December 29, 2011

Writer's Workshop: 12 Peeks Back at 2011

It's Thursday again, which means it's time for Mama Kat's Pretty Much World Famous Writer's Workshop!  We've all got the new year on our minds, so this week it was easy to choose which prompt I'd follow.  I chose #1.) This year in blog posts…choose a favorite post from each month of 2011 and share.

January - I experimented with my new Canon Rebel DSLR and shared some of my first images here.

February - I wrote about the myth of the "grown-up," and the fact that no one I know has ever experienced that moment where you finally FEEL like a grown-up.

March - I struggled with something I am still struggling with - how much I miss my friends.  We are spread out now, in different cities and with different lives, and I still wish we weren't.

April - I shared my thoughts about Sam - our worries about ADD, how Dr. Google can scare us, and how sometimes being a parent is about knowing when to worry - and when not to.

May - Let's be honest.  I only posted once in May.  SAD!  I shared some photos from Sam & Danny's birthdays.

June - So... the early summer wasn't that great for blogging.  SHAME!  In June, I wrote about OTHER writing that I am trying to do in my life.

July - I said goodbye to Borders Books, where I worked for 3 years and spent countless hours browsing books and making memories.

August - At a Phish concert, I watched a woman smoke weed then immediately nurse her baby.  Here's how THAT made me feel.

September - On the second day of Kindergarten, Sam didn't get off the bus after school.  Mommy panic ensued slightly.  This month was a tie (sorry, I'm a cheater!) because I also wrote this review of The Panic Virus, a book about vaccines, autism, and the panic the media can create.

October - It's a photo post, but this Halloween was really memorable for me.  A costume my son loved, made from scratch by me & my husband, my second son being old enough to trick or treat, and the awesomeness and happiness made for a wonderful holiday.

November - I shared about how much I've been struggling again with my weight and my body image.

December - Looking at photos of 2011 in review, I came across photos of protesters being treated horribly by law enforcement and I wrote about how it made me feel.

What memorable moments did you write about this year?


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December 28, 2011

2011 in Photos

Today I'm joining Jessica from Four Plus an Angel in a look back at 2011. The challenge was this:

Just create a post with 12 words or 12 pictures… a little year in review. Pick a word for each month of 2011 or a picture for each, or a 12 word sentence that sums up the year or a 12 picture collage, as long as it’s easy for you to put together and easy for others to read. 

I chose photos - some are my favorites because I think they're great photos. Others are my favorites because of the memories - the people and places.  Here is my 2011!

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This is one of my favorite photos, ever.  I had just gotten my Canon Rebel for Christmas, and this was the first photo that came out of my camera that absolutely wowed me.


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I don't take many self portraits.  I love this one.


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My family.


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Happy.


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For Sam's 5th birthday, I took him to the Science Center to the Star Wars exhibit - no Danny, just a special day for him.  We had so much fun!


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The boys and I spent 18 days in New Jersey with my sister, Lianna.  She is awesome.  They had a lot of fun.  See?


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Love.


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My cousin Emmy visited from Philadelphia and I love this shot of her and my sister - two of my favorite people.


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He is just so happy.


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Well, not the best shot of Sam's face (haha) but you can see both their costumes, and they're holding hands!


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The boys on Thanksgiving.


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This one is awesome because it's just how life is - the kids are distracted or wanting to go, go, go, and I'm trying to get a nice little photo.  I love the look on my Mom's face, amused at both me and my 3rd attempt at the photo and at the kids.



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December 27, 2011

Week 3: I defeat Christmas


Current Weight:   242.8
+/- this week:   -1.2
+/- total:    -24.1
Short Term Goal 1:   237.8 (5%)

This week, I defeated Christmas.  HA!

Actually, Christmas was not as hard as the day AFTER.  On Christmas we had a big breakfast with delicious bacon from my sister's boyfriend's cows and his potatoes.  When I added it all up, even with the crazy good cinnamon rolls she made, it wasn't that bad.  The day after Christmas though?  We kind of gorged on stocking candy all day.  Santa brought me a giant bag of Jelly Belly beans.  There's a new flavor.  It tastes like cake.  Mmmmmm.

In any case, I barely got any exercise this week (only 12 activity points) because Sam is off school so I didn't get to walk like normal.  This week probably won't be great either, although I may get more in this week than last.  We'll see.  I might be able to walk on Friday - probably will have a babysitter for a bit or have my Mom take the boys for a while, then on the weekend I should be able to get out at least one day.

After Monday, I was honestly happy to see ANY loss at all, so 1.2 pounds isn't that bad.  Hopefully next week it will be more like 2 or 3 again.

How did Christmas go for you guys?  Was it more/less challenging than you thought it would be? 

Starting Weight 1 (Feb 2009):  267 lbs
Starting Weight 2 (Dec 2011):  249.8 lbs
Starting BMI:  41.8

Weight Lost:  24.1 lbs
Goal Weight: 160 lbs
Goal BMI:  25.1

Short Term Goal 1: 237.8 (5%)
Short Term Goal 2: 225.8 (10%)

Long Term Goal: 107 lbs
To Go: 86.8 lbs
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December 23, 2011

December 20, 2011

Week 2: A Pleasant Surprise

Current Weight:   244.0
+/- this week:   -2.4
+/- total:    -22.9
Short Term Goal 1:   237.8 (5%)

I was pleasantly surprised to be down 2.4 more pounds at weigh-in today.  I had some challenges this week in the form of Bunco and then my Book Club.  It is always a challenge, but this was particularly tough since it was our holiday brunch and there was so much yummy food.  I felt like I ate a a lot, but afterwards when I thought about it I realized I only filled one small plate, and I didn't go back for a second plate, just a couple of cookies. I felt like I was eating a ton, but I didn't go over my weekly points, just used up the 49.

I think one thing that "saved" me this week was that I got a TON of activity points - 29 for the week.  I didn't do any strenuous exercise, but I did a LOT of low intensity walking around in the form of shopping and a visit to the aquarium in Seattle.

I'm feeling really good right now about how I've been counting all my points, even when I feel like I am slipping up, and that I've been able to stay on points.  Yay!  Hopefully this will continue into the new year.

The big challenge I foresee this week is that since Sam's not in school I won't be able to go walk with Danny, which is my main form of exercise.  For various reasons, Sam is not really a long distance walker, and I don't have a double stroller I can push them in.  I am getting a babysitter a couple of times in the next week just so I can have a break from the two kids, so I'll probably use some of that time to walk.

I haven't been on the blog much, and that probably won't change much until the new year.  The holidays are just so busy!  But I'll definitely post another update next week.

Starting Weight 1 (Feb 2009):  267 lbs
Starting Weight 2 (Dec 2011):  249.8 lbs
Starting BMI:  41.8

Weight Lost:  22.9 lbs
Goal Weight: 160 lbs
Goal BMI:  25.1

Short Term Goal 1: 237.8 (5%)
Short Term Goal 2: 225.8 (10%)

Long Term Loss Goal: 107 lbs
To Go: 84 lbs
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December 15, 2011

T13: My Grown Up Christmas List


I haven't done the Thursday Thirteen for a while, but I got an idea for a list yesterday and thought, hey, what a perfect fit!  This time of year I spend most of my time thinking about my kids and my friends kids.  So I decided today to think about my wish list - some things that may be in my reach, and others that are just dreams.  Here's what will make me smile (are you listening, Santa?).

My Grown Up Christmas List - 13 Things I Want to Find Under My Tree
Keen Coronado Sneakers

Karokeshi Kokeshi Art Dolls by BigHelmetHead

Island Leaves Cross-body bag by SeamsFineKS

The Beekeepers Quilt (hexpuffs!) by TinyOwlsMagicAttic (and someone to make it for me)

Madison Damask French Blue Camera Bag by JanineKingDesigns

Black and White Damask with Turquoise Ruffles Camera Strap by SnappyStrapsDesigns

Silver Leafy Tree Branch Pendant by ForevermoreCreations
El Naturalista Iggdrasil


Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 SP Di VC USD XLD for Canon Digital SLR Cameras

OPI Matte Lincoln Park After Dark

Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7

Lane Bryant V-Neck Cable Knit Sweater

Tickets to Mamma Mia at the Paramount Theater in March

What do YOU want for Christmas this year?

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December 13, 2011

Week 1 Redux

Current Weight:   246.4
+/- this week:   -3.4
+/- total:    -20.6
Short Term Goal 1:   237.8 (5%)

Well, here we are again.  Last week I joined Weight Watchers.  Again.  This is my... fourth attempt I think.  The first time went well, I was on it for 8 months and lost 30 pounds before getting pregnant again.  I've had a couple of false starts since then, and sadly I gained back almost 1/2 of the weight I lost.  I've been waiting until things calmed down at home and it was in the budget.  My birthday was in November, and my gift from my Mom was re-starting my membership and paying for the next year.

It kind of makes it a no-brainer.  I don't have to worry about the money, which is worth a lot to me since we don't have much.  It's been no secret around here that I've been feeling pretty shitty about my body, my diet, the way things have been going.  The times I've tried to go back, or tried to start counting again were really, really hard.  I was struggling.  Obviously, struggling enough that I didn't stick to it at all.

This time feels different though.  It feels like the first time again.  I made it a whole week, I counted points for EVERYTHING I ate.  No slipping, no cheating.  I went out to dinner one night & had drinks.  I had a piece of pie.  And it was okay, because I stuck to my points anyway.  I got activity four days this week.  Even walking around the mall slowly is good for you if you do it for two hours.

There have been a couple of days where I wanted to give in to one temptation or another... but I didn't.  And it was so much easier than it has been.  I'll be posting updates once a week here, like I used to.  It helps me keep track of my challenges, my successes, and my general thoughts about what's going on.

I had my first weigh in today, and there it was.  I lost 3.4 pounds.  I lost 3.4 pounds!  And it was all worth it.  I think I can do this.

Starting Weight 1 (Feb 2009):  267 lbs
Starting Weight 2 (Dec 2011):  249.8 lbs
Starting BMI:  41.8

Weight Lost:  20.6 lbs
Goal Weight: 160 lbs
Goal BMI:  25.1

Short Term Goal 1: 237.8 (5%)
Short Term Goal 2: 225.8 (10%)

Long Term Goal: 107 lbs
To Go: 86.4 lbs
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December 9, 2011

Friday Fragments: Photos, Grizzlies, and Puns

Friday Fragments are bits and pieces of your week that are usually brief; too short for a stand-alone post, but too good to discard. Collect humorous observations, "Heard" items, and other small gems and put them together in a Friday Fragments post.

Friday Fragments are the brainchild of Mrs.4444 and you can find more at Half Past Kissin' Time.

*****

This week I was at Barnes & Noble and picked up the Newsweek 2011 Pictures of the Year issue. Flipping through the pages, there were some good photos. Then I turned the page and my breath was taken away.

Sept. 11
New York

On the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, America paused to remember the 2,819 lives lost that day. The May 1 killing of Osama bin Laden provided a note of resolution, but for many, like Robert Peraza, who lost his son Robert David Peraza in the attacks, the sorrow lives on.  (Photo by Justin Lane)

 I can't stop tears from coming to my eyes every single time I look at this photo. It is beautiful and sad and says so much. Source: The Daily Beast 

*****

On Tuesday I volunteered at Sam's school for a couple of hours helping re-label books for the new literacy program.  It was nice to sit around a table and chat with some other Moms.  I really love the system they have set up at his school, they send out an email whenever they need volunteers, and if you can participate, you just reply to the email.  It makes it so much easier for me since I don't feel like I can commit to a regular time or number of hours per week because of Danny and our changing schedule.  This way, I get word when there's need, and I can go if I'm free!

*****

Yesterday I discovered that you can listen to comedy on Pandora.  AWESOME!  So I made a Louis C.K. station and I LOVE it.  It was funny, I was listening in the car and at one point I was laughing and Danny started laughing just because I was.

*****

I just saw this photo on my computer, and it made me giggle.


*****

This weekend, I'm hoping to reorganize the garage so I can park the car inside again.  We haven't been able to since we moved our 2nd truck of stuff from the old place, and I'm coming out to frost on the windshield now.  If I was smart, I'd remember to go out and warm up the car, but I often don't and then my timing for taking Sam to school is messed up.

*****

I love Top Chef.  I used to write recaps sometimes, and when I look back they still make me giggle.  I don't feel like I have time now - I'm usually watching Danny while I'm watching it, so can't sit and type.  Is anyone else watching it?  Who are you rooting for?  I'm still not sure... although I know I hate Chris's hair.

*****

Yesterday I was listening to NPR and heard this commercial with Brad Pitt talking about saving Grizzly Bears.  It just threw me for a loop.  So weird.

*****

Did you know that there is such thing as a pun competition?  I am pretty sure I could just watch the videos on YouTube all day.  Here's the video of the 2011 winner of the O. Henry pun-off.



*****

Have a great weekend!
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December 8, 2011

Writer's Workshop: The Spirit of Christmas

It's Thursday again (where does the time go?!), which means it's time for Mama Kat's World Famous Writer's Workshop. I wasn't sure which prompt I wanted to choose, but #4 caught my eye:

Blast from the Past: What were you writing about last year at this time? Tell us what has changed (if anything) since then.

As I started reading through my posts from last December, I came across this one. I know it's going to sound lame (and I am excessively weepy), but I got a few tears in my eyes as I read it.  

18 December 2010 

Santa is Real. I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Today I was out for several hours with Danny, and when I got home my relaxation was interrupted by him barfing a whole bunch. Because we decided to see what would happen if we tried regular (aka NOT $25 a can) formula and, well, it didn't really work out.

So, at 4:45 I found myself in the car again for a quick trip to Wal-Mart for the bank breaking formula. My baby eats $125 a month JUST IN FORMULA. Plus baby food. It's awesome. Anyhow, as I was checking out with my Wal Mart brand soda and Great Value "zip-lock" bags, the people in front of me had a huge cart full of toys. Overflowing, actually.

The checker asked them how many kids they had. One, they answered. Just one?! was her response. Then they said that that wasn't even all the toys! There were more in their other car! And at home! And she's going to be so excited!

As I watched my total build up with the cat food, the formula, the generic bags, the $1 cheap toy I'd bought as a stocking stuffer, I remarked to the cashier that my kid's not that lucky, I think I spent the amount they'd spent on their one cart on ALL of our holiday gifts for the year.

She said something about the kid not being able to appreciate things (because of being spoiled). And I thought, what if I DID have the money? Would I fill up 2 shopping carts each with gifts for my boys?

I don't think I would.

In fact, I know I wouldn't. I would spend more money on my best friend, my sister, and especially my Mom. I would buy Sam something more, but not by quantity. I'd get him the Lego Airport he wants, instead of cobbling gifts together from various sales over the last few months and from trips to Value Village and Big Lots.

I have spent the last three months scouring sale and clearance racks for gifts that are both awesome AND affordable. I feel good about the fact that I stayed under the budgeted amounts I arbitrarily made up.

In the end, it's not about the money. It's about spending time with my family. It's about watching Sam open his stocking in our living room for the first time. It's about making gingerbread houses with Grandma, and driving around looking at Christmas lights, and the wonder on his face. It's about his letter to Santa, written at school, away from the influence of TV commercials or catalogs. He asked for a 'fox that shoots an elf' (think potato gun except instead of a gun it's a fox and instead of a potato it's an elf) and a plate that is only for pizza. I don't really know what to do with that, but imagining him walking with his class, holding hands with his best buddy on the way to the post office to mail the letters? That made my day.

When he's a little older, we'll teach him what Christmas means. We'll explain who the baby is that laid in the manger. And one day, when he is old enough to ask me if Santa is real, I will tell him - absolutely yes, Santa is real.

Santa is the spirit of the Holidays. He is in all of us. He is in the thought put into that perfect gift. He is in the food delivered to the food bank. He is in the posts of bloggers who have collected gift cards for people who could not afford their own Christmas. He is in the overflowing coat drive and Toys for Tots bins. He is in the giving tree, in every person who chooses a child they don't know, and makes Christmas happen for them. He is in the hugs from family we don't see that often, in the sleepovers with Grandma, and the sleigh rides with the Aunt you adore.
 

Santa is real. He is knowing that this is going to be a fabulous holiday, even if I couldn't afford a cart of gifts or a $100 Lego set. He's in me.

Money or no money, I wouldn't have it any other way.


A lot has happened in the last year.  We're not spending $125 a month on formula.  But this December, we have hundreds of dollars in doctor bills that I'm waiting to pay when we get the check from a side job Justin did last month.  We need new tires for the car (ASAP, the old ones are unsafe) and a new windshield (very soon).  We owe family money that we had to borrow because things were tight.  I need to replace my phone, which has had a shattered screen for the last two months.

Money is even tighter this year, and honestly?  It's December 6 and I haven't even thought about Christmas presents.  Or cards.  I'm not feeling too festive yet.  But there are things I'm looking forward to.  I've talked to my Mom and our goal for winter break is to make lots of stuff!  We want to put up the tree, decorate cookies, try crafts and new recipes from Pinterest, visit Stonyridge Farms, take drives to look at Christmas lights, and just have fun.

It's not always fun not having much money.  Sometimes it's hard when I can't buy Sam a new backpack just yet because we can't afford it even though his is a bit messed up.  But I hope that the upside will be that it reminds me to teach him and his brother about what is really important.  It's not about having a lot of stuff and big expensive things.  It's about family, love, and joy.

And I wouldn't have it any other way. 

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December 7, 2011

Occupy This Blog

This morning, I came across a list of the 45 Most Powerful Photos of 2011 posted on Facebook by a friend of mine, and a few of them I felt I needed to share.

I was moved to tears several times looking at these images, but three that hit me really hard were these photos of the treatment of Occupy protesters in different cities.  I was moved to tears and sickened by the treatment of peaceful protesters by law enforcement that these photos portray.

UC Davis


Portland


Seattle


This photo makes me absolutely sick to my stomach.  But that's one reason it feels so important to me.  There are a lot of people in this country right now who are fighting for their rights, fighting for the country they deserve.  If you can look at this last photo, and explain to me how it was in any way justified for police to spray this 84 year old woman in the face with mace, maybe I'll listen.  But I'm pretty sure that NO ONE can justify that treatment.

Whether or not you agree with the protesters and what they stand for, how can you not see how wrong this is?  Yes, they are making things inconvenient for some people.  Maybe they are blocking the sidewalk and you think they're in the way.  In what world does that justify spraying people with pepper spray who are already sitting and completely under control?  To me, this looks like absolute abuse of authority.  Citizens of this country have the RIGHT to stand up for themselves, and to try and cause change.  No one has the right to treat people this way for voicing their opinions.  How are these cops any better than regimes in other countries beating people for what they believe in?

I have not been involved in protests.  I do believe there is something really wrong with a country where corporations are given rights and tax breaks and allowed to do whatever they want when people are going hungry.  I think that business needs to get out of the government, and stay out.  And, in short, what ever happened to COMPASSION?!  What happened to those who have more giving a bit more to support those who are really struggling?  What happened to caring about your fellow human beings instead of hoarding for yourself?  What happened to treating people (yes, even protesters) with dignity and respect?  What has happened in this country that these things are okay?

The fact that people are being treated this way and are not backing down should say something to those people out there who think this is just going to go away.  It's been 82 days, it's not going away, and I'm hoping for real change, powered by the people.  If you're interested in learning more about the Occupy movement, here is a very simple commercial to get started.



If you search "Occupy Wall Street" on YouTube, you can find lots of videos with great information from people like Keith Olbermann, Michael Moore, and Jon Stewart.

You can also check out Occupy Wall Street, the unofficial website with information and resources about the movement.  The Occupy Wall Street page at Adbusters also has information from different Occupy sites as well as links to information and ways you can get involved.

Source for photos: Buzzfeed

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December 5, 2011

Sally Hansen Salon Effects: Super Awesome!

I have been wanting to try Sally Hansen Salon Effects since I first saw them in the stores.  They are sticky strips made of real nail polish that come in all sorts of colors and patterns.  Recently, Fred Meyer had them buy 2 get one free, so I finally got some.  Here's one of the ones I bought:


Cute!  For my first try though, I decided to test out the red lace pattern called I Love Lacey for my first time around, it seemed like a fun choice for my birthday weekend.


I LOVE them.  If they were more affordable, I would wear them all the time.  As it stands, you'll pay $8.50 - $10 depending on where you get them, which seems pricey for a one time use.  They do have sticking power though, so if you get your nails done at a salon it might be worth it to try these out.

I watched several videos on YouTube before applying them for the first time just to see what the process looked like.  A few of the reviews seemed to think they were difficult, but I had no trouble at all.  I found the entire process very easy.  I did have to re-do one nail because I chose the wrong size and could see a gap on one side, but it was easy to peel it right off since I did it right away.

It took me about a half hour to apply these, which for me seems great.  When I do my nails, it usually takes at least that long.  I like to get good coverage and allow for plenty of dry time, and if I'm doing something fancy like french tips or nail art, there is often waiting time between layers.

First, sorry for the bad quality photos - they were all taken with my cell phone.  They should be clear enough to see.


Here are the strips right after I put them on:


One of the great things about these is that there is no dry time!  It's weird to be able to go about your business right after a manicure and not worry about smearing it or denting the polish.  Sometimes nail polish can stay tender for hours and if you hit it or rub it the wrong way, it will ruin your manicure.  I did put a clear polish top coat over these because I thought it would help them keep from chipping around the tips of my nails.

Here are the strips after wearing them for 6 days:



As you can see, they still look pretty great.  One of my nails had gotten a slight chip at the tip, but it was barely noticeable.  You CAN see grow-out happening, which is one reason it's important to get them as close to the cuticle as possible when first applying them.  I found it to be slightly annoying after the fourth day or so, but I also realized it was not noticeable to anyone but me.

I did not do many dishes during the time I had them, but other than that I went about my routines as normal.  I would say that these have really great staying power - I can totally see them lasting the 10 days listed on the box.  Possibly longer, though the grow-out might start to be obvious at that point.  I only lasted for 6 days in them because I'm a polish-a-holic and wanted to do a new color after that many days.  If you want to try something fancy, but have no patience for polish or re-doing your nails every few days, these would be perfect!

Other than the price, the only downside to these is that they were a real bitch to remove.  The box says the come off with regular nail polish remover, and they DO... but it took me almost 30 minutes to completely remove the polish from my nails.  Part of it was that they come off weird, there were kind of... chunks?  Goo balls.  I'm pretty sure it was all a result of the sticky stuff that attaches them to the nails.  It was stuck all over.  Also, red polish is often difficult to remove from around the cuticles anyway, so that didn't help.

All in all, I still give them a thumbs up.  I love being able to have a patterned nail without all the tape or strips or brushes or stamps - I'm not great at freehand.  Compared to purchasing plates & stamps, these are also cheaper if you just want them for a special occasion.

Have you tried these?  What did you think?

I am a small time blogger.  No one paid me for this review, nor did anyone give me free nail polish (too bad!).  These are just my opinions about a product I tried & loved.
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December 2, 2011

Friday Fragments: Zombies, Family Pets & Sleep Deprivation

Friday Fragments are bits and pieces of your week that are usually brief; too short for a stand-alone post, but too good to discard. Collect humorous observations, "Heard" items, and other small gems and put them together in a Friday Fragments post.

Friday Fragments are the brainchild of Mrs.4444 and you can find more at Half Past Kissin' Time.

*****

On Tuesday, I dropped Sam off at school and realized that I actually like dropping him off and going into his school.  I guess the main thing I actually DON'T like about it is putting Danny back into the car, because he usually is fussy that he just got out and now I'm making him get back in.  I like being there, seeing him off, just having a presence in the school even if it's just for a minute or two.

*****

Okay, who else is watching The Walking Dead?  The fall finale was this week, and it was FAN. TASTIC.  Really, I think that the fact that it's a show about a zombie apocalypse that makes me bawl like a baby is a great testament to it's awesomeness.  I can't wait for it to come back.

*****

So, my Mom told me yesterday that when my sister went off to college, they went to this parents orientation meeting the day we were all dropping her off.  Apparently, there are two things that happen very frequently to college freshman that upset them.  The first was called the "Turkey Drop" by the person leading the class - this is when the kid returns home for Thanksgiving break and is dumped or breaks up with their significant other.  The second is that their dog dies.  It makes sense if you think about it - people often get a dog for the family when a kid is around 4 or 5, and 13 or 14 years later that is one old dog.  It makes total sense, but it's a weird fact to think about!

*****

I re-joined Weight Watchers yesterday.  My Mom is paying for my membership for a while as my birthday present, which is very cool.  I am looking forward to starting again, I am trying to let go of a lot of feelings I have about the 30 lbs I have re-gained in the last year.  I'm looking forward to walks and kind of want to find a place where I can swim at least a couple of times a month.

*****

Justin was gone from Mon - Thu night this week at a training in Seattle.  The nights were... restless.  Bedtimes kind of sucked, and there were a lot of wake-ups in the nights.  Wednesday night, Danny was just UP from 2:15 to 5:40.  I am very tired, and hopefully will get to sleep in a bit tomorrow.

*****

I am only 3 books away from completing my goal of reading 50 books this year, and very excited!  It looks like I'll finally make it again after a couple of years of not making it.

*****

Hope everyone has a great weekend!
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December 1, 2011

Writer's Workshop: Five Things

Thursday's here again (Hey, it's December!), which means it is time for Mama Kat's World Famous Writer's Workshop!  If one of the prompts involve lists, the odds of me choosing that one go up exponentially, because, well, I have a little bit of a love affair with lists.  So, this week, I chose #2:

Five Things. List 5 things we don’t know about you, 5 things you’re knowledgeable about, 5 things you know nothing about, and 5 things you believe. (inspired by LouLou’s Views)

Five things you don't know about me...
  1.  When I was four years old, I broke my collarbone.  Did you know that the collarbone is the most commonly broken bone in the human body?  I was taking a nap on the couch and rolled off and landed wrong.  I do not remember it, just a vague, dreamlike memory of doctors in scrubs.
  2. If I could do any job in the world, I would perform in Broadway musicals.  Specifically, I would like to star in Rent, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Les Miserables.  (Bonus tidbit:  I know all the words to Jesus Christ Superstar, Rent, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  And most of the words to Evita).
  3. My biggest celebrity crush is on Alan Rickman.  It only grew 100 fold after he became Snape.
  4. I played the piano for 6 years, from 6th grade to high school.  I wish I had never stopped, and really want to learn again someday.
  5. When I was 18, I worked in a fish filet processing factory through a temp service.  It was refrigerated and freezing cold.  There were two jobs - laying out refrigerated filets flat layer upon layer to freeze, then later boxing the frozen filets into boxes that weighed a certain weight.  At the end of the day, I would undress on the back porch before going inside because of the smell.  I gained a HUGE respect for people who do jobs like that daily for years.
Five things I know a lot about...
  1. Getting hired.  I know how to write a good resume and cover letter, and what NOT to write when you're applying for a job.  I also know the 'right' answers to most interview questions.
  2. Nail Polish.  Okay, you guys, I have become a bit of a polish addict lately.  I blame pinterest.  For showing me things.  And leading me to blogs about nail polish.  I am pretty good at it.  I like to post pictures on Facebook if you're interested.
  3. Books.  I am pretty knowledgable about books compared to the average guy on the street.  I worked in a book store for 3 years and am an avid reader, and am also interested in books as a subject.
  4. The X-Files.  Yeah, I was a bit of a super fan.  What of it?!  We all have our weird obsessions, right?
  5. Being a smartass.  Just ask my Mom.
Five things I am in the dark about...
  1. Wine.  I know nothing about wine.  I don't really like it, and when I have to buy a bottle I generally ask for help & take an employee's word wherever I am OR shop by the label.  So, if I ever give you a bottle, it may suck.  You've been warned.
  2. Fishing.  I've never been fishing.  I don't really ever want to go fishing either.
  3. The stock market.  I just don't know.  I had to take a class about this stuff in business school.  I am not sure how I passed.
  4. Being a good salesperson.  I have worked retail, and I can do that.  But I am NOT a good sales person.  If I ever had to work a job that depended on commissions, I would probably starve to death because I wouldn't make enough to buy myself dinner.
  5. Fixing Cars.  When I was younger, I changed my own oil (with my Stepdad's help) a few times.  I can re-fill the windshield wiper fluid.  That's about it.
Five things I believe...
  1. People are generally good, compassionate, and helpful.  Yes, there are jerks and thieves and sociopathic jerks.  But the majority of people will be there for you when you need them, and lend a helping hand if they can.
  2. I believe that as human beings, we have a responsibility to be good to each other.  I think it is incredibly important in life to consider what we can do to help other people.  This is one reason I have so much trouble with people who are extremely rich and not willing to give back a little more to help those who do not have anything.  
  3. Bread and cheese are the best foods ever.  They are good in any language.  Fondue, quesadillas, garlic bread with cheese, cheese and crackers, pizza, grilled cheese...  I could live on it.
  4. The way we view birth in this country is really messed up.  We need more midwives, more education, and better information for all girls who turn into women who have babies.  We need to teach girls that we have amazing bodies that can do amazing things.
  5. I have the best Mom in the world.  She is a support and a friend to me, but lets me choose my own way and isn't pushy.  She loves my kids to pieces and they love her so much that if she is around, Danny wants her to put him to bed instead of me.  She is smart, funny, and taught me how to be sarcastic like a champion.  She makes a killer pecan pie.  I could really write a whole blog post just about her - maybe I will!
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November 30, 2011

I Just Want to Work in a Bookstore

I'm in the process of looking for a part time job right now.  I hate job hunting.  I know that I'm overqualified for most of the jobs I'm applying for, and sometimes I know that means I'll get overlooked.  Believe me, I've been there.  I reviewed hundreds of resumes a week when I worked at my last job.  I had a good process for weeding out the overqualified though - an email I'd send out with the job description and pay to see if people were still interested.  Most places don't do that though.

Part of the thing of it is...  I really just want to work in a book store again.  Unfortunately for me, there are only two bookstores in Bellingham.  There's a Barnes & Noble.  I turned in an application last week and someone told me they were hiring.  But just now when I asked they said they are 'always accepting applications' but may not be actively hiring.  ANNOYED.  I was really hoping.  The other one is a locally owned store called Village Books, which would also be cool.  Their application is a bit longer, but I'm going to try & finish it tonight and drop it off tomorrow or Thursday.

I've also been looking at administrative type jobs - receptionist, office manager, that type of thing.  I'm really good at it and I have great organizational skills and attention to detail.  But I know that the unemployment rate in the administrative field is even higher than the general rate, and they're all probably getting a billion applications. 

Second to the bookstore thing, my perfect job would be a writing or editing job I could do from home (or a coffee shop).  I know these types of jobs are hard to find.  I did some ghostwriting for a while, and I really loved it, but I got that job by posting on my blog and Twitter, and a friend of a friend.  It's all about networking, and I don't feel like my networks are very strong right now.  I guess I can put out feelers on Facebook. 

I found an ad for an editing job on Craig's List, but got an email back saying there's a "test" to find 5 errors on a website.  A dating website that required you to sign up first...  um, no. 

So, anyone got any ideas?
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November 29, 2011

The Christmas Coaster

December is just around the corner, and Christmas is in the air.  Lights and decorations are starting to pepper our neighborhood, and Santa has taken up residence on his throne at the local mall.  Downtown, the snowflake lights are hung.  Local art and craft fairs are in full swing. 

On a grey Tuesday morning, I find myself sitting in Starbucks sipping a peppermint mocha from a cup adorned with snowmen and snowflakes.  It is sweet, and after I sip it I stare out the window and try to figure out how I feel about the holidays this year.

It seems like I have a rollercoaster relationship with the last sliver of the year.  I'm never sure how I will relate to Christmas, and too often in the past I have found myself unexcited.  It is supposed to be a joyful time, but something inside me doesn't always let it be that.


I do not feel as excited to get a Christmas tree as I did last year.  I find myself unable to even think about Christmas shopping because I don't know how we'll really afford much of anything.  I'm not super excited about Christmas break - three weeks of having Sam home all day, every day?  I've gotten used to his school schedule already.  The days have gotten shorter and my spirits have gotten lower.  I want to push everything aside and let it be warm and fuzzy, but this year I'm not sure if I can.

Every year, around Thanksgiving, I suddenly find myself contemplating December.  How fast or slow will it go by?  Will I find gifts I really care about for people?  What activities will we do, and what family will we spend time with?  Will we be able to travel to the East Coast to see my Stepmom, Dad & little Sister who I miss so much?  This year, it's a big fat no - $500 a ticket to fly there is so unfeasible it makes me laugh (bitterly). 

Right now, I am worried.  I am worried about money, about my kids and how they are doing, about other things.  I wonder if I will be happy when we put up the lights and decorate the tree, or if I will cry and the lights will fan out into stars through my tears.  As the new year approaches, I know I will pray.  That next year will be a better year.  Maybe through those prayers I can find a better focus for Christmas - to appreciate what I do have, to share my love with my family, and to remember what Christmas is really about.  I guess the only way to find out is to take the next step forward.
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November 24, 2011

Is Michael Jackson Real?

Lately, Sam and I have been having some conversations about things that are real vs. not real.  He seems pretty wise - so far I have learned that zombies, unicorns, fairies, and monsters are NOT real.  When I asked him if the Easter Bunny was real, he said no.  Then yes, then no again.  I asked if he is not real, who brings the Easter baskets?  Sam said they magically appear.

On Halloween, Sam watched Michael Jackson's Thriller video at a party we went to.  For whatever reason, he must have thought of it tonight, because as we were lying in his bed and his eyelids were getting heavy, he suddenly asked me.

"Is Michael Jackson real?"
"Yes, he is real.  Well, he died.  But he was a real person."
"In this one movie, he was a zombie."

It took me a moment and I realized he was talking about Thriller, so I explained that it was a costume, like on Halloween then told him that Michael Jackson was a really good singer and dancer.  

So, this Halloween, I am thankful for my kids.  And the fact that at 8:45 at night in the dark, my kid might ask me if Michael Jackson is real.

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Happy Thanksgiving

I am off stuffing my face with rolls, stuffing, and pecan pie. In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving. I hope that everyone has a lot to be thankful for this year, including some delicious eats. Have a great weekend, good luck if you are venturing out tomorrow.  See you next week!  Also, this made me laugh.

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November 23, 2011

Thirty One

Today, I am 31. 

I can honestly say that right now, my life is more difficult than it ever has been for a variety of reasons, most of which I can't really write about out here.  I hope that my birthday next year will be better. 

There ARE some things I am looking forward to though.  Tonight, my Mom will make me stromboli and a pecan pie for my birthday dinner.  Friday, I get to have dinner with some of my very best friends and see a silly movie.  Saturday I get to spend time with my sister, who I miss and love.  Christmas is coming, and I get to watch Sam and Danny enjoy it.  I wish I could be happier today.  So, anyway.  Here are my two favorite pictures of myself from when I was a kid.

Rachael002

Rachael008

If you want to give me a birthday present, leave a comment with a joke or a link to something online that made you laugh lately.

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November 22, 2011

I am not

Today, I am not good enough.

I am not strong enough.

I am not pretty enough, skinny enough, rich enough.

I can't do this.

I can't take care of other people with nothing left for myself.

I do not have enough faith.

I do not have enough love.

My arms are not strong enough to hold you.

My ears are not ready to listen.

My heart is not big enough.

My muscles are atrophied.

My brain is slow.

I am walking through a fog.

Today, I am weak.

I am only human.

And there is always tomorrow. 

Tomorrow, I can be whoever I want to be.
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November 21, 2011

Good Reads

Sometimes, it's nice when someone else does the work for us and suggests some good reads.  If you've got some extra time this weekend, here are some things I came across this week that I enjoyed.


  • The lovely Angie at GnomeAngel included me in a nice little post she wrote about blogs she's been enjoying.  I love her blog, and was honored to be one of the blogs she wrote about!  Her blog is wonderful - I love following her journey through infertility (and finally, a bun in the oven!) and her adventures with crafts and wonderful quirky finds on Etsy.
  • This week I also discovered the blog Nailside.  It's what you think it is - a nail polish blog run by Jane, a 21 year old girl from the Netherlands who loves doing manicures.  They are amazing, and I have SO many ideas now I can't wait to try out!
What did you read this week that you loved?



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November 18, 2011

Friday Fragments

Friday Fragments are bits and pieces of your week that are usually brief; too short for a stand-alone post, but too good to discard. Collect humorous observations, "Heard" items, and other small gems and put them together in a Friday Fragments post.

Friday Fragments are the brainchild of Mrs.4444 and you can find more at Half Past Kissin' Time.

*****

Next week is going to be so exciting!  First, my birthday is on Wednesday.  I am turning 31.  I don't have any plans yet, other than my mom making me a pecan pie, like she always does for my birthday.  Then we have Thanksgiving at my Mom's house, which should be fun.  Mostly because I don't have to cook.  Or clean.  Then on Friday I get to go down to Seattle for my birthday trip - I did it last year and I think I like the idea of an annual tradition.  Friday, dinner with friends and joint b-day celebration with my friend Tara then Breaking Dawn part 1, Saturday a me-day then spending the night at my sister's and helping decorate her tree.  I can't wait!

*****

Are you watching Glee?  I felt so bad for Santana in this week's episode.  Yes, she is mean.  But no one deserves to be outed like that.  And that Adele mashup?  Amazing! 

*****

I took Sam to see Puss in Boots last weekend, and my head almost exploded when I saw this preview.



This is one of my absolute favorite books and it looks SO PRETTY! I seriously can't wait to see it. Justin said the words IMAX when we watched the preview, and that might need to happen.

 *****

Speaking of movies, this:



CAN'T WAIT!

*****

Sometimes I see videos online and I kind of can't believe them.



First off, what a great voice.  Second, this just blows my mind.  I can't imagine having the skill or ear to put something like this together.

*****

Have a great weekend!
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November 17, 2011

Riding the Bus... or Not.

Tears streamed down his face as I tried to gently push him into the open door of the bus.  His hands grasped the doors, resisting, and he looked so small compared to that big yellow bus.  He was absolutely beside himself.  Even as his friend was calling to him from inside the bus, telling him to come, he just wouldn't.  They couldn't wait.  I pulled him back and he crumpled to the ground, I pulled his arm and told him to get up.

By the time we got home, he was calm again.  I, on the other hand, was beside myself.  I was angry at him.  So angry that he couldn't just get on the bus, that now he would be late for school, that I had to hurry and get ready, that I had to get his little brother ready and take him inside the school too.  Angry because it's not convenient to drive him every day.

I was also extremely upset.  We have a really strong emotional connection, and when he breaks down like that it breaks my heart.  I KNOW that he is not just trying to be difficult, I know that he was really upset about getting on the bus.  I hate seeing him that way.  I hate that he feels so scared or uncomfortable or whatever that he will physically pull back from getting on the bus.  I hate that the bus driver and the other kids witness it too. 

I've tried talking to Sam about why he doesn't want to ride the bus.  Mostly, his answer is that he wants to be with me.  Between the adjustment to school - going from 2.5 hours of preschool 4 days a week to 6.5 hours of school plus bus time 5 days a week - and tension at home, he is unsettled.  He is clingy, and now there are no substitutes.  He wants me to play with him, put him to bed, drive him to school.  All of it.

It's exhausting.  Having someone want that much of me just drains me.  And since Danny is only 18 months old, it's more like having two people who want me like that.  Sometimes I feel like I just want to climb up high where no one can reach me so I can just be by myself for a few minutes.

With the bus, I'm not sure what to do.  He has relayed that there WAS an incident one day.  There are 3 boys at the playground/bus stop that Sam is friends with and plays with.  One of them in particular is very hot and cold with Sam.  One day they play well, and the next day this boy is not really being Sam's friend and is tattling on him or sometimes making fun of him in a way.  Apparently, when Sam tried to sit in a seat with this boy and one of the others one day, they pushed him out of the seat.

Sam is a really sensitive kid, and it's hard for him to understand why someone would be his friend one day and not the next.  He is a good friend, and he would never turn and NOT want to play or be friends anymore.  His friends mean the world to him, and it's confusing to him when they don't want to be around him or are not being that nice to him.

Between the pushing incident and the general rowdiness and number of kids on the bus, I think it's not a place he feels that safe.  He has said that he doesn't like it because there are so many kids and only one grown up.  And that grown up is concentrating on driving the bus, and can't be watching every second.

I'm just not sure what to do at this point.  I could just drive him to school every day.  It's not that convenient - it's about 10-15 minutes each way, and once I get there I have to unstrap Danny and walk Sam into his classroom.  BUT it would give us more time in the morning, he would be able to get 15 or 20 more minutes of sleep and have a bit more time to wake up and get ready.  Maybe we could split it so that I drive him a few times a week and Justin drops him off some days, or my Mom could take him on days she is volunteering at the school.  I also talked to his special ed teacher, and it is a possibility to get him on the special ed bus.  It would be a smaller bus with less kids, and maybe he'd feel more comfortable.  When I suggested it to him though, he was just concerned that his friends wouldn't be on it.  Which is funny, because he won't get on the bus his friends ARE on.

Is it really worth it to try and force him to ride the bus?  Maybe I should just wait until he's ready.  If I thought that he was doing this just because he wants to be with me, I might try to force it.  But I really do feel like he is not comfortable on the bus.  The last thing I want to do is force him into a situation that is making him anxious or unsure.  I know that going to school takes a lot of effort for him.  He gets tired, and I don't want him starting his day every day with something that's stressing him out.  

Have you deal with a challenge like this?  How did you resolve it?


This week, I chose prompt #2.) Your biggest parenting challenge and/or joy.
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November 15, 2011

20 Kids is Too Many

So, did you hear?  Michelle Duggar is pregnant AGAIN.  With baby #20.  Look, to each his own... except I'm a bit bugged by this one.  First of all, she is now 45 years old.  She has given birth 19 times.  She is of "advanced maternal age" which means that there's a higher chance for something to go awry with the baby.  If she has a special needs child at this point, there are already more than a dozen young children that need to be taken care of.  Mostly what bugs me about that she is pregnant again after what happened with the last one:
Michelle Duggar suffered preeclampsia during last pregnancy. Her blood pressure soared and protein appeared in her urine. To save Duggar’s life, doctors had to deliver daughter Josie three-and-a-half months early. She weighed only 1 pound six ounces and experienced a number of health problems, but she’s now a healthy toddler who will turn 2 in December.  However, some problems related to prematurity don’t become apparent until a child is in school. source
Yeah... so she couldn't carry anywhere near full term, and both her life and the babies life were at risk.  I think it's irresponsible.  It's one thing to put your own life at risk if you don't have children, but she already has 19 kids who love her that she needs to be there for.  Additionally, she's putting the babies life at risk by even being pregnant in the first place.  She had preeclampsia once, which means she is at a higher risk for having it again.  Having a higher number of babies can also lead to risk of excessive bleeding after birth.

I know, it's her life.  I'm not going to tell people how many children to have.  It just seems like there must be a point where the risks outweigh the benefits, and it seems like that time has arrived for the Duggars.  Their last daughter spent the first six months of her life in a hospital and was in critical condition.  I'm sure that took them away from their other kids and caused a lot of stress for everyone.  Yes, I'm sure that every baby is beautiful and makes them happy.  But, when is enough just... enough?

I also don't buy the argument that we should butt out and let them be happy.  If you're going to put your life on National TV for everyone to watch, have a very nice, professionally designed website about your family, and publish books about your life, you are ASKING for people to have opinions about you.  You can't have it both ways.

One of the things that bothers me about The Duggars and other families that play out their lives on channels like TLC is that they are not really being authentic at this point.  Sure, they can say they live a certain way.  But they're also making $25,000 or $40,000 or more per episode of the show.  They also have their own store at Christianbooks.com.  They can talk about the lifestyle all they want, but the reality is that the lifestyle they set out to have when they were just a big family five or ten years ago has certainly been altered by the media attention and the fact that they are advertising for CollegePlus and whatever else.

At this point, they have a grandchild who will be older than their next child.  Maybe they could concentrate on giving love to that kid and supporting their child, who is now a parent, through that journey.  It's certainly not always easy.  I can't help wondering if after this baby is done, Michelle and Jim throw in the towel.  Or whatever.  It would be such a shame for those 19 or 20 kids to lose their mother.
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November 14, 2011

You Should Be Reading Rick Riordan

I just finished "The Son of Neptune" by Rick Riordan, and it was fantastic.  I started reading Riordan's books back in the summer of 2010 after seeing previews for the movie version of  "The Lightning Thief", the first book in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series.  I wanted to read it before seeing the movie, and once I started I was totally hooked.

Riordan's books are technically intermediate reader level, but don't let that stop you.  I've found that I really like reading books from the young adult and intermediate sections, particularly when it comes to genres like science fiction and fantasy.  The stories tend to be more character driven and not as technical, and that often makes for a fantastic read.

In the world of Percy Jackson, "the gods of Olympus are alive and well in the 21st Century! They still fall in love with mortals and have children who are half-god, half-human, like the heroes of the old Greek myths.*"  These children, or demi-gods, end up at Camp Half Blood, where they learn about their heritage, discover the gifts their parents have passed down to them, and sometimes embark on quests that affect the fate of the Gods and the world we live in.

I've read all the books in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians Series, and now the first two in The Heroes of Olympus series.  One of the things I absolutely love about these books is the amount I've learned about Greek and Roman mythology.  In fact, I was amused last year when I saw the new Clash of the Titans and was able to recognize the characters and their relationships because I'd recently finished "The Lightning Thief!"  I can definitely say that I would not be tempted to sit down and read a dry book full of straight information about Greek and Roman Gods.  It might be interesting, but there is a kind of magic in the way that Riordan is able to teach you about them almost without you realizing that you're learning.

Riordan's books also all feature teenage heroes.  These kids are thrust into unfamiliar and sometimes frightening situations, and must figure out how to make the right choice, even when it's not always easy.  The demi-gods in Riordan's books are also kids who have ADD and dyslexia.  It's woven into the story that in our world, they are diagnosed with these because they are meant to be in battle, not to sit still.  They are meant to read Greek and Latin, so have a hard time reading modern English.  The idea that you can be struggling in the modern world but also be destined for something great is really powerful.  There is a lot to be said for heroes that you can relate to.  I love the idea of inspiring kids imaginations while also telling them that they can grow to be heroes by the actions they choose in life.

For anyone that has enjoyed books like Harry Potter and The Hobbit, books of epic battles and quests for good, these books are perfect.  I am eagerly awaiting the day when my son gets old enough for me to read these out loud to him.

Riordan has also created a second world in The Kane Chronicles series.  In this series, Carter and Sadie Kane discover that they are descended from the most powerful magicians in ancient Egypt.  They must learn to use their powers to right the world when a magical accident releases the ancient Egyptian Gods into the modern world.  I've read both books published so far in this series, and enjoyed them immensely as well.

As an added bonus, I've listened to the first two books in The Heroes of Olympus series as audio books, and Joshua Swanson does a fantastic job.  There's not much worse than trying to listen to a good story when the narrating voice is not right.  Swanson does different character voices so well, and it's a joy to listen to.

My only complaint is that I know the next Heroes of Olympus book isn't coming out for another year!  I can't wait.

* From Rick Riordan's Website
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