The State of the Union When No One’s Expecting

Like most people on my facebook news feed, I watched the President’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night. I was surprised how often things I learned from What to Expect When No One’s Expecting crept into mind listening to the speech.  In his book, Jonathon Last illuminates challenges to child-rearing in our modern, Western world.  The President’s itemized speech this week provided the perfect platform to see how these issues are often ignored in the most pressing of political topics. Below are the two main topics I found lacking in light of falling birth rates:

Immigration— The President focused on many of the positive attributes immigrants bring to America like culture and perseverance. But one thing he failed to mention was babies! Typically Latin American and Middle Eastern immigrants bring with them the intention to have more than 2 babies, often over 3. Not only does their adult presence add to our current workforce, but their children add to our future tax base. In fact, with few exceptions, the influx of immigrants and their high birth rates are what’s keeping our economy and social security from completely collapsing like many in Europe and the Far East.

Equal Pay — Oh the standing ovation President Obama received when he promoted equal pay for women! An embarrassment, he called it, that in the year 2014 a woman earns 70 cents to the dollar a man in her position makes. He declared that a woman’s job should not suffer because she wants to have children. She should be free to take off work to care for a sick child. A father should be free too, the President said.

But not a word about paid maternity leave, and certainly not a breath on paternity leave in any form or fashion. Should a woman who wants to have a child be punished for also needing to work? Apparently the American spirit agrees that her work should not suffer, but what about her family, her new baby, her health or her mental well-being? A great effort over many hard  years was made to give mothers the rights they have today in America’s workforce. In no way do I mean to downplay the significance of these rights. That a woman cannot lose her job based on a pregnancy is a giant step forward in keeping women valued in the workforce. However, it is not only a woman’s role in the workforce that needs to be protected, but her role with her family as well. It is time for another giant step.

What options does the American workforce offer a father? No more than 7 vacation days if they weren’t taken previously during the year? Isn’t being among the only three countries in the world and the only first world nation not to offer paid maternity leave also an embarrassment in the year 2014?  A father should be granted equal rights as a mother for caring for a sick child and given the time to be with his new baby in the precious months following their birth.

There are many political and economic ramifications to issues like immigration, social security and worker’s rights. Many positive changes have been made and will be made yet. One aspect that has been routinely neglected, but that is just as important is, family and fertility. Parents and future children need not only to be protected,  but encouraged. Incentives need to be allowed to not only support families, but also to encourage them to grow. Our culture, economy and way of life depend on strong families with lots of babies 😉

 

The Colorado Kid

I read my first Stephen King book!! Although, after reading it, I realized it’s not at all what I had in mind a “Stephen King book” would be. For that I am thankful.

I like suspense, I like mystery, I even like Gothic stories. But Stephen King has been in another realm all together in my mind. I don’t mind being in suspense, but I don’t want to be scared or freaked out. I don’t like horror stories. I knew King is as prolific writer, but now I’m discovering there may be different levels of Stephen King-ness.

The Colorado Kid by Stephen King

So, The Colorado Kid. Ryan found the SyFy show Haven on Netflix and we enjoyed the first episode. I noticed that it was based on this novel. I plucked up my courage and found it at the library. I honestly could have read it in one sitting if I had started earlier in the evening.

The library had it shelved under “mystery” but I felt like it was more a literary criticism on mysteries —  the neat complete story newspaper s write verses real, true like unexplained mysteries. Two old Maine newspaper men tell the story of a real life unexplained mystery which they have been enraptured by for 25 years. A man, later identified as being from Colorado, is found on their Maine island beach  choked to death by a piece of steak. There is nothing horrific or scary about it, but laying in bed at night in the dark still house, I still felt tingles go up and down my spine.

Stephen King said he expected this book to be either loved or hated by the readers. If that be the case, then I guess I loved it. I feel like I have that badge of honor now. I’ve read a Stephen King novel ha ha. But it has shown me that maybe some of his mystery books aren’t as scary or gory and I may enjoy them. I certainly did enjoy his writing.

The Colorado Kid was published for the Hard Case Crime series, which I’ve never heard of before, but am now intrigued by. Apparently you can sign up for a subscription and have their books sent to you. It is certainly a tempting offer. I think I may pick another book or two from their collection and see if I like them. I may pick up another Stephen King while I’m at it.

Can’t Stop These Carruths!

Family and friends have all been told and now it’s time for you, the interwebs to also know.

Baby Carruth #4 is on it’s way!

New Baby

So all those hopes and dreams for a calm, quiet, uneventful year…well…maybe next year? I’m into my second trimester, and while some of the biggest risks are behind us, we still have some more looming ahead, so we could use any extra prayers you have lying around — for the pregnancy and the fact that we’ll be a family of SIX before the summer’s out!

Giving Experiences

I’ve heard this term being thrown around parenting circles: “giving experiences” instead of gifts. Meaning, instead of giving toys, parents want to give (and receive) “experiences” to their children — instead of a book about animals, a day pass to the zoo, instead of a ballerina doll, ballet classes or tickets to a local ballet.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I think “giving experiences” is a lame-o, haughty term. However, I completely love the idea.

A few weeks before Christmas I was having a harder time than usual with the kids. All the disobeying and fighting and disciplining culminated in a room-wide evacuation of toys. As I was loading up boxes and boxes of toys and books out of the play room and looking for high places to store them, it occurred to me how soon Christmas is coming. And I shuttered.

Our friends and family are so generous and thoughtful in the gifts they choose for our kids. Most of the kids’ favorite books and toys have been Christmas and birthday gifts. We would not have been able to give our kids the amount or quality of toys and activities they’ve received as gifts. We are always thankful to our families who are so generous toward our kids.

This year, however, we are overrun with toys! We have a steady stream of hand-me-downs from Evangeline, to Felicity to Reuben, plus new things they’ve each gotten over the year. It’s so much! Plus we still have gifts in the closet waiting for a rainy day.

The Great Boxing Day Toy-Purge (not even all the toys...we found more later)
The Great Boxing Day Toy-Purge (not even all the toys…we found more later)

We asked for more “experience” gifts for Christmas. The kids got a picnic table for outside, a family subscription to the local Arts and Science museum and Evangeline got a three month subscription to Kiwi Crates. Each month for three months, she’ll get a box in the mail with 2-3 different crafts or experiments and all materials needed related to a central theme.

We got her first crate (themed Antarctic Adventure) and sat down this morning to do one of the crafts. She learned about the Southern Lights — in that penguins come out of their house at night and look at the pretty sky; the sky is full of colors, but it isn’t loud like fireworks. She then used pastel crayons and watercolor paints to color her own Southern Light scenes.

Evangeline's artwork...one of these may have been done by mom...
Evangeline’s artwork…one of these may have been done by mom…
Evangeline painting the Southern Lights
Evangeline painting the Southern Lights

Later, we  decorated penguin cutouts to use for Penguin Bowling and once the penguin ice cubes finish freezing, we have some neat science experiments to do with ice! It’s such a neat idea and even though Evangeline is at the lower end of the age recommendations, she’s already having so much fun with it.

Penguin Bowling
Penguin Bowling

In a few weeks we’ll receive a new box, which I am told is themed Polar Expedition!

(I am also told, that they have a $10 credit offer for anyone who would like to buy a subscription through my referral link. If you’re interested in the Kiwi Crate, you can follow this link or contact me personally.

http://www.kiwicrate.com/Refer?i=KelliC7)

The “experiences” we were given this year are going to go a long way in making this year more fun! When Ryan has a day off from work and school, we can go as a family to the museum. On rainy days when we’re all going stir crazy, we can open the Kiwi Crate and do the next craft. And when the sun is bright and I need some peace and quiet, the kids can spend all day outside playing, and even have their lunch served under an umbrella at their very own picnic table.  Thank you to all of our family who gave us gifts to last the whole year round!

More Cormoran Strike is on the Way!

I enjoyed reading The Cuckoo’s Calling vicariously  through a friend and sharing in her delight as she came to know Cormoran Strike. Over a facebook conversation, a third friend mentioned that J.K. Rowling has already finished the sequel and hopes to have it published this year again under the name Robert Galbraith (info per Robert Galbraith’s website: http://www.robert-galbraith.com)

Detective Cormoran Strike by O. Pelaez

How exciting is that?!?! I cannot wait for the release of a second Cormoran Strike book and sincerely hope more are still yet to come. So tell me, do you want Cormoran and Robin to end up together? Get your bets in now! And let me know if you hear any updates before I do!

2014 Reading List

I am decided and it is done. This year, on top of wanting to finish 35 books and 11,000 pages, I have 8 specific books I would like to read. These books were chosen to help bolster my knowledge of classic, Southern works. At this point I am hoping to have a respectable representation of acclaimed Southern writers in my repertoire. To fill in some pretty big gaps in this area, I’m setting out to read:

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
Gumbo Ya-Ya by Lyle Saxon
The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor
A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flanner O’Connor

2014 To Read

I’ve already finished one book this year and I’m working my way through Wise Blood (although, I have to admit, I’m having a hard time really getting into it). But stick around, if I find anything good, I’ll be sure to let you know!

We Survived the Holidays…

And I really think we had fun. Christmas was hectic and Ryan and I were sad to have missed out on New Year’s Eve with friends because we were dying of a super-bad-not-quite-the-flu-cold, but we managed to squeeze in all the traditions!

We made fig cookies…

019

021

We had Christmas with my parents…

018

046

Christmas with my mom’s family…

052

065

Christmas with my dad’s family…

093

096

and Christmas with Ryan’s mom’s side…

114

119

We had a tree…

003

We decorated outside…

002 (3)

We hung stockings…

001 (3)

We did it all!

105

We weren’t able to see Ryan’s dad’s side of the family, but we have a visit scheduled soon. And we have a gingerbread house still to make, but it’s still pretty impressive.

We are back to reality this week. While we were ready to get back into our routine, the adjusting back has been exhausting. Along with all the new Christmas goodies, we had a major purging of old toys and clothes. I’m trying a new system of bringing out just a few toys a day rather than the free-for-all toy room we usually have. Three days in and it seems to be going really well.

We’re still recouping from all the festivities, but Carnival season hasn’t escaped our attention, and once we get some energy back, we are looking forward to Mardi Gras and St. Joseph’s Day!

How the Irish Saved Civilization

Trinity by Leon Uris link

I came across How the Irish Saved Civilization a few times in the past and was always intrigued. Finally I decided to take the plunge. Since reading Trinity by Leon Uris a few years back I’ve been interested in Irish history. For me, it’s entirely new. I knew where Ireland is and I got the St. Patrick’s Day connection, but really that’s as far as my knowledge went. Studying Irish history has been eye-opening. I’m familiar with the broad strokes of English history, but learning it from a different and contrary position, like the Irish perspective, is fascinating. Reading Trinity was the first time I stopped to think “oh, wow, the British were real jack-asses”. And since having that revelation, it has certainly changed the way I look at history.

How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill link

How the Irish Saved Civilization was another “new” for me, as this was the first time I read about the Dark Ages outside of school. Meaning, this is the first time I read about the Dark Ages and remembered anything. Written from an Irish perspective, How the Irish Saved Civilization illuminates the invaluable contribution Irish monks and monasteries made to history and literacy after the fall of Rome. The author first writes an cursory history of the ancient world (for those of us not super familiar with the rise and fall of the Roman Empire). After giving a rounded picture of Rome, he switches to the outskirts of the outskirts and gives a concurrent history of Ireland. In describing the fall of the Roman empire, and the influx of pagan hordes into the civilized world, the author makes it clear what is at stake — the barbarians are not only disinterested with writing, they openly scorn it. Philosophy, Theology, History, Poetry and Literature of the ancient world are threatened to extinction.

And indeed the works of the ancient world may have been lost, were it not for the Irish. Christianity peacefully came to Ireland with St. Patrick. From his time forward, Christianity continued to grow and develop thriving monastic communities. It is primarily in these communities where the works of the ancient world were learned, memorized, taught and most importantly, copied.  The Irish monks relished language and learning; the art of the written word flourished in their monasteries. They saved not only the words and thoughts of the world before them, they preserved the joy of learning. What good is having a full library if you don’t care to read?

The preservation of the written word and the joy of learning is the main way the Irish saved civilization. Obviously the author writes a much fuller account full with many other historical nuances for which we are indebted to the Irish. How the Irish Saved Civilization was truly educating and a joy to read. I understand the author has a new book out on this same time in history, that I look forward to reading.

Southern Fiction — An Open Call for Suggestions

I posted about my reading goals for last year. I’ve decided to again compose a reading list to complete by the end of the year.

I am taking it a small step further and have a themed reading list for this year. This year I want to become a more respectable Southern reader by adding to my repertoire of great Southern works. My title says fiction but I don’t mean to stick strictly to fiction.

So here is my open call. If someone were well versed in Southern works, what would you expect them to have read? I have read Gone With The Wind, Fried Green Tomatoes and To Kill a Mockingbird  (see, I’m not hopeless). What else should I be sure to read?

Flannery O’Connor?
Walker Percy?
Mark Twain?
Lyle Saxon?
Tennessee Williams?

What are your favorite Southern authors, and what are your favorite works by them? I’ll be working on my list all week, so get your suggestions in!

I should note here that I have started and refuse to finish A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy O’Toole, so don’t even say it!

The Chips are Down on 2013

I know I’ve been absent for a while. Would you believe things have been busy around here? We have been doing all kinds of things on our side of the computer, I just haven’t been telling you about them. Sorry! One thing I have been keeping up, is reading. At the close of 2013, I had met nearly all of my reading goals!

If you remember, which I’m sure you do because it’s super important information, I set up a three tier reading goal for last year which was:

1. to read 30 books

2. of those 30, 11 specific titles

3. to read 10,000 pages

Thanks to good ‘ol GoodReads.com, I was able to track all three of these goals. I am happy to report that by 12:01 am January 1, 2014 I had

                                       1. read 37 books

                                       2. read 8 of my 11 specific books

                                       3. read 12768 pages

I’m really very proud of myself for reading as much and as continuously as I did! I can also say, with my head held high, that each book I read was a “real” book and not just something I thought I could read quick to add to my quota.

Now for what you really want to know: What did I read and What did I think of it. I start with the mean gossip. There were a few books I was really disappointed in and just didn’t like this year.

I’ve already mentioned, at length, my disappointment with Daphne Du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek. I was likewise disappointed with The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggy O’Farrell, The Dutch Shoe Mystery by Ellery Queen and The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. With each of these, my disappointment was the result of inappropriate expectations. I thought The Dutch Shoe Mystery would be just like the funny, delightful Ellery Queen short stories I’ve read and loved, not a simple story excruciatingly drawn out to fill a novel length book. The same is true for the Wells and O’Farrell books. I thought they would be more sci-fi and gothic than political and tripe (respectively). Oh wells.

So what were my favorites?

2013 Read Landscape

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith — I cannot can not say enough how much I enjoyed this book. I read it twice in a 3 month period. Who am I to know if J.K. Rowling’s pen name was revealed on purpose or not, but I’m glad it was. I was intrigued by the synopsis, but had I not known it was written by Rowling, I probably would have waited a few years until other people I knew read it and suggested it to me. So thanks, whistle blower! My review here

Ella  by Christopher Warwick– I’ve read a number of books on the topic of the Bolshevik Revolution. Although it was a short book, Ella gave me an entirely different outlook on one of the major players. Apparently you can learn new things about things you already knew 😉

Quiet  by Susan Cain– I read it in July and I’m still bringing it up in conversations! My review here

The Angel’s Game — This is the second installment of Carlos Ruiz Zafron’s Cemetary of Forgotten Books and I loved it. Haunting and darker than the first, but so so good.

What to Expect When No One’s Expecting by Jonathon Last and Lying- In by Richard Wertz and Dorothy Wertz (which I’ve written about here) both have me itching to read more about the birth culture and history in America. I’m currently interesting in reading more about postpartum support and expectations in women around the world.

Deconstructing Penguins by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone (my review hereand The Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv  gave me some real world suggestions on what I can do to help the kids get the most out of their childhood education and development. Homeschooling is looming ever nearer, this year I need to start making some concrete plans for Evangeline.

Ryan insisted I add King Lear to my reading list for 2013. I had only read a few Shakespearean plays and all of them had been under the direction of a teacher in school. I didn’t think that I could read and understand a Shakespeare play by myself. But I did! I enjoyed it and I understood it. And not just the plot either!

How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill and Out of the Flames by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone (my review here) also showed me that I can step out of my history comfort zone and read about eras I’m not already familiar with. In fact, after reading How the Irish Saved Civilization, I’ve been intrigued to read more on Irish and Dark Age history. Both are a far cry from my usual comfort zone which centers on 19th and 20th century Europe and America.

So what about this year? I did like having reading goals, although I’m still deciding if I’ll set out specific books to read this year. I have decided to establish these goals, however:

1. read 35 books

2. read 1100 pages

This is less than what I accomplished in 2013, but I’m interested not so much in stretching myself this year as keeping up what I’ve proven I can do. I hope to come back soon and write reviews for some of the books I’ve recently finished but haven’t yet blogged about, so you can be on the look out for those. Although, let’s be honest, I’m not sure when I’ll be able to sit back down and write.