Sunday, January 1, 2017

Tween Hits, Our Top 12 of Recent Finds

My bigs are fast becoming tweens.  Nothing more frustrating than trying to figure out what to let these guys watch and read.  So I thought I'd share a few treasures we have found as of late, that have met my big kids' desire to feel more grown up, without deviating too much into being too mature.

12.  Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Set in ancient China, this book weaves Chinese folk tales and culture into the story of Minli's search to bring prosperity back to her poor mountain village.  Amazing woodcut pictures provide even more of an authentic Chinese feel to the story.

11.  Scraps of Time book series
There are four books in the Scraps of Time series, each one featuring a family heirloom in a black family's attic.  A set of cousins then listens as their grandmother tells the story behind each item, spinning a story set in history from the perspective of a black child.  The heirlooms cover the civil rights movement, the black exodus from the south following the Civil War, the Harlem Renaissance, and 1950's baseball. 

10.  Sign of the Beaver
We just wrapped up reading this classic book, right about Thanksgiving time.  Set in colonial America, it's the story of a boy who is left behind to hold the landclaim his father establishes in the wilderness of Maine while the father returns to Massachusetts to bring the rest of his family.  The boy ends up being befriended by a Native boy and his grandfather.  I had read it as a kid but completely missed the theme of it then.  Spoiler alert:  Matt, the white boy in the story, learns that the Native American ways are not backwards or wrong, just different.

9.  Sabrina the Teenage Witch starring Melissa Joan Hart, available on Hulu
Yep, the one you used to watch.  Conleigh loved watching these.  They do contain a bit of high school romance and drama but it's much more tame than what newer shows seem to offer and more age appropriate stuff, where it's high school kids dealing with this type of stuff rather than middle school or junior high kids.

8.  Lego Friends on Amazon or Disney Jr.
I was skeptical of Lego's introduction of Legos meant for girls.  (As in why do girls need their own specially colored Legos, ones that often are directed at "girl" things like being a pop star or picnicking with friends?)  But Conleigh really likes both the building blocks and the tv show.

7.  American Girl movies
Both Kenson and Conleigh have liked these, I think because there is enough of a history viewpoint to keep Kenson interested.  We've seen Kit Kitteridge, McKenna, and Saige.  On our watchlist are Maryellen and Melody which are both now available on Amazon Prime.

6.  Odd Squad on PBS
Done in the vein of the old Electric Company or Mathnet from PBS, this show focuses on kids who use math to keep the world from becoming an odd place.

5.  Wild Kratts on PBS
Kenson, Kai, and Zeke like these more than Conleigh but the animal/conservation themes are things all my kids will watch.

4.  Hairspray Live (available on Hulu)
Conleigh loved this.  The boys liked it too but Conleigh clapped with delight when it was over.  Yes, there is some high school drama/romance but again, it's more age appropriate since it features high schoolers.  The story of dance as a method of integration was one my kids really enjoyed.

3.  Avatar and The Legend of Korra (available on Amazon Prime)
I reluctantly am including this one but all of my kids love these shows.  It's a bit new agey for some but I'm the type of person who believes it's fantasy and my kids are perceiving it as just that.  They love the overall theme of good vs. evil as well as the science fiction connected to water bending, earth bending, and fire bending.  That said, I've had to turn both of these off from time to time since Kai gets a bit wild and goes overboard with fighting.

2.  The Best/Worst Christmas Pageant Ever
Oh, how I had forgotten about this book!  What a riot!   The Herdman kids are just plain awful and yet, someone tells them there is dessert offered at Sunday school so they decide to come.  Of course, that would be the morning when the church starts working on their Christmas pageant.  Such a great story about what the church should really look like, without any preaching, and a hilarious plot.

1.  Annedroids on Amazon Prime
This original Amazon series is fantastic!  All of my kids loved it and binge watched the entire series for about a month straight until they had watched all of the episodes.  The series centers on three tween age friends who build robots and androids in a backyard junkyard.  No romance, no mean friends, a smidge of science but not too much, just a great mix of focusing on friendship and inventing.

Other options that I hope my kids will explore:

From Amazon:
McGuyver reruns
Young Indiana Jones reruns
Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman
Lost in Oz
Fetch with Ruff Ruffman

From Hulu
The Brady Bunch
Air Bud
The Saddle Club
The Parent Trap (both the original and the more modern one)

The Young Riders

Mr. Popper's Penguins
Ginger Pye
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
Riding Freedom

Friday, December 30, 2016

Thanksgiving Too!

Does it seem wrong that I posted Christmas pics before the Thanksgiving ones?  Again, this is real life, where things don't always go in order.  We spent Thanksgiving at my aunt and uncle's.  It was also a pretty typical Thanksgiving.  Lots of food and family and stories.  These pictures though capture the highlights.

My cousin, Quinn, has created  medieval weapons from duct tape.
So of course, all the boys wanted to play.
What could possible go wrong?

The game they invented was a riot to watch.
Basically, if an opponent touched you with his weapon, you lost the use of whatever body part the weapon touched.
So they played on their knees, with arms behind their backs, etc..

I'd like to think the neighbors were surprised but I'm pretty sure they were not.

And yes, even the little boys who were 3 and 4 wanted in on the game.
Of course, there were no duct tape weapons left for them so we gave them a wooden stick and a wooden toy rifle.
We're wise like that.

Because we believe in gender stereotyping, the girls did something much more refined.
My cousin, Brenna, planned a tea party for the two little girls who were thrilled.

Christmas Photo Dump

Christmas has a way of filling the month of December and this year was no exception.  From presents and parties to programs and time with family, this year was pretty normal.  My pics are in reverse order and a bit lacking as I ended up being sick on Christmas Day and went home early.  (So no photos of the parakeet pillow, the tin cans with no labels, the saran wrap gift game, the beard hats, the gigantic stuffed shark hat, or the rest of my family.)  Guess that is the real life version of sharing Christmas photos, seeing as life is often backwards and full of crummy stuff.

Matching PJ's gift, dinosaurs this year

"Who wants to open presents?"
Kai does!

Envelopes from Grandpa Dave and Grandma Joann...with some money of course.

Perhaps the best gift Conleigh has every gotten. 
Grandma got her pans to make cake doughnuts and then the ingredients for three different recipes.
Add in the sign and the apron and she was already planning how to get Dad to build her a hut to sell her doughnuts out of.

D trying out the old school electronic basketball game that the boys got in their stockings.

Same for Zeke.

The big kids' gift from us this year was a surprise trip to Stuhr Museum's Christmas and an overnight in a hotel with a pool.
We managed to keep it a secret until the very day, leaving Kenson's basketball game and not telling them until they started asking why we weren't home yet.

One of the kids' favorite activities was in the tin shop where they got to pull a tin icicle ornament.

We also stopped in the train depot for cocoa and cookies.

See?  We're backwards.
Getting the tree ready.

One of the best parenting choices I have ever made is to let the kids do the tree all by themselves

I love watching them get out their old ornaments, both the ones we have given them and the ones they have made.
Those ornaments bring up so many memories for them and it's fun to hear them talk.

Here's the caboose.
Because why wouldn't you decorate the Christmas tree with part of a scuba mask in your mouth?

Thursday, December 8, 2016

So This Just Happened

Yep, it's a name badge with my picture.  A name badge makes it pretty official.  I am back to work on a daily basis.  I accepted a position a week or so ago with a nearby school district as a family literacy coordinator.  I have not yet seen all the pieces in motion yet but I will be working four hours a day with adult immigrants and their school aged children, teaching adult who are learning English and helping those adults as they interact with their children.  I took a very part time teaching job in August teaching adult education/adult ELL on Saturday mornings so some parts of this will be similar to that.  This job is unique in that it also involves helping families help their children be successful at school.  I am taking over an existing position so next week I will be shadowing the teacher who is already in place and then will be on my own in January. 

For years, I have prayed and hoped for a part time job that would provide us with a bit more consistent income while allowing me to still be home without all the extras of a classroom all while doing a job I love to do.  I hope this job really is that.  I will work afternoons only, 12-4 and with my commute, I should be home between 4:30 and 5, depending on how long it takes to get the kids picked up.  

It's still a change and in some ways, it has been hard to say yes.  I have worked for the same district for almost 15 years.  Even though I wasn't a full time employee, I have always been involved with the district and the families they serve.  I have worked in the same district as my husband for that entire time as well, often in the same building, and sometimes just a few doors away.  There is just a tinge of sadness there in letting go of those familiar faces and that community of families.  This new job will be different in that I will working with a bit different demographic.  I will be working with a lot of Arabic, Russian, and Kurdish families.  While the district I have worked in is very diverse, our largest population group by far is Latino so this is a new adventure, where I don't necessarily have a lot of background knowledge regarding those groups.  That change is exciting, where I know I will be learning new things about culture and language. 

So Monday is the day.  A new schedule and a new adventure...

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Sweet Boy

Don't let that sweet grin fool you!
Just today he tried to negotiate a trip in Dad's truck.
Dad said that he couldn't go with him and Kai's first response was "You give me pop." 
That was then followed by "You give me pop and money."
As in "I won't throw a fit about not going if you meet my demands."
Such a conversation is only bested by his random comments about 15 minutes later of
"Me going to pop your head."

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Better Late Than Never

Pretty sure I've used that title more than once.  That's life, isn't it?  Halloween pics after the Thanksgiving ones?  Eh, why not?

Our crew was nothing if not eclectic.
Kai was a pilot.  I'm not really sure he knew what he was but the pilot suit was D's or his brother's from when they were little, and this is kind of the last chance for someone to wear it.
Kenson was Captain America.  He made his shield about 85% independently. 
Zeke was a jellyfish.  He actually had lights inside this costume but it was hard to see.
Conleigh was a rock star, mostly because she really wanted to wear make up. Conleigh helped with her microphone but the spray paint kept wanting to blow the paper towel tube over so Mom ended up helping.

We did most of our trick or treating at our local college.
This was outdoor in their nature center, hosted by the education association on campus.

Conleigh did not want a Walmart bag for her candy.
She needed something a little more rock start like.

Local college again...the gym was filled with student athletes.
Each team hosted a station, often one that matched their sport.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving Past and Present

Zeke, sporting his turkey hat from kindergarten

A throwback photo, when Zeke had no hat and instead posed with the two bigs in their hats from kindergarten.
Zeke was 2 and had been home just about a month.