Half a Year of Reading

So here's my plan: every so often (monthly, quarterly, semi-yearly, or something like that) I'll post the books I've read followed by a rating system.

The first number is my enjoyment level; 0 being I hated it, 5 being I loved it.

The next number is my cleanliness rating. I know that different people have different standards of what they like/are willing to read, so this is my attempt to communicate that. 0 would be safe for anyone: no swearing, sensuality, limited violence etc. 5 would be more along the lines of a PG13 rating. This is to the best of my memory, and sex and language would get a higher rating than violence for me, because of where my comfort level is.

The third number is my attempt at guessing what age level would be appropriate. 0 would be your basic picture book, enjoyable at all ages, 3 maybe middle school, 5 adult level. Some of this is subject matter, some reading level. Like the other numbers, it is completely subjective.

So here's the 64 books I read during the first half of 2009. (This does not include duplicates for the obvious reason--if you count them, I read 68.) If you have any questions, or want details on a rating, feel free to comment or email me.

Skipping Christmas, by John Grisham: 4.1.3
Antigone, par Jean Anouilh: 4.2.4 (you must be able to read in French...)
The Paradox of Choice, by Barry Schwartz: 4.0.4
Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow: 4.5.4

The Little Lady Agency, by Hester Brown: 5.3.4
Little Lady, Big Apple, by Hester Browne: 5.3.4

Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell: 3.0.4
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins: 5.2.4
How to Take the Ex out of Ex-boyfriend, by Janette Rallison: 5.0.3
Hate That Cat, by Sharon Creech: 4.0.2
Wives and Daughters, by Elizabeth Gaskell: 5.0.4
Fame, Glory, and Other Things on My To-Do List, by Janette Rallison: 5.0.3
Playing the Field, by Janette Rallison: 4.0.2
Just One Wish, by Janette Rallison: 5.0.3
It's a Mall World After All, by Janette Rallison: 5.0.3

Keeping the Moon, by Sarah Dessen: 3.3.4
Bloom, by Elizabeth Scott: 3.5.4
Confessions of a Shopaholic, by Sophie Kinsella: 4.4.4
Dreamland, by Sarah Dessen: 4.4.4
Confessions of Georgia Nicolson (1-9), by Louise Rennison: 4.4.3
All's Fair in Love, War and High School, by Janette Rallison: 5.0.3
The Truth about Forever, by Sarah Dessen: 5.3.3
Perfect You, by Elizabeth Scott: 2.5.4
Just Listen, by Sarah Dessen: 5.4.4
Stealing Heaven, by Elizabeth Scott: 4.4.4
What the Doctor Ordered, by Sierra St. James (aka Janette Rallison): 5.0.4
Life, Love and the Pursuit of Free Throws, by Janette Rallison: 5.0.3
Lock and Key, by Sarah Dessen: 4.4.4
Time Riders by Sierra St. James: 4.0.4
This Lullaby, by Sarah Dessen: 3.5.4
That Summer, by Sarah Dessen: 3.3.3
Someone Like You, by Sarah Dessen: 3.4.4
Revenge of the Cheerleaders, by Janette Rallison: 5.0.3


Graceling, by Kristin Cashore: 5.3.4
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart: 5.3.3
The City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau: 5.0.2
Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta: 5.4.4
Ten Cents a Dance, by Christine Fletcher: 5.4.4
Taken By Storm, by Angela Morrison: 4.4.4
The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown: 4.4.5
The People of Sparks, by Jeanne DuPrau: 4.0.2
Masquerade, by Sierra St. James: 5.0.4
Trial of the Heart, by Sierra St. James: 5.0.4
The Spiderwick Chronicles (1-5), by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black: 5.0.2
The Prophet of Yonwood, by Jeanne DuPrau: 3.0.2


The Diamond of Darkhold, by Jeanne DuPrau: 4.0.2
Impossible, by Nancy Werlin: 5.4.4
City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare: 5.3.3
Wings, by Aprilynne Pike: 5.1.3
Hattie Big Sky, by Kirby Larson: 4.0.3
Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown: 4.5.5
The Princess and the Hound: 4.0.3


Odd habit

I have a confession.

I am a closet photoshopper.

{Actually, I use iphoto and/or Photo Studio, but that's not the point.}

The point is that I see pictures on blogs, facebook, myfamily, etc., and have an irresistable urge to mess with them. This is not to say that the pictures are bad, or even NEED fixing, but I like to play with them and make them brighter, more vivid, or just remove that haze that seems to permate much of digital photgraphy.

Sometimes I share my edits with the original owner, but much of the time I do it solely for my own benefit, just to see if I can.

I know, I'm a nerd.

I do it to my own pictures as well, but that doesn't seem as bizarre.

The thing is, I'm not really that skilled using either program, and I'm sure most of you could do a much better job editing pictures. But, somehow, I can't help myself.

Here's a couple of before and afters of my obsession:

{Oops, that one's backwards... it's an after and before picture.}


My favorite sister

I guess that I have failed to mentioned that for a few brief months, my dreams have come true.
My sister and her family are living in the state of Washington. We have yet to live in the same state since her marriage six years ago. They've lived in Utah, DC, Utah, Chicago, Utah, Michigan, Utah, Michigan, and finally, here (did I miss any, Sarah?). It is, unfortunately, temporary, as they are in transition from grad school in Michigan to work in Okinawa. However, I take what I can get, and have been at my parents (where they are staying) at least once a week, if not more often.

For those who are unfortunate enough not to know my sister, let me give a brief intro to her family. Sarah is just under two years older than me. We shared a room growing up, and mostly loved it. I know that sisters are supposed to fight, but I don't remember fighting with her at all. Mostly we were best friends. Or friendsters.
She married Zach a year before I married Tom, and they had their first, Alyson, five months before Ella was born. (They've been best friends since they were born--they had no choice!)
Josh, their second, arrived 5 months before Rico-man, and two weeks after Louie was born, they welcomed Elijah. And the cousins get along great. Add to that the fact that just recently they have opened their arms and home to their three year old nephew, Isaiah, and it gets pretty crazy with seven kids under five in the same house (when I'm there with my three.)But it has been heaven. Zach will be leaving in July for some Navy-something-or-other, but Sarah and the kids will be here through the summer. I'm pretty much ecstatic about it. And that's an understatement.


To grow out, or to maintain?

That is the current question on my mind.

I LOVE having short hair. But I also enjoy long hair, and playing with it and experimenting with new and different hair-dos.

Maintaining requires regular trims at 20(ish) bucks a pop, but since that's every other month or so, it's really not that bad. Mostly it means I actually have to make an appointment and go get it done.

Growing out requires the obligatory awkward "in between" stage. But it is cheaper, since I'm lame and never get it trimmed.

What 's your vote?


A first

As I was typing my last post, Rico came dancing into the room:

"I need to go potty on the toilet!"

Well then.

I promptly abandoned the computer and helped him onto the toilet, where he proceeded to go

Way to go, Rico!

Here's to many more trips to the bathroom, and many less diapers!


To gmail, that is.

When I first got married, I wanted to set up a gmail account, but you had to have a cell phone, and get a text to verify the account etc., etc., and I didn't have one, so I set up a hotmail account instead.

And it got the job done.

When I started blogging a year and a half (or so) ago (wow, has it really been that long?!) I obviously opened a google account. I soon added reader, and even use google calendar, docs and groups with my new calling. I played around with igoogle, but don't use it so much. But I wasn't ready to go through the switch to gmail.

My first blog had a first-name-last-name address. I quickly decided that I would prefer to leave out the last name, but my email address (which you could access on my profile) was still first-name-middle-initial-last-name, so there wasn't' much of a point. But I changed it anyway.

I've read and heard many good things about gmail, but it wasn't until I read this post on Janssen's blog that I finally decided it was time to make the switch. Even though the system is not perfect, it is better than broadcasting my full name to the internet in it's entirety.

So I now have two brand-spankin-new email addresses that deliver to the self-same inbox, and am loving all the fun features.

For those whom I know and love, you can email me at janelle.middleinitial.lastname at gmail.com, and those who I don't know can find my email on my profile (which you can get to by clicking on my picture above).


Good News!

It seems like I live at the doctor's office. Or that time is measured in how long since we've been to the doctor, and when we're going again.

Last week, I took sweet little Lou to the ophthalmologist. Why, you ask, does a baby need to see an eye doctor?

The answer is because her pupils are two different sizes most of the time. However, according to the MD, it's a physiologic anisocoria that is totally benign and not to be worried about.


Today, it was the cardiologist's turn.

To start with, she gained 2 1/2 lbs this past month!

After listening to her heart the doc said that the murmur had a higher pitch than last month, which could indicate a smaller hole. This was supported by the ultrasound which showed that tissue is making an effort to grow in the hole, and the velocity of the blood flowing through the defect is higher, also indicative of a smaller hole.

We'll check back in a couple of months, and if such progress continues, she may not need surgery after all.

Thank you everyone for your continued prayers!


Lake Wenatchee State Park

Last weekend Tom took Friday off and we headed up to do some camping at Lake Wenatchee State Park. We'd never been there, but we had a blast! I didn't take a lot of pictures, but I got a few. You'll notice that there are none of me, because as cute as my hair can be, it does best if it sees a blow dryer every day, and when I camp. . . Let's just say it ain't purty!

We had a great campsite, lots of trees.

We played, made s'mores, and ate sandwiches.

We played at the beach.
This one is for you, Mom.


Book recommendations

I don't know how many of you pay attention to my "Recent Reads" sidebar, but I'm having a bit of an internal dilemma about it. While I don't mind doing the occasional book review on books I loved, I would hate for someone to read a book from there when I didn't even like it (rare), or thought it was just okay when there are so many good ones. I tried signing up for goodreads, but not everyone is on there, and I'm terrible at updating one more thing, so I'm trying to come up with a good, quick system to let you know what I thought of the books on my list without a full-fledged review of each one. Any suggestions? A quarterly update? A rating (out of 5 or something) after the title on my list? Do you even care?

While we're on the topic, I would just like to put in a plug for Wings by Aprilynne Pike and City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. Hello, good books! They are both the first in multi-book series (how do you pluralize that word?), though I will make a disclaimer that Wings is the only one out so far, so if you're not the patient type, wait a few years! :)

I think one problem that I have with writing reviews often is that I hate to give away the plot. I love reading books without having read so much as the back cover. I enjoy letting the plot unfold without any advance notice. I love getting recommendations from others, but will frequently skim over book reviews if I plan to read the book. Maybe that's just me.


As long as I'm posting pictures of Ella

I'll post these ones too. I took these last Friday.


After:What can I say? She's a cute one!

Pretty princess

Once again inspired (and this time using material provided by) Rachael, I made Ella and Aly matching tutus. I have yet to get a picture of them wearing them together, but that's not the crucial point. The crucial point is that they get to dress up and be twin ballerina princesses. P.S. You can see my new couch behind her. I'm pretty much in love with it!


Speaking of Illegal

I contemplate grand theft auto at least three times a week.

It amazes and astounds me how many people leave their cars running in their driveways in the morning. It's like they are asking to have their cars stolen right out from under their noses.

I can understand the desire to defrost the car on those icy mornings of winter, but it's June now, people. But even three months ago, it was plenty warm and the frost was long gone, and yet in the darkness of 5am, I ran past numerous cars idling, while their owners were elsewhere, apparently unconcerned about those with questionable motives, who might be tempted.

But, you say, they probably locked their car doors. Um, yeah, except the motorcycle. And the car with the door propped open. Sure, it's even light now, but the movie isn't called "Gone in 60 Seconds" for no reason. And the car's already running.

It's a good thing I don't steal cars, because they were just begging to be stolen.


Breaking and Entering

I was reading through one of those viral notes on facebook today, and thinking about similar quizzes, chain letters, etc. that I've read/done over the years. One question that has never come up, but would undoubtably generate some interesting stories, is this: Have you ever broken into a house?

Now, I was a good child growing up. A model citizen, if you will. But my answer to that question of questionable legality is yes, four times.

Most of them are boring, and I will recount them in reverse order, because they get progressively less exciting.

Most recently
, it was a Sunday morning sometime last year. I had been asked to give the opening prayer at church, and though we are usually on-time kind of people, it was now required, not just advisable and preferable. We got the kids all ready and out to the car. I locked and shut the door and turned around to help load the kids into the car, when Tom asked if I had keys. "No, I figured you had them," followed by an awkward silence.

Alrighty then. I had my cell phone and a phone book in the car, but the locksmith said it would be at least an hour before we could have someone come out. I knew all the windows were locked, and so was the front door. After a few minutes of deliberating, we settled on the credit card trick. We actually used Tom's license, and within a few moments I was inside.

The previous time
was also at our current house. We keep our diaper pail outside, because, quite frankly, the aroma is unpleasant. One morning in early fall, I stepped out the back door to deposit a particularly potent parcel, and the door swung closed behind me.

I had not physically unlocked the handle, and when I turned to go back inside, I found that it was locked. The kids were right behind the door, but could not as of yet open doors. I knew that all the windows were closed, but circled the house trying to find one that was unlocked. I finally located one and bent the screen trying to get it off. I could hear the kids inside freaking out because I had not yet returned. After several attempts, I got the screen off, the window open and myself launched inside.

Here is where the stories get a little more interesting.


In high school
I had an after school job at a daycare near my home. Though I had a house key, I generally didn't carry it to and from school for a couple of reasons: A) my mom was always home, 2) we had an automatic garage door opening with one of those key-pad thingies, and D) if I had, I would probably have lost it. One day I didn't have 7th period for some reason, so I had an hour to kill at home before going to work. I got home planning to eat and hang out with my mom before heading to work, but when I got there, her car was not in the driveway. I tried the door anyway, and it was locked. Not worried, I promptly entered the 10 digit password into the garage opener and pushed #.

Nothing happened.

I tried it again.

Same result.

I checked the back slider as well as the one on the deck, but alas, they were both locked. At this point I was beginning to get a little concerned. I tried the garage door opener again, but without any luck. (It had a bit of an attitude sometimes, so while I was frustrated, I was not particularly surprised.)

Then I started checking windows. All five on the ground floor were locked, as was the one on the deck. After trying the garage door opener on last time, I repositioned the ladder, which was for some reason leaning against the back of the house.

Let me be clear on one thing: I h a t e ladders. They make me super nervous. However, I knew I was running out of time before I needed to be at work, and my car keys were inside, so I clenched my teeth and climbed toward my parents' bedroom window.


I repositioned the ladder to the other window in their room and tried again. This time I was in luck. I gingerly removed the screen, pried the window open and toppled into the room, just as my mom pulled up.

The first time I ever broke into a house, it was not my own. All through jr. high and high school I was good friends with Abby, and she lived not too far from me. One year on her 3/4 birthday, Max, Josh, and I decided it would be a good idea to attack her room with candy. I'm not sure where she was, but we knew no one was home, and I was privy to the fact that the back door was vulnerable to a well placed kick. (This has since been remedied, so don't try it if you know what house I'm talking about.)

We walked up to Bartell's, bought some of her favorite candy, and posted Max and Josh guard out front while I went in to do the decorating.

I made it in without mishap. I moved quietly through the kitchen around to the front door and up the flight of stairs. I sprinkled the candy haphazardly around her room, included a card that we made, and heard a key in the lock downstairs.

I was caught.

While her mom loved me, I wasn't too sure how she would feel about me being in her locked house. The front door was right at the bottom of the stairs, so I couldn't get out easily without risking being seen. Max and Josh were still out front and Wendy (Abby's mom) stopped and chatted with them for a few minutes (no doubt wondering what they were doing loitering in her front yard). They distracted her long enough and well enough that I snuck down the stairs back through to the kitchen and out the door unnoticed. But not before I nearly had a heart attack. Once they guys saw I was out safe, they bid Wendy farewell and met me around the corner, and we all burst out in nervous laughter.

I felt so guilty that I swore to myself I would never do anything even remotely illegal again.

Recipe Time

Since my pizza can apparently be listed as a cause of death, I should probably not share the recipe. But then again, maybe that way I can't be held responsible.

I can only guess that it was "to die for" because it was warm homemade pizza that required no work on Julie's part.

Either that or it killed one of her children. But you'd think I would have heard about that.

So here goes.

Pizza crust:
1 T yeast
1 cup warm water
1 T sugar
1 t salt
1 t garlic powder
3ish cups flour

Dissolve the yeast in the water and let sit awhile. Add the sugar, salt and garlic. Add 2 cups of flour and mix. Add enough more flour to make the dough handle-able. Sometimes it's 2 1/2 cups total, sometimes more than 3. Knead on floured surface until smooth and elastic. Roll out to desired size. I use a (14 inch?) pizza stone, but sometimes I use a cookie sheet, whatever works.

1 can tomato sauce
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Seasoning salt

Mix sauce with spices to taste. I never measure, but it's probably about 1 teaspoon of the basil, oregano, garlic, and onion, with a little less of the seasoning salt and pepper, and maybe a 1/4 tsp of sugar. (If you can't tell, I'm totally guessing. I really never measure.)

Spread sauce on crust (I don't use all of it, maybe half). Top generously with mozzarella cheese. Add your favorite toppings. Our usual is pepperoni (or ham), pineapple, canned mushrooms, onions and olives on Tom's half.

Add some more cheese (mozzarella and Parmesan) on top.

Bake at 425 until it looks like you want to eat it (usually about 12-15 minutes).

Slice and eat!


Prayer time

I love listening to little kids pray. There is something so sweet and innocent about it that is just priceless. Of course, sometimes, they don't quite take the time to think through exactly what they're saying.

For the longest time, Ella's prayers (at bedtime, dinner, or pretty much anytime) consisted of "Heavenly Father, {Thank you} for this day, like go to church, Jesus Christ, Amen."

Rico, on the other hand, can be quite verbose, but is bordering on "vain repetitions." His typical prayer is as follows (though his pronunciation has improved in the last few days, and we now get "f"s instead of "w"s, this was too cute):

"Deeuh Wah-duh (Dear Father), Wake-oo (Thank you) Mommy, wake-oo Daddy, wake-oo Mommy, wake-oo Daddy, wake-oo Mommy, wake-oo Ella, wake-oo Eh-ee, wake-oo Mommy, wake-oo Daddy, wake-oo Geh-wine, wake-oo Mommy, wake-oo Daddy, wake-oo Mommy, wake-oo Jzhee-zhuh (Jesus), Jzhee-zhuh Kise, Amen.

It is nice to know that he's thankful for me. ;)