Thursday, April 28, 2016

One Year Gilmore Girls anniversary

Today marks one year since I shifted my reading away from whatever interested me or whatever happened to be similar to things I liked in the past, to the Gilmore Girls Challenge.

For anyone who doesn't remember, this is a book list that is comprised of the books read by Rory Gilmore on the show the Gilmore Girls, over the seven years the show ran. Rory was a highly intelligent girl, Ivy League bound, and as such, her book choices include a lot of classics, non-fiction, and books that also fall into many lists of "books everyone must read in their life" as well as some modern, interesting stories (not that I like everything I have read or will read).

When I filled out the checklist, I found myself intrigued by a lot of the books on the list, and a lot of regret over all of these classics and well known books I had heard of and never read. So, I decided to read them. All of them. I knew from the outset that this was not going to be a short term goal, but a long term one, as there are more than 300 books on the list, and a chunk of those are 600+ page classics.

As this is my one year anniversary, I felt it was a good time to reflect on the experience so far.

My major triumph for the year was Don Quixote. I had wanted to read it for a long time, had even bought it for myself years ago, where it just gathered dust, and this was a good time to break it open. It literally took me almost a whole year to finish it, and that only happened with the help of the audio book version, but I did it. The funny thing is that I enjoyed it. It took forever, it wasn't even close to a hooking book that kept me coming back... but when I made myself listen or read it, I enjoyed the story. There is a lot of wisdom in there, and a lot of humor, including parts that genuinely made me laugh. There is true friendship, and devious tricks. Really well written, interesting story. I want to say I recommend it... but honestly, unless you have a deep desire to get through classics, it is a long journey.

The two major offshoots from Don Quixote that I have read so far are Madame Bovary and a Confederacy of Dunces. The second was funny, and I loved his filing system, the first was a sobering tale of being unsatisfied with the good that you already have. I very much recommend both.

An interesting experience of this year is the author discoveries. More than once, I have read a "Rory" book, and enjoyed the writing so much that I sought out the other books by the author. The first major example of this happened from Bel Canto. First off, the book is AMAZING. It has probably shaped me more than most books I have ever read in my life. Basic premise is of a hostage situation... but the terrorists are not portrayed as evil, just human, and you hear the story from both viewpoints. I have now read enjoyed a number of her other books as well.

Eric Larson is another author who I admire from this adventure, as he is incredible in his ability to write non-fiction, historically accurate books that are as enjoyable as any novel, with his unique ability to find historical individuals to follow.

I've read books set in the past, present and future, in places near, far and fictional, that made me laugh, think and cry. They have shaped my understanding of the world, and the lens that I look through. I am much more proud of my book list from the past year than from the years before, sprinkled with so many classics and fond memories of the stories.

This last year I read 43 of the books from her list.

So, combined with ones I had read previous to starting the official challenge, I am up to 82 out of the 339 listed on http://www.listchallenges.com/rory-gilmore-reading-challenge/, almost 25%. Still a long way to go, but I look forward to the journey.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Easter 2016
























Holidays as a parent are a funny thing. As a kid, you just knew the excitement, you knew what to expect from each holiday, you looked forward to it, and then as you grew out of the age of having the fun, you moved into the world of "these are the fond memories I have of x holiday."

Then there was the phase of young adult without kids, where holidays were meh at best. You visited family, exchanged gifts or had brunch, whatever, you celebrate the holiday, but there is no sparkle to it.

But as a parent, you have to be the magic maker. I have so many memories of what I liked about Easter, for example, but my desire to give my kids the same fun memories isn't as easy as waving a wand and saying "Easter magic!"

For months before hand I agonized about what exactly should be in their baskets, what should be in their eggs, how I was going to also keep it God centered (trip to church, Bible verse CD, Christian tattoos, stamps and stickers), how I was going to limit the new toys coming in (one big set to share, and playdough tools and art supplies in each basket) and help other people too (the Easter Bunny brought a basket filed with stuff to donate). So much stuff.

I also wanted to make sure we did egg dying, but I am trying to limit food dye (so we did it with natural ingredients), and I wanted them to do an Easter egg hunt, because I remember how much fun I had doing Easter hunts.

The night before Easter is when the "Easter Bunny" is hard at work, filling eggs, stuffing baskets, hiding eggs, and setting up the magic.

But, sigh, expectation and reality so often don't meet. For example, we were fortunate when we went to the Easter egg hunt at a local church that we decided to go early, since there was supposed to be other fun things to do besides the egg hunt.

We took the kids to the bathroom, and then headed over to the egg hunt area, to see the fields with the eggs surrounded by kids, who for the moment were held back by the ribbon surrounding the area. We heard (20 minutes or so before start time) the announcer trying to get the crowd riled up and excited, though he was hard to hear and understand. Blake and I heard it though. He was trying to get everyone to cheer, and said something about on the count of three yell. But after the 3, 2, 1, too many kids just went, and started collecting.

This, mind you, is 15 minutes before it is supposed to start, and though they tried to get the kids back, rein them in, get them back of the way, what started as a trickle became a floodgate opening, and soon, all of the kids were in, collecting eggs.

Blake and I, hard core rule followers, hesitated because we knew they really were not supposed to be collecting yet... but it got to a point where we realized that it wasn't going to be contained, and our kids were walking away with nothing if we didn't let them go. Again, we being rule followers, our kids only got the ten eggs each they were supposed to, but we saw tons of kids with overflowing baskets, and we couldn't help but wonder about these parents.

How could they not restrain their kids when it clearly wasn't time yet? Why did they completely ignore the sign about ten eggs? What is wrong with people? I read later about a Pez sponsored hunt that went haywire too, with parents pushing kids out of the way for eggs. Really? We felt really bad for the people who arrived on time to see no eggs remaining.

The kids had fun, but it wasn't the idyllic egg hunt I pictured.

My natural egg dyes worked, but not dramatically, and honestly, the kids were really not thinking this egg dying thing is so fun. They were over it fairly fast, even if the dyes had worked better. Perhaps another year it will be more fun, but this year? Another picture in my mind damaged by the reality.

Easter morning started with a battle over the dress I wanted Grace to wear, so not how I wanted to start the holiday. She eventually gave in, partly because I told her she could pick my Easter clothes.

I got a great video of Remington saying it was so silly that the Easter bunny hid an egg in his shoe, only to have Grace talk about how her egg she found was boring. To be fair, she had fun, just not with that particular egg.

They liked what they got, and I know they will have more fun in the future with their Easter presents, but all of it really makes me think. How do you create nostalgia? Am I doing it right?

How do I ensure that my kids grow up with fond memories of special days like Easter and Christmas?

Yesterday we celebrated family day, which is what we call the day we brought Grace home from Ghana (can't believe she has been home for three years already, crazy how fast time flies). We had a fun morning at the aquarium, and a special lunch at Bubba Gumps, but I had a moment yesterday evening.

The kids were playing with Blake in the spaceship he made for them (spaceship 2.0, not the one he made Easter morning, but a new and improved one), and laughing, and talking about their space walk, and I realized that this is it. Those laughing, imaginative bonding times with us and each other, that is where it is at. It isn't the holidays.

Holidays are filled with "holiday traditions" and family gatherings, and busy hustling from here to there, so much so that they don't typically have a lot of the just play time that they love. I work so hard to make the holidays what I think they should be, based on my memories, but more important are that every day I continue to have a household environment that encourages playing together.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Kid's pictures from 2016 so far

I spent a lot of time this morning looking back with nostalgia at the posts that I wrote when we had the adventure to get Grace home three years ago, and then when Remington was born that year, and I love those posts. I love that I have such a real record of my emotions and what was happening at that time. This last year my blog has sadly been neglected, and as I looked back at the last few posts I have done, I tend to not focus on my kids, which I know many people want to know about. So, here is a ton of pictures (and few words) of the kids in 2016.





















In the above set, you can see that our family is a big believer in pretend play, and costumes are awesome! Also, the kids started taking skating lessons towards getting to play roller hockey at some point.

 Grace with one of my childhood dolls.

 He put it on himself.
 Remington wanted Hulk cupcakes... but I didn't want to use dye, so I made spinach cupcakes with blueberry frosting.



 I have glasses now. It's like the world is in high definition, it is really awesome!
 My kids are such hams.
 At Knott's Berry Farm for their Ducks Day!




 Like Father like son, fixing the table together.
 Grace learning to hammer.
He even got to use the real one!
 Sigh, am I the only one who likes smiling for pictures?

 Grace climbed the rock!



These are their hide and seek spots. Can you find the kids?