Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sick. :(

Remember in my last post when I said that Clarissa was sick and hoped we didn't all get it? No such luck. Josh and Matthew both got it last week and spent a couple of days at home and now I have it.

When the kids get sick they bounce back from it fairly quickly. It seems like when I get sick it goes on forever. I had a sore throat for a few days and this weekend I have almost lost my voice completely. This evening my voice is coming back a bit but I can feel the fever starting. My skin hurts.

So I'm laying around doing a whole lot of nothing and hoping that this doesn't turn into the full blown nasty flu that I had in 2011, because this is exactly how that flu started and it was awful.

Bleh. So our reading club has still been on hold a bit. Everyone is still reading on their own but we haven't been doing our reading nights with everyone not feeling well.

I am excited to report that Matthew is in the middle of the final Harry Potter book! I'm so excited for him to finish the series. He's been working on it off and on for several months. He had taken a break for a while but this Year of the Books project has reignited his excitement for it and he has been cruising through the last two books. He's been staying up late at night reading, which I partly get mad at him for and partly get super excited about, lol. He can't stay up late every night, he needs his sleep. But I'm SO excited to see my kids get so into reading that they can't put the book down at night. I love it when I'm that engrossed in a book and I'm thrilled to see them catching on to that same thirst for reading. So on the outside I'm telling him to put the book down and go to bed but I'm doing a happy dance on the inside. :)

And I especially love that I can discuss books with them. When they were little I used to say that I couldn't wait until they were old enough to share my favorite books with them and now that we're here I'm thrilled about it. I've been having Harry Potter discussions with Matthew and the rule in this house is that when you finish the last Harry Potter book you get to have a special movie night just with mom by yourself and watch the final Harry Potter movie, which I won't allow them to watch until they finish the book. I'm hoping Matthew and I are going to be having our Harry Potter movie date soon! :)

I've also been having discussions with Josh about the Hiding Place, which I'm SUPER thrilled about! I'm so excited that he's finally old enough to read my favorite book of all time. He's about halfway done with it and along the way we've been having great discussions about WWII history, which I'm loving. As much as I always jokingly complain about my kids growing up too fast, I have to admit, I love having big kids that I can share more grown up things with. I love that Josh is old enough to discuss things like books and music and current events. We have some great discussions.

Now I can't wait until Clarissa is old enough to share all the girly books I loved as a kid that the boys wouldn't be interested in. We still have a few more years before that is going to happen!

So the book reading is going great. Honestly, at the moment I'm the only one slacking. The past couple of weeks have been busy and I'm getting behind. If I end up being sick this week I might have a lot of time to lay on the couch and catch up, I guess.

For now I'm going back to sitting here and trying to will my body not to get the flu. That's possible, right. :) Darn you, January. It figures we'd get sick in January. Is it February yet?!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

So much to talk about!

I realize that I've been M.I.A. from the blog. It's January, I'm generally just proud of myself for getting out of bed and getting dressed in January. If I can pull it together enough to blog, I'm doing super awesome. :)

In case I haven't mentioned it recently, I hate January. January can bite me with it's grey skies and 4 degree temperatures. You know that awesome grumpy cat meme? That's me in January.

I'm hanging in there though! I'm here right this minute blogging, which means I'm surviving January! Yay Wendy! I should get a gold medal every February first with a big awards ceremony for surviving January. Can someone do that for me?  Nothing big, just a red carpet gala with a few celebrities talking about how brave I am for making it through the torture and injustice that is January. And a cake. There should definitely be cake.

No? No one wants to head up that committee? Darn.

Ok, well then if we don't have an awards gala to plan I can tell you what's been happening here for the past few weeks.

First of all, I'm sure you're asking yourself where the year of books went. I'm sure you're losing sleep over my reading habits. I came here bragging about how fast I read and then two weeks later I'm still on the same darn book.

The Year of the Books is still happening, we just had to take a brief hiatus last week. Last week was finals week at school for Josh and that kid studied his butt off. We decided to disband our little family book club for a week so that we could help him study. Josh takes school very seriously and he works really hard for his grades. He has never in the whole history of school gotten a final grade that was less than an A (or in elementary school it was an E, or whatever it is they do there.) He's always getting academic awards and honor roll certificates and I'm ridiculously proud of him.

School has always come pretty easy for him but now that he's in seventh grade it's starting to get a little tougher. He's had to work for his grades this year more than he ever has and actually, I've really liked that. I like seeing him challenged a little more. He's learned new study habits this year that be never had before because he never needed to study that hard. But this year has been a little bit more of a challenge for him and he's had to work a bit harder for his grades.

So last week we cleared our evenings so that he could get a lot of good study time in and it was totally worth it because he did great on his final tests and offically got straight A's for the semester. That kid rocks. I told him to pick an activity to celebrate his accomplishment and he wants to have a family movie night with big ice cream sundaes. Done. One night this week we're going to let him pick a movie and we're going to pig out on too much ice cream and brownies. Hard work deserves ice cream. :)

The other thing fun that has been happening here is that we took our annual trip to Cascade! We left on Saturday and came home yesterday. Cascade is a tiny little town in the mountains about two hours or so from here. It's seriously in the middle of nowhere, but there just happens to be a super awesome hotel up there that we love. So every January we make the trek up the mountain to hang out there for a few days. We get a big suite with a living room and we hang out and watch movies, go swimming at the hotel pool and if we're lucky we get to feed elk!

There is a place near Cascade where you can take a sleigh ride out to feed a herd of wild elk. It's seriously the coolest experience. There is a family there that owns a big ranch and a lot of land and for decades there has been a herd of elk that comes down and hangs out on their property in the winter. The show up when it starts to snow and in the spring they leave and go somewhere else. Try used to take their family and friends on sleigh rides to go see them and feed them hay and it got to be such a big thing that they realized that they could charge people and now it's like this super cool thing in the middle of nowhere that you can go do in the winter.

The problem is that the elk are unpredictable and it only runs when the elk show up. Last year we had a weird lack of snow and the elk didn't come until later in the season so we didn't get to go while we were in Cascade last year.

But this year there is snow up there and the elk were there so we got to go. You get on a big sled and sit on bales of hay and then there are two beautiful horses that pull the sled though a beautiful snowy field. Then you enter a grove of trees and there is a big herd of elk just hanging out. They've gotten used to the sleigh rides and the people over the years so when the sled stops they surround it and eat the hay bales we're sitting in. It's absolutely amazing to sit there and watch these beautiful animals eat practically right out of your lap. They'll nudge you with their noses if they want to eat where you're sitting. You're literally nose to nose with them.

For someone who loves animals as much as I do, it's really kind of an amazing experience. Everyone stays pretty quiet so you don't scare them off and you just sit there surrounded by beautiful snowy mountains and just watch this amazing wild life show right in front of you. I love it. Love doesn't even describe how I feel about it. I would go out there every single day and sit in five degree weather all afternoon just to experience it. It's awesome.

So we had a great time feeding elk and then we went back to the hotel and warmed up and then snuggled up and ate ice cream and cookies and had a movie night with the kids in the hotel room.

It was pretty much a perfect weekend. I look forward to our Cascade weekend all year. It does wonders for my January doldrums and it's such a great opportunity to just escape for a few days with the kids. It recharges all of us and we make great memories.

Now we're home and unforunately Clarissa is sick. She has a bad cold and has had a fever today, we've just been sitting around snuggling. Poor kid. We've managed to avoid most of the sickness that has been going around lately, but I guess our luck has run out. I'm hoping that it doesn't spread to the rest of the family.

Tonight we are restarting our book reading. I'm anxious to get back on track. So far we have read over 3,500 pages! Matthew alone read 1,500 pages in 15 days. He is loving all the reading and I love that he's so enthusiastic about it! We planned our first milestone celebration for 1,000 pages and we took the kids out to dinner at our favorite restaurant to celebrate when we hit it. We're going to have another party when we hit 5,000 pages.

Josh came home from school today and said that he has to choose a non-fiction book for a book report and he chose The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. That is my favorite book of all time so I'm really excited that he has chosen to read it! He has heard me talk about it a lot so when he was assigned a non-fiction book that was the first one that came to his mind. I'm always trying to get people to read that book so I'm super excited that he's old enough to read it now! I've been known to buy extra copies and hand them out to my friends and family. I love that book. I might read it along with him.

So that's what is happening here these days! I'm surviving January and lots of fun things have been happening.

Last call for the awards ceremony committee! Still no? Darn.


Saturday, January 5, 2013

O. Henry!

Here's a fact I recently realized. I read really fast, lol. I mean, I've always known that. I grew up with my nose constantly in a book and over the years I trained myself to read quickly. But I've never timed myself before. Now because we're reading for a timed hour a night I know exactly how fast I read. The past three nights I've averaged over 120 pages an hour and that's with occasinal short distractions, like stopping to make silly sentences out of words on the page with the kids. That's a handy skill to have but it means that I'm going through books really fast! I started my second book last night and finished it this morning.

The book I just read was called These Things Hidden. I have really wide taste in books. I kind of get on tangents. I read only non-fiction for a while, then I only want to read cheesy religious novels for a while and then I get stuck on autobiographies and then I go through a YA streak for a while...I read a little bit of everything. The last two books were both contemporary fiction that had kind of similar themes and I just noticed that a good portion of the books I put on my "want to read" are more of the same. I guess that's just the mood I'm in. My focus will shift when I burn myself out on them and I'll move on to another genre!

But I can see that I'm going though them too quickly so I decided that I'm going to take a break from them and read something less quick and light. It will slow me down just a bit, which is good because I can't keep coming up with a new book every two days.

So now I'm reading Selected Stories of O. Henry. I've been a huge fan of O. Henry for many years. His stories are so clever with such unexpected endings. I've read most of what he has written at one point or another but it's been a long time. I'm excited to get back into it.

We decided that for our Year of The Books we would do Saturday reading activities. Instead of our normal reading hour we will try to do something else book related like going to the library, finding books to donate, learning about an author, etc. We probably won't be able to come up with an activity every single weekend but I'm hoping to do it often.

So today I decided to make our activity O. Henry themed. We all piled onto the couch and I read The Ransom of Red Chief to the kids. That story is hillarious, I've always loved it! Then we ate ice cream and watched the 1952 version of the story that I rented from Amazon.

It was an awesome activity, the kids loved it! O. Henry is a great way to introduce kids to classic literature. The stories are short, generally easy to understand (although we did learn a few new  vocabulary words in The Ransom of Red Chief today!) and the twists at the end are really fun. We had a great time and I'm pretty sure I'll be pulling O. Henry out again for the kids again. There are a few others that I think they'd really like.

So week one of our Year of the Books is going great! The kids are enthusiastic about it, we're plowing through books and having a lot of fun family time. I love it!! :)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

One book down!

Tonight was our second family read night. We had fun, we read 330 pages (I know I said we weren't going to do a daily count, but it's still a novelty so we counted) and Josh fell asleep reading. New plan, we read earlier in the evening before everyone gets tired, lol.

I also finished my first book of the year. Yay! I read The Midwife's Confession by Diane Chamberlain. I won't give away much of the plot, but basically a midwife commits suicide and as her friends are cleaning out her house and trying to figure out why she did it they uncover all sorts of secrets.

I just finished reading it and I'm still on the fence as to whether I liked it or not. The first part dragged a bit and then there were all sorts of twists and turns that were interesting and kept my attention and then it ended rather abruptly, which annoyed me. I hate it when I'm really into a book and suddenly I find myself abruptly at the last page when there is still more story to tell. I need proper closure. This book left me with a bit too much "then what happened?".

So it wasn't the greatest book I ever read, but it did remind me that I love reading and that I have done far too little of it lately. Getting wrapped up in a book, even if it wasn't the perfect book, felt great and has made me excited to get started another one.

Which brings me to my new obsession!!! If you love books you absolutely must go there and sign up. You can make lists of books you've read, books you want to read, read reviews from other people and get suggestions based on the books you've already read. I went there last night and entered a bunch of books I've read and it compiled a list of books it thinks I'd like and it was pretty accurate in the choices. I came up with several books that I want to read and I'm planning to spend more time there exploring the suggestions and coming up with more ideas.

Normally I do my book browsing on Amazon but I had a lot of fun at Goodreads. I'm sure I'm going to be spending more time there!

They also have a book challenge where you can enter a goal of how many books you want to read this year and then you can keep track of them on the Goodreads site. I set a goal of 30 books. That was a random number, I actually don't think I'll have a hard time reading that many at all and probably could have set a bigger goal, but 30 sounded good to start. I can always adjust it later. I have a counter on the side of my blog if you care how my goal is coming along.

So that's where we're at with the Year of the Books. Two days in and we're loving it! Let's hope we're still loving it in a month! :)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The adventure begins!

We celebrated day of of the Year of The Books today! We all chose a book, got comfortable and read for an hour. For my First book I chose The Midwife's Confession by Diane Chamberlain, Shawn is reading The Confession by John Grisham (there is apparently a lot of confessing going on, lol), Josh read the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid book and Matthew is reading the third Big Nate book. Between the four of us we read 344 pages in an hour. I originally said that we'd have a party when he hit 1,000 pages, and I'm still sticking with that, but at this rate that will probably be by the end of the week, lol. After that I need to start making longer goals.

The boys also need to start reading books that are more on their reading level. Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Big Nate both have illustrations in them, which means the pages go by fast. They do have harder books, Matthew is actually in the middle of the Harry Potter series and Josh is getting ready to start a new series written by the Percy Jackson author. I'm not sure why they chose easier books for tonight, but for day one I decided to let it go, I was just happy we all managed to get this thing started.  When they get back to their bigger novels the daily page count won't be quite so high.

I tried to make it silly and fun because one of my children *coughJoshcough* isn't entirely convinced that he wants an hour of book reading to take over what used to be an hour of TV time and playing Minecraft in the evening. So every now and then we would stop and do something silly like announce the 15th word on the page we were reading and then try to make a silly sentence using everyone's word. I'm determined for the kids to not feel like this is homework. It's fun! :)

After we read for an hour we celebrated our first book night by eating pie. And for some reason we decided to talk in really bad Southern accents while we ate our pie and that made us laugh until we cried.

And that is the story of day one of the Year of the Books.

From now on we will not be doing a daily page count. We're not just counting pages and books read during our reading hour, we're counting any book that is read by us any time this year. I have assigned Josh to be our recorder, because there's nothing that kids loves more than charts and graphs (he gets that from his father, by the way), and we decided that every time we finish a book we will report the name of the book and the number of pages to him to keep track of. I'm hoping that we're all reading at least a book a week, but we'll see how it goes.

As far as how Clarissa fits into this project, well, that's tricky since she can't read. We did sit her down with some books and she looked at them for a bit and then she sat on the floor and played with her ponies. That's fine. We're not counting her pages at this point but whatever book reading she does is awesome. Some nights I'll probably sit and read to her during reading time instead of reading my own book. She likes to be read to, I read to her during the day and at bed time. I'll find ways to involve her in the reading project.

Here is a photo of us embarking on day one of our book journey! :)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


I was just sitting here and something came to me. It's January. It's January 1st and I'm not grumbling about it bring January yet. Anyone who knows me knows that I hate January. Haaate it. I start grumbling about January by mid December. It's cold, it's dark, it's long and there are no exciting present filled holidays. After all the fun of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, January is the month when all the fun is over, when winter stops being a novelty and when you just see a big long stretch ahead until spring. 

But today is January 1st and I was just sitting here excitedly thinking about what lies ahead for this month. I'm going to be restarting my diet on Monday (I need a few more days to clear the rest of the holiday food out of the house), I'm going to finally get my foot looked at so I can get back to exercising, we're starting our year of books tomorrow so tomorrow I will be choosing my first book of the year, and later this month we are taking our yearly January weekend getaway to Cascade where we will hopefully be playing in the snow and feeding some elk. 

As I was sitting here planning all the stuff we have coming up it occurred to me that I wasn't feeling cranky about January! Now, granted, January just started. Get back to me in two weeks and I may be singing a different tune, but at least for the time being I'm happy to report that my January grumpiness is being kept at bay. I'm not looking at the long dark month ahead with dread. I've got plans, I've got things to do. I've got books to read and a vacation getaway to plan. I've got weight to lose and miles to run and places to go and people to see. :)

In two weeks if I come back here and curse January like I always do, someone remind me of this post and them smack me upside the head, OK? I'm going to make it through January this year. I can feel it. :)