Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Confession Time

Y'all, I can't stand the dog.

I don't like the licking.

I don't like the smell.

I don't like having dog hair absolutely everywhere all the time.

He chews on everything.  My favorite recliner.  The dining room curtains.  The mat by the back door.  My gym bag.  Syd's jacket.  My antique dining room chairs.  I've sprayed them with the bitter apple spray and that works for all of about ten minutes before he's back at it.

The kids get scared of him when he gets in one of his moods: running around frantically and barking.  This could just be his way of "playing", but it's annoying.

He bites when he's excited which is at least twice a day.  He hasn't broken skin yet, but it's just a matter of time.

I can't put him in the back yard because he digs.  And digs.  And digs.  We have have gigantic holes all over the back yard.  I'm half hoping that he'll dig out under the fence and run away.

I know I'm a horrible person.  Who doesn't like dogs?

This month long experience has just proven to me that there really are "dog people" and "cat people."  I am most definitely a cat person.

The kids really want to keep him, but is it fair to keep him here when I absolutely hate him?  Do I break their hearts because he irritates the heck out of me?  Will getting him "fixed" solve some of these issues?

Ryan says we should take him for training (read: I should take him for training), but I don't even know if I want to invest time and money in that.

Go ahead - tell me how horrible I am.  I can't feel any worse about the situation than I already do.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

2012 Books

*Edited to add links since ad pictures didn't show up.

At the end of each year, I sit down and take a look at the books I've read so that I can bring some suggestions to my December book club meeting.  I usually have several great novels to suggest, but this year, I came up a bit empty.  And then I realized that I'd spent much of the year reading The Song of Fire and Ice series by George R. R. Martin.

We don't have cable or satellite so I can't speak for the television series based on The Game of Thrones books, but I can say that the books were a lot better than I thought they'd be.  I'm more of a historical fiction kind of girl and I'd describe these as adult-themed fantasy, kind of like Lord of the Rings with a lot of "adult" situations.  I'm guessing this is why the TV series is on a premium cable channel and not a network channel.  Of the five books that are out, my favorite was the third because it was full of plot twists and turns.  If you decide to read the series, I'll give you fair warning that you shouldn't get too attached to any of the characters because the author has no qualms about killing off even the most beloved characters.

My book club read UnWind by Neal Shusterman in November and although I missed the discussion, almost everyone in the book group liked it.  This one falls into the currently popular "dystopian" category and while not as popular as The Hunger Games series (which I read last year but won't review because everyone has already read them), I'd say the plot is just as disturbing.  In this dystopian society (set in the US), abortion has been outlawed, but children are allowed to be "unwound" (full organ/tissue/bone donor) between the ages of 13 and 18 should their parents find them to be too challenging or just unwanted.  This book is categorized in the young adult section of our library and that's probably because the main characters are teenagers, but the topic is definitely an adult one.  I went on to read the sequel, Unholy, and look forward to the third in the series due out next year.

We also read The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri.  In this novel, a young man of Indian descent struggles to find a balance between his family's traditions and the enticements of a modern American lifestyle.  The main character is played by Kal Penn in the movie (which I mistakenly saw before reading the book) so I kept picturing his face while reading, but that was only a slight annoyance for me.  I don't dislike Kal Penn, but I like to develop my own ideas of what a character looks like and that's quite difficult when you've already seen someone else's idea of what a character looks like.  In other words, I wish I'd read the book first, but isn't that always the way it is?

One that I read on my own that I recommended for this year was The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.  I've read several books by this author and all of them are very detail oriented and very different from each other.  This man does his research!  This one made me feel lucky to be a female in the US during modern times (as did books like Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan or A Thousand Splendid Suns by Kahled Hosseini).  This one primarily takes place in Syria during World War I as the Turks systematically slaughtered millions of Armenians while the world watched and did nothing.  The main character is a young American woman who travels to Aleppo with her father to distribute aid to the Armenian refugees.  She befriends a woman and a young girl who have survived atrocities too terrible to mention and falls in love with a young Armenian widower.  If you like this one, you might want to read one of his other books, like Skeletons at the Feast (set in WWII Germany) or Midwives (set in 1980s Vermont).  I really enjoyed those two as well.  Be sure to grab a box of tissues first!

Another one I recommended to my book club was The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman.  This also falls under my "happy to be a modern American woman" category.  This one is set in Israel about 2000 years ago when the Romans were doing their best to eliminate the Hebrews.  It follows three women who lived in a desert fortress (parts of which are still standing today) and the lengths they went to in order to survive their time in the fortress and to survive a Roman attack upon it.  It reminded me of Anita Diamant's The Red Tent but there was less "ick" factor.  (If you've read The Red Tent, you know what I'm talking about.)

Probably the final great book I read last year was Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.  It's what I'd call an epic novel, spanning several decades and generations.  It is set in Ethiopia and the U.S. and revolves around a medical clinic that is staffed by doctors and nurses of Indian descent.  The writing is beautiful and his descriptions of the scenery they encountered and the food they ate made me want to either travel to Ethiopia or find an Ethiopian restaurant.  The love triangles and family deceptions will make you gasp and the love of an adoptive father will make you weep.  Some might call this a great summer read because it is quite lengthy, but if you're cooped up in your house due to crummy winter weather, the combination of this book and a cup of cocoa or hot tea will warm you up.

I read several other books, most of which were "chick lit" freebies for my Kindle.  The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series was fabulous (violent, but fabulous), but again, most people have already read that series so there's no point re-hashing it.

I'm hoping to read lots of great books this year.  Anyone have any suggestions for me?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

New Year, New Me

I gave up making formal and specific New Years' Resolutions years ago.  I do, however, come up with general ideas of ways to improve myself around this time of year.

This year's general idea is to be better to myself.

We're trying to eat better this year, little by little.  Over the past few years, we've cut out many processed foods, but this year we're going to take it a bit further.  To start off the year right, I made brown rice to go with gumbo and the kids not only didn't complain, but they didn't even notice.  This is a miracle.  And Evan has decided that he'll now eat my new favorite breakfast:  homemade yogurt with fruit and homemade granola.  Now if I could just get the other two to eat it instead of the store-bought kind....

I've been toying with the idea of cutting out all corn products because I've read that helps with asthma and if we could cut back on Liam's daily nebulizer treatments, that would be absolutely awesome.  Have you noticed how corn and corn products are in absolutely everything?  We've been pretty good about avoiding high fructose corn syrup, but I've been on the hunt for a kids' daily vitamin without corn starch and am coming up empty.  Apparently corn starch "holds together" all the other stuff crammed into those little Flintstone people.  And then there's the Mexican food we like to eat - enchiladas, tacos, chips and salsa, all of which use corn tortillas.  I don't know that I can convince the kids to give up tacos.

I'm also trying to work on cutting negative people out of my life.  After a six week self imposed Facebook break, I decided that life is too short to put up with people who are mean-spirited or just plain ugly on the inside.  I cleaned up my "friends" list upon my return and decided to not subject myself to such people in real life if I could help it.  I quit one of my book groups (the one with the "Santa Claus is not Christian" lady).  Of course, I didn't come out and say that's why I was leaving; I just told them that I'm so busy I don't have as much time to read as I used to (which is true).  And when we were forced to spend part of our Christmas break with a relative who turned into a Grade A jerk during election season, I kept repeating my new mantra, "God give me strength to not stoop to their level" and ignored them as much as possible.  They ignored me as well and I'd say it worked out well for everyone involved.

Next on my agenda is to get back into yoga.  It's been years since I've had the opportunity to take a class and now that we've joined the local rec center and Evan is in pre-K, I just might get the chance.  I know I'm going to hurt after stretching some muscles that I forgot I had, but I also know I'm going to feel better in the long run.

After that.....well, who knows.  Maybe I'll start taking long bubble baths again.  Or maybe I'll buy myself another canister of the awesome cocoa mix we've been enjoying.

What do you do to pamper yourself?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Max's Post


Hi!  I'm Max!  According to the vet, I'm about a year old and some kind of shepherd/basset hound mix.

I got my new family right after Christmas and I am so excited to be with them.  For a while, I was a stray dog who managed to survive on my own, but then some nice people found me and took care of me for a month or so.  They lived in an apartment and would let me swim in their lake retention pond every day.  I loved it there, but they decided that since they were in college, they couldn't really afford to take care of me and feed themselves, so I had to find a new home.

The mom of the person who found me posted my picture on a neighborhood information board and The Lady saw it and thought I was cute.  One day, The Lady, The Man, The Girl, The Big Boy and The Small Boy came to play with me at my apartment and decided to let me come live with them.

I was nervous at first.  Their house smelled weird and they gave me new food to eat.  I was quiet and shy at first; I only barked a few times the first week that I lived with them.  But then I got braver and started to play with them, especially The Girl, who always takes me on my walks and The Big Boy who seems to have just as much energy as I do.

I like to sit under the table when they're eating their meals and I keep waiting for them to give me a bite of whatever smells so yummy, but they never do.  I like to follow them around, too.  The Lady says I'm like a toddler, whatever that is.  They won't let me in their bedrooms which is a shame because they look like they have lots of fun things to chew in there, but I can go wherever I want in the rest of the house and that's nice.  And they like for me to spend the night in my crate, but that's OK, too, because they give me treat and some toys to play with.

The Girl seems to like me the most.  She pets me a lot and doesn't even mind picking up my poop when we go for walks.  She likes to boss me around and The Man says that it's good that her bossiness is now focused on someone other than her brothers.  The Girl doesn't like it when I howl along to her piano playing, though.  I'm sure she thinks whatever she's playing sounds pretty, but to me it just sounds like noise.

The Big Boy likes to give me my food and my treats.  Of the three Little People, I think he's going to be my best playmate because he's rough like me.  He doesn't like it when I give him little nips, though.

The Small Boy doesn't play with me all that much because I used to make his eyes all puffy and watery.  He keeps saying the word "allergy" and I don't know what that means, but after The Lady gave The Small Boy some medicine before bed, The Small Boy felt better.  The Small Boy calls me "sweet boy" and will throw my ball, but doesn't pet me a lot because of the "allergy".

The Man isn't home very much, but when he is, he's nice to me.  Unless I dig a big hole in the back yard and then he's not so happy.  When The Lady and the The Three Little People came home late one evening, The Man fed me my dinner and took me for a walk.  He even brought me a new bed to relax on.  I think he's warming up to me.

The Lady is home more than anyone else and she's the one who feeds me breakfast and takes me for walks when The Girl goes to school.  The Lady lets me go outside and play in the back yard when it's not raining.  She usually vacuums when I'm out there which is good because the vacuum scares me.  The Lady also wipes my paws off when I come back in.  At first I didn't like that, but now I'm used to it and I automatically sit on my mat when I come in from the back yard.  I also didn't like it when she gave me a bath; she didn't look as though she liked it much, either.  I got her big bathroom nice and messy, but she said I was stinky and needed it.  When my tummy wasn't feeling too good (probably because I chewed up one of The Girl's jackets), The Lady gave me some homemade chicken broth.  I guess that means she kind of likes me even though I occasionally hear her mutter something about being a "cat person".

So far I've got a pretty easy life.  Two square meals a day (literally - my food is shaped in little squares), some toys to play with and people who mostly seem to like me.

I think I'm going to like it here.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Tap, Tap....Is This Thing On?

Anybody still out there?  Or has everyone deleted me from their blogrolls?  I wouldn't blame anyone who did, that's for sure.

So, um, yeah....it's been a while.  But I'm going to try to do better.  In fact, I think I'm going to try to emulate Andria and really try to post at least once a week this year.  Now that we have a new computer (yay!), it should be easier.  Well, maybe not easier, but at least a lot less frustrating.

I also thought I'd copy Andria and sum up our year in one post, especially since I didn't post anything for half of it.  Oops.

January - Sydney recovered from her tonsillectomy and Ryan had his terrible seizure-induced car accident.  I have no pictures of that; it's definitely not something I really want pictures of anyway.

February - We spent the month getting used to being a one driver household and began planning our backyard makeover.  We also celebrated Go Texan Day (the start of the Big City Livestock Show & Rodeo - yeehaw!):

(Cutest cowboy ever.)

March - A visit to fondue restaurant to celebrate my birthday and Spring Break antics, including pillow sumo wrestling:


April - Easter, Sydney's choir concert and our yearly bluebonnet photos:

(Believe it or not, this is the best one of the 20 or so that I took of the three of them)

May - Sydney's 9th birthday, the end of school and Evan's 4th birthday (with a light saber cake, of course):


June - Vacation Bible School, our annual trip to San Antonio, a quick trip to Schlitterbahn:


July - Another church camp, a loyal viewing of the Summer Olympics and our family olympics with a dozen events and medal ceremonies:

(Sydney during the long jump event.)

August - We were all excited that Ryan was able to drive again and school started back up.  Only I was excited about this, though.

(Liam's first day of Kindergarten.)

September - I agreed to become the Girl Scout Troop treasurer and the Children's Bell Choir Communication Coordinator (because I'm not busy enough already) and Liam started soccer:


October - A new computer, pumpkin patches and Halloween:

(This is Sydney as the Greek goddess Artemis.  Evan went as Spiderman and Liam went as Darth Vader.)

November - Liam's 6th birthday and a trip to Tennessee for Thanksgiving:


December - Christmas, Christmas, Christmas.  And a new dog named Max whose picture is still on my iPod.  I'm sure there will be plenty more in the future if we can get poor Evan's allergies under control and if I don't kill him because of all the chewing on things he's not supposed to chew (Max, that is, not Evan)!

So, that's our 2012.

My hope for 2013?  Contentment.

So far, we're off to a good start.