Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Hunger Games

Lest it be said I never read mainstream pop novels, I just breezed through Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games.  It happened rather by accident - facing a four-hour delay on my way to New Haven, I simply couldn't imagine bellying up to the bar with my multi-generational Saharan Desert saga.  So, Hunger Games.

I definitely enjoyed it.  Highbrow, complex literature it was not, but it's fun.  If you're not already familiar, the story tells of 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who claims only one of the totally lame names in the book.  The Capitol of dystopian Panem, a nation that has grown up where the U.S. of A. once was, keeps control of its twelve outlying districts by forcing them to compete in an annual event.  The names of a teenage boy and girl from each District are picked at random, kids who have been selected to represent their districts in a highly staged battle to the death.  Only one of the twenty-four comes out alive.

So Katniss' younger sister's name gets pulled, and Katniss volunteers to take her place.  She rightfully assumes she'll be better suited to this competition, given she's been hunting illegally in the outlying woods to feed her mother and sister since her father was killed some years prior.  Katniss and Peeta Mellark, the (also unfortunately named) District 12 boy, are then hauled off to the Capitol with their mentor (a prior year's winner) and a team of stylists. 

The world inside the Hunger Games arena - and the governmental machinations behind the scenes that made it all possible - are enjoyable and thought out.  The book's well paced, there's plenty of action and it's rather less gruesome than it could be.  The whole romance thing - a contrived triangle between Katniss, Peeta and a guy named Gale - I could have lived without. 

Next up: Despite the impression I have that the romance nonsense will dominate, I'm going to burn through The Hunger Games: Catching Fire next.  And if that doesn't make me too nauseous, I'll probably read Mockingjay right after that.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Bunny's 4th birthday

Somehow or another, and without nearly enough warning, the Bunny turned four last week.  We celebrated in world-class style over several days, and can hopefully have a little time now to recover.

The parties kicked off with frosted, sprinkled brownies at school on her actual birthday.  Then we took dinner (per Bunny's request: baked ziti, meatballs, carrot sticks with ranch dressing) to Aunt Jessie's house for a party with Mima, Boppie and the great-grands.  Not only did she get a rainbow ice cream cake, but she also got some super fun presents.  And the Bug did pretty well, too, raking in her share of un-birthday gifts.

Yesterday was the Bunny's very first Friend Party, and a pile of four-year-olds, their siblings and their parents came over for an afternoon of fun.  We stole a fantastic idea from our friends and temporarily converted the garage into a rec room, complete with astroturf, picnic tables, coloring stations, hula hoops and a disco ball.  The kids had a blast.  The grownups did, too.

So what changes has turning four brought to our little Bunny?  Well, she's still all curls and attitude.  She can now pronounce her letter "l"s, which is actually a little disappointing to me.  She's doing great in school and forging new friendships.  The Bug is still her very best buddy, although they do argue with a bit too much frequency.  She's getting closer to actually swimming; she's excited for ski season; and she did eventually enjoy playing soccer.  She still likes to cuddle with Mommy.  She loves our little black cats.  She doesn't have nearly the sweet tooth of her sister, but she'll take a slice of cheese pizza any day.  Hilarious things come out of her mouth, including her recent adoption of the phrase "What the...." (She also recently told me not to call her "smartiepants" any more.  "Call me smartie, and call my pants pants.") The Bunny?  She's just a sweet little pumpkin pie who makes us all smile. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

(Overdue) Halloween hoo-ha

We had a really fun Halloween this year - the kids are just about the perfect age for all the shenanigans. So even though it's a week ago already, here are a few fun highlights.

We were late to pick out our pumpkins, but were so happy to buy them at J.P. Total's, a local business that had been hit pretty hard by the recent flooding.  As expected, the pumpkins were awesome, the animatronics amusing and the cider tasty.  When we carved 'em that evening, the Bug wanted a scary pumpkin like Joker.  The Bunny initially wanted a happy princess pumpkin, but as soon as she saw Daddy's, the order changed to MAD PRINCESS. 

Mine?  Clearly Surprise!!!  Followed by Bug's, Joker's and MAD PRINCESS!     

A fun new tradition we tried out this year: Trunk-or-Treat at the school.  Various cars - including our friends' hearse, which was totally the best - were decorated in the school parking lot, giving the kids a very safe and comfortable Friday-before-Halloween venue to seek candy, check out each others' costumes and see the "Haunted hallway."  Really good stuff.

The girls' costumes?  Bunny was a cupcake fairy.  Since, you know, that's made up... I decorated some wings and a wand with cupcake stickers and such.  She wore a tutu, and basically looked like she was dressed for a Tuesday at school.  The Bug was a witch (a scary one), but wouldn't let me take a single picture in her awesome hat.  So sadly, not much to say there.

And Halloween itself... really fun daytime kids parties at the school.  Freezing cold night for trick-or-treating, which quickly devolved into returning to our house for The Great Pumpkin while the adults drank wine.

Oh and best idea of all time?  I "allowed" the kids to do science experiments with their candy.  By the time they'd dissolved all they possibly could into a glass of water, we were left with next to nothin'!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Wild Animal Sanctuary

On Saturday we met up with Mima and Boppie at The Wild Animal Sanctuary, near the town of Keenesburg, about an hour drive north and east from Evergreen.  This place is amazing!  You should go.  Bring binoculars.

Chase is re-learning how to be a tiger.

The sanctuary is home to hundreds of animals, specializing in large carnivores.  What this means to you is that there are dozens each of tigers, bears, lions, wolves, mountain lions and other large cats to observe.  The largest of its kind in the western hemisphere, the facility spans about 720 acres, with another 400 in development.  From the website alone I was worried this would be the kind of self-important, save-the-animals clap-trap that annoys me.  I couldn't have been farther from the truth.  Yes, these animals were all saved from terrible situations.  But the focus is not on the past; rather you experience the incredibly pleasant (and well-fed) lives the animals lead today.  They all have shiny coats and plenty of space to roam.  The staff clearly understands how these animals relate in social groups, and each species is introduced to others of its kind in a different way.

You do not want to cuddle with Tabitha.  I promise.

So the sanctuary isn't like a zoo, designed for the optimal viewing experience of the humans.  Rather, this is the animals' home, and we've been invited to visit.  They've built a mile-long, 22-foot high viewing platform which crosses above the multiple tiger habitats, a handful of bear and wolf habitats and several lion prides.  The animals crossed right below the platform and roamed around their spaces.  Though the sanctuary has been in operation for over 31 years, it's only had this public viewing experience since last spring.

Giant caboose; tiny face.  Bears are funny.
 My brief take on the animals: Wolves? Noisy. Tigers? Awesome.  And strangely anti-social; apparently it takes them much longer to adapt to a social group, which is why so many of them are in the "tiger roundhouse" with close proximity to other tigers, and some social swimming pool time to boot! Lions? Powerful.  Especially the females.  Bears? Hilarious.  They have these gigantic fat asses and little tiny ears.  Plus, they waddle.  Camel?  (No, seriously, there's one of those, too.) Ridiculous.  
One of the Bolivian lion prides, with Morrison (the camel) beyond.

We love the Denver Zoo, but this was such a different experience.  All of us thoroughly enjoyed it, and when we sat down to talk about our day at the dinner table, there were so many cool things to recollect we each had a unique Top 3 List. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

The crazy cousins go to Storm King

Last week the girls got a postcard from someone different - Cousin Lily!  She and her family spent Columbus Day at the Storm King Art Center, a place we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves just a couple of years ago!  Even the glimpse of one piece on a postcard had us fondly remembering the day we visited.  It's a museum that is absolutely worth seeing.  Thanks, Lily, for thinking of us!

Maya Lin's Storm King Wavefield