It’s been a while since I’ve updated my list of favorite book series, so I thought it was high time to share the time suck.
When we last left off, 50 Shades and Dragon Tattoo were the latest releases, but there SO MANY more now! I can’t believe I’ve devoured so many titles in so little time, but I find myself heading into a two-week vacation with too many cliffhangers and nothing left to read. I share my latest favorites below, but please help me out and share yours, too. I really need some good reads!!
From 1920′s through the 1960′s in both England and the U.S., Archer introduces us to two families, the Cliftons and Barringtons, who will capture your heart and make you want to wring the necks of their adversaries. Harry Clifton was born to working class parents on the docks of Bristol and this three-book series will lead you through the ups and downs of his life as he tries to figure out his place in society as well as WWII and beyond. You’ll fall in love with his selfless working mother, cheer for the love of his life, and eventually suffer the heartbreaks of parenthood along with him. At the end of Book 3, you may curse me for recommending these titles, since Archer leaves us with such a cliffhanger, you’ll mark your calendars in anticipations of Books 4 and 5.
It’s hard to pinpoint this series into a specific genre, but I’d say it’s somewhere between Twilight and Hunger Games. Technically of the Young Adult Lit target age, but definitely still page turners for adults. This series follows a group of teens with special powers through their struggles with finding their own identity, as well as battling the evils of this world and other hidden worlds. Vampires, werewolves, angels, and demons fill the cast of characters that will take you beyond reality, consistently holding onto the edge of your seat.
Hailed as the next Hunger Games (even with movie rights under contract), this is another Young Adult postapocalyptic trilogy that separates factions of humanity into categories that lead to uprising. While only the first two of the three titles have been released yet, you’ll be anxiously awaiting the release of “Allegiant,” the third title in the series, to find out what the citizens of the city will do when they discover the truth of how their world was created and why they were divided into such distinct characteristics.
I stumbled across these titles last summer while searching for cheap Kindle downloads. These books call to mind the Harry Potter series with more high school angst than epic battles, but still were entertaining. Magic, mystery, and fantasy serve up characters and a setting that will keep you turning the virtual pages. With six titles under $4.00 for e-readers, this is what I classify as perfect summer reading. Don’t expect too much and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
I am still waiting with bated breath for the next releases of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series.
Gabaldon claims that “Written In My Own Heart’s Blood” will be published in 2014, while Starz network is working on creating a TV series of her Outlander story, complete with hunky actor, Sam Heughan, cast as Jamie Fraser (swoon)!!
George RR Martin’s publicists claim that 2014 will also bring us the sixth book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, more commonly referred to as the “Game of Thrones” series, thanks to the popular HBO recreation. If you loved the first five epic books in this series as much as I did, you’ll be buying “Winds of Winter” as soon as it is released, too.
So what other series are you addicted to that I need to find and add to my list? I always want more titles!!
We’ve been spending more time together as a family between hanging at the pool at home and heading down to the shore. We see our friends, but not quite as much as during the school year. We had a few weeks of camps and swim lessons, but our summer has been relatively relaxed without sports and other activities dictating our schedule.
The result is that my kids are free to be themselves in a stress-free environment. Sure, we have the same hiccups as other families do: whining, fighting with siblings, etc, but for the most part, they seem happy to just be allowed to be kids.
A mommy friend once asked me what I did to get my kids to behave so well. I laughingly told her, “Oh, I just ignore them enough so they occupy themselves.” She thought I was joking, but there is actually some truth to that.
I have read studies about how much we schedule our children with constant activities and toys that dictate how they should play, and how that is leading to a restless, never-satisfied generation who has trouble problem solving and thinking outside the box. I often tell my kids that my favorite parenting moments seem to occur just moments after they complain of boredom. They now know that if they tell me they are bored, I will find work for them to do. But if they make it through their boredom on their own, they come up with the most amazing forms of independent play.
The kind of creative play that isn’t dictated by a mass manufacturer, TV show, or video game is what exercises kids’ brains to stretch and think through problems as they arise. Critical reasoning skills are developed by working through obstacles that don’t have preset answers. Social skills like teamwork, brainstorming, and compromising are enhanced by kids’ interactions with each other. But, more than that, what I see as a parent is that my kids are smiling, laughing, and having fun together. They are bonding as siblings who will grow closer from all of their shared experiences. They learn how far they are able to push boundaries, and how to care for each other under the guise of imagined characters and make-believe worlds.
While they play, I hear things like,
“Watch out! He’s coming to steal your powers!”
“Not if I block him with this tower wall!”
“I’ll come protect you!!”
As they run around the yard, sidewalk, or beach with abandon, they are 100% focused on their imagined play. They laugh, scream, run, fall, and jump. Sometimes they tackle each other; sometimes they help each other up. At the end of the day, though, they are exhausted. Nine times out of ten, after playing together all day, they collapse on the couch together, practically on top of one another. They don’t mind whose leg is touching whose.
My kids are growing closer to each other with each passing summer day. Sure, the studies say that they’re learning critical thinking and problem solving skills while playing creatively. But, as their mom, my greatest hope for them is that they’re learning to love and cherish their family.
Links to studies on the value of critical thinking and problem solving as learned from creative play:
Went to yet another Bon Jovi concert last night, and had a great time as always. But this time I had a great date in a girlfriend instead of my husband. In honor of Ron giving up his ticket so I could go with friends instead, I had to reshare this one. I still can’t hear “Born to be my baby” without thinking of him!
My husband and I recently saw Bon Jovi in concert at the new Giants stadium. We went with a group of friends, did some tailgating in the parking lot, and enjoyed a full kid-free night out. The kids even slept over at my parents’ house so we could saunter in at any late hour without worry. It definitely had all the elements of a great time.
Nothing says “New Jersey” quite like Bon Jovi playing at the Meadowlands. It was a little sad seeing the broken shell of the old Giants Stadium, dark and empty, but that kind of sums up New Jersey, too. We love our old hometown traditions, but we’re not afraid to embrace what’s new.
My husband claims to hate New Jersey, but I think he embodies the same theme, himself. He respects what’s been time-tested, but easily adapts to any new situation. In fact, he adapts so easily, it can be maddening at times. While I take a long time to adjust, he takes everything in stride. Ron took to parenthood like a fish takes to water, while I flopped around, gasping for breath for at least the first six months after each baby.
I remember coming downstairs one night after putting our second newborn son to bed. Ron was sitting on the couch with our oldest. From a distance, it sounded like he was teaching him the words to Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive.” As I got closer, though, I realized the lyrics had changed.
“‘Cause I’m a big boy,
On a steel trike I ride.
And I’m wanted, wanted,
In bed for the night.
Yeah I’m a big boy,
Won’t cry for all night,
And I’m wanted, wanted,
In bed for the night.
I won’t cry, I won’t cry,
In bed for the night.”
Even though I was exhausted and hormonal, I just cracked up with laughter. Ron, detecting his perfect audience, offered up another one. This soon-to-be-classic hit was set to the tune of “Bad Medicine.”
“Your love is like Backyardigans,
Backyardigans is what I need, whoa.
Make it up, like on Backyardigans,
Backyardigans can make me believe.”
And that’s how it started. One night, Ron singing silly Bon Jovi songs to our son started the “Ron Juvie” craze that all of our kids now love. There seemed to be a perfect song for every occasion.
For the general parenting public to “Born to Be My Baby” he dished out
“You were born to be my baby
Baby I was made to be your dad.”
For winding down before bedtime, to the tune of “Never Say Goodbye,” Ron sang:
“Never say nite-nite
Never say nite-nite
Goodnight to all your toys and then
Go to bed with Pooh and friends.
Never say nite-ni-eee-eye-ight
No more whining, you gotta try
To go to bed, it’s
Time to say nite-nite”
And when it was time to start potty training, to the tune of “Livin’ On a Prayer:”
“Whoa, where halfway there
Whoa in my clean underwear!
Hold my hand and
Go to the potty, I swear
Whoa, in my clean underwear!”
Most of our favorite hits were created that year, but, as the real Bon Jovi keeps churning out new albums, Ron Juvie is keeping up, too. The best from the newest album is his version of “Happy Now.”
“Can I go nappy now?
Can I have my paci now?
Put me in my crib
I’m just not that big
Oh please just put me down.
Can I go nappy now?”
Like Bon Jovi and like New Jersey, Ron is the perfect blend of old and new. Time-tested (Lord knows he’s stuck by me through enough crazy), yet he still surprises me and keeps me guessing.
In the past I’ve always joked to my husband that if Jon Bon Jovi singled me out at a concert, the chances are pretty slim that I’d make it back home. But in truth, who needs Bon Jovi when I have my very own Ron Juvie?
While volunteering at my kids’ school yesterday, an interesting topic came up. One parent mentioned when his children were permitted to walk home from school alone. Then another mom chimed in with what age they could stay at home alone. The conversation mushroomed and now all I can think about are these milestones to which my kids are inching closer every day.
How old should a child be before gaining this kind of independence and responsibility?
In an effort to find the answers, I’m posing the questions to all of you. I’ve included my own estimates and guesses from conversations in the school yard, but really still need more info. Please scroll down and use the comments box to let me know your take on when you have granted or plan to grant these freedoms to your kids. I promise no spam comes from this blog EVER. I’d love the input!
At What Age Should Children…
1. Be allowed to play in the yard unsupervised?
My oldest wasn’t allowed without me until about age 6, but my other two went out while I was inside at younger ages. I think they were 4 or even 3 for my youngest with her brothers looking out for her.
We carpool with neighbors, so my boys have crossed the street to their house without me since about age 6 or 7.
3. Be allowed to walk home from school alone?
Mine aren’t there yet, but I hear when the oldest is in 4th grade, s/he can walk younger siblings home.
4. Be allowed to walk to the park/playground with friends without parents?
Does this come with walking home from school alone? Fourth grade? Fifth?
5. Be allowed to stay at home alone?
For short trips to the grocery store and around town, we’ve discussed age 10 or 11 as a possibility. Definitely older, like 11 or 12 for longer trips out. (Times have changed since I was a latch-key kid in first grade walking home alone, letting myself in the house, and watching TV until my mom got home!)
I have no idea on this one! Eleven years old? Fifth grade? There are traffic safety rules that go along with this one, too. What do you think?
7. Get a cell phone (for emergencies)?
I think this one may be subjective based on what your kids’ activities are. With more and more sports and activities happening simultaneously at different locations, I’m considering this one much earlier than I ever thought I would. Fifth or sixth grade seems the norm in our town with strict rules and only certain numbers allowed.
8. Be allowed to set their own bedtimes?
During the summer, we do this pretty often just to see when they hit the wall and either put themselves to bed or fall asleep on the couch. But for during the school year, when should this choice be up to them?
9. Be allowed to babysit?
I started babysitting for family friends when I was 10 years old. I know this is young now, considering most kids can’t stay in their own houses alone until age 11 or older. So when is the right babysitting age? 12? 13?
10. Be given a cell phone with texting plan?
I’m stumped here. Texting is a huge new world among teens and I’m not sure how comfortable I am with texting, facebook, instagram, and unlimited internet access. Technology in the hands of adolescents is a scary thing. What age (and accompanying rules) are appropriate here?
11. Have a curfew?
Oy vey, thinking of my kids out at night on their own gives me the cold sweats. Is this one for fifteen and up? Or am I too overprotective? Or too lenient?
12. Get their first job?
Babysitting and paper routes don’t count here. When do they go to work on the books for someone else? They need to learn a good work ethic and how to manage money before they hit the real world, but how young? Does the law still say age fifteen?
13. Be allowed to date?
I hate to say it, but I so want to impose a double standard here. Age 13 for my boys. I think 21 sounds about right for my daughter. When is the right age? Are there different levels here?
14. Be a passenger in a car with a teen driver?
I know most kids hang out with friends their own age, but what about when teens drive younger friends or siblings? How old to be a passenger in these cases? I’d almost trust siblings over younger friends, but I don’t know how much sense that makes.
What other independence milestones are you encountering with your kids? I’d love to hear your experiences and reasons here. I know there are no hard, fast rules that apply to every kid across the board. But some basic guidelines are great as a jumping off point. Let’s start a discussion!!
I’m suffering from writer’s funk. Not writer’s block, but writer’s funk. Writer’s Block is when you can’t come up with ideas to write. I have plenty of ideas. No, this is most definitely a writer’s funk. That’s when you have a ton of ideas, but you don’t think any are worth writing.
I’m suffering from the “Every word has already been written, every song has already been sung, every story has already been told” FUNK. I love blogs. I read blogs. But reading blogs, while very validating to help you realize you are not alone, also makes you realize that you are not unique or original. You are just like everybody else.
One of my girlfriend’s moms asked me last week, “Hey, what’s going on with your blog? Why aren’t you writing as much?”
I told her that I’m writing more for pay now, so I don’t have as much time to blog what I want, but that was only partially true. While I love that I’m fortunate enough to write for pay (Thank you to the people who pay me to write!!), I’ve been selling out by using that as my excuse. The greatest thing in the world about owning and writing your own blog is that you can write whatever you want, no matter who wants to read it. It’s a great freedom for a writer. But, with great power, comes great responsibility (I’ve come so far down that I’m quoting Spider Man). So I try not to write anything just for the sake of writing, but only when I have something to really say. Either that or to make people laugh or cry. I do enjoy writing both of those categories.
But lately, I’ve been trudging through the end of the school year tossing one idea after another aside as not good enough. The funny thing my kids said over the dinner table? Good, but not good enough. My absolute love and appreciation for my son’s soccer coaches? Great (and I did write to them via email), but not universal enough. My frustration over the ridiculous overkill of end-of-school-year activities? Well, nothing can top this awesome post on that this year.
So I copped-out and haven’t been writing. But now I’m noticing that this isn’t just a writing funk. This funk is permeating into my social life as well. My frustration with PTA activity overkill is making me not go to even the fun moms-only events like the Kindergarten mixer. Partially because it’s for my third soon-to-be-Kindergartener and I have had all of these conversations before. Partially because I am just so tired of this month that I don’t want to go to one more event that I don’t absolutely have to attend. And partially because I just don’t have anything new or different to say.
I’m brought back to the reason I left teaching. I used to be a 7th-grade writing specialist. Our school divided reading and writing into two different subjects. That meant I didn’t teach any literature or vocabulary. I only taught writing. I graded 120 papers per week and, as much as I loved my students, I just couldn’t read one more essay on sports, or the latest movie, or why this boy band was so much better than that boy band. Even the best writing got old because it had been done before. So as soon as I realized I was burned out as a teacher, I resigned and went to work in an office.
To my former students, if any of you read this blog, I offer you two things. I’m sorry. Please understand that I absolutely loved teaching each and every one of you. I only left teaching when I realized that I wouldn’t have that same fire for incoming students. And two, do you remember my biggest rant as a teacher? What did I always say when reading your work?
“Never mention the paper in the paper!!”
My reasoning was sound. Your writers will know that you are a writer from the mere act of them reading your words on a page. Do not dumb it down by saying, “This paper will be about…” Just start writing and MAKE your paper be about…
Well guess what? I’m a writer who just wrote an entire blog post with multiple mentions of the paper in my paper. I apologize. You have my permission to take out your red pens.
It is cicada season here in New Jersey. Something called the 17-year brood is upon us. Some are excited over this new surge. They call them “fascinating creatures,” and pick them up in their bare hands, examining them like scientists. These are the good moms, teaching their kids about nature. Others, like me, are cowering in fear inside my house, despite the beautiful spring weather. We crack open our front doors and do an anxious sweep with our eyes, making sure we can quick-walk to our cars without a cicada encounter.
If you hadn’t guessed, I hate cicadas. Really hate them. A lot. For many reasons. But I’ll list out a few, in case you were curious.
Top 10 Reasons Why I HATE Cicadas
- They’re creepy, crawly bugs. Period. I rank them up in my top 3 most-hated bugs, right along with cockroaches and cave crickets.
- You know they’re creepy when even the bible mentions them as proof of God’s wrath.
- They rise from the ground in the night like zombies.
- They’re litterbugs, leaving their empty carcasses all over the place.
- They have a Facebook presence. I have threatened to de-friend anyone who continues to post pictures of these nasty little critters on my Facebook feed.
- They’re really ugly. So maybe that’s not the most politically correct thing to say, but these things have beady little red eyes, black skeletal wings, and nasty shells and bodies. Oh, and my son says they have green gooey blood. He figured that out when he stepped on one by accident. Blech!
- The noise, ohmigod, the NOISE!! Truly deafening sound like a hundred police car sirens stuck mid-doppler pass on a single, annoying, high-pitched note.
- The numbers. It’s the 17-year brood, which apparently means there are thousands upon thousands here for the next 6 weeks.
- They stick. To everything. To car tires, to siding, to lamp posts, to cement, everything. Just when you think it’s safe to walk down the sidewalk to your car, you see that the undersides of all of the leaves are coated with their sticky little bodies and shells.
- The cost. I hate them so much, I’m paying my kids a quarter for every shell or bug they remove from our walkway, driveway, steps and patio. I’m not a killer. If they stay away from my house and the places we pass through, I’d leave them alone. But perch on my porch, and I will pay to have you squished. Today’s cicada total so far is $5.75. I’ll be in the poor house by the end of the infestation…which is fine by me, so long as it’s a cicada-free poor house!