Monday, May 27, 2019

The Road Trip of Sadness!

When talking about how to get our family out to Connecticut in (eep!) 1 1/2 weeks, multiple options were discussed. We could ship the van and fly out.  We could drive the van and not fly.  We could do other things that I cannot now recall because all these conversations happened weeks ago and it's all I can do to remember what I said yesterday. 

In the end, we decided to drive the van out, all five of us, 1200 miles. 

At first we thought we'd try to drive 9 hours a day for two consecutive days because it's actually only 18 hours from here to there, not 24 or however long it was from where I lived in Kansas when I had to drive out years ago.  Benefits to this included the fact that Derek would have to take fewer days off work, we'd be able to dive into the work waiting for us at the house in CT more quickly, and, well, only two days on the road.

However, I told Derek that although I knew this was going to be a tough journey and that most if not all of it would be tinged with melancholy, I did not want this to be our family's Trail of Tears, just a van full of sadness hurtling down I-80 over two days.  I wanted to somehow redeem this journey, find a way to make positive memories over those miles. 

We decided to add a day to the trip, building in some stops and taking our daily travel time to just six hours.  We'll be passing through Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut.  Whew!  We will not be stopping in each state- sorry, New York- and the stops we do have planned depend at least a bit on nice weather. 

Here's the plan:

Day One
The closing on our house in Iowa is on Day One, hopefully first thing in the morning so we can get on the road immediately following and at a decent time.  Adelaide has requested to stop at Casey's one last time before we leave the state.  Casey's is not a hometown store or local watering hole; it's a gas station chain, which makes all of this sound way less poignant.  Casey's headquarters are a scant 15 miles down the highway, however, and their locations are so abundant around here that we have two in our town of 3,500 people.  They also make surprisingly good pizza, and we nearly always stop for road trip snacks before heading off on any journey longer than a few hours.  This trip will apparently be no different.

Our first stop beyond the boundaries of beautiful Iowa is in Illinois, at Lagomarcino's Confectionary.  We'll be eating at their old fashioned soda fountain, although how I'm supposed to choose between a malt and homemade chocolates, I don't know.  Question:  what's an egg creme and do you think I should try one of theirs? 




Night One
Stay at a hotel in Indiana.  It was vitally important to Atticus that each hotel had a pool.  It was vitally important to Derek that each hotel included breakfast.  Indiana is supposed to deliver on both.  I'm hoping it's not too much to ask to also find no bed bugs.  Strike that:  no insects of any kind, please.  I'm picky that way. 




Day Two
Our plan is to stop at Marblehead Lighthouse in Ohio, where hopefully we'll be able to frolic and scamper to our hearts' content at the state park by the lighthouse, and maybe tour the lighthouse itself.  This will be our family's first exposure to one of The Great Lakes!  At least... I think it will be?  Definitely our first time at Lake Erie, anyway. 

If it's raining Marblehead wouldn't be an ideal stop, so our backup plan is Seneca Caverns, self-described as "the caviest cave in America," which is probably what landed it on a website I love, Roadside America, which highlights the kookiest roadside attractions by state.  Derek and I toured Fantastic Caverns in Missouri in college, and I remember it as being, well, fantastic, but also pricey.  Seneca Caverns looks similarly expensive, so it's definitely our second choice, but it would allow us to stretch our legs and move our bodies around a hopefully pretty cool place (ha, "cool" because it looks neat but also because it's a constant 54 degrees in there please don't leave I can't help the way I am).




Night Two
Stay at a hotel in Pennsylvania.  Pool.  Breakfast.  No bed bugs.



Day Three
Our PA plan is to look at rocks!  This has been a hard sell to the kids as I've presented it to them in just such a fashion:  "Pennsylvania = rocks!  Yessss!"  The Frontier Rock Formations really do look beautiful, though, and since one of my personal priorities for these stops is being able to move and walk around after hours in the car, this could be a good one, but again, we need decent weather.  We do not currently have a foul weather plan for PA, and so far all the attractions I've found on Roadside America, although neat sounding ("Green Mannequin Aliens and UFO," "Skeleton of Old Coaly the Mule"), all appear to be outdoors.  So... pray for clear skies, I guess?  Also on the docket for PA:  wave to Carolyn!  Oh, wait, and I think in Illinois I wave to Ernie!



Night Three
Hotel in CT not far from our new house.  Closing is first thing the next morning, after which the moving company will hopefully be there and ready to unload all our junk/treasured possessions into the house.  Goals for the hotel are same as in previous nights/states:  pool, breakfast, no bed bugs.


What else?  We've been on enough long trips with our kids to know that something will go wrong.  Flat tires, locking my keys in the car (while in Kansas City, pregnant with Caedmon, two small children in tow- that was an interesting day), sick kids, sick adults, screaming kids, sleepy drivers, road construction, scary weather, etc, etc, etc.  Something will go wrong on this trip.  It is inevitable.  I will attempt to be like bamboo, bending but not breaking.  This is difficult when you are from Kansas where the state tree is the Cottonwood; flexibility is not one of its characteristics.

I'm also bracing myself for the sadness.  We are trying to make memories on this trip, but one of those might be crying into our old-fashioned sodas in Illinois.  We may just end up infecting the eastern half of the United States with our feelings along this journey.  Sorry, U.S.A.
On a more lighthearted note, Derek is going to be vlogging throughout our trip!  He's hemmed and hawed and talked about vlogging and considered and reconsidered- after all, he knows video, he knows editing, he knows all the things and jargon that I don't even have the language for, and I like the idea of having these memories to keep in a more lasting format.  I did warn him that while I am looking forward to this trip because of the stops we have planned, I do think there will be a considerable amount of tears and crankiness due to its inherent purpose:  our exodus from our beloved Iowa.  He is aware of this.  He also said "That's what editing is for."  I'll be curious to see how he chooses to tell this story.  All of that content will be on his public YouTube channel; I'll put a link to that channel in a future post rather than buried here at the end of this one. 

Congratulations.  You made it to the end of the longest post ever.  Go have some chocolate milk to celebrate- that's my celebration drink of choice because it's delicious, and... I'm a child?   


Saturday, May 25, 2019

Less Than Two Weeks Now

Hey-ho, I have some positive news, good news, even, about this house we're trying to buy.  What a delightful change of pace, right?

Where we last left off (possibly where we last left off, anyway; I can't be bothered to go back and look right now, showing me new lows within the depths that encompass my laziness), the inspector had come and gone, emailed us a 73 page document that we were instructed to read in full (and which, by golly, I did) after which we knew that the cast iron plumbing was rotting and the chimney needed help in a multitude of ways and the knob and tube wiring in the attic was live... which is maybe illegal?  I don't remember. 

As you may recall, we are attempting to buy this house from a cold, soulless bank who does not care if a property of theirs burns down around us as slowly asphyxiate in our beds.  Because of this we assumed that we would be stuck fixing absolutely everything, large and small, that needs fixing in this house.  But lo and behold, miracles do occur, and they fixed the wiring and put a new liner in the chimney (or something chimney related- I'm finding through this process that I know zilch about chimneys).  They did this for reasons that I believe I will be able to divulge after our closing date but not before.  How will you ever sleep at night between now and June 10?

This gif could also be used to illustrate around 40% of my mental state when contemplating this move.  Things are very jittery up in here.

We're down to T-13 days until we leave Iowa.  We're sad, but also ready to stop feeling like we're half in one place, half in another, not really belonging in either.  Caedmon and Adelaide have both had to tour schools they will never attend (upper elementary for C, high school for A because the 8th graders will be there next year as the district does construction on the middle school).  All their friends are talking about the various fun summer plans they're making together which is normal, and natural, but not so enjoyable to listen to when you will be around for none of them.  I'm working on registering the kids for school in a different state, which is time-consuming but necessary.  Thankfully much of this is now online, so I can at least get the first few steps done remotely. 

People keep asking me how the packing is going, but I haven't been packing.  Like, at all.  The movers are packing our things on June 5th and loading them onto a truck on the 6th, so I don't think I need to pack anything else at this point- we packed a ton of crap away just getting the house ready to sell- but I'm getting increasingly jittery (see above gif), thinking that there must be something I'm forgetting I need to do.  At random times of day I'll suddenly dive for pen and paper or for my phone to use the Notes app, remembering that I need to get the oil changed on the van before we drive out to CT, and I need to put the giant saw in the shed on the swap page, I need to call and put an end date on our garbage service and water and who knows what all else. 

Oh, I know- I'll just ignore all of it and continue this (so far fantastic) book!  Maybe everything else will go away on its own?







Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Inspectors Inspecting, Banks Bullying

Yesterday morning, Derek accompanied the inspector on his tour of our potential house in CT.  Then he called me, said he had good news and bad news, and told me a bunch of bad stuff.

To be fair, I was at work and he was in the middle of a bunch of errands so we didn't have time for a lengthy chat.  I was still left reeling from news of a chimney that needs help and rotting cast iron pipes and live knob and tube wiring in the attic that we eventually want to reclaim and use as a third floor.  That's not to mention the carpenter ants that were thankfully remediated a year ago.

I think it's funny that in the world of pest control they use terms like "remediated" for carpenter ants and "excluded" for bats.  Even someone who loves finding the perfect word for each situation wouldn't mind more plain language here:  how about "we killed the snot out of those ants" and "the bats now know they are not welcome in this place." 


When we spoke again later in the day, Derek shared the positive parts of the inspection, because it turns out there are positive parts!  The floors are in great shape, it's a great lot, and something else good that I can't think of because I keep dwelling on all the work we might have in front of us.  

The good part about taking care of all these problems ourselves is that we'll get to live with nice, new pieces of the house as soon as we move in.  If you've ever sold a house before then you know what I'm talking about:  when you put your house on the market you're forced to finish all those little projects you've been putting off or have been allowing to hang there, unfinished and dangling in your peripheral vision.  This means you look around at all your finally-completed rooms and say, "Man, this place is nice!" and then you move.  So if we replace the five windows whose seals are broken, replace the pipes, tear out the shrubbery that's way too close to the foundation, etc, etc, then we'll get to enjoy knowing those things are new and sturdy and we're building something that will last.  

There will still be surprises, of course.  In this house it was bats, burst pipes, clogged pipes, a cranky old air conditioner, a cranky old hot water heater, downed trees, and many, many other things.  But we improved it and we made it ours, and now we get to do the same to a comparatively newer house in Connecticut.  Our Iowa house was built in 1900, while the one we're working on buying is from 1920.  I don't feel safe stating outright that we're definitely buying it, because it's currently owned by a bank because it was a flip/foreclosure.  Let me tell you:  buying a house from a bank vs human beings is very different, and by "different" I mean "completely horrible," and by "completely horrible" I mean "googles Elizabethan torture methods for the heads of impersonal national banks but deems branding and pressing too compassionate."  

So there's that.

On the Iowa house front, it's officially Sold and not just Pending.  I know this because I walked outside the other morning and the topper on the realtor's sign in front of our house had been switched from "Pending" to "Sold."  I do well with this kind of obvious messaging, and frequently ask God to make His directions as unequivocal as this one.  I mean, I don't ask for a realtor's sign staked in front of our place of residence, but I do frequently say, "Please don't be subtle about this, God; you know I don't do well with that."  He never seems to listen, though.  OR... maybe I'm the bad listener?  



Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Big Brutus

Sunday afternoon of our Kansas weekend was spent in the town of West Mineral, a place I can almost promise you have never been, being home to all of 185 people. 

Unless, of course, you have been to visit Big Brutus. 

Big Brutus is the (truly fantastic) name of the largest electric shovel still in existence.  It's no longer used for its original purpose, but there's a strip pit just beyond it so that when you sit in its... cabin?  Cockpit?  Whatever the name of the place where the driver sits, the strip pit is dead ahead of the windshield, so you can pretend you're about to strip mine the guts out of southeast Kansas, which is exactly what Big Brutus did in the 1960's and 70's.  After it was decommissioned it apparently just sat there, a big rusty hunk of metal in the middle of nowhere, just begging kids like my dad to come and see whether or not today was the day to contract tetanus. 

He didn't, thankfully, and by the time he and my mom took my sisters and I to visit it had been cleaned up and made relatively safe.  As a child, the only things I really remember about it was its massive size (hard to miss) and that our parents bought us slim plastic tubes filled with honey from the gift shop.  I also recall that we were allowed to climb up onto the boom, which I chose not to do because I was an intelligent child and risk-averse when it suited me to be. 

Nowadays those pesky insurance companies have stepped in and forbidden the public entrance to the boom. What's a boom on an electric shovel?  I'm still not sure- some kind of big metal thing that sticks even further up into the sky than the main part of the shovel. 

My dad, his wife, and their grandson met my sisters and their families plus my clan at Big Brutus.

It's hard to explain how big this thing really is in person, but to help you, here's a picture of it with our two boys circled in blue at its base.  It's sixteen stories high, not counting the boom.

One of my more interesting idiosyncrasies is that I frequently forget that heights are not my favorite.  Derek will suggest going ziplining in Branson and I'm all, "Great idea!"  The next thing I know we're on a platform attached to a tree way up high, strapped into a harness by some college kid who seems half-asleep and not at all concerned for my personal safety.  Thankfully I'm usually able to ignore that feeling of nausea in my belly that comes with being too far off the ground and do whatever is necessary:  step off the platform into nothing, walk out onto a rope at a ropes course, or in this case, climbing the open-air metal stairs that encircle Big Brutus and take you up, up, five stories up.  That did not save my brother-in-law Clinton from having to hear me chatter nervously behind him.  About what, I honestly don't remember, I just needed to make sounds until I was back inside the machine and couldn't see how far up we were.  


That body of water out the window up there is the strip pit, one of many that you'll find all over southeast Kansas.  My mom used to scare us with stories of machinery left in those from coal mining days, how you should never swim in them because they're so dangerous.  Also... something about the mob from Kansas City dumping bodies in them because they're a straight shot south from KC?  Sisters, is my brain making this up?

Both the boys wanted their picture in the drivers seat.  Adelaide abstained, for some reason.





That's Caedmon in the scoop and my dad kicking the tires, as it were. 


Requisite family photo in front of BB, which seems like a terrible nickname for Big Brutus, which is itself a nickname for the Bucyrus-Erie model 1850-B electric shovel- I'm just tired of typing Big Brutus.  We're missing two people in this photo, one because he sadly wasn't there and one because pictures aren't his favorite and I'd already shoved him in front of a camera many times that weekend.



My sisters and I haven't gotten a picture with our dad in quite some time, so we seized our chance in front of one of the many pieces of machinery on the grounds.  I knew what none of them were. 






And these are just two cute nieces.

And before you think this is all just some hick tourist attraction (which it totally is), NPR did a story on Big Brutus last year when it was turned into a museum and historic landmark.  When asked post-trip, Caedmon reported it as being "cool," Atticus liked skipping rocks on the water in the strip pit and spotting a turtle in the same, and Adelaide said that it was "a big metal thing that was slightly interesting, I guess."  She also liked hanging out with the babies, and crawling around inside BB.

 I guess that's one of the charms of kids; they usually get something out of your planned experiences, just never quite what you'd expected. 



Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Weekend Report: Massacre Sites, 90 Years, and Trees

In the last post, I noted that sometime soon we planned on heading south for my Grandpa's big 90th birthday party.  That sometime soon was last Saturday, which I intentionally didn't mention because God only knows who's reading this and we don't want any unplanned visitors relieving us of all our belongings because I blabbed GUESS WHO'S LEAVING THEIR HOUSE UNATTENDED?

So last Saturday the kids and I drove the five hours to my grandparents' house, which felt short because our southward travels are normally seven hours, to my mom's house.  Who knew that just two fewer hours would make a drive feel so short, so manageable? 

We still stopped four times within that five hours, none of which I can blame on the children.  I was the one feeling simultaneously achy and jitter-buggy, needing frequent stops to stretch my restless limbs. We stopped at my favorite Iowa rest stop, which borders and provides access to a county park complete with a body of water and wooded trails, which I have run before on a solo trip south and which freaked Derek out because a single runner on isolated trails right next to a rest/truck stop is apparently not the safest idea? 

Our other superfluous stop was made because I'm a sucker for historical markers.  I've seen the sign for the Marais de Cygnes Massacre site many times before, but this time we finally got off the highway, followed the increasingly narrow and windy gravel road, and drove into what ended up being a secluded but picturesque national historic site.
The above is an interesting contraption that you wind up by following the instruction to "turn briskly for sixty seconds," which charged it, I guess; then we pressed play and listened to a dramatic reading of the newspaper article from the 1860's which detailed the events of the massacre, where pro-slavery Missourians crossed the border and shot a bunch of Kansas free-staters (this is all Civil War era, Bleeding Kansas stuff, if you're trying to figure out why on earth any of this ever would have happened).  This was looking over the ravine where the victims were forced to stand and then fell dead into.  I appreciated looking over all of the information available and walking around the area; the boys' favorite part seems to have been the wild turkey sighting.  If you push this stuff in their faces enough something is bound to rub off, right?  Maybe?  Hopefully?


We did eventually make it to our destination, where we got to see nieces and grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles and other relatives whose connection to myself I can only guess at.  And even though we forgot our customary bribes (frozen snack-size Kit Kats), we still forced all the children into group photos, which I somehow did not end up with a picture of on my phone, but I do have this nice one of my mom, her sisters, and their parents. 


I also got this rare sighting of a group of von Soostens.  
What do think a group of von Soostens would be, anyway?  A herd?  A peck?  Whatever the German word for a pack is?  Whatever, they are all now or at some point were von Soostens, and I think at this point the birthday boy was just ready for his cake.

If at all possible, I would highly recommend having a cousin with a bakery.  It makes every family gathering better.

This weekend allowed me to make a big old checkmark on my list of things to do and people to see before we move.  That made it all bittersweet, because hurray, I got to see so many people I love!  But oh, no, when will I see them again?

Loved ones like my sisters who aren't afraid to hug not-a-hugger Adelaide.  She will tolerate this kind of behavior from very few people.  Her aunts are two of them.  (No Adelaides were harmed in the making of this photo; just made to feel momentarily uncomfortable BUT NO DOUBT LOVED, DAUGHTER.)

Sunday before we left we got in plenty of tree climbing, because although she is not a people hugger, she most certainly is a tree hugger.
There most definitely is a Daughter in that Ash.  Click to embiggen and see if you can spot her.  Hint:  look for the serial killer face lurking amongst the leaves.

She also conquered the Sycamore, which was decidedly more difficult, not having a handy fork a few feet off the ground.
Yep, she's in that picture, too.  I'm also happy to report that years of calmly reciting, "You got yourself up there, you can get yourself down," often in the face of twenty feet high hysterics, has resulted in her being able to monkey herself up and down with ease.  

The boys were more excited about the afternoon's entertainment, which I'll post about tomorrow.  It was larger and a little more ostentatious than a morning of peaceful tree climbing, but also involved fewer ticks, for which I think Adelaide has an increasing sense of appreciation.




Friday, May 3, 2019

Oh, May

In one month and four, maybe five days, we move.  Our manifest destiny, at least for now, appears not to be to go west, young man, but to go east.  And so we shall.

Until then, however, we are cramming as much into this month as we possibly can.  If you have school-aged kids then you know that May already tends to present itself as a scheduling hellscape with its incessant concerts and field trips and dress up days and special, end-of-year events that for some reason all need cookies/napkins/specific clothing.  It's around all of that that we are trying to see as many people as humanly possible before we leave:  friends, family, everyone.  We have no idea when we will see many of these people again, so the pressure to have the conversations, eat the meals together, squeeze our loved ones one more time is very real.

It sounds kind of like we're dying, doesn't it?  Like we're marching our family onto the Titanic, steerage class, no doubt, which the movie portrayed as a rambunctious but fun-loving place to be with its camaraderie and choreographed dancing but which I would have to think was actually very smelly.

When I get too mopey I sometimes indulge these feelings but am also just as likely to mentally take myself by the shoulders, give them a brisk shake, and say, "For Pete's sake, it's not like you're dying!"  The unfortunate part of this is that my facial expressions tend to mirror my internal dialogue so if you've seen me grimacing during my runs or walks lately, it's not you; it's me, talking to me.  It's me times two.  Best to just walk right by like you haven't seen anything, unless you want to be roped into an impromptu therapy session.  Up to you.

The benefit to all this is that it's forced me out of my fortress of solitude and into the company of people that, oh yeah, I really enjoy!  If you've been trying to improve your hostessing skills and get out of your own comfort zone, my advice is to move across the country.  You won't have time to worry about how clean your house is or if the snacks you're serving are just right, but possible negative side effects of this include your new penchant for saying things like, "Well, if you don't like it at least you may never have to see me again, right?" followed quickly by "I'm just kidding!" in response to the stricken look on your friends' faces.

I'm bringing this sensational mental state to southeast Kansas soon, because we get to celebrate my grandpa's 90th birthday!  We'll also get to eat one of my favorite food combinations (coleslaw with German potato salad, must be mixed together in a 1:1 ratio), see nieces and sisters and grandparents, and visit a humongous steam shovel, because that's what passes for a tourist attraction in Kansas.





Thursday, May 2, 2019

Possibly Not Homeless

Here is one of the many ways that I am fortunate:  I have a bunch of people checking in on me daily.  "How are you doing?"  "I'm thinking of you!  Still surviving this crazy process?"  "I just prayed for you! Let me know how you're coping!"

And then I gulp back tears because these days a single kind word is enough to cause me to dissolve into a puddle of stressed out gratitude.  

Honestly, though, one of the kindest things my people have done for me lately is to continue to share their own news and lives with me.  I still want to hear the good news!  It's a reminder to me that life is cyclical, and seasonal, and all the other words that indicate that hard times don't last forever.  I also want to hear about your struggles:  it jolts me out of my self-centeredness (Will our children survive this move?  Will I ever find friends as incredible as the ones here?  and on, and on.) and reminds me that nobody's life is perfect, big move on the horizon or not.

I've felt bad about how I've been answering this week's big question, though:  "How was your house hunting trip?  Did you find a house?"

The answer is that the trip, while useful, was also stressful.  So stressful.  I feel like most meals involved Derek and I poking at our food in an exhausted sort of manner all while questioning everything we've ever known.  

First, though, let's talk about the good things, first being Derek.  We have a strong relationship, and usually align on most big decisions (which is funny, because we are so different in so many small ways), which makes everything easier.  This may be hard and stressful and anxiety-riddled, but at least we're anxious together.  

Second is our realtor, Sanam.  When you're spending a lot of time with someone you just met, many things could go wrong.  Maybe they're a gum smacker.  Maybe they only talk to the man and just gloss over anything you, the woman, have to say.  Maybe they're one doughnut short of a baker's dozen and that hole in their personality is where their sense of humor would have lived.  Whatever, she was great.  Is great.  So nice, and really insightful; just the kind of person you want in your corner when you're making big life decisions.  

Other good things about the trip?  Connecticut is prettier than I remember it being.  This may seem trivial, but aesthetics are important.  Just ask Hobby Lobby, or any other store that makes its millions off people needing to find their surroundings visually pleasing.  The people are also much friendlier there- this was a pleasant if somewhat uncomfortable realization.  Is it possible that- gasp!- I was the problem?  Or that 21-year-old me was the problem, anyway?  Let me also put forward Derek's more flattering theory:  I moved to CT from southern Kansas, where you can walk into a gas station knowing no one but leave having been christened the maid of honor in the attendant's upcoming wedding.  Okay, so I'm exaggerating, but barely.  My point is, the good people of Kansas are very friendly, so to go from that, the only habitat I knew, to Connecticut, where the people are what I privately call "icily friendly" on bad days but "reservedly friendly" on good ones, well, it's a tough transition.  Iowa, however, is a just a tad friendlier than CT, I believe, but definitely closer to the reserved side of the spectrum than the outgoing.  Maybe it's all the northern European descendants?  As in, they're all tall and leggy and light-complected and they'll say hi and how you doing but they don't actually want your life story about how you weren't allowed to eat the food at certain family reunions and also had to be shielded at all times from Uncle Jimmy at those same reunions and haha wasn't that so weird?

Hypothetically speaking.


So there were good things about last week's trip!  But I've also had to relate how when we were moving to Iowa, we went house hunting and had a "That's it!  That's the one!" moment when we found our house.  We had no such moment in CT, which sucks.  It does.  I also don't believe I'm owed a moment like that, however; sometimes you take what's good enough and make it into something that fits your family.  And we can do that.  This is work we know how to do.


All that to say:  we put in an offer on a house.  There's been some volleying of counter-offers back and forth, which sounds fun but is the worst game ever.  Now we're in a period of waiting again, which is something we've been getting oodles of practice doing over the previous few months.  I think next comes... an inspection?  By an inspector?  One who inspects things?






Bookish Gratitudinals

1.  The sound of David Tennant reading the How to Train Your Dragon audio books, currently lulling our boys to sleep.  There are some pretty terrible audio books out there.  These are not among that number.





2. New favorites:






3.  And old:






4.  The best book I've read in quite some time, that I may have recommended here before, but is absolutely worth the possible repeat rec:






5.  Just about anything by Neil Gaiman, forever and ever, amen.  And if you're noting that this list is a little fantasy heavy, well, you'll have to excuse my increased need for a little escapism at this point in my life.