Thursday, August 28, 2008

Picnic Time for Teddy Bears

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And another Teddy Bear Picnic has come and gone. This was our eighth annual. Sometimes we have a big crowd - sometimes small. This year it was small. We had ten kids who were able to make it - and some of them had to leave early. The biggest crowd we ever had was 23.

Some highlights:
  • 120 water balloons brought and filled by one of the moms!
  • handmade beanbags. Pippi sewed them together last night on her sewing machine - today the kids added beans and sewed up the final seam.
  • Fun crafts with sticky foam and craft sticks.
  • Teddy Bear tag (kind of like freeze tag only getting your Teddy bear back unfreezes you.)

And then - in honor of the Olympics we had a Teddy Bear Olympics.
Events included (these were created on the fly as we did them):
  • The Teddy Bear Hoop Jump (throw the bear through the hula hoop - qualifying bears had to get through a moving hoop)
  • Teddy Bear Long Jump (which bear can go the farthest when thrown)
  • Teddy Bear synchronized diving/tossing. (by far the funniest competition - and we had an uneven number so Harry's bear did a lone synchronized dive)
  • Teddy Bear Slide (which bear goes the farthest after being pushed down the slide)
  • Teddy Bear gymnastics. Each bear had 30 seconds to do a floor routine on the blue blanket.
Everyone got lots of gold medals (symbolized by candy.) Prizes at the Teddy Bear Picnic are always candy - and everyone gets their fair share - but boy you'd think some of these kids had never seen Lifesavers and Smarties before.

And as the song says:
At six o'clock their Mommies and Daddies will take them home to bed
because they're tired little Teddy Bears.

(only in our case they left at 2:30)

Today's the Day the Teddy Bears Have Their Picnic

More later....
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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Writing Wednesday - What Now?

So last week I blogged that I'd finished the first draft of my new story. So now what? Revisions are on the way - but first I realized that I needed to start the story in a different place. And surprisingly I decided I had to start earlier in the story - usually I end up cutting things and starting later.

I'm not trying to get that perfect and memorable first line - though that would be nice. But I am trying to make sure that the conflict of the story actually shows up on page one. I have a tendency to think that the first page and chapter should be to to set up and introduce the characters - and they should - but I need to remember to make sure that the crux of the story is there too.

That's what I'm working on this week - not high word counts - just making sure I get a good first page.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Big Trucks

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We live on what would have to be considered a pretty quiet street. It is one block long and honestly not much happens here. But today we have more activity than this street has seen in decades.

First the street is being paved. Trust me when I say it really needed it.

And at the same time the park people are replacing a swing set they removed in the Spring. So sitting on the car in the driveway Harry had a perfect view of all the activity going on.

Mainly he's waiting for the street to be done so he can ride his ripstick on it.

Tuesday's Proverb

Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding. (Proverbs 9:6)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

"I didn't mean to. I'm sorry"

Sometimes one of the kids - okay usually Harry - will do something to Pippi - say, for example, kick her in the leg. When she screams that he kicked her in the leg he will say "I didn't mean to."

That may technically be true. But if she is standing in front of him and he swings his leg out in a kicking type of motion there is a certain expectation that his leg might connect with her - and therefore she would be kicked by him. (This can translate to any number of actions that little brothers can commit against big sisters.)

So my question to him at that point is "Did you try NOT to?"

Because the way I see it it's not enough to say you didn't mean for the bad thing to happen - you also have to be trying NOT to do that bad thing. Or maybe even trying to do something good. This works from everything like being nice to your sister to driving a car. "I didn't mean to hit that other car" is all well and good - but can you say you were doing your best to NOT hit it? Hopefully yes - but isn't that the bigger question.

The corollary to that is that although we want to always forgive transgressions doing something bad and following it up with puppy dog eyes and "I'm sorry," isn't really sufficient. An example of what I mean.

Me: Harry go put your shoes on so we can leave for church

Harry disappears into his room - where presumable shoes are being put on his feet.

Me (five minutes later opening his door and seeing him reading a comic book - no shoes on feet): Why didn't you put your shoes on? We have to leave for church.

Harry (with puppy dog eyes): Oh. I'm sorry. I forgot. (the fact that he will grow up to be the absent-minded professor is the subject for another post.)

Repeat scenario with any number of variations throughout the day and suddenly "I'm sorry" doesn't seem like enough. You have to TRY to be good in the first place - not just say a magic word afterwards.

He's eight. He'll learn.

But do we grown-ups sometimes do that too? When we say "I didn' t mean to" can we honestly say "And I wasn't trying to"? Do we say "I'm sorry" as a way of covering up for any transgression we might commit - without going to any great lengths to not make those transgressions in the first place. Do we say "I'm just being honest" or "blunt" and figure that will forgive all hurts imposed?

So for today I'll try to remember the lesson I try to teach Harry: It's not enough to not intend to do something bad - you have to be trying NOT to do something bad - in fact maybe even trying to do something good.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Writing Wednesday - First Draft Finished!

The first draft of my WIP is done. Now it is ready to go into revisions (after a small break.) And for those of you following my progress and wondering what this story is about:

Boston has been under blockade for six months and there are more Regular army troops in the city than civilians at this point, but Abby Prescott and her family try to continue to live their lives as normally as possible. Then on Abby's fifteenth birthday the King's troops skirmish with the rebels in towns called Lexington and Concord. Boston is suddenly besieged by the rebels - trapping the troops and any one loyal to the King, like the Prescott family, inside. Suddenly Abby and her family are part of the enemy - in their own home town.

It needs tons of revisions. But as I said last week - at least I now have the bones in place.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tuesday's Proverb

Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven columns; She has dressed her meat, mixed her wine, yes, she has spread her table. She has sent out her maidens; she calls from the heights out over the city: "Let whoever is simple turn in here; to him who lacks understanding, I say, Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed! (Proverbs 9:1-5)

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Shoe Fits

Oh No!

The wicked stepmother and stepsisters, and the king, react to the fact that Cinderella fits the sneaker (hey, it's a low budget production.)

Today was the production of Cinderella. As with the other four Kids in the Park productions that Pippi has been in, it was a lot of fun - for the cast and the audience. When the "Fairy Godfather" came in to the tune of (naturally) "The Godfather" there were lots of laughs. Trust these people to put a unique spin on things!

The weather forecast had been for rain. It didn't. Not until 6:45 tonight (how do I know the time, you ask - because that is the time we were leaving for 7pm Mass). But it was dry for the show. The cast performed with energy and excitement to an appreciative audience.

Pippi is sorry that this is her last production as a cast member (it's only for 8 to 11 year olds) but next year while Harry is in the show, she can be a helper and be involved that way. So the fun will continue.

And in parting and as a tribute to poetry Friday - which I haven't participated in all summer I give you:

The Kids in the Park Theme Song for 2008
(sung to "consider yourself")
by Gary Charwin

The Kids in the Park are here
The Kids in the Park ready to entertain
We've practiced our parts so well
It's clear we're going to be just swell!

The Kids in the Park are great!
The Kids in the Park all set to perform for you
So see that you're set to smile.
Sit back and let us perform a while!

Cinder-ella wants a fella she can call her own
But the Prince will have to do
Her Step-Mother and her daughters treat her bad at home
Till those magic words come through....
Bippity Bobbity
Bibbity Bobbity
Bibbity Bobbity Boo!

So now it is time to start!
Remember before we part
We love you and we'll do our best
The Kids in the Park - Put on a show!

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Dress Rehearsal

Today was the dress rehearsal for Cinderella. Pippi enjoyed herself as a step sister (it's always fun playing evil) and Harry did a great job as one of the birds. I was impressed with his dancing in the ballroom scene.

If you click below you can get to my Picasa site and see the videos that are a part of this slide show. This was the dress rehearsal so you can hear the director in the background giving instructions. When he says "Bop to the tree" it's not a new dance move - he's instructing those kids who are around the side microphones to bop as they sing and to face the big tree that is in the center of where the audience will be. Just to make that clear.

The weather is looking a bit iffy tomorrow (these shows are rain or shine) so keep your fingers crossed for us.

And enjoy a little bit of Cinderella (the Kids in the Park way)

And it Starts Again

We had bit of a break from organized sports, with the exception of the five weeks of tennis lessons during the summer. Baseball ended in June - but it's time again. The street hockey coach called the other day. Practices will be starting soon (possibly tomorrow? - still waiting for the confirmation call.)

Even more than the back to school sales (which honestly start almost before school is out around here) there's no bigger harbinger to the end of summer - than the start of hockey!

Overcoming Fears

Our community pool has a big slide. It's an enclosed curved slide that dumps in to the twelve-foot section. Harry tackled that slide the first day he passed his deep water test. We went down r-e-a-l s-l-o-w the first time. But once he'd done it once he was hooked. But Pippi wouldn't go down.

A few times she went up to the top and thought about going down - but she could never make herself do it.

Today she did it.

And guess what.

(Of course you guessed, and I knew it would happen too)

She LOVED it.

And best she has the satisfaction of knowing that she didn't let her fears get the best of her! That's a good accomplishment for a summer day!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Writing Wednesday - WIP Progress

The WIP is really coming along. I know it needs revisions. Lots and lots of revisions. But once I have the bones in place I can go back and put on the skin (how's that for kind of a gross image).

So - off to write some more!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tuesday's Proverb

So now, O children, listen to me; instruction and wisdom do not reject! Happy the man who obeys me, and happy those who keep my ways, Happy the man watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doorposts; For he who finds me finds life, and wins favor from the LORD; But he who misses me harms himself; all who hate me love death. (Proverbs 8:32-36)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Walking on Water

(If they decide to walk on water they've got their life jackets)

Today's Gospel presents one of my favorite pictures: Peter getting out of the boat and walking toward Jesus on the water.

Wow. Amazing. This shouldn't be possible. But he's doing it. And then just as suddenly he looks around notices the waves and the wind and realizes that he shouldn't be doing it.

And then... he's not. He's sinking.

And he reaches out to Jesus and asks for help.

And Jesus provides it.

So the lesson, short and sweet is trust in the Lord in all things - and don't be afraid to ask for help.

On a side note I remember when we were kids playing in our backyard pool and we would try to walk on water. It was from the Bugs Bunny school of walking in air. We would get a running start and run right over the edge of the pool to see how long we could keep "running" before we landed in the water. Maybe a step - if our legs were really fast - maybe two.

We never successfully walked on water. We didn't really expect to.

And maybe that's the difference. Trusting in the Lord means expecting things to happen. When Peter stopped expecting to be able to walk on the water - he stopped being able to walk on the water. And when he called out for help - Jesus didn't make him able to walk on water again. Jesus pulled him out of the water and helped him to the boat.

And as one final thought there is the book title I love (haven't read the book - but think it's a great title) "If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get out of the Boat"*

We'll call this one "If you want to take a boat ride you need to get into the water"

*by John Ostberg
**pictures from last years adventure to Uncle Andy's Cabin

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Kid Consumers

There was an interesting article in USA Weekend today about how companies are marketing to tweens because they believe that the pre-teen crowd has a lot of influence on where their parents' money is spent.

Everything from iPods to cars are marketed with kids in mind.

Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers and High School Musical are shaping the culture and the kids.

I guess it's all true.

For some kids.

See I have a tween. Pippi is eleven years old and going into middle school. But I guess she's a little counter-cultural. She has never watched Hannah Montana, nor does she care that she hasn't. She hasn't seen any of the High School Musical movies - even though I offered to rent them from the library - or even buy them if she was interested. She wasn't. She is not drooling over the Jonas Brothers - though she certainly knows people who are. So maybe I can't really relate to all of this.

But we don't let the kids rule the house here. Now it's true that there are meals I won't bother to make because I know the kids don't like it. For example I save scallops for special adult only meals. But I don't cook special "kids only" meals every night - they have what we eat.

They like to use the computer - and the computer designated as the "kids computer" crashed this summer. We haven't replaced it yet - which means the kids can only use the computer when a parent isn't on the other one. We don't give into them just because they clamor or complain. Parents get first dibs on the computer. Case closed.

As far as TV. They don't watch a lot - and neither do we. The sun room TV is for their use. If they want to use the downstairs TV they can - if a parent isn't already using it. Parents get first dibs there too

Neither of my kids are much into phone calls. But Pippi is starting to have longer phone conversations (I know this is a harbinger of things to come). Once again - parents trump kids when it comes to phone use.

Gee - in all matters it seems that parents trump kids. We take the kids needs and wants and desires into account, naturally. We're a family and we want everyone to be happy. But we don't simply give them everything they ask for when they ask for it.

And honestly, I don't think we're the only ones.

Though the article does make it sound like children are determining everything that goes on in a household.

Are parents really letting their pre-teen determine which car they will buy? Or after the major factors are accounted for - ie the practical, the financial - do they let the kids decide what color it will be? Do the parents narrow the choice down to two or three and see which ones the kids like? That is not being unreasonable. That's allowing the children a say in what happens in the family - and it's not the same as letting the children make the car buying decisions.

Now if kids are saying to Mom and Dad - "I'm really tired of the Honda we've been driving around in - go get this car instead - I saw a commercial for it on the Disney channel" - and the parent says "okay, let's go" - then, well, that's just pretty sad. I don't think that's happening.

Are kids schedules catered to in a lot of households. Yes, sure they are. There are a lot of great activities for kids to be involved in these days - and they are usually not in easy walking distance. And kids don't drive (even though apparently car makers are marketing to them) so parents chauffer them around. But just because families take into consideration the soccer schedule or what have you when planning their week is not the same as the kids ruling the roost.

Do kids really have the power the marketers think they do? I don't know. But if they do, it's because their parents have ceded their own power, which is not the best way to raise a kid.

Friday, August 08, 2008


I've joined a prayer shawl ministry at my church. I've made a couple of lap blankets so far, but I've decided to try my hand at actual shawls. These are both shawls I designed. What do you think? Should I make more? Which design do you like best? Any other ideas for designs I should try?

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There's a Storm a Coming

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The Talent Show

Today - the halfway mark for the kids theater camp - was the day of the Talent Show. All campers welcome to participate - the only requirement was that the selections be kept to two minutes or less. Not all participants followed that advice (if you're lip-syncing or dancing to a song the song is generally longer than 2 minutes, so it's tricky.)

Harry had a song picked out. Then he heard the two minute rule. He timed the song he wanted to play. Five minutes. I suggested he just play part of it. But that wouldn't do. So he chose to play the song Tomorrow from Annie instead.

Pippi - in her quest to combine writing and acting (that and being a NASA Scientist are her goals) decided to act out the song "The Great Writer" from Snoopy the Musical. Then she realized that song was a whopping six minutes long. She solved that by only doing the first half - and doing it without the CD to back her up. Without musical accompaniment she could get through it a bit faster.

Click through to see their performances.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Writing Wednesday - WIP Progress and Revisions

Not as much progress on the WIP this week. But that's because I spent most of the week revising an earlier MS. In fact I revised upwards of 15K words so I think I was doing pretty good.

It's funny with revisions - one relatively minor change (which is what I thought I was making) turned into a bigger change. Then I figured as long as I'm changing I might as well adjust a part that I liked but wasn't sure it was working in the story. So I cut more than 6000 words but added about 5000 new ones back in. I'm guessing I could call that a productive week.

Now off to the new WIP again.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Tuesday's Proverb

When he established the heavens I was there, when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep; When he made firm the skies above, when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth; When he set for the sea its limit, so that the waters should not transgress his command; Then was I beside him as his craftsman, and I was his delight day by day, Playing before him all the while, playing on the surface of his earth; and I found delight in the sons of men. (Proverbs 8:27-31)

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Tears and Triumphs of the Theater

Today was the first day of the kids theater camp. Last year they triumphed as Dorothy and the Wizard in the Wizard of Oz. This year the play is about Cinderella (I'm noticing a shoe theme here - ruby slippers, glass slippers...).

Of course Pippi was hoping for Cinderella (as were the rest of the girls there, I'm sure). And Harry was hoping for something big too. Maybe the Prince?

They both went to call backs. And it was between Harry and one other kid for the Prince. The other kid got it. Pippi says Harry did great - but maybe they wanted someone a little bigger for the part (the camp is for kids ages 8 to 11; Harry is only 8).

And Pippi is not Cinderella (though that doesn't mean she won't write her story about Cinderella). Pippi is one of the ugly step sisters. And she's good with that. She knows that having the lead is a lot of work. She enjoys it - but mainly likes being on stage.

Harry did not get any of the principal parts (there are many minor parts still to be handed out - about as many as there are kids - so it's not like he's out in the cold or anything). And he was not okay with it. There were tears. There were slammed doors. There was the pronouncement that he was never going back again. Ever.

Turns out that mainly what he wants is the script. (We'll utilize our scanner and make him a copy - there that was easy).

It's a tough lesson to learn - you can't always be in the spotlight. Sometimes you have to be a background player.

But the background is important too. It's what brings color and fun to life.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Summer Flowers

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Not Exactly a Laptop

In 1754 James Parker established the first permanent printing press in New Jersey. You can read about him here if you are so inclined (scroll down to where it says "First Permanent NJ Press" I'm fairly certain the site below is a reproduction.

But it does have some old printing presses in it. And also cases of type. Some filled with the actual old fonts. As the kids looked at the names of the different fonts on the drawers - they realized this was the same as picking a font in Word. Only - a lot more work.

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A Step Back in Time

At a nearby park there is an annual Civil War Encampment. It isn't a large enough park for any actual battle re-enactments. But they do put on skirmishes and the like. Today we saw a young marine demonstrate how to load a musket, examined a cannon, saw some old time toys, watched a woman work a spinning wheel - and - oh yes, had a conversation with Abe Lincoln.

We had just started talking to Mr. Lincoln when a reporter for the local newspaper showed up, mini-recorder in hand. He had a question. "What do you think of John Wilkes Booth?"

"I liked his acting very much," Mr. Lincoln said, "I saw him perform in Hamlet. I asked to see him after the show, but he declined - he said he'd see me another time."

And then Mr. Lincoln added an interesting tidbit. He told us that Edward Booth, John Wilkes' brother once saved Lincoln's son when he was about to fall into the train tracks in front of an oncoming train. So we learned a little something new - and the kids got an example of what irony is all about.
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Friday, August 01, 2008

A Fairy Tale Mission

We were discussing fairy tales today (in the car on the way back from buying me a new watch - because I seem to have lost mine) and Pippi remarked that Cinderella absolutely made no sense. "Why didn't she just leave if the step-mother was that mean? She could just go make her own way."

I reminded her that in the time a lot of these fairy tales were written it wasn't so simple for a woman to go and make her own way. She lived under the protection of her father and then her husband. A young woman didn't simply go get her own apartment and get a job at the grocery store or something.

We talked a little more about what life was like in that "once upon a time land" - when step mothers seemed so prevalent and anything could happen.

Then I gave her a mission. "I want you to write a version of Cinderella that makes sense to you," I said. "You can set it in any time period you want."

"I will." She declared.

She's on the downstairs computer right now researching versions of Cinderella.

I can't wait for the final story!

How to be Polite to Your Sister....Not

At a small gathering of relatives yesterday, Harry decided to be a typical little brother and insult his sister. He called her 'fatso'.

Please note - this did not phase his incredibly slim sister. She just looked at him like he was nuts.

But his great-aunt took notice. "You should never call a lady 'fat'" she corrected gently. "You should say 'pleasingly plump.'"

Harry grinned, turned to his sister and said. "I'm pleased that you're plump."