Monday, May 5, 2014

April Wrap-Up

So, April . . . 

Books I've Read 

The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L.  Konigsburg 


I read this book when I was about 12 or 13 and I enjoyed it very much - a story about two children who run away and sleep at a museum?!? Exciting! So I read it with Thing 2. He liked it well enough (and loves being read to in general), but seems underwhelmed by some of the older, simpler kids' stories. He's not alone in that. We see it with lots of kids. Sometimes it's easy to feel protective of our nostalgia books, but I have to admit, kids' stories nowadays are way better than the ones we got as kids!

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving


This was the book club book for us this month. I scanned and studied more than truly read it all word for word, I must admit. It's a good story, I suppose (though also kind of bizarre), but it's way longer than necessary. He went on and on in parts of the description and in his anti-Reagan rants. Meh.

Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo


The kids and I read this together and loved it! It is a super cute story that keeps your interest (there were just a couple of spots that I felt seemed out of place, but they were really minor), has great characters, and makes you laugh out loud. She uses some impressive vocabulary for a kids' book and I love that! I love when authors don't assume their readers are too dumb to understand ten-dollar words. Way to go, Ms. DiCamillo!

Movies/TV Shows I've Watched

I won't keep listing all the shows we watch repeatedly - you get the idea. It's that time of year when our shows are wrapping up (sniff, sniff), but that's a good thing, as we have a lot going on anyway.

"Gilmore Girls"


I LOVE this show. I'm watching it for a third time, second time with Mark. I also watched some episodes for the 4th time, as we got my mother hooked on it when she and Jim visited for Thing 1's birthday. My mom is addicted! I didn't know if she'd like it and I'm so glad that she does! She's getting her own set of the series DVDs to enjoy when she gets back from visiting my brother in Texas. Anyway, watching this show is SO emotionally good for me. When I was a kid, watching "I Love Lucy" was an escape for me. Gilmore Girls is also an escape for me. Just hearing the la-las makes me smile. :)

"American Hustle" (From this past month)


This was a well-done film - the colors, costumes, hairstyles, manners, affects were all brilliant and very much captured the feel of that time period. Jennifer Lawrence is a PHENOMENAL actress and her scenes were fantastic! Anyone who hasn't seen the film should at least look up the one where she's cleaning the house - SO so funny. All the actors were so good, so well cast. The only thing that downgraded it for me was that this isn't my type of film (with regard to crime/getting in trouble aspects) and it was complicated for me to understand in parts (I really do NOT get how a criminal's mind works - it's so involved! Just think of all the good they could do with those smarts if applied to better, more legal things!). But I cannot deny that it was a very good film.

"Perks of Being a Wallflower"


I love this book and am not at all disappointed by the film adaptation. This is one of the edgiest young adult books I've read and while at times I was shocked (do kids really do this stuff?!?) and felt naive and like I couldn't relate, the writing is so compelling, so engaging, that you can't help but be totally hooked the entire time. From page one, I cared and wanted to know more about Charlie. I love epistolary novels and this one was great. It is a short book and a quick read. The characters are troubled, yet very likeable. The author tackled some tough issues, but I applaud (like standing ovation applaud) his doing so. I spent the entire novel thinking, "What is up with Charlie?" As the story unfolds and you learn, it all falls into place. Very brave. Very important. VERY good.

So, Kate has been wanting to read this book. We don't generally dictate what she can and can't read. We don't believe in censorship and we don't believe in underestimating kids' maturity and intelligence, especially when they show, time and time again, how bright ad thoughtful and mature they really are. We cannot keep up with all she reads (seriously - it's impossible - have you seen how much she reads?!?), but we always have a general idea and we're a family who talks a lot and we're all very involved. Well, I happened to read this book first a couple of years ago and I remember thinking, "Holy moly! She's not reading this one for a while!" (remember, it's edgy).

Well, we have a very open household - we can talk about anything and we try to make sure that no one is criticized for any thoughts, feelings, or opinions on things. The kids don't have to agree with us - in fact, we encourage them to think for themselves. That being said, I do think certain books/movies fall under the "maybe wait on this" approach rather than a specific "No!" kind of category. There is something to be said for age appropriateness. This is one such book. Kate asked about it a while back and we suggested she wait a bit as she'd appreciate it more as she got older, and then asked about it again recently. I cannot deny her maturity and intelligence and she reads so much already, so we revisited this one. The book itself references many great books, so we suggested she read three books first - Catcher in the Rye, A Separate Peace (she's read it before, but read it again), and To Kill A Mockingbird (which we're reading together). She did. So we told her to go for it and to, as always, come to us with any questions (which she did). This book addresses some tough topics (in fact, the movie is far more "tame" in that respect) and it made for some good discussion and learning. It is such a brilliant book. So very well done. I know it's controversial, but what else is new. The author addresses tough stuff and kids aren't stupid and they can handle truth.

So I watched the movie (again) with Kate. It's so weird to see Emma Watson with an American accent! The movie is also so good. Great movie. Great book. Well cast film. Great adaptation. It was written and directed by the author himself, which probably has something to do with our not being disappointed by it. Excellent film. Highly recommend both the book and the movie.

"America: The Story of Us" (Documentary by the History Channel) and "Crash Courses" (John Green on Youtube)

We're watching these together as a study of US history. The DVD documentary is well done and covers everything so well. The Crash Courses are SO good and so so so hysterically funny. Love John Green! He's super smart and they're a fun way to recap and learn so much. Highly recommend.

Games I've played

We haven't played many games this month with all we have going on, but we have played:

Mario Kart - We often play this as a family on birthdays, too.
Chronology - We play this one a lot as part of our history studies.  
Geography Jingo - We played this just because, but it's a great study of world geography, countries, and facts. The kids and I laughed the entire time. So fun.
Um, and a fun game we like to call "Pack the house?" :)

Other Things I've done, Places I've visited, etc.

* Pranked and got pranked on April Fool's Day (Mark called Thing 1 during her library shift and, using an Indian accent (he's quite good at it!), pretended to ask for a book entitled Under the Bleachers by Seymour Butts). Thing 1 knew she was getting pranked, but didn't know it was her dad until we busted up laughing. I have to admit it was funny, even though April Fool's Day is not one of my favorite "holidays."
* Got our fridge fixed - HALLELUJAH! It was broken and so loud that it sounded like a semi-truck in our kitchen. It was awful!
* Kids learned a ton about eagles thanks to Sherri's awesome classes on the subject!
* Met at our new business location with Mark and the staff there to hammer out details about our move there
* Jim and my mom came to visit so that Jim could present Kate with her birthday gift in person - a beautiful, full-sized violin!
* We made them a big, homemade pizza lunch - our gourmet pizzas with Mark's awesome dough recipe
* Our boiler broke, needing a repair
* We all (including Jim and my mom) attended a reception for the library's poetry contest winners, including Thing 1 who won the contest for a third time!
* I met with the owner (a psychiatrist) of our new business location so he could get a sense for my counseling style, philosophies, and approach, as well as to discuss classes and groups I can offer there.
* We met with a fencing and deck guy to get get estimates - yikes.
* Kids participated in a science fair
* We went through some lending frustrations with this whole house-buying process (spoiler alert: if you do all the right things and have great credit and a good job, banks aren't always willing to lend to you!)
* To cheer ourselves up, we drove over to our new neighborhood and walked Scout around. Glad we did. We met some nice neighbors and felt better about moving forward. What a roller coaster.
* Celebrated our daughter's 14th birthday with sushi, her favorite homemade dish of Portuguese codfish (bacalhau a gomes de sa), and some neat presents! LOVE that kid!
* Love seeing the amazing thoughtfulness Thing 2 has for his big sister. He really knows and loves her.
* Went to DC for the day to see the cherry blossoms - GORGEOUS!
* Went out for a birthday club lunch for myself with some good friends from our homeschool group and got to spend the day with people I really enjoy
* Went to Dick and Linda's house for a barbecue and had a nice time with them and Matt's family. Matt (who I believe is 26) is a good friend to Max (who is 11). :)
* Learned a lot with the kids about events leading up to the civil war, other aspects of history, grammar, math, reading, contemporary issues, finances, morals, etc. I love homeschooling!
* We all attended our book clubs this month (we are all in book clubs; Thing 1 is in several)
* Thing 1 requested a low-key birthday party for her birthday celebration this year, so our family and 3 of her friends all played laser tag for 4 hours and had pizza, soda, and a giant cookie to eat! We love laser tag!
* Thing 2 spent a day with his good friend Jack. Our good friends invited him down to their house to spend the day and he came home very happy!
* Thing 2 has been working hard at taekwondo and is gearing up to test for his 2nd degree black belt!
* Thing 2 spent the following day at another friend's house where he made and played games with Kristina the entire time (he's very social!!)
* Thing 1 hosted her teen book club. They meet in our library, so we asked all the kids to pack a couple of boxes of books. Brilliant plan!
* Right around Easter, my mom went to Texas for my brother's kidney surgery (he had one removed), we packed a ton, and we all (except Thing 1) didn't feel well for a few days, which was a real pain since we had so much to pack! We managed to get some cool stuff for the kids' Easter baskets (this may be the first year we've ever done them - we're rather inconsistent with Easter) - some playing cards for a game Thing 2 makes and a pair of Dr. Who socks for Thing 1!
* We packed a lot. Not sure what else to say for many days in April after Easter.
* The boys went to a Lego convention outside of Philly and had a great time. Thing 2 is totally inspired to do more and create more with Legos. He's setting up an entire Lego station in our new finished basement!
* We hosted our book club and announced to everyone that we're moving and that book club next month will be at our new house less than a mile down the road.
* We are loving Amazing Race! Such cool places and tasks! And interesting teams - woohoo! We're rooting for the cowboys now that the Globe Trotters are gone (when they were in, we were rooting for both).
* We settled on our new house on Harper Lee's birthday. With some changes to the settlement time, we managed to do it without sitting down with the sellers - they showed up first and signed papers, we showed up after them (and after work) and signed papers, and then they wired the money to the sellers. We got the keys and off we went to our new house (see previous post)! Got to the car and Mark had surprises waiting for us - a sweet card for me that made me cry and a bottle of sparkling cider for us all to mark the occasion!
* Got the house re-keyed and deadbolts installed. Got the carpets cleaned. Had dinner to celebrate.
* Got A LOT of offers to help with our move from some very good friends who we appreciate more than we can say.
* Rain changed our moving plans a bit, so we did A TON of business stuff that also needs to be done with our move - advertising banners, new business cards with maps on the back, website updates, new return address labels, contract signing, making a FB page, etc. SO MUCH TO DO. This change has us invigorated and inspired and excited, both about our house AND our business. We've needed this. Things were getting a little stale, we think. Good, but stale.
* We've also been working on Thing 1's worker's permit and paperwork for her new job (I mentioned that already, haven't I?)
* Our heads are spinning a bit, but we feel great and excited and, believe it or not, calm!

Pictures from the Month

We made ourselves a yummy New England style clamboil!

Our cute, snuggly Scout

She likes to burrow her face

She also thinks all laundry is there for her to lie down in
So, Jim and Vavó came to visit again, this time to deliver a very special gift for Thing 1's 14th birthday - Jim got her a beautiful, full-sized violin!

Without her knowing, we replaced her old violin with the new one in its new case and then my mom asked her to play for us. She pulled out her violin and was confused for a second thinking she had inadvertently grabbed someone else's at group violin or when she babysat the other night. Nope, it's her very own gorgeous violin!

Thing 1 and Jim and her new violin

Vavó and her buddy Scout

Our homemade pizza lunch with our Mark's famous crust - Greek Pizza, Pepperoni-Sausage, Taco pizza, and Philly cheesesteak, as well as salad. My mom also made pasteis de bacalhau and beanie weenies, because the kids love when she makes both of those things.

Thing 1 teaches Vavó to use Goodreads

We play Dominion with Jim

We got the Johnson boys one day when Dave had to go to the ER

Thing 1 won the library's poetry contest (3rd time so far) and read her poem at the reception.
We went out for frozen yogurt afterward.

The girls!

Both kids participated in a homeschool science fair.
They both got honorable mentions.

We celebrated Thing 1's 14th birthday!

Chocolate Chip Pancakes for breakfast

Mario Kart Wii (this is pretty much tradition)

Hamachi Kama!

Yummy desserts from the bakery

Thing 2 got her a Dr. Who package of movies and treats and popcorn

Mark and I got her a signed copy of Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, ordered from her hometown bookstore! She is also wearing the beautiful Harry Potter bracelet we got her. I've been so excited about these gifts!

Birthday dinner request - bacalhau a gomes de sa - a delicious, national Portuguese codfish dish

"Cake" - Double Dunker milkshake
On April 12th, we went to DC for the day and saw the BEAUTIFUL cherry blossoms.
Traffic was REALLY thick in the city, but we've learned from this.
We got away from "Festival Parking" as soon as we could and parked near the Smithsonian and hiked down to the trees and the tidal basin - so much better!
These pictures don't do it justice. It was just GORGEOUS.
So glad we went. It was a beautiful day.

A carpet of cherry blossom petals

Traffic was so thick and so slow that we got out and walked around a bit

Mark, our handsome chauffeur

Our whole family - I really like this picture.

Happy Scout!

Time for an ice cream treat!

So many people!

We got to be there at sunset, too!

At the Jefferson Memorial

The MLK, Jr. memorial across the tidal basin - I love that monument!

 I'm posting a lot of pictures, but this isn't even half of what we took. It was so beautiful there!

A month later, our "birthday club" met to celebrate my 40th birthday.

Kristie, Jenn, Laura, me, and Sherri
Here are some pictures from our farmhouse, in case anyone wants to move here and live in a beautiful 1850s house!

Sometimes I take snapshot pictures of things around the house like this that kind of show what we're doing, reading watching, playing, researching, etc.

For her birthday party this year,  Thing 2 wanted something very low key - Laser Tag with a few close friends and family. Easiest party ever!

Things 1 and 2 with Thing 1's BFF, Kirsten, as well as Rich and Brennan

Thing 1 and her BFF

The boys

All of us - I love these pictures!

Unlimited laser tag

Sometimes I also take random pictures of our meals - this is lunch one day - colorful!

Easter basket - cards for a game Thing 2 is making and Dr. Who socks for Thing 1!

Traditional Easter Massa (Portuguese sweet bread) from Vavó

Thing 1 has been extremely motivated with packing and helping - she is a hard worker! She has even surprised us several times by simply seeing a need and doing it.

Our farmhouse and our own cherry trees!

Scout at her post, waiting to bark at her least favorite person in the world - the mailman

These ducks fly around our neighborhood - it's hilarious.

Daddy-son date at the Lego convention!

Groupon tickets!

Met up with the Johnsons there

Dave, Rich, Brennan, Mark, Max

Settlers of Catan in Legos!

Max with his good buddy Jack!

Mark took this one for me. I had that shirt on that day, too!

OMG, she is so cute!!
And one more from Mark's phone--Me and our sweet Scout