PB & J Review: Just A Duck? & “I’m A Nut”

Happy Friday! ūüôā

I’m starting a new blog post series called “PB & J” Reviews, which stands for “Picture Book & Jam (think music) Reviews”. I read up to 25 books to the munchkins on a weekly basis and I also listen to kiddie music every single day (semi-groan), so I thought I’d share some fun finds that are worth your time to check out. (And just FYI, I don’t get anything from doing these reviews; I’m just sharing these products because I like them.) So here we go!

Picture Book Review: Today’s picture book is Just A Duck? by Carin Bramsen. You can buy it here¬†on Amazon.com or check it out at your friendly neighborhood library (which is where we get all our books for free!). What drew me to this book were the pictures. For example:

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You really need to see this book up close and personal to get the full WOW effect!

Not only are the pictures amazingly cute, they are so life-like. The duck’s fur just pops out from the page and the water droplets look real enough to make you want to grab an umbrella! The story, about a duck who thinks he is a cat, is just as charming and engaging. As¬†you can guess, C (and her chick) loved the book. This would be a great springtime read for toddlers and kindergarteners.

Jam Review: Today’s jam¬†is “I’m A Nut”. This is a short song told from the perspective of an acorn (hence the title). I think E and C like it simply for the one line, “I’m a nut.” ūüôā I like listening to it in the car on those days the munchkins drive me a little nutty. ūüėČ

Let me know what you think of today’s PB & J Review!

3 Kiddie Crafts to Ring in Spring

Although we’ve had a few “summery” winter days recently here in California, today is officially¬†the first day of spring! ūüôā I thought I’d share some craft ideas to help you and your kiddos ring in allergy season. ūüėČ Here are 3 things C and I made¬†over the past few weeks that remind me of spring:

1. Sock Chick. C needed to make a 3-D farm animal for school, so she (of course) chose a chick. After wandering around the dollar store for ideas, we came across a yellow sock that got our creative juices flowing. All the other supplies were from the dollar store as well; the only other things you need are stuffing, a needle and thread, and a glue gun.

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Supplies: a yellow sock, pack of googly eyes, pack of foam to cut out beak and feet, fake flowers for feathers, and fake hay and basket for a nest. (Hula hoop for decoration and entertainment purposes only). ūüėČ

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Ta-da! ūüėÄ

2. Rice Krispy Chicks. Speaking of chicks, C got a box of DIY rice krispy chicks from my sister (which I believe she found at Cost Plus World Market). They were super easy to make and fun to decorate. (Note: I decided to err on the side of caution and forego the fluorescent yellow dye powder that had Made in China imprinted on the bag, as well as the candy eyes also from my homeland. For the sake of our health, we used chocolate chips for the eyes instead.) And yes, C did allow us to eat them when we were done (which was not the case last year when she wanted to buy a package of yellow Peeps; those sat untouched in our fridge for months).

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Cheep, cheep, cheep!

3. Fruit Drawings.¬†This was a craft C did¬†on¬†a field trip to a children’s museum last week. The idea was to choose some laminated pictures of fruit, trace them and create your own person/animal/creature out of them.

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The bright colors definitely make me think of spring!

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C’s round creature coming to life.

I hope these crafts got¬†you in the mood for this new season. And here’s something else that will get you feelin’ like a spring chicken¬†– “Rockin’ Robin” by The Jackson 5. ūüôā

What do you love most about springtime?

Writing in the Dark

Most nights you can find me propped up on my elbows as I type away on a laptop which sits on a small folding table beside my bed. Pop music flows through my earbuds as my fingers dance by the light of the keyboard and screen. For a few hours I get to be in my own world and develop story lines and create conversations between imaginary characters. Sounds fun, right? But the best part is, I get to do all this in the dark.

Who else can say they have a job they can do in almost complete darkness? (Okay, so maybe writers and engineers do have something in common.) ūüėČ

It dawned on me that writing in the dark has grown from being a literal process for me to a figurative one as well. There’s a quote I came across¬†that explains this:

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While some authors like to map out¬†their whole book ahead of time, I prefer¬†to (in my short stint thus far as a writer) go with the flow. (I wish I could say I’ve changed¬†my perfectionistic, controlling ways, but I think this spontaneity is due more in part to laziness!) As I write, I have a general idea of where I’d like the story to go and fill in the details as I head in that direction.¬†I’m discovering that as long as I stay true to each character’s personality, I can find his/her motivations for doing and saying things and develop the storyline accordingly.

What I’ve come to realize through this process is that while people are complicated, they are also predictable. We tend to stay on the same road we’re used to traveling, especially because we live in the “dark”, seeing only¬†one day at a time. We rarely consider changing our ways due to a fear of the unknown. It’s only when something pops¬†into view in the glow of¬†our “headlights” and grabs our attention do we realize we need to slow down, swerve or switch¬†lanes.

I’m all for those attention-grabbing moments of life because that’s when change¬†occurs in a person’s heart and mind. That’s why I love writing about internal makeovers and second chances on this blog, as well as in my fiction books.

Yep, I typed the plural form of¬†books because I’m currently working on my second novella. Somehow, by God’s grace and the fuel¬†of caffeine, I have been cranking¬†out a story in the wee hours of the night for the past seven months.¬†This time around, however, the process has been much faster and easier (for the most part) in comparison to the first time.¬†I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that I’m a tiny¬†bit more experienced. I don’t find it so intimidating to put words down because I know it’s better to have something written than nothing written at all. I’ve also learned how to navigate around those bumps in the road (aka. writer’s block) and what to do to get those creative juices¬†flowing again. Most importantly, I realize¬†that if I persevere and keep my foot on the gas pedal and my eyes on the lit path¬†before me, I will eventually arrive at my destination.

I’m on the last stretch of this book, which features two characters (Ben and Melanie) from my first book. I’m even more excited about this story than my¬†first one¬†and, oddly enough,¬†actually want people to read it! So, stay tuned for a cover reveal in the next month or so! ūüôā

Now, take a listen to one of the pop songs I’ve been playing¬†on repeat this week, Carly Rae Jepsen’s “I Really Like You”. It features Tom Hanks (Wilsoooon!) as the lead in the music video!

What life experiences have you been through that have been similar to driving in the dark? 

When Life Doesn’t Have an Easy Button

C and I were at Staples the other day and she stopped at a bin of items and pulled one out. It was the store’s “Easy Button”. She placed her pint-sized hand on the red dome and pressed it, causing a prerecorded voice to proclaim, “That was easy.” She pressed it again (and again), and in between my efforts to pry her away from the button, I thought to myself,¬†It sure would be nice to have an “Easy Button” in life.

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If only.

Not too long ago, hubby and I had returned home from an evening out to learn that E had totally blown up at C and had left her crying on the stairs by herself. I promptly talked to the munchkins and found out the details and then told E he owed his sister an apology – like now. Of course, being the stubborn strong-willed child that he is, he refused. And being the stubborn person that I¬†am (hm, I wonder where E got it from?), I didn’t want to lose the battle.¬†But it was getting late and I could tell from E’s stony expression that he was not going to budge, so I decided to let it drop – for now.¬†

I brought up the fight again the following day and reminded E that he still needed to apologize for yelling at C. His silence confirmed he was still stewing over the situation, but a little while later C came up to me with a big smile and announced, “E said sorry!”

WHEW!

I went over to E, gave him a hug and said I was proud of him. He pulled away and said in a defeated tone, “I wish we didn’t have Mei (little sister). It would be easier if we didn’t have her.”

I heard his words and wanted to scream, “Hello, do you not remember how much fun you guys have together? She’s your best friend. She even went back to playing with you last night after you yelled at her and before you said sorry!” Instead, I tried to hear the frustration behind his words and said, “Just because something’s easy doesn’t mean it’s better.”

Whoa. In that instant I felt like I was talking to myself. Because in the 8 plus¬†years that I’ve been E’s mama, life has not been easy. Not one bit. He is our type A, highly sensitive, particular, demanding and intense high need child. Things that are¬†easy for most other kids, such as going to a new place or experiencing a change in routine, can be earth-shaking for him (and us).

I admit I have wished on more than one occasion that he could be more flexible and more easy-going. In other words, I have wished¬†he could be less “him”. But as hubby has so graciously reminded me, “E didn’t ask to be this way.” No, this is how God created him to be. And my wanting him to be different is really for my benefit, not his.

Like E, I want the easy way out.¬†I’d rather sail on calm seas¬†with a blue, cloudless sky overhead and the sun shining down. The last thing I want is to get thrown overboard into the choppy, cold water and be expected to swim to shore.

But just because something’s easy doesn’t mean it’s better.

Because it’s through adversity that we grow stronger. It’s through life’s ups and downs that we mature.

This past weekend I was so proud to be E’s mama. We had driven over an hour to take him to a¬†regional spelling bee competition. But before he had even spelled one word, I was already amazed to see him sitting confidently among the other 2nd graders.¬†I couldn’t believe how far he had come. This was the same kid who had never ventured¬†outside¬†a¬†room without¬†me until he was 18 months old. This was the same kid who had sat through an entire preschool performance with his back turned to the audience. He was the same kid who had won his class spelling bee last year, but stepped down as the¬†class representative because he didn’t want to advance to the next round. He was the one who confessed he had intentionally misspelled a word in this year’s class spelling bee because he didn’t want to attend the regional competition (turns out his class did 5 rounds and he still won the most). But there he was stepping up to the microphone and speaking in a loud and clear voice like he had been born to do it.

Hubby and I knew better though. We know how much patience, endurance, sweat and tears we’ve poured into helping E grow into the amazing person he’s turning out to be. We’ve seen him grow more brave and even enjoy performing on stage now. We’ve seen how he’s becoming more flexible and willing to try new things. Because of all this, we also know how sweet and satisfying (albeit hard) the journey has been.

After all these lessons learned, I’m more¬†okay that there’s no¬†“Easy Button” in life. I think what I’d¬†rather have is a “That was worth it” one.¬†¬†ūüôā

Take a listen to OneRepublic’s song, “I Lived”. The lyrics talk about facing challenges and living every day to the fullest.

What challenges have been worth facing and persevering through in your life?