Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I was a Disney Extra...

I always thought of extra as something you don't need. like extra cream in your coffee, or extra whipped cream on a sundae. But in the movie world, extras are really important. At least that is what the Disney folks said to us, the extras who showed up for the filming of Secretariat, who was the Triple Crown winner in 1973. When he won, it had been 25 years since the last winner and it was historically significant because he won by 31 lengths!

The movie being made by Disney was filming in Lexington at Keenland this week and they needed extras. I wasn't busy, so I made myself a 70s style top, dug out my 70's jewelry, did my best Farrah Fawcett hairdo and off I went.

They were very disorganized, so it took some time to figure out where I had to go. Finally I found the cold upper deck section of the grandstands reserved for the extras who are essential to the production. I mean, what good is it to have a champion race horse winning the Triple Crown if no-one cheers him home. And believe, me we cheered ourselves silly.

First, we were not really at Keenland according to the movie-makers; it had been changed to Belmont in New York. So, the race we were watching was supposed to be the race where Secretariat won the Triple Crown, the climax of the whole movie, and we were there to cheer him on. And cheer we did.

We cheered from the rail, we cheered from the box seats, we cheered from the upper deck area [every section], we cheered from the benches, we cheered when the horses were re-enacting the win, and we cheered when there were no horses at all [which felt totally ridiculous, but we were acting, right?], and we cheered silently when we were told to do so.

I actually scored a sign along the way [not many signs to go around] and mine had a line drawing of a horse head with the words "Triple Crown." So, if you see the movie, look for a crazy middle age woman with a blue batik top with huge sleeves and big hair carrying a Triple Crown sign. That will be me! I held that sign way above my head right at the finish line while I cheered my heart out, so maybe that will be a freeze frame or something and you can pick out my sign.

When they filmed a paddock scene another lady and I lead a cheer, "GO BIG RED" till we were about hoarse [pun intended]. Luckily I am a very experienced talker with lots of stamina, so when others were losing their voices, I kept cheering. I was also a back ground person in another paddock scene. I had the important job of chatting with three other ladies in an informal way. Not much acting there, except we couldn't actually make any noise [very difficult!].

A couple of funny things that made me laugh:
  • There was an older man with very non-70's facial hair. He was told he could be an extra if he didn't mind losing the beard. He didn't mind, so a Disney guy whipped out a cordless razor and shaved him right there.
  • There were a lot of cops--well really extras pretending to be cops and security guys. The funny thing was a lot of the extras thought they were real cops so it was hilarious listening to people asking them cop-related questions. Some said, "Hey, I work in an office, I never wore a uniform till today," while others played along and gave semi-cop answers.
  • One black gentleman had about the best costume there in my opinion. He was tall and thin, about my age, and had a powder blue polyester leisure suit, a striped polyester shirt with a wife-beater underneath, a striped blue fedora, a HUGE Polaroid camera around his neck, and ponytail. His name was Earl. I was next to him in one shot and said I loved his hat. I asked if it was his or Disney's. He said it was all his, the whole outfit. Another man asked why he still had a leisure suit [the guy who asked was in a Disney suit, brown leisure and he said he hoped no one smoked, he was afraid the suit would melt on him]. Earl said he also had a purple and green one at home. He said he puts on his outfit, and a Fender Guitar and goes to parties to liven them up. We thought he meant he played the guitar in a band, but no, he uses the guitar as a prop, it was his dad's and he can't play a note. We all laughed when he then removed his hat and the ponytail was attached to it-he was really very clean cut.
  • Since there were only a few hundred of us but we needed to look like thousands in the stands, we had to keep changing locations to cheer. Then they will splice it together and make it look like there was a huge crowd. Someone at Disney got the great idea that the extras who had played the horse owners in the earlier paddock scene should not be sitting in the grandstands with the rest of us, in case they were spotted. It would look weird to have them sitting with the crowd, so a Disney guy yelled to all of us, "Are there any horse owners here?" Well, this is Kentucky, and it is a movie about horses, so about 1/3 of the people started to stand up. The Disney guy's jaw dropped, he shook his head, smiled and dropped his head--then he looked up and said, "I mean, is there anyone in the stands who PLAYED a horse owner in the paddock scene we shot today." Oh! About everyone sat down and one guy yelled from the back, "I own a beagle, does that count?"
  • Another guy from Disney asked, "Does anyone have hair pieces?" I mean, everyone looked at everyone else. If anyone did they were not going to admit it. So we all played dumb, then the guy said what he really meant [he said this very slowly, syllable by syllable], "Are there any men with mustaches or long sideburns?" Ahh, say what you mean. They pulled these guys and put them up front because they looked more 70's.
  • The camera crew actually dug a hole at the finish line to put one camera in so that it will [presumably] shoot the hooves when they cross the line.
All in all I was out there 12 hours, and you are not going to believe this, but:
  • There must have been 30-40 kids and not one kid was bad or obnoxious or whiny all day
  • Nobody smoked all day, but I didn't see any no-smoking signs. Not sure if Keenland is non-smoking or what, but it was weird to have hundreds of people and no smoking
  • Not one cell phone rung all day. Not one! Some folks called out on the phones in the lulls [most of the day was a lull] but not one phone rang.
All in all a fun and educational day. They did feed us, one large hot dog, one bag of chips [I got the Bar-B-Que], one large drink. The paid extras [I was unpaid, the basic difference was the money and the paid ones wore Disney clothes, we wore our own] were paid minimum wage [we asked a "cop"].

It was very disorganized and I felt I could have saved them quite a bit of money if I was in charge, but alas nobody asked me. I talked to all sorts of interesting people from little kids to octogenarians--really a diverse group--and learned a bit about each of them.

And Extras--they couldn't make a film without us, we should be called Essentials.

Take care,

PS No pictures in this post because it wasn't allowed, but you can see the Promo bulletin here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

How Living Books Teach...

I was privileged to be able to speak to some homeschooling parents in Frankfort, KY this past week. If you are interested in listening to my talk, you can click on the links below. The one hour talk is divided into 5 smaller parts to make it easier for you to listen to it when you get the chance.

~How Living Books Teach~

  • An introduction to the differences between teaching with living books and teaching with traditional textbooks or workbooks. Part 1
  • How stories engage us and how reading aloud benefits the whole family Part 2
  • Will my children have gaps in their learning? Triangulating information and how living books inspire creativity. Part 3
  • Creating strong families and character training Part 4
  • Quality time, learning about other cultures--summary of benefits and what you can do to incorporate living books into your family routine. Part 5
Enjoy and let me know if you have any questions,

Take care,

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Soldier's Farewell...

As I was wrapping bars and bars of soap this morning, I thought I should share an incredible, nearly spiritual experience we had yesterday.

Our long time neighbor, Johnny Lamb died earlier this week. He was in his 70's and had been ill for quite a while. Bob was asked to officiate at the funeral, along with grocery store owner, Leonard, yesterday. Chad and Scotty were asked to be Pall Bearers.

Since Johnny had been in the military, we think in the Korean War, he was to be buried with full military honors. We have a military cemetery about 15 minutes south of town which is his final resting place.

It was a foggy morning, and while we waited at the pavillion for the hearse, we saw, coming through the mist, a horse pulling a flat wagon with the flag draped coffin atop. It was led by a veteran in a Civil war uniform [Camp Nelson trained northern soldiers, predominently black soldiers during the Civil War]. Following came a horseless rider, led by another wool clad soldier. The slow clop, clop of horse's hooves were all we could hear as the caisson approached.

Once the casket was in the pavillion, four military men shot three rounds, for a total of 12 shots. Then one of the Civil War soldiers fired off a cannon, to make a 13 gun salute. The cannon smoke swirled around the mourners and on into the haze. Then the sound of taps could be heard floating through the pungent black powder mist, carrying through the haze the mournful notes of a soldier's farewell- a final tribute to a man who lived well and was loved much.

We all felt like Johnny would have love it!


*This picture is kind of like it, only there was one Civil War dressed soldier leading the horse pulling the caisson, and one leading the horseless rider.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Taught to Play?

You are not going to believe this--or perhaps maybe, like me, you are thinking you knew it would come to this.The Conservatory Lab Charter School in Brighton, Mass., is paying $23,500 to the national non-profit Playworks to teach children how to play.


Yes, that's right. They are going to teach children how to play old-school activities like jump-rope, four square, capture the flag, kickball, hula-hoop and so on.

Playworks says things I can't believe need to be said, but none-the-less I have been saying them for years. [Why didn't I think of marketing play?]
  • Recess is the single biggest opportunity to raise the level of physical activity for all children
  • Teachers cite improved behavior in the classroom when students have recess.
  • Time and time again, research has shown that healthy play and recess help kids succeed in the classroom
  • Kindergarteners are under intense pressure to meet testing standards while also being denied play time, leading to a rise in aggression and behavioral problems.
  • Play creates essential opportunities for children to explore their imaginations, to connect with other people and to stretch and grow physically, emotionally and socially.
  • Play creates an important opportunity to teach kids conflict resolution skills.
  • We believe that rock-paper-scissors is a perfectly adequate problem-solving tool most of the time. [I LOVE this statement!]
And, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, free, unstructured play is essential for keeping children healthy, and for helping them reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones. Unstructured play also helps kids manage stress and become resilient.

I believe this.

I believe that kids need more time to play without being in an organized sport or league or lessons. They need more time to play, to work off energy, to make up their own games and to created their own entertainment. In this entertainment culture kids don't have enough time to think, to dream, to be bored and to have to find their own remedy.

I admit, I can't believe that kids need to be taught to play, but then again, maybe I can. Kids today are so scheduled between school, day care, various lessons and clubs there is only so much time in a day and no time to play. But honestly, if we want no child left behind, children need time to play, to run, to shout, to create their own fun.

I visited the local elementary school a couple of years ago on a lovely winter day in Kentucky. The sun was shining and it just under 30 degrees outside. No kids were out playing. I asked one little girl about it, and she said they never went outside to play until the temperature was over 35 degrees!
Can you believe it?

They just read or played quietly or just didn't do any type of unstructured recess time. I can't imagine what torture that must be for the more active children. No wonder so many kids need to be medicated to make it through the school day. [In all fairness, at this school, each individual teacher supervises recess whenever they want to. So, this teacher didn't like cold weather, so the kids it that class did not go out. Other teachers, from more sturdy stock, did take their kids out for recess . I guess the days of teachers taking a little break while the kids go out and are overseen by monitors are long gone. Pity.]

My fondest memories of elementary school were the THREE recesses we took every day. Fifteen minutes each morning and each afternoon and 30 minutes after lunch. And, for the record, I grew up in Michigan where we played outside every day unless it was raining, regardless of the temperature. We had to wear dresses back in those days too, but we pulled on our play pants under our dresses for recess time, put on our boots, mittens, scarfs and whatever warm things our mom sent with us, and out we went. I can't believe how adults have robbed children of the joy of play, and much of it done in the name of safety or academic necessity or enrichment.

Less conflict.
Better attention span.
Children explore their imaginations.
And they wear off calories and energy to boot.

Sounds too good to be true. Cheap, old fashioned, fun and can be done anywhere.

Playing...Gotta love it! Recess anyone?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Teaching Lots of Kids?

This is a short post. Lately I have had a lot of parents asking me how to coordinate teaching more than a couple of children, especially if they are at different learning levels.

I think most of my ideas can be heard on these two recorded teleconferences. These were recorded a couple of years ago, but are still full of helpful information.

Teaching Lots of Children with multiple Core Programs: Part 1 and Part 2

[hese are two recorded teleconferences between me and Donna P., a homeschool mom of 8 [soon to be 9] children. Between us we have homeschooled 13 children and these recordings summarize our tips, experience and wisdom. Each recording is about an hour long, but I think well worth your time.

So, put the kids to bed, get yourself a cup of tea and a scone and enjoy. I pray these recordings will be a help and a blessing to you.

Take Care,

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Today while reading the Sonlight Forums I came across this question from a long-time homeschooling mom... [edited a bit for brevity]

"I am wondering how other moms handle the time when their older children begin reading more deeply about their childhood heroes and find that someone they had believed in all their lives, and looked up to, was really a rascal in this area or other. Maybe not a rascal, but maybe racist, or not as godly as they thought, or fill in the blank. Having raised my children with 'heroes', they are very disillusioned when they get older and read about their heroes' failings.

"I know this teaches them to think, and not to believe everything they read, and about the sin nature of man, etc, but it also devastates their hopes that there really were/are people out there that were/are altruistic."

I understand where this mom is coming from. We see it all too often with today's heroes but when our kids look to people like Abraham Lincoln or George Washington and so forth, some how we think that those are totally wholesome heroes. But, upon further investigation we find that these heroes owned slaves or were not faithful to their wives, or were racist...

I guess our kids need to realize that human nature hasn't changed.

I encouraged this mom to talk to her children about Abraham, David and the Apostle Paul. Perfect? By no means! But yet they did great things for God.

When my kids were younger I liked to make sure they saw and understood even though people are not perfect, look what they can accomplish. Look what God can do with these jars of clay. I think it is inspiring for kids to think that a rascal can do great things--it kind of gives us hope for ourselves. If every hero was like Joseph or Jesus, I think that would be discouraging--I mean, how could we every measure up?

I think it is also prudent when kids have these crisis moments to talk through what choices their heroes could have made and also to point out that if even these great men [and women] messed up sometimes, can they still see them as heroes?

This really helps kids understand why we need a saviour. I mean, if everyone was perfect and never let anyone down and was totally in God's will, it wouldn't make Christ's sacrifice mean much, would it?

It is humbling to think that "no one is righteous, no not one," and yet we can accomplish a lot for God if we are willing. I think this is a message our kids really need to learn.

My daughter Kari wrote a song quite a number of years ago, when she was 16. I am going to type the words here--I think she really has a grasp on heroes and how to approach them--by trying to emulate the best traits from each one.

Talk Like a Donkey by Kari

Turn the pages
See another life come and gone
Time has covered them
We carry on...
Why do we do the things we do each day?
Doesn't really matter, we're not here to stay

But we can learn from them
We can analyze their mistakes
Yeah we can learn from them
Maybe figure out what it takes

We can learn from them
We can analyze their mistakes
We can learn from them
Maybe figure out what it takes

We've got to pray like Daniel, the lion guy
Obey Noah with, no outcry
Fish like Peter reel in men
Be a leader like Paul
That guy set some trends

Talk like a donkey though strange it may seem
Be willing like Stephen who died for his team
But whoever you're like or or choose to be
Remember to live like Jesus

Ruth was obedient, and she found bliss
Samson gave himself away, with just one kiss
Job had a good life, but he was robbed till he bled
Ester fought for all her courage, went to the king and pled

We can learn from them
We can analyze their mistakes
We can learn from them
Maybe figure out what it takes

We can learn from them
We can analyze their mistakes
We can learn from them
Maybe figure out what it takes

We've got to pray like Daniel, the lion guy
Obey Noah with no outcry
Fish like Peter reel in men
Be a leader like Paul that guy set some trends

Talk like a donkey though strange it may seem
Be willing like Stephen who died for his team
But whoever you're like or or choose to be
Remember to live like Jesus

As I turn the pages,
New respect has grown in me
I think I know what kind a person I want to be
Yeah life is different now
Sure things have changed
But through their examples--they've shown me how to rearrange

I going to pray like Daniel, the lion guy
Obey like Noah with, no outcry
I'll fish like Peter reel in men
Be a leader like Paul that guy set some trends

I'll talk like a donkey though strange it may seem
I'll Be willing like Stephen who died for his team
But whoever I'm like or or choose to be
I'll remember to live like Jesus
I'll Remember to live like Jesus

Take care,

Friday, September 4, 2009

Chocolate Monkey

Did that get your attention?

Today I thought I would share about the best chocolate dessert I have ever made. I figured if you are reading my blog, you must be somewhat of a kindred spirit, so there is probably a 95% chance that you love chocolate.

This recipe messes up quite a few pans, and seems fancy, but really, it is very easy and does not have many ingredients. It doesn't take too long to make-unless you are taking pictures of every stop along the way like I did.

Chocolate Monkey- A rich baked- dark chocolate pudding
Preheat oven to 350°

You will need these ingredients:
  • 1 pound dark chocolate, like bittersweet or semi-sweet, chopped [not unsweetened]
  • 9 Tablespoons butter [1 stick plus one 1 T, plus a bit to butter the ramekins]
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • pinch salt
  • 4 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 8 [5-6 oz] ramekins or small baking dishes; cups could work
Cut off four strips of foil, a bit bigger than your ramekins, and lay them on top of each other. Put one ramekin upside down and push into foils strips to make a dent. Do this twice, so that you can cut out 8 ramekin caps from the four strips of foil. Cut out about 1/2" around the dented area, making little caps for the ramekins.

Butter ramekins. and set aside. Cut up the butter and chop the chocolate.

Put them in a microwave safe bowl and microwave until melted. I do this at 50% power for a minute, then stir and put on another minute until done. This make take 3 minutes total. You can melt over a double-boiler if you don't have a microwave.

Remove from heat and let set 5 minutes. While cooling, separate the 5 eggs.

Mix the egg yolks and the salt together and whisk till combined. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate, mixing well.

In a mixing bowl, beat the 5 egg whites at medium speed on an electric mixer. Beat till they hold soft peaks. Add the 4 1/2 T sugar and whip till they become glossy peaks.

Put a pot of water on to boil. You will make a hot water bath for the Monkeys.

Beat 1/4 of whipped whites into the chocolate mixture by hand to lighten the batter. Then scrape the chocolate mixture into the remaining whites in the mixing bowl and fold in, gently, but thoroughly--till you don't see any white remaining.

Divide the batter into the buttered ramekins.

Put a foil cap on each one, seal around the edges and put in a pan. [I use a creme brulee pan because it has a nice little rack and it is easy to take the Monkeys out of the water bath. But, before I got this pan, I just put the ramekins in a cake pan and that worked fine.]

Pour in boiling water, about 1/2 way up the ramekins. Be sure the foil caps do not hang down in the water.

Put in oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven, remove Monkeys from water bath, put on cooling rack and remove foil caps.

They will be gooey to the touch. Cool uncovered for 1 hour. Top with whipped cream or ice cream before eating. We eat them right out of the ramekins, but you may want to unmold them.

Monkeys can be made four hours ahead and kept in ramekins at room temperature. Dip in hot water for 10-15 seconds to unmold. If you leave them at room temp, you can eat them the next day. I usually put it in the microwave for a few seconds to warm it up a bit.

These desserts are delicious. They are basically individual chocolate souffles.

If you have questions, let me know.

Take care,

To check out my Pumpkin Scone recipe on my other blog.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Raising somone else's spouse...

Scary huh?

Did you ever think about this? I mean, your child will always be your child, but they will probably spend the bulk of their life living with someone else.

I was [gasp!] 19 when I got married and I have been married for 34 years--in not that many years I will have been married twice as long as I was not.

In light of this, for those of you who are currently raising someone's spouse, I would like to encourage you to keep this in the back of your mind. You are not raising your best friend, or a miniature you, you are raising a child who will all-to-soon be an adult. It is job, a big, tough, wonderful job, but a job none-the-less.

So, with this in mind, I have a few tips that might serve you well:

  • No matter how wonderful or smart your children are it is probably wise not to tell them that too much. I truly believe that kids that are praised too much soon feel the words are empty. Less praise means more. What this does not mean is that you should with-hold love and understand. That is not what I mean. What I mean is to limit such things as, "You are so smart, pretty...." A child that is raised with too much flattery will either scorn it or thrive on it and neither thing is what most folks want in a spouse.
  • Children like to be needed and to know they are important. This gives them self worth and makes them feel a sense of responsibility. I think this is best done through chores and working together as a family--and trust me, the future spouses of your children will be thankful for this as well.
  • I think it is important for children to understanding that the good of the family comes before the good of the individual. This is not only an important lesson for the future, but if parents would keep this idea in mind--that the family is more important than any one individual, I think more marriages might last longer and empty-nest couples wouldn't look at each other with no idea of what to do or say because their focus has been child centered for so long. When everything centers around a specific child--such as all the various activities he may be in, his schedule, his needs, etc. --it is setting that child up for a difficult adjustment when he gets married or even when he gets out on his own. In real life, the world just does not revolve around one person. Each person in a family should learn how to give and take and have lots of practice with compromising.
  • Sharing is good. Sharing a room, sharing a bathroom, sharing chores, sharing pets, parents, hand-me-down clothes...Sharing is good. Keep this in mind. They will probably have to share their whole lives with someone, so they may as well learn how to be cheerful about it when they are young. A child who never has to share [and I have met many--you know the kids that get everything they want] are not a lot of fun to be around a lot of the time.
  • It is good for children to learn to earn and manage their own money. We always did allowances, but other very successful families do not. But, somehow children need to learn money does not grow on trees and how to manage it.
  • Children do not need to be entertained all the time. I can't tell you how many people want to know how to entertain their children. What I mean is this...I loved to read to my kids, we went for walks, picked berries, rode bikes and so forth. But, for a big chunk of the day, our children needed to entertain themselves and it is my belief that this big chunk should only have a very small amount of the time spent in front of a computer or TV. For more about this, you can click on the link above.
  • Raise children that are compassionate. I don't have a formula for this, but basically they should learn to help each other, help out neighbors or elderly family members, be ready to lend a hand to parents, to teachers, and so on. I think this may be more caught, than taught, but here is an example I saw just a couple of weeks ago. I was babysitting for family friends who have five children ages 2-11. The nine year old gave the two year old a bath and got her ready for bed. After this the four older kids and I all played a game while the two year old tried to grab the game pieces. The nine year old talked very kindly to the younger child and said she could sit on her back [like a horsey] and play with her hair. I have seen many nine year olds who would have yelled at the younger child, or been very impatient, but this child had learned from her parents to be compassionate.
  • Children, starting as young as two, can learn to pick up after themselves. Children should learn to leave a room the same way it looked when they arrived--no shoes in the middle of the floor, no pop cans laying around and so forth. If they open a door, then when they leave that room they should close it. When they take a bath the towel should be hung up and dirty clothes put in the laundry basket. This is a lesson everyone should learn. I went to a class in the prayer chapel at Asbury Seminary several years ago and people actually brought pizza and pop into the chapel to consume during the class! Then, they left the cans and boxes behind. I mean, an empty pizza box left in a prayer chapel? You are not only raising someone else's spouse, but maybe someone else's pastor or counselor. This is a lesson that needs to be learned, and learned well.
  • Teach kids to take personal responsibility for themselves. This can look a lot of different ways, and here are a few: When they are in about 5th-7th grade they should take responsibility for getting themselves up with an alarm clock. I know you could get them up, but this is part of growing up, being responsible for yourself. It would also include making sure they have what they need for school or an activity before it is time to run out the door. So, if they need clean jeans, they should either do their wash in order to have the jeans, or if they don't do their own laundry, they should take the dirty item to the laundry person early enough that it can be clean in time. So, whatever rules you have about laundry, the child should be responsible for following them by the time they are middle school age.
If they have homework or need a permission slip signed or have an assignment due, a middle school age child should be responsible to get it done. And this is the hard thing, if they don't--and you know they are capable of the task--then let the chips fall where they may. Maybe they have to wear a dirty uniform, or can't go on a field trip, or don't do well on a test...the consequences of not taking personal responsibility should be deterrent enough.

It may be hard to watch your child take the consequences, but the lesson learned will be worth it--and remember, you are not raising kids so they will need a personal valet when they are grown, you are raising them to be someone else's spouse--or if they remain single, you are raising them to be self sufficient, confident, compassionate adults who are not a burden to society.

Remember, personal responsibility--don't you wish everyone had it?

I am sure I will think of other things in the coming days, and I may have to write a part two of this post, but I think this is a good start. Not only will your children be more of a joy to you now, but their future spouses will be appreciative.

Let me know if you have any more ideas about this important job.

Take care,


Photos, top to bottom: Chad with wife Molly; Cris with wife Jen; Dusty with wife Sharon