The Karaoke Tribe

Hal had received some books from his grandmother for his ninth birthday. I hadn’t looked at them closely but they looked like biographies of less famous American historical figures geared toward younger children. I noticed him reading one of them one morning as he waited for me to be ready to take him to school.

“What book were you reading?” I asked as we headed down the driveway.

“The Journal of Jesse Smoke.”

“Smoke? S-M-O-K-E?”


“How is it?”

“Good. It’s written like it’s his diary except he doesn’t share his feelings.”

“OK. I don’t know Jesse Smoke. Who was he? It’s a true story, isn’t it?”

“I think so but I don’t know he was. I haven’t read much of it yet.”

“Well, when you get further into it, please tell me about him. I’d like to learn.”

And with that, he absorbed himself in the book (which had to be tricky since he had just finished wrapping himself up as a pretzel inside his hoodie to protect against that oh-gosh-so-awfully-cold-Texas-October morning weather).

After a few minutes of silence from the backseat, he announced, “Mommy, I don’t think this is a true story. A bunch of people just turned themselves into bears to go down a hole. And – if you are a real human, you can’t just turn yourself into a bear.”

I was fairly certain this was an historical book, so I took a guess and said, “Well, there were Indian tribes who basically believed they could turn themselves into animals. Maybe he’s telling one of his people’s stories as if he believes it to be true.”

There was a slight pause.

“He’s a Karaoke boy.”

“A what?”

“A Karaoke boy.”

“Spell it.”

“C-H…. E…. R-O…. K-E-E.”

I was very careful not to laugh. “Cherokee, honey. The word is Cherokee. They are an Indian tribe, Native Americans.”

One of the most fun parts of being a parent has been listening to my young readers try to pronounce the words that they’ve only seen in print. To combine Hal’s mispronunciations with Daryl’s most famous from years ago, it sounds like Jesse Smoke comes from a family of Karaoke Madge-i-cans. (Magicians).

Relative Importance

This morning, my boys were having a discussion about the relative importance of things.

Daryl, the puberty-entering near-twelve year old, was sitting at the dining room table, eating his cereal and milk. Hal, the learning-to-read-efficiently near-seven year old, was sitting in the living room, reading a book.

“Hal,” Daryl called out. “You need to come eat your breakfast.”

“I’m reading!”

“So? You need to eat breakfast.”

“Reading is important.”

“Not as important as eating breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You need it to fuel your body for the rest of the day.”

“Well, reading is more important than eating!”

“No it’s not! You have to eat or you’ll die. You can read after you eat breakfast.”

When I related the conversation to my husband, Hal clarified his reasoning. Turning to his brother, he said, “Well, what if you ate poison, huh? If you ate poison, you’d die! And what if that poison had a sign on it that said ‘poison’? If you read it, then you wouldn’t die. But only if you can read!”

Who can refute such logic? Certainly not an older, thinks-he’s-so-wise brother.

The Inner Dragon Let Loose


A stone support near the entrance of our local Braum’s.

It’s Vacation Bible School week.  The coolest thing about Vacation Bible School week is that we go out with friends for ice cream at Braum’s nearly every night afterwards.  This is a pretty crazy thing to do since it’s already bedtime when we get there but, hey, it’s summertime.  Why not?

I was standing near the above pictured item with Daryl while Hal and Daddy fetched some bread and bananas from the market before we left.  (If you don’t live in a close enough radius to Western Oklahoma, then you may not know what Braum’s is.  It’s primarily an ice cream store except it also has great hamburgers and cherry limeades… and a pretty decent grocery section where we buy eggs, milk, bread, and some produce.)

Anyway, I was standing there with Daryl, who was wound up and hyper.  He was hopping around and throwing his arms around and talking trash like a rapper.  Actually, he looked more like a pale, skinny, nerdy white kid trying to imitate a rapper, which made it kind of hard not to laugh.

“Momma, momma.  I’m tellin’ ya.  I’m gettin’ ready to let loose.  I’m gettin’ ready to let loose my inner dragon all over this stone plinth here.” He slapped his hand on the support in demonstration.  “I’m gonna let loose my inner dragon on this stone plinth.”

Ok, let’s just set aside the whole “inner dragon” business for a minute.  My ten year old son used the word “plinth” in conversation.  I mean, who does that?  *I* don’t even do that.  In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the word spoken before.  It doesn’t come up in everyday conversation.  It just doesn’t.  Unless you are talking to Daryl, that is.  Which is what makes him so awesome.

Now, I must have heard the word before, because as soon as he said it, I corrected his long I sound: “It’s plinth, not ply-nth.”

He paused from his tough guy act.  “Are you sure?”

“Not positive, but I’m pretty sure it’s plinth.  You can go ask Daddy.”

He returned from checking with his dad to tell me it’s pronounced “ply-nth”.  The tone of his voice would have been enough to label that a lie even if I hadn’t heard his dad protesting in the background.

This kid uses the vocabulary he gains from books, which makes him awesome.  And the fact that he mispronounces almost all of them doesn’t faze him one bit.  Which makes him doubly awesome.  I love this kid.  And that crazy inner dragon of his.

Books, Books, Books

About a decade ago, my husband and I decided that we had too many books in the house.  Some of you book lovers out there will claim that this isn’t possible – that no one can have too many books.

That’s simply not true.  There are too many books when you can no longer access all the books you have, when they are stacked in front of each other, when they line the walls, forcing you to stack other stuff in front of them because they take up all the wall space.  When you simply can’t access most of the books you have.

Note we decided that there were too many books in the house.  We didn’t decide that we owned too many books.  Actually, I think we knew that we owned too many but we weren’t actually ready to part ways with them.

So… we packed them up in tubs.  And tubs.  And more tubs.  And put them out in the storage building to be dealt with later.

And here we are at later.

There has been a confluence of personal growth events and decisions over the last couple of months that has paved the way for where we are now.

First, we both dearly love our Kindles.  We rarely crack a spine of a book anymore.  Books that we love… more and more, we are deciding to repurchase in electronic form.  Now some, with beautiful pictures or the author’s autograph, we will always keep.  And we’ll probably always have a wall or two of books – just to feel at home.  But we simply aren’t likely to read them on paper anymore.  And we know that.

Secondly, we have been growing the desire to keep a cleaner, less cluttered house.  This has created a willingness to stop purchasing things and to let go of many things that we do have.  Including books.  In theory.

Finally, we are about halfway through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.  We are excited about taking control of our money instead of vice versa.  We are excited to know where our money is going.  And we are excited about paying off our vehicles and then the mortgage and student loan to be debt free.

One of Dave’s recommendations is to sell whatever you can to earn some extra money to achieve your financial objectives.  So we decided to do a joint garage sale with other folks from the class, this dovetailing very nicely with our drive to rid ourselves of stuff.  That took us out to the storage building, where we started extracting those tubs.

Sixteen tubs of books.  Sixteen.

My husband nobly committed to getting rid of half of them.

“Half?!” I exclaimed.  “We need to get rid of more than half!”

“It’s a start.  Maybe I’ll get rid of more.”

“So much for making room in the storage building!”

“They won’t go back in the storage building.”

“Then where will they go?” I asked.

“In the house.”


“I’ll find room.”


“Well, I might have to get rid of some of the books in the house to make room.”

“You could get rid of all the books in the house and not have room for half of these!”

“You know, you could try meeting me part way.  I’m trying here and you still just want to slash and burn.”

“I don’t want to slash and burn.  I’m trying to inject a bit of reality into this.  There. Isn’t. Room.

“There’s nothing rational about this.  There’s not room for reality.  It is what it is.”

“Fine.  We’ll start with 50%.  But nothing in tubs.  Nothing in the storage building.  Nothing stacked in front of anything else.”

He agreed to that but I don’t see how he’s going to make it happen.  There’s already stuff stacked in front of everything else.

Oh, and one of the great things about all this great personal growth stuff we’ve been going through?  That entire discussion above was done with humor and grace.  No anger.  No irritation.

It’s pretty awesome.

Mr. Chubby Butt


Meet Mr. Chubby Butt. He’s a pirate. And a frog. And frogs do not have butts. Or at least he doesn’t. Or if you call what he has a butt, it’s certainly not chubby.

No matter.

His. Name. Is. Mr. Chubby Butt.

Daryl read a lot of books this year and earned a lot of AR points at school for them. More points than anyone else in his elementary school including fifth graders, in fact. Nearly twice as many as the second place fourth grader.

He’s following in the footsteps of his sister, who had similar accomplishments. Their success in this arena has three major components:

  1. They love to read. I mean, a lot.
  2. Their reading level is very advanced (think graduating seniors), allowing them to read books with substantial points available.
  3. They are ridiculously competitive.

So while many of the other kids love to read or have a higher reading level or are competitive in some ways, none of them seem to have that same three-way toxic mix that mine have.

This causes the PTA some headache.  They have an “AR store” where kids can redeem their points for various little items.  Their budget and point values on items anticipate most kids getting less than 100 points, with the standouts earning around 200 to 300.

When Jane had well over 600 points halfway through her fourth grade year, they asked her to name her price.  She asked for, and received, a Kindle.  Later that year or the next, she got an Amazon gift card.

Her brother, of course, was not content to reside in her shadow.  He gave the winning fifth grader a run for her money while still in third grade.  In fourth, he tackled big-point books including Ender’s Game, Dune, and all the Harry Potter books.  And since he wanted to maximize his return, he saved all his points to spend at the end of the year.  Once again, the PTA was faced with a kid who would break the bank.

They offered him a “VIP Pass” to an upcoming event, a turn in the “money box”, or a Build-A-Bear animal.  He jumped on the latter but wanted to know how many points it would cost.  He also mentioned that he’d like an Amazon gift card.

The teacher and I went back and forth for awhile with her trying to tell me that he could have whatever he wanted, he just needed to name it.  And me trying to tell her that he didn’t fully know what he wanted.  He wanted to analyze his options once point values were assigned.

They finally set point values.  And he went shopping.  He got various little knickknacks for himself and his little brother.  He got a nice gift card to Wal-Mart.  And he got to build an animal.

He chose a frog with no backside and named him Mr. Chubby Butt.  And then asked me if I could help him figure out how to secure the belt since it was too big for such a skinny beast. A-hem.  That’s because he has no butt!  *sigh*


One of the best parts of my recent trip was all the extra time I had to read while there. My Kindle can keep a charge forever and holds hundreds of books.  It’s awesome.

When I left the hotel early enough to get to the airport two hours before my flight, I was almost giddy about getting to read for an hour or two plus another hour or two on the flight. I sat down at the terminal,  there so early that only a handful of other travelers were there. I got out the boiled egg and muffin from the hotel, pulled out my Kindle,  and turned it on.

Battery Level is Low

Your battery is getting low. Please charge your Kindle.

Seriously. The irony, for me, is that I carried my charger on my person on the way here. But I put it in the suitcase for the trip home. So now what do I do?! I am so devastated that I’ve seriously considered asking the other passengers if they have a charger I could use.

P.S. Some folks will think this story ended with me pulling out my Kindle and wonder why in the world I felt compelled to share. That’s because this terrible Android WordPress app on my phone thinks the save icon should be equivalent to “publish”. I tried to save it so I could use the camera to take a picture of the low battery message. *Sigh* So now I can’t even write blog posts for fear they will all run this morning!

Colorful Counting

My five year old son doesn’t yet know how to read but he does know Algebra. He doesn’t know that he knows Algebra, but he’s got some of the basic concepts down instinctively.

While riding in the car the other day (seriously, I think our best conversations are in the car), Hal announced to me that red plus red equals yellow.

“How’s that?” I asked.

“Well, red is one and yellow is two.”

“Ok. If red is one and yellow is two, then yes, red plus red equals yellow. Although if you were talking about mixing colors, that would not be true.”

“I know. I’m using red to mean one and yellow to mean two. So do you know what yellow plus yellow is?”



“And what is black?”

“Black is four. Do you know what four plus four is?”

“What is it?”

“It’s um… um… hang on, I’m trying to think of another color. It’s… um… blue! Yes, four plus four is blue.”

“And what is blue?”


“Very good.”

“And eight plus eight is… white.”

“These numbers are getting big,” my husband whispered to me. I nodded before asking Hal what white was.


“Not quite. It’s sixteen. I think you might have reached your limit on big numbers in your head. You’ve done a great job though.”

“A plus A is B.”

I looked at my husband and smiled.

“And B plus B is C.”

“Actually, B plus B would be D, wouldn’t it?” This comes from my puzzling days where each letter in the alphabet has its numerical equivalent. From an algebraic perspective, he can be right until he gives two rules that contradict each other.

“Well, C plus C is E. And do you know what Z plus Z is?”

“What is it?” I asked.

“It’s ‘Now I know your ABCs.'”

Nice, kid.