Friday, December 30, 2011

Books I Read in December 2011

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher ***

I like books by Rosamunde Pilcher.  They satisfy my anglophile tendency from time to time.  This book was long with a parade of sympathetic characters.  They were kind and gracious and made me want to buy an estate in Scotland and hole up for the winter.

The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere ***

This book is based on the song, "The Christmas Shoes" which is one of those overly sentimental songs I don't like all that much.  I did like the book.  The characters seemed real.  It was sentimental and made me cry but that's not exactly newsworthy.

This Year it Will Be Different by Maeve Binchy ***

I think I like anything Maeve Binchy has ever written.  She is a great story teller.  The only drawback with her collections of short stories, like this one, is that I get involved with the characters and want to read more than just one short story about them.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand ****

The best book I've read this year.  It's a true story about the life of Louis Zamperini.  He was an Olympic runner and a POW during WWII.  I learned a lot in the book about World War II in Japan (where he was held prisoner).  I also learned about resiliency and forgiving and the amazing capacity for survival humans have.  I'm telling you.  Fabulous book.

True Colors by Kristin Hannah ***

This was a great book.  I love Kristin Hannah's books.  They sometimes go into more...ahem...detail than I prefer but the stories and characters are so compelling that usually I need to stay up late and finish the book.  This one was no exception. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

1:30 in the Afternoon on Christmas Day

Braeden was reading his new book:

There were still a few unwrapped presents destined for our Christmas evening at Grandma Geri's house.

Mark was laboring over his Lego Millennium Falcon set:

Emma was singing karaoke with her new machine:

I tried to get her to let me sing too:


She wouldn't give up the microphone.

Live it up Emma.  As soon as you go back to school I am not going to teach Mark school anymore.

I am going to sing karaoke.  All day.

And you can't stop me.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Parental Doubts

Sometimes I wonder about the damage I'm inflicting on my children's psyches.  There are the April Fool's tricks to consider.  Permanent damage?  There's the whole half birthday thing.  They are being raised to think people will care when it's their half birthdays.  Will that be problematic?

Then there's Horace Vandegelder.  Will it be an obstacle to our children going on to lead normal lives considering their pet while they were growing up was a goat?  A very low maintenance goat made of metal?

Every year, on Christmas morning, our children climb into bed with us and try to convince us to go downstairs.  This year, Mark slid in next to me with ice cold feet.  I was vaguely aware of more arms and legs and noise.  I groggily asked if everyone was there.

Braeden quipped, "Not Horace Vandegelder."

Emma added, "He wets the bed."

Should I have instead got them a puppy?  And had less weird kids?

I don't think so.

I mean, look how cute Horace Vandegelder is?

in a stunning Christmas bow

And I kind of like my weird kids too.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Eve part 2

This is a post for me. (As opposed to all the other posts I write?  Never mind.)

Here's what I want to remember from Christmas Eve.

Our kids exchanged their presents to each other.  Mark gave Emma a present then hugged her in his typical exuberant and you'd-better-brace-yourself sort of way.

Braeden wore a tie and suit coat all day.  I don't understand it.  This is the same kid I have to bully into wearing something presentable (aka not shorts and a ratty t shirt) any other day of the year.

He bought Mark a gift.

Mark liked it.

A lot.

It doesn't happen nearly often enough for Mark's taste but sometimes Braeden, the venerable older brother, gets on the floor to play.

I think Emma was off drawing in her new book Mark gave her.

I played something complex and phenomenal on the piano. (Not really.  It was something easy or I wouldn't have been able to play it.)

And Adam took pictures.

We had Chicken Tikka Masala for dinner (why not?) and opened Christmas crackers.  We were all very regal in our paper crowns.

And happy.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

My head is twice as big as Adam's in this picture and it's sort of a weird picture anyway but it's a picture of me with my eyes open and that, my friends, does not happen every day.

Adam and I are ying and yang.  To my early bird, he's last minute.  It mostly works pretty well.  We tolerate each others' differences with bemused head shaking.

But sometimes Adam's time table turns out to be wonderful.

On Christmas Eve, thanks to my time table, we were completely ready for Christmas.  We were enjoying an idle day playing games and reading and answering Mark's question, "When are we opening presents?" over and over.

Adam said, "I wanted to buy you clothes but I didn't."

I was OK with that.  There were plenty of presents under the tree with my name on them.

Then he said, "I know it's crazy but do you want to go  Coldwater Creek has everything on sale for 40% off."

He named two things I love:  Coldwater Creek and a sale.

But shopping on Christmas Eve?

Then I thought, why not?  Adam has a way of making everything enjoyable.  I was in.

We drove to the store.  We found a close parking spot, and quickly.  We walked into Coldwater Creek.  There was one other shopper there.  And two employees.  And a big sale.  We wandered around the quiet and empty store.  I found three things I liked.  I tried them on.  I liked them more.  I asked Adam which I should get.  Adam said, "Pick two."

I said, "Are you sure?  There were a lot of gifts for me already under the tree."

He smiled.  I tried them all on again.  Adam said, "You'd better get all three."

I said, "Really?  Are you serious?"  But I knew he was serious.  Because he's my Adam.  The very best sort of Adam.

While we were walking back to our van, we marveled at the ease of our shopping trip.  Leaving the parking lot, we saw a rainbow striped truck.  Adam said it reminded him of Fruit Stripe gum.  That reminded me of Tiger Tails.  I asked Adam if he remembered Tiger Tails...they're like Twinkies but with stripes and coconut?  I told him I hadn't had one for a long long time and I wondered if they were as good as I remembered.   He abruptly turned into the Walmart parking lot.  "What are you doing?" I asked, like he'd lost his mind.  I don't darken the door of Walmart, ever.  And certainly not on Christmas Eve.

Adam said, "Now you've given me a challenge.  I'm going to find them for you."

He told me I could stay in the van and he promised to abort the mission if it was too crazy inside.  I  called after him, "You don't have to do this!"

But it was futile.

He was gone.

I sat in the van and watched people walk into and out of Walmart.  On Christmas Eve.  I was listening to Christmas music on the radio.  I heard, "Unto us, a Son is given..."

And I thought about the words and what they mean to me.

I thought about the words and what they meant to the people I saw walking into and out of Walmart.

A Son was given to the young woman with hoop earrings bigger than bracelets and dark make-up,  frantically smoking before she walked into the store.

A Son was given for the teenage girl with inky black dyed hair, walking out of the store in pajamas and fuzzy pink slippers.

A Son was given to the bored looking employee, picking up garbage in the parking lot.

A Son was given to the lost looking man who wandered out of the store.

A Son was given to the dad, juggling a McDonald's bag full of food and trying to keep his little boys from running into the street.

A Son was given to all of us.

And His name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

I felt warm and Christmasy inside.  And I felt a bond to the potpourri of Walmart shoppers.  We were all recipients of the best gift ever.

Adam emerged from the store.  He couldn't find Tiger Tails (I've since learned Hostess no longer makes them!  The humanity!).  So he bought me a maple bar, because he knows I love maple bars.  Considering the stacks of treats at home, I needed a maple bar like I needed a hole in my head.

(But that didn't stop me from eating it.)

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Christmas Wish

I hope: feel loved
...they adore what you got for them
...everyone at your house is healthy
...and happy
...including you
...and that we all remember why we are celebrating

Thank you for reading my blog and being my friend and making my life better.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gone Too Soon

It's hard to feel let down three days before Christmas and it's a good thing.  Because my visitors just left and I always feel a little sad when my visitors leave.  My family lives too far away and I see them in short spurts and I wish it wasn't that way.

Yesterday morning Enoch and Jennifer and their three darling children arrived. 

Emma introduced Savannah to all of her old ponies...which we have carefully saved just for such delightful little guests.

The boys built a "campfire" then had "roast chicken"--the Angry Bird.  They quickly moved away because they didn't want to have their picture taken (Mark hid under his blanket)...too bad, boys.   

We spent a lovely day trying to keep Mark, Isaiah and Luke and their dart guns contained, playing ponies with Savannah and Christmas shopping.  I enlisted the help of my own darling children to babysit, Enoch slept and Jennifer and I hit the town.  We were on the quest for the holy grail...the perfect gift for Savannah.  When we finally found it, choirs of angels were singing and we felt like we'd won a gold medal at the Olympics.  You can't beat finding perfect Christmas presents.

We had pizza and ice cream and happy cacophony last night.  I'm telling you, nieces and nephews are where it is at.

So are brothers.

And sisters in law.

I unfortunately didn't get a picture of Enoch and Jennifer.  I decided to snap a picture of their Christmas card so you could see what an attractive group they are:

If you live anywhere near me you knew they were here this morning. 

This is what they drove.

Enoch started it up early to get warm and it rumbled and shook and then he blasted his horn a few times for good measure when they pulled away.

That's my brother.

Shy and self-effacing.  Maybe he'll come out of his shell sometime.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Leaky Eyes

I cry easily at best.  During the Christmas season?  Forget it.  I cried when I finished reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever to Mark.  I cried when I read A Christmas Dress for Ellen to our children. I cried so much I had to pass the book over to Emma.  She read until she started crying too much to continue.  Braeden had to finish.  (Then Adam came home and decided to take a picture of Emma and me, our arms wrapped around each other, sobbing.  You'll just have to imagine how unflattering the picture was.  I'm not posting it.)

Then, Adam showed me this:

Oh my goodness.

I ought to buy stock in Kleenex.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I am still smiling.

Last night my heart felt full of Christmas.

The Jorgensens came had been way way too long since that has happened.  We talked and laughed, Mark chased Britta, Janet chased Inge and tried to keep her from trouble. (My house isn't very baby proofed.)  Emma and Freja shut themselves away in Emma's room (with the door tightly closed).  The boys played a game on the floor of the school room.  

Then we called everyone together for a Family Home Evening.  I knew better than to try on my own (more on that tomorrow) to read A Christmas Dress for Ellen so I had Eric read it.  We watched this which is sort of long (over 8 minutes) but worth every minute if you want to take the time:

Speaking of bells, a few times during the evening, our doorbell rang.  Friends and neighbors stopped by with treats, caroling, and greetings of Merry Christmas.

We performed a reprise of "Carol of the Bells" (the Jorgensens brought their bells too so everyone got involved).

Adam read from the scriptures, we ate treats and tried to keep food off the carpet and laughed and talked some more.

And chased cute Inge some more. 

We exchanged Christmas gifts before we left.  Janet always gives me the best Christmas presents.  I love Christmas presents.

But I think more than that, I love an evening with old friends.  I love my house bursting with laughter and music and a jumble of people.  I love the Christmas season, the glorious joy that brims inside me until it fills up my eyes with tears.

There is no better time than now, this very Christmas season, for all of us to rededicate ourselves to the principles taught by Jesus Christ.

Because He came to earth, we have a perfect example to follow. As we strive to become more like Him, we will have joy and happiness in our lives and peace each day of the year. It is His example which, if followed, stirs within us more kindness and love, more respect and concern for others.

Because He came, there is meaning to our mortal existence.

Because He came, we know how to reach out to those in trouble or distress, wherever they may be.

Because He came, death has lost its sting, the grave its victory. We will live again because He came.

Because He came and paid for our sins, we have the opportunity to gain eternal life.

Because He came, we are gathered tonight to worship Him, in bonds of brotherhood and love.
Thomas S. Monson

Monday, December 19, 2011

Kids These Days--I fixed the link

Adam kindly pointed out my link went no where...what can I say, I'm on vacation.

Hopefully it works now and it will all make more sense.

The other day I read this.  It made me laugh.

Then Friday, Braeden skipped school (it was my's hard to get over being a home schooler.  I want my kids home with me.  When they aren't doing much at school, I seize the chance to gather my little chicks under my wings.).  Visions of sleeping in danced in my head.  I remember my first thought on the first day of seminary,  "How many days until Christmas vacation?"

Here's the thing though.

Braeden wanted to go to seminary.  So he did.

What is wrong with these kids?  Don't they know their mothers are tired?

This is unrelated, but I think Santa whispered a gift idea into my brothers' ears,  "Go visit Thelma."

Tabor last week and Enoch and family are stopping by this week.  I am waiting to hear from Ammon.

Ammon?  Ammon?  Are you reading this? Come and visit and don't worry, I won't have a list of home improvement projects for you.

(Yes I will.)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Theatrics and Sweetness

On Mark's birthday he and Olivia devised to create a play for the assembled audience.  Mark wanted to use my laptop to "type the script."  Since Mark approaches writing of any kind with kicking and screaming (and gnashing of teeth), I was all for it.

Olivia wanted to be a dancer and Mark of course wanted a fight scene.

Here is Mark's script:

Act 1 (girls in a field)  La la la huh? (Viking appears)  Ah ah! (Viking leaves)

(girls come back)  What was that? (girls leave) 

5 days later...It's the Viking!  Run! 

Act 2 (Viking chases the girls) Ah ah (wizard Mark comes)  Get away! I will defeat you! 

Act 3 (Mark and Viking fight.  Lights go out)

Mark beats Viking

At the last minute, he recruited Tabor to be in the play as well.

this is before the Viking attacked:  Olivia was showing us her dancing skills

Ruby being kept from Viking harm by Emma

Tabor stoically being attacked by the Viking...I love Olivia hiding behind her daddy

Unfortunately we didn't get a picture of Mark's heroism, just him careening in the background.

taking a bow

All I can say is next stop, Broadway.

Pardon me while I add a few more pictures of my adorable nieces.  All the time growing up with brothers and sisters, you never realize they'll someday have the sweetest little babies that will delight you and make living with your brothers and sisters worth it.  (Although I can't say Tabor ever gave me a day's trouble.)

Ruby's post nap snack.  She ate her cheese stick like it was corn on the cob.

Olivia and Mark...Mark told me to get the camera and "take a picture of the cousins"

delightful babies...although that scratch under Olivia's eye is from Ruby

Ruby loves her mama...I love Katie too

No wonder I cried when they left.

And perhaps I cried most because of Tabor, leaving.  I love my brother.  He is a great talker but also a good listener.  We laughed and teased each other.  We talked about silly and unimportant things but we also cried a little and talked about things that mean more to us than anything else.  He forgave me when I accidentally smacked his broken leg while I was running to answer the phone before it woke him from his nap.

I am trying to forgive him for the gory details he provided about his horrific accident and broken leg.  (Seriously Tabor, I can never unknow that.)  Tabor often says he hired on to be tough.

But I didn't.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

How to Feel Like You're in the Minority

On Monday night, we went to the Seahawks-Rams football game.  There were 66, 557 people there.

66,555 were cheering for the Seahawks.

Tabor and I were cheering for the Rams.

(I demanded of Adam what he was thinking cheering for the Seahawks.  He was unapologetic since he's been a Seahawks fan his entire life.  Fine.  He did buy me a hot chocolate and you can't fault one for anything when they buy you a hot chocolate.)

It was cold.  But a lot of fun.

Even Adam was cold.

Now that's cold.

When the Rams did something good (not often, but it did happen a few times), Tabor and I were the only ones cheering.  Since Tabor didn't stand out enough with his tall lanky body, crutches that are taller than I am and cheering for the visiting team, he dressed like this for the game:

Tabor is who he is and I love him for it. (And also he bought me a hot chocolate on the way home and you can't not love someone when they buy you a hot chocolate.)

After the game we used the field passes Harvey gave us and waited outside of the locker room while he and other big players emerged after the game.  We chatted with him for awhile and even though he is one of the meanest players in the NFL, he is one of the nicest guys around.  He is humble and generous and soft spoken.  And also funny.  It was great to see him.  Cousins are a wonderful invention.  Even if you don't see each other often you have a connection.  The whole blood is thicker than water thing.

He asked us, after he'd coughed, if our lungs hurt from the cold.  He said, "Mine do." Tabor pointed out that we hadn't been working hard as he had been.  While we were eating garlic fries, he was doing this:

He's number 62.
And this:

And this:

He was fun to watch.  I was glad I wasn't opposite him.  I also thought how our grandpa, the Harvey Dahl this Harvey Dahl is named for, would be bursting with pride to watch him.  I told Tabor and he told me he was sure Grandpa was proud.  And watching.

And that made me smile.  My grandpa, bragging in heaven to anyone who would listen.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Birthday Boy

Mark turned 9.  It's a commonly felt (and expressed) sentiment when our kids get older that we can't imagine where the time's gone and how our baby possibly got so big.

Thanks for disregarding the fact that the cake fell a little in the middle.  It happens every time I make this particular cake but it still tastes good.  Besides, it made a lovely pooling of frosting and how is that ever a bad thing?
In addition to feeling like the time has flown with impossible speed, I have the contradictory thought,  "It's only been nine years?"

How did I lead a happy life before this boy was a part of it?

I can't remember.

For one thing, lunch wasn't as interesting.  One day last week we were eating lunch, listening to music.  Mark joined Elvis singing "Here Comes Santa Claus."

sorry it's blurry...snapped with my phone

He makes every part of every day better.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Friends' Kids are My Kids' Friends

I'm still not organized to regale you with tales of my adventures over the weekend.

In the meantime, here's something entertaining.  Braeden did a video about the Greek myth The Judgment of Paris for his English project.  He enlisted his siblings and some of Janet's and Jill's and Stephanie's kids.

Here's the fruit of their labor...see what I did there? Fruit?  The Golden Apple?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Good Busy

Last night I either had dinner with:

1) Two Vikings with reddish beards (a cowboy Viking?)

2) Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill (American Tall Tale Night?)


3) my cousin and brother (they're both six and a half feet tall but I have a sneaking suspicion Harvey outweighs Tabor)

As a rule, I don't like being too busy.  Sometimes when everything that's keeping you busy is wonderful, it's not bad though.

This weekend we celebrated my favorite red head's birthday, my brother Tabor and his lovely wife Katie and their charming girls came to visit and tonight we're going to cheer on Harvey.  My first NFL game.  (I won't really know what's going on, but at least I'll be cold.)  I will happily be with Tabor and Adam though (the latter will probably buy me a hot chocolate) so how could I not enjoy?

More details to follow.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Comfort and Joy

I used to read a lot to my children.  Back when they were little.  They'd snuggle next to me or on my lap. It was always my favorite part of any day.

Except then they all got too big.  They read their own books and are no longer captivated by chunky board books made for chubby hands to hold.  No more Goodnight Moon.


(I do still read to Mark every day with varying degrees of interest on his part.  Lately we've been reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and you can't not love that book.  He begs me to keep reading when we finish a chapter.  That makes me happy)

In December, we unwrap a Christmas book every day to read as an advent calendar. With our increasingly busy children, sometimes we have to catch up for missed days.  We don't have long stretches of time together like we used to.


But the other night, Braeden sat on one side of me, Emma on the other.  They each nuzzled close to me.  Mark came and proclaimed he was sitting on my lap.  I was as happy as a clam.  (A slightly squished clam...Mark's bigger than he used to be.)

As I craned my neck around Mark to read the story, I thought that I was probably in the best place I could a nest of my children, reading.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Occupy My Van

The other night, Adam and Braeden left to go home teaching.  A few minutes later, I left for book club.  I walked out my door and instead of seeing my beloved van, my gleaming chariot, I saw Adam's car sitting forlornly in the driveway.

They had taken the van!  The van with heated seats.  The van that's so pleasant to drive I love doing errands.  (OK, maybe that last bit's not true.)

They'd left the decrepit car that you need instructions to drive because the gas pedal sticks and you have to carefully engage the parking brake using a prescribed method of simultaneously lifting and gingerly pulling on a spring because it's broken.  The same car Adam will drive until it's absolutely un-drivable. (Because he's like that.)  The car that hasn't even had an engine since 2006 and instead uses hamsters running on a wheel for power.  (OK,  maybe that last bit's not true.)

I called Adam immediately.  "You took the van?"

(Yes, there's the whole what's-mine-is-yours-thing but that is my van and the car that looks at me with contempt is Adam's.)

Adam apologized for taking the van, he'd forgotten I'd be leaving.  I said it was OK. (I'm so magnanimous sometimes!)  Adam said, "Now you'll know how the other half lives."

I could hear Braeden chanting something in the background.  I said, "What's he saying?"

Adam said, "He's saying, 'We are the 99%!'"

So I realized then that the Occupy Movement, which has so far been only in cities as far as I can tell, has infiltrated the suburbs.

It has infiltrated my van.

Pikkujoulu 2011

Monday was Pikkujoulu.  It's our "little Christmas" celebration.  Pikkujoulu is the hard to pronounce way to say "little Christmas" in Finnish.

We celebrate our little Christmas the way the Dahl family celebrated Christmas Eve when we were growing up.   It's more of an American-of-mostly-Swedish-Norwegian-British-descent celebration rather than a Finnish celebration.  But I think having a hard to pronounce Finnish name for it adds a little something.

We had a cute shepherd on hand...

Or a goatherd?

Horace Vandegelder...still the best pet ever.  He requires nothing and is even remarkably quiet.

We had piano playing...

Some meditation?

And a grandma that helped make things better.

Braeden throwing his head back in laughter makes me happy.

We also performed our own Carol of the Bells with my bells I got for Christmas last year.  I wrote down "sheet music" for the bells and Braeden played the song on the piano.  For some reason, it helped if we were all hunkered down on the floor together.

Emma's not pictured but she participated too.
Geri joined in with us later and we switched around some.  I played the piano and Braeden got a turn on the bells.  If you heard dogs barking in the neighborhood that night it could have been a reaction to our concert.

Adam read to us from the Bible:

Emma has taken to hiding behind a curtain of hair...Violet from The Incredibles?

And we had lots of good treats.

Mark noticed a new addition to our Christmas bears that Adam had surreptitiously added at some point.

We love her but I'm not sure we've settled on a name.  We usually discuss for a few days.

Hyvää Pikkujoulua!!


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