Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday Night is Family Game Night ...

... and not because a tv commercial told us so :) Friday night is game night because that is when Meaghan comes "home". And Meaghan loves games. She recognizes that a good game brings us all together in laughter and playful competition. Games help her to feel better connected to us ... and I think that must be true of anyone who plays games with their loved ones.

So, because I have shared some of our favorite movies and books this week, I thought I might also share some of our favorite family games. It is the holiday season after all ... and perhaps you might find some gift-giving ideas from such a list. (If you click on their titles, you can see their descriptions & reviews.)

Here they are:

Apples to Apples ~ apparently this is the most popular game in America now, but we've been playing it for quite some time. And it can get downright hilarious! Best to play with kids of reading age who also have some knowledge of popular culture. There is also a junior edition available that can be fun, but no where near as fun as the party version. Click link to see a video about the game.

Cranium Cadoo ~ what other game has you playing with clay, acting out secret words, making pictionary style drawings, etc...etc... This game has it all. Though adults will certainly have an edge ( I win almost every game) ... it is so much fun to play, that it isn't really about winning, but about enjoying each other during the playing.

Loot ~ Our family may not be into violence, but we have a weakness for pirates. I offer no defense for this. It just "is". And this pirate game is our absolute favorite card game. We take over one another's merchant ships with wild gluttonous abandon. I am told that the maker of this game, Gamewright, consistently wins "Toy of the Year" awards for their card games. We certainly plan to buy more to add to our game collection.

Clue Jr. ~ Just like the classic game Clue, minus the murder :) Instead, you are trying to find out who took the missing piece of cake. Yum. Find those crumbs, and you'll know who did it. Now you just have to figure out which room they ate it in, what time they did so, and with what kind of beverage! Fun for adults too.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Card Game ~ This game was one of Meaghan's firsts ... and is really good for introducing card games to the younger crowd. I figure that Isaac (who is 4 months shy of 3 years old) will be ready for it soon.

The Enchanted Forest ~ This is probably my personal favorite. It is both a memory game and a strategy game. You need to memorize components of the game, watch your opponent closely, and strategize how to out-wit them. I love that it is a fairly multi-layered game. And it helps that it has a fairy tale theme ... giving it some added interest.

We keep some other games as well, but these have tended to be our favorites. So, again, please share some of your faves too ... I would love to add more to our collection!


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Out Come the Christmas / Winter Books ...

I have had the "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus" since I was a child. This is the original first edition with a copyright date of 1932. I have no idea where it came from, but I know that I took it out every Christmas to re-read the tale of how one young boy would grow up to become Santa Claus ... and I still do. It has become a family treasure.

The preface reads as follows:

Draw close to the fire, all those who believe in the spirit of Christmas, whether you call it Santa Claus, or simply good will to men; and listen to the story of Nicholas the Woodcarver, a lover of little children. Follow him through his first years as a lonely little boy who had the knack of carving playthings for children; then as a young man, busy over the little toys; then a prosperous, fat, rosy old man who overcomes all sorts of difficulties in order to attain his ambition: a toy for every child in the village. Learn how he started to drive a beautiful sleigh drawn by prancing reindeer; why he first came down a chimney; how he filled the first stocking; where the first Christmas tree was decorated; and finally how he came to be known as "Saint Nicolas" and "Santa Claus".

Apparently, you can now buy a paperback version of this classic for just $8.95. I highly recommend that you do :)

I also recommend the following Christmas / Winter titles:

Diane Goode's American Christmas : we especially love this one, as the artwork depicts people of all colors. It contains various Christmas songs, stories, poems, etc.

Prancer : Meaghan loves this story. For years, she had an imaginary pet reindeer named Prancer :)

Uncle Vova's Tree : a book that celebrates the preservation of our Christmas (holiday) traditions. Also deals with death in a positive manner.

Olive the Other Reindeer : a sweet and zany dog who believes that Santa needs her help.

Dream Snow : sweet interactive book that is great for a toddler. Introduces the concept of gift-giving.

A Child is Born : Our favorite! This book could be about the birth of any child - but it certainly assumes to be about the birth of Jesus. And Jesus is black :) Isaac thinks the baby is him... which is probably why it is my favorite! "Mama, look ... it Baby Isaac." .... "It sure is Baby."

Santa's Kwanzaa : given that my son's biological roots are based in Africa, we have decided to incorporate Kwanzaa into our holiday celebrations ... and this book not only gives a very basic introduction to it, but it also includes a black Santa :)

Winter Poems : this is such a refreshing book. Full of beautiful poetry by some of the best. And the illustrations depict children of all colors (see a theme here?). A gentle and wonderful book. Gorgeous illustrations.

Is That You, Winter? : a funny and quirky book that celebrates winter. Has a surprise ending.

Snow : a gentle book that follows a child on a walk through the snow ... discovering all the wonder and beauty that is created and revealed by a snowfall.


I hope you enjoyed this list.

Have you pulled out your holiday / winter books? What are they?



Wednesday, November 28, 2007

TV / Movie Reviews (sort of) ...

Our family has a love/hate relationship with television and movies.

We love the storytelling of great movies and programs. We love the education that really great, well-thought and well-intentioned programs can offer : introduction to various cultures, reinforcement of positive values, insights into various human conditions, explorations of the world-at-large, etc...

However, we "hate" those programs and movies that offer our children the following: reinforcement of commercialization, violence, overly sexualized stimuli, negative stereotyping, relentless flashy stimuli (often found in cartoons), etc ...

At first becoming parents, we were going to do away with television altogether - especially considering that even when we appreciate a program that is offered, we have no control over the commercials that are displayed. (Halis would love to have Isaac watch football with him - but the "boob & butt" / "T & A" commercials are ridiculous!) So, we opted for PBS (commercial free & educational) programming and movies that meet our approval. This seems to be working for us. However, it took alot of movie previewing to figure out which ones we would allow into our family! And we had to let go of some of our very favorite movies (i.e. Elf) when they did not meet our basic standards.

My parents and some friends picked on us a bit for being so careful and critical in deciding what our kids watch (we include Meg in this - thus the plural "kids"). But what you allow into your child's brain & consciousness may have a profound effect on who they become, what their values are, and how they view the world. So, this is VERY important to us. Some may argue that we could do away with TV & movies altogether (I have read all those Waldorf articles) but we firmly believe in the benefits of great programming, and plan to use television as a positive tool (how could our son possibly grow up without having Mr. Rogers as his neighbor?).

As a result, we have come up with some very specific opinions on what is worth watching. And now I'd like to share our thoughts with you, with the idea that some of you may be as concerned as we are about what goes into our kids brains :) Certainly, you may disagree with our opinions, as every family is different. I share our thoughts with you merely as a catalyst for discussion and not as a sermon. Your thoughts are most welcome!

Here are our faves:

"The Nice":

Babe : our favorite movie of all. Frankly, there are too many reasons why. Just watch it :)

Sesame Street : love, community, diversity, education, respect, etc. We love almost everything Sesame related.

Secret of Roan Inish : ahhh ... this movie has me believing in fairy tales! It is so refreshing. Great for showing kids that their family/ cultural history matters and is worth preserving.

Disney's Cars: generosity & community will serve you better than narcissism and isolation. History is worth preserving. Folks from all walks of life can live together with respect and harmony.

The Little Bear Movie : such a gentle movie. Shows that we can learn much from one another's differences.

Finding Nemo : a parents love can defeat all odds. We decide how our "handicaps" affect our abilities.

Ever After : (Meg) evil deeds beget negative consequences ... and being true to yourself has its rewards.

Mr. Rogers : He likes you just the way you are because you are special and there is no one else like you. He loves the diversity of life and shows you things you might never see otherwise.

Dancing with the Stars : people learning to master something they never comprehended trying. Full of art, beauty and dedication.

Super Why : my 2.5 year old son is learning to recognize his letters & to solve personal trials through literature. Yes.

Nanny McPhee : talk to your kids. listen to your parents. respect one another. family comes first.

A Series of Unfortunate Events : siblings coming together to thwart evil & to protect one another --- using their brains rather than violence.

Extreme Home Makeover : Thank God we don't need their help. And Thank God they are helping others.

Whale Rider : Believe in yourself. Appreciate your culture. Seek to understand others. Participate in life. Honor your elders.

The Tigger Movie : Family is not necessarily created by blood ... but by love. Great adoption film!

March of the Penguins : A beautiful and educational film that provides an amazing view of the life of penguins.

"The Naughty":

Elf : was a fave of ours until we adopted a child. Terrible depiction of adoption. Makes a total mockery of adoption. Sad.

Hoodwinked : ultra flashy cartoon that would dizzy a race car driver & violence that is most unnecessary to the plot.

The Chronicles of Narnia : children fighting bloody battles? no thanks.

Shrek : all of them. Violent, highly sexualized, unnecessary adult innuendo.

SpongeBob SquarePants : Can someone please tell me what the value is in my child wasting a half-hour of his time with the program??? (How's that for an opinion?)

Meet the Robinsons : Too much flash, not enough content ... adoption messages are "iffy" at best.

So, there are the views of our family. We would love to hear about yours! Of course, our opinion is that "It's A Wonderful Life" is the best movie ever made ... and we are getting geared up to watch it several times this holiday season. Thank God for movies like this & for a television to watch them on :)



Monday, November 26, 2007

New Etsy Items For Sale!

Hooray! I have finally placed something new in my etsy shop: This Handmade Life. And it is terribly sweet! There are only 4 available at this time, so get 'em while their hot (literally, as I just pressed them :)

I plan to add more goodies for Christmas ~ so please check in with me once in a while. I hope to have some scarves, purses, totes, and other hand sewn goodies on the site within the next couple of weeks.

Currently, I am working on a quilt for my brand new nephew, Brady Borromeo! He was born last Wednesday and I cannot wait to love on him :)

Enjoy the day.



Sunday, November 25, 2007

Most Thankful.

We had a great Thanksgiving ~ spent with our best friends ~ sharing laughs ~ playing games ~ eating some great foods ~ and just spending quality time together. I am thankful.

And I am most thankful for these two cheeky monkeys ...

I hope you all enjoyed one another as well :)



Wednesday, November 21, 2007

First Snow of the Season.

Me--- trying to catch a photo of my boy enjoying the snow
Isaac--- successfully avoiding me
Lots of Fun!


the Renshaw-Sirimoglu family

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Weekend of Sewing.

Yesterday, I enjoyed my very first day - home alone - since Isaac came home to us one and a half years ago. And I cried. Yes, I cried. I cried as my husband was driving off with him and Meaghan. I cried because I don't "do this". I don't take time away from my son. I have a sort of PTSD that surrounds his adoption, and it is a RARE occasion that I am away from him. In fact, the only time that I ever "let" someone drive off with him was the day of my parents' house fire. And I think that was because I was in shock.

But it was good to do this this weekend. We all needed it. Daddy needed to spend some time alone with Isaac and Meg. Isaac needs Daddy big time right now., as he hasn't seen him much lately. Mommy needs to learn to trust others (especially Daddy) with her baby. And Meg needed some one-on-one time with Halis. And God knows I needed to Sew!!!

So, after eating a handful of chocolate chips, and drinking two cups of potent coffee (the chocolate helped the tears to go away and the caffeine helped my motivation) ... I created the following:

Two pillows for the reading room in my new home ...

A penguin scarf and matching wrist wallet for my niece :

A simple, lined wristlet bag for Isaac to carry his toy cars in:

A purse for my Sister-in-Law :

And believe it or not, I managed to get one quilt near completion, and one other started! Gotta love caffeine :) Oh, and I also managed to package up at least 35 items that I recently sold on Ebay. I am telling you - when the babe's away ... the Mom will play. I am SO going to do this again!



P.S. My absolute favorite completed project is the Mr. Rogers pillow. He is such a hero of mine and I just love the way it turned out. I look forward to using it in my new house.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Encouraging Missy.

My best friend in life, Melissa, is an amazing artist. She has been beading since she was a young girl. She grew up on " Indian Island" which is a Penobscot Indian Reservation in Maine. It was there that she was taught various native arts throughout her childhood. She does amazing work and really enjoys it.

She made this absolutely gorgeous necklace for my most recent birthday. Pictures do nothing to show its beauty. I know nothing about beadwork, but this necklace has 3 layers of intricate and interweaving beading. I am wild for it! And I have even worn it with a grey hanes t-shirt :) What the heck.

Anyway, I have been encouraging Missy to sell her work on Etsy for over a year now. And she has yet to do it. She told me quite a while ago that she doesn't like to sell her work, because she feels the pressure to mass-produce it which then takes the fun out of it. I believe that she can still enjoy making select pieces - at her leisure - and post them to Etsy as she feels compelled to. And I KNOW that folks would buy her work!

So, here is where YOU, as my blog reader, come in :) Take a good look at the above necklace, admire its beauty, and leave a comment of encouragement to Melissa (Missy) to share her talents with the world!

Thank you so much.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Quiltmaker's Gift

A new quilt project for a special someone. I bought this wonderful Mary Engelbreit toile fabric at Mardens (a must stop for all fabriholics in Maine). And then I grabbed some additional sweet fabrics from my stash, as well as a gorgeous pattern from one of my favorite quilt books: Quilts From the Quiltmaker's Gift ... and I am happily stitching my way toward another handmade Christmas gift.

For all sorts of ideas for handmade gifts, you must RUN (don't walk) to this website: Sew, Mama, Sew.
You'll thank me for this link :)


Sunday, November 11, 2007

We Are Still Here ...

... and we will begin our regular posting schedule beginning tomorrow. Until then, enjoy this video. (I SO voted for them :)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

My Crafty (and Amazing ) Cousin Nicole.

I have this amazing cousin, Nicole, who married this equally amazing guy, Murry, and together they are adopting a child (or children) from Kazakhstan. They are nearing the end of the process, and are now only waiting for a phone call from some "adoption officials" to tell them when they will be expected to fly to Kazakhstan. Once they arrive, they will need to spend a month there in order to complete the adoption. That is not only quite a sacrifice (we know this first hand) but it is also quite costly.

So, my Cousin ... who is always so inventive and motivated ... has come up with a gorgeous, useful and sweet craft product to sell in order to raise some funds for their trip. She has made these wonderful journals from vintage Little Golden Books ...

These sweet journals come both lined and unlined. They come filled with quality recycled paper and all of them include the original story at the back of the book. How sweet is that??? And only $15 each plus shipping!!! These would make wonderful gifts for any holiday. And I am so excited to have placed my order for the Poky Little Puppy shown above :)

If you are interested in her work, please visit her website and click on the FOR SALE link at the top of the page. They are selling fast, but Nicole plans to add more great journals as soon as possible. You can also place orders for certain books or styles. What a treat.

Enjoy her site.



Saturday, November 3, 2007

As Promised ...

... one of the most beautiful scarecrows you will ever meet :) Oh, and his equally adorable Poppy (grandfather) as well. Poppy is Isaac's best bud as can be seen by the expression on his face.



Thursday, November 1, 2007

Technical Difficulties...

First, Happy belated Halloween!

We had a wonderful time trick-or-treating. And I can't tell you how many people said that Isaac's costume was the best they ever saw. It blew me away. I didn't make it, but a new friend of mine did (Thanks Pam ~ your work is amazing). And I SO wanted to show you all a picture of Isaac in costume ... but am having trouble uploading photos from my camera to my computer. So, I have to drive to Walmart, upload them there, pay for them to be put on disc, and then upload that disc to my computer. Ugh.

So, it may be a couple of days before I can share some photos with you all. Until then, please send me some links to the adorable little trick-or-treaters in your lives :)