Wednesday, April 9

Frozen is not my favorite movie: Why I think the Croods and Despicable Me are better family movies.

We recently were able to rent the Disney movie Frozen that everyone was talking about.  I heard great things about the story and how wonderful the soundtrack is, saw the many posts on face book, the videos of parents singing the "Let It Go," song, heard about how movie, soundtrack, and rentals were topping the charts. Two of my kids had actually been to the theater with friends to see it.   They thought it was pretty good.

When we sat down to watch the movie I was ready to be entertained.

-Loved the castle, the setting, the cute sisters, the magic.
-Was sad when the parents died

Then, frustrated.  Dumbfounded.  Confused.  And I couldn't get past it.  What powerful, beautiful, prosperous kingdom, leaves two little princesses alone with just three people.  That's it, right?  The cook, the butler, and some one else? What?  What is that?  Now I don't expect cartoons to always have to measure up to reality, but this was just...where are the adults?  These parents have this special child and they don't have special teachers?  No one else had ever been able to do this? Where does the magic come from? Why not bring the rock  toll's home to train her, or leave her there over the summers?  Two little girls alone?  WHERE THE HECK ARE THE ADULTS? No relatives?  No court advisers?  No special council?  How did this kingdom not get taken over when the parents died? Who paid the bills?  Who made decisions? Where is the military?

And then Elsa runs off, by herself, and her younger, very naive sister goes after her.  Alone?  WHAT IS THAT? Is this suppose to be a lesson in female bravery and independence or is it just plain immature female stupidity?  Who goes into the snowy frozen mountains alone?  Can you say person popsicle? Can you say avalanche?  And who lets a girl who has never left the castle go into the mountain wilderness ALONE?

Can you see me pulling my hair out?

Now I love make-believe. I love make-believe and fantasy stories.  I enjoy most Disney films. But some of Disney's princess films really, really bug me.

Ariel was only 16 and she repeatedly disobeyed her father almost destroying the underwater kingdom by bargaining, (naively and stupidly,) with a witch.  But she still gets her happily ever after.

Belle promised to stay in the castle with the Beast but the first time Beast acts like a Beast she (naively and stupidly,) runs away in a temper tantrum alone and almost gets herself and the Beast killed.

Those are the two that pop to mind.  I do enjoy fantasy but good fantasy has to be cohesive, it is believable -there is a fancy word I am looking for that I can't think of right now- good fiction creates a whole new believable world.

The world of Frozen makes no sense to me. It is not believable.

Another movie we rented a while ago was the Croods.  I will tell you, I had many opportunities to watch this too, but there was nothing else to watch so I tried it out.  I thought it would be dumb.  It looked dumb.

There was another animated movie that looked dumb in the trailers too, Despicable Me. My husband saw that part with the fat kid and his fat parents vacationing and it turned him off.  But with nothing else out there for families, we eventually watched it.

And we ended up loving both of them for pretty much the same reason.

Despite the nonsensical prehistoric background and creatures, the Croods has a believable, relate-able family.   Dad may not have been a creative thinker, but he took his roll as protector and provider very seriously.  He had reasonable rules in place so that he could keep them protected.  He had a great relationship with his wife, and a predictable relationship with his mother-in law, but his daughter was growing up and that distressed him, the same way it would distress most father's.  When a stranger appears and the end of the world seems to be occurring, Dad behaves predictably.  We thought it might be another one of those kids shows that makes the parents look stupid ( we avoid those kinds of shows in our house) but if you watch to the end, the family needs Dad, and all that he is, to save the day.  This is a story of a family.

The daughter, Eep, is actually a pretty good role model.  She is strong, quick, and rather remarkable. You can see her parents in her, especially her father.  She tries to stretch Dad's rules a bit, but she knows that they are more than reasonable rules.  She wants more from life, but she knows it would be stupid to try to get it alone.

Despicable Me is about a bad guy who has no love in his life.  He tries to use three orphan girls in a despicable plot, but ends up falling in love with them.  It's a story of family.

The Croods and Despicable Me have no princesses.  Two through Five year old girls will not be role playing these movies or singing the songs.  But they are more believable, a better representation of family, have strong male role models and good examples for girls too.

We won't be buying a copy of Frozen or renting it again.

But I know on a rainy day, we will be watching the other movies again, the kids will be saying all the funny parts along with the characters, and we will know that the whole movie teaches positive family values.

With no one going off alone (naively and stupidly.)

Monday, March 17

Is your baby the Happiest? When your baby wakes up at 4 a.m. and wants to play.

Not My Sleeping Baby, but adorable just the same. 

There is a website a person can go to to get "certified" in sleep training.  I could  take that test, and likely pass it, but in reality I suck at getting my kids to bed and having them sleep at night.  As babies I mostly fed "on demand,"  and let them sleep whenever they wanted.  None of that waking babies up or feeding only after naps and not before!  Gads no.

 There are actually lots of books on getting your little nippers to sleep though the night.  Incidentally, for an infant to sleep through the night only means four or five consecutive hours.  Something I don't think first time Mommies and Daddies really know.  Shhhh.  Don't tell them.  Let them be surprised.  Let them be surprised that a full night's sleep is rarer than pink elephants or pigs with wings, and that in actuality, normal sleep patterns for adults don't ever again occur!

WHY do you think grandparents get up at five and go to bed eight?  They are making up for lost sleep. 

So I was talking with some mom's about those times baby and toddler would wake up at 4:30 or 5 A.M.  What did Momma do?  Baby should not have been hungry, wasn't sick or poopy.  Did Mom get baby up?  Since this is common behavior, there are books out there that anticipate the problem and offer answers. As a Mom who likes to sleep I didn't need no silly book to tell me what to do.

What do you do when your child or children wakes up at some God-awful early hour?

The crib is a safe place. A baby proof place.  If it's not, Mom and Dad are doing something wrong.  So, assuming that the crib is a safe place, then this Mom, (me) let baby cry.  And cry.  Until I was good and ready to get my bottom outta bed.  Or until other brothers and sisters do it for me.  Or Dad does.  Or the house catches on fire.

Again assuming crib is safe, and baby isn't sick, poopy, or starving to death.  They do go through times where they are hungry all the time.  Which is where the co-sleeping comes in.  I heard doctors are saying not to do that again.  Well piffle.  That's right. Piffle.  If you have a healthy baby and aren't on sleeping pills and feel that you have a safe situation, then  you go right ahead and co-sleep.

We did.  Well. I did.  I made my husband sleep on the couch because the bed wasn't big enough for three.

All my kids survived.

So, what is your solution for the early riser?

Wednesday, March 5

How an Overwhelmed Mom with Four Kids Under the Age Six Still Managed to Read to Them Everyday

Today is world read aloud day.  

As a mom, nanny and caregiver, one of my favorite activities is reading aloud.  All it requires from me is a comfy chair, a book, and a bit of my time.  It is one of the easiest things to do.

But I know some people are not confident in their read out loud skills.  I know a young mom who needed ideas on how to bond with her son.  My first suggestion, the go to answer, was to sit and read out loud to him.  She said that he wouldn't sit still. I explained that a trip to the library where they pick out short easy books together would help with his seeming disinterest.  She later confided that she didn't really like reading out loud.

I am not a great reader.  I slur and stumble over words when I am tired, and add words to sentences that are not actually on the page.  I mispronounce words.  I lisp my th's and spit my sh's.  You know those books that some kids want to read over and over so much everyone in the house has them memorized?  I am not that parent.  Repetition does not actually mean memorization for me.  No matter how many times I have read Goodnight Moon - and it's in the hundreds, I still can and do mess it up.  All this is very frustrating to me, because I know I should do better. But, the reading out loud is not about me.

I don't read out loud because it is good for ME.

I read out loud because it is good for the little person in my lap, or it is good for the person next to me.  I read to children of all ages, but I also read to the elderly, who are older, and can better judge my lacking skills.  The thing is, even those older people, who know I'm slurring, stumbling and mispronouncing my way through the chapter, are blessed by having someone take the time to sit and read with them.

I can not understate the power of sharing a book with someone.  It's like sharing a hug.  At the very least you are teaching a whole load of things to kids when you read out loud.  There are people with masters degrees who can better explain to you all those things, but two of them are obvious.

Children who are read to become readers.

 Children who are readers do better in school.

And here I have a confession. As a Nanny, I read to my charges at night.  But as a parent, I did not read to my kids at bed time every night.   In fact, I missed more than a few nights.

 Bed time reading is a fantastic, wonderful ritual.  It is a bonding and loving time.  It can be an integral step of the nightly going-to-bed. But it can also be hectic and overwhelming and anger inducing.  My four kids are pretty much stair step children.  The largest gap is two years, and that is in the youngest two.  I did not have the fortitude for bedtime reading.  Many parents make it work.  Sometimes my husband did the reading.  But mostly I read to them at nap time, or during the day.  We'd go to the library and get a pile of books.  A great activity for rainy days.  I'd read books at the library to my kids, and then bring them home and read them again.  We'd work through our pile of books, (it was always a pile. I love picture books and love picking fun ones for the kids) and then return them for more.  I do regret a little that I was never able to make those beautiful touching bedtime movements happen every night. Occasionally they did, but not enough to be an actual routine.

In place of nighttime reading at night the kids had books on tape.  They listened to Frog and Toad as two and three year old's.  The listened to Nate the Great, Hardy Boys Mysteries, Bible Scriptures, Children's Poetry, the Charge of the Light Brigade, the Song of Hiawatha, Treasure Island, The Giant Jam Sandwich and more.  In fact, they still listen to cd's at night.  They listen to dramatized stories, and merely narrated stories.  And although they kids didn't get that significant bonding love that happens from reading aloud at night, or the important ritual of a nightly book and snuggle, audio books did foster a love of reading in my four children.  It improved their vocabulary.  Added to their knowledge.  Widened their tastes.  Instead of only reading age level books, they were treated to books beyond their years.

When I was exhausted at night, I played the CD's.  When I had energy and patience during the day, I sat and we read the books.  If a child brought me a book to read -  I read it. Always.  Because, to me, it was like asking for a hug.  And how can you say no to a hug?

7 Keys to reading out loud.

1. Read to your babies. Start with something short.  There are millions of short books, some which are just a picture and the word name of the picture, some which are poems,songs or actual four page stories.  Take five minutes and read something to your child everyday.  If it is at night or nap time, that is a great time, but it is more important to just take the time, anytime, of the day and share a book. With babies, I will sit to read for short peirods several times a day.

2.  For the child who "won't sit still" read just three pages of a book.  Make it fun. Interactive.  "Do you see that goofy mouse?  Where is the goofy mouse? Is there a mouse on this page too?"  Try to read a book as often as you can.  Pretty soon the child will not only sit in your lap and listen to a whole book, but will soon start picking out favorites. I have never seen persistence fail to work.

3.  Read what the child likes.  If your toddler loves cars, get a book with cars.  If your preschooler like's princesses get a book with princesses.  Money is no object.  The library is free.  Have no nearby library? There are online options and online library's. You can now check out books on most smart phones. 

4. Read what you like.  That's right.  Pick books that interest you too.  You might find a gem your child loves.  I am forever pulled to picture books because of the art.  It's like hitting a jackpot when a child likes what I like.

 5. Don't worry that your are not a perfect reader.  There is a reason first and second graders are asked by their teachers to read out loud as homework.  Fluency and accuracy improves with practice.

6.  Get audio books.  My local library has a fantastic selection.  They have cd's, some cassette tapes still, personal listening devices, and these nifty hand-held video's called Play-Away-Views.  I also found places online; currently I am streaming Jane Eyre from

7. Read when you have time and energy.  Lunch breaks and snack times are a great time to break out a book and interact with younger children.  Nap time, morning wake up, while waiting for older kids to be done with activities, break out your phone, your laptop, your bag of library books and read. 

Friday, February 21

Umbrellas are magical

Mary Poppins London Olympics,# Dapoppins, #Umbrella, #Umbrellas, #Black Umbrellas

This is from the London Olympics.  I'm not a sports fan and missed the opening, but I saw all these Mary Poppins's flying in to fight Voldemort and I just loved it.  Like black butterflies full of forthright purpose, touched by mystery, song, and magic.  

All umbrella's do is protect a person from the rain.  I can't explain how an umbrella is magical.  But they are.  

My step-mother, Robyn, grew and sold hosta plants.  One year they lost several old trees (walnut and pine) that had been standing over  her shade loving hostas.  So she had to come up with an alternative shade source.  She bought ten or fifteen giant beach umbrellas from somewhere and tied them down over her beloved plants.  It was the most amazing sight, an unintentional landscape of art in my parent's front yard (which was about an acre of pure garden.) 

I loved it.  Magical.

So umbrellas have meaning to me.  They express not gloom, but a type of freedom and protection.  I connect them with childhood, but also the practicality of Mary Poppins.  

I've been expanding my scrapbooking to include some mixed media collage. My husband asked, "Why are you making this?"

"Because," I said.

And then I thanked him for not complaining about the time or expense it took to putter about and make something.

Her face took a long time.  A better artist would have been able to whip it out, but it is tiny.  I had to find my glasses, and I couldn't get it just perfect.  I cut out a rough silhouette (shown below) and wanted to have the perfect face for it to express the moment.  I couldn't get they eyes right.  Finally, I drew them closed.

Dance in the rain.  As a Christian that means:  Praise Him in the storm.  Storms have come.  Sometimes it is so hard, but when I stop looking at myself, and look to my Creator, I can see the sun burst coming through the clouds, I can see the beautiful refection in mud puddles, I can see the rain dripping off the flowers.  I can see beyond the hard and the hurt. 

umbrellas, #dapoppins, dance in the rain

My next silhouette...

#dapoppins, #Dapoppins, Umbrella, silhouette of girl with umbrella

Saturday, February 8

5 Things Every First Time Live In Nanny or Caregiver Should Do

My first live-in experience went for longer than two years.  I was nineteen.  I went from living at home (in a not always comfortable environment) to living in another families home as their nanny.

live in caregiver, live-in nanny, nanny family, #nanny
 It's not really MY home.  I lived there.  I had my own room and my own bathroom and my own space. But I was still living in another woman's home.  I was young and a little shaky with this concept.  I assumed that since I was now an adult, and getting room and board plus a nice salary, that my space was MINE.  It wasn't.  As a nanny I have not only lived in, but worked the long 50 hour weeks that is common with caregivers.  I was at work more than I was at home, and the concept of "place of work," sometimes became blurred. I have also worked many short term live-in positions.

1. Clean up after yourself.  My job was to care for, play with, and teach the children.  I was to pick up after them as well as  myself.  A house keeper would still come twice a week, but that didn't mean I could be lazy.  Keeping toys as organized as possible, keeping play areas tidy after every toddler play time explosion, cleaning up after every breakfast and lunch were all my responsibilities.

Add to this my long hair.  The "mom boss" home noticed every single one that came off my head.  She was kind about it, but  much happier when I kept my hair in a scrunchy and off the floors and furniture of her living areas.

 I  had my own personal space and frankly at nineteen, I was still a bit of a slob.  There were a couple of times when my mom boss came into my room and she was appalled.  It wasn't that bad -to me.  But this was her home I was living in and she had a different set of standards.  As her employee and a member of her household I was expected to comply to those standards and there was nothing wrong with her expectation that I do so.

2. Embarrassing things will happen, move on. Living in close quarters with people who are not family members will bring many opportunities for embarrassing moments.  No matter who or what is the initial cause, handle it with grace, maturity, and a sense of humor.  Then forget about it and move on.

3. Keep your car tidy, inside and out.  Your car reflects who you are.  If it's filled with trash and smells like week old fast food this will reflect poorly on you when you need to transport a child  (or an elderly person.) Don't assume you will always have access to another "work" car.  If the outside of your vehicle hasn't been washed in months this will also reveal a lack of personal responsibility.  Also, if your car is leaking fluid all over a pristine white or expensively sculpted driveway, your employers will not be pleased.

4. If you eat a meal with the family, help clean up.  When I'm living and working with a family and I join them for a meal I always help clean it up afterwards.  Even if I am not on the clock.  It's just good manners to at least offer.

5. Ask lots of questions.  Every family (every WOMAN ) has a certain process of doing things.  How the laundry is folded.  How the dishes are washed. How often the floor is swept. The bed time routine and morning routine. What words are exceptable in conversation, what is considered polite and impolite. As a live in care-giver your job is to help in daily activities, and the family you are working with will only explain the obvious or important routines.  Families develop habits over time to work together, such as how to share a bathroom with five people.  A live-in care giver often has to decipher rules that have developed over time.  The quickest way to find out the families habits  is to ask questions and watch carefully how things are said and done.

Living-in is rewarding in lots of ways. I would highly recommend it to anyone who asked me.  But having a firm grasp of yourself as an employee is the first advice I would give.  You may be treated like a member of the family, but you are earning a great pay check at the same time. Living in may is more challenging then other jobs, but hey, there is no commute time, and there is usually some fine chocolate on the pantry shelf that you are more than welcome to eat. 

Friday, January 31

Focus my One Little Word for 2014

OLW, focus, magnify, center, 2014
via Pinterest

It is time to FOCUS.  Time to look straight ahead.  Set aside distractions.  Set aside discouragement.  Look forward.  Look toward a goal.  Start small - end Big.

"Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” ― Zig Ziglar
These last two years, picking one Word for the year to help guide and direct me, has had tremendous impact.  It helped me look beyond my circumstance.  It gave me hope and determination when I had none.  Those words re-shaped each year.

This year the word is FOCUS.

Are you a creative person? Is it just me, or do creative people have several projects going at once, grand plans, and a stash of stuff set aside just because of the possibility? On top of the creative plans, there are  family and  home demands- have to take two hours to make, eat, and clean up dinner when there are a hundred other things needing to be done at the same time.  Daily responsibilities and distractions get in the way of dreams.

Creative people are drawn to lots of things.  Sometime the most random things draw my interest simply because I see a story in it.  I love family history and memorabilia because of the story in them.  I love this certain plate pattern made by English pottery Gildea & Walker because of the story in the pattern.  And color.  I can never get enough color.  I flit about like a butterfly, drawn to flower after flower because of the marvelous color.  All of my passions seem to start with these two sources: The Story and The Color.

I do flutter about quite a bit like a butterfly.  But even the butterfly has goals.

So this year.  It's all about focus.


The other OLW:

2012- All.  "-All things work together for those who are in Christ Jesus.  We struggled financially and several times almost missed a mortgage payment but God was our All every time.  I was afraid to trust God with ALL because I didn't want to deal with the emotional pain of our struggles. 

2013- Go. "-go in to the land and possesses it.  I will be with you."  I went to France for sixteen days and out of town for 14 days at the beginning of this year after not even leaving home area for sixteen years. 

Wednesday, January 29

Discovering A Classic Children's Novel

I set a goal for myself last month to read this book, The Annotated Alice.

I'm not even half way through.

Alice in Wonderland has always been one of those weird children's stories where it was generally believed the writer must be smoking opium as he scribbled out the pages.  Rampant with insane, irrational creatures bent on selfish mayhem and circular conversations, I've always wondered how the story could have stood the test of time and still be popular today.  It may not be your favorite either, but if I mentioned "the white rabbit," or said, "He had a smile like a Cheshire cat," you would immediately know what story I was referencing. Even if you had never read the story. 

Published in 1865 for a very specific audience, the Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is full of inside jokes my modern mind finds difficulty in grasping.  "In the case of Alice we are dealing with a very curious, complicated kind of nonsense, written for British readers of another century, and we need know a great many things that are not part of the text if we wish to capture its full wit and flavor.  It is even worse then that, for some of Carroll's jokes could be understood only by residents of Oxford, and other jokes still more private..."  from Introduction to The Annotated Alice. 

Another thing that I didn't know:  Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is one story, but Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There is another.  I've seen movies of Alice chasing the rabbit down the rabbit hole, but I also remember a movie about a girl stepping though a mirror - I thought they were both the same story. 

Now I know better.

Although I have been finding a few things in the story that I actually enjoy, I am really quite fascinated by  the endless annotations that accompany this "definitive edition."  It is a bit of a history ride.  Hints are revealed about a real place from 200 years ago, what it was like to live there, who lived there, and how they played and laughed.  Carroll's poems are all darker parody's of well known poems of the day.  Many of the most famous quotes of the book were popular catch phrases and on and on go the curious links of the story to it's audience.  

The hatter was mad because it was not uncommon for a real hatter to have mercury poisoning.  The door mouse was sleepy because it was hibernating, and children often kept these little mice in teapots as pets...

This still doesn't explain why a book which began as a gift for a little girl is still in publication today.

But I haven't finished the story yet. 

"Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don't much care where.
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn't much matter which way you go.
Alice: ...So long as I get somewhere.
The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you're sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.” 
― Lewis CarrollAlice in Wonderland