Monday, November 29, 2010

Lose Blog Traffic....Really?

I enjoy reading my copy of Writer's Digest, and this last issue had an article titled, "How to Lose Blog Traffic and Alienate Readers."

I discovered that I do some of the no-no's that were described in this article. Then I thought, "Well, maybe I should ask my readers what they think of these tips and taboo blogger moves.

1. Post too infrequently. The writer, Monica Bhide pointed out that if you blog too little you lose readers. This makes sense, and is why I decided to write three times a week, with one of those posts being the Friday Photo. But sometimes I wonder if that is even too much.

2. Post too often? Do I? Is three times a week too much? Should I post once or twice? If you blog, how often do you post? If you read, how much is too much to keep up with?

3. Turn off comments. Check, those are on.
4. Being overly snarky...well, I don't think I'm too sarcastic in tone.
5. Choosing poor photos...well, my photos aren't as fabulous as many of my blogger friends like My Three Sons and ShutterbugandtheSweetLife, but I am more of a writer than a visual artist.
6. Chatting it up about too many different topics. OOOPS, I think I might do this. I tend to write about books, my kids, and then my Friday photo....but then I do slip in a political thought here and there or a random rant about school shopping etc. So, am I too random? Do you like certain post topics over others?
7. Neglect to read other blogs....I do keep up with reading a few faithfully (see my blog roll), but sometimes I guess I should break out and search for new writers.
8. Writing too much.....OK, so do some of you click on my blog and see that the post is too long and then decide just not to read it?
9. Promote yourself through other blogs, FB, etc.....I do post on FB, but I don't want to be that annoying FB friend who is always sending that annoying link to her blog.....

OK, so here are my questions for you to respond to:

1. Do you like the three posts a week or should I do less?
2. Am I too random in my blog topics? Please list your favorite topics that I write about in order of preference:
a. book reviews
b. my kids/Graphic Columns
c. friday photo
d. spiritual thoughts
e. writing
f. school
g. food, farming, and season
h. that random political thought

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Maggie's Ball

Maggie's Ball by Lindsay Barrett George is fast becoming my new favorite, mainly because it has captivated the attention of my 20-month-old son and also holds the attention of my older sons, so it is a book we call all read together. Love that!

I've caught my youngest sitting all by himself on our couch reading this fascinating story of a dog who has lost her ball. Where did it go? It has rolled into town. Maggie searches, wonders if it might be the yellow lemon at the grocer, nope. In the end Maggie finds her ball and a friend...a little girl who plays with her in the park.

I'm going to order this for his Christmas present. Each year I buy my sons a book, and this is the perfect one. If you have a child between a year and two-years-old, this is the perfect match for them.

(Also anything by David Shannon is great for this age group, and I recently discovered Babyberry Pie which also has held my young reader's attention.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I Finally Broke 100!

I really wondered if I would ever break 100 followers, and I did! Thank you for your lovely reading support. All comments are a huge encouragement to me. Right when I am ready to quite this whole blogging thing, something happens that keeps me breaking 100!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Star Island

This is from a review I wrote for the MOPS group I'm affiliated with:

Star Island received unanimous thumbs down from our fabulous group of reading ladies. The reason we are fabulous is because even though we all grew tired of the read, we were still able to have a good discussion.

Star Island is about the paparazzi and a young child singing star named Cherry Pye. We all grew tired of her antics, her self-centered, destructive lifestyle. We were frustrated by her parents who obviously made career choices for their daughter not out of her best interest, but out of their own greed.

There wasn’t one “good” person in the book. The author, Carl Hiaasen, claims that good characters are boring. He also was critiqued for being a good writer of situation versus storyline. I would agree. Some of his situations were quite the one in which one of his despicable characters poops in another despicable characters washing machine.

One writing technique that we all thought was clever is that Carl Hiaasen uses characters from previous novels and reintroduces them into other book plots. But this wasn’t clever enough for us to say the book was worth reading.

Our discussion turned to actors, and those actors that seem to do it for the art and career of acting versus those who seem to be in the business of fame. Some of the actors we mentioned that we appreciate because their personal lives seem to stay out of the tabloids were: Meryl Streep, Anthony Hopkins, Cate Blanchett, and Will and Jada Smith. There were others named, but I should have taken better notes to remember them all.

We contrasted these named stars with the likes of Angelina Jolie, Lindsey Lohan, and Brittany Spears.

We also concluded that none of us have any desire to get out kids into singing our acting careers, and that there is great value in a normal, obscure childhood.

The reason I love our group is because no matter what the book, we always have a good time and have good things to think about and discuss.

Our next book is First Comes Love, then Comes Malaria. I’m in the middle of this humorous memoir about a woman’s time in the Peace Corps. She is nothing like Cherry Pye!

(One member of our book group was completely disgusted by this read, but would probably like me to mention that Carl Hiaasen’s young adult book Hoot is quite good....and clean.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fareed Zakaria

Fareed Zakaria is fast becoming one of my new, favorite columnists. Of course, Joel Stein will always win my vote when it comes to wit and humor, but Mr. Zakaria, thank you for joining Time.

I thoroughly enjoyed his article on restoring the American Dream, and his latest thoughts on the 3rd Republican Revolution were excellent. I feel like he puts my rambling thoughts and ideas into one, concise essay.

I remember my grandmother staying up quite late during the 1st Republican Revolution. She stayed up way past her bedtime, biting her nails, and placing all her hope on the new republican congress that would put a stop to the evils of the Clinton Administration.

I've read that my generation doesn't put much faith in politics, that we've never had a politician on a pedestal...has something to do with the exposure of the Nixon Administration etc. But it is true, there has never be a holy, good politician in my memory, nor have I put my trust in one party to save my ideals for the country.

I kept my blog silent on all issues of politics during this last election, but I did have my own personal thoughts on many candidates and issues. But instead of voicing my own, I just thought I'd encourage you to read someone who just happens to be a slightly better writer than I am. :)

Monday, November 8, 2010

I Did The Unthinkable

If you had asked me ten years ago if I would ever encourage my kids to join Awanas, I would have laughed, "No way."

This might shock some people. Others not. And I still have mixed feelings, but overall I feel at peace about my decision to sign my son up for the Christian version of Boy Scouts.

The thing is, I'm pretty much ignorant when it comes to all things Awanas. I didn't know about the vests and patches, Cubbies, Sparkies, car racing, points, red team etc. I didn't know that I would be spending so much money either. 9 dollars for the book, 10 dollars for the vest, and 15 to cover award costs. This bothers me. It bothers me that I'm giving my child rewards for bringing their Bible, going to church, inviting a guest, and memorizing scripture.

But it bothers me more that without Awanas we weren't really doing any of the above mentioned things. It also bothers me that we have church friends and school friends, but there isn't any faith crossover. We drive a good 30 minutes to get to church, and while we've made great connections there, my son spends most of his time at school where none of his church friends go.

I don't want my son's faith to be segregated. I want him to know that there are other boys and girls in his class that believe that Jesus is real, and that the Truths that Jesus lives/lived matter...mean something.

A little boy in his kindergarten goes to Awanas. They are becoming good friends; I wanted to foster this relationship. So, last week we went.

I was a bit uncomfortable during the scripture memory time, which seemed forced and dry. Here were these little Kinders being forced to sit perfectly still and repeat lines from scripture that they didn't have the foggiest idea what they meant. How could I tell? One little boy had obviously not been working on his memory verse and was guessing on what line to say next. He was inserting all the coined phrases he'd obviously learned in previous weeks, "Christ the son of God? Christ the Lord? Because of Christ? Because Christ saves us?"

The instructor was sweet and very encouraging, but the teacher in me wanted to implement some sign language, motions, and explanation for the phrases this young guy was desperately trying to regurgitate.

Thankfully, this session didn't last long and off the little kids were to story time. This part made me smile. Just a story. That's all. A story from the Bible. Good visuals. Good teacher. Some songs, ones that I remembered singing as a child. I loved it. I loved that the Bible story drove the lesson versus some theme like, "God made families" or "God made things we can smell." This was what I had been looking for.

Then it was off to recreation time. This is when my son gave me a very mean look, "I want you to go home." He'd noticed that no other parents were lurking in the background, so I had to hide myself in a hallway and act like I didn't want to watch my son compete in game and sport.

At the end of the night, there was a winner announced. Yep, all night the kids had been competing in teams and were getting points for behavior, verses, songs, and games. The green team won, not my son's team, but he still felt like a winner because he got some candy for visiting.

We got into the van. "Well, did you like it?"

"Yes, I want to go there again. I want to learn my verse. What is my verse? I know the first part is John 3:16."

He loved it. He's been working on his verse everyday. Not because I'm making him, but because he keeps asking if he can work on it with me. It is the first time he's tried to memorize a scripture. He's very motivated. One evening he was in tears because I wasn't letting him go to Awanas, and his daddy had promised him he could go again.

"Honey, Awanas is once a week. You have to wait. I'm going to let you go, don't worry."

And so we wrote it down on his calendar all the way through the end of the year.

All the things that made my adult cynicism cringe, really connected with my son. And the best thing that connected with him was all the faces he saw there that he also sees every day at school. I kept hearing, "Hey, there's Gunner....there's Alayna....there's Isabelle....there's Austin....." That part made me feel good. There was a connection made, a sense of community. He doesn't feel like he's the only one who knows this man named Jesus. And so I will overlook any cultural bag age this might create in my son because the alternative, to me, is a greater risk to take.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dog and God

My oldest gasped. I stopped reading. “Mom,” he pointed to the word dog on the page, “if you put the g in the front and the d in back, then the word would be god.”

I was slightly impressed. Then I sighed knowing his daddy must have taught him this trick, his daddy: the crossword enthusiast. I

“Did Daddy show you that?”

“No, I just figured it out,” he informed me.

“Wow honey, I think you’re learning stuff at school!”

“Yeah, I’m getting really smart.”

School, so far, has been a complete hit. He’s eager to go and happy to be home. He anticipates his school friends and is happy to get home to his younger brothers. He doesn’t miss me, but beams when I help out in his classroom.

He’s observing too. He has a challenging classmate with obvious special needs. My son came home after the first day of school to point out that this little boy is still in a pull up. I hear about this child almost everyday: how he can’t keep his hands to himself, how he ends up in the time-out chair...the list goes one. My oldest doesn’t think any less of this wiggly boy. How I wish the innocence of kindergarten lasted a bit longer. This little boy can be a bit frustrating at classmates, teachers, and assistants. I know, I helped out for the first time last week. But I had total empathy for him. He was working really hard to behave properly, and I thought, “Wow, if my son can learn to work with this little boy, that will be a huge social-skill-accomplishment!” And his classmates seem to take it in stride and accept him for who he is.

He’s even encountered a bully on the playground, but not to worry, he was playing with his buddy Ryan and they both figured that the older kid was much bigger and concluded that they didn’t need the ball anyway---they’d just go back to playing vampires and bunnies. Sounds fun to me.

At the Saturday morning breakfast table my middle son shouted for some more juice, “Um, you don’t yell like that when you want something. You raise your hand nice and quiet.” My oldest told his eager-to-please younger brother. Ah, love it! My oldest is passing on his new found knowledge.

I can still remember when my older sister would come home from school and teach me new, amazing things. Like the night that she and I laid on our bedroom floor, and she taught me how to carry and take away. Addition and subtraction appeared, to me, to be the most wonderful magic trick I’d ever encountered.

I feel we are evolving, moving out of the Ice Age, into the Stone Age. But since I still have two more preschoolers at home, I still get to linger in the era of play dates, indoor park, and MOPS, but not as carefree as last year, because we have to remember to pick big brother up from school.

Many moms have asked me if I cried on that first day of school. I didn’t. They did. I feel a bit heartless, but then I realize that while I may not have been tearful I was still full of emotion on that first day, but they were all happy ones: anticipation, eagerness, excitement, and joy. I was ready for him because I knew he was ready. He was ready for the next big thing.

We did it! We did his first five years well. I have absolutely no regrets. We did all the things you do when your child is one, two, three, four, and five. Now we are focusing on doing a bang up job with six.

Each night after I put the boys to bed, I crawl back into the oldest son’s room and lay next to him. I let him talk. He tells me all about his day in the night’s darkness. (Hey, mamas out there, studies show that boys/men will verbally process more in dimly lit rooms.) And it is good. His world is expanding: mine is too. I’m not reliving my childhood through his, but rather watching him start to make his own life choices. I’m glad to be doing this parenting adventure.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Popular Posts

Has anyone noticed the new little feature I chose to show to the right of my blog page? I thought it was interesting to see what pages have gotten the most hits. Funny, all my favorite blogs never make this list. Of course, by having this feature on here, I wonder if these posts will continue to be popular because people click on them etc. So, I'm going to try an experiment and make it disappear in a few days. I'll give it a week or so, and then put it back on to see if any new posts appear.

Wish me luck!