Monday, November 16, 2015

Early Start on Christmas Gifts

I'm happy to say I've gotten a fairly early start on Christmas gifts this year. At least for me.

Most years I chose the same handmade item to make for each of the special women in my life. Generally, inspiration doesn't strike until the end of November, or later, and I'm left frantically crafting throughout December in an often vain attempt to get them all finished (and some shipped) in time for Christmas.

This year I actually came up with my gift-for-all project last week. I have all of the materials purchased, and have already completed my prototype, so I'll be able to knock them out pretty quickly. Can't show you what it is yet, because that would spoil it for the recipients. But I'll show you after Christmas.

Secret Santa

My annual crafting rush also includes a Secret Santa gift for our Mom's Gift Exchange. Each November participating moms from our homeschool group draw names from a hat, and you get to make a handmade gift for the person you drew. This can be a tricky thing if you draw someone you don't know well. But there's usually one or two people you can quietly tap into for some background information (such as favorite color, desired objects, and allergies). And, of course, it has to be kept secret. At least from the recipient. There are often secret emails, text messages, and general whisperings during Park Day, often accompanied by giggling.

This is a picture of the start of this year's gift. Not tellin' what it is, but it's gonna' be fabulous. I'll post a picture of the finished gift and recipient when it's gifted. I can't wait. (giggle)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Adulting 10/26/15

Today Thomas and William practiced a little bit of adulting. While I took William and Michael into Payless for shoes, Thomas walked the short way to Target to shop for clothes.

Successful shopping expedition
After hunting about and finding the shoes and socks he wanted, William, for the first time, used his own debit card to buy his own purchases. The cashier was very patient as I walked William through the process of running his debit card through the machine, entering the PIN number, and handling his package and receipt and wallet to make way for the next customer. I don't usually think about it when I'm checking out, but there's a rhythm and flow to the checkout process, and I've got a particular routine that keeps me from being one of "those people" who hold everyone else up by being disorganized at checkout. William took his first step toward figuring out his routine today. Adulting.

Meanwhile, down at Target, Thomas selected his clothing, and checked out his purchases without adult supervision. He's had a little more practice, but this was the first time he's done his own clothes shopping all on his own. Adulting.

Teaching Kids About Money

I think most families wrestle with how to teach their kids about money -- how to earn it, how to handle it, budgeting, and all that. After some trial and error, we settled on letting the kids earn their own money based on work they do around the house and in other places. A set weekly allowance didn't seem quite right, but we still wanted them each to have their own money to manage, and have some control over how much money they earn. We rejected the idea of paying the kids in cash simply because we no longer live in a cash-and-carry economy, and I found an app called iAllowance that helps me keep track of chores and earnings. So, each of the kids basically accummulate credit that they can use when they want to purchase something. Although this system has some drawbacks (like the kids constantly asking me how much credit they have, and can they buy something using a household account, and keeping track of all the transactions), overall it works well for us.

When Thomas started working with David on handyman jobs, thus earning quite a bit more than he can earn doing household chores, I set him up with a PayPal student account, and he got his own debit card attached to his own account. This has worked great. One less kid asking how much credit he has and if he can use a household account for a purchase. Transferring funds into his account is almost instantaneous and can be done by text, which has come in handy a couple of times when he was away from home and needed emergency funds.

I'd been trying to figure out for a while how to get William set up with his own account, but it didn't seem practical with the relatively spare funds he earns doing chores. But I finally came upon the answer while talking to a friend about her kids, allowance, and the never-ending purchasing of clothes for them.

Clothing Allowance and Budgeting

One of the things my friend and I talked about was each child's unique taste in clothing, and how we ended up spending differently for each child. That was not just based on their taste, but also on their age (how quickly they grow out of things), and unique social situations (dating vs. Girl/Boy Scouts vs. theatre vs. sports, etc.). During that conversation I remembered reading about one family's solution, and it came to me how I could solve two problems at once, with an added bonus lesson thrown in.

A few days later, I sat down and looked at how much we typically spend per year on each kids' clothing, and worked out what I felt was a reasonable annual budget for clothing. I divided by twelve months, and viola, came up with a monthly clothing allowance for both Thomas and William. I talked to each of them about being in charge of their clothing purchases, explained the idea of the clothing allowance, and opened a PayPal student account for William. Now on the first of each month I transfer their clothing allowance into their respective accounts for them to manage as they see fit.

The added bonus lesson is about budgeting and planning ahead for expenditures. They get paid a set amount on the first of the month, and they decided how and when they'll spend it. Do they go get a pair of jeans or a couple of shirts this month, or save up for a few of months to get a jacket? Do they spend $60 on a cool shirt at a trendy shop so they can impress their friends, or spend the same amount at Target and get two or three shirts? Save up for several months to get a new, hip jacket, or hit the thrift store? And don't forget about socks and underwear!

Or, do they succumb to temptation and blow their entire monthly allowance on a video game?

Making Mistakes With a Safety Net

Another of our parenting philosophies has long been, "Let them make lots of mistakes while they still have the safety net of parents." Especially financial mistakes. Like making sure you have enough money in your bank account for groceries before you're in the checkout line. And keeping a reserve in your account for unforeseen expenses. And how being thrifty by habit can help you get the things you really need and/or want. And being persistent about stashing funds in a savings account. And not living on credit. All that stuff we are told we should do, but never had much practical experience with until we were out on our own. When our mistakes were with larger numbers and hurt longer.

So, that is one large aspect of our Great Parenting Experiment. How do you teach your kids about money management?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Editing::A Little Light Reading

I've had an unexpectedly synchronous lull in client work, which has allowed me to finish my marketing crash course, and send Sarah plenty of material to keep her busy building my website.

So, what am I doing with all my "free" time? In addition to polishing and perfecting the copy for my site, I've started reading a new book. Actually, studying is a bit more like it, as evidenced by the highlighter, notebook, and pen.

It's only about five hundred pages of text explaining in detail the editing process. 

File this one under the heading "Sharpening The Saw" aka "Never stop learning about your business." I'm hoping to get through the meat-and-potatoes of this volume just in time for Anna to send me the rewrite of her manuscript (estimated arrival date: November 14). Now that the development edit is done, it will be time to delve into the copyedit, and I want to be sure I'll be ready. 

Monday, October 26, 2015


This is Michael being eaten by The Goo From Outer Space.

Actually, it's just a science thing he did, using household ingredients to make green slime. He learned about it from The King of Random, one of his favorite YouTubers. This particular slime and be a bit sticky, and does follow the pull of gravity, which makes those interesting blobs that are threatening to plop onto the furniture.

It was eventually contained in a Ball jar.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Editing::Building a Website

No, I'm not actually building a website, because I don't know the first thing about how that's done. My friend Sarah over at CodeGreer is actually building it. From scratch. Which I think is very witchcrafty of her.

But I am in charge of designing it. And deciding on the navigation (how many pages there are and how you get to them and all that). And writing all of the copy (words) for it. It's kind of an intimidating process for those of us who don't do it professionally. And that intimidation is part of the reason I've been dilly-dallying for a year. Indecision. It can kill a website before it even has a chance to be born.

Now that I have completed the Brandgasm 101 course (both the copywriting and design segments), I've finally gotten a design mock-up over to Sarah to get started. And, she's gotten started! Yay! She sent me the first screenshot of our design, and we're in the process of nailing down the 1,001 details that go into designing a website.

Landing Page (round 1)

Like fonts. I had no idea there were so many fonts to choose from. And picking JUST TWO fonts that 1) go together and 2) convey the proper "aura" of you and your business... well, it's pretty much overwhelming. But between Brandgasm 101 and Sarah's experience with websites, I think we've just about got it.

And colors. I know what colors I like. But how do you know if your visitors will like them? And, what do those colors say about you, and how will your visitors interpret them? (Again, addressed in Brandgasm 101). Turns out, the colors I liked for my site actually convey what I wanted the site to convey. Just a little tweaking and figuring out "color hierarchy" and we're good to go.

So, while Sarah is coding her little fingers off (and putting up with my endless questions and "what do you think"s and "can we try it this way"s) I'm getting down to the business of actually writing the text for each page. Daunting. Because I'm a pro at editing and proofing other people's writing. But my own writing? Ugh.

I may be scouting for beta readers to look over my website and content as it develops. It never hurts to have other eyes on a project.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Joy to See

This is Michael. Reading a book. Because he wants to. And he's enjoying it.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (abridged)

If there's one thing homeschooling parents anguish and debate about, it's whether or not, and to what extent, we "force" our children to learn. The entire concept of "forcing," or even "coercing" kids to learn is (appropriately) counter-intuitive. Because you really can't force anyone to learn anything. And yet, the crux of our education system is based on coercion, and figuring out ways of convincing kids to learn exactly what the experts want them to learn, when they want them to learn it.

And we tend to bring that model into our homes when we chose to homeschool, not because it makes sense (because it doesn't) and not because everything we know about how learning happens supports that model (it doesn't), and not because it creates a rich learning environment and loving parent-child relationships (certainly doesn't do either of those). We bring it into our home because it's familiar. And we're afraid that if we don't, we're bad parents and bad educators.

Yes, I push reading on the kids in various forms. They are required to do a certain amount of reading on a weekly (if not daily) basis. They get to choose what they'd like to read (within reason), and it's considered part of their study time. It's one of the things I'm not willing to let go of because reading is such an important part of my life and who I am and what I do. And, let's face it, a huge portion of human communication is now in writing because so much of our information and interactions are internet based.

So, it's kind of a relief to see that I have not entirely killed Michael's desire to read, and that he has been able to find something he likes. And, that he's able to read independently. It's come about pretty quickly considering how long I've been "encouraging" him in this direction. Not that I'm taking credit. I blame it on the pizza.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Editing::Learning About Marketing

So, now that Anna's manuscript is back in her hands for rewrites, what am I doing with all my "free" time? I'm still producing articles for Donna's blog and the garage sale blog fairly regularly.

But the past few days I've been focusing as much time as possible on studying Brandgasm 101 produced by Ash Ambirge at The Middle Finger Project. (If you haven't see Ash's website, please do so now. It's the most unexpected and irreverent thing I've read in a long time.)

Right now I'm working my way through the copywriting portion of her marketing crash course (there is also a design portion). I started with the intention of getting some ideas for developing my own professional website, so I can finally get something over to Sarah to start building it. The Mo Reads You blog/website has been fine as a place-holder of sorts, but it's time to put on my Big Girl Panties and get a real website.

The course has not disappointed. I'm only on Part 4 (of 7), and I've been exploding with ideas. I have actually blocked out the basic design and navigation (after finally settling on a tone). Now I'm working on the "words" part, which always seems to be the toughest part for me when I work on my own stuff. (The thatcher's roof always leaks, and the cobblers children have no shoes.)

But, Ash is phenomenal at taking folks who know nothing about marketing through specific processes that will yield actual, effective copy. I don't necessarily want to be a copywriter -- I'd rather stick with proofreading and editing -- but the course is helping me gain a better understanding of how words impact the reader. That Ash -- she's one smart cookie.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Amelia Update

In case you were wondering . . .

It's been over a month since Amelia joined us. She's settled in very nicely, and spends as much time as possible riding around on Thomas' shoulder.


Michael is our "maker." He wakes up in the morning, and has some design in his head that he is compelled to build. Today it happened to be this.



Put to use

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Maker Faire

Michael went to Atlanta's Maker Faire with some homeschooling friends, and I was sent photos of the trip. Michael filled in the blanks a bit so we have a pretty good idea what he spent his time doing.

Flying a drone

Drill-a-Bolt Game

Riding a crazy bicycle

Another crazy bicycle

Air-powered rocket

UFO movie prop

Couch bike with Liam, Julian, and Griffin

Very quiet people on a bench

Michael, Thomas Jefferson, and Liam

 Michael says they wore safety goggles the entire time they were at the Faire.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Kittie Love

Michael has a special affinity for animals of all kinds, and has since he was wee.This is him with BooBoo (and Rueger looking on).

The cats are pretty fond of him, too.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Theatrical Beginning

Our family recently became involved with the start-up of a new community theatre in our area, Staged Right Theatre. David was elected Vice President of the Board, and has been working diligently to help them prepare for their first fundraiser, "Theatre Under The Stars," which was held today. The lovely outdoor setting was donated by a new friend SRT.

Alex manning the ticket booth

The Theatre organizers proved they are more than capable of pulling together plenty of volunteers and putting together an interesting and appealing fundraiser.

Curb-side directions - Katie, Thomas, Andrea, and Anita

Hamburgers and hot dogs were donated by local shops - Thank You! to Tony at Tony's Meat Market for the yummy dogs!

Scot prepping to grill burgers and dogs

A local band came to play.

The Band warming up

New Dawn Theatre volunteers came to put on a stage fighting demonstration.

Weapons display and demonstration

There was face painting.

Michael's face paint

And at sun-down there was a live stage production of Tally's Folly by Lanford Wilson.

The Stage

I'd never heard of the story, but the actors were fabulous (even in the rain) and we all enjoyed the show.

The Show: Tally's Folly
Unfortunately, we were pretty much rained out, and attendees were few. Similar to the Apollo 13 mission, I consider this fundraiser to have been a "successful failure" - though we failed to get many visitors or raise much money, we proved he have the resources to man a fun fundraiser and put together a great show.

On to the next stage!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Just because . . . you're never too old for Pikachu.

Monday, September 21, 2015

National Weather Service

One of the best things about belonging to a homeschool group is there are always parents ready, willing, and able to arrange field trips. And the rest of us get to tag along.

I'm not sure what I was expecting the NOAA building to look like -- probably something more industrial and bunker-like -- but it was actually a nice, normal-looking type of building you would find in any business park.

You wouldn't think the National Weather Service would all that exciting, but it was. Okay, it wasn't exactly *exciting* but it was very interesting and informative, and all the folks there were really nice, patient, and actually appreciated all of the questions we asked (most questions came from Michael, along with many answers). We started out in the conference room, where they had really nifty chairs.

I think the part of the presentation that got the most appreciative attention was the weather balloon. They are sent up twice per day from all stations across the country, all synchronized to go up all at the same time. Apparently it's very important that all of the devices collect data at the same time for comparison and forecasting purposes. Inflated, the balloons measure about six feet across and are filled with hydrogen (Michael guessed that one). As they get higher into the atmosphere where there is less, well, atmosphere, they continue to expand until at around 10,000 feet they reach the size of a two-story house before bursting. The device, which is housed in a Styrofoam casing, pops its little parachute and falls to the ground. Only a tiny number of these devices are recovered, but they do have a postage-paid envelope attached to them so you can return any device you happen to find.

After the presentation (which included many, many questions and answers) we went into the part of the building where most of the work of forecasting is done. It looks pretty much like most offices with a large bull-pen area containing a number of cubicles. Just a lot more computer monitors and a couple of TV screens with the news running. We all gathered around one of the work stations to see what the meteorologists do, and to ask more questions.

On our way out the kids spotted the "giant golf ball" that is actually the satellite thingy that talks to the weather balloon devices.

A big "thank you" to the nice folks at the Weather Service for your time and for your ability to make weather interesting, and to Maria for setting up this trip for all of us.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Garage Band

Our good friend, Chase, has staked out our garage as a practice space for his band. So far, he's the only band member to have practiced here. But, he was quite generous and let Michael have a turn on his drums and electric guitar.

Rock on . . .
It was quite loud. And . . . um . . . rythmic. Sort of. But it was definitely a lot of fun.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Isnt She Lovely?

Thomas' lovely friend, Andrea, participated in her first beauty pageant, Miss Teen Gwinnett. Thomas took his first solo Uber ride to get to the fairgrounds so he could cheer her on.

All dressed up
Details of the competition as related by Thomas were kind of sketchy. But what was perfectly clear is that Andrea won!

The big moment

One of the loveliest things about Andrea is that she never takes herself too seriously, and is always ready for fun with friends.

Never take yourself too seriously

The "I can't believe it!" ride home

Congratulations, Andrea! We love you!

- Mo and The Bears

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Good Checkups

Somehow the planets all aligned in just the right way so that William ended up having three checkups this month. Thankfully, all were good. And now he's done being poked, prodded, and examined for another quarter. As you can see, he's happy about that.

The most important appointment was his quarterly endocrinology checkup on September 4th. Dr. Schultz declared everything looked good. William had put on 5 lb, though no additional height, so he's probably storing up for another growth spurt. There was no change in his A1c, and doc was very impressed that we've managed to keep it at 7.0. That's a very good number for a Type 1 diabetic, particularly one going through puberty.

Next was his eye exam. Aside from checking his vision for prescription changes (there was no change needed), the doc photographs the inside of the eyeball (the back) to look for any abnormalities or signs of degeneration (a common complication when diabetes control is poor). Again, he was impressively healthy.

Last but not least was his dental exam and cleaning. Once again, all was good. No cavities or gum problems.

William is very good about doing the things he needs to do to take care of himself, a daily regimen that most adults would balk at. Although he does go through spells of burn-out and resistance to compliance, he always gets back on the horse (with a little boost from me and David) and continues on his way. Overall, he's a healthy diabetic, and we are proud of him.

If you're not familiar with the daily care of Type 1 diabetes, here's a post I wrote in 2010 describing a typical day (though while camping). William's regimen has changed somewhat since then, and we've got newer tools that make it a bit easier, and he's taking waaaaaaay more insulin than he was then, but the routine is still pretty much the same.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Hobbit Birthday

Michael is the master of cake decorating in our house. After a bit of a scramble to put together a Hobbit-themed birthday party with family and friends, the cake was the final bit. We got a fairly plain cake from the grocery store, and Michael insisted on decorating it himself. Thus, the Hobbit-hole cake was born.

Bilbo's Hobbit-hole, of course. And there's the nearby river and path to his door. And, of course, smoke from the chimney. See it? I think I'd like to live there if I were much smaller.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

New Addition

Because you can never have too many species living under one roof . . .


This is Amelia, and she is a Conure (basically a miniature parrot). She's about six months old, and needed a new home because her boy's new medication can't be used around birds. So, home she came with us to be Thomas' new companion. She was named by committee on the drive home, after Amelia Earhart. Yes, that was my idea -- Amelia is one of my favorite people.

So far, Amelia seems to be getting used to her new home and new buddy. It's taking me a little bit of getting used to, since I've never been a fan of birds in people houses. I like them better outside chasing squirrels from the bird feeder and taunting our cats. But, life is all about change, so change I will . . .

Welcome to the family, Amelia!

- Mo

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Napping in a Puddle

Just because he can . . .

We don't often go to our homeschool group's Park Day when it's raining, but we'd missed quite a few of them over the winter, and the weather in general had been keeping us home more days than not. So, go to the park we did. It was fine enough under the cover of the pavilion despite the intermittent showers. A number of kids decided that running around in the rain was grand fun. One kid in particular (yes, Michael) decided that puddle napping is a thing. There was also construction of an earth dam across this same puddle.