Spotlighting the Twerp

Alternate title: Don’t get out much?

Duncan’s answers to his kindergarten spotlight form:

My favorite place to go is “the grocery store with cars attached to the cart.”

[Please don't waste your time worrying about his deprived life.  In the past few months I have taken this boy to the library, This is the Place State Park, the natural history museum, the Bean Museum, the art museum, the ocean, his grandma's houses, two different swimming pools, and several different parks.  But dedicated as I am to child self-expression I dutifully noted down his answer.]

I am “happy.”

My favorite color is “shiny red and shiny yellow.”

I like to eat “Lucky Charms.”

I like to “run.”

My favorite candy is “marshmallows.”

My favorite toy is “Lightning McQueen.”

My favorite restaurant is “The Golden Corral.”

My favorite holiday is “Christmas.”

I have 5 people in my family.

They are “not very nice.  I wish I lived by myself.”

[Actually, despite my aforementioned commitment to child self-expression, I declined to write that down.  Was that the wrong move? I pointed out that his class would be hearing this and waited.]

They are “The nicest of all is my Daddy.”

Did I mention that I took him to the grocery store that has cars attached to the cart yesterday?  But I didn’t get the cart with the car attached because it is too difficult to maneuver?  Daddy, I was told, always gets the cart with the car.  Do you think this could be related?

Board Games

We like to play board games. Our family has some new favorites and some old classics that I’d like to recommend.  Please recommend your favorites as well!


My highest recommendation goes to Bananagrams: Also, Best Word GameBananagrams is basically a set of Scrabble tiles in a bright yellow fabric banana.  If you don’t like word games, you won’t like Bananagrams.  If you do enjoy word games, this will probably quickly become one of your all-time favorites.

Why Bananagrams is so great: You can play with only 2 people or a larger group.  You don’t have to wait for other people to take their turns; everyone plays simultaneously.  Both luck (the draw of the tiles) and skill (not just vocabulary but also skill in using tiny words to connect bigger ones) are part of the game.  Although I do not consistently win at Bananagrams (I am not interested in memorizing all the possible two letter words, unlike some people I know–Pdad!), I enjoy it because it is fun and quick and you do it with words.  The package claims that Bananagrams can be played with children as young as 7, but I think most 7 year olds would find it difficult.

Pmom’s favorites

1. Bananagrams

2. Taboo

3. Conspiracy

4. Settlers of Catan

5. Monopoly

6. Pit

Pdad’s favorites

1. Bananagrams

2. Balderdash

3. Pit

4. Rummikub

Pmom’s favorites to play with children



3. Cooties

4.Go Fish

5. Chutes & Ladders


Pdad’s favorites to play with children

1. Stratego

2. I Can Do That

3. Sherlock

4. Zingo

5. Jenga

Amelia’s favorites (10 yr old girl)

(Amelia had trouble with the rank ordering so she has a first favorite group and a second favorite group).

1. Bananagrams

1. Chess


2. Stratego



Duncan’s favorites (5 year old boy)

1. Candyland

2. Silly Faces Game

3. Build a Robot

4. I Can Do That

5. Perfection

6. Operation

Best Larger Group Games:




Best Games for Two





Best new games


I Can Do That



Classics that haven’t lost their luster





Grandmas Against Entropy

My mom visited all last week and it was great. I enjoyed talking with her and I felt like it was a wonderful opportunity for my children to get to know her better. Duncan, particularly, was like a purring kitten after a little extra grandma attention time.

The only problem with having my mom visit is that it reminds me of what a poor housekeeper I am (Despite some at times half-hearted, at times a lot more than half-hearted, efforts to be otherwise!). Somehow the neat and tidy gene that both my parents seem to have has skipped me. I inherited their desire for neat and tidy but not the make-it-happen part.

Anyway, one of the truly helpful things she did while she was here was to organize our games closet which had fallen into a state of entropy so complete that some of us doubted it could ever be restored. Et voila!

What a difference a grandma makes!

The Pfamily Game Closet: What a difference a grandma makes!

I was so inspired by the transformation that on Monday I tackled my own clothing closet and completely cleaned it out. Take that, entropy!

This post is about entropy and grandma appreciation. Come back tomorrow for a discussion of which games are good/fun and why. I’d love to hear what’s in your games closet!

Milestones: K-garten and 5th Grade

For my journal:

Tomorrow is Duncan’s first day of kindergarten.  He turned 5 1/2 years old last week.  He is not nearly as emotively expressive as his older sister, but I think he’s quietly excited. Not that he’s quiet–this is hard to explain.  I was trying to mark the occasion and make it special.  We had pie and said several rounds of “hip-hip-hooray for Duncan’s first day!”  He was very loud.  When I say he’s quiet about it, I mean that he doesn’t talk about how he feels about kindergarten much.  People ask him if he’s excited and he says, “yeah” with a little smile and then turns away from them.

Duncan and Amelia, August 2009

Duncan and Amelia, August 2009

In preparation for the grand day tomorrow he picked out a green sweater he feels handsome in and asked me about soccer:  “Amy [the pet name Amelia insists he and no one else call her] says that all the boys at my school play soccer.  Do you think that’s true?”  [I don't think Amelia was trying to make him feel negatively about his school; she thought her observation might help him to keep playing soccer]. 

[And then, because he doesn't like soccer:] “Mom, do they have any trees in the yard at my school?”  “Yes, Duncan, they do,” I said.  “Do you think a boy can ever just sit under a tree?”

With no prior prodding or interrogation on my part, Duncan told me today what he wants to be when he grows up.  He told me he had four ideas, but he could only remember three of them: 1)Train Engineer, 2) Artist, 3) or a Person Who Makes Cool Stuff.

Meanwhile, Amelia has already started at her new school.  So far, she seems to love it.  Her 5th grade teacher is “her favorite so far.”  The homework load at this school is a bit terrifying for the parent of a daughter who will allow any task to expand to fill all available time (plus more), but five days into it, Amelia herself seems to be enjoying the challenge.  I hope that will remain true in the months ahead.

Pdad gave her the standard “a new school offers the chance to be a new person” spiel.  I was a little hesitant because I didn’t want her to think we weren’t happy with the person she was before.  But his spiel was aimed squarely at her stalwart dress-wearing ways.  Amelia has consistently worn dresses daily [except under duress] since the beginning of first grade.  She gets quite a bit of attention for that from her peers, as you might imagine.  Since she reacted with disdain to the idea of buying some pants for school, I figured she had chosen to travel the same path as before: soft cotton one-piece dresses with no buttons or zippers, difficult fasteners, or offensive textures of any kind.  It’s not so terrible!  If her clothing choices make her odd, they also make her modest, feminine, and age-appropriate.  How much can a parent complain under such circumstances?

But look what I saw when I asked her to lay out her clothes for the first week of school:

Amelia's first week clothing picks

Change–“Ready or not, here we come!”

Bless Them That Curse You

I want to teach my children the words of Jesus.  I want to help them knit the Gospel into the fabric of their lives, written on their hearts.  I do not want the Bible to be a dead book for them.  How?

I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven . . .

Matthew 5:44-45

If a child picks on your child at school, and says, “Nate, you’re so dumb, you can hardly read!”  And then Nate comes home and tells you about it, would you share this scripture with him?  Is it a good idea or a bad idea to label the day’s tormentors as enemies?  Why?           

Poppy Mallow: Dry and Crispy

Well, remember the glory of my poppy mallow earlier this summer?  I promised to post if it got all dry and crispy.

Dry, Crispy Poppy Mallow

I think this qualifies.

I believe this isn’t a result of receiving too little water. Although I only water these once a week (they are in their second season) they are a xeric plant. I think this is more a seasonality thing–as with tulips. One week tulips are in bloom, the next week they are drying up. Of course, poppy mallow doesn’t grow from bulbs. So perhaps I am wrong and the reason the mallow flourished so well this spring was the abundance of rain and now they look bad because they have not gotten enough water. I’m not sure, but I think that they simply go dormant in August.

Anyway, my next experiment will be to cut all the crispy parts off in order not to let the mallow distract from the beauty of the Hummingbird Mint (Agastache Ava) and Russian Sage (Perovskia Atriplicifolia) which are currently blooming in their full glory. If the poppy mallow dies from this treatment, I will let you know.

The Art Camp Collection

I did something I thought was really cool with Duncan (age 5) this week.  [I'm usually not very good at doing "really cool" things with my kids.  I love to read books with Duncan, but that's the highpoint.  Aside from reading, I have to recommit myself again and again and again to give him the attention he needs.  Because Duncan is our middle child, lack of sufficient attention is a perpetual problem.]

But I did something good this week.  Our city has hosted a wonderful weekly art camp program the past two summers.  Duncan thrives on it.  I’m not sure that it’s because he has artistic talent; I think it might be more because he thrives on the excellent teacher student ratio.  However, even if he may be a little short on some types of artistic talent, there is no gainsaying the fact that he is extremely creative.  When I saw the Walter Wick exhibit at the BYU Museum of Art, I finally understood what shape his sort of talent might take.

Anyway, Art Camp ended last week, and we were left with a big pile of artwork.  We can’t possibly keep all the artwork Duncan generates, but it seemed heartless and wrong just to throw it in the trash.  So we transformed his bedroom into a museum and had the first ever Duncan Pfamily: The Art Camp Collection exhibition.  Family and friends visited.  In fact, after learning that it was for sale, some of the neighborhood children carried away about 1/4 of the artwork on display.  Now possessing 10 or so quarters, Duncan believes himself to be a very successful artist indeed.  I think so too.