Book Suggestions For Adults And Kids

the-night-circus

The Night Circus – Ceila and Marco have trained for the circus all their lives. They end up falling in love but don’t realize there’s a game being played between the two of them that can only leave one of them standing.

girl-with-gifts

The Girl With All The Gifts – Melanie is a young girl that is held in a cell, strapped to a wheel chair with a gun pointed at her and brought to her classroom every morning. She loves school and learning but doesn’t understand the reaction people have with her. It’s hard to say much about this book without giving away spoilers. Don’t read the reviews or it might get spoiled for you like it did with me.

sarah-smiley

Got Here As Soon As I Could – This is a great book of essays by Sarah Smiley who’s a Maine author. I especially related to it because she’s also a Navy wife. It’s a fun read.

iammalala

I Am Malala – Malala was shot in the head by the Taliban for fighting for the right to get an education. Few thought she would make it but she survived such a devastating act and tells her story. Very inspiring and she’s a tremendous young woman.

forest-feast

Forest Feast For Kids – This is a book I grabbed from the library at the last minute and I’m glad I did. It’s a wonderful vegetarian cookbook and my daughter takes pride in being able to pick out the ones she wants to try.

princess-cookbook

The Disney Princess Cookbook – I was very hesitant about getting this for my daughter because of the way I feel about princess crap but this actually has some pretty great recipes that the hummingbird is excited about making.

dr-fell

Dr. Fell And The Playground Of Doom – Dr. Fell, a mysterious man, moves into the neighborhood and builds a playground to win over the kids. Three of the children are on to him and try to uncover what he’s really up to. 8-12 years old.

shuffle-repeat

Shuffle, Repeat – Both Oliver and June’s moms have arranged for Oliver to drive her to school every day. They’re very different but have known each other all their lives. They end up developing a friendship but could it turn into more? 12 years and up.

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My Ongoing In Law Cycle Of Thoughts

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My in-laws will be visiting in a little over two weeks and I’ve been trying to mentally prepare for them, especially now with our new house, they’ll be staying with us for four fucking days since there’s plenty of space and we can’t use that as an excuse.

I suggested to my husband that they should stay in a hotel anyway for a much-needed break in between the days but he thinks that’s impolite. Well, fuck. I personally don’t think so and would make it more about them needing their privacy but I didn’t win that one.

With the weeks and months that follow after one of their visits, I start softening up to them and after four or so months, I’ll convince myself that they really aren’t that bad. Then, I start feeling like shit about how much I rant about them and think this time when the in-laws come to stay with us, we’ll actually have a pleasant time. Hey, I never said I wasn’t delusional.

I’ll become so worked up with guilt and feel like a horrible person for the things I say about them. I start convincing myself that I just need to suck it up and stop overreacting. The hummingbird adores them and I keep my feelings to myself and it makes me happy that she’s so happy when they visit.

But then, they arrive. When we greet them, I’m kind of like a deer in headlights with thoughts of all the past bullshit I’ve dealt with when it comes to them and also the simple fact that oh shit, they’re actually here and this visit is really happening.

Within ten minutes, my father in law is talking about every single little detail that happened on their trip here and none of it relates to them. He’ll be saying what he overheard someone else on the plane talk about, go into a thorough overview of a person on his flight that he was nearby and without any knowledge of the person, form all of his own ideas and opinions about who this person might be, what kind of job they have, why they were traveling, etc, etc.

Then, we hear about the people who have died, for example a church member’s sister’s uncle’s grandmother who they have no idea about or never met and that will give me a bang my head against a spike moment. We also hear about how much my mother in law misses her over 100 turtles even though it’s been like five hours since she’s seen them.

By the two-hour mark, not only am I ready for them to go to their hotel room that they don’t have, I’m ready for the entire visit to be over with. But, what’s that? They brought a few gifts for the hummingbird. Hmmm, I can’t imagine what the theme of these gifts will be. Oh, look at that! A shirt with a turtle on it and lookie at the other one, a turtle purse.

At this point, I’ve gone into the kitchen at least once but more like twice to get a few shots of vodka. I can’t forget how the father in law will also discuss ALL the fucking construction in detail that he saw while driving up from Boston. Oh. my. god. A text usually goes out to my mom around this time with something usually along the lines of “help!”.

It will be about time for the bird to get into bed and once she’s tucked into her room, the four of us sit there while my FIL goes back to talking about the construction he saw on the way up here. He wonders what they’re doing if it’s road construction and make assumptions. If it’s something he saw being built like a new construction site, oh lawdy, he goes through the details of how it’s going to be built, with lots of detail and with a fine tooth comb even though he doesn’t know what the hell it’s actually going to be.

And again, this is all assumptions but since he loves to hear himself talk and lecture he seems pretty sure of himself that what he’s saying is fact. Oh. my. god. By now it’s been a good four hours since they’ve arrived and while it may be a little rude, I’ll turn on the television and put it on closed captioning and turn down the volume so he can continue with his lecturing and so I won’t fall asleep because the man is like human ambien.

What has become a little escape for me turns into a nightmare because the FIL starts reading the closed captioning out loud. And, he has 20,000 questions about what’s on when I haven’t yet seen it myself. He’s like my 7 year-old when watching things. Is it really that difficult for a 60 something grown man to not be able to draw conclusions for himself??! I mean, he seemed pretty capable with talking about construction bullshit and the people on the plane and in the airport and AGGHHH!

During this time, my MIL will take some passive aggressive starter strikes at me about how the house looks or how the hummingbird is being raised and how that’s not the way they did it when her kids were growing up.

I’m finally done and head off to bed completely wiped out. But the thing is they get me so wound up and are so fucking exhausting to be around that I don’t know what to do with myself. I’ll end up being too tired and mindfucked to sleep.

The next morning, I absolutely dread opening the bedroom door while hearing them out in the kitchen while the hubby gets breakfast together.

My FIL will always ask how I slept and if I’m doing okay. I’ll tell him no, no I’m not okay and I slept like shit because you two stress the fuck out of me so I’m sleep deprived and pissy from the lack of sleep I had that may have been resolved if you would have just stayed at a damn hotel.

Okay, that’s what I’d like to say but just say a simple fine. There’s of course not much breakfast table chatter since my FIL won’t shut the fuck up. He’s like one of those talking dolls that has a string in the back and once you pull it, it talks for a few seconds. Except, his string doesn’t have a stopping place.

There’ll be plans to go out and see the sites but oh darn, I’ve come down with some mysterious ailment and would be better off staying at the house while they go out with the family.

The non stop talking from my FIL and the passive aggressive bullshit from my MIL continues for the rest of the visit and finally the moment arrives.

They’re LEAVING!! HALLEFUCKINGLUJAH!

I put on my fake sad face and it’s all I can do to stop myself from shoving them out of the door. Finally, they’re gone and the bird will feel sad so I’ll console her while in my head a mariachi band plays to celebrate there departure. A few weeks after they’ve left, I’ll start to recover and get some of my sanity back.

After a month or two, the husband will mention that his parents are looking forward to come up and visit us again soon. My eyes meet his and I give him the death stare followed by a ‘they were just here!” A few months later, my daughter will start asking when she’ll see her grandma and grandpa again and I start to feel myself weaken.

The hubby and I go back and forth about what’s a good time for them to come and visit. I weaken some more and think this visit won’t be as bad as all the other ones, despite my 21 years of knowing otherwise.

Because damn it, maybe it’s all me and not just them and I’m sure I was just being on edge when they came for a visit last time.

This visit, I’ll make sure to do all that I can to have more patience.

They arrive and I will make this visit work in my favor.

Two hours later and two shots of vodka down the hatch and I’m ready for them to leave.

And the cycle repeats.

Oy!

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Pinterest Has A Way Of Turning My Search Of Healthy, Meatless Meals Into Seven Layer Cakes And Chocolate Dipped Bacon

Pinterest-cork

I’ll be on Pinterest on any given night and it starts off pretty controlled. I give myself fifteen minutes, or so I’d like to think but I’ve learned my lesson. Once I’m on Pinterest, it’s like a black hole that sucks me in. It’ll start off with a zucchini noodle lasagne and healthy salads.

I’m sure because Pinterest likes to fuck with people, I’ll scroll down on similar items and bam, there’s a recipe for chocolate fudge. Mmmm, fudge. But, wait! I’m on Pinterest to find healthy meals, not fudge. Although, I haven’t had fudge in a long time, I could pin it and make it for Christmas. Okay, fine! I’m pinning it and going back to healthy salads.

Let’s see… salads. Already pinned that one. And, that one. Ooh, this one looks good, let me check that one out. Looks good. This salad has like 18 ingredients though. Who the hell has time to chop that shit up? It’d be easier to get a salad from Panera. Mmmm, Panera.

I love their chicken ceasar salad and a frozen lemonade. Oooh, frozen lemonade. Let me see what recipes Pinterest has for that.

Oh, look at this one. It’s alcoholic. Pinned! Okay, where was I? Frozen lemonade. Eh, don’t need any more of those. Oh, yeah. Healthy meals. Let’s try vegetarian. That looks good but my kid won’t eat that. Hmmm, maybe I could modify this one a bit. Pinned!

Okay, let’s see what else. Nope. Nope. Not that one. Oooh, creamy sun dried tomato pasta sauce. It’s not exactly healthy but what the hell. Pinned!

Scrolling down… nope, nope, yum, but I’ll never make that. Still… Pinned! Look at that. Chocolate cake. Like I really need that. Eh, I’ll take a look. Yum, Yum, Yum, holy shit, a 7 layer chocolate cake. That’s fucking amazing! I want that in my belly now! Mmmm.

I’m not pinning that though. I’m here to pin healthy meals, damn it! But, I can’t part with this cake. What if it never pops up again if I’m ever looking for cakes. Fine. Pinned!

Okay, back to healthy meals. But, wait. What’s this? Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Dip. Sounds good. But, what the hell would I need it for? I know! A Super Bowl party. But, I’ll never throw a Super Bowl party. I don’t even like football. Don’t think like that. Just think of the cheesy buffalo chicken goodness. Pinned!

Omg, talk about food porn. Chocolate dipped bacon. There’s no reason whatsoever to pin that. But, I must. No, I can’t. Yes, I can. No, I can’t.

I don’t have any boards that chocolate bacon would go under. And, really. I’m never making that. But, what if years from now there is an actual need for chocolate bacon and then I’ll think to myself, damn, I should have pinned that recipe I saw on Pinterest 6 years ago. Okay, I’ll make a ‘Food Porn’ board. Create!

I should be getting to bed but now it’s going to bug me that I only have one pin on my new ‘Food Porn’ board. I need to find a few more pins. It must be the OCD in me. Scrolling…. scrolling. Yum, maple bacon cupcakes. Okay, that actually makes me want to puke a bit from so much sweetness but what the hell. Pinned!

Wait.

What time is it?

12:30 am?

What the fuck just happened?

I need to be in bed.

A very loud alarm is going to be jumping on me and whining about breakfast in six hours.

But, look at that! A two layer buttercream frosting cake with edible gold leaf Baroque paintings and sugared flowers. Ha! Like I’d ever make that in a million years.

Pinned!

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Bedtime

6. Tell your kid almost every night that they need to drink less water so they don’t have to get up to be 3 or four times within an hour after bedtime. Then, easily forget to have your kid drink less because you’re trying to get them to hurry up with their bath or shower and they’re moving slower than slugs.

5. Go back and forth on what qualifies as pajamas, She has a drawer full of jammies, yet that’s too easy. She’ll want to wear one of her day shirts with her pajama bottoms but I know that’s one of her favorite shirts to wear to school and summer camp but she wants to wear it NOW! I have to pick my battles so I either quickly give in or tell her to change into a pajama top and that’s that.

4, When you say one hug and then I’m going, stick with it. Then once you get out in the hallway, feel like shit for denying your kid one more hug and go back, but this is the last time! Yeah, right.

3. We start the bedtime routine about an hour and a half before bedtime but even if it’s a little earlier or later, she never gets to bed on time. I’m so over it that I will basically do whatever will keep her in her bed so she’ll finally get to sleep.

2. That can sometimes require me to leave all the nights on upstairs. We have this thing about leaving ights on when we’re not in a room, but after over two hours of your kid fighting bedtime, I’ll be desperate.

1. She’s finally in bed and seemingly asleep so I get out some snacks and prepare to watch UnReal or Teen Mom when I hear her little voice from upstairs saying Mom? Mooom? I’m scared! What’s that noise from the t.v.? Are you eating something?

Shit!

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Home

After 20 years of being a navy wife and fifteen moves, we’re finally home. It’s so foreign to me that we will be living here for years to come. And hopefully, we’ll never have to move again. Some of you have asked for pictures of the house and also any decorating. This is the first time I’ve ever cared about decorating and I’ve been taking my time. We have quite a bit of space to decorate.

I can't believe we live here. A view of the living room.

I can’t believe we live here. A view of the living room.

stairs

Planting apple trees.

Planting apple trees.

Our backyard.

Our backyard.

New lampshades for the bedroom.

New lampshades for the bedroom.

The house came with dark blue curtains in the bedroom and I wanted to brighten it up.

The house came with dark blue curtains in the bedroom and I wanted to brighten it up.

A French tile mirror I found that's in the living room. Hands down, my favorite area of the house.

A French tile mirror I found that’s in the living room. Hands down, my favorite room in the house.

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Buffalo Chicken Bowls

Photo Credit: Pretty Providence

Photo Credit: Pretty Providence

This has quickly become one of my favorite healthy lunches. You have the spiciness of the chicken, the crunch of the sweet corn, black beans for extra protein, and the coolness of Greek yogurt ranch dressing. This is also great to have for a summer dinner.

Enjoy!

Ingredients:

6 chicken breasts

1 cup Frank’s hot sauce

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

2 cans corn, rinsed and drained

2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained

Hidden Valley Greek yogurt ranch dressing

Optional:

sliced cherry tomatoes

sliced avocados

green onions

Directions:

1, Bake chicken with hot sauce and garlic for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. When done, shred chicken and set aside to cool.

2. Add rinsed and drained black beans and corn into a bowl, Add the optional cherry tomatoes and sliced avocado.

3. Scoop veggies in a bowl, top with chicken, and drizzle with Green yogurt ranch dressing.

Tips:

If the Greek ranch dressing isn’t available, add a packet of ranch to 1 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt, and 3 tablespoons of milk. Mix together and serve on top of buffalo chicken bowls.

If it’s too hot to use the oven, bake chicken in the slow cooker for 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low.

I like to serve this somewhat warm but not very hot. If you’re using chicken from the fridge, heat it in the microwave for 20-30 seconds, if desired.

A quick shortcut I sometimes do is use the Perdue grilled chicken in the packages and shred that up for the bowls if I’m short on time.

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Ink Quills: Don’t Wave Your Poo-Covered Bum So Hard

Please welcome Scurvy Platypus to the Ink Quills. I’m currently setting up the website so the posts will be here for now. If you’re interested in writing for the Ink Quills, contact me.

My wife says that my inner child is a 13 year old Japanese school-girl, trying desperately to get out. I grew up poor and all over the western side of the U.S.; the rest of my upbringing is messed up enough that you probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you. I lived for the past 9 years in New Zealand, along with my wife of 20 years, 3 cats, and 2 newly adopted children. I suffer from depression, and a sense of humour that my wife informs me I’m too poor to call “eccentric”. My interests are geeky, nerdy, wordy, arty, and musical; for anything more, read my bio.

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Tonight is day five of my captivity; I hadn’t expected to ever be uttering such a phrase before [about poo-covered bums that is], but honestly that’s probably more a failure of imagination on my part than anything. And I’ve got quite the imagination. But, I guess maybe I should back up slightly and explain why I’m captive, and staring at a 3-year-old poo-butt being vigorously waved at me.

…You know, it turns out to be a little bit more difficult to start than I’d thought. The difficulty isn’t really starting, but trying to figure out where to start. Starting at the very beginning would cover some 40 years, a disturbing amount I don’t actually remember, and a whole lot of exposition that would bore the shit out of you.

So, I guess we’ll start in the middle, much like you’re at a cool party and while wandering by, you overhear some lunatic going on about who knows what and you stop to see if it’s an interesting train-wreck that’s happening or just some random ranting. And really, I view my writing much like a conversation; my hope is that someone will actually talk back to me at some point, so I quit being that lunatic talking to himself and instead become the much more socially acceptable lunatic that’s talking to others. Note: You can decide if “others” means other lunatics, or just other people; I’m generous in how I share my conversations and don’t insist on dominating the conversation at all. Unless I actually do and people are just too polite to tell me. I do ramble though, so be prepared for some non-linear conversations and thinking. I like to think of myself as a Salvador Dali of conversations.

At the beginning of April this year, my wife and I received news that we’d been waiting for over two years for… we were being considered as a home for kids. We’re from the U.S. but live in New Zealand as Permanent Residents. We haven’t been successful conceiving, and we’d both agreed that we weren’t willing to do something like IVF. So, we went to Child, Youth, and Family [NZ’s child services] to see what our options were. I’ll skip the details and just note that the way things are done here is really different from what I experienced as a foster-kid and the way the U.S. still does things; I feel like I got the Dark Ages treatment, only without the cool clothes. So, after two years of our lives effectively being on hold, out of the blue we’re told, “We’re considering you for placement and would like to interview you…”

They show up [three social workers], we talk, they show us pictures of a pair of brothers [ages 5 and 3] and they want to know if we’re still willing to take on more than one kid. As the eldest of three brothers that wound up getting split up, I was already committed to that.  A few days after the interview, they ring up and go “Everything seems fine, so we’d like to talk about how we transition the boys into your home. We’re thinking July; we’d rather do it sooner but with the end of the school year approaching, it’d make more sense to do it then. Plus, it’ll give a bit more time for the boys to adjust to the idea, since they’ve been with their current caregivers for a year now.”

First thought: Dude, are they really talking about giving me kids?!?!?
Second thought: Holy shit!! They’re talking about giving me kids!!!
Third thought: Oh shit…they’ve already been in foster care for a year with the same couple…
Fourth thought: I’m not gonna be able to say “shit” anymore. And Gretchin [not my wife’s actual name, but the name her dad called her when she was a kid] is going to have to figure out something to call me besides “asshat”.

We met the kids for the first time in May, a week before the older one turned six. They were living an hour and a half north of us, so each Saturday we’d drive up and spend the day with them. June, they started staying over the weekend with us. After three weekends, the kids were finally told that they were going to be coming to live with us as their “forever home”.

Five days ago, their social worker dropped them off with all of their baggage; that’d be the physical baggage. The emotional baggage is still arriving. It includes an intense sibling rivalry, fear of showers/baths, and attachment issues. Oh yeah, the birth parents are also still involved in the boy’s lives and they’ve got supervised visits with the separated parents every three weeks or so.

Today was the first day of school for the six-year-old [Dee] and since the social worker didn’t get the forms filled in for him [or the forms for kindergarten for the three-year old, Jay], I had to rush around to get him into his new class, get forms filled out and money paid, and then take Gretch to work; I’m taking leave from work right now, so we’ll be switching places come November. Other than the fact that she doesn’t drive, so I’ll still be doing all the transportation…

Weekend visits and a few days of everyone being together still does not prepare you for what I am confronting right now…two formed personalities that I barely know, cultural identities I’m still trying to sort out with adults [I thought baseball was boring until an NZer tried to share their love of cricket with me, which has less happening in it than baseball and can take days for a single game to complete], and a language [English] that I’m only mostly familiar with in comparison to my own [American] that’s filtered through the mouths and brains of children.

All of this is encapsulated by the naked crap-covered butt, currently being gleefully waved at me by an otherwise disgruntled three-year old. After loud protestations that he didn’t need his nappy changed, demands and tears for “grandma” [his previous caregiver] and a glare that could dominate the world if it were weaponised, we make it into the bathroom.

“Alright, assume the position…” Jay wears trainers instead of diapers; so ‘the position’ is hands on the bathtube and legs spread, as if I were a cop searching him; instead of needles and knives, I’ve got to worry about diaper blow-out.

“I dun need a new nappy!”Jay declares grimly, like a hostile teen. The smell, and I’d swear what was an orange mist wafting towards me, indicated otherwise.

“Right. Ok, first come down the pants, and…HOLY?!?…uhhhh…Ok, Houston, we have a problem. Let’s stand nice and quiet for a second while I figure this out buddy…”

“I made a yuck” he announces. His attitude has changed now, shit covered pants around his ankles. He sounds like someone admitting that he was in fact carrying drugs, after a cop finds the stash and shows him. Only nobody would be wanting to buy this particular smuggled package. “I wanna do it myself!!!”

“Yes, you certainly made a WHATAREYOUDOING?!?! FREEZE! Do NOT lift that leg any higher mister!” I’ve caught the offending limb in question and try to delicately extract it from the pants without disturbing the mass. It looks like someone has tried to inexpertly plaster over a wall crack, only featuring a butt instead of a wall and poo instead of plaster. I manage to do the deed and quickly drop the weapon into the rubbish bin outside, just a few steps from the bathroom.

I step back and am confronted by the sight of Jay, giggling like a lunatic and looking over his shoulder at me, as he gyrates and dances in place, hands still firmly gripping the side of the bathtub, and chants “Poo-bum! Poo-bum!” to the beat of whatever internal drummer that boy is marching to.

“Don’t wave your poo-covered bum so hard!!”I’m both amused and aghast.
“Why?” He seems genuinely curious.
“Uhhh….” Oh god, so many reasons…”Because it makes it more difficult to clean your bottom?”
“Ok!” Butt waving immediately recommences.

So now, it’s 02:30 in the morning as I write this and the kids will be awake around 06:00. I’ve got a needy cat trying to walk on my keyboard, a traumatised kitten eyeing me from the couch, and another cat that would like to smack the stupid out of everyone in the house, cat and human alike. It’s winter [Southern Hemisphere y’all, means opposite seasons], I’ve reluctantly concluded I’m probably not going to be able to drink the coffee I made myself this morning [the morning I got up, not in the last couple of hours], and my foot is still sore from the Lego I stepped on earlier.

Holy shit. I’ve got kids…and I am SO unprepared.

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