Friday, November 23, 2012

Norwegian Wood

I am a huge fan of Haruki Murakami, who I find to be one of the most imaginative and creative authors out there.  The Wind-up Bird Chronicle is one of my top 10 all-time faves, and he's written several other excellent books including Kafka on the Shore, which I also love.  Norwegian Wood is apparently a book that everyone in Japan has read, with the disaffected protagonist Toru Watanabe drawing comparisons to Holden Caulfield. From the book's afterword, I got the sense that Murakami was both surprised and not too thrilled this is the book he became famous for.  And I would agree - while the book has merits, it's just not up to the standards of his other works.

The story begins as a flashback - middle-aged Toru recalls his youthful relationship with the beautiful Naoko, a woman who dated Toru's high school best friend before he killed himself.  Toru and Naoko began spending time together about a year later, initially bonding over their shared grief, and it blossomed into a much stronger relationship, one that they both seemed to believe was love. 

All was not well in Naoko's mind, though, and she committed herself to a very nontraditional sort of a mental institution.  Toru visited Naoko there, hoping to contribute the healing of her mind.  He did, however, simultaneously begin a relationship with his schoolmate Midori, a very different young woman from Naoko.

On the surface, Norwegian Wood seems like a coming-of-age love story with a level of social commentary.  Toru finds himself while discovering these women and understanding his relationships with them, all the while becoming disillusioned with political goings-on at the university.  There is more to the novel, though - Murakami's gift for dialogue shows itself from time to time, and there is the trademark reference to a well.  But I don't read Murakami for romance or coming-of-age; I read Murakami for truly creative and inspired and unique experiences.  I stand by this as a solid novel, but really, if you're interested in Murakami, start with Kafka or Bird Chronicle.

Next up: I'm still reading All the King's Men, which got interrupted when I forgot to bring it to Aurora.  So that'll be my next review.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Programs and parties

The girls are both off for this whole week, which meant last week featured their Thanksgiving activities.  The Bunny had a feast at school, where all of the preschool kids sat at tiny tables with construction paper placemats.  They mostly just ate the chocolate chip pumpkin bread, although there were some turkey slices that didn't go to waste.  The feast was followed by her very first program performance.  Unlike the Bug's early showings, it went perfectly.  The Bunny was quite the leader of her little class of all boys, she knew all the words, she didn't get nervous being in front of all the mommies and daddies.  Plus, added bonus: turkey masks.

The Bug wrapped up the Native American unit at school with an activity called "Travel Time" on Friday.  The kids rotated through four centers: they ate fry bread with berry sauce; they played a couple of Native American hunting games (this is the one I moderated - totally fun); they made turtle rattles; and they made headdresses with feathers that they had earned by doing good deeds over the prior weeks.  It was all pretty neat, and the kids had a blast.

To top it off, we hosted a little birthday party for the Bunny on Sunday evening.  She had requested a "rainbow cake," which I tackled boldly.  I found a recipe that had me splitting a couple of boxes of white cake mix into six different colors, baked each one separately, made some frosting.  Then cake assembly would be to ice the layers together such that a slice showed each color cleanly.  The cakes looked awesome - the colors were super bright!  But they also stuck like glue, first in the pans, then onto the plates I put them on.  All six layers went into the garbage, and a back-up batch of cupcakes was started at almost 10:30 on Saturday night.  Oy.  The cupcakes ended up looking great, though - a variation on the rainbow cake theme, I guess.  And the party was a ton of fun.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Big week for the little Bunny

I'm not exactly sure how this is possible, but the Bunny turned three on Tuesday.  As in, three years.  As she's reminded me about a zillion times, she is not a baby now. 

So the entry into the magical year of three apparently entails: 

  • Wearing a crown all day at school - specifically, a pink and purple one.  With a glittery "3" on it.
  • Bringing brownies to share with friends at school.  And the following day, bringing brownies to share with friends at daycare.  
  • Getting a stack of glittery princess and/or fairy-related cards in the mail, which big sister can "read" to you.
  • Getting a stack of glittery princess and/or fairy-related presents, all wrapped in pink or a pink-like color, which big sister "helps" to open before immediately co-opting just over half of them for herself.
  • Candles stuck into chocolate chip cookies to blow out on the actual birthday.
  • A still-upcoming birthday party - co-starring best birthday buddy Aunt Jessie - for which a rainbow cake with rainbow frosting and rainbow sprinkles and purple rainbow sprinkles has been requested.
I can't fill you in on the vitals - as per usual, her well-child appointment is still in the not-so-distant future - but I can tell you a few things.  She loves fairies, princesses and pink.  Her best friend is her big sister Bug.  She still doesn't sleep through the night with the kind of regularity one might like to see.  She may be a tad strong willed; for example, she hasn't had milk since we gave her sippies to the Sippy Cup Fairy, for redistribution to little kids who still need them, in June.  She is excellent at kisses, hugs and fish faces.  She is a great dancer.  She resists both shoes and coats, but is partial to her "tiny striped mittens."  She is looking forward to skiing this winter.  She loves her cats and elk and deer and rabbits (especially Sparkle, who lives under the rocks outside our dining room).  Her roar (lion, tiger, whatever) is the least threatening you'll ever hear.  And her awesome curly mop has yet to be trimmed.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

And on the first day, I skiied

The thing about start-ups is that sometimes they stop.  Out of the clear blue sky the company can go away, or your job can go away, or the entire management team can go away.  So it goes.

And so it went.  As of Monday, I'm back on the dole.  Or, I suppose, technically I could be.  But that's neither here nor there.  I'm currently looking for a new gig. 

And since I'm in Colorado, I figure no better way to celebrate enjoy endure unemployment than going skiing.  We did a few runs on Monday and were back in time to pick up the kids.  Is this state awesome or what??  So with any luck, my unemployment this go-round will be short lived.  And with a little more luck, it will find me a better snowboarder and an adequate mountain biker, in wicked shape from CrossFitting every day.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Tricks, treats and parties

Halloween this year was a rather elaborate production.  You could even call it The Year We Went All Homemade.  For some unfathomable reason, I made both girls' costumes: the Bug was Strawberry Shortcake and the Bunny was a rainbow butterfly.

They turned out wonderfully, if I do say so myself (although the Bunny's does have a little Pride Parade thing going on) - but at the expense of several nights' sleep and a Saturday morning of fun.  First I dyed their flower girl dresses from earlier this month.  Which is apparently not recommended for 100% polyester.  Then I glue-gunned the hell out of a bunch of stuff from Michael's.  Strawberry Shortcake's dress and hat were primarily felt, and she had a yarn wig (braids) that took like three hours of tangling and untangling to create.  The rainbow butterfly's wings were posterboard.  Giant posterboard.  And I got to make her antennae (headband, shiny puff balls and shiny pipecleaners) twice since we lost the first one at a party.  And for all that, not a single picture of the two of them together.  Or of the rainbow part of the butterfly. 

Joker and the girls did the pumpkin carving.  All but Mommy opted for "scary," so my "funny" stands alone.  We learned a few things about the white variety, too.  For starters, they smell amazing - like cucumbers! - when they're cut.  For another thing, their roasted seeds taste terrible.  They're also really sticky and take forever to wash.  Not worth it.

This year, I got to go to both of the girls' class parties.  What fun!  The kids did arts and crafts, they ate spooky food, they paraded.  I can't imagine being their teachers for all of that, and today couldn't possibly have been better, but they all had so much fun!

And of course, trick-or-treating was a blast - both girls were super into it.  They tricked.  They treated.  They said "thank you."  The Evergreen downtown scene is pretty crazy - a ton of kids, all the businesses hand out candy.  Then we hit a neighborhood for more traditional candy hunting.  Today we sure could have used naps all around.