"Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of. but do it in private
and wash your hands afterwards." --Robert Heinlein.

We've moved!

For the next two years (Summer 2014-Summer 2016) I'll be blogging our family's adventures in China at www.chinesemileposts.wordpress.com

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Halloween Prep

Princess Sparkley: "What's the rule about when we can get out the Halloween decorations?"
Yep.  I have to have a rule for that sort of thing.  If there were no rules, chaos (or as PS says, "CH-A-Os*") would ensue.

My answer, "Not until October."  She thinks this means October 1st.  What it really means is that on October 1st, the rule may allow it, but maybe (most definitely) I'll say it has to wait until - fill in the blank.  That's the way I roll.  I'm not going to drop everything on October 1st to decorate for Halloween when there are still boxes to be unpacked.

Speaking of boxes to be unpacked... two Halloweens after we moved to Kansas, so, October 2006, we couldn't find our Halloween decorations box.  We had a storage unit.  It was buried somewhere in there.  It was more work than necessary to dig through all of our stuff.  That year we made cheap decorations out of paper plates, yarn and construction paper.  And it turns out those decorations are among my kids' favorites that they never want me to throw out.  But... contrary to Jed's belief, we are not all hoarders (although it's too soon to say for the kids) and I've had to throw a lot of them out as they've gotten torn, faded or lost.  But because they were fun.  And cheap.  And kid-friendly.  And because I keep coming across new, similar Halloween decoration ideas, I thought I'd share some with you.

Here are some we did that year we couldn't find our decorations:
This is the only picture I can find to show our Halloween cats, bats and ghosts.  The cats and bats were just cut out free-hand by me and glued together by the kids. 
Here's a better shot of the ghosts... paper plates with a spiral cut.  And cute 2 1/2 year old Buddy.

from here (although we strung our yarn more haphazardly)

And here are the new crafts I'm excited to make this year:
from here
from here

from here

There aren't a lot of crafts here, mostly costume ideas and Halloween treats, but be sure to check out all my old Halloween posts here.

*It's impossible to try to spell it out phoenetically the way she says it... basically, she says it the way it looks and not at all the way it is supposed to be pronounced.  It's awesome.  She's a reader that girl.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Thinking about Christmas

Yes... it's not yet October and I'm already thinking and planning out Christmas.  However, I'm not shopping... yet.  I'm wondering what you guys do for presents for your kids at Christmas time.  Usually I chose a set amount of money for each kid and buy as much stuff for them as I can (on and off their list) without going over that amount.  After last year, which wasn't even a big year, the kids had opened so many presents and gotten everything they had ever dreamed of by the end of opening family presents (from each other, grandparents, aunts/uncles, etc.) on Christmas Eve.  Jed and I considered forgetting about the Santa presents.  They'd already gotten SO much and were happy, but we just couldn't cancel Santa without warning... you don't want to offend Santa.  So we went ahead with Christmas Day gift madness and decided that next Christmas would be scaled down... a lot. Now I'm trying to decide how to scale down.  Here's what I'm thinking right now, but I would love your ideas or if you do anything interesting.

For each kid:
One Christmas Ornament per kid (Jed's family tradition)
PJs or slippers (my family tradition)
Each kid will buy a present for their siblings/parents
Either two gifts per kid (one from each parent) or one larger gift to each kid (from both parents)
Stockings (stuffed)
1 Santa gift
Two books (ones the kids really want) (we'll make these from Santa)

I'm not sure what I think about this set-up because 1) I know I'll keep finding more and more presents that I'm sure the kids HAVE to have.  2) This puts the majority of our gift opening on Christmas Eve (Jed's family tradition is opening family gifts on Christmas Eve.  Mine is opening PJs on Christmas Eve).  Maybe Santa can also get them new clothes they might need (Princess Sparkley would probably be on board with this... the boys, maybe, if it was Lego, Star Wars or sports-themed shirts).

What do you do in your family?  Or what would you like to try?

Thursday, September 22, 2011


We spent the first week or so of our month "abroad" in Utah and the rest of the time at my parents' house in California.  Jed was only with us for the first few days in California (then he flew back to Virginia to pack us up, move us, take two huge exams for grad school, and start school).  We went to the beach four times, Hollywood, Disneyland, the Ronald Reagan Library, and played lots with cousins.  We ate at In N Out Burger (at least three times), The Habit, Somis Market (about four times), The Nut House (for candy), and a great shaved ice place called Shave It among other things.  Here are a few pictures:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

So far...

This is what's done.  And it may have only been clean while I was taking the picture but is currently back to messy.  Or, it's possible that there are stategically hidden boxes waiting to be unpacked but not visible in the picture.  Lots more to do...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New Place

The good:
  • Wood floors (especially under the table!)
  • Play/Bonus room downstairs
  • Unfinished workroom for Jed's office
  • Master bathroom
  • Bigger yard
  • Nicer neighborhood
  • Much quieter
  • Lots of storage space
  • A living room size and shape that makes more sense.
  • Rent is only about $20 more than our last place and we now have a lot more space.
  • Full sized washer and dryer in a laundry room.

The bad:
  • Super ugly from outside.  I don't particularly care for the look of this type of roof.  Oh well.  We like the inside.
  • Fleas.  We've already bombed the house twice and Jed still caught a flea on his arm this morning.
  • Neighbor next to our bedroom seems to use the TV as a white noise to fall asleep to all night.
  • Three levels of stairs is a bit tiring.
  • No blinds on any windows.
  • The bottom floor smells like dog.
  • More lawn to mow (and we only own an edger) but it appears the past renter left a lawn mower in the shed.
  • The kitchen leaves something to be desired, but it isn't teeny and it functions.
  • Full of boxes that I should be unpacking instead of blogging.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Ten years ago yesterday, Jed and I were newlyweds living in an apartment down the street from his work at City Hall. This meant that he slept until about 7:45AM and then hurried to dress and run out the door to make it to work by 8AM.  We were asleep when the airplanes hit the towers in New York.  It wasn't until my mom called, waking us up to tell us the news, that we ran to the TV.  I spent the next days, weeks, months watching the news.  Between that terrorist attack and Elizabeth Smart's kidnapping nine months later, I watched more news than any other time in my life. It was an addiction.

At the time were weren't parents, but I remember reading articles about how parents should talk to their kids about September 11th. Jed and I sort of steered clear of the subject with our kids for several years.  At first we'd come across it in nonfiction books about emergency vehicles or skyscrapers that Buddy would check out from the library.  We started by just saying that some airplanes had crashed into a skyscraper and a lot of people had died as a result.  This slowly, but without drawing attention to the terror aspect of it, turned into explaining that some bad guys did it on purpose.  Just last week the kids asked about the one plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, asking why it just crashed into land and I found myself completely choked up and overwhelmed with the heroics of the passengers as I tried to explain that those people knew what was going on with the other planes, and fought the bad guys so they couldn't crash into another building and kill more people. 

I was a little surprised when my 7 year old came home from church yesterday (September 11th) and said the teacher had asked them if they knew why the day was special.  Only he and one other boy knew, and the other boy knew because his dad works in the Pentagon.  I sort of wish my kids were enrolled in public school so I could get a glimpse of the textbooks that teach this aspect of American history.  It's the largest piece of history in my lifetime, and I have no idea how future generations are being taught about it, except for what I teach my own kids.  I hope we're doing okay...


After one month and one day split between Utah and California, we're finally back in Virginia.  And a new house.  While we were in California, sweet Jed moved all of our belongings, almost completely by himself, to a new townhome.  So now I'm back, but busily unpacking, organizing, and then planning out our homeschool year which is getting an especially slow start this year with the vacation and then the move.  Eventually, I'll be back for real.  Until then... happy unpacking to me.
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