Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful

As I write this my daughter is helping to prepare our Thanksgiving Dinner. She told me that she wanted to help "as much as possible," so I made a list for her including some prep work, but also giving her full ownership over a few items. She made a pineapple-upside down cake for Poppa (my stepdad) at his request totally from scratch -- folding in egg whites and everything. She crumbed all the cornbread, bread and biscuits for the dressing, and made Amanda's "famous" fruit salad.

I am thankful that this year, her tenth, she has grown up so much -- and I am more in love with her than ever.

My son is playing with trains and singing. It's the constant background in our house -- Thanksgiving is no different than the other 364 other days of the year. I have to be mindful to stay on top his headstrong little self as he's grown up this year to make sure he knows who's boss. I'm thankful that with God's help I've been able to do so, and that his fourth year has been (mostly) a joy.

Next year, Kyle will likely still be into his trains, but perhaps not. He will for sure not be saying things like emember for remember and payuter for computer. If you ask "What are you doing, Kyle?" he may actually tell you instead of answering with "Good." Such Kyle-isms are already going by the wayside, and I will miss them when they're lost forever and preserved only in these blog posts.


Amanda will probably be able (if not willing) to help even more. I hope that she will still be open and loving as she gets another year closer to her teens.

Thanksgiving offers me a chance to be thankful for how things are changing. I can look back and see growth in my own life, too. It's been abundant this year: time spent with my husband fortifying our marriage, getting control over some undesirable bad habits, learning to love my children and those in my life for who they are, not who I wish they were.

There's much more I hope to see happen this year, but I'd be happy if Thanksgiving 2009 brought more of the same.

***********

What are your Thanksgiving thoughts this year? Share them at 5 Minutes for Mom and read others.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wii Are Having Fun

Earlier this month, Amanda and Kyle got some early Christmas presents from Pops and Tutu. That worked out so well that Nana and Poppa are doing some early-gifting as well. This works out for them, because they get presents and get them now, but it works out for you, too, because you get some reviews and gift ideas -- kid-tested and mother-approved.

Amanda and Kyle just got a new Wii game: Active Life Outdoor Challenge. I sit here typing with a stiff neck, an aching back, and sore legs. This game is not only fun, but it's a workout employing jumping, running, and quick reflexes.

Kyle did not get to try it out today, but I think that he will enjoy the whack-a-mole and will excel at all the jumping activities as well.

I think that I might just have found me a workout that I can be motivated to fit into my week (and with that in mind I've decided to share this tip with other unmotivated housewives over at Works-for-Me Wednesday). And since there are two player challenges played simultaneously or alternately, Amanda will be able to enjoy her gift as well.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Not only did she get a gift, but when we were at the store, they had Wii Music in one of their consoles. Amanda and Kyle both enjoyed playing it, and I think it's another one that I would be happy to share. It's going on the for-real December 25th Christmas wish list.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

More Memoir

This month for the 5 Minutes for Books What's on Your Nightstand carnival I'm going with the "quick review of books I read" in the last month or books that are in progress, and surprise -- they could all be loosely categorized as memoir!

I'm almost almost finished with Same Kind of Different as Me. It's the story of a Ron and Debbie Hall who begin to serve God by ministering to the homeless, and the friendship that develops between them and Denver Moore. It's one of those books that I had not heard of at all, until a friend lent it to me, and said "This is good; you should read it." I didn't get to it, but our other friend did, and said, "It was the best book. I couldn't put it down. You have to read it." Then I took it with me to the DR to read, but we didn't have anytime to read, but fellow booklover Tim Challies said he had really enjoyed it and then others chimed in as well. So -- I finally got to it, after hearing from several people that it was a worthy read. I did enjoy it, but I don't know if I'd put it as a top ten lifetime book, or even of the year. I haven't finished it yet, so maybe that will change??

Speaking of my trip with Compassion International, I'm also in the midst of the president Wess Stafford's book Too Small to Ignore: Why the Least of These Matters Most. I haven't even gotten to his involvement with Compassion yet, but I have been pulled in by his story of life as a missionary kid in a "primitive" culture in Africa. What has surprised me about this book is the applications he makes about the way we treat children here in our culture. It's caused me to think about how I should change my perspective as a parent. So far, so good.

Another book I finished earlier this month is Beautiful Boy by David Sheff, a father's account of his son's crystal meth addiction. What a scary and sad book. Sheff, a journalist, does a wonderful job of explaining the physical problems with crystal meth, as well as the codependency of the parents and other loved ones involved. It's a truly harrowing experience.

This month I'm looking forward to reading a couple of novels that have recently been sent to me or are on the way: Flirting with Forty and Matrimony. I also have some nonfiction books from my Fall into Reading list to finish.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Taking Guests to New York City


My mom and step-dad are in town for Thanksgiving. Yesterday we spent the day in New York City.

We sufficiently wore them out, but I rewarded them by taking them to my favorite spot to go to dinner with a group -- Tony's diNapoli.

We were hungry, tired and cold. As we waited for our food to arrive, my mom was displaying some of her skills (being the life of the party in addition to flatware finesse). She was immediately upstaged by the impressionable (and talented) Kyle who beat her at her own game.




Seriously -- that spoon hung there like he had a magnet in his nose.

In addition to dragging them all over town, we took them to see the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. It was our first time to see it, and I can highly recommend it (There is a National Tour as well, so click here and see if it's coming to your city this year). The precision dancing of the Rockettes appealed to the four-year-old boy, the ten-year-old girl, and all four of us adults.

It really gave me a good shot of Christmas spirit, focusing on the wonder of New York City at Christmas, Santa Claus, and even the Christ child. This held Kyle's interest more than the circus that we attended last month. One great feature is that it was 90 minutes with no intermission. I don't know about your kids, but my young kids always ask, "Is it over? Is it time to go home?" when we break for intermission, regardless how much they were enjoying it.

So, I know I've said it before, but I truly do heart New York. Being able to take guests to the most exciting and diverse city in America is yet another reason.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Come on Over to My Place

Good food, dear friends and family, and the lack of distractions ("When can we open the presents?") make Thanksgiving my favorite holiday.

Ten months after I got married, my husband and I hosted our first Thanksgiving in our little apartment in Houston. His grandparents drove across the state to join us. I think that my grandparents might have been there too. Granny cut her finger with the table knife as she was trying to butter her roll. That wedding silver-plate was sharp its first time out of the box.

We started a tradition that year. Thankfully, there's been no more blood-shed, but the theme has endured: bringing together all sorts of friends and family. Over the years those who have attended our Thanksgiving table included my divorced parents and their new partners, my grandparents, my husband's grandparents, a single mom, a newly-divorced friend, my sister and her family -- you know, in-laws and out-laws, and some who were strangers before sharing that meal.

We played games, talked, watched football, and of course we ate. We had dressing, mashed potatoes, specially-ordered rolls from the Kolache factory (oh, they're so good), broccoli-rice casserole, sweet potatoes, Mimi's mixed vegetable casserole, and of course turkey and ham and all sorts of desserts made by lots of different hands.

Thinking about the food gets me excited about next week's spread, but what I look forward to most is the ability to fill the table and our hearts with loved ones or ones who need to be loved.

Our ability to host the feast has had a few interruptions: we lived in Portland for a few years when Amanda was young, and since we moved here to Connecticut, we've traveled to Virginia to celebrate with the parents, siblings, and cousins who live there.

This year we are open for business again here in the Snapshot house. My mom and step-dad are flying up from Texas. Some dear friends of ours from Texas who now live in the general area might join us as well. If so, once again some strangers will sit down together at a table overflowing with goodness (even without the Houston Kolache rolls). After eating and talking and yelling at some heavily padded men, they won't be strangers for long.


You are cordially invited by L.L. Barkat to join a Thanksgiving Celebration. Just post about a Thanksgiving memory, something you are thankful for this year, a special family Thanksgiving tradition, your favorite "thanksgiving" bible verse, or anything else you can dream up.

Be serious, spiritual, creative, beautiful, humorous, whatever... it's a celebration and good celebrations welcome all kinds of expression!

As a token of thanks for joining us, L.L. will link to you in the Thanksgiving Celebration post (and Christianity Today and High Calling Blogs will link back to said post, so their readers can check out the full celebration). You can make L.L.'s link-love job easier by dropping a comment at the Thanksgiving Celebration post. See you at the pie table!

To participate in the Thanksgiving Celebration:

1. post your Thanksgiving reflection with the invitation above and this little list of two
2. send the invitation to 5 or more friends (or just stash it in your cyber-drawer as a keepsake and take another bite of pie)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Late to the Party

I think that I first really watched Jon and Kate Plus 8 when my friend Martha's family was here last summer. Her thirteen-year-old daughter Hannah was a big fan, and so it was on more than once over those few days. I don't know why I had never watched it, I just hadn't.

Now when I'm home by myself while Kyle's at school, I often watch the re-runs that come on mid-morning while I'm surfing the net or folding laundry. I just caught the new wedding episode tonight, and I loved it.

So, I've come late to the party, but better late than never right?

It's not the first time it's happened. Amanda was late to the whole Disney tween culture, but now she (and I!) love Zack and Cody, Hannah Montana, and Phineas and Ferb.

I think that we got into Zack and Cody when I was sent a DVD to review for 5 Minutes for Mom. Then her friends at school said, "I can't believe you don't watch Phineas and Ferb. You have to watch it; you'll love it." She watched it, and then said that Terry and I just had to watch it too, and now we all love it and can sing the theme song (Terry doesn't sing, but Amanda, Kyle, and I do).


What show or fad or music or style took you a few years to catch on to? What was it that finally tipped the scales for you?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Kids' Picks -- Inkheart

When I asked Amanda what her favorite read was this month, the answer came back quickly, "Inkheart." She read all 560 pages in less than a week -- a large part of it on Saturday morning when she stayed in bed for two hours after she woke up with her nose in the book. I actually had the chance to interview her on the way home.



What did you like about this book?

It was great! It really satisfied my craving for adventure.

Of course I had to ask for an explanation about that one. Do you mean that it made you feel adventurous? To have your own adventures?

No. You know how I like to read adventure stories so much? Because I've been reading so many good ones, I have to find better and better ones. If a book is slightly boring, I can't read it. So, this one really filled my craving.

Well, okay then. I guess if you have to be addicted to something, "adventure books" are an acceptable vice
. Who do you think would like this book?

Oh -- everyone! If you like fantasy, definitely, but also if you like realistic fiction, because it's about a girl who goes on these adventures.

Isn't it about books somehow, too? (Amanda had been sharing quotes with me from other books that were included in this one).

Yes, sort of. It's just a really great book. I can't wait to read the others in the series, and the The Thief Lord by the same author.

Inkheart is a book I've heard a lot about, and apparently the praise was warranted. I heard that the second book (which she's reading now) and the third book aren't as good, but that is based on adults who are reading children's books. I also think that they get more mature, so we'll see if she's able to finish out the trilogy or if I make her wait. Any thoughts?




Find out what more kids around the blogosphere are enjoying at this month's Kids' Picks carnival at 5 Minutes for Books.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Good Reading Equals Good Writing

If that's true, I don't know what my problem is -- ha! I've been reading some great stuff, and it actually has inspired me to write more, but I haven't been getting anything posted here on the blog.

Today I posted a review (and giveaway) at 5 Minutes for Mom for an interesting new magazine I found: Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers.

So, click on over there, and I promise I'm working on some real content for the blog!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Last Night

. . . I dreamed of the Dominican Republic. I dreamed of Chino and other kids brimming with promise, and my new friends. Today I am wearing my larimar necklace and earrings that I feel a bit guilty about. I don't like the bargaining in the markets. Did I pay too much like a sucker or did I take advantage??

Now I just looked out my window at 4:35pm and it's pretty much dark outside, and I feel like I'm ready to go back to bed. That's what you get on a cloudy late Fall day in New England.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Feeding

When Pops and Tutu were here last week helping out with the kids while I was changing the world (or far more accurately -- the world was changing me), we decided to let them give their kids their Christmas presents, because we won't see them again before the end of the year. I figured it would help the kids avoid that over-full feeling that happens at the end of December -- so many good things, and yet not so much appreciation for them because there are so many good things.

Kyle's present was easy. He's been dying to go to Day Out with Thomas. When I found out that it was going to be here in Connecticut the weekend Dad was here, that was a no brainer, because even better than an early Christmas gift is an event Christmas gift that leaves only memories not stuff! He still loves all things Thomas, and I don't mind feeding the obsession. It results in creative play.





Amanda's was pretty easy, too. She's been begging for a camera or a video camera. When my friend Martha came to visit, they were quite impressed with the little Flip Video that they had. When I saw the great prices on amazon (we got the white one which was $30 cheaper for some reason), Dad thought it was totally doable. I can highly recommend this gift as well, which has also resulting in creative play for Amanda (and Kyle, and her friend, and-- um --me). It was a hit.

Thanks to Susan's great post at 5 Minutes for Mom, I was able to edit the video in Windows Movie Maker quite easily. I didn't edit much, because I was enjoying the dialogue. Three minutes is really too long to be watching deer on Amanda's deer cam, but if you listen to her first comment, and then fast forward to 2:00 minutes, I can heartily recommend the last minute and a half of deer footage and Amanda commentary of the deer feeding on the leaves. All summer they fed on our garden, and I thought the least they could do was show their faces. Amanda and Tutu spotted them Saturday morning, and took this video through the basement window. We've never seen them that close to the house before.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Children's Classics -- Caldecott Medal

It's a disgrace! A travesty of justice!

From what I can gather, Eric Carle has never won a Caldecott Medal (or even the "runner-up" Honor medal). The Caldecott is awarded to the artist making an outstanding contribution to children's literature. One sticking point that I've found is that the author has to be a U.S. citizen, or living in the U.S., which Carle does and has since he's written, but perhaps that has changed, and they used to have to be a citizen (which he may not have been when his books would have been considered)?

I wrote in the first Children's Classics carnival about our love for Eric Carle's Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See, and I was surprised that I turned a few of you on to it (I thought everyone with a toddler had this book memorized as I did).

So, I just offer you some photographic proof of Eric Carle's unique technique of collage/paper illustrations. We even visited his museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts.

You can click on any of the titles for more information.













I think that this is kind of funny. I am rebelling, and fellow 5 Minutes for Books contributor Carrie ended up writing a very interesting history of the Caledcott Medal for her post.

You can read more reviews back at the 5 Minutes for Books' Children's Classics carnival.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bringing it Home



Yes, I'm here. But just like Ree, I just can't stop thinking and writing about my trip (I finally posted about our last day over at 5 Minutes for Mom yesterday if you missed it). So, before I get on to other business, here's a cute pic of Nick, A and P on the luggage scale. As we checked in, we were all holding our breaths hoping that our giant bags would come in under 50 pounds. Nick enjoyed watching the scales, and I asked him if he wanted to step up on one of the empty ones. He thought that was a very cool idea, and after he, A, and P, each hopped on separately, they decided to see how much they would weigh all together.

They invited Melanie, Keely and me to hop on as well, but we gracefully declined.

* * * * *

I've been back almost three days. Of course I'm catching up on laundry and I've been cooking and doing a bit of cleaning.

Things are the same, and yet everyone is different. Some strange things happened while I was gone.

Since I've been changed, when Sophie mentioned Ugandan Compassion Blogger Anne's Souls4Souls, instead of just reading about it, and thinking how worthy it was, I ponied up my $5 right away. That $5 will be used to buy 2 pairs of shoes for someone who has never had shoes before.

Apparently, Terry became an excellent bath-giver. As supportive as he's always been about me leaving him with the kids -- for retreats, conferences, weddings, or girls' weekends -- baths usually are not a part of his childcare routine. If it's just two nights, he'll say "I don't have to bathe them, do I?" Of course, Amanda's been taking care of herself for a while, but Kyle doesn't, so as long as it's not summer when the dirty boy needs daily baths, that works out.

Saturday night I was supervising his bath, and Terry came up and ended up getting him out, toweling him off, and getting his PJs on. This is a wonderful new skill that I will not forget he possesses!

Also, Kyle's preschool has apparently become some sort of college prep school. One thing that I like about his school is that it is fairly old-fashioned with lots of "I'm a little teapot" songs and rhythm sticks, and free play. That all still holds up, but my dad was telling me how they did Monet impressionism pictures last week. I was also very very impressed with a picture that he drew of a house.




What's new with you?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Gig 'Em, Los Dominicos


I wrote today at 5 Minutes for Mom about meeting my sponsored child, Chino.

What I didn't say is that because we are so Aggie-rich on the trip, we are doing a little proselytizing (In addition to me, Melanie is an Aggie, and Shaun has Aggie blood whether he wants to admit it or not, and Keely is proud of her Aggie blood and claims the school as her own, even though she had to go elsewhere to study).

When I was getting Chino's gifts ready to take to his trip, I asked Terry if I could put them in our old Aggie backpack. "You can," he told me, "if you teach him the proper respect."



So, as we were going through the backpack, I showed the block T logo and told him that my husband and I went to college there.

Augustin is one of our translators. He has a smile a mile wide and I've been practicing my Spanish with him all week. He was party to all the brainwashing education I was giving Chino about putting his thumb up and saying "Gig 'em."

The next morning on the bus, he asked me "Write down what you said about -- was it gig?" So, I wrote it down for him, and he gave me the thumbs up. "Yes, that's good. It means thumbs up to heaven, but this is more like the devil," he said making the hook 'em horns sign. I have no idea if this was a happy coincidence, or if he somehow knew about the football rivalry from the great state of Texas, but Melanie and I were pleased with his association.

Then as we toured Mariolvis' college campus, she told us not to walk on the grass, and also to take off our hats before we went into the library. It truly is the A&M of the Dominican Republic.

If you haven't been following my trip to the Dominican Republic, I hope that you will read about my experience and sponsor a child of your own. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Here in the Dominican Republic with Compassion International

I'm here!

After a long day traveling on Sunday, we arrived here. Shaun did a great job of summing up the experience of "meeting the blind dates," and my roommate Mary (Owlhaven) made me out to be a roach-killing superhero. The only reason that I could do it is because it was a very small non-threatening roach, and I have experienced the giant disgusting flying roaches native to the Houston area (which I don't kill so fearlessly).

And I've learned some things about them--namely that they are all a lot of fun, but also that Melanie does not sweat, and Mary doesn't really sleep (which explains how she can write and blog and raise ten children).

Hopefully you've read my posts on 5 Minutes for Mom, but I thought I'd also point you, my faithful readers, to some of the other posts where you can check me out.

Brian
posted one of my favorite pictures from our first home visit. As soon as he sat down, this little guy went right to him. I don't remember us laughing that hard, but I guess the camera (and Keely behind the camera) captured the joy that we felt, but didn't even know we were expressing.

Melanie
captured a more serious, and very precious moment to me, when I was able to pray for the family before we left their home.

I know that some people may wonder what it's like here. Well, it's pretty hot and very humid. No one has gotten sick (from the food) as far as I know. We've eaten lots of rice and beans, and I've been enjoying plantains -- casseroled, mashed and fried.

If you have any questions for me about Compassion, or my trip, or anything, leave me a comment and I'll try to get them answered.

If you haven't been checking, please read though the posts at CompassionBloggers.com. All of the posts written will be there with a click-through the site. All of the posts I'm writing at 5 Minutes for Mom can be found on my Compassion Trip Page.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Just a Pic Before I Go

As promised, some pictures of Halloween. Can anyone guess who they are? Some clues:
  1. They are a set
  2. The second picture indicates their relationship
  3. If you're having trouble, a Disney-watching tween might be able to help you.






Going along with Halloween, here's a scary warning. This is what happens when your four-year-old son plays with your computer unsupervised.



My search box is usually filled with requests such as "lopppppehhhheeerrrrrvvv" after he's been playing online games, but (accidentally?) right clicking this picture of me that was on my desktop and saving it as my desktop background is a new one to me.

It stayed there for several days, but rest assured, it's been replaced with my children playing in the leaves:



Coincidentally, it's my headshot from the Compassion Bloggers page. I'll be leaving Sunday morning. Please keep up with all the goings-ons by reading my posts at 5 Minutes for Mom. I'll be posting each evening, and some mornings as well. I'm also posting special themed reviews at 5 Minutes for Books all week.

It's gonna be a week to remember that's for sure.