A Visit

  • My parents visited us over the weekend. It was great to see them
  • It didn’t feel like Christmas, though. I was hoping that it would somehow, and I had even left the tree up, but the magic wasn’t quite there. Anyway, my parents seemed to like their gifts, and we liked ours. I got some new books to read, which is of course the last thing that I needed but still one of the things I like most.
  • I had thought that when my parents left they were going to take their car and leave us with their SUV, the reason being that the car is easier for my mom to drive. So I was really confused when my father insisted on taking the SUV instead. Oh, well. I prefer the car anyway. And it just goes to show that you can know people for your entire life but still not always be able to predict what they’re going to do.
  • My father accidentally left behind his hiking gear: scarf, gloves, hat, jacket, and shoes. Now that I could have predicted! This is not the first time we’ve had to mail their stuff back to them.
  • The house is cleaner than it had been for a long time. I hope we can keep it up for a while.
  • Alas, now I have to put the Christmas tree away. 🙁
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Back to Studying

  • After my hiatus from Babbel, there were over 900 French words and phrases in my to-be-reviewed box. Yeesh, that was daunting! It’s down to about 600 now.
  • It’s easy to do Babbel’s little lessons and feel like I’ve accomplished something, but I know that it’s not enough. I know that without more reinforcement I won’t remember what I’ve learned. And I know that I’ll never learn to speak the language unless I start actively using it more. So I’ve been practicing. You may now occasionally hear me talking to myself in French. Do I sound more or less crazy talking to myself in French than I do when I talk to myself in English? I don’t know. You tell me. For bonus points, say it in French. 😉
  • Occasionally little bits of French come out during conversations with family members. Livia says it’s infuriating because she doesn’t know what I’m saying. Désolée!
  • I’ve been watching Call My Agent! on Netflix. I leave the English subtitles on, but I try to pay attention to the spoken French.
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Today in French study, the theme was “les plantes vénéneuses” (poisonous plants), and I learned that “La ciguë est le poison qui a tué Socrate.” (Hemlock is the poison that killed Socrates). It’s likely that I had already learned this and simply forgotten it, but it sounds way more interesting in French, so maybe I’ll remember it this time.

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Reading Report: Early January 2023

  • Back in November, I was happily reading several different books (Come on All You Ghosts by Matthew Zapruder, Le Lion, La Sorcière Blanche et L’Armoire Magique by C.S. Lewis/Anne-Marie Dalmais, and Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis), and I had just finished Alix E. Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January, which I loved. That was such a great selection of books, and I didn’t feel like I could replicate it. I felt like nothing was going to satisfy, and when that happens, it’s really hard to bounce back. I’ve been struggling since.
  • But things are looking up. In late December I finished Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, making way for a new book from the Top 100 Children’s Books list. The new book happens to be The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson. It’s fairly short, and I’m about halfway through it after just a few days. Gilly is, like Harriet, an unlikable character. But if she, unlike Harriet, redeems herself before the end (and the narrative arc suggests that she will), then it will be good. Fingers crossed.
  • Also in December, I finished The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier. (In this horror story for kids, Molly and Kip, Irish siblings whose parents have gone missing, are looking for work in England. They end up in the employ of a peculiar family living in a small island with a house built around a large, ominous-looking tree in a place called the Sourwood. It’s a bad place, and they know it, but they’re so desperate that even the appearance of a creepy guy–the Night Gardener–wandering around the house, doing who-knows-what while they sleep, isn’t quite enough to make them run away, at first. But soon it becomes clear that they will have to confront the evil that is infesting the entire estate). Everything about it was reasonably good, and it had a tree at the heart of it–an evil tree!–and what’s not to like about that? But somehow it didn’t work for me. I’m laying all the blame on me, though, because honestly I cannot point to anything specific in the book that would make me not like it.
  • After The Night Gardener, I picked up Lisa Maxwell’s The Last Magician, another book I’d put aside in 2022 because I wasn’t grooving on it. It still isn’t quite working for me, but I’m near the end now (415/498 pages read), and I am at least interested in how it turns out.
  • I ordered five books of poetry from the library so that I can get started on my goal of reading at least one poem per day.
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Reading Report: Review of 2022

  • I read 56 books in 2022. Hooray! I’d like to read even more for 2023. Retinoschisis could ultimately take away my ability to read, and I’m already struggling with small print. I should read as many books as I can, while I can.
  • 3 were in French. I hope I will continue learning French and reading in French in 2023. I fell out of the habit when circumstances kept me away from my computer (and Babbel) for a while. Now I’m finding it very hard to get back into it. I was in the middle of a book of French short stories when I stopped studying. Finishing that book might help, so I’m making that a near-term goal.
  • 3 were in verse. That’s pretty good, but I know I could easily read more poetry. I will try to always keep a book of poetry near my bed and to read at least one poem every night.
  • 1 was nonfiction. Lackluster. I can do better.
  • 8 were rereads. Every year should have at least a few rereads. There’s no point in keeping books if you’re not going to read them again.
  • At least 5 were written by authors of color. That’s a big improvement.
  • 35 were children’s or YA novels, 18 of which I read because they were on the list of Top 100 Children’s Books. Having a specific reading goal (the list) helped me read more. My goal for 2023 is to finish the list. After that, I will set myself a new goal.
  • 33 got A-level grades, which was really good, especially considering that I didn’t even grade 12 of the books. May 2023 bring many more good books!
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I spent a lot of time over the last two days shuttling back-and-forth between home, doctors’ offices, and pharmacies. Both of the kids tested positive for strep. My husband and I tested negative but were prescribed meds anyway, just to be safe. It took seven trips to the pharmacy to get all the necessary meds, thanks in part to ongoing staffing problems at the local CVSs (they’re always short-handed, and have been for years). I am exhausted and feeling on the verge of getting sick again. I need to rest today.

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Christmas Eve Ramblings

I spent most of yesterday in bed. I had a fever, and I wasn’t feeling up to much.

Today my temperature is still elevated, but it doesn’t classify as a fever anymore. So I guess I’m cured and had better get to all the Christmas prep that I dropped when I got sick.

Yeah, that’s not going to happen. What is going to happen is that I’m going to do a couple of necessary loads of laundry, and I’m going to do a bit of necessary cleaning, and I’m going to wrap the presents, and that is probably all that I’m going to do.

I don’t feel very Christmassy, but I am feeling grateful, because there’s a lot of bright side today. I didn’t finish my Christmas shopping, but the kids will each have several presents to unwrap tomorrow. And even though we hadn’t planned to spend Christmas here, we decorated the tree last week, so we have a place to put the presents. The storm knocked out our power twice, but it came back fairly quickly both times. The storm also took down a tree and assorted limbs around the property, but did no real damage otherwise. We have plenty of food and drink. If we can just get a little more Christmas spirit going, maybe it will turn out to be a good holiday after all.

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Thursday Before Christmas

Marshall came down sick with a cold on Sunday night. Now he’s recovering, but the rest of us have caught his bug. My parents don’t want our germs anywhere near them, so we had to postpone our trip northward. We’ll be spending Christmas by ourselves this year. 🙁

Meanwhile, there’s a big storm bearing down on us. It’s not going to bring us any snow, sadly. Instead we’re supposed to get rain and heavy winds. Power outages are expected. School for tomorrow has already been canceled.

My cough isn’t too bad unless something triggers it, but I’m so tired. After spending most of the day in bed watching Christmas movies, I scraped up just enough energy to do dishes, laundry, clean off the counters in the kitchen, and prep for the storm. That wore me out, though, and I had to go back to bed to save up energy for Craft Night. For Craft Night we made our own set of “Punishment Dice.” That was fun, but tiring. Now it’s late, and I’m going to bed again, this time to sleep.

Maybe we’ll feel better tomorrow.

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Welcome to Day 12 of the 2022 Virtual Advent Tour, hosted by my friend Sprite at Sprite Writes. For this day of the Tour, I’m going to talk a little bit about Time, because there’s nothing like Christmastime to draw my attention to the passage of time. The closer the holiday gets, the faster time seems to move. It’s a phenomenon that became particularly pronounced after I had children. During the years when my kids were small, the days of December would whip by so fast that I could almost hear them buzzing past me. Life isn’t as hectic now that my children are older, but time still flies by at an alarming rate at this time of year.

For that reason, and others, the holidays can be stressful, and one of my favorite methods for coping with the stress and focusing on the happy elements of Christmas is to watch Christmas movies, especially Christmas rom-coms. In keeping with today’s theme of Time, one of my favorite subgenres is Christmas movies that involve time travel, and I have composed a list of a few that I have watched and enjoyed over the last few years.

12 Dates of Christmas (2011): Amy Smart plays Kate, a woman who is intent on getting back together with her ex-boyfriend and irritated about being set up on a Christmas Eve blind date with a man named Miles, played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar. After a disastrous first date with Miles, Kate gets trapped in a time loop and has to do the day (and the date) over and over again, giving her plenty of time to discover not only that Miles is a great guy, but also that she has a lot of growing to do.

The Knight Before Christmas (2019): Vanessa Hudgens plays Brooke, a teacher whose last relationship left her feeling down on love and no longer believing in knights in shining armor. Josh Whitehouse plays Sir Cole, a Medieval knight who is magically whisked to the future to fulfill his quest to become a True Knight. Both Hudgens and Whitehouse are adorable, and the time difference is handled with little fuss, so the story doesn’t get bogged down. It’s pure Christmas fluff.

Just in Time for Christmas (2015): Eloise Mumford plays Lindsay, a psychology professor with a bright career ahead of her. Michael Stahl–David plays her boyfriend Jason, and the cast also includes time-travel pros Christopher Lloyd and William Shatner. Torn between love and career, Lindsay is magically transported three years into the future to witness what her life will be like if she sacrifices one for the other. It’s a cute movie worth at least a single viewing, if only to see Shatner sporting a most unusual beard and hamming it up during his two onscreen appearances.

It’s Christmas, Carol! (2012): Emmanuelle Vaugier plays Carol, a Scrooge-like publisher, and Carrie Fisher plays a ghost who visits Carol at Christmastime to warn her about what will happen if she doesn’t change her horrible ways. I first watched this movie a few years ago, and it didn’t make much of an impression on me, but that was before Carrie Fisher’s death. Now, to see her come back as a ghost is a certain kind of awesome, and she makes the film worth watching.

Scrooged (1988): Bill Murray plays a Scrooge-like television executive, and Karen Allen plays his love interest Claire, who is virtually his exact opposite. The film has a wacky and wonderful supporting cast that includes Bobcat Goldthwait and Carol Kane, among others. Bill Murray can be abrasive at times, but not so much in this film. His over-the-top style is part of what makes this bizarro Dickens-inspired comedy work.

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Random 12/7/2022

  • Parent/teacher conferences were today. The teachers had nothing but good things to say, and I’m so proud of both children.
  • I noticed that a couple of things were missing from my top desk drawer. I was certain that I’d put them there, so I took the drawers out to see if the things had fallen behind. Not only did I find what I was looking for, but there was a whole bunch of other stuff lurking in that dark, dusty place. I found a $10 bill, a Target receipt from 2017, a picture of my son from 2012, a walker pass for the kids (who knows which year), a magnifying lens, a packet of stickers, a camera case, a small notebook, a whole pad of Post-It notes, and at least a dozen tickets for previous years’ Advent calendars. Quite a stash!
  • Speaking of the Advent calendar, I already printed enough tickets to get us through the 24th. That’s the benefit of having done this so many times before. The designs are all there on my computer. All I have to do is pick which ones I want to use, tweak them if necessary, and print. At least that’s one less thing to stress over at this time of year!
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