Friday, July 31, 2015

YA Book Club: July 2015

My Young Adult Fiction Book Club had its July meeting on Wednesday night.

The Book
Annie picked this month's selection as a last minute stand in because we weren't able to reserve Every Last Word from the library in time. That book got bumped from July to August. 


Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

The Venue
Our group always meets at a restaurant that's located fairly centrally. This month we met at Olive Garden. It was kind of funny because the last time we met there was in January, my birthday month. This Wednesday, July 29th was my half birthday. (I have a young child, so we celebrate half birthdays - for him at least.)

We pigged out on breadsticks, soup, salad (Annie and Sarah), and cheese ravioli (Kate). I know, I know, definitely not low carb.

The Book Discussion
Annie finished the book first as she usually does, and she rated it 3 stars on Goodreads, so I saw her rating before I'd even started the book. Even with that low expectation, as you may know from my review, I hated this book.

Sarah also disliked the book - finding some of the actions by the mean crowd too unbelievable. She almost rated the book 2 stars out of pity, but then decided on only 1 star - a more honest rating.

We all agreed that we were expecting a more interesting list and some actual confrontation with people she'd pissed off because of the list.

The Non-Book Discussion
Like any good book club, our book club isn't really about the books. It's more an excuse to get together. Hot topics this month included:

- My husband being out of town for the WHOLE week. And my decision to drive 9.5 hours alone with my 5-year old son to visit my parents for 4 days because I didn't want to be a single parent the whole time Jim was gone.

- Movies. Annie and her husband, Ben, loved Inside Out. Jim and I found it too depressing as I mentioned in my Pixar ranking post. Sarah is still deciding whether to go see it with her boyfriend, Andrew.

- Work.

- Family.


Did you read the book along with us this month?

Do you want to join us next month?



We'll be reading Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone for our next meeting on Wednesday, August 19th.

Book Beginnings and Friday 56: Every Last Word


Book Beginnings is a meme hosted by Rose City Reader.

Rules:
Share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.


Friday 56 is a meme hosted by Freda's Voice.

Rules:
- Grab a book, any book.
- Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
- Find any sentence, (or few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
- Post it.


My book this week is Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone.

Beginning:
I shouldn't be reading the notes.

Hailey trims a rose and passes it to me. As I attach the note to the stem with sparkly pink ribbon, I read it. I can't help it. This one's a little over-the-top, but it's still sweet. I give it to Olivia and she drops it in the classroom-specific bucket.

"No way! You guys..." Olivia snorts, laughing hard as she turns the card over in her hand. I guess she's reading them, too. "I can't tell who wrote this but...poor boy. This is so cheesy."

My initial reactions: 
- This reminds me of cupid day from Before I Fall.
- I want to go read more of this book right now. I haven't read anything but these snippets, but I am anxious to get into this book. I think it's going to be a really quick read. I need that right now.
- The punctuation is weird. This was hard to type out.

Friday 56:
Everyone stands, clapping and cheering, and Sydney holds her skirt to one side and curtsies. Then she throws her arms up in the air and her head back and yells, "Yes! Stick me!"

What books have you been reading this week?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Update #2: 2015 Reading Challenge

The year is more than half over, so I thought I'd share an update on how I'm doing with Modern Mrs. Darcy's 2015 Reading Challenge. When I shared my first update on May 5th, I'd only read three books, so I was slightly behind. Unfortunately, I am still a little bit behind.

Here's my first update on this challenge.

April: A book from your childhood...
I selected Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. I read the book in mid-May, but I never wrote a review. Here are a few rambling thoughts. It was a simple story with a brave heroine. I gave it only 3 stars, but I think I would have enjoyed it more as a child. I thought it was a good book to introduce kids to WWII. As an adult reading this, I was interested in the history of Denmark during the war. Is there an adult historical fiction book on this subject? If so, I'd like to read it. 3 stars

May: A book your mother loved...
I picked Orphan Train because my mother immediately suggested it when I asked. I didn't love it - 3 stars unfortunately - here's my review. When I talked to my mother after finishing the book, she admitted that she didn't love it either. She suggested it because it was one of the only books she'd finished recently, which she said was saying a lot. She DNFs quite often I guess. Oh well. She has given great recommendations in the past, so I won't hold it against her. 3 stars

June: A book that was originally written in another language...
I have selected Inkheart. I started the hardcover book over the 4th of July weekend, but the print was really small, and I was having a hard time getting into it, so I decided to switch to the audiobook. Because The Boys in the Boat was so long, I just finally started Inkheart again this week. I am only on disk 2, but I am enjoying all the bookish characters so far. This book will likely take me a couple of weeks to get through, but I am hopeful that I'll want to read the sequels. 2 stars

July: A book "everyone" has read but you...
I had some difficulty with this one because I forgot to reserve a book from the library in advice. Duh! If everyone is reading the book, there will be a long wait. My top three picks were:
1) Girl on a Train - I was 573 on the list when I reserved this one. I am now number 382.
2) All the Light We Cannot See - I was number 75, and I am now number 56.
3) The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up - I was number 75. Now I am number 19.

I'll get to these books eventually, but because I had to pick a book for July, I settled on Emmy and Oliver because all of the bloggers I read were reading it. Finally, a book I loved!
5 stars

Read my review.

August: A book you chose because of the cover...
I read a review of The Book of Broken Hearts in early July, and I knew this would be my pick. Isn't this cover adorable?!


So that's it so far! I'm only behind by one book, which isn't too bad I guess. I haven't given much thought to the next few books, but I am definitely enjoying this challenge. I'll post another update at the end up the year.

What challenges are you doing this year? How are they going?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

We have another reader in the house!


Last week I discovered that Christopher can read! He's been learning sight words in 4K since March when we changed daycare providers, but I hadn't realized how many words he knew.

I don't even remember how it happened last week. (I've told you my memory sucks since having Christopher.) Somehow one night at bedtime, we picked out a couple of easy books for us to read together. We started with a Level 2 Chicken Little book, and I read the majority of it. Christopher just read the obvious sight words - the, of, is, etc. Then we read a Level 1 Cars 2 book, and I only had to help with two words. He was reading even non-sight words. But I didn't know if it was because we'd read the book a bunch of times or because he was actually reading the words, ya know?

So...what's a book-loving mom to do? I went to the library (of course!) and picked out 10 more Level 1 books.

Have you tried finding easy readers? There doesn't seem to be any standardization in Level 1 books. Even among the same series, some have actual sight words and easy to sound out words. Others have tons of words per page and a lot of really hard words. What the heck? I had to look through at least 40 books at the library to find 10 that I thought were actually beginner books. So annoying!

Anyway, since then Christopher has read me several other books. And he's actually reading them! He's doing a great job inferring the words based on the context of the story. He really only gets stumped on unnecessary words that don't really relate to the picture - adjectives, etc, I am so proud of him! I've been waiting for this day for so long.


I cannot wait for Kindergarten to start in September. I think with a little more instruction, he's going to really take off as a reader. The reading parties I've been envisioning in my head since he was born are finally going to happen. I cannot wait!

Huge kudos to his teachers, Miss Sheri and Miss Melanie, at Learning Edge for helping him get to this point. Thanks so much!!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

I want to go on a real vacation

I am a transplant to the Milwaukee area. My brother still lives in Buffalo, NY, where we grew up. My parents spend the summer in Western NY and the rest of the year in Florida. My sister lives near Philadelphia. In addition, we have close friends who live in Minneapolis and St. George, UT.

We travel a lot...to visit people. We hardly ever go on what I would consider a "real" vacation. And I really want to start. There are a lot of places in the world that I'd like to see.

Here's my list of the top destinations that I'd like to go. Soon!

http://www.travelportland.com/collection/oregon-coast

Oregon

Of all the states I haven't been to, Oregon is at the top of my list. It sounds beautiful and crunchy and liberal. And I just really want to go there. My husband thinks I'm nuts. I want to hike around and take in the gorgeous scenery. And visit breweries or museums in Portland.

I am working on getting this trip planned for Christopher's fall break in October. (It's so weird that I have to consider school days off when planning things now.) I appreciate any and all tips on things to do or where to go in Oregon.

http://study-abroad.uiowa.edu/programs/details/index.php?crse=3026

London

I went to England in high school for a church mission trip. (I wasn't always an atheist.) But we only went to Birmingham and Stratford-upon-Avon, not London. I feel gypped. I want to ride a double-decker tour bus and see the Tower Bridge or Buckingham Palace.

It seems like a place we can easily take Christopher. He is named after a British character after all. I'm thinking next summer because J.K. Rowling has a new Harry Potter play opening then.

My sister told me there's a Lego Land there. Any other ideas on what to do in London with a six year old?

http://www.shoreexcursioneer.com/belize/cave-tubing.html

Belize

I wanted to go on a cruise to Belize years ago after reading about cave tubing. Is there anything better than tubing down a river? Doing it through caves! I really want to check this out. Then after reading Wanderlove and learning that they speak English in Belize, I really wanted to go.

My friend, Sarah, said that she'd be interested in going because Jim is not. I need to start thinking about timing and cost of this trip. A girls week in Belize would be amazing. Have you been there? Any ideas for me?

http://www.wildnatureimages.com/Valdez.htm

Alaska

I have been to Alaska, but Jim and Christopher have not. It is such a beautiful place, so I'd like to go again and take them. Christopher also wants to go. We had a discussion about going when he was seven and a half. I had told him about my mom and my aunt and uncle promising my sister, my cousins, and me a trip to the Grand Canyon when Emily and I were 16, and about how Emily remembered the promise years later. And then we actually went. I am hoping he remembers this promise, so we can make this trip happen.

http://goodereader.com/blog/e-book-news/new-zealanders-might-soon-have-to-pay-gst-on-e-books

Australia / New Zealand

I have wanted to go to Australia since my sister, our friend Lauren, and I did an extra credit report on it in elementary school. Back then it was probably because of the koalas or kangaroos or maybe The Great Barrier Reef. Now it's more about the scenery. After seeing the Lord of the Rings movies, I'd really like to go to New Zealand. And then hit up Australia while we're there as well. The accents help too. This trip will likely be much further into the future, but it still makes my top 5.


Do you get to go on "real" vacations? Where have you been that you recommend? Where do you want to go?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Friday 56: Week 235


Friday 56 is a meme hosted by Freda's Voice.

Rules:
- Grab a book, any book.
- Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
- Find any sentence, (or few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
- Post it.

This is from All Roads Lead to Austen: A Yearlong Journey with Jane by Amy Elizabeth Smith. It's the July book I may not finish, but this discussion on Sense & Sensibility makes me eager to get into it further, especially after just finishing the Joanna Trollope's version for The Austen Project.


"Austen's narrative style is distant, but the characters communicate their world. The physical world of the novel isn't very concrete, but there's an internal world you enter... The whole world of the novel is very rigid, very closed. The richness of it all for me is the analysis Austen provides of their feelings."

What books have you been reading this week?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

One great thing about having a boy

Do you have young boys? Does this picture look familiar?

See those knees. Ugh. I think Christopher has one pair of pants left that do not have a hole.

My son only wears sweatpants. He has a thing about buttons. Don't ask. We don't get it either. But we're accommodating, so I only buy him sweatpants and sweatshorts (is that even a word?). The problem with sweatpants is that they rip so easily, especially when the boy wearing them slides on his knees on the floor. All. The. Time.

Are you tired of throwing away pants with holes? I know I was. My solution this summer has been to just make cutoffs out of sweatpants.

Can you even tell that these are cutoffs? I barely can.

The great things is that Christopher is a boy. He doesn't care what his clothes look like. When I made the first pair of cutoffs, he commented, "They're perfect." and promptly ran away.

I love my little boy!

I only wish I'd thought of this before throwing away about 8 pairs of holey pants this winter.

What mommy hacks have you discovered lately?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Favorite low carb recipes

We've been cooking up some of our favorite low carb meals over the last few weeks. I thought I'd share some more recipes with you.


Chinese Chicken Salad

This recipe is from The Joy of Cooking. My former roommate, Christina, discovered it back in 2003, and it's been a favorite of mine (and Jim's when he came along) since then. It's pretty easy, fresh, and summery. We may have made a few alterations.

Salad
4 chicken breasts - cubed and cooked in oil (we use peanut oil)
Napa cabbage - chopped
1 bunch green onions - chopped
1 cup lightly salted peanuts - chopped
1 can Mandarin oranges - drained (save juice)

Dressing
Mandarin orange juice
1/4 cup peanut oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

You can top the salad with chow mien noodles if you're not worrying about carbs.

Tip for packing left overs: store the green onion separate or it will become overpowering. Also, mix the dressing in right before eating.



Turkey "Burger" Salad

I created this recipe after eating a Greek turkey burger without the bun at Zaffiro's restaurant in Milwaukee, WI. This recipe will make three servings, which I always package up right away for lunches.

1 lb ground turkey - cooked and divided into three larger Tupperware containers
2 tomatoes - diced and split between three smaller containers
1 cucumber - diced and also divided among the smaller containers (sometimes I skip the cucumber)
1/4 cup (each) of feta cheese placed into three zip lock baggies and put into the smaller containers
1-2 Tbsp (each) Newman's Own Family Recipe Italian dressing stored in the smallest containers

To eat, warm up the turkey just a little bit. Then stir in the veggies, cheese, and dressing.



Grilled Chicken

I had Jim grill some chicken the other night after marinating it in Newman's Own greek dressing. We usually use the Parmesan and Garlic dressing, but the store didn't have it.

I take the chicken out of the freezer the night before to thaw, and then marinate it all day.

I really wanted the left overs for...



Chicken Caesar Salad

This is another easy make ahead for lunches. I shredded lettuce into two Tupperware containers and put Parmesan cheese into baggies. Then I diced a chicken breast each and a half tomato each. I know Caesar salad shouldn't have tomato, but I love it so much I always add it. I also packed 1-2 Tbsp of Newman's Own Creamy Caesar dressing, my favorite.

To eat, dump the cheese and dressing into the Tupperware, put the lid on, and shake to mix.



Crust-less Spinach Quiche

Jim and I have been eating this quiche every morning for breakfast (practically) for over two years. I still love it. I think he's getting sick of it.

6 eggs
1/2 stick cream cheese
6-8 oz. cheddar cheese (or feta or Swiss or whatever cheese you like)
1 pack of frozen chopped spinach, thawed in the microwave for 4-5 minutes

Combine everything in a blender, then pour into a greased Corningware dish. Cook at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.


What have you been cooking lately? Any good recipes, low carb or otherwise?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Book Review: Side Effects May Vary (YA)

This review has been moved to Opinionated Book Lover.

I love Broadway musicals

Wednesday afternoon I went to the dentist. I'm not sure what your dentist's office is like, but ours is pretty hip. They have Macs in each room, and they use Pandora to play whatever music the patient wants to listen to.

I always dread being asked what music I want to listen to while I'm there because I don't really listen to music. I almost always listen to audiobooks in my car. When I do listen to Pandora, it's usually boy bands, Counting Crows (my favorite band), Disney music (sometimes without Christopher present), or Broadway musicals. None of those types of music is very fun to admit to, but...

This time when asked what "station" I wanted to listen to, I said Wicked. I had to clarify that I meant the Broadway musical and not some new band. Luckily the dental hygienist didn't seem very current on music either. Some Wicked songs played, songs from other musicals too, along with some Glee covers and even some Disney tunes. It was fine. Not as distracting as my audiobook might have been, but it would have been rude to ask to put in my earbuds (unfortunately).

So, instead, while my mouth was being tortured, I thought about my favorite Broadway musicals. I thought I'd share them with you.


Les Miserables


I grew up listening to the original Broadway cast audio cassette in the car with my mother and my twin sister. I'm not sure when my mom got the tape, nor can I believe she let my sister and me listen to it at such a young age. But I loved it even then. We went to see it live at Shea's Performing Arts Center in Buffalo, NY when I was in junior high (I think). And I've seen it four more times since then. I love the unrequited love story of Eponine and the song "On My Own". I even loved when Katie Holmes performed that song as Joey Potter on Dawson's Creek. And I love the 2012 movie version; Anne Hathaway was amazing as Fantine.


Rent


I loved this production from the first time I saw it, again at Shea's, the summer after my senior year of high school. The music is so upbeat and amazing, and the characters are so raw and real. I listened to the music a lot in college, and I saw the play once more as an usher at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee the year after I graduated. My favorite character is Mark Cohen, the film geek narrator with red hair and glasses. Have I mentioned that my dream was to have a red headed son?


Wicked


Jim and I saw this play in Chicago, and we both loved it. He is a huge Wizard of Oz fan, so the story and characters were the draw for him. For me, it was just about the music. This play has some great songs. It's coming to Milwaukee's Marcus Performing Arts Center this fall, and we will be there for sure. With the recent success of Idina Menzel, the original Elphaba, the Wicked music had been coming up on Pandora for my Frozen "station", so that got me back into this musical and was the inspiration for my strange request at the dentist's office.


The Phantom of the Opera


The Phantom of the Opera was a long running musical in Toronto when I was growing up in Buffalo, so we saw it there a couple of times: first as a family when I was in 7th grade, and then on a class field trip when I was in 8th grade. I will never forget my brother's excitement the first time I saw it. He loved the chandelier falling, and he quoted the auctioneer for days afterward. Despite the high soprano singing throughout this play - high soprano really hurts my ears - I loved the Phantom's songs. I took Jim to see the traveling version at the Marcus in Milwaukee a few years ago, and it didn't even come close to the caliber of the Toronto performances I'd seen all those years ago.


The Book of Mormon

I just recently saw this musical with Jim and our friends, Sarah and Andrew, at the Marcus - another traveling show. It was amazing! The energy was so high, and the story and songs were hilarious. I am not a fan of South Park and usually not even a fan of comedy, but I found this play to be incredibly amusing. So much so that I Googled it right away to see if we could possibly see it again on the same tour in some nearby city. Unfortunately, we missed Chicago. We'll track it down somewhere again - soon hopefully.

Are you into Broadway musicals? Or other types of theater? What's your favorite?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

5-Star Kids Books

I've been wanting to post about some of our favorite kids books for a while, and when I read this post of favorite picture books by The Deliberate Reader yesterday, I decided to finally do it.

I started a Goodreads "kids books read" list at the end of last year. I get a lot of picture books from the library for Christopher, and I wanted to remember the good ones, so we could get them out again. In the last 8 months, there have been five books that I rated 5 stars.


The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale

The first time we got this book out from the library, I tried to read just a few chapters at bedtime one night. Christopher was asking for more, and I wanted to know what happened. I couldn't put it down! It's such a fun story about a princess who is also a secret super hero. She fights the monsters that try to sneak up and eat the goats in a field near her castle. There's a sequel coming out this fall, and I cannot wait. We've gotten this book out of the library twice, and I bought it for my niece for her birthday.


The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak

I made the mistake of reading this book to my son one afternoon when he was supposed to be having quiet time. That didn't last very long. Soon we were both laughing so hard that my husband thought I must be tickling him. This book is hilarious! And true to the title, it has no pictures. Just a lot of insane words that you are forced to read...because that's the rule of books. All of the words must be read. We've gotten this book out from the library twice as well, and my son took it to school as his favorite book when he was the star of the week at daycare.


What Makes a Baby by Cory Silverberg

I wrote about this book a couple months ago. If you're looking for a way to explain to your preschooler where babies come from, I highly recommend this book. The cartoon-ish illustrations and simplified scientific explanation are terrific. And so far it hasn't led to any more questions from my 5 year old. We've checked it out from the library twice.


When Dinosaurs Came with Everything by Elise Broach

In this story, a little boy runs errands with his mother, and instead of getting a lollipop or other small treat at each place, he gets a dinosaur. It is such a crazy and fun idea. The mother is overwhelmed at first, but by the end she embraces the chaos. It's super cute, and while we've only gotten it from the library once, we did read it a lot during those three weeks.


Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

It's a story about two boys who dig a hole looking for treasure. You, the reader, can see the jewels buried in the dirt, and you can see that the boys just miss them every time. It had my son and me yelling at the book every time they turned the wrong way. It was a fun read, but also one we've only checked out of the library once.

What are your favorite picture books? Which books do your kids adore?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Book Review: Flunked (MG)


Flunked (Fairy Tale Reform School #1) by Jen Calonita

Goodreads Summary:
Would you send a villain to do a hero's job? An exciting new twisted fairy tale series from award-winning author Jen Calonita.

Full of regret, Cinderella's wicked stepmother, Flora, has founded the Fairy Tale Reform School with the mission of turning the wicked and criminally mischievous into upstanding members of Enchantasia.


Impish, sassy 12-year-old Gilly has a history of petty theft and she's not too sorry about it. When she lifts a hair clip, she gets tossed in reform school-for at least three months. But when she meets fellow students Jax and Kayla, she learns there's more to this school than its sweet mission. There's a battle brewing and she starts to wonder: can a villain really change?

My Review:
I was really excited to read this book. I love fairy tale re-imaginings like the TV show Once Upon a Time. In this book, Gilly, one of the children who lives in a shoe, is sent to reform school after stealing from the royals three times. The school is run by Flora, the wicked step-mother of Ella (Cinderella). Other reformed villains teach at the school. The idea is creative and fun.

Unfortunately, I was very distracted by all of the similarities to the Harry Potter books, especially The Sorcerer's Stone. No author should ever try to match J.K. Rowling. It's impossible to reach that high standard.

The world Jen Calonita creates is interesting, the friendships were cute, and the adventure was pretty fun, but I just didn't really get into this book all that much. Luckily it was a quick read. Maybe kids would enjoy it more than I did. It does set up well for a full series, but I won't be reading any additional books.

My Rating: 2 Stars
Understand my ratings.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Cleansing my TBR list

I have a personal rule. Whenever my "to-read" list on Goodreads has more books on it than my "read" list, I have to do some culling. I go back through the descriptions of all of the books on my TBR list and remove the ones that no longer interest me.

It's so easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of books in the world. Since I read a lot of other book blogs, I am constantly reading about new books that I want to read. I add about 5 new books to my TBR list every day. Yikes! There's no way I'll ever get to read everything I want to read. So sad. But so true. Hense the reason for this rule I've created for myself.

As of Saturday morning, I had 275 books on my "to-read" list and only 274 books on my "read" list. So after reviewing my list, I cut the following books (and many more).

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue

Girl on a Wire by Gwenda Bond

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

The Ice Cream Army by Jessica Gregson

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

Woven by Michael Jensen

Did I make any huge mistakes? Are there any books on this list that I MUST read? I'm looking for ones that you gave 5 stars to, nothing lower please.

Do you have any bookish rules or other life rules that you've created for yourself?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Using objects to measure kids' growth in pictures

We have the traditional door way where we've measured Christopher's height over the last three years since we moved to New Berlin. But that's not something we can take with us if we ever move. Pictures are a great way to capture memories and growth over time, but it helps to have something to measure against in case the dimensions are off.

As I've mentioned before, Christopher is named for Christopher Robin. So, of course, we decorated his nursery in classic Winnie-the-Pooh. Many people knew this and gave us themed items for our baby shower. One such gift was a very large stuffed Pooh from my friend, Elizabeth.

Thanks to the tip from my sister-in-law, Jennifer, we used this Pooh to document Christopher's growth over his first year. Every week for the first 6 weeks, and then every month after that, we took his picture on the love seat in his bedroom with the Pooh sitting next to him. It was a great way to measure his growth in pictures over that first year.

Christopher growing up: months 1-8 & 10. 

As Christopher has gotten older, starting at 18 months, we've had professional pictures taken of him twice a year. We always do solo shots around his birthday in April, and then we do a family picture each November for Christmas cards. Those pictures are nice to have, but there is something fun about measuring a child's growth against personal objects.

For the last three summers I've gotten a picture of Christopher riding this little tractor that Jim's dad has at their place up north. Our nieces and nephew played with it when they were little, and now Christopher rides on it when we go up to visit.

Christopher on Grandpa Jim's tractor: 2013, 2014, 2015.

This 4th of July he was finally able to ride it all around the property without me having to push it from behind every few feet. The ground up there is all sand, so it requires some serious leg muscles to make that thing go. 

I also try to get a family shot each year when we go camping at Peninsula State Park up in Door County, WI. There is a cute little lighthouse with an old anchor in front of it. We've gotten a couple of pictures of the three of us in front of that anchor. Camping there each August is a tradition I hope we continue, and I plan to keep taking pictures of our family in front of that anchor as Christopher grows older.

Do you take these types of pictures of your children? In what other ways do measure your children's growth?

Special thanks to Grace from Rebel Mommy Book Blog for letting me know about the PicMonkey.com photo editor.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

My ranking of the Pixar movies

I recently read this ranking of Pixar movies on the Geek Dad blog. Since I finally got to see Inside Out last night, I thought I'd do my own ranking of Pixar's 15 animated feature films.


15. A Bug's Life

Maybe it's because I hate bugs? I don't know. I just don't really like this movie. There's nothing wrong with the story - it's about friendship and bravery and standing up to bullies. There's just nothing spectacular about it.


14. Brave

One thing I love about Pixar is their deviance from the princess stories of Disney. And while Merida is a fiercely independent princess, I still don't like this story. Why are teenage girls always portrayed as hating their mothers? I know there's resolution at the end, but it still didn't sit well with me.


13. Cars 2

I like the racing, but I don't like the spy sub-plot. It's a little much for a kids' movie.


12. Up

This movie is too sad. And Russell is just annoying. Also there is a talking dog - not my thing.


11. Inside Out

The concept of this movie was so unique, and I am impressed that the folks at Pixar could pull it off. But the whole movie was kind of depressing. It's not one I will want to see over and over. And it's not even one we'll be taking our 5 year old to see any time soon. It's just too much for such a young kid.


10. WALL-E

I hated this movie the first time I saw it. There's almost no dialog! But it has grown on me. Now I think it's sweet and fun. I enjoy the old show tunes.


9. Toy Story 3

This is another very emotional movie. It also has a lot of funny parts, but it's not one of my favorites.


8. Toy Story

I would have ranked this movie higher, but I really don't like Sid; he creeps me out. And I don't like that Woody is jealous of Buzz the whole movie.


7. Cars

This movie is Doc Hollywood in cartoon car form. What's not to love?! And the music is so fun.


6. The Incredibles

I love super hero movies. I love the responsible mom character - so me! And the crazy, adventure seeking dad - so Jim. I especially love the family dynamic and how they stick together.


5. Ratatouille

It's a story about unexpected friendship. It's funny and different.


4. Monsters University

I love a good sequel, or prequel in this case. You already know the characters, so the story can be more developed.  I love the upbeat music and the enemies turned friends plot. This movie is just fun!


3. Monster, Inc.

This story was so creative. I love that Sully gets attached to Boo. It's a love story at its core. And Billy Crystal is one of my favorite actors.


2. Toy Story 2

Again...sequel! I love that Woody and Buzz are friends. I love the introduction of Jesse. Her song. Love it! I enjoy the backstory on Woody - such a fun sequel idea. The adventure in this story is so enjoyable.


1. Finding Nemo

I remember being blown away visually when I first saw this movie in the theater. On top of that, the story is terrific, and the character are endearing. Ellen DeGeneres is fantastic!

What's your favorite Pixar movie? Have you seen Inside Out? What did you think?