New Book Excitement

Despite being a librarian and loving books, I’m not great at keeping up-to-date on new publications. Between that and a very tiring week, I was very excited, therefore, when this arrived on my doorstep on Thursday:

New book!

New book!

I had actually pre-ordered this with a birthday Amazon gift card back in March and, for once, an Amazon pre-order worked in my favor and the book arrived ON publication day. Robin McKinley is one of my favorite authors, and I’m already enjoying this one. Just one unexpectedly delightful detail: the heroine is training her dog to herd alpacas (yes, McKinley knits, and started about the time I started it again, which is one of the reasons I so enjoy her blog: http://robinmckinleysblog.com).

I’m not very far in:

Pages 32-33

Pages 32-33

Needless to say, my French reading project is on hold until I get the chance to finish this!

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Library Books Enjoyed, 9/26/13: Old Favorites Edition

We’ve been getting a lot of old favorites out recently, so here they are:

Arthur's Audio Favorites, Volume 2Arthur’s Audio Favorites, Volume 2 by Marc Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This collection of 6 Arthur books has been used for road trips with my kids at least twice now. The contents include Arthur Goes to Camp, Arthur’s Halloween, Arthur’s Baby, Arthur Meets the President, Arthur Babysits, and Arthur’s Family Vacation. Author Marc Brown reads the books, and he does a pretty convincing reading, with slight voice variations that still let the listeners know pretty easily who’s talking. There are also sound effects, and an introductory song to each book. Adults may find the song annoying, especially after the first book, but if you listen to it enough, it sort of drills into your head far enough that it’s not quite so bad–and my kids really liked it. On this latest trip, my son enjoyed checking out the print version of Arthur Meets the President and following along–and this led us to notice a few differences in the versions. The differences are just a few sentences added to make up for the lack of pictures to give clues to the action in the audio version. All in all, if you like Arthur, this is a well-done audio version of some favorites.

Charlotte's WebCharlotte’s Web by E.B. White

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Charlotte’s Web is always a classic, and listening to the audio version definitely worked as the best way to get our family through it (I started reading it with my now-5-year-old a couple times, but we’d get sidetracked, and it was hard to read a whole chapter with younger sisters around). I especially enjoyed hearing E.B. White read it himself–it feels like time-traveling to get to hear a beloved, now-deceased author read his own work.

We're Going on a Bear HuntWe’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We’ve listened to this one at storytime, but just finally checked it out. It’s really fun to read, but I think it will be even more fun when I memorize it and we can just act it out. Good pictures that are fun to look at, but it’s hard to act out while holding the book!

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of AnythingThe Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda D. Williams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We have checked this one out countless times…and I’m just now remembering to review it. A repetitive fall story, this has an air of spookiness, but it doesn’t have anything to really scare any but the most sensitive children (a scary pumpkin head says “Boo, boo!”). I like it for the definite fall feeling, my kids like to say or act the different things the pieces of clothing do, and I think the pictures are charming.

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Finished Stocking!!

Voila!

Behold and rejoice: I have finished a stocking! I thought that once I turned the heel, the rest would go pretty quickly, but it actually took me longer to connect the heel stitches back to the instep stitches, and I forgot that there’s still quite a bit of foot after a heel to be knit. I have not blocked it yet (washed it and let it dry to get it in just the right shape), and while I don’t think you have to with an item that’s not going to be worn, it might make it look a little nicer. Plus, it will give me practice for whenever I finish the shawl I started in class.  Nevertheless, even if I never get around to blocking it, if we hang it by the chimney on Christmas Eve, Santa will fill it with treats!

Hopefully in another 2 Christmases, the other two children’s stockings will also be complete. Don’t worry, we have stockings to hang for them–just not hand knit, personalized ones yet. I am quite happy, though, just to have gotten one finished for now.

New Reading Project

I was a French major in college, and my French teacher mother-in-law suggested that the best way to keep up with French was to read a French novel once a year. I’ve been abysmal with this. But I got one in last year, and now I have 3 new French novels that my parents-in-law brought me back from their latest trip and so I’m going to try to read one in the next month or two:
Les yeux jaunes des crocodiles (Joséphine, #1)Les yeux jaunes des crocodiles by Katherine Pancol

This one is just about to be published in English and when I showed the ARC of the English version (from my own mom’s trip to BEA–I am very well-connected in the book-getting world!) to my mother-in-law, she got the French version for me. (In case it is not already evident, I have the best in-laws on the planet.) Since I am trying to not rely on the dictionary for every word I don’t understand, here’s my process so far:

  • Read a section (or a few pages) in French, underline words that I don’t understand which I think are very important for the story.
  • Read the English version of bits that I completely didn’t get in France (so far, it’s mostly been a paragraph here or there)–and I usually skim the English for the parts I did understand to see how well I understood.
  • Look up the words I underlined when I have a little extra time to go through my French-English dictionary.

So far, I am very happy with how much I’ve been able to understand just in French–and I’ve also been reminded what a tricky business translation can be. While many sections are translated exactly (by which I don’t mean word for word–too many idioms for that, but idea for idea), there are some sections that are basically paraphrased. Now, I know this is an ARC, so that may not be the final translation, but it definitely increases my motivation to read in French: there are some details–maybe not essential to the plot, but part of the story being created–that are just left out of the English and I’m glad to have the chance to get them, even if I don’t get them all right.

I definitely read a lot slower in French than in English (and I’m not super fast in English), so this one will take awhile, but I think blogging about it will help keep me going.

Briefly, the plot so far: Josephine has just kicked out her unemployed husband,  Antoine, who’s having an affair. Her older sister, Iris, calls to remind her about a family dinner and hears about it but promises not to tell their mother. (Iris seems to be something of a jerk: the cool, movie-making older sister vs. Josephine’s more academic, less spectacular interests). Josephine’s daughters come home from school for lunch. And that’s as far as I’ve gotten!

SAH Sanity Tip #4: When All Else Fails, Retreat

Sometimes, when tempers run high, I’ve found that the best thing I can do is retreat for a few minutes. For me, counting to 10 isn’t enough–usually because I can’t calm down enough to actually do so in the heat of an argument or just when chaos is whirling all around. I have to physically remove myself from the situation. We have a one-story house, so it’s easy enough for me to go into my room, close the door or put up a baby gate (just a deterrent at this point, but one that the kids usually respect) and sit and breath until I calm down. Sometimes I pray about the situation, sometimes I try to take my mind off of it for a little bit. When I choose the latter, it helps me to read, but I’ve found that picking up a novel is not such a good idea. Once I do that, I’m liable to try to hide in my room for the rest of the afternoon, and that doesn’t actually help whatever situation is going on in the rest of the house. So I’ve got a couple of poetry collections laying around that I pick up to read one-three poems from, and then I go out and try again.

The current collection is Good Poems, edited by Garrison Keillor. We’ve had it for a long time, but I’ve just started going through it systematically in the last year. I like the fact that it’s a collection of many different poets, especially since I’m still new to reading poetry.

It’s good for me to recognize when I’ve reached my breaking point and to get out of the situation long enough to come back with better grace before figuring out what to do.

Library Books Enjoyed, 9/12/13

Another batch of library books that we enjoyed recently:

Cinderella's RatCinderella’s Rat by Susan Meddaugh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one that we just happened upon when I was searching the catalog for more Cinderella stories for my three year old. It’s by Susan Meddaugh, who is more famous for her Martha books, but I like this one better than Martha. The rat is charming and sympathetic as he tells the story, and the way it turns out is completely unexpected. Also, it’s a fairly short fractured fairy tale. We just got it yesterday, and it’s already been reread several times.

Those Darn Squirrels!Those Darn Squirrels! by Adam Rubin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We found the original Those Darn Squirrels, and it did not disappoint the members of our family who liked Those Darn Squirrels and the Cat Next Door (that would be the kids and me). I actually felt like this had a more unified story that felt a little less random–and I imagine the story about the cat next door would feel less random now that we’ve read the first volume of the series. Fun, silly, and featuring squirrels and cottage cheese once more–it worked for us!

Dinosaur KissesDinosaur Kisses by David Ezra Stein

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From the author and illustrator of Interrupting Chicken comes a somewhat less sensitive, but no less funny, story about a dinosaur who tries to give some kisses–completely unsuccessfully. We heard this one at story time and we have reread it at least 10 times since then. It is either my grown-up status or my finicky personality that made me wish it had a happier ending–but my kids did not seem at all troubled that Dinah never mastered the kiss. I do also have to give it points for demonstrating true-to-life sibling relations.

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My life right now…

…is not very interesting if you are not actively leading it. Recently, it has included:

  • Sitting in the carpool line. (This is actually a great development of kindergarten…since the girls are in their carseats, as long as I make sure they also have books, I can get 15-25 minutes of reading time in!)
  • Checking a backpack each afternoon and morning for lunchbox, homework, notes to teacher, etc.
  • Getting up at a reasonable hour every single school day.
  • Teaching my first Sunday school class of the year.
  • Getting free dinner from my husband’s amazing advisor and his extremely gracious family.
  • Shopping for kids’ shoes and clothes.
  • Falling onto the couch around 9 and wasting my life on sitcoms until bedtime (although I am enjoying our new discovery time-waster of Parks and Recreation.)
  • Praying that the U.S. does not attack Syria.
  • Dishes and laundry.

I think that’s most of the highlights. I’ve cut back from an average of 3 blog posts a week to 2 anyway (to be explained in a future blog post I have only started drafting), but as you can see, this week is not much to write  home about. I’ll still have library books on Thursday, though!

Despite the lack of blog fodder, life is good, and I hope the same is true for you.