Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Road Trip

I've alluded several times to the road trip that we took this year, but haven't posted much about it, mostly because I didn't want to post while I was on the road (Hello, robbers? Come on in!), and in the two weeks I've been back, I've helped teach VBS, coordinated a number of playdates, hosted some family guests for 3 days, and driven 250 miles (and back) to take Amanda to camp.

So basically I still feel like I'm running. But enough complaining. I give you The Road Trip:


"You're driving to Texas alone?"

More than one friend asked me this question when I told them my plans. It's usually followed up by, "Doesn't that concern you?"

This summer was the second time my family and I have driven from Texas to Connecticut. Our plan was to spend several weeks visiting family and friends who were spread out across the state. My husband could not take the entire time off from work, so I drove there by myself, and then he flew out to join me for the second week and return drive home.

I was actually less stressed on the half of the trip that I spent driving alone. If we were both in the car, there was a 50-percent higher chance that one of us was going to be tired or irritable.

Continue reading Road Trip on Newtown Patch.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Missing Amanda Hurts

The big girl is off at sleepaway camp. She went last year, and looked forward to returning this year. As the day approached, Kyle would say, "I'm going to miss Amanda."

Kyle has a little flair for the dramatic and can be a bit of a kiss-up, so I wasn't too concerned about him.

When he was hugging her goodbye, his face was all red and scrunched up! Holding back his emotion, not fake drama at all!

A few tears fell as we were leaving. I assured him that he would be just fine without Amanda, and that maybe when he got back home, he'd remember how much he missed her and not fight with her so much!

In a quiet moment in the car later, he said, "Missing Amanda hurts."

"Where does it hurt?" I asked.

"Here," he said, pointing right to the gut.

Lest you cry any tears over a heartbroken little brother, he declared at our Monday night dinner (which we got to eat on the deck, because the summer heat has finally broken), "I like having dinner without Amanda."

And apparently yesterday was "one of the best days." Why? Because I let him watch a lot of TV.


By popular demand, above is a picture of the girl with the hair and eyelashes (though I don't really have a picture of her hair curly). Another point I should have brought up in that post is shorts. I finally caved and bought her some short shorts. These are the shortest of the 3 pairs she has, and believe it or not, we rejected several as too short -- shorter than these. It's the fashion, she doesn't look bad or trashy. It's fine. Not that I will take that attitude with everything just because everyone else is doing it, but I'm fine with this one.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My Nightstand -- July

The first exciting bit of news is that I have a new nightstand! No, my actual "nightstand" (a cedar chest which my grandparents had made for me by a distant relative for graduation) is still beside my bed holding an alarm clock, the book(s) I am actually reading, and a coaster for that nighttime glass of water, but I have a new place to store and sort incoming books. I'm so very excited.

The other thing that I wanted to follow up on was my month of e-reading. It was fairly successful. Because I was in the car, I did listen to more audiobooks than usual (and would have probably listened to another, but I ran out!). I did listen to 3, which is slightly more than usual (though none of them were super-long). I did read four books on my Kindle while I was traveling, which is the most I've used my Kindle in any one month. But I really only lasted about 2 1/2 weeks. Once I returned home, I was ready to read some other books waiting on my shelf. It wasn't the format, but the availability of books I wanted to and needed to be reading. I also read about half of Gulliver's Travels on my Nintendo DS XL with the 100 Classic Books cartridge that Nintendo sent me to try out. I was completely surprised about how much I loved reading on it, given the small screen (even the slightly bigger DSi XL screen). But I really do, and will definitely use it again in the future.

That brings me to this month's list.

That makes for 1 middle grade novel, 3 YA, 2 fiction, and 1 non-fiction. I think that I can (and will) read those and maybe one or two more.

See what else the blogging world is reading at What's on My Nightstand the fourth Tuesday of every month at 5 Minutes for Books.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Allstar Weekend

One of the fun things that we got to do on our fun Disney trip in conjunction with attending the Disney Social Media Moms conference last February was attend a concert that was given in conjunction with the Celebration of Volunteers.

Yes, Demi and Joe were there. If you watch Disney at all, you saw a clip of the first time they sang that Ocean song -- over and over and over and over again. It was here at the concert we attended at Epcot. The crowd shots with the waving blue and green sticks -- that was us. Amanda and I were about 5 feet from the stage. It was pretty cool.

But the opening act was even cooler. At the time, no one had heard of Allstar Weekend, but they performed several songs for us, and put on a GREAT show.

Since their song "Dance Forever" is currently playing on the Disney channel over and over and over again, I thought I'd post these pictures and our experience. They're pretty awesome.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hair and Eyelashes

What is it with kids insisting on growing up?

At the end of last year, as the weather got warmer, Amanda asked me if she could shave her legs. It took me off guard, but objectively I knew it was the right time, and I was a little surprised she hadn't asked before. She was in 6th grade, but in an intermediate school. My 6th grade was middle school (6 - 8), and I think I started shaving my legs as soon as I started.

Big change number one: No hair on her legs

The last month of school, she was in a play. They wore makeup, because they were on stage with lights, so I helped her with that (having not ever been in a "everyone must look alike" dance recital, this was her first experience with stage makeup). She said that everyone was wearing eyeliner, so we tried our best. I determined that her eye is not shaped well for eyeliner. I don't wear eyeliner these days, instead using shadow to line my upper and lower eye, so I wasn't much help.

She wanted to wear it to school, as her friends sometimes did (I didn't get the "sometimes" part. Did they declare "Eyeliner Wednesday?"). She ended up not liking the look, a decision aided by her friends agreeing she looked better without it.

A few weeks ago, she asked me about makeup again. I suggested that she try mascara. And so she has. I have to admit that it looks very nice, and not at all makeup-y, unlike the pink blush and purple frosty eyeshadow that I debuted in Middle School in the 80's.

Big Change 2: Longer eyelashes

Along with the attention to making up her face a bit, she's paid a lot more attention to her hair this year, which is a welcome change. No longer did I have to beg her to wash it more than once a week.

She told me she wanted it curly this summer, but her hair is wavy, not curly. I think she liked the idea of not having to dry it, as I do when I'm going curly, because she doesn't like that part of the ritual. But hers needs to be dried, or it just looks all out of sorts.

I suggested that I curl it for her -- in that manual sort of curl that so many of the young actresses are wearing, similar to this Selena Gomez style. So in spite of having to get off early-ish for VBS last week every day, we fixed her hair.

Big Change 3: Hair grooming

Let's not even talk about the fact that she keeps growing. At Christmas, she was not yet as tall as my mother-in-law, who is just over 5 feet tall. I knew she had grown like a weed all spring, and sure enough, I measured her back in May, and she was over 5'2" tall.

And her feet. All of a sudden they are almost as big as mine. We are sharing flip flops (which has been fun to double my casual shoe wardrobe!). I'm hoping that again like her mother, that her feet stop growing now. Size 9 is big enough.

Big Change 4: She's the size of a normal adult human being.

I know that there's much much much more to come. I'm rolling with it, but it's rolling over me as well.

edited: By popular demand, a picture is here on Missing Amanda Hurts.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I Make My Bed Everyday -- and other surprising facts

Yes, every day I make my bed. It might not be seconds after my feet hit the floor. In fact, it's often after I've been downstairs to attend to my kids' morning needs, but when I return to my room and see that spread pulled back and an open bed, a need for order kicks in. I pull up the simple plum quilt and add the decorative pillow shams.

Making a bed seems like an ordinary feat. Why is it surprising? Those who have visited my home are not asking that question. It's surprising because the need for order does not often kick in. The shelf that holds my plastic leftovers containers is usually in disarray (unless my genuinely orderly husband has gotten to it). If you open other cabinets, such as the linen closet or the bowls/muffin tins/pots and pans cabinet, something just might fall out.

To me, the everyday-bed-maker is one whose kitchen floors are always swept and clean clothes are always put away (as opposed to stacked on the dresser, or heaped on the guest bed, waiting to be folded).

I promised other surprising facts as well, so here goes:

  1. I have no qualms about using public restrooms. None at all. I'm not sure that I've ever met someone less concerned about it. It's a bathroom. The backs of my legs are touching the seat. Germs do not enter via the backs of my legs. And that brings me to a rant I have. If you are so germaphobic as to squat when you go in a public restroom, remember the mantra that we are all trying to teach our little boys: "If you sprinkle when you tinkle, please be neat and wipe the seat."

    One time I was in line, and so I was entering the stall as a woman was leaving it. "It doesn't seem to be flushing," she said. "Did you try to do it manually?" I asked, which is what I would do if the automatic sensor didn't kick in. She sort of looked at my like I was crazy, and then did what all good germaphobes do -- she used her foot to flush. I mean, seriously, she would rather NOT flush and leave her pee out there for all the world to enjoy? Just because she won't touch the flusher??

  2. I love vegetarian food. Again, this is surprising because I'm not a health nut. I also love pepperoni pizza and a good cheeseburger (or a bad McDonald's cheeseburger for that matter). But if I'm at a restaurant, I frequently select the vegetarian option. It's delicious.

  3. I don't have a smartphone. I'm sure that many of you reading this can pipe in "me, too!" It's not that surprising or unusual, but it's becoming increasingly more so. What might be genuinely shocking is my admission that I have a very very simple and old Nokia 1100 phone. I didn't even have a phone at all until the 21st century when I was over 30 years old.

  4. Along the luddite lines, I still use an address book. I'm sure that there are much more efficient ways to catalog all your addresses and phone numbers, but I go to the trusty address book I've been using since college. If I'm writing down someone's phone number, perhaps if we are meeting for a playdate, I usually put it in my calendar (also a real live spiral notebook, the indispensable BusyBodyBook). Because I think, "Do I really need this acquaintance's phone number saved in my cell phone forever?"
Maybe these things aren't so unusual. Let me know.

What was my most surprising admission? What is it about you that wildly diverges from "normal" behavior, or from what your friends expect of you?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lots of Kids' Picks -- July

Summer reading has kicked in here full force. Both kids are signed up for the summer reading program at the library and are enjoying the perks and prizes. In fact, the prizes are definitely enticing Kyle to choose a book over other activities (on a rare occasion), and definitely causes him to read a book himself to me at bedtime instead of me reading it to him, since I am only allowing him to report books he's read himself.

So what is keeping my 6-year-old boy's interest?

  • No Babysitters Allowed is a cute story about a bunny who doesn't want his parents to go out and leave him with a babysitter. It is a longer picture book, with a fair amount of words, so I was proud of him reading it all himself. We actually bookmarked it one night and continued the next, which is something I've learned to do. If he's getting frustrated, or tired (or I am), we just stop and start again later, even if we only have 5 pages to go. I think that he likes using a bookmark.

  • On our big driving trip to Texas, in addition to us all listening to Island of the Blue Dolphins, I got some books that I thought Kyle might like (that he listened to on headphones using the rear entertainment system). I was SO happy that he really liked the Magic Treehouse books: Tonight on the Titanic, Buffalo before Breakfast, Tigers at Twilight, and Dingoes at Dinnertime.

He's just not developmentally ready to read a whole chapter book, although I think that skill-wise he could. But I'm hoping that sometime within the next few months he will be ready to tackle some of the Magic Tree House books that we've collected over the year, especially now that he knows he likes them, and he's familiar with the storyline.

  • Another book that kept him busy and quiet on the ride was Yukon Ho! (Calvin and Hobbes). It's words on a page, he processes them with his eyes and his mind, and it keeps him engaged. I guess that's reading, right?? I want him to read, and to love it, and I'm going to try my best to keep giving him things that encourage him that Reading is Fun!

Amanda, 11 1/2, has no trouble finding books that interest her. Over at 5 Minutes for Books, I wrote about her reading of Alice in Wonderland, and specifically her experience using the 100 Classic Books cartridge. She really enjoyed the book.

Other books that have kept her reading this summer:

  • I,Q: The White House -- She and I both read I,Q at the beginning of the summer, and really loved it. I'll be reading book two soon, and I'm happy to say that we will be offering a giveaway of both titles over at 5 Minutes for Books in August!
  • The Princess Diaries -- We picked this up at our pilgrimage to Half-Price Books on our Texas trip. She's been wanting to explore more tween/teen appropriate literature, and this book was a dollar, so I thought I'd let her try it. She liked it, and says it's age-appropriate, but thinks that the second in the series might not be. She read the first couple of chapters, and though she's still interested, I think she decided to wait. I encourage her to explore, but I am at the stage where I am coaching her to discern herself instead of previewing everything that she might read.
  • I also gave her Iron King (linked to my review) to read, and she's only partway in, but loving it! There is some language in this, so it might not be appropriate for some middle schoolers, but I tolerate language more than mature content, and since I've read it, I know it's okay.
What are your kids reading? Tell us over at 5 Minutes for Books or browse the links and find some Kids' Picks that your kids might enjoy.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Some Good Stuff I've Read

I don't do nearly as much blog reading and commenting as I'd like to, but I did want to point to a lovely post at Callapidder Days about the rewards and challenges and delights of parenting. I promise it will challenge and encourage you: Enjoining

The other posts I wanted to point out are written by me, but are about lovely books written by other people. These are all books that I've reviewed lately, that I want to be sure you don't miss:

Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner -- good for her fans and those who may not have read her or liked her other stuff. Giveaway open through 7/24.

These three are FIVE STAR READS, so I wanted to be sure you checked them out:

Have you read anything great lately??

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Island of the Blue Dolphins

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell is one of the books from my childhood that I've wanted to revisit. I didn't remember much about it, I just remembered it.

When we decided to focus on "award-winning Children's Classics" for our 2nd Tuesday carnival at 5 Minutes for Books, I thought that would be a good chance to explore this book. When I saw the audio CDs at the library as we were preparing for our cross country trip, I knew that it would be perfect.

It was a good listen that held some appeal for both my 11-year-old girl and my 6-year-old boy, since it contained lots of hunting and fishing and building. However, not much else happened. It’s a simple story of a girl, Karana, who gets left behind by her tribe on their island, the Island of the Blue Dolphins, and how she survived.

There are some scenes of natural violence – hunting and fighting (man on man, animal on man, and man on animal) which might make it difficult for younger or sensitive readers to enjoy, but in general, it appeals to kids who enjoy survival or adventure stories (adventure stories where not much happens, that is).

This is a perfect example of a book that is easier to listen to than to read. Amanda said that it was “okay,” and I agree. We both enjoyed listening, but I’m not sure that we would have continued reading it. Tantoo Cardinal’s simple reading was a fitting complement to the story and perfectly captured Karana’s voice.

This book was awarded the Newbery in 1961. I knew that it was sometime in my youth, but I didn't realize that it was written almost 20 years before I would have been reading. It's pretty timeless in that respect, and I can see how that element of the book will help it stand the test of time.


The Children’s Classics Award Winner Challenge takes place from July – December. You can set a goal for the whole challenge, or simply join in any time by posting a review on the 2nd Tuesday of any month over at 5 Minutes for Books.


I would like to revisit a few of the books from my childhood that have been Newbery honorees. I would also like to encourage Amanda to read some, specifically the 4th in the Austin family chronicles, A Ring of Endless Light, which I listened to on audio last year. We’ve enjoyed the other books in the series together last year, but she wanted me to listen to that one before she did, in the event that it was too sad or too mature, and I think it’s perfectly appropriate for her, so I'd like to encourage her to listen to the story in which Vicky Austin tries to figure out who she is or who she is going to be as she spends the summer with her grandfather, whose health is failing.

I would also like to include some award-winning picture books in my line-up, so I’ll have to search those out.

My goal is to post at least one review each month between now and December.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

How I Met Jason Segel

I've blogged a few times about how much I enjoy How I Met Your Mother. Love it. It makes me laugh, it makes me think back to those days in my 20's when I was married with no kids, so it makes me nostalgic. I love it (do you get that?).

Jason Segel plays Marshall on the show, and he also plays Vector in Despicable Me, so he was on our list to interview.

He was so much fun, flirting with us (harmlessly, not in a cheesy way), and talking to us about his own childhood, during which he claims to have worn a Superman cape until he was about 12, and some of his current projects. He's a young guy, just 30 years old I think, but you can tell he is serious about what he's doing. For example, in the movie, Vector's very proud of his orange jumpsuit. I asked him if he had a special outfit -- something that made him feel great about himself or super-comfortable or whatever (by the way, I think that mine is that dress I'm wearing -- it's super comfortable, and I always get compliments in it -- love it!!).

He said, "It's funny you should ask that," in a very overly serious tone that made us all laugh. He went on to tell us that he's a writer as well (he's been working on a new Muppets movie screenplay that he's so exited about, and he's written many of the movies he's starred in), and so when he's at home working he puts on a suit and tie at 8:00am, so that he feels like he's really doing something. Interesting. When I am working at home, I do get dressed, but definitely not dressed up.

He was our first interview, and so fun to talk to, and I look forward to seeing what else he does in the future. He loves this movie, Despicable Me, as do I, and he seems to get pretty invested in what he does, so he may be one of those actors who I try to follow and see what else he's up to. I'll definitely be watching How I Met Your Mother, and I'm thinking that the Christmas 2011 Muppets Movie will be on my radar for sure.

One of his favorite things about Vector was being able to play against type. As a giant 6'4" hulk of a man playing a sort of wimpy nerdy guy was freeing and challenging (but remember the Superman cape, so maybe not so much of a stretch).

I've just posted brand new interviews with Steve Carell and Julie Andrews on the other sites, so please check them out. Terry and I are taking the kids to see the movie this afternoon, so I will likely have something else to say. In fact, I think I'll post on 5 Minutes for Mom about 3D vs 2D sometime later this week, because I saw the screener in 3D, but Kyle isn't particularly a fan, so we'll go 2D today. So if you are interested in that, be watching early next week. I won't necessarily link over to it from here.

This was such a fun experience. Thanks for letting me tell you all about it. And thank you Universal for inviting me!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Despicable Me preview

I was recently invited to a Despicable Me press junket. I got to meet most of the big stars who do the voices, including Miranda Cosgrove (above in burgandy, linked to my interview), Jason Segel, Steve Carell, and wait for it -- the living legend Julie Andrews. Seriously.

Stay tuned through the weekend, where my interviews and articles will post at 5 Minutes for Mom and 5 Minutes for Books.

You can read a bit about the experience (and a fun conversation I had with one of the producers HERE), and read my Despicable Me movie review as well. I have to say that from the previews I had seen, I didn't really know what the movie was going to be about, but once I saw it, it earned a place in my top 5 kids' movies ever. That was even before my fun press junket experience.

It was a truly great experience, capped off by the fact that I got to stay at the Four Seasons hotel. Who wouldn't jump at a chance like that? And yes, I'm pinching myself that I get the opportunity to do stuff like that.

I'm looking forward to taking the kids and the husband to see the movie this weekend. I saw it over a month ago, so the details are fuzzy. I'm also going to see it in 2D, I think, because Kyle's not a big fan of 3D movies, but I saw the 3D version, and it was incredible -- so I can offer a comparison.


And other than hob-nobbing in Los Angeles for a weekend, I've just returned from a 2 1/2 week long road trip back to Texas, which might explain my absence. Trying to keep up with a little bit of freelance editing, and 5 Minutes for Books and spend time with family left NO time for blogging.

More on the "road trip" aspect later, but I did post an article at Patch about my conflicted feelings. Click over to read Home is Where. . . ?