Son: By Lois Lowry. A Review. Book 4-52

After making great headway on the books I wanted to read this year, life became life. However, I finished “Son” on time. Having had a weekend to digest all that this tome entailed, and wanting to keep the momentum moving, here is my review.

Gut wrenching heartache. Having the ability to read all four books of the quartet, back to back, has been astounding. “Son”, by far, the longest, takes some of the craziest turns out of the four book in “The Giver” quartet. I had heard from many that this book was highly favored in the series. Though I found the book to be amazing, I also found it harder to follow.

There is such a departure from the rhythm. Trust me, I stay that knowing that based on what all is covered by “Son” that this departure was needed. Regardless, there were times that I had to re-read multiple chapters, listen to the audio again and again, all in an effort to make sure that the leaps the story was taken were intended.

Still, it was a fantastic book. Not my favored in the series, least favored to be frank. But still a very good book. The arc that the protagonist takes is a wild and crazy ride. I found myself wanting to dive into the story and be there, to place my hand on their shoulder, out of comfort and guidance. Times that I was internally screaming for joy, and others that I was wracked with sorrow.

But there is one thing that just irks me. One thing that I have had to read, re-read, and listen to multiple times. The conclusion. Things, all things, come together. The climax has been built, laid out, sullied, and then displayed for all. My heart was racing, pages were turning. Each word was being read with a sniper like accuracy. Then, in a flash, it was over. The end. Perhaps it is the quick ending of the entire saga why this is my least favorite book out of the four.

Three and a half out of five stars is all that I can give. Pales in comparison to the books that preceded it, but still worthy of reading by all. I may come back and read it again later, just to see how my mind has changed.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Reading is challenging during the winter storm

As I awoke yesterday to a fresh, white, blanket of snow, I knew what I was going to hear. “The Richmond offices are closed due to inclement weather” the voice echoed on the other end of the call. A flurry of texts ensued as I alerted my staff of this event. Wondrous thoughts of sitting by the fire and finishing my second book, perhaps starting my third, of my 2018 Reading Challenge lulled me back to sleep.

Boy, did I sleep. I finally had a chance to get some rest. For the past few months I have been running at full speed, tilting all the windmills in my path. Perhaps it was the cold weather, the radiant views as the sun streaked across through the barren trees, but I relaxed. I rested. I woke up late. The kids were going outside to enjoy their snow day. Though, truth be told, snow days do not exist as a homeschooling family. Be that as it may, they were filled with excitement to run outside and dive into the snow that caused a day off. All one and a half inches of it.

Having spent a better portion of my life in regions that truly understand snow, it was a little laughable. But, to have some time to relax, time with family, is always a blessing. We quickly made plans to clean, organize, and de-clutter. These are never ending tasks when you have three children ages five and under. I assure you that the hurricane that is them trying to ‘help’ clean is far worse than the snow that kept me home. But we did these things just the same.

I watched them bounce up and down as we talked about snow, and smile chocolatey smiles as they had their hot coco. I handled the negotiations as to why I felt we would not be watching any more Christmas movies, even “Christmas Train” (or Polar Express as some of us call it), just because of the snow. They tried. It was adorable. But, it was an amazing day.

Near the end of it I realized that I had lost the opportunity to read as I had intended. It was the end of the day, the kids were going to sleep, and I was just relishing in the relaxation that I received from this unexpected day. In the quiet of the night, while I soothed my youngest back to sleep (for the millionth time) I read a little. Happy, and content with my progress, I logged in at 50% complete on my second book. Slowly, still reflecting back to the cool weather, and the day off, I lulled myself back to sleep in preparation for the day to come.

I hope to have a post on my thoughts on the first book, “The Giver”, sometime this weekend. Stay warm out there, and remember to take time to enjoy the unexpected gifts that are a snow day.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

    It snowed last night.

    I woke to a white capped winter wonderland, and a list of things to do. I smirked as my thoughts drifted to all those local residents who probably saw this is the apocalypse. I have to admit I felt a little shame as I realize I was relying on other people’s fear of this weather. However, knowing that this meant that I would have decent travel, I got up, donned my flannel shirt and jeans, and got out the door.

    As I walked my car I looked back and saw my children, wide-eyed with excitement, faces pressed against the glass of our front window. Every part of me that is a dad uttered a small prayer that they keep the wonderment that is the season. That they hold fast to the childlike joy that is all things winter. Playing in the snow, building snowmen, hanging Christmas lights, all of it.


    The peace of the open road, the sound of Beethoven softly playing over the radio, these are the moments. In astute reflection I paused as the red light glared at me. This season is so much more than just a cold winter’s holiday.


    I am reaching a height of purpose that I could not even ink out from the base where I started. My home is full of love, passion, understanding, and joy. This more than warms the heart. My job satisfaction is at an all-time high, even as I face new beginnings with my promotion. My faith has been continuously reassured with every struggle and victory. This season is good.


    These thoughts are juxtaposed with the view out my windshield. This is the weather that begs for our melancholy. The deep, dark gray skies cascading against the cool white snow. The ceaseless creaking as the wind blows through the snow laden boughs above. The shocking silence as even nature seeks respite against the cold.


    The light turns green. As my car navigates the barren road every second brings a beauty that negates the misanthropic thralls of my mind. I smile as I accelerate. Feeling all of the parts of me coalesce; dad, husband, and a little bit of lumberjack muddled in, as I own the road.


    Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

    The $2,000 Bunk Beds – Part Four

    So, where were we? Oh yeah there was an electrical burning odor in the air, and the light was on but not turning off. What a great place to be! Sigh.

    With militaristic precision, I called for my wife to flip the circuit breaker back to off. Knowing what I must do, I asked her to keep the kids out of the room while I ran to my favorite store, Lowes. About 5 minutes, and $5 later, I was walking out with a new light switch in hand.

    Asking Kati to, yet again, corral the kids and ensure that the circuit was still off, I got to work. When the power is off, light switches and outlets are quick and easy tasks. This one was no different. I set the switch to the on position and put it into the wall. 

    So we found ourselves facing, yet again, another moment of truth. With the kids in the living room anxiously awaiting the outcome I stood in the room. Glaring at the light I asked my beloved to flip the circuit. In a flash, the light came on and was bright! I walked over to the wall, confidently out stretch my hand, and flip the light switch. This time there was an exclamation for my wife as it was a pop at the circuit breaker and she informed me that the panel was now buzzing. Hearkening back to what my dad told me when I was eight, I knew what I had to do. 

    Sometimes it takes me a little longer to realize that I am beat.

    Begrudgingly I called Woodfin, a local electrician and HVAC company here in Richmond Virginia. They’ve done a lot of work for us in the past, and I’ve always been awesome with what they do. Thanks to the busy time of year, we were told they would be about a week before somebody come out. I explained that I have three children ages 5 and under, 1/3 of my house was without power, and the electrical panel has a horrible buzzing sound whenever power was running through it. Someone was there within an hour.

    Electrician that came told me that he has seen it all, and this is actually pretty common here in Richmond. Between the houses built in the 70’s, a bunch of “fixes” and “upgrades” done between the 80’s and 90’s, and just general “craftsmanship”, having electrical issues is pretty common. He diagnosed that there was a long-standing problem with the circuit breaker. Apparently, I don’t know why, but installing a new light pushed the old circuit breaker beyond its breaking point. He helped sort out spaghetti monster like nest that I found when I remove the ceiling fan, it only contained one always live wire. In order to make sure that our house did not burn down he put in a couple of temporary replacement breakers. He also helped me make sure that everything was in working order before he left.

    Woodfin descended upon my home two weeks later.

    So after 2 weeks, over $2,000 later (beds $500, light $30, new switch and cover $5, replacing the entire electrical panel and breakers $1800), my kids now have an amazing bunk bed without a ceiling fan and light switch that works. I hope that this journey has brought some humor to you, in hindsight it has for me. I think the most important thing that you, my dear readers, can take from the story is the fact that you should always know what you can and cannot do. You need to know who you can call when you reach a point that help is needed. Most importantly, always over budget every single project.

    This is my haphazard attempt at giving you guys part four, I had a really good one written the other day. If you look at the post from yesterday you can understand why I’m more than a little frustrated. As a father I’ve always come to expect the unexpected. This little project proved to be no different. I hope that never changes. Even through frustration and angst, it’s still so damn fun to be a dad.

    Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

    The $2,000 Bunk Beds – Part Three

    After working through the emotional distress of taking apart the beds that I had made, it was time to do something easier, but a little scary, electrical work. After taking exhaustive measurements of all the rooms in the house, we knew that there was no way we could have bunk beds AND a ceiling fan in the same room. Call it what you will, but we saw a trip to the ER as a very real reality if this was left as the décor.

    I grabbed a step stool, being tall has some perks, and took to disassembling the fan. This task, in and of itself was easy enough. But, it should be noted that I do NOT like playing with electrical work. Need a wall built or taken down, sure. Want the plumbing rerouted, on it. But electrical is the one thing that I have always been cautious of. I think that my dad put it best, and the fear of God into me about it when he told me; “Of all the things that you can do around the house, electrical is the one that will most surely kill you”.  I was eight.

    Regardless, the fan came down easy. As I removed the housing my nightmare began. A spaghetti monster of white encased electrical wires uncoiled like a serpent from the junction box in the ceiling. I was expecting two wires to be there, not six. So, I caught my breath, saying a few words that I most likely should not have, and began sorting it out. I had already turned off the light switch that ran the fan. But, I felt an all too familiar bite of my dear nemesis, 110 volts. With the power off at the switch, there were still live wires!

    I quickly had my beloved find and turn off the circuit to the kid’s room. Fun note, the breaker that runs the light and outlets in my kid’s room also runs one hall light, an outlet in the master, the light in the family room and the fan, but not the light portion of the fan, between the family room and the kitchen. Yeah, have fun with that. That allowed me to finish removing the fan, and install the new light. Anxious to get the beds together I stood in anticipation as my wife flipped the breaker for the room.

    I squinted my eyes as I was blinded and my ear picked up the electrical hum.

    There was light! I let out a sigh of relief as I walked over to the light switch (or should I say slider? Dimmer? sigh, whatever). It was in the off position. I did not think that this was important as I slid the switch to on. Boy was I wrong. There was a loud “POP”, the telltale make you cringe sound of working with electrical, from the light switch. The light stayed on, and there was a faint electrical odor in the air.

    Trust me folks, it spirals from here. Come back tomorrow for the conclusion of this saga. Missed part one, or part two? Feel free to read them. Trust me, this ends in a flabbergasted mess.

    Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

    The $2,000 Bunk Beds – Part Two

    I did it. I clicked purchase on the beds. It was at that very moment that I started to feel that this was not the right option. Chalking it up to buyer’s remorse, I did my best to shuffle it off. Instead I focused what I long knew what was going to be the hardest part, taking apart the beds that I had built my children.

    Hovering around the mediocre level of carpentry, it is a passion more than it is a skill. However, I wanted to do something for my kids as they outgrew their toddler beds. I found plans, modified them to bring out aspects of each child, and I built them. They were not perfect, but they were perfect for them.  The joy and surprise on their faces when I put each one together filled my heart with joy.

    But the day had arrived, and I stood there, in the silent room, looking down at the beds. Stripped down to the naked wood that I had built them from. I could hear the kids down the hall, playing with the heavy box that had arrived. I knelt down and began to take the beds apart. Making it even more difficult was that I put these together without the intent of having to take them apart. So, not only did I just have unscrew some screws and bolts, but I had to take a circular saw to my children’s beds to get them out the door. There must have been some extra sawdust in the air.

    The beds were apart, and the project was underway.

    As the time came to take the beds out of the house Zoey and David walked into their room. They saw that their beds had been taken apart. “Bed not there anymore” are the words that ripped through my soul. Kati did an amazing job and changed the mood. She turned taking the parts of the bed out of the house into a game. The laughter and screams of joyful competition filled the house.

    But what would happen next would start the spiral of costs for this project.  Come back tomorrow for more. Missed part one? Read it here.

    Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

    The $2,000 Bunk Beds – Part One

    No, this is not some post about how I have gobs of money to spend on my kids. Quite the opposite in fact. This is the story about how trying to be frugal cost us quite a bit more. This is also the first part of this story. It all stemmed from this previous post. To be fair, these bunk beds were only $200. But those bunk beds were only the beginning. Or at least close to the beginning.

    To bunk bed, or not to bunk bed, that is the question.

    Not that long ago we decided that we needed to create more space. With three kids ages five and under, an amazing border collie, and two adults our home was feeling like a belt at thanksgiving. This is to say suddenly and unexpectedly too small and confining.  For some time my beloved and I have been debating about bunk beds for our older two. We both grew up with them, and we know our kids far too well. Based on the, um, exuberance that Zoey and David both have we knew what this would mean. That their bedroom would devolve into some Orwellian nightmare, with a little Lord of the Flies thrown in for good measure.

    Regardless, we decided that it was time to make the move. My beloved bride was in need of a craft space, and I needed some separation in my office. The Dungeons and Dragons party that I have been running was growing, and we were outpacing the space that I had set aside. So, we begun making the many changes that were needed. Boxing up things, moving them around, making space. The plan was to purchase the bunk beds, and then move Jacob into the room with the older two. This would free up the smallest room in the house, the nursery, for my wife to have as a craft room.

    We also knew that in order to not have a dire situation on our hands that the ceiling fan in the kid’s room would need to be removed. There is not a single room in the house that is suitable for bunk beds where a ceiling fan would not be at hand, or head, height. Little did I know that the moment that I clicked “purchase” on those bunk beds our bank account would be forever changed.

    Come back tomorrow for another installment of the $2,000 Bunk Beds. Also, there are more updates to come. It has been a crazy last month and a half. This story, is only part of it all.

    Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

      Building a better home.

      Today is going to be an emotional day. I stood there looking into the room the ruckus of morning breakfast behind me down the hall, and sighed. 

      I built these beds for both of my kids with my own two hands. I found plans online and I modified them to help bring out some characteristics of each child. But today these beds come apart.
      The same hands that built the beds will now unscrew the screws. The wood will be removed from the room leaving a barren and empty. I’m almost certain that a war against the dust bunnies will be waged. In place of my two creations, a store-bought bunk bed will be put in. I have been dreading this day since the moment I clicked the purchase button for the bunk beds. I fretted over if I could just cancel the order and keep everything just the way that it is. But we are growing family in a very small house. We need space for things like a home office, crafts, and homeschooling of course.

      But having the ability to make things work, moving all three kids into one room, does not make this day any easier.

      There maybe someday down the road that my kids remember these beds. I want them to see that this decision to take apart something that I’ve gifted to them was not an easy one. but we often have to do things that are not easy. I’m sure they’ll be some pretty awesome memories about the time they will spend in a room together, all three of them. But for now I’m having a hard time letting go of the memories that we have created with just the two of them.

      Pictures we posted, hell I might even do a YouTube video just to help ease some of the pain that I’m feeling. Regardless, today is going to be an emotional day as I…

      Live big, love bigger, be kind, always.

      Day 29: Favorite Cookie: Snickerdoodles

      Oh the rollercoaster that is this list. But that is the flaw in not looking ahead, and only reading it once before posting it. But the fact that I limit myself to 10 minutes a day for this challenge, in and of itself should get me a cookie. Right? Well, even if it does not, let me tell you a little bit about my favorite one.

      Snickerdoodles

      There is an amazing fragrance that overtakes the kitchen as these wonderful cookies are being baked. The cinnamon and sugar as they amalgamate under the heat profuse into a scent that I consider heaven.  I can feel the salivation build as they are cooling on the rack. My beloved already knows that I will not mind the burn to take one a little early. Biting into the surgery goodness, feeling the reserved heat sear my mouth, it is awesome.

      It is hard to beat a good snickerdoodles, and only the best are homemade. There is something severely lacking from any of the store-bought imitations that I have had in my life. Note, I am not saying that the ones that you can purchase from bakeries are substandard, just that pre-packaged nonsense.  Of course, it is almost always the case that homemade is better.

      There is a small joy in sharing good snickerdoodles with my kids. Seeing their eyes light up, and a smile come across their faces is amazing. I know that I am leading them down a great path in only providing the best ones for them. Prior to them, sharing was not an option. However, now, it is a constant. There have been times that I have watched the excitement build as the snickerdoodles are baking in the oven. I share in their exclamations as the oven opens, we gape in pure joy, and we watch as they are transferred onto cooling racks.

      I feel somewhere between a kid and a dad when this happens. It is so worth it.

      Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

      Day 26: Five Words That Describe Your Life

      Okay, back to my normal posts, right? After yesterday’s rather dark post, “A Current Worry I Have”, let us have a fun post about the words that describe my life. I think that it is much needed, and far lighter, to talk about these things today.

      Dreams

      “Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it” – J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

      This is part of the drive that I have. If there is something that I long to do in life, then I will try. The bigger the goal, the more the sacrifice. Much like the oath that I took to enter the army, and the visceral essence of it, sacrifice is in my nature. For my family, I will sacrifice more than I have already, for the check is blank for them.

      Adventure

      “I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing” – Herman Melville, Moby Dick

      Life is an adventure. You can sit back on your laurels and let it happen around you, or you can dive headfirst into it. Trust me, for all that I have been through, it would be far less fun to worry so much about things we cannot control. Take the leap, and enjoy the ride.

      Fortitude

      As I spoke about in my Day 18 Post, “Your Biggest Plot Twist”, I am still here. The odds have not been in my favor from time to time. But I do not give up. Ever. As Richelle Goodrich said in Making Wishes, “If you plan to build walls around me, know this-I will walk through them”.  It is true. In my wake I will leave the folly of those that have tried to stop me.

      Marrow

      Another one of my quotes that I like comes from Thoreau’s Walden. “…live deep and suck out all the marrow of life”.

      Much like adventure and dreams, this is all about getting the most out of life. Time is far too short to live hungry for the essences that can propel us. Find what you enjoy, and do it. Do not let you… or anyone… hold you back.

      Fatherhood

      I could not have a list of things that describe my life without fatherhood. Next to being so lucky to have (somehow) won my beloved over (see my Day 1 post, “Five Ways to Win My Heart”), being a father is a close second. I LOVE being a dad. Even through the tears, stress, and worry, it is all worth it. My kids let me know that I am alive, and force me to feel young. To be fair, they force me to feel old as well.

      Live big, love bigger, and be kind always.