Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Summer Journals

These are our summer journals.

I got the idea from Guy's preschool teachers.  Every day or so, I ask my children to draw on a topic, usually something they've been talking about a lot.  Then I label it and date it on the back.  Here are our first entries.  I asked the kids to "draw about" what they think their school classes will be like next year.  Even two-year-old Autumn participates, although she draws just her favorite items so far.  

Another writing prompt that I gave them last week was "Draw about your worst dream."  Guy knew just what to draw, since he'd had a nightmare earlier that week.  This activity opens up some nice conversations for us.  And Guy "drew a solution" into his "bad dream".  He drew a school mate protecting him.  I asked him about it, because I didn't remember him mentioning this part of the dream the first time he told me about it.  He said,"Well, I wasn't sure what Ryan was doing in the dream, so I imagined him protecting me."  Nightmare resolved...all on his own!  I like it.

Scarlett couldn't think of a nightmare to draw, so she made one up:  Her future teacher Miss Ann getting caught in a storm was her idea of a "bad dream".

Each child has a folder and we keep our pictures in order by date.  These are our summer journals, and they are quickly becoming a treasure to each of us.

PS - A reader on Sugardoodle asked about a list of writing prompts/questions to get the kids writing/drawing.  I found a pretty creative list of journal prompts at Super Teacher Worksheets.
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Friday, May 27, 2011

He Wants to Be an American Soldier


Three things make me cry immediately:

Marching bands.


Members of the military bearing the US Flag.

Each of these things alone bring tears to my eyes almost immediately.  Put them all together, and I'm powerless from curling up into a ball and sobbing, anytime, any place.  

So, I guess you could say that this weekend is the start of crying season for me.  Between now and the 4th of July, I'll probably cry more than the rest of the year combined.

It's already happened, you know.

During my son's preschool graduation, the teacher announced what each child wants to be when he or she grows up.  As Guy "accepted his diploma" his teacher said, "When Guy grows up, he wants to be an American soldier."  

I was sort of surprised by his answer (although I probably shouldn't have been), and I could hear an almost inaudible sigh of admiration and respect come from the crowd.  Guy was, in fact, the only child in the preschool to have this as his career goal.  Suddenly, everything that this choice would mean for him flashed before my mind's eye.  

All of the children's goals were admirable, and all involved helping other people, but Guy's choice would mean that he'd be willing to quite literally lay down his life for others.  I don't know that he was aware of this fact, but I was.  And it made me cry tears of great pride in the selflessness of an innocent little boy and of thousands of men and women who currently serve and who have served in the US Military.

At the end of the ceremony, all members of the military were called up to stand by the children as they sang "God Bless America".  Barely half of the servicemen and women had made it to the front of the room before I started crying.  One older gentleman was dressed in full Navy uniform...all white with a blue tie and white cap.  We in the crowd gave them a standing ovation, and I was hooting and hollering like an mad woman with tears streaming down my cheeks.  (I look ridiculous when I cry!)

Anyway, it was a nice moment.  I am so thankful for the experiences that I have had in life that have made me aware of the sacrifice of men and women in the military:  grandparents who always stood up when the color guards marched by in a parade, even if for the twentieth time, parents who put together 4th of July parades every year and had us march through the streets, even if our family was pretty much the only parade participants, an elementary school that allowed for the recitation of The Pledge of Allegiance, a marching band director who taught discipline, integrity, and who required all of his students to know their music by heart, including the Star-spangled Banner and who asked us to play loudly with our instruments held high.  For a grandmother who bled red, white, and blue, and for grandfathers who gave their lives for the liberty of us all.

I love this quote:  "The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war." - Douglas MacArthur


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Thursday, May 26, 2011

"I will do my best not to let the disaster beat me."

My dear friend Yuki has provided me with a translation of the letters that we received from the girls in Japan yesterday.  

Here are their touching letters in English:

From Saya Yahata

Thank you for a lot of great gifts.
The flower bag pack is so cute and my favorite.
I wish I will do my best not to let the disaster beat me.
So please keep in touch and cheer me up.
Thank you.

From Natsuki Abe

We were damaged by earthquake and Tsunami.
I lost many my important things.
But I am happy now because I got lots of cute gifts from you.
I will treasure it. Thank you.


 From Yuri Shoji

Thank you for your lots of great gifts. I am happy very much.
Our house was damaged by Tsunami and water and mud covered all of our house.
Now we cleaned up first floor but still we need a lot of work.
And there are still many earthquake and it makes me so scared.
I really appreciate you because the gifts from you make me so happy and my fear is gone when I got them.
Thank you.

Yuki has started a disaster relief group for Japan here in my local area.  The blog can be found here.  She is selling handmade t-shirts to raise money for the people of Japan.  They come in all sizes, children through adult.  (I'm really drawn to #2!)  You can find out how to order here...or email her at susquehannav.japanesec@gmail.com

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A Well-loved Child

Some "experts" were on the Dr. Oz Show the other day discussing what should be done to curb childhood obesity in our country.  One doctor/administrator said, "There are only two things that change behavior:  money and fear."

Say what?

I wanted to laugh out loud at the entire scene of ignorance and short-sightedness that was being displayed by all involved:  the host, "the experts", the guests,and the audience.  It was truly the blind leading the blind.  But I couldn't bring myself to laugh, because it was all just too heartbreaking.

The good doctor seems to have forgotten about the strongest, most effective motivation for change, which is L-O-V-E.  To be fair, they all had the best of intentions.  I also realize that government institutions cannot say "Love is the answer."  They are expected instead to regulate and enforce.

But today, I am sure glad that there are still good human beings out there that understand that LOVE is the greatest force on earth.  

I sent my two oldest children to preschool this year.  It was a big first step for me as I transition into a new realm of Motherhood--a Mom of school-aged children!  All of the teachers have been amazing!  But Scarlett's teacher has really shown an outstanding example of loving those she teaches.  Actually, both of her teachers have had a big impact on my little girl.

From day one, she has simply glowed with love for each one of her students.  They could feel it.  I could feel it...and now, nine months later, I can see the results of her love:  a well-adjusted, well-rounded, happy little girl, who loves to learn, and who feels ready to experience her world. 

And to think, I almost didn't send her to preschool this year.

My friend Sue said this recently in a post about parenting,"A well-loved child is likely to become the person he or she was meant to be...a son or daughter of God who acts the part."

I am so thankful to the good teachers who have helped my son and daughter this year to discover who they are and to act well their part.

What a blessing!

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dear Japan: 私たちもあなたを愛して

My kids and I were so excited today to find a special envelope in our mailbox from Ishinomaki, Japan!  Here are our new friends Natuki, Saaya, Yuri, and Hiiro, showing off the backpacks that we sent them. I am so happy to see that they also received these beautiful quilts from someone special!  I had hoped to send blankets along with the backpacks, but was unable.  Teamwork rules!!  (Can you believe that The Sleepy Time Gal had originally hoped to get 30 boxes sent to Japan...and as of today her readers have sent nearly 700 boxes?!)

I truly believe that the Lord works in mysterious ways...and that out of everything tragic and troubling, He brings about beauty and growth and wisdom and charity and strength.  After all, what could be more devastating about the scene behind these girls?  And what could be more delightful than the looks of hope and happiness on their faces now?  A great example of the yin-yang of life.  He truly has the whole world in his hands!  

I hope that these girls will continue to shine brightly.  They are so special.  They are the future.  And they have a great light to share with the world around them.   

This picture makes me so happy!

We love you, girls!

We love the sweet notes and drawings that you sent!

Now to get someone to translate for me!
(Yuki, are you reading this?)

If you want to help out, go to: 

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

New Mormon Musical in The Works

I'm sorry, but this is just too funny not to post:

The Sistas are toying with the idea of a new Mormon Musical.

Broadway-lovers and "roadshow" alumni alike need to hop on over and check out their ideas.

I think they are on to something...

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100 Books of Summer

imgfave - amazing and inspiring images

My kids and I have decided to see if we can read 100 books together this summer.

Here is our 

100 Books of Summer 
Reading List:

Note:  We LOVE and own the majority of the books on this list and consider these titles to be the best of the best.  However some are new to us.  We welcome your book recommendations for children ages 2-6.



Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes

The Art Lesson by Tomie De Paola 

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina 

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert N. Munsch 

The Napping House by Audrey Wood  

Where the Sidewalk Ends: the Poems and Drawing of Shel Silverstein by Shel Silverstein  

I Dream of Trains by Angela Johnson

Johnny Appleseed by Reeve Lindbergh

Most Loved in All the World by Cozbi A.Cabrera


Is There Really a Human Race? by Jamie Lee Curtis & Laura Cornell

My Parents Think I'm Sleeping by Jack Prelutsky

I Saw You in the Bathtub and Other Folk Rhymes by Alvin Schwartz

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

Volunteer of the Year by Marc Brown

Old Man Whickutt's Donkey by Mary Calhoun

Tootle by Gertrude Crampton

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett

A Splendid Friend, Indeed by Suzanne Bloom

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle


Charlie Cook's Favorite Book by Julia Donaldson

And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street by Dr. Seuss

Snow Music by Lynne Rae Perkins

The Bunny Book by Richard Scarry

Stay Awake Sally by Mitra Modarressi

No Jumping On The Bed! by Tedd Arnold

On the Moon by Anna Milbourne and Benji Davies

Who Wants an Old Teddy Bear? by Ginnie Hoffmann

Three Samurai Cats by Eric A. Kimmel

Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk


Wild About Books by Judy Sierra

Hiccupotamus by Aaron Zenz

Who Wants a Dragon? by James Mayhew

The Best Nest by P. D. Eastman

Giants Come in Different Sizes by Jolly Roger Bradfield

William Shakespeare -To Sleep, Perchance to Dream by James Mayhew

Corduroy by Don Freeman

Purplicious by Victoria Kann

Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown


Chester's Way by Kevin Henkes

Your Body Belongs to You by Cornelia Spelman

Fanny's Dream by Caralyn Buehner

The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers

I Said No! by Kimberly King

Freight Train by Donald Crews

The Empty Pot by Demi

Mean Soup by Betsy Everitt

Frog and Toad All Year by Arnold Lobel

Knuffle Bunny:  A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems


Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson

Dinosaur's Binket by Sandra Boyntan

Mice Are Nice by Charles Ghigna

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton

If I Had a Big Blue Boat by Kindermusik

Whose Shoes? by Stephen R. Swinburne

Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel

Someday by Alison McGhee

How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney


The School Bus Driver from the Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler

Stone Soup by Ann McGovern

Sector 7 by David Weisner

Tsunami! by Kajikawa Kimiko

Truce by Jim Murphy

Hansel and Gretel by Michael Morpurgo

The Hinky-Pink: An Old Tale by Megan McDonald

My Garden by Kevin Henkes

Eloise Wilkin's Poems to Read to the Very Young

Who Said Boo? by Nancy White Carlstrom


The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

In A Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz

Little Quack's Bedtime by Lauren Thompson

A Winter Day by Douglas Florian

Take Me Out of the Bathtub and Other Silly Dilly Songs by Alan Katz

Hop On Pop by Dr. Seuss

See Inside Your Body by Katie Daynes

Ootah's Lucky Day by Peggy Parish

Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls

Sylvester and The Magic Pebble by William Steig


Miss Spider's Wedding by David Kirk

I See Santa Everywhere by Glenn McCoy

Runny Babbit by Shel Silverstein

No Fighting, No Biting by Else Holmelund Minarik

Superfudge by Judy Bloom

On The First Day of Grade School by Emily Brennen

Knights of the Kitchen Table by Jon Scieszka

Chugga-chugga Choo-Choo by Kevin Lewis

Hopper by Marcus Pfister

Good Night, Sleep Tight by Barbara Cratzius

School Days by B.G. Hennessy

Apple Pie 4th of July by Janet S. Wong

The Impossible Patriotism Project by Linda Skeers

All Those Secrets of The World by Jane Yolen

The Alphabet from A to Y With Bonus Letter Z by Steve Martin

Not A Box by Antoinette Portis

The Adventures of Marco and Polo by Dieter Wiesmuller

June 29, 1999 by David Wiesner

The Secret of Saying Thanks by Douglas Wood

The Secret-Keeper by Kate Coombs

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Monday, May 23, 2011

"This is my special talent..."

Guy and Steve went on the fathers and sons camp out with the boys from church this weekend, so the girls and I had a camp out of our own on Friday night with some friends.   
No, we didn't sleep in the tent, silly!  No, we just played in it...


On Saturday, we spent the day shopping, people watching, eating out, and painting ceramics!  Our forte.

The boys had a great time on their trip, and Guy talked about it in his "spotlight" in Primary yesterday.

As the spotlight child, Guy was invited to "share a special talent or interest" with the other Primary children.  This is what he did:  He walked up to the front of the room and unrolled his sleeping bag for the kids to see.  Then said, "I went camping with my dad this weekend for the Fathers and Sons camp out."  Then he pulled out his pocket knife and started to wittle.  His complete disregard for knife safety was making the leaders nervous, I could tell, but the fact that someone was wielding a knife in the middle of Primary sure gave the kids a thrill!

Then he said, "We learned about the Priesthood during our camp out.  Someday, I will hold the priesthood.  I will use my priesthood to help other people.  This is my special talent."

It was very sweet.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

The Story, The Whole Story, and Nothing But The Story

Steve and I are celebrating seven years of marriage this Sunday...

Seven wonderful, action-packed years!

Here we are on our wedding day, sitting on the very bench where he proposed to me, outside of the Washington, DC Temple.  I like to say that Heavenly Father had to move heaven and earth to get the two of us together, and that isn't too far from the truth. 

Steve and I were both in the same singles ward in 2003 - The Langley Ward.  I had recently moved to DC and was still untangling myself from emotions left over from a previous relationship when I first met Steve.  I remember sitting in my car, listening to some music, before getting up the nerve to enter a bowling alley where our ward was having FHE that evening.  I was mulling over the huge waste of time the last two years of my life had been...dating someone who I neither liked, nor wanted to be married to.  But now I was in a different place, back in DC among many of the friends I had loved so much the first time I lived there a few years earlier.  As I gave myself a little pep talk to get ready to "mingle" with the singles, the thought entered my mind, "Who knows?  I could meet my future husband tonight."  Then I gave myself a mental lashing for even thinking something so ridiculous and cliche and I joined the party.  Later that evening, I did in fact meet Steve.

He didn't make a huge impression on me that night, because I observed him laughing at jokes made by a girl who openly admitted to having had a boob job.  Sorry Steve, but I'm just being real here.  He was just another guy to me, one of a thousand or so who ran in the LDS singles scene in DC.

That is why when we ended up on a date together one evening a few months later, I didn't even remember him by name.  "Steve Christensen," my date Clark told me, "You know him!"  I insisted that I did not know a Steve Christensen.  Clark was my home teacher.  He liked me.  He was an extremely nice guy, very righteous, very stalwart.  I wasn't interested in him, but I went out with him anyway when he asked.  I didn't have a reason to say no, really.  We went on a double-date:  Clark and I were joined by Clark's good buddy Steve and Steve's girlfriend.

When I got in the car that evening, Steve and his girlfriend were in the back seat.  It was dark, so I still could not see who this Steve person was who I supposedly knew.  And then he spoke.  At this point, I still couldn't see his face, but his voice was like some magic combination of chords that made my heart and mind feel alive!  It wasn't necessarily a love reverberation, but it was something--some kind of connection.  It was like he spoke on a frequency that no one in the world had ever spoken to me on before!  I didn't even know what his face looked like, but his voice made me hungry to hear more.  Every word that he spoke was so intelligent and insightful.  He was funny without being silly, personable, but genuine.  More than anything, I wanted him to say more...

When we got out of the car, I realized that I truly had met Steve before, but this time, I had gotten to know him better.  He was a nice guy...an interesting person...with a great voice...and a "steady" girlfriend.  Lucky them, I thought.

Months passed, and Steve and I were thrown together again, this time because of our church callings.  Brother Haraguchi was the counselor in the bishopric who called us both to serve as co-chairs of the activities committee.  Every month we planned activities for about 400 singles in our ward.  It was a lot of fun.  By this time, Steve had broken up with his girlfriend, but I figured Steve wasn't interested in me, because he never flirted with me during our many late-night (because of my work schedule) meetings, so in my mind we were never going to be more than friends.

Just Friends - At "Mulligan Madness" a mini-golf event we planned for the singles ward.
I was working for CNN at this point, and I got off work at 11pm.  So I would go out most weekends to parties as soon as I got off work.  I enjoyed meeting lots of guys and hanging out with my girlfriends and co-workers.  I had pretty much resigned myself to a life of dating around, working, and enjoying all that DC had to offer...at least for the time being.

Then Memorial Day Weekend rolled around:  Singles in DC traditionally go to Duck Beach over Memorial Day Weekend, rent houses, and hang out at the beach.  I had decided that I would go to Duck Beach that Memorial weekend with the singles too...and then Steve asked me out.  I had to weigh the choice:  go to Duck Beach and hang out with 700 singles or go out with Steve, my co-chair on the activities committee.  Hmmmm.  (What would you choose?)  Up until this point, I thought he was not interested in me (although he had asked me out once before...I was out of town that time too.)  I waffled between the two options, and Steve, in an attempt to mask his eagerness said, "Well, if you do end up staying in town, we'll have to hang out."

I worked an earlier shift that day, because I planned on hopping in my car around 3pm and driving down to join the party at Duck Beach.  Although, admittedly, I was still waffling.

Around noon that day, my roommate Cindi called me at work.  She asked if I was sitting down.  (I thought she was going to tell me that my grandpa had died, her tone was so grave!)  She told me that a tree had fallen on my car...the very car I was going to drive to Duck Beach.

When I walked home from the Metro that day, this is what I saw outside of my apartment:

My car is underneath all of those leaves...

There's part of my car now...as you can see this tree had rotted out at the base.

At this point, workers were already sawing away the treetops so they could get my car out.

Bye-bye Windshield.

I did in fact stay in town that weekend.

And Steve and I went out not once, but three times....

Saturday, he took me to Rockford, MD to see the Spin Doctors in an outdoor concert.  (He didn't know that this was my favorite band in high school!)

Sunday evening, we attended a Memorial Day Concert of the National Symphony Orchestra in DC.  We sat on the steps of the Capitol, and he held my hand as the rain fell softly, creating a beautiful mist.  The music was amazing.  A perfect atmosphere for falling in love.

Monday, we went to Arlington National Cemetery to watch the President lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  We were held up in security and missed the wreath-laying, but as we walked the grounds, a bird brushed my face with its wing as it flew past.  I'll always remember the sensation.  I took that as a sign of good things to come.

After that week, I KNEW that Steve was someone who I could marry.  I had never been able to say that with 100% confidence with any other guy before.  Whenever I entertained the idea of marriage with other men, I'd get an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach, or I'd have a bad dream where I played out getting married to that person and things would just feel very wrong.  But not with Steve.  I always feel right with Steve.  That is how I knew that he was the one.  

He also did something that other guys didn't. He was strong enough and secure enough to show me that I was his number one choice very early on.  He held nothing back.  He was willing to make himself vulnerable to me and was always very unselfish emotionally.

One time about a week or two after we went on our first date, Steve had to attend a dinner at a girl's house.  He had made this arrangement previously.  I don't remember the details, but I remember that he called me at work to tell me that he was going to dinner at this person's house with a group of people and that he wanted me to know that it was just a friend situation.  I absolutely did not expect him to do this.  He cared about my feelings from the very start and was so considerate of me.  Other guys I met in DC at that time, were so inconsiderate.  They dated girls for sport.  They'd take you out one night and forget your name the next day at church.  It was so degrading actually.  But Steve was a real man.  He was dating with a purpose.

He proposed after 3.5 months of dating, and we were married one year after our first date.

I guess this isn't actually THE WHOLE story, but you're getting the gist of it.  Two fiercely confident and independent people brought together by the hand of the Lord.  It wasn't enough that we were put into a calling together, forced to work together...He had to drop a tree on my car for us to TAKE THE HINT.  We were meant to be together...

I like to think that our love story is unique, but maybe it's not.  I just know that I hear lots of lovely, fluttery, goo-goo-love stories, and I think our love story was much more sensible.  I had had those kissy-kissy, can't live without him love/crush experiences in the past, but none of those lead me to THE ONE...the one who gives me wings, but keeps me grounded in what's true.   The one who encourages me to follow my dreams while still being true to myself and my covenants.  The one who knows me instinctively, knows what's best for me, wants what I want, works as hard as I work.  

Steve would disagree with this next statement, but I got the sense that he really could live without me and would carry on just fine, but that he CHOSE TO BE WITH ME, and that made me love him even more.  We are equals.  We stand side-by-side.  We can like different things, have different interests, and yet neither one must bend to the other, because we are equally yoked and perfectly in step.  We are just an absolutely perfect fit.  

And three kids and two moves later, I want him now more than ever.

So thankful to the Lord for bringing us together.
So thankful for the institution of marriage.
So thankful for the beautiful children that we have made together.

So grateful for the life we have ahead of us.


I love you!

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