Thursday, June 14, 2018

February Reading

Here's what I read in February!

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (audiobook) by Ransom Riggs -- This was a good listen (I loved the guy who read the audiobook version). It wasn't THE BEST BOOK EVER, but I'll probably listen to/read the sequel.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson -- This Newbery Medal winner was fantastic. There's a big spoiler that I actually heard on a podcast either shortly before I read the book, or right after I started reading it. I read it anyway, and am really glad I did. It's also a movie I think the girls would like to watch (probably during the day this summer, when it's too hot to go outside).

Wonder by R. J. Palacio -- I read this aloud to Sydney and Lorelei, and then we watched the movie. There were a few parts I felt were over their head, and I censored a sentence here and there, but we enjoyed it. The movie was good too.

After You (audiobook) by Jojo Moyes -- I read the first book in this series, Me Before You, when we lived in Virginia. I liked both of them, but I'm not going to recommend them to absolutely everyone I meet (some books will make me do that though!). The reason is because I have a problem with the main character, Louisa. She's the most boring person in the world.

A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny -- I heard this book was a turning point in this series, specifically the point where the author hit her stride. "They" were right!

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House (audiobook) by Alyssa Mastromonaco -- As always, I like memoirs read by the author. While she and I may differ in our politics, I liked learning about her experience.

That's it for February. Happy reading!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Sequoia National Park (Part 1)

Saturday I realized we've lived in California for nearly a year and hadn't done a single California-y thing. So the next morning we drove to Sequoia National Park

The great thing about  living California's central valley, while there's not much in the actual valley, is we're pretty much 2.5 hours from many California landmarks. Sequoia is even closer than that -- just 70 miles from our house to the Ash Mountain entrance of the park. 

The "problem" (not really a problem, just something to know and consider) is that it takes quite a while to drive up the mountain to the different landmarks within the park. The kids had been watching a DVD during the drive, but we quickly turned it off once we entered the park -- not necessarily because we thought they should enjoy the scenery (children never appreciate such things as much as adults do), but because they were all going to lose their breakfasts unless they looked out the window or closed their eyes. The twisty, winding road up the mountain is bound to make ANYONE carsick. 

In fact, we had to stop halfway into our trek upward to give everyone some fresh air. 
Sydney was feeling the worst, with Ford close behind her. Lorelei was doing okay, and Ruthie was hardly affected:

Sydney cracked half of a smile for a millisecond...
...but the rest of the time she looked like she was concentrating on not needing a barf bag:
Ahh, family fun.

The second half of the drive up the mountain was better, not sure why. Our destination was the parking lot to see the General Sherman Tree. It's the biggest tree in the world, by volume (meaning, it's not the tallest and it doesn't have the biggest circumference, but it has the most wood). It is still VERY tall and VERY big around.

From the parking lot you walk 0.4 miles to the actual tree, all downhill (and all paved, with intermittent stairs).

There's a lookout about halfway down where you can see the tree from the distance (it's the one slightly to the left):

It was impossible to capture it's size with a mere mortal camera:

We didn't the typical photo in front of the tree where the sign is; it was crowded and Chet and I were anxious to get onto the trail we had planned to hike. But a nice lady snapped this one of us:
...and we decided that was good enough.

More later -- happy Monday!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Base Living

Base living is the best. This is our third time living on a naval base, and it's by far my favorite experience, mostly because our kids are older and able to run the roads like children of the sixties.

Base living is also the best because our neighbors are the best (how many times will I type "best" in this blog post?). Not everyone living on base loves their street or their neighbors as much as we love ours, so I'm extra thankful for our current situation. Base life feels like a throwback to a few decades ago, kind of like "Pleasantville" (without the weirdness), or how I imagine life in a European village (I could be way off on that one).

For example:

--Before Chet left for work, he informed me our next-door-neighbor (and Chet's boss) was going to put his trash in our trash can, because he's headed out of town this weekend. No problem -- still trying to figure out why Chet even felt the need to tell me, since I wouldn't have given any of our neighbors a second glance if I happened to see them putting their trash in our can.

--Around 10 a.m., Ford disappeared across the street to play with his best friend, and Ford's best friend's brother made his way to our house to trade Pokemon cards with Sydney and Lorelei. They didn't make a peep for an hour.

--Just before 11 a.m., Sydney, Lorelei, Ford's best friend's brother, and I rode across the base to drop Sydney and Lorelei off at piano (normally Sydney and Lorelei ride their bikes to piano alone -- but it was a nice morning, and I felt like going on a little bike ride). Ford's best friend's brother and I rode back to our neighborhood; we even had a little race. (Ford was at his best friend's house while all this was happening.)

--At 11:45 a.m., Ford's best friend's mom came over and gave me her opinion on which throw pillow I should buy from the Pottery Barn online sale.

--At noon I rode my bike to the Child Development Center to pick up Ruthie. Ford stayed with his best friend, and Sydney and Lorelei were in the process of making it back home from piano. When Ruthie and I returned home from the CDC, there were five children on my lawn (only one was mine).

--Around 1:30 p.m., a new neighbor knocked on my door and returned my mail key (Sydney and Lorelei retrieved the mail an hour earlier and must have been excited by what was in the box, because they left the key dangling from the lock).

All this to say that I highly recommend base living. There are definitely non-base neighborhoods that are like this, but they're harder to find. We found one in northern Virginia, but the people in our Austin neighborhood kept to themselves.

I hope your weekend is full of fellowship with friends (who may or may not be neighbors), or a break from interacting with people -- whatever you prefer!

Our front porch; while base houses all tend to look the same, the American flags flying from the front porches make the monotony worthwhile:

Ford and his BFF:

How Ruthie and I ride around base:

A couple of weeks ago, we ended up feeding dinner to three extra children:

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

January Reading

I read lots of books, and my secret is to have several going at once (I know that drives some people crazy though), including an audiobook. I also usually have a novel and an audiobook going with Sydney and Lorelei (usually books I never got around to reading as a youngster).

Since the year is nearly half over and I haven't shared anything about what I've read yet, I'll start with January, and maybe post about books once a week until I catch up. We'll see!

Gunpowder Green (Tea Shop Mysteries Book 2) by Laura Childs -- My next-door neighbor recommended this cozy mystery series, and they're VERY enjoyable! A good palate cleanser between books.

Talking as Fast as I Can (From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything In Between)) (audiobook) by Lauren Graham -- Clearly I love "Gilmore Girls" since I have a daughter named Lorelei, and listening to Lauren Graham read this made an entertaining book even better.

Year of No Sugar: A Memoir by Eve Schaub -- I LOVE sweets. But I gave up sugar (well, sweets/desserts) at the beginning of the year, mostly to help with my marathon training. I haven't been able to stop thinking about this memoir though; it's very well written, and funny (and informative, but not so informative I feel like I'm reading a medical journal).

Veronica Mars: Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas -- I loved the "Veronica Mars" series (I watched it only a couple of years ago, long after it actually aired on TV). The show's creator, Rob Thomas, wrote two novels that followed the show, and they were great (if you're a fan of the show already). This is book two.

Scrappy Little Nobody (audiobook) by Anna Kendrick -- Apparently 2018 is the year of the celebrity memoir for me. I liked the movie "Pitch Perfect" (I only saw the first one), but beyond that I don't know much about Anna Kendrick. It was interesting to hear the book read by the author, but I'm not necessarily a bigger fan of hers than I was before.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (audiobook) by E. L. Konigsburg -- I listened to this 50-year old Newbery Medal winner with Sydney and Lorelei. I'm a HUGE fan of children's books that take place before Sydney and Lorelei were born, because it sparks lots of questions about things like "phone booths."

Year of No Clutter: A Memoir by Eve Schaub -- This is the second memoir of Eve Schaub, who wrote the aforementioned "Year of No Sugar." I liked this book even better. It's not a manual on how to be a minimalist; it's about Eve grappling with her hoarding tendencies, specifically in the form of a "hell room" in her own home. I highly recommend it (like her other book, it's well-written, funny, and informative).

That's it for January. Happy reading!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Ready for the week!

We had the BEST weekend, because we did nothing. It's been a few weeks since we had a commitment-less weekend, and that coupled with most of our neighbors being out of town made it especially relaxing and rejuvenating. (We LOVE our neighbors. Love, love, love them. We love their fellowship so much that we often lose track of time and realize it's 30 minutes past the kids' bedtime and we still need to round them up and bathe them, etc. It's super fun, but every now and then it's good to have a break from so much fun.)

Friday night, as I mentioned in my last post, Sydney and Lorelei had a makeup gymnastics class, and on our drive home from that we finished the audiobook The Wonderful Wizard of Oz read by Anne Hathaway. I'd never read this classic; I highly recommend it (especially Anne's reading of it)!

Saturday we slept in a little, Chet built something in the garage, I did lots of laundry, and after dinner we took the kids to our community pool (located on base, approximately a mile from our house). We nearly had the place to ourselves, and it was still quite hot at 6 p.m., so the water felt great.

Sunday we went to church and, as always, enjoyed a complimentary donut afterward:

Chet went to the commissary (grocery store on base) after church to buy ingredients to make salsa, which he did, and which I ate. We sat around the house in the evening, reading library books aloud to whoever wanted to listen, and teaching Ruthie how to catch a ball.

Happy Monday, friends! I hope you're also feeling rejuvenated!

Friday, June 1, 2018

June 1st

There's not much better than the first day of a new month. I love the option of a fresh start every four weeks! (Please tell me I'm not the only one who often falls behind in life...)

I'll probably go into more detail later, but the last time I blogged was right before the marathon, which I survived! It was a great experience, and a great weekend trip overall. However, it took me about two weeks to physically recover, ha! (Apparently I had so much recovering to do that I couldn't even bring myself to sit in a chair in front of the computer to type out a blog post. Yikes.)

I'm flipping through my planner in which I write down the things we do each day (I use it more as a shorthand diary rather than to keep track of future events), but I even fell behind on writing in that this past month. I'm telling you this boring tidbit about myself because I'm experiencing short(ish)-term memory loss, and cannot recall what on earth we did in May.

Duh! Mother's Day! We had a SUPER low-key Mother's Day, and I failed to find Mother's Day cards (to send out) that I liked until after the day had already passed, so I spent about a week mailing belated Mother's Day wishes.

I'm pretty sure the rest of our month held nothing too out of the ordinary. Sydney and Lorelei finished up their homeschool PE class, and Sydney also completed her 2nd grade math book. Once she did that I "officially" promoted her and Lorelei to the next grade. (Little do they know, they're "enrolled" in year-round school, because they have a #meanmom.)

The last three days the kids and I attended a Classical Conversations practicum, which is an event all parents in the program are highly encouraged to attend each summer. The kids are divided into camps (by age) while the parents (mostly moms) listen to a speaker and receive training. It was great, but the church where the practicum was held is an hour from our house, and the daily sessions lasted from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m...let's just say TGIF (I may not leave my house for an entire week in order to fully recover).

Time to round up Sydney and Lorelei for gymnastics (they normally attend Wednesdays at 3 p.m., but  we're making up this week's class tonight at 7 p.m.). TGIF indeed.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

A Day at the Zoo

Yesterday, my friend/next-door-neighbor and I took the children to the zoo. (My friend's daughter is 10 months younger than Lorelei, and a constant playmate at our house.) The zoo is in Fresno, about 30 miles north of Lemoore, but easy to access and not an overwhelming experience (a huge plus for me!). However, I realized I'm REALLY out of practice at packing up everyone and heading out for adventures that last several hours/all day. And the zoo has a new water play area, so in addition to the usual I had to pack bathing suits, extra clothes, extra shoes, and towels.

I have no idea why I'm whining about this.

Also, I just want to say that my children are wired to begin STARVING the instant we arrive somewhere/anywhere. No matter that they ate two breakfasts and a banana right before leaving the house; they are STARVING. So within 12 minutes of arriving at the zoo they wolfed down the three sandwiches I packed and inhaled the goldfish crackers I thought would last us all day. My children are ridiculous.

Despite their tapeworms, we had fun. The water play area was great, but it was in the 60s while we were there, so the kids were a little chilly and ready to move on after about an hour. Here's Ruthie pointing at/tattling on Lorelei, because Lorelei got part of Ruthie's leg wet:

The orangutans were a huge hit:

The kids had to climb/sit on ALL the statues.

I silently referred to the statues as "stumbling blocks," because the children fought and argued and whined over which portion of the statue they were going to sit/stand/perch every single time.

Case in point:
Ruthie is really ticked she wasn't up top for the picture, and Ford is pointing his finger at her and saying, "No!" Sydney and Lorelei have perfected the art of ignoring and just kept smiling at the camera, and our neighbor seems to be thanking her lucky star she doesn't have a 2-year old sister.

Happy Wednesday, friends!