Friday, December 28, 2012

Books of the Year 2012

Linking up to my online book club: From Left to Write
*Here is my Top Ten List of Best Books of 2012*

In no order...
1. Elin Hilderbrand books (OK, so it's not just one...) I am not a big fan of chick lit, I think I overdosed on it in the 90's...but her books are not frothy reads, though I do consider them beach books-books to get lost in. Storylines sometimes deal with heavier topics. I enjoyed a few-The Island, The Blue Bistro, The Castaways-all take place on Nantucket area
2. Gone Girl-Gillian Flynn: great suspense novel with a twist! This was a much talked about book, one that I passed around to many friends!
3. Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected-Kelle Hampton: sweet memoir about a mom who has a baby with Down Syndrome and how she reacted to her new daughter. Very honest, beautiful photographs, worth a read!
4. The Baker's Daughter-Sarah McCoy: another one I passed around quite a bit. Part historical fiction, part contemporary about the bonds of love and family
5. The Bloodletter's Daughter-Linda Lafferty: this is one that cemented my love of historical fiction. Could not put down, thank goodness it was so thick! (I really want that tote bag that says I Love Big Books and I Cannot Lie-that's exactly how I feel). Interesting time period in Eastern Europe about members of the Hapsburg Family
6. January First: A Child's Descent into Madness and her Father's Struggle to Save Her-M. Schofield: VERY hard to read memoir, but worthwhile. It's about a young girl who is diagnosed schiphrenia and her father's fight to save/help her. Timely, especially now that mental health issues are a hot topic. Not a fun read at all, but I am glad I stuck with it. Makes you think about what we need to do to help people.
7. Hemingway's Girl-Erika Robuck: historical fiction account of Hemingway's time in the Florida Keys and what life was like there. The main character is a fictional maid of Hemingway. LOVED this! Loved the writing style!
8. Blackberry Winter-Sarah Jio: sweet and sad story, another beach read-easy to read, but the story sticks with you after you're done.
9. Igniting a Passion for Reading-Steven Layne: one of my biggest goals as a teacher is to help my students become lifelong readers and love reading-so fun to read this and get many more ideas to help cultivate the love of books
10. Daring Greatly:How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead-Brene Brown: OK, technically, I am not done with this book, but I am really into it and will be done before Jan. 1! Eye opening!! A must read for all! Inspires us to embrace our vulnerability and dare to live whole heartedly-know that we could fail, but we wouldn't succeed for sure if we don't try and go for it. Be honest with yourself and who you are...

So there you list for 2012. Looking forward to making a dent in my goodreads list for 2013 and finding new MUST reads! What are YOUR must reads???


Do any of you do a "word for the year" a la Ali Edwards?
I start the year out with a word...but within a few weeks, don't think about it much. However, this year, I'd like to stick with it. I know most people don't follow their resolutions, but I am going to make a BIG effort to follow my word-MINDFUL.
I chose that word that because I think in this technology driven world, we aren't being very mindful. I know I am guilty of playing with my iphone, half listening to my children tell me a story. That makes me feel sick to my stomach. I want to be there-all there-for my kiddos. It's proven that if you don't listen to them now as young children-fully-they won't be willing to share with you when they are teenagers. I am reading Brene Brown's new book-Daring Greatly. It's fabulous! It's hitting me right where I need a kick in the pants. After finishing a chapter last night, that's when I lay in bed and thought about my word for 2013. Highly recommend it!

I know my thoughts are all scattered, but I am going to make this year the year that I really *think about gratefulness*be thankful*listen*eat healthy*get healthy*be more creative*write more letters*share*be the best me* AND I think all of that falls under mindfulness.
I will be back later today or tomorrow to share my fav books of 2012 (linking up to From Left to Write).

Saturday, November 10, 2012

FaLl UpdAtE

So, what's going on the kiddo world?
Spencer: age 9, in 4th grade (my class!) and our school's Vice President. He is a reader-reads ALL the time. He just finished The Hunger Games trilogy, which he loved, and which Joe and I had already read so we could discuss with him. Truthfully, not all 4th graders are ready for that series, but he was. He finished another season of water polo-which he loves and hates. He moved up to a harder level, and there were a few teenagers in his group. He did great, but he's very motivated to try to be a faster swimmer. He might try our local swimming club for a few months to practice that. He is doing wonderfully in school-and I'm not just saying that because I am his teacher. Out of 4 students in my class with straight A's, he was one of them. He deserved it!

Cooper: age 7, in 2nd grade. He adores school and his teacher (my master teacher when I student taught!), and he is acing all of his math tests. Math is his subject for sure, and he is practicing his multiplication tables at home (because he wants to). He loves music, and I think we may sign him up for piano. He wants to do water polo come spring time, too. And tennis. He loves animals, and he has a slight obsession with pandas. Got an outstanding report card, as well. We are so proud of the independent, strong, self motivated boy he is becoming.

Kendall: age 4, in preschool. She is a joy in our family-always smiling, laughing, giggling! She is a little boss to her brothers. She calls them "the brothers". "Where are the brothers? Are the brothers coming, too?" She adores her dolls, and carries them everywhere. She says that she can read-loves books like her brothers-but she is really a whiz with numbers, too. She likes to be the center of attention, something this introverted mama doesn't quite understand. She loves ALL dogs and can't walk by one without chasing after the owner, begging to pet the dog.

Joe and I feel so blessed to have such lively, fun to be around, healthy children. We actually enjoy spending time with our children. Both of us have deliberately chosen to spend much of our time with them-we don't have any outside hobbies that take us away at this point. They grow fast. Too fast. We want to appreciate this time.

Don't get me wrong, we enjoy our time without them, too-I try not to miss my monthly bunco group and just spent a weekend with my mom and sisters in San Francisco, and Joe is planning a Vegas trip with some close friends. We also look for any concerts coming near us to go see with some good friends. The last one was Foster the People in Berkeley. We are overdue for our next one! It is important to have that recharge time.
So, that's us in a nutshell now. And I look forward to sharing some cute ideas I am trying with the family soon.

What's up with my blog?

Wow, hello blog. How are you? I have thought about you a lot over the last few months. What are we doing? Where are we going? It seems to be only the stopping place for writing about the books I am reading...which is fine....BUT I started this blog for me, for my family, for a glimpse into my world. I admit, I look at some of the mom/crafts/home dec/teaching blogs and sometimes wonder if I could do that, too.

The truth is no. i don't want to. I don't get on the computer very much. I check my email and pinterest on my iphone. And that's fine. Besides, when you are a working mama of 3 busy kids, you don't want to be on the computer all the time. I am hanging with my kids, helping with homework, reading with them, and oh, yeah, cleaning...
So, I will try to update more often...mostly about my kids (that's why I started blogging) and with some ideas I like and books I like...if no one reads my blog, that's fine, too. So, hello, blog, I will try to visit you more often.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I {heart} France

It's Book Club day! This month's book was a biography, The Black Count. I haven't quite finished-it's full of history, but I am enjoying it!
Alexandre Dumas' works were heavily influenced by his father, also named Alexandre Dumas. In the biography The Black Count, author Tom Reiss tells how Dumas went from slavery to become the equivalent of a five star general in the French military. Join From Left to Write on October 11 as we discuss the The Black Count. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

I have a slight obsession with the French. I love reading about anything related to France. On my Goodreads list, I have read about 20-30 books that take place in France, soaking up the culture and the history. I have certainly learned a lot-Sarah's Key opened my eyes to how some of the French Jewish citizens were treated in France (so tragic), and this book explored the world of slavery in the French colony of what is now Haiti (terribly-even worse than the southern Americans treated their slaves), and how the first civil rights movement appeared in France before the French revolution! Very interesting to read more about the French history.

Earlier this summer I couldn't put down the child rearing book, Bringing Up Bebe, about the difference between American parents and French parents. I have to say, I discovered a lot (and annoyed several of my friends as I blathered on and on...sorry!).
That being said, I haven't been planning any trips to France, no travel budget at this point in my life (though my little sister is saving for a trip on her 40th birthday-3 years away and has invited me). I don't have a burning desire to go to France. Maybe I will or won't make it there, maybe I am a better "armchair" traveler, but I will keep reading about French woman and French families and enjoy "getting away". Oh, have I mentioned how I have a slight obsession with books taking place in India, as well???

Monday, September 24, 2012

Reading reading reading!

Inspired by a real-life murder that threatened to topple the powerful Hapsburg dynasty in the 17th century, The Bloodletter's Daughter imagines how one young woman holds more power than she thought possible. Join From Left to Write on September 25 as we discuss the The Bloodletter's Daughter. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes. I absolutely loved this book! I miss my old book club in Southern California for introducing me to great books, but I am so happy to have From Left To Write to help me read books I might not have picked up on my own!

I realize how much I adore historical fiction now-something I rarely picked up pre book club (I was stuck in a chick lit mode). I love learning about time periods, cultures, events in history, as well as getting lost in a good story. So many times I have finished a book and hopped onto Google to learn more about a character or an event.

This year I am teaching 4th grade, and my students have a requirement of reading 30 books from several different genres. I know this is important because kids can get stuck on their faves, too-right now Diary of a Wimpy Kid is being passed around like crazy. I want my students reading-reading anything (yes, even Captain Underpants!), but I want them to stretch out of their comfort zone and try different types of books. I am excited to see them grow as readers and find a genre they love. I am currently adding more and more books for them to discover-thanks to my local library bookstore (25 cent books) and (If you are not on there, go now!).

It's an effort to have a reading life. People are always amazed at how much I read-being a mom of 3 with a full time job-but it's so worth it! I almost fell out of the chair when my hairdresser told me that she has been reading a book-the same one for the last two years! I can't imagine going to sleep at night without a peek into my current book. What suffers of course is my sleep, but it's still worth it.

What about you? What genre are you loving now? And what sacrifices do you make to have a reading life?? Isn't it so worth it???

(And if you want to win a copy of this book, please go to this site and enter-your chances are good! 5 copies being given away and only 15 people have entered so far!!!)

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Book Club: Exploring the old mental hospital

How far would you go to advocate for your child? In January First, father Michael Shofield and his family struggle to find the right treatment for his daughter Jani, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at six years old. Join From Left to Write on September as we discuss the Shofield's memoir January First. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.
About 10 years ago, I took a summer writing class that was held at the new Channel Islands College in Camarillo. The campus wasn't officially open, but they had begun work on one building. The class was incredible...but what I still remember the most from that summer was exploring that campus. It was the site of the former Camarillo State Mental Hospital. And when I say work had just begun on the campus, they had not done much of anything. It was still pretty much the same as it had been-only deserted...and spooky! Two of my friends and I spent all of our breaks and lunches exploring every inch of that campus that week. Many classrooms had papers scattered everywhere, and the words printed on the chalkboards read "Good bye and good luck...". We saw many little iron grate doors, and when we peeked inside, we would see a chair sitting there in the small closet area-like time out for adults.

One afternoon, we stumbled upon the front office. The main road used to lead up to that office, Potrero Road, but the road fell into disrepair, and wasn't used anymore. You could still see it, among the tall weeds, weaving through the rolling mountains that the campus backed up to. An old metal sign with the hospital's name creaked in the breeze, causing us to shiver. In the office, we saw all the little cubbies that held the keys of the rooms. It was still furnished, everything dusty and gray. I felt like I was on the set of an old horror flick.
Later in the week, we ventured into the main building where the patients were housed. We peeked through windowed doors into long dark hallways. As I looked through one windowed door, I felt like my friend might be trying the doorknob to open the door, so I stepped back. She looked at me, like, "What are you doing?" I asked her if she had tried to open the door, and she said no. But I had felt like someone had been trying to open the door. We all turned white and ran out of there, three grown adults running like little scared children!
I did some research on the hospital, and found a few interesting things-one, that the Eagles had based their song, Hotel California, on that hospital! The lyrics were already a bit creepy to me, but now I listened to the song, imagining the hospital. Another was that only one person died there, according to records. A young man who may have overdosed on medication. Not the tragic tales we'd been expecting.
The one thing I really regret is that we hadn't taken any pictures or video. The next summer, we came back for another session, but the campus had been almost fully renovated. There wasn't much to explore.
I kept thinking about this hospital as I read this book, thinking of a small girl, like Jani, staying at a place like this. It really disturbed me (and it didn't seem to help her at all!). I don't know how much we spend on mental health issues, but I think we need to spend more and actually help the patients there. The book made it seem like they are just holding areas for people. My sister works with people with mental health issues, and she tells me often people do worse living at places like these. Thank goodness for this book club-I honestly don't think that I would have picked up this book on my own, and I am so glad I read it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

It's a sweet life!

I thoroughly enjoyed this month's book club pick The Baker's Daughter. I loved the historical aspect(Europe in the 1930's-40's fascinates me). However, it was the current time period's narrator, Reba, who really got me thinking. She had everything she wanted (and needed), but didn't realize it until it was too late...or was it?? No spoilers here! Read this book!
This post is inspired by Sarah McCoy's The Baker's Daughter. In a small Texan town, Reba discovers Elsie's German Bakery and falls in love with more than the pastries. She's drawn to Elsie's life in Germany during the last year of WWII. Join From Left to Write on August 29 as we discuss The Baker's Daughter. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes. Most people know I am a teacher-a pretty good one (if I may so say myself) and it's a job that, growing up, many people told me I should have. I have always had an easy connection with kids. However, I had other plans-big plans. I was going to go to law school and become an attorney. I even majored in Law & Society in college, and absolutely loved my classes: writing legal briefs, legal research for my 25 page Constitutional Amendment paper was lots of fun-seriously! But as graduation loomed closer and closer, and friends started signing up for the LSAT and applying to law schools, I realized my heart wasn't in it. I didn't want to continue to law school-too intense for me. I don't have the most competitive streak in me. I didn't want to put my whole life into a career. I was still hoping that maybe someday I could be a stay at home mom. I spent the summer after graduation trying to get job after job in volunteer management (what?!) in San Francisco. Hello low paying job in very expensive city! Thank goodness for unanswered prayers. I was disappointed after the fruitless searches and interviews that led nowhere, so I decided to substitute teach to make ends meet while rethinking my career goals. On my first day, 8th grade language arts, I just knew that I had been kidding myself. Teaching was my calling! 17 years later, I haven't looked back. I know I chose the right path. While staying at home wasn't ultimately in our plans (though I did get to teach part time several years), I still love my job and enjoy some pretty awesome perks! I go to work everyday with my boys, enjoy summers off, and have been lucky to have both boys in my classroom (Cooper last year and Spencer this year). I wouldn't trade it now! Sometimes, as Reba discovers in our club pick, you just have to open your eyes and realize what you have right in front of you. Life is perfect-but it's pretty amazing!

Monday, August 13, 2012


Hello! I DID have big plans to blog this summer...honestly...but look, it's been two months! Whaaa??? Where did time go? This summer flew by! I had all these plans to decorate my house, cook amazing meals, schedule fun things for my kids, and read! Well, I guess I needed a summer off! Did not do as much as I planned...but I did: go to the coast several times, go to the San Diego Zoo, work out, clean the house, see a concert at the Greek theatre, have a garage sale, plan a Hawaiian theme birthday party for boys, visit the first mission in California, clean out a classroom and set up a NEW classroom (Moving to 4th grade!!!), read a lot, play a lot, swim, take my kids swimming at the club many times, take the kids to VBS, swim lessons, cooking classes and sports camp, cook some good meals, eat lots of Mexican food, play with Lily, took my kids to a children's show in San Francisco, celebrate my 12th anniversary with Joe...that is a lot! Tomorrow I go back to work...already! It should be a good year! I will have Spencer in my classroom! He's super excited! I have had fun setting things up and planning for our year-thanks to Pinterest. Man, you can find anything on that site! My 4th grade board has about 400 pins! Ha! I will leave you with some scenes from our summer...and a promise to be back soon!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Amy, Amy, Amy: It's Book Club Day!

This post is inspired by mystery thriller GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn. They may not have the perfect marriage, but after Amy goes missing, Nick becomes the number one suspect. Can he discover what happened before it's too late? Join From Left to Write on June 12 as we discuss Gone Girl. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes. I've always been obsessed with names, and reading a book with my name as the main character is quite a trip-especially when the main character is as perfect (ahem...) as this one seems to be! I've had ups and downs with my names over the years. As a little girl, I always had several Amys in my class-being blessed with a very popular 1970's name does that to you. I was either "little Amy" or "Amy B.". I wished my parents had named me something more "exotic", like Amelia. I wanted to stand out more from the crowd-Amy Brown doesn't stand out very much! In college, my room mate and good friend was named Amy, too, so I became "Brownie". I loved it! For the first time, I felt different. When people talked about Brownie, I knew they meant me! There actually was one other Brownie on my campus, but he was a boy-so that didn't count. Which was good, since there was another Amy Brown at UCSB, and one quarter, the administrative offices made a mistake and gave her all my units! That was a nightmare to remedy! Ugh! I couldn't wait to get married and change my name one day! After graduation, I moved back home (thinking only for awhile while I job hunted in San Francisco). I started substitute teaching and ending up getting my own classroom, so I became Miss Brown. I also started dating Joe, and fell in love with his family. His little niece called me "A-E", which melted my heart. Joe called me "Aim or "honey"...and I started realizing my name wasn't so bad. I liked how it sounded being said by my loved ones. I ended up marrying Joe-whose last name is Brown-so Amy Brown I became for good! The name I couldn't wait to change-now will be mine permanently. Funny how life can be! Now I am called by many names-Mommy being my fav, Honey, Aunt Amy, Mrs. Brown, Spencer's mom, Brownie (by my college friends), etc. I like my name-it suits me-nothing fancy, easy to read and spell (which, being a teacher, I have seen how hard it can be to have that "exotic" name), but I know I am much more than my name. Though, when naming my own children, I did give them names that stand out more-Spencer, Cooper, Kendall. While 2 of those have become more popular, they still have the luxury being the only of that name (most of the time). That being said, I feel partial to characters with the same name as me-I have a soft spot, though the author does such a great job describing this Amy-I wish I didn't share a name with her! What about you? Are you partial to characters with your name? Or any other name?

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Ready Readers...go!

So, I promise promise to start posting more...I am on summer vacay now...yippee! However, before back to more regular about another book one???'ll love it! As a participant in this From Left to Write book blog tour, I received a copy of the book for review. Check out the other stops on the blog tour for a chance to win a copy of Ready Player One. I will admit, this is not the type of book I would have picked up on my own. However, one thing I am loving about my book club-From Write to Left-is that I am reading books I wouldn't have picked. As a reader, we can sometimes get stagnant, reading the same kinds over and over...I had a chick lit-a-thon a couple of years ago and was glad to break out of that (though there isn't anything wrong with those beach reads...I've got one on my bedside table right now)... Ready Player One was a fun read, one I whizzed through. If you like 80's nostaglia, video games, adventure-this is one for you! I can just see teens devouring this book, ready to line up for front row seats to the movie version. I've read a few things online about the movie already! The author, Ernest Cline, a screenwriter, does a great job of describing people and events in the the story-this will make an amazing movie. Check out more about him at his site here! It's set in the future, after the collapse of life as we currently know it. Jobs are scarce, people are starving, trailers are stacked upon trailer-called "The Stacks"-and people seem miserable. The one escape is the online diversion-perfectly called "The Oasis". This online world is where you can be anyone you want to be, learn about anything and everything, and access information the world over. Our main character, Wade, attends public high school on one of the planets in the Oasis. He is searching the Oasis for an "Easter egg" (a hidden icon)-hidden by the now deceased Oasis creator. Whoever find it will receive his fortune-billions and billions of dollars. The rest of the book follows Wade on his journey, meeting new friends (and enemies) along the way. You'll keep turning pages-chuckling along with the 80's references. The author must be a total 80's lover! I will admit, I am not a video game gal-not even Angry Birds-and some of the "video games-ness" was too much for me, but the book still kept me reading. Honestly, I know I am not the target reader audience, but I enjoyed it! My husband loves to listen to audiobooks, so I ordered the audio version for him. I know he'll dig it, too. Remember to click on the link here to see the other readers posting about this book and snag a copy for yourself! Be sure to tell me what you think if you've read it! Ready...set...go!!!!!!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Summer Plans-Book Club Day

So...3 more days until summer...and the teacher is me is planning the summer already! I planned to write this post, but then our book club day came (and went) and I decided this post would be a perfect fit-since our book this month was all about a mommy trying to balance it all! This post is inspired by the novel Julia's Child by Sarah Pinneo. Worried about what her kids eat, Julia Bailey starts a prepared organic toddler meals business. With names like Gentil Lentil, can Julia balance work and family and still save the world? Join From Left to Write on May 24 as we discuss Julia's Child. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.
So, each summer I come up with some kid of plan for my kiddos so they don't get "mush mind". You can search many blogs and get great plans and ideas. I like to read a bunch and come up with my own plan. This year, I am again planning our days like this: Mondays-Library Day (we do the local summer reading program). Tuesdays-Cooking Day. Wednesdays-Art Project Day (hello, Pinterest). Thursdays-Playdate Day. Friday-Field Trip-have ideas for our local county courthouse, the Jelly Belly Factory, Columbia, Yosemite, missions, Sky High (awesome trampoline place!), etc... I also have a few ideas about the dreaded TV/Computer issues. My kids love reading, so for each half hour they read, they earn a half hour of screen time. How Does She blog has some cute printables to keep track of the books. I have a reading list for both boys this summer of books they must read. I found those from those library lists/suggested reading lists. We will be doing a summer school schedule-but just a light one. I need my summer off, too! I liked the ideas this blogger posted about her binders and summer schedules. I plan to get the kids each a binder and type up our weekly plans for them to keep track of. I will include their listed chores for the day(AM and PM chores). I also will have a set summer school time 3 days a week for about an hour to work on a few things. Instead of handing them a big workbook (like I did last summer and we didn't finish), I will tear out the pages that I want them to do each day. Both boys are doing great in school, but I will keep them working on writing and handwriting, as well as review pages for math and language arts. Kendall will have her handwriting pages and easy math pages. We'll see how that goes! I try to balance some work and lots of time to play! We will be swimming at the pool probably every day, as well as walking Lucy in the morning, bike rides, backyard play-whatever they want. I don't entertain my children all the time. I like them to play, be bored, and figure out what to do on their own. Of course, I am always up for snuggle times and board game challenges! So, I will keep you updated on how our summer plans to make our summer bucket list! Here's last year's list:

Monday, May 07, 2012

Why We Live Here

It's Book Club time! I am really enjoying my online book club, From Left to Write, because I have been reading books that I may not have picked up otherwise. Like our book for this month, I am Forbidden.
This post is inspired by I AM FORBIDDEN by Anouk Markovits. Though not sisters by blood but through their Hasidic faith, Mila and Atara views the rules and structure of their culture differently. Mila seeks comfort in the Torah while Atara searches for answers in secular literature she is forbidden to read. Ultimately each must make an irrevocable decision that will change their lives forever. Join From Left to Write on May 8 as we discuss I AM FORBIDDEN. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes. One of the characters in the book decided to give up her family in favor of pursuing a different life, one that could not, due to religious laws, include a relationship with her family. I cannot imagine that. If you'd read my blog, you know that I usually write about my family. Family is so important to me! Before Spencer was born, Joe and I lived in Southern California and loved it. I had a great job, he was doing work he loved, we enjoyed the big city feel...and we were even getting used to traffic! Then, our baby boy was was born and when we would come back "home" to see our family, it took him the whole weekend to warm up to his grandparents. He had cousins around and we'd hear stories of family outings and functions that we were missing. Even the simplest things, like getting together for dinner was so common for them, but so special to us. We made a hard decision to move back when he was one year old. We decided we were lucky enough to have both sets of grandparents in town, as well as several cousins and aunts and uncles. It wasn't an easy move, we did make some sacrifices: Joe couldn't do his line of work up here, and while I enjoy teaching still, I miss my old partners and school(The lack of restaurants is a huge bummer for us, too!). However, what we lost in salary has been been worth it, I can honestly say. My kids adore spending time with grandparents as often as they can! They've all said at one point or another, that "Grandma" and "Grammy" are their best friends. They go on dates, have sleepovers, get spoiled by them. Spencer and his cousin Jake have best friends since they were one-inseparable for many years. Though the kids are all getting older, and with soccer or commitments getting in the way, family dinners are becoming rarer and rarer...though my kids still enjoy having special times with their grandparents. We are looking ahead to a future where we may be moving on, though making sure we are within driving distance from family. I know not everyone would agree with me on my feelings, but growing up like I did, in the same town as my grandparents, I knew I needed this for my own kids as well.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

*our Princess is 4*

Kendall turned four last Friday....I can't believe my BABY is four!

I know, I know, it's cliche, but where does time go??? She is the funniest, sweetest, cutest, kindest little girl I know-she seriously cracks us up daily! I don't where she gets it. She's so girlie, too. but can get down and dirty with her brothers, as well. She loves dresses, n 3-4 times a day, loves anything princess-y, books, dolls, Dora the Explorer, bath time, nail polish, shoes, shopping, phones, Lucy the dog, being outside, Taco Bell, cooking, helping, being with us, Miss Social Butterfly...

So for her birthday, we had to have a Princess Party for sure...she had 5 little friends come, they decorated crowns, played princess, had their nails done, decorated princess cookies, ate lunch, played some more...we had so much fun! Everything was pink!

Kendall also had her family party the night before, on her actual birthday, with pizza and cake and cousins.

During the day, she had a Mommy Date and went for her first pedicure! Her Daddy date was frozen yogurt (another fav!) Happy birthday, sweet girl!!!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

*Nature Girl...not so much...*

It's Book Club time for From Left to Write! Come read our posts!

Trish Herr's then five year old daughter Alex wanted to hike all 48 of New Hampshire's 4,000+ foot mountains. Would you let your five year old do the same? Join From Left to Write on April 12 as we discuss Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure. As a member of From Left to Write, I received a copy of the book. All opinions are my own.
I really enjoyed this book! I am kind of inspired to take my own kids on a long(ish) hike...anyone have any suggestions for Northern California???
I so wish I was more of a nature girl! I love the idea of adventure, of being able to name all kinds of flowers and leaves, and being able to recognize a bird by its call..but the truth is, I'm not. The idea of the day hikes that Trish took her young daughters on-more gentle slopes, not much mountain climbing-appeals to me. I can picture my own energetic kids doing this and loving it! They seemed to have endless energy bounding around the hills around the Golden Gate last weekend, searching for great views and learning about military history.
However, honestly, the thought of a big backpack of supplies, setting up camp on a trail somewhere, does not interest me at all! I took a semi-nightmarish backpacking trip my senior year of college. My roommates and I agreed to go along with some more athletic friends on a trip through the Santa Barbara mountains. Supposedly they had connected with park rangers about an "easier" trail for us newbies. Apparently, there was a mix up because several hours in, we found ourselves hiking on the side of a mountain-I don't even think it was a real trail. I just remember thinking that one false step, and I would be sent careening down the steep sides.
Later that evening, we couldn't find an agreeable camp site before nightfall, so we set up camp by flashlight, all the while pumping our water supply so we wouldn't get giardia...
The weekend progressed...I'll spare you the details, but it involved the pump breaking, bathroom trips in the woods (a Port a Pottie would have been wonderful right about then!) and walking next to a rattlesnake that miraculously didn't strike. My friend Charlotte and I were asking cluelessly, "Does anyone hear a rattle? What is that?", as the rest of the group froze, panic on their faces.
I remember making it home, throwing down my "Beverly Hillbillies" backpack-my school backpack and sleeping bag rolled onto my back with rope (classy, right?), calling my mom immediately and telling her, "If I ever tell you that I am going backpacking again, please forbid me!"
Since then, I have stuck with car camping-parking and setting up camp right next to the car. My husband and I have camped with the the backyard...but I would really like to venture out to camp this summer! Maybe I'm not a nature girl, but I do owe it to my children to expose them to nature! Maybe they'll like the idea of backpacking someday...with someone other than mom!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

*Family Time*

Seriously, taking vacations-even short vacations-is such a memory maker for a family! I love love taking little trips with my kids! We have so much fun recounting those times together. I wish we could afford more elaborate trips, but at this stage of our life, we're cannot. And that's OK. We are lucky to live in Vacation State-California! Over Spring Break, we headed to San Francisco for a few days. We've been there before a couple times as a family-but we wanted to do more, including the touristy stuff. Our wonderful friend Steph lives there and has shown us so many great not so touristy places, but we wanted to take the kiddos to Chinatown,

Pier 39,

Golden Gate,

Discovery Center in Sausalito. So we did! And we had fun! Including a middle of the night fire alarm at our hotel! Always an adventure! And we ate such great food-real Chinese food in a quiet, fancy restaurant overlooking Chinatown's busy streets, hot clam chowder in a bread bowl, huge breakfast-the KEY we've learned for traveling with children. Stuff them with a big breakfast and they don't complain of hunger for hours!
Love this family of mine!