Thursday, December 16, 2010

Snippets

I've found quite a few things to smile about in the last twenty four hours. I thought I'd share. There are the small things:
  • Like Littles eating an entire strawberry in one bite
  • And watching the Man study at night
  • And harmonizing to Etta James with Littles
  • And spice cake (enough said).
And the bigger things:
  • Like fluffy white snow to watch and play in
  • The Man coming home early
  • Finding out I'm having a NIECE
  • One or two really good books (yes, this is on the bigger things list)
  • Jesus...
But I think God send me these special little blessings because Little's teething has been, well, torturous this week, and He knew I needed a pick me up. So when the Little Bub demands to be held all day and whines and fusses and is generally annoying, I think about...his face when he tasted snow for the first time, a phone call from a good friend just because, an alter-ego blog, sweet and sour chicken, and curling up on the couch with the Man to watch The Sing-Off. Because one day (hopefully in the not too distant future) Littles will have all of his teeth in, and it'll be something else that's driving me crazy. And I will find special little blessings to pay attention to then.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Death of My Reading Life

Over the month of November (and the first week or so of December), my reading life lay ill and dying. It had slipped into a coma. It's heartbeat was steadily slowing. The doctors had lost all hope. It would rally every now and then for a few pages of Anne Lamott, flickering briefly in the dark night of the soul but inevitably returning to the catatonic state from whence it came. This sudden decline towards death was brought about by several unrelated causes: NaNoWriMo, Thanksgiving (turkey has that effect on me), "possibly pneumonia", the depression that ensued when I realized I wasn't going to reach my NaNoWriMo goal, a brief but intense affair with online T.V., general busyness...you get the picture. But today--I rallied.

And read Chalice by Robin McKinley. As a brief introduction, I have an on going, deep seated love for Robin McKinley. It started when I was but a wee lassie, well, ish, and I read Beauty for the first time. Her retelling of Beauty and the Beast was perfection: intuitive, vivid, breath-taking, rich with detail but still subtle, true to the story while still being original. I wax eloquent. She deserves it. Since that time, I have purposefully picked up as many of her books as I can find, and she might possibly hold the title for Most Books by the Same Author on my bookshelf. So when I opened my birthday parcel from my wonderful oldest sister to find a Robin McKinley book, there may have been a bit of squealing and possibly some excited jumping. Which leads me to today. When I read said book and thoroughly enjoyed it.

One last short note, the Anne Lamott book that kept me going through the deep gloom of the last few weeks was Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year, as suggested by one of my faithful readers (Julie'uli'uli, you know who you are), and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There were so many moments of going "Yes! That's Exactly What Happened To Me!" Not to mention the fact that her son looks rather a lot like my Little Dude (it's the "porno lips") and they both seem to have an unquenchable desire to put their hands in other people's mouths. What is with that? Best of all, I could pick up Lamott, read for a few pages, and continue on with the craziness that was November, knowing that those moments of solitude and hysterical laughter would come round again.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Lazy

November bombed on me writing-wise. I blame NaNoWriMo. For those who don't know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and I got sucked in. No lie: I am incapable of turning down a challenge. Also no lie: "November" is an anagram for "Not Only Very Exasperational Month But Ever Ridiculous." To sum up, I started NaNoWriMo 8 days late. Wrote furiously for a week and didn't do anything else. Crashed and burned. No writing was done. Little Man got Possibly Pneumonia and an ear infection, and we enjoyed some hang out time in the E.R. No writing was done. Thanksgiving came around, and the three of us traipsed north to hang out with the Philly family (they stuffed their turkey with cheese steak, just kidding). No writing was done. Then I got sick (I blame Littles) and went into a state of unnatural hibernation resulting in a) Cabin Fever and b) Laziness Extraordinaire accented by c) Traces of Poop from the Blowout Diapers caused by Little's antibiotic and d) Lots and Lots of Snot. Obviously, no writing was done. November, on the other hand, was. 50,000 words of fiction? Barely a twinkle in my eye.

But here's the good thing, the Man starts his masters this week, so I can write in the evenings while he's working on saving the world with his new degree and maybe finish my currently half-written and really cheesy novel. Also, for those of you who don't know, December is here, and December is My Month, the month in which I regularly achieve my full measure of happiness and fulfillment. In our family, December is fondly referred to as "Mers-mas". In it, I celebrate my birthday, my favourite holiday, and my anniversary to Most Wonderful Man. In order to get the maximum level of enjoyment out of those celebrations, I have to be extra good the rest of the month so that I can be proud of who I am as a person (this is bad theology). This led me to Michaels yesterday.

My goal for this week has been to recover from this cold, so I've spent most of it on the couch pretending I was dead. Except for when I resurrected to be Zombie Mom. But yesterday I thought I'd recovered enough to be a better version of myself, and first on my list of errands was Michaels to pick up stuff for a wreath. My awesome mother-in-love had sent me a wreath (leftover from our wedding) and a Super Cool Bow that she made with her own two talented hands. I took the S.C.B. to Michaels with me to find other wreath stuff to match. I let Alex hold it for a bit so that he'd feel helpful, but when he exchanged it for a hideous, glittery gold fan, I took it back and tied it to the stroller as his taste has obviously not developed sufficiently at this point. Needless to say, "Christmas had thrown up over Michaels"*, but it also turned out to be one of those days when everyone wanted to carry on a full blown conversation with me. I have one of those faces. Plus, Littles is a great conversation piece. So here I am, wandering the aisles of Michaels in a daze (I'm horrible at craft things like making wreaths), trying to be polite to the hordes of other customers who want to steal my child while surreptitiously wiping my snotty nose on my poo-stained sweatshirt (just kidding, I'm pretty sure it was just baby food) and unable to hear properly because my ears are full of fluid from this cold. Then I looked down at the stroller and realized the Super Cool Bow was gone.

Gone, I say.

I back tracked through Michaels for another ten minutes before I gave up weaving the stroller through piles of glitter and completely changed my mind about what to put on the wreath, which took another thirty minutes of standing in the wreath attachment aisle looking bemused and grungy. I'm sure some lucky person found my S.C.B. and said to themselves, "Wow, this is a Super Cool Bow! I don't see any others like it! I'm going to get it so I can be awesome and unique," and tried to buy it at the register. I, on the other hand, dragged myself home to recover from Michaels (no more errands were done) and attempted to make my own bow (which is only Semi-Cool). But my wreath turned out okay**, and it made the first day of December at least a bit profitable. This blog is what I'm doing to make day two worthy of being in My Month.

*Stolen. I admit. You know who you are.
**I tried to upload a picture to blogger, but it hated me. If you're desperate to see how my wreath turned out, there's a photo on facebook.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

bookmarks!

I've received several beautiful bookmarks in my life time, at least a couple of them made by good friends (if you're reading this blog, you know who you are). But I received my new favourite from the Hubs this week. It's an Appalachian oak leaf that's been dipped in precious metals, and it really is lovely. With every tiny vein frozen perfectly in place, it's like a never fading bit of autumn. Here it is, dangling from one of the books I'm reading this week.


I love bookmarks. They're a much better option than dog-earring pages or using a square of toilet paper to mark your place (bathroom readers do what they can) or--God forbid--breaking the spine by putting the book face down. I think I'll keep this one for a while... Best of all, it comes right after Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods and my own personal trip up to the Shenandoah that included no freeze dried food, no sleeping bags, and no outdoor privy (details are on my other blog). That's the way I like to experience nature. At least until the Mountain Man helps me achieve my inner-fantasy of becoming a true Mountain Woman when we thru-hike the AT as retirees. Haha. Little joke.

A Few Mountains, a Bucket Load of Mist, and a Couple Sprinkles of Snow

Josh and Alex with a not at all stuffed black bear
We just got back from a couple nights up along the Blue Ridge, and may I just say that it was one of our best vacations yet. The Man had gone up to backpack along the Appalachian Trail with his dad and brother, and my wonderful father-in-love suggested that I come along to join them for the last night. And I agreed. Since I would be in a cabin and not experiencing frostbite via sleeping bag.

So Thursday afternoon I chucked Littles in the car, and we wound our way through the rain out of DC and up into the mountains where the fog closed in on us. Little Man slept most of the way, but around the time the fog hit (and we're making hair pin curves through the Shenandoah), he woke up to his ears popping and proceeded to make life significantly noisier. It was an adventure. Luckily, though I couldn't see more than 10 meters beyond the car, I didn't drive us off the side of a mountain. I'll save that for next time. I also avoided hitting any deer. Both of those accomplishments count as mini-miracles.

One of the deer who escaped with his life
That night, we went down to the lodge restaurant and ordered our meals as we looked out the window, wondering where the mountains were in all that cloud. Littes proceeded to charm the staff and most of the patrons while eating more than his fair share of what was ordered for dinner. And I found out that two of the waiters were from Indonesia! I can't say how excited I was by that. And a little confused. I love the mountains, but how do you go straight from Bali to the Blue Ridge?


We had some incredible views
Friday we sent Dad and little brother on to Tennessee, and the Man and Littles and I just spent time together, watching movies, taking naps, driving through the mountains, exploring, and drinking lots of coffee to stay warm. It was just relaxing. And Littles was a trooper. Which made things about twenty times more fun. We woke up Saturday morning to watch the sunrise before heading home and after breakfast, it started snowing! My first snow of the year. I was pretty ecstatic. The Man says it was just flurries, but it still counts. And we saw deer (lots of them) and chipmunks (haha) and even a coyote. At least we're pretty sure it was a coyote. But the highlight was probably the snow. And just spending time with the Man and Littles (and Dad and my brother-in-law). Every once in a while, a little break from the norm and a reminder of the incredible beauty of God's creation is just what I need. The quality time with my men was also a huge plus...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Little Things

Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.
Antonio Smith

I've been thinking a lot about the little things today. Part of that has been thinking about things that are actually physically small (like the undersized apple I found when walking this morning) and how somehow small things are undoubtedly cuter than large ones. Why is that? I'm thinking tiny tea sets, miniature pumpkins, babies! Most things are just more adorable the smaller they get. I'm sure I would've been cuter if I'd been about a foot shorter. I also would've had a dimple. And then I would've taken over the world so that people would never be able to call me "cute" ever again.


Back to the point, I've also been thinking about how it's the little things that really make or break your day. Bad days begin with a broken brace buckle, not enough time for a shower, realizing you're out of coffee, a fussy baby, being put on hold for 5 hours, a stubbed toe... You get the picture. And good days are most of the time just a combination of more positive moments that turn into a collage of happiness: a slice of carrot cake, yellow roses, a text from the Man, books and a good friend, skyping with family, Littles jumping up and down in his crib, an encouraging word from the Lord, cool autumn wind and crisp leaves... So how is it that we so often choose to let the little bad things define us and our lives instead of the little good things? Or is it just that we look for one over the other?

Exploring the AT from the Comfort of My Couch

While the hubs is out being a mountain man, I took the opportunity to read Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail. Mostly, I enjoyed the intense irony of reading it while taking a hot bath. But I also read it while out with the stroller and before bed the last two nights and on the couch during nap time and so on. I kind of got sucked in. I even tried to read it in the shower, which bombed on me. Surprisingly, I got the book a little wet. Who'd have thought?

Let me start out by saying that I'm not a hiker. Or a backpacker. Or a camper. By which I mean a person who camps, though I'm also not a recreational vehicle suitable for camping. In the past, I have been known to make out full wills including legal language and various addendums while sliding and screaming my way down the side of what was typically a mud-encrusted volcano. With that said, I may be turning over a new leaf. Last night, I told aforementioned mountain man that I kind of want to maybe possibly try backpacking some of the trail with him. Obviously not all of it. I have no delusions of being a thru-hiker.

His response: you are not the woman I married.

I'm still trying to figure out if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Regardless, I did thoroughly enjoy Bryson's book, and it obviously piqued my interest. As a writer, I would love to be able to achieve what he has: a brilliant mix of information and story with a tempo that kept perfect time. I even read the geology and botany bits that he included (which I normally would've callously skipped over, not being a science person). Obviously, Bryson and I have differing world views, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time with him. I'd picked up his A Short History of Nearly Everything while I was in England a few years ago but only got to read the first few chapters (I was staying at a friend's) which were mostly evolution and theorizing about how the planetary mush spawned intelligent life. Even then his writing was entrancing, but this was much more enjoyable subject matter.

So. Bill Bryson. Thanks for two and a half days of enjoyable reading. You made the alone time go so much more quickly.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Ummm

I realized today that I have "ghost-blogged" for my sister more this month than actually blogged myself. I mean, on this one. I'm doing fine with my book blog. It's not so much that there's nothing happening as that there's rather a lot going on and I'm busy, but not the kind of busy that makes for fun writing. So instead of writing, I've been baking. I've found it to be rather therapeutic. I never really thought of myself as a baker, but in the last few months, I've developed rather a penchant for it. I'm not sure it's great for my waist line, but that's why we share, eh? At any rate, today I baked a carrot cake and succeeded in icing it without cheating or getting it all crumby. When I talk about cheating with the frosting, I'm referring to this cake where I most definitely melted the frosting on. Didn't tell you that at the time, did I?

I also baked the "loaf of bread that ate New York" as dubbed by my aunt. I really wasn't expecting it to get quite so huge. I was going to post a picture for you to see and admire and drool over, but blogger is taking forever with the picture loading thingie, so no luck. It's already after midnight, and I should be asleep. The only reason I'm not is because the Man isn't home tonight, and I have insomniatic tendencies when he's not here. Basically, next week when he's out backpacking, I'm in big trouble.

Why am I still awake? Momentarily forgetting that this isn't a cooking blog isn't worth losing sleep over. One more thing though, isn't it luxurious to sleep on clean sheets in a freshly straightened room with the dishwasher running in a newly scrubbed kitchen and the smell of clean laundry floating through the air? Now if only I was going to get to sleep in...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Around But Not About

I read By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept this week. Well, technically, I read it Sunday and Monday, but that's not the point. There really is no point. I don't so much want to write about By the River as I want to just write about reading.

It's been a while since I've read a Paulo Coelho book. My oldest sister sent me The Alchemist for my birthday when I was a freshman in college. I took it with me to band practice that day because I never go anywhere without a book (who knows when you'll need one), and when band practice ended up being cancelled, I detoured to the library and curled up on one of the top floor couches and read the entire thing. There was something utterly freeing about being by myself and doing what I wanted to do on my birthday. No one knew where I was. No one was trying to celebrate with me. No one was being exuberant. It was just peaceful. And I loved the book. It's on my favourite book list still (seriously), and even though there was a lot I didn't agree with in The Alchemist, I found a few nuggets of truth that have stuck with me.

So I picked up By the River Piedra at the library and read the first 85 pages while I was out walking with the Little Man, and the last 95 pages while the Big Man was at the gym last night (and he looked good when he got home). I do love Coelho's writing, but I wonder if I would enjoy it more if he didn't spend most of his books touting his particular brand of universalist humanism. Hmm, I think yes...  But the point is that there was something refreshing Sunday about reading as I walked with the wind blowing past me and thoughts of winter coming. And there was something incredibly restful about lying on the couch last night with my book and a blanket and the cat curled up at my feet. Because sometimes it's just good to escape into someone else's story for a little while, even if you truly love the one you've been given. And at the end of the night, you close the book and welcome life back home in the form of a loving husband and a nursing baby and the sound of autumn tapping on your window.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Countable Happiness

I have some new favourites. The library has been good to me this week, blessing me with an out pouring of fun children's books. So here I am, passing the blessing your way.

Numero Uno, Warthogs in the Kitchen: A Sloppy Counting Book by Pamela Duncan Edwards and Henry Cole. I'm so glad that Little Man can now count to ten with his freshly washed hooves and some pickle cupcakes. He'll always remember to remove stray teddy bears from the batter when he's baking. I feel that reading this book has prepared him for life in an all new way. Best yet, Edwards and Cole provided a Pickle Cupcake recipe at the back of the book. I have to admit though, as soon as those lovable warthogs threw the pickle jar in with the cupcake batter, I thought of this link for broccoli cupcakes that a friend of mine posted to facebook a couple weeks ago. I'm still so horrified by the thought of contaminating cupcakes with broccoli that I have evidently not been able to wipe the thought from my mind. And I actually like broccoli rather a lot.

Moving on (and counting to Two), Swimmy by Leo Lionni, which tells the tale of an intrepid young fish who explores the ocean floor after his entire family gets eaten and then mobilizes his new family to fight big fish bullying by swimming together in the shape of an even bigger fish. I wouldn't use this book for grief counseling, but I do love Leo Lionni's illustrations. He uses a sponging technique that is absolutely beautiful. And I love little Swimmy. On an educational front, Swimmy does provide a great look at ocean life, talking through the different animals on the ocean floor and a little bit of survival of the fittest. If you're into being educational. Some days I am.

Hold up Three fingers for me, and let me tell you about Mo Willems, who I think will become a close, personal friend of mine. I'm huge into his pigeon books, which just crack me up. In honor of the fact that Little Man stayed up all night last night (which makes me a wonderful person to spend time with today), I read him Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! Pigeon's facial expressions are just classic. And who could resist a scrawny little bird who wants to have a hot dog party? Or who uses such great bargaining tactics as "Y'know, we never get to talk anymore" and "It's the middle of the day in China!" and "My bunny wants to stay up, too! You can't say 'No' to a bunny, can you?" It was like seeing my future...but pigeon sized.

Anyway, now that you can count to three, that's really all you need to know. Three is, after all, the perfect number. Tthree daughters (haha), three cookies with a glass of milk, God in three persons (wink), my three persons when I refer to myself in the royal "We", a three person family...not to be extended to four any time soon because I realized last night that I don't enjoy being up at freaking three in the morning with a screaming baby.

Monday, October 18, 2010

I love you and love you. And love you and love you. And love you and love you.

I have an obsession. And that obsession goes by the name of Sandra Boynton. This blog has been a long time coming, let me tell you, because not a week goes by (and seldom a day) when I do not spend a significant amount of time pondering the Awesomeness that is Sandra Boynton. Tonight, as I was reading the classic that is "Night-Night, Little Pookie" to my son, I came to the awareness that the time is now. I considered writing an Ode to Sandra Boynton, but thought that may be a little over the top. So, let me be straightforward:

Sandra Boynton, if you're reading this, I want to be you. Or at the very least, be your best friend ever. (I want to be your personal penguin from now on...)

In all seriousness though, this wonderful woman wrote a book about hippo belly buttons. How much cooler can it get than that? And a pig named Little Pookie. And a bunch of animals that bathe and brush their teeth and then exercise before bed (who does that?). And birthday monsters (who could forget the birthday monsters!). My deepest literary wish for Little Man is that one night he'll say to me, just like little Pookie, "Night-night, little Mommy" and then drift of into dreamland. My second deepest literary wish is that his next bedroom would be decorated with Sandra Boynton posters. After that, I hope he'll actually learn to read. But that's not even a close second to my desire for him to be brainwashed by Sandra Boynton. She's a great role model for him, I'm sure: she went to Yale, after all.



At any rate, I invite you to join with me behind the rallying cry of "But YES the hippopotamus!" and support Sandra Boynton by finding all of her books so that you will then be able to understand all the hidden references I included in this post. And so that when your children grow up and become friends with my child, they'll have something to talk about.

Doesn't that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

International Baby

We've decided to start early with the Little Man. By which I mean that at the tender age of nine months, he's already had Mexican, Italian, Thai, Indian, Indonesian, and Chinese food. Considering that we didn't start solids til he was six months old, I feel that this is a big accomplishment on our part. However, today was when it really clicked how persistent we've been in our pint-sized globalization course.

Let me start by saying that the Man has an Indian food addiction. And follow by admitting that I tend to encourage it. And finish up with the fact that Littles loves him some chick peas and butter chicken. And today it all paid off. We are officially worthy of a ten percent discount at our Indian restaurant because we are there so often. Essentially, they now pay us to tip. Yay!

Unfortunately, now that Samrat, Cuisine of India, is our home away from home, we will be entirely more loath to go to our actual home after church instead of spending the Man's hard earned money on naan and curried goodness. Seriously, it was so good, Little Man tried to eat the table. Or maybe he's just teething.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Inspiring Bibliophilia

So... I have a question for all you avid readers out there. I was thinking about linking my blog to amazon.com so that if you had a burning desire to go buy whatever book I was writing about, it would be just one click away. And I would get a little commission from amazon. Always a plus. I'm not writing this blog for the money, but some of us are too lazy to go to the library, and sometimes you can buy a used book on amazon for cheaper than the gas it would take to drive to the library. Seriously. On all of those counts. Any thoughts?

Speaking of libraries, I found out a couple weeks ago that only 1% of the people in my county own library cards. We have a great library system here! What is up with that?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Just One More Chapter

Last night, the hubs and I were reading in bed, and he closed his book about the CIA (who reads that kind of stuff before bed?) and decided to go to sleep. I decided to read to the end of the chapter first... which turned into finishing the entire book while he snored away happily in bed next to me. I closed the book around midnight (which is a late night for me, but Little Man has been sleeping through the night lately...so why not?), and I have to say: it was worth it.

Late night reading--La's Orchestra Saves the World. Author of choice--Alexander McCall Smith. Genre--fiction, I admit, but quality fiction, which counts for something.

Many of you may know Alexander McCall Smith as the author of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books, some of which I have read and enjoyed. But let me be honest with you, I enjoy reading about Africa, but I've never been there, and I have no memories to connect with books about Africa (not saying that this stops me from reading about Africa or wanting to go there). On the other hand, I spent half a year in England doing study abroad, and I have many fond memories that I can quickly call to mind when reading a book about England. Consequently, I loved La's Orchestra. Loved it. And it reminded me of one of my favourite books, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, which I read while I was rotundly pregnant last year. In fact, La's Orchestra had most of my favourites: music, coffee, England, rain, fun characters, travel, references to good books...

Here's your quick synopsis if you want it: La Stone moves from London to the country (Suffolk, to be exact, where, ironically, my British flat mate was from) after her husband leaves her for another woman. There she weathers through WWII, finding ways to join in the war effort, one of which is to start an orchestra in order to build morale. Add in a few other characters, some intrigue, and several cups of tea, and there you have it.

And now I want it to rain so I can make scones and play Pretend-I'm-In-England for a bit.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Juxtaposition


In my attempt to read more nonfiction (be proud), I read through David Platt's Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream this week as well as Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith. I thought they'd be an interesting contrast. Not that I was planning to read them back to back, but sometimes things like that happen. They're such different books that in many ways, I feel like I'm making a mistake blogging about them at the same time, but here we go.

Platt blew me away. He really did. If you're serious about your walk with Christ and truly desiring to grow more and seek truth, go get this book. I was encouraged and challenged, and I actually cried a little at the end. And while I cry significantly more now than I did before I became a mom (it's just one of those things, I've discovered), I still wouldn't classify myself as a crier. It is a must reread for me. Mostly because there are a lot of things that Platt said that I want to write down and remember.


That said, Anne Lamott: I picked up Traveling Mercies, knowing that I would probably disagree with most of Lamott's theology, and I did. So why did I even bother to read it, you ask. Well, I read Bird by Bird a few years ago and really enjoyed it, and I wanted to see what else she had to say. Plus, I think that most of us benefit greatly from listening to different ideas. It's a great way to challenge your own thoughts and make sure that they are founded on truth instead of just ideological habits that you've gotten into. With that said, there were parts of this book that I really loved. As a person, I think Anne Lamott is a lot of fun, and her dreads are pretty much awesome. I think we would be friends. But she herself defines her religion as "Christianish", and I think that's pretty honest of her. She wants to take the feel-good parts of Christianity and leave out the difficult ones. Unfortunately, as Platt points out in Radical, we don't really get to pick and choose. Jesus is who he says he is, and we can either accept that or realize that what/who we're worshiping isn't really Jesus, it's just something we've made up for ourselves. Still, I did find a few encouraging words from Lamott, and there were passages that were beautifully written. And a few that were just worth a good laugh. It was worth the read, but... Well, if someone offered you the choice between a small square of chocolate and a pile of gold... That's about how I'd compare Traveling Mercies to Radical. Traveling Mercies was a good read but didn't have much lasting value (and it might give you a cavity). Radical actually gave me something for the long haul, even if some of the points Platt made left me uncomfortably squirmy. Conviction is rarely comfortable, I find.

Typing Cows (and some such things)

During weeks like these, the blog goes on the back burner. It's just one of those inevitabilities. The reading doesn't (there's an addiction there), but the blog does. But I've come up with a solution: typing cows. I read about them this week in Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin (illustrations by Betsy Lewin), and I think that they might be the solution to my problem. I'm going to contact Farmer Brown and ask how much it would cost for him to just lend me a cow every now and then. Hopefully, aforementioned cow won't mind switching from an antique typewriter to a macbook with a loose "enter" key.

Anyway, typing cows aside, I got quite a handful of children's books out of the library last time around. A smattering of Tomie dePaola (who never gets old and will always be forever one of my all time favourite children's book illustrators--Strega Nona rocks my world), a hint of Eric Carle (because he's just classic), and some Skippyjon Jones. Judy Schachner has truly hit on something with this insane siamese kitten. I don't even like siamese cats (they're snobby and kind of creepy looking), but Skippyjon really does have a special place in my heart. I also picked up a couple boring books on trees and birds and some such, because I try to make sure I'm adequately educating my poor son, but I feel no need to waste my time blogging about them. Needless to say, when I checked out the entire children's section I was planning to drive home in my nicely air conditioned car with all those books. I didn't count on lugging them home when my car wouldn't start and I ended up walking three miles home, in my skinny jeans and sandals, with 90 some degree weather outside. And no, I did not then find five dollars.

Now, if you're still reading this blog and have no idea who Tomie dePaola or Skippyjon Jones or (God Forbid) Eric Carle are, STOP reading right now and go find some of their books. The Skippyjon Jones series is written and illustrated by Judy Schachner--how multitalented and awesome is she? You can pick up almost any Tomie dePaola book, but I have a soft spot for the Strega Nona collection and The Knight and the Dragon (which ends with said knight and dragon opening a BBQ joint--I did live in Memphis for a little while). And Eric Carle? If you don't know who that is, I'm not sure I can help you. You need to ask your parents for a redo on childhood. How do people survive without knowing about the Very Hungry Caterpillar?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Learning New Things All the Time

In my challenge to get outside my comfortable box of fiction, I picked up Ben Carson's book, Gifted Hands. For those of you who don't know, Ben Carson is a world renowned doctor who specialized in neurosurgery and gained significant fame for separating Siamese twins that were joined at the head. I didn't know. This is, obviously, not my field of expertise or (typically) interest. But my husband's twin just went through an intensive brain surgery called a hemispherectomy that Dr Carson helped establish as a viable surgical option to decrease seizures, and I wanted to know more, both about the surgery and about the man who made it a possibility. And surprisingly, I really enjoyed reading about Dr Carson. I didn't even get lost in all the medical terminology, and I actually read (without skimming) the parts when he detailed the surgeries. Yes, I'm proud of myself.

On the whole, I find Dr Carson to be an inspiration. He speaks honestly in his biography about the challenges that he faced growing up as a black kid in Detroit and the racism that he had to confront as a doctor, but he doesn't indulge in whining or self-pity. Instead he saw adversity as a challenge to better himself and set himself up to be the best that he could possibly be with God's help. And he succeeded--brilliantly.

I was talking with the Man about Dr Carson last night, and we had a long discussion about Seventh Day Adventists (which was what Dr Carson was), and the Man filled me in some on what Seventh Day Adventists believe since I had no clue. While theologically they are evidently off, what I read in Gifted Hands about Ben Carson's relationship with the Lord encouraged me greatly. I do hope that he had a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ and one day I'll get to see him in heaven. In the meantime, I'm just glad I read his book and now feel significantly more intelligent and medically savvy. Although I guess the words "savvy" and "medical" should never be in the same sentence. Maybe "intelligent" shouldn't be in there with "savvy" either.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ah, Bliss, Rapture...

french press coffee and home made chocolate almond biscotti
home cooked dinner with the Man who is not at work (incroyable!)
sleeping Littles
family and friends to love
learning new things every day
no more headache
time to read about Jesus

it is well...

but now there is no more of numero tres. too bad Little Man doesn't like coffee. I'd share. maybe.

I'm A Big Fat Liar

I said I was going to put a hold on my rabid novel reading. I lied. Here's the truth though: I picked up three nonfiction books (and all the children's books) and was on my way out of the library when, what did mine eyes spy but the fourth in a series that I absolutely love, the fourth that was newly put to print, copyrighted 2010. How could I resist? I couldn't. And I didn't. And I read it that very day. While walking around the block. Speaking of which, we never came up with a good name for that.

Anyway, the series is by Megan Whalen Turner, who unfortunately failed to give her own books an all inclusive catchy title that I could use for this blog (what is her problem!?). The first book of the series, The Thief, is a Newbery Honor Book, and then she wrote The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia. I'm seriously obsessed with these books. I own all three of them, although I may have stolen The Thief from one of my sisters, and yes, I realize the irony of that, but I'm a book thief as well as a chronic liar. At any rate, I found book four, A Conspiracy of Kings, on the new books shelf at the library, and it was totally worth this confession. And then some. I love the ancient Greek feel to the books, and her plot twists always make me happy. Plus, Turner's characters are flawed but lovable and frequently funny. And just darn enjoyable to read about! Seriously, reading A Conspiracy of Kings was like going back a former home to spend time with old friends that I love.

I feel no shame. Oh, Megan Whalen, thank you for writing more young adult fiction to make my life a better place. Your swashbuckling tales have brought a little more joy into my already book happy life.

I just did some research, and the series has a name! The Queen's Thief Series. So quick, go find them! And read about a rascally thief, a (sometimes) bumbling prince, a crafty magus, and two queens, each different and wonderful in their own ways, but mostly read about the thief, because if he wasn't a fictional character, he would be my best friend. Seriously. Okay, I would want him to be my best friend, and yes, I realize that's not at all the same thing.

Writing About Books

It's the end of a long day, and all I want to do is sit in the recliner with the cat and write about books. So here I am. Doing exactly what I want to do. Expect multiple posts tonight, depending on my time constraints. I've been reading like a fiend.

This post is dedicated to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named who is currently out for the count in the nursery. I picked up several books to read to him this week, and I've got to say: they were hits. Or maybe my ever expressive reading voice was what did the trick. Either way, the Hubs was in disbelief when I told him Little Man sat through 4.3 books in a row, absolutely hypnotized. And I wasn't lying. Although I do have more to say on that later. Lying, that is.

So. A few of the best:

We're going in order of favourites here, and this was definitely it. I have no words to say how much I loved this book, and Little Guy was a fan too. In fact, I love it so much that I almost want to buy it for him. But that's what libraries are for. At any rate, Go To Bed, Monster! tells the story of a wakeful young girl who decides she wants to draw instead of going to bed. She ends up drawing a monster, and they have all sorts of fun times together until she gets tired and has to convince the monster to go to sleep. My favourite part: the monster has incredibly expressive eyes. Sylvie Kantorovitz, the illustrator, is a genius. Seriously. I have no idea how she managed to take something that genuinely looked like a child's drawing and manage to give it so much character. Love, love, love. But if my child decided to draw instead of going to bed, there would be words. And then some.


Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed was a close second for the number one pick this week. I admit: I have a thing for naked mole rats. I always have. And no, I don't have a good reason for it. I don't like moles or rats or nudists, but there's just something about naked mole rats that makes me laugh. So I thoroughly enjoyed Mo Willems book about the naked mole rat named Wilbur who bucks convention to get dressed. There was a lot of understated humour, and the drawings were simple but fun. I loved the character of Grand-Pah, the big cheese of the naked mole rat world, who, when faced with the question of clothes or no clothes finally settles the matter with: WHY NOT? Which is as much of an endorsement as I need for getting dressed.


Last little note this time around is on the Guess How Much I Love You books. Someone gave us the original at one of our baby showers (yes, I know it's horrible that I can't remember who, but my memory is terrible at best and was five times worse when pregnant, so calculate whatever five times worse than terrible is, and you get the picture). Anyway, so I've been reading the original to Alex at night and picked up Colors Everywhere at the library. I love the Nutbrown Hare family and their books. They're sweet. And I'm occasionally a sap. So if you haven't read them to your children, make that happen. They really are classics.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Before I Forget

I read another Artemis Fowl book last week and keep forgetting to put a note on here about it. I occasionally pick up one of Eoin Colfer's books just for kicks and always enjoy reading about the young Irish master-criminal. I've read most of the Artemis Fowl series completely out of order, and I maintain that it's not my fault. My sisters gave me the fifth one for Christmas one year, assuming that I'd already read the first four. Who does that? SERIOUSLY. And I've never gotten them back in line since then. The books, not my sisters. Although I guess it carries over either way.

At any rate, if you're looking for a few hundred light hearted pages of fantasy, Artemis Fowl is not too shabby. It's a nice blend of real world and fairy-land with some genuinely funny moments. I, personally, imagine Artemis to look something like Macauley Culkin, which is odd, because he's not even Irish. There is actually a movie currently in the works, which I will probably watch and be disappointed in. Funny how that happens.

I'm making a trip to the library this afternoon to return Artemis Fowl: the Opal Deception and Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions. We'll see what else I pick up. I already have three books in the lineup for the next week or so. And I think I'm going to take a break from novels for a bit after I finish off Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union. But don't hold your breath.

So. Kurt Vonnegut.

Where to start? I just finished Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions, and when I say "just" I mean: I closed the book, having read the last page, and opened a new window in Safari, and TA-DA here I am. There are so many things that I want to say about this book that I'm somewhat at a loss.

To start off: having been an English major and an avid reader, I'm a little surprised that it's taken me this long to read a Vonnegut novel. I've spent years feeling guilty and sub-par and unintellectual for not having read one of his books. No more. I've now checked that one off my list and feel no need to ever read one of his books again. As I told one of my friends: I learned words that I didn't know I didn't want to know.

With that said, I found the last half of the book infinitely more intriguing than the first; Vonnegut is an exceptionally intelligent writer; Breakfast of Champions gave me a lot to think about; and, surprisingly, I (mostly) don't regret reading it. There were many times in the first hundred pages or so when I wondered why I was still reading, but when everything came to a head and Vonnegut actually began tying things together...then I started feeling like it was worth it. I think the turning point for me was when Vonnegut introduced himself into the novel as a sort of deus ex machina, which added a whole new level of interesting crazy. Personally, I'm glad I don't live in his head. I may not have a bunch of best selling novels under my belt, but I manage to ape at least some measure of sanity.

Interestingly enough, in my quick googling of Vonnegut, I found out that he graded all of his work. He gave Breakfast of Champions a C. Does that mean I should give one of his grade A books a try? I'm not sure I'm ready to plunge back into his odd little universe quite yet.

One last thing, I did kind of enjoy his hand drawn illustrations. How many authors tell you about a bucket of fried chicken and then say: "And this is what it looked like" and show you?

So. Kurt Vonnegut. All right then. And moving on...

Friday, September 10, 2010

T.S. Eliot Weather

It's in the sixties this morning, and I'm happily drinking coffee and eating danish while wearing a sweater dress. I have about twelve other things I should be doing right now, but for the moment, I'm reading T.S. Eliot. There's just something about this weather that makes me crave some Thomas Stearns. Best of all, T.S. is significantly more enjoyable than the novel I'm at present forcing myself to finish. More on that later. For now, go brew a pot of coffee, and (if you can) sit outside and take a deep breath of fresh air, let the coming of autumn seep happily into your bones, and read:

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, 'Do I dare?' and, 'Do I dare?'
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair--
[They will say: 'How his hair is growing thin!']
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin--
[They will say: 'But how his arms and legs are thin!']
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all--
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?
excerpt from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Not Too Far From the Truth

If I were to make a movie about the life of a military wife it would include at least one montage of said wife on the phone trying to get medical bills, legal matters, and other such things taken care of. First, there would be a ridiculously long recorded message as the sun comes up and she proceeds to drink her coffee, fold the laundry, straighten the house, jostle the baby on the hip...you get the picture. Followed by an even longer period of being on hold while listening to patriotic music. Big band will blare the Star Spangled Banner while she showers, eats lunch, runs errands, feeds the cat, gets the oil changed, picks the kids up from school, pulls her son's first tooth, welcomes her husband home from work and serves him a casserole she made from scratch, washes the dishes, reads the goodnight book, and then sits on the back porch to watch the sunset. Finally, as she crawls into bed (phone still attached to her ear), a helpful voice on the other end will tell her that she'll have to be connected to another office.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A (Tiny Bit Snobby) Note on Christian Romance Novels

I have an unhealthy habit of reading badly written books and mocking them. I used to take advantage of my fiction workshops in college for this same level of gratification. Snarky, I know. I admit that I (on occasion) read some of the more poorly written short stories out loud to my roommates so that we could laugh over them together. I read them stupid novels with much more regularity. And I still indulge myself even though I now laugh at them in the privacy of my own home.

So, were you to sample the plentiful market of less than pristine writing, I'd send you straight to your neighborhood Christian book store and tell you to check out the fiction section. Personally, I'm a fan of the Christian romance novel, which some term as "porn for women" and I like to call "darn good fun." Lori Wick, Janette Oke, Robin Jones Gunn... I've read them all and laughed uproariously over them. (Aside: this is not a comment on those writers as people. I'm sure that they are kind, wonderful women who truly love the Lord and I commend them for using their gifts to the best of their ability. I just question their editors' level of discernment.)


That said, the one Christian romance writer that I find to occasionally produce decent writing is Francine Rivers, and I picked up a book of hers while hanging out with my aunt last week: Her Mother's Hope. Not one of her best. I'm not saying that it was a complete cheese-fest, but it didn't stand up to some of her previous work (Leota's Garden and The Last Sin-Eater being some of the best works of modern Christian fiction I've read recently). Rivers' story covers a Swiss woman's journey to America, marriage, and family over the span of the two World Wars. Props to her for actually doing research and for not hitting me over the head with a Bible (if I have to read one more sermon in what's supposed to be a novel...). On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give it a "not too shabby." I didn't spend 483 pages giggling over gushing descriptions of the protagonist's eyes or howling at awkward conversations. And I will read the sequel when it comes out, mostly because she actually left me on a cliff hanger. Seriously. Christian fiction and she left me on a cliff hanger? I was surprised too.

In closing, why is it that so much Christian fiction is so poorly written? Aren't we supposed to do everything to the best of our abilities and didn't God give us the same amount of talent as the non-believer next door? Just wondering... Thoughts?

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Short Note on Steinbeck

I just finished Steinbeck's Cannery Row, and (I guess this is a confession) it's one of the few books I've read since college that I actually felt the need to study. I found myself wishing that I could discuss it in a classroom, instead of just doing web searches trying to figure out more about it. I'm not going to sit here and write a treatise on Cannery Row, although I'm sure every moment of that would be both fascinating and scholarly (naturally), but I will say this: everything I read about Cannery Row came back to the theme of loneliness. And having finished the book, I'm in complete agreement with that assessment. Though there were moments that made me laugh (when Mack and the boys go frog hunting, for one), at the end of the book, I was just sad. For everyone. And (since I'm not in a secular classroom discussion) I think that's just what you get when you don't have Christ. Steinbeck's characters didn't really have anything (or anyone) to live for. I doubt he did either. He talks about the morality of the prostitutes and the philosophy of the town drunks and the goodness of the marine biologist who carries out abortions on the side, but at the end of the day, there was a gaping hole where there should've been hope. Without which, there is nothing but a deeply profound loneliness.

That said, Steinbeck's writing was fabulous (he's not Steinbeck for nothing), and I now want to go to the ocean. Preferably at sunrise or when the tide is changing. And while I'm glad I read Cannery Row, since it truly is a classic in its own right, I'm not feeling any particular need to reread it. Pretty much ever. But applause to Steinbeck for an intriguing and beautifully written read.

PS Yes, this is one of the books that I can "actually brag about reading". Every once in a while I strive to be intellectual. msf

Friday, August 27, 2010

Story Time

I picked up a couple "just for Baby" books at the library this week, and we've thoroughly enjoyed reading them together. The Little Man really can't make it the whole way through yet without trying to rip out pages, eat the book, kick me in the shins, etc., but I'm such a fan of children's literature that I don't at all mind finishing them on my own time. I was pleasantly surprised by my fortuitous finds this week since I literally grabbed both books off the shelf and ran for my life from the Children's section. Someone with a large set of lungs had reached the end of his library tolerance and was more than ready to go home.

My favourite of the two was The Story Book Prince by Joanne Oppenheim, with some beautiful illustrations by Rosanne Litzinger. I tried to find a larger photo so that you could see the fun details included but had no luck. The book is about a prince who refuses to go to bed and the various tricks his parents try to get him to sleep. As you can probably tell, I liked the illustrations the most, but the writing was lovely as well. I frequently have to fight the urge to rewrite children's books as I read them out loud, but the rhyme and meter were well done and the story was enchanting to say the least. If I were giving out gold stars, Oppenheim and Litzinger could start their own galaxy.

Little Bub, however, was much more attached to book number two, Kiss Good Night by Amy Hest with illustrator Anita Jeram. Personally, I think he liked it better because it was shorter and the type was larger. And because it was about bears. Who doesn't like bears? Here he is to tell you about it:
And no, of course he's not eating the book. What kind of mother would I be to let him chew on a library book? Anyway, (ahem) Mama Bear putting Baby Bear to bed. I guess both of the books this week were similarly themed. Which was accidental. I would never try to brainwash my child into sleeping more. Baby stalls till Mama kisses him goodnight. It was cute. My favourite part was that it was a rainy night out, but then it made me sad that it wasn't raining here. My least favourite part: they drank warm milk together before bed. Have to say, that made my skin crawl. Little Man's favourite part: the way all those germs on the book tasted. Oh wait, did I just say that?

Adventures

Littles and I have been having some fun hang out times lately. This includes early exposure to coffee:

Which, may I say, he took quite well:

I only gave him the best. No Folgers for us, of course. It's important to brainwash at an early age so that I can raise a little coffee snob just like me and the Man. We also made a quick trip to a smurf village. I did make sure to give him the "magical mushrooms" lecture. Just so you know.

We have such a delightful time together...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Yes, That's Me: Neighborhood Curiosity

I've made a discovery. And that discovery has enabled me to read this:

and this:

in the space of 48 hours without neglecting my child, husband, or housework. What modern miracle is this? you wonder. Did she hire a maid and a nanny or just buy a multi-purpose robot? I'll let you in on my secret...

I can now read while pushing the stroller.

I'm still looking for a catch phrase to use to sum that up. Stroller-booking? Read-walking? I don't know. But seriously, how awesome is that?! Little man gets crabby, so I chuck him in the stroller, grab my latest easy novel, and we go for a walk. It's a win-win-win. Win: I'm reading. Win: he's happy. Win: I'm being healthy (right?). Last win possibly sabotaged by the half dozen Oreos I just consumed.

On that note, since nap-time is evidently over in the nursery, I'm going to skip my typical waxing eloquent over Madeleine L'Engle (Troubling a Star was lovely), inform you quickly that I thoroughly enjoyed Ridley Pierson's The Academy (and that it was better than the first book of the Steel Trapp series), and go spend some time with my currently rather clingy son.

Maybe we'll "book it" around the block a few times. That was really bad...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Library Run

I hit up the library today and finally returned North and South--the late fine is paid and it was so worth it. Gaskell rather blew me away with her subtlety and brilliant use of words. I bow to her superior literary talent.

Anyway, I picked up eight (count them!) new books soon to be plowed through ranging from picture books for Alex (yes, those will get written about), some young adult novels for the days after sleepless nights, and a couple books that I can actually brag about reading (just for good measure). Trust me, as my reader you have a lot to look forward to.

I'm sure the suspense is killing you.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Slippers and Silence

It's raining (yay), and I'm in the mood to write. Since I've already updated my book blog (which you can find here), and Little Man is taking a nap while the dryer and dishwasher run, I figured, why not spend a little time just writing...to write? Besides my slippers are so cozy and it's rather wonderfully quiet. At least for now.

So here I am. It's raining outside, beautiful blissful rain that makes my toes cold and wets the hem of my jeans. I spent so much of college slogging through puddles on campus that wet jeans always remind me of Memphis. I love rain so much that the first thing the Man does when it starts raining is turn and ask me if I'm going to cry about it. Admittedly, I have: see? Don't mock. It's the little things.

Speaking of the little things, I spent the morning at Social Security trying to procure a social security card for Littles and get mine fixed so that it actually reads the same as my drivers license (how hard is that?). The MAn warned me that it was going to be in my top three worst American experiences ever, and while I'm not saying it was ice cream and chocolate cake, it could've been worse. I say that, and I'm having to go back later in the week for Little Man's card. Maybe that one will reach the top three...

One of my window's just started leaking. Rather a lot. I think the rain wants inside for a cup of tea and some scones.

The Never Ending Gaskell

As of late, I've been attempting to plow through Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South. To give you an idea of how long it's taken me to get through this book, I have now renewed it from the library as many times as I can and it's currently three days late. I'm not taking it back until it's finished. At this point, it is war between us, and Gaskell, teething, sleepless nights, and general exhaustion will not take me down.

So, here's what we're talking about:

Although, I admit, I watched the movie first so I guess I should say that this is what we're talking about:

I was interested because Richard Armitage (who plays the inscrutable mill owner, Mr Thornton) also acted in the BBC's Robin Hood TV series as... Guy of Gisbourne! I'm a sucker for Robin Hood, and Armitage's Gisbourne, well, as Maid Marian put it, "had qualities". Anyway, that said, I watched the movie (and loved it) and got the book out of the library (and have truly enjoyed it in spite of the ridiculously long time it has taken me to get around to reading it).

The fact of the matter is: Gaskell doesn't write fluff. And while I'm loving reading actual literature, it's hard to tune in for 10 minutes here and there while I'm nursing Little Man or standing in line at the grocery store or snagging a quick read at a stop light. Just kidding, I don't do that any more. I'm a mom now. For shame. (Although if you're wondering how I managed to read a 300 page Erma Bombeck book in less than 24 hours, the answer is in the traffic cameras.)

Favourite thing about North and South is the exquisite use of detail to further the story. Gaskell truly is a master of the "show, don't tell" method. She has an entire paragraph that talks about how Thornton is mesmerized by the falling of a bracelet on Margaret Hale's arm, and that's when he still thinks her a horrible snob. It was incredible. She picked what would've been an insignificant detail and capitalized on it, both furthering the plot and developing her characters. Absolutely fascinating.

On that note, I'm going to stop writing and go finish North and South before the library fines bankrupt me.

Monday, August 16, 2010

mid-August???

The reason for no recent blogs can be encapsulated in two words: teething and cousins. I'll leave you with this awesome picture and get back to my excitingly long To Do list.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Prologue

There are already too many people who mistake a love of reading for a talent for writing.
-Stanley Ellin

I'm starting a book blog. There. I said it.

I'm somewhat terrified of commitment at this time because all my writing projects have fallen by the wayside in the wake of Hurricane Baby. I love the little man, but he's rather exhausting. I suppose this is my attempt to regain some sanity and some space in my life that's not about him. And here I am talking about him already!

Moving on, here's the plan: I am reading still, little bits here and there, in between times, you know, so I thought I'd take my writing time (what there is of it) to write about what I'm reading. That way I'm not trying to focus on a full blown book or even a short story--my attention span just doesn't make it that long--but I'm getting some writing in and hopefully doing some thinking, at the very least. Besides, I think I've always loved reading more than writing, so I'm just going to capitalize on that.

Don't expect intensely intellectual posts; just reflections on the written word. And I promise more interesting posts than this first one. And an occasional guest blogger. Genres will be across the board; I like a smattering of everything. And suggestions will be taken if accompanied by a compelling argument and a hard back copy of the book you want me to read. Or just a cup of coffee. Black. With the tiniest bit of milk and sugar. Whipped cream optional.

And that's that.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Observations

How is it that taper candles are only to be found in Giant?
...that outside seating seems to be synonymous with "smokers section"?
...that my son reminds me of Curious George? (and should I be worried about that?)
...that the laundry never ends?
...that Little Man can be perfectly fine until you put him in bed at which point his teething is evidently unbearable?
...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

pastoral ponderings?

The Little Man and I went down to the Potomac this morning for a walk and had such a great time that he fell asleep in the car on the way home even before I turned off his really annoying musical mirror that plays such classics as "Head and Shoulders" and "Here We Go Looby Loo".

Mostly we nature watched. We saw a slender white heron hiding in the marsh reeds, multiple river birds sunning on sundry logs, Canadian geese, and an adorable snapping turtle (I think it was a snapping turtle--it was the size of the Little Dude--does that make it a snapping turtle?). We spent thirty minutes walking, studiously avoiding the bikers yelling "LEFT" as they swerved past a mere hair's breadth away, and then went down to the river to sit for a while. And continue our observations. Little Man and I smelled the freshly cut summer grass and watched the dragonflies flit around in electric blue slivers of excitement. When we felt we could absorb no more, we got back in the car and headed home. He took the aforementioned nap while I listened to a mix the Man made me when we were dating and read Erma Bombeck at the stop lights. Evidently, nature didn't have a long-term positive effect on my maturity level.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

All in Good Fun...

Taking Oswald to the vet is a bit like that old brain teaser about the fox, the goose, and the bag of grain. You can take one of the three in the canoe with you at a time. How do you get across the lake?

I've got: the cat (in the cat carrier that can't be held by the handle or it breaks), the baby (happily barfing on everything in sight), the overflowing diaper bag, and the stroller (which is building some serious back muscles being pulled in and out of the trunk). All of that goes in the car to drive five minutes to the cat clinic just to be unloaded again. And no matter how cute Little Man is and no matter how much I want Oswald to not be dying of some mysterious cat illness and no matter how good I am at pushing our stroller with one hand, at the end of the day I say: sink the canoe. Make a rug out of all the cat hair that got on you trying to put the cat in the carrier so that you can save its life, and sink the (bleep) canoe.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Library, Erma, and Me

Insanity is hereditary. You can catch it from your kids.
-Erma Bombeck

The library saved me today. After being up most of the night with teething baby and self-induced insomnia and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, I grabbed the Man's overdue library book and Lord of the Flies (which I couldn't talk myself into rereading even for the sake of Dad's literature class), dumped Littles in the car seat, and headed out to the friendly and free land of borrowed books. Considering that I was crabby, cranky, and cross this morning and am now merely sleepy, sluggish, and sidetracked, I'd say the library did a pretty good job. I spent Little Man's nap time reading Erma Bombeck and have concluded that life is never so pulverized by a bad night's sleep to keep it from being worth laughing at. So I'm laughing. For now. But if there's a repeat performance tonight, plan B is in the works. And it includes caffeine, chocolate, and a lobotomy. For me. Not the baby.

Incidentally, my being tired required me to spell check this blog multiple times, but it in no way impaired my talent for alliteration.


Add a cup of coffee bought with the money I didn't have to spend on library fines (how could you fine this face?) and I think we're in business. Yay for book happiness!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

On the Fly Addendum

I felt an unquenchable urge to write something (anything) this morning. But since I have an early morning vet appointment and I'm not yet showered, this is going to be as good as it gets. I should never drink coffee with breakfast on a rushed morning! Because I end up like this.

At any rate, the two main blogs I need to supplement today are the ones about the vacuum and the water buffalo (bet you thought I was done with that one, huh?). First for that instrument of torture, the vacuum. After reading my ill-fated blog post last week, my wonderful husband decided to get out the vacuum and try it again before I got home from my Southern escapades. And naturally, since he's smart, he figured out what was wrong with it. I hadn't cleaned it out. Ever. Since we bought it a year ago. I really wish I could upload the picture he sent me because the gunk that he pulled out of it. It was massive. In my defense, I didn't know that you were supposed to clean out vacuum cleaners. (J: where did you think everything went? M: I don't know... I guess I thought it imploded or evaporated or atomized... J: silence prefacing snorts of laughter). Continuing on in my defense, I didn't grow up with a vacuum cleaner and no one ever told me how to use one. I thought you just plugged it in, flipped the switch, and went with it. Evidently not. Amusingly enough, my mother-in-love expressed surprise that I hadn't burned up the engine. That was before she realized how rarely I vacuum.

On a more serious (and less embarrassing) note, the water buffalo! This is probably the only time a water buffalo will be more serious than a vacuum cleaner, so enjoy it... I recently found out from an covert source of information (my dad) that water buffalos were used in Iraq to baptize American soldiers who came to faith while fighting the War on Terror. I thought that was a pretty cool piece of water buffalo trivia, so I'm passing it on to you. Enjoy.

And now, I'm going to go jump in the shower, rubbing my feet over the newly vacuumed carpet (the Man is my hero) all the way to the bathroom.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

July's Disappearing Act

How are we already halfway through this month? I've been blogless for the last few weeks because I've just been too busy hanging out with my family. My middle sister came to stay with me and the Man for a few days, and then we tootled down to stay a week with the rest of the family. The babies have bonded, but most of my time is spent trying to keep Littles from kicking his cousin in the face with his brace. I would provide pictures, but I'm not on my computer, so look for some to come in the future. Maybe. Why maybe? Because when I get home, I have a couple more weeks before the best nephew and his mommy (my oldest sister) come north to stay with us for a week, and I have to use that time to get my house up to that sister's cleanliness standards. Part of that includes figuring out why our vacuum sprays grit all over the apartment while running... Seriously, why does it do that?

In the meantime, I've been reading a lot (and I'm posting a ridiculously high recommendation for Paul E. Miller's book on prayer: A Praying Life), watching Little's teeth come in and bite me, and thinking about lots of deep things like spiritual growth and the future and my best friend-husband and perfectly frothed coffee. All that to say, I spend a lot of time watching for how God's writing this story, and I am absolutely fascinated by his plot line...including the slight of hand that whisked away July.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Twice Baked

I made twice-baked potatoes for dinner tonight. I know: not terribly interesting. But I enjoyed the debate (in my own head) over whether the de-gooping of potatoes was more like surgery or making a dug-out canoe. This time around (I don't think I blogged about last time around--but it was stressful), I used a grapefruit spoon to scoop out the innards, and let me just say, that was probably the smartest thing I did all day. Snide comments can be kept to yourself. Anyway, one day, the Man will get home from work and we'll sit down and eat those lovely things. In the meantime, I have to sit back and wonder if pork chops are jinxed in our family, since the last time I cooked them he was stuck at work late too. And I overcooked them trying to keep them hot. And they died. So I guess this is my second try on pork chops too. Maybe I should be more worried about this meal than I am right now.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Not Sick Rambles

I hate sick. Especially when it's not really sick, it's just "allergied" or "unexplainable sore throat" or "grossness". It makes me want to curl up in the recliner and never get out ever (EVER) again. And so, in between laundry and cleaning the house and taking care of Littles and making home-made pizza and having friends over for lunch...that's what I've done today. When the Man got home I moved to the couch so that we could sit next to each other and work on our computers and hate the "not really sick" together. He's great for commiseration.

This blog post is not about having something to write, it's just about writing. Because I felt the need. I have some editing work I could be doing, but that would interfere with the wallowing. And the writing. Because editing is not really writing, now is it? Though most of the time I suppose in my case, those who can't (or are too lazy to) write, edit. It makes me feel useful. And on that note, I'm going to go put myself to good use, pull up that file, and edit that darn cover letter like my life depends on it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Idyll

An azure domed afternoon.
Sun patterned applause on your face,
Then
The expectant quiet of a quilt on the thick grass,
Which curves over the hill like a bow
Across the violin's bridge.

Lazy clouds make trills and turns in your eyes
As you lie on your back looking up
At the sky, long-fingered hands in your mouth,
Corners tipped up,
Baby plump cheeks flushed red in the sunlight.

And the world laughs back
For you.

A day that could float
Right off a cello's strings...
Just you and me
And the wind which shivers through the trees
(The young leaves play the variations
To the theme).
Your tiny tongue peeps out between your lips,
And you wave your arms
As you conduct the orchestra of today.

But this is no black tie affair.

You gurgle as if you know something I don't.
In truth you do;
You're young enough to know more than I.
You have grasped the melody
Of that spring afternoon
When all I hear now
Is the beauty of
You

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Breakfast: A Three Volume Novel Not To Be Spoken of Slightingly

All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.
John Gunther


Primo
My French press and I have become good friends as of late. With the Man at work most mornings (including this one), it's a bit ridiculous to make a entire pot, especially when I don't even have time to drink more than a small cup. Luckily for me, my French press is a miniature, so I fill it up the whole way, pour a full cup of coffee and feel like I'm drinking more than I really am, which makes me a happy woman. Finding decaf Cafe Bustelo really saved my life with this pregnancy and period of breast-feeding. It's unbelievable how much less whining I do now that I have coffee that actually tastes like coffee and not some knock-off sludge. In fact, Cafe Bustelo should be paying me for how often I promote their coffee.

Secondo
I think I've begun using baking as a creative outlet (see Cinnamon Bread post...). While this may be good for my sanity, I'm not so sure it's a positive for my waistline. Friday I decided to make a batch of cinnamon rolls from scratch with the help of my trusty sidekick, Debbie "The Debs" Shhhkibeckery (names have been changed for the protection of the innocent). We used the Cinnabon cinnamon roll recipe my sister used to make at the dorm in high school. They were amazing beyond belief. When the Man got home, he inspected the cinnamon rolls and then asked me accusingly (and with much disappointment) why I'd put raisins in them. I explained that the dark globs he had mistaken for raisins were in fact luscious oozings of cinnamon sugar. That's when he got really excited. Leftovers comprised breakfast this morning. Along with Cafe Bustelo. Naturally. See photographic evidence above.

Terzo
I'm a believer in breakfast. Not because it is necessarily the healthy start to my day that I require (I doubt the amount of sugar I ingested into my system this morning qualifies as healthy), but because it makes me happy. And why not start the day right, eh?

Friday, June 11, 2010

This Is War, Evidently

Last night I bought what is officially referred to as a "self-help" book. I didn't realize that it was a self-help book when I put it on my reading list for the week, and I didn't plan on buying it either (especially when I found out that it was a self-help book), but the library was closed last night so I ended up browsing at Borders, coffee in hand and no diaper bag in sight (the Man is trying to institute a baby-free night for my sanity--what a good husband!). I thought I'd pick up a copy of The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles just to flip through it and see if I really did want to read it. A friend of mine has been referencing it in his facebook statuses, and the quotations he included intrigued me.

So there I was, at Borders, curled up in one of their black leather chairs with my coffee and my journal and The War of Art, while the portly old gentleman across from me snoozed while pretending to read the newspaper. And before I knew it I was 30 odd pages in and franticly scribbling quotes in my journal, and I knew that this book was going home with me, and that the next morning I would wake up and "fight the good fight." And I did.

Instead of waiting for Littles to wake me up this morning, I got up when the Man did and took care of business so that by the time Little Dude went down for his first nap, I could go straight to spending time with God and writing. And I have. I had to sit down and look myself in the face last night (this book has that kind of effect on you) and realize that I was giving in to what Steven Pressfield terms as "Resistance" and losing out on the goodness that God has to offer me if I would just use the gifts he's given me (the second part is me, not necessarily Pressfield). I know I'm supposed to be writing, but I do everything but write. It's the same situation in the other important areas of my life. Pressfield writes, "Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul's evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it." And it's true! I can think about how I spend my time during the day, and it takes me the longest to get to the things that are the most important.

I'm two-thirds of the way through the book, and while I caution that it must be read with discernment, I've got to say...Pressfield has really kicked me in the butt. I guess we'll see where I go from there. As Pressfield says, "The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day." So tomorrow, when the battle starts again, will I stay home and hide or go out to meet the enemy?