Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Friday, January 28, 2011

From My Front Porch Looking In

There's a country song that describes the scenes of one man's home as he proclaims, "Yeah, the view I love the most is my front porch looking in."

Not only is this my favorite view, but most days, it's my only view.  And why wouldn't it be when I get to see things like this?

But the recent acquisition of a free year's subscription to Time Magazine (Really, honey?  TIME?  You couldn't have selected Parents?) has forced me to make a difficult decision.  Let the magazines go to waste, or become somewhat knowledgeable about what happens outside my four walls.

I cracked the first one open.
Choked down an article about new Speaker of the House, John Boehner.
Tried to read it out loud to husband to show how dry and boring the article was.
Laughed hysterically over the guy's last name.
(Really, guys, I don't watch the news, so I've never heard it pronounced, but I know what it looks like...)
Continued reading, small chunk by small chunk.
Decided I kind of liked the bite-sized articles.
Put the magazine in the bathroom where I could pick it up while overseeing a baby bath.
Found some of the articles about science and medicine interesting.
Got through the ones about politics and probably learned something.
Became aware of countries I haven't thought of, well, probably ever.

Resolved to read each issue of Time magazine as it appears at my house this year, cover-to-cover.

I'm not saying I enjoy every article.  Honestly, as important as politics is, and as knowledgeable as I know I should be, I just hate it.  Boring.  Boring.  Boring.

But then there's an article that inspires me.  Right now I'm in the middle of an article about a woman in Burma who they call "The Lady."  She's been a peaceful advocate for freedom who has spent 15 of the last 21 years locked up.  Recently freed from house arrest, she says she simply wants to sit down to tea with the government which persecutes her.  Okay, okay, I guess it's a story about politics.  But it is also a story of courage and faith.

I don't find much time to read it.  In fact, there is a stack of three piled up in the bathroom right now, including the one with the article about "The Lady," with I haven't even finished yet.  But I'm enjoying my brief forays into the landscape outside my home, and hopefully, I'm becoming a better citizen.  Probably even a better mother.  Definitely more grateful.

Keep 'em coming, Time magazine.  I will conquer you.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Struck Again...

The Posing Bandit has struck again...

After Alex had a really bad asthma attack* (the worst I've seen so far) and then fell sound asleep on the couch,  Dylan decided it was the perfect time to finally be able to give Alex some love.  Normally anytime Dylan tries to cuddle, Alex pushes him away.  So I snuck away - unnoticed - to grab the camera.  I turned it on and removed the lens cap undetected, but before the flash went off, Dylan had already started to shift to "the position," and all I got was a blurry reminder of what might have been.

To console myself, I decided to post the pages to Dylan's first year scrapbook, which I've finally just finished.  Proof that once upon a time, I could actually get the picture I was going for.

And now for the details of Alex's asthma attack.  We've all been sick with colds this week, which is always a sticky situation for Alex.  We've closely monitored him all week, keeping up with his rescue inhaler every 4 hours during the worst of his cold.  He'd come through the worst, so yesterday I'd administered the inhaler only as needed.  I gave him a couple puffs before sending him off to the babysitters, and figured that would be all we'd need for the day.

I didn't count on Adam making him laugh hysterically at dinner last night.  It went something like this.  Laugh-laugh-cough-cough-sputter-laugh- wait.... I don't think he's laughing anymore - rescue inhaler - throw up into the inhaler - finish throwing up into the toilet - finish the inhaler - fall sound asleep on the couch.

I've never seen him go from fine to throwing up so quickly, but thankfully the inhaler seemed to be all he needed to get back in control.  Note to self: order more inhalers and spacers so we have one for each vehicle and one for his backpack.  Do it.  Now.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Eight Attempts

I'm too sick to stand up and clean my house.

My nose is too stuffy for me to lie down and rest.  Every time I try, I just can't breathe at all.

I've already taken two warm baths in the last 24 hours.  Sadly, the water eventually turns cold, and I cannot live in the tub.

Hm, what restful activity could I do while sitting down, leaning against a microwaved warm bag of cornmeal?

I could blog...

When Alex was around the age Dylan is now, I took a series of pictures and later put them together into what we called "The One Shoe Project."  No matter how many times we dressed him, complete with two shoes, we'd find him minutes later walking around in just one.

Well, Dylan has invented his own picture project for me.  I don't have a name for it yet, so please feel free to comment with a project title.

Here are the pictures:

The problem:

What I should have here is eight candid pictures capturing eight different moments of Dylan's best and cutest new tricks.

What I have, instead, is eight pictures of Dylan stopping whatever he was doing to pose for the camera.  If standing, he will sit.  If holding items in his hand, he will discard them.  If smiling, he will lose the expression and stare blankly at the camera, waiting for it to flash in his eyes. The second he perceives the camera, he assumes the position: legs in front, hands on legs, awkward expression.  Every time!

And, unfortunately, I am a mother of three and consequently, my brain is mush.  Although these were all taken within the last three weeks, I've already forgotten what I was trying to photograph.  Those moments have been lost forever.

Well, at least I'll have this memory of the {Your Creative Title Here} Project.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Our Family - by Adam

Adam's birthday is on Monday, and he gets to take an "about me" poster to school.  The poster has a spot for "my family," and Adam asked if he could take a picture with his camera and have me print it.  He loves to have us all pose on the couch, then he sets the timer and joins us in the frame.  The picture he selected really isn't bad, and since it's the first whole-family picture we've taken in over a year, I figured it was probably blog worthy.  I love that he posed the token redhead in the middle!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Adam's Birthday Dog

I'm posting this now because I promised I'd post it.  But what I really wanted to post was pictures of Dylan trying to walk.  So here I am, violating my own personal one-post-per-day rule today so I can have my cake and eat it too.  Make sure you read both!

Adam has been begging indiscriminately for another pet for some time.  Some days he begs for a lizard.  Other days, it's another dog.  We finally decided that for his 6th birthday, he could get a dog.

Okay, I use the phrase "he could get" quite loosely, because in reality, I did all the research, then presented him with one really good option, and gently urged him to pick that particular dog.  Still, we call the new acquisition "Adam's dog," and he's had to take most of the responsibility, so I hope that means he got a dog.

Sammy - the name she already had when we found her at the Humane Society - is an eight year old lab mix with a very laid back personality.  She loves laying around, cuddling, and following Kirk around the house.  Really, the only time she causes any sort of ruckus is when the cat is near.  We're hoping the novelty of the cat wears off soon, so poor Roxie can return to a life of tranquility.

She fits all the criteria we'd established.  She's an older dog.  She lets Dylan love her.  She is smart and trainable.  She is neither a small dog nor a big dog.  And - bonus - her tranquility is having a calming effect on our high strung Jack Russell Terrier, Sadie.  Another bonus - the acquisition of another female brings our house into perfect balance: three male children, three female pets.

So, welcome to the family, Sammy.  May you be loved, hugged, petted, and occasionally laid upon for the rest of your doggy years.

Still Not Walking

We're coming up on Dylan's 16 month mark, and we still have very little signs of interest in walking.  He has, however, been willing to practice a little bit, if we are willing to reward him with tons of praise, hugs, and occasionally - marshmallows.

Backed up to the ottomans for support, and happily ready to go!
 One small step - notice his feet are actually one tiny step away from his original position.
 A bit more courageous, but not very balanced.  LOVE the tongue out!
 Oops - only two steps that time.
 Getting ready to go again!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Welcome to my Game Room!

One day in November as I was cleaning our seldom-used office, I started to brainstorm a better use for the room. 

A main-floor entertainment room with a tv and the video game systems? 


But that would just encourage the boys and their friends to migrate from downstairs to upstairs throughout their time at our house. 

Bad plan.

A dedicated place to play our ever-growing supply of board and card games?


That could work.

We tested the idea out on a few friends (who thankfully agreed with me that it wouldn't be weird or awkward to retreat to a room to play games), and then I started my favorite part of the process: mentally planning the room.

Of course I had a very small budget, limited mostly to the money I got for Christmas.  So for now, the room features a table and chairs from DI ($76 for the table and all 8 chairs!) and shelves re-purposed (aka: stolen) from the kids' playroom.  That left enough budget for the things I really cared about: awesome wall stripes and blown up, framed prints from the game Dixit.

Since I'm too chicken to put paint on a wall without knowing what to expect first, I hit the computer with my plans.

I narrowed down the Dixit cards to my favorite 10, then consulted family to help narrow it down to 8.

I chose colors, bought supplies, painted, cut, sanded, painted some more, waited not-so-patiently for my prints to come, ran to the hardware store again, painted, measured, hammered, hung, and...

Well, the pictures really don't do it justice, so consider this your official invitation to come play games with us. Seriously.  Call, text, facebook, or whatever, and we'll set something up!

Oh, and here's the icing on the cake:

A custom-made rotating game board, designed for primarily for Dominion but quite useful for many games.  This was my Christmas present from my 17 year old brother this year.  And no, he didn't buy it somewhere.  He designed and built it.  Using a laser cutter.  Yeah, you can see why he got accepted to that super prestigious engineering school.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Jumping to the Virgo Ship

I've never given a second thought to my astrological sign until I heard today that they may be changing.  Suddenly I was filled with a sense of "but I'm a Libra" pride.  Wanting to know to what what ideal I was feeling so attatched, I headed out to good old Google to do a bit of research.  First my dad and I compared his current Aquarius to his potential Capricorn and found neither really fit him.  Then we checked out Libra and easily determined that, "You're always doing things for others without thinking of yourself," just didn't fit me.  But when we checked out my new sign, Virgo, I knew I just had to jump ship.

I'm sure by tomorrow I'll have stopped caring again.  But for today, I'm all puffed up with Virgo pride.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2011 Book Review

Despite my initial thoughts that everyone who'd be likely to care is on GoodReads, I went ahead and did it.  To keep things interesting, I gave the most memorable books (good and bad) candy-bar themed awards.  Click on the links to check them out.

And of course, here's the list of the 50 books I read during 2010, complete with my GoodReads ratings.

FIVE STARS (Amazing)
The Undaunted
Bad Things Happen
Journey of the Promise
The Rivers Run Dry
The Glassblower of Murano
Secrets of the Dragon
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Faith of the Fallen
The Parenting Breakthrough
The Help
Left Behind

FOUR STARS (Very good and I'd recommend them)
The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Hattie Big Sky
Prayers for Sale
From Cradle to Grave
Daddy's Girl
The Crossing Places
Book of a Thousand Days
A Highland Feast
Harvesting the Heart
Sea Glass
The Three Weissmanns of Westport
Something Missing
The Kite Runner

THREE STARS (Not a waste of my time)
Saving Madeline
The Enchantment Emporium
The Short Second Life...
Revenge of the Witch
The Goose Girl
Boys Adrift
The Conterfeit Convert
Tarizon: The Liberator
The Blade Itself

TWO STARS (I kind of wish I hadn't...)
Sundays at Tiffany's
The Calligrapher's Daughter
The Founding
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
A Great and Terrible Beauty
A False Dawn
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much
Eve of Magic
The Ancient Lands: Warrior Quest

ONE STAR (Grrr....)
Imperfect Birds
The Lost City of Z
The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette

Book Review - Butterfingers

The best part of eating a Butterfinger, my personal favorite candy bar, is that even an hour later, you still have a bit of a taste of it in your mouth.  These are the books that impacted me beyond the back cover:

There were very few moments of this story that weren't absolutely heart-wrenching. Maybe it was because I related too easily to the self-centered main character. Maybe it was because the expertly crafted plot was so believable that it felt like a true story (I did some research, and it is not). Although this book also served as a means of sharing the Afghan culture, the themes of loyalty, friendship, and redemption are poignant and universal.

I remember reading the whole "The Work and the Glory" series as it was coming out, and I know I read the books like they were going out of style. What I'd forgotten was why. Lund writes with an amazing amount of detail, but unlike many other authors, his details are actually relevant. I hung on every word, even fully reading the footnotes. If the story were less true, I'd have found all the happy endings a bit contrived and cheesy, but as they are true, it was just amazing!

So many of the books I read are pure entertainment, but I really love to read a book that matters. This book is a platform from which I could evaluate my relationships with women, my personal tendencies toward discrimination (based on age, religion, social class, etc.), and my level of courage to stand up for what is right.

Book Review - Black Licorice

There's nothing more disappointing that reaching into a bag of licorice only to find all that's left is that gross black stuff!  Here' this year's colossal disappointments:

Don't misunderstand and believe that I think anyone deserves to have their head chopped off in a guillotine; I don't. But if anyone ever did, based on this book's portrayal, I'd send Marie Antoinette. 130 pages in, I was still certain that at some point, her character would develop into someone I cared about, someone worth saving. 200 pages in I realized it was never going to happen. According to this novel, she was self-absorbed and unfaithful, not at all the heroin I'd hoped for. I am intrigued to read more about the French Revolution and more about Marie Antoinette to see if this book was just historically off, but based on this book, she was certainly not a character worth writing a book about.

The subtitle "A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon" grabbed me, and I put this book at the top of my "to read" pile. My excitement couldn't have been more misplaced. While the subject matter was marginally interesting, this potentially exciting story read like a history text book, plodding on and on in a suspense-less state. Finishing this book was almost painful, and I frequently took breaks to instead admire the desolate view of Idaho from I-15 because it was more interesting than the book. Sadly, the only truly enjoyable part was when, finally finished, I threw the book on the dashboard and triumphantly stated, "Done.

Book Review - M&M's

My go-to, good anytime candy is plain M&M's.  Pop in a handful while you're cleaning the house, and they make even the most mundane tasks more bearable.  Here are a couple of books that added that bit of sweetness to my year.

What a pleasant surprise!  Although this started out as a book with seemingly no plot, I was never bored of the premise or of the main character.  As I continued to read, some semblance of a plot emerged, and I was hooked.  I'm always amused by an author who garners sympathy for the most unlikely of characters.  This one was a fun read.

This book may look like novel, but it is really a collection of short stories woven together by the life of one elderly woman. Each story gave me something to think about, and the endurance of the women in the stories gave me something to work toward. A book about forgiveness, faith, and fortitude, Prayers for Sale would make an excellent topic for a book club. 

Book Review - Milky Way

It's never the candy bar I buy at the store, but every time I eat one I think, "Hm... that was really good!"  This year's surprises:

This book gripped me from page one and did not let go. The premise - so unbelievable and yet, a theoretically possible scenario - was different than everything I've read. The characters provided excellent opposition for each other's viewpoints while still remaining individually human. I can't wait to read the next one!

I'll admit it took me more than a few pages to acclimate to the letter format and to stop being annoyed at trying to keep the to-whom and the from-whom straight as I read. Once I got the hang of it, though, I loved every minute! Because each letter's end made for such an easy stopping place, I thought I'd find it easy to put down and pick up again later. Wrong! Instead, knowing I could easily read just one more letter made it even more difficult for me to pause. By about 50 pages in, I was hooked. I enjoyed the writing style, the plot, the subject matter, the characters, and the ending, which leaves me very little to complain about.

Book Review - Milk Duds

Milk Duds have that awesome flavor, but I just can't thoroughly enjoy them with the way they stick to my teeth.  For me, these books just barely missed the mark:

Ah, disappointment. It's not that the storyline wasn't interesting. Compelling, even. I actually LOVED that she took a more realistic journey than many authors (ahem... Stephanie Meyer) and ended the book with some significant loss of life. I didn't mind the gore; I should have expected it after the first two books. But, sadly, I didn't care about the characters. I can't put a finger on why not, but I do know that the thing, that indescribable thing that made me love the first two was missing from this one. Where I should have been weeping (at least inwardly) for Katniss's losses and heartwrenching decisions, I just didn't care

While I enjoyed the back-story, the writing seemed forced at times. It seemed like Meyer was going for "shock" as she described the appetites of the newborns. Consequently, the emotions she described never seemed deep or real. As a character, however, Bree Tanner instantly caught my interest, and had her second life not been so short, I would have gladly continued to follow her story.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Decade in Review

I saw this on Facebook and liked it, but knew I'd tend to be wordy.  So here it is on my blog instead.

2000: (Disclaimer: this was a very pivotal year, just not very positive)
          Broke up with the guy I thought I was going to marry
          Blew my full ride scholarship to Utah State University
          Dropped out of college completely

2001: Started working at Mansell and Associates
          Met Kirk and married him :)
          Bought our townhouse

2002: Discovered my love of graphic design
          Promoted to Marketing Coordinator
          Balanced full time work and 30 piano students

2003: (Another pivotal but difficult year)
          Miscarried our first pregnancy
          Kirk's knee surgery went bad
          Sold condo/moved in with Kirk's parents
          Failed at being a realtor
          Started in the marketing program at the University of Phoenix

2004: Bought our house! :)
          Work and school, work and school, work and school!
          Marketing Director at SCI

2005: Welcome, Adam!
          Quit work to be a stay-at-home-mom

2006: Part time work at Challenger
          Finished degree program at University of Phoenix
          Trip to Florida

2007: Discovered digiscrapping
          Welcome, Alex!
          Started blogging
2008: Married off both my sisters
          Invited the Case family to live with us
          Quit job at Challenger, completely stay-at-home

2009: Attempted a digiscrap business
          Played Gertrude in Seussical the Musical
          Welcome, Dylan!

2010: Our house is our own again
          Actually completed graduation paperwork and received diploma
          Working at Navigator Pointe Academy

Well, only 2 rough years out of 11... I hope the next decade is as great!