Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I Read It!

If it's Tuesday, it must mean I'm doing something at 5 Minutes for Books! I've had a great time with our weekly Tuesday events.

This fifth Thursday offers us a time to share about a book that we read after reading a review on the site.

For me, with book reviews, volume is usually the thing. If I hear about a book once, I might say, "Hmmm, sounds interesting. I'd probably like that."

The second time, I think, "Oh, yeah -- that book. I meant to look into it."

But by the third or fourteenth time, I finally act, and am always so glad I did.

Such was the case with the book(s) that Amanda just read.

I may have seen it mentioned on Jen Robinson's Book Page, I noticed that my friend Katrina was reading it aloud with her son Camden, and then Carrie reviewed the sequel, linking back to her enthusiastic review of the first one, so I checked them both out from the library as quickly as I could.

The book(s) in question?

The Mysterious Benedict Society and its sequel The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey.

Amanda (age 10) gives them both two enthusiastic thumbs up.

Thanks, Carrie, for tipping the scale in favor of getting into these books with haste!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Four and Eighty-Eight



My grandmother Mimi was visiting us last week. She flew here all by herself (which worried me a bit, to be honest), but she got here just fine. I wouldn't trade anything for the times that I've spent with her here or at her house.

That said, throughout the week I was forever comparing these two characters (in a mostly tongue-in-cheek fashion).

How are my four-year-old son and my eighty-eight-year-old grandmother similar? Let me count the ways:

  1. A lot changes in nine months. You know how when your kids visit relatives and they can't believe how much they've changed in that amount of the time. Sadly, the same held true for Mimi. I saw her nine months ago at her house, and she even visited us here two years ago, but things have changed.


  2. I don't really trust either of them to be alone. Sure, Mimi lives alone, but that's in her own house with no stairs and no dogs or children underfoot. Just like I'm more careful to watch my friends' children if I'm babysitting, I felt nervously responsible for Mimi at all times.


  3. Taking either of them with me on errands adds time and/or stress to the trip. It's hard enough to zip in and out of the grocery store with Kyle at my side, but having a slow octogenarian along makes it almost impossible.


  4. Along those lines: I never know what (or how loud) either of them might say about or to a stranger who crosses our path.


  5. They both ask me questions to which I do not know the answers. And if I don't answer, it's likely that the question will be asked again the next hour or next day.


  6. They each surprise me at things that they remember, that I think that they would have forgotten, or by forgetting things that I think that they should remember.


  7. They both make me laugh and are willing to laugh at themselves as well.


Friday, September 26, 2008

It's Not You, It's Me

Panera--

I really enjoyed the time we spent together all last year while Kyle was at preschool. The free WIFI was great, although recently it's been a little unpredictable. I enjoy the variety of food you offer, including the new breakfast sandwiches, but I have to admit that there's someone else.

The new Pike's Place roast at Starbucks is so good I crave it. Even your darker roast coffee is no longer stout enough for me. In fact, when I was there recently, the coffee wasn't really very good at all. And the time before when I was there, you were out of coffee. Out of coffee? Both kinds? Before 10:00am?? I know, you remedied it, but I wasn't there long, and my time alone is precious. I can't spend it waiting for you to make new coffee because you let the dispensers run totally dry. Starbucks now offers free WIFI and free refills, just like you used to do, Panera. And it's fall, so there is the pumpkin loaf to consider.

I love the big windows you have around your restaurant, but in the morning, the sun is bright and I can't always see my laptop very well. The reason I come to see you is to get some writing done, so this is no small problem.

I'm sure I'll mix it up some. This isn't goodbye forever. I still want to be able to indulge in your Cinnamon Crunch bagel with Hazelnut cream cheese. For lunch there is no comparison. Your soups and sandwiches are delectable.

But when I go to Starbucks next week after dropping Kyle off at preschool, you'll understand, right?

It's not you, it's me. Or maybe it's Starbucks. But it's not you.


With fond memories,



Jennifer

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Two Books

I've reviewed two books this week that I enjoyed, so I wanted to let you know.

You can click over to read the reviews (and even enter to win each of them).

At 5 Minutes for Mom, I reviewed Wife in the North, which I mistakenly summarized as a woman who moves to Alaska in last month's Nightstand post. She really lives in England -- the sheepy wilds of Northern England. Find out more HERE.

At 5 Minutes for Books, I reviewed Hannah's Dream, which was a unique and endearing book that I enjoyed immensely (especially since it didn't feature Gothic orphans). Read more about it HERE.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What's on My Nightstand -- September

What's On Your Nightstand


Well, this was easy, because I just made a list for the next three months for Callapidder Days' Fall into Reading Challenge.

These books are each currently in progress. Yes, I'm reading four books at a time. It's not unusual for me to have more than one nonfiction book going at a time, but I had to get started on Jane Eyre for the Classic Bookclub, so I started it even though I haven't been feeling like reading about Gothic depressed orphans. I'm sticking with it, and I know it will get better.

Jane Eyre -- Charlotte Bronte

The Professors' Wives Club -- Joanne Rendell

When the Labels Don't Fit

The Sexually Confident Wife -- Shannon Ethridge


These are books that I would like to get to this month as well. The first one is short and readable, so it should be easy to cross off my list.

What Happy Parents Do

Nightmare at the Book Fair -- Dan Gutman

Monday, September 22, 2008

Someone's Watching

I've had some workers in the house lately--painting, pest control, plumber, kitchen improvements. I always feel slightly self-conscious when they are around. Yes, I'm thinking of what they are thinking while observing my ritual during the half hour or half day that they are here. So, I make myself busy. That may mean just sort of walking from room to room tidying up or moving something from one place to another, while I'm waiting for the pest control guy to write out his estimate. What's the proper etiquette on this? Do I stand and watch him for two minutes, which seems like a long time when I'm just standing there? I can't go too far, like up to sort laundry, or get too involved in a task, like actually cleaning the bathrooom.

But it did lead me to realize that I can actually do a lot in just 2 minutes. So why don't I get more done on a daily basis when no one is watching? The answer is easy. When no one's watching I have no accountability. My two year old son doesn't care how much time I spend leafing through a magazine, surfing the net, or being a couch potato. There is Someone who is always watching, and I'm all too aware of that, but unfortunately there's not that immediate accountability for each moment of my time.

I have a friend with whom I've teamed up so that we can keep each other on track in these areas that are important to us. We have to answer the tough questions: How was our prayer life and time in the Word? How did we treat our family members? How did we keep up with our household responsibilities? How much time did we spend on TV and the computer? It does help to know that I'll be talking with her each week. It hasn't completely eliminated those completely useless hours (or days, unfortunately), but I think it has prevented me from falling into a long slump of lazy behavior that might have happened before this last year.

For example, unless pressed or encouraged by my husband or a friend/mentor, I'm often too content with mediocrity. The house looks great if there's a reason, such as company coming over. I like it when it looks great, and except for an occasionally busy week, there isn't usually a reason not to spend that time cleaning. My reason is comfort with mediocrity. If the house looks okay, like I wouldn't die of embarassment if someone came over unannounced, then I'm okay with it. But why don't I aim higher more often? It's not really a rhetorical question. I know the answer. I don't spend more time on my household duties, because I like to spend time on the computer, watching TV or a movie, meeting a friend, talking on the phone. . . . I am so aware that I am forever making choices about what to do with my time and those choices matter.

I've often heard the parenting philosophy that we correct, punish, or discipline our children for doing the wrong thing, so that they will learn to do the right thing. At first, they do the right thing, because they know that if they got caught, they would be punished. However, the goal is for them to be self-correcting--to do the right thing, simply because it's the right thing to do.

I so desire to be in the place to be making the right choices all the time, or at least the majority of the time. Things that help me keep improving:
  1. Short of inviting my accountablility partner to move in with me to keep a watchful eye on all my choices, I try to be honest with her in our weekly phone calls. By stating to her and to myself the areas where I know things should've been better, the next week I am motivated to work a little harder towards that goal.
  2. I also try to make lists of things that really should be done in a week's time. Unfortunately, I am better at making lists than crossing items off of one. But again, it gives me some standard of "should."
  3. Last but certainly not least, I pray. I ask God to help me to be self-disciplined enough to choose what I should be doing over what I could be doing.

I've never had a "life verse," but I recently came across one that I have memorized and tried to pray on a regular basis. I have changed the pronouns to make it more personal:

Psalm 90:12 Teach me to number my days aright, that I may gain a heart of wisdom.

That reminds me that God knows everything that I "need" to do, and in His sovereign wisdom, He knows what truly "must" be done. I know that He wants my best choices, so I keep working towards that goal of doing the right thing--whether or not someone is watching me.

***I originally posted this in May 2006, but I feel exactly the same way right now. My grandmother has been visiting this week, so each time I sit down to read a few pages in a book, or check emails, I feel self-conscious about my time of leisure. I am again getting a lot of little things accomplished in little fits of work. It helps that she herself is a busybody, and if I don't hop up after dinner and do the dishes, she will. I'm not sure that it's good form to let your guests -- not to mention your elderly guests -- do your chores for you!


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fall into Reading 2008


This is my fifth time to participate in one of Katrina's challenges at Callapidder Days.

The first one, in Fall of 2006, really kick-started my reading for pleasure again. The act of making the list and thinking about what I thought that I could read in a season's time gave me a goal to work towards.

Six months after that I began a book review column at 5 Minutes for Mom, and in July of this year I started a books blog, 5 Minutes for Books -- all because of a recommitment to reading, which led me to reprioritize my free time, spending less time watching TV and playing on the computer in order to squeeze in more page time. And I'm loving every minute of it.

That said, since most of the books I read these days are review copies, it's hard for me to predict what I might be reading in 3 months, but I'll try.

Books on my personal shelf I'd like to read:
Books for the 5 Minutes for Books Classics Bookclub:
  • Jane Eyre -- Charlotte Bronte (I've just barely started this)
  • the November book, as of yet undecided -- perhaps a Shakespeare play
  • A Christmas Carol -- Charles Dickens
Review Fiction:
Review Nonfiction:

Additional Goals:
  • I don't know if this will be a review copy or just a book I pick up, but I'd like to read a light (specifically funny) novel. I was recently looking for something to read, having had my fill of dark or serious or "real," and was sort of looking for light escapist reading, and couldn't really put my hands on one. So I'm going to be on the lookout for something to fit this bill. Any suggestions of books or authors that I should try to fit this bill?
  • Nightmare at the Book Fair -- Dan Gutman
  • And I'm sure I'll read one or two more novels (or memoirs), either from my personal stash or review titles that have yet to be released.
In Conclusion

I'd be surprised if I read this many -- 18 books, but I do generally read a lot in the fall, due to wonderful weather that draws me out to my sunny back deck or covered front porch, and the fact that we travel at Christmas in the car, which equals lots of reading time for me. I also will be flying in November (on the Compassion Bloggers trip to the DR). I think that our schedule will be pretty jam-packed, but I should get in some reading done on the plane. And some of them are short and/or children's books, which don't take the mental energy or time that other books do.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Compassion

I have to admit that I'm a bit judgmental. I find that one way I'm able to vanquish some of those negative gut reactions is to understand the person. Understanding takes time and mental energy -- compassion doesn't come easily for most of us.

Until recently, when I saw an underweight, malnourished teenage girl obviously suffering from an eating disorder, I used feel a little bit sorry for her, but I mostly felt angry -- at society for creating the situation where she could fall into this situation, at her parents and friends for letting it happen -- and confused at why she would do that to herself.

But now I feel a heavy dose of sympathy, and a little bit of protective instinct takes over.

Why the change?

Please click through to read the rest of my post at 5 Minutes for Mom.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

When the Moon Hits Your Eye

We have a pizza problem around here.

We love pizza. That's not a problem.

The problem is that Terry and I love pizza with pepperoni and some combination of mushrooms, onions and peppers. The children do not care for this particular order.

One time I went for the pepperoni and green pepper combination. Amanda cried and gagged, even after I pulled them off her pizza. "But they contaminate the whole pizza! You can still taste them."

Lest you think I'm a horrible mother, she does eat cooked peppers in other dishes and she is fairly fond of raw peppers, so I didn't think it was such a stretch.

The next time I tried mushrooms and pepperoni. The canned mushrooms that our favorite pizza joint uses are fairly innocuous (that is another controversy -- I insist that fresh is best, while Terry actually prefers the sort of tasteless canned variety). That didn't work either. If possible, it was received even more poorly.

Lately we've gone with the half-and-half option or simply the all pepperoni route. When I ordered our most-recent pizza, I forgot about all the recent histrionics. The pepperoni and mushroom pizza that I ordered caused more heartbreak and tears.

I explained to Amanda that I chose that topping on purpose, thinking that they were definitely easier to remove than green peppers and wouldn't contaminate the whole pizza. "No. Mushrooms are worse. I don't even like mushrooms at all."

This pizza dilemma reminded me of an early chapter in mine and Terry's love life.

When we were in college and wanted to share a pizza, he always wanted green peppers on it. I did not. I didn't particular care for cooked green peppers, and found them hard to ignore (hmmm, sound familiar?). However, since it was his favorite veggie topping and I knew that they are healthy and full of vitamins, I began eating them and even learned to like them.

I told her that she needed to learn to like one of our toppings, as a gesture of love. She can decide which one, and let me know.

Somehow I convinced Kyle that he should try the mushrooms on that last pizza. He loved them! So since that's apparently Amanda's least favorite topping, we still have a problem, because he's already asked if he can have mushrooms on his next pizza.

What about you? What can't you tolerate on your pizza? If you're ordering just for you, what's your choice?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

In Passing

We changed churches last summer. One of the things that was different was children in church. Amanda was in fourth grade when we started, which means she was supposed to stay in church with us. None of us were very excited about this -- she thought she'd be bored, and I thought that she would distract me, but after a few weeks, we adjusted. After listening to 20 minute Bible stories in Bible Study Fellowship for the last several years, I knew that she was more than capable of listening attentively, since that is one of the main aims of the program.

Having cleared that hurdle (and realized we actually enjoyed running the race), in September, we were faced with Kyle.

Starting at age four through second grade, children join their parents in church for the music and announcements, after which they are released to children's church.

He's joined us for two weeks. The first week they didn't end up dismissing for children's church (I guess the teacher wasn't there), so he sat with us during the whole church service. And he did it. He sat (mostly), he was quiet (mostly) and didn't really disrupt me much. I was so proud of him for mostly just sitting quietly. Even with his Thomas magazine and some crayons, this is hard work for him.

This past week, his energy level was a little higher. Throughout the service, as I stood to sing, or bowed my head to pray, I was also having to pry Kyle off my legs, pick him up, encourage him to sit up, give him the distracting items I brought him, remind him not to talk or to use his whisper voice.

I did feel a little distracted, but instead of fretting I thought of the woman sitting in the row behind us.

Last year she lost a son. He was young (younger than me). It was unexpected.

As moms, we always mourn the loss of each stage of a child's life. That's why when our arms are tired of holding a newborn bean-bag baby, there's always another mother with outstretched arms -- the mother of two school-aged children; a mom-to-be who hasn't yet met her babies; a grandma.

When the energy of our toddlers or preschoolers is about to do us in as we're trying to grocery shop, the smiling eyes of the women who no longer have preschoolers remind us that this stage isn't forever, and we might even miss it when we are shopping alone and unencumbered in the future.

When we don't know what to do with a teenager who is rebelling, the women who have made it through see the rays of sunshine in otherwise dark days. That woman might be able to draw out our teen and remind us of who he really is, or who he is becoming.

So though I was a bit frustrated at church, I was glad that God gave me a glimpse of something more. Thinking of Kyle in this way -- his past, his future, how far he's come and how far he has to go -- reminded me that I'd be saying goodbye to this stage before I knew it. I also tried to think compassionately about those like the woman behind me at church, who not only had to say goodbye to her son's preschool self, but didn't even have the promise of his future to look to.

"Show me, O LORD, my life's end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting is my life."

Psalm 39:4

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Kids' Picks


Amanda and Kyle and I are happy to be participating in the first monthly Kids' Picks carnival from 5 Minutes for Books.

I do enjoy reading about the books that my fellow bloggers are reading -- for example Katrina's Fall and Spring Challenges always add to my to-be-read list -- but honestly, it's books for Amanda that really interest me most.

If someone posts a book that their nine- to twelve-year-old child has enjoyed (or they have read as an adult and enjoyed), I am almost always sure to pick it up for her, and she almost always loves it.

So I'd like to share a book that my fifth-grader Amanda and I discovered this month:

Stowaway by Karen Hesse


We were at the library earlier this month, and this book was set out -- book side out, not in the shelf spine out (I love that the librarians highlight books like this for those of us who are highly suggestible). I thought it looked interesting, so I handed it to her, and to my surprise, she put it in her pile.

Once she started reading it, it held her pretty captive, so it seems that this one falls into the "Kid tested, mother approved" category. I love for Amanda to use her love of reading to also learn a bit about history as well, so I am always happy for her to read historical-fiction.

Amazon says this about the book: Newbery Medal-winning Karen Hesse's story is based on actual Endeavour stowaway Nicholas Young, about whom little is known. Using the real 1768 diaries of Captain Cook and shipboard naturalist Joseph Banks, Hesse has changed Young from a forgotten footnote into a living, breathing person with red hair and a penchant for pork chops. So authentic you can feel the sea spray, this fine fictionalized diary is a nautical treasure for landlubbers young and old.



I've posted about four-year-old Kyle's love of Thomas before, but I wouldn't want to leave him out. Yes, he loves Thomas. This month, I suggested to him that we read his Complete Collection in order, because at bedtime he always spends time figuring out which story he wants to read by paging through the book, and I got impatient at this delay of bedtime, and knowing that we were repeating some of them and leaving out others. So this month has been all about Thomas. However, we only have a few stories left, so next month we'll definitely have something else to report.

Monday, September 15, 2008

We're Wild About Harry

I posted in my recent What's on My Nightstand? posts that I had to read the fifth year of the Harry Potter series because Amanda had started reading the series, and was catching up with me. Since I had told her that I had to stay ahead of her in the series, so that I could stop her and have her wait at any time, I wanted to make sure that I was one step ahead of her.

I think that time has come for her to wait and mature a bit. Book five (the Order of the Phoenix) seems to deal with some more mature themes, and although I haven't yet read six and seven, I understand it intensifies. So, I'll hold her off until maybe this summer.

I posted on 5 Minutes for Books yesterday about my choice to preview the Harry Potter books for Amanda and the resulting delight in the series as a whole -- not only for me, but now together with her. One of the fun conversations that Amanda and I reading this together has led to is: Which house do you think you'd be placed in at Hogwarts? I was pretty sure of mine (Hufflepuff -- for those who don't quite fit anywhere else), and when I asked Amanda where she would be, she wasn't sure. However, she did pretty quickly sort me into Hufflepuff! I think that she might be placed there as well, but she probably has more Gryffendor in her than I do.

In another post I did a review of the first movie which we only just watched this month.

The timing of all of this is because it's the 10th anniversary of the first book, and we're giving away a great prize package on 5 Minutes for Mom. Check it out.

So, click on through the links, and join the conversation about reading the books, watching the movie, or just enter to win a set (because you love them, or because you want to try them out).

But before you go, how do you think that the hat would sort you?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hurricanes

Houston has been hit by Hurricane Ike. They keep saying it's the worst, since Hurricane Alicia in 1983. I remember Alicia, and it's hard for me to believe it was twenty-five years ago.

My mom and I were home alone. My stepfather must have been out of town on business, and my sister was traveling with my grandparents. We lost power, we watched our streets flood, we tried to nurse a baby bird back to health that was blown up on our front porch -- keeping him in a shoebox in the bathroom and feeding him oatmeal through at eyedropper.

The bird didn't make it, but we were fine.

It sounds like the city of Houston will be fine, too.

Three years ago, the residents of New Orleans were still wondering when they could return to their homes after Hurricane Katrina. Ian McNulty wrote a wonderful memoir called A Season of Night: New Orleans Life after Katrina. You can read my review today at 5 Minutes for Books.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Why Didn't You Say So?

Kyle is an active boy, and I'm probably a negligent mom in some areas like face-scrubbing.

Whenever I am getting him out of the car to actually appear in public, I assess his face and often try to do a clean up job. Recently he stopped me:

"Mom, I don't like your spit on my face, or anywhere else either!"

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Smells Like Teen Spirit

Earlier this summer, Terry went into Amanda's room and said, "You need to have her do something with her room. It smells."

I went in and agreed that it did indeed smell, in a different way than just the odor that any sloppy's child can take on from dirty socks and smelly sneakers. So, as she normally wants me to do when she faces what she perceives to be an impossible task, I helped her get started. When I came back to check on her at one point, she said pointing to the hallway where she had thrown her backpack, "I think I found the smell."

As I got closer, there was evidence that the smell was coming from the backpack. This was several weeks after school had ended, and what was in her backpack? A banana.

I hauled the whole shebang out to the garbage can quickly.

Since that time, other than making sure that my almost-ten-year-old daughter understands that old fruit should not be stored in a backpack in your room, I've tried to impress upon her the importance of keeping her clothes in the dirty clothes basket in her closet, preferably with the door shut. Occasionally there's a relapse, but in general her room is smelling sweeter.

When we returned from our camping trip over Labor Day weekend, Amanda came to me and asked if I had a candle or something. She said that she thought her socks smelled again. I went into her room and to use a phrase, it smelled like something had died in there, because something had died in there. Burning a candle did help, but it's one of those problems that only time can erase.

One of the issues with living in the wild is that sometimes the wild comes in. Although it makes me feel as if I live in an infested sty, I know that it's a common occurrence in semi-rural settings. We see small (and to be honest, pretty cute) field mice all the time outside, and more frequently than I want to know, despite being having a yearly contract with a pest control service, those mice make their way inside. We hear them scratching in the walls (I know -- ick!), and then the scratching stops and sometimes the smell starts.

To be honest, because of the state of her room, I was slightly concerned that something might actually have taken up residence in the closet. So I did what every good mother would do while her daughter was enjoying her second week of school. Take a nap? No. I carefully and gingerly rid her closet of extra pairs of shoes, clothes -- both clean and dirty -- and the other items covering the floor.

It ended up in win-win situation. I did not discover the remnants of a dead animal in her room, but I did get her closet cleaned out.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

At least she didn't have me eating bon bons

Kyle starts school today (finally!). He's excited, and so am I. Yes, I'll be heading to Panera, or maybe Starbucks, and doing some writing and catching up on some work for 5 Minutes for Mom.

Amanda had a fifth grade writing assignment to write a story from another person's point of view. She chose me, and wrote a satirical portrayal of the first day of school.

See why I'm so proud of her?


"Bye, honey. Have a nice day," I called as Amanda climbed onto the stinky yellow bus. She grinned at me then stuck out her tongue as a boy tried to take her pencil box. She's sooo sweet. Boy will miss her. Oh! I will miss her. Ahhhh! I think I'm going to cry! "Kyylle! I need you! You're my favorite, and you're so cute!"

"Mommy, I want milk!"

"I just miss Amanda sooo much, but I"m glad you're here."

"Mooommmy! Milk please!"

"Oh, she seemed so unhappy on the bus, and nervous too. Oh do you think. . . "

"Mommy Milk!!!" Kyle said, scrunching up his forehead. I went over to the fridge and got him what he wanted, 'cause after all, he was my favorite.

"Hmmm. Maybe I can call her on her phone. Let's see. What's her number. 426 - ????" A faint brring sounded from upstairs. I followed the sound to Amanda's room. What's that smell? Eww! Is that a banana? How old is that? "Not again," I said in an undertone. Then I found Amanda's phone. Oh yeah. I forgot I don't let her bring her phone to school. Why'd she have to listen to me? Oh well. I'm gonna go take a nap.

Yawn. Oh, what? Where's Amanda? She's. . . gone? GONE! She's really gone! "Party!!!!" I yelled at the top of my lungs. Hmm. Kyle. Gotta get rid of him. Let's see. . . Preschool! I forgot! I gotta get him there. "Oh Kyyyle."

Ahhhh. He's gone. I have to call everyone and--

"Mo-om, I'm hooome!"

Oh no. She's back.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do you See?

When I think of a Classic Children's picture book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle comes to mind. This is the book that I purchase for new moms. This is the book that Amanda loved and that Kyle equally enjoyed five years later. This is the book that I have memorized. This is the book that I know I will be sharing with my grandchildren.

There's a new audiobook version of this book (which I reviewed HERE on 5 Minutes for Mom). It's a pretty nice recording (and may have become my new first baby gift, bundled with a few of the board books), but what makes it worth the listen is the interview with Eric Carle. In it, he talks about how he and Bill Martin, Jr. came to collaborate on this first book, and how Bill Martin's influence helped him to write his own wonderful children's books later.



There are so many things I love about this book:
  • The format -- I always buy the board book version to encourage toddlers to "read" it on their own. It's so simple and rhythmic that they soon can "read" it to themselves.
  • The art -- I love Eric Carle's bright colors and artistic collage style. It doesn't get old upon repeated readings (and like I said, I would know).
  • The concept -- animals and colors are introduced to young children in an easy way.


Find more picture book recommendations at 5 Minutes for Books' Children's Classics, Picture Book edition.

Monday, September 08, 2008

All Choked Up

A couple months ago, Katrina wrote a compelling post on her blog Callapidder Days called Books and Tears. I liked it so much (and couldn't get it out of my head), that I asked her if I could reprint it in the 5 Minutes for Books "On Reading" column. If you never read it, please click on over to read her thoughts, then mine will make sense.

I responded to her initial post with this comment:

Hmmm--the tables are turned. I almost always cry when I read fiction, especially now in my "old age."

Wait--maybe you aren't crying because your books end with the murderer being taken off to jail in cuffs, whereas what I'm reading may involve someone making a life-altering change or a long slow arduous death or something.

But seriously, even if everything ends up well, I just feel that surge of emotion at the end of a great book as it's wrapped up, and there are often tears, or at the very least, a large lump in my throat.

Amanda is figuring out her thoughts on "those kinds" of books as well. She was reading Bridge to Terabithia, then saw the movie at a friend's house, so she didn't finish it because it was "sad."


So now each time I read a book and get all choked up, I think back on her words. And when I said that I almost always have a surge of emotion at the end of the book, I mean it.

When Frindle went and talked with Mrs. Granger at the end of the book, I couldn't read it without my throat catching. "Mo-om," Amanda objected as she gave me a weird look, complete with eye-roll.

Let's not even talk about The Host, where I literally cried through the entire last chapter. I wasn't just choked up -- I was sobbing. These characters and this story had gotten into me, and the end was just too much to handle. Fortunately, I was on vacation and not under the judgmental glare of my tween (and I was in the hammock while my husband was down on the beach, so I avoided the puzzled glances from him that I receive if I suddenly have to wipe my eyes or take deep breaths as I'm finishing a book).

Certain Girls
, which I also read on vacation, also made me sob. A tween daughter. A mother. Need I say more?

So, really, it's not the book. It's not like I'm reading these tragic stories. It's just, as Katrina said, that I've come to care about the characters and my involvement with them has come to an end. I cry tears of joy when there's a happy resolution like in Frindle, and a dramatic resolution, such as in the Host, brings all sorts of havoc on my emotions.

I guess it's a good thing that I haven't become more stoic as I've aged (because I've always been pretty level-headed). I guess a little emotional expression at a book or Hallmark commercial will just have to be par for the course for this mom of two in her late 30's. I'll just make sure that when I'm finishing a book -- I'm alone.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

9/7/98

Ten years ago today, in Portland Oregon, Amanda was born.

I remember looking at her perfectly plump rosy cheeks, thinking "That's what I've been carrying all these months? Welcome, Baby."

She arrived two weeks early, and seemed to sleep for most of those first two weeks. She continues to be a good sleeper, and also to know when she needs to take a step away, even though she's happy to be at the center of the action as well.

I am proud of the young woman she's becoming: friendly, self-confident, creative, independent, enthusiastic.

She marches to the beat of her own drummer. That will not always be the easiest path for her, but if she stays true, I believe that she will be happy and well-adjusted and self-aware.

She reminds me a bit of myself. Being popular was never my primary goal. I wanted to be liked, but I didn't care by how many necessarily.

She's like me, but I'm also reminded frequently that she's not me. She has strengths that I didn't have, and I'm sure she has weaknesses that I didn't struggle with (as well as unfortunately some that I did).

Happy Birthday to my first-born daughter: my tween -- no longer a completely dependent child, but not quite yet that woman that I hope and pray will become a lifelong friend.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Blogging -- for Better, for Worse

L.L. Barkat started a meme about blogging and tagged me to help her get it started.

She gives some rules, but does allow the freedom to break them since she admits that she often modifies memes to better fit her needs:

Here are the rules:

1. Write about 5 specific ways blogging has affected you, either positively or negatively.
2. link back to the person who tagged you
3. link back to this parent post (I'm not so much interested in generating links, but rather in tracking the meme so I can perhaps do a summary post later on that looks at patterns and interesting discoveries.)
4. tag a few friends or five, or none at all
5. post these rules— or just have fun breaking them


I'm afraid I can't be horribly original. I've read a few of these many of them say what I would say, but I suppose no one's story is exactly like mine. So, in no particular order, these are some of the ways blogging has affected me:

1. It got me writing again. That was the reason I started the blog, and in that I feel successful. I'm not writing as much now as I was two years ago, and as a result of that, my blogging has changed (not necessarily for the better!).

2. Specifically the focus on writing has led to some professional writing gigs: a book column on 5 Minutes for Mom, which led to a job there and then later the managing editor role of their sister site 5 Minutes for Books. Because of these connections I have the opportunity to blog as their representative about the work of Compassion International live from the Dominican Republic this November. I'm excited for the opportunity to use blogging as a platform to help raise awareness of this great organization's work around the world with the poor.

3. Blogging has had a positive effect on my relationships. A good friend of mine, Katrina, started blogging at about the same time as I did. Having just one more thing in common has brought us even closer. Since then, real-life friends and family have begun following my blog, which gives them a glimpse of my heart and helps them keep up with our family across the miles. I won't even go how much I enjoy the community of bloggers -- my world has gotten smaller and bigger through those who comment here and those who are transparent about their lives on their own blogs.

4. When I was trying to transfer photos to my external hard drive when I got a new computer six months ago, I dropped the hard drive and lost all the data. I was not copying the pictures, I was transferring them, because they had bogged down the old computer. Years of photos were lost. Don't cry for me Argentina. I had printed a small percentage out, family has taken pictures that I have access to, and I uploaded several pictures a month -- at least -- here on the blog. Pre-digital era (and pre-scrapbooking), to have 5 or 10 pictures a year of a child would have been completely acceptable. More important than the cute shots I posted here which were preserved, I've chronicled the life that we were living when the picture was taken.

5. The combination of working online and blogging (and trying to keep up with my blogging friends -- which I do much less than I used to) has resulted in much more time spent on the computer. Sometimes too much. However, other things have fallen by as the computer takes up more time: TV for one, so it's hasn't just been a complete new glut, but it is something I have to consciously manage.

If you would like to give five ways that blogging has affected you, let me know in the comments that you did it. However, to help L.L. keep it going, I will specifically tag these folks (who are free to shirk it if it doesn't appeal to them, or they're too busy or scatter-brained or whatever):

Jo-Lynne at Musings of a Housewife
Lauren at Baseballs and Bows
Carrie at Reading to Know
at this point I realized that I was unintentionally tagging my 5 Minutes for Books team, so I will round it out with
Melissa at Breath of Life
Lisa at Lisa Writes
and leave Bev alone, unless she wants to do it later, because she's off on a long vacation.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Nepotism

For some reason, I still remember becoming aware of the term nepotism. In 6th grade Social Studies, or whenever it was, I just thought it was the funniest thing, and it really stuck with me. I think that part of it is that I love the word. It's a nice unusual word.

These days you don't have to be family to be family. Last week at my daughter's open house (for the mature new-school attending intermediate students), as we heard about the no-bullying policy we were informed that it wasn't tolerated, because they were all family there.

We often refer to fellow church members as our church family and having been upheld through various crises or helped others in my church get through them, that one I believe.

Groups and people and common bonds from our past often make us feel like family. As a Texan living here in the Northeast, I have an automatic connection with anyone from the South. When my husband and I stumble across an Aggie, we are doubly excited to share a "Gig 'em" with someone from our alma mater with all those years behind us and miles between us.

When I received a copy of Deep in the Heart of Trouble by Deanne Gist in the mail for review, I looked it over, and honestly it wasn't the kind of book I'd normally read. However, it was set in Texas, so that peaked my interest, and then I read the biographical info on the back cover and saw that Deanne Gist was an Aggie, and immediately thought, "My sister, I will review your book."

I started to read it and enjoyed what I did read, but historical romance isn't my normal fare, so when I started 5 Minutes for Books, and had several reviewers who loved that genre and specifically the author interested in reading it, I passed it along to one of them so that it would get the attention it deserved in a timely manner.

You can read Lisa's review at 5 Minutes for Books.

What about you? Who do you consider family?

I Think I'm in Love

That title could lead in to a discourse about so many things -- Ben and Jerry's Fossil Fuel ice cream, or a detailed post singing the virtues and pitfalls of ice cream in general (can you say "tight pants"?).

That's not where I'm going today. The object of my affection is a fifteen-year-old girl. There's a seventeen-year-old boy who I'm pretty keen* on as well.

She lives two doors down. I was aware that there were teen girls down there, but their house is way off the street down a long driveway, so I never had the chance to meet her. When I found out that she is friends with Amanda's friend's big sister, and was highly recommended by that friend's mother, I decided to make my move.

Why all my interest in teenagers? Why, babysitting of course! Carrie babysat last night so that I could go to our marathon pre-class training session for BSF. When she arrived at 4:00 pm (walking herself over -- major plus), I asked her how much she charged. She told me $6.00 an hour. This impressed me, because I find that many youngsters will either give me a ridiculously low rate (as when I asked the seventeen-year-old boy next door how much he might charge to mow the lawn, and he told me $10!). I told her that I was planning to pay her $7.00, and I did. To me it's an extra dollar. To her it's a premium rate which will hopefully gain my family and me first place on her calendar.

When Terry came home from work, Kyle whined and cried and said he didn't want her to ever leave. I asked Amanda if she was a good babysitter, and she said, "The best!" She can walk here from her house, she is pleased with my pay scale, and the kids love her. Oh yeah, did I mention that when I got home, I saw that she had hand-washed the dishes that I hadn't had a chance to put in the dishwasher, because Amanda had just unloaded it? That's love.

The seventeen-year-old boy of whom I also spoke so fondly, is my one-hour each week babysitter for Kyle when Amanda and I go to BSF on Monday nights. That enables us to leave when we need to and for Terry not to have to rush home. Ethan lives next door, and he's charming. He is also the resident dog sitter. A few times when we've had busy weekends, we've employed him to mow the lawn. Since we were on vacation last weekend and out of town this past weekend, I asked if he might like to do it. When we came home, it was still long and unmowed, but this morning I noticed that he had been at work yesterday afternoon.

So, my bank account took a hit yesterday, but I take heart in knowing that I am supporting the industrious youth of my neighborhood who can come alongside and help me when needed.

********

*After completing Jane Austen, I began
Wife in the North
, which does not take place in Alaska as I originally thought, but in the North of England. So you may notice a bit of a British affection. My apologies.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Pride and Prejudice

Classics Bookclub


Just last week, I admitted that I had not yet started to read Pride and Prejudice for the 5 Minutes for Books Classics Bookclub. I may have read it in high school, but since I didn't remember the outcome at all, I'm treating this as my first read. Lisa gave some questions as guidelines, and I've sort of incorporated them into this review.

Going into the book, I was of course familiar with the now archetypical characters of the aloof and reserved Mr. Darcy and the quick and spirited Elizabeth Bennet. In fact, although I haven't seen a movie adaptation either, I have seen the movie and read the book of Bridget Jones's Diary in which Colin Firth plays Mark Darcy, just as he plays Mr. Darcy in the A&E miniseries. I have to watch this now. Colin Firth IS Mr. Darcy. Bridget Jones's Diary is a sort of modern retelling of the story (FYI--both the book and the movie have strong language and are not at all in the same style of a properly reserved British classic).

It took me a while to get used to the "free indirect speech" that Austen employs (which was named in the Wikipedia entry which also told me that a Broadway musical version is set to debut in November 2009), so the first third was a little slow-going. However, I read the last half in the same way I read a page-turning thriller. I had to know what would happen.

What surprised me was falling in love and loving to hate the characters who were unfamiliar to me as well: Jane and Mr. Bingley, Mr. Collins, Lady Catherine, and my favorite Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. An exchange between from Mr. and Mrs. Bennet which summed up my delight in their characters was this:

"Your mother insists upon your accepting it. Is is not so, Mrs. Bennet?"

"Yes, or I will never see her again."

"An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do."


I love that the last chapter serves as an epilogue to allow the reader a peek into the futures of the characters involved.

Another overall impression is that I want to live in this world that values the development of friendships through frequent letters and visits, where sitting and reading all evening is considered an acceptable use of your time (well, especially if you're a man), where long walks are taken, and no work is ever done. Sign me up!

Whether you participated in this month's Classic Bookclub or not, you can find links to others' thoughts on Pride and Prejudice over at 5 Minutes for Books.