Sunday, January 26, 2014

Crazy Eight

Somewhere in the last eight months, Babycakes became an eight month old baby.  He did all kinds of new things during this month, and almost all of them were awesome things.  But let's get the unawesome things out of the way first:

On Christmas Eve, he decided to stay up for Santa, which resulted in him sleeping on me all night on the couch (this has not happened since he was a wee newborn).  Not quite the Christmas Eve I had envisioned, though at least Chopped was on (Chopped!  I heart you).  He did the same thing the following night, and the next morning, like the good parent I am, I finally noticed this big, crusty, open sore behind his left ear (think popped blister, aesthetically speaking).  Poor thing!  We put some stuff on it and he went back to sleeping in his bed.  (He has rather deep behind-the-ear folds...we take care to dry them thoroughly after baths now.)

A few days later, he caught a nasty cold, which stuck for the rest of our trip.  It was very sad to see him snuffling and coughing all day and not sleeping so much at night.  He was a trooper, all things considered, but was not his usual, happy self.  It was nice have my mom and sister around to give advice and tell me it's normal for sick babies to take monster naps.  

Fortunately colds go away and Mr. Happyface soon came back, just in time to pick up some new skills.  It began on New Years Day with pulling up on furniture.  It continued a few days later, when he woke up one day and started crawling in earnest.  About five minutes later he could go from lying down to sitting up on his own.  Then he started crawling up the stairs.  And then he started pulling up all over, and then he started cruising and now he'll walk (wobbly) a bit if you hold his hands.  It is amazing, exciting, fun and a bit baffling as well.  No need to do everything at once, you!

One of his very favorite places to stand.

(I should say now that this post is more wordy than usual, but hey, blame Baby for being so productive this month.)
Post-nap sleepy face.
He's gotten more into foods lately too.  I discovered that he will devour anything I put in the mesh feeder, but he's also taken more to eating with an old fashioned spoon. 

I always planned to give him chunks of food a la Baby Led Weaning, but I give him purees (of varying smoothness) more often.  Broccoli, sweet potatoes, squash, green beans, carrots, applesauce--he eats them all up.  He also sometimes has chunks of banana, avocados and likes the occasional banana puffs if I stick it in his mouth.  His pincer grasp gets better all the time.   

He loves these perfect pushup things.
Talking face!

Anyway, he is a good, funny baby.  We have been working on some sleeping issues and the dry scalp (always), but on the whole, he is a happy, chatty little fellow.  He likes looking at books and banging things on the floor and picking up shoes. 

That TUMMY.  I can't get over it.

Also he makes faces like this:

He crawls onto my lap for hugs and follows me around and sometimes grabs my throat really hard (I try to not take it personally).  

Good baby.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey- Chronicles II: Creatures & Characters

Author: Daniel Falconer
Year: 2012
Genre: Non-fiction/Art/Film
Reading Level: Adult

Series: Second in the Hobbit Chronicles

Summary: A detailed look at the creatures and characters in the first Hobbit movie, with behind the scenes information on the cast, costumes and characterizations.  Also includes details on the effects, both physical and digital, and plenty of photos to go round.

Red Flags: Many color photographs of hideous, hideous creatures

My Rating:B+
Again, I am always happy to read about movie making stuff, especially when it's Tolkien related.  But.  Do I want to read approximately 500 pages about the dwarves?  Do I want to read any amount of pages about goblins?  Do I want to see huge close-ups of the Goblin King?  The answer to all of these questions is no.  No, I do not. 

I mean, it's a well made, good looking book.  The creature and character scale at the back was very cool, and I always like movie making tidbits.  But there was so much information that, really, is just not very relevant.  All the actors talked about these details and back stories they created for their dwarf characters, but none of that came across in the movie.  So why does it matter?  It just seemed kind of silly to me, and basically drove home all my issues with the movie dwarves.  

Also Andy Serkis, my goodness.  How he does go on.  And, like, the first book, this one went on and on about how brilliant Peter Jackson is.  I object to this.  

Anyway.  It's a nice book and I enjoyed pulling little factoids from it, but overall it deepened my criticisms of the movie instead of enhancing my appreciation for it.  It was interesting to realize that there were a number of crew changes from the LOTR days (which makes sense, as that was a good long while ago), and I have to wonder how the Hobbit movies would be different if it had all the same minds behind it.  Perhaps it would just be a Hobbit movie...?

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Chronicles: Art and Design (Book Review)

Author: Daniel Falconer
Year: 2012
Genre: Non-fiction/Art/Film
Reading Level: Adult

Series: First in the Hobbit Chronicles

Summary: A detailed look at the art and design work behind the first Hobbit movie, including over a thousand images.  This book includes designs for costumes, characters, sets, locations and creatures.  There are pencil sketches, digital pieces and photos. 

Red Flags: Art and designs of hideous creatures

My Rating: A-
I love the three art books for the Lord of the Rings movie series, and I enjoy a good movie art book in general.  Strangely enough though, this book fell prey to the same malady as the Hobbit movies--Overstretcheditis.  No, of course I did not just make up that term.  (...)  Anyway, I love looking at all the designs, but I see no reason why this could not have been combined with the following book (Creatures and Characters).  

I rate the art and the behind the scenes stuff an A, but the drawn out nature dragged my rating down a bit.  I also object to putting just the artists' initials by their artwork.  I could keep track of a lot of them--I am pretty familiar with their names already--but, if it were me, I would be a bit peeved by that.  Give them proper, spelled out credit!  Also I got a little weary of people praising Peter Jackson for his genius.  I guess I just don't think he's a genius these days. 

The art books for LOTR are definitely superior, but I never object to seeing pencil sketches from John Howe and Alan Lee.  Movie making stuff always interests me too, but I wish this series were a bit more concise, as it easily could be. (Also I missed seeing art from Christian Rivers and Jeremy Bennett, but that's not the book's fault.  OR IS IT???)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Bump It Up

One afternoon, back in my working days, I was driving home and I saw a person on a bike near me.  For some reason, when I saw this on this particular day, my brain went back to the scene in Return of the King when Sam says "Share the load" to Frodo.  And for some even more inexplicable reason, I looked at that biker and said to myself, "Share the road."  Then I started laughing my guts out at the thought of a bumper sticker with that slogan.  I crack myself up.

Well, that was like two and a half years ago, and about a year later I actually sat down and make just such a bumper sticker.  Then my brother suggested one with Frodo and "Get off the road!"  Which is also hilarious!  So I made that one too.  

So, just this past fall (if you're keeping track, this was like two years after my initial idea...I may not be fast but I do things eventually!), I finally ordered them as actual bumper stickers.  I don't know what I'll do with them, but I HAVE them and I feel pretty awesome about that.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Pretember: Blankets for the Blanketing

While in Missouri, I happened to peek in my Mama's sewing closet, and found some classic Winnie the Pooh fabric looking for love.  She had no use for it, so we decided to make Boo Boo a blanket, just because.  Didn't it turn out cute?

Really, she did most of the work on this one--all I did was do some of the tying.  Boo Boo sleeps on it every night.

That blanket came after Christmas, but there was one final present I wanted to make for Babycakes: a quilt!  I put it off until last because it was pretty far out of my realm of experience and I was so scared to mess it up.  If you look up "easy quilt patterns" online you will get many results and most of them will not look easy at all, at least to my inexperienced eyes.  

I did a lot of planning beforehand, mostly to put off actually cutting the fabric.  But eventually I found a simple pattern online and there was no reason to put it off anymore.  So I bit the bullet and cut the fabric!  And it was not so scary after all. I laid it out and made some adjustments to the rows.

Then I sewed them into strips and into a top!  I won't say my corners are all perfectly lined up, but I won't say I'm not proud of it either.  For the finishing touch, I stitched Boo Boo's name and the year in one corner.  It may be kind of off center, but I am still proud of that too.  

Drewbles helped me pick out a backing fabric and then I took the two to Missouri, where Mama helped me finish it up.  I spent Christmas Eve sewing it, which took forEVer because I am slow.  

(I had a very uncooperative model for these pictures.)

As for the fabric, which you may notice is extremely fun and so suitably nautical, my art history friend, Shelley, so generously gave me the whole lot during a fabric purge.  Does she not have excellent taste?  Thanks again, Shelley!  I hope I did it justice.

All in all, it was a really fun project, and the hardest part was just getting started.  But isn't that always the case?

Also: While you are admiring the fabric, please, if you would, take a moment to say some prayers for Shelley's baby Eloise, who has been in the NICU since birth with 
some serious health obstacles.  I have never met little Eloise, but I can tell she is a darling baby.

(Pretember Explanation, Part 1, Part 2)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Allegiant (Book Review)

Author: Veronica Roth
Year: 2013
Genre: Dystopian
Reading Level: Young Adult

Series: Third in the Divergent trilogy

Literary Awards: 
Goodreads Choice for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction (2013)

Plot Summary: The factions are gone--or are they?  The city is still divided, a new war beginning between those determined to keep the faction system dead and those wanting to bring it back.  Tris leaves it behind in favor of finding the world outside.  But is that world any better than the one she left?
Red Flags: Language, violence, teenage lustiness

My Rating: C
There's not really much to say that I haven't said already (twice).  This was my least favorite of the three, probably because not much really happens.  It's a lot of sitting around and talking about what to do and angsting over one's genes.  I think the biggest problem here is that the story just got away from Veronica Roth and turned into a bloated mess without much focus.  As usual, there were too many characters, making none of them memorable.  The writing was the same so-so, lazy stuff, and the dual perspective really didn't work for me since Tris and Four sound exactly the same.  (And really, the only point of it was for the sake of the ending.)  As for the end, what was the point of all of this?  Did they really make a better world?  I guess.  Is it going to last?  I'm not so sure about that.

As for the that whole genetics thing, that would have been more interesting if it had come in earlier in the series.  Everything this book is about basically began with this book, which seems like a problem considering there are three.  There's not even a villain to tie all three books together, and there's not really a good villain at all in this one.

Anyway.  I'm glad it's over.  And please, world, please stop with the first person present tense!  Please.  Let's get rid of the delusion of Suzanne Collins-induced grandeur.

Memorable Quotes: 

"Fluorescent light glows behind Evelyn's hair.  I can't see her face...Evelyn's eyes pinch tighter."--p. 12: Can you see her face or not??

"She's wearing something dark around her eyes to make their color stand out..."--p. 66:  You're telling me Four can't recognize mascara?

"Seeing an Erudite process something is like watching the inside of a watch..."--p. 78: Come on.

"We move closer together like sections of a tightened shoelace."--p. 91: Come ON.

"Her eyes are dark, with the same sheen as a puddle of oil beneath a leaking engine."--p. 172.  So her eyes are like rainbowy?

"...I hold on to his arms to stay steady as we press together like two blades at a stalemate."--p. 229: ...

"Tris stands so still, her hands dangling limply, turning red with the flush of her blood."--p. 269: How long has she been standing there??

"Their faces are covered with dark fabric, disguising all but their eyes..." AND YET: "...standing among the invaders, wearing the same mask as the others, is a girl with a dark ponytail."--p. 286: So, they are like...face masks? With an elastic string holding them to their heads?  AND YET:

"Nita [ponytail girl] smiles a twisted smile."--p. 289: So...what kind of mask is this, exactly?

"David sits in a wheelchair, his legs covered in a stiff material--to keep the bones in place so they can heal, I assume."--p. 321: You mean like a CAST?

"It's strange how time can make a place shrink, make its strangeness ordinary."--p. 387: Just lazy.

"I am a child.  I am two feet tall..."--p. 465: A six-month old child then.  Okay.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Hobbit (Book Review)

Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Year: 1937
Genre: Fantasy
Reading Level: Intermediate

Literary Awards: New York Herald Tribune Best Juvenile Story, Keith Barker Millennium Book Award, Books I Loved Best Yearly (BILBY) Awards for Older Readers (1997)

Plot Summary: Bilbo Baggins lived a comfortable, peaceful existence in his hobbit hole--until Gandalf the Grey intervened.  Soon Bilbo is swept away from his home, in the company of dwarves determined to regain their lost mountain.  A long quest stands between Bilbo and his homey hole, and he will not be quite the same at the end of it.

Red Flags: Some peril and very mild violence, creatures

My Rating: A
In the past I've always maintained that this is my least favorite of Tolkien's novels--not because I dislike it, but just because I like his others better.  While that is still the case, I think I enjoyed it more this time than any other reading (I think this was my fifth?).  It's such a great adventure story, and Bilbo is an endearing main character.  It's a fairly simple and straightforward tale but it's also very well written, funny and engaging.  I can't really find any fault with it, even if it's not the serious, bleak Tolkien I love the best.  

Memorable quotes:
"Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable , palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway."--ch. 3

"Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did.  The tremendous things that happened afterwards were as nothing compared to it.  He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait."--ch. 12

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Pretember: Pants for the Wearing

When I got my sewing machine for Christmas last year (=2012), Drew requested I make him something.  Instead I made myself something, made Babycakes several somethings and even made somethings for other babies.  Then came Christmas and it was finally Drew's turn. 

Once upon a time, last spring, Drew found some Kermit fabric perfect for pajama pants.  Naturally, we said "Let's get it next time" and, naturally, there wasn't enough left next time.  Fortunately, my mama came to visit after Babycakes was born and she found enough in St. Louis before her flight.  Mama to the rescue!

And then, naturally, I put off the actual making of them until November.  This is how I roll--just in time.  When I discovered there was *just* enough fabric left to make Boo Boo a tiny pair of matching pants, well, you know that had to happen.

There is even a pocket on the back, so Drewbles can carry his wallet on a late-night milkshake run (not that those EVER happen...) and Boo Boo can carry his binky around.  I used a real pattern for Drew's, and this tutorial for the little ones.  It was a fun project!  But I was glad when they were finished.  So much pressure to make pants!  Whew.

(Pretember Explanation, Part 1, Part 3)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Ender's Game (Book Review)

Author: Orson Scott Card
Year: 1985
Genre: Science fiction
Reading Level: Adult (though I have frequently seen it shelved in young adult)

Series: First in the Ender's Quintet series

Literary Awards: 
Hugo Award for Best Novel (1986), Nebula Award for Best Novel (1985)

Plot Summary: Ender Wiggin was just your typical six-year-old boy genius, terrorized by his brother, beloved by his sister and smarter than both.  Renewed war with the alien buggers is on the horizon when Ender is enrolled in the elite Battle School.  There Ender outsmarts his opponents with his creative and brilliant battle tactics, but what about the people he left behind on Earth?  And, more importantly, what about those buggers?

Red Flags: Language, immature humor, some violence

My Rating: B-
I know my opinion will not be a popular one, but I just never really got into this book.  Partly I blame the fact that I had to read several other books in the middle of this one, due to library due dates.  But mostly I just was so BORED.  Bored bored bored!  There, I said it.  I was bored.  The battles should have been exciting but the description of the action was just boring.  I can't decide if it was overly descriptive, with the swiveling hips and pushing off whatever wall, or not descriptive enough, since I couldn't really picture any of it.  

I mean, I can get the appeal of it, and I by no means hated it or anything.  I have read and liked plenty of sci fi before also so that's not the problem.  But I didn't really care about Ender, I didn't love the writing and oh, I was bored.  I should also note that the ending was spoiled for me some years ago so that came as no surprise--bummer.  

Anyway.  I can appreciate Orson Scott Card's imagination and scope.  I can, I suppose, see why people enjoy this book.  But I will happily never read another one in this series.  

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Fourscore and Seven Months Ago

I'm sure I say this every month, but Babycakes is a delight.  His seventh month was no exception and actually, I think he was even delightier.  He spent the month sleeping really well, especially after we went back to three naps, and started liking solids more.  Solids were still pretty infrequent for that month, but he did like sweet potatoes, tolerated potatoes, enjoyed some banana and avocado and did not like broccoli at all.


Speaking of solids, he got his first teeth!  The bottom two appeared and in no time they were up through the gums.  They say these are the easiest teeth to come through, but he didn't make any fuss about it.  We'll see how teething treats us in the future, but in the meantime, it is cute to see those two white nubbins in his mouth.

This was also the month he truly embraced rolling as a means of travel.  He began belly crawling and, combined with the rolling, he got just about everywhere he wanted to go (meaning, near shoes and plugs).  It wasn't long before he started getting on his hands and knees and rocking back and forth, and by the end of the month he would make a few moves forward before collapsing.

(True fact: I've never cut his toenails.  They've never needed it!)
It was fun to have him around for Christmastime preparations.  Naturally, he didn't really care or even notice that big sparkly thing in our living room, but it was fun to show him anyway (from a distance, for the sake of the ornaments...).  Next year will be a different story!

We are still coping with his dry scalp, but it's being covered up with plenty of hair at least.  As for my own scalp, I noticed a ton of baby hairs!  Phew, the whole hair loss thing was not as terrible as I expected.  Mostly it was just annoying to find my hairs EVERYWHERE.  Anyway, back to baby. 

It was also fun to take him to Missouri for Christmas, where he finally got to meet most of his Christensen family.  He was a big hit, and hardly made a single unhappy peep at anyone (certainly not any weepings or wailings, as he did in the past).  He rolled around, chatted and squealed and was pleasant all around.  I was also excited that he finally got to see some animals!  He pulled Puppy's fur and watched the cats walk around.  Win win win.  

(If there's one thing he loves, it's a shoulder ride.)
It is also worth noting that he was AWESOME on the flights to Missouri.  He only took one short nap, but was happy and laughing the whole time.  People were charmed and amazed at his good behavior.  I was so glad, for the sake of, well, everyone.

Anyway, I know I also say this every month, but Babycakes continues to be a happy, chipper, chatty baby.  He does so many funny things and enjoys everything so much.  Sometimes we look at him and are just amazed at this little human we have.  

What a great little human he is to have around.