January 28, 2012

Water For Elephants Book Review

I'm going to start kind of new thing on here. Mostly for my benefit. So, I guess you'll just have to suffer through it!
My Monday's will be spent on book reviews.


A few weeks ago I wrote that I had finally started reading again. Not that I couldn't read... it's just that I never made time for myself to read. And, by reading, I mean real books. Not just magazines, or cookbooks, or other people's blogs.

Real books.

It's been wonderful to lose myself in stories again.
But, the problem is, I'm losing myself in stories again!
I just can't seem to win...



One of the very first books that I chose to read was "Water For Elephants".
There are a few reasons why I chose this book. First, some of my other friends had read the novel and told me how much they loved it. Secondly, it's been on the NY Times Best Seller List for quite some time. Third, our 7-Eleven Red Box had the movie in stock. Is it just me, or does it seem that Hollywood instantly makes movies out of every best selling book that comes along?

If you are interested in reading this novel, you can go to Amazon and buy it there.

The story is that of a depression era circus. The main character is Jacob Jankowski, a young Polish boy, who is studying to be a veterinarian at Cornell. A horrible accident lands him without a home, family, or job. In his time of grief, he literally stumbles upon a circus train. And, as the hands of fate would allow, this circus family will force him to make choices that will change his life forever. It's a story that deals with the harsh realities of this time in history. Animals and people are hardly treated any differently. And, yet, it's a story of a young man that realizes this and tries his hardest to hang onto good and persevere.
I have to admit, this novel had me gritting my teeth in several places. Even though this is a work of fiction, you get the feeling that not everything is fictitious. And, I would definitely say that this book is for readers over the age of 18. No way am I letting my little Joanna read the story yet.



And, just to save you some time, I would advise against watching the movie if you decide to read the book. I was severely disappointed by the screenwriting and, although the actors/actresses did a fairly good job, they just didn't seem to quite catch the circus magic that the book held.

I give this book **** stars. It was a good work of fiction that made the characters come to life in a magical way. It held my interest in the historical descriptions given. And, more than anything, I've come to realize that I like happy endings.

January 19, 2012

24 Hour Visit...

My family (meaning my brother Roger, his wife Brenda, and my mom) made a whirlwind trip this past weekend to visit us.



There was a bunch of tickling going on. In between football games, of course.



There were babies to be held and "oohed" and "ahhed" over. Sorry mom, you came out a bit blurry in this picture. Guess I need to work on that...



Maggie found Aunt Brenda to be especially snugly. I think Maggie might have gone back home with Aunt Brenda if she would have offered!



Their trip was twofold, really. They came out to visit us. But, the main reason for their trip was to deliver to my parent's old dining room table and china cabinet to our house.

Since my brother has a big truck and his own trailer... well, he was gracious enough to offer to bring the furniture out to us. I really can't seem to find the words to thank them enough for doing that. It really meant so much to me.



After they unloaded my mom's furniture, then they loaded some of our stuff to take to mom's house. Thinking back on that, and noticing now all the room there was in the trailer, I probably should have tried to send back more stuff!!!


We ended the day with some pizza and games with the kids.



I'm not sure who won this game, Ben or Uncle Roger. It might have been a tie...



Sunday morning they had to get on the road back home. We were sad to see them go, but happy to get in one more picture before they took off!



Good-bye Uncle Roger! Good-bye Aunt Brenda! Good-bye Grandma!!!!
We miss you and hope that you find your way out here again soon!

January 16, 2012

"Say Cheese!"

I have some friends who have suggested to me that I try this I Heart Faces thing.
I suppose, if anything, it will help me to use my camera more on all these little people running around my house.

This weeks photo challenge is Family.

And, although I have about a gazillion pictures that I could have entered, I chose this one....




This picture clearly captures what life is like in our house when you try to corral kids for a group picture.... CHAOS!
Not to mention that it was also Easter Sunday and the children were tired, and jittery from too many jellybeans.

January 13, 2012

Two Inches...

Two inches of snow is what the weather man was telling me to expect just a few days ago.

Only two inches of snow....


Well, Wednesday morning we awoke to the sound of snow blowers outside. I said, "Why would people be using their blowers when we're only supposed to get a few inches of snow?"




Obviously, there was a little bit more snow than just the two inches I was promised.
We maybe ended up with 5 inches of snow. Not a big deal, right?

Not a big deal unless you have a drive a big ole' van all the way across town for piano lessons.

We tried to do it, but ended up turning around and coming back home. The roads were not plowed (I think that the city of Denver has decided to hide their snow plows until winter is over with...) and they were super slippery.
Totally not worth us driving into a ditch or hitting another car.

And, that was just fine by the children.

When we arrived back home there was a scramble to get coats, jackets, snow pants, mittens, hats on...




So that they could get out there and shovel!!! Yes, shoveling snow is still fun when you are a little boy.




Sam, Nathanael, and Ben shoveled our driveway. And then they proceeded to go up and down the block, shoveling all of our neighbor's driveways too. Nobody asked them to, they just did it of their own accord. I was real proud of them for doing that.

I'm thinking that maybe they might be ready to take on the task of shoveling driveways for other people to earn some money.
I write that with a bit of consternation.
My little boys are growing up....


But, no matter that it's still January and we're still in the midst of Winter.
I'm starting to have visions of Spring.



Robins in the trees....






... and seed catalogs in my mailbox!

January 10, 2012

Fresh Air

We live just a block away from an awesome "Open Space" area.

Open Space. As in, park. Or trails. Or prairie dog habitat.
You choose one. They all fit.
So, yes, that's what we call it in Denver. "Open Space."

I know all you Midwest folks are laughing at us right now. Go ahead...


Anyway, this open space area was one of the reasons why we wanted to live in this neighborhood.
It's a great place to walk your dogs or kids, ride bikes, or go running.
Unfortunately, I feel like we don't always utilize it as much as we should.

Yesterday was a beautiful day out, even though we still had snow on the ground.
We went for a walk at our open space.



On our way down the hill, we came upon a bunch of geese just sitting around in a field. The kids looked at me. I looked at them. Then I said, "Go for it!" and off they ran to chase the geese.
I don't know why that is so fun to do, but if I didn't have Renata strapped to my chest, I might've been right out there with them.



This is the trail we were on. Muddy and snowy and messy. But, it was too nice of a day not to get out there in it.




We saw evidence of some beavers, but haven't actually ever seen them. Maybe this summer we'll be lucky enough to see the little critters.



On our way home we stopped to feed some ducks. They were waddling around in the puddles, just being cute. We ran out of bread fast though, they were hungry. Next time we'll have to bring more.


The sun is shining bright again today, but I don't think it's supposed to last for long. I heard there was more snow on it's way!

January 9, 2012

Weekend

What did you do this past weekend?

We watched football.
Well, we did a few other things too.
But, we mostly watched football.

The Detroit Lions were in the playoffs again. Something that hasn't happened in many, many years. That was pure excitement for the boys in my house.
The Denver Broncos, our home team, were in the playoffs too. The boys are fans of Tim Tebow, so we had to watch.

The Lions started out strong, but ended up totally stinking. They lost. Another season done for the year, but at least the Lions football team is improving. A loss in a playoff game is way better than going 0-13 like they did a few years ago.


Watching the game exhausted Maggie. She fell asleep on our bed with dreams of next football season lingering in her head....



We knew the Broncos were going to have a favorable showing just by the sunset this past Friday. Blue and Orange.

All I can say is that watching the Denver Broncos and Tim Tebow play has sure been exciting this year. And, I don't really care if Tebow is a good quarterback or not. He's generated an excitement in the city that even people who don't like him can't deny.

GO BRONCOS!

And, watch out Tom Brady. We're coming for you next!

January 6, 2012

Chasing Rainbows

Okay. Since Monique asked what book I decided to read first, I'm going to let you all know. (And, a big thank you to Monique for actually reading my drivel! I sometimes think I'm talking to myself on here. Which is normal, by the way. You know. Talking to yourself. I'm not the only one who does that, right? RIGHT? Anyone??? ahem... sorry.)

Because I didn't want to be a total failure in my first attempt at this whole reading thing, I chose wisely.
Which means two things.

1. I chose a book that didn't have a ton of pages

2. I chose a book that was free on Kindle.

My reasoning was, if I did disappoint myself then at least I didn't shell out any bucks doing it.


If you go to Amazon , there you will find the book that I tackled first. And, you don't even have to pay anything to read it!

I suppose I should also add that I chose this book because of the storyline. A character who has recently lost her father, dealing still with grief from her baby dying years ago.... it seemed like we had a few things in common.

I found the main character, Bernadette, to be hilariously funny. And sad at the same time. This book takes you along on her journey to rediscovering just who she is and what it means to really live life. The characters are quirky, a quality that I find endearing. I had a hard time putting this book down. I found myself making excuses to feed Renata just so that I could sit and read another chapter. And, it was a super easy read. I think I finished it in 3 days, which is astonishing for me.

You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll cheer for her to pick herself up again.

If anything, this is a total chick book. But, every now and again, it's nice to read a story that doesn't make your brain hurt!


Read the book. Then tell me what you thought. I'd love to hear it!

January 5, 2012

Land of Enchantment


A few years ago we received a Norman Rockwell print entitled, "The Land of Enchantment." The picture shows a boy and girl, lying with their bellies on the floor, totally engrossed with reading a book.
If you didn't know better, you could mistake that little boy and girl for any one of our children.

Our kids love to read. They devour books.
This Christmas, one of the main items on almost all of the children's wish list was books.
As if we don't already have thousands of them spilling off every available shelf space in our house...

I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Adrian and I were both avid readers when we were little. I can remember spending hours, lying on my bed and reading. Adrian's family tells stories of him, lying on the couch with books in hand, oblivious to everything going on around him.

A good story finds you not being able to put the book down.
A good story can make you laugh out loud or send tears streaming down your face.
A good story stays with you and is not easily forgotten.
A good story captures your heart and mind.

That being said, I haven't read anything other than children's books or books for school in a very, very long time.
I had this grand idea, as of late, to form a book club. Something, I believed, that would force me to sit down and take the time to read again.
I was super excited about it, until I started to panic.

Who was I kidding? I haven't read a novel in forever! The thought of a book more than 100 pages terrified me. Plus, where was I going to find this "extra time" that has always eluded me before?

My eleven year old had a great idea for me. She suggested that I download the Kindle app for my phone. Why hadn't I thought of that earlier?
I think it's because I've been a little suspect of Kindle.
After all, it's not a real book.
But, since almost everyone I know received a Kindle for Christmas, it seemed like a decent proposition. At least I'd be up to date on my techiness.
Yes. Techiness.
Because I am usually very un-techie....

Anyway, I did it. I downloaded Kindle onto my phone.
I downloaded that app to bring reading back into my life.
I downloaded that app to prove to my eleven year old that I was still with it.
I downloaded that app because there are free books. Who knew?

And my life has not been the same since.

I'm behind on my laundry, who knows what we're going to eat for supper, and when my children ask me a question they are sometimes met with an absent "uh huh" from me. Because I'm attached to my phone screen.
But, I'm reading again.
And it's pretty wonderful...

January 4, 2012

Time for Tea

Going to Tea

You're going out to tea today,
Be careful what you do;
Let all accounts that I shall hear,
Be pleasant ones, of you.

Don't spill your tea, or knaw your bread,
And don't tease one another;
And Fanny mustn't talk too much,
Or quarrel with her brother.

Say"if you Please," and "Thank you,"
Come home at eight O'clock;
And Ethel, pray be careful, dear,
And do not tear your frock.

Now mind your manners, children five,
Attend to what I say;
and then perhaps, I'll let you go,
Again, another day.

~Kate Greenaway





As you already know, we have four boys.
Four loud, busy, active boys.
So, when some of our friends offered to host the boys, all four of them, for a sleepover we almost jumped for joy.
Really.
I think I might have skipped to my van while they were skipping off with their friends.

I love the boys, but it's also refreshing to have a break from them occasionally.


That meant we only had five little girls at home.
Five little girls are much, much different than four little boys.

So, when I awoke from my most wonderful nap on Sunday afternoon, Adrian said, "I think we should have a tea party."
"Okay", I said.
"I think we should use the china, and a tablecloth, and maybe a five course dinner menu", was the response from my husband.
"Okay", I said.


So that's exactly what Adrian did.

He set out a nice tablecloth and googled how to set a proper table using china. 



He searched through our fridge and found all the tasty leftovers from the New Year's Eve party the night before and planned the courses.



He made placecards.All of this while wearing an apron and serving us ladies.





He made chamomille tea for Heaven's sake.







It was the best tea party that I've ever attended.
Even if we did accidently break some of our wedding china.

I love this man. And, I love his tea parties.

January 3, 2012

December Happenings....

Ooops... I did it again...

How can a whole month get away from me?

I'm going to blame it on my children and the fact that they I have to feed them every few hours or they become unbearable little tyrants. Or the fact that I have a laundry pile that, on occasion, can rival Mt. Everest and then I have to strap on the oxygen mask and climb to the top of it and whittle it down to nothing. Or the fact that Advent services were in full swing, with handbell and choir practices on the same day, so that most of the afternoon was spent in a mad rush trying to get to church with some type of dinner packed so that my sweet little darlings wouldn't turn into the aforementioned tyrants who I believe could overtake governments with their crying and whining selves when they are hungry...or tired. Which means that the time I wasn't feeding them, they had to be put to bed to sleep. Or, maybe it's the fact that I have a little baby in the house that is so darn cute that when I'm not busy feeding her I find myself cooing and gooing to her in the time that I should be spending trying to find the bottom of the laundry pile. It could be that when we're not running around the house like chickens with our heads cut off, we are out enjoying a few fun moments with our friends...Or, perhaps it's the schoolwork that I tried my hardest to keep going full steam ahead until the day or two before Christmas because the longer we take breaks from schoolwork, the harder it is to get started again. Whatever it was, the month of December screamed past.

Yes, I just made a bunch of excuses why I don't get things done around here. That felt pretty good. And I hardly scratched the surface!

Okay.... enough jabbering.


Sometime early in the month we went to the circus with our friends Terri and Jeremy and their three little boys. I don't even remember when it was now, because I can hardly remember yesterday.



It was the Picadilly Circus. A small little circus crew of interesting individuals. Let me just say that I would be surprised if they didn't have their own reality show on cable.


I couldn't get a very good picture, but there are two guys on motorcycles inside this cage of death. It was pretty impressive how they went round and round and didn't crash into each other. I'm pretty sure their mother's don't know this is their full-time job....



This is the Siberian tiger that we got to see for about 20 seconds. He was having a bad day and acted like he really wanted to get out of that cage and eat everyone around him.



There was a circus clown too. The kids thought he was pretty funny. I'm not sure about it though. Clowns are just kind of creepy...



This was another bizarro act. He was balancing on all these trays with some rubber ball underneath of him. I'm sure it's hard to do, but just interesting that this fellow had obviously spent hours and hours of his life to balance on top of a little rubber ball. But, it's the circus, right? So, I shouldn't have been surprised to see that the next act was just as crazy and weird...





This couple did tricks that you see ice skaters do except that they were on roller skates and their "ice rink" consisted of a space as big as a small trampoline. Yes. You read that right. How they didn't get dizzy and puke all over each other is beyond me. But, Terri and I concluded that this lady must have a great chiropractor.






This was the best part. Elephants. Not just any Asian elephant mind you, but ones that could sit on a tiny stool. Now that was impressive!




Later in the week, Titus did a little snuggling with Renata. He really likes to snuggle with babies on the couch. I think I might have a picture of him with each of the children in this very same position.



Another of our friends, Robin, made these adorable hair barrettes for the girls. I think she needs to open her own Etsy shop.




We had a lot of snow in Denver, right before Christmas, and that was pretty fun for the children. Even Annie got dressed in all her snow gear to enjoy the fresh powder.






Renata and I had another photo session before Christmas. She likes to pose for the camera I think. Smiley. Sassy. Stoic.




We put our Christmas tree up on Christmas Eve. Yes, it makes for a chaotic morning, but I really love doing it that way. The children are always super excited to decorate!



Our friends from Germany, Tim and Shannon, were able to be at church with us on Christmas Eve. That was pretty special. Their little girl is just a doll.

 Of course, lots of our other friends were at church on Christmas Eve as well. These two are nothing but trouble I tell you..... TROUBLE!



Our family Christmas picture. Adrian thinks we all look a bit scary. Regardless, we're all accounted for and somewhat looking in the same direction.





Our wedding anniversary is two days after Christmas. The children had been planning on making us a nice breakfast meal for weeks. Joanna even made a list, with all their  duties on it, and then had them sign it. This was serious stuff.
So, the night before our anniversary, Adrian posted the list on the hallway wall and reminded them that they all had signed it! Sure enough, in the morning, we were greeted with pancakes, bacon, smoothies and fresh coffee.
Our kids are pretty great.


  Our friend Dixie made this. I think she could open her own Etsy store too.



We ended the month, and the year, with a little party at our house. Everyone from church was invited and we had quite a crowd! It was a perfect way to end the year, being surrounded by our friends that we love and care about.


May each of you have a prosperous and blessed New Year!!!!