Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book 19- "The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two Roses" by Robert Louis Stevenson

I hated "Treasure Island."

It's one of those books they make you read in school, simply because they've been making kids read it in school for so many years they've forgotten other books exist. Or at least that's my theory. Not all of us like pirate stories. I'm interested in pirates in the historical aspect; I like reading about actual pirates, but when it comes to pirate fiction, my interest begins and ends with Jack Sparrow. Eccentric, always tipsy, played by one of my favorite actors of all time... he's a pirate I can get interested in.

That said, Robert Louis Stevenson is one of those classic writers whose name is too well known to ignore. Which is how I ended up choosing another of his books, "The Black Arrow," to read. (I also chose "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", which I have not gotten to yet.)

"The Black Arrow" takes place during the War of the Roses (google it) in England. The atmosphere is tense and militant, and the call goes out for all able-bodied men to gather to join the fight. In the midst of all of this, a letter signed "John Amend-All" declares that four men will be killed with four black arrows, payment for crimes they committed and covered up. The letter specifically mentions the murder of Sir Harry Shelton, which is critical because Shelton's son Dick is a ward of Sir Daniel Brackley, one of the men accused in the letter of Shelton's murder. Though at first Dick refuses to believe that Brackley and the other 3 men are involved in his father's death, the letter awakens an interest in discovering what really DID happen to his dad.

On the way back from delivering a message for Brackley, Dick stumbles upon a boy who introduces himself as John Matcham, who had been kidnapped by Brackley and is now fleeing in search of safety. Dick agrees to help the boy get to his destination, and along the way John tries to convince Dick that Sir Daniel Brackley is not a good person and that Dick should turn against him. John also tries to talk Dick into pursuing the truth about Brackley's role in his father's murder. Dick is resistant, but when the two are eventually captured by Brackley and returned to his home, Sir Daniel's behavior combined with his evasion of questions regarding the murder convince Dick that Brackley was involved after all.

At this point, Dick realizes that his life is in danger and that he needs to escape; he also finds out that "John" is actually Joanna Sedley, an orphaned heiress from a neighboring estate. He falls in love with Joanna, and together they try to escape; Dick succeeds, but Joanna is caught and remains Sir Daniel's captive.

Dick ends up fighting with "John Amend-All", who is actually a group of outlaws lead by Ellis Duckworth. Duckworth had become an outlaw when he was accused of murdering Sir Harry Shelton, and it is for that reason that he is seeking revenge. Another of the outlaws, Will Lawless, befriends Dick and joins him on his mission to rescue Joanna from Brackley.

There is a lot of action from this point to the end, but I won't spoil all the fun-- suffice it to say that this book is never boring, the life of Dick Shelton is lively but fraught with danger, and the Black Arrow outlaws keep things interesting.

I suspected early on that "John Matcham" was actually a girl; the boy-meets-boy-who-is-actually-a-girl-and-they-fall-in-love has been done so many times at this point that it wasn't a shock to me, although I'm not sure how surprising a plot twist it would have been in the late 19th century when it was written. The primary appeal of the book was all of the dangerous twists and turns that the plot takes; it's hard not to root for Dick Shelton, the troubled protagonist who is loyal to a fault and has a heart of gold.

Hard to say whether I'd recommend it or not; the language and sentence structure of the 19th century can be a bit difficult to muddle through, but the story leaves nothing to be desired; it's an exciting and enjoyable story. MUCH better, in my humble opinion, than Stevenson's much more renown "Treasure Island." Jim Hawkins' got nothing on Dick Shelton.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

JC and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

So does anyone remember the book this blog title is referencing? Good ol' Alexander? "I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there's gum in my hair when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day."*

Oh Alexander. It only gets worse.

I've been thinking of today as my busy day for about a week now. Had to drop the dog off to get spayed, take Addison to school, do a little house-sitting check, pick Addison up from school, run home, change Addison into her ballet clothes, drop Addison off at ballet, pick her up from ballet 45 minutes later, try to squeeze in lunch, and pick the dog up from the vet. All while juggling not just Addison, but a rather crabby Owen as well. The mere thought of today started giving me nightmares on Friday. I hate busy days. Sure, I don't want to be stuck with nothing to do all day, but I hate not having a moment to think.

SO what else would make things more exciting? How about a car accident? Yep... that'll do.

Let me start from the beginning.

I got up this morning a little after 7:00, because my Grandma was scheduled to arrive at 7:30 (she was going to sit at the house while I took Zoey to the vet, so that I didn't have to get the kids up any earlier than usual.) Zoey had apparently figured out something was up, because she was all trembly at the vet (she's usually fine) and it broke my heart to let them walk away with her. I drove back home, thanked my Grandma, and got the kids up and ready, leaving at 8:45 to take Addison to school.

At about 8:58, driving down the street Addison's school is on, roughly two blocks up from the building, a girl on my left pulled out from a stop sign; apparently unaware that I was coming down the road, and despite my horn blaring, swerving, and general bitch-panic, there was no way to prevent hitting her.

I was instantly pissed and defensive. Partially because I think these days, being defensive is a natural reaction in these situations, and partially because being ticked off allows us to ignore the fact that we are, as adults, scared shitless. No one likes that feeling-- it's too vulnerable, a little embarrassing, and we tend to cover it up by being defensive and angry. Even to the most mild-mannered person, I think it's easier to be confrontational with a stranger we feel has wronged us than to be vulnerable and say "hey! You scared the crap out of me! I might cry soon!"

I checked on my kids, verified that everyone was okay, and pulled the van off to the side of the road. I grabbed my insurance card out of the glove compartment and opened the door. My defenses melted away when I got out of the car. The girl who caused the accident was already near tears, looked only about 18 or 19, and was already profusely apologetic. My maternal instincts kicked in and I felt like hugging her (I refrained.) We exchanged insurance information, but I called my insurance company to find out whether or not I had to call the police-- my instinct said yes, since there were no witnesses to the accident and I wanted someone to document that this accident wasn't my fault, but I think I just felt guilty calling the cops on this poor girl and wanted to be able to say "but Ron told me to!" Which is more or less what I did.

While I waited for the policeman to arrive, I texted my mom and my mother-in-law, informing them of the basic details ("was in accident, everyone ok, not my fault, police coming, will call later"). I called my husband and broke the news to him, letting him know I'd call after I had more information. I called Addison's school and let them know that she'd be late and why. I couldn't stand just sitting along the side of the road, idle... I even updated my facebook status.

Mr. Police came, took both of our statements, and started filling out his report. He took one look at the other driver's car and stated that it was good we had called, because her car could not be legally driven and had to be towed (Kia owners-- beware of Honda Odyssey's. Apparently minivans are the new schoolyard bullies. A sleeper cell of brutes.) After filling out his paperwork, he came and explained to me that although he doesn't determine fault, technically I had the right-of-way and the other driver could legally be cited for failing to remain at a stop until all traffic had passed. He told me he didn't HAVE to ticket her, but then said, in these words, "do you need to see me citing her for her traffic violation?"

What an odd question! I suppose if she had come out of her car, hurling insults, trying to throw blame on me and being generally belligerent, I could see maybe wanting to see her get a ticket. But under these circumstances? My answer was "if you don't HAVE to cite her, please don't. I don't want to make anything more difficult." He was satisfied with this, let me know that her violation would still be in the report, regardless, but said he wouldn't issue a ticket. He took some pictures of both cars, gave us copies of the information he had collected from both of us, and gave us instructions to call our insurance companies right away. The other driver took one last opportunity to apologize to me... what came out of my mouth (and I couldn't believe, considering it sounded very cliche, but it fit the moment) was "hey, it's ok... accidents happen."

Addison was 45 minutes late for school, but since I had called the school to let them know what happened, I fortunately didn't have to explain to the teachers, in front of 15 other 4 year olds, that we had just been in an accident. They were both very sweet, helped me get Addison quietly settled into the craft they were working on, and I left. I went to the mall and got a coffee, found an empty table in the food court (pretty easy right at 10 a.m.), busied Owen with a donut, and called my insurance company. Ron was very helpful and I got all of that stuff squared away pretty quickly. I called my husband, told him everything that had transpired, and then had a brief period of about 15 minutes of peace in which to drink my coffee and force the stress and emotions of the morning into the back of my psyche, to be dealt with later.

As I arrived back at the school, I got a call from the vet saying that Zoey's surgery "went well" but that she had a minor complication; apparently, a blood vessel had gotten nicked or somehow ended up bleeding, and the vet had to extend the incision in order to repair it. He assured me that the incision was still pretty small and should heal just as well, told me she was already standing up and wagging her tail, and that I could come get her between 4 and 6:30. So at least THAT was relatively uncomplicated.

I picked up Addison and was told that she had a "minor weeping period" but "came out of it ok" and that they chalked it up to stress from the morning. She was fine when I got her, though, and was excited to go to ballet-- we went home, got her dressed, and I dropped her off. While she was there, I did my house-sitting duties to kill time; again, being idle gives me too much time to think and too much time to let the stress sink in. I picked her up, listened to her stories of what they did, and took her home. We got home, ate lunch, and I sent both kids to their respective rooms for nap time. I went about cleaning everything up from the morning and kept myself busy until my mother-in-law (who had volunteered to sit with the kids while I picked up the dog) arrived-- I talked to her for awhile about the day's events and went to get my poor puppy.

When my husband got home, he made grumpy faces at the van's front bumper for a few minutes and then came in to change. The plan had been for all of us to drive to Carlisle for dinner, where my father-in-law was "working" at Bruster's as a fundraiser for the middle school he works at. After much deliberating, I opted to stay home to keep an eye on Zoey-- although mostly well, she was still groggy and sore and I didn't feel right throwing her in her crate and ditching her. I spent much of the time everyone was gone reading, cleaning up, and wishing I was getting ice cream.

It wasn't until very late this evening that I finally let everything soak in. I still don't 100% feel like I'm grasping all of what happened today; I tend to compartmentalize things, assuming that either they will take care of themselves, or I will tend to them later. I'm hoping this car situation is a little of column A, a little of column B... I've done all that I can, and now it's in the insurance companies' hands. All I can do is be thankful this day is over, grateful that no one was hurt, and hopeful that tomorrow will go a LOT more smoothly.

(*excerpt from "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" by Judith Viorst. Reference just in case someone decides to randomly sue me.)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Addison's First Sales Pitch

Hello there, good to see you again! Addison Church here, and have I got a product for you!

I just started my 4-year-old year at nursery school, and we are selling the super-awesome "KidStuff Coupon Savings Book." It's only $25, and HALF of that money goes directly to our school! The proceeds from this coupon book will go toward the cost of supplies, activities, and other fun stuff for me and my classmates! The first time I looked through this amazing coupon book, I couldn't believe all of the incredible deals!

And it's not just kid stuff-- there are deals in this book for every member of the family, right down to your pets! Groceries, clothing, sports gear, activities, attractions... you name it, it's in this book! In today's tough economy, everyone can use coupons, am I right? Of course I am! Almost all of the coupons don't expire until December 2012... just THINK of all the money you can save between now and then!
Orders and money are due by October 10, so if you want to take advantage of this incredible offer (and you might just be crazy if you don't!) contact my Mommy at, or talk to the sales representative (aka friend or family member of mine) who forwarded this link to you. Act fast-- this is a deal you don't want to miss!

Here are just a few examples of some of the great deals offered in this coupon book:

Weis Markets- $5 off a $50 purchase (there are 4 of these!!)
Kohls- $10 off a $50 purchase
Rite Aid- $5 off a $25 purchase
Bon-Ton- $20 off a $75 purchase
Sears- $10 off a $50 purchase
Dicks Sporting Goods- $10 off a $50 purchase
Payless Shoes- 10% off your purchase
Childrens Place- 20% off a $50 or more purchase
Bed Bath and Beyond- 20% off a single item
Michaels- 40% off a single item (there are 2!)
Gymboree- 15% off of your purchase
Claires- $5 off a $20 purchase
Barnes & Noble- 15% off a single item
New York & Co.- $25 off a $75 purchase
FYE- 20% off 1 CD or DVD
Carters- 20% off a $40 or more purchase
Oshkosh- same as Carters
Build-a-Bear- $5 off a $25 purchase
LL Bean- $10 off a $50 purchase
Irvings Shoes- $5 off a $25 purchase
Regal Cinemas- $2 off Adult admission
Hershey Park- $8 off regular admission (up to 4 people)
Dutch Wonderland- $2 off regular admission
Baltimore Aquarium- $3 off admission, OR free kids admission with purchase of adult admission
Friendly's- Free Kids meal; $5 off $25 purchase
Sonic- Buy 1 Sonic Burger, get 1 free; $.99 Cherry Limeade
Hosses- $2 off Kids Meal
YP- 50% off Stromboli; 50% off large cheese pizza
Auntie Anne's- free pretzel with pretzel and drink purchase; free pretzel with purchase of 2 pretzels
Isaacs- Free kids meal with adult sandwich/large salad purchase
Ritas Italian Ice- Buy one get one Italian Ice or Gelati
TGI Fridays- $5 off a $20 purchase; Free appetizer with $20 food purchase; free kids meal with adult entree purchase

If you would like to view a coupon book, we would be happy to get one to you to look at-- just please don't wait until the last minute! Thank you so much!