Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My Nightstand -- April

Well, since I'm not a tidy housekeeper, there are still a few books on my nightstand that I recently finished. Last month I announced that I was going to do a nonfiction only month in April, and I've been doing it! Most of my reviews haven't posted yet (or, um, been written yet), but you can look for them in the coming week. After having it "on my nightstand" for many months, I DID finally read Toxic Friends! I read all of these books last month, reviews to come:

These books I finished and DID review (linked to my reviews):

These are books I am carrying over, two of which I've already started:

And for May:
Oh my. These little monthly planning sessions leave me wishing I could just take a reader's retreat somewhere and read for a few days. Fortunately, Spring is here (sort of -- it's cold and rainy today), and I do love sitting on my back deck reading while the kids are outside, and several of these books will be a quick read, so I'm sure that I'll be able to finish them.

See more of What's on Your Nightstand at 5 Minutes for Books, and join in sometime!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

My kids are awesome, but their mother . . . ?

I was jarred from sleep by the little hand on my arm, having completely missed the opening of my door or the stealthy footsteps coming down the hall.

"Mom?" Kyle asked. "I can't find Frostiness."

Frostiness is one of the many stuffed animals that joins Kyle in bed these days. He's a polar bear teeny beanie baby that was a McDonald's Happy Meal toy a while ago. Palm-sized. Not something that I was going to wake myself up to find in the furrows of his covers or under his bed. I remember saying something like "I can't find him tonight. Go back to bed." I didn't even open my eyes.

And he left my room and went back to bed!

Children who go right to sleep when you put them in bed like mine always have? That's awesome. Kids who nap regularly into their 5th year? I can also claim that awesome blessing. A sweet little boy, almost six years old, who pads back to his room alone and goes to sleep unaided in the middle of the night -- without his mom or Frostiness? Beyond awesome.

But this morning I had doubts. He woke up bright and bushy-tailed as usual. "Did you find Frostiness?" I asked him.

"No -- You said you'd help me this morning. Remember? Last night?" he clarified.

His complete lack of judgment both warmed me and pierced me. Reinforced my middle-of-the-night decision while also making me feel a bit guilty. Was I mean? Selfish? Inadequate? Unequal to the task of 24/7 motherhood?

I don't think so. But it doesn't hurt to ask. Motherhood never has been and never will be a black and white endeavor. There are many shades of gray. We'll go crazy if we second-guess and overanalyze every decision.

Being secure with that, finally (almost 12 years into my parenting journey) -- well, I guess that's pretty darn awesome as well.


This post was heavily inspired by two books I'm reading now. The Book of Awesome: Snow Days, Bakery Air, Finding Money in Your Pocket, and Other Simple, Brilliant Things are short essays about simple things that are simply awesome. When Did I Get Like This?: The Screamer, the Worrier, the Dinosaur-Chicken-Nugget-Buyer, and Other Mothers I Swore I'd Never Be walks that fine line of mother-guilt and necessity. This scene reminded me so much of each of these themes.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Terrific Tuesday Television

First off -- American Idol top 7. I didn't feel like it was a great night for anyone, really. Of course Crystal did well, as expected, and I did like Big Mike's performance, and I've been a fan of Lee since the beginning, but I could take or leave any of the others. I think that this might have been Casey's last performance. The judges have been hard on him, and that was not a good night. And I am ready to see Aaron and Siobhan go, though I know others don't agree. I don't know where Tim stands, though I'm glad he's gotten some praise the last couple of weeks, and I wouldn't be surprised if we see his cute dimples again in the future (off-Idol).

Now it's not just American Idol that is making Tuesday "must see TV" night here in my house, but GLEE as well.

After watching the mid-season finale last month one time, I didn't get it. But I still wanted to. Sarcastic, ironic, stereotypical high school drama, set to Broadway-style singing and dancing numbers? C'mon, what's not to love? So I did it. I Netflixed the first half of the season, going to the beginning and I caught the fire. I finished up those first 11 episodes before this second half started last week. In addition I bought the Volume 1 soundtrack to sing along to.

It's official: I'm a Gleek.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What My Kids are Reading

We finished! We finished!! Amanda (age 11) and I have read the entire Mysterious Benedict Society series aloud -- over 1200 pages. We started a while back, but we did manage to read all 378 pages of this third book just under a month, which was our goal. I will never again shy away from reading a book aloud with her, just because it's long. Also, I can add my own recommendation to the long list of others who have enjoyed this book. So smart, clever, and lovely -- just lovely!

Anyway, that book is definitely on her list of the best books for the month (and mine), but there are others she can recommend as well. She read a couple of books by Neil Shusterman: Unwind and The Schwa was Here (great name, huh?)

As for Kyle, we've been enjoying a few books in the Looking Closely series. We had read a couple of them, and he loves them, and so I was thrilled to find out that a new one was out: Looking Closely around the Pond (review to come on 5 Minutes for Books). I just recommended this series to our town librarian, because they didn't have any in their collection. They are a great combination of highly readable books that contact a lot of information, for little minds who want to know.

We have also both thoroughly enjoyed the poetry book The Tighty Whitey Spider by Kenn Nesbitt. The link is to my full review which posted last week at 5 Minutes for Books.

You can find out what other kids are enjoying this month at the 5 Minutes for Books Kids' Picks carnival.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Crazy for Silly Bandz

Has the Silly Bandz craze hit your kids yet? Do you even know what it is? I wrote an article at Newtown Patch explaining it, and I'd love for you to check it out.

Like everything my dear sweet enthusiastic tween daughter does, she has jumped into this with gusto. For some people having 4 or 5 -- or 8 -- is enough, but not Amanda. She's collected a lot of them, and wants more! As I said in the article, they trade them, and so as a reasonable mom, I don't understand why however many she has is not enough. If she wants one that she doesn't have, she can trade one of the many she does have for this new one, right? She doesn't really need more. But that's just me. I'm pragmatic. Even when I was her age, I didn't really jump into all the fads with both feet. Do remember Gummy Bears? They were a rare exotic import in my junior high years. People would lick them and stick them to their polo shirts as an emblem. That's weird. Because I didn't really care too much, I can't even remember other fads. Can you? What fads swept your elementary and middle schools when you were growing up?

Anyway--back to the Silly Bandz. Because she wants more, as a mom, I am on the hunt for them. They sell out quickly, but I discovered a secret: amazon.com sells Silly Bandz. They cost just about the same, and most of the companies offer free shipping. So, not only can I get them, but I was able to get her a very in-demand pack of the Rock Bandz.

If it hasn't come your way -- to your elementary school aged kid, or middle schooler, it will, and you can say you heard it here first. But I really am curious -- are your kids or their friends wearing and trading Silly Bandz?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Practical Sciences

After seeing some patio furniture that I coveted at Costco (actually had been coveting them -- or ones like it -- last year as well. That could be a whole blog in itself "Coveting at Costco"), and experiencing a few days of gorgeous weather where I was able to enjoy my very favorite pasttime of sun-soaking deck reading, I decided to go back and buy it before it was gone.

It was a beautiful Friday afternoon, and there was a beautiful weekend forecasted, so there wasn't a moment to lose. The kids were off school, so I was able to take them with me. I was thankful to have a 5-foot-tall youngster to help me out, and we used every bit of knowledge we had about physics, geometry, and spacial dynamics to get all of that (above) into the car (below).

I thought that we were not going to get the last chair in. But we took Amanda's seat on the passenger side and she rode home in a less than safe way.

It was an adventure, and it was actually accomplished without any yelling or tears. We are women, hear us roar!!

And the end result? SO worth it!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

American Idol -- Top 9

I liked live-blogging the elimination last week, so I will do so again.

9:02pm Ryan says that there are some surprises, which goes along with what I was thinking.

I'm pretty sure that Siobhan and perhaps Aaron are in the bottom. I think that they both had weak performances for the second week in a row.

9:05pm I like their group number. Really nice. Can you go wrong with Lennon/McCartney?

I loved the performances last night. I think Katie did great with "Let it Be" and hopefully crawled out of the bottom 3. Andrew did well with "Can't Buy Me Love." I actually think that he always does well, but I will not be surprised when he ends up in the bottom 3 (including tonight). Teflon Tim is also always at risk in my mind. I think that Casey and Lee were consistent as usual, and of course Crystal. She did an awesome job with "Come Together" (which I predicted she might sing). Mike always does well, and I would be surprised to see him in the bottom three.

I am not at all certain with my bottom 3. I think it will be three out of these four: Siobhan, Aaron, Andrew, Tim.

9:13pm Ryan's talking to them. Let's see who he says. Oooh Siobhan. I think he's sending her back there first thing. Let's see. . . . I'm not really sure what he's doing here. I'm guessing that he's going to tell them that they are all three safe: Siobhan, Katie, and Crystal. Let's see. Crystal looks super-nervous!

9:16pm Crystal is safe. No need for nerves, girl. And Siobhan and Katie are safe too. Yea Katie!!

So, my prediction is going with Aaron, Andrew, and Tim in the bottom three, with maybe Andrew going home? I think that Aaron or Tim deserves to go home more than Andrew, but I feel like they have a fan base that is probably fighting for them to stay in.

9:24pm These "stars" that come on and perform make me feel very old and out of touch. I liked that guy's performance, but I can't even tell you his name (even though they've said it three times), but from his clothes to his moves, isn't he a Michael Jackson wannabe? I'm sure he'd call it a tribute, but. . . .

9:31pm "Imagine" is a great song, but last night Terry and I were pretty sure that no one would sing it, for the same reason that I'm not liking David Archuleta's performance. It's sort of boring. I just Googled his name to get the right spelling, and of course good old Wikipedia came up to tell me that he was born in 1990 -- December 28th, almost 1991 really. I wasn't married yet by that time, but I was halfway through college. I could be his mom.

9:38pm Interesting. If Aaron joins Michael, they are both out, and that would be a surprise. I don't think that Lee or Casey would be in the bottom three. Now where will Tim go??? Lee and Casey. I'm thinking that he thinks that's pretty good for him. I agree. I'm thinking they are all safe. Drama. He's asking the judges. I think it's pretty obvious. The question is, would the judges save Big Mike if he was voted off??

9:42pm Aaron is safe, and honestly, I'm surprised. I would have guessed he'd be going home. Now I'm not sure. It could be anyone, but I'm guessing it's Andrew.

9:56pm So will they save Michael? They like him, and I think he's more commercial than anyone else who could leave (like Siobhan who they also like). So if there really is a use for the save, I would think it's him. But I think that they'll end up going with the crowd and letting him go. The crowd is with him.

9:58pm They are deliberating. Ryan is stalling.

9:59pm They did it!! They saved him!! Good drama.

So, here's the question? Do two go next week?? And yes, Ryan clears that up for me. Two next week.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Fireworks over Toccoa Bookclub Chat

Some books lend themselves to discussion -- moral dilemmas, surprises, ways you relate with the characters, or ways that you don't. Fireworks over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff is one of those. I'm linking up to the discussion page at 5 Minutes for Books. If you've read it, feel free to join in, in the comments or by linking up a post.

SPOILER alert -- If you have not read Fireworks over Toccoa, I would suggest that you NOT read this post. You can read my review, and check out others' reviews, but don't read the discussion. This is the kind of book that lends itself to discussing issues, but there ARE spoilers.


I have to say that one of my first thoughts when reading this book is that I think it's a cheap and easy way out to use the dramatic tension of temptation/adultry. It just seems overdone. And as a married woman who knows and acknowledges that marriage is not easy, is not all a bowl of cherries, is open to temptations and doubts and regrets -- I generally try to avoid any novels/movies/TV shows that glorify that choice.

That said, while this is an element of this story, there's a unique twist on it. Lily is a young woman when she marries a man she barely knows. After only a few weeks, he leaves for the war for three years. Does this explain or excuse her betrayal? Absolutely not. However, I couldn't help but see this story as a sort of coming-of-age story. She was very young when she got married. She was still young when the action takes place. The experience changes her. We see that in "old Lily's" memories and reactions to her granddaughter's impending marriage. She doesn't want her to make that same "safe" mistake that Lily herself made.

That part of the story was very subtle, but came through and made me think. I think that Lily did the right thing in guiding her granddaughter, through sharing some of her own experiences.

I think that another thing that made the adultry plot line more palatable to me is that Lily does end up making the right choice. She chooses duty over love. She can't undo her other choices -- the choices she made that led her into temptation. But she can make right choices going forward.

I also have to wonder looking back why she doesn't realize that perhaps her "love" of Jake was just infactuation? Mature deep love takes more than four days. Yes, you can connect with someone, and that can develop into love, but I think had she left her husband for Jake, she might have been in the same situation. And I also think that if Paul had come back, they definitely could have rekindled their attraction. It would have been work, and they had probably both changed a lot, and didn't really know each other, but I think that duty to her marriage would have been rewarded.

What did you think of the book? And my reactions? Agree or disagree, please weigh in. That's what a good book chat is all about!

Tackling the Floors

I have a love/hate relationship with my mop. Actually it's probably a hate/hate relationship. I do love the results, but I absolutely hate to mop. Hate it. And if I was honest, I'd admit that I don't do a full cleaning of the hardwood floors that cover the main level of my house very regularly at all. And lest you think that I'm just a clean freak and by "not regularly" I mean that I don't get to it each week, let me clarify. It's practically a seasonal occurrence. I sweep, I spot clean, but the whole move the kitchen chairs and throw rugs whole-floor mopping just doesn't happen that often.

But they don't call it Spring Cleaning for nothing, right? Something about the beautiful breezy warm weather signaled to me that it was time.

Something else was behind my call to clean. Pine-Sol recently sent me two of their brand-new scents to try out (They also offered me a giveaway of one bottle in any scent you choose and a reusable tote to one of you in the U.S.).

I do love the smell of a clean house, especially since I opened the windows and the front and back doors to help the floors dry. Between the fresh air and the Sparkling Wave scent, I feel like a real (good) housekeeper!

I don't usually participate in the Tackle-it-Tuesday at 5 Minutes for Mom, but this week I wanted to share about the new Pine Sol scent that I tried out (disclosure--they sent it to me, but didn't tell me what to say or require anything else from me).

Find out what others are tackling this week at 5 Minutes for Mom. I'm SO glad that I tackled my floors.

If you want to win, please leave a comment letting me know which scent you want. Click on the link or the picture to see all the new scents, and also some suggested uses.

I'll announce a random winner on April 15. If there is not an email address in your profile or a linked blog, I will draw another winner. I must have a way to contact you.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

New Beginnings

Spring is about new beginnings. New bright green leaves and grass, beautiful bulbs pushing through recently-frozen tundra. This year Easter came after some real spring weather which already had me thinking about rebirth, so the message has hit me even stronger. Maybe it's just me -- this time of life I'm in, where I am struggling to change some habits -- looking to a rebirth, a blossoming of a new character.

I am thankful for Jesus' death and resurrection, conquering death and sin, which gives me hope that I can do the same.

And everything that’s new has bravely surfaced
Teaching us to breathe
What was frozen through is newly purposed
Turning all things green
So it is with You
And how You make me new
With every season’s change
And so it will be
As You are re-creating me
Summer, autumn, winter, spring

*from "Every Season" by Nichole Nordeman

Friday, April 02, 2010

A Really Good Friday

We have a tradition around here: most Fridays are Chipotle Fridays. Since we usually ate Tex-Mex food once a week when we lived in Texas, we feel the deprivation keenly as Connecticut residents. There are Chipotle burrito restaurants in Manhattan, but not near us. Since we enjoyed it as a Mexican option even when we lived in Houston, we appreciate it all the more now. We often start looking forward to it by Wednesday.

Since today is Good Friday, Terry knew he'd get off work early. So not only were we looking forward to him bringing it home per usual, but we knew we'd be able to eat a little early. Terry was concerned that it might be too early, but I told him that when he's out of town, we often eat at 4:45, which was only slightly exaggerated.

But today as a special treat, not only did he bring our dinner, but dessert as well.

This topped off an afternoon spent enjoying some outdoor reading (and even squeezing in some indoor chores).

A very good Friday indeed.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

A Month of Reading only Non-Fiction, It's No Joke

Not that many of you would assume that there was some sort of book-related April Fool's joke being perpetrated here, but it is a somewhat unbelievable goal, given my history.

I read several novels a month. Many. At least three or four, if not more.

I might read one traditional "hard non-fiction" book on top of that.

I usually read a couple memoirs each month as well.

But in the last couple of months there were a few non-fiction titles that I was eager to read that kept getting pushed off the top of the stack. Titles I wanted to read, but I didn't quite get to. I don't know why. With a growing stack of books that I had committed to reading, I knew I could easily fill a month of reading with only non-fiction.

My exclusion is anything that I'm reading with and to my kids. Since April is National Poetry month, I'll be reading some poetry as well, but that's hardly going to take the place of "real" reading -- we aren't talking Beowolf or the Iliad (shoot me now).

Also, there are a few novels that I am trying to finish up, and I'm giving myself through the end of the weekend to do so. I did finish my audiobook this morning, so I will move on to non-fiction in that arena as well. I'm looking forward to listening to Columbine, and catching up on some of my NPR podcast and sermon downloads.

I list 13 non-fiction books on this April list: Five are memoir, which stand in nicely for novels in my mind. Five are what I consider "hard non-fiction," parenting, social sciences/commentary (which I love if they are well written), biography etc. The final three are a mishmash -- humor and essay-style reading (I think).

I am specifically interested to see if it changes my reading patterns. Do I read less? More? Differently?

Let the (non-fiction) reading begin!