May 9, 2015

If you need me, I'll be doodling.

I got an email a few weeks back from my Internet boyfriend- Eric. He was reaching out to blogging moms to see if we wanted to review a new book by the same ladies who wrote these amazing board books. How could I say no?

Yesterday this beauty came in the mail:

It has been available from Gibbs Smith since August of last year. You can order it directly from the publishers or hit up Amazon. If you're housing a doodler, or happen to be a doodler at heart yourself, especially one with a penchant for classic literature, I highly suggest it.

I REALLY wish I could post pictures from the inside of the book, but alas, they are not readily available and my scanner is on the fritz. But given the opportunity to color Netherfield Hall, draw a new hat for Anna Karenina, The Hound of the Baskervilles hanging out on a cliff, Queequeg's tattoos, stamps for Mina to put on her letters to Harker, hats for The Mad Hatter, or weather vanes for Wuthering Heights, who can resist?

Jennifer Adams and Alison Oliver did an amazing job on the drawings and ideas in the book. There are quite a few pages for you to fill in with your own doodling, some simple crafts, invitations for themed parties, places you can write stories, and lots of pages that tell you to make multiple copies. The pages are perforated so you can pull them out and share one book between multiple children.

That said, I'm not entirely sure I'm going to share this one with the FarmHands. I like it too much. Do moms really have to share? Perhaps I'll stash it away for those rainy days during Summer break when the natives get restless.

May 3, 2015

So, I'm not dead. There's that.

I can see how you'd wonder as I've been missing from the face of blogdom since November. As I stated in my last post, I've become a bad blogger. For this I am sincerely apologetic. I'd like to make campaign promises about how I will write more, how I will connect with my blogging buddies more frequently, how I will address the real issues of race and climate change and the economy, but in the end it would all be lies- much like actual campaign promises.

Instead I will fill you in on the high points of our life.

Husband has decided to be a hog farmer. If we are Facebook friends you've more than likely had an invite for a hog farm page sitting in your inbox for months. That's us. Pig people. To be entirely honest, I'm not real thrilled with this entire idea. We've had pigs before and they are not my favorite critters. The smell is atrocious- especially come a humid summer day. The mud and rutted up pens I could entirely do without. They are fun to watch though, and I don't think I even need to mention bacon. So we'll see if the benefits outweigh the stench.

We currently have (and look at me being all knowledgeable about hogs) 2 full blooded Berkshire gilts (those are females who have yet to have a litter), 2 Berkshire/Hampshire cross gilts, 2 Hampshire/Yorkshire cross gilts, 1 full blooded Berkshire barrow (a castrated male raised for meat), and 1 full blooded Berkshire boar (an intact male used for breeding). Berkshires are a heritage breed that are "vulnerable" meaning there aren't that many of them around. Their meat is marbled much like Angus cattle. In fact, I found a website that sells 1.5 pounds of Berkshire bacon for $25. So I'm waiting and hoping for some really good bacon.

As there are only 15 days of school left (not that I'm counting), we're gearing up for summer break. We've got BabyGirl's 8th grade graduation (I am so not prepared for this and for what it means is coming), 4 birthdays, 2 kids going to camp, Husband and #1 Son gearing up for a week long mission trip to Montana, and Art's wedding to attend!! Yup, my very dearest friend is getting married the day after my oldest son turns 12. I'm over the moon excited for her. I adore her fiance (known around these parts as Stoffer) and his daughter and I cannot wait to see how their families blend.

But bigger and better than all of this: Princess had her baby! PG (Prince Grumpy- per his mother) was born far too early for this auntie's taste. Princess's water broke early February 2nd and I went into a near panic. She wasn't due until mid March. After too many hours, a lot of prayer, and a good dose of pitocin, PG finally made his appearance very late that night. He was a tiny dude but was breathing on his own from the get go. He spent close to 2 weeks in the hospital (most of that in the NICU) but grew like a champ and got to go home with no real issues.

This Auntie only got to peek at him through the windows of the NICU the weekend after he was born but has yet to lay hands on him. I'm counting down the days to Art's wedding because that means I get to see PG in the flesh. HT tells me his brother is doing "dang good" and that he can't talk yet.

In the middle of all of this excitement, QM had a brief but nasty case of the shingles. She spent the better part of a month in bed, fighting pain. Daddy came up here to finish work on a cabin he & QM have put in at Busha and Bucka's house so QM has somewhere to stay when she comes up to help out. Bucka isn't in great shape. His mind is going and he can't get around very easily. Busha is worn out trying to keep up with him so QM will have to spend a lot more time up here in the future. They bought a shed back in September and had it put in Busha's yard. Daddy, Husband, and I have spent quite a bit of time framing in a bedroom and small bathroom, insulating, putting up paneling, painting, putting car siding up on the ceiling and flooring down in the entire thing. It's looking good and I can proudly say I now know how to wire an outlet.

November 10, 2014

A post that isn't about books or grief!

I realized today that I haven't written anything other than book reviews in months. Months. Do you know why?

Because Facebook.

Facebook takes all my funny stories and condenses them to tidbits and sends them out to what I believe is  a much larger audience than this blog I rarely inhabit these days. If I post something on Facebook it has the possibility of reaching 731 people (yes, I am friends with everyone I've ever brushed elbows with). If I post something here, it might reach 30 of you....if there are still 30 of you out there....which I doubt.

I am a bad blogger.

But today I want to share good things. Only good things. Good, funny, happy things. And possibly a few mildly inappropriate things.

First of all, Bitsy has learned to curse. It's an important step in the life of a 7 year old girl. We are trying to be, wait....that's not how this story goes. I'll try again.

Bitsy learned to curse. Accidentally.

I was doing whatever it is I do in my free time (ha, ha, I have free time) when the boys start shouting, "Bitsy is cussing! Bitsy is cussing!"

Bitsy immediately jumps to her own defense. "I WAS NOT!!!"

"Yes you were!"
"No I wasn't!"
"Yes, you were!"
You get the drift.

Eventually I stepped in and asked what she said. "She said the 'D' word, Mom," #1 Son tells me.
Again, Bitsy jumps to her own defense, "No I wasn't cussing. All I said was 'dammit.'"
Um. Well. "Bitsy, 'dammit' is cussing."
"But everyone at school says it."
Yes, we're sending our daughter to a progressive school where the staff randomly spew obscenities at the second graders.
"It's still cussing, Bitsy."
*Cue hysterics*
Bitsy falls to pieces- sobbing, bawling, weeping and gnashing of teeth.
"It's OK, honey. Just don't do it anymore."
More weeping and sobbing and a final collapse into her bed until she has the strength to once again face a world where she has done the unthinkable.

New story- We placed our membership in the church we've been attending since July. I am very happy with our decision. I am very happy with where I believe God has placed us. The church has accepted us with open arms, and hymn books (they made me song leader 2 Sundays a month after our second month in church). The kids are loving their classes and youth groups. BabyGirl and I have joined the Christmas Choir. I no longer have to drag myself out of bed on Sundays. I no longer silently hope for a headache that renders me unable to make it to church. I want to be there and I haven't felt that in a long time. I know that's not entirely our old church's fault. Most of it is, infact, my fault. My attitude was not what it should have been. A fresh perspective and certain unhealthy bonds being broken have helped greatly.

On to other things- BabyGirl is in the midst of her last year as a cheerleader. It's bittersweet. She's come into her own. She's enjoying herself and is discovering her leadership abilities as co-captain. I'm proud of her. She's even made the honor roll for the first time in her junior high career. She's struggled since starting 6th grade. It's nice to see her succeed and  be proud of her own accomplishments.

The best news of all is getting stuck in the middle- Princess is expecting again! We all assumed HT was going to be a singleton so it was a huge surprise when he came into QM and Daddy's wearing a t-shirt that said, Only Child: Expiration Date- March 2015. On Halloween she found out baby #2 is going to be a boy child as well. Now I just have to think of a bloggy name to give him. I asked HT if the new baby was going to be awesome like he and I are. "That depends on if the baby can do cool things." Apparently we do cool things.

Speaking of the new baby- Bitsy and I were discussing grandparents and grandchildren one day. She has a perfect grasp of who her grandparents are and why they are her grandparents. The idea of grandchildren is (apparently) much harder to understand. "What is a grandkid?"
"It's what you are to Grammy and Pa. Grandkids are your children's children."
"So I am Grammy and Pa's grandkid?"
"Aunt Princess's new baby will be your grandkid, right?"
"No. It will be my neice or nephew." (This conversation was pre-ultrasound.)
"Who are your grandkids?"
"I don't have any."
"Ohhhhhh, but you'll have them when I- IF I- have kids."
Bingo! The emphasis on "if" made me a bit nervous, but at least now she realizes my nephew isn't going to be my grandson.

And finally, for a bit of Ewwwww and PDA. After church last night we had just finished herding the FarmHands in and attempting to get everyone settled in so they could watch Once Upon a Time before bed. Husband and I were in our bedroom/bathroom doorway when he picked me up, tossed me on the bed, and gave me a big kiss. BabyGirl, from the living room, yells, "I can HEAR you!" Her dad yells back, "So?!" She yells at him to shut the door while I'm laughing so hard I'm about to lose bladder control. He hollers back at her, "At least your parents LIKE EACH OTHER!" I'm pretty sure she'd been happier if we weren't on speaking terms at that moment.

October 15, 2014

It's the End of the World as We Know It.

About a million years ago I discovered the wonderful world of Quirk Books. I love them with all the fire of a thousand suns. Partially because they publish amazing and strange books and partly because they send them to me FOR FREEEEEEEEEEE (said in my best Adam Sandler from Bedtime Stories not judge me, I have small children).

The second book I read from the Quirk library was written by a man soon to become one of my all time favorite authors: Ben H. Winters. I've already reviewed the first 2 books in his Hank Palace/The Last Policeman series (I'd link to them, but a raging headache is making everything 85,000 times harder than it should be) and absolutely loved them both. The first book got me through The-Summer-of-Hospitalizations. The second helped get me through long, hard days spent lounging by the pool as The FarmHands splashed about. The third kept me up nights I should have been resting. It's a hard life.

I actually finished the latest a few weeks back. I've needed time to marinate in, meditate over, and all around savor this one.

World of Trouble by Ben H. Winters is the final installment in The Last Policeman series.

You can't help but fall in love with Hank Palace. There are wrongs in the world that have to be righted regardless of the fact that the world won't exist in just a few days. When the rest of humanity is hunkering down, going bucket list, or checking out early, Hank is traveling from Massachusetts to Ohio with his shady side kick Cortez, on a bicycle, hauling his newly acquired dog in a little red wagon, in search of his conspiracy theorist little sister (Holy run on sentence, Batman).

You can't help but hope for the the best for Hank and his baby sister Nico. You can't help but accept his optimism as fact. You can't help but know, deep down that everything is going to end well for them. You can try, but it won't work.

Will Hank find Nico before Maia collides with Earth causing life as we know it to end? Will Nico's conspiracy friends have one final, world saving trick up their collective sleeve? Will Cortez bean him in the head with a maglite for the last can of pork 'n' beans?

That's basically where this review has to end for fear of spoilers, sweetie.

Just trust me on this- if you haven't started the series at all, go to Amazon now and order all 3 books. It will be easier than finishing one and waiting for Amazon to ship you the next. Better yet, get all 3 on your e-reader and skip the shipping process all together.

August 27, 2014

And now I'm scared of big box furniture stores.

Do you remember Eric? My Internet boyfriend in publishing? The one who sends me books that I read and then send you all flocking to Amazon to purchase? Well, he struck again.

This time he sent me one that has prevented a decent night's sleep since I finished it. Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix is a strange mix of Ikea knock-off catalog, workplace satire, and haunted house ghost story.

According to the Quirk Books website, "Something strange is happening at the Cuyahoga location of Orsk, the all-American furniture superstore in Scandinavian drag whose forward-thinking slogan promises 'a better life for everyone.' Each morning, employes arrive to find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans glassware, and vandalized Liripip wardrobes- clearly, someone or something is up to no good. To unravel the mystery, five employees are to spend a long dusk-till-dawn shift at the store, unaware of the darkness that awaits them."

The day it came in the mail I had to have my eyes dilated so I only got through about 1 chapter before having to give up what with all the light and movement and me looking like something out of a Japanese horror movie. Now I think it may have been a premonition.

This is one of those books that I really wanted to quit reading but couldn't. From the first, the layout of the catalog/novel intrigued me. Shopping while reading? Yes, please. But flipping through the illustrations quickly left me feeling a bit uneasy. Something just wasn't right, so I dove in and couldn't put it down. Heebie-jeebies abounded. And to be entirely honest there were about 2 pages I had to skim to keep from gagging (just remembering those pages makes my gorge rise).

The setting was meticulously mapped out (including an actual map which was a godsend for people visually inclined like yours truly). The characters were all relatable if often irritating- much like the people we all work with. The story was intriguing and unsettling. The illustrations, doubly so. The end result? I have never and now will never set foot in an Ikea (or Orsk, should they ever come into actual existence).

While Horrostor is available from Amazon for your e-reader, I highly suggest picking this one up in the physical form. The book hits shelves on September 23rd but is available for pre-order now.

July 27, 2014

Bringing Balance to the Force

You may or may not know that I am a bit of a geek.

I grew up on Star Wars and Indiana Jones. I love Lord of the Rings in all its forms (yes, even the Peter Jackson monstrosities). I could talk for hours about the fact that Firefly can never come back now that ____ and ____ are dead (spoilers, sweeties). I can Netflix the heck out of a season of Doctor Who, Supernatural, The IT Crowd, Heroes (except for that hot mess of a third season), and Torchwood. I get goosebumps when LEGO comes out with a new geek themed set. I have a stance on the whole DC vs Marvel thing (normally I find myself firmly in the Marvel camp, but I can't miss out on a good Batman movie, and Wonder Woman is my tattoo of choice). I could spend exorbitant amounts of money at and have an entire Pinterest page devoted to all things geekery. I can discuss the finer points of the Governor's psychosis and theories on Terminus while tweeting about Phineas and Ferb's Star Wars crossover episode. And that's without even scratching the surface of my John Hughes 80's film obsession.

But Husband? He's another story. A much simpler story.

You see, Husband is not a geek. Not even a little bit.

In fact, he'd never seen Star Wars until we were engaged. He can't sing along with School House Rocks. When I yell, "HEY YOU GUYS!" I'm never sure if he thinks I'm quoting The Goonies (which he has seen) or The Electric Company (which he hasn't seen). He falls asleep every time Doctor Who comes on. He leaves the room when we start quoting The Princess Bride. Last week he asked me if Monty Python and the Holy Grail was suitable for the children (to which I answered, "Wellllll.......for the most part......if you skip the entire Castle Anthrax scene," from the kitchen as I loaded the dishwasher).

The cause is not entirely hopeless. Like all red blooded American men he does enjoy a good superhero movie, but our taste in superhero movies varies greatly. He'll go see The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings with us, but has no interest in my rantings about why Jackson felt the need to drag The Hobbit out into 3 movies but leave Tom Bombadil out of  Fellowship entirely.

I don't think he understands how deep my love of Han Solo goes but when we had one of our last date nights he did agree that buying Cowboys & Aliens was a better move than picking up some rom-com. We will never go to SDCC together (even if it is on my bucket list) but he doesn't balk at my indoctrination of our children.

And the FarmHands? They run and play in the woods all day with their donkeys and horses and chickens.....but someone's always The Doctor, or a Stormtrooper, or Wolverine. I think it's a good compromise.

July 26, 2014


Today has been a struggle.

My emotions have been like an open wound- exposed with nothing to protect them.

BabyGirl is sick. School starts in 2 weeks. Today I took the three youngest FarmHands shoe, school, and grocery shopping by myself. There are storms rolling in and Bitsy has a recently developed phobia meaning we're in for a night of tears and a clingy 7 year old.

On the way home from town this afternoon a country song came on the radio.

I am Rosemary's granddaughter
The spitting image of my father
And when the day is done my momma's still my biggest fan
Sometimes I'm clueless and I'm clumsy
But I've got friends that love me 
And they know just where I stand
It's all a part of me
And that's who I am.

I've heard it many times before, but today it struck me hard. It's not a terribly emotional song, but today it left me raw and near tears.

This mess with Husband's family has me feeling on edge and isolated.

Changing churches after 18 years has me feeling unsettled.

School starting soon has me feeling anxious.

The kids I went to grade school with are celebrating their 20th class reunion this weekend and that has left me feeling nostalgic.

Art is having a tough month and that has me feeling homesick.

This afternoon I realized in just under 1 month we will come up on the first anniversary of Grandpa M&M's death.