Wednesday, October 20, 2010

books I read in September

1.  Dragon Haven (Rain Wilds Chronicles, Vol. 2) by Robin Hobb (book one mentioned here).

Dragon Haven (Rain Wilds Chronicles, Vol. 2)
While not a bad story, it's seems to be lacking when compared to the Farseer or Fool series by Hobb.  Maybe we have too many characters to get to as invested--but at least it's not as drearily bleak and depressing as the Soldier Son series.  It has all the elements of a good fantasy novel and she brings them together in a satisfactory manner:  dragons, outcasts, a quest, a forbidden love.    

2. Truthseeker by C. E. Murphy
 C.E. Murphy likes to weave the modern with fantasy:  her series The Walker Files is about a policewoman who suddenly that she has shamanistic powers, and her Negotiator series is about a lawyer who finds herself playing referee to the different races of the world (think dragon, gargoyle, selkie, etc.).  Along the same vein, this book is about a tailor who always knows the truth and is sought out by a prince of Fairie.  Satisfying read, good book, but I really can't see it being turned into a compelling series.   

3.  Thirteenth Child (Frontier Magic) by Patricia Wrede
Thirteenth Child (Frontier Magic) 
Juvenile fantasy novel set in an alternative pioneer world about a thirteenth daughter who has always been told she's bad at heart, and her twin who is the seventh son of the seventh son.  Vaguely reminiscence of Orson Scott Card's Seventh Son series, the story starts of strong but peters out towards the end.  Not nearly as good as some of her earlier work.

4.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The first time I tried to read this book, I got about 50 pages in and put in down because it felt too detailed oriented and didn't hold my attention.  When I picked it up two months later, I read it in about two days.  I'm excited to read the next books--my favorite character by far is the actual girl with the dragon tattoo, and she's a much bigger characters in the next series.  Summary:  Publicly shamed Swedish journal investigates the history of a wealthy family to search for a killer. 

5.  Summer House: A Novel by Nancy Thayer
Summer House: A Novel
The story of three generations of women and their loves--the grandmother and story of her relationship with her husband during WWII told as flashback, the mother who is struggling to forgive her cheating husband, and the daughter who is trying not to settle for a man.  While the writing was pretty strong and the characters engaging, there just wasn't quite enough to turn it from pretty good to great.  The character of Charlotte, the daughter, was especially one-dimensional and annoying. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Kashi Go Lean Crunch Cereal: The New Musical Fruit

If you do not think that passing gas is funny, then this is not the blog post for you.  You have my permission to go here instead and do responsible, grown-up things like checking stock prices.


Okay, if you're still reading, I'm going to presume you're like me and twelve year old boys:  We all think that farting is funny.

I've been trying to eat healthier.  I've gained five pounds since starting my new job because all I do is sit at a desk, work, and snack.  "I don't understand it," I complained as I scarfed down bags of M&M's and destroyed some double-stuff Oreos.  "Why am I gaining so much weight?"

I bought a big box of Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal in an attempt to not become a giant quivering pile of Jello, because you all know how I feel about exercising.

"It's healthy!"  I thought.  "It even has the word lean in the name!   This plan can't go wrong."

(insert evil laugh here)

Little did I know that Kashi Go Lean Crunch would better be named Big Tasty Bowl of Toots.  The first day I ate a huge bowl for breakfast.  Two hours later, almost to the dot, I had gas.  Horrible gas.  Like, quivering-to-hold-it-in-because-I'm-at-work-and-turns-into-one-minute-farts-when-I-can-let-it-out gas.  Luckily on the stinkiness factor, it was oddly odorless.    

Stupid me, I didn't make the connection the first day.  So I ate a huge bowl the next day.  The same thing happened.  I'm fairly certain my officemates hate me now, and I don't even have a dog handy to blame it on.

By the third day I started to figure out something was wrong.  My husband was worried about me and feared I was getting an ulcer because I would complain of a stomachache every afternoon (which sounds better than saying my colon hurts).

Mmmm!  Now with more flatuence!

I stopped eating the cereal, and lo and behold, my flatulence problem disappeared.  I've googled it and apparently it's quite a common problem.  There are web pages and blog entries like this one devoted to telling the story of Kashi:  The New Musical Fruit.  There are people who thought they had a serious medical condition until they found out that no, it's just their cereal.  There's one woman who describes how in attempt to be healthy, she ate a huge bowl and then went to her first yoga class.  Hilarity ensued.

The worst part about it is that it's quite tasty.  I would have happily used it as a snacking food along with eating it for breakfast.   I've even tried eating half a bowl, hoping that if I started off with small amounts, my body would get used to it.  My body most vehemently did not get used to it. 
When I told my family about this, they all 1) wanted to try it and 2) wanted me to give some to my brother.

Wait, what?  I guess it's like the reaction when you try something so horrible that you just have to share it--the "here, try this, it's gross" factor.

As for the second part, the males of my family are pretty naturally gaseous.  I grew up thinking that guys farted all the time.  Giving Kashi to my brother, Meat, would be like adding gasoline to a fire.  A very stinky fire.

Some people blame the chicory root, others the soy powder, and still others the vast amounts of fiber.  Whatever it is, I know that I shall no longer be eating Kashi Go Lean cereal.  I will close with this aptly appropriate link to an SNL commercial for a cereal called "Colon Blow".   

I guess it's back to double-stuffed Oreos for me.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

My first quilt blocks

I've finished 3 out of the 9 blocks for my first quilt.  I only have 2 more to do of this particular star pattern, then I switch to doing ones with a bunch of squares and rectangles. 

See my progress?  The first block I made turned out wonky.  By the third one, it's almost pretty.

I'm enjoying it so far. Strangely enough, I thought I'd be doing it with my sewing machine, but I wanted to be able to do something when I "watch" TV (I use that word very loosely as I tend to just listen to it).  So this small quilt is going to be entirely hand-pieced.

As I've mentioned, I'm learning this from a book.  I'm good up until the point where all of the pieces are put together and somehow, magically, it gets batting and backing...yeah, I have no idea how to do that.  The book wasn't quite clear enough for me.  I'm going to have to track down an expert or go to a quilt store and try and find a kindly person to help me out.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Defining the Mommy: Identity and Parenting

On a work retreat, we wrote down what we wanted to be when we grew up on a slip of paper, then we guessed who wrote what.  I wrote that I had wanted to be an author/illustrator, a marine biologist, a veterinarian, and a colonist on Mars.

One of my coworkers wrote that she had wanted to be mom and a midwife.  Every single coworker guessed that the mom and midwife was my choice. 

Not a huge deal, but this small incident got me thinking about my identity as a mommy.  Why did the people at work automatically equate me to motherhood, and not to anything else?  Admittedly, I was the only mother there--but there is another coworker who has babysat the same children for years and loves kids, and another whose predilections towards yoga and vegetarianism make her the perfect fit as wanting to be a midwife.

At work, I talk a lot about Mo-mo, but I also talk about Batman, my friends, my family, my pets, my hobbies, my interests.  I've had conversations with at least two of my coworkers about what we'd do if we won the lottery.  I said that I would still want to work at least three days a week because I love interacting and working.
There are amazing, intelligent, women who are able to find fulfillment in devoting themselves to their home and their family without working outside of the home.  I am not one of them.  I could do it, but I know I would not be happy doing it long term.  In some ways, I feel as if I have to apologize for that.  But I'm also quite proud of my achievements and never want to sell myself short for all that I accomplish.

If I define myself through my work, but my work defines me through my motherhood, who does that make me?

My office place is made up of mostly women in their 20's and 30's.  Very few of us have children.  The organization is trying to become a more welcoming place for families, so those of us with kids are the guinea pigs.  I've worked it out with my boss so that I come in early and I leave early and spend more of the late afternoon with Mo-mo.  If I work during an evening, I come in late so that I can at least eat breakfast with her.  My boss is both encouraging and supportive and wants to create a welcoming, family-friendly environment.

But how does this effect the way my coworkers see me?  Do they see a woman working hard at juggling it all, or do they just see the mommy always putting her child first?

I'm not going to pretend I'm not a mother.  I love Mo-mo too much and it is a big part of who I am.  Nor am I going to resist being labeled just a mom.  You know what?  A mom is an amazing thing to be.  There should be no "just" about it.

All I can really do is work hard and learn fast.  I'll continue to play the balancing game that all working mothers seem to do, and be proud of my accomplishments in both parenting and at work.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Picky Eater and the Battle of the Wills, Momma vs. Toddler

A lot of parenting seems to be fairly easy.  Keep them safe.  Tell them they're loved.  Expand their world.  

Then, of course, there are the parts that aren't.

I have a bonafide picky eater.  Not only is Mo-mo picky, but she doesn't let us feed her.  She stopped at 10 months.  That's right, as soon as she started on finger food, she absolutely refused to eat anything that we give her directly.  She'll clamp her mouth shut and start to scream if we are persistent.

Up until last week, we've been doing the bad-wussy-parent thing of giving her a special meal of things we knew she'd like.  We'd give her our regular meal first, she wouldn't eat it, then we'd give her things like fruit, bread, cheese, and peanut butter:  the staples of toddler life.  

This pattern is okay for a baby but not for a toddler.  And as much as I don't want to admit it, my daughter is old enough to learn bad habits.  And she's learning that if she doesn't eat what we give her, she just has to wait ten minutes and we'll give her exactly what she wants.  

I refuse to have a child who only eats PB&J at age seven, or who always gets a special meal made for her.  It's just not happening.

So Batman and I are being hardcore meanies.  She only gets what we eat.  We're cutting down on the snacks.  If she doesn't eat, we're not going to make a big deal out of it, but we're only going to offer her what we had for dinner.  

Let me tell you this:  it's hard.

First of all, she's so damn cute when she asks for "gapes" or "fish" (grapes and goldfish).  And it's so damn hard to change a pattern.  

Second of all, I worry about her weight.  She's in the 96th percentile for height and only the 25th for weight.  The pediatrician said to offer her higher calorie options of things, like adding cheese to broccoli.  (And yes, if you're curious, I did ask the pediatrician her opinion about this.  She said that it's better to clamp down and be strict now than try and do it later, when bad habits are firmly established.  And that Mo-mo will eat if she's hungry once she figures out she doesn't get anything else.)

This is especially hard because I was a picky eater.  My parents are divorced, and my mom and my dad had two very different parenting styles.  My mom let me eat whatever I wanted, and it was invariably chicken nuggets, taquitos, and the occasional bomb pop.  My dad made me eat whatever was for dinner.  I always had to at least try the food and finish the portion on the plate.

As I was growing up, I much preferred my mom's relaxed feeding style.  But as an adult, I understand why my dad was so strict.  

Being responsible?  No fun at all.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Lawyer friends.

Calling my friend Shortstuff:  
Me:  Hey girl!

Shortstuff:  Hey Bee!  I was just thinking about you.

Me:  Awww, that's sweet. 

Shortstuff:  Yeah, I'm getting the paperwork together to write up your will and your durable power of attorney forms in case of a health emergency.  So really I was just thinking about you in a coma or dead.

Me:  ...

Shortstuff:  Sorry, was that creepy?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Books I Read in cough cough cough

Here's the list of books I read in coughcoughcoughavoideyecontact August.  Yeah, give me a break, I know it's already almost October. Better late than never, I always say.

Unless we're talking about an annual swarm of killer bees.  Then I say better never than ever.

I have a platitude for every occasion. 

1.  Rat by Fernada Eberstadt
While not wildly intricate or complex, this story about a 15 year old French girl is nevertheless well-written with interesting characters and story plot.  When "Rat" finds out that her adopted brother is being molested by her mom's boyfriend and her mother doesn't believe them, she and her brother set off to England to find Rat's biological father.  I wish this novel was almost 100 pages longer, as the author occasionally changed character perspective, and I feel as if she could have done that more often and given the story a bit of fleshing out.

2. Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson
 Between, Georgia

By the same author of "Gods In Alabama", this novel is similar in the heavily southern story line and quirky set of characters.  Told in the first person by Nonny Frett, this book is about the ties of family, both the ones you were born into and the ones you create for yourself.  I'd definitely recommend this novel to people who enjoy  the "quirky and realistic" genre like authors Billie Letts and Joanne Mapson, and I'd love to read more books by this author. 

3. House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones

House of Many Ways 
 A sequel to Howl's Moving Castle-- so don't just start with this one (Howl's Moving Castle was actually made into a fairly decent anime film by Miyazaki of Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke fame if you're into that sort of thing).  Young adult fantasy fiction, not quite as good as the first but still fun.

4. The Perfect Poison (Arcane Society) by Amanda Quick
 The Perfect Poison (Arcane Society)
 Amanda Quick is the pseudonym for romance author Jayne Anne Krentz when she writes (and I use this word incredibly loosely) "historical" romances.  It's a junk food book:  comforting, you know exactly what to expect, but no real substance.  This is one of the Arcane Society books, which revolves around a secret society of psychically talented individuals in regency England (and you can read about their descendants in some of her novels under the name Krentz).    

5. Digging to America by Anne Tyler 
Digging to America 
 This is a story of two very different families who adopt babies from Korea, one of typical white-bread Americans and one of Iranian-Americans, and it deals with issues of identity and outsiderness.  It focuses mostly on Maryam Yazdan, the Iranian grandmother, but we get snippets of insight from almost everyone involved.  Well written with detailed character description, I definitely enjoyed it.

6. Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
Remarkable Creatures 
Chevalier also wrote "The Girl With The Pearl Earring", and this historically inspired novel focuses on the friendship of two female fossil hunters.  As one is a moderately well-to-do spinster and the other a working class girl, Chevalier does a fantastic job illustrating how both gender and social inequality plays into their friendship and their lives without ramming it down your throat.  

7. Carpe Demon: Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom (Book 1) by Julie Kenner
Carpe Demon: Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom (Book 1) 
 Imagine Buffy the Vampire Slayer all grown up and trying to live a normal life in the suburbs with her kids and normal husband but demons start busting into her front window---and you get the premise of this book.  Cheesy but fun, I've been searching in vain for the next one and will soon have to give in and just order it online.

8. Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games) - Library Edition by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games) - Library Edition 
Have I mentioned that I love these books?  Oh wait, I have.  I stayed up until 2 a.m. reading this book the day it came in the mail.  Great ending:  real.      

9.  Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler
 Noah's Compass 
I liked Digging to America so much that I wanted to read some of Tyler's other books, so I picked this one up at the library.  While well-written and in-depth characterization, nothing really happens in the entire book.  It's the story of an elderly guy with a quiet life.  Not exactly a thrilling page turner.