Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

I don't make New Year's resolutions. Oh, sure, we all like to "start over" in the new year, take out a crisp new notebook and write down a bunch of things we're never going to do, but I've stopped fooling myself. Chances are I am not going to lose 50 lbs in the span of a year, take conversational French, learn to make spun sugar, or redecorate my house. I'm not even sure I know how to feel about goals........I mean, do they inspire and motivate or encourage failure? Instead of making resolutions that are impossible to keep or completely fantastical, how about making some you can really stick with? For example:
1. Resolve to have coffee with a friend once a week.
2. Resolve to spend a few minutes reading a favorite novel before bed each night.
3. Resolve to indulge in good food and good friends and good drink whenever the occasion calls for it - life is short!
4. Resolve to live within your means.
5. Resolve to be happy with what you've got and be happy to share with others.
Ok, so those are pretty inspirational and do-able right? But the "lose weight" one? You're only going to disappoint yourself the next time you pop a piece of chocolate into your mouth. Why not resolve to "be healthier"? That can take many forms (and takes a lot of the pressure off - hee, hee).

I just don't see the point of making promises to oneself that may or may not be kept. Talk about starting the year with high expectations and major disappointment. One year, I decided to simplify things and only resolved not to bite my nails (I was a terrible nail biter!). I made it till about January 5th and bit off all my nails one day in class while writing a piece on New Year's resolutions. Failure! Now I know that I can NOT bite my nails, but that on occasion, during times of stress, I WILL bite all my nails off and so what? I'll just start growing them again. No big deal.

I would resolve to keep my house cleaner but that would require participation on the part of five other people. And who wants that upkeep? I would resolve to work out every day but that would require absolutely no interruptions to my routine and my life revolves around interruptions. I would resolve to find the perfect job but I'm logical enough to know it probably doesn't exist (still, I keep looking!).

I think the best thing is to resolve to make no resolutions. Just embrace the New Year for what it is........which, really, is just another month at the start of a new decade in this case. So it's 2010! Remember when we all thought the world was going to implode at the stroke of midnight in the year 2000? Time marches on........we move goes on............and I resolve to just be grateful I'm still here on this earth able to make a choice to NOT make any resolutions! Who's with me?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Books Read in 2009

Ok, this list may be a bit premature because I have big plans of reading at least ONE book before the year is over, but I have to say, I'm a bit disappointed with my reading list this year. For one thing, I read TEN less books than last year. TEN! And I honestly know's because of Facebook! Whereas I would have spent the evening reading several chapters of a good book, I now spend the evenings in bed goofing off on Facebook and it's put a serious dent in my reading time (well, ok, I'm still technically READING when I'm on Facebook, AND writing, but, really, it does NOT take the place of true literary pleasure!) This year's book club, in my opinion, was a total bust. For one thing, someone came up with the idea of reading "classics". It sounded good in theory but turned out to be painfully boring on many occasions and while slogging through a particularly slow novel, it becomes hard to do any "reading for pleasure" - kind of reminiscent of college when I was not able to read for pleasure because I had to crawl through Dostoevsky and Dickens. Bleh! So, here is my reading list for 2009, along with comments and recommendations (or not!):
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: EXCELLENT book, one of my all time favorites. I've read this before but the re-read was just as good, and I rented the movie after as well. Just great writing, a controversial subject and a bit of mystery. Loved it!
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett: Not as wonderful as I remembered. I know I read this as a kid, but then it seemed a lot more magical. This time, the different writing and the constant reusing of metaphors drove me nuts. Honestly, I was bored!
- Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis: This was a 5th grade book club pick which I was participating in with Arlie. I loved this book - it was a great story and even though it was a kids' book, it was very entertaining.
- Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris: Sedaris is sometimes hysterical but sometimes over the top. In this book, I found it started out well, and just got weirder as the book went on. Good humor but sometimes downright stupid. Still, I enjoy his books!
- Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson: This book received SO much hype, perhaps my expectations were too high. While it is well-written and a very compelling story, I found it really slow at times and filled with a lot of extraneous information that didn't add to the story.
- The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne: I had tried (and failed) to read this book twice before. I found out the secret this time - there is a whole introductory part that really has nothing to do with the story, but can deter any would-be reader by it's sheer boring-ness (I know that's not a word, but it fits so well). So, skip the long intro and get right to the story. But don't expect much. The story is painfully slow to read (language) and I figured out the whole story in the beginning so nothing was a surprise - I just wanted it DONE!
- Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner: Funny writer! This story was a mindless read (which I desperately needed after The Scarlet Letter), but a funny and well-written story. I picked up a few more of her books after this.
- Kerplunk by Patrick McManus: This is one of Jeff's favorite authors. McManus hails from Spokane, WA so Jeff can relate to his many stories of that area and North Idaho. Mostly hunting and fishing tales, McManus weaves a colorful cloth of eccentric characters throughout his stories which make for some pretty hilarious reads. Good for laughs.
- The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan: Again, this much-hyped book about a young mother suffering from cancer at the same time her beloved father finds out he also has cancer. Part memoir, part cancer survival guide, this is a compelling read, although it didn't really live up to it's hype. I felt it could have been written by anyone.
- New Moon by Stephenie Meyer: This book was read purely under pressure. My girls are typical Twilight fanatics, so they insisted I read this second in Meyer's four-book series because "it's SO much better than Twilight".....uh, not so much. Meyer won the lotto when it comes to being published without a shred of talent. She is truly one of the worst writers I've read. My girls insist I read the final two books because "it gets so much better" but I'm thinking, if you need four books to finally write an original paragraph or two, you are NOT a writer. Frankly, she sucks. Sorry, Stephenie!
- Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult: I am not sure if I'm a Picoult fan or not at this point. I loved "My Sister's Keeper" but this book was essentially the same story with different characters. Picoult does take her time with research and details, and I love the style of writing where there is a different character telling their point of view throughout the story, but in the end the stories seem similar - tragic character fights uphill battle, battle is won, tragic character dies in unfortunate accident. Something original, please!
- Hatchet by Gary Paulsen: This is a kids' book but I have been interested in reading it for years, so I finally picked it up. It was a very good story about survival - a boy is the victim of a plane crash in which the pilot dies and the boy is left with nothing but a hatchet given to him as a gift. He uses this hatchet to create fire, hunt food, make a shelter, and survives several months in the wilderness until he is rescued just as he procures enough supplies to keep him from starving for months.
-Twenty Wishes by Debbie Macomber: I have seen a lot of this author, so I kind of felt like her books were just a bit of junky chick-lit/romance novels, but this one I had read about in a magazine and decided to give it a try. I enjoyed it, even though it was, essentially, a simple story. I was interested enough to care about the characters and I picked up another Macomber title to give her another try before I decide if I really like her or not!
- One True Thing by Anna Quindlen: I love Quindlen for her compelling and emotional writing. This story was about a college-aged girl who is essentially asked to drop her entire life to take care of her cancer-stricken mother until her final days. The emotional ups and downs and her vivid descriptions of the many stages of dying from cancer were really well-written. There is a bit of a mystery as well, which made it all the more interesting.
- Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns: This book was loaned to me by my friend Amy and I had it for a while before finally deciding to give it a shot. It turned out to be a really great read! An old man, and patriarch of his family, marries a much younger milliner from his general store only three weeks after the passing of his beloved wife. His two daughters are horrified and cannot accept this new woman into their family, nor can they deal with the scandal he has caused. Only his young grandson seems to come to terms with this and befriends the new wife, all the while trying to convince his family that she is acceptable.
- The Shack by Wm. Paul Young: Again, I should learn my lesson about much-hyped books. This was one of the dumbest books I've read! I know, people LOVED it and it changed lives, etc. but all I read was one guy's account of a made-up story of a little girl's kidnapping, and her dad's eventual meeting with God and Heaven and seeing his daughter again. It was just a fantasy work of fiction and a little on the bizarre side, and after reading about Young, I don't even like this guy (he cheated on his wife with her best friend for years, I truly believe this book was his attempt to assauge his own guilt!). I want my $10 back!
- Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos: I really enjoy her writing. This book was a sequel of sorts and intertwined old and new characters with a mysterious twist. I loved the easy way de los Santos writes and how compelling her characters are. And the way she weaves in an entirely different story captures the attention.
- East of Eden by John Steinbeck: This was the one of the few classics my book club read that I enjoyed. And I really enjoyed this book! It had everything in it and was interesting the entire time. Definitely a book everyone must read in their lifetime!
- The Cather in the Rye by J.D. Salinger: I also loved this classic, which was my book club pick. Although it was a lot more depressing than I thought it would be. Still, an interesting read and I loved how it was written in Holden's language - that of a teenage boy.
- Multiple Blessings by Jon and Kate Gosselin: I picked up this book when Jon and Kate were still "plus eight" and not in the ugly controversial split they are in now. The girls wanted to read it and I finally decided to read it, too. It was an interesting account of the sextuplets first few years of life and how the Gosselin's adapted to this new, crazy life with eight kids. Even though I'm Team Kate on this whole split thing, I could see why anyone couldn't stand Kate Gosselin after reading this book. She sounds impossible to live with and way too obsessed with order and cleanliness for her own good.

So, that's it for now. I really hope I can get at least one more book in before the close of the year, but I don't know.......however, in 2010 I resolve to read at least as much as I Facebook!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Peter Pan

The cast of Peter Pan at the Seattle Children's Theater

Me and my sweetie!

Up against the wall, you scoundrels!

Harrison looking pretty cool!

My handsome boy!

Arlie - pretty girl, so grown up!

Her first fancy dress, bought at Jessica McClintock

Hayley in her Jessica McClintock frock

Fancy girl!

Hannah hamming it up in her new fancy duds!

Strappy sandals, wrap, fancy dress........Hannah is all grown up!

Kids waiting at The Old Spaghetti Factory.......

My favorite picture - all my kids dressed up and looking sweet!
Lunch at The Old Spaghetti Factory
We had a great time taking the kids to see Peter Pan at the Seattle Children's Theater. We went with our neighbors Amy, Jason and Abbie and started by having lunch at The Old Spaghetti Factory. The kids love that place! The play was amazing.......always such a high-quality production with great actors, beautiful sets, original music. Totally worth it! I wish we could do that more often, but it was a special Christmas outing. The kids dressed up (a rarity!) and everyone looked great. Such a fun day........I love days like that when we can take the whole family to do something special.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Carols?

I have a few issues with Christmas carols I'd like to talk about. For instance, in Jingle Bells why, exactly, is it FUN to go riding in a one-horse open sleigh? For those of you who are AWARE that there is a second verse to this song, it clearly states that those riding in the sleigh ended up with a face full of snow after being tossed from said carraige! "We got into a drifting bank, and we, we got upsot!" (Upsot? WTF?). I'm not seeing the fun here.

Take Deck the Halls. What exactly IS gay apparel? Comfortable shoes? Perhaps a festive Christmas sweater worn by a guy named Ivan who talks with a wee bit of a lisp? Or leather chaps? I need some clarification here.

And Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? It's about bullying, up until the point that the fat man NEEDED something and then, oh sure, Rudolph is all cool now. Hypocrites!

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus? Just proves you have to be VERY careful in your extramarital forays. You never know when those little bastards are going to sneak down the stairs and take photos of you and the fat man which they will then sell to the tabloids.

We Need a Little Christmas? Seriously, this song is about someone with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) who absolutely, positively MUST have some Christmas cheer (not that I'm a doctor or anything, but I think Prozac would work better in this situation). I mean, truly, this person is ON THE EDGE and someone needs to talk her down and fast. (Holding out candy cane tentatively, cooing reassurances while the negotiator gives instructions over the phone......)

Santa Claus is Coming to Town? This one is certain to freak kids out the world over. First of all, you must adhere to all these demands (no crying for instance) or it's nothin' for you, kid! Then, you have to sleep with one eye open because the fat guy is WATCHING you while you sleep. And he knows everything about you! I'm thinking cyber-stalker, pedophile, or as my children like to say "creeper"!

Carol of the Bells? There's just something disturbing about that song, as catchy as it is. The frantic crescendo, the super fast singing. It's just a metaphor for the season....."buy everything, wrap it all up, shop till you drop, spend all your bucks, bake all night long, sing Christmas songs, CHRISTMAS DESPAIR, FILLING THE AIR.....". See what I mean? It's just frantic and stressful.

Holly, Jolly Christmas? It's about drinking. "I don't know if there'll be snow, but have a cup of cheer!" Yeah, whatever. No snow? In debt? Stressed out? Have a little Christmas cheer - pick your poison.

And then there's Must Be Santa. This song is totally misleading. Talk about misidentification! "Who's got a beard that snowy white?" (my dad). "Who comes around on a special night?" (my dad) "Who's got a great big cherry nose?" (my dad) "Who laughs this way, ho ho ho?" (my dad)....."must be Santa?" Sounds a lot like my dad. Hey, wait a minute............

Saturday, December 19, 2009

My Amazing Birthday!

My morning "birthday cake" - Jeff has a sense of humor!

Arlie and Harrison singing Happy Birthday to me!

Jeff and his trusty video camera!

The birthday banner......we've had this awhile.....

Arlie's gift to me - handpainted shells with little messages inside - precious!

I tried to rotate this twice.....grr........Harrison's gift to me - he spent his allowance on a Starbucks card for me! My favorite place.......

I love, love, love this ring! Jeff really surprised me!

Birthday lunch at Azul with my friends!

Opening gifts.......

More gifts and a really big burrito.....

Shannon and I!

Thank God for only three candles!

Yummy cake that Amy made for me!

Cake carnage!

Me and Janet!

Peggy, Tracie, Priscilla, me

Carla, Janet, Amy, Lisa, me, Karin

The darling cake Hayley made for me!

Hannah and Hayley playing guitar and singing "The Best Day" for my birthday present! I LOVED IT! And I cried........
I had the BEST birthday! My morning started with "the birthday fairy" (the person who makes up a little cake out of donuts or brownies or whatever the birthday boy or girl likes, decorates the table, and makes a little presentation of presents on the table). I was presented with a beautiful diamond ring from my husband (so shocked!), which I love and is beautiful (and fits!).
Arlie gave me a box of handpainted shells and each one had a little message in it (so sweet and touching!). Harrison spent his allowance on a Starbucks card for me! (Guy after my own heart!). I then met my friends for lunch and it was such a nice celebration. I got so many beautiful gifts (and more Starbucks cards!) and funny cards. After lunch I browsed around the shopping center then met Amy W. for coffee. More funny presents, then home for my surprise from the girls. Hayley and Hannah treated me to a performance of "The Best Day" accompanied by Hayley on the guitar! It was so sweet and made me cry (see next post for video!). Jeff and I also had tickets to a play, but unfortunately, he is suffering from a nasty bout of the flu, so we postponed that and I stayed home and watched "A Christmas Story" with Harrison and Arlie while I read all my birthday wishes on Facebook. It was a relaxing night. All in all, a really great day! Thanks to all my great friends and my sweet family for making such a memorable day for me! LOVE YOU!

Anatomy of a Family Christmas Card Photo

It looks like the picture melted on the right side.........

Where's Jeff?

Power to the argyle people!


Again, Jeff with the leaning......

Love this one but it's a little dark.......

Wow. Aren't we just the happy, argyle-wearing family, jumping for joy?

We look like a Gap ad..........


Can you see how excited Jeff is? And how irritated Hayley is?

Harrison, testing out the tripod positioning, and Shade, being good for once!
Taking a family Christmas card photo is pure torture. First of all, with a family of six, there is always at least one person totally unwilling to go along with it. Or at least go along with it in MY time frame. Usually it goes like this: I find a small window of opportunity for all of us to be together in the house at the same time, everyone is dressed (no one has their wet hair up in a towel) and we have a small amount of unscheduled time. (Note: this happens exactly ONCE each season, and actually requires creative planning on my part). I say "we're taking the Christmas card photo in five minutes" which in turn causes all teenage girls to fly into a panic, lamenting their hair, makeup, big toe, whatever. Five minutes turns into thirty, during which time I have done five thousand other projects related to spreading Christmas cheer and set up the tripod. Finally gathering everyone into the too-small living room, we then begin the game called "I know!" As in "I know, let's all sit like this!" or "I know! Let's all stand in a line!" or "I know! Let's all jump up at the same time!" I try to oblige the various ideas flying at me, while lining up the family the way I want them. We take a series of photos, most of which have at least one person with their eyes closed, leaning in an awkward fashion, or looking perfectly fine but upon reviewing the tiny digital screen, screaming "I LOOK HORRIBLE!" I am often threatened with bodily harm if I dare to put the "reject" photos on the internet (as you can see, I'm shaking in my boots). In the end, although I ask for their opinions, my preference RULES and I have the final say on the photo. This year, the entire process took less than twenty minutes but only because I was trying to oblige my husband who was suffering from the flu and had to be dragged out of bed and stuffed into an argyle t-shirt for the shoot. In past years, though, I have been known to spend hours and rolls of film (yes, pre-digital -gasp!) getting just the right shot, only to be mildly disappointed in the final result. What am I trying to achieve anyway? Perfect little cherubs with smiling angel faces. Kids that look clean, pressed, obedient and charming. A photo that screams "LOOK HOW AWESOME MY LIFE IS!" But who am I kidding? Christmas card photos are often the worst, most cheesy photos we ever take (save for school picture day photos which win the crown for being the worst of all). And yet, every year, I put my family through this torture. Only I'm not disappointed in the results anymore. In fact, I like a little imperfection in the photo. It's real and unstaged and natural. It's bizarre and cheesy and corny. It's smiling faces with an undertow of annoyance. It's us! Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Jingle Bell Run/Walk!

Handing out blankets, coats, food and water to the homeless....

The kids waiting for the car after checking out of the Westin

Arthritis Foundation cocoa party for kids with arthritis (and their families)

The Westin Hotel, Seattle

Ava and Hayley

Harrison at the finish line!

Harrison, Sophia and Gilbert

Jordan and Arlie

Signs worn on our back......

The Windermere part of our team....

Jeff and M-L

Arlie and Jeff

Doug and the kids

My cute kids!

Jordan and Arlie - all smiles!

Lori Trammell, Hannah the honoree, and Shelby Trammell

Hannah onstage with WARM 106.9 radio personalities (and her entourage!)

Hannah, her rheumatologist, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (and her son) and Santa!

Hannah cutting the ribbon for the Children's Run With the Elves 1K

Amy and Julius getting ready for the kids' run - go Jules! His first race!

Santa and Hannah waiting to cut the ribbon

Team Hannah!

Hannah, Hayley, Arlie, Jordan, Donnie

Jeff and M-L ready for the SeaGen holiday party!

Arlie and Jordan
Westlake Center tree

Hayley and her new fuschia Jessica McClintock dress!

Arlie and her new dress!
Hayley and her other new dress!

Hayley and Arlie - so grown up!

Arlie modeling a pretty dress!

Hayley in a little black dress

Hayley in an angel dress!

We had a busy and fun weekend! It started out on Friday evening with a packet pick up party at our house, with homemade Bailey's and treats. Saturday we volunteered to pass out packets and t-shirts at the last-change registration. THAT was a busy four hours! Nonstop people and moving really fast to get everyone their run numbers, pins, bells and t-shirts. We went home for a couple of hours and then headed down to Seattle to check into the Westin hotel. The kids loved staying downtown in a hotel. We went to eat at Westlake Center (kids chose sushi) and then got sidetracked by an amazing sale at Jessica McClintock where we bought three beautiful dresses (two for Hayley, one for Arlie) at incredible prices. Jeff and I had his company party that night at Seattle Art Museum, so we headed back to the hotel to get ready. The party was pretty boring so we only stayed a couple of hours and went back to get some sleep. We needed it - our wake up alarm came at 5:40 a.m. and we had to be at the JBR start at 7 a.m. We were late (of course) but in time to get Starbucks, meet some people, take a team photo and then head to the start line so Hannah could cut the ribbon for the Children's Run With The Elves 1K. After that, Hannah was interviewed onstage by a local radio station and introduced her siblings. Then, it was time for us to walk! We had about 32 people on our team, some running and some walking. We finished the course in just over an hour, then went to a kids' cocoa party sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation. The kids created calendar pages for an advocacy calendar and got a cute bear in return. We wrapped the day up by checking out of our room by noon and heading downtown to pass out sleeping bags, blankets, coats, shoes, and toiletries to the homeless. It was a LONG, exhausting but REALLY fun weekend!