Tuesday, December 30, 2008

booklist 2008

{New books I remember reading this year ~ I've re-read plenty of others; they shan't be on this list}

The Invention of Hugo Cabret {Brian Selznick}
Lots of fun.

The Ladies of Grace Adieu {Suzanna Clark}
Very fine, indeed.

The Nine ~ Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court {Jeffery Toobin}
Quite interesting.

Farewell Summer {Ray Bradbury}

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane {Kate DiCamillo}
One million stars. I cry at the end, every time.

The Age of Turbulence {Alan Greenspan}
I know his name is mud with some people these days, but Mr. Greenspan is an interesting character. Although the policy section is rather wonky, the autobiography is nice.

Tiger Rising {Kate DiCamillo}
This is a nice little work.

Out of the Dust {Karen Hesse}
Beautiful and heartbreaking. A lovely way to tell a story.

The Blizzard Voices {Ted Kooser}
Even more beautiful and heartbreaking, because it's true.

The Soloist {Steve Lopez}
A really fascinating true story. Read the book before you see the movie.

Janine is French {Lloyd Alexander}

Listening is an Act of Love {Dave Isay}
Moving essays (some more than others).

The Goose Girl {Shannon Hale}
Enjoyable, if a little predictable.

Breaking Dawn {Stephenie Meyer}

Nickle and Dimed ~ On (Not) Getting by in America {Barbara Ehrenreich}

Fablehaven III {Brandon Mull}
Not Harry Potter, but Brandon's stories are compelling and entertaining.

Three Cups of Tea {Greg Mortenson}
Inspiring. Hello, U.S. Government, are you reading this?

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society {Mary Ann Shaffer}
So absolutely enjoyable.

Suite Francaise {Irene Nemirovsky}
Intense. Fascinating.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard {J.K. Rowling}
Nice little stories.

The Last Lecture {Randy Pausch}

Friday, December 26, 2008

it's over


This has been an especially intense and unorganized Christmas season. One with a lot of vomiting. The whole month of December (and November, too, actually) has been crazy. It has given little time to appreciate the holiday. So I thought I might do so in retrospect. Here are a few things I enjoyed this year, now having had a little time to think about it:

No. 1: I bought a few extra Christmas decorations this year of which I am immensely fond. Even though they sent me over my Christmas budget. But this is a happy list, so we won't focus on that part, will we? (Besides, a lot of things sent me over budget.)

No. 2: I went up to Salt Lake City for an afternoon to see my sisters who live up there. It was enjoyable. I ate some truffles and admired their apartments. (And about had a heart attack thinking that my daughter had locked a bathroom door that could not be opened from the outside. But apparently the key to my sister's deadbolt works for both the deadbolt and the bathroom. Convenient.) Then I gave my Dad a ride home from work so he wouldn't have to ride the bus. What a nice sister and daughter I am.

No. 3: We have received a jolly amount of snow. A veritable white, white Christmas. Ben shoveled together a snow fort for the kids, and they are in heaven.

No. 4: Reading a Christmas themed story book (almost) each night of December. I think I got the idea from Chris, who perhaps has done this in past years? I wrapped up all our books in cute and inexpensive wrapping paper and the kids took turns unwrapping a book to read each night. It was a huge hit.

No. 5: My parents have instituted two nights of family Christmas caroling: on Christmas Eve and on the Sunday evening before Christmas. My children made it through the Sunday night sing-along and participated in our dramatic version of "We Three Kings" where all the verses are sung and each king given a different voice (british accent, nasal, and deep bass). While character has slid over the years into more of caricature, it's all good fun. Unfortunately we missed the rousing tunes of Jingle Bells and The Chipmunk Song, which I imagine were part of the Christmas Eve repertoire, but the kids wanted to get home before that got started.

Christmas was an adventure. I will perhaps chronicle it tomorrow. After I have a long nap.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

the nativity

- by Rembrandt

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. — Luke 2:1-19

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

holly jolly

My oldest has thrown-up twice this morning. On Sunday it was my youngest. These things don't usually just hit half the family so I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. And tomorrow, Christmas Eve! Last year we got hit on New Year's day. I guess we have some sort of holiday curse or something.

I've done an inventory of what I have for everybody. How can that pile of stuff be simultaneously too little and too much at the same time? I have a bunch of things to return, two-thirds of the needed receipts, and a list of things to pick up. I need to go grocery shopping. The roads are icy.

This is not a humbug post, I'm just tired. I think I got a decent amount of sleep last night. But I've come to the conclusion that in order to feel really rested, I need to wake up on my own terms and not by a panicked voice yelling "DAD!!!!"* followed by the sound of retching.

(*I know, I know. It was nice that she called for her father. And he got up immediately. He's good that way. But still. Tired.)

Monday, December 22, 2008

the weather outside is frightful!

We have no fireplace, sadly. But it is snowing and snowing. I'm cleaning. I'm making my lists and checking them twice. And then some more. At this point who's been naughty and nice is sort of a big blur. But my baby is sick and so I am going to snuggle her while I watch Sleeping Beauty.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Because google analytics says the number of people who come to visit me is down 10%. Since when? I don't know. Maybe since yesterday. But thanks to all those of you who do stop by. (Is that sentence grammatically correct? I wonder, doubtfully.)

Also, on a side note: Michael Bolton should not sing Christmas Songs. I'm sorry, but the passion he employs for "When a Man love a Woman" should not be used when singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

It's just wrong.

Monday, December 15, 2008

he knows if you've been good or bad...

"If you're bad, you get a black rock for Christmas," Ella said.

She was sitting at the dinner table at my parents' house last night and informing some of my siblings of the consequences of the season. Coal, for some reason, has emerged as a topic of discussion around here. My children are quite curious about it.

"But that's okay," she continued in her typical philosophical vein. "If I get a black rock, I'll just put it in my rock collection."

Madeleine chimed in. "And if I get a black rock, I'll just give it to Ella for her rock collection!"

There's always a silver lining.

Friday, December 12, 2008

christmas might come early

Gabby is hosting a lovely 12 days of Christmas Giveaway right now. Oh, there are some lovely things that you might want ~ for yourself or to give away! Head on over to Design Mom!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I'm dreaming..

Our last winter in New York we did not get any snow. The Fall leaves arrived in spectacular fashion and lingered through November and then became the drab and dreary Very End of Fall that never ended.

December came and went, uninspired though cold. Then January showed up. It sort of snowed once, but it didn't stick. Then February came. And we got one more round of "let's pretend this is snow" and then Spring came. And it probably rained enough to flood the Bronx River Parkway. That said, it doesn't take much to flood the BRP. In any case, it was disappointing.

We have yet to have a good snowfall here this year. We got some nice snow in October, and then it warmed up and was absolutely pleasant. I didn't complain. And then it got gray and dull. And now it's freezing cold. FREEZING! But there is no snow on the ground. And, need I say it? It is disappointing. In my quest for over-flowing holiday spirit, I've found that snow always helps.

My youngest is really tired and grumpy from: her cold? teething? a stomach bug? not sleeping through the night? I lay awake at 2 a.m. waiting to see if she will whimper her way back to sleep. And she usually does. But I am still awake for it.

With the tired and grumpy comes an intense desire to be held by mom almost constantly. Although this doesn't stop her from being grumpy. She's just grumpy in my arms. It makes me sad, because her nature is so cheerful and happy. I should probably take her to the doctor to see if she has an ear infection or something but I am so sick of the doctor I'm holding out to see if she will just get better on her own. (please, please, please!)

Her nap is at noon. And although she will go down earlier, she won't sleep as long then, and so I am here waiting, waiting, for the minutes to tick away to twelve o'clock. My arms are tired and weary. But I have given in the past few days and put her down early, and it wasn't quite worth it. I have a little over an hour to go.

They say a winter storm is coming. Just a few more days and there should be snow. And then more snow. And one morning I'll awake, rested, to a calm silence, suddenly aware that I wasn't called for in the middle of the night, and the world covered with a blanket of soft, peaceful white.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


I wrote a few days ago that I was looking for the holiday spirit. Later that day, in an attempt to be proactive (seeking rather than waiting for some comfort and joy to throw itself in my lap) I brought my Christmas boxes in from the garage, pulled out the Christmas CDs and put them on, and rummaged through the decorations with my kids to get the show on the road. We didn't get the tree until the end of the week, but I put up what decorations I could, and there was some holiday enjoyment in the process.

I opened up a large plastic container containing our Nativity set secured in bubble wrap and old newspaper. Ella helped unwrap and then handed the figurines to me. A wiseman, another wiseman, another wiseman. A shepherd, some sheep, a shepherd. Mary with the Baby Jesus. I placed them all carefully. The camel here. The wisemen there.

As I took the donkey, I thought about this humble beast. Blessed donkey; thank you, I thought, for carrying that tired, pregnant woman. I don't know how comfortable a ride it would have been, but having born four children I am sure it was better than walking all that way. I put the donkey near the front.

And after the donkey, Joseph. It was then that the sweet Spirit of Christmas swept over me. I felt it as I stood still, real and powerful.

Humble Joseph. Blessed man. Humble donkey. Humble Mary, servant of the Most High, surely not entirely aware of all she had been asked to do, but willing to do it anyway. To bear a child in a lowly stable. And what child! The King of kings sleeping in a manger. I placed the lambs carefully; a symbol of Him.

The collective humility overwhelmed me.

And then, it comforted me.

Monday, December 8, 2008

on the first day of Christmas

A partridge? Really? In a pear tree. Where is this pear tree? Did it come with a large orchard on extensive grounds and a rather large house? Or is it just a lone, small tree placed in a bucket or something. It's intriguing, I'll give you that.

Or maybe I just needed something to write about.

Painting by Chrissandra Neustaedter

Friday, December 5, 2008

double sick!

Apparently in the adolescent world of cool, gnarly, awesome and radical words the newest to come along is sick. Yes. Sick. It just blows the mind with the sort of mis-communication possible. For example:

Me: That movie Twilight about a human girl in love with a vampire is really sick.
Some Youth: It is totally sick! I'm going to see it again this weekend!

At our house, we are sick. Really, sick. I mean, I think we're pretty cool (gnarly, awesome, radical), too. But along with the nasty, hacking cough, and fountain of sniffles that we brought home from Thanksgiving, there is also a stomach bug going around. The last two nights we have had instances of vomiting. The first night I thought it was merely a cough-induced kind of thing but last night it passed onto the second victim, and he wasn't coughing, just casually sleeping.

I think it's a little unfair to be hit with two bummer family illnesses at the same time. It's pretty sick.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

a parent's commentary on some Christmas Lists.

M's list:

- a Wii with a Wii game {discussed by the parents: not this year}
- some dolls (the word "some" replacing the word "a") {we have a lot of dolls already...}
- map of the world {do-able}
- a doll house {no, we don't have the space}
- a board game {possibly}
- some books for kids {yes}
- a cat {no}
- a card game {we'll see}
- a coloring book {sure. why not?}

E's list:

- a Wii game (initially just a Wii, until her older sister pointed out that there would already be a Wii according to her list, and so they could use another game instead) {see above}
- some tractor toys {hmmmm, really?}
- some dolls {see above}
- a kitty {see above}
- toys. just toys. whatever toys. {sure. whatever toys are probably available}
- a wind-up rocket {what???}
- pretty, fake flowers {again, what??? also: oxymoron?}
- a Barbie set {No.}
- a little bit Ponies {we have a lot of ponies.}

Monday, December 1, 2008

looking for some spirit

Remember that old high school cheer "We've got spirit, yes we do! We've got spirit how 'bout you?"

This cheer worked best during basketball season because the bleachers are closer together and the fans on either side could easily participate in egging each other on. It would inevitably degenerate into "We've got more, check the score!" But we know that kind of logic is false. Else, why have the Cubs so long been denied the World Series? Winning a sports event has nothing to do with fan spirit. Bad luck, maybe. But that's a topic for another post.

We got back into town yesterday late afternoon after roading it through the desert. I am not a fan of the Nevada landscape. They have one nice plateau. Arizona is nicer. The red rock of Southern Utah is really quite lovely. The long stretch between Southern Utah and Middle Utah is rather bleh. (But not as bleh as NV. Just sayin'. It's not that all of Nevada is completely ugly. It has it's own charm. The palm trees help with that. And they have nice parks.)

Anyway, we survived the drive, and survived four very tired kids with colds who were alternately completely unhappy at the thought of leaving grandma's house and completely unhappy at not immediately being home Right Now! I left the house spotless. Seriously. I mopped all the floors in our house (Ben helped) before taking off for Thanksgiving. It was utter paradise to return home to a clean house. Although now I'm exhibiting signs of paranoia. I'm worried that now that the cleanliness is not going to last and that's disappointing to me.

In any case, I'm looking for my holiday spirit. This is not unusual for me when Thanksgiving is bam! right before December. I like a week to ease into things; that's just how I am. But here it is December, I'm just returned from palm trees and yikes! where's my holiday spirit? I'm sure it's lurking in boxes and a CD case full of music dedicated to the yuletide spirit. But right now what I really need is a long, hot bath, some Sudafed, and a nap. I'm thinking I can get two of the three, (no rest for the weary) and that makes me feel a little cheerful right there. We've got spirit? Maybe after I make it to the grocery store to buy some holiday spices.