Friday, February 28, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 20)

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This time, last year

It's hard to believe that this is my 20th Quick Takes post, which means I am up to 140 quick takes in all (7 x 20 = 140, for your humanities majors out there).  It's especially hard to believe because I didn't think I'd even had 140 complete thoughts since having children, let also recorded them for posterity.  So, congratulations to me.  And to all of you, for sticking around this long.

I took an IQ test 10 weeks ago, and another one today, and my IQ dropped by nearly 20 points.  I blame the children.  

If you don't mind your blog posts with a side of profanity, you should check out my latest ES post.  Before you read it, look at the picture and see if you can figure out what happened.  Leave me a comment if you were able to guess correctly. 

Our dinner swap, now in week four, continues to go well.  The sausage and cream soup that Kit gave us this week was just like my favorite soup at Olive Garden.  Amazing.  Apparently her children were not as into the cauliflower lasagne I gave them.  Oh well, you can't win 'em all.  Next week: falafel.

My book club is currently reading This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper, and I absolutely love it.  If you enjoy humorously poignant stories about dysfunctional families, you need to head to your library straight away and get your hands on this one.  A word of warning, though: the author spares no details when it comes to the characters' sex lives.  It's a little much at times, but the book is so good that I can let it go.  But I feel like I need to share this because I'd hate for someone to read the book because I recommended it, and then be scarred for life.  So, consider yourself forewarned.

"Humorously poignant stories about dysfunctional families" definitely sounds like one of the categories of movies on Netflix.  It is amazing how specific those things can get: Dark comedies of New England with a British Lead Actor, for example.  Okay, well, not really, but kind of.  According to a New Yorker article that I started recently, Netflix has 10,000 such categories.  I wonder how that compares to the number of movies that are available.  I imagine there is quite a bit of overlap in the categories, but who knows?  I could be wrong.


Is anyone else out there watching House of Cards?  Thanks to the kids, we haven't been able to binge watch the second season, which is probably a good thing, because the characters are evil enough at a rate of 2-3 episodes per week.  It is so good, though.

And thus ends another week of domestic drama.  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A short post with short stories

This seven posts in seven days business is turning out to be a bit arduous.  I mean, I am already trying to write six stories in six weeks.  What's next?  Eight books in eight hours?  Geez. 

So today, in lieu of a whole long post, I offer you two short stories (and a cute picture of Isabel, of course.)  You can check them out here and here.  They are first drafts, so please excuse any typos.  I would revise them, but I have another story due Monday.  Whew!  See you tomorrow for 7 Quick Takes.  Now I am off to read Ashley's bachelor recap.  Do I watch the show?  Heck no.  Do I look forward to her weekly recaps anyway?  Oh yeah.  If you need a laugh, just click on over and join me.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Two little readers

Elijah loves to read.  Which is to say, he loves to listen.  He will listen to books read aloud for an hour.  Currently, we are working our way through the High Rise Private Eyes series, with a side of Mr. Putter and Tabby

Isabel likes books, too, but she prefers to look at them on her own.  I put her in her room so I could go to the bathroom yesterday, and when I came out, she was turning the pages of her board books, happy as a literary clam.  I let her be, and she was content to "read" for twenty minutes or so. 

I am sure that this reflects their ages and personalities, but I wonder if I had a hand in their divergent reading styles as well.  When Elijah was a baby, it was just him, so until he was old enough to scoot away, I would read aloud to him for long periods.  I remember reading him The Lorax, in particular, many times.  Isabel, being number 2, has naturally gotten less of my undivided attention.  Could this be why she prefers to look at books alone?  Perhaps.

And perhaps I do feel a tiny bit bad about this sometimes.  But when that happens, all I have to do is watch the two of them together, particularly in the rare quiet moments when Elijah "reads" to her.  I pray that these are just the first of many reading experiences that the two of them will share.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Writer Writes...and Reads

One of my New Year's reminders this year is that "a writer writes".  Sure, it's a tired old phrase, but it also contains a great truth.  What I have realized in the past few weeks while taking a writing class is that it takes a large amount of self-discipline for me to just sit down and write.  I could use the excuse that I don't have enough time, but while it is true that my life is very full, if I make an honest accounting of my days, it is clear that there are pockets of time here or there that I could use for writing, but don't.  Taking a writing class has forced me to write, which is a very good thing.  I have also acquired a pen pal (see above photo), and I am currently on day two of Jen's 7 day blogging challenge.  I hope that once my writing class ends, I can continue to carve out the time to write.  Book reviews, blog posts, letters, stories...anything that involves putting words to paper or screen counts.  Because loving writing, thinking about writing, thinking about thinking about writing, while all good, do not a writer make.

One thing that is never hard for me to make time for is reading.  In fact, although I do enjoy writing, I love reading.  You might find me reading when I should be doing something else, like folding laundry or sleeping.  Part of the reason I have started doing book reviews is because one of my quite lofty dreams is for someone to one day pay me to read.  That sounds sublime.  And even though a writer is, of course, someone who writes, it seems to me that many writers who I enjoy also spend a lot of time reading.  Or so I tell myself when I stay up past my bedtime, again.  Which is all to say that if you, like me, are a lover of reading, you need to read The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby.  It's short and delicious, and I am off to finish the last twenty pages right now.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Montessori Monday: Number Hunt

It's late, I just got back from my writing class, and I am sort of regretting joining Jen's 7x7 blog challenge.  But, it would be lame to wimp out on the first day, and Montessori Tuesday just doesn't have the same ring to it, so here I go...

With all the not-so-lovely weather we've been having, and school being cancelled seemingly every other day, I've been trying to come up with some fun things to do at home.  One afternoon recently, I was contemplating a box of sandpaper numbers that Elijah received from our dear friend Danie, and inspiration struck.

Elijah took the cards from the box one at a time, traced the number with his finger, and placed the card on the dining room table.  Then, I gave him a category, like trains, dinosaurs or balls, and he had to go and find the corresponding number of items. 

He needed some extra help with the bigger numbers, but got the idea pretty quickly.  For number 10, I told him to get ten Reese's Pieces (his favorites - hey Uncle Matt).  Of course, he was itching to eat those, so I let him...after he put all the other items away.  He was happy to oblige, and even happier to enjoy his sweet treat.  This is definitely an activity for the rainy day toolbox.

Friday, February 21, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 19)

It's been a little tumbleweedy around here lately, what with the lack of posts, and I could give you lots of reasons, but mainly I'm just tired.  I would like to be taking a nap right now, but I also wanted to update this poor, sad blog, and that won out.  For now.

My Kansan friend Jenn, formerly of Washington, DC, formerly of Buffalo, NY, sent me this great list of non-fiction picture books.  When it comes to kids' books, fiction still rules, although things have gotten a little better in recent years.  I am looking forward to requesting these from the library, particularly the train one (for Elijah) and the matchbox one (for me).

One reason I haven't bee blogging lately is that I am taking a class at The Writer's Center in Bethesda, 6 Short Stories in Six Week.  If you are interested, you can read my first story here.  Kurt loved it, but my teacher did not agree, so I'm just going to go ahead and say that it is  Just kidding.  Read it if you dare.

This week, we did our third dinner swap with a family from Elijah's school.  I will certainly write more about this another day, let me just say that Kit's pupusas (homemade!) were super delicious.  I better keep bringing my A game if I am going to hold up my end of the bargain.

I finally was able to renew my e-book of The Grapes of Wrath from the library.  I continue to not understand why I hated it so much in high school.  It makes me thing that there are several other books that deserve another chance.  Except Heart of Darkness.  Nothing can induce me to read that again.  The horror!  The horror!

This was a big week in the friends and family birthday department.  Shouts go out to our dear friends Kim and Jonathan, who both turned the same multiple of ten (I'll let you guess which one), and our niece Sydney, who is now three, or, in the word of Elijah, stree.  

It is pouring down rain outside, but I refuse to let my spirits be dampened because it is also 60 degree.  This will be an outdoor weekend for sure.  Happy Friday!

Friday, February 14, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 18)

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Last Sunday night, Kurt took Elijah to see Stomp.  It was Elijah's first full-length performance, (he's never even seen a whole movie) but he was apparently rapt for all of the 90 minutes.  Not surprising, since the show is all about percussion, and he is a drummer man (says he).   I am excited that he is now old enough to enjoy live shows such as this, a major perk of city living.

We just got back from a long slog through the snow and slush.  We made our way, very slowly, to Uncle Chips.  Pushing the stroller, I felt a lot like the White Witch at the end of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but it was worth it to get out of the house and soak up some soggy sunshine.

We have been in a bit of nap purgatory over here.  Actually, calling it purgatory is a bit of wishful thinking on my part, based on the tightly clutched hope that it will not last forever.  Isabel has been sick with a cold seemingly forever, and refuses to nap in her crib for more than 45 minutes.  This has caused me to do things I swore I never would, like let her sleep in the car (parked, while I read a book in the front seat).  Right now, she is sacked out in the kitchen, strapped into the stroller.  Another parenting ideal bites the dust.  Oh well.

We got some kids' audio books at the library, so now on the way to school, instead of Elijah's favorite sing-along CD on repeat, it's Green Eggs and Ham, and other Dr. Seuss classics. I don't really mind, but I do find myself reciting lines in my head at random times during the day.  Would you, could you?

One of the books on the CD is I Am Not Going to Get Up Today, which I had never heard before.  Basically, it encapsulates the way I feel every single morning at 6 when Elijah starts calling my name. 

On my list of things that I am thankful for today: the last day of the NPR winter membership campaign.  I realize it is necessary, but it is also cramping my dinner-making style.  Chopping carrots just isn't as fun without the sweet sounds of All Things Considered.  Yet, I just can't make myself listen to the pleas for donations.  Next week, all will return to normal.  Thanks goodness.

Did I mention that nap time around here is basically in shambles?  Oh, I did?  Well, let me reiterate: most days, the number of minutes by which the children's naps overlap is zero.  Right now, as I type this, Elijah is sleeping and Isabel has momentarily given up on imperiling herself.  But that won't last.  The girl loves danger, and I have to wake Elijah up in seven minutes.  TGIF!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The snowy day

It was a gloriously snowy day today.  So snowy, in fact, that even Daddy didn't try to make it into work.  Instead, he pulled the kids around the neighborhood in a makeshift sled composed of a giant Tupperware tub and some rope.  That, plus a short-lived snowman, two different pots of soup, and an afternoon nap for all made for the best Thursday in recent memory. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Monkey see

Ah, ah, ah!

  Isabel has recently started doing one of my very favorite toddler things: making animal sounds  There is seriously nothing cuter to me then the sound of her tiny voice going, "Kak, kak, kak," when she comes across a toy duck.  Monkey is currently her favorite, although thanks to big bro, she loves to roar like a dinosaur, too.

And, fortunately, she loves her peek-a-book, so the cuteness quotient around here is basically through the room

Friday, February 7, 2014

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
Thank you to Amanda Soule of Soule Mama for the words and inspiration.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

For love of the series: Mr. Putter and Tabby

Diversity can be hard to come by in children's books.  I commend our library for including a wealth of books featuring African-American main characters, although perhaps this should not be that big a deal since our neighborhood includes a wealth of African-Americans.  Main characters with disabilities are rare, and when they appear, chances are that the story revolves around their own/someone else's acceptance of that disability.

And then, there are the old people.  If children's literature is to be believed, old people come in three varieties - wise, crotchety, and wise/crotchety.  Or seemingly crotchety, but actually just lonely - and wise.  And these tired tropes are why I adore Mr. Putter.  Because when I read Elijah the tales of Mr. Putter and his cat Tabby, it is evident that yes, Mr. Putter is old, but he was also once young.  And even though he is old, he still does lots of fun things, usually with his neighbor, the indefatigable Mrs. Teaberry.  Seriously, the AARP should hire this guy as a spokesperson.  When I read about Mr. Putter, I can imagine what he might have been like as a middle-aged man, a young man, or a boy.  Because even though he is old, he is still who I imagine he was all along.

(Just in case you were wondering, Elijah loves these books, too, although I think some of the above mentioned nuances might be lost on him.)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Toys I Still Love: Little Tikes Car

Perhaps I have told this story before, but I can't remember...

The Christmas after Elijah turned one, I bought him the most beautiful pair of felted wool slippers.  Our house was cold, he would never keep his socks on, and I wanted something handmade, even if I didn't make them myself.  That was his gift from me.

One day, not long before Christmas that same year, Kurt and Elijah went to Value Village in search of something, I can't quite remember what, but they returned with...The Car.  Apparently, once Elijah spotted it, he made it clear, in his one-year-old way that it was just what he needed.  At half-off, I believe it set us back about $4 or so.  My first thought was, Where on Earth are we going to keep this monstrosity?   But then I saw Elijah's delight, and, well, it stayed.  That was Elijah's gift from Daddy.

Now it's two years later, and the car is back.  Back in from outside, back to taking up approximately a third of the living room.  Back to causing squeals of delight.

Her legs are not long enough to reach the floor, and there is some obvious frustration re not being able to honk the horn.  And of course, now that the car is back, Elijah has rediscovered his love for it, which lies in direct conflict with Isabel's love for it.

But, it is beloved, and has clearly been worth all four dollars that we spent on it.  Or shall I say, that Daddy spent on it.  And the slippers?  Still to big for teeny Iz.  Maybe next year.