A rant

Be sure to check out our giveaway. It ends tonight!

We got back from my parent's last night. The house is a mess and we are overrun with laundry but that isn't going to change today since grocery shopping and a play date are taking precedence. I wrote this rant a while back but didn't post it for fear of sounding mean and petty. But since I've got nothing else, it is now going up.  

I'm not an anti-walmart person. I, personally, would rather shop at Target since I have better things to do with my time than spend an hour wandering around looking for three items then another hour in the one line that is open, but that is a personal preference thing. I'm not morally opposed to them.

But they have recently made my "bad" list. Except I don't have a bad list. But if I did, they would be on it. Why? That stupid radio commercial that I've been subjected to recently. I can't find it for you but if you happen to have a children's music station on Pandora, you've probably heard it. If not, it goes something like this:

Snarky woman: It would be nice to stay at home in my pajamas and eat chicken noodle soup when my kids are sick. But I have places to be. Which is why I go to Wal-mart...

Announcer: Blah Blah Blah Wal-mart has good prices on Nyquil and Chapstick (Sidenote: Chapstick, really? Your kid is sick and you run out for chapstick?) Blah Blah Blah

Snarky woman: Walmart helps my kids get up and going again so they can get back to school. Which is where they need to be because I have this little thing called work to think about.

 I have to mute the radio/computer every time it comes on now, even if it means running across the house. I can't fully convey her tone but when I call her the "snarky woman," I'm serious, she is sarcastic and very condescending.

As a SAHM, I find it just a tad offensive for someone to say that it is imply that I enjoy staying home with my sick kid. Not really. Other than the chicken pox, Lucy has only had one cold but it was awful. She was cranky and didn't nap well. She wanted to nurse but couldn't breathe so I ended up with snot and tears all over my chest holding a very frustrated only partially full baby. When she wasn't trying to nurse, we spent our time in a hot steamy bathroom until she finally fell asleep - but only for about 30 minutes at a time. So even though I was gross and now super sweaty, after weighing my sleep vs shower option, I choose sleep, since I knew as soon as she woke up, the fun would begin again. But that wasn't the worst part, the worst part was knowing she felt awful and not being able to fix it. So no, I don't think it was a particularly "nice" day.

But I don't mean to start a mommy war battle with this. I think I would be even more offended by this ad if I was a working mom. I  know some working moms and even though trying to figure out work stuff is an extra stress at times like that, their first concern when they have a sick kid, is the sick kid. I've never read a post by a mom that went: My kid is sick. He spent the night hacking and coughing then finally fell asleep at 11pm after the meds kicked in. Got a doctor's appointment for this morning. But the worst part - I have to miss work! 

Somehow Wal-mart has managed to insult both stay-at-home moms and working moms. Which would be pretty much everyone who shops at Wal-mart, right? Well done, ad firm, well done.


Chalkboard Fairy

Lucy and I are at my parents' again this week but Craig is busy back at the ranch. It's always fun to go home at the end of the week and see what he has accomplished on the house. Last time, I left a project mid-stream - my chalkboard wall. Well, "mid" might be a bit of a stretch. I had planned it out, bought the supplies and did a bit of measuring but that's about it.

But let's go back a step. I had originally wanted a full chalkboard wall in the future kitchen/dining room area but Craig wasn't too keen on that much chalkboard. So when I saw this half wall over at The Blessed Nest, I swooned. I just knew I could convince Craig that we needed that in our hall.

Here is our hall before. Except this pic is really before. Before we redid the floors, added thresholds, moved in (that's Lucy's room sans furniture you are seeing) and changed the light fixture. But you get the idea. It's boring, like most halls. But boring is not what I was hoping for and I knew it would be pretty easy to get Craig on board. This project was pretty easy and I could do most of the work myself :-)

We were originally going to wait since it obviously is more of a want than a need on our to-do. But we still had the saw, air compressor and nail gun that we had borrowed from our friends to install our shoe moldings. We could have done it without those things, but it was going to be much easier with them, so why not get it done now?

But then before I had done anything more than measure, Lucy and I took off for my parents' and when we returned, this is what we found:

The chalkboard fairy has come and filled in my measurements with two lovely coats of chalkboard paint! It wasn't quite done but it was well on its way. And apparently the chalkboard fairy has many talents because my molding was also cut and stained. So the next day we were easily able to nail the molding into place. Since only one edge of the wall had door trim, we opted for a thinner trim on both edges to give it a picture frame look.

Here is the final result. I love it! Right now Lucy is more interested in eating chalk than drawing with it but when she is old enough to be trusted with the chalk, I want to hang two tiny metal buckets on the wall to hold the chalk and an eraser. Until then, the chalk will stay up high and I will use the board for my memory verse.


Mean Dad

I like to do this to Lucy's hair when it is agreeable:

It reminds me of this:

The other day I did this, and I was laughing out loud, and Lucy got mad. I think she's on to me.


It's giveaway time!

Remember that review I did a few weeks ago? Well, csnstores.com has offered us another chance at a giftcard but this time, we are sharing the love. That's right, it's giveaway time! The prize? A $45 gift card that can be used at one of their stores towards cookware, baby equipment, one of their swingsets or whatever else strikes your fancy.

To enter, just head on over to csnstores.com, peruse their items and let me know what you might buy if you won. (Sorry to all my readers in Madagascar, this contest is only open to those living in the US or Canada)

Want another entry? Too bad! Feel free to share this contest on twitter, facebook or your own blog, but you will be doing it out of the goodness of your heart.

Comments will close Monday, February 28th, at 8pm and we'll announce a winner March 1st. Good luck!



It has recently come to my attention that between baby bedtime blues and house projects, our family has been lacking in fun time. So we set out to remedy that this weekend...and promptly got stuck at home the whole time while our car was getting fixed. (We thought it would be done Friday afternoon but we could save ~$100 dollars by waiting until Monday).

But turns out, being stuck at home isn't so bad. We didn't get to go to the library like we had wanted and we didn't go to church, but we also didn't end up spending the whole day popping Lucy in and out of the car trying to get all our errands done.

Staying at home meant we had plenty of time for both projects and fun. We were able to finish changing all the electrical outlets for prettier baby proof ones; put together, sand, prime and paint the $10 ledges (they are drying and I can't wait to hang them up!); and start recaulking the bathtub. We also started planning our garden layout, ordered seeds and began constructing our raised beds. I also made homemade bread, tortillas and a really yummy vanilla bean cake (served with my strawberry sauce for a topping).

That may sound like a lot, but it didn't seem hectic at all. And since Sunday was so nice out, Lucy and I had a little picnic and offered emotional support as Craig worked on the slightly frustrating task of leveling the beds. Which of course meant I had to take some pictures:

My future's so bright, I gotta wear shades!

A little to the right, dad!

She wasn't a big fan of the grass and refused to put her hands down in it.

We did eventually get her to touch the dirt though (with one finger!)

She has started mimicking facial expressions. Craig doesn't  believe me but the proof is in the pictures. 

We had such a good time, I think we will have to plan a few more "homebound" weekends in the future.

That's all for now. Bye-bye!


Cookie day!

I don't really consider myself a very political person. That is probably not fair to myself as I do think I care more about politics than the average person, but my knowledge of the subject pales in comparison to Craig's and the rest of my family's, so I always feel like I don't know much. They start talking about such and such bill or senator so and so and I get lost.

But there are a few subjects about which I am both passionate and well informed. Midwifery is one such subject. I'm "lucky" in my state, midwives are legal. This hasn't always been the case. And I don't mean decades ago. Back in just 2007, my midwife would have been a felon for delivering Lucy at home. But Friends of Missiouri Midwifes, an organization of which I am a part, played a big role in changing that. Working with other pro-midwifery groups, they changed the law. Certified Profession Midwives can now practice and deliver babies at home.

But that doesn't mean that our job is done. There is currently a bill in the works here that is attempting to regulate midwifery out of legal existence. Basically, it will still be technically legal but there will be so many restrictions, some of which are impossible to follow, that it will takes us back to the dark ages of underground only home births. It's really scary to think about. One specific representative takes it upon himself to start this bill every session and every year so far it has failed, but we need to keep making our presence know so it keeps failing.

So what do a group of passionate women (and men...and kids...and babies) do when they want to make an impact - make cookies! You've probably heard the expression, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Well, you get even more with cookies!

Last Wednesday, a whole bunch of midwife-loving people descended upon our state capital. We handed out valentines with cookies and family pictures, stories of how we love and support our midwives and lots of smiles. My friend and I met with our representative to tell him how important this issue was and encourage him to support midwives too. In the afternoon, we had a rally where we celebrated the achievements we have made in the past on this issue.

This was actually Lucy's first time riding in the stroller. She didn't mind it so much at first...

I went because I thought it was important but honestly, I was nervous about lobbying and the drive was long and the roads were a little snowy and we were going to have two babies with us. I thought about backing out and sending my cookies for someone else to deliver, but I am so glad I didn't.

First of all, it was fun to walk around and see all the different pro-midwife familes from around the state and meet others who are passionate about this issue. This is such a awesome issue in that we really do encompass so many different types of people - from total hippies who were asked to make sure they wore deodorant (yes, they really did ask that in the emails about the event!) to very large conservative families that gave me homeschooling co-op flashbacks to those in-between (me?). Plus, it didn't hurt that the babies were both on their best behavior that day. And even people who may not agree with you on the issue can't help but smile when a baby hands them a bag of cookies. Even scrooge would have a hard time resisting that!

but it wasn't long before she wanted to be worn. And no, neither baby is looking at the camera, but getting babies to look where you want them too when nobody they know is holding the camera is difficult!

But it was more than just an enjoyable day, I got inspired! I really felt like I was a key player is this, that these were my representatives and that I could make a difference. Listening to women speak who have fought for this right for many years, women who had to deliver their babies with midwives underground, hoping and praying that they didn't need to make a transfer and that if they did, their midwife wouldn't be "found out."

 I was honored to stand there with them and applaud them for their efforts. I'm so thankful that I had birthing options and was able to choose a home birth because it was the right option for us. I don't know what I would do if it wasn't legal. To choose between what I feel is the safest birth for me and my child but to risk losing that child to CPS if I'm found out. To ask another women to commit a felony for my sake. I don't ever want to make that choice.  I don't ever want Lucy to have to make that choice. And I'm really glad I live in a country where I can do something to make that a reality.


Wisconsin: like Egypt or like Greece?

I feel compelled to comment on the union protests in Wisconsin, in which my pal Rachel is taking part. Furthermore, I must line up against her. The protesters are demonstrating against the governor's plan to increase public employee's contributions to their health insurance and pensions, while removing their right to collectively bargain over benefits and work rules.

Like many predominantly-Democratic states (e.g. New Jersey, Illinois), Wisconsin has a) overly generous benefits for public employees, and b) a budget crisis (in this case, a $3+ billion deficit). In Wisconsin, public employees (per the above link) "get a generous defined-benefit pension with minimal contributions on their part" and "also only pay 6 percent of the cost of their health-care premiums." This is simply unsustainable. The governor proposes that they pay 6% of their salary towards their pension and pay 12% of their health insurance premiums. Seems modest to me, especially since pensions are all but extinct outside of government.

I also oppose the protesters because they have dipped into the liberal grab-bag of unseemly protest tactics: Astroturfing, invoking Hitler, exploiting children, and skipping work.

But on a larger level, I support this plan because public employee unions are unnecessary, and even harmful. As Charles Lane explains:
But there is an obvious distinction between public and private sector workers. The demands of the former are constrained by the competitive market; it's not in their interest to bargain their firms out of business (or so one hopes). The demands of public sector workers, however, face no such market discipline. Government services are generally a monopoly. When governments try to pass higher labor costs along by means of higher taxes, the public has no choice but to pay up. When you add union political clout to the mix, neither party to public sector contract talks has an incentive to hold down costs. I repeat: This is not collective bargaining. It's political log-rolling. And it's a formula for fiscal ruin, as states from coast to coast have learned.
The employer-employee relationship in the private sector is analogous to that in the public sector. Public officials in many cases owe their elected positions to their employees, as unions are heavily involved in election campaigns. As The Economist writes:
Even if they fail to elect “their” candidates, public-sector unions have a relatively easy time negotiating with politicians. Private-sector bosses are accustomed to playing hardball with unions because they know they can go bankrupt if they don’t. Politicians have no such discipline: they can always raise taxes or borrow from future generations. Those who have challenged the unions have often regretted it. California’s former governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, tried to fight the unions in the court of public opinion, only to be outgunned. Others have attempted a more stopgap approach, only to get the blame when services are disrupted.
It is telling that it has taken a fiscal and economic crisis to finally create a political opportunity to put the brakes on public employee compensation. It is also telling the lengths protesters and legislators in Wisconsin are going to in order to fight this bill. As I said up above, the sacrifices Wisconsin's governor is asking for are modest. To the leaders of these protests, this is more about maintaining untouchable political power, and the unions are all in.


A Valentine's day guessing game!

UPDATE: It was roast beets! She loves her veggies, especially when they are roasted and covered in butter!

Happy Valentine's Day!

This is one of my favorite holidays and I would write more on it except we are still experiencing sleep teething milestone angst "being 8 months old is hard" issues around here and I have no time or energy. But I couldn't not put up anything so how about a little game.

Any guesses as to what Lucy was eating before I snapped this?

  Hint: It may be red but I promise it is not candy or chocolate.

We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog game...

I was just reading this post and I had to share it. The whole thing is great (and not too long so go read it!) but this line in particular struck me

That is heaven's love....Or the mothers up in the middle of the night with nursing babies or sick children.  Whose sleep is lost forever and always, no making it back up, no time to take it back.  Laying it down.  Their life for theirs.
This post reminded me that my life is a gift from God, and right now, I'm giving it back to Him by loving her. And the sleepless nights (and days) will pass away, but the love. That will remain.

I was able to read that because Lucy is asleep in the ergo on my back. She has been on my back for about 2 hours at this point because is the only place she will be without crying and it is the only way she will fall asleep right now. Even though she is super tired, if we lay down, she seems to think she is supposed to practice standing up. Even though I can tell that neither one of us wants her to be standing up, there doesn't seem to be a way to stop it other than wearing her. She stands there crying and wanting down, but the second I put her down, she starts working hard to stand back up. So even though my back is killing me and I really want to lay down myself, I'll stay sitting right here at least until I am sure she has gotten enough sleep.

It's a good thing I've got the Holy Spirit, because my love, my patience, my compassion - it's not enough. But HIS is.


Random (not quite) little update on the last few weeks

I feel like the last few weeks have been bipolar. Three weeks ago Lucy and I were at my parent's. Our plans are very low key when we are there - mostly napping, hanging out in the living room playing, some tv watching, eating and did I mention napping? It's great. We obviously miss Craig while we are gone but not having much on the to-do list makes up for my having to do the parenting thing solo.

Then over that weekend we celebrated my birthday. Technically it wasn't until Tuesday but I'm so special, I can pull off the two days of celebration :-) We all went out for breakfast on Saturday (all you can eat pancakes at IHOP - yum!) and a little shopping. My mom doesn't get out much so it was a nice treat for her and I always enjoy helping people spend their money :-) We finished off the day with some presents and cheesecake. On Sunday, Craig, Lucy and I had to drive back home which is always exhausting.

But we had the whole week to recover because of the storms. I consider myself a homebody but by Friday I hadn't stepped foot outside in over 4 days and it was getting to me. About 14 year or so ago, my cousin gave my little brother this weird toy while we were all on a road trip once. It was a little plastic box that looked like a crate. On the underside was a button that, if pushed, would cause the box to shake and scream "Get me outta here." He thought it was hilarious while the rest of the family was forced to give my cousin evil glances for the rest of the weekend for subjecting us to the relentless noise. I mean, it must have been bad if I still remember it all this time later, right? Last Friday, I was that box.

Luckily for me, Craig has learned much in the 4 years we have been married and the 8 months we have been parents. He knows that "if mama ain't happy, nobody happy" so he wisely offered to take me out to dinner Friday night. Since Lucy's bedtime is 6pm, we knew we had to go early. Real early. 4:30 early. Next time we go out to eat, I think we will find out where the older crowd goes so at least we won't be the only ones there. We did get good service and prompt attention though!

To make up for the slow week before, this week has been crazy. I've had meetings and MOPS and even some lobbying. That deserves it's own post and I promise it will be coming but today was the first day for a while we had nowhere to go and nothing to do and it was nice! Especially because when we are out and about, not only do I not get a nap but I know I'll be paying for Lucy's good behavior later. She really is great during the day but doesn't eat well around distractions - so she just wakes up ready to eat more often at night to make up for it! Between that and teething, its been a rough couple nights.

But today we took it easy and I can tell that both Lucy and I needed it. She normally naps for 60-90 minutes in the afternoon and I will nap for a while then read next to her until she wakes up. This time I woke up after about 90 minutes groggy and confused like I always am when I sleep "too long." Just then, she woke up too, we looked at each other and I feel my eyes start to close. The next thing I know, both of us are waking up again over a half hour later. Craig even came home and we didn't hear him enter. They say for babies, good napping leads to good nights. I guess we will find out tonight....

A goner?

So I've been making pretty good progress on my Historical Fiction Reading Challenge but I want to make sure it is actually challenging me. Even though they are fiction books, I don't want to allow myself to get by with only "easy reader" type stories. So when I saw Gone with the Wind at my parents', I picked it up. I've never read it or even seen the movie so I had no idea what I was getting into but  I have another book which tells the story from Rhett's perspective that I have forbidden as a reading option until I have read the original, so now seemed like a good time to finally get to it.

I'm about 100 pages or 1/8 of the way through my teeny-tiny worded edition and so far, I'm not sure I like it. I don't completely dislike it but:
  • Am I supposed to like Scarlett? Because I don't. Does she improve upon further acquaintance? She is still 16 though and I think the book covers a span of 12 or so years. Is her maturation part of the story? I hope so. Right now, when it comes to caring about Scarlett, frankly, I feel a little like Rhett. 
  • The slave's speech. My goodness. Because of how slave dialogue is spelled, it takes me a good minute of sounding out to read just a sentence or two of what mammy or any other slave is saying and that really messes with my reading flow. Maybe I should read this when I'm teaching Lucy to read so I will have more empathy for the chore of  "sounding it out."
  • I don't really consider it a fault of the book, but I was surprised to see the "N" word in GWTW. I realize I should have expected it but I've been hearing a lot about it being in Huckleberry Finn, especially with the new edition coming out, and have never heard about it being in here so it did catch me off guard. But again, that's just an observational. I don't have a problem reading it when it fits the historical context. 
  • I've heard through the grapevine that she doesn't end up with either Ashley or Rhett. What kind of love story is this! I haven't formed a particular attachment to either of the male protagonists (if that is even what they are, I'm not quite sure yet :-) and as I said, I don't like Scarlett yet but I'm not sure I want to read a love story about a bunch of people I don't like who don't end up in love. Maybe that's my problem, should I not be thinking of it as a love story?
So basically, I need your help. Convince me to keep reading this. I don't want to be a quitter but I'm not sure I can make it. Have any of you read it? Would watching the movie first help or hurt? Inspire me!


A Green Light for Corruption

I have lived in two cities that boasted red light cameras: College Station, TX and a city here in Missouri. Both camera systems were administered by American Traffic Solutions (which means they take a hefty cut of any fines that are collected). The voters of College Station decided to get rid of them in 2009; the voters here would probably do so, but the law does not allow for voters to place initiatives on the ballot.

I oppose red light cameras because a) they are usually a money grab for cities, b) the data on their effectiveness is mixed, c) there are questions about their constitutionality (they come with an automatic presumption of guilt), d) RLCs are leading us down a slippery slope towards further video law enforcement (including speed cameras), and e) the corrupt conduct of American Traffic Solutions. I'd like to write about this last point. Let's look at some examples:
  • ATS used lobbyists to rig the bidding process in St. Louis to ensure ATS was awarded the contract to install cameras there.
  • ATS used a corrupt local political figure and thousands of dollars in campaign cash to help elect pro-RLC candidates to office in Arnold, MO.
  • ATS runs a Facebook page where they encourage fans to manipulate online polls about RLCs on local news sites. Comments made by RLC opponents on the page are promptly deleted (they also engage in online comment Astroturfing).
  • In response to the success of the anti-RLC website wrongonred.com, started here in Missouri, they started a site called wrongonred.org to mislead people, attacking one of the founders of the former in the process.
This organization is a prime example of the problems that arise when corporations and the government operate in conjunction. Pockets and campaign accounts are lined, the law is abused, ethics go out the window, the will of the people is ignored, and greed reigns. If you hear about ATS trying to come into your community, I recommend that you do what you can to stop them (like Houstonians did).


5 things

5 home projects we've been working on recently:
  • Replacing all electrical outlets with non-ugly tamper resistant ones.
  • Finished our Chalkboard wall
  • Installed a dryer vent (yah, I can finally use the dryer again. It is very difficult to keep up with clothes and diaper laundry when it all has to be dried on one tiny rack)
  • Started my first woodworking project, Ana's $10 ledges
  • Installed a diy diaper sprayer
5 books we checked out of the library this weekend:
  • The sneaky chef (I don't agree with her food philosophy, but I'm always up for adding some beans and veggies to my meals)
  • The pigeon has feelings, too!
  • The gardener's A-Z guide to growing organic food (We're starting to plan. I'm excited!)
  • Baby read-aloud basics. 
  • Storey's guide to raising chickens (Not sure if this will be a Summer '11 project or if we will wait to 2012, but still fun to read about)
5 things Lucy can do now that she couldn't do last week:
  • Drink from a straw
  • Bite into things with her teeth (She got her first two Saturday night :-) Judging by her behavior, they emerged at approximately 1am :-(

  • Pull herself up onto non-mom things

  • Walk around using a laundry basket for balance - at least until she gets stuck somewhere

  • Climb Fall Gracefully descend from the bed to explore the world

  • 2.03.2011

    2 down, 13 to go!

    I think I got a pretty good start on the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge this month. I really thought I was going to have to work hard to prevent this from becoming a 19th century English novel reading challenge but actually, only one of the fictions books I read this month fits that criteria. (I also read a biography from that time period and watched Downton Manor so don't worry, I still got my "period" fix :-)

    Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor by Stephanie Barron

    I hadn't even heard of these books when I stumbled upon a reading challenge specifically for them. To be honest, as much as I love both Jane Austen and mysterys, the idea of Jane being a detective seemed a bit corny. I figured I would at least give them a chance though and I am very glad I did. Barron could have easily capitalized on the idea of Jane without staying true to what we actually know about Ms Austen but she doesn't and overall does a good job keeping Miss Austen's character believable while maintaining the mystery plotline. The story was good but perhaps my favorite part of the book was the editor's notes sprinkled throughout the story that give insights into life in early 19th century in general as well as Jane's life specifically. I will be reading more of these.

    Half-broke Horses by Jeanette Walls

    I love bigmama but wasn't planning to participate in her read-along until I saw that she picked a historial fiction book. Then I couldn't resist it, not just because of the challenge but because it was touted as "Little House on the Prairie for adults." Although I read most of this one on a train, I really felt like I was sitting in Lily's living room listening to her tell me stories about her life on a ranch and then suddenly realizing that put together, they actually had a plot and made up her memoirs. And I can't wait to see what everyone else thinks about this book, especially the main character. The book was engrossing and I liked reading about her, but I don't think I would have actually liked her. For a book written in first person, we just didn't seem to get any sense of emotion from her. Now I'm not sure if that is because 1) Lily truely was very "gritty" and unemotional, 2) Walls viewed Lily through her mother's eyes which made her seem  that way or 3) Walls tried too hard to portray Lily as spunky and gritty and as a result, failed to balance her ruggedness with any display of emotions. It seems that most people read this after reading The Glass Castle and are let down as a result. I am waiting for the storm to abate and the library to reopen so I can pick that one (prequel?) up. Perhaps it while shed some light on the situation. Either way, I did enjoy this book but not I don't think it quite lives up the LHOTP comparison.

    Little Britches: Father and I were Ranchers by Ralph Moody

    Funnily enough, I've also heard this book compared to the Little House books but this one was described as "Little House on the Prairie for boys." That's not accurate because I am not a boy but I completely loved it.  I can't wait to read the rest of the series about Ralph Moody's adventures growing up on a Colorado ranch. Alas, I was focusing too much on the historical part of the challenge and not enough on the fiction part because I got about 3/4 of the way through before realizing this was a biography and not a fiction book so it doesn't really count for the challenge! I couldn't help talking about it though because it was the best thing I read all month and as you can probably tell from my mistake, it reads more like a novel than a biography :-)

    To quote VeggieTales: I laughed, I cried, it moved me [Bob]. And it's true. It's just a beautiful story of a boy growing up. His struggles to be a man are so real and his father's guidance touching without being preachy. By the end you feel as if you know Ralph and the rest of the characters. It made me want to have a son so Craig can read this to him - but wiht or without a boy in the house I'm pretty sure it will be a family read aloud in a few years (yes, I think it is geared more for the younger crowd but don't let that stop you). I'm so glad I finally took my mom's advice to read this book - now I've just got to search through the 10+ boxes of curriculum in my basement to find the rest of the series to read.