Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sad to say a cool day here is 87 degrees F...and something I look forward to

I have been keeping myself pretty busy here, relatively speaking. I have seen two movies, Thor, which was visually gorgeous and had a fine Australian main actor to boot and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, which I originally didn't want to see but it ended up being entertaining anyways. It was your basic summer holiday fluff like Thor was but that's okay. I am looking forward to watching the new X-Men: First Class coming out in June, and of course the end of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. 

I had another doctor's appointment this week and everything seems to be progressing well with the baby. I feel swollen up like a balloon though, my most pregnant ever, and my dad teases me about waddling. You would waddle too if your stomach was as round and in the way as mine is. My mom took pictures of me to send to my family, and I'll probably send some to my friends just so they can get an update. I've been bad about taking photos during this pregnancy and have only really done two, one at 6 1/2 months and one now at 7 1/2 (I count via calendar months, i.e. 4 weeks not the more traditional 4.4 weeks like we're supposed to). Anyways, I'm now 32 weeks. A friend of a friend who is also pregnant (about a month ahead of me I think) has gone into early labor as of last night so hopefully we'll see some pictures of her little girl soon. 

I finally got all the paperwork together to apply for Medicaid here and after 4 hours of waiting at the Access office, I am covered! Just waiting for my card in the mail and I still have to call some people to verify which plan I am using. Now at least I can fill out the pre-registration paperwork for the hospital. We had done a maternity tour of the hospital two weeks ago and I am really impressed. I must say that that was one of the things I was most worried about, as I'm pretty sure the hospital in SC wasn't that modern, but the women's center in this hospital was built in 2002 and has been updated since then. They seem to take really good care of you there and even the hospital rooms don't look scary and sterile. I'm planning on signing up for a labor and childbirth class at the hospital to take with my hubby, so I won't be completely in the dark. I mean I know basic stuff, but always good to know more about it. I'm also wanting to take the free infant CPR class that they are offering, as that will always be something handy to know. I have to pack my hospital bag this week as the woman going into early labor puts that into better perspective. Having a friend who has recently had a baby helps a lot in figuring out things like what to pack in the overnight bag. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Cool Children/Teen Websites

I was browsing through the Guardian's website (British newspaper) as they had an article on libraries and found their children's book website and thought it looked pretty cool. Here is the link. It includes quizzes, top 10 booklists from famous children/teen authors, pictures/videos, reader reviews, hot books out now, author interviews, and links to books for kids age 1-16. I browsed though a couple parts such as the quizzes and booklists and thought it was a really well done site, so I thought I'd share. A lot of my favorite books are by British authors, so this is a cool site for keeping up with new and upcoming authors. I especially liked this post, about the Redwall animal fantasy series by Brian Jacques. The teen book Guardian website is here, and is very similar in format to the children's website. The only downside is you can't enter the free book giveaways unless you are from that particular age group and live in the UK, but there are plenty of book giveaways on sites like Goodreads that can satisy that need. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Stuff going on here lately

We have spent the past week getting used to living in Arizona, and I think it's going pretty well, minus the weather. The movers came last Monday and my parents hired two helpers, which managed to squeeze all of our furniture and extra stuff into storage. Of course we can't take anything out now, but don't think we'll be moving for awhile, so we should be okay. I got a hair cut, which is totally necessary in this weather where I am sweating all the time anyways (would rather be doing it with shorter hair than longer). I got my new Arizona driver's license the same day and my picture didn't come out too horrible. I am discovering a bit how to drive in the NW Valley, where my parents live, though I've not attempted Phoenix yet as I still find it insanely confusing. I've only been on the highways once, to drive my parents to the airport and that was intimidating. It's like my hubby says, the towns in this area are more like subdivisions in one giant town because they are so close together. It's really confusing sometimes when you're driving around and you enter two or three different towns in the space of a couple of miles. For example, we live in Sun City but if you go a mile in one direction, you end up in Youngstown and the other direction, you end up in Peoria, but there are pockets of Sun City mixed up with these other towns to make it even more confusing. So it is better for me to go by directions vs. city names as they're all squished together. 

The local library system, Maricopa County, has 17 branches and most are in the NW Valley. I decided to try out the NW Regional branch first, which has a nice children's section and seems to do storytimes regularly. It is right next to a huge park/sports complex with a gigantic kid's play area. It also is right next to a lake where you can go fishing, and there are lots of ducks and we even saw an egret there. I may end up going to another branch in the future, but for now, this one is close enough that it works for me. The only thing I don't like is that you are only allowed 10 books on hold, and I've already got six on my list. Most of them are books that aren't coming out for awhile, so I've got a bit of a wait. I picked up an interesting book called As Always, Julia, which is about the letters written between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto. Now if you have seen the movie Julie & Julia or read Julia Child's brilliant memoir My Life in France, you will know that Avis was a great friend of Julia's that she "met" by accident. Their letters are a fascinating look at the culture and politics of the 1950s onwards, especially about women and cooking. However, it is pretty dense as it is mainly just their letters, so not sure if I will be able to finish it now or will have to try it again later. 

I saw my new Nurse Practioner and I liked her, though she will not be my main medical person. I'm supposed to meet the doctor on the 25th. Hopefully I will have been able to start processing my Medicaid application by then, which I need to start on tomorrow. This doctor's office is much more organized/professional than the last one, and the hospital looks really nice. I'm hoping John and I and maybe my parents can get a tour of the maternity wing of the hospital next weekend. Meanwhile, me and the baby are doing just fine. Other than having a bit of time adjusting to the heat. This Friday it was up to 99 degrees F again and I thought we were going to melt in the house. My hairdresser in Columbia wasn't kidding when she was talking about being pregnant in the summer (she had both her kids in July). She told me that she used to wear next to nothing and still be melting, and I'm already feeling the same way. Plus with the little one kicking a whole lot more and my belly feeling like it is swelling to massive proportions that makes things more interesting. Sometimes I feel like I have to sit in very unladylike positions just so I can be cool and comfortable. That and with the heat, all I want to do is sleep, even it is a sweaty sleep. Anyways, I'm off to bed. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Cross County Pt 2

Pretty much all of Oklahoma on I-40 was under construction, and it was the state with the second most amount of cows (Texas was first). Staying at the Baymont Inn & Suites in Oklahoma City turned out to be a great move as they had excellent customer service and a yummy breakfast. Texas was super flat and you could see for miles. New Mexico was more rolling hills and mile after mile of nothing but desert-y scrub, so we were very glad to get to the hotel. We made the trip from Ok City to Albuquerque, NM in about 9 hours and got there early afternoon so we tried to relax, but our hotel was kinda crappy so that made things challenging. We were glad to leave the next morning, despite being exhausted from lack of sleep the night before. We made the drive from NM to the Phoenix area in about 7 hours, and got there early as I had forgotten about the time change. So we are now 3 hours behind South Carolina time, which I know will take me awhile to get used to, because I was up at 5:15am today. My hubby slept like a log, for the first time in about 5 days. The biggest thing we had to get used to was the heat, as it was about 100 degrees yesterday. Today was still hot, at about 93, but had a nice breeze blowing so it didn't feel so oppressive. We had a nice Mother's Day, my first, though the main focus has been on my mom which is fine with me. My hubby is preparing his yummy shrimp, mango and okra curry for dinner. 

This week will prove to be a bit busy as we get settled in. I have a doctor's appointment on Tuesday, then I'm planning on getting my hair cut and my driver's license done. I will be so happy to get a haircut as my hair has been getting seriously shaggy and long and in the way. Might be a little longer to get the car registered and license plate changed. The moving company is coming tomorrow, which was a bit of a surprise as we didn't think the guy would be here till later in the week as he had two stops to make before he came out to us. So we'll have to sort out how we want to store everything in the storage facility and what all we want in the house with us. That's all the fun and excitement going on here, will post more in upcoming days as things start to happen. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Going across the country by car

My hubby, our golden lab/basset hound mix dog and I (plus a very full car) have gone through seven states in three days, which is pretty incredible when you think about it. These are South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. I had been to all these states except for Arkansas and Oklahoma and my hubby had gone through all but the last three. We drove to nearly Atlanta on Tuesday night, then woke up late Wednesday morning (though didn't sleep much for the second night in a row) and drove to Memphis. We had found out last night that the Mississippi River was about to flood, but thankfully all of the bridges over it near Memphis were still open. However, the White River in Arkansas, between Little Rock and Memphis had flooded its banks and they had closed down part of Interstate 40, which is the main road we are taking from Memphis, Tennessee to Flagstaff, Arizona. So we had to find a detour for today, and even though we left the hotel by 5:45am this morning, it took us an extra three hours to get around the detour (which was super annoying as we had planned to drive all the way to Amarillo, Texas but ended up in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma because we have been driving for 11 hours today). 

As I have said before, I have never been to Arkansas, but what I have seen from the detour and the rest of the state via I-40, I am not missing much. I will say though I am sorry for all the folks that lost their homes and farmland due to the river flooding. We saw the devastation of the it and the tornado that ripped through one of the small towns on the detour, as well as the damage done to one part of Birmingham yesterday while driving. I mean you see the news reports, but nothing prepares you for how crazy everything is in real life. Like all the homes with no roofs or those that were completely flattened. I don't believe I have ever seen the Mississippi River but it was very impressive and as one newcaster said, they were expecting it to get up to 12 ft above the river line when it does flood. It was looking pretty swollen and had covered trees and power lines nearly up to the top. There is almost nothing on I-40 through Oklahoma, except every 25-50 miles each county is owned by a different Native American nation, which had it's own casino. We went through the Cherokee, Creek and Kipopo Nations, just to name a few. It was very green and flat, though less green than Arkansas, which I was frankly surprised at. Also Arkansas had vineyards in the mountainous areas of the Ozarks, which I also wasn't expecting. 

Tomorrow we are hoping to drive from Oklahoma City to Albuquerque, New Mexico. I think my mom wants us to be in Arizona by tomorrow, but I think it we will end up getting there Saturday evening as it is nearly 16 hours there from where we are now. I could do 11 hours, though that is pushing it a bit with me being pregnant and a pooch in the back seat, but 16 hours is just too much

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Packed and Moving

Well we have packed up the entire apartment, which took about 5 days, and thank God that is over with. I forgot how much I hate moving. We didn't end up leaving until about 7pm yesterday, which was way later than I wanted to go, but our moving truck didn't show up until 1pm, so there ya go. We drove to my friend's house in Georgia last night and got in really late, especially after we had been moving and sweating all day. I will say that that shower last night was one of the best ones in my entire life. We are about to get on the road again, this time heading to Memphis on our long 22 hr journey to the Phoenix area. Exhausted but glad to be done with the moving for now, until the truck arrives sometime next week and we have to put everything into storage.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Kat Falls, Sara Gruen, Arthur Slade, Diana Wynne Jones and Jenny Han

I am taking a break from packing to write a review post of the books I've been reading since April 17, which isn't a lot, but does include one adult book (which I hardly seem to read these days, but I've been waiting months to read this particular book). We've got most of the house packed but still doing bits and pieces in a couple rooms, and then of course we have to clean the whole place before the closing inspection. Not that we're expecting any money back, our dog has seen to that, but it's just something we gotta do. While I am a little annoyed that our moving truck won't be here till Tues afternoon vs the morning, I am glad that it didn't get delayed until the following day. Anyways, on to reviews, which contain some spoilers. 

Monsters Eat Whiny Children by Bruce Eric Kaplan 
I thought the title was hilarious, which is why I initially picked it up. The story is about two whiny children named Henry and Eve, whose father warned them to stop or monsters would come and get them, and one day a monster did come. The funny part came when the monster and his wife/neighbors are arguing about how to prepare the children, i.e. in a salad, burger, cake, vindaloo (Portuguese-influenced Indian curry), and cucumber sandwiches. But the children escape so the monsters end up eating plain old cucumber sandwiches, which should be made with butter.

The funniest part of this story is not the story itself but a review I saw before I posted mine from a mother who read the story to her children and frightened them so much that she only has to threaten calling the monsters and her kids stop whining. I agree with her that the humor is more for parents than their children, but it is a cute book. Three stars, recommended for children aged 5-12. 

The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood
Love the descriptions of the different kinds of the quiet, ones I wouldn't normally think about such as "don't scare the robin quiet, last one to get picked up from school quiet, right before you yell 'SURPRISE' quiet, and what flashlight quiet." Plus I love the illustrations that have been toned down, from typical bright colors to emphasis the quiet within the book. Great for storytime or bedtime! Five stars, recommended for ages 3-8.

La lagartija y el sol/The Lizard and the Sun: A Folktale in English and Spanish 
by Alma Flor Ada
I loved this Aztec folktale, in Spanish and English, about why lizards like lying in the sun. One day the sun just disappears and all the animal and people are afraid, but the lizard goes searching for it. He finds her and with a little help from the emperor, a woodpecker and the people wakes her up and gets her going again. I love all the details in the book from the architecture to the clothing on the emperor. Very well done interpretation of this story, which apparently started out as a paragraph. Five stars, recommended for ages 7+. 

Children  and Young Adult
Dark Life (Dark Life #1) by Kat Falls 
Another book I discovered at the Teen Services Workshop, this book was described to me as a fantasy western, which intrigued me enough to pick it up and try it out. And it pretty much is just that. Basically the story premise is this: The eastern seaboard of the US has fallen into the ocean creating two separate societies, the Topsiders who live on land and those who live in the subsea territory. Gemma, a Topsider, comes to the subsea and meets Ty, a born subsea dweller, who helps her to find her brother. Meanwhile there is a roving group of outlaws that threatens to destroy the territory and the gov't says they must be captured or they will close the territory down. Will the outlaws be captured? Will Gemma ever find her brother? To find out, read this fascinating undersea adventure. Four stars, recommended for ages 10+. 

The Dark Deeps (The Hunchback Assignments #2) by Arthur Slade
The second book of the series finds Modo and Octavia posing as husband and wife and heading to New York in search of a missing fellow British agent. Once they arrive, they find out that he is dead but can't figure out by whom, and then there is the mysterious note with the words "Big Fish" and a location. What is this Big Fish? Is it part of the Clockwork Guild or something else? What is the organization's master plan? 


Overall I enjoyed the book and especially learning about Icaria, and everything that the Captain had achieved underwater. However, I thought the story lacked a bit of the excitement of the first book. The Griff character was particularly evil and crazy, but at the same time you feel kind of sorry for him, kind of like Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I'm hoping the author continues the series and we see more of Colette, the half-Japanese/half French spy, as the end of the story made her seem more intriguing. Four stars, recommended for ages 11+. 

Shug by Jenny Han
I loved this book! I thought it was interesting that the main character's mother named her after the really vivacious character in "The Color Purple," but gave the less colorful name to her sister, which seemed kind of backward. Shug (aka Annemarie) is a twelve-year old going into the 7th grade. She likes her best friend Mark but has never been able to tell him so and since school started again, everything has started to change in her personal and school life, which she hates. She wants things to go back to the way they were, but she is growing up and moving on. An example of this is on page 144, when Shug says "Come to think of it, things were easier when it was just me and Mark, too. But the old me and Mark, without any of the love stuff. Life was simpler. Life was riding bikes and kickball and cherry Popsicles." I know exactly what she means there as I had a similar situation with a boy in middle school. I met him in 6th or 7th grade and we were best friends, only somewhere along the way I got a huge crush, but he never noticed me as a girl, just as his friend. Then when we got to high school, he was too cool for me and yeah, broke my heart a bit. So I can totally relate to her after her 7th grade dance, when she overhears Mark saying on page 220, "Annemarie? Come on, she's barely even a girl," and is totally crushed. Five stars, recommended for ages 10+.

One of the first things that jumped out at me about this book was Shug's description of pretty and plain girls as compared to butterflies and moths. She says on page 11 "It's like moths. They're the same as butterflies, aren't they? They're just gray. They can't help being gray, they just are. But butterflies, they're a million different colors, yellow and emerald and cerulean blue. They're pretty." I've always loved that word "cerulean," its's a great descriptor.Later on at the end of Chapter 11, Shug is talking about letting friends you knew in elementary school go and says on page 74 "It's like trying to shimmy up a rope with a moose tied to your ankles. You've just gotta cut that moose loose." I just thought that was hilarious. The author is really good at putting in references that most twelve-year olds probably wouldn't use, but with the quirky Shug, it seems possible. Like when Celia knows of the play "The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus" because her sister was supposed to read it and she compares being paired with her worst enemy as "a Faustian bargain (minus the blood part)." 

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
I was watching the Miyazaki film version the other day (which I love) when I had learned that the author of the actual book had died. So I figured it was time to read the book. The book is way different from the movie, though the basic plot line is the same. 

Sophie works at a hat shop and leads a pretty boring life, until one day, when the Witch of the Waste comes into her shop and decides to turn her into an old woman. Sophie leaves town and ends up at the Wizard Howl's moving castle, where she hires herself on as a cleaning woman to Howl, his apprentice Michael and Calcifer, the fire demon. They are pursued by the Witch of the Waste, who has put a curse on Howl and Calcifer, and Sophie must figure out what it is in order to free herself from her own curse. 

The main difference between the film and the movie is that in the movie, Sophie only has one sister, while in the book she has two. The Witch of the Waste seems to stay beautiful throughout the book, whereas in the movie she ends up becoming blob-like and helpless halfway through. In the book: Michael is in love with Sophie's sister Martha, while Howl seems to be wooing her other sister Lettie. Wizard Sulliman is a man and has disappeared due to the Witch of the Wastes, along with the King's brother, Prince Justin. The whole Sulliman/Justin thing I thought was very odd and a bit unneccessary. If there are more books on Sophie and Howl, I would be interested in reading them. Four stars, recommended for ages 10+. 

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
I loved this audiobook, even though it took me ages to finish (though not for lack of interest). The switching viewpoints I thought was going to be annoying, but once you got into the book, you didn't really notice it. At first, my favorite character was 90 or 93 yr old Jacob with his crotchedyness that made me laugh out loud, but it was only towards the end of the book that I really started to fall in love with 23 year old Jacob's story as well. 

So the main point of the story is the older version of Jacob in a nursing home as he is reminiscing about his younger self at 23. At the beginning of the story, he is attending vet school at Cornell until his parents die in a tragic car accident leaving him totally devastated and without the will to finish school. So he runs away and ends up joining a circus by accident. He eventually becomes the vet for The Benzini Brothers' Circus and it is here that he meets the people who will change his life, such as Walter, Marlena, August and Big Al and the elephant, Rosie. I really did not want to stop listening to it, because every time I got in the car, there was something fascinating/fun to listen to. I had forgotten that circuses traveled by train in the 1930s, but then I remembered the movie "Dumbo." I have always found circuses to be fascinating, esp Ringling Brothers because of the P.T. Barnum connection, so this whole storyline immersion in the behind the scenes of a circus was amazing. I was happy too because I managed to finished the book the day before the movie came out in theaters, which I do want to see, though I think the book will be better. Five stars and highly recommended.