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Monthly Archives: June 2011

I LOVE new kid experiences!


Well, my summer is officially on day #3!  Yep, almost the end of June and we are just starting here in on again off again sunny southern California!  I don’t know about where you live, but where we live there are traditional summer programs for kids – the ones that you know about when your kids are babies.  You imagine them when they are older, wearing the gear.  Hanging with the flocks of kids, all dressed alike and doing the same thing.  For us, they activities are water related –  the epitome of spending summer at the beach.

So this morning hundreds of kids ages 9+ headed to the beach dressed in matching red boardshorts and navy sweatshirts to begin the seven week program of Jr. Guards – an impressive program encompassing water safety and saving in the ocean.  The 65 degree ocean.  From that 3 hour program, many kids head off to their next activity, where my kids and others will meet up with them – summer sailing.  This program is designed to teach the fundamentals of racing on the bay and drive home the Corinthian spirit.

What I love about both of these programs are the underlying skills taught.  Independence.  Responsibility.  Self reliance.  Problem solving.  Skills that kids aren’t often given the chance to learn in our protective environments.  Yet, to me, these are the traits of summer.  When I was a kids (meaning under the age of 10) I lived at the neighborhood pool.  Unattended. At least by a parent.  When my mom wanted me to come home for dinner, she would call the pool and have them page me over the loudspeakers.  I would race the two and half block distance, rewarded by the cool rush of the air conditioning once I opened the front door.  It was so normal.  And yet there is no way I would have allowed my eight year old to take off of 6 hours (at a pool, mind you) without my supervision or that of an adult whom I trusted.

So I love these programs in which kids travel by bikes and scooters, with each other and rarely with parents to arrive, find their group and get started.  They are expected to have the necessary apparel and gear.  For sailing, they rig their own boats, often aided by friends.  They push themselves to reach new accomplishments – progress that is tracked week by week and incredibly visible by the end of summer.  They are responsible for their own belongings (which of course, get lost – but which they try to find before parents become aware).  They are responsible for their own behavior – treated as young adults by the young adults who coach them.  They meet new friends.  Play tricks.  Tell jokes.  All while filling themselves with the sense of self-confidence that they will bring with them into the next school year.

Oh!  and…they are out of the house for at least 4 hours each day.  Happy summer!


Waiting for Normal – a great rec from my kid


I had pulled some books from my boxes that I am still sorting from my now defunct book fair business.  Books that I wanted my own kids to read.  I tossed “Waiting for Normal” by Leslie Conner, over to one of my girls who responded “Yeah, it’s really good.  You should read it.”   There are some advantages to the kids getting older.  In theory shoes can now be shared between us.  And yesterday after finishing this book that one of them recommended, I picked up the book the other own just finished and headed to bed with it tucked under my arm.

“Waiting for Normal” tracks a life changing year for Addie, one of the most resiliently lovable book heroes you will ever route for.  Her mother, Denise, is a mess, possibly bi-polar.  She is an all or nothing sort of person – and Addie is never sure which side of that coin she is going to get.  The two of them live in a trailer provided by Dwight, her mother’s last husband, the closest thing to a father that Addie has ever had.  At age 12, our hero takes care of herself and has become quite adept at creating wonderous meals from cans of soup and toast.  When her mother starts to spend more and more time (as in days upon days) with her boyfriend / boss, Addie is left cooking for one.

There are people all around her keeping an eye on her situation.  Soula and Elliott who own and run the mini market across the street.  Grandio, her dad’s father, who loves her but is gruff and to the point with his dislike of her mother.  Dwight and her half sisters, Katie and Brynna whom she desperately longs to be with.  But Addie has been down this path before and knows that her mother’s behavior could cause the two to be separated forever.  Addie is loyal, smart and ultimately scared, as she protects her mother and herself from those who are poking around to make sure she is being taken care of.  But she makes one mistake, revealing all of the lies that she has created to cover her mom… and it just might get her the Normal she has been waiting for.

Warning:  cried at beach for the last 70 pages of this read.  Thought sunglasses we hiding but it turns out they were not enough.  Beautifully written!

Can’t buy the really good stuff!

What I love most, is my family.  unequivocally.  In five days my youngest will graduate from 6th grade.  This is not the same as graduating from high school.  Or college, medical school, law school, or any of the other super achievements that may or may not be down the road from her.  But it does mark the end of an era and I can see it clearly as my oldest past this milestone four years ago.  It marks the end of class parties of which I am organizing or just invited.  It marks the end of being a welcome entity on campus during the school day.  She will no longer be dressing in fun costumes for various days at school.  I will not be called on to help create Valentine’s, teacher’s gifts, Father’s Day projects.  Report cards will no longer be a way just to instill my confidence and pride, but will have consequences of grades that are harder to earn.

I love this blog as my outlet to continue to share great stuff out there on the market.  But the next five days hold our last talent show, class party, yearbook signing event, and ultimately the day of graduation itself.  Last week held our last field trip, flagdeck, and honor roll ceremony.  Bare with me during some of my absent days –  I will be back.  But as with last week, I will be spending the next five days hoarding every final elementary school moment that I can.

I Love Helping Kids Make a Difference thru their own Efforts!


I don’t know about you, but since January 1, this year seems to be going by at a crazy rate.  I am sure part of it is that there are more commitments for both of my kids.  Enough that I have put the brakes on big time.  I mull things over.  I back-burner stuff.   I am slow to commit.  I don’t trust that my calendar is complete – that there isn’t stuff floating around that I forgot to write down.  Important stuff that someone in my family is going to miss.  And still time goes by at a crazy rate.

That is how come my youngest signed up for Relay for Life with 9 days to go this year.  Last year, as co-leader of her Girl Scout troop, I was our Troop’s team captain.  I was hooked to our team page for months, sending out daily emails, reporting our progress and upping our goal as we raised each dollar amount.  This year the email came asking us to have a team.  The dilemma – our girls are all going to Science Camp for 3 days with their class, arriving back home less than 24 hours before the Relay starts.  I back-burnered.  I mulled over.  And suddenly we are here – 9 days out!

9  crazy busy days and the day of Relay itself  holds work related dinner parties, birthday parties, and the promise of much-needed sleep, making it super easy to decide that we held off too long and cannot make the commitment…..

I drafted this when I registered my youngest for Relay for Life 10 days ago.  Yesterday, we took to the track.  She brought a friend who participated last year and together they rounded each corner, visited each booth, learned about risk factors for cancer, participated in a scavenger hunt, spoke to other walkers, handed out kazoos for our kazoo lap, and really had a blast.  They also listened to stories from survivors and relatives of those who didn’t survive.  They cheered the beginning of the event – the Survivors’ Walk.  They remembered their own friends and family members who they have lost to cancer (and at age 11 each has more people to count than should be).  And their presence raised money both for cancer research as well as the support of those living with cancer through donations made to the American Cancer Society.

Both girls were tired from camp.  They were sad that we didn’t have the 15 other girls from our Girl Scout troop along with all of the friends and family that support each one of them.  I was tired – had come extremely close to oversleeping for the event.  I would have had a thousand other things I could have done with my day.

However, being there we remembered how powerful the event is.  We were resolved in our promise to be back next year with more team members, more donations, and more fun things to do with this incredible group of people who donate so much of their time to making a difference.  Relay for Life is such an incredibly rewarding way to get your kids involved in giving back to their community – get out there and find a team!  It is an experience that will feed your family’s soul!  Can’t wait for next year’s 24 hour walk.

Evel Knievel Super Stunt Kit – Flying Fast!


I am late today getting this out – feeling a little unsettled and therefore distracted.  Husband took the little one to Science Camp and instead of basking in the freedom this produces, I am a little glum.  Could it be because this is just another milestone we are checking off on our quickly approaching departure from elementary school?  And with husband gone too I am forced to face the fact that time is move crazy fast.  Lightening speed.

More pressing question, I guess, is whether or not, this fast paced time that makes me feel like my family is leaping out of childhood is adequately represented in the children’s product I chose for today?  The Evel Knievel Super Stunt Kit is from my old bag of tricks.  It is a product I actually bought for the bookstores, strongly influenced by the fact that I knew my husband would love it.  And it was a Father’s Day gift that year because in my book, Father’s Day gifts are meant to be enjoyed by fathers and those to whom they father.

This fun retro toy calls out to all the men who rode their banana seats in the 70’s, closing their eyes and pretending to be covered in stars and stripes from head to toe.  The operator attaches Evel (first name basis seems okay here, hope nobody is offended) to the ramp and then cranks him up.  When he is adequately wound, player hits the release and Mr. Knievel (switching the proper noun use here)  soars down the ramp and back up another to jump through the fire ring or over a tall wall.  Brilliant!  Hours of fun for little guys and big guys alike.

Clincher – the other part of the delay in getting this out is that the product is no longer manufactured as far as I can tell (which includes extensive online research as well as a call to the original manufacturer who put me on hold only to come back and confirm that they had lost  the licensing rights.)   However, while mulling it over, I determined that while my readership is growing, my blog is not yet rocking the market so anybody who read this and was so inclined to purchase afterwards could probably scoop up the few remaining sets at, or Back to Basic Toys.

And writing this helped remind me that while time does go by, there are toys for all ages.  Life is still going to be fun.

View Master – A Classic Toy

I know that kids have iPhones, iPods, iPads, Wiis, and every other gadget we couldn’t have ever dreamed up in our day.  They can play with each other in different states, create Powerpoint presentations at age 7 that we would have been proud to turn in a college seniors.  I know. I know. I know.  But there are some simple things from our day that still hold magic.  And a View Master is one of them!

Looking through the View Master’s two eye holes, past the black tunnel, to the still life 3-D image provided by the inserted disc – whether it be a dinosaur, a shark, a view of the Grand Canyon – is a true “aha” moment.  nowadays, the viewers come in modern looking pod shapes, or as binoculars, but my favorite is the classic “View Master” shape in red or blue.  One can also purchase gift sets of many Disney classics but my favorites are the animal disc – especially the marine life ones in which the pics make you feel like you are in the ocean with the sharks (or something less threatening, should you or child be so inclined.)  The experience of looking at the chosen disc is truly memorizing – you might be surprised as a parent, how long it can entertain.

Sidenote: not by Fisher Price, but by a company, Studio 3 D, who has obviously recognized the genius, you can have custom discs made of your own event or subject.  It is really not cheap.  However, it could be clever when used for the right purpose – a really cute outgoing graduation gift that a group of parents could work on together (the discount becomes significant when discs are created in higher numbers!) I’m even thinking it would be a very memorable way to propose!  What custom 3D reel would you make?

Recycled Crayons – all about the Stache!

Depending on where you live, you may have noticed an influx of finely waxed and shaped facial hair.  Hipsters are sporting handlebars and mustaches are becoming the epitome of cool…again.

A couple of years ago my family out for a casual bite to eat and the restaurant we were at had little vending machine toys.  All of us ended up with stick-on staches which was an awesome photo-op.  Lots of giggles and pics, and they have been a family favorite ever since.  We have some mustache socks, mustache rings, and this year all of the Christmas stockings sported a variety of stache pins in all sorts of shapes and colors.  I have my eye on some mustache pint glasses for my birthday.  They are just too funny.  Who can have a bad time with a pelt of fur stuck under their nose?

I love these mustache crayons because they are a funny novelty that are priced at fair novelty fare.  ($4.95) Made from recycled Crayola crayons (which are the best!) they are a great stocking stuffer, birthday favor, or fun “Thinking of You” small gift.

Have to share a “two worlds colliding story”.  While working on this entry, I got a call from Laguna Beach’s Pageant of the Masters, letting me know that my daughter got a part this summer.  However, she needed to let me know, it is for a male part and she will be wearing… a mustache!  She wanted to make sure that was going to be alright.  Boy, did they cast the right girl!  Still laughing!