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.

Silver Lining & Rainbow

Stormy Rainbow

The weather, a few hours after our unsuccessful campground hunting odyssey

I had a nice day today. It was a surprise.

At the beginning of the summer, I’d planned to be on vacation this week. But at the last minute, Pdad’s week of vacation time became a day of vacation time (!)  (I shouldn’t complain—his company has always been generous with vacation time.  But if I never complained when I shouldn’t, I would be a better person than I am so far.)

Although I hadn’t done the advance planning that I like to do, I was hoping to salvage our plans with a last minute weekend camping trip.  Yes, a lot of the sites were reserved, but there are also the first come, first serve sites, right?  Um, not really.  Although I hurried and drove up there on the ranger’s explanation that the campgrounds would probably fill up about late afternoon on Thursday, I was sorry to discover that in fact they were full already.  Apparently, communication between the campgrounds and the rangers is poor.  To learn which campgrounds have tent sites available, you must drive to each campground and locate the camp host.  So my thought of hurrying up there to nab a spot?  Well, it turned into a three hour round trip as we made our way to each campground in succession, finding no luck in the end.

However, it was a very nice ride.  I was pleased with myself for having done it as I am such a timid driver.  It was an accomplishment.  The scenery was gorgeous.  I surprised myself by being able to enjoy it even though I was busy trying not to fall off the mountain and not hit other cars, and even though I was having no luck getting a camping spot.  Duncan and Kate were wonderfully well-dispositioned and surprisingly cheerful captive passengers and conversationalists (well, Duncan–kudos to Kate for sleeping).  Best of all, next time, when I plan ahead, and make reservations well in advance, I know just which campground I will pick.  Granite Flat sits just above a pretty turquoise reservoir, and I am already enjoying next summer’s trip in my mind.

Meanwhile, I arrived home just a couple of hours before the the thunder, the lightning, and the rain.   I hadn’t checked the forecast when I hatched the last minute camping plan.  I am not a fan of rain while camping!  No worries though, because I am sleeping in my marvelously soft bed tonight.  Yes, it has been a pleasant day.

She’s “goge,” how can we help?

Goge Kate

Kate tells us that she is “goge.” Now, in general, her speech issues seem to have really improved. Her vocabulary has expanded considerably. She has even blurted the occasional five word phrase. Hooray! Articulation, however, continues to be a struggle. Our new problem: Kate is constantly “goge” and we don’t know what that means.

Here’s what we’ve figured out so far:

a) Goge is not good. You do not want to be goge. If you feel goge (or is it goke? goque? gogue?) you also want to whimper.

b) Goge is related to cold. When Kate fills her cup with ice and holds it for a while (she adores ice), she becomes goge. She will tell you that her hands are goge. You can verify this by feeling them. Yep, they’re cold.

c) Goge is not the same as cold. Temps have been hitting 80s and 90s here and Kate is goge inside the house (too much airconditioning?) and outside.

d) Kate is most likely to be goge when she does not want to nap.

e) Boredom and feelings of dislike can also trigger goge-ness.

e) Hands, teeth, bottoms, all sorts of body parts can be goge.

f) “Me goge” should not be confused with “Me gog.” “Me gog” means that Kate has transformed into a four legged creature who “oofs” and hops across the floor. Being gog is apparently very funny, being goge is nothing to laugh about.

Breaststroke to Success

Amelia said something this morning that surprised and thrilled me:  ” . . .because the breaststroke is my favorite stroke.”  The breaststroke is her favorite?!!!  She said it with all the nonchalance that a 10 year old can summon, as though it has been true for months, something that she has mentioned many times before.  I had certainly never heard it before.

The breaststroke was the stroke responsible for Amelia repeating her level 4 swimming class 8 times last fall and winter!  Sure, in the optimistic tone of Christmas newsletters, I wrote last December:

[Amelia]  loves the water, and although no natural fish, she is a determined girl. She hopes to qualify for the swim team, and although that goal is perhaps a ways off, she continues to work hard. I am so pleased with her perseverance and her willingness to go “all in” on something. I believe that by next year she will be master of the breaststroke.

But honestly, I had my moments of doubt.  Perhaps we should be pleased with a slow front crawl and count our blessings from there?  But Amelia stayed with it.  She did eventually pass level 4.  She made it on to the pre-competitive squad and then the white (the metallic colored squads are still to be aspired towards).  Achieving her swim team goal hasn’t been all roses, of course.  There have been several low days this summer.  Amelia compares her abilities against those of the swim prodigy 6 year olds on her squad and feels distressed.  And she still hasn’t figured out how to do the flip turn you need for competitions.  But


I can’t believe it.  But I almost do.  I saw her swim it this week.  Was it just 8 months ago that she struggled to move 10 yards in what seemed a hopeless mode of locomotion?  Now she breaststrokes across the pool with no apparent exertion.   I am so excited for her.  The smile she wears after swim practice these days is almost enough to make me want to take up exercise.

“Never give up if it’s worth doing.  Never give up if the end be right.  If it’s a purpose worth pursuing, go for it morning and noon and night!”  –Margaret Jackson MacKinnon.