Friday, December 31, 2010

What a year!

It's been almost a year since I started this blog. Looking at the stats, I've only posted about 85 times. I was really hoping to do better than that, after all I had 21 posts last January alone! Hopefully I can do better in 2011.

I was looking for a way to sum up this year, and stumbled upon this idea on several other blogs: Take the first sentence or two from the first post in each month of 2010 and that's your year in review. So here 2010 in blog....

January (my very first blog post): "I used to love journaling, but frankly, I just never make the time anymore. Now I love reading blogs (especially those of the "mommy" variety). So I thought this might be a good place to jot down all those random thoughts that I may want to look back on one day."

February: "The boys' Gramma has been visiting for a few days, and I've taken full advantage of having someone else around to entertain the boys for a change! I squeezed in a long overdue doctor's appointment for myself, and was also able to read 2 books, bringing my grand total to 3 books read so far this year."

March:  "Parenting is an exercise in firsts. First bath, first foods, first day of school... And this week as C turns five, we will embark on yet another first--the first "invite your whole class" birthday party."

April:  "Driving home from school yesterday... C: "Tomorrow is April First! That means it's April Fools Day, Mom!""

May:  "Due to a major water main break, we spent the last few days without drinkable tap water. Until the "boil water" order went into effect, I had never really thought about how often I use tap water." 

June: "It's been almost a month since I last posted."

July (from the one and only post): "This summer is just flying by. I'm not quite sure how it happened, but my calendar keeps insisting that next week is AUGUST!"

August: "This has been a sad week for me. On Monday I learned that one of my oldest friends passed away unexpectedly."

September: "I have suffered from insomnia with all of my pregnancies."

October: "In the last few weeks, O has gotten back into the habit of waking up around 5:45AM and often ends up crawling into bed with me and talking my ear off. While I really want to nip this in the bud before the baby comes, I've just been too tired to fight it, especially since he's generally quite adorable and always wants to talk about his little brother at this time of day."

November: "You know it's bad when...your Hubby is the one who points out that you haven't blogged in almost a month."

December: "One of C's favorite parts of Kindergarten is "Writer's Workshop" where the kids write and illustrate their own stories."

Hope I'm still blogging when it's time to ring in 2012!!!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Hope your holidays were as fun as ours!

Utterly spoiled...

First big snow of the season...

Can't wait to see what the New Year will bring...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

50 Books in 2010--update #5 (I DID IT!!!!!)

That's right! I did it!!! I thought it might be impossible, but...
I really did read 50 books in 2010!!!!!!!!

I actually finished this challenge about 2 weeks ago (knowing that if I didn't, the Christmas hubbub would cause me to go permanently off course), but didn't get a chance to post about it. A lot of the credit for my finishing this challenge has to go to the Kindle that I got back in September. Having a new gadget to play with definitely reignited my interest in reading, and browsing the Amazon Kindle forums for free books and new author suggestions led me to a lot of interesting and cheap reads! I've also been taking advantage of the free samples offered on most books. It's great to be able to read the first few chapters of a book, especially if you are trying out a new author. There have been a few samples that clearly showed that the writer's style or content were not my taste, but more often than not, the sample is just enough to pique my interest so I end up buying the book. 

So without further ado, here are the rest of the books I read this year...

31. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
I struggled to get through this book. I picked it up because I had heard so many rave reviews about it, but I lost interest in it several times and kept putting it down for other things. It took me several months to work through it, and in the end, I only kept reading because I wanted to finish it for this challenge, not because I really cared about the characters. Perhaps it was the short stories within a story format that didn't work for me. I just never got invested in it.

32. Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue
This was the first book I read on my Kindle!! I happened to have read a magazine review of this book that sounded fascinating the week before I got my Kindle, so I figured it would be a good first purchase. The story of a mother, and her son who has spent his whole life in one room, as the captive of a kidnapper, seemed apropos of all the recent news stories about these types of cases. Using the son as the narrator, and seeing the situation through a 5 year old's eyes was both interesting and chilling. Definitely a great read, but one that stayed with me and disturbed me for a while afterwards.

33. Half Baked by Alexa Stevenson
I've read this author's blog Flotsam, on and off for the last year or so, and much of that was about her attempts to publish this book. As a latecomer to her blog, I wasn't very familiar with her backstory of miscarriage and having a premature infant so I thought that this memoir would be interesting. And it was. Funny & poignant.

34. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
I first heard of this book when I saw a trailer for the movie version several years ago. I have never seen the movie, but the stars Kate Winslet & Ralph Fiennes are two of my favorite actors. So when I saw the book for 50c at the library book sale, I snapped it up. I did enjoy this book, and if we ever resubscribe to Netflix, I'll have to put the film on my list too!

35. Barefoot in Baghdad by Manal Omar
I stumbled on this memoir while browsing in the Kindle forums and figured since it was less than $3 I would check it out. It turned out to be an interesting read about a Palestinian American woman's experience working for a women's nonprofit in Iraq during the early days of the current war.

36. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
I really enjoyed this book! This story of a young girl growing up in WWII Germany and the effect of certain books in her life, which was narrated by Death, seemed strange at first, but once I settled into Death's narration of events, it was a unique and inventive read.

37. Blue Boy by Rakesh Satyal
I've read a lot of modern Indian-American fiction over the years, but would probably never have stumbled across this book, had it not popped up as a free Kindle book for a brief period. Of course I snapped it up, because what's better than an interesting book for free! This was a cute, coming of age story of a misfit Indian preteen boy who loves dancing, makeup, and thinks he may be the reincarnation of Krishna.

38. Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourne
39. Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourne
40. Silent on the Moor by Deanna Raybourne
41. Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourne
I discovered this series through the mysteries forum on Amazon. I was looking for a new author to start reading, and noticed that many people recommended these books featuring Lady Julia Grey, a Victorian era woman who stumbles into investigating murders, after the death of her husband. The first three books were offered as a Kindle bundle for only $9.99, which seemed like a great deal, and after enjoying the first few chapters of book one in a free sample, I didn't hesitate to buy the bundle. I raced through these books as they were fun reads with enjoyable and interesting characters. When I finished the bundle, I couldn't wait to buy the 4th book in the series, even though it cost almost as much as the first 3 books combined. Good marketing technique! It was great fun to discover a new series and I hope there will be more Lady Julia Grey books in the future.

42. Wet Desert by Gary Hansen
This book is another cheap Kindle forum find by an independent author. An interesting story of ecoterrorism against some of the major dams in the Western U.S., this book was definitely worth more than the $0.99 I paid for it!

43. The Time Hunters by Carl Ashmore
Another $0.99 Kindle indy book, this was another easy read. A time traveling mystery for children and adults alike.

44. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
One of the first, classic true crime novels, this book was slow to start, but ended up being a satisfying read.

45. The Sex Club by LJ Sellers
This was another book I would never have bought if it hadn't been for the Kindle forums. But after reading a lot of positive reviews, I figured I would take a chance on this book since it was only $0.89. This mystery that begins with a bombing at a Planned Parenthood clinic was a quick and easy read, but I still didn't figure out all the twists ahead of time.

46. Genghis: Birth of an Empire by Conn Iggulden
47. Genghis: Lord of the Bow by Conn Iggulden
The free sample for the first of these first two books in a historical fiction series about the childhood and rise of Genghis Khan really grabbed my attention. These were well written and interesting, reading like a gripping novel. Since I didn't really know much about Genghis Khan prior to reading these books, it's been fun to learn about this time period.  Another great marketing coup for this series, since I picked up the first book in the series for $1.59 but will likely end up paying full price for the rest of the books, because I can't wait to see what happens next.

48. The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch
I thought this book was great. Written by a descendant of a family of hangmen, in this German historical fiction novel, the town hangman attempts to save the life of one of the local midwives when she is accused of witchcraft by proving her innocence. Touching on the history of hangings, witchcraft, midwifery, and early medicine, this was a really different and satisfying read. 

49. A Simple Amish Christmas by Vanessa Chapman
Being the Christmas season, I figured I would pick up this Kindle freebie. It was an easy and fluffy read, but not particularly memorable. 

50. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
I'd heard great reviews of this book for years, but somehow had never gotten around to actually picking it up. But recently watching the PBS documentary Circus, piqued my interest in reading this circus related novel. I really wasn't expecting the graphic descriptions of sex and violence that were in this book, but the story was interesting.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Give or Take 3 weeks...

This morning, the dresser for our baby was delivered. As we only have a 2 bedroom place, C & O share a room and the dresser we bought back when C was born. The baby will be bunking with Hubby and I for the foreseeable future, and since stumbling back and forth between bedrooms for changes of clothes and sheets in the middle of the night didn't seem like the greatest idea, we needed a new small dresser for the baby's things. Luckily we have a big enough bedroom, that the baby can have his own nook. It's a bit cramped but hopefully, it will do. Today after dropping the boys off at school, I came home, stared at this view...and got a little teary eyed!  Hubby and the boys set up the crib last weekend, but now with the dresser and rocker in place, I'm really starting to feel like this might actually be happening!!

Now to wash everything and load up those drawers...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

In the Holiday Spirit

It's been all holidays all the time around here. The tree is up, holiday cards have been sent, and I'm pretty much done with the holiday shopping. It's been interesting to see what the boys are learning about the holidays in school. O learned about Hanukkah at preschool last week, and was thrilled to show me the menorah he made. He also came home with a dreidel and a baggie of chocolate coins. Well, he came home with the chocolate coin wrappers at least (the coins didn't survive the car ride!).

O's Menorah

We've also started working our way through our collection of holiday books. This story was a new one this year, and has been the biggest hit for the boys. Thank goodness C can read it to O on his own, because I am getting tired of it already!  Who knew runaway cookies were so thrilling?!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Kindergarten Stories

One of C's favorite parts of Kindergarten is "Writer's Workshop" where the kids write and illustrate their own stories. Initially this started out as a simple picture with a one line caption, but in the last few weeks they have progressed to writing 3 page illustrated stories.  Today C told me about his latest one. Apparently it goes like this...

Page 1: "My mom has a rule about videogames."

Page 2: "I can only play on Friday, Saturday, Sunday."

Page 3: "I can't wait for the weekend."

I can't wait to see the pictures that go along with that one!

*          *          *
Today C mentioned that they started a dancing unit in PE class, so I asked him what kind of dances he was learning. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I figured they were just free dancing, or maybe learning  a simple line dance. I was totally caught with the giggles when he said "You know...the Macarena!" and then proceded to demonstrate it, complete with a very proud "jump turn" at the end.