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Monday… here you are again.  They just keep coming around.  This one is kind of bittersweet – it’s my last Monday of maternity leave.  I’m back to work, full-time, on Wednesday.  It’s going to be good to get back to a routine, and to contribute to the family income again, but I’m definitely sad about it ending – and I’m really going to miss little Nugget during the days.  I’ve gotten so used to his little presence in my arms (sometimes, it seems, 24 hours a day) and I remember how hard it was for me to go back to work after having Peanut.  Well, I got through it once (twice, if you count the time I took off after moving up here) and I’ll do it again.

Anyway, since my reading speed is likely to slow down considerably starting this week (Peanut’s school is closed, so I’m on full-time mom-of-two duty today and tomorrow, then reality hits on Wednesday) I’m glad to report that I got some good reading done last week.  I finished Jane Austen’s England, the Marvel Illustrated version of Pride and Prejudice, and – just yesterday – The Martian.  I loved The Martian!  Now I can’t wait for the movie – just about a month.  Matt Damon is absolutely perfect for the role of Mark Watney.  And – bonus! – since Steve read and loved the book, too, we’re both equally geeked out about a movie for once.  (Usually one of us is really excited and the other is kind of going along with it, you know, out of love.)  Anyway, I’m already assembling a list of possible babysitters to call, because we have GOT to make this movie thing happen.  No way I can wait for Netflix on this one.

My main goal for this week is to finish The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings.  It’s taking way too long.  It’s a really interesting book, and I think I’d enjoy it much more if I had more brain power to devote to it.  But unfortunately it’s quite dense, and I’m quite tired (as you all know).  I’m about halfway through and just got the book back from the library after previously being compelled to return it (there was a queue).  It’ll probably take me all week, but I really do want to get through it.  I’m just too far into it now to abandon it – I’d hate myself.  Anyway, if I actually manage to finish The Fellowship this week, I plan to reward myself with another library book: The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, which I checked out of the library after hearing Liberty Hardy rave about it on the All the Books! podcast.  It looks AWESOME, and I can’t wait to pick it up.  So that’s my motivation for finishing The Fellowship.  That and the pride of a job well done.

Coming up on the blog this week – a special announcement on Wednesday!  My friend Jen and I will be hosting our first readalong.  More details to come, but we’re going to be reading Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country in September.  I can’t wait to dig in!  Now I just have to figure out how to work the Mr. Linky – blogging geniuses, any tips or tricks you have to share would be more than welcome.  And then on Friday, I’ll share my list of reads from August; it’s a good one.  Lots of fun bookishness this week – feels great!

How about you – what are you reading this week?

One of Jane Austen's several residences in Bath.

One of Jane Austen’s several residences in Bath.

Dear Aunt Jane!  How I love the witty social commentary and subtle jokes hidden in those perfectly crafted comedies of manners.  I am often asked what my favorite book and/or author is, and I always give the same answer – although Jane Eyre is my favorite book, Jane Austen is my favorite author.  (Because while Miss Eyre gets top billing on my bookshelves, Miss Austen overall has more novels that I consistently love.  Does that make sense?)  So, given the depths of my Jane Austen fangirling, it’s kind of surprising that I’ve never participated in Austen in August, an annual reading event hosted by Adam of Roof Beam Reader.  Some of my favorite bloggers, and best blog friends, do this event year after year, and I’ve always wanted to, but something always prevents me – a teetering library stack, travel plans, work nuttiness – you name it.  My excuses are many and varied.  This year, however, I was bound and determined to participate, even with a tiny baby at home and a big pile checked out from the library.

The basic idea behind Austen in August is this: spend a month focusing on “all things Jane Austen, including her primary texts, any re-imaginings of her works, biographies, critical texts, etc.”  (That’s a direct quote from Adam.)  So, basically, anything goes.  If it’s Austen-related, it’s fair game.

Bath's Royal Crescent - fashionable Georgian condos.

Bath’s Royal Crescent – fashionable Georgian condos.

Going into this year’s event, I had three hopes.  (Not goals, I didn’t call them goals, because I really was trying to be more low-key about the whole thing.)  First, I really wanted to tackle Love and Freindship, Austen’s juvenilia.  Penguin Clothbound Classics recently published a gorgeous edition, which I have (after some delivery drama in which FedEx deposited the package containing the book inside my garbage can – yes, you read that right).  Anyway, that was my top priority.  Second, I wanted to read a nonfiction history focusing on Jane Austen and/or her environment; I was targeting either Jane Austen’s England or Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, both of which I own.  Third, and least pressing, I thought I may make the time to revisit one of the six novels in the main Austen canon – probably Pride and Prejudice, my favorite – and review it for The Classics Club.  But I did have a number of other reading commitments this month, and it was my last full month of maternity leave, so if I didn’t get to P&P I wasn’t going to beat myself up.

Anyway – even being sleep-deprived and buried under library books, I did actually manage to put in a decent showing for Austen in August!  And it occurred to me, as I was looking back over my Austen activity for the month, that each of my reading endeavors was super-geeky in its own way.  So, apparently, “nerding out on Austen” was the theme of Austen in August, at least for me, this year.  Behold:

Nerd Flag #1: The Hardcore Austen Scholar

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It takes a particular brand of commitment to an author in order to commit to reading her juvenilia.  I mean, it’s usually pretty bad.  Sometimes unreadable.  (If I’m ever a famous author – which at this rate, I won’t be, since no one seems interested in legal briefs – I hope to God that no one reads anything I wrote before the age of, say, 25.  Because it’s ALL garbage.)  But if you’re really into a classic author, like Austen, it could be seen as a mark of your interest that you actually make the effort to delve into the lesser-known works, and juvenilia is prime among them.

Jane’s juvenilia is incredibly rewarding.  First off, it’s hilarious.  Most of the commentary that I’ve read on Austen’s Love and Freindship is of the opinion that even the teenaged Jane was a witty social satirist.  Was she?  I’m not sure.  Some of her pieces do seem quite sophisticated in the manner in which they poke fun at the establishment, other authors, etc.  But… then again… you can definitely tell this stuff was written by a teenager.  And I do question whether it was all in fun, or whether some of the pomposity was actually real – the product of a kid taking herself way too seriously, as most of us do at that age.  (Teenaged Jane seems particularly fond of – even fixated upon – the Roman Catholic religion, for example.  Was this her way of rebelling, quietly, against her Church of England vicar father?  A more informed Janeite scholar may know the answer to that question.  I don’t.)

But, whether serious or entirely in fun, the juvenilia is absolutely hilarious.  For one thing, teenaged Jane can’t spell.  No one, apparently, taught her the rule “I before E, except after C.”  As a result, words like “friend,” or “grief,” are routinely misspelled.  (Even in the title of the collection!)  Every time I read the word “freind” or “freindship” – which was often – I chuckled.  And pronounced it phonetically, because funny.

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But it wasn’t just Jane’s terrible spelling that made Love and Freindship such a hoot.  The characters, for instance – they’re all despicable.  And half of them are, to quote the author, “dead drunk” most of the time.  Even the sober characters are just terrible.  The heroine of “The Beautiful Cassandra,” for example, is a lovely young criminal who barges into a pastry shop, “devours” half a dozen ices, refuses to pay, knocks down the proprietor and walks away.  It’s possible I may have snorted tea out my nose upon reading that.  But none of Jane’s characters – nay, not even the beautiful Cassandra – are as depraved as Jane’s most-hated historical figure, Queen Elizabeth I.  (Even Henry VIII’s worst crime, in Austen’s opinion, was fathering the despicable Elizabeth.)  Jane’s History of England was, I think, my favorite piece from the collection – although I loved “The Beautiful Cassandra,” too.

Nerd Flag #2: The History Dork

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I wasn’t sure if I’d get to it, what with my ridiculous library stack and all, but one thing I really hoped to pull off during Austen in August was some Austen-related non-fiction.  I was waffling between Jane Austen’s England and Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, both of which I own.  Ultimately I decided that I could make the time for one of them, and chose Jane Austen’s England.

The premise of Jane Austen’s England was an exploration of how people in each class lived, from cradle to grave, in Georgian and Regency England.  (Did you know that the bulk of Austen’s life was lived during the Georgian period, not the Regency period?  I don’t know that I’d ever put two and two together that way.  We’re so used to calling the dress fashion “Regency style” and calling Austen’s work “Regency novels” that we forget (or at least, I do) that the Regency period only actually started a few years before Austen’s death.

Anyway, the book begins with a discussion of marriage, then moves on to pregnancy and childbirth, the years of childhood, and then gives a full exploration to adulthood with chapters exploring “wealth and work,” leisure pursuits, crime, medicine, and more.  Where Austen’s surviving letters (mostly written to her sister Cassandra) gave pertinent information, they were used as primary sources.  Other letters and writings of the times filled in the gaps.  I learned a ton.  For instance, did you know that some brides of the era got married in the buff?  It was thought (incorrectly) that if the bride was nude then her new husband’s creditors could not touch any property she might be bringing to the marriage in discharge of his debts.  (The practice was, unsurprisingly, rare – but it did happen.)  My favorite fact came from the childbirth chapter: it was a custom of the era for new fathers to provide “a cake and a large cheese” upon the birth of a child.  (Sometimes the baby was passed through a hole in the center of the cheese as part of the Christening festivities.)  When I read that, I immediately demanded that Steve provide me with two large cheeses – one for Peanut and one for Nugget.  I’m still waiting.

Fun facts aside, the main takeaway I got from Jane Austen’s England was that I’m really, REALLY glad I live in 2015 and not, say, 1792.  Modern medical care and justice system FTW!  I did enjoy the book, and found it really interesting.  My one small critique would be that I wish the authors had spent more time actually talking about Austen herself, or about the middle class.  They focused heavily on the upper and lower classes, neither of which was particularly representative of Austen’s own experience.  At times it even seemed as though the book was a straight history of Georgian and Regency England – which would have been fine – and that the title, Jane Austen’s England, was a gimmick designed to grab readers who like Austen but might not otherwise pick up a history book.  Every so often Austen would be dropped into the narrative, as if throwing the Austenites a bone – and then she’d vanish for twenty pages while the authors discussed street sanitation in London.  I’d have preferred if the book really was an exploration of Austen’s England, and focused on her own experience and the experiences of others in similar living situations.  That said, it was a really interesting book (and I probably already knew more about the status of the working classes than most, as we talked a lot about English labor history in my college classes) and I definitely picked up some interesting, previously-unknown, facts about the England of the period.

Nerd Flag #3: The Comics Geek

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Disclaimer: I wouldn’t consider myself a comics fan.  I’m just starting to read in the medium.  But in the course of beginning to explore comics and graphic novels, I happened to discover that a few years ago, Marvel put out adaptations of four of Austen’s novels – Pride and PrejudiceSense and SensibilityEmma, and Northanger Abbey.  I thought the idea of adapting classics to comics was so different and cool, and I really wanted to check it out, so I ordered online.  I was only able to get to Pride and Prejudice this month, but what a fun spin on the book it turned out to be!  The writer stuck to the original dialogue and the art was modern but expressive.

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My only complaint about Marvel’s Pride and Prejudice was not with the adaptation itself, but rather with the introduction that the writer, Nancy Butler, included.  Butler writes that she was excited to learn that Marvel was adapting classic literature to the comic form, because she thought (and I agree) that the adaptations might draw more girls into reading in the medium.  But she was disappointed with the first selections: “So when Marvel started up their Marvel Illustrated line, adapting classic books to a graphic novel format, I asked . . . when they were going to do something female friendly.  I mean Treasure Island and Man in the Iron Mask are great books, but they are boy books.”

GAHHHHHHHH!  This is a subject too loaded to go into detail on here, in this post that is already too long, but NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE.  Can we please stop referring to books as “girl books” and “boy books” already?  Treasure Island is not a “boy book” – it’s an awesome book that anyone would enjoy.  (I haven’t read Man in the Iron Mask but I am confident it’s just as good.)  And Jane Austen, while she has legions of female fans, is not just “for girls.”  (My friend A.M.B. has some great posts on that very point – go check out her blog, and be sure to read her husband’s witty, insightful reviews of Austen’s novels.)  Anyway, I’ll step down from my soapbox now, and encourage you to go check out the Marvel Illustrated versions of Austen’s work, which are available on Amazon (if your local comics shop doesn’t have any copies stashed away in a back room – mine didn’t).  It was an unexpected, and very cool, approach to Austen’s work, and I’m definitely planning to read the other three comics as soon as possible.  (Especially Northanger Abbey, which in addition to being my second favorite Austen novel – Pride and Prejudice will always hold the top spot – seems uniquely suited to the graphic novel format.)

The Pump Room, where the well-heeled Elliots took afternoon tea.

The Pump Room, where the well-heeled Elliots took afternoon tea.

What a fun month of reading!  I loved spending time digging deeper into Austen’s world.  Thanks, Adam, for hosting!  And how about you, my friends?  Did you participate in Austen in August?  What’s your favorite Austen work?

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Ten years!  It’s not the longest marriage ever, but it’s a darn decent effort.  The past decade has been mostly wonderful.  Not perfect, but mostly wonderful.  And it’s taught me a lot.  Here (in no particular order) are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned over the course of ten years of marriage.

Don’t fight about things.  They’re just things.

A friend gave me this sage advice when I was angry with Steve for shrinking my favorite skirt in the wash.  (It had fallen off the hanger and into his hamper.)  Mostly, I was annoyed because he had then chastised me for putting it in his basket in the first place, which of course I didn’t do.  But part of my anger was definitely based on the loss of a skirt I really liked.  Of course, it was a silly thing to get mad about, and I realized that when the friend I was venting to remarked, “I try not to get mad about things.  After all, they’re just things.”  Since then, I’ve tried not to get angry about stuff.

Do let the sun go down on your anger.

“Don’t let the sun go down on your anger,” might possibly be the worst piece of advice Marmee March has ever given.  Remember that scene in Little Women where she urges Jo to forgive Amy for burning her manuscript, before they go to bed?  Yeah.  TERRIBLE, AWFUL advice.  I’ve spent too many nights up arguing into the wee hours because I was determined that we’d have an issue completely hashed out and solved before anyone was allowed to sleep, because Marmee said.  I’m ashamed to say it took me way too long to realize how stupid that is.  Now I go to bed mad, and I usually wake up a lot less mad, and ready to say “Sorry I was grouchy last night.”  And guess what?  It’s a lot easier to solve an issue in the light of day, after everyone’s had a good night’s sleep.  (Note: This requires an actual good night’s sleep to work.  If I only get three hours because I’m up the rest of the night with the baby, all bets are off.)

Love is something you do.

So here’s some good advice from a movie (embarrassingly, I have to admit, this advice comes straight from American Wedding).  As Michelle says when giving her wedding vows, “Love isn’t just a feeling.  Love is something you do.”  Every day, I make the choice to love Steve and to show it in what I do.  Sometimes, I do a good job.  Sometimes, I don’t.  But I always try to keep in mind that love is an action.

Be choosy about who you vent to.

Let’s be real.  We all get annoyed with our spouses.  It happens.  If we’re lucky (and I am) we get annoyed with them relatively rarely.  But it’s impossible to share space with someone for ten years and not be frustrated occasionally.  Still, you have to be very careful about who you let into that part of your life.  I try to make sure that if I do need to air frustration (about anything at all), I direct my venting to someone who will listen without judgment and not take advantage.

Time apart is good, but you need to share some hobbies too.

Steve and I both have our individual hobbies, and it’s good for us to unwind in our own ways.  But we also need to have couple and family hobbies.  This was easier before kids, when we could bond easily over a wine tour or long, leisurely dinner out.  These days that looks like family hikes almost every weekend when the weather’s nice.  We’re lucky to have a way to bond as a family by doing something we both enjoy.

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It’s you against the world.

Okay, not exactly.  But there will come a time when you will butt heads with someone who disagrees with a decision you’ve made as a couple – whether it’s about jobs, living situations, parenting, lifestyle choices – you name it.  And you will need to decide whether to stand with your partner or not.  If you’ve made your decisions with full information, and each with an equal say, you should be comfortable with them.  But no matter what, when you have to pick sides, you pick your spouse’s.  It’s been important to me that we always present a united front.  We might debate and argue about something until we’re blue in the face – we’re both lawyers, after all – but that happens behind closed doors and once the decision is made, it’s made and we both own it.

What works for other couples may not work for you.

Early in our marriage, we were very caught up in the “rule” that “one person cooks and the other does dishes.”  That was what all of our friends seemed to do.  And you know what?  It was a terrible system for us.  You see, I’m the cook.  I like cooking, and I’m decent at it.  (This used to be a food blog, after all.)  So Steve assumed the role of doing dishes… which he hates to do.  He worked as a dishwasher many moons ago and has loathed the chore ever since.  I, meanwhile, weirdly enjoy doing the dishes.  (It’s laundry I hate.)  I picture the sponge as a giant eraser and get a derpy thrill out of “erasing” the mess.  So our after-dinner hour would devolve, every night, into Steve angrily banging around in the sink while I stood behind him, pleading with him to just let me wash the dishes already why don’t you.  And he’d fire back with no it’s MY job.  Finally, one night, I told him, “Dishes are no longer your job.  In fact, I FORBID you to wash dishes.”  That didn’t entirely last; he does do the dishes occasionally nowadays.  But usually I do both the cooking and the dishes, both of which I like, and he takes on the lion’s share of other house jobs that I don’t like.  He washes the floors, does lots of laundry, etc.  He does a lot around the house.  He just doesn’t do the dishes as much – because the fact that “John and Jane do it that way” is not a good reason to stick with a system that doesn’t work for us.

There’s no such thing as a stupid idea. 

We talk a lot about where we see our family going.  Sometimes we toss out big, wild ideas.  Would we ever consider moving out west?  More often, we brainstorm small ways to grow as a family.  I think we should make more of an effort to cook a nice dinner on Sundays.  We’re in a constant state of brainstorming ways to make our lives better.  Saturday pancake breakfasts?  Are we happy with our church?  Should we try to add another name or two to our roster of babysitters?  What do you think about starting a tradition of family game nights?  Not every idea is adopted, but they’re all given credence.  You have to talk about this stuff.  Big stuff, and little stuff.  I know I can toss out an idea, no matter how far-fetched it may seem, and Steve will consider it.  And he knows I’ll do the same.  And you know what?  I cherish those evenings on the couch, spent kicking ideas around, almost as much as I cherish the actions and traditions that have come out of the brainstorming sessions.

Treat your spouse like you’d treat a stranger or acquaintance.

Wait – what?  Stick with me here.  Would you snap at a stranger on the street?  Probably not.  Would you direct harsh words at a co-worker, knowing they play on her insecurities?  Of course you wouldn’t.  Why is it so much easier to be unkind to the people we live with?  Well, probably because we’re secure in those relationships.  But safety shouldn’t be a reason to disrespect someone or to treat them with anything less than kindness and compassion.  Your spouse and kids should get your best self, not your meanest.  Just because they’ll be there no matter what doesn’t mean you can walk all over them.  I strive to treat Steve – and the kids – even better than I would treat someone I don’t know well.  I try to be polite, and kind, and respectful.  I don’t always succeed – I have my moments.  But I’m well aware that they’re stuck with me (especially the kids) and I try not to take advantage.

Appoint a Memory Keeper.

“You’ll thank me later!” I insisted as Steve rolled his eyes while posing against a Caribbean backdrop while I snapped yet another honeymoon photo.  And I was right.  There are lots of roles in a marriage, but this is an important one and one that I think can get overlooked.  In the day-to-day frenzy of getting out late again and who’s picking the kids up today and shoot I forgot my lunch and my wallet can I borrow ten dollars it’s easy to let the years slip by unless someone is making an effort to preserve memories.  I’ve appointed myself Family Archivist and Memory Keeper.  That means that I’ve given myself the job of snapping photos, emailing family members with pictures of the kids, and finding ways to preserve our memories – both the big ones (like trips to England!) and the small ones (weekend jaunts through the farmers’ market!).  (That means everything from blog posts journaling our travels to spending hours and hours creating the perfect photo books on Shutterfly.  Sometimes it even means pushing the family out the door so we can make the darned memories to begin with.)  It’s tons of work, but I enjoy it and we cherish having those memories in tangible form.  It seems like a silly thing to emphasize when the day to day hustle often has us so drained, but someone needs to make sure that we don’t forget the stuff that matters.

There we go!  Ten lessons for ten years.  And one more for luck…

Cherish today.

Yesterday is over.  Tomorrow hasn’t happened yet.  Today is all we have.  I’ve made the mistake, many times over, of obsessing about the future (WHEN will that pregnancy happen, already?!) and ruminating on the past (Peanut is so much bigger today than she was yesterday STOP GROWING SO FAST KID).  But today is all that there really is.  It’s good to plan for the future.  It’s good to cherish our memories (I am the Family Archivist, after all).  But we can’t do that at the expense of today.  If I’m too busy worrying about tomorrow or missing yesterday, I might not notice the way the sunlight glints off of Peanut’s ginger curls as she runs giggling through the backyard, or I may not appreciate the pure musical joy of Nugget’s laugh or the love with which Steve squeezes my hand at the end of the day.  I’ve tried to really live every moment of the last ten years.  Sometimes I’ve been successful; sometimes I haven’t.  But that’s always my goal.

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What lessons have you learned in your relationships?  Hit me with your wisdom, yo.

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Happy new week, y’all!  Sorry this post is a bit late this morning – I just got home from Peanut’s three year well-child checkup and now I’m checking in here quickly before I get ready to head to WORK(!)… Gulp.  I’m not officially back from maternity leave, but I’m going in for a couple of hours this afternoon to help on a discrete project for which I have a lot of institutional knowledge.  I’m glad that I’ll be able to help out, and it should be a good test run for tearing myself away from Nugget, which I’m already dreading.

This was a surprisingly productive… and just surprising… reading week for me.  The surprisingly productive part: despite all the hoopla that goes with hosting out of town family and throwing a three-year-old birthday pool party, both of which I did this week, I also managed to finish two books: Breakfast with Buddha and Love and Freindship (Jane Austen’s juvenilia, which I read for Austen in August – thoughts on that to come on Friday).  Breakfast with Buddha was good, but I’m not sure it was quite compelling enough for me to seek out the subsequent novels the author has written featuring the same characters.  We’ll see – I have a long TBR list and it’s getting longer by the day.  Love and Freindship was a lot of fun, so stay tuned for a post about my Austen in August reading.  Now I’ve turned my attention to another Austen in August reading project – Jane Austen’s England, by Roy and Lesley Adkins.  I’d been wanting to read this history book for awhile, and (without knowing that I was interested in the book – total serendipity, or they just know me really well) my in-laws gifted me a copy.  Thanks, family!  So I’m into that now.  I finished the first chapter – on marriage, in which I learned some neat and surprising facts – and am now into the chapter on pregnancy and childbirth in Jane Austen’s time and HOLY CATS.  I’m glad I live in 2015.  And that I’m done having babies.  My plan is to try to be done with Jane Austen’s England in time to tell you all about it in my Austen in August post, and then I’ll be moving on to The Martian (which I will not have to wrestle away from Steve, as he’s finished – and loved – it).

So, that’s the surprisingly productive – lots of reading and finishing stuff, despite having a full social calendar this week.  And for the surprising part?  Well, you’ll never guess where I went this week.  No, really, you’ll never guess, so I’m just going to tell you.  I went to… wait for it… THE COMICS SHOP.  Yeah, so remember how I said that comics just didn’t really hold any appeal for me?  Well, I kept hearing about Lumberjanes and the premise did sound pretty cool.  (Kids at a summer camp for hardcore lady-types solving anagrams and wailing on monsters sound good to you too?)  Well, after about the umpteenth time that I heard how great Lumberjanes was, I finally decided that the only way to really know if I’d like it was to go look at it.  So one afternoon last week I loaded Nugget in the car and we drove over to Queen City Books to take a peek.  There’s a whole post coming about this – in January, because I sat down and planned out my posts and I have the rest of the year pretty much covered, crazy, right? – but long story short, I left with a copy of Lumberjanes.  And I read it, and I loved it.  The other material I’d hoped to get from the comics shop was what’s pictured above – bound volumes of several Jane Austen novels in comic form.  (This is something that Marvel did about five years ago, give or take.  I didn’t know exactly how comics shops worked, so I thought there was a chance Queen City Books may have them.  They didn’t, and they encouraged me to buy them online, so I got them from Amazon.)  I just thought that the idea of turning Jane Austen’s work into comic books was so different and neat and weird that I had to see what it was about – and it turns out, it’s really, really fun.  I’ve read the comic version of Pride and Prejudice, and it was just so different from what I usually read.  (More to come on the Austen comics, again, on Friday.)  I don’t know that I’m going to become a hardcore comics reader, but I’m definitely open to reading in different formats, so I’ve been looking at some other graphic novels, and I think I’m going to dig into the comic version of Northanger Abbey next – it does seem really well suited to being a comic book – at least while I wait for the next trade paperback issue of Lumberjanes to come out in October.  Anyway, expect a post on this in a few months, and hopefully I’ll have more cool stuff to report then.

Wow, so much for a quick check-in, huh?  So, how about you – what are you reading this week?

This Is Three

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I blinked, and somehow my baby girl is three years old.  Three years old!  How did that happen?  It seems like just yesterday that I was calling my family to tell them that we had a bun in the oven, and now she’s this big girl with a huge smile and even bigger personality.

Three.

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Three is impossibly sweet.  Three loves to give tight, squeezy hugs and soft, adorable kisses.  Three especially likes to kiss her baby brother on the top of his head.  Three is seriously going to melt Mom’s heart.

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Three loves bunnies, SEA LIONS!, books and puzzles, Curious George and Super Why, chocolate milk and raisins, Frozen, the pool, gardening with Mom, snuggling with Dad, and being a big sister.  When asked what she had for lunch today, Three always says “Tacos.”  Tacos.  Every day.

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Three sings the best songs, especially “We Can Make a Wainbow.”

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Three has big emotions and isn’t afraid to let them out.  Three can be stubborn and maddening at times (often, as a matter of fact).  Three can also be kind of timid.  Three is very worried that an airplane is going to bite her.  (What?)  Three is also scared of thunderstorms, the neighbor’s truck, the vacuum (who isn’t?), and most bugs.

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Three is incredibly smart.  Three has most of her favorite books memorized and can recite entire episodes of her favorite TV shows.  Three loves to re-enact “The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends,” and will coach Mom on delivering Mrs. Rabbit’s lines with the proper tone and inflection.  Three is not going to be satisfied with memorizing books for long – learning to read is right around the corner.

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Three is a breath of fresh air, a wiggly bundle of joy, and the adventure of a lifetime.

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Happy birthday to my BIG girl!

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This is going to be the highlight of my hiking year!  Great Falls is a small park run by the National Park Service, with part of the park located in Virginia and the other part just across the Potomac River in Maryland.  When our family lived in northern Virginia we were here at least once every month – and often more.  We hiked Great Falls in every season and in all weathers – from sweltering August days to snowy January mornings.  It’s my favorite place in the world, and I don’t say that lightly.

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So when we decided to break up our drive down to the Outer Banks with a couple of days in DC, Steveand I both agreed immediately that a morning hike at Great Falls was in order.  Would you believe that the last time we were there, Peanut looked like this:

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And now she’s a big kid and we have a new tiny one accompanying us on our hiking expeditions!

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Anyway, we knew we had a limited window to get our hike in, because we were expected back in the city for lunch with my friend Maureen.  So on Saturday morning, we jumped in the car and rushed to the park.  Once there, we – of course – made a beeline for the overlooks.  The best part of the park, in my humble opinion!

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We skipped the first overlook, because it’s only a partial view and in order to get that partial view you have to climb over and then perch atop some big, scary boulders.  Fun to do if you’re not encumbered, but not something either Steve or I was interested in taking on with the mini ones strapped to us.  So we lingered on the nice, steady decks at the second and third overlooks instead.

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Peanut was pretty interested in the view.  Nugget just wanted to chew on the Ergo strap.

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I could have stayed and feasted on this view all day, but we had a hike to get in.  So we reluctantly tore our eyes from the falls and headed into the park.

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We picked our way along the River Trail, which runs right along the ridge overlooking Mather Gorge.  Fun fact that we didn’t really appreciate last time we were here: Mather Gorge is named for Stephen Mather, the brilliant and troubled first Director of the National Park Service.  Mather was a pioneer in government management of our nation’s most spectacular spaces – without him, there probably wouldn’t be a National Park Service!  I didn’t realize the momentous nature of his contributions until Steve and I watched Ken Burns’ The National Parks documentary this winter.  There are a number of places named for Stephen Mather, sprinkled throughout the national park system; Mather Gorge is just one of them.

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I think it’s the best one, though.  The gorge is certainly spectacular; it does honor to Stephen Mather.  Beautiful, isn’t it?
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In the past, whenever we’ve come to Great Falls (even in winter!) we’ve seen kayakers making their way bravely down the rapids.  This time was no exception; there were plenty of kayakers enjoying the water.  But we also saw, for the first time…

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A stand-up paddleboarder!  I was seriously in awe of this guy.  I can’t imagine balancing on a board in these waters!

Closer view:

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WOW.  But then…

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Oops!  And he’s down.

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We headed deeper into the park.  The trail is relatively easy, but there are a few technical portions to keep it interesting.

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(Not that part.)

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On the way out, we stopped by one of the old Potowmack Canal locks.  Always fun to get a bit of local history in with a hike!

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This isn’t goodbye, Great Falls.  It’s just see-you-later.

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What’s your all-time favorite hike?

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Monday again.  They just keep coming around, don’t they?  I had a super active weekend – on Saturday I ran the Finn McCool 4-Mile Odyssey, an obstacle race in Buffalo.  I fell in Cazenovia Creek, went down three slip ‘n slides, and rolled around in a mud pit, and it was awesome.  And then on Sunday, Steve and I joined our friends Zan and Paul for a hike to the Eternal Flame, which I’ve heard is Buffalo’s quintessential must-do hike.  It was a crazy fun weekend, although I am now running on fumes because I do not have the sleep reserves to support all this activity.  But it didn’t leave much time for reading.

In fact, reading pace was slow all week due to the continued sleep woes we are currently experiencing in our house.  I’m not going to spend an entire paragraph complaining about how little I am sleeping, because you all know already.  So I don’t need to explain why I am such a slow reader lately.  What I did manage: I finished up Minimalist Parenting, which I told you last Monday was a lot of common sense, but a nice vote of confidence.  I still feel that way.  I don’t know that it added anything to the discussion, but it did make me feel better about Steve’s and my ongoing attempts to right-size our life and responsibilities.  Then I picked up Book Scavenger, a light and fun middle grade adventure.  Again, nothing earth-shattering, but about all my brain could handle.

Finally, even though I still don’t have much mental capacity, I turned back to Love and Freindship – Jane Austen’s juvenilia, which I am reading for Austen in August.  Teenaged Jane can’t spell, half her characters are “dead drunk” a good portion of the time, and every single person in every single story is a despicable, disgusting excuse for a human being.  I love it.  I have been quite literally wiping away tears of laughter from the awesome ridiculousness of it all.

Reading plan for the week is to finish up Love and Freindship and then, most likely pick up Breakfast with Buddha from my library stack.  I also have The Martian checked out, but in order to read that one I am going to have to pry it away from Steve.  So I think I’ll let him finish it rather than starting any fights about it.  Unless he decides to be poky, in which all bets are off.

How was your weekend?  What are you reading this week?

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