Friday, December 27, 2013

2014: The Year of the Books

Confession: we only made it about half way through the year before "Resolutions 2013" fell by the wayside, big time.  Apparently, I'm on trend with how my recent spate of resolution-ing has gone; I don't think that I've yet succeeded from start to finish.  Resolutions are a fairly recent tradition in my life and generally only concern me.  And reading.  As I think back over the last 3 or 4 years, reading has been numero uno on my to-do list almost every time.  Including this year!

I'm on the ball this year--at least with one thing.  I'm such a flustered chicken about many a thing  in my day-to-day living that I'm going to throw this out there almost a week early and just let it sink in a little.  As everyone is on tenterhooks as they read this, I'll suspend the suspense and let you all in on my resolution pact for 2014:

Read 12 books off of this list.  My mental math tells me that this breaks down to 1 book per month.  (I'm proving why my New Year's Resolutions never involve math; I'm obviously very gifted in this area.)

I came upon this list randomly a few days ago and thought that the idea for it is intriguing though the criteria used to judge the "most famous" books is sketchy at best.  And to that end, I would feel slighted if I lived in/felt emotionally invested in West Virginia (Shiloh???) and Washington state.  So here's my rules in this exploratory venture.

1.  I can't read any book again that I have already read and count it in my 12 books.  That's cheating.  I've already read 20 of them at any given time in my life, so those are off limits.  Yes, I count Shiloh as one of those that I've already read.  No, I don't count Twilight.  Nor will I ever.  EVER.

2.  I won't read Twilight.

3.  There's a lot of horror-ish books on that list.  That's not really my style, so I'm basically leaving those for others to enjoy for me.

That's about it.  My list includes 12 random books that I haven't read and have likely not heard of.  And I didn't research any of these before choosing them, so I really might end up with a horror or sci-fi albatross.  My selection process is what you might call titular selection.  And that's a real word.
January--The Saint of Lost Things by Christopher Castellani
February--To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway (don't be so shocked...I haven't read everything that he's ever written)
March--Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (again, it just never showed up on my syllabi)
April--A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean
May--Drown by Junot Diaz
June--The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace
July--The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
August--The Laramie Project by Moises Kaufman (I have some preconceived ideas about this one; we'll see how they compare.)
September--Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
October--Housekeeping by Marilynn Robinson
November--Paradise by Toni Morrison (I'm pretty sure that I've checked this out from the library once before but never read it.)
December--A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks (I figure December with all it's busyness deserves an easy read...some book candy.)

Sometimes, I also need to work in a reading of The Prestige because of a book exchange idea that happened over the holidays.  I haven't seen the movie, nor will I in all likelihood.   

In other book news, I smashed my left ring finger in the book drop box at the library yesterday when I was unloading a whole stack of toddler books while wearing gloves, the knit kind (the slippery, no-grip kind).  It turns out that really hurts.  Really, really badly.  Why that thing has a spring with that much force to keep the little slot shut (keeping raccoons out?) is beyond my comprehension.  It also turns out that my 4-year old thinks that I am laughing when really I am crying big, fat, salty tears of pain. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Oh, what a difference 1 year will make

Christmas program 2013 demonstrates one very important thing about my child: she is not going to be the most introverted kid forever.  Despite conditions that would otherwise have sent her into a tailspin merely 1 year ago, she sang, performed, and stood still unflinchingly while sandwiched between two classmates. 
We had seats way at the back of the sanctuary, so it's pretty amazing that we even got this shot, but this is as good as it gets.  Mine is in the middle with the striped sweater.  And look!  She's performing the hand motions for the super cute Christmas song!  By the end of the program, the cutie in green had really crammed in on her space, but it didn't seem to faze her much.  That, my friends, is progress.  It's also why we really wanted her to experience pre-school cause social skills have not always been easy with this one.  She's the apple; I admit to being the tree on this one.

Just for a point of comparison, this was exactly 1 year ago.  Notice the shading of the eyes in the classic feline move--if I can't see you, then you can't see me. 

Busy, stressful day for the little one. The best stress relief is, of course, dragging an assortment of sleeping bag, blankets, clothes hamper, pillow, and stuffed animals out to the living room in order to make a nest on top of the vent.  This is, by the way, normal for her, other than the falling asleep part.  Is it just my kid that does this?  Makes a nest for herself on top of floor vents?  I like her imagination; I think we'll keep her.  At least a little longer.  Plus, she whispered "I love you" to me while eating lunch with some friends after the program today.  Unprompted.  To me--the one to whom she regularly tells is second fiddle to Daddy because "You use a cup to rinse my hair in the bathtub and Daddy doesn't."  It must have been because I slipped her half of a breadstick. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Hot chocolate, Advent & squirrels: a holiday hodgepodge

Don't I just sound like a jolly elf?  I feel fairly jolly, not because it's Christmas-y time, but because Meijer finally put the Starbucks salted caramel hot chocolate on sale, and I just enjoyed my first cup from the batch.  Granted, I only "saved" something like $.48, but I was stubbornly waiting it out for that crack stuff to go on sale, and by jingles, it did.  It also added to one of my largest single-day grocery bills to date.  Sign of the times--I didn't even flinch.  Ah well, what is money anyway when there is a perfect little box of salted caramel hot chocolate mix waiting for me at the bottom of that bag of groceries?  Retirement...saltaed caramel hot chocolate???  It's a toss-up.

Well, it's been all Advent-y up in this house.  We haven't done...anything...special for Advent before, other than the occasional Advent service when schedules have permitted.  But this year, I felt like doing something since the resident 4-year old is down on the whole Christmas story now, and it just seemed like a good time.  But I'm not really that excited about buying a cheap chocolate deal and going that route.  Instead, I rather came up with my own hyrbid, and pats on my back, it's been going pretty well.  I ended up buying a box of 40 blank cards on sale, and they're glittery, so there's the sweetness factor for my girl, who likes a little sparkle in her life in a brief nod to girly stuff.  Then, I came up with a list of 25 activities/treats and assigned each card to a different thing.  This was calculated according to the foreseeable schedule as well as it wouldn't work well to have "Take Daddy on a Christmas date!" on a night that I was teaching.  Finally, I cut red & green strips out of construction paper and wrote a different Christmas/winter joke on each one.  Admittedly, they often have to be explained to her, but she loves 'em.  She has become a big fan of the comics in the paper, so this is right in her happy zone.  Every day, we add to the paper chain on the Christmas tree as part of the Advent-y-ness, and, the girls get a special treat.  Today: make paper snowflakes.  We did this last year with much good times, and this is my kind of crafty craft that I enjoy: little prep, no special equipment, not very time consuming, and still sweet & cute.  As one last acknowledgment of the 4-year-old-ness, each day's card is hidden by "the Christmas mouse," which is basically how I'm dodging saying that it's from Santa.  She knows it's me, and she's willing to play along with it.  Not that she needs it, but it's been even more incentive to get up at 6 am on the nose to come scout out the day's Advent card. 

Now comes the part about squirrels.  This is an special shout-out to the J-Dug-dog, who has completely ruined my concept of the furry rodents.  I cannot divorce my mind of the connection between "Jessica" and "squirrels."  It is now impossible.  Because of this, I think of you often, which is to say every time I see a squirrel.  But it's not all about Jessica here.  Oh, no.  This is a shake of the finger to Jimmy our backyard squirrel (I'm convinced we only have one, hence why I'm fairly confident in my naming.).  He is a wiley coot who occasionally comes to scavenge the bird food offerings.  Judging by his girth, I'd say that he knows all of the sweet spots.  The little brown beastie even chose to bury a nut in our backyard, as I watched him.  That was amusing.  Merely a few days later, he devoured THREE of our homemade bird food ornaments (Advent activity!) that I had just put out the night before.  These were the size of big Christmas cookies, as we used cookie cutters to make them all cute and whatnot.  And, each one was just about an inch thick, so that's a good amount of bird food right there in each one.  And he pillaged them all.  In about 15 minutes, they were gone, the little devil.  Since we only have one squirrely friend, I wasn't too terribly upset.  But I still wanted to shake my curmudgeony fist at him and chase away the whippersnapper.  I might just go and dig up his precious little nut if he keeps up this kind of bullying behavior.  Does the Christmas spirit extend to squirrels?  Yeah.  Yeah, it does.  Enjoy your birdseed offerings, Jimmy.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bed Bug

We have a little girl who just updated to a bigger girl bed.  Ergo, we also have a little girl's room that just lost a significant amount of floor space.  This house is bursting at the seams.  Ergh.  And here's a shout out to a sweet friend of mine/ours from college who quilted the quilt that's on her bed by hand, inspired by the children's book If You're Afraid of the Dark, Remember the Night Rainbow.

Guess who...

She's not excited or anything.

And with any photo shoot with this child, we get the "serious" pictures out of the way first before we devolve to the absolutely necessary round of silly (how 'bout 'dem striped leggings?)...


...and I don't know what.  Yoga?

Sometimes, the super sweet memory foam mattress just isn't as comfortable as the floor.  I guess.  And then this happens.

In other news, the girl's ears continue to be a series of less-than-fun-times.  The latest issue was fixing her right ear, which didn't heal after the tubes fell out.  Anesthesia round #2 went off without a hitch, and she came home with a couple of stitches in her earlobe, a fixed eardrum, and Daddy's sweet faux-scrubs.