Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My Goals for Reading Together

Read Together starts tomorrow. The linky will be up at midnight Eastern (HERE it is), but I thought I'd go ahead and put up my own post as a reminder and to give you some ideas.

I love reading with my kids. I really do. It thrills me that they both like to read so much.

But at the core, I'm a selfish Mommy, which means that I don't read to them as much as I would like to. Amanda is such a self-motivated reader, and so I don't need to read aloud to her to keep her interested, but because we both love books, sharing books together is a natural venue that we should use to connect.

This we do -- but not enough. Since I told all of you in the guidelines to make a goal that will challenge yourselves, I am going to stretch myself as well.

  • We were reading Uglies aloud last month, but we came to a halt with that. So, since she's already read it, I am going to commit to finishing it on my own.
  • She just started The Moon by Night, by Madeleine L'Engle, which I have started as well, so I think we'll be able to finish that one this month. We both read Meet the Austins last month (click the link to read our review). It's been nice to discover that series together.
  • Pieces of Georgia is a Nutmeg selection (our state's book award). She enjoys reading them, and when I saw that this one was free verse, I thought it would be an absolute perfect read-aloud. I checked it out from the library today, and was reading the first few pages to myself, and I got excited about the poetical feel of the language.
  • Along those same lines, when I read Amy's post about The Invention of Hugo Cabret (which I've been wanting to read for ages) it struck me that it would be a perfect read-aloud as well. I have visions of snuggling up with her, both of us looking at the pictures. The concept of a picture book for older kids is intriguing, and again, fits perfectly with the idea of connecting over books.
  • I had originally put Wings on the list, but I think that the two I listed above will be better as read-alouds, so perhaps this will go on our simultaneous reading list, but I'd be surprised if I got through this in April.
  • Amanda is really enjoying Wendy Mass' books, so she's invited me to read 11 Birthdays, which I'd like to do as well.
That's a lot of reading, and it's almost a wish list, so as a bottom-line minimum I would like to finish one read aloud and be partway into another one. I'd also like to read at least one book separately but together (beyond the two that I'm partway through).

Now how will I do this?
Well for one thing I have to commit to the books that we are reading together, yet separately. Since I'm halfway through both of them, I know that I can do that, but it does involve putting aside some of my own picks.

The second way is to find new times to read aloud with Amanda. As I mentioned, I've been reading to her in the mornings as she eats breakfast and fixes her lunch. I want to keep that up, and perhaps read to her a few evenings a week (she usually reads to herself before bed).

Another way to squeeze in more time with Amanda is to find books that she, Kyle and I can all read together. We are currently reading Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle -- but honestly we've stalled there too. See why I need this challenge??

I'm also going to try to read The Incredible Journey to them. It is short-ish (160 pages), which is always good for a read-aloud, but I don't know if it has enough action to keep Kyle interested. Does anyone else remember this book from elementary school? I have selected it as my "dog story" pick for April's Children's Classics at 5 Minutes for Books.

I am focusing my Read Together goals on Amanda and on finding things that the three of us can read together. I will try to bump up my reading with Kyle as well, but I feel much better about those practices right now. We always read a fair amount before naptime and before bedtime.

However, since it looks like naptime is really falling by the wayside (he still needs one or two a week), I want to commit to read with him on no-nap days as well. Perhaps I'll read with him even longer on a no-nap day.


Link up your goals for April this week. Read the introduction post if you need more info.

Feel free to grab the big button from the original Read Together post to use in your own post, or you can use this smaller one. You can put it in your sidebar as well as a reminder that you are committing to Read Together this month.

<a href="http://jennifersnapshot.blogspot.com/2009/03/read-together-2009.html"><img src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_eJOWpbJ4HeY/RnXWxKc6kFI/AAAAAAAAAZc/7rJOke8EgIk/s320/RTside3.jpg" alt="" id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5077200295037669458" border="0" /></a>

You can follow me on twitter @jenndon or subscribe to my feed. Tag your #ReadTogether tweets and search for the topic.

Is The Hunger Games the next Harry Potter? or Twilight?

I've heard several tweens talk about The Hunger Games being the best book. I've also heard several adults gush about this creative story. I think it's been optioned for a possible film. And there will be second book in the series published this fall.

Sound familiar? A book that is equally riveting to adults and tweens and teens? A book that so enraptures those who read it that they want more more more?

We don't have to measure the success of books by the phenomenal success of Harry Potter, but I love the fact that there are children's books that adults are reading alongside their kids* (or simply because it's a great story).

Amanda was already reading it when I saw that Dawn was writing a review for it at 5 Minutes for Books. I was able to email her and discuss its suitability for my precocious ten-year-old reader, since she described it as a book for teens and that had been my impression as well.

Serendipity stepped in, and audible.com was having a big member sale, with audiobooks selling for only $4.95, and The Hunger Games was on that list! I listened to all eleven hours within a week or so.

The audio format was great. The telling was dramatic, but not overly so. The story pulled me in right away, and I loved every minute of it. Instead of giving a recap of the story, I'll point you to Dawn's review because she did a good job of laying the groundwork.

If you're a mom, like me, and wondering whether or not it's appropriate for your child, the best advice I can give you is to read it yourself. If you like thrillers, you'll love it. Even if (like me) you prefer a good character drama, delving into the lives of Katniss and Peeta will satisfy that itch as well. You know your child, and you will know what he or she can handle.

But if you have a child who reads like Amanda, you have likely given up trying to keep up with all that he or she reads (like me). So I wanted to address my thoughts on the plot.

When Amanda is reading at her reading level, she's often above her age level. I'm okay with that, but as a mom I'm always concerned about sexual content, language, and violence (or intensity). The Hunger Games had no language that I remember -- if there was any, it was mild and infrequent. The main characters are fifteen (I think), and so there is the requisite teen romantic angle, but it's chaste and more speculative than real (You know, the whole, "Do I like him? Does he like me?" sort of angle). The violence or intensity is what might be the deal-breaker if you have a child who is sensitive to that. Amanda loves adventure, and an intense story doesn't usually cause her to have nightmares. It's also not an area that I am particularly sensitive to, so I don't want to make a baseline recommendation. The premise in itself (a fight to the death) is fairly intense, but considering the topic, it is handled well and without unnecessary glorification of the violence.

I would think that if your child has read the later Harry Potter books that this book is not any more intense than they are. If you have specific questions, feel free to email me or leave me a comment asking for details, because as a mom, I'm always looking for specific information about the content of books to help me decide whether or not they are appropriate, and this information is usually lacking in reviews that I come across.

Like Harry Potter, because it's fantasy (a different time and place from our real-life world), I find it a bit easier to process the plot as pure fiction, so it doesn't affect me in the same way. I think Amanda probably sees it that way as well (That's one reason I don't worry about the "sorcery" in Harry Potter books either). For example, a novel featuring real-life gang violence set in this current time always affects me more because I can't divorce the story from the reality of this tragic behavior.

It's a great book, and I too am looking forward to Suzanne Collins' next book featuring . . . well, you know -- whoever wins the Hunger Games.


*This feeds perfectly into my Read Together challenge. Perhaps now would be a great time for you to read that book that your kid is raving about! We'll be setting goals, reading and reporting our results this April. Find out more about the Read Together challenge.

I read this book not only in response to Amanda's enjoyment of it, but after reading Dawn's gushing review at 5 Minutes for Books. You can find out other books that people couldn't resist at our quarterly 5 Minutes for Books I Read It! carnival.

Amanda read another book at the recommendation of 5 Minutes for Books as well. Carrie wrote up a review for The Tail of Emily Windsnap a while ago. I refer you back to her review for plot details and possibly-objectionable content. I had heard about this book -- I guess on other book review sites -- but didn't have a strong feeling for or against it. However, Carrie's assertion that it's one of the "most imaginative books that she's ever read" stuck with me. Since Amanda loves that sort of tale, when I saw a copy of that book in TJ Maxx for $3.99, I knew that I had to bring it home as a treat for her! She loved it so much that she has added the next two books to her spring reading list.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Feeling Fluffy

My grandmother had a magnet on her refrigerator of a sheep that wore a badge of encouragement:

Ewe's not fat, ewe's fluffy.

I'm definitely feeling fluffy.

It started in the overindulgence that inevitably comes with the holidays. I think that at some point, I had gotten myself back on track, but in the last month or so, I've gotten way off-track.

My scale's battery had been out for a while, so I wasn't able to monitor myself as I usually do with my weigh-ins that I use to prevent me from going too far off-track.

"Up a pound or two. That could just be from water weight." A few days later it would be down to normal, or it would register firmly two pounds up at which time I would think that it really was time to start watching my diet more closely.

Had my scale been functioning, I would have observed that my weight had indeed crept up a couple of pounds, and then a few more, until I got to that number that we dare not pass. It's different for each person, but it's that number that goes beyond my comfort zone, that signals the full results of my lack of self-control.

This last weekend I spent time with some girlfriends in a little getaway -- an event that would not be the same if we were just snacking on celery -- but I resolved to reign myself in when I returned.

I don't know if my body is finally rebelling to what I've been putting in it (the weight didn't get there from eating too many vegetables -- I've been stuffing myself with junk), or if it's because spring is here (sort of), which will mean less clothes-camouflage?

Whatever the true impetus, I don't just feel fluffy anymore. I feel icky, and I'm hoping that a sensible diet will not only shed those extra pounds, but make me feel better about what I'm putting in my body.

I'm still not going to be donning a teensy weensy bikini any time soon, but it's still the right thing to do.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Got Reviews?

I've been busy reading (and actually reviewing). This week I posted a diverse group of reviews:

I also wanted to be sure that you caught the great guest post up at 5 Minutes for Books about a neat blog that is featuring 30 Poets in 30 Days in April (National Poetry month). I've recently shared a few times about how Kyle and I have been enjoying some poetry anthologies, and I think that this will be fun to check out each day.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

More Purple Power

Yesterday Carrie commented on Amanda's purple socks in the picture of her soaking in Spring. She's practically living in that navy sweatshirt she has on, so I guess her obsession with purple threads hasn't gone too far.

Purple power called to me once again at WalMart. She rejected the plummish corduroys (on the bottom right in the picture), but she loved the rest of the stuff. We had already decided that her winter coat, which had lasted for a year and a half, needed replacing next year, so when I saw this one on clearance for $7.00, you can imagine that I snatched it up!

Purple power!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Soaking in Spring

It snowed on the first day of Spring.

When I left to take Kyle to school last Friday, I thought that I saw some flurries in the air. "But it's the first day of Spring," I thought.

Though it was cold that day, earlier in the week we had basked in a few sunny days with temperatures near 60. I don't really mind the cold in January and February, and I do like snow, but it's the end of March, and I thought that Spring had really come.

Monday it didn't even reach 35, but it was a deceptively sunny day. The rest of the week doesn't look much better. I'll have to take the sun as the promise that seasons are changing and warmer days are ahead.

After a long afternoon of running around, I came home to find the sunlight streaming through the glass in my back door. I grabbed my laptop and sat against the window right in the path of the sun. The warmth quickly soaked in through my shirt. Had I not known that it was downright blustery outside -- 40 degrees and windy -- I would have truly believed that Spring had sprung.

Amanda came downstairs asking for help on her homework, so I convinced her to come sit with me. It had the same effect on her as it did on me. It was warm -- not just physically, but emotionally as well. It calmed us and cheered us.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

All the Rage

At dinner the other night, Kyle brought up the funny commercial he and Dad had seen while they were watching TV. As he started the ditty, Amanda joined right in.

"I love that commercial," she said. "Well, I've never seen it, but everyone sings it at school," she explained, as she went on to sing it word for word.

Of course, we made sure that she saw the real thing. It's quite easy to find one (or ten) versions on YouTube.

Anyone else been bitten by the fish? Do you love me or hate me for putting it back into your head?

"Give me back that Filet-O-Fish, give me that fish. . . ."

My Nightstand -- March

It's always easy to do the Nightstand post for 5 Minutes for Books the week after Callapidder Days' challenge starts.

So--here are the books I'm reading now or hope to get to this month simply pulled off my reading list for the Spring Reading Thing that I published last week.

Currently Reading:

Clutter-Free Christianity: What God Really Desires for You

I've finally jumped into the novel Cutting for Stone. It's slow going (on page 30), but I trust this author, Abraham Verghese, and the reviews have been good. I need to devote some solid time to make some headway.

I'm still plugging away on the non-fiction Why Women Should Rule the World by Dee Dee Myers.

On Deck:

I need to read Things I Want My Daughters to Know, so I can write the review by mid-April, so that will be the next novel on my list. This book will be featured in a great big Mother's Day giveaway we have planned for 5 Minutes for Books..

My Kindle 2 arrived yesterday (!!), and I am going to start reading A Thousand Splendid Suns on it (I uploaded it, but I have resisted, given the other "to-do's" on my list).

I haven't even received these books yet, but they are on their way, and I'm looking forward to them: The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child

What to Read When: The Books and Stories to Read with Your Child

Recently Finished:

I'm planning on posting the review of Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven this week at 5 Minutes for Books.

I don't think that I will have finished all of these by the end of next month, but I'll probably at least be in progress, and who knows if something else might cut in line instead. I'm wondering how long I'll be able to hold off on reading Everyone is Beautiful, which Dawn reviewed this week (and you can still enter to win a copy).

Check out the other participants' lists (or find out how to add your own) at 5 Minutes for Books.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Amanda's SRT List

Guest posted by Amanda (age 10/5th grade):

My mom was telling me about this reading challenge, so I thought it would be fun to join in (and maybe win a prize!). I have thought about the books I might read between now and June 20, but I'll probably read even more. I think it will be fun to write down ALL the books I read this Spring.

Here are the books I plan to read:

I just finished reading The Tail of Emily Windsnap, and I found out that there are two more, so I am going to read them:

I read The Time Travelers a while ago, and so now I'm going to read the second in the series The Time Thief.

I'm reading some more series too:

I really loved Uglies, and so now Mom is reading it out loud to me, because I wanted her to read it. I want to read the others in the series, like Pretties but Mom might not let me yet.

I've also been trying to find the third book by N.E. Bode called The Somebodies. The first two (starting with The Anybodies) were great.

I want to read more about Anne Shirley, and so I'm going to try Anne of Avonlea. Mom found out she can get a whole set on her new Kindle 2, so I might read even more of them.

The rest of these books are Nutmegs, our state book award

I read one book by Wendy Mass recently that was a Nutmeg (Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life), and now I want to read ALL of Wendy Mass' books. She is the best author in the history of ever. I'm currently reading 11 Birthdays, and plan to add the others that she wrote to my list soon.

My mom writes about books that I've liked for the 5 Minutes for Books' Kids' Picks carnival on the 3rd Tuesday of the month, so you can come back then to see which books I've enjoyed. I'll also write about ALL the books I read at the end of the challenge.

Now that you see the kinds of books I like, if you have any other recommendations, leave me a comment!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

This is Not Spam

When I was responsible for notifying the winners of the contests at 5 Minutes for Mom, I was very careful with my subject lines because of the spam filters.

For instance, I never used the following subject lines:

YOU WON!!!!!!!!!


Claim your $100 Visa Gift Card TODAY

Apparently I am smarter than the average spammer, because when I clear out my spam filter, it is full of subject lines just like that.

Even stranger to me is the "from" field. I'm glad that yahoo mail filter is smart enough to know that I have no friends or business contacts called !!!!NURSES NEEDED!!!!!

My real friends also are not in the regular process of postdating their emails by 30 years so that they will come to the top of my inbox.

Now that I've helped out the spammers with tips about what not to do, I'd like to extend some help for those of you (like me) who want to manage your spam.
  1. Don't assume that your spam filter is only filtering spam. I regularly check mine, and often find an offer from a publisher or a reply to a comment I left on another blog, or occasionally I find a note from a legitimately real person with whom I correspond.
  2. As stated, this doesn't always help, but be sure that you save the emails of the people you correspond with, including any websites where you regularly enter contests.
  3. My spam builds up quickly, so I check it often -- several times a day. It's much easier to glance at 9 emails in the spam box then delete them. Scrolling through 100 is a bit tougher, but I can immediately scroll down quickly through the post-dated ones, and stop when I get to the pre-dated ones as well. I find that up to half of them are these types, so I look a bit more closely at the ones in the middle.
  4. When checking spam, I look at the sender's name. Honestly, some of the subjects give me the heebie-jeebies (not the text -- just the subject!), so this makes the task much more pleasant.
I hope that this will help you, but if you do in fact have contacts in Nigeria from whom you regularly receive large money transfers, or if you are looking to get a college diploma or a government grant or prescription drugs from a questionable source -- well, knock yourself out with the spam.

Personally, I like my Spam pan-fried.

Friday, March 20, 2009

My Spring Reading Thing List

What a day!! The Ultimate Blog Party at 5 Minutes for Mom, and Callapidder Days' bloggy reading event of the season on the same day! Please check out my UBP party post at 5 Minutes for Books to learn all about my books' site (and get a free book download).

Each time I participate in one of Katrina's reading challenges, it gets more fun. The last year or so, it's been a little bit more difficult to predict my reading because I'm a full-time book reviewer (at 5 Minutes for Mom and 5 Minutes for Books). So, I don't have the luxury of planning too far out. That said, I think I did pretty well in predicting last Fall.

These are my books for review

Fiction and Memoir:

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven -- started and liking it

The Moon by Night -- also reading this Madeleine L'Engle YA novel now

Daisy Chain -- Mary DeMuth's newest

Cutting for Stone -- I know it's going to be good, but it's long, so I haven't invested.

The Red Leather Diary: Reclaiming a Life Through the Pages of a Lost Journal -- This one really caught my eye

Things I Want My Daughters to Know -- Looks like a great (sad) novel

The Genie Scheme -- a tween novel

Sea Changes -- I just got asked about this one. It could either be really good, or really weird.

I'm already editing to add this next one (because it's on my Amazon Vine review list and I forgot it): Going to See the Elephant

Sundays at Tiffany's -- maybe (it's been sitting on my shelf since it came out in hardcover, but is out in PB now)

Shadow of Colossus (Seven Wonders Series #1) -- This is also a maybe and could go either way. I'm going to give it a few chapters.

Trespassers Will Be Baptized: The Unordained Memoir of a Preacher's Daughter -- maybe

Non-fiction (which I thought was going to be short, but I kept adding to it, thus assuring that I won't actually finish all of them!):
Why Women Should Rule the World -- partway in, enjoying it

Clutter-Free Christianity: What God Really Desires for You

The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child

What to Read When: The Books and Stories to Read with Your Child

Free-Range Kids

Empowering Youth

Skimming These for Review:
How to Really Love Your Grandchild

Will I lose my booksnob status if I confess that I am actually looking quite forward to these two?
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Like Mother, Like Daughter

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Moms & Sons

For Classics Bookclub at 5 Minutes for Books:

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Personal List:

A Thousand Splendid Suns -- Yes, finally. Watching The Kite Runner DVD sealed it, and the really exciting news is that I earned a Kindle 2 for being a judge for a writing contest, and it's going to be the first book I read on it.

The Irrational Season (The Crosswicks Journal, Book 3) by Madeleine L'Engle -- I'm languishing on this one, but enjoying it

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6) -- because I'm about to let Amanda read #5, and I gotta stay one step ahead

A Single Thread -- A friend lent this to me. It's written by her friend, Marie Bostwick, and set here in CT -- after the author (and character) moved from Texas. How perfect is that for me?

Reading to my kids for the Read Together Challenge (feel free to sign up for this April event):

Uglies -- Amanda and I are partway into this. It's good.

Wings -- This is a review book, and I don't even have it in my hands, but since it's fantasy, I thought Amanda would enjoy it as well.

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle -- I read it growing up, Amanda read it growing up, now we're sharing with Kyle!

Dessert First -- Another review book, but it seems silly -- just up Kyle's alley.

You can follow me on twitter @jenndon or subscribe to my feed.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Read Together -- 2009

The Sign-Up is HERE and my goals are HERE.

It's been a year and a half since I did something like this, but I have found my own resolve weakening in this area -- specifically with Amanda (age 10) -- so I thought it was time to sponsor another one.

"Another one what?" you may be asking. Well, Read Together is a challenge to use reading as a way to connect with your kids. I am inviting each of you to set a specific goal in regards to reading with your child(ren).

And what's a challenge without prizes? We will have at least two. I have been offered a really great book for review called What to Read When: The Books and Stories to Read with Your Child--and All the Best Times to Read Them. For another reader I will purchase your next read-aloud book -- anything up to $2o that is available at amazon.

So--think of a concrete goal that you can fulfill in the month of April. You can spread the word on your own sites if you want. Then on April 1, I'll have a Mr. Linky here where you can link up your post stating your goal. The last week of April, I'll have another Linky for you to post your goals (and perhaps just for fun, a goal for next month).

It's open to all ages, but I'd really love to see more people commit to reading to their older children. I'd also like to see goals that stretch you in some way.

For example --
  • If you already read for 10 minutes each night to your preschooler, stretch it 20, or commit to reading to him at breakfast time as well.
  • If (like me) your 10-year-old child always has her nose stuck in a book, but you've stopped sharing any books, find a definite time when you can read a book together.
  • Perhaps you can stretch genres or age limits. If you are stuck in a rut, read something a bit more challenging. If you only read picture books to your preschooler or early elementary aged student, take the opportunity to step it up with a fun chapter book.
  • If you always read to your children individually, perhaps your challenge will be to find a book that will appeal to everyone that you can read together as a family.
My own goals actually hit all of these areas, and I'm excited to see what happens. So between now and April 1 -- think and plan. Then get ready to read!

Search twitter for #ReadTogether and tag your tweets.

Thanks, as always to the wonderful Jen Robinson for pointing me to the Share a Story - Shape a Future initiative. You can find so much on that site. Day 3 (found in the left sidebar) is devoted to reading aloud, but you can mine that site for hours for excellent information and encouragement to help you in setting your goals.

Join Me!

The next week (and specifically the next couple of days) is going to be hopping here. I want to tell you why, and invite you to join me.

Remember this? No? Yes? Well, I'm bringing it back. Look for details later today.

I've been working up my list for Callapidder Days' Spring Reading Thing. It seriously is THE booklovers' blogging event of the season. If you've never participated, consider joining in.

Speaking of big bloggy events -- I'm hard at work on my posts for 5 Minutes for Moms' Ultimate Blog Party -- both at 5 Minutes for Books and here. But that's not all!

I'll be tweeting the "site-warming party" tomorrow night. What exactly does that mean? Follow me at twitter.com/jenndon to find out.

Then -- pending arrangements for my children -- I will be partying live in New York City on Wednesday at a One2One Network party with some other great local bloggers (if you know me, you might be smiling at my use of the word "partying." It's a relative term). I hope you'll consider joining in if you never have. There are even all sorts of prizes to be won!

Speaking of what I've been up to, here are some recent reviews you might want to check out:

Books on Screen: The Kite Runner -- I wasn't sure what to expect from this movie. I'm proud of my review, and you can even enter to win a DVD, so please check it out.

I also wasn't sure what kind of response I would have to Sixtyfive Roses: A Sister's Memoir, but I really enjoyed it (there's a copy up for grabs for this one, too).

Speaking of giveaways, I've put a couple of new ones up at 5 Minutes for Giveaways this week. Check out Hannah Montana's Secrets Unlocked Online and a fun giveaway of MaraNatha organic nut butters.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Behind every true story, there is even more truth.

The truth is that the details about the collision with the professional football player are a little hazy. "Why?" you ask. Well, it's not because I was at all impaired when I was driving, or that I'm too old to remember (although it did happen about 20 years ago). No, the reason the specifics don't come through loud and clear is because there are so many other crashes that are clouding my memory.

The first was when I was only sixteen years old. You always remember your first. I had been summonsed home from my best friend's house, where I had planned to spend the night. My mother had other plans -- my grandparents were visiting, and I should come home.

1987--I was driving my 1980 Mustang hatchback, which was an ugly brownish orangey color with heavily tinted windows (but Dad -- really -- I was happy to have any sort of wheels at all!). I was on Cartwright Road, and I remember that I kept looking in the rearview mirror, through the heavily tinted back glass, where I saw no headlights. Then I looked up, and I was quickly coming up on the back of a paneled station wagon -- Crash!

She was stopped, turning left, and in trying to figure out what happened, I think that I figured out a couple of things: she did not have her turn signal on, and her foot was not on the brake. I think that she was about to turn and had let her foot off the brake, but I can't be sure.

The end result -- my car pretty much totalled, and hers not so much. I got a ticket for "following too close behind" (when in fact I simply crashed right into her going 30 or 40 miles an hour.

The fallout -- not much. I think that I worried my parents and they were pretty nice to me about the whole thing.

Other kerfluffles include:
  • driving into a ditch right outside my high school
  • a little fender bender inside the school parking lot
  • years later after I was married (in our brand-new Saturn) I was involved in a scary pile up on the freeway. It was not my fault, but my car was smashed right in the middle of a Suburban and a big truck.
  • I think that I've been pretty clean since then.
The true story of the crash with the football player -- It was 1989-sih. I was home from college, on the same Cartwright Road. It was daylight. I was driving my white Hyundai with powder blue interior -- which I had been given to replace my totalled car (I would have received a new car when I graduated, but I got it early. Again, Dad -- thanks for the wheels).

A black BMW with vanity plates saying "Meads" stopped quickly in front of me. I was paying attention this time, but BMWs can stop a lot more quickly than Hyundais, so I crashed into him. A very tall Black man got out of the car. He was nice (although understandably perhaps a little irritated at this young girl who dinged his BMW).

I don't think that there was much damage to either of our cars. We didn't call the police, and my dad handled it himself instead of turning it over to insurance. In the course of talking with him on the phone, and him revealing that he was a little busy and in and out of town, my dad realized that Johnny Meads was playing for the Houston Oilers, who were in the wild card playoffs at that time.

Coming soon: The truth about the prom dress

Monday, March 16, 2009

My Kids' Reading Picks -- March

When we had the Children's Classics A.A. Milne carnival in February, we had just read one story in my very large anthology of Pooh. Kyle (age 4 1/2) liked it, but in that post, I said, "We'll have to see if it ends up in the Kids' Pick Carnival. Just last week, I admitted that Kyle had not consented to read Beatrix Potter (another anthology which he loves!!), because we are still all about Pooh. We have finished the first book in the anthology, Winnie-the-Pooh, and have now moved on to the House at Pooh Corner. Kyle is excited because we in the 200s. When I read it with Amanda, we never did finish it. In fact, I think that there was still a paper bookmark right around this page, but Kyle loves it. What I love is that the chapters are long, and while we don't always read a full chapter in a sitting, it does encourage me to read more to him than I might otherwise do.

Amanda, my 10-year-old, has enjoyed a couple of futuristic books this month. She just finished The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. You can read her comment on Dawn's recent review of it over at 5 Minutes for Books for her (very enthusiastic) opinion. This is a pretty intense book (and I confirmed this with Dawn when I saw that Amanda was reading it, because I thought it was more a teen book). If your child is sensitive to violence, you might avoid it, or read along with them, but if they love fantasy and adventure, as Amanda does, she highly recommends it. It's one I'd like to read as well.

The other one that she really enjoyed, which I AM currently reading (aloud with her for my first read and her second) is Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. This is another book that I have heard a lot about, and also thought it was a bit on the upper end of maturity level for Amanda, but this one happens to be in the Battle of the Books at the public library which Amanda is participating in at the end of the month, so I "let" her read it. She thought it was awesome.

Reading it with her, I agree that Westerfeld has created a great group. And the contrast to the Uglies who all become Pretties when they are 16, and the "antiquated days" that they talk about (our current time) when only some people got to be pretty is quite interesting. As far as age level, there are references in the first chapter to the "pleasure gardens" that the Pretties go to -- in couples -- but that's as explicit as it ever gets. I have a feeling that I will have to check out the future books in the series before Amanda soldiers on, because once they go to New Pretty World, I'm not sure what might happen (if you've read these books, I'd love your opinion!).

Kids' Picks is my favorite Tuesday carnival at 5 Minutes for Books. See what other people's kids are recommending the third Tuesday of each month, or write a post of your own and link it up.

FIFO Parenting

Who knew that a little "two truths and a lie" game would give me three blog posts? This week I'll give you the whole story on my three facts presented in the post I wrote for the Daisy Chain blog tour.

A good lie always contains a kernel of truth. The truth is that I was an English major. That's what I declared when I applied, I made it official when I enrolled, and it never changed. However, my junior year I began to craft my own business minor -- taking all the foundational classes that Business majors take, such as accounting, marketing, business law and management. They were interesting classes, but they didn't really help me get a job.

I took the easier non-business accounting (called Ag accounting at my once agricultural-based college Texas A&M), and I enjoyed it. For whatever reason, I love the terminology, and wrote a post last year about FIFO and LIFO in regards to stress.

Lately I've been thinking about FIFO parenting.

Amanda is my first-born child. For many years, she was all alone in the Snapshot family, and then in May when she was almost six years old, Kyle arrived on the scene.

But you know what happened at the end of August? That first-in (FI) firstborn was also the first-out (FO). She went to school all day. Things changed. Although my parenting philosophy was still the same, without a doubt Kyle's experience as a child have been different than Amanda's were.

My husband and I are both firstborns, and we often discuss how different life was in our homes once we moved out and went to college.

When Amanda leaves the house for college, Kyle will only be in the seventh grade. I'm sure that when Amanda comes back home, she'll feel like things have changed a lot as well.

But just as with my stress theory, there are benefits to this strategy. I was able to focus on Amanda while she was young, but she also got my full attention as the "first" to do so many things as she got older (from soccer to sleepovers).

Once Amanda leaves, Kyle will have our full attention, and we'll be able to tailor our lifestyle to his preferences (and that glorious freedom that having only one-child brings).

For more on the whole truth behind my prom dress and the crash with a football player, stay tuned. . . .

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Want some Pi?

Today -- 3/14 -- is Pi Day.

Yesterday Amanda was trying to explain to her little brother Kyle what it meant, showing him the table-like symbol that her teacher had drawn on her face.

She asked him, "Kyle, what's a kind of pie/pi you can't eat?"

"Mud pies?" he answered, proving that he's very quick on the uptake.


Yahoo news alerted me yesterday to the death of Myrtice McCurdy, who was known for only wearing purple. After reading about her, I think that Amanda couldn't follow after a more worthy role model.


I haven't posted what I've been up to, reading-wise, in a couple of weeks.

I am looking forward, as always, to participating in Katrina's Spring Reading Thing. It excites me to set that goal for the season -- to really think about what I'm going to read. I also love reading about others' reading habits.

Find out more here:

Reviews I've written in the last couple of weeks:

Friday, March 13, 2009

Things Are Not Always as They Seem

It's 9:20am.

I'm sitting at Panera Bread drinking a Diet Pepsi.

I wondered when I ordered it along with my bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich (on soft grilled ciabatta bread--yum) if the woman assumed that I'm "one of those" people, non-coffee drinkers who load up on diet soda at insanely early hours of the day.

Well, I'm not (though no doubt I've offended those of you who are -- no offense meant).

It's just that I had more-than-enough coffee this morning at home, and thought an icy soda would go great with my warm sandwich (and it did).

Looking out the windows here, the sky is blue. It's bright and sunny. It looks like a beautiful day.

But it's not.

It's cold -- below freezing with a predicted high of 39.

These days always trip me up, especially when there's a little wind, as there was yesterday. How can it be so unpleasantly frigid when it looks so beautiful?

I guess one could ask that question about so much more than morning beverage choices and sunny days, but I'm not going to go there on this Friday morning. Let's stick to talking about the weather.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Daisy Chain's Two Truths and a Lie

Today I'm featuring Mary DeMuth's new novel Daisy Chain. I haven't read it yet, but you can read reviews from other blog tour participants like Katrina and Monica and Heather(who have actually already read the book) by checking out the Blog Tour headquarters.

The book features secrets as a major theme. In fact Mary started a blog called My Family Secrets devoted to helping those who are living with family secrets of their own (Aren't we all?).

We were invited to play the "Two Truths and a Lie" game. I'm going to write 3 facts about myself. Leave a comment and try to guess which is the lie. I'll reveal it on Monday.

  1. I went to prom my junior and senior years, and wore the same dress both times.
  2. In college, I had three different majors: Economics, Business, and English. English is the one that stuck.
  3. I once crashed into a professional football player (in my car).
You can play along on your Facebook page or your own blog (through Friday). If you link up HERE you are eligible to win signed copies of Daisy Chain, Watching the Tree Limbs and Wishing on Dandelions.

I previously reviewed Watching the Tree Limbs and Wishing on Dandelions, and reading back over my own thoughts reminds me how much I enjoy her writing.

I'll be reading Daisy Chain soon and will post my review on 5 Minutes for Books unless one of the other reviewers beats me to it.

Sweet Simple Thursday

Last night when we were eating dinner, Kyle confirmed, "Tomorrow is 'do nothing day,' right?"

He has got our weekly schedule down pat. Monday Wednesday and Friday, he has school. Tuesday is library story day. And, Thursday? Thursday is the day that we can stay pajama'd for a few hours longer and enjoy the total lack of pressure that a day with no activities brings.

I can give laundry the attention it deserves. It's an odd combination --a continuous flurry of sorting, loading, unloading, drying, unloading and folding -- with lots of waiting in between. I can read a few pages while Kyle indulges in his television programs. I can write some reviews for 5 Minutes for Books that I never quite have the time to do. I can get some deep cleaning done, or if I'm lucky enough to have done it earlier in the week, reward myself in another way. While Kyle naps, I can indulge in more reading or a chick flick movie or a few episodes of my current TV on DVD series (right now I'm on Season 2 of Brothers and Sisters).

Kyle likes activity, as do I for the most part, but we both have come to crave this day each week that I strive to protect. On our sweet stay-at-home Thursday I avoid quick trips to the supermarket and even social gatherings when possible. This year, as Amanda has joined in some after-school activities at her new school, the taxi driver mom's hat has been much more prominent than in years' past. I'm sure that I'll be wearing it even more as the years progress until she earns that magic driver's license herself.

But for now -- we have Thursday.

Do you make sure you have a "sweet simple Thursday" in your weekly lineup (regardless of the day of the week it falls)? Or is a day out the contrast in your normal week of staying home?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Loose Ends

Sometimes fate casts a vote in a mother-daughter survey. Exhibit one -- items found on sale at TJ Maxx last week:

I am not going to be calling Mr. Greenjeans anytime and asking for a purple clothier referral, but these jeans (on sale for $10) have light purple stitching. I asked her if the red sweater had enough purple in it (the stripe that looks whitish is really lavender, and there's a true purple stripe, too), and she said, "No, but I like it anyway." I liked that it was $5. And of course she loved the purple sweater, and I loved that it was $1. Seriously. A dollar.

The shirt that she's sporting here was also one dollar. Apparently there's not much demand for Josie and the Pussycats purple rocker wear. I wasn't sure how she'd like this one, but she did.

I guess we'll call this Exhibit Two.

And in other news that you really don't care to hear, the trial ran out on my Advanced Woman Calendar that was supposed to help me remember my cycles, and once again it totally took me by surprise.

Yesterday I was in a total funk (not mean, just crazy), and didn't make the correlation at all until the evidence presented itself today.

Forget pregnancy brain. The thirty-five year old crazies have that trumped. At least when you're pregnant you have an extra twenty or forty pounds to remind you about the cause of your irrational behavior.

Speaking of "that time of the month," I reviewed a great little anthology over at 5 Minutes for Mom on first periods. You can read my review and enter to win one of five copies of My Little Red Book.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Children's Classics -- Beatrix Potter

So--here's the truth. I haven't shared any of Beatrix Potter's tales with Kyle this month. Why wouldn't he consent to it? Winne-the-Pooh, that's why. Yep, we have completely finished the first book included in our A.A. Milne anthology that we started in response to last month's Children's Classics carnival. He loves them.

I see many similarities between the two authors actually. They both use big vocabulary and wry humor, which bumps a child's comprehension level up a notch (and probably makes bedtime reading a bit more interesting for Mama).

I know we've read one or two before, and this anthology was a favorite of Amanda's when she was his age. I think that those mischievous little animals are thrilling to mischievous little people. The drawings are gorgeous, and if you haven't tried out the original stories as opposed to some simplified board book versions, or looked beyond Peter Rabbit to Squirrel Nutkin and the like, I encourage you to do so.

The other thing I like about both of my particular anthologies is that they are heavy on text. The page is filled with text and has smaller pictures interspersed on the page. I think that this has increased my children's listening abilities. Kyle doesn't always seem like he's paying attention, but he gets it.

Read more about Beatrix Potter at 5 Minutes for Books' Children's Classics carnival.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Clock

Our clock is sort of, well, sort of -- mysterious. Twice in recent memory it has advanced or fell behind by exactly an hour. Last fall it happened within a day of the time change.

As you can see by looking at it, it's a regular clock, purchased years ago. I'm fairly sure it doesn't contain some computer chip which synced it up to the official clock via those inscrutable microwaves that seem to control everything these days.

When I was changing some of the clocks last night before I went to bed, I decided to see what would happen to my mysterious clock, so I left it alone.

I guess it would make a much better story if it has sprung forward at 2:00am, but unfortunately it stayed the same. I manually turned it forward this morning before church.

I find the Spring transition much easier than the Fall one. The whole "gaining an hour of sleep" in the fall is completely lost on mothers whose children's internal clocks don't care what the real clock -- mysterious or ordinary -- says. But this morning, the internal clock worked in my favor, and Kyle slept in a bit.

Amanda may have trouble settling down at night (when the clock reads 8:45pm, but her body registers 7:45pm), but for Kyle this change has been a good one, and I'm okay with Amanda staying up and reading a bit later (but is it really later?).

As for me, I did not really "lose" an hour of sleep last night. Saturday morning I woke up before 4:00am. I had to be up at 5:45am for a meeting, but I couldn't go back to sleep. I finally got out of bed at 5:20am. So I was a little tired to say the least. I went to bed at 8:15pm to read, and knowing that time was going to spring forward as I slept, I turned off the lamp at 9:00pm (10:00pm, adjusted time) and enjoyed nine hours of sleep last night.

How did the change to Daylight Savings Time treat you this year?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

On Broadway

I always say that I'm going to give more details about New York City, since we visit there quite often from our home here in Connecticut.

I've been immersed in Broadway lately, because my husband and I saw a show a few weeks ago and I've been listening to my Les Miserables soundtrack (and the Wicked and Mary Poppins soundtracks are not ever too far off my playlist).

I wrote a bit about Les Miserables (the stage show and the movie) on 5 Minutes for Books today, and I thought I would give a quick recap of the shows I've seen on Broadway (These dates are all -ish. I'm having trouble with my timeline), and I am going to keep updating this as I see shows.

1996(ish) -- Les Miserables

Terry and I saw this when I went with him to New York on a business trip. It was my first Broadway show, and I was surprised at how casual everyone was dressed (and this was years ago before everyone was casual everywhere). I read the book in preparation for seeing it, and I think that the book gave me a greater appreciation for it. This remains Terry's favorite show.

As I said in my 5 Minutes for Books, there are definitely PG-13 elements to this show.

2003 -- Movin' Out

Terry and I saw this when we visited NYC for our 10th anniversary. The music was great, the dancing was incredible, and a serviceable story was woven together using Billy Joel's songs as a backdrop. Since we are both big fans, we enjoyed it a lot. We also had a star sighting. A short baldish character actor was sitting right in front of us across the aisle. We later figured out that he was the guy sitting with Kramer on the subway who was reading a newspaper naked. You'd know him if you saw him. He works a lot.

10/2004 -- The Producers

We either saw this for my birthday or for our anniversary. I don't remember. We both liked it. It has some big numbers (a show within a show) and some laughs.

9/2005 -- Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

A year after we moved here, a friend was going to be here in the City the weekend of Amanda's 7th birthday. We met her at the American Girl Cafe, and Amanda and I spent the night there together. I also took her to her first Broadway show, even though she didn't want to go! There were some $20 seats on the last rows, so I figured it was worth that (and we ended up moving up). She was sold on the theater before the curtain went up. She was craning her neck to hear and see the orchestra warming up. This show did not get good reviews, but Amanda and I loved it (as did other people I know who saw it). It's a great family show. Much of the music is similar to the movie, but there's more. It's actually on tour now, so check it out. I would never take a child under five to see a show, because they are long, but Amanda, at barely 7, enjoyed this.

10/2006 -- Phantom of the Opera

I took my grandmother to see this when she was in town. I didn't really like it. I didn't like it at all, really. I think that part of it is that I don't like that techno sound of the music (honestly -- Les Mis has a bit of that too, but it's not too much for me). On top of that it seems a bit hokey and overdone. Okay, musical haters everywhere will say that's what musicals are, but I disagree. I love the musical in general, I just did NOT like this one.

11/2006 -- Mary Poppins

We surprised Amanda with these tickets for an early Christmas present. I really loved this show. It's in a big theater, which takes away a bit from the Broadway experience (we were up high in the back), but you can still see from those seats. This is funny, moving, with bright costumes and great song and dance numbers. We all love this soundtrack. I compared the book, movie, and show in a previous post.

2/2007 -- Barefoot in the Park

I bought tickets to this Broadway play for Terry for Christmas. It starred Amanda Peet, an actress he likes, and also starred Jill Clayburgh and Tony Roberts. But Terry and I reached the same conclusion: We'll spend our Broadway dollars on musicals.

4/2007 -- Wicked

My sister-in-law Dana and I saw this together when she visited. This is far and away my favorite musical. I absolutely love it. The way that they tell the story is incredible. I'm hoping to take Terry and Amanda to see it sometime. I think that the themes about being different and looking beyond appearances is one that a tween would appreciate, plus she loves the music.

I wrote about how the book was a disappointment and why the musical is better.

Star-sighting: John Stamos sat right behind us.

7/2007 -- Spamalot

We saw this with two other couples. This too has plenty of PG-13 humor. If you are a Monty Python fan, you'd enjoy it. Another thing I appreciated was a running spoof of Broadway shows. This was funny and enjoyable. Guys who might not otherwise want to see a show would enjoy this one.

8/2007 -- Mamma Mia

Some girlfriends and I went to see this together, and all I can say is "Fun!" Everyone was dancing and singing at the big number at the end. I think that this would be best enjoyed with a bunch of girlfriends or maybe a mother/daughter outing (for a teen daughter).

8/2007 -- Mary Poppins (reprise)

My friend was just as big a fan of Mary Poppins as I am. We thought that the music took us to our happy place. So right before she moved away from Connecticut her mother came into to town, and they graciously invited me to see it again. Would I love it just as much? How would it hold up to a second viewing? It was fine, but not quite so magical unfortunately. It still is one that I highly recommend (for families or grown-ups).

4/2008 -- Curtains

Dana and I saw this shortly before it closed. David Hyde Pierce was still in, and we were so close we probably got some of his spit on us. I took Dana around to the stage door and we waited for them to come out, so I got a great picture of her getting her program signed (picture and narrative HERE). This was good, too. A bit off-color at times, but funny and with the big Broadway feel that I love.

5/2008 -- The Little Mermaid

My dad and Susan came to babysit the kids for a week while Terry and I were off on our deserted Caribbean island celebrating our 15th anniversary. Susan had been wanting to go to New York City with Amanda ever since we moved here, so I bought them tickets to this in light of their very honorable service to us.

Amanda says this is her favorite of the three shows she's seen, and Dad and Susan (who have seen lots of touring Broadway shows) says it was fantastic as well. I missed out, but I do love the music and in listening to it I could envision the fantastic staging and choreography.

11/2008 -- Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular

This isn't really Broadway, but it IS Christmas in New York. It took us four years to get around to seeing it, and I'm sure we'll go again. We took my mom and stepdad when they were here for Thanksgiving, and even Kyle (at 4 1/2) went, sat still, and enjoyed it.

2/2009 -- South Pacific

Terry wanted to see this ever since the revival started. One reason is that the star (Kelli O'Hara) is a friend of a friend. As it turns out, she was off that day, so we saw the understudy. I really enjoyed the show. It had more humor than I thought it would, and I did enjoy the music. I think Terry was a little disappointed, but he was glad that I liked it.

6/2009 -- Guys and Dolls

This was fine, but lacked the "big Broadway" elements of some shows. Terry really enjoyed it, and we both enjoyed seeing the stars Lauren Graham and Oliver Platt in their roles, however I'm always a bit annoyed by the audience's response to them when tv/movie stars come on stage (too much adulation before they prove themselves!).

9/2009 -- Burn the Floor

Amanda and I saw this, courtesy of my review gig with 5 Minutes for Mom. I am absolutely surprised how much we both loved it. Read my full review over at 5 Minutes for Mom.

9/2009 -- Rock of Ages

This is easily the funniest show I've ever seen on Broadway. Once again my PR contact through 5 Minutes for Mom hooked us up. We went for Terry's 40th birthday, and he had a blast. Read my review over at 5 Minutes for Mom.

Star Sighting: Terry recognized basketball player Michael Dunleavy.

10/2009 -- Finian's Rainbow

I reviewed Finian's Rainbow for 5 Minutes for Mom. You can read my full review there. I was excited because I consider this Amanda's first "real" Broadway show -- not aimed at children (though wonderful for her age-group). I was glad that she enjoyed it.

2/2010 -- The Miracle Worker

Amanda and I saw The Miracle Worker at Circle in the Square theater (linked to my review I did in conjunction with a sponsored giveaway at 5 Minutes for Mom). The show was good, but the small stage setting is what blew us away. It was amazing.

2010 -- West Side Story

This did not blow us away. We didn't particularly like it. The dancing was awesome, and the story's themes did seem particularly relevant -- especially because there was a big group of teens of various races, but mostly Hispanic and African American sitting in front of us, but it was almost boring.

9/2010 --  Time Stands Still

I saw this show and Lombardi the same day -- catching a matinee showing of this play in the Cort theater for a review and giveaway at 5 Minutes for Mom, and then later having a date with Terry for Lombardi.  Two excellent shows, in two intimate theaters.

See my full review of Time Stands Still with an incredible well-known cast.

9/2010 -- Lombardi

This was the second show I saw in the Circle in the Square theater, and Wow -- great show, and once again the setting was fantastic.  Read my full review at 5 Minutes for Mom, where I featured a review and giveaway of the star-studded Lombardi play.

10/2010 -- Wicked (reprise)

This was just as good the second time around.  Terry and Amanda saw it for their first time and enjoyed it as well.  It seemed funnier and campier with this cast, which didn't improve it or make it worse -- just different.

Two of the three of our seats were the orchestra level "limited visibility" seats on the aisle, which I've heard are just fine (and are about half price!).  These were great seats.

 8/2013 --Newsies, Peter and the Starcatcher, and Blue Man Group

The kids and I saw 3 shows on our short trip back to Connecticut and New York. See some pictures and read a bit more about Newsies and the Blue Man Group at my post here, and read my full review of Peter and the Starcatcher here.