Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of: Part One

Call it a story of hope. Call it a nod to Karma, or even relate it to another example of loaves and fishes. However you want to label this little tale, be sure you use words like "unimaginable generosity" or "walking the walk and talking the talk", because that's exactly the credit that is deserved to the upstanding people working at All For Kidz. Headquartered in Washington state, they produce a wonderful school assembly called The NED Show. Their team travels across the country and around the world offering top-notch, impactful shows and assemblies to schools to teach their mantra of Never giving up, Encouraging others, and Doing your best (N.E.D. - get it?). They've got a Yo-Yo tricks theme they use in the show and it's super-entertaining, unique, and really keeps the kids' attention so they are sure to get the overlying message.

My son's school was privileged enough to host a NED Show last winter. As I had never heard of the organization, I looked them up prior to their arrival. On their website I found they were having a video contest. How perfect for Kiddo!

In case you are not familiar, Kiddo has been holding a video camera in his hands since the age of 3 years old. To say he's interested in making movies is an understatement. Since his first movie production, he's produced 9 movies all on his own. One that stands out is his movie, The Magic Fish. It's a silent film and he really grew as a movie maker during his experience directing, composing all the music, filming and producing the 20-minute film that took over 150 hours to create. He was 8 years old when he first took this on. In fact, he premiered his movie at the local community center to a paying audience of over 80 people! Maybe the Kid's got something, I don't know? I'm not in the movie biz. But, I do know that I try to find ways in which to support his interests and I thought the NED video contest might be fun for Kiddo.

Kiddo was excited about the prospect of the Grand Prize winnings which included, among other things, a brand new camera. Kiddo has been shooting with a 13-year old camera that still takes those cassette tapes. But, hey, one can't be picky when dealing with limited resources.

So, Kiddo got to work. I met Kiddo one day after school with the camera and his requested supplies. He gathered up his friends and Kiddo started filming his vision for the video. While I gabbed with other moms, Kiddo scouted film locations all around the school and interviewed many students about what N.E.D. means to them. Kiddo got the footage he wanted.
The contest deadline was fast approaching and we were of no help to Kiddo because Super Hubby and I were concentrating on getting our taxes done. No small feat when you're self-employed (can I get an Amen?). So, Kiddo was entirely on his own. Sad to admit, but we just didn't have the time to help him. Under normal circumstances, we'd be there for him, but the taxes took precedence. So, Kiddo got what he got and sent it in to the NED Show, fingers crossed.

I know, the suspense is killing you!

Kiddo didn't win the Grand Prize. But, he did tie for First Runner-Up. What is amazing is the NED people took the time to include in their winning announcement some suggestions for a couple of cameras Kiddo should look into as a budding film maker. Seriously, who does that? It had Amazon links and everything so Kiddo could check out their recommendations. Because Kiddo entered as an individual film maker, his prize included a $50 shop credit to the NED store and a $100 Amazon gift card awarded directly to Kiddo, not to the school! The NED people suggested the money go towards a camera purchase. But, that's where the story gets complicated...

Kiddo is excited about winning, no doubt! But, he starts to feel a bit uneasy about the winnings. Kiddo is so appreciative of NED's offer to award him the gift certificate, but he knows he could not have done it without the help of his “co-stars”. Yes, he did do 99.9% of the work (directing, storyboarding, filming, producing, music composing, editing, etc.), but you can’t film much without having people to actually film. 

Kiddo's school has a philosophy, if you will, dating back to its beginnings in 1915: Fair Play. It is ingrained deeply in Kiddo and in spirit of Fair Play, Kiddo decided to donate the $100 Amazon gift card to the school's 5th grade teachers, so they can get what they want for the school. Additionally, Kiddo will be using the NED Shop credit to buy as many NED pencils as he can to give to the 5th and 4th grade classes.

Despite urgings from his own school principal, knowing we as his parents would support him either way, Kiddo decided to give instead of get. When asked about his decision, Kiddo responded with this new Kiddo-ism, "One does not notice the platinum at his feet when he holds gold in his hands." Well, OK, then.

So, Kiddo feels good about his donation, the school's fifth grade teachers have $100 to spend, and 5th and 4th graders get NED pencils for all! Selflessness abounds, but, that's not where the story ends...

To know the rest of the story, catch it this Thursday...

To see the winning NED videos, click here. 



Monday, April 29, 2013

Gratitude Journal Monday

It's Monday and my throat is on fire. I'm not congested, I'm not ache-y. I just have this pain of a sore throat that keeps reminding me how I want to take a back scratcher and plunge it down my throat like a carnival act. Ugh! It reminds me how much I take good health for granted. A couple days ago I did not give my throat a second thought. It was just there, doing it's thing, without nary a whisper of conceit. This week, it's crying out to be heard. And, I notice you sweet, sore throat. I notice your cries for attention. Perhaps a couple of spoonfuls of honey would make you happier? Perhaps some soothing raspberry tea? I will get it for you because I want you to be unassuming once again. Sweet throat, just because I don't pay attention to you, doesn't mean I'm taking you for granted. So, I start today's gratitude declarations by honoring my health and hoping it returns to me soon.

456. I am grateful for the health of each body part that allows me to not think about it.
457. I am grateful for simple pleasures like cradling hot water bottles and sipping hot teas.
458. I am grateful for light traffic and easy drives into school making Monday mornings tolerable.
459. I am grateful for Kiddo's quick recovery from a cold last week that didn't interfere with Opening Night.
460. I am grateful to have wonderful, caring people as clients who appreciate my work just as much as I appreciate helping them.

Starting a gratitude journal? Click here to see my beginnings.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Goodbye Week. Hello Weekend. Lessons Learned: Take 92.

Goodbye really hard week; a good week, but a hard week.
Goodbye juggling Kiddo's 3 dress rehearsals, Opening Night, a huge Math Project, fighting a cold, and keeping up with homework deadlines (I'm not sure how he did, but he did).
Goodbye being so proud of Kiddo and how he handled it all and me worrying if this is what Middle School is going to look like EVERY week?
Goodbye fantastic Opening Night of the school musical AristoCats; these kids have talent - BRAVO!.
Goodbye being especially proud of Kiddo's performance in the male-lead role: Thomas O'Malley, the alley cat.

Hello lawn mowing over frosty grass blades - what's wrong with this picture?
Hello revisiting an Amish bakery we discovered that has THE.MOST delicious donuts we've ever tasted.
Hello celebrating Kiddo's accomplishments this year with pizza and icecream.
Hello getting ready for May where I have not one square of white space on my calendar.
Hello trying not to blink because I don't want to miss a thing in this beautiful, blessed life I've been gifted.

My lesson learned this week is how much I'm going to miss all of this when my son goes off to college in less than 7 years. What's all of "this"? "This" is chauffeuring to baseball try-outs, answering homework questions, juggling schedules, enjoying shining performances and seeing hardwork pay-off. "This" is shuttling back and forth, grabbing breakfast on the go, all coming together in the evening to enjoy dinner together as a family, and winding down the hectic days with a soothing read-aloud from Super Hubby before Kiddo dozes off to sleep. "This" is sharing our day on the drive home from school, revealing the latest fifth grade puppy love news, watching Kiddo experience moments I hope he'll never forget because I know I won't. "This" is actively supporting dreams, encouraging hope, and being there to help pick up the pieces when it doesn't go as planned some times. "This" is parenthood and it's the best part of my life thus far. I want to breathe it all in, I want to thoroughly enjoy the time, recording every sense in my memory, so, when I look back, I will have a treasure of a life to fill my aged heart where I can smile and say, "I didn't blink."


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What I Made Wednesday {Best Pancakes from Scratch}

Some of you are probably thinking, "Yeah, right! Like I have time to make pancakes in the morning that doesn't come out of a box found in the freezer section." Or, maybe your thinking, "I make pancakes. Me and my box of Bisquick do just fine, thank you." Ready-made mixes from a box? Homemade, maybe. From scratch, not a chance! Unless, of course you have Dextrose, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, or Monocalcium Phosphate hiding on your baking shelf? 

Delicious pancakes come from simple ingredients. This recipe is taken from Where's Mom Now That I Need Her (great graduation gift, by the way), and has never failed in producing the fluffiest, tastiest pancakes ever. Don't buy another manufactured pancake ever again! Make a double batch of this recipe and freeze them for those hurried mornings. It's less expensive and doesn't contain any ingredients found in a science lab.

What You'll Need

2 eggs, well beaten
1/2 cup milk
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar

What You'll Do
Pre-heat an electric griddle to 350 degrees F. These work best! If on the stovetop, pre-heat a non-stick pan to medium heat (stoves can vary).

  1. Beat the eggs, milk, and oil together until well-combined.
2. Add the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Mix gently until just combined.
3. Allow batter to sit for 5-minutes. I find this time activates the baking powder for the fluffiest pancakes!
4. Pour your pancake batter onto the hot griddle. Make huge pancakes, make silver dollars. You control the size!

Do you know the trick to baking THE.BEST.pancakes? If you don't already know, I'm about to tell you one of the wonders of the baking world. Ready? You can't time a good pancake. I can't tell you "after 2 minutes flip the pancake". Why? Because pancakes are like your kids - they are all different even though they came from the same batter.

So, how does one know when to flip? You watch for the bubbles! The bubbles that begin to surface through the batter and on top of the pancake is your signal to flip. Got it? The secret is in the bubbles. Once a good amount of popped bubbles fill the surface, go ahead and flip it over.

Then, you only need no more than a minute on the other side. Some people like their pancakes dark and crispy, some light and soft. The other side is up to you.

What You Need to Know to Finish
Before you start warming up that maple syrup (don't talk to me if you use that watered down sugar water companies try to pass off as syrup), let's get creative!

Think about other ways you can make your pancakes your own. I like to put chocolate chips in mine! As soon as I pour the batter, I plop down several chips scattered across the top of the batter. I still look for the bubbles to pop, then I flip.

Try blueberries. Try cranberries. So yummy. And, sometimes, when I'm in a real hurry, I warm up a pancake in the morning and spread Nutella on it like it was toast. So good, and portable.

I have a family of 3 and the batch above usually leaves us with no pancakes leftover. If I want to freeze some, I always make a double batch. It comes out great! If freezing is your intention, be sure to cool down the pancakes completely. Then, grab a freezer bag, stack the pancakes, and place in the freezer. When you're ready, re-heat the pancakes in a toaster oven on 300 degrees F for 5 minutes. So good, so quick, so cheap, and made with ingredients you can pronounce.

Come on, you can do this!  



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