Thursday, February 21, 2013

Facing the Fire Baton

I know that it will shock anyone who knows me now as the confident, sophisticated woman that I am to learn that I was once a shy, awkward little girl. Ha ha! Ahem, allow me to start over...

Okay, I don't think it would shock anyone who really knows me that before I became the semi-confident, introverted woman that I am today, I was a really shy, socially awkward girl. My parents tried various ways to combat my nature and make me more outgoing. Dance lessons at age three were followed by girl scouts, soccer teams, and one spectacularly disastrous season of basketball. The summer that I was 12, my mother had another idea...baton lessons.

Her idea took root when my younger sister's friend's mother decided to sign her daughter up for group baton lessons taught by a former high school majorette. Isn't that how the best plans always start?

Soon enough my sister was signed up for the baton troupe too, and strutting around the house in a rather cute, flouncy skirted uniform. I must have gone with my mother to pick up my little sis from her lesson one night, because somehow the coach got wind of my existence. I suppose from her point of view, I must have seemed a more promising pupil at my advanced middle school age than the seven year olds she was coaching at the time. At any rate, she spoke to my mother and before I knew it, I too was decked out in a slightly used red and white uniform.

I began to join in the weekly practices in the elementary school parking lot. We learned to twirl our batons through our fingers, and hurl them into the air without clonking ourselves on the head. The coach soon convinced my mother that my sister and I could benefit from private lessons. She began showing up in our driveway in her station wagon, ready to teach the two of us the secrets of batoning.

Soon though, it became apparent that Dawn, the coach, was more interested in me than in my sister. I was older. I was roughly the right size for the spare uniform. I had the potential to become, in just a few short years, a high school majorette!

It seems that for some time our local high school had been without any majorettes at all. They had cheerleaders, and a marching band, but as for anyone skilled in the mysterious art of baton twirling...not so much. Obviously the standards for new recruits were pretty high at that point.

Dawn extolled the glories of being a majorette to me. I was already sold on the adorable uniform, so she was preaching to the choir. There I would be, she told me, the star of the show, out on the football field with all eyes on me.

I honestly cannot remember if I had yet heard the word introvert in my short life up to that point. I do know that my mother was prone to talk about how I just needed to 'come out of my shell' and my life would change. And so I bought into what Dawn was saying. I pictured myself out on the sunlit field, the band playing, while the crowd cheered me on. I practiced my spins and twirls, and endured the occasional clonks on the head from the baton...because I had the vision.

Then came the day when Dawn got a little too excited at the thought of filling the majorette position. She told me in a voice breathless with glee about FIRE BATON!

I listened in horror as she described how the ends were lighted (she even showed me the special baton). She showed me the routine that I would do and warned me to expect my eyebrows to be singed off until I got the hang of handling it.

Oddly enough, that's about the time I discovered that I really did not have any interest in pursuing baton lessons anymore. My sister quit not long after that too. I spent my high school years doing activities like Yearbook Committee. Center of attention? No. Eyebrows and lack of major burns? Yes.

That is the story of my short-lived, not quite, stint as a majorette. I don't know if Dawn ever did find anyone to fill the position.

linking to: Mama Kat's Writers Workshop

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Room of His Own

Several years ago, when we first moved into our current house, we undertook some major renovation projects right away. My two brothers-in-law gutted bathrooms and started remodeling them before we even moved in, and then just a few months later we started on the kitchen. Our children were all young (D-boy was only three) so it's no exaggeration to say that it was chaotic around here for a while. But we managed to keep track of everyone...well usually.

One warm spring day we couldn't find D-boy. At first it didn't seem too alarming. I thought he was with his siblings or BadDad, and everyone else assumed he was with me. When it finally occurred to us that he wasn't with anyone, we searched the house, and sent the kids to look in the backyard. There are lots of good hiding spots for a small child around our property, so we felt sure he had to be here somewhere.

D-boy! D-boy! The calls rang out. Nothing.

That was about the time panic started to set in. Every parent knows that cold, clawing feeling that grips your heart at the thought of your child being in danger. It didn't help me to look at BadDad and see my own fears reflected on his face. Though we live on a quiet cul-de-sac, we're not far from a busy road. What if he wandered off? What if someone took him?!

My hubby had another thought. He went out to check the pool.

The minutes ticked by and still we couldn't find him.

Then for some reason, I still don't know why, I opened the door to the coat closet. There was D-boy, curled up, fast asleep. When I lifted him out, he was sweating, and red faced. A closer look inside the closet revealed D-boy's favorite blanket and pillow, and a small bag of toys.

He woke up and groggily informed me that K-boy had helped him move in there.

Under questioning, K-boy admitted that he had told D-boy that the coat closet was his new room...thus leaving K-boy with a room of his own. Somehow it hadn't occurred to him that his brother might be in there during our panicked search.

Once we convinced D-boy that he really couldn't move into a stuffy, windowless closet, we had a long talk with K-boy about using his influence over his younger siblings for good, not evil.

Three years later, we're much more settled in our home. The boys share their large room more or less amiably, and we laugh about the incident that was so terrifying at the time. It just proved once more, parenting is certainly not for the faint hearted!

linking to: Pour Your Heart Out

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Bunny Business

I started a book club a few months back for M-girl and a few of her closest friends. Once a month, we host nine giggly, tween girls, their mothers, and a few assorted siblings. I lead the girls in a discussion about the book and then they usually do a book related craft. The girls get to chat, the moms get to catch up...we all have a great time!

My goal with picking the books each month is to expose the girls to really good literature, both classic and books that are sure to be considered classic someday. In order to set the tone for our meetings, I sent each family a list of rules before we even started. We use a talking stick, which makes it easier for me to ensure that all of the girls have a chance to speak and be heard. I'm thrilled with the way that the girls have responded! Even those who seemed quiet at the beginning now arrive eager to discuss the books.

We just had our February meeting the other day. The book this month was, The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams. It was shorter than our usual picks (which have included works such as: The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, The Indian in the Cupboard, Ella Enchanted, and Betsy, Tacy and Tib). The Velveteen Rabbit is the story of a toy bunny that is made real by the love of a child. Of course loving someone comes with the risk of eventual heartache for toys, just as it does for people.
The story is short, sweet, and beautiful, and is also the perfect opportunity to introduce children to the elements of a story.

The girls each brought a 'real' toy of their own, and shared the stories of how they became real over a snack of bunny crackers and banana bread. It was cute to hear them talk about their toys. M-girl had the oldest 'real' toy, as she inherited my favorite doll from my childhood, Julia. She is "very shabby" but she is not ugly to us, because we love her.

Finally it was time to make No Sew Sock Bunnies. These were a big hit with the girls. After I gave them the basic instructions, I left them to create and took my chance to chat with my mom friends. As you can tell from the picture, our book club is one crafty bunch!

linking to: Hip Homeschool Hop

Monday, February 11, 2013

Learning to Read With Dick and Jane

If there is anything in the world more amazing than learning how to read, it's watching a child unlock the mysteries of written language for the first time. It literally expands the world for them. For many of us (those who grow up as bookworms) there will always be a special place in our hearts for the very first books that we mastered all on our own.

While I'm too young to have been taught to read using Dick and Jane readers, there was a weathered set of the books in my First Grade classroom. Those of us who finished with our Programed Readers early were allowed to quietly peruse the shelves of  Dick and Jane books, while the rest of the class struggled through their workbooks. I remember being enchanted with the illustrations and the simple stories of the happy little family.

When it came time to teach my own children how to read, I was thrilled to discover reprints of the original Dick and Jane books on the shelves at our local library. Like me, my kids soon fell under the spell of these time tested readers, most likely because they work!

                                          See Trinket read. Look, look, oh look. Funny, funny Trinket!

Unlike many modern easy readers, that use words that are far to complicated for beginners, the Dick and Jane series begins with very short sentences, and repeats words often enough that children begin to recognize them. Gradually more words are added and the sentences get a bit longer. Each chapter flows into the next, and the cute illustrations have kids wanting to know what is going to happen in the story. Before they know it, children are reading!

I'm currently in the process of helping my six year old son read Dick and Jane for the first time, which means I'm lucky enough to watch the comprehension dawn on his face and his excitement build. In a few short weeks he's turned into a confident reader, and each day he begs to read more of the story. I am one mom that is glad this classic is still around!

This post is based on my own family's experience with the Dick and Jane series. I was not paid to write this, and can offer no guarantee that others will have the same experience with the books.

linking to: hip homeschool hop

Monday, February 4, 2013

Healthier Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

I have such an ingrained habit of adapting recipes, that sometimes I don't realize I'm doing it.I tend to substitute healthier ingredients whenever I can. This past weekend, I took a batch of cookies to a family party. When I was asked for the recipe, I replied that they were Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, from a recipe that I found years ago at It makes a delicious, chewy, brownie-like cookie. It was only when I returned home and looked at my version of the recipe that I realized how much I've changed it over time. Here is my take on this delicious cookie.

Healthier Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

3/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup baking cocoa
1&1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond or mint extract
1 cup pasteurized egg product
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp lower sodium salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray cookie sheets with cooking spray.

In large bowl, mix oil, cocoa, sugar, and extracts. Add eggs and mix until well combined.

Stir in remaining ingredients, except powdered sugar.

Place powdered sugar in small bowl. Drop heaping teaspoonfuls of dough into powdered sugar and roll to coat. Place balls about two inched apart on baking sheets.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until set. Cool on wire racks.

Yields about 4 dozen cookies.

* These cookies keep nicely in an airtight container. I often double or triple the recipe