Saturday, January 31, 2009


Apparently I am not a woman made of tough stuff. Lovely hubby made his way out of the house last Tuesday, around 4 am, to gallivant off to Las Vegas, and he left me to keep the home fires burning (and the kids alive and not sold-- those were my only specific instructions). During that time-- 5 measly days-- I even had the companionship and assistance of my fantastic mother-in-law, who stayed with us Wednesday and Thursday nights. And as I type away, lovely hubby is flying high above the ice covered Midwest, making his way back to the east coast late this evening. Barring any complications, I expect he'll be able to get his luggage, grab a shuttle and be home sometime around 1 am. Nothing big, right?

Like I said-- not a tough gal over here. The title of this post refers to the almost non-stop eye twitch that I've been experiencing for about... uh, what's it been? Oh yeah- about 5 days! The stinking thing has become something beyond annoying-- maddening is more like it. Just below my lower right lid has been twitching off and on, and according to my sophisticated research (i.e. Google, of course!), this is most likely caused by stress and lack of sleep. Ha! Perhaps I should have not chosen to read until after midnight every night this week as a way to distract myself from the empty space on the left side of the bed.

Man, I have missed him so. I have had way too many grumpy moments with the kids, who all have been missing him just as much. (Pudge saying "Dada! Wuv woo!" into the cell phone damn near broke me.) I know I am a gigantic wuss for my kvetching, because my week wasn't even a drop in the bucket of what so many other moms have to do on a daily basis for much longer stretches, or indefinitely. I have unending respect for those much-stronger-than-me women, and my five day stint is all I needed to experience to know that I'd have a whole lot of growing to do if I ever found myself needing to do this on a regular basis.

Beyond the missing him as another person here to help take on the regular parenting and household tasks, I have missed him even more as my other half. (Commence groaning.) I have felt so incredibly lonely without having him simply in the house, or nearby on the couch, or a few inches away on his pillow-- at a basic level, just missing his presence. I will be so glad to be awakened on the couch in a few hours with what I hope will be one heckuva kiss.

Alright, the complaining and the sappiness are over for now... thanks for indulging me. Now I can only hope that this *insert-appropriately-strong-word-of-your-choice-here* twitch magically disappears when lovely hubby walks through the door!

Friday, January 30, 2009

wanna view some reviews?

My hope is to have something posted on at least a weekly basis over at 5minutesforbooks, and since it's already been established that I have no shame, I'll be highlighting my work over there right here on my own little bloggy space. Today it all began with my first official review. Yay! I'm so glad that Jennifer decided to publish my review of Mo Willems' new book Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed as the first one of my stint there, since I obviously have a sentimental attachment to his work. (And perhaps a slight bit of an obsession... ah, it's all semantics...) Either way, my review was posted this week, and I have a few others I've worked on that should make their way to the site in the weeks to come. It's no secret that I love to talk, I love to read, and I love to share my opinions by talking about the things that I read, so this is my bloggy-dream-come-true.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

five sleeps is a lot of fricking sleeps

If you ever happen over to my lovely hubby's blog, you might already know that he has abandoned us for greater pursuits this week, in no place other than Vegas. Yup, dude's in Vegas, and I'm here in snow-turned-sleet-turned-slush-land with three wackjob kids. And, to top that off, school was cancelled today is already scheduled to be closed on Friday for a teacher day, so it's a very long week of not much Mommy-time-off built in. (In the interest of full disclosure, my dear mother-in-law came up this afternoon and will be here until Friday morning, so I do get some assistance, and so I really should stop my bitching now, right??)

Since the kids aren't all that accustomed to having Daddy being away, I thought I'd follow that simple idea of a paper chain to help them (not me, surely!) count down the time remaining until his blessed return. We did this in the number of 'sleeps' for Red's benefit, and JAM graciously wrote and decorated the slips. (The best one was the first paper for 'Five More Sleeps!' that included a drawing of what was supposed to be my face when I was crying, but really ended up looking like a Mii character with those heavy wrinkles... same difference, I guess, as this trip is simultaneously making me cry and prematurely aging my delicate facial features.)

This morning we ripped off that wrinkly-crying-mii-face, and tomorrow morning "Four More Sleeps!" will get trashed as well. All that lovely hubby asked me to promise him was not to sell the children while he was gone. So far, so good. Close, but good. (Apparently ebay has regulations, or some crap like that...)

All kidding aside (and that is what I was doing, dear!), I am very much missing my big guy. While I am a fan of sleeping in a large span of bed without fighting for the blankets or having an elbow bump into my eye socket (no exaggerations there-- two common occurrences, in fact), I do miss the feeling that he is nearby while I am sleeping. Call me sappy, but five sleeps is a very long time to be apart. I am very much looking forward to Sunday morning!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

nightstand notes

Sticking on the same theme as my last post, I've been really perusing the 5minutesforbooks site these last few days, trying to get a feel for how to post (using WordPress is a new adventure for me!) and simply being a part of the community, reading and commenting. Well, I'm reaching and inviting you all to take part in their latest carnival (sorry, no funnel cakes), which I assume many of you could very easily do by simply looking over at that pile of books you've accumulated, just waiting to be read.

Here's what I'm staring at, all courtesy of that amazing, wonderful, free place called the library...

There you have it- my pile as it stands today. What's on your nightstand?

Monday, January 26, 2009

spreading my wings

Yeah, that was as corny of a title as I could conjure up, but I do have to admit that I am more than a bit gleeful about an opportunity that I've been given to put more of my thoughts out there to be consumed on the web. I have blogged just a bit on here of my love for the written word, and several of those posts have involved the very cool web community 5minutesforbooks. I've had the pleasure of having a few guest reviews posted on the site, and last week, I received a kind email from Jennifer, the editor, asking me to join their reviewing staff. Yay! It's even all official, and everything! (Scroll down for the familiar goofy face and my feeble attempt at a witty bio.)

Prepare yourself for additional shameless plugging in the future-- I'll be doing regular still-to-be-determined-amount-of-time-ly posts highlighting the site's offerings and my contributions, and I feel confident in saying that the site has an abundance of interesting posts and features for readers of all types. My stuff will mostly be popular fiction and picture books, but I hope to also pop up on some of the 'essay' posts as well-- my favorite being a feature called "On Reading." Other than my wackadoo kids, I can't think of a thing I like to blather on about more!

Friday, January 23, 2009

they didn't mean cheerful

JAM came off the bus yesterday in what we call around these parts- an elevated emotional state. As he was yelling to me that "those kids" were causing a problem, my first instinct was just to assist him in calming down so as not to make a giant scene at the bus stop, but I figured that it was probably a silly, easy-to-address conflict that had gotten him upset. (Like his frustration with the kid who keeps telling him that Star Wars isn't cool and nobody likes it.)

Oh, I really hate being wrong.

The story comes out as we're walking back home from the bus stop, and I found myself, for probably the 70 millionth time, wishing that I could just package my not-so-little-anymore boy up and hide him away from the all the crap that kids seemingly have to go through. Here's how it went down. The morning bus driver has made it a new habit to come and pick the kids up 5-8 minutes earlier than she is scheduled to and then simply drive away. Well, yesterday morning, there were several kids running out of apartment buildings as she began driving off, but thankfully they were noticed, and she pulled over so they could get on. One of these children was a friend of JAM's, and according to him, his friend's mom doesn't like him to sit in the far back of the bus. So JAM was sitting in the middle and called out to his friend to join him when he boarded the bus. Two fifth grade boys (who were already sitting together, as they do every day, according to JAM) responded to this by repeatedly calling JAM "Gay Man" and "Gay Boy," apparently missing the irony of their own seating arrangement.

Unfortunately, it doesn't even end there. After they arrive at school, and JAM is getting settled into his classroom, those two boys pass by his open classroom door en route to their own room and call out their lovely nickname for him once again. And, yup, again on the afternoon bus ride home. By the time he got off the bus in the afternoon, he was really frustrated and just plain ticked off. He said that he had told them to stop several times, but that just didn't do anything.

Well, our dinner conversation revolved mostly around this event, and we reiterated things that we've talked about before- bullying behavior, why kids tease other kids, different reactions that are appropriate when you're being teased, the whole shebang. And yet, I found myself really stuck on the content of this harassment, and I tried to emphasize to JAM that the word 'gay' is not meant to be used as an insult. That it is simply a word to describe grown-up people who find themselves wanting to have a romantic relationship with someone of the same gender. I found myself wanting to emphasize to him that this isn't a quality upon which someone should be judged-- this is simply what someone is. I know that I'm treading into potentially dangerous waters here, but this represents my belief system and the values that I want to instill in my child. I don't want him growing up and thinking that people who are gay are 'others,' and thus somehow less than he is. I really found myself frustrated with the multiple levels of inappropriateness of the whole incident-- especially with our dear 8.5 year old boy who still seems to be oblivious to the whole idea that someday he'll like someone in a romantic way, anyway! I have this constant question in my mind about what situations warrant contacting the school administration, and I hesitated for just a moment before deciding to email the principal last night. For me, the biggest factor was the fact that this particular type of teasing happened on three separate occasions throughout the day, and I figured that if I didn't do something, there was the major potential for it to continue unchecked.

As a postscript, I must say that I was quite pleased with the actions that were taken and the spirit in which our concerns were received by the school administration. I'm satisfied that the incident was handled appropriately, and I'm hoping that it's over now. I know that the few of you who, for some reason, read these words of mine are also parents-- what would you have done?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

it's the story... kinda...

Yes, it seems that all I am blog-capable of doing these days is posting videos and silly pictures, so of course, I have yet another for you tonight. I thought about saving this for a Sunday's guffaws, but why wait? This really made me and lovely hubby laugh tonight-- not sure that JAM would get half of the jokes in it, so I don't think I'll be showing it to him anytime soon. But if there are any of you out there who live as I used to live-- as in not having the knowledge of what that whole Star Wars thing is all about-- you may enjoy this. But, if you do know what it's all about, you may actually find this even more hysterical.

And, no worries, I have a big, heavy post in my mind about some crap that went down with JAM on the school bus today. But let's not lose the funny buzz here...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

speech reactions

I'm sure I'm not alone today in reading and watching various pundits and TV personalities' reactions to President Obama's inaugural speech yesterday. I've hesitated from posting about my own reaction, simply because I don't think I can offer anything as eloquent as what's out there already, and I'm not sure that I could find the words to do justice to the feelings of respect, pride and optimism that continue to course through me 24+ hours later.

I can however, show you a video that gives a pretty close approximation as to what I looked like during the speech, and at random times off and on throughout the day yesterday. If you haven't caught it yet, check out Stephen Colbert giving his speech evaluation.

I swear that those comedy central men absolutely slay me.

two places at once!

If I could be in more than one place at once in my real life, life would be incredible. The morning routine alone would be smoother--one of me could be making JAM's lunch, another of me could be perched on the stool feeding Pudge, and yet another could be talking Red down from her latest tantrum over *insert random ridiculous reason here.* Ah, good times.

Since that isn't going to happen anytime soon, the next best thing is to replicate myself all over these Internets of ours. If you can't get enough of my blathering around these parts, today is your lucky day-- 5minutesforbooks has once again posted one of my little book reviews. Head on over for the review-- it was really a fantastic and unique story-- and stick around the site a while for all sorts of book lover goodies.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

oh happy day

What else is there to say. I feel it's more appropriate today, than just 20 days ago, to say, "Happy New Year." It's a new beginning, a desperately needed new beginning. A fresh start, a time to start a-fixing the wrongs that have accumulated for so long.

I wish you strength, wisdom, courage and patience, Mr. President (I'm dropping the -elect four hours early, sue me). And I hope we all can share in those traits.

Monday, January 19, 2009

yay for library day!

We haven't been making our regular treks to the library these days since it's been so crazy cold. (If you're reading this from a New England or Midwest location that has seen subzero temps and immense amounts of snow, go ahead and call me a wimp, but anything below 40 degrees is crazy cold for walking to me!) When we got the opportunity to head over to the library after swim classes last weekend, I jumped at the chance. JAM and I even prepped the night before by comparing our to-be-read lists to the online library catalog, making our list of books that theoretically should be on the shelves. I also hoped that I'd have a little time to simply browse through the kids' shelves and hope for books to call out to me, "Take me home! Read me over and over and over to your little ones!"

Well, this one did. A Birthday for Cow by Jan Thomas, published last year, is one of those superbly simple yet hysterically-funny-to-toddlers kinds of books. (Full disclosure-- both JAM and I laughed a whole lot on the first read-through, too, and we're both still giggling each time since.) The illustrations are cartoonish, and the color scheme is bordering on garish, but the word "Turnip" becomes the funniest thing you could possibly say by the end of the story. Trust me, if you've got a 2-5 year old around your house, this book is sure to bring some laughs.

mama needs a new look

My short hair is not-so-short anymore, yet my hairdresser costs more than I'm willing to pay these days, so it continues to grow into a weird, not-really-a-hairstyle 'do.

My eyebrow hairs threaten to grow and multiply in such incredible numbers that they soon will reside all across my expansive forehead (five-head), but I'm just no good with the tweezers and I haven't gotten out of the house without a child attached to me, so no waxing for now.

My post-baby belly (how long can I milk that phrase now that Pudge is 14 months old?!) is in dire need of some 'tucking,' yet the cosmetic surgery fund is bone dry.

And finally, my blog is my favorite blue, but the design is Plain Jane, most definitely. I have big ideas, but zero know-how to bring my thoughts to fruition.

While no one is offering dear Marcus-the-haircut-guy's services for free these days, and no one is bringing a pot of hot wax and some paper strips to my door, and no one is throwing cash at my ridiculous inner-desire for a tummy tuck, there is someone out there saying, "Hey, I'll fix your blog up pretty... for free!" Judi at Doodlebug Designs is running a contest for exactly the kind of blog overhaul I have in mind. I'm entering, but please, please do not get any crazy ideas of your own about heading over there and throwing your name in the hat, effectively decreasing my chances of winning. Unless you're willing to give me a haircut, wax my eyebrows or blast away my baby-gut, in exchange, that is. HA!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

this week's guffaws

I got a two-for-the-price-of-one for you tonight. Two people I'd like to see disappear from my television screen, my radio speakers, my newspapers, my magazines, my Internets. For the first one, my reasoning is simple: she is, by far, the most hate-filled human being to ever grace (term used very lightly) this planet. As far as the other, well... the reasons are long and complex, but they all intersect at the point where he has horribly represented our country for eight incredibly long years.

So, the best way to confront the difficulties in life, in my eyes at least, is through humor. In that spirit, I extend my sincere thanks to SNL and David Letterman for providing me some giggles in relation to these individuals. I hope you enjoy as well...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

yes, this is ten years old, but it's the most popular thing in my house right now

It's pretty apparent that Star Wars takes up about 98% of the space in JAM's brain these days. He's had an interest in the whole thing for quite a while now, but lovely hubby and I have opted to take a gradual approach to things... talk about the storyline, have the first exposure be through book form, opt to start with the 'milder' middle of the story, and finally watch the first movie (as in Episode IV- the first movie made back in the 70's) last summer just before JAM turned eight. That's what seemed to make sense to us, and we're still continuing with the gradual approach these days, seven months later. In that time, he has watched Episode V and VI as well, but we are still waiting a while before allowing him to watch the other, more recently made movies, since the imagery and violence levels go up a few notches with the increased technology and sophistication in movie making twenty to thirty years later. He's not particularly happy with us for that, but he knows the boundaries are there and he doesn't ask or complain about it anymore. He's content with reading SW books, and his school library has a plentiful supply of them to fill his time. He has about a klabillion and one legos, and whether they were originally part of a SW product or not, they are used to create ship after ship that I never call the correct name, much to JAM's chagrin. (Insert eye-rolling and "Mo-o-o-o-o-m!" here.)

But the one thing that stands above the rest in his Star Wars Obsession, is easy to identify. About two months ago, he came home from school and said that a friend of his told him to look something up on youtube. This friend is a lot like him- hyperactive, academically good student, potential for pretty serious dork status in adolescence- so my first thought was that it was probably something innocent and SW related. My instinct was correct, and we've watched this video quite often since then. This is Weird Al at his best-- the lyrics are spot on for the story, but they're funny as heck as well. I swear that I cannot stop singing this song... so I pass it along to you!

Friday, January 16, 2009

is anyone else watching?

A season (or two maybe?) ago, lovely hubby gave up on Grey's Anatomy, leaving me to watch all by my lonesome. Since it's opposite The Office, and that is a show he'll watch, I usually end up catching the episodes online, which is what I did this week. I watched last week's episode on Wednesday, and I just finished last night's episode a little while ago.

I'm not doing so well.

Yeah, yeah, it's a pretend show with a bunch of pretend doctors in a pretend world where everyone is beautiful. I get that. But. The thing that lovely hubby can't get past is that all the most incredible, most awful, most unbelievable, most everything happen in this one place, to this one group of people. (Or perhaps that's what turned him off to ER... I might be getting my hospital shows mixed up...) Either way, I agree, but I also realize that it's just gotta be that way, because who the hell would watch a hospital show that's more realistic to what it must be like 95% of the time in a hospital-- boring, monotonous, and filled with not-so-beautiful people. (I'm not sure that needed to sound so harsh. Hmmm.) Okay, where am I going with this?

It's this- this show continues to set out story lines that make me think, and make me anguish, and make me sob. I literally had to tear the earbuds out of my ears and cover half of the laptop screen with my hand at the last few moments of this week's episode. Then I went to the bathroom, so as not to disturb lovely hubby's viewing of The Wire in the living room, and cried my eyes out while sitting on the toilet.

Is anyone else watching? Is anyone else having their stomachs twisting and turning over the storyline with the young boy in need of a transplant? Is anyone else finding it painful to even look at the face of the boy's mother? Is anyone else as conflicted as I am about the decisions Meredith has made throughout the whole storyline with the serial killer? Is anyone else torn up by the intermittent references to the Iraq war experiences of Dr. Hunt? Is anyone else finding it so painful, yet so thought-provoking as to be rewarding, to watch this show these days??

"I think I must be growing"*

These could be the exact words in Red's head today. We had a lovely interaction as she sat on the potty after naptime today. (Oh, there's a story there too, of course... poor girl woke up in the midst of an unexpected accident... the screams let me know this was more than just an, "Oops, I started to pee in my sleepy underwear," as we call the pull-ups she wears for nap and bedtime... thankfully it wasn't too bad!)

Well, back to the story. As she sat there trying to recover from her sudden fright and, ahem, finish her business, she looked down at the kiddy stool at her feet. She then looked up at me with absolute delight in her eyes.

Red: "Mommy! Did you notice that I can reach the stool now? My foots can touch it!"

Me: "I do notice that! You couldn't do that before, huh? You must be growing."

Red: "Yeah, I must be growing like a flower!"

And then talking about this again with her big brother (of course starting the conversation by incredulously asking, "JAM, did you know I got a little little bit of poopy on my pants?!), she added some more of her apparent knowledge of growing things:

Red to me and JAM: "Did you see that seeds grow in flowers? They just grow in their homes and grow and grow, and then they get like flowers. Like daisy flowers."

It's amazing to me how she comes out with this stuff... when she's not screaming her head off, that is.

*And, another gazillion cool points if you can identify the song and kids' songster that this title comes from...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

you all may be tired of hearing about this, but...

... there is NO way that I could resist posting about this. You remember my lovely, screaming-toddler-infested moment with Mo Willems last weekend? Well, as a huge fan (or potential cyber-stalker... toMAYto, toMAHto...), I couldn't help but shamelessly leave a comment on his blog linking back to my post. "Yeah right," I thought to myself, "like he'd ever waste his time checking that out!"

HA! Self, you've just been served! (Keep going until the end, trust me...)

Now, I can say that my favorite children's book author ever not only knows that I exist (what am I, 14 again??), but he also cannot STAND my darling redheaded offspring! Joy of joys! (Just kidding, he was quite gracious about Red's little screamfest.) Yes, as ridiculous as it may sound, this absolutely made my day.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

delousing, you say? is it delurching? no? ohhh...

I'm not getting rid of any nits around here (thank GOODNESS!), and I'm not removing any extraordinarily large butlers from our midst, but I am participating in the newly-extended National Delurking Week! (Insert cheers and applause here.)

The idea is that if you normally come around these parts simply to take in the stunning scenery (those kids are darn cute, you've got to admit) or to voluntarily listen to my ranting and raving (perhaps a hobby is in order?), the day to make yourself known is today! I know that some of you are from states far and near (more than half of the US states-- way more than I've ever travelled in real life!), and I know that some of you are from other countries, obviously here to make fun of the 'Simple American.' (Many cool countries pop up on my stat tracker, but unfortunately, I cannot see Russia from my laptop...)

So, if you're out there (hello? hellooooo? hellooooo?), feel free to succumb to the pressure today to step out of the shadows and join the motley crew that is my (very, very modest) readership. Comment away!

(Oh, I almost forgot to say-- one gazillion cool points to the first person to say, "Long time reader, first time commenter!")

Sunday, January 11, 2009

this week's guffaws

Okay, gotta say that it's a short one tonight, because my favorite awards show is on right now, and I'm just getting to tune in now that JAM has gone up for bed. But I had to share this site with you all, after my friend Bin passed it along to me. (She's got a FANTASTIC record of finding funny blogs and spreading the word- she tuned me into Cakewrecks!)

So, this week, I'm sending you to Cute Things Falling Asleep, and I promise that you will completely lose track of time and space while you while away hours and hours of watching ridiculously adorable video clips. Oh yes, this is a funny, funny place to visit.

While we didn't capture video, lovely hubby did get this photo of our l
ittle man having a difficult time making it through lunch the other day.

May your week be filled with laughs, and perfectly adorable naps!

mo' screaming toddler

Yep, that's me, JAM and Red meeting my most favorite children's book author ever. And yep, that's Red screaming her bloody head off, because... who knows why. Some days it seems like that girl is out to get me. So, while I didn't get to stay in the bookstore to hear all of Mo Willem's read alouds or get to watch as JAM answered one of his questions into the microphone or get to come off as a crazy-blog-stalker when we had our 1.5 minutes of face-to-face time book signing moment ("Hi, I read your blog religiously and leave comments all the time-- that's me, morninglight mama, do you recognize me from my little ID photo? Do ya? Do ya??"), I think we may have made an impression on dear Mo. (I mean, c'mon-- how many people got to take this photo with him??)

postscript: I was thrilled to see that dear Mo posted this picture of my crazed little girl on his own blog-- so if you've ventured over here from his site, welcome! If you liked this wackadoo story, stick around, I've got plenty more!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

who needs Mt. Everest when you have a possibly insurmountable couch?

Give him some rope, a pair of special traction shoes and a few of those clippy things, and he'll be all set, because this dude is a climber. Pudge has discovered that the high IKEA stool in the kitchen is a great thing to scale up, but not so much fun when he's tumbling off backwards. Ditto for the little chairs at the art table in the living room. (Thankfully, I saw him in time before he fell off the table itself!)

And then there's the couch, definitely his biggest accomplishment so far. He mostly whines for others to pull him up, but the few times that he's gotten on it all by his lonesome, he has worn the hugest smile of self-pride I've ever seen adorn his beautiful face. That's the good part. The bad part is that he apparently perceives the couch as a short, straight running track-- perhaps he's training for the 2 meter dash? He exudes the same amount of joy while running as he does for the accomplished climb, yet I can't cheer this part on for him. So, we play the battle of "You need to sit on the couch, or you'll get down,"-- once, twice, then three times and you're down, buddy. As you can imagine, he's not so much a fan of that, so we now have the great pleasure of enduring one very frustrated screamer-in-training (big sis is a FANTASTIC coach!) several times a day. Good times.

Friday, January 09, 2009

the chronicles of napnia

Here's the deal-- I feel like a ridiculous excuse for a parent some days. (Okay, lots of days.) I mean, honestly, Red is only 18 months older than Pudge, and they are my second and third rounds at this whole mothering thing, but I keep finding myself in developmental situations with Pudge where I simply cannot remember what I did with the other two. Take for instance, the whole nap issue. Let me preface this whole thing by saying, I LOVE naptime. Naptime is the time to write lists, organize thoughts, attempt to check email (a new computer that reliably worked would be INCREDIBLE), write inane blog posts, fold laundry, prep dinner supplies, wash floors, have a phone conversation without the background noise of piercing screams... you get the picture. Now mind you, I'm thrilled if I even get one or two of those things done during one naptime, but I consider it a success even if it's small-scale.

I'm also a big fan of routine. (surprise, surprise) I understood that I needed to relax my need for consistency while Pudge was really young, but once he started being predictable with his napping needs, we went to a pretty typical morning schedule: he'd nap from about 9:30 am to 10:30/11:00. Then he'd nap again from around 1-3 pm, at the same time as Red. That was AWESOME. During the morning, Red and I could have some one on one time, and while they both napped, I could attack The List. Good times were had by all.

Then. A month or so ago, Pudge began changing things up a bit on me. While he still went down for his morning nap like a champ, by the time the afternoon naptime rolled around, it was par-tay time in his head. And the funny thing about this kid is that, for the most part, he's not terribly upset by being alone in his crib. So, I'd put him down around the same time, maybe pushing it by 15-20 minutes or so, but he'd just hang out in his crib for a looooong time without falling asleep. He'd whine a bit every once in a while, but mostly he'd just babble away, or he'd have significant periods of quiet, in which I'd think he had given up and fallen asleep only to break the silence with a major giggle and bust my dream. It made it really difficult for me to get anything done when I'm downstairs straining to hear every peep over the baby monitor-- I felt like I couldn't get started with anything until I knew they were both asleep. It was beginning to play out that by the time he eventually fell asleep, Red was bounding down the stairs, ready to begin the afternoon. I was left with:

*things not getting done (a big-time downer for me)
*heavy doses of guilt that Pudge was spending too much time alone in his crib
*major grumpiness at my lack of any time to even pee without a two-and-under-audience-member
*uncertainty about what the heck to do!

So, I weighed my options (benedryl getting crossed off that list pretty quickly...), and figured my best bet would be to dump the morning nap. Over the holidays, we were away for several days with relatives, and there were times that we went out and his regularly-scheduled-naptime was disturbed anyway, so it seemed like it was the perfect time to take the plunge when we got back home, and our normal life began once again. It's been almost a full week of the one-nap-a-day thing, and there have been some highs and lows, but I'm still just not sure if I'm doing the best thing, you know? The morning is nice in that we're not chained to the house for naptime, but then again, it's been bitterly cold lately, so it's not like we've been heading out for extended periods of time or anything. But then I have this nagging feeling that in this schedule, he's just not going to get the amount of daytime sleep that he really needs, which I think is about 3 hours... and yes, I still (mostly) scan those your-child-this-week emails, so I'm very easily influenced by the (often conflicting) advice of the 'experts.' But on another hand (how many are we at now?), the kids all also start swim classes tomorrow, and the group for Pudge only meets at 10:30 am, so he'd be missing that naptime anyway if we were still on the old schedule. I'm also not the kind of person who can easily go from one routine to another on different days, so maybe I'm just projecting that onto Pudge, and he could handle going between morning-nap-on-days and morning-nap-off-days. Am I making any fricking sense anymore with all this going back and forth?

That's where I'm at. I'm probably going to just stick it out with the path I've struck here, regardless of all my internal vacillating (that is simply the way my crazy brain works, no denying that). Soon enough, the cold weather will be past us, and we'll take up our morning treks again, and then we'll be occupied enough that the morning nap question will be mostly moot (or moo, if you're Joey Tribiani).

That being said (that I'm a stubborn, anxious, and resistant-to-change kind of gal), I'm still curious to know how and when other people handled the transition to one nap deal. What's your story?

Saturday, January 03, 2009

apparently, I'm married to Martha

Wowee wow wow. I have to take just a moment to give some major bloggy love to my lovely hubby for setting the stage for what had the potential to be a very frustrating and unsuccessful crafty experience, but actually turned out to be a pretty darn cool family fun time endeavor. Are you curious? You just have to stop by his space in blogland to see the pics (and one totally neato 360 degree photo montage!), and feel free to leave him a little comment heaping praise upon his newly discovered Martha-Stewart-gene!

Friday, January 02, 2009

C times 3

As hard to believe as it may be, I've been blathering on here for 299 separate posts, so of course I'm feeling some pressure to produce something more than my ordinary ranting and raving for this number 300. Since I'm a complete dork, I want to put something up here that plays off that number, but can you imagine reading a silly list of 300 facts about me? Yeah, I do believe that would be the perfect move if I'd like to hear nothing but a constant cricket-chirping soundtrack around here...

How about a list of ten bullets, with each entry representing groups of thirty things that are remarkable, noteworthy, or somehow related to something or other about me? Okay, are you following me? I'm not sure how well this idea is going to fly, so bear with me here. (Or alternatively, you could click to your next blog, as this may well turn out to be a wash...)

Here we go, apparently... 300 Things About Me, Conveniently Packaged in Ten Groups of Thirty to Commemorate the 300th Time I've Typed Silly Words into This Space. (whew.)

* I carry around, on a daily basis, 30 extra pounds, mostly accumulated on my two-tiered post-pregnancy belly. I would like, very much, to send those 30 things far, far away.

* I enjoyed exactly 30 books that I read last year, leaving only 1 on the man-that-was-a-major-waste-of-my-precious-reading-time list.

* I have plucked 30 gray hairs from my head of always-messy-hair since my public shaming of numero uno a year and a half ago. (This is, quite possibly, an approximation.)

* I could sleep for 30 consecutive hours if given the chance... as if there could ever be that long of an even semi-quiet environment in our teeny tiny home.

* At a young age, I once attempted to count the freckles that adorn the bridge of my nose and my forehead in the spring and summer months. I gave up at 30, because I'm not equipped with that much fortitude. (Sure, I could have made that one up, but it's most likely pretty darn close.)

*Yeah, this list is turning out to be a whole lot freaking harder than I initially imagined... so let me throw down those last 150 items in one-- that is the number of minutes that I spent crying my eyes out while watching the Benjamin Button movie the other day. (It's 159 minutes long, so I figure that number is pretty spot on, actually.)

Count em up, folks. 300 is number of the day!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

bring it on, aught-nine!

So, a new year has been rung in. The champagne has been gulped, the trip back home has been completed, and I am confronted with the first post the year. How to play it? I could get gushy on you and reminisce about the wonders that 2008 brought my way, glowing about my dear children and fantastic spouse and all the joys we experienced over the last twelve months.

Or, I could get all determined on you and share my to-be-tackled list for 2009, which of course would involve the shedding of pounds, the gaining of a skill or two, the reading of books and the vows to be that ever elusive better parent.

Or, I could be really organized and creatively together and unveil a new look, or new feature, or new overall theme for this little bloggy space of mine, bringing in the new year with a fresh new start around these here parts.

Or, I could make some big, important announcement to the world on this first day of the year, some life-altering change or earth-shattering revelation that will change the course of my future days.


Thinking about all of these options for the official first post of 2009, I have to consider the following facts:

1. I'm actually exhausted from working for a few hours on a PTA project that has left me in no particular gushy-girly-emotional mood... for once in my life.

2. I'm terrified of making resolutions, since I feel like I'm inevitably setting myself up for predictable failure... and that's just no damn fun.

3. I've got nothing new up my sleeve for this space. It will continue to be the very simply laid out, blue paletted place where I gripe and rejoice, share my laughs and my sorrows, and hope that there's maybe one person out there who connects with something that's going on here.

4. Since I'm not pregnant, newly employed, or the winner of any significant change-your-life-kind-of-prize these days, this option is bust.

So, I guess all that I'm left with is to write a simple Happy New Year kind of post that tells you that I'm happy and healthy and wish the same for all of you out there. This last week found me spending time with people I love, reading good books, treating Pudge's conjunctivitis, soothing Red's tantrums, watching JAM become this unbelievably big kid, kissing lovely hubby, and going to bed each night with a (very) full belly and a feeling of security that is too often difficult to come by in our world.

All in all, not too shabby. Happiest of new years to you.

movie reviews 2009

I have a legendarily horrible memory, so along the same lines as my record keeping for my reading habits, I also want to keep track of the movies that I watch this year-- on the rare occasion that I get to a theater, as well as when we pop a dvd in and watch from the comfort of our couch. Here's the latest:

Yeah, so I was minding my own business doing some work on the old laptop, when lovely hubby popped this movie in the DVD player and suddenly I found myself distracted enough that I was soon more engaged in the movie than in my online tasks. I'm unfamiliar with the book that this movie was adapted from, so I can't rant or rave about that, but standing alone, I thought this was a pretty enjoyable film. I'm not a sci-fi/fantasy kind of gal, but while this was on, I began to care about the characters and what was going on. Lovely hubby and I had a running joke through the entire movie about the formula that it was following, and all the parallels to a different sci-fi/fantasy world that is always present in our house through our Force-loving son. Even with our laughter at the similarities, I still found this to be a worthwhile flick, and I'm glad that hubby didn't turn it off at my initial misgivings.

Bridge to Terabithia
How in the world did I live for almost 34 years and not be familiar with this story?? JAM read the book a few years back, and I remember a colleague asking me if I knew what happened in the book, surprised that I was letting him read it. Now I know why she asked, as I sit among my drenched tissues with a tear-streaked face. As JAM said at the end of our viewing, "That was a good movie except for the dying." This was a beautiful movie and a heart-filled story. Now I think I'll have to find the book on his shelves and give it a read!

JAM and I read this book last year or so, but I honestly couldn't stand it. It really annoyed me, quite honestly. Even though I liked the story itself, the lack of a sane or competent adult bugged me, and there were a few curse words that surprised me while we were reading aloud. Now, I don't know if I've ever said this before, but I actually really liked this movie after not enjoying the book at all. It just seemed to work much better as a film, and the main characters were more likable on the screen than on the pages. JAM and I both enjoyed it much more than our reading experience!

The Time Traveler's Wife
I never get tired of talking about this story, but rather than repeat myself, I'm going to direct you to the post.

The Producers
Lovely hubby popped this one in the DVD player tonight after borrowing it from the library (for free, but always costing us at least one day's late fee), and I unwillingly watched it, distracted from my blogging intentions by this very, very, very silly movie. Funny dialogue, obviously a piece made for the stage, this flick was quite amusing. Nathan Lane is pure brilliance, and the entire cast was simply... um... no better way to say than gay, in both senses of the word.

Funny People
Yes, it's a Judd Apatow movie, so the language is off-color and the penis jokes abound, but holy smokes, I didn't expect a movie with the word funny in the title to be so serious. There were painful awkward scenes that were tender and thoughtful and very well-acted. I didn't expect it to be so darkly uncomfortable, which sounds like a negative assessment, but that's not what I intend, as I actually found it touching and compelling. I was drawn in, that's for sure. My friend and I were talking about it on the way home, and an interesting component of the movie is it's potential blurring with reality-- how much of Adam Sandler's character is actually consistent with his real-life experiences is a question we pondered. All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of this movie from the easily-shrugged-off-as-a-crude-filmmaker Apatow.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Here's my dilemma. I can't watch a movie of a book that I really loved, respected, celebrated, without spending the entire time asking myself if what I'm seeing on the screen is what I read in the book. (Remember-- I have a TERRIBLE memory.) This is the first HP movie that I've watched in the theater, and actually the first I've watched start to finish, after only seeing bits and pieces of the first two when JAM has watched them at home. I really, really tried to take this movie as its own entity separate from the book, but I still found myself at the end questioning some of the differences. It's less about the events that change for me, as much as the relationships or the character development differences. Didn't this book bring to a peak Harry's frustration with Dumbledore- his distance and his never telling Harry the full story. Didn't Harry spend a lot of the time angry and sullen with Dumbledore? Didn't this book flesh out the back story for Snape, you know, the whole other half of this movie's title? Wasn't this book more about informing us of the inner essences of Snape and Harry, than about horny teenagers snogging in the hallways? (Seriously, what happened to them always getting yelled at for hanging around the hallways? Now there are kids in every corner and crevice making out??)

Okay, okay. Enough with the differences. If I take this just as a movie, a separate entity remember, then I'd say it was "BRILLIANT!" (A word I really have to work into casual conversation more often.) It was visually stunning, some characters were beyond incredible (Helena Bonham Carter-- I've had a crush on you for years and years and years, and you literally terrified me in this one!) Draco looked like he aged 30 years throughout the movie, and I was glad to see his struggle portrayed as it was. Overall, entertaining movie, had me laughing out loud at times and gasping with fear at others, and I'm more than a little ashamed to say that I was looking at Harry Potter as quite the little cutie. (Sorry Ron, you've just not turned into an attractive teenager...) Will I see the next two movies in the theater? Um... sorta seems like I have to now, doesn't it?

The Hangover
I was told that this was a hilariously funny movie, and that was an accurate description, but not in the ha ha ha way so much as in the OH MY- I didn't expect that! way. Other than the parts that involved a baby being put in harms way, this movie made me howl with laughter, but in a way that suspended reality as only Vegas can do, so I hear. If you're looking for a movie to shock you into laughing, and you don't mind getting sucker punched with scenes that you don't see coming, this is the perfect cure.

Yeah, I'm really at a loss for words. No that's not ture-- lots of words come to mind. Hilarious. Terrifying. Outrageous. Over-the-top. Again, Sacha Baron Cohen has turned things crazy and made sociologists heads explode by exposing humanity in a way so infrequently put on display. The dude interviewed a terrorist acting like an extremely stereotypical gay man. How he wasn't lynched in Arkansas among the enraged and beer-fueled mob is beyond me. SBC makes films that make me laugh in simultaneous horror and humor. Not for the faint of heart-- I'm actually kinda surprised this passed with just an R rating.

5/27/09 & 6/21/09
Away We Go
I was thrilled to get to see an advanced screening of this film thanks to Jessica, and I think it's one of the best movies I've seen, especially from a wife/mother perspective. It had superbly written dialogue, hysterically funny characters, and extremely poignant moments. (I can't wait to see it again so I can write down what had to be the best ever description of what it means to become a parent.) It was a quiet movie in that it resembled real-life-- regular moments, with the occasional bizarre thrown in to keep things colorful. I can't recommend it enough! (So much so that I went to see it again-- and dragged a couple friends and hubby with me. Good times!)

The Soloist
I'm such a stickler when it comes to movie adaptations of books, and it's true again. Only this time, it's not a fictional narrative that's being messed with, it's a true-life story. So, I just didn't see the need for the changes they made. (And, if I was Steve Lopez's wife and daughter, I'd be ticked-- why did they feel the need to make him divorced??) The dramatic effect that the changes had weren't worth it, in my opinion, because the true story is amazing enough. The film made the story of Nathaniel Anthony Ayers much more linear than Lopez's book account portrayed. The emotions seemed simplified, and somehow the compassion that I read in Lopez's book didn't quite translate in the same way to the big screen version. Overall, if you're interested in the real story, skip the film and take the time to do some reading-- go for the fantastic book, or the original columns at the very least.

Talk about a powerful film. My stomach was in knots throughout the entire movie. I don't do well with emotionally intense themes, so it's no surprise that this movie is having a deep effect. The longing for connections that are a part of human nature run through all of the segments of this movie, but we're also reminded of our habitual lack of recognition of the actual links we have to all of mankind. This was a hugely thoughtful and well-executed film, and I'm thankful that hubby decided to pop this one in tonight!

War, Inc.
I don't know whether to laugh, cry or hang my head in eternal shame in reaction to this movie. Laugh at satire in fantastic form, cry for the potential likeness this may have in common with reality, or feel the shame that is inevitable from living in a time when the full truth of what our country's former leaders did in other places all over the world may never see the light of the day. I can't claim to fully understand the full spectrum of issues that this movie satirizes, but let me say that this is one hell of a watch.

The Dark Knight
Rather than watch the Oscars tonight, we opted to watch a movie that was due back to the library tomorrow, and as I type these words, I don't know if the powers that be have awarded a posthumous statuette to Heath Ledger for his performance. Before I saw this movie, I would have thought that it was mostly the whole died-WAY-too-soon kind of nomination, but after just having pressed the stop button on my DVD player, I have to amend that initial assessment. I never really read anything in the media about this movie, but I'm sure that too much has already been put out into cyberspace about Ledger's unbelievably incredible performance- the voice, the posture, the lip-licking, the whole package- and I'm also positive that it has already been said more eloquently than I ever could. The movie itself was an experience in indigestion and high blood pressure for me. I'm not good with action flicks, and I cared what happened in this, so that made the intensity even worse on my physiology. The whole two-sides of a coin theme was awesome... for each action, there's an equal and opposite reaction... whatever phrase fits, put it here. This was deeper than a superhero movie, by far.

Confessions of a Shopaholic
Thank GOD I paid no money for this movie, because I think it was quite possibly the worst one I've ever seen. In my life. Forget multiple nonsensical plot points, inexplicable chains of events and an overriding theme of reckless spending that even a Wall Street exec would scoff at these days. This movie has the pride of being able to claim what simply has to be the worst movie quote of all time: "When I shop, the world gets better. And then it's not, and I need to do it again." All you need to know about this movie can be summed up in a series of one word sentences: Absurd. Ridiculous. Predictable. Just-might-make-you-throw-up-in-your-mouth-a-little-bit.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Going into this movie, all I knew was the very shell of the story and that it was going to be very bloody. I heard that it was pretty-obvious-fake-bloody, so I wasn't concerned so much about that point, but I soon found out that I totally did not know the details of the story. This was a pretty terrible story, and lovely hubby and I wondered how the hell someone came up with this plot! I guess I can say that I enjoyed the music and the clever lyrics, and I can say that Tim Burton certainly knows how to frame a shot, but all in all, this was not a story that I enjoyed.

First off, I feel like a naive fool for not being aware of the history of the gay rights movement-- this movie chronicles Harvey Milk's foray into local politics in San Francisco in the 70's, ultimately meeting his early demise at the hands of a murderous former colleague. Throughout the entire movie, I was overwhelmed by the parallels of the horrendous Anita Bryant campaigns with those undertaken by groups thirty years later in relation to CA's Prop 8. I'm very curious to watch the documentary that was a big source for the filmmakers now. I am still adamant that the gay rights movement is simply a human and civil rights movement, regardless of the supposedly moral spin groups would like to pin on it.

With popcorn buttered fingers,

book reviews 2009

Year two of the mini-reviews! Someday, I'll pick up a book, get a good 20 pages into it, and then be able to look back on this list and remember that I've already read it... yeah, this list continues to serve the function that a normal person's memory does!

74. 12/25/09
Your Name Here Guide to Life (The book you'd have written, if only you had the time) by Michael Rosenbaum
This sassy little book presents lots of common sense wisdom and unfettered advice for the everyday life decisions and experiences we all share. Written in a humorous and "we're buddies" tone of voice, it's a quick read with nuggets to keep thinking about after the book is put down.

73. 12/20/09
The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova
The combination of character study, mystery, art and history make up this unique novel. It's compelling enough to keep you reading through its weighty 570+ pages, and the rotation of narrators, along with the dual settings of time and place are interesting and unique. While I felt the ending was a bit anticlimactic, I still was glad to have come to a resolution of the big questions haunting the entire story.

72. 12/09/09
Nanny Returns by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
Ugh. Do people like this REALLY exist?? I can easily say that I was disgusted, time and time again, with the descriptions of the uber-rich in NYC, and that my simple life has more appeal than ever. While the antics of these monetarily rich, but value-impoverished were horrendous, the story itself was entertaining. It read like a movie, and I could honestly see the characters expressions (even the tight botoxed foreheads) in my mind's eye. Poor Nan, once again banging her head against the wall trying to get these neglectful parents to take care of their children!

71. 12/06/09
Lime Tree Can't Bear Orange by Amanda Smyth
I got pulled into this novel quickly and with little fanfare. There's something straightforward and unassuming about this book and its characters. Even though Celia has much to be pained about in her life, she shows very little emotion throughout the course of the story, and the narrative in her voice is quite frank. With a soothsayer's words spoken to her as a child opening the book, her path in life is clear to the reader even when she doesn't see it coming. Smyth writes beautifully, making the islands of Trinidad and Tobago come to life on the page.

70. 12/04/09
You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas by Augusten Burroughs
Augusten Burroughs has this knack of starting his memoirs and stories with vivid intimacy, sharing the ugly details of his really messed up younger years, which could easily turn off more squeamish readers, but not me. I devour this guy's books. Burroughs reveals a little more of himself with each book, and the whole picture is incredible. His perspective is informed by a world of experiences that are foreign to me, yet I can relate to so much of his musings, fears, and dreams. I LOVE everything he writes.

69. 11/29/09
Matrimony by Joshua Henkin
Like the cover options for this book, the story is unassuming and quiet- a portrayal of a life that is familiar in its ups and downs. It was hitting so close to home for a while that when the major lows came, it hurt to read them. After a third of the way into the novel, Julian and Mia were my friends, and I could understand them, and then their pain was my pain. The quiet of this book is what appealed to me the most- realistic depictions of a relationship over many years don't have to be loud and boisterous, because much of life goes by at a pretty average clip. Joshua Henkin captured this quite well.

68. 11/25/09
Candor by Pam Bachorz
Holy crap. This book about messing with people's heads has really messed with my head. Candor is YA fiction at its best- edgy and thought-provoking, and engaging even for those of us no longer considered a 'young' adult. Fast-paced and suspenseful, it was very difficult to put this book down. Told from a first-person perspective, we don't ever get inside Oscar's father's thoughts, which might be a blessing for the terror we may have been saved from. This is a YA book, like Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games series, that I will be recommending to adults!

67. 11/22/09
Wishin' and Hopin by Wally Lamb
Wally Lamb is a literary god to me-- across his books, his characters speak in diverse voices, yet all pop off the page as genuine and real as can be. With this novella, readers are transported to 1964 eastern Connecticut, and through the voice of 5th grader Felix Funicello (distant cousin of Annette), the events over a few months at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parochial School are laid out in humorous and endearing fashion. I couldn't help but want to jump in and give Felix a hug by the last pages, as I wiped the tears of laughter off my face. Wally Lamb is undoubtedly a master of creating realism in books with humor and heart, as well as expertly capturing the feeling of eastern Connecticut like no author I've ever read.

66. 11/19/09
Alienated by David O. Russell and Andrew Auseon
This book cracked me up, once I decided to pretend I was a 10 year old boy reading it. The preteen boy perspective isn't one that I can claim to understand, but I could recognize certain familiar traits in these characters. This story is as wild as the cover- aliens are all around us, blending in on our planet as an escape from the other-worldly terrors that we can't even imagine! From Mold Man to Crumble Bun to Arachnid Boy, the aliens have "powers" that are as funny as they are incredible. A great read for the 9-12 set!

65. 11/16/09
This Little Mommy Stayed Home by Samantha Wilde
With this clever title, I was fully prepared for a fun novel about the adjustment to being a new stay-at-home mom, but I wasn't really ready for the bursts of laughter that I'd experience in this book's funniest moments. Told in the voice of new mom Joy, this book is filled with all the laughter, frustrations, challenges, rewards, confusion and M&M's that come with the first year of new motherhood. Because we see the story through Joy's eyes, there is certainly a perspective issue, and I found myself wanting to shake her a little during some episodes, but really, if I were to look back at my first years with new babies, I'm sure LOTS of people wanted to shake me, too. Exploring the huge gamut of emotions of a new mom isn't always a pretty thing, and this book shares Joy's complete story- good, bad, ugly, funny and all.

64. 11/12/09
Mother Daze: Tales from the Imperfect Playground by Christine Carr
This book read as a series of essays, or even thoughtful blog posts, about the whirlwind that is life as a mom. With lots of personal flashbacks and shared stories, Christine Carr embraces her imperfections as a mom to three little ones, and encourages readers to do the same. This book is sure to make you giggle at times, nod in agreement at others, and perhaps reflect a little more than usual on your own parenting outlook.

63. 11/06/09
My Prison, My Home: One Woman's Story of Captivity in Iran by Haleh Esfandiari
Reading this memoir, I could hear the author's voice in my head simply telling me her story. As she shares her own life experiences leading up to her 8-month detainment in Iran, she seamlessly weaves in historical context, explaining the socio-political climates in Iran over the last three decades. This was particularly notable for me specifically because it never sounded like a history lesson, and it was consistently accessible for those of us who are not as politically savvy or worldly as others may be. Haleh Esfandiari's story is harrowing and terrifying, and yet her tone never comes off as melodramatic or self-serving. Simply put, this is a quality book for its perspective on the political climate in contemporary Iran, but more importantly it's a must-read memoir for its portrayal of strength, survival and love for country.

62. 10/31/09
The Secret of the Sacred Scarab by Fiona Ingram
Adventure, mystery and history come alive in this middle-grade novel about two cousins' trip to Egypt, where they inadvertently get mixed up in a deeper-than-they-can-imagine plot to uncover the truth behind a myth. Or is the myth actually true? The fast and suspenseful tone fits well for older readers, and there's even the benefit of learning a bit about the history of Egyptian culture. A book that I predict my 9 year old son will devour!

61. 10/28/09
The Palace of Strange Girls by Sallie Day
This is a fantastic character-driven novel, narrated in such a way that each of the four family members at the center of the story get their own time in the limelight, as unflattering as it may be. The setting of 1959 England isn't familiar to me personally, but so many features of the seaside resort remain the same through time and place. The complexities of the relationships are portrayed with honesty and grit, causing the characters to be multi-dimensional, showing their pains, their fears, their failings and their attempts at doing right. Definitely an engaging read!

60. 10/25/09
The Smarter Preschooler: Unlocking Your Child's Intellectual Potential by Renee and Mike Mosiman
This is a good starter book for parents who have little or no background in child development, with quality advice about appropriate play materials and activities for preschool aged children. I appreciated the authors' back-to-the-basics recommendations-- reassuring parents that it's not necessary to shell out loads of dough on the "learning programs" that are geared toward young children in favor of simply conversing, reading and engaging your children in meaningful interactions. The last chapter on Preschool, though, left me frustrated and defensive for the lack of distinction between child care and quality preschool programs, such as the university based one that I have extensive experience with, that most ironically embodies the vast majority of the advice that the authors dished out for the entire book. Without an early childhood education perspective, I felt that an accurate representation of what quality preschool should be (and in many cases, already is) wasn't presented here.

59. 10/17/09
Karma for Beginners by Jessica Blank
YA fiction is still somewhat a new genre for me, so it's harder to say what standards I should hold up. I was pulled in by this story, and the voice of the teenager read realistic and believable. The parallels between mother and daughter were striking- especially in their respective searches for something to define them and bring them peace, as frustrating as it was to read about a mother on the same maturity level as her 14 year old daughter. (Or oftentimes below it.) The context of the story includes darker subject matter than I guess I care to think about my own young children reading in a few years, but it certainly could make for interesting discussions about teenage sexuality, relationships, trust and pressure.

58. 10/12/09
Among the Cloud Dwellers by Giuliana Sica
First of all, it's amazing to be able to say that I've had the chance to read a book in its manuscript form, before it's gone to final printing and publication. This is listed as one of the upcoming titles with Gemelli Press, a self-described "small, boutique press." This is one helluva story-- it resonates with a magic and mysticism that isn't normally a feature of books that I opt to read, but even as the mystical parts confused my realism-craving reader's soul, I still found myself pulled in. Sica clearly has a grip on sensual writing- from the tastes and smells described in deep detail to the tantalizing and passionate scenes of love, this is a most definitely a novel that employs one's imagination along with all the senses. It calls for a suspension of disbelief, as well as perhaps a small inclination to entertain the previously unbelievable, in order to fully experience the ride. The ending left me wondering many things, so I'm happy to discover that this is simply the first book in a trilogy, and I look forward to finding where the journey leads to next!

57. 9/26/09
Not That Kind of Girl by Carlene BauerWhile I was constantly impressed with Bauer's mastery of language-- unique turns-of-phrase and long sentences that were beautifully constructed, I couldn't help but begin to feel incredibly frustrated with her choices as she apparently was entering adulthood. I appreciate her honesty about said choices, but c'mon, how did any of her friends stand to listen to her talk about her relationships? That part aside, I was intrigued by the meandering paths of her religious beliefs, and I felt that overall hers is an interesting story that was worth reading.

56. 9/18/09
Falling Into the Sun by Charrie Hazard
I'm not quite sure what to say about this book... it was heavy on religious stuff that alternated between alienating me from the story and then pulling me back in. I think that has more to say about my own personal questions and feelings than the book itself, though. The writing was choppy at times, and I found a couple little holes in the narrative, but the story itself was intriguing and harrowing, with lots of hurt, as well as a fair share of redemption and healing. I think it's difficult for me to quantify how I feel about this book... while there were parts that really did not appeal to me personally, I still feel as if I have taken something away from this reading of great value to me.

55. 9/16/09
Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford
Oh boy, did I ever love this book about an elementary school student, Newton Newman, who feels invisible in the shadow of his star football player big brother. Until his brother gets injured in a game, and Newt finds himself making choices he never would have imagined before. JAM and I read it together, and we were both immediately drawn in from the prologue. The main characters were so easy for an older elementary school child to relate to, and the emotional content of the story sparked some great conversations between us. Four thumbs up from us!

54. 9/14/09
I Shudder by Paul Rudnick
Paul Rudnick cracked me up time and time again, and I wasn't surprised that the recommendation quote on the cover came from David Sedaris, who helped to pave the way for humorous memoirs like this. (And, you will be turning back to that front cover quote several chapters into the reading, causing you to once again laugh out loud. Trust me.) Mixed in with the rambling stories shared throughout the chapters are some outright bizarre 'diary entries' by a fictional character (I assume) that are seriously over the top. Funny, odd, and irreverent-- this is a fun read that serves up the laughter.

53. 9/9/09
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
I've just finished the book a few hours ago, and my mind is still reeling. To simply call this a 'ghost story,' is significantly undercutting the depth of this entrancing, often bizarre, and very addicting novel. I feel as if saying anything about the plot either gives away too much, or so inadequately sums up what this book is all about. Symmetry abounds in this book, but not always as expected, with intertwining themes creeping through the characters' paths all the way to the final sentences. Audrey Niffenegger possesses an almost unbelievable talent of creating stories that defy summation or categorization. I highly recommend this as not-so-light fiction reading, and be prepared to close the book on its final pages with a whole lot of thinking still to do. (I'll be writing up a much lengthier review soon-- I swear that I need a while to sort through my thoughts about this one!!)

52. 9/5/09
Up for Renewal: What Magazines Taught Me about Love, Sex, and Starting Over by Cathy Alter
Oh my, was Cathy Alter's life ever a mess. I literally cringed through the opening chapters' depictions of the self-destructive choices she was regularly making. As her plan to reinvent herself following the advice of women's magazines began to take shape, I was admittedly skeptical, predicting a pretty shallow tale of new mascaras and finding the right 'do. I was pleasantly surprised to find a story of true self-improvement, feeling incredibly respectful and impressed by Alter's willingness to address some pretty dark demons in a quest for actual and meaningful happiness. I was cheering by the end for her efforts and rewards.

51. 9/4/09
The Secrets of a Christmas Box by Steven Hornby
This middle-grade novel creates a world inhabited by the Christmas tree ornaments of a family, and the story opens with our protagonists searching for one of their own who seems 'not to have made it back' to the tree this year. The adventures that follow are just the right fit for the older elementary school audience. With suspenseful and surprising moments, this makes for a great read during the holidays

50. 8/31/09
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Why in the world did I wait so long to read this novel? There were too many moments to count when I found myself either bursting out laughing or felt tears suddenly streaming down my face. This is seriously a beautifully written and delicately told story, pulling in such an eclectic group of characters. I was wildly impressed with the format, and how I didn't need to read the intro before each letter to discern whose voice was now carrying the narrative forward. Painting a picture of a WWII German Occupation of the island of Guernsey, this novel should be filled with despair and destruction, but instead, the love the people have for each other, as well as for life, literature and love itself shine through to steal the story. This is a must, MUST read.

49. 8/28/09
Liking the Child You Love: Build a Better Relationship with Your Kids-- Even When They're Driving You Crazy by Jeffrey Bernstein, PhD
Oh my. I could get all focused on the negative and say that this book has basically pointed out all of my inadequacies and failings as a parent. OR, I could instead put my energy into positive thinking and focus on my appreciation for what this book has opened up for me. The title caught my attention, naturally, when it was offered, and I have to say that even though much of what is at the crux of the author's 'program' is pretty logical, it was still eye-opening to me as I read, highlighted and made margin notes throughout. I would HIGHLY recommend this book to parents who feel overwhelmed and frustrated with how their children's behavior seems to be affecting the parent/child relationship. Much of what Dr. Bernstein argues needs to be changed in order to find happiness and peace in the family may surprise you. I have a lot of hard work ahead of me.

48. 8/24/09
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Wow. While it took me a bit longer to get pulled in to the story this 2nd time around, once it got going, it didn't stop to take a breather even once. The suspense level is INTENSE, and I really wished that I had someone reading alongside of me at the same pace, so that someone could understand why I was gasping, crying and clutching my chest as I turned the pages. Of course, no spoilers here, but suffice it to say that this is chockful of action, like "The Hunger Games," but I think it was even more emotionally difficult to get through because of my already established feelings toward these characters. Now, how long do we have to wait until the final installment???

47. 8/11/09
Sleepless Nights by Sarah Bilston
It took me a little bit to get into the story, but once I got a feel for the two characters who alternately narrate, I began to understand them and yearn for resolution of their respective problems. Q was the character who spoke to me the most, finding herself lost and confused as her baby cried away weeks and weeks of his life. (Been there, done that.) The portrayal of new motherhood was a familiar one to me, and the issue of being torn between professional pursuits and parental duties is one that will be understood by many a mom! While the story travels many paths through these pages, it all comes together in the end, as pleasant stories do, and by the last pages, I found myself feeling a calmness for these characters' futures.

46. 8/07/09
Boy Alone by Karl Taro Greenfeld
I cannot begin to estimate how many times I starred passages, highlighted particular segments and stained the pages of this book with my tears. Gut-wrenchingly honest and without mincing words, Greenfeld describes in great detail his perspective as a sibling of a severely autistic child. Because of my own experiences growing up with a sister with significant cognitive delays and psychological impairments, this book hit home hard. I respect Greenfeld for his ability to say exactly how he felt, and feels, even when the words are not pleasant, and especially when doing so opens him up to the criticism of others. Far from deserving criticism, Greenfeld is simply telling his story, and it is a compelling, painful and difficult story to be told.

45. 7/29/09
Perfect Life by Jessica Shattuck
I immediately was intrigued by this group of characters- so incredibly different in personalities and lifestyles, yet linked together from their college years, a time that stays with us as an ever-important formative period. Each character's take on a 'perfect life' was unique and brought to light a new perspective, and I really respected that the author didn't shove the novel's theme down the reader's throat-- there was enough subtlety to each character's eventual revelations that I was able to appreciate the connecting threads without it feeling too campy or forced.

44. 7/23/09
Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design by Michael Shermer
While I can't say with any shred of honesty that I understood the vast majority of this book, I can appreciate Shermer's emphasis on the so-called evolution vs. creationism or evolution vs. Intelligent Design debates. The simple bottom line is that evolution is science, and both creationism and ID have no scientific basis, but are instead theological ideas and therefore do not belong in the same conversation of science. I know some people were turned off by his bouts of smugness or sarcasm throughout this book, but I could understand the frustration that could lead someone to communicate seemingly obvious arguments with a tinge of 'C'MON already!' I tried my best to get through the complex scientific jargon, but I mostly enjoyed the sections that discuss the more sociological perspectives of these 'conflicts' of ideas.

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall
Oh, I simply adored this book. The personalities of these sisters burst off the page, and I found myself using particular tones of voice for them naturally, without even thinking about it as I read this aloud with my oldest child. There's just something about this story that *feels* like childhood-- or maybe childhood of days gone by. The kids on their own adventures, no electronic equipment in sight, just days and days of playing, having fun and getting into trouble. The enthusiasm of the children is palpable throughout the book-- and true faces of friendship are on full display. LOVED it. As we read the last chapter, I found tears in my eyes, and JAM leaned over and put his arm around me, snuggling up closer, and I immediately felt thankful for the entire reading experience. Now we're off to start the next book!

43. 7/10/09
I Just Want My Kids to be Happy! by Aaron Cooper, Ph.D, and Eric Keitel, M.Ed
The subtitle to this book is important: Why You Shouldn't Say It, Why You Shouldn't Think It, and What You Should Embrace Instead. No, the authors aren't discounting the good intentions behind a parents' saying that they wish happiness for their children, but they are examining the effects of many parents' actions when they make choices based primarily on keeping their children happy in the moment. Much of this book is common sense, yet when presented all together can really make a parent pause and reflect on their own intentions and choices. I LOVED that the end of the book includes a paragraph synopsis of the major points of each chapter-- a 26 point suggestion guide that will be much easier to convince my hubby to read than the whole book!

42. 7/7/09
The Wish Maker by Ali Sethi
This is definitely a beautifully written and complex story, giving the average American reader a glimpse into modern-day Pakistan through the eyes of several family members, all interconnected in their trusts and mistrusts, losses and loves. That being said, I found the format distracting, often getting confused by the sudden jump in time within one conversation. I guess it was set up to be like someone telling you about their memories, and how it's easy to switch from one point in a story to another point at a distinctly different time, but I didn't think it conveyed as well in the narrative. I enjoyed the beauty of the language and the vividness of the details, but it did take a while for me to become invested in the story.

41. 6/30/09
Learn Me Good by John Pearson
The format was unique-- a 3rd grade math teacher documenting his first year through a series of emails to a former colleague from his first career as an engineer, and the tone was mostly light and humorous, with clever insights about the wacky experiences that only someone who works with children can truly understand. A huge emphasis on the testing that is the major event of 3rd grade in the US, but not any real delving into alternative ideas of what education *could* look like. Not a reformist perspective in any way, but a lighthearted look at the first year behind the teacher's desk.

40. 6/25/09
The Legend of Vinny Whiskers by Gregory Kemp
It took me a bit to get into the story, but that was really just because I was being kinda dense about the setting. Once the author really laid that out for the slow readers (me!), then things started falling into place. This was immensely creative, and the characteristics of the different animal characters were picture perfect. The story line is a classic one of a group of seemingly different groups coming together to work for the common good against the forces of the selfish bad guys. Only in an animal setting that is quite familiar to most of us. I'll just leave it at that for you. I'm somewhat torn about letting my almost-9 year old read it... I'm leaning toward most likely, but there is just a little bit of language near the very end that I wish was toned down a tad.

39. 6/19/09
The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos by Margaret Mascarenhas
I've read a few novels written by Latin American or South American authors, and this one fits the bill for the genre as I perceive it. Filled with dream sequences and characters crossing the line between the physical world and the dream world, the words jump off the page in their descriptiveness and beauty. I can only think of the word heady to describe the narrative-- exciting and exhilarating, as well as a sensory-stimulating read. A fair share of sexuality and practice, as well as violence and revolution themes fill the pages as well, which may be important to note for some readers. Personally, I was swept up in the drama and the intricate ways that the large cast of characters were all interconnected, and the overwhelming passion of the story drew me in.

38. 6/18/09
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
What can I say? An outside observer would wonder why I read this book again and again, when all that seems to happen as a result are hours of crying and a pounding headache, along with an ache that I can't quite articulate somewhere deep inside. Dramatic? Oh yes. But it never seemed sappy or overdone to me, on any of my reads. These characters are so real, even with an unbelievable plot. Any time that I've tried to describe the story, it only ends up sounding ridiculous. But, it is lovely, and raw, and painful, and joyful, and heartbreaking, and... and... affecting. It makes me think about things that I don't want to, but are undeniably a part of life. Separation and waiting and the strength of love are all there, and without even realizing it, tears stream down my face for much of the novel. Yes, there is sex, and probably more than some people may be comfortable with, but it's a real part of a long-term relationship, so it fits. Of all the books I've ever read, this one stays with me the most and these are characters who live in my heart.

37. 6/14/09
The Bright Side of Disaster by Katherine Center
Katherine Center's debut novel didn't pull me in as much as her second (the much gushed over Everyone is Beautiful), but I did enjoy it. The portrayal of the first few months of motherhood are absolutely spot on, and it's written in such a realistic voice that you can't help but feel for the main character, Jenny, as she goes through some horrible experiences and a bit of much needed self-discovery. On a side note, the character of Gardner is so absolutely perfect, any single woman is going to wish that he could pop out of the pages and take a place in her own life!

36. 6/10/09
The Lace Makers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri
This soon-to-be released novel tells the story of Kate Robinson, newly broken-up with a career in questionable standing. As it often goes in novels, her decision to travel for a bit turns into a life-transforming move when she meets up with a group of lace making women in Ireland. With lessons to teach each other, tear-inducing events, and a romantic interest with a local thrown in as well, this story is complete. Overall, a quiet story with interesting characters that reads quickly and lightly.

35. 6/8/09
If Your Kid Eats This Book, Everything Will Still Be Okay: How to Know if Your Child's Injury or Illness Is Really an Emergency by Lara Zibners, MD
The things that kids can put in their mouths, in their ears, and up their noses, along with all the bumps, cuts, falls and other assorted childhood injuries can make a mom go crazy with worry. Dr. Zibners' guide to what is an emergency, what can wait until the morning for a call to the doc, and what is simply something to handle at home is a refreshingly calm and reassuring resource. I'm sure that I'll have reason to pull it off the shelf again sometime in the near future!

34. 6/3/09
The Day My Baby Was Born... Inspiring Stories from Moms about the Joys, Wonders, and Surprises of Giving Birth by LaNita McMeekan-Cates
Okay, this one is hard for me. I'm positive that each and every one of these 60 moms sharing their stories did so because they wanted to express their new found joy with being a parent. BUT... the 'inspiring stories' part is what gives me pause. A recurring theme that I found in many, many of the pieces was a sense of not knowing what was happening, not being able to push when they felt ready (because the doctor wasn't prepped) and inductions taking place before 40 weeks simply for convenience or to relieve discomfort. I'm not sure that any of those themes are inspiring... I would much rather have women tell stories that covered a range of experiences (hospitals, birth centers, homes, pain medication, natural birth), but still had women expressing their knowledge and freedom to make informed choices during the process.

33. 5/30/09
Free-Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy
While I may not agree with the author's every single move for my own family, I definitely agree with what I took away as her main points-- we are WAY TOO worried about supposed dangers out in the world, and as a result, our children are not having enough independence-building experiences as they are growing up. Much of the book affirmed the choices that we are making as parents to not fill JAM's days for him, allowing him to have free and unstructured play time every day and to (try to!) not to hover around him, giving him some freedom that is appropriate for his age range. I'm interested in others' perceptions of the author's ideas, so I'm recommending this to other parents! (Also, it helps that the book is filled with much New Yorker sarcasm-- made me giggle often!)

32. 5/23/09
Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley
He's done it again. He's cracked me up, while simultaneously scaring the crap out of me about the potential for absurdity within our political system. A TV judge on the Supreme Court? Yeah, that sounds crazy, but really, the way he presents it here, it's almost believable. This novel is filled with the ridiculous twists and turns in the behind the scenes political mess, and I literally laughed out loud over and over. I love his presentation-- just love it!

31. 5/19/09
The Soloist by Steve Lopez
Steve Lopez's journalist voice is apparent through this entire book, but that isn't to say that the tone is dispassionate or removed, not at all. His struggles with understanding his role in the life of the homeless man he initially took interest in for the sake of a column are honest and without self-censoring. This is a story of two very different individuals who make a connection, for each of their own reasons and needs, but this is also a reporter's commentary on the reality of the face of mental illness and homelessness in our country today. Heartbreaking, scary, inspiring and uplifting all at the same time.

30. 5/17/09
Thanks for the Memories by Cecelia Ahern
While I'm not a huge fan of the term chick-lit, this one fits the bill. It was fluffy, funny, light fare. The story was not all that believable, but the characters were, so that made up for it for me. I haven't read anything else by this author, but knowing that some of her previous work has been adapted for the screen, I had the feeling throughout most of this book that I was reading a movie-- the narrative was just in that style, I guess. Quick and easy read that was entertaining.

29. 5/13/09
If You Give a Mom a Martini by Julie Klappas and Lyss Stern
A cute little book of 100 ten-minute escapes for Mom. My favorite was probably to play kickball with your child and kick the ball really, really far, ensuring a few minutes to sip your iced tea all alone. Some were silly like this one, and others were more health and fitness oriented, some were doable and others required things I don't have (cash and more cash!), but overall a book I'd give in a gift bag at a baby shower!

28. 5/13/09
Young Revolutionaries Who Rock: An Insider's Guide to Saving the World One Revolution at a Time by Dallas Jessup
Written with a teen audience in mind, this book had some formatting and style particulars that weren't necessarily my cup of tea, but would more than likely appeal more to a younger reader. Dallas Jessup's message is clear and inviting-- act up now! She writes with enthusiasm and obvious passion, and her own personal revolutionary experiences are amazing. In between her encouraging words and many numbered lists, she shares the stories of nine other teens who have made incredible differences through their volunteering and organizing efforts.

27. 5/10/09
Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
While I found the plot of this story to be intriguing, I just couldn't get past the harshness of some characters or the seemingly unnecessary language. Reading this with my eight year old allowed for us to have some meaningful conversations, but still-- it was all just a little too much for me. I didn't look forward to sitting down and reading this one each night, which isn't the case with the books we usually read together.

26. 5/9/09
Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz
The plainish cover didn't draw me in, but by the end of the first page, I was right there with Portia, and I didn't want to close the book for one second. It's an understatement to say that I was impressed by the writing, as it flowed so well and kept a constant feeling of anticipation. Even when Portia can't see through the fog that has become her life, I wanted to read as quickly as I could to stay right by her side. It's more than a simple story of redemption or a life taking on a new direction-- this was an endearing character study in which the protagonists' true character is revealed to us, the readers, at the same time that it's being made apparent to her.

25. 4/27/09
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Oh, Gatsby. I remember reading this in high school but not really getting beyond the whole unfulfilled love story. Reading it again as an adult was a bit of a different experience. I was mostly saddened by the lack of real connections among the main characters. Tom and Daisy just never really seemed 'real' to me-- their characters lacked real depth, I think. Beyond the lack of a moral compass, they just never seemed to really be LIVING, just going through the motions of what was expected of people in such a lifestyle. Much of the same could be said about Gatsby, but it was reassuring in a sense to discover that he had actual feelings for another person, even if they were ultimately misguided. This novel can be written about in GREAT lengths, but suffice it to say that I understand now why this continues to be heralded as a true 'Great American Novel.'

24. 4/25/09
No Teachers Left Behind by HBF Teacher
I'm torn on how to feel about this one... I vacillated between being disgusted and disbelieving. I found myself asking my former public school teacher husband, "Could this REALLY happen?" time and time again. Sadly, his answer kept being affirmative, although there is definitely a degree of exaggeration or absurdity to some of the administrative declarations, for sure. I felt somewhat frustrated by the seemingly skewed perspective of the story-teller-- the cast of characters too often fit into the stereotypical, one-sided molds that we so frequently hear about: the tyrannical principal, the jaded teachers, the unmotivated and criminal students. The more I thought about it though, I began to think that perhaps that was the point-- a 'let's be real about this' presentation. Unfortunately, this may be closer to the reality that public school teachers find themselves trying to work in than we are comfortable with.

23. 4/17/09
It Will Come to Me by Emily Fox Gordon

I'm not sure what I want to say about this book. I didn't dislike it, but I wasn't entirely drawn in by the characters, either. For the majority of the novel, I felt as if the story was stagnant-- I wasn't sure where it was going, or if it was moving along at all. Perhaps that was the intention, to convey the feeling of being 'stuck' that the main characters clearly could relate to. The tone can be described as frequently acerbic, and usually one of an outsider looking in. The problem for me was that I just didn't care enough about the characters to want to spend the time with them trying to figure out what was keeping them on the outside.

22. 4/11/09
A Regular Guy: Growing Up With Autism by Laura Shumaker
Although I don't have any first-hand experience with autism as a parent, I found myself connecting with this book from my perspective as the mom of a child with ADHD. Ms. Shumaker has shared her family's story with us, and we get a personal account of the challenges and rewards she has experienced as the parent of Matthew, her oldest child whose autism was diagnosed in early childhood. The author really puts it all out there-- her frustrations, her fears, her challenges connecting with other parents, and the emotion is absolutely raw at times. This book can be described as nothing but open and honest, as well as an eye-opener about ways in which autism may present itself in children and adults.

21. 4/8/09
The Household Guide to Dying by Debra Adelaide
Oh my. I've been known to cry over a book once or twice or a million times. But this book went above and beyond. Beyond the potential horrifyingly depressing topic, the novel actually played out in an overall sense much less sentimental than I had expected, but I would be reading along just fine when I would be confronted with a passage so gut-wrenchingly sad or painful that I would audibly gasp. This is a touching, thoughtful, searingly honest and open portrayal of a woman confronting her death which is just around the corner now that her cancer has spread beyond any chance of full recovery. So she decides to literally write the book on dying, and we as readers get an inside look at her own preparations, both practical and emotional. While it may be horribly uncomfortable to think about our own mortality-- and the fact that others will survive us and continue on-- this book is well worth the reading experience.

20. 3/31/09
Teaching Your Child to Love Learning by Judy Harris Helm, Stacy Berg, and Pam Scranton
Have you missed my previous mentions of this fantastic book? Rather than get all into the descriptions yet again, let me simply say that this book so perfectly sums up the curricular approach that is dear to my heart from my preschool teaching experiences, and does it in a way that is absolutely accessible to parents with little or no education background. If you have a young child-- toddlers through elementary school aged children are the primary ages this book focuses on-- and have an interest in pursuing learning experiences together as a family, go buy this book. Seriously.

19. 3/29/09
Old World Daughter, New World Mother by Maria Laurino
I have to say that this was not exactly what I expected from the little that I had read about it before beginning the book. I guess I expected a simple examination of the Italian, 'old world' culture versus the larger 'American' culture that the author grew up in. This was definitely tackled, but I was pleasantly surprised by the connections drawn between this train of thought and the history of feminism in America, along with the exploration of the interdependency that is inevitable in life. Even though I didn't grow up with the Old World Italian family influences, I severely understood the dilemmas that face moms today that the author explored here. It's hard to call this a straightforward memoir, in my opinion, as it seemed to sometimes read like a history lesson, or a dissertation on public policy at other times. Nonfiction doesn't read quickly for me or seem to draw me in as strongly as fiction does, so this one took longer for me to get through, but I'm glad that I read it.

18. 3/20/09
Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
I am more shocked than anyone else could possibly be that I read this book, but even more so that I actually liked this book! There are so many reasons that went into my prediction of this not being a book for me--- the format (I've never read comic books!), the violence (talk about a GRAPHIC novel), the sex (see last parentheses), the characters (masked avengers do not usually appear in my reading selections), I could go on and on. But I picked it up in a reading emergency (you could probably figure that one out if you know me), and I was hooked. Instantly. The intricacies of this story from the plot and character connections to the minutia in the backgrounds that can give so many more details to the story, are absolutely amazing. The plot line was terrifying, and I'm just too simple of a gal to think about the potential parallels to our current world... I'm choosing not to go there.

This is not a book to snuggle under a blanket with, to fall into a gentle slumber while reading just before bedtime. Oh no. But I'm glad that I opted to pick up hubby's book, because this was a story like no other.

17. 3/19/09
Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center
Yeah, I read this with an increasingly eerie feeling that Katherine Center had been somehow reading my mind when she wrote this book-- I found myself relating to Lanie's character more than any fictional character that I can recall ever reading before. I consumed this novel in a day, and it's now at the top of the list of my current book recommendations! What an incredible portrayal of motherhood and marriage, and that nagging feeling that you lost the self you used to be somewhere along the way without noticing. The key, then, must be to seek out the full self you have become, and embrace it fully. I need to hug my husband tight when he comes home from work tonight (with perhaps a kiss like the one at the end of the book thrown in for good measure!)

16. 3/11/09
Alfred & Emily by Doris Lessing
The premise of this book was very intriguing to me-- the two parts, fiction vs. reality. I found the novella to be engaging, even though the flow of time was inconsistent. I wondered why she gave her mother an oftentimes depressing fictional life... until I got to part two. Mother issues abound here, and I appreciated the author's reflective nature when discussing her complicated relationship with her mother. For the nonfiction, almost essay-like chapters, I felt that her father's existence was presented in a much more sympathetic voice. All in all, I felt quite sad for Alfred and Emily both, since their lives were marked by significant troubles. Not necessarily an uplifting read, but a unique presentation of two stories, of two lives.

15. 3/10/09
Mrs. Meyer's Clean Home: No-Nonsense Advice That Will Inspire You to Clean Like the Dickens by Thelma Meyer
I LOVE lists, and even though I may not love it, I do spend a lot of time trying in vain to keep my home clean despite the valiant efforts of the three little ones to undo all that hard work. Mrs. Meyer provides a complete list of helpful tips, simple cleaning solution recipes and logical schedules for just about every possible home care need. This is a book that I know will get pulled off the shelf for frequent consultations!

14. 3/6/09
Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama
I listened to this audio book, read by the author, Mr. President himself, over a period of about two weeks. I could listen to bits and pieces as I prepared meals or cleaned up the kitchen, and having President Obama's lilting voice accompany me through my otherwise mundane tasks made the time fly. This is a beautifully assembled autobiography, lyrical at times, harsh at others, but always compelling. The wide variety of experiences that President Obama has had in his life-- living in Indonesia, Hawaii, Chicago, NYC-- have helped to shape his self-identity and his interactions with people from all types of backgrounds. This book made me think, made me question and made me all the more confident that Barack Obama is the type of thoughtful, intellectual and life-experienced leader who can bring world-wide respect back to our country.

13. 3/5/09
Who by Fire by Diana Spechler
Intense. Painful. Provocative. If I had to choose just one word to describe this novel, it would be tough, but those might be my top three finalists. I was a fan of the multiple perspectives in the storytelling, and the voices of the individual characters were apparent from the first sentence of each chapter. While the three main characters lived such different lives in the time since their family trauma, they shared a common thread of pain, loss, guilt, anger and blame. I became so invested in this story, needing to know what would become of these tortured (and self-torturing) souls, that this was a quick, yet very, very intense read. The ending could have been presented in a trite manner, but it wasn't-- the choices the characters made in the end still reflected their true selves, although it finally seemed that they could each begin to progress past a point that surged with pain to a hopefully more peaceful time.

12. 2/20/09
Laura Rider's Masterpiece by Jane Hamilton
So, I could say that this was a bizarre book, and that would be accurate because these characters so frequently made decisions that were undoubtedly stupid and ridiculous, yet... I really enjoyed it for it's oddness. The whole thing was a bit surreal, even when I found myself able to understand the characters' emotions or motivations. I found myself simultaneously laughing in joy and shaking my head in disbelief. These characters were absolutely unique-- and they were like open books throughout the entire novel (pardon the lame literary pun). The storyline was like no other, and I found myself wondering what happens next as the book came to an end.

11. 2/15/09
American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
So, I knew (of course, everyone knew!) going into this book that it would be a loose interpretation, technically fictionalized, account of the most recent First Lady to leave the White House. I admit to not knowing much about the real life figure, for no other reason as never feeling the inspiration to learn more about the family of a man whose performance as President horrified me. As a result, I found myself reading old newspaper stories online and Wiki entries on figures to see where fiction and truth intersected in this novel. While there were several events that occurred in the novel that were clearly related to the real life of our former First Lady, I do believe that much of this story will never be confirmed nor denied by anyone. As that is the case, as difficult as it was to do while reading, I tried to take this as a stand-alone-novel. I could do that for all accounts of the First Lady, but its portrayal of the former President felt too eerily close to reality that there is no doubt of the picture in my head throughout the entire book. This book drew me in, that's for sure, but it also made me think hard about the lives of these all-too-public figures, with perhaps a greater level of sympathy than I may have had before. (Not that any of my real world political feelings have changed... some seem to have deepened even more so after this reading...) Sittenfeld did an amazing job at creating an introspective and extremely thought-provoking character in Alice Blackwell. Definitely an intriguing read.

10. 2/12/09
Laughing Without an Accent: Adventures of an Iranian American, at Home and Abroad by Firoozeh Dumas
I'm so glad that I was able to read Dumas' second memoir immediately following her first, as it really was as if she simply took a break from her storytelling when I closed one cover, but resumed her effort as soon as I opened the next. Here, she continues to appeal to both my heart and my funny bone. Her family simply delights me, so full of positive energy and an abundant supply of love. Dumas walks that fine line of poking fun at the antics of her family members while never stepping over the line of disrespect. As she described her first year of motherhood, the authenticity of her experiences rang true to me, most definitely. Another amusing and endearing memoir that made me wish again that I could share a cup of tea with the author and simply chat... without ice, of course!

9. 2/11/09
Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas
I adore memoirs that are frank and straightforward, full of self-awareness and thoughtful about one's history, with a tinge of humor thrown in for good measure. This book lives up to that, and more. The author tells her story of living in America for a short time in the early 1970's as a young child, and then returning again after the Iranian Revolution as a slightly older child. As someone who grew up thinking her home country was simply one of those other countries, a 'bad place,' (and pronounced I-Ran), I really enjoyed reading about her experiences as a child here, and sorrowful for some of the ridiculousness that she had to endure. Parts of this book made me laugh out loud, and other parts spoke directly to my spirit. Hers was a family united, excited to embrace their new home, while still holding dear to the fundamentals of their heritage.

8. 2/5/09
Indignation by Philip Roth
What a different kind of read than what I usually lean toward. This short novel focuses on a character who isn't so much lovable to me, or someone that I can relate to on a superficial level, but I can certainly understand the stage of life that he finds himself trying to navigate-- that post-adolescent, trying-to-find-your-path-in-life period that college represents for so many. His voice rings out loud and insistent. While he professes to solidly held ideals, he simultaneously finds himself questioning everyone and everything around him. This snapshot of a story-- about a year of his life-- is filled with angst, drama, fear and yes, indignation, and it is a compelling read, even when it's brash and impure.

7. 2/3/09
The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner
Yay-- I actually read a nonfiction book in less than a month! That fact is the direct result of the tone of this book-- at times a straightforward journalistic voice, at other times quite humorous, and with a generous serving of irreverence sprinkled throughout. Since 'world traveller' is not a term that can be applied to me, I have to admit a certain level of naivete when it comes to 9/10 of the countries Weiner focused his attention on with his quest. (I got the good ole US of A covered, with my 33 years of life spent here so far.) So, some of the general criticism that I've heard of this piece of work may be true- perhaps he did simply repackage many stereotypes of countries, but I still would assert that his experiences hold a level of truth to them regardless of this possible 'confirmation bias,' that he even speculates about during his travels. I found myself chuckling along with Weiner frequently, often thinking that he and I had similar introspective questions about our own views of the world and our personal levels of 'happiness.' This book left me with more questions than answers, which I think is creditable, and perhaps was the intention all along.

6. 1/29/09
The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum
For some reason, I seem to be on a reading kick of books with female protagonists who are severely struggling to figure out who they truly are and how they want their most important relationships in life to be. (Hmmmm...) This debut novel held back no punches in its portrayal of a woman scared of where life is taking her, simply because she doesn't know how to be herself anymore, if she ever did in the first place. I really enjoyed this book-- the voice of Emily rang out so real, and even when I wanted to jump into the pages and shake her a bit, I found myself routing for her to find peace. Peace with her love for Andrew. Peace with her emotionally absent father. Peace with her long deceased mother. Peace with her career choices. And above all else, peace with, and understanding of, what makes her her.

5. 1/27/09
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
What an incredibly unique book. The combination of words and pictures working together to tell a story makes for an intriguing read, and the intended black and white movie-like quality is quite apparent. But make no mistake, this is not simply an illustrated novel, or even a graphic novel. This is something completely new. The story draws the reader in quickly, and there is a magical feeling that the characters are actually moving around among these pages. The illustrations cannot be described adequately-- they pop off the paper in detail, as well as for the feelings they convey. The perfect book to share with an 8 year old reader! (I just happen to have one of those around here somewhere!)

4. 1/26/09
Love and Other Natural Disasters by Holly Shumas
This book is an easy read, in the sense that it sounds like a conversation, or perhaps a series of posts by an earnest and introspective blogger. The realness of the characters made me feel invested quickly-- I cared what happened to this marriage between Jon and Eve, when Jon's 'emotional affair' is revealed. Yup, that's right-- nothing physical, just a whole lot of phone calls and emails and two in-person meet-ups. But, lest a reader think that particular scenario played out for a year doesn't translate to a gigantic mess of betrayal, hurt and deception, the roller-coaster ride of post-affair-emotions on both Eve and Jon's parts will soon clear up any doubt. I found this book painful to read, yet I never found myself completely for one resolution or the other-- stay together or severe the marriage altogether. The characters are not flat, and although we are primarily presented with Eve's perspective as the narrator, we are given some insight into Jon's feelings as well, filling in this complex picture of what is really just your average, suburban marriage... that unfortunately went off the path for a bit.

3. 1/23/09
The Senator's Wife by Sue Miller
Throughout the first half of this book, I found myself not really caring if I picked it up or not. It wasn't particularly plot-driven, so I expected it then to present interesting and full-bodied characters, but I didn't get that either. Then as the story twisted a bit, I saw the potential for character development-- when Meri becomes a mother, I saw the perfect opportunities for exploration into that gray area that isn't discussed all the often, when a new mother doesn't instantly fulfill the stereotype. While there were a few lines that I found relative to my first experiences of motherhood, it mostly fell flat. And then. Oh my, I can't even begin to express the frustration and disappointment that I felt with the final chapters and Meri's choices. Really ridiculous, and certainly not an ending to make a reader want to feel connected to a main character. Overall, I felt that this book fell flat, and while I wanted to relate to the characters, they pushed me as a reader away more often than not.

2. 1/16/09
The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker
Okay, this second book of the year-- I LOVED. The enormity of the story (and yes, there is a very-much-intended pun in there) is actually told in a small and quiet way that really appealed to me. The main character and narrator, Truly Plaice, has a way of expressing her thoughts so eloquently that it absolutely pained me to think that so few people in her life ever cared to truly know her. The story moves along at a perfect pace, and the characters are incredibly realistic, even as the hatefulness of so many of them disgusted me. I could have done with a bit of a difference at the end-- the pain seemed too unjust for Truly-- but all in all, this was a magnificent debut novel, and I wholeheartedly look forward to Ms. Baker's next offering.

1. 1/13/09
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Well, I wish I could start the year off by saying, "I LOVED my first read of 2009! I was enraptured and just couldn't put it down!" Nope, unfortunately, this book didn't do it for me. The imagery was beautiful at times, the writing was poetic and lyrical at times, but the story... man, aren't you supposed to feel something for the characters? I couldn't care less about Florentino Ariza-- he was a shallow and selfish man, regardless of all his declarations of endless love for Fermina Daza. He doesn't give a second thought to the people he has hurt through his actions- the most offensive occasion being his developing a really inappropriate relationship with the teenage girl who he has guardianship of... yeah, that one solidified my lack of interest in this guy's welfare. I continued reading this through the end because there was something in the beginning that was a bit mysterious, and I had the hope that it would be cleared up by the end... which either I missed or was never addressed again. Overall, this was not a storyline or a set of characters that appealed to me at all.