Tuesday, September 27, 2011

September - What's on my Nightstand?

I love to read. I know that I needed to clarify that for some of you who think of me as an exercise junkie or a baker extraordinaire or a green-thumbed genius. Nope, I'm none of those things. I just like to read. What's that you say? I didn't need to clarify that for you? Am I that obvious? My nightstand has two parts. Part one are books that are currently 1/3 to 1/2-way finished. I would like to finish these:

In addition to mine and Amanda's read-aloud 13 Gifts by the understated-ly humorous Wendy Mass, shown above, Kyle and I are still working our way through The Secret Zoo. I am listening to The Distant Hours by Kate Morton on my ipod. It's a bookish gothic-type story, very similar to the Thirteenth Tale.

I've never read Ellen Hopkins' novels in verse, but I'll be getting immersed. I have Perfect, a YA novel, as an audiobook, and her first adult novel Triangles to read in this upcoming month.

I'm also looking forward to my first Marisa de los Santos novel Falling Together, and am quite intrigued of A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown, which is loaded on my Kindle.

I also hope to participate in the Maud Hart Lovelace challenge at A Library is a Hospital for the Mind (one of the best blog names ever!!). It's good timing, because the next book in the Mother-Daughter Bookclub series Home for the Holidays features Betsy-Tacy (and that will be mine and Amanda's next read-aloud)! I read some of the younger books I think, and I know Amanda read one or two, so at the author Heather Vogel Frederick's suggestion as the best tie-in to the new book, I will for sure read Betsy in Spite of Herself.

Find out what other booklovers are reading at the What's on Your Nightstand carnival at 5 Minutes for Books.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fall into Reading, 2011

When I did Katrina's first challenge, several years ago now, I made a commitment to read more books. I've always loved reading, but I realized I missed reading, since I was spending my time in other ways. Since then, I've become an online book reviewer at 5 Minutes for Books and 5 Minutes for Mom, the number of books I read isn't an issue.

Including reading chapter books aloud with my kids, which I try to do, I easily complete 4 or 5 each month, and often many more (especially if you take into consideration my love of audiobooks, which adds at least one to the total each month).

I do still have the same problem of buying books and not reading them, and continuing to push aside books that I really want to read.

So, for this challenge, in addition to many review books that I know I'll be reading, I am going to make a short list of books I'd really like to get to from my personal collection. I've done this before, and failed, but we'll see what happens.

There are more. Many many more. I'm not even putting Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) on the list because I've lost all my credibility in regards to that title, since it's shown up on so many of my What's on Your Nightstand lists or Fall and Spring Challenges. If I read it, I'll be shouting from the rooftops, but I'm not making any promises.

Also, want to commit to keep reading with my kids. I'm in the middle of two different books with Kyle and Amanda, and I'd like to finish those and read one more with each of them before fall's end (The Penderwicks at Point Mouette being one of them). If you want to participate in Katrina's Fall into Reading challenge, and even be eligible to win some prizes, check out her informational post. She's even made it easy for non-bloggers. You can also just browse through other people's lists (but be warned, you'll suddenly become aware of many books you HAVE to read).  

I invite you to subscribe to my feed, or follow me @jenndon on twitter. You can also subscribe to the 5 Minutes for Books' feed or on Facebook

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What My Kids Have Been Reading - September

Seriously, is there anything more satisfying than THIS scene? 

The last Kids' Picks came right in the midst of our vacation to the Grand Canyon (which I am still in process of sharing), so I missed it, however I'll make up for it now.

What Amanda is reading a series that she started right before we left and is still chewing on, and in addition to what Kyle's been reading this last month, I'm going to share the series that he discovered around the time of our vacation as well.

Kyle, 2nd grade, age 7

Kyle has been enjoying two new literary characters: Humphrey and Alvin Ho.

I saw Surprises According to Humphrey and Friendship According to Humphrey in the audiobook section of the library, when I was looking for some books to take on our vacation. I didn't even know those existed, but Amanda read The World According to Humphrey in 4th grade as part of her school's "One School, One Read" program, which means it's the kind of book that will appeal to 1st through 4th grade, so I thought that would be perfect for him. I got the two audiobooks (which is an awesome way to enjoy a long road trip), books 2 and 3 in the series, and a print copy of the first one. He loved them!

When we were in Flagstaff, Amanda and I went to Barnes and Noble (more on that below), and I noticed that Summer According to Humphrey was one of the books that children could select after completing the reading challenge. I grabbed the form, went back across the street and filled in all of the books he had already read (over 6 just on the trip!), and then returned and got the book.

I asked him why he liked the Humphrey books, which take place in a school classroom and is told from the point of view of Humphrey the hamster. He said that they are exciting and interesting. I don't care what they are. I am just happy that he got lost in the story.

I read the 3rd book in the Alvin Ho series (first to me, linked to my review) for the Cybils last year. After Kyle plowed through some other books this summer, I introduced him to Alvin Ho, who is neurotic, funny, with just a tad bit of attitude. He loved them! In the last few weeks, he's read all 4, culminating with the most recent one that just published today (that I was offered as a part of the Amazon Vine reviewer program): Alvin Ho: Allergic to Dead Bodies, Funerals, and Other Fatal Circumstances.

Amanda, 8th grade, age 13

Amanda has been all about Michael Grant's Gone series, about a society in which all the adults disappear. The teens experience all sorts of things including Hunger, Lies, and Plague. She's reading that one now, after plowing through the first 3 500+ page books on vacation (We made the trip to B&N in Flagstaff to buy the 3rd one for her, since she was almost out of books, and we still had a long trip home). These books have been around a while. I'm not sure why she hadn't read them, but I know she'll be anxiously awaiting the 5th book, which isn't coming out until April.

I'm sharing my Kids' Picks, and you can read others and share your own at 5 Minutes for Books on the 2nd Tuesday of each month.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Collecting Quarters

Each morning as my children get ready to head out the door to catch the school bus, I issue last-minute reminders.

  • Brush your teeth -- with toothpaste!
  • Pack your backpack. Make sure you have homework/notes/signed papers/your lunch.
  • Turn off the lights upstairs on your way down.
Every day the reminders are the same. Most of them are pretty routine to them and would probably be accomplished without the reminders. However, I feel like the gentle nudges keep things moving along and avoid a last-minute rush or panic.

But then whenever I go upstairs during the day, I end up turning lights off in Kyle's sink area, their shared bath, Amanda's bedroom and closet.

Every day.

I decided that I would start issuing an electric surcharge. I told them so, and even gave Kyle a final reminder as he headed out the door, "Did you turn out the lights?"


When he came home, I told him that he owed me 50 cents, because he left the lights on in his sink area and the bathroom. It didn't really bug him. "I'll pay you when I go to bed, because I'll be near my money."

I forgot to ask when he went to bed, but he remembered the next morning and brought it to me.  The threat of a fine has worked better for Amanda, who is truly learning and appreciating the value of a buck (and even of silver). However, when she went out with her dad for the afternoon on Saturday, she left the light above her vanity area on, and her straightening iron plugged in. She coughed up 50 cents when she got home.

I've always believed in logical consequences -- in theory -- but the cold hard reality is that I still rely too much on yelling or nagging. So far, this is working for all of us. In general, they are little more mindful of turning off the lights behind them. If I do have to turn off a light, I get a quarter. I may even stop issuing the reminders. I'm not really irritated about it, because I'm collecting those quarter-dollars in a lovely little dish.

They're adding up, and soon I'm going to treat myself to something good.

What kinds of logical consequences help you to stop nagging and yelling and encourage your kids to take responsibilities on for themselves?

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

I have a teenager!

Thirteen.  Wow.  Amanda's been excited about this birthday to say the least.

I've definitely seen the onset of teen behavior, both good and "bad." I have bad in quotes, because testing boundaries is a part of the independence that adolescence spurs on. I noticed this summer that she wanted to spend more time alone (up in her room or the media room watching TV or reading as opposed to being downstairs with me). She's also had her share of emotional outbursts (as have I!).

But in general? It's all good. We are very proud of her.

Thirteen will bring some privileges, but some others are still on hold. She still may be the last girl at her middle school NOT to have a cell phone. She uses my old pre-paid phone when she's out and about (because I did finally get a new one), but she's embarrassed to take it out of her bag. She calls it the dinosaur.  With this behavior, she proves that she doesn't really need a phone, she wants a cool toy. And we're holding off for now.

She actually helped make the decision when her ipod Touch got water damage this summer. It did come back to life, but the WIFI was at first spotty, and as of last week, non-existent. She used the Text-Free app to text her friends (which is really what middle school girls use their phones for, lest you think that we are cutting her off from all social interaction), so this had become a hardship. She's wanted the new ipod Touch with the camera, and after constant use for 2 years, her battery was almost shot, so she decided that she'd prefer a new ipod Touch, where she texts, to a cell phone. We aren't buying her one -- she's had to save up, but I think that her birthday cash will put her over the top.

The other big thing that she's waited and waited for is Facebook.  She'll be setting up her Facebook account when she gets home from school. Oh happy day! Since she's younger than her classmates here (due to starting school in Connecticut, where the birthday cutoff was in December), she really might be the last 8th grade girl to have Facebook (that, and other kids go on before you are 13, in defiance of the Facebook rule). Rule number one is that she friends me first.  Rule number two is that she can only friend people she really knows in real life (not friends of friends). Any others I should put in place?

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Three Days in the Grand Canyon, Day 1: The South Rim

The vast majority of people (70 or 80%) who visit the Grand Canyon, visit only the more accessible South Rim, and spend less than half a day there.  We were in the minority. We spent 3 full days in the Grand Canyon, two of which were at the much less visited North Rim.

We loved it. It was the highlight of mine and Terry's trip. Spending a few days there made it sink in. Looking around at all that magnificence, day after day heightened the experience rather than dulling it.

Seeing as how most people either want to or already have visited the Grand Canyon at some point in their lives, I thought I'd share what we did:

We had arrived in Flagstaff, Arizona (a nice little town in the foothills of a mountain) the night before. We used that as home base for our visit to the South Rim. The drive was about an hour and half, and we spent most of the day there. Kyle picked up the Junior Ranger packet, which kept him focused as we walked around.

We were staring down into the canyon and Terry said, "There's the Colorado River," and Kyle was looking for that for his Junior Ranger bingo page. I couldn't see it at first, because I was expecting a bluish color, not brown, but with Terry's help, I found it.  Kyle wasn't having as much luck.  Terry would get down on his level, point it out to him, and then ask, "Do you see it?"

"Yeah," Kyle would answer.

"Show me," I'd say.

"Oh, I don't really see it."

He finally did, but that was another of the recurring gags on the trip.

We listened to a Ranger talk on Geology, which was fairly interesting (she was really excited about Geology), and mostly just walked along the rim. It was nice, but it was really crowded.

We bought lunch at a snack bar and sat down on a nice flat rock right off the path to eat it, until an overly tame, overly fed squirrel kept attacking us! Ugh. Do not feed the wild animals, people (Sadly, as we sat on higher ground, we saw a family encouraging their daughter to hand feed the very dangerously tame squirrel. Will you judge me if I say that I sort of almost hoped that the squirrel would bite the child?).

We drove to another overlook on the way out (The Watchtower, maybe?) that was very crowded. We went to the observation deck, but not all the way to the top.

We probably spent about five hours there, which was plenty. I don't feel like we missed anything.

And we left with the same number of people as we arrived with, which was fortunate given the animal attack and Amanda's risky behavior.

Kyle in the ghost town we stopped in for a drink when we left.