Thursday, August 30, 2007

I'm Back, Baby. . . I'm Back!

Kyle and Amanda have a special relationship. She's 5 1/2 years older than he is, and he definitely looks up to her. From the time he was a baby, he thought she was great. He watched her all the time, she stopped his fits, she made him laugh. As he grew, she took interest in his new abilities and emerging personality.

In the last six to eight months, she's been happy that he has become a somewhat suitable playmate, (although now that she's almost nine, the "fun" of a little brother is beginning to wear off a bit). Several times over the summer I noticed that when he was excited about something, such as seeing a helicopter outside, or a funny scene on television, he would say, " 'Danda, look!" That filled me with 80% of "Wow, I'm glad that he loves his big sis so much, and that I'm not the one that he always turns to," and 20% of, "What happened? I'm not the one that he always turns to."

However, this week with Amanda back at school, it's been all about me. Kyle and I have had some good times together. I've sat with him at the table while he colored with markers, and proudly observed him as he made a circle and called it a zero. When I asked him if he could make a one, he did that, too. I bought him one of those watercolor coloring books, and so another morning, he painted Thomas and Percy and apples throughout the day.

I said yes to his requests:

"Mommy, will you play ball with me on the carpet?"

"Wanna come outside with me?"

"You want to color, too?"

In addition to that, I just as I had hoped, I have turned over the back-to-school leaf. I've decluttered and unpiled my desk, Kyle's room, a kitchen cabinet, and a linen closet.

So, to quote a favorite sitcom, "I'm back, Baby. . . I'm back!"

What Are You Studying in the Word?

Do you have the kind of friends who will ask you that question, point blank? I do, and I’m so glad. I have really come to value spending time in God’s word: on my own with only the Bible, going through a study by myself, or using a study and meeting with a group. Regardless of the poor habits I fall into at times, back-to-school always reminds me to get back to the important ritual of Bible study. Circumstances, schedules, or personal preference might prevent us from joining up with a group (which is personally my favorite way to study since it enables me to fellowship, be held accountable to do the study, and learn from the others in the group), but there are many great stand-alone resources available for everyone at reasonable prices.

I will be starting Bible Study Fellowship again in a couple of weeks. This year's study is Matthew, and if you are looking to join a group study, consider this your personal invitation. I enjoy it because it is in-depth, yet easily accessible even to those who have never really studied the Bible (especially the study in Matthew). Classes will be starting worldwide after Labor Day. I plan on blogging through my study again, as I did last year with Romans (but hopefully I'll get into a better schedule of posting, so that I don't get out of rhythm by being too far ahead or behind).

I have reviewed three Bible study books on 5 Minutes for Mom today, as well as a free online study that is available for all. There are giveaways, too, so please click on over! I generally try to work through something on my own in addition to participating in an organized class, and studies like this are perfect for that.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Make New Friends, But Keep the Old

A couple of weeks ago, I saw one of my oldest friends with whom I'm still in touch. We have known each other since the sixth grade. By eighth grade, we were well on our way to being BFFs. All throughout high school, we were inseparable--well, we were inseparable when we weren't separated by the fact that we were spending all our time with boyfriends.

She and her family were passing through my area on the way to a wedding, and I had invited her to drop by and let her kids run around and have a meal if it was meal-time. As it turns out, they arrived at lunch time. Her schedule had not been fixed and neither of us were sure when she would arrive. I had been out of town on vacation and my house was in the post-vacation mess. I had counted on a couple of hours after church to set things right. As it turned out, I got her message right as we left church, and we determined that they would arrive at our house shortly after we got home. So the first, and possibly last, time she saw my house, it was less-than-spiffy. But as she so bluntly put it, "I remember the state of your bedroom in high school," so I wasn't going to be fooling her! She also admitted to being a non-devoted housekeeper, so my ongoing mission--to make other women feel better about their housekeeping when they see my house--seemed to be fulfilled.

The children ate and watched TV inside. We took our sandwiches out on the front porch and just talked. We covered all the regular parental topics: kids' sports, school, family vacations, summer fun. Our relationship is of the type now where we email--weekly in spurts with breaks of several months--and we see each other when we are both in our hometown every couple of years. It's different, but it's not defunct.

Many years ago, two of my high school friends got together for a weekend visit. They had gotten married. They had children. And jobs. Some of their perspectives and views on life were now different (Wait, wait--in high school we didn't know everything?). One of their mothers mentioned to my mother, "Well, that friendship is over." That saddened me, but fortunately proved to be untrue. What the mom didn't understand is that most of us have room in our lives for all sorts of friends. Friends from our past who see us differently than friends from our present lives who may know us better now. Women who are older or younger. Friends with whom we agree politically and those with whom we disagree.

I have many new friends. New friends who are now dear friends, after sharing life for only a couple of years. But I am fortunate enough to still be in contact with many old friends. To finish off the Girl Scout song, "One is silver and the other is gold."

* * * ^ ^ ^ * * * ^ ^ ^ * * *

I'm also blogging at Faith Lifts today about Transparency (as if my confession and presentation of my home in its natural state isn't enough). Check it out.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Back to School

Good-bye Big Fourth Grader!

I have had a bit of back-t0-school anxiety this last week. Back-to-School means that the lazy days of summer are over. I'm supposed to be all scheduled and orderly and have my act together now, but I'm quite sure that's not the case.

Let's not discuss the fact that I took her to the "meet the teacher" walk-through yesterday, and in reality, it was on Friday. I won't defend myself by saying that it's always on the Monday before school starts, and that every other school in the district has it on Monday. However, both her teacher from last year and her new teacher were both there, so there was no real harm done.

We'll also not focus on the fact that although she's wearing her stylish new shirt, but managed to get stains on her knees from the dumb cherry-type things that are all over the driveway this time of year.

I'm hoping that she has a great day (and a great year), and that today I can get rid of some piles and clutter so that I feel ready to turn over a new leaf and start off this new year by actually being all orderly and organized.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Interview with Gwendolen Gross, Author of The Other Mother

When Gwendolen Gross contacted me with a review copy of her new novel The Other Mother for 5 Minutes for Mom, I was intrigued to read a fictional account of many of the thoughts and feelings that most of us have about "other mothers."

What I was not prepared for is a book that would pull me in so quickly. I had about an hour one afternoon, so I took the novel out on my front porch. I was drawn in immediately by the first paragraph, and the second page, and the third. At that point I realized that if I wanted to be able to spend time getting ready for my vacation over the next couple of days, which is what I needed to be doing, that I had better put the novel aside and save it for my vacation. So I did it--reluctantly.

Gwendolen Gross is a mom herself, so I thought it would be interesting to hear more of her personal experiences with motherhood and mothers. Her daughter is five and her son is eight. She started this book when her son was six weeks old!

JD: We all have that "Other Mother" who does something well that we don't. As a mom and/or homemaker what is one thing that you do well and one thing that you wish you did better?

GG: Just one of each? Oh, my. One thing I hope I do well with my kids is to show them that one can find pleasure in work—that the work of childhood includes writing books and playing ponies and making elaborate sculptures out of wood, grass, and old bicycle inner tubes (all their ideas), and that if you try enough, you can find ways to use that creativity into adulthood---even as your work. As a mom, well, I know I have more patience than I started with, but I’d like a freighter-load more, please.

JD: Oh, me too, please, if the patience fairies are reading and doling it out.

JD: As a writer, I assume you do (or have) work at home. If this is the case, do you feel caught in the middle of the Working Mothers and the Stay-at-Home Mothers?

GG: Yes, exactly. Not that I’m caught in the middle, I’m just not one or the other (I write at the library, a cafe, or home; I teach workshops outside the home, and I find laundry and cooking very, very distracting)—and people seem to ally themselves socially with one or the other. People aren’t exclusive, but there’s an obvious play date-scheduling bit between moms of younger kids who work, or who stay at home. Luckily, I’ve found plenty of friends who have unusual schedules, who have unusual ideas, and who are, well, unusual—like me. I’ve learned that I don’t need to make friends through my kids (though of course I have); I can also make friends who are older, younger, who have no children—I sing with them in chorus, I meet them in the workshops I teach, I meet them writing at the coffee shop. . . My friends are friends of common interests, but not always common choices.

JD: What advice do you have for moms who find themselves resenting or judging other moms or being overly defensive of their own position?

GG: You have to believe you’re making the right choices. Of course, there will always be guilt. I think it is manufactured with the placenta, and transfers with birth—or else is stored for birth or adoptive parents in that unbelievably kissable child-skin. I guess I’ve learned to respect other people for what they do—who they are—which is not always what I do, or who I am (thank goodness, we have enough novelists). If someone doesn’t respect my choices and me it might sting a little, but I have decided not to waste my emotional energy on those people. There will always be the gossipmongers, the holier-than-thou (they probably feel guiltier, more insecure, and more resentful than you do).

JD: Your book was written with such balance. I found myself understanding both of the mothers and being irritated by both of their attitudes as well. Did you strive for this type of non-judgmental stance on the Mommy Wars? How did you hope to change the reader's view of all the other mothers we encounter in our lives?

GG: Thank you so much! I started writing The Other Mother when my son was an infant—and I felt I was neither working nor stay at home mom. I wanted to try on each hat, and see what it felt like. So I made up characters—but I wanted each to be fallible, each to do all those things of motherhood that complicate our lives and hearts. Parenting changes just about every relationship you have—and the changes are just starting at birth. I still have a lot to learn, so I let my characters make some mistakes for me. I was hoping the reader would identify with both characters—maybe not always—by having two first-person narrators (and one tends to feel confided in—and is more likely to believe—first-person narrators). I was hoping the reader would do exactly what you did—find yourself understanding, and criticizing, both characters.

Right after the book came out, one of my neighbors strolled by with her most recent baby, and stopped (still moving the stroller to rock baby to sleep) to tell me, “Your book—it made me think about what I’m doing—about my choices and my job and everything!” I wanted to jump up and down like a lottery winner, but instead I said thank you—and then we had a long talk about her life.

Click over to 5 Minutes for Mom for my full review and a chance to win one of two copies of this GREAT book (along with another review of a great early chapter book for your kids). You can find out more information about Gwendolen Gross and her books on her author site. You are also invited to participate in her free writing workshop blog, "The Other Mother--for Moms Who Want to Write."

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Tent

This summer we went camping. We invited another family along, chose a campground fairly close by, and hoped and prayed for good weather and cooperative children. It was a really great time. The weather could not have been better. It was perhaps a tad cool at night for tent sleeping, but it was warm (not hot and not humid) during the day. It was a beautiful weekend, and not just because of the weather. Kyle was so happy to have his best friend there, that when William woke up and came out of his tent that first morning, Kyle jumped up and down and broke into song ala Wow, Wow, Wubbzy, "Yea, yea, yea, it's a perfect day! Yea, yea, yea, it's a perfect day!" Our girls played together as well--biking, reading, writing, and chatting. I will not go into some of the less desirable unexpected twists, because they did not thwart our fun. In fact, I'm sure that they will provide many laughs as we look back on it in years to come.

Each time we use that tent, I can't help but remember the first time we put it up.

Terry and I had camped pre-children, but we had not taken Amanda camping, and she had begun to ask about it. In the Spring of 2004, I was in my third trimester with Kyle, so we decided to take her before a new baby would put camping on hold for a while. We had a great time. We hiked, took a cave tour where we saw a bat which impressed Amanda and provided conversational fodder for a long while. We roasted marshmallows, we popped corn over the campfire.

In preparation for our plans to begin camping as a family, I had bought a larger tent that month at Costco. If you've never put up a tent with your spouse, perhaps you can imagine the last time you tried to put together a child's bike or swingset or a bookshelf. It produces that same kind of marital harmony. Since this was the first time we had used it, and we would be racing the darkness, Terry had sort of taken a look at the tent at home and made sure he understood the general gist of it. This is not a "stick in four rods, stake it in and your dome tent is ready" sort of tent. It's a multi-step two-person procedure complete with warnings about the necessary correct order, and a separate fly overlay. So, when Terry realized that the instructions that he had perused beforehand must still be in the garage in Houston, we were in trouble.

At this point, we had been married eleven years, and fortunately I had learned a thing or two. I think that if this trip had been taken in our first few years of marriage, I might have ended up with a tent pole broken over my head (or stuck through my heart). My newly learned strategy in situations such as this (or on long indirect "short cuts" on the way to a destination), is to remain quiet. I stood there--quietly and out of tent pole reach--thinking and praying, "Lord, guide us in this. Help us get this tent up." Fortunately, as usual, Amanda had found a vacation friend and was riding her tricycle with the preschooler in the site beside us, sparing her from tent pole violence. I kept praying. I wondered what we were going to do. Would we have to turn around and drive the three hours back home? Would we stay in a nearby hotel? Looking up behind our site, I saw not one, but three tents exactly like ours. As you may know, when Costco carries a product, the price is well below normal cost. They probably offered this tent in their Texas stores for a few months, during which many people bought them. Now maybe you understand a little better why Costco has a special place in my heart.

I approached Terry and quietly and respectfully said, "Look, I think that those tents are just like ours," as I pointed behind us. We went over and asked them if we could borrow their instructions, which they gladly lent to us. The camp office let us make a copy so that we had them in the event that ours were gone for good.

It's nice to be self-sufficient and to always be prepared, but to know that God cares about something as small as getting a tent up so that we could enjoy a little family vacation is worth so much more. Each time we go camping, we are reminded of his very real provision.

Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

Luke 12: 27-31

Friday, August 24, 2007

Logged On and Tuned Out

Our kids today are growing up with a completely different technology than we are. My step-dad worked out of our home, and his home office included a computer with a dot matrix printer that I could use for my high school reports. Not everyone had this cutting-edge technology. Fast forward twenty years, and my son, at three, can already switch from game to game on by himself, and knows which icon on the desktop starts in the internet. Amanda, at almost nine, can check her email, find her game sites, and is trying to figure out how to use google. Last week she asked me when I thought she would get her first cell phone. I didn't get mine until I was about 32 (and although I love having it, I'm still in the camp that sees it as more of a convenience item than an absolute necessity). In spite of this I realize that by the time she's ten, I'll probably have passed down my ipod to her, and that she is sure to have a cell phone before she enters high school.

Our teens, and tweens for that matter, are logged on. We as parents are often tuned out. We either don't understand the technology or don't fully realize the importance of it in our teens' lives. Logged On and Tuned Out by Vicki Courtney explains how and why teens use today's technology, as well as ways that we can help them use it appropriately, how we can monitor them, and safety precautions that they must understand and agree to as a condition of use. Ms. Courtney devotes chapters to
  • Instant Messaging
  • Cell Phones
  • Social Networking Sites (myspace et al)
  • Pictures and Videos.
Each chapter explains what the technology is in a way that clarifies it for the most clueless parent and still provides needed cultural context for those of us who might feel pretty savvy. I really appreciated Courtney's perspective on the use of monitoring software. It's controversial, but she recommends it, and explains how and why she uses it to be able to make sure that her children (and their friends) are adhering to her guidelines and conducting themselves online in a way that is God-honoring.

One theme throughout the book is that things are different for kids today because we are in the digital age. With the ability to easily take and publicly share photos and videos, advising our kids about the need to be careful what they say, and even what they do, is more important than ever. That is one of the problems with the social networking sites, such as myspace. Ms. Courtney walks the reader through her criteria for determining when her children were mature enough to maintain these sites and even for using IM.

This is a great resource for parents of kids aged ten and up. Certainly the parent of every teen should be well-versed in all of these areas. The social networking chapter was eye-opening to me. As savvy as I am (I mean, I have a blog, don't I?), I have had negatively judged myspace out of ignorance. She calls these sites the "virtual malt shop" of this generation. This is the way that kids connect. They don't have to hang out at the malt shop. Their community exists 24-7 on the world wide web. It gives all new meaning to the old warning, "It's 10:00pm. Do you know where your children are?" They could be at the desk in the study, on the internet, engaging in good clean fun, or perhaps participating in some behavior that they might later regret. If we as parents are tuned in instead of tuned out, we can help them stay in the world, and yet not be of the world.

For more info, including a safety contract, software information, and a sample chapter, you can consult the book's website. For more new releases from the publisher, visit B&H Publishing Group.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Thankful for Sleep

Kyle turned three in May. He still sleeps ten to eleven hours a night and if we are home and put him to bed, he sleeps two to three hours in the afternoon. Every day that we are home. Now we are in that golden period, in that if he misses his nap because we are out and about, he doesn't completely lose it. However, this summer, he's been a busy little boy, and on a few days when he didn't nap, he decided to create his own opportunities to catch some Zzzzz's.

Last month we went to the children's museum with friends. They had been at our house that morning and were pretty active for a couple of hours. Then he was very active at the museum for two hours. We had an early dinner (around 3:3opm), and after he ate, he fell asleep right at the table!

When we were on vacation, at the end of a long day sightseeing and at the aquarium, after just a couple of minutes amidst a big-screen experience of the Shark IMAX movie--he slept.

Another day on vacation after a big day out, he took the standard car nap.

After another active day with friends over, he and Amanda were watching TV in the basement while I was getting dinner ready, and she alerted me to this:

Because my kids have always been generally well-rested, they didn't usually need to conk out if they missed a nap or two. But apparently Kyle is a busy growing boy, and indeed, I am thankful that when he needs sleep, he sleeps. When he's tired and doesn't fall asleep, this is what we get:

For other Thankful Thursday participants, visit Sting My Heart.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My Best Marriage Advice, Not that Anyone is Asking

Katrina is much nicer than me, and resists the urge to share her marital advice with everyone she meets, but her post on it got me thinking. I think I did share my best advice when I was younger and knew everything, but now that I'm getting older and wiser, I keep a few more of my opinions to myself.

My can't-fail non-conventional advice?

Don't marry for love.

Love is fleeting. Well, more specifically, romance and infatuation and passion is fleeting. Marrying someone simply because you are in love with him or her is not always the best singular criteria. I have a few that are better (and yes, I even thought these things through when I was twenty-two and getting married myself):
  • Marry someone you like. Most of us have dated someone who made our hearts pitter-patter, but to whom all of our friends and family could not quite understand the attraction. They aren't all out to get you. If they don't "get" the match, there's probably a reason. If you like each other--as people, not just as mates--you'll grow together and not apart over your lifetime.
  • Marry someone you respect. You will disagree in the course of a marriage (and not just in the first few years). If you respect your husband (or wife), then you will give their position some weight, instead of discounting it immediately. Understanding the other side often diffuses some of the tension in an argument.
  • Marry someone who is likeminded. There are some critical areas: religion, children, money. You won't be able to hammer all of them out. especially if you are young and know everything, but if there are big question marks or big disagreements about a philosophy in one of these areas, it will probably haunt you for the rest of your marriage. Love doesn't make the world go around, and love doesn't make all the troubles go away. You aren't going to change him/her, so make sure your philosophies line up on the important issues.
  • Marry someone who makes you feel secure. Do you trust him/her? Is he happy with himself? Especially if you are young, you aren't going to know about financial security, and I think that's okay. However, does he have a plan? Does he have a passion? Does she expect you to fill her every need? Those things (or the lack of them) can breed insecurity, and if your spouse is insecure, you lack security as well and are then saddled with the impossible task of becoming their security.
I just heard Shannon Ethridge on Jim Burns' Homeword podcast, and she herself said that the enduring and intimate qualities of a true friendship are more valuable than love, which will fade or change over the years. So, if you don't like my opinion, take her expert advice on this one. She was doing the podcasts promoting the book Every Woman's Marriage, which I coincidentally just received in the mail, so I have dug into it with relish!

If you are already married, and didn't follow some of these guidelines, Every Woman's Marriage offers fresh insight and hope on "igniting the joy and passion you both desire" (as the book is subtitled).

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Amanda and I read Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for my own Read Together summer mission, and specifically selected this title because of the Before There Was Disney challenge hosted by Toddled Dredge encouraging us to read the book version of a movie (read the other reviews here). Just like Mary Poppins, we had seen the movie and the Broadway show, so I really wanted to read the book. Amanda and I read together, but not aloud. As usual, she zipped through it first, then I tagged along and finally finished it up. We both liked it a lot (more than the movie for sure, and slightly less than the Broadway show is my opinion--which is actually my same conclusion of Mary Poppins).

Even though we did not read it aloud, Amanda said, "Tell them that it would be a good read-aloud." I agree completely. Unlike Little Women, which we are still slowly going through, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang fits my criteria of being short (112 pages), suspenseful, and dramatic. Here's an excerpt (the ellipses are where I condensed):

Then (...) one by one they dozed off for a little rest before doing some more swimming and hunting for treasures.

No one noticed that the tide was creeping in over the sands (...)

And no one realized that soon, very very soon, the whole family, Command Pott, Mimsie, Jeremy, and Jemima--and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, who by now was really a member of the family, too--would be marooned out in the middle of the sea--THREATENED WITH MORTAL DANGER!!!!!

Like most books written in a different time (this was published in 1964), you might come across a word or phrase that is now considered inappropriate, such as "idiot" or "stupid" or "shut up," but you can be sure that you will encounter a lot less sass than you find in children's novels today.

Please remember that if you are participating in Read Together that you need to link any reviews of books you have read this summer or thoughts on your general experience HERE. The deadline is Sunday August 26th and the prizes will be posted on Monday August 27th.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Back to School, Hormones, and Sunglasses

What in the world kind of title is that? What could all of these things possibly have in common? Read on.

Amanda goes back to school a week from tomorrow. I'm excited for her, but I always feel a bit anxious about all of my summer plans that went undone, in addition to the fact that back to school also means back to Bible study and other planned activities for the year, so I feel like I need to have my act together (which is what causes the anxiety since I do not have my act together).

This year, Kyle will be joining her. He is going to a three-year-old preschool program two afternoons a week. I am envisioning enjoying a Panera experience all by myself at least one day a week. I am not one of those moms who gets excited about having child-free time so that I can clean out a closet or do a deep house-cleaning (see above about not having my act together). Kyle and I have enjoyed reading Jane Yolen's newest book How Do Dinosaurs Go to School? to remind him of how a young boy is supposed to behave at school. It hasn't hurt Amanda any to hear it either. You can find my full review along with two other Jane Yolen picture books here.

Women are hormonal. I know that mine are always in flux, and as I get--ahem--older, new issues continue to crop up. There's nothing like having wrinkles, acne, and hormone-induced monthly headaches to deal with all at once. Check out my reviews of two books: Lean Mommy as well as Hormone, Health, and Happiness if you are looking to get a handle on some of your Mommy health issues.

I was also able to try out a really handy product, called the SportLOOP to help keep track of my sunglasses. I am a cheapie sunglasses wearer, and that suits me fine. At first I was unconvinced that this was necessary, but you can read my review to see how it turned out. You can also enter to win one for yourself.

Did you find the common denominator? You can head over to 5 Minutes for Mom to read my reviews and enter giveaways for all those products! Do you have any gut reactions to back to school, hormones, or sunglasses?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Jumping on the Bandwagon

I am not a bandwagon reader. Last summer I read The Red Tent and the Secret Life of Bees. Everyone was talking about them. . . . ten years ago.

Well, The Kite Runner is still on the bestseller list at least. I'm not sure why I resisted reading this. I think that I thought it might be too political, or too sad, or just not my cup of tea. I would not be exaggerating to say that this is one of the best books that I've read. Khaled Hosseini paints a picture of a boyhood in a pre-Taliban Afghanistan. In spite of relative safely, those who lived there were deeply affected by the systems of caste, religion and race. An equally telling picture comes to life as the family movies to safety in America in the 1980's. The insight into Middle Eastern culture on this side of the continent was equally enlightening.

There are political elements of course--a story set in these places in these times would not ring true if there were not. But this is not a story of politics. It is a beautifully written account of one man's hopes and dreams along with the bitterness of regret.

Kabul had become a city of ghosts for me. America was different. American was a river, roaring along, unmindful of the past. I could wade into this river, let my sins drown to the bottom, let the waters carry me someplace far. Someplace with no ghosts, no memories, and no sins.

If for nothing else, for that, I embraced America.

This is a drama of human suspense. The obstacles that continue to appear in the life of Amir and the prose which introduces them draw the reader along at a fast past. This author has a unique understand of what makes people tick, and a way with words that allows him to express it in a way that is beautiful, but also functional to the plot.

I am not generally a hardback book buyer, because I'm cheap and because of the general lack of desire to jump on the bandwagon, and because a trade paperback is actually my favorite style of book, but I'm fairly certain that I am going to purchase and read Khaled Hosseini's second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, soon. I have no doubt that someone who writes like this about a woman can effectively create the women protagonists who drive that novel:

Lying awake in bed that night, I thought of Soraya Taheri's sickle-shaped birthmark, her gently hooked nose, and the way her luminous eyes had fleetingly held mine. My heart stuttered at the thought of her.

This review is linked to Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books, and I read it as part of my Saturday Review of Books Challenge as well as the Armchair Traveler Reading Challenge.

I rate this novel a mild R, because of a handful of strong obscenities, along with a few scenes of realistic, non-gratuitous violence.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Effective Parenting in a Defective World

I received Effective Parenting in a Defective World for review from White Post Media. It's a Walk Thru the Bible resource. The tagline is "how to raise kids who stand out from the crowd." Yes, the principles taught do demand for parents to set standards in the home. They are expected to model appropriate behavior, and yes, consistently discipline. But the end goal is not to have cookie-cutter perfect little children running around. The goal is to raise children in the image of Jesus Himself. Just thinking about this principle will help me in making decisions about what I should allow or encourage or deny in my children's schedules.

Chip Ingram, who leads each of the nine thirty-minute DVD teaching sessions, is an effective communicator. He is neither too showy nor too stodgy. His outline is clear and the blanks in the participant workbook are enough to hold one's interest, but not so much that you can't just concentrate on the message.

There are several things that appeal to me about this series:
  • the subject matter is practical with at goal that interests every parent: effective parenting
  • the material is nothing revolutionary and off-the-wall, but it is more substantive than simply a pep talk
  • the cost is reasonable for an Adult Sunday School or Small Group, but would also easily be distributed among a group of 6 or 8 women who could perform this study while kids were at school ($99.95)
  • the material can be effectively covered in one hour
  • no leader is needed--Chip Ingram issues clear instructions for group sharing at the end of the DVD session
  • because there is no real homework (although there is a practical behavioral assignment each week, about which you can share with your group), this could easily supplement other Bible study groups and even a somewhat open group like an ongoing Sunday School class
I have benefited just from watching the videos alone without the small group help, but I think that this would be very effective within a group. It would be a wonderful study for couples to do, or even just a group of women friends, as I mentioned earlier, because I think that with honest sharing, not only will you learn from each other, but it's the type of material that can foster friendships and a support network.

After watching the first session, called "Wake Up," I think that most members would be willing to commit to the following eight weeks. I think that most parents think issues like substance abuse and disrespect are things that come when your child reaches their teen years, or at least double digits, but the principles that are taught throughout this series help parents of children of any age lay the proper foundation that will help avoid the rebellion or backlash that often occurs.

I highly recommend this resource.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sorry Mom and Dad

You were right.

I should have known better/acted better because I was older.

If I would not have reacted to her, she might have just left me alone.

I was antagonizing her.

Too bad that I will probably have to wait for another twenty or thirty years until Amanda has two children of her own for her to realize that being older sometimes means that there are different standards and that there's a valid reason for that.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Who Is In Control?

I'm writing at Faithlifts today about Who is in Control? Similar to my thoughts on Fear and Security earlier this week, I address why self-control is not always what we should be striving for. Check it out.

Travel Sanity-Savers

I would like to share two ways that twenty dollars can help save your sanity on your next vacation.

Last week, Amanda started with the "Can I buy this?" "Can I go look in the gift shop?" "Can I buy something if it's only $4?" line of questioning at our very first destination on our very first day of vacation. I was thinking on the spot and I told her,
"I'm going to give you twenty dollars to buy things this week. I might choose to buy you a T-shirt or sweatshirt with my money, but this is yours, and you won't get any more, even if you spend all of this today."
So, she didn't buy the $19 penguin that day. She did buy one for $7, and then she ended up buying other things later, but at the end of the week, she still had money leftover, and she knew not to ask for other stuff, or if she did, I simply had to ask if she wanted to spend her money on it.

This is not a revolutionary idea, but it was the best twenty dollars I ever spent (having them save their own allowance would be even better, but since I am sporadic at best about giving her one, this was a great option for me).

I unfortunately did not have this second idea in time for our vacation, but it was waiting for me at home when I returned. Chronicle Books sent me Smart Lab 1st Grade Challenge for review, and I honestly could not wait to share it here. This will buy you a few hours of peace on a car ride or plane trip. The retail price is $19.99, but it's available on amazon for under $14.

This would be a great activity for a car or plane trip. It is not annoyingly loud (and you can turn the sound off). The questions in the 1st grade challenge were easy for my almost-nine year old daughter, however the format of the game kept her interested and she had fun. If you had two children, you could definitely go with the younger age and the older one would enjoy playing along. They can play a two-player game by passing it back and forth. If a child can read, she can play this independently.

The questions vary from simple math (6+5 =) to questions on money and geography, and even some that I didn't know (Who was the first modern woman doctor? A. Deborah Sampson B. Eleanor Roosevelt C. Elizabeth Blackwell D. Susan B. Anthony). Here is a link to a sample page of questions.

One thing that increases the fun of it, is that after each question the display directs the child to go to a certain number within a certain section (coded by color) for the next question. For example, 57 Red. This makes the combination of 500 questions have staying power. A child is not going to go through all of these in one day and be bored. Additionally, it doesn't make it feel like they are doing a 100 question test like at school.

Yesterday I posted my reasons and few tips on Using Priceline to Book a Hotel if you are interested in saving money instead of spending it when you travel.

Find other tips for families over at Rocks in My Dryer each week at Works-for-Me-Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Using Priceline to Book a Hotel

I have secured more than a handful of rooms in the last couple of years using the name-your-own-price feature to book a hotel room on Priceline, and like my experience last week (which I shared in this post), I have saved up to 75% of the going rate on the hotel site (generally closer to 50%). If your trip is not a sure thing, do NOT bid on Priceline, because once your bid is accepted, it is non-refundable. They do have trip insurance, which I have purchased before (for only a few dollars), but one time I tried to use it, because the girlfriend with whom I was getting away had a medical emergency (her mom was on life support). When I tried to redeem it, I was told that she would have to have the attending doctor fill out forms, which is NOT what she wanted to be doing when she returned home unexpectedly. So, my husband and I went instead, and it was fine. However, if I was planning a getaway that would be curtailed by a child's illness, I probably would go ahead and buy the insurance, knowing that I could get their pediatrician to say that mom shouldn't be away.

I think that the biggest obstacle people have is nerves. You are not sure what you are getting. That's one reason I would never use this for airfare, but for hotels there are reasons why I am confident in bidding blindly and taking the risk:
  • You bid within a star level and are guaranteed that star level (I have been happy with 4 star hotels--nicer and newer Hiltons, Marriots etc, as well as 3 stars, which include Doubletree, some Hiltons, etc).
  • You bid within a certain area of the city, so although you may be several blocks from your ideal location, you won't be across town. A few city blocks more than makes up for a couple of hundred dollars in savings.
  • I have generally only bid on a one or two-night stay, so I don't have that much to lose.
  • I found some experts who walked me through the process. The internet community at Better Bidding is fantastic! You can find out about the "free rebid" process which enables you to start low and re-bid often in order to get the best deal. They also have specific boards for each region, on which people post their recent winning bids (as you should do to add to the community if their tips help you). For example, I went to the Massachusetts board, and then the Priceline forum (they also have Hotwire tips), and found out that many people had won 4 star hotels in downtown Boston for $80 to $100 around that time, so I felt confident starting at $70, and using the free re-bid system to get me to $100, which was the accepted bid. The moderators there will even walk you through a bidding strategy if you ask for help in the specific state/Priceline board. I would be glad to give you specific help, too.
  • I've done my research. I only bid on Priceline after I've looked at other options. If I know that the cheapest room I can get elsewhere is $300, it is worth a bit of a gamble for me to try to bid up to $175, saving 1/3 off, so I give it a try. Better Bidding also has posted lists of hotels that others have won (although this is not a comprehensive list, it gives me peace of mind to get an idea for the types of hotels and specific locations within the Priceline zones). They can be found in the states section on the front page of the forum (Here is a link to the New York list).
Another thing to remember is that Priceline books a room for two people. What that means is that all you are guaranteed is one bed, and in some cities, such as New York City (where I most frequently use it), you might have a small room with no room for a portacrib or cot. However, once you have your reservation, you can call the hotel and request two double beds. They always say that can't guarantee it (for a Priceline reservation), but my request has usually been honored, and I have even received room upgrades upon check-in.

If you like the thrill of ebay, you'll probably like gambling on a great hotel rate as well. If you want to save money on hotels, but just reading this post has made you want to take an Alka Seltzer, I have also had great luck finding low rates on Quikbook. It is totally refundable, and unlike Travelocity and some other sites, there's no surcharge or prepayment required.

This post is already too long, and I know that there are questions I haven't addressed. If you have specific questions or concerns (or if you're a pro and have some sure-fire tips), please leave them here in the comments and I will try to answer them in the comments as well.

Tomorrow I will post two more great travel sanity-savers. You'll have to spend a few bucks for these, but maintaining sanity on the road is worth a few bucks for me.

Fear and Security

Kyle likes the water in theory, but in practice he's still a little fearful. On a recent visit to our friend's above-ground pool, when I tried to bring him into the four-foot deep water, he held on to me with a vice grip. Even with his life jacket on, he still clung to me, and would not release me, preferring the security of his mom to the personal flotation device that is Coast Guard approved. In this particular situation, he decided that he felt more comfortable laying on the deck on his stomach and leaning into the pool to retrieve his and Amanda's floating toys, or throwing her diving sticks in for her. He felt completely secure in doing this, having no awareness that leaning into the pool was much more likely to land him in a situation where he could not right himself if he happened to tumble in. Amanda was in the pool, and my friend and I were right on the deck with Kyle, so he was probably safe from drowning, even if he had fallen in, but he was in no way as secure as he felt.

Feeling secure can be dangerous. Having confidence in our own abilities or resources can actually put us at risk.

Our church took a mission trip to Panama in January. When they were there, they were struck by the poverty. Most of the families who were served by the church lived in what we would consider as unacceptable conditions: no running water and no electricity (or electricity unsafely spliced in off of the line), and most families of four or more living in a "house" smaller than most of our babies' nurseries. He said that they pitied them. There is a disparity of income there, and so when they saw others driving around in their new SUVs, it didn't seem fair.

My pastor recently returned at the missionary's request to help with another group that was coming. In the last six months, the church has grown. One of the primary services to the community is a Manna feeding center which provides nutrition to the children that they might not otherwise be able to get. They also are able to share Jesus with the children, and in turn, with their families. At one of the services last week, the church was asked how many of them had come as a result of the work of Manna. Well over half of the them raised their hands. As my pastor thought about these poor families and compared them to the Panamanians with means, he was struck again: We are pitying the wrong people. Their poverty and their need brought them to Jesus.

Those driving the new cars and watching the big screen TVs do not think that they need help, and so they will not listen. They are living under false security: trusting their own means, evaluating their success in comparison to those who are not financially stable, and neglecting to consider eternal security.

As a parent, I have to keep an eye out for areas which Kyle thinks are safe when in reality they are dangerous. Ever since I first experienced his daredevil tendencies, I knew that I must pray for his safety. Even when he's under my watch, I cannot protect him from accidents. Thus far, he's avoided any harm.

I also might deem a certain friend of Amanda's safe, knowing that she comes from a "good family," but that friend might be the one to introduce her to something that could cause her great harm. We cannot simply trust appearances. We must always lean on God, who is the only one who truly knows who or what is safe.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Can You Give Your Opinion?

Because I was on vacation last week, I took the week off from the column, but Janice has posted two reviews. One book concerns emotions in pregnancy and the other one addresses depression and self-esteem in children.

You will find links to both of them here, (as well as the opportunity to win your own copies), and I would really like for you to go to this post and leave me some feedback about which kinds of books really interest you. I want to spend my time reading and recommending books that are really of interest to you. Knowing the level of interest from our readers will help us target specific markets that will be mutually beneficial to the publisher and our readers.

Thanks for all of your great comments and responses since we started the column a few months ago. I've loved this opportunity.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

What a Difference a Year Makes

These pictures were taken on our beach trip last year (you can read the whole post about that trip here). I knew that Kyle would probably have a much different experience this year. Last year he didn't want to walk on the sand (even with his shoes on), and as you see here, he wasn't too thrilled with the ocean either. But when I looked at Amanda here, I was surprised to see that she looked different, anyway. I think that she enjoyed her trip more this year, too. Last year I wrote about her friendship at the beach, and this year she made even more friends with even less effort. I think that in years to come we might have to remind her that it is called a family vacation for a reason. But for this year, it allowed her to really enjoy her time at the pool and the beach with others her age.

For me, a big difference was a little more freedom (to read and relax), and a little less blogging! Looking back, I posted almost every day, but that was back in my first few months of blogging, and I was a little unbalanced. This time I posted a book review that I had already written, a link to my 5 Minutes for Books posts (that were also previously written), and one original post. That sounds like a lot, but it did allow me to be mostly unplugged from the www--reading and writing, and that was a good thing.

Terry and I both came away thinking that it was a really great trip. Everyone had fun, there was very little stress, and just as I wanted, a nice mix between scheduled activities and downtime.

A few more details and pictures will probably be forthcoming, but for now, here are some pictures proving Kyle's new-found love for water and sand, and a picture of my big-kid Amanda and little brother Kyle at our favorite ice cream place, Cape Cod Creamery. You should also know that ice cream is a very important part of Snapshot family vacations (and probably daily life in general).

Saturday, August 11, 2007

One Year Off

One Year Off: Leaving it All Behind for a Round-the-World Journey with Our Children was as satisfying a read as I hoped it would be. Approaching mid-life, photographer and book editor (of the Day in the Life series of photography books) David Cohen decides that living in suburbia with a big screen TV just might not be the life he wants. He wants to show his children the world, and so he and his wife decide to do just that. They sell their house and commence to planning their trip. The foundation of this book is a series of emails that David sent to friends and family chronicling their adventures. The descriptions are vivid and the experiences go beyond seeing the typical sites of major travel destinations. Part of the goal of the trip was to complete detach from their current perspective, and at one point it's obvious that it's been achieved.

The family consists of children 8, 9, and 3 along with a babysitter who went with them for a good part of the trip. Would I want to take three-year-old Kyle around the world for a year? Probably not, but I would love to be able to take Amanda abroad at nine. The excited reactions of the children to the African safari in particular was so touching and evoked my envy:
I pivoted around to see what she was pointed at and spotted an eighteen-foot giraffe loping gracefully down the shoulder of the road. "Did you see that?" Kara cried breathlessly. "It was just running around free."

"I did, honey. It was wonderful."

"I'm going to like Africa a lot," Kara said, and her face was lit with wonder.
I chuckled as they got lost driving outside the Villa Borghese in Rome, because my husband and I did just that on our visit there ten years ago.

For a memoir-type book, this is surprisingly family-friendly. I would rate it a G for an isolated curse or two. There is certainly nothing in it that I would shield from a teen's eyes.

A friend recommended this book to me years ago. I put it on my amazon wishlist, and always knew it would be a book I would want to read. I'm glad that the Armchair Traveler Reading Challenge came along and caused me to pull it off my to-be-read list. This book definitely gave a sense of place--of many places: the eclectic city of Istanbul, an African safari, Australia, France, and India stand out in my mind. What's more, David Cohen paints the backdrop of a place with three children in tow, which is quite different than a travel article you might read in the New York Times Travel section. I loved the sights and sounds of this book as well as the revelations and choices that were made in order to make it happen.

This review is linked to Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books.

Also, if you did not enter to win a copy of The Little Red Book of Wisdom this week at 5 Minutes for Mom, I am leaving comments open through Sunday, because the author donated FIVE more copies. Click on over for a chance to win.

Friday, August 10, 2007


I love hotels. I especially like them when I bid on them blindly through Priceline and secure a room at one-third to one-fourth of the lowest rate available on the website. I like scoping out the location and finding out how convenient it is. Such was the case with the Hotel Intercontinental, Boston. The hotel itself was gorgeous, featuring a large, yet warm lobby and friendly clerks working at the check-in desk. The room was spacious and beautiful, decorated modernly in dark wood and simple furniture. The bathroom was the biggest and most luxurious that I have seen. It featured a glassed in shower with two shower heads--the stationary one as well as one that was flexible and moved. The separate tub was deep, and also featured a shower head for washing off. The only thing that prevented it from being a completely pampering experience were the toiletries. It did feature a wonderful-smelling, clean-feeling soap, shampoo and conditioner (not that conditioning shampoo that some chains try to get away with) and a nice shower gel. However, I would have loved to see some of those special extras such as lotion or mouthwash.

When we returned to our room after a busy and fun day, Kyle was ready for bed with no coaxing. Amanda read a little and then turned off her light at our urging. Terry followed suit. I read a bit, and he was snoring softly a few minutes after he turned out his light, but I wasn't tired. I finally closed my novel, and slept, but not soundly. I had to use the restroom and adjust the thermostat two or three times. I woke up whenever one of the children cried out in the garbled speech of sleep. Quite a few emergency vehicles made a middle-of-the-night driveby, awaking me another time. By 6:15, in spite of the wonderful hotel black-out curtains, I knew I was awake for the day. I did stay in bed and doze a bit for another hour, but then I got up and took my pillow and novel into the bathroom, and put the bathtub to a dry use as a lounger. Another hour later and I was dressed and ready to go, yet no one in my family had stirred.

So I escaped.

The freedom of being out, alone, by myself felt a little illicit and thrilling. I walked down the street by the water, enjoying the cool air and bright sunshine. I got a cup of coffee and sat outside, alone, by myself, to sit, sip and write. In my hasty retreat, I had not brought my book or even my notebook, but I put the back of the hotel-issue map of downtown and a receipt or two to good use. Less than an hour later, I decided that everyone should be awake (and if they weren't, they should be), so I got another coffee for Terry and headed back to the hotel to enjoy the day with my family.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Potty Training with Pull-Ups

Since I've been writing a bit (obsessively) about potty training, someone from Huggies contacted me and asked if she could send me some samples of Pull-Ups Training Pants. I was thrilled, because I have used training pants throughout my potty training experience. I've always used them at night and naptime (especially since Kyle is still in a crib), but I also use them when we are going to be in the car for hours at a time, and a speedy trip to a potty isn't always convenient. I also had him wearing them at church or when a friend was watching him, because I figured that an accident should not be their problem. While Kyle has been physically ready (with long periods of dryness during the day) ever since we started training in April, he still had yet to ever tell me that he had to go (unless he was telling me as he was going). So, I didn't trust him. Pull-Ups were a great back-up. I know that some people think that using them slows progress, but Kyle's issue has never been that he didn't want to be wet. In fact, a time or two, he did not even come tell me after he had an accident. What I especially like are the learning designs variety, because then I can tell if he did actually stay dry, instead of being uncertain if they were a little wet or not.

I was all ready to make a grand announcement this week. On Saturday we were sitting at dinner, and all of a sudden Terry left and took Kyle to the bathroom. He had told him that he needed to go! For three days, he continued to tell us he needed to go, and he may have only had one accident. He was wearing Pull-Ups all this time (since we were on vacation and a possible progress delay far outweighs the inconvenience of dealing with wet pants away from home). Yesterday and today did not go as well, but he's still telling us more than half of the time in advance, and he goes willingly when we suggest it.

So, no grand announcement, except that we have taken another step towards being trained which gives me a bit more confidence that he will not still be in diapers when he gets married.

I would also like to say that I have had great luck potty training away from home. It was April, five weeks before he turned three, and we were going to be visiting my family in Texas when I finally decided to make a full-on effort at training him. An obstacle to me being at home was my schedule, which is not too busy, but does involve several times during the week when I'm away from home and he's in someone else's care. I didn't want that to impede me, or to have to leave him with someone (at church or a sitter) and expect them to do the hard work of the first few weeks. So being with family and having no schedule or excuses or distractions of home really helped me to focus on it. It worked. We had a good start!

A little over a month later, we went to Hershey Park. Again, I of course had him in Pull-Ups, since he was still not consistently dry or accident-free, and I did not want to have to deal with it at the amusement park or the campground. It worked SO well. I don't think that he had any accidents there, and I was only taking him to the bathroom when we went throughout the day. It was so much more convenient than having to change a diaper, yet the Pull-Ups removed the early-potty-training anxiety and urgency.

And now, 3 1/2 months later, in what I hope is our final stage, I went back to the Pull-Ups almost full time on this vacation, and we had yet another breakthrough. I don't know if it's the lack of my anxiety that helps him to do it himself, but I honestly see an improvement when I have the safety net of the training pants. And as a big bonus, I don't have wet pants, underwear and carpet to deal with either.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

C is for Caboose

I had received C is for Caboose from the publisher, Chronicle Books, for possible review, but I had not gotten around to reading it to Kyle. It seemed a little too old for him. However, when I recently got it out to read it with him, he loved it. Each page features one or more railroad items that begins with the letter, with either an old-fashioned cartoonish poster type illustration or a real photograph from long ago. One of the best things about this alphabet book is the X page. X is for Railroad Crossing. That's quite a refreshing change from a Xylophone!

I would recommend this for train-lovers age three and up. It's been on Kyle's frequently requested list for the last couple of weeks, and I think that as he gets older and craves information, knowing some of this cool railroad history will delight him as well.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Red Books

I love nonfiction. Reading for information is a pleasure to me. If the non-fiction is something like a memoir or a travelogue and includes humor and a story then it's almost my favorite thing to read. Sometimes in my quest for information I focus on what I "should" be reading (you know, something that will help me be a better mother or wife or woman), and I bypass fiction. When I neglect it too long I lose that unquenchable thirst for reading, because fiction is the escape. Fiction can be art as the storyteller transports the reader to a world that comes from his or her imagination but is so real that it could exist. See my review of a great new novel, Woman in Red by Eileen Goudge over at 5 Minutes for Mom.

I also reviewed another book: The Little Red Book of Wisdom (do you see the connection?). It's another compelling read--instructional, but not preachy and it gets right to the core of who you are (or who you should be anyway). You can find my review of that book here.

Both offer chances to win your own copy, so click on over to check them out.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Going With the Flow

This has been a great summer so far. It's been a great mix of some scheduled activities for Amanda, so she doesn't get bored too quickly, and downtime. Downtime means that the kids can sleep late if they are so inclined, or in Amanda's case, she can lounge in bed and read for 45 minutes after she wakes up, and then lounge in her pajamas another hour after that. It also means that at least one or two days each week we try not to leave the house (This causes my husband great concern: "Shouldn't you go somewhere?" "Uh--no, we shouldn't, but thanks for your concern.").

One of Amanda's goals for the summer was "Swim More." It's good to have a goal. Getting your multiplication tables down to lightening quick speed to make fourth grade math more manageable? Nah. Swim More. I think that she also wanted to read something like 10,000 pages, and I actually think she's closing in on that goal. I've done my level best to make her swimming goals a reality. We left our in-ground pool in Houston three years ago. The last two summers here, we didn't swim too much, mostly because I had a one year old and then a two year old. So, I agreed that was a good idea. I think that we've managed to be in the water at least once a week, which is a marked improvement.

When a friend called today at 1:30 and asked if we would like to come swim in her pool--right now--I said yes without hesitating. Nevermind that we had already been out blueberry picking with friends, and had just returned home an hour before, and Amanda had to be at soccer camp at 5pm. I got everyone dressed and gathered the supplies, and we were out of the house in about thirty minutes (which could have been quicker if I didn't have to search for Kyle's swimsuit. I found one, and I still have no idea where his other one is). I was getting my suit on and Amanda yelled up the stairs, "Mom, you don't have to put your makeup on, because we are just going to get in the pool as soon as we get there." I guess she had not noticed my summer beauty routine, which has not involved much makeup--certainly not on the stay-at-home downtime days, and not on the picking blueberry mornings. I assured her that I was just putting my swimsuit on and she could go get in the car. I enjoyed catching up with my friend, and her pool was a lovely way to spend the afternoon. We all got some exercise and a little sun and had a great time. I'm glad that I could be flexible and spontaneous.

We're leaving on vacation tomorrow. I'm looking forward to a great mix of some scheduled fun and some relaxation on the beach and by the pool as well (and as a note to the ring o' thieves, there will be a house sitter/dog sitter staying here). Of course we will have the trusty laptop and WIFI, but I will still be a little scarce.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Don't Cause Your Sister to Stumble

When I posted a book review on Saturday, I mentioned a new ratings system that I am going to use on my fiction reviews (and non-fiction if it's merited) here on this site and on 5 Minutes for Mom.

Last week Lindsey said, "Sharing my life can sometimes be a tricky thing on the blawg." She worried what some people might think when she shared a positive review of a movie she just watched (that was rated PG!). I often think the same thing. Yes, partly I don't want to be judged, but also I go back to the fact that I don't want to lead others astray, and I think that causes me to hold back sometimes.

I have been thinking about this for a while. Please read my post over at Faithlifts to find out more reasons why I think that this is so important. I'd love to hear your personal convictions in this area as well.

Great Advice

This was originally published July 6, 2006. I am reposting it in honor of Works-for-Me Wednesday, The Great Parenting Advice Edition (and yes, my post from last July was originally titled "Great Advice"). I'm sure that there will be great advice to be found on everything from potty training (and unfortunately, I'll be reading that advice), to sibling rivalry and chore charts, so click on over.

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A very wise friend once shared with me a strategy that she used in parenting: "If you don't want to be doing it in two weeks or two months, don't do it today." I have had the opportunity to implement this many times, choosing a short term battle over fixing a problem I've created later.

This week, I am battling. Kyle has decided that he likes dinosaurs. On two different occasions, I was picking out some summer pajamas for him. The first time I asked him, "Do you want baseball, or trucks, or dinosaurs?" "Doe-daur. Roar," was his response. The next week when I saw some on sale and knew that he still needed another pair or two of summer PJs, I asked him again, "Trucks? Basketball?" and I threw variety aside and added, "or Dinosaurs?" "Doe-daur. Roar." He liked those that we bought at Costco so much, that he wanted to hold on to them on the ride home, instead of putting them in the back with the rest of the stuff. That first morning that I tried to take them off, he struggled with me, trying to pull the shirt back down. "No. Doe-daur." At first I thought, "Well, he could wear this today. It doesn't look that different from a T-shirt." But then I thought of the advice. Did I really want him wearing this particular shirt every single day for a week? This battle has continued, but he only pitched a real fit once or twice, and it ended by the time he came downstairs and watched Big Bird and had a Pop Tart.

What I like about this advice, is that it's tailored to your preferences and reminds you to think. It's not advice based on what worked best specifically for you, such as, "Never let a child sleep in your bed." It causes you to decide beforehand if you want a child sleeping in your bed. If you do, great--scoot over. If you don't, then don't do it "just this once." When my daughter had moved to a big bed, she actually stayed in bed and called for us to come get her, just like when she was in the crib. But once we started letting her get up herself, that inevitably led to her getting out and coming to our room when she woke at night. Each time, I took her by the shoulders and led her back upstairs to her own bed, where she went back to sleep. For a while, I probably did this several times each week, or maybe several times a night, but after the habit was broken, she never did it again.

What's the best advice you have received or that you give out most often?

End Original Post, but Begin Post Script: I had forgotten some of these Kyle-isms. Yes, I remembered that he loved those PJs and fought me when I tried to change the shirt, but I had forgotten that he held them all the way home. Thank you, little Snapshot blog for preserving these memories.