Happy, Happy


When your husband is traveling for most of the month (only one week left to go!) and your boys are in several activities, sometimes it’s best to admit you’re overwhelmed.

The boys have swim practice M-F for two hours in the early morning. I’m thankful because we avoid the heat–though I still had to take Nico to the urgent care on Tuesday for dehydration–but it does take sleeping in over summer vacation out of the equation. To top it off, the boys both had choir, piano, and clarinet in the evenings. Last week I cancelled all music activities until September. Yesterday, we skipped swim.

Nothing terrible happened when I admitted I was struggling.

No one was upset with me for cancelling activities. I don’t mean the boys. I mean the instructors.

Sometimes it really is the little things, like cancelling an activity or finding a breakfast both boys love. I don’t know how I came up with this chocolate shake/smoothie, but it’s the one thing the boys will both eat. This is key when you have early morning swim practice. I mix two cups of dark chocolate almond milk (Silk brand), two frozen bananas, 1-2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder, and two-three tablespoons of natural unsweetened peanut butter. They’ve been having it daily for a while now, which is such a blessing. Usually I can get them to eat something, oatmeal, for example, for a couple of days before they’d rather starve than eat breakfast.

Little things. Important. Off to swim practice.

Have a great weekend!

Newbery Challenge | Sarah, Plain and Tall (1986)

Newbery Challenge | Sarah, Plain and Tall (1986)Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
Published by HarperCollins on 2013-06-25
Genres: Classics, Family, Farm & Ranch Life, Lifestyles, Stepfamilies, Young Adult
Pages: 96
AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo four-stars
"Did Mama sing every day?" Caleb asks his sister Anna.

"Every-single-day," she answers. "Papa sang, too."

This Newbery Medal–winning book is the first of five books in Patricia MacLachlan's chapter book series about the Witting family. Set in the late nineteenth century and told from young Anna's point of view, Sarah, Plain and Tall tells the story of how Sarah Elisabeth Wheaton comes from Maine to the prairie to answer Papa's advertisement for a wife and mother. Before Sarah arrives, Anna and her younger brother Caleb wait and wonder. Will Sarah be nice? Will she sing? Will she stay?

This children's literature classic is perfect for fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie books, historical fiction, and timeless stories using rich and beautiful language. Sarah, Plain and Tall gently explores themes of abandonment, loss and love.

Supports the Common Core State Standards


I was going into 9th grade when Sarah, Plain and Tall came out. The book didn’t interest me and was below my reading level. At that age, reading to level is very important. Once you hit the adult stacks, you don’t go back! It would have been a different story if this book came out when I was in the 4th grade. The synopsis is correct. If you loved the Little House series, you’ll love Sarah, Plain and Tall. I loved the Little House series.

I tried all year long to sell the Little House series to the students, but few of them were interested in trying the books. I can think of two reasons why this was the case. One, they look old fashioned and kids want new and glossy. The Little House series isn’t packaged with the slick cover art that is so popular today.

Two, the series is challenging for some of the elementary school kids. The language is old fashioned and prairie life is so far removed for the kids that they can’t relate. Many of them don’t have the critical thinking skills to realize that setting doesn’t always matter in a book. A young girl growing up during the 1800s experiences the same successes and defeats as one growing up 200 years later, but all they’re wondering is what a churn is, and what it has to do with butter. I won’t even touch Manly’s head cheese.

This book, though, I think I can get quite a few kids to read. I’m going to sell it to the 4th grade kids at the beginning of the year and the 3rd graders at the end of the year. The book is slim and shouldn’t take a child more than a coule of days to read. And adult can read it in 1-2 hours. Of course, it also appeals to those who like historical fiction. The language is easy, the point of the story direct. Like Sarah, the book is plain but also special. Sarah, a plain and tall spinster, changed the life of a small Midwestern family in one short visit. I’m hoping this book does the same for my students by opening the door to lifelong reading. All it takes is one child and one book.

Artwork by Elizabeth Metz is available at Image Kind.

Buddy Beagle

Birthday Boy!

Our Buddy turned 14 years old on July 17th! He’s blind in one eye, can’t really hear, and his back legs are giving him trouble, but he wags his tail when he sees us and he loves his walks. Looooooves his walks. Sure, we only walk 4 houses down the street but he is in his glory walking those 4 houses.

Mikey isn’t dumb. He saw what happened to Buster and he knows 14 years is a long life for a dog. For about a month now he’s been planning a birthday lunch for Buddy at Lazy Dog Cafe. We all thought it was a great idea.

Lazy Dog Cafe

Waiting and watching

We sat outside on the patio. There were dogs at every table, which was awesome. Buddy was content to people/puppy watch while we waited for lunch


Steamed brown rice and grilled chicken! He loved it.

Mikey and Buddy

The birthday boy and his event coordinator.

Birthday Ice Cream

The staff at Lazy Dog Cafe was so, so nice. Buddy was showered with compliments (they aren’t allowed to touch the dogs) and after lunch, they broke the rules a bit and gave him a scoop of ice cream with a candle. I mean, honestly. Buddy was over the moon. When we got home, he walked over to his favorite spot in the family room and slipped into a food coma.

Week 2

Week 2

Week 2, b

Week 2, c

Week 2, d

Week 2, e

Week 2, f

Week 2, g

There were a few late nights where I really didn’t want to do yoga in my cramped family room on stinky carpet while Buddy sniffed at me and Mikey and Nico argued about who touched whose piece of lint. On those days, I went on walks. Peaceful, solitary walks. I suddenly fell in love with walking again, so this week I didn’t do any yoga. I think yoga needs to be an early morning activity for me to do it with any sort of regularity. I’m thinking of setting up a little yoga area in my room. This way I can do my yoga first thing in the morning, on hardwood floors, without man or beast driving me nuts.

A few of the days I walked were thick like pea soup. So, so muggy! Horrible. Yuck. I can handle triple digit weather, but humidity is something else. People talk about the fiery depths of hell and how hot it is, but I suspect it’s really central Florida in August. Hell is your shirt sticking to your back.

Listening To: PITBULL featuring T-Pain & Sean Paul

I was in the mood for Latin music this week, so I played Shake Señora by Pitbull. It was my fastest walk this year.

The House of Tomorrow

The House of TomorrowThe House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni
Published by Penguin on 2010-03-04
Genres: Adolescence, Family, Fiction, Literary, Young Adult
Pages: 368
AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo three-stars
Sebastian Prendergast lives with his eccentric grandmother in a geodesic dome. His homeschooling has taught him much-but he's learned little about girls, junk food, or loud, angry music.

Then fate casts Sebastian out of the dome, and he finds a different kind of tutor in Jared Whitcomb: a chain-smoking sixteen-year-old heart transplant recipient who teaches him the ways of rebellion. Together they form a punk band and plan to take the local church talent show by storm. But when his grandmother calls him back to the futurist life she has planned for him, he must decide whether to answer the call-or start a future of his own.


I read a book from my unread library. I don’t know what possessed me to pick a book from the dozens and dozens of books I have collecting dust in my bookcases when I could have gone and spent money on three books, only one of which I’d read. I broke my system for a book about being different.

The House of Tomorrow
is a book I bought two years ago on Rachel’s recommendation. I couldn’t resist a book that hit upon favorites like coming of age, punk music, clever dialogue, and teenage boys. Here is where I make clear that I enjoy reading about teenage boys circumventing that awkward man-boy phase and gaining a sense of identity because I am the mother of two boys. I don’t like reading about teenage boys because I’m on the prowl.

This is a story about misfits. Sebastian lives in a geodesic dome with his intelligent and eccentric grandmother, who is obsessed with the deceased geodesic designer and futurist, Buckminster Fuller. Thanks to a convenient coincidence, he meets Jared Whitcomb, an angry boy with a serious medical condition and passion for punk music.

Sebastian’s grandmother listens to a CDs of whale songs of the Pacific, so Sebastian his first experience with punk rockers, the ultimate misfits of society, is visceral.

This time Jared went to his closet an took out a hard black plastic case. He unbuckled it and pulled out a dark blue guitar shaped like an upside-down V. I have never seen anything resembling it. It gleamed. On the side of the strings were thin airbrushed lightning bolts. He set the guitar in my hands.

“Be careful,” he said. “Don’t drop it.”

The plastic was cold in my hands. I gripped the neck and let the V sit across my legs. He went to the closet and pulled out a small amplifier and a cord.

“You are now holding probably the most badass ax ever,” he said.

He plugged everything in and a small hum escaped the amplifier when he flicked it on. “It has dual-fucking-humbuckers,” he continued, “a compound-radius fingerboard, and twenty-four jumbo frets. It will, if played right, melt your face off.”

“Do you play it at church?” I asked.

“Hell no, I do not play it at church,” he said. “It would probably piss off God so much, he’d have to blow up the chapel or something.”

While he spoke he arranged the fingers of my left hand on the hard metal strings. He pressed my fingers down once they were in place, and a pain shot through my hand.

Sebastian and Jared form a punk band and live for the present. Jared’s mother and sister are stuck in the past. Sebastian’s grandmother looks only to the future. They struggle to determine where, and if, they can meet in the middle.

I’m still not sure if this is a young adult book. In the US, I think the fact the main characters are teenagers automatically makes it young adult. The language pushes it firmly into the upper end of high school. If you object to harsh language in teen books, you’d probably consider this a book for adults.

I can’t call it a book for adults because the plot is formulaic. It follows a typical young adult trajectory, but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the book. Yes, I knew what was going to happen. Yes, I could predict who was going to say what. This isn’t a book that stole my breath, but it made me laugh out loud. I wasn’t surprised, but the predictability didn’t offend me. The characters might have been one dimensional, but they played their parts well. This book was great for what it was, and while that sounds like a backhanded compliment, it’s the same way I would describe every John Hughes movie ever made. In the end, who doesn’t like John Hughes?

Hi! I’m Jules.

I used to be an attorney, but it made me grumpy. Now I write about life, sweet and savory, as a wife and mother to two small boys. My knowledge of dinosaurs knows no bounds.

You can read more, including the meaning behind the name Pancakes and French Fries here. And, yes, I really am phenomenally indecisive.