15 September 2014

Ten Books

There's been a lot of tagging going on with Facebook right now. Not just the ice bucket challenge, but also this thing with a list of books. The prompt is to list ten books that have stayed with you. You aren't supposed to think about it much. I did it, but I didn't do my own status update or tag people; I just responded with a comment on the post where I was tagged. And admittedly, I did think about it probably more than I was supposed to. Having a list of ten books with virtually no context (especially reading others' lists) had left me wondering why those books are on the list. So I decided to do a blog post with my list, and with a little detail about why each of the books made the list. In no particular order:

1. Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton - I read this book a few years ago, and there is a part when the judge passes down the sentence, which he clearly believes is unfair. But he makes a statement that he doesn't make the laws. The politicians, elected by the people, make the laws. And any injustice in the laws ultimately goes back to the people who elected the politicians. I think about that often. The rest of the book, even the main plot, was certainly good, but I couldn't recount details to you.

2. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom - I've read it a few times (five or six?). This woman was just amazing. Her story is just amazing. If you haven't read it you really ought to.

3. Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman - I talk about this book so much that it had to make the list. I'm a firm believer in the way French people feed their kids, and while I don't follow their methods exactly (because I'm not French, and don't have time for five course meals every day), I do attribute my non-picky eaters, in part, to this book.

4. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand - Like The Hiding Place, it is just an amazing story.

5. The Giver by Lois Lowry - My first introduction to dystopian books. I read it first when I was about 10, and I've read it a total of about 30 times. (Who can keep track?)

6. Matilda by Roald Dahl - I loved this book as a child and read it numerous times as well.

7. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - There are just certain scenes in this book that have stuck with me. As with Cry, the Beloved Country, I can only remember the basic outline of the plot, but the overarching themes have stayed with me.

8. Cinderella Ate my Daughter by Peggy Orenstein - This is another non-fiction book that I talk about a lot. I recommend it to many women with daughters.

9. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin - Have you ever had to listen to me prattle on about how amazing Abraham Lincoln was? No? Well, let me get started...

10. The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan - This wasn't the first book that really made me think about what I eat, but it was the first to make me think about where my food comes from. I'd still like to have a chance to slaughter my own meat one day. (Except, not really. But kind of.)

If you've shared your list on Facebook and are eager to share on your blog, feel free to post a link in the comments. I'd love to judge you based on your lists read your lists.

10 September 2014

On Having a Teacher Husband

In June, when I first started writing about our long road trip, I mentioned that one of the benefits of having a teacher husband is that he gets lots of time off. Around the time that he was looking into moving into a teaching career I talked to somebody whose husband was a teacher. I asked her what I needed to know about having a teacher husband. She told me that at first it's really great, but then you have to give him a list of things to do because he can get really bored. I didn't find that to be the case at all. (Maybe the things that need doing in our house are incredibly obvious. Or maybe Eric is just more observant or self-motivated?)

We really loved our first summer with Eric at home. I was on the borders of true devastation when it was time for him to go back to school a couple of weeks ago. (Although I did (and do) love it when he'd take Ike with him to his classroom to work and get organized. It's fun having only one kid!) How was I going to survive without my best friend hanging around all the time?

With Eric's time off, we took a super long road trip with stops in Colorado, Texas, Arkansas, and Missouri. We went to the Tetons and to Yellowstone. We played a lot. Eric kept the house really tidy. I worked more than usual to help pad the bank account. (The low salary is certainly a drawback of being a teacher.) We did projects (like our headboard). We worked in the yard and the gardens. When we had family in town we (especially Eric) got to spend lots of time with them instead of dealing with a million work crises (which was the previous modus operandi.)

Other benefits of having a teacher husband:

  • Dinner is usually about 5 or 5:30. Much better with small children. (He was getting home closer to 6 or 6:30 with the old job. We frequently started (and sometimes finished) dinner without him.)
  • No middle-of-the-night phone calls.
  • Work stays at work (mostly).
  • I can help him with his work a lot more than I could with his old job. Which is fun (usually) and helpful for him (hopefully).
  • He brings home learning activities and other educational resources for our own kids.

Mostly it was just fun to have him around. With Labor Day (the first holiday of the school year) past, we're eagerly looking forward to the next school holiday in October. We're planning a canoeing trip down in Moab with Eric's parents. On the whole, we were both really pleased with the experience of Eric's first year of teaching, but the summer break definitely sealed the deal. He'll be doing this for a while.

05 September 2014

An Update on the Yard

Just a quick back yard update. (For reference, a previous post about our back yard.)

This was Eric working away during his Spring Break in April. You can see there were lots of weeds, a dead Christmas tree, and a few other trees that did not survive the winter. Most of the plants that we had gotten from his parents and his aunt in the fall had not yet woken up.

And here we are now. The sprinklers have been installed (mostly by Eric and his dad). The dead trees have been replaced with live trees. Most of the transplants from other yards have survived, and we've supplemented by purchasing other plants as well. We will definitely have to do some rearranging this coming fall (too many purples together, and too many yellows together in other spots), but overall we are loving our yard. We are especially big fans of the echinacea. I've seen hummingbirds flying around that plant numerous times. The lowest level doesn't have sprinklers, so Eric "borrowed" some Arizona sunflowers from some empty lots. They don't require much water, and they've done great on that level. We had some lavender on that level too (also drought-resistant), but it hasn't done nearly as well.

There is still so much to do (mostly by Eric), but we are loving the yard. I especially love standing at my kitchen sink and seeing so many flowers.

02 September 2014

Impromptu Garden

We have this little garden box right up against a section of the west side of the house. Last year it grew tomatoes. When it wasn't growing tomatoes, we used it as a sort of quasi-compost dump. Except we never actually turned the compost over or anything. We just chucked orange rinds and grape stems and such things back there periodically. And also rotting pumpkins and pumpkin innards.

This year we planted peas in the garden box, but they didn't do that great. The ones on the south side did much better. We decided to do tomatoes this year, but we only did tomatoes in pots. We pretty much just decided to ignore the garden box. It had other ideas:

In case you can't tell, the garden box is packed full of volunteer tomatoes. There is also a pumpkin (or possibly some other large squash?) that is taking over and growing everywhere. I don't think the volunteer tomatoes are actually going to produce much (if any) fruit, but the pumpkin (or whatever) is getting going pretty well. If only the tomatoes in the pots were actually doing as well as the volunteers. They might do better if I didn't let a pumpkin grow all over them. And if I remembered to water them ever. And maybe if I fed them.

It's okay, though. Because I have been getting tons of tomatoes from my neighbors across the street. Here is a photo of their incredible tomato plants the day after a terrible wind storm that blew them over.
What have I been doing with all these cherry tomatoes? Eating them plain, of course. Also, tomato cobbler, corn and tomato chowder, and creamy lemon pasta. Seriously, these plants are incredibly productive, and my neighbors are not that crazy about cherry tomatoes. (Actually, the wife is, but she is pregnant and hasn't been feeling well.) I'm doing them a favor by taking them off their hands.

29 July 2014

A Decorated Bedroom

Before we moved into our house I decided I wanted our master bedroom to be painted some shade of peach. I was inspired by some magazine I read, probably in a doctor's office. Eric willingly went along with this plan. He did most of the painting, which included painting the coffered ceilings. Pretty, they are. Easy to paint, they are not. Once the paint was totally on the walls and we'd had a chance to see it in various levels of light we both realized the peach looked awfully pink. I razzed Eric over the last few years for having a pink bedroom, but he didn't care enough to bother painting it again. Darn that coffered ceiling. (To be fair, in the daylight the wall color is definitely more of a peach color.)

At some point I bought green sheets and a green bed spread to help level out the pinkness. It certainly helped, but it was one very small step. This year I've done a lot of things to get our room looking nicer and definitely less pink. Around Valentine's Day I bought some dark brown curtains. Even when they are open they help to break up the pink. In April I brought home a fake tree from work. (We moved offices and a whole bunch of office decor was free game.) I also brought home a pretty framed print of Ireland, but we like to pretend that it's New Zealand. (It's just a hilly area with grazing sheep, so it's totally feasible that it's really New Zealand.) I painted our night stands, which Eric got at a thrift store a few years ago. I wish I had pictures of them in their original state. Alas. Finally, I bought a headboard for $25. Eric sanded it, and then it sat in the garage for a couple of months. We bought some paint and painted it last week, and now after 9+ years of marriage our bed finally has a headboard.

And the pictures:

17 July 2014

The Real Danger of Kid-Friendly Foods

I don't really buy kid-friendly food. Before you roll your eyes at me and think I'm trying to be superior, I'm really not. It's all about practicality for me. I know that if I start buying chicken nuggets and tater tots, it will be all too easy to continue to buy chicken nuggets and tater tots. One of my biggest goals as a parent is to have kids who eat a variety of foods, and so far we're doing okay with that. Also, I'm cheap, and kid-friendly food usually isn't. With that background established, you can understand why Ike is chronically confused about the difference between tater tots and chicken nuggets.

I know that my boys have those foods at the babysitter's, and like I said, I really don't mind them eating those things. It's just that I don't want to buy those things. So we're riding in the car last week, and I remind Ike that pretty soon he'll be going back to his babysitter's house while Mom goes to work. Even though he loves going over there, he whined about the return to her house. I told him not to be too sad because sometimes he has chicken nuggets at her house.

He then replied that we have chicken nuggets at our house. I told him that we don't. He said that sometimes we do. I told him that I've never bought chicken nuggets, but once we had a bag of tater tots. He realizes that he meant to say "tater tots" all along and tells me we have a bag at our house.

I told him that we don't have any, and he replied, "Yes we do. Dad got some at the store yesterday." Eric looked sheepish and confessed that he'd bought a bag.

And that's why I'm eating tater tots at 10:10 at night. And also why I shouldn't have tater tots (or chicken nuggets or other kid-friendly food) in my house.