Sometimes, as the weather turns chilly and my drive to do anything turns ‘off’,  I wonder why I have to come up with activities for my child.  He's the one who is bored, why am I the one going crazy for a solution?

It often ends up as disappointing as suggesting ideas for dinner. 

Lasagna, anyone?  -EWW! 
Straw Hat Casserole?  -Gross Mom.  
Aside from pizza, any suggestion I come up with is a failure. 

On days like these I am happy to turn the reins over to those who have mastered the word "bored": the board game industry.  

Ever play the board game Malarky?  In Malarky, “you don't need to know the answers, you just need to make people think you do.” It’s a great game that teaches the skill of quick thinking (or lying, call it whatever you want).  But it’s the kind of thinking our sweet, innocent kids will need in their future lives. 

Like when filling out a resume. 

Or when asked if they think their partner is getting fat. 

Or each and every year when they get caught by their kid trying to hide his or her Christmas present before wrapping day.  I am not the only one who has to come up with, “I know the box clearly says iPod.  The neighbor bought himself one and was going to toss the box.  It’s the perfect size for storing old photographs, so I kept it.  Don’t judge me.”   

…am I?   

Well, one day they’ll be the ones trying to hide the gifts, so get them prepared.  Play Malarky. 

But don’t let them get too good. 

Yesterday I was the one who was bored, and all I wanted to do was read.  I found a great review for a book called The Age of Miracles.  I was very excited!  According to the review, it’s a coming of age story with a unique background.  The setting is Earth, but at a time when Earth’s gravity is failing.  I couldn’t wait to see how this played out. 

I shared this thought with Stephen who didn’t look impressed.  He waved the book off saying, “Oh, that? I’ve read it.”
Seriously? Does he not realize that I am the one who buys his books?  Or drives to the library to pick up ones we are borrowing?  I know what he has read and what he hasn’t…except his teacher has complained that he is often caught reading under his desk when she is lecturing the class.  And aside from books he brings from home, he also stocks his desk with books farmed from the school’s library.

So it’s possible, although highly unlikely.  I mean, we’re not talking about The Hobbit here.  This book doesn’t have a wand toting Harry Potter, and there are no demigods saving the world.  In other words, not his type of book.

I questioned him about the story.  He replied, “I don’t want to give away the whole story, but my favorite part was when gravity returned to Earth.  There was this one guy in mid-leap when it happened and the way he fell when gravity took affect…you’ll have to read it yourself, it was so funny.”

“Oh yeah,” I stood my ground. “Well if you read it you know why gravity failed.  How’d that happen?”

Stephen picked up a book from the coffee table -always a sign that he’d like to wrap up the conversation and move onto something (someone?) more interesting- and plopped down in a nearby chair. With no further delay and no stutter to be heard, he answered, “Well, that part put me to sleep.  They got all technical with it, but basically they discovered that every two millennia the planets align in such a way that the earth’s rotation is messed up, and of course, that messed up the gravity.”

Not to go all valley girl, but that ‘totally’ makes sense.  The alignment of planets would mess up rotation and a messed up rotation would affect gravity.  Duh.  Knowing how the author created a world where gravity fails has only wet my appetite for the book even more.  Misaligned planets? I MUST read this book!  And I must stop judging my son’s reading preferences.  He is unique and amazing and who am I to say what he has read or not read?
I thanked him for bringing this book to life for me.  Then he stood up to go with one last quip.

“I was just kidding, I never read that book.  But I had you going, didn’t I?”

Now the kid has me wondering: why am I the writer when he can come up with a back story with no hesitation?  And why am I busy scrambling for ways to entertain him?  

The queen must pass over the crown.  There is a new master in the house.

After cleaning up all the wrapping paper and candy-cane bows, Stephen's gifts still littered the floor. There was moldable clay, remote cars, an iPod…and among other things that scared me just a little, a bow and arrow set.
Since Legolas took the silver screen, the bow has been a popular, ah, weapon.
There, I said it. Weapon. We gave our son a weapon. For Christmas, no less.  

Along with the bow, we also gave Stephen five rules: The arrows must stay off the floor; the bow must never be dropped; there was to be no target practice in the back yard; there was to be no target practice in anyone’s back yard; and in fact, the bow should never be used at all.  

We all know a parent can make up five rules and one of them will always be broken.  It’s best to simply decide in advance which one you want it to be and stick it in there.    
So, yes, I knew he was going to have to shoot the bow at some point in time.  But sending my son out to wreak havoc with a misaimed arrow, even in the open forest, seemed risky. Most towns will have a shooting range, but limit them to guns. And who wants to put a gun in the hands of a kid?  -Hubby! Put your hand back down! 
I was very concerned about how to teach Stephen how to safely use his new bow. And happily surprised when I looked up archery ranges and found one close by.  Turns out Legolas was REALLY popular!
That very first Saturday he went to the range with his cousin Dylan, who had experience.  He learned all the basics, like how to hold the bow, how to release, and most important: to wait for the call of, “Pull!” before stepping out to get any spent arrows.  But he was frustrated at not actually hitting the target. 

It turns out that it is surprisingly common for people who are new to shooting to miss the center, or even the entire wall.  
Who would have thought?  Stephen did his own equation to figure where he should be at this point and came up with a slightly skewed figure.  He was supposed to be that one in a million who just whipped out his bow and hit the bull's-eye on command.  No matter how many times we had him re-figure it he always came up with the same answer. 

 Lucky for us, they had an instructor, Kay, come over and give him some pointers- She he listens to.

We scheduled a session with  Kay Gaido at The Bow Zone for the following Saturday; She had him hitting the paper target consistently by the end of the hour.  

And now it's a pastime he can share with his friends.  He and his friends, Gage and Marco, made an afternoon of it at the range.  And on this day, his fifth day shooting, he starting hitting the center of his target.

As a side note: The entire ride over to The Bow Zone, Stephen and his friends discussed what they would do if Zombies took over the world.  Weird, because I know Stephen is not allowed those kind of shows, and we never watch them ourselves until after he has 'lights out'.  And yet, I found myself mildly pleased that for once in a car ride, there were no fart jokes. Go Zombies, and yay to the hippest way to save the world. I’m just so glad he has found a way to replace the TV remote as his sole way to exercise his right arm. 

Originally posted on December 30th

I had a hard choice to make.  Either I could get this blog up before Christmas so it would be timely fun for all, or I could spend the week playing Monopoly and Crazy 8’s with all the family visiting.  If you are looking at the date this was posted then I guess you already know I made the selfish choice, so hang on to this idea another 12 months so I don’t feel so bad, eh?

For Christmas, Stephen and I like to entertain ourselves with a homemade ornament. It’s not about pretty, so if your tree has to look like it belongs in Macy's, then perhaps you can add a suction cup to your string and let it be window art.   We like to hang our polymer clay ornaments along with the pretty store bought ones.  As we pull them out we read them and remember the good times of previous years. 

One year we made a circle that said Stephen's brother Aaron bought his first car, his sister Nikki was in the Honor academy and Stephen had a week long sleep over in Albuquerque NM.  Wow, what a year.   
Then another that reminds us that Nikki was off in the Navy, and Aaron was in Az and Stephen went to Disney World.  
This year with so many people spending the holiday with us, we were especially excited to memorialize our moments together, so first thing we did when we woke up- you know, at around 11:30 am or so- we gathered around the kitchen counter to create this year’s memory ornament.

But first, back to the 11:30 crack.  You know when you have family in all you want to do is stay up all night and visit.  That’s great for the adults who need the extra time to reminisce all the wacky stories they’ve already shared every year before, but the kids who haven’t yet acquired such stories really shouldn’t be hearing most of them. 

 And that’s why I am a firm believer in bedtimes for short people.  Sometimes I make it up randomly and sometimes I play fair and alter the clocks as it suits my needs.  It's called "distorting time".  So with Stephen and his cousins bursting with excitement and not looking to wind down anytime soon, I felt a little quiet reading would help settle them down.  Clocks stating the necessary time I called, "Ha, Ha! Off to brush your teeth.  You can crawl into bed with a good book."
But Stephen must have already overheard a few of the stories.  As I was shooing him off to bed, he stalled out in the hall then turned around and said, “I’m staying up another three hours.”
“Excuse me?”
“Well, I heard it’s always five o’clock somewhere.  I’m running on somewhere time right now.”
 Needless to say I had to remind him it was also midnight somewhere and accordingly, he was already running late. 
Now, back to the ornament.  This year we got to have the best memory of all.  Nikki surprised us with a visit from the Navy- arriving at our door in a wrapped gift box that our neighbors brought over!  And we had our visiting family sign the ornament!  Every year we pull that out I will remember all the fun we had this year.

So here’s what we did:   

  • We pulled out the polymer clay we picked up at Hobby Lobby and we rolled it flat (with an old glass bottle) to about 1/8 thick.  

  • Then we cut out the shape we wanted.  
  • We used a paperclip to write on the surface.  
  • We got all our extended family to write their names on it for an extra special memory!

  • We cut out decorations for it and added a loop of clay to hang the string from.  Then we put it in the oven to bake at 275 degrees for thirty minutes.
  • Then we pulled it out to cool, added string and hung it up.  Ta’da!
When we started this, I had no idea how much fun decorating the tree would be with all these extra memories attached to it.   So go store up some polymer clay.  This is a idea I hope all of you get to try every year.

Happy Holidays, from our family to yours!
Last week my son and I made homemade gum.  I didn’t get any pictures- and you know how I just love fiddling with pictures- so my husband said, “Why don’t you write about the playhouse we’re building?”

“Why don’t I?” I responded, “Because that's way off-topic.”
He said, “Yeah. Like you've never been off-topic before.” 
With no comeback in sight, that pretty much settled it. 

Aside from being off topic I also (secretly) worried that anyone reading this would think I was being very irresponsible in my parenting.  I felt like I was saying, “Give them power tools.  They’ll entertain themselves all the way to the hospital.”
Stephen, somehow sensing my need to fool everyone into thinking I am Little Miss Perfect, rose to the occasion.  With joyous cries of, “Look at me! You’ve got to take a picture of this!” He promptly jumped off the top of the ladder in dare-devil fashion.   Not once, but Five Times.  Fool that I am, I took those pictures.  Thank you, son. Now would you like that horror movie before you go to bed?
(Click on any of the pictures to enlarge)
So there you have it, this week's subject: playing with power tools.   Stephen’s club house was in dire need of repairs so we had some Labor Day fun ahead of us.  The roof needed shingles, the front peak needed patching and the sides are still awaiting panels. 
Eric said Stephen was old enough to learn how to use REAL tools.  I was squeamish at first, but the men assured me this is what men do.  You know what the women do?  Everything the men walk away from.  Yet we are always scared to death when they pick up a wrench.  Why is that?  (Yeah, I know why- but don’t tell them!)
Step one: Teach him how to be a helper. 
We had him stay down and hand us things as we needed them so he could get a feel for how the job was done.  Eric even gave the Stephen the You’ve Got To Start At The Bottom speech. Kids are under the impression that to become the President, you simply have to volunteer for the job. But that's not uncommon for this day and age, they also seem to think they are contributing to the household by killing off aliens in a video game.   Seriously- how proud are they, completing a level and running to tell everyone in the house?  I feel absolutely criminal not handing the child a medal.  But I got off topic again…which seems to be the theme today. 
Eric tried to ensure that Stephen understood the responsibility he was about to undertake and the experience he would need to develop, one small job at a time.  That went over really well, because Stephen’s next response was to say, “Okay, then after I hand you the nails, I want to hammer in the shingles at the top of the roof.” Yes, Dear. That was exactly what we meant. 

Clearly, it must have been, because Stephen rose to the top of the work chain like no other child exploited for their labor.  One minute he was handing me nails, and in the next, he was getting a tutorial on how to use the drill.  From there he went just a little higher on the roof, and a little higher yet again, until, what’da ya know, he was hammering in the shingles at the top of the roof. 
I could seriously take 'slippery' lessons from him. 

But let's take a step back.  Before he got to this level in the con, he had to suffer through another of our demented parental steps.

Step Two: Safety First!
Teaching eye protection was easy.  Stephen looks GOOD in glasses- and HE knows it. In fact, it was trying to get the glasses back off that was a problem. 

Teaching him to use the buddy system (just like in the pool, never do a job alone) was a matter of conquering the boy-cub-ego. 

As for tool safety, Eric had Stephen practice on the ground with remnants until Stephen felt comfortable with a tool.  Wise choice.  Turns out Stephen has all the confidence and bluster due a nine-year-old, and little bitty muscles to match.  He had grand ideas of simply guiding the powered screwdriver and plowing through the wood, zippity- zip. 
Ha-ha-ha!   (Oops!  Was that my out loud voice?)

The reality is tools don’t do the work, people do.  And that club house was a LOT of work. But so worth it- we'll have the fun of hanging out in it for years to come, but the best part is that I'll have these pictures forever.  See my favorite one below with that pinched face Stephen is making?  I'll have it FOREVER! Mwahahah!
Today is the first day of school for Houston ISD which means I am finally back to getting things done (...hopefully...once I get in practice could happen...)!

Saturday we attended Open House at Stephen's school and had a quick 'meet and greet' with his new teacher.  She passed out a "getting to know you" questionnaire, asking us parents to catch her up on our child's strengths and desires.  One of the questions was: What makes your child laugh?
My pen hovered over that question as I looked up at my husband who was busy reading over my shoulder.  Our eyes met and simultaneously we both blurted out, "Make up Tag!" 
So that is today's shared entertainment.  Stephen and my husband Eric started this game when summer began.  It started out humble, with only one rule.  You had to call your tag, then call out of the game - and fast!  I personally called the game I WIN TAG.
It started with something simple, a stuffed dog toy, I think.  It was a squeaky grey squirrel. Stephen had tagged Eric in the traditional way and run off.  Eric, never one to let a child win for the sake of being nice, or any other reason, chased after Stephen.  But kids are FAST, and we are getting older- I mean, smarter- so when he couldn't keep up with Stephen around all the corners, he picked up the dog toy and tossed it at Stephen.  Turns out old people can still aim.  "Squirrel Tag!" He called. Stephen was only shocked for a second- they are both equally devious- then he picked the toy up and launched it back.  "Squirrel Tag time out!" His father called out just before the nasty toy hit. And that was the beginning of the game. 
So you get the rules now, right?  Make up a type of tag (anything you can touch them with, and as the game progressed it was anything touching them), then tag them and call 'time out' in the same breath.  Seriously, after a few rounds you practically have to call the 'time out' faster than you can think it.  
The game is about using whatever is around you, but more than that, it's about being inventive.  One of my favorites is Lazy Tag.  That's where you convince the person to come to you and touch you. You can not raise your hands or arms, so offering a hug is out, you can't offer to shake their hand, or do anything that is creating movement on your part.  You must be very lazy and they must do all the work.  Then, when they do, it's a big fat, "Lazy Tag! Lazy Tag time out!"  This is a game that gets employed on and off, all day long.    
Some of the others I recall are: 
  •  Oscar Tag (that's our dog.  If you're seen touching him, it's Oscar Tag.  The thing about that one is you don't have to worry about calling 'time out'.  Oscar has to figure out to come touch you on his own, and he generally stays with the one who was last loving on him.
  • Pillow Tag
  • Blanket Tag 
  • Kiss tag (Often employed at bedtime.) 
  • Annoying Tag
  •  Pass Tag (inspired by Oscar's pass-by licking.  Picture it: He's minding his own business, you're minding your own business, then all of a sudden as you walk pass each other you are licked, and he never even slows down or turns his head to do it.  Massive skill involved.  If it makes you more comfortable, this Pass Tag uses the hands not the tongue- we only borrowed the 'technique' from the dog.  But you must be as sly and as casual as Oscar is.)  
  • Toe Tag (Be careful, you could stub one here.)
  • Mind tag (Stephen's contribution one night when Eric snuck in to give him one more kiss goodnight.  Stephen woke up to Eric's whisper, "Kiss Tag," and groggily answered back, "Mind tag."  -Cracked Eric up for several nights after.)
  • Frisbee Tag (A soft disk, not the hard plastic kind.)
  • Remote Control Tag (can be handed to them, or combined with Lazy Tag if you can get them to pick it up off you without you moving a muscle.)
  • Someone else touched you Tag (And this is why I personally call this game I Win Tag. I swear the stuff you can make up and get away with. Someone gets to call you tagged no matter what you do!)
  • Hidden object Tag (like a Frisbee under the bed's covers, or at the foot of it to be accidentally stepped on. Great way to encourage your child to keep his room spotless. You can see a Frisbee on your floor a mile away if you can actually SEE your floor!)
  • Paper plane Tag (I like these.  They are soft and unpredictable when flying, so you might try 80 times before getting a tag! Obviously, this one is not employed often.)  

So you can see why this game makes Stephen laugh so much.  He loves tag, but it's really the crazy stuff they come up with that keeps the game so fun for him.  Still, the game has gotten very relaxed.  The other day he was sitting on Eric's lap (never believe that nine too old for cuddling!) when Eric called some lame tag, but it was something-I wish I could remember what!- that Stephen couldn't call back on Eric, something that only applied to Stephen.  So Eric didn't even have to call a 'time out' on it. Being the genius he is, Stephen just stared at him a moment and called, "Grey Hair Tag."  
These are the stories that will go around the table when we meet his future wife.  These are the stories we will laugh about when we are  The moments when being a parent was everything you thought it would be. 

Please visit our children's book website: HoustonChildrensBooks
At the St. Arnold Brewery
Stephen can't wait until school starts and his teacher asks the students what they did over the summer. He insists he is going to stand up, pump his fist in the air, and proclaim, "I went to a BREWERY!"

The Parent of The Year award is always just outside of my grasp.

When Grandma came to visit, my husband Eric made arrangements to amuse her. One of the things on the list was to take her to St. Arnold for a tour on brewing. It IS educational, so we brought Stephen along, and I was amazed at how many others came to the same conclusion. There were more kids on that tour than adults! Which may be why they served root beer free, while charging (on a 'chip' system) for their other brewed items.  

So that's the setup for how we decided to do this week's activity. While trying out their root beer, Stephen decided it was the best he had ever tasted. Eric said IBC was still his favorite, and Grandma and I were undecided. So, we simply had to know: were Eric and Stephen choosing the best according to flavor, or by brand loyalty?

Inquiring minds HAD to know!

IBC or St. Arnold?
We bought St. Arnold root-beer, then swung by the store for the IBC. And since you can't judge root beer just for root beer's sake, we also picked up Blue Bell ice-cream. The real test is in the root beer float.

Now, admittedly, there was no need for the blindfolds; we could have just brought our test subjects in with no-brand cups, but I wanted it to be fun and feel authentic. But mostly fun. Just watch a blindfolded person fumble around for their cup- you'll laugh your tush off.

Stephen and Grandma choose St. Arnold
We divided into two groups. One to set up, and one to taste.  Stephen and Grandma were tasters first.  Stephen was, of course, excessively dramatic about reaching out blindly with his hands, somehow even tripping while sitting on his seat!  Oh, the temptation to keep moving stuff away from him was, at times, too great!  After a lot of overacting, and a few sips of both root beers- straight and then in floats- both Stephen and Grandma voted for St. Arnold.

St. Arnold root beer, but IBC for floats!
When it was Eric's and my turn we had a tougher time.  I tasted cup #1, then cup #2, then #1, then #2, and still couldn't decide which was better.  It was a hard call, but St. Arnold root beer by itself was both of our choice.  Then came the floats.  That made things much easier.  When used in the floats, cup #2 was much smoother and creamier.  For floats, Eric and I voted IBC.

So, although I had hoped the taste test would surprise us, it mostly just showed us how similar these two root beers are.  Until you add ice cream- then IBC really stands out.

But this test wasn't really about the root beer.  It was about having a little fun making consumer choices.  How much of our decisions are made by branding- and how much is determined by the amount of sugar added?  (St. Arnold Brewery informed me that they use a pound of sugar per gallon- WOW!  I was shocked until I looked up how to make root beer.  It turns out that amount of sugar is pretty average.)

So what foods are you and your kids picky about?  Is it really the taste, or is it the prestige of the brand?   It can be fun to discover a little more about the real you and the brands you like.  Just add a blindfold- and if you want to guarantee your brand's success- a little vinegar to the opposition.
I did no such thing!

Please visit our children's book website: HoustonChildrensBooks

You chose well, Grandma.
This week's mention isn't really a FUN thing to do- but it is an important thing to do.  Teaching your children how to run their own household isn't something that happens over the weekend.  Bit by bit, year by year, we help our children acquire the skills they will need to be successful when they venture out on their own.  Some of it can be subtle, like teaching them money management though an allowance program.  They think they are getting money, but really they are getting a lesson on spending vs. saving.  But some lessons are harder to disguise.  Like laundry.  I still haven't figured out how to make it look like more fun than it really is.  Any tips are welcome.
The reason I am mentioning this today is because we all make mistakes when learning to do laundry.  It seems pretty simple, yet somehow almost all of us have managed to bleach our dark's at some point, or forgot to check the pockets and found things cooked into the clothes, so there must be something to the process that requires years of practice. 
And since it does take years to get it down right, it's best to teach it while they are already outgrowing their clothes every six months anyway.  Less stress over what is ruined in the lesson.  I tend to believe if you are tall enough to reach into the washing machine, you are old enough to do your own laundry.  Stephen started doing his when he was seven.  Now he is nine and he hasn't made a bleach mistake for a long while (probably less recently than me!).  I thought he had the whole thing down. 
Grandma was coming to visit from New Mexico, so I wanted him to get all his work done before she arrived.  He separated his clothes, washed his colors, tidied his room, then put the clean load into the dryer and threw his whites into the machine.  Then he raced off to start cleaning the toilet bowls (at this point you are probably thinking I'm a mean old slave driver, but I assure you, aside from keeping his room walkable, and his own laundry done, he only has one chore a week.  I intended to have it as a rotating chore so he could learn how to accomplish anything, but I got static and haven't changed this one in a while).
Anyway,  'nice mom' popped in and thought she'd help him out.  While he was busy, his colored clothes completed their cycle so I took them out of the dryer and put his whites in to get started. As I was unloading the dryer, I found an unusual object in with the clothes.  You're probably thinking of all the things you've found: melted crayons, tiny shreds of tissue, marbles.  -Have you ever found garlic cloves heated into the clothes?  That aromatic dryer sheet hadn't stood a chance. 

Turns out while he's been going through his "I'm a werewolf, and vampires are my enemy" games, he loaded up with garlic.  And now I need to go over the "clean out your pockets" lesson again.
So what's the point of this story?  I'm still not sure.  I simply had to share the bloated, cooked cloves of garlic in the dryer.  I can't capture how funny that moment was, I had to call my husband in to laugh with me.  And to ponder how many future loads will smell like an Italian dish.  

Please visit our children's book website: HoustonChildrensBooks

Many will disagree with me, but fishing is GROSS!  So when Stephen wanted to go fishing with his big brother Aaron I devised a string on a stick in the hopes of NOT catching anything.
Too bad you can't fool them forever. It didn't take long before Stephen realized everyone but him caught something, and that everyone but him had an actual rod and reel.
So even though it meant upgrading to poking a hook through a wiggling, slimy worm, then catching a fish and trying to disengage the hook from their lips, or worse, their throat, then argue about releasing the fish, or having it for dinner, then losing the argument and having your kitchen stink like..well, dead fish...well, even though it meant all those things, I bought him a nice rod and a tub of fat worms.

And it slowly turned into into relaxing afternoons by the lake with him fishing, and me sitting nearby with a book in one hand, and a wet wipe in the other.  (He often needs help getting those worms on the hook- as I may have mentioned, they are very slimy and very wriggly!)


Most of us have access to a body of water with things swimming in it- even if it's just a ditch- so I feel I can recommend this as an excellent hang out time with the kids.   They can experience the joy of independence and providing for the family (a very important part of growing up) and you can set a great book loving example by sitting nearby reading a great novel.

And if you don't have access to water, perhaps this is a great place to plug a new group, Of Words And Water.  This is a group of writers I have joined forced with, and all have chosen to donate their talents to raising money for Water Aid.  It's the perfect win-win.  Donors can help out a cause for the sake of helping and not only feel the joy of being a healthy part of the human race, but also be given a gift in return...a book of entertaining short stories donated by these authors.  That's a win-win we can all be a part of!
I hope you can start small by simply "Liking" Of Words And Water and soon, after checking out their website and finding you agree with their goal, you can support the effort to provide water for all by donating whatever you choose and receiving an entertaining read in return.  

Once you're done checking out Of Words And Water, we'll get back to the bored kids, and hopefully you'll be heading out for an adventure in fishing!

It's been a difficult decision, but hopefully the right one.  I am moving my Blog off of the webpage and onto Google +.  For those following me, (mostly on Goodreads), the new address is ReadAnnieHarmon on blogSpot.  You can resubmit your subscription on the feed on my author's page, and I truly hope you do.  The RSS feed to the new site is:
Or you can +1 me on Google. 
(I may keep posting some of the blogs here for a little longer...seems sad to close it.) 
Thank you for reading!
Annie Harmon
When I heard Alspaugh's Ace in Kingwood was having gardening classes, I said, "Sign us up!" Stephen loves gardening and has several plants growing around his club house that he bought with his own money.  His real pride is his honeysuckle that cost him $20 of allowance, and has grown twice it's size since he planted it.  (He has grand plans of hanging out in his club house, lounging on his beanbag and reaching out the window to feast on the sweet liquid in the blooms.)  So gardening is a good choice of entertainment for him. 
When they called to say the next class was coming up and mentioned it was 'Fairy gardens' I became a little concerned.  My son may like his hair surfer-boy long, but he is 100% rough and tumble, trouble-making male.  Fairies?  Ugh.
Turns out, he is also very open minded.  He said, "It sounds fun and I'll just leave the fairies to fly off into your garden." 
The above picture is his garden.  He had two master gardeners (One, I had overheard, has won an award for her recent gardening project!) Phillis and Brenda help him.  We all worked over a long table with many items placed in the middle for each of us to select from.  Small branches of twisted wood, moss, colored glass, broken bits of pottery (so many things to be done with the broken pottery- these ladies were very creative!) and other items to decorate our gardens.  On nearby shelves were plants that had been segregated on the basis that they would grow well in a confined space.  Then to top it all off, they had a plethora of crafts to add: bridges, fairies, hanging baskets, tiny chairs- most anything you could imagine in your miniature garden. 
Stephen greedily collected everything that was available, which all put together, would never have fit into his pot!  He has always been big on grandiose living! I had to cruelly encourage him to return a reasonable amount of trinkets.  He was still so excited to be creating his garden and quickly came up with his master plan.  
Stephen wanted a river to run through, so he picked the blue glass to line the bed, and was wisely instructed by Phillis to have a little screening underneath to keep the glass from sinking into the dirt over time.  But, if I haven't mentioned it, he's nine years old and pretty sure everything he does is perfect the first time around.  He didn't think the screen needed to be hidden from view!  Feel free to disguise your own screening!  Then he added a bridge to go over his river, adorable red spotted mushrooms (which I really wanted myself and may one day 'borrow'!) and a chair to imagine himself sitting back in. 
Finally, he got around to adding the plants: Sage, Golden Japanese Sedum, Pink Mexican Heather- wait, no that was me, he had another plant I can't name- and he split a Jade tree with me. 
I never knew I could cut a Jade tree in half like that!  This class was invaluable in so many ways!
Aside from learning more about different plants and the abuses they can withstand, we had a wonderful morning playing in dirt and socializing.  When he had finished creating his beautiful garden, he proudly displayed it in my turret garden. (Disclaimer: I made that garden term up.  Who knows what you call a bunch of rocks built up to make a garden?  Alspaugh's, that's who- but I never asked.)  
Since our gardening experience, I have searched out web images of other fairy gardens.  It's amazing the things you can do! I saw beach scenes, moss covered shacks, and slices of a branch used for steps leading up to a tiny patio.  I could go on forever, but then you'd get bored and I'd never get started on my next garden.
If you like the idea of exploring gardening with your child, check with your local gardening center for classes.  And if you still can't find a group willing to play in the dirt with you, then grab some gardening soil, a pot, a few plants, tiny doodads and miniature knickknacks, and start your own backyard class.  It really is fun creating with nature.    
    If there is anything we stress over during the summer besides childcare, it is the cries of "I'm Bored!"

    There is so much to do, but we can easily forget our numerous options. So as my nine-year-old son and I find new things, we will share them here with you.  Hopefully one of them will be just what you need to get inspired.


    Annie Harmon lives in Houston Texas, but has lived in many of our beautiful states.  She has one husband (all she can handle) three children (who are each more beautiful than she could have hoped) and one dog (who is still trying to claim a spot as one of the above mentioned).


    Ruth Frank lives in Beaverton OR.  Her husband David is her inspiration in life and has a son, baby Soren.  She delayed her role as illustrator for many years until her big sister, Annie Harmon insisted there was no one who could do a better job.  'Bout time!


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