“I Like Old Clothes”

This was originally published in 1976, but is being reissued this summer with new illustrations by Patrice Barton.  I don’t remember the original, but this version is certainly delightful.

The poem, by Mary Ann Hoberman, is especially appropriate at this time in my house.  The girls have been wearing a lot of hand-me-downs, recycled clothes, and DIY clothes.  Much like the kids in the book, they think it’s kind of fun to take something and make it their own (or have mom make it into something new – see my experiment here).  I don’t think the girls think much about the life an item of clothing has lived before it comes to them, but the kids in the story sure do.  They don’t want clothes that don’t have a story – they want to try and figure out how the clothes lived before they came to live with them.

It’s a great story and made me think (as a mom) about how thankful I am for friends who pass along clothes, and how I can take something and make it new to my girls.

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I received this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.

A Refocus on My Journey

 

In January, I started a new way of life.  Nothing dramatic, but it was time for a change.  I decided that I was tired of the way I looked and felt.  I decided to become more active and to eat better.  I signed up for MyFitnessPal; I started a “Biggest Loser” type of competition at my local Y; and went on about my day.

 As I sit here at the beginning of month 8, I decided to look back at what I have done. 

  • Achievement 1 – Weight Loss – to date, I have lost about 30 pounds.  I’m not done yet, and it’s not coming off as fast as I would like, but that’s ok.  Am I eating better?  Mostly.  Can I do better?  Sure, but who wants to give up chocolate?
  • Achievement 2 – Running – to date, I have raced in 2 virtual 5k races and 3 other 5k races.  I am not the fastest runner, but I am working on it.  I will say this though, as much as I like the 5k races with other people, I really like the virtual races.  I don’t feel as much pressure that I am going to be the last one to cross the finish line.  I have at least 3 5k races, a 4-mile virtual race, a 10k, and a half-marathon planned for the next 3 months.
  • Achievement 3 – Weight Lifting – if you had asked me in January to lift weights, I would have headed straight to the machines and gone to work, but not challenged myself.  In April, I decided that I needed more of a challenge.  I poked around on some forums and other websites and found New Rules of Lifting for Women.  I started the program in May and am in the 2nd phase.  I have (mostly) enjoyed what I have learned while doing it.  In addition, I feel stronger and a bit braver…especially those days in which I am the only female in the free weight area.
  • Achievement 4 – Clothing – I have dropped 3-4 sizes since January, depending on the brand, style, and type of clothing.  This has to be one of my biggest complaints – garment manufacturers cannot seem to standardize their sizes.  On top of that, the classic size 8 is not the current size 8 (in my opinion anyway).

 What do I see for myself for the rest of this year?  Here are my goals:

  • Goal 1 – Weight Loss – lose another 10 pounds by the half-marathon, lose remaining weight by the end of the year (but NO LATER THAN March 1).
  • Goal 2 – Activity – stick with workouts.  I have found that it helps me to plan them out for each month.  Then I know what to expect and I can plan the rest of my day with certain expectations.  I also need to find something to train for.
  • Goal 3 – Weight Lifting – finish New Rules of Lifting for Women by the end of the year.  I should be able to accomplish that, unless my half-marathon training interferes too much.  After that program, I need to decide what I am going to do.  I may go back and start over, or I may decide to try something different.  Who knows?

This journey hasn’t been all sunshine and unicorns.  It’s been tough.  I’ve hit a few plateaus.  I’ve struggled with food choices.  There were days that I didn’t want to log everything I ate, but I did anyway.  I made myself accountable to the online friends I had; I made myself accountable to my husband and daughters; and most of all, I made myself accountable to me.  There are a few friends that have stuck with me since the beginning – with weekly weigh-ins that we text to each other, friends that listen to me whine and complain (and then help spur me on), friends that cheer me on when I run.  To them, I say

 thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I would have given up way before this without you.

The end of the Grandview Freedom Run Race (7/4/2012).

Without a doubt, this has been a hard journey (kind of like the race pictured above).  It’s not going to get easier.  I’m lucky that I have a supportive husband and two little girls who think it’s a lot of fun to “exercise” with Mommy on those days I decide a DVD is going to be the extent of my workout.  I’m lucky to have supportive friends.  I’m thankful for those people in cyber-land who run contests, who blog about their efforts, who are always willing to give information to newbies, and serve as inspiration.

As I refocus myself on the rest of the year and the activities I have coming up, I would like to say thank you.  Let’s keep supporting each other.

“Day by Day”

Susan Gal’s book Day by Day, is written for ages 5-9.  My 4-year-old really liked it – especially the drawings.  She liked how there was a “pattern” to the words (what everyone else would call parallelism, I guess).  She liked how the drawings spread across the page and were so detailed.  For her, it was nice to be able to pick out the various parts of the actions.

It’s the story of a community of pigs and how they live – they plant a garden, they care for the garden, they do ordinary chores, they build a house (of bricks, mind you, so the big bad wolf can’t come in – again, according to my 4-year-old).   I think my first grader would be able to read this to her sister, so it’s a pretty easy and quick read.

I received this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

“The Forgiven Duke” – A Great Story Continues…

I read “The Guardian Duke” a few months ago and LOVED it.  I really wanted to read the sequel.  Thankfully, the sequel did not disappoint. “The Guardian Duke” left off with Alex and John sailing off to Iceland while Gabriel watched, unable to do anything.

However, since he is the Duke of St. Easton and has resources available to him that others may not, he is able to figure out what needs to be done.  He decides that it doesn’t matter what the Prince Regent wants, he is going after Alexandra, and will put his resources at her disposal to find her parents.

Throughout this book, Gabriel’s wants are subverted at various times and by various factions.  He is constrained by family, duty, rivals, and his deafness.  One of the most beautiful things in this book is how Gabriel comes to deal with his deafness.  The lights that he saw in the first book continue in the second, and play a huge role in allowing him to become “accepting” of his disability.  He also comes to realize that the only thing he needs to rely on is God, and that also helps him accept his shortcomings.

Often in Regency fiction, dukes are shown as infallible and proud.  Gabriel certainly starts out in that fashion, but this book really makes him more human.  His story is very interesting, especially given the fact that he is trying to act as though he can still hear, and this is before sign language.

Another interesting plot in this book is the story of John and Alexandra.  She is still captivating and caring, but she begins to realize how some relationships feel right and others don’t…even if they started out feeling right.  I did not like John’s character, there just seems to be something “off” about him.  The interaction between Alexandra and John feels wrong.  The relationship is resolved during the course of the book, but I don’t want to give away the ending.

Something to look forward to in book 3 – there is news of Alexandra’s parents in this book and I can’t wait to see how the journey turns out.

I was provided with a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.

“A Song for My Sister”

Lesley Simpson’s story about a young girl named Mira who wishes for a sister is a great story about how what you wish for may not be exactly what you want at first.  Mira’s wish takes four years to come true.  However, when her sister arrives, all she does is scream….and scream….and scream.

The baby only stops screaming at her naming ceremony eight days after her birth (the family is Jewish), when Mira sings her a song.  This turns into Mira’s second wish, that she and her sister always sing duets – special sister songs that they will make up.

My 4-year old liked this book because she thought it was funny that the baby wouldn’t stop screaming.  She is the baby of our house, so other than the slightly younger kids at daycare, she’s never really around an infant.  She really liked that Mira was the one to get the baby to stop screaming – in fact, I heard her singing Mira’s song as she was getting ready for bed.  She likes it when I sing her to sleep, so I figured that would make an impact.

The illustrations by Tatjana Mai-Wyss are very nice.  There’s plenty of expression in the characters and and you can see the Mira’s frustration with her sister’s screaming.  In fact, in one picture, Mira is supposedly sleeping in her treehouse with underwear in her ears and my daughter wanted to see the underwear!  Of course, she couldn’t see them clearly, but we pretended they were there.

This is probably a book best read to children, as it has a few words that may be difficult for a young reader to pronounce.

I received this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.

“Much Ado About Rogues”

I will admit, I’m a sucker for Shakespeare-themed titles.  I’ve read Kasey Michaels’ books before and really enjoyed them, so combining that with a Shakespeare-themed title, and yep, I’m going to read it.

This is a story about finding your identity.  Jack Blackthorn, the middle Blackthorn brother, and the last one to be written about, has been the black sheep of his family for the last 10 years or so.  After leaving home at age 18, he struggled to find his place in the world.  He was taken in by the Marquise Fonteneau, who teaches him some very useful spycraft. During his time with the Marquise, Jack falls in love with his daughter, Tess.  However, things do not end well when Tess blames Jack for the death of her twin brother.  Jack leaves and enters the clandestine service of the Crown.

When the Marquise disappears, Jack is sent to find him.  Jack and Tess have to learn to work together on several fronts…..they have to figure out what happened to the Marquise, what happened that night Tess’ brother died, and who is really calling the shots.  On top of that, Tess has to examine her relationship with her father and come to terms with it.  Jack also has to examine his relationship with his parents and his brothers and see if he can set aside years of hurt feelings to become reunited with them.

I haven’t read the other 2 books in the trilogy, but I will probably look them up.  I enjoyed this book – there were so many twists and turns in the search for the Marquise that it was sometimes to determine who was on whose side.  I’ve read other reviews that said they missed the “getting to know you” part of the relationship, but I didn’t.  It was nice to see how people reconnect after a number of years apart, especially when they didn’t part on good terms, and there are so many secrets between them.

I received this book from the publisher as part of the NetGalley program in exchange for an honest review.

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This is What Matters…

I saw this on Facebook and wanted to share…
I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes I walked to the door and knocked…Just a minute, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940’s movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

‘Would you carry my bag out to the car? ‘ she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, and returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness. It’s nothing’, I told her…I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated. ‘

‘Oh, you’re such a good boy, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, ‘Could you drive through downtown? ‘It’s not the shortest way, ‘I answered quickly…’Oh, I don’t mind, she said. I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. ‘I don’t have any family left’, she continued in a soft voice…The doctor says I don’t have very long. ……. I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.

What route would you like me to take I asked? For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing. As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, I’m tired. Let’s go now.

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair. How much do I owe you she asked, reaching into her purse? Nothing, I said. You have to make a living, she answered. There are other passengers, I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly. You gave an old woman a little moment of joy, she said, thank you. I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light.. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life…I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life. We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

“How to Babysit a Grandpa”

Jean Reagan’s book How to Babysit a Grandpa is full of useful tips for kids, like what to have for snack when Grandpa comes over, what to do during naptime and Grandpa needs a nap, what to look out for on walks, how to set up a good fort to play in, where to hide when Grandpa comes, etc. Any Grandpa would be happy to have this much fun with his grandkids.

I’m pretty sure this book was written for my daughters, my niece, and my nephews.  My dad completely fits the “fun grandpa” description.  My daughter laughed her way through this book, except for the part about eating ketchup, because “Papa doesn’t like ketchup, Mom.”

The illustrations by Lee Wildish are fun, colorful, and full of detail.  They truly made the story.

This will most likely be a gift for Grandpa sometime this year.

I received this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.

“The Lonely Book” – A Book Lover’s Tear Jerker

I will admit that I teared up while reading this book. When I was a little girl, I often wondered what happened to the books in the library.  This story answers that question.

A book is sitting on the shelf, and it is well-loved by all of the kids.  However, it eventually falls from popularity.  A little girl picks up the book and immediately falls in love with it.  As is the case with library books, she has to return it.

The book ends up in the library’s basement, dreaming of the little girl who loved it so well.  And a little girl grows up never quite forgetting the book she loved.

I’m not going to give away the ending, but The Lonely Book by Kate Bernheimer and illustrated by Chris Sheban is a delightful story about the life-cycle of books and the attachments that kids make to the books they love.

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I received this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Pope Benedict on Lent and Renewing My Faith

Quote

Lent is a time to renew our journey of faith, both as individuals and as a community, with the help of the word of God and the sacraments.
-Pope Benedict XVI

I know this is a little late, with Lent ending today, but I was going through some old email and came across this quote.  While Lent offers the opportunity to renew our faith, especially with new members coming into the church on Easter Vigil, the renewal of one’s faith shouldn’t be confined to one 40-day period of the year.

To me, renewing my faith is a continual process.  I am always trying to learn more about my religion and deepen my faith in God.  There is just so much I feel I don’t know.  I want to understand, and in order for me to grow in my faith, I need to continually seek out answers to my questions.  Luckily, my parish is blessed with 2 priests and a religious sister who are available to answer questions.

A community of believers plays a huge part in renewing and deepening one’s faith.  Those fellow believers allow you to have support when you doubt, strength when you fall, and prayer when you struggle.  I am lucky that I have several friends who are also “seekers” in their faith journey, and they are also available to answer questions, or to hold my hand as I try new(ish) experiences.

For me, knowing that the Mass has been celebrated for the last 2,000 years, and that it is in mostly the same format throughout the world each Sunday helps me to strengthen my connections to other believers.  Knowing that there is a body of Catholics celebrating the same sacraments I do gives me a sense of continuity to the earliest Christians.

I am trying better to live by Christ’s example and to follow the teachings of my Church.  There were too many years when I was away from the Church, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I don’t necessarily like who I became during those years, so my challenge is to bring myself back to where I was – and I can do that by renewing my faith each day.