Thursday, August 28, 2008

Can You Help a Sister Out?

Metropolitanmama.netTime is running out to enter Sail Away to a Good Night’s Sleep contest.

5 Minutes for Mom has been posting about it, because they are trying to refer as many people as possible, so would you mind clicking over before Monday and saying that 5 Minutes for Mom sent you?

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The Good Ol' Double Standard

Next week Amanda will turn 10. Yesterday she started fifth grade. Fifth grade here is intermediate school (5th and 6th), so she has a new school on a new bus route. In elementary school, the bus came right by here. She was picked up at our driveway, which made it easy for her to wait alone and get off and come inside by herself.

The roads here are curvy and rural -- no sidewalks, no shoulders, so when I saw the new route, I thought it was just a mistake that they expected her to walk around the big curve to catch it at a nearby intersection. Well, it was no mistake. It's not that it's that far (maybe .3 to .4 mile), but it's not a simple matter to walk there.

When I was in fourth grade, a year younger than Amanda is now, I walked to and from school. I did live in a typical suburban neighborhood, but part of the trip was on a fairly busy street with no sidewalks (but I did traverse the nicely manicured lawns). I clocked my old elementary school walk, thanks to Google maps, and it's .6 mile.

I loved those times walking by myself. Part of it was the independence and responsibility of getting myself home. Part of it the time it afforded me to talk to myself and tell stories and just be alone.

When I called the transportation administrator, I said that it was my assumption that a 5th grader could get herself off and on the bus herself, and that I just wasn't sure that this route would allow that. I said I'd give it a try, and see how it went. Well after one day, I can see that it's going to be just fine. I need to just change my mindset of how young (old) she is and let her take on this responsibility.

Another area in which the double standard of what I did and what I feel that she is capable of doing came to mind as I was taking a walk down memory lane reading about everyone's favorite chapter books in the Children's Classics carnival.

More than once, Are You There God, It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume came up as a mention of a book that was enjoyed and read and re-read. Yes, me too. I'm sure that I had read this by the time I was in fifth grade, if not fourth. When I was reading people's memories of it, I thought, "I don't think Amanda's ready to read about breasts and whatever else it mentions. And certainly I don't know if I want to entrust her to read about an eleven-year-old girl's doubts about religion."

And that's what it comes to. Trust. Trusting that as she grows taller and older that her discernment is also maturing. Trusting that although she's no longer a little girl, she's still my child and God's child.

I have a feeling that I'll be re-reading Are You There God, It's Me Margaret, and perhaps passing it along to her before too long. And after we find a workable morning routine, I am fairly sure that Amanda will indeed be handling the responsibility of getting herself off and on the bus -- extending her freedom from the end of the driveway to another corner of the neighborhood.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Snapshot in the Wild

Our garbage and our front porch have been invaded by a masked bandit.

A confident fox has recently made a few appearances.

We've seen deer, wild turkeys, pheasants, and all manner of birdlife (not to mention several manner of rodents).

Amanda spotted a nest in our tree. I later saw a robin sitting in the nest. In spite of thick green foliage I did manage to spy some of those unbelievably blue eggs, and later we could witness the baby birds as the mama took care of them.

We've seen quite a few deer lately, and throughout the summer there has been evidence of them enjoying our garden.

The dog cornered a groundhog who gnashed its teeth and pressed itself against our high basement window. That was sort of freaky.

We've lived here for four years, and while we saw the occasional deer or pheasant or wild turkey in earlier months, for some reason the last six months has been an animal free-for-all.

Have you seen Enchanted? You know the scene where the princess calls all the animals to come to her aid? That cracked me up, but now it's not so funny. I'm beginning to think that she's camped out somewhere sounding the call to all the animals in the area.

Katrina recently reposted about the way she takes care of animals that come to her home. I was amused by it when she first published it, and thought I could relate, but two years later with the open season of wild animals in the Snapshot house. . . it's more like a practical manual that I need to memorize.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What's on My Nightstand -- August

What's On Your Nightstand

I am happy (and a bit surprised) to say that I actually finished everything on my July list except for The Shack by William P. Young. In spite of coming across a powerful review at Big Mama, I am not even sure if I'll get to it this month, but I might, so I'll leave it on the stack. I'm just not feeling it (I want to read it, but it just doesn't feel like it's going to get read this month. If I can't say that to fellow bookworms, who can I say it to?).

By far my favorite book that I read last month was Harry Potter #5 by J.K. Rowling (which I just finished last night). I had been on a long Harry Potter break. It had probably been a year or more since I finished the fourth one, and it was delightful to return to Hogwarts. You'll notice that year six is not on my list. I think that I will take another little break, and draw out the final goodbye to these friends.

A few of these books do have an interesting story:

Pride and Prejudice, for our Classics Bookclub. It's from the Complete Works of Jane Austen there on the bottom. I purchased that two years ago. After I had challenged myself to read one of Jane Austen's books for one of Katrina's Reading Challenges, I decided I'd definitely like to read more.

Wife in the North
-- It's a review copy, but I'm really looking forward to reading about the City girl who moves to Alaska after getting married.

Saturdays with Stella -- Another review copy. I've started this one, and it's delightful. A woman makes application from the training of her poorly behaved dog to the way God sees us and we submit to His commands.

When the Labels Don't Fit -- Another review copy that looks at parenting your children based on their personalities.

A Season of Night: New Orleans Life After Katrina -- The author Ian McNulty is my new sister-in-law's cousin. I met him at the wedding last September. He's delightful and charming. He's a writer who lives in New Orleans, and I'm looking forward to this one as well.

Enchanted Thyme -- This is another book with a personal connection. It's a children's chapter book, the first in the "Delicious Adventure series." It has a story and recipes. The chef is my friend Amy's brother-in-law (I met Amy on the Disney Mommy Blogger trip). Amanda's already given this her thumbs up.

Click on over to 5 Minutes for Books to participate in this month's carnival, or just click over and see what the blogosphere is reading.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Looking Back at Summer

Okay, it's still summer for a bit. Fall will officially start later next month (and I will be joining in as always with Katrina's Fall Reading Challenge), but we just returned from our summer vacation and school starts for Amanda on Wednesday, so it's a good time to look back.

I had some goals this summer. I wanted a nice mix of complete R&R and enough activity to keep the kids entertained. I wanted time to read. I wanted to spend some good quality time with the kids -- reading with them and playing games and such. I wanted to keep a clean house and get more organized. I wanted to prepare healthy meals for the family.

Well . . . as I think I've mentioned a few times, it has been a great summer. Amanda had at least one play-date each week, we've swum many times this summer. In addition to vacation, we've visited friends' pools, and I endured the town pool a few times.

I have probably left the children alone to entertain themselves a bit more than I had hoped or planned (meaning that they watched TV and played the computer a good bit), but we had some definite quality time as well. They got to attend the premiere of Fly Me to the Moon in 3-D with me (which I finally reviewed today at 5 Minutes for Mom), which was a highlight for all of us. We had a fun family vacation, and visits from friends, and went camping with friends (with a true Labor Day end-of-summer trip planned for next weekend as well).

I not only prepared some decent meals for my family, but got Amanda involved in cooking as well (a practice that she wants to continue through the fall).

I did a fair job of keeping the house up, and did tackle a few closets and nooks and crannies.

We are racing towards the finish line as far as being ready for school. I purchased school supplies and such before our vacation, but as far as the math facts that I wanted Amanda to review and solidify -- well, that was a good vacation driving activity. We are still working on it.

What about you? Do you feel like summer's over? What went right for you this summer?

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Hike

A picture doesn't do justice to the brilliant colors of the mushrooms that we've seen in Maine on our hikes: berry red, saffron yellow, moss green, eggshell white, coral, eggplant purple. We never knew that such mushrooms existed, so each one was an exciting discovery. The sizes varied as well. "I found a teeny orange mushroom!" Amanda would alert her little brother. "I see a giant red one," Kyle would tell us.

Pictures can't capture the sounds: the quiet as I fall behind (or take an opportunity to get ahead while they are enjoying the view), the rustling of the leaves, the tapping of the tree branches as they sway in the wind far above our heads, the jubilation of a sometimes-moody teen exclaiming, "This is the best day ever!" as she navigates a difficult patch of trail or captures an expansive view with a snap of my camera.

The photos don't convey the feelings: the warmth of the sunshine and the brisk of the breeze, the shaking of my quadriceps as I try to make a controlled descent after miles of hiking up.

A picture doesn't transmit the facts: a 3.3 mile hike made by a family of four (with the youngest being carried only on the very steep ascents or descents), a time of 2 hours and 20 minutes (beating the estimated time given of 2 and a half hours) at Mt. Will, Maine.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Making Friends

We had told the kids that the resort had a pool. In fact, it was one of the reasons that we picked this hotel. When we arrived here on Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. it was a bit chilly. We were up high, in between two mountains. It was windy and below 70 degrees. And yet, the kids wanted to swim.

The pool is heated, and there are two of the largest hot tubs I've ever seen connected to the pool. So, I took one for the team, and went swimming. While we were in the water it was fine, but it's not exactly poolside weather.

We went hiking today, and I stayed with Kyle back for a much-needed nap (his, of course - wink wink). Amanda and Terry went down to the pool. When she returned, she went straight out to the balcony overlooking the pool and yelled down, "Sophia! Hi!" She came in and explained to me, "I made a friend."

"Yes, I could hear you playing while you were down there."

Nothing's changed.

It reminds me of one of my favorite posts, originally published August 10, 2006:

In the past couple of years, Amanda has made new friends wherever we went. Last year we were camping and the girl beside us was about her age. They rode bikes, explored, played cards and had a great time for those three days. Over those days I asked her some questions: What grade is she in? How would I know? (Well, you could have asked her). What did y'all talk about? I don't know. See, it wasn't that kind of relationship. And that's okay.

Have you noticed how easy friendship is for kids? Well, of course there is the usual "she likes you more than me" stress, but do you realize how easy it is for a child to make a friend? As a child, you don't think about what she thinks about you, or if you're talking too much or not enough. You're just having a good time.

Amanda was swimming in the pool at our hotel this week, and came over to the side and asked Terry or me to come in because she had no one to play with. Terry answered, "There are a million kids here." I added on, with the "anything for a laugh" parenting style that I inherited from my mother, "There's one right there!" There was indeed a girl about her age on the edge of the pool not two feet from her, watching this whole exchange. She grinned wide when I pointed her out, and Amanda looked slightly embarrassed, but then they swam off together and played for the next hour.

But when I went over to check on them, I noticed that things had changed a bit. Instead of a completely simple friendship that she used to enjoy on these occasions, this one came with a name. "Mom, this is Alexa." Wow. She doesn't usually remember names, nor would she introduce me. I had overheard them talking earlier. Amanda was asking Alexa if she played any sports and telling her that she liked soccer. Hmmm. Searching for common ground. Wanting to go deeper.

It's really all we need to do, regardless of age. Take the plunge into friendship. Go out on a limb and invite someone over or meet them for coffee. Talk to her and find some common interest, be it sports, children, or a specific hobby, such as knitting or tennis. That casual relationship may stay right where it is--a coworker who you go to lunch with, or another mom friend who you meet for coffee once a week for casual chit chat while your kids are in preschool. Or, if the time and circumstances seem right, you might go deeper by asking her and husband on a double date, or the whole family over for dinner. You might let her help you out when you need it, which will make her feel needed and closer to you. You might help her out, which will, well--help her (and maybe make her like you even more).

The back to school season has always been a landmark to me, even when I didn't have children. That's when the new year starts fresh for me, not in January. So, is it time for a fresh start for you? Clubs will be resuming their regular meeting schedule, after likely taking a summer hiatus. New Bible study groups will be starting up, day and night, weekday and weekend, across America (and the world). Small groups may be reorganizing in churches, making it easier for someone new to get involved. Neighborhood playgroups will be forming, or reuniting. Someone may ask you, or do some encouraging like I did with Amanda and her swim friend, or they may not.

Would you rather hang on to the side, alone and discontent with your present circumstances, or do you want to make a friend and do flips, have underwater tea parties, and have breath-holding contests? It's your call.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Best Laid Plans

So, I'm not really here. We left Saturday on vacation--spending a couple days in Boston, and tomorrow we are going on to Maine (inland Maine for hiking, river sports and moose-watching).

When I'm trying to plan for my family of four to get away on vacation, I often have some pre-trip stress. I wasn't really stressed out last week before I left: Partly because I've been busy, and partly because it's a laid-back sort of vacation that I'm really looking forward to.

I'm not one of those people who makes sure that the house is spic and span and neat as a pin when I leave, but when I return home, I always wish that it was. So, I was so happy when I took some time on Thursday to fix up my cabinets. I was pretty sure that I'd also sweep, mop, and dust, in addition to clearing every surface of my home. That didn't happen, but don't the cabinets look nice?

I also had hoped to get some of my thoughts that are halfway fleshed out actually set to post this week here on the blog, but that didn't happen either.

However, one of the projects that I was so busy on last week did get taken care of. I posted the information about the Sarabeth's luncheon I attended in New York City across all five 5 Minutes for Mom sister sites, since some of the information applied to each site. I'm pretty proud of how it came together. You can read about Saving Money at the Supermarket on 5 Minutes for Mom, and from there you can follow the links to read all the posts. If you're just looking for info about me, me, me, I got a little personal on the Parenting site, and I reviewed a great cookbook on 5 Minutes for Books where I also talk about Amanda's recent forays into the kitchen.

And I did get most of my daily content queued up for 5 Minutes for Books, since my fabulous contributors do a great job of getting their reviews ready to post. So if you're missing new content here, you can always click on over there every day. We've got some good stuff coming up, including Winning Wednesday.

We're having a great trip, which I do hope to post about, as well as possibly getting some other new stuff up. This next part of our trip is the more laid-back relaxing part, so I might have some more time.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Johnny Depp or Gene Wilder?

Who makes a better Willy Wonka? I looked at both movie versions along with the book (which I just read for the first time, at least as far as I remember) in today's Books on Screen column at 5 Minutes for Books. Everyone has an opinion, so weigh in with yours over on that post.

I alluded to this in that post, but the more I think about it, the more amazing it is to me: Roald Dahl's book of children's vices is almost prophetic.

The book was published in 1964. He gave us the stereotypical bad child: overly competitive and obnoxious (signified by Violet Beauregard's gum-chewing), gluttonous and lacking self-control, bratty, and TV-addicted. In 1964, how many kids were obsessed with TV (it wasn't even on all day long), or truly overweight and gluttonous, or even bratty and spoiled? But in the late 70s and 80s through today -- absolutely.

The more recent movie put a little more blame on the parents for creating the children, as did the book originally. But from what I understand, the overindulgence of children didn't really begin until the 70's when our moms were guilty for going back to work and intensified in the 80's when "quality time" replaced real parenting.

Kudos to Roald Dahl. I haven't read any more of his books either, so are there any others that will amaze me?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pictures Tell a Thousand Words
(but I'll add a couple hundred more)

Monday I showed in picture format what my tween Amanda was up to. This picture tells so much about Kyle, my preschooler.

  • He's orderly. He often "plays" by lining things up, just like I found these trains one day.
  • He loves Thomas and his friends. This is most, but not all, of the engines he has acquired since his grandparents bought him his first set for Christmas almost two years ago.
  • He has parents (and grandparents) who indulge his interests. Not only did we purchase them for him, but I know their names, and to some extent their "personalities."

Kyle recently attended a party of one of his preschool classmates. A few of the moms and I were talking about trains. "I think that my son's fascination with Thomas is passing," one said, and the other agreed that her son's seemed to be waning as well.

Not Kyle's. He's still fully entrenched. He plays with them. He watches the show on television, he can't go to sleep each night unless I read a story from his Complete Collection of Thomas the Tank Engine anthology (that I scored for $1 or so at a tag sale a couple years ago). If you've ever read a Thomas book, they aren't simple rhyming stories. They are detailed stories that deal with issues of character. They use advanced vocabulary, and since I'm reading from an anthology most of the time (unless he's gotten one of the story versions with more pictures from the library), he gets 3 or 4 pages of solid text with two or three small pictures embedded within.

I think that some of them think of this passing through Thomas as a big badge. It means that they are growing up--moving beyond that which interested them when they were two and three years old. I disagree. I think it's certainly okay to move on, but in sticking with it, it allows Kyle's interest to gain depth and breadth (as the span of his train collection proves).

Kyle plays with his trains the same way that those other children who are "moving on" will play with their Rescue Heros or Transformers or whatever interests four- and five-year-old boys these days. The fact that Kyle's main interest is coupled with books and a TV show that is "read" like a story, gives him a platform for play. He talks to his engines (actually they talk to each other). He acts out stories that he's heard me read to him, and he uses the ideas from the stories to create his own.

That's intricate play. It's good for him, and I get a kick out of it.

Kyle and I both like Thomas and all his friends, and for all these reasons I'll indulge his love for these anthropomorphic engines as long as he wants to indulge, and as long as I have floor space for his tracks.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


There were some books that I read over and over again. One book that stands out in my mind is Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards.

Mandy is a girl of about ten who comes upon a cottage on the property of the orphanage in which she has been raised. She makes this little cottage a place of her own. I suppose that's one thing that stood out to my elementary-aged self as I read it. I wished I could have a place of my own. I think it's a universal thought of children of that age. I just wrote yesterday about how Amanda created a place of her own in her room. Unlike teens, a younger child isn't experiencing the proximity of the real freedom and independence that is to come, and probably doesn't even really want it. But they want the fantasy. What if I could be on my own? Just for a bit?

Details of this book stood out in my mind over twenty-five years after the last time I had read it:

  • The English gardens that Mandy planted. I knew nothing about the types of flowers she mentioned (and I still don't), but I loved the detail.

  • The kitchen items she took from the orphanage kitchen so she could have some items in her little cottage. Specifically I remembered some sort of bottle that she rinsed out.

  • The high high fever which caused her to drift in and out of consciousness. I could almost feel the heat.

I came across a copy of the book in a used bookstore a few years ago. It had the exact same cover that I read back in the late 70's (the one pictured is the current release, and it's a lovely rendition). I snatched it up quickly and brought it home, waiting for the right moment to share it with my daughter Amanda.

I used this book as a read-aloud for us. I think that we read it when she was in the third grade. She was certainly reading well by herself at this point, but I wanted to relive this book with her. I wanted to unlock those memories of myself as a young girl as I reread the familiar story. I wanted to see Amanda's response. She liked it. I don't think that she's read it again, but she enjoyed it, and I enjoyed sharing it with her. It's a testament to my love of this book that we did actually read it aloud.

This is a lovely book for girls age eight and up. I highly recommend it for someone who wants to be carried away with a realistic imaginative fantasy.

In third grade Amanda's teacher read another of Julie Andrews Edwards books, The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. I haven't read that book myself, but it got her enthusiastic thumbs up. It's a different kind of fantasy world, but more her preference of genre. That link is to a special 30th anniversary edition, which makes it a classic as well. Any children's book that can stay in print that long should be commended.

This post is linked to the first Children's Classics Carnival at 5 Minutes for Books. Link up your own recommendation, or just click over and read others' recommendations of classic chapter books for the middle grade reader.

For another related post, see this week's "On Reading" column at 5 Minutes for Books. It's by one of my favorite kid lit bloggers, Jen Robinson. If you haven't already seen it, take a minute to find out the many reasons you should Read the Books Your Children Read.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tween Hideout

Amanda has really wanted to make a place of her own in her room. Apparently the fact that she has her own room doesn't give her enough privacy.

She cleared out the spot under her loft bed (which previously housed a huge amount of American Girl doll paraphernalia. She isn't necessarily ready to get rid of it but doesn't know what to do with it now that she's playing with it less). Then she hung some blankets to complete the hideout effect.

What is she doing under there? Talking on the phone with someone who understands her more than her mom? Trying out makeup? Unburdening her tweenaged soul in her journal? Napping to recover from all those late nights?

No. She's reading (with her stuffed penguins). She's still the same old Amanda.

She might be growing up, but not too fast.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Me, Me, Me

I guess that's what a blog is all about--writing about me, and my family. My experiences and my thoughts about them, right? I've almost had enough of myself, but I won't let that from stopping me from pointing you in the direction of some other stuff I've posted this week.

Yesterday I announced at 5 Minutes for Mom that I will be representing them on the next Compassion Bloggers' trip. I know that it was a "God thing," so I'm pleased to be able to use my influence there. Please click over to find out all the whens and wheres at my post there: Blogging Can Make a Difference. Susan also just posted a video interview with Shannon from Rocks in My Dryer about her experience blogging from Africa for Compassion, so check that out too.

I've posted several times this week at 5 Minutes for Books:

My thoughts on Sesame Street (and some info on the new season)

And for Booking Through Thursday: Who Would you Trust to Write your Life?

And a post which has been generating lots of comments: Libraries are Green (you can also enter to win an awesome canvas shopping tote from minusbag)

So enough about me. What have you been up to??

Destination Disney -- Hot

As I mentioned HERE, I am not going to be hosting Destination Disney here anymore. I ran out of material to post, so my heart wasn't in it.

However, Heidi's heart IS in it. She was excited to take it up, so I passed it on to her.

You can add the link to your photo that says "Hot," directly at her blog. I think she is going to be following the same schedule that we came up with (view the schedule HERE), so please join in.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Let's Not Talk about Sex

Earlier this week my sister-in-law called to share the good news that she was expecting her second baby. She talked to my husband first, and I think he reacted with the proper level of enthusiasm. Then I talked with her, and I think I displayed the appropriate happiness at the good news (although my excitement level was a bit subdued, because I had heard them talking and knew it was coming). Our chat moved on to other topics since it had been a while since we had talked. Amanda came upstairs, so I thought I'd let Aunt Dana share her good news personally. I heard Amanda's side of the conversation as they discussed summer plans and her track camp, and then Amanda brought me the phone. Thinking that Aunt Dana didn't take the opportunity to share, I said, "Ask her if she has something to tell you," but I got the "tween face" from Amanda.

If you have a child who is in the double digits, or so close that she's already planning her party, as Amanda is, I probably don't have to explain the "tween face." If you are several years off, or several years removed, I'll describe the face that Amanda makes when faced with a topic that is off-limits: a scrunched up nose and a quick purse of the lips with cheeks slightly flushed in embarrassment or annoyance.

Many things inspire "the face." It could be boys, her new undergarments, a lecture about responsibility, or me trying to bring up puberty.

Talk about puberty and sex is strictly off-limits as far as Amanda is concerned. I may be somewhat to blame, having ascribed to the same parenting philosophy that my mom used when I was growing up--keeping it light, which often means poking fun. I bought her the Care and Keeping of You, and offered it to her to read last fall. She read some of it, but then it fell by the wayside.

But recently all that changed: perhaps it was her heightened awareness of the trash in the bathroom trashcans at that particular time of the month. Perhaps it had to do with spring, like the pull of the tide at full moon. Maybe one of her friends said something about it, or maybe my many many efforts to chip in to this line of conversation finally made a crack. . . .

Recently Amanda asked me, "Do you know where that American Girl book is?"

I gave it to her, and she spent the afternoon holed up in her room reading it.

Later I asked her if she wanted to talk about anything, and asked specifically about her period--making sure that she was comfortable with the facts (although I don't expect it to happen for at least a year, if not two). I got a little bit of the "tween face," but since she seemed open to a little more discussion, I asked if she had any questions.

"What about bras? When will I get one of those?" she asked.

"Do your friends wear them?" I asked her.

"I don't know. Some I guess," she answered giving me a full "tween face."

I moved on quickly before the opportunity passed: "I was thinking that it was probably about time for that. We'll probably buy some before you start 5th grade for sure." This summer with the thin T-shirts and clothes, it became obvious that it was probably a good time for an extra layer.

So back to the conversation with her aunt: I asked her, "Did Aunt Dana tell you anything?" and she answered in a very embarrassed way, "Yes, she told me that she was planning to have another baby."

Apparently she "gets" the connection, so now pregnancy is off limits as well.

So Aunt Dana, if Amanda did not react in the right way (since I didn't even hear her acknowledge the news from listening to her side of the conversation), I apologize. You see, she's a tweenager, and some topics are off-limits. Fortunately for you, since she'll be over ten years older than the new baby, soon we'll be able to put her babysitting skills to use. So, you go ahead and gestate, but let's not talk about it, okay?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

It was on sale for $1.99 with $4 off if you bought four, so how could I resist --even though I already had some ice cream in the freezer?

For more Wordless Wednesday (with probably fewer calories) click on over to 5 Minutes for Mom.


Are you eager for back to school or reticent? I'm a bit of both. We've enjoyed our summer. It's bean a nice mix of activity and downtime. Not too busy, but not "borrrring" either. But I feel like the summer is winding down. This week Kyle and Amanda are both in day camps. Next week is free, but the following week we'll be on vacation. We return Saturday and Amanda starts school that following Tuesday. We're definitely in the back-to-school season.

For the first time in a while, I think I might be content to keep in this holding pattern for a while. Yes, there's been bickering, and probably too much TV, but there have been fun trips and outings, time with friends, and time to launch a new site. It's been fulfilling--all of it.

Children's Classics

Speaking of the new site, we are launching another of our Tuesday carnivals next week. The goal is to have something each Tuesday for our readers to join in. Click on over and read about the Children's Classics carnival.


And as always, 5 Minutes for Mom wants to be THE source for product information. Check out our Back-to-School giveaway event taking place this whole week. I just posted a giveaway for a great DYMO personal labelmaker, and there's much more to come.

What about you? Are you ready for summer or holding on to the fading light?

Monday, August 04, 2008

Walking with Dinosaurs

Last night we saw Walking with Dinosaurs: The Live Experience. I was awarded some last minute tickets in a contest that I had entered last month.

We got to our seats (at the very top of Madison Square Garden) and waited. When a voice came over the loudspeaker giving some announcements, the excitement was palpable in the arena: "It's almost here! We're going to get to meet the dinosaurs." When she said, "Walking with Dinosaurs will begin in 15 minutes," the sigh of let-down sigh.

We first meet a friendly paleontologist who will serve as our guide to the show. He introduces the age of the dinosaur and narrates throughout, explaining the changes that the earth undergoes through each age (from a very evolutionary standpoint, of course). Then the first dinosaur emerges. People gasp and clap excitedly. The reaction is the same throughout the show. Each time a bigger, or more creatively designed dinosaur appeared, people clapped and cheered as an expression of the quickening of their hearts. The actor stayed on stage with the dinosaurs, which was a wonderful scale reminder of how massive the creatures on stage were.

It was a very family-friendly show. My four-year-old son and my daughter who is almost ten, enjoyed it in equal amounts. Their old parents were amazed and entertained as well. After forty-minutes there was an intermission, which kind of surprised me. In all, the show was just over ninety-minutes, including the fifteen-minute intermission.

Monica at Paper Bridges won some tickets and backstage passes from the NJ Moms blog (I had entered there too and came up empty). You can see some of her backstage pics with the dinos on her post.

Like Monica, I thought that our nosebleed seats were just fine. In fact, it was so loud, and the dinosaurs so large that a younger child might be frightened closer down.

I think that Kyle will be thinking about dinosaurs, and I think that we'll be enjoying some of the dino-products that I've reviewed in the past:

How Do Dinosaurs Go to School? by Jane Yolen, which like the show, features dinos beyond the familiar T-Rex and Stegosaurus (and will be a perfect lead-in to back to school as well)

And another enduring favorite, the Baby Loves Hip Hop Presents the Dino 5 CD. I can't tell you how much we continue to enjoy this CD.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Part Two of the Cool New York Press Trip

Well, technically since it came first, it's part one, right? But I'm writing about it second, so it's part two.

Stop and Shop/Giant invited me to a luncheon at Sarabeth's restaurant, which is one of my favorite brunch spots in NYC. Her scones and jams are delicious. I found out on Thursday that her lunch is absolutely fantastic too. We had a choice of soup or salad (I chose the Caesar, although the creamy tomato soup was temping), then a choice of entrees (a hearty chicken salad or penne pasta with spinach, pinenuts, and garlic, which I had), and a choice of desserts. For some reason, we were all completely full, but managed to eat the berry tart with coffee ice cream or a delicious creamy cheesecake (my choice).

Sarabeth spoke to us, while she actually made chocolate chip cookies for us. She encouraged us to make sure we were cooking with our children--teaching them about cooking and food. She sent us home with her recipe, which got a thumbs up from my husband after he sampled the to-go bag. Because she was talking about kids in the kitchen, after the event I introduced her to my little chefs. Kyle didn't want to be in the picture, but I see him in the mirror. Foiled!

This was such a first-class event. We were pampered with a great lunch and hearing from the chef owner as well as a fun and useful swag bag, and we were fed--beyond the food we were given some really useful information presented in an interesting way (which I will be sharing in detail on 5 Minutes for Mom in the next week). They thought of everything, including offering childcare (which I took them up on since I already had planned to bring my children to the kid-friendly event).

Another fun thing is that I got to meet Kimberly, of Mom in the City*, who has recently started reading the blog (or at least recently started commenting, I think). I didn't think to snap a picture with her, but it was interesting to learn that she's also a Southern girl who is sold out to the City life. I don't live in the city, but I sure love being nearby.

The kids and I enjoyed a long day of lunching, book store browsing, and street market shopping in Union square, and then of course the movie premiere. What fun!

A big cyber-thanks to Jo-Lynne, at Musings of a Housewife, whose idea I totally stole: cute shoes for the events (in my case a wedge shoe with a peep toe, probably my only cute and trendy pair of shoes), and flip flops for walking around. She came up with this plan when she attended her cool Kyra Sedgewick event, and I am so thankful for the idea (a funny thing I noticed is that she also met Kimberly at this event--ha!).


*Kimberly has the opportunity to ask Dr. Michael Thompson, author of several books on raising boys, some questions. Click over to her post, and find out more about his books, and leave a question for her to pass on.

Friday, August 01, 2008


Kelly (because I guess she's my new BFF) didn't mention the premiere or her encounter with the darling boy she met on the red carpet, but she was wearing the same dress that she had on that day.

The winner of my Bloggy Giveaway was #123, Angie. I really enjoyed putting the prizes together, and I was happy about the nice response. Now I'm just waiting to see if I won anything.

I also think it's important that I let you know I harbor no ill-will towards Panera. I'll be back. I am glad that Starbucks is now an option for WIFI and free refills on coffee, but Panera will remain my first choice, I think. The breakfast options are better, and there's more room to spread out, and the one I go to is empty at the time of day I go.

My Red Carpet Experience

Yesterday was quite a day. Quite a fun day playing "press" for 5 Minutes for Mom.

A few weeks ago I got an invitation to the New York City premiere of Fly Me to the Moon. It's a nice family-friendly movie about the early days of the space program, specifically the voyage that landed two astronauts on the moon. I verified that it was okay to bring children as my guests, and was given an enthusiastic yes on that. I debated about taking Kyle or just enjoying the day out with Amanda. I knew that he would enjoy the movie (the first animated movie created for 3-D), but I thought that Amanda and I might enjoy "the experience" more if we weren't looking after him.

"The experience" included a spot on the red carpet, beginning at 4:00 pm with the movie starting at 5:00 (or so). Kelly Ripa, who voices one of the main characters, and Buzz Aldrin, who plays himself, were scheduled to walk the red carpet.

Then last week I got yet another awesome invitation for a luncheon on that same day (I wrote a bit about that HERE, but more information sharing to come on 5 Minutes for Mom next week), and childcare was offered. So instead of paying a babysitter for Kyle all day long, I was convinced to bring him along.

This was what I feared about bringing him:

There was a lot of waiting, and that red rope doesn't really hold a four-year-old in.

We lined up at the red carpet shortly before 4:00 pm. The paparazzi were already there, jostling for the best spot in the ten-foot span that was reserved for them. They were a bit annoying, due to that behavior (seriously, one of them tattled to the coordinator, "Um, miss, can you come here? This guy is not press, and he's being very unpleasant." "I am too press, and he's being a jerk."). Journalists (such as myself--ha!), are given a bit better treatment. We were down at the end, and a few even got taken inside for a better interview spot. They told us that afternoon that Kelly wouldn't be stopping to talk, but Buzz Aldrin would be doing interviews.

When Kelly arrived, I hoisted Kyle up on my hip so he wouldn't escape that he could see. The photographers then proceeded to scream, yell, wave, whistle: "Kelly! Over here! Look at me! Kelly! Turn around! Over here!" It was loud. It was annoying. Amanda got some great shots, being able to navigate around people who were sort of in front of me:

Kelly Ripa and husband Mark Consuelos

Now this is where the annoying paparazzi worked in my favor. Kyle, on my hip, was sort of burrowing into me. The mom in Kelly kicked in as a small frown crossed her face as she waved right at him. I had the camera back at this point, but I missed the wave.

As she walked off the red carpet to go into the theater, she came right over to Kyle and cupped his face saying, "I know--it's really loud, isn't it?"

This is where my crack-research proved helpful. I had watched Regis and Kelly that morning, hoping for a mention of the event, and to show Amanda who Kelly Ripa was. Well, Kelly did mention it in host chat, telling Regis that she was unsure about what to wear, since it was in the afternoon and it was a kids' movie (you can watch the host chat video on the site). So, as she was coddling my cute son, I said, "You picked the right thing to wear--you look great" or something equally brilliant. She smiled and said "thanks." I'm hoping that he'll get a mention in host chat on the show today if she reports on the event. She didn't stay for the movie and there wasn't a big party, so I'm not sure that there's much else to report (updated: she didn't say a word about it, but she was wearing her fabulous dress).

By the time she left, it was 4:15 or so, and we had already been waiting for over twenty minutes. I heard the PR people saying that Buzz Aldrin was running late, and by the time he came through and was finished with his interviews, the movie would probably be getting underway. We (a writer from who had her two daughters with her and another journalist who just wanted to see the movie) decided that we should probably go inside and get our seats instead of waiting. As it turns out, Buzz passed us upstairs on his way down to the red carpet as we were waiting to get into the theater.

Amanda was impressed with the extra-special treatment. As we walked into the theater, we were each handed a large bottled water and a bag of popcorn. We donned our glasses and got ready to enjoy the show.

I'll do a full movie review later on 5 Minutes for Mom. It has already been playing in some countries, but releases on August 15 in the U.S. and Canada.