January 30, 2013

Re-read it, re-read it good

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice turned 200 hundred years old this week! As a book that is probably more loved by more people than most others, it got me thinking about other books that are fun to re-read. (Since re-reading P & P is a given for many.)

Here's a little list of some of my favorite re-reads. There are a lot of young adult literature picks in here because that tends to be my favorite. These are all fiction as well. Maybe I'll do a non-fiction list another time.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle
~One of my favorites as a teen. Meg is an ultimate ugly duckling and therefore a great heroine. The mix of science, sci-fi, and coming of age were so exciting and inspiring to me when I was younger. Now that I'm older, I see more levels to the family dynamics, appreciate the scientific facts and excellent narrative.

Tom Loves Anna Loves Tom by Bruce Clements
~I found this gem at the library. God bless librarians who put books out on display! It is a story told from the perspective of a teenage boy who falls in love with a girl visiting town. It's probably the closest depiction of real love (as I see it at least, and especially from a teenage point of view) that I've read. It's not very flowery, it's self-consciously and subtley romantic at times and very relatable. I re-read this every year or so.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
~Oh, my heart's true love. One of the best books of all time. It combines love, humor, fairy tale, intelligence. A retelling of the Cinderella story without any mice and with a semi-crazy fairy godmother. The first time I read this, I sighed in happiness when I finished the book and was ready to start it again right then. I got my sisters hooked on it too and we all read it regularly. [Disclaimer: run SCREAMING away from the movie version of this book. The movie has NO resemblance to the book and when I saw it in theater I was very angry.]

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
~My most recent re-read. Anne Shirley is a wonderful Polly-Anna-with-a-major-klutzy-streak character. The book is a joy to read. 

The Lord of the Rings Triology (and The Hobbit) by J. R. R. Tolkien
~Epic drama at it's best. 

Redwall and the other books in the series by Brian Jacques 
~Adventure series set in fictional Medieval times with castles and kings, priests and tapestries, knights and poetry. Oh, and all the characters are animals. :)

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
~My favorite of the Little House books. I'm not sure I've re-read any of the others in the series in a long while, but am open to doing so. This one is just so good and such a great winter book!

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
~Brooding, crazy, dark, fascinating, stark. Gets your brain going in a million directions.

Persuasion by Jane Austen
~One of my other favorite Austen's. Her last completed novel, it shows a great deal of maturity in the writing style and the characters. The main character is 27 and you can tell the difference and relate, especially as an older reader, to Anne Elliot.

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
~Complex, intriguing, packed with enigmatic characters and unusual plot twists. No happy endings or tied up strings in this novel, but so much to get out of it!

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
~A group of teenage "Greasers" trying to make in a world where "Socs" get all the breaks. Loved it in high school, love it as an adult, even though it bears no resemblance to my teenage or life experience. We can all relate to feeling like an outsider.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
~A story of an eccentric family living in an old castle in England, told from the perspective of a teenage girl through her journals. I found this book in a cool bookstore in Colorado Springs and really liked it. There is a decent movie adaptation as well.

A quick list to wrap this up because there are more books that I've re-read and continue to re-read than I thought!
~The Secret Garden
~Pippi Longstocking
~A Little Princess
~Tom Sawyer
~The Harry Potter series
~The Twilight series (guilty pleasure)

January 23, 2013

A few notes on kid things

1. Dora can't sing. How is possible that there was no one who spoke spanish and sounded like a little girl but could also carry a tune that could be found and hired?!?

2. Kids are hard wired to do the exact opposite of whatever is needed or wanted. Case in point: we had to get up and out of the house early two days in a row and both boys slept in. Today we could finally stay home in the morning aaaaannnnnd they were both up at 5:45.

3. I need to learn how to make boys be more sympathetic, if that's possible. Sometimes I think they've decided I'm an enemy to vanquish ("I shot you, Mommy!" "Let's wrestle.", tickle or kissing fights that are more fight than anything else). Unless they've just gotten hurt for the billionth time or are waking up in the middle of the night.

4. I've decided to be more intentional with how I dress them. If I had a girl, I'd pay way more attention to putting her in cute outfits. I should put at least a little thought into it with a boy because looking good does matter. I don't want them to be embarrassed by their kid pictures later in life!

5. It is a very bad thing to be a person who doesn't like to play games raising young children. It's hard not to feel like I'm an awful mother for almost always declining to play video games, board games, etc. But then when I play all I want to do is throw them out the window and destroy the game because of how frustrating they are to play with! (It should be noted that I don't like to play games much with anyone. It's just intensified with my kids.)

6. I've stopped caring about cleaning their rooms. Except when I'm tripping over everything.

7. The sound of a singing child is pretty much the most adorable thing ever. K has never cared much for music, but S is really into it! He sings a lot and we love every second of it!

January 21, 2013

In the middle of it

I love that God is a God who loves change. And I often dislike that aspect of Him because He wants ME to change.

We are in a period of personal growth, Jim and I. God is showing us some short comings and issues that haven't been dealt with in years, if ever. It's hard. Our progress is tested and hampered by obstacles.

But it's good too. It's exciting to think that we will be better next year than we are this year. That our marriage will be stronger. That we will be stronger, more caring, more effective people. That we will be better parents, siblings, friends, workers, etc.

A big part of that change is our church, Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows. We are so encouraged and challenged by the teaching there, among other things. And a big part of the current wave of change is the series our pastor did around New Year's called "How to Have Peace of Mind". Here is the link to the first message of three if you have time or want to watch it. There is an option to listen to it too. I highly recommend it because it was so poignant. And I pray that God can use it in your life, all of you.

So many people are facing so many things in life right now. Much more than we are, to be sure. But no matter what life is handing out, God is the same and the ways that we can deal with our struggles boil down to the same principles that He has set up. I'm comforted by that, even though I don't really want to face myself and my issues. :)

I'm sure I will write more on this in the future. It's been a big part of our lives lately and will continue to be.

January 8, 2013

Bigger and Smaller

I may be one of only a few non-impoverished American women to say this, but I have never been on a diet. I've never had a desire to go on one either. I hate having to pay close attention to stuff like that. Food and I are likethis. And dessert and I are like this (that's "this" with rainbow sprinkles and a line of chocolate sauce)! So, I've spent my brief times in life when I've wanted or need to lose a little weight just trying to be moderate and sensible with portion sizes, healthy choices and variety. And working out more.

I realize how blessed I am that weight has not been a big issue for me. I was a pretty thin kid and teenager. Never unhealthy and very active with a good metabolism. I won the award for biggest appetite when I was a senior in high school because I ate so much without seeming to "put" it anywhere. The yearbook picture is epic because the boy who won was nicknamed "Grub" and was a 250 pound football player and we're both holding up the free Little Debbie snacks they brought as props. (I'll have to find the picture to share with you guys.) I totally kept the props because there was no way I'd pass up free food! My grandmother used to ask me (usually at Thanksgiving) if I had a hollow leg. My reply was that I had two.

Much of my lack of issue with weight came from being very active with sports, activities and gym class. Another blessing I don't take for granted is that I am athletically able, for lack of a better word. I have decent coordination, good balance, am flexible and have pretty good natural muscle tone. That definitely makes it easier to stay active! Thank God I didn't get my mother's athletic ability (which would probably be counted in the negative, if that's possible). But in addition to my activity level, I never had an addictive or over-doing things type of approach. Even though I loved (and still do, of course) candy and dessert, I've never sat down and eaten a whole bag of cookies. If I want pie, I have one piece. If I'm eating a special cookie (like Girl Scout Carmel Delights, mmmmm) I try to eat small bites to really taste and enjoy them. I also enjoy just about every type of food and have made a point to eat my vegetables and fruits. And I've done these things since I was young.

The combo of high activity and moderating food intake has helped me avoid getting overweight. However, once I reached adulthood, it got harder and harder to stay at a comfortable level of thinness. Once I wasn't working out, competing, etc all the time, or going to daily gym class, a little bit of extra fat snuck in. I have usually been able to include some sort of workout in my life, but with varying levels of commitment.

Having kids is the next change. I gained about 45 pounds with K. I lost about 35 after the first six months but then had to work very hard to lose the rest. I had actually gotten an extra five pounds gone by the year before I was pregnant with S. But pregnancy for me was a time when it was so hard to moderate! I was hungry a lot and, until the last couple of months, the weight gain was all belly. So I got a little lazy.

After S, though, there was a BIG change. I had only gained 35 pounds but I lost 45 within five months! I credit the natural birth (as opposed to the c-section with K) and nursing S. I had forgotten what it felt like to be that slim. I was wearing size six pants and small shirts. And sometimes those were a little big on me! It was a great feeling. I definitely felt lighter than I had in a long time. If I got sick and couldn't eat, I felt so much more vulnerable because losing a few pounds at that stage actually made a big difference. But when I was well, I felt so much better being smaller.

After I stopped nursing though, I gained 20 pounds in about seven months. Ugg. After being thinner, I could feel the difference that I didn't notice when I had more gradually gained weight earlier in my twenties. I had forgotten what it felt like to not have a belly in my way when I bent over. It was obvious how much more effort it took to run around, move around, etc. when I gained the weight again. I could feel more jiggle when I walked.

Now I've gained another 8-10 pounds and I officially hate it. I'm no where near obesity but I am getting uncomfortably close to getting into the overweight for my height and age category. This fall I've been very tired and a little depressed, so I've been less active and less careful about what I eat. For the first time, I'm feeling like I don't have much ability to change anything.

James and I tried the GM diet cleanse in the fall. We followed it closely and I only had one cookie during the week, toward the end. I didn't loose any weight in that week, but I did feel more clarity of mind when I had cut out carbs, sugar and dairy. By half way through, I was feeling very mean so I was glad I hadn't tried a really restrictive diet for the long term!

Now I'm at the point where I need to make a real change. I need to have a check up to make sure there isn't something bigger wrong with me. I need to sleep more. I need, need, NEED to cut down on sugar and fat in my diet. For the long term. So I need to change the way I look at what moderation means and how much is too much if I really want to be healthier. And I think I need to change my general attitude toward life, to be more positive and hopeful. (More on that aspect later.)

Everyone always tells you to take care of yourself while you are young because things change as you get older. And it's excruciatingly clear now that my parents are aging, and grandparents are aging, getting sick, dying that how you treat your body has a direct effect on your health and well being later. I want to make changes that help my family and I be healthier, so that we can live more productive lives and are able to do the things that will make our lives more interesting and effective. I guess it's my New Year's resolution!

January 2, 2013

Sicker and sicker, part 2

After our very sick visit to Ohio, we were back home and hoping to feel before Christmas. It started with a trip to the doctor on Monday morning. I tried to rest for the morning, as much as you can with two sick kids to take care of. I got an afternoon appointment and the kids were asleep in the car as soon as we set out!

The pediatrician could tell I wasn't doing well either and did a test for influenza on all three of us. Surprise, surprise, we all had it. K had a little bit of a red ear also so he got an anti-biotic to ward off an ear infection. S and I were close to the window when you can take Tamiflu to reduce the duration of the flu so we got prescriptions for that. I got mine (and it was a bit expensive!) but all the pharmacies anywhere near us were out of the kids' version so S couldn't take his. It didn't do anything for me anyway and S cleared up much more quickly than K or I, so it wasn't a big deal that we didn't get his medicine.

I kept feeling worse instead of better so I got a natural flu medicine called Oscillococcinum that had worked really well for my sister. It didn't do anything for me though! By the Friday before Christmas, I was still feeling all the flu symptoms, barely sleeping, unable to breathe and then my eyes started feeling puffy. At the end of the day, they were all pink. So off to Immediate Care I went to get diagnosed with Pink Eye in both eyes! I got anti-biotic drops to attempt to deal with it and just hoped the kids wouldn't get it, despite the fact that they always share my drinks and food and are all over me! 

The next day, Saturday, my throat was killing me. And then I found white spots on it on Sunday, after we hosted a small family Christmas gathering that I insisted on having despite how we felt. I figured since I wasn't supposed to be contagious, we shouldn't miss out on the festivities. I felt awful the whole time, though and after I saw the spots on my tonsils, we all went out and spent an hour and a half at Immediate Care, only to not be able to be seen before closing. The next day was Monday, Christmas Eve. I tried to find a primary care doctor to see me (mine had left the practice so I was trying to find a new one) but most of the offices were closed for the holiday. Jim had the car and I had the kids and felt so tired and terrible. I resolved to just wait until Wednesday, after Christmas when things were back to normal with places.

But, my family was freaking out that if I had Strep Throat (which is usually what those white spots mean anyway) then it would turn into Scarlattina then Scarlet Fever if I waited even two days and I had to think about the poor kids. This was all from my overly dramatic sister trying to "help" me but not offering any actual help. My family doesn't realize then when they try to "fix" things or talk them to death it just puts more pressure on me. I know they love me and are trying to help, it just usually has the opposite effect when I'm already stressed or sick.

So anyway, the family pressure left me in the lovely position of walking two miles to the Immediate Care in 30 degree weather, pulling two sickish kids in the wagon so they wouldn't have to walk. It sucked. At least I got in to see the doctor relatively quickly and found out I had tonsillitis. Also not contagious! Small blessing. I got an antibiotic, even though all this stuff was viral. I think the doctors figure they'll just give you something to maybe help a bit. Jim called while I was waiting for the doctor to tell me that he was able to get off of work early to be with us and help me. So that saved me a long walk home, thankfully. Happy Christmas Eve to us.

Christmas Day was calm and just the four of us at home. I rested as much a possible but still felt awful. At least I got to see the kids open and enjoy their presents.

This big present was something K has wanted for two years and we finally got a good deal on it for both boys. I love seeing faces like these!
All my boys had fun playing while I watched from the couch.

Wednesday was taking K to the pediatrician, AGAIN, because he got the pink eye and white spots on the throat too. With eye drops for him and the fact that he was already on an anti-biotic, he at least started getting better quickly. His eyes never got too red or uncomfortable, thankfully! Mine was red, itchy, chapped and painful for over a week.

Thursday was another day of trying to get a little rest while home with the kids and still feeling terrible.  

I finally got into a primary care doctor on Friday. Jim took the day off an arranged for my mom to watch the kids so we could really rest. There was nothing the doctor could do for me. But they did tell me the different symptoms were a result of the influenza virus most likely. I guess I followed a pretty typical pattern with influenza. I was lucky I never had to hospitalized. A lot of people have this year because this is a really bad flu season. I've not been very pro flu shot, but after this year I might rethink that! My mom and dad had the shot this fall and both of them escaped this whole thing!

After my appointment, Jim and I went back to the house to nap. After the first real, uninterrupted sleep I'd had in weeks, I woke up feeling better rather than worse. I just rested all day Friday and all day Saturday. I was so thankful Jim was home to take care of things and that we didn't have any plans or things to do for the holidays to distract us/wear us out. Sunday I finally was well enough to go to church, but the rest of the day was spent on the couch. And by Monday, I could actually say I was FINALLY on the upswing! Pink eye is gone, throat is healing (I can sort of talk now) and the congestion is abating. Headache and body aches are more minor now, so that's a blessing. I'm resting more than usual still, but I feel human again!

S has been  back to normal for a while now and K is about normal too. Jim missed the whole thing and we're completely convinced it was a miracle that God provided because He knew we needed it! I don't even want to think about what it would have been like to have him out of commission at the same time. It was hard enough that he had to be gone at work so much of the time! Now I'm hoping that 2013 will be as sickness free as possible. At least for a while.