Monday, January 28, 2013

Eli's 12 Books in 2012

Eli didn't finish his 12 books challenge last year. We're still working on inspiring him to enjoy reading. My plan this year is to read some chapter books with him and see if that helps.



RATING:  *****
Type of book: Funny

Fantastic Mr. Fox always stole the food from Bogus, Bounce, and Bean. Bogus, Bounce, and Bean had a plan. Whenever Fantastic Mr. Fox came out, they would shoot him, but instead they shot his tail off. Then Bogus, Bounce, and Bean tried digging his house up and then tried shooting him, but Fantastic Mr. Fox and his family dug under the ground. Bogus, Bounce, and Bean took all their farmers and watched the hole. Fantastic Mr. Fox and his family met Badger. They gathered all the animals while they stole the food. Then they had a big feast. Mr. Fox said that they'll never have to go get food again because they had so much food. Bogus, Bounce, and Bean were sitting at the hole for the rest of their lives.


RATING:  *****
Type of book: Funny

At school when Marvin would play wall ball, the other team would always pick on him because his name is Marvin "I Pick My Nose" Redpost. He always told people that he doesn't pick his nose, and everybody always said, "We already know that." They were doing reports that would be dug up in fifty years, and Marvin still kept on saying, "I don't pick my nose" because everybody believed the other team. Marvin went home and had his report card, and it said, "He picks his nose too much, he always reads something that he's already read." He told his parents that he did pick his nose. He went up to his room and had some time by himself. When he got up to his room, he picked his nose and then said, "Oh, no. I did it!" He ran to the bathroom and washed his finger. He told his parents that he really did pick his nose, and then his sister asked, "Why is it bad to pick your nose?" Then the whole family joined in and asked, "Why is it?" Marvin said, "It just is. Okay?" When he got to school the next day, he asked everybody, "Have you picked your nose?" Everybody except for the other team in wall ball said, "Yes." When the reports they were writing got dug up, the best one was "Have you picked your nose?"


RATING: ****
Type of book: Adventure

Three brothers time travel to where Blackbeard lived. He came to dig up treasure, and they hid in the trees. Blackbeard saw them and took them to his ship, and then they had to walk the plank. The king's men came and attacked the pirates. The kids didn't want to go, so they shot a canon. It made the ship go down. The pirates were so happy, they said they would do anything the kids wanted. The kids time-traveled with a magic book back to where they live.

I liked this book because the adventure was cool.


RATING: ****
Type of book: Funny

Mercy was a pig who mostly slept very well in the night, but one night was different. Leroy Ninker was robbing the Watsons. He was stealing the toaster and eating Butter Barrel candies. Mercy woke up and thought someone was making toast. She got out of bed and went downstairs. She smelled something; it was butter! She looked down at the kitchen, but she didn't see anyone making toast. She was tired, so she fell asleep. Then Leroy Ninker put a Butter Barrel in his mouth and tried to crawl out the door, but Mercy was blocking the way. He tried to go over, but Mercy woke up and smelled butter. She ran outside because she thought one of the neighbors was making toast. Mr. and Mrs. Watson woke up and saw that Mercy wasn't there. They called the firemen. Their neighbors called the policemen. The policeman came and saw that Leroy Ninker was robbing the Watsons and took him to jail.


RATING: ****
Type of book: Funny

Will Woodman had four brothers. They would always complain about everything. Will had to wait in line for a long time before he could talk to his mom. He was trying to find someone he could talk to, and then he remembered that every Saturday they went to his grandpa's house, so he thought he could tell his grandpa. His grandpa lived in a lighthouse. When they were polishing the lighthouse, Will said that he needed someone to talk to about his troubles. His grandpa thought of a game that they could play where they could tell their troubles to each other and see who has the best. His grandpa kept winning - like him being bitten by a shark on the head and other things, so Will asked his dad for terrible things that happened when he was young. His dad said there was one thing. His brother Marty thought there could only be one person who gets jellybabies, and Will loved to walk on lines. Marty thought of an idea. He told Will that there was the longest line near them. He brought Will to a new road. Will started walking on it. Then his mom figured out and started chasing Will and caught him. Will told his grandpa about the story, and his grandpa said that he won that week.

Cole Blogs: 12 Books in 2012

(A note from Mom: We started this challenge because none of my boys were very interested in reading chapter books. They devoured graphic novels right and left and even loved to draw and write their own stories, but they weren't interested in reading. I told them that if they read 12 books in a year, I would buy them a book at the Scholastic Fair in November. Cole started off slowly until he discovered Percy Jackson, and then he took off like a speed reading demon. He read both Percy Jackson series, the Nine Pound Hammer series, half of the Gregor the Overlander series, and much more. He only wrote about eleven books here, but he definitely read twelve and then some.)

12 Books in 2012




RATING: ****

It is about a boy who meets some weird schoolkids who claim the are spaceheadz. The girl starts eating the boy's pencil.The boy goes home greatly annoyed by them. He tries to call the AAA.(AAA stands for Anti-alien abduction.) The boy tricks the so called "spaceheadz" to go to the pizza parlor to wait for the AAA. Then the spaceheadz prove to him that they're spaceheadz and show him what would happen if the didn't save the world. The boy then tricks the AAA agent into attacking the pizza parlor owner. That's pretty much the end! 



RATING: ****

It's about a boy who is treated very badly by his aunts. An old man gives James alligator tongues that can change James' life. He unexpectedly drops them so they run away. The next morning, the peach tree that is in his garden has a giant peach on it. During the night, James finds a hole in the peach and goes into it. Then he finds six giant bugs in the peach, and sets on an adventure with them. (That includes finding cloud men and going to America.) The End!!    



RATING: *****

Ash Ketchum, along  with his friends help, tries to stop Team Galactic from destroying Sinnoh. Team Galactic kidnaps Looker, a member of the international police, and also Team Rocket. Then when looker escapes, he finds a gem and brings it to the police station. Suddenly, the gem explodes. It was really a bomb! When Ash Ketchum finds Team Galactic's hideout, he launches an attack. Team Galactic was almost beaten! THAT'S THE END!!!!



RATING: *****

Mr.  Fox  lives under a tree. He needs food.He goes over to Boggis', Bunce's, and Bean's farms to get food. They get very angry with him. They sit over the hole to get out of Mr. Fox's home. Because of that, Mr. Fox thinks him and his family are going to die. Until Mr. Fox comes up with a brilliant idea. He invites every animal to his hole, and then (again) he steals food from the farmers farms. When he gets back, he announces that all of the animals can stay underground with him for the the rest of their lives! What happened to the farmers, you say. Well you can still see them up there waiting for the fox to come out.



RATING: *****

It's about a boy named Percy Jackson, who during school, fights his teacher who turns into a Fury. (The chapter is called "I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre-Algebra Teacher.") He fights a minotaur. His mom gets captured, so he has to go to Camp Half-Blood. While he's in Camp Half-Blood, he makes a friend named Annabeth, he gets offered a quest. The quest is to return Zeus' lightning bolt to Zeus. While he's on the quest, he's really hungry, so he goes to Auntie Em's statue factory. While he's there, he realizes that Auntie Em is Medusa. After he beats Medusa, he goes to a big city and fights Echidna. He loses to her but escapes to the river. When he gets back on the platform, everybody blames him for causing the explosion. After that, he fights Ares. After he beats Ares, everybody realizes that he's not a bad guy and blames Ares for it. Then he goes back to his mom and his mom tells him to choose if he wants to go to Camp Half-Blood year round. He chooses not to go year round but chooses to visit Camp Half-Blood one more time before the year is over. While he's there, he gets attacked by Luke. He loses, but escapes, and that's pretty much the end of the book.



RATING: *****

It's about Percy Jackson. While at school, He fights Laistrygonians, and that destroys school. Then he goes to camp half-blood and fights automations. Then he finds out that Chiron has been fired. Tantulas, the new activities director, tries to kill him because he and Annabeth leave long island to save Grover. They get on to The Princess Andromeda and find out it's Luke's demon ship. They leave immediately. (of course) And go to Polyphemus' island.They trick Polyphemus By pretending they're Nobody. (notice the N instead of n) It works! They get off the island with the Golden Fleece! Then they go back to camp half-blood and heal Thalia's tree! But Thalia comes back to life, and Kronos' plan works! (Chiron gets his job back!)



RATING: *****

When Percy Jackson is at school (with Thalia) the teacher turns into some kind of lion monster (i don't remember what it is) and kidnaps Annabeth. Then the hunters of Artemis arrive (including Artemis). Then Artemis says that there a great danger and she must stop it. So She calls her brother, Apollo to take them to Camp Half-Blood. While at Camp Half-Blood, They are anointed another quest, to find what ever dark forces are lurking about and destroy them. In the end the dark force is Atlas, and two of the quest members sacrifice their life to finish the quest. The End!!!



RATING: *****

This book is about Percy Jackson...again. Percy is going to a new school. On the first day of school, he bumps into cheerleaders. He hears a loud, hollow metal clang. The cheerleaders welcome him. Later in the day, he meets the cheerleaders again, and they suddenly turn into some vampire things with metal legs. After Percy defeats them, which sets the school on fire, he runs away and meets his friend Annabeth. Together, they go to Camp Half-Blood. While playing capture the flag, they find a pathway that leads to the labyrinth. Annabeth and Percy are assigned a quest, which is to block off the labyrinth so Kronos' army can't get through. They go through the labyrinth and accidentally end up in the jail that Kampe, the lizard monster, guards. They get out and say that there's no way to block off the labyrinth because it will just heal right up. At the end, Kronos' army attacks. The demigods barely win, but they do win. The End!



RATING: *****

Percy is hanging out with his friend Rachel in his stepdad's car when suddenly a black Pegasus lands on his car with a huge rider. Percy knows what this means, so Percy and the other guy fly off. They land on Kronos' demon ship (which was mentioned in the second book) and destroy it with Greek fire. Then all of the demigods go to Manhattan and fight Kronos' army while Percy fights Kronos. Kronos escapes, and Percy and the rest of the demigods go to Olympus. Kronos reappears there. At the end, Luke (who is mentioned in the first book) lets Kronos use his body as a vessel, but he temporarily takes control over his body and stabs a knife in himself. Then Kronos is sent back to Tartarus. That's the end!


RATING: *****

This book is about a boy named Ray. So Ray is traveling with his little sister Sally on a train for orphans lead by G. Octavius Grevol. Ray thinks Sally doesn't need him, so he jumps of the train. Then, while traveling for a really long time, he meets a guy named Peter Hobnob who reckons he is a pirate. He was surrounded by devil's oak acorns. (which are poisonous) He saves Hobnob, so Hobnob gives him a dandelion which will summon Hobnob whenever he wants to. Then he finds a giant named Conker, and a girl named Si. They go to a place called Shuckstacks, where a group of medicine performers are performing (obviously!). When Ray hears some hypnotic singing, he decides to investigate. What he finds is a Greek creature called a siren. She's named Jolie. Ray and Jolie become friends. Then Ray learns of the GOG. An evil mechanic who works for an evil spirit called the MaGog. When the PITCH DARK TRAIN attacks Shuckstacks, Ray finds out that the whole orphan train is in it (with Sally!). So he attacks. WHile he fights the GOG, he recognizes the face. It was Grevol. Conker defeats the GOG but vanishes. Along with Jolie. THE END!



RATING: *****

Actually, I would rate it 10 stars. It's very good. This book is about Percy and a new character named Jason. The last two books in the Heroes of Olympus Series (which I did not write on this) tell about Percy and Jason by themselves. When it gets to The Mark of Athena, they meet. Jason and Percy arrive at a Roman camp. Their friend Leo, the captain of their ship, accidentally bombards the Roman camp. This makes them become enemies of the Romans, and they have to run away. While away, Percy and Jason have to fight each other. At the end, they rescue a boy named Nico, and Nico tells them where to get to Tartarus. So they go, and that's the end.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

We Are Observant

This morning, I got in the shower at 7:15, and an hour later as I was finishing up my hair and make-up, I thought, "It sure is nice to be in a phase of life where my kids are old enough to get themselves ready for church."

At 8:55 as we entered the church building, I heard Michael say to Eli, "Why aren't you wearing your church shoes? You shouldn't wear tennis shoes to church."

I glanced at Eli, then Rylan, and as my eyes went from Rylan's feet to his face, I realized that although he was wearing church shoes, he was also wearing an orange shirt with stains on it and brown pants with a hole in the knee. Not church clothes.

I turned to Michael and said, "I think we failed as parents today."

Rylan and Shelvia
Rylan with our good friend Shelvia
Sadly, this is not the first incident like this. A Facebook post from July 2012:
We tore the house apart this morning looking for Rylan's church pants. Finally gave up and put him in an old pair. Got to church and Michael says, "Eli's pants are really short." He was wearing Rylan's pants! We are awesome parents...

Friday, January 25, 2013

Fifty Books in 2012

I read 50 books last year. For some of my friends (Kim), that's not a feat at all, but looking back at my Goodreads for the two years prior to 2012, I averaged about 35 books a year. Fifteen more books than my usual is nothing to scoff at, and besides that, Michael made me read all of those 800 page books last year, which should really count for three books a piece, so in my opinion, I read closer to 60 books.

Six of the books I read last year were by Margaret Atwood. It was very interesting to read so many books by the same author back to back. I felt like I really got to know her as a writer - both her strengths and her weaknesses.
If you liked The Hunger Games series, you should read the Gregor series by the same author. Similar themes but younger characters and less of an anti-climactic ending.
Here are those books recommended by Michael. They were pretty good honestly. Just long.
Six of the books were re-reads. Re-reading a book is always fascinating to me; it's funny how the phase of life you're in when you read a book can have such an influence on how you feel about the book. For example, the first time I read The Handmaid's Tale, I was either in late high school or early college, and somehow between now and then, I had completely forgotten that the narrator had a daughter. I remembered in very great detail nearly all of the rest of the novel, but apparently when I was a teenager, the fact that she had a daughter did not seem important enough to remember. (It's actually a hugely important part of the book.)
I try to read a few non-fiction books every year.
This book I adored: The Kneebone Boy: *****

This book I hated:  Blindness: **

And the rest: 

Music Lessons: If You Like...

If I were going to advise someone on how to start a successful folk band, I would say, "What you need is three guys and one girl. The girl is very important. Make sure you have your token girl."

Also, beards.

This one actually has two girls:

Monday, January 21, 2013

In the Gloaming

My in-laws have a hobbit house. For my kids, playing on Grandma and Grandpa's roof is the highlight of every trip to Tennessee (now rivaled by the bunnies...), and when we're there, I start daydreaming about moving back to the country.

playing on the roofplaying on the roofplaying on the roofplaying on the roofplaying on the roofplaying on the roofplaying on the roof

Friday, January 18, 2013


I read a story awhile back by a woman talking about the moment she knew that her marriage was over. I can't remember the details of the story - if she and her husband had been drifting apart or if he'd been cheating on her or if he'd woken up one day and announced out of the blue that he didn't love her anymore. What I remember is that after he'd gone, she was looking through a photo album and realized that she wasn't in it. Her husband was the photographer in their relationship, and while he'd snapped hundreds of pictures of their children and friends and family, he never took any photographs of her. She said that it was a revelation to her - that she had not mattered to him, that when he recorded his life, he didn't include her in it.

It's kind of a stupid story - symbolic, psychological mumbo-jumbo. But the story struck me. I take hundreds of pictures of my children, but rarely pictures of other people. Do these people not matter to me? When I'm old and spend most of my time squinting at photo albums and print-outs of my blog, don't I want to remember what they looked like? Won't my children and grandchildren want to know what I looked like?

So I've been making a concerted effort lately to take more photos of people other than my three sons, and to ask Michael to take photos of me. Unfortunately, we keep ending up with photos that look like this:

playing on the roof
"Why are you taking a picture of me?"

Christmas 2012
Is this really a look we want immortalized?

Christmas 2012
Thank you, double chin.

Cooke St Carnival
A ton of shots taken from this angle - me looking up at Michael.

Christmas 2012

Christmas 2012Christmas 2012Christmas 2012Christmas 2012Christmas 2012Christmas 2012Christmas 2012Christmas 2012Christmas 2012

Food. Cards. Video Games. Presents. Bunnies. Great people. Good times.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Bad Things That Have Happened to Me...and the Good That Came Out of It

My old bike, may she RIP

A few weeks before Christmas, I came home from running errands to discover that my bike had been stolen. The cable I used to lock up our bikes had been cut, and my bike was the one (out of five bikes and a trail-a-bike) that was gone.

Over the following days, I had a little pity part in my head about all the Bad Things That Have Happened to Me. But then, I told myself to cut it out, and I started to think about all the Good that has come out of all the Bad.

2002: I came home from work to find my apartment building surrounded by yellow caution tape. Red Cross workers informed me that the apartment above ours had caught fire, but thankfully, the firemen were able to put out the fire before it spread to any other apartments. Also thankfully, the firemen axed down our front door, piled most of our belongings in the livingroom, and covered them with a tarp before hosing down the building. The only thing we lost was our couch.

The Good That Came Out of It: Our apartment building was no longer habitable, but the owners of the building offered to let us move into another apartment complex of theirs. With bigger apartments! Two bedrooms! A washer and dryer! A dishwasher that didn't break our dishes! At a discounted rate!


2003: We forgot to lock our front door before heading to bed. In the middle of the night, I was jolted awake by the sound of the door opening. I said, "Michael!" The burglar heard me and dashed out the door, unfortunately making off with a book of CDs that I had borrowed from my missionary sister. She still hasn't forgiven me.

The Good That Came Out of It: To this day, I get jumpy when I hear noises in the night, but I never, ever, ever forget to lock my front door, night or day.


2007: Michael got into a very scary car accident. Thankfully he walked away uninjured, but our car wasn't so lucky. For some reason, we didn't have comprehensive coverage at the time, and we still owed money on our car loan.

The Good That Came Out of It: Our new car was a minivan. Which meant that we could fit three carseats in it. Which meant...Rylan!


2007: A gang of car thieves hit our neighborhood one night. They were targeting Hondas, and we were the proud new owners of a Honda Odyssey. They made off with our CD player, and strangely, our airbags. Apparently, there is a black market for airbags, especially airbags from Hondas.

The Good That Came Out of It: We upgraded to a nicer CD player with an mp3 adapter. One of the best purchases we have ever made.


2007: We discovered a slow leak from our dishwasher. Who knows how long it had been going on, but by the time we discovered it, the drywall behind the kitchen counters was damp and mildewed, and the whole kitchen had to be re-done. Six months after we finished the kitchen, Michael was transferred to Raleigh, the housing market crashed, the economy tanked, and Michael had to take a salary reduction (better than losing his job!).

The Good That Came Out of It: We get to live in Raleigh!!!! And re-doing that kitchen may be the only reason our house sold at all.


2012: My bike was stolen.

The Good That Came Out of It: A new bike was not part of our planned upcoming expenses, but I started thinking about "things I'll regret when I'm old and retired," and I decided that I would prefer to use some of our savings to buy a new bike now rather than wait and save and buy a new bike next year. Maybe that's a stupid financial move, but I think if I was so frugal that I missed a year of bike-riding while I'm young and healthy, I would regret it when I'm old and retired.

And I love my new bike.

new bike
Isn't she a beauty?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Well, I did it...

blue hairblue hairblue hair

Miriam colored my hair over Christmas break - mostly blonde with blue bangs. I absolutely love it, but it's also driving me crazy at the same time. I have colored my hair a hundred times; I didn't expect to be surprised. But it turns out that blue hair requires a hundred times more maintenance than red hair did.

I have to wash the blue hair separately to keep it from bleeding into the blonde - and I haven't been super successful at that. Plus, the blue bleeds every time I wash it, even though it's been more than a week now since I had it done, and it has faded a lot faster than I expected it to. But I'm heading to my sister's house later this month, so maybe we can work out the kinks. I'd like to be able to keep it up until I get a job this fall.

As for the cut, fabulous!

As for the blonde, I don't recognize myself when I look in the mirror.

(Someday, I should put together a photo montage of all my haircuts and colors over the years. I have hair ADD.)

Sunday, January 6, 2013



Rylan's super hero name is I-Ray. He shoots rays from his eyes. In the second photo, he's preparing to fly - apparently, he's going to burst through the roof of our front porch, but that's no problem because he has super strength.

Cole came up with the name I-Ray, and if you can figure out how he came up with it, you get to be I-Ray's sidekick.

Happy Birthday, Baby

When it comes to birthday cakes, how it tastes is more important than how it looks - that's my opinion anyway. The reason Cole's cake ended up such a mess: Rather than using pink frosting, I decided to try making a pink ganache by substituting pink candy melts for the chocolate in the ganache recipe. It didn't work.

Rylan asked for a Lego cake for his birthday. When pressed for a more specific flavor, he said strawberry with chocolate frosting. I ended up using the strawberry cake recipe from this neapolitan cake, spreading strawberry jam between the layers, and frosting it with chocolate buttercream. The Legos were admittedly an afterthought. Generally, I'm not a fan of cake, but this was some good cake.

Rylan's birthdayRylan's birthday

For his 5th birthday celebration, Rylan wanted to take some of his friends to Marbles Kid's Museum. It's tough having a birthday in December - everyone's so busy - but I think overall he had a good day.

Rylan's birthdayRylan's birthday

Rylan at Five Years Old
  • favorite color: blue
  • favorite food: macaroni and cheese
  • favorite dessert: chocolate cake
  • favorite thing to do: play with stuffed animals
  • favorite video game: Plants vs. Zombies
  • favorite subject in school: speech therapy
  • favorite book: The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Anderson
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