Archive from May, 2015
May 31, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Well, THAT’S Curious…

Well, THAT’S Curious…

When my oldest and I finished up the final sequel to Sarah, Plain and Tall, I was double-checking that it was the final when I came across a description of Cassie Binegar, another of MacLachlan’s books.  Noting that it took place in a house by the ocean easily sold me–I love Patricia MacLachlan, after all–and so I put it on hold at the library, checked it out when it came in, and finally got around to it last week.

Oddly enough, I found that I didn’t love it quite as much as I was expecting, but I think reading it in such small increments is responsible for some of that.  After all, I loved Cassie’s friend Margaret Mary, I loved her growth over the course of the story, and the mental picture the book created for me was stunning.  Even allowing for the reading difficulty, however, I don’t think it’s her best work.  (Which is fine, by the way.  Her best work is very, very stiff competition.)  Her books are generally short, but this one suffered from the shortness in a way that the others I’ve read don’t seem to.  I wanted to know a little more, especially about the relatives, and I wanted to see a bit more interaction between Cassie and her family. (Although to be fair, part of the point is that she feels like an outsider, not because she is unloved, but because she is so different in personality.)  Perhaps what I mean is that I quite enjoyed what was there, but I missed a bit of what wasn’t.  It’s still MacLachlan, though, which means that it’s still worth reading.  Cassie comes to terms with her grandfather’s death and the reality of what her family is (informal and loving) and is not (orderly and quiet), and her resulting ability to understand other perspectives is one that we all hope our children gain.

The curious part came after I finished it.  It’s due this week, along with another older title by an acclaimed author (Lois Lowry, this time), and while I finished the one I didn’t get the chance to read the other.  I’ve been noticing for a week or more that both titles were in a different font and color than the others on the ‘Item Out’ list on my library account; it took until last night for me to realize the significance of this.  I clicked on the Lowry title, intending to put it on hold again, and nothing happened.  Hmmm, that’s odd, I thought.  I did a title search; the title wasn’t there.

At all.

Okay, that’s WEIRD, I thought.  I looked up Cassie Binegar, since it was the only other title on the list in black, and then it dawned on me.  Duh. Blue means it’s a LINK to something; black means it’s NOT.  Which now makes sense, given that these books that I checked out of the library, diligently renewed three times, and still have in my possession, do not appear to exist anywhere in the Salt Lake County library system except on my ‘Items Out’ list.  This begs a plethora of questions.  Since I want to read the Lowry, what do I do?  I can’t put it on hold if the library is pretending that it doesn’t exist.  Will they–CAN they–fine me for an overdue book that doesn’t exist, except on my account?  Will they just renew it once more by phone?  If I try to check it in and then check it back out, what will happen?  Are they removing it from the system?  Did they notice it because I checked it out–am I responsible for its removal?  And really, if they don’t want it, can I have it?  (I would wonder if I’m just overtired and somehow missing it, but my friend looked for it, too.)

Tomorrow I’ll give the library a call and see what’s to be done about it.  For tonight, I’m just thinking–this really is curious.

Cassie Binegar


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May 29, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on One of These Things Is Not Like The Other…

One of These Things Is Not Like The Other…

And by things, I mean EXAMPLES.  I am in no way referring to women as “things.”  I recently noticed this article, you see, and thought–8 Beautifully Feminist Characters You Need in Your Life?  Hmm.  Might as well check that out.  And so on I went down the list, thinking something like this:

Mulan?  Sure!  I haven’t read the 6th century poem, but this says she still went to war to spare her father.  Elizabeth Bennett and Jo March?  I’m a fan.  I haven’t read The Hunger Games, but I saw the movie, and I can see how Katniss could be a role model–protects her younger sister, doesn’t want to kill for gain (although I did read an interesting article disputing the idea that she’s a strong character at all).  Hermione Granger?  Heck yeah!  Scarlett O–WHAT?

Scarlett O’Hara?

I need Scarlett O’Hara in my life?

Here’s the blurb about Scarlett:

“Scarlett was a spoiled and self-centered sixteeen year old, but that all changed as she endured the Civil War. Scarlett is nothing if not a survivor, sometimes at all costs. She single handedly manages to keep the family home when other Georgia families are losing theirs.” [sic]

Wow.

I’m struggling to believe that Susan Swann has actually READ Gone With the Wind.  I admit that my own reading was over two decades ago, but I do remember some salient points.

1)Scarlett O’Hara never stopped being spoiled and self-centered.  She believed herself to love Ashley–and then Rhett–but loving someone requires you to sometimes think of the other person before yourself.  I can’t remember a single instance of her doing that.  WITH ANYONE.

2)Okay, she’s a survivor–dang straight “at all costs.”  She does NOT, however, single-handedly manage to keep the family home.  In order to do it, she needs money, and so she fascinates her sister’s longtime beau into marrying her and giving her the money.  This is supposed to be admirable?  She lies and steals to get what she wants, because the only thing she truly does love, in the course of a 1,034-page book, is Tara.

3)I suppose, if you use the worst possible definition of Feminism, she’s a perfect feminist.  She manipulates men into proposing to her and marries them as means to an end; she gives birth to MULTIPLE children that she ignores, even when the other parent is dead; she makes her choices without regard for anyone else’s wishes, feelings, or just deserts.  I need her in my life?

The rest of the list barely registered with me, honestly; I’ve read Alice in Wonderland, but I don’t remember Alice as being terribly memorable (maybe because the book was all political satire that is no longer relevant in our society), and while I like Eliza Doolittle, it took an exceptional teacher (a male teacher) and a great deal of money to make her reinvention possible.  Mostly, I couldn’t get past Scarlett’s presence on that list. At the risk of alienating any Gone With the Wind lovers among my friends, well–Scarlett is strong, yes.  So are most bullies.  She’s a survivor, yes–because she looks out for herself, not caring who gets trampled along the way.  The only thing she does single-handedly, however, is attract and manipulate men who have the means to help her.  She certainly does that very well.  Let’s just be honest about the kind of friends women who hone that skill usually are to the people around them…which is why she is most definitively NOT a character I need in my life.

May 27, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on You Can’t Really Go Wrong With Those Ingredients…

You Can’t Really Go Wrong With Those Ingredients…

My parents were in town for a quick stop on their way back to Idaho on Monday night; they stayed with my aunt, who invited me to her family’s Memorial  Day shindig as well.  (My hubby’s having a VERY busy work week, so he stayed home and worked from there while I brought the kiddos to the party.)  When I asked her what to bring, she said cookies, which meant I was perusing my Pinterest board for ideas on Monday morning.  I was going to try a recipe for white chocolate Craisin cookies, but when I pulled up the recipe at the last minute I realized that it told me–in all caps–that the dough had to chill for AT LEAST AN HOUR.

Yeah.  I didn’t have an hour to spare.

Which meant that I went with these Lemon Butter Cookies instead (and I only THOUGHT I had lemons, which meant a last minute run to the grocery store).  I mixed the dough and then my hubby and my oldest rolled them into balls and did the fork thing.  And they were tasty, because really, they were mostly butter, lemon, sugar, and flour.  How can you go wrong with that?  I did think they were a little dry, though.  I pulled them out of the oven as directed, so I’m inclined to chalk up the dryness to the hybrid nature of the recipe.  These are more shortbread than cookie, really, and shortbread is crumbly and dryer than cookies are; they aren’t true shortbread, however–not with that egg–and so they’re just a wee bit confused as to how they should be.  Chewy moist cookie?  Dryer crumbly shortbread?  They’ve got both of those in their gene pool.  If you’re expecting that from the beginning, though, it shouldn’t be a problem–because they are good.  (Possibly not lemony enough for me, but I’m not stupid–I’m well aware that there are entire lemon trees that may not be lemony enough for me.)  You should try them.

Especially if you can get someone else to roll them into balls and do the fork thing.

May 25, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Friends, Rebels, Starfighters, Lend Me Your Ears!

Friends, Rebels, Starfighters, Lend Me Your Ears!

My brain finally felt sufficiently not-pregnant to tackle William Shakespeare’s Star Wars:  Verily, A New Hope–and oh, how happy it made me! This book was MADE for my hubby and me; we like Star Wars AND Shakespeare, and it marries the two in a way I can only describe as genius.  Ian Doescher, the very existence of this book puts me in charity with the universe!

In case you’re wondering, the book is the original Star Wars set in iambic pentameter.  Classic lines are rendered Shakespearean but totally recognizable:

“Disarm thou ev’ry refuse masher on/Detention Levels!”

“Thou art mine only hope.”

“Stay thou on target–”

On the other hand, classic Shakespeare abounds, with Star Wars twists:

“Now is the summer of our happiness/Made winter by this sudden, fierce attack!”

“Alas, poor stormtrooper, I knew ye not”

“Once more unto the trench, dear friends, once more…I was not angry since I came to space/Until this instant!”  (I know that blends two different speeches, but who cares?)

(I confess, it was a little disorienting to be reading Luke’s lines while hearing Kenneth Branagh in my head, but in the best possible way.)

Words alone cannot express the fabulousness of this book.  READ IT NOW!

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars


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May 23, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on The Free Time Window

The Free Time Window

My 3-month-old has been sick this week–a cold leading to an ear infection, for which we got antibiotics on Friday–and hasn’t been going to bed as nicely as she usually does.  (Note–a crazier than normal schedule isn’t helping, either.)  And as much as I was feeling plenty busy before she got sick, losing that bit of free time in the evenings is killing me.  She usually settles around 9, which leaves me free to spend some time on the computer, make sure the kitchen is presentable enough for breakfast, practice the piano, shower, read my scriptures, and do whatever needs to be done for the next day (such as take bread out of the freezer to make sandwiches in the morning, or go through the kids’ backpacks…you get the idea).  When she’s up until 9:30 or 10, my free time window shrinks, and let me tell you what–I FEEL IT.  Because I’m in the stage of life where I have a lively 2-year-old friend from the moment I get up in the morning until 7:15 or so at night; when he goes to bed, it takes another hour and forty-five minutes before all of his sisters are there as well.  I NEED THAT FREE TIME.

Anyway.  Viruses and ear infections pass, and neither one is anything like RSV.  It could be much, much worse, and I’m truly grateful that it’s not.

I’m just missing my free time.

May 21, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Thoughts After Attending My Daughter’s Pen Pal Luncheon

Thoughts After Attending My Daughter’s Pen Pal Luncheon

My oldest daughter’s second grade class has been corresponding with a second grade class from an elementary school across the valley; today the two classes met at a park for lunch and play, and (thanks to my mother-in-law’s babysitting generosity) I was able to go along.  My oldest has been struggling all week, and it’s been difficult for both of us; today was a gift, because she was thrilled to have me there, and she snuggled with  me on the bus, and it felt so good to be happy together.

Observation #1:  It’s so much nicer to hear “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” coming from the back of the bus than “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”

Observation #2:  There are actually quite a few second graders shorter than my daughter.  Who knew?

Observation #3:  When a second grade boy runs up to his classmate and says, “Caitlyn!  Don’t drink the milk!,” followed by “Don’t drink the milk–it has 18 grams of sugar in it!,” do you know what to say?  Because he left me at kind of a loss for words.

 

May 19, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Little Green Peas

Little Green Peas

Even though I love reading rhyming picture books to the kids, I was skeptical of this one.  The idea was visually fabulous, but the text was awfully simple; would it bore the girlies AND become one of those books that you cross your fingers that your kids don’t pick?

Nope.

Little Green Peas:  A Big Book of Colors is all about colors, true, and my girls are past the age of learning their colors, but between studying each page to see what the dozens of individually drawn little green peas are doing and hunting for the ladybug to be found on each two page spread, they have loved it.  The illustrations are fun enough to look at that I have no issue with the simple text, so it’s really a win all around.  If you like this one, try LMNO Peas and 1-2-3 Peas.

I just wish I’d known about them when my girlies were younger.

May 16, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Daddy’s Home!

Daddy’s Home!

My hubby was out of town from Tuesday morning early until after 9 Friday night, and I am so DESPERATELY grateful to have him back!  The embarrassing thing is that I didn’t even have the four kids by myself much; my mother-in-law came Friday to stay with the baby and then Middle #1 so that I could take the boy to a doctor’s appointment and then go to one myself (after dropping the boy off to Grandma).  She took the boy home with her, leaving me with an 8 1/2 year old, a 5 3/4 year old, and a 3 month old.

It still felt really hard.

The most frustrating thing, really–other than it being all me, all the time–was trying to settle the girlies nicely into bed.  They seemed to be hyper or sad (or SOMETHING) an awful lot, and the problem was that when they go to bed, it’s the baby’s bath-, bottle-, and bedtime.  If they didn’t settle, the baby just got fussier…and she was already fussy this week.  For her.

Even with my hubby home, though, it’s still a struggle.  I know a new baby is hard on everyone, but my middles are more likely to cling more closely to me; my oldest is more likely to be mad.  Sadly, she’s also the one it’s hardest to find alone time with, or at least quiet/leisure time.  By the time she gets home from school, everything seems hectic until bedtime.  I want more time with her, but it’s hard to find.  And even if I were a fan of home schooling, it’s not the solution here–she LOVES school.  She complains all summer that she misses school and doesn’t like summer because school keeps her occupied and she gets bored at home.  (Last summer was particularly hard; I was in my first trimester and did a lot less with the kiddos than I had hoped to do, simply because I felt so yucky.)  She’s a doer with a capital D; I’m not as much of one as she is, but she also has three younger siblings, all with different needs and different schedules.  Even if I were just like her, we still wouldn’t be able to be up and doing nearly as much as she’d prefer.

Anyway.  Adjustments are hard.  I’m just really, really grateful to have my husband home.  Because it was hard without him, and because the kids missed him, and because–last but NOT least–I missed him, too.

 

May 14, 2015 - Uncategorized    1 Comment

I Am Not A Dog Person

I’m never going to be, either.  I do make friends with dogs on an individual basis, mind you–there was Napoleon, a Somoan husky, and Murphy the mutt, and, well, that might be it.  I know that dogs have many fine qualities, but I lost 3 or 4 pet cats to the neighborhood dogs’ hunting pack as a child, and I’ve never quite gotten over that.  (Most of the time cats can just climb a tree, but not when they’re leading their pursuers away from their hidden kittens.)  I was married before the sound of dogs barking at night stopped making me feel sick to my stomach, and I still hate the sound.   And yes, I know that not all dogs are killers, but I rather vividly remember my dad shooting one of the pack out of my bedroom window in the middle of the night–although by then it was too late to save the cat.

I really don’t like dogs.

That said, I checked Mountain Dog out of the library because it was by Margarita Engle, whom I love, and I did quite enjoy it.  Tony’s SAR dog friend–that’s Search And Rescue–won me over, as did Tony himself, with his incarcerated mother and his “old” great-uncle-foster-father (“nearly fifty!”).  I learned some interesting things while rooting for Tony to find a family and a new life.  I did find it fascinating,  however, to see how different this book felt from her others (most–if not all–of which I’ve read.)  They’re all verse novels, but this one’s narrator was an 11-12-year-old boy born in America, and the style reflected that very successfully.  I possibly prefer her others, but that’s a personal thing.  The fact that I liked such a dog person’s book as much as I did means she did an excellent job with this one.

Mountain Dog


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May 12, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Book That Has Me Thinking

A Book That Has Me Thinking

On Sunday night I finished Yolanda’s Genius, a Newbery Honor book from 1996 (that would be the year I graduated from high school, by the way). And I’m finding reviewing it to be a complicated process, partly because I’m not–quite–sure just how much I liked it.  (Let’s face it–I don’t exactly have regular problems forming and sharing opinions…)  Here goes nothing, I guess!

1)Basic Plot:  Yolanda’s family moves from Chicago to a Michigan suburb because her mother fears for her children’s safety; even the suburbs, however, have their dangers.  Yolanda is tasked with both protecting her little brother and finding a way to convince their mother that he’s actually a musical genius, all while settling in and learning how not to let her mistakes get in the way of making a friend.

2)Writing style:  My preferred writing style is more on the ‘lyrical’ end of the spectrum; Yolanda’s Genius is more just–straightforward.  (Not necessarily simple.  The Book of Mormon scripture where Nephi glories in plainness comes to mind, actually.)  It works for Yolanda, and while it doesn’t seem particularly moving at first, there are passages that I found myself overwhelmed with emotion while reading.  In fact, I started this book several years ago and put it down because of how successfully the author described the pain involved in one of her key plot points.  It may not be my usual style, but there’s definitely something to it.

3)Resolution:  While somewhat improbable, the ending was satisfying.  So was the middle, actually.

4)Point to Ponder:  Can a white woman successfully write a novel from the perspective of various members of a black family?  If I don’t think so, does that mean I automatically think that a black woman can’t successfully write a like novel about a white family?  I’m inclined to think it’s a bit less about race and more about culture; I would feel more comfortable writing a novel about a black family who grew up in an area and circumstances familiar to me than one about a white family from a distant, wildly different culture.  Some aspects of culture are probably tied to race or ethnicity, but I don’t believe all of them are.  I did wonder, though.  What do you think?

5)Bottom Line:  I actually think this one is worth your time.  I didn’t find Yolanda to be completely likable, but I was certainly cheering her on (mostly) before the book was halfway over.  And for parents and teachers who find Andrew’s loss to be almost unbearable, don’t worry–it comes out okay in the end.

 

Yolonda’s Genius


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