Monday, October 31, 2011

10 things...

... about Clara turning 10!!

1. She was extremely excited about turning 10 for some reason. This is probably the most excited I've seen her for her birthday EVER!

2. The Friday before her actual birthday, she had her party. She decided that she would like a 50's bowling party, so we contacted the little bowling alley Alex had gone to this summer with his camp and arranged to rent all of the lanes. She had three groups of friends there... her school group (we drove them over from school... man, was it a riot listening to them all in the backseat!), a group from where she takes ballet now and a group from where she previously took ballet. Here she is opening presents....
She had a blast! Since we had the whole place reserved, parents and siblings were welcome to stay. Alex brought a friend so he was able to handle being surrounded by so many girls... the two of them did their own thing and were occasionally joined by one of the little brothers.

3. Clara got an Angry Bird from her school BFF...
It went everywhere with us!

4. The next morning was another birthday treat! Since she was officially turning ten that weekend, her ballet instructor gave her permission to go ahead and purchase her first pair of pointe shoes!! We went for her fitting first thing Saturday morning (she was still 9, but she wouldn't be wearing them until she was 10... possibly 11 if I don't get around to sewing the elastics and ribbons in soon).

She was so excited...She won't get to wear them much. They're trying a new approach where instead of waiting until later and going from flat shoes to doing a whole class en pointe, they start earlier and do only a little at a time until they build up to a full class. She's scheduled to start actually wearing them in class mid-November (again, only if I manage to get them sewn :-).

5. That night she went straight from Nutcracker rehearsals to a haunted house party with her friend. She was quite the party girl her birthday weekend.

6. Saturday night she was so wound up about turning 10 the next day that she had trouble going to sleep. She became obsessed with the fact that she *needed* something to wear the next day that would let everyone know that it was her birthday. We didn't have anything, so I handed her a sheet of mailing labels and told her she could make her own birthday sticker. This is what she showed us the next morning...
(spelling is not Clara's strong subject)

We had to vote on our favorite so she could wear it to church.

7. And wear it she did...
Fancy party dress, check. Angry Bird, check. Homemade "I'm 10 today" sticker, check. Ready for church.

8. She didn't know it at the time, but she had a big daddy daughter date that afternoon. For her birthday Jeff got season tickets to the Joffrey for the two of them. He took her to see Don Quixote straight from church. She loved it!

9. That night we had our little family celebration. Jeff and I had picked up cupcakes from Sprinkles while they were in rehearsal at church...
red velvet, lemon, vanilla with milk chocolate icing, carrot cake, caramel apple and peanut butter chocolate chip... yum!

10. Another birthday present from friends was a new hat and glove set. She wore them on Monday for her school birthday party. She was wearing a grey poncho that day which made her look a little like a flying squirrel...

Well... I think that's about all for now about Clara turning 10! The celebration is still continuing though as the grandparents still are coming in to celebrate over the next couple of weeks. I'm pretty sure that Clara doesn't mind dragging it out for as long as possible!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

the meaning of life...

I'm way behind on posting again... sorry!

Alex is part of an audition in theater group. As part of this young ensemble, they work on two major shows per year. In the fall they typically work on writing original works and in the spring they do an adaptation. Last spring they did Phantom Tollbooth and James and the Giant Peach (Alex was in James). This fall they gave the kids a list of several books they were considering for the spring adaptations. We had already read several of them, but there were a few that we hadn't read. Alex picked Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life from the list and decided to read it (he likes to read all of the books that they choose from). With some help from our favorite librarian, we tracked down the book (it was waiting on a reshelving cart) and Alex started on it. He loved it! And he insisted that I read it too once he was done.

I have to say that I really enjoyed it as well. It reminded me a lot (in premise) of the book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Jeff and I had read that book several years ago as part of our book club that we do (just the two of us). In Extremely Loud, the boy, Oskar, has a key that his father left behind and the book follows his search to find the lock for the key. In this book, the boy, Jeremy, has a box with four locks that is left to him by his father, but has no keys. In this book you follow Jeremy and his friend, Lizzy, on their quest to find the keys and to find out the meaning of life. They meet many different people throughout their quest, each with their own ideas about the meaning of life. Alex and I had some really good discussions after we both had read it.

I love that reading and a passion for books is something we share. He's currently blazing through another book that he's insisting that I read when he's done... I can't wait! :-)

Friday, October 21, 2011

10 on Friday?

Just doesn't have the same ring, does it?

This week spiraled out of control. Clara's pup was sick, so I spent a lot of my week being doggy nurse. She went to the vet yesterday and got a shot of fluids for dehydration and some meds and she's feeling some better. They think she got bit by something on Friday that caused an anaphylactic reaction (half her face swelled up) and that just caused havoc in her little system. Hopefully we're through the worst of it.

1. Speaking of havoc.... Alex is still on a mission to lose and/or destroy his school uniforms. Here are his pants from last Wednesday...
That's the aftermath of a game of capture the flag.

2. Earlier on Wednesday, I got to spend the day with my friend from California! We had such a great time together... it was so great to see her. Just as we walked out of her hotel, we noticed that the drawbridges were going up to let sailboats through. We decided to walk down to the river to check it out, up close and personal :-)
It was really cool to be right underneath the bridge as it was coming down. They raise each bridge one at a time. So, after this, we walked down and watched them raise the next one.

3. Our next stop was the newly opened Magnolia Bakery. Most of the times I've been by it, there has been a line out the door. At the time we headed over there, there was no line. There was also very little selection, but that was okay. I got the peanut butter and jelly cupcake and man, was it good! Peanut butter cake, with jelly filling and peanut butter icing! Yum! It was so good that I had to take the kids there on Friday for an after school snack. They both had the pumpkin spice whoopie pies...

4. We aren't normally in the loop on Friday evenings, but Alex had an audition at the Lyric Opera. One of his favorite things to do is be a super in the Lyric productions. (A supernumerary is an extra... non-speaking, non-singing role... a living prop :-) He'll be a Russian prince in their production of Boris Godunov. At the super auditions, you find out immediately if you're in or out and then go straight up to wardrobe to be fitted. Alex said that he gets to wear a big, perfectly round hat. Can't wait to see that :-)

5. Immediately after the audition, we walked Alex over to Jeff's office, because the boys had a big weekend ahead of them. They were off to East Lansing for the Michigan State vs. Michigan game....
Grandpa and Grandma met them there. They had a great time, especially since MSU won! (this is from Jeff's cell... he took a bunch of shots for me on the point and shoot, but I still haven't found the cord so I can transfer them!)

6. Clara got a bit of exciting news about ballet on Saturday! Hopefully I'll have photos soon!

7. While the boys were away, Clara and I had a bit of a girls weekend! We joined my friend and her daughter for an afternoon at Mary Poppins...
They had such a great time! Clara loved it, especially the Step in Time number!

8. Another cell phone photo from Jeff...
Alex and his burger that was as big as his head! He did manage to eat about 2/3 of it!

9. Hmmmm..... I'm out of things for this week and I've got to dash since Clara's birthday party is this afternoon!

I'll try to get it right next week!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Sigh... a day behind... but I plan to post this in the morning to catch up for yesterday and still get my ten things on Tuesday done before the end of the day... wish me luck! :-)

This week I'm writing about Seedfolks....
It is really crazy how this slim little book keeps making an appearance in our lives. It was just meant to be that Alex and I should read it.

I have a friend from our time in Texas that loves juvenile fiction as much as I do. This summer she sent me a note that she had just read the book Seedfolks and thought of us and the community garden we used to be a part of here in Chicago. I thought it sounded interesting, but didn't give it much thought. Then, later this summer, I was at the library while Alex was volunteering and sticking sideways out of the row of books was Seedfolks. I wasn't even sure that this was the book that my friend had mentioned, but it seemed close to what her description was, so I checked it out. I couldn't put it down. It's a really quick and compelling read. I had wanted Alex to read it, but, as usual, he was in the middle of another book and it had to go back to the library before he got to it. Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago... Alex's school decides that the sixth graders will be reading the book for discussion in their "home bases"! We just can't escape this book! :-)

The book is small, but powerful. It's the story of a community garden in a city (Cleveland) told from the perspective of the people who come to the garden. It doesn't start out as a garden, it starts out as an empty lot, filled with trash. But with the actions of one young girl, it slowly, but surely, becomes a garden. I like that with each new person, you learn more about the neighborhood and the people that make it up. Just like here in Chicago... you have the long time residents who have seen the changes in the population and those that are the changes in the population. You learn a little insight into the plight of recent immigrants. It all seems very real. It's not all perfect in the neighborhood with the garden, there are struggles and altercations along the way, but in the end, it seems as if everyone has been changed from their interaction with the garden. Each chapter is short and it's hard to not read just one more! I sat down to reread just the first chapter and ended up reading about six before I put it down. I'll probably read the rest of it later today. It may be a book that we need to own. I usually don't reread books, but there are a few exceptions, this may be one of them.

The other book I read this week was another juvenile fiction book, The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E.L. Konigsburg. As I mentioned before, I really enjoy her books. This one gave me a bit of trouble at the beginning. Only because it starts out with the main character at a sleepaway camp with a bunch of "mean girls" who torture her. I'm always bothered by these portrayals of camp, because that was so not my experience with camp and neither of my children have had that experience in their years at camp. I get bugged by the generalization that at a sleepaway camp, you're either the torturer or the tortured. Clara, Alex and I have/had all experienced not so nice people at camp, but that's life! You learn to steer clear, make good friends and enjoy your time there. Anyway... back to the book. I hadn't really put this together, but this book relates to Seedfolks in that the main plot has to do with the changes to a neighborhood over time. The main character's uncles have been residents of the neighborhood from it's beginning and has seen extreme highs and lows. But the residents behind the most recent "renewal" effort, object to a project that the uncles started in their backyard some 40 years before. The book is about the fight to save this project. After I got through the camp stuff, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The main character is this book is a central character in Silent to the Bone which I read a couple of weeks ago. I don't think it matters which you read first since they happen at drastically different times in her life. Although, the order I read them in worked well, even if, chronologically, it was backwards.

I'm so excited... tomorrow is library day! I'm out of books to read, so I need to restock!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

the prequel...

It's late and I'm tired. So on "random video Wednesday", I give you the prequel to last week's video...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

this tuesday's 10...

I didn't do such a great job last week with my plan for a post a day. But I decided to keep going with what I have and hope to add the remaining days this week.

1. Thanks to the ipad training Alex is going through at school (they should get theirs this week! I think)... he now officially knows more about every piece of electronics in our house than I do. Last week when I was downloading photos from my phone, I came across a bunch of screen shots, like this one...
I had no clue where they came from or how you even take one! Alex asked to play with my phone at dinner Sunday night and he started taking screen shots. They had learned how in their training and wanted to see if it worked the same on iphones. My phone has been acting up lately, and, apparently, in my frenzied attempts to unfreeze it, I've been taking screen shots! :-)

2. Both kids had a day off from school recently. Although, not on the same day! Alex had Friday off from school. For his special day, we went to see Real Steel at the theater. Clara had off yesterday. She went to a friend's house for a sleepover (which turned into a slumber party). Her friend dropped her off at 12:15 yesterday and she was picked up at 12:45 by another friend so they could go to Nutcracker rehearsals (followed by class until 7:30). She was one tired girl last night!

3. Tomorrow I get to have breakfast with a good friend who will be in from California! I can't wait!!

4. Sunday I finally shot some photos for Clara's birthday party invitations (although, I doubt I'll get them printed in time to mail them out... so I'm emailing them for now). This is not the photo I used, but can you guess her theme this year? :-)

5. Alex's flag football team is still undefeated!

6. In Clara's dance class tonight, they're working on a tap dance to Single Ladies. It cracks me up! They have so much fun doing it!

7. This was the view out my front window earlier today...
The construction chaos next door is making us all a little nutty. Yesterday they were power washing the outside of the new building, making leaving our house like walking through a car wash. Today they were cutting up the concrete in the street... good times... good times.

8. In addition to the sock destruction mentioned last week... Alex has now officially lost one uniform shirt (he only had three to begin with.... as they are "unlocking" new colors soon) and has blown out the knee of one pair of uniform pants. Lovely.

9. These are evil...
Jeff bought them for me on his Trader Joe's run on Sunday. They are entirely too good. Thankfully (?) too much dark chocolate gives me a headache, so I must keep things in check.

10. Clara and I spent entirely too much time tonight looking for costumes for a dog that is too obnoxious to be taken out in public. She freaks out enough as it is... but being out with lots of people in costumes just might send her over the edge. She did okay last year, but she ended up tucked into my coat most of the night.

Monday, October 10, 2011

another book post...

Last Wednesday I ventured into a new section at the library.... teen...
The blog I got the idea about a weekly book post from recommended this book last week. And I was in luck that our library happened to have a copy.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

The main reason I went looking for it, is that the blogger said in her review that this was what Suzanne Collins aspired to when she wrote the Hunger Games series. Alex and I are big fans for the Hunger Games series (well... at the least the first two books... third one, not so much), so I decided to see if I thought this was true.

It didn't grab me at first, but once it did... I couldn't put it down. I started it Wednesday night and had it finished by Friday evening. The main characters are Todd and his talking dog, Manchee (all creatures can talk in the New World). He lives in a town of all men, as all of the women were killed by a "germ" released by the natives on the planet. There are no secrets on the new planet as everyone can hear the thoughts of men ("noise"). Because of the lack of secrets, Todd has not been told the truth about the true history of their town (for fear that he would not be able to control his thoughts and the secrets would be revealed in his "noise") and he discovers it bit by bit throughout the book.

The action in the book is intense. And there is a bit of language. I think Alex could handle the violence in the book (although one part, in particular, got to me), but I don't think I'll have to make that determination just yet as he's started another book that he's in the middle of. I would also like to read the rest of the series first before I gave him the green light. I'm frantically hunting down the next book... I have put in a request at the library for the actual paper version, the Kindle version and the ebook version! The ending is a total cliffhanger, so I have GOT to know what happens next!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Random Video Wednesday

I had no real intention for this to be "random video wednesday".... but it's 10:38pm and I haven't gotten the photos ready to post that I had intended on uploading today... so random video wednesday it is!! (have to keep the momentum up, you know?)

Anyway, this little gem is of my slightly off boy and his (bad) British accent...

This was from one of our family game nights on our trip to Crystal Mountain last month. In the video, both kids reference "portable mustaches"... that's from a whole different video taken earlier in the night... that may have to be my next random video wednesday post.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

10 on Tuesday...

This is another idea I got from another blog.... 10 on Tuesday. A bullet point list of ten random things... and I'll try to include at least a couple of photos each time :-)

1. Alex is playing flag football this fall and loving it! Jeff ended up being the coach of Alex's team (definitely not a planned thing, but he's really enjoying it now). The league that they are part of is really cool. They put a lot of emphasis on good sportsmanship values. Each week highlights a different value and a medal is given to the child on the team that is the "Sportsmanship MVP". Last week's value was courtesy. As coach, Jeff picks the player and awards the medal. Saturday, at the game, one of the other dad's came over to Jeff and told him that he should award the medal this week to Alex. He knew that Jeff would be reluctant to give his own son an award, but the dad felt that Alex really deserved it.

So here is Alex's medal...
(I think both Alex and Jeff are really proud of it!)

2. While we're on the subject of Alex, we had a wild ride over the past week. Alex got called by one of the big area theaters to audition for a role that ended up open at the last minute. Alex wasn't quite right for the role (too short - by about 3" - and too young - by about three years), but they still wanted him to come audition. It was really a stretch, but it was such an honor just to be called in by them. Ultimately, the role went to someone older and a little taller. However, that wasn't such a bad thing though since the theater is out in the suburbs.

3. Clara is now officially on instrument #3. She has joined the school band and is playing the flute...

4. Finding boys' socks in black in harder than it sounds. Alex needs black socks for his school uniform. I found black ones no problem at Target this summer... however, my son has discovered that if you pull a certain string, it takes out all of the stitches and the toe portion of the sock falls off. He did it once by accident and a second time to make sure the first time wasn't just a fluke... sigh. I have been in entirely too many stores and not found a good selection of socks yet. The Macy's on State Street has a huge section of boys' suits, but not a single pair of dress socks. Strange, no?

5. Coming up with 10 things is a lot tougher than it sounds!

6. Tuesday nights are leftovers nights... I love leftovers nights. (I can't get that sentence to sound right... but you know what I mean)

7. Tonight was bring-a-friend night at Clara's fun jazz/tap class. She invited her BFF and they had a blast! I thought that this post needed more photos, so I took one with my phone. It's pretty much pointless... Clara is behind her instructor and you can barely see her friend. I'm including it anyway, for a little splash of color :-)

8. Our church is doing a children/youth fall musical again this year! They had taken a couple years off due to some staff changes. They're doing a musical about Noah and his family. Alex is Noah's son, Ham. And Clara is "Shem's wife". That's right... none of the wives have names, so she's just "Shem's wife". :-) Alex had been in a couple of the previous musicals, but this is Clara's first one! They're both having a lot of fun with it.

9. I'm tired. I walk a LOT running kids around every day. This morning I managed to walk about 13 or so blocks before 8:10! I try not to complain, since it's the only real exercise I get. I'm just not a gym person.

10. Clara has a plan for the theme of her birthday party and she's thinking the 50's. She's on right now, shopping for a poodle skirt. I may concede to one, if she promises to wear it as her Halloween costume as well.

Monday, October 03, 2011

trying something new...

I've been a very bad blogger lately and, try as I might, I just can't shake the blogging slump that I've been in. So, after seeing this on another blog I read, I'm going to try something new.... a topic/theme a day. I have a few ideas written down, but I'm not sure which ones I'll use or which days I'll do them on (suggestions welcome!). I have decided that on Mondays I'll blog about books (or at least try to until I forget and abandon the blog yet again).

Since I just finished a couple of books this past week, this Monday I'll blog about what I've read.

As my real life friends know, I have an obsession with Young Adult/Juvenile Fiction. I truly love reading it. Plus there's the added bonus of being able to share my finds with my children. Clara is just now coming around to bigger chapter books, but Alex and I have been sharing books for years.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the library and picked out a couple of books for myself...
The first one I read was Lord of the Nutcracker Men by Iain Lawrence. I will admit that it was the word "nutcracker" in the title that caught my attention. Clara is obsessed with the Nutcracker and it is that time of year again. However, this book has absolutely nothing to do with the ballet. This book is about a little boy, living in London at the beginning of World War I. Prior to the beginning of the war, his father (a toymaker) makes him an army of nutcracker men. As the war begins, he father starts making French soldiers to fight his German nutcracker army. The boy is soon sent to live with an aunt in the countryside and the father goes off to war. The father continues to carve new soldiers for his son. But as the war progresses, the soldiers become almost too realistic, carved in the likeness of other soldiers or reflecting some of the horrors the father is witnessing. The boy puts them right into battle to fight the nutcracker men. I'll stop there with the description, in case you might read it yourself. It is a very emotional book. I first started reading it while sitting at Starbucks. I about caused a scene as this book grabs you emotionally right from the start. My eyes started welling up almost instantly. It think that it's a very well written piece of historical fiction. I would love for Alex to read it (the subject matter may be too much for Clara, not sure yet). I'll have to keep it in mind for him as the book is due back, and he's in the middle of another book.

The second book I read was Silent to the Bone by E.L. Konigsburg. I recently discovered her books and I go to her section when I'm not sure what else to pick up. I love a good mystery and her books always have mystery to them. This was a really good book that was hard to put down. Some of the subject matter (and it was the same with the other book I read this summer, The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World) is just a little mature for Alex. I'm not quite sure how to explain it. It's not bad or explicit, it just plays a key part in how the mystery all comes together, and I just don't think he would "get it" yet. I think I'll hold off on recommending it to him until he's a little closer to the age of the main characters.

Now, just two more days until I hit the library again! My plan is to pick randomly again, but if you have any YA suggestions, I would love them!