Saturday, May 31, 2008

Certain Girls

Certain Girls tells the story of Candace Shapiro (who was first introduced in Good in Bed, and who also appeared in her short story collection The Guy Not Taken, which I reviewed HERE). Cannie is a work-at-home writer who now uses a pseudonym after suffering fall-out after the success of her semi-autobiographical first novel.

Her daughter Joy is now thirteen years old. Cannie has always been overprotective and overinvolved in her life, which is about the worst thing that a mother can do from the perspective of a young teen. Reading Joy's thoughts about her mother from her point of view (each chapter alternates using her or Cannie as the narrator) made me think about my relationship with my daughter. Like Candace, I remembered the adolescent feelings I had concerning my own mother. Amanda is almost ten, and I've already glimpsed her desire to exercise more responsibility for herself, and her conflicting desires to be close to her parents and to maintain her own boundaries.

Using both protagonists in this story as narrators adds dimension to the typical coming-of-age story, centering around the Jewish ceremony in which a woman is recognized as a woman, the Bat Mitzvah. We see Joy testing her wings in assuming the new responsibility that is granted to her from a religious perspective.

Candace herself morphs, as we are apt to do as women. She's a forty-two year old whose only child is aging out of needing the full-time childcare and protection that she has loved giving her in her early years. She might be forced into a different role (although if her husband gets her way and they have another baby, that will change).

This novel is still told with the self-deprecating humor at which Ms. Weiner is so proficient, but this one goes a level deeper. Perhaps because as I mentioned, the subject matter hits a bit close to home, this is one of those books that left me in a bit of a trance when I finished reading it. I had literally cried while reading the last forty pages.

The publishers have promoted this as a book for mothers and daughters to share. In fact, there are sets of questions for teens to read and discuss and a separate one for adults, both of which are accompanied by an interview with the author. I suppose if your high school daughter is already reading mainstream adult fiction with profanity and some mature dialogue about sex then it might be a great idea (as Jennifer Weiner says she was and as I myself was in high school). One of the themes of the book is Joy's embarrassment over the explicit nature of her mom's first novel, and there are excerpts of it in the book.

What I Read on My Summer Vacation (and Why I Could Read so Much)

This will sound like a lot of reading (it's well over 1900 pages), but here's a standard daily schedule for me from our vacation:

6:30--Wake up (it gets light before 6:00am, and the cottages are naturally cooled by the cross breeze, so our screen doors all around the bedroom were opened). Prayer and Bible study (I am not usually consistent about this on vacation, but I am so glad that I invited God along on this couples' getaway as well). Drink coffee that is left on a table outside our cottage in a carafe.

7:15--Read a book either out on the lounge chair by the beach, or the one on our deck. A gorgeous, quiet time.

8:00--Terry wakes up. Breakfast is delivered to eat on the covered patio on our deck. We eat fresh fruit--mango, pineapple, watermelon etc--to our heart's content. I developed a love of passion fruit juice. We also ate baked goods, eggs, bacon, and the last two days, I had to try an item on the menu that I had wondered about, "Fish stew." It was delicious--spicy tomato broth, tomatoes, onions and peppers and chunks of fish. I asked one of the waiters at lunch if it was something people around there would eat for breakfast, and he said, "Yes, it's a West Indies favorite. The hot is good for you, like coffee or tea, and it's a hearty breakfast to tide you over to lunch."

9:00--Put on swim suits and lay by the beach or on the deck--reading.

10:30--Swim and snorkel a bit, off the beach right by our hotel. There's coral everywhere, so the fish are abundant, even just 20 feet off the beach. Lay in the sun to dry off--with a book.

12:30--Buffet lunch at the restaurant. They always had several delicious salads made up of grilled or roasted vegetables, more fresh fruit, a cold soup (which I didn't get into), and a couple hot dishes as well. Read a bit by the beach or in the hammock while our lunch settles.

2:30--Swim and snorkel.

3:15--Read in the hammock.

4:30--Afternoon tea is delivered to our cottage--hot tea and a few sweets. Terry and I played Cinq-o each day while we had tea. I think before our trip, I had never beaten him (perhaps once?), and the first couple of games proved no different, but by the end of the trip, our record was even.

5:30--Get ready for dinner, relax, read.

7:30--Dinner in the restaurant. We ate fish, shellfish, pork, beef, pasta. It was all delicious.

9:00--Return to the room, read a bit before going to sleep (there are no TVs and it's dark by 7:00, so that always brings on an early sleep for me).
So what did I read during all of this time (including two long flights as well)?

The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs--I loved this book. I still think that I enjoyed his first book, The Know-It-All, more, but this chronicle of Jacobs' year during which he tried to follow all the laws of the Bible is funny and also thought-provoking. He's not a believer, but he doesn't mock faith. He seems to genuinely want to understand it, and does a great job of explaining the role of the law within a life a faith. I highly recommend both of these books.

The Host--Wow. I have written a more articulate review and will be giving away three copies on Monday in my 5 Minutes for Books column at 5 Minutes for Mom. Don't miss it.

Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner--I'm posting a review for this separately, later today or tomorrow (review).

Honeymoon with my Brother was a random "marked down to $4 at Barnes and Noble" kind of purchase. However, since I love memoir, and love travel memoir best, it was a no-brainer for me. In this book, Franz Wisner decides to take his planned honeymoon with his brother, after his bride calls off the wedding. That leads to a year of world travel and restoring a lapsed relationship with other.

I started and read about half of Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. I'm thrilled with it so far. It's practical, and inspiring and if you apply the principles that he teaches, it will take your relationship with your spouse and with God even deeper.

I read one short story in Elizabeth Gilbert's collection, Pilgrims , and tried to read two more, but they didn't grip me at all, so I left it in the resort's library.

I brought all of those books with me, but then enjoyed exploring the resort's lending library to see what I might find.

The first one I selected was One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson. I was drawn in my the high praise (on the book jacket--what else are they going to print there?), promising suspense, and human drama--a literary novel full of twists and turns. Honestly, it was fine, but it was neither the most literary novel that I've ever read, nor the most suspenseful. In its favor, she does draw a character quite well, and a couple of them still sit with me. Apparently Jackson Brodie, who appeared in this novel, is a recurring character, so I might try another of her novels.

I started The Thirteenth Tale on my long trip home. I'm about halfway through it now, and enjoying it quite a bit.

Five of these (including Pilgrims, which I won't finish) are on my Spring Reading Thing list, so that makes me happy. I know that there are some others on the list that I won't finish, but I've also read several off the list as well. I was glad I peeked over at it, though, because it reminded me of several that I do want to read before the end of June.

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

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Future of Destination Disney

I was so glad that a few of you left comments hoping that last week wasn't the final installment of Destination Disney, because I hadn't announced a new topic or a new set of topics.

The reason for that is twofold:

I covered all of the major points of information that I wanted to share, which was my main purpose in holding a weekly carnival, but I had been hoping that I would keep it going if people were interested. I was actually thinking of cutting it down to a monthly schedule, instead of weekly, since all of the major topics have been covered.

And I was lucky to get anything up before I went out of town, as I was frantically tying up loose ends. I should've asked these questions then, but it was good to hear spontaneous cries of woe.

If you like joining in (or just reading the posts of those who have), please leave me a comment to let me know your thoughts about the carnival:

  • Would you like to see an ongoing monthly carnival (or if you'd prefer to see it weekly or every other week, let me know that too)?
  • Do you like having assigned topics, or would you like it to be a more general opportunity to write about your Disney dreams or wishes or memories?
  • If you like the topics, what are some topics that you think should be covered? I was thinking that we could focus on the parks--one week on Epcot, another on Animal Kingdom, Disneyland, etc., but I would love to hear your ideas.
Look for a post next week announcing what we're going to do going forward, with a schedule of topics if it turns out enough people are interested in going forward.

But in order to make a decision, I do need to hear from you. As they say before the wedding vows are made final, "Speak now, or forever hold your peace."

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I Want to Be (Wii) Fit

Cooper is one of the great women I met at our Disney World Blogging Moms Mixer. She is co-founder of The Motherhood online neighborhood community and Been There blog.

She's currently sponsoring a contest to win a Wii Fit. She's asking us to talk about our fitness journey. Just last month, I shared what doesn't work for me in the way of fitness--the gym. I just can't do it. I don't have the discipline to get there, I don't like that in addition to the 30 minutes or one hour that I have to squeeze out of my schedule to work out, I have to add twenty to thirty minutes of time in the car to get there.

Time in the car these days also equals money--with gas costs rising, a mere 3 trips to the gym a week would probably cost me at least 8 gallons of gas, which is over $32 at the present. Factor in the $60 a month membership of the gym I had tried out (being somewhat rural, I don't have access to the big box discount gyms), and working out in a gym does not make financial sense to me!

I just returned from a fabulous beach vacation with my husband. Spending a week in my swimsuit and eating like I was on a cruise ship for a week, reminded me that I need to make sure that fitness is part of my summer. Each day I saw my belly growing underneath that thin layer of lycra/spandex/whatever swimsuits are made of these days.

Those are my logical, rational, and well-reasoned arguments, but let's get real. The Wii is so much fun. We don't have a unit yet (to the frequent dismay of my 9 1/2 year-old daughter Amanda), but I always enjoy playing on my sister-in-law's machine. The first time I played the boxing game that is pre-loaded on the console and realized my arms were sore, I thought, "Hmm. . . there may be something to this concept after all." Knowing that playing the Wii games could actually burn a few calories or tone a few tiny muscles was a cool motivator to buy one for the family. Having a daughter who is creeping towards her teen years where body image and appearance are going to come into play whether I want them to or not, I love knowing that Wii is continuing to capitalize on the unique side of the Wii gaming platform with Wii Fit. Being slightly (ahem) competitive, I know that might push me to keep trying to up my performance on those games.

I think it will work for me. If I win one, I'll certainly give it a try! If not, I know that since a Wii is perpetually on my daughter's wish list, we will probably be buying one at some point, and all benefiting from the fun of an active game system.

You have until Friday (tomorrow) to enter this contest at Been There. You can find all the details HERE.


Terry and I just returned from a full week on a tropical island paradise. I have a lot to share, and will hopefully be able to form sentences that will convey my thoughts on re-entry, disconnecting, eating, and so much more, but since a picture is worth a thousand words, how about if I draw from my memory card for my first post about my trip?

Taking in the view from our very small plane

Home Sweet Home

What did we do? A lot of this . . . .


Eating (this was the view from our favorite lunch table)

We knew that the vibrant blues of the water and the naturally cool Caribbean breezes made us feel like we were in paradise, but when we saw this tree, we realized that we may have actually found the Garden of Eden.

This is the sign on the tree:

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Joyous Gift of Grandparents

My home is filled with the joyous gift right now.

Terry and I are away, enjoying a week away together--recharging, refueling, reconnecting--and relaxing. We'll be home soon, and I'll try to share some of the memories, but honestly I never find that I can accurately convey the

Dad and Susan are here with the kids. I am thankful for their willingness to come and relieve us of our duties. I know that they enjoy it, and I know that the kids treasure that time, just as I enjoyed the time I spent under my grandparents' care.

I reviewed this great book about grandparenting recently at 5 Minutes for Mom. You can read my review along with checking out some links to posts I've written over the last couple of years about my own grandparents.

What's the best memory you have of your grandparents, or of your children's grandparents?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Destination Disney -- Disney for Adults

Last week's topic was Hotels and Resorts. If you didn't check it out, you can read what all the participants had to say HERE.

This week's topic is Disney for Adults. Tell me about your favorite activities when you travel sans kids (or perhaps you bring the kids, but you use childcare--tell me about that too).

I posted some great links before my trip to Disney that I had found about people recounting their experiences as adults.

Being there as an adult on a sort of girls' weekend was not as odd as I might have imagined. The food was great; the service was spectacular. There is a full-service spa, but we weren't able to get into it.

I did enjoy the Cirque du Soleil resident show La Nouba. To say I enjoyed it is an understatement. It was the highlight of my trip. This would be a great activity to do with girlfriends or a spouse on an adult-trip, but I would also love to take my 9-year-old daughter, and I actually think that my four-year-old son would be captivated as well.

Please leave a comment or link to your own blog telling me what you enjoy as an adult (or what you would enjoy if you weren't focusing on your kids).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Thanks, Mom

I don't know how many of you watched the Academy of Country Music awards on Sunday night, but I was impressed with the quality of the performances. Well, some of them sounded like they couldn't sing live, but the showmanship and glitz was pretty good. Taylor Swift's performance (above) was over the top.

This video doesn't show all of my favorite part. The response from the audience was incredible, and the look on her face was incredulous. She was excited, amazed, pleased and surprised that she brought down the house.

Earlier that night she had won the award for best new artist, and she thanked her mom, very articulately. She said that her mom used to like to have lunch with friends, and fix her family dinner at night, and play games and she gave that all up to go on the road with her sixteen-year-old daughter (lest you totally drop your jaw at the video above, I think she's now eighteen--slightly better, right?).

On Mother's Day this year, Amanda had told me that she would do everything--put Kyle to bed, fix dinner, do the dishes--everything that I would do. We had a nice, long, filling lunch after church so we weren't really going to have a full dinner, but even so, by that afternoon she didn't want to be "Mom" anymore. She realized it's a lot of work.

It's nice to see that sometimes they can see the sacrifice and what it really means to be a mom. I don't ever want to shirk that burden and responsibility. I want to sacrifice, but I don't even want to see it as sacrifice, because that puts the attention back on me. I just want it to be the way things are.

And if one of my children thanks me from the stage one day, I'll smile, I'll cry, and I'll continue pointing back to the talent that got them there, not my sacrifice.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Party

We had planned Kyle's fourth birthday party a bit early--before his dad and I go out of town and while Pops and Tutu are in town. I had decided to hold it at the park because all three and four-year-old children love the park, which was a wonderful idea,, but for one thing. . .

. . . the weather.

I don't know how someone planning an outdoor wedding does it. I was stressed out. The forecast was calling for partly sunny in the morning, clouding over in the early afternoon with rain beginning by 4:00 p.m. The party was from 1 - 2:30 p.m.

I was at church Sunday morning, the day of the party, and the pastor allowed for some time of silent prayer to bring our needs or concerns before God. He doesn't always do this, but what was first and foremost on my heart was an excited little boy's 4th birthday party.
Matthew 19:14: Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
I brought my child to Jesus as I prayed, "Lord, I know it seems silly, but I'm asking You to hold off the rain for a little boy's birthday party."

Jesus instructs us that the faith of a child is a valuable thing.

Children can pray expectantly about anything and everything. I generally hold off in expressing these kinds of my heart's desire--the simple, the superficial, the selfish.

Yesterday I was exercising faith for my child.

The clouds rolled in. At 1:00 p.m. we started the party, and it looked like all would be fine. By 2:00 p.m. the winds had picked up and it was much cooler. At 2:15 p.m. we felt a drop or two of rain. By 2:30 p.m. as everyone began to leave, we knew it was going to rain. As I drove off at 2:40 p.m. it was raining hard.

The reason that I don't offer up those prayers more often is because I fear that I don't have the faith to hear a "no" when I've offered them up. I know that even if it had rained, it wouldn't have meant that God loves me or my little boy any less. In not praying expectantly for these types of things, I also miss out on the blessing of seeing those prayers answered.

Whether God held off the rain until right after the party ended in answer to my specific prayer, or a part of his plan from the beginning of time, doesn't really matter.

It didn't rain.

"It was a great party," Kyle repeatedly told us.

I learned a little bit about why exercising faith like a child is a good thing, and hopefully those muscles of faith will continue to grow if I exercise them a little more often.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Destination Disney -- Hotels and Resorts

Last week we got some fantastic input on Disney on a Budget. If you didn't check in throughout the week, you should go back and see what you missed.

This week's topic is hotels and resorts. Some of the topics you might choose to cover:

Where do you stay? Why do you choose to stay there? Are there any non-Disney owned properties that you would recommend? If you've stayed in several properties, I would love to read a run-down of each of them.

As always, you can link up to past reviews you have written if they contain some detailed information about where you stayed, or you could create a new post with links back to those posts and identify each hotel to which you are linking.

On our trip, we stayed at the Disney Beach Resort and Hotel. It was nice. The room I stayed in was fairly spacious with a nice bathroom vanity area. I can see how a family of four could get ready and not trip all over each other. There was also lots of storage--drawers--which is great if you are staying somewhere more than a couple days. I posted some pictures of the property HERE.

We also toured the All Star Music resort. It was very bright and clean. As one of the budget hotels on property, it certainly has a different feel, but for a third of the price, I'd say it was worth it! They have one bedroom suites there, which are small, but do offer a little more privacy when traveling with family, which we always appreciate. The picture is taken from the front door. On the left by the door was a small table. The sofa and the big chair are pull-out beds. There are two bathrooms--one straight back and one off the bedroom, which is around the corner to the left. There is also a very small kitchenette with a sink, microwave, and a small fridge and some counter and shelf space.

Now it's your turn.

Either link up to your own blog or leave a comment sharing info about properties you'd recommend (or perhaps that you'd recommend that we avoid).

Next week is Disney for Adults. Tell me about your favorite activities when you travel sans kids (or perhaps you bring the kids, but you use childcare--tell me about that too). Since next week is Memorial Day, and it might be a slow weekend online, I'm going to post it on Thursday to give everyone more time to jump in.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Greetings from Tween-land

I don't know what the exact age range of the new age classification is--I think between 9 or 10 and 12--but Amanda is living there.


I have some evidence:

  • She is soaking in Disney tween fare as much as she can. As little as six months ago, she was content with watching the Smurfs on Boomerang, and of course PBS fare such as Cyberchase and Fetch with Ruff Ruffman. She still enjoys those shows, but if The Suite Life is on, or her real favorite Phineas and Ferb, she will definitely be watching that. In fact, she who has had no interest in tween pop culture even told me, "I have an actress I like. Her name is Ashley Tisdale." For some reason, the High School Musical fanfare has blown right past her, though. She thinks it's "weird and dumb."
  • This morning I woke her up for school. She sat up in bed. I gave her some socks at her request, to put on her cold feet before she got up. I came back downstairs. Twenty minutes later, I went back up to check on her, and she was still in bed. "I fell back asleep," she told me. Refusal to get up is definitely a precursor to the teen years.

  • We are having a disagreement over hair issues. She is always wanting to get her hair cut shorter--chin-length--and I'm always wanting it to be a bit longer than that. Recently I had finally convinced the hair stylists to give her some layers. I don't know why they balk at this. I think it seems high maintenance, but it's not for Amanda's hair. Saturday I told her to put in more layers, and Amanda added, "And I want it shorter." Well the combination of more layers and a stylist who got a little happy with the scissors has netted a result that I am not happy with. Amanda thinks it's fine, and hair grows, so I'm trying to get over it. I realize that this is not the last, nor the most significant, hair issue that we are going to face.
  • But most telling--I now embarrass her. I got to her classroom a little early last week for my once-monthly volunteering session. They were still in art, so I thought I'd write her a note on the first blank page in her planner that she would see that afternoon when she was filling it out. At the bottom of the page I wrote, "I (heart) Amanda." When she got home, it was all scratched out! She said, "That was embarrassing. People would think it was weird if they saw it."

In spite of that, I closed out my Mother's Day (well, the part of my Mother's Day before my children's bedtimes, anyway), snuggled up in my bed watching TV with Amanda. We watched two episodes of Phineas and Ferb (which I think I like as much as she does), laughing at the same things. I don't know all of the words to the theme song like she does, but perhaps that's not too far off.

Of course, once I learn them, I'll have to stifle the urge to sing along. I wouldn't want to embarrass her.

A couple days later when I signed her planner, I turned to the next page and put a little penguin sticker on it that I had found. I made a cartoon bubble which read, "Isn't my mom embarrassing?" When I signed her planner the next day, there was a note next to the cartoon that said, "I (heart) Mom."

I'm glad we can laugh about it, and I do know that the embarrassment that a child can feel over what used to be perfectly normal mom behavior can erupt out of nowhere. I'll have to tread lightly and remember to laugh. Mostly I'll try to remember that she really does still want me around. She was so happy when I was sharing her favorite TV show with her Sunday night. Several times she said, "Mom, I love you." After repeating it one time, she emphasized, "I just can't stop thinking that."

I (heart) Amanda, tweenage behavior and all. In fact, I think I'm sort of getting a kick out of it.

Do you embarrass your kids?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Follow Me

Okay, I am trying out this Twitter thing. I don't really "get" it, but I'm surprised to say that I've enjoyed reading the updates on some blogs that I've seen, so I thought I'd join in.

If you want to "follow me," you can do so by reading the updates in my sidebar, and you can click that link to follow me. We'll see if I stick with it. I opened a Facebook page, and I've not done a darn thing with it.

I saw this video from Common Craft on someone's blog recently, and it was my first glimmer of understanding into "Why would people even care?"

What's your opinion on Twittering? Are you in? Are you waiting it out? Do you "get it"?

A Whisper of Freedom

The third and final book in Tricia Goyer's Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War series is finally here. A Whisper of Freedom wraps up all of war and spy adventures as well as the person-to-person connections of Sophie, Walt, Phillip, Deion, and all the other characters that I had grown to love.

In this final installment, Walt and Sophie and Phillip have taken possession of the gold that Michael is trying to smuggle out of the country. There are many twists and turns on the way to the resolution of the story.

One thing I love about this book is that there are detailed summaries of the first two books in the preface. There are a lot of characters in these books, and even having read them both in the last year or so, it was a nice refresher. In addition, I find it hard to follow the political side of the story (in any book that features that as a backdrop), so the summaries really cemented that part of the story in my mind.

For this blog tour, Tricia has invited us to participate in a fun meme. Keep reading for how you can get involved. During the tour, you can enter to win one of FIVE signed copies of A Whisper of Freedom by signing up for Tricia's newsletter here!

1. List three things you would do with a chest full of gold (assuming you got to keep it!)
  • Take some fabulous trips, and invite some friends and family along.
  • Be generous--treat friends (and myself!) to lunch, pedicures, and cups of coffee.
  • Buy a bigger house and have it decorated (and I suppose I'd need to throw some gold coins at someone each week to keep it clean for me).
2. List three charities/missions/organizations you support (and why).
  • My church--Because everything I have is God's anyway, so I offer him back the firstfruits of my income.
  • Compassion International--Because as an American, I have so much more than other people in the world.
  • Breakaway Ministry--Because I'm so proud of the solid doctrinal teaching that is going on at my college alma mater, and I want to make sure it's still going strong when my two future alumni attend. I also listen to the podcast weekly, and it feeds me, so I'm happy to help provide for their expenses.

3. List three ways you have volunteered your time/services.
  • Teaching the Bible, to women and children
  • Helping out at Amanda's school--in the library and in her classroom
  • Helping friends when needed (with childcare, meals, etc)

4. List three things you keep "hidden" when company comes over.
  • The TV remote--Why watch TV when you can visit with friends?
  • Bad dinner habits--Although my children and husband eat frozen pizza or hot dogs at least once a week, when we have company I generally serve a tasty and balanced meal.
  • The children--They are either in bed or banished outdoors or to the basement, which they like anyway.
5. List the last three things you've lost.
  • The cord to Amanda's cell phone for the experiment
  • A page out of a notebook I use for teaching.
  • The book for a blog tour I was supposed to do (not this one!)

6. List the last three things you've found.
  • The cord
  • The page
  • but NOT the book!
Would you play along on your own blog? Consider yourself tagged. In addition to some bloggy fun, by participating in the meme, you can also win some treasure of your own. Please let me know you are participating so that I can come and check out your answers.

Three brave "players" will be selected at random to win their own lost gold (Gourmet chocolate coins and all three books in the Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War series). To enter all you have to do is answer the MEME on your blog and then leave a comment on Tricia’s blog tour post HERE. that you’ve posted your meme. Easy.

Read some of the other memes and reviews by clicking through to Tricia's blog.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Good Sleep = Less Stress

Sleep-deprivation is often times par for the course for a mother. It begins as early as that first pregnancy when heartburn, leg cramps, potty breaks, and growing girth impede a good night's sleep when you feel like you need it most.

Then the mother of a newborn baby must deal with an entirely different set of sleep-interrupting problems, including nighttime feedings, dirty diapers, teething and day-night confusion. Once your child is sleeping soundly through the night (at two months old? six months? eighteen?), you may think that restless sleep is a thing of the past. But no--throughout the preschool and elementary years there is still the chance that a child will become ill in the middle of the night, or be awakened by bad dreams or thunderstorms. Then when they become teenagers, they stay up later than you, or they actually stay out. Let's not even think about the worry of having teenagers out in the middle of the night.

The bottom line--being a mom is stressful.

There are many things that can trigger stress, and one of them is not getting enough sleep. If we are sleep-deprived, we are less likely to handle the roller coaster of motherhood in the way we'd like to.

Sleep Deprived No More
by Jodi Mindell is a great book designed to "help you and your baby sleep through the night--from pregnancy to early motherhood," as the subtitle promises. At first glance, I thought that this book was just a guide on getting your baby to sleep through the night with the added elements of taking care of mom--giving advice to "nap while the baby naps." But no, the book includes all sorts of information about sleep needs in pregnancy and for the baby's first few months.

Johnson & Johnson sent me an autographed copy of this book along with a great mother/baby care package with some familiar baby care items--the baby lotion in the pink bottle with that distinctive baby-care smell--along with some that are new to me--a thicker baby cream lotion in a tube which my nine-year-old daughter has been using on her dry legs and the moisture care baby wash which my 3 1/2-year-old son used up in ONE bathtime (thank goodness I trust the non-toxic nature of J&J products).

But what I was really excited about was the new line of Johnson's for You products that I received including "Melt Away Stress" Dreamy Night Cream (which I've been using on my feet at night to try to get them summer-ready), Lotion, Oil (which can be used as a light massage oil, or a great after-bath moisterizer), and creamy body wash--mix of lavender and the classic Johnson's baby oil fragrance.

Would you like the chance to win this copy of the book? I will include several of the sample bottles of the J&J baby lotion as well. If you want to brace yourself with the knowledge you need for this turbulent time in a woman's life, or know just the mom who needs it, leave me a comment here (be sure that I can reach you through a blog or an email address). I'll post the winner on Sunday.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Defining Motherhood

On Mother's Day of 2004, Amanda was 5 years old and I was 9 months pregnant. I woke up at 2am and realized Terry wasn't in bed. I found him sleeping on the couch in the gameroom outside Amanda's bedroom door.

She had come to our room in the middle of the night, sick. She had thrown up every hour or two for the previous five hours. I hadn't even woken up, which is unusual for me. Usually my husband sleeps like the dead, while I hear every sound or stirring, but apparently being nine months pregnant can fix that.

He didn't want the baby and me and to get sick, so he had let me sleep. When I figured out what had happened, and that he hadn't gotten any uninterrupted sleep yet, I convinced him to let me relieve him so he could get some sleep. Fortunately (for me) the hard work was over. Terry had been up with her at least every hour, and I think that I was able to sleep there until early morning.

Terry went to church to teach Sunday school, and she and I stayed home.

In a quiet moment cuddling on the couch with my daughter, I realized that there was no more appropriate way to spend Mother's Day than caring for my sick child. I didn't need to receive a flower or hear a special message at church that sang Mom's praises, or eat an overpriced brunch. I was doing what I was made to --mother. I was also reminded of the wonderful partner I have for this journey in Terry. No one likes to deal with bodily fluids in that way when a virus hits, but I think that God gave moms a special ability to be able to deal with it that dads might not possess.

Motherhood doesn't happen alone--my husband and my daughter made me a mom.

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Do you want to read some other motherhood moments? I posted the winners of the San Disk motherhood moments contest on 5 Minutes for Mom. Reading those entries and narrowing them down to 10 was tough, but I'm so glad I did. Check out what Motherhood is. . . for the 10 winners.

Capessa's contest
to win $500 in Zappos shoes is what inspired this one--boy could I spend that easily.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Destination Disney -- Disney on a Budget

There are money-saving tips and tricks, even at Walt Disney World. What are they? Do you have secrets to share? In what ways does your family save money? Where can you cut back?

I don't have much to contribute to this discussion, but I did learn a few things in the course of my PR/Press weekend at Disney that I can pass on:
  • There are affordable on-site properties. At less than $100 a night, the All-Star hotels also offer all the advantages of being on site (Magic Hours, transportation, Disney magic).
  • The longer you stay, the more affordable your park tickets become. If you take a week-long vacation, your per-day price is going to be much less than a shorter trip.
  • This isn't so much budget as value, but what I kept hearing over and over again was to enjoy your vacation. Don't run yourself ragged every day, because you are thinking about the money that you are spending on park tickets. Focus on the overall experience.
I can offer a few general tips for budget travel:
  • Figure out your budget (for food, souvenirs, etc) and use cash. You are much less likely to overspend.
  • To cure your children of that affliction that seems to strike in every souvenir shop (which is a part of any trip we've taken), give them responsibility over their budget. Figure out how much you would spend on extras, and give it to them. When I did that with my nine-year-old last summer, it saved a lot of fighting, debating, and begging.
  • I know that some people won't buy into this, but I read this somewhere, specifically about a Disney vacation. The mom bought a lot of Disney items--T-shirts, hats, figurines--before her trip (at a discount store). She gave her children one "souvenir" each night of their vacation.

Next week's topic is Disney Hotels and Resorts. Tell us specifics--where do you stay? Why do you choose to stay there? Are there any non-Disney owned properties that you would recommend? If you've stayed in several properties, I would love to read a run-down of each of them.

People did link up throughout the week last week, so if you didn't read through all of the entries about Planning Your Trip, you might want to check back. Thank you all for linking up and sharing your experiences in the comments. The posts are full of websites, books, and planning strategies that will benefit each of us in future planning.

Last week I offered up a prize, and the winner is Lisa (Goldeelox) from Life, Love & Craziness. She's currently planning a Disney honeymoon and wedding, so I hope that I can offer her something from amazon to make it even more special.

If you would like to share your tips for Disney on a Budget (and I hope you do), please link up to the specific post on your blog, or leave some of your favorite tips or a favorite money saving experience in the comments.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Gym

I feel odd from the time I walk in until the time I leave. In fact, I feel odd packing a bag and odd after I've left looking all gym-my as well. Me? At the gym? Who do I think I am?

This month I got a free 30 day trial to a gym in our area. I've been once in two weeks. It just doesn't work for me. As I've said, I feel out of place. I feel as if everyone is watching me thinking, "She's going too slow on that treadmill," or "She's going to stop already?" Classes are good in theory, but to find the class I want to take offered in one of my not-so-frequent chunks of time doesn't always happen, and yes, I feel foolish in the classes as well, since I have absolutely no rhythm.

This particular gym has childcare, which scores it points big time, but it's only until noon each day, and then again late in the afternoon (after 3:30, I think). That doesn't really work for me either, since Kyle is in preschool two days a week past noon, we have Bible study one of his off days, and I have to get stuff done other times.

I'm just going to say it--I'm not a gym rat. It doesn't work for me.

Exercise in general is hard, but not impossible. Maybe next week I'll post what does work for me in the realm of exercise and fitness.

If you want to read more about what's not working for people, click on over to Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

What Do You Feed Your Chickins?

I love reading about nutrition and thinking about ways to encourage my kids to make healthy food choices. However, knowing what we should eat and thinking about it do not always translate into something other than hot dogs or fast food on a Spring evening busy with activities.

When I saw Leslie Grant on the Rachel Ray show a couple months ago, I knew that I wanted my family to try the Chickin Feed Nutrition Tracking board. I had the opportunity to ask her (and her daughter Lucy who was looking at the computer over her shoulder) a few questions:

What did your kids think of seeing you on the Rachel Ray show?

They thought it was pretty cool! They mostly liked being filmed in our house and then seeing themselves on TV. (Lucy just came down here and I asked her. She said "Mommy was pretty.") I'm very touched!

Did you think that your product would hit such a strong note with moms out there?

I sure hoped! But I really had no idea how fantastic the response would be. It was a product that I created to solve a real problem that our family had. It was quickly apparent that many other folks had the same issues about "What to feed their chickins!"

With your new busy "mom-preneur" schedule--have your family's eating habits suffered? Be honest, mom to mom. How has use of the tracking board helped?

Funny you should ask... I was just telling someone the other day how I had this perfect opportunity to teach my eight-year old daughter the meaning of IRONY. One night as we hit the drive-thru because I was just too busy to cook, I explained how the success of our new business -- that helps families improve their eating habits -- left our family particularly UNimproved that evening.

We talked a little about how there were still better choices than others that could be made at the drive-thru. My daughter ordered a chicken salad and rattled off the "chickins" she could move on her board when we got home. So I think the underlying lessons we've learned so far have definitely made an impression.

P.S. This is from Lucy: I hate the food at McDonalds... (Yeah - from her mom)

So I'm glad to see that in spite of a busy schedule, her "chickins" are learning to make good choices. If you'd like to read more of my thoughts on the nutrition tracking board and enter to win one for yourself, check out my post at 5 Minutes for Mom.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Truth and Brownies

Kyle and I were making brownies recently. He loves to help me, and apparently the dose of sugar (see the brownie mix around his mouth?) unleashed his tongue:

"You get a small piece, because you're bad," he told me.

"That's not very nice, Kyle," I coached him.

"I know, but I just had to tell you. You're bad, because you always don't promise us."

I can't interpret that one at all so I ask for clarification. "I don't know what that means."

"I know, but you don't promise us what clothes we can wear. You don't promise us. You scream at us."

"Does Daddy promise you?" I ask, trying to understand what it means to "promise" something.

"Yes, he does, but you don't."

"What does he promise you?"

"To wear the right clothes, but you don't. You get us in trouble."

A more fragile woman might have been shattered by this. However, Kyle is my boy. He loves his mommy. That somehow Daddy was being touted as someone who "promised" them, and I wasn't--I could deal with that. However, I think that the real reason that I wasn't concerned about his criticism of me is because I know him.

Later the truth came out, and I quote, "I don't want to take a bath. I like Daddy; I want to stay with him. I like Daddy. Blah, blah, blah." Yes, he actually said, "Blah, blah, blah," which proved to me what I suspected: he was just talking. His words didn't mean a whole lot.

I'm afraid that my words don't often mean a lot either. I think that my kids hear "blah, blah, blah," when I say, "I mean it. Put that away now." They know that the chance for another "now" will likely come in a few minutes.

On more positive note, Blankie stays upstairs now, regardless of which parent is waiting downstairs in the morning, and due to continued reminders, Kyle also stays in his room until 7:00 a.m., as he's supposed to, even if he wakes up earlier. I've given him some "rah-rah" instead of some "blah blah" on that one, letting him know that I am proud that he's choosing to obey the rules.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach

Just in time for summer, author Melanie Watt brings us Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach.

As we've come to expect, there is something new that Scaredy wants to try--namely enjoying the beach--but he's a bit scared. He wants to enjoy the sand and sun, but there are some things that he plans to avoid at all costs. In typical Scaredy fashion, something happens that "was not part of the plan," and we learn right along with him that the unfamiliar isn't such a bad commodity after all.

This would be a great book to read with your child before or during your summer vacation. The story is as clever, thoughtful and silly as ever, and I think that the art in this book is the best yet.

If you've missed out on the delight of the Scaredy Squirrel series, I suggest that you remedy that quickly. I introduced Scaredy Squirrel and his wide appeal over a year ago. The next month I followed up with, Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend, which I like even more. The book explores the universal theme of the joys and fears involved with making a new friend. Whether you're three or forty-three, you can relate to it.

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

Friday, May 02, 2008

Destination Disney -- Planning Your Trip

Thanks to all of you who participated in the first week of the carnival. People linked up throughout the week, so you might want to go back and read some of the newer entries.

Now, on to this week--Planning Your Trip to Disney:

Because my weekend trip to Disney was planned to the minute by our wonderful hosts, I didn't do much research at all. I did ask my readers for advice on what I should try to catch in my spare time, but other than heading over to the the Tower of Terror with Amy during the Buzz parade at MGM, I didn't even get to them.

In general, I love the planning part of trips. I like to research hotels, restaurants, and tourist activities. When we take our family trip to Disney World, I think that I will plan out a sort of game plan for each day, as far as which park we'll visit and can't-miss rides and shows.

I know I will definitely use the Walt Disney World Moms Panel website. This group was put together by Disney because although they can provide the same type of information to patrons, anything coming from the corporate office still feels like advertising, and naturally we are all skeptical of that. The Disney World Moms (and one dad) are real people who just love Disney and were lucky enough to be one of the twelve chosen from over 10,000 applicants for this inaugural panel.

Darcie and Kim were at the mixer with us. It was so great to meet them. They enjoyed having 17 sets of ears eager to hear their input. We could literally wonder aloud about something, and they had an answer at the ready. They often knew more right off the top of their heads than the employees who were meeting with us.

Another great site that I've come across (because they've been following our Mommy Blogger Mixer reports) is the DIS Discussion Forum ( They all seem very friendly and willing to share their information and love for the happiest place on earth.

One other ting I asked the Disney folk was the least crowded times to go. Obviously it's when kids are in school, specifically September, October, January and February. We were there in April, in the weekend that was the end of my daughter's Spring Break, and the beginning of some Spring Breaks in New York, and the crowds were not unmanageable and the weather was great.

That's the extent of my information, but I'd love to hear from you. Here are some questions to prompt you that you can address in your post (or in the comments if you're not a blogger), but feel free to structure your post any way you'd like:

When do you go and why? How far in advance do you plan? What do you do first? What resources do you use--websites, books, forums? How much thought and detail do you put into your daily itinerary?

This week I do have a PRIZE. I have some special Disney merchandise--a pink travel mug with a bejeweled mirror on it (because your dreams come true) and a pink mousepad with the Disney Moms logo on it. The winner will also be able to pick out something Disney related from (under $20)--maybe a new guide or the latest CD or DVD featuring your favorite characters. Here's what you need to do if you want to win:

  • Leave a comment on this post. If you are linking up to a post on your blog (by putting the direct address to the post below), you still need to leave a comment, even as simple as saying you've linked up.
  • If you are not linking to a post, but still want to be entered in the contest, just leave a comment here with one of your planning tips.
  • Be sure to leave a way to contact you. I can leave a comment on your blog or I will send you an email if your email is visible in your blogger profile. Otherwise make sure you include your email address in the comment.
I will announce the winner in next week's Destination Disney. The topic next week is Disney on a budget, so please share all of your thrifty money-saving tips or tricks, discount codes, or even your favorite steal-of-a-deal experience.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Things You Might Want to Know

Stamps go up--again--on May 12. ONE whole cent. What a logistical nightmare. It makes the Forever Stamps even more appealing. Unfortunately I pay my bills online and don't use stamps all that often, so I'm still in possession of 75 stamps from the roll that I bought to put on my Christmas cards, which I never sent out.

You could win $1000 in the 5 Minutes for Mom Mother's Day contest. There are fewer than 300 entries, and the top 15 finalists will be open to votes on the site. This doesn't have to be Annie Leibovitz quality (wait--for that matter--let's make sure it's NOT Annie Leibovitz quality). Just post a picture on your blog (or email it) that looks like motherhood to you. It could simply be a great picture of you with the kids, of your belly bump or anything. You can certainly get creative, but you don't want to miss out on the chance because it's not perfect, do you? Read all the details HERE. The deadline is May 2 at noon EST.

Mother's Day 2008 - Giveaway Event

There are lots of other great prizes, including a printer and a set of custom notecards (check out the ones made for me; they're cute), with more to come throughout the week. Click the button for the listing of all the products.

The second Destination Disney weekend carnival will be posted tomorrow. You can link up anytime this weekend to share your favorite planning tips--websites, books, insider tips on covering the park--anything. You can tell us when you begin your planning, what you do first, and why. If you have never planned a trip before, but there's one in your future, why not write a post asking all the Disney-philes who will be visiting the carnival a specific question you might have. The possibilities for your participation are unlimited.

All I ask is that if you link up at the carnival you also provide a link back to my blog. If you are linking to an old post, which is perfectly acceptable, just write a new post mentioning that you are participating in the carnival and letting your readers know where they can find the other participants' posts.

This time I am spreading a little Disney magic myself, and it's open to bloggers and nonbloggers alike. I am offering a prize to anyone who links up OR leaves a comment with a suggestion this week.

We enjoyed 31 cent scoops at Baskin-Robbins yesterday as part of their promotion, and it's too late for you to take advantage of tha (sorry!), but iMommies lists three other promotions coming up in May, so you can mark your calendars. We love ice cream.