Friday, April 29, 2011

All For One and One For All

  Holy squabbling batman! Last week (yes, I'm a bit behind in my blogging) was spring break so all three kids were home all week. By the end of the week it was . . . well . . . I can't even describe it. Doodlebug had been sick with a bad cold that included a fever the previous weekend and was still working his way back to health. The previous week he'd eaten very little because 'nothing tasted right'. Even when he was complaining about how hungry he was, he wouldn't eat anything! So, needless to say, by the end of the week he was very grumpy and low on energy.
Pair that with Sweet Pea's natural tendency to tease mercilessly, especially when she's bored, and you have a recipe for disaster. One day in particular Doodlebug and Sweet Pea were picking at each other - Sweet Pea would make a comment, Doodlebug would snap back, Sweet Pea would mimic his complaint, Doodlebug would complain louder, Sweet Pea would mimic his complaint, Doodlebug would complain even louder, etc etc etc. After many threats, a few stomping-off temper tantrums and some tears, Snickers unwittingly wandered in. The positive is that Doodlebug and Sweet Pea started to get along. The negative is that they both went after poor little Snickers together. Nothing vicious, nothing physical, nothing too terrible, but just enough commenting from both of them to get him all riled up. And of course then we got into the complaining, mimicing, complaining, whispering, sulking cycle.

It was almost funny. Once they had a target other than each other, they joined forces and went after the new threat. Except Snickers isn't a threat - he's a little sweetie pie who made the terrible mistake of coming in to see what all the activity was about. I'm hoping that if a real enemy had then joined the group that all three would have banded together and went after the threat - 'all for one and one for all' and all that. I can only hope.


Friday, April 22, 2011


  I've never been a coffee drinker until the last few years. I don't know what changed. Maybe it's the fact that it's free at work. Maybe I was always just too cheap to buy it. But no, I started drinking it before I had access to free (and of dubious quality) coffee. I've just never really liked the taste much, but for some reason it has more interest to me now. I think maybe my taste buds are maturing (I'm certainly not, but maybe my taste buds are. I refuse to get old and crotchety, but my tastebuds - well, I have no control over them).

I tend to stick with decaf for the most part. Caffeine is a powerful drug. It has the power to cure headaches and the power to turn me into a bouncing-off-the-walls, energetic fool. The kids are both dismayed and amused when I drink caffeinated coffee. Snickers will encourage me because I think he likes me with a little bounce. But there is a limit. I came home the other day after consuming a large Starbucks. For some crazy reason I forgot to get decaf and got the full-strength stuff. All I can say is O-M-G! I was beyond bounce. I was into full caffeine jitters mode. After just one cup! (albeit a rather large cup). What the heck! I'm just not used to the caffeine. The kids were frightened! I think I'll stick to decaf from now on.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Arms Flailing, Hair Flying, Sweat Dripping

  This song (Your Betrayal by Bullet For My Valentine) makes me want to play the drums. For some reason, every time I hear this song (and I hear it a lot because it's on my iPod) I can't help but bang out the drums along with it. Sitting at my desk at work, my arms flailing wildly, hair flying all over the place, sweat dripping down my face. I'm getting pretty good at it. The kids have witnessed it and surprisingly they just look at me, then continue with whatever it was they were doing. I guess they are used to my many weirdnesses.

But I have enough hobbies. Don't expect to see a drum set in my livingroom anytime soon. Of course, if Doodlebug were to decide to take up drums for the school band then all bets are off.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Kettlebells for Dummies - A Book Review

If you follow my blog you know that I've recently discovered kettlebells - those innocuous looking hunks of iron that supposedly can whip you into shape faster than Julia Child can whip up a chocolate mousse.

If you know me, you also know that I've always been somewhat active. I was into martial arts when I was a teenager up until I got married and started having babies. Then, even though I let the martial arts slide due to a lack of time, I kept up with daily exercises for several years. Once the kids got more numerous and sleep was the number one priority, I let exercise slide almost completely for several years. But my interest in being fit was sparked again when I saw a segment on TV about kettlebells. I was intrigued. They looked like fun and sounded like a great way to get into shape. I did some research; printed off some routines I found on the internet and picked up a kettlebell. It was a great start, but I needed one more thing - some better instruction.

My wish was granted. I was recently given a copy of the book Kettlebells for Dummies by Sarah Lurie. This is a really great book for anyone getting started with kettlebells. 

Chapter 1 - Gearing Up is all about what a kettlebell is, how they are used and how they differ from traditional weights. There is information on how to pick the right size kettlebell including some simple ways to test your strength and flexibility and how to choose the right size kettlebell based on those simple test results. This process was spot-on! I was able to choose the right weight kettlebell and after working with it a bit I know that it's the right size - it's challenging, but not overly so. 

This chapter also goes into the essentials of spine and hip positioning and alignment - how to get into the right positions and maintain them and how to do the hip snap movements. It also covers some warming up, cooling down and stretching topics.

Chapter 2 - Basics covers some of the basic kettlebell moves: The Swing and its variations, the Turkish Get Up and variations of it with and without the kettlebell and other basic moves such as squats, cleans and the military press. There are detailed, step by step instructions on how to get the movements down and tips and exercises to do if you are having trouble. Can't quite get the squats just right? There are some exercises to do to get your body used to the correct movements.

It then moves into some beginner workouts which include suggested routines with chapter references so you can refer back for more details on specific exercises. There are three workouts - 'Flab to Fab', 'Cardio Burn' and 'Power and Strength', each incorporating exercises that work toward a particular goal - losing fat/burning calories, cardio or strength.

Chapter 3 - Advanced Kettlebell Moves progresses into some more advanced moves and covers ways to master those moves. There are some quick 5-minute workouts that are great to use as warm-ups for a full workout, or just to squeeze in on those days when you don't have time for a full workout.

Then, as in the previous beginner workouts, there are three workouts - 'Flab to Fab', 'Cardio Burn' and 'Power and Strength' that incorporate some of the more advanced moves into the workouts.

This chapter also gets into some kettlebell combos that pull together various kettlebell movements into a single exercise to take full advantage of the kettlebell's ability to engage your entire body and core muscles with some simple movements and combinations of movements.

Chapter 4 - Special Situations covers kettlebell use for young adults, boomers and seniors. There are guidelines to follow and suggestions on how to adjust the workouts to suit your own special situation.
Everything you can think of from a section on pregnancy and post-natal workouts to sections on rehabbing and supporting substantial weight loss are covered as well as tips to achieve goals and guidelines to help you find a certified trainer.

Overall, this is an excellent book. Throughout the book are photos showing the correct form for each exercise each step of the way as well as detailed written instructions for each step. There are plenty of tips and pointers for identifying bad form and correcting it and the suggested workouts are extremely helpful in creating a full workout plan.

The book is geared toward a kettlebell novice and has a lot of detail to get you started and to keep you going for a long time with intermediate and advanced moves and topics. I will be referring to this book for a long time as I progress with my kettlebell training. With my kettlebell and this book I'm good to go. I have what I need to get the basics down and then some.


Friday, April 15, 2011

I Don't Know What The Heck He's Reading! (What We're Reading - Part 5 of 5)

  I'm ending this series of posts on a disappointing note. What is the hubster reading? I have no idea. How's that for a let down? Sure, I could ask him. Or just glance over at the bedside table and read the title. But most of what he reads I don't find interesting. (You might, but we'll never know, will we?)

We have a lot of interests in common, but reading material isn't really one of them. He seems to be a fan of high fantasy - dragons, dungeons, mages, etc which I sometimes like and have been known to read, but lately it holds little interest for me. He also often enjoys science fiction. I've never been a fan of science fiction. Not sure why. And then there's the zombie, vampire type stuff. Again, not usually my cup of tea although I did enjoy "The Forest of Hands of Teeth" which has a lot of zombies. I'm not too sure that Hubby would appreciate it though - it's definately aimed at the teenage girl market ala Twilight. (and no, I haven't read Twilight, or seen the movies.)

While he reads David Eddings, Robert Jordan, George R. R. Martin, Harry Turtledove and George Hebert I steer toward juvenile and young adult fiction, Stephen King and Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Patricia McKillop, David Almond, Kate DiCamillo and Kathy Appelt.

And that's the end of this series on what we're reading. At least for now. Hope you weren't too bored.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Novellas, Series, the Classics, Oh My! (What We're Reading - Part 4 of 5)

  I got two new books for Christmas and I just recently finished the first - Stephen King's Full Dark, No Stars. I generally enjoy Stephen King's books quite a bit. I own just about all of them and wouldn't think of not reading something he's written. This particular book is comprised of four novellas much like his Different Seasons from 20-odd years back. For some reason, I don't usually enjoy novellas. It's like a short story that needs some editing, or a novel that's not quite long enough. After finishing the first story in this book I confirmed my suspicions about how I feel about novellas. It was a good story, but I kept flipping through the pages to see how much was left to read. It seemed to ramble on too long in parts and I kept looking for the cohesive thread that tied it all together. Judging from the reviews I've seen I'm in the minority on this one.
But things picked up with the other 3 stories. The second one was enjoyable, the third was as well, but the main character wasn't likeable at all and that made it not quite as fun to read. And the last one was good. Overall, I enjoyed it, but it certainly isn't a favorite.

And up next is the final installment in the 'Keys to the Kingdom' series by Garth Nix. I really enjoyed this series and am anxious to read the last book in the series. However, I stopped at the library and ended up with a stack of books, including a kettlebell book, that I now need to hurry up and read before they are due back, so Garth Nix will have to wait a month or two.

And, thanks to Snickers and Doodlebug, I'm now planning on reading Jane Yolen's Devil's Arithmetic and Charles Dicken's Oliver Twist (I haven't decided yet if I'll read a full, original version, or if I'll stick to Doodlebug's edited, kid-friendly, cliff-notes version. :)


Monday, April 11, 2011

Scary Stories Give me Goosebumps! (What We're Reading - Part 3 of 5)

  Sweet Pea enjoys a scary story. (Not too scary, but a well-placed ghost or witch, monster or evil step-mother is a plus). She's always enjoyed the Goosebumps books and TV series and has read quite a few of them. The Secrets of Dripping Fang series by Martin Greenburg was also a big hit. The books are silly, fun and gross with just the right mix of 'ick' and 'ew' and 'what if' to keep her entertained. She is currently hooked on Cynthia DeFelice's The Ghost of Cutler Creek.

Sweet Pea is a good reader, but doesn't seem to enjoy it as much as the boys. She reads each night before bed, but sometimes I think it's more for the purpose of staying up late rather than because she really wants to read. But hey, to each their own.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Beasts, Quests, Book Reports, the Holocaust (What We're Reading - Part 2 of 5)

  Snickers, 9 years old now, has been whizzing his way through the 'Beast Quest' series. They are relatively short books written by many different authors under the name 'Adam Blade'. There are 54 of them in the series and from what I can see without having read them, they involve the main character going on a quest and battling some fantastic beast. Over the last couple of months Snickers has managed to get through the first 15. Awesome! He is really enjoying them - in part because he likes the stories and in part because he can finish them quickly. At this age, struggling with a huge book for weeks on end is daunting. So, while he could certainly pick something more challenging to read, this at least gets him reading.

He also took a short break from Beast Quest. He had a book report to do for school on a historical fiction book. He chose Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen. Jane Yolen is a prolific author with some truly great books under her belt for children, young adults and adults. (How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight, for one). This particular book is an award winner and is about a young girl who travels back in time to the Holocaust. Sweet Pea read it a year or so ago and really enjoyed it. As soon as Snickers is done with it I think I will read it as well.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My Six Year Old is Reading Dickens! (What We're Reading - Part 1 of 5)

  Doodlebug, almost 7, enjoys Junie B Jones. (Who doesn't? Those books are a hoot!) She's silly and she's also a first-grader. He can relate. He started reading one of the Junie B. Jones books himself but for whatever reason it fizzled out and he hasn't picked it back up after the first chapter or two. Maybe it was too challenging? Not interesting enough? Maybe because the main character is a girl? Maybe she's too silly. Who knows, but a couple of weeks ago when Doodlebug saw a collection of 5 or 6 small books that we own, he was intrigued. They are just the right size for his hands (about 3 inches by 4 inches) and are classics that have been re-written in a more kid-accessible way.

These things are also old - the hubster must have had these for almost 30 years. They were originally 99 cents, but were marked down to 50 cents each at Kay Bee toys back in the late 70's or early 80's. There's Jack London's Call of the Wild, Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Dicken's Oliver Twist. For whatever reason, Oliver Twist caught his eye - must be the illustration of young boys on the cover. It has 25 chapters and he feels very grown up to be reading a chapter book that has even more chapters than what Snickers is reading. He very much likes to be 'smarter' than other kids his age and with his natural abilities and the fact that he has an older brother who loves to teach him about math, science, mythology, dinosaurs, etc, etc, etc, he knows a lot of things that many first graders don't.

But seeing him sitting there with Oliver Twist !! in his hands, finger gliding along each line of the story, mouth sounding out the more difficult words, oblivious to the world around him, is wonderful to see. I mean, even I've never read Oliver Twist, or any Dicken's for that matter. I'm familiar with some of the stories, but haven't actually read them. Maybe it's time that I did.