Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas!

We are off to see our family. Going on these trips is both fun and a little sad. Why? Fun because I get to see my family and friends (of course). My sisters and I have been going on these midnight shopping excursions the day before Christmas Eve for years (they were little kids when I started taking them). It was an adventure--and now that we are into our 30s (me) and 20s (them), it is even more fun!

Tomorrow night there is a big girl's night. I am looking forward to it, but at the same time I have a little anxiety about leaving J for too long. Ugh . . .

Tomorrow we leave bright and early. Hopefully J will sleep, otherwise we will be listening to static all the way there (all six and a half hours)--J calms down when he hears it--otherwise its cry, cry, and more cry (translation: I hate car rides). Last time it took T (husband) and me hours to recover. The static really gets to you.

Have a wonderful CHRISTMAS. I'll be posting once we get back!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Mom Lit . . .

After writing my review of The Undomestic Goddess, I received a few comments. One got me to thinking about Mom Lit . . . a grown-up version of Chick Lit (though in some cases not so grown up). I was excited upon entering mommyhood that this genre existed. I was entrenched in classical fiction, non-fiction, world or "the other" fiction . . . that I didn't get a chance to explore other genres that often.

So, without further adieu, here is a list of some Mom Lit authors. Aliki2006 pointed out that there are some great reviews on Literary Mama--so go check 'em out. Otherwise, here is a great place to start if you're itching for some Mom Lit:

Tales from the Crib by Jennifer Coburn
What Do You Do All Day?: A Novel by Amy Schiebe
Class Mothers by Katherine Stewart
The Yoga Mamas by Katherine Stewart
The Ivy Chronicles by Karen Quinn

Gucci Gucci Coo
Notes From The Underbellyby Rissa Green
The Baby Trail: A Novel by Sinead Moriarty

There are SO, SO many! Have I read these? No. Do I plan to? Yeah. I think so. Why not? I read some of the reviews. Many of the not-so-good reviews came from people looking for stellar literature worthy of a Pulitzer. The good reviews came from people looking for a fun, light read. So, why not?

If you read these or come up with others, please share! I'd be happy to link to your review if, and, or when you read and review. Just let me know!

I am a voracious reader. I can have J in one arm and a book in the other. I can read all night . . . in the kitchen, on the couch, on the counter, in the office, outside the house, and even with a mouse . . . I love "acting out" what I'm reading to J. He gets a kick out of it. Pretty soon I'll have to stick with only kiddie books, but for now he doesn't care as long as mom makes like a crazy lady!

Again, please share if you've read these. I chose ones with decent reviews, but I really want to know what you think . . .

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Book Review: The Undomestic Goddess

Have you ever wished you could just leave your life behind, shed all responsibilities, all demands, your entire identity? Sophie Kinsella, author of the popular Shopaholic series, explores such a fantasy.

I always hesitate before I pick up a book categorized as "chick lit." I guess I have a little residual English teacher prejudice (from reading, studying, being taught, and teaching classic literature). The simple fact is that back in the day I wonder what some of our so-called classic literature would have been called--some of it could have been called chick lit (Jane Austen anyone?). Regardless, I have learned to appreciate a variety of literature. To get my students reading I encouraged them to read anything from action adventure graphic novels to romance novels with bare chested men on the covers. When you see their noses buried in books, you just can't help but get excited.

But, I digress. I'm hear to discuss Kinsella's novel. I had heard about the Shopaholic series for a few years, but never had a chance to grab a copy of the book. So, when perusing the shelves recently, I came across The Undomestic Goddess. The premise sounded interesting enough. It had the whole "fish out of water" scenario along with a healthy mix of romance, humor, and a sprinkle of feminism (though flipped on its head in many ways).

Samantha, the main character, is a workaholic. She is striving to obtain partner in her prestigious London law firm. Because of this, she seldom has time to maintain proper relationships let alone to clean her flat, wash her clothes, or cook herself a decent meal. Samantha feels the pressure of her high-powered job, but she also feels that the reward of partner will be enough to compensate.

That is, until she makes a monumental mistake that sends her spiraling . . . to a small town where no one knows her. In a case of mistaken identity Samantha becomes the very thing that she not only has been trained not to be, but that she has absolutely no clue how to be--a domestic, a housekeeper, to be exact. It is an odd decision that Kinsella has Samantha make, but it is one that propels her into a world of self-discovery clich├ęd, but very fitting term). Kinsella mixes enough humor to elicit out-loud laughter. There is a touch of romance, but not enough to feel that this is a romance with other stuff thrown in. Romance works as another catalyst for Samantha to see who she was and who she truly wants to be.

I do love the fact that there is a level of vindication at the end--something that Kinsella does not make easy for our protagonist. Kinsella's writing is light enough to digest, yet heavy enough to leave a pleasant taste behind. You aren't bogged down with non-essential detail and you aren't overwhelmed by non-stop action. It truly is a perfect mix. On a scale from 1-10 (best): 7

Christmas Card Frenzy!

Well, so much for the posing. I realized that I've taken a ridiculous number of pictures--enough to make my Christmas cards. My husband thinks I'm crazy for designing them myself. But, I can't help it. I get all caught up and can't stop. I mean, this is the first time in my life I've actually had something cute to send! Usually I spend hours trying to find the perfect card, this year, I have good subject material (a chubby, bald, bubbly baby!). I'm taking full advantage.

* * *

I am excited to say that I sat through an entire move . . . It's a Wonderful Life! The movie, that is. Though it really is a wonderful life. This has been a tough Christmas. This marks the year anniversary of my father-in-law's passing--he was the "force" in our family and you can really feel the void. We found out we were pregnant only two weeks after he passed. We wanted so much to tell him we were expecting before he passed. I guess in some parallel universe I thought telling him might make him hold on, might make all the cancer shrink into nothingness. He and my husband were incredibly close. Unfortunately, he died on my husband's birthday . . . just a couple weeks before Christmas. Needless to say we spent last Christmas in a mourning stupor.

* * *

I have learned so much by perusing blogs. I've learned that many people make money by having ads on their blog, by reviewing books/products, by writing content. I can't believe how inventive people are--and entrepreneurial! I can't help but wonder if you have a fairly active blog how much money one can make? I've also learned that there are a lot of awesome writers out there. The most amazing thing I've learned is how much people have been able to use their blog as an outlet for all their thoughts, emotions, creativity, opinions. As I've mentioned before, I am a self-proclaimed techie, but I resisted blogging. Part of it is the commitment I knew I would have to have to keep up with it. Another is the sheer number of blogs out there can be overwhelming. This is why I have spent so much time reading blogs--I'm trying to find a group of blogs that I can relate to and visit on a regular basis. I've spent the last few days reading blogs and came up with a Top 12 sites -- see right sidebar. I anticipate it will change, but these are blogs that I've visited and that I've found I like their content/writing style and/or that we have a lot in common.

* * *

I can't help but wonder what is one baby item you could not live without or at least an item that has really made life easier. I love my Boppy and Brest Friend--I know, they are similar, but each one has its own strengths. I realized in the last few days that I really love my activity play mat. J can stare, swing at, and grab for things for hours if I let him. I also love my papasan cradle swing--though he has to be in the right mood (relaxed, maybe tired, but not TOO tired) to stay in it. Oh, and I like the Bumbo! I know it was recalled, but for goodness sake, the warning was printed right on the back--pretty obvious actually. And common sense seems to dictate not to put a baby in a unsecured seat on a raised surface. Anyway, J likes sitting in it. He is loving sitting on the couch, pretending he's just one of us! Oh, and he loves watching me eat and brush my teeth. I hope when the times comes, he loves eating as well--just like his mom and dad!
So, do any of you have any favorite/can't live without baby/toddler items?

Monday, December 10, 2007

To Do Lists

I made a To Do list for myself over the weekend. I love To Do lists. You get to put down everything you want to do and then you get to mark them off the list as you finish them. For a somewhat Type A, perfectionist sort of person, this appeals to me. What does not appeal to me is how often stuff stays on the list.

My list right now focuses on this blog. I really want to stick with it. I think it is an excellent way to focus on writing (what I had hoped to do when I became an English teacher--no go there--no time!), and documenting being a new mom (I LOVE the fact that there are so many out there). I am also hoping to revisit my passion for art by taking it to the technical level (design, illustration). I'd like to design a header for my blog--you know, snazz it up a little.

Since I decided to take a year off from teaching, I feel all those ambitions and creative juices flowing again. No more late nights grading essays, planning lessons, creating activities, talking to parents, organizing files, writing reports. Part of me feels lost. Part of me feels overwhelmed by the prospects (like looking at a 10-page menu and having no idea what to order).

* * *

I'm embarrassed to say that I DVRd (not a verb, I know, but it works) a bunch of cheesy Christmas movies that were on Lifetime, Hallmark, and The Family Channel. I watched one today. Wow. Someone actually wrote this stuff!!! This one was about a boy who wishes for his mom to have a husband. It was with Gail O'Grady. I have about 10 more to watch. My husband was scrolling through the recordings and couldn't stop laughing. I'm a mush . . .

* * *

We spent the entire weekend with the TV off. Not kidding. (I know, after the previous item about my DVRing habit, you might be shocked). We read. We played with J. We made dinner (my husband did-broccoli soup--not so good). We went to the store. We cleaned the house. It is amazing how much you can get done!

* * *

I took way too many pictures this month. But since they are all of J, save one of a t-shirt he spit up on--my shirt, it looked like a profile of Santa, I guess it is OK.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Book Review: Younger

Is it possible to reinvent your self? Can you really change who you are, what you believe, where you're from and become someone else? And even a bigger challenge, can you believe it yourself?

I just finished reading Younger by Pamela Redmond Satran. It was published in 2005 and seems to be part of the somewhat more mature "chick lit" genre. The story is simple enough, a mature woman (can we call 44 middle-aged--I hesitate to), newly divorced and with an empty nest, attempts to reinvent herself into a younger twenty-something.

At first I thought the premise was a little far fetched. Not that a forty-something can't look younger, I just found it hard to believe that this particular forty-something could fool SO many people. She fooled her boss, her "boy toy," her twenty-something co-workers. But I think it was the fact that she even fooled herself that I found so intriguing.

The protagonist, Alice (she refuses to go by Ali--the younger, hipper version of her name), lands a job at a publishing company, one that ignored her when she was her "old" version, a new friend, a new boy, and a whole new outlook on life.

Yes, it is like many other novels where the woman finds herself and is thus empowered to revitalize her life and realize her true value. BUT, this particular character had real flaws that were easy to relate to. She also did what many of us have done, given up a career to stay home and raise a family. Her cost was high, but she always felt it was worth it. While she was living what many of us would consider a fantasy as a seeming twenty-something, she was also doing it in such a way that reality became an inevitable part of her salvation.

It didn't necessarily have a fairy tale ending. As a matter of fact, it had an ending that I would consider . . . promising.

Satran's writing style is simple and clear. I particularly appreciated the lack of words written for the sack of words. There was not unnecessary description or detail and the story flowed quickly. I am notorious for skipping over paragraphs to get to the guts. I didn't have to with this novel. I finished it in about two days (for a mom of a 4-month old, that isn't too shabby). There are some racy parts, but nothing that won't make you shove the book under the couch if someone asks you what you are reading (though it may make you blush a bit).

For my casual reads I am not a big fan of flighty, superficial "chick lit," however, I do enjoy stories that are written by women, that explore real issues faced by women, in all periods of their lives, in an intelligent and unique way. This is a good read. On a scale of 1-10 (best): 6

Friday, December 7, 2007

Cry it out?

Yesterday my little one had to cry it out. My husband forced me to go on my little outing (which I happily obliged) and when I came home I found he became "super dad." Sort of made me feel a little inadequate (see earlier post). Anyway, we chatted this morning and he told me that he feels that J needs to cry sometimes to learn how to soothe himself. I am conflicted about this. Although I know that he needs to cry at times, especially when all of his needs are met, it pains me. I think I've read a bit too much about attachment parenting (Dr. Karp and Dr. Sears) and similar approaches. I worry about him not trusting me . . . deep inside, however, I know that letting him cry is OK.

He certainly seemed fine last night (my husband had let him cry for about 15-20 minutes in the swing just before he fell asleep). Just before bath he was laughing and smiling.

I get confused as to how much I should really be playing with him, holding him, carrying him, soothing him myself --some books tell you he can be active (not necessarily awake) for up to an hour at four months. I don't think there is a set time--I just look for the cues of over-stimulation. But still, I am not one of those moms who can read his every cue and every cry. And, once I do figure it out, it changes. Welcome to the world of babies!

I'm also not one for schedules, at least not rigid ones. I try to give him a nap and put him to bed around the same times each day and he usually eats a little before nap and bed, so in a way, he is on a schedule, but with no rigid time frame.

I would love to know what works/worked for other moms in terms of crying it out, soothing, scheduling and such.

Right now, I'm winging it . . .

My little outing

Today I had a night out on the town . . . really sad, but my "night out" was by myself, running errands. I went to two libraries, Office Depot, and a craft store. Wow. My husband, T, came in the house in a whirlwind and ordered me to go out. I hadn't called any friends and wasn't in the most chipper mood after spending four straight days with J (nearly 4-month old baby). He's great, but I think he's bored with me. I felt boring today. Not bored, mind you, BORING.

When I came home T had made dinner (from scratch), done four loads of laundry, cleaned the kitchen, and kept J entertained without any problem--he did it all in about three hours. Me, I was lucky enough to brush my teeth and change J's diaper a couple times. I had eight hours.

* * *
I watched Grey's Anatomy tonight--didn't have to DVR it--which is my FAVORITE thing in the world to do now that I have one. Anyway, it was a decent episode, but the dancing annoyed me. The chemistry between McDreamy and the nurse was interesting. I liked it. I want Izzy and George to be done. I think it'll happen.

* * *
Finished a decent book (It took me two weeks, but I did it--I had to finish the last chapter at the library). I am into books that are an evolved form of "chick lit"--they are more like "mom-lit." Some are good and some are so, so bad. Laura Zigman is a fun author. She sometimes seems too smart for her content, if that makes sense. Her latest, Piece of Work, was OK, but I found myself speeding to get to the end. Dating Big Bird and Animal Husbandry were great reads--easy and fun.

Being an English teacher I've had my fill of the classics and often read them over and over anyway, so I don't feel guilty indulging in some "fluff." It's fun! For fluff, Candace Bushnell is pretty good, though I really didn't like Trading Up at all. The writing was weak and the main character had no redeeming qualities. I guess that was the point, but I wasn't into it. I have several other authors I could discuss, but I'll save that for a future post.

* * *
I wish I had more time, yet less time. I feel that when I have a lot of time I waste it. When I have to little time, I use it wisely, but never have enough. It is a strange and frustrating paradox.

* * *
I think I might post pictures of my house--decorations for Christmas specifically. We have an obnoxious tree and lights and greenery hanging along the staircase. No one will probably see it (save the chimney cleaner and cable guy) since our families live in another state. I remember seeing how a bunch of people tagged others to do something like this--I think it was just to show general house pictures. I wonder you do that . . .

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Another Recall

Recalls are getting out of control. I'm overwhelmed, especially since becoming a mom. I'm a few short steps away from stripping J down, dressing him in a leaf grown on an organic farm and giving him a stick (which has been freed from leaves and loose bark) to play with. From train sets to Boppy covers, what's next? What's safe? I hesitate to give J any toys because nearly every day there is another item that is found to have excess lead. I already sent one of his toys back to the manufacturer. Thankfully, I have the Pea Pod Bobby cover, which I don't think is impacted--but who knows???

I'm from an era that played outside ALL THE TIME, at least until the street lights came on or until our little noses were stuffed with frozen boogers. We played on playground equipment that surely was painted with potentially hazardous materials. Underneath the death trap were rocks, not mulch. We ate dirt. We drank from the drinking fountain at school and from the HOSE at home! We ate sugar. Lots of sugar. We ate those gooey, non-organic, sugar-laden Hostess pies. We went to McDonalds (though it wasn't ALL THE TIME) and had fries (not apple wedges). Some moms smoked and drank while pregnant while other moms smoked like chimneys in their minivans, windows rolled up, kids in the back seat. We made this incredibly "sturdy" forts out of old cardboard boxes, chairs, and blankets. One time I made a two-level one with a balcony (my mom's dining room set never recovered). We sat in the front seat of the car (and sometimes without a seat belt!). I sometimes wonder how it is even possible that I am still alive . . .

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