Thursday, June 30, 2011

June Books

All of the books I read this month were excellent.  If you're looking for something to read this summer, you can't go wrong with any of them.

  1. (6/4) Island Beneath the Sea (Isabel Allende) - This is exactly the kind of story I love.  I can’t believe that this book sat on my bedside table, unread, for months!  I’ve read other Allende novels before, and this one is my favorite so far.  I learned a lot about the history of the region, especially Haiti.  I did have a misconception about some of the relationships between the characters from a too-quick scan of the cover synopsis and Prologue - I thought that Tete was brought into the household for a different reason than was really the case, and that she would end up loving her white master.  This made things quite confusing to me until I eventually went back and realized I had made some incorrect assumptions.  I think it would have been a different reading experience for me if I had not read those words before jumping into the story...  All in all, a great read.
  2. (6/9) The Name of the Wind (Patrick Rothfuss) - Wow.  This book was recommended to me by a friend, and I put it on my hold list at the library without giving it much thought.  A few months later, it was ready and I picked it up in time for a long plane trip.  I could not put this book down.  I stayed up way too late reading it.  It was that good.  This is basically a story of an boy named Kvothe, who is wicked smart, musical, and resourceful, and his life as a child, then orphan, then student at the prestigious University.  This is the first of three books in the series (the third hasn’t been released yet) and therefore covers the first third of Kvothe’s life, approximately.  There are some elements of Harry Potter, but it is written for a more mature audience.  The writing is excellent, the main character compelling, and the story is action packed.  Go get it.
  3. (6/12) Matched (Ally Condie) - Another recommendation from Sharon.  This book gave me a lot of food for thought.  It’s about a society in which people are basically told what to do in every aspect of their lives, from what to eat, what career they will pursue, and whom they will marry.  This “Match” is how the book starts, and we follow a teen-aged girl during the weeks and months following her Match.  I thought the author did a good job of creating a world which is so different from ours, and yet it was possible to understand how the people in this world thought they were happy and even fortunate.  I thought some of the characters were a little shallow, but maybe that’s because I had just been reading about Kvothe.  I LOVED the cover art.  Perfect.
  4. (6/18) The Wise Man's Fear (Patrick Rothfuss) - Installment Two of Kvothe’s story.  I didn’t think this book could match the first, but it was just as good.  Once again, I read the whole thing in just a few days, staying up until all hours and giving up my precious sleep.  I hope I don’t have to wait four years for the last installment to come out!
  5. (6/26) Old Man's War (John Scalzi) - This book was a lot of fun.  An interesting story about aging, war, experience, and humanity.  Along with some great aliens and science fiction technology.  Fast read, highly recommended.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Little Things: Ada, Fourteen Months

Ada is fourteen months old today!  This post is going to be pretty photo-heavy.  Ada is such a cutie these days, but developmentally she hasn't made any dramatic shifts in the past month.  The word I would use to describe her these days is insistent.  She is starting to want things much more passionately than in the past, and she gets irritated when she can't have what she wants.  She'll give a loud cry of frustration when she is spurned.  She does recover pretty quickly, so I can't really call them tantrums yet.  I think if we hadn't just been through Jude's tantrums from hell, though, we might be singing a different tune.

Here is a cute close-up from dinner tonight.


She is teething, by the way.  She has three molars coming in at the same time, and that can't be fun.

Doing some gardening on the back porch.

Ada loves to pull the leaves off of the sage plant and eat them.

Ada and Daddy have the same eyes, exactly.

Ada has this funny mannerism when she walks.  Her hands are up at shoulder level with bent arms and it's really cute.  I'm going to miss that walk when she gets more steady on her feet.  Here's a shot from behind.

At the park.


So Big!

Ada is doing really well.  She gets better at walking every day.  Her language continues to improve.  Today she saw a dog walking past our house, pointed, and said "Dog".  Clear as day.  I'd never even heard her try that word before.  She does have a heart-stopping habit of making a run for it, often towards the street or oncoming traffic.  We have to be really vigilant or she will end up in the middle of the street or halfway up the stairs with no spotter.

Ada seems to understand much of what we say these days.  She can follow simple commands like fetching a certain toy or dropping something.  She also likes to throw food from her tray during mealtime, and then if we don't clean it up right away she'll come back later and eat it.  One very endearing trick:  if we're in the living room and ask "Do you want a bottle of milk?", she'll lead us over to the fridge and show us where to find the milk she wants.

Ada continues to eat well and sleep well.  She goes to sleep easily at night, and sleeps 11-12 hours.  She also takes an afternoon nap of 1-3 hours, usually closer to two.  She's still in size four diapers and size 12-18M clothing.  She has grown out of the 6-12 month Robeez and is now wearing the 12-18 month size soft shoes.

Here's a short video of Ada's speed walking to finish out this month.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Footage

We finally found our camera.  Here are two videos from today.

"Cat In The Hat" is the dog, by the way.  Jude's name for her.

Those boxes lasted through almost a whole evening of boat races...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Turning the Corner

Writing this post is the blogging equivalent of asking for trouble.  And yet, I'm writing it anyway.  While knocking furiously on wood.  I wanted to capture what it feels like to turn the corner between two and three.

Jude's behavior has changed recently.  It's been over two weeks since he had his last the-world-is-ending, out-of-control, snot-slinging tantrum.  He is reasonable.  He will take "no" for an answer.  We don't have to fight with him about every. little. thing. he needs to do in a day.

This is not to say he's suddenly an easy child.  He still cries and protests, and we need to think carefully about how we approach him.  The difference is that the cries fade in a matter of a few minutes, and he can move on from the thing he thought he NEEDED to something else that would be good enough.

We no longer have to bribe him to get into his car seat.  He hops right in and lets us buckle him up without arching his back and twisting out of the way.  It's just not something that triggers a fight anymore.

Turning off the TV to eat a meal is accepted with a casual "Ok".  No screaming for Just One More Show or kicking and flailing on the floor.

Changing clothes is no longer an issue, most of the time.  He'll let us change his shirt and pants if they are dirty, and put on PJs at bedtime.  This was emphatically NOT the case last month.  He would wear the same shirt for days and days, and insist on sleeping in his play clothes.

Yesterday, he wanted to play a certain game that has too many small pieces to be safe for Ada.  He REALLY wanted to play, but Ada was in a mood herself, and only wanted to be in that exact area where we could play the game, and so I wouldn't let him play.  I admit it was sort of an experiment to see what he would do.  After a brief bout of crying, he pulled himself together and said "Let's play a blocks game instead".  This would NEVER have happened a month ago.

We still have a lot of behavioral work to do.  Jude can be pushy with other kids, and we can't really set him loose in a crowd.  He throws things.  He tests boundaries.  He is careless with Ada's safety, and kicks her away when she intrudes on his personal space.

This change in him is huge, though.  It makes everything else seem so much easier to tackle.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My Legacy

I spent last weekend in New York, and came home with a treasure trove of photos from my grandparents' house. I had never seen most of these photos before, and fell in love with a few.

This is Nanny, my mom, and me soon after I was born.

The Henning family at the beach in 1963.

Nanny in Venice in the 1950's. This one was on the cover of the program.

Nanny, Bobby, and Peggy as a baby. This one is so sweet and reminds me of seeing our two kids together soon after Ada was born.

Newspaper clipping about my grandparents' wedding. I love the headline.

Nanny and her parents and two sisters, Charlotte and Pat.

Nanny and Bobo in Arizona. I love the cowboy hats.

Nanny and her granddaughters in 1979. I'm the one in the middle.

Nanny would have been pleased with the turnout. The church was full, the music was beautiful, and the speakers were poignant yet funny. All seventeen grandchildren attended the funeral, flying in from all over the country and even as far away as Kenya. It was a day that we will all remember.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011


My grandmother passed away yesterday morning.  I spent the day talking on the phone, checking flights to New York, arranging childcare, cancelling appointments, moving meetings.  As my sister would say, I was "all business".  Someone needs to tend to the details, and I'm good at that.

Every Monday, we have a babysitter watch the kids while we go to the gym and then out to dinner.  It's a really nice part of our week, one that we've really appreciated for the past few months.  Last night, I struggled through my yoga class.  Things that are usually no problem seemed tougher to me.  I was happy when the relaxation phase of the class began so I could close my eyes and let my mind wander.

Dinner time: "What would Nanny like us to do tonight?", asked E Ben.  "We should do something romantic.  She would like that."  We decided to grab a quick bite at our neighborhood Italian place.  Afterwards, we went for a stroll around Northwest, then drove up to Pittock Mansion to look out over our fair city.  We talked about our kids and the changes in our lives.  We talked about our families and all of our grandmothers.  About the last hilarious conversation that I had with Nanny in March about French nightgowns and Italian men.  We watched the sun go down, then drove home to our sleeping kids.

Nanny would have liked that.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

She Speaks!

I didn't say much in my last Ada post about the words that she is saying these days.

Ada's favorite word is OUT!  She must say it hundreds if not thousands of times each day, starting first thing in the morning when she wants to get OUT! of her crib until last thing at night when she is cranky from being tired and just wants OUT! of everything!

Ada has finally started calling me something consistently: MAMA.  She will look in my direction when someone says MAMA and will copy when someone refers to me that way.  She has been calling E Ben DAT! for a while now.

Ada has just recently started pointing at things and saying AT!  I think this means "what's that?".  She seems happy when I label things for her and sometimes tries to copy what I say.

Another common word is UNTZ (I wants it!).  Ada knows what she wants, and it is usually something that one of us is eating or holding.  She has also started selecting a book, carrying it over to someone, and asking for a story using this word.  It's a pretty big change, because for the longest time she was fairly uninterested in books.  She'd lose interest before most books were finished.  Just recently, she has grown much more interested and will happily flip through favorites like "Moo, Ba, La, La, La", "Baby Says Peekaboo", and "Where's Spot?".

And, of course, she loves to say BYE BYE accompanied by a cute wave.  BYE BYE!

Friday, June 3, 2011

May Books

Seven books in May.  This is starting to seem like a habit.  I devoured the rest of the Samaria series this month, plus picked up a few other quick reads.

  1. (5/8) Jovah's Angel (Sharon Shinn) - This is the second book in the Samaria series.  I was a bit surprised to start this book and find that it picks up 150 years after the previous book ends.  Though there are references to the characters in the first book, I wished that I could have gotten to know them better.  This book was different, and interesting.  Although I guessed the ending to this one in advance, the story was a bit more unusual and unpredictable.  The main character was more approachable, and it was easier to be in her head than in the previous book.  Looking forward to the rest of the series!
  2. (5/15) Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (Amy Chua) - After reading the mostly outraged reaction to this book on the blogosphere, I didn’t expect to find much worthwhile parenting advice here.  But I think that Chua has some good points to make about expectation and achievement.  She is obviously much more extreme than I would ever be, but I agree that success creates a “virtuous cycle” (as she calls it) which improves self-esteem and engenders future success.  I think it’s important for kids to work hard to master something, whether it’s an instrument, athletics, or something else that may not be “fun” until the child gains some competence at the activity.  This book spawned a lively debate in our house.  I wouldn’t say that I really loved/enjoyed the book, but I am happy that I read it.
  3. (5/17) This Is Where I Leave You (Jonathan Tropper) - Very funny story about relationships among siblings and partners.  I found myself somewhat unconvinced about the realism of some of the main character’s antics, but it is comedy after all.
  4. (5/20) The Alleluia Files (Sharon Shinn) - The next installment of the Samaria series.  Now that I know these books are only loosely linked (and only in terms of setting, not characters), I’m finding that I enjoy them more.  I also find that as these books veer more into science fiction rather than fantasy, they become more interesting to me.  Only two more to go!
  5. (5/22) Angelica (Sharon Shinn) - This one takes place in “ancient history” on Samaria compared with the other three, which each jumped forwards several generations.  I like how we can see the evolution of knowledge of the oracles over time and we also learn more about the Edori and the history of the planet.  
  6. (5/25) Something Blue (Emily Giffin) - This is a sequel to a book I read a few months ago.  It is interesting that it is told from the perspective of an entirely different character - one who is not at all sympathetic in the first book.  I actually liked this book more than the first one, maybe because it was fascinating to get a glimpse into the head of someone who is portrayed so negatively the first time around.  I didn’t entirely buy Darcy’s transformation, but it made for a good story!
  7. (5/29) Angel-Seeker (Sharon Shinn) - I liked this book the best of the series so far.  We get to revisit some of the characters we met in an earlier story.  This is the first of the Samaria books that is not focused on archangels and their lovers.  We still spend time with the angels, but there is more focus on the lives of ordinary people, the different cultures living on Samaria, and how individuals can instigate change in society.