Sunday, May 31, 2009

City, Beach, or Mountain?

That's one of those questions that pops up on those "getting-to-know you" questionnaires: "What's your ideal vacation spot: city, beach, or mountain?"

Oh that question is always so hard for me to answer! I love beach trips (especially if it's an adults-only we-can-really-relax beach trip), and the mountains are great in winter or summer. But I think my answer has to be city. Whenever we end up staying in a city, I love the hustle and bustle, the culture, walking to get from place to place.

Fortunately we are close enough to New York City to visit frequently, so I get to experience that city-feel frequently. But in spite of the fact that we spend time there throughout the year, I still don't completely have my bearings. Terry is natural compass, but I am not. So when I'm with him, I follow along, trusting that he will get us where we need to know. When I'm alone, I use maps. We have some NYC guidebooks that have maps, but folding and unfolding them is a bit unwieldy, not to mention conspicuous. I feel like all the savvy New Yorkers are saying, "There's another clueless tourist."

My husband recently started commuting into New York for work, so when the kids were on spring break in April, we decided to stay overnight. The kids and I planned some fun activities during the day, and Terry joined us at night (and saved a long train ride each way).

I brought The Little Black Book of New York with me in my bag. As Lauren mentioned in her review of the Walt Disney World guide, it's portable. It's only about 6 inches tall and 4.5 inches wide, and it's very lightweight, so it's easy to carry in a purse or a bag.

What's even better is that each map folds out. The New York guide is divided into eight sections, and includes a terrific tri-fold Subway map at the back.

When I went to Chicago last month, I had a bit of free time the day I arrived, and was hoping to do some shopping or walking around. I tucked the Chicago guide in my purse, and felt free to explore the "Gold Coast" area of my hotel. But what I really liked were the snapshots of each neighborhood. Even though I stayed mostly in one place, I got a good feel for the rest of the city, and it helped me figure out what to do with my afternoon and evening of free time.

If you find yourself on business travel with a bit of free time, these guides are great to orient you, not to mention the maps -- seriously, the walking-detail maps make these city guides worth the price.

There isn't a lot of detail about prices, hours of operation, and restaurants, but that information changes so quickly that oftentimes even with a brand-new comprehensive (4 pound) guidebook, by the time you get ready to take your trip, it's changed. The Little Black Travel guide books do have the basics -- the "must-see" destinations within each section, as well as a few suggestions of things that kids might enjoy, along with places to eat and drink and sleep and shop.

Oh, and if you want a nice portable travel journal (something I always want to keep yet never get quite with the program), they make a nice Little Black Travel Journal too. It's slightly bigger, but still portable, which is great.

Click on through to 5 Minutes for Books to read Lauren's full review and enter to win the city guide of your choice from Peter Pauper Press.

The Summer Fun Giveaway is in full swing now. Check out all the contests (so far). We'll be posting at least one new contest a day through June 7 and announcing the winners on June 11. We have books (of course!) for kids and adults, an audiobook, travel books, and activities and games. Check them out and stay tuned through next week as well.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Cutting for Stone

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese has been on my nightstand since January. I was SO excited that this author had written another book. I had enjoyed his first two books -- memoirs -- especially My Own Country: A Doctor's Story, which is probably in my top ten of favorite books ever.

I received an advance copy of the book, but it was SO thick, and I had lots of other reading to do for 5 Minutes for Books, so it just sort of sat there a while. When I finally started, it was a bit slow-going for me, but I kept going, knowing that I trusted the author.

Cutting for Stone is the story of twin brothers Marion and Shiva who lose both their mother (by death) and their father (by abandonment) at birth. The two doctors in the primitive country Ethiopian hospital where they were born take them in.

This is one of those epic novels -- spanning 25 years or so of the twins' lives -- more, if you include flashbacks to the other characters' early lives. It also spans several countries -- India, Ethiopia, America.

But by page 200 or so, I still felt as if I was waiting for something to kick in.

It wasn't a bad book at all -- the characters and setting are wonderful, the writing is great -- but for whatever reason it just never grabbed me. The ending was quite satisfying, wrapping up many loose ends, but not in a contrived way at all.

To be fair, most reviews I've read for this book are wonderful, and that makes me glad. In fact, I think that I would still recommend this book to people who are interested in this type of tale. It just makes me feel like someone who is colorblind while everyone else is enjoying the rainbow, because I really wanted to love this book, because I can highly recommend his other works, especially My Own Country: A Doctor's Story (which I think I need to re-read since it's been years and years since I first read it).

And when Abraham Verghese's next novel or memoir comes out, I'll pick it up to read without hesitation.

In this Sunday's "On Reading" column at 5 Minutes for Books, there will be a column about my reader's notebook, featuring my notes while I was reading Cutting for Stone.

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

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Kindergarten Readiness

Yesterday Kyle turned five, and that very evening I attended the Kindergarten orientation at his school. That's a pretty symbolically momentous day.

This is actually my first time to send a child off to Kindergarten, although I'm a bit different than many of the other first-time parents who surrounded me. When Amanda finished preschool, we were living in Texas. With an early September birthday, she barely missed the cutoff for Kindergarten admission in Texas, so she had attended a "bridge" Pre-K program, designed for older 5's.

I remember walking to the elementary school to register Amanda for Kindergarten. With newborn Kyle at home, I was ready to send her off to school full-time, and she was ready to go.

In July, things changed. Terry began an interview process with a company in Connecticut. When it looked like we would be moving, we wanted to be sure that we would be there in time for Amanda's first day of school, so things happened pretty quickly.

However, in Connecticut they still had half-day Kindergarten. And the age cutoff was January, not September. So, not only would Amanda be the oldest child by more than three months, she'd only be attending school for two hours fewer than she had for the last year.

Most people don't know that Kindergarten is not mandatory. So, since Amanda met the age requirement for first grade, we had the option to register her for that grade. After looking at the Kindergarten curriculum, and talking with her Pre-K teacher, we determined that was the right choice for her. It worked out perfectly.

So as I sat in the miniature chairs at the low tables in the Kindergarten classroom last night, as a teacher walked us through a (half)day in the life of a Kindergartener, I thought, "Kindergarten is fun. Kyle is going to love this." I almost felt as if Amanda had missed out, except that I'm fairly certain that her Pre-K experience was just as fun, and gave her the right age-appropriate educational instruction as well.

The teacher was talking about the emphasis on reading and literacy, and how the best thing that parents can do to insure that their child is ready for Kindergarten is to read to him everyday. Another big step in literacy is just talking to your child. The number of minutes that a preschooler interacts with their parent has been shrinking, and it's a big factor in early school success (and is one area that differs by economic class, with poorer children missing out on this kind of interaction at home).

The teacher said that they have small classes and a full-time aide as well as a reading specialist, so they divide into reading groups by ability. She assured the parents that kids come in at all levels -- from not knowing letters at all (at which point they have some early intervention so that they don't fall further behind), to knowing most of them, to knowing the sounds, to reading already. "Not many are reading, but sometimes they come in and read the morning message that first day, and we say 'Oh boy.'"

We've always read to Kyle, and not only does he know his letters and sounds, but he'll be classified as an "Oh boy." I was pleased to hear that they offer readers individual attention, and that he won't have to sit and "learn" the a sound for a week.

So, we're ready. We're more than ready academically, and we're both ready socially too.

However, I was challenged by the principal's challenge, "Talk to your child. Go on field trips. Take nature walks. That's how they learn."

Of course I talk to Kyle, and he talks to me -- oh boy, does he. But in this digital age, there is less interaction -- more TV, more computer, more Wii. I'm going to be sure that this summer I continue to challenge and interact with him (and his big sister) in new ways, that I learn from him as he learns from me.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Today, he's five

"Mom, why are you taking a picture of Kyle, sleeping?" Amanda asked as I snapped a photo of Kyle when he fell asleep in his car seat at the beginning of our weekend trip last Friday.

"Because he's growing up. Who knows when it will be the last time he'll fall asleep so soundly in the car," I thought, but did not say.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What's on my Nightstand -- May

I love long holiday weekends. I finished three books while my husband drove us to and from our camping trip in Lancaster, PA. I had already started all three of them, but there's something so satisfying about finishing a book.

So, here are my plans for this month. I'm sure that things will change -- books will cross my path that I have to read


I'm still working on The Purpose of Boys: Helping Our Sons Find Meaning, Significance, and Direction in Their Lives by Michael Gurian, which was on my list last month, and several of you seemed to be interested in it, but I did finish Dear Mom: What Your Teenage Daughter Wants You to Know but Will Never Tell You (linked to my review).

This month I'm going to read another parenting non-fiction book (I've been enjoying them lately, and actually getting through them, not just starting them): Free-Range Kids: Giving our Children the Freedom We Had without Going Nuts with Worry by Lenore Skenazy

Maybe You'd Be So Pretty If . . .: Teaching Our Daughters to Love Their Bodies--Even When We Don't Love Our Own


Going to See the Elephant

Maynard and Jennica

Edited Tuesday afternoon to add some maybes -- I knew I didn't have enough fiction:

The Triumph of Deborah

Four Wives


I'm almost halfway through Bittersweet: Lessons from My Mother's Kitchen, so I'd like to finish it.

Happens Every Day: An All-Too-True Story


Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning

Kyle and I are halfway through reading Little House in the Big Woods aloud. It's a great book for boys -- lots of hunting, building, and butchering.

Amanda and I are a good ways into The Young Unicorns by Madeleine L'Engle, and loving it.

Maybe The Truth about Truman School

Find out what others in the blogosphere are reading at 5 Minutes for Books' What's on Your Nightstand the fourth Tuesday of every month.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I'm Letting Go

So--am I letting go of Amanda or is she slipping through my fingers? You all must be confused. I think I am too. All I know is that it's been a topic that comes up over and over again in my mind as we interact with my ten and a half year old daughter. It's not going away anytime soon.

She's been fairly good to this point about accepting my edicts about entertainment without question. However, as I wrote about today at the 5 Minutes for Books On Reading column, I am trying to let go. These are additional thoughts, so if you want the rest of the issue, please click on over.

I want to protect Amanda from "mature themes" and from attitudes that she might pick up in certain media (books and television and movies) that are contrary to our beliefs and values. She recently told me that she doesn't know why I'm so "strict" all of a sudden. Yes I may be strict about some things, but I'm really fairly permissive about many things (out of laziness more than a parenting philosophy).

I had already played offense on this one when another friend mentioned that her daughter has been asking about the Twilight series. I haven't read the series (yet), but from what I understand it's over-the-top in the mushy-gushy department. Yes, I am being "protective." I want to protect her emotions, her heart, and yes make sure that her s*x drive does not kick into overdrive before she's even in middle school! And for that matter, it makes me think that I wouldn't want a high school daughter who really does have a boyfriend dealing with all the yearning and burning either.

In spite of continuing to argue her case, she did tell me that her reading teacher, who is cool and beloved, banned Breaking Dawn from her class. She said that the others are fine, but she said that it made her blush, and so she didn't want it to be read in her classroom. She made a point to tell them that she didn't have any problems with the earlier titles.

I appreciate her making her thoughts known to these impressionable girls (who probably give her opinion more weight than their moms' words). I am glad to hear the support of another adult on part of this issue at least. I think it gave my opinion weight for Amanda to hear Ms. W. say the same thing.

What about you other moms of tweens? Are you facing similar issues? Do you have success tips to pass along?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tomorrow I'll . . .

One day last week, Kyle came out of his room at 6:30 a.m. "Mom, can I get up now? Tomorrow I'll wake up at 7:00."

Kyle is supposed to stay in his room until 7:00 a.m. each morning. But sometimes it's hard for him, especially if he wakes up around 6:00 a.m. We've pretty much handled that problem by getting rid of naps (except about once every 6 to 8 days, as needed -- by Mommy or son).

So, he negotiates. He even went on to say, "I have a plan. I'll wake up at 6, 6, then 7, 7, 7, 7, 7."

Sometimes I stand firm and send him back into his room. But other times I relent when I know that he's been awake a while and has tried to wait for 7:00 a.m. (with his eyes glued to the clock, instead of just closing them and trying to sleep some more).

But that's not the only reason I give in. I give in, because I know it's hard. How many times have I said, "Tomorrow, I'll . . . "

. . . start eating better.
. . . clean up the house.
. . . pay the bills.
. . . spend more time with the kids.
. . . call that friend in need.

Yes, I do understand. I guess he needs to learn sooner rather than later that tomorrow never comes, and it's not good practice to keep putting off for tomorrow what he could do today.

Maybe we'll have that chat . . . tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What Kyle and I Learned This Week

There's something that I learned on the way to inadvertently teaching Kyle something new, or shall I say it's something that I remembered. I remembered that my effort to "Read Together" is worth it.

Not much that is good comes with no effort at all.

Amanda and I finished Hugo Cabret and started on The Young Unicorns by Madeleine L'Engle. We had each read the first two of the Austin Family Chronicles (separately), so I thought that this one would be a good read-aloud. This was our third day into it, and we are both enjoying it thoroughly. I am continuing the habit of using her morning breakfast and lunch-making time to read. When she came down today, she asked to watch TV, and I stood firm, reminding her how much we are both enjoying the book. She agreed, but we both learned that it's hard to slip back into bad habits without a firm goal.

Kyle had really enjoyed being read to from a chapter book, so when we finished Just Desserts, I jumped right into to Little House in the Big Woods. Boomama had asked about chapter book recommendations to read with her son, and I had suggested the first few Little House books. Amanda never loved them (as I did growing up), but we read the first two aloud when she was not-much older than Kyle, and I remember being struck then that there was an awful lot of hunting and log-cabin building and such, so we are going to give it a go.

And that brings me to what Kyle learned this week.

As we were reading today, about Pa shooting a deer and eating fresh venison, Kyle said, "Ew." I explained -- not realizing the Pandora's box I was opening -- that venison is deer meat, just like beef is cow and chicken is chicken.

"Not a real chicken?" he inquired, knowing that he must be misunderstanding me.

"Yes, a real chicken. It's the same. They take off the feathers and stuff."


We'll see how he reacts to the next bit of animal protein that lands on his plate. I don't think that I scarred him for life or turned him vegetarian. Only time will tell.

It reminded me that kids are always always learning, and I forget that things that seem obvious to us are not always so through the eyes of a child.

Check out what Jo-Lynne and others "Learned this Week" at Musings of a Housewife, and/or link up your own.

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Kids' Picks -- Eric Carle and Margaret Haddix

As always -- we're reading over here at Snapshot house. I posted yesterday about some of the fabulous books I've recently read and reviewed, and now it's the kids' turn.

I interviewed my fifth-grader Amanda about her favorite this month:

Tell me about Double Identity.

It's good.

What is it about?

It's extremely hard to describe. It's just a really good book. You just have to read it to know. All the chapters end really exciting, so it's hard to stop reading.

Who should read it?

Anyone. Anyone. I've seen boys, girls, people with really low AR points (This is her way of saying that people who don't read as much as she does liked it too). Anyone. It's just an awesome book. That's all I can say.

Kyle (and I) recommend 10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle published in 2006. I didn't even really know that he was still publishing books, but I'm so happy that he is, and am going to make more of an effort to explore some of his less familiar books.

I tried to interview him, but he was a little contrary.

What's this book about?

I don't want to say.

Why should other children read it?

They should just check it out themselves, and then they'll know what it's about and if they like it.

What did you like about it?

I liked the button.

Yes, he did like the button. At the end, there's a rubber ducky squeaky sound, and even though he's almost 5, he likes to push it (over and over again).

This is a great book, inspired by a newspaper story that Carle read about a container of rubber ducks falling off a ship in transit. It's a good counting book, because each number is given a page, but it's even more, because it has an engaging story (and Carle's incomparable art). It also uses ordinal numbers (3rd, 4th etc), which is a great extension for slightly older readers.

Find out what more kids are recommending in 5 Minutes for Books' Kids' Picks Carnival.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Read Anything Good Lately?

I have. Oh my goodness have I.

It seems almost too good to be true. Finishing a great book, and then picking up another one right away, and it's happened to me time and time again over the last couple of weeks.

The one that I just finished -- like just now put down and came straight to my computer to write a review after staring at the book for a while, reading the acknowledgments and not believing the ride that it took me on -- is The Weight of Heaven (linked to my review at 5 Minutes for Books).

I've read some other good books lately, too. Several of the reviews will go up this week, but here are some that I'd like to call your attention to have already published. Click through the links for my full review.

  • Everyone is Beautiful is another of the great books that I was fortunate enough to read recently. That link is to my persuasive top ten list of why you should read it for our early June bookclub at 5 Minutes for Books.
  • Rose House -- Enter the giveaway before Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Books, where I also ask your thoughts about recurring characters that surprise you in books by the same author. This was my second introduction to the novelist Tina Ann Forkner. I enjoyed this book almost as much as her first novel Ruby Among Us.
  • Why Women Should Rule the World -- This one was on my nightstand for-ev-er. However, once I got a few chapters into it, it was a really interesting read.
  • Hachette Books is sponsoring two great book bundle giveaways that are open through the end of the month. One is in honor of Asian Heritage Month, and the other one is focused on Latino Books Month.

Looking back, I think that I've been remiss in posting links all month, and I've been sort of prolific in my reading (and actually writing reviews, too!). So here are three more that I loved that I invite you to check out: Sea Changes, A Single Thread, and Life Without Summer.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Sound of Silence is Not an Option

I used to like to rock out to music when I was in the car. I'd sing, I'd maybe even dance a little (moving my shoulders or arms a bit, which is as close as I ever get to dancing anytime, anywhere).

But now that is not my status quo. If I am in the car alone, I am often listening to talk radio or one of my downloaded podcasts. Or nothing. Sometimes I listen to nothing. Because if I am not alone in the car, silence is not an option.

If I try to listen to "my music" or "my news," there is a lot of whining. If I try to take in the beautiful sound of silence, I hear complaining and/or sibling strife.

My solution is to load up the CD deck with children's music.

Ever since Amanda was about two years old, I've been living with this compromise. For a brief period a few years ago, she was old enough to be flexible and Kyle wasn't yet old enough to care, but now we're right back in.

Since I'm going to be listening to kids' tunes, I try to choose ones that don't annoy me. Recently in the height of Kyle's Thomas phase, he acquired a CD. So I listened to little British kids over and over again singing about Thomas and his friends.

It's my choice, and I still believe it's better than the alternative. Some of you fight for your right to party, and that's okay too. But for those of you seeking out some songs for the road, here are some of our favorites:

  • They Might Be Giants -- Anything by TMBG. We love these. I've given them as gifts and other people love them too. If you buy the CD instead of downloading them (at least these amazon versions), you get a bonus DVD which is fun. I had almost forgotten about their first kids' CD No!, but I'm busting it out of the archives, where it will join Here Come the ABCs [CD/DVD Combo] and Here Come The 123s [CD/DVD]. Amanda has outgrown kids' tunes and has less tolerance than me, but she's still a fan of TMBG. I would even listen to it even when my kids weren't in the car (that is if I didn't know that it would be in constant rotation the next time Kyle was in the car).

  • Baby Loves Hip Hop Presents The Dino-5--This is fun, and has the added bonus (or annoyance, depending on how you look at it) of a story woven into the songs. The message about friendship and being kind comes through loud and strong, too.

  • Broadway tunes -- This is a great compromise for me! The kids will listen to some of my favorites, such as Wicked, Mary Poppins, or Les Miserables (in smaller doses than their favorites, of course).

  • And finally -- Kyle's new favorite (which annoys Amanda, but I find to be quite tolerable) is Ziggy Marley's Family Time CD. If you click the link, you can preview a video of one of the songs and read my review over at 5 Minutes for Giveaways, where you can enter to win one of 5 copies through May 29.

When the kids were really young (two), Wee Sing Bible Songs, but we've moved on, and I'm sure I've missed some other great ones.

Any suggestions that would appeal to a preschooler, and his big sis (and wouldn't completely annoy their mother)?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Future Classics for Children

This month's topic for the Children's Classics carnival at 5 Minutes for Books is future classics.

At first, I was thinking of children's books. The books which first came to mind, is The Penderwicks* by Jeanne Birdsall (please click through to read my review). I love that book. It was one of the first children's chapter books that I read alongside Amanda, but that I enjoyed just for its own sake.

I'm not sure that it's the most popular book in the world, and with the fickle nature of book publishing (or rather perhaps book buying), I can't guarantee that it will be still be in print in twenty or thirty years, but I sure hope so. I love this book, and everyone to whom I've recommended it has ended up loving it too.

What makes is classic for me is that it's timeless. It has a contemporary setting, but it's also completely timeless. Even Amanda (my ten-year-old daughter) noticed and appreciated that. I like realistic fiction, but I think that the best escape books sometimes let us suspend reality for a bit and revel in the world as it should be, or might be, or never could be.

But then I got to thinking of picture books, because those are books that seem to endure, and seem a bit more timeless to begin with. I just wrote last month about Melanie Watt's Scaredy Squirrel series, and I definitely believe that those books will still be around for me to share with my grandchildren.

I can just imagine Kyle and Amanda laughing as hard as they do now when we read it, and telling their offspring that they remember when they waited with anticipation for the next Scaredy Squirrel book to come out, which was their favorite, etc. etc. (well honestly, I can't imagine them as adults with children of their own, but I digress).

This is such a fun topic! Please check out the other predictions (or wishes) about future Children's Classics at 5 Minutes for Books.

*The Penderwicks review is also linked to a page about my "Family Book Club." I wrote some detailed discussion questions for that novel. It might be something you want to try this summer.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Life Imitates Art

My family treated me to a lovely Mother's Day lunch yesterday.

The place we went had a special three-course Mother's Day menu. The waiter took our orders for all three courses, and a few minutes later, two servers were bringing out our desserts.

I was baffled and a little speechless. I finally got out, "Um -- We're not having dessert right now. We haven't gotten our entrees yet."

The waiter saw what had happened, and came over and explained. Because he entered everything into the system at once, it all went to the kitchen at the same time, and the girls at the dessert station were on task, so they came out quickly!

They took them away and returned with our appetizers right away, but Amanda said, "Kyle, aren't you and Mommy reading a book about a girl who wants to have her dessert first??"

We are indeed.

I've been spending some time Reading Together with Kyle this month. We are reading an early chapter book called Dessert First. He loves the chapter book format, and since his reading is getting better and better, and sort of hoping that by the time we have our long drive for our summer vacation in July that he might be willing to try to read a real book by himself (with some help from me and his big sis).

When Dessert's (yes, that's her name) third-grade teacher Mrs. Howdy Doody challenges her students to march to the beat of their own drummers, Dessert decides to insist on being served dessert first before her dinner each night.

This is a cute early chapter book. Her parents own a restaurant, so there's lots of vivid (yummy) food writing. One objection I have (easily remedied when reading aloud) is that she uses words like "crud" and "darn." Not a huge deal, but it's not entirely necessary, is it?


We also had our traditional Mother's Day photo shoot. These are stressful events for us, because

  1. Apparently I'm a really big control freak (I usually take the pictures, and I know what I want).
  2. One of the people in the photo shoot is a crazy preschooler.
  3. My husband doesn't like that sort of thing (he doesn't like the Father's Day photo sessions either).
However, I think that they came out alright, and Amanda looks great! Usually she gets the brunt of the anger, because when Kyle finally looks normal and appropriately photogenic, Amanda has looked away or is talking to him, but not this time.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Real Mothering

Amanda has recently started getting an allowance, and she has a hard time not spending it right away. When we went to a toy store last weekend to buy a birthday gift, she just couldn't resist buying a Digipet. It's really a neat little toy. She is able to choose what pet she wants to virtually care for, and it beeps to remind her that it needs something. She is currently caring for a rabbit. As it turns out, I am caring for a rabbit.

Rabbits apparently sleep a lot. On the index where she (I) can measure her (my) success in taking care of the rabbit, the sleep section has yet to fill up. I put the thing to sleep when she leaves for school, then it wakes up and I have to clean up cyber poop (yes, really), and then I put it back to sleep after playing with it, and/or feeding it. So, I'm taking care of the Digipet. And the funny thing is that I don't mind. She wants a real rabbit, and there's no way that I'm taking over that responsibility, but I feel like her partner, her helper by doing this small thing. She even knows that I'm there for her, and told me, "You are doing a good job taking care of Fuzzy."

Two years ago on Mother's Day, I was nine months pregnant with Kyle. I was sleeping the sleep of an exhausted mother-to-be. I had a vague notion of Terry getting out of bed. I keep drifting in and out of sleep, and hearing footsteps upstairs. At about 3am, I went upstairs to find Terry sleeping on the sofa in the game room outside Amanda's room. Amanda had gotten sick (all over herself and in her bed). Terry took care of it all, not waking me, or asking what he should do. He didn't want me, in my current state, to get sick. I was overwhelmed. Terry has always done a great job of taking care of the kids, but this was not his forte, and yet he did it. By this time she was seeming to settle down, having woken at least once an hour since she got him at 11pm. He hadn't been to sleep, so I relieved him. He had to go to church to teach Sunday School the next day, so I stayed home with her. Somehow it seemed appropriate. It was Mother's Day, and I was mothering my sick child. At that moment, there was nowhere else I'd rather be.

Such it is with the Digipet. I know, it's just a $4.98 little digital toy, but it's a connection with my rapidly growing daughter. I have a feeling that in the coming years as she grows up and away from us that I will cling to whatever she offers. I'm not going to burst into song, crooning,

"And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
"When you coming home, son?"
"I don't know when
But we'll get together then, dad. You know we'll have a good time then."

Oops. I sang. Maybe you're singing now, too.

Originally posted May 6, 2006

Friday, May 08, 2009

Slipping Through My Fingers

When my friends and I saw Mamma Mia* on Broadway a couple of years ago, we laughed and laughed (the movie version is a pretty good representation as well). Towards the end of the show the mother is helping her daughter get ready for her wedding, and they sing "Slipping Through my Fingers." I looked over at my friend Nicole, and I noticed that she was tearing up.

As we were leaving, she said, "I got a little emotional there. I was thinking of me and my mom, and me and Kylie."

Kylie was only 5 or so at that time, but Nicole had the wisdom to know it's coming.

For me, the time has come, and this song is more prescient than ever.

Lyrics | Mama Mia! Soundtracks lyrics - Slipping Through My Fingers lyrics

Amanda keeps marching towards that independent phase of adolescence, questioning our rules and thinking she deserves the what's and why's instead of just doing what we say because we say it.

I can see it happening, and I can also see how quickly we could veer off-track.

The goal is to protect her and guide her in such a way that she doesn't know that we are protecting her and guiding her. We have to be firm, yet unwavering in our love.

Ultimately the goal of parenting is to get them to the point that they are responsible for their own decisions. I understand that. I just didn't think that it would be happening at 10 1/2.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Eat Your Vegetables

After spending a few days with the fun folks from the Love Your Veggies campaign, we all have a renewed commitment to eat our vegetables. For some more veggie fun, use the link right under my profile pic (on the right sidebar) to play Veggie Adventures, and trick show your kids that it's fun to Love Your Veggies.

This post was originally published in July 2008, but I enjoyed the reminders when I came across it when looking through my archives for another post recently (the recipe for my favorite Crock Pot dish).

I'm sure I'm not the only mom who has served her child cake for breakfast, as I did this morning, but I'm feeling a little defensive (however I guess this new post also incriminates me, since he's still in his pajamas after 10:00 a.m.).

I was cutting up some vegetables for Kyle and I to eat today, and I thought I'd post a few tricks that work as far as getting him to eat vegetables:

  • Let him snack. He is always feeling graze-y while I'm making dinner, so I allow him to snack at will on the veggies I'm cutting up. That leads me to the second point--
  • Try different shapes. When we bought the carrots, he was dying for "a whole carrot," so I let him eat it that way. I usually cut my bell peppers in strips for eating raw, but I was doing a large dice last night, and he said, "This is my favorite shape--rectangles." He ate more little rectangles than he normally does. Which leads to my next thought--
  • Raw is better. Not only do the nutrients stay completely in tact, both of my kids like them better. So, if I know that they are unlikely to devour the stir fry I'm preparing, I put a few raw veggies on their plates to eat.
  • Keep trying. Sometimes Kyle eats cauliflower, sometimes he doesn't. I keep trying different things (and now different shapes) and hope that a new veggie will sneak its way into his diet.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


This was the before, and here's the after (bad shots unfortunately) and you can't really see the beautiful paint color.

Powder Room:

Kids/Guest Bath:

I did mention that I love my toilet, so I suppose it's appropriate to have a picture of it, but I was really trying to show the tile and rug.

For more Wordless Wednesday, visit 5 Minutes for Mom.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Great Gatsby

Classics Bookclub

I'm enjoying having to the opportunity to re-read some of the classics through the Classics Bookclub. This month, we were challenged to read The Great Gatsby. It was the first book that I read in entirety on my Kindle 2! For my thoughts on the Kindle 2, read my full review over at 5 Minutes for Books.

When I read The Red Leather Diary (linked to my review), it got me primed to read this book, since both of them focused on the life of leisure, of the thought life and of excesses.

I always find it difficult to collect my thoughts, so I will take the easy way out and answer Dawn's questions. Although I don't usually have spoilers in my book reviews, the nature of a bookclub demands it -- so you've been warned.

  1. What do you think the main characters each represented? Did they seem real to you? Did some seem more real than others?

  2. Tom and Gatsby and Nick seemed the most real to me. Perhaps because they are men, and F. Scott Fitzgerald was a man. Perhaps because they were darker -- more skeptical and less idealistic. Perhaps because they were more fully fleshed out.

  3. Talk about ways that Fitzgerald incorporated symbolism in the novel. What symbols carried the greatest weight for you?

  4. With a limited attention span at this point of the day (dishwasher humming, dryer buzzing, Wall-E on in the background), this question might be too literary for me at the moment, but I'll take a stab at it. I think that the car symbolized a lot -- it represented Gatsby's success, and pride in things, and yet in the end, it was a symbol of his demise.

    I also liked the use of the green light as a symbol of hope, or the future, or unattainable dreams. The quote at the end of the novel sums it up:

    Gatsby believed in the green light. The orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter -- tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . And one fine morning --

    So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

  5. Ah… the American Dream. What do those words mean to you? Do you think Gatsby represented this concept, and how? What makes The Great Gatsby a classic novel? Why has it maintained its place in American literature?

  6. I put these two questions together. I think that the iconic theme of the American dream is what makes this novel a classic. The American Dream is sadly a fruitless pursuit. I've read that no matter how much money someone has -- from just above the poverty level, to wealthy by any standard -- when asked how much would be enough, the answer is universally the same. They all think that with just slightly more, they'd be happy (the number was somewhere between 10% and 20%, but I don't remember exactly).

    I think that it's maintained its place because the writing is beautiful, and the theme is universal. Change a few details, and this could have happened in this decade. Money does not buy happiness. True love is elusive and fragile. Most people are lonely and unsure of themselves. Most people lead self-centered lives.

  7. Were there specific quotes or passages that you felt were outstanding? What parts brought out your highlighters or sticky notes, and why?

  8. There were. As I said, I thought that this was beautifully written. In addition to the passage I quoted above, I marked several because of their social and cultural relevance all these years later. Here's a sample:

    Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope. I am still a little afraid of missing something if I forget that( . . . ) a sense of the fundamental decencies is parcelled out unequally at birth.

    This quote clarifies what I loved so much about Nick. I love the fact that the story was written with the wisdom he gained years later, but even as a young man, he was blissfully self-aware:

    "I love to see you at my table, Nick. You remind me of a rose, an absolute rose."

    This was untrue. I am not even faintly like a rose.

    Perhaps this one told why I didn't particularly care for Daisy (or relate to her, at least), and why that whole lifestyle made me sad:

    For Daisy was young and her artificial world was redolent of orchids and pleasant, cheerful snobbery and orchestras which set the rhythm of the year, summing up the sadness and suggestiveness of life in new tunes.

Mr. Linky is uncooperative today (UGH!), but you can check out what others thought of The Great Gatsby in the Classics Bookclub post.

What I've Learned About Paint

Because on Tuesdays I'm almost always participating in 5 Minutes for Books' Tuesday carnivals*, I haven't made a huge effort to participate in Musings of a Housewife's weekly carnival What I Learned This Week, even though I think it's a great idea. But this week I thought I'd share the wisdom I've gleaned from my bathroom remodeling project (and I'll post pictures tomorrow!).

  1. If your walls are not in great condition, use matte-finish paint. I am usually an eggshell girl -- one step above a matte -- but my contractor explained that they will show any little variation in the walls. And yes, I have been noticing these inconsistencies on my walls that were painted four years ago in an eggshell finish after stripping wall paper off of them. Problem solved.

    I always selected a paint with a bit of sheen for scrubability, but the contractor explained that most paints now will hold up to a bit of washing regardless of finish. Also, matte finishes are much easier to touch up (there's no line of demarkation), and let's be honest -- if your kid mars a wall, often times the best solution is to paint over it.

  2. Always test out your paint. I learned this the hard way when I chose a nice light lavender color for that powder room after the very 90's navy, burgundy, and hunter green wallpaper was stripped off. What looked like a nice light lavender purple really turned out to be a bit too purple for my taste. But I've lived with it (you can see it in my "before" post).

    So, before slapping some paint on the walls of the newly remodeled kids/guest bathroom that features some very-hard-to-match tones that sometimes look bluish, sometimes gray-toned, and other times a little greenish, I bought the Benamin Moore Color Sample size. It's worth that $5 to know. And am I glad that I did. The Feather Gray color that I thought looked bluish grayish, and seemed to match my floor tile sample when placed on it, was too bright and blue when I put it on the wall. I went back to the drawing board and looked for a more greenish hue, and found Tranquility in the Aura Affinity line.

  3. You get what you pay for. If you watch that video in the link above, they talk about what makes Aura unique. I don't know if it's that Tranquility (AF 490) is just the most beautiful color in the world, or if the difference in the paint has some effect on it, but I love it. I painted both bathrooms this color (the purple powder room downstairs in addition to the one upstairs), and I'm thinking that I might put it in the master bath, which is the next room to be remodeled.

    I can also vouch that it is indeed scrubable. After only a week, I noticed something on the walls (it's a bathroom, so I don't really want to think any harder about what that might have been), and I used a washcloth and it came right off (with no paint residue left on the cloth).

    As a side note -- you also get what you pay for in toilets. I could have bought one as cheaply as $130 or so, but everyone said, "Buy the Kohler with the Power Assist flush," so I spent $200 more per toilet. Is it okay to love your toilet? Because I think I do (and I have pictures to prove it)

  4. Paint your ceilings. I had heard about this trend, but I thought that it seeemed silly. We live in a standard colonial style house with standard 8-foot ceilings, and sometimes it seems that they are closing in on us (after living in Texas-style homes with 9 to 11-foot ceilings), but I listened to my contractor, and painted the ceilings as well. They are gorgeous, and now the white ceilings in the other rooms are screaming to be painted!!

    Here's how you do it: Have the paint store mix the color you choose at 25% of the color. The other option is to just go two shades lighter on the color strip. That's actually what I did, because I didn't want to use the expensive Aura paint on the ceilings. So the helpful paint store employee pointed out that Beach Glass was almost the same color as the Aura Affinity Tranquility, and we went two shades lighter than that.

Click on over and tell Jo-Lynne what YOU learned this week, or glean some knowledge from others in the blogosphere.

*Just like in high school and college, I've waited for the very last minute to finish my reading assignment. I will be posting my thoughts for The Great Gatsby Classics Bookclub later today.

I'd also like to invite you to join us for our first non-Classics Bookclub June 2 reading Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center. I can't wait.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Farewell Naptime. You've Been a Good Friend.

I think that naptime is over for good around the Snapshot house.

I know that when I write about the loss of Kyle's naps, I get no sympathy and probably very little understanding. Kyle will turn five at the end of this month, and even at 4 1/2, he was still napping at least five days a week (and then sleeping ten or eleven hours at night).

In the last month or so, it's become obvious that he needed to nap less frequently. Yes, anytime I forced him to go to his bed, he would end up napping. Sometimes when I sent him to his room late in the afternoon, due to emotional breakdowns, he would fall asleep.

But then he either had trouble falling asleep at night or he woke up too early. My rule is that he doesn't get up until 7:00am (he has a digital clock in his room). He would often awaken around 6:30, but was usually pretty good about staying put. If he woke up around 6:00am, he ends up coming out, because "the clock isn't going fast enough."

Since my daughter gets up at 6:30am, I didn't really mind this too much, and was still willing to trade an early morning for some afternoon quiet time.

But in the last few weeks, he's taken only one or two naps, without too many emotional and tired repercussions. Yesterday he napped for the first time in a week. He actually had been asking to take a nap, because he wanted to stay up until 8:00pm, instead of sometimes going to bed at 7:30pm, as he does on a "no nap" day (that's started to look pretty good to me as well).

He went to bed around 1:30pm, and woke up at 3:00pm on his own (too-long naps were often his downfall as well). He went to bed at 8:00pm, and was still awake at 8:30 when I was putting something away in the hall closet outside his room. This morning he woke up at 5:45am.

The irony is that a friend and I were just emailing about this last night, as she shared that her son (who is almost 3) had been doing the same thing. I told her Kyle had taken a short nap, but I didn't worry about the consequences.

When I heard the pitter-patter of little feet before 5:45am, I wasn't really surprised. He came downstairs ready to justify his appearance, "I won't bother you mom. I won't be any trouble. I will just do something that will encourage me, and will keep me from asking you for things."

"So you want to play Wii?" I correctly surmised.

So, I'm blogging. He's racing (he recently received Mario Kart Double Dash as an early birthday present from his grandparents and he LOVES it). I think that Wii before 6:00am is sort of like eating candy for breakfast, but that was my solution for today.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Read Together -- May

I hope that you've made an effort to Read Together in April! I know that I've seen some positive changes in my household, and I hope you have too.

If you posted some goals in April, here's the place to link up your results. As I said, I've decided to post my goals each month. So if you want to join us for May, just write up some goals and post them.

If you are new to Read Together, use this linky to post May goals.

I will share my results for the previous month and my goals for the next one on the first of each month.

Our Read Together Results

So, how did we do reading together in April?

Not bad. Pretty good actually.

In all, we read 3 of the same books (11 Birthdays, The Hunger Games, and The Moon by Night), and The Incredible Journey (linked to my reviews).

We finished Pieces of Georgia and are now in the middle of The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

I am still pleased with the results, even though I fell short for the following reasons:

  • They were too ambitious!

  • Vacations -- Amanda's spring break fell in the middle of April, and that stalled our good progress, and then I was gone for a few days this week, but we jumped right back on the horse.

Here's what I loved and what I learned:

  • Amanda took notice that I was reading with her and interested in what she was reading. That led to her to invite me to read one of her favorite authors' new novels 11 Birthdays, which I did.

  • Due to my heightened awareness, I also "read" the Hunger Games audiobook. It's been good to be more aware and connected in this area again.

  • Reading for about 20 minutes in the morning while she was eating breakfast was "found time" for us.
I'm going to post my goals each month, and invite you to do the same if you'd like to (you can link up at the Read Together -- May post whether you participated in April or not).

Goals for May:

  • Finish Hugo Cabret.

  • Find and select another book to read together (perhaps the third in the Austin Family Chronicles series, The Young Unicorns: The Austin Family Chronicles, Book 3, since we've read the first two together (but separately).

  • Read Wings, together (but separately)

  • Say "Yes" more! One of the great results is that Amanda started asking for additional reading time -- at night or after school, and that thrills me.

  • Talk to her about what she's reading (whether I read it with her or not).