Dec 29, 2009

Sweet Revenge.


So, have you, or someone you know ever been wronged and you feel so bitter about it that you want to retaliate? Have you ever wanted someone to feel the pain they made you feel? Have you ever declared out loud, or in your head that you want to get back at someone? I really had never thought much about revenge until two days ago when I finished reading The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. I had some notion in my head that revenge was something that happened a long time ago and that people did not really do the revenge thing so much anymore. I mean it takes a lot of time, effort and patience to plot out revenge. I don't think most people want to go to that much work anymore.

Have you ever read the Count of Monte Cristo? I had never even heard of it until a few months ago. Because of the holidays happening it took me longer than I wanted it to to read it. About half way through I had to stop, take a break and write out a character list for myself, draw lines to show how they were all connected and then write the words "good" and "bad"after each persons name so I could keep it all straight. The characters change names, have kids, and earn titles as their lives go on so it is hard to keep track of everyone.

Edmund Dantes AKA The Count of Monte Cristo is the main character and I am struggling with what I think of him. After being imprisoned, wrongly for 14 years he plans out the most beautiful revenge I have ever seen. He does it so calmly. He does it so impeccably that I really honestly was lulled into thinking revenge was an okay business to be in. After reading about this wrongful imprisonment, how he escapes, discovers his father is dead, and how his dearest love has married one of the men who got him put into prison, I was very content to read about how he ruins lives and benefits lives according to how those particular people had treated him. I never once thought it was wrong in anyway for him to systematically ruin the lives of the men who had lied and plotted to get him wrongly imprisoned....they totally deserved it.

I think I told you it has been two days since I have finished the book. In those two days some friends brought me the movie made about the book, I have checked out numerous book reviews, and I have read a ton on the internet about revenge. I frankly wish I could go back to that very moment, two days ago, when I was sitting in my bed, with my bedside lamp on, my favorite white stocking hat on my head, my cozy comforter around me and remember what I thought when I closed the back cover to the book and closed my eyes to assimilate what I had read, because all the information gathering has made me have questions and changed my opinions and frankly muddled everything that seemed so clear.

I do clearly remember thinking that I needed Edmond to end up with his first love Mercades and I still do not know if I understand why he isn't with her. I think he expected her to stay faithful to him forever and ever even though she never knew for almost 20 years where he was or if he was even alive. She ends up declaring in the end that the bad men who acted out of greed and selfishness were not near as bad as she was because she acted out of lack of courage. And then after declaring this she and Edmond both walk a way from each other. I still keep expecting to pick up the book and discover I read it wrong and they are together. They need to be.


Revenge is a pretty intense business. Most of us do not have the money and power to exact it the way Edmond Dantes does. And after reading all about revenge I realized it really is not so good. I tried to imagine what Edmond's life would have been like if he had not wanted revenge. What about revenge in Star Wars? What about revenge in Transformers? What about Daniel Craig in the latest James Bond movie and revenge? I hated how that whole movie was about getting even....boring. I wanted to see him find something new.

So all that said I have to say I loved The Count of Monte Cristo. Alexander Dumas is an amazing storyteller and revenge has never been so interesting. I was extremely bummed when I sat down to watch the movie made about The Count of Monte Cristo and discovered they had, honestly, changed just about everything about the story. I, sadly, had to stop watching it. And I just may have to plot revenge against the people who wrote the script for it :)

Dec 25, 2009

It's Resolution Time :)

Okay, it is 5:05 pm on Christmas Day and I am ready to move on to New Years resolutions. I have felt this strange excitement about New years resolutions this year. I even betrayed Christmas and started making my New Years resolutions list a couple weeks ago. I have never, ever done that before in my little old life so I hope it is a good sign. Can you imagine how divine it would be to keep your New Years resolutions? Don't tell me if you have experienced this joy...I live in a little imaginary world where you are all just like me and do not keep them.

It says a lot about your life when you share your New Years resolutions but I am willing to take the risk because I need to document them in this spot where I write just for me but you all happen to read it :) So here it goes.....

#1.Cooking dinner
Yeah, gasp if you must, but something has happened to cooking dinner at the Baird house. For oh so many years I have been good at cooking dinner, and not just cooking dinner but actually including all the food groups. But since the kids have grown older my afternoons have involved being in the car driving them around and not being at home during the cooking dinner time, resulting in dinner slowly disappearing. I will make something for the little girls, something for Joe, sometimes something for the older kids and nothing for the hardworking husband. I know thank your lucky stars you did not marry me.....look how miserable you would have been :) I really do not know where the desire has gone but it has definitely been gone and it has been on my mind a lot lately. I even have noticed when I do fix dinner I feel so good about myself...definitely not a good sign. I have been slowly gathering facts and trying to figure out how I can fix this problem. I mean I can not have the 10 and 7 year old growing up and thinking that cheese sandwiches are dinner can I? I have had several conversations about dinner and I have made several observations about dinner and it all lead to me making a random decision to ask for the Pioneer Woman cook book for Christmas. I have never read the Pioneer Woman blog....(insert totally unnecessary and immature jealousy of her here) but my sister went to her book signing a few weeks ago and has spent a lot of time talking to me about how amazing her new cook book is......and guess what?......she was right. It is an amazing book. After we opened presents this morning and I made sure everyone was either happy or at least able to fake happy I dashed back to my warm cozy bed and read this cookbook from start to finish. I have never read a cook book from start to finish before and may never do it again but this was well worth it. The recipe's are easy. There are step by step instructions with pictures and oh so much more. Can a cook book change your life? I think it can......I made dinner tonight and it is not even January 1st yet.


#2. Exercise and Eating.
It really would not be the New Year, or a new month, or a Monday for that matter without JB having a goal involving exercise and eating. If you know me well and have read my blog enough you know I have started on this road numerous times, everything from the Cabbage Soup diet on up to actual hard core exercise. I have learned something about myself each time I have set out to accomplish my goal of losing 10 lbs so it has not been a complete loss, gaining a little more information and a little more confidence never hurt anyone. And, strangely, this time I can not help but wonder if this is it, the time, that I am going to actually accomplish it.

#3. Thank you notes.
I am going to be more diligent in the, "thank you note writing department." My plan is to stuff a few notes in my car and in my purse so that when I am waiting for children or sitting in a boring meeting I can write a few thank you's. I am always noticing things that people around me do but never letting them know that I noticed. I have received a few perfectly timed and thoughtful thank you notes this year and they have meant a lot to me. You never know when someone needs to know that you appreciate them.

#4. Piano
Learn to play 4 new songs on the piano. I already know that one of them is going to be the music from The Snowman movie.

Can you believe that that is it? That is the Jenn Baird New Years resolution list. I feel giddy just looking at it. I hope this strange, unfamiliar feeling I feel is a good sign and means I am actually going to find Mr Determination this year and make him work hard.

Dec 18, 2009

A Tribute.





Dear 15 Passenger Van,

I will never forget that fated day in 2002 in Lawrence, Kansas when I realized that seven kids were not going to fit in my beloved Suburban anymore. I once again had to compromise because of my choices and I became the owner of a 15 passenger van. Definitely not something you tell your friends in high school that you are going to be driving when you grow up. I always talked bad about you in front of you. But when we loaded you up a few weeks ago to head to Michigan and Indiana I realized you have been through a lot with the Baird family.

You have seen the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic ocean

You have been to Texas to see the Merrill's

You have driven our family and countless youth to the Chicago, Winter Quarters, Nauvoo, St.Louis, and Boston Mormon temples.

You have run out of gas 30 miles outside of Denver.

You have broken down in the middle of the night in Pennsylvania with just me and 6 of the kids. Remember the crazy scary guy that helped us?

You went through that "I am going to randomly not start stage" before we moved to Massachusetts....yeah, you stumped every mechanically minded guy in the ward in Indiana with that one...good times.

You drove to Wichita to pick up two couches for me. Who else has a car that can fit a full size couch and a love seat in it?

You have been to Ikea in Chicago and Ikea in Connecticut and been loaded to the brim with put it together yourself furniture.

You have been to many Mormon church history sites....Adam ondi Ahman, Independence, Liberty Jail, Kirkland, Palmyra, Hill Cumorah, Nauvoo, Far West, Winter Quarters and Salt Lake City.

Miriam threw up all over you once in West Virginia.

You have witnessed way too many Baird family fights.

You have listened to countless books on tape...... Harry Potter, Cheaper by The Dozen, The Giver, Little House on The Prairie, and so much more.

You carried 6 marathon runners in you for 24 hours

Teenagers have left way too much of their trash in you

Don't forget all the jokes we hear about little tiny me driving around big enormous you

You have carried all our Christmas Trees home for us.

You have had many inches of sand in you.

The kids have locked the keys in you and pried open your side window so much that we finally had to duct tape the window shut.

Amanda had a small tantrum and broke one of your side doors and we had to apply a sign with duct tape to the door to remind everyone not to use it and now you have duct tape residue stuck on the side of you.

Your long seat belts have tripped many a person.

You always get to go on the dry pack cannery trips.

You have driven car loads of kids to EFY in Bloomington, Indiana.

You have driven through or been to Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Washington DC, Nebraska, Iowa, Connecticut,Tennessee, Georgia, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Massachusetts.

You have been parked in New York City.

And we even found you a parking place for you in Washington DC right downtown by the Washington Monument.

You have been driven by teenagers to the high school everyday.

Miriam accidentally caused a good three gallons of gas to spill inside of you. Thank goodness we all love the smell of gas and needed to kill a few brain cells :)

You have been to prom.

Remember when the policeman pulled me over when I was driving you because you fit the description of a van that was driving around some people who were pulling off a magazine scam...thank goodness I did not look like the "running an elaborate magazine scam" type :)

You have over 200,000 well earned miles on you.

Miriam started a facebook group for you.

And now I have even blogged about you.

I can not imagine that your first 45,000 miles of life as a rental car were near as exciting as the last 150,000 miles with us. I love that I can invite just about anyone to go somewhere with us and I never have to worry about not having enough room to fit everyone.

You really have never complained once about all we have put you through and you absolutely have to last us for at least one more year :)

Love,
The Baird's

Dec 16, 2009

The Whole Gift Thing.

I have been thinking a lot about giving and receiving gifts lately....well duh....it is that time of year again. Wondering where I got my ideas and traditions about giving gifts. Becoming painfully aware that there are a few "musts" in the gift process that I just never knew about.

At Christmas time I usually just purchase gifts for my kids, husband, whichever family we have been assigned for the Ord side, whichever family we have been assigned on the Baird side, both sets of parents and that, my friends, is it. I do not give gifts to anyone else. Oh, don't get me wrong I desperately want to give to other people but I just don't have that kind of money. Also, I have wondered if once I started adding other people to my,"giving to list" how would I ever stop? Thankfully, it seems from my "reading" that this is okay. I am not going to get arrested by the etiquette police for not giving gifts to my hairdresser, the kids bus drivers, etc. I will just have to deal with the guilt :)

It has been so hard throughout the years to have supremely kind friends give me gifts that were so well thought out, and so appreciated, and yet, I never gave them something in return because I financially could not. There was that year in Kansas that we got to the end of Christmas morning and there was a small very beautiful box still under the tree that I did not recognize and I opened it to find a gift card to Papa John's pizza in it with a very large dollar amount written on it from my dear friend Alyson. There was the year Kristy sent a huge box of caramel apples to us when we lived in Indiana. There was my Land's End gift card from Joan. There is nothing more amazing than opening a well thought out and unexpected gift. I dream for the day that I will be in the position to do this for all my friends. I know exactly what I would give them if that counts for anything :) According to etiquette there really is no rule that says you must give a gift in return. You graciously accept. Most people give because they want to not because they want something in return. If you are giving expecting something in return you might want to do some rethinking :)

Then there is the, "taking a gift when you are invited to someone's house thing." I am currently in the process of trying to figure out if I am ignorant to this because I have been a Mormon my whole life and it is not a "Mormon thing," or if it is something that is geographical, or if it is just plain old etiquette training that I never received. But throughout the years, throughout all the parties I have thrown there have always been a few people that always being me a gift when they come to one of my gatherings. I have really been curious about this. Is it required of me to bring something if you invite me over? Well I did some reading and guess what?.....Here is the painful quote I found, "Traditionally, a hostess gift is given when enjoying the hospitality of someone for a meal, party or overnight stay." I have failed in this. And one of my New Years resolutions is to be better at this. Nothing that will break the old, "Baird Family bank" but even just something homemade and small.

I am not good at accepting gifts. I dread opening them in front of the giver....well frankly, I hate opening them in front of anyone :) The attention is awkward for me....I really do not know why because in other situations I am perfectly okay with attention :) It may be because I am afraid of my reaction if I do not like the gift and I do not want to make you feel uncomfortable.

I love to hear about how different people do the Christmas present thing. It constantly amazes me how some people can just give three gifts to each child and that is it and it always has been that way and they never budge on that rule. I wish I would have made a conscious choice to make Christmas presents that way. But alas, the, "present thing" is not that way at our house. It isn't out of control (yet :) and I do buy mostly things they need that I am going to buy for them throughout the year anyway but I never feel very comfortable with how much it looks like on Christmas Eve. I call my approach, the "sweet and salty theory"....one book, one game, one outfit, one fun thing, one DVD, one CD, one..... you see what happens? I mean when do you stop? :) Don't answer that .....I am not ready for the truth :)

Every family gives differently and it is very hard to keep up with when to give and how to give at this time of year but one thing that you can never go wrong with is a heartfelt thank you. I was just going to preach about the absolute necessity of thank you's when I realized that I am not currently in the position to lecture on thank you's because I have a not been the stellar thank you note writer recently and it is weighing on my mind. So I will save that lecture for a time when I have finished writing my thank you notes.

Well all this talk about gift giving has reminded me that my family is waiting for my Christmas list. For some reason this year the list has not come so easy but here are my requests:

#1. A good, new kitchen broom.
#2. A circle shaped silver towel hanging "thing a ma jig" for the upstairs bathroom...the house was new when we moved in and one never got installed in the upstairs bathroom.
#3. A gift card to target so I could purchase towels for the upstairs bathroom
#4. A new copy of The Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner...my, well loved, copy is missing the first 15 pages.
#5. The Wicked Soundtrack
#6. The Pioneer Woman Cooks Cookbook...yes, I might even cook out of it :)
#7. More of the note cards from Barnes and Noble that I like... nobody laugh.....the ones with Frog and Toad on them, Where The Wild Things Are, Sock Monkey, Charlotte's Web and Eric Carle.
#8. Superfreakonomics by Stephen Leavitt
#9. the lights above the kitchen table to stop shorting out :)
#10. The light in the basement storage room to be fixed.

And I will be sure to write thank you notes :)

Dec 15, 2009

Cap And Trade For Dummies.

Okay, I just realized that I can not go any further in my life without knowing what in the heck cap and trade is. I can not ignore it anymore. My ignorance is killing me. As painful as it may be to have the information I have to know what it means so, hang on just a minute while I Google "What is cap and trade? ".....oh...hmm.......drat......hang on, I am still reading......seriously?...... Drat, I just realized that I have the potential to write a blog that has my opinion in it......my opinion that may be different from your opinion...but....gulp.... I can take it. I was really hoping that a blog about cap and trade would just be about people in our government figuring out how to get us all to trade our caps with each other :)

So are you going to love learning about cap and trade from a mother of 7 who happens to have finished all her Christmas cards? I hope so :)

So when you Google "What is cap and trade?" the first result says "cap and trade 101" that sounded basic and easy so I clicked on it and in the shortest most concise way possible the people there told me the who's, where's, why's, what's, and how's of cap and trade. They don't seem to have any opinions they just lay out the facts. I read it very slowly and carefully because sometimes I can be accused of skimming words. But I really want to be able to talk intelligently about cap and trade so I forced myself to read carefully all about it then I read a Wall Street Journal article, a Heritage Foundation article, Wikipedia, and a lot more.

So what do you think of when you hear the word cap? Something you put on your head, something a dentist puts on a tooth, something to cover something, right? So the cap in this situation is a limit on the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses that a company is allowed to emit. Why do they want to limit it? It isn't a toxin, it isn't harmful to your health, it is fundamental to all forms of life and actually increased levels of it are helpful to crop production but there is concern about how increased levels of it may cause the world to get warmer and thus cause environmental damage....AKA...drum roll......global warming:) To avoid this possibility we must cap the emissions....immediately....I mean the EPA officially declared CO2 a dangerous pollutant on December 7 of this very year.

So I own a business (just pretend) that emits carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses.

(while I was choosing which business I wanted to own I actually found out that 85 percent of the U.S. economy runs on fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide....that's a lot....imagine how much money you could make if you figured out a way to make money off of those businesses :)

Anyway the government decides to tell me how much carbon dioxide my power plant can emit and then they tell me that to be allowed to emit this set amount of carbon dioxide and other gasses I have to purchase permits from a government auction. And each permit will allow me a certain amount of "pollution." If I pollute less than my amount of permits I own I could trade my extra permits to your company which is polluting more (shame on you:) and thus needs more permits.

It is going to cost my business a lot of money to make it so it only emits as much carbon dioxide as the government says it can so I am going to have to charge you extra for what I provide for you...but you like that...it makes you happy that I am reducing carbon so you will be okay if it ends up costing the average household $680.00 a year. And if you live in Alaska, or Wyoming or anywhere in the Midwest it is going to be tougher on you because those are states that have a lot of carbon producing businesses and not as many people living in them to spread the cost out.

So my friends you have been educated. President Obama depends on carbon revenue. There are a lot of cautions about this plan all over the internet and a lot of scary statistics and numbers. But you are reading the blog of a girl who is not for more government and more taxes and is fairly distrustful of the current presidents motives....so you should go set your timer for 30 minutes and educate yourself on cap and trade so that you can help get people into office that support your views....whatever they may be. I know it is easy to console yourself with the fact that you are just one person in a huge wide world and that you can not possibly make a difference. I know that with the knowledge comes a burden but I for one could not ignore it anymore.

Dec 14, 2009

Talents.

Why are your talents yours? How did you discover them? Did your mom and dad carefully watch you so that they would notice what you were naturally good at and then did they have unlimited money to help you pursue all your dreams? I fear I may have let some of my kids down in the "finding your talent" part of life. Sometimes I look at them and wonder which area I should have directed them towards?

Miriam fears she does not have any talents. As Christmas is approaching and people are wanting to purchase gifts for her she lamented to me the other day that she really needed a hobby so that she would be easy to buy presents for. Her soccer dreams got squished by Massachusetts. So I can no longer can buy a new soccer ball and cleats for her. She mentions frequently as her sisters are running circles around her that she does not have a talent. I have tried to explain to her that she does have talents they are just not like what everyone else has. She has a great sense of humor and that is a talent. She has compassion and that is a talent. She is a good listener and that is a talent. I know they do not have award banquets at school for those kinds of talents. I know you are never asked to "play the compassion" in church or invited to show everyone how well you listen. Can you imagine paying to watch someone listen? :) I asked her what she was interested in and she could not think of anything. I have been thinking about our conversation ever since we had it and wondering where I let her down?

How did I find my talents? How did my parents know that I would be pretty okay at playing the piano and singing? Did they notice I was always singing? Do they remember when I figured out how to play the top hand of, "I'm So Glad When Daddy Comes Home" all by myself? Or did they just get lucky? It seems to be important when you are in school to have something that you know you are good at. Something that gives you confidence. Something that maybe gives you a group to hang out with?

As the years have gone on it has been harder and harder to help my younger kids find what they are good at because I am so busy driving around the older kids to the activities they are good at and already established in :) Also, the cost of finding your kids talent is rising. High school charges us an awful lot for our kids to share their talents and the middle school in our town does not even offer extra curricular activities......which I could talk for awhile about, but I won't :)

My talents helped me to sail through high school but I have often wondered about how I never kept many of them up after that. Why did I not realize that I could still sing and play the piano in college? After I got married and no longer had a piano and had little kids and all practicing time disappeared I lost confidence in my talents and let them go. They are finally back and that has been bad because now that I am practicing more I seem to think I need a new Kawai piano :)

How far do you push a kid to find their talents? How do you know if they will say to you years down the road that they really wished you would have encouraged them to try that? I do not even really know how my kids ended up being soccer players and track runners. If you would have asked me in high school what my kids extra curricular activities would be I would not have said track and soccer.

Joe tried lacrosse for two years and it was miserable for all of us because he hated it so much. But I wanted to help him find friends in our new town and I wanted him to have something to do I just did not realize that I picked the one sport that every kid that lives in New England has played since he was born and is exceptionally good at. He starts high school next year and I am not sure if he is much into the "pursuing his talents" thing. Is that okay? Should I insist he try out for a sport? Zach always needed a little push to do something and then he was fine. Is that Joe too? Will he or I regret it someday if he does nothing? Ahh that regret it does love to show up and ruin a party huh?

Dec 7, 2009

Obsessing.


Do you ever hear about something and sort of half tune in? And then you happen to hear about it another time and AGAIN you only half tune in? And then that third time comes and you, again, hear about this particular thing and this time you actually give it your full attention? Well that happens to me all the time.

It happened with IKEA. I kept hearing people talk about IKEA but I never really focused on what it was. Until that historic day when I heard my siblings talking about it and actually listened. And now when I move somewhere one of the first things I look at is where the closest IKEA is. I used to drive three hours to IKEA in Chicago, so you can see, I will stop at nothing to get to IKEA. All those missed, "shopping at IKEA years" that I can never get back because it took me SO long to clue in to what IKEA really was.

It also happened with Cooks Illustrated cookbooks. My siblings and parents all own various copies of all the different cookbooks and I was stuck on some other planet while they were purchasing them at Costco and now I want the cookbooks and can't find them.

The latest thing I have finally decided to pay attention to is movies that are not necessarily mainstream, movies from the BBC, Japanese movies, and documentaries. My siblings and parents are always talking about somewhat obscure movies. I can never keep up with their conversations. I can't even intelligently name drop some titles for you.

I did acquire a copy of the BBC production of Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it but I never pursued it much past that. When I would happen to be in Costco (Do you see a trend? Ord bonding time in Costco?) with my sisters and parents and they were all oohing and aahing over all the BBC movies available for them to purchase I always half listened. Well, that "not getting it" phase is past and now I am officially focused and obsessing. You can claim to officially be obsessing about something if you google it and if you drive specifically to a store to look for it. Both of which I have done for a copy of the BBC movie North and South. It is based on a book by Elizabeth Gaskell. I started watching it over Thanksgiving with my sisters and I am ashamed to admit I kept falling asleep during the second night of watching. I wanted to stay awake and kept insisting that I was awake but I wasn't. Ever since then I have been dying (dramatic? Who me?) to get my hands on the DVD and finish what I started. Blockbuster does not have it. The library requested it for me but it I really don't want to wait. Costco did not have it. Barnes and Noble did have it and I carried it around for a minute but I could not justify $30.00 for a movie. Amazon also had a copy for $18.00 and I am still thinking about that. I mean it is Christmas time and how can I justify something frivolous for myself when I should be giving gifts to others :)

I am slightly obsessing about seeing the end of this movie. I find myself thinking about it every day. I find myself listening to see if I hear someone talking about it. I know, weird, I mean who would name drop Elizabeth Gaskell in Wal Mart? All I can really do at this point is wait for the library to come through for me. But it could be a long time and I might die before then :)

Dec 4, 2009

Book Frustration.....the Worst Kind.

It seems like no matter how I try I can never pace the flow of books in and out of my house. Sometimes I have absolutely nothing to read and other times I feel panic because I have a ton to read. Why the panic? Well because I never buy books I request them from the library. I go online and search for the books I want and then I request them and they send them to my library for me to pick up. Nine times out of ten my library in Westfield does not have the books I want so I have loved this option that gives me access to the all the libraries in Western Massachusetts, it is perfect.......except for that part where the books are due back, thus causing me panic.... I mean sometimes a girl needs more than two weeks to read a book and sometimes after she renews it the second time she still needs more time, depending on the season of her life :)

On my side table right now I have 9 books that I want to read right now. Four of them are library books. Three of them are books I have borrowed from friends.....way too long ago. And two of them I actually own. The four from the library are my first priority and they are:

Gardening in New England
I am determined to figure out gardening in New England if it kills me so my goal this winter is to read and read on the subject. My plants are catching a lot of diseases, some are hardly growing at all while others are doing fine, and the pests think I am their best friend. So I really need answers.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas.......I confess I had never heard of this book. But a friend was reading it and I was curious. I am always up for a new book. When I went to the library to request it the librarian had the hardest time finding it in an unabridged form. There was one copy in all of Western Massachusetts. I peeked inside the book last night since I picked it up yesterday and after three pages I could hardly put it down. But I have to wait since I am in the middle of something else. But the introduction sucked me right in...I mean when inside the front cover it says that, "the characters in this book are among the most superbly drawn in all of literature" who can resist that? And then to top it off when you read that Alexander Dumas "poured his appetite for life, his energy and boundless imagination into the book" you pretty much want to hire a maid so you can just focus on reading all 506 pages.

Enchantment by Orson Scott Card
Have you ever read anything by Orson? Enders Game? I read Enders Game and then I kept intending to read some of his other books but never did. So when I was in the library wandering aimlessly the other day and saw this I thought it looked interesting. But it is not on the priority list so I fear it may not get read.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
I can not believe that this book can not find its way to my bookshelf and just stay there. I really do adore it. I have read it way too many times and I own it so it is not a priority but it is in the stack. Remember to read Hunger Games before Catching Fire.

3- Hour Diet by Jorge Cruise
A friend was telling me about this book and I was not sure if I understood what it was about. It took a couple conversations with her before I really focused on what this book was about. No, it is not about losing weight in 3 hours...I wish :) but it is about WHEN you eat and the importance of eating every three hours. I really like the idea a lot and come January we will see how it works :) I mean who starts a diet in December? :)

The Girl In The Green Sweater by Krystyna Chiger
Yes, Carol I still have your book. This is a Holocaust book and I really want to read it but it has been sitting in my room for a long time.....

Great Bridge by David McCullough
Ever since I was a kid I always gravitated towards books about real events. History fascinates me. David McCullough has written a lot of books about real things....John Adams, Truman, The Johnstown Flood and many more. This one is about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. The building of the Brooklyn Bridge was one of the greatest events in our nation's history and I am dying to read this book. Thank goodness I own it and it does not have to go back to the library. Although I may have to arm wrestle the husband for it since it is his book....yes, I walked right into his "man room" and stole it.

A Voyage Long and Strange by Tony Horowitz
I am very ashamed that I am still reading this book. I borrowed it from Carolynne almost a year ago and I am sure she wonders if I remember that it is hers. I do. But I want to finish it. It is very interesting. Horowitz is a Pulitzer Prize winning author. But more important to me is that he has worked for the Wall Street Journal. (which I adore) This book is about the, "neglected story of America's founding by Europeans." I am halfway through it and have found what I read about The Vikings and Columbus to be very interesting.

Archenemy by Frank Beddor
This is book three in the Looking Glass Wars series. It is fantasy. But I love them. You would probably think I am crazy if you read them but I love how important imagination is in these books and what it can do.

So that my friends is my life. Nine books waiting patiently for me next to my bed. In my fantasy filled head I pack these books in a bag, grab some clothes and get in my very fast car and drive to a remote location...beach or mountains...depending on how I feel. Check into a great hotel with fabulous food close by and comfy chairs overlooking a great view. Maybe even take a friend if they have a stack of books to read also and then I spend a week reading, eating and occasionally napping :)

Dec 3, 2009

Kittromney



A lot of my growing up years we had animals. Always dogs and cats and then when we moved to Snohomish and purchased a 14 acre "hobby" farm the dogs and cats became horses, donkeys, cows, pigs, sheep and I am sure I am forgetting something. I really like animals though I never did the 4-H thing that my sisters all did. I preferred to stay inside and play the piano, sing my guts out to Barbara Streisand, read and talk on the phone to boys. But I never hated animals. I just didn't love them.

When we moved to Washington State from California when I was 12 (?) my dad sold our trampoline and gave each of us some money from the proceeds of the trampoline to spend anyway we wanted. I bought a ten speed bicycle and a baby calf with my money..... why? just because I could. That first summer in our new house in Snohomish I had no friends so I spent a ton of time spoiling that baby calf. I was so delighted when I discovered that the this calf would follow me around. I would hide in the tall grass and she would always find me. I told her all my secrets and I named her Baby. I really created a monster with all my spoiling, she caused a lot of trouble around the farm and when I was in college they finally butchered her. We always had St. Bernard dogs which I loved. And trust me, there is nothing cuter than a baby pig, lamb or calf but I was not interested in a deeper relationship with the animals than being able to pet them occasionally.

Growing up our animals were always outside in the barn. Never in the house, unless they ran in by accident. I never thought animals should be in the house. Yes, I know oh so many of you disagree. But for me I prefer animals outside. My house, my kids shoes, my shoes, my carpet and my furniture are investments that I want to keep nice.

So, I do love animals but I am not a good pet owner. I mean I have 7 kids. I prefer to spend my money, time and efforts on them. My husband grew up on a dairy farm in Idaho he really loves animals. I think he secretly thinks he is a animal whisperer :) I have no idea how but we have owned a couple Baird family cats throughout the years. In Indiana we had one dog that oddly came with the house and 4 acres when we bought it. I am still not sure why but a couple times in Indiana we tried adding another dog to the family roster but it never worked out. The black lab puppy we tried was the cutest thing you ever saw but oh how she loved to chew my brand new trees and my brand new bushes. There is one thing you never mess with when it comes to nice little ol' me and that is my landscaping. So since beating her with The Children's Friend magazine did not work I gave her away in the dead of the night.... you probably should make a mental note that I really can show no mercy if needed :)

When we moved to Massachusetts it was a very difficult move. I was really worried about my kids surviving so when Miriam started begging for a cat I figured it was the least I could do. Finding a kitten in Massachusetts was actually quite difficult and I was ever so pleased about this. But one day after 3 months of searching Miriam found a brand new best friend and along with that friend came a kitten. After days of deliberations and a family vote on 5 names we named her Kittromney. Yes, after Mitt Romney.

Out of the five cats we have owned this cat is the strangest most annoying one. My husband, the animal whisperer, claims it is because she is the smartest cat we have ever owned. Can cats be smart? He is always trying to explain her behavior to me. Telling me crazy things like she thinks she is a guard cat? All I know is that she makes my life difficult. Let me tell you some of the things I have to do because of this cat:

#1.Make sure there are no cups left on the counters. I bet in your house if someone leaves a cup on the counter nothing happens. Well in our house the cat knocks it off. She wants to chase it around on our hardwood floors, but 9 times out of 10 there is something liquid in the cup which then ruins her plans to play with it after she has pushed it on the floor. But she never cleans up her mess.

#2. Make sure that nothing I bring home from a store in a plastic shopping bag gets left in that bag for more than 30 seconds. She will be chewing on that bag in that amount of time. She has ruined nice sweaters in shopping bags and I caught her in my closet this week munching away on the bags holding Christmas presents. She ate holes in my Aldi bags.

#3. Close the kids doors at night. She will leap on them in the night. Climb on their shelves and knock their stuff off. Steal their dollar bills and play with them. And race around their rooms loudly yowling.

#4. Pick up toys. See the picture on the top of the blog of the little animals on my (ahem) unmade bed? We have a basket full of those little animals in the play room and the cat adores them. No matter where I put them on the play room shelves she finds them and knocks the basket off and then the fun begins...she carts these animals all over our house. We all find them on out beds. Brian AKA animal whisperer says she is leaving us presents.....?.....I don't want presents from the cat. And I want her to clean up her mess :) I am really coming out to be the bad guy in this blog huh?

#5. Hide the kids ponytails and stretchy headbands...she chews them into pieces in a matter of minutes.

I pray everyday that Kittromney runs out the door and gets lost. Although I confess sometimes she will appear to be trying to mend our relationship and she will try to sit by me while I am reading or she will stare at me in her creepy cat way while I am working around the house but I am just not sure :)

Dec 2, 2009

Checking It Twice.

Christmas is occupying a lot of space in my brain right now. Presents, ornament exchange, Zach's phone call on Christmas day from Estonia, getting the Christmas tree, a missing Christmas list from Madeline are just some of the things that are all jockeying for some attention in my very small brain. I have never been a spectacular holiday mom. Not one Baird child believed in Santa past 5 years old. We have only one thing we can say we "always" do. Lots of things we "used" to do and lots of things I "wish" we did. I console myself with the hope that I have made life easy for my kids future spouses because there won't be anything that the Baird kids HAVE to do for holidays when they grow up.

Present purchasing is always the biggest drama this time of year. All the Baird children submit lists to me. I always save their lists from year to year...no, I do not attach them to a sheet of amazingly beautiful acid free paper, with a very special archival quality glue, and write in calligraphy on them, I just throw them in a page protector and toss them in their designated box for them to get a kick out of sometime in the future.

I take the lists seriously. I do not purchase everything on the lists but the lists are what keeps me focused in the stores where I can tend to get very distracted. I keep their lists all stapled together in my purse, at all times, throughout the shopping season. It is catastrophe if I get caught without them...trust me I know. My plan B for avoiding catastrophe is that I rewrite everything on their lists onto another piece of paper just to help commit everything to my mind. This plan B started when I had a few times that I got home from being all cocky, shopping without the lists and realized I had been standing next to what they wanted and did not even realize it.

Every year there seems to be one child that really wants something that I can not decide whether to get or not. This year it is an American Girl Doll for Natalie. She has been begging for one for quite awhile. But for $98.00 bucks I want to know that she is going to play with it everyday and love it forever and that is not reality I can not know any of that until at least next March. So I have to take that leap into the unknown. And sometimes I take the leap and get burned and sometimes I take the leap and get to congratulate myself on a job well done. I have to decide by tomorrow.....help. I do not remember ever begging for a certain present when I was a kid. I can't remember ever needing something so desperately that I was sure I would die if I did not get it. So the few times a Baird child has done this I have not really known what to do.

Madeline, has been difficult to buy for the last couple of years she has started asking for totally impossible things...like a car. And she always digs in her heels and holds out for her one item rarely giving me other ideas thinking all her dreams will come true. I have to work hard to get her to give me some other ideas. I finally got her to talk about some other possibilities the other night.

Procuring the Christmas tree gets tougher and tougher each year. And I really hate that. We always cut our own and in an ideal world everyone with the last name Baird in our home would attend this outing but the last couple of years that ideal world has not existed. By the time you factor in amount of daylight in a day, weather, paper routes, dad's work, dad being in town, kids sports and the tree needing to be up before my ornament exchange it gets extremely complicated. So right now the plan is tree tomorrow at about 4 pm without Miriam and Amanda...but the weather is threatening so plan B is Saturday morning.

As you all know Zach is on his mission. This is his first Christmas away. In October we got an e-mail from his mission president telling us all about sending a package for Christmas to Estonia. About how long it took and details like that. I sent his package on Halloween. I filled one large flat rate box and spent $53.95 to send it. He already has it....one of the joys of having a paranoid, deadline loving mom. I wonder if the mission president expected there to be one mom out there who would take him seriously? :) Zach is under strict instructions to wait to open it until Christmas. He is one of "those" kind of people that never needs or wants anything. So it is very hard to buy for him. Being on a mission and being the strict rule follower that he is has made it even harder. He begged for letters for Christmas and I in turn begged everyone else for letters for him. I even offered to mail them if they would just e-mail them to me. We only got about 10 letters out of the 100 people that receive his weekly e-mail. So I felt bad that his one request for Christmas did not go so well. But I threw in a BYU t-shirt for p-day, the old stand by tie, a small travel game for p-days or when a companion was sick, some candy and some family pictures. I worry daily about what I sent.

My ornament exchange is a big part of the holidays. I started this tradition after we lived in Kansas and dear Wendy Stalcup introduced me to the fun (and stress) of an ornament exchange. I invite everyone and they all bring a wrapped ornament and I cook tons of food and we eat, fight over ornaments, and talk. This year the exchange is next Tuesday. I have my menu completed and I am very excited about it. Now I just need to chart and graph when I will fix each thing. What needs to be in the fridge over night and what needs the oven and for how long. And find the perfect thing to wrap my ornaments in. This is the one and only time I am all about wrapping and the appearance...usually I don't care about that sort of thing :)

The last but not the least thing on my mind is the Christmas card. This is one tradition I will always have. We send one every year to 100 families. I write it all by myself and I am pretty sure that this fact frustrates the heck out of my husband. I have thought about letting him submit an entry for my approval but I don't want to get his hopes up :) I am a little distressed because it is December 2nd and I have no picture taken and no letter written but I am taking deep breaths and designating tomorrow as, "writing the letter" day and Saturday is picture day...even if I have to grab someone off the street to take it for us.

So, what is done? Well my 100 stamps are bought, the front porch is decorated, the advent calendar is out of the box just not hung up yet, but I think I may still qualify for "mother of the year" because it was out of the basement before December 1st, and each child has at least 2 gifts in my closet....speaking of the closet and hidden gifts, the darn cat has eaten through three Target bags in my closet.....but I will tell you about that tomorrow :)

Dec 1, 2009

The Two "F's"....Fairness and Fighting.


Do you love your siblings? Have you always loved them? I am the oldest of six kids. I had almost three glorious, "being alone with all the attention" years before my next sister rudely came along. The rumor on the street is that it was very traumatic for me when she arrived. I was getting all the attention and then all of a sudden I wasn't. I am pretty sure I made life difficult for Becky. She drove me absolutely crazy. When I said my favorite animal was a horse she said her favorite animal was a horse. I burnt her with a curling iron. I kicked my shoe at her once and it went out the window and broke the window. She never lost her temper at me she would just stand there while I would make every attempt to illicit a response. It would drive me crazy that she had such control of her emotions. Our parents made all of us girls sing together in church....a lot....and Becky's vibrato in her voice....yep...you guessed it...... drove me crazy. I was sure she was doing it on purpose to bother me. Almost exactly a year after Becky was born our next sister Sarah was born and they were only a year apart and did everything together which just added to my reasons to be mean. Anyway, you get the idea, right? Mean older sister......innocent younger sibling :)

Well now I love, love, love my sister Becky. I admire and covet her discipline that used to drive me utterly crazy when we were kids. We get along great now and she doesn't do one single thing that bothers me.....although I have not heard her sing in a long time or asked her what her favorite animal is now :) HAHA


Siblings fight right? I have a really good friend who I was friends with in high school and I was also good friends with his family. I saw his mom a couple years ago and we were talking about siblings and I asked her if her kids ever fought and she said, very emphatically, "NO." I was stunned. That meant it was possible? Drat, after thinking about what she said for way too long I finally consoled myself with the thought that it had been a long time since her kids were all at home and maybe she just forgot their fights.

I don't know about you but it is so discouraging to me when my kids fight. I don't have any research to back me up but I have a nagging notion that it is an important part of life. Learning how to get a long. But that does not help me right now when I have 5 kids at home that spend a lot of time figuring out how to anger each other. I started out my parenting career in the 80's reading everything I could get my hands on about raising kids but I soon became disillusioned because my significant other was not interested in what I read and most times disagreed with what I discovered so what was the point ? Most of the sibling rivalry and fighting in this house has naturally resolved on it's own with minimal guidance from me. But I have two children that are "at" each other a lot lately and it has been enough that they finally have my full attention. I mean it is really serious if I feel the need to furtively Google "why siblings fight."

Just as everything in life seems to be there was no simple, straight forward answer as to why they fight with each other. But I was surprised to read that most of the time you have to look at the whole family to figure out sibling rivalry...mostly at the parents.... just great...how did I miss that part? It makes sense that it would be my fault.

Then another article I read went on and on about the absolute importance of fairness. How can I be fair? Every child in this house is so different. I can't treat them all the same, I mean, that's not......fair. I wondered if I was reading the article right, maybe I did not totally understand the definition of fair so I quickly looked it up and fair means, "free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice." Can it ever happen? The more I go through life the more I wonder if it is possible...free from bias? Can a judge really be impartial?

"The more tuned in you are to the balance of fairness in your children's lives, the more you can do to reduce anger and family conflict, and the more you can do to prevent its occurrence in the first place," Yeah, that's a quote.....not from me....from Peter Goldenthal a Pennsylvania family psychologist. If your kids perceive unfair treatment from you it really is one of the things that can trigger sibling rivalry.

Apparently as they are driving you crazy with their fighting they are learning how to compromise and communicate. Hmmm, why doesn't that make me feel better? The thing that is weird in my situation is that the two children who are fighting the most in our house at this moment never fought with each other before this 15th year of their lives together, as other children have left the home it has naturally thrown these two siblings together and they have discovered they hate each other.

All the articles deal with little kids fighting about their mom's lap, or a toy. Not two teenage girls fighting about lights on in their bedroom or the way the other ones voice sounds. I see both sides. I understand how they both feel. I am clearly an "expert" on sibling rivalry and fighting....(see first paragraph above :) But this may be my biggest challenge yet. Do you want to trade kids?