Monday, August 29, 2011

Carlsbad Caverns

We drove over 600 miles the first day of our road trip (barely avoiding running out of gas). The time change into Mountain bought us an "extra" hour, so we checked into our hotel and drove around Carlsbad to check out our dining options. We were hoping for some good New Mexican food (different from Tex-Mex), but none of the options looked very promising.

Then we came upon this, and for the story alone, we had to give it a try!

Kyle opted for Chinese, while Terry, Amanda and I tried "the best Mexican food" in town. I will say that the Mexican food was better than the Chinese food. The menu had the restaurant's name, "Where East Meets West."

Bright and early the next morning, we enjoyed the free breakfast in our hotel, then headed to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. We took an hour-long ranger tour first (and believe me our ranger was more capable than the one above!). We love the ranger talks at the National Park. It makes everything a lot more interesting, and one of the things that they do when you are on one of the guided tours is allow you to experience total darkness. We were able to go in parts of the caverns that are closed off to non-guided views, and in one of those places, they turn off all the lights. Very eerie!!

I was particularly impressed with and fascinated by the deep clear pools in the caverns.

After that tour was over, we had lunch in the cafeteria. I went for some local flavor and got this raspberry cider from a local orchard that we ended up seeing throughout the area. It was very very sweet. The kids liked it more than I did.

After lunch, we decided to tour the public areas of the caverns. We walked in instead of taking the elevator. Terry sprung for the audio walking tour.

After hearing the first stop or two, Amanda refused to listen. She said, "It's dumb." Since we were still right outside the visitor center, Terry and Amanda went back and switched hers to the adult version.  I listened to it, and she was right -- the kid version that Terry and gotten for Amanda and Kyle was quite over-done in a juvenile way. There was a song (that haunts me still) that the "bat" that was narrating the tour sang when they were going over the safety rules:

"Stay on the path with mom and dad. . . . "

It was one of those things that gave us lots of laughs throughout the trip.

This was Terry's, Kyle's and Amanda's first visit to Carlsbad (and the Grand Canyon, our next stop). I visited both with my grandparents when I was about Amanda's age and remembered them both as magnificent.

One day was plenty to see everything that we needed to see. Amanda was a little jealous when she saw people selecting gloves and kneepads for the guided tour that goes through some of the smaller crawl spaces. It's more rigorous, and Kyle wasn't old enough anyway. Maybe next time??

Friday, August 26, 2011

What do you do when. . .

. . . your kids are at school?

I think that most kids have already gone back, with a few areas starting next week, and a few more after Labor Day, but even if they haven't gone back, you are likely making plans for those daytime hours that need to be filled.  I know I did!

For my first week without kids,
  • I have undertaken a project or two (not very effectively, but I'm hoping to finish my paperwork overhaul today)
  • I've had two lunch dates (the second is today actually, which might interfere with my ability to finish my project)
  • I went and saw a movie, alone (Check out my review at 5 Minutes for Books of the One Day movie).
So that brings me to you:
  • How do you fill those hours?
  • Do you (or did you) have special projects or fun planned for the first week back to school?
  • Do you see movies alone?  I didn't used to, and I could have easily found someone to go to this movie with, but honestly, I've seen a couple recently, and I like it. There's a movie theater 10 minutes away, so I can easily see a matinee while the kids are gone (if they are actually showing something else other than slasher films and bad boy humor flicks -- see my rant)
Speaking of filling time and back to school, what about those of you who have kids off to college? Can you even imagine???  I just reviewed a fascinating book over at the Kirkus Reviews blog: The iConnected Parent: Staying Close to Your Kids in College (and Beyond) while Helping them Grow Up.  Fascinating read! Applicable to anyone with young teens on up.  Check it out.

    Tuesday, August 23, 2011

    August Nightstand

    I have just come off a month of really great reading -- both in quantity and quality of what I've read, because of several trips in July -- so it was hard for me to transition back to real life, but I'm looking forward to it.


    If I Have to Tell You One More Time. . .: The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids To Listen Without Nagging, Reminding, or Yelling -- I nag. I remind. I yell (mostly because I yell and remind).

    Suffer the Children: The Case against Labeling and Medicating and an Effective Alternative -- I am not at all against medication. I have many good friends whose children have benefited from ADHD meds, and I have a fairly hyperactive son myself who I can't say won't be dealing with a diagnosis as he gets older, but what drew me to this title was the emphasis on family-based treatment, which reminded me of Brave Girl Eating, which I really loved.


    The Next Story -- Especially because I'm about to be raising a teenager, I think that this book by Tim Challies about faith in the digital age will be interesting.

    Cheat on Your Husband -- When I saw this on NetGalley, the title and cover jumped out at me (The subtitle explains "(with Your Husband): How to Date Your Spouse")I've started reading it, and it's good.


    I Knew You'd Be Lovely -- I've enjoyed short story collections that I've read recently, and this one has been reviewed well, and the author, Alethea Black, shares an old-fashioned name with one of my dear friends, so that silly fact pushed me over the edge.
    Our Tragic Universe -- This novel seems quirky and odd, which means it will either hit a homerun with me, or be a chore. I'm thinking (and obviously hoping for) the former.
    Dear Money -- This seems like a bit of a cross between chick-lit and social satire. I'm not sure about it. I was interested, but now I can't get excited about it. I'm hoping I'll get sucked in.
    Ready Player One -- This one could also be a little quirky, and was described as a "genre-buster," which also intrigues me.


    Guys Read: Thriller is the second in this collection edited by Jon Scieszka

    The Secret Zoo -- I want to read this aloud with Kyle.

    The Penderwicks at Point Mouette -- I've been waiting for this, but want to tackle a read-aloud with Amanda.


    The Fox Inheritance (Jenna Fox Chronicles) -- Amanda and I both enjoyed The Adoration of Jenna Fox audiobook, and though it wasn't initially set up to be a series (I don't think), there's a new book featuring the same issues. This audio has a different narrator, but I can't wait to hear "the rest of the story."

    RECENT REVIEWS published at 5 Minutes for Books:

    It's Not too Late for Summer Bridge Enrichment -- a fun flip book in addition the standard workbook makes this good for year-round use

    The Whole Package -- Chick lit. Fairly mindless. But a fun read.

    Racing in the Rain
    author interview (with GIVEAWAY)

    The Orphan Sister -- An interesting family drama from an author from whom I was anxiously awaiting a new book

    Check out more reads at What's on Your Nightstand

    Monday, August 22, 2011

    New Beginnings

    Well, the school year has gotten off to a good start.  As per usual, with the idea of a new start on the first day of a new school year, I've been inspired to get my act together. I woke up early today, studied my Bible (which sadly had not been a priority for much of the summer, especially this last month), fed my kids breakfast, got them both off to school without yelling, and cleaned out my freezer.

    Not a bad morning's work, eh?  Unfortunately, I completely forgot to snap Amanda's picture before she left. I will be getting the first day of 8th grade picture when she gets off the bus today -- better late than never.

    Edited after school to add this:

    I did manage to capture Kyle's first-day smile. He's ready for a great 2nd grade year!

    In addition to a new school year, Kyle symbolized his new life in Christ by getting baptized on Sunday! We were very excited for him to take this big step, and celebrated with our family on Sunday after church.

    As for me, as I mentioned above, I feel like I'm off to a pretty good start too. This week I'm going to tackle papers that have piled up and some closets. I also have a couple of lunch dates this week to enjoy some kidless Mommy time!

    Sunday, August 21, 2011

    Road Trip 3: Danger on the Highway!

    This summer critics have bemoaned the quality of movies, specifically pointing out the large number of sequels. For the third time in as many years, we've taken a big summer road trip. Just like in sequels, there was a common thread -- disaster -- even when the destination was different. It's always something, right? The first year Kyle had a little stomach issue on the second day of our drive home. It wasn't pretty, but it's been good for a few laughs. Then last year, we had a costly and necessary car repair that we had to take care of before we continued. The timing was fortunate, so it wasn't a disaster.

    This year, however, the results could have been more dire, and we were hit not once, but twice -- once on each side of the trip.

    On our first day, we drove through the deserted desert of West Texas. The speed limit was 80, we didn't see many cars, and there was nothing on the side of the road. Noting this, Amanda asked "What would happen if we ran out of gas?"  For hours, this was all we saw.

    We came up on one little stop about 80 to 100 miles from the town where we knew we'd need to get gas. Terry glanced down at our gauge and decided we were fine, and we kept driving.  Unfortunately, the needle dropped more quickly than we were used to, seeing as how we were driving faster than normal. Thirty miles from the town, the "Low Fuel" light came on. Thirty miles is cutting it close. You will understand that the next half hour was spent in quiet solitude and gut-wrenching worry.

    As we were filling up, we heard another man recounting an experience exactly the same as ours "I didn't think I was going to make it." It was tense there for a while, but we made it!

    The second disaster happened on the way home.  We were in the passing lane coming up to overtake an 18-wheeler, when Terry noticed that it was losing pieces of its tire.

    BOOM! It had a blowout! It was so loud, louder than you could even imagine. I have so much respect for that driver, because he kept driving straight. A very large piece of his tire did come over into our lane, but Terry had been watching for it, and was able to avoid it.

    We had been planning to get off to refuel at the next exit, about 8 miles away, and were surprised that the truck kept driving too. He didn't even really slow down, and made it on the other 17 wheels to the truck stop/service shop -- fortunate for him.

    I'm always worried when driving in traffic around big trucks what would happen if they blew a tire. I'm happy to know that if other drivers are as skilled as this one was, that it might not be the disaster I always fear.

    What's the worst/funniest/scariest thing that ever happened to you on a road trip?

    Monday, August 15, 2011

    Rec-reating, Recovering, and Reviewing

    I am still thinking about writing, and in fact even putting some thoughts down here and there, but after 10 days of rec-reating (as in recreation, not creation), I'm a little beat mentally. Why does that happen?

    We drove more than 2500 miles over 10 days through New Mexico and Arizona, and I do want to share our experiences.  Here are a few sneak peeks:

    And so, yes, I've been also been recovering -- restocking the pantry, doing laundry, returning phone calls.

    But even while I roamed the country, I've been reviewing -- publishing book reviews over at 5 Minutes for Books and writing up some reviews of books that will post in the future, specifically books that I read on vacation (for what is a vacation without reading??).  Please check them out:

    Wednesday, August 03, 2011

    Thinking about Writing

    So if I'm not writing here (and I'm certainly not writing elsewhere -- well, I take that back, I have posted a fair number of reviews in recent weeks when there hasn't been much blogging going on**), at least I'm thinking about writing. Does that count??

    I really do want to write about our trip to Connecticut, hospitality, a cooking challenge and so much more, but we've been in a bit of an end-of-summer whirlwind.

    Another reason I've been thinking about writing is that I have been reading the fabulous Pam Allyn's Your Child's Writing Life (linked to my review and GIVEAWAY at 5 Minutes for Books).  In the midst of piles of papers that were unearthed when we moved, I found this:

    Amanda made this when she was probably in 3rd grade.  If you click on it, it will become full-size, but the jist is that it's an ad for "Camileon (sic) Heels transform from high heels to flat soles in seconds!"

    And Kyle made this last year in the first grade. I remember hearing about this outing with his grandparents and Terry (I was out of town), and was delighted when I saw that he had chosen to write about it:

    I love this. I love the misspelled words, the measurements (a 14 foot fountain?), and everything. I love how it matches up with what he had shared with me earlier.  He loves this little booklet he made on the computer as well, taking it out and reading it often.

    I was inspired by the book to have Kyle start his own sort of writing notebook. Lately I've heard a lot of "when I grow up, I'm going to invent. . . ." (another thing I've been meaning to write about), and so I decided that he should start his own notebook recording his ideas. The first one is already in there (a multi-leveled LEGO table that comes in a "disco box").

    What I love about the cover is that after the K there (half out of the photo) is a : ).  He has been asking me how to make those smileys on the computer. Even if he doesn't know where the colon and parenthesis keys are, he can replicate them in writing. It's so empowering!

    **Recent reviews posted at 5 Minutes for Books (I enjoyed all of them a lot):

    Adult Novels:
    Out of the Shadows
    A Good Hard Look
    Rules of Civility

    YA novel: Beauty Queens

    Middle Grade novel:  Masters of Disaster