Thursday, October 30, 2008

Things Other Than Weddings

I just tried to post a blog about the most important event in October (Tyler and Julie's wedding, duh!) but I can't get the CD of pictures to work and I didn't have that many pictures, so we'll save that for a later date. Even without pictures of my new sister-in-law looking beauteous in her wedding gown, there is lots to write about!

There is also lots to DO in my world...

Monday morning's pile of laundry...

A pile of priceless artwork to sort through (along with a bag full of cut up pieces of toy ads-- scissors are BIG here right now!)

What happens when you get lazy and don't put books away every night (more on THAT later!)

And, a very active, physically fit specimen who can climb into all the toy cupboards, pull herself up on the kids' coffee table/art studio, and demonstrate remarkable fine motor skills by picking up every piece of paper scraps in the house. And there's a LOT of them. Did I mention scissors are REALLY big here...?

Occasionally, though, things do get done. Doesn't that look better?

We sure are enjoying fall though. (Even though we had snow on the ground for the last two days!) In one of my infrequent Supermom moments, we (3 kids + Mommy - Daddy) went apple picking at the beginning of the month. Not only did I venture forth without Evan, it was the afternoon after he had been out of town working overnight. So I was the only parent for ~40 hours, which was quite long enough!

Cheyenne was big and strong and pulled Elliott in the wagon.


Marilla patiently endured...

helped along by the fact she managed to open the little plastic container of pretzels! The Pretzel Princesses (a.k.a. Orianna Grace and Lillian Nora) would have been impressed with her technique.

I also discovered this fall that Cheyenne's hair is the exact color of autumn leaves. Isn't she a perfect match?

Running in the leaves with the wind.

Elliott quite enjoys the two hours of the morning that are left after running back and forth to school twice. Rilla has fallen into the habit of sleeping most of those two hours, while Mommy cleans the house and Elliott gets all the toys and all the quiet to himself! It's a nice little consequence of Cheyenne's school. He does miss her, but I think he loves those hours!

He's still a car guy, but he's been having a lot of fun with animals, too! He's turning out to be a great mimic-- if he finds Marilla's pacifier, he (against the rules) sticks it in his mouth, because "I want be Roo!" Then, he crawls around, making all her noises and pulling himself up on furniture, just like she does! His other cute trick (I promise I'll stop being a smug mama in a minute!) is anytime you ask him why he's doing something or why he wants something, he says, "Cause I said so!" (with an adorable substitution of "t" for "s", of course, so it's "I taid toe!") Not sure where he got that, of course!

Our basement guest room is carpeted now! We had an awesome place to run and crawl for a few days!

Rilla enjoyed it greatly, and Mommy even eschewed her "no physically playing with kids" philosophy to roll around and play all sorts of games.

Then, we moved furniture in. The bed Elliott usually slept in was moved down to be the guest bed (it's queen size) and we got out Cheyenne's old toddler bed. Cheyenne wanted to sleep in it, too, but it was a little too tight! (Not sure if Elliott's yawning or talking her, but it looks slightly surreal!)

Settled down for his first night in his red bed!


Carrhart's photo op! They should really pay us for dressing such cute kids in their clothes! They're all hand-me-downs, but they match!

"I don't care if we match, I do NOT want to sit here any longer!"

Do Elliott and Cheyenne have "Awwwww... how CUUUUTE we are!" expressions or what!

Okay, if you just like my family, but don't have an obsession with kids' books, you can stop reading now. (I think my husband is aghast that I would actually subject anyone to my LENGTHY discussion of books that follows!)

Now, to return to the book dilemma. (It's a dilemma, not a problem. Books are NEVER a problem!)
I could force my children to put books away every night, as I am working on getting them to pick up after themselves. I've resigned myself to the fact that when they do it, it may not be exactly how I would put it away but it's done and it's teaching them responsibility. When it comes to books, though, I just can't do it. Looking at a bookcase with random Berenstain Bears plonked right in the middle of the Janet and Allan Ahlberg books gives me nervous twitches. It's my one really OCD trait. SOO... I spend time putting the books away myself and try to ration how much they get out at one time. So while I was doing this this morning, I starting making a list in my head of my Top Ten kids' books. Of course, that was patently impossible-- the list is really long now. But I feel compelled to post it, even though I should be doing dishes or vacuuming under beds or actually reading to my kids before they go to bed, I am going to obsessively indoctrinate the multitudinous readers of my blog. (See what a good vocabulary I have from reading? :-)
So... in no particular order, and constrained mostly by what I own, and with glaring exceptions that will compell me to slap my forehead at 3:00 a.m. (and 4:00 a.m., and 5:00 a.m. --Rilla still isn't sleeping much!), here are the Kids' Books You Should Definitely Read and Probably Own.
  1. The Frances books by Russell Hoban. I own A Bargain for Frances and A Baby Sister for Frances, but one of my favorites is Bedtime for Frances. (I almost always buy books secondhand so I can afford my addiction, so I'm still waiting for a copy of it to surface at a library book sale somewhere.)
  2. Janet and Allan Ahlberg's books. They are funny, well illustrated and fun to read again and again. We love the board book Peekaboo! and Each Peach, Pear,Plum and treasure our copy of The Adventures of Bert that Marilyn and Dana brought us from their trip to England. The Baby's Catalogue is just a book of pictures, but the kids will look at it for hours (when it isn't languishing in the "Books to be Mended" Rubbermaid... a fate way too many books are sharing at the moment.) A book of their's we still quote from my childhood is Burglar Bill, but, alas, I haven't seen it since my childhood.
  3. Shirley Hughes-- another British author from a while back. You may have seen her Alfie or Annie Rose books, but they only skim the surface of her books. We like the book Chatting a lot, too. The houses in the books are always slightly messy, and therefore very realistic! It's fun to look for the slight differences that tell you it was illustrated in another country! This is one of my favorite ones to find at a library book sale, since I don't think many of them are in print now.
  4. Rosemary Wells. I love the Max and Ruby books, and all the books about kids starting school are awesome. One of the best books is First Tomato: A Voyage to the Bunny Planet. It describes "the day that should have been" in a little bunny's life. I love that book, and I don't even like tomatoes!
  5. Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Al Jenkins. This book is the most rhythmic read-aloud out there. One I remember from being a kid (we all quote it frequently, especially "Hello, Jack! Hello, Jake! Shake hands, shake hands, shake, shake, shake!) and a favorite of Elliott's. Don't get the board book, though... it omits some of the greatest lines.
  6. Another great read-aloud Chicka, Chicka, BOOM, BOOM! I loved reading it to Livvy and Tori when they were kids, and that was just the board book. Then I checked it out of the library for Cheyenne when she was a baby and discovered there was a whole second half! Including the line, "Skit, Skat, Skoodle Doot! Flip, Flop, Flee!" Tell me THAT'S not fun to say! And, of course, kid's love saying the "BOOM! BOOM!" parts with you. AND it's helped Elliott learn his alphabet!
  7. Jamberry by Bruce Degen. A quick book that you can get through before little kids get sick of being read to, and it's great rhyming.
  8. Hooper Humperdink? Not Him! by Theo LeSeig. (Who is, of course, Dr. Seuss. The original book was illustrated by Charles Martin, but they have re-released it with the name Dr. Seuss on it with a different illustrator. I haven't seen the new book, but I am an old book snob and am hanging on to my old copy for dear life.) This is the story of a kid who keeps picturing a bigger and bigger birthday party, and he invites everyone in the alphabet, starting with "I'll ask Alice. I'll Ask Abe. I'll ask Bob and Bill and Babe." And yes, I'm typing that from memory, and yes, after Cheyenne's first year of life, I could definitely type the entire book from memory. Except he doesn't invite Hooper Humperdink. (Until the very end, when he relents and invites Hooper to his quite ordinary birthday bash.) I could care less that's is supposedly showing us to be nice and invite everyone or something, it's just wicked fun to read, and the pictures of this imagined big, elaborate party are great. There's a mile long snowmobile sort of train driven by Eskimos bringing ice cream!
  9. The other Dr. Seuss book I love is Dr. Seuss's ABCs. Another memorized one. It's why the word "alliteration" they made you learn in English class was so important. (To be honest, and this would get me drummed out of most children's literature groupie groups, I'm not all that crazy about Dr. Seuss. His drawings are great, but a lot of his books need to be severely edited. In my humble opinion. Which I'm sure holds more weight than the fact he's sold bazillions of books.)
  10. Sandra Boynton, queen of board books and funky kid's music. We have most of her board books (Barnyard Dance, The Going to Bed Book, Moo, Baa, LaLaLa!, One, Two, Three! and Hey! Wake Up! among others.) We do NOT have (but I am somehow going to justify when Rilla starts reading more) the books Snuggle Puppy, Belly Button Book, and Your Personal Penguin. We also have two of her combination book/CDs, Philadelphia Chickens and Dog Train. Best kids songs ever!
  11. Skip to My Lou illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott. (I love all her illustrations.) This was the book we had to take to Florida with us when Cheyenne was twelve months old. I had just had to wean her, and she would ask for "Skip!" (with an adorable lisp!) as we wheeled her around the trailer park to get her to sleep.
  12. Another book to sing is On a Wintry Morning by Dori Chaconas. Another one of Cheyenne and Elliott's favorites. It's a little girl's morning with her daddy, and I don't even know if it's supposed to be sung, but it goes perfectly with the tune "On a Saturday Morning." I also made up gestures for each page that the kids used to love to do. Especially the one "Daddy, kiss her cheeks so red. Kiss those cherry cheeks so red. Tuck that baby into bed, On a wintry morning."
  13. I almost shouldn't put these on here, because they are for older kids than most of the other ones, but I adore Daniel Pinkwater's Larry the polar bear books. Sadly, we only own Bongo Larry. When I was a librarian in Alaska, I brought them home and made Tyler and Evan and the longsuffering Lundell girls sit there and read them while I said, "See! See! Isn't that funny?" And, despite me, everyone did laugh. Like I said, for a little older group (3-4th grade, maybe?), but Cheyenne will listen to them.
  14. Another one that might be more deeply appreciated by older kids is the books by Graeme Base. Evan and I bought several before we even had kids. There are usually puzzles in the pictures. The absolute favorite of Cheyenne and Elliott is The Water Hole. They both have gone through phases where they would read it for an hour at a time.
  15. One of my favorite kids' authors today is Peggy Rathmann. She won the Caldecott medal (for illustration) for her book Officer Buckle and Gloria. Then she went on to write and illustrate two way better books (and she had deserved the medal for the first one!) The two I love the most (I even bought NEW COPIES of them!!) are Ten Minutes Till Bedtime (almost wordless, but so detailed I could look at it forever!) and The Day the Babies Crawled Away. She also wrote Goodnight, Gorilla, another almost wordless and awesome book.
  16. 17 Kings and 42 Elephants by Margaret Mahy. I just happened to pick this up at a library sale-- I'd never heard of it before. It has the best language and illustrations--just awesome. (I just checked on Amazon, and it was first published in 1987, and it's still being published, so I must not be alone in liking it.)
  17. Brave Irene by William Steig. I love all his books, but they can be a little long for little kids. Cheyenne likes this one (especially when Evan reads it and substitutes "Brave Cheyenne" for "Brave Irene.") It's the story of a little girl who battles through a howling winter storm to take the dress her seamstress mother has made for the duchess to the duchess's house before the party starts. Brave Irene has courage and pluck-- and in my family, we still ask if someone "would be a Brave Irene?" before we ask them to do something for us.
  18. What Do you Do With a Kangaroo? by Mercer Mayer. The little girl has outrageous animals invading her house and demanding things of her. The things they ask her to do are so silly Cheyenne always laughs.
  19. Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola. On par with my Dr. Seuss admission, I have to confess I usually hate retold ethnic tales. They may have been gripping when all you had in your life was digging turnips and listening to granny, but they're usually either gruesome or booooring. This one, however, works for me, I don't know why.
  20. The Little Bear books by Martin Wadell. I have always thought they were cute books (illustrated by Barbara Firth), but I really fell in love with them when we came home from the library with one and discovered there was a DVD in the back featuring the author reading the book, and an author discussion. I popped it in the computer and was smitten. (In a pure, book-lover sort of way.) He's this soft-spoken, comfortable person you would love to have a cup of tea with. Anyway, they're just simple stories about Big Bear and Little Bear.
  21. Tibor Gergely-- I grew up with Tibor Gergely's Great Big Book of Bedtime Stories. (In fact, I have my parent's copy here to try and make a new cover for it, since the life was read out of it.) One of my favorites is Busy Day, Busy People, and he has books about fire engines, and farms, and post offices... Elliott loves them. There are still quite a few in print, even though they are quite ancient by children's book standards.
  22. Another classic illustrator/author is Eloise Wilkins. I love the look of her kids, and then, to my good fortune, I was blessed with a niece who looks like she stepped out of one of her books. Seriously. Check out one of her books and then take a second look at Orianna Grace. Anyway, one of her best is the Poems to Read to the Very Young which my mom used to read to us so often I memorized them as a kid. There's also We Help Mommy and We Help Daddy. They're cute, but one of the best parts about them is how dated they are! When they're helping mommy, they have a carpet sweeper-- no vacuum cleaner! It's kind of fun to see how different day to day chores are now. (Thankfully!)
  23. Marilyn donated loads of her kid books to us when Cheyenne was little. Some of them had been through Aunt Sally's kids before the Whites got them. So a third group of kids is reading them now. Some of the old ones I love are Summer by Alice Low and Come Over to My House by Theo LeSeig. (Okay, there's another one of his I like. Plus, I do really like Hop on Pop and Green Eggs and Ham.) There's lots more I like, only I can't think of them right now because they're probably residing in the "Books to Mend" vortex.
  24. Marilyn was also instrumental in starting our addiction to the books inside the Cheerios box. Now, whenever a new collection comes out, we buy five boxes of Cheerios, come home, rip the books out, and then trudge through the Cheerios for the next couple of months. (Feel free to come for breakfast (OFTEN!) if you're a Cheerios fan). We've loved Clorinda by Steven Kellogg (more on HIM later!) and Olivia and the Missing Toy.
  25. Steven Kellogg-- great illustrator. Give the Dog A Bone is one of my favorite books to read to the kids. The line, "No, no, no, no, no, no, nix! Six no's, paddywhack, I've played six!" is often heard around here.
  26. Robert McCloskey. That, of course, is required, since Evan is a Maine boy. I love his illustrations, and we have Make Way for Ducklings and A Time of Wonder and Blueberries for Sal and more.
Okay, Marilla is hating me for writing this much. In conclusion, (drum roll, please!) I love kids' books and you should, too! Evan and I are lucky in that we both came from book-loving homes.
(Oh, yeah, when I was done putting away books this morning, I counted them-- just the kids picture books, not the chapter books on the top shelf. 541 books. Wow. That was, of course, not counting the books still strewn around the house, or the books to be mended.)

So feel free to look at my bookcases in pictorial form, and hopefully you can come look at my bookcases in real life-- we don't have many friends around here!

And, of course, if you notice omissions in my list, fill me in. (That's the best part of a list like this-- the arguments and discussions that ensue.)

Weddings, Real and Pretend

It's been a month since I started this post, and I still haven't managed to get better pictures of the wedding, but here are the few I have. We had a great couple of days in Illinois, and it's wonderful to have Julie in our family now!

The new husband and wife share a kiss!

Three White siblings!

Watching the pictures afterwards. The man who performed the wedding ceremony is holding Elliott.

This is where the kids started rebelling. That's Lindsey, Julie's neice, with Elliott and Cheyenne. It was a little too chilly, and they were starting to want to go home!

But not before Elliott and Cheyenne looked sweet and loving.

The expanded White family!

Mr. and Mrs. White.
Our family!
I decided to do pictures of the kids the next Sunday, so Cheyenne said to go outside and wait for her.
She is definitely making a bride's entrance!

"Now he's going to be my husband and we're going to kiss!" They are standing beside our October Glory maple tree--living up to its name!

Daddy with the three kids.

Rilla smiling.

Elliott in his suit!
Happy girl!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Cousins, Birthdays, Weird Animals & A Surfeit of Pictures

As a disclaimer, I uploaded a ridiculous number of pictures to this post, but couldn't edit it down. Skim it or Skip it!

We've had a great September. Cheyenne is an excellent school girl! I thought she'd be bored with reading and writing after doing it for a couple of hours at school, but that only whets her appetite. She comes home and spends hours writing and drawing. She also plays school, so I get to hear whatever was said at school that day! :-) This week she had her Special Day-- when they get to bring in snack, be the line leader, do the calendar that day, etc. As I watched her straight little back march off down the hall at the head of the line, I realized I was seeing Cheyenne in her element-- Being Important and In Charge. She is VERY good at it! (Evan has several snarky comments about where she might have inherited that, but we ignore him!)

Cheyenne waiting for the muse to strike. She has played outside so great lately. We don't have to have the A/C or the heat on, so the screen doors are all that stand between the kids and the great outdoors. Now, though, we're getting lots of yucky cold rain, announcing it really is thinking about fall.
Dana and Marilyn stopped here on their way west. Cheyenne and Elliott like coloring with Grandma!
Bethaney came down for several days a couple of weeks ago. We had a great time walking Cheyenne to school and letting the kids play together. We also got apples!
Lillian had great fun with some water and apples! We were making applesauce, so we didn't care if they got a little bruised.

Bethaney and I had picked apples last fall (while she was heavily pregnant with Miss Lillian) but we wimped out this year when we pulled into the orchard with four small children. So we bought the pre-picked apples-- still very yummy, and made great applesauce!
Marilla participates in the outdoor life by crawling on the deck. She's crawling great now, able to get anywhere she wants to! She also pulls herself to standing on anything she can, but that leads to problems, since she then doesn't know how to sit down! So lot of bumps and spills.

The kids color after a hard day of playing. Elliott and Orianna are suddenly old enough to play great together. Now Lillian and Marilla are butting heads-- literally! Lily loved patting Marilla's head, but there was often a hard toy in the same hand, so Marilla wasn't impressed!
Cheyenne is a very sleepy little girl by the end of the day. School is hard work!
Last weekend we went up to Mom and Dad's for the weekend. Owen and Ashley were home for a visit, and it was Lily's first birthday! The drive down to Bet's for the party was full of color. What a beautiful place the Adirondacks are!
Nathan was one of the many kids there. He was showing off his walking skills!
Elliott glommed onto Orianna's scooter. It's been a favorite of his since last summer when we first met Orianna in Alaska!

Mr. Cool graced us with his presence.
Cheyenne leaning on the railing of Bet and Justin's amazingly huge porch/balcony. It was a beautiful day, the kids had a great time running around.
Bethaney did NOT hire clowns for Lily's birthday, but she did have the foresight to invite Adrian and Matt-- Traveling Fork Tricksters.
The newlyweds.

I'm not sure how Cody was authorized to wear this shirt...

Dad and Jeff-- I'm sure politics never entered into their discussions.
Lily's not sure what's going on... Lots of people singing!
Lots of kids there! They'll have fun together as they grow up.
Miss Orianna with her party hat.
"Hmm... cake!"

Bethaney had thoughtfully made a seperate, small cake specifically for candle-lighting and frosting-swiping.

Both Katherine...
and Elliott were willing to share, though!
Demonstrating the wonders of the gift bag before getting down to opening presents!
Ashley's birthday is this week, so we had to have a cake for her, too, on Sunday. (She's 22, but we only had one candle in the house!)

Cheyenne begged permission Sunday to "go see how deep the puddles are". I agreed on the condition that she put her pajamas on-- easier to wash than a Sunday dress!
They look clean from this vantage point...
but the legs are a different story!
Grandpa in his glory, with Lily and Elliot.
Owen, happy to be back on the farm for a weekend.

"Okay, Evan, how many pictures are you going to take?"
I think the hood of the truck was a little chilly... or Elliott was just enjoying yelling.
A pretty aunt Tori holding Rilla.
Chubby cheeks!
Ditto, but not quite so adorable.

Cody's latest acquisition, doing battle with Justin's leg. I believe it is the world's smelliest, stupidest billy goat.
It has been known to attack Cody's motorcycle and push it over. In all fairness to Cody, the goat was advertised as a pygmy goat. Cody's had them in the past, and they're great little animals. This goat, however, makes me swear off goat cheese for life.
Another wildlife oddity is this moose calf, just a few miles from Mom and Dad's. It spends lots of time hanging out with Herefords! I guess the moose population really is expanding up north!
Rilla tucking into some whole-grain rice cereal. She is eating pretty well now-- another milestone! Not that it is helping her sleep, though. She is a terrible little baby at night, waking up to eat and fuss pretty frequently. Well worth it, of course, but the money I would be prepared to spend to have an uninterrupted night is climbing steadily!