Elf on the Shelf, Nope

Some people are good at clever things, at thinking up creative, witty, amusing ideas.

Like the Elf on the Shelf marketing dude who found a few hundred thousand of these leftover in an old Chinese warehouse and came up with this amazing marketing plan.

Like the parents who bought into it and now have little elves who have snow fights with the powedered sugar, bake cookies, decorate trees, and perform starlit Christmas pageants on the front lawn for invisible angels.

I have no such talents.  I’m the mom who can’t even remember to put money under the pillow for the tooth fairy.  In the early years we handled this by one parent consoling our sobbing, tooth fairy forsaken child while the other scrambled in the couch cushions for change and surreptitiously hid it in the pillow while pocketing the tooth, and then we’d say, “Honey, are you sure you checked thoroughly?  Maybe you should check again?”

In the later years we didn’t have to do this because the older siblings had pity on their younger siblings for having such clueless parents, so they’d remind us, and, often as not, loan us the money.

In the late, late, later years, we’d just respond to the grinning, toothless child, “Hey, cool.  Can I borrow a buck for the tooth fairy?”

I jest.  But only about the late, late, later years.

So we could never, ever, ever, never have managed an elf on the shelf project.

I am good at making fun of things, though.   My two favorite elf on the shelf things I’ve seen this year are:

This blog post

And this facebook pic my daughter Pip posted:

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Embryo Adoption

I want to share a special blog about a very sensitive, but very important and precious topic.

Because it is so sensitive, I thought I’d also share that this blog is done by the real life friend of a real life friend of mine.  Got that?  In short,the two of us have a mutual friend we both known IRL (In Real Life),  though I have only ‘met’ her through her blog, and vice versa, (and one FB message).   The three of us share a few things in common- faith, love of family, all of us have added to our families through both adoption and biology.   Our mutual friends and I homeschool (we go the same homeschool camp every fall), I don’t know if Jennifer does or not.

Something else we share is that we really value the precious lives of the least of those among us.

Jennifer’s family are pursuing embryo adoption, and she has a very helpful FAQ on it here.  Here’s an excerpt:

Why should I adopt embryos instead of doing IVF?

I realize I’m not going to make friends on this one.  Hold on tightly.
We have battled infertility.  We have been through the ultrasounds, the blood work, the pokes and prods.  We have experienced the feelings of hope, followed by utter despair.  When a doctor says, “I can help you,” you sit up straighter, you listen and you’re ready to say ‘yes.’  We were those people.  When we came to a crossroads of IVF or adoption, we just happened to choose adoption.  Given a different doctor or a different husband, it would have gone very differently.

Five years later, I began researching embryo adoption.  I was horrified to uncover that freezing embryos is incredibly hard on them–so hard on them that 20-40% die during the thawing process  simply because they undergo so much trauma from low temperatures and toxic chemicals.  The National Embryo Donation Center (the agency we are working with) has been tracking their survival rates and they align closely with the averages found in other places.  Here are a couple of sources I grabbed quickly, but there is a lot of information out there about this.  IVF  MiraclesWaiting

So here’s the point.  If you’re considering IVF, know that freezing your children almost certainly means some of them will die.  If you’re not willing to do that, there is still hope.  Embryo adoption is a beautiful way to save the life of a tiny baby while still experiencing the things most infertile couples want:  pregnancy, delivery, breastfeeding, etc.  It just eliminates some of the ethical questions surrounding freezing embryos and turns worrisome infertility treatments into an amazing blessing for everyone.



As our long time readers know, though we do have a large family by most US standards, we have also dealt with secondary infertility. There’s a six year gap between the Equuschick and Pip, and that wasn’t by choice.  That gap is no longer a gaping hole, because the Lord in his mercy, filled it when we adopted The Cherub and Jenny-Any-Dots when Pip was two and they were nearly 6 and 4.   I did research fertility treatments at the time (the late 80s), and decided I could not, in good conscious, pursue IVF.   I have ever been mindful of the fact that I was figuring out these questions when I already had two children, and in the few conversations I have had on this hard and difficult topic, I have acknowledged that, while I hope my decision would have been the same, no matter what, I really don’t know what I would have felt and done if I hadn’t.

They will be chronicling their journey with embryo adoption on the blog.  Bookmark it and check it out.

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Toys and Play, CM Style

Here are some excerpts from several Parents’ Review* articles about toys and children’s play and playthings:

index card files, vintage illustrations of children at play“Do we mothers sufficiently realise the importance of our children’s play, in the unconscious training and developing of certain moral qualities and powers, far more than they can be by any mere words of ours on the subject; what potent factors their games can be in teaching lessons of self-control, self-reliance, unselfishness, patience, courage and energy?” from this 1906 Parents’ Review article, which also has this good advice:

“In these days, toys play an important part in the lives of our children and they are certainly valuable “in promoting plays as they appeal to the child’s heart, and aid his imagination,” but it is also said that the continually increasing wealth and perfection of toys also serve to produce dullness in children, or else destructiveness as the only form of activity left to them in relation to these too-perfect toys. In contrast to these perfect toys is the wealth of love and of imagination bestowed on the most meager and unpromising objects, idealised by the child into a doll, a horse or dog, etc., and especially is this the case with the curious objects made to do duty as a doll; and far more real love is lavished on these than on the pink and white fashionable perfections bought from a shop. The less individuality a doll has, the better able is the child to idealise it, and it affords far more scope to its imaginative faculties, as being able to represent many various characters.

In choosing toys for the children, how important it is to bear certain points in mind; one special thing to consider is, to give when possible something out of which the child can make other things, or can do something more with.

I read some time ago that children’s toys may be divided into two classes: the finite, and the suggestive.”

The author explains further what she means by finite and suggestive and which toys fall into which categories.  Suggestive toys are to be preferred.  Our term for that today would be open-ended.

From a 1908 PR article:

A word as to toys: most parents are alive to the futility of furnishing the children with so-called educational toys and games. Stones, paper, bricks and balls are within the reach of all children alike, and we shall find that the innate love for these will last when expensive toys are discarded and broken. A child will spend many happy hours at a sand trough, and if such a one can be contrived to be filled with water, on which mock fleets can be sailed, instead of sand from time to time, there will be very little demand for any other kind of toy. But while we deprecate what are termed “educational toys,” we may with advantage make use of geometrical forms for bricks, etc., and thus unconsciously the child becomes familiar with what, when science lessons begin, are otherwise mere abstractions.

and here:
The toys children help to manufacture are twice as much valued by them, the games for which they must make some preparation twice as much appreciated. Vastly too much, even for enjoyment, is usually passively conferred upon them, and their lives are thus robbed of half their natural zest.

On the importance of play for the children’s intellectual development:

Many parents seem to think that all the time is wasted for their children which is not spent in taking in consciously some special idea which some adult already understands. We must get rid of this notion entirely. Miss Mason said at last year’s Conference that a human being comes into the world not chiefly to acquire knowledge or to develop his faculties, but to establish relations; and I would add that a child comes into science, not only to learn facts and to develop the faculty for doing things, but primarily to establish relations with the laws of nature, by which we mean–if we truly mean anything–the laws according to which God governs the world. And in order that relations may be properly established, the grown-ups who are directing the child must, at proper times, do as Miss Mason said, “Stand aside and take a back seat,” and keep silence even from good words…..

….As preparation for hydrostatics, let the child dabble in water, with hands and feet, in warm water and cold, in salt water and fresh, as much as is safe from the health point of view. Let the baby have things to float in his bath, sticks, shells, toys of wood and china. Let him turn the water-tap on and hold his hands under it and experiment on making splashes of many shapes and kinds. I do not mean that you should tolerate such disorderly mischief as turning taps on the sly and flooding the house; that is bad training for the child as well as inconvenient for the household. But when you are by to see that no harm is done, let the child turn the water tap when he wishes; not once in order that you may show him something that you can see happen, but habitually. Let him play with falling water. What is wanted is to get his finger tips, so to speak, quivering in response to the tremor of water at various temperatures and densities, and moving in various ways. All these physical experiences pass up to the brain and produce some impression there. They do not constitute knowledge; a man may dabble in water all his life and remain ignorant of hydrostatics as a fish, but they do form the unconscious material which, when he comes to study hydrostatics later on, will make his knowledge living and real, not shadowy.

As preparation for learning electricity, do not be satisfied with once shewing the child that sealing-wax rubbed on flannel will attract bits of paper, but let him have a stick of wax, or better, a common vulcanite comb and a piece of flannel, and keep them, and try all the experiments he wants to try. Let him learn by experience that after a time the comb discharges and needs to be rubbed again; that if he touches the table with the charged comb, it discharges at once and he has the labour of rubbing over again. As soon as he can be trusted to handle a glass rod without cutting himself, let him have one and an old silk handkerchief. Do not attempt to explain why the comb must be rubbed with wool and the rod with silk; but let him find out that so it is. I have seen a charming set of toys made (from receipts published by Tyndal, for poor boys) out of paper and pith, wire and scraps of sheet tin, some sealing wax and a few needles, with which two children, aged three-and-a-half and five, played the whole afternoon. The habit of using them seemed to have evoked in the small mites a deftness of touch on apparatus, and a sort of personal acquaintance with what scientific people call the “behaviour” of electric force, its manners and customs under a variety of conditions, quite different from any knowledge that would be imparted by any kind of teaching. The amount of electricity which a child can generate with a comb is not in the least dangerous.

(there was really so much of value in this article, I cannot recommend strongly enough that all parents read it)

This article lists some delightful old fashioned ideas about play and toys, ideas which should be in style once more.

Exercise the youngest children in threading beads and needles, tying knots, tearing paper for stuffing pillows, folding paper into various shapes, cutting paper, plaiting string, and ruling lines. Children should make, or help to make, their own playthings. It is said that

The children in Holland take pleasure in making
What the children in England take pleasure in breaking.


Something I learned years ago is that my youngest children were most satisfied with real things rather than flimsy toys- instead of a toy phone, they preferred the more substantial feel of a real telephone. This discovery is the basis and informing idea behind many of my suggestions for keeping your little ones occupied productively while you try to do school with the olders (there’s a really long list here)


When reading older articles about children’s playthings it’s helpful to know that ‘bricks’ refers to blocks, plasticene is simply clay (this is a regional rather than era distinction).
*The Parents’ Review was a magazine educator Charlotte Mason founded and edited in the late 1800s and first quarter of the 20th century, until her death.

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Snickerdoodles with Peppermint Puffs







The FYG made snickerdoodles the usual way.  Then she and Nod put peppermint puffs in the center of each one and baked them.

You can make your own colored sugars- it’s really simple.  Put sugar and a few drops of food coloring in a ziplock bag or a small jar, and then just shake it  to kingdom come and back.

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Decorating the Tree and Grandbabies

DSC_0426 DSC_0422


The HM puts up the tree.



The Dread Pirate waits patiently.




The Bumblebee investigates.


I asked the ladybug what they are doing in this picture. She said she didn’t know, and then she said, ‘This,’ and made the same face again.

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Nod enjoys cocoa and birdwatching by the fireDSC_0401


Ladybug is skeptical about something.

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Winter Wonderland


Uncle Boy  and StriderlingDSC_0385


Aunt FYG (also known as Aunt YayYay) Striderling and Princess Peach


DSC_0337 DSC_0314 DSC_0311

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A Junk Food History in Two Magazine Excerpts

1. From Dr. Wiley’s Question Box This is from a column written by a doctor in a 1922 Good Housekeeping:
“A Long While Since We Have Mentioned It:”

Question: “what is the real harm in drinking coca cola? If a person drank three to four bottles per day for three or four years what would be the effect on that person? Is there anything except will power that will break this habit? Two years ago coca cola could not be purchased at any drug store that I know of in Columbus Ohio, but now I believe it can he purchased at almost any drug store, certainly at all places where soft drinks are served ”

Answer: “The real harm in drinking coca cola is due to its composition. In the first place it is very sweet and we have entirely too much sugar normally in the diet of this country. In the second place it contains the residue soluble in alcohol of the coca leaves from which the cocaine has been removed. In the third place it contains added caffeine in the pure form which is much more active on an empty stomach than the caffeine which is present in coffee and tea.

No one can foretell the effect of a drug on any particular person. Every person has his own specific resistance to the inroads of drugs. I should say that the final effect on the normal person of drinking three or four bottles of coca cola per day for a number of years would be very serious. In the case of a growing child, it would probably ruin his health for life.

A strict enforcement of the Pure Food and Drugs Act would do much to break the cocacola habit. A famous case against coca cola in the trial at Chattanooga dragged its weary length along through all the courts and was finally decided by the Supreme Court. The case was remanded for a new trial at Chattanooga. When the new trial was called, the Coca Cola Company decided not to contest it. Accordingly,  the Court declared that coca cola was an adulterated and misbranded article. In spite of this action,, in so far as I know the Department of Agriculture has taken no steps whatever to enforce this decision, and coca cola passes without hindrance from one state to another.

The old company has sold out its business,  I believe to a New York corporation.  Cocacola is now listed regularly on the New York Stock Exchange and the shares are bought and sold like those of ethical corporations.  As coca cola has been declared both misbranded and adulterated I am rather surprised to find that it has been admitted to the Stock Exchange. I hope in the interests of the health of our country and especially of our children that a new activity may some day be developed in the Department of Agriculture which will help protect the people both north and south from acquiring the coca cola habit.”

By the sixties and seventies, it had acquired the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval and was featured in ads like this one:


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Econ Prof Antony Davies on Minimum Wage

“Economics professor Antony Davies explains that this view of the minimum wage overlooks an important detail: The minimum wage does not force employers to pay a particular wage to every worker; it forces employers to pay a particular wage to every worker they choose to keep. While the minimum wage may be well-intentioned public policy, it often huts the very workers most in need of our help.”

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News and Views Here and There

Within educational research, a number of longitudinal studies have demonstrated superior academic, motivational and well-being outcomes for children who had attended child-initiated, play-based pre-school programmes. – See more at: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/discussion/school-starting-age-the-evidence#sthash.z37pwpCl.dpuf

Another word for this type of program is…. Home.


Beautifully fascinating: 

Scientists have discovered a second code hiding within DNA. This second code contains information that changes how scientists read the instructions contained in DNA and interpret mutations to make sense of health and disease.

“For over 40 years we have assumed that DNA changes affecting the genetic code solely impact how proteins are made,” said Stamatoyannopoulos. “Now we know that this basic assumption about reading the human genome missed half of the picture. These new findings highlight that DNA is an incredibly powerful information storage device, which nature has fully exploited in unexpected ways.”

The genetic code uses a 64-letter alphabet called codons. The UW team discovered that some codons, which they called duons, can have two meanings, one related to protein sequence, and one related to gene control. These two meanings seem to have evolved in concert with each other. The gene control instructions appear to help stabilize certain beneficial features of proteins and how they are made.


The Democrats made use of their newly voted on nuclear option for a dead of night confirmation of a Judge who actually ruled that the Lutheran church has no right to determine who is and who is not a Lutheran pastor:

“It is hard to see the Supreme Court deciding that that is what the First Amendment law requires,” Pillard added. A few months later, all nine Supreme Court justices ruled in favor of the Lutheran Church.

It’s kind of hard not to giggle over this one:

NY Times: With Affordable Care Act, Canceled Policies for New York Professionals
“Many in New York’s professional and cultural elite have long supported President Obama’s health care plan. But now, to their surprise, thousands of writers, opera singers, music teachers, photographers, doctors, lawyers and others are learning that their health insurance plans are being canceled and they may have to pay more to get comparable coverage, if they can find it.”


China, Japan, South Korea and US in dispute over borders and boundaries. Not pretty. http://ace.mu.nu/archives/345691.php

Politifact spent the last four years as Obama’s personal propaganda agency, continually ‘reporting’ on Obama’s promise that we could keep our health care plans as though it were a fact, even though the very opposite was written into the bill. Now it’s their lie of the year.   It is that, but the problem is, it wasn’t just Obama’s lie. It was the media’s lie, too.

The corporate funders of the far left

Utah Judge strikes down significant portions of Utah’s anti-polygamy laws.

The stunning execution of Kim Jong Un’s powerful uncle strips China of its most important link to North Korea’s leadership and deepens concerns over how the unruly neighbor will proceed on Beijing‘s key issues of nuclear disarmament and economic reform.  Read more

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K-Drama Review: Ugly Alert

Ugly Alert oppa eoja dongsaeng Ugly Alert: The title is explained midway through- the grand-daughter tells her grandfather that she will give him a warning when there is more ugliness ahead.

It’s a daily drama, so that means what first feels like a draggy story, convoluted interruptions, lots of angsty misunderstandings and heart-ache and frustration for the viewers who are used to 16 episode dramas.  But it stars Im Joo-hwan (What’s Up lead), Choi Tae-joon (the surprise son in Padam Padam, a bully in Adolescent Medley),  Kang Byul and Kim Seol-hyun as four siblings with a complicated relationship, and mainly, Im Joo Huwan- I liked both his acting and his character the best from the start, but the others all grew on me over time.  And, the story is not all that draggy after all, the misunderstandings are largely cut short, and there’s ample amount of sweet to make up for the heart-ache.

The writer to this drama is the same man who wrote the drama Stars Falling from the Sky, and it shows.  All the stuff I love so much about that is here, too, plus more.

Im Joo-hwan’s character is the oppa/hyung. His father is a petty criminal, a bit of a ne’er do well, so the son has had to fend for himself and make his own way in the world. Fortunately, his bright, sunny optimism, excellent memory, gifted social skills, bright mind, and incredible work ethic help him along. He’s the stereotypical ‘Candy’ character of K-dramas, except male.  At first it bothered me how over the top perfect he was, but it helped that pretty much every other character is bothered by the same thing- and gradually you see his sunny disposition hides some of his other character flaws, and some of his seeming perfections are also character flaws (many a man has made shipwreck of his life through the character traits he thought were virtues, to paraphrase Charlotte Mason).

His father marries the widowed mother of the next two children, and the fourth child is the one they have together.  Jun Soo loves his new mother and she adores him and gives him all the mother-love he’s been craving, he loves having a home and a family, he is thrilled to have dongsaengs, and there’s nothing he won’t do for all of them.  The two step-siblings are obnoxious, petty, materialistic brats and I had a hard time feeling any sympathy for them at all- I get that it’s hard for them to accept the new step father and his criminal record and lower social ranking (he didn’t finish school, their late father was a doctor), but they were just too over the top for me.  However, I love what happens after they all grow up, and while I still think they were over the top, the drama does give a few more character reveals that don’t excuse their obnoxiousness, but do explain it a bit.ugly alert more oppa piggy backing

Naturally, this being a daily drama, the spite feels like it goes on forever, Jin soo just keeps on loving them all, no matter what, both parents die in separate accidents, etc, etc. That aspect of the story kind of reminds me of the stories I wrote in junior high.  But…. Im Joo-Hwan and his character are both so endearing.   He quits school at 14 and works part-time jobs, often carrying his littlest sister on his back, in order to continue to support his step siblings so they can go to school. They are not remotely grateful, and refuse to call him oppa/hyung, the snots.  Just about the time he’s almost gotten his little brother to admit he loves him after all, little bro gets in a fist fight with a bully (and the son of a politician), and unbeknownst to him, he kills the other boy.  Jun Soo, racing to stop the fight, comes on the scene as little bro is walking off, and he finds the dead boy and realizes his brother doesn’t even know he killed him, so, of course, he takes the blame, goes to jail for ten years while the step brother, resentful of his brother becoming a murderer, becomes a prosecutor who specializes in…. murder cases.

Ugly Alert oppa piggybacking donsaeng

Why am I watching this?  Because in spite of all of the above, it’s really a terrific drama.  The story just gets better and better, and there are some very interesting resolutions, twists and turns.  Spoilers (the above isn’t really as spoiler, it’s in the show description):

Also,  Besides Im Joo-Hwan, there’s the family thing and restoration of sibling relationships I see coming, as dysfunctional as this family is (when Jun Soo goes to jail, the siblings put their youngest half sister in an orphanage for a few years, so they can finish school. They do go back to get her, and she’s back with the family when Jun Soo is released, but… she knows, and makes it clear to them that she knows, her Kun-Oppa (oldest brother) would never have done that to her.

The materialistic, spiteful sister, Jin Ju, falls in love with the spoiled only son of a selfish widow who treats her in all the ways she treated her older brother, and who is as materialistic as Jin Ju ever was.  All the things her mother tried to tell her come back in spades.
The cold, introverted younger brother, Hyeon Seok, begins to fall in love with somebody who will never love him back, and he learns to make the kinds of sacrifices his older brother always made for him.  And then… but I’ll keep that to myself.
The oldest boy learns that sometimes the self sacrifices he has always made are selfish, and burdensome to those for whom you play the martyr.
There are some of the funniest side characters I’ve ever met in a K-Drama, most of them fascinating and very well fleshed out, and definitely interesting.
 ugly alert kang sora expressions
There’s a lot to love about this drama after all, and if the 120 episodes puts you off, keep in mind that because it is a daily, the episodes are shorter than the usual drama- only half an hour, in fact.
ugly alert kang sora cheek squashIt’s one drama that just got better and better along the way, and some parts of it were so funny that I showed them to my non-drama loving family, and they laughed along with me and suggested I share them with other non-drama loving family members (there is a childbirth scene that is just to die for, it is so hilarious).
This isn’t necessarily one for your teen-age boy, who probably wouldn’t like it anyway.  But I would definitely watch it with my daughters.  The clothes for one character alone would be a fascinating study, but there’s a lot more to this than the clothes.
I really enjoyed this, a lot.
You may also enjoy:

Shows I am currently watching but haven’t finished yet are described here.

Dramas I’ve completed, recommend, and reviewed: see here.

K-Dramas I almost liked- most of these are just darker than I usually prefer. Some are just flawed.

Things to know when watching a K-drama

More Things To Know

Addiction, and why I like K-dramas

You might be watching a K-Drama if….

Where to get your fix: Sites where you can find subtitled K-dramas (and dramas from other countries, as well. I’ve watched a handful of J-dramas (Japanese) and TW (Taiwanese) dramas.

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