Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I've been reading, not writing...

More reading has probably been done this summer than any other project. Kinda sad, huh? Especially since this weather has been nearly perfect. Before you start scolding me about how I should be getting outside more (guilty), let me assure you that most of that reading has happened after the kiddos are in bed. And a lot of that has actually been after 10pm, which is officially TOO LATE.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

By now you (if you are a reader, anyway) have probably read the first two books of this trilogy. And if you haven't, you probably should, especially if you like post-apocalyptic and/or young adult fiction. Most of us in the book club were nearly fanatical about the first book, including our member E who was hesitant to read it for fear it would be "gross". I assured her it wasn't, and after reading, she agreed.

Which is odd, since it's basically about kids killing each other for sport.

The formula would look something like this: Survivor + Lord of the Flies+ The Lottery+ The Truman Show. But despite the sum of it's parts, the story is told in such a way that lets you like the main character Katniss, instead of being repelled by the brutishness. Of course, you are SUPPOSED to be repelled - just enough to hate the government that is behind the whole insanity, but not enough to close the book.

And that is the hardest thing to do. I read this first book, and the second, Catching Fire, in about 1 1/2 sittings each. The third (and last!) book, Mockingjay, came out a few days ago, and I can't wait to dig into it. And can you please tell me WHAT the point of pre-ordering a book on Amazon is if I can't get it immediately?

Of course the movie will be coming out shortly. And I'll probably be in line for that, too. I love me a good series! (As a disclaimer, I should admit that Aaron was not so enthralled, and actually preferred the Twilight series for plot AND writing style. But since he's so good with the kids and doesn't hassle me about mowing the lawn, I'll keep him around.) (Just kidding, honey. I love you!)

Romancing Miss Bronte by Juliet Gael

A couple of things right away:
1) This author has the most romantic-sounding name. I kept thinking it was the name of a character.
2) I felt like a total sucker for picking this book off the library shelf. "Hey, are you a middle-aged woman who likes Jane Austen and a good romance? I wrote this book just for you!" In fact, I almost put it back just to show it who was REALLY in charge. But it turns out they profiled me perfectly.

And it wasn't that bad. It is a the fictionalized story of the three Bronte sisters, based on letters and biographies available. Charlotte becomes the main character, since she outlives the other two ladies and publishes the most popular book of the three, Jane Eyre.

The most interesting thing about the writing was how the author told the story from a 3rd person perspective, but let us see characters thoughts, and then turned to a narrator talking about future events. Odd, but smoothly done.

At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon

Yeah, this is one series that's been around for quite awhile. So long, in fact, that my mother-in-law not only read them all, but has already donated them to a library...or somewhere. Several of the book club ladies are fans, so when I found Book One in a used book store earlier this summer, I grabbed it. Our trip to visit Aaron's family out West provided some lovely unoccupied time to check it out.

And....nothing really happens. There are lots of little escapades and such concerning Father Tim and his flock, but the connecting link is his flowering romance with a neighbor lady. Oh, did I mention Father Tim is 60 years old? So this is definitely NOT falling into the "bodice ripper" offence to you 60 year olds out there. I don't want to know who are.

This book also spends a lot of time talking about food. I honestly never noticed this oddity of novels until I read a review of Twilight that pointed out how often Meyer describes Bella cooking dinner for her dad. WHY do we need to know what fictional characters have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Just weird.

I spent an entire day reading this leisurly little book. And I enjoyed it. Also, I find myself daydreaming about the next books that are waiting for me in the church library...

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

This was a recent book club read, and since it's been on the best seller lists and every other book club is reading it, this is also old news, probably.

But the news is: It's great! This was another that I read in about 2 sittings, even with Southern dialect and alternating points of view. It takes place in Jackson, Mississippi in the middle of the civil rights battles of the 1960s. We all enjoyed it.

Unfortunately, we all also had a hard time staying on topic. Instead we discussed:
- making your own vanilla extract with vanilla beans and vodka
- bear attacks in Yellowstone Park (including the fates of the bears, zoo vs. euthanasia, the possibility of the bears having a mental illness...which S. suggested would make them "bi-polar bears")
- homeschool vs tradition schooling
- uniforms, pros & cons
- popularity & how kids dress (CB declared that professors' kids were flat out of luck...)
- danger in unfamiliar locations - which was actually prompted by the book (and S's quote "There's a reason we don't carry our important papers. 'Cause they're important!")
- racial impact of Arizona's immigrant law (Wow, did this one cause dissension in the ranks!)

And another prompted by the book - and used as a distraction from the previous topic -
- beauty treatments. And breast enhancement/reduction surgeries.

Because no book club meeting is complete without some discussion about boobs.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Mr. Sensitive


Examples falling in this category:

Shirt is inside out.
Can't find other shoe.
Adam is in the same room.
Told to go sit on the toilet.
Underwear doesn't magically appear in the bathroom when needed.
Underwear is inside out.
Dad is ready to leave before you are. (No, he will NOT leave without you. Yes, you should have gone potty 5 minutes ago when I first told you!)
Leah is not playing Little People with you.
Have to finish dinner.
Have to finish a carrot before being done with dinner.
Have to finish the meat before having seconds of noodles.
Food dropping on the floor.
Mud on your legs.
A fly is in the van.

I'm really trying not to use the phrase I heard a lot growing up (not necessarily said to me!): "Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about!"

But it's hard, friends.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Also, he's kinda cute.

Another thunderstorm in the middle of the night. Another visit from Leah, wanting to sleep with us. This time, she agreed to sleep on the floor next to our bed. From now on, if a thunderstorm is predicted, I'll be prepared.

Last night Ben also had one of his few bed-wetting episodes, requiring a visit from Mommy to help change pj's and put a towel over the wet spot on his bed.

For the record, our/my evening looked like this:

11pm - to bed
2:30 - up to help Ben
4:30 - up to get Leah settled on the floor
7am - Adam up (and this is the child who has been sleeping until 8am lately)

Thankfully, Daddy got up with Adam and the rest of the kids, so I got an extra hour of uninterrupted sleep.

And I have friends with preemie newborns, kids with feeding tubes, and MULTIPLE children who wake up from storms. All in all, I count myself lucky.

The other night for dinner I thought, "Huh! I have several items in the fridge that might work together well in a salad!" Leftover grilled chicken, lots of salad greens, Mandarin oranges... it sounded promising.

And it was, until I decided to add to the mix the chow mien noodles (which were moved into this house, I'm fairly certain, making them at least 2 years old). And then shred some Parmesan cheese. And use Cesar dressing.

And that, my friends, is at least two moldy flavors too many.


If you are a fan of Modern-Day Jane on Facebook, you got hints of this next bit yesterday. If not, what are you waiting for?! You are, like, TOTALLY missing out.

As I'm sure I've discussed before, Leah and Ben were not only remarkably easy babies, but they were also remarkably SIMILAR babies. And then we had Adam. He seems bent on breaking my every expectation of babyhood.

When Leah was born, I bought a tube of diaper rash cream. Just to be prepared.

I used the same tube for Ben. There was still about half left when Adam came along! And now we've been through about 3 more. The kid seems to be constantly on the verge of a mild rash, and it occasionally flares up. (Doesn't seem to be allergy related, since he got even while exclusively nursing.)

At the most severe, we decided to stop the zinc oxide based cream (which wasn't helping anyway) and instead try something petroleum based. For the last several months, Vaseline has been our diaper-changing companion. It seems to help, and bonus! makes poo come off his bum much easier.

If only it came out of clothes that easily. Yesterday we found Adam in the Vaseline container, with the stuff up to his elbows. And on the carpet. But mostly, on the front and diaper area of his outfit, as if he was trying to put it on himself. Aaron was the last one to change him, and swears he put the cap on the container. If that's so, our baby may be an evil genius.

He's also figured out that pressing buttons on the CD player will get a magnificent reaction from his sister and that ketchup makes almost everything taste better.

In his favor? He is definitely the best of the three at sleeping in new locations. Yesterday he even napped at a friend's house for a while. I never would have attempted that with either of those other two kids.

So I guess we'll keep him around.

Monday, August 9, 2010

No mean ladies on bikes, either.

We drove straight through Tornado Alley TWICE last week, but only saw a tornado once we got back to North Dakota. There we were, driving the home stretch, discussing whether or not Ben had pooped his pants yet, and Aaron turns his head and says, "There's a tornado over there!" And I'm all, "Whaa?"
It was so weird because the weather around us was totally fine. Sun shining, everything. I don't know what I expected...flying cows, I guess. Or flying SOMETHING.

But of course I grabbed my camera. The photos aren't the best, but we sure didn't want to get any closer. Aaron's parents were driving ahead of us and had stopped in a nearby city for supper - the sirens were going off and fire engines were in the street ready for action. Fortunately no one was injured although two farmsteads were destroyed.

On the news that night it was reported that the tornado was on the ground for 20 minutes. We probably saw most of it, including the end where it went back up into the clouds. It was only once we were past the storm that we could see how scary that big cloud actually did look. And a few days later it was determined to be an EF4 tornado.

On a scale of 5.

Yeah. I'll stay 20 miles away, thankyouverymuch.

What, you're still here?!

I'm not even going to try to catch you up on all that has been happening around here. I know I've left you out of the loop, but I honestly feel that you will survive just fine, mostly by living your own lives.

Today, Adam spent almost the entire morning in a full-out tantrum. Wailing, sobbing, rolling on the ground, you name it. After the first 10 minutes or so, he dragged himself over to me (I had left after five minutes of the drama), pulled himself up on the chair, made those hiccupy gasps that indicate a return of self-control, and reached his arms up to me. How can a mommy resist? He sat on my lap for a long time, just relaxing, and occasionally giving me hugs and resting his head on my shoulder. Worth the previous torture session? Yes.

Too bad we were doomed to repeat this scene the rest of the morning, with mommy being less and less of a sucker. Lunch was followed by a 2 1/2 hr nap, which again, almost made the saga worthwhile.

Also, Adam is pretty much a one-nap kid now. The mornings can get a bit rough, but if we do an earlier lunch, we all survive in one piece. Of course, this is all because he's been going to bed about an hour later than usual and then waking up an hour (or more) later than usual. School is going wreak havoc with this great schedule.

Now that I brought it up, what exactly ARE we doing about school, anyway? My nerd of a daughter is actually disappointed that we aren't going to homeschool this year. Apparently what sold her on the idea was my explaining that we could do school anywhere, even on trips. She chimed in, "Yeah, so when we're at a hotel, Ben and I can do our homework there!" Tell me, what kind of future does a kid like that have? One of being stuffed into lockers and having her books pushed onto the floor. Better homeschool her just to save her from herself.

And we just might - but not this year. I need more time to convince myself and feel prepared and educated about all the options for curriculum and activities. This year, we will indeed be making the MUCH longer commute to the other campus. Time to figure out some carpool options.

Aaron and I flew the coop last week and drove down to Kansas City to see his brother JJ and SIL EJ, and of course our niecy-poo MVJ. It is a 9 hour drive (we stopped overnight on the way down), and we were only there for a day and a half, but it was a great trip. For one thing, it was lovely to discover that we still like each other. With 3 kids running everywhere, it's so easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day annoyances. It was also good to have time to really talk about homeschooling...without interruptions.

And it is HOT in Kansas City. I went to my first two years of college at Cottey, just an hour south, and the heat and humidity had me reminiscing about serving as an Orientation leader. And hauling luggage up 3 flights of steps in August. With no air conditioning. I have never been so glad to live in North Dakota. Just saying the name feels like a tall drink of lemonade in this kind of weather.

It was sooo fun to spend time with MVJ (now a very charming 18 months old) without my own kids to take care of. What a blessing that she likes me! I was able to carry her periodically, giving her poor mommy a break (seriously, EJ, you need to pare down the diaper bag!) Her kisses are precious, and really the best way to wake up is to have her climb onto your air mattress. Being a truly indulgent auntie is such a wonderful joy.

We have more adventures planned for this week, so tune in later on! Maybe I'll even post some of photos of the tornado we drove next to on the way back from Kansas! (No flying cows. Sorry.)