Sunday, October 31, 2010


For this first time this year, we split up.  Terry and I went with Kyle and some of his friends to Main Street, a town tradition.

We met up at a friend's house for pizza, and all the little guys went out together, and then we let Amanda go out with her friends (They had a parent with them**).

For some reason they both dressed in black.  I could swear I took a picture of them together, but I think I got distracted, because it's not there.

Meet Amanda the Ninja--

and Kyle as Darth Vader -- which we selected mostly because his size was available.  He wanted to be a storm trooper, but I think he actually looked cuter than some of the storm troopers I saw. 

Kyle is joined by a Transformer and a Catcher.

**It is not very Free Range of me at all to provide that reassurance that she was with a parent.  She's 12.  I'm quite sure that I walked my neighborhood with Stephanie from across the street by myself the year I was 10.
Posts of Halloweens past:
A Scary Rock and a Christmas Tree
Dr. Doofensmurz and Perry the Platypus/Agent P
Mia Hamm and Thomas the Tank Engine
A Penguin and Thomas (again)
My favorite costume of Amanda's from her preschool years

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Call Guiness -- He lost a tooth.

On Friday, at the age of 6 years and almost 5 months, Kyle lost his first tooth.  I'm thinking that we should go in the record books.

There's some serious crowding going on there, and the permanent tooth had already started coming in.  Hopefully some of the others will start to wiggle.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What's on my Nightstand -- October

These books are literally on my nightstand -- right beside my bed or in my little book bag that I carry from room to room. I'm in the process of reading each of them.

In addition to that, I have a couple of audiobooks going, a wonderful rendition of author Pat Conroy's years teaching on a poor remote island in Carolina (South? North?), The Water Is Wide: A Memoir It is an excellent audio version -- one of my favorite listens of all time).

The Red Blazer Girls: The Vanishing Violin, a Cybils Middle Grade nominee.

My goal is to finish up the above titles, as well as read The Heroine's Bookshelf: Life Lessons, from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I also need to read at least 20 more of the titles on the Cybils nominee list (I'd like to tackle more like 30, and since I can often easily read one in a day, this is possible). I've been reading a lot, but I go so quickly through some of the these short middle grade novels, that it doesn't feel like I've been reading a lot. I will be working up some reviews, and of the 19 books I've read (some I had read previously), 90% have been really delightful and enjoyable.

Take a look at the nominee list. I've no doubt that the shortlist which we are charged to come up with by December 31 will be phenomenal, but even the nominees have something for everyone.

Like reading about books I read with my 12-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son? Want to sneak a peek into my life as the mom of those two kids? I invite you to subscribe to my feed, or follow me @jenndon on twitter.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!


I literally can't remember the last time I got flowers, thus my thoughts on this post, but today is a biiiig birthday for me, and my husband surprised me with flowers.

I'm not at all irritated by the expense :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Kids' Picks for October

Wow, it's really October.  This back-to-school season has been crazy.

Amanda and Kyle and I have been reading up a storm.

I asked for the librarian's help at the end of last month finding some funny picture books that Kyle would enjoy, and boy did she!  Though he is ready to read short chapter books, they don't appeal to him as much as picture books (specifically funny books, but he loves nonfiction too).

His hands-down favorite was Laurie Keller's Arnie, the Doughnut -- which he enjoyed so much that we renewed it, and it's enjoying another 3 week stint here at our house. After bringing it home, I put it together that she is the author of the Scrambled States of America (linked to my audiobook review). Looking at amazon, I see several zany-looking covers in her collection, so we'll have to browse the E KEL section at the library on our next trip.

He also liked Enemy Pie by Derek Munson (which he told me he had read in Kindergarten as well) and Ugly Fish by Kara LeReau.

As for Amanda, she's been helping me out with my Cybils reading. She's read a few of the titles after I've read them, and her favorite so far has been The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger. I loved it too. There are so many great things about this book. It's set in a 6th grade middle school, but isn't full of attitude or mature topics. There's some middle-school crushing going on, but that's about it. It's short, which means that even a reluctant reader won't be intimidated. I'm going to write a full review over at 5 Minutes for Books, but this book is really for anyone, boy or girl, 4th grade through middle school (maybe a 3rd grader, especially a girl who was looking to read a little about boy/girl stuff in an age appropriate manner). You can read the summary at amazon via my link above, so I won't go into that, but this is funny and sweet and even has a little bit of a moral to it. 

She bought a special book-fair priced edition of the newest in Margaret Peterson Haddix's Missing series this month (gotta love the special under $10 hardcover editions at the book fair!). Sabotaged is the third book.  She said that it lived up to the others, and she said that there will still be more to come. She loves this suspenseful and exciting series about a bunch of kids who go missing. I haven't read them, but I was just reading the plot summary on amazon, and apparently there's a historical component to them. Very interesting.

Find out what more kids are picking over at 5 Minutes for Books.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Flowers for you??

My husband isn't a flower buyer or giver.  I've gotten flowers a handful of times in recent years, and got them on occasion when he was trying to woo me.  I'm okay with that (I'm not going to turn away cupcakes though).

A friend who should remain nameless told me she had some good blog fodder for me -- the make up flowers.

Do you get them?  Do you like getting them?  Do you wish you got them more often?

Or do they, as perhaps they do my unnamed friend, make you think not of the making up but of the behavior which prompted the offering?

Let us know. Let's have some girlchat.

Also let me know what it is that a husband can do to get on your good side if he's messed up. 

Maybe it's the Words of Affirmation love language in me, but a good apology really goes a long way.  Until I get an apology and perhaps a nice hug and a kiss to back up the ask, I feel uneasy until everything is resolved, and I don't like that.  So perhaps I should say what I enjoy best is a quick apology, otherwise after much worrying and fretting it might come across like the flowers that will just get one day closer to death at every glance.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Cybils Challenge (and last day to nominate!)

I love the Cybils awards (Children's and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards).  I was pleased to be a part of the very first round of awards, as a MG/YA nonfiction judge.  I took a couple of years off, but last year I returned to that same role, and this year I'm branching out with Round I for Middle Grade Fiction.  It's been a blast!

Even though this blog Snapshot is mostly a personal blog, once I got into the world of blogging, I found myself visiting kidlit blogs and other blogs that celebrated reading, and thus writing about what I was reading, and what I was reading with my kids. 

Cybils nominations close on October 15 at midnight.  Find out more HERE.  Each person can nominate one book in each category.  There are many many worthy books that haven't been nominated, so the Cybils Challenge was born on 10/10/10.  Here are some titles that I am hoping get a nomination, because they were my 2nd or 3rd pick, and I only got one.  Last I checked they still hadn't:

These are both exceptional:
Wholey Cow
Looking Closely in the Rain Forest

Seaglass Summer by Anjali Banerjee -- I've only read a few chapters of this book, but how often do you see a children's book with an Indian family featured by an Indian author? Not often. I love South Asian writers' adult novels (to make a positive stereotype), so when I saw this book in two different libraries, I had to pick it up the second time.


Oh someone please pleeease nominate I Didn't Do It. I had already submitted my nomination when I got this book, but it's really lovely.

Another poetry collection we enjoyed this year was Let's Have a Bite.

The poetry nominations seem slim. I know that the panelists would love more books to consider.

I'm going to jump on my friend Dawn's bandwagon for Jon Skovron's debut novel Struts and Frets. I haven't read it, but I trust her.

Dawn is also the picture book expert, and there are some that she loved and is still hoping that they will get a nomination, so I'll put them out there:

Rubia and the Three Osos by Susan Middleton Elya
Calvin Can't Fly: The Story of a Bookworm Birdie
Eight Days: A Story of Haiti by Edwidge Danticat
Hope Vestergaard's Potty Animals

There are also some links to lists that have already been posted if you want to see if any of those catch your eye.

And now -- 10 Kidlit blogs worth visiting:

When I started blogging, I was drawn to these adult kidlit bloggers who wrote about what kind of kid's lit they enjoyed.  I couldn't believe it.  I got so many ideas about books to suggest to my daughter, and got pulled into the loveliness that is kid's lit all on my own as well.

Jen Robinson is the best.  If you're looking for Middle Grade and YA recommendations, this is the blog to read.  Though I've never met her, she and I corresponded some especially in those early years, and I consider her a blog friend.

Mitali's Fire Escape is author Mitali Perkins blog.  She is a great supporter of community and brings up issues of race in a thought-provoking and discussion-inspiring way.   She's great on twitter as well.

Mother Reader is hilarious.  Carrie and I met her at Book Blogger Con, and honestly, I thought she might be a bit standoffish, because she's definitely one of the cool kids!  But she was great, and her book reviews are a lot of fun.

LizB is also great on twitter and her A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy explores book reviews and a bit more with self-assured "I know what I'm talking about" style.

Maw Books is written by Natasha, who invites you into her space.  There's just something about her that is warm and welcoming.  She focuses on picture books and has recently been reading old Newbery winners as well.

Who doesn't love Betsy Bird's Fuse 8?  I don't get to blog hop as much as I used to, but whenever I end up there, I go from page to page to page.  She's longwinded and funny and her love of children's books oozes through.

Green Bean Teen Queen is a fairly new find for me.  She focuses on literature for teens and tweens, which is very helpful to me, since my 12-year-old might read me out of house and home.

The Literate Mother is also a new find.  These are reviews of middle-grade and YA books from a panel of moms.  They let you know what is in a book content-wise, which is great if you aren't sure about sex, violence, or language that your child might encounter.

Amy at Hope is the Word is a homeschooling mom who just loves books.  She hosts Read Aloud Thursday, and is a thoughtful poster and commenter.

Carrie at Reading to Know writes "book reviews from a Christian worldview."  She's a riot.  I dare you to read one of her reviews and not know where she stands on it.  She reviews a lot of picture books, but has been the source of some great recommendations for older kids too.  She is a die-hard champion of the Mysterious Benedict Society books. . .. enough said.

Whew!  Is your feedreader full now??  Seriously, if you are a parent (or teacher or librarian), reading kidlit blogs is a great way to find excellent books.

Speaking of libraries, we were also invited to give a shout-out to our favorite independent bookstore or library.  I love my library.  It's big and old and beautiful and we have so many titles for a town of only 25,000 or so.  Yay CH Booth Library!

Also, there's an independent bookstore in the town that neighbors mine that focuses on kid's lit.  I knew it was there, but I didn't realize how awesome it was and how strong her passion for kids' lit is until I met her and interviewed her for a story.  It's Linda's Story Time (linked to my article).

The Cybils is a fantastic resource as well.  All of the finalists are worth a look, and even the nomination lists give you a wonderful place to start.  So browse, and nominate, nominate, nominate, so they'll be the best they can be.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Family TV

There are a couple of new shows that the kids and I have been enjoying, and since I recently asked you what you watched as a family, I thought I'd pass these along:

Hole in the Wall

Two years ago (wow-how in the world has it been two years??), I wrote that we had enjoyed watching a few episodes of a game show on Fox called Hole in the Wall.  Well, like Wipeout (which I recently watched for the first time), the physical stunts and mishaps are funny, but I could do without the announcer's (off-)"color commentary.  When the kids and I saw that Cartoon Network was reviving it in a family version, we were thrilled.  It started last week, and we watched, and they are already looking forward to tonight.  Even better, it comes on at the family-friendly time of 7:30/6:30 on Wednesdays (which those of us with no DVR and strict bedtimes appreciate!!).  You can watch some clips here.

Family Game Night on the Hub

The Hub is a new TV channel that the kids saw advertised (while they were watching TV of course).  The new show Family Game Night has been advertised a lot.  The network launched 10/10/10, and I think that's when we saw the first episode of Family Game Night.  As cable networks often do, the show seems to replay frequently, and Kyle caught it one day after school this week as well.  We have Direct TV, but I'm not sure the availability on other cable networks.  Family Game Night is a fun show, pitting two families against each other with physical feats, a giant Operation game, Monopoly money, Guesstures and more.  The regular showing time is 7:00pm Monday, I believe, which does not work with our schedule, but I'm hoping that we'll be able to catch it on Sundays or late afternoons.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The First Dance

Do you remember your first dance?  Mine was at Quail Valley Jr. High. It was an 8th grade graduation dance.

I remember other dances too, like my first "date dance" in 9th grade.  I took Ted to Sadie Hawkins.

Two proms rounded out the dances that are at the forefront of my memory.  I think I attended a homecoming dance at some point as well.

Amanda just attended her first dance.  I wrote about it at Newtown PatchCheck it out.  Also, if anyone has seen my little girl, let me know.  I know have an adolescent child living under my roof, and my little girl is gone.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Private Thoughts

“I had so much to say, and no one to listen” said Tom Cruise in the opening scene as the title character Jerry Maguire. So he wrote a mission statement and called it “The Things We Think and Do Not Say.”

Private thoughts have been on my mind a lot lately. I’m not sure that we have many private thoughts in this age of blogs, email, facebook, and twitter. We can share our thoughts with many people in an instant, and we often do without really thinking about them. The media feeds this tell-all frenzy with a popular genre of memoir and “reality” TV (yes, the quotes are necessary).

I myself have expressed a few thoughts recently that probably should have been kept private: a barb meant to be good-natured and funny that came out sounding critical, an email sent off expressing my displeasure about a policy that could have been left unsaid.

What should we do with our private thoughts? How should we coach our children?

My son declared earlier this week, “I’m going to start a private journal for all my private thoughts. No one can read it.”

He’s a typical 6-year-old boy and writing is something that comes only second to eating spinach in his book (Wait, he actually likes spinach, so putting pencil to paper is at the bottom of the list for sure). So other than the practice of writing down his private thoughts which can be healthy, I was excited about him voluntarily wanting to write anything, so I jumped right on it.

I gave him an unused notebook and he took it to his room and composed his first entry.

The next day his sister said, “I read your private journal. When did you get a fish?”

There were many tears and angry shouting (and broken feelings), and then an apology and a promise that she wouldn’t read it again. I also reminded him that I wasn’t going to read it, so he could continue to write.

Even saying those words made me wonder if I was telling the truth. No, I don’t care to see what his thoughts are about the fortune-telling paper fish* he received as a party favor, but years down the line would the same be true if I had cause to believe that he was doing something illegal or immoral?

With Kyle the journey is just beginning, and I hope that I am able to strike a good balance so that he wants to share some of those thoughts me. Amanda is keeping more and more thoughts to herself, I'm sure, but especially if I ask her, she'll usually tell.

Giving our kids privacy is important, but it's hard.


*Apparently Kyle's first journal entry was about this fish. The fish tells him that he's in love, or he's happy, depending on how it's facing. I did tell him that it was all a game and that's the way he should think of it, not as something that really knows his thoughts and feelings.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

A Guest at the Wedding

Terry and I went to a wedding on Saturday.  I'm kicking myself for forgetting my camera so that I could get a picture of the lovely bride and someone could take the rare picture of Terry and me looking good.

I was sort of dreading the wedding.  Not the wedding itself, but the whole deal.  The wedding was over an hour away, but then the reception was actually over by our house.  So we came home in between, missing some of the "cocktail hour" and arriving before dinner.

I'm not an overly social person, but I did okay chit-chatting with Terry's work friends.  Also I was wearing a new dress (bought on a double-discount at Ann Taylor), so I actually felt like I looked pretty good.  Considering the time of the month and the fact that I haven't been feeling like I'm looking good, this went a long way to making me feel comfortable and confident.

Thank goodness for new dresses!

It was funny, because there were actually only about half of the guests at the actual wedding.  The rest simply came to the reception.  The bride told my husband that we didn't have to come to the wedding, since we lived near the reception.  The guests coming in from out of town were staying near the reception, so she apparently told them the same thing and they didn't come.

My husband said, "I wish we hadn't have RSVP'd for the dinner.  I'd much rather attend the wedding and not the reception."

I agree. Weddings are sweet.  They are always a time to recommit to your own marriage and remember the promise.  New love is exciting, but as the priest said at the wedding, it deepens and becomes even more special.  Doing life together doesn't always feel like warm fuzzy new love, but it certainly is special.  Being invited to share in such a personal step makes me feel closer to a person.

I would say that I haven't been to many weddings, but I counted up, and I think I've been to about 25.  Here are some interesting stats:
  • Between Terry and me, we only have 3 siblings and 1 cousin, so that makes up 4 of the weddings.  Most of you probably have attended more family weddings, although I have been a guest at both my mom's and my dad's (second) weddings.
  • Then we have the regular mix of high school and college friends, which probably comprises over half of them.  A unique fact is that of the 25 weddings, I was a bridesmaid or he was a groomsmen for seven of them, and served as house party for 2 or 3 of the others.  Even more unique -- one of the weddings that I was in -- I probably would not even have attended were I not a bridesmaid since it was out of town, but what can you do?
  • We attended one of Terry's coworkers's wedding at least 10 years ago, and though we each remember the wedding (it was memorable in that there was some sort of tradition from her culture, Filipino I think, that involved binding the bride and groom symbolically and literally with a rope), neither of us can remember the guy's name!
So those are our stats -- 25 weddings, about 30% of which we were involved in personally.

What about you?  Any odd or vague wedding memories?  How many weddings would you say you've attended over your lifetime?