Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Reading, Watching, Listening

In case you've been wondering why my blog posts are so sporadic and infrequent, it's because I've been reading A LOT.  I get so excited when I have a bunch of books lined up on my bedside table screaming for my attention.  


Of everything I've read lately, my favorite two books are Clara's War and Simple Living: One Couple's Search for a Better Life. 

Clara's War is Clara Kramer's Holocaust survival story.  She survived the war with her parents by living in a bunker under the house of her family's prior housekeeper (it was actually a Jewish home/house that was given to the housekeeper's family after the Jews were kicked out).  Clara lived in that bunker for almost TWO YEARS.  It was so small that not one of its occupants could even stand up straight.  At the most, there were EIGHTEEN people living in this bunker.  For me, the most amazing part of this story is that two young children lived in the bunker with them for most of the time. I cannot even imagine and it is truly a miracle that they all survived. At different times, there were Nazi and SS soldiers/agents living in the house above them.  It is one of the most gripping stories I've ever read and I am so happy I decided to read this book. (I'd decided some time ago to stop reading Holocaust books because I've read so many in my lifetime.  I felt inclined to read this one because my daughter is also named Clara.)  After reading the book I had to GOOGLE around to see if Clara is still alive. It appears she may be because I can't find anything to the contrary.  While researching, I came across this video of Clara and I just had to share it!  She is so precious and I, for one, am just so happy that she survived to tell this remarkable story.  

I am now reading Simple Living: One Couple's Search for a Better Life.  This book was published in 1992, long before the Simple Living movement came into being. It's one couple's attempt to simplify their life when they moved to an orchard in Virginia (that just happens to be near my hometown!).  I'm almost finished this book and feel like I might be inclined to write more when I'm done.  A lot of what was written in this book just speaks to me!  If the idea of living more simply appeals to you, you should seriously consider reading this book!!!  I originally heard about this book on Rhonda's blog (a daily read for me!).  


Alain and I watched ZERO DARK THIRTY last weekend. FINALLY!  I'd been wanting to see it for so long!  Wow.  I learned a thing or two and, of course, certain scenes were hard to watch, but I am in AWE of agents who do this type of work. In awe and so thankful.  Great movie if you're looking for something good to watch.  We rented it from RedBox.  


I'm really into the more rustic, folk-sounding bands that are popular now.  Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers, Imagine Dragons.  I listen to them when I can and turn up the radio FOR SURE when one of their songs comes on.  Very trendy and not too original but it is what it is!  Every once in a while they do play something good on the radio. This one is definitely a favorite:

I also had the pleasure of seeing PINK in concert last weekend.  Oh my!  It kind of blew my mind.  I am so thankful my friend talked me into it.  It certainly didn't disappoint and I look forward to the next time I can see her show!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

For The Love of Harry!

Those of you who have been around for a while are familiar with Harry.

He's very active these days.  Singing. Fluttering around. I can't look out a back window without seeing him. One day I reached for the camera and took these two photos of Harry from my kitchen sink window.  And I had to share them because, well, I just love Harry.  He makes me so happy!

PS ~ I've often written about Harry and how Sophie calls him my friend.  Over the years, when we saw Harry away from home, Sophie would get really excited.  She'd often say, "Mommy, there's your friend" and I'd reply that Harry likes to follow us when we go places.  I always wondered how long she would truly believe this.  Earlier this week, we saw a cardinal while we were sitting in the carpool line, dropping Sophie off at school.  Soph screamed out, "Mommy, there's Harry, in that tree over there."  When I saw him, I smiled and said to both girls, "Harry is such a sweet guy.  He followed us to school to make sure we arrived okay."  I wish you could have seen the look Sophie gave me.  She had a twinkle in her eye and a mischievous little smile on her face.  It was TOTALLY clear that she now knows and she's carrying on this little secret so her little sister can also experience a little bit of Harry's magic!!!!!  

Capturing Motherhood in a Photo

This is Hubbell's water bowl.

If you're asking yourself which of my children would have done such a thing, well, you probably don't know Clara very well.

Enough said.

A Special Guest

Last weekend Alain and Sophie went out to run some errands and spend some time together.  Shortly after they left, Clara went down for her nap.  I made a chai, sat down in my chair and started to read and answer some emails.  The weather outside was really beautiful and I had put the birds out on the deck (oh, how they do love to be outside!).  As I was typing away, I heard some fluttering going on....but that's the norm around here and I hardly notice it any more.  BUT, suddenly, I realized there shouldn't be any fluttering because our birds were in their locked cage out on the deck.  I knew immediately what had happened.  I had the backdoor propped open to let in some fresh air.  One of our resident birds had obviously flown right into the house.  So I slowly tiptoed to the kitchen.  No bird.  I peeked around the corner to the dining room and spotted the little booger immediately. I ran to get my camera.  As the feathery cutie flew from spot to spot, I took a few shots.

I was clearly stressing this cutie out so I went to fold a load of laundry. My back was to the dining room.  It didn't take long but I heard the swoosh of wings as he flew by me and right back out the door!

It was so much fun while it lasted!!!!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Great Blue Heron Rookery

We are so very lucky!

Not far from home, there is a Great Blue Heron rookery.

These photos were taken last weekend.

We just pulled over on the side of the road and started snapping some shots.

Seriously. how lucky are we?

(One day I will have a better camera and will spend significant amounts of time there!  Will share!)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

When Sophie is 100....

A few weeks ago, Sophie's class celebrated the 100th day of school.  They had all kinds of special events planned, including a big party.  I volunteer in Soph's class every Tuesday.  That week, on the way in, I stopped at the bulletin board outside the classroom.  In line with the 100 Day Celebration, they did an art project where each child drew his or her self as they are now and as they imagine they will look at 100.  Since they're really working on writing they also had to write about being 100.  My eyes searched all of the drawings until I found my Sophie's (the most colorful one, of course!):


When I am 100 years old, I think I will....
be living in a nursing home.
My Mom and Dad are coming.
I am going to play games.
I like being 100.

Don't you know that I busted out in tears right there in the hallway!?!?!  I had to dig tissues out of  my purse and try to pull myself together before I entered the class.  I cried again when Alain got home that night and I told him about it.  I still get teary every time I see this......even when I took the pictures.  It's VERY hard to think about my baby having her own life and I am long gone.  What really slays me is that the thought hasn't yet entered Sophie's mind that one day we won't be in her life. Heart breaking.

The tears are coming again now.  I can't even help myself. This is the beautiful heartbreak of parenthood.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Reading, Watching, Listening

Wow, I hardly know where to begin with this post.  Somehow I made it through last week with two girls sick with the stomach flu.  I myself became sick on Saturday and it lasted through Monday.  Monday was one of the longest days of my life. I was so severely nauseous that I just lay on the floor for most of the day with Clara crawling all over me.  I may have cried once or twice....out of pure self pity.  But I didn't come here today to wax nostalgic over last week's misery. No, no. I want to forget it ever happened. 


I am here today to talk to you about some amazingly GREAT books!!!!! 

On January 28th, the American Library Association released it's book/literary awards for 2013.  Well, you know I'm all over that.  I immediately put in all of my HOLD requests at the library for the winning books.  This year I decided to also read the young adult books selections.  Well, I am SO GLAD I did. 

Last week two of my hold requests came in.  The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate  and BOMB by Steve Sheinkin.  

I read The One and Only Ivan first. Mainly because I am such an animal lover and all I knew about the book was that it was about a gorilla.  

Cover of The One and Only Ivan

Before I speak about this book, there are a few things you should know about me:

1.) I adore and am forever fascinated by apes.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE them.  
2.) Even as a young child, when my parents would take me to visit The National Zoo in Washington, DC, I always secretly wished I could sit in the Great Ape House all day to watch the gorillas (in their sad, bland, cement cages ~ I can hardly imagine anything more depressing!). 
3.) A number of years ago, when I did my volunteer work and research at The North Carolina Zoo, I used to spend the last half an hour before the zoo closed, sitting alone by the glass of the gorilla exhibit (in much nicer, grassy, spacious quarters ~ still depressing but WORLDS improved from those National Zoo cages). Every once in a while, I'd experience a connection with one of the females.  It moved my heart. 
4.) I studied primatology in the early 2000's.  
5.) Jane Goodall has always been an idol of mine. 

I read this book in one sitting.  It was that good.  A fast read too.  Alain was sleeping next to me. And, at a certain point in the story, I collapsed into sobs.  The story was just that touching to me and so beautiful.  Katherine Applegate wrote this book for someone just like me.  I was her perfect audience.  I can't even recall the last time a book moved me that much.  If you have a spare few hours, do yourself a favor and read this lovely, touching story.  I don't want to tell you anymore about the story because I feel that it's best to go blindly into a book.

Only after finishing the book did I learn that it was inspired by a real gorilla named Ivan who just happens to reside at the Atlanta Zoo.  

Ivan at Zoo Atlanta

{Photo of Ivan by Tammy Jo Dallas}

Yes, I totally foresee a trip there in the near future to observe the lovely beast who inspired Katherine to pen a true masterpiece.  I also plan to buy a hard copy of this book to keep in our private collection.  My girls NEED to read it when they get older!  

Ok, moving on.  BOMB.  

Where do I begin with BOMB?

Of course I grew up knowing a good deal about atomic bombs, the history behind the making, the race for the US to develop the bomb first, blah, blah, blah.  To be honest, I learned what I HAD to learn and I left it at that.  I don't like anything having to do with warfare, violence, killing of innocent lives, etc.  I debated hard whether or not to actually read the book.  But it just kept coming up in book blogs, reviews, awards.  I caved because I figured a book with worthy of that much decoration had to be something special.  I was right!!!!

I think, in life, sometimes all it takes is someone putting history in the right words.  Steve Sheinkin did that for me.  I owe him a huge thanks!

I read this book in one day.  It literally pained me to have to put it down.  I knew a lot of what I was reading but I found it infinitely more interesting.  I suddenly had this strong desire to learn more, research more.....I guess you could say I was hungry for the facts.  Poor Alain.....for the past few days, I can speak of little else.  He was a History and International Affairs double major so, of course, this is old hat for him.  He finds it quite funny that "a kid's book" is what finally peaked my interest in the subject.  I never was good at writing book reviews but, if you want a nice little summary of the book, visit here.  Janssen used to be a librarian and she's much better at writing up books!  She's actually one of the people who made me cave and finally read the book.  So, so glad!

I am currently reading Empty Without You: The Intimate Letters of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok.   I've always admired Eleanor and yet I am floored after reading this book just how little I really know about her life.  Floored.

I love when I have so many good books to read.....all in a row!


After reading BOMB, Alain was a good sport and watched a short documentary with me on Monday night. I don't want to mention it here because, like I said, it was short and I felt frustrated that it didn't go into more depth and detail.  This morning, because Clara woke me at the crack of dawn (Ggggrrrrr!), I started watching Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie.  Ever seen it? 

This movie starts off with the Trinity testing and then goes on for almost two hours showing footage from the 331 atomic tests the US conducted in the late 40's and all through the 50's.  With each test, I became more and more sick and disgusted.  I turned it off at around 1956.  You see, this is why I didn't want to read BOMB in the beginning.  I will never understand man's need to destroy.  The amount of life, land, water, etc that was destroyed during all of this testing is more than mind boggling to me.  I now feel sad and worried for this country and the world.  My interest in the atomic bomb and it's long, full history is now abated.

If you can recommend something happy, peaceful, relaxing, beautiful to watch, please pass it my way.


I recently discovered The Imagine Dragons. They have a song on the radio (below) and Sophie finds me singing it ALL THE TIME.  I never knew who sang the song ~ I only knew it stuck in my head.  Once I started looking up music of The Imagine Dragons, I realized they were the artists. Give it a listen ~ you just might like it too!!!

Ironically, one of their big hits is a song called RADIOACTIVE. And the setting of that video above looks like nuclear fallout to me! How crazy weird is that?
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