Wednesday, February 13, 2019

17 Things About You at Age 17

  1. You have your driver's permit and have been practicing several times a week with Dad, who reports that you are a careful driver.
  2. Kingdom Hearts IV was completed in 30h; Secret playthrough 34h
  3. You also spent quite a bit of time in the midst of those 30 hours trying to teach your brother how to play because you knew he would like all the Disney characters.  You are a really great brother.
  4. You even convinced me to have a go and didn't laugh when I couldn't push all the buttons at the same time.
  5. You will be graduating high school early, in August 2019 if all goes according to plan.
  6. You're taking your time figuring out what is next, wanting to make a good decision and one that is right for you.
  7. Bananas disappear as soon as we bring them home, no matter how many we buy.  
  8. Some days you walk home from school rather than take the bus, even though it takes longer.
  9. You loved seeing Hamilton when it toured here recently (Thank You Dad!).
  10. Your favorite Christmas gift this year was the Nintendo Switch.
  11. Your fashion choices still lean towards shirts with hoods, colored sneakers, anything soft.
  12. Your sweet tooth seems to have disappeared.  Unless tiramisu is on offer.
  13. You still have the BEST laugh.  
  14. You would like to get back into martial arts and are investigating the different types.
  15. You are still a night owl and mornings are hard.
  16. You almost always have your sketchbook with you.  Doodling, working out animations, just thinking through your fingers.
  17. Dad took you and your cousin to Otakon this past summer and it was awesome!  You've already got reservations for this year and another cousin will also be joining in the fun.

  1. You joined the Unified Bowling Team at school and you are really enjoying bowling with your school friends, and taking the bus back and forth to matches.
  2. This brings your activities to: dance, special olympics swim team, special olympics bowling team and now unified bowling team.  
  3. When you bowl well, you have to give EVERYONE a high five.
  4. You really really really want to go to Hawaii.  And while you're there you want to drink a pineapple smoothie while wearing a hawaiian shirt, sunglasses and a straw hat.
  5. You actually passed up a plate of pasta the other day in favor of a salad (I took your temperature!)
  6. Going out to eat is still your favorite thing.  It doesn't matter where.
  7. You really like the Muppet movies lately.  And Incredibles2.
  8. You don't fuss too much when it's time to do homework.
  9. You're still a lark and on the weekends you are the first one up.  You'll make your own breakfast and then settle in with your iPad.
  10. Your fashion choices are still solid colored shirts or ones with funny graphics of your favorite characters.  Hawaiian shirt when you need to be a little more dressed up. And a different hat every day.
  11. You got a fancy hat rack for Christmas which makes it so much easier to pick out the perfect one each morning.
  12. You insisted that we buy a scarf loom and some yarn when we were at the craft store.  But so far you're not that interested in actually doing it.  You picked out some really nice yarn though!
  13. When your brother sings too loud you tell him to be quiet.  Then you get up and give him a hug.
  14. You're already talking about camp even though it is months and months away.
  15. If anyone leaves a drink or snack unattended, you like to finish it off and then you turn yourself in and we have to make a big show of being annoyed.  So funny!
  16. You love jokes now!  Miss M put a whole bunch of corny ones on your iPad and you put a plastic snake in your brother's water bottle.  
  17. You did your first internship at the end of the school year last year, helping out at the food pantry.  You did great and felt really proud of yourself!  This year's rotations will be starting soon so we can't wait to see what you will be doing.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Books of 2018

The final count was 69 books read in 2018 - I am happy with that!  Here are the ones I really loved this year that will be added to the "highly recommended" list (in no particular order):

  • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.  This is one of those sweeping family sagas that covers several generations. The story begins in Korea, with teenaged Sunja who finds herself pregnant by an (unbeknownst to her) married man.  Refusing to become a kept mistress, she marries a sickly minister on his way to Japan.  The story continues with her new family trying to make their way in Japan against prejudice, war and health crises.  Twists and turns, you never know exactly where things are going to end up for all of them.  The title refers to a mechanical gambling game that figures heavily in several characters lives.  This was a book club selection and I really enjoyed the audio version.  It took a little bit of time to get all the characters straight because of similar names, but after that, I was hooked.
  • Circe by Madeline Miller.  I was enthralled by this book!  It's definitely on my list of "always recommended."  The goddess Circe is a puzzling child to her parents, god of the sun Helios and the nymph Perse.  She is neither powerful nor particularly beautiful and teased unmercifully for her strange voice.  She turns to mortals for companionship and discovers her powers of witchcraft.  Threatened by her power, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island where she spends eternity honing her powers and of course, meeting a who's who of greek mythology: the Minotaur, Daedalus and his son Icarus, Medea and of course Odysseus.   In the end, Circe must gather all her power and choose once and for all where she belongs: with the gods she was born to or with the mortals she has come to love.  I didn't know a lot about greek mythology beyond what M and I read in the Percy Jackson series but this swept me into all of it and I wanted to read more.  Again, I listened to the audio book and Perdita Weeks was the perfect reader.  There were many times I sat in the driveway finishing the chapter.
  • The Book of M by Peng Shepherd.  This book is classified as Fantasy, but I think it could also fit under Thriller.  Set sometime in the future, the book begins when a man in India loses his shadow.  It just disappears.  And slowly his memories start to fade too until he doesn't remember anything - not where he is, not who he is, nothing. And since he can't remember his past reality, then he is able to make his own.  And then the Forgetting and its accompanying destructive magic starts to spread like a plague across the world causing havoc, distrust, war and the rise of a cult.  The book follows different people, coming from different parts of the world, heading towards New Orleans as they hear about a prophet who can fix people's memories.  Ory is tracking his wife, Max, who left him when her shadow did in order to protect him.  This book creeped me out but I couldn't put it down either.  
  • Us Against You by Fredrik Backman.  The sequel to Beartown, we are back in the hockey-mad town, when the townspeople learn that their hockey team will be disbanded and all the best players have been lured to play for rival town Hed.  A surprising newcomer is picked to coach and bond the players left behind into a team.  But old grudges and new whispers escalate the decades-old rivalry.  By the time the final game is played, someone is dead and both towns are wondering if the game they love can ever be just a simple game anymore.  Fredrik Backman has a knack for building suspense and throwing in twists that you never see coming.  
  • Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson.  Marnie MacGraw just wants to marry her fiance, have kids, live in the suburbs, drive a minivan and fit in.  Her fiance's eccentric great-aunt Blix tells her at their engagement party that this is never going to happen.  When her marriage ends after only two weeks, she doesn't know what hit her.  And then she finds out that Blix has passed away and left her the Brooklyn brownstone full of unfinished projects and neighbors who need someone to rely on.  Why would somebody she only met for 10 minutes a year ago, do that?  On the condition that she live there for a year, Blix insists via letter and other posthumous winks that Marnie is the perfect person to carry on her magic and matchmaking.  And it turns out she was right.
  • Longbourn by Jo Baker.    It's no secret that I love Jane Austen.  There have been an abundance of retellings and sequels and prequels.  Some of them are interesting, some are execrable, and very few are good.  Longbourn is a good one.  Here, the servants take center stage and there is as much romance, heartbreak and intrigue as there is upstairs.  And lots of laundering of muddy petticoats.  It's at once familiar and new.  I loved it.
  • The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan.  Another book club choice, I really liked this one.  Anthony Peardew lost something precious the day his beloved fiance died.  He's since spent his life picking up lost things and cataloging them meticulously.  He writes stories about them.  But now near the end of his life, he worries that the items will never be reunited with their owners.  Recovering after a painful divorce, Laura takes a job as Anthony's assistant, unsuspecting that he is going to leave her his house, all the lost things and his mission.  With the help of the gardener, Freddy and delightful neighbor Sunshine, Laura struggles to do what Anthony wished and find the right home for all involved.  As we find out the stories behind all the lost things and how they became lost, we realize that nothing is ever lost, everything - and everyone - end up exactly where they are meant to be in their own time. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

16 Things About You at Age 16

16.  Wow.  I continue to be amazed by you both!  I am so blessed to be your Mom.

  1. You seem to get taller by the minute!  I don't know where you will stop!
  2. You started fencing last year and, as predicted, you love it.  Maybe not the Saturday morning practices.
  3. You are teaching yourself computer animation and you are good!
  4. You have a little business drawing avatars for people and they pay you in game currency.
  5. You have a half-year class this year in Video Game Design so that's probably gonna be an easy A.
  6. Your favorite class at school is still Global History.
  7. Your favorite lunch now is Quorn chicken nuggets.  Or jalapeno tuna.  Your favorite snack is a whole pizza :-D
  8. You still talk to your cousin on the phone a lot.
  9. I recently started listening to audio books in the car and I torture you guys with listening to them when we're driving to and fro together.  You seem like you're not paying attention and focused on your phone, but every so often you call out something witty. "Brandon's the better man, Marianne!  Go with Brandon!"  I recently got Master and Commander mostly because I thought you would enjoy it and you did.  
  10. Last night while watching Half-Pipe in the Olympics you said "Shaun White, the only role model we gingers have."  I said that wasn't true and you said ok, name some more.  I said Ed Sheeran, which you accepted.  Prince Harry, which you said was pushing it.  And then I couldn't think of any more.  So now it's down to you, bud.
  11. When you were little, you'd take any excuse to stay home from school.  Hang nail?  Can I stay home?  Tiniest scratch?  Can I stay home?  Now you go to school no matter what, even on the days when I tell you can stay home if you want to.  
  12. You are great about being in charge and keeping an eye on your brother when Dad and I have to be somewhere and you two would rather not go.
  13. Your fashion choices lean towards athletic gear, shirts with hoods, a leather jacket with a hood, and sneakers with just a pop of color.
  14. You have muscles!  That is still strange to me.  
  15. Your face has started morphing into a man's face.  Also strange.  But also kinda cool.
  16. You haven't shown a lot of interest in driving yet and that is fine with me right now.  

  1. You are still growing but not as fast as your brother.  Your feet have stopped though.  
  2. Your favorite lunch is still lunchmeat, pickles and craisins.  Spaghetti is still your favorite dinner with mashed potatoes being a close second.  And smoothies!
  3. For your birthday celebration, you want to take everyone to the Skylon Tower for dinner.  And when I say everyone, I mean everyone.  Maybe we should just ask how much it is to rent out the whole place!
  4. When we ask you what you want to be when you grow up, you always say a cook or a farmer.  But you don't actually want to ever help me cook or mess about in the garden.  But you do love food and you do love restaurants.  So maybe you need to be a restaurant critic.  I think that might be the perfect job for you!
  5. Dad and Uncle Hugh took you to the car show last weekend.  You enjoyed sitting in the race car but meeting Wonder Woman was better.
  6. You still wear a hat each and every day and right now you are not happy that I haven't managed to fix the ribbon on your top hat.  You have now added sunglasses worn over your prescription glasses.  
  7. Your remaining fashion choices depend on the weather.  Hawaiian shirts in the summer, tuxedo vest and bow tie for formal occasions and fun tshirts with characters the rest of the time.  When it is cold outside you prefer the puffy coat you stole from Mark to the big parka.
  8. You have appropriated Dad's chromebook and now prefer that to the ipads for the moment.
  9. But I am not allowed to use any of the ipads even though you are not using them.  You literally take them away from me and put them back on the shelf.
  10. You love going to a show whether it is the movies or something at Shea's.  You really enjoyed the Nutcracker and Lion King this year.  
  11. When it is time to shave you tell us to leave the mustache alone!  
  12. You started high school this year and have settled in well.  The 7 a.m. bus was an adjustment though.
  13. You are still the first one up in the morning.
  14. You still swim and dance and now are enjoying bowling a lot more.  You got a ball, shoes and bag for Christmas.  You love wearing the team shirt.  
  15. You love to paint and draw.  We've asked that art be one of your electives next year.  
  16. You like to tell me you are homesick and pretend cry.  Then you say "already home!" and laugh and laugh.  Silly.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

2017's Best Books

This year I read 66 books or 19,813 pages.  Yay!  I was also part of 3 book clubs, so that led me to read a few things I wouldn't have normally but mostly it was nice just to have more local people to hang out with.  Sometimes we even talked about the books ;-D  There were a few clunkers (aren't there always?) but most of them were enjoyable.  Here are the ones I loved best this year and that have earned a place on my "always recommend" list.

  • The Complete Works of Jane Austen.  I was pretty sure I'd read them all over the years, but it was possible that I'd just gotten tangled up in movie adaptations (hello, Colin Firth!).  So this year I decided to revisit all of her work.  I found a great audio book of Mansfield Park read by Juliet Stevenson (herself having acted in some of those movie adaptations) and to my delight she had read all the others as well.  Having the right reader makes all the difference to a good audio book!  Feeling the need to take a break from the constant news this year, I turned to audio books to save my sanity and that made life so much more enjoyable.  As I have found when I read all of a series again in one go, reading all of Austen's work in succession allowed me to pick up on little subtleties and similarities I missed the first time (all those men with "W" names for instance).  It also allowed me to see the growth of Austen as a writer.  I still can't pick a favorite, but Persuasion has moved up the list and Emma has moved down.  I know a lot of people didn't love Lady Susan (the film version is called Love and Friendship), finding it too mean-spirited, but I thought it was hilarious.  I'd like to think this was a more accurate depiction of Jane's inner monologues as she observed the world around her.  
  • The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown.  I found this book when there was a lot of press about it being one of the books that entire communities were reading together.  It's the story of the 1936 U.S. Olympic Rowing Team and how they won gold against all odds.  But it goes into the history of rowing, the very difficult lives of the boys who grew up in the Depression and fought for everything they got and how rowing helped shape them.  Honestly, this is not the kind of book I normally read, preferring fiction.  But I ADORED this book.  It kept me on the edge of my seat and I'll admit I read the last chapters more than twice.  I also found the old newsreel footage on Youtube to see how it really happened.  It gave me some insight, too, to the era that my parents grew up in.  While they would always tell us stories about making do and hardships, for some reason this book really brought all that home and showed how their generation got their resiliency and their can-do attitude that as time passed served the world well in WWII.  I also got D. to read it and he loved it as well.
  • The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker.   The story opens with Julia, arriving in Burma to search for her missing father.  The only clue she has is a love letter he wrote many years ago to a woman neither she nor her mother have ever heard of.  What she finds is yes, a love story and a mystery solved, but also a story of resilience, dedication and miracles.  The language in this book is so lyrical, so unbearably beautiful, I dare you not to be drawn in
  • Beartown by Frederik Backman.  I've been a big fan of Backman's work ever since A Man Called Ove made the list last year.  This book isn't as quirky as his others, though there are some quirky characters.  It takes on much more serious themes that ended up being very timely for what is going on in the world right now.  It's about communities, how they're formed or not formed, how they stand together or not, and how they heal or not when tragedy strikes.  It's about the dangers of putting all your hopes and dreams into one thing and one thing only.  Faced with choices, both big and small, each character in this book slowly reveals who they are and what they stand for.  It's also just as much about place as it is people, the location is just as important a character as the others.  I also think he's quite good in depicting relationships, all those little nuances and actions that started out as nothing but added up over the years become important to a couple, a group of friends, a mentor and protegee.  In typical Backman style, the direction you think the book is going in isn't necessarily where you end up, which is one of the reasons why I love his work.  
Happy reading!  If you read any of these, let me know what you think and, as always, I'd love to hear what made your list of favorites this year.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Fifteen Things About You at Age 15

  1. You still love animation and are doing some yourself.  Way cool.
  2. When you're not doing that, you're working out - calesthenics, weights, working a heavy bag, jumping rope.
  3. When you're not doing that, you're batch cooking healthy meals for yourself.  Chicken, veggies, quinoa, lots of good stuff.  I may delegate the cooking to you from now on!
  4. All that healthy food and exercise has had an effect on your overall health.  Normally by this time in the winter you have missed about 10 days of school.  This year?  Not a sniffle. (knocking on wood though just in case)
  5. You are still a voracious reader, but dislike the dystopian stuff that is everywhere these days.
  6. High school was a bit of a shaky start - all that freedom!  You had a few "not working to potential" issues, but got that under control and still made the Honor Roll.
  7. Global history is your favorite subject at the moment, followed by Digital Media.
  8. Most of the time you pitch in on chores without having to be asked, which we appreciate.
  9. You sing a lot.  
  10. You have the best laugh.  
  11. Because of the early high school schedule, you have turned your natural night owl tendencies around and most nights you are in bed and out cold by 8:30 p.m.
  12. You had a great travelling summer - Iceland, back to Hoonah to see old friends, and visiting family.  
  13. You still like hooded shirts, the colors black, grey & burgundy, and any clothing that is soft.
  14. You are now taller than Mom and Dad.  We find that very disconcerting. 
  15. Pokemon Go!

  1. You still love anything and everything Disney.
  2. You swim at least twice a week and are adding another stroke to your repetoire - the crawl.
  3. In bowling you can throw the ball down the lane most of the time.
  4. You love to go out to a restaurant.  You would eat out every day if you could!
  5. You really enjoyed Technology this year and built a portable speaker. 
  6. You have grown a lot this year too.  You can look Mom in the eye now.
  7. You recently got a winter coat with fur trim on the hood, which you think is hilarious for some reason.  You like to put up the hood and peer out and say "meow."  LOL
  8. You love to help grocery shop.  At BJ's you scan the items at the self-checkout and load up the items into the cart.  At Wegman's you know exactly what we need in each aisle and are starting to order at the deli.  The smoothie at the end is the best part!
  9. You are running lots of errands at school without supervision.
  10. You have developed a fondness for 80's disco music and like to sing and dance along.  
  11. If you could go to Cradle Beach every week, you would.  And go to NJ on the way back.  On a plane.
  12. You are still an incorrigible flirt.
  13. You love art of all kinds - painting, coloring, clay.  
  14. Lollipops!
  15. You like solid color long-sleeve shirts like the Wiggles wear, anything brightly colored and of course many hats.  

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Books of 2016

I read 32 books this year.  Not quite the 52 I always set for a goal, but I'm ok with it.  I added needlework back into my goal list last year and while I didn't complete a lot of those items this year, I'm happy with what I was able to accomplish.  My work hours increased in September so that was a bit of an adjustment.   I also added a more regular schedule of self-care into my life year and that has been far more important to keeping me on track and helping me maintain balance.   

Not too many books got a five-star rating and inclusion onto The List this year, but these did:

  1. Homegoing by 
  2. A Man Called Ove by I really cannot say enough about this book.  It was so wonderful that I immediately went out and bought everything else Fredrik Backman has ever written.  I don't do that too often.  Ove is a curmudgeon in every sense of the world.  A grumpy old man, he has Rules and gets annoyed at the world when they don't follow them.  When a young family moves in next door, his world is turned upside down.  There are a few surprises here, but you will find yourself laughing and crying and cheering as you read.  And then you'll go want to find the curmudgeon in your life and give them a hug.  
  3. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman. I told you I went and bought everything Fredrik Backman ever wrote :-D  This one was wonderful as well, and there were enough twists and turns and "oh! that's what really happeneds!" to keep you turning pages and glued to the story until the last page.  This one is about Elsa, who is aged 7 and a little different from everyone else.  Her grandmother has always told her fabulous about a mythical land where everyone is different and no one needs to be normal.  When her grandmother dies, she leaves Elsa a Quest in the form of letters that must be delivered to various people she feels the need to apologize to.  And as Elsa meets them all she begins to wonder - .could the Kingdom of Miamas and the people who lived in her grandmother's fairy tales be real? 
  4. Come Rain or Come Shine by Anybody who has ever visited the town of Mitford will fall in love with it all over again in this new book in the series.  Dooley Kavanagh and Lace Harper are all grown up and planning their wedding.  And in true Mitford style, the whole town gets involved whether Dooley and Lace want them to or not, mishaps happen and grace overcomes all.  
  5. My Mrs. Brown by This book was so sweet!  Emilia Brown is a woman of a certain age.  She has lived her life in the background, always quiet and no frills and probably overlooked by most.  But in her heart she has dreams.  Dreams which suddenly seem to be embodied by an Oscar de la Renta sheath and jacket and somehow she must make them her own.  And braving the trip to New York all alone to get it becomes necessary as well.  Sometimes a dress isn’t just a dress.

Monday, February 15, 2016

14 Things About You at Age 14

  1. Suddenly your hair got all wavy!
  2. You like steampunk fashion and asked for a waistcoat for Christmas.
  3. You joined the Debate Club at school.  So far, though, every position you've gotten is one you don't agree with.  Which I guess is the whole point of debate....  You grudgingly let Dad come see the last competition.
  4. You make a fruit & veggie smoothie almost every night.
  5. You will now eat salad.  
  6. And you discovered coffee!  (decaf for the moment)
  7. You took up painting this summer and really enjoyed it.  Especially painting in the open air in the park.
  8. Your sneakers are size 13!
  9. You would like to do medieval re-enactment.
  10. You are finally old enough to do blacksmithing. You have been wanting to do this for about 5 years.
  11. I hear you singing when you think no one is nearby.
  12. You grew an incredible 10 inches this year!  You are taller than me now and not too much longer before you catch up to Dad
  13. Deciding on which high school to go to was tough but you made a good choice. 
  14. Your last report card had three 100% marks.

  1. You do not like your sideburns at all.  Dad has to trim them a few times a week.
  2. The mustache and little whiskers don't bother you as yet.
  3. You regularly call us into the other room to watch something with you.  And then after about 1 minute you tell us to go away. 
  4. You are swimming backstroke now and getting the hang of it.
  5. I put a "favorite characters" folder on your speech app and now that is all you want to talk about.  We had to hide it at school so you would concentrate on your work.
  6. You are sleeping later in the morning.  Not as late as your brother, but late for you.  8:00! whoo!
  7. Now you are on a bowling team with Special Olympics.  
  8. You grew about 5 inches this year.
  9. Your shoes are size 7.5, finally in a men's size. You like to step on the back of them and wear them that way.  Maybe I should just buy you clogs.
  10. You are still a flirt.
  11. You really like vegetables now.  Especially asparagus.
  12. Your teacher reports that when you hang up your things in your locker, you put your hat on the shelf, your coat on one hook, your scarf on the 2nd hook and a glove each on hooks 3 & 4.  LOL!  I am going to ask her to take a photo before winter is over.
  13. You are warming up a bit more to the idea of a pet.  A rabbit is the only animal that doesn't get an outright no.  
  14.  Your last report card had two 100% marks.