In which Kris reads children’s books

Kris here,

It’s been a while since I talked about something I liked reading instead of rambling on about writing every week. I figured this week I’d talk about The Ranger’s Apprentice. This is actually a pretty recent series as far as stuff I’ve read goes – I read it a few years ago, but it was just published less than 20 years ago! Okay it’s not that new, but a lot of the books I like to revisit frequently were all written in the 70’s, 80’s and..well the 1800’s. I’m into older stories you could say.

The Ranger’s Apprentice I believe has a target demographic of something like 9-14 year olds, so I actually just read the first book to make sure it was alright for my then 6 year old and whether I could keep it around to read Nik at bedtime. Five or six books into the series and I’m thinkin’ “wow this is pretty good” – as evidenced by the fact that it took me about 3 days to read each book. The writing is surprisingly easy to digest for something written for such a young age; to be fair, when I was 10 I read Animorphs, Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe and Dragonlance. So I guess kids aren’t as bad at reading as all that.

I don’t want to spoil the actual story here, they’re relatively short and easy to pick up, but it’s essentially a coming-of-age tale of a young orphan named Will who got picked up as a …Ranger’s Apprentice. And he’s all like “pfsh no way!” and then later he’s like “This is amazing!” Honestly the main character is relatively likeable, but is by far one of my least favorite characters. I don’t hate the guy, I just like all the others better. Especially Halt, which is the “Ranger” part of the series title. He’s a rough guy who knows how and when to help, and he fills in my need to have a badass dude who can stand up to the evil guys while the smaller good guys are still doing jumping jacks or whatever so they don’t get stomped.

The series romps through a few topics I wasn’t really expecting to see – befriending bullies, beating drug addiction and killing a guy with a longbow arrow through the face, but were written in a way that I’m definitely adding them to the stuff-to-read-Nik list. Check out the first book if you have a few days to read a fun story, I can honestly say my copies are chopped up between physical books and e-books (self-control, what?!) so it’s available in whatever form you need.

Also the wiki says Mr Flanagan originally wrote the story as a way to get his own child into reading – I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but I’m 110% down with that.

(the first book is here)

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Source: Link

Tina chiming in here,

According to my research, The books have been slated to become a movie and started production in fall of 2016. I have not heard anything new but here is the New York Times article with more information if you want! (Link)

When Kris wants to write.

Hey ya’ll, Tina here kinda. Kris didn’t get time to edit or refine his post this week because of the madness of his first born child starting Kindergarten and all the craziness that happens with that. So, I am here to copy paste what he sent to me and leave it in it’s raw weird format for you all to enjoy. A little peek behind the curtains if you will. He wrote this story as a warmup before diving into writing on his main project. So without further ado. The children’s story of the Tiny Cute Puppy.

(Kris here – I changed a few words here and there, but I didn’t edit too much since I think Tina did a great job separating the word soup I’d sent her in the first place. Hopefully this story makes you giggle as much as I did writing it!)

One day there was a cute tiny puppy dog. But this dog had a secret. He was actually very, very big! He just told everyone he was tiny to make them feel big too and so everyone would think he were adorable. After all, tiny animals are adorable.

Then one day he met a grumpy frog. The frog was like “hey! You’re not tiny!”

The Cute, tiny puppy dog was taken aback. No one had seen through his ruse before, but he didn’t want the frog to give him away.

“What do you mean?” Asked the tiny cute puppy, “I’m obviously adorable, everyone says so. You don’t have to be mean to me because I’m adorable, you could just pet my ears. Or scratch my belly!” The puppy rolled over onto his back, his tongue lolling out to one side and his legs fervently pawing the air, this was a classic act. No one could resist!

“Oy! I’m not about to say you aren’t an adorable puppy after all ‘at rollin’ about young one, but you’re the biggest dog I’ve ever seen. I think you’re the biggest animal I’ve ever seen. I bet you could arm wrestle an elephant and come out on top.”

The frog was definitely weakened by the adorb-attack executed perfectly by the puppy, but it was too wise to be goaded by his cute words. “Tell ye’ wot  wee tyke,” continued the frog, “you tell everyone around town the real truth about your size and I’ll bet they’ll all rub yer’ belly without even thinkin’ twice about it.”

The frog gave the tiny cute puppy a pat on his upside down head and hippity hopped off to scratch some sick beats at the local dubstep club. This really vexed the poor puppy.

“But if I tell everyone the truth…will they really like me?” His curiosity was piqued, he had to know.

The tiny cute puppy bounded toward the house of his best friend Smooth Jazz Pincushion. This was of course his stage name, for Smooth Jazz was a saxophone player on Thursdays when the dubstep club was donated to aspiring jazz musicians as a romping ground to get together. Cute tiny puppy rocked the seismometers all over town as he leapt to a stop just outside Smooth Jazz’s hole.

“Hey Pincushion, are you home!” Tiny cute puppy waited and waited, he knew he had to have patience when visiting Smooth Jazz in case he was in the middle of a set.

He was dedicated to his craft and would keep playing until he perfected the song he was working on. Thankfully, Cute Tiny Puppy only had to wait about an hour before Jazz waddled out of his hole. Tiny Cute Puppy came here because he thought if anyone could identify an adorable puppy, it would be an adorable hedgehog.

“Hey Pincushion, whatchya workin’ on today?” Puppy knew to be polite if he wanted his friends to feel important. And he wanted Pincushion to feel important so he would be sure to give him an answer right away.

“Well today’s piece was a little number I picked up from an old bloke from back in the day. Very popular, very popular, you probably have a shelf dedicated to him at home even. Goes by the name of Ol’ Satchmo. My dear fellow what brings you to my home today.”

Tiny cute puppy was puzzled momentarily thinking about his record shelves, but came back to himself quickly.

“Hey Pincushion, I heard ’round about the pond that I would actually still be adorable if I were really big. Do you think I’d be a cute puppy if I were big?”

Knocking over  several municipal buildings in the process, Tiny cute puppy let his body crash to the earth, sending plumes of dust into the air with a shockwave.

“Hmm, well that’s an awfully good question cute, tiny puppy. I couldn’t imagine you big since you’re so snuggly and cuddly as a tiny puppy, but let’s have a look at you anyway.” Smooth Jazz disappeared inside his hole for a few seconds and reappeared wearing some reading specs. He backed up several city blocks waving his thumb in front of him and looking at Cute Tiny Puppy making all kinds of hmms and umms. Finally, he came back to puppy with his answer.

“Cute Tiny Puppy, I do believe I’ve accidentally discovered that you’re really huge. Like freakishly gigantic. Irresponsible for you to live in the city at that size even. I’m not sure how we missed it, quite an amusing oversight if you ask me. We’ll have to change your name!”

Tiny Cute Puppy was sad, he liked his name. “Aww really, what would you suggest?” Asked tiny cute puppy.

“I have just the thing don’t you worry.” Pincushion disappeared once more into his hedgehog hole to retrieve something.

This time puppy could hear the odd sound of a huge bellows being activated just as a giant blaze shot out of Smooth Jazz’s rooftop. Following were the echoing clangs of a hammer ringing throughout the tunnels, sounding like it came from everywhere at once. Finally, puppy heard the loudest sizzling sound he’d ever heard in his life. After several more minutes of beeping and mechanical grinding, Pincushion appeared in a great big excavator, tirelessly moving dirt to make the entranceway to his tunnel at least 3 times bigger than it had been moments ago.

Cautiously, the puppy asked “Hey Smooth Jazz, what’s the machinery for? I thought you were just picking out a name.”

Pincushion responded briefly before disappearing once more into the cave. “Oh puppy, sorry for the wait, I got distracted on the way to my library. I forgot I’d made a forge in this place a few weeks ago and I’ve been dying to try it out. I even had some sheet metal on the floor so I used it to make a splendid new nametag for you. Here try it out!”

Pincushion came back out with a nametag so big, he had to tie a team of horses to it just to get it out the front door.

“Thanks guys,” he waved the team of equestrians back across the street to their own homes.

With that, Cute Tiny Puppy laid on the ground so Smooth Jazz could fix the nametag to his collar. When he rose back up, he could see his new name.

“Gigantor Adorable Labrador? That’s a great name!” Shouted formerly Cute Tiny puppy.

“That it is my fine friend. That. It. Is.”

 

The End

Always on my mind

Howdy everyone, Tina here!

So as another day has passed, I am now ever closer to that fateful day when my dear sweet little boy, goes to school.

Now I know what you all are thinking, “Congrats! You have made it 5 years without mortally wounding your child. Now you get to send him off for half the day and experience your own time.” Well my friends, you are so wrong!

The last few years that I have spent at home with Nik have been amazing. He is so inquisitive and full of life. I worry about how I will do without him. I know he is going to do amazing in school. He has been practicing his whole life.

 

 

 

Making friends. Check. He will say hi to nearly everyone he sees. He seems to have a knack for honing in on those people with extremely sour dispositions and doing everything he can to get them to acknowledge him or just say Hi if they are really stubborn. Many a rideshare driver has met and talked with Nik, which is great for me because I get to just sit back and let him do all the talking. Even with our mildly grumpy roommate Watson, Nik knows that he doesn’t really like kids but will tell him jokes or do silly things to his dad to get Watson to laugh or smile. He tries sneaky ways to try and get him to talk to him too. He is getting better at it and even Watson admits that he keeps forgetting his own rule to ignore anything that can’t spell in a video game.

Schooling. Check. As far as general education goes, he is so ready. He has been working on his vocabulary since he found out he could talk. Kris and my hard fast rule to never baby talk him made sure he understood everyone around him and that he was well understood. He loves watching shows with me and his dad, so we worked on showing him all the coolest shows we loved from our childhood. Magic School Bus, Bill Nye, Zoobumafu, among others. That had us finding ones he really liked like Octonauts, Finding Stuff Out, and Wild Kratts. He loves learning about animals, nature, and space. He told Kris and me that his goal is to become a Firefighter, policeman, and astronaut in that order. I have no fears that when it comes to learning that he will shun away from it. I think he will be the one gathering others to it, hopefully not to explode or anything.

Challenges. Check. This kid has the iron will of a rusted shut bear trap. When it comes down to getting Nik to do something he doesn’t want to do, I have learned. You don’t demand, you challenge. Which to some might sound silly. He’s my kid and should do what I say when I say it right? No, he is his own person with his own set of ideas about what he does. You want him to do something different, please explain. So I could yell and scream and hold my breath and stomp my feet and we both end up feeling bad, or I can explain it to him for hours on end until I feel like my head is going to explode, or I can make it a race, make it a game, make it a spoonful of sugar if you will. I can let his willfulness get the best of me or I can work with it and help him to find the challenges and fun in life. I would much rather he make every day things seem like a game than watch him ho-hum though life.

So, will I cry on Tuesday of next week? YOU CAN COUNT ON IT. Not because I am scared for him or it means he is growing up. He reminds me everyday that he is getting older and bigger. No, I will be crying because my brightest beam of joy and love will be missing for most of my day and being faced with his own new challenges and learning. I will stand there however, with a brave face and a warm smile and hug to see him off. I will wave to him as he goes off to class each day, ready to learn and enjoy the things he finds. I will smile each day he goes to school, because for him, this is his newest adventure, and for me as well.

Niko chill

Izzy – Week 3

This week saw a lot of growth. We got ready to go to OKC (Oklahoma City) to pick up my oldest child and my sweet cousin, I took Izzy to get a full check up and to make sure she would be okay to travel. The vet let us know that she did have a blatter infection and that she was all set to travel. We knew that we would have to make frequent stops and allow her time to try to go potty as many times as she needed. I also found she had grown another whopping 4lbs, bringing her total up to 28.6. With a nearly 30lb puppy, I knew she had to be restrained in the car so we could keep her safe and everyone happy on the road. I got a seat cover, and harness seatbelt latching system for her. I laid down her bed since she understands that as a place to relax.

Well, it worked well enough. I ended up with two sleepy heads on our way into town.

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Nik having decided to color on himself and the dog ended up with the markers revoked but they still had a fun time togeather. When we got into town, Kris took out her playpen and set it up into a travel kennel, since her’s was too big to fit in the car. She wasn’t so sure about it at first, so Zac and Nik climbed in and hung out in there to show her it was a nice place to go. Being the puppy that loves everyone that she is, she walked right in with them. I was tempted to leave them all there and go see a movie but, my mother guilt kicked in.

We packed everyone up and moved Izzy to the back with a blanket blocking the back window to help keep her shaded. We checked on her several times but she seemed to enjoy being able to sit up and check on her boys at any time. This lead to several very cute moments where the boys had their arms stretched behind them as they loved on her or played tug over the seat. But as I was the driver of our trip I couldn’t get all the cuteness in pictures. I did manage, however, to get Kris to snag this cute one.

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We met with our Service Dog trainer and she gave me a few things to work on with her. The biggest thing is controlling her boundaries with only my voice. Making invisible lines around the house and keeping her under control when opening the door. Also her general manners. Learning how to great people. Now with a house full of three very different boys, it will make her week so much more interesting.

 

The Grumpy Penguin

Kris here,

So some time ago while we were all hanging around and I was probably doing some manly dad things, like grilling outdoors or twisting off tight jar lids or something, when I had the bright idea “Hey Nik and I should write a story!” So I then said aloud “Hey Nik and I should write a story!”

Tina was totally down with this on account of it not including any work on her part, but Nikolai was apparently heartbroken. Do you know how long he’d waited to play with those toys? It might’ve been watching his tablet too but let’s go with the toys thing. He was yelling and crying and calling 911 and generally just making a ruckus that I don’t think was necessarily apt for the situation. So, of course, I sat down and started writing the story about him, out loud, while writing everything to paper. He gradually grew less and less fussy and started laughing because I’m the best and we all learned something at the end (dad had to google because he was making outlandish allegations that nobody was sure of.)

Right after we’d finished writing it down to paper, Nik and I read the story to Tina as a whole instead of the broken sentences I used while I was actually writing it down. Tina did that thing she does where she’s the best and there were suddenly illustrations! And now we have a brief and amusing story that still gets told before bed from time to time – we thought we’d post it on our blog here, in case anyone else was able to make their toddler giggle at the antics of The Grumpy Penguin.

Grumpy001Grumpy002Grumpy003Grumpy004Grumpy005Grumpy006Grumpy007Grumpy008Grumpy009Grumpy010Grumpy011Grumpy012Grumpy013Grumpy014Grumpy015

New age kids

I can remember when my family first got a computer. The dust cover was left on it and it was seldom played. I had an AOL email account and dabbled in the world of games like Neopets and the like. It was the start of a flashbang of technology. I remember my mother having a pager and I wanted one so bad as well. Then in high school, my friend showed off his new flip phone. The day I turned 18 I went out and got a cell phone for the first time for me and my aunt. I remember having to convince her that it would be useful, but she was younger then most adults and took to it well.

Now, flashing forward to my 11-year-old who programs robots to do tasks on the weekends as a sport. I have found myself explaining more than once what different programs or games are about to my family that has kids but is older. “What is the big deal about ‘Minecraft?'” or “What is this Curse launcher thing he wants to install?”. I am thankful that my family is secure enough in their lack of knowledge to seek out more info before outright rejecting anything. However, they are not the only ones I have been asked by.

So today I have put together a short list of programs and websites that I play on with my kiddos along with information about them and their costs.

  1. Minecraft!

Minecraft

One of the biggest hits to come out of a very simple idea. This game is just blocks. Some blocks have gravity, some provide power, and when combined into various patterns you can create a whole world of your own design. You want to be a farmer with lots of animals and crops. Done. You want to create a castle or your favorite real world place. Done. You want to build a computer that will project words or images. It is 100% possible. Minecraft is super versatile and allows for whatever type of gameplay or style you want. No wonder most of the YouTubers my son watches are playing Minecraft.

Minecraft comes with a one-time cost of $26.95 to set up an account but then you have it forever. No monthly fees, no extra costs. The game is available on Xbox where there are extra fees but if you are using a computer, your world is more open to various play styles. The way your avatar looks is called your skin. I have created skins for myself, husband, and both sons with the use of free sites online. Nik loves building new and cool looking things like a robot that when you press a button pops out bombs. Well, it is creative at least!

For some, the bland vanilla world of Minecraft doesn’t provide enough mental stimulation, but once you buy a Minecraft account you have access to the wonderful world of mods.

2) Minecraft Mods

Once you have bought a Minecraft account you can download and install mods. However making sure that the mods work together and that you installed it correctly can be difficult even for those of us well aware of the snags that can happen. So I would highly suggest downloading the Curse launcher.

The Curse launcher has mods your child or yourself can check out and download, then just click play. Easy as that. My oldest loves exploring the survival games that force you to think outside the box to move on to the next stage. My husband enjoys the mods that give you quests and goals to reach. I like to decorate. We can build our own mod that lets us pick and choose what is in it or we can just play a pre-built one.

3) Roblox

Roblox

Roblox is a free to play online community of people playing games created by other users. It will download a launcher the first time you play so don’t be startled. It is free to play but there are options to pay for extra things such as clothes, or extra things in a game itself. I don’t really see a need for it but it could be a thing to use as rewarding grades or what not and allowing them to use it as they would like since you can buy cards at any Walmart, Target or ToysR Us.

One of the things I learned after playing for a while with my younger kiddo was that if you make a party with your friends/family there is one leader and they can choose the game and it will load both of you into the same game. Something that made playing the game 100% better with my kiddo.

4) Light-bot

Lightbot siteLight bot app

Lightbot is where we introduced my oldest into coding. He loved it. It helps with logical thinking skills and problem-solving. It has an app as well that you can install on most devices. As far as I have seen it is free. You may need to sit with your kiddo to help out the first few times so they don’t get too frustrated, but it is well worth the reward of them getting excited about solving a puzzle all on their own.

5) Overwatch

overwatch

Now, This game is a little more advanced. However, I haven’t seen any of my kiddos have a problem playing the game. This game is more expensive but has no subscription costs and the skins and extra little bobbles can be earned by playing the game. It is a first person shooter that promotes teamwork and strategy. There is no blood spraying everywhere, just a simple grunt and then they respawn. Blizzard has been fairly “family friendly” in the broad sense of the term compared to others in their field. The women in the game vary from a broad shouldered weight lifter carrying a heavy lasers to a slick fast fighter pilot who can zip around the map quickly. The story lines of each hero is a little above what I would explain to my youngest but he knows what role most of the heroes can play and does really well in focusing in the game. His favorite person to play is Junkrat. An Aussie who lobs bombs at the other heroes and has a trap and landmine. He has to figure out what the trajectory of his bomb will be and if it will hit anyone. So I can see the practical skills it instills in him as well as the fun he has from reacting quickly to changes and working on a team.

As it does come with a high price tag I would save this for the older kids who have a gaming computer that can handle the game. Nothing more frustrating than being young and handicapped by a slow computer that can’t handle playing this graphics heavy game.

 

These are just a few of the most played games around my house. What games do your kids seem obsessed over? Are there any you want to know more about?