Sunday, January 30, 2011

Snow Day For The Old Man!!

As we were getting in the car to go to church this morning, Cheyenne asked me if I would go outside and play in the snow with her after lunch. My first response was an internal groan and a resigned "We'll see".

We went to church, enjoyed a little visiting with friends in the foyer as Cheyenne and Wesley patiently waited on us to be ready. We finally got home and had lunch, taking our good old time about it. As we were finishing lunch I began to dread the question I knew was going to come soon. I thought, "I'm too old for this". Then I began to be ashamed of myself. I realized they wait on me all the time, I ask them to do things for me all the time and they do it without argument because they are good kids and they love me and want to please me. So I thought, "I'll beat her to it!" I got up and started getting ready to go out before she even knew what I was doing. She was goofing around when I went out to get my hat and gloves and when she realized, she flew out to get ready!

When I got outside I decided to teach her how to build a proper fort:

It took us about an hour to build this much and I wanted to get the wall up to the cross bar on the swing set but, despite my good intentions, I really am getting old and I was starting to wear out! Fortunately, I didn't have to confess this to Cheyenne because she suggested we take a break and go sledding.

Soon we were zipping down our little hill and having a great time. There is a risk of shooting off the edge of the hill down into the woods but fortunately I managed to avoid this fate, barely, on several occasions!

We were almost done when Wesley decided to come out and we managed to get a couple trips down the hill with both of them piled on my back. It was a little nerve-wracking being on the bottom of the pile, with the snow mere inches from my face, cruising along at what felt like 55 MPH but I survived! It was definitely better than getting snow down the back of my pants like I did trying to sit cross-legged on a tiny saucer sled and ending up flipping over backwards!

Finally, my old bones couldn't take any more so after 2-3 hours out in the cold we came in and warmed up with hot chocolate. My back is tired, my legs are tired, I have a bit of a headache, and the back of my underwear is a little wet, but it was a great time! I am glad I decided to make my kids happy instead of being lazy and only thinking of what I wanted. In the end, I had far more fun than I would have had, sitting inside wondering what to do! :)

Maybe next time I won't hesitate! Besides, I have a fort to finish!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Shapeshifter: Running The Risk - Ali Sparkes

Running The Risk
By: Ali Sparkes
Published: 2007
My rating: Wonderful

We loved Finding The Fox so much that we wanted to listen to the rest of the series. Imagine my dismay to discover our entire library network didn't have the audiobooks or the print versions of any of the rest available! We were so fascinated by the series that I decided to do something I rarely do, I bought them! I am so glad I did, this was a wonderful book and the kids begged me to keep reading every time I tried to stop!

Dax Jones has become quite accustomed to his shape-shifting ability, many times finding the freedom of being a fox preferable to his clumsier human form. Despite an unfortunate close call, he is very happy at Tregarren College and has developed into a fine young man, or fox as the case may be. However when stunning changes take place in Gideon's world, Dax fears he is losing his best friend. To make it worse, there seems to be something wrong with all of the Colas and Dax is determined to uncover the truth. In the end, what he discovers is far worse than he ever imagined, and could in fact be the end of Cola Club forever. Dax knows he is the only one who can rescue his classmates from a terrible evil but what can one small fox do against such power? Dax has to discover the secrets locked inside himself before he can hope to help the others.

We absolutely loved this book just as much as the first one! Ali's smooth writing style and excellent skills for writing dialog made this a pleasure to read! She also builds the action slowly but unrelentingly until it reaches an intense climax. When I threatened to stop reading for the evening with the final chapter to go, even my wife protested! We had to let the kids go to bed a little late so as to be able to find out what was going to happen!

Overall, this is a wonderful book in a wonderful series! We love these so much that we have decided it would be a crime to let our library network continue without them so we are going to donate them when we finish them so others can enjoy them as well! My only regret is my inability to do a good British accent while reading! Don't hesitate to get these if you can and read them to your kids....or to yourself even! :)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Wide Window - Lemony Snicket

The Wide Window
By: Lemony Snicket
Published: 2000
Audiobook Read by: Lemony Snicket
My rating: Good

Continuing on with the saga of the Baudelaire Orphans, we listened to this next book in the series. So far this has been my least favorite but it is still a fun book to listen to and we are definitely not deterred in our determination to listen to the whole series!

I would love to let Aunt Josephine tell you about her adventures with the children but she is afraid of computer keyboards since the keys might shatter thus embedding shards of plastic in her fingertips and exposing her to severe electrocution from the exposed contacts beneath. Since Josephine can't tell you herself, I shall do my best to share with you the gist of their experiences.

I wish I could say that Aunt Josephine was the guardian the children had been hoping for. I wish I could say they finally found a home they could be happy living in. I really wish I could say they were finally free of Count Olaf's scheming and conniving. I wish I could say all of those things but I promised my mother that I wouldn't tell lies so I better not. It makes me very sad to relate to you the terrible disaster that befalls Violet, Klaus, and Sunny in this book.

As you probably guessed, the children do not find an end to their misfortunes. Quite the contrary, they very nearly fall into such misfortune that could turn your heart into jello and cause you to have non-stop nightmares for at least 2 3/4 years! If you are of weak constitution I highly recommend you not read this book. Josephine turns out to be another short lived guardian and of course, Count Olaf seems to know exactly where to find them and hatches yet another dastardly plot to get his hands on their fortune. Sadness reigns supreme in the orphans lives as they survive more hardship than any child should ever endure!

This is a good book but was not quite as good as the last two. Aunt Josephine was really kind of a boring character and we found it hard to hope the children would continue to stay with her while at the same time having no reason to really dislike her. There was the same kind of dark humor that we have come to love about these books and the randomness of some of the story was great for some laughs.

We listened to the audiobook read by Lemony Snicket. In my experience, few authors make good readers and this is one of those situations. He really does a bad job of giving the story life, having a slightly flat expressionless voice and hardly distinguishing between characters at all. It didn't help that we were so spoiled by the wonderful talents of Tim Curry on the first two books. I think this would be a better book to read, rather than listen to if at all possible. Unfortunately, since we are listening to them while we wait for the bus we will be stuck with the audiobooks, but I'm sure we'll survive.

Overall, this book carries the plot of the series along quite well and should not be passed over. It is still a lot of fun and I think you'll very much enjoy this miserable tale! :)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tammy's Hodge Podge

My wife, Tammy, has finally started her blog!

Many of you have been introduced to Tammy through my my post that embarrassed her to no end, but now you all have a chance to get to know her through her own words and pictures!

I have been working on her, with the help of Darlene, trying to get her to start a photo blog because she really loves taking pictures. She was skeptical but I think I was starting to wear her down. She's afraid of the writing part but I knew she would do just fine, and with the wonderful support of people like you all, I am sure she will grow to love blogging as much as I do!

Anyway, I finally won out due to a little conniving on my part. She has been wanting to paint our bathroom but it has been low on our priority list. She asked me if she could do it herself and after some consideration I decided to let her on the condition she blog about it! :) I am confident in her abilities, since I have taught her a lot over the years and she has helped me on many jobs.

So without further ado, I present Tammy's Hodge Podge starring my one and only true love, the wonderful, the talented, the ever patient, TAMMY!!! Give her a big round of applause folks, it's her debut performance and I'm sure she'll be great!!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Highland Christmas - M. C. Beaton

A Highland Christmas
By: M. C. Beaton
Published: 1999
Audiobook Read by: Graeme Malcolm

I absolutely love Hamish MacBeth and since it was Christmas time I figured what better way to enjoy Hamish than by listening to this Christmas tale? It is an absolutely wonderful story that warmed my heart and gave me a renewed feeling of love and caring for my fellow man!

One of the things that Hamish dislikes about Lochdubh is the way the town as a whole seems to shun Christmas. You won't find Christmas trees or other decorations in store windows or adorning the streets. Even the individual homes are dark and dreary compared to the brightly lit houses in other villages. Not everyone in town agrees with this view of the blessed holiday. If you know where to look, you'll find Christmas hiding away behind tightly closed drapery or in hidden corners. The children look forward to Santa's visit and know that a great feast will be awaiting them on Christmas day. Unfortunately, if you look behind some closed doors you'll find sad lonely people who sorely need the light of Christmas in their lives.

Hamish loves Christmas. When one of the grouchiest citizens on his beat reports a burglary, he unexpectedly finds an opportunity to spread the love of Christmas to some of those who have never known it. Hamish, in his gentle, loving way, uses the circumstances to his advantage and shows more than one skeptic that Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year!

This has become my absolute favorite Hamish MacBeth story yet! Despite being short, (only two CDs) it packs a wonderful message of love and kindness that we all need to hear. If everyone would give of themselves as Hamish does, and care about others the way he does, Christmas would be around all year!

I listened to the audiobook read by Graeme Malcolm and as always, he is absolutely wonderful! He is just so easy to listen to and his accent is perfect for these books! I am so glad he does so many of this series!

Overall, this book is a SPECTACULAR story to the core! I found tears coming to my eyes on more than one occasion as I listened to the heart warming stories of people finding Christmas joy after so much sorrow and loneliness. You really should get this one and see for yourself! I may just have to make a tradition of listening to it every year along with watching "It's A Wonderful Life"!

Monday, January 10, 2011

So Brave, Young, And Handsome - Leif Enger

So Brave, Young, And Handsome
By: Leif Enger
Published: 2008
Audiobook Read by: Dan Woren
My rating: Delightful

Here is yet another totally random selection off the shelf. I was drawn by the serene landscape depicted on the cover and after reading the description on the back figured it was worth a try. It was. :)

Monte Becket is a man that I can relate to. His success in his first novel is as much a surprise to him as to anyone else. Now under pressure to perform, he stalls out and can't seem to do anything right!

Glendon Hale floats into his life and soon they build a solid friendship. Little does Monte know that Glendon has a history with the law and is in reality a wanted outlaw! When Glendon asks Monte to accompany him on a trip, Monte, with the approval of his wife and intense envy of his young son, accepts the invitation and sets out on a life changing adventure. Throughout the journey, Monte is faced with many situations he would have only imagined his novel's hero would face. At every turn he finds himself outside his comfort zone learning new things about himself with each wild escapade. In the end he becomes a better husband, father, friend, and man than he had ever been before.

I really enjoyed the story and the easy, laid back tone of the book. The writing style was a little stiff with the dialog being to proper to be realistic. The narration was wonderful and painted a picture of a very colorful landscape full of rustic little towns and a wonderful mix of unique and fascinating characters. The life lessons that Monte learns along the way are very relevant to us all and even though the book is set in the early part of the 1900s, it is easy to translate into modern life. I think all of us could benefit from a friend such as Glendon Hale even if he was an outlaw!

I listened to the audiobook read by Dan Woren. Dan did a wonderful job! His soft, easy tone was a perfect match for the laid back style of the storytelling. I very much enjoyed his performance!

Overall, this was a fun book for me, feeding a little bit of the cowboy dreams of my younger days. It was fun to imagine myself on a cross country journey in the days when horses were still more common than cars, and people in general were good folk who looked out for one another. If you get the opportunity to read this, take it! :)

Thursday, January 6, 2011


What Vacation???

I had a vacation?

You're kidding, right?

There is no way I had a vacation!

That's the way I've been feeling this week!

Two months ago I planned to take the entire week between Christmas and New Year's off. Counting the weekends that I get off anyway, that made nine days total! Nine whole days off work!! Now what could be better than that?

Now, before anyone starts getting envious, let me tell you how it went!

First of all, you might have seen my previous post about my Grandpa passing away. That saga actually started two weeks before my vacation. I live about five minutes from my mom and grandpa's house. Family from all over the country came in to be with him in his last days and that was nice. However, it meant that every day after work I had to jump in the shower and head over since my wife was trying to keep meals cooked and the kitchen cleaned up so my mom wouldn't have to do it. Most evenings we would make it back home around 9pm.

Now don't get me wrong, I loved being there for my mom and grandpa. I even enjoyed visiting some of my family. But I was getting tired really fast and was beginning to feel like I wanted to strangle some people!

I finally reached Friday night....Christmas Eve....that long awaited wonderful day that marked the start of my vacation....and once again, all evening over at grandpa's! We managed to get Christmas morning to ourselves but still had to go make sure all the people at grandpa's house were fed their dinner.

Anyway, that's the way it went for the weekend and then grandpa passed away early Monday morning. Now a whole new process started. I did my best to be the support my mom needed as she finalized arrangements for the services which were to be over an hour away. Tuesday was spent making the arrangements, Wednesday was calling hours, Thursday was the funeral.

The thought went through my mind at the beginning of the week, "Once the funeral is over, I'll still have three days of my vacation to do as I please with."


Thursday evening....9pm....plans are made for New Year's Eve....(Friday, just in case you don't remember)....ALL of the visiting family....

So, with less than 24 hours to get ready, we cleaned, shopped, cooked, and scrambled to get ready for 25 people to spend pretty much all night with us!

It was fun, but not what I was wanting to do. To top it off, my daughter and her female cousins (3 total) stayed with us on Thursday night while the boys (4 total) went with my cousin to his house. We then swapped when everyone left early Saturday morning. That meant I had to wake up and keep track of four hyperactive boys after not getting to bed until about 2:30am!

Finally, after another huge family dinner at my mom's house, we made our way home late Saturday evening, toting our two children, who were already missing their cousins, and fell into bed.

Sunday morning dawned, the last day of my vacation, and we went to church. It was Cheyenne's birthday and she wanted pizza so we went out for pizza and bowling, just the four of us, and had a lot of fun. The kids were a little bored during the evening but we were able to enjoy the only day of my vacation that was spent entirely the way we wanted to spend it!

Monday morning it was off to work for me and a whole list of projects my boss wanted taken care of ASAP. Fortunately I had the assistance of my college friend who has been the best worker I've ever had. With his help I made it through most of what was waiting for me but I'm beginning to think I need a vacation.


Didn't I have a vacation coming here a week or so ago?

I wish I knew what happened to it!