Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween Fun

Somehow this year Halloween has come stealthily. I mean, I knew it was coming. We went on that trip to the farm and had the hay ride, went in the corn maze and picked pumpkins. We bought mums and gourds and put up the decorations. We went and bought Halloween costumes and planned our activities for Halloween night. Rachel's friend Chloe and her parents, Dan and Trisha, are coming over for dinner. Trisha is bringing us peppers carved like jack o'lanterns stuffed with spaghetti (think guts) and I am making salad, garlic bread and chocolate cake because Trisha's birthday was Tuesday. They may even stay overnight, because Trisha is bringing some tequila along....

However, we had the wedding to go to, and then when we returned we got sick. Emma was the first; she threw up at 6 am on Monday (we'd gotten home around midnight Sunday) and was feeling poorly all day. Ben got sick around 3 in the afternoon, and when he got sick in bed at midnight, I thought, this is going to be a long night....made longer by the fact that I was getting a sore throat. I woke up on Tuesday feeling horrible--but thankfully the stomach virus was gone. Ben and Emma were back to their old selves and nobody else had it. Which left me with a terrible cold, flu-like aches and almost no voice. I was sick for the rest of that week, so we laid low, canceling all our activities except those on Friday and letting me rest as much as possible. The weekend was busy, and this week was spent getting back into the groove of school work and regular life...and last night I realized that we'd done nothing about a jack o'lantern!

When we first has small kids, we used to try to carve the pumpkins two weeks in advance. We wanted to be able to light them every night; what fun was Halloween if we couldn't enjoy the fun of a jack o'lantern? However, unlike when we were kids, October was too warm for carved pumpkins, and inevitably they would end up black and rotted, staved in at one side, with some form of repulsive fly or bug attracted to the rotting flesh. So gradually we shortened the time before carving and Halloween night so the poor pumpkin would stay fresh, eventually settling on 3-4 days before the holiday. We make sure to light it every evening at dusk and let it burn till midnight or so before Matt and I head for bed.

This year, however, I simply forgot. We were going along with our week. I knew Friday was Halloween. We had some lousy weather, though, and I just didn't get out to get a pumpkin. I had a moment of panic last night, but Matt reassured me that he'd pick one up on his way home from work and we'd carve it after dinner. So that's what we did--Julia drew her idea for a great pumpkin face and everyone agreed to it. Matt opened the pumpkin and the kids scooped out the guts, and then Matt prepared the seeds for roasting and did the carving. Meanwhile, Rachel and I were in the bathroom, putting red Kool Aid streaks in her hair---please send good thoughts that it won't permanently affect her hair! She insists that it won't..but some of the googling we did suggested that naturally blond hair can be affected adversely! So we shall see about that...

I'll post the photos tomorrow. Right now it's late and I'm in no mood. HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

--Jen

Daily quote

We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.

--Stephen King

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Phoebe & Andrew's Wedding



This past weekend we traveled to Pennsylvania for the long-awaited wedding of our niece Phoebe. One of the reasons it was long-awaited was that Ben was the ring bearer (Phoebe is his godmother) and Emma one of the two flower girls, and they had been waiting seemingly forever for this event to happen. We left on Thursday morning, and the trip took five hours including one stop and two traffic snarl-ups. It was especially fun because my sister, Amy (Phoebe's mom) and our other niece, Chloe (Phoebe's sister) were here from Vienna and also staying with Phoebe and Andrew. We have seen Chloe a few times since their move, but not Amy--she'd never met Emma and hadn't seen Ben since he was a baby. So it was fun to hang out and talk and get reacquainted, although there was a lot of wedding craziness going on too.

Suffice it to say that we had a wonderful time and the wedding went beautifully. Phoebe looked exquisite and much fun was had by all. However, since this is my family blog, I will tell two short anecdotes about the ring bearer and the flower girl! Remember how I said the wedding was long-awaited? Well, once we got to Phoebe's, she showed Emma her little basket for the ceremony, complete with silk autumn leaves to toss on the way down the aisle. Silly me, for the past year I'd been telling Emma how flower girls toss flower petals! That went over well! It hadn't occurred to me, but of course it makes sense to throw leaves at an October wedding...so after the initial shock, she made me promise that the next time she was a flower girl, she'd get to throw flower petals!!

And now for Ben. Remember that I'd been preparing the kids for their jobs...when Ben realized that the ring bearer pillow had fake rings attached to it, but those were the rings he would use, NOT the real rings, guess what his comment was?

"What am I even doing in this wedding, anyway?"

However, feathers were smoothed and they ended up doing a terrific job. And Ben went an entire day without wearing his hat, which is the first time since he was around 17 months old that he'd done that.

A good time was had by all. And Phoebe and Andrew are on a Carribean holiday, so I'm assuming a good time is still being had by them!

--Jen


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Big Read

I found this on my friend Kelly's blog, and since I have been thinking about all the books I've read in my life (via Reading Social on Facebook!) I decided to do it myself.....The Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they’ve printed. I am betting I will do significantly better, since I was not only an English major but have been a bookworm my entire life! Feel free to copy and play yourself....


The Rules:
1) Look at the list and put one * by those you have read.
2) Put a % by those you intend to read.
3) Put two ** by the books you LOVE.
4) Put # by the books you HATE.
5) Post.


** Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
* The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
** Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë
** Harry Potter series - J.K. Rowling
** To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
* The Bible (I have indeed read the entire thing, a project I made for myself when I was about 12...I don't remember a lot of it, though!)
* Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë

And here I have already beaten the average!! :)

*/# 1984 - George Orwell (Maybe hate is too strong a word. But it's not my favorite)
His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman AHA! Finally, I have never even heard of this one!
* Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
** Little Women - Louisa May Alcott (A very favorite of all time...)
** Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy (another very favorite!)
Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
* (?) Complete Works of Shakespeare (Well, I've read MOST of Shakespeare, but I don't know if I can say ALL...)
** Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier
* The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks (Another I've never heard of)
* Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
*/# The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger (Read this with my book club, and yes, I hated it!)
Middlemarch - George Eliot
** Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell (one of my favorite books of all time. I've read it at least 12 times)
* The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
* Bleak House - Charles Dickens
War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy (never really wanted to read this....can't say I do now, either!)
The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams (I think I began this once but didn't finish)
Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh -
Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
* The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
* Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
* The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame (loved it as a kid but haven't read it since, unlike many childhood favorites of mine)
% Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy (Finally, one I intend to read someday)
David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
** Chronicles of Narnia- C.S. Lewis (love these! Kelly--read them to Collin!!!)
** Emma - Jane Austen
** Persuasion - Jane Austen
** The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis (this is a poor choice since the Chronicles were already listed!)
* The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini (liked his next book much better, "A Thousand Splendid Suns")
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis de Bernières -
** Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden (Excellent!)
* Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne (HIGHLY overrated, in my opinion...)
* Animal Farm - George Orwell
* The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown (again, overrated. readable, but overrated.)
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
** The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins (just reviewed this on reading social! Great ghost story!)
** Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery (another best childhood favorite I keep rereading)
* Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy (love Hardy, this isn't my favorite, but still)
** The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood (Wonderful premise!)
* Lord of the Flies - William Golding
% Atonement - Ian McEwan (forgot all about this book but I think I'd like it...)
Life of Pi - Yann Martel
Dune - Frank Herbert
Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
* Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
* A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
* Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
* The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon (read this for book group, liked it)
* Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
** Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
% Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
The Secret History - Donna Tartt
** The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold (another favorite!)
Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
On The Road - Jack Kerouac
** Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy (wow--depressing but vintage Hardy!)
** Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding (OK, I liked this book, but I hardly think it should be on this list!!!)
Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
1/2 * Moby Dick - Herman Melville (long story! I still hold a grudge against my 11th grade English teacher, Ms. Shapiro, who ruined my spring break by assigning homework from this BORING book, which I did, only to get back to school and hear we weren't finishing it because we were going to see "As You Like It" in the city and had to read that instead! I never finished the book. It was SO dull!)
** Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
** Dracula - Bram Stoker
** The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett (another childhood favorite)
Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
* Ulysses - James Joyce
* The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
** Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome (childhood again, I've been looking for this series for Julia, but they're out of print!)
Germinal - Émile Zola
Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
Possession - A.S. Byatt
* A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
** The Color Purple - Alice Walker
The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
* Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
** A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
** Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White (love it and am reading it to Emma at bedtime these days)
* The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
* Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
* The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
** Watership Down - Richard Adams (I loved this book as a kid but made the mistake of getting it as a cartoon for the kids...the death of the bunnies scarred them and now none of them will read it!)
A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
* Hamlet - William Shakespeare
** Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
* Les Miserables - Victor Hugo (slogged through it--one time where the play is MUCH better!)

So...I have read 63.5 of the 100 books. Does that make me ten times cooler than the average adult? Or ten times geekier?

--Jen

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Dino Poem, by Julia

Another poem from Julia....

The huge T. Rex was an awful beast.
Upon other dinos he did feast.
He stomped around, making holes in the ground,
But in a crime scene he was always found!
He destroyed the jungle,
He ate the eggs,
He walked around eating dino legs.
All the dinos hated him so!
They shouted, "We want him to go!"
"We want him to go and never come back!"
"Come on, people, cut us some slack!"
But then one day, he disappeared!
All the dinos clapped and cheered!
All but one that was very wise.
She said he might be wearing a disguise.
But from that day on, he never came back.
And for the other dinos, luck gave them a big whack!
Some say he died, and never spoken was his name.
Some say volcanoes erupted, and he fell into the fiery flame.
But whichever the one,
for dinos it was fun!
His name was never spoken again, and that was not wrong.
For to the dinos' great joy, he was gone!

A "Wedding" video...

Emma and Rachel were chatting about Phoebe and Andrew's wedding in this 25-second long video....We don't have a memory card yet, so the camera won't let us take long videos, or more than 50 pictures...RRRG!



video

Daily quote

Saying goodbye doesn't mean anything. It's the time we spent together that matters, not how we left it.

--Trey Parker

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Switching Bedrooms

I'm a little late posting about this...it seems like every day flies by faster than the last (and I'm afraid my new Facebook obsession doesn't help!) and before I know it another day has gone by without a blog post. Anyway, I didn't want to let it go by without mention, so I'm posting now although the event happened last Sunday.

When we moved into this house, Emma got her own room on the first floor, right down the hall from our bedroom. She was still nursing at that time, and her habit was to come into bed with us when she woke in the night. It didn't make sense to have her upstairs, where she might fall on the stairs or at the very least wake her siblings trying to reach us. We told Julia she was next in line for her own room. However, when Emma weaned last spring, she had no interest in changing rooms, and we sort of let it go because Julia didn't seem that interested, either. Unfortunately, Emma's habit of coming into our bed in the middle of the night didn't end when nursing did! And as she got bigger, our bed seemed more cramped, till finally Matt was just sleepwalking down to Emma's bed when she'd come in to cuddle. We were really getting tired of not being in the same bed all night! So on Sunday I mentioned switching up the bedrooms. I was met with universal enthusiasm, and so we got right to work--I was taking no chances!

Julia, Rachel, Emma and I went to work late in the afternoon on Sunday, after we returned from a family bike ride. It wasn't the best timing, admittedly, but Matt said he'd make dinner and I figured we could always complete the transformation over the week if we had to. Ben helped here and there, but wasn't very invested in the work--I think he ended up in the backyard playing with his light saber at some point. All I did was get the laundry baskets and the Rubbermaid totes we sort laundry into out of the basement, and we began unceremoniously piling toys and books into them.

We brought a load of Emma's things upstairs, emptied the things onto the bed, and refilled them with Julia's things and brought them down. As the rooms emptied, I did most of the ferrying and Julia and Rachel had a blast setting up Julia's new space. As we got all the things upstairs, I went to work on arranging things for Emma, with her help as to what went where. It was great because in all the moving we ferreted out a huge bag of things no longer played with as well as broken toys, puzzles with missing pieces, all manner of junk from old drawings to pieces of string, shells to bits of Play Doh that could be thrown away. I always find it cathartic to weed out old possessions and clean things up. And Julia is taking her room VERY seriously--she has been keeping everything preternaturally neat with a place for everything and everything in its place (very unlike her!)

Matt was making noises about dinner being ready, so we took a break. I was feeling pretty good that we'd gotten so much done...I never could have done it without Rachel and Julia's help. I was already planning when I could fit the clothes portion of the festivities in, but then figured I could get started on that after dinner while the kids were bathing and doing the whole nighttime routine. Lo and behold--that part was quite easy since the clothes were just reorganized from summer to winter wardrobes--and I was finished before their bedtime! All that has yet to be done is the careful removal of Julia's handdrawn horse posters from her old wall and the transfer to the new...but that's Matt's job! I know he'll be far more patient and careful than I would be, and Julia is so worried that they'll be torn or ruined that I think it takes his steady hand.

The best news? Emma hasn't come into our bed even once since we did this! I don't think Matt and I have had this many uninterrupted nights together since before Julia was born....

--Jen

Daily quote

My job is not to represent Washington to you, but to represent you to Washington.

--Barack Obama

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Fun Outside

























Today was a gorgeous day--- bright and sunny, with lower 60-degree weather. Emma was very happy to be able to play outside after a couple days of rainy weather. Being in the house in Fall really gives you Cabin Fever!

-Rachel

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Monkeying Around










Today we went to the Long Island Game Farm with a group of homeschooling friends. We hadn't been there in years, since Ben was riding in a stroller, so it was nice. It's funny how many things are so close by and yet we don't take advantage of them for years at a time...I guess it's just nice that we have options.

Anyway, if you haven't been there, it is a cross between a zoo and a farm (someone who heard me speak of it asked in horror if we were going there to hunt! LOL) There are "wild" animals like giraffes, zebras, cougars, kangaroos, monkeys, coatimundi, lemurs and alligators, but then there are pigs, chickens, ducks, llamas, deer, goats, donkeys, sheep, horses, cows, rabbits and the like. There is also a carousel, a train ride and a tea cup ride, pony rides, a discovery center with shells, antlers, turtles etc. as well as some shows--a big cat show, a talk about alligators, feedings at various exhibits.

Julia and Emma loved holding the ducklings! We were there for about an hour all told. And they also liked the duck enclosure where the adults lived--you can turn on a shower for them and they all come over, quacking and ready to get wet. Another big attraction is the fact that many of the animals can be fed, either by hand or through tubes, where you put pellets in and they are so conditined that they suck it in before it ever reaches the trough! It's funny to go into Bambiland, as they call the deer pen, and have forty deer descend upon you for the food. They are so tame, and yet they sure do love to eat! You see a lot of kids excited to feed the deer who then freak out when they become the center of the crowd...








We headed down a woodland trail from the Discovery Center late in the afternoon and spent some time in front of a huge enclosure with parrots in it--they danced if you sang and tried to imitate noises we made. Then further down we saw some spider monkeys and headed over. I noticed there was a pulley with a cup on it that would go to the top of the enclosure, where a little platform box stuck out in the air. The idea was that the monkeys could get into the box and reach the cup to take out the food. We still had some pellets in our cup, so we tried it. The monkey was excited when he heard the clink in the cup and saw it ascend--but when he saw the pellets, he threw them down in disgust. I guess if I had a hundred people a day try to give me those pellets, I might object too!

There was a group already there with two moms, a grandma and several kids. The grandma got excited when she thought the monkey would eat the pellets for us--but when she saw he didn't, she said that they had tried too, and a keeper going by told her they loved grapes. Of course, none of us had grapes. I watched the kids for a bit, calling to and watching the monkeys, and then realized--I'd brought oranges for a snack!

Well, it was the cutest thing to see these monkeys eat the oranges! I ended up peeling all five--section by section I doled them out, some for us and some for our furry friends. The smaller monkey sat in the platform part of the cage, hooting for the cup to be pulled up. He'd grab the orange out and pick it apart, peeling the pith off and throwing it away just as we do, and breaking each section into two or three pieces to daintily pop into his mouth. I felt sorry for the larger one, who either couldn't or wouldn't fit into the platform, so I experimentally tossed a section towards the cage--and he reached right out and grabbed it through the bars.







I had a tense moment when a keeper came by and Ben excitedly informed him we were feeding the monkeys oranges-- I thought we might be reprimanded for feeding them unapproved food. But he just said thanks so much--oranges are good for them, and he didn't understand why the farm didn't sell bananas and grapes to feed the monkeys, since they loved them so much....whew! Anyway, we were all disappointed when we had no more fruit to give away, and went on to the alligator show. It was a fun afternoon!

--Jen

Daily quote

Since we humans have the better brain, isn't it our responsibility to protect our fellow creatures from, oddly enough, ourselves?

--Joy Adamson
(author of "Born Free")