Posts Tagged ‘Books!’

{I know, leave it to me to push my summer post that’s been sitting in my drafts folder for a month, to the first week back to school when the rest of the world has firmly embraced the oncoming fall. What can I say! My timing’s less than impeccable.}

Now then! Today is the first day I really get to reap the benefits of having my afternoons to myself again and Internet? It is super quiet here. And now that I have this time where no one is asking me to wipe something or tie something etc. etc.,  I’m going to give you a quick recap of just what the heck we did all summer. Blogging was light, which was mostly done by design. Call me a liar or a sap, but I actually MISSED my kid all school year and I wanted to spend as much time soaking her up as I could, thinking I would have a giant first grader when fall came, which obviously is now not the case. So this, along with a little collaborative project with Bill that’s keeping us busy, is why I decided that blogging would take a backseat to life for a while. So here’s a quick summer highlights list, so I can finally rest easy knowing the goddamn Internet knows that we were actually productive little summerers and not just sitting at the beach…

1. The beach. Oh wait. We totally sat on the beach. Well, I guess we didn’t sit so much as swim! splash! play catch! play shark! back float! catch minnows! and frogs! and turtles! We had a standing Friday beach playdate with Rowan’s old class all summer and we tried to hit as many as possible, with other beach trips in between. There were maybe two weeks all summer that these kids weren’t there which is up 85% from last year. Most of this is due to the portability and ease of their ages right now. It used to take longer to get ready for the beach than the time we actually spent there, making it hardly worth it . Plus I’d bring back hot, whiny, greasy, sand covered, little beings and we’d all be so exhausted from the effort. This year though, the kids were old enough to accept that sunscreen application is not worth fighting over and their little arms were stong enough to help me lug all the necessary parts and pieces we needed along. At first when I put Rowan in charge of her life jacket and towel you would have thought I’d tasked her with carrying an elephant that just swallowed a hippopotamus. Thankfully she begrudgingly accepted her terrible lot in life by mid-summer.

Beach bum!

The goggles go well with that awesome Keaton smile.

2. Swimming lessons: Keaton was a little rockstar in the water and had an awesome teacher who gave him confidence and then pushed him to get adventurous. He overcame his hatred of being on his back and getting his ears full of water and swam facedown with the aid of a noodle. He loved it and learned a lot, THE END. Rowan on the other hand struggled big time. Between the ages of 3.5 and 5 she took weekly lessons at a pool in our town and ended up taking the same level 6 times. She just wasn’t getting it and the class size was big so after a ton of parent recommendations- people who swore their kids went from not even wanting to put a toe in the pool to swimming in three lessons- we forked over the dough for this new {further away! and twice as expensive!} swim school.

The first lesson went OK, but the teacher, although great for the other kids in her class, just wasn’t connecting with Rowan and she went totally stiff in the water. He sort of assured us it would get better but by the third lesson Rowan hated going and by the 5th she had a complete meltdown. The instructor took a very “eh- too bad” approach and for the money we spent we were pretty disappointed. In hindsight I totally should have spoken up sooner but I thought, these guys have such a great reputation, they must know what they’re doing, right? After filling out a parent survey the director called me and was very understanding and apologetic and offered to give Rowan private lessons for the remainder of the session which went really great. After the original instructor saw what Rowan was capable of he apologized profusely for not realizing what she needed {which was basically a 5 minute tutorial on how to hold her breath} and we ended the session on a great note, with Rowan swimming and Keaton getting darn close.

3. Dance: The only daytime activity Rowan had all summer was a 10 day dance clinic in June and a 6 day dance clinic in August. Again, this was done by design so that we could spend our days together and it was lovely. Her studio also offered a ballet only clinic but it was during our vacation so Rowan couldn’t go. Someone had recommended a little ballet school right in our town and Rowan really wanted to try it so this August she did an evening 6 session clinic over three weeks which she really loved. So much so, that this fall in addition to her comp dance classes she’ll be taking ballet at this school on Mondays because holy hell why not go to another flipping dance class.

4. Soccer: For Keaton Sir.  It was a 4 day soccer clinic that was so awful we skipped the last day which sort of sucked because he had been really excited about it and it was the ONLY daytime activity I planned for him all summer. Unfortunately the 19-year-old girl who ran his group appeared to hate soccer only slightly less than she hated 3 year olds so it didn’t really pan out. Plus there was a kid in there who was less enamored with kicking the ball and more enamored with hitting and pushing any kid who came into the vicinity of his personal space. Keaton, who has never EVER had a hitting/biting/mean streak phase, wasn’t having it and despite my pleas for him to tell the coach, he just went ahead and pushed back. Only he was bigger so it looked like MY kid was the asshole. Which OK, kind of, but not really. It was just one of those things that was so stupid because this was supposed to be sweet and fun and look at that little shit, he just knocked mah baby down again! Anyway he had karate and swimming once a week in the evenings which he truly enjoyed so blah blah it all worked out in the end.

5. Ladybugs!: So the ladybugs we, uh, I mean, The Easter Bunny ordered finally arrived the last week of July. It was, well, pretty gross to watch the larvae crawl around, poop a lot, ball up in a creepy pod and then grow a bunch of legs. But! The kids thought it was pretty amazing so I suppose that’s what counts. I guess. The silver lining is that Rowan named all the bugs Doofenshmirtz, which I thought was pretty hilarious.

The ladybugs were actually less gross than the butterflies, if you can believe it.

6. Workbooks: I bought 1st-2nd grade phonics and math workbooks for Rowan to keep her brushed up and a preschool workbook for Keaton. Rowan was not thrilled with having homework but it was good practice for her when we could fit it in, which ended up being pretty sporadic by the end of the summer. Keaton loved his workbook. It mostly focused on tracing lines which was really good practice for his fine motor skills which, honestly, sort of suck. I know he’s only three and a half but boyfriend cannot draw a straight line to save his life. We’ll probably keep this up at home once the weather maroons us in the house.

Today colors, tomorrow Harvard applications. Or Brown. Or Columbia. Or MIT. I'm not super picky.

7. The soundtrack to this summer was Chicago. Yes, Internet. I am woefully aware that the subject matter of this show is highly inappropriate for the 6 and under set and to my credit I DO skip over the “Cell Block Tango”. Both kids completely fell in love with the music, and who am I {a not-so-closeted musical geek} to stop them?! Rowan’s favorite is “Funny Honey”, Keaton’s is “We Both Reached For The Gun” and they have a shared admiration for “Mister Cellophane”. Bill, who isn’t a big fan of this particular soundtrack, was less than pleased with having to listen to it over and over every time he set foot in my car. I’m fairly certain I’m going to wake up one morning to that CD having a terrible accident under the wheels of Bill’s car. Better put it in the iPod just in case.

8. Reading: When Rowan was four I made a habit out of reading bigger chapter books out loud to her like The Wizard of Oz and the Little House books but then the focus shifted to her actually doing the reading herself and those tales were abandoned for Biscuit, Frog and Toad and Gerald and Piggy, which is fine but this summer we were given the time to get wrapped up in a series together and while I initially was ready to start reading her Harry Potter I was distracted by The Oz series while reading a post by Mom 101. I LOVED The Wizard of Oz to itty bitty pieces when I was little but somehow never realized that there were 14 other books that followed it. I picked up the Land of Oz from our library and though it took a good five weeks, I read the whole thing to Rowan {and Keaton when he would sit still for it}. She loved listening as much as I enjoyed reading it and we are now a third of the way through Ozma of Oz. I wholeheartedly recommend not just these books but taking the time to wrap yourself and your kid up in a series together. So much fun.

Other than that our time was spent playing with friends, catching butterflies, painting, playing Wii Sports {Keaton} bossing around American Girl and Barbie dolls {Rowan} {OK fine and Me. WHAT?! Somebody has to do their hair, 6 year olds are terrible at it!} and just being together. If it wasn’t for the great start to this school year I’d be completely bummed out that our summer is over. A summer that we sorely needed after last year and one that I think, we completely took advantage of.

Gratuitous photo log of summer 2011…

Butterfly hunt.

Dance party.

Walks by the river.

Gigantic slides.

{Kiddie} Pool parties.

Goat kisses. Because of course there were goat kisses.

And what summer would be complete without an epic battle over the last piece of corn on the cob. As if it will ever be the last piece since we get a fresh stock every Thursday through our CSA, but you know, it's the principle of the matter or some shit.

In one corner of the table we have a newcomer who is young but feisty and thirsty for blood. I mean corn. I mean, oh whatever he doesn't even like corn that much he just wants to piss his dad off.

And in the other corner we have the esteemed corn eating champ, who clearly means business. It was a good match but in the end there could only be one winner and I think we all know that...

The damn kids always end up with all the good stuff in our house.

Aaaaaaand, that was our summer. Hope yours was awesome too.


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Oh! Hi there! I sort of just remembered I have a blogging reputation to maintain so imma gonna throw some words atcha. I don’t really know why I wrote that in a ghetto accent. I guess I feel a little awkward around the Internet since I haven’t been writing much lately. This sort of reminds me of every diary I had as a preteen and teenager where the first entry starts out all giddy, laying out how I was going to write my most secret eleven-year-old thoughts {which would have been…??} every day and my diary was going to be my new best friend and then every subsequent entry started with an apology, an excuse and a solemn promise to do better from that point on. {Yes. I apologized to a bunch of bound pieces of paper.} There would be maybe six of those entries in a years’ time and then I would get a new diary because I could no longer look at the old one without feeling guilty. Did this happen to everyone or just us guilt-ridden Catholic girls?


I’m going to fore-go the usual check-in format for 1.) Because this is ridiculously late and for 2.) only talking about the things I accomplished makes me look better and  for 3.) AM LAZY.


*I have been drinking a ton of water. I’ve also been peeing a lot. GO FIGURE.

*My Tamron lens and I have moved past that initial awkward stage where we have trouble striking up a conversation to being pretty comfortable in each others’ company. I mean, it hasn’t let me get to third base with it yet or anything, we’re taking it slow- but at least 90% of my pictures are coming out in focus.

* Finding a routine for downtime is sort of a lost cause at this point because soon there will be no downtime. In 2 short weeks Rowan and Keaton will be done with school and oh my god what the hell are we going to do all day, every day together? New goal: Maybe plot out summer goals so we don’t all kill one another by week two.

* I read a ton this last month- funny how you can do that when every spare second of your time isn’t dominated by the Almighty Sequin. I read Two Kisses for Maddy, a memoir by Minnesota native Matt Logelin, two Ann Rule true crime books that I can’t even remember the titles to right now~ rest assured there was a murdered wife/girlfriend and a determined detective/parent/journalist who just would not let go of the case until justice was served. Then I guilty pleasured it up by reading the sequel to Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, Linger which was surprisingly way better than the first book which I didn’t care for that much but I wanted to see where the second book went. I like being surprised even if it is by a teen-fic werewolf book. Speaking of teen-fic, Bill and I finished reading the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. I thought the first and last books were the weakest, which sort of sucks but still would highly recommend the series. Lastly, I finally read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, which is pretty embarrassing to admit for a lit/writing major but whatever, I guess my contemporary fiction is only up to date through the mid-eighties. For some reason I thought I wouldn’t like this book- I’ve had some trouble finding my footing with some of Atwood’s other titles in the past but the worry was unfounded as this was a very fast, smart read- my favorite kind. Next up is Little Bee by Chris Cleave. I feel like I struck a good balance in reading material this month and look forward to even more next month.

* I started running again! Exercising hobos unite! Although I’ve had a lazy week of ZERO runs, I have carved out a pretty good routine. I get up at 5:45am and run for roughly 40 minutes which puts me at about a 5k every day. I take it pretty slow because I don’t want things to end up like last year, but hopefully I’ll improve my times as I get in better shape.

And that’s pretty much it for May, and considering we spent almost every single week and weekend consumed by dance practice, recitals and competitions, I think it’s pretty OK. Now here’s some photographic evidence that we’re all still alive… well, I guess I don’t have any photos of Bill or Luna so I’ll keep you guessing if they’re still around…

Getting ready for her two shows for Sunday's recital. "This is the last time you're going to put a thousand and twenty bobby pins through my head for awhile, mom!" Neither of us will miss the getting ready portion of dance season.

A BIG THANK YOU {!!!!} to everyone who came out to support Rowan for her competitions and recitals. She loved knowing that she had a cheering section in the audience, especially when it included her cousins.

We are so proud of all her hard work this year.

Seeing as the temperatures are still sinking down to the 40's at night, we can't release the butterflies yet but are hoping to this weekend as some of them are getting a liiiittle too friendly {if you know what I mean, WINK WINK} and as much as we've enjoyed this experience I don't really want more baby butterflies at the moment. Fawksey and Monkey selflessly offered to take care of them for us but I don't think we'll take them up on that.

Keaton has been very preoccupied with his bubble mower, which is a nice distraction for him as he's firmly entered his terrible threes, which are rife with pouting, dramatics, and back-talk. His rough patches are usually pretty short lived so we're hoping for a VERY speedy turn around right now.

The blower...

And the popper. These two can play and entertain each other so great when they feel like it.

Which thankfully is more often than not.

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Ready, set, here we go for the March check in…

1. Learn the ins and outs of my new camera lens. I sort of gave up on this until I can get out an experiment in natural light. I was hoping by mid-March this would become a reality but, um, NO. Minnesota has not yet gotten the memo to get its temperatures out of the flipping 30’s. See also: Christy’s A Giant Baby in Cold Weather.

2. Take a DSLR workshop online or through comm ed. A great follow up class to the one I took in February was offered at the beginning of March and ran 5 weeks. I so wanted to sign up but I was just recovering from being sick and didn’t want to wear myself out so now I’ll have to wait for next fall when it’s offered again. I know what I need to do the most is just get out there and experiment so I’m going to try and make a habit of going on photography walks at least once a week this spring.

3. Run/walk/crawl a formal 5K.

4. Make a decision about faith and which church is right for us. I feel a little paralyzed by this right now. Like damned if I do, damned if I don’t. Rowan’s Sunday school classes will end mid-April and typically we sort of take a church vacation from Easter to Fall {how mature of us, I know} but life always seems to get in the way and I always feel so conflicted about being in a place that is supposed to be good but to me has completely skewed values. Ugh. In other words…I haven’t gotten very far on this goal at all but that doesn’t mean it isn’t on my mind.

5. Get a freaking haircut already you hippie. Are you ready for this? I don’t have a good before picture because for the last year I have either thrown my hair in a back pony or bun or used a metric ass ton of gel and scrunched it up so the dead ends couldn’t be detected. When I was sick and just wanted a back braid I brushed out my hair straight and what I saw was seriously appalling. The last 4-6 inches of my mop were completely dead- my stylist called it ‘cotton candy hair’ and oh, the ICK. I detailed here why I waited so long to get it cut but after seeing how awful it was I knew I couldn’t wait any longer. I sought out Julie, who I’ve known since, well, birth- as our parents were life-long friends and I thought she worked at a salon near-by. She thankfully took my nasty hair in, cutting off somewhere between 6-8 inches and made me promise, SWEAR, that I would never go that long without a haircut again. Thanks, Julie! {And if you’re in the Stillwater area Japa is a great salon. If they could fix my mess of a head, you know they’re good.}

I also learned that trying to take a picture of yourself without looking like a complete idiot is pretty much impossible.

6. Drink water. Camel back purchased. BOOYA. Thanks for the tip, Eva!

7. Go on a debt diet from Jan-March. It’s safe to say we failed this goal spectacularly but it was sacrificed for the good of the other goals, such as #5, #2, #11, #15, #17, #18, and #24. We are now making a modified goal for this to help us on our way with #26, and we’re pretty darn motivated so hopefully we’ll be successful.

8. Find a workable routine to manage my free time during naps and preschool. HA, I can probably kiss this goal goodbye for awhile. I have been spending every last second of spare time doing this:

and probably will continue this way until dance competition and recital season is over at the end of May. Awesome.

9. Say I love you more. I LOVE YOU, INTERNET! {Just practicing. This one’s going to be really hard for me.} I’m trucking along. Some weeks I do better than others. Bill still won’t accept when I just say “Number 9, baby!” so I’m going to have to kick it up a notch, I think.

10. Be a diaper-free household by June 30th. The big plan was to train Keaton over spring break but because of the bed switcheroo we never made it. Now that dance stuff is pretty much taking over our life for the next 6-8 weeks, I’ll probably hold off. It’s hard because my kids are such night-pee-ers. If I followed the advice of the exerts and waited until they woke up dry a couple of nights in a row neither of them would night train until they turn 13. So we improvised with the potty chair next to the bed with Rowan as a transitional phase and it worked wonders but I’m not so sure how well Mr. Sir will take to it, so for now I’m happy to procrastinate on this one.

11. Eat more raw food every day. Yeah. Not so much. I have BIG plans for this summer though, when my diet will consist solely of fresh berries and gin and tonics {SHUT IT, TOTALLY COUNTS}.

12. Complete a 7 day cleanse. DONE.

13. Say ‘thank you’ more often. I’m doing pretty OK with this. Not spectacular, not life changing, but pretty OK.

14. Knit something.

15. Decorate this damn place already. I’m TERRIBLE at colors and putting rooms together. Someone offer to help me and I promise I’ll number 13 your ass. We made some pretty good progress with this this month thanks to our tax return. The kids’ room looks great with the bunk beds and I cleaned out both kids’ drawers and their closets. I also did a toy purge so my little niece was the proud recipient of lots of stuff that Rowan and Keaton have grown out of and although it was sad to see some items go I’m so glad they’re staying in the family. And who knows? Maybe they’ll cycle back to us one day.

On top of that we got nicer window treatments for the living room and our bedroom so this place looks more like a home and less like a college apartment with those crappy plastic blinds. We made some minor adjustments with the arrangement of some items in our room and that paired with the hanging of the photos I took of our trip up North last fall, has made a world of difference in our bedroom. Then we got a nicer faucet for the bathroom and mounted a jewelery cabinet which filled the wall space nicely. Everything we did were just minor tweaks but they really made a huge difference. I can’t believe it took us this long to figure it out. Up next…painting? We’ll see. I don’t want to get too crazy.

16. Be a nuk-free household by February 28th. CHECK!

17. Read for the love of God. Find a better balance of fiction and non-fiction. I slowed WAY down on this one this month. Part of the problem is that I went from a slew of fast-read fiction and memoirs and started a self-helpish type book {The Happiness Project} that’s not quite as engaging, but mostly it’s because of the Invasion of Sequins. I have a feeling I won’t be reading much over the coming weeks which makes me sad but I know I’ll be excited to pick it back up when I have the time. I did finish Cutting For Stone, which was really, REALLY good. I don’t think it’s for everybody but I couldn’t get enough of the completely foreign descriptions of life in Ethiopia. Bill is still reading out loud to me and we are currently on the 4th Percy Jackson and the Olympians book which are PERFECT read-aloud books, so I’m not completely depraved.

18. Get core in shape for the spring running. So my big goal was to start February 1st, which I did and made it a whopping 6 days before I became too ill to do anything. So last Monday I started in again with the Shred at 6am, ready to get my body moving after such a long winter of The Sick and The Sedentary {which should SO be the name of a soap opera starring me and Susan Lucci} and then Bill got sick last weekend and I started to as well but thankfully I knew enough to quit the workout and spend my time slamming Zicam and Emergen-C. It seems to have worked so Istarted back in this morning and hope to make it more than two days this time.

19. Go to at least one B&B this year.

20. Go back to Tetagouche. Take kids.

21. Keep up a weekly to-do list. This one’s going strong. It’s amazing how such a little thing can be such a big help to streamline these crazy spring weeks.

22. Keep my reactions to disappointment in check. I’ve been waffling on this. I surprise myself with how well I’ve dealt with big disappointments, taking the What Can You Do? approach, and then Bill will have used the last of the butter without putting a new stick on the tray and 20 minutes into my temper tantrum {about absolutely nothing!} I realize that maybe my reaction is a biiiiit disproportionate. So, yeah. I’ll work on that.

23. Remember to model myself, the behavior I expect form my kids. In my defense, I was doing really well with this until all these stupid fucking sequins entered my life.

24. Purchase bed sets for the kids. CHECK!

25. Start free-writing again. On paper.

26. Make this the last full year in this house. We started to take some steps to get the heck out of here as early as this summer but as things worked out we now have to wait until next year which is probably for the best. One of our most viable options is to rent this place out and in order for us to do that without taking a hit on what we would qualify for on a new mortgage we will need a pretty cushy savings account. So the name of the game is to save, save, save, to reach our goal of moving out of The Stepford Townhomes by spring/summer 2012. Here’s hoping…

So that’s it for this month~ Pretty solid for such a busy time and being healthy again has played a huge role in this. Unfortunately I’m still technically in blog jail until I finish embellishing Rowan’s costumes but I’ll poke my head in here when I can, if nothing else, blogs are a good place to hide from Gem-Tac glue, which I’m totally getting high from. Happy Monday, Internet!


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Internet? I’m pretty sure I have the plague. Or a cold. But the plague sounds cooler and it really captures my imaginary suffering so much better than the word ‘cold’ which doesn’t make people feel bad for you in the slightest, especially when you come from a state that is bragging about today’s 30 below zero temperatures. Thankfully the kids are both feeling better and finally back at preschool and Kindergarten this morning. It was such a weirdly quiet week, spending most of our time playing games, reading books and watching movies. {And as a side note, I let them pick out the movies when THEY’RE sick but yesterday when *I* was the one in bad shape do you think Keaton let me pick out the movie? Ohhhhh noooo. Mater’s Tall Tales and Toy Story 3 for the 53rd time this week. JERK.}

Last Friday, which was infinitely more enjoyable, Bill and I had a much anticipated date night out. It was also the first time in 2 weeks we had consumed anything more than water, cranberry juice, rabbit food, chicken or turkey. While part of me wanted to go out and find the biggest, juiciest steak covered in a mushroom cream sauce, I had no desire to throw up that steak when my body rejected it. So we decided to try the hole in the wall sushi place close to our house. I had had sushi only one time before this and while I enjoyed it, it was at a dinner party and was prepared by a woman who moved to Japan to study the art of Japanese cooking and lifestyle for a stretch of years. It was made pretty clear that this was probably the best sushi I was ever going to get, thus scaring me from trying it anywhere else.

But how wrong I was. Untrained pallet or not, Murasaki was really good, as was the bottle of Saki Bill and I split. {And by split I mean he might have had a few sips before I slammed the rest.} We chose 4 different types of sushi to split, all of which was awesome and now I have to quit writing about this because my mouth is watering too much.

During dinner we kept going back and forth over which movie we were going to see. The plan had originally been to see Black Swan but it didn’t start until 9:45. Bill really wanted to see True Grit which conveniently started right after dinner. Naturally we decided to do both. After we made our decision I looked at Bill and said. “We’re THAT couple. The one that goes out for sushi and then can’t decide between two critically acclaimed films by neurotic directors so they see both. I sort of want to punch us in the face.”  After mutually deciding to hold off on the punching until after the movies we headed to the theater.

What did I think of them? GLAD YOU ASKED! I {we} really REALLY like True Grit. The Cohen brothers are more hit than miss for me {hit:O Brother, Where Art Thou?, No Country for Old Men,  miss: Fargo} but I always get a little nervous if I’ll like their movies. No need to worry though because this was by far my favorite. I won’t give any spoilers other than Jeff Bridges was absolutely awesome and so much fun to watch in this film and if he’s not nominated for Best Actor I am QUITTING the Oscars.

We had a 10 minute break in between and then we headed off to Black Swan which…holy Jesus. Bill was warned by a co-worker that we would pretty much be holding our breath the entire film but still, I was unprepared. I mean it’s about the freaking Ballet…not exactly high-octane viewing. What I didn’t realize was that it was less about the drama of the seedy underbelly of ballet and more about one ballerina’s terrifying descent into Batshit Crazydom. I really liked it though, and being completely unprepared for what I was about to see added to the experience I think.

While I’m reviewing things I might as well include the 2 books I recently finished {albeit way behind the rest of the world}. Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen was a pretty good story, although the execution left a little to be desired and I didn’t exactly buy the ending, but overall I enjoyed reading it. The movie comes out in April which I’m sort of excited for but I guess I’m just having a hard time reconciling Reese Witherspoon and goddamn Edward from Twilight as the main characters. Surprisingly though, my problem is less with Mr. Pattinson and more with Ms. Witherspoon who is nearly 15 years beyond the 21 year-old character of Marlena. I’m all for aging the character, which actually makes way more sense given Marlena’s talents which would presumably take YEARS to hone but is played off as just natural ability in the book. I guess I’d be more upset if they tried to make Reese out as a 21 year old which she is clearly not and WOW I sound way more invested in this than I actually am.

Book 2! I’ve been trying to make it through The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford since October which is about the relationship of a young Chinese boy and Japanese girl in America during World War II . I am more than a little obsessed with World War II, having taken a number of courses in college about the Holocaust and reading anything I can get my hands on, fiction or non, on the subject. For that reason alone I really wanted to like this book, and even more so because it focused on something I had little knowledge about- the Japanese-American prison camps our government set up to imprison thousands upon thousands of American citizens for no other reason than their Japanese ancestry.  But. The book sort of sucked. The way the author wrote the 12 year old main character was just not believable. And it was overly saccharine. And just not very good. Now someone please tell me that I’m a heartless asshole for not liking what I’m sure countless others did.

Other than nursing myself and 2 sick kids I’ve spent my time trying to figure out our new TV. About, oh, 2 years ago, the picture on our TV started randomly going blank. Sometimes just once a day, sometimes 5-10 times during the same program. The TV came with our townhome when we purchased it back in 2005, and was neither a super nice nor super cheap LCD 30-some inch flatscreen.  We called a repair place and they told us to not bother fixing it but I am stubborn and don’t like to spend my money on electronics/technology unless it happens to be at the Apple store so I resisted getting a new one. Only when you try to  put a show on for your small children so you can {FOR THE LOVE OF GOD} shower and right as you put the shampoo in your hair your children burst in on you, banging on the shower door all WOE IS ME!!!!! THE TEEEEVEEEE TURNED OFF AGAIN!!!!! and you’re faced with listening to them scream for the remainder of your shower or jumping out naked and soaking wet so you can get the picture back on for them kind of COMPLETELY SUCKS.

Then over the holidays our really ancient “stereo” {which is a term I use very loosely in describing this thing} finally died and Bill got a Best Buy gift card for Christmas so we went to replace it and do you know what else they have at Best Buy, Internet? That’s right! TVs.  So Bill slyly meandered over to the home theater section and started drooling asking questions. After sleeping on it one night, and with what I can only assume to be the encouragement and blessing of our old TV to be put out if its misery by turning off 17 times during a movie, we decided to go ahead and get a new one. We didn’t get a giant, fancy thing but it’s black and shiny and now I can maybe shower in peace and at the end of the day, that’s all one can really ask for.

And now? I’m getting ready to pick up Keaton from preschool which will be the first time out of my house in, count them, 1-2-3-4-FIVE days. Wow. What an exciting life I lead. You can just go ahead and cue the music from The Shining.

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OK, I definitely want my Book-It free personal pan pizza reward for finishing a parenting book in just over a week. I am notorious for starting parenting books and then getting distracted by something shiny two and a half minutes later. With most of them I read a synopsis or review, get the warm, exited feeling of “YES! This will solve ALL my problems! And probably your problems! And that one guy over there, too!” Then I reserve a copy at the library or go out and buy it and once it’s in my hands I read the comments on the jacket or on the back which all tell me that YES, you made the right decision, this book will change your life and probably even make your hair shinier. You know, because of it’s awsomeness.

Then I get a handful of pages in and just stop. Mostly because, see that novel over there? The one right on the nightstand? Doesn’t it look good? What if I just read the first chapter as a reward for making it through eight, no wait… seven pages of this book. Couldn’t hurt, right? And then I never pick it up again unless it’s to put it in a drawer so I don’t have to feel guilty every time I walk by it. {Please tell me this scenario sounds familiar to someone else.}

Anyway I decided it was time for a change and I knew I’d need motivation so I went ahead and bought Water For Elephants and Shiver and told myself I could not touch them until I’d finished Nurtureshock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman (which I checked out from our library) and The Out of Sync Child (which I purchased). I set the novels out of the way but in clear view and am happy to report that things are working out so far. I am 120 pages into The out of Sync Child and finished Nurtureshock last night.

What did I think? So glad you asked!

This was really less of a parenting book and more of a journalistic foray into the different types of new behavioral, psychological, physical and cognitive research behind kids. There are 10 different chapters that cover a variety of topics and areas of research. I have listed them here and if you’re feeling motivated, check out Ask Moxie who ran a series of Friday posts last summer where she gave a synopsis of the chapter and then the community discussed them. I referenced them after each chapter I read which I found to be a super helpful way to read the book. Ask Moxie has some of the most insightful, critical thinkers in her community and I almost always learn something new.

1. The Inverse Power of Praise

2. The Lost Hour

3. Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race

4. Why Kids Lie

5. The Search For Intelligent Life In Kindergarten

6. The Sibling Effect

7. The Science of Teen Rebellion

8. Can Self Control Be Taught?

9. Plays Well With Others

10. Why Hannah Talks And Alyssa Doesn’t

This book isn’t a guide for parents, but rather shows the science behind why some of the things we’re doing are working and some are not. I liked that there is really something for every age group and that I found the chapters on teenage rebellion {which we’re thankfully far off from} just as interesting as the ones about pre-K’s and Kindergartners, which we’re in the thick of right now.

I’m not going to go into all the chapters but one of the most intriguing chapters for me was The Sibling Effect. My kids spend a good 89% of their time together fighting and you know what the science behind that says? It’s actually a good thing. It means our kids are interacting, engaged and are invested in one another. They seek each other out. Yes, it’s a huge stress on parents but it’s been proven time and again that those siblings that fight now, will unfortunately keep fighting until the oldest leaves the house, but then they tended to have better relationships than those siblings that just ignore one another most of the time. As a parent some days I wish my kids would ignore each other but I also know that in between those fights? They’re actually having fun together. And that’s what we should be promoting. A great tip that I gleaned from this is that when the Rowan is doing her homework at the table and Keaton starts to provoke her, the best thing to do is give Keaton a page of “homework” {i.e. a coloring page or just a blank sheet of paper to scribble on} and pretty soon they were cheering on each others’ good work. They have their own space and are doing different activities but are engaged and invested in each other’s play and from there they progress. Brilliant.

It also said that having siblings makes no real difference in how well a child is socialized which I totally back 100%. I don’t know many onlies but I do know PLENTY of individuals with siblings that are no better off socially. And the line of thinking that you should have another child to give your current child a playmate? Is complete crap in my opinion. Have another child because you WANT another child. Trust me, there are easier ways to find a playmate for your kid than birthing one. And kids are smart, they know they can treat their sibling like crap and that that sibling will not be taken away. A friend on the other hand, won’t call for a second play-date when he or she is treated badly and THAT is how kids learn.

Some of the information in the book was old news to me, like how general praise such as “You’re smart” and “Good boy/girl” is not doing your kids any favors. Instead doling out specific praise on how hard they worked or why we liked how they used yellow and green in their picture gives them a better sense of what they’re doing right and that it’s the work you put in, not some innate smartness that really matters.

Conversely, some info was surprising, like did you know that kids who go through driver’s ed are not less likely to get into accidents or engage in dangerous driving practices than kids who don’t? Did you know kids that go through DARE or similar drug/cigarette/alcohol programs are no less likely to abuse those things? Wow. Why are we spending billions of dollars on programs that have no effect on our kids? This book didn’t have the answers but it did say that much of the fallacy of these programs is that they are assuming the child’s brain works the same as an adult brain. Ideas that sounds not only brilliant, but logically sound are failing all the time when put them to the test in a child’s brain.

To illistrate this I’ll leave you with one of the best examples from chapter Seven. When kids, teens and adults played a pirate game while attached to a fMRI scanner, treasure is awarded in increments of one coin, a small stack of coins or a jackpot pile of gold. When younger kids played, their brains lit up the same amount no matter how much gold they won. Yay! Rewards are awesome no matter what! When adults played, their brains lit up proportionally to what they won. A small reaction for one coin, medium for the short stack and large for the jackpot. Teenagers however, showed that a small or medium reward was actually a negative thing, the activity actually dropped below baseline for those rewards but when they received the big jackpot their activity was super high, meaning they feel highs and lows more intensely than do their younger or older counterparts.Fascinating stuff, no?

I know that as parents in theory we know our kids’ brains work differently, but it’s hard to remember when we give them a fun activity or a chore and somehow it’s turned into a giant power struggle. I get so frustrated when we don’t understand each other and honestly sometimes I wonder if I’m even speaking English! But it’s not just the lack of life experiences in kids, it’s in their actually chemistry. Resetting my expectations to a level that we can both successfully function on is my biggest take-way point from this book. My life is not forever changed and unfortunately my hair is not any shinier but the book did challenge me to really look at and deal with my kids in big ways {brains! they’re different and stuff!} and small ways {behavior, how to change MINE to motivate theirs}. And that’s a good thing. I highly recommend it to parents with kids at all stages.

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I know, you guys. I KNOW. After a few days of consecutively linking to my posts on facebook I want to punch my OWN face but it just has to be done. For the children. And my ego. So without further ado, I am embarking on another attempt at NaBloPoMo.

What do you say we start this month out right by slacking right off the bat with a bunch of pictures?! Normally I wait a few days until I’ve gotten good and tired of thinking of ALL THE words and they’re just SO MANY letters on my keyboard, but maybe if I start out shitty to lower your expectations, I’ll fool y’all when I write more than 5 sentences without inserting a picture to distract you from the completely bogus content of this blog. Work for you? EXCELLENT.

Halloween! (I’m awesome at surprise transitions, BTW…)

While my super exotic and sexy weekend mostly consisted of wiping Keaton’s nose, blowing my nose and alternating between the chapters of two parenting books {please contain your jealous rage} we did manage to give the kids a fun Halloween weekend.

You'll all be relieved to know that we finally took the kids to the pumpkin patch so no one was sued for Legal Emancipation citing inability to perform basic parental duties during festive holidays. WHEW.

Bill vs the Really Tall Pumpkin. He cut his hand carving it and we're now 79.4 percent convinced that he has pumpkin AIDS.

Keaton chose a pirate costume for Halloween. Well, technically we did, since he became too engrossed in a picture of a sexy nurse costume at Party City. We made an executive decision that the thigh highs would be too big (and skanky), so we went with his second choice.

Also? Mustaches on grown men are creepy, but on little boys they're just plain awesome.

Rowan went as Glinda but most people just assumed she was a princess. Maybe next time we'll stick her in a giant bubble to make the costume more obvious.

Keaton did great, shouting TRICKERTREAT at each door (sometimes before it was opened) and when they went to put the candy in his bag he was all BUT MY MOUTH IS RIGHT HERE: PLEASE DEPOSIT IT DIRECTLY IN. It took a few houses for him to accept that he couldn’t eat it RIGHT NOW. He made it a little further this year but I had to carry him for the last stretch of houses and then I broke off and took him back to the Mallinger’s when he decided that he couldn’t wait any longer for a lollipop.

The pirate and his spoils. He also looted sips of my Diet Coke when I wasn't looking, taking his costume choice a little too seriously.

Bill and the DCFI stuck with Ellie and Rowan, who were on a mission to get their hands on as much candy as they could, and stayed out for over an hour. When they finally came bounding through the door, fingers frozen and bags full, the looks on their faces reminded me what the whole point of this magical holiday really is…

The candy, duh.

I’ll be posting the rest of our pictures to facebook and flickr at some point. Hope everyone had a great Halloween!

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So here we are, at the part where the light fades early but the colors boom bright.

It’s also the time of year when the school nurse calls you {10 minutes after finally getting your toddler down for his nap} to inform you that your Kindergartner is running a temp of nearly 102 and could you maybe come pick her diseased behind up and away from the rest of the general population?

Poor Rowan was in rough shape when I came to get her Wednesday afternoon. The kid didn’t even fight being put down for a nap when we got home, even declining my offer to let her nap on the couch, preferring her own bed instead. I felt awful for her, but by the time she woke up two hours later she seemed practically recovered, though I kept her home Thursday to make sure. By morning her fever was downgraded to “low-grade” and she regained the energy to fight with her brother. WHAT A RELIEF. I thought they may never fight again! What would I do with my time if I didn’t have to peel them off of each other or ninja block tiny flying fists? Would I brush my teeth? Write a best-selling novel? Read a really horrible book?

Probably that last one. I got a couple of bookstore giftcards for my birthday and was so excited to use them. I researched, Internet! I combed bookclub sites, Goodreads, random blogs, facebook and copied down tons of potential titles to my Goodreads “to-read” page. Then when I went to the bookstore on Sunday, Goodreads wouldn’t let me access my account without the mobile app because someone illegally used our iTunes account a few weeks ago and we never went through the proper procedure to enable it again so I couldn’t gain access to get the app. So I had to work from memory, which was OK except that every book I remembered wasn’t in stock at the book store and I’m one of those GIVE IT TO ME NAO people, that doesn’t like to wait so I just started perusing the shelves.

And do you know what kind of book I ended up buying, Internet? If you’ve known me longer than 5 minutes you’ll NEVER GUESS. Unless I tell you that I bought it for my husband and then you will say “Christy, I didn’t think even you would sink so low as to buy a cookbook…for your husband…so he can cook you things.” But you would be wrong because I totally did, and he already made me the meatloaf and Internet it was covered with BACON so I know you’ll forgive me.

And don’t ye worry. I paid for it by also being conned by the intriguing cover of a staff recommended novel called “The Weight of Silence” and now I want to find this bookseller, this “~Colleen :)” and PUNCH HER IN THE FACE or teach her to read because I do not think she actually knows how if she gave this a good review.  Faking literacy so you can work in a book store is forgivable. Actually liking this book and recommending it to others is not. I did end up remembering  and being able to get two other books on my Goodreads list so hopefully they will be able to wash the very bad taste this stinker left in my mouth, brain and eyeballs.

And in the meantime? These pictures from our Sunday walk on the trails outta do the trick…

The weather the last few days has almost made up for the last 3 weeks of this cold, drizzly September.

And we humans aren't the only ones coming out to enjoy it...

The bees are everywhere, way to0 busy with the pollen/nectar business to pay attention to us gawking bi-peds.

I love this time of year. From the little guys that often get over-looked...

To the great big beauty of it all. Happy Fall.

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