Friday, June 29, 2007
So, last week I received Mandisa's new single, "Only the World." I am not very hip. I hadn't seen her on American Idol. Since I don't have a good local Christian radio station, I don't often hear new releases. But I really like this song! I downloaded it on my ipod and it's a real toe-tapper. BooMama likes it, too. She's even giving a few away, so click on over and leave a comment by Monday if you are interested (or wait for the CD to come out later in July, or go download the single today).
a person who has learned a subject without the benefit of a teacher or formal education; a self-taught person.
So, what is it that you have learned on your own? A craft or hobby? Maybe just information about a specific or general topic, from a book or documentary? Courtesy of your children, you may know all about the latest boy-band or that little engines have names and personalities.
What about parenting? Most of us read books or watch experts on TV at some or another. I think that's one great benefit of blogging--the ability to learn from one another's practical experience.
Here are a few links I've been wanting to share, the first of which inspried me to write this post which had been rattling around in my head. The others deal with reading.
Ann Kroeker wrote about keeping up our mental fitness and provided some cool links.
Thanks to Sherry at Semicolon for pointing me to the B&N Summer Reading Challenge (among others-- click over to read all her links). After reading eight books, your elementary school aged-child can receive a free book at the B&N store.
Here is a signature post from Jen Robinson's Book Page called Read the Books that Your Children Read. Check it out if you need another reason to join the Read Together Mission, or encouragement to read books that interest your kids in general.
Karlene at Inksplasher wrote a great post about why she reads and watches what her teens are reading and watching. This is the exact reason that I hope to foster that kind of communication with Amanda now.
Suzanne at Living to Tell the Story reviewed a non-fiction book that she read before her teen daughter in order to open up the lines of communication about a "certain topic."
But what about you? What have you learned lately?
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Most of the major movie chains have some sort of free movie program. You can look for your local AMC/Loews participating theatre HERE.
We saw Happy Feet. It's rated PG, and honestly when Amanda was a preschooler, we never saw PG movies. But having an 8 1/2 year old child and a 3 year old child, and faced with a free movie, I guess I eased up on my standards (PluggedIn Online is a great place to check out the specific content in a movie). Honestly, what made me most uncomfortable was the sort of flirty mating stuff, but since we just saw March of the Penguins last week, I realized that it is actually right on target. If you've seen either of these movies, I would highly recommend that you watch the other as sort of a companion film, because they both tell the same story in different ways.
In addition to dicussing issues when you Read Together, movies can be a good way to connect and teach as well. It's not too late to sign up for my mission to share a book or two and Read Together this summer.
For more tips, click over to Works-for-Me Wednesday.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Yesterday was Amanda's last day of third grade (which was made even longer due to a weird storm last month that caused schools to be closed for two days). The last day of school always means that euphoric feeling of "I'm free!" Here in our town, they also bring home their report cards and are told to which class they've been assigned for the next year. So when Amanda got home, the phone rang several times, and this was how the conversation would go:
"Who did you get? Oh. I have Ms. X. Do you know anyone else
who has her? Oh, Jane does? Cool! I'm going to call her!"
It's a fun afternoon, but it always makes me see how grown up she is becoming to see into the secret world of eight-year-olds. I remember feeling that way when she first started preschool and I would hear about the way her teacher does something, or hear about something that Mary told her about. The apron strings were lengthening.
This morning she is a little grouchy because I let her stay up later than normal last night. She didn't sleep late, and so she woke up in a mood. I told her that if this is how she is in the mornings that she won't be allowed to stay up late. The response that I got to that was this:
"If I'm not allowed to stay up late, it's Kyle's fault! He's already
ruining my summer! I just want to be alone and he keeps bothering me!"
Oh, if you only could have heard the begging when she was four and just needed a brother or a sister. . . .
Actually, she is a great big sister and she takes delight in him. One would think that with five and a half years between them, there wouldn't be too much bickering. One would be wrong--a reduction perhaps, but not complete elimination. One of her jobs around the house this summer is going to be to watch him a couple of times a week for thirty minutes to an hour at a time. She already does a good job of playing with him, or letting him play with her, but I've told her that when she's officially watching, it's different from just playing with him. She needs to make sure he's happy, so she might be doing more of what he wants to do instead of what she wants to do. Of course I will be here, but it will give me a little bit of a break (to write or blog), and it will help her to learn to make sacrifices for others, I hope, and to see the benefit and responsibility of being a big sister.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Are you in?
Amanda and I have big plans. We have started Secret of Red Gate Farm for our first read-aloud (her idea since I have never read a Nancy Drew book in my life--can you believe it?--and she fell in love with her this year and wants to share the excitement with me).
I am reading Ella Enchanted (it's good) and am going to let her read it when I'm finished so we can discuss it.
If I get ambitious, we might tackle Little Women, but we might hold off on that. She is trying to read all the Nutmeg nominees (our state's award that is chosen by third and fourth grade students), and wants me to read some of those as well that she has enjoyed, especially Jackie's Wild Seattle.
I'm going to have to struggle to keep up with her, because she reads at a fiendish pace. However, at minimum we're going to keep one read-aloud going at all times and we can discuss that as we go along. Edited to clarify: You do NOT have to read aloud together. The idea is to simply read what your kids are reading and then discuss it in some way.
If you have any questions, let me know. Otherwise, simply link to a specific post announcing your intent to Read Together. You can write a specific post detailing some ideas or plans, or you can simply link up to the post that I have seen from some of you spreading the word this week (thanks!). There is not going to be a closing sign-up date. The mission will run through August 27, at which point all reviews must be posted, so as long as you link up here first, and post at least one review of a book shared, you are eligible for the prizes (more information on the prizes later).
A separate post and Mr. Linky will go next week so that you can begin linking reviews/results after each book you read together (or all at once at the end of the summer, if you prefer).
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Why does this come to mind? Let's just say that his name is Kyle. He wakes up moving and shaking. In the afternoons when he's watching TV, he often runs in circles. Add to this that if he doesn't get his way, he gets very frustrated. Yesterday as we were getting out of the car, and I unbuckled his seatbelt. This made him wail because ever since we put him in his new carseat/booster, "I can do it myself." So I left the door open for him to get out and went to put some of the groceries in the freezer. I came back--not in a flash, but after putting away the perishables--to get more groceries. I expected to find him playing with his trucks or something, but he was still sitting in the car, his wail now more of a whimper. "Mommy, can you please fix it so I can do it?" Well, with a sweet request like that, I certainly can. So, I buckled him back up and he happily unbuckled himself and exited the vehicle.
As I was seeking advice from a friend with an older son who was/is high-energy, I remembered a resource that had helped me regroup mentally when I struggled with Amanda's persistent talking and energy in that area as a preschooler. This book is priceless:
Raising Your Spirited Child opens a parent's eyes to the unique challenges, and yes, unique joy, of raising a child who is "more."
The word that distinguishes spirited children from other children is more. They are normal children who are more intense, persistent, sensitive, perceptive, and uncomfortable with change than other children. All children possess these characteristics, but spirited kids possess them with a depth and range not available to other children. Spirited kids are the Super Ball in a room full of rubber balls. Other kids bounce three feet off the ground. Every bounce for a spirited child hits the ceiling (page 7).
I sat down and took the assessment which allows you to rate your child in nine of these areas. On a 45 point scale, Amanda is a 20 and Kyle is a 23, with 19 - 28 being Spunky, and above that being Spirited, and below that being Cool. When I read it the first time when Amanda was this age, I realized that although I wasn't dealing with a true Spirited child, she was very high in Persistence and Perceptiveness (Distractibility), so reading this book helped me in those areas. Kyle also is high in these two areas, adding Intensity and Energy to the mix.
If you have a child who you suspect is Spirited or simply Spunky, this book will allow you to breathe a sigh of relief as you say, "It is not my fault. I am not a horrible parent. My child is wired this way, and there are some ways I can harness those qualities in a positive way."
This book review is linked up to Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books.
Friday, June 22, 2007
So, HipWriterMama is asking us What's Your Favorite Post? and inviting us to link up. So, do as I did. Dig deep, or think back over the last few months and pick out one that you would like to share. Again, the questions came: My deepest post? My funniest (that's a short list)? Perhaps the one most representative of my blog? In the end I guess I went with that criteria and I chose The Panera Experience, (written in Janurary), but the other two I considered were Friendship (from last summer), and The Awkward Years (which was one of my first posts). What do you think? Should I have gone with one of those? Is there another Snapshot post that stands out in your mind that I should have considered? Let me know so that I won't have this dilemma in the future.
One involves one of my favorite types of reading:
It's called the Armchair Traveler Reading Challenge from A Life in Books. Here is the criteria: "Fiction or non-fiction works are fine, and do not need to be specifically travel related, as long as the location is integral to the book - I’ll leave that to your discretion. Locations must be actual places that you could visit, so no Middle Earths or galaxies far, far away."
I love to learn as I'm reading, whether it's fiction and the writing about a place or a time that I absorb it as much as I do the plot. I have always enjoyed travel writing if I can't be traveling myself, and as it so happens, there are several books that I have had on my TBR list for some time that qualify. So, I'm in. I've perused some of the lists that have been posted and come up with my own.
I will read at least six titles from this list:
Travels with Charley in Search of America
One Year Off (The World)
The Other Boleyn Girl (England)
The Sisterchicks in Sombreros (Mexico)
The Kite Runner (Afghanistan)
Reading Lolita in Tehran
A Girl Named Zippy: Growing up Small in Mooreland, Indiana
Schindler's List was on someone's list and I might attempt that one, although it would take some resolve. I haven't even seen the movie, because my husband has never wanted to because it's too sad. I just can't tackle it alone, but I could probably read the book. Another one I've been interested in for the same reason (well, a good movie that he can't watch, but because he has something against Tobey Maguire) is Seabiscuit. I'd have to investigate the "sense of place" a bit more. I don't know if the horsetrack counts, and I don't know how place-specific it is, but I'm going to see.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
I think I did really well! I did not stick completely to my list, but I read a lot. I started books, I finished books, I read widely--all things that I don't always do when I get into a rut, so I'm calling it a success. I wanted to address one of Katrina's questions, and then you can just take a quick, or loooong look at the reviews etc that follow.
What did I learn through the challenge? I learned that I can read a LOT, if I choose it over other things. Perhaps I'll meet my goal of reading every book that I want to read if I keep this up (but wait, they keep publishing good books each month). I didn't count pages, but I know I read over 4000 in these 22 books.
One thing that sort of impeded my following the list was starting a new review column at 5 Minutes for Mom (check it out each Monday if you haven't already. Almost every week we do a book giveaway as well). These off-list books are linked to my reviews:
- The Potluck Club Takes the Cake
- Organizing for Life
- First Daughter: Extreme Makeover was on my list, because I knew I was going to be on the author's blog tour. I didn't know that I would love the book so much. This is a great book to read to open doors for connecting with your teen. It's on my suggested reading list for Read Together, which is a summer mission to encourage parents to read and discuss books with their school-aged kids. Click over to find out more!
- Two books in the Fairy Chronicles series, which I liked so much I put them on my Read Together list as well.
I knew that my fiction list was ambitious, but I still finished all but The Other Boleyn Girl. These that I read are linked to my reviews:
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn--I didn't formally review this book. I did enjoy it. It was written a bit like a memoir, mostly of a girl's growing up years, but it's fiction. I was surprised to see it on so many of the SRT lists, so I'll be interested to read other reviews of it.
- To Kill a Mockingbird--I enjoyed this book, and it seemed so familiar, even though it's been probably twenty years since I read it. It's not an all-time favorite like some, but it's a real classic for a reason.
- Quaker Summer--I reviewed this at the Clean Reads website.
- I did not enjoy Mercy as much as other Picoult books, but it was an okay suspenseful drama.
Non-fiction--again I get a check plus! I didn't read Personality Plus, because it didn't really grab my interest and I've read a lot of books like that before, but I read all the others, including all the extras listed above, and also read Raising Respectful Children in a Disrespectful World, which I will review on July 2 at 5 Minutes for Mom, and The Art of the Letter.
- Grace Based Parenting--I never reviewed this, but I really enjoyed it. It caused me to really think about the motivation of the rules I set, and how I can really parent with the goal of building my daughter's character.
- My Heart's in the Lowlands--my review
- Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood--my review
- Queen of the Castle-- my review and interview
- Factory Girl--my review
- Sarah, Plain and Tall--Amanda and I read and enjoyed this one.
- Rickshaw Girl --this is by Mitali Perkins, the author of First Daughter (above), but for a younger 7 or 8 to 12 year old audience. We both liked this one, too.
- Toys Go Out, is another great book, and another one that I put on the Read Together suggested list (it would be a great read if you had a wide age range, of 4 or 5 up to twelve or so).
I slowed down on Audiobooks, but I did "read" The Glass Castle, a memoir by Jeanette Walls. Wow. It was sort of tough to read, because it describes the kind of poverty that most of us don't want to know exists. Like most memoirs, as tough as they are to read, I am left feeling inspired by what people are able to overcome in their past. If you like memoir at all, I recommend this one.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Amanda has wanted a hermit crab for years--at least four years, or almost half of her life. I keep saying no. In her third-grade class this year, they broke into six small groups and evaluated and cared for fiddler crabs. So, at the end of the year, there were six lucky families who got to adopt these six pairs of crabs. When the note came home, I told her that we could bring a pair home if she was selected. She came home that day, excited: "Guess what Mom! Only six people's parents said that they could have crabs, so we get them!!" That weekend we went out and bought the plastic crab keeper, some food and other necessities. This has won me many "good Mommy" points. In fact, after hearing "no" for so long, she is still a bit curious about the change. "Mommy, why did you say I could have the crabs?" I told her that she had waited a long time and since the school needed to find homes for them, that I thought I'd let her keep them. Can I honestly admit to you, mom to mom, that I said yes, but was holding out a little bit of hope that she wouldn't be able to bring them home?
She has done a great job of taking care of them. I have told her how proud I am of her responsibility with them. It proves what I was saying yesterday. If I had nagged her, not only would she not have the satisfaction of doing it herself, but well, the crabs might not be faring so well, because she remembers better than I do.
nice four-legged creature the same night that we put them out.
I have learned that in this area, Kyle is nowhere near ready for Silent Sidelines. We've been at this for over two months. He can stay dry if I faithfully take him to the potty, but he will not tell me he needs to go. In fact, I can ask him, "Do you need to go?" and I almost always get a "no." If I don't go with my gut and take him anyway, we usually have to change his pants a few minutes later. Yes, I know I keep saying that I'm trying to do this patiently, and I am, but ARGH! I just need to remember that this is an area where he needs direction. I cannot trust him with this. I know best. I am the mom!
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Teamwork. Friendship. Fun. That's why Amanda loves soccer. She will probably not be going to college on a soccer scholarship, but I will support her desire to play as long as she continues to learn those values while she's at it.
In her soccer league, they have one day each season that calls for "silent sidelines." The coaches, and (ahem) the parents are to be silent. Cheering when they make a goal or a great kick is acceptable of course, but this rule does more than just outlaw the negative "help" that many parents give from the sidelines. We could do without that every week. It includes any instruction from the sidelines--parents or coaches:
Look out for that girl!The reasoning behind this is sound. They need to learn to work as a team, to exercise their judgment on the skills that they've been learning all year. Even when the input is positive and helpful, it is still a deterrent to them actually learning the skills themselves.
Take it to the goal!
Pass it to Ana!
I think that when we close our mouths and just watch, we are often surprised at the choices that they make on their own. All of Amanda's teammates know that Ana can take it to the goal. They don't need us nagging away on the sidelines.
Isn't this true in life as well as sports?
Don't watch that movie.
Invite the new girl to sit with you at lunch.
Be kind to your brother.
All very instructive words. All things that we should be helping our children to understand. But when do we let their moral compass kick in? When do we begin to let them feel the consequences or reap the rewards of their own choices?
When I was a teenager, I remember that there were a few times that I thought that my room was getting a bit too messy, even for my standards, and I had designated Saturday to getting it in order. Then the ultimatum would come down on Friday, "If you don't get your room clean, you won't be doing anything this weekend." That changed things. Now I wasn't able to do it because I knew it had to be done. The command often led to rebellion, "Well, fine, I'll just stay home then."
Teamwork. Friendship. Fun. All life skills that I want Amanda to be learning around here as well with a little coaching and a little golden silence. The key is recognizing those silent sidelines moments.
Can you share a time when not coaching your children helped them reach the right decision on their own? Are there things that you are adamant about continuing to coach them on until they get it right?
Monday, June 18, 2007
I wanted to share a few suggestions for books that you might want to Read Together. You do not have to read one of these books to participate, but I do have discussion guides** for these, so I thought that might make it easy, and it might make it more interesting if some of us are reading the same books at the same time. If you are trying to read with an older teen, you might suggest that they pick a book that they would like to share with you.
Some suggested books:
Toys Go Out is appropriate for boys and girls from ages 4 through elementary school (so it would be good if you wanted to read a book together as a family). It's a great book about friendship and conquering fears. This was the book that Amanda's entire elementary school read and studied. I have a discussion guide that they gave us that goes chapter by chapter and is great for sharing thoughts with one another.
The Fairy Chronicles--This book would probably be of interest to girls, ages five or six up to ten, at least. It's a story of Girl Power! Amanda and I both recently enjoyed the first two in the series. My review appears today at 5 Minutes for Mom, so click over to find out more (and enter to win one of 5 copies this week).
First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover would be a good read for girls ages ten or twelve up through teens. As I stated in my review at 5 Minutes for Mom, I loved this book reading it solely for myself. My full review is HERE.
Frindle by Andrew Clements could be enjoyed by girls or boys ages seven to twelve. It's an interesting read and brings up issues of authority, creativity, success, and the power of suggestion. My review is HERE.
**As mentioned, The Penderwicks and Toys Go Out have chapter by chapter question guides. I have (or will) write general end-of-book guides for the others. If you are interested, please email me at jennifer(dot)snapshot yahoo (dot) com, or leave a comment here with your email address. Please put the name of the book in which you are specifically interested in the title line of the email.
If you can suggest any great books for parents and kids to discuss, feel free to leave the title and age range in the comments, and what specifically would make it a great book to spark togetherness.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Anyone can join in, and you can certainly experience books in this way with your younger child, but I am thinking that this is something that will be more appealing to school-aged children: from six or seven all the way up through high school. I would love to see some mothers of teenagers committing to do this. You might choose to select a book that would appeal to the whole family, or do it one on one with each member of the family throughout the summer. Edited to add clarification: You do NOT have to read aloud. The idea is simply for you to read what your kids are reading and then discuss it in some way. All I ask is that you try. Select a book together. Read it together (out loud or independently). Discuss it (chapter by chapter or all at once at the end).
So, do you want to commit, at least to try it?
Here are the specifics:
- Come back and sign up at the Mr. Linky that will be posted next week, Monday, June 25 (HERE is the link). If you are a non-blogger, you can just sign up in the comments on that post. In order to "sign up" you can just link to the post you wrote announcing your intent to participate. You do not need a specific plan (although that might make it easier for you).
- Read and discuss at least one book with at least one child/tween/teen. You can read any book you'd like, but I have compiled a list of some books that we have enjoyed. I have created or supplied some reading guides to go along with them as well. You can read the list HERE.
- Share your experience. After you have read and discussed your book, link to the completed mission list with a summary of the book and how you enjoyed the challenge to Read Together.
- Win a prize. Of course, a mission is a lot more fun if there are prizes to be won! On August 27, I will draw some winners from those who have completed a book and posted the results (more books read equals more chances to win). I will sponsor a $10 amazon gift certificate, and at least one book giveaway, and I am hoping to round up some other book prizes, to be announced later (here's an updated list).
- Spread the word. It's not required to join, but if you would like to show your readers your commitment to Read Together, please use this sidebar button (as shown at the top of the post). Here is the code so that it will link back to this post:
Friday, June 15, 2007
I recently read A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L'Engle (which I never formally reviewed, but discussed here and here) and enjoyed her seemingly random observations on life and culture and family and love and books. I had never heard of Friends for the Journey until I saw it on Katrina's Spring Reading Thing list. This book is also written in the same informal deep-chat-with-a-friend style. Parts of this book are actually deep chats with a friend, since it is co-authored by Luci Shaw, poet, speaker, and one of Madeleine's closest friends. Her name was familiar to me, but I did not recall any exposure to her, and I loved her words.
The themes covered are similar to A Circle of Quiet, but all within the framework of friendship:
- marriage (for what is marriage, but a life shared with a friend?) and widowhood
- keeping in touch
- Widening the Circle: The elements of friendship
- The Family Tree: The friends who didn't choose
- Feasts of Friendship: Love revealed
- Hello and the Good-bye: The rhythm of presence
- Snakes in the Garden: Jealousy, tyranny, and other risks
This book is like a mirror to those like me who recognize the beauty value of a friend and would be an inspiration to those who see friendship as more of a hidden treasure--worth finding, but perhaps buried for them. Do yourself a favor and read this book. Let yourself gaze into the mirror or grab a shovel so that you can dig deep and find the treasure that is awaiting you.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Imagine my delight when I was listening to my favorite podcast (at this point maybe we can all say it together), HomeWord with Jim Burns, and the author Gary Chapman was featured with his new book The Five Languages of Apology.
I'm sorry.Each of these expressions correlates with a specific apology language--the words that someone needs to hear in order to understand that you are really sorry. You can listen to the podcast or read the book to find out the specifics behind each of those phrases, but just as with the love languages, simply understanding that it takes different words for people to take an apology seriously has been eye-opening to me.
I was wrong.
What can I do to make it right?
I really don't want this to happen again.
Will you please forgive me?
In addition to explaining how and when to use each of the apology languages, Dr. Chapman delves into what it means to forgive (both for the one forgiving and the one who is forgiven). Unlike his love languages books, which are geared to a specific group--couples, singles, parents--Dr. Chapman says that everyone can benefit from this book. Each of us has reasons to forgive and/or ask for forgiveness on a weekly (if not a daily) basis. The relationships in which we should be using these skills include coworkers, family, friends and neighbors. There are also chapters on why some people never want to apologize and how to teach your children to forgive and ask for forgiveness.
Apologizing is one of our "house rules." I will admit that I am not always as consistent as I would like to be in my parenting, but this is something I really believe in. When I lose my cool with my kids, I apologize to them. When Kyle throws a fit, he has to apologize to me. When Amanda gets rough with Kyle and he gets hurt, whether she did it on purpose or not, she must say she's sorry. I am also trying to teach them to accept the apology and offer forgiveness.
Just yesterday Kyle showed me that he really was starting to understand--not only that it was a required step after he acts inappropriately--but what it really means to apologize. I had always used this big word, apologize, in conjunction with "Say you're sorry," but I was never sure how much he understood. He had been sent to sit on the stairs because of something he said to Amanda while we were cooking dinner together. He came back into the kitchen and said, "I want to 'gize. I want to 'gize to Amanda." He hugged her legs and said in the sweetest voice you can imagine, "Sorry. I sorry 'danda."
He got back up on his stool and continued his part of dinner preparation, crushing the tortilla chips. "Can I have a chip, Kyle?" Amanda asked. "No! My chips. Can't have them!" Kyle answered, his sweet voice replaced by the mean tone he has copied so well from his mommy.
"I guess he doesn't really understand what it means to be sorry," Amanda wryly observed.
It sounds like they need to learn to speak each other's language.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
I was at Starbucks with some friends once and dropped my coveted cookie. I named the five-second rule as I stooped to pick it up, when my friend beat me to it and ran to throw it away.
I had heard years ago that the five-second rule was in fact accurate; that is, that germs did not usually adhere to food if it was on the floor for that short of a time. Additionally, since I am not a great housekeeper, I generally feel that any place governed by the board of health is going to have a much cleaner floor than most of the surfaces in my kitchen.
Well some students at Connecticut university have not only proven the five second rule, but that for hard, dry foods, the safe time is as much as a minute, and it's still thirty seconds for wet foods (such as an apple slice).
Eat up, moms!
View the two minute report from ABC news by clicking HERE.
Find other advice (that you might be less reluctant to use), by checking out all the participants in Works-for-me Wednesday at Rocks in My Dryer.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
I love the format of Factory Girl. The story of twelve-year-old Emily is told as a novel. The reader grows to love the character and aches in her struggle to do what she must do. The story helps illuminate and personalize the facts about child labor that are presented throughout. There are pictures and historical facts in between each chapter of the story. What a great way to make history come alive (for children and their moms as well). I compare this book to the American Girl Historical series, where the facts and the story are so intertwined that the reader doesn't realize that she is learning real history. Because the subject matter is somewhat harsh, I would not recommend it for a child much younger than eight, and a much older child would certainly enjoy both the story and the historical facts.
I had thought that Amanda, who is in third grade, would really appreciate this book, especially since her social studies unit for the year was on immigration, and focused on this time period. For a while, I couldn't get her interested, but once she read those first few pages she was hooked. The book was finished in two or three of her nightly reading sessions. I asked her what she liked about it. She was enthusiastic, but not very articulate: "The story. . . it was a really good story."
Coincidentally, I've just finished A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which takes place at the same time as Factory Girl. Francie ages from thirteen to fifteen overnight when she lies so that she can get a job. Just like Emily, she grieves over her loss of the dream of education.
Having a daughter who is almost nine, I realize that she should have more responsibility as far as chores around the house. I know that she could be doing more to pull her weight. But I am far more thankful that our culture (and our financial situation) allows her to enjoy her childhood a little longer.
"I've learned that you can resurrect a shirt out of the dirty-clothes hamper (throw in dryer with dryer sheet for 10 min), but there's a good chance you can't resurrect a conversation with a teenager. You have to be there the first time around. And you can't really put off loving on your husband like you can put off cleaning out the fridge." Rachel Anne, Home Sanctuary
"I think being a parent was less poignant in the pre-photography era, when their growth was a slow progress from here to there, with no backwards stops, no souvenirs from some soft-faced baby time." Beck from Frog and Toad are Still Friends
From Jules at Everyday Mommy, in response to Chili's blogging meme:
4. Has the focus of your blog changed since you started blogging? How?
It’s gone from being just a family bulletin board to Tupperware for my brain.
"I’m even more grateful for yet another lesson in humility and how quickly these “I’ll nevers” are getting blown away, causing yet another dose of empathy and compassion to grow for the mothers around me." Laura, at Here and Now
On buying her first "old-lady" swimsuit:
"I'm at the age where many of my friends have declared, I don't wear bathing suits in public anymore. I hate to say that I've sort of scoffed at the attitude. My kids are young enough that I really need to join them in their summer activities." Rachelle at Seek First His Kingdom
"As parents, it is so easy to bend to the temptation of making the road smooth for our children. We do not want them to suffer pain. We want their lives to be easy and happy. It hurts us to see them hurting. Unfortunately, making things as smooth as possible for our children does not lead to their happiness as adults; it leads to adults who cannot cope with the realities of rules and responsibilities and adults who have no compassion for the needs of others." Lauren at Baseballs and Bows
"I don't know about you, but my mama taught me not to dilly-dally in the absolutes. You don't say things like never or always because you just don't know what the future might hold." Lindsey at Enjoy the Journey
Monday, June 11, 2007
You know the book trailers that you sometimes see as commercials? Well, Mitali made her own. Take a minute to watch it. It's really cool.
I had so much that I wanted to say about this book that I had enough for two posts. I figure a two for one blog tour can't be bad, right? So here's part of my interview with both author Mitali Perkins (MP) and the character she created, Sparrow Righton (SR). Click over to 5 Minutes for Books at 5 Minutes for Mom for the rest of the interview, my full review, and a chance to win a personally autographed copy.
JD: Sparrow, your teacher encouraged you to journal to express your true self, but you had already found that the interactive forum of a blog helped you reflect on your true self. Are there any subjects that are off limits for you--something that you would never blog about?
SR: Yep. I hope I’d never trash or shame anybody. My goal is to create a safe circle for people to meet, chat, argue, and connect. No haterade served here.
JD: What about you, Mitali?
MP: Same as Sparrow. :)
JD: There are pitfalls and perks to living in the public eye. Other than living a lot of bloggable moments, which do you enjoy and dread most?
SR: Death threats from loonies who hate my Dad are the worst. As for perks, the jet planes we sometimes charter during the campaign come with luxury leather seats, plasma television sets, and delicious gourmet meals. Not a bad way to travel. I also really enjoy meeting older people during the stops, even when they pinch my cheeks. What I dread are personal questions about my adoption ... and my love life (which was pretty much nonexistent -- until lately. YAY!)
JD: Mitali, you are a mom of teenaged boys. How did you tap in so well to this teen heroine?
MP: My soul is stuck at 14, which is good and bad.
I think that I first became familiar with Mitali Perkins because of our involvement in the Cybil's (but in separate categories). Anyway, I like her. I consider her a "blog friend." So, had I not liked her book that I agreed to read and review, that could make for a difficult situation, right?? But I love it. If you like reading teen fiction, or if you like politics, or want to see into the mind of a teen these days, check it out.
In fact, it's one of the books that I'm going to recommend for Read Together, Summer 2007. Remember Read to Me? People asked if I was going to do it again. I probably will, but this is my summer project. The intro post with all the details will probably go up a week from today.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
How did you start blogging?
I first heard about blogging when I was seeing reviews of Julie and Julia. I read the archived blogs and I read the book (I loved the book, but the language is not for the faint-hearted). I was hooked. How cool is this? This person had an idea, blogged about it, strangers commented, and she got a book deal! My first blog was started with that sort of mindset, and I quickly became bored with myself. A few months later I started Snapshot, just to practice my writing--and get in the habit of writing daily.
Did you intend to be a blog with a following? If so, how did you go about it?
I told my friend Katrina about it, and she told me about hers, and the one other person who read her blog (Dianne) commented one day as well. I was hooked on the interactive nature of it. I did some things in the beginning to expose my blog to other readers, such as participating WFMW, carnivals and joining a couple of blogrolls.
What do you hope to achieve or accomplish with your blog? Have you been successful? If not, do you have a plan to achieve those goals?
I really started this blog in order to practice expressing my thoughts in writing, specifically my thoughts about my family and motherhood. I wanted to create a "Snapshot" of them since the perspective looking back on them is different from my thoughts in the midst of the experience. I was very surprised at the depth of thought that was opened up once I started writing about my kids and my "job" as mom.
I have been moving towards writing professionally, so yes, in that respect I've been "successful." However, now I have to be sure that the blogging doesn't get in the way of some writing-for-pay that I want to do. I am not expecting to have a book contract offered to me on the basis of this blog alone :).
Has the focus of your blog changed since you started blogging? How?
I don't think that it really has. I did get more involved with reviewing books, either just favorites of mine or books that were offered to me on blog tours, and I've enjoyed that. If anything, of late I think that the quality is not as good, because I've been busy and have expanded my writing to other arenas.
What do you know now that you wish you'd known when you started?
Everything will balance in the end. I started in March or April of 2006, and by June I was fully immersed in the whole blogging community. It was summer, so things were more laid back, so I was able to do that with abandon. I loved exploring new blogs, and seeing who was finding mine. I started worrying "How am I ever going to fit this new grand obsession into my life??" However, in the second six months everything balanced out. I don't have a panic attack if I only post three times a week instead of six or seven, I don't check my sitemeter compulsively every hour and a half, and I know that my bloggy friends will understand if I only stop by their place once a week instead of twice a day. It will balance out in the end. And the balance has helped me enjoy it all the more.
Do you make money with your blog?
Not really. I am an amazon associate, which means that when I mention a book or product, I link to amazon with a specially formatted link. If someone makes a purchase through a specific link or the general link on the sidebar, I get a (very small) kickback--less than a dollar. However, it adds up, and it means that every month or so I get a little gift certificate to amazon. I think that some people stay away from these links not wanting people to benefit, but I am now careful to actually initiate my purchases through the link that first made me aware of the product. Support in small ways such as that might give my favorite blogger incentive to keep posting (that and my encouraging comments).
I also enjoy the free books that I have received to review (and I try to always state if a book I'm reviewing has been provided to me, or is just one I read, lest there be any confusion about my intent). Free books to me equals free money.
Does your immediate or extended family know about your blog? If so, do they read it? If not, why?
Most of them know, and I have a few loyal readers from my family and close real-life friends. I always enjoy getting a comment from a non-bloggy real-life friend or family member.
What two pieces of advice would you give to a new blogger?
Don't worry. Don't worry that people will forget about you if you don't post for a day a two (although conversely, consistency is key to keeping a following, so don't let weeks go by with no word from you). Don't worry if someone else gets more comments than you do or is nominated for more bloggy awards.
Figure out why you are doing it, and do it for that reason (not for popularity). If you want to chronicle your daily life and post daily pics of your kids, do that. If you want to make people think, write those kinds of posts. If you want to share your love of books, or technology, or fashion, write that. Some sort of focus is usually good (but for me, all that means is that I write about what I like, and my readers generally know what that is: reading, family, some travel, some Bible applications, and my thoughts on--well--anything).
For me I really enjoy the connection. So if I feel like I've connected with you on a personal level through comments you've left or I've left or email responses to comments (hey, by the way, please check the box!), I'm more likely to regularly read that blog and look forward to your thoughts on mine. So, I continue to write in a way that hopefully allows others to connect with me and me with them.
That was fun! Consider playing along and linking up tomorrow (and I'm sure that new people will be linking up throughout the week).
Saturday, June 09, 2007
Being sort of a fringe member of the kidlit blogging community, I read about what books are hot. I read about trends in books. I even helped select the first non-fiction Cybil award. I saw the books that I've read about and heard mentioned at this store. This bookseller knew all about them. She loved them, too. I wanted to check out some graphic novels**, and in fact that's what we ended up getting. Amanda and her friend each got a copy of Babymouse: Queen of the World. Amanda didn't know anything about them, but she loves the idea--a fun new way to read a book! As I anticipated, she had finished it shortly after picking it up, but she said, "I already finished it, but I want to read it again. I want to read it again right now!"
I've been in that store only once or twice before. I had not talked to the owner before, but now that I have, I'm pulling for her. See, I love amazon. I love the discounts, I love the customer reviews, I love the way that the suggestions about other books that I might like as I'm searching for a book. But I love bookstores, too. I love to browse, I love to stumble upon a book that I might otherwise not ever discover. If I don't patronize these brick and mortar stores, especially the independent bookseller with a love for books equal to or greater than mine, then they might disappear.
My amazon business is safe. I'm not going to stop browsing and reading and making new finds and discarding others after researching them there. However, lately when I enjoy browsing in a bookstore, I am more likely to go ahead and buy it right then from them. It's worth it to me.
That book I bought Amanda? The price was exactly the same at the bookstore and on amazon.
**Are you familiar with the graphic novel? It's sort of like a comic book, but it's novel-length. They are great for more reluctant readers or more visual learners. Some are very, well, mature in content, as are some comic books, but Babymouse: Queen of the World is great for older elementary students, as is the new graphic novelizations of The Baby Sitters Club. There's even a Left Behind graphic novel.
Friday, June 08, 2007
Motherhood changed all of that.
When Amanda reached about eight or ten months old, I suddenly started worrying about her. What if something happened? What if she didn't wake up? By this age she had gained a personality and I knew that I would really miss her if I were to lose her. I had also probably had enough experience to realize that I could not keep her safe all the time. She was always an active toddler and child, but we've managed to make it eight and half years with no trips to the ER.
Kyle made a dramatic entry into this world. Everything was fine, but just barely. I have a feeling that this may have been a bit of foreshadowing. At his three-year-old appointment, the doctor noticed that he had scrapes and bruises in all the right places (covering both legs). Over the last month, I've had two big doses of worry. Motherfear.
When we were camping a few weeks ago, I went to retrieve the kids from the small pond that Amanda had discovered as soon as we got there so that we could go to Hershey Park. I was walking down the street and saw Amanda running on the street that runs parallel. "Amanda! Come on, it's time to go!" We began walking towards each other. "Where's Kyle?" I asked. "He's gone. I don't know where he is. Daddy is looking, too." I saw fear and worry all over her face as she held back tears. My heart froze. I became instantly concerned for both of them. I knew that within the circular confines of the small campground that we would find him, although it might not be too easy. So, we went in the opposite way that Terry had been going. We both ran and looked into the campsites lining the each side of the road, "Kyle! Kyle!" As we turned the corner, we saw Terry carrying Kyle. He had found him in the playground, which was just a few sites away from the pond where they had been, but in the opposite direction from the way back to the campsite. As is most often the case, he did not even know he was lost. Amanda had learned her lesson on her own, and we talked about it.
"Amanda, you have to be very careful if you are going to be responsible for your brother."I had my own scare last week. I was with him in the preschool room at church. He was jumping off the table, which was much higher than the very low table that we usually let them jump off in the nursery. The other teacher and I told him not to jump, that it was too high. She had taken him off, but as she turned her back, he jumped again. His toe caught the edge and instead of landing on his feet, he landed on his head. He screamed and cried, and as the other teacher brought him over to me, he pulled away from her, doing weird things with his neck. Then he took a big gasp for air. Dizzy and struggling to get his bearings, his eyes rolled around in his head. I turned to my friend who had been in the hallway and had also seen his face as be was being brought to me. "He looked weird didn't he? Do you think I should take him somewhere? Go get Terry!" My words tumbled over one another and my pitch got more and more frantic. By the time Terry got there, looking equally frantic, unsure of why he was called to come to our aid, I was over my initial shock and fear, and he no longer looked like he was having a seizure, which is what I had thought might be happening. I took him into the nursery and sat him on my lap and gave him his sippy cup. It took a long time for him to stop crying, but after he did and drank his juice, he hopped up and wanted to go back to the preschool room and play.
"I know. He was right with me, and then when I turned around to leave, he wasn't anymore. He shouldn't just walk away. He scared me!"
"I know. Can I tell you something? It has happened to most moms. It's happened to me. You have to be very careful, because if you turn your back for a minute, a little child can walk away."
"It has? It's happened to you before? When I was little?"
"Yes, one time I was at a children's museum, standing by the doorway to the room you were exploring. I wanted to move on and looked for you, and you were gone. I was very worried. I looked and looked. Then I discovered that there was a tunnel through the wall going into the next room and that's where you were. I was very relieved, but I knew that I had to be more careful watching you."
"I was really scared."
"I know. He needs to learn not to walk off, but you have to remember that you are watching him, and hold his hand if you are looking at something."
A child's memory is short. The memory of how he looked as he was disoriented after the fall stayed with me for a couple of days. The thankfulness that he was okay hasn't left me either. I have a feeling that if Kyle is in Amanda's care again, I will have to remind her what happens when she doesn't watch him closely. Hopefully the memory of that fear she felt will remind her how easy it is for things to go wrong.
It has always been said that motherlove is one of the great forces of the world. I think that motherfear is another, perhaps equally great and less manageable. Hopefully the memory of the fear will remind me how easy it is for things to go wrong, but how thankful I am when things are going right.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
For the last three years we have met my husband's parents in Pennsylvania for Memorial Day weekend. We celebrate Kyle's birthday, camp, and do some sight seeing. This year we met in Hershey and went to Hershey Park. With Amanda being 8 1/2 and Kyle just turning 3, it was perfect (actually, really perfect because we went the day before his third birthday, so he was still free!). The crowds were not overwhelming, and the park had a lot to offer for younger kids as well as older kids and teens.
Tickets: You can purchase discount tickets at Pennsylvania Giant and at many other places around the area (we bought them at our campground). We ended up buying two-day tickets, which were significantly cheaper (I think it ended up around $28 a day). The other discount that they have if you are not sure if you want to return for a second day is a two day consecutive ticket. If you show your ticket stub from the day before, you get a discount on that day's ticket. Another appealing discount option is the preview option. You can enter the park three hours before closing and buy a ticket for the next day, while enjoying the evening at the park for free. Whether you buy the tickets at your hotel, at the Giant supermarket near the park, or online, buy your tickets before you get to the park and you will save yourself a nice long wait in the ticket line outside.
Rides: You can search on their website for the rides by height so that you can see which rides that your children will be able to enjoy. The map that you get when you enter the park is also clearly marked by the candy brands eligible. As you walk into the park, take a moment to stop at the measuring station. Not only will you know what height category your child falls into (which are cleverly named after Hershey's candies), but your child will get their first sample of chocolate as well! Most rides are open to Reese's on up (42 inches), and all but two are open to Hershey's (48 inches).
While there are plenty of rides for older kids (and non-rollercoaster-fearing adults) to enjoy, it really is a wonderful place for young kids. Kyle had a ball. I will also say that going with your children's grandparents is a great way to experience a theme park. They were perfectly content to stay with Kyle while Terry and I rode a big coaster or took Amanda to do one that she wanted to try.
We went on the most thrilling ride ever! The Storm Runner is one that you must try. It is scary, and very fast, but it's smooth. Amanda wasn't willing to try it, although since she is 54 inches tall (just barely), she could have. It looks daunting and if my husband had not really wanted to ride it, I would not have volunteered, but I would ride it again. In fact, I think that she would have liked it if she had tried it.
We finally convinced her to ride the Sooperdooperlooper, which she wanted to avoid because it goes upside down, and she loved it. Because it's an older ride, there was no line at all. Another old classic that we had trouble finding was the log ride (it's called the Coal Cracker). Kyle and Amanda enjoyed it so much that they rode it a second time immediately. The longest line that we encountered was The Comet, which is the first coaster that you come to upon entering the park. I would recommend passing it by, and perhaps riding it later in the day on the way out. It is a typical wooden coaster, but there are two others at the back of the park that didn't have long lines when we rode them. A great starter coaster is the Trailblazer. It will give wary children a taste of the excitement and perhaps a willingness to try some others.
There is an entrance to ZooAmerica at the back of the park and if you enter through those doors, admission is included in your park. This was a nice shady walk and a good break from the park the second day.
New this year is the Boardwalk, a water park within Hershey Park. In addition to the typical sprayers and water slides, there are some extreme slides and an inventive water coaster. We did not go this year, but it could easily fill one of your days, and I think that the older kids enjoy spending their time there after they ride the two or three big coasters.
We had a great time, and I'm sure we'll be back. If you've never been to the area, you could easily spend a week by adding on visits to coal mines and the Amish country, all within an hour of Hershey.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Fatigue makes cowards of us all.
How can we stick with it and avoid the negative results brought about from burnout?
- Be resolved. Decide what is important and do that one thing. Parenting habits backslide slowly and you can't necessarily fix every mistake at once.
- Be consistent. Once you've decided to focus on one thing, institute a zero tolerance policy. I might be focusing on eliminating the sassy tone of voice, and so every single time I hear it, I must act accordingly.
- Be persistent. The problems did not crop up overnight, and they will not disappear overnight either. I'm reminded of the joke, "How do you eat an elephant?" and the answer, "One bite at a time."
- Be inspired. Jim Burns at HomeWord ministries counsels us to have VIPs in our lives--Very Inspiring People. When we are drained by the hard work of marriage or parenting, having a group of people with whom we can discuss the issues at hand can replenish our resolve.
This plan of attack is similar to what the football coach does during the game. He doesn't just give the quarterback the ball and tell him to score. He designs a play in order to enable the offense to outmaneuver the defense. A football game only lasts four quarters, and then the players have the week off before the next game, but parenting is a relentless battle--twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. If you have the ball, you gotta keep on running.