Saturday, March 30, 2013


As our children mature around us there are times when I take a step back and feel confused. It's like I realize they've gotten to a place that's a bit more grown up and I know that they have reached the next stage but I didn't really feel it go by. Well, we're there, again.

This past week has been Spring Break in these parts. You might imagine that we would escape to warmer climes. So did we. But in reality we stayed really close to home and had a great time. One of our adventures was entering a photocontest that the kids noticed in a flyer that came home from school.

It honored Ansel Adams' 111th birthday. 

When I explained to the boys what good 'ol Ansel was famous for and the images that really set him apart from other nature photographers they actually understood. And that is how I found myself hiking one of my favorite running trails with both boys and a camera. 

They were both excited to use my camera. But they approached the project completely differently. Mason had remembered the trail from a hike we took about one year ago. He was determined to get to the view he was remembering and he would have none of the "views exploration" which Cooper and I were doing. 

Meanwhile, as I said, Cooper was stopping every 30 steps saying, "Oh this is a great view Mom." Until finally I had to crush his artistic heart and say, "NO, no it is not." This is how we stopped and started up the hill to find our artistic voice. 

Someone took this one of me, not sure which one. Not my best side. But hey, can't take yourself too seriously at my age. 

And here are their entries:

MASON, age 6

COOPER, age 8

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

We All Need Someone

Mom, when you were little did you have an imaginary friend?


What was his name?

Mr. Fox.

Was he a boy or a girl?

MISTER Fox was a boy.

What did he look like?

I think he was like a fox that walked like a grown up.
So do you have an imaginary friend?


What does he look like?

He has like skinny arms and he is yellow.

Like Sponge Bob?

No, like a little fluff ball with crazy eyes.

like The Lorax?

No, that guy has a mustache and my friend just has a really nice smile. He always listens to me.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Science Is Fun

Do you know what makes science fun? Vinegar. 

That's a little known fact. With enough eggs and vinegar you can pull together enough pictures and observation notes to create an excellent science fair project. You can also make your house smell really ... really ... really like a second grader's basketball uniform after it's been worn for both a practice and game on the same weekend without washing it. Also, if you stuff a dirty washcloth in the bottom of a laundry basket and forget about it for 5-7 days, it kinda smells like that, too. Anyway, they don't call it the smell fair.

Should you think the discomfort of preparation for this event was limited to an odiferous acid, let me also describe for you the contents of a birds' nest that we found in our yard and preserved for 8 months. Did you know, for instance, that baby birds actually crap all over the inside of the nest for approximately 30 days? As it turns out, 8 months in a sealed plastic bag turned that little bowl of sticks into a scientific marvel all its own replete with spiders. That my friends IS science.

I myself have never been a presenter or contestant in a science fair. That is why I am so particularly proud of these two. They had to go head-to-head with the judges. No mommies standing in the wings, no daddies helping with answers. Frankly, they really did know the concept of the scientific method and explained their hypothesis and conclusion on their own. The boys did it. They loved it. And they did great.  

I love this picture. Also, did I mention we tried to set fire to eggs? Mason wrote in his notes, "Burned Eggs Stink!" 
Here is Mason explaining his experiment to a friend. Read into his body language anything you want.  You are probably spot on.

The morning of science fair.

All I did was finance the poster boards, binders, folders, picture reprints, about a dozen eggs, two gallons of vinegar, and button-down shirts. Well, as long as we're patting ourselves on the back, I did a pretty good job as Mrs. Moneybags. Where's my medal? 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Best Vacation Ever

Let's face it, our kids have a way of romanticizing family vacations to the point of unbelievability. But it's nice to bask in their superlatives. Our short sojourn to Steamboat Springs was a success, even if we didn't ski the slopes. 

At the close of our long weekend, Mason and I waited patiently in the warm car while Steve and The Coop ran inside to checkout of the condo and grab a donut. Mason murmured, "Sometimes it's hard to say goodbye." 

His voice was so sweet and on the verge of emotional and I asked him why he felt this was true. 

"Because I had so much fun." he explained. I reached back with my Amazonian arms and patted his knee then realized it was the leg that was hurting after a day of sledding and playing rough in the snow so I said, "I'm sorry your leg hurts."

He replied while blinking back tears, "Maybe it's sad to leave, too."

Some pictures from the trip: 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Diary of a Reader

Sometime this past fall The Coop stumbled upon the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. These are insanely popular with the 2nd grade boys. In fact, I believe Cooper's first desire to read them came from wanting to fit in. Whatever it takes to get them reading, is fine by me. After he zipped through the first book his competitive spirit kicked in and he asked for the next one. I complied. Frankly, I bought the entire series right then and there because I had previously never seen him so into reading. What is interesting is what has happened to the cast offs -- the books he finished that he tossed aside, lost under his bed, or just left in a rumpled stack on his nightstand.

Mason picked up the first one on the way to Thanksgiving in Utah. And now he has read them all. I share this not to brag, but to start in on a one-sided conversation on how difficult it is to find captivating, age-appropriate reading material for an advanced reader who is a BOY.

When I realized he how fast he was reading the series, understanding the series, and perhaps comprehending it at a level that even his older brother was not I started to look for other books. First I checked out the Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922-Present. There are some seriously good books on this list. Seriously.

Before you get all judgey, please understand that I'm not suggesting that these books should be written differently. I'm just trying to paint for you the picture of my current challenge: to imagine my sweet, lovely, naive, 6-year-old reading these novels.

A Few Examples with Snide Commentary from a Concerned Mother.

I thought I'd have the greatest amount of luck by going WAY back to a simpler time. You know, a time before school shootings, porn stars, and childhood obesity. I examined 1924's winner: The Dark Frigate. First, I should tell you that I had to look up what a frigate is. So for starters, this book is about an English orphan who signs up to sail across the ocean for Newfoundland to avoid being hanged. Off to a great start, eh? As I read the reviews online I was thinking back to the day when I took my sweet boys to see the pirate exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and there was an actual shin bone from the youngest pirate in history on display. Their faces were pricelessly terrified and gobstopped. Anyway, the orphan joins a group of pirates on their murderous expeditions. Needless to say, I thought bloody battles on the sea were a bit much. Though, the more I think of it, maybe Mason would love it.  

So, I tried books from the 50s. What did Donna Reed let her boys read? I found The Door in the Wall set in plague-ridden London. Ummm... this makes me nervous. Then I find out the main character is basically abandoned while his father is at war and his mother is serving the Queen. He's taken in by a friar who makes him live in a monastery. Enough, that doesn't work for a 6-year-old living in the suburbs.

What about what won the Newbery the year I was Mason's age. That is how I came to read about Jacob Have I Loved. I already knew this was a "girl" book. But maybe. Then I figured out it was about sisters, one of which lives in the shadow of the other and I was like, "Ummmm NO."

In a last ditch effort to find something on the Newbery list I looked at books that had won after Mason was born. One immediately screamed at me, because I have read it and loved it -- The Graveyard Book. Here's the thing, it starts with a toddler surviving the grisly murder of his entire family. Then the boy is raised by ghosts, in a graveyard. It is so good. You should read it. I'm just not sure my 6-year-old should. But I haven't ruled it out.                  

On to the next idea. I also perused genres for "boys" books. Here's a trend, lots of stories of professional athletes (Mason is NOT interested), and strangely just as many stories of boys who were either slaves or fought in wars. Whether you pick up Swords of Steel, Johnny Tremain, Amos Fortune, Free Man, or Rifles for Watie, you are asking to do a lot of explaining when the reader is 6. I'm just saying, until Martin Luther King Jr. day this past month, my 6-year-old didn't even realize there was a time in our history of inequality based on race. (PS -- I know it's still unequal but my children don't.)

Fast forward to the current century and you find books like James Patterson's Middle School books, Rick Riordan's heroes and olympians series, The Captain Underpants mess of books (don't get me started), and 39 Clues. These are all fine. But, I was hoping for something that was redeeming, intellectual, maybe even didactic. Riordan's books are perhaps the closest to what I was hoping for.

What I settled on were a few of my favorites and I'm still wishing there was an American Girl series for boys. He started Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Even though Harry is an orphan living with an awful foster family he's about to live in a magical world in a magical school and fly on a broom. So, the fantasy can comfort even if the adventures are intense. It is probably a weak copout to say that being able to shut the book and say, "It's just pretend." is good enough. But for now, it is.

In the meantime I'm going to be reading a lot of youth books to find something that I can safely give this voracious reader. Open to suggestions.

Also, how happy am I that my boys read??!?!?!?