Friday, January 2, 2015

Favorite books of 2014

I absolutely love reading friends' book recommendations (goodreads is awesome! add me as a friend!), so I can't help recommending a few myself.

I used to think I didn't enjoy non-fiction, but I think I had just been reading the wrong stuff! I am allll about the non-fiction now, as you'll see in my list below.

Here are the best books I read in 2014:

Thank You For Your Service by David Finkel

This is one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read. It is so emotional, powerful, important, and eye-opening. It follows the post-war lives of several wounded (physically, emotionally, or both) veterans.

The Good Soldiers by David Finkel 

By the same author as Thank You For Your Service, this book was equally as amazing. So well-written. How is it possible to write a non-fiction book about war in such beautiful prose? David Finkel's writing astounds me. Be warned, though - the f word is used at least a hundred times.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Probably the best YA novel I've read in years, if not in my lifetime. I'm sure everyone has heard of this by now. The movie was great, too, but I loved Augustus so much more in the book. Hazel, too.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

This was wonderful historical fiction about 2 of the first female abolitionists (the Grimke sisters) and their family's slaves. I just adore Sue Monk Kidd's writing. (If you haven't read The Secret Life of Bees, check that one out, too. That was one of my favorites in 2013.)

Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor

I loved that this trilogy felt so different from any other I've read! It was so fun!

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout

An incredible account of a young journalist who was kidnapped and held hostage for 15 months by Islamic extremists in Somalia. There is certainly a heavy dose of brutality, but people who are squeamish will appreciate that most of it is not described in detail. You learn more about the author's emotional reaction to her torture than you do the torture itself. Sure sounds like a downer, but it's actually kind of amazing. And she lives to tell the tale and even does charity work in Somalia now.

[I almost left these next 2 off, but I think that's only because I read them early in 2014 and I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed them.]

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

This book wasn't perfect (the last third dragged for me) but it was just so darn interesting I have to include it. This young journalist seemed fine one day, then woke up in the hospital completely psychotic. She had hallucinations, couldn't move or speak and didn't remember anything from the prior month. When doctors can't figure out the cause of her sudden demise, they chalk it up to mental illness. Eventually a doctor discovers the cause and she recovers enough to write the book.

Breaking Night by Liz Murray

Similar to The Glass Castle (one of my all-time favorites!) but without all the swearing, this is a great memoir. The tagline is something like "From Homeless to Harvard." Girl grows up with drug-addicted parents, ends up homeless at 13 in NYC. Pretty incredible stories.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

In Which Libby Dresses as an Oven

Starting sometime this summer, Libby began requesting to be an oven for Halloween. When I'd tell people this, they'd universally say, "a what?" Yes, an oven. I don't know where she got the idea, but I kind of loved it because a) I could make it out of a cardboard box and wouldn't have to buy anything and b) she could wear a jacket underneath it. I've had all sorts of great ideas for Halloween costumes for my kids (like last year I reeeeally wanted Piper to be a Treasure Troll) but it's just too cold here on Halloween. Jackets are a must.

We decided to stick with the baking theme and dress Piper as a chocolate chip cookie because again, I could make it out of cardboard and she could wear a jacket. Both of them had a little trouble putting candy in their buckets. People were nice enough to hold out their bowl and let the kids choose what they wanted, but then they couldn't reach their hand across their bulky costumes to drop it in their bucket. Piper wised up and realized she could reach her hand under her cookie, so that worked for her. Libby was just out of luck with her short arms, so we had to help. 

We went to a church Halloween party on Wednesday and then trick-or-treated on Thursday, which wasn't really Halloween and wasn't really called trick-or-treating. Des Moines is weird. Back in the 50s or something, some mom decided that there was too much vandalism going on on Halloween night, so she got her neighborhood to do their candy collecting the night before. Eventually it spread to the entire metro area and it's still going strong. They call it Beggar's Night and kids are supposed to tell a joke or riddle to get their candy. I could go on and on about how little sense this all makes. First of all, Des Moines is pretty tame and most of the "vandalism" involves toilet papering trees and smashing pumpkins. And having Beggar's Night on the 30th and Halloween on the 31st now leaves two nights open to pranksters. My neighbor who is a cop said they get more calls about vandalism on the 30th than the 31st. So...what did that accomplish? But I digress...

Maybe when my kids are older, they will think it's fun to come up with jokes to tell. But this year, it was an accomplishment for them to remember (and be brave enough) to say "trick or treat" and "thank you."

Yeah, she's trick-or-treating with an Easter basket. So what?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Piper is 2

Little Piper turned 2 on October 16.

She loves Libby, dogs, stuffed animals and baby dolls, books, candy, meowing like a cat, looking at pictures of herself, helping in the kitchen, eating, coloring, "Mommy milk," Jared's iphone, and copying whatever Libby does. She can turn nearly any object into a "baby" to take care of - scraps of toast, blocks, dinosaurs, etc. When she's playing alone, she's often tucking a baby into a blanket and saying things like "go sleep? come 'ere. I love you."

She can sing the ABCs and can sort of count to 10. She loves Primary songs, especially the one called Baptism that goes "Jesus came to John the Baptist..." She calls it the Jesus song and whenever it comes on (we listen to the CD in the car), she yells "turn it up, please!"

On her birthday, I took the girls to a pumpkin patch and then we came home and had birthday brownies.

It was a beautiful day, perfect for celebrating this beautiful girl.

Have there ever been two girls who have loved each other so much? Piper is so crazy about her sister that she is even starting to favor Libby over me. If she gets hurt or upset, she will just as soon ask for Libby as she will for Mom. For the past several months, I have been asked at least once a week if they are twins. While Libby is 2 years older and a head taller, I can only guess that people are sensing the closeness between these two. They are practically each others shadow.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Libby is 4

As I write this, Libby is in the bathtub with Piper singing songs and giggling like crazy, which is a pretty good representation of her personality at this point. She is way more right-brained than either Jared or I am, which is awesome. She loves music and has been able to carry a tune since she was 2. (Most people wouldn't know it though, because she is pretty much silent during singing time at church.) She often takes familiar tunes and makes up her own words. She loves to draw, too. I find little drawings on scraps of paper all over the house. I love to ask her what they are because I get some really creative responses.

Libby loves to read books and she is getting interested in learning to read. We recently read Little House in the Big Woods, reading about one chapter a night at bedtime. That was the first chapter book we've read together and she really liked it, even though she kept wanting to skip to the pages with pictures. It was fun to read that together, especially since the Little House books were some of my favorites as a kid and the ones that really got me hooked on reading.

We invited a few friends over on Libby's birthday. She was super excited to play with friends and have cake and ice cream, but she tried to hide under the table when we sang Happy Birthday to her. She doesn't like being in the spotlight, but I don't blame her.
 Love my little Libby!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Babywearing babies

I was looking through pictures tonight and came across these 2 photos from October 2013 that I hardly remembered and they gave me a chuckle!

When I was pregnant with Piper and ordered a wrap baby carrier, I also ordered a matching wrap for Libby to carry her baby doll in. She wore it a few times here and there, but never really loved it. I think it was too difficult for her to get her baby in and out when she wanted.

But I love the picture of her carrying her animals on both front and back!

And Piper couldn't be left out...

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Heritage Carousel

The suburb where we live, just outside of Des Moines is a nice place. Safe neighborhoods, good schools. But when it comes to things to do and places to go, Des Moines is the place. I don't know if this is true everywhere, but here it seems like the suburban towns like to place a play structure in an open field and call it a park. No trees, no shade. But there are some great Des Moines parks, like this one we went to today. There is a great wading pool, which Piper dives headfirst into, despite the posted "NO DIVING" signs. You'd think she couldn't read or something.

And then there's a new-but-feels-old-timey carousel that only costs 50 cents a ride. The kids love it! I should have caught Piper's squeals on camera when she first saw it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Piper - 22 months (and pictures of Libby, too)

Just in the past few weeks, I've had a handful of strangers ask me if my girls are twins. Usually, they only have to take a second glance to realize,, one is bigger. But I have to admit, there have been a few times when I've quickly scanned the backyard trying to find where they ran off to and at first glance, I couldn't tell who was who. Piper is certainly catching up to Libby in size. They wear nearly the same shoe size and often share clothes.

They also sound quite a bit alike and now that Piper's speaking is becoming clearer, I can't always tell who is calling me (or, for that matter, who is screaming and/or crying). Piper is speaking a few complete sentences.

Look, Mom!

I did it, Mom!

C'mon, Libby!

I got it, Libby.

Libby hurt me.

Piper loves music. "Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam" was by far her favorite for a few weeks, but she's willing to let a few others rotate in now.

When she claps her hands together and says "topcorn" it means she wants to sing "Popcorn popping on the apricot tree."

When she goes to the keyboard and says "tinkle star" it means she wants to listen to "Twinkle twinkle little star."

"Roni" (as in macaroni) means she wants to listen to "Yankee Doodle."

When she waves her arms back and forth and says "fast" it means she wants to sing "Do as I'm Doing." 

Piper is Libby's little copycat. Libby found this tree to climb in (outside the mall) last week and Piper had to get it on the action, too. 

Love those girls of mine!