Thursday, January 27, 2011

She's growing up!

My oldest baby just lost her first tooth! Meredith is someone who gets really excited about things. She loves life and loves holidays and celebrating every little thing. She was super excited about her tooth falling out. It happened while she was eating a rice cake. She said, "That's weird." And then said, "It's my tooth! I bit into something crunchy and it was my tooth!"

When I discovered that her tooth was loose a few weeks ago, I nearly cried because it's just a huge landmark (for me) of the fact that my little child is becoming a young woman. Where does the time go?

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Sophia's First Birthday Celebration









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Bearded Stranger

Here is Kevin at the five week point in growing his beard. After his appendectomy, he decided to let it grow out for awhile, since he hadn't shaved for several days while staying in the hospital.

I can't say that I was a big fan and got rather impatient for him to shave it off--January 21st was Ultimatum Day. But, he always lets me do whatever I want with MY hair. So I figured I should be just as obliging.

The funny thing was, after he shaved it off, I felt this huge sense of relief. As long as he had his beard, he didn't quite feel like the husband that I know and love. My Kevin finally came back to me!! No longer would a bearded stranger be coming home from work to my house every day. They say it's a compliment if women don't like you with facial hair because it means that they like your face unobstructed. :) All those weeks, I missed my ol' Kev!!


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Happy Wedding

Ack! I'm really behind posting some pictures. We went to a really fun wedding on New Year's Day. I love when the happy couple invites children to their wedding. My kids really love going to weddings. Meredith danced her heart out at the reception. So cute!







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Monday, January 17, 2011

Still Alice

The first book I finished reading this year turned out to be one of the best novels I have ever read. This book intrigued me and engaged me the entire time I was reading it, and it will definitely make my “Best Books of 2011” list! My librarian recommended it to me. I should have known it would be excellent. Now I am determined to pick her brain some more!

Still Alice (Genova) is a story about a woman who is a Harvard professor, at the height of her career and the picture of health, who has just turned 50. She starts experiencing some disorientation and memory loss and at first dismisses it as symptoms of menopause or being overly tired and stressed. Soon after, she is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease.

The fascinating part about the book is that it is written in the first person. You see everything from Alice’s point of view. As the disease progresses, the book gets more and more interesting. Toward the end of the book the only way you know exactly what is happening is through the descriptions of other people’s reactions and words, and you are required to piece everything together.

I kept thinking about how tragic Alzheimer’s Disease is and how, in a lot of ways, it seems like a fate worse than early death. It was really interesting to see how the disease affected Alice’s relationship with her husband and also her children, and how there was one particular relationship that was restored through the disease.

The author gives us a lot to think about. How much of our mind creates the essence of who we really are? What about other facets of our being—our heart and emotions specifically? What exactly makes a good quality life? What are choices we would make if faced with a similar situation?

I expected the ending to be inevitably sad, and maybe even tragic, based on some clues the author left along the way. But I was surprised a bit at the end, and left wondering if it was truly a tragic story after all. Yes, it was sad. But I decided it wasn’t the worst thing and there were many redemptive things about the story and Alice’s situation.

This would be a fabulous book to use in a book discussion group. In fact, I’m going to make Kevin listen to the audio book (read by the author) so that he can discuss it with me! I highly recommend this book.

2010 Books

Here are my top favorite books from 2010, and all the rest are listed below, too.

The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life (Leveen)—A book about how to read more books every year and get more out of them. Excellent resource, and how could I not love this book when I read that the author is also an avid audio-books proponent!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Shaffer)
—This one was a really fun novel written in a series of letters, set in post-WW II. It was light-hearted and very funny. I loved it.

Jane Austen (Shields)—Many biographies have been written on Jane Austen. I really enjoyed this one. The author is clearly passionate about Austen. I felt so much sympathy for Austen, a brilliant, creative, beautiful soul. In her day, to be married was to gain independence. Her story is just like her novels, except hers had no good ending. She was never able to find her “home” or her place in the world. I felt like the barriers of time and distance were removed and I could really identify with Austen’s struggles. This was a really good book.

Organizing from the Inside Out (Morgenstern)—This was an excellent book for someone like me who struggles to stay organized! It was very practical and, since you take one room or one closet at a time, not at all overwhelming.

The Hiding Place (ten Boom)—I had seen several different movies based on this book but was so glad to read the book and was really encouraged by ten Boom’s faith in the face of the most extreme form of evil imaginable to the human mind.

The Namesake (Lahiri)—This was a novel about a young man who comes of age and questions the past traditions and decisions of his parents and is trying to find his own place in the world. I just really enjoyed this book. The words and word pictures in this book were absolutely beautiful and I felt myself enjoyably immersed in this book and hated to see it end.

With the Old Breed in Pelelui and Okinawa (Sledge)—I think every American should read this book. This is the memoir of a foot soldier in the Pacific Theater during World War II. This story is gripping, incredible, and one that needs to be heard. This book makes me so grateful and so proud of those boys and what they did for us.

The Heretic’s Daughter (Kent)—This book was really well written and really gave me a stark view of the time period (Salem Witch Trials). It’s based on a true story. The whole way it’s written is dark and foreboding and very intriguing.

Three Cups of Tea (Mortenson)—This book was really incredible! Not only was I immersed in the mountain-climbing subculture, I also was taken on an amazing journey into the heart of Pakistan and learned about the incredible life and adventures of someone who is a true humanitarian. Greg Mortenson is an average man who has made an incredible difference in the lives of so many people. I would highly recommend this book.

Son of Hamas (Yousef)—This was another remarkable memoir! It gave me a lot to think about that is relevant to current events. It read like a (true) James’ Bond adventure. The author is the son of one of the founders of Hamas and it was intriguing to see his love for his father, even though he strongly disagreed with the choices his father made. One of my favorite reads this year!

The Hunger Games (Collins)—I wasn’t sure if I would like this book because of the genre but I found myself spellbound by the plot and the characters. The author set out this impossible scenario and I wondered how the book could have any sort of satisfying end. The book ends with a cliff-hanger and I think I will definitely get the sequel and read it this year!

Here are the others that I read this year:

The Sharper Your Knife the Less You Cry (Flinn)
—A cooking memoir that was funny and interesting.

Educating the Whole Hearted Child (Clarkson)—A homeschooling handbook

How Reading Changed My Life (Quindlen)—A touching memoir by someone who is passionate about literature.

The Bell Jar (Plath)—A novel about a mentally disturbed young woman that was depressing, especially after (halfway into the book) I read on the flap of the book that the author had committed suicide some years after writing it.

Echo in Celebration: A Call to Home-Centered Education (Bortins)—Homeschooling book written by someone who is passionate about classical home education, and founded the homeschool program we are using.

The Help (Stockett)—A novel written from three perspectives about racial tension in Mississippi in the 1960s, and the inhumane treatment of colored servants. I really liked this book and almost made it a favorite.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (Hertzberg)—A really great book on making awesome bread in just minutes. Who doesn’t love fresh bread out of the oven?

The Stone Diaries (Shields)—This book was recommended by someone and, other than the creativity of the author in working her theme (“stones/rocks”) into nearly every depiction, I didn’t really care for this one that much.

The Picture of Dorian Gray (Wilde)—One of my favorite classics, about the constant struggle of conscience, choosing good or evil, the searing of the conscience, and the consequences that result.

Teaching the Trivium (Bluedorn)—A helpful handbook on implementing classical education at home. At first it can be overwhelming, and I definitely don’t agree on every point, but I really appreciated the things the Bluedorns had to say about educating younger students.

The Lovely Bones (Sebold)—Some parts of this novel were really great but it had really disturbing content and a really odd and dissatisfying ending. I can’t recommend it.

What’s a Smart Woman Like You Doing at Home?—I ran out of patience reading all the statistics, but overall this was good affirmation.

Blessings (Quindlen)—I really enjoyed this novel and the word pictures. I loved this author’s style and descriptions. Maybe, too, I was touched by it because I had a small baby about the same age as the one in this book!

How Should We Then Live (Schaeffer)—An excellent book about how ideas (world view) have consequences in all aspects of history and culture. A classic I had sadly never read until this year.

Raising Bookworms (Andrews)—More inspiration to continue encouraging an early love of reading for young children.

The Little Stranger (Waters)—This is a novel about an old house where strange things happen and you’re never quite sure if it’s haunted or not.

The Last Lecture (Pausch)—After being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Pausch shares his passions and his advice about living a full life with no regrets.

Lies Women Believe (DeMoss)—Written to help women be more grounded in biblical thinking. I thought this book was helpful but found myself disagreeing with the author at times. I really hate generalizations, especially when it comes to women, because I often feel like I can’t relate.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Larsson)—This book was really a page turner and had an interesting plot, although dealt with gruesome and dark subject matter.

Rise and Shine (Quindlen)—A novel about a two sisters’ relationship as one of their careers is derailed. Not as good as “Blessings” but I like this author a lot.

The Total Money Makeover (Ramsey)—I thought about including this in my “favorites” because it gave me/us a lot to think about. But I think that some of his advice is a little extreme (having only a $1,000 emergency fund, for example), unless you have massive credit card debt and no savings. But it was definitely worth reading.

Every Last One (Quindlen)—My third Quindlen novel this year. This one dealt with a woman who experiences deep loss and tragedy.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Rowling)—I finally joined the rest of the western world and have read a Harry Potter book! It was good, but I kept wondering if this was exactly “my” genre. I hear they get better as the series goes on. I think at some point I’ll keep reading!

The Wizard of Oz (Baum)—Not my favorite classic, but I’m trying to get more of them under my belt. I read this to the kids and they enjoyed it.

Life Management for Busy Women (George)—I was hoping this book would be more helpful but it really wasn’t anything profound.

Eat This, Not That (Zincenko)—If you want to be motivated to eat healthier, the descriptions of body fat in this book will probably do the trick! Disgusting! I think this book would have been more helpful for us if I was the type who ate out a lot or bought a lot of pre-packaged, convenience foods. Since I don’t, it was only mildly informative.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ice Skating

Clara, getting ready for her first time on ice:

This was Meredith's second time and she is a real natural:

By the end of the day, Meredith was skating quickly around the rink by herself, with no support!

We weren't sure if Clara was going to last right at first:

But Clara quickly built up confidence and did SO great! We were so proud of her (and surprised) becuase she never complained about her shoes being too tight or being too cold! It was a success and we can't wait to do it again!!

Megan, Meredith, and Kevin

Clara and Mommy

Dad whizzed around the ice with Clara and she loved it:

Clara and Aunt Shannon:

Bye Bye!

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Sledding with Daddy



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Monday, January 10, 2011

Photo Journal of Christmas 2010

Wow! I took a lot of photos at Christmas this year. It was a memorable year, with all of Kevin's siblings in town, and all the COUSINS!

The three babies (born within 7 weeks of each other)--they followed each other around like puppies:

Best kind of present:

Drama Queens:

Drama Queen in Training:

Meredith's gift to daddy (a homemade pens/pencils holder):

Clara's gift to mommy (a book light from the dollar store):

Sophia's new doggy (stuffed animals make her laugh so much--too cute):

This is SO Clara--just give her a lollipop and you have made her day:

Mmmmm ... mimosas:

Kc played Santa:

Good family times:

Jeff LOVES the Colts!

Sophia's new toy:

Kevin's new toy:

Megan and Bennett:

Shannon and Samantha:

Clara's new camera (big hit! now maybe I can get mine back!):

Meredith FINALLY was awarded an American Girl doll (her dream gift for a long time now):

Aunt Time--Shannon spends time playing American Girl dolls with Meredith and Megan reads Sophia a story:

The men are full (see empty dessert ramekin):

Poor parents, stuck with dishes. :-(

Brother/Sister piano duet:

"Hey, let's make it a quartet!"

Lots of babies to go around this year:

Playing in the snow with grandpa:

To top it all off, it was a WHITE CHRISTMAS!! Christmas 2010 will be one to remember forever.