29 January 2011

Name Game

I've known from the outset that the Mancub's blog nickname would not remain. I wanted to pick something else, but I couldn't decide what. I figured it would be best to get to know him a little bit first. (Does anyone else find it ironic that I didn't need to know him to give him a real name, but the fake name required weeks and weeks of deliberation?)

I toyed with the idea of naming him after a dictator. After all, babies are sort of like dictators. But, he isn't much of a dictator, and he's too sweet to be named after one.

I thought of going with a theme like Science Teacher Mommy, but I don't really know what my kid likes yet, so a theme wasn't plausible.

I thought of naming him after a character in a book, like Janssen did, but none of the characters I like really fit for him.

I thought of Squeaker because he squeaks a lot, and my mom suggested Bobblehead because his head can be amusingly wobbly sometimes. However, those are both names that he'll grow out of, and I want something that will stick with him.

I finally settled on a name this week.


27 January 2011

Mairzy Doats

When I was a kid my mom would sing "Mairzy Doats." I had completely forgotten it until she was singing it to the Mancub. It was stuck in my head the whole way home from Texas, and I've been singing it to the Mancub since then.

Then I found this video of a little girl singing the song on "The Lawrence Welk Show." Eric's Grandpa L. LOVED "The Lawrence Welk Show." He watched the reruns just about every day. We watched a few episodes with him, and I was always impressed that he knew the words to every song, but then Grandma reminded me that it was because he'd seen all the episodes so many times.

26 January 2011

Trip to Texas

We went to Texas to introduce my folks to the Mancub, and so we could visit with the family and see the Mancub's cousin who was born just 16 days after him.

My mom enjoyed singing to the Mancub. My dad enjoyed holding the Mancub, as long as he didn't have to battle him with the binky. (For some reason we are constantly having to remind our child that he likes his binky. When he's really tired he will fight it, which is ironic because it is exactly what he needs to calm himself.)

My sister was out of town most of the weekend that I was in town, but we got together for a little bit on her birthday, and I was glad she got to meet the Mancub.

Marissa had her baby sixteen days after I had mine. It was interesting to compare the two babies. I tend to think that babies are just babies, but these two are actually very different in personalities. Some people described the Mancub as "aggressive." I prefer the word "decisive."

Marissa's baby eats a ton! But he is not a ravenous eater like mine.

Eric enjoyed bathing the Mancub in the sink every night. The Mancub also enjoyed it.

25 January 2011

Faces of the Mancub

I have a very expressive baby. Mostly he is expressive when he is drifting off to sleep and when he is sleeping. Here are some of his faces:

The one on the bottom right is the one he makes when thinking about what on earth is going on with the Republican Party. He is very concerned about its future.

23 January 2011

And We're Back!

It's been twelve days since my last post. I have been very busy doing the following:
  • Returning to work (sort of). (I've done a bit of work from home, and I took the Mancub in for a couple of days last week. Can I just tell you how awesome it is to be working while my kid sleeps underneath my desk? It's awesome.)
  • Reading.
  • Nursing.
  • Trying to keep my apartment liveable. (Fail.)
  • Going to Texas for a few days. (Post with pictures to follow.)
  • Catching up on sleep.
  • Drinking water.
  • Cooking dinner on a regular basis.
  • House shopping.
  • Cleaning up the Mancub's excessive puke. (Am I the only mom who is far more grossed out by spit-up than by dirty diapers? The diapers are at least (usually) contained.)
  • Trying to get the Mancub to smile at me, or at least to make eye contact with me on occasion.
  • Pumping. (Success!)
  • Wondering what to eat next.
So, you know, it's been really busy around here. But rest assured that I'm still alive, and so is the Mancub.

11 January 2011

Review: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

I first heard about Outliers from my sister-in-law, Shalissa. Then Heidikins gave it five-stars, and a couple of other people I know read and blogged about some other Malcolm Gladwell books that they read in 2010 (Trish read Tipping Point and Janssen read Blink). During a middle of the night feeding, in which I had one hand available, I put Outliers on hold at the library, along with a couple of others I'd been meaning to read. It became available very quickly, and I devoured it right after I devoured The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. (You know, this book review is becoming a memoir about my experience in obtaining the book rather than an actual review of it, so let's get down to business.)

The book sets out to explain why some people are successful. Mind you the book does not set out to explain how to be successful. Rather, it focuses on the happy accidents and cultural legacies that lead people to be successful.

Gladwell argues that though we tend to think that the only two ingredients to success are hard work and dedication, there are a lot of other factors that can really contribute to how successful we become, like birth date, birth location, and our parents' economic status.

A number of reviews that I read mentioned that Gladwell throws away the belief that success is all about hard work and dedication. In a way, that is true. I think it's important to note, though, that even when he discusses the backstories behind some of the successes, he never fails to mention that these people, in addition to having a great stroke of luck, also worked incredibly hard to become successful.

The book is full of interesting case studies and analysis. For instance, early in the book he discusses how the month in which you are born can determine how successful you are in school. For example, in the United States kids usually start school (in what we call Kindergarten) at age 5. Generally the cut-off date for starting school is about September 1, give or take a few weeks depending on the state, school district, etc. Now, when you are talking about five-year-olds, a few months can mean a world of difference in developmental abilities. When you are looking at a kid who barely missed the cut-off date the previous year and who turns 6 just a few days into the school year and comparing him with a kid who turned 5 just in time for the cut-off date of this school year, there can be a vast difference. Now, let's say those kids are weeded out early for advanced programs. Who is most likely to be advanced? Generally, the kids who are older will have a head-start. Then, once they are in the advanced programs, they have that much more of an advantage - smaller class sizes, more challenging course material that stretches the gap even further, and more attention from teachers. Now, obviously, this doesn't mean that if your kid is born in the wrong month he'll never get into the advanced classes. There are plenty of kids born later in the school year who have great academic success. But let's just say that a kid is above average, but not necessarily so high above average that it's obvious he's bright. When he is so much younger than his peers, his above average aptitude may go unnoticed.

With all that said, Gladwell does propose a solution - in the early elementary years, sort the children into classes based on the time of year they were born. With time the kids can start being integrated together more normally, but this setup would be helpful initially.

I would have liked to have seen more of these proposed solutions in Gladwell's book. He does an astoundingly good job of breaking down the reasons behind success, but I felt like he was inconsistent in providing solutions to some of the problems he points out. Granted, some of the problems probably can't be solved, but many of them could be, and I think Gladwell's got the smarts to address those problems.

07 January 2011

Review: Qwirkle

I haven't reviewed a board game in a while, which certainly doesn't mean that I have lost my interest in them. Oh no, I'm far too nerdy to ever lose my interest in board games.

This year for Christmas Eric's brother got his parents a game called Qwirkle. We played it quite a bit while we stayed at their house for Christmas, and now it's on my list of board games we need to acquire.

The premise of the board game is really simple. In fact, you can probably figure it out basically by looking at the picture. The object of the game is to create strings of tiles with like colors or shapes. Where possible, you want to double up your points by placing tiles where they can be counted in two lines. (Think about Scrabble where you can count two words if you play the tiles correctly.)

This is a great game if you are looking for something that won't take a ton of time. Plus, it is a great game for kids. It's decent for only two players, but it is definitely better with at least three people.

06 January 2011

One Month

Today the Mancub is one month old. I feel like he's been around a lot longer than that. People often ask if he's a good sleeper. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Last night was pretty good with two four-hour stretches of sleep. Of course, the first middle-of-the-night feeding lasted 90 minutes because he just would not go back to sleep. This is a new problem we are battling, but I'm sure we'll get past it.

People also ask if he is a good eater, and the answer to that is a wholehearted, "YES!" I feel incredibly fortunate that breastfeeding was never a challenge for him or for me. I definitely feel closer to him and more attached to him while I'm nursing him than any other time (thanks, oxytocin!).

His current favorite things are: eating, swinging, bathing, being swaddled, hanging out in his carseat (whether on a drive or not), and rolling from his belly as soon as we put him down for tummy time. He is not a fan of diaper changes or being naked in general (besides baths). He makes really funny faces while he sleeps and eats - I'll have to post a few more pictures some time.

Here are pictures that Gina with Golden June Photography took of the Mancub. Aren't they delightful?

These last two are my favorites. The left one we have dubbed "The Thinker," and the right one has made me decide to call him the Dalai Lama of Babies. Doesn't he look so wise?

There are a couple of more photos that Gina posted. You should check them out.

03 January 2011

Goals (or the lack thereof)

I am not really one to write and post about my goals. Or to really even make goals. In 2009 and 2010 I made a goal to read 52 books, and I accomplished that both years. (Receiving the Little House series at the end of 2009 really helped me accomplish that goal. I wasn't rushing quite so much at the end of 2010, which was nice.) Reading 52 books was my only goal both years. In 2009, I didn't even mention my book goal on my blog until the end of May. That was because I didn't want to not accomplish my goal and have everyone know about it. I'm not sure why I care about such things, but I do.

As to why I'm not more ambitious, I think I've figured that out.

When I was in high school, I set a goal to give a speech at my high school graduation. For my high school, that would mean graduating as either valedictorian or salutatorian. At the end of my sophomore year I was ranked seventh in my class. I worked my tail off the first semester of my junior year. I also started working that semester. I usually worked about 20 hours a week that semester, many nights working until midnight. I was also the color guard captain that semester and spent a good 10-15 hours per week (sometimes more) with associated practices and performances. I was taking fairly challenging classes, but I still managed to keep my grades up. At the end of the semester, I was third in my class.

I was also dead tired, unhappy all the time at end the end of my rope. It was bad. So bad, in fact, that my friends frequently asked me if I was okay and told me they were worried about me. So I quit.

Well, sort of. I didn't quit working. I did quit color guard (it was only for the first semester anyway, but I knew at the end of the semester that I wouldn't be the captain the next year, and by the end of my junior year I knew that I wouldn't be rejoining the team at all). I didn't quit any of my classes, but I did decide that being in the number one or number two spot just wasn't worth it.

Sometimes I'm still a little bummed that I didn't stick with my goal, but only a very little. Ultimately I realized that the motives behind my goal were not particularly noble and were entirely related to bolstering my own pride.

Since then I've been really hesitant to make ambitious goals, so I generally just don't make any at all. And when I do make them, I don't really publicize them. I have a hard time making goals that are quantifiable and still practical. I want to make sure my goals have a greater purpose than simply fulfilling my vanities or impressing other people. I was a little tempted to write a post about my "goober goals" a la Jana, but I couldn't even think of some good goober goals. Anyway, this year I'll be reading 52 books again, and maybe some other stuff, but I don't really know what.

01 January 2011

2010 Book Stats

As I did last year, I've made a couple of graphs to summarize my 2010 reading:

I read a total of 52 books this year.

My two best months were May and September. We went on our cruise in May, which gave me ample catch-up time. In September I went to Texas and did quite a bit of reading on the flights to and fro, plus a fair amount of reading at my parents' house. April was pathetic because of my ridiculous need for sleep during the first trimester. August was crazy-busy with Eric's family in town and family reunions and work and such. I have no recollection of October and why I read so little that month.I am astounded at how much non-fiction I read this year! Of the 52 books I read, 23 were non-fiction. Definitely a high for me.
Of the total books, 23.1% of them were ones I had read before, and 11.5% of them were audiobooks.

It has been very difficult for me to choose my top five books for the year. Oddly, this is not because there were a lot of books that I just lovedlovedloved. Instead, there were quite a few books that I liked very well, and only a couple that fell into the lovedlovedloved category. With that said, my top five for 2010 are:
  1. Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
  2. Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss
  3. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  4. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  5. When Everything Changed by Gail Collins
What were the top 10% of books you read this year?

2010 Books

Here is what I read in 2010:

1. These is my Words by Nancy E. Turner - (Loved this book. I couldn't put it down. As far as historical-romance-fiction goes, this is as good as it gets. Just go read Janssen's review.)

2. The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder - (I will never stop adoring this series. I will also never live in South Dakota.)

3. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown - (Typical Dan Brown.)

4. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen and David Oliver Relin - (Excellent story, kind of bland writing. Maybe not everybody needs to read this book because it really isn't stellar, but everyone should familiarize themselves with the story.)

5. The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale - (I really liked this book. The writing is great, and the story was wonderful.)

6. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather - (Before this I loved My Antonia, but with that as my only sampling of Willa Cather, I wasn't really sure if I was crazy about her writing. Now I'm certain that I am.)

7. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling - (My memory of this was that Harry was a big whiny baby throughout the whole book. It wasn't as bad as I remembered. And Doloroes Umbridge is a truly magnificent villain.)

8. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini - (Great book. Well-deserving of all the positive reviews. An excellent tale of redemption.)

9. Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss - (I loved this book so much. I could hardly stop laughing, nodding my head in agreement and wanting to high-five Lynne Truss.)

10. The Help by Kathryn Stocket - (Loved this book. A couple of people recommended it to me, and I wholeheartedly agree with those folks.)

11. Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner - (I sure did like this book. I'd been hearing about it for a few years, and I finally got around to reading it. Really interesting.)

12. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - (I liked this even more than The Kite Runner. Hosseini is a really engaging story-teller, and I found that I couldn't put this one down.)

13. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George* - (I enjoyed this one. It's written for kids, most especially for boys, but I'm not really sure how much most boys would like it. The pace is a little slow, and even though the narrator is a boy, the tone is much too adult.)

14. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling - (Why yes, yes, I did read this last year. That was in preparation for the movie. This time was with my carpool buddy.)

15. Left to Tell; Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza - (This was a difficult read but entirely worth it. While reading it, I was constantly reminded of how much God loves us and wants us to be joyful.)

16. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling - (I'm so glad my carpool buddy has finally read this series now. And I wish I could go to Hogwarts and get sorted. Maybe one day.)

17. Theodor SEUSS Geisel by Donald E. Pease - (This biography reads more like a literary analysis than a biography. Good thing it was only 152 pages.)

18. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer - (I really liked the main character, Oskar, but I thought he was a little too adult-like. I wouldn't recommend this to everyone, but I liked it.)

19. A Year Down Yonder by Gregory Peck - (Liked this even better than A Long Way From Chicago, which I read last year.)

20. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - (I had been nursing this one since December, picking it up only here and there when I wanted something charming to boost my spirits. I brought it along on the cruise to help lighten the load of the some of the depressing ones I had brought along, and then I just couldn't stop reading it.)

21. Watership Down by Richard Adams - (Who knew a nearly 500-page book about a warren of rabbits could possibly be so interesting?)

22. Little Town on the Prarie by Laura Ingalls Wilder - (I read this in one sitting when I should have been unpacking boxes. Then I delved straight into the next. I missed these while they were boxed up.)

23. Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder - (Almonzo and Laura had strikingly different childhoods, and it was interesting to see how different life was if you grew up in a rich farmer's family. I don't think I really noticed the differences when I read these books as a girl.)

24. The Savior and the Serpent by Alonzo L. Gaskill - (Much of the Old Testament is symbolic, but we don't really live in a culture where those symbols are still relevant. This book breaks down the Adam and Eve story, and it was a really fascinating read.)

25. When Everything Changed by Gail Collins - (I sure did like this book. Well-written and thoroughly interesting. Way to go women of the last fifty years!)

26. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens* - (Only my second Dickens read. It didn't quite compare to A Tale of Two Cities, but I liked it, and I liked the narrator.)

27. The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich - (Some parts of the story I found captivating. Other parts were disturbing. Others were too much like a soap opera.)

28. The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen* - (Meh. Not particularly clever, brilliant or deep.)

29. The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages* - (I liked it. I would have probably enjoyed it more at about age 10, but it was definitely worth a listen.)

30. These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder - (It was totally different reading about Laura and Almonzo's courtship in my twenties than when I was nine.)

31. The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder - (I'm glad I'm not a farmer.)

32. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith - (Loved. How have I not heard more about this book?)

33. Just Food by James E. McWilliams - (Interesting but kind of dull.)

34. Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns - (Rather enjoyed this one. I liked the characters, the setting and the story. It made me hungry for fried chicken.)

35. Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter* - (I couldn't get over the arrogant tone of this book and the assumption that everybody really has a deep-seated desire to be unbelievably wealthy, so it wasn't a particularly enjoyable listen. There are some good points, but his financial philosophy just doesn't mesh very well with my own.)

36. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth - (If all baby books are this repetitive, I don't know how many I will get through. But I think it will be worthwhile in a few months.)

37. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins - (Not as satisfying a conclusion as I expected. I liked the overall wrap-up, I just didn't really like how she got there.)

38. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dhal - (Man alive, I cannot wait to read this book to my kids. How had I not read it until now?)

39. Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton - (Amazing. Beautiful prose. Beautiful story.)

40. Evolution of a Radical by Newton Van Dalsem - (This book was written by a relative of mine, and I enjoyed it, but there wouldn't be much mass appeal in it at all.)

41. When the Wind Blows by James Patterson - (I'm just not really into thrillers.)

42. Matilda by Roald Dhal - (Read this aloud with Eric in the car. I loved it as a kid, and I still enjoyed it as an adult.)

43. Davita's Harp by Chaim Potok - (Not one I can recommend to everyone, but I sure loved it. In the next life I intend to have deep discussions with Potok. I cannot get enough of his books.)

44. Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin - (While I cannot advocate this financial lifestyle completely, I think it offers some really great ways to look at and think about money.)

45. On Becoming Baby Wise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam - (If you do not follow the steps in this book your baby will probably grow up to be an axe murder. Okay, okay. It wasn't THAT bad, but I found the tone really irritating although many of the principles resonated with me.)

46. Fight For Your Money by David Bach* - (Very informative and useful. Not necessarily an exciting read, though.)

47. The Pearl by John Steinbeck - (How had I never read this until now? So awesome.)

48. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America by Barbara Ehrenreich* - (Listening to this book made me feel like I was watching a Michael Moore film - there are lots of good points, but because the opposing side is never addressed, and the author blatantly ignores her own argument's weaknesses, the overall work is only a small step above propaganda.)

49. Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond - (A little long, but incredibly interesting.)

50. The Time-Starved Family by DeAnne Flynn - (A lot of good ideas in this book. It is more about evaluating priorities than anything else.)

51. The Giver by Lois Lowry - (I've read this book at least 30 times. I will never stop loving it.)

52. The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, John Sherrill and Elizabeth Sherrill - (I will never cease to be amazed by this woman.)

*I listened to an audio-book.