Friday, April 29, 2011

Fried Rice Hash

Kyle has been going through an eating phase. He's not (eating). It's completely a stubbornness issue, and it's beginning to annoy us. He eats a healthy lunch, and if I give him a healthy snack (fruit or veggies), he'll eat that, but when it comes to dinner, he's being picky. And we've tried all the tricks: no after school snack, since he gets home after 4 and we eat anywhere between 4:45 and 7:00 pm. The early end is when we get to run around to our evening activities that don't bring us home until 7:30 or later. The late end is when we are waiting for Terry. Gotta love this American dream, right??

But I digress.

When we sat down to dinner tonight, Kyle took a bite, and said "This is good!" He then proceeded to eat the whole plate (with just a little nudging to finish up). Amanda ate a whole plate, too, except for what amounted to the onions that she couldn't eat around.

I had made this creation before, and I thought I remembered it going over well (I knew I liked it at least), but the fact that everyone ate it isn't the only reason I liked it. The other reason -- it uses leftovers! You could certainly make it "fresh," but here's how this menu came together:

  1. Last weekend we grilled steak. I'm not much of a steak eater, and so we actually ended up with a whole steak leftover.  Leftover steak isn't really the kind of thing Terry wants to eat reheated for lunch.  I have a few ways I've used it successfully in a second offering, and I had this in mind for this week.
  2. We eat a lot of rice around here.  Terry loves it, the kids eat it, and it's cheap, so it probably shows up on at least half of our meals.  I had a fair bit leftover one night, and then I intentionally made some extra two more times to save.  I stashed it in the refrigerator in a freezer bag.
    • Rice tip: Supposedly leftover rice doesn't keep very long. I will say that we've eaten rice at least 4 or 5 days old as leftovers. But the secret to fried rice is that the rice should be COLD. So, if you are making fried rice, cook the rice beforehand and put it in the fridge. That makes this dish ideal for using leftover rice.
  3. Protein: Anything goes here.  I used the steak and also some leftover rotisserie chicken that I diced.  You could also use barbecue (imagine the delicious sweetness when you order pork fried rice -- it's a type of barbecued pork).  You could use a stir-fried chicken dish from another time, or any chicken off the bone.
    • Steak tip: I diced the steak earlier in the day, along with the chicken, and poured this sauce over it, and refrigerated it for a few hours.  I have been loving this in my stir-fries and meat/chicken/fish marinades (in fact, I've almost used a whole bottle).  It's called Kikkoman Teriyaki Garlic and Green Onion sauce.  Serious yum.
  4. Veggies --Since I was already working, I went ahead and chopped my veggies.  I diced an onion, sliced baby carrots into tiny rounds, tore the last of some broccoli into tiny florets, and chopped up some fresh snap peas I had (I usually use frozen, NOT canned, green peas -- you can leave them frozen and just stir fry them right up), and put them in the fridge.  Another reason I was loving this meal tonight -- I did all the prep earlier and just had to throw it together.
  5. Putting it all together: 
    • First I used a skillet and a fair bit of oil to saute the broccoli and the carrot.  At the very end, I added the snap peas (because we don't really like them overcooked).  I put those on a plate, and set them aside.
    • Then I used a very large skillet (or a wok if you have one) and fried the onions in a fair bit of oil. I added some garlic towards the end of the cooking. I scraped the onions onto the plate with the other veggies, trying to leave as much of the oil as possible. I think that the onion is KEY to the flavor. I wanted to cook the onions in the same skillet I cooked the rice, so that it would pick up the flavor. If your kids would really object, you could just saute a little onion, and then toss it.
    • Then I heated/stir-fried the meat mixture in the small skillet. When it was warm, I added it to the plate with all the other cooked veggies.
    • At the same time the meat was heating, I added a lot of oil and a couple tablespoons of butter to a wide, large, pan. I added the cold rice, breaking up any clumps, and stir fried. As it's cooking, add salt, pepper, and garlic powder. When it's warmed and has absorbed the oil and rice, add the veggie mixture back in.
    • Theoretically, you could do this all in one pan, just adding the rice to the veggies, and not reserving them. You just want to be sure that you have enough surface area to keep everything touching the surface, or you'll end up with it steamed.

      I had a LOT of rice (I sort of overestimated my need), and actually ended up using the small pan and the large one to cook the rice. The picture above is after 3 of us had already eaten.
Unlike steak, this also is good reheated.  Terry takes leftovers for lunch, and I eat them when I'm eating at home, so we like to have leftovers.

And that's it.  I hope you liked this long, wordy convoluted attempt to share a successful dinner that I basically copied from the Hibachi people (oh yeah--I forgot egg, you can add fried egg or leftover scrambled eggs) -- successful because everyone ate it and liked it, and bonus points for using leftovers and being fairly healthy (if you overlook all the times I said "use a fair amount of oil," which you could possibly avoid if you have a truly good nonstick skillet).

The subtitle of this post is "Why I don't have a cooking blog," or feel free to share your own (like "Are you sure you don't need to tell us how to turn on a stove - We aren't idiots!").

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Namesake: I Finally Read It!

Jhumpa Lahiri's novel The Namesake has been on my "to be read" list for quite some time, since first seeing The Namesake movie (linked to my review at 5 Minutes for Books). I bought it year or so ago, but it continued to just sit on my shelf, neglected.

Shame on me!

I am so glad I finally got to this novel and can't wait to read more of Jhumpa Lahiri's work.

The novel is the story of the Ganguli family, as Ashoke and Ashima come to America, where he is a professor in Massachusetts, after a traditional Indian arranged marriage. The immigrant's experience is felt so strongly -- choosing to leave, and yet missing home and family. There are certain things that they hold on to and other things that they adapt as their own, such as the secular Christmas celebrations.

I was struck by Lahiri's use of a 3rd person omniscient narrative (Please permit my English major speak for a moment). It drew me in completely as she revealed the thoughts, motives and actions of her characters. So much so, that I found myself re-reading sentences and paragraphs to see how writing that would seem to be removed resulted in me feeling as if I was right there inside each of the characters -- seeing the world through their eyes and feeling the very beat of their hearts.

This is an excellent, beautiful, heartfelt novel. I watched the movie again right after I finished reading the book. They both tell this coming-of-age story in different ways, but with the same feeling. The novel really is the story of Gogol, but the film almost seemed to be more from the perspective of the parents. Both are great, and I highly recommend each of them.

You can read my full review of the movie at 5 Minutes for Books today.

I invite you to subscribe to my feed, or follow me @jenndon

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What's on My Nightstand -- April

In April, I read a lot of books. I've stopped keeping track specifically (I really should get my reading notebook going again. It's lapsed in 2011). I've also had a bit of balance, since I am almost finished with a purely personal read -- a book I've wanted to read for a long time -- The Namesake.

For May, I have quite a few books I need to get through as well.

I have a couple on my Kindle (yay!):

And then a big huge stack for review posts this month. I'm going to just show a picture, because I've been envious lately of the lovely book pictures I've seen, so I decided to make the effort this month.

I actually have two stacks. The one on the right are the books that I really need to get to (with the exception being the big chunk novel on the bottom. If I have time this month, I'll get started, and the way I've been reading, I have a feeling I will be able to start, but probably not finish, it).

The books on the left are quick reads or personal books that it would be nice to read.

If you need some suggestions of what to read, or if you want to peek at other people's nightstands, click through some of the links over at 5 Minutes for Books.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Mailbox Monday, April 25

I was just telling S. Krishna via twitter that I hadn't read ANY books for her South Asian Authors challenge, but when it rains it pours!

The very next day, I received a pitch for a great looking novel,The Girl in the Garden, and then I received Mitali Perkins' Bamboo People on audio from Brilliance Audiobooks. I also keep looking at Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake on my shelf, so I'm hoping by the end of May, I will have read at least two books towards my goal of 7 books by South Asian authors (or about South Asian culture) in 2011.

Other books received for review:

Beastly audiobook by Alex Finn (Yes, I was lured in by the new movie) on audio (Aside--I LOVE that Brilliance Audio offers MP3 CDs, which are easy to load and also cheaper. This audiobook is the same price as a trade paperback!).

If America Were a Village: A Book about the People of the United States -- after I reviewed This Child, Every Child: A book about the world's children (linked to my review) the author was so impressed with the comments that he offered to send another of his books.  I was surprised by the level of interest as well and look forward to checking out this book as well.

This Is Just Exactly Like You: A Novel by Drew Perry that I slotted into a giveaway spot coming up very soon (May 7), so it's next up on my fiction list to read.

Daily Guideposts: Your First Year of Motherhood -- I'm not anticipating any other "first year" motherhood experiences in my own life, but I know that I would have appreciated a book like this when I had my children. I'll be hosting a giveaway on 5 Minutes for Mom on May 2, and I also thought it would be a great fit for that audience.

It was the slowest week I've had at the mailbox in a while, and I am more than fine with that! It's giving me time to catch up.

The April host of Mailbox Monday is Passages to the Past. Check out the other participants' lists there.

Reviews that I published this week:

  • Bring Back Beatrice was an interesting look at the popularity of names. It was my first contribution to the Kirkus Blog where the 5 Minutes for Books team will be covering Lifestyle titles each Friday. I am so excited about this new gig!
  • Little White Rabbit -- a picture book by Kevin Henkes not just for Easter only!
  • Trauma Queen is a delightful novel for middle-schoolers. It's the second Barbara Dee novel that I've read, and my daughter and I enjoyed both of them equally. There's a giveaway on this too!

Friday, April 22, 2011

I Was in a Flash Mob

Well, sort of. I thought it was going to be a sort of Flash Mob-type thing when Amanda and I decided to Dance Our Shoes Off with our church (plus hundreds of other people from the other campuses of our church).

In the end, it wasn't necessarily anything that surprised people who happened to be on Discovery Green in Houston that afternoon, and Amanda and I are nowhere to be seen in the video, but a lot of good came out of it:
  • A thousand pairs of shoes were donated to the homeless and others in need.
  • Amanda and I did something fun together. She made a one-time exception to her "Moms can't dance" policy, but it's now being enforced again.
  • I'm not used to hopping around so much, as we did when we practiced it over and over again, so I'm sure the aerobic activity did my heart some good.
  • I know it did my soul some good.  After hearing the song over and over again, it's stuck in my head, and during this season, I'm happy to have it running through my head: "He's alive, He's alive inside us, and we will rise up."

I hope that you will be drawn to celebrate with Jesus this Easter.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hey Now, I'm a Vlog Star

After recording a few video book reviews, and even creating a book review channel on YouTube, I've sort of gotten over listening to my voice (with the Yankee-fied Southern accent), and seeing myself on screen, but I am acting as any vlogger probably does -- obsessively checking my page views (not bad, not bad), and also wondering about the image that they choose to capture as the first image.

When I watch the video, this is what I see/hear/experience. I hear the smacking when I pause (what's up with that? I don't do that in real life), and the excessive and extra-long eye-blinks (must work to improve that).

As far as content goes, after the first video(above), I think that I hit a good stride of not writing out/reading my review (which also helped the eye-contact issue). Unfortunately I think I have the cutest hair in that video (and my lipgloss looks good too).

Now the truth comes out.

When I evaluate the videos, I am looking at my hair.

So now that you know that, let me walk you through the many looks of Jennifer. One might think that this is because I'm vain and spend lots of time on my looks. Correction: a blog reader might think that. Those who see me on a regular basis are definitely NOT thinking that. They are thinking, "She spends time on that hair and makeup?"

And that's exactly the point. Video one is the day 2 look of redefining my curls into a more wavy style. I like that look, but it's the most time-consuming.

The second video (above) is day 1 (of hair-washing) air-dried curly. I am actually coming to really love this look, especially with the top pulled back with a little bobbie pin. My lipgloss looks okay too. This is definitely my favorite book of the three, so it's by far my favorite video!

And now we are brought to video 3. I do like the chatty booklover-to-booklover chatty tone of the vlog. But I was in a new setting here, trying to hold the camera out in front of me, and my face is a little too close and moon-y. I'm also sporting the day 2 hairdo, smooth (ish) and straight(ish), and no glasses. I've heard real vloggers say that they notice their views increase or decrease with certain physical looks, and I do have to admit that I wouldn't want to click on that face (below).

Live and learn!

**I am surely under no illusions that I am a vlog star, but I couldn't resist adapting the Smash Mouth tune. Are you singing with me now? It's been running through my head.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cheers to my Friends

Last night Terry was out of town, and after spending time surfing Facebook and TV, I decided to read a little and then go to sleep. As usually happens when I try to read in bed after 10:00pm, I began to feel tired after 30 minutes or so, so I turned off the light.

But I couldn't sleep.

The prairie winds* were blowing around, so I kept hearing things in the backyard. I heard the air conditioner as it hummed into action.  I heard the dog making nighttime dog sounds.

My adrenaline was on, and though my body was tired, I couldn't sleep.

I turned on the TV just in time to catch the beginning of Friends.  Immediately I was taken back to the early 90's.  Terry and I were just starting out, about the same age as the "friends" were supposed to be, but instead of freewheeling singles who led self-centered lives as they hung out in cool coffee shops, we were a young married couple hanging out on the sofa watching our 19 inch television.

It was "The One with Rachel's Sister," guest-starring Reese Witherspoon.  It was one of the later seasons, so I hadn't seen it more than a time or two.  And I enjoyed it.

But I was still awake.  I had hoped that after half an hour of TV, I could ease into sleep.  But no.

Thankfully, two episodes of Cheers came on next.  They took me back into the 80's as I watched that comedic drama unfold, and back to the 90's as it was a re-run staple.  Whereas Friends still seemed fresh ten years later, Cheers seems dated.  The canned laughter "from a live studio audience" and the dark, flat scenery, and the clothes -- the clothes! and the hair!

When I was a teen, I enjoyed reruns of sitcoms in the afternoons -- One Day at a Time, Three's Company, and who knows what else. I wasn't too discriminating, but if MASH was on (it seemed it was always on, even with the limited channels we had), I couldn't watch.  It seemed flat, colorless, and just didn't interest me.

But, I digress (a lot).  At first I was excited about feeling somewhat awake -- perhaps due in part to the hot tea I unwisely drank at 10pm -- because I was excited to buy myself some extra leisure time.  I was excited to spend some extra time reading.

I'm not a night owl.  Sometimes I wish I was (for the extra hours it could add to my day), but by 11:00pm, I'm almost always out like a light.  I like getting up early, and gaining some time that way to get my day off to the right start.  But just as those of you night owls are frustrated by having to get up even when you have to, I am super-frustrated not to be able to go to sleep when I want to!

But I watched some TV, read some, and yes, wrote this blog post.

Are you a night owl? If so, how do you most often use those "extra" hours?


*seriously, I'm not sure what's up, but it seems much more windy than I ever remember it being when I lived here before!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Kids' Birthday Parties -- the Agony and the Defeat

My friend Dawn wrote an article for Greenbelt Patch: Birthday Bash Burdens that got me thinking.  I hope you'll read her whole article, because she touches on the core issues that parents must face including
  • treat bags (My thought -- can we just call for a nationwide moratorium on them??)
  • gifts (mostly when/if to open them)
  • guest lists
Kyle's birthday is coming up.  It's less than 6 weeks away, and once again, I feel as if I've fallen behind.  The main problem is that his birthday is always Memorial Day weekend, and we used to meet my in-laws that weekend, so I had to figure out when to have it, and scheduled it around baseball and soccer and the rest of Spring busyness.

His birthday is on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, but I think that I'm going to bite the bullet and have the party that evening.  We have a nice big backyard with lots of seating and our awesome pool, so I'm thinking "Pool Party."  We had a few when Amanda was younger and we lived here before, and it's usually fun. The entertainment is built in, and I don't have to worry so much about limiting the guest list (unless it rains -- I think I'll have to build in a rain date).

At our neighborhood Easter Egg hunt, there was a balloon artist there, and I got their card. I'm not sure how much they would charge, but it would be fun to have them come by for an hour to give the kids a fun take-home balloon.  They were pretty creative and very FAST.

So agony? or defeat?  Generally a little of both.

Basically, I love having birthday parties for my kids, but I'm usually pretty laid back about it.  I've planned all of their parties, but my post about Kyle's party last year sums it up: Happy Birthday - Slacker Mom Style, and I was also pretty proud of the Group Party we had at the park the year before.

This post is beginning to feel like a brain dump, but I do hope you'll go back and read Dawn's article, and then I welcome you to dump your thoughts about birthday parties right here.  What do you love about them? What do you hate about them?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mailbox Monday: April 18

I know that I've been scarce around here, not telling all those stories that I promised to tell, but I have been reading, and as evidenced from my mailbox this week, the books keep on coming.

But before I share the books I received this week, I need to ask the booklovers for help!!

I'm preparing for 2 author Q&A posts, and I'd love to hear what you might want to know about them and what you'd want to learn from their expertise:
  1. Pam Allyn is the author of What to Read When: The Books and Stories to Read with Your Child--and All the Best Times to Read Them and the brand new Pam Allyn's Best Books for Boys: How to Engage Boys in Reading in Ways That Will Change Their Lives.   What would you like to ask her about books and boys?
  2. Meg Cabot is the author of the brand new YA book Abandon, based on the myth of Persephone and Hades. What questions do you have for this prolific author?

So with no further ado, here's what I received this week (in addition to the two books mentioned above):

  • The Girl's Guide to Homelessness: A Memoir by Brianna Karp -- Since I enjoyed Breaking Dawn so much (the memoir of "Homeless to Harvard's , not the Twilight Saga), I thought I'd enjoy this one.
  • Parents Behaving Badly is a new novel by Scott Gummer about suburban life and culture, specifically in Little League. Since we're firmly entrenched in 6U baseball right now in the middle of suburbia, I could relate. This novel has been praised by Tom Perrotta, an author who has tackled similar issues in his novels as well as baseball great Cal Ripken, who is now chairman and CEO of a baseball league for kids.

And then on top of those, I received several unsolicited books from Harper Collins Childrens:

The Silver Bowl is a new historical fantasy by Diane Stanley, with fairy tale elements. It's the first in a trilogy, and sounds interesting.

I also received 3 books from the Warriors series from Erin Hunter:

My daughter never read these, but I wonder if they will appeal to my son in a few years. I'd love some feedback from those of you who have read them or if your children have read any of the different Warriors series.

Marcia at A Girl and Her Books started Mailbox Monday as a way for us to share about books that we've received over the week. It's on tour, and the April host is Passages to the Past.

I also want to call your attention to reviews I've posted over the last week:

Reviews with GIVEAWAYS:

Thanks for visiting and remember to let me know what questions you might have for Pam Allyn and/or Meg Cabot!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Texas, My Texas

Texas is everything that you've heard about it and even more. Texas was its own country, which is why it's the Lone Star State. Texas is like a whole 'nother country, as the advertising slogan from a few years back proclaimed. Although it sits physically in the South, Texans are not Southerners in the way that those from Alabama and Mississippi are.

Texas is just Texas.

Three of the top ten largest cities are in Texas: Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. They are urban--full of great restaurants, industry, science, medicine. The people are diverse--Mexican, African American, Vietnamese, Korean, Indian, Japanese. Religion is a part of the landscape--mega churches, Bible study leaders broadcasting on TV.

But the rural iconic Texas is still going strong. The Texas of fading main streets, cow pastures fenced in with barbed wire holding cattle of every color--brown, black and white. Real cowboys and good ol' boys.

There's food: Real Tex-Mex--fajitas, enchiladas, queso. Slow cooked barbecue with thick spicy sauce. Pots of beans. Pecan pie (that's pe-CAHN not PE-can). Chocolate Sheet Cake.

Words and phrases like fixin' to, do what? and y'all will be heard in the Lone Star State. Neighbors will be neighborly, but you best stay out of the fast lane on the freeway. In the cities you get on a freeway to go anywhere. Feeder roads in the cities make driving easy, but the landscape ugly.

The weather is diverse. Thunderstorms, flooding, dry heat, humidity, West Texas winds, perfect spring and fall days. Any of these could occur anytime of the year.

It's beautiful. It's big, so the terrain is varied. From tall East Texas Pines to scrubby West Texas Mesquites. Dense forests to barren plains. Rolling hills to flat prairies. There's limestone and marble and red dirt. Our state flower, the bluebonnet is a wildflower.

For a few weeks every year, the countryside is covered with wildflowers--blue, yellow, pink, and red. We were fortunate to catch this window and took the quintessential Texas pictures. . .
right off the freeway.

Originally posted after a visit back to my homeland in April 2007. I thought I'd repost it now that Texas really is MY Texas once again (and we're having a slow bluebonnet season because of the dry winter).

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mailbox Monday: April 11

Marcia at A Girl and Her Books started Mailbox Monday as a way for us to share about books that we've received over the week. It's on tour, and the April host is Passages to the Past.

This was a big box at the mailbox, as far as getting new books. However, it was also a big reading week. I finished 3 or 4 books and an audiobook this week, so I don't feel too overwhelmed by all of these that came in.

Before I share about the books I received, here are some that I actually reviewed. Please check out my reviews on 5 Minutes for Books.

Reviewed this Week:

Sweet Valley Confidential audiobook
The Wilder Life -- a fun memoir about Wendy McClure's love of Little House on the Prairie with giveaway
The Raising -- a supernatural thriller

And this week we broke into a new frontier, by starting a YouTube channel and posting video reviews of The Raising and The Wilder Life.

Books for Review:

Faith: A Novel by Jennifer Haigh -- Her novel The Condition blew me away. Can't wait for this one.

Quacky Baseball a new children's book from Harper Collins that my own little baseball player has been enjoying.

Trauma Queen - a fun new book for tweens by Barbara Dee

My Hippo Has the Hiccups with CD: And Other Poems I Totally Made Up by Kenn Nesbitt (just in time for Poetry Appreciation month)

Angel: A Maximum Ride Novel by James Patterson, which my daughter read in one day (after returning home from school, even), and then took to her friend ("She reads fast. I promise.") before I even had a chance to look at it.

From Amazon Vine:

Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes -- can't wait to crack open this one

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading -- I've heard a lot of this book, which doesn't release until June.

From NetGalley for my Kindle:

Rules of Civility a novel set in the Fitzgerald era
that doesn't release until July

Jane Austen: A Life Revealed

Personal Purchase, On My Kindle:

Tim Challies new book The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson (FREE)

Wow. It makes me happy reading these. I got some great books.  What am I doing blogging? I need to get READING!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Got Lemons?

I'm basically an optimist. So, when things happen to me, or I let them happen -- things like leaving my ipod touch and my planner on an airplane -- well, I usually find a way to make lemonade.

For that next week, I was lost without my Busy Body Book planner. But here's the sweetness of the lemonade -- I had been on the August - August calendar plan, because I used to have a surge of the need to be organized when school started, but I was sort of ready for the traditional January - December format. When the 2011 calendars came out, I loved the Winter design, only available in that format, but I had chosen that one, I would have been "off the grid" from August - December, so I settled for the pink one that would start in August, as I needed.

But when I replaced it in February (and believe me, I replaced it within a week), I bought the snazzy black and white one I had coveted, and now for all time, I'm corrected to the January to December planner time frame as well.

As far as I know, I didn't miss any important appointments, meetings, or posting deadlines, so all's well that ends well, right?

My ipod Touch was never returned, and that still hurts a little bit. This was a loss that would take more than $20 to restore. So although I was completely irresponsible in leaving it (and someone else was equally as dishonest for stealing it), I knew I'd replace it soon. I had come to rely on audiobooks and podcasts whenever I was doing my housekeeping chores, and I was a little lost without it. Although I loved my ipod touch, it was sometimes a bit bulky when I used it in that way. I had to be sure I had a good pocket to put it in, and the new downsized Nano with a clip was looking awfully appealing to me (even before I was without my cool ipod touch, which also doubled as a gaming device for both me and Kyle).

I didn't feel that I "deserved" another ipod Touch, so I bought the Nano. Because I had some amazon credits saved up, I didn't have to spend that much out of pocket.

I do miss the games, and the use of WIFI when I'm out and about, but honestly, I love my little Nano.

I'm thankful that I was able to replace both items I lost, and I'm glad that in spite of my carelessness and someone else's deceit, that the glass is still have full of sweet lemonade, not sour lemons.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

From I'm Sorry to Yes Ma'am

Any given afternoon, overheard in the Snapshot home:

(squeal, squeal, squeal)

Kyle: "Amanda, no. Stop!"

Mom: "Amanda! Leave him alone."

(squeal, squeal, squeal, WAIL, CRY!)

Kyle runs down to Mommy. Amanda follows behind.

Mom: "Get away from each other."

Kids: "But. . . she/he/I didn't. . . ."

It ends with Amanda trying to soothe her brother's hurt feelings, and saying she's sorry.  By this point, he's angry, so he's having none of it.

Her dad and I generally call her on it: "You're not sorry."

It really irritates her when we tell her that, but she's not sorry. She's sorry she got caught, and there's a big difference.

Once we became intent on changing this automatic response, which only serves to water-down any real apologies she might genuinely want offer in the future, we noticed how often she uttered that phrase.

After getting yelled it for not picking up her backpack out of the middle of the floor when I've asked three times: "Sorry."

After reminding her a third time to unload the dishwasher: "Sorry."

These aren't "sorry" issues, they are "hop into action" issues. We told her we don't care if she's sorry, just DO it. Instead of saying "sorry," she says "Yes sir," or "Yes ma'am."

Bumping into me/her dad/her brother/the dog:  "Sorry."

"How about 'Excuse me'?" we suggest as a more meaningful response.

It's amazing how some consistent correction can change gut reactions from meaningless words to meaningful action.

How are your kids treating you lately??  Have you tackled a tough issue that's resulted in change?

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Mailbox Monday: April 4

Marcia at A Girl and Her Books started Mailbox Monday as a way for us to share about books that we've received over the week. It's on tour, and the April host is Passages to the Past.

Tell me what you think!

These are all review books that I received:

The Goodbye Quilt by Susan Wiggs -- a novel about a mother and daughter is usually a sure bet for me. This one deals with a daughter going off to college, which is going to be happening around here in just 5 years -- sooner than I know it.

The Complete Visual Bible -- I received this unsolicited from a PR firm. It's set up sort of like a dictionary, but instead of it being alphabetical, it's set up by each book of the Bible with specific items clarified with text and pictures. The pictures are paintings, photos, maps and drawings. This is a great resource for personal Bible study or teaching that I can't wait to use.

From that same firm, I also received REGGIE: You Can't Change Your Past, but You Can Change Your Future, which seems like an inspirational story of overcoming.

Jen Rouse, a blogger friend of mine, wrote to tell me about a book of essays including one of hers. Just Moms: Conveying Justice in an Unjust World looks like a great book to turn to glean advice from other moms. I'll be reviewing it on 5 Minutes for Books.

From Harper Collins Children's, I received Pony Scouts: Back in the Saddle (I Can Read Book 2) -- Does the horse craze really start that young?


Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later -- came in a hot pink bubble mailer (I love it when the mailing has some sort of fun tie-in). For some reason I started listening to it right away.

I always try to remember to check out the free audiobook that is available each month at April is offering Corrie ten Boone's The Hiding Place, so I downloaded that. The narrator sounds great. This will be a great way to revisit this story and perhaps to introduce it to my daughter.

Gotta keep reading!!

I published the following reviews over the last couple of weeks at 5 Minutes for Books:

Amazing Cows -- a book by Sandra Boynton for older kids.  Loved it!

This Child, Every Child -- a picture book about children around the world. There's a giveaway that's live right now, and people's response to this title has surprised me a little.

My post about Audiobooks and Errands has a giveaway for Sean and Leigh Anne's Tuohy's book (of The Blind Side fame).

Friday, April 01, 2011

Dark Disney World

I still have not shared nearly all my thoughts, observations and dear family memories about our trip to Disney World last month (that we enjoyed courtesy of the perks that far outweighed my small conference fee for the Disney Social Media Moms conference).

I thought I'd surprise some of you and share about something you might not usually hear about when you think of squeaky-clean Disney World: Dark Disney.

But of course, I'm kidding. I can hardly type the words with a straight face that imply some sort of nefarious or occultish activities in the "happiest place on earth," unless blatant commercialism and marketing counts as evil? They might ;-).

I'm talking about Disney World AT dark.

This is nothing new to some of you, but for those of you who know me and my fairly dogged protection of a reasonable bedtime, even on a fun vacation -- wait, especially on a fun vacation where they are going going going all day long and they need sleep to be cheerful and happy -- you will understand why last year we didn't really experience Disney World at night.

But this year the kids were a little older, and Amanda (12) in particular was really curious about doing some of the rides at night, so we squeezed every minute of our last day at Disney, visiting 3 parks and being out for well over 12 hours.

We had reservations at Epcot for dinner at Teppen Edo, which I chose because I heard it was great, and the kids love hibachi. The kids did enjoy it, but the food is SO fabulous at Disney World, and honestly -- I've had better hibachi, so next time I'd save the hibachi splurge for home and get something else at Disney.

This guy was pretty entertaining, though, and I notice that he saw my camera and was trying to give me a good man-wielding-a-giant-spatula-and-playing-with-fire sneer.

After dinner, we headed to the Magic Kingdom, arriving at about 9:30 and surprised to see the Electrical Parade (and the throngs of people). We watched some as we walked. It was pretty cool. I couldn't believe the detail. We had a good view of the patriotic eagle as it passed (I'm sure all these have proper names and some Disneyphile probably knows them). The revolutionary war people walking beside it were all lit up too. It was very cheesily awe-inspiring.

Speaking of cheesy, we rode the Jungle Cruise ride, and that was super-fun in the dark!  It was obvious from watching Kyle's facial expressions and body language that he was in a state of delighted terror the whole time.  Being scared can be fun!

We walked through the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse (see picture at top right), and perhaps that started off my fear of the dark.  We were alone, it was dark, and that made it feel a little creepy.

Then we rode the Pirates of the Caribbean, which is also sort of eerie in bright daylight, but unless I remember incorrectly, there were parts of the ride that were in the dark that I didn't remember being so dim other times.

We rode Big Thunder Railroad, Amanda's favorite ride.  Then we rode it again, because there were no lines and "riding a ride in the dark" was sort of what Amanda was so curious about.  It was pretty cool in the dark -- a little more thrilling and unknown, which is what a roller coaster is all about.

Of course we stopped as we were walking through Frontier Land to watch the fireworks show. I tried to get a picture of the cool colors reflecting off of them as they watched, but it was not to be.

This was a great place to watch, and I think that's the best way to catch fireworks.  Just stop what you are doing when you see them and enjoy.  In my mind it beats lining up and waiting around for close to an hour just so you can have a "good view," as I saw many people doing at Epcot for its show.  No one was around us, and we enjoyed it.  In fact, it was so deserted that it seemed eerie, sort of adding to the wild west feel of Frontier Land.

That's sort of my summation of the Magic Kingdom at 11:00 p.m.  It was almost creepy.  I had assumed that it would be like Times Square which is almost as bright at night as in the middle of the day, or at least like my well-lit suburban streets, but no, everything was darker.

I'll never again say that nothing good (for kids) happens after 10:00 p.m.  

We had a great time and so did the kids. We left at about midnight. The park wasn't really crowded at all, and we couldn't believe that they had Extra Magic Hours for guests staying in a Disney property from 12 - 3:00 a.m. Has anyone ever stayed that late??

Have you found other attractions at Disney World to be different when it's dark?

See my other posts about this trip:

Disney World: Never the Same Trip Twice
Birnbaum's Walt Disney World for Kids guide review