The plan is never the plan . . .

I’m still in Florida. As the wise Stephen King said (in Duma Key) “God punishes us for what we cannot imagine.” As I’m sure you’ve gathered things here are weird and I can’t provide details (not my story – I’m a bit player). Still, prayers all around would be welcomed by all of us. Honestly, I shudder when I recall I used to think having toddlers was hard. Send me your toddlers! (Actually, toddlers ARE hard. I just thought that once they were actual people it would get easier. Yeah, yeah. Shut up, Stephen King.)

So, I am here and warm.  Here are more pictures of my Harry Potter tree. What a wonderful diversion this monstrosity has been. A little later I’m going to work on the Maurader’s Map tree skirt.  Because I took them, the pictures are not great. Ian and Tim will both be here next week and I’m sure they can get better pictures.  In the meantime, I’d like to thank the sites that gave me inspiration and good instructions:  Over the Moon, Practically Functional (for the Sorting Hat) and EpBot.  I have learned so much from people who take the time to explain what they’re good at (and even take pictures!).  I’m already thinking about what I want to add next year.

If you click on the picture it will tell you what you’re seeing. Or you can use your imagination! It’s all good.

From the top of the stairs.

Aaaannnnnd . . . it’s Friday again!

pool readingMan, this has been the slowest and fastest week on record. I feel like I’ve finally regained control of the house and some of my life after the wedding.  I also feel like I’m behind on so many things I’ve been neglecting! Can’t win.

Dan and Christi are getting settled into married life.  They are discovering just how small their apartment is as we’ve been shipping wedding gifts their way!  They are planning their honeymoon (Puerto Rico) for the end of July.  I’m so happy they’re not putting it off too long.

Settling into the fact that we have a married child has both Mike and me thinking that no matter how young we feel (really) – we have been together a LONG time and when you really look at it, we have been through a lot – sickness, health, richer, poorer and every insane thing that falls into another category. I guess it could make me anxious for Dan and Christi but, honestly, I’m so excited to see what the future holds for them.  So many possibilities.

In other news, things here keep moving along. Ian reported another set of straight A’s for his summer term. Not bad for a homeskooled kid, huh?  He’s working a lot for the rest of the summer and trying to catch up on some fun reading. Tim had a friend-who-is-a-girl visit this week from Iowa.  She was all that Tim described and more. Fun, funny, smart and adorable. I’m so happy to finally meet her.  He’s got two years in Tallahassee and she will be two years at Univ. of Iowa, so who knows what will happen.  Still, I love seeing Tim so happy.

Andy’s had rowing again all week. Because that is what he does. Row. Now he drives and rows. He’s up to driving in 40 mph zones.  Kill. Me. Now.  I’m too old to be teaching another kid to drive! Andy’s not even a bad driver so far.  It’s just the fact that you know they are NOT in control of the car and the only way they can learn is to do things.  Have I mentioned that my “jesus handle” is broken?  There’s only so much my feet on the dashboard can do.  If you have kids coming up on driving age, start stretching now – you want to have multiple ways to brace yourself!!!!!

I was beyond excited this afternoon when Mike told me that he and my brother are closing the warehouse tomorrow and taking a day off.  Not only does Mike need it, he’s happy to drive with Andy.  A BREAK!!!!!  Our neighbors are away for one of their son’s baseball tournaments.  We are watching the fish and feeding a couple of stray cats they have always taken care of.  The fish are needy.  I think I might get up and buy myself a float tomorrow and keep an eye on the fish while reading and floating in their pool.  (I must say that they would let me float in their pool any old time.  But, it’ll just be me and my book and the fish.  I can hardly wait.)

Speaking of books, this spring I read Mr. Mercedes.  With writing all the time, it’s hard to find time to read. I have taken May and June off from writing. I’ve been looking forward to reading non-school-related fun stuff.  For my birthday, Dan sent Finders, Keepers and Tim/Andy gave me House of Leaves.  Even if you’re not a Stephen King fan – the first two books are fun. They’re not terribly supernatural, more mystery.  Great characters.  Definitely fun beach reads.  I have just started House of Leaves.  I have had it on my to-read list forever. It’s supposed to be VERY scary.  I’m not too far into it but I can definitely tell you it’s weird.

I got new tires this morning. While I waited, I walked to Chik-Fil-A and grabbed breakfast and read.  I almost burst into tears on the section I read this morning – so unexpected! Instead, I bought myself an ice cream cone for breakfast-dessert. Tears contained.  I’ll keep you posted as I get further into the book.  When that one is done, I still have a stack on my nightstand – I wonder how long I can put off tenth grade for Andy????

We are looking forward to an uneventful 4th of July – no party planned. Nothing. Our grumpy neighbor did call the police tonight but it was nothing Andy and his friends were doing – the nice police officer just drove by and waved.  Gah!!!  Hope you all have a great holiday weekend!

January Books

I’ve decided to try and keep better track of what I’ve read this year.  Since January is nearly over, I figured now is as good a time to start as any.  During January, I’ve read or listened to the following books. You can take my opinions as just that opinions. 😉 

Absent Friends, S.J. Rozan I listened to this book. I liked the reader quite a bit and that’s the only reason I stuck with the book. Maybe it was just me being grumpy about doing the laundry or whatever, but I really did not enjoy this convoluted story of childhood friends, now middle-aged, in a post 9/11 world. By the end I was hoping something terrible and permanent would happen to all of them. Amazon says 4 stars, so don’t let me stop you; just consider yourself forewarned.

Beginner’s Goodbye, Anne Tyler 
My mom gave me this book as a Christmas gift. I am a longtime fan of Anne Tyler and this book did not disappoint! She always gives you weird characters who kind of grow on you. The story about a recent widower and how he learns to start over is funny, weird and touching.  It’s a tiny book – great if you need something for an afternoon.

Dark Places, Gillian Flynn  This was another Christmas gift.  My brother gave me three of Flynn’s novels knowing that I enjoy the weird and scary side of fiction sometimes.  Well, this book was certainly dark and sad and definitely strange, but I really enjoyed it.  Flynn is a great storyteller. I haven’t decided whether I think she’s a tremendous writer or not, but she can certainly keep you in your seat!  

Ghost Road Blues, Jonathan Maberry This was another audio book. I listened to this while I was painting Andy’s room last week. I dunno.  I wish I had known it was part of trilogy when I started it. But, it was spooky and different and kept me painting. The story was based in a small Pennsylvania town, but it really felt like a Southern scary story to me. I am not desperate to read the next two books (whenever they are available) but I’m not averse to it either. 

Great Expectations, Charles Dickens  I am reading this for the first time in a LONG time while Andy reads.  I had forgotten how much I love the story of Pip, Mrs. Havisham and the snotty Estella! It’s extra-fun to read this with Andy, especially because Andy is enjoying it too!

Sharp Edges, Gillian Flynn Yes, I could not resist reading another of her books. :::shudder:::: This book is not terribly long, but it took me a long time to get through. I found it to be extremely disturbing and scary. I had to keep putting it down and walking away from it. (It did not help that I started this book in the oral surgeon’s office while Dan was having his wisdom teeth pulled. The story revolves around a serial killer who has a signature to his crimes – he pulls out their teeth. I switched to Good Housekeeping.)  But, it was a compelling enough story to keep me reading through to the bitter, bitter end. I would hesitate to recommend this book to someone who I did not know for a fact gravitated to dark fiction.  (My brother read the book in one sitting.  He did not find it nearly as disturbing as I did although he recognized what bothered me.) 

The Postmistress, Sarah Blake I wanted to love this book. There were sections that were beautifully written.  But, there were parts of the book where I wanted to shout “Tell me more!” It was hard to understand why some of the characters were doing what they did.  The end felt rushed and a bit like it was written under a deadline.  Still, though, if I had a book club, I would recommend it.  There’s lots in the book that makes you stop and think and wonder, “What would I do?” It would be fun to have a group discussing it as I imagine you would have multiple reactions.

What Dies in Summer, Tom Wright This is the second audiobook that got me through painting Andy’s room (Scraping the popcorn off of the ceiling made this a much bigger and longer job than I had originally planned.) Amazon describes this book as a Southern Gothic coming-of-age novel. Okay, I won’t disagree.  But, don’t let that description put you off.  The story/mystery is okay – although if I can guess a mystery, it’s probably not much of a mystery.  But the writing is really beautiful in some sections and the characters are interesting and quirky and memorable.  This is one of those books I wish I had read first rather than listened to – I would have liked the chance to go back over certain sections.  The reader is not my favorite reader ever, but he kind of grows on you the longer you listen.  *Definitely NOT a book for a family car trip*

On my night table for next month (so far, anyway): 
Old Filth, Jane Gardam (I started this this afternoon and so far, I am really enjoying it.) 
Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn (The last of my Christmas threesome)
The Red Badge of Courage (with Andy)
The Invisible Bridge, Julie Orringer
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Ben Fountain
The Hare with Amber Eyes, Edmund de Waal

Near the end of vacation!

I tend to follow the public school’s lead on vacations – it’s pointless to try and do school on random days where all of Andy’s friends are loose and having fun climbing trees and running wild.  (Not to mention, it’s not too much longer that this will not be considered the height of fun for all of them.  ::::sniff:::: )  I generally stuff in extra stuff during our school days so that we’re still free to take off if a great beach day comes along or something like that. Tomorrow is our last day of vacation.  Then it’s back to real clothes, Latin, grammar and history and all the rest of the fun stuff.

Andy and I both miss the routine, but we also both love to sleep in, lounge around in our pj’s reading and snacking and doing nothing too.  I’m trying to brace myself. I know Andy had a blast over the vacation with Dan, Ian and Tim home and willing to include him on many of their weird outings. The day after Christmas, Dan, Tim, Ian and Andy went to the UCF campus around 9:30 pm and spent several hours using their long board skateboards in the parking garage. Ian was there to take pictures – need to get one or two from him. They came home laughing, soaking wet (it was raining) and starving. I’m willing to let Andy out at all sorts of hours to spend time with his brothers while they’re around on a regular basis. It’s not the schedule of your average 12 year old, but, Andy’s not your average 12 year old (at least in my mind). And, it won’t be too long until all of the older boys are who knows where doing who knows what?!

 I think I’ve finished everything I wanted to over this break. Got a bunch of reading in – I’m currently reading Wheat Belly on my Nook, it’s fascinating and kind of freaking me out. It’s definitely a lot to think about.  Drawers and cabinets are cleaned and restocked, sort of. Freezer inventoried. Garage sorted and semi-cleaned out. You know, the stuff that movie stars do on their Christmas breaks? That’s what I have been doing.  When I have good light, I’ll post pictures of the newly painted, new washing machine. It’s ridiculous, but it now matches the dryer and it makes me smile.

Do over?

Let’s pretend I did not complain about the restrictions on allergy medicines and our familial woes over rationing the pills, shall we?  Never mind.  When do “do overs” stop working?  Around age 9-10, huh? I’m a little late.  
Saturday, I continued my productive streak and painted the awesome, but VERYgreen, Goodwill chairs. You can see in the picture how fun they look now.  (Well, I think they’re fun, your mileage may vary.)  $6.99 per chair, $24 in spray paint and polyurethane, fabric was free from my stash as was the scotchguard.  $13 per chair? I’m pleased.  
Andy, who in case you had not heard, has officially turned 12, did not lose a minute telling me that Dan was 12 when I let him watch the show 24.  Fair enough.  So, since Andy’s birthday, he and I have been staying up way too late watching the awesomeness of Jack Bauer.  This Saturday we were supposed to watch three in a row.  We watched one and started another and I could feel myself fading.  My throat was scratchy, my head ached and UGH!!!!!! Andy watched the third episode.  I woke up with a stiff neck on the love seat where I crashed sometime during episode two. I did appreciate that Andy tossed a comforter over me and locked up the house, though. 
And, here we are.  It’s officially Friday, though I’m still counting it as Thursday.  I had a relapse of whatever I had at the beginning of January.  Not quite as miserable, but Sunday-Wednesday are pretty much a blur of sleeping between bouts of Tylenol and cough drops.  Yes, I did think about going to the doctor.  But . . . I never had a fever.  Everything coming out of my head is clear.  My throat had no spots.  It’s just a killer headache, sore throat, cold combination.  Today, I was so excited to wake up feeling mostly human.  Turns out at least two of my neighbors (who both had a bout with the first goo) were sick this week as well.  I am trying to get back on a normal sleep schedule – not that I ever had one, but it’s never too late to start, huh?  The laundry is caught up.  The desk is cleared.  I think I paid all of the bills for the month and there is bread in the oven.  Ahhhh . . . the world is coming back into focus.  
Poor Andy.  It’s been a long school week for him. We have a pretty solid routine and much of what he does he can do on his own or with a little kick start lesson.  Still, it’s gotta be a bummer to do your whole math lesson and bring it back to your mom who was enthusiastic just 30 minutes ago only to have her drool on your notebook.  We muddled through – the upside is Andy’s been doing history all week and tomorrow is science – Alton Brown muffins here we come! 
Ian and Tim were also instrumental in the running of the household, though as they get older they get more selective.  Their stuff was laundered.  Their dishes were done. You know, about what you expect from 18 year olds with their mom drooling on their little brother’s math notebook 18 out of 24 hours.  Lucky them.  I was up and ready for them this morning.  What is it about having teenagers that turns a person into a raging witch? Oh well.  Danny survived it and he still calls me voluntarily, I guess Ian and Tim will too.  Right? 
Mike?  Bless his little heart.  He worries about me when I get sick but it’s comical to watch him avoiding me or anything I might have touched.  He’s right to do this as it’s really just him and my brother running the business.  But, still I was tempted to buy him those late night tv tong things that people in the scooter chairs are supposed to use to get things from grocery shelves. 
Oh well, cross your fingers this is the end of it.  I’ve seen more television this past month than I usually watch in six – and it’s not good.  I’m planning ahead just in case I get sick again – I had Tim pick up a cd player at Goodwill.  Now, if nothing else, I can listen to Harry Potter or another book while I wait out the worst of it. Has anyone else noticed the irony? I would be fine with being sick, if I could lay around and read.  But, when you’re really sick, reading is the hardest thing in the world to do. It’s just cruel.  But, now I’m “recuperating,” I plan on using the weekend to read all the books I received at Christmas and have yet to get to.  Are your fingers still crossed?

Nancy Drew

I LOVE Nancy Drew.  I loved her when I was a kid. I secretly loved her as a teenager (comfort books, you know? Nancy Drew, Little Women and The Secret Garden) and I unabashedly love her now (the old Nancy Drew, not the modern Barbi-ized version). 
Andy and I have been spending an inordinate amount of time at the library lately. (GAH! How much do I hate teaching research papers?).  And, we never fail to visit our little library without a stop at the Friends of the Library bookstore near the exit.  I could spend days in that tiny space – so many crazy, great books.  
I was specifically looking for historical fiction and biographies for Andy when I chanced upon some “old” Nancy Drew books.  One was the textured blue cover that I remember reading and knowing those books had been my mom’s Nancy Drews. Others had the old-fashioned covers (circa 1964) that I remember receiving for every birthday and Christmas (early-mid 1970’s). I cannot even explain how much I loved Nancy Drew – the pumps, the clothes, the formal way they talked – everything.  :::::sigh:::::  No girls here.  The Nancy Drew books went, rightfully, to my niece. I flipped and fondled the books on a recent visit to my sister’s house.  😉  (Nothing creepy about Aunt Amy, really.)

So, there I stood, paralyzed by the Nancy Drew books.  Andy approached, sucking on a mint from the “free mint” bowl on the counter at the entrance.  I wanted to buy them all.  Andy rolled his eyes at me.  “Really, Mom?  Didn’t you already read them? Those books will take you about two hours to read again.”  I knew he was right, but wahhhhh.  Finally, I bought the oldest one.  The Clue in the Jewel Box.  I read it.  I still love Nancy Drew. I almost feel like I will wake up in the morning and put on a pair of pumps, a crisp linen skirt and a shirt waist and go have someone dye my hair Titian.  😉 

The picture above shows all the books I found that day.  Nancy Drew, of course, is on the very top.

Ahhh . . .

It’s nearly ten and NO visits from city officials.  I guess that’s a good night, right?  😉  I barely slept last night. Funny how easily I could do that when I was younger.  Now, I can deal with the lack of sleep, but MAN does it show on my face.  Cucumber slices are not going to make those bags under my eyes go away. Sometimes I hate getting old – not always, but in this instance, I hate it. 

Mike and I are talking about putting in a fence along that side of the yard, but, damn, it’s expensive.  The upside?  We would paint the outside of the fence, facing our mean neighbor’s yard, with some lovely Caribbean colors – we’re leaning toward pink and lime.  Our side of the fence will be planted with bougainvilla.  We’ll see if the money works out – I resent having to spend so much money on something none of us want. But, the thought of a Caribbean fence facing our beige neighbor makes me a little happier than it should.  

The alternative?  I found a website that shows how to build a fence out of wine bottles.  This cracks me up as much as the crazy color fence.  If we go with that option, I’ll let you know because that’s going to be a LOT of wine bottles. (The picture is one idea – the other is to stack and mortar wine bottles like bricks which is more what I’m thinking lol)

I spent this evening doing water aerobics with my neighbors.  Oh my. We have been trying to walk together and then work out.  Tonight was the first night we tried an actual real water aerobics plan.  I think I’m going to be sore tomorrow. Bonus?  The kids were all at my house playing Risk and we had the neighbor’s pool all to ourselves.  That NEVER happens.  Then, as we were finishing up, a huge thunderstorm moved in.  We were trapped at the neighbor’s and the kids were trapped here with Mike.  Bummer.  So, we did what any sane women would do.  We picked a safe spot in the garage and drank wine and watched the storm.  It was a very nice, relaxing night.  Mike and all the boys over here seemed to have a good time too – world domination did not get out of hand and no one was in tears after the storm.  

Over this week, I’ve read the Hunger Games series.  I’m not a huge fan of the “young adult” genre, but this was a seriously entertaining series.  Andy has read the first one, Danny just finished and Ian is starting on book one.  It brings up lots of questions in the kids’ minds and we’ve had some interesting discussions.  It’s violent and parts are a little scary, but I would say a mature 11-12 year old who likes to read could handle it. Just tossing it out there for those of you looking for stuff for your kids to read this summer.  It’s not terribly challenging reading, but it’s straightforward and the storyline is compelling.

Venice Envy

I give – I am so beyond jealous of my parents right now.  They will be in Venice tomorrow.  I want to be in Venice tomorrow.  I want to be in Venice NOW if I’m being perfectly honest.  Waaahhhh.  

I used to read a lot of Anne Rice and I loved her descriptions of Venice.  I am also a fan of Cornelia Funke, children’s author and her book The Thief Lord is one of my favorites.  I loved the book, but I’m a bigger fan of the audio version. The reader is absolutely perfect.  It’s one of our “fall-back” books when we need something everyone can listen to on a drive.  I never get tired of it.  (The movie version is terrible, skip it.)

Ahhh . . .

I’m not trying to be cryptic or anything – I just have too much going on right now to post anything coherent.  In good news, I have cleaned and sorted my bookshelves.  Four GIANT lawn bags to Goodwill.  Four boxes for  Three boxes to my neighbor for her five year old and quite a bit to the garbage.  
Never fear, our shelves are still full.  And sorted.  I sorted the non-fiction by category and subject.  The fiction is sorted by author.  It’s a beautiful thing.  I used the small space we’ve always used as a catchall/computer space (it’s supposed to be a dining area lol) and have turned it into a mini-library – pictures soon.  But, I’m sitting here now and it makes me smile.  I even found a tiny lamp at Goodwill that matches the new paint to the point of fading away.  It’s all perfect.  

For now, I must move out of the perfect 200 sq. ft. of space and face the rest of it . . . (pulling on my safety goggles) . . . wish me luck.  I”ll be back soon!

And I’m not even a pack rat!

For years I have nagged at Mike, a natural-born saver-of-all-things-that-might-be-handy-  or-useful SOME DAY.  (It took me 10 years to convince him to donate a pair of cowboy boots he wore once!!!!)

I’m not a saver.  I never have been.  I don’t toss stuff willy-nilly (love that phrase) . . . but my general rule is:  If I don’t love love love it; haven’t used it in a year or more; and/or can’t remember why we have it,  it gets tossed or donated.  This has served us well in our small house.  Heck, it is a large part of why I am sane.  I do not function well in clutter at all.  The more stuff we have the more I tend to shut down and refuse to cope with anything.  For me, less is survival. 

Today, however, I began my yearly cleaning o’ the bookshelves.  Sure I dust the shelves sort of regularly, but during a year, I only deep-clean and organize them twice a year.  Once in the spring as  we wrap up the school year and once before Christmas because they’re usually a mess after being used through the fall semester.  

I don’t like clutter, but . . . books are my downfall.  I cannot believe how many books we have.  And I love them all.  I was shocked as I went through the living room shelves to see how many books Andy has read and outgrown.  Do I keep them?  If so, why?  We’re talking shelves of books here.  And, stacking up things like Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh and the Phantom Tollbooth made me sad.  For many of the books, I have memories of each of my sons reading them and their different impressions as they were reading – love, hate, indifference, disgust, you name it!

Most of the books are cheap paperbacks and they outlived the initial $3-6 originally spent years ago.  I think I will put them in the Goodwill box by the dryer and plan to buy nice hardcover versions for our future grandkids.  Does that sound like a plan? Or will I be burdening future daughters-in-law with nice hardcover books to figure out what to do with in another 20 or so years? 

That said, I may have to keep a copy of Goodnight Moon,  Sylvester and the Magic Pebble,  and Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig.   OK – maybe I’ll have to keep a big box of the books that we all read over and over and over and  laughed about.

No one tell Mike.  This new found hoarding instinct of mine could set us back 20 years