Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Big 9

Okay, Sam willingly posed for this picture for me. It's a horrible phone pic, but I thought his sad little pathetic bunny pose was just so funny. Sam just turned 9 last Sunday. He's the only one of my five kids who arrived dutifully on his due date. He's sweet, passionate, and just a wee bit dramatic. I marked the occasion of his birthday on Facebook, but I didn't here. As my kids get a little older, I think they prefer not to appear on my blog as much and later on, Sam will hate that this picture is out there.

More thoughts on an empty gas tank

Spring comes in fits and starts here in Colorado, if it really comes at all. It's April 30th an I woke up to a gray sky and snow this morning. I don't know why I'm surprised at all. Well, actually, I know why. Easter was beautiful this year. It was a real Spring day. Most years, Easter is cold, colorless, and often snowing. The trees are vibrant with pale pink blossoms, but the weather if fickle and today, it's Winter-ish and moody. This kind of weather makes me want to ponder burnout a little more. Bear with me.

Anyway, since I posted about Running on Empty and burnout, I've thought more about it this mothering season. There's just one piece that I failed to consider well. Even if I am proactive and do all the things I can to relieve the pressure, it's still going to be hard. I don't think in three years of having my twins I actually believed that. I really thought that if I just got on top of everything, if I just made sure there was quiet time for me, and if I just planned and structured my days really well, everything would be awesome. I didn't want to come to the conclusion that I could do all of those things and maybe, even well, and still discover that mothering twins would still be challenging, overwhelming, and hard. I can't believe it has taken me this long to get to this kind of understanding and it stinks. I know. It does sound so futile and doomed (oh, the drama), but I guess there's a little freedom in knowing that no matter what changes I make, I can make it a little easier, but it will still be soooo hard. I suppose I really thought that I could somehow bypass the reality.

 It is what it is. This too shall pass. Those are things my husband always says to me and even though these sentiments irritate me, there's both truth in accepting reality and truth in knowing that it will pass.

Ok, that's it. I'm officially on burnout hiatus. Come on, Spring!

What I'm Into (April 2014 Edition)

I thought I'd start off with a picture of Spring in Colorado. As I write, it is April 30th and it's snowing.
I really enjoy reading about what Modern Mrs Darcy is into at the end of each month. I don't know why it's taken until April this year to compile my own list, but now I'm excited to do so. I think it's really interesting how each month carries it's own interests and fleeting fancies. Each new month may propel us into new growth and it's worth looking at what captures our attention monthly.

Since I mostly talk about books these days, I'll start with what I'm reading:

World War II is just endlessly fascinating. There are so many facets, details, and vantage points that enlarge the whole World War II experience. This novel is written in first person plural and I can't decide how I feel about it. In some sense, it does give the reader some distance on what was happening in secrecy in New Mexico, but the first person plural makes for a strange and sometimes difficult narrative.
Year of No Sugar is one of those I-did-something-super-duper-hard-for-a-whole-year-and-I'm-going-to-write-about-it memoirs. Let's face it. Sugar is ubiquitous and it's definitely wreaking havoc on society. Type II Diabetes levels are epidemic, but I'm really uncomfortable with ultra-restrictive diets. I'm only half-way through this one and I know I will have way more, probably complicated, thoughts on this when I'm done.

I also just finished reading The Giver. For decades, I deliberately skipped this Newberry winner because I just didn't like the cover. I don't think I even read the back cover to get a sense of the story. I simply dismissed it. What a mistake! I'm really looking forward to the film adaptation, with Meryl Streep, this Summer.
I'm not sure how I feel about this movie logo. I think it gives the sense that it is more sci-fi than it really is.

Don't judge. I'm watching Dancing With the Stars. Good grief, It's totally cheesy and a certain ice dancer (Meryl Davis) might have some unfair advantage, but it's really a lot of fun and some levity is in order. I'm really enjoying watching Paralympic snowboarder, Amy Purdy and her dance partner, Derek Hough. She's amazing. I mean,  I can barely walk in heels, but she makes dancing with prosthetic legs look almost effortless.

American Idol is coming into the home stretch and yes, I'm still watching because Harry Connick, Jr is a judge. Is it crazy to say that I really only watch to hear what Harry has to say and I don't really care about the singing that much? Yes. It probably is.


I discovered that you can Google why a little fat robin keeps smacking into your sliding glass window. This little guy has been driving me crazy for a few weeks with his suicidal behavior. It turns out that he's not suicidal, but very territorial. He sees his reflection in the window and he thinks it's another robin and well, that other robin in the window has to go. After all the years in my house, I've never noticed this behavior by robins. The window smacking is intense and my little robin has turned into an alarm clock.

Summer Project

Last summer, I had to tear down my garden (the Veggie Vault) to make room for the new deck. Gardening at this altitude (8600 feet) is difficult in the best of circumstances. Over several years, I had limited success with carrots, strawberries, kale, tomatoes, etc.(There are pictures of my former Veggie Vault here on my blog, if you're interested). The sad truth is that my little veggies just didn't get enough sun and I would have had to move the garden at some point even if we hadn't rebuilt the deck.

Honestly, I'm just not motivated to get the garden up and running again right now. So, instead of my wallowing in my gardening woes, I've found my new project. Of course, I'm going to need a lot of help from my husband, but I think I've inspired him too. I want to build my own Little Free Library.  It's just a little box, usually shaped like a house, but inside, oh inside, there are books. Neighbors can freely take a book or leave a book. I'm really excited about this an I've been pinning Little Free Libraries on Pinterest. I've printed out some plans, but honestly, I'm more excited about deciding which books I want to put in my little library.

Take a book. Leave a book.

The day before Easter, I took a class on how to make French Macarons. They are pretty involved, but oh, they have such deliciously complicated textures and flavors. I made pistachio orange-ginger macarons and I assure you that all of those flavors are exquisite together. Now, these aren't really everyday cookies, but they are beautiful, lovely, delicate, feminine...The colors scream Spring.

Scrolling back through my posts for 2014
After scrolling back through my 2014 posts, I realized there were a few books that I mentioned in various book posts that got sidelined. I had to return Anything That Moves back to the library. Sam was not enchanted with Ella Enchanted. I never really got off the ground while reading The Goldfinch and I'm not sure why I just got side-tracked while reading The Night Circus. It's really good. I also temporarily put down Longbourn. 

I have accepted that I'm a binge-reader. I read a little of everything. I've accepted that I read crazily and greedily.

On the nightstand right now:

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenting //Jennifer Senior
The Devil Wears Prada // Lauren Weisberger
Dear Mr. Knightley  //Katherine Reay
Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer's Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits // Donalyn Miller
When Women Were Birds // Terry Tempest Williams

There's more to come on these books, I'm sure, well,  unless they get side-lined for something else or I have to return them to the library!

That's what I'm into in April.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Life of the Imagination

I stumbled onto these beautiful spectacular prints on Pinterest. Where can I get these prints so that I can hang them in my kids' rooms? I mean, I need these! I love how these prints make one want to dive into the world of both Hogwarts and Narnia showing us that reading is traveling. This art is the life of the imagination to me. I want to book a trip on the Hogwarts Express right now!

Thursday Afternoon Book Post

I already know that I won't have time for my somewhat regular Friday book post tomorrow. So, here it is on a Thursday!

Ummm, how is it that I've never read The Giver? Ok, I admit that I've seen this book around forever, but I hated the cover. I had all kinds of preconceived ideas about this Newberry Winner based on this cover with this scraggly old man. I was sure this wasn't my cup of tea. I had no idea and I mean, no clue, that this book was dystopian literature. I envisioned a crazy old man living alone in the woods or something.

I can already see that both Divergent, The City of Ember, and the Hunger Games trilogy were influenced by this book.

My good friend, Marie, recently reviewed this book on Goodreads and wrote this: The Giver is the dystopian Sci-Fi YA to rule them all.

So far, I'm totally sucked in and I'm feeling terrible for judging a book by its cover. 
It looks like Luke and I will have another book/movie night this summer. I already told him to start reading The Giver

Running on Empty (Again)

It's that time of year again. We're nearly at the finish line for another school year and I'm losing my will to care. What? You don't want to do your homework? Whatever. 

 I started thinking about Jen Hatmaker's hilarious worst-end-of-school-mom-ever post yesterday. I had to go back and read it, because, well, I'm there with her and I needed to laugh. If you haven't read it, it's worth it. It'll cheer you up as you start to lose steam at the end of the school year.

 It's not even the end of April yet and I'm looking ahead and thinking how I just have to get through May. I always hate the thinking that I have to just "get through" something. "Getting through" something isn't exactly good living, is it?

I'm burned out again. I know I write about this a lot, but being mama to five sure isn't easy. Over this school year, I've been implementing new things hoping some new strategy will leave me without constantly feeling like I'm going to lose it. Believe me, I've googled everything relating to stay-at-home-mom burn out and guess what? There's a whole lot of info about what burnout is, but not a lot of realistic ways to combat it. Or, if they're realistic ways to combat burnout, those methods aren't working for me.

I found this list today while googling around for more health information on how to turn this burnout ship around. This list confirmed I'm headed in the wrong direction. Oh, boy.
  • Every day is a bad day. (Well, not every day.)
  • Caring about your work or home life seems like a total waste of energy. (Yup.)
  • You’re exhausted all the time. (Yup.)
  • The majority of your day is spent on tasks you find either mind-numbingly dull or overwhelming. (Yup.)
  • You feel like nothing you do makes a difference or is appreciated. (Yup.)
 Okay, not every day is a bad day, but every day feels unnecessarily stressful and difficult. Clearly, I need a mind shift. What if I'm approaching this phase in my life all wrong? All year long, I have been trying to come up with a solution that makes being home with my twin boys and five year-old daughter more manageable, more peaceful, more calm. I've not succeeded. I didn't use to feel this overwhelmed with parenting, but I've boiled it down to constant interruption. My interruptions have interruptions. This makes my day feel unstable from start to finish.

All along, I thought that I needed to carve out more quiet time, more me time. I thought that the quiet was the answer. In those small quiet pockets, I could get back to some of the activities that make me, well me. Sometimes, I've felt that I've gotten lost in the constant needs of small children and I have to  remind myself that this is the hardest work. Raising little people isn't for wimps. This is important work, but that doesn't mean that sometimes, it is just plain boring. Somewhere in all those interruptions and malaise, I lost sight of the importance of what I am doing. Just maybe, I'm thinking about this all wrong?

Yesterday, I stumbled onto this post by Amanda Low. In her article, her husband suggests that she take a day to herself. So, she did and guess what? It didn't feel right at all. Go read the post. It's worth it because even before I read her post myself, I was starting to come up with the same conclusion. One day, during this current school year, my mom offered to watch the three littles for me so I could go out and I guess do errands. As headed out, I thought that the last thing I needed to do was more work. So, I went to a movie. At first, I was all giddy with the possibilities of having about four hours to myself. I really wanted to use the time well, but, in the end, there were too many things I wanted to do and only about four hours of free time. I went to a movie in the middle of a day. At first, it sounded all daring and wild like I was getting away with something. A movie in the middle of the day!!! By myself!!? Wow. 

The thing is that little time away didn't really recharge me like I thought it would. Yeah, I didn't have to do all the routine things I normally do, but this didn't feel completely right to me either. I didn't feel guilty or anything like that, but the whole experience just left me wanting more and more time to myself. That isn't such a bad thing, but I realized that daily peace has to come in my daily schedule as well as when I get time to myself. I can't have this sense of peace only when I'm away fro the overwhelming demands of home because that makes me resentful. I know I need to schedule my alone time in my regular daily life. My introverted nature demands it, but this outing made me want more time away rather than figuring out how to get the respite I need within the context of a busy crazy life. In other words, I don't want to feel like I need to run away to get that quiet alone time.

So, here we are again. It's almost the end of the year. It's Spring. It's starting to get lovely outside. I'm starting not to care if Sam gets all of his homework done. I'm feeling the last bits of Winter recede and a new lightness emerging. I don't have the answer, but I think I've stumbled onto something and if I think it through, could it be a game-changer?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Afternoon Book Post

It's Good Friday. I'm baking Hot Cross Buns. It's a Good Friday tradition around here, but man, they take all day with all the rising time. The house smells delicious, but it's almost time to head off to church, but I thought I'd pop in with a short book post. (All of my posts these days are about books.)

I just finished re-reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I'm not much of a re-reader, but I kind of thought it needed a re-read. I read the book last year, about this time, in a very detached manner. I didn't really want to get too close to the cancer story because, cancer just sucks. This time around, I let myself feel the story more and I really got more out of it on this second read.

The movie comes out in June and I will go and eat popcorn and hopefully, that popcorn will mask my tears.

I have book club tonight and no, I never did get very far into The Goldfinch. It just won the Pulitzer. I'm sure I'll get back to it, but I won't have much to say tonight.

That's it for now.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Twitterature (April 2014 Edition)

I'm linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy today for monthly Twitterature. Twitterature is just a fun way to share short, casual reviews of what you're reading and lately, my blog has been all about what I've been reading.

Here's what I've been reading:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green- This one's a re-read. It's unusual that I re-read anything, but I saw this book on the Lucky Day shelf at the library and I was compelled to pick it up again. I want to go see the movie which comes out in June. So, I thought I'd revisit the tragic love story of Augustus Waters and Hazel Grace. They both have cancer, but Hazel's diagnosis is terminal. The first time I read this book, I deliberately kept myself remote to shield myself from the sadness that is cancer. This time around, I want to let myself feel more of this story.

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger- I recently re-watched the funny 2006 movie starring Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep and I thought I'd pick up the book. I'm only 85 pages in and this book is much different and wildly more detailed than the movie. Usually, I savor these bookish details left out of the movie, but strangely, I can already tell that I prefer the movie.

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenting by Jennifer Senior- This book largely deals with the recent research that concludes that non-parents are much happier than parents and why. Parenting has gotten so much more challenging and the bar is high for modern parents. I'd like to know why. I always love a good social science book and where I am in life, raising five kids, this is going to be sentient information. 

Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo- Usually I love Kate DiCamillo. I love her rich diversity of story telling. I know that this book just won the Newberry Medal, but I'm just not connecting with the story of Flora and her superhero squirrel, Ulysses. This book will appeal to those who love graphic novels and comic books. What am I missing here?

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta- This novel has been on the back burner, but I'm still reading it. Francesca is stuck at St. Sebastian's school that's barely co-ed. Her mother, suffering from depression, can't get out of bed. So far, Francesca is a fish out of water trying to make the best out of a less than ideal school experience. I can't really predict where this one is going, but I read that Marchetta really knows how to to write a YA novel. I thought I also should diversify my YA reading.

That's it for me. Go check out what Modern Mrs Darcy is reading.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Friday Morning Book Post (and some movies too)

 I feel like I lost most of March due to a nasty strain of flu that ripped through my family. I spent nearly six days in bed. Many of those days, I was too weak to even read. Isn't that awful not to be able to read? I would try to read using the Kindle app on my phone, but it would hurt my eyes and I wouldn't get very far. Here I was in bed and I couldn't read. It was so frustrating.

Slowly, I got better, but even when I was getting well, I remained tired for a long time. During this time, thankfully, I was able to read.

I started reading Ann Patchett's The Getaway Car. This is a Kindle Single rather than a full length book. It's a short memoir about the writing life. Here's a quote:

“The journey from the head to the hand is perilous and lined with bodies. It is the road on which nearly everyone who wants to write—and many of the people who do write—get lost.”

In college, I took a short story writing class. I loved that class so much. If my college had offered a degree in creative writing, I would have jumped on it. I would have lost myself in words.

 I've wanted to write a novel for as long as I can remember. I have yet to start one, but I always have stories floating half-formed in my head. Patchett captures the writing life perfectly. It's quite difficult to transfer those images that play like a movie in your head into just the right words. I love reading about the discipline of writing.

 It's been just over twenty years since River Phoenix died of an overdose in front of the Viper Room in 1993. I wrote an extensive review of this book over at Goodreads. So, I won't go into much detail here. After reading this short biography, I've been revisiting some of his movies in the past week.

I watched The Thing Called Love (1993) where honestly, River just seems so off as an aspiring country singer and Sandra Bullock steals the show. The Thing Called Love was released the same year he died and I can only guess that his shaky and uneven performance is due to his increasing dependence on heavy drugs. This week, I watched his Oscar-nominated performance in Running on Empty (1988). Quite frankly, Phoenix really was at his best playing quiet introverted characters. Running on Empty is dated, but I still enjoyed watching River in this movie. I'm still waiting for Stand By Me (1986) to arrive at the library. I haven't seen Stand By Me in a really long time. Unlike Running on Empty, Stand By Me has a timeless quality and I look forward to sharing this film with my oldest son Luke this time around. I hope he will find the film soulful like I did at his age.

 I'm not going to re-visit all of his movies. Strangely, as a fan, I haven't even seen most of his movies. There was just a small handful that spoke to me. Despite his self-destructive behavior, River Phoenix is worth remembering even I've deliberately skipped several films in his filmography.

 As a side note, The Body, the short story that inspired Stand By Me is the only Stephen King I've ever read.
Here's a still from Stand By Me. Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, River Phoenix, and Jerry O'Connell

I've really only just stared Shirt of Flame, but since I've come to terms with the fact that I cannot read just book at a time, I've been much happier. I'm not going to fight the urge to read many books at once. I'm a binge reader and I'm proud!

 Anyway, I've always admired St. Therese and this book keeps showing up as a recommendation. So, I added it to my Kindle and started reading. Even happiness guru, Gretchen Rubin admires St. Therese and I thought that reading this book would help me understand this wise French nun.

My husband, my oldest son Luke, and I all finished Divergent recently. I took Luke to see the movie over Spring Break. Luke and I have a long tradition of reading the book before the movie is released and I really love discussing books and film with him. Reading the book before seeing a screen adaptation always builds the excitement of seeing the film.

 I didn't love Divergent, but it's probably not Veronica Roth's fault. I couldn't help it. I kept comparing it to The Hunger Games and that's so unfair. I'm not in a hurry to read the next installment, but I'm sure I'll get around to reading Insurgent when the next movie is released, because, you know, we have a tradition of reading the book before seeing the movie.

Next up on the page-to-screen adventures for me and Luke: The Maze Runner. Is it me or do most YA novels right now have menacing covers like this? The YA world is stuck in dystopia right now.

I'm also reading the current Newberry Medal Winner, Flora and Ulysses to Sam (almost 9). I usually love Kate DiCamillo, but I'm having a lukewarm response to Flora and Ulysses so far. Flora is obsessed with super hero comics and some unlikely circumstances make her a sidekick to a super squirrel. I've chuckled a few times and I appreciate the short chapters, but I'm not loving it. We're about half-way through this short novel. So, I may have to re-evaluate my current sentiments. The thing about DiCamillo is that she doesn't keep writing the same novel over and over just varying her formula. I really appreciate that.

That's it for Books this week. Have a great weekend. I hope you find time to curl up with a good book.