Saturday, January 30, 2010

52 Books in 52 Weeks: Same Kind of Different as Me

Wow. I don't even know how else to begin my thoughts on this book. I read this because it's the Bloom Book Club pick, and Angie and Jessica rave about it so much I knew it had to be great.

You know how sometimes you hear so much about a book or movie that when you finally delve in yourself, the build-up was just too much and you're left disappointed? Well, I wouldn't go quite that far with this book, but the first 100 pages I was kind of like - eh, yeah, it's good. But dang, it's not THAT good!

Then. Ohhh man. It gets GOOD, friend. It really did become a book I could not put down. I was lying in my bed sobbing. Literally, I got up to go to the restroom and my eyes were red in their sockets. Alif finally came to bed at 12:19 and I didn't want to keep him up all night with my bawling and everything, so I closed it up and went to sleep. I finished it the next morning, bright and early. LOL

The basic storyline is two lives become entangled - Denver, a modern-dady slave, and Ron, an art dealer with loads of money. It's the kind of relationship that could only be ordained by God, and the story - which is all true! - plays out as only a divinely appointed story can.

Inspiring? Soulful? Entertaining? Heart-wrenching? Lovely? Moving? Check - and so much more. I loved it so much that I finished it three days ago and I haven't picked up a book (except the Bible) since. It needs to just resonate with me a while. Read it.

52 Books in 52 Weeks: Summer Sisters

I have to tell you that within the first - oh, several chapters of this book, I was thinking that I would not be using this book for one of my 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge books, because I knew I'd be embarrassed - er, ashamed - to admit that I was reading it.

It's a coming of age story, totally. So it starts out with these two young girls who are unlikely friends but who develop a sisterhood-type friendship very quickly. As these girls grow up, they find themselves getting into all sorts of R-rated (ok, maybe even X-rated) situations. Do not let your teenager read this book.

BUT. There is something really sweet about this story. I am blessed to have an actual sister AND a best friend who FEELS like a sister, and this story was like all of those relationships balled into one for me. There's love, angst, periods of time the girls aren't close like they were before - it's just very real and an accurate portrayal of what it's like to be a sister.

The end of the book took me totally by surprise. I can't figure out how I feel about this. It's not that the story took a really bizarre turn or anything, it's just that the whole tone of the book went from light, fun and silly to serious and mature very suddenly. On the one hand, it was a really pleasant surprise after reading through a LOT of fluff. And really, it works that it's so mature when the characters themselves have actually grown up. On the other hand, it's a little weird to have the whole tone change THAT much.

All in all, I'd give it 4 out of 5 stars. I wouldn't read it again, and I wouldn't even recommend it since it did have a lot of hanky-panky, but I enjoyed the book.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

52 Books in 52 Weeks: Olive Kitteridge

Olive Kitteridge. I debated with myself throughout the book whether to say "kitt'ridge" or "kitt-er-idge". It annoys me when I'm not sure how to pronounce a name in a book. Here's a basic description of the book from Publishers Weekly:

Thirteen linked tales from Strout (Abide with Me, etc.) present a heart-wrenching, penetrating portrait of ordinary coastal Mainers living lives of quiet grief intermingled with flashes of human connection. The opening Pharmacy focuses on terse, dry junior high-school teacher Olive Kitteridge and her gregarious pharmacist husband, Henry, both of whom have survived the loss of a psychologically damaged parent, and both of whom suffer painful attractions to co-workers. Their son, Christopher, takes center stage in A Little Burst, which describes his wedding in humorous, somewhat disturbing detail, and in Security, where Olive, in her 70s, visits Christopher and his family in New York. Strout's fiction showcases her ability to reveal through familiar details—the mother-of-the-groom's wedding dress, a grandmother's disapproving observations of how her grandchildren are raised—the seeds of tragedy. Themes of suicide, depression, bad communication, aging and love, run through these stories, none more vivid or touching than Incoming Tide, where Olive chats with former student Kevin Coulson as they watch waitress Patty Howe by the seashore, all three struggling with their own misgivings about life. Like this story, the collection is easy to read and impossible to forget.

I should have taken the "thirteen linked tales" part a little more literally. It's sort of a collection of short stories with a few key characters appearing throughout. I'm not a fan of short stories, and this was no exception - at the end, there were so many characters I wondered about but had no resolution, and while reading it's hard for me to remember who's who. It just annoys me.

However. This book is very well-written. The characters are vivid and believable and relate-able. I wouldn't say I couldn't put it down, but I definitely enjoyed reading it. I would rate it a 4 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dining Room Disaster

I cleaned my dining room! It took me three days, mainly because I sprained my ankle and it hurt too much to work on it steadily. Here's a before picture:
And here's the after! What a transformation!
Ok, so I don't have an actual before picture, but just trust me when I say that it was awful. When a dining room is actually used for homeschooling, sewing, crafting, coloring, playing, reading - oh, and you know, eating - it can get out of hand pretty quickly. I always want everything right at my fingertips, so I'd tried to cram way too much into the bookshelves, which actually meant that nothing was right at my fingertips when I needed it, and our school days were incredibly frustrating.

I tried to solve the problem with workboxes. It worked! I was thrilled with them. Only one MAJOR problem: I got sick and tired of loading 36 boxes every day. Then I tried loading them once a week, and putting notes in each box for what each child needed to do. Then I got sick and tired of loading 36 boxes every week. It just wasn't working out. Plus, I hated how the space between the bookshelves was completely full with those ugly stacks of boxes.

So? Wanna come along and see what our new system is like? You'll see that I put all those drawers to good use! This bookshelf is now almost completely school-related. The top shelf has my teacher's manuals, baby books, miscellaneous school-related books, and a drawer with various types of papers that we use on a daily basis.

The second shelf has mason jars filled with colored pencils, markers and pencils, and an old tin that my grandparents used to keep around for us. When we were little it contained crayons, but now it holds scissors and things like that. It's just not something I want the kids handling a lot since it's so old and special to me. Next to that is another drawer with one for each child. As I write up the kids' lesson plans, I will put anything the kids will need for the week in their drawers - coloring pages, worksheets I print, things like that. In the next drawer over, there are stickers (the kids get to use these on their journals each day), crayons and school supplies like glue sticks, tape etc.

Next shelf down there are hardback school books and then two drawers. I put all the kids' paperback workbooks and things in the drawers so it's easy to find what we need without stacks of things falling over. Malachi was using his drawers in another room so his are missing.
Looking down, we have reference books as well as books we all use together, and then our kazillion binders.

On the bottom shelf are all the photo albums, drawers with coloring supplies and a basket with math blocks.

And this other shelf? Was really bad before. I would get out a sewing project, work on it a bit, then shove it onto one of these shelves. I'd put papers here, shipping supplies, stuff I wanted to sell on eBay - you name it, I shoved it into this poor bookshelf. Let's see what we have now!

Top shelf - cookbooks and other miscellaneous books that I read fairly regularly, and the kids' finance department - their containers for tithe and savings.

The next shelf is my eBay merchandise shelf.

I used serious, serious discipline on the next shelf down. This is the only shelf I allowed myself for sewing supplies. (Serious pit in my stomach over this!) Everything else I moved to the hall closet. It takes me approximately 17 seconds to walk from the table to the hall closet, and to maintain order in my dining room, I will use even more discipline and put most of my sewing stuff in there. Of course that doesn't include fabric, which is taking up a significant amount of space in my garage and in my laundry room. Ahem.

The next shelf has a spot for educational games and then a drawer for shipping supplies, which I use several times a week.

The bottom shelf is all Canaan. There's not much there right now but I am going to make 3 or 4 school-time bins with things he will use mostly during school time - playdough, puzzles, certain books, coloring books, art supplies, just special stuff that he can use when I need some quiet one on one time with one of the older kids. He's really good at entertaining himself but I'd like for him to have some special things to do too.
So in place of workboxes, I made the kids these clipboards. I'll go over these more another day, but for now just see how cute they are hanging out of the way on the side of our bookshelf there. One is missing since Malachi was using his when I took the picture.
So - yay, we really enjoyed eating dinner in our nice clean dining room tonight! It's certainly a multi-purpose room but it's lovely to have it organized.

Picture Post

Caris' Dottie had a Birthday. Funny how dog years work - Dottie just had a Birthday a couple months ago. We all have to play ridiculous games, eat strange snacks and bring Dottie presents. Can I just be honest and tell you that when Caris announces that it's Dottie's Birthday, I'm always kind of like - SIGH! This time I was thinking that I was going to tell her that Dottie can only have a Birthday once a year like everyone else. Then I realized that the next time Dottie would have a Birthday, Caris would be seven . . . and then eight . . . and then - oh my gosh, how many more years will Caris honestly want to throw her stuffed dog a BIRTHDAY PARTY?? Hello reality! Instead of moaning and groaning, I got out my newly-repaired sewing machine and whipped up a cute little dog bed for sweet, loved Dottie.
Any guesses on this picture??
Brothers - happy sigh. I got home from a dental appointment and saw the boys cuddled up like this, and it was just one of those sweet moments, quite representative of the kind of relationship these particular brothers share. Precious love.
Proof that one day a couple weeks ago, Mommy took a nap!!
I saw Caris sitting on the couch and snapped a picture, and it looked just like she looks to me - you know how sometimes pictures just capture something very common? This was one of those for me.

Friday, January 15, 2010

52 Books in 52 Weeks: Even Now

Why do I let fees happen at the library? Every time we incur fees, we stay away from the library for long periods, and then when the fees are paid off I always marvel at what an amazing resource the library is.

Right now we're all paid off and enjoying our wonderful little library. I especially enjoy requesting books online so that they call and let me know when they're ready, and they are right at the front desk waiting for me!

This time though, the kids were browsing for something interesting so I did the same. I knew I wanted fiction. I checked in the Maeve Binchy area and nothing caught my eye. I went over to Karen Kingsbury next, and there were a few books there that I hadn't read and that weren't the middle of a series. I picked this one that looked cute - Even Now.

Well? It was cute. LOL I don't have a whole lot to say about the book because it wasn't compelling, it wasn't wonderfully written, it wasn't a lot of things - but it was enjoyable to read and a sweet story.

I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

How must it feel?

Each night before bed, Canaan cuddles with Alif on the couch for a while and then I carry him up to bed and tuck him in. He sleeps all night in his bed, and about 2 mornings a week he crawls into bed with Alif and I early in the morning.

This morning was a baby-in-bed morning. He crawled in around 5:45 and we fell back asleep until I got up with my alarm at 6:45. I looked over at him and he was absolutely peaceful. He was on his back, and as I slipped out of bed, he shifted a little closer to Alif and stayed sound asleep.

Later in the day I was wishing I could get inside his head. What is it like when he wakes in his bed? Does he feel a little cold and think of our heavy blankets? Does he feel lonely and long for our arms around him? Does he miss us?

Whatever the case, can you just imagine the feeling? You're cold or lonely or scared, and you crawl up into your mama and daddy's bed, slide your hands around mama's tummy, and your world is now complete. You're warm. Your Daddy is big and solid and all yours in the quiet of this morning. Mama kisses your cheek, your forehead, your hair, and lies still, no distractions.

I think it's what it will feel like to us when we're in Heaven and our Daddy beckons us, don't you?

Friday, January 08, 2010

52 Books in 52 Weeks: The Time Traveler's Wife

I really enjoyed The Time Traveler's Wife! It had been a long time since I'd read fiction, and this challenge was the perfect opportunity for me to go - hey, you know what? If I'm going to read a book a week this year, I will most definitely make time for myself to read some fiction, because that's what I love the most.

The first half of the book was pretty much what I expected from the movie previews. Engaging, romantic, funny. There was a lot more risque content than I had expected. In the second half, I started to grow a little weary of all the time shifting and the vocabulary specific to a time-traveling book. It just got a little old. It also got creepy. Of course, I'm very easily creeped out, so I'm sure this book wouldn't be considered creepy by 99% of the population.

I'm glad I read this book, and it made me want to see the movie, even though watching a movie after reading the book usually annoys me. :-)

52 books in 52 weeks challenge - join in!