Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Where does the time go?

I'm gonna brag. It's my blog and my kid and I'm allowed to brag. As always, there's a red x in the corner if you don't want to read bragging ;-p

I'm a reader. I'm always reading, reading, reading. I remember reading Dr. Seuss books sometime before Kindergarten started. Legend has it my mom thought I had just memorized One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish when I was about 4 and had me read the entire book to her....backwards. (yes, I succeeded. She should have known I was too hard-headed to let a silly little thing like that trip me up ;-p). I think reading is the most important thing a child can learn. There's no point in forcing them and making them hate it, but if they're willing, throw 'em all they'll take. I figure if you can read, you can learn absolutely anything. My main reason for going to a large university was that I didn't want the teachers to know who I was, because I wanted to be able to skip class. I generally despise the way most subjects are traditionally taught and either my brain works in a weird way, or there's truly an easier way to do it. Anyways, even with things like calculus and physics....good reading skills and sufficient practice, and you can work through a text book largely on your own and pick it up. I probably only attended half of my classes all through college---I still did the work and spent almost as much time, just did it in my own way. Homeschooling at it's finest, I suppose (and yes, my grades were mostly good if you don't count that last semester where I took an unbelievable--and stupid--22 credits plus 2 correspondence courses, but I still passed everything!). SOOOOO this freakish love of reading has served me well and I had always hoped to pass it on to my kids. I did not think that would be happening so soon!

I suspect Sierra loves reading because I'm always reading. If I'm honest with myself, I say, "just a minute" or "one more page" a little too often when she asks to play. I figure she's wanting to read so she can read with me instead of waiting for me. Ever since she started school (montessori school, so she has a lot of control on what subject she learns) she has had a heavy emphasis on letters and reading and has needed a little encouragement to work on other things. At home, she has started to pick up MY books and turn to page 63 (always 63...haven't figured that one out yet) and start trying to read. I finally got her a set of BOB Books. Two big thumbs up for these things. Each set has about 10 books (some more, some less) and a kiddo with the basics under their belt can read through one whole book by themselves in one sitting. There are great illustrations and there are questions about the book to discuss with your kiddo to foster reading comprehension. The books are organized in a completely logical fashion, slowly adding words and building up skills. There are a few sight words thrown in (i.e. was, saw, the), but only one new on is added every 2 or 3 books or so. The sentences start out something like, "Mat had a hat" and build up to two reasonably long sentences on a page. Sierra *begs* to read these books. And even lied one evening ("nope, I haven't read one with momma yet") to trick daddy into letting her read two in one night. She's completely through set 2 and I have to keep set 3 on a high shelf to keep her out of it.

I can't believe the time of spelling words we don't want her to understand is coming to an end!!! If you're working on introducing reading to a pre-schooler, definitely check out BOB Books!!!

Monday, May 26, 2008

The joys of children

A few stories from the trenches of parenthood ;-)

Saturday Sierra had a friend over. They were playing in her room and being really good. Too good. I finally check on them (rule #1: if your kids aren't right under foot, something is wrong and it's your own dang fault for not checking it out). They have colored all over two different baby dolls (a cabbage patch kid and another cloth bodied doll) with markers. So I tell them I'm disappointed and that I know they both know we only color on paper or the white board. Then I ask who did it. The other little girl immediately says, "sierra" (smart kid ;-) Sierra says, "we both did. first I did, then she did". Of course, it all boils down to what was I doing thinking it was a good thing for two 3 year olds to be entertaining themselves? ;-) I take away both dolls and all the markers and we go about our day. Today (two full days later), Sierra asks me for the dolls back....
S: momma, can I have my dolls?
Me: I'm sorry sweetie, but you colored all over them and ruined them
S: I can't have them back?
M: no, you ruined them
S: You're going to throw them away?
M: Well, they're ruined now
S: But momma! I'm just a kid!

Gah........In case you happen to be in the middle of the "terrible two's" at the moment, let me enlighten you about what happens at 3 and 4---the tantrums are less frequent, but WAY more intense and the child develops LOGIC. This gets me every time. My overarching parenting goal has nothing to do with obeying my authority ('cause heaven knows I don't want her blindly following some of the authority figures out there these days), it centers on teaching them to think for themselves. Big time centers on teaching them to think for themselves. I'm one of those parents that sees her struggling with something and just kinda hangs back and waits to see what will happen (unless there's risk of more than minor injury). And along those same lines, if I tell her no, but she can give me a good enough reason to change my mind, I change my mind (and let her know why). Slight downfall to this is that I may teach her to follow the beat of a different drummer, but may also be creating an evil genius. hmmmmm....

Story 2: Sierra eats quite a bit of food and proceeds to run around the house (this is one of those "karma" lessons--we warn her not to run, if she continues to do so and falls the only sympathy she gets is "told you not to run". She claims she has to run to "get the injury out"--quite an interesting thought, don't you think? In reality, she can't keep the syllables straight in ENERGY). Anyways, she finally stops, is holding her tummy and says:
S: momma, do you know why my tummy hurts?
Me: Gee, because you just ate all that food and now you're running around?!?
S: nope, because I have a baby in my tummy and she's about to hop out (she still insists Sedona "hopped out"--oh how I wish)
Rule #2: if you make a living teaching other people about breastfeeding and childbirthing, your child is going to pick up on some things. It's not a bad thing to know a little biology (she is quite, quite blank on the details), but it will throw you for a loop sometimes.

Then, she tells me she is going to go to the hospital to have her baby. Now, this is the same kid who only one month ago found out one of my friends was having a baby and asked me, "here?" and when I laughed and told her at the hospital, she said, "why would you go to the HOSPITAL to have a BABY??" She was truly bewildered. So, I decided to have a little logic fun:
Me: Sierra, why do people go to the hospital
S: b/c they're sick
M: well, are you sick when you have a baby?
S: no
M: then why would you go to a hospital? (and don't get me on my soap box here--the infant and maternal mortality rates in our "highly advanced western medical model" are abysmal)
S: well, ms. veronica had HER baby at the hospital and I'm gonna have my baby at the hospital
M: yeah, but her baby was sitting criss cross applesauce (the new term for what we called "indian style" when I was a kid) and they had to cut her tummy to take him out, so she had to be in the hospital (breech baby, c-section)
S: I want them to cut my tummy too
M: yikes! don't you think that will hurt?
S: nope, my baby will just hop out!

This child slept through the night I had sedona (maybe 50 feet down the hall from her) without a peep and woke up to a new baby sister in the house, guess it makes perfect sense to her that there's no work at all involved in birthing! ;-)

Story 3: Sedona has mostly moved into Sierra's room, but last night was the first time Sedona was ready to move to the crib (we put her down in the stroller) while Sierra was still awake. This necessitated turning off her radio (she likes to listen until she falls asleep) and created quite a bit of resistance from Sierra. She wanted sister out. I put my foot down. Sister stays, you're quiet or YOU leave the room, and all the toys in it. So, she went back to her room. Unfortunately, Sedona had no interest in sleeping. I hear something weird over the monitor so I creep down the hall to find Sedona standing in her crib, and Sierra at the foot of her bed (as close as she can get to the crib and still stay in bed)---Sierra is whispering, "Sedona! we have to go to sleep!" and Sedona starts bouncing and laughing at her. Sierra just gets more and more desperate, "Sedona! we're supposed to sleep!!" And every time she talks Sedona just thinks it's hilarious. Poor Sierra was so frustrated.
Rule #3: when you threaten to kick a kid out of her own room, have the courtesy to clarify that you only expect her to control her own actions, not everything that's going on in the room.

Story 4: Sedona has learned to clap. She thinks she is just the cutest, smartest thing ever too. She'll clap and then get SOOO excited with herself, that she starts waving her arms and legs (while sitting down) and fall backwards. Quite, quite funny to see. Rule 4: never trust a baby, or their physical skills...always be ready to catch them! Thankfully, we now have something that comes reasonably close to the sign language sign for "more". So, instead of ear splitting screaming every time you take more than .256 seconds to shovel another spoonful of food into her mouth, she claps once. Now we just need to teach her "all done" or "finished"--she ate at least a cup of pureed lasagna (a cup after it was pureed!), lots of cheerios, half a slice of bread, 4 ounces of apple juice and 2 ounces of water and was still signing more and grabbing for food on the table. I'm telling you, crazy quantities of food.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Random Mish Mash

A random mish mash of topics today since I haven't posted in so long...

Rant of the day---I love All Recipes and use it regularly to find really good recipes. What drives me absolutely batty though is that it is very routine for people to give a 5 star rating to a recipe and then when you read their review, they say it's a wonderful recipe, but oh, they only used half of this and twice as much of that and they didn't have this spice so they used that one. Seriously, not at all uncommon to look at something with hundreds of ratings and an average of 4.5 and then read through reviews and find that the majority of the people made tons of changes. How in the world does that mean the recipe was 5 stars? You aren't rating the recipe, you're rating your own adaptation of it! Drives me bonkers. If you have to change things, it's not a 5 star recipe.

Sedona update--we finally got the lines of communication straightened out and talked to the dietician at Texas Children's and found out she is getting 100% of her dietary needs met with how we're feeding her. So, yay, 2 points for not starving our child. Negative 50 points for crossing another possibility for poor weight gain off the list. She seems to be eating more now--she eats the same size serving of oatmeal for breakfast that I do and usually eats whatever we're having for dinner (run through the food mill) and a Sierra-sized portion of that. She doesn't want to eat lunch for some reason. Can't figure that out--she does lots of screaming, fussing, crying, and I have to really work with her to get her to take maybe 1/4 cup of cereal, an ounce of juice and 1/2 a jar of baby food. If I'm really lucky she'll eat pieces of bread off my sandwich or something like that. If we're out to eat, she'll take small pieces of chicken or refried beans or whatever. I think the biggest part of the fuss is not wanting baby food, but she's just not proficient enough at big people food to get enough calories that way yet. We have another two weeks or so until her next check up. She needs to be right at 18 pounds by that point to have maintained her growth curve. If she keeps growing at the pace she has been, she will drop to the 10th percentile by her 1st birthday. The constipation thing is still a battle--she needs a steady diet of either Enulose (her laxative) or fairly large quantities (5 or 6 oz/day) of prune juice to keep things reasonable and even then things aren't always good.

And now for picture-palooza!!!

Another of our very large skinks that hangs out around here. This one has a forked tail! This was the first day I caught it in the front yard, usually hangs out in the back. This is the one I found hanging out with a lady friend (pretty sure this is the male)--wonder where they're hiding out/planning to hide out babies?


Sierra's school had their graduation party. The kindergarten kids graduate and the others get a little surprise for working hard all year. Sierra sporting her prize:


And Sedona has wormed her way into the teacher's good graces LOL Every day when we pick up Sierra, she yells and waves from the moment we get to the gate until Ms. Lydia says hi back to her. So she ended up getting a surprise too :-)


Was digging up potatoes for dinner one night and found a special one. I'd probably get sued for using the real name, but looks like a certain mouse to me


Took Holly and Sierra to the splash pad yesterday. Too very excited girls having lots and lots of fun!!



Sedona sportin' her two teeth! These are still the only two she has. Sierra got 4 or 5 teeth all at once about 2 months after those bottom teeth came in, not sure what Sedona's waiting on! The really weird thing is you could see the ridges in her gums as soon as she was born. Sierra's gums were totally smooth until right before the teeth came!


We have officially moved Sedona in Sierra's room. She still comes to sleep in bed with us when she wakes up to nurse, but she starts out the night in there. So here are some pics of the girls playing in THEIR room :-) You might be able to tell from the arms of Sedona's outfit (the front is like a dress and supposed to be loose), that it's still pretty baggy--that's a 9 month outfit and she's over 10 months now. sigh!! some of her 6 month stuff still fits her...grrr

"I got a piece of bread!"


"Wait, what do you have?"


"Praise the Lord for the wooden food play set!"


And on to the garden...
The first tomato will be picked tomorrow and another 3 are right behind it. It will probably be less than 2 weeks before we are up to our ears in produce and swamped with canning duties every night!!!


And just for my dad (who insists a bowl of nothing but pinto bean "snaps" is the best vegetable ever)--the pinto bean plants have set fruit (before my black eyed peas I'm anxiously awaiting, I might add):

Monday, May 19, 2008

Pink Princess Air

If you live in the B/CS area and are looking for a dentist for your kiddos, I have to HIGHLY recommend Dr. Jeannie Williams. We started taking Sierra when she was 2 and have never had a problem, they've been great with her. Well, today she went for her first fillings and I expected high drama and trauma, but it went GREAT!!!

To start with, I got to sit in the chair with her (she laid on top of me). Then Dr. Jeannie took note of her pink shoes, pink socks and pink dress and told her she was giving her "pink princess air" (laughing gas). They let that go a little bit until Sierra started talking to them, then they put the topical anesthetic on. While that was soaking in, Dr. Jeannie told Sierra, "I have kinda long fingernails, so if I poke you or do anything else uncomfortable, you just have to use our magic word---'uh, uh' and we'll stop and fix it" (prepping her to let them know if the shot hurt). When they gave her the novocaine shots, they told her they were just gonna spray a bunch of water in her mouth and asked her to close her eyes real tight so they didn't get water in her eyes---so she never saw the needle, and they sprayed/sucked up water the entire time they were doing the shots and she didn't even flinch. Dr. Jeannie showed her the drill and told her she was gonna tickle all the sugar bugs and Ms. Tracy was gonna suck them up with "mr. thirsty" when they ran away. Then they put in "silver pudding" (we went with amalgam since it's quicker and these are baby teeth) so the sugar bugs couldn't get back in. At one point she flinched just a tad and they immediately stopped and asked if that hurt her at all and got her a little more novocaine. She got to pick out two prizes when she was done and I took her for a strawberry milkshake too. We ended up doing both the molars on the right side (so, top and bottom). Two huge thumbs up for dr. jeannie, the master of re-direction. She goes back on the 29th for her next two. The only complaint I've heard from her is she doesn't like silver--she wanted pink or yellow fillings :::rolls eyes::: I told her, oh well, she's stuck with 'em until those teeth fall out, but I think we may have a small issue with that next time.

On the sewing front, I've perfected my diaper cover making technique (for my own personal use anyway, not sure I'd sell 'em ;-). I've figured out how to do a decorative layer and leg gussets, yay! Pics:




And random cute Sedona pic--she thinks she's "big people" now, holding her own sippy cup and everything!!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Food, wonderful food!

It's kinda crazy how much I've learned to do in the last 5 years or so. One of those things is cook. I used to drive Josh crazy, I'd call him at work to ask him things like what is his recipe for soup. Of course he couldn't answer 'cause there wasn't one! I've always been a very competent baker, but it took me a while to get confident with "real" food and all the yummy yeast breads. Now days I experiment away! I look at even my best cook books as more of a guideline than a hard and fast set of rules to follow--gets us lots of yummy dinners. One of the latest "concoctions" was super simple roasted potatoes. I pulled potatoes out of the garden (ahhhhh.....free food minus all the crazy chemicals from commercial production), wash, chop, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Put in a pan, cover with foil and bake at 350 for 20 minutes or so, take off foil and bake another 10-15 minutes until done. yummy yummy for my tummy. Here's a pic before baking:



And here's how we usually see Sierra (mid-sentence, she never stops talking):

Those of you who have known me a while can testify she definitely looks like me (everyone said she was all daddy at first). It's gettin' kinda creepy, I'll be talking to her and all of a sudden think to myself, "wow, this is like looking in a mirror". She has all my personality too. None of the laid back, ride the waves, don't take on trouble you can't control she could have inherited from her daddy. Nope, this poor child is all me---firey temper, need for control, worried about *everything*, insatiable appetite to learn new stuff, thinking she knows everything about stuff she knows just a little about, wanting to mother everyone, did I mention firey temper? I wish I could teach her the lessons it took me 25 years or so to figure out. I wish I could teach her to relax and enjoy that which is within her control. I very very vividly remember my thoughts and feelings from an early early age though, so I know I can't teach her those things--she won't believe me until she can learn it for herself. I take comfort in the fact that maybe having such a deep empathy for her frustration will help me point her to the situations that will help her figure it out though ;-)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Hip Hip Hooray!!!

My order did come in!! Yay! A lot of people say the fold over elastic is tough to do, and there definitely is a technique to it, but it's totally do-able, so if you have some sewing skill and have been holding back, give it try! ;-) For my first cover, I went with a very basic design. Next, I'll make one with leg gussets in it (to contain those blow out poops my child will have one day when we fix the constipation thing once and for all), then I'll hopefully graduate to pretty fabrics on the outside. Everyone tells me you just use a glue stick to hold the PUL and fabric together while sewing--neat tip! So, here's my diaper cover:


And since the real baby's asleep, I took a picture on one of Sierra's scarier looking dolls (with a CPF underneath--premium size, but I cut down the length on them)


Found out today that Sedona likes to do laundry. I even documented the event (for proof when she's a teenager and complaining about doing chores).



Sierra also had an affinity for laundry as a baby (well, she still does). Here's her picture:


Yes, that is my precocious child standing (quite competently) sometime before her first birthday. Based on the clothes, it had to have been summer, so she's probably about 10 months there (b-day in october). It always kinda shocks me to look back at pictures and see such an itty bitty person walking! Sedona might be headed the same route. She still lunges more than she crawls, but will walk if you hold her hands and on Friday she got mad at me and pulled one hand away from me and would only hold on with one.

In cute picture land....Sierra can't wait for Sedona to move in and share a room with her. I'm pretty sure when she does, this is what we'll find most mornings:


Sorry it's fuzzy, but still cute. They're both holding on to each other. Since Sierra has still shown extremely little jealousy at this point and is so excited to share her room, I think we may just end up getting a double bed for them to share instead of fitting two twins or having bunk or loft beds (Which I love the idea of, but don't trust my kids to stay put in).

And to further the picture cuteness, Sedona *almost* fits into her bike helmet. It's just a smidgen too big. Unfortunately, it really doesn't stay put well when she's in the bike trailer :-( I would really really really like to get to that point sometime soon and more or less ditch the car.


And, apparently, we have not only the biggest skink in Texas living in our backyard, but the second biggest as well:

This one scared the living daylights out of me. I didn't know (s)he was there and just saw something slither in the lettuce bed. At least with the big skinks you can see their legs easily once you get a good look at them! The smaller ones take a lot better look to tell they're not snakes sometimes.

Please Mister Postman

I am ridiculously anxious about the mail coming today. I ordered PUL, FOE and aplix (to make diaper covers) last week and according to the tracking number, the package was scanned in at the local post office at 5am this morning. Hoping hoping hoping that means it will be delivered today. I am way too excited to sew up a new set of diapers.

And while we're one the topic, I am in love with "mama cloth" (cloth pads)---ZERO, absolutely zero cramping. I was skeptical of the claim that there would be less cramping and lighter flow, but (at least for me)it is really true. Not to mention the comfort level. I'm telling you, *really* worth trying out.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Flutterby Little Butterfly

Our butterfly "hatched" today! What's the real word for that? emerged? Anyways, I missed it coming out, but I got quite a few pictures while it hung around waiting for it's wings to unfurl and dry out :-)



In other news, Sedona really likes pears. I stuff one of those little mesh feeders full of them and she goes to town:


And Sierra has perfected the art of writing in mirror image! Don't worry, it's a normal developmental step, but still kinda freaky to see anyway! I know a lot of kids do this, but I think the whole writing right to left thing has quite a bit to do with her being left-handed as well:



And in the bestest news of all......Josh passed his pre-lims today!! He is officially a PhD candidate now and is on track to graduate in May or August of 2009. He had his orals today and he said (and acted like) it was absolutely NO FUN. But he passed!!! :-) :-) :-)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Where did my baby go??

Well, our days are numbered. Sedona pulled up yesterday. I put her in her crib, walked out of the room for two seconds, came back and she was standing up!! It's only a matter of time until she's running after Sierra. Then, today, I put her in her crib, went to brush my teeth and when I walked back in the room, she WAVED and SAID, "hi!" After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I said, "well hello". Where did that come from?!?!?! Babies wave. Babies babble and it sometimes sounds like words, but to wave and say hi as an appropriate response to a situation? Waahhhhhhhh My baby's disappearing!!

I had FOUR (yes, four) friends have babies last week (and a fifth is due any day). It was nice to hold an itty bitty newborn again! I could handle skipping pregnancy, doing labor and delivery, having a new baby for a week or so and then giving them back as soon as the sleep deprivation sets in ;-)


Random recipes:

Greek salad (just mix all ingredients and refrigerate):
about 1/3-1/2 pound dried garbanzo beans, cooked
1 cucumber halved and sliced
about 2-3 oz feta
a few cherry tomatoes, sliced (or 1/4 can of diced tomatoes in a pinch)
a few big glugs of italian dressing

Serve greek salad in pita pockets:
1 cup water (luke warm)
1.5 tsp sugar
1.5 tsp yeast
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp salt
3 cups flour

Mix water and sugar. Sprinkle yeast on top and let sit until foamy
mix in oil and salt
add flour one cup at a time, add a little extra if dough is really gooey, but it will be sort of sticky. cover and leave dough alone for 30 minutes or so. Heat oven to 500
Knead a few times on floured surface and cut into 8 pieces
Roll each piece into about a 6" diameter circle
Put dough rounds (2 at a time) on a cooling rack and put cooling rack in oven. Cook 4-5 minutes until puffed up and lightly browned (if you have a 3 year old handy, they like watching it "POP UP!")
When they come out of the oven, put a damp towel over them until they soften up
Slice off one end and stuff the pocket!
(stores in the fridge for a few days, and the freezer for several weeks/months)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

50 books in a year

Time to start a new year's post! I'm behind and already have several books to add! Keeping the same goal---50 books from April 9, 2008 to April 9, 2009

Past Reading
2006:
30 books
8,222 pages

2007:
37 books
14,326 pages

1) Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult: Yes, still reading this author. She really is extremely good. This was her first book and you can definitely tell she's gotten better with time. This book walks a very fine line between good fiction and trashy romance novel and every once in a while fails miserably at staying on the "good fiction" side. Still a good book though. (343 pages)

2) My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult: Still a great author! In this one, a toddler is diagnosed with lukemia and her parents do IVF, but genetically test the embryos and only implant the one that will be a perfect match for the other daughter. The subsequent child spends her life being a donor for her sister. The book focuses on her suing for medical emancipation so she wont' be forced to be the donor any longer (432 pages)

3) The Pact by Jodi Picoult: This one follows the aftermath of two teenagers found--one shot in the head, the other fainted and still alive, one bullet left in the gun. The living teenager says it was a suicide pact, but he is charged with murder. (512 pages)

4) The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion: I listened to this one on CD while driving to Houston and back, so I'll give myself credit for the book, but not for any pages read. This is a memoir type thing about what would have been for me "the year from hell". Ms. Didion's daughter is hospitalized at christmas with the flu, which turns into pneumonia, which turns into sepsis from a vancomycin resistant bug (which puts her in the ICU in a coma). By New Year's, her husband (John Gregory Dunne) has died suddenly over dinner of a massive heart attack. Weeks after this, her daughter is well enough to go on a "relaxing vacation" only to suffer a traumatizing brain bleed (apparently from the pressure changes of the air flight) that puts her back in the ICU (thousands of miles from home) and then a rehabilitation center. As the book repeatedly states, this brings home the point that, "Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends." Definitely opt for *reading* this book--the reader on the CD is awful! (0 pages)

5)Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert. Loved it loved it loved it! Aside from the confidence to travel independently, this is my kind of woman. I saw an awful lot of myself in this book--from the love affair insanity, to the religious views, to the relationship with Felipe. A lot of this struck a cord with me. Big thanks to whoever was responsible for picking this one for book club! (352 pages)

6)Mercy by Jodi Picoult. Woman dying of cancer begs husband to kill her, he does, court drama follows. Another good Jodi Picoult book! (416 pages)

7)Vanishing Actsby Jodi Picoult. Grown woman finds out her dad kidnapped her from her mom during a custody battle when she was a toddler. Dad arrested, woman meets mom. Yet another good Jodi Picoult book ;-) (448 pages)

8)Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the Westby Gregory Maguire. Really really good book. This guy takes classic fairy tales and re-writes them from the point of view of the bad guy. So, we follow the wicked witch of the west (Elphaba---b/c the author of The Wizard of Oz's initials are LFB) from birth through to her murder by Dorothy. Lots of things about political instability in munchkinland, etc... great read! (406 pages)

9)The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possibleby A.J. Jacobs. This was a great read!!! My standard retort for someone who cares to ask me if I've read the bible is, "yes, I have. Have you?" I would bet there are several passages mentioned in this book that would shock some church-going folks. All in all, the guy gives a reasonably balanced account---praises the good, condemns the bad. He is culturally Jewish and religiously agnostic. He seems to walk away from the year maintaining his agnosticism, but acknowledging the existence of sacredness in this world. Along the way he introduces you to ideas from all over the spectrum of bible religions---conservative Jews, fanatical Christians, red-letter Christians, creationists, snake handlers, etc.... (332 pages)

10)Change of Heartby Jodi Picoult. I'm soooo disappointed! Looks like this is the end of the Jodi Picoult books for me. This is her newest one and in my opinion, it was a cheap, transparent rip off of The Green Mile. There's even a reference to the book in there, when one of the inmates calls the death row prisoner "green mile". There's also a character with the last name Dufresne who is serving a life sentence after being convicted of a "crime of passion" (a la Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption). So, the details, the "flesh", of the story is totally different, but the "bones" of the story are the exact same--a slow guy sentenced to death for molesting and murdering a little girl, miracles start to happen in the jail, he brings creatures back to life, yada, yada, yada. It's a good story, but the idea is not at all unique. She's written so many other good books, I just don't get why she had to steal the idea for this one. Also, if you're familiar with The Green Mile, the book is completely predictable, much unlike her others. Ugh. I think what irks me the most is her reference to green mile, and the fact that she's wearing all green in the cover photo, but there is nothing (admittedly, I could have missed it) in her acknowledgements or notes about the book she got this idea from. I wonder how many of her other books are so completely unoriginal and I just haven't read enough to know that. (447 pages)

11)The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A.J. Jacobs. This was a quick, interesting, and funny read. The Year of Living Biblically was better, so if you're gonna pick one book to read, read that one. This book was written first and the author undertakes the task of reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica so that he will be the smartest person in the world. At first glance, you're worried this is just a clif's notes version of the encyclopedia b/c there is a chapter for each letter and "entries" on certain topics. He branches out more than that though and throws in plenty of stories about how his knowledge helps him (cilantro and corriander--same thing people), or doesn't (how does one read through the encyclopedia and not pick up that erythrocyte is a red blood cell? At least to pick up that eryth- means "red" or that -cyte means "cell" in medical terms??). Anyways, worth reading if you're bored. (400 pages)

12)Heretic's Heart: A Journey Through Spirit & Revolution by Margot Adler. Wow. Not at all what I was expecting. Not. At. All. Picked this up for two bucks on a clearance cart and judging from the back cover, I thought it would be about Vietnam war protesting and her letters to a GI who was serving in Vietnam. And yes, that's included (in about 1/4-1/3 of the book). The rest is mostly an autobiography that gets WAY personal. I knew she was a liberal, but never paid enough attention to know she was a radical. Each topic in the book alone wouldn't creep me out too much, but rolling them all into one person's life and then coupling that with way too much information is pretty creepy. We go from Berkeley Free Speech Movement protests to civil rights work in the south to vietnam protests to writing to this GI to paganism to orgies to self-esteem issues to self awareness lessons (in the form of a bunch of nudists discussing politics) to jail time in Oakland to illegally traveling to Cuba to help with the communist revolution there to starting her radio work. It's just a bit much. I'm afraid I will never be able to think about "Justice Talking" quite the same again. (309 pages)

13)A Tree Grows in Brooklynby Betty Smith. I know I read this in high school and enjoyed it, but being older and having kids now made it so much more interesting. There's really not a whole lot of plot, it's just about a girl living in New York in the early 1900's. In a world where people can have anything they can't afford as long as they can get a credit card, it's humbling to read about the days when the money would run out and there was literally no food in the house. You'd think it'd be a depressing book, but there's a lot of hope in it. Definitely a must read. ETA: Looking through the reviews at Amazon and I find it really interesting that all of the one star reviews come from high school (college?) kids that were "forced" to read it. Not sure if that's a maturity thing or just the tragedy that some of our children have learned contempt for reading instead of loving the wealth of free knowledge at their fingertips. (528 pages)

14)Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Timeby Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. Unless you're interested in rock climbing/mountaineering, the beginning of this book will probably be a little difficult to get into, but especially the second half has useful information about Pakistan/Afghanistan and what is going on there and how it relates to the US. The book definitely could have been better written, but the information is good. (368 pages)

15)When Alzheimer's Hits Homeby Jo Danna. I thought this was a really useful and easy read. Finished it in one day. The first half of the book is a very abridged journal of the author's experience caring for her mother with Alzheimer's. She includes little sidebars about how she might have handled certain situations differently. The second half of the book is chock full of resources for families dealing with Alzheimer's. (192 pages)

16)The Wednesday Lettersby Jason Wright. Eh. It was a super quick read that's fine if you're just looking for something to kill time, but I wasn't super impressed. (288 pages)

16.5)Wrath of Angels: The American Abortion Warby James Risen and Judy Thomas. Okay, there's a lot of history in here about different groups involved on both the pro-life and pro-choice sides of the debate. There is a big focus on extremism, which I think (and hope) does not cover the majority of the people who are interested in this debate. What really irked me though (and why I couldn't finish the book) is that they kept telling me what someone was thinking when they did a certain thing or wrote a certain letter. Hmmm......really? If you're gonna tell me what someone else was thinking, you need to frame it in the form of a quote or make clear your information comes from a direct interview with them, otherwise I just think you're drawing your own (very questionable) conclusions. (137 pages)

17.5)Son of a Witchby Gregory Maguire. I was really excited to read this. It's the follow up to Wicked, which I really liked. Son of a Witch is interesting, but it just isn't as fun of a read. There's some information in the beginning and then one long flashback, which just annoyed me b/c I kept waiting to see what had really happened in the beginning. The end of the book started to pick up and was much more interesting to read. I am beginning to wonder what the author's personal life is like since he seems to have an interest in writing about bi-sexual, polyamorous male characters. Whatever floats your boat, I guess, but it seemed pretty out of left field in the context of the story (in both Wicked and Son of a Witch). (352 pages)

18.5)A Yellow Raft in Blue Waterby Michael Dorris. This was a book club book. It was okay, but I didn't love it. The beginning was REALLY slow to get into. It wasn't interesting to read until after page 100, so I don't think I would have finished it if it wasn't a book club choice. It was an interesting story and I get the symbolism of the braid and all that at the end (the book is in three sections---one from a girl's point of view, then her mom's, then her grandmother's), but there was no conclusion to the story. Each section leaves you hanging and the other sections never pick up the pieces, it's just like a whole new book. It feels like the author just said, "eh, I'm tired of writing about this chick now" and just stopped one day. It could be a useful book in helping high school kids learn to look for symbolism and think of the bigger picture, but it's not a real entertaining book. (372 pages)

19.5)The 36 Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for people with Alzheimer Disease, Other Dementias, and Memory Loss in Later Lifeby Nancy Mace and Peter Rabins. This book is a caregiver's guide to dementia. They really talk about dementia in general, but it seems geared toward Alzheimer's and multi-infarct dementia. It's an excellent book if you are dealing with anyone that has these illnesses. They cover everything from little daily living tips to the heavier medical stuff. I'd say it's a must read for caregivers. If you aren't a caregiver, you should read so you have a better idea of what the main caregiver is going through (and what is and isn't supportive for them). This also gave me more confidence in how to handle a family member with Alzheimer's--I am much more comfortable with interaction now and feel better prepared to keep the person for short periods of time. Great, great book. (352 pages)

20.5)Skipping Christmasby John Grisham. This was our book club pick to read as we were all busy prepping for the holidays. I can't really say what I thought of the book without giving a spoiler, so I'll just leave it at...ehh, it was so, so. I wouldn't go spend full price on it, but if you find it on the clearance shelf at Half Price Books, it's worth it. It's a very, very quick read (2 hours or less) and just a fun holiday time book. (227 pages)

21.5)Twilightby Stephenie Meyer. Yes, I finally read Twilight. I had to know what everyone was talking about. I'm not super impressed. It was a fun read, but definitely not earth shattering. I'm interested in reading the next book, but not rushing out to get it. I was very disappointed that it took 60 pages to even get interesting (as in, I had to force myself to keep picking it up for those 60 pages). For the next 300 pages it was....eh. Worth reading, but very easy to put down. Page 350 (which happened about 10:30 at night...oh so inconveniently) is where it FINALLY got interesting enough that I didn't want to stop reading. Way to *not* pull in the reader. I can completely understand why 15/16/17 year old girls find this interesting---perfect book for them. I'm a married grown up though, been there, done that, got the baby...uh, I mean t-shirt. The vampire aspect is interesting, but totally not used well until the end of the book. When the action picked up, it really got worth reading. (544 pages)

22)Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer. I'll only give myself half credit here because this is the partial draft available on her website. The version from Edward's point of view, was much more interesting that from Bella's point of view. Maybe that's because I've already read Twilight though? Haven't seen the movie, wondering if they used Midnight Sun to fill in some of the gaps from Twilight? (264 pages)

23)Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. I'm shocked to say this, but I really, really liked this book. It's an historical fiction book that focuses on a painting done by Vermeer. Sort of along the lines of pride and prejudice or sense and sensibility, which is completely NOT what I usually like to read. My book club did a white elephant book exchange for Christmas and this is the book I walked away with. So glad I stepped outside my usual box and read it! (233 pages)

24)New Moon by Stephenie Meyer. Eh. At this point I'm reading because it's easy to read and I still don't understand all the Twilight flair on facebook. The books are a good, mindless read, I guess, but that's it. This one was completely predictable from about 20 pages in. The prologue didn't just foreshadow, it knocked you upside the head with a brick. And again, the book didn't enter "don't want to put it down" territory until about page 300...way too late. I'll keep on with the third book, but have no interest in spending my money to buy it---I'll have to find someone to borrow from. (563 pages)

25)The Kite Runner by Kahled Hosseini. This is another book that took until the halfway point to get interesting. I'm beginning to wonder if it's just my attention span that's to blame for these boring first halves. I sat down to finish this one just b/c I needed to take it back to the library and the end did get much more interesting, but not enough for me to want to read A Thousand Splendid Suns. This book was an interesting pre/post-Taliban Afghanistan picture, but I'd rather get that from a non-fiction book. (400 pages)

26)Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer. I'd say this is the best book so far, there was more suspense and action. I happened across a review on Amazon of the Twilight books that perfectly sums up my opinion (aside from buying the 4th book....I'll borrow it for free from the library) of the series. (629 pages)

27)Waiter Rant by The Waiter (Steve Dublanica). HILARIOUS!!!!!!!! This was a great read. I've had several friends who waited tables and had plenty of funny stories to share. I once went on a date where I was absolutely mortified that the guy didn't tip *anything* even though nothing was wrong with the service (note to guys: that was the LAST date). The Waiter sums up life as a waiter quite nicely. The book is interesting from page one, it's written well and the content makes you thankful for whatever messed up situations you face at your own workplace. (302 pages)

28)Abram's Daughters Book 1: The Covenant by Beverly Lewis. Chick lit with an Amish twist!! I found this book incredibly interesting from the get go. Probably because I'm so interested in the Amish lifestyle (minus the religion, thank you very much). This was a really fun read and I can't wait to get started on the next book in the series. (336 pages)

29)Abram's Daughters Book 2: The Betrayal by Beverly Lewis. I hear these series all start to sound the same after awhile, but I'm really enjoying this one. Hard to give much info without giving the story away, but so far we're following the Ebersol sisters through their courting years and my oh my is there some (very prim and proper) drama going on! (320 pages)

30)Abram's Daughters Book 3: The Sacrifice by Beverly Lewis. This book started to get a little preachy towards the end (towards a Born Again slant, oddly enough), but still a very good story. We're now on to the the Ebersol girls all grown up with kids of their own. Reserved the 4th book at the library today! (352 pages)

31)Abram's Daughters Book 4: The Prodigal by Beverly Lewis. Blah. This book was only barely readable there was so much blatant, relentless evangelizing in it. I realize some is integral to a story about an Amish family, but this was a "I'm going to beat you over the head with my Born Again beliefs" slant to the detriment of the plot line. ick. (352 pages)

32)Abram's Daughters Book 5: The Revelation by Beverly Lewis. Since I was so close to being done, I had to finish the series. This book was much better than book four. Overall, a good series. Easy read and worth the time. (343 pages)

33)Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer. The 4th book in this series was also good. It's just a shame the other books weren't so interesting from the beginning. (768 pages)

34)A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines. This was February's book club pick. It was a really good book all the way through, but I didn't feel like the end wrapped things up well enough. I can't quite put my finger on what I was looking for, and it was very realistic without too much sappiness or "deus ex machina" type stuff, but something missing... Or maybe that's the point. (256 pages)

35)The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America by James Bamford. Put on your tinfoil hat!!!!! No, really, this is an extremely interesting read. It took a while to get through it just because there is soooo much specific information here. I have to say I'm not terribly surprised at the things in the book, but I am surprised by the extent things have gone to. Even if you choose not to follow along with Bamford's string of conclusions, there is an overabundance of well documented facts surrounding the history of the NSA and the warrantless wiretapping program. I also learned quite a bit about how the internet actually works. The timeline of the 9/11 hijackers in the beginning will make your blood boil (especially the part about American CIA operatives being aware that al-qaeda operatives--who went on to lead teams of plane hijackers--had obtained US Visas and tickets to fly into the country, yet withheld this information from the FBI and did not follow the men once they entered the country). The book seems to demonize and praise people on both sides of the party line, but it does come down especially hard on Cheney (like that's hard to do...), including highlighting some of his actions during previous administrations. (345 pages)

36)The Red Tent:A Novel by Anita Diamant. This was this month's book club selection. The beginning was hard for me to get into, but the middle/end when all the midwifery stuff comes up was extremely interesting to me. Mainly because it largely describes the experiences I was looking for in my own deliveries. The stories about birth really resonated with me. This is the first book that's managed to explain the biggest benefit to unmedicated birth---it's not fun, it's not easy, it IS incredibly empowering. Delivering in my own "tent" (at home), attended by a midwife and drawing strength from the group of women I chose to surround myself with very closely resembled the emotions described in this book. (336 pages)

37)The Complete Idiot's Guide to Geocachingby Jack W. Peters. A friend loaned this to us after we went on our first geocaching hunt last weekend. A lot of this was stuff I already knew, but it is a good primer for someone getting out with a GPS for the first time and there was information about map reading and navigation skills that I'm not really familiar with. Surely there's a "complete idiot's guide to orienteering"? That's the book I need to read. (336 pages)


38)The Royal Nonesuch: Or, What Will I Do When I Grow Up?by Glasgow Phillips. Ummm....interesting. There's not really a good way to sum up this book. Think of it as the underdogs of Hollywood--kinda. A funny book, one of those memoirs that gets so outrageous that you almost start to think it must all be fiction after all, except that the craziest character (Timmy the Woodsman) sounds an awful lot like a Timmy we used to know. (384 pages)

38.5)Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Pre-School Yearsby Elizabeth Hainstock. I'm only giving myself half credit because there wasn't a lot of reading here. Once I got past the beginning (which could be a tad heavy handed at times), the actual "what to do" part was a run down of exactly what Sierra does in school now. Down to a "t". I need to go back to the library and get the next book, The School Years. I still wanted to list this book here though because if you are interested in homeschooling and in Montessori, this is a really good list of what materials and activities to set up for a 2-5 year old. (50 pages)

39.5)Getting Started on Home Learning: How and Why to Teach Your Kids at Homeby Rebecca Rupp. If you're thinking about homeschooling or want to know more about homeschooling, this one is a MUST READ. I highly recommend it to build your confidence and give you some things to think about. There is also a wonderfully thorough list of resources at the end of each chapter to help you. (208 pages)

40.5)Massacre at Mountain Meadowsby Walker, Turley and Leonard. Interesting little piece of history. Given the authors' backgrounds, you'd expect this book to be biased and I think it was, but not as much as I was expecting. There is a little too much focus on justification for why the mormons would want to attack the wagon train and too little focus on it being flat out wrong. Like I've read in other places though, there are lots of massacres in American history and it seems odd for some people to be so fixated on this one. John D. Lee is set up to be much too much of a scapegoat without a fair shake down of others involved. All in all though, and interesting read even if I don't agree with all of the conclusions. Warning: the description of the actual massacre is quite disturbing....small children watching their parents and siblings murdered at close range, then being taken to town, split up, and sent to live with different families (some of whom participated in the massacre) is upsetting to think about. (231 pages)

41.5)This Stubborn Soil by William Owens. The first half of this book drug on for-ev-er. The last half was really interesting. This is a basic memoir of an early 1900's Texas farm boy and his quest to help his family grow enough crops to make it through the winter. As he gets older, he is focused on getting educated and bettering himself (quite difficult when you're pulled out of school every year for planting and harvesting). I think there's a good lesson in the fact that at the end his minimal education is holding him back, but his voracious reading (all by library card) gets him the education he's looking for. And he went all the way to become a professor at Columbia University. Also, there's a country saying mentioned, "thunder in February, Frost in April".......with our latest wacky weather, makes me want to look back and February's weather and see if it lines up! (307 pages)

The Menagerie Post

Long time no blog! So here goes ten short blogs in one ;-)

The girls and I spent the week at my parent's house. We had lots of fun, but Sierra is now struggling through grandparent detox. Any of you with kids know what I'm talking about---they develop this malady after anymore than 1-2 days with the grandparents. Suddenly, your reasonably well-behaved kid dissolves into a tantrum-ing mess at the mere mention of the word, "no" or "not now" or even "in a minute". The crazy thing is she didn't even really get that spoiled, I think she just got used to having someone's attention 24/7.

Josh spent the week doing the written part of his pre-lims. Fun fun times. Basically consists of getting a question in the morning, writing a paper all day/night and turning it in the next morning. Repeat every day for a week. You have to pass your pre-lims to officially be a PhD candidate in the science world. I have had many many many of these moments since getting a biology degree, but this was another that made me go, "oh yeah, this is why I don't want a PhD" ;-) He has his orals on Thursday and then he will get a small raise and be on his way to graduating soon (I'm hoping for the long shot--december '08; he's saying maybe May '09; and his PI is saying August '09)

Yesterday was our five year anniversary! Where does the time go?? We've now been with each other longer than either of us had ever dated anyone else. It really doesn't seem like it's been that long. Like I told Josh, I'm not even annoyed with him yet LOL Erin (my friend that I've decided is really more qualified for "sister" status at this point) is perhaps the only person who will truly understand what a compliment that is ;-) I so don't have all the answers after only five years, but I will offer a few small bits of wisdom anyway---
1) Argue without yelling. Sure we disagree sometimes, and we both roll our eyes with the other turns their back sometimes, but yelling doesn't fix anything
2) Work as a team. There are 4 gender assigned jobs around here--Josh takes out the trash and moves the chicken coop; I clean the bathrooms and do the breastfeeding. Honestly, besides that, there are no other daily chores that we won't both do. When it needs done, do it. We have our comfort zones, but mostly, we share (for more on that, try reading The Second Shift)
3) Laugh, laugh, laugh. We make each other laugh and that can make a bad day good and a horrible day bearable.
4) People before money. Okay, you need enough to keep a roof over your head, clothes on your back and food in your tummy. But really, that doesn't take nearly as much money as a lot of people think it does. The job that stresses you (or your spouse, or both of you) out so much that you're no fun to be around anymore isn't worth it, even if it is high paying or a great career move. I could care less what my resume looks like when I die, I want memories with my family.

Quick and easy recipe of the week...So I found this recipe on that blog I found a while back. She adapted the recipe from The Duggar Family website, and I adapted her recipe even further, so I guess I could call it my own now. Anyways....
Crockpot Lasagna
2 cans black beans, drained
2 carrots
2 pints spaghetti sauce
3/4 c water
1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
8 oz ricotta cheese
8 oz lasanga noodles


1) Mix beans, spaghetti sauce, water, and carrots
2) Spoon thin layer of bean mixture on bottom of crock pot, top with layer of lasagna noodles (break them as needed to fit), sprinkle in a layer of mozzarella and 4-5 big spoons of ricotta (just drop them in in different spots)
3) Repeat layers 3-4 times, end with noodles-->ricotta-->mozzarella
4) Cook on low 3-4 hours

This made 6 adult sized servings. Could stretch even further if you added salad and bread.

And while we're on food, a few weeks ago, I hosted my mom's group for Bunco one evening. One of the lovely ladies left the leftovers of a veggie tray with me. Here's a lesson in making the most of what's around and not wasting (increasingly expensive!) food----I snacked on the veggies for a few days, then was able to throw everything that was left (and it was already chopped and ready to go!) into a homemade chicken pot pie. I also already had chicken in the freezer (I stocked up 6 months ago when it was $0.67/pound), so I was able to make a huge pan that gave us 6 adult servings using only what was already in the pantry!!!

Food prices are going up and up and up. Well, everything is going up and up and up. I think I'm actually going to have to increase the fuel budget here soon :-( At least until Sedona is big enough to fit into her helmet so she can ride in the bike trailer. I take comfort in the fact that I get a rush out of scrimping and pinching pennies is nothing new to me. I would really really like to be able to make huge extra principle payments on my house, but I can "get by" quite well with very little money. And speaking of that--our garden is doing great! Almost every tomato plant has set fruit now--yay! We have 65-70 plants, so it looks like we will be swimming in tomatoes again this year. Our potatoes are now at a size that I can go dig up some whenever I want potatoes in an omelet and currently have 3-4 potatoes per plant (over 50 plants). The corn is about a foot high and the beans are growing like crazy. Squash and melons have all popped up and are starting to make flowers. No eggs from the chickens yet, but they are looking really good and will probably start laying pretty soon. The fruit trees we planted last year have leafed out. Our apples didn't do great (only one lived, and you need two trees, so we will probably just ditch that effort), but the peach, plum, pear and fig trees are all happy. Maybe next year we'll start getting a fruit or two.

Off to start this year's 50 books in a year post!

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