Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Books I Read in May

Veiled by S.B. Niccum **

This book had a s-l-o-w start but became more interesting.  It's an imagined look at life before we came to earth.  There were some interesting and thought provoking aspects.

Bed and Breakfast by Lois Battle **

I'm not incredibly picky when it comes to reading so this book was OK.  It's about a family with various levels of dysfunction.  The mother ran a bed and breakfast in the South. Her three daughters were awful to each other.  The characters weren't terribly likable which matters to me. 

Matched by Ally Condie***

This book had a Hunger Games feel to it.  There is the Society which is oppressive and has created an almost Utopian society with no troubles--no illness, no poverty, etc.  Also, there was very little choice or creativity.  It was a compelling story and made me appreciate the ability I have to prattle along on my blog to my heart's content.  It doesn't end in a nice tidy way and there's a sequel that isn't out yet.

Monday, May 30, 2011

While I Wait

My restlessness was worsening and my sullen moodiness was ramping up.

(I go back and forth between Adam is maybe better to me than I deserve or Adam is definitely better to me than I deserve.)

He told me he would take me east of the mountains.  We could go camping.


They still have hotels east of the mountains, right?

He told me hotels were on the table.

Then we looked at our calendar and it was problematic.  Thirty seconds of dreaming did help though.

So did spending the weekend with my family.  You can't be uncheered by spending time with your family...until they start to make me crazy and I growl at them to go to their rooms if they insist on wrestling/making shooting noises (Mark)/being silly.

Adam took me to dinner on Camano Island Saturday night.  It was picturesque and I told Adam, "We really do live in a beautiful place."

He complimented me on my lack of sullen moodiness.

One of the problems has been the sun drenched summer pages of magazines.  Everyone else is having summer and backyard barbecues and I feel left out.  Also everyone else is out of school and we still have a month to go.

It's like everyone gets to celebrate Christmas a month earlier than I do.

But with Christmas, I start planning in October.  Or September.  So I did what I do.

I made a plan.

My sisters (who have summer already/are out of school) have plans.  We're planners.  We were raised by a mother who structured constructive summer days that we hated.  (Well I did, Marianne probably loved it but you know how she is.)

I have to do the same (and I suspect/hope Emma will be the same way someday).  I can't help myself.  I love a happy little schedule with slots of time devoted to productive pursuits.  I have figured out an efficient way to divide housekeeping tasks.  I have stretches of silent reading time and I've narrowed down what books I want to read aloud to them.  I can guarantee we will abandon it all somewhere along the line in favor of slovenly time wasting.

But it's getting me through in the meantime.

That and the possibility that items will fall off our calendar in some spectacular way and Adam can make good on his promise to take me to sunshine.

(the hotel kind, not the camping kind)

Friday, May 27, 2011

General Malaise

Last year, in the late spring, I was so cranky, petulant, depressed and unpleasant that Adam devised two trips for me to escape to sunshine.

The past few days it's started to hit again.  I'm burnt out from days and days of being more productive than I'd like.  I'm ready for summer and a different pace.  I am ready for some sunshine!

But alas.  The June Gloom.  And it is still May.

I come from a long line of women who made sacrifices for the men they love so I will stick it out here, under this cold cloud.  This is where Adam is.  I love Adam.

Still, do I have to be miserable?

A few nights ago I was reading American Fuji by Sara Backer.  I read this line, describing the Japanese city of Shizuoka:  "suitable for purposes of general despondency."  It might as well be describing my view of Seattle with its infernal, never ending spring.

I didn't see any way around the general despondency.  I figured I'd just wait it out.  In July, this becomes the most beautiful place in the world.  I can wait until July.  I'll just grit my teeth and put my head down (to avoid raindrops) and plow through.

Yesterday I read an article by Gretchen Rubin of Happiness Project fame.  She talked about three kinds of fun:  challenging fun, accommodating fun and relaxing fun.

Research shows that challenging fun and accommodating fun, over the long term, make people happier, because they're sources of the elements that build happiness:  strong personal bonds, mastery, an atmosphere of growth. 

That afternoon, I was asked to help with a project.  I was asked to do some writing.  It will be challenging.  It will be fun.  I'm a little intimidated.

And I feel better already.

Who needs sunshine?

(OK, I do.)

Thursday, May 26, 2011


It turns out a really great way to get attention from your mother (and a lot of ice cream) is to refuse to eat.  Since Mark's had his teeth wrenched "wiggled" out, he has been on a hunger strike.  He'll eat ice cream or ice cream.  Chocolate is preferable.

The kid wouldn't even eat french fries.  Show me an American child that won't eat french fries and I'll show you a worried mother.

I've been devising menus he'll eat.  They've been heavy on smoothies and scrambled eggs.  If anyone loves cheese, it's Mark.  I scattered some grated cheddar on top of the eggs (extra protein!) one day.

Yesterday we were having scrambled eggs for lunch (again).  Mark said, "I don't want cheese on the eggs though."

Then he started a soliloquy as he's wont to do.  He told me all about the virtue of eggs and how wonderful cheese is but when the two are together it is not a good combination.

I was nodding absently and stirring eggs.

He said, "It's like primary (his church class)."

"What do you mean?"

He said, "Brother Larson (his teacher) said that by myself I am great and Finn is also great by himself but when we are together it is not good."

I can only imagine.  It actually makes me feel a little shaky.

I said, "Mark, you need to be good at church.  You need to sit by someone else if you and Finn have a hard time behaving."

He assured me, "Oh, I am doing much better, Mom." Yeah, right.  Of course he is. 

My angel.

If scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese are not a good pairing in Mark's book, him being matched with his extremely patient and long suffering primary teacher certainly is.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Mark has discovered a new independence.  We were running errands and I insisted he hold my hand in the parking lot.  He refused.  He told me he has "reached the age of accountability and deserves some privileges."

I said, "Isn't holding my hand a privilege?"

He didn't answer me. (He does that a lot.)

On Saturday Emma discovered the joys of straightening hair...everyone's hair.

She straightened Mark's hair.

Then she put him in a dress and put mascara on him.

I don't know why she would do such a thing to my baby boy, but I do know this:  Mark would not make a very pretty girl.

this picture really frightens me

Braeden has discovered that he's taller than me.

I knew it was coming.  I knew it was close.  Now I know it's bona fide.

Here's Braeden on his 13th birthday (less than 18 months ago).

I'd like to take at least a little bit of credit for the growth spurt.  I mean, I am the one who makes all the Costco trips that fuel the boy.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How To Make Pumpkin Muffins

Among her many and varied good qualities, Jill brings me muffins every now and then.  Really good muffins.

A while ago she brought me two muffins, one for Mark and one for me.

I ate Mark's.  (What?  He said I could.)

They were amazing.  I told Jill and she told me the recipe and now I'll tell you.

1 spice cake mix

15 oz can pumpkin puree

2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Mix together and place in muffin tins.  Sprinkle with brown sugar and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

I think spice cake mix and pumpkin puree are a match made in heaven.  I have written about these cookies made out of the same lovely combination.

Now I'm wondering if I should make the muffins with chocolate chips.

I wonder if I should skip the brown sugar and frost them with cream cheese frosting elevating them past that thin, thin line that separates muffins from cupcakes.

I wonder if I should buy more spice cake mixes and pumpkin puree.

(I know this post would have been better with a picture or two...we ate the muffins before I thought about it.)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Teenage Angst

A few weeks ago, Mark was revisiting Harry Potter movies.  He was watching Harry Potter 5...The Order of the Phoenix.  The one where Harry is really cranky for a lot of the movie.

Emma was getting ready for school and in and out of the room.  At one point, when Harry was really bad tempered, she said to the TV, in a rather conciliatory way, "It's hormones buddy."

In other words, hang in there.  It gets better.

I think that a lot when I contemplate my teenager and almost teenager.  It's not easy.  I see them trudge to school every day with massive backpacks.  I see them encounter new experience after new experience.  I see them deal with unpleasant people and unpleasant tasks.

And I see that they're pretty stoic and cheerful, considering.  I want to lighten their loads (or at least their backpacks).  I want to pave an easy way for them.  I want everyone to be exceptionally nice to them.

But I also want them stronger and more capable and more compassionate.  I don't see any way to get there without slogging along here.

Have you seen this short film?  I loved it.  I want my children to feel validated.  It's about 15 minutes but worth it.


Friday, May 20, 2011


anchor: figurative a person or thing that provides stability or confidence in an otherwise uncertain situation

My parents are visiting.  My dad has meetings nearby for the Traditional Cowboys Arts Association, of which he's a member.  Yesterday morning he left early for his meetings and my mom stayed with me for awhile.  We shopped and visited and she bought me pizza for lunch.

After I dropped her off to go have lunch with my dad and his fellow artists and drove away, I thought about my parents.  What is it that makes me feel so wonderful just being around them?

I realized that they are my anchors in this world.

When they tease each other, I feel anchored.

When my dad calls my mom to tell her exactly where he parked their car so she would have no trouble finding it, I feel anchored.

When my mom tells me, "Of course your dad will do that," because she knows him thoroughly, I feel anchored.  (This particular time, it's pictures I want hung on the wall.  I could stand on a chair and do it, my dad could stand on the floor and do it.)

When my mom and dad tell each other, "I love you," I feel anchored.  And I feel like I had the best teachers in the world to instruct me about what a marriage should look like.

When my mom washes my dishes, I feel anchored.

When they insist on paying for everything, I feel anchored.

When they listen to every word my children speak, and are genuinely interested, I feel anchored.

I am all grown up and live 800 miles away.  I see my parents a few times a year.  They still bless my life every single day.

Because who can put a price on a good anchor?

Here are my parents in the amazing office/art gallery of their friend and major patron of Western art.  Instead of looking at me (Look at me! Hey! Remember me? Your favorite daughter?), my dad is inspecting the spurs he made that their owner has displayed on his desk.

If I can ever muster the words to describe it, I'll have to tell you about this same friend of my parents' house that we toured yesterday afternoon.

I took 102 pictures there that don't do it justice.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

At Least

Braeden had a large poetry unit he was turning in.  He had carefully printed the pages then assembled and illustrated them.  He'd punched holes in the pages and placed them in a binder.
Then he proudly showed me his work.

I pointed out a few typos.  He said he wasn't going to fix them. Braeden's perfectionist tendencies are slightly less than mine.

And that's saying something.

So I circled them with a bright red colored pencil so he had to fix them.  (It was one of those times when you aren't sure if you're being the good mother or the bad mother or both.)

He wasn't happy with me.  He wanted to be done.  He reminds me of me.

I indicated one place where he had the wrong usage of a word.

"What?" he said.

I explained it.

He thought a second, then said with a smile, "Let's just hope my teacher is not as smart as you."

Emma said, "Well I'm sure your teacher is at least as smart as Mom."

It's hard to maintain my humility around Emma.  I'm working at it, but it's hard.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Better Than The Doctor

Yesterday we went to the dentist to have two of Mark's teeth pulled.  They were fused to the bone.  In the lottery of teeth placement, our children lost.  Adam and I have some crazy teeth genes.

I was dreading the visit.

I knew it would be awful.

As much as they try at the dentist to make it a serene experience, it was awful. (And they really try:  they don't give shots, they put "sleepy juice" by the teeth; they don't pull teeth, they "wiggle" teeth; and there is no blood, it's either "juice"--which seems worse to me-- or "the red stuff.")

When we left, Mark had a mouth full of gauze and fire in his eyes.  He gets mad when he's hurt.

Quite mad.

He had to keep the gauze in for 30-45 minutes and he was not supposed to rinse or spit so clots would form.  I managed to keep the gauze in but there was an abundance of "the red stuff" still.  More gauze.  More anger.  I tried to distract him with funny youtube videos.  I tried to get him to pick a good movie on Netflix to watch.  When he was getting almost hysterical, I told him to squeeze my hand.



He's strong and I wanted to keep my thumb.

We tried taking the gauze out again and he spit in the sink (against my admonishment) and we were back to square one with "the red stuff".  I was getting a little frantic with my flailing strong red head who was tired of me and tired of bleeding and tired of hurting.  I did what I would normally do in such instances, I called Adam.

Because he's busy at work and 25 miles away.

I'm logical like that.

He was interviewing someone and promised he'd call me back.

When he did, I burst into the tears that had been simmering all morning through the trepidation of Mark climbing into the dentist chair, to the loud crack when the teeth came out to the frenetic staunching of the blood.

Sheesh.  What a morning.

Jill called on my other phone to check on Mark/me while I was on the phone with Adam.  (Jill sort of dodged a bullet not getting me before Adam.)

Everything, including Mark, calmed down.  I plied him with pudding and ice cream and tylenol with codeine.  He's feeling better.  He has puffy cheeks and is a little surly, if not entirely rude, but he'll survive.

When we were leaving yesterday morning, he told me, the dentist is better than the doctor.  I was thinking about that and he's right.

And I feel a little ashamed.

I have three healthy children.

I was a wreck after one morning and some mothers have very ill children.  My heart goes out to them.  And my prayers.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How To Make Dinner for Wednesday Night

...or whatever night happens to be your awful night where you have to be 35 places at once and your family still expects dinner.

After you've exhausted the drive-thru option one too many times.

After you've made this more often than you care to remember:

Here's something to try:

In your crockpot place 4 chicken breasts  (it's OK if they're frozen), 2 or 3 cans of beans (any combination of refried beans or drained black beans or whatever), a jar of salsa, and a couple of cups of chicken broth.

I don't think I've ever made it the same way twice and it always works.

I let it cook on low for about 6 hours...or whatever (are you getting that this isn't really one of those carefully tested recipes?).

Break up the chicken breasts with a spoon or take them out and slice them (I've done both, the second option is quicker but as you can imagine, messy).

It will be a thick soup consistency.  Serve over tortilla chips and you can top it with grated cheese, sour cream, diced tomatoes, guacamole, etc.

Monday, May 16, 2011

I'm Not Just Any Idiot

Years ago, when we lived in a light filled apartment in New Haven, Connecticut, I had two little children.  Braeden was two and Emma was an infant.

They were a lot of work.

There were a lot of diapers to change.  There was a certain amount of crying to soothe.  There were board books to read, toys to pick up, mouths to feed.  It was tiring.

And if the truth be told, not entirely fulfilling day in and day out.

The clock ticking on the wall tended to drag in those post-nap, pre-Adam-home hours.

I particularly remember one day when they were both sick.  I wiped noses and tears and changed diapers all day.

When Adam got home, I told him, "Any idiot could do what I did today."

I had signed up for motherhood.  I was all in.  This was my thing.  But I felt like it was not quite what it was cracked up to be.

It was hard and boring.

A lot has changed.  The kids are bigger, more independent, and never boring.

But it's still hard.

And when I dash from packing lunches...
...to teaching school to Mark
...to squeezing in some housework
...to driving to and from activities
...to listening to their adventures good and bad
...to finding lost items
...to scheduling
...to making sure the right everything is washed when it needs to be
...to problem solving
...to encouraging
...to correcting behavior/ attempting to civilize
...to comforting
...to praising
...to making sure they stop reading and turn off the light...

...I no longer think any idiot could do this. 

I think this takes real courage and a sturdy sense of self confidence and I hope I have what it takes.

This is not for the weak of heart or for the nervous disposition.  There are 25 reasons to doubt yourself every day.

But you just keep going.

Just like in a light filled apartment when you were the only one around to wipe noses and tears and bottoms. (And I've never once regretted being the one there that messy day.)

Because I'm the mom.

Recently on a Masterpiece Theater show, South Riding, (which I ended up not really liking very much) a character said something about "settling" to be a wife and mother.

I don't feel like I've settled.  I feel like I'm stretching and seeking and trying really hard.

But not settling. Never settling.

I am not afraid...I was born to do this.

-Joan of Arc

If Joan of Arc could turn the tide of an entire war before her eighteenth birthday, you can get out of bed.

-E. Jean Carroll

Friday, May 13, 2011

Off Kilter

Blogger's been confusing me and removing my old post and now the post I was going to do today is gone.  (And I sort of liked it too.)

Also, after running today we convened in my kitchen for bread and jam (and dreams and schemes about the jam we're going to make this summer).

Then we headed over to Stephanie's to soak in her hot tub (and OK, gossip a little).  Friends with hot tubs are good assets in this life.

I'm behind on my day.  I'm supposed to be educating a red head.  (But since I'm a tenured teacher, they can't get rid of me.)

Blogger's not helping me feel like I have any sort of grasp on things.  Will this post even get published?

But the sun is shining and I'm happy because even though my friends are a lot skinnier than me, I really like them.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What Recharges Me

I still have Women's Conference swishing around in my mind.  It is always a wonderful time.  I love going to BYU.  I love revisiting places where I've been supremely happy.  BYU qualifies.

I love feeling inspired and feeling like I want to be a better person.  I have a notebook I carry with me at such times.  I take down nearly unreadable scribbles because I can't write fast enough when I'm listening to fabulous speakers.  I want to remember it all.  I want to remember how I'm feeling.

Here are some of the things I wrote.  They fill me with the boost I felt while there.  Likely out of context they won't pack the same punch, but:

Susan Tanner said:  Welcome the task that takes you beyond yourself.  And she asked:  What comes next for willing hands to do?

It made me want willing hands.  Willing-er hands?

Julie Beck who is one of my favorite speakers said:  Women have the responsibilities for the hearts and souls of Heavenly Father's children.  These are non-negotiable...we can't delegate them.

Am I living up to my responsibilities?  The hearts and souls of my loved ones matter.  Am I doing enough?

She also told us to ask ourselves:  Am I aligned with the Lord's vision of me?

The concluding speaker at the entire conference was Elder Bednar.  I soaked up his words like a thirsty sponge.  He said:  If we are focused and frequent in gaining spiritual nourishment, we are stronger, more converted, more faithful.

I loved being with my dear mother and 5 sisters (my brothers could not have done anything nicer for me than giving me three more sisters to love). For most of the sessions of the conference, we'd head our separate ways.  When we'd reconvene, we'd tell each other what we'd heard.  We laughed and cried together.  I felt the bond between us tighten.  We're in for the long haul.  And we're in together.

We are looking different directions because we had multiple cameras pointed at us, but here we are:

Katie, Olivia, Marianne, Melanee, my mom, Jennifer and me

We didn't take this picture at Women's Conference...we were busy...but we took this at Marianne's party.  You may notice Marianne is wearing her Women's Conference name tag to recreate the scene.

And speaking of Marianne's party (I can't help myself), here are a few more pictures:


The Birthday Girl and Robert

the festive birthday wreath I made

After the women photo, Jennifer convinced us to take a family picture of my parents and their children.  I said, "I don't want to have a double chin so make sure you take the picture above my chin."

My dad asked, "Which chin?"

Which I don't think was very supportive of him.

Here I am explaining to Olivia all about chins.  It's just part of the service I provide as her older sister:

Love these people.  They're all very tall but I don't hold that against them.  (Because I can't reach.)

Tabor, Ammon, Enoch; me, Olivia, Marianne--then my parents

I'm sorry to my mother that this picture is kind of in between expressions for her.  It was (sadly) the best picture of me in the lot though.

And it's all about me.

Am I right?

I promised Jennifer photo credit for her work.  Photos by Jennifer.  I give Jennifer a lot of credit for a lot of things though.

She's really pretty spectacular.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How to Be Bold

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!  Live the life you've imagined.
Henry David Thoreau

This is something I've been considering.  I am a work in progress and am not expert at this, but here's what I think.

1- Don't be afraid to change course.

Braeden is in the throes of charting his high school course.  He had a plan.  He wouldn't be swayed.  He's rethinking it.  It's causing him stress.

I told him about when I was in high school and decided between my sophomore and junior years to change the extracurricular activities I was involved in.  Things like that mattered in my tiny school and I had one teacher that didn't talk to me for the rest of high school because he was mad that I quit.

And that was awkward in my tiny school.

But I was happier.  Ten thousand times.

2- Just start.

I've mentioned before our slow and steady approach to running.  A 5K (for me) seemed a little impossible but we chipped away at it, improving a little each day.  It worked.

3- It's not too late.

When I was growing up, my mom taught me piano lessons.  I hated it.  (I think my mom hated it too...I didn't practice very well...or very often.)  She'd always tell me I'd regret it someday.  I sort of did.  Lately I've started practicing the piano a little.  Not because I'll be in trouble Friday if I don't (Friday used to be my piano lesson day-- I dreaded Fridays) but because I just want to practice the piano.  And I have more time because of my 2/3 drop in home school enrollment.  I set the timer for 10 minutes and sit down and play.

I'm getting (a little) better.

I'm enjoying it.

4- Don't listen to critics.

My family is good to me.  They sometimes balk at my ideas though.  (Mostly because a lot of my ideas involve them and furniture moving.) I've been completely rethinking our school room.  (We have had a 2/3 drop in enrollment after all.)  They have all said, "What are you doing?" and "Why?" with an incredulous tone.  I tell them to just go with it and pick up that corner of the futon because we're moving it.

The other day I was dismantling a desk with a screw driver and Mark told me I'd lost my mind.

I moved the futon three times...and it weighs as much as several large elephants.  Then I moved it back to the original place.

I might leave it there.

But I might not.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Being Mark's Mother

Several days before Mother's Day, Mark presented me with a box made of Lego bricks.  I've never received a gift from Mark that didn't involve Legos.  Inside the box, there was a letter he'd written.

It included phrases like:

"Thanks for all the thing's you do for me." (yes, things with an apostrophe)


"Im so happey your my mom."  (with no apostrophes)

He also included:

"Thank you for scoole.


yore son Mark"

It made me happy.

On Saturday night, Mark came to me with a mournful, near tears look.  He said, "I don't have a gift for you for Mother's Day."

I reminded him of the letter he'd written.  "I loved it," I told him.

"It's not a good gift.  Braeden and Emma got you really good gifts."

I told him I thought it was a great gift.

Then he said, "My gift to you will be service.  I will do service for you on Mother's Day."

I told him that would be wonderful.

Sunday morning I asked him to empty the dishwasher.

He looked shocked.

"Mom, it's Sunday." All of the sudden Keep the Sabbath Day Holy was the most important commandment in Mark's book.

"I thought you wanted to do service for me," I said.

He looked cornered.

Braeden said, "I'll do it."  He meant for it to be a martyr tone.  He meant for Mark to learn a lesson.  He meant for Mark to realize the error of his ways and be willing to empty the dishwasher.

Mark said, "Braeden will do it."

And he left the room.

At church the primary kids got up to sing a song.  Mark said, "I don't know what they're singing."  But I nudged him up there anyway.  There are only a handful of Mother's Day songs and he's been going up there since he was three.  Surely he could wing it.

They started singing, "Mother, I love you..."

Mark looked at me and shrugged.

He mouthed, "I. Don't.  Know. The. Words."

Braeden and Emma were next to me, trying not to giggle (and not succeeding).  Braeden said, "Do you feel loved?"

Mark came back to me and snuggled into my side in his customary way. 

Whether or not his spelling is wobbly.

Whether or not he reneges on his offer to serve.

Whether or not he'll sing to me.

I love him.

Because he's Mark.

And he's really good at being Mark.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Your Mom Goes To College

Usually I fly to Women's Conference but this year we drove and then my family helped me check into my dorm room and left me at BYU.

The chipper girl that checked me into the dorm asked me if I wanted a map.  I declined.  Later I told Adam, "I lived here before she was born, I don't need a map."

Then I stopped and thought about it.  It was probably true!  I very well could have lived there before she was born.

And that hurt my feelings a little.  Maybe I should have pretended I needed a map.

We said our fond farewells:

  He's really good at being an oldest child...is he telling me to behave?

Does she look a little too happy about seeing me go?  Does Mark seem completely disinterested?

Adam was so proud of me...all grown up and on my own.

The dorm where we stayed is the one Adam lived in...I used to visit him there.

In my absence, they did some serious relaxing:

...and swimming...

(I can't swim but I gave birth to fish it seems.)

They also did some sightseeing at Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

poor Mark...what is that strange bright light in the sky?

Adam and I have a wedding picture of us kissing by this tree...

Beautiful, beautiful.

They were taking all that in and meanwhile I was eating my weight in mint brownies and delighting in time well spent with my kinswomen.

We met up again in Nevada.  My dad told me my grandpa Dahl used to say that people would go there thinking the weather would be different than it is.

It is high in the mountains there and springs are fickle and long awaited.

And I love it like you wouldn't believe.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Books I Read in April

Wish You Well by David Baldacci****

My amnesia gradually wore off and I remembered that I had read this book.  I loved it.  It's the best book I've read this year.  It's a great story and even has a kindly against all odds lawyer that reminds me of Atticus Finch.  What's not to love?

Letters From Home by Kristina McMorris****

Another fabulous book.  It is set during World War II and is romantic and sweet and made me happy.  I loved it.

Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund***

This book is set in Birmingham Alabama during the 1960s.  It was eye opening to my naive grown-up-in-the-West self.  I've never experienced such racism and hatred and hopefully never will.  The author did a great job creating characters that seemed alive and showed different sides of things.  It was a good book.

Durable Goods by Elizabeth Berg *

There was nothing wrong with the writing in this book, I stopped reading it though.  The girl kept getting beat up by her dad and her mom had died of cancer.  Too sad.

Bloodroot by Amy Greene ***

Bloodroot is set in the Smoky Mountains.  I enjoy reading books set in places like that...but I don't want to live there.  There is sadness and poverty everywhere but there seems like an inordinate amount in that part of the world.  The characters were brilliantly drawn in this story.  It was sort of depressing but the characters drew me in and caused me to relate with people I otherwise would not have related to.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon **

The language was rough in this book and I don't appreciate the jarring nature of that but it was a fascinating read.  The narrator is a 15 year old boy with autism.  Seeing inside his world and the way he processed information was interesting and made me curious to know more.

(If you're in my book club--and if you aren't, you're welcome to join--we're discussing this book tonight!)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Because I Do Everything Jill Tells Me To Do

Today Jill told me we were running a 5K.

I didn't want to.

But I did.

She then told me to blog about it.

That's a much easier request.

Cleaning In April

I doubt anyone still cares about my cleaning.  Did you ever care?  But this keeps me on track, this accountability business.  Besides, I started reporting on it and I like continuity.

I cleaned my children's bathroom in April.  It gets cleaned every week so it didn't seem like it would be too big of a challenge.

Except my children are not civilized and have not learned the lessons I (really!) have tried to teach them.

Here's what the bathroom counter often looks like (brace yourself):

These are otherwise delightful children...but they make me crazy.

They read a lot.  There are always a few books in the bathroom (but a thesaurus?  really?).

Also, see how there's a cute little toothbrush holder?  That's just too far away for one little toothbrusher.

If you notice in the top right corner of the picture, there's a medicine cabinet.

Here's what it mostly looks like:

Because why would you want to put anything back in the medicine cabinet when it looks so lovely on the counter?

Our children do have other talents.  (I keep trying to remind myself what they are.)

And I'm not a complete failure as a mother/housekeeper.  (I keep trying to tell myself that.)

One problem is that I try to avoid this room whenever possible.  It's not a good recipe for tidiness.

What took up the most time in the room was this little bit of real estate.

It's a big closet...though obviously with things spilling out onto the floor...

In addition to extra toiletries (the ones not on the counter in the medicine cabinet), we keep games and puzzles there.  That seems like a strange choice for a bathroom closet but there's a lot of space in there.

I got rid of many things.  There were games and puzzles we've outgrown. Because I'm sentimental and have a hard time parting with things my children particularly loved, I set some of them aside for the mythical grandchildren.  It makes me feel better about boxing things up.  Adam gives me odd looks but he's kind and doesn't say anything.  I was telling Jill and Stephanie about my progress one day as we wend our way around the neighborhood.  In talking to them, I realized how much I truly hate Chutes and Ladders and Candyland.  I had set them aside for my mythical grandchildren.  The minute I got home, I put them in the donate pile.  I am not playing those games again.  I have put my time in.

Here's the final product:

I quickly took a picture before any of my children could descend.

Since I had cleared so much space, I was able to fit in sleeping bags that had been stored in the boys' closet.

Someday, my house will be all organized in tip top shape.  Someday.

Just like the mythical grandchildren.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How To Create a Game for a Milestone Birthday Party

My tremendous sister (who really is more fabulous than irritatingly virtuous but don't tell her I said that) is about to turn 40!

When we were in Nevada we surprised her with a party.  Olivia was in charge of food (and others helped) and I was in charge of decorations and a game.  My main intent with the game was that I wanted to best my youngest brother who is handsome and young and irritatingly good at everything:

pictured here with his beautiful wife Melanee and beautiful baby Cormac
I designed a game where it was advantageous to be older...but then I remembered that I couldn't compete (or beat Ammon) because I'd invented the game.


With the help of Wikipedia, I scanned the events of the years from 1971 to 2011.  I wrote one event per year.  I also added in a few personal events like when Marianne's children were born, when her team won the State Basketball Tournament, things like that.  (Marianne's husband may or may not have missed some of the years when their children were born but you can see that I'm not even going to mention it).

Here is a copy of the game (a little wrinkled but it's been to Nevada and back).

Everyone at the party (except my dad who didn't apply himself...he only got two correct) filled in the dates and Marianne and one of my other brothers, Enoch, tied for first place.

Here's Enoch.  He's also handsome and has a beautiful wife (Jennifer).  He also looks a little smug, and this was even before the game.

What gives?

Enoch is 5 years younger than me.

I don't think he should have won.

It could be that I'm harboring ill will against my brothers because they used to stuff me in a closet because they were bigger than me and could.

It's just a guess.

But the game was fun.  And not that hard to create (thank you Wikipedia).

Monday, May 2, 2011

Back Home

This morning I woke up happy.

I was in my own bed.  I love my own bed.

I also love road trips though.  Possibly it's listening to songs I love and comedians that make me laugh so much I cry on the ipod.

Possibly it's all the sunshine pouring in from the windows.

 More likely it's these children...

notice Mark's moose who is safely in his seatbelt

And this husband...

...that make me love road trips.  I love being cozy all together in the car.

I not only woke up in my bed but I woke up to...are you ready for this...cloudy skies.  I'll try to hang onto the Vitamin D I got the past several days and I'll try to unravel things around here and set everything to rights.

But then, I want to tell you about my trip.

I loved it.


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