair gets.)  (Thanks, Dad!)

Still sort of wet in this here is one from A-girl's birthday date with me.

And, now....the after.....

I love it, but I haven't quite been able to replicate what she did.  She straightened it and then curled my ends.  Waaaay too much work for me on a daily basis....but I might be able to manage it for special occasions!  I made my hair really soft too.  I sort of felt like a movie star.

Friday, April 3, 2015


Connections are important.

In the business and working world, the connections you make can be invaluable in this job and your next four.  It is called Networking.  Don't burn any bridges.  You never know how someone you meet today can help you get that job you really want next year.  Or something like that.....

Connections are important.

In electricity, the proper connections mean that your lights and t.v. will work and not for instance, start a fire because they were connected improperly.

Connections are important.

We had a new neighbor just move in recently.  We walked over and brought them some cookies to welcome them to the neighborhood.  I was reminded of when I moved to Georgia a little over 5 years ago now.  Hardly anyone reached out and connected with me/us.  We thought for sure there would be some of that famous Southern Hospitality and we would get some pecan pie or boiled peanuts....or something.

But, they didn't come.  We figured there was no way that they had missed us moving in....blond family.....six kids....all that jazz....we are sort of hard to ignore.

We did see our neighbor's teenage daughter out mowing one night, right next to the, after a quick whispered conversation between Rainman and I about whether or not it would be creepy of us to stop and chat with her.....we decided to risk it and stopped, rolled down the window and started chatting.

First things first, that "teenage girl" was actually the mom of the teenagers that lived there.  She looked (and still does)  super young.  She looks just like......

Anna Trebunskaya from Dancing with the the way.

So, it wasn't creepy of us at all.  Whew!

But, we had finally made our connection....with one person.  But, it was enough to help sustain me. Tina sort of saved my life.  I was so bummed to be living in Georgia away from everything I knew and almost everyone I loved.  So bummed.  So lonely.  So lost.  I also had to be the grown up and not let my kids know that I was feeling most of those things.  So, instead, I ate.  A lot.

But, that one tentative connection with Tina, started my love of Georgia and our new home.  She was a true friend.  She said things like "y'all" and "fixin'" in, "Y'all, I was fixin' to come over and introduce myself!"

My next connection came at the little country church that we decided to start attending.  We decided to try the church because it reminded me of my home church that I had grown up in.

Small, little, country church.

It was there that I met Miss Debbie, who would hold V-girl for me, while I sang in the little church choir.  It was there that I learned a little bit more how to discern what people with thick southern drawls were actually saying.  (It is harder than you think.)  We only stayed at the church for about a year partly because our kids ended up being 6 of the 7 children that attended that church.  But, my friendship with Miss Debbie carries on.

My next biggest connections came from the church we started attending after the little country church.  We found the church by accident really.  We drove by and saw a VBS sign and since our church only had 7 children (again....6 of which were mine), we didn't have VBS.  We all decided it would be fun.  The kids because it was a space theme....and me....because unlike my Minnesota VBS days....I wouldn't have to actually be in charge!  Yay!

So, we went to VBS and the they history.  It became our new church home.

It is funny to hear people tell their stories and memories of first meeting our family that week at VBS. Again, we are a hard family to miss, you know?  It is funny to hear their ideas about the harried looking mom with a crazed look in her eyes that stumbled in with 6 kids. (I still don't think I looked like that!)  I have often wondered if they thought I was actually a single mom (since I haven't been able to fit back into my wedding ring since V-girl was born/the move to Georgia....see above reasons) What did they really think of the mom who, even though her 4 year old daughter was a little weepy everyday when she dropped her off, just gave her a hug...and left.   It wasn't that I was heartless and trying to dump my kids off with strangers so I could get a break....I just knew that S-girl is a very sensitive girl and that she would be fine....once I left....and she was.  She loved Miss Pixie and became her faithful little cling-on for the rest of the week.  And, I got a new friend out of the deal too. Pixie. (Yes, Toto, we aren't in Minnesota anymore.  We are in a magical land where people are actually named Pixie!)  

The longer I have spent at that church, the more connections I have made.  The ladies at church have truly become my Georgia family.  The list of names would be too long for me to list here!  They have been the listening ear for any and all things that have come up in my life.  The good and the bad. They are my sounding board on the big heart issues that my sisters and mom aren't here to deal with on a daily basis. They even stepped in and made food and took care of us after my thyroid surgery....just like a family would.

I was asked to share at church recently for Stewardship Sunday.  One of the things that I realized when putting together my notes for that, was that the connections I have made....with my neighbors and my church that these connections have become my hodge podge, stitched together, slight odd and quirky.... pseudo family.

My Georgia family that instead of saying things like "Uffda" and "You betcha" (but, let me say....we don't actually say that one - that is just in the movies) says things like "Fixin'", "Y'all" and "Might Could".  And, yes, they really do say that last one.