Saturday Snapshot(s)

My youngest daughter, Kelly, and her BFF have the kind of effortless friendship that I always wished I would find as a kid, but never quite did.  They’ve known each other since they were babies and their time together is filled with laughter, inside jokes, imaginative ideas, and non stop conversation.  They make their own fun and don’t need to be entertained.  I love listening to them talk and laugh- they are hilarious. Last Saturday, as they played on the beach, I read Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister in between watching my daughter’s joy at being with her friend.

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books.  It’s easy to participate – just post a picture that was taken by you, a friend, or a family member and add your link on Alyce’s site.

The Sunday Salon – January 10, 2009

Happy Sunday, everybody.  I’m sitting in my family room that is flooded with bright sunlight trying to wrap my head around the fact that this is January.  We’ve had blue skies and temps in the mid to upper 70s for over a week.  While it’s not unusual to have a day like that in January in Southern California, an entire week is weird, even for us.  We are enjoying it by getting out to ride bikes, visiting the beach, etc.  Typical January activities, right?  (I apologize to all you frozen-over mid-westerners for rubbing it in!)

This past week has been a whirlwind for us, trying to get back into a normal routine after the loosey-goosey schedule of winter break.  The Hub’s been in Vegas for a convention since Tuesday so the girls and I have been on our own.  I’ve gotten back to work and it’s a good thing because things had really piled up while I was off playing with the kids.  School mornings have been crazy (nobody wants to get up) and the homework battles have begun anew.  The kids have also taken to fighting over who gets to sleep with me each night while Dad’s away.  Tonight is the last night before he comes home and I think I’m going to demand that everyone sleep in their own bed.

The kids and I have been reading in the evenings.  My youngest and I are reading Fablehaven by Brandon Mull together for our mother/child book club and really enjoying it.  (My oldest is already on Book 4 of the series).  It’s the story of a brother and sister who go to their reclusive grandparents’ home for 2 weeks while their parents are on a cruise.  The home and property turn out to be a centuries-old refuge for mystical creatures (fairies, etc.) that can only be seen by drinking special milk.  Reading Fablehaven has been a great way for me to get my kids to drink their milk!!

I’m currently reading an old favorite author, Sue Grafton, and her latest, U is for Undertow.  I’d stopped reading this series a few years ago (the last one I read was M is for Malice) but I have no idea why… I LOVE Sue Grafton’s sense of humor, and this book is really fun.  My kids have caught me laughing out loud several times (it’s a mystery but her humor shines throughout).  Her sarcasm and wit just kill me and the way she intersects the various characters is really clever.  Now I’ll have to go back and read N, O, P, Q, R, S, and T to see what I’ve missed!

Tonight is book club night and it’s my turn to host our meeting.  I had my servants kids dusting and vacuuming in preparation yesterday.  The whining and complaining could be heard for miles around.  I decided to go super easy with the food and order out- Pizza Hut makes an awesome chicken fettucini alfredo so that’s what I’m serving.  No cooking!  Tonight we will discuss The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne.  We’re also going to watch the movie.  This is something new for us and I’m looking forward to discussing the book vs. movie.  It was such a powerful book and I can’t wait to see Hollywood’s interpretation of it.

Well I’m off to rouse the troops- the bathrooms need attention, the dog needs her pills, the front porch needs to be hosed off, the dishwasher needs emptying, clothes need to be  put away.. the list goes on.  It’s not easy being a taskmaster but someone has to do it!

Thanks for stopping by Books on the Brain.  Leave me a note and tell me what you’re up to this weekend.

Have a great week!

A (Thankful) Sunday Salon

I don’t know about you but I hate those posts where the blogger apologizes for not blogging because they are _________ (fill in the blank) busy, lazy, distracted, sick, tired, *whatever*.  So, I won’t do that.  Because really, nobody cares.

But from looking around I see it is time to dust off the cobwebs in the corners, water the plants, throw open the windows to air the place out and try to get rid of that smell of neglect.

Whew!  That’s better.  (Thank you, BOTB readers, for understanding, and for checking in with me.  I’m fine!  Just uninspired!)

At some point in recent weeks I all but stopped writing reviews.  I have all the usual excuses (busy, etc.) but mostly I’ve just not had the writing mojo.  I would sit down to write a review and the words wouldn’t come.  Now I have so many to write I may never catch up.  I’m thinking of clearing the slate and starting fresh, with the exception of books I agreed to review for others (thank you, authors and publishers, for your patience).  Has anyone else done this?  Just wiped the slate clean and moved on rather than trying to write reviews for books you read weeks ago?  (Thank you, blogging friends, for your advice in this area).

What happened to me?  There was a time when I reviewed everything I read, immediately upon finishing.  It’s much easier to write a review that way.  If enough time passes, the details get fuzzy, and nobody likes a fuzzy reviewer, right?

My aim in the new year:  fuzz-free reviews in a timely manner.

We’re looking forward to some quality family time this week.  The kids are off from school and I do not have to bust my butt cleaning my house and gearing up for company (yay!  YAY!) because Thanksgiving dinner will be somewhere else this year (thank you, Mom, for making dinner!).  All I’m required to do is show up with clean, well behaved children (ha!), a bottle of wine, and a casserole dish full of sweet potatoes (thank you, Tara, for the most excellent recipe!).   My holiday responsibilities end there.

The girls have NO HOMEWORK over the break (thank you, teachers!  I was expecting the worst!)  So we will be out carousing this week.. shopping, seeing movies, going roller skating, and just generally hanging out.  With no school projects to attend to, it will be a real break for them.  We are dying to see New Moon (even Mom’s looking forward to seeing werewolf  Taylor HOTner-all three of us are TEAM JACOB) and Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant (thank you, Hollywood, for all the great movies this time of year!).  Daddy has to work (thank you, Dad, for being a great provider!), so it will be a whole lot of girl time. Hopefully there will be no drama and we will all get along.

I’m also looking forward to some reading time.  I’m reading How to Save Your Own Life by Michael Gates Gil, a super quick little guide to finding joy in unexpected places.  I need to finish Bold Spirit for a December book club discussion (thank you, book club friends, for enriching my life!).  And finally, I can’t wait to start Keeping the Feast by Paula Butturini this week (thank you, Penguin Group, for sending the book!)

What are your plans this Thanksgiving?  What are you reading?

I’m thankful for YOU.  HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Sunday Salon

images-1Happy Sunday!  We are having a lovely fall weekend in Southern California that actually feels like fall- cool and crisp with a light wind.  The weather put me in such a fall mood that I made a big batch of pumpkin bread yesterday and curled up with my book all afternoon.  The kids were busy with homework and friends and the hub had little projects all day, so I was able to take a break from being the Family Boss and do whatever I wanted.  It was nice!

In-a-Perfect-World.JPGThis morning they are giving out free flu shots at our church (not H1N1, just the regular flu) and I’m forcing my family to get them.  The kids are not happy and I’m gearing up for a scene with them later, but I will stand firm and insist on the shots.  I mean, you can’t beat ‘free’, and I want us all to have them.  Especially after the book I finished yesterday, In a Perfect World, about a flu pandemic that spreads across the country and then the world, killing thousands and causing all kinds of panic and hysteria.   Good book, by the way, and very timely, what with the Swine Flu always in the media.  We’ll be getting Swine Flu shots as soon as they make those available.  Are you getting flu shots this year?

My book club meets this afternoon to discuss Olive Kitteridge.  New England clam chowder and donuts are on the menu!  Olive is an odd bird, but I really liked her, and by the end of the book I felt I knew her better than probably any other character I’ve ever read about.  And I missed her when the book was over!  I loved the way the book was set up with different stories, some about Olive and some not, although she makes at least a brief appearance in each one.  I’m looking forward to this discussion.

43594542.JPGSo I’m currently in-between books!  I’ve got a ton to choose from but nothing that’s screaming my name and no pressing obligations.  I think I’ll go through my TBR pile and read the first couple of pages of each one until something grabs me.  The first few on the stack are:  Who by Fire, Julie and Julia, Homer and Langley, The Middle Place, Precious, and The Elegance of the Hedgehog.  I want to read at least 2 of them before I sit down with my November book club pick, The Wednesday Sisters.  Any suggestions?

Hope you’re all have a relaxing weekend! Have a great week, and thanks for stopping by Books on the Brain!

Sunday Salon

Well would you look at that..  it’s been a whole week since I’ve posted anything!  So sorry.

Reading:

Goldengrove-PB-199x300I was about halfway through A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents when I accidentally left it in my husband’s car, leaving me without an ‘in progress’ book.  Thankfully Goldengrove arrived that day.

Actually, Goldengrove TRIED to arrive twice before but the UPS man wouldn’t leave it without a signature.  That just burns my shorts.  Who can be home all day, waiting for books to arrive??  I wrote a note asking UPS to please leave it on the porch, or with a neighbor, so they finally did that on the 3rd day. My neighbor ran it over to me as I was leaving to pick up the kids at school, so I started it in the school parking lot and haven’t put it down since.  The writing is achingly beautiful, and I’m blown away by the author’s ability to paint such vivid mental images with her words.  I’ve inhabited the Goldengrove world entirely and I’m going to finish the book before going back to A Field Guide.. because I just can’t bear to put it aside.

The UPS man had another surprise for me this week.  Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving is a chunkster at 576 pages.  On the back cover it says, “In 1954..in Northern New Hampshire, an anxious 12 year old boy mistakes the local constable’s girlfriend for a bear.  Both the 12 year old and his father become fugitives…”  An unsolicited book of that size might have ended up on the bottom of my TBR pile, but I’m intrigued.. plus, well.. it’s John Irving.

imageDB-3.cgiMy book club meets today to discuss Lottery by Patricia Wood.  Lottery is about a mentally challenged young man who wins 12 million dollars in the Washington State Lottery.  Ms. Wood is working toward her doctorate in a disability and diversity program, and she is also the daughter of a lottery winner, making her uniquely qualified to tell this story!  She lives with her husband on a boat in Hawaii but will take time out of her busy ‘aloha’ schedule to chat with us this afternoon.

My kids have been reading quite a bit.  My youngest, the reluctant reader, found a book she likes.  Dork Diaries: Tales from a NOT-SO Fabulous Life by Rachel Renee Russell has captured her imagination.  It’s subtitle is “The Secret Diary of Nikki Maxwell” and it’s set up as the diary of a middle school girl.  It’s kind of the female version of the Wimpy ugliesKid books.  My daughter has to read 20 minutes per day and this book has her reading a little longer, even after the timer goes off.

My oldest is a reading machine.  Her latest obsession is the Uglies series by Scott Westerfield.  She plowed through Uglies in a day and a half and begged me to get in the car and drive to the book store for Pretties, the next in the series.  There are four books in the Uglies trilogy (isn’t a trilogy, by definition, 3 things?  Did he get to three and just decide to keep going??)  She’ll probably have them all finished by the end of the week.  Any suggestions on what to feed the raging reading inferno that is my 11 year old?

Kids and Home:

1st day of 5th grade!

1st day of 5th grade!

My 5th grader went back to school on Tuesday.  On Wednesday she tried out for basketball, and on Thursday she found out she made the team!  Which is great, but also adds another layer of chaos to our already hectic lives.  She’ll practice twice a week and have games through mid November.  It’s a travel team with games as far as 30 miles away, mid-week.  I’ll have to use my magical powers to be in two places at once, or rely on other parents at times to drive one of my kids around.

My 7th grader, who has played the trumpet for the last two years, announced this week that she was switching instruments.  She wants to play the baritone.  Having never been in band, I wasn’t even sure what that is.. but I know now that it’s sort of a small tuba.

Her band director thinks that’s great and is totally encouraging the switch, but I’m a little unhappy about it.  Maybe because I’m the one who has been renting the stupid trumpet for two years and paying for lessons all summer!  On the plus side, the fingering is the same on both instruments, so she should pick up the baritone very quickly.  Plus, she can use a school-owned instrument in junior high and high school (if she sticks with it) because not that many kids go out for baritone, and bands need them, so the schools have plenty to lend out.  That means no more instrument rental fees for me.  I should be happy, right?

Football season has started so the hub has checked out of family interaction on weekends in favor of a perpetual tv trance.  He’ll be “watching” the kids today during book club.  Hopefully they won’t burn the house down.

I signed on to chair the Scholastic Book Fair at the junior high, which starts this Friday and runs for a week.  There are a ba-zillion details to attend to in advance of the fair, so if anyone wondered why I haven’t been around the blog-o-sphere much lately, that is why.  It’s a big job, but I love being a book pusher.

Thanks for stopping by Books on the Brain!  Leave me a comment and let me know what’s new with you.  What are you reading this week?

Sunday Salon

Weird weekend.  The Hub and my youngest are in Vegas at the Excalibur Hotel for my friend’s 40th birthday party.  My youngest called Friday night..  “Mom!  Mommy!  It’s 100 degrees, at night!  Mom, it was 110 in Baker!  Mom, Mom, I can see the pyramid from my room!  We are in a castle tower.  I’m like a princess, Mom!”  She has never been away from me like this, alone with her dad.  I thought she might miss me, ha ha.  She’s too excited to think about it.  I had to remind The Hub to make sure she wears sunscreen and to not forget that she gets hungry at regular intervals (he is the type of man who would go all day without eating unless someone was there, handing him a sandwich). 

My girls in Yosemite

My girls in Yosemite

My oldest has a serious virus so she and I are home.  The doctor isn’t sure what she has but suspects mono or West Nile Virus.  She could have picked up mono at camp in July.  She could have been bitten by a West Nile-carrying mosquito on our recent trip to Pennsylvania or Yosemite.   It can’t be something normal like a cold, oh no.  That would be too easy, and nothing is easy with this kid.  Not that it’s her fault, but sheesh.  

Through sheer force of will I am going to MAKE her well so that she can attend her first day of junior high on Monday.  She had such high hopes for her first day as a 7th grader- starting off on the right foot, making new friends, finding her way

Did a mosquito get her??

Did a mosquito get her??

around.  If she has mono she could miss a lot of the first two weeks of school and will have to sit out of PE for a couple of months.  There are worse fates in life than missing school and sitting out of PE, but she’s a kid and she’s worried the other kids will think she’s different (of course, we won’t tell them that she actually IS different.. that is our little secret.  Shhhh.)  Junior high is hard enough without being singled out socially. 

The doctor said if she has no fever, is eating, and feels better by Sunday, she could go to school Monday.  Her fever came down yesterday but I’ll have to see how she is today. She’s still sleeping and I am crossing my fingers.  She’s been sick since Tuesday and has eaten nothing more than one or two bites of food at a time all week- which is scary because she’s 11 years old and now weighs 69 pounds (5 lbs lost since Tuesday).  Her body fat is close to zero-she can’t lose any more weight.  Yesterday, even without the fever, she was shaky, pale, and weak.  But maybe after 10 hours of sleep we’ll see a big improvement. 

imagesSo last night, as my daughter sipped Gatorade and I sipped Chardonnay, we watched 17 Again with Zac Ephron and Matthew Perry.  That Zac, he is quite pretty.  A little gay looking, perhaps, but awfully cute.  The movie was ok- I think my girl liked it more than I did.  Even though this wasn’t the way we planned to spend the last weekend of summer, snuggling up and watching a movie together wasn’t too terrible.

Reading update- I am reading when I am not playing nursemaid and wiping things down with Clorox bleach wipes.  I’m about halfway through Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger, and so far, so good!  After that I’ll be cracking open either Who By Fire by Diana Spechler or A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents by Liza Palmer.  And I have a big backlog of reviews to write.  I’ll list them here.. leave a comment to let me know which review you’d like to see first and I’ll try to get to it tonight. 

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama

Two Years, No Rain by Shawn Klomparens

Lottery by Patricia Wood

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins 

Thank you all so much for stopping by my blog.  It means a lot to me that you come by and read my silly thoughts.  Oh, OH!  And (excited!!!!!!!!!) I want to thank whoever was kind enough to nominate me for BBAW!  Books on the Brain got nominated in 4 categories and I’m super grateful and excited to be included!  THANK YOU! 

Have a great week!  And please think healthy thoughts for my incoming 7th grader!

If You Feed Them, They Will Come

Put three kids in a dinghy in Newport Harbor with a couple of stale hot dog buns, and every pelican, seagull, and duck within a 2 mile radius shows up!  Pretty soon the seals arrive too. 

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