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Rating System

5 stars: Completely enjoyable or compelling
4 stars: Good but flawed
3 stars: Average
2 stars: OK
1 star: Did not finish

Reading Challenges

My Kind of Mystery Reading Challenge 2017 February - January 2017-8




 

 

The Long Way Home: 04/30/05

We went back to Ikea for another bookcase, a rising bowl for bread, and a blue box with wheels for Sean's "next to the couch" stash of books. We don't know our way around Emeryville very well and we ended up heading towards Berkeley on the 80 while trying to go home. Since we had gotten an early start we decided to turn our misdirection into a mini adventure. We would go home by way of the 680 which connects with the 80 up by Benecia. We crossed two bridges and stopped for lunch on the way too. When we got to Martinez, Sean fell asleep in the car. He would continue his nap at home and sleep until six-thirty.

Do They Have Bags of Pinks?

We have a huge bag of oranges on our table. Sean asked if there were other fruits named for their color. He specifically wanted to know if there were big bags of "pinks."

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Steps: 6000


<"thong_incident">The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: 04/29/05

My friend in Wales recommended this book to me. I hadn't planned on reading it but when a book comes so highly recommended by a friend or relative, I often decide to give it a go. I'm glad I did. It wasn't at all like I expected. It most reminded me of the Georgia Nicholson series which starts with Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging. They are similar in their first person diary form, their playful and juvenile use of language (both main characters are teens) and their frequent tangents and asides.

Whereas Georgia (created by Louise Rennison) is a teenage girl going to a fairly typical sounding British school, Christopher is a teenage boy with Asperger's syndrome, attending a more specialized school. From how he describes the other students, he seems out of place at the school. If Mark Haddon had never mentioned Asperger's in the book, Christopher would have come off as a fairly typical geeky teenage boy. He seems so much like the vast majority of the boys I knew in junior and senior high school that I found his diagnosis hard to believe. I guess that's part of growing up in a time when there were far fewer diagnoses and doctors were far more conservative in passing that sort of judgment on a child's development. Either most of my childhood friends were undiagnosed or kids today are being over diagnosed.

Then there are Christopher's parents. They use his Asperger's syndrome as an unspoken excuse to treat him quite poorly. Both parents have tempers (who doesn't) but rather than trying to work things out as a family, they write off Christopher as "impossible" and never bother to check their own behavior. Yell at a person, and they will yell back. Create a stressful environment and they will act strange. The wee bit of back story Haddon gives us through Christopher's narrative gives no hint of his parents trying to teach Christopher how to cope in situations where people violate his comfort zone. They leave it to Siobhan, his counselor, to do all of the dirty work. No child can learn to function in society with only one mentor!

Read the reviews at Maw Books, 1morechapter, Dog Ear Diary.

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Steps: 6000


Rain: 04/28/05

A rainy day, an over turned fire engine and a dozen news vans on the bridge made for a two hour commute.

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Steps: 4000


The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear: 04/27/05

Sean has taken a new liking to a book he's had for a while, The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear. We had to read it quite a few times last night. Fortunately it's rather short. I think he likes the threat of the bear and the deep booming voice Ian uses when the narrator is describing the bear.

Abridged Books:

I was skimming through a copy of Robinson Crusoe I had gotten via Book Crossing and realized that it was abridged. It only focused on Crusoe's first mishap on the island where he meets "Friday." There's a wee bit of a coda that hints at the travels Crusoe has through the "civilized" world (some alone and some with Friday) but most of this bit of the book is missing. Without this second half of the book it's impossible to see Crusoe's growth as a character to come to accept Friday as an equal.

I had been fortunate enough to first read an 1880s edition of the story, a massive volume. I should have been suspicious of this slim volume. If most of the modern versions of the story stop shortly after Crusoe is rescued off the island, it's not surprising that the average person thinks that's all there is to the story! I did find one in print version that appears to be the full text (also annotated).

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Steps: 4000


Nightmares: 04/26/05

Sean had some nightmares and night terrors last night. I think he started with a night terror and then woke up enough to fall asleep only to have a nightmare. Ian had brought Sean to our bed when the night terror and he did briefly almost wake up. Then he stopped and fell asleep briefly only to start whimpering. We put him back to bed and he woke up again to tell me that he had dreamed that I had locked him outside on the patio and he couldn't get back into the house. I tucked him back in bed and reassured him that he was safe in his bed and not outside. He wasn't in trouble and I would never lock him outside. Then he asked if he could help water the plants tomorrow and I said yes. After that he was content enough to go back to sleep.

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Steps: 10000


Almost Overslept: 04/25/05

On Friday we had a power outage and I had to reset the clock alarm. Today though I noticed one fatal flaw in my resetting job. The clock and the alarm were off by 12 hours. Fortunately Ian and Sean both got up early of their own accord and they were noisy enough that I woke up on time.

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Steps: 5500


H, M, N, V, 1, 7, 10, 11: 04/24/05

No, that's not the combination to my safe. It's actually the letters and numbers that Sean can now write!

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Steps: 4000


Visiting Again: 04/23/05

Ian's parents came to visit again. We had a lovely time with them. Ian cooked up a lovely brisket for dinner.

As with the last time they were here, it rained all day. It hasn't rained in two or three weeks. I guess the weather was just waiting for them!

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Steps: 4000


Growth Spurt: 04/22/05

For the last week or two Sean's two main goals in life have been eating and sleeping. If he's awake, he's hungry. If he's not eating, he's wanting a nap. Last night we measured him and realized he's grown two inches! That makes for four inches growth in a year. He's now three feet, two inches tall. He's going to be a tall adult.

Book Lost in the Mail:

I got a note in the mail from the post office apologizing for losing a book I'd mailed to Australia. It got loose in Los Angeles. Along with the note was a form mostly filled out save for a description of what was in the package. The note asked me to fill out the remainder of the form and send it onto St. Paul Minnesota to see if the post office can reunite me with my wayward book.

Of course I was annoyed at the loss of a book. Who wouldn't be? It was a book ring for Book Crossing and so I feel obligated to replace the book to keep the ring going. Fortunately the book is still in print and easy to find used. I've already got a "new" copy coming to me to send on again to Australia.

On the other hand, I'm glad that the post office took the initiative to tell me the book had gotten lost in their custody. I appreciate their honesty. I'll be amazed if they can find the book and send it back to me.

 

Steps: 5500


<"peek_who">Peek-a-Who: 04/21/05

My son's current favorite book is Peek-a-Who? by Nina Laden. He's had the book since he was just a few months old but he's old enough now to know all the animals in the book. We recently found it while unpacking a box of books. Since then I can't count how many times we've read the book together. He has even taken it to bed (as he often does with a current favorite).

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<"fall_darkness">Fall into Darkness: 04/21/05

I'm currently reading Christopher Pike's Fall into Darkness which apparently turned into a made for TV movie for NBC in 1996. Maybe that's why the book sometimes seems so familiar. The book is written in a parallel structure, at times following Sharon who finds her life turned upside down by her friend's betrayal and at other times, following Ann, the one who schemes to ruin Sharon's life. Although the book seems to aimed at a young adult readership, it's tightly written and as compelling enough of a mystery for older readers to enjoy. At just shy of two hundred pages, it can be easily read in a weekend.

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Steps: 5500


<"catspaw.html">Cat's Paw by Clarence Budington Kelland: 04/20/05

The Thursday after I was laid off from Oracle in 2003 I came into possession of four giant vegetable boxes of books. My goal has always been to release them via Book Crossing for other people to read but in the process I've been reading most of the books before I release them.

One of the authors represented in the collection is Clarence Budington Kelland, whose name was familiar to me but not immediately so. He was more like a distant memory, a name I had seen somewhere but couldn't quite place where or when. I had vague memories of having seen his name on the placards of an old film or two and now I know where — Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (among others). Kelland is also Harlan Ellison's favorite author and he has a rant on his website bemoaning that no one reads Kelland's books anymore or even remembers him.

Last night I finished reading Cat's-Paw, a morality tale of the evils of corrupt government and prejudice. Cat's-Paw seemed like such a stretch from the other Kelland books I've read that I ended up doing a little Google search for the author.

This particular book was in fact made into a film, also called "The Cat's-Paw" and it starred Harold Lloyd in 1934. Harold Lloyd playing a rather serious character who grew up in China (but is not Chinese)? From the description on IMDB, it sounds like the book was turned from a cautionary tale against government and business corruption to a full-out screwball comedy romance. Yes, there is a romantic element to the book (all Kelland books contain a romantic boy-meets-girl thread) but in Cat's-Paw, this romance is muted and down-played. If I ever come across a copy of the film I'll have to rent it just to see how it was bastardized.

Another important theme which was probably tossed out for the film was that of prejudice. The main character, though American by birth, is culturally Chinese having spent his entire life in China. He speaks Chinese (Cantonese), he respects the Chinese leaders and philosophers (and quotes them frequently). He is always respectful to the Chinese immigrants living in Middlesex (much to the bemusement of the other characters) and rebukes his friends who do not show the same respect. From the movie poster on IMDB, I think all of this was tossed out.

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Steps: 2500


Hobbit Hole: 04/19/05

I heard on Radio 4 a description of Tolkein's office and it sounded no larger than the hobbit hole he described in his first (and best) book. He keep the place crowded with books and papers making the small room seem even smaller. It sounded exactly like Ian's office closet. Last night when I went to bed, Ian disappeared into our closet and stayed there working until two in the morning.

Tomatoes:

The little tomato plants are doing well. The largest of the four has a dozen blossoms that should be blooming in few days. The smaller plants also are working on flowers so I think we'll have a great crop of patio tomatoes this year. Sean has been very helpful with the watering. We have to water the plants every other day if it's hot or every third day if it's not (unless it has rained). Once a week I feed them some more ash from the barbecue.

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Steps: 6000

 

A Merger that Should Not Be! 04/18/05

I just read in today's San Francisco Chronicle that Adobe is purchasing Macromedia for a huge stock swap. Adobe wants Macromedia to expand their market share into cell phones among other things. If you hear a loud wailing coming from the Bay Area — that's me. While Adobe is the leader in image creation and manipulation software and their PDF standard can't be beat, their ventures into web design software (GoLive) leave much to be desired. Macromedia has finally gotten Dreamweaver tuned to being a very decent (not perfect but still the best WYSIWYG editor out there) web design and programming tool. I am having nightmarish visions of what Adobe is going to do the Macromedia suite to make it fall more in line with the Adobe products. Eeeek!

More Coloring Fun:

Sean last night wanted to color again while Ian barbecued. So I got out the crayons and a coloring book I had unpacked last week. He and I spent an hour coloring in a Mickey Mouse coloring book. I think we got through 3/4 of the book! Next time I go to Walgreen's I'll have to buy another coloring book.

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Steps: 5000

 

Owls and Rats: 04/17/05

Sean and I spent an hour at Sulphur Creek today. In the museum they have set up a webcam via closed circuit TV to a nesting pair of barn owls. This one pair laid eight eggs, five of which hatched. Each barn owl eats a rat a day, so this one family is going through seven rats a day.

But they are not the only barn owl family in the area. The docent told us that they've counted fifty nesting pairs of barn owls! Imagine how many rats get eaten every day. If it weren't for the owls (and the cats) we would be awash in rodents up here in the foothills.

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Steps: 7000

 

The History of the Pseudoopticon: 04/16/05

I had a strange dream and it went like this...

Ian and I were taking a tour of amusement parks. I can only guess that we had left Sean with grandparents for a couple of days because he was not in this dream. Anyway, we parked our car at a rather rural looking train station where we met up with the other tour members. Most of them resembled the nice people I have recently met in real life at the Book Crossing meet up. True to form, one of them (I didn't see who) released a book about animals. I promptly caught it, having spotted it from our car.

The first place we went was a furniture store like Ikea (but not Ikea). Built into the store they had a roller coaster. We rode it once and the ride broke down about 3/4 of the way through. We were escorted off the ride and given free vouchers to ride again. By the time we got back to the line, the line was stretching out the door. We stayed late to ride it and then caught the train to the next stop.

The remainder of the dream takes place at the second stop. The second stop also only had one ride, a Ferris wheel built into a strange building that presumable an oddly built wind mill. (Sort of like the "ride" in Majora's Mask but much funkier).

As I was the first person off the train, I was given a ticket for the #1 seat (apparently a coveted prize) and Ian was given a ticket for the #2 spot. While there were some food booths and midway games near the train station, the main attraction was up on a hill and we had to ride a very fast ski lift to the top.

Nearly at the top of the lift the ski lift spirals up the side of the structure making us appreciate just how huge it was. Just before coming into the station we passed a nice looking restaurant and pub and dinner was being served to a few couples already there. Ian and I decided to stop there for dinner if we had the time.

However, we didn't get into the station. A flustered chef (who we would soon learn was the owner of the entire attraction) handed me a bowl of rice with the order: "Hold this for me" and then she put the lift in reverse for a bit. We were left dangling over the first turn with a glorious view of the sunset over the mountains, the valley below and the massive structure to our right and the restaurant just in front.

Ian, either bored or something else, decided to rebutton his blue shirt. One of the buttons popped off and bounced down the track to the parking lot below. I scolded him because that was the second button he had lost off the shirt today.

At last the lift was restarted and we were taken all the way to the station. I handed the bowl of rice to the chef who was looking very sad. The restaurant lights were now off and the place looked closed. "What happened?" we asked.

She explained that England (apparently the entire country) had just phoned to shut them down. They didn't like they way she was running her pub and her fish and chips weren't up to English specs. Ian perked up and said he could help her get things up and running before they called back in an hour.

The sun set and we had still not ridden the ride. I guess the other members of the tour had retired to their rooms for the night. The building was large enough to have an inn as well.

While Ian and the owner worked on fixing things with the pub, I went to the lobby (or our room, not sure) and watched a TV presentation of the history of the attraction. It was originally built as a "pseudoopticon" by a Victorian eccentric. Sometime after a the invention of the air plane, a biplane crashed into the roof of the building and it was cheaper to leave the plane on the roof. Then about thirty or forty years ago (1960s or 1970s I think as Ian and I didn't look any older) the aging "pseudoopticon" was bought by another wealthy entrepreneur who had restored it and installed the Ferris wheel. Then a year or so ago, the most recent owner had bought the place and started the inn, restaurant and pub.

Anyway, that's the gist of my dream. I don't think we ever got to ride the Ferris wheel.

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Steps: 7000

 

I Want Crayons: 04/15/05

Last night Sean bowled me over by announcing that before dinner he wanted to color with crayons. He normally wants to play with musical toys or instruments or read books so his request to color came as quite a surprise. He and I spent a lovely half an hour while Ian barbecued coloring pictures at the kitchen table.

Sean first drew something that reminds me of a very colorful sunset while I drew a tropical fish. He would sometimes announce, "Time to trade colors" and hand me his crayon. I in turn had to give him my crayon. Later we both drew frogs. I need to scan the pictures to show what we did.

Later I had to step away from the table. When I got back, Sean was coloring on my fish drawing. He gave me a big smile and said, "Ok mama, I finished your fish drawing. It's all done now."

When we were done Sean wanted the honor of putting away the crayons. Since we keep them on a tall shelf, I had to hold him up so he could reach.

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Steps: 10000


Taxes Mailed: 04/14/05

I got our taxes mailed yesterday. It feels great to have them finally on their way. It's one less thing to worry about for now.

The Closet Office:

Ian managed to move his office chair from Sean's room into his closet office. I'm still unpacking boxes but with Ian able to move some of his text books into the "office" I have room now to maneuver more books upstairs. I also want to stick more unnecessary things under the stairs but that's a weekend project.

Hello to Everyone from University:

I've noticed a recent upsurge in visitors from universities. University students are my number two type of visitor. The number one spot is still held by folks looking for "puss" and deciding to stay even when the only puss here is feline. University students seem most interested in the tutorials offered. They are also interested in the Bryce freebies and the art gallery. They come from all over the world, though mostly from the southern United States, Brazil, Great Britain and France.

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Steps: 7000


A Poem: 04/13/05

Even though I don't live in the UK, I'm a member of BCUK (the Book Crossing United Kingdom Yahoo Group). Some of the night owls in the group have taken to writing late night poetry. Last night's theme was Ode to a Member and here's the one that was written to me.

Our American counterpart, Caligula by name,
She is just such the sweetest we ever did tame,
As regardless of distance if you ask for a book,
She'll send it post haste, by hook or by crook!

From "Odes to Lucycat, Caligula and Jalna"
by oblivious1980

Successful Meet Up:

I had fun last night at the meet up. Sixteen people showed up which apparently was a record for the group. I'm not sure I'm ready to commit to every month but perhaps I could do every other month. I left three books at Starbucks and gave two others out to other Book Crossing members.

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Steps: 7000


Meet Up Tonight: 04/12/05

I'm going to my first BookCrossing meet up tonight. I don't expect to attend each month but this time I'm going to exchange some books to save on postage. Of course with the price of gasoline now, postage may actually be cheaper.

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Steps: 7000


Tucked In: 04/11/05

Sean tonight didn't want us tucking him in tonight. As he had gone to bed a little early (his choice) we left him to play with his toys in bed. When Ian went down later to tuck him in (or retuck him in as we usually do), he found him already tucked in. It's another sign of Sean growing into a little boy from a toddler.

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Steps: 7000


Gardening: 04/10/05

Sean and I went to the nursery to buy some tomato plants. We got three types of miniature tomatoes (cherry, green grape and yellow) and one standard size tomato (I don't recall which kind right now). Sean helped me plant them in a row container when we got home.

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Steps: 7000

 

Ikea: 04/09/05

We went today to Ikea to purchase a $30 Billy bookcase. We also came home with a giant bumble bee stuffed animal for Sean. The bee is almost as big as he is. Ian is currently down stairs putting together the bookshelf. It's going to go live in his "office" aka our walk in closet.

Color My World:

A friend of mine turned me on to a website called Color Cell. It's a very simplistic set similar to Nation States but using 4 color "cells" instead of nations.

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Steps: 7000

 

Sounding it Out: 04/08/05

Sean is figuring out phonetics with Ian's help. He's on the event horizon of reading. More and more I'm hearing him sounding out letters or combinations of letters that he knows. It's wonderful seeing him jump with both feet into reading.

Phishing for Idiots:

I just received the funniest phishing email. I guess they think I'll click on their link out of pity?

Tsih eiaml was stne by the Barlcays sevrer to vfirey yuor emial aderdss. You mtsu cetelpmo tihs pssecor by cikcilng
on the lkni belwo and enterign in the slaml winodw yoru Braclays Mbmeership nmuber, paocssde and memorelba word.
Tihs is dnoe for yuor protcetion - becaesu soem of our memsreb no loregn heva acssec to thier eamil aderdsses and
we mtsu virefy it. To vfirey yruo emlia adderss and acsecs yuor bakn acuocnt , clc

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Steps: 4000


Temples, Tombs and Hieroglyphs: 04/07/05

Fans of Elizabeth Peters will know from the back of her books that she's also an Egyptologist. Barbara Mertz, when she's not writing fiction as either Elizabeth Peters or Barbara Michaels has published a few Egyptology books under her actual name. I'm currently reading one, Temples, Tombs and Hieroglyphs. The book is full of fascinating details of both the history and culture of Egypt and of the field of Egyptology. Her sense of humor shows through too. Although she never directly admits to her other day job, anyone who has read her Amelia Peabody series will see where she has taken inspiration from history and from her colleagues for the characters and scenes in her books. I'd recommend this book to any of her fans.

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Steps: 4000


Daughters of Isis: 04/06/05

At the same time that I'm reading the Barbara Mertz book, I'm also reading a more focused and equally fascinating Egyptian history book, Daughters of Isis by Joyce Tyldesley. Tyldesley focuses on the history of Egyptian women and how they were represented in art and writing. She brings into the book many interesting but rather mundane sources — letters by business men, cautionary tales by priests, reports from high society parties, etc. These references create more representative cross section of Egyptian life than the typical book which focuses on Pharaoh and his inner circle.

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Steps: 4000

 

Shark Tale: 04/05/05

Last night we rented Shark Tale. I hadn't expected to like it as much as the Shrek films but I actually enjoyed it more. Sean really enjoyed it, especially when the sharks were humming the Jaws theme.

Pot Holes Be Gone Again:

Now that it's sunny again, San Carlos has sent out a mini road repair (two guys, a hand held asphalt pounder and a truck) to fill another strip of pot holes in the alley. The biggest ones are still full of muddy rain water so they'll have to come back for them but half of the alley is looking really good now. The asphault pounder sounds like a train straining to stay on the tracks so I always have to peek out the kitchen window to see if Caltrain is about to come off the tracks. Thankfully it's always been pot hole repair!

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Steps: 7000


Singin' in the Rain: 04/04/05

Sean has sometime in the last week (possibly after the night terrors) learned all the lyrics to Singin' in the Rain. He knows the song better than I do but then I've never really been much of a sponge for songs. I'm pretty good at name that tune type games but remembering tunes or lyrics, forget it! Last night in his bath he was having fun making up new lyrics where he snuck in sploosh wherever he could. It was very funny!

Back to Work:

It's Monday again. I'm on my second week of the earlier schedule, though this week is complicated by lack of sleep and day light saving's time (horrible invention of torture). So today I felt doubly jet lagged. On the plus side, I only had to last until 4 thanks to the new hours.

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Steps: 5000


The Autograph Man: 04/03/05

This cold or hay fever or whatever it is, is really wearing me down. The last few days are all one giant blur from the lack of sleep. Today I've done my best to ignore the fact that I'm exhausted by reading The Autograph Man, a strange book that reminds me of a Manchild where the men are twenty years younger and Jewish and if the narrator was half Chinese.

Anyway, Friday night we had another fun dinner with mom. She took us to Chevy's and Sean enjoyed the salsa and chips and rice off of Ian's plate. He wouldn't actually eat his quesadilla until Saturday for lunch but that's fairly typical for him.

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Steps: 6000

 

Cough Cough: 04/02/05

Friday night I did not sleep. Ian and I were both coughing. We were also tried from the night before when Sean had kept us up with another round of night terrors. Ian ended up making a late night run for cough medicine while I tried desperately to go to sleep. Even after taking the medicine when he got back, I didn't get more than about an hour and twenty minutes of sleep. That meant that he and I were zombie hosts for my mom today. Ugh.

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Steps: 3000

 


April Fool: 04/01/05

Yesterday afternoon I started coughing. Ian's been coughing too. Mom took us out for dinner and then we spent a nice hour or so at her hotel room where Sean entertained us with somersaults and big hops.

Mom brought up a bunch of wonderful books for Sean and his favorite among the lot was a Play a Sound book version of the Disney film, Atlantis: The Lost Empire. He especially liked the icon for Atlantis which looks like a big blue castle. When that button is pushed, the book plays a rock riff which sounds enough like Sean's Old Mac Donald castle song. It was as if the book had verified Sean's insistence that castles sing. He was instantly hooked. We've read the book a half dozen times already and ended up having to tuck the book in bed when we put Sean down for the night.

Another great gift that Sean got was an owl kite from his grandfather. I can't wait to take him out and show him how to fly it. I was about his age when my grandmother took me kite flying. She had a wonderful bat kite. I always thought we were sending out the bat signal for Batman!

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Steps: 5000