Friday, February 2, 2018

On Turning Five

We had a bit of an emotionally draining week here at the Reintjes house but you can't let a little thing like that put a damper on birthday festivities.  I didn't manage to take many pictures of the actual day, it being a very busy regular Friday, but I did get a fair few of the previous day's spectacularly messy cake preparations. 

And yes, all of the children are sitting on the counter, and yes, there were eggs in the batter.  We live dangerously here.  Very, very, dangerously. 

At lunchtime Henry came up and whispered a request for me to drive everyone over to the local variety store after swim lessons in my sneakiest manner so that he could buy a birthday gift for John himself with his own money.  He picked out two packs of Pokemon cards, which John was ecstatic about receiving since the house rules are that mommy and daddy will under no circumstances spend money on them.  Judge if you must, but the kids all go through phases of wanting all the cards and then alternatively giving them all away to the neighbors in passionate fits of generosity.  That or they go through the washing machine and all that's left of them is that little bit of shiny paper in the pockets to let you know what once was.  So far John hasn't given any of the cards away, but he did immediately divide up all the coins he got from grandma and grandpa between his siblings.  He's a sweetheart that son of mine. 

When I asked him what he wanted to do for his birthday he said without hesitation that he wanted to ride on a ferris wheel and eat fish sticks and french fries.  Luckily there is a rather large ferris wheel nearby at the National Harbor so Chris came home early from work to take him after his very fancy birthday dinner.  John was half asleep since it was so late at night (i.e. after seven) but I think he enjoyed himself, especially having all that special one on one time with daddy. 

Five is such a heart tugging birthday, they're so grown up once they're five.  Even if they do still stick their whole heads into the mixing bowl to lick it clean.     

Monday, January 29, 2018

On Weekending in Vermont, in January

Chris is going back to school next year to get his LLM in Environmental Law.  He's been accepted to programs in Colorado, here in DC and Vermont but we're really hoping the Navy sends him to Vermont.  We get an opinion but not really a say, so we're waiting for the final word.  Vermont has the best program and the town is just adorable.  We spent the weekend there, just Chris, me, and the baby, touring the law school and looking at houses.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but I don't think we met an unfriendly person on our entire trip.  Vermont Law School is apparently the only law school in the country that is situated in a town without a stop light.  You could walk across the whole town in less than ten minutes--there's a village square with a free ice-skating rink, a food co-op, a smattering of little restaurants and bars kept alive by the law students, a shallow river running through it all, and the cutest little public library you ever saw.  Pretty much our dream place to live and a far cry from our current location right outside DC. 

Also it was very cold and covered with ice, but I suppose nowhere is perfect.

When Chris got his acceptance package, a copy of yes! magazine was included.  I flipped through it and immediately texted pictures of the most outrageous parts to a friend with an, "oh no, look what we've gotten ourselves into now" sentiment attached.  I mean, we are clearly not the typical applicants to this school.  We don't hold all the right opinions and we obviously have more children than is appropriate given the horrific strain they will eventually be putting on the world's future resources.  But as I sat down to actually give the thing a fair reading, I realized that it contained a really great article that I had read online just a few days before, not realizing it's source.  And then I thought, I'm a jerk.  

Now the general level of discourse in this particular magazine isn't great, my first impression was that it was mostly a manifesto against the president, and no matter who that level of vitriol is directed at I'm not really interested in reading it.  But if you can overlook it, and I really tried, there were plenty of things that I agreed with and places where I certainly had common ground with the authors.  The tone of the thing in general just made those places difficult to dig out.  I'm hoping that next year will provide opportunities for lots of real discussions and sharing of different perspectives with the other students we'll be meeting.  The house we've got our eye on is right next to the school and would be perfect for dinner parties and late night conversations with new friends just like we had when Chris was in law school in Pennsylvania one hundred years ago.  Give or take. 

And if it's one thing I know law students want it's free home cooked meals.  If you cook it, they will come.  

Just to clarify I certainly do care about the environment--just in more of a Wendell Berry way than say, an Al Gore way.  If that makes sense?  This article is great and describes the importance of provision and good stewardship of our world right now instead of a vague and terrifying fear of future disaster.  I know, it's another yes! article.  I found it when I was searching for the first one.  I'm still not subscribing :) 

And if you like that little taste of Wendell Berry, may I recommend his newest book (affiliate link), The Art of Loading Brush.  I've only read the first two essays and I usually don't recommend things I haven't finished, but they were amazing and really flesh out the ideas in the article further.  And then once you've finished that book you should probably just go on and read literally anything else you can find by him--there are more books of essays, poetry, fiction.  You can't go wrong. 

So, to recap:  we may or may not be moving to Vermont this summer, we are cautiously optimistic that we will but also trying not to get our hopes up, I'm occasionally guilty of judging books by their very liberal covers but I'm working on it, I really love Wendell Berry and you should too.

And if anyone has tips on Vermont living I'd love to hear them! 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

On an Outdoorsy Christmas

We spent the second half of our Christmas break mostly outside--and by "we" I mean mostly Chris and the children.  I really am a cold weather wimp, but to be fair it was awfully cold for the baby out there.  We made Christmas for the animals and hung up our birdseed ornaments just in time for the snow to hit.  Chris had the most fun ever on a nature walk when he realized that the Potomac River was frozen over enough to walk out on and explore.  He kept coming up with excuses to drive the children places so that he could stop with them and go back out on the ice.  I can appreciate how fun it must have been and I'm also glad I wasn't there to ruin it with my worrying.  That's the kind of adventure it's better to hear about later, after the fact, when you know nobody actually fell through the ice ne'er to be seen again. 

We had a very successful fondue night, New Year's Eve celebration and the next day we celebrated my birthday with a low key lunch at Chris' favorite restaurant.  I also got a night out with a dear friend who obviously understands me since she gifted me the most adorable little bit of honey I've ever seen.  Of course a bit of adult conversation with no children screaming in the background was all the gift I needed :) 

I also made an epiphany cake that involved candying grapefruit peels which I have never attempted before but were pretty tasty if I do say so myself.  Of course the children didn't actually eat the Epiphany cake since it also included dried fruit, but they did dig through their pieces with forks until someone found a gold coin.  I had ordered a bit of a prize for the king or queen but it never actually arrived, which reminds me that I should check on that again.  I got a Christmas jigsaw puzzle with a roll up mat for the kids as one last Christmas present and we all had a pretty good time piecing it together. 


Once we were done we found that we were missing one piece.  One piece.  I think it would have been better if three or four had disappeared--at least then we wouldn't have been so close to actually finishing the thing.  Now I'm not sure what to do with the puzzle.  Keep it for next year and hope the piece reappears which it never, never will?  Or throw it away knowing that as soon as it's gone the piece will miraculously reemerge somewhere exceedingly unlikely that I never thought to check?  It's quite the jigsaw puzzle conundrum. 

We took the tree down on Epiphany and had a giant, and I do mean giant, tree burning bonfire.  I mean if the tree must come down, at least you can have the satisfaction of watching it burn.  It really takes the sting out of the lack of twinkle lights in the house. 

How did you wrap up your Twelve Days of Christmas?  Did you let your children do anything dangerous?  Or perhaps light anything exciting on fire? :) 

Monday, January 1, 2018

What I Read in 2017

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I'm afraid, for me,  2017 can only be described as the year of unfinished books.  To say I have stacks of partially read books littered around the house would be an understatement.  They are just everywhere, taunting me with all of the ideas trapped within them that I never got around to discovering because I was too busy scrolling Instagram.

I'm pretty sure they're judging me.

And laughing.  Or maybe crying.  It's hard to be certain with these things.

My first new year's resolution is to gather up all of the poor neglected things and make a plan for actually finishing them.  And also not to buy any new ones until I've accomplished said plan.  Aside from the books I just bought myself with my birthday money of course. I mean, I only got one book for Christmas.  What would you have done?

We finally got an audible account this year so I listened to more audio books than I ever have before.  I listed the ones I listened to by myself below, but we listened to so many more as a family--including The Hobbit and all of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy which were excellently done.  I loved Hillbilly Elegy so much that I made Chris listen to it as well and he said it's one of his favorite books ever which is pretty high praise indeed.  If you listen to it though, make sure there aren't any little ears nearby.  It's read by the author and the language is more than a little rough.

Now as far as books that I actually read goes, a lot of my non-fiction reading centered around health concerns and healing yourself with food.  I'm a firm believer that books find their way to you (or at least to me anyway!) just when you need them most.  This year after a particularly bad month of near constant migraines/headaches I had the epiphany that I should maybe read actual books on the subject instead of just random things I found online.  I'm not sure why it never occurred to me before, given my propensity to solve all of my life's problems by first reading as many things as I can and then, ideally, hopefully, translating that new knowledge into concrete actions--sometimes reading about things gives me an unrealistic feeling of actually having accomplished something when in fact, I've done approximately nothing but that's another post for another day.  If you suffer from migraines or even just really bad headaches, you need to read Heal Your Headache.  It describes the headache mechanism in a way that makes perfect sense and then walks you through why you need to make dietary changes to help prevent triggering migraines--i.e. what you eat is pretty much the only migraine trigger you have complete control of.  The author has a way of explaining things and holding your hand through the parts where you start to feel overwhelmed that's well worth the price of the book.

On the heals of reading that I picked up some of Michael Pollan's books that I had grabbed at a garage sale the previous summer and went on a bit of a bender about where our food actually comes from, what we should eat, and why.  Read Michael Pollan--start with the Omnivore's Dilemma and then go to In Defense of Food--his writing is so engaging and funny and it will change the way you look at your food forever.  If you can't commit to reading it, although I'm serious--you really need to, he's got some documentaries out as well that will give you a taste before you realize that I'm right and buy the books.

The other non-fiction book that I read that had the most impact on me--and I'm totally giving away the character flaws I'm currently struggling most with here--is Overcoming Sinful Anger.  This is a very short read but it is full of advice and wisdom to help you overcome your temper as well as sometimes not-so-gentle reminders of why it is so vitally important to do it now.  If you find yourself struggling with anger, perhaps because you find yourself with an overabundance of little people underfoot with all of the demands on your energy and attention that that entails and an under-abundance of energy/time/help to meet those demands then do yourself a favor and put this on your reading list for 2018.  You won't regret it.

As for fiction, I think my favorite read this year was Wives and Daughters but beware!  There is no ending to the book because the author passed away before she finished it.   Why this isn't plastered across the cover of the every copy as a warning to potential readers is beyond me, but there you are.  You've been warned.  The book doesn't end but it is good nonetheless and I'd read it all over again.

Here's the full list of everything else I read this year minus all the cookbooks (so. many. cookbooks.) just in case you're interested--which I assume you are if you've read this far. 

What was your favorite read from 2017?  I'll put it on my list of books to buy after I finish reading all of my current piles.  I mean, unless it's really, really good and you think I should just go and get it right now ;)


1.  Raising Demons, by Shirley Jackson
2.  A Holiday for Murder, by Agatha Christie
3.  Good Wives, by Louisa May Alcott
4.  Heal Your Headache, by David Buchholz, M.D.
5. The Migraine Miracle, by Turknett
6.  The Loved One, by Evelyn Waugh
7.  The Perfectly Imperfect Home, by Deborah Needlemanarker Pine
8.  Mr. Parker Pyne, Detective, by Agatha Christie
9.  An Omnivore's Dilemma:  A Natural History of Four Meals , by Michael Pollan
10.  In Defense of Food:  An Eater's Manifesto, by Michael Pollan
11.  Silas Marner, by George Eliot
12.  Teaching from Rest:  A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakable Peace, by Sarah Mackenzie
13.  Death Comes at the End, by Agatha Christie
14.  The Two Part Invention, by Madeleine L'Engle
14.  All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes, by Ken Myers
16.  The Homegrown Preschooler, by Kathy Lee and Lesli Richards
17.  An Old Fashioned Girl, by Louisa May Alcott
18.  Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance (audio book)
19.  Wives and Daughters, by Elizabeth Gaskell
20.  A Time to Keep Silence, by Patrick Leigh Fermor
21.  Emily of New Moon, by L.M. Montgomery (audio book)
22.  Emily Climbs, by L.M. Montgomery (audio book)
23.  Emily's Quest, by L.M. Montgomery (audio book)
24. Knitting Without Needles:  A Stylish Introduction to Finger and Arm Knitting, by Anne Weil
25.  Finger Knitting Fun, by Vickie Howell
26.  Out of the Ashes:  Rebuilding American Culture, by Anthony Esolen
27.  Overcoming Sinful Anger, by Fr. T. Morrow
28.  Fighting Mad:  Practical Solutions for Conquering Anger, by Dr. Ray Guarendi
29.  The Not So Big House:  A Blueprint For the Way We Really Live, by Sarah Susanka
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