Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Twos-Day: Sleepy Baby Boys

Apparently there's a real "sleepy" theme to my Twos-Days lately..... perhaps because I'm awfully tired myself, what with getting up in the night with Aiden and then getting up early in the morning to send Bryn off to school.  Here are pictures of my two sweet sleepy boys, each around 1 month old:



My boys look a bit alike, yes?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Of Two Minds

A couple of weeks ago, I shared my intention to start writing more.  Since then, I’ve been thinking more deliberately about what I’m putting out there on the blog.  Over the past year, I’ve started writing and sharing book reviews.  As a former English teacher and future librarian, reading is obviously a huge passion of mine.

But when I started this blog back in 2006, my intent was to share news about our growing family and our daily lives with friends and family, near and far.  And the more that I think about it from a writer’s point of view, the more I think that this blog has become “of two minds.”  Those of you who read it for the book reviews may not care about my day-to-day family life, and those of you who come seeking pictures of my kids may not care about young adult literature.

During our conversation about writing, my BFF Melissa told me that she thought my blog was the perfect way to break into “The Biz,” meaning the world of novels, writing, and literary talk.  When I pointed out that no one in The Biz would care to read about my kids (it would be kind of creepy if they did!), she said that she thought that I’d eventually naturally progress to a point where I would split the blog into two separate sites.  Melissa is a very smart lady, so I’ve decided that’s what I need to do.

So, if you’re interested in reading updates on my personal life and sweet kiddos, as well as other random ramblings, stay right here at Neither Here Nor There.  If you’re a booklover that wants to get ideas for your next read, head on over to Blatant Bibliophilia.  I’ve reposted all of my reviews there and will continue to post new ones as I read.  If you are interested in both, then stop by and see me often at both sites.

Thanks for reading, everyone!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thursday Thirteen: Summer Memories

The summer of 2012 has certainly been one to remember!  In no particular order, here are 13 Things to Never Forget:

1. June 18--the birth of Aiden Thomas.  Our sweet, perfect little boy, evening the odds in our family, bringing the boys' total up to match the girls'.  He certainly put me through the ringer while he was still inside me--inspiring migraines, varicose veins, and bedrest--before arriving and weighing in at 9 pounds 1 ounce.  Big siblings Bryn, Shay, and Liam were incredibly excited for him to arrive and have doted on him ever since Day 1.

 2. Mrs. Rosy--our own personal Mary Poppins.  I simply could not have made it through the final weeks of my pregnancy or the early weeks of having 4 kids if it were not for the wonderful Larinda.  She came over every day to babysit my kids.  She brought boxes of toys from her house for them play with, did art projects, changed a million diapers, and made it all look easy.  I stand in awe of her.

3. July 7--the wedding of Kristin and Brian.  My sweet sister got married this July, and Bryn, Shay, Liam, and I were all in the ceremony.  We spent a wonderful four days in Peoria celebrating with my extended family.  We simply could not be happier for Kristin and Brian!

4. Bryn's acting career continued this summer.  She was in her third play, "James and the Giant Peach," playing the multiple roles of a seagull, a cloud fairy, and a little girl.  She absolutely loved the entire experience!

 5. Visits from friends.  We were fortunate enough to have several good friends make the trek up to visit us this summer.  We got to see both the Graunkes and the Willlmans, and our kids had a blast playing together.  The prizewinners, though, are the Elstros--who came and stayed with us for an entire week!  Bryn and Hannah are BFF, as are Shay and Hailey, and all the kids had so much fun playing all week.  I had a great time "playing" with Andrea as well, as we got caught up on all of those things that we never have time to talk about on the phone.  :)  Andrea even took nighttime baby duty for the week, so in spite of having a house full of 6 kids for the week, I was better rested at the end than the beginning!

6. On a similar note, Bryn's week at Day Camp also makes the list.   Hannah went to Day Camp with her this year (thus the Elstros' week-long visit), and they both had so much fun that they came home utterly exhausted every day.  Bryn adored their counselors and is already talking about how she can't wait for next summer.

7. Kata Monster.  Kata (her last name) was a counselor at Camp Tecumseh this summer, as she has been for several years.  This summer, she started playing "monster" with Liam.  This just happens to be his favorite game, and he requested her pretty much constantly.  He would get up in the morning and tell me, "I go to camp.  I see my Kata Monster.  She get me!!"  And then he would proceed to run for the front door, squealing in delight and anticipation of seeing his playmate.

8. Dave's last summer at camp.  Dave has worked at Tecumseh for 40 summers, and he's been the Executive Director since before I was even a camper here.  For so many people, he is the "face" of Camp T.  He has helped to create camp as it is today, and he is responsible for hiring Ben and bringing our family "home."  We can never even begin to repay him for all he has done for our family and for camp.

9. Bryn and Shay's visit to Nana's house.  Our girls went up to Michigan and spent five days with Ben's parents.  This marked the first time since Bryn was born that I've been outnumbered by the boys in my household!  They loved their visit.  Highlights included swimming in the lake all day, playing with her dog, and getting all-around spoiled.  :)

10. Liam and his friend Alex.  Alex has been a counselor at Tecumseh for 3 summers now.  When he and Liam met last summer, they immediately became fast friends.  In fact, when Liam first learned the word "friend" last summer, he used it as synonymous with "Alex."  Alex came and visited Liam whenever he was in the area this year.  This summer, whenever we went to camp, Liam would request: "I go to dining hall.  I see Alex!"  We are so blessed to have so many wonderful counselors around to love on our kids!

11. July 31--the arrival of baby Hattie.  My adorable little niece, Harriet Lakshmi Pfanschmidt, was born at the end of July to my brother Brian and my sister-in-law Lakshmi.  While I have not yet met her in person (I can't wait!), I am thrilled to be an aunt and show off her picture frequently.

12. In other family news, my stepsister Lindsay departed to spend a full year working as a nanny for a family in New Zealand.  I am incredibly jealous of  all the breathtaking views and exciting adventures that she's getting to experience!  I love reading her blog to hear about all that she's doing.

13. Library programs.  (The librarian in me just couldn't leave this off the list!)  The kids and I spent the majority of our summer "playing" at the library.  Bryn, Shay, and Liam all enjoyed the weekly story hour, and Bryn participated in an American Girl club and some other special events as well.  All 3 of the kids were incredibly determined to earn all 6 prizes offered in the summer reading program, and we diligently marked off their reading logs every day.  In the end, they succeeded, finishing the highest challenge offered.  Way to go, my little bookworms!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

First Day Sweetness

Today marked the first day of the school year for us.  Every year on this day, I wake up with that scene from "Finding Nemo" in mind--"First day of school! First day of school!"  For the last three years, the start of school has been a little bittersweet for me, sending the kids off but not heading back to teach.  My girls were both incredibly excited for school to start this year--must get that from me!  ;)

Here's big girl Bryn, ready to head off to first grade:

And here's sweet Shay, ready for her last year of preschool:

And a sweet sister moment:

Because our district has an early childhood center for kindergarten, Bryn actually started a new school this morning for first grade (the regular elementary school).  Shay, on the other hand, is at the same preschool (in the same classroom and with the same kids) as last year--which is a relief for me, as it is the third preschool she has attended.

Last night, I did the math on this whole "new school" thing.  Since kids in our district move to new schools in kindergarten, first grade, sixth grade, and ninth grade..... and since I have four kids..... each two years apart...... we will have at least one child starting at a new (to them) school every year for FOURTEEN YEARS.  Wowsers.  Apparently we'll be old pros at those "first day jitters" by the time that process is done!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Twos-Day: Sleepy Daddy

It's been a long time since I've done a Twos-Day photo comparison, but I'm really trying to get better about blogging, so here goes!

My sweet husband is an incredibly deep sleeper.  He can snooze through pretty much anything (including both full-on conversations and taking a shower).  I am wildly envious of this skill.  Over our years of parenthood, he has had some good naps with our kids.  Here he is with our oldest and youngest:
First-time Dad experiencing sleep deprivation; passes out in our bed with baby Bryn in his arms.

Fourth-time Daddy, still exhausted, catches a snooze on the couch with baby Aiden.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Thursday Thirteen: Mishaps

It's been a while since I've done a Thursday Thirteen, but I thought I'd get back in the game this week...

Okay, so have you ever had one of those days where everything just seems to go slightly wrong?  I had one of those yesterday.  Everything turned out just a little differently than I had planned.  A series of mishaps, if you will.  Some were funny and some were frustrating; all are listed here for your perusal:

1. Shay and I started the morning with an appointment at her preschool.  Her teacher wants to meet with each of the kids before the school year starts, to review where they stand with basic skills and to explain to them what will be different than last year.  Shay did excellently with reviewing her numbers, letters, shapes, and colors.  But when Miss Denise asked her what her last name was, Shay just looked at her blankly.  Prompting her, Miss Denise said, "So your name is Shay....."  Hesitantly, she responded, "Lee?"  (Because her full first name is Shaylee.)  We laughed a little, and I said, "No, your name is Shaylee What?"  Her eyes lit up and she responded "Grace!" (her middle name).  Hmm, apparently we need to work on this....

2. This week at camp, I have been honored with the title of Buffalo Queen.  This means that the lodge of the oldest boys (Buffalo Lodge, home to 4 cabins of 14-15 year old boys) has named me their queen for the week (they pick a different one every week).  It's definitely a high honor, and I've been showering my subjects with treats.  On Tuesday night, I baked 5 dozen cupcakes.  The kids and I took them to camp for lunch on Wednesday.  I figured that I would frost them all in the dining hall to avoid mess while transporting them.  What I did not count on was that Bryn, Shay, and Liam ALL insisted on helping me frost them.  By the time the campers arrived in the dining hall, all 3 kids were COVERED in chocolate icing.

3. Wednesday was also our last day this summer with our wonderful babysitter, Miss Rosy.  I had been planning to use the day to run errands and get done a long list of things.  Due to the preschool appointment and my duties as Buffalo Queen, though, I didn't actually make it out the door on errands until 2:00.  So much for a good, productive day!

4. My first stop was the post office.  Unfortunately, the town of Delphi is currently having a carnival--which is set up on the town square.  So I had to park and hoof it over to the post office, precariously balancing all 100+ of Aiden's birth announcements and several packages.  I'm sure I looked ridiculous trying to juggle all that, but thankfully, I managed to get it all there without dropping anything.

5. Next stop: the dry cleaner's, to drop off the outfits that my entire family wore to my sister's wedding (now over a month ago... so I'm a little behind on getting stuff done!).  The only person in there was a teenage girl, who told me that she didn't know how much it would cost and didn't know when I could expect my stuff back, because she was just filling in for her mom.  She took my number and told me that someone would call to let me know those things.  It's now been over a day and I haven't heard anything.  I really hope we manage to get our clothes back!

6. Then I drove the half hour into Lafayette to do errands.  While driving, my gas light came on.  My sweet sister gave me a gift card for Shell gas as a gift for being in her wedding, and while there is no Shell in Delphi, I figured that filling up in Lafayette would be a good chance to use it.  However, after much needless driving around (as directed by my iPhone), I learned that of the two Shell stations in Lafayette, one has recently closed and the other was sold to another chain.  So I couldn't use my gift card, and by the time I struck out at the second station, I was pretty much running on fumes.  Thus an expensive fill-up at a non-Shell station.

7. I then proceeded to Once Upon a Child in an effort to sell the five huge boxes of baby stuff that I've sorted out of our stash.  After lugging them all into the store, though, I learned that their wait time was going to be 3 hours.... wayyyy too long for me to stay in town.  So then I got to lug it all back out to the car and return home, defeated.

8. As a result of #6 and #7, my plan to sit at the Lafayette library and catch up on computer work also never materialized.  So I returned home around 5:00, disgruntled at having achieved so little on my last free day.

9. So I started in on making 3 batches of puppy chow for Thursday's treat for the Buffalo Brothers.... only to discover that we only had about 2 spoonfuls of powdered sugar.  This necessitated a trip back into Delphi to hit the grocery store.

10.  Due to all of this, our family was late for dinner at camp, and thus had to scarf our tacos at top speed... resulting in nasty stomachache later.

11. So then I headed over to the pool to swim laps (as part of my attempt at getting back in shape after my months of bedrest).  I had just gotten changed into my swimsuit and entered the pool area.... when 8 cabins of kids showed up to use the pool.  Defeated, I headed back to my car without getting in the pool.

12. But it seemed that I would have struck out at the pool anyway, because as I was driving home, one of our directors got on the camp radio and told everyone to get out of the pool because there was lighting and thunder.

13. Finally home, finished up chores, and ready for bed.  First Bryn pitched a massive fit about wanted to be with Mommy, so she ended up sleeping with me.  Right after I finally fell asleep, Shay came in and started crying and said she was scared to sleep in their room alone.  So I got two bunkmates last night.  (This probably worked out better for me than Ben, who decided that he didn't want risk their hysterics if he moved them, so he slept alone in their room all night.)

All in all, a long day!  Now just two days left of summer camp.... where has this summer gone?!?

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

"Waiting on" Wednesday: "The Kill Order"

I recently discovered a new blog, Breaking the Spine, that hosts a weekly event called "Waiting on" Wednesday.  Hundreds of book-lovers chime in about what upcoming releases they can't wait to get their hands on.  The librarian in me LOVES seeing so many people get excited about books, and my bibliophile tendencies have me eagerly perusing and scribbling down lists of future reads.  I've got a contribution this week, so I thought I'd start playing along.

This week I am awaiting the release of James Dashner's The Kill Order.  It's the prequel to his Maze Runner trilogy, which I read last year.  I have less than a week to wait, as it will be released on August 14.

Here's the Goodreads summary of what we have to look forward to:

Before WICKED was formed, before the Glade was built, before Thomas entered the Maze, sun flares hit the earth and mankind fell to disease.

Mark and Trina were there when it happened, and they survived. But surviving the sun flares was easy compared to what came next. Now a disease of rage and lunacy races across the eastern United States, and there’s something suspicious about its origin. Worse yet, it’s mutating, and all evidence suggests that it will bring humanity to its knees.

Mark and Trina are convinced there’s a way to save those left living from descending into madness. And they’re determined to find it—if they can stay alive. Because in this new, devastated world, every life has a price. And to some, you’re worth more dead than alive.

Personally, I'm looking forward to it because the trilogy left me with SO MANY unanswered questions.  So many, in fact, that I came away from The Death Cure (the third book in the trilogy) feeling incredibly frustrated.  So I've been looking forward to the publication of this prequel, in hopes that it will answer some of those many lingering questions.  However, the Maze Runner trilogy focused on characters Thomas and Teresa and their friends, so after reading this review, I'm not sure if I'm ready to enter the world of the yet-unknown Mark and Trina.  I'm not sure if a story about other characters can answer my most nagging questions, namely: "Did Thomas ever truly believe in the cause of WICKED?" and "How were these kids selected for the Maze?  Did they know what was going to happen to them?"  I'm hoping that at the bare minimum, The Kill Order will explain what on exactly the Creators were looking for in terms of the "patterns" that they frequently referenced but never actually explained in the other books.

So after thinking about all of this, I read this Kirkus Review from the blogger who brings us Bookshelves of Doom.  And I have to say that the review was exactly in line with my frustrations regarding the Maze Runner trilogy, including the spell-it-out but don't-inspire-any-emotion nature of James Dashner's prose.  So now I'm not quite as excited to pick up The Kill Order, as both the summary and the review indicate that it will continue with many of the frustrations I had with the rest of the trilogy, without answering many of my lingering questions.  That being said, I'll still be rushing to the library next week to pick it up, as I seem to be physically unable to leave a series unfinished.  :)

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Baby Mammoths at Play

I've got an awful lot of catching up to do as far as posting pictures goes.  Two weeks ago, Bryn got to be a camper at Tecumseh Day Camp.  She had been anxiously waiting for that week for the entire summer, and the experience did not disappoint.  She was incredibly excited to be able to share her favorite week of the summer with her BFF Hannah, who came up from Indy for the week.  We had a full house, with my friend Andrea sleeping on our couch all week, while Hannah and little sister Hailey bunked with our girls.  Having our friends here for the entire week was wonderfully, fantastically fun.  Shay didn't even complain about not being old enough to go to Day Camp because she was so excited to spend an entire week with Hailey!  (more photos on that in another post)

Here, let me share some of the cuteness from Bryn and Hannah's week at DC.  The theme for the week was "Tecumsehsaurus," and their trail group was named the "Baby Mammoths."

Here are Bryn and Hannah at drop-off on the first day:

Here they are showing off their muscles at the Parent Night on Thursday.  Clearly, the week of activity has made them very buff.

This picture cracks me up!  No idea what they were trying to do here:

Here's Bryn with their counselor Kaela:

And with their other counselor Jules:

Friends, as soon as your kids turn 5 years old, I highly recommend sending them to Tecumseh Day Camp.  Even though we live at camp and do most of the activities year-round, Bryn says that Day Camp is her very favorite week of every summer.  She talked about last summer's counselors for the entire year, and she adored this summer's as well.  The programming is excellent, and I can attest to the high quality of the staff.  Plus, if you send your kids, it's a good chance to visit us!  :)

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Girls' Day Out

Yesterday, I had a neurologist appointment in Indianapolis, so I decided to take Bryn and Shay down with me and make a day of it.  After the appointment, we headed out to the Childrens Museum for an afternoon of fun.  It was great to be able to spend some time with just my "big kids," especially with school starting soon.  After the Museum, we met up with some friends for dinner at one of my favorite restaurants.  All told, my girls were completely wiped by the time we got home and fell asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillow.  Love my sweet girls!

 Here's Bryn and Shay enjoying a ride on the carousal, which was the first thing they wanted to do upon arriving.

 Lately Liam has been a big fan of crocodiles, and he loves to yell, "Eek! Crocodile eat me!"  So when the girls and I came across this guy in the Egypt exhibit, we just had to take a picture to show Liam when we got home.

We'd only done the Egypt exhibit once before, because the kids were too little to appreciate it when we lived in Indy.  But the girls absolutely loved it this time, and I must admit that it had me itching to grab my passport, hop a plane, and see the world! 

Here's Shay, enjoying the new Hot Wheels exhibit. 

And here's Bryn, being an archaeologist in the Treasures of the Earth exhibit.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Book #36 of 2012: "Send Me Down A Miracle" by Han Nolan

Back in January, I read Han Nolan's Pregnant Pause and gave it a rave review.  It was the first book I'd read by her, and I've been meaning to read more by her ever since.  I just finished her Send Me Down A Miracle, which was named a National Book Award Finalist.  However, I came away disappointed.

Fourteen-year-old Charity Pittman is the daughter of a fiery Southern preacher in a tiny town where everyone knows everyone else's business.  She seems destined to follow in his footsteps until eccentric artist Adrienne Dabney comes to town.  Adrienne locks herself in her old, boarded-up house for an entire month, apparently subsisting solely on fruit juice, as a "sensory deprivation project," which she believes will help her in the creation of her art.  Adrienne describes herself as "not a God person," but during the course of that month, she has three visions--all of Jesus sitting in a chair in her living room.

When she emerges from her sensory deprivation and tells the townspeople about her visions, the entire town just goes nuts.  Everyone wants to sit and worship at her "Jesus chair."  The townspeople are convinced that it can solve all their problems.  Charity's father, the reverand, explodes with anger and preaches endless fire-and-brimstone sermons about how the townspeople have gone astray in choosing to worship a "graven image."  Meanwhile, Charity is torn between her duty to her father, her fascination with Adrienne, and trying to make sense of her faith.

Several reviewers described this book as "humorous," and while the characters were definitely quirky, I didn't find it to be funny.  Charity's father was incredibly angry for the entire book, and I didn't really care for Charity's voice.  (That being said, kudos to Han Nolan for her talent in developing her narrator's voices--this one was quite different from Elly in Pregnant Pause, and both were very well-done.)  The "quirky" townspeople just made me sad--like Mad Joe, whose twin daughters were dying of sickle cell anemia, or Charity's friend Sharalee, whose mother's obsession with losing weight is causing Sharalee to starve herself (or foray into bulimia, which the book is rather unclear on).  Then there's Boo, a little boy who has some unnamed disease that causes him to remain completely hairless and cold even in the heat of the Southern summer.  And absent from the story is Charity's mother, who departed for a trip to "visit family" before the novel began--but the reader can assume that she has actually abandoned her children in an effort to get away from her incredibly overbearing and angry husband.  The characters put their faith in the "Jesus chair" to help them with all of these problems, and the novel progresses to a tragic end.

The takeaway from the book is supposed to be Charity's contemplations of faith--does God live in the Bible, in a chair, or in the human heart?  While I did enjoy her consideration and conclusions, I found both her father and the townspeople to be such misguided caricatures that I couldn't really enjoy either. 

In short, I was still impressed with Han Nolan's writing, but I didn't enjoy this story.  Before finishing it, though, I did check out another of her books from my local library, so I'll give her another try and let you know what I think.  Happy reading, everyone!

* For a review that I enjoyed of Send Me Down a Miracle, you can check out Bookshelves of Doom here.