Monday, May 13, 2013

Bath Toys: A Scourge on Personal Hygiene?

We are now blessedly free of eye gunk and snot. Hallelujah! But this is the second post in my screed on bleach that I wrote while still in the midst of the deluge. I might as well post it since it's already written. But I can promise that I'm ready to move on to discussing other topics. Like possibly cloth diapers and/or butterflies. Do two more exciting topics exist? (May God bless you people who still consider me a friend even though you know that I also consider household bleach to be a friend of mine.)

We have all these little squeaky, animal-shaped bath toys. If you squeeze them, they take in and spit out water. The kids love them. Generally I'm able to coexist with them in a peaceful manner. But their nooks and crannies inside and out, as well as the small holes through which the water flows, eventually collect mildew and grime. Over time, I begin to leave bath time wondering if we've finished cleaner or dirtier. I ask you, are these bath toys the scourge of personal hygiene? Do the benefits of bath-time fun outweigh the disgustingness of mildew in the bathwater with which I am bathing my children?  Do I philosophize over the most trivial of issues?  (Yes.)

I'll admit, the problem is not just the bath toys. The shower has borne the brunt of a curtailed cleaning schedule that I've adopted as the result of having two mobile children- one of whom naps in our room which prevents me form cleaning the shower during nap time.

Not many guests want to poke around in the shower, or sit in there for a chat. I don't spend a lot of time in their either. My showers have become quite short. Consequently, I clean it less than I'd like. I'm not going to be so transparent as to tell you how often that is (mostly because I can't really remember the last time I did it. But I'm going to do it later today! With a lot of bleach!)

I did take one stand against household grime earlier today when I soaked those squeaky bath toys in a sink full of diluted bleach. Now they are spewing clean water rather than water and small colonies of mildew.

Is there anything that bleach can't do? Are there any downsides to it? I cannot possibly see any from where I sit, adorned with crusted-over eye gunk and surrounded by snot-soaked burp cloths.

So, please excuse me if I'm deriving intense satisfaction from those squeaky-clean bath toys. Bleached bath toys, and a bleached sink, shower and dishwasher won't make the pink eye go away, but at least I feel that there are some places in the house that aren't teeming with diseases. Some areas of my house not teeming with diseases: it's a high standard, but if I aim at all, I aim high. 

Also: bonus! Peter is an ophthalmologist, a person well-suited to deal with conjunctivitis. Though, even he thinks cleaning up all the eye gunk is pretty gross. And I'm all "You're an eye doctor! This is your passion!" And he's all, "At the clinic this is not one of my main responsibilities." And I'm all "This is not the clinic."

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Great Gatsby: I just thought I didn't get it

The movie The Great Gatsby opens this weekend. I first read The Great Gatsby in high school. I didn't remember liking it much, but I'm constantly amazed at the insights that flew over my head in high school, so I was happy to give it a second read a year ago for a book club. I still didn't like it that much. I found it difficult to enjoy because all of the characters are vain and careless. It's impossible to have sympathy for any of them because they treat people like trash. Despite that, I tend to agree with the themes that the love of money corrupts and that people are generally prone to act like jerks. Being unlettered as I am in literature, I trusted that it must be a work of genius, since everyone says it is, just not enjoyable one, since it's all so cynical. I thought maybe I just didn't get it. When I went to my book club discussion everyone else seemed enthralled, so I just assumed that I was blinded by my ignorance.

Then I read this article and I learned that their are other people in the world who didn't really like the Great Gatsby that much, some that may even despise it! Like the article's author, I had also wondered how Fitzgerald could condemn the excesses of wealth like he did, when he seemed to aspire to a similar life style of opulence. But that's all beside the point, what made me want to write this post was this little jewel of irony:

"... the new movie opens Friday. (Read David Edelstein's review here.) If you need a place to take your date afterward and have $14,999 to spare, you can head to the Trump hotel, which is offering a glamorous “Great Gatsby Package”: three nights in a suite on Central Park West, a magnum of Champagne, cuff links and a tailored suit for men, and, “for the ladies, an Art Deco shagreen and onyx cuff, accompanied by a personal note from Ivanka Trump.” Car insurance is not included."

On the sidebar of this article was a Tiffany's advertisement for a Great Gatsby "Jazz Age Glamour" collection of diamond jewelry. Pictured was a diamond head pendant (you can have it for $200,000) that matches Daisy's in the movie. Daisy is the main female character in the book, Gatsby's love interest. 

This is a joke, right? I mean listen, to anyone in the market for $200,000 diamond headband, or the Trump Hotel's "Great Gatsby Package", you might consider reading the book first. Find out how all that 20's-era glitz turned out for the characters.  (Hint: Not very well.) 

 The fact that people have created an entire marketing campaign around the excesses that the book criticizes takes me full circle back to wondering if  it was a work of genius after all. It seems to reflect an accurate picture: people dazzled by wealth without looking at the human story underneath. That story in the Great Gatsby is one in which the characters -soulless automatons whose god is their vanity- destroy each other amidst lavish parties and with many friendly exclamations of "old sport".  The End.

Nonetheless, I'm going to see the movie on Sunday with my book club and I'm going to get popcorn. So, that's pretty much all I know for sure about The Great Gatsby.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

In Praise of the Mandolin

 This is only a very slight reprieve in my treatise on  bleach. Oh, I have more to say about it, I'm like a germophobic Charles Dickens over here, but I felt like a change of subject.

Ever since my initial disappointment with the mandolin, which turned out to be the result of operator error (me, I was the operator, and I didn't get how to use the mandolin), I've really come to appreciate it as a kitchen essential. I don't use it very often, but when I do use it, it works so beautifully!

Besides making ridiculous, Martha-inspired carrot ribbons, and slicing onions (or anything else), you can also shred cabbage, which I've been doing a lot of lately. 

Finely shredded cabbage, at its finest! 

It's for these recipes. Yum! Healthy and delicious, and most importantly, easy to make.

But, as I've said before, you have to be careful because you can easily maim yourself with the mandolin. But, you know, nothing in life is 100% safe. Weigh the risk of (minor) digital mutilation against the benefits of ultra-thin vegetable slices and I think it's obvious which way the scales tip.

Monday, April 29, 2013

An Affirmation of My Position on Bleach

A while ago, my sister-in-law made a comment about how much more relaxed I am these days. When I asked her to elaborate, I had to laugh because it seems that she'd mistaken my silence on certain issues for sanity. It has been said that when a fool remains silent, even he may be considered wise. Perhaps I should heed that sentiment sometime... but for now I'm going to go on writing about bleach.

She mentioned that my intensity came across through some odes to bleach that I blogged a few years ago, and also through my penchant for long-distance endurance challenges. Now, it's true that I haven't had the time to pursue any marathons lately, but my ardent love for bleach has not waned. What has waned is the amount of time that I have to write about my love for bleach. So, joke's on them! I managed to convince Peter's family that I was less crazy, simply by virtue of having less time to publish my idiosyncrasies on the interwebs. (Or is the joke on me since I'm still writing posts about how much I love bleach?)

Regardless, I really love bleach. I've made peace with the fact that it's not very green. Household use of bleach is pretty benign, I think. It dissociates into a salt and water compound within 24 hours. I verified this with an actual chemical engineer. So go ahead, bleach it up!

I cleaned out my dishwasher this week. It was horrifying. I never would have thought to clean it out except for the fact that the bottom was growing mold. I'm actually embarrassed by how long it took me to clean it out after I noticed the mold. I was going to post a picture of the before and after. But I decided that I would be shunned by all decent society if people knew how much mold was growing in the dishwasher while I was still using it to wash dishes.

I did an initial cleaning which helped, but underneath the trap at the bottom, I could still see nastiness. We removed the trap only to encounter nastiness exponentially greater than could be seen outside the trap. There was an entire stagnant-water ecosystem under there complete with billowing algae fronds. I'm not a light weight, I can deal with gross stuff. I was a nurse. But this nearly made me gag. I cleaned it out, all the while trying not to throw up. And then I ran a cycle with a cup of bleach inside the top rack. Now that dishwasher is as sparkling white as a snow-capped mountain glistening under a bright winter sun (you might have to use your imagination)!

After a lot of elbow grease and a hefty dose of bleach

Also, Isla has pink eye. Poor thing. It's pitiful. This is new, none of us have had pink eye. Again, I'm not a light weight when it comes to grossness. I can deal and have dealt with nearly every type of bodily fluid common to man. But the ever-flowing founts of green mucus that are my baby's eyes? It's kind of getting to me. So, basically I've run amok with the bleach.

I am so, so thankful for bleach. Really, I'm almost verklemt writing this. Admittedly,  I may be a little emotional at the moment as a result of caffeine consumption and an extended stint during which we've been cooped up inside due to illness- John had a cold, now Isla has pink eye. But to think that some people don't have bleach with which to cleanse ecosystems from their dishwashers and eye gunk from everywhere else- I can't bear it! If that makes me crazy, then check me into the institution! I'm sure such establishments use a lot of disinfectants, so I would probably like it there.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

An Amendment to My Position on BB Guns

Hi blog friends! This might be an odd topic on which to return from my blog hiatus. But, you know, I don't know... Right! I've noticed that the more children one has, the less one blogs. Yet, there's so much fodder for blogging during these little years- so much wisdom and nonsense out of the mouth of babes, so many scenarios that are simultaneously pitiful and hilarious, but so little time to collect one's thoughts! I'm living that truth!

A few years ago I wrote a post on what you should avoid if you'd like to maintain the integrity of your eyeballs. I believed that I was qualified to write such a post because at the time I was working as a nurse in an eye surgery center, also Peter is an ophthalmology resident. You can read it here, but the things I mentioned that can wreak havoc on your eyes were: BB guns, bungee cords, and exercise bands.

However, I concede that I stand partially corrected. BBs usually intersect with the ophthalmology world in the form of surgeries required to remove BBs that have been lodged in a person's eye socket. However, recently Peter had a case in which a BB gun was actually instrumental in revealing an eye problem! A small boy had gotten a BB gun. While using it, which necessitates closing one eye to focus on a target with the other, he realized that he had blurriness in one of his eyes- something that he was not aware of when using both eyes, as the clear eye compensated for the blurry one. His mother made an appointment at Peter's clinic, and he was diagnosed with an infection. The infection is treated and now all is well.

So! It appears that you should buy your child a BB gun!* If he gets a BB lodged in his eye, who do you call? An ophthalmologist! If, while using the BB gun, some sort of eye deficit is revealed, who do you call? An ophthalmologist! Your kid gets the Red Ryder BB gun that he's always wanted, he might have an underlying visual problem that the BB gun will help to identify, and Peter gets job security! (And by extension of Peter's job security, I get to continue my non-stop bon bon-eating lifestyle.) Everyone wins!

* I'm totally kidding. Do not get your kid a BB gun. Or, at least, don't do it for the sake of his visual health, but if you want to support Peter's job security, who am I to stand in your way?

Friday, March 29, 2013

Thank Goodness for the Piles of Laundry

Truth in blogging: Those piles have been there for days

Since I last washed our cloth diapers on Tuesday, they've been heaped in a pile in the den waiting to be stuffed. Every time I've changed diapers recently I've had to remember to grab one before-hand or run to get one mid-change (not recommended!). But that pile of diapers has encouraged me, because this used to be the norm- running to and fro grabbing various diapers, inserts and wipes, sometimes while Isla lay unwiped on the changing pad. But it's no longer the norm. As I've reflected back on Isla's first year, I see the seasons of ebb and flow in our lives. One year ago we were experiencing the total upheaval that a new baby brings. A lot of it is fuzzy, it's gone by in a blur! I don't know when we fell into a routine, but it did happen, we're in a good one now, and it has been months since I've had a load of diapers laying around for this long! Things will change again, there's no avoiding that. There will be more upheaval and more restructuring, and Lord willing, more restored peace to our days. There may be a season in which the loads of diapers are not only unfolded, and ever-present, but also multiplied by other loads of laundry- towels, clothes, bedding - but for now I'm happy that the unfolded diapers remind me that the overwhelming seasons don't last forever, and that God is unchanging during all the vicissitudes of life. One day the diapers will be gone for good, and I know I'll miss them, or rather, miss the little bottoms that they cover!

Also truth in blogging: This is not photo shopped. She is really that cute.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Isla is One

 One year ago

My baby is one. But she's still so chunky and not yet walking, so she's retaining the title of baby- no additional toddlers here yet!

Isla's interests are stuffing her face with food, and chewing on shoes. I'm thankful to have another good eater on my hands! But, the girl loves shoes. Loves them. Of  course she's not wearing them, she loves to chew on them. Some have commented that her shoe fetish may signal some stereotypical girlishness, but combined with her eating habits, I'm wondering if she's actually revealing herself to be a stereotypical billy goat.

As I've written here before, she has two levels: happiness and sunshine, and murderous rage. She doesn't really fuss, she goes straight to back-arching, head-throwing, bloody murder. THANKFULLY, she spends much, much more time on the happiness and sunshine side of the spectrum. In fact she is overwhelmingly a joy to be around. Everywhere I take her she gets compliments on how good she is. She's good at playing independently, but she also readily smiles and interacts with others. She is a delight, until you take a paper octopus out of her mouth and then she becomes inconsolable for a time. Thankfully, only for a time!

She walks holding on to things, and she stands for quite a while on her own. She's taken a few steps, and just within the last few days,  taken a string of steps together.

She goes to sleep between 7 pm and 8 pm, and usually is awake by about 7 am. She takes a nap at 9:30 am, and 1:30 pm. They both take a nap at 1:30 pm actually, and that is really good for everyone around here!

Um, Isla, you've got something in your teeth there.

Her first word is No. Often the two of us just sit and say "no, no, no" back and forth, for fun, of course. Usually she's going for an outlet, and I say "no, no Isla." She turns to me and repeats "nonononono."
I have noticed her mimicking a lot of sounds, so I wonder if she'll be acquiring more words soon.

Yes, right there between those two bottom ones. 

She is in that fascinating phase where, though she can't talk, she can understand so much. She understands "no" which is evident because she'll often stop doing whatever it is I don't want her to do, but she's often not very pleased about it! She also understands, "take that shoe out of your mouth!" Honestly, of all things she could chew on, she picks shoes?!  When asked, she will clap her hands, hug her doll, and point.

Here's some clapping and saying no:

Here's the two of them, to use John's term, "sharing." John describes this as "sharing Isla's cheerios." Notice he has the bulk of them shoved in his mouth. He particularly loves to "share" when it's someone else food, or toys! 

Isla loves John. They love each other for the most part. There are always many moments throughout the day when their sibling charity is overthrown by their shared desire for the same toy, usually a toy that one wasn't interested in until the other picked it up, but I assume by the time they're in their 30's they'll have worked it all out- you know decided who gets the toy cars and who gets the rattle- without my intervention. 

This year has gone by doubly fast. Each year goes by faster than the last it seems, and at this rate she's going to be 18 in about 6 months. I've enjoyed Isla's first year so thoroughly, more than I expected to. Having seen how quickly the time goes with John, I had more perspective this time around. And compared to the busyness and independence of toddlerhood, babyhood can be so sweet and cuddly, and stationary (I love things that are stationary!). I'm still enjoying her, of course, but more challenges come each day now that she's getting mobile. But with the challenges, fun things come as well! I'm sure she'll have a lot more to say this time next year. Happy Birthday, Isla! We could never have imagined we'd love you so much!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

February Books

1. The Brothers Karamazov by Fydor Dostoevsky

Well, I did it. I read The Brothers Karamazov. It was over 700 pages, but the type was diminutive and the margins were very conservative, so it seemed even longer. It was intended to be the first part of a trilogy- to which my first thought was "if you can't tell a story in over 700 pages, you need to find another story to tell." But, now that I've finished, I see that the story could have kept going, and I would have kept reading. Dostoevsky died several months after the first installation was published so he was unable to write the remaining 4,000 pages. 

The Brothers Karamazov has been on my "to read" list for a while. I've been interested in it ever since I read Crime and Punishment several years ago. The Brothers Karamazov is good, but Crime and Punishment is riveting. So, if this post induces anyone to go pick up a Dostoevsky book, I'd recommend Crime and Punishment. Crime and Punishment, conveniently, is also about 400 pages shorter which may have some bearing on my preference. 

The Brothers Karamazov is about- well, I mean, what isn't it about? It's 700 pages long, it's about pretty much everything you could ever think of except vampires- but, at its most basic, I think it can be described as a story about the embodiment of three philosophies- sensualism, atheism/ rationalism, and faith/Christianity- and their consequences as they play out within a family of three brothers and their father. But, obviously, a lot more could be said. 

Parts of it were so fantastic. There are a few parts I plan to reread. But, overall, I'd recommend Crime and Punishment over this. 

2. Don't Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Plowman

On the other hand, I could see someone reading this post actually picking up this little book. It is a great, very short (even greater!) book on child training/discipline. I can't say that a lot of it was new information, but I still found it refreshing. My experience on child rearing is meager, but growing every day. There are plenty of books out there, and perhaps I'm not the best one for making recommendations because I'm still at the front end of parenting. But I found this to be clear, concise and Biblical. There were plenty of practical suggestions.

For example, one thing that I took away: Instead of being surprised and flustered when I see sinful behavior in my children, I should expect it- for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23)- and prepare for it. One way to prepare is to clearly establish expectations. I've been making a concerted effort to let John know what I expect of him ahead of time. This worked out beautifully last Friday when we went strawberry picking. Before we went, I discussed at length that we only pick the red strawberries, and that we are not to eat them until we get back home to wash them. This is a very small example, but he did such a great job! He picked nearly 5 pounds of bright red strawberries by himself and didn't take a bite! I felt that I was able to help us both avoid temptations and frustrations simply by anticipating and addressing issues that might come up. Of course there were other issues that I failed to address ahead of time, like the one of him and his friends running towards an oncoming train. One thing at a time! 

I'd definitely recommend this book. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013


First and foremost, I must address a glaring vocabulary/spelling faux pas that occurred in my last post. I seriously don't know how to spell anything. But, this was more than a spelling error. I referred to a "laundry shoot". Did any of you wonder what that might be? Perhaps a large laundry-launching firearm? I hate to disappoint you if you were looking forward to firing your dirty underwear into your washing machine via rocket launcher, but I'm not aware that a "laundry shoot" exists (though, that would be fun.) When I wrote it, it didn't seem right, but I kept forgetting to look it up. Something in my small brain prompted me to search for shute- no, still wrong! CHUTE! That's the one! John likes to climb in the cabinet and stick his head out of the laundry chute!

So, I've made the appropriate edits, and you all, if you're reading this, are apparently willing to tolerate the unsophisticated ramblings of someone who wishes she was the Michael Phelps of grammar.

 I've written about my journey from couch potato to running enthusiast before. I feel like I could write more about that experience, it affected me greatly, but I still have trouble putting it into words. However, that didn't stop me from submitting an essay to my friend, Laura, who did a running series on her blog,  here is my post. Laura has a great fitness blog , and if you want to know about running, look no further! She's a serious runner!

 In The Power of Habit, a book I read and reviewed here, the author discusses certain habits that radiate a positive influence over other areas of your life. He has a name for such habits, though I can't remember what it is- something like "landmark habits". The idea is that some habits, when adopted, tend to overflow their sphere and cause you to make better decisions in in general. Exercise is one. When people adopt exercise habits, the author says, their eating habits, spending habits and others tend to improve as well. Making your bed is another such habit. So, I decided to adopt that one, but I'm  not sure it's going to have a chance to reach it's full effect:

 Finally here's a picture of Isla going all Godzilla on John's train track. Just before this picture was taken, he told me "Mom, there's a giant baby on my train track!"

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Moments in Parenting

Recently Peter was watching the children while I was out, and he found himself needing to go to the bathroom. No problem, right? (Ha.) Well, there he was taking care of business while Isla, who was a little fussy, pulled herself up on his leg. Her nails, shamefully unmanicured, digging into his flesh and pulling at his leg hair. Then John, who was engaged in a game of mailman- a game in which he crawls in the cabinet and then sticks his head out of the laundry chute- hit is head on said cabinet and began wailing while clinging to Peter's other leg and begging to be held. Amid the wailing, and clinging, the fussing and sting of pulled leg hair,  Peter saw that there was a mere wisp- nay, essence- of toilet paper left on the roll. He imagined me, the last time I was in the bathroom; He envisioned me gleefully taking the last squares of paper, happy that there had been just enough for me, and more than happy to let the problem of an empty toilet paper roll  fall to someone else. Peter being the only other independent toileter in the house, this problem would inevitably fall to him.

I won't deny that I'm not always the most scrupulous toilet paper replacer, but as anyone who has young children probably knows, that's not because I don't value a full roll of toilet paper. When Peter related this experience to me,  I was all, oh, nononononono. What probably prevented me from replacing the toilet paper was something like this: there I was, trying to take care of business, while Isla was pulling up on my leg, scratching me with her baby claws, while John- engaged in a game of mailman- hit his head on the cabinet, commenced wailing and clinging to me begging to be held...

So my big question is, when can I resume going to the bathroom alone?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Baking Vicissitudes

I really like to bake, at least the idea of baking. My desire to follow through seems inversely proportionate to the number of children I have. Nonetheless, I love the idea of being skilled enough to make something cute or pretty for a birthday party or shower, and I do believe that one can make very nice things without having much skill. And I, personally, love homemade things.

Around the holiday season I had the opportunity to practice some baking. One project was this rose cake from the blog I am Baker (I've said before that I'm fairly certain that the author of  this blog is a robot because as she's homeschooling several children she's able to create veritable cake universes- she's like the J.R.R  Tolkein of baked goods.)  I made this cake almost two years ago but I didn't have the right tip, so my roses were not as full and overall it wasn't as pretty ( in addition to the wrong tip, it also suffered some operator error.) But I tried again with the right tip (1M ) for a friend's baby shower with a better result:

This is a really easy and forgiving cake to make. I used this cake and icing recipe and followed I am Baker's instructions (the video is really helpful). Mine still didn't look as pretty as hers, but what can I say? I am only a human.The recipe seems to be a keeper. People said they loved it.

Following that success, I created a relative disaster that even my in laws would not eat, though they generally have undiscriminating culinary tastes. I was anxious to try my hand at cake balls. Cake balls! What will they think of next! (Probably an entire to-scale cake model of Middle Earth.) Anyways, I had some extra cake and icing from the rose cake. So I found some instructions on Pioneer Woman's blog and set out to make some oh-so-smooth, and delicious and perfectly round, of course, balls of cake.

You'll notice on Pioneer Woman's blog they make it look so easy. I believe they are in collusion with Martha Stewart. Pioneer Woman blithely says that the trade secret of cake balls is to, after you've drizzled the ball with candy coating, tap the spoon on the bowl to shake off excess icing and get a smooth look. "Tap the spoon on the bowl" I thought, "Well, I'm not the ace of cakes, but I think I can do that. Easy!"

Let me disabuse you of that notion: It takes a lot more than a spoon tap to get a smooth, round cake ball. Like, it might possibly take sorcery- of which I continue to maintain Martha is a practitioner. I don't really know what went wrong with mine. I used candy coating from both Hobby Lobby (I think it was Wilton brand) and H-E-B, but neither would melt into a smooth, drizzling consistency, though I followed the instructions exactly.

 I ended up with some cake blobs that were too sweet even for my in laws- people who eat icing straight out of the can! (I do the same thing, so I'm not judging.) I think all of the holiday sugar combined gave pause to even the most ravenous glucophiles (I just made that word up) among us. These might have been salvageable if I hadn't added so much frosting. I'm not one to waste food, but even I'll admit that discarding frosting does not carry the same pangs of conscience that accompanies the waste of more nutritious food. Yet, I went ahead and added all of my leftover icing to the cake balls anyways. Then I left the cake balls at my in laws for them to dispense with so I wouldn't have to throw food in the trashcan (it's debatable whether cake balls qualify as food...)

All that to say, I've decided not to open up a bakery. I'm going to keep my day job. Which is also my night job. And weekend job. And holiday job. There's no monetary compensation but there is the unlimited nibbling of baby thighs which is so much better than money!  

Saturday, February 09, 2013

November/December/January Books

My reading rate has dropped precipitously over the past few months. The reasons being that I've undertaken to read a lengthy tome, and Isla has become the Usain Bolt of breastfeeding. Since I do a lot of my reading while I'm nursing- and now I'm only getting through a few pages per session- I'm getting through a lot fewer books. Within the next few months I'm going to start dropping feedings and then I don't know if I'll read ever again. But for now, onward!

In November I read: 

The First 20 Minutes by Gretchen Reynolds
This is a compilation of the latest exercise research, which means that as I'm typing this, probably two thirds of the book is no longer relevant. Trying to grasp the gist of  the latest research in any field is akin to trying to nail jello to the wall: new things are discovered and old ideas are rendered obsolete at a dizzying pace. In exercise science, one day stretching is considered essential, the next day it is unnecessary. One day you should drink 64 ounces of water per day, then, after all that peeing, you are told that you should just drink when you're thirsty. (Thanks! I could've saved myself a few trips to the bathroom.)

Aparantly the new big idea in exercise science is: use your common sense. For example: Just exercise. For how long? It really doesn't matter, any amount is better than none. What should you do? It really doesn't matter, anything is better than nothing. (But you should do resistance training.) Also, you are the best judge of what is healthy for you: if something hurts, rest it; if you're tired, take a break; if you're thirsty, drink, etc.

I rather like this common sense approach because it's overwhelming to try to keep up with all the new recommendations that constantly come out. I liked this book. It was sometimes tedious because she cited So. Many. Studies. but it reassured me that I don't have to try to maintain a herculean exercise program to reap the benefits of exercise.

Finding Emilie by Laurel Corona.
This was historical fiction set in pre- revolutionary France. It was thoroughly meh. I usually like books about France- especially the time period around the revolution. Actually, now that I typed that, I can only recall reading three that fit that description. Of those, I only really loved one. So, if you're going to read a book that takes place in or around the time of the French Revolution, read A Tale of Two Cities, not this one.


The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
I saw this book on a friend's blog. She linked to this article by the same author. After reading the article, I immediately requested the book from the library. It was a  fascinating and quick read. The article only covers one aspect of habit- how corporations use our habits to get us to buy more stuff from them. He discuses several aspects in the book from individual habits to societal habits. I haven't intentionally applied these theories to my life, but I've found that I've unconsciously used them in the past when trying to adopt new habits. I would recommend this book.

Also, late into December I undertook to read The Brothers Karamazov, which being a behemoth of a novel, I will post about sometime in March.


The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
I listened to this. I loved it. The further I got into it, the more I liked it. I wasn't that interested in the beginning but by the end I was intrigued.

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
I had to take a short break from the Brothers K to read this for a book club. I have not read a book by Malcolm Gladwell that I wanted to put down. It's like brain candy. This one is about small, sometimes obvious, sometimes obscure factors that transform ideas into movements.

Incidentally, John often asks me what book I'm reading so, I told him: The Brothers Karamazov. He asked me what it's about, so I told him: patricide. (Who am I to sanitize the themes of classic literature?) So, now when he sees me reading it, he asks: "Is that the Brothers Karamazov? It's about patricide?" It's pretty funny. Not patricide, of course, but that my 2 year old can repeat what the Brothers K is about. I'm going to do this with all the classics. I want him walking into kindergarten able to summarize a wide range of novels, each in 5 words or less. I don't care if he knows how to read or tie his shoes, he'll learn that eventually, but this, this is a priority. So far I've got:

Crime and Punishment: The crushing weight of guilt

I need to start working on the Jane Austens:

Pride and Prejudice: Five Saucy Sisters? A Plucky Heroin and a Curmudgeonly Suitor? The injustice of primogeniture?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Boyhood (And Baby Sisterhood)

A while ago there was a gushing leak emanating from the fire hydrant across from our house. Little did I ever imagine how much entertainment would result from a broken water main.

First they brought the excavator in to rip up the sidewalk:

Then they brought the cement mixer in to fill it back in:

What's not pictured is the fire truck that stopped by in the midst of all of this. I'm telling you, this was like free babysitting. Thank you, City of Houston! (Also, thank you for fixing the leak.)

Left up to her own devices, Isla might have developed a love for baby dolls or something like that. But given her present company, I'm pretty sure it's going to be excavators and dump trucks for a while!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

14 Weeks to Clean?

I know better than to put any declarative punctuation on that title. I mean, who am I kidding? I decided to take a 14- week cleaning challenge from the blog Organized Home. I want to tackle some of the problem areas that I can't seem to keep clean, and implement systems that will prevent clutter from collecting in the first place. But any resolution like that will remain firmly in the interrogative category for me, as in: "14 weeks to clean? We'll see. If any one of us comes down with a stomach bug that's going to cost me about 3 weeks right there. But I'll give it a shot!"

Last week was a preview week in which participants were to perform a few pre-cleaning challenge tasks like putting away all Christmas stuff (I'm not quite there yet) and cleaning the refrigerator (which I did!). I found the post in which Cynthia Ewer, the author of  Organized Home, assigned the refrigerator task to be very interesting, particularly in light of a BBC report I heard during the week.

The BBC broadcast World Have Your Say, discussed the problem of global food waste. Some sources claim  that as much as half of the world's food is thrown out as waste. In Cynthia Ewer's article, she asked people to look at what the dregs of their refrigerator said about them and to analyze their findings in light of their current resolutions. Here is an excerpt:

"You'll wring a few unpleasant admissions from yourself, too. Look carefully at what foods are wasted, especially from the vegetable crisper.

Are you doing what I've been doing? I'm Miss Nutritional Virtue herself at the grocery store, but those baby carrots and low-fat margarines languish uneaten in [the refrigerator's] dark corners. Did you toss out as much bruised fruit as I did? Are you buying too much--or not eating what you buy?

Use pen and notepad to jot down your discoveries and track your new resolves. Match them to your New Year's resolutions. Is lower-fat eating on your resolution list? Then you'll want to toss the remnants of the Christmas dinner butter and margarine and replace them with low-fat spreads, apple butter and all-fruit jellies.

Do you want to tighten the budget? Focus on the waste you've discovered. Do you buy grapefruit (because your mother did and it's such a Donna Reed/Beaver's Mom breakfast item) only to toss the shriveled husks, months later? Are you overbuying milk, or cheese, or meat? If you've tossed it out today, make a note to yourself to buy less--if any--on your next shopping trip."

I was struck by the connection there- that our personal habits can be part of global problems or global solutions. For me, the fridge isn't a problem area. Sure it's not sparkling like a diamond but there's nothing in there that's going to become sentient. I'm an anti-food-waste vigilante around here so I really don't throw out much.

However, the task for week one of the challenge is the entry way, which is definitely a problem area:

(anyone want that espresso maker in the  box?)

What does this say about me and my involvement in larger global schemes? I don't know. Maybe I'll uncover the answers to those questions during this week's task. I'm hoping to post my progress. Or maybe I should say: I'm hoping to post my progress? We'll see how it goes!

Monday, January 07, 2013

Top 12 of 2012

12. After writing a post recently in which I mentioned an all-night vomit bender, I realized that after two memorable stomach illnesses in 2011, there were none in 2012! Thanks be to God!

11. Peter spent the first few months of 2012 studying for a national board exam. He took it in March (a few days after Isla was born),  and in May he found out he not only did well, he got the highest score in his program! Way to go!

10. I finally started pulling my weight around here- literally. At the end of the year I got a part time (very part time- 2 hours per week) job teaching a free weights aerobics class.

9. In July, Peter began his 3rd year in residency, 2nd year in Ophthalmology. He's movin' on up and now he's actually doing surgery on peoples' eyes in addition to clinic work. During this process of becoming an eye surgeon, I noticed that Peter is adroit at tying very small knots. I often ask him to help me when such dexterity is called for in sewing projects. One day I asked him if he'd learned these knot tying skills in boy scouts (He is an Eagle Scout, after all!) No, he said he learned them doing micro surgery! Micro surgery! Who knew that would come in so handy!?

8. In May John turned 2, his language exploded, and now he says things like "I want to watch Gangnam Style."

7. To expand on number 8, John continues to impress us with his memory skills. He recently surprised us when he asked to sing two hymns,  Rock of Ages, and How Firm a Foundation, and then sang right along with us! He can also quote one memory verse that he learned in Sunday school, 1 Kings 8:23: "Oh Lord, there is no God like you," as well as the Lord's Prayer.

6. August marked our 7 year wedding anniversary. In October Peter turned 30! (Please note, I'm not 30.)

5. We continue to be actively involved in our church, which we love. Peter is serving as a Deacon and I go to a women's Bible study and volunteer with the children's ministry on Wednesday nights, we also host a small group every other week.

4. In July we took a long, very long, road trip to Savannah, GA. Though Peter and I love road trips, young children... add another dimension, shall we say? Nevertheless, many  happy memories were made.

3. The kids and I continue to spend time with two playgroups that we've now been involved with for over a year. John is getting to be more aware of his friends, asking for them by name, and engaging with them. And I get to talk to adults! I always enjoy conversations in which one party does not throw him/herself to the ground in a fit.

2. Living relatively close to both of our families allows us to see them frequently, which is a blessing. 2012 offered many opportunities for trips to San Antonio. And, most recently, we spent time there with both of our families for Christmas, then went camping with Peter's family between Christmas and New Year's. John loves his grandparents, aunts, uncles and all of his cousins.

1. Definitely the best thing that happened to us in 2012- actually one of the best things that's ever happened to us- was Isla's birthday. March 28th, 2012, my favorite daughter was born, and now here she is standing on her own, and all beruffled for Christmas:

Happy New Year!

Sunday, January 06, 2013

A Belated Merry Christmas!

I'm a little late doing my end-of-year round up, but I figure that if you factor in a 30-day grace period, it's not even 2013 yet! 

"... it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, every one!"  ~From A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

As the glow of the holidays fade, I hope to "keep Christmas well," by  remembering year round the truth  that  that "unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders. And he shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" Is. 6:9 It is my prayer that 2013 will bring a deeper love for God and for my neighbor. 

And, please note John's hilariously kitsch Christmas get up.