Monday, March 31, 2014

The Joy of Opening Day

Today is Opening Day in baseball world.

And despite cartoons like this:
We can still be friends if you had no idea and couldn't care less.

Not everyone is a baseball fan and that's OK. (The fact that everyone is not a Reds fan is a problem, but we'll deal with that another time.)
So, you're one of those "Opening Day for what?" people and you want to know why we care? Glad you asked:
1. Opening Day is a new start. No matter what your team did last year, on Opening Day you're undefeated.

2. Opening Day is a reminder of why you like the game. The energy is positive. The fans are happy. No one (well, almost no one) is complaining about the umps, the manager, the pitching staff, or that guy that should have stolen second.

3. Opening Day is a leveler. Even if your team won the world series last year, they have to start again this year.
 Now forgive me for getting all introspective on life, but there's a reason sports metaphors are so popular. (Don't worry, there won't be any math or sports trivia on this section of the quiz.)

Maybe last season in your life was rough. Maybe you struck out more than you connected. Maybe you warmed the bench, never quite figuring out your place. Maybe a teammate had more success than you, more accolades than you, or even just more fun playing the game.
This is why we have Opening Day. Last season, for better or worse, is in the record books. Spring Training is over and done. No more practice, no more hypotheticals. Now is the time. This is a new season and you can try again. Get off the bench. Aim for the thing you missed last year. Work harder. Enjoy it.
As long as you are on this earth, God is giving you a new season. The thing about life is, even if you messed up yesterday, you can try again today. You can declare, "Opening Day. Starting now."

Today is your Opening Day. Greet it with joy.
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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Weekend Links - March 29, 2014

I cannot believe March is almost over. That means April is upon us. And then May will be here before you know it and my baby boy will be {gulp} ONE YEAR OLD.

Time is a tricksy, nasty thing. [/gollumvoice]

I'll have my existential crisis on my own time, now for the regularly scheduled linkage:

Spiritual / Inner Life
Marriage / Parenting
Friendship / Other Relationships
Made Me Laugh
Everything Else
I didn't do any original blogging this week. I spent my blogging time going back through old posts, sprucing many of them up or adding graphics. Whether that adds any value to my blog is yet to be seen but I can tell you it was fun reading through those old posts. Sweet Pea (now 7) was the baby then. Tigger was the strong-willed toddler. I was figuring out this parenting, homeschooling, how to be a well-rounded person, how to blog thing.

The more life changes, the more it stays the same.

Well, what caught your eye this week?
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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Weekend Links - March 22, 2014

Ugh. So far this Saturday is not going my way. Maybe it will improve now that I can actually sit down and share some links with you.

Spiritual / Inner Life
Marriage / Parenting
Homeschooling / Education
Blogging / Writing
For Fun
  • 11 French Travel Trips for Visiting America from Mental Floss."It is mandatory to have a smile or a little 'how cute' tilt to your head if you come across a child or pet. Even if they are ugly."
  • 23 Mind Blowing Facts from Distractify.  (OK, didn't agree with #19 or #22 but "21 Mind Blowing Facts about Time" is still pretty good.)
Just one more thing: my daughter's Kickstarter is ending in less than 3 days. She still needs to raise $959 (that's around 28 more backers) to make her board game a reality. Can you check it out? And help spread the word here in the last couple of days? Thanks so much! Here's where you can find out more: Tiger Stripes by Game Salute.

So, what caught your eye this week?
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Friday, March 21, 2014

Learning Lessons Taught By a Cat

So, one thing that came with the house we bought last December, is a cat. She's an outside cat, her name is Sam (Sammy, Sammy Kitty, Kitty, etc.), she's gentle and has so far been a fairly delightful pet.

One annoying thing: cat sounds at night.

Last night was one such night. The yowling (no way does "meow" begin to cover the sound) was becoming sustained and ridiculous. There are doors to our deck in our bedroom. Sam sleeps in a little house right outside our bedroom.

My thought process went something like this:

A. We have a cat that lives on our deck.
B. There are cat sounds coming from our deck.

If A & B are both true (they are), then our cat is being annoying.
Logical conclusion: yell at cat to knock it off.

So I opened the door and scolded our cat (I did not yell, because: neighbors.)

I believe I said something like this, in my sternest voice (and trust me, I can do stern): "Sammy! Knock it off!"

Then my silent cat jumped down from her perch on our deck furniture and ran over to me. And I noticed another furry body on our deck, with eyes gleaming at me in the darkness.

I had scolded the wrong cat.

Some cat that didn't belong on our deck was there, howling at our cat. Our cat, being the gentle and, it must be said, fraidy-cat  that she is, was avoiding this intruder. (And before you jump to another logical conclusion, let me assure you that our cat is "fixed" and no, there will not be any Sammy Babies running around our deck.)

Philip had to come help me encourage the intruding cat to leave the premises. (Hey, it was night time and I was ready for bed. I had only intended to scold a cat, not chase one.)

Now, 12+ years of parenting have prepared me to learn some humbling lessons from my children. This was one of the first instances of learning a lesson from my pet.

The logic was sound. The conclusion was valid.

And yet, I got it wrong. There was an unknown quantity, this time in the form of a rogue, unexpected feline.

But how often do I get it wrong in other, non-cat related ways? I'm an INTJ or ISTJ personality type. I like logic and order. (I also over-think everything, but that can be a positive if it sometimes results in a blogpost. Ahem.) I like conclusions and answers and certainty.

There's nothing wrong with that, necessarily. But it could become wrong. Because, alas, I do not know everything. I don't understand everyone's motivation. There are factors I haven't counted.

Lately, there have been some issues bugging me. They've nagged at my brain and taken up space. I've thought about them too much. I'm trying to wrestle out conclusions and, here's the part it's hard for me to accept: there may not be a logical conclusion to some of these issues. There may be an unexpected cat. Then there's the possibility that in some of these instances, my part might be the unexpected cat for other people involved.

I'm all for applying logic. I think our world would be greatly improved if some folks could engage their logical thinking skills and give their feelings (sing with me now: "FEEEEEEELIIIIIIINGS!") a break.

But maybe, in our dealings with each other, we can show grace. We can save the stern dressing down for later, or never. We can assume that there is something we don't know, something we don't see, something we haven't encountered before, and therefore proceed with the caution and kindness we hope others will show us.

I didn't exactly apologize to Sammy. She is, after all, a cat. But you can be sure I'll check next time before I start scolding her. There may just be another cat.

A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness. Proverbs 15:1-2 KJV

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Homeschoolers are Coming!

GHC Registration
Don't worry, it's just for the Midwest Homeschool Convention. When the end of April rolls around, you'll find thousands of Moms, Dads, teenagers, kids, and strollers roaming the convention center and nearby streets downtown.

We'll be listening to great speakers, meeting up for lunches, fueling ourselves with Starbucks, and browsing the huge vendor hall. Seriously. Wear comfy shoes because your feet will be done before you are if you don't.

You can go to the Ultimate Homeschool Convention Guide hosted at The Homeschool Village if you'd like to see other posts about planning for and making the most of a homeschool convention.

What I'd like to share is what else you can see and do while you're here. This is what I would recommend if you were coming to visit me here.
Good eats:
1. Skyline Chili. You might have heard people talk about Cincinnati chili. Here's the thing: it might not be what you expect when you hear the word "chili". It's thinner and sweeter than other chili. And it's usually served over spaghetti, with cheddar cheese on top. That's called a "three way". You can add beans and onions, too, so you might hear folks ordering a "four way" or a "five way". There are many "Cincinnati Chili" restaurants around but Skyline is a chain, so you'll see many locations and it's also my favorite.

2. LaRosa's Pizza. The convention center has a small LaRosa's inside the vendor hall. It's over priced and the lines can be long. Don't let that be your only impression of this Cincinnati staple. The pizzas are good (I always choose the hand-tossed crust since the traditional is super thin and not my favorite), but they also have good sandwiches and salads. We usually order the Family Tossed Salad with the LaRosa's Family Recipe Italian dressing on the side and there is never any leftover.

3. Montgomery Inn. A bit pricier of an option, but the ribs are amazing. And the desserts are over the top fantastic, if you have room left (you won't).

4. Frisch's Big Boy. A comfort food favorite. Burgers, amazing onion rings, and a simple vegetable soup. Unfortunately serving Pepsi now. Ordering a cheeseburger, cup of vegetable soup, and Vanilla Coke used to be my go-to quick meal. No longer - now I'm a "just water please" girl since Vanilla Pepsi is NOT THE SAME THING. Sorry about that. We locals are still processing this change. Frisch's is still a good choice if you just want a basic meal. There are so many locations, you're bound to see one while you're here.

5. Graeter's Ice Cream. This ice cream is so much better than most other ice creams, it seems almost a shame to call anything else ice cream. There's a location just a few blocks from the convention center and you should definitely walk on over every chance you get at least once. Just a warning: one scoop is the equivalent of most other place's two scoops. The Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip is mentioned a lot when people start talking about their favorite flavor, but really, they're all good.

So, if you decide to come for the convention and spend a few extra days here, what else should you see?
1. The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens are world famous. You can get a group discount if you have 15 people. Don't miss Manatee Springs, our Tigger's favorite place to be. The giraffe canyon is another favorite spot. And try to make at least one of the special animal encounters.

2. Cincinnati Museum Center in Union Terminal. There are actually several museums in this one amazing building. I highly recommend the children's museum.

3. The Cincinnati Reds. The Reds won't be playing in town during the convention, but if you have a baseball fan you might want to check out The Great American Ballpark and the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum.

4. Kings Island is just a short drive north of Cincinnati. It has some amazing roller coasters and a nice area with rides for the younger set. It's opening for the season April 18 and it will only be open the days of the convention (Friday and Saturday), so you might just have to plan to come back and visit us again.

5. If you're a Christian you might want to check out the Creation Museum. It's a fun, informative experience for the entire family. The petting zoo and gardens, while not large, are a favorite for my family. You might even get to ride a camel. Try to see a show in the planetarium, too. It's incredibly inspiring. The best part: kids are free in 2014. (And the petting zoo / gardens are always free.)

For the convention I recommend you bring:
1. A notebook & pen. Old school is best sometimes. Sure you can bring gadgets too, but don't forget the notebook and pens.
2. A rolling cart or suitcase. Bags of curriculum are heavy and sometimes flimsy. Plus you don't want your feet AND your hands hurting. Ask me how I know.
3. Bottled water. This is one complaint I've heard from an out of town convention attendee - there's no one handing out bottled water. It's true - most likely no one is going to hand you free water. There are water fountains around, but if you want bottled water, prepare to buy it at the Starbucks in the lobby or bring it from home.
4. Phone / gadget charger. Nothing like trying to meet up with your family when your cell battery is dead.
5. Snacks. Food inside the convention center is mostly overpriced and the lines can be crazy long. You can find a decent meal for not too much money outside the convention center (Panera, Chipotle, and others are located a few blocks away) but you might want to be prepared with a few granola bars or something to hold off mealtime.

So, have you visited Cincinnati? What are your favorite tips for enjoying a homeschool convention?
If you're thinking about attending the MidWest Homeschool Convention - and let me know if you are, I'd love to meet you in person! - please consider using my affiliate link. Thanks! See my disclosure page for more about affiliate links.
GHC Registration
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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Weekend Links - March 15, 2014

First, please don't forget the giveaway over at my husband's blog: Tiger Stripes Contest. You can help support my daughter's game and possibly win one of my husband's games. (If you're wondering what we get out of this, the answer is nothing. Any money made - and we're not talking big bucks here -  would be our daughter's. This is her baby, not ours. We just want to see her dream become reality.)

Thanks so much for all of you who have already pledged or helped us spread the word. It means a lot to us.

Now, for our regularly scheduled linkage:

Spiritual / Inner Life
Marriage / Parenting
Homeschooling / Education
Possibly Controversial or Political
Made Me Smile This Week
To see my homemaking related links, check here: Creative and Domestic.
So, what caught your eye this week?
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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Book Review: The Power of a Half Hour

The Power of a Half Hour: Take Back Your Life Thirty Minutes at a TimeThe Power of a Half Hour: Take Back Your Life Thirty Minutes at a Time by Tommy Barnett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Practical, encouraging reminder that good things can be planned and completed in very limited amounts of time. The author's style is engaging, optimistic, and upbeat. This reader got the idea that he has far more ideas and energy than he has time to use.

I appreciated the single page summary at the end of the book content. Then there's a section of "Personal Power of a Half Hour Action Plans". These include short chapter summaries and steps to follow. I would have appreciated these coming at the end of their respective chapters instead of all at the end, but that's just personal style preference.

The book also includes a small-group study guide which can be completed in a half hour a week. These additions to the book are great resources.

The only drawback of the book for me: the author and I would not agree on several major points of doctrine. I found myself turned off by some of the name-dropping and aspects that smacked of a prosperity gospel which are sprinkled throughout.

That little disclaimer aside, I recommend this book. Don't just let your time slip away: use it purposely for good!

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this honest review.
View all my reviews

For more information about this book:
The author's website: Tommy Barnett.
Sneak Peak: video about The Power of a Half Hour.
To order: The Power of a Half Hour by Tommy Barnett.
This book is also available for Kindle:The Power of a Half Hour: Take Back Your Life Thirty Minutes at a Time

This post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure page for more about this.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Bit of This, Bit of That Tuesday

(Because Miscellany Monday is over, don't you know)

1. The Tiger Stripes campaign is on going. My husband has started a contest in support of this game, so you could end up with a game by my daughter AND a game by my husband. (Just leave him a comment on that post.)

2. The past couple of days have been warm enough for the girls to go outside. SO WONDERFUL. Even with all the mud and leaves they're tracking in on my brand new floors. Still so very wonderful. Snow in the forecast for tomorrow but trying not to dwell on that, it would only steal the joy of today which is sunny, warm and SO WONDERFUL!

3. Anyone else like to admit to responding this way to their child's repeated question of "What are we going to do tomorrow?"

I have one child in particular that asks so often that I've started automatically replying, "Same thing we do every day, Pinky." Sunday night she actually answered, "You mean we're going to try to take over the WORLD?!"

I have awesome kids.

4. This is a great book and a great deal:

Only $2.99 for Kindle right now. I actually paid full price for this book a year or two ago and I NEVER pay full price for books. Now that we're settled I can't wait to start, you know, homesteading. Or whatever.

5. Have you seen my new kitchen yet? See this post for recent pics. So far we've hosted a birthday party and had my parents, brother, and a missionary family over for Sunday lunch. It's been so nice to be able to have the space (and the unpacked dishes) to have others over.

What are you doing on this lovely Tuesday?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Weekend Links - March 8, 2014

Bet you thought I wouldn't have a link post this week, right? Well, better late than never. And, alas, with time change, this is quite a bit later than I would like. I should be in bed right now!

Spiritual / Inner Life
Creativity / Writing
Just for fun because it made me laugh: Sleep Guidelines Reminder by The Honest Toddler. The iBoy may not be a toddler yet but he's got the "Wakey, wakey" thing down.

Interesting article since we happen to be talking about time: How Much Is Time Wrong Around the World? from The Poor Man's Math Blog.

If you have time for one more link, please check out my post: Earn Your Stripes (and My Appreciation). It means a lot to my daughter and therefore it means a whole lot to me.

So, what caught your eye this week?
This post is linked here:

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Earn Your Stripes (And My Appreciation)

Let me tell you a story:

Once upon a time (good stories usually start that way, right?), a little girl played board games with her dad. She watched him design new games. She went to game conventions with him. (Did you know there are such things?)

One day, without prompting from her parents, she announced, "I made a game."

It looked like this:
The game was about a tiger with no stripes trying to earn stripes by eating food. The tiger also wanted to collect jewels, because, duh. Everyone would love to collect jewels.

Her game designing daddy helped her refine her game. He helped her create new boards and packaging.

Then the game looked like this:
Her parents told her they would help her print this game for people to buy, but she had to pay for it herself. So, she dipped into her savings and paid for a print run and for the boxes to ship the game.

Then it looked like this:
She sold enough to family and friends to actually break even and make a small profit.

Then, over a year (and maybe more like 2) later, her game designing dad showed her game to a  company that had picked up some of his games for production.

They liked it. They agreed to develop it a bit more and then offer it for sale, as the girl said, "For really real."

Now, three years after the first little hand drawn tigers and handwritten rules, the game looks like this:
It's still the same (slightly improved but not significantly changed) game, but seriously, how cute is that?!

So exciting!

Here's where you come in: the game is being introduced on Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a crowd-funding site where people pre-order a project, providing the money for the project to happen. If the campaign is successful, you get your product once it's produced. If the campaign isn't successful, you don't lose any money.

We would really love to see her game succeed. My game designing husband tells me that most successful Kickstarters are funded within the first 24 hours. We've missed that window. Now we need your help to be the exception to that rule. This campaign is running through March 25, so there's still plenty of time to spread the word.

Could you please, pretty please, share this with your friends? A pledge of $35 - in the US - gets you your very own copy of Tiger Stripes. (OK, starting to feel like PBS or NPR here. Sorry, no tote bags currently available.)

Yeah, I know, $35 is kind of steep for a kids' game. But that price includes shipping. Game Salute is promising delivery by February 2015. I know that seems like a long time, but they hope it will be out sooner, they just don't want to make a delivery promise they can't keep. The nice thing about birthdays and Christmas is they roll around each year. Order now and have your birthday presents for 2015 already covered. (How organized of you!)

So that's the story. You can help it have a happy ending by sharing this post (or a link to the Kickstarter campaign) with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or whatever social media you prefer, and it would be really great if you could order a copy for your family's game stash. It would make a 12 year old girl I know really happy.
Want to know more about my game designing family?
You can find my husband's game page here: Phantasio Games.
And his Facebook page here: Phantasio Games.
Don't forget, the Kickstarter for Tiger Stripes is here:

Monday, March 3, 2014

Books of 2014 - February

1. Write Good or Die. Nonfiction edited by Scott Nicholson. Free for Kindle. Covers all aspects of writing, from getting ideas to publishing, promoting, and pricing. Great advice and you can't beat the price.

2. My Man Jeeves. Fiction by P.G. Wodehouse. My Goodreads review: Great fun. This is the first Wodehouse I've read through. The short stories made it an easy bedtime read. Love the use of language and turns of phrase. I think I actually laughed out loud while reading this one.

Recommended for: fans of British humor, fans of funny (rather than gothic or tragic) short stories.

Free for Kindle:My Man Jeeves(Yes, I love free books.)

3. Right Ho, Jeeves. Fiction by P.G. Wodehouse. More fun and games. Full length, instead of a story collection. (Did find myself feeling rather sorry for Bertie in this one, and I'm not sure that's the reaction the author was going for.)

Yes, you guessed it, free for Kindle:Right Ho, Jeeves

4. Archetype. Fiction by M.D. Waters. My Goodreads review: Compelling story but not as clever as I would have liked. Rather too many scenes better suited to a romance novel for my taste. Still, it's provocative in good ways and hard to put down while you're immersed in the story.

The main character grew on me, although I found her dreams (memories?) to be less interesting as the book went on. I never did find myself attached to either main male character. So, not exactly a home-run but I think I'll be reading the follow-up book when it comes out this summer.

Recommended for: sci-fi fans, dystopian fiction fans.

5. Goners. Nonfiction by Gordon Kerr. Quite the odd lineup. Monsters and princesses and Hollywood royalty and a few folks I'd never heard of. I suppose the recent death of Philip Seymour Hoffman might be one reason this book jumped out at me at the library.

Recommended for: the morbidly curious.

6. The Complete Stories. Fiction by Flannery O'Connor. Not necessarily easy and not necessarily enjoyable but completely unforgettable. Whether you like them or not (and honestly I mostly did not), these stories will grab your mind and resonate there for longer than you might think possible. Flannery O'Connor is one of a kind.

Several of these caused me to run online and see what smarter folks than I have thought. "But what does it MEAN?!" is pretty much how I reacted after most of the stories.

Also available for Kindle: The Complete Stories, and that is the format I'd suggest because I had the paperback and it was heavy and unwieldy. Not great bedtime reading, for a variety of reasons. (I can't imagine what kind of dreams you might have after reading O'Connor!)

Recommended for: folks who are curious about the recent Flannery O'Connor resurgence, fans of Southern Gothic literature. Stories just don't get more Gothic than this.

7. A Man Lay Dead. Fiction by Ngaio Marsh. First in the Inspector Alleyn series, but I had somehow missed this one. When I found I could check it out from our library to my Kindle, I snapped it up. The expected good fun, although I did miss Detective Inspector Fox and Agatha Troy.

Totals for February: 7
Fiction: 5
Nonficiton: 2

What did you read in February?

You can find me on Goodreads:
my read shelf:
Karen's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)
Or you can help support my book habit by using one of the following affiliate links (see my disclosure page for more about this):
Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Weekend Links - March 1, 2014

Yeah, I totally wrote "February" when I started this post. 'Cause how can it be March already?! Time flies when you're having fun (or when you're watching your baby boy grow up. TEN months today!)

Links for you:

Spiritual / Inner Life
Marriage / Parenting
Homeschooling / Education
What caught your eye this week?
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