Monday, September 29, 2014

Reading - Books - Love

Are they still called 'books' if they're digital files you've read on your kindle?

I'm still very much enjoying my kindle, mostly for its convenience.  I do miss the feel of real books and turning real pages though.  But back to the good stuff.  All of the books I've read thus far have been borrowed from the library and I'm not close to running out of options.  I always have a book I'm reading and another ready to go.  The thought of buying a book through Amazon, unless it costs $.99, and being limited on how I can lend it to others kind of fills me with rage.  I recently discovered that Amazon has a kindle unlimited option, which seems appealing to me.  I'm keeping it in mind.

I want to mention one of the benefits I discovered when we went to New Hampshire back in July.  When we put the kids to bed while away from home, we turn the lights down, the TV is off and the adults act like we are going to sleep too.  After the kids fall asleep, assuming we haven't fallen asleep as well, we'll read or check whatever needs checking on our phones.  I loved how I was able to lay on my side on the bed with the kindle propped up, the light turned low and read to my heart's content without disturbing anyone.

Since my post back at the end of June, here's what I've read:

Mockingjay
Dark Places 
Paper Towns
Divergent
Insurgent
Allegiant
We Are Water
The Invention of Wings
Joyland
Water for Elephants
Sharp Objects
Orphan Train
The Weight of Blood

I'm currently reading The Kept by James Scott.

While I really liked The Hunger Games trilogy, I found that the Divergent series had what I felt The Hunger Games was missing.  I liked knowing that that they were in Chicago.  When reading The Hunger Games, I found myself trying to figure out where in the U.S. they were.  I was kind of obsessed with it, actually.  I did find the relationships/love in both series to be awkward, which I suppose goes with the young adult category.

I do like Gillian Flynn's books and writing style (Dark Places and Sharp Objects) but they can be dark.  As was The Weight of Blood, the writing of which was very similar.

I really liked Water for Elephants.  Thank you for the suggestion!  My favorite book above, without a doubt, was The Invention of Wings.  That was most definitely 5 stars.  Orphan Train was also 5 stars.  I have a love for historical fiction.

Okay, so Paper Towns. . .  my first John Green book.  While I liked his writing style, this was probably the first "young adult" book I've read that was most definitely young adult.  The subject matter, plot, etc was a bit meh for me.  I also did not care for the ending at all and I'm usually one who prefers the non-typical ending.  On a positive note, I did find it interesting to learn what a paper town is.

Here are a few books I've stumbled upon and added to my reading list:

The Paris Wife
Black Mass
The Handmaid's Tale
The Dressmaker - Kate Alcott
The House Girl
The Kitchen House 
What She Left Behind

Read on, my friends.  Read on!

Friday, September 26, 2014

All That Jazz - A dance and gymnastics story

The girls are partaking in two activities this (school) year - dance and gymnastics.  Same as always.  The dance academy that they attend doesn't offer combo classes for their age/grade so we had to choose between ballet, hip hop, jazz and/or tap. And when I refer to "we" on this, it means the girls and me.  I was willing to let them each pick two and they didn't have to pick the same two but I really, REALLY wanted them to be in the ballet class.  There was some minor grumbling from Allie (ballet is too slow) but otherwise, they were all agreeable, especially after I explained to Allie that ballet is beneficial to gymnastics.

Allie really, REALLY wanted to try out hip hop, which is definitely an Allie thing.  Anna told us that she wanted to take the jazz class and Emily said that for this year, she just wanted one dance class.  She was most likely thinking ahead to the dance recital and was a bit nervous at the thought of multiple, rushed outfit changes.  Unfortunately, none of these classes were scheduled back to back, which meant that we (and when I refer to "we" here, it means me or Grammy) would be at the dance studio Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  The life of a dance mom.  Or grammy.

Then we had to add gymnastics into the mix.  I've learned that each gym is different in how they describe classes or teams but levels are universal.  Everyone understands levels 1 through 10.  After graduating from the kindergarten class, the girls were on colored teams last year.  The different colors represent different abilities but that's confusing to people who don't know that gym and I have noticed that this year, they have levels associated with the colors but everyone still refers to the classes by color. I'm going to use levels to make it easy.  So last year, Emily and Anna were in level 1a and Allie was in level 1b. In June, class registration opened for this year and the coaches told me that they weren't ready to move up and would remain in the same levels.  (It is possible to move up mid-year.) Allie was especially bummed as she really, REALLY wanted to move up to level 2a.  Emily's BFF was moved up from level 1a to 1b, which left Emily bummed out.

The girls took weekly gymnastics classes over the summer.  Allie worked really, REALLY hard on improving her skills.  She built up her muscle strength and endlessly practiced her pullover using the trapeze bar on our swing set.  She practiced so much that she ended up with bruises on her hips.  I think it's common knowledge that one does not end up a gymnastics superstar by attending a weekly one hour class and although Allie uses our living room and swing set as a gym, there's only so much she can safely work on at home. And only so much spotting I can do.  I agreed to sign her up for two weekly classes beginning in September.  One of which was to be first thing Saturday morning so that I could bring her.

Well, wouldn't you know that the last day of summer classes, the coach came out and told Grammy that they were moving Allie up to level 2a.  All of her hard work paid off! Allie's weekly class is an hour and a half long now and because they didn't have one at the same day/time that we had originally registered them for, we moved their classes to Friday.  Now, I was still open to Allie attending a class twice a week but I didn't think that working out for an hour and a half Friday evening and then returning to the gym 12 hours later for another hour and half workout would be a great idea so right now, she's at the gym once a week.  She practices some at home. Even though it's referred to as level 2, they appear to be working on level 3 skills as well.  Right now, Allie's trying to get her back walkover (different from a backbend kickover, I recently learned) and her front walkover.  Of these skills, I can do nothing.

I've seen a surge in Emily's at-home gymnastics practice since both Allie and her BFF were moved up.  I've always seen her as a little ballerina.  She likes gymnastics but her interest level is not as intense as Allie's is.  I was able to bring them to their first three gymnastics classes this year and Allie loves it even though they have to do a lot of ab and arm exercises.  Unfortunately, Anna's jazz class didn't work out so well. (sad face) To start, it was an evening class, which was late for her. It was so late that even when I took my normal train, I still arrived to the studio before the class started.  (I was there for that first class.)  This jazz class is labeled beginner, for grades 2 through 5.  There were a lot of kids (maybe around 20) and they were all bigger than her. Some of them were almost as big as me.  The class was fast paced and I think it was just too much for her body to take.  She came out during water break and cried into my arms, then wiped her eyes and returned to the class on her own to tough it out to the end.  Afterwards, any questions were met with tears so I told her that she didn't have to return.  The dance teacher has known Anna for years now and she was really good getting her through that class.  Rich and I both had thought that maybe it was going to be too much for her but I wanted to be wrong.

In a way, I am living out my childhood dreams through my kids.  When I was their age, my parents signed me up for Little League baseball and then softball.  Things were different back then - you kind of just went along with what your parents told you to do.  I want my girls to be happy in whatever they do and so far, we've achieved that.

Before I end, I want to add that the timing of their ballet class is such that I can usually catch the last half if I take my normal train.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A sampling of Disney custom outfits

I'm so close to finishing these outfits that I can finally (almost) see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Almost.  Currently, four outfits remain unfinished.  But they've all been started (important!) and one only needs an hour or less of my time.  Then I can carry on with life and resume blogging on a regular basis.  This was all my own doing, of course.  The girls love custom outfits but they certainly don't demand them.  I sometimes like to spoil them.

I learned my lesson from the first time Grammy and I did this.  The lesson = Plan specific items for specific days.  The first time around, both Grammy and I sewed and sewed and made a ton of outfits.  At the end, we had too many outfits and the girls had too many choices.  This time around, I created outfits based upon what we plan to do.  The lesson I've learned from this time around is to start EARLY.  Earlier than I think I need to.  So early, the next trip isn't even planned.  Not only did I procrastinate but I really couldn't plan some of the outfits until I had secured dining reservations.  It's not like I didn't have other things to do.    

So here are some outfits that I've photographed.  As you can see, I gave up on photographing the kids wearing the outfits because that was just too much work.  I'll have to take modeling pictures during our trip.

Anna's Sleeping Beauty outfit for Epcot, lunch at Akershus:

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I hadn't intended for it to be a maxi dress and held my breath when she tried it on.  She looked in the mirror and said, "Good, it's long.  Just how I wanted it."


Allie's Epcot, lunch at Akershus outfit:

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(fabric - Riley Blake, Happy Ever After)


Emily's Epcot, lunch at Akershus outfit:

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(fabric - Ann Kelle, Girl Friends)

For a special touch, I added the rose that Belle is holding.

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Emily's Frozen outfit

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Anna's Tinker Bell outfit.  If you look closely, you'll see that the fairies' wings are the same color blue as the tank top.  That's how Anna matched those up.

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(fabric - Ann Kelle, Girl Friends)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A big ole update

Well, that was an unexpected break from blogging.  There's no real reason for it other than the fact that I've been super busy.  I'm still trying to finish up the girls' Disney clothes before our upcoming vacation, which will be here before we know it, and I'm realizing how limited my "free time" really is.  School started for the girls a few weeks, activities began and I'm in the midst of my 9/15 and 10/15 tax deadlines.  There are some nights I just want to sit and do nothing but read for an hour (or two) but can't because there is just so much to do.  Sew, sew, sew.  Go, go, go.

So, the girls are officially second graders.  To answer the most frequently asked question - yes, they are in different classes.  So far, I'm very happy with how it is all working out this year.  They all have great teachers and as an added bonus, they are in the same recess.  There are 11 second grade classes this year with a maximum of four classes sharing a recess so being all together wasn't just a fluke.  (I'll have to thank the principal, who is also a parent of multiples, for that.)  Emily's BFF is with Anna this year but Emily can see her everyday at recess.

The girls have been bringing home the same math worksheets for homework.  There is homework every night.  The other afternoon, I received an email from Emily's teacher letting me know that Emily had forgotten her folder on her desk and that she did have math homework.  She suggested perhaps getting a copy from a classmate or doubling up the next night.  I couldn't think of any viable classmate options (well, maybe I really didn't want to bother anyone) so after thinking about it for a few minutes, I responded saying that she could just double up on homework the next night.  Then (duh!) I called Grammy to have her photocopy Allie's or Anna's homework before they finished it.  I can't believe I didn't just think of that in the first place.

Obligatory first day of school photos

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(Emily had to bring in homework for the first day of school, which is why is she showcasing that poster.)

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A few weeks before school started, Rich asked if the girls were all set for clothes because they had grown.  I responded with, "Pish posh, they're all set.  It'll be summer for the first few weeks of school anyway."  Plus, I didn't think they had really grown that much.  But then we had Anna at her urology appointment and when they measured her, we learned that she'd grown more than an inch since April.  And then I was with the girls at their school's open house a week before school started and a few people at school commented on how much the girls had grown too.  We were in the nurse's office dropping off supplies and signing paperwork when I looked over at Anna and saw her as others see her, not as I see her everyday.  She had grown.  Her skin was glowing with a slight tan, her hair was pulled back in a neat, low pony and she suddenly appeared older.

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I have to say that thankfully we have not had the crazy that we had last year after school started.  If anything, there was crazy for about two weeks beforehand.  They must have been gearing up for the change.

Looks like I can kiss my hope for a few more weeks of summer good-bye.  We closed up the pool this weekend, which was a shame seeing that the girls had been making great strides in learning to swim.  Allie and Emily were both able to swim across the pool by themselves unassisted and Anna was swimming with one arm floaty.  Hopefully, we don't have to start all over again next June.

Even though I said I would never cut the girls' hair again, I did.  It was almost at Crystal Gayle status, which you can see in the above photos, and I didn't want to deal with making appointments with my stylist so I took care of it myself.  This time, instead of sitting on the floor, I had a better set up, took my time and now I'm giving myself a big pat on the back for a job well done.  I cut about 3 inches off of Emily's and now it is at her hips.  Allie has more hair so I chopped 4 inches off hers.  It now rests just below her elbows.  The girls' hair is fine, exactly like mine.  Allie happens to have a good amount of it - probably as much as I do if not more.  Anna doesn't have as much hair and she likes to do her own hair which means that a lot of it has broken off. I trimmed about an inch and a half off of it and she freaked out for a day saying that I had butchered it.  Unfortunately, as I was doing the cutting, there are no photos.  Soon.

I probably won't be updating much over the next month or so but I hope to post at least once a week.

Upcoming:

  • Cape Cod photos.  We managed one last beach trip (and sunburn for me) over Labor Day weekend.
  • Sewing projects - Disney customs
  • The girls' fall activities
  • Books and reading lists.  I've read a ton of books since my kindle post back in June.  (One of the benefits of train commuting.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Summer reading

The second grade edition

If I were to give the girls the option of either reading for 10 minutes (aloud or to themselves, which, according to Anna is called reading in your brain) or working on math facts, the unanimous answer would be READING.  So while we may have failed slightly to keep the math facts flowing this summer, reading has not been an issue.  There have been weekly visits to the library and a steady rotation of books scattered about the house.  It's funny because the girls don't struggle with math at school but they just don't like it.

Last month, Allie discovered the Magical Fairy books and based on how many of them have been checked out to our family, it's safe to say that they're pretty popular.  With only 5-6 chapters, they're an "easy" read and even though the girls know what's going to happen (fairy loses critical object, fairy enlists help of two girls, two girls help fairy retrieve object from Jack Frost's evil goblins, order is restored across the land), they keep on reading them.  I think I should write Sarah the Tax Return Fairy because that book doesn't seem to exist.

There've been some Oliver Moon books floating around and Emily has read quite a few American Girl Doll books.  They had checked out the Isabelle book from the library after they had seen the movie and Emily said she didn't know if she wanted to read the book because she had seen the movie.  No, no, no.  I told her the book was always better than the movie and so she read the book and agreed.

We've had a few nights where Anna has stayed up until 9:00 or later reading.  She's usually the first one asleep too so that's been a surprise.  Not something I encourage but it's made me smile.  And last weekend, I could hear the girls in the playroom with Rich while I was upstairs taking care of laundry.  I  thought they were all in there but I found Emily like this. . .

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School starts soon!