And had the best birthday party at a kid firehouse. All the kids got to put on child-sized firefighter suits.
Piper found a different drummer and stayed in her civilian clothes.
Our church went to Whidbey Island for our annual church camp. It was the best church camping weekend yet, and it’s because we got a dorm room instead of a campsite. Denise didn’t have to set up the tent and everything else involved in sleeping in an area without indoor plumbing, electrical outlets, and real beds. But what really made it great was our time with friends, both for Dwayne and I, and especially for the kids. However, my camera seemed to only notice the kids. They were being extra fun.
The actual fort is always interesting.
Kyla ignored the stairs and found a cliff to clamber up instead.
I took the all the kids through some of the battlements. We spotted an enemy ship preparing to attack, so we fired our cannon to warn them off. (We would have sunk the ship, but the old artillery wasn’t that accurate.) The kids took turns lighting the fuse, but it was always Wesley’s job to load the barrel with small pebble cannon balls.
Then we’d count down from ten, and the kids would take cover in the hidey holes in the stone walls. After the big KABOOM, they would come running out to see if the ship was still there. We did this for a surprising long time.
The funniest moment was when I asked kids to grab their imaginary binoculars and Mabel got upset because we were out of them. I told her to check the other shelf for more imaginary binoculars and she was very happy to find more there. I am constantly amazed how their brains work. Or don’t work, as the case may be. (Yeah, I have a lot of Wesley stories coming up.)
Great weekend, friends!
Our oldest niece is heading to college, and she chose our state! Okay, it’s the other side of the state, but since that family lives in California, it is still several hundred hundred miles closer than our usual visits. So we trotted off to Spokane for a long weekend to see some of our favorite people.
Deborah and Esther are always up for anything. We got some extra time with just Esther on our first day there as everyone else was doing college stuff or had other plans.
We also got a lot of good time with Isaac, who being an adult now, can take Wesley on all the scary rides at the River Walk midway.
The tax we had to pay for getting so much Esther and Isaac time was that we only got to see Kara for a few minutes at a chaotic Sunday brunch before she had to head back to soccer practice on campus. And I never get enough Deborah and Dan time, but that will never happen with kids around!
The downside of a fantastic weekend was that Piper caught a virus before we left. It made her feverish and lethargic, but not horrible ill. When we got to Spokane, I ended up at a local drug store to buy Benadryl for her as well as a little umbrella stroller for our tired, tired girl. Her sensitive skin broke out in hives as her body fought the germs, which is not atypical for Piper. I kept dosing her as her hives got worse and she felt crummier and crummier. Finally, the morning we came back, I took her to Urgent Care, where she was seen pretty quickly. And where we found out that Piper is probably allergic to Benadryl.
All those teaspoons I gave her when her symptoms got worse, ahem, made her symptoms worse.
Sorry, Pipes. (But it is kinda funny.) The doctor have a strong does cocktail of something, advised that we try Zyrtec, and sent us on our way. Piper was feeling excellent when we started our drive home a few hours later. Sheesh.
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We also did the gondola over the river. Great views, but lots of long stops and it closes for most of the afternoon on a hot day so that no one dies of overheating in one of the cars!
Kyla has been quite excited about her garden. Technically, I weeded and planted it, but Kyla’s interest grew as mine waned and she has done almost all the harvesting. She’s been really excited about all the squash we’ve grown.
The best crop is the least edible—mini pumpkins. The girls each managed to carve their mini pumpkins with a butter knife. The lasted about 2 days before the mold made them extra ghoul-y.
I have no memory of why Dwayne took this day off, but we decided to make it into a family holiday.
Remlinger Farms is technically a farm but really makes its money off all it’s kid-friendly rides and attractions. Rides really aren’t Dwayne’s thing but I like them enough for the both of us. I thought Wesley, especially, would follow in my footsteps.
So we found the easiest ride around—the canoe ride. By yourself or with your sister, you can sit down in a canoe and let it float around a loop back to your mom and dad.
Wesley would NOT step into the boat.
So after running around the hay maze and exploring old mines, we eventually ended up near the roller coaster and Wesley ran right to the line and when it was our turn, took the front seat. No hands, shrieks of glee and “Again! Again!”. We ran from the exit right back to the short line. Three times in a row, my friends.
Eventually we went back the canoes and he happily got on this one:
The kid doesn’t have his fear priorities straight.
I could have stayed all day, but Dwayne was kind of done with the park and wanted to go see his friend who lived nearby. Next year, I’ll take the kids myself so I can play harder. I bet my mom will want to come!
28) Think Like a Freak, by Steven D Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner. With more than ten hours of flying ahead of us, we browsed in Hudson before boarding when I came across the latest by the Freakonomics authors. They are always worth reading and their writing paralleled some things I had heard about in other reading. I also had some tidbits at the ready for cruise small talk, though their ideas are bigger than that. Worth reading!
27) Uncovering the Logic of English: A Common-sense Approach to Reading, Spelling, and Literacy, by, Denise Eide.
The title may make you drowsy, but I thought this was an excellent book. It makes the case that the conventional wisdom of English being a language with more exceptions than rules in false because most of us simply aren’t taught correct rules. This book will be helpful both as a parent and an educator.
26) Fixing My Gaze: A Scientist's Journey Into Seeing in Three Dimensions, by Susan R. Barry. More vision therapy research. This Ph.D. had vision problems all her life and finally did VT in her 50s. Suddenly being able to see real life in stereo (or 3D) was her biggest surprise, but being able to drive at night was one of the ways her life improved. Very readable as a memoir and interesting personally as a parent (and daughter!) of those who need vision therapy.
25) Understood Betsy, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. I loved, loved, loved this book as a child, checking it out over and over again. One of my summer projects was to buy this book and read it aloud to my children. Wesley didn’t get much out of it, but the girls, especially, Kyla gobbled it up and had lots to say about it. It’s got two interesting themes going for it: what life was like on a farm long ago, somewhat like Little House books, and helicopter versus “cage-free” parenting, a theme I didn’t consciously notice 30 years ago.
24) The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. A bit Spanish, a dash Gothic, a sprinkle of horror and mystery, a fairy tale, all centered around a wonderful and rare book. The story itself is worth reading, but if you like to analyze literature through visual imagery, patterns, etc, there’s a lot there for you!
23) The Story Girl, by L.M. Montgomery. You may recognize this author of the Anne of Green Gables series (as well as other of my favorites). I began reading this aloud, but got the audiobook just before we left for Sunriver. It entertained all five of us for the entire book (several hours-yeah!) and there is still the sequel, The Golden Road, in store for us.
22) Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic + the Domestic, by Esther Perel. I heard her on NPR, probably, and then again somewhere else, a good reason to pick up any book. Her premise seems obvious, once you’ve read it—it’s very hard to have a romantic, titillating relationship while also being stable, respectful, and loving. Perel would say that jealously can make for great sex but a lousy marriage. It’s a book worth reading no matter what aspect of relationship you have.
21) Sister, by Lupton, Rosamund. Generally, I avoid contemporary fiction as I don’t find books that parallel my white, middle-class life interesting. However, we chose it for book club, and I like mysteries and this had a twist which I never saw coming (extra points!). But it still left me slightly unhappy. I want books to either fully entertain me by removing me from my world (like #1, 11, & 12 on this list) or give me new, interesting ideas. This did neither, but it wasn’t that bad.
20) Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to NOT Reading, by Tommy Greenwald. I picked up a bunch of books for our schools parent-led book groups, and this was one. It’s a fun read, and while meant to appeal to boys (and possibly girls) who hate, hate, hate reading, it’s pretty entertaining to bibliophiles to. It’s been fun getting back into YA (young adult) literature again—at least YA that doesn’t involve dystopia youths killing each other.
19) Ungifted, by Gordon Korman. I Gordon Korman. I -ed him when I was ten and discovered his I Want to Go Home, which I read under bedcovers dozens of times and was caught often by laughing so hard, and I him now because he is still writing great kids books 30 years later. Ungifted is a story about a boy who always, always does really stupid things. He has no impulse control but some sense of self-preservation. When he does his stupidest thing yet, the superintendent accidently puts him on the list of the gifted school, which he willingly goes to hide out until his latest prank is forgotten. It’s got heart and laughs—a good read for boys and girls, smart kids and others.
18) Julia Child Rules: Lessons on Savoring Life by Karen Karbo. Karbo writes biographies of famous women, and she’s okay. She makes lots of assumptions, such as they the reader wants to be Julia Child and is reading this book to discover the secret. I do know more about this famous icon now.
Peggy Orenstein wrote another book a few years ago that I loved (that somehow didn’t get written in this blog) called Cinderella Ate My Daughter. I really like how she takes topics relating to girls and women and examines them through many lenses. In both Flux and Schoolgirls, she looks across socio-economic status and race. Schoolgirls was especially alarming from a parent, teacher, and student perspective. Another reason to make a difference in the world.
15) When Your Child Struggles: The Myths of 20/20 Vision, What Every Parent Needs to Know, by David Cook. I will have lots more to say on this, as its very relevant to our life right now. It was a 90 minute read and I learned a lot about the difference between eyesight and vision. A really good hour and a half investment of time.
14) Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman. When we chose it for our book club, I was pumped because I loved his award-winner The Graveyard Book. This one was just as imaginative as Graveyard, but without any likable characters, a quality I can’t overlook.
13) Bellman & Black, by Diane Setterfield. I loved her debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale, and had this one on hold long before it was released. It was beautifully written, amazing imagery, interesting plot and yet not quite as good her first one. Like #14, the characters weren’t quite as engaging.
Yeah, judge a book by its cover. This trilogy (with #1 on the list that I read Jan. 1) is that awesome. Great characters, amazing adventure, plot twists galore. Ah, if only I can find far more books like this….well, I’d never sleep.
Rise of Empire, Vol. 2 (Riyria Revelations), by Michael J. Sullivan.
10) America's Women Four Hundred Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines, by Gail Collins. Her Texas book (#2 on the list) was interesting enough for me to download this title and listen in my quiet moments. Great information plus great writing style equals a wonderful listen. My current favorite statistic from the book is “in 1972, a woman with a college degree could make as much money as a man with an eighth grade education”.
9) When Kids Can't Read, What Teachers Can Do: A Guide for Teachers, 6-12, by Kylene Beers. The class I just completed was facilitated by Dr. Beers, who is completely unrelated to this Dr. Beers, but it caught my eye and I enjoyed reading the Kylene articles, so I found this book. Her failures in teaching are my failures, so her reflections and new methods resonated with me. I don’t think it goes far enough, but I will look this up again when I get closer to being back in the classroom.
8) The Penderwicks: a Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and A Very Interesting Boy, by Jeanne Birdsall. Read The Penderwicks. Listen to The Penderwicks. Wait for the movies to come out in several more years. Buy several copies and lead a 5th grade girls book club at your local school with it. Listen often with your younger children so they can be exposed to wonderful story telling. Yeah, I Rosalind, Skye, Jane, Batty, Jeffrey, and Hound.
7) Love, Ruby Lavender, by Deborah Wiles.
My kids’ beloved kindergarten teacher recommended this title to me after she read the Penderwicks and wanted to share one of her favorites. I love Ruby Lavender and want to be as wonderful as her grandmother someday.
6) The Wide Awake Princess, by E.D. Baker. From the author of Kyla’s beloved Tales of the Frog Princess comes the story of Sleeping Beauty’s little sister who is unaffected by magic, which is a fine twist. Unlike the Frog series, this one is not on audiotape so Mama gets to read it often.
5) The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, A Flavia De Luce Novel, by Alan Bradley. The sixth in the series, it might be the last. I love, love Flavia and the last book turned everything upside down in the very last sentence, and this book kept it going through the end. Supposedly, it’s even better on audiobook (from a reliable source, BFF Susanne) and I found the first two books on CD at Value Village, if anyone wants to try them out.
4) Love Does: Discover A Secretly Incredible Life in An Ordinary World by Bob Goff. He’s got a surreal life story but an even more extraordinary heart. It’s quick, but worth reading.
3) Read Right: Coaching Your Child to Excellence in Reading by Dee Tadlock. I picked up this book on the on a chance encounter who (3 degrees of separation) knew that Garfield HS in Seattle used this program for its struggling readers. When I began this, I had to vent in a document I called “Read Right notes—Stupid things it says that make me angry”. I did read the whole thing because it turned my brain (and a lot of my graduate work) on its head….pardon the pun. I’ll be gnawing on this information for a while, but I will give the author a D for unprofessional writing.
2) As Texas Goes...: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda, by Gail Collins. I’m not sure exactly why the title appealed to me. Maybe I need a boost in feeling Superior in Seattle while laughing at Texas, but it was a really fun audio-read. First it gave an insightful historical perspective of what being a Texan means, from the Alamo to the Empty Spaces paradigm. Then it gave several examples from financial deregulation, education, business, and global warming that “as Texas goes…so goes the nation.” I think the author began in earnest to be fair and even-handed, but by the end of the book, you could tell she was rolling her eyes. I’ll read more by her and try not to have nightmares about Texan presidents.
1) Theft of Swords, Vol. 1 of Riyria Revelations, by Michael J. Sullivan. Some of the final books I read and loved in 2013 were two prequels of a fantasy adventure genre. So I was really excited when the 650-page first volume of the actual trilogy came in just before Dwayne sent me to the cabin for a few days. I read it in less than 24 hours in a overstuffed leather chair in front of a cozy fireplace. It was the perfect book to read in the perfect setting. Think of it as a book along the same style as The Princess Bride, but one you would never read aloud to your children. (It’s a tad bit violent with magical dragon-weapons eating people gruesomely.) This books sets a high standard for fun reads for the rest of this year. Luckily, I have two more extra-thick volumes of this series to go.
As always, red denotes nonfiction.