Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Summer Reading -- What's on my Nightstand

These first few weeks of summer have been golden as far as reading goes! I've been reading a lot more after slowing down some during a busy April and May.

I usually read for an hour or so when I first get up. My teen is still sleeping at this time, and I try to get my son to read for at least half an hour. It's a nice way to ease into the day.

It was one of my 2012 goals to read at least 12 books "just for me" -- my personal picks as opposed to review books (which I am still selecting and excited to read) -- basically one a month. I honestly thought I might be a little behind, but I just checked my spreadsheet (another goal -- to accurately keep track of the books I read), and I'm in the middle of my 7th book right now!

That book is Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus, which was recommended to me by a friend. I'm enjoying it a lot.

Other books I hope to get to include:
 Planes, Trains, and Auto-Rickshaws: A Journey through Modern India and finish Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking which is fascinating but is taking me a while to read. 

I actually feel pretty darn good about managing my reading. I think I've kept track of what I have coming in, and I think I'll be able to get through these.

What about you? Do you need some summer reading ideas? Or do you want to link up your own to-be-read pile this month? Check out What's on Your Nightstand -- the 4th Tuesday of every month at 5 Minutes for Books.

Monday, June 25, 2012

This isn't too much to ask

I am often befuddled (yes, befuddled) by my daughter's unwillingness to step out of her comfort zone to do something new -- something that a soon-to-be independent adult should be able to do. For example, she'll have a question about where something is in the store. "Ask that employee," I'll suggest obviously. "What do I say?" she'll ask.

I was inspired by the most excellent book Cleaning House: A Mom's Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement to give her a little errand to do. "Errands" was one of the activities that the author Kay Wills Wyma subjected her 14, 12, 10, and 8 year old children during her plan to teach her children to work. As we were driving (after taking her friend home, I might add if I was keeping score), I told her that when we got to the Redbox, I wanted her to return the movie (the movie that she and her friend watched the night before) .  "I don't know how," she replied. "You'll figure it out," I said.

She gave me a look as she was getting out of the car ("I don't know why you can't just do this yourself," the look said). She meandered up to the box. Someone had already scrolled through every movie in Kiosk A and had moved over to Kiosk B, and someone was heading up to Kiosk A. "Hurry," I thought, not wanting her to get caught behind another slow browser.

Amanda beat her to the kiosk, but she looked determined, so Amanda hung back. But then she started looking at her phone, and hadn't stepped all the way up to the machine, so I unrolled the window and yelled, "Can my daughter just return our movie?"  The look that earned me was probably not as G-rated as the first look.

She looked as clueless as a Kindergartner given Calculus instead of a coloring sheet.

She lifted the sun flap, stared at it, looked at me, then stepped back again and let cell-phone lady go ahead of her.

The woman didn't realize that I was empowering my teenager, that I was breaking her habit of entitlement, so when she finished, she pressed "return a DVD" for Amanda before she walked away and said, "It's all set. Just put it in."

Seriously. The first time I used redbox, I had to read the instructions. It's not rocket science. It's not calculus. She's a computer-savvy kid from a tech generation. She can figure out a DVD kiosk. But she's never had to before, so like most people who like being taken care of, she feigns helplessness.

Attempt one at teaching her errands probably didn't work very well. Just wait until I send her into the grocery store with some cash and a list of a few items. We might need to go on high blood pressure medicine, but it's gonna happen.


I highly, highly recommend this book, Cleaning House. You can enter to win a copy over at 5 Minutes for Mom today.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


"What's up with you and your flip flops?"

Kyle doesn't hesitate in answering the question. Some kids would ask what I meant, why I wanted to know, or say that nothing was up.  Kyle simply said,"We love each other."

The reason why I asked, in case you want to know, is because he was wearing them with his pajamas.

We had been swimming that afternoon and when he came in and got dressed, he put on his PJ's, which is normal if it's late in the day (though the sun was still up and would be for several hours). So it was 4:00 p.m., he in his pajamas watching some TV, dressed to the shoes.

I'm not sure about the sandals' feelings for their owner, but Kyle does love his flip flops.

This year, Kyle had been complaining that he had "never" had flip flops. He did have a pair that he wore one summer a few years ago, but since that time I had traded them in for Crocs and their heel straps, because he wasn't allowed to wear flip-flops on the playground at school.

I was more than willing to honor his wish, so I picked some up on my next trip to Target, and Kyle has been a happy boy ever since.

As cute as the love of a boy for his shoes is, and as much as I love the fact that his skipping is an outward manifestation of his exuberant spirit (yes, he's still skipping), you can take my word that skipping and flip-flopping on wood floors do not mix. It might work for the do-er, but it's not so pleasant to the hear-er.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What My Kids are Reading -- Summer Style

Between there being NO homework (or any work) during the last days (or in Kyle's case, weeks) of school, the kids have had time to read. Thanks to my gentle encouragement, they've actually used some of that time to actually read. Here are some of their favorites over the last month (or two -- since I was a slacker last month). Check out other Kids' Picks over at 5 Minutes for Books on the 2nd Tuesday of each month.

KYLE, age 8

In my May post I mentioned that among some other awesome finds, he had delved into a new series, Hank Zipzer. I'm happy that he continued on with it and has read 2 or 3 more since then. The beauty of a simple, appealing middle grade series is that they know what to read next. I know that the books are cranked out and are probably not of the highest literary value (though -- despite Kyle's requests -- I haven't yet read one myself. I should.), but knowing where to go next is huge.

Additionally, he (and I) loved Justin Case: Shells, Smells and the Horrible Flip-Flops of Doom (click through to see my recent review at 5 Minutes for Books).

He was out of library books last week, and my constant reminder about the stack of Beverly Cleary Ramona books never goes anywhere, even though he's enjoyed some Ribsy books at school. I also put an Edward Eager book from our collection in his hands, which he seemed excited about, but discarded it because "nothing happened."

But then I thought about the wildly imaginative Landon Snow series that was on the bookshelf. Amanda read the first two or three (which I think that I got from another book reviewer who decided not to review them -- though I'm not sure). Well, he loves it! It's a good challenging reading level for him, and he's proud to be reading a "long" book (he still puts books that near 200 pages in that daunting category, and this one surpasses that).

AMANDA, my 13 1/2 high schooler

We've been enjoying some books together from the delightful Maureen Johnson. I usually read to Amanda for about 15 minutes at breakfast each morning before school, and I hope that we find some time this summer to continue that, especially since we are only 1/3 of the way into The Last Little Blue Envelope which we started straightaway after being charmed by Ginny's delightful adventures in Europe in 13 Little Blue Envelopes. We both loved this fun, humorous adventurous novel.  I have loved ALL of Maureen Johnson's books, because they feature slightly awkward, not overly mature teenage girls.

When I was at the library, I picked up another of her books off the shelf, and though it dealt with some serious issues, I counted on Maureen Johnson's style to draw Amanda in, and it did. I will say that the amazon cover of The Key to the Golden Firebird is different from the one that was in the library, and I'm not sure if I would have brought it home if I was gazing at that cover!

She also revisited the second Kane Chronicles book The Throne of Fire audiobook to get her back up to speed. Them she dug right in to book 3, The Serpent's Shadow (GIVEAWAY open through the end of the day today!), which she's currently enjoying.

Many of her friends have read The Help, so my copy is sitting on her bookshelf, and I'm hoping she gets to it this summer. I think that I'm going to have to work with her as hard as I have with Kyle to keep good books in her hands.

Friday, June 08, 2012


This is post two of two about being absent from my children. You can read yesterday's post about how "Out of sight, out of mind" worked for me when they were younger.

Amanda had been gone less than 24 hours when my friend who is at youth camp with them texted me this picture of her on the beach. She looked so pretty and like she was having fun. Each day they post pictures online, and each day, I've found her there, having fun.

Here she is with her condo group, and it reminded me of several truths about her that warmed my heart (seriously -- it's cliche, but I truly feel warmth when I think about it).

  • She's tall. I think because she's closer to the front, it's a little skewed, but look at that kid!  Okay, that doesn't warm my heart, but that smile certainly did.
  • She's friendly. I don't know that girl standing right beside her on the end, and I don't think Amanda knows her either. But Amanda's literally enfolding her, making her a part of the group.
  • She's wanted. At least 3 of the girls in her group requested to be with Amanda. As they were loading up the buses, we found out who their "condo Mom" was going to be, and we were excited about it. She also affirmed that Amanda would be with a couple of her best buddies there. Each mom had told me that her daughter really wanted to be with Amanda. One of them told me that her daughter said that Amanda was the one person she always felt comfortable with. 
When she was in the second grade, the mother of the girl who quickly became her best friend in those elementary years told me that she did some matchmaking after being in the classroom and observing Amanda: "She just seemed like she'd be a good friend."

Amanda is a friend to all. I'm not saying that she's "Most Popular," but she always seems to be among the "Most Liked." She likes people, and they like her back. Even in 5th and 6th grades, when birthday parties begin to weed out casually-liked classmates for close friends, Amanda would get invitations from people I didn't even know she knew.

"Who is that?" I'd ask. "Do you want to go?" (knowing that the less-extroverted me would definitely opt-out of attending a party that wasn't really "my crowd" -- both in middle school and now).

"She's my friend!" Amanda always clarified. "She rides my bus/sits near me at lunch/is in my class. Of course I want to go!"

See, I do know all those things about Amanda. I've observed these strengths for many years. And as she's begun to mature, many parents and other adults that have interacted with her have told me what they see in her: leadership, kindness, enthusiasm.


But, as my friend Elizabeth noted: "How can I miss you, if you won't go away?"

I love seeing my kids grow up. I haven't hated the teen years, and I am not going into high school anticipating that, but the day-to-day challenges of dealing with an adolescent sometimes overshadow the loveliness of who she is becoming.

Need I clarify?

  • Clean your room 
  • Do your homework 
  • Don't argue with me
  • No, I'm not buying you that
  • No, you can't wear that
Absence has indeed made my heart grow fonder. Or to be more honest, it reminded me of the fondness that has always been there. I'm glad she got to go away. But I'm even gladder of the text notification I got an hour ago letting me know that the buses are on their way home!

Thursday, June 07, 2012


Mom and Amanda, summer 1999
You know how when you're in high school and college, and you have a long distance relationship -- you comfort yourself with the old adage "Absence makes the heart grow fonder."  Of course you are also plagued with the possibility of "Out of sight, out of mind."

I've found both to be true in parenting with perks and benefits to parent and child.

Terry and I were married almost six years before Amanda was born, so when she came along we had enjoyed vacations together and had the time to grow into ourselves as a married couple. We determined that becoming parents would not completely change that. And it didn't. Yes, we loved being parents, and we valued what she added to our lives. But having just one child did make it easier. The other factor that insured that we stayed connected as a couple was regular getaways.

My mom and stepdad came to visit us in Oregon for Amanda's first birthday. Mom volunteered to babysit if we wanted to have a romantic getaway, so we took her up on it.  I know people who haven't even left their children with a babysitter in the first year. I've learned not to judge what works for other people, but I have to admit that I always cringe when I hear that. I get that some people might not be able to bite the overnight getaway bullet so soon, but it's worked for us.

In fact, it worked so well that 8 months later, Mom came for a whole week while Terry and I escaped to a remote island. It was perfect. This was in 1999, before wide cell phone coverage, and believe it or not -- we were gone a full 7 days and didn't even talk to my mom or Amanda. Mom could have called the office if she needed us, but we didn't have phones in the room, and calling out wasn't easy. This is where the principle of "Out of sight, out of mind" came into play.

Of course Amanda was not out of my mind. I missed her. I wondered what she and Mom were up to. But I knew that they were both creating memories, and Terry and I were investing in our marriage. We arrived home in the afternoon, and Amanda was napping. I could hardly wait for her to wake up so that I could grab her and hug her. So at the first peep, I opened her door, expecting to see the excitement on her face. Nope. I mean, she was glad to see me, but it was just as if I had been there when she went down for her nap, not 7 days before. I haven't checked the developmental experts, but it seems that if young toddlers are still grappling with object permanence, the same could be said for parental permanence.

Maybe the key is not delaying your departures, but actually doing it sooner. We were definitely out of sight, out of mind in Amanda's toddler world. She wasn't out of our minds, but the fact that we truly escaped that 24-7 connection (which wasn't all that unusual 12 years ago), did help us to focus on our true purpose of being there. And other times when I was able to talk with my kids when I was away, it just made me miss them more.

Things have changed. That toddler Amanda is now a teen who will start high school this fall. She's off at church camp with a bunch of other teenagers. Come back to tomorrow to find out about why "absence makes the heart grow fonder."

Sunday, June 03, 2012


"Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts."

I found that quote, attributed to Arnold Bennett, on BrainyQuote.com. Between my mom's unexpected cancer diagnosis, becoming my grandmother's primary caregiver after moving her from her home into a memory care unit close to me, as well as some major changes in some other important areas of my life, I've been undergoing a lot of change. I just wrote over on 5 Minutes for Books about how all of this even changed my reading habits.

I can bring some more depth to those words. I think that even a change for the worse, with the inevitable drawbacks and discomforts, results in some change for the better.
Romans 5:3-4: Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings,  because we know that suffering produces perseverance, character; and character, hope.
It's true.

I've suffered this last month, and it's probably not likely to end. But it doesn't feel like it's all bad. I want to control the outcome of everything, but I can't. All I can do is take it as it comes and yes, try to make the best of it -- or perhaps let it make the best of me.

(This might be one of the cheesiest music videos ever (aren't they all?), but the sentiment fits. I went through some stuff back in 2002 when the song first came out, and I got it then too, but sometimes we need a reminder. I'm hoping this time the positive changes stick.)