Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy to Upstage Chelsea's Wedding Today?

Read it and weep, folks.

While the world is focused on Chelsea Clinton's wedding today, Bristol Palin is making marital news of her own by breaking off her second engagement to Levi. 

And this train wreck keeps on a-rollin' ....


copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Kid Konnection: The Barefooted, Bad-Tempered Baby Brigade


Each Saturday, Julie from Booking Mama hosts a feature called Kid Konnection where participants talk about children's books - picture books, middle grade fiction, whatever.  This weekend marks the first time I'm participating in Kid Konnection.  Since we read so many kids' books, I thought it would be a fun way to include more of our thoughts and reviews of such here on the blog. 

We recently read an incredibly fun book called The Barefooted, Bad-Tempered Baby Brigade by Deborah Diesen.  Here's what we thought.  

The Barefooted, Bad-Tempered Baby Brigade
written by Deborah Diesen
illustrated by Tracy Dockray
Tricycle Press, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.
published 2010

They've eaten one too many mashed peas and played one too many games of peek-a-boo. They're fed up with bibs and saying good riddance to cribs. They're cranky and grumpy. Make no mistake about it, they're going to let their screaming infant voices be heard. 

They are the barefooted, bad-tempered, baby brigade and children's author Deborah Diesen gives them to kids and parents alike in all their adorable protesting glory in this hilarious picture book. 

"It was quarter past six when the babies set out,
dragging banners and posters and signs that they'd made.
They flung off their booties and took to the sidewalks,
A BAREFOOTED, BAD-TEMPERED BABY BRIGAGE.

'We can't all walk yet, but we're marching in protest,'
they called to their parents who brought up the rear.
'We've plenty to say, and it's time that you heard it.
Take notes. You will need them. We'll try to be clear.

(In a scene familiar to any parent of a child ready and raring to go at 6:15 a.m., the parents are bleary-eyed and bathrobe-clad as all these declarations of independence are being made.)

"We won't get our hair cut.
We won't wear our sun caps.
We won't play with smart toys to skip us a grade.
We won't like the doctor. We won't take our naps.
WE'RE A BAREFOOTED, BAD-TEMPERED BABY BRIGADE!
Stop tickling our tootsies and kissing our noses!
Stop calling us sweet and adorable names!
Stop blowing loud raspberries right on our bellies!
And stop, oh, please stop, with those peekaboo games!
Face facts: We're whiny. We're messy. We're smelly.
We keep you up nights and wreck plans that you've made.
We dump out our toys and make ear-splitting noise
WE'RE A BAREFOOTED, BAD-TEMPERED BABY BRIGADE!"

Betty and Boo are a little older than the age range of 3-6 for this book, but that didn't stop all of us from laughing and enjoying The Barefooted, Bad-Tempered Baby Brigade. This is one of those books that is perfect for parent and child alike.  The adult will nod along with the confirmation at long last that their cherubs really do have an organized plot afoot to drive their parents crazy, and kids will find it amusing to see babies crawling down Main Street chanting "goo goo" and "ga-ga."  The heartwarming ending reminds us that, despite the toddlers' theatrics, these trying times are ones to treasure.

The illustrations by Tracy Dockray are also a delight. There seem to be hundreds of young'uns in these pages but the picture capture each grimace and clenched fist of protest. They're simply drawn, but with plenty of amusement for parent and child alike. If her illustrations look a bit familiar, it might be because Tracy is the artist behind the new illustrations in the new Beezus and Ramona books by Beverly Cleary. 

At first I thought this would be a great baby shower book, but ... no.  You see, at that stage you're still in that gauzy-blissful frame of mind where you think that parenthood is going to be one big baby-fresh smelling Johnson's Baby Shampoo commercial.  No, this is a book that's perfect to give for the kid's first birthday (along with a gift certificate to a spa or for a housecleaning or a dinner out at a five-star restaurant for the sleep-deprived stressed out parent.)

I absolutely loved this book and was delighted to see on the back cover that author Deborah Diesen has a blog, Jumping the Candlestick.  (Love that title ... and I love that someone else admits to reading almost as many blogs as I subscribe to, as evidenced by her lengthy blogroll that I need to spend more time with!)

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Book Blogger Hop: Favorite New Author of the Year (So Far ....)


Maybe it is a sign that I am loving my new job, but these days, Friday just seems to show up even faster than usual. 

Either that or it really is true what the infamous "they" say about time flying as we get older.  (It does.)

This week's Book Blogger Hop question ties in with that, asking who our favorite new-to-us author is this year. 

(I know ... I can't believe we're at the end of July either. Hopefully there are lots of favorite new-to-us authors.)

For me, I'd have to go with Steve De Jarnett, because I was so taken with his short story "Rubiaux Rising" in The Best American Short Stories 2009.  (I raved about it here, in my Sunday Salon post on April 25.) It really is one of the best short stories I've ever read and I am looking forward to reading more from Steve.

Also well worth mentioning are Jess Walter (The Financial Lives of the Poets), Joshua Ferris (Then We Came to the End), Cathy Marie Buchanan (The Day the Falls Stood Still), and Kelly Corrigan (Lift). (Links take you to my reviews.)  

Looking forward to spending some time Hopping around to your blogs and discovering some soon-to-be favorite authors!

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

An Open Letter to Those Vandalizing My Kids' Summer Camp

Dear Eggheads,

Yeah, I'm talking to you, genius.  You, the one who apparently thinks it is ... cool?  funny? what's the right word here? ... to spend your nights throwing dozens of eggs at my kids' summer camp facility. 

I'm not exactly sure what your point is, what message you're trying to impart. Are you somehow against kids having fun in the summer?  Think that they shouldn't have a safe place to be?  Some kind of message against child care, that we all should have the sorts of lives where we can luxuriate in being home with our kids all day (Believe you me, the best choice for my kids is to be in a program where they can make friends and play and go on fun trips.)

No, I just think you're being an ass.

When you first did this a few months ago, it was probably chalked up as a prank, a whim, a dare. 

But this has been going on every single night for the past few weeks now, and it's kind of getting annoying.  And, frankly, unnerving. 

It's kind of disturbing, really, to think that someone like you has nothing better to do with your time than to egg a summer camp.  Not to mention the fact that my tax dollars needs to be spent for our local police to be bothered with such shenanigans, although I'd rather them catch you now before you move onto other crimes,  if you haven't already.

You're obviously not a parent - or if you are, you're not a responsible one.  Because you would know that if anytime you have your kids out of your peripheral vision, you're afraid that there is someone in their midst that is willing and capable of doing them harm.  You might not think you're that person, but I know your type.  Today it's throwing eggs.  Tomorrow, who knows what it will be? Assault, abuse ... you're capable of all of it. 

And frankly, it bothers the hell out of me that you and I have walked the same ground in the parking lot, that you've set eyes on the basketball court where my son, one of the shortest kids in his class, dreams of being the next NBA superstar. 

You might just think you're being funny or that you're being cool, but you're taking away a lot of people's sense of security, even that of the kids, who seem to be handling this in a much more laissez-faire manner than I am.  But the seeds of your summer of destruction will linger, reminding them during what should be carefree days that someone is lurking, possibly watching and willing to do them harm.

My kids will learn this lesson soon enough. 

And if I had my way, so would you.



copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

In the Woods (or There, For But the Grace of God)

I've debated whether I want to write this post, to share what I know. It's probably a bit controversial, and there will be some who might disagree. 

But then I read another article of hate, of misinformation, and I think that maybe there's something I can add to counter, in some small way, some of what is out there. 

You've probably heard the story by now, that of the story of a 20 year old man with autism being forgotten in a stifling hot van following an outing to a very nearby amusement park while under the care of staff members from a residential center for people with disabilities. I don't need to link to it here. 

It is a horrible, horrible tragedy.  One that is every parent's nightmare, whether you are (like me) a parent of a child with autism or if you barely know what the word means.

It's one of every parent's recurring nightmares. 

It should never have happened.

But it did. 

My heart breaks for the family and my deepest sympathies go out to them.  There are no words that can explain this, there are no words of comfort, there are no words to bring their son back.  There are simply no words. 

Except, maybe these.

Although I don't know this particular family, and I probably don't know the as-yet-unnamed staff members, I know this residential center where this happened.  I know it very, very well because for several years, I worked there. 

(Ironically, among my job duties was handling their crisis communications, which fortunately were - and up until this incident, continued to be - few and far between.)

My role brought me into frequent contact with people with such severe disabilities that it was hard for me to fathom how they could smile so often.  (And oh my God, did these clients smile.)  And I began to realize that it was because, in a great part, because this place was (is) their home.  A place where they were among others like them, where staff members cared about them, worked with them, loved them.  Where people were family and where, heartbreakingly, many of them were forgotten by their own family. 

I remember interviewing a mother for an annual report story.  Her son was nonverbal and, with the help of therapists and an assistive speech device, was able to have a conversation with her for the first time. 

I didn't have children then (much less - again with the in-your-face freakin' irony - a son with autism) and I naively thought I had the words to write about such a moment for our donors.  I was wrong, just as I was wrong about once feeling I could never possibly work in such an environment.  Something pulled me towards accepting that job, though (and now 12 years later, I know what that was) and the result was four years that changed me because of the changes that I saw in the residents of that facility, who received services on that wooded, secluded campus.

Today, in response to the recent tragedy, at least one group is planning a protest on that campus, "interviewing" staff members as they try to go in and out to do their jobs, and calling for the closure of the organization because people with disabilities should not be isolated.

But here's the thing:  they're not.  The gentleman who lost his life over the weekend did so following an outing in the community, probably one of many similar types of recreational outings he did with his group, probably as part of a curriculum and a therapeutic plan to help him become more included in the community.  And meanwhile, the gorgeous campus IS where he was included.  Loved. Accepted. 

This horrible tragedy, this sad ending to this man's life, should not result in the end of this organization, one with a history that dates back to 1913, one that is fully accredited, one that is the absolute anthesis of a barbaric institution. 

One that pays its employees a more than fair wage for the work they do (staff make above what an average client care worker receives elsewhere).

One where family after family after family has told me they are proud to have their kids there. 

One with staff members who I still call friends, and whose hearts I believe I know.

One that has made and - I fervently believe - a difference in the lives of so many, so very many. 

One where people have truly achieved their full potential, just like the communications copy I once wrote said, because I have seen such potential and such achievements firsthand.

Even the young man's family has recognized this, saying that their son was well cared for during the time he spent there.  In his grief, the father is quoted as saying, "I'm not going to let the mistake of one person ruin the five years that they [the deceased's brother also has autism and was a client at the facility] spent there, or the wonderful care they were given. I feel it's neglect on that one person's part. Perhaps they'll have some kind of double inspection the next time, where two people are responsible.''

That's class.  That's what should be happening, and which is happening: an investigation, consequences for those responsible.  But closing down the entire organization because of the misinformation being spewed by some seizing-the-media-day, grandstanding people?

This organization is truly a good place.  A very, very good place. This is a place where I - like the young man's family - would place my trust in people to care for my son with autism, if he ever needed a residential facility. These are, for the most part, exceptionally good people.  People who care, who do their best.  People who are, at the end of the day, human and may make mistakes. Just like all of us. 

And make no mistake about it, and know this, if nothing else:

For the more than 800 children and adults with disabilities who live on the tree-lined grounds, this is their home. Perhaps the first and only one that they may have ever known.

And taking it away from them would be nothing more than a crime.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Sunset on Sunday


Sunset on Sunday evening, 7/25/2010, as seen from our front steps.
(This one is straight from the camera ... no editing, cropping, etc.)

For more Wordless Wednesday photos, go here.


copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Links I Liked

A few links to some blog posts that I especially liked over the past few weeks or so ...

I don't know about you, but if I wore a diaper on my wedding day, the next stop would have probably been Divorce Court.

Even if it doesn't work out (and you find yourself headed to Divorce Court), everyone should be so lucky to have a love like the one Andrew Cohen writes about in his Politics Daily column, On Her Wedding Day, Saying the Things Left Unsaid.

Natalie from My Yellow Apple: Journeys in Parenting Asperger Syndrome) gives us a great post ("The Chicken and the Egg") about school as experienced by our kids who learn differently.  I recently had the opportunity to hear author Jonathan Mooney speak, and he echoed many of these points.  Makes you think.

Speaking of school, Blissfully Domestic offers Fun Ways to Keep Your Kids Writing This Summer.  (We don't have this particular issue with Boo, as he will fill up a notebook every day with comics and all kinds of stories.)

PunditMom shares a wonderful tribute in her post, "Daniel Schorr ... My 'Cousin' and My Hero." 

Mainline Mom, a Philly girl who is now in Texas and blogging at water water everywhere gives us her Top 10 Things to Love About Philly.  (I completely agree!)

What's more irresistable than Don Draper?  How about this post from Flavorwire about The Definitive Mad Men Summer Reading List.  

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Book Review: Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger


Her Fearful Symmetry
by Audrey Niffenegger
Scribner, a division of Simon and Schuster
published 2009
404 pages

I am all about the dead.

Allow me to explain.  As The Husband would say, I have ... an interest ... in many things pertaining to those who have crossed over to the other side. I read the obituaries every morning and have done so since I was 15. I believe that our loved ones are with us, maybe not at every second, but that they occasionally have a presence in our lives, that they watch over us, and that they communicate with us in certain ways. I've been to a psychic. (Make that two.)

So, it probably comes as no surprise when I say that I really enjoyed Audrey Niffenegger's novel, Her Fearful Symmetry. If you're as interested in this stuff as I am, this book just speaks to all that is mysterious and fascinating and mystical about what happens to our souls after we die. 

Julia and Valentina Poole are 20 year old twins who inherit a substantial amount of money from their deceased Aunt Elspeth, a fact that puzzles them because they never knew her.  Not only is Elspeth their mother's only sibling, but she is her twin.  Among the provisions in Aunt Elspeth's will is that Julia and Valentina  - who live in suburban Chicago - must live in her London flat for a year. Despite their parents' disapproval and under the spector of a long-buried and never-discussed dark family secret, Julia and Valentina move to London to embark on their new life together.

Or ... maybe not so together. For Valentina, the experience of living abroad presents an awakening desire to break free from the constraints of being tied to Julia and her twin's nebulous goals for both of them.

Her Fearful Symmetry is a novel about how one's identity can sometimes be shaped by the desires of those we love and are closest to, and the good (and not-so-good) consequences once those bonds are broken. Niffenegger shows us this dynamic in the lives of her characters. In addition to the two sets of twins (Julia and Valentina, Elspeth and Edie), the story also focuses on several other individuals.

There's Robert, Elspeth's lover who is a guide at, and a scholar of, the sprawling Highgate Cemetery adjacent to the building where he and Elspeth kept separate flats. (Did anyone else wonder why they lived separately? Struck me as somewhat odd, but that is the least of the oddness in that building.) There is also Martin and Marijke, another couple in the building who are also confined by the chains of their relationship (in their case, Martin's obsessive compulsive disorder and Marijke's desire, like Valentina's, to live a life that doesn't require such subjugation to another).

(I'm probably in the minority for thinking this, but I'm not entirely sold that Martin and Marijke even needed to be part of Her Fearful Symmetry to begin with. I liked and sympathized with them, and I feel they were included as a way to illustrate - perhaps to Valentina? - how someone can maintain a closeness with someone even while living independently, but there was more than enough going on with Julia, Valentina, Elspeth, and Robert to make for a satisfying read on their own. Don't get me wrong, they didn't detract from the novel. I'm just not sure their story was that essential.)

I was very immersed in the first third or so of the novel, which seemed to move at a good pace.  Towards the middle, however, the pacing lagged a bit, Julia's lack of ambition started to irk me, and I predicted one of the revelations that we learn near the end. Overall, I enjoyed my first read from Audrey Niffenegger (I'm the only person who hasn't read The Time Traveler's Wife) and I believe she is among our most talented contemporary authors. I look forward to reading more from her.

Ultimately, Her Fearful Symmetry is a gripping story about letting go of secrets and of one's past and predetermined path, and releasing those we love and who love us. That makes this a very satisfying read, one that has the ability to haunt the reader long after the last page.

What Other Bloggers Thought
(clearly, I am the very last person on Earth to read this one ....)

5 Minutes for Books
A Garden Carried in the Pocket
At Home With Books
books i done read
Books on the Brain
Care's Online Book Club
Devourer of Books
eclectic / eccentric
Farm Lane Books
Linus's Blanket
The Literate Housewife
Presenting Lenore
Reviews by Lola
Rhapsody in Books
S. Krishna's Books
Scobberlotch
Sophisticated Dorkiness
Stainless Steel Droppings
Stuff As Dreams Are Made On ...
The Book Lady's Blog

Did I miss your review?  Let me know in the comments!

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Sunday Salon: Sluggish Reading, Sluggish Sunday

After a great vacation week in which I finished two books, it has been a struggle to even get through a few chapters this week. There isn't any specific reason, other than getting back into the swing of things work-wise and having a couple of busier-than-usual days. 

That's definitely not a criticism of my current read, Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet, by Stephanie Cowell.  I'm really enjoying this historical novel and love story of the Impressionist painter Monet and Camille Doncieux. There's so much I didn't know about Monet's life and it really is an interesting read. 

I'd hoped to finish this today, but I am exhausted (and recovering from being dehydrated) from a scorching hot trip to the beach yesterday with Betty and a few friends from her Girl Scout troop.  According to the paper, the heat index was well over 100 degrees, which made sense given that the temperature on my car's dashboard registered at an all-time record of 108. It was brutally hot.

To cool off, we spent some time in one of my favorite independent bookstores, Browseabout Books.  We don't get there nearly enough (it's an hour and a half away, with no beach traffic) but I love this store and try to get there anytime I am in the area.

My book-buying budget had to be a bit more restrained then I'd have preferred.  This summer, Betty is very into the Judy Moody books by Megan McDonald.  She also really enjoys journal-type books where she can answer questions, so she chose Judy Moody's Way Wacky Uber-Awesome Book of More Fun Stuff to Do as well as Hannah Montana: In the Loop.

My decisions, as usual, took a little while.  I went back and forth between Sara Gruen's Flying Changes and Riding Lessons, as an attempt to hold me over before Ape House is released. 

Then I was considering Lit by Mary Karr.  Then The Horse Boy: A Memoir of Healing, by Rupert Isaacson.  Then the new short story collection, Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy. 

Finally, we had a winner ... Finny, Justin Kramon's debut novel, which was just released last week or so (and that I was surprised to see, as I didn't think it was out yet). I've been hearing some nice buzz on this from other bloggers (Booking Mama, The Book Lady's Blog) and I was very impressed with Justin's interactions with bloggers via the comments on Beth Fish Reads, so I decided to buy it. Plus, there is the fact that Justin is now a Philly guy (he has several upcoming appearances in the area) and you know how I adore my Philadelphia area authors ... so how could I not buy this? 

Hope your reading has been a little more productive than mine this week!

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Kids These Days


Yesterday, Betty and I headed down to the beach for the day with a few others from her Girl Scout troop.  As we were leaving the boardwalk after a fun (but exhausting, and scorching hot) day of pizza and amusements, a car full of rowdy (and most likely) inebriated individuals passed by.

"I wanna dance with someboddddddddeeeeeeeeeeee!" one of the shiny happy people inside sang, off-key, and hanging out the back window.  

Betty, who is 8, rolled her eyes.

"Kids these days," she said. 

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Weekend Cooking: On Kermits, Green Goddesses, and Graffiti


Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. For more information, see the welcome post.

I come to this edition of Weekend Cooking with more of a question, instead of a recipe to share.

And a bit of a confession. 

I have this habit - perhaps you do too - of buying produce I'm unfamiliar with at the farmer's market simply because they are a) cute or b) have a cute name.  If the item in question is both cute and bearing a cute name, forget it ... chances are, it's coming home with me in hopes of my finding an appropriate recipe. 

These were my downfall this week:


The purple and white globe is a Graffiti Eggplant, the plantain-shaped tubes are apparently Green Goddess eggplant, and the round ones are the irresistible Kermit eggplants.  (Seriously, would you have been able to leave a few Kermits behind?)

I probably should have made something with these by now (they were purchased on Tuesday) but I didn't plan well and didn't have time.  I was thinking of a good baba ganoush recipe.  But in my searching for an appealing recipe, the Kermits didn't seem to yield many options besides Thai recipes.  I'm not much of a Thai food fan (don't like the coconut).   

Any thoughts, suggestions ... referrals to a 12-step program for People who Impulsively Buy Cute Produce They Have No Idea How to Cook?  

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Book Blogger Hop - July 23


Time once again for us to hop into the weekend and into the worlds of new book blogs!  For this week's Book Blogger Hop, hostess Jennifer from Crazy-for-Books asks us to tell about the book we're currently reading. 


I'm really enjoying Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet, a historical novel by Stephanie Cowell, who gives her reader a fascinating glimpse into the life of Impressionist painter Claude Monet and his romance with Camille Doncieux. Although he is one of the world's best known artists today, that wasn't always the case.  He spent most of his life as a struggling, poor artist, often living in studios with friends Renoir, Pissaro, Degas, Cezanne, and Manet. (Their interactions are among the most amusing parts of the book.) 

I'm also listening to Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Greg Mortenson.  Between the history of the area and the people involved in establishing the schools to the students themselves, this one is chock-full of information. (Almost too much to remember via audio, in my opinion.) I haven't read Three Cups of Tea, but Greg Mortenson's follow-up to his bestseller would likely be of interest to anyone who has.

If you're visiting from the Hop, welcome!  What are you reading this week?

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Oh, Yeah, So About That Memorable Memoir Challenge ....

Remember this?  That little Memorable Memoir Reading Challenge that I just happen to be hosting?


Yeah, that one right up there.  It's OK if this only remotely rings a bell or you think you remember hearing something about it waaaaaay back when we turned the calendar to a new year and made all kinds of reading challenge goals galore. 

If you're new to my blog and, hence, new to the Memorable Memoir Reading Challenge, you can still join. It goes until December 31, and the only requirement is that you read four memoirs. That's it. Four. Diaries, letters, autobiographies count as memoir in my book, so they also count for this challenge. As I say in the sign up, if you think it's the stuff of memoir, it counts.

I've kind of let things slide here with my hosting duties, and for that I apologize. But judging from the review page, you're all doing just fine by yourselves!  I'm amazed at the number of people participating (51!) and the incredible-sounding memoirs that you've been reading.

I'm happy to say that I've completed this challenge ('twould be a little embarrassing not to finish one's own challenge now, right?).  Here are the memoirs (or memoir-like) books I've read (links take you to my reviews):

1. Prairie Tale: A Memoir, by Melissa Gilbert
2. The Audacity to Win:  The Inside Story and Lessons from Barack Obama's Historic Victory, by David Plouffe
3. Read My Pins: Stories from Inside a Diplomat's Jewel Box, by Madeleine Albright
4. Lift, by Kelly Corrigan
5. Someone Will Be with You Shortly: Notes from a Perfectly Imperfect Life, by Lisa Kogan

And, it goes without saying (although I went awhile without saying) that I give a big shout out to those who have finished or even exceeded the challenge:

Christa from Mental Foodie
Kathy from Bermudaonion
Amy S. from Steele on Entertainment
Colleen from Books in the City
Jenna from Little Bird
Jayne from Beachreader
TT&TOT
Read with Tea
Julie from Booking Mama
Dawn from She is Too Fond of Books
Wendy from Caribou's Mom

This is only from those who have linked up four or more reviews to the Memorable Memoir Reading Challenge review page Of course, I have no way of knowing otherwise if there are others who may have finished, so be sure to link up your reviews!

There's no need to stop at four memoirs ... keep it going!  Thanks to all who have participated (and continue to participate) in my first challenge!

The Memorable Memoir Reading Challenge 2010 sign up page is here
And the review page is here.



copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: A Flock of a Seagull


"What the flock?!!?" said the seagull.
"What the flock does one have to do to get a good meal around here?"

For more Wordless Wednesday photos, go here.


Photo taken by Melissa last week, July 14, 2010, at the Jersey shore.  Copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Dos Equis


I'm not an overly religious person, but I loved this sign on a church I passed this morning:

JESUS IS THE MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD.
HE HAS WALKED ON WATER.

(Pulling over on the road to take a photo of the actual church sign would have likely led to the opportunity to talk to Jesus himself face-to-face, so you'll have to make due with this photo of The Husband and Boo above.)

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Words Matter


Sometimes, here, with this blogging thing of ours, we write (with good intentions) about things that move us, that allow us to try and make sense of the senseless, to give some comfort.

Such was the case last November, when I wrote about a significant anniversary of a tragic event, a family's loss of their son, their brother.  I wondered, in my post, what he would have been like today, how his family is doing after all these years.

And since writing that post (which I'm being intentionally vague about), his name and the circumstances in which he died has become the most searched for term on my blog. 

I'm not sure why, either, because like the crime itself, there is no rhyme or reason.  It doesn't make sense. There aren't (thankfully, I guess) any comments on this particular post.

I'm not talking one search out of 100 here. I'm talking dozens.  As in, every other search term, it seems, is a violation of this boy's memory. Even though I am sure they never read it, every hit feels to me like a new wound to his family.

So the well-intentioned post is gone, deleted, and even though these sorts of things live on in the cyberspace and continue long into the hereafter, it makes me sleep a little better knowing that I'm not perhaps unintentionally causing more pain, perhaps spawning a copycat or two, or indulging a voyeuristic mindset. 

Our words. They really do matter, you know?

photo taken by me in my Mom's backyard, Easter Sunday 2010. 

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Book Review: Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris


Then We Came to the End
by Joshua Ferris
Back Bay Books, an imprint of Little, Brown
published 2007
385 pages

Joshua Ferris has written the book that everyone who has ever worked in an office swore that they were going to write someday.

(Or, rather, the one that they were writing when they should have been working, or the one they were surreptiously taking notes for during mind-numbing meetings.)

Then We Came to the End is about a group of dysfunctional coworkers barely hanging on to their jobs and sanity as they manage to survive life in an Chicago advertising agency that is experiencing a "downturn" in business, thanks to the dot com bust. For most of the book, the ad execs have one project, a pro bono campaign for a nonexistent cancer organization, which leaves them lots of time to do ... well, not much of anything.

"While waiting for Lynn to arrive, we killed time listening to Chris Yop tell us the story of Tom Mota's chair. We loved killing time and had perfected several ways of doing so. We wandered hallways carrying papers that indicated some mission of business when in reality we were in search of free candy. We refilled our coffee mugs on floors we didn't belong on. Hank Neary was an avid reader.  He arrived early in his brown corduroy coat with a book taken from the library, copied all its pages on the Xerox machine, and sat at his desk reading what looked to passersby like the honest pages of business." (pg. 28)

Ferris gives his reader quite the cast of characters in this book, his debut novel that was a finalist for the National Book Award.  With the sheer number of them, it initially seems impossible to keep them all straight but that becomes easy to do because we have all worked with someone like Genevieve or Marcia or Tom or Carl or Jim or Joe. We all know someone like the draconian office coordinator who keeps track of the serial numbers on office furniture in order to make damn sure that coveted chairs and bookshelves stay where they belong, even if their former inhabitants are now collecting unemployment. We've all had a boss like Lynn Mason.

It's Lynn's story that the coworkers are fixated on.  She may or she may have cancer.  Someone said that she did, but then ... maybe she didn't.  Just as you, the reader, finish catching your breath from laughing so hard at the antics of the cubicle denizens, you quickly sober up when Then We Came to the End switches its tone and the story shifts focus. You see the office crew in a whole new (flourescent) light.

And then a funny thing happens, just as it does to the characters themselves.  You begin to care about them, and you spend the last third of the novel forgetting to breathe because you've spent the last 200 some-odd pages caring about them.

This is, quite simply, an absolutely brilliant novel.  As mentioned, Joshua Ferris has a razor-sharp ability to create memorable, 3-D characters, people so realistic that you could swear you know them.  They're a composite of people, but the genius of Ferris is that you can see these madcap events and these crazy people in any typical workplace.  Maybe even in the next cubicle. He also nails the narration (written in the first person plural "we") and the dialogue.  It is quick, fast-paced, authentic. Real.

I read nearly 250 pages of this in one sitting.  That is a rarity for me. The pace just moves along so rapidly that you really do lose track of time - kind of like when you're engrossed in that funny story that the guy down the hall is telling you and you ignore the work waiting on your desk.

Then We Came to the End reminded me a bit of The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter, which I also loved (see my review here).  (I'd imagine Jess and Joshua would get along pretty well in real life.) Both novels are witty and well-written, and commentaries on how our professional lives end up defining so much of our existence. Both authors, I'd imagine, might have been pretty cool to know in the workplace and would be fun to have a beer with.

In the case of Then We Came to the End, the message becomes one of whether we really know the people we spend 40 hours a week with ... and what happens when we finally do.

What Other Bloggers Thought:

Bibliolatry
Florinda from The 3 R's Blog
Sophisticated Dorkiness

Did I miss your review?  Let me know in the comments.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Sunday Salon: Vacation Reading Recap


Everyone should have a reading week like the one I just had.  We're back from vacation and of the 13 books I lugged to the shore for a five-day stay I read ... two.  No matter.  Just having the time to read on the beach and the porch was a gift.


For the first part of the week, my beach read was Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields. I haven't finished writing my review yet, but suffice it to say that this is required reading for everyone who loves To Kill a Mockingbird.  So much of Harper Lee's life is written into the pages of To Kill a Mockingbird, which I never realized until reading this. (I also hadn't realized what a pompous ass and notorious prick Truman Capote was.) Shields' well-written biography is based on at least 600 interviews with people connected to Harper Lee (who is referred to as Nelle, her given name, throughout the book). 

My second beach read was a bit of a disappointment, to put it mildly.  I had been looking forward to reading A Gate at the Stairs by one of my all-time favorite authors, Lorrie Moore, since I bought it last September.  It was one of those books that I was saving for a special occasion, for when I would have uninterrupted long stretches of time to savor every word. 

Maybe I came to this one with too high of expectations or maybe Moore is, as I believe, much better suited to the short story form.  (Her 1998 best-selling short story collection Birds of America is one of my favorite books ever.)  This one has glimmers of promise throughout, but like the cover art, eventually goes nowhere.

Last night I started Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet, a historical novel by Stephanie Cowell.  I'm only a few pages into this but am loving the writing.  I've been looking forward to reading this one since I checked it out of the library a few weeks ago.

Today I have a 1.5 hour drive ahead of me to pick up Betty and Boo from their grandparents, so my Sunday Salon reading will be of the audiobook variety. For the drive up to Philly, I'll be listening to Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Greg Mortensen and narrated by Atossa Leoni.  (Sadly, the ride back home will be listening to Radio Disney and the likes of The Jonas Brothers, Justin Bieber, and the latest Disney-created child celebrity du jour.)     

I'll be trying to take my mind off such driving drivel by remembering this:


To find out more about The Sunday Salon and read other posts from Salon members, click here.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Book Blogger Hop 7/17/2010: Anticipation, Book Style


I'm a little late to this week's Book Blogger Hop, forgive me.  We were on vacation and just got back yesterday.  I'm going to try and visit as many blogs as I can to catch up.

As with the last few Hops, hostess Jennifer asks us "RIGHT THIS INSTANT, WHAT BOOK ARE YOU DYING TO GET YOUR HANDS ON (PAST, PRESENT, OR FUTURE)?"

Several come to mind, actually.  Of all the library books I have out, I'm the most excited about Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet, by Stephanie Cowell. I think I might go out of order and make this my next read.    

I'm also really looking forward to Beth Kephart's newest book, Dangerous Neighbors, which is due out on August 24.  It already has a lot of (well-deserved) buzz in the blogosphere.

And finally, I just read a great review of Finny by Justin Kramon, and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on that, too. 

Now, how about you?  Which books are you looking forward to reading?





 
copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Weekend Cooking: Stuffed French Toast


We wait all year for this breakfast and when our vacation finally arrives, we eat this every single morning. 

Actually, I could eat this every single morning of my life.  (So could The Husband, as it is his breakfast of choice on vacation too.)

Before the sleep is fully rubbed from our eyes, we're dressed and out the door, walking a block along the docks of the back bay to Uncle Bill's Pancake House, a Jersey shore tradition since 1962.  Even with eight locations, it still has the feel of a mom-and-pop establishment.

You know what to expect at Uncle Bill's (it is branding at its best) - the green-aproned and sun-kissed tanned waitresses, the busboys placing the flags in the flowerboxes, the tent card with the waitress's name, and - if kids are in tow, the complimentary post-breakfast individual-sized moist-towelette packet and a lollipop. 

And this.  Oh, yes, this ... the breakfast that we anticipate 51 out of 52 weeks of the year:


It is the Stuffed French Toast, the first item on Uncle Bill's paper placematted menu. It is the exact same every time we get it  - except for the price, which seems to increase a bit each year, but which could cost $100 and still be worth every melt-in-your-mouth bite.

I don't have a recipe but I do know that it is made with homemade sweetened cream cheese and homemade cinnamon butter.  Even if I did have a recipe, I know there would be no way to re-create this.  And I'm not sure if I'd want to, really. 
 
It is pure perfection (and pure cholesterol, a cardiologist's nightmare) on a plate. 
 
It is tradition. 
 
Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.
 
copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Returning Home, By Way of Cape May


For all of the changes that this vacation ushered in (this week and those to come), it ended with a day spent in the past.

With the kids enjoying several days back home with their grandparents, The Husband and I drove down to Cape May for lunch and shopping before heading home.  It's a special town for us (and many other people, I'd imagine.)  Before Betty and Boo, this was often our vacation destination of choice.

If you've never been to Cape May, it's also special place historically. It is the nation’s oldest seashore resort and is on the national Register of Historic Places. Several famous people are known to have visited, including Presidents James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce, Ulysses S. Grant, and Benjamin Harrison, as well as Abraham Lincoln before becoming President. (During our vacation, The Husband's beach read was Henry Clay: The Essential American, which mentioned that Clay visited Cape May for "salt baths.")


It's a colorful town, with pinks and purples and yellows on hundreds of Victorian houses located throughout the town, many of them bed and breakfasts. The first one we stayed in - more than 10 years ago! -  is currently for sale (anyone have $1.5 million to spare?) so we daydreamed a bit about that.  (It isn't pictured here; my camera was being tempermental.)


(This is The Mainstay Inn and which is my favorite Cape May bed and breakfast that we've never stayed in.  It was built as a private gambling club in 1872.)

We walked around the town a little bit, had lunch and ice cream, and I shopped while The Husband sat on a bench.

And then, it was time to set sail for home.



copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Splash

I had the day to myself yesterday (kids went back home with the grandparents, and The Husband had lunch with a former teacher/groomsman in our wedding/good friend /my favorite horror writer) so I headed down to the beach solo. 

Where right in front of my chair, Tom Hanks was constructing this:



















copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cool Change

This is the vacation year where the lines in the sand between my kids have appeared.

They've always been there, of course, ever since the developmental pediatrician decreed that Boo had "clinical features of the autism spectrum" and perhaps even before. But this year, especially, they are with us in a way that we're struggling to manage.

The lines of worry, of anxiety.  The recognition on Boo's part that he is, indeed, different - resulting in his increased worry and anxiety. Betty's embarrassment and anger at his baby talk, his noises. Her realization that most people don't have dinnertime conversations where one needs to ask if there's an Unthinkable in their brain. 

He spilled water on his shirt yesterday at lunch.  "I'm embarrassed," he said.  I don't think I've heard him express that before, which was a huge step, but one that crossed a line. "There's nothing to be embarrassed about," said Betty, leaning over and giving him a smile. 

There are changes all around us during this trip. Our beach transforms overnight and we don't know what to expect.  To reach the ocean's edge on Monday we needed to cross the sand (the beach replenishment project was an apparent success, increasing the width by hundreds of feet) , then forge a small - what is the word for a small stream of water dividing the beach and the ocean? - then a slight incline, and then finally we were at the ocean's edge. 

The next day, it was back to the way we're used to, calm in the morning, the chasm gone. Something to do with the tides, I suspect.

I don't know enough about these kinds of tides.

The weather, too, has been indecisive - overcast but with sun peeking through on occasion, a sprinkle followed by sun - making those among us fretful and worried, throwing plans and psyches into turmoil.

On the boardwalk the other night, the marquee sign announced, "Little River Band - Mon 8 p.m." (yes, the Little River Band!) and since then I have had "Cool Change" running through my head.

If there's one thing in my life that's missing

It's the time I spend alone
Sailing on the cool and bright clear waters
There's lots of those friendly people
Showin me ways to go
And I never want to lose your inspiration
Time for
a cool change...
I know that it's time
for a cool change
Now that my life
is so pre-arranged
I know that it's time
for a cool change
Well I was born in the sign of water
And it's there that I feel my best
The albatross and the whales
they are my brothers
It's kind of a special feeling
When you're out on the sea alone
Starin' at the full moon
like a lover
Time for
a cool change...
I know that it's time
for a cool change

"There's a blog post in this somewhere," I said to The Husband, after coming back from my walk last night and discovering my chair gone and replaced by a canoe.  "Something about the changes we're seeing with the kids, with Betty seeming so much older and grown up tonight at dinner and Boo ...." 

My voice trailed off.  We were silent.

"Chairs are stationary," he said finally.  "But canoes allow you to sail."







copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chair Today, Gone Tomorrow


I took a walk down by the back bay this evening to see if my chair (a.k.a. The Betty and Boo Chronicles' Blog Header Photo) was still there.  

It's gone. Replaced by a canoe.

The blog header stays, though.

(More vacation photos to come later.  Internet access is spotty here.)




copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.