Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas by Pictures

It's been a while. Actually, only a week, but it feels like longer. It's been a big week, and then tonight something rather explosive happened involving my in-laws which I'll probably write about later but don't want to write about right now because it'll make me angry and I want to have a nice, pure, happy Christmas post.

Because it was a wonderful Christmas. We headed to Houston on the morning of the 24th in a car loaded down with kids, clothes, presents, and labradors. From there we attended church (a first time attempt at the 4:00 service, which was shortened and very much geared towards kids; JP and my brother loved it, the rest of us sorely lamented the lack of Silent Night, the holding of candles, and any real Message), stopped by the house to change into pj's and pick up our pack of 5 dogs, and headed to the lake house. We enjoyed a delicious spaghetti dinner (new tradition) and began the opening of presents. I'll let the pictures take it from there.



All dressed up for Christmas Eve. I wore the champagne party outfit and the red lipstick. Red lipstick now equals Happy Holidays to me.



Now we're at the lake house. Our cute little tree was dwarfed by presents and we got a few adorable, but inappropriate pictures of a baby wanting wine:




I was resisting, I promise, but she's surprisingly strong and I didn't want to spill.



Santa might have realized too late that Landon wanted superhero stuff for Christmas (because Santa does his shopping well before December), but Landon's aunt and uncle came through. He got Spiderman, Batman, and Iron Man action figures, along with a Batman raincoat (with cape!) with JP's parents.



It was also a Christmas of footwear. Landon got shiny new orange crocs and dino slippers (because JP always makes him take his shoes off inside, and Landon, like me, likes having his feet covered). Then, my parents got him snazzy cowboy boots, a hat, and other Toy Story 3 memorabilia.



I was also gifted with boots! JP picked out some snazzy ones and I can't believe he (a) blew our supposed gift budget and (b) picked out something that really surprised me (along with being something I wanted).



Clairebear enjoyed the opening of presents as well. She got a new doll, some very noisy toys (thanks Papa and Gigi), and a holiday barbie from her aunt and uncle (the start of a new tradition). She got lots of help from her big brother in opening presents, and Landon was very careful to show her all the features of each new gift.



(not from Christmas Eve, but cute and close enough)


She also enjoyed all the family time and attention, and even hung out with my slightly baby-phobic baby brother.



wariness, on both sides


Landon put his cookies out for Santa and kept talking about how he was going to meet him that night. Apparently we didn't explain Santa and his time commitments to the children of the world quite carefully enough.



That night the Biscuit woke up every 30 minutes with piercing cries. The walls of the lake house are thin and the room we share with her is small and basically, JP and I didn't get any sleep. Sometime around 2:30 a.m. he declared, "No more babies!" We threatened to take away Santa, but he thought about how good she's been the rest of the year and decided to bring her gifts anyway.



hehe, I've got everyone wrapped around my little finger, including the fat red man


I look terrible in the next picture, but I'm displaying it as proof of how tired and puff-eyed you look after 4 hours of fractured sleep. It's going in the "con" pile for baby number 3. Of course, the 10 billion pictures of the Biscuit looking adorable are a rather weighty addition to the "pro" column.


Santa brought Landon two nerf guns. He's recently gone on a "shoot all the bad guys" kick and these provided fun for all ages. He also got some new books, a DVD, and two games (we have game night every night he finishes dinner by 7 p.m.), plus an Fisher Price iXL portable game system from my grandparents. Clairebear got a soup pot with plastic vegetables that she adores, a Sophie giraffe chew toy, and a peekaboo book. It was quite a Christmas.



We got to spend a lot of time watching them play together- it's adorable and my favorite part of family time. Landon was so happy and so excited to show Claire all the cool stuff around her.



It was a fabulous, low-key day. My aunt and her family came by in the afternoon, bearing more gifts and full of smiles and attention for the kiddos. JP got to blow up some fireworks he'd been saving since the 4th of July. It was freezing and windy and we didn't last too long outside, even though Landon was all dressed in his warmest things.



The day ended rather abruptly when Tex and my parents' yellow lab jumped up for the same frisbee and Max's teeth went through Tex's mouth. We couldn't get the bleeding to stop, so we decided to leave the lake early and head to the 24-hour vet 1.5 hours away, near my parents' non-lake house. It was a little crazy, but with 6 adults and 3 cars we managed to get the 5 dogs, 2 kids, loads of presents, and multiple feasts worth of leftover food back home.



He was fine, no stitches needed, but JP and I didn't get back to the house until about 1:30 a.m. We were exhausted, and it was rather surreal to sit in the waiting room looking at the calendar blinking December 25th, but it really was a good day.

The rest of the visit home consisted of soaking up some family time, shopping and watching a movie with my mom (Burlesque, because we have to see things I'd never get to see with JP), and going out to dinner with JP and drinking TWO whole rounds of margaritas (thanks to some free babysitting and a Christmas gift card to Pappasitos from my parents). We headed home on the 27th, put away all the Christmas decorations on the 28th, and I went back to work on the 29th.

Looking back over this month, I think it's been one of my favorites that I've ever had. Kids and Christmas, it's pretty awesome.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Santa Baby

Two weeks ago, the kids got to meet Santa. My firm has a family holiday party each year and some poor partner (though his year, it was a counsel) gets to be Santa and have lots of kids cry in his lap. There's always food, gingerbread house decorating, and other activities, and it's so fun to see all the kids we hear so much about.

Landon was excited about Santa right up until we stood next to him. Suddenly he wasn't so sure, but he rallied and sat on his lap and told him he wanted an Iron Man, a Batman, and a Spider-man. Also, a Superman. Apparently we are now into superheroes. This was the first his personal Santa had heard of it.



He also got to make a square for the gingerbread house. He may have gone a little heavy on the peppermints.



I thought we should get a picture of the Biscuit alone with Santa.

She disagreed:



um, what is happening? who is this man?



you are not my daddy. WHERE IS MY DADDY?

Waaaaaaahhhhh




phew, found him



I'm at work even though the office is closed for a firm holiday (grr opposing counsel, GRRR). But I just came from the mall where I got an amazing deal on ski clothes for the kiddos (we're going skiing in 2012, it is GOING TO HAPPEN, we are saving already) and I fit into a new pair of my old size of jeans! Not a stretched out, I've owned them forever pair - one off the shelves at Gap! And 45% off! Happiness abounds.

Merry Christmas Merry Merry Christmas.

(I have TSO playing in my office. I'm really going to miss this music when Dec. 26th rolls around.)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Booties and Bleh

The only thing keeping me on the good side of a bad mood right now are the fabulous 4" high black Calvin Klein booties I picked up on clearance at DSW yesterday during lunch. I'm wearing them with a grey sweater dress and black/grey heathered tights. It's a good thing I decided to dress up instead of wearing the jeans I had planned because walking around the office at 6' tall keeps pulling me out of the doldrums any time I look at my desk and threaten to fall into them again.

Opposing counsel, the ones who filed a motion to compel on the night before Thanksgiving, filed another motion to compel today. We'll get an extension on the response, so it won't be due on the 28th like it's supposed to be, but ARGH it's still annoying to have to think about it at all over the holidays. Today was supposed to be my day to straighten up my office, enter my time, and go home early to do some laundry and figure out how to pack everything in our car for our holiday travels. I have done (and will be doing) none of those things.

In JP's family news, my in-laws decided to recognize Christmas with us after all. A box showed up on our doorstep yesterday with wrapped presents for the kids and a Christmas check for JP and me. They're buying our forgiveness (or not really forgiveness, since in their minds nothing happened and there's nothing to forgive, but certainly buying our implicit agreement to ignore the fact that we haven't spoken to them in 6 months and they've never met their granddaughter). And I think we're going to let them do it. It's complicated, way more so than I'm going to describe here, but at least I got to buy a new pair of black booties for myself (and deep red heels and black platform heels). I kid, the real things I got out of this particular drama were 6 months of no dinner-time phone calls and a clearer understanding of what kind of stance I'm comfortable taking with them. And what they got is losing out on 7 months with their grandkids and learning, at least on some level, that we're not playing their games any more. If they threaten to cancel a visit to see us, then it's canceled and we're not stepping up to fix it until they do. It's pretty much how we approach life with a toddler- clear boundaries and no idle threats. We'll see where it goes.

This is getting depressing again, so I'm going to smile at my shoes (they really are awesome), eat one of my sugar cookies, and get back to work. Oh, and just to finish certain plot points, the Clairebiscuit is doing MUCH better. The antibiotic seems to have cleared up her sinus infection and she's not throwing up anymore! She's smiley and happy and utterly delightful. She played in bed with me for 30 minutes this morning while I decided to get up and get dressed.





She reminds me of a quote from Elf that my friend posted this morning, "I just like smiling. Smiling is my favorite." It's usually mine too. I'll snap back to it soon.

P.S. Here is a picture. These are suede and mine are kid skin, but you get the general idea. They look fabulous on and my feet barely hurt after 8+ hours of wearing them and walking all around the office.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sugar Wonderland

Yesterday marked the completion of my last Christmas to-do item. The presents have been bought, wrapped, and mailed, the Christmas cards have been sent, the house and tree have been decorated, the daycare teachers and work assistants have been gifted, and now, NOW the cookies have been decorated.

I made the dough on Saturday night and it was nice having that part done ahead of time. When I got it back out of the fridge on Sunday afternoon I discovered that my little "tastes" had made a noticeable dent in the batter. Oops, they all seemed so tiny on their own. So because I didn't want to eat another 10 cookies worth of dough (it is so, so good), I put out other snacking options. Also, my mom, sister, and grandparents were all coming over and I wanted to make sure they had other things to eat besides my cookies. I'm normally a generous person, but those cookies are too delicious to share too many of them.



Landon helped with the rolling and cutting. Unfortunately, he always jumped in to "help" when my back was turned to get a finished tray of cookies out from the oven, so he always put his shape right in the middle of the dough. This less than ideal use of cookie dough space resulted in me rolling out WAY too many sections of dough to use everything up.



But he had fun, and with Christmas music playing and family sitting around the table, I didn't even mind that my own child approached a task in a less than efficient manner. He also kept sneaking "tastes" of dough, so I was reassured that he got a few of my genes (even if those are the genes that will lead him to contracting salmonella).



After I baked too many trays of cookies, we kicked off the decorating. I made the frosting (powdered sugar with vanilla and enough milk to make it the right consistency- I like it to run when you hold up a spoon, but stay thick enough so you can draw patterns that will hold their shape) and poured it in cups with food coloring. We also had lots of spinkles and LOTS of red hots. They're my favorite.

Landon took his decorating very seriously.



After four cookies he declared himself "all done." He ate the head off a reindeer and then asked to save the rest of the cookie to bring to daycare today. When I tried to include the cookie in his lunch this morning, he asked if he could keep it out to show his teachers and friends at daycare. I said sure, and he carried it so carefully in its little plastic bag before bursting through his classroom door with, "Do you see my cookie?! I decorated it!!" He's so proud. I wonder if he'll even eat it or just want to keep showing it to people.



My mom was sick, so she only decorated the two cookies she was going to eat. My sister did about 10. JP did 4 and they took FOREVER. I threatened him with cookie decorating banishment. Landon did 4. This meant that I decorated way too many. They started out artsy and ended up with lots of multi-colored stripes. But even in a rush and after I was completely sick of frosting, I couldn't help putting red hots at appropriate places for each pattern and making sure my color choices made sense. It doesn't seem to be something I can help.



By the end of the day I was tired of looking at cookies, so my dessert consisted of curling up on the couch with a glass of red wine and reading a Nora Roberts book a friend lent me. I read until midnight and am completely disgusted with myself today, but it was so good. As I told JP when I finally crawled in bed, a good book just makes me giddy.



But tonight I'm looking forward to eating one (or three) of my beautiful cookies and going to bed early. Christmas is five days away and we're ready!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Merry Christmas, Merry Merry Christmas

I have the Trans-Siberian Orchestra soundtrack in my car. Song #3 starts out as God Rest You Merry Gentleman, but then at 1:52, it switches to "Merry Christmas, Merry Merry Christmas". It's Landon and my favorite song and I've listened to the section between 1:52-3:12 about 1100 times since the Friday after Thanksgiving. It just sums up exactly how I feel about the holidays - happy, booming, harmonious... it reminds me of wrapping presents and doing the dishes after dinner during advent when I was in high school. My mom always had that CD playing.

The other thing that just is Christmas to me is making my great-grandma's sugar cookies. We're doing the hard part tomorrow - the rolling and cutting, baking and decorating, but I thought I should get the dough made today.

And not just because I waned an extra 24 hours to eat the dough before it was baked.



Last Christmas I made these with the little hand mixer I got from my grandma when they moved to their retirement community and she got all excited about never having to cook again. The poor thing nearly shorted out with all the dough, so this year I was super excited to use my big sexy stand mixer. It was an improvement, but even that machine needed to take a break after all the mixing.



The triple batch may have been a bit much.

The dough is now in a mixing bowl, covered in cling wrap, and sitting in the fridge. One side of the bowl may or may not have lost all its clingyness because I keep pulling up the wrap to steal little bits of dough. It is dangerously delicious.

And speaking of dough (and deliciousness), the Biscuit has not been feeling well the last few days. She hasn't had a fever, but she's been fussy, waking up frequently at night, and even threw up once on Wednesday. We thought she might be getting better, but then last night she threw up ALL over me and then repeated the performance this morning (but this time, all over her dad- at least she's fair). After each incident she'd just sit there in your arms, covered in her foul smelling formula, looking at you like, "oh sigh, I suppose we'll have to get up then?" It was quietly pathetic and the blank stare was freaking me out.



So we headed to our pediatrician's Saturday clinic. Landon came along since JP had a swim lesson and he's had a stubborn cough himself. We were first in line and walked out with an antibiotic for Clairebear and a cough suppressant for Landon. After half a bottle of pedialyte, a dose of the omnicef, and several naps, Claire seemed almost back to her happy, smiley self.

Her brother is very relieved. Last week when his own fever broke, he overheard JP and I saying that he was doing better. His face lit up and the first thing he said was "I can touch Clairebear now?!"



Our house has over 2,500 square feet, but they always seem to share the same 24 square inches.

Merry Christmas Merry Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Merry and Bright, addendum and exhibits

My day of bouncy happiness came to a screeching halt at 5 pm when I got a call from daycare saying that Landon had a 102 fever and needed to be picked up. JP was coaching a swim lesson up North up until our champagne party (he was planning to meet me there), so I wrapped my work up as quickly as possible and hit the highway just in time for rush hour traffic. I know I'm spoiled when I feel road rage levels of frustration any time my commute takes longer than 15 minutes. By the time I picked up my little boy, he was flushed and snuggled in the lap of the front desk lady while she read him books. "He's just the sweetest thing," she said, as she handed him over to me. Landon immediately wrapped himself around my body like a monkey and asked to go home and go to bed. That was rather alarming. He never fights bedtime, but he doesn't request it either. I set him down in the hall to pick up Clairebear and found out that she had been fussy much of the day and had thrown up ALL over her teacher and play area an hour earlier. My post Nordstrom glow suddenly felt very weak and far away. I debated attending the champagne party at all, but my sister was going to be the sitter, and since JP and I were arriving in separate cars, one of us could come home right away if needed.

As it turns out, it didn't matter. Landon fell asleep on the couch 20 minutes before I left and stayed that way until 7:30 a.m. this morning. He didn't even wake up when JP moved him upstairs to his bed. Claire fell asleep 15 minutes after I left and stayed that way until 2 a.m. when she woke up crying out for some snuggles. My sister got to watch TV and we got to attend our party without feeling too guilty for abandoning our sick children.

In all the sick kid, solo parenting, pre-party craziness, I almost chickened out on the red dress and lipstick. I was already wearing a cute work outfit and didn't feel like changing, but then I thought about my blog post and both kids were quiet and/or asleep, so I went for it. Here are the results:




(standing up straight while holding a camera straight while angling it properly towards a mirror
is decidedly NOT a talent that I possess)


My lips are brought to you by Clinique's High Impact Lipstick in Red-y to Wear and Quickliner for Lips in Deep Red. I was talking to a co-worker during the cocktail hour of the party when she suddenly leaned in to me and said, "your eyes are really blue! did you get color contacts?" I still don't understand why red lips would make my eyes bright blue, but they definitely did - it was the first thing JP said when he saw me too. (Well, the first thing was something like, "um, wow, that's a different look for you." I probably should have warned him ahead of time about the red.)

It was a fun night of delicious food and rare and expensive champagne. I was sad I had to drive myself home because I had to limit myself to only one sampling size of each of the three varieties. They were all from our managing partner's personal wine collection (the partners pay for this event, not the firm or office) and wow, he has great taste. JP started feeling sick by the end of the evening, so I was up with Claire much of the night so he could rest. In exchange, I left him this morning with both kiddos- everyone was in pj's, snuggled on the couch watching Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer. I'm really hoping there is a miraculous recovery in the Lag Liv house because we're supposed to host my mom and grandparents on Sunday for the baking and decorating of the Christmas sugar cookies.

In other unrelated, but still very exciting news, my dad got to ring the opening bell for the New York Stock Exchange this morning! Landon and I watched it on TV and did lots of clapping for him. He's worked so hard for this company and it's so wonderful to see him recognized for everything he's done - he was the only non-VP and non-chief executive type employee invited to come and stand on the podium with the CEO! There's a big party tonight to celebrate the occasion, so my parents get to stay in NYC (in the Plaza Hotel! at Christmastime!) for another night. I'm not sure when it happens along the way of growing up, but at some point I started feeling a bit like my parents' parent and I get to feel so proud and happy for their successes. Yay dad!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Merry and Bright

I am in a ridiculously good mood today-- one of those bouncy happy moods that's making me unable to sit still and act like the grown-up lawyer I'm supposed to be (or supposedly, currently am). My jumpiness has extended to my writing because I don't even know where to begin, so I'd like to offer you a bullet point list of things that are making me smiley and squirmy right now:
  • I'm going to a party tonight.  It's the annual champagne tasting party that the head partner in my section hosts every year at his (gorgeous) house.  His wife does all the cooking (she's incredible) and our office managing partner selects the champagnes.  It's my favorite party of the year and my sister is babysitting the kids so JP gets to come!  There are people in my section who have never met him and I'm pretty sure they doubt his existence.  Yay for physical proof of my husband and for delicious champagne and gourmet food (and not being pregnant so I can partake in everything!).
  • I'm wearing a fabulous red dress to the party tonight.  I found it at Ross for $29.99 (pricey for Ross, so you know it's nice).  It's Calvin Klein, fits like a glove, and reminds me of Mad Men. 
  • The fabric and "fits like a glove"-edness of the red party dress left me concerned over the "I've had two children and one of them is only 6 months old" squishy tummy pouch thing I have going on in my midsection.  Luckily, I cleaned out our kitchen junk drawer, the only drawer in my house that exists without any organization because chaos must reign somewhere, and found a $100 Nordstrom gift card.  It must have been JP's, there's no way I had a gift card I wasn't acutely aware of and itching to spend, but he had no recollection of it either.  I took my gift card straight to the lingerie section of Nordstrom this morning, verified the amount available (apparently it was purchased in 2007) and came away with a magical belly smoothing band that was made by wizards. 
  • Thanks to my band of wizardry and magic I look like a size 2.  Well, not really, but I do look like someone who has not had two kids and does not love cookies and fun sized York peppermint patties as much as I do.  It is awesome.  It is comfortable.  I felt like I was glowing, even after I took it off, just because I knew what I could look like. 
  • Bouyed from my experience in the dressing room, I stopped at the Clinique counter to pick up bright red lipstick for my red party dress.  (This is not a normal pre-party warm-up for me. I've actually never bought anything at Nordstrom before, but I had this gift card that materialized out of thin air and I was determined not to be super practical about it.  I was going shopping and I was not going to obsess over prices and whether or not I could get that cheaper online or buried in the bursting racks at Ross.)  I don't own any lipstick and I rarely even remember to put on my lip gloss once I've left my house, even though it fades by the time I get to work, but I'd read that "everyone has a red" and I was going to find mine- and hope my belly band had given me the courage to wear it.
  • I found my red.  Oh my gosh you guys, it is so bright, but it is TRANSFORMING.  My eyes were 5 shades bluer, my teeth were whiter -- I was wearing a white t-shirt and jeans without any other make-up, so I expected to look like an undredressed clown, but my lips looked amazing.  That feeling has kind of faded, so I'm hoping I still have the guts to apply it tonight before JP and I leave, but I stared in the mirror the whole time I was paying for the lipstick (and matching lip liner, a must with red, apparently), completely transfixed by how blue my eyes looked. 
  • I got my hair cut for the first time since January.  It looks shiny and pretty and way better than I can ever manage to style it on my own.
  • These shoes, in silver leather, were sitting on my desk when I walked in my office at 1 pm (I also had an eye doctor appointment and bought all the kids' teachers' Christmas presents, it was a busy morning).  I ordered them just yesterday afternoon (god bless zappos); they are my Christmas present and are amazingly comfortable.  Also shiny.  For those like me who love to hear about whole outfits (the "Claudia" sections of the babysitter's club books always had me transfixed), I'm wearing a black and white diagonal striped top that is kind of clingy stretchy with an asymmetrical ruffle at the top, black dress pants, silver tear drop earrings, and my new silver shoes (formerly dark red peeptoe pumps). It may just be self-confidence carry-over from the belly band, red lipstick experience, but three different people have told me I look great today. Or it's magic. I'll turn back into a pumpkin tomorrow, but I feel different today and I'm savoring it.
  • Lastly, this morning Landon started to lose it when I was getting his jacket. Just as I opened my mouth to say something, he burst out with, "No, I will NOT pull it together."  It made me giggle then and it's making me giggle now.
Happy Wednesday everyone!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

RRA: Meeting 1

After the rousing success of my Romance Readers Anonymous post two weeks ago, I thought I'd do a series of occasional postings on what I'm reading and what you all suggested. For those who are not inclined to stay up until wee, bloodshot hours of the morning to find out how Lady Whoever is going to overcome X obstacle to marry the Earl of Blackacre, probably having really good sex either immediately before or after she becomes the Countess of Blackacre and then lives happily ever after with her husband who constantly tells her how much he loves her, well, you can skip the "RRA" posts. (Though you really shouldn't because most of the books, or at least most of the books that I like, go far beyond that basic plot line and are fun and witty and a fabulous way to spend an hour or two in the evening.)

After my last post, I made a list of authors you recommended who I hadn't read before.  Some are romance, some aren't, and I haven't had a chance to look up many of them, so I may have a few misspellings:
  • Georgette Heyer
  • Christopher Paolini (I've read his Eldest series, they're good, though not romance, and I don't think I've read the more recent ones)
  • Jean Auel - Clan of the Cave Bear (I read these many years ago, also good, I need to revisit)
  • Sophie Kinsella
  • Sarah Maclean
  • Marole Nelson Dougles
  • Erin McCartney
  • Susan Elizabeth Phillips
  • Rachel Gibson
  • Sabrina Jeffries
  • Olivia Parker
  • C.S. Harris
  • Nora Roberts (LOVE her Magic Circle series, I've read each book at least 6 times; her Sign of 7 series has also been recommended to me; I'm not big on her more current mystery type books- I read one about a serial killer stalking small children and had nightmares for weeks)
  • Sally MacKenzies
  • Jessica Verday
  • Adriana Trigiani
  • Eloisa James
  • Lisa Kleypas
  • Mary Balogh
  • Edith Layton
  • Mary Stewart
  • Judith McNaught
  • Julie Garwood (I love Ransom and the Secret, but haven't read many others)
  • Linda Howard
  • Karen Marie Morning (Fever and Highlander Series)
  • Gawen Gristow
  • Susan Higgnebotham
  • Liz Carlyle
  • Sherrilyn Kenyon
  • Sandra Brown
  • Jude Devereaux (I've read several of hers and have enjoyed them)
  • Anita Shreve
  • Stephanie Laurens
  • Suzanne Brockmann
  • Theresa Madeiros
  • Johanna Lindsay
  • Lauren Willis
Some of your recommendations that I have read, including a few extra of my own:
  • Philippa Gregory: loved The Other Boleyn Girl and The Constant Princess; her Wideacre series seriously turned me off from her
  • Percy Jackson series: awesome YA fun, like a mythology version of Harry Potter, though not quite as good (that's not an insult though, nothing is)
  • Twilight series: Ugh.  I can't figure out how I feel about these books.  The writing is terrible, Bella is the worst female heroine who ever served as the center of a series and the inexplicable focus of all male attention, and if Stephenie Meyer used the words "beautiful" "frozen" or "marble" to describe Edward one more time I was going to punch my book (also Edward is controlling and condescending and I hate it) -- and YET, I've read each book in that series 4 times.  I love the idea and hate the execution every time, but I'm not giving away the books because I know I'll read them again. 
  • Outlander/Diana Gabaldon books: go read them.  Also, read the Lord John books, or at least lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade because it adds a lot of backstory that is relevant to the most recent Outlander novel.
  • Sara Donati: her Wilderness series is awesome (starting with Into the Wilderness).  I found her because Diana Gabaldon recommended her on her website and the books did not disappoint.
  • True Blood: super fun series. I liked the books better than the HBO series, but I almost always do
  • Linda Lael Miller: this is purely for Cee, my cowboy romance afficionado- have you read these?  I picked up "Garrett" in a Walgreens when I was desperate for a book on vacation and had lots of fun reading it.  The fictional McKettrick ranch would be less than an hour from my house and reading about it makes me think of an entirely different life I could be leading.  Kind of like The Pioneer Woman, but with less homemade cooking.
  • Elizabeth Hoyt: picked up one of her Legend of the Four Soldiers series (To Seduce a Sinner, which is actually #2) at an airport during a long layover in October and really liked it.  I finished the series over that weekend and it kicked off my most recent spat of romance reading.
  • Julia Quinn Bridgerton series: solidly fun regency romance. Anthony's and Francesca's stories were my favorite, but I've read them all 2-3 times since I discovered the series in November (except Gregory and Hyacinth's stories, I haven't bought those yet and haven't felt a need for them).
  • Sharon Kay Penman: her Wales series is probably one of the best historical fiction series I've ever read.  Start with Here Be Dragons and keep going (I even linked it for you and I didn't do that with any others).  Someone asked me in the comments what book I'd recommend to someone who hadn't read romance before, and if you like historical fiction at all, I'd say this one.  A friend of mine who does not like romance but loves historical nonfiction said she LOVED this book and was surprised to see how much she cared about the romantic part of the story.  If you're a pure romance fan, I'll warn you that Penman is heavy on the history, but she does a fabulous job with it and her research helps tell the story rather than getting in the way of it.
Also, to the people who recommended Pixel of Ink facebook page and website, THANK YOU.  I'm also looking forward to checking out the paperback swap website, but I do love my kindle and I do re-read books a LOT, so I love having my own copy.  Thanks to Pixel of Ink I found Kathryne Kennedy- her Fire Lord's Lover and Enchanting the Lady were both free.  They're paranormal/magic romance, which is not my usual genre, but I loved both books and immediately got the next two in the Relics of Merlin series.  I read all four books in four days, so they're fast reads (they're set in Victorian England and the premise is that titles are given based on magical ability, not birth/wealth; other than the date and relatively accurate descriptions of London, they have zero anchor in history, they're pure fun).  JP gets super annoyed at how quickly I read books.  He's been working on some non-fiction tome for months, but I always tell him that if he read something with witty dialogue, dramatic fake situations, and great sex, instead of a book about a dead person where you already know the ending, he'd read faster too.  He is not convinced, but I think he's just being stubborn.

Future posts won't be this long, I'll just sum up a few you recommended, with my own comments if I've read them since the previous post, and add any other good books I've read in the meantime.  I'm not sure if it's a support group meeting or more like a convention where we revel in the fact that we like books with ridiculous titles, but I'm leaning more towards the latter.  I loved this article from the New York Times and one commentor's statement that readers of romance tend to have more romantic marriages.  I have nothing to back that up, but I'm repeating it anyway because I like it and I'm pretty sure JP can always tell what kind of book I'm reading (and only in part because I suddenly want him to tell me he loves me way more often). 

So thanks again for your previous comments, my Amazon wish list is now super long and I'm really hoping Santa is planning to put an kindle e-book gift card in my stocking.  Happy reading everyone!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

6 Months (and 1 week)

Dear Claire/Biscuit,



You turned 6 months old a week ago, and while I can't believe time has gone by so fast, I also can't believe we've only known you for half a year. You're such a part of our little family, how can it be that you weren't here smiling at us last Christmastime?



Your 6-month check-up went very well. You gave everyone at the doctor's office your usual round of smiles and you wowed Dr. P with your sitting and baby push-up skills. You've thinned out a teensy bit, at least according to your growth chart stats, but you still look marvelously biscuit-y to me! You're in the 90th percentile for height (27" long, or 2' 3" tall), the 75th for weight (17 lbs. 14 ozs), and your head is off the charts.



Clairebear, you just kill me. There's so many things I want to say to you, but mostly I just flip through your pictures and want to go wake you up and bring you back downstairs so I can snuggle with you and watch you smile.



You have so many smiles, most of them big and all of them fabulous.



YOU are fabulous Claire. Your daddy and I joke all the time that we always knew we wanted children, and we now know we like toddlers an awful lot, but we had no idea how much we liked babies. You are so fun and so easy and you give us so much. Your brother thinks so too. This is what I found last Saturday morning when I went to get you out of your crib:



We heard you making your little wake up noises, and started discussing who's turn it was to go get you, but then we heard your brother go in your room. He does that sometimes. He sings and dances for you, and sometimes even reads you books, and your daddy and I just lay in our bed downstairs and listen to the two of you laughing through the monitor. It is quite simply the best way to spend your first few waking minutes in the morning. After listening for a little while, I headed upstairs. But when I cracked open your door, I had to run downstairs to grab my camera. Your brother was holding up his color flashcards and saying, "and this is a RED APPLE."



He loves you so very much Claire. He calls you "my baby" (or more often, "my biscuit") and he comes to visit you every day in your class at daycare. You two are quite famous at our little neighborhood center. He goes on walks with you around the playground, and if his preschool class is on the section of the playground next to your room, your teachers put you in your bumpo so you can watch him out the window. He does dances for you and shows you his treasures (lately, giant acorns). He is very proud of you and loves to introduce you to people around us in stores. He likes to tell you to eat your food so you can be a big kid like him and he likes to tell your daddy and me things that you want in case we can't figure it out for ourselves.



As for you, you love pretty much everything. Any smiling face, any eye contact, any friendly sound. You love to squawk and squeal and we have long conversations with you at dinner. You chew on EVERYTHING, but your favorite things are your brother's old squeaky blocks and the figures from our new nativity set. The camel is especially delicious.



You also love your baths and eating peas. Peas are your very favorite thing in the whole world and you quite literally dive into the spoon when you're eating them. You love when we hold you and spin around in circles. You love to be tickled. You love anything that involves your big brother. Your adore your daddy- even hearing the word "daddy" makes your hands flap and your ever-present smile grow bigger. Really, you love being part of our family -- dinners, errands, reading stories, walks, car rides- you're just a happy girl.



You have every single one of us wrapped around your little finger and you don't even abuse the privilege. I can't tell you how healing the last 6 months have been for your daddy and me, Claire. To have you- so easy and happy, with so few tears and so much sleeping- it's healed us in places we didn't realize were still broken.

I'm sitting on our couch right now, looking at our four stocking hanging above the fireplace and I just don't think I've ever been happier in my life. We love you Clairebear.



Love,
mama