Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Scary Rock and a Christmas Tree

Oh, we're nothing if not creative around here. As I had to explain to Dawn after she replied to my comment on her Halloween costume post over at DC Metro Moms, we are not crafty. Craftiness requires effort and precision. We're much heavier on the ideas and inspiration.

Last month Kyle decided that he was going to be a "scary spider with red eyes." We were in the drug store and I saw a great looking web (window ornament) with a "scary" spider with red eyes on it. I told him that we could put that on a sweatshirt, and he agreed. Then I saw a really scary looking spider that I said we could fasten to a stocking cap, and he said it was too scary.

I told him that I bought him gray sweats, and he decided that he was going to be a "scary rock" (with the spiders on it). So we went with that.

Amanda came home one day and said, "I know what I'm going to be for Halloween. A Christmas tree. I want to light up." So I ordered a big green men's hoodie; she already had brown leggings and Christmas socks. Finding battery powered lights (that didn't cost an arm and a leg to ship) this time of year was tough. I ended up using industrial strength (really) velcro tape to adhere battery-operated tea lights to her, in addition to glow stick bracelets.

Trimming the Tree

I loved this idea and the end result, and she got lots of oohs and aahs when we were out.

This year we returned to Main Street to Trick-or-Treat (see more awesome pictures from 2006). Because we live in a semi-rural area, it's hard to go door-to-door on our streets (no sidewalks, no streetlights, and long driveways), so hundreds of people flood Main Street, and the people there go all out. It's festive, convenient, and the kids always see some of their friends.

When they got home, they got involved with what I recall was my favorite part of the night -- sorting and swapping:

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Friday, October 30, 2009

What're Your Kids Watching?

My kids have always watched TV. Probably too much, but I know that they learned from it, even at that "before 2" age when the experts recommend little to no television viewing. It was at this well-before-two stage that Amanda and I were walking into Costco and she pointed up with a flash of recognition and said, "O." Thank you, Sesame Street. Of course we read books, and I'm sure that some of those were ABC books, but the amount of letter recognition she displayed over the next few weeks did not come from me.

The same happened with Kyle, who at four and a half was suddenly reading. How could that be? Yes, he was read to -- perhaps more than Amanda, since she also read to her little brother, but as far as "instruction," he got less than Amanda did when she was his age. After looking at the shows he was watching more closely, I decided that shows like Word World and Super Why definitely had a hand in this. Once again -- thank you PBS!

But let's be honest -- the real reason that they watch TV is that it keeps them entertained.

Nick Jr. recently moved Blue's Clues to 7:00am and 7:30am, so Kyle in the last few months, Kyle discovered it for the first time. It was always one of my favorite kids' shows, so this thrills me. There's a lot out there, and most of the preschool offerings don't bother me at all (I could probably do without uber-excited Dora, but I don't want to kill her or anything).

The show that I really cannot stand is Spongebob. When Amanda was a preschooler (and an only child), I strictly limited her TV fare to the excellent preschool programs on Playhouse Disney, Nick Jr. and PBS, and Spongebob did not fit into that line up. However, as a mature 10-year-old, she recently started watching it (at the advice of her friends), and guess what -- her five-year-old brother joined right in. I try to limit it, and I really hate listening to it.

She was not only limited to preschool fare when she was a preschooler, but really didn't get into the whole Disney tween shows until she was almost 10 (an actual tween!). At that time, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and Phineas and Ferb were introduced to our household. And truthfully -- I love them. I'll even pause and watch if I'm channel surfing when I'm home all alone.

Shortly thereafter, we became acquainted with Hannah Montana (who I also enjoy), and iCarly (very funny), The Wizards of Waverly Place, and True Jackson VP.

And because Kyle is always around, he also watches these shows. I am glad that I limited Amanda, and I still limit him when she's not around, but although these shows are above his maturity level, they are probably fine.

And along with the "How do you watch" question -- again, no TiVo here, so we just watch what is one when it's on. Kyle used to watch some Thomas DVDs, but he's mostly been a live TV watcher. Both of my kids preferred television shows to movies, and even when they did watch DVDs, it was of a TV show.

But I recently discovered that Netflix Instant Access has several seasons of iCarly, Hannah Montana, and the Suite Life, so Amanda's enjoyed that some. I DO like being able to encourage them to be discriminating -- to use their TV time to watch something that they really want to see, not just what's on at the moment -- and this has helped us do that to an extent.

Maybe I'll make some sort of TV chat a weekly Friday feature. I like the interaction that I got last week. So I ask you: What do your kids watch? What kids' shows drive you nuts? Which ones do you actually look forward to watching?

Edited Friday night to add a link to Beck's post (from October 2 because I'm a horrible blog-reader lately) on the same subject. She gives a play by play of each tween show, including if there are any good-looking men worth watching. Ha.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Therapy a la thirtysomething

I've watched the first two discs/the first 8 episodes of thirtysomething. Here's what I've learned or been reminded of:
  • Men are under stress -- trying to live up to their potential and bear up under the pressure of taking care of their families.
  • Women are under stress -- trying NOT to fret about not having it all and worrying about the pressure our husbands are under, and the kids and everything.
  • This stress affects our relationships -- with coworkers, spouses, and friends.
  • We probably worry too much and don't spend enough time enjoying the moment. I loved the realization that Hope came to in the Thanksgiving episode "We Gather Together" where she is seeing herself as in a dream and realizes, "I died of frustration?" I didn't write it down verbatim, but the idea was that she let herself get so frustrated with the little problems of her everyday life that she was forgetting to enjoy life along the way. And in true TV fashion, she had an epiphany and ending the show smiling and laughing. But the truth of it hit me squarely.
  • Friends and family are important -- frustrating, but worth it.
  • The late 80's were so stereotypical it's almost funny. I mean, of course that was what thirtysomething was supposed to be. When it ran, that wasn't supposed to be a theme or a lesson, but the walk down memory lane watching it more than 20 years later is definitely noteworthy.
So several of you asked when I first posted that I bought the DVDs if I'd recommend them for viewing, and how it held up, and if it meant more to me now than when I was not even a twenty-something.

I think that when I watched it in college, I was peeking into life -- possibly my future life, but even more than that I was able to get involved lives of people who didn't have the context of reality for me. It was pure fiction. But now -- as a (barely) thirty-something, it does have context. And for me that is one reason I like it -- and also why I see why some didn't like it when it was released.

For me, art does reflect life. When I watch TV or movies or read books, I enjoy using the lens of fictional characters to process my own life. Some want their entertainment to be truly escapist, and if that is you, you probably don't want to check out this series. If you want to think and relate (and laugh at the 80s), then take a look.

Doing a quick Google search, I came up with some great posts looking at the DVD release. Check them out if you can't get enough:

is doing an episode by episode recap of the new Season 1 DVDs, complete with clips and still shots. He introduces the posts this way: "When it came out, as far as I was concerned, it was a stupid-boring show for old people. Except that now I am one of those old people. And so, out of some misguided sense of curiosity, over the next few weeks, I will be recapping the first season of thirtysomething here...." It's pretty funny (and a little PG-13/R-rated in spots). I've linked to the category, but the recap of Housewarming, episode 2, is pretty hilarious poking fun at the 80's in general, which is the best part of the recaps (written by a non-thirtysomething parent who was a child in the 80s).

Susan Reimer at the Baltimore Sun actually was a thirtysomething back then, so she writes "Looking Back at thirtysomething" in the opposite perspective.

Michelle Slatalla of the New York Times looks back at 1987 as portrayed in thirtysomething with her 11-year-old and 18-year-old daughters and husband.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My Nightstand -- October

I thought that this month I would focus on just a few books that I am hoping to finish. I've been a bit of a restless reader lately, and have been using many of my reading hours to watch some TV shows on DVD, which is okay, but I would like to get back in the pages more consistently.

I'm reading Safely Home, which my friend lent to me when I told her that I was working with our church group with some international university students -- mostly from China. I'll see her Thanksgiving, and I need to be able to give it back to her.

Depending on how the next few chapters go, I may or may not finish Children of Dust: a Memoir of Pakistan. It has potential, but if it doesn't get better, I'll probably put it aside. I've gotten quite good at doing that -- using my reading time to read only books that really interest me.

I'm also currently reading a YA novel: The Other Side of Blue

In addition to finishing those, I hope to make consistent progress on reading The Mysterious Benedict Society with Amanda, but with over 400 pages to go, I don't anticipate finishing.

And now, although I said I really want to focus, I've realized that the act of putting this post together each month, gets me excited about the books on my shelf, which is a great revelation!

The other books I might read this month are:

A memoir: The Motion of the Ocean: 1 Small Boat, 2 Average Lovers, and a Woman's Search for the Meaning of Wife

A nonfiction book: Toxic Friends: The Antidote for Women Stuck in Complicated Friendships

Another memoir: Lit

A novel: The Girl Next Door by Elizabeth Noble, which I really want to read, but because it doesn't release until the end of December, I might hold off until I get through these others.

What about you? What are you reading? Let me know, or let the whole book-loving community over at 5 Minutes for Books know.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Catching Up

I thought I'd take a break out of my busy schedule You can safely read a little sarcasm into that statement) to tell you what we've been up to, and to post some links -- specifically to some contests or other posts of interest.

Are you curious about Where the Wild Things Are movie? Click over to read Bookie Woogie's very fun guest review. What a fun family!

There's a great guest post On Reading at 5 Minutes for Books where Ann Wright Rossouw shares her experience with her Bedtime Stories ritual. Oh yeah -- her kids are now 12 and 14, by the way. It's inspiring, and she gives some great suggestions of books for all ages.

Speaking of Reading Together, Amanda and I have started to read the Mysterious Benedict Society -- finally! She's been suggesting it, but at 512 pages, I just didn't think I could do it. It was Carrie's enthusiasm that finally did me in -- specifically her review of the brand-new third book in the series. We started Friday, and are only 60 pages in, but we'll just keep at it. I'm loving it, as she knew I would (and as I knew I would -- but it's just so long to tackle as a read-aloud). It's been a while since she read it, so she doesn't remember the details and it keeps her begging for "Just a few more pages".

My birth-week celebrations continue, but Amanda did make a cake. She told me that if I posted a picture on my blog, I was to tell everyone that she wanted to "do more," but I wouldn't let her. I did buy her some decorating frosting, and I even let her add pudding and chocolate chips to the mix, and it tasted quite good. Her definition of "do more" would have probably required other things on the cake.

In addition to baking the cake, she used her oil pastel crayons to make a portrait of me, along with one of her now-trademarked cards. The message inside was sweet. It said something along the lines of "Thanks for all the nice things you've done for me so far." I guess she expects them to continue, and I guess that's a good thing for a mom to hear, right? I don't know how good the likeness is, but I think she's fairly talented with drawing!

This weekend, we carved pumpkins. Amanda didn't mind de-gutting them at all, but Kyle wouldn't stick his hand in. He helped a bit, and did help me design this pumpkin. He specifically wanted it to have "scary teeth on the sides." Just so you know, this pumpkin is "So scary that all the birds will be scared."

Amanda designed her own pumpkin (and signed the back). It's a good thing that it's not so threatening, because it wouldn't be able to smell a predator.

A few more posts I'd like to point out, so that you can enter:

  • We are giving away a whole series of delightful picture books. Read the review and enter, and then click through to the other 2 listed on the Cods of Cape Cod review.
  • Dawn has a great giveaway review up for Day is Done book and CD, which sounds delightful.
  • We always have at least 2 giveaways posted at 5 Minutes for Books. All you have to do is check out the giveaway tab. If you click through there, you'll find two non-fiction picture book reviews/giveaways.

Friday, October 23, 2009

What're You Watchin'? And How Do You Watch It?

So yes I have been watching thirtysomething, but I haven't really binged on it, as I predicted. I've watched about 7 episodes in two weeks, which took less than five hours. And as promised, I have a post in the work about my thoughts on the show.

But I have been binging.

In that post, someone mentioned Brothers & Sisters as Ken Olin's new show, and she said that it was similar to thirtysomething. I had already started watching Brothers & Sisters -- but because of Rob Lowe, not Ken Olin (when he left the West Wing cast in our re-watch of the whole series, I had to find him somewhere!).

I love this show. I know that some of you might not like it, because it pushes the envelope a bit -- most specifically in featuring a same-sex couple as main characters (who I have to say has the strongest and healthiest relationship on the show). I like it because it's clever, and emotional, and real. It's not really sensational as some other soap-operatic type dramas can get, yet issues are brought up that allow us to experience them through our own lens -- learning and growing along with the characters, whether we agree with their choices or not. And did I mention it's clever? I just love that mix of drama and comedy.

So, I've binged -- finishing up season 3 on DVD -- 2 discs and 8 shows in the last week (Terry was out of town for two nights, which aided the binge).

And now I'm going to turn to the ABC Brothers & Sisters webpage to catch up on season 4 (and to be honest, I think that I'm going to order Season 1 so that I can revisit it).

In addition to lots of reading and watching TV on the computer and online, the one show that I catch live each week is Top Chef: Las Vegas.

So -- what are you watching? And how do you watch it?

I love TV on DVD, either buying the sets (as I have with the West Wing and How I Met Your Mother -- each linked to my posts on those shows), or using Netflix, or watching online.

I just discovered that seasons 1 and 2 of Lost are on Netflix instant access online, so I'm thinking that I might dive in. Should I?

I have also added TNT's Raising the Bar season 1 to my queue, because after TNT sent me an episode to preview and blog about, I got hooked and also caught up to those shows online (and watched live when I could, but 10pm is too late for me to focus on TV).

So that's enough about my TV habits, but I really am curious about what you watch and how you watch it. I'm sure that most of you are going to say that you record it on your DVR, and I have to admit that I don't even have one, but Netflix or watching on the network's site online have worked for me.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Happy Birth-week to Me

Ah, there's nothing better for the old comment-o-meter than a birthday, is there? So I thought I'd put it out there.

Today is mine, but as the title suggests, I'm angling for a whole week. Terry and I went out to celebrate on Sunday night with a real date -- babysitter, dinner, movie -- the whole works. Terry is out of town until late tonight, but my sweet tween is making sure that my day is special. She asked the questions which are always her not-so-subtle indicator of a breakfast surprise, "Mom, what time to you usually get up? Is it okay if I get up early? What do you like for breakfast?" I told her that I would set the coffeemaker, and I'd stay in bed. She could bring me some coffee before she took her shower.

It was a treat to stay in bed, vegging out. I drank coffee and a refill, and put in an order for some toast. I don't know if it's because it was slathered with butter, or because I didn't have to lift a finger, but that was some good toast.

I continued to loaf while Amanda got herself ready for school, and got Kyle's breakfast once he woke up.

Dinner is taken care of, because our favorite local pizza place sent me a coupon for a free birthday pizza.

Amanda left me with a list: cake mix, frosting, chocolate chips. So I went to the store, and picked them up, also getting some decorating frosting that was on the clearance shelf.

Last year, this was her creative masterpiece, so I'll just have to wait and see what she comes up with this year, but dessert is taken care of as well.

So that still only makes for four days of celebrating, not a whole week. But wait -- there's more! Tuesday night Terry is going to be out of town as well, and my girlfriends are coming over to celebrate with me. They are making dinner for me, and we'll probably watch a movie. Regardless, I'm quite sure that the food will be good and the friendship will be even better.

My dad left me a message while I was out at the store today warning me that I was getting too old. My birthday next year is a landmark one, and he claims that he is too young to have a daughter who is that old. So, we'll hang on to thirty-nine for the next 365 days, and maybe squeeze in a bit more celebrating along the way.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Daddy Long Legs and Toys Go Out

Amanda (age 11) and I are on a pretty good roll of Reading Together. We started off early last month with the Mother-Daughter Bookclub. Then we jumped right into Daddy Long Legs. Two books in two months is pretty consistent for us. But in full transparency, we finished Daddy Long Legs over a week ago and haven't even thought about another book, and I think that's okay too.

We both loved Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster. It is a book of letters (fictional) written in 1912 by an orphan to the benefactor of her children's home who sent her to college. She is a lovable heroine, amusing and full of life -- very Anne of Green Gables.

One reason that we read that book so quickly is the format. Knowing that the chapters were letters enabled me to read "just one more," without committing to a 10 page chapter. And because we were both enjoying it so much, and it was so easy to read aloud since it was just this lovely exuberant young woman's voice, we had no problems.

I would recommend it for middle school kids on up (through high school really, since it's about her going off to college and becoming herself, as we all do once we strike off on our own). I'd also recommend that you try it as a read-aloud.

I asked Amanda what she liked it about it, and she said, "It wasn't that exciting*, but it was still SO good. I liked that it was letters. That was an interesting way to tell a story. The character was funny, and I liked her."

*Amanda's always big on "exciting" books -- action, adventure, suspense -- but I love it when she appreciates good character driven fiction like her mom does.

I also tackled a big read-aloud with Kyle (age 5). We read Toys Go Out, which Amanda's elementary school had read as an entire school a few years ago. It's a great story about friendship and like Daddy Long Legs it's about figuring out who you are. The stuffed animals in the "Little Girl's" room tell the story. They are humorous, and it's a fun read-aloud as well. I enjoyed the challenge of reading a longer book with Kyle. This book would be a terriffic read-aloud for a family that includes a wide-range of ages (like mine does!).

Find out what books other kids around the blogosphere have enjoyed (and link up your own) at 5 Minutes for Books' Kids' Picks carnival the 3rd Tuesday of each month.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

What Happened to the Middle Class?

I was listening to On Point on NPR* one day last week. Bruce Judson, the author of It Could Happen Here: America on the Brink, was a featured guest. Apparently he's saying that because the middle class feels like they've lost the opportunity to achieve the "American dream," we are at risk for a revolution. I only heard the last half of the show, but others were disagreeing with him, while one caller pointed out that America was becoming like Mexico or Russia -- poor or rich with no middle class.

This is sort of one of my hot-button issues. I know exactly why working class U.S. citizens are not able to achieve the dream. It's because no one considers themselves middle class. Or rather -- no one lives as they are working class/middle class. $100 cable/dish TV, $75 a month cell phone plans, a new car every two or three years, lunch out every day at work and dinner out on the weekends. If someone else (who might make $20,000 a year more than they do) can afford a new car, then it's "not fair" for them not to be able to have one too. And cable? And cell phones with all the bells and whistles? Those are necessities, not something that one could cut out of a tight budget. . . .

In our grandparents' day, those who were striving for the dream -- buying a house, or a bigger house, or a nicer house -- did without luxuries. Today there are no luxuries.

I am fortunate that because of Terry's chosen profession, we have made a good living the last several years. But in the first few years we were married, we made less than most other dual-earning college graduates, and we still lived within it.

The truth is to get ahead, there are sacrifices that one has to make. Sometimes one has gotta give up some of the high life right now to secure that future that they are dreaming about. We can't have it all.

You may disagree with me, but that's what I love about talk radio. It gets me thinking -- sometimes, like in this case, about something that I never even had thought to ponder -- a revolution of the middle class.

EDITED: There's quite a discussion going on in the comments, and I'm trying to respond there. Please read that part of the story as well, and chime in with your own thoughts.

*My dear bloggy friend Dawn just started a new weekly Wednesday feature where she will share or respond to some of the interesting stories on NPR. I've linked to her first one right there. She just finished out a Wednesday series where she analyzed each one of the Bare-Naked Ladies' albums. Even if you aren't the biggest BNL fan of all time (that goes to Dawn), you should check out her Snack Time post, where she profiles their children's CD.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's Fall Y'all!

Well it's probably not yet Fall to my Southern brethren to whom the "Y'all" cries out, but here in New England, it is indeed Fall.

The first sign was the fact that we turned on our heater. I think it was on about September 27. It had been cold at night for a while, and I asked Terry if he wanted me to bring the space heater into our room from the living room, where we had been using it for at least the last week. He said, "Why don't you just turn on the heater?" I replied, "But it's not even October!"

You see here in New England turning on the heater and turning on the air conditioning is quite a big deal. A few mornings where the temperature hovers at 60 degrees (inside the house!) is not just cause. No ma'am. You must wait until you are sure that it's good and cold to stay. So, against my new New England sensibilities, I turned it on, and found out that others chose this day to fire up the oil tank as well. You might think that there's something other than adjusting the thermostat temp involved in "turning it on." There isn't, but I think it's a sign of heartiness or something. The same goes for the air conditioning. Again, I was quite in sync with the "real" New Englanders when a muggy streak in late July warranted turning the air conditioning on.

The second sure sign of Fall hit me square in the nose yesterday when I opened the front door to take Kyle to the bus stop. It smelled crisp, but also a bit musty. The colorful leaves have begun to fall and we've had some wet weather, which produces that distinctive smell.

So I suppose the first sign really should have been the turning of the leaves, but they started turning back in September due to the cold nights, when it really wasn't quite fall, in spite of the fact that the calendar said it was.

But tonight I sealed the deal. For dinner we had a hearty bean stew and some delicious cornbread.

I've made this soup several times before, and I've even posted the recipe right here, but this time it tasted so much better. For one thing, I used half and half instead of heavy cream (which might be the right answer), and for the first time ever, I actually used the blender on 1/3 of the soup, as directed. It was delicious. Just as in the posted version, I cooked it on the stovetop, not in my slow cooker.

And the cornbread -- it was really really great. It's the Jalapeno Cornbread from my Texas Home Cooking cookbook. The regular cornbread (1/2 flour, 1/2 cornmeal) is jazzed up with the addition of jalapenos (I actually used green chilis), buttermilk, frozen corn kernels, cheese, and melted butter.

What says Fall to you?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Yesterday I walked down the memory lane of my childhood via a popular song from my middle-school years. Today it's a book.

This is a nice cover of From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, but it's not THE cover, if you know what I mean.** The paperback that I grabbed off Amanda's shelf for the Children's Classics "Re-read a childhood favorite" challenge came from a library book sale if I recall, and it has a black cover and a 1995 copywright. I can't remember from which version I read growing up, but I do know that this is a book that I read over and over.

There are memories from this plot that are imprinted in my mind: the clothes in the music cases, bathing in the fountain, and getting meals from the automat (what exactly was an automat?), the teamwork of former sibling rivals Claudia and Jamie.

I loved the semi-realistic adventure tale that this novel allowed me to enter. It seems realistic enough, but it was still thrilling in the illicit nature of it all.

I had already decided on our occasional weekend trips to the donut store that if I ran away, I would live on donuts. I think that a donut cost about 30 cents, and two donuts were quite filling. It wouldn't take much to feed me at only 60 cents a meal.

So this month I re-visited this book from my childhood. It held up nicely. It was still a fun adventure twenty-(ahem) years later. And what's more, being a Connecticut citizen now as Jamie and Claudia are, I had a new layer to appreciate as they discussed riding the Metro North commuter train. I still don't really know what an automat is, but that could be because I was not 11-years-old in 1967 in NYC as Claudia is.

I think that I understood the files a bit more, and the fact that the whole thing is a report to "Saxonberg," which I could have missed before. I also enjoyed the grammatical banter that Jamie and Claudia shared, which I may not have appreciated in my youth (although by high school, I was quite the queen of diagramming sentences. Forget Geometry proofs -- I've tried to forget Geometry proofs -- but dissecting and assigning the parts of speech to those little lines, now that was fun).

At any rate, it's a great book that not only held up with me, but is one that Amanda has already read several times herself.

**I hope that you will click over to the Children's Classics post and take a walk down memory lane as you click through some of the links to read people's reviews of their own childhood favorites. But I've also included a review over there of Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading. It features this very book as well as so many others, and it too has been a lot of fun to read. There are also pictures of the original covers of these much-loved books.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Time Marches On

"Have you seen the 18-year-olds today? I look at them and think, 'How can you be 18 when I'm still 18?'"

--a loose translation of one of Hope's lines in one of the first two episodes of thirtysomething

I don't listen to the radio much. To clarify, I don't listen to my own music on the radio much. I either listen to talk radio or CDs (be they CDs for children or adults). On Saturday Amanda and I were driving home from New York City after a fun outing to see Finian's Rainbow (review and giveaway to come on 5 Minutes for Mom later this month). We had exhausted our Taylor Swift, Hannah Montana, and Wicked CDs. She was reading, so I started surfing the dial.

I caught the beginning of a song, and began singing along:

Everybody needs a little time away,
I heard her say,
From each other

As I sang every single word of "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" by Chicago, I had flashbacks to my youth. I remembered a guy who I had a crush on. I don't remember his name, or even how I knew him, but I remember dark eyes with a heavy fringe of eyelashes. I think that my friend Barb and I both liked him, and I think that he was a year older than we were. I remember running into him at the Gerland's Supermarket (to which Barb and I rode our bikes, Free-Range Kids that we were).

And it hit me that these were 6th grade memories**. How could I be remembering every single word to a song, along with the memories that it evoked, from my 6th grade year while sitting next to my very own daughter, who is now in 6th grade herself?

And after all that's been said and done
You're just a part of me I can't let go

I've forgotten more than I can remember, but I do hope that the memories of the girl that I was will come back when needed. I hope that they will help me as I walk this journey with Amanda: to caution, to empathize, to relate.

- - - - - - -

**A little investigation confirmed that I was indeed eleven years old when the song came out.

Have you read Twilight? Has your daughter?

Last year when Amanda was in fifth grade --fifth grade-- she insisted that all of her friends were reading the Twilight novels, and she wanted to read them. When I'm in doubt about whether or not a certain book's content is appropriate for her, I often just read it myself so that I can decide. I have not read the Twilight Series, but I have talked to people who have.

I've heard that the content is not explicit. It's "clean" from our point of view, which I suppose means no sex and no cursing, which is not the norm for YA literature today. However, it's the pinnacle of yearning and burning (as I described in my post Letting Go over at 5 Minutes for Books a couple of months ago). Even if the content is "clean," as a 10-year-old, she just wasn't ready to digest that material.

But then I mused to a friend, "When she's fifteen, do I really want her thinking about that stuff when she does have a boyfriend?" My friend wisely countered, "But when she's fifteen, she's going to be thinking about it, whether she's reading about it or not."

Yes indeed.

I have just discovered a fantastic new resource dealing specifically with this hugely popular series for both teens and adults (and apparently every tween at my daughter's school, except her). Whether or not you've read the book, if you have a teen daughter, the topic has likely come up, or if she's entering intermediate or middle school, it will come up.

Because of this new resource I've found, I'm almost looking forward to her reading this book in a few years -- to us reading it together -- and discussing it.

Please visit my column at 5 Minutes for Mom to read my full review of Touched by a Vampire: Discovering the Hidden Messages in the Twilight Saga, and enter to win your own copy of this book that you can use as a springboard to converse with your teen or even your other Twilight-obsessed grown-up friends.

Friday, October 09, 2009

I Feel a Binge Coming On

No, I'm not going to buy out the shoe store or anything. In spite of the topic of my earlier post, I do not struggle with a shoe addiction problem.

There are no brownies in the house, so I think I'm protected from that particular vice as well.

Chips and dip? Nope, we're in the clear there as well.

The particular vice to which I'm referring (or confessing? or seeking permission in advance?) is TV. TV on DVD to be specific.

When I was in college, I loved thirtysomething. Hope, Michael, Elliot and Nancy -- they were on my mind and in my heart. I was so entrenched in the show that the actors became those who I will watch on something else -- because they are those beloved characters in my mind, and I have to follow them. Terry and I have been watching the West Wing all the way through (we are almost finished with Season 5), and in spite of the fact that I probably know Timothy Busfield better as Danny Concannon than his thirtysomething character, he will always be Elliot to me.

Now the question of WHY my not-even-twentysomething self got lost in this show is not one that I'm going to dwell on. I think that I revisited the whole crew at some point when the shows were rebroadcast on a cable network, but -- finally finally -- thirtysomething is out on DVD. It actually released in August, but I missed it.

So the now barely-thirtysomething me will once again get caught up in the disfunction of someone else's life. It's better than dwelling on my own, right?

Whether I binge in 4 hour chunks when the mailman brings me that red Netflix envelope of the current show that I am watching, or I have the whole season at my fingertips, it's a guilty pleasure that I love. I have no Tivo, I don't keep up with many new series in real-time, but I love my TV on DVD.

I'm not sure how this particular show will turn out for me. Will I love it more because I can relate? Will I find them to be "whiny," which is the criticism that those who are in the "hate it" camp always gave? Only time will tell.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Where are your shoes?

On your feet? Off of them? Do you duff around in slippers when you're at home? Or parade around barefooted or in socks?

Right now I'm wearing my fun sporty pinkish peachy canvas sneakers. They are comfortable, and with the cooler temperatures, my toes get chilly if I don't have shoes on, or at least socks and my warm slippers.

In the summer, I generally wear flip-flops, even around the house. This may be TMI, but my floors are not clean enough to walk around barefoot. There's always a little grit there, and shoes or socks keeps me joyously oblivious.

However, the problem with flip flops, is that each time I sit down, I slip them off. So I often go through several pairs of sandals a day when I realize I've left a pair under my computer desk, under the table, and beside the chair.

My kids remove their shoes upon entering the house. Not in a "Take off your shoes to keep the house clean, and put them in a nice row by the front door" sort of way, but in a "My toes need some air!" kind of way. They also end up going through several pairs of shoes a day, when the ones that they removed are in the basement, but they are in the bedroom trying to find shoes.

So, what about you? What are your shoe issues?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Moisturizing Body Wash?

I've been wanting to jump back in and participate in Jo-Lynne's Tuesday carnival What I Learned This Week, and I have the perfect topic today.

I like to use body wash, partly to moisturize my skin, but also because of the scent, since life as a stay-at-home mom certainly doesn't call for the use of perfume!

When I was asked by the people over at Dove if I'd like to try out their new body washes that contain a new form of moisture, I was more than willing.

Did you know that other body washes dry out your skin? They might make the outside of your skin feel soft, but the ingredients are harsh, and actually serve to dry it out. From their website:

The “Dirty Little Secret” of Body Washes: All regular body washes cause dry skin damage. Until now, all regular body washes caused dry skin damage. Current body washes actually damage proteins and lipids in the skin’s outer layer (called the stratum corneum) during the cleansing process, which can lead to the loss of critical moisture. When skin lacks proper moisture, dryness, tightness and irritation/redness can all occur. Some existing body wash technologies are focused on minimizing protein damage and alleviating visual symptoms of moisture loss by adding heavy moisturizing ingredients (occlusives) that sit on top of skin. While these additives help mask dry skin damage, they do not address the deeper problem of lipid damage.

With its fifty-year heritage in cleansing and caring for skin, Dove discovered how to restore skin’s natural moisture while cleansing with body wash. A breakthrough in the body wash category, only the new Dove Body Wash collection contains NutriumMoisture™ technology that cares for surface skin ten layers deep. Unlike other body washes, this first-of-its-kind body wash technology takes a dual approach to healthy, nourished skin by preserving both proteins and lipids during cleansing.

The scent isn't the perfumy smell of the fraganced body washes. It's more like that traditional Dove scent, which always makes me feel clean and fresh.

But on the moisturizing angle, I have to say that I agree with Dove's claims. I love using it to shave my legs, and the moisture in my skin is evident as the water beads off from the protecting layer!

So if you are looking for something to guard against that winter-dry skin, give the new line of Dove's Nutrium body washes a try.

Check out their claims for yourself.


Today is our Rooftops of Tehran bookclub over at 5 Minutes for Books. I enjoyed this book so much. If you've read it, I invite you to jump over and participate, but if you haven't, look at my review and the thoughts of others, and perhaps it will convince you to give it a try.

The Rooftops of Tehran

I enjoyed this book a lot. I hope that some of you will decide to pick it up. We are having our 5 Minutes for Books Bookclub today (and my full review is posted over there), but I wanted to answer some of the discussion questions here:

  1. The story is told with some mysterious flashbacks. What affect did this have on you? Did it pique your curiosity? Confuse you? Intrigue you?

    It did intrigue me. I think that these flashbacks pulled me along through the story, making me wonder exactly what had happened, and why, and to whom.

  2. A heavy theme of the novel is friendship. What friendships make an impact on you? Do they seem similar to our own contemporary American relationships, or different?

  3. Obviously the circumstances were different -- being set within a totalitarian regime, but I was struck by the natural and normal feeling of the friendship of these young adolescents.

  4. I felt like this was generally an uplifting story, though set amidst some trying circumstances. Did you agree? If so, how did the author achieve this?

  5. Hmmm--I'm hoping that another bookclub participant can analyze Mahbod Seraji's skill as an author in this area. I think that the humor of the two boys helped lighten the tone a lot, but other than that I'm not sure how it was accomplished.

  6. Did reading this book give you a greater understanding of Iranian culture or politics? Did you read (or have you read) any of the suggested works that are listed in the back of the book? How do they compare and contrast with this portrayal of Iran? What does the fact that the author included a list of suggested readings, and the other personal information that he includes after the novel ends say about his purpose in writing it?

  7. Yes! I did read and watch The House of Sand and Fog (linked to my review) at his recommendation. I'm not sure that it enlightened me any more to the Iranian culture, but it was a reminder that life for immigrants is tough, and a big sacrifice is made for them to come here. They sacrifice their success and reputation in their home country to come here, where they are often belittled and can only get jobs that are menial in wages and responsibility. I love the author's personal revelations after the novel. He loves his country and wants us to understand and appreciate the people of the country aside from the politics.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Check it Out!

In lieu of a real post, how about some links?

But first, how about some excuses about my scarcity . . . company (delightfully cute, fun company), a tween girl who is getting busier by the day, and you know -- housework, cooking, reading to the children, watching TV . . . .

The whole Cybils process starts today! I wrote about it a bit over at 5 Minutes for Books.

My friend Lee muses about gardening and child-rearing (and includes some really cute pics of Kyle!).

I reviewed Traveling for Pomegrantes on 5 Minutes for Mom. It's an interesting mother-daughter/travel/aging memoir by Sue Monk Kidd. There are 2 copies up for grabs -- internationally, so pop over to enter the giveaway and read the review before Sunday evening.

I also reviewed another set of books with a giveaway: Snuggle Me Story Books. Look at my niece enjoying them. You can enter through October 13.

And to be fair, here's the sweet baby's big sister and my own big girl as well:

I think I've been remiss about posting links to my other reviews in the last month or so. Shame on me, because I've read some books I really enjoyed.

Three excellent novels:

The Promised World -- character driven suspense
Crossing Washington Square -- chick-ish lit, but with a smart debate about women's fiction as a subplot
Only You -- I rated this 5 Stars, and can't say much more about it. Click over and read the review.


13 is the New 18 -- a funny mom memoir, highly recommended to moms of tweens
You'd be So Pretty If -- I've had this on my nightstand lists for a while, and finally read it. Also highly recommended to moms of daughters.

Books on Screen:

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

House of Sand and Fog