Friday, February 17, 2012


In preparation for my presentation at UVU's "For the Love of Reading Conference," I surveyed scores of moms, asking them to weigh in on their absolute favorite kid & teen books.  The idea was to create a list BY MOMS FOR MOMS.

These awesome moms came up with a fabulous list.  Until I can figure out the best way to share it, please email me at to request a copy.

Also, it should be noted that this list is in constant flux (I haven't had time to put a few of the most recent suggestions on here yet) -- if you have title ideas just email them to me & I'll officially update the list every month or so.

Thanks for everyone's input -- this is a fabulous list!!!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Your kicks are so fly!

Published for (click HERE for the link)

A few months into the school year, my third grade daughter came home from school and immediately demanded that we go to the store and buy her new shoes. Since I only buy new shoes for my kids under dire circumstances like holes in the soles or toes sticking out, I smiled but said no.

Undeterred by my answer, my daughter pled her case by giving me the back story. Apparently, a girl who has been in her class for two years running has a remarkable shoe memory. This girl looked at my daughter’s sneakers, crinkled her nose and said in a voice designed to reverberate throughout the classroom, “You’re still wearing those raggedy old things?”

My daughter was mortified.

I had a few thoughts about the girl’s propriety, but kept a lid on them as best I could. I did, however, spend several minutes explaining the myriad of benefits to wearing shoes sporting a few scuff marks — not the least of which is that you don’t have to obsess about getting more scuff marks.

Unfortunately, my brilliantly-elucidated speech fell on deaf ears. Overcoming humiliation with mere logic is challenging at best.

The raggedy shoe incident had barely simmered down when my 16-year-old daughter suffered a shoe tragedy of her own.

Once she started earning her own money, my oldest daughter decided to collect quirky, funky and sometimes downright strange shoes. She scouts them out at thrift stores and online, spending anywhere from $5 per pair to an outlandishly high amount if the shoes are particularly cool.

Her shoes garner attention everywhere my daughter goes, to the point where friends have started requesting to borrow certain pairs of shoes to accessorize certain outfits. She was even handed a note from a relative stranger in one of her classes that read, “Your kicks are so fly!”

I had to ask her to translate.

As the ultimate frugal shoe shopper, this shoe thing drives me batty. But knowing that she saves half of her earnings and that I really shouldn’t micromanage how she spends the rest, I bite my tongue. For the most part.

During high school basketball season, my daughter often travels to neighboring cities for games. The girls change into uniforms and leave their duffel bags overflowing with travel clothes in the bleachers during games.

At one such game, my daughter put what was quite possibly her grooviest and definitely her most expensive pair of shoes into her duffel bag.

And never saw them again.

She was understandably upset. I listened and agreed with her when she ranted against someone who would actually do something like that, I told her how sorry I was and that it truly did suck.

Then, I couldn’t help but give her a smidgen of advice. Her kicks may have been TOO fly. In the future, perhaps it would be best to bring shoes of a less showy variety to ball games.

There are a myriad of benefits to wearing raggedy old shoes, I explained, including the fact that they are far less likely to get swiped at a game.

Since the theft, my daughter's super cute shoes have remained safely in her closet during games. I take no credit — I'm pretty sure it was losing her fly-est kicks that convinced her.

Since I'm anything but obsessed with shoes, my daughters’ shoe issues have truly baffled me. Until just the other day, when I happened to pick up a copy of my mom’s newsletter from the year I was 15 years old.

Mom, the ultimate frugal shopper, was beside herself because I had just spent an outrageous amount of my own hard-earned money on one single pair of shoes. She didn’t dare record the amount of money I paid for them, stating, “You wouldn’t believe how much they cost, and I don’t either. I hope they last through the millennium.”

I had conveniently forgotten my very own shoe incident, but the details came back as I read.

That pair of shoes was a whopping $50 (adjusted for inflation, today’s amount would be much higher).

Incidentally, they lasted through college.


My daughter's fly kicks (far left) on her 16th birthday.  Photo credit:  Allison Niccum, Moments Photography

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Last call for favorite kid/teen book titles!

So I saw my friend Stephanie Yost in the library yesterday.  She mentioned that seeing updates to my blog or Facebook have reminded her that she hadn't yet sent me book titles for the list I'm compiling for my presentation at a reading conference (see web sidebar) next week.

The thought occurred to me that if Stephanie was still thinking about sending me some titles, a few of YOU might feel the same way. . . .

So, one last time.  YES, I'd love more titles!

In summary, I'm compiling a list BY MOMS FOR MOMS of their absolute favorite books for kids and teens.  Not just books you and your kids kinda like -- books you and your kids ABSOLUTELY ADORE.

I have a great list so far, but it could be even better.  If YOU haven't contributed, it's not complete!! 

BTW, Stephanie sent me a fabulous list today.  She's a true Rock Star.

Send a few titles my way and you'll make my Rock Star List too. 

Lucky, lucky you!!

I'll provide the final list (along with names of all the Rock Star Contributors!) once it's finished.

I'm leaving in 8 days and would love to wrap up this list by the end of this week.  You see, I have a shopping date this weekend with my 16-year-old daughter.  I desperately need help choosing something to wear to my presentation, and my fashion-ista daughter is just the person to help me.  A new outfit has been a long time coming for me -- but I need time to find one!!

Thanks and Cheers and Happy Book Title Picking!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Preventing brain rot in kids

Published for  Click HERE for the link.

One of the many dreams I have for my kids is that they avoid brain rot whenever possible. Hence, I have instituted several anti-brain-rotting measures over the years. Some have proven more successful than others, but in the interest of my kids’ brains, I keep trying.

Without taking the time to do extensive research, I’m pretty sure that too much screen time can cause brain rot. So I made a list of requirements that my kids must finish before any screen time is allowed. According to my kids, this list is grounds for notifying Child Protective Services since it contains such grueling tasks as scrubbing toilets, practicing piano and doing homework.

But reading seems to be the most taxing item on the list. My kids assert that school already requires so much reading that their brains are rendered useless by the time they get home.

I respectfully disagree.

A few years ago, my 8-year-old son took covert action in hopes of circumventing my reading rule. I was gone during his alleged reading session, so when I returned home he ran up to me and breathlessly declared, “Mom, I’m done reading! Can I play the Wii now?”

This kid is usually a stand-up guy and I hated to suspect otherwise, but I dug a little more and asked, “For how long?”

“A long time, Mom. A really, really long time!”

His smile was too big. I wasn’t buying it.

“OK then, show me what you read.”

Donning the huge, innocent eyes of an animated Disney character, my son disappeared briefly and reappeared with a book in hand, “I read the whole thing!”

It happened to be Disney’s storybook version of "The Jungle Book," which was on his reading level and would have been a believable story except for a teeny detail.

The familiar cover illustration lured my son in, so he failed to look closely at the title, which read, “Das Dschungelbuch.” He hadn’t taken into account the fact that I am a former English and German teacher, meaning we have German books mixed in with the English ones on our shelves.

It was comically painful to watch his face when I opened the book and asked him to read the first page. Poor guy. So much for covert action.

Since I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love to read, it has baffled me when my kids aren’t delighted at the chance to read. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that my kids are not my clones in the reading category (or almost any other category, for that matter).

Nevertheless, I continue to fight the good fight. The reading fight, that is. I find myself constantly thinking and strategizing and researching entirely outside of what I used to think of as my fairly comprehensive “reading” box. Some tactics prove more successful than others, but in the interest of my kids’ brains, I keep trying.

I wouldn’t mind if some of my kids turn into book nerds like me. Truthfully, though, I would never truly want them to be my reading clones (or my clones in any other category, for that matter).

In the end, it’s really about dreams.

If my kids can become successful readers, their dreams of becoming athletes and artists and comedians and paleontologists and kindergarten teachers are far more likely to become realities.

Of all my dreams I have for my kids, my fondest one is to help their dreams come true. So I’m committed to doing everything it takes — anti-brain-rotting measures included — to launch them as high and as far as possible in the right direction.

Note: Susie will be presenting at Utah Valley University's "For the Love of Reading" conference, Feb. 17-18 at the Zermatt resort in Midway. The conference provides an opportunity for parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians to hear from and speak with some of the top literacy specialists in the country. Check out their website ( for more details and to register.