Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Biscotti in my Nightstand

After I shared my last post, a friend asked me when I find the time to read. Well…in all honesty, my sanity depends upon me finding the time to read.

This kid: so proud of himself.
He owned that PBJ.

Today, for instance, I spent the afternoon reading Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. I'd read a few pages, break up a fight between the boys. Read with my book in one hand, stack some blocks for the twins with the other. Read with my book propped on the table, shovel some cheerios in the general direction of one or more gaping mouths.

"Rock climbing" keeps us all on our toes.

I'm not excusing or encouraging my behavior. I'm just stating it like it is. Because some days I need a little break from being myself (and potentially the four sweet faces that terrorize me). And you know what? After I finished my book, I cooked a healthy dinner for my family, tag teamed with the Man to get the kids ready for bed, and had meaningful conversation with all four kids that included eye contact and snuggles. I think they will survive.

I love this terrifying tornado.

And I will too. Partially because instead of forcing myself to be my version of a "good mom" (and probably end up doing so grumpily), I let myself be me today. Sure, tomorrow I'm hoping I'll actually get laundry done and knock out some school work with Littles, but for today, everyone survived and at the end of the day, everyone knew they were loved. That'll do.

Dueting. I really hope that this will be more melodious in a few more years.

In the meantime, I've been thinking about those little things that we do to keep ourselves sane. For instance, I hid a slice of biscotti in my nightstand the other day. It's sealed in plastic, so it's safe from the ants, hopefully, but it's my own secret stash. Even if all the chocolate in the house fails me, I know that biscotti has my back. There's something comforting about its presence among the random pens and pill bottles and chapsticks and hair ties.

Bee does not discriminate based on lack of twin-liness.
But she will scream at you until you push her high chair up to the piano.

I also may or may not be hiding half a bag of chocolate kisses somewhere in the house. I'm just telling it like it is. With four kids, five and under, all gunning for me, it's good to have a significant stockpile of caffeine and/or sugar available at a moment's notice.

Picture blurry and my hand still in evidence
but proof that at some point there was a hairband on her head
…for all of the two seconds it took to take this photo.

And in case you think this is an over reaction, I will just say that the other morning, Bruiser was having eggs for breakfast and mid-bite he decided to spray overly masticated yellow slime all over the entire dining room, the dog (who was filching bacon bits), and me. Shudder.

Perhaps a more positive regrouping choice than escapism or over-caffeination.

Also, Bee took her first steps today, and if Bruiser decides to follow suit, I'm really going to need to get creative on the sanity-sustaining front.

He conquered the monkey bars.
Tiny, don't get any ideas.

So let me know if you have any other suggestions for ways to keep from losing my mind other than novel-reading escapism and squirreled away chocolate. I'm always looking for new ideas. Oh! Coffee! I also do that a lot. But it's hard to determine if that makes me more or less crazy. How many cups have I had today…?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Why Behind Reading

I've been thinking a lot lately about the idea that why we read may matter just as much as what we read.

There are so many reasons to pick up a book.

Maybe you want to look intellectual.

Maybe you want to escape for a while.

Maybe someone has you held at gunpoint and they're forcing you to. People are awful like that. Although, really, sometimes I wish that would happen to me. "I'm sorry, honey. You have no clean pants to wear today because yesterday, seriously, all day, babe, this masked man FORCED me to read my novel. He wouldn't even let me put it down to go to eat!"

Maybe you don't want to just look intellectual, but you want to actually be intellectual.

Maybe you're trying to set a good example for your kids.

Maybe your wifi isn't working, and your cable is on the fritz, and housework sounds like a really boring option.

Maybe you want to be armed with a deadlier weapon than your smart phone in case you get attacked by muggers. War and Peace, keep it on your person at all times. But do consider registering it with your local police department.

Alternatively, maybe you want to make sure you have something edible on hand in case you get stranded somewhere without food available. Again, your smart phone won't help you with that.

Maybe your reason for reading one book is not the same as the reason you have for reading another. And maybe the reason you start a book is not the reason you finish it.

Her reason for reading?
It makes her look cool while she hangs out on the stairs.
She likes to live on the edge.

So I've been asking myself why I read. And the answer is legion. Consequently, I thought I'd share with you a few of the books I've been reading lately, and the whys behind them.

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle: I'm delving into travel writing these days. Mostly because traveling  past driving distance when you have four kids is neither cheap nor stress free. So, while we've been exploring the mess out of our little corner of California, France, for instance, is a little out of our league. That's okay. I can read about the food and the culture and the people, and while it's not quite the same, it's close enough. Plus, I can have a great time doing so because Peter Mayle is a fantastic writer, funny and descriptive and informative all at the same time.

Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God by Timothy Keller: Tim Keller has been on my To Read list for quite some time, mostly because a handful of friends that I really respect keep posting Tim Keller quotes as Facebook statuses. Then, last week the kids and I decided to brave a Bible study for the first time since September (now that the twins have consolidated their nap), and lo and behold, they were studying a Tim Keller book. So now I'm reading it because I want to learn something and because I want the community. And also, possibly, because I want cooler Facebook statuses.

Harold's Fairy Tale by Crockett Johnson: Did you know there were more Harold and the Purple Crayon books? I didn't. I adore Harold. If I had to sell one of my children and replace them with another kid, I'd replace with Harold. But only if I had to. That's not a "why" though; that's a rabbit trail. Why? Because I like my kids to read books I actually enjoy reading out loud to them. And I want my kids to be exposed to books that foster their creativity. And Harold fits the bill.

The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner: Ditto the travel writing comment from above, but I've also been really interested in the study of happiness lately (I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin around the time we were moving). It was fun sifting through some very fascinating and different ideas about what happiness is and how it is achieved (and where it makes its home). I wrote down more than a few quotations and roped an unsuspecting Man into several book discussions that he lovingly tolerated. He makes me happy in that way. (You liked that, didn't you?)

The Blood of Olympians by Rick Riordan: First, I finally learned how to pronounce that last name (thanks, Blue Bloods!). Second, I admit this book was January's guilty pleasure. I don't allow myself to read novels too often because I get sucked in and don't resurface until the last page has been read. Somehow this is bad for my parenting and housework and marriage and, you know, other things that might actually matter. But I've diligently read almost every single book Rick Riordan's ever written, and when he comes out with his series on Norse mythology, I'm sure I will continue my downward spiral into oblivion. Yay for keeping in touch with my 13 year old self!

May B. by Caroline Starr Rose: True confession, I have no idea why I put this one on hold at the library (some book list, somewhere, I'm sure), but I loved it. It's always fascinating dipping into other forms of writing (May B. is written in blank verse). It gave me some ideas for stuff of my own and that's always a good thing. Also, the Little House books have made that time period so familiar (when we're talking about children's literature, especially) that it was great to see a different take on the Westward Expansion.

George and Martha by James Marshall: George and Martha's quirky friendship was an instant hit with our kids. I read them the entire collection of stories without a second thought. Why? Because Tiny's giggle is the best. And because anything other than Thomas is a joy to my soul.

A little corner of happiness.

Anyway, the point being (once again) that I love books. I love how they stretch and change us. Once I've read a book, it's part of who I am, which is probably why I'm picky about what I read. So if, at the end of the day, my over arching goal is to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself, then I should want to read books that deepen my heart, strengthen my soul, broaden my mind, build up my strength, and help me better understand and love my neighbor.

On the other hand, my neighbor may not be a Greek demigod--although you never know--but my neighbor's potential pre-teen daughter and I can now carry on in-depth conversations about our mutual obsession with anything written by Rick Riordan. Because we all know that fan-girling makes friends.

Monday, January 19, 2015

All Funned Out?

Some breaks are purposeful; some not so purposeful. Really, I should've planned to take off the entire season of Mersmas Etc (my new way of referring to the overwhelming mess of birthdays that start out of this year), but I didn't. We had birthday after birthday after birthday, and my sister here to visit, and then one of my dearest friends for a few days, but now I think we're settling back in to our every day routines and that means bombarding the blog with words, words, and more words. And a few pictures.

So, a few thoughts to get us rolling:

  • 2009: put on 50 lbs while pregnant with the Little Man. 2011: put on 43 lbs while pregnant with Tiny. 2013: put on 48 lbs while pregnant with the twins. 2015: planning an unconventional pregnancy with pie after visiting Coco's Bakery for dinner. I can't predict just how many pounds I'm going to put on before we move away from pie heaven, but I plan to enjoy every ounce of it. Say it with me: dark chocolate chip cheese pie. {All opinions are my own, but if Coco's wants to pay me for my endorsement in pie, I will not say no. I will say yes. Resoundingly.}
I blame Amanda for helping me put on more weight with Littles than I did with both twins.
Too many late night donut runs.
I also blame her and Bee for looking super cute in this picture when my bangs are (of course) in my eyes.

  • Christmas cards? Yeah, I like to make funny jokes every once in a while. We'll see if I manage to get them out before next Christmas. I'm sure the kids won't have changed at all at that point. 
Bee thinks she can read at one. That won't change by two.  See?

  • I've taken a gazillion pictures in the last month, and I'm still weeding through them trying to figure out which ones are keepers. I admit, there are a lot of photos I took on the beach that I had absolutely no idea what I was getting because it was so blindingly bright out there, so I just clicked away and hoped for the best. I ended up with more than a few shots of my legs and a pair of very sandy shoes because I forgot to turn my camera around (Bee likes to take selfies).
This was after all the leg pictures.
Those bulldozers are no longer allowed in the house.
Thankfully, the sand comes off the boys a little more easily…
or I would've left them in the garage too.

  • We started out 2015 by going walking down by the shore after a seaside breakfast of danish and coffee. I have to say, there are few better ways to begin a new year. Fresh air, exercise, good company, a view, and copious amounts of sugar and caffeine: aaaah.
Amanda is climbing in the center;
the Man and Littles are climbing up to join her from the left.
The twins, Tiny, and I stayed off the rocks and took pictures.

  • Blue Bloods. I may be obsessed. There's just something about Tom Selleck's mustache. Also, exposure to Donnie Wahlberg and his former life as a boy bander is teaching me so much about American pop culture that I really missed out on. My college roommate's New Kids on the Block pillow case now has a frame of reference in which to live.
Tom Selleck's mustache supported us through the goodbyes.

  • My boys know how to dish the compliments. Littles: "You make good lemonade, Mom." Tiny: "You buy good milk, Mom." I'm a slave in my kitchen.
Littles asked to go to the aquarium for his birthday.
I got this and one other picture before my phone battery died.

  • One of my ice cream scoops has gone missing. This has led me to engage in a lot of deep questioning about how the life I live somehow involves the need for two ice cream scoops. 
I'm blaming her for the lost ice cream scoop.
She looks suspicious to me.

  • Doggie naps. They are now a thing in our family. Question: are doggie naps longer or shorter than cat naps?
Lego covered tables. Also a thing.

  • I finally figured out the purpose for Thomas the Tank Engine. Evidently the whirring of the battery operated wheels has a hypnotic effect on teething babies. For the first time, Thomas the Tank Engine for the win.
I will run down all the batteries in the house if this will just keep working.
Teething is the worst.
And his squishy cheeks are the best.

  • I know I'm prone to hyperbole, but this may be one of the most beautiful places I've ever lived. This morning we drove down along the coast, watching for whales spouting white plumes against the bright blue sea, looking down at lacy sea foam underneath bridges that span bright green hills--and there I go waxing eloquent. Seriously, though, the Air Force won't mind if we stay here permanently, right? However, however, these west coast whales are very poorly trained. The boys just can't understand why they won't jump out of the ocean on command. Neither can I.
Amanda and Bee had too much fun playing in the waves.
Bruiser and I went for a walk together after I got tired of keeping him from eating
the half chewed crabs the seagulls had left for him.

  • Back to back birthdays use an obscene amount of butter and eggs.
This cake evidently blew Bruiser's mind.

Sharing is caring. Unless you're giving chocolate cake to a dog.
  • After having boy/girl twins, I no longer believe that gender roles are a societal construct. We have a set of play pots and spoons. When Bee plays with them, she stirs, pretends to eat, offers some food to you, and repeats. Bruiser: bashes everything in sight with them.
Photographic evidence.
Regardless, both boys AND girls love IndoMie. Naturally.

Anyway, that's all for tonight. But coming soon to a blog near you: what I'm reading and why. Because sometimes the why is much more important than the what. And continuing stories of the mishaps and mayhem of our family. Of course.