Archive for December, 2014

  • Annual Book Report

    Date: 2014.12.31 | Category: Books | Response: 0

    2014 was a productive year for reading. I have a healthy  (or maybe obsessively unhealthy) appetite for reading and audiobooks and, according to my Shelfari account, I read 88 books in 2014. I think that may be a new record. I have a feeling that number will dramatically decrease next year after the twins come, but I’ve got to enjoy it while I can, right? Too many books to review, so I’m going to pull some of my stand outs and highlight them here.

    YA Book Trilogy That I Thought Would Be Cheesy But Actually Turned Out to Be Kind of Creepy and Good



    The Immortal Rules
    The Eternity Cure
    The Forever Song

    by Julie Kagawa

    I think with the content of these books, they definitely lean toward more adult than young adult. But these books are what vampires should be. They are creepy, insane, cut throat and blood thirsty, while still managing to find their human side (at least some of them anyway). The setting was well done, and while the story sometimes lagged (especially at the beginning of the third one), all three books were well done and drew to a satisfying conclusion.

    Book That Made Me Nostalgic for My Own Marriage

    Landline by Rainbow Rowell

    Have you been in a relationship for a long time? Please read this book. Yes, it starts sad and the premise is kind of weird and a downer, but it made me remember the warmth of beginning a relationship and the joy of building it through the years. One of my favorite reads in 2014.

    Trilogy That Reminded Me of Lost in a Good Way

    The Southern Reach Trilogy: Annihilation, Authority and Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer

    Liked Lost? Loved the creepy and mysterious aspects of it, but weren’t crazy about the show’s ending? Even if you liked the show’s ending, or haven’t seen the show, just read these. They are so mysterious and creepy and good.

    Favorite New Fantasy Sub-Genre Book (Psychics)

    The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

    Slow start, but great story about a group of people with psychic powers persecuted by the government and rounded up in to an alien controlled penal colony. Sounds weird and far-fetched. It is, but it’s great, complete with excellent world building.

    Page Turner That Made Me Scared of Social Media

    The Circle by David Eggers

    If you ever feel like social media is a bit too invasive and you sort of want to run and hide in an isolated cabin in the middle of the woods, this book might push you over the edge. It’s a little too prescient and spooky and will probably make you question everything you share and like online. Read it.

    Best Anthropologically Oriented Book

    Toss up between The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver and Euphoria by Lily King

    One is a tome with great insight into overzealous missionary mentality and stubbornness, the other a short fictionalized take on the life of Margaret Mead. Both are worth reading and both make me want to find more books in this genre. The Poisonwood Bible, in particular, really stuck with me.

    Book that I Closed and Said, “Wow.”

    Red Rising by Pierce Brown

    This book was sort of like Ender’s Game meets The Hunger Games. It is intense and violent, but the story is gripping (after about the first 1/4 of it anyway) and I found myself absolutely engrossed in every moment of it. I enjoyed it so much that I contacted the author via social media to tell him so, and he wrote back to me, which of course made me even more smitten with the series (if you can be smitten with a book about a brilliant, brokenhearted young man going undercover and staging an uprising against a controlling elite society) . The second book in the series, Golden Son, comes out next week and I am counting down the days.

    The Pulitzer Prize Winner

    The Known World by Edward P. Jones

    I admit, in general, I have not liked books that have won big awards. I’m not sure what that says about me, but I’m hesitant to pick them up. This was picked for my book club, and while it was heavy (the topic was southern slavery), it was beautiful and moving and incredibly well written. One that will stick with me.

    Favorite YA Read

    Paper Towns by John Green

    I read a lot of young adult literature, and John Green is certainly the rock star author of YA right now, especially after The Fault in Our Stars book and movie were mega hits. I love that book, but Paper Towns may be my favorite of his. I love mysteries, and this book has a great mystery surrounded by a hilarious and determined set of characters on a quest. Parts of this book  made me laugh until tears rolled down my face and the plot was paced well and kept me guessing until the end. They just finished filming the movie of this one, so take it from me, now’s the time to read it so you know what everyone’s talking about when it comes out in theatres next year.

    Best Non-Fiction Reading

    Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill

    If you’re like me, then you’ve probably just written Scientology off as some celebrity fad religion hyped up to draw attention and bring publicity (any publicity) into the life of Tom Cruise. This book will change your perspective on that. Jenna Miscavige is the niece of the man who runs the Scientology religion across the globe.  This book is just crazy. I picked it up expecting it to be crazy, but like, laugh at the crazy people kind of crazy, not be appalled by the way they treat people crazy. This book was utterly horrifying and fascinating – like a train wreck. If you’re curious about Scientology, this one is worth reading.

    ***

    I just realized when I was making this list that I was hooked on books that creeped me out this year. I’m not sure what that’s about, but take it from someone who is generally a scaredy cat that these are worth digging into all the same. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did! Happy reading!

  • A Plague Upon Us

    Date: 2014.12.31 | Category: Family, Health, Holidays, Home, Life, Mark, Me, Sarah, School | Response: 1

    I get really excited about doing stuff with the kids during the holidays. This year was particularly overwhelming though, with work and events planned every weekend for nearly three months in a row. It made it hard to take time out and do things especially for and with them. So I was very excited that Sarah’s school was having a Christmas program, complete with required shepherd costume made by her aunt MC and months of song practice.

    As the anticipated week approached though, something started to go very wrong. It started with my brother-in-law, and then my sister, and then my nephew: the stomach bug was rearing its very ugly head. Still though, about three days had passed since we had been around them and I held out hope… until Wednesday when Mark went down hard. We confined him to the bedroom and stayed away. But by Thursday afternoon, I started to feel really bad.

    Thursday night was miserable. I didn’t think having the stomach bug could get worse, but I had never had it with two one pound babies inside my body, laying on my stomach and sucking up all calories and nutrition I managed to conserve. Needless to say, there was no way I could make it to the Christmas program Friday morning, despite my weak effort to get up and put my shoes on. I was heartbroken. I helped Sarah get into costume, and we both cried as daddy pulled out of the driveway to take her to school. Mark was still feeling bad, so he had to drop her off and come back home, too.

    Thanks to Team Grandma though, Sarah had a loyal fan base in attendance. Both of her grandmothers were there to witness her star performance as one of many tiny shepherds singing Christmas songs and acting out scenes from the songs.

    Right before the performance was due to start, I remembered that the Cathedral where the performance was to be held, had a webcam. Thank goodness it was up and going! We got to watch Sarah on the front row, performing her little heart out in her shepherd (or according to her, “Mary shepherd”) costume from the quarantined safety of our home office. It was amazing. I was so proud of her and she enthusiastically waved to her grandmothers when she walked past them.

    And perhaps, best of all, the school’s development director and I know each other very well, and she snapped some beautiful pictures of my girl’s performance.

    So while neither Mark, nor I could be there in person, the webcast, the pictures and the grandma fan club certainly went a long way towards making the day special.

    I’m glad she had a great Friday, because on Saturday evening she and Mimi both had their short, but fierce, turn with the stomach bug. Ah well, at least we got that nastiness out of the way in time for Christmas to still be healthy and special.

  • Dear Santa

    Date: 2014.12.17 | Category: Baby, Family, Holidays, Home, Leela Fish, Life, Me, Norah, OMG YAY!, Sarah | Response: 0

    Before I had children, one of the things I got most excited about when I thought about having them in my life was celebrating the holidays with them. And for all the craziness that kids bring into our lives, that aspect does not disappoint.

    Suddenly we’re out on the streets on Halloween trick-or-treating again – watching them don their costumes and excitedly (or sometimes warily) approach each house to ask for candy. We get to put them in beautiful spring dresses for Easter and church, and then afterwards watch them slide under bushes and scamper up trees to reach hidden eggs.

    I feel like having children has totally brought back the magic of Christmas. I smiled with joy as Sarah begged me to “get out Jesus’ house (the nativity scene) and set it up.” I watched with exhausted delight as she pulled up her step stool to put the breakable ornaments high up on the tree so Norah couldn’t break them. And her enthusiasm at helping me bake has made the kitchen a mostly better place (we’ll just gloss over that flour disaster).

    But perhaps one of my favorite moments this year is having Sarah dictate her letter to Santa for me to write and send. She carefully picked out a pink piece of paper, brought it to me with a pen, and then told me exactly what to write. Here’s the result:

    I told her she could tell Santa five things she wanted. And despite the fact that she’s been a “good, fancy, princess girl,” it turns out filling Santa’s shoes is sometimes a tall order.

    Some things were easy. A crown? Easy and cheap. Check! The requested Alexa Barbie doll even happened to be on an Amazon lightening deal. Score! Cinderella was a little tricky, but it turns out that Little People makes a pretty convincing set, albeit without Cinderella actually holding the pony. Now that Elsa doll though – turns out it is the hit toy of the Christmas season.

    Thinking to get an early jump on my shopping this year, I decided to go ahead and order her off the internet about two weeks before Thanksgiving… except that she was sold out everywhere online… except Amazon who wanted $65 for her. Um, no. So we started our ground quest for Elsa. Mark and I visited several local big box stores, only to see that they were also sold out. I admit at this point my inner Grinch started to rear its ugly head. So this is why parents get mad at Christmas… I sort of get it now. But then I checked myself. Elsa dolls are not what Christmas is all about and I hated how materialistic my focus was becoming. Still though, it was the one toy she repeatedly asked for and I decided to just sit, wait and watch. Mark called his mom and she visited a Wal-Mart near her house and low and behold, there were exactly TWO singing Elsa dolls left – all for the great low price of $28. Done and done!

    Now about that last requested item: Star dancer shoes. Just what are star dancer shoes , you say? Well that is a very good question. I asked Sarah very pointed questions about these shoes. We looked at pictures of shoes online, but nothing was matching her description of “shoes that are pink with stars and sparkly that you can dance in.” I came to the conclusion that she had made these shoes up, which presented a small problem. I briefly considered Converse shoes, but didn’t want to drop the money on them if they weren’t the right thing (plus, let’s face it, she’ll outgrow them in six months). I finally found some that sort of matched her description at Target for $7. I guess we’ll soon find out how well honed Santa’s intuition is.

    And Norah? Well Norah just likes her creature comforts. I’m pretty sure she would think it was the best day of her life if we gave her an ice cream sandwich and a satin pillowcase. We did get the pillowcase and a beanbag so she, Sarah and Leela can stop fighting over the one we already have.

    They should know Leela always wins.

  • Life as a Parent

    Date: 2014.12.16 | Category: Baby, Family, Health, Home, Life, Mark, Me, Norah, Pregnancy, Sarah | Response: 1

    I’ve started to blog so many times over the past month, but then the chronic exhaustion sets in and I don’t think anyone wants to hear about the ridiculous morning sickness I went through or how tired I am all the time ( I don’t even want to think about it, after all). But, as one good friend told me over lunch today, blogging is one of the best ways to keep up with people. And she’s right! I miss writing and reading and sharing.

    I’ve always known that as a parent I’m constantly teetering on the edge of crazy, but sometimes I have to laugh at how much our kids have stomped their way so firmly into every aspect of our lives.

    Case in Point #1: Tonight was a particularly hard night. Both girls were exhausted. By 6:30 they had both dissolved into screaming baskets of tears and Mark and I kept giving each other those looks over their heads – you know the ones that say, “Oh my gosh I’m going INSANE GET ME OUT OF HERE.” We put them to bed at 7:15, then just looked at each other and shook our heads as the silence finally washed over us. And here I sit, not 10 minutes later pulling out prints of photos of them I’m giving as gifts and sharing them with Mark with a happy smile on my face. So yes, I may feel insane with their screams tonight, but I can still appreciate how adorable they can be less than 5 minutes after wanting to run out of the house screaming.

    Case in Point #2: My girls love Minnie Mouse and I  really wanted to get them Christmas Minnie’s for Christmas. Turns out that’s not something that’s easy to find. Disney likes to make things exclusive and even online I was having trouble finding what I wanted. A good friend and coworker was headed to Disney World, so I asked her to look for me. She found two of the most perfect Christmas Minnie’s, and when she handed them to me after she returned, I wanted to parade through the office and show everyone, even though I knew they would not get why I was so happy and excited. So I took them home and showed my husband who got nearly as happy about them as I was. That’s parenthood right there: a grown man getting excited about Christmas Minnie Mouse dolls.

    Case in Point #3: I don’t have much time off of work to spare these days with my numerous doctor appointments and my I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-going-to-do-about-time-off maternity leave coming up, but the few pitiful hours I’ve managed to scrape together have been happily traded in for field trips with Sarah. I’ve been with her to a farm out in the middle of nowhere to feed baby cows and goats and plant seeds and pick pumpkins. I’ve been to the local science center to watch an awful IMAX movie about Santa vs. the Snowman, and on Friday I will go to Sarah’s Christmas program where she will dress up as a shepherd (but we have to tell her she’s Mary, because otherwise she deems the costume unacceptable) and watch her sing her little heart out to “Away in a Manger” and I could not be more excited.

    I feel like little things like this come up all the time – these swings from absolute frustration to pure joy at the thought of our girls. These moments where we get so caught up thinking of their joy that it spreads infectiously into us.

    These twins are no exception to that. Morning sickness, exhaustion, impatience, fatigue: it all fades away (well mostly anyway) the moment I sit in front of the ultrasound screen and watch them shove each other around. Even now, exhausted at the end of the day, at the end of a long string of days, I’m smiling as I feel Baby A flutter in my ribs and Baby B shove on my bellybutton (though it helps that my husband just returned from a run to TCBY to help us eat away the stress of this evening).

    I am exhausted. I am worn out. And I may not always feel like sunshine, but man am I happy… especially when all the exhausted children happily and willingly go to bed early. :)