Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What I'm Reading Now

I had sort of given up on writing up my own post for What's on Your Nightstand at 5 Minutes for Books for a few reasons.
  1. I haven't really been blogging much here, since I've been writing more at 5 Minutes for Mom and of course reviewing at 5 Minutes for Books, but with a brand new post yesterday, I thought, "Why not keep up the trend?" (you can read my post about how a sweet video memory of my daughter has encouraged me to Remember What is Important).
  2. I am often bogged down by books to be read and don't want to take the time to figure out which books I am going to read this month. I've remedied that by changing the way I do it. I'm not going to stress out about it by focusing on books that I am reading right now, which will simplify it somewhat.
  3. I'm lazy?!? That one applies to so many things that I would like to do but do not. I'm trying to simplify (thus, no lovely pictures) and yet still share what I want.
Currently Reading:
  • God is Just Not Fair -- a friend forwarded me a devotional this morning written by Jennifer Rothschild, and it mentioned that her book published today, so I clicked over to amazon and immediately ordered it for both of us! They didn't have any print copies for some reason, but the Kindle is a great price, so I have it right now, and am going to dig in today.
  • Nerd Camp 2.0 -- Elissa Brent Weissman's book Nerd Camp is one that Amanda and I loved so very much that I nominated it for the Cybils award that year, and I was delighted that it won! Kyle and I are reading this one aloud and enjoying it.
  • Mouseheart -- This is one I requested for review from Amazon Vine because it was described as a mix of Redwall and the Warriors (which is one of the series that Kyle absolutely loves). He's acting disinterested, but I'm reading it anyway. It's good so far.
  • Smart Money, Smart Kids by Dave Ramsey and his daughter Rachel Cruze -- I'll be featuring this over at 5 Minutes for Mom, but it's a topic that I am pretty passionate about and yet know I haven't done my best at training up my 15 year old and 10 year old kids in the way they should go in regards to money.
  • Strong Motion by Johnathan Franzen -- This is typical Franzen, long and full of biting social commentary. It's on my ipod, so I listen when I can.
Up Next:
  • Always Emily -- When I lived in Connecticut, I attended a book launch party at Michaela MacColl's house for her first book Prisoners in the Palace. I loved it (and still highly recommend it -- a great book with an upstairs/downstairs Downton-esque theme). I also enjoyed her novel, Promise the Night about aviator Beryl Markham so when I saw that she was publishing a new one about the Bronte sisters, I knew I'd want to read it.
  • Until You're Mine -- This is described as psychological suspense, which I really enjoy when it's done right, so I think when I do pick it up, it will be a quick read, even though it's rather long. I hope so.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Remembering What's Important

A while ago, Susan asked if I had some VHS home videos or 8mm videos I'd want to send to YesVideo to be converted to digital files.

Look at two of my favorite snippets in my post at 5 Minutes for Mom, and learn about the herculean effort I had to make to get that tape out of my dead video camera, and my sadness over all the memories I've already lost.

I've loved sharing those videos with my family and being able to relive the memories myself. Here's another snippet of a memory that was totally lost to me, but now is reclaimed through the beauty of video:
 I think it means even more, because I help teach preschoolers at the Bible study I attend. I know that Amanda learned this simple song that teaches her about Jesus at church, and I know that she learned even more about Him when she attended the same Bible study with me years ago.

I couldn't have seen this concrete reminder at a better time. Spring is so busy and important things often go by the wayside or get lost in the busyness of the urgent. I love teaching these little ones about Jesus each Wednesday morning, but by the end of March, I -- along with my other leaders -- are tired.

Instead of counting down the weeks, I can let the Amanda of of the past inspire me. Maybe 12 years from now, one of the parents of a child I've given my time to teach will look back on where their journey of faith started, perhaps with a snippet of him reciting a verse I helped him memorize.


Do you have outdated video files to which you'd like to have easy access? I can highly recommend YesVideo's service. Now you can even use those snippets to create gifts or send digital e-cards from Hallmark. Save 35% on your transfer through 3/31 with the code EASTER35.

 Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Recently Reviewed

I didn't get up an official post for What's on My Nightstand last week, which is just as well. I have a few books that I know I need to get to this month, but my main focus for the next 2 1/2 months is going to be reading middle grade fiction, kids' novels, because I am serving on the Round I panel for the Cybils in that category, which means as soon as nominations start rolling in on October 1, I'm going to be scouring the library to get my hands on as many as I can.

In the meantime, check out my reviews that have posted at 5 Minutes for Books recently:

Kids' and YA Fiction:

Christian Nonfiction

Saturday, September 14, 2013

I'm not sure she believes it

I was at the mall today. I don't start a lot of stories like that, thankfully. Well, I'm thankful. You might think it's sad. Regardless, I was standing in a line (just one of the things that I don't like about the mall), and I saw a young girl, maybe 11 or 12 years old, wearing a shirt with bright green lettering proclaiming

"Happy to be me." 

She didn't look like she believed it. She was walking around in that sort of slumpy way that many adolescent girls adopt. Her face wore more of a scowl than a smile. But the shirt made me smile. I inwardly cheered her on:

I hope so, honey. I hope that you walk proudly even if you are taller or fatter than you want to be. I hope that you have friends and family who are also happy that you are you. I hope that you know God and believe that what He has made is good. It's not easy to be your age, but life is what you make of it. Your attitude is almost the only thing that you can control, so keep being happy, honey. Keep being happy.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Newsies, Blue Man Group, and Peter and the Starcatcher

Mine, Amanda's Kyle's -- we each got shirts at our fave shows

On our wonderful trip to NYC, we squeezed 3 shows into 3 1/2 days in the city. It was amazing!

We saw Newsies at the Nederlander Theater. It was what Amanda was most looking forward to seeing, and she wasn't disappointed. It was Kyle's first show, and he was thrilled (even though he was skeptical going into it). We saw an 8pm show, and I was worried that he'd fall asleep, but the show held his interest. The excitement of a live show kept his adrenaline pumping, I think.

I wouldn't say that it's one of my favorite shows ever (but I've seen a lot of shows), but I did like it. The story was pretty good, and the dancing was amazing. It was a good first experience for Kyle, with the action of the dancing and the cast made of up young guys (I don't think Amanda minded that either). We even waited at the stage door so she could see her favorite, Crutchie. We weren't close enough for her to get a picture with him, but she did get his autograph.

My favorite of the three was Peter and the Starcatcher. Please read my full review over at 5 Minutes for Books (as a part of our books on screen stage feature). I think it was the 2nd favorite of each of the kids, enjoyed by all of us.

I would have probably opted for another musical as a 3rd pick, but I was pretty sure that the kids, and Kyle in particular, would like the Blue Man Group, and they did. It was fun, and it was definitely an experience. It's crazy, funny, performance art. The Vegas, New York, and Orlando shows are all different. This small venue made it an even cooler experience, and the 3 blue men were waiting to take pictures with anyone who wanted them right after the show.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Getting Older, Some Hackneyed Observations

I should say that I'm not just getting older, I'm getting better. It's trite but true. Things are trite for a reason; maybe it is actually "trite and true"? (that's a groaner that my pun-loving son who makes plays on words would love -- get it? tried and true??).

When I first started getting babysitters for my children, I felt old. Even though I was in my late late 20's, when that 12 year old came over to babysit for Amanda, I felt like I could identify more with being the awkward babysitter than an actual mom who was responsible for a child all the time. I figured out pretty quickly, though, that I'm Not Cool enough to really relate with them.

Now that I have a teenager, I'm a little cooler. Well, not really, but I do know more about what is cool or funny (like the Jared Padalecki song, but then again that could just be my daughter and her weird friends).

But now -- not only am I hiring babysitters instead of being a babysitter -- I have a daughter who is the babysitter. Up to this point, most of the people for whom she babysat were about my age, give or take a few years, but this weekend she got a new gig for a couple who had never hired a babysitter. When I dropped Amanda off, I met the mom of the one-year-old baby Amanda was going to be watching.

Seeing the fresh-faced young mom, I felt my wrinkles deepen and my experience rise to the top.

Yep, I'm old and getting older. But I don't just feel older, I do feel wiser. I have earned every wrinkle, and that which has not killed me (yet!) has made me stronger.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Four Perfectly Packed Days in NYC

I was missing New York City so much. I had hoped to be able to make a trip back to Connecticut and New York, but it didn't seem like it was going to happen. But then the kids and I had a free week, airline tickets were available at an unbelievably low price, and my friend who always has an open door and an available bed urged me to come.

Our trip to Connecticut mostly involved hanging out and depriving our bodies of sleep. Amanda was thrilled to have what basically amounted to a 3-night sleepover with two of her best friends (joined by a 3rd one night), the young boys stayed up talking as well (and woke up extra-early to boot), and the old moms did our share of catching up as well.

Oh yeah, and ice cream. We ate lots of our favorite ice cream. My friend had purchased a take-home quart for us to enjoy, the kids and I went the first day while we were out driving around, and we all went the second day. Yes, indeed!

Then we headed to NYC for the second half of the week. We packed it in! When we travel, we squeeze every last bit out. We did sleep in most days and gave ourselves a slow start to the morning, but by 10 or 11 a.m. we hit the road and were out until after dinner (I know that's not a slow start for most of you, but you should see some of our other vacation itineraries).

I knew what I wanted to do and had input from the kids on what they wanted to do, so I made a cool custom Google map with all the sites on it, and then pieced the puzzle together about when to do what. We had some firsts (like Chinatown) and some old favorites (like the Staten Island Ferry).

Saturday, arrived in NYC 3 p.m., rested a bit, then hit the streets 4 p.m. - midnight:

  • Saw the sights of Times Square
  • Bought some cookies for later at Schmackery's (after the burgers, fries and shakes, when I walked in, Amanda said, "Really?"
  • Newsies on Broadway at Nederlander Theater
  • Home for some midnight cookies and milk (surprised we all made it, especially Kyle)

Sunday - 10:20 a.m. to an "early" return 8 p.m.
  • Cookies and milk for breakfast (yes, really)
  • Took the Subway uptown and had an early lunch at the original Shake Shack in Madison Square Park (yes, really -- they were that good).
  •  Books of Wonder children's bookstore (NY/NJ/CT have so many authors that there were signed copies of so many books), and the Strand bookstore in the Union Square area
  • Starbucks break (for our tummies and our feet)
  • Matinee of Peter and the Starcatcher at New World Theater
  • Dinner at Tony's DiNapoli family style Italian restaurant
 Monday - 10:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • Took subway downtown to Chinatown, shopped a bit and ate dim sum at Jing Fong
  • Wandered some more and tried our first (and maybe last!) Bubble Tea
  • Took subway all the way downtown to Staten Island Ferry. This is a free way to see the Statue of Liberty (you go right by it), and the half-hour ride gives our feet a welcome rest
  • Took subway uptown to Greenwich Village, surprised Amanda with a couple of thrift stores, had the best cupcakes at Molly's cupcakes
  • Blue Man Group at Astor Place theater (was thankful for a 5 p.m. show that they added when the 8 p.m. sold out
  • Some great Thai food at a hole in the wall that my husband found on Yelp
  • Back home on the subway, with a quick stop in Grand Central station basement/food court for some dessert to take home
Tuesday 9 a.m - 1:30 p.m.
  • Dunkin Donuts for breakfast (They are everywhere in New England and NY. The kids miss it).
  • Museum of Modern Art
  • Lunch (and more rest for our very-weary feet after a fourth day of action) at a NYC luncheonette type place. It had chairs and a/c, so it met all our needs.
  • The comic book shop that we passed every day on our way to our hotel that Amanda was dying to visit
  • Taxi to the airport