Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Waiting

I'm sitting here in the living room, laptop perched on what's left of my lap, while Little Man plays on the floor and Trig-Dog noses around the Christmas tree, making the tiny jingle bells ring nervously. It's grown dark suddenly, and the only light in the room is from the tiny white lights on the tree. I feel no need to change that. The house is cozy, and I am thinking of good things: the love of friends and family, the celebration of Christ's coming, the goodness of being home and together (even though the Man is passed out cold in the bedroom after a long two weeks of pre-Christmas work), and, of course, the anticipation of Tiny.

I've been bad about blogging lately for the sole reason that I've wanted to spare you the roller coaster of pregnancy hormones that my poor husband has been subjected to the last month (he maintains that I could've been a lot worse but I see that panicked look in his eyes that says, "When do I get my wife back?"). But today is an up day, and so I thought I'd stop in to say hi, especially since Tiny could be here any day now, and I don't remember being the best blogger in the first few months of Little Man. For now, though, we're waiting.

It's those last few days when everything that has to be done has already been done and you sit around looking at the pile of freshly laundered and folded burp rags, the empty crib which is quickly collecting cat hair, and the mostly packed hospital bag. Of course, it seems in that moment everyone else but you is having their babies, and facebook is quick to confirm this, so you quit getting on facebook but then your only distraction from the wait is gluing yourself to the kitchen window in the hopes that something--anything--exciting will happen outside. I tried to bribe the Man's cops to start arresting people in front of the house, but they didn't go for it. But underneath it all, there's that little tremor of excitement every morning when I wake up and wonder if today could be the day that Tiny comes. And that makes me think about Jesus (because if I woke up every day and made my To Do list based on the idea that Jesus could show up today and lived with that undercurrent of anticipation that I have for Tiny... well, who knows what my life could turn into?).

In the meantime, I plan to enjoy Christmas and all it entails and try to let the waiting be a good thing. At the very least, I can thoroughly relish that as a nine months pregnant woman no one is going to stop me from sneaking into the fridge and "evening up" the fudge. And it sure is good...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Little Women Time

Almost every year around this time, I watch Little Women. It's my birthmas movie. The thing is, it has so many nice Christmas themes so it's perfect for this time of year, plus, it's about an all girl family (which reminds me of mine) and is based around one of my all time favourite books. This year, in addition to reading Louisa May Alcott's biography, I also reread Little Women (picked up at the same bookstore at the same time in October). May I just say how thoroughly I enjoyed rereading it this week? Even though I didn't realize that I'd only bought Little Women and not Little Women and Good Wives... I was already planning on tracking down a copy of Little Men (which is much more applicable to my current life), and now will diligently add Good Wives to the list.

Anyway, due to the aforementioned cold (see earlier post), I spent today resting and finishing up Little Women in between playing legos and letting the dog in and out for potty breaks (I swear, he pees more than I do--and I'm pregnant!) and then at lunch, I decided to make Little Man watch the movie with me (he's too young to over rule me right now--it's great). We made it to Sally Moffat's ball and then I finished the rest of the movie this evening after putting teething child in bed (he tried to throw a fit about not being allowed to sleep on the couch with the Christmas tree...seriously). It was fascinating reading the book and watching the movie back to back. I don't think I've ever done that. In fact, confession, I'm not completely positive that I've ever read the unabridged version of Little Women because, prior to this experience, the only copy I'd had was the battered old one we had growing up, and I'm pretty sure not everything was in there. Then again, I have pregnancy brain and could just be forgetting.

Regardless, it was fascinating picking up on a lot of changes that were made by Hollywood (I promise I didn't plan to turn this week into a movie bashing blog week--reading two books and watching their respective movies back to back was not something I did on purpose). For one, the movie completely obliterated the Pilgrim's Progress theme that is so central to the book, which wipes out the moral heart of the story. Secondly, they almost completely rewrote the characters of Mr Laurence and John Brooke, making them less sympathetic characters. I have to assume that this occurred solely due to the current trend seen in modern media of running down the male characters in order to draw a sharper contrast against the liberated and high-minded females. I'm not a huge fan.  And yes, I say this as somewhat of a feminist.

The last thing I want to say is that this was definitely the first time reading the book as a military wife and mom and may have been my first time watching the movie since then as well. I'm not sure I managed to fit it into my packed holiday schedule the last two years (having babies does that to you). I was surprised by how applicable the book was to me as a military spouse. I never really thought of Little Women as a war novel, but it is. It chronicles the home front during the Civil War during what we would term as a deployment (they didn't really have deployments back then--it was kind of an all or nothing deal--and we think we have it bad). Anyway, it gave me a whole new emotional connection to both the book and the movie, and before anyone makes any cracks about me being pregnant and emotionally whacked out (which is true), there were no tears shed during the reading or the watching, but there was a sizable lump in my throat. And I suppose that's okay.

Tea and Moonacre

This year my birthmas present from "me to me" was a package of decaf P. G. Tips. I love coffee, but when I'm sick--and the sore throats have been piling up towards the end of this pregnancy thanks to the constant fluctuation of the weather and the fact that I'm tired and my immune system has gone to pot--when I'm sick, all I want is tea, endless cups of tea to be precise. And that was difficult because I'm only allowed limited amounts of caffeine, and my favourite tea was no where to be found in a decaffeinated version. So I found some online, bought it, and waited for it to arrive the week of my birthday. Incidentally, just in time for sore throat number 3.

This year my birthmas present from my best second sister was Elizabeth Goudge's The Little White Horse, which I had shamelessly hinted about wanting. The proof is in the blog. So this weekend as the Big Man studied away diligently (in spite of also having a cold), I drank tea and read The Little White Horse. Honestly, I think it would've been a bit sacrilegious to have read such a blatantly British book without tea, so it's a good thing that I gifted myself.

That said, I thoroughly enjoyed The Little White Horse, being somewhat of a sucker for British children's fantasy, and it was much better than the movie, which had taken out all the meat of the tale (it was probably too much for P.C. Hollywood to handle). An enchanting story that covered such interesting topics as generational sin and the idea of looking below the surface to find true value, it is one that should be in every children's library. The adults, though fallible, are worthy of respect yet don't mollycoddle the children. The children are capable of being heroes in their own right, though still dependent on wise advice from their elders. And there was plenty of food description, which if you enjoy British food (and I do, with certain exceptions--steak and kidney pie did me in) will probably make you hungry. At any rate, I can understand why several of my most read authors rank The Little White Horse on their list of favourites: it was absolutely charming.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Look at Louisa

Last night I finished reading the biography Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women by Harriet Reisen. I have to say, the timing was fortuitous. Although I bought the book while I was in San Antonio in October, the little bits of reading I've managed to snatch here and there let me finish up just in time for my annual birthday watching of Little Women. That's going to happen at some point this week. Probably. But this is supposed to be about the book, not the movie, and not even specifically the book of Little Women but rather the book about the author of Little Women. Whatever.

Let me start by saying that I've always been a fan of Alcott's work. As a child, I devoured Little Women and Little Men as well as Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom, but I'm not sure I ever got much past that. I do have a vague recollection of reading Jo's Boys, but I don't think I could give you a plot synopsis if my life depended on it, just that it was darker than I expected and someone died. I think. That said, prior to reading this biography, I had a hazy knowledge of Alcott's life. I was aware that she was strongly involved with the Transcendentalist movement and that she had modeled the characters of Little Women after her own family. After reading Reisen's work, though, I now know more details than I might have wanted. Let me explain.

Reading Alcott's biography almost a year after I read L.M. Montgomery's journals has forever disabused me of my notion of the heroic authoress. I came away from both experiences a little jaded and sad. It made me wonder if such a gift comes at too great a price. Then again, maybe grief and emotional turmoil are just part of life, and it's only when we really dig into the thoughts of a writer who can adequately express them that we are able to understand and process someone else's struggle. Who knows. Still, Louisa May and Lucy Maud (I have a thing for L. M.'s, it seems) had some pretty unbalanced moments... more than I was expecting, to be honest. I did, however, come away somewhat in awe of Louisa's work ethic. Sure there were gigantic periods of burn out, but good grief, when she sat down to do something, she did it. I wouldn't mind being that cool, but then I remind myself that having a toddler doesn't allow for periods of burn out. Ever. Oh well!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

November Novels: and No, This Does Not Include the One I'm Supposed To Be Writing

I'm taking a quick break from NaNoWriMo to bring you this public service announcement, I mean blog. I took a not so quick break from NaNoWriMo on Monday and Tuesday to read The Help (let's be honest: I took a not so quick break from life on Monday and Tuesday to read The Help...), but that's the second part of this blog.

First, let's discuss Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquirel, which I read right at the end of October before my decent into the insanity that is November. Esquirel's book comes with its own self-description in the subtitle: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies. My way of breaking it down for the innocent reader: it's like Sarah Michelle Gellar's Simply Irresistible on some magical realism crack. Plus tortillas. If you never had the misfortune of watching the aforementioned movie (I laughed so hard I cried), essentially, what happens is that the heroine cooks her emotions into her food, thereby spreading them to the recipients of the food. She's sad: she cries into the lasagna: all the people who consume the lasagna end up sobbing uncontrollably. You get the point. Similar things happen in Like Water for Chocolate but the story line itself focuses on a youngest daughter who falls in love and is kept from marrying by her mother who believes that youngest daughters should always stay at home to care for their mothers. Instead, the mother marries off her oldest daughter to the youngest daughter's lover. Annoyingly, the lover agrees to this because he's so in love with Y.D. (who also happens to be the emotive cook) that he just wants to be near her but doesn't have the balls to get her to elope with him. Also annoyingly (this could be considered a spoiler), this never backfires on him. Anyway, fascinating read if you're into magical realism, which I am. Esquirel definitely would've received an R rating on this one though, so read with discretion. And prepare to want to kick certain characters in the face most of the way through the book. That may just be my pregnancy hormones speaking.

But on to this week and The Help by Kathryn Stockett. After months of saying, "I need to find that book at the library" every time I saw the little yellow cover in a bookstore, I finally realized how dumb I am and found The Help on onread.com (my internet home away from home). I really did suspend life for about 36 hours in order to read it. I mean, obviously, I couldn't suspend Little Man or any of the responsibilities attached to him, but I put everything else on hold to read it. By now, I'm sure you know the book's premise so I won't repeat it, but I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed my read time, and if I was going to become an awful human being (and by awful, I mean lazy) for two days, at least I did it for a book like this. I will also say that I'm now eagerly awaiting my girl date with Awesome Next Door Neighbor to watch the movie. If you haven't read it: it really is a good choice to pick up. I thought it was especially interesting having 1. lived in Memphis and experienced this decade's version of race relations and 2. had "help" in my home as a child. On the whole, I think Stockett did an incredible job dissecting the complex emotions and interactions prevalent not just then, but also now in their own way, but I realize that I'm saying that as a middle class white woman. Regardless, it was thought-provoking, which is always a good thing.

Anyway, back to wracking up the word count for NaNoWriMo. We're halfway through the month, and I will not despair! Or give up! Hopefully... And also maybe...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

An Open Letter to the A---- AFB Golf Course Rabbits

Dear Rabbits of the Golf Course,

First off, thank you for your time and consideration in this matter. I know you have many more important things to do like making more babies for your already expansive brood. I want to clarify that I in no way mean this disrespectfully and that I have no desire to impinge upon your rights or your freedoms; I merely come to you with a simple request that I hope will be looked upon smilingly.

Here is what I propose. Should you, in the midst of your frolicking, see myself, my blue and black stroller, and my black and brown yappy dog walking close to your territory, would you please pause in your excursions and lie low beneath yon nearby sapling until we have passed by? Of course, this only applies if you see all three of us together. If it's just one of us--and certainly, if it's only the stroller--meandering through the paths of the golf course, by all means, continue in your rollicking adventures, but should you happen upon all three of us, I'd like to ask for a little grace. You see, at seven months pregnant, it's getting a little difficult to bodily hoist my howling, kicking, 30 pound dog into the air (while still pushing the stroller) in order to dissuade him from chasing what, in his mind, are merely rabbit shaped plates of dog food running around on spritely legs. I've tried, valiantly, to explain to him that you are just happy souls trying to make your way in the world like the rest of us, but there seems to be some kind of disconnect...

Once again, I realize how tempting it must be to continue in your games of hide and seek when the weather is as freshly cold and clear as it was today, but, please, for the sake of me and my unborn child, would you at least try to avoid tantalizing my aforementioned canine with your juicy haunches and mouth-watering scent?

Most sincerely yours,
etc.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Evidently Blessed

Nobody sees a flower--really--it is so small it takes time--we haven't time--and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.
Georgia O'Keeffe

I've been thinking a lot about the awesome friends that I have and some of those moments when I've found myself thinking, "Wow. I just do not deserve to have a friend that superb." So I wanted to share. These are, evidently, a few of the ways I know a true friend:
  • They keep their cell phone by the bed at night because they know I'm home by myself and pregnant out the wazoo.
  • They send their husband over to rescue me from a dog food eating opossum.
  • They are willing to change the kitty litter for me when my husband is unexpectedly out of town and I can't get close enough to it to scoop poop (even in a mask and gloves) without vomiting.
  • I can spend three hours over coffee and conversation with them without realizing where the time has gone.
  • They call just to check in. Or because they saw something random that reminded them of me. Or because they're stuck in a car somewhere and obviously I should be available to entertain them.
  • They send hand written cards my first week in a new house, occasionally even awesomely hand made cards that I could never make myself.
  • They possess that key quality of honesty, even--and sometimes especially--when it's regarding something I don't want to hear.
  • They don't mind just getting in a car with me and driving and listening to music and talking. They even try to avoid making gasping noises and clutching franticly at the arm rests.
  • Speaking of music, they gift me with multiple mix CDs that enlarge my musical horizons.
  • They don't judge the state of my home, my hair, or my clothing. Neither do they judge (or penalize) my lack of crafting ability.
  • They make me laugh so hard that I cry and occasionally pee in my pants.
  • They're always up for adventure. Especially if it involves donuts, pizza, pudding, some form of international cuisine, or Bollywood.
  • They make running errands together (including taking my kid to the doctor) fun and think that's a completely acceptable way to spend time together.
  • When God teaches them something new, they want me to know about it. And vice-versa.
I'm missing some key memories here... but I blame the pregnancy. And I know that since you're my true friend (wink, wink), you'll forgive me and lovingly put whatever it was that I forgot into the comments section.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November Blurbs

A collection of miscellaneous (but potentially awesome) thoughts:
  • Some women feel put together by putting on a little bit of lipstick. Earrings are what do it for me. I could be wearing yesterday's jeans and one of the Man's old t-shirts, and a pair of earrings would somehow make that acceptable.
  • There is nothing quite like the feeling of spending an hour cooking dinner only to have Littles chew it up and then spit it back out on his tray. Yep. Nothing quite like that.
  • Oklahoma makes a mean sunset.
  • Evidently, small town America thinks that the day after Halloween is an early Black Friday. I'm pretty sure that every resident of our community was at Walmart today. I had no idea what I was getting into when I decided to make a "quick trip" to pick up toothpaste for Alex. 
  • I'm so excited that it's November at last. November means so many good things: the Man coming home, Thanksgiving, NaNoWriMo, the end of Halloween decorations, my favourite nephew's second birthday...
  • Trigger is a hazard to my health. I've tripped over him about 6 different times today and even stepped on him once (by accident, I promise!). The problem is that he's not the biggest of dogs and I don't have the smallest of bellies and Trigs (or as Little Man now calls him: TrigDog) likes to be physically affectionate at all times. All of these conspire against us and Trigger gets stepped on and I narrowly escape landing on my belly multiple times a day.
  • Accomplishment is a good feeling.
And now I'm going to bed. Evidently with both pets. They are not leaving much room for me and not-so-Tiny, but I guarantee that they will both jump ship the first time I try to "roll" over in a vain attempt to get comfortable.

PS Adorable pictures of Little Man dressed up for Fall Festival to come after Josh gets home with the camera cable. msf

Friday, October 28, 2011

When Myths Evidently Aren't Myths

I picked up The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse at the library this week. The cover had a girl swimming with dolphins, and I'm a sucker for girl and dolphin stories, L'Engle's A Ring of Endless Light being a perfect example and Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins being the major exception to the rule. Anyway, I tried to skim through the synopsis, but it was hard to concentrate because I had Little Man with me and he was trying to do sprints between the stacks, so I just grabbed the book and checked it out.

It turns out that the book is about a girl who has been raised by dolphins from the age of four (she's in her teens when she's found and "rescued"). It's written in first person as she, Mila, tries to adapt to human life under the guidance of a group of scientists. Hesse does a fascinating job tracking Mila's discovery of language and emotional arc as she tries to understand what it means to be human. It's a quick, unchallenging read. What fascinated me was the idea of feral children, and that sent me into a flurry of internet research.

Most of us have grown up hearing the myth of Romulus and Remus, the twins who were raised by wolves and later grow up to found Rome. And of course, we've all watched (and hopefully all read) Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book where Mowgli is raised by a whole host of jungle animals. What I didn't realize is that there are actual documented cases of feral children being raised by animals and then attempting (and rarely succeeding) to acclimate into human community. Sure, some of them were hoaxes, but I was surprised by how many cases were genuine. Anyway, it peaked my interest. Hence, the blog. But now I'm going to go to sleep and have nightmares about what would happen if L.M. got raised by Trigger and Oswald. Great...

Weather Words

Tonight was perfect running weather...not that I was doing any running in my "delicate and extremely enlarged condition". No, I was just shooting jealous glances at all the in-shape militarians (wish I could take credit for this word, but I can't) who were jogging by without a care or distended belly in sight. Trigger, however, also got the "running weather" memo and spent our entire evening walk trying desperately to escape the leash so he could chase the ginormous jackrabbits that had come out to taunt him with their juicy haunches. I let him pull on the leash until he gagged himself and may or may not have told him that I was okay with him choking to death. But I refuse to turn this into another Trigger rant. He's already taken over the house; I will not allow him to dominate my blogging life as well.

Tonight was also the perfect weather for coffee and pumpkin bread. So I curled up on the couch with both pets and watched a quirky British TV show while enjoying a late night snack. The best part of it was that I didn't even have to make the pumpkin bread. My awesome across the way neighbor did and then gifted it to me because, luckily, her husband isn't a fan of pumpkin baked goods. I'm now questioning his sanity, which is funny because he's a psychologist.

This morning was the perfect weather for house cleaning and guests, and this afternoon the perfect weather for a long nap and legos in the living room and curry for dinner, and this evening was the perfect weather for reading a novel about feral children. Don't ask. Just go check the book section. Anyway, I guess in general it was just a perfect weather day. Although I should've realized that house cleaning weather is not the same as morning walking weather and put on an extra layer this morning instead of coming home with frozen fingers and a frost bitten belly (I had pulled on a pre-maternity jacket which doesn't button in the front any longer...it made sense at the time).

My main question is, though, when did a day that included temperatures between 34 and 62 degrees Fahrenheit become a perfect weather day? Do I credit three years of rooming with a Minnesotan who kept the windows open all the way through to Christmas break or merely the fact that I'm pregnant with a ten pound heating unit?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Reading Obsessions of the Little Man

I felt like Maurice Sendak deserved a follow up post, mostly because Little Man is now fairly attached to Where the Wild Things Are. He pulls it off the shelf at least once a day and loves to flip through the pictures, especially the ones of the Wild Things on the wild rumpus. And it's thanks to WTWTA that L.M. learned to wave and say "bye", can accurately identify a boat, and officially tried stabbing the dog with a fork. Kidding on the last one. That was me. Still kidding! But I think in L.M.'s case it definitely isn't a case of familiarity breeding contempt. Instead, the more I forced him to read WTWTA the more he loved it. He's definitely the type to enjoy something more the better he knows it.

In the same way, L.M. has developed quite an obsession (there is really no other word for it) with the book Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. Sadly, I didn't have to work quite as hard to brainwash him when it came to Mike Mulligan, which just goes to show that, in a pinch, most boys will pick mechanical things with wheels over wild things, no matter how awesome they are. For those of you unenlightened (I was before becoming the mother of a little boy and being gifted this book by my in-laws, who have four boys), Mike Mulligan is the story of an out of work steam shovel who agrees to dig the cellar of a town hall in just one day (it would've taken one hundred men at least a week--whoohoo?). He is cheered on by the inhabitants of Popperville, who obviously have nothing better to do with their day, and in consequence, Mike and his shovel, lovingly named Mary Ann, dig a little faster and a little better. It's an absolutely fascinating commentary on the industrial revolution and small town life. I have to say that after this last move, I have now officially found myself in a town where watching a steam shovel dig a cellar would count as adequate amusement. It is rather entertaining, though, how entranced L.M. is by this book. Our morning walk is now filled with shovel searching (there's always construction on an Air Force base), and his fascination with buses and trucks is unparalleled. He's also pretty much memorized the book. How do I know? The Big Man tried to skip several pages once in an effort to speed up bed time, and L.M. absolutely would not have it. He knows that book backward and forward, especially when it comes to horses, "pop" (Popperville), bikes, and the key phrase of "dig a little faster and a little better" (he only says the last word). Incredible what a little repetition can do. Next, I plan to use this most excellent of books to teach L.M. how to do happy and sad faces. At present, all he's capable of when reading Mike Mulligan is a (very) happy face. And all I am capable of is being forced to read it almost every night at bed time. And by the end of the book, which is fairly long for a children's story, my now sizable belly has been rather rudely squashed by 28 pounds of Little Man.

Speaking of which, I'm soon going to need a new name for L.M. since we have another little man on the way. I would do Little Man and Littlest Man, but those are going to both end up as L.M. which always ends up reminding me of Lucy Maud Montgomery. And while I love Lucy Maud, she has very few similarities to my Little Man. Anyway, thoughts?

Lastly, and completely unrelated, I'm currently watching The Secret of Moonacre on Netflix, and it's making me really want to read Elizabeth Goudge's The Little White Horse. Hmm... I may have to put that on my Mersmas list.

Oh, Bloggish Day! (Not to be confused with "Frabjous")

It's one of those.

You know, the rainy days that start with a cup of tea and a quiet moment and inevitably end with some form of the written word. Unfortunately, in the middle of that, Doggy Dearest ate my favourite pair of boots, but that's merely a side note. Because as mad, sad, and melodramatic as I was about the boots, there were still parts of the day that were so incredibly beautiful that I'm not crossing it off as a complete loss.

For instance, Little Man is giving butterfly kisses now. It's my new favourite. Infinitely more favourite than a pair of boots, regardless of how awesome they were with their uniquely hand sewn buttons. And I've learned important lessons today: like never (ever, ever) go to Story Time at the library the week before Halloween. Because I would just rather skip stories about ghosts and skeletons and witches, and I will continue being the stodgy mom who makes my son skip them too. Other important things learned: Littles will eat his food five times faster if you ask him to share it with you. "No!" he says with a cheeky grin and shoves whatever foodage it is into his mouth. It's really pretty effective. Reverse psychology, perhaps, but in the long run he ate all his carrots and bell peppers. And there were some lovely snuggles and the chance to wear a sweater (after the Oklahoma summer, this has been extremely welcome) and fun pictures to look at and the realization that I email my husband too much (which made me perversely happy) and a yellow Gerber daisy in the front yard just basking in all the rain. And there was lots of Mindy Smith and the Weepies and Glen Hansard, accompanied by the perfect percussion of rain drops outside.

I love days like this. Because (and I feel like I say this all the time), it's a chance to focus on the lovely and excellent and true instead of the single piece of reality (admittedly, it is reality) that didn't turn out the way I necessarily wanted it to. It's good to keep myself from letting the beautiful be tainted by the occasionally inevitable. Although putting my boots back in the closet after I wore them yesterday would've made today's unfortunate reality slightly less inevitable... C'est la vie?

On that note, I'm going to take my cold, bootless toes to bed for a rainy day afternoon nap, perhaps stopping by the mailbox to check for mail. And yes, hand written mail deserves its own blog and that will come another day.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Delicious Is...

My book blog has been sadly neglected of late. I'd like to say that's all going to change, but I don't want to set myself up for failure. That being said, I read a new and delightful book this week thanks to the loving provision of Half-Price Books in San Antonio. Oh how I miss them--but I digress.

Pick of the week: The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbitt, a charming and relatively short fairly tale that centers around a kingdom's war over the proper definition of the word "delicious". Seriously. Being somewhat food obsessed myself, I thoroughly enjoyed thinking about what I would put down for "delicious": would it be a cup of hot coffee on a windy autumn night or La Madeleine's croissant french toast with strawberries and syrup or an ice cold Dr Pepper accompanied by a handful of chocolate chips or fresh grilled fish and the sea scent of the Sunda Straights? There are so many great options!

At any rate, Babbitt's book is full of mermaids and dwarfs and good food options, and since the quest motif never gets old, pick it up and give it a look. If you manage to match my Half-Price Book price of $2.98 though, I'll be extremely surprised (Half-Price Books, I love you so much that if I'd met you before I got married things might've turned out differently...). Special shout out to Natalie Babbitt for doing her own illustrations--and doing them well. And no, I'm not going to tell you what the final consensus was on the definition of "delicious". Though I did find myself in agreement.

So, what do you think is the most delicious of all foods?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Today I Didn't Have My Coffee So...

...the dog took a dump in the house, and the cat barfed all over everything in two separate rooms, and Littles threw multiple tantrums, and we got muddy during our morning walk, and Littles got my church clothes wet during his bath, and the dog tried to chase rabbits during our afternoon walk, and I accidentally kicked the dishwasher and got a huge bruise on my shin, and the dog got scared by the Swiffer when I was trying to clean up his annoying fur and mud tracks and then he peed (ironic, isn't it?), and Littles took his brace off instead of falling asleep, and I had to share my pizza with him during dinner, and I think I'm going to move to Australia.

On the flip side, today I didn't have my coffee so...

...I was up and showered before Littles was out of bed, and we made it to church with 2 minutes to spare (and didn't run over anyone on the way), and we had skype time with the Man, and I got an hour long nap, and I dusted, swept, and mopped, and I took care of three loads of laundry, and Littles and I got to watch home videos of him as an adorable and slightly less rambunctious baby, and I cleaned the kitchen, and I baked two loaves of zucchini bread, and I invested in a friendship, and Littles helped me make smoothies for dinner (this is before he started stealing my pizza), and we had a musical extravaganza of flute, piano, and metronome, and we admired the post-rain Oklahoma, and I spent time in prayer and Bible study, and I sang my heart out, and, no, I did NOT dance like nobody was watching me, and I changed Little's explosive diaper (he ate an entire carton of blueberries yesterday) and didn't complain once, and I beautifully put the dog in his place several times, and I very nicely fed the cat, and I took time to write a blog about how inspirational I am and...

...on the whole I felt like I was rather productive and it was a pretty good day with or without coffee and with or without the events included in the first paragraph of this blog. Is that selective listening for daily life? Or just choosing to rejoice in the good things instead of be grumpified over the bad?

With that said, I don't plan to not drink coffee tomorrow. I don't think my other shin would be happy to join the first one in all its bruised and battered glory. Plus, my cleaning supplies are running out, and coffee and cleaning supplies are obviously directly related.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

October Perspective

October is the fallen leaf, but it is also a wider horizon more clearly seen. It is the distant hills once more in sight, and the enduring constellations about them once again.
Hal Borland

October and I have a love-hate relationship.

On the one hand, October issues in autumn, one of my favourite seasons of all.  It is crunchy, vibrant leaves and cool air. It's sweaters and skinny jeans and the return of really comfortable boots. It's apple bread and spice cake and pumpkin muffins. It's rainy days curled up on the couch with a cup of coffee and a journal. I like to watch the year run out of time, to look back and see where we've been without yet having to think about where we're going next.

On the other hand, October means Halloween. All month. It manifests itself in ugly decorations of plastic bag ghosts, decapitated hands hanging out of car doors, and fake blood smears in the windows. Even on an Air Force base. Unfortunately. I admit that I have no appreciation for Halloween at all. Sure, it can be cute to dress your kids up, and trick-or-treating is a wonderful way to meet neighbors, but I can do without the grisly and gruesome. I've never been drawn to the macabre (even though I had a certain odd fascination with my Gothic Lit class in college), and so most of the time I ring in November with a deep breath of fresh air and thank God that All Saint's Day finally arrived. Does this make me stodgy?

This year, it seems that I'm getting the aesthetic horrors of Halloween without the balancing effect of fall. Oklahoma has been so dry that there aren't enough leaves to change colour and fall off the trees, and the temperatures are still hovering in the 80s and 90s. It's a welcome break from the 100s, so you're not hearing me complain, but it feels...off...somehow. Admittedly, I've baked enough autumnal fare to make up for the lack of cooperation with the weather, and we did finally get in some good rain (which I am thoroughly enjoying), but I've been a bit sad to miss out on the lovely fire imbued trees this year. I think Virginia spoiled me.

Would it be innovative or pathetic if I went to the store and bought yellow, orange, and red streamers and used them to haphazardly festoon the two trees in our back yard? Because I am considering it at this point.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Prayer

Dear Lord,

Please help Little Man to remember the times I was a good parent more clearly than the times I should've been arrested by child services.
   Help him to remember the hugs and the kisses and the tickling (and the "elbow bonks") more than the "LIIIIITTLLLLLEEEEE!!!!"s and the "What Were You Thinking?!"s.
   Help him to remember the times we actually cooked something healthy or fun more than the times it was peanut butter crackers in the car or week old delivery pizza.
   Help him to remember that I allowed him to get a dog because I loved him and wanted him to learn compassion and responsibility more than the fact that most days I am driven completely crazy by said dog and have no compassion for any canines and want someone else to take on the responsibility of picking up dog poop out of the yard.
   Help him to remember the times that I let him pretend drive more than the times I dragged him kicking and screaming from the car.
   Help him to remember the times we played with legos and blocks and balls more than the times I was trying desperately to get housework done and kept saying, "If you step in that dust pile one more time, young man..."
   Help him to remember the times we went to the playground more than the times we didn't. Especially please help him to remember the times I actually played with him on the playground instead of sitting my pregnant self on a park bench and watching from the sidelines.
   Help him to remember the times I've let him watch Veggie Tales during dinner and please don't let him remember that one time that I conned him into watching Psych with me instead.
   Help him to remember the bubbles and the sidewalk chalk and the piano and the flute that he always wants more of and the books and the "airplane" rides and the favourite picture bulletin board and the new and evidently super cool potty more clearly than the times when I've put my head down on the table and just desperately wanted a break, a cup of coffee that's still hot, and a conversation that doesn't include the words "dog," "'ground," or "smoo-ie".

But most of all, Lord, please help me to be the kind of mom that I actually want him to remember clearly. Please.

Amen.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

In Which I Play the Little Woman Card


Shall I set the stage for you? It's Tuesday night, nine o'clock, and the Oklahoma night is silent except for the persistent wind and occasional bark of a dog. The Little Man is fast asleep in his room, and the husband is back on that dead cacti infested Army base where we began our blogging journey almost three years ago, yes, the inimitable Camp Bullis with its awful cell phone reception and equally spotty internet. The pregnant belly and I are sprawled out on the couch with a cup of coffee (decaf!) recuperating after a long day of playgrounds, pumpkin bread, and preschool children. Then suddenly I hear a sound.

The sound of rustling. And thumping. And crunching.

The cat is still on the couch with me. The dog is still taking his last potty break in the yard. And Alex only thumps. He doesn't rustle or crunch. Then I realize that the sound (oh, inadequate word!) is emanating from the garage. My first thought, I admit, was "What idiot is dumb enough to break into the house of a Security Force's wife?" I could have a dozen cops at my doorstep with drawn weapons in the space of 5 minutes. And we live in such a sleepy little town that said cops would be more than happy to have a little bit of such excitement. But then I realized that I'd heard that crunching sound before. It sounded awfully like...dog food being eaten?

It was at that point that I remembered our only partially closed garage door. It sticks a bit at the bottom, and since today was trash day, I hadn't gotten it completely shut when I'd pulled the trash bin back in. Something had crept under the garage door and gotten into the dog food. And while I hoped that something was a stray dog or cat, the chances seemed fairly slim.

Screwing my courage to the sticking point but forgetting that I had a broom in the kitchen, I grabbed the Man's old racquetball racket, and tentatively opened the door into the garage. And peaking out of the bag of dog food was a long, thick, rat-like tail! Closing the door as quickly as possible, I realized that even I know they don't make rats that big in Oklahoma. Conclusion: there is a opossum in my garage. Further conclusion: I am too chicken to take it on.

It could be rabid!

Enter across the way neighbor and now absolute most appreciated friend I will ever make in my entire life who, on receiving an incoherent text message including the word "possum" (yes, misspelled in the heat of the moment) and more than enough exclamation points, sends her husband and nephew (and their broom) to save the day. Without me even having to ask. Seriously. She's that awesome. Her husband and nephew are also that awesome. I am still not awesome. Just chicken. I did, however, man up enough to video tape the ensuing excitement:


Apologies for the shaky camera work and all the squealing. And, as an apologetic note to poor Josh and his slandered good name, in retrospect, I realize that the couch that we have not yet gotten rid of was NOT what lured the opossum in. Mea culpa. [Edit: reloaded the video as it wasn't playing and for some reason it uploaded twice. Hopefully one of them will work this time!]

Monday, September 26, 2011

Learning Curve

I've learned a lot the last two years and nine months of marriage. Admittedly, it was a sink or swim experience at times, but since the learning curve has been on my mind recently, I thought I'd share. Not so much so that you can glean from my wisdom as that you can laugh at my inexperience--which is always more fun!
  • After years of fighting with the fitted sheet, I have finally learned the trick to folding them to where they actually look folded. All credit goes to my amazing mother-in-love. One question: WHAT TOOK HER SO LONG TO TELL ME THE SECRET?!?! Obviously I was incapable of figuring this out on my own.
  • As soon as you finish mopping the floor, someone will track in dirt. It will be either a) your adorable toddler, b) your slightly annoying but semi-lovable pooch, or c) your wonderful husband who is trying valiantly to provide you with green grass in the middle of a quasi-desert. 
  • Mondays always constitute craziness. The house is a wreck from the weekend, and everyone in the house is grumpy that "Dad" isn't home. Do something fun fast before the Monday sucks the life out of you.
  • A load of laundry a day keeps me from having to do twenty gazillion loads in a row by the time I finally get to it. It's a small price to pay for sanity.
  • My plans for Saturday morning family breakfast pan out much better when I tell my husband about them on Friday night instead of Saturday morning. Somehow it took me two years to figure this out. I blame the pregnancy brain.
  • Dogs like to eat cat poop. This was one of those informational things that I shouldn't have had to learn as a housewife. The easiest way to get the excess litter off the love seat where said dog likes to eat said cat poop is to just vacuum the couch. That I understand learning now. But someone should've warned me about the cat poop consumption earlier. I feel like it's one of those things you should learn around the time you find out that you can't drink a whole gallon of milk in one sitting but you can cook salmon in a dishwasher.
  • Liking a clean house and being good at cleaning house are not the same thing. Sadly. Liking a clean house and having enough money to hire a maid are also not the same thing. This is additionally sad.
  • Taking a nap when your son is taking a nap is more restful in the long run than sitting on the couch and watching something mind numbingly idiotic on hulu. But knowing this in my mind does not always equate the physical energy to walk from the couch to the bedroom.
  • Coffee makes everything better. This is a truth universally acknowledged.
  • If there is no coffee, fresh flowers also work.
  • You can always choose which household tasks to leave until later. Cleaning the bathroom is not one of them.
  • In the long run, a happy kid and a happy husband are always more important than a clean house. Resign yourself to an occasional sink full of dishes in exchange for an afternoon of legos or an evening of Numb3rs on the couch. If you don't, you'll finish the dishes to the dulcet tones of a screaming toddler which will make you too grumpy to be nice about the legos or Numb3rs (incredibly). 
  • Your husband wants you to jump on the bandwagon when it comes to his sports team. Resist the urge. Eventually, he will recruit to his team both of your sons (even the unborn one), the dog, and the cat; remember that he needs a devil's advocate. It's good for him. Even if he doesn't realize it. (Josh's comment as he watches the Cowboy's game: When are you going to bed?)
I can think of more to add to the list, but this is getting long, and I've also learned (completely unrelated to marriage and motherhood) that nobody reads the whole way through really long posts. Or the serious ones. Or if they do read them, they don't comment on them. And what is the point of blogging without comments? Then it just becomes pure narcissism! Oh wait, maybe it already is... Oops?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Hope

Hope is the thing with feathers/That perches in the soul./And sings the tune/Without the words,/and never stops at all. 
Emily Dickinson

I've been thinking about hope a lot lately. I've found that it comes in many different forms, and it doesn't always look the way I think it will, but that's starting at the end instead of the beginning of my thoughts about hope. I suppose that "hope" is not an unusual topic to think about as a pregnant woman. I have a special kind of hope growing inside, making itself evident in some ways but not in others. Every kick and wiggle reinforces the desire that is growing inside me just as surely as the baby is. With my last pregnancy almost every hope was centered around the Man somehow being able to video in for the birth--and he was. With this pregnancy, I've been hoping for a pair of healthy feet, and according to the doctor's assessment of our ultrasound, that's exactly what we're getting.

Our hopes don't always end up in such neat packages though. There are, of course, the bigger hopes, the ones that we spend years waiting for, but I think most of what I'm talking about are the small hopes: the hope that Littles will sleep past seven (he won't), the hope that the dog won't rip my arm out trying to get to a jackrabbit (he won't), the hope that the Man will make it home for dinner (it's a 50/50 chance). It's hopes like these that, in some small way, make or break us. Do we stop hoping--and working--for change because we are frequently confronted by disappointment? Do we find ourselves blinded to hope fulfilled in the face of hope disheartened?

I'm not necessarily here with the answers, just with thoughts. I've been thinking a lot about 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." For some reason, I feel that these verses are the key to hope. Not that we don't hope for those little things that may or may not occur (or the big things that may take years in the coming), but that we keep our hopes within the perspective of forever with Christ. I guess this is just a lot of rambling to say that, like everything else in life, hope is only beautiful when seen in relation to Christ.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

That's one thing I love: all the boys, boys, boys, boys!

Apologies for the butchering of a Grinch quotation for the title, especially when this post isn't even Dr Seuss related, but I am writing about boys. Specifically, I'm writing about James Dobson's book, Bringing Up Boys. My wonderful husband gave me Dobson's book for Mother's Day this year after some broad hinting on my part. I've been spending the last few months reading a chapter here and there and praying. Lots of praying. Why the praying, you may ask? Because Dobson's book was heavy on the statistics, and I am easily freaked out in my current pregnant state. I love my little man (and my big one), and I really want to be the best parent possible, and raising a boy right now is not the easiest thing in the world. So, my initial reaction to Dobson's book was mild paranoia. With that said, I found it extremely informational and challenging...and somewhat encouraging as well.

Let me be honest and say that I didn't quite know what to expect going into Bringing Up Boys. Most of the parenting books I've read have been super encouraging and presented lots of parenting tips and the occasional heart warming story. Dobson's book was much more statistically driven and seemed to be geared specifically towards opening eyes to the difficulty of raising boys in our present culture. He does give some good parenting suggestions (especially toward the end of the book), but the majority of the chapters served primarily to warn parents against the dangers of passing off the job of parenting to someone else. If I could sum up the book's message, it would sound something like: "Man up, and parent!" And I think that's a legitimate message.

Many of us are so scared to parent that we just don't. We don't discipline because we don't want to hurt our children's fragile feelings. We don't invest time in our kids because we're too busy working extra shifts so we can give them everything they could ever want. We don't closely monitor our kids because we don't ever want to invade their privacy. We don't parent. But the truth is that our kids need parenting more than ever. They are bombarded by a growing number of negative influences every day. And they are desperately searching for something, someone to help them navigate the waters of an increasingly hostile world. I'm hoping to take Dobson's challenge and be the best parent I can be to my little man...and his coming little brother. And I hope that you will keep me accountable to do so.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Dog Days

The Dog Deal was ratified, and we now have a new member of the family: Trigger. Alex and Josh are ecstatic. See photographic evidence below.


And yes, I recognize that's not the best picture of the dog, but Little Man's face was just priceless. Eventually, I'll get around to taking a better photo, but this will do for the present.

So far, I feel like dog ownership is like having another toddler. Our newest addition isn't house trained yet, and we've been spending a lot of time cleaning up dog messes and dragging said dog in and out of the house in a vain attempt to get him to go in the yard. Thankfully, tomorrow we get the fence put up, and he can start spending unsupervised and unleashed time not in the house. That being said, he's great with Littles, and he and the cat seem to be tolerating each other. At least for now. Open war will soon be declared because Trigger has started absconding with Oswald's food bowl. The question is: who will win the epic battle of feline versus canine?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dogging

I used to go walking. Then for a while I was going stroller-reading (you can read about that here). Now, I go "dogging" with Little Man. Let me explain.

Littles has a new obsession: dogs. His first words to me upon waking are "dog" and "woof". He spends most of breakfast pointing towards our neighbor's house and emphatically demanding to see their husky. Then, when we go for our morning walk, he entertains himself by pointing excitedly at every house with a fence and barking. He gets upset if my walking route doesn't yield enough dog-watching opportunities. No lie. Consequently, I can, two and a half weeks in, draw a map of our neighborhood based on who does and does not own a dog. Also, I am currently cutting a deal with Josh, who has long asked for a canine companion, in order to regain some personal peace of mind. To be simple: Littles has worn me down. And I concede defeat.

Let me be honest, I'm not typically the mother who gives their child everything he/she wants. I have endured my fair share of tantrums. But it's not that Littles is being bad in this regard...he's just frighteningly persistent. And I've found myself going to bed at night when all I can hear going through my brain is "dog! dog! dog!" and "woof! woof! woo-woof!" It's like spending all day driving and when you close your eyes at the end of the day, you still see the road and steering wheel in front of you, and your mind is fabricating cars to pass, and your foot can almost feel the imprint of the gas petal. It's like that, but with a one year old's excitable squeals reverberating in my mind. So today I sat back and asked myself why I was being so resistant about getting a dog (other than the fact that I'm pregnant and dogs and kids are tiring) and what my goals were for Littles anyway. And I realized that, while of course I don't want to give him everything he wants in life just because he wants it, I do want him to know that I love him enough to give him something that's going to teach him responsibility and gentleness and sacrifice. And that there's absolutely nothing wrong with just wanting to make someone a little happier.

That being said, I emailed the Man tonight with the Dog Deal. It includes 11 nonnegotiable terms under which I will consent to getting a dog. And yes, I plan to get it signed in blood. Then framed. And then placed somewhere where the Man and the Little Man (when he learns to read) will see it every. single. day. until that dog goes to the Happy Hunting Grounds. And here I thought we weren't going to become a family of five until January... the fourth, of course, being Oswald who is not going to like how things are progressing. Not at all.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mrs. Pollifax, How I Love Thee...

I spent a lovely day with Mrs. Pollifax. First, I took her to my OB appointment where she kept me company as I waited a ridiculously long time (in between paperwork) for the doctor and Big Man found out why it is that I'm so tired after spending all day with Little Man. Then, after Big Man went back to work and Little Man went on to bed, Mrs. Pollifax and I retired to the couch with a bowl of frozen yogurt and a very stale chocolate muffin. Who is Mrs. Pollifax, you ask? The very fact that that question is being asked saddens me while at the same time reminding me of my exalted purpose of book blogger. So, while the lightning flashes outside and the wind rages through the trees, and I wait for my first Oklahoma rain--that I think just arrived!!!!--let's make the introductions.

The Mrs. Pollifax series, written by Dorothy Gilman, stars Emily Pollifax, a New Brunswick grandmother with a brown belt in karate who starts her career as a spy for the CIA when she's in her sixties. As spy novels go, they're fairly fantastic: full of intrigue, suspense, and funny moments and occasionally really good quotes. I picked up one of the Pollifax books years ago--and loved it--and every once in a while another one will pop up on my radar, and I'll have an enjoyable few hours of whodunits and red herrings. This time, it was Mrs. Pollifax on the China Station, obviously based in China (I forgot to mention that the Pollifax books are frequently set in exotic, if occasionally made up, locales--always a plus for me). So, today I accompanied Mrs. Pollifax on a rescue mission into China where she has an unknown coagent and several suspicious traveling companions. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy my literary tour through post-Mao China, but I even came away with a new favourite quotation: "There are no happy endings...there are only happy people." And I think I'm going to hold onto that one for a while.

On that note, our bathrooms need to be cleaned, and I'm going to make this happen before the second wind brought on by this fabulous rainstorm blows on out. Find Mrs. Pollifax. You know you want to.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Old News...Mostly

This was supposed to be a picture post, with awesome shots of our new house, but that would require me to get up and get the camera and take said awesome pictures, and this couch is very (very) comfortable and the cat is curled up next to me, and, yeah, it's just not going to happen. But I have to start blogging again at some point, and that point has arrived! Now if I can only build this into my schedule and make it happen with a little more frequency...

So, here's the big news (that probably everybody knows already):

  • I'm pregnant again! This would've been much more exciting news if we hadn't already told everyone a couple months ago and if we were announcing the gender, which we aren't able to do yet, because we don't know, but will once I finally see a doctor, which leads me to the second announcement.
  • We're in Oklahoma! And all moved in. Well, mostly. There are still empty boxes covering the garage (I'm considering using them to make a maze for Littles to crawl through one day) and the crib isn't put together yet and we're still in need of some furniture to fill the gaping extra half of our living room that is currently holding only the litter box and internet router (so Os can browse the web while nature calls)...but we're here! Speaking of, if you know anyone trying desperately to get rid of a grand piano, we now have space for one. I'm not kidding.
  • And...yep. That's about it. I mean, there's other little stuff like I learned how to use an electric screw driver (I mean for real, not just to screw things into holes that were already there) and the cat got a microchip implanted in him (that was a fun day) and I've started baking everything outside on the patio (just kidding, but it's almost hot enough), and yeah, that's pretty much it.
On that note, I'm considering heading to the kitchen and making something that includes chocolate. Lots of it. This would be easier to achieve if I'd bought chocolate chips at the commissary, but I will prevail!

A Continuation of that Thought on Rereading (and Favourites)

There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book.
Marcel Proust

The Little Man has long held Sandra Boynton books in high esteem. Should he be picking the reading for the night, without a doubt, our friend Sandra is going to land herself on the list. Naturally, I encourage and enjoy this, finding Boynton's work to be a welcome break from the usual brain numbing baby fodder (How big is baby? Baby is SO big!). However, at this advanced age in my son's life, I feel that it's time to ensure he is well rounded and that includes the introduction of true classics, such as Where the Wild Things Are. Of course, my sole reason for reading to the Little Man about Max was literary education, not at all that he himself has spent the last two weeks rampaging through the house, destroying my attempts at peace and order, and threatening to eat me up (in general, making mischief of one kind and another). That being said, I really thought that there would be an instantaneous empathic connection between these two Wild Things. We'll see what my attempts at brainwashing do, but so far, the count is Sandra Boynton: 5, Maurice Sendak: 0.75.

Really, I have no one to blame but myself. My favourite books have been read and reread until I can tell you the slightest character details and most obscure facts that have absolutely no relevance to the story but lodged themselves in my mind somewhere between the 4th and 5th reading. Just this week, I reread two books that I have probably read a half dozen times, Beauty by Robin McKinley and The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope. Let me be honest and say that rereading old favourites right now is not coincidental. We just moved this month, and while we are settling in and meeting people and I'm falling in love with our new home already, there is something about disappearing into a familiar world and allowing your soul to rest from all the newness. You reemerge refreshed and ready to attempt life again. 

Even so, I'm not marking down Sendak as a lost cause. I'm just going to continue to make the Little Man read it with me every night until he either A) stops acting like Max or B) starts liking the story or C) uses a full sentence complete with at least one three syllable word to tell me to cease and desist. Until then, I leave you with this fun fact: I once correctly translated an elven passage from The Lord of the Rings completely by memory after only the second reading. And I thought I wasn't a nerd...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Incommunicado

I have been, well, incommunicado lately. But I posted on my book blog finally, and that has inspired me to post here. However, I'm now out of what brief moments of writing time I can afford, and since I did write about life at inkblotcoffee (even though it was in relation to reading), you are more than welcome to go there to look at it. The link is above. For the rest of you, who would rather just hang out on this page, here's a video for your viewing pleasure:


Fell Off the Map

It's just been busy. Not so busy that I haven't had time to read, but so busy that when I've had free time I've read so that I can focus on something other than the busyness (not that the busyness has been bad, just time consuming). So I've gone back and re-enjoyed some old favourites, like Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief, and Shannon Hale's Goose Girl and Robin McKinley's Spindle's End. And I've read a few newbie's that I've really loved like Chitra Divakaruni's One Amazing Thing and Nancy Leigh DeMoss's Choosing Gratitude. But I was out of town for a while, and the Little Man has been sick on and off, and the Big Man had a birthday, and we're getting ready to move, and well...you get the picture.

I think, though, that it has really been the power of the written word that has helped me maintain my sanity when my To Do list is miles long. There's something about being able to sit down for an hour during naptime or after the little guy is in bed and before my husband is home and just be somewhere else. I love my home and my life and my family, but sometimes it's nice to turn off for a little bit and rest my thoughts and my heart. I feel like the days are spinning by faster and faster, propelling us into boxes and onto the moving truck and off to a new life, but when I'm reading it's just the flicking of pages and the story of someone else, whose life is generally more chaotic than mine. So when I come back to reality, it's no big deal that I have twelve phone calls to make, five loads of laundry to wash, twenty-three emails to write, and one extremely dirty diaper to change. And I am happy about things like hugs and laughter and a clean kitchen floor. And more books on the shelf for when I need them.

A few closing notes.

  • Inquiring minds want to know: Why did Chitra Divakaruni drop the "Banerjee" in the middle? On that note, One Amazing Thing is one of my favourites of her books and is definitely worth a read. She does a beautiful job delving into the various characters and exploring the human psyche.
  • Choosing Gratitude has really challenged me to rethink my attitude, my expectations, and my reactions to what God gives me. It's a quick read with a thirty day Bible study at the end, and I highly recommend it.
  • If you are a fantasy junky, any Turner, Hale, or McKinley book is almost always going to be a good choice. My oldest sister accuses me of rereading books without discretion, but when you get to be such good friends with the characters, how can you help it? And yes, I do imagine alternate lives for myself where I can steal a queen, take over a kingdom, and talk to animals.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Jumping Back In

If you're looking for some excellent Christian reads, let me suggest my two latest faves. For your non-fiction perusal (drum roll, please): Nancy Leigh DeMoss's A Place of Quiet Rest! (Loud cheers and applause.) And for those of you who prefer a story line, we present (expectant pause): Amy Rachel Peterson's Perpetua: a Bride, a Martyr, a Passion! (And the crowd goes wild!)

Writing this blog was a lot easier before the cat decided to sit on the computer. Anyway, continuing on...

Both books gave me a lot to think about spiritually, a lot to pray about, really. DeMoss covers a biblical approach to seeking God and breaks down what our pursuit of Him could ultimately look like. Both challenging and encouraging, as at the end of the day I wanted to do more and pursue God further but wasn't kicking myself for not being a spiritual giant or not having enough time for a three hour devotional. DeMoss included several practical suggestions that I'm already implementing in my own quiet time that have been really helpful. If you're wanting more spiritually, I'd definitely suggest this book. Even if you don't necessarily find something "new", I think you'll be encouraged by DeMoss's heart for the Lord as well as the excerpts she included from other mature Christians.

As for Peterson, I found Perpetua to be historically and theologically fascinating. In regards to Christian fiction, this is one of the best reads that I've had in a very long time. Yes, there was a love story, but that wasn't the main focus. Rather, Peterson zeroes in on the love story between Christ and Perpetua and the beauty of the sacrifice we can return to our Lord. I wasn't quite sure how I'd feel reading about a martyr (the title kind of gives away the end of the story, haha), especially one as historically radical as Perpetua was, and the last few chapters (during which Peterson could actually draw on the real life Perpetua's writings) were the weakest literarily, but lots of meat, lots of food for thought. As I was reading, I really had to stop frequently and pray about my own attitude toward Christ, considering what it is that I would give up for Him. Any book that does that is worth the time, I think.

The cat has finally traded my lap in for a patch of sunshine, and I'm going to go put sheets back on the bed. I'm sorry for these long jumps between posts, but I've gotten a bit busier than usual lately. I'm sure things will slow down after the move, and my reading (and blogging) will pick back up when I've traded in flesh and blood society for ink and paper.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Salt Water

The cure for anything is salt water--sweat, tears, or the sea.
Isak Dinesen

Last week was an off week. Some weeks are just like that. But instead of letting it remain an off week, the Man, Littles, and I decided to pack our bags and head to the ocean for a night. And it was wonderful. Of course, Littles didn't sleep the entire night and I got food poisoning, but it was still just wonderful. The sound of the sea crashing into the shore, the smell of salt air, the very sense of sitting at the beginning of something that stretches out endlessly to lands far, far away...it was worth it.  

I hadn't been to the beach in almost two years, and I'd missed it. It wasn't even about the swimming (because I almost lost my toes to frostbite just by putting them in) or the sun bathing (because I was in a jacket the entire time) or the laziness of vacation that typically comes hand in hand with the beach (because being up all night with Littles wasn't precisely lazy). It was just good to cuci mata, if you will, to "wash my eyes" by being somewhere new and beautiful.

I worked the rest of my off week out by attempting to start running again (it's that time of year) and laughing so hard that I cried over some silliness that probably involved the Man. That's my preferred form of crying. And on that note, I think I'll leave you with this adorable photo of my two men and go to bed. Aren't they just perfect? And isn't the ocean dazzling as they walk towards it? And don't you just want to be there too? The correct answer is:

Yes.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Oh, Scotland Street...

I'm in the middle of a tomato soup and homemade bread extravaganza, and since the soup is simmering and the timer diligently ticking away to my left, I thought I'd take a seat on the counter and get off my feet for a bit. And what an opportune time to blog about the latest three books of the 44 Scotland Street series! So here I am in my pink flowered splatter-proof apron preparing to share with you the joy these last three books have given me. I was going to take a picture of me in the kitchen with my books and my awesome pink flowered apron, but today is evidently a creepy picture day, and as I don't want to scare off the very few people who read this blog--I'm giving up on that idea.

So, the last two weeks I've indulged myself with Love Over Scotland, The World According to Bertie, and The Unbearable Lightness of Scones, books three, four, and five of the 44 Scotland Street Series. Incredibly, I'm not yet bored reading about Domenica, Matthew, Angus, Elspeth Harmony, Big Lou, Cyril, and, of course, Bertie. I even cheered out loud at one point during the reading of The Unbearable Lightness of Scones (and I also got several comments on the awesomeness of that title--I wish I could pass those compliments on to Alexander McCall Smith). I know this may sound weird but I am becoming friends with these characters. I feel that I know them intimately. This is, perhaps, the best sign of a good novel. I would feel comfortable sharing a cup of tea with Domineca and Angus, and I'm sure that Cyril (the dog) would find my ankles infinitely tasty. I occasionally want to shake Irene--"occasionally" might be putting it mildly. And I'm holding my breath as to whether or not Bruce has actually reformed. Can I wait til the next book comes out  in June? And where did Pat go? I'm missing her!

Essentially, Alexander McCall Smith, thank you for new friends who now feel like old ones. And on that note, I think I'll go spend some time with friends who are flesh and blood instead of paper and ink. And this time I won't make the mistake of leaving this blog open for my oh-so-enterprising husband to add his own little notes at the bottom.

P.S. Now I want scones and tea... Scotland does that to you! msf

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Possibly Time

It is a grey day of rain and coffee and lamplight. A day when the daffodils by my side are the only splash of sunlight, and somehow that's alright and fitting. Today is one of those with a wistful feel, more suited to a goodbye than a hello, though not a sad goodbye, just one that has to be. So I find myself thinking about change, not deep thoughts, just the usual round of memories and projections:

This lamp can be left when we move. I need to go through that box and get rid of those papers. I should probably pack those sheets separately, perhaps with that pan. Will there be a porch for the green-glow table at which the Man and I have spent so many evenings sharing coffee and conversation?

There is the smell of clean laundry and fresh flowers in the living room, the scent of comfort mixed with anticipation, and the cat is curled up on the couch, not realizing that his time here is running out (but what does it matter to him? the couch will come with us and the throw pillows and the blue hoodie he loves to cover in grey fur).

My world has been caught in slow motion, one day blurring into the other. I wake up, and the sky outside is still yesterday's sky. It's an oddly surreal sense of waiting. For what? March expires and in comes April with perhaps spring, but more likely a continuation of the same cyclical thinking that's getting me nowhere, and I have the urge to make something, anything, happen, even if it's just to get out of here for a day or cut off my hair in a desperate attempt to seize control of a world that is not mine to manipulate.

It's a conscious choice to surrender to truth, to take captive each thought, to know that if nothing else is happening (in my sense of the word) at the very least His mercies are new every morning (that is some measure of change) and that this squealchingly slow time is, as always, held in the palm of His hand. If He makes the sand move slowly through the hour glass, who am I to complain?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Addendum (with Sci Fi references)

A few months ago I wrote about a Francine Rivers' book entitled Her Mother's Hope. Let's be honest, most of my post consisted of me snidely laughing at books that have actually been published and paid for while my work is, mostly, unpublished and unbought (and occasionally, unwritten). Anyway, as mentioned previously,  Her Mother's Hope ended on a cliff hanger (we were all impressed and surprised), and I was invested sufficiently in the characters (or was it the story line?) to want to find out what happened...even if I spent a significant part of the novel groaning in laughter over the writing. Besides, my sister, whose opinion I respect, told me that I might have judged too harshly as she had read both books and found a lot to be commended.  So, my dilemma: I didn't want to buy Her Daughter's Dream because I didn't want to spend money and precious bookshelf space on it, but they didn't have it available at my library. And then I remembered: online reading! My new best friend!

I spent today and, admittedly, some of yesterday reading Her Daughter's Dream instead of doing housework during nap time. And I have to say, though the writing itself still had its cheese-tastic moments (which was not helped by the fact that there were no apostrophes in my online edition), I was really impressed by Rivers' depth and how she dealt with the hard-hitting issues of rape, miscarriage, pre-marital sex, and generational sin. Sure, the writing is not going to land Rivers' on the Christian classics list, but the faith statement she provides is worth a nod of approval, possibly accompanied by a smattering of applause. She gave me a lot to think about and even some to pray over, and I'm grateful for that.

That being said, I'm really sad that she's not writing a third book that projects the fictitious family into the future once aliens have landed and we all drive space mobiles and there's no atmosphere. I mean, she already covered an entire century plus of history and how cool would that be? Where is our Christian sci fi, people?!?!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Stop on Scotland Street

It rained this morning, and I made scones. So even though technically I read 44 Scotland Street and Espresso Tales last week, it seemed an appropriate time to blog about them. I would have blogged earlier, since I did enjoy them quite a lot, but the time just wasn't there. But my dear friend who is staying the week with me is sitting on the couch doing grad work and my husband is not yet home from work, so here I am.

Much like today jogged my memory about the 44 Scotland Street series, so did Alexander McCall Smith remind me of my own brief time in Scotland (eloquent, eh?). I spent four days in Scotland in the spring of 2007, two days for Edinburgh and two days for Glasgow, from which was stolen half a day for Loch Lomond. That's how I traveled back then. It was exhilarating, exhausting, and, well, mostly a little ridiculous. I hit the high points and moved on. Not that there weren't quiet moments to slow down and think, but it was about Doing and not Being. So I'm really enjoying reading McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street series (I say "reading" as I'm planning to pick up the last of the series sometime next week).

Written originally as a serialized novel (one that can be printed a chapter per newspaper edition), the 44 Scotland Street series is pithy and full of flavour. Highly character driven, there's just the right amount of plot to make the reader wanting more at the end of each chapter, so its a quick read. I also just really enjoyed hearing McCall Smith's thoughts on art, relationships, modernity, parenting, and, yes, even globalization. Almost as much as I enjoyed imagining some of the more annoying male characters in kilts. There's just something satisfying about that. But mostly, it was just nice to Be in Scotland, to drink its tea, walk its cobbled streets, and, this time, feel no need to share in its haggis.

Marian made the mistake of leaving her blog up....so, i proofed this for her, and now, I am posting this for her.  And she is glaring at me with a knife in her hand and she looks very very angry.  But, I still LOVE her :)

Reflections

You know those couples who have been together so long that they wear the same clothes and tell the same jokes? They've even started to resemble each other--just because they've been together for so long, spent so much time together, and shared so many life experiences. I was thinking about that today, not in relation to me and the Man because we're not quite there yet (although we have caught ourselves wearing almost the same outfit, and no, it wasn't funny), but in relation to me and God. I keep hoping that the more time I spend with Jesus, getting to know who He is and what He's like, the more he'll "rub off" on me. I want to start caring about the things He cares about and seeing things the way He sees them. When I try to be like Him on my own, though, all I end up doing is failing miserably--either messing up more pitifully than before or wallowing in pride! My hope is that as I spend more consistent time in His presence, the Holy Spirit will begin to naturally transform me into a better mirror which can reflect the glory of Christ.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Blips (on the Radar)

I took a quick trip to the commissary today and managed to get my ID checked four times. I can't decide which excites me more: how intensely thorough they're getting with security on base or the fact that Littles and I might possibly look like terrorists.

I've come to the conclusion that the thick coating of dust on the top of an unopened cereal box spells doubt for the Man's cereal picking abilities. He obviously over estimated our desire to eat healthy cereal.

Sometimes when out running errands I get really thirsty and the only water source available is Alex's sippy cup... ... ...I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

I really wish I could hire someone to write down the thoughts I have while driving. I'm sure when I actually read them over they wouldn't be half as clever as I thought they were, but it's annoying to have them, then forget them (because driving in DC takes forever), then spend the rest of day trying to remember what occurred during that brief moment of inspiration.

In theory, I really like the idea of paper bagging my groceries. In reality, I really hate how many trips it takes me to get them in the house from the car. In general, I think this juxtaposition between theory and reality carries over to most things in life.

Anyway, on to other, potentially more productive things. 

Just Because

It's My New Favourite