Saturday, December 31, 2016

50 Books in 2016

I'm continuing to challenge myself to read 50 books a year. I made it to 48 this year. Not bad!

One of the best books I read this year was The Orphan Master's Son *****, which was theoretically about North Korea. Although slow, it was extremely thought-provoking. For months, I couldn't stop thinking about it, and I wouldn't mind reading it again.

Another interesting book was The Luminaries ****, which just had an interesting structure. The plot itself was meh, but the structure was incredibly impressive.

After re-reading A Monster Calls, I read a bunch more by Patrick Ness:
A Monster Calls *****
The Rest of Us Just Live Here ***
More Than This ****
The Ask and the Answer ***
The Knife of Never Letting Go *****

I was also on a Rainbow Rowell kick:
Attachments ****
Landline ***
Fangirl ****

I got in a few non-fiction books this year (including one I couldn't finish):
In Cold Blood ****
Pushout ***
Mindset * (1 star means unfinished)
Between the World and Me ****
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind *****
Behind the Beautiful Forevers ***

But mostly I read YA fantasy series:
          The Infernal Devices (Embarrassingly, I love this author)
                     Clockwork Princess ****
                     Clockwork Prince ****
                     Clockwork Angel ****
          The Selection
                    The One ***
                    The Elite ***
                    The Selection ***
          Daughter of Smoke and Bone
                    Dreams of Gods and Monsters ****
                    Days of Blood and Starlight ****
                    Daughter of Smoke and Bone ****
I actually am not much of a fan of fantasy series, so this is annoying. Also, I didn't read much real literature this year - a fact I hope to remedy in 2017.

Here are the rest:
Epic **
If I Stay **
The Bluest Eye **
One Second After **
Parrot in the Oven ***
Maus I ***
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend ***
A Trick of the Light ***
Next ***
The Husband ***
The Wonder ***
Tell the Wolves I'm Home ***
The Underground Railroad ***
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet ***
Fever 1793 ***
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children ***
Station Eleven ****
The Supreme's at Earl's All You Can Eat ****
Please Ignore Vera Dietz ****
The Truth about Forever ****
Monster ****
We Were Here ****
Mexican Whiteboy ****

Selfie with the 'Rents


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Michael's Favorite Albums of 2016

I usually buy 2-3 albums a month with maybe 15 of them being new releases each year. So I thought I'd write a blog post about my favorite albums from this year and see if I can remember to do it next year to make it an annual thing.

So here they are, in reverse order:

#3 - Peaceful Ghosts by Nada Surf

I've been listening to Nada Surf since high school when they started out more punk driven. Peaceful Ghosts is a live album they recorded with a full orchestra and some back story between each song. It's a nice wide look at their entire catalog going back to 1998. My biggest complaint is that they didn't include any songs from their debut album High/Low. They mellowed out on subsequent albums and I know they aren't totally happy with their first album and how it was received, but I think it would have given this album a nice kick to have at least one heavier song with the orchestra. But it's still a great album with some neat arrangements.

This is The Fox with some nice the timpani and chimes.

#2 - To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere by Thrice

For some reason, I didn't really get into Thrice for most of their career. It wasn't until their eighth album Major/Minor that I realized I liked them. I've since gone back and bought all of their previous albums with The Artist and the Ambulance and Vheissu being heavy favorites when I'm looking for some high energy music. This album comes after a 4 year hiatus where the band members took some time for family and other projects.

This is Black Honey, the first single from the album and one of my kids' favorites. It gets everyone singing along when we are in the car.

#1 - Joy, Departed by Sorority Noise

This is a new band for me and I checked them out after seeing other folks recommend them. I was really sold after watching their full session on AudioTree. It's a nice combination of poppy songs with good melodies, loud spacey guitars, introspective lyrics by normal folks who are looking to create good music, not become rock stars.

This is Art School Wannabee (my favorite on album would be a tie beteween it and Your Soft Blood, but since this is poppier I picked it). Unfortunately they don't have any official embeddable videos, so we get this instead. But definitely checkout out the AudioTree session for more songs done live.

Honorable Mention: Integrity Blues by Jimmy Eat World and Standards by Into It, Over It.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christmas at the Peters




Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas in Kentucky

We're in Kentucky celebrating Christmas!

2016-12-25 14.57.36

2016-12-25 14.56.47




And of course, the highlight of the trip has been holding Kellie's new baby Maggie Sue!





Funny Facebook 2016

November 25 ·

Rylan, ordering at a restaurant: "I'd like the kids chicken ravioli. Can you tell me about the special sides? Okay, I'll do the French fries, and I'll have the 1% low fat chocolate milk."

Server: "Wow, that was impressive."

I think the kid has been out to eat a few more times than I had at his age.

October 2 ·

After eating buckeyes, Cole says, "If someone were to call me on the phone right now and ask me who shot Alexander Hamilton, I'd be like, 'Awun Buh! Awun Buh!'" #gotmilk

September 6 ·

Me: My legs hurt.
Rylan: Maybe you're getting polio.

July 28 ·

Me, complaining about having to shave my legs
Eli: Why do girls shave their legs?
Me: Because apparently boys like girls' legs better when they're shaved.
Eli: I do? I didn't know that about myself. I'm always learning new things about myself.

June 23 ·

Rylan's response when I asked if I should go running even though it looks like rain: "Yes, because YOLO."

June 17 ·

Rylan telling us about his book Uranus and the Bubbles of Trouble: "Cronos chopped up Uranus and threw the pieces in the ocean." Lots of little boy giggles, including mine.

April 16 ·

The Art of the Insult:
Me: These towels smell like they need to be re-washed.
Eli: YOU smell like you need to be re-washed.

March 23 ·

Rylan says: "I showed Ms. Leonard a noise I can make, and she said, 'I don't know how your mom can handle three boys.'"

February 3 ·

This just happened.
Rylan: What is 29 × .24?
Me: That's too complicated to do in my head.
Cole: It would be... (spouts off a couple of numbers, adds them in his head)...6.96

January 30 ·

Me: Wanna hear a funny joke? Why did Adele cross the road? To sing "hello from the other side."
Rylan: It's not that funny.

January 13 ·

Cole: Cookout always makes me sick. I love it and think it's wonderful and won't stop eating it, but I always feel sick afterward. #storyofmylife

Sunday, November 13, 2016

November trip to TN

We took a spontaneous trip in November to see Stephan bless his new baby Rachel. It was a beautiful trip and a beautiful blessing:

"You've been born into a time of uncertainty, but the one thing you can be certain of is that Heavenly Father loves you and Jesus is the Christ."



Friday, November 11, 2016


I told my mom last night, "On Wednesday, I cried. Today, I'm angry. I guess I just have to keep working through all of the stages of grief, but eventually, I'll get to acceptance."

And my mom, in a moment of blunt, poignant honesty, said, "Mmhmm...because we're white."

All I wanted from this election was for Americans to proclaim once and for all through our beautiful, precious democratic system: "We reject racism. We do not support it in any way. We do not even tolerate it."

I absolutely believe that the majority of you that voted for Trump are not racists. But "Make America Great Again" was a package deal, and you cast your vote, intentionally or not, for the entire package. Despite the fact that racism was part of the package, was even the way the package was introduced from the start of the campaign, you did not reject it.

A lot of us are afraid for what will happen next. As my mom so bluntly pointed out, many of us will be able to ride it out without much consequence. Many others will not. Even if you did not intend to vote for racism, those that did heard the message loud and clear: In America, we tolerate racism.

If you truly, absolutely did not intend to cast a vote for an America that tolerates racism, stop telling me to quit whining or to accept defeat graciously, and start loudly declaring, "We reject racism. We do not support it in any way. We do not even tolerate it." And then prove to me, and to those who really need to hear it, that those words are true. Please, prove me wrong.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


Dear Trump Supporters,

Today, I stood in front of 70 minority students who were looking to me for answers, and I said, "We are not going to talk about the election today."

They said, "I am so angry," and I said, "We're not going to talk about it."

They said, "I'm scared," and I said, "We're not going to talk about it."

They said, "How can I possibly do any work today?" and I said, "We just keep working. And we're not going to talk about it."

I did not know what to tell them. I felt their anger and their fear and their grief, and I had no words. But now, to you, I have words.

Throughout this election, you have insisted that it is not about race, it's about the economy; it's not about race, it's about protecting our values; it's not about race, it's about change.

My husband and I often tell our children that it doesn't matter what you meant to say if it's not what your audience heard. So let me tell you what your audience heard. Let me tell you exactly what you told my students of color, the children of color in my church family, the people of color that I am so lucky to call friends.

"Racism is fine."

"Misogyny is tolerable."

"We don't want you here."

I keep seeing messages on Facebook trying to remind us that now is a time to set aside our differences, to put the election behind us, to unite. I hope that we, as a country, can move past this. I hope, that we as Americans, can heal. But today...Today, I will not forgive you.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween 2016




Friday, August 26, 2016

Half Marathon Numero Dos

I ran a half marathon in August in Atlanta, GA with Kellie and my college roommate Kate Rasnick. Kate is a running expert (she runs a half marathon a month), and Kellie was still faster than me even though she was pregnant. But I did it - even if I threw up at the end!

Half marathon

Saturday, August 20, 2016



Thursday, August 18, 2016

Chavis Park Pool



Thursday, August 11, 2016

Annual beach trip





Wednesday, August 3, 2016

To the Races!

Rylan got an invitation through cub scouts to visit the Orange County Speedway for basically free, and I decided this former car lover had to go.


To start, all of the drivers lined up their cars for a meet and greet with the fans.

Orange County Speedway

Then the cub scouts grouped together to sing the National Anthem.

Orange County Speedway

Finally the races began...sort of. During the first race, a piece of metal flew off the track into the stands, hitting a random guy, so the race was paused while we all waited for an ambulance to come take the man away. Then during the second race, one of the cars crashed into the wall (no one was injured), so the race was paused while they cleared the track.

Car racing is either really exciting or really boring - we weren't sure which!

By the time the second race finished, it was about 8:30, and since the next race involved 100 laps, we decided to cut out and get ice cream. I asked Rylan if he would ever want to go back, and he said, "Only when they do ride alongs."

Eli's Room

We've been working this summer on updating all of the boys' rooms. Here's the before picture of Eli's room:

New House - Before pictures

I think that when the original owners built our house, they had only finished the family room, and the rest of the basement was slowly finished over time by various owners. The whole basement feels like an amateur DIY job, and Eli's room in particular is odd. It's situated behind the laundry room, and because of a small step leading into it (which I can't figure out the point of), the ceiling is slightly lower than the rest of the basement, making it feel like a cave. It was not built to be a bedroom - there's no closet, and since the previous owners were using it as an exercise room, there were mirrors on every wall and a TV wall stand that we cannot remove. Also, the vent was a large pipe sticking out of the ceiling, the window is a tiny basement window, and the light fixtures are the kind of long fluorescent bulbs that you find in office buildings.

So starting with this blah canvas, we transformed the room. I am so pleased and so proud.


Eli painted this mural on one wall. After helping to paint the murals for his 5th grade class production of Beauty and the Beast, he has been talking about being a scenery painter when he grows up, so I suggested letting him practice on his wall. We looked at ideas on Pinterest and found one that used this tape resist method. Since then, I have seen some really amazing murals using tape resist that Eli might want to try when he's older. For now, we are loving what he came up with.


I plan to sand down and paint all of the built-in bookshelves in the family room, but since I've never painted furniture before, I decided to test out the method on some of Eli's furniture so that the room would match and feel more cohesive. This is a $50 desk from Target that we were using to hold the rat's cage before we got their current abode, so I knew ruining it would not be a big deal. The top was black, but I sanded it down and painted it white. I also did the little wall shelf on the floor in the bottom right corner.


We also put a vent over the pipe in the ceiling and curtains covering the awful window, and voila, it felt like a finished room. Next year, we hope to be able to replace the window and door and repaint the ceiling.

Due to picture-taking limitations, you really can't get an accurate idea of how great this room looks. Guess you'll all have to come visit!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Fun with the Alleys

Josh and Jaime have been visiting for a few days, and we've been having a blast! We went swimming, played at the Durham Science Museum, and had a water fight.










And of course, we did a lot of this...


Kentucky in July



We took our annual trip to Kentucky in July. It was as hot as usual. Which is to say, as hot as North Carolina. If we were smart vacationers, we would go someplace cool in the summer.

One way to beat the heat in Kentucky is to take a hike through Mammoth Cave, so my mom got us all tickets. I was not thrilled at first (I grew up in cave country; I have been in a lot of caves.), but it turned out to be really fun. We took the historic tour, which led through some narrow, stooped, winding passages. Kellie, Alex, and Michael had to duck for half of the tour, and the Fat Man's Misery was a squeeze for anyone over the age of 12.

We spent the Fourth in Tennessee with Michael's family, where the boys enjoyed the annual Blowing Things Up celebration while I went on an eight mile run. (Kellie and I are training for a half marathon in August.)

Orange Belts

Eli and Rylan earned their orange belts in tae kwon do in June.




Monday, July 11, 2016

DC Trip 2016

In lieu of a big trip this year, we are going to paint and freshen up the basement area (family room plus all three boys' rooms), so we only took a couple of small trips this year.

The first trip was to DC so the boys (just Cole and Eli because Rylan was with my parents in Kentucky) could revisit some places they haven't seen since they were little. We started off at Gravelly Park on a Saturday night to catch up with my friend Leigh from high school. Cool park and fun to see her!

Miriam met us at the hotel room late that night, and on Sunday, we trekked into DC to see the monuments. Between the heat and the walking, Cole and Eli were not the most pleasant travelling companions, but peace was restored with lunch and a quick nap (me!) at my aunt and uncle's house in Virginia. My Grandma Alley was staying at my aunt and uncle's house for a few days, so we planned our DC trip so we'd be able to see her. At 92(?) years old, she's still as upbeat and amazing as ever.




On Monday, we went to the zoo - I think the first zoo the boys have been to while old enough to remember it. When we lived in DC, we went to both the Smithsonian zoo and the Philadelphia zoo many times, but that was 8 1/2 years ago. Surprisingly, Cole and Eli both really got into the zoo and wouldn't let us skip a single animal until we'd been there for HOURS and HOURS and they were ready to go.



Miriam was leaving us from the zoo, so the boys and I took the metro back to the hotel. This was a feat considering that I haven't taken the metro in the aforementioned 8 1/2 years. Plus, half of the blue line is closed down for construction. But we're still alive!

Our last day was spent at some of the museums followed by a quick stop at Ikea on the way home. A trip to DC is not complete without a stop at Ikea!

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