Monday, May 31, 2010

How to make this the best summer EVER!

The sound of childish laughter drifts from the backyard to my listening ears while beads of condensation gather and roll down my glass of iced sweet tea.  My bare feet, warmed by the shafts of sunlight pouring through the open window, rest on a footstool as I sit rocking and reading yet another book from my summer reading list.

Ah.. the perfection of lazy summer days.  At least in my imagination!

In reality, the sound of childish fighting accosts my ears from my backyard, while my iced sweet tea has long since warmed to room temperature as I answer the call of one child after another.  And my summer reading list?  It sits untouched as I wash load after load of laundry dirtied by small sweaty bodies.

But I am determined that this summer will be different from those in the past.  It will be the BEST SUMMER EVER!

How will I make this summer the best ever?
By completing 3 short sentences now:

My idea of a perfect summer is ...
This summer I want to ...
I will accomplish this by ...

Here's my list:
  • My idea of a perfect summer is ...... to have a lot of fun, to create new memories, and to learn new things together as a family. 
  • This summer I want to ...... see places and do activities unique to New England; have fun at home; and get our house ready to sell.  (We hope to put our house on the market before the summer is over so that is influencing a lot of our decisions and desires.)
  • I will do/see New England by ...... going to the beach; Freedom Trail; the home of John Adams; Lexington-Concord; Whale Watching; Audubon Trails; a Butterfly Farm; 3 zoos; Purgatory Chasm; letterbox in MA, CT, and NH; Fort Adams; Block Island; Strawberry picking; Plimoth Village. (As you can see, I have a lot of field trips to plan.)
  • I will have fun at home by ...... reading aloud; play with bubbles; play with our bouncer; sidewalk chalk; Draw.Write.Now; play dates with friends; make homemade ice cream; make homemade popsicles; wash the van.

The next step will be to put the field trips (and house projects) on my calendar.  Everything else we'll just pick from the list on our days home.

So by thinking ahead and doing a little planning before summer gets here I hope to make this the best summer EVER!  And just maybe I'll have a day where everyone gets along, my iced tea is cold and I read my book in peace.

How will you make this the best summer ever?  What's on your list for this summer?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Playing T-ball on Family Fun Friday

I vividly remember my dad throwing the baseball toward me.  Seven year old me stretched out my pint-sized baseball glove toward the ball.  The ball landed my open glove, popped straight up, and hit me in the lip.  Hard.

It goes without saying that I have been afraid of the ball since that day.  Which really didn't help me when I played T-ball that same year.  And, if memory serves me correctly, my team lost every game.  Thus ending any desire I had to ever play organized team sports.

So, you might understand that I was somewhat resistant when Will starting asking to play T-ball.  Not only did I think he would find the experience frustrating but I also didn't want my Thursday and Saturday committed for 8 weeks!
Fortunately, Joel vetoed my resistance.  Ben and Will have played T-ball for a month and are loving it! 

From the moment Will steps onto the field until we get home, he grins from ear-to-ear.  He's done a great job listening to instruction, enjoys practicing catch in the backyard with Dad, and is disappointed when practice is canceled because of rain.

Truth be told, I'm loving it, too!  They are just so darn cute in their little uniforms, batting helmets and gloves!!  And since there are no runs or outs in our league I don't have to worry that William's competitive nature is going to be frustrated by a losing season.

Now if I could just keep the Assistant Coach injury-free, we might try organized sports again next year.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Happy Birthday Will!

Happy 7th Birthday, Will!

This year you:
  • Developed a love for reading and now devour Box Car Children books in 2 hours.
  • Lost 6 teeth.
  • Performed in your first play at Home School Co-op and loved it!
  • Played T-ball for the first time.
  • Made me laugh a lot!!!
Guess what!

I love you.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Not-so Wordless Wednesday: The Ankle

Will and Ben are playing t-ball this spring.  They're very cute but that's a post for another day.

This post is about how Joel volunteered to be an assistant coach for their team.  Then at the very FIRST practice he stepped in a hole chasing a ball and something went POP!

Purple looks good on him!

This is a week later! You should have seen it the night it happened. It looked like a small orange where his ankle should be!!  He worked from home for a week and hobbled around here with a cane.

What a way to start our first experience with organized sports!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lyddie by Katherine Paterson

Lyddie by Katherine Paterson.  Puffin Books, 1995.

Lyddie is the story of a young girl during the 1800s.  Her father has left their Vermont farm to seek his fortune and her mother has lost touch with reality.  Lyddie eventually makes her way to Lowell, Massachusetts where she becomes a "Factory Girl." 

About 10 years ago I worked as a tour guide at a local historic site similar to the Mill or factory that Lyddie works in.  School groups often referred to the book during my tours so I thought it would be a good read aloud with my children before our own tour of Slater Mill.

After reading half of the book with my children I decided to finish it alone.  I'm glad I did!! 

Spoiler Alert:

About half way through the book Lyddie has an unasked for "encounter" with her boss.  Then towards the end she rescues her friend from a similar encounter and is fired from her job.  The boss's intentions are implied so younger children (like my own) are not likely to understand what is going on. 

BUT.  I have to wonder why people continue to believe tweens need to be exposed to this type of evil in the books they read.  I have no doubt that the book is historically accurate.  And I don't think we should re-write history.  However, I do think it's ok to omit some details until a child is mentally and emotionally mature enough to process them.

I did appreciate other aspects of 19th century life that were included.  Lyddie's family is poor and hard work is necessary for survival.  The details of Mill life are accurate and very informative for a study on that time period or before touring a historic mill.

I recommend this book for ages 14 and up.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Visiting Slater Mill on Family Fun Friday

The kiss of death.  Good night, sleep tight.  A tow head.  Flaxen-haired maiden.

What do all of these sayings have in common?

Well, you'll hear their origins explained as you take a tour at Slater Mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

You'll also see:
the inside of an 18th century bedroom 

and kitchen, 

watch your guide spin flax into thread, 

see a 9 ton waterwheel power...

a 19th century machine shop, 

AND learn how cotton was turned into fabric during the 19th century.

Sound like fun?  My kids thought so!

I highly recommend you visit Slater Mill when in Rhode Island (and I'm not just saying that because I worked there 10 years ago).  The tour is interesting, educational and entertaining.

I'll give you a little insider's tip: from March - June and September - October go to the Mill after lunch!  Those months are full of school groups in the mornings.  If you go in the afternoon you could be the only ones on the tour (we were!).

The tour is a little pricey in my opinion - $12 for adults.  But here are 3 ways you can save:  
  1. Free for all Sundays. Tours are free on the last Sunday of each month.
  2. Mill Money.  Print a coupon for $1 off up to 4 admissions.
  3. Tropicana Juicy Rewards.  Use your reward points to redeem a coupon for 50% off.  Just search for Slater Mill.  (This is what I did.)
And with that I'll say "good night, sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite."

Disclosure:  I wrote this post while participating in the Tropicana Juicy Insiders Ambassador program by Mom Central on behalf of Tropicana. I received 12 free Juicy Rewards points and a $50 Visa gift card to use in redemption of the points and to facilitate my review.  However, no one at Slater Mill asked me to write this review and my opinion of the tour and site was not influenced by the Tropicana rewards.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Collapse of Distinction by Scott McKain

Collapse of Distinction by Scott McKain.  Thomas Nelson, 2009.

Collapse of Distinction:  Stand Up and Move Out While Your Competition Falls is an interesting book.  The target audience is business owners who are looking for ways to make their businesses a success.

McKain's whole premise is that businesses are no longer distinct or individualistic.  As a consumer, I found myself agreeing with much of what he said.  After all, is there really that much difference between McDonald's, Burger King, or Wendy's?  Yes, they have their slightly unique flavor but if you are traveling down the interstate and want a quick burger do you care which one is at the next exit?

If you are a business owner, McKain encourages you to focus on the one thing you do really well or the one thing that makes you different from everyone else.  Market that difference to your customers while making them feel important and they'll keep coming back.

So why am I reviewing a business book on my blog?  Well, 10 years ago I owned a business (Pampered Chef consultant), my parents currently own a tire and oil change shop, and my brother owns a beef farm.  I guess you could say business runs in the family.

But beyond the applications for businesses, I found much of what McKain said to be applicable to blogging.  If you want to increase your blog readership then focus on those 1-3 topics you are passionate about.  Then make your readers feel valued and they'll keep coming back to read about your passions.

If you own a business, are considering owning a business or own a blog I recommend you read this book.

Have you ever owned a business?  What did you do to make it a success?  What tips do you have for sharing your passions with blog readers?

Disclosure: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Where to Look for Discounts for Summer Day Trips or Vacation Destinations

Summer vacation is right around the corner and I have no intention of spending it all at home!  I want to get out of the house and see some new places.  Have fun with my children.  And learn a few things.

So, I've been searching for inexpensive day trip ideas.  One of the places I've been looking is Tropicana Juicy Rewards.

I've found coupons for Plimoth Plantations, Old South Meeting House (on the Freedom Trail), Franklin Park Zoo, New Bedford Whaling Museum (highly recommend!!), and EcoTarium.  Most of these are buy one get one free!

As I found all these great discounts, the thought occurred to me some of my readers might be headed to the Boston area for vacation this summer.  If you are, then I highly recommend you take a look at Tropicana Juicy Rewards.

I don't know what the discounts are like for other parts of the US but at half price it's worth taking a look to see if there are any listings for your neck of the woods or summer vacation destination!

Disclosure: I wrote this post while participating in the Tropicana Juicy Insiders Ambassador program by Mom Central on behalf of Tropicana. I received 12 free Juicy Rewards points and a $50 Visa gift card to use in redemption of the points and to facilitate my review.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Seeds Family Worship Giveaway

Edited:  Congratulations Wherever HE Leads We'll Go for winning the CD giveaway!!

Since becoming a mom 7 years ago, I have searched for children's CDs with Bible verses set to music.  I wanted music enjoyable enough for ME to listen to (repeatedly) but also engage my children. I hadn't found such a CD in my search but then...

Ellie received one in August as a birthday present!

We have listened to Seeds of Courage all year and LOVE it!  In fact, this is one of the few children's CDs that stays in my van.  We've sung along while running errands, taking a day trip to the New England Aquarium, and driving to meet friends for a Maple Sugaring tour

The music is grown-up enough for this mom to enjoy but catchy enough for children to like also.  The lyrics are 100% Bible verses and the entire verse is used in the song, not just a couple of phrases put together.

You can listen to the Seeds Family Worship CDs anytime by visiting their website.  But I think once you listen you'll want to add their music to your collection at home!

The great folks at Seeds Family Worship have given me two ways for you to own your own copy of their music:

1.  Win a copy of Seeds of Faith by telling me which song you enjoyed most from the on-line player.  (I really like song #6 on Seeds of Faith.)  The winner will be chosen the morning of May 19th and notified by email.

2.  Purchase a CD (not clearance items) from their store for 20% off by using the discount code STEPHANIESMOMMYBRAIN. This code is good until October 9, 2010.

I look forward to hearing what you think about these CDs in the comments!

Disclosure:  I received a free copy of "Seeds of Faith" but it in no way influenced my opinion of Seeds Family Worship or this review.  I truly believe they have great music that everyone should own.  Also, when 10 CDs have been purchased using the STEPHANIESMOMMYBRAIN code I will receive another free CD.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sharing Trixie Belden with 3 Generations

What do Crabapple Farm, William, and allowance money have in common?

The Trixie Belden children's mystery series and my family.

William and I have been enjoying Trixie Belden and the Secret of the Mansion together.  That boy loves mysteries just like his mama did when she was a child!

I'm happy to report that I like re-reading Trixie much better than re-reading Nancy Drew.  It could be because I'm reading with Will.  Or because the Belden family has a boy, boy, girl, boy (just like us!).  Or because Trixie speaks respectfully to her mom, does her chores, and plays with her little brother; all while trying to solve a mystery.

On a recent phone call with my mom Will and I told her about reading the Trixie book together.  I inherited the books from my mom but didn't know much about their origin.  It was fun to hear that she would save her allowance and buy each new book for less than $2.

I currently have books 1-9 that were published between 1954-1964.  I value these books today not only for their fun stories but because my mom read them as a girl, I read them as a girl, and one day Ellie will read them (though for now, Will is reading them).

What a fun legacy for 3 generations of girls to share!

Have your received any books your parents read as children?

For more Children's Classic Mystery book reviews visit 5 Minutes for Books.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I finished a 5k race!!!

I did it!  I completed a New Year's Goal!!!

You might remember my crazy plan to run a 5k this year.  Well, May 2nd has come and gone and I walked/ran the race.  I wasn't fast or graceful but I accomplished 1 of my goals for the race - I finished it!

The finish line was in front of the hotel where our church meets each Sunday.  It worked out great for Joel and the kids to go to church and then cheer me on just as I got to the end. (The blue dot in the middle is me.)

The clock on the right is for the 5k.  It shows 53:08 but my "official" time was 52:35.  I wasn't last but only by about 30 people; which I am totally OK with.

The members of Ocean State Runners.  Jess and Maria did awesome and left me in the dust.  We each have our own special medical issues so we joked that we should have called ourselves Ocean State Invalids.

The weather was beautiful, the people were friendly, and I had a great time.  So, my first goal for this 5k was to complete it.  I've done that. 

My second goal was to raise $600* for Jenefer Sarrosa, a student in Compassion International's Leadership Development Program.  I need your help to complete this goal!

Will you give $5 for each mile I walked/ran?  That's just $15.

Here's how you give today:
  • Visit
  • Fill out the Sponsor form.
  • Write a check to 'Compassion International' with ' Sarrosa' on the memo line**.
  • Mail the check to:, 864 Diamond Rim Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80921.
Thank you for supporting me and Jenefer as we accomplish our goals! 

*$600 covers Jenefer's costs (tuition, room, board, misc.) for 2 months.
** Donations to Compassion International are tax deductible. 
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