Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Book Review - One Thousand White Women

One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus

This book was lent to me by a friend and co-worker who has a similar taste in books. She's helped supply me with a number of books this past year and she's on a roll with some really great ones... and I hope they keep on coming. One Thousand White Women is the story of May Dodd's journey from an insane asylum to a Cheyenne bride. May's not insane, but gets placed in the asylum by her family when they don't approve of her behavior. May finds an opportunity to be free through a program where the government trades one thousand white women for one thousand horses with the Cheyenne Indians. Most of the novel documents her time with the Cheyenne and the other women who are with her.

I'm impressed with this book for a number of reasons, but the one that stands out the most is that the author, who is a man, does a fantastic job of writing from a woman's perspective.  It's a well told story with a message that spans all times. 

Grade: A+
Books read since the beginning of 2012: 6

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Brick Wall

My company is known for moving teams around from time to time. For the past almost two years I had this view:

And this:

It's a rarity to be able to look out onto a park in downtown Minneapolis. Not only did I get bathed in wonderful sunlight, but I was always a comfortable temperature. It was heaven.

Today? Today, I was moved back to a location appropriately known as "The Brick Wall" which has this view (that's a hotel btw):

Only I don't even get a window view anymore. I get the aisle. And it's cold.

And I'm going to have to learn the art of acceptance.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Kid's books

If you haven't noticed we are a family of book readers. I like my memoirs and historical fiction, Jesse likes historical non-fiction, and Riley likes... well, she likes kid's books. And as you can imagine we all end up reading kid's books more than anything else. Due to this I thought I would capture a list of our favorite books.

These aren't in any particular order and I'm sure I'm missing some of the 'greats'. This list is based on what my husband and I like, and what my two year old likes... and, of course, what we own. I intended to stop at 10 books, but as you'll see I wasn't able to. Hopefully, you'll discover some new books for your little one... and if you have any suggestions I would love to hear them. Enjoy.

1. The Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle

This is a new book for us, one that Riley just received as a birthday gift, and it is certainly a winner. I have to admit I get a little excited when Riley asks to read this as it is just fun to read.  Lots of rhyming and animal noises to make.

2. Llama Llama  by Anna Dewdney

We have three Llama Llama books: Llama Llama Home with Mama, Llama Llama Red Pajama, Llama Llama Mad at Mama . Our favorite is Home with Mama, but Red Pajama is a close second. This is another book that is fun to read due to the rhyming and range of emotion. Plus, Riley likes to spell out the bolded words.

3. Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton

We have many books by Sandra Boynton and most are winners, but this one has certainly been the most requested in the past. However, she just received Barnyard Dance for her birthday and requests I read it several times in a row so that may be her new favorite.

4. Brown Bear, Brown Bear By Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle

This book played a big role in Riley learning her colors. The language repetition in this book lends itself to kids being able to pick on on reading it themselves sooner than other books.

5. Mama, Do You Love Me? by Barbara M. Joosse

I picked this book up from Goodwill and wasn't sure how Riley would like it. I like it because it has a universal theme, and introduces some elements of the Native American culture. Turns out she really likes it and I love when she reads along and identifies things like the "Musk-ox".

6. I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rossetti Shustak

We've had this book since Riley was a newborn and it has almost always captured her attention. It introduces body parts and emotions through a cute little boy and his teddy bear. Plus, I find it heartwarming.

7. The Tooth Book by Dr. Seuss

When Riley was born, Grandma Suzie's co-workers each selected their favorite kid's book and presented them to Riley. They work in a dentist's office so it is no wonder that this book made it into the mix. Good story, good rhyming, good message... that is until the book encourages you to bite someone other than your dentist. Hmmm.

8. Jamberry by Bruce Degan

I have to admit I found this book to be nonsensical and a bit of a tongue twister at first. For example, here's what one of the pages says:
Raspberry rabbits
Brassberry band
Elephants skating
On rasperberry jam

Wha? After I stopped thinking about it so much and realized how kids would like the rhyming and the silliness (and I noticed how much my kid liked it) I fell in love with it.

9. Elmo & Friends First Look and Find by Sesame Street

Pretty much any 'look and find' book is a winner at Riley's age. For those not familiar, essentially there's usually a box with a bunch of objects that you search for throughout the page.  Riley has gotten really fast with this so we usually throw in a few different 'rules' to make it more fun. We have a number of 'look and find' books, but this was the first we obtained.

10. Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathman

Riley has had this book for some time, but doesn't seem to bore of it. As she's gotten older she's been able to identify all the animals, point out the balloon that's on almost every page (even when it gets super tiny), and wakes me up when I start snoring like the Gorilla at the end of the book. She really gets a kick out of that.

11. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

Riley enjoys finding the mouse on every page and for awhile 'playing' with the fire. I tried introducing the concept of 'hot' by touching the fire and making a burning noise, but instead of seeing this as a warning she found it hilarious. Like, 'I've never seen her laugh so hard' hilarious.

Ok, I can't seem to stop so here are a few more that we've really enjoyed.

I'm Thankful Each Day by P.K.Hallinan

Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow

Welcome to the Zoo by Alison Jay

Aaaarrgghh! Spider! by Lydia Monks

Eye Guess by Phyllis Limbacher Tildes

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A little bit of randomness...

I feel like there are a lot of happenings that have passed by recently so in attempt to get caught up I thought I write a post full of random moments. Plus I wanted a spot to show off some of these pictures.

~ Riley has been going to a music class each Saturday where she gets to listen to music, sing, dance, play instruments, and play with things like scarves (her favorite) and hula hoops. I feel awkward taking pictures there since there are a lot of other little kids, but Jesse was willing to snap off a couple of pictures to document the experience.

It's interesting to see her in this class as she is the one always in the middle dancing around while the other kids often sit in their parents lap or hang out on the perimeter. When I was a kid I was really shy so I imagine myself nothing like Riley in this sense. I'm glad that she's out there freely having fun and embracing the moment.

~ Before one of our music classes we decided to stop at a local park. It was a pretty cold day, but Riley didn't seem to care. I'm sure she was just excited to experience a new playground.

~ Riley has also been pretty obsessed with her sunglasses lately and even insisted on taking a nap in them one day. I guess I'd rather she'd do this than not want to wear them at all. She does look pretty cool in them.

~ We went to Toys R Us one day and found a new pimpin' ride. We didn't actually buy the Cadillac, but she did get the Nemo stuffed animal. It might be the only stuffed animal she has any interest in. She's just not a stuffed animal kid.

Besides the Cadillac there was a Mini Cooper for sale. Jesse happens to really, really want a Mini for himself so I think there was a moment where he thought he might live that dream through his daughter. Unfortunately, it was in a spot that we couldn't get a picture of her in it so we had to settle for the Caddy.

~ We had a terrible spill face first into some cabinets and ended up with a shiner. This is a few days later, but certainly bright enough that people were pointing it out. I'm just grateful it didn't break open.

~ First braid!

~ When I was little I had a Bert and Ernie radio that I loved and carried all over. It's broken and quite dirty now, but I still have it. Riley loves her Sesame Street characters' so I dug through all the boxes in the attic and found it in the very last one.

Ernie obviously has some 70's hair so my husband was concerned that it would freak Riley out, but after an initial "I don't want this" she embraced it and started carrying it around.

~ After reading a co-worker's blog I was inspired to get Riley into the kitchen to 'help' me. We made berry muffins and she was very helpful in putting the muffin liners in the muffin tins, then taking them out again, putting them back in, taking them out, flattening them out, dropping them on the floor... Such a helpful little girl.

Here she is making sure they taste ok before I put them in the oven. Mmmmm.... muffins.

~ And finally I bought bacon recently. This is quite newsworthy as I haven't had bacon in eons. A co-worker was talking about her recent cravings for bacon and all of a sudden it was all I could think of. I forgot how wonderful BLT's are.

~ Wait! This just in... Riley used the potty for the first time! 2/20/12 at 6:38 pm CST if anyone's keeping track. We got a potty a few months ago and showed her what it was, but haven't pushed her to use it. Every once in awhile I'll ask her if she wants to sit on her potty and this time she actually did something. Is it sad that this is one of the highlights of my life right now?

Monday, February 20, 2012

More Book Reviews

So I have been a little slack on these book review posts as I intended to write them more often, but you know... things get in the way. And when you don't sleep well for weeks it makes your brain mush and unconducive to writing. However, I think I am finally back on track (knock on wood).

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

When I grabbed this book off the clearance shelf I thought the title sounded familiar, but once I read the description I realized this was nothing I had heard of before. I was intrigued. Very intrigued. When I started reading I realized that what I had expected was way off. I thought I was going to be reading a book set in the 17 or 1800's. I mean between the description, the picture on the front of the book, and my set internal expectations I couldn't imagine these events occuring in modern times.

After talking with others about this book it appears that I may be one of the few who hadn't already known of this book so for those of you who are unfamiliar with the story it revolves around Offred who is a Handmaid. A Handmaid's purpose is to get pregnant by a Commander for his family since there has been an overall decline in births. Offred once had a family of her own, but it is now her duty to be a Handmaid. Times are different than they once were and everyone has a role to play to help the greater good which could mean that you were taken away from your family. It's messed up, but in a very thought provoking way. Read it. It's very much worth it. Oh, and there's a movie based on it as well.  Grade: A

On Agate Hill by Lee Smith

If you read my last book review you would have noticed that I recently read another Lee Smith book. However, On Agate Hill is completely different than The Last GirlsOn Agate Hill is set in the late 1800's after the Civil War. It revolves around ophaned Molly Petree and her journey through life in the southern United States.

The story is told mostly through journal entrees and letters from a variety of characters while always keeping Molly at the center of the story. Well written, enjoyable story. Sometimes I felt the author played it a little safe as I didn't feel as uncomfortable as I thought I might and yet this was sort of refreshing. Does that make sense?  Also she introduces Molly via a modern day character who grated on my nerves a bit, but she's barely in the story so I was willing to overlook it. Grade: A-

Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay

This book was lent to me reluntantly as the lender thought it might be hard for a mommy to read, but the content appealed to me so I took the risk. The book follows two stories set in France: one in current times and the other in 1942.

In 1942 the story follows a young girl named Sarah who was rounded up with other Jewish families by the French police. She locks her brother in a cupboard for protection, and promises to return for him. Sixty years later Sarah's story intertwines with Julia, a journalist investigating the event from 1942. An incredibly sad and moving story, and a reminder of the atrocious events that have occured in the past. Besides being well written this book will inform you of an event that most probably have little (if any) knowledge about. A movie was also made for this book. Grade: A

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Papa and Grandma's Birthday Party

My parent's birthdays are three days apart so each year we celebrate them together. Like last year we all gathered at my mom's nursing home which was nice enough to let us use their atrium for our spacious family.

Riley pulled these balloons around wherever she went. She wasn't about to let them out of her sight.

The newest member of our family, Rocky with auntie Connie.

I'm pretty sure LaRaa would have preferred that I didn't take her picture. Repeatedly.
And then post the one with her tongue sticking out, but I think she looks great. So there.

I finally got to met my nephew's son, Alex, who just turned one a couple weeks ago.
He's such a sweetie... and grandpa Jim has become a bit of a softie too.

The nursing home has this large bird display that the kids enjoy.
Here my brother, John, shows James some of the birds.

Alex with his momma, Jenny.

My dad was so worried about my mom looking at the camera that he never bothered to look either.
I gave up and just took the picture.

Rocky with grandpa Barry.

Doing the jig.

Alex tentatively reaching out towards auntie Angel.

My sister, Angel.

My mom after eating chili. She looks a little like a Mafia head honcho.
After all she is 100% Sicilian so it's probably in her blood.

My nephew's other son, James, with his purple monkey.

All in all it was another great party. Thank you to Judy for pulling this all together and for all those who were able to come celebrate with us. Until next year...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Riley's Birthday Party

I am happy to say that Riley's birthday and birthday party turned out fantastic. I wasn't sure it was going to come together after I had 3 weeks of sleeping issues, one week of migraines and body pain, and a long weekend of battling a cold. At least the stomach flu waited until a few days after the party was over to visit me. : )

Riley's birthday was on Thursday and her party on Saturday. I wanted her to have something fun to do on her birthday so I finished up one of the decorations/activities I had planned for her party and her grandma and grandpa came over. They brought her a few outfits including this cute sweater.

After opening some gifts we went into the basement to see her other big surprise... a room full of balloons! We have a room in the basement that is currently unfurnished so it seemed like a good spot to fill with 75+ balloons. I hung streamers with balloons attached in the doorway for fun and to keep the balloons from wandering out of the room.

Ahh, the first look. Absorbing it all.

And then jumping right in.

Balloons flying. Hair electrified.

Attacking grandma.

Needless to say she enjoyed the room of balloons which is a huge turnaround from her first birthday in which there was one balloon and she freaked out.

I must say that I have to give a big shout out to Pinterest where I found a lot of great ideas and to my husband for assisting me - especially in blowing up most of the balloons.

Riley loves books so we decided that a book themed party was right up her alley. I made invitations which doubled as bookmarks and encouraged guests to bring books (instead of toys) as gifts.

The other side had a picture of books and the party details of where and when.

On the door you will see all the pictures from the post I did on her birthday. I never got around to taking a picture with all the food set out, but we served fruit, veggies, cheese and crackers, sloppy joes and cupcakes. Pretty simple. I made the tissue balls and used Riley's books to help display the food.

I found this yarn balloon idea and thought it would be so fun and easy. Truth be told they took longer to make than I expected and if you don't get the glue mixture right you may end up with some soft balloons. You can't tell it, but about half of those balloons are a little unstable. But I am still happy with them and Riley seemed to think they were pretty awesome.

I even moved her table to sit under the balloons and she now has a newfound interest in her table. She's always loved sitting at it, but it's amazing how you can move something to a different location and a kid is all over it like it's brand new. Now she wants to eat at this table like grown ups do.

I was inspired by a variety of sites to make these cupcake toppers (like here, here, and here), but most seemed to be purchased or elaborately made and I decided it would be easy enough to make them myself. Just a little copy and paste, print, glue, and they were finished... ok, maybe there where actually a few more steps in there, but they were super simple to make.

I had recently been taking a lot of pictures of Riley reading in her room so this seemed like a good way to display them. The crowns she received at daycare after two different days of celebration. What a lucky kid.

I decided to decorate these closet doors in the balloon room at the last minute. Riley's favorite part was the '2'. Speaking of the balloon room we headed downstairs after eating and spent some time playing with our friends Grant, Olivia, and Michael.

Drunk on balloon.

This kid could spend hours in the balloon room  and probably has racked up many hours over the last week. Since then she has insisted on going downstairs everyday to play with her balloons. She's going to be greatly disappointed when the last balloon is gone.

She spent a lot of time throwing a balloon around with grandpa Frank.

With her uncle and two of her three papa's that were there that day.

Once everyone was wiped out from running around with balloons it was time to sing 'Happy Birthday' and eat some cupcakes. I made confetti cupcakes and frosted half with chocolate with chocolate chip frosting and the other with vanilla frosting and star sprinkles.

Enjoying the chocolate with chocolate chip frosting.

Once she ate the top off the first cupcake she informed us that she wanted another... and then ate the top, or the frosting, off the second one. Check out those dialated eyes.

After grubbing on cupcake it was time to open presents. Once she opened her first present (coloring books from grandpa Frank) I wasn't sure that she wanted to open more since she was so excited about that one, but she quickly understood that there were additional, equally awesome gifts to open.

All in all it was a fantastic birthday party and now we have a ton of super cool books to read. Thank you to everyone for making it a special day for Riley.