Champion Character


In my family, we have a three-part motto:

  1. Dream Big
  2. Work Hard
  3. Be Humble

I think these three things go together, each one building on the previous. We first need to have a vision, a big vision, for how we want to use our unique talents and gifts and passions to serve the world. Then, we need to put in the work to prepare ourselves to accomplish that big dream. Hard work is a prerequisite to success in any endeavor. But it could all be for naught if we lose our anchor, if we detach from reality and get big-headed and hard-hearted.

Grace has a gift for the middle platitude. She works fantastically hard, no complaints. She is physically and mentally strong as a result. She has chosen the big dream of working with horses — ideally, owning her own ranch. This is where I come in, as her mentor. I excel at dreaming big. I encourage her to always think bigger. If she ends up with her own successful ranch, I’m sure I will be encouraging her to franchise, or to give travelling clinics, or something I can’t foresee at this point. Dreaming big comes easily for me.

It also comes easy for Noah. He wants to be part of the liberty movement that will keep the world free and prosperous. He wants to create wealth so he can leverage it. He wants to be a successful husband and father. Yes, he thinks about all these things, even though he is still 13. He wants to Be Somebody.

I’ve noticed something. Those who dream big have a tougher time with the second two steps. Those who have the second two need help with the first.

Elias, for example, has no idea what his big dream should be, but he works hard every day on anything you ask. He also thinks very little about his own self. He has confidence but not vanity, nor pride. He is a “team player” and enjoys others’ successes.

This is why it’s great to have two (or more) mentors for the youth phase of learning. I mentor the children about discovering their big dream, and Steve mentors them on working hard. He is also the better example of being humble, but life has humbled me some, as well. 🙂

Grace created the artwork above, and I thought it was fitting for this post. Our youths, and us ourselves, are in the hours, weeks, and months of building champion character. We need to establish broadly the right mottos, attributes, attitudes, habits that will help us be successful in life. And what is success? To live, to love, to serve, to experience joy and share it with all around us.

We aren’t preparing for a particular performance (getting the right job, making a bundle of cash, snagging the perfect mate, etc.) but rather building a character that will enable us to contribute and enjoy what life brings. It’s not that Champions have no challenges, it’s that they have the character to overcome. This is the time our children have, when they are in our homes, where they can build it. And so can we.

I love the 90’s show Lois and Clark, a Superman show. In the “UltraWoman” episode, through a fluke circumstance, Lois gains superpowers and Clark loses his. Because the world still needs a superhero, Clark’s mother comes over to make a costume for Lois so she can fill the role. Lois is uncomfortable with supermanwhat Clark will think, knowing that it can’t make him  feel good seeing her do the job he was born for.

But to paraphrase Clark’s father, “Lois, Clark is strong. And I’m not talking about how much he can bench press. He’s strong where it counts, when it counts.” What makes Superman the greatest superhero is not that he can throw nuclear bombs out into space. It’s that he is unfailingly good.* He has Champion character, and the great news about that is: character is not a superpower. We can all build that. We can help our families build that. And the world needs it, when the performance moment comes.

Live & Learn


* Although the comics have at times messed with Clark’s goodness. The Lois & Clark show really plays Superman well. He’s not all-knowing, but he is well-intentioned. The comic writers have sometimes sacrificed character for drama, always a mistake.

Summer Daze

Before we get too deep into posts on leadership education, or maybe this is a fitting precedent to them, Elias took a video that gives a little window into our world these days. Enjoy.


Then and Now

I couldn’t resist digging up this old pic when I saw the new version, six years later. Then:


…and now:


Live, learn and play!


Cars 2, Tangled

CarsIt’s been a while since I reviewed a film, and although I intend to SAY MUCH about the final Harry Potter movie, I think I’ll tread in shallower waters today.

I saw Cars 2 in the theater. Yes, I did.

What, I’m not ashamed.

However, the fact that it was the only movie choice and that it was was $3.00 a ticket might have had something to do with my sitting in a seat for two hours when I could have been happy to leave after the (superb) Toy Story short at the beginning of the film (“Hawaiian Vacation”, about Barbie and Ken, very cute).

But, see, cars are not my thing, and the first Cars movie didn’t do it for me, but I know that many a young boy have gone googly over the wide-eyed, friendly vehicles from the film. I can appreciate that it pleased its target audience. Perhaps my disappointment in Cars radiated from the fact that the previous Pixar film was The Incredibles, which I so completely adored. So. adored.

As for the second movie: they went with a spy storyline, which was moderately interesting to me… I am a sucker for spy stuff. But the bummer was that every under-7-year-old in the theater with me was squirming in the seat from boredom. It was clear that it didn’t keep its core audience happy. And frankly, I’d take a real person or even a computer animated one over a vehicle doing spy stuff.

Come on, Pixar, you must have more up your deep, magician’s sleeve! Tread new ground in storytelling as well as in slick computer animation. Chat more with Miyazaki, just hire him as a consultant, how about that?

Anyway, I did notice that Pixar’s John Lasseter had a hand in another movie I saw recently: Tangled. I didn’t know it until the end credits, but then it was obvious. Tangled could have been another tired retelling of an old tale, or a weird, warped misadventure in differentness, but it was neither! It was cute, yes, and technically beautiful as modern CG movies, but it was more than that. But it was creative and exciting, and the Alan Menken music wasn’t half bad. It made the old Grimm’s tale make more sense, actually, more believable in the context of a world where hair can be magic. I particularly loved that Rapunzel was all Indiana Jones with her hair, which could have been a major liability.

So, instead of waiting eagerly to rent Cars 2, just go for Tangled now — even if you have boys!



* you may have noticed that I’ve stopped awarding nods in my reviews. It’s silly, really, but I hate grabbing and placing the graphic, which for some reason doesn’t play nice in a set like that. So, I may modify my rating system, but for now, I shall just opine. 🙂

What we need is a wife

I’ve said this many times — it’s actually a line taken from My So-Called Life, that goes something like this (tho’ I refuse to check):

Graham: Did you get the milk today, and pick up the dry cleaning?
Patty: I thought you were doing that! Was it my turn to do that?
Graham: Yep.
Patty: (Sigh) You know what we need?
Graham: ?
Patty: A wife.

Isn’t that the truth? There is so much to do, we need one of those awesome homemakers to organize our domestic affairs. Perhaps this is why maids and nannies are popular among the affluent. So what is a busy couple to do when they don’t have the money to hire this angel of mercy?

noah031510Answer: get an awesome oldest daughter.

So, I get a stack of old homework packets back from Noah’s class, and I’m browsing through them when I notice a box on each packet for “Parent Comments: What did you notice about your child’s reading?”

This box had been filled in on each of Noah’s packets. Oddly, I did not fill it in, and Steve writes in all caps so I know he didn’t do it. I’ve given away the punchline already, but after some detective work I realized that Grace had been filling in the comments on Noah’s homework.

I asked him why he had Grace do it, and he just shrugged and said that she was around… like, what’s the deal? And he’s right. We all think of Grace as another parent, really. She’s more maternal than me in many ways. So here are a couple of her comments about Noah’s reading:

He is very fluent. He seems to understand the story very well.

He is very focused. He started out reading to his brother, and five minutes later his brother had drifted off so he read silently. His brother was asleep!

From the teacher comments, it is apparent the teacher has assumed that I have been writing the comments all this time.

I’m sure my comments wouldn’t be as thoughtful and eloquent.

Live, learn and play!

Music in ma soul

Noah got soul. Got so much soul. After Elias’ white and nerdy vid, Noah asked to do one of his own. Time to share! This was his favorite song a month ago.We had to search for it on the internet by lyric. I had not heard of it.

Now he has a new favorite, another unfamiliar song to us. Where is he hearing these songs? I truly have no idea. He got his father to download the latest one for him, which I then had to edit to remove several “level 5” words* before allowing him to have on his mp3 player. I figure swearing in one’s ears is not the most relaxing way to go to sleep (most often when he’s listening).

But this vid features a song that might give you a chuckle. 🙂

* Level 5 is a never-say word in our home. Level 4 is said in restricted circumstances like just at home. Level 3 is fine in public but not at a nice restaurant or in the classroom. Level 2 is the politest version of regular words, and level 1 is “and” “the” and “to and the like. So, for example, you may have to “go to the restroom” at level 2, “go potty” or “pee” at level 3, “take a crap” at level 4 and, well I think we all know what we’re doing at level 5. My kids love this system of categorizing the world. It’s funny. They’ve deemed “yak” – 2, “puke” – 3, “blow chunks” – 4. They’ve also made up code words to relay specific information, such as ree-uh-die-ah. Three points if you guess what that is.

Live, work and play well!

Ladder Beach

elias032110This is yet another Elias post. See, the poor kid gets a little bored when home alone without Grace and Noah.

So when we all go out to do something fun, he tries his absolute best to keep up with everyone. Last Saturday, we went to the older kids’ favorite hiking beach, which they call the Ladder Beach. It is so named because it is such a steep switchback trail that some of the surfers  have built makeshift ladders in the steepest spots. The rungs on the ladders are, in many cases, so far apart that they span Elias’ feet to shoulders, so he has to haul himself up/down his entire height.

But he didn’t need a bit of help. Wish I had taken pics of the trail! Next time.

At the bottom, the big boys (Steve and friend Mike) headed off to surf. Grace became obsessed with a beached seal. And Elias became the king of the hill (a makeshift tree fort) for most of the day.


P1060285Boy did he love that tree fort. He set up a “trading post” on “sacred ground”, and made very generous trades of sea glass and shells for string cheese and sandwiches.

Good times. Great to have kids that can go anywhere and do anything, and always have fun.



Live, work and play well!


One of the best things in my kids’ lives is their close relationship with their older cousins, Isaak and Maggie. The cousins are so sweet when we get together to include even Elias in their shenanigans, and he loves it.

(See, this post is about Elias! It’s just that… he mainly exists surrounded by people who love him. Which is awesome.)

Here they all are, stair-sliding:

An old dog

marleyMarley & Me, I submit, is not — I repeat, NOT — a dog movie.

That’s what I’ve determined after seeing it for the second time last night. My daughter wanted to rent it because she thinks it is one. But I wanted to rent it because I knew better.

Because it is better than a boring old dog movie.

I won’t say I cried (on second viewing, no less) because I don’t cry at movies. But there may have been a little hard blinking.

See, Marley & Me uses a dog to take us through the seasons of life — specifically the seasons as they change from spring to summer. As a man and woman’s lives change from being about themselves to being about their family. It just happens to be told within the framework of a puppy growing into an old man-dog.

Marley provides a fair amount of the funny of this movie, but he also helps us get a window into the hearts of the main characters, Jenny (played by Jennifer Aniston) and John Grogan (Owen Wilson). Nothing really horrible happens. There’s a mild couple’s quarrel here and there, just the friction that comes from rubbing up so closely against another person’s life. That friction which rubs off the rough corners of our selves.

In a way, I  identify with this movie because it has a wonderfully talented (and beautiful, of course) woman choosing marriage and family over career, and depicts the normal ups and downs to a tee. It also shows a guy making career choices that are not only in line with his personal ambitions, but that suit the needs of his family. He’s striving for balance, and you admire him for it. I like seeing people sacrifice their own desires for a greater good. What greater good is there, really, then a happy family?

I haven’t read the memoir (of the same name) that the movie is based on, but I like the idea that a memoir can make a good story… even if it is just about people like you and me. What we do every day — choosing dependability, choosing responsibility, choosing to love others more than you love yourself — does make the world turn. We are the builders of humanity. For real, dude.

dandypestoToo heavy? Well, if all you want is to commiserate about your aging dog, the movie provides ample grounds for that emotion, too. See the picture there? This is my old girl, Pesto. No, not the sauce. Though she is saucy, yeah. My husband and I, when we first got the runty little pointer mix from doggy jail, named her after the secretary character from the TV show Moonlighting. I know. We thought it was funny: Ms. Agnes dePesto.


She’s now fourteen years old, and I could write a book about the crazy little stories of her life, too. When she gorged herself on dog food and could hardly walk, when she jumped off the boat trying to reach the dogfish we’d snagged (we had to snag her, then), when she met each of our children and wholeheartedly opened her heart (and tongue) to them. But her last chapter is coming to a close now. Her time is near. She’s had a good run. Been a great dog. None better, I think. You forgive me the hard blinking, right?

Did you avoid seeing Marley & Me because it looked like another Benji or Beethoven? Well, go rent it. Though, perhaps it is. I didn’t see Benji or Beethoven. Maybe boring old dog movies aren’t bad at all!

MindsBase Film & Books

Merry Christmas 2009

or: Christ-mas

Although, technically, Christ’s Mass refers to His death, we’ve come to celebrate Christ’s birth during this season. My kids are always surprised anew when I tell them that the reason we call this “2009” (or whatever the current year) is because it is two thousand nine years after Christ was born. That the whole world counts time from that day. We call it A.D.  — which is easily explained as “after death” to young kids, but this year they’re old enough to realize that there is a thirty-three year discrepancy with that meaning. So I looked up “A.D.” and found:

The term Anno Domini is Medieval Latin, translated as In the year of (the/Our) Lord. It is sometimes specified more fully as Anno Domini Nostri Iesu (Jesu) Christi (“In the Year of Our Lord Jesus Christ”). [source: Wikipedia]

Whether we’re talking about His birth or death, the wonderful thing about his life is not just that He lived (though His life was extraordinary), but that he lived again after death — showing that this is the plan for humankind:

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
This is the year that I can tell them, and they can understand:
that Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. He is the great King Immanuel, who stands today on the right hand of His Father. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come.
To me, this is so much more magical and exciting than talking about a plump, red-faced guy who hides in sub-zero temps to make toys. That man is a mere symbol of the much more awesome gift of “happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come”!
So, Merry Christ-mas to you. We love you, we think about you even as you are far away from us. We pray for your health and happiness.
Love from,
Steve, Amber, Grace, Noah and Elias
The Mitchells

Thankful for…

As a real, bona fide grown up, I’ve learned something about life. Not a lot, but at least this one thing:

The more you appreciate the things in your life — whether they be good or bad — the happier you are. The more you expect things to be a certain way, the more you are likely to be unhappy; the more your joy is conditioned upon your circumstances.

me-with-msSo, a few things I am grateful for this Thanksgiving season:

  1. I’m thankful that I have to beg, borrow and steal time to be able to write. It makes me treasure the moments I spend creating stories.
  2. I’m thankful to have struggled financially for the past decade, for that has made me realize how little we need to live — how we don’t need things to make us happy. I’m grateful that my kids have learned this lesson, too.
  3. I’m grateful to drive an old, beat up car that I never take the time to wash (see #1), so my kids have a renewable canvas for their love notes to me. I’m most thankful for the moments I spend in said car chatting about the world with the most important people in my life.
  4. I’m grateful for a marriage that has grown from youthful adoration to a deep and resounding love that makes Hollywood movies look shallow and trite.
  5. I’m grateful for a God that loves me enough to tailor my trials, just for me, so I can become my best self (over time. Like, a looong time.)

Hmm, I was seeing if I could be thankful for my challenges instead of my blessings. It made me feel lucky even for the hard things! And yes, my awesome marriage is on the list of trials — anyone with a lasting marriage will agree. I tell ya, sometimes, everyone hates their spouse. It’s what you do then that counts. 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!