L is for she LAUGHS at the days- an interview with Secret Agent Josephine

After a long career as a super spy Secret Agent Josephine is now coming forward to tell her story in this colorful set of illustrated children's books written by Brenda Ponnay aka Secret Agent Josephine.

They are available in any e-reader format and hardcopy.

I've been reading about Secret Agent Josephine's adventures long enough to remember when she originally created the alphabet book as flash cards for her own baby Bug to learn with. Of course, as she showed us all the pictures one at a time as they were created, she generously shared with everyone else. Once upon a time you could get the alphabet Secret Agent Josephine style for free.

She's the most generous super spy I know, and blogger.

Now you can get it for only $2.99 on your super spy reading devices, like a kindle or iPad.

Even my big kids were enthralled with these books. It was evening and the light was awful when I showed them these but I grabbed some shots of them reading nonetheless.  

(The next morning they again poured over the pages and spent the next several days inventing new spy gadgets.)

A toy laptop made from a free printable and a wipes container! How awesome is that?

 This was after we cleaned up the office, and by we, I mean Brenda worked her super agent magic.

This is before.
In our defense we had just finished the benefit concert and this was all the stuff we brought back and unloaded at midnight.
And this is after.

It was dark already when I took this photo. The last swallow of summer is winging his way over the horizon.
See, she has super powers.

As informative as the books are, they don't tell the whole Secret Agent Josephine story. That's coming in future books. But we decided to interview her to give you a sneak peek. What follows is a top secret transmission that we now have permission to make public.

[transmission begins]
Dear Secret Agent Josephine,

How did you become a spy?

I was recruited on the playground. They noticed my stealthy mothering skills and the fact that I carry a battery-operated glue gun in my purse for fixing things like broken drinking fountains and little girl's headbands.

Do you like being a spy?

Of course!

What is your favorite spy gadget?

The ejector seat.

Are you always spying on people or do you sometimes get to just take a bubble bath?

I'm always thinking like a spy but I take breaks from pulling off spy missions and such. I have to be a real mom when I'm home.

What is your favorite place in the world to visit?


Your favorite food?

Spicy Thai Noodles

Who do you work for?

That's classified.

Do you always work alone?

Usually but sometimes the agency has me work with other partners.  It depends on the job.

Do you help invent your spy gadgets or does someone do it for you?

I help out a lot with research and development of new spy gadgets. The agency has me test new things as they invent them.  I'm also very crafty by nature so I'll make up my own spy gadgets in a pinch and then hand off my invention to the agency to improve.

These are things we'd like to know.

Glad to help! [end transmission]

Did you know that there is an entire set of clues you can collect from the Secret Agent Josphine book tour. Each post, for each letter, has a secret clue in it. It's not too late to play along. You can go to Brenda's blog to find all the other posts wherein to search for clues.

You too, can be stealthy.

You can also win an alphabet print for yourself from the book

I have the letter L to give away.

If you would like to win this print just leave a comment below and I'll choose winner by random number generator on Friday at midnight my time.

Seriously guys, these books are so cool, and Brenda is such a lovely person, I really hope you'll put them on your shopping list this year. There aren't many kids books available yet for e-readers, and these ones are really worth showing to your kids.


I think I've forgotten how to write

I don't know what else to say when I come to this space besides, "Hey, look what I did over there, and there, and there. Oh and check out my to do list, impressive no?"

Sorry. I'm becoming a workaholic. Ask me the last time I went to bed before 1am. Actually, I hope tonight will be the first time in a while that I did. Yes, that does mean I even worked Thanksgiving Day. We were a bit late because I spent all morning stocking the virtual store.

But some of the things we did in the name of work last week were fun. We went on a few photo shoots for instance.

Sara and I pretended like we were directors and stylists and our kids and friends and family pretended like they were models, and also took pictures, and some of them turned out really fantastic and we have shots for the store now.

Maybe it would be fun for you to see them too? My SIL's are so pretty. The BIL's aren't bad looking either. And the rest, also pretty.

I got to be the fun mom for a change and let the kids don wetsuits and run around in the surf while we took photos.

I did also manage to squeeze in time to have many friends over to visit last week, even though I eventually picked up the laptop and started working at some point with most of them.

Brenda came on Tuesday, and turned my office from a piled up dumping ground of everything we brought back from the benefit concert into  lovely workspace again. And she lovingly packaged each T-shirt for storage and shipping so now they are really cute.

She amazing at stuff like that. I'll show you before and after photos this week, I promise. I wish she could stay for a week sometime. We also interviewed Secret Agent Josephine herself and we'll let you in on some top secret super spy secrets Wednesday.

My friend Erin came for dinner with her husband and the cutest most cherubic children ever. I forgot to take a picture of them, so you'll have to take my word for it. Erin is one of those fantastic people that those who don't have friends like her wish often that they did. The day we met I broke the handle on her dad's truck door. I'm smooth like that.

We've rarely had time together in the same place for long, but our visits are always wonderful. A few months ago, a week before the birth of her 3rd child I might add, I received an odd sort of package in the mail from her. It contained, felted yarn balls, the softest cloth baby wipes ever in a container, and pretty stationary. If you don't follow me on twitter this won't make sense to you but if you do, and have a long memory... I have mentioned cutting apart old flannel crib sheets for make do baby wipes, and cloth diapering and once even bemoaned the shortage of good stationary when I look online. I guess that doesn't make sense of the felted yarn balls yet.

Erin discovered somehow that if you put 8 balls of yarn in the dryer it cuts the drying time way down, which is very useful when you are cloth diapering and all. So I had to try it. I put a down duvet in the dryer with these balls and it was completely dry with only one cycle!

Basically, she a quiet little wish fulfiller. I kept meaning to get it all together again and take a photo to show you, but I figured I'd better tell you instead what a fantastic friend she is and how much fun it was to get her package in the mail.

And there were more friends, but I'll have to tell you about them later, Bam Bam is crying. Goodnight friends.


The Charis Solution Video

As promised, the video. I'm so happy with how this turned out.

Thanks Haven for taking a concept and turning it into such clear images and thanks Frank for working so long and hard on getting it just right in the editing phase.

I'm making a store right now. I hope to show it to you in a few days. Wish me success?


I'm getting better at this fundraising thing

Once, a long time ago, I tried to throw a concert to fund one of my adventures. My friend Ben had just had one that my sister and I opened for and it was amazing. He rented a hall and he packed that place out, sold tickets, had a photographer, it was a very cool event. With no idea of exactly how much work he put into promoting the thing and marketing, and selling, I naively thought that if I just rented a good enough sound system and a hall they would all come. SO I used all the money I had to do it, threw up a few posters, gathered excellent musicians, and a week later performed a sad, sad little concert to an audience of about 15.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is where I get the idea that I am no good at fundraising. It was a total flop.

So when Sara, our Business Development Volunteer suggested we hold a benefit concert I may have hyperventilated just a little bit at the very thought. (Yes it is as cool as it sounds to have a "Business Development Volunteer". She is amazing, efficient, resourceful, full of ideas, and she gets stuff done!)

So I hedged, and agreed if we could find a way to do it without it costing us any money up front, because this is donor money we're playing with. I wanted absolutely no risks. So we got the hall for less than $100, thanks Father's House, the performers played for free, we sold tickets, and best of all we had a sponsor who wants to stay completely anonymous, thanks anonymous sponsor, who covered a huge amount of expenses and made it so we could do things like order T-shirts to sell and offer an iPhone 4S as a prize. 2 iphones, actually. You will have a chance to win one. More on that later this week.

And then we planned, and promoted, and maybe freaked out a little when ticket sales were meager with less than a week to go, even though we hadn't paid anything out of pocket. Oh, and we ordered a bunch of food and made bracelets and got even more raffle prizes.

the loft where we sold coffee and refreshments and stuff

Last night, after the mad scramble to get everything in order I walked into the back of a packed house, Haven Blue and Alexa Reyes performing onstage and may have had a moment where I just swelled with emotion and got a little teary.

Haven Blue and Alexa Reyes


Beau McFarland

Our long time friend Beau McFarland has been getting a lot of attention on the comedy circuit in LA and he brought a friend, Carlton Parks, with him and they kept the audience laughing the whole time they were onstage. (We didn't even notice that the 3rd Comedian and TV host Peter Marr was unable to make it due to illness of the sudden and really unmentionable kind.)

Carlton Parks

We premiered a video outlining the self sustaining orphanage solution, drawn by Haven Blue, filmed and edited by Frank Shanley, narrated by Aaron and written by yours truly. I am so happy with how it turned out. I will show it to you this week. Promise.

And finally we had Birds of Prey (autoplay warning) a teenage rock band who play classic rock covers well, and with commitment. Their lead singer looks like he's about 12. No one who hadn't heard them play before was expecting these kids who walked up on stage to rock the house like that.

I'm telling you all this because we live streamed the whole event and you can watch the rebroadcast here. http://thecharisproject.blogspot.com/2011/11/charis-solution-benefit-concert.html You should really go watch, even though he started streaming during soundcheck. The boy busts a few moves at the very beginning, and you can just skip ahead an hour to get the show. You can't see much but you can here it really well and the music was good.

This photo taken of me and Sara during the set up is embarrassing. I look like death warmed over on a spoon, also like the stress eating has finally caught up to me. But I am so, so happy with how everything turned out. I can't take very much credit of course. There's no way I could have done it without Sara. She found the band, the sponsor, booked the hall, made the check lists, ordered the T-shirts, made bracelets, taught me how to use excel for volunteer lists and organizing, and hundreds of other things besides.

There's no way Sara and I could have pulled this off without all of the volunteers who pitched in, the bands, the sponsors, the prize donations, the awesome sound guy, thanks Randy, and most of all, our families. Her teenagers put in hours at my house hanging with my kids while we worked in the office, and our extended family, Beema who took the kids for long periods of time so we could get work done, and my amazing brothers and sisters in law who kid wrangled, and volunteered all night an helped clean up. I can't imagine being able to pull this off if we lived anywhere else and they weren't so willing to help with stuff like this.

The kids were such troopers, and it was so fun to be finished with planning and just watch them have fun at the concert. Little dancing with her daddy. The Boy decided not to go to a birthday party in order to stay and help set up and it was cool to watch how proud he was to be in our family and how he wanted everyone to know that he was. None of them wanted to leave and go home to go to bed, and I didn't make them until almost the very end, because, how often will they get to do something like this anyway.

It feels really, really good to have finished this. Let me have another 5 hours or so to relax before i think about what I have to do next. :)

ps. iphone giveaway details coming up the day after Thanksgiving and our incredibly awesome T-shirts will be available in the online store I will finish making before then as well. We may even do a styled photo shoot. ooh la la.

Also, CKlein Originals has designed us a custom hand stamped pendant. It will be available in her shop nest week and a portion of the proceeds goes to The Charis Project. The picture doesn't do justice to how delicate and pretty this pendant is. I love it so and everyone asked about it at the show.


Trying to look up

Sunday afternoon driving home from church, the scenery is beautiful, puffy clouds and green hills, still lagoons and the occasional glimpse of ocean, and I am slapping myself in the face just to stay awake on the 40 minute drive and not have an accident.

Zie Photography

This could be a pretty good metaphor for the rest of my life right now. Aaron has been home exactly 20 hours so far this November, after being gone almost all of October and half of September before that. We're planning our first ever fundraiser event in a physical location for this Saturday. The work piles up, the kids they need and pull and cling and bicker and try to climb me, crowding so close on the couch that I start to feel like swatting things.

I know there is beauty all around me still, even if I'm staring only at the black asphalt and the bumper of the car in front of me and smacking myself in the face to try and not fall apart.

Zie Photography

The gifts list calls to me to wake up, to look around, to notice what is always there, even when I feel too weary to notice it.

Zie Photography

Bam Bam smiled and walked straight to Aaron when he got home this time, even though he only saw him for  few hours last week.

Zie Photography

The way I can touch my thumb and forefinger together while circling Little's petite little wrist.

Zie Photography

A friend bringing lunch over this week.

Same friend came over at 11:30 on a Friday night with her bigger kids so I could run to an ATM without waking the babies because internet banking was down all weekend at my bank.

Zie Photography

baby boy cheeks

Zie Photography

All the people helping and giving and pulling together to make things happen, totally volunteer.

The Boy has a new friend to play with.

Zie Photography
 Plans for seeing friends Thanksgiving week.

Momentum, it's exciting and hopeful.

Zie Photography
A boy who gladly reads to his sisters.

Little keeps hiding all the pine cones in a decorative basket in the living room so I can search for them. She's convinced that she is making a very fun game for me and helps me by telling me if I am warm or cold.

Zie Photography

No one but the baby woke me up last night.

Aaron's home for the rest of the month tomorrow.

puffy clouds skidding across rain washed skies.

Zie Photography
 All 4 kids crowded together onto 1 rocking chair and laughing.

A friends daughter takes photo after photo of my kids that are beautiful. She's helping me look up. (Her mother wants her to stay anonymous on the internet but all the photos in this post are by her, Zie Photography is the name she chose. She's 13! This girl definitely has talent.)


My Grandpa's Thoughts on War

My grandpa is  WW II veteran. His whole life he's written poems and several years ago he self published a book of them. (Back before it was easy and cool to do so.)

In honor of today, here's one of his poems.

In Flander's Fields Again

(Excerpt from My Thoughts in Rhyme by Joseph H. Young A Soldier and Farmer)

In Flanders field's, among the slain,
      We who survived, came home again,
(Our father's fought for Freedom there
      The world no longer seemed to care;)
Their sacrifice, was it in vain?

I'm home once more, I did not die
      Among red poppies, 'neath blue sky:
But there amidst the ripening wheat
      Where poppies bloom in summer's heat,
Some comrades sleep, and larks still fly.

Some folks will never understand,
      They have not seen blood reddened sand,
But I saw thing no one should see,
      I can't forget, they stay with me;
Those scenes from war torn land.

The battle's o'er, they say we won,
      What's that to those who lost a son,
His father's pride, his mother's joy,
      He was a man, while still a boy;
Just one more cross in Flanders fields
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