Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What's on My Nightstand, March

Here's my Nightstand, save my audiobooks on my ipod and my e-books on my Kindle.

I linked to most of the titles last week when I posted my Spring Reading Thing list, except I realize I forgot one in my stack (that's in progress) -- Land of Decoration -- and I also left one off my SRT list:   interesting nonfiction book I got from Amazon Vine, Up: A Mother and Daughter's Peakbagging Adventure.

Seeing the stack sort of stresses me out, especially considering that I need to have those top 2 finished in the next 5 to 7 days, because they are both for scheduled giveaways!  But the ones standing up are all in progress, so it should be fine.

Why are so many in progress, and why am I delayed on my goals?  Welllllll . . . . It's because I picked up The Hunger Games to re-read it, and after getting pulled into the whole Hunger Games Experience (you can read more of my thoughts and check out an AWESOME youtube video on that post), I had to go right to Catching Fire.  I'm almost finished with it. I do plan to read Mockingjay when I'm finished, because the first time I read it, I had forgotten a lot of the finer details, but I might have to hold off until late April or May, since I've neglected some deadlines :)

You can share what you are reading over at 5 Minutes for Books What's on Your Nightstand carnival each month!

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Hunger Games Experience

I've shared my thoughts on The Hunger Games movie in a few places over at 5 Minutes for Books (including posting two interviews with the producer Nina Jacobson), and I hope you'll check out those posts, linked here within, but it's definitely been an experience.

In fact, I started a Hunger Games movie discussion post, which has been a lot of fun for me. After I saw this movie, I wanted to talk about it. I was more excited about this movie than any other I can remember. The hype fed into it, and I enjoyed being a part of the blockbuster opening weekend, although I'm not always one to jump on the bandwagon or play into the hype. I wrote "when a movie becomes a phenomenon" summarizing my thoughts about my experience from the books to the movie, and highlighting why I think some people are so disappointed.

 All the hype and anticipation, and of course seeing the movie itself renewed my interest in the whole series. When I read Mockingjay, I was disappointed, as many others were, but I thought that part of it was that I hadn't re-read Hunger Games or Catching Fire. Well, now I'm remedying that. I re-read Hunger Games (actually I technically read it for the first time). I'm about halfway through Catching Fire and plan to keep going until I finish the series.

 I liked the movie. I liked it a lot, but this little gem below -- I LOVE. In 11 minutes, they manage to tell the whole story and to include all the details that were left out from the movie. I thought they must have made it in specific response to that, but it first posted on their Facebook page before the movie was released.

Happy Hunger Games!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Reading Thing, 2012

When I heard people saying that today was the first day of Spring, the first thing I thought of was "Ooops -- I gotta get my Spring Reading Thing post ready."  So -- a little late -- here we go:

A couple of my 2012 goals involved reading. In fact, I wrote an entire post just about my reading goals for 2012. I need to write an update on all of those, but I've done pretty well on keeping track of my reading, which was one of the things that I wanted to do, and I've also purposed to do more personal reading (not review books for 5 Minutes for Books), and I've done well with that as well.

So unlike months' past, I actually have a fairly good idea of some of the books I'll be reading over the next few months.

I love audiobooks! Here are a few in my queue (all for review):

  • Illusion: A Novel by Frank Peretti -- some of the early reviews I've read have criticized this book for its lack of Christian imagery, but I'm excited to check it out.
  • Out of Sight, Out of Time is the latest book in the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter that Amanda has been reading. I've wanted to check out Ally Carter, and Amanda likes audiobooks as well, so I think she'll like listening as well.
  • Ten Things I Hate About Me is another YA book for Amanda and me. Randa Abdel-Fattah writes about an Australian/Muslim girl (and I think she is/was one as well). Amanda's reading her first book now, which I got her when I knew this was coming, and she's really enjoying it.
  • I haven't read Harlan Coban in some time, so when I saw his new audiobook Stay Close, I was excited to try it.
And the fiction books on my pile for the next few months are ready and waiting as well:

Nonfiction -- I have quite a few of these actually in progress (the first 5 actually), and others I need to get on:

There will be more, and that sure seems like a big list to handle in the next few months, but we'll see how it unfolds.  See what others are trying to read at Callapidder Days' Spring Reading Thing.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring Break, Sprung

We had a lovely week, but Spring Break has sprung, and now we are back to reality. What was so lovely about it? It was truly a break:

  • A break from waking up early. I'm a morning person in general, but these first few days after the daylight savings spring forward time change make it a little harder to get going. And since there weren't school buses to catch, I could actually enjoy my coffee. Kyle and I stayed "pajama-ed" until the morning hours were almost over.
  • A break from nagging because there's no homework to be done. In addition to that, since Amanda was away on a mission trip with the middle schoolers from church, there was no teen nagging either. I don't like the responsibility of taskmaster (but since I also don't like junior high homework not being turned in, or junior high daughters who need sleep staying up late to finish homework, I crack the whip.
  • A break from all scheduled activity: I didn't have to be at my Bible study leader's meeting or a Bible study meeting, or the school to volunteer, or baseball practice, or Amanda's church leadership meeting (or as happened last week -- both of those last two things at once). Just reading it makes me tired, so yes, I loved that break.
  Kyle and I did enjoy a trip to the Museum of Fine Arts for a special kids' session of the King Tut exhibit which included an art project afterwards. I'm not sure if the King Tut exhibit would have been worth the high price, but for $10 each, we got entry to the exhibit, a free audio guide which Kyle listened to and caused him to slow down and actually examine and enjoy the pieces, and then we got to spend an hour creating our own art project as inspired by the artifacts we just saw. It was a highlight of our week.

On that same day, we squeezed in a lunch date with Terry downtown, and a dinner date with my grandmother, but by doing all those things at once, it allowed us to schedule a couple of other lunches with friends.

We still have about 2 1/2 months of school, but this little break was definitely a hint of summer. While there are things I appreciate about the workaday schedule, I most definitely am craving more of the same.

 What about the summer schedule do you most enjoy?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Remembering: The Awkward Years

This is one of my favorite posts ever. First posted May 3, 2006. One observation: In 2006 I didn't have a digital camera, which means that most of my early posts had no pictures at all. I don't think I was unique in this. Boy have things changed. I've added the picture that I mentioned below (a picture of a picture, but better than nothing).

Speaking of changes, Kyle is now older than Amanda was when I wrote this. Wow.

Amanda is 7. Well, 7 and a half, as half-years are very important as you probably know. In the last couple of posed pictures that were taken of her, she is smiling with her lips closed. She lost both front teeth this summer, so she has the "big teeth" in front now. When we got a picture that had been taken at church and put into a frame that they made, I told her that it was a very pretty picture. I also asked her why she was smiling that way. "I don't know," she replied.

 "Are you embarassed or self-conscious about something?" I prompted her. "Kind of, I guess," she admitted. Another thing that helped me put all this together was when we had a portrait made in March with her brother and her baby cousin. They were all wearing jeans and white shirts. Baby Paige was barefoot, so we could see those adorable baby toes. I suggested that Amanda and Kyle take off their shoes. Amanda refused (politely and respectfully, of course), because "I don't like the way my feet look with no shoes."

I have noticed on TV how very many commercials there are for losing weight--Nutrisystem, Jenny Craig, Curves, other gyms. The list goes on. Guide to Healthcare Schools can help you learn what it takes to maintain a healthy lifestyle. One time when the Nutrisystem commercial was on, she said, "When I go on a diet, I'm going to go on that one, because you can eat chocolate." When she goes on a diet?? It's a hard time to grow up now. I pray for her self-image. I pray specifically that she will learn to eat healthily, neither to excess nor starvation. I pray that she will see herself as loved and created by God, who doesn't make mistakes.

Only seven, and already self conscious? And this from an otherwise confident, head-strong leader. I was reflecting on the term: self-conscious. Conscious of self. It has a negative connotation, but there's nothing inherantly wrong with feeling yourself. So I thought why when we feel "self-conscious" we feel insecure, doubtful, like we are awkward inside our own skin. I think it's because we really are created to seek out and rely on Him who created us, not ourselves. If we remember that God has a plan for us, and if we follow Him, He'll help us get there (in spite of ourselves). I also don't tend to feel self-conscious if I'm thinking of others. It might be awkward to go take a plate of cookies to a new neighbor, but if I think of them and their need to be welcomed and feel accepted, instead of my awkwardness and what they will think of me, then it becomes (slightly) easier.

Already 35 (and a half), and still self-conscious? Unfortunately, yes. I also pray for myself, to move from this self-centered and self-conscious frame of mind, into a place of genunine peace with who I am, not who I'm becoming, not who I was, but who and where I am right now. A place where doing laundry, picking up toys, wiping noses, fixing lunches, and then doing it all again the next day doesn't feel awkward. A place where I'm happy with myself and the plan that God has for me. Right now.

 Disclosure: Some links within the post are affiliate or sponsored text.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Girls Gone. . . Cold

It was Spring Break, and we were determined that we were going to the beach. We were juniors in high school with wheels, and that's what one does on Spring Break, right? With Galveston being an easy day trip, it was definitely on our agenda.

In the week leading up to our time off from school, Mindy would look up from her desk and excitedly utter "Beach!" and we'd smile at our plan.

When the designated day arrived, it was a little overcast and cool, but we had plans. We were 16, it was Spring Break -- we were going to the beach.

Jennifer, Mindy and I piled into Mary's royal blue Volvo. We were swimsuit-ed up, we had snacks, and we were ready to go. Surely it would be warmer and sunnier in Galveston.

It wasn't.

We got there, and did all the things one does to make a beach site fun --  spread out our towels, turned on the jambox and laid out to catch some rays (and perhaps the eyes of a group of guys?) -- but we were cold.

We decided that walking around might be warmer (not to mention that walking up and down the beach was like cruising Main Street). We also decided that we needed our towels. We draped them around our shoulders like capes, Jennifer grabbed the Wheat Thins, and we set off.

It quickly became comical.

We were not sexy teens looking for a good time. We weren't even that under the best of circumstances. We were just a group of stubborn girls who had picked a day for a beach trip and were bound and determined to stick to the plan.

It wasn't the beach trip that we had envisioned, but I think we had fun. If not, at least remembering all these years later is leaving me with a big smile on my face.


Photo credit:  Jennifer Donovan, but lest you be led astray, this is NOT Galveston. Not even close. It's the beautiful Caribbean.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Kids' Picks -- March

Even though I've missed the last couple of opportunities to post, I love the 2nd Tuesday of each month, when I -- and other bookloving moms -- post the tried-and-true recommendations of what their kids have liked over in 5 Minutes for Books' Kids' Picks.

Kyle, 7 1/2 (2nd grade)

Kyle loved the Vincent Shadow books. I have posted a review at 5 Minutes for Books (and a giveaway!) that includes both my thoughts and his. Please check it out. I was honestly a little surprised that these two books grabbed him, but each time I asked him how much he likes it (and even ask him to rank it against other books he's loved), it gets high marks.

He also picked up one of the books that we own this week, from Black Lagoon Adventures for a re-read. These are the early chapter books based on the popular picture book by Mike Thaler that he found at Half-Price Books sometime last year. At that point, he was a good reader, but not crazy about it, so you'd better believe that I was willing to spend $2 on as many of those as he wanted to buy since he'd actually read them.

He rediscovered the books last week when I asked him to go through his bin of books downstairs and let me know which ones he didn't want anymore. I was surprised that he kept those, since he hasn't read them in a while. This is why it's always good to have some books on hand. You just never know when the urge might strike to read, and you also never know what they might feel like reading.

Amanda, 13 1/2 (8th grade)

My second kid's picks confirm this "have books around" philosophy. She's been doing a lot of re-reading in the last couple of months. She even told me, "Lately, I just feel like reading something that I know I'll love."

She re-read some of the Pseudonymous Bosch books because I finally bought her the last book in the series: You Have to Stop This.  I'm glad she can still pick up and enjoy this type of book even though I suppose it's technically below her level.

She also re-"read" Uglies when I brought it home on CD from the library, but now she's dying to get to Pretties and the others in the series (for a second read), but for some reason they have been checked out, so I finally put a hold on them at the library.

She does a lot of multi-tasking, so she's always looking for an audiobook. I've finally convinced her NOT to listen to audiobooks when she's trying to do homework, but if she's working on art projects, it's okay, and of course it is fine to do if she's just texting/facebooking her friends. And -- like her mother -- having a compelling audiobook to listen to encourages her to actually do some cleaning up.  She enjoyed They Never Came Back, as did I (linked to my full review).

That's all I can come up with for now, but I'm happy to share some of the book-love going on around here. What about you?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Fair Weather Fans

Sunday was a triple-threat for church attendance here in our area:
  1. It was the first weekend of Spring Break, meaning that some people had taken off for places more exciting than home.
  2. It was also the day after the dreaded "lose an hour" of that big Daylight Savings conspiracy, meaning that babies and kids who usually get up at 7:00 were still sleeping soundly at what they thought was 6:00am, and parents and older kids who lost an hour of sleep were loathe to leave their cocoons to prepare for church.
  3. It was raining. I don't mean a few sprinkles. It was raining really hard about an hour before church started, when people would have been considering starting the ritual that would have their family ready for the car in time to be to Bible study at 9:30.
Any of these factors individually would have impacted attendance somewhat, but the combination of the three slashed it in half.

 Yes, we were there. We aren't fair-weather fans, and honestly, with the possible exception of a sleeping toddler (because who wants to mess with that??!!), I'm not sure I get it. I get the temptation, but for us church isn't optional. The practical reason behind this is that 3 of us had to be there: I was serving at the check-in kiosk, Amanda was helping with the preschool worship as she does every other week, and Terry was teaching 6th grade boys.

But the truth is that we don't see church as optional. You don't let losing an hour of sleep or a rainstorm keep you from work or school or even a birthday party, right? So to honor the God who created me and loves me and redeemed my life by tackling a few practical obstacles head on doesn't seem like too much to ask. I saw this picture on Facebook this morning that pretty much sums it up:

Stepping off my soapbox to continue the story --

 Fortunately, as the majority of people arrived between 9:00 and 9:30, it was clear. However, as the sermon began, God thundered His way in. It was obvious that outside the rain was coming down with a vengeance. I'm sure that we were all praying that it would pass by the time we left around noon.

It did, and we were thankful -- and I was just has pleased that the whole situation gave me a glimpse into Kyle's spiritual life. I commented as we were leaving that we had actually lost sound, and he told me that they had too (though we had emergency back-up power, so the lights never went out).

 "I'm glad it stopped raining," I said (Because these Texas-sized rainstorms power through raincoats and umbrellas and cars pulling up to the curb. You just end up wet.).

"Me, too," Kyle agreed. "That's what I prayed."

A 7 1/2 year-old boy who believes God is in control; a 13-year old daughter who is spending her Spring Break serving some kids in a low-income area of Arlington by putting on a Vacation Bible School?  Indeed, any sacrifice we've made to know Him and serve Him has been worth it:

"The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy." Psalm 126:3


On a semi-related note, I just received Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus at the strong recommendation of my friend, where I'm sure he shares similar rants.

When I ordered it, I noticed that there's a teen edition coming out in April that I think I might get for Amanda, assuming that I like what Kyle Idleman has to say.

 Have you read it?

Friday, March 09, 2012

Remembering: Blankie

It used to be a white and barely blue and pink variegated color. It is now a dingy gray, even fresh out of the washing machine.

It used to be tightly crocheted with an open weave pattern on either end. It now has bigger holes and a stretched appearance.

It used to be an it. He slept with a blanket--with the devotion and constancy that some of us show our God--but still it was just his comforter, his transitional object.

Somehow over the last year, it has become she*. His blanket is now Blankie. Blankie gives and asks for hugs and kisses when I am giving them to Kyle at night. Blankie does things while Kyle is away from his room during the day: "Blankie is still sleeping." "Blankie's going to play with the dinosaur while I'm gone."

At first I just thought it was cute and imaginative. Recently I've only come to recognize it for what it really is. It's magic.

The magic of childhood affects everything that they touch, but especially that which they love. There are rules that we as adults are forced to accept: "Toys don't talk. That's just a blanket. Walk, don't run." If our children accepted these rules--adhered to these rules--there would be no magic, and I think that life around my house would be a lot shabbier.

He didn't mind how he looked to other people, because the nursery magic had made him Real, and when you are Real, shabbiness doesn't matter.

from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams


*This first posted here on June 17, 2008. Things were different then. Kyle was four, perhaps a bit old for a blankie, but that's where the magic came in.

He's now almost eight. I don't even know where Blankie is. She's not a needed nighttime item. For a while, any time we traveled, we had to have her. I do know she made the move from Connecticut to Texas with us, and she hasn't been packed away. She might be under his pillow.

I doubt he even remembers the extent that Blankie was a part of those years. To be honest, until I stumbled upon this in my archives, I had forgotten too.