Smith Kids MSU Tailgate

Smith Kids MSU Tailgate
Dominica, Veronica, Rebel and Miranda

Friday, April 20, 2012

Stayin alive

Holy smokes.  I can't believe it's been so long since I wrote on here.  The entire formatting has changed since I've been on here.  I am kind of scared to post this.  What if it totally blows up our entire blog? 

So life is trucking along business as usual. I'm still running, still reading, still writing (not enough though apparently) and still relaxing when life allows for it although not enough relaxation happening lately. 

Anyhow, we still haven't come to much of an agreement about the whole television issue at our house for long term, but for right now we have tv days and no-tv days.  The schedule goes something like this MWF/Sunday tv is allowed, T/TH/Saturday no tv allowed.  I do understand basic math and I realize I got the bad end of this deal. I get one less quiet, tv-free day each week.  However, I am home all day everyday with the kids and we leave the television off other than for a half hour at the end of the tv allowed days if everyone's been good.  Lately we have not been watching much afternoon television because my kids have been pretty much awful this week.  At least I get a break when I go to the Aquatic Center to work out!

A bit of a confession: I made the ill advised decision to get just two balloons at the store the other day.  When you have three kids, buying two balloons is a very bad idea.  Don't every do that.  Not ever. Anyhow, I had just two kids with me at the store so I thought (foolishly I might add) that my kids would be able to handle sharing these two beautiful balloons.  AJ has been wanting a balloon for months and he earned a dollar cleaning up trash at Kara's school trail clean-up last week.  A guy stopped and handed him a dollar.  Since he was the only one who came to help me since Kara was sick I felt he should get a balloon out of the deal.  He saved that dollar to get a balloon and so I ended up at the store with two kids buying the balloons.  Fast forward a couple of days and you will find me completely frazzled while listening to my three children fighting non-stop since the ill advised purchase had occured over the balloons and you'd have found me ripping the balloons out of their hands and throwing them out the door. 

But not before I explained to them the old program at Fremont Public Schools when I was a kid and we released the balloons each year with contact information on them hoping that we would receive a letter back from who ever found it.  And I even helped them to do the same and we had so much fun setting the balloons free! The kids watched them as they disappeared over the horizon and squealed with delight as they watched.  Who knows if we will ever hear from anyone, probably not.  But at least it solved my immediate problem without more crying and whining.  And it was actually a lot of fun for all of us and most importantly it didn't involve the use of the television. 

Tomorrow I get to run with  some of my running buddies!  I can't wait for the break from the kids and for the exercise, for the conversation and possibly most of all for the post run coffee since it is going to be cold and rainy!
Vern Out

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Where the red fern grows

Since March is National Reading month (or something like that), Kara and I have spent even more time than usual reading.  If we are not outdoors playing with our rocks or otherwise enjoying nature, then you can bet we are indoors enjoying a good book.  Part of the reading deal is that we also have a chapter book we are working on at all times. At many critical point during the past few years I would recall lines from the book "Where the Red Fern Grows" by Wilson Rawls.  If you haven't read it, check it out from the library and read it at once.  Really no one should go through life without having experienced this one.  It was one of the standard issue reading books when I was in fifth grade, but I am not sure if kids are still reading it today in English class. But they should be if they aren't.  Maybe that is what's wrong with our society?

Anyhow, I hadn't read it since fifth grade, but the message about meeting God halfway and working hard to achieve your goals really stuck in my head even after all these years.  Plus I simply love dogs so I decided to get it and read it for our most recent chapter book.  Boy I am so glad that I did.  Even though I didn't get through it without some tears.  It really is an exceptional book. I still had my original copy from back in the day on my old book shelf at my parent's place. The last time we ventured north I picked it up and we read it quickly in less than a week.  Kara absolutely loved it.  And now when something is really hard she will say "Billy Coleman would ask God for help and then work for a really long time to do it".  Way cool.  Then Friday night we had movie night and watched the flick (thanks Kate for the loan).  Miraculously, Kara liked the book better than the movie!  I never thought I'd hear her say that as she is my biggest TV junkie (after Jeff).

Anyhow, that is what we've been up to not much happening on the telly although we did watch the movie and we did tune in to the NCAA games last night.

Vern Out

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

From Rocky to rocks

From Rocky to rocks life is such a tremendous gift.  While I enjoyed watching Rocky a few weeks ago, I am glad to be back to (mostly) tv-free life. We have been enjoying the glorious weather that God has provided recently by pretty much living outdoors.  We haven't even eaten indoors for over a week.  And even this week with slightly cooler temperatures, it still seems pretty great for March. Being outdoors has led us to do some new cool things the past couple of weeks. 

We adopted a tree!  Our old friend Mr. Oak Tree has been officially adopted by us.  We are at the library getting books about oak trees right now and Friday we plan to do bark rubs and take him a treat!

Kara has started a rock collection and she absolutely loves looking for new rocks.  She is now working to list them all complete with names and thorough descriptions.  Jeff is working to teach her about different types of rocks since he is a geologist after all.  I figure not only is it good to get outdoors and search for rocks, writing all of this stuff is great for her reading and writing skills.  Maybe someday she will follow in my footsteps and take up writing!

We have already walked several miles out back and I've run several more on the Brainy Day loop and usually this time of year it is way too muddy for such adventures so we are loving it!  I am thinking we may start a rock garden to go with my AWESOME new herb garden compliments of Miranda and Mark (thanks guys).  That will be another way to put our rocks to good use and I think the kids will enjoy it!  Maybe we'll make rock pets too.  Man the possibilities are endless no wonder Jeff studied rocks for so long!

Aven has been busy playing with his dinosaurs and new tow truck that his Grandma S. gave him.  He sure is active these days getting him to take a nap is no longer an issue because by two he is worn out and ready to sleep!

Hazel is still busy creating messes and table dancing at the library.  Not much has changed with her.

We had been watching Dinosaur Train for a half hour of tv each day, but this week no one has asked for it so the telly has been off! Yippee! 

I think we will make a big pot of stone soup to tie into the whole rock theme next week.  We have done this before and the kids LOVE it.  Just add a fairly clean stone to your average rice and whatever soup and the kids will eat it up!

Vern Out

Friday, March 16, 2012


I met with a coach yesterday and much to everyone's surprise it wasn't a running coach.  As addicted to running as I am, I actually met with a writing coach.  It seems kind of silly to me to have a writing coach; I mean it's not like I typically break a sweat while writing. But I guess like any skill writing takes practice and who better to help you practice than a coach!  It was an extremely helpful meeting and I have all kinds of ideas for writing my book and now I feel like maybe I really can do it! 

On the television front, our TV has pretty much been on non stop for the past ten days.  Unfortunately, I am serious.  We've been watching PBS kids like it's going off the air and will never be shown again. Not ever.  And at night we've been watching movies and all kinds of low quality night time television programming.  This is all true because our kids have all been sick with a nasty cold, flu like bug and I am going crazy having to care for them and listen to them whine and clean up their nasty germ riden messes and be a mom.  I guess you win some, you lose some. 

I would be remise if I didn't mention March Madness.  Even if you aren't a sports nut, it's kind of a big deal.  The past two nights basketball has been filling the house with all kinds of excitement. Tonight more so than last night.  I can't believe Lehigh just won; I can't believe Duke just lost!  Since my husband is a Duke hater (and I try to be a supportive wife) I am a very happy lady right now despite the ridiculous amount of television that we have been watching the past several days.  Tomorrow my goals in life are simple.  I am going to go for a run and I am finally going to enjoy the incredible weather that has been going on around here.  I don't care if it means I have to drag sick kids along with me.  So be it. I will be outdoors not inside watching the telly.

Vern Out

Monday, March 5, 2012


It finally happened!  Last night we watched Rocky!  It was pretty good too.  I can see why it won awards and has become a classic.  The one shocking thing is that he never actually ran through the snow carrying fallen trees like I had been visualizing during my late night runs out back.  Jeff thinks that might happen in part two or three and I am not committed enough to searching through multiple movies trying to find it. I've heard the others are not as good anyways so I am happy just to have seen Rocky and to have the visual picture of him running through snow with trees over his back in my mind even if they are fabricated images that I have created on my own.  It still motivates me to run when it's cold and snowy and that is what matters most.  His training outfits were very similar to what I run in when I go out back too so that cracked me up.  That I run in clothes that look like they are straight out of the 70's is pretty funny to me.

Other than that we had an action packed weekend. Jeff and I celebrated our 8th anniversary at Hearthstone in Muskegon Friday.  The kids and I went to visit my sister and her family saturday and Sunday we brought my nephew home with us for a super cool sleepover.  Now we are making the most of our time left together.  He goes home this afternoon and then we head directly to our nightly MOPS meeting from the rendezvous location in Grand Rapids!  Other than Rocky and the MSU basketball game I had a television free weekend.  I still say GO GREEN even though they didn't look so good yesterday.  I guess they are saving their best ball for March Madness and the Big Ten Tournament this week!

Vern Out

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


So the last time I played a game of soccer I was twenty two and it was a fierce game of back yard ball with a bunch of young Mexican kids while Shahla Bolbolan and I were vacationing in Puerto Vallarta.  They actually seemed impressed that a couple of American girls would play at all and they didn’t kick us out so I think we did okay.  Maybe they just liked watching us run around.  That said, I wasn’t good. Every single boy out on the field was superior to me and some of them were just 8 or 9 years old.  I was just mediocre at best, but I did run the entire time and I didn’t get hurt.  It rained for a better part of the game and it was so much fun to just run around in the rain and mud and try to kick the ball. 

Now fast forward about twelve years to the present time and you will find me playing in an organized soccer league in Muskegon tonight as a sub.  I gave fair warning to the team that I have never played organized soccer (unless the game in Mexico counts) and that I don't know the rules or strategy.  They must have been desperate because they still wanted me! 

It is not going to be pretty, but I figure I ran a marathon so I can do it!  Say a little prayer for me that I won’t get hurt.  I don’t mind being humbled and a bit embarrassed.  I expect that.  A repeat of the Mexico experience would be welcomed. I would be the worst one on the field, but at least I wouldn't get hurt.  I just don’t want some soccer injury to interfere with my little running addiction.  Today instead of watching the television, I will be mentally preparing for and attempting to play soccer!

Vern Out

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Split personalities and other psychotic episodes

I apologize for the recent lapse in updates.  I have been busy writing my book and caring for my kids who seem to be on a never ending rotation of different health ailments.  Now I have caught the latest version of cold virus that has worked its way through our house so I am battling it and trying to stay caught up with everything while my in-laws are away for 18 days which means I have much less support than usual and I am likely about to experience another episode!  Anyhow, I wanted to give everyone a bit of a sneak peak at one of the chapters for my book.  This is a ROUGH draft so you may find all kinds of errors.  If you do, just let me know!  I hope you will read it, enjoy it and give me your feedback so I can make improvements!

Heavy TV viewers exhibit five dependency symptoms--two more than necessary to arrive at a clinical diagnosis of substance abuse.

            These symptoms include: 1) using TV as a sedative; 2) indiscriminate viewing; 3) feeling loss of control while viewing; 4) feeling angry with oneself for watching too much; 5) inability to stop watching; and 6) feeling miserable when kept from watching (TV-Free America, 2000).

            During the year without television I developed a split personality.  Well technically it was split into many pieces, many personalities. As such I am not sure if that is still considered a split personality or if it is a fifths personality, but on any account I started pretending to be other people.  Keep in mind I have no formal drama training or experience so this stretched my skill set considerably, but all things considered I think I did pretty well.
            My personal favorite is Ursula the hairdresser.  Ursula came out after all the baths to ensure that everyone got their hair brushed and styled.  She is from Eastern Europe and has a strong accent. An accent that likely sounds nothing like one of an eastern European dialect, but I don’t let that stop me.  Practice makes perfect and I did practice a lot.  The kids so love Ursula that I find myself morphing into her on a regular basis still to this day. 
            I also play a restaurant worker, named Martha. Her voice sounds like a cross between Mrs. Doubtfire and Julia Child and she acts as flamboyant as Liberace. Even I think she is a bit silly and extravagant.  Then again I have done a lot of silly things in my day so who am I to judge?  Again the kids eat her up so at meal time she usually makes an appearance especially if the kids aren’t eating well and need some entertaining encouragement. 

            I am also an athletic trainer named Groove. Like Madonna and Cher, she works on a one name basis.  That is how incredibly cool and famous she is.  Groove is an energetic, fit-as-can-be, work-out enthusiast and she has the personality that is most like my own.  We get along great and because we are so alike I get a little reprieve from my overzealous acting when Groove comes over to lead an aerobics or pilates class.  She has led us on many adventures of the calorie burning variety.  Sometimes to make it more fun, we exercise in costume.  That is when I get out my old legwarmers and leotard and the kids sport princess dresses or bathing suits!

            Toward the end of the year I developed yet another personality known as Super Mommy!!!  Super Mommy is a super hero mother who rushes to aid children with any need; no task is too small nor too difficult for Super Mommy.  All that is needed to get her attention is good manners and a simple request for Super Mommy services.  I wish I could say I have a cool spandex suit and a cape for this role, but I am just not that good at sewing.  A home-made cape that is nothing more than a baby blanket with brightly colored stripes on it has to suffice for my costume.  The voice and the sound effects are what really make this one popular anyways so the outfit isn’t too important.   Super Mommy occasionally leaps off from furniture or climbs up on the counters to accomplish her heroic acts.  A regular mom, like myself, would never attempt such ill advised stunts. But for Super Mommy the stunts are super simple!

            Sometimes I not only change personalities, but I become another species altogether an imaginary one at that.  Occasionally it is necessary to become a monster in order to accomplish cleaning of our house.  When this is necessary the cleaning monster appears (aka Me) and once the goofy cleaning monster gets involved children become inexplicably more cooperative and helpful.  The cleaning monster has helped to clean our house more times than I can count and the kids know better than to argue with the Cleaning Monster because he might bite!

            A few times I nearly lost my mind.  For real.  I know what you are thinking.  She is being dramatic; she is exaggerating. But truly during the year there were a couple times that I probably was legally crazy, or insane, or whatever they call it nowadays.  I think the proper term is a "psychotic break", but I’m not sure.  What I am sure of is that I nearly lost my mind living without television, but oddly enough I would still do it all over again.  Call me crazy!

            One such occasion was when the kids were all sick and then as they were all finally getting over it I unfortunately caught their gastrointestinal illness. I think the words (borrowed from one of my all-time favorite movies, Christmas Vacation) I used to describe those couple of days on my blog were, “we have arrived at the threshold of hell”.  It was that bad.  In short the kids were feeling really good and I was feeling really bad.  I thought I was going to lose my sanity in this instance.  The kids were in need of entertainment and I was not up to the challenge.  A few critically important items got us through this ordeal without watching television and without permanent mental health implications. And they were, in order of importance, books, books and more books.  We read for about forty eight hours straight only breaking for mommy’s frequent trips to the bathroom.  This was without question one of the toughest times during the year and I was definitely precariously perched on the edge of insanity (and the toilet) on several occasions during this particular episode.   

            A couple of times I self diagnosed mental health conditions. Once according to Dr. Me, (who lacks any form of training or experience with mental health or psychology mind you) I had Bipolar disorder and I’m pretty sure I may actually have ADHD.  Ask my friends. Unfortunately it’s true.  These diagnoses seemed likely given the circumstances at the time.  Due to the enormous mood swings I experienced a couple times I was fairly certain that Bipolar Disorder was coming on late in life for me. And though he would never admit it, I am pretty sure my husband shared the opinion.  I do know that Bipolar Disorder usually affects people in their late teens or early twenties and is defined by major highs and lows in mood. But even given my advanced age, I thought perhaps I was an exception to that rule.  Maybe I was a late bloomer because I definitely experienced some serious highs and lows generally in direct relation to Aunt Flo’s visits.  It was intensely awful and gave me a new respect for people who actually suffer from Bipolar Disorder.

            The ADHD is just a matter of how I operate.  I forget things easily, am easily distracted and I have a hard time sitting still and focusing.  I’m basically a classic case of ADHD.  These were all true long before I started participating in television-free living, but in certain situations my ADHD caused problems.  For instance, in the beginning I once forgot that we were living without television and my five-year old had to remind me as I was getting ready to tune into Ellen.  Occasionally while entertaining the kids, I would lose focus and wander off to my own little world and the kids would have to rein me back into my role as entertainment specialist in their own little world.  I don’t believe in taking pills. I just don’t.  This comes from years of conditioning while living with my parents. 

            However, at one point during the year I had forgotten enough stuff and felt unfocused enough that I decided to self medicate my self diagnosed ADHD with Ginkgo Biloba.  A good friend had recommended it so I figure it was worth a try.  It didn’t work very well.  First of all, I had to remember to take it and that was very hard for me.  I mean I was taking it because I felt forgetful.  Anyhow, operating on roughly half the recommended dosage, I would still routinely forget stuff and I still couldn’t focus very well.  About five weeks into my experiment I quit.  It worked for my friend, but not for me.   Over all, it all worked out okay for us.  We survived the year and you know what they say, “if it doesn’t kill you, it only makes you stronger”.  Who are they anyways? I think I’m hearing voices?