Sunday, September 30, 2007

Do as I Say, Not as I Do

We've been looking for a new church. It's a decision that we've been wrestling with for some time. It's always difficult, but one thing that helps is that our children are willing to separate and outgoing enough not to mind going to a new class with total strangers. By the time I was in upper elementary school as Amanda is, I did not like visiting a class at my grandmother's church, but she doesn't mind. However, even if she thinks church was okay, she still usually maintains, "I want to go to our old church with my friends."

This morning as we were going for our third visit to a church, we heard that familiar refrain. I tried to give her some encouragement and advice:

"Since you're going to Sunday School now, I'm sure you'll get to know people. We just have to keep coming and give you more opportunities to make friends."

"But it's mostly boys--only a few girls, and most of them are in third grade. . . . " she wailed, forgetting that since she is one of the youngest fourth graders, she is closer in age to many third graders than the older fourth graders, and that in fact a couple of her close friends are in the third grade.

"You only went to that class once. There may even be new people there today," I continued hopefully.

"Yeah, and no hitting--boys or girls," Kyle interjected.

Sounds like those little chats on the way to preschool about how we treat our friends are at least sticking somewhere. I'm glad that he's willing to share all that sage advice I'm doling out.

Friday, September 28, 2007

She's On to Me

Nine-year-olds tell it like it is:

Upon spotting my copy of ScreamFree Parenting: "Maybe you should try some of that out." She paused and said, "Actually, you haven't really been yelling at me too much lately."

When I was urging her to help me clean up before the babysitter came over: "Are you cleaning up so that she will think that we have a clean house, since she's never been here before?"

One morning when I got her up for school: "Why do you have makeup on? Where are we going?"

Now I can't really argue with her on the other observations, but I wear makeup more often than I don't wear makeup. However, I think that I did have lipstick on, which obviously gave me a more polished look. Usually I don't put that on until I'm in the car going somewhere.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Nicholas Sparks


Do you like Nicholas Sparks? If you could ask him any question, what would it be? I have the opportunity to participate in a conference call in honor of the release of his new book The Choice, and I can submit some questions for consideration.

So, beyond "how do you get your ideas?" what would you like to ask a bestselling author in general or Nicholas Sparks specifically?

Updated: Here's my followup to the interview.

What Happened to Wednesday?

I was thinking of everything I have to do this week, and it suddenly hit me that it's already Thursday afternoon. What happened to Wednesday? I got some stuff done today while Kyle was at preschool, but I still have a lot to do. Add to that the sinus/allergy/cold thing that has been threatening seems to have hit hard in the night, so it's going to be harder for me to stay focused. It's a good thing that I can stay on top of my responsibilities with my BusyBodyBook. It really does help me manage all my to-dos, from Bible study preparation (to lead), blogging, family activities, and my part time job. Click over to 5 Minutes for Mom to read my full review and enter to win one of three products.

My mental state might be in question since yesterday I explored who and where I am, and today I don't even know what day it is. However, blogthings seems to be able to analyze my character much more easily than I can:

You Are a Yellow Crayon

Your world is colored with happy, warm, fun colors.
You have a thoughtful and wise way about you. Some people might even consider you a genius.
Charming and eloquent, you are able to get people to do things your way.
While you seem spontaneous and free wheeling, you are calculating to the extreme.

Your color wheel opposite is purple. You both are charismatic leaders, but purple people act like you have no depth.


I don't mind being called thoughtful and wise and charming, but I'm not sure I like the accurate-but-less-flattering calculating. Thanks to Appliejuice for the link (who is my opposite, purple, which means she thinks I lack manners and class).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Where Am I?

Do you ever have that feeling when you wake up in the morning? Where am I? or even worse who am I? Sometimes we'd like to be the lazy teenager who could stay in bed with no responsibilities for a couple of more hours, when in fact we are the mom who must arise with a young child, get breakfast ready, and drive another child to her soccer game.


just-jane.jpgIn the biographical novel Just Jane, Jane Austen struggles with who she is (and actually she struggles with where she is as well). Jane Austen is all the rage right now! Several of her novels have been made into movies, there was a recent movie made about her, and I just found out the the The Jane Austen Book Club is also a movie (this book had been on my to-read list for a while, and I wondered why it was suddenly in the stores again. I assumed it was simply because Jane Austen was so hot). However, this book is not just part of a trend. I'm sure that Nancy Moser had been researching and writing this book for many years. I really enjoyed the compelling story and the excellent writing. Click over to 5 Minutes for Mom to read my full review and you can leave a comment to join the throng who has already entered to win a copy.


Where else am I? I'm at Faithlifts today exploring how I feel when I get Busy, Busy. Please click on over and let me know how you manage or scorn your own busyness.


Who else am I? In addition to mom, book reviewer, and devotional writer, I'm going to be taking on more of an administrative role at 5 Minutes for Mom to help Janice and Susan out. They are trying to alleviate some of their busyness, because they are both going to be taking care of newborns in addition to running their business. So, I'll be posting a lot more often over there for at least the next month or so, as well as handling some behind-the-scenes tasks. When we were talking about it Janice joked that people would be wondering who I was--was I the outcast forgotten non-twin sister who has come out of the woodwork?

On Monday we were able to talk on the phone. So do you want to know what she is really like? She is probably a lot like what you would imagine when you think about the website that they have built. I had always had the impression from working with she and Susan on the book column and Faithlifts that Susan preferred to be behind-the-scenes, while Janice took the front-woman role. I only got to talk with Susan briefly at the end of the call, but Janice is indeed a front-woman! I am a fast-talker, but Janice really packs in her words. She is enthusiastic and thoughtful about her business, her son and daughter-to-be, and her goals. It was great to catch up and connect voice-to-voice even though we've been working closely together for the last five months.

I'm happy to expand my role, temporarily or permanently (we will decide that later), and I'm really happy that they are trying to think ahead to the issue of twin mommy business operators having twin cousins.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Wedding

I don't know if you missed me this weekend, but I wasn't here. Terry's brother got married, so we left town early Friday morning and returned home Sunday night. I like attending weddings, although I'm glad I only get the "opportunity" once a year or so. I like reflecting upon and my own marriage vows, sharing in the couple's entrance into a lifetime of the old ball and chain wedded bliss, and of course the chance to get dressed up, socialize with friends or family and partake in the good food (and it was good!). So, I'll summarize my thoughts with a few photos and captions:

I like to get someone to take a picture of us as a family whenever I can--especially if we're all dressed up. Kyle was obviously not in the mood to say "cheese."

This is Kyle's regular cheesy grin. I think that they both looked stunning, if I do say so myself. Kyle behaved in a way that I could not even have dreamed. He stayed seated in his chair beside me, and if he just had to talk, he used the whisper voice that we had practiced all morning. Another thing that he really appreciated about the wedding ceremony was that the pastor was going for a few laughs (and got them). As the guests laughed, Kyle would look at me and give a big guffaw as well. In addition to some lighthearted moments, the ceremony was a very personal and beautiful testimony to their love and commitment to each other.


Sarah and Kevin both looked stunning as well. Here's Sarah showing one reason why we like her--she tried to copy Kyle's trademarked grin so that this photo would fit in with the others in our home.


Amanda is at the age where brides are about the most glamorous thing in the world. Even though she's not as caught up in the Disney-ized romance that is presented even to preschoolers, she got all dreamy when we talked about the wedding that week: "I wonder what Sarah will be wearing. I bet she'll look really pretty." After the wedding as we saw Kevin and Sarah making their way to the group at the reception, Amanda could hardly wait to see her.

Kyle got to see Uncle Kevin, too.

Here's my niece Paige occupying herself with one of the cameras that was placed on the tables for the guests to use. At two, she didn't really care if it clicked or not, but unfortunately, Kyle did. Kevin and Sarah will probably recognize the pictures that he took of our table.



I love cake-cutting pictures. In fact, the portrait that I have framed from our wedding is one very similar to this one. It must be something about successfully tackling that first big project together.


Here's Sarah with her niece. There was LOTS of family talk from both sides about them having a baby. Yes, they are in their thirties, and yes, we did wait a long time for them to actually decide to get married, but give it a rest!


Kevin and Sarah, it hasn't been easy getting to this point, and it may seem like the hard work is over, but in spite of how difficult it seemed to actually get to the wedding day, enjoying a marriage takes continued work and commitment and communication. I've been praying for you, and I will continue to do so. Just because something isn't easy all the time doesn't mean that it isn't one of the best gifts God designed for us.

My Life, Unscripted

Tricia Goyer has a new book for teens encouraging them to think through some of their choices in advance. I will be featuring my full review of My Life, Unscripted in an upcoming 5 Minutes for Books column, but for now let me allow Tricia Goyer to tell you more about her new book:

TG: With real-life scripts, screenwriting terms, and timely topics, My Life, Unscripted helps teen girls explore their own inner struggles and outward relationships. It's my hope that they'll learn the importance of "scripting" their own responses before challenging life-situations arise.

Is it true that much of your story shows up in this pages?

TG: Gulp. Yes, I'm afraid so. In fact, I shared parts of my story that I swore I'd never tell a soul. My teenage script (portrayed in the book as Trish Valley) wasn't one I'd suggest my daughter, nor my readers, to copy. The introductory scene of Trish Valley shows a scene where Trish urges her mom to follow Trish's boyfriend into a parking lot so she can "spill her news." The other girl in the car and her boyfriend's response to Trish's pregnancy are unfortunately not fiction.

Why did you decide to share these stories?

TG: First because I want girls to understand the heartache of unwise decisions. I want them to be able to relate to me. . . rather than feeling preached at. Also, I wanted to share my stories because many young women have faced the same type of situations, or they know friends who have. And finally because they are great object lessons for the importance of following biblical truth. That is something I did learn.

Although it was hard to talk about my past mistakes, I knew this was an ideal opportunity to share real-life truths with my teenaged daughter. Each person walking this earth has regrets. Our talks showed me that instead of hiding my post troubles (and hoping my kids didn't find out) sharing my mistakes could actually give my daughter a better understanding to why values and wise decision-making skills are important.

So now you're having a heart-to-heart with other teens through this book?

I sure hope that's how they see it! Those first talks with my daughter brought us closer, but I knew not every girl has had someone to offer advice such as "build a supporting cast of people you can trust," or "consider the character qualities you'd like for a leading man."

^ # ^

Tricia Goyer is sponsoring a contest that runs between September 16 and October 26 while her blog tour is going on, and you're invited to participate.

Did you live your teen years unscripted? Or did you think it through and make wise choices? Would you like to win a basket of prizes? Tricia would love to have you write a sample script from your teen years and post it along with information about this book! It could be where you make a good choice ... or a not so good one. Then share briefly how God's Word helps you as you script your life!

The person with most creative blog post during the tour will win a $100 gift certificate to Amazon or a gift basket which includes starbucks coffee, amazon gift card, an itunes gift card and more. There will also be 5 runner up small gift baskets. Tricia would love to have you write a sample script from your teen years and post it along with information about this book. It could be where you make a good choice ... or a not so good one. Then share briefly how God's Word helps you as you script your life.

If you decide to post on your blog about this, just leave a comment here and I'll make sure that it gets entered.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Some Things I Like

Brandi at Lone Star Latte N Libre asked me if I would be willing to share some of the podcasts I enjoy, since I mention them frequently. I'm always willing to share my opinions on things, so please feel free to ask!

I thought I would go above and beyond what she asked and share a few things that I've been enjoying in several categories:

Podcasts:

I subscribe to more than this, but these are the ones I am most apt to listen to each week. You can search itunes for any of these, or google them so that you can download them on your computer:

Breakaway Ministries is a student ministry at Texas A&M. I think that when I was there, it wasn't such a big thing, or perhaps I was just totally out of it, but I think that around the time I left ('92), it was really taking off. Family Life Today recently the leader Ben Stuart on, so I decided to take a listen. I've heard the first three weekly sermons for this year, and I've been blown away. He's funny, but he challenges those students (and old grown-up students listening on the podcast), and actually teaches some pretty serious doctrine. All the Aggieland references are just an added bonus for me. There is one 35 minute podcast a week.

I appreciate Family Life Today with Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine because everything is presented within the context of a strong Christian Worldview--from parenting, to marriage, to stewardship to communication and service. It took me a while to get used to their style, but it's now one of my first listens. Two great recent series included a week with Gary Thomas discussing his Sacred Parenting book and a week with pastor Tommy Nelson and his wife discussing depression (which I almost didn't listen to, since I'm not prone to depression, but I'm so glad I did). This is a 25 minute daily podcast. I usually listen to 2 or 3 at a time.

I've mentioned HomeWord with Jim Burns a lot (click my ipod label below to read some thoughts based on his podcasts). He interviews some great authors and sometimes after hearing the interviews I want to go read the book, but other times I'm able to simply put into practice what I hear on the podcast. Jim's ministry is dedicated to helping and reaching families, and so as the host, he puts everything into that context. This is a daily 20 minute podcast.

Katrina recently turned me on to Radio Lab and Pediacast. Radio Lab is an NPR broadcast that examines certain topics in depth, such as sleep. They are fascinating! I especially enjoyed the one on morality and the one on time still has me thinking. The shows are about 40 minutes long, and I haven't really figured out the frequency yet. I think that a new one comes out less than once a week. Pediacast is interesting, and the pediatrician host Dr. Mike is easy to listen to and explains things clearly--both the hows and the whys. However, because it's a full hour long each week, I honestly don't usually listen to it all the time.

I really enjoy NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me news quiz show. It's like in college when I used to get most of my news from Saturday Night's Life Weekend Update. Sad, but true. Much of my knowledge about foreign or domestic policy comes from people like Mo Rocca and Tom Bodet discussing it in a very tongue-in-cheek manner. This show is about 40 minutes, once a week.

Car Talk is another NPR favorite. No, I'm not a car junkie. I don't fix my own cars and I don't really care what's wrong with someone else's car, but these guys make me laugh! This used to be a show that you had to pay to subscribe to, but it's recently been offered for free on itunes. This show is about 50 minutes once a week.

I told Brandi that she should post some of her favorites as well, and she did, so check out her list as well.

Children's Television:

No one asked, but I'm always good for an opinion. Kyle has been watching two of the new PBS shows, Word World and Super Why. They both teach phonics and spelling/word formation in a creative and interesting way, around some type of story. And what's even better? There's no annoying striped green creatures of unknown origin and super-long arms singing "There's a party in my tummy." I'm happy that Little Bill is back on Noggin as well.

Grown-Up Television:

Honestly, with all the reading and reviewing and trying to maintain a blog and keep up with others, TV has all but disappeared around here. I don't watch it in the daytime, and in the last couple of years as our favorite shows went off the air, we just stopped watching them. However, I viewed several episodes of House on a couple of airplane trips last spring, and was hooked. I finished watching the season and this summer I watched season one on DVD. Yes, he pushes the envelope, and he's a bit grumpy. But there's something about it I really like. The new season starts tomorrow, and I'm excited. Terry won't even watch it with me because he says all that hostility just makes him too uncomfortable--that and he's never liked medical dramas, because he's never sure when someone's intestines are going to show up in a full-screen shot.

I'm editing this to add that I also really enjoyed watching Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader with Amanda last Spring. Then it went off for the summer, and since the TV isn't on that much (well, it IS on a lot for sports and children's programming--I'm just not watching it), I keep forgetting to tune in, but I'd like to get back in that routine of watching with her.

What are some of the things that you've been enjoying lately?--books, movies, TV, music, podcasts--it's all fair game.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Fall Into Reading List

It's time!! Katrina is hosting another challenge. It really is a blog-community highlight for me. I'm much busier now than I have been for her other challenges, but I still am hoping to get around to read the other entrant's lists. It's one of my favorite blogging community events! I have been out of town since Friday, so I feel like I'm coming late to the party, but you can still join in through Wednesday (to be eligible for the prizes). I did not have the energy to format all the links, but you can use this link to open up a new window at amazon.com so that you can check out any titles that interest you.

The following is a mix of books that I am reading purely by personal choice, as a reviewer for my weekly column at 5 Minutes for Mom (check in every Monday for reviews and giveaways of fiction, parenting, marriage, women's interest and more). I am also trying to finish up two challenges, so some of these books carry over from Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books
Challenge and A Life in Book's Armchair Traveler Challenge.

This list is HUGE. However, with my reviewing responsibility for 5 Minutes for Mom, I am reading a lot more, and I think I read a lot more quickly as well. I imagine that I will read most, but not all of these books, and will probably end up reading some titles that are not on this list, specifically review titles that really interest me and come up. I had only started my column two-thirds into the Spring Reading Challenge, and I reported reading so much more than I ever thought I would in my wrap up post.

Fiction:

Dangerous Admissions by Jane O'Connor
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen**
The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
Sisterchicks in Gondolas by Robin Jones Gunn*
The Dead Whisper On by T.L. Hines
A Proper Pursuit by Lynn Austin
Pilgrims by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Choice by Nicholas Sparks
A Shadow of Treason by Tricia Goyer
The Cure by Athol Dickson
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini**

Marriage:
Every Woman's Marriage by Shannon Ethridge
The Ten Minute Marriage Principle by Douglas Weiss
Finding Ever After by Robert S. Paul (in progress and loving it)
The DNA of Relationships by Gary Smalley

Parenting:
Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas
Screamfree Parenting by Hal Runkel (just started this one--LOVE it and NEED it)
My Life, Unscripted by Tricia Goyer
Math Doesn't Suck by Danica McKellar
Preparing Your Daughter for Every Woman's Battle by Shannon Ethridge
What your Daughter Isn't Telling You by Susie Shellenberger
Confessions of an Irritable Mother by Karen Hossink

Other Nonfiction:
Mosaic by Amy Grant
A Girl from Yamhill by Beverly Cleary*
The Complete Book of Aunts by Rupert Christiansen
A Fish on a Bicycle by Robert McManus (it's been in progress for a while, and I want to finish)
Margin by Richard Swensen (which I think was on an earlier list--I want to get to this one)
The Art of Civilized Conversation*

With Amanda:
I'd like to finish reading Little Women aloud. It's quite a hefty tome, but we are both enjoying it, so hopefully I'll give it more attention and finish well before the end of Fall.

Other Kid Stuff:
Smartopedia
The Old Farmer's Almanac for Kids

*I am editing this Monday to morning to say that these are titles from unfinished challenges that I might not honestly get to.
**These are challenge titles that I am going to try to read, because I want to.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Marked

Some people struggle with whether or not to mark in their Bibles. I am not a copious underliner or notetaker, but if something is clarified for me in a new way, or a verse jumps out at me, I have no qualms with writing on the tissue-thin pages. As I read through my Bible, I treasure another kind of mark as I come across them: the occasional scribble applied by a toddler wielding a pen, still uncertain about the rules about where exactly it can be used. When I see them, I am reminded about that sweet short time of their lives and mine, which has now passed. I am heartened because I know that the marks were applied when they picked up my pen that was left in my open Bible beside my journal or Bible lesson that was likely abandoned when they woke up sooner than expected or something else distracted me. Although I do honor the Bible as God's holy word and give it the proper respect, in our home the Bible is not a dusty family relic that records births and deaths. It's a book that is well-read, frequently studied and carried to church and to Bible study on a regular basis. So, just like faith-in-action, it might result in a few stray marks.

As a Christ-follower, in following the law, there are things that I avoid. There are things that I have given up. This list of have-nots seems daunting to some, but I've come to realize that abstaining is much easier than what God has called me to do:
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Matthew 22: 34-40

Amidst my shortcomings, my life is marked by one who is pursuing Jesus. In the first couple of weeks in our BSF lessons, we've looked at an overview of the book of Matthew. I was taught about Matthew's purpose in writing these words as inspired by God. I was taught about the importance of seeking to be a disciple of Jesus. Can I honestly say that is my purpose--to become more like Him in all things? Am I glorifying Him in all things?

I'm sure gonna try.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

This and That--the Shopping Edition

I am really not a shopper. There are a few reasons for this:
  • I am a little cheap. I could blame it on my husband, who is a lot frugal (Another time I will have to share a story about a newlywed fight involving keys being thrown into an apartment wall over a grocery bill). However, if I blamed it all on him, that would be unfair. Even in high school and college, when the money I made from my part-time job was just mine to blow, I would ask, "Is this worth this much money? I could buy two cheap shirts for this price, so perhaps I will."
  • I am fashion-challenged. I probably spend more on books or little food treats (bagels, coffee, etc) in a week than some other people, so it's not purely a budget issue. Clothes are just not what drive me. I am a casual girl, and I do try to stay somewhat current with getting the right cut of a T-shirt for the season and avoiding the mom jeans, but beyond that I may be hopeless.
  • Kyle does not favor walking around in a department store, mall, or discount outlet for any length of time. Very rarely, he will still sit in a stroller, but my time is still limited there, and if he is parked beside a rack of clothes, it is likely that he will pull some clothes off the rack or walk away from me by using Fred Flintstone kind of driving moves. So, shopping is not the preferred way for us to spend our free time.
With that broad disclaimer, I would like to share a few things from my small world of shopping this week:
  • The Monk and Neagle CD that you've been hearing so much about all over bloggittyville is out today! It really is as good as you've heard--mellow, but upbeat as well with great lyrics. They are also touring (with MercyMe) and you can find their schedule on their website as well. They aren't coming anywhere near me, and that is disappointing, since I like both of those groups, and travel and leisure is one thing that Terry and I are able to spend money on.
  • I bought a new pair of jeans yesterday! That's been on my list for a while, but with it being summer, I wasn't in a rush to find some. Since it's been quite cool this week, I've needed some jeans, and I'm sort of down to one pair that I really like, and another one that I like when they aren't too tight, and ahem, I think that they shrunk. I followed Big Mama's guidelines, and I am happy with them. They are a dark wash, with a bit of a stretch to them, and have stitching on the pockets, and I bought them at TJMaxx. It is one of our shopping destinations since it's ten minutes away, and I can get in and out quickly if needed, and it appeals to my frugal nature. This pair is by Bandolino (yes, the shoe company), and I couldn't find a picture of them since they are probably "so last season," hence their appearance at TJMaxx. They cost less than $20, so I'm happy. I'm going to keep my eye open for a couple of more pairs in different styles and brands over the next month.
  • I was at Kohl's and saw their new Kohl's Cares for Kids promotion (it might not be so new since that was the first time I had been in Kohl's since I heard of the Sandra Boynton promotion many many months ago). They had four of Jane Yolen's dinosaur books (see my review of her latest one here), and three or four adorable stuffed dinos--each for only $5! Kyle carried around a very cute dino, but then he disobeyed and lost the privilege of buying it, because I'm cracking down! Unfortunately he didn't really care, but I will return and get a book or two and a dino or two and save them for Christmas or another treat.
  • While at Kohl's (and TJMaxx), I was not able to find a nice pair of pants for Kyle to wear to my brother-in-law's wedding. I did find a cute oxford shirt, but all the pants are so casual with cargo pockets and zippers, and that's not the look I'm going for. I need to go back to Children's Place, where they did have some plain pants when I was there last month.
So it looks like I will try to get some shopping done while Kyle is at preschool on Thursday. He also needs shoes (that aren't crocs or sandals), and Target came up short in the non-athletic toddler boy footwear as well.

Have you made any great shopping finds lately? Do you live to shop or shop to live?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Season of Confusion

It's still officially summer for another week or so. A couple of days ago it was a typical late summer day--muggy and warm. Yesterday it was crisp and cool and decidedly fall-ish. The leaves on the trees don't know what they should be doing. Most are still the dark green of summer, but certain branches on the tree are all yellow are red and look as if they have been grafted in from a tree that is several weeks ahead in the season. They just seem confused.

Sometimes I'm confused about my season of life as well. My daughter is an older elementary student. At nine, she's in a completely different stage of life than she was just a couple of years ago, so as her mom I'm in the season of shuttling to soccer, watching her grow up, and trying to guide her choices as I get the opportunity. However, I still have my little guy at home, so I'm still in the season of full-time care that revolves mostly around protecting him physically at this point.

Preschool has given me a small hint of the freedom that I will enjoy when both of my children are in school full-time, and reading Beyond the Mommy Years has given me a true glimpse of the complete freedom that can come as a reward to the hard job of raising children. As a result of talking to many empty-nesters, primarily women in their late 40's and early 50's, Dr. Carin Rubenstein determined that the empty next "woe is me" syndrome does not exist. Most women are pleased to enter into this stage of life. And why shouldn't we be?

However, one thing adds to this motherhood season of confusion: when the children leave home, they don't usually stay gone. In fact, half of them return home as adults, either for a short time of readjustment after a big life change such as divorce or the loss of employment, or as a long-term choice after college. Young men are particularly susceptible to this, since they are marrying later, so why not live cheaply at home and spend your income on things like fancy cars and big screen TVs?

I love reading these kinds of observations on our culture (this is the kind of thing that I mentioned would interest many in my full review over at 5 Minutes for Mom today). In fact, there's a whole new term that is used for these types of young adults: ILYA, or incompletely launched young adults. The entire span of ages 18 to 25 is now referred to as emerging adulthood. I definitely understand that when a child leaves home but is still in the process of college or career training, that it is expected that they will still require financial support as well as continued parental guidance. However, it is unique to this century that this goes on beyond 21 or 22, with many young adults still requiring financial help into their mid-twenties. There are many reasons for this, and that was one reason I found the book helpful even with my kids at their age. I now feel more aware of the world and culture to which they are going to emerge and determined to give them the skills that they need to live independently when the time comes.

No pressure or anything.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

It's Hard

If you get the impression from reading my blog that I am pretty laid-back, not a worrier, and fairly even-keeled, you would be correct. Even when I was a first-time mom, nine years ago, one of my neighbors who was years ahead of me in the parenting journey commented that I was so relaxed for a first-time mom. Pacifier fell on the floor? That's okay--use the five second rule and pop it back in. Want to go out with my husband? Find a babysitter for the easy-to-care-for Amanda, and let's go.

By nature, I'm not worrier. I'm so laid-back in some areas (ahem, housekeeping), that I probably cross the line into laziness. I generally think that this is not something to worry about, but in my parenting responsibilities I have been a bit lax. At nine, Amanda is definitely cruising towards adolescence. While she does love me, share worries with me, and generally still thinks I'm wise, there are other times when she is sure that she is right and I am wrong and has no qualms sharing this with me. At three, Kyle is still heavily into the testing-limits stage. He will try to get away with anything that I allow.

In catching up on several of my daily podcasts and doing some reading this week, several ideas are merging into one. Perhaps as a parent, I don't need to worry about doing more. I need to do less:
  • screaming
  • reminding
  • justifying
  • doubting
I am always convicted when behavior gets a bit out of control that it generally comes back to me. When I've let some things slide, there's a snowball effect. Now that I have two children, I end up with two snowballs careening down the mountain and gathering momentum. So I'm going to make a move back to zero-tolerance around here. That removes the emotional edge on my side of the equation, which generally equals less screaming, which is most definitely a good thing. When one of them disobeys or breaks a ground rule, I remove them from the situation. In spite of his testing, Kyle has not entered the questioning stage, so when I say, "Go to the stairs," he goes right away. Getting him to stay there for more than 30 seconds is difficult, but he knows that he's been banished for some misdeed, and usually comes right back and apologizes for the offense, even though I didn't lecture or explain why he had to go. Amanda is definitely smack-dab in the questioning and justifying stage, so I have to frequently remind myself that I am the parent and I don't have to justify or explain, specifically with issues that we've covered. I've told her that if I send her to her room, it's best for her to go then. If she has a question or something that she feels justifies her behavior, she can explain it in a few minutes when I come to talk with her.

Parenting is hard stuff. Not only is it hard, but the stakes are high. That's why I'm thankful to have friends and fellow bloggers who remind me to stay the course.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

If Only I Wasn't Telling the Truth

I love reading the funny searches that bring visitors to people's blogs. I don't usually write about the interesting googles that bring people to my blog, because honestly, it's usually something like "Amy Carmichael biography" which brings them to this post, or (several times a week) "Penderwicks discussion questions", which leads them to request this resource, or something along the lines of "bossy disorganized advice about Bible study" which would lead them to any number of posts.

However something I saw recently stopped me in my tracks: "teens wearing Pull-Ups." Oh no! Are we going to be un-trained forever? I am still using Pull-Ups as my safety net. A couple of weeks ago when we met a friend at the park, I didn't, and guess what? We had to change his shorts before he got in the car. The thing is that he doesn't care. He doesn't care if he has "an accident" (a term which I use extremely loosely, since "accident" implies that he is unaware of what will happen), whether he's in underwear or a Pull-Up. He's aware of the consequences, and that they are the same whether he makes a puddle or it's contained in training pants. So, the only difference is that it's less of a mess for me.

This week I've actually braved public with no Pull-Ups and he's been fine. In fact I think that we've been at least three days with no accidents at all. Yesterday and today I even stopped setting the timer to see what would happen if I left him on his own, and he's done a great job. Both types of elimination have gone into the potty!

Nighttime is still definitely a Pull-Up safety net time, and that's not even something that I care about achieving full dryness. We will be at Terry's brother's wedding next weekend, and that will also be a safety-net kind of event, no matter what success he achieves in the next week.

I was just wondering how to end this post in a cute, funny, or especially insightful way, when I looked up to see Kyle giving me a sheepish look. He was wet. Irony is also a good literary device, is it not?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Life is Beautiful



Pachebel's Canon in D has always been one of my favorite pieces of classical music, and I'm pretty sure this guy is a Texan, with the "tear up your behind" reference and the accent, so he basically had me at hello. (If you can't view the entire video via the embed link here is the direct link).

That song and video captured some of the same wonder/frustration/joy/insecurity that I feel every single day as a parent. It also reminded me of one of my favorite movies. Life is Beautiful shows joy and humor in the midst of everyday situations, even in the tragedy of the Holocaust. If you've never seen it because you fear the subtitles or want to avoid the heartbreaking subject matter, please reconsider and give it a try. When a friend convinced me to see it in the theater, it was the first (and still one of the few) movies I've ever seen with subtitles, and it didn't interfere with my enjoyment of the movie one bit. In fact, when I bought the DVD, I tried to watch the dubbed version and it did not do Roberto Benigni's Oscar-winning- acting justice. Hearing him say, "Buon giorno, Principessa!" exuberantly and impishly does not compare to hearing him say, "Hello, Princess," in a dubbed English. If you have seen it and agree that this is actually a joyful movie, weigh in. For that matter, if you didn't love it, feel free to present that position as well.

What other movies or songs remind you that life is beautiful?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

This and That Updates, with Pictures

Amanda started school a couple of weeks ago, and I was surprised that I didn't feel too overwhelmed. Well I figured out why: BSF had not started, so I didn't have my leadership responsibilities for that, soccer hadn't started, I wasn't worried about preschool, and I wasn't planning a birthday party! So last week I was officially overwhelmed, and this week I am trying to figure out my new schedule and routine. That's why blogging has been a bit sporadic, both writing and reading. However, I did want to let you know about a couple of things:

Don't miss my posts on a new novel by Sandra Glahn, and a personalized book for kids, both of which have copies available to win.


I am also going to be gearing up for THIS, although with the way that I read for my 5 Minutes for Books column (a lot of books, and not planned out three months in advance!), I'm not sure how I will focus my list.


Amanda's purple party was great.



I'm quite proud of my cake (remember we had a purple theme with smiley accents), so it's a round cake, the top is a yellow smiley, and the frosting on the outside is purple. I did it! I'm never ever neat when I do these types of things (as evidenced by the fact that I was unintentionally using some weird tip for the black smiley accents and border), but Amanda loved it, so I'm glad to have to stretch myself a bit and have fun with it.



Kyle survived preschool (or should I say preschool survived him?). Here he is putting away his new Thomas lunch box (which they bring their little snack in).

And despite some of his less-than-perfect behavior yesterday at the open house, he was the first kid to join in with the clapping that the teacher was trying to use to get their attention (to give full disclosure, the other children were sitting at the table, but I don't know if he's ever going to be a "sit still" kind of boy, and may always be tagged with the "active learner" label).

Monday, September 10, 2007

Dear Kyle

Dear Kyle--

You are a dear, sweet child. You have a great smile and an infectious laugh. You love to have fun, and you like using your power to make other people laugh. However, you also have a bit of a mean streak in you. You don't mean anyone any harm, but you are stubborn and a little rough. You cannot push your playmates because they want to join you in jumping around on the shapes on the rug. That is not your rug. The preschool bought it so that all the children could have fun. Those trucks are not your trucks. Just because you are standing near the truck doesn't mean that another child can't pick it up and play with it.

There is one other matter that I feel like I should address before you start preschool tomorrow. You really need to go to the restroom when you need to go potty, not just make use of wherever you happen to be standing. If you don't, they will call me to come and change you. I will not like this, and I don't think that this will help your popularity standing among your classmates either.

You like children. You have been learning to play with others and to share since you were very young. I'm not sure why you are acting as if you have never had a playdate. I know that when we went to the parent-child open house at the preschool today that you were very excited about all the toys and the fun setting, so I hope that you will take heed of this advice, so that you (and I) will be able to enjoy your couple of hours away from home twice each week.

Love,
Mommy

Friday, September 07, 2007

Happy Birthday

Two of my favorite relations are celebrating birthdays this weekend.

Today Amanda is nine! Tomorrow my dad will be, well, he'll be older. I thought that I would post some pictures of them together, and specifically tell what makes them special, as a little birthday retrospective. I will start off in the year 2001, because I am lazy and that is as far back as my digital diary goes.

Family and friends are important to my dad. Each year he goes to New Braunsfels with friends and those friends who have been around so long that they are like family. We've joined them a time or two, and Amanda hopes to be able to join them this summer, even though we no longer live in Texas.

Summer 2001: Dad, Terry and Amanda in the Guadalupe River

Another way that Dad shows his love of friends and family is taking an interest in my friends. When my Stealth Roommate (as I've coined her on the blog) came to visit us that same summer, he wanted to be able to see her and her kids, so we all met at Krispy Kreme. I can also say that Amanda shares his outgoing and friendly nature and openness to meeting and accepting new friends.

Dad, son of SR, Amanda, baby son of SR, and SR herself

This picture is one of my favorites and needs no explanation about why I love these two characters.

Thanksgiving 2002


Amanda is a great big sister, and Dad is a great grandpa (Pops).

Just days after Kyle was born, 2004

Even when we have lived away from Houston, Dad and Susan have still been actively involved in our lives. Because of Susan's active fall work schedule, they knew that they needed to squeeze in a quick visit so that they could see us and our new home before she got too busy. They visited only a couple of weeks after we moved in!

October 2004

Dad loves me and his grandkids, but he had to take what he could get there. He also knows how to pick 'em. Susan is a wonderful addition to our family as well, and is a great "grandma."

Amanda and Tutu, February 2005 on a visit to Houston

Dad showed his sacrificial side when he and Susan came to take care of the kids for five days while Terry and I went to Paris. Amanda was sick from day two to five, but in our quick emails back and forth, he didn't even tell me this, because he knew I would worry. Amanda showed her mettle as well. She does pretty well on her own, and during that time, she was okay without Mommy.
April 2006


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Like a Child

I am enjoying a new book by Robert S. Paul called Finding Ever After. The idea of "a romantic adventure for her, an adventurous romance for him," as the subtitle elaborates, seemed a little corny to me, but upon further examination, the book is not so much about love and marriage as it is about ensuring an "happily ever after" for yourself. If you are married, a good bit of your overall happiness (or discontent) is wrapped up in that, so it makes sense to tackle that area of your life as a means to that end.

After writing earlier this week on Embracing Childhood, I was surprised come across an example using children. Dr. Paul explained that exploration and fascination are primary factors in fueling romance. As any parent knows, children are naturally curious. By exercising their curiosity they are able to learn and grow and enjoy the journey of discovery. The same is true of us. Think about it: a job is most satisfying when it's a challenge or there's a newness about it, be it new coworkers or a new project. In parenting, as much as we might love one particular stage of our child's life, the uncharted stages bring new joys and excitement to uncover.

God even exhorts us to live in a childlike frame of mind.

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 18:2- 4

A child's mind is open. It's trusting. It's curious.

Although this scripture is quite familiar to me, reading it in tandem with the idea of avoiding adultitis, finally caused that lightbulb to go on over my head. I think that many of my relationships could benefit from childlike trust, forgiveness, and ease--from my primary relationship with God, to my most important human relationships with my husband and kids, on down to the others in my life.

Childhood relationships aren't always easy, but they certainly are not as complicated as real life gets for us grownups.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Embrace Childhood

Kim of Kim and Jason's Escape Adulthood enterprise recently sent me an email saying that I had not replied to her email that she sent five months ago alerting me to the fact that I had won a contest after leaving a comment on the blog. How nice is that? I know how hard it can be to track down winners, since I have to gather addresses from several winners each week from my 5 Minutes for Books column. So, I now have a $20 gift certificate to their store, appropriately capturing the child with the name: Kim and Jason Lemonade Stand. I visit their blog on occasion, and they also have a podcast that I try to listen to every now and again. But now they've entered the public service realm, warning people against the dangers of adultitis:



As far as an adultitis diagnosis, I think I'm free and clear if a chief indicator is ice cream consumption--I have no problem with the ice cream eating, or enjoying other childhood foods such as hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries, and even the occasional peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

In raising my children, I realize that they give me many chances to escape adulthood. I can play with trains and build with blocks. I can read barnyard books and make the sounds with gusto. I can sing along with Bob and Larry. However, being a mom also brings out the adult in me--that adult who I think might suffer from an advanced case adultitis. I don't mind having to make the hard decisions and I don't mind being unpopular, but what I don't like is that mean impatient mommy voice that screams adulthood.

I once read that the reason that we get frustrated and impatient with our children is that we do not allow or excuse childish behavior. They are children. They will make mistakes and poor judgment calls. I especially have to keep this in mind with Amanda, who is growing up, and yet is still a child. What's even worse is when I squash childlike behavior--being silly, being loud, or dreaming dreams. Of course there is a time and a place for everything, but there certainly is a place for being loud or silly or impractical.

Yesterday I did several things that were childlike:
  • Watched the parade and cheered at the man on stilts and clapped with glee when he used a giant hula hoop and then even jumped through it (like jumping rope)
  • Later at home we all ended up doing cartwheels in the front yard (including Terry), when Kyle was trying to reenact the ones he saw that morning. I even managed a round-off, which impressed Amanda (and me!). Turning cartwheels and doing backbends in my front yard was a favorite childhood pasttime.
I am happy to report that I only have Stage 1 Adultitis. You can do a self-diagnosis by taking this short quiz HERE. If you do, let me know your results, and join me in trying to embrace the fun of childhood.

Monday, September 03, 2007

A Few Thoughts and a Question

Happy Labor Day! We celebrated in the same way that we did last year--by attending our town's Labor Day parade. It's the biggest in the state--THE place to be on this Monday morning. The weather was perfect (in the 70's), and we met up with friends so we were able to chat while watching the groups of drum and bugle corps, VFWs, bagpipes, some guns and Civil War types, mini-cars and motorcycles. Of course there were a few politicians, and this year there was lots of candy, which Kyle ate as soon as he caught it.

* * * * *

My review is up at 5 Minutes for Mom. This week we have two books by Jim Burns--one parenting book and one marriage book, with giveaways for each.



And now, the Question:

I would love to hear any fun traditional party games for a nine-year-old birthday party. Amanda has come up with a theme for her party which will be next week: The Perfect Purple Paradise Party. She is going to have about six girls here. I really enjoy the home party. We keep it fairly simple, and she gets to play and enjoy her friends. We will tie-dye some T-shirts (purple of course), and probably play a couple of games involving purple balloons, but any other ideas would be greatly appreciated. There's also a fringe Smiley Face element of the theme, which Amanda had in mind, but was confirmed when we found the perfect paper products at the dollar store of all places: purple plates with a purple rim featuring a giant yellow smiley face!

I'd appreciate any ideas for purple snack food, or any games or activities that would go along with the theme.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Read Together Wrap-Up



I was pleased to see how much you all enjoyed Reading Together. We had participants from preschool-age on through upper teens, and that was my goal. There were parents who read to a child one on one, and parents who read a book before or after their older children did, and families who listened to books in the car while on the go. I hope that all of you--along with me--will continue on trying to connect with your kids in this way.

I have delayed announcing these prizes, because I was unable to get in touch with one of the possible donors. I'm going to go ahead and award what I have:

Mary DeMuth donated her most recent book Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture, which is a perfect fit because an ongoing theme in the book is connecting with your kids (You can read my review of the book HERE).

I donated a ten dollar gift certificate from amazon.com.

I used random.org, and the numbers that came up were 18 and 9, which is Jeanne from At A Hen's Pace and Karlene from InkSplasher. I have contacted Jeanne to see which prize she wants, and then Karlene will receive the other one.

Thanks to everyone who joined in!

I will probably do another family reading mission this winter, so stay tuned.