Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving


 
There it is, the damaged tire from Thanksgiving Eve.  S is out right now looking to find a replacement.  As you can see the tread is pretty new, which makes the situation fairly curious.  We can't remember exactly when we bought the tires, but it wasn't more than 3 or 4 years ago, and certainly less than 25,000 miles.
 
After this week of eating I am excited to start the new workout program a friend selected.  Sunday we had a feast with my parents, we failed to remember to send home leftovers with them, so minor feasts Monday thru Wednesday, and then a grand feast at S's moms house with a full dozen relatives!  We've had the traditional turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie as well as the less traditional squash fries, brussell sprouts, and walnut/cranberry pie.  We've had pea and cheese salad, apple fluff, cherry pie, prune cheese ball, and multiple gravies.  We may not need to eat again until Christmas!
 
It really was great to see so many of our family members.  S and his siblings hardly ever gather in the same room, so it was fun to see them interact.  The cousins all got along famously - especially considering they only met this week.  VF was running around like a wild child wanting to play with everyone.  She had pillow fights in the TV room, dance party in the sitting room, and treasure hunting with GJ in the basement.  She learned that going bump, bump, bump, down the stairs is fun, and that squirrels like to eat peanuts.  She gave hugs to everyone, and was in such a winning humor all day that her uncle commented on how she "never cries."  All in all, it was certainly a reminder to be thankful for the important things in life.  I hope all of you had wonderful Thanksgivings, shared with a loved one, and ending with full bellies.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Eve


Last night the family loaded into the family car (ok station wagon) and headed out for Ottumwa to have Thanksgiving at GJ's house.  Pretty straightforward - right?  Should take about 2 hours, but with a bit of snowfall we were prepared for it to take a bit longer, but not nearly as long as it ended up taking!!  Between Williamsburg and Belle Plaine our car started making a funny noise.  At first we thought it could just be the snow covered road.  Ah, wishful thinking.  As the noise suddenly got worse, and as S reports, the car started pulling to the right we reluctantly pulled over.  Upon inspection the front right tire had blown.  S industrially pulls out the donut and starts changing the tire while I pulled out the insurance cards to try and contact our Emergency Roadside Assistance.  With a bit of help S got the jack under the car and we were thinking it would be smooth sailing to finish changing the tire, when there was a setback.  The aluminum lug nut wrench cracked when trying to remove an especially tight nut.  When S would apply pressure to it now it would simply spin because it would separate.  Good thing ERS was working on finding us a hero.  The rest of the story is pretty boring.  Sit for 1 hour while ERS calls around to find someone.  Sit for 45 minutes for the guy to get here.  Sit for 15 more minutes while he changes the tire.  I will say that for that especially tight nut he had to go back to his truck and get a wrench with about 2 to 3 feet of leverage to get the torque to move that nut!  Thanks BJ's towing!  Kevin we appreciate you!

Lessons learned?  Have a 4 way lug wrench in your car - don't count on the crappy factory one.  (Technically V learned this lesson years ago in car care awareness class, (Thanks Cassill Motors) and she told S to buy her one.  He didn't.)

Also you know those mile markers that have posts with reflectors between them?  Well those posts have the mile marker on them as well.  So if you are on the side of the road just find a post and you will know exactly where you are.  They are every 300 feet so you wont even have to walk very far.
 
I'll update with a picture of the tire later - Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Parenting Tip

If your kid has a boogie nose - don't give her a dandelion to blow on.  Especially if she always smells flowers.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Rose Petals

Today, for the first time, I have a bedroom floor showered with rose petals. 

What is the occasion? 

Well let me tell you.  It all started with an innocent trip to the garden.  This year has been an amazing year for my roses, one bush has been in bloom since spring!  When looking at them today VF noticed that there were buds, and picked one.  I showed her that when the green leaves were peeled back they revealed the red petals underneath.  Well, VF though that was pretty neat, so she kept the rosebud as a treasure and wouldn't give it to anyone.  Once we came inside she did a bit more investigating.  After all, if the green revealed red, perhaps the red would reveal a new color.  Petal by petal she peeled, until the bud disappeared.  And that is how I ended up with a bedroom floor covered in rose petals.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Super easy/healthy dessert




Berry Dessert

Berries
Yogurt
Cinnamon
Brown Sugar








Fill four custard cups with berries - I used blueberries.  Stir some yogurt with cinnamon and spoon on top of the berries.  Sprinkle some brown sugar on top and broil for 5 minutes.  Easy right?  And you probably have most the ingredients in your larder already.  Tasty, tasty tasty!

Monday, September 22, 2014

New Deck

We FINALLY have a fully operational deck!  It took up all summer, but better late than never. 


Let's see it started in April when we hired a friend to build it.  The first day of demolition was enough to make anyone nervous. 

Building took about 2 months since our friend was doing the building on weekends and free days.  After getting it all built, I waited for the stars to align to do some staining.  I needed a day that wasn't too hot or cold, a day that would be followed by dry days without rain forecast, and most difficult of all a day that I had back-up for watching the baby.   Tricky, huh.  Truth be told the deck still isn't completely stained, but I think the high side has been knocked off it. 

The last piece of the puzzle was getting some furniture for the deck, and this one took a while.  After paying for it all to be built we had limited resources set aside for shopping, which meant waiting for a clearance sale.  The umbrella and base came from Kohl's bought on clearance with a 30% off coupon.  After using it I wouldn't recommend it, but it will last a little while.  Then the furniture came from Sears - also on clearance.  I had been shopping craigslist looking for a lucky find for a couple weeks - and I think S just got tired of hearing about it.  We went shopping and after some minor dramas found what we wanted.  I put together the chairs, and he helped with the table and voila!

Now we have an excuse to invite everyone over for some grilling!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Smelly Diapers

As I mentioned in my previous post, Cloth Diapers, we have gone the old fashioned route of not using disposable diapers whenever possible.  For the most part this has been an easy and rewarding switch.  Until a couple months ago that is.  Lately there has been a smell.  More than that, a stench from the diapers.  It seemed that once soiled and thrown in her wet bag they conspired to knock out anyone who entered the  room.  And since they are the room that VF sleeps in, generally with the door closed this was a bit of a problem.

First let me tell you more about the smell.  I'm not exaggerating when I say a stench.  It was a super concentrated ammonia burning smell that was very distinct.  Trust me, if this happens to your diapers you will know it.  Now after a few washes with an extra rinse thrown in and no improvement I decided a bit of research was needed.  I read a few cloth diapering websites and found that there are two issues that can lead to smells.  The first is detergent build-up.  While this was a possibility since I don't use a "diaper detergent" it seemed unlikely as I wasn't having absorbancy issues.  The second issue was ammonia build-up.  Given the smell I felt confident that I had found my problem.  Now for a solution. . . what?  It depends on your water type?  sigh.  Sure enough the solution to the ammonia issue was not as straight forward as I had hoped.  Depending on how soft or hard your water, there are different solutions. 

Now here in CR we have a pretty hard water supply.  It is listed as hard with 7.0 grains per gallon being pretty typical.  So if you are in a similar circumstance, this may be the solution for you.  If not you'll need to conduct a few experiments I am afraid.  At any rate, I read good things about the Rockin' Green Hard Rock Diaper detergent so I bought a sample size and gave it a try.  It was enough for 4 washers, and it certainly helped.  Helped, but not completely.  The stench wasn't quite as eye watering, but it was still there just lurking, and waiting for another chance to strike.  I already had some Borax and Washing Soda so I tried these next.  I did a load with a mix of both powders - super hot water and let me tell you, this did the trick.  It worked so well that I complete forgot about the smell until I was getting ready to do the next load of laundry! Only as I carried the wetbag to the washer did I think - wait a second.  Why can I think clearly and why aren't I wanting to hurl? 

Going forward I think maybe every 2 or 3 loads I'll do the Borax/Washing Soda mix just to ensure future happy breathing.  But for now I am calling this problem solved!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Animal Cracker

Animal CrackerAnimal Cracker by Andi Brown
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Animal Cracker is the fictional story of a woman who works at a nonprofit animal organization and her office woes. The plot itself isn't terrible, but the poor execution and worse editing makes 2 stars a gift.

Basically the staff all hate their boss. He is certainly a loser and deserves it. Diane makes it her goal to take him out, and has some adventures along the way. All set up for fun and laughs, right?

Unfortunately, I don't think any of the readers thanked by the author were actually professional editors. Oh yes, and did I mention this book was self-published? At any rate, there are plot holes too big to ignore, and whole scenes that have no point. Why did I need to read about Diane going to the theater alone? To show she is independent? To show that she liked movies even before dating the movie snob?

Why was it necessary for her to be hung up on a guy that she stopped seeing months before the book took place. Especially when that guy didn't make a single appearance in the entire book.

Why would any member on the board still want a president after it is known that he embezzled large amounts of money? Why is the guy who is so obviously a cad treated like a god by all but our heroine Diane? Just because he is good looking? He isn't shown to be clever enough to run a con, or even manipulate people. So how does he get away with this again?

I don't know how old our author is - but she is NOT 24. If she was she would know that 24 year olds don't know what an information operator is - let alone what sort of information they can give. She would know that a 24 year old wouldn't try and board a plane as a man with a womans ID card. She would know that they don't use a racial stereotype at every given opportunity!! Especially if they are well educated!

Can someone please explain to me how Dag can be a cross between rag and nag? (pg 56)

Finally, she needs to re-check the book because the number of random paragraph breaks are too many to list.

Shadowman

ShadowmanShadowman by Aaron Dennis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Shadowman if the fictional story of a man on vacation who suddenly falls into the world of Voodoo/Hoodoo. He takes this news in stride and tries to succeed in this new role without a backward look at whatever life he has left behind. Fortunately he has a friend who is able to liquidate all of the assets he once had and mail them on down so he can live this new life without too much strain.

This book reads like a video game. You know how the shopping area of the game just has booths filled with stuff and since your character can't click on it to see what it is it just remains unimportant stuff? Well this book is the same. The setting is New Orleans, but the author fails to capture any of the spirit of this city. Perhaps if it were any other city this would be easy to overlook. The main characters actions are very fated, he just bounces around trying to figure things out, just like in a video game. The characters receive only the slightest fleshing out, they are dreadfully two dimensional and very predictable.

I would consider recommending this to a younger reader who really loves the genre a whole awful lot. Otherwise there isn't a lot to draw in a reader.

War of the Whales

War of the Whales: A True StoryWar of the Whales: A True Story by Joshua Horwitz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a non-fiction story about a mass beaching of whales, the man who found them, and the subsequent battle regarding the cause. It is well written without the authors personal feelings becoming the focal point which I very much appreciated.

The cover art is perfect. I loved it more after reading the book.

The story of what happened and the battle to make the offending party own up to it really is just the surface of what this book made me think about. It also opened the question of what exactly the responsibilities are of people entering the ocean to also care for the ocean. Because it is a largely unoccupied area it is easy to disregard the importance that each small part contributes. I also thought about the responsibility that we have to truly test the safety of new developments before opening them up to the environment because they do tend to have much more wide spread consequences then expected.

The book does jump around a bit, both regarding the people it is following and the time period being described, so it is for more serious readers. Otherwise it is something that I think most people would appreciate reading.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The First Bad Man

The First Bad ManThe First Bad Man by Miranda July
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The First Bad Man is a rather quick and easy read - as long as crazy doesn't slow you down. I received an advance reader's edition so I am not including the various errors in the book. (Such as the sentence "Suntan Lotion." tagged on the end of a paragraph on pg. 229.) I assume that they will be corrected in final copies.

As I mentioned this book is a bit on the crazy side. Much of it is the inner dialogue of the main character, Cheryl. Her grasp of reality at the beginning is tenuous at best. Her world seems to mostly be built on fantasy and as such her role in reality receives little attention. Through a series of events she is dragged into the real world which made me feel a bit like this was a coming of age story of a 40 year old.

The side characters while receiving minimal page time make their personalities well known. They are all people that readers will relate to as well. People who are mysterious, shallow, judgmental, fake, they are all faces we see daily. And while our protagonist grows throughout the book into a new person all of these side characters are not forgotten and they are true to the paths that they are on.

I think one of the main things that this book is trying to tell the reader is that to grow as a person you need to stay open to new options. Just because the current situations fills some of your needs doesn't mean you should stay there hoping for more. Move on. Let go of the things you can't have and find something new to persue. Better yet, find a way to rearrange the things you have in a way that will make you happy. If Cheryl's life wasn't invaded by a completely overbearing personality that shoved her out of her comfort zone, she would never have found her way to the good things she finds in her life.

I am undecided about how I feel about the Epilogue. Part of me feels it was written to show that all of Cheryls oddities are validated. Part of me wonders if it is just her dream (which I always think is a cop out and would be most disappointing.) But if it's real why is Clee there? But if it's a dream why is it not from Cheryls point of view? It is probably me making something simple complicated - but I can't help but wonder just what it is there for. Maybe that just means I need to read it again!

Final thoughts - I know just who I am passing this book to next, which means I do recommend it. However I would recommend for adult readers. Things are a bit . . . messed up for the teen reader.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

One for the Money

One for the Money (Stephanie Plum, #1)One for the Money by Janet Evanovich
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Remember the good old days when you would curl up with a Nancy Drew novel and catch some bad guys? Well, here is Nancy for adults. Light and fluffy writing that masks the serious events taking place, and a heroine that can't quite manage to take care of herself.

First off please remember this book was written ages ago,1994 to be exact. And yet I don't feel like that justifies how many little things in the book bothered me. Spandex shorts were mentioned multiple times, glow-in-the dark cherry red lipstick, a macho sexist love interest, a twitterpated heroine, the list goes on and on. I did however find sections humorous, and I think that if you are looking for a series that you can pick up and read on vacation this may be for you.

Plot line - lets see. Stephanie is out of work and in desperate need of cash. In an effort to avoid her families assistance she makes a desperate move to become a bounty hunter. Real world? Stephanie dies tragically three days later. Book world? Through a series of mis-steps a crime is unraveled and solved.

Stephanie, as I have mentioned, is not a Clarisse, or a Ziva David, or even a Kinsey Millhone. She is just an out of work lady with an opportunity for a big payday if she can find an ex-boyfriend. The author is at least honest about her qualifications as it would be annoying for her to be a karate expert one week in, she reacts just as any completely unqualified person would react. Hopefully in the rest of the series she loses the dumb damsel in distress bit, that would make future books more appealing.

Honestly, I found the whole cavalier attitude about an 8 year old molesting a 6 year old, and her whole attraction to the "bad boy" off putting. Maybe it's a sign of the times but I feel like readers come away with the idea that it's all ok since they are friends now. NOT OK.

Long story short, would I read other books in the series? Probably. Am I in a hurry to find them any time soon? No.

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A Lifetime to Die

A Lifetime to DieA Lifetime to Die by P.S. Meronek
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Let's start with the cover shall we? Do you see that shadowy profile of a clearly female character who is standing rather defiantly in front of a clock? Yea, she doesn't exist. And the title of the book is really lame. So from the front there isn't much appeal here.

The book itself starts off with an engaging story of a boy in Czechoslovakia who lives with his mother and has been wronged by his uncle. Throw in some Russians and it is a pretty good story if a bit old school. You'll also be able to guess at the type of book this will be while reading these first few chapters. Time is a rather relaxed concept, jumping from present to past rather loosely. You'll also see that this is the type of book where major plot points will be glossed over to allow a "reveal" moment later. Gimmicky, and rather transparent to the frequent reader, but whatever. The story then has an American dream segment, which is when I start to dislike the main character. He has an awfully elitist tone for a newly made man. Then there is a segment which revisits the past and a general typing up loose ends.

The further I progressed in the book the less I liked it. Not usually the way one wants a book to go frankly. By the end details start to unravel, plotlines that were thin to begin with become completely unbelievable, and the editing as far as quote marks and paragraph breaks usage also starts to suffer. After finishing the story all I was thinking was you have to be kidding me!

Let's talk characters a bit.

Aristotle "Telly" Mercury - The guy whose picture should have been on the cover of the book. He becomes less believable as the book goes on. By the end you can't help but feel like he should have developed a bit more. Instead you are left listening to the same "nice guy" routine. The prose alludes to his outlook changing - but you don't witness any of it in the book first hand. He's a guy who can't be troubled to get a drivers license but has the mettle to be a self made bajillionaire. Please.

Every other character starts off strong and then becomes a footnote. Angelina Torres - Enters the story as an obvious romantic interest. Has a bit of a spark to her, definitely likable. Unfortunately after the early part of their relationship she is relegated to the occasional side thought. Mrs. Schroeder - A spitfire of an old gal. After proving useful to Telly though again is discarded. The romances involve women of ever decreasing ages, with ever aging men, their personalities described less and less. Meanwhile even at almost 50 Telly has such a hot body his 25 year old daughter has to mention it. Gross.

In the end I think the story concept had merit, it just needed to be thought out a bit more in the second half.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Call of the Wild

The Call of the WildThe Call of the Wild by Jack London
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was our book club read for July 2014 - and we just had a great discussion on it last night.

Let me start by stating that this is actually the second time that I have read this book. And if I were left to my own devices I would not have read it again. Thanks goodness for book club! You see I didn't really like this book the first time I read it. I was reluctant to read it again, but my desire to enjoy the meeting prevailed. Now having read it once I knew going in the best piece of advice I can give London readers - don't rush it. I like to get a book stared and then rush headlong into the pages until I get to the end. Some call it binge reading. This is not a book that you can binge on and enjoy. It is too dense, much too dense. Even though it is 78 pages (in my copy) I took 4 days to read it. I could have read the words in less time but I could not have enjoyed the story.

Let's get to the story. It is essentially the tale of a domesticated dogs return to the wild. The return is in the ancestral sense, the dog himself was born into a human home. The story is told from the third point of view following the dogs experiences which I think was a smart move as hearing "squirrel!" every page or two gets old. White Fang is another book by London which tells the reverse story - so if you enjoyed Call of the Wild you may want to consider Fang further reading.

Call of the Wild is considered by many an allegory for mans struggles - but London has responded that any allegory was unintentional. It certainly makes me wonder how many great books by long dead authors are analyzed in college courses that were intended merely as entertainment and not the deep analysis of human nature that they have become. At any rate, it is hard to read the book without having the personalities of dogs and people recall to the reader past relationships. When the team is led by Hal, Charles and Mercedes I was reminded of past jobs I held and the leadership I was under.

As for female characters there is only the one Mercedes whose role is brief. I do not hold this against the book in any way as Alaska generally has a shortage of female characters. The female characters that one is likely to find in Alaska however I would expect to be much more hearty then the portrayed Mercedes. Mercedes is soft hearted toward the dogs, possessive of material belongings, childish when crossed, and generally a whine butt. London does however take a moment to examine the root of her shortcomings. "She was pretty and soft, and had been chivalrously treated all her days. But the present treatment by her husband and brother was anything save chivalrous. It was her custom to be helpless. They complained." Chivalry sounds like a good thing at the outset - and some complain that the days of chivalry are dead - but how much nicer it is to have people expect strength over weakness, and self-reliance over dependence. It's a self-fulfilling prophesy.

In a nutshell I definitely recommend it, I will read more by London, and I may even read this again. I think this would be a good read out loud book, so I will have to remember it for future car rides.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Thought

My 15 month daughter will take her clothing to the laundry chute and send them to the basement.  She will also pick up whatever clothing is on the bathroom floor and drop it down the chute as well.   Now how do I get my husband to do the same?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Our week

I haven't posted in a while - so here's just a bunch of random stuff that happened this week!  Last weekend VF was climbing on everything!  She would get up on the chairs and not be able to find her way down.  She didn't seem to mind being stranded too much though.
Our baby birds all flew away.  I didn't think we would be empty nesters quite so soon!  On Sunday all three were in the nest when we returned from church.  They were on top of each other and clearly quite crowded.  Sunday night only 1 bird was in the nest.  We looked around a bit but couldn't find them on the ground so we optomistically concluded that they had flown away.  The next morning I went out and the nest was empty.  When I looked closer the baby bird was sitting on a branch above the nest planning his day.  He was nice enough to stay there while I ran and grabbed my camera.
 
Tuesday we walked to the park for some library reading program fun.  It was really cold - lots of people were wearing their winter coats!  Because we had attended 5 times VF was given a free T-shirt!  It might be a bit big.
Oh well, it makes a great nightshirt for now.  We had fun playing in the park, more climbing, sliding, and walking adventures.  There was a radio van there on Wednesday playing music for some reason, but that was a lot of fun.  Kids love dancing! All week it has been chilly in the shade, more like football weather than splash pad weather.  It's nice to not pay for air conditioning though!

Wednesday  I really wanted something sweet so I made some Orange Pecan Tea Bread.  I had all the ingredients in my kitchen, and it baked up pretty quickly.  It was delicious!!  It disappeared in 24 hours - and while that may not be the healthiest habit - I think it was probably better than going to the store for a bag of candies.  

Thursday the two of us went to Meet me at the Market and walked with friends.   Newbo Market does a meet every Thursday for people to exercise together and then listen to music.  The musician on this particular night was singing Elvis.  We walked miles and miles - but not so many miles as some people.  Some people who go are serious about their fitness!   After the walk we got a sandwich to eat - a hummus sandwich called Infield which was delicious.  One of our friends got some ice cream for dessert.  He was nice enough to share with VF and I have to say it was pretty funny watching her face light up as she was excited to have more of this new treat.

Thursday and Friday we went to the library play groups.  Thursday we went to the library nearest us.  Friday we went to the library down town.  S played with her on Friday which was I am sure she enjoyed.  Afterward we all went to her pediatrician appointment.  She's doing fine - able to do all the things she should be able to do - and already able to do some of the things they look for at 18 months.  I think that she recognized the nurse who does the shots because everytime she came into the room she would get all serious - and watch her closely.  It didn't save her though because she received 3 more shots.  Oh the wailing! Only one more round of shots in November, and then she will be done until she is 5.

After her nap yesterday afternoon it was clear she wasn't feeling very well.  She was wobbly on her legs looking like bearing weight on them hurt her.  She had a tiny fever, and was fussy.  I gave her just a bit of children's tylenol and we cuddled in to watch Winnie the Pooh together.   So many fun lines!  "I'm a little black rain cloud of course."  "I have a rumbly in my tumbly."  This is the first time that she actually sat still and watched a movie with me, it was a good time.  She would laugh at parts that aren't really funny though which makes me wonder what she sees or hears or remembers that is different.

Today two more teeth broke through - the two next to the one she has.  It's funny to look at her gumline because you can see all the teeth lined up just waiting to come through.  Guess it's a good thing we got her a toothbrush!
Finally, I wanted to include a quick thank you to Aunt W. for the scrapbooking supplies.  It's slow going, but I finally got around to making another page in her scrapbook!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

IQ

Well, I've still got it! Whew, motherhood just makes you feel dumber, LOL IQ Test
IQ Test

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Day of Play

Today has been a day to play!  Thursdays our local library has a storytime for children under the age of 4 so the two of us decided to go check it out.  There were lots of kids, and the leader Tara was a lot of fun.  She knew lots of fun songs, and dances which VF very much enjoys.  After the singing and reading she pulls out a box of toys for all the kids to play together.  It's a great chance to interact with other little ones and VF likes to see all the different ways that they play with their toys.  The first order of business though was getting that toybox completely empty!


I think VF played with every toy they had before we left!  She especially enjoyed the dump truck, not sure why but she thought it was SO funny to watch it roll away from her.  

After the library we went to the park.  Earlier this week VF started to go down the slide all by herself and she wanted to show off for Dad.  

video

Not only does she go down the bump slide by herself, but she will go down the curly slide all on her own too, albeit on her belly.  If no other kids are at the park she will then try and climb up the slide.  It's a lot easier when she takes her shoes off.  

Catch a wave and you're sitting on top of the world!
Most of the time though she has to go around the corner and climb up the "rigging.'  I'm not sure what it's actually called, but it always made me think of the ropes sailors would climb on ships.  She can almost climb it all on her own, but I hold onto her feet just to make sure they stay on the rungs.


It all adds up to prove that she's not a little girl anymore. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Then Came Life

Then Came Life: A Memoir of Living with the Same Courage, Spirit, and Humor that Helped Me Survive Breast CancerThen Came Life: A Memoir of Living with the Same Courage, Spirit, and Humor that Helped Me Survive Breast Cancer by Geralyn Lucas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the "after" story of cancer.

Geralyn is a survivor, and that strong identity with cancer holds a lot of negative energy for her. This book is about her trying to live while surviving.

It's certainly an important and likely oft overlooked part of the healing process. Here you are, one of the lucky ones that "beats" cancer, and it's so easy to ask "Why me?" To wonder what sets you apart. To feel guilt that you aren't doing something amazing with this new found life that you have been granted. To feel like you owe something to all of the people who weren't as lucky. It's equally hard not to let the fears become overwhelming. Is it coming back? Did I "give" this to my daughter? Every little pain, bump, bruise becomes a new obsession. Geralyn explores some of these ideas, and shares the moments that gave her strength.

While reading the book I was continuously thinking to myself how much I disliked the author. She's shallow, self-centered and insecure. She's not the kind of person that I would want to be, or to hang out with, or even meet for coffee. Then I thought - wait a second. This isn't a character in a novel, this is a real person. A person who has the nerve to really put herself out there. She put all of these flaws in a book for me to read and she shows an awareness of the need to grow and evolve. Doesn't that deserve a little bit of credit?

I think my main issue with the author is that while she shows the need to love herself, respect her mother, grow closer to her family, etc. she doesn't really achieve any of that. But isn't that life? Don't we all look back at ourselves a day, month, year, or decade later and think "Geesh, I was a real jerk there, I wish I would have just done _____ instead." So I tried not to hold the authors selfish outlook against her. I really did try, and by the end it was kind of worth it. But I still don't want to meet her for coffee.

I have not personally had cancer, but I can see how this book could be helpful for people who have had cancer, or have made the journey through cancer with a loved one. For myself though, the book wasn't really for me, and I probably will not look for other books by this author.

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Pregnancy Thought

You may read the advice that you should use hair ties to make your current wardrobe last as long as possible.  And if you need to save up some money to buy maternity pants that's fine.  But here's a little secret: maternity pants are SUPER comfortable.  Trust me.  Spend some time looking for a style you like, and then just enjoy!  Besides the extra wear your current wardrobe will be getting on the thighs and butt isn't going to save you any money in the long run.  :-) 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

More Babies!

Baby Birds that is!  My awesome MIL bought us a tree when we got married and moved into our house.  It's a Lancelot Crabapple, and I just adore it.  Every year a bird would start a nest just nestled right in there, where it looks so cozy, but I don't think it had quite enough room.  We never saw any eggs, or baby birds, until this year that is.  This year I repeatedly saw a robin sitting in the nest, and I thought to myself, hmmm could the tree be big enough for eggs?  Sure enough it is!  We have four little babies in there now, and I can spy on them from our front window.  I can't wait for VF to be a bit older so she can sit on the window seat with a pair of binoculars and spy along with me.


Just One Thing

Just One ThingJust One Thing by Holly Jacobs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a story about losing and finding loved ones. It is written with two separate timelines, the past and present and the main two characters are sharing their pasts with each other. It's a rather charming set-up actually. The barkeep asks the patron to tell him just one thing on each of her visits. Slowly she comes out of the shell she has built around herself. It immediately sucks the reader in and starts off very strong.

I particularly enjoyed the fact that the characters and situations were completely realistic. The main couple were both older characters with family situations that were relate-able in one way or another. The obstacles they faced are being overcome by people everyday. The only magic in the book is love, forgiveness, and acceptance and that is a magic that we are capable of bringing into our own lives with a bit of effort. In the right hands this is a book that could deliver hope.

My only complaint is the ending, it was a bit of a let down. One of the ongoing stories is a tapestry that is being made. Although it is a bit of a quilt styled tapestry if you ask me. Anyways, each square is a significant picture and there is a story bringing meaning to it. The last square felt like a big tease. A chapter ends stating "I knew how the tapestry should be finished." And then the whole next chapter is building suspense on her completing it. Then . . . nothing. I messaged the author to ask if I had missed something and she told me what she sees as the last piece, but the book doesn't spell it out because the main point of the book is that it doesn't really matter. It doesn't matter because everything is more than just one thing. Which is one way to make a point I suppose. I get it, but I don't like it. I wanted more, or perhaps I wanted closure. Given the topics in the book denying closure is a pretty artistic move.

The author is really cool to have written me back though, and I will definitely keep an eye out for other books by her since I do like her writing style. I also like that she has the confidence to end the book with a piece missing, knowing that in general we readers like to have it spelled out for us.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Kansas City and Baseball

 We just spent the last weekend in Kansas City on a great vacation with GJ and Larkypoo.  We stayed at Harrah's and oh boy did we luck out when it came to rooms!  I don't know if it was because we traveled with a baby and they wanted us as far away as possible or if it was just luck but our room was a suite at the end of the hall.  It has 1.5 baths, 3 televisions, a huge tub with jets, and I'm pretty sure it was larger than one level of our house!  VF thought the view was great - although you can see S was a bit more nervous.  With a room like that I am surprised we came home at all!  It's the sort of room where S can be a professional poker player and I would just live in the hotel!  Is it such a crazy idea I mean S did come out ahead $30 at the end of the weekend.  :-)

 The shower as you can see was pretty nice.  I am loathe to consider just how many gallons I used since I had all 5 shower heads turned on. 

When it came time to clean VF up the lowest one on the wall there was the perfect height for her.  She thought it was a lot of fun until I had her turn her back on it to wash her hair.  Not so fun then I'm afraid.


Of course when I was showering my view was the same.  You can leave town - but the baby still will not allow you to shower alone.


The big event that drew us to KC in the first place was to see a Royals game.  We were worried that the game would be cancelled because there were rain clouds predicted.   We had our hopes high and headed to the ball park anyway.  You can see in the picture it was a bit windy - and VF was concerned about her hair. 
We originally had 2 pairs of tickets in two different sections - but S negotiated his way into 4 seats together - along the first baseline and in row U so very close to the front.  We watched about 3 innings of baseball, but the rain clouds caught up to us and the game delayed.  After waiting a while we decided to head back to the hotel, and I am glad we did.  Three hours later when we sat down for supper this game was still trying to beat the storm and reach a decision!

It was a great weekend - thanks so much for EVERYTHING GJ.  We can't wait to go again soon. 


The Lawman's Oklahoma Sweetheart

The Lawman's Oklahoma Sweetheart (Bridegroom Brothers, #3)The Lawman's Oklahoma Sweetheart by Allie Pleiter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Summary: This is a Christian Romance taking place in the wild west of Oklahoma. It is the story of how Clint Thornton, a gloomy Gus, and Katrine, a self-loathing baker, face the danger of confronting a local gang while falling in love.

I think my biggest complaint with the book is the way that the characters view themselves. They find obstacles, and go out of their way to look for reasons why they shouldn't be together, instead of just being happy. They are quick to be happy for other people who find love, but feel that they themselves are unworthy. Why? I mean really, why? Isn't it a big enough miracle to find that someone you are attracted to is equally attracted to you?

The faith based portions are well done, and I definitely want to credit the author with just enough religious input. It in no way drives the story, it is simply part of who the characters are, and how they view their world. It doesn't feel like the story is a thinly veiled agenda.

I took away a star for characterization, and a star for predictability. I wouldn't read it again but I will probably pass it on to others.

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Monday, June 30, 2014

With bells on

video

Sometimes it doesn't take much to keep her entertained.

Of course it could be that in a previous life she had a bell pull in her room.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Concert

Veda's first concert is . . . . Tom Pease at the Public Library!!!


We only got to see the second half.  When we arrived the auditorium was full so we were funneled into a room where it was playing on a screen.  Unfortunately due to the general noise level you couldn't really hear him singing - which made it just a video of a crazy guy jumping around.  Definitely not very satisfying.  So I went out in the hall and lo and behold some people were leaving the auditorium.  I asked the librarian there if I could go in and see if there were available seats.  She said "No, those people are just using the restroom."  So I went and asked a different librarian if I could go in, and she said I could try the doors on level 3 since no one was guarding those.  So I did, and there were a dozen empty seats - easy.  So we enjoyed the rest of the concert - Veda danced to the belly button song, and we had a good time.  Afterward she even met the star!


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Thought #2

Showering isn't that tough when you are at home with a kid . . . unless you wanted to shower alone.



We have a tooth!






It's just a very thin line of white, but it definitely broke through the gum line today!  It just took 14 months and 1 week!  

Thursday, June 12, 2014

From Three Feet off the Ground: etc. etc.

From Three Feet Off the Ground: The Year My Children Taught Me How to See the World . . . and MyselfFrom Three Feet Off the Ground: The Year My Children Taught Me How to See the World . . . and Myself by Christie Havey Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book is made up of many inspirational, Christian anecdotes. Is it for everyone - no. Which is why I can't give it the full five stars. Teenage me would have skipped large parts of the book. Men probably would have a hard time relating. HOWEVER if you are a man that feels like you are having a hard time relating to your wife now that you have a kid - you may want to give this a read to get in her head a bit.

For me, at this particular point in my life, this book was great. As a mom of a 1 year old I related to the author and appreciated her viewpoint. Her children sound darling, and anyone who spends a large amount of time with a child, truly appreciating them, cannot help but see that their viewpoint has a different focus than adults. They remind us that the truly wonderful things in life are simple. Joy, happiness, and love are all things that we insist on making complicated.

I will probably read this book again, and I would recommend it selectively.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Pinkslipped

PinkslippedPinkslipped by Romina Wilcox
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

So, I think all the other reviewers (at Goodreads) probably know the author or are being paid for a favorable opinion. One thing I enjoyed about this book is that it is definitely a story based on real life. You will be reminded of people you know by the characters in the book, and it chronicles the mundane things in life that most of us have experienced in one way or another. Unfortunately the book doesn't quite know who it wants to be yet.

Let's talk about characters for a moment. The main character is probably a typical American stereotype. Which means she is almost despicable. She has run up her credit card debt. She opts to not pay it. Then spends the rest of the book complaining about creditors calling. That's what happens when you owe people money! She looks at her house as a status symbol and can't imagine living in something smaller. When she can't find a job and claims to be working full time at finding one she turns down moving to another city where she is offered several jobs, even though her husband can pretty much work in any city in America. She complains about how all the jobs go to people with connections, but when one of her connections offers her a job she turns it down. I didn't empathize or pity this character at all. Do you? I mean she has an au pair while she is unemployed, and renews the contract while still unemployed. There's ignorance and then there is entitled, willful stupidity.

Meanwhile her long suffering husband just agrees with her and tries to steer clear of her sh*t storm. It's obvious that their past is made up of her constantly getting her way, and blatantly ignoring his guidance. The kids don't have the slightest impact on the story. Any other characters are mentioned for no more than a segment before being completely dropped.

Then suddenly at the end there is an attempt to make this Christian fiction by having God fix all her problems in a day because she finally learned to appreciate how lucky she is.

The writing style is rambling, the time line and facts don't all line up, it could use a bit more proofreading as there are many instances of words missing from sentences or wrong words use for example change instead of chance. In the end, I would not read this book again, I would not look for this author, and I would not recommend it.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Story Time at Jacolyn Park

Today we packed the stroller and headed down the road for story time at Jacolyn Park. There were so many people there to wave to - VF hardly knew where to start!


After everyone had found a place to sit, Mary Beth got the group focused.  The first book she read was called Rocket to the Moon by Lerryn Korda.  It's about a boy who wants to get to the moon. 


But as everyone knows to get to the moon you need a rocket.  So Mary Beth led the group in building a rocket that way everyone was able to go to the moon.  Zoom!


The second book of the day was called The Marvelous Toy by Tom Paxton.  You probably know this book best as a song!  Everyone got to help with the fun words Zip, Bop, and Whirrr!


After story time a lot of the kids stayed to make paper airplanes with the library staff - but we decided to try out the splash pad instead. 


What a fun day!  Can't wait until next time!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Parenting Thought #1

Just because the baby is smart enough 
to open the kitchen drawers
does not mean that she can close them 
without pinching her fingers.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Edge Series - Ilona Andrews

On the Edge  Bayou Moon  Fate's Edge Steel's Edge 

I am reviewing these as a series because sometimes the way a series progresses can make you really happy you decided to read it.  But if it goes wrong you can be contemplating the next book while regretting all the time spent to get there because halfway through the series it all went wrong.  So I will discuss the series as a whole.  As usual, if you are looking for a synopsis, look elsewhere.  These are just broad thoughts.

Book 1 - On the Edge 
This book was easily the best book in the series for me.  It was an urban fantasy modern fairy tale that hit on all the right notes.  The characters were well thought out, and each had their own conflicts, and at the end of the book I couldn't wait to hear about the next adventure. The realm that is created in this series is very fun, which makes the 4 book commitment worthwhile in my opinion.

Book 2 - Bayou Moon
This book started as a bit of a letdown because I really wanted to just keep following Rose and family from Book 1, and while the characters throughout the remainder of the series are somewhat related to each other, each book chooses its own hero.  Once over the initial disappointment I happily jumped right into the story of the Mar family.  There are a lot of people to keep track on in this book - so if that is something that sometimes messes with you, I would recommend keeping a cheat sheet.  

Book 3 - Fate's Edge
Ok, I originally just reviewed this as weak.  Really, weak.  And it was.  The ending was so contrived, and I didn't believe in their love story at all.  It was clear that they were made for each other, I just needed a bit more to believe that they really overcame their personal issues to accept the love from each other.  I really didn't like this book at all.  The whole staring at her butt, and over the top physical attraction was really off putting as well as her whole I'll kiss him and like it but then I'll slap him for overstepping attitude was very crass.  This is what perpetuates the idea that women don't mean no when they say it.

Book 4 - Steel's Edge
This book gave a strong enough ending for me to forgive Book 3 - ALTHOUGH  the one complaint I had was that the love story reminded me too much of 3 and therefore didn't feel original.  There was just too much "Could she/he really love me after seeing me because I don't think I am deserving."  The book more then makes up for it though with a solid plot line, and a great conclusion.  So many loose ends were tied up in ways that made me smile that in the end I very much enjoyed this book.

Would I recommend the series?  If you like creative fantasy and you have some time on your hands - definitely.  If this isn't your genre to begin with, these aren't books I would start with.  There are better options out there. 

Walking

video

Monday, June 2, 2014

Tri and Tri Again

Sunday June 1st was S's 4th Pigman Triathlon out at Palo Lake.  He had signed up to do it with 3  of his high school buddies.  You can see the beauty of that idea I am sure - a chance to reunite and pit their aging skills against one another.  Despite the challenge I would say that this year is arguably the least trained he has been. Ultimately that didn't matter though because one by one each of the other friends chickened out, leaving S the uncontested champion.

The race itself though is where the drama all happened.  The morning began with S standing on the shore of Palo Lake testing out the water.  After a toe dip and hearing that the water was a temperature of 73 degrees S made the decision to not wear his wetsuit.  This is the first time that S raced the Pigman without the wetsuit, and it may have cost him a few minutes time.  Without the buoyancy to help out S had a swim time of 16:03.

Next up was the bike ride.  S really felt comfortable on this stretch of the race.  He felt like things were going along at a fast pace, and about three quarters through the bike portion he lowered his head on a downhill coast and just enjoyed the road flying past.  When he brought his head up he was right on the back wheel of the female competitor directly ahead of him.  His tire kissed hers and down he went.  The other competitor continued unaffected.  S picked himself up, gathered his water bottles, rechained his bike and tried to compose himself for the rest of the race.

For the rest of the bike, and certainly through the run as he passed people and they saw his back he could hear the ewws following him.  His final bike time was 53:09 and run time of 22:54.  After the race he headed to the first aid tent where he felt he may have been the only customer of the day.   

Here's what he looks like 24 hours later!




Yea, I bet you said Eww too!  When you are a triathlete the one thing you can't do is quit - you gotta pick yourself up and just tri again!  Have you ever had a sporting event not quite go as planned?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Behind the Beautiful Forevers


Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo 
Wow.  Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a non-fiction by Katherine Boo.  And you need to read it.  Don't be intimidated that because it is non-fiction it will be difficult to wade through, it reads like a novel and has a good pace to it.  
It is essentially the story of a slum in Mumbai and a closer look at a few residents and their attempts to improve their lives.  And it reminded me of so many other stories that it really proved that people are essentially the same all over the world.  
Mostly I would say that the book shows the many different layers of society and its divisions in India.  There are religious divides, caste system levels, and financial classes.  People don't unify, instead they find reasons to separate, and this makes it much easier to take advantage of other people.  Even in the slums there are the families that are better off and therefore a source of envy to the people with less.  Who would think that a simple kitchen shelf would be a source of contention?
Is this so different than the people that you interact with daily?  We all have the labels that we assign to others, and sometimes ourselves.  Right vs Left, Religious vs Agnostic, Straight vs Gay (etc.), gym rats, couch potatoes, these are all labels that separate and they all bring to mind a specific type of person.  But how many of us truly fit into a single box? 
Don't even get me started on the corruption!  The haves are constantly taking advantage of the have nots.  The politicians lie, the police can be bought, and the system is full of people that are experts at beating the system.  It's not an India problem, this is a global problem.  The money that people donate to the needy rarely ends up in the intended hands.  It's enough to make me sick, is it any wonder that  so many people feel like charity is a waste of money?
Here's just a couple items that I was struck by, and I will be vague to try and avoid spoilers.  Isn't it interesting that even after the schism Abdul's family aided their neighbors?  How about the books that students were described to be studying?  Now I clearly love a good book - but aren't there more useful things for them to work on than memorizing a synopsis of a classic book?  And finally, just think if all of these people behaved honorably and truly put the money and effort, into the systems that they are intended for - how much would that impact be? 
This book was really wonderful, and I would definitely read it again - and recommend it to others.