Thursday, January 31, 2013

Books I read in January 2013




Reached by Ally Condie **

This was the third book in the series.  I couldn't remember the second book, Crossed, very well.  It occurred to me to re-read Crossed but then I didn't care that much.  It also occurred to me to just ask Emma who ended up together but when I was already 300 pages into it, I felt like I was committed.  So I persevered.  I wasn't that surprised by the ending.  And I wasn't that interested.  Dystopia isn't really my thing.



Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider ****

I re-read this book.  I first read it a couple of years ago.  I love it.  It's a good shot in the arm reminder to get rid of stuff.  Get a grip on what you really want in life.  Set some priorities. 



Wonder by R.J. Palacio ****

I loved this book.  It was terrific.  It is about a boy with a chromosomal condition that causes him to have an unusual face.  At least that's what I thought the book was about.  It was about a lot more too.  It was written from the perspective of August, the boy, but also from his sister and some of their friends.  It really shows that even though some people's stuff is more obvious than others', we all have stuff.



You Know When the Men are Gone by Siobahn Fallon ***

This was a fascinating read.  It's set in and around an army base at Fort Hood, TX.  It is essentially short stories but there is a common enough thread among them that it didn't leave me dissatisfied like some short stories do.  I was mostly filled with gratitude for the military men and women that serve our country and for their spouses that sacrifice a lot as well.
 



Little Britches by Ralph Moody **

Mark and I read this book for his school.  It's set in rural Colorado in the early 1900s.  The author and his family moved there and tried their hand at ranching.  (They actually farmed rather than ranched because they didn't run cattle, but harvested crops, but who am I to judge?)  The book was heavy on detailed descriptions that made no sense to Mark.  About halfway through the book, I was ready to just abandon it because we were both pretty bored by it.  Mark decided he wanted to finish though so I continued to read it aloud to him.  It did get more interesting.  I had to stop and explain things to Mark often.  If I hadn't grown up where I did, I may have not been as familiar with the horse jargon (a lot of the book was describing his horseback escapades), but as it was I could explain to Mark about saddles and bridles and other trappings.

If you are a 10 year old, having lived in the suburbs all your life, you don't really have the prior knowledge to relate too well to this book.  (He especially didn't understand why there was so much conflict over irrigation.  That's hard to grasp if you live somewhere where moss grows on you if you hold still.)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

It finds us

I am about to come undone.  I'd better paint something or arrange some furniture because that keeps me sane between times I get some sunshine.

Adam is planning some business trips.  He told me four on the horizon and wondered if I wanted to join him for one of them.  I said, "Can I go with you to all of them?"

"No," he said carefully, slowly, "Not without neglecting our children..."

(Ever since our kids started going to school, it has really cramped my style.  We used to just take them with us.)

So here I am.

In the rain.

I dream about the desert.  I think about heat mirages on the freeway, climbing into a sun heated car, sunglasses.  Remember sunglasses?

Yesterday morning I heard a weather forecast on the radio.

In the morning, the rain would be concentrated from Everett south.

In the afternoon, the rain would be concentrated from Seattle north.

I told Adam and he laughed and said, "That's the worse sort of Venn Diagram."


My list of things to be grateful for puts my list of things to complain about to shame.  I know I have a happy life with a lot of good in it.

I know.

Just January (and February, March, April, May, June).  The Pacific Northwest.  I may come undone.

Yesterday afternoon, Mark and I were driving and heard on the radio, "Look for rain this afternoon."

Mark looked out the window.  "I don't think we'll need to look," he said.  "Rain finds us."

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

G.P.A.s

Our children's grade point averages are not a huge deal to us.  Sure, we'd love them to get into college (of course) or maybe even get scholarships (who wouldn't?).  Mostly though, we want them to do their best.

Such a lofty goal.

So hard to attain.

Because here's the thing with kids (at least our kids), they'd rather do other stuff.

There are books to read and video games to play and friends to socialize with.  Plus Emma is in the middle of writing the Great American Novel.  All of these things take precedence for them.   I get that.  (But I want them to do their best at school too.)

I'm still working on that magic bullet that will ensure their best effort, but I think recent events may help me.

I looked online at their grades for the last semester.

Braeden's G.P.A. is higher than...wait for it...Emma's.  I don't know who was more surprised, Braeden or Emma.  Emma's mouth formed a little O when she heard that news but no sound came out.

Braeden has worked pretty hard this year.  If he's walking around without a tail, it may be that he's worked it off.  It is nice to see his effort pay off.  It's nice for him to see, "Hey, maybe I am smart."

Emma has been doing a bit of a coast (for her).  She's generally very conscientious, but she's relaxed a bit too much maybe.  It's nice for her to see, "Hey, I'd better pay attention here."

Good lessons all around.

On Saturday when I picked up the mail, there was a small stack of letters from colleges to Braeden.  Is he old enough for that barrage to start?  We all know everybody gets those letters.

(Maybe Emma doesn't know that though.)

She said, "Why did all these colleges write to you, Braeden?"

"Emma," he said solicitously, putting an arm around her shoulders, "This is what happens when someone has a G.P.A. that is higher than yours."

Monday, January 28, 2013

Asian Tali and other doppelgangers

Friday night I didn't have everything I needed for the dinner I was planning to make.

Adam was so tired from his week that he couldn't string together a sentence.

It was well past dinnertime because I'd had too much fun sitting on my living room floor with Janet and chatting.  (Then when she tried to leave, I pulled out my knitting to show her.)

Our kids wanted dinner. (They are so boringly predictable sometimes.)

We batted around a few ideas.

"Let's just go see Asian Tali," I said.  So we did.

At Shake and Go, beloved by me for their sweet potato fries and fabulously incongruous decor, the girl that works behind the counter is friendly and efficient.  We all like her.  And though she's Asian, she reminds us of Talia, our beautiful red-headed cousin/niece.  

(OK, here's a tangent, but the decor:  the walls are covered in motivational posters like you'd see in a high school guidance counselor's office, one shelf is lined with Precious Moments figurines, the opposite shelf used to be lined with porcelain Disney Princesses although Friday there were bouquets of fake flowers instead, in the corner there's a ceramic Italian looking chef.  It's the kind of place you look around and wonder, "What happened here?!?")

Anyway.

Doppelgangers.

(I like that word.)

When I was in elementary school, Nathan Shirtcliff was in my class.  He was different than the other boys in my class, the ones who wore plaid button-up shirts and Wranglers.  His dad worked for the Forest Service so he was sort of exotic because he had lived in other places.  One of them was Washington, maybe even Everett.  When a jet flew over at recess, he would squint towards the sky and tell us what kind of Boeing plane it was.  I realize now that he probably couldn't tell, it's not like the planes were flying low--the nearest big airport was hours away.  We all believed him though because he used to live by the Boeing factory.

He was into Star Wars.  I had never seen Star Wars, I was only vaguely aware of it because of Nathan.  He had a Star Wars lunch box and dressed up as a Storm Trooper for Halloween.

Also, for show and tell, he brought a little bottle of ash from Mt. St. Helens to show us.  He told us all about the volcano erupting.

Nathan moved away, but years later, when I got to know Adam, he reminded me of Nathan.  (I should mention that Nathan was originally from Vietnam.  Braeden said maybe every Davis has an Asian doppelganger?)

Adam was a Star Wars devotee.

He remembers when Mt. St. Helens erupted.

He knows Boeing planes; he grew up near the factory.  (Probably every boy who grew up around here about that time knew about Star Wars and Mt. St. Helens and Boeing planes but this is my blog so I can make obscure connections if I want.)  

Being a Davis only by marriage, I don't know if I have an Asian twin in the world.

There is someone who lives in Chicago (or at least she used to) that I am like though.

When I was a waitress in high school, a group of fun seekers from Chicago were on a gambling expedition at the casino where I worked.  One of the men said, "Are you from Chicago?"

I said no.

He said, "Do you have a twin sister that lives in Chicago?"

No.

"Do you have any family in Chicago?"

No.

He called his wife over and they inspected me and proclaimed how I was identical to someone in Chicago.

"You do have a twin in Chicago," the man proclaimed knowingly.

I hope I meet her someday.

I hope she can give me some ideas for my hair.


Friday, January 25, 2013

Self improvement

I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.

--Henry David Thoreau 

One of my conscious endeavors has been practicing the piano.  I only do it about 3 times a week but 3 times a week is more than 0 or 1 or 2.  (I know, I am a whiz at math.)

After learning Pachelbel's Canon, I was feeling a little confident, I guess.  The Forrest Gump Suite has been my new effort.  It is hard. About a week ago, when I went to practice, I couldn't find the music.  It crossed my mind that maybe someone in my family hid it so they wouldn't have to hear me play it.  I found it though so if they did hide it, they need to find a better hiding spot.

A few nights ago, while I was making dinner, Emma decided to try playing it.  I paused, my hands in the air above the food I was chopping to hear her play the beginning perfectly.  Surely not!  Surely Emma can't play that song that I find so difficult!

Then she stumbled through a few measures.

Then she gave up.

"That is a hard song!" she proclaimed.

"I know," I said, "I'm glad you think so too."

(So much for mothers wanting their children to succeed.)

I told her if she really wanted to play something hard she should look at the Sibelius book I ordered when pressured by a 4 for 3 promotion from Amazon.  Can anyone resist those?  You just have to find four items.

I would definitely have to up my three day a week practice time (and possibly grow a couple more hands) if I were ever to conquer this music.

is this even possible?!?

I'll stick with The Forrest Gump Suite.  I can play the first page.  I can play either hand of the second page. (But not at the same time.  Yet.)

I will keep going.

My other big conquest is my email.

Adam noticed awhile ago that I had 1500 unread emails.  He was horrified, aghast, appalled.  Maybe there should be a reality TV show about email hoarders.  I could be their first victim.  I save emails to read later in case I need to read them later.  Also, I very often miss details in the emails I do read because I am a skimmer.  I have realized that part of my problem is that I save all the emails.  I skim them and then save them and don't retain the information because I know I can always go back and revisit.  I have been working on going through my email.  I am dealing with things immediately, putting items on my calendar, putting addresses in my contacts.  Answering, deciding, responding.  I realize that probably everyone else in the world has already been doing this.

But it's kind of changing my life.

There was that law of life. So cruel and so just, that one must grow or else pay more for remaining the same. 
 --Norman Mailer 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Order restored

(mostly)

(for now)

On Monday when my kids were home from school I announced that we were going to move all the books.  They've been lovely chromatically arranged but if I can't find the book I'm looking for, it's not OK.

They protested.  (Seems they like to spend days off from school in more or less slothful ways.)

I assured them it wouldn't take long.  "Maybe 1/2 an hour," I promised.

When I said 1/2 an hour, what I really meant was all day. (I just didn't know it yet.)

They pulled books off shelves and stacked them in loosely organized piles.  Then the boys lost interest.  (It had been over 30 minutes so I released them.)  Emma stuck around and helped me awhile longer because she is more persevering than her brothers but she slipped away too after awhile.

I surveyed the piles (and piles) of books and decided that I was going to bite the bullet and really make the books arranged in a way that makes sense.

(It turns out that making sense is not as easy as you may think.)

I snapped this picture and texted it to Adam.  (I do that sometimes when I am feeling despair.)

He texted back "It's a sign of life.  I love it."

I'm glad he loves the messes signs of life I create.



Come on over and borrow a book.  (I will now be able to find it!)  After all my efforts, I am proud of the results.

Behold!

The YA fiction:

arranged alphabetically by author...I felt like a librarian

The poetry/humorous books/art books:


The church books and scrapbooks:


The shelf of Adam's books from graduate school.  These are the kinds of books I avoid but I think Braeden will probably want to read them...except for maybe not the one in Finnish...


The school books:

we use the bottom shelf every day...it stays tidy for 30 seconds, tops
The rest of the novels/anthologies/ etc.  
novels alphabetically by author's last name...such lovely order
The rest of the kid books.  No one ever reads these anymore but if I got rid of them, it would hurt my heart.


 And then there's this:


The books I'm getting rid of.  I'm going to toss some of them, give some away and sell some of them on Amazon.  I've never tried that.  Maybe I'll make enough money...that I can buy some more books.

No.

I didn't just type that.

No more books.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Live and in person, part 2

Several weeks ago, Adam texted me to see if I wanted to go to the Amazon post-holiday party.   (They have their holiday party late...they're busy helping Santa during the holiday season.)  He said Imagine Dragons was going to be performing.

I texted back, "Yes I want to go!  I love Imagine Dragons."

He responded, "Are you being sarcastic?"

NO!  (Whenever I wonder why people think I'm being sarcastic when I'm not, Emma points out to me that I'm a sarcastic person.)

But I do love Imagine Dragons.  (The lead singer is a Nevadan...I've always liked people from Nevada.  He also went to BYU...I've always liked people who went to BYU.)

Adam didn't know who they were (he doesn't have the benefit of driving around as often with the music under the direction of our children) but when I played some of their music for him, he realized he had heard some of their songs too.

I asked Adam what we were supposed to wear to the party.

He said, "I don't know...nice work clothes."

My "work clothes" are what I wear that I don't mind getting bleach on when I scrub the bathrooms.

So I wore jeans, but jeans I would mind getting bleach on.  Nice work clothes.

We drove to Seattle and ate dinner at a lovely little spot then nearly froze walking a block or so to the party.  It could be that we're a little wimpy as a result of mild winters.  (Well, I should speak for myself.  Adam probably wasn't too cold.)

Adam had to scan his badge for admittance to the party.  "Are you the plus one?" the lady asked me.  I said yes but I think that's sort of a weird question to ask someone.

The party was in a huge event center that had been transformed with an "Amazon Around the World" theme.  We walked through China and skirted past the UK:


But then at my insistence we parked ourselves in front of the main stage so we could be front and center for the concert.

a weird and dim and blurry picture of us, having staked our claim
Adam was a good sport about staying by the stage with me instead of wandering around and seeing the sights.  As the crowd started to thicken before the start of the concert, I was reminded of our freshman year of college, the night a big group of us camped outside the Marriott Center to buy football tickets.  Adam was in our group as well as an equally big guy named Brent (the Viking and the Hawaiian).  They barreled through the crowd like linebackers and the rest of us clung to them and we made it to the front of the line in short order.

At the concert, I stuck close to Adam as the crowd moved in.  People bounced off him but he pretty much wasn't moving.

As soon as the music started I was a bit thrilled and a bit concerned that my hearing would never be quite the same.  Turns out rock concerts are a little...loud.  We were about 10-15 feet from the stage.


I loved every thundering minute.  It shook my rib cage and I could feel the drum beats in my sternum (which was sort of an interesting sensation).

Here's the last thirty seconds of "It's Time," my favorite song of theirs (complete with grinning cameo appearance of me at the end): 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Live and in person, part 1

For Christmas Adam gave us all tickets to Fiddler on the Roof at the Village Theater and we went on Friday.  I grew up watching that movie and I have always loved it.

Nothing is as good as live theater though.  It was wonderful!

When I was younger, I identified with the young girls...hoping for a good match in a husband.  (Yente came through for me--I got a good one.) Now I identify with the parents.  I'm struck as an adult by the love they feel for their girls. 

During Sabbath Prayer, I listened to the mothers and fathers singing to their children:

May the Lord protect and defend you.
May He always shield you from shame.
May you come to be
In Israel a shining name.

May you be like Ruth and like Esther.
May you be deserving of praise.
Strengthen them, Oh Lord,
And keep them from the strangers' ways.

May God bless you and grant you long lives.
(May the Lord fulfill our Sabbath prayer for you.)
May God make you good mothers and wives.
(May He send you husbands who will care for you.)

May the Lord protect and defend you.
May the Lord preserve you from pain.
Favor them, Oh Lord, with happiness and peace.
Oh, hear our Sabbath prayer. Amen.

I looked down the row at my own, each of them absorbed in the music.  I started crying then and didn't really stop until the end of the musical.

Indeed, may the Lord protect and defend you.  May the Lord preserve you from pain.

It is my prayer every day.

We all loved the play.  It was magical.  It was also late.  When we got home near 11:30 and Mark staggered to take off his shoes, everyone else was still euphoric and he was just plain tired.

He said, "The new rule is that no one can talk to me after 10:30 at night."  Then he went to bed.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Archetypes

I decided to assign some archetypes to our family relating to their weekend activities.  (I asked Braeden for a refresher course in archetypes and he came to me with a page from his English class.  On the top of the page he had written KEEP!  He loves this kind of stuff.)

Adam

Hero: Man with great strength and courage; known for having honorable purposes; willing to risk life for the good of all; often leaves the familiar to enter a new, unfamiliar, challenging world.

Adam heroically did the early morning seminary drive on Friday while I did the early morning stay in my warm bed.  Then he drove kids to school, rather than make them ride the bus.  (I hope he didn't set a precedent that they will expect me to follow.)  He made Emma and her friend Hannah laugh early in the morning (which isn't easy if you ask me).   He told them the message on Fruit Ninja (an app everyone loves around here but me--I'm not that interested in video game type things) was that 'nothing rhymes with orange'.  "Nothing and orange don't sound anything alike," Adam said.

He makes me laugh.

His ultimate heroism could be taking our entire family to see Fiddler on the Roof (more on that another day) or taking me to see Imagine Dragons (more on that another day), but I think it was probably going to Boy Scout training all day on Saturday.  If you have ever been involved with the actual-bona-fide-uniform-wearing, eager and blessed with inefficiency-matched-only-by-their-self-importance professional Scouts, you know what I mean.  I don't know if I would have had the courage to go.

He's a hero.

Braeden

The Soul Mate: incarnation of inspiration and spiritual fulfillment

I was remarking to Braeden a way (one of the several) that I am a lacking mother.  He said, "You just need to keep doing whatever it is you are doing.  This is the best family in the world."

He is as delusional as he is sweet.

But I'll take it.

Emma

Jester: provides comic relief

Back when I homeschooled Emma, I enjoyed the infrequent times when a question on a test or assignment stumped her because she entertained me with either her wit or incredulous indignation that I would dare ask her a question she didn't know the answer to.  Friday she had a test in her history class.  The last question asked who our state representative is.  She said, "I had no idea so I wrote Ringo Starr."

(Adam said she doesn't need facts because she has imagination.)

I love that girl.

Mark

Loyal retainer: individuals somewhat like servants who are heroic themselves

Sometimes, like when I call Mark downstairs to empty the dishwasher, I call him Cindereddie (His middle name is Edward and I'm making him be a servant like Cinderella...get it?).  He doesn't like Cindereddie (or being asked to work) but he always comes running.  (The boy rarely walks.)

I relish the time I have with Mark.  I try not to take it for granted that I get to spend my days with him.  Homeschooling is one of the best decisions I've ever made.  Right up there with marrying Adam and keeping a pair of gloves in the pockets of every jacket I own.

On Friday we were out doing errands and stopped at Subway for lunch.  We split a foot-long ham sandwich, like usual. Mark boldly tried tomatoes on his half in addition to his lettuce.  While I was paying, I handed Mark the cups.  "Diet Coke, I presume?" he asked before going to fill my cup at the soda fountain.



He's my little hero.  He's loyal and loving and stretches me in patience-trying ways.  He makes me laugh and keeps me company and he knows I want Diet Coke. 

Me:

I'm not sure where I fit amongst the archetypes.  Perhaps I am a combination of The Damsel in Distress (a vulnerable woman who must be rescued by the hero--particularly when I burn dinner), the Good Mother (offers spiritual/emotional nourishment--I would add does the grocery shopping) and the Giant/Monster/Ogre (I get a little cranky sometimes).

I dabble in being the funny one but no one appreciates my humor.  I crushed my hand in our ladder on Friday.  (It's a long story and not a very good one.)  My hand was swollen and throbbing and pretty much useless that evening.  We were talking about our Saturday plans and I said, holding up my gimpy hand, that I was going to clean the laundry room single-handedly.  Nobody laughed.  When we were leaving for the evening I said I would be right down after I turned off all the lights upstairs, single-handedly.  Nobody laughed.   What?  I'm hilarious, right?



Friday, January 18, 2013

Daydreams

I don't know what other people fantasize about.  Here's my fondest daydream:

When my children are grown and have homes of their own, I will visit them.

(But that's not all.)

I assume I'll have bags or luggage.  I will drop them right inside the front door and leave them there for everyone to trip on.

I will take my socks off in random places and leave them wherever they fall.

At dinner I will suspiciously ask for an ingredient list of what they're serving.

I will helpfully clear my plate after I eat.  I will skirt around the open and empty dishwasher and place my dishes on the far side of the kitchen.  (Because I'm helpful like that.)

I will have a glass of milk and then leave the milk on the counter.

I will turn on every light in their houses.

I don't know where I get these ideas; they just come to me.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Writing

When I went to my laptop early in the morning--as is my custom-- I found a letter from Emma tucked inside.  (The girl knows how to reach her audience.)


It was a treatise in which she requested to be able to see a movie with her cousin Talia.  She made her argument then carefully and systematically outlined every objection she could imagine we'd have.  She addressed the probable kissing and potential for occasional swearing and immodest clothes.  (I thought the whole thing was adorable but I won't tell her that because this is serious business.)    

Braeden makes oral arguments that are convincing in a wear-you-down sort of way and make my head spin.  Mark's weapon of choice for persuasion is more physical in nature.  (Think Tigger.)  Pick your poison, but Emma understands the power of the written word and that makes me happy.  (I still haven't decided about the movie though.)

Speaking of writing, my writing group met this week.

I love those ladies.

I love this notebook that is getting fatter every month:


I decorated it with duct tape I found in Emma's room...

I have a tab for everyone in our group and print what they write.  My only complaint about my writing group is that I want their stories finished NOW.  They have children and church responsibilities and day jobs and a million other pulls on their time, but I want to read their stories!

They are fascinating, intelligent, creative and understanding women.  I am learning leaps and bounds about writing from the time I spend with them.  I am feeling encouraged and motivated.  I laugh a lot and I feel like I am part of a group that gets me.  You have to love people who have a favorite form of punctuation or who say things like "I feel inspired by you...not inspired to do anything about it, but inspired."

We are from the same tribe (so is Emma).  We like words; we love words.  (That semi-colon is for JoLyn.) We doggedly try over and over to get it right and express it well and how I adore that process!

I had this on my chalkboard and pointed it out to the group:


We all conceded that the second half is easier.  Writing is hard work.  It is fun and exhilarating but it is plain hard too.

Onward.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New soup recipe

I decided to try a new recipe.  It looked delicious and hearty and everything you could want on a cold winter night.  It required soaking and cooking dried beans.

To this point in my life, I have been strictly a canned bean user but I was willing to try something new.  I was well on my way.

I had soaked the beans and I sauteed some vegetables to add to the mix.  (It should be noted because it was a miracle:  Braeden nabbed some celery before I slid it into the pan.  He said, "Do you have any more celery?"  I pointed him toward the fridge and he ate some.  He just pulled it out of the crisper and started chomping on a stalk.  This is the child that doesn't like vegetables except corn and I don't think that counts.  Is my little boy growing up?  Or is he just that hungry?)

The tantalizing aroma of sauteing vegetables drew all my children into the kitchen.  "What's for dinner?" they asked.  (At such times I swear I have thirty children instead of three...they swirl around me, a hungry swarm.)

I added the water and broth and soaked beans to the vegetables and set it all to simmer.  The recipe said to simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until the beans were tender.  I wanted to make sure the beans were tender so I aimed for 1 1/2 hours.  I wasn't even close to 1 1/2 hours when I smelled something burning.

It was the beans, stuck to the bottom of the pan.  All the water was gone and any appetizing qualities the soup may have possessed were gone as well.  (Also our entire house smelled TERRIBLE!)

The next step in the recipe was to have dinner at Taco del Mar.

(They were out of fish.  Taco del Mar, please make sure you have enough fish so I can have a fish mondito burrito when I burn dinner.  I had chicken.  It was good, but still.)

Last night I tried the recipe again.  This time I used canned beans.  Much less dangerous.

So if you were looking for me to impress you, I guess maybe I oversold that a little.  Sorry Olivia. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The more wretched the weather...

...the more decadent the chocolate cake.

more dishes dirtied = better chocolate cake

We've had cold weather...though not as cold as the part of Nevada where I grew up.  It's been downright COLD there.  But it has been cold for here.  We are terribly spoiled by our wet and mild hardly-need-a-coat winters.

I feel betrayed by all my favorite weather sources.  You know I'm a weather nerd and I like to be appraised of the situation.  We had snow off and on all day yesterday and nowhere was that reflected in a forecast.

So I made a chocolate cake.

What else can you do?

Stephanie and I donned layers and walked our neighborhood.  We are intrepid like that.  We had cold fingers and cold toes and houses and laundry that needed our attention but we both need a walk.  Between the fresh air, companionship and free therapy, it's a key part of our day.

We were talking about people who matter to us and to our children and Stephanie said, "I love our little corner of the world."

Stephanie is a poet.

The weather is rotten.  The houses are close together (I grew up on acres and acres of sagebrush.  I don't think you should be able to see houses out the window).  The sky is...I don't know, we don't appear to have a sky on days like that.

But I love our little corner of the world too.  There are wonderful people inhabiting this corner.

(And there is chocolate cake.)

flecks of butter in the frosting = me, too impatient
I didn't just make chocolate cake yesterday.  I tried a new soup recipe.  I'll tell you about it tomorrow.  Prepare to be impressed.

Monday, January 14, 2013

This time will be different!

Remember this?



I knitted the above "scarf" that turned out to be an excellent goat coat for Horace. (I didn't do anything to make it asymmetrical, it just happened.)


It turns out I'm not the best knitter in the world.  (I know, who didn't see that coming?)

I decided to try again.

Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

(That's kind of rude, Einstein.  I am knitting again and I'm expecting great things.)

Here's what I have so far:


I think it is already better.  Looks like it will be scarf-shaped, rather than goat-coat-shaped, right?

I was poring over the knitting book that Janet gave me for Christmas.  Reading instructions has never been top of my skill set but I was applying all my powers of concentration.  "I don't get this," I lamented, "This book is smarter than I am."

Braeden was walking through the room.  He said,  "It's in English, isn't it?  Just read the book."

Kind of makes me regret the nice things I said about him last week.  

Friday, January 11, 2013

Sixteen



Sixteen things I love about Braeden:

1) He makes me laugh.  He is one of the funniest people I know.  Right up there with Tabor and Adam and Olivia.



2) He doesn't let his learning disability define or limit him.  His English teacher told me the other evening that he is very funny and SO smart.  I felt like crying.  She doesn't know the music that is to my ears.  I've invested more worry in him and his learning disability than you can imagine.  He still can't spell, but he's getting an A in honors English.

3) He is sentimental.

4) He loves his mother.  Sometimes I wonder if I deserve his affection.  Other times I just go with it.

I look terrible and sickly in this picture.  I'll blame the lighting in Small World at Disneyland.  Look at that cute boy though.

5) He is a peacemaker and rarely, if ever, argues with his siblings.



6) He is passionate about history so I can always ask him my questions and he helps me put events in context.

Braeden contemplating ancient Roman ruins in London. 

7) He wants to be good.

8) He has no idea he's handsome.

9) He can reach things off high shelves.

10) He loves big ideas and is open to changing his mind.

11) When he has money he either wants to save it or buy books or music.

12) If I ever want something done quickly, he's the one to ask.

13) He's not materialistic.  At all.

14) He loves little children and they love him.

sending his cousins flying like Superman--he perfected this technique with "The Adventures of Red-Headed Superman" (a.k.a. Mark)

15) He is absolutely loyal to people he loves.


16) Of all the things he laughs at, he is never afraid to laugh at himself.

Happy Birthday boy.  I will never deserve such a good son but I'm glad you're mine anyway.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

It's time for a heart to heart

Dear Braeden,

You know how tomorrow is your birthday?  I am OK with that.  I will celebrate you.  I will hang the balloon wreath on the door and bake you a cake and buy enough pizza for the friends you are having over.  (I'm estimating about one pizza per teenage boy? Will that be enough?)  I will continue to buy 6 gallons of milk every week to support your habit.  I will embrace this driving and dating and being 16 thing with as much grace as I can muster.  I'll be happy for you all day long.

But you have to do something for me in exchange.

This has to absolutely be the last one.  No more birthdays.  You are killing me with this getting older stuff.

And it has to stop.

I'm glad we've had this conversation.

Love,

Your Mom

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Our project



I saw this online and decided to try it.

Mark was enlisted to cut some branches off the salmonberry bush in our yard.

Emma was enlisted to help because she is good at this sort of thing.

Braeden slid our work aside on the kitchen table so he could have a bowl of cereal.  He is usually either just about to have a bowl of cereal, eating a bowl of cereal or just finishing a bowl of cereal.

We applied white duct tape and folded it and trimmed it.  "You're so much faster than I am," Emma lamented.  "I wish I weren't a perfectionist."

There are plenty of times I wish I were more of a perfectionist.  I don't have it in me to slow down and do things perfectly.

So I quickly made leaf after leaf and Emma carefully made a few leaves.

Then she trimmed some of mine to make them look better.

The world needs both of us.  People like me get things done, fast.  People like Emma make sure they're done well.

(We need our boys too.  Someone needs to cut the branches.  Someone needs to eat the cereal.)




Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Brotherhood

Mark's friend Gavin recently turned 12.  In our church, that means something.  There are new opportunities for Gavin. Mark has been excited to watch.

On Friday, the youth went to the temple to do proxy baptisms.  It was Gavin's first time.  When they met at the church, preparing to carpool to the temple, Adam told me Braeden got out of the car to be with Gavin.  Since it was Gavin's first time, he wanted to make sure he had a good experience.

Sunday, Gavin, like the other deacons (12-13 year old boys), was going around to ward members' houses to collect their offerings.  Adam was driving him since Gavin's dad was busy.  Braeden said he'd go too.  He said, "I'll show Gavin how to do it."

Gavin looked up into Braeden's face with a look of pure gratitude.  I imagine it's a little scary to go up to peoples' doors.  Braeden had his back.  Then Braeden folded his long legs up and climbed in the backseat of the car, giving Gavin the front.

I have been pleased to see this behavior--unprompted and genuine kindness-- from Braeden.  I decided to pay him the ultimate compliment.  "You remind me of David and Dillon," I said.

I could tell he was deeply flattered.  Braeden smiled.

"I think about them all the time," he said.

David and Dillon are revered like heroes around here.  David is currently serving a mission for our church in Taiwan and Dillon is soon to go to Mexico.  We couldn't find better heroes to follow.  (And I wonder if all those times Dillon was kind to Braeden, he imagined Braeden would want to emulate him by being kind to Dillon's own brother, Gavin.)

In my mind's eye, I can see Mark following after Gavin.  Gavin is blazing a trail of good choices and I couldn't be happier that Mark and Gavin are like brothers.  I occasionally hear Gavin tell Mark, in urgent tones, "You can't do that, Mark."

David and Dillon
to Braeden
to Gavin
to Mark

If anyone tells you one boy can't make a difference, don't you believe them.

One boy can make all the difference in the world.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Family Fun

When I was growing up, I was shy and awkward and scared of most everything.  I didn't like roller coasters or roller skating.  I was afraid of water slides and high diving boards and popping balloons. (To name just a few.) 

Not much has changed except when I was growing up, my friends and family would beg and cajole and pressure me to do things I was afraid of and sometimes I'd do them...just to appease everyone.

Now, I'm all grown up and I can smile and say, "No thank you."

(It is so nice to be a grown up.)

As part of her Christmas present, Geri gave everyone a night at Whirlyball.  It is a game sort of like lacrosse and basketball and you play while riding in bumper cars. (Brian said it was like an All State commercial.  Mayhem.)

A few years ago, I rode in a bumper car and hurt my neck.  I didn't really hurt it too terribly, but it hurt enough to know that I wasn't going to go in bumper cars again.  So I smiled and said "No thank you," and was soon surrounded by a pile of keys and cell phones and happily watched the action from the sideline.





They are all naturally athletic and adventurous and I am naturally not at all athletic or adventurous.  I usually bring the dessert though so I do have a place in the family.  Also on Christmas day we played a game where you had to name Christmas songs and I was a super star.

Until there's another naming-Christmas-songs-game or bringing-dessert-opportunity, I'll be the one on the sidelines, babysitting cell phones and happily watching, because this group... makes me happy!




Friday, January 4, 2013

I just want to send birthday cards

It's all I want.

(OK, not all.)

It shouldn't be that hard to send a simple birthday card to my nearest and dearest (or far away and dearest) on their birthdays.  I have tried clever little ways to remind myself and I keep forgetting.  Olivia pointed out it's the higher numbers that cause the trouble.  I can remember Clarissa (April 3), Liliana (March 3), Kain (March 5), Hyrum (June 11), but then it gets sort of hazy.  Ruben (November 27?), Desi (May twenty-something?).  See, pathetic.

So I made myself a calendar.

If you are going to make yourself a calendar, a bonus is that you can put whatever you want on the pages.  I've made birthday calendars before.  They were intended as gifts and I was careful to give equal billing to various family members.

This calendar is for me.  Just me.  (So I can remember birthdays.)

A by-product of the birthday remembering?  Every time I look at my new calendar, (that I hung in my schoolroom so I can look at it many, many times through the day) I get unreasonably happy.


Braeden's birthday is in January so I put my favorite pictures of him on the page.  In February, I have covered it with my favorite Emma Jayne pictures.  I think I'll be happy all year.

Everyone should make their own calendars.  It seems they are a key to joy.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Thank you but I'll take wrinkles

Yesterday I was working more towards putting everything back to rights after Christmas.  It takes me some time.  I sort of change everything.

I exchanged the curtains in my living room.  When I was hanging up the new ones, I was standing on a chair.  I leaned over, too far it turned out, to straighten them and I lost my balance.

The good news is there was a lamp there to keep me from falling all the way to the floor.

The bad news is that the lamp has a sharp (really sharp I now know) finial on the top.

It's a little hard to see the lamp because it is actually sunny today which is fabulous except it always makes (my otherwise spotlessly clean) windows look dirty.

In my ungraceful near catastrophe, I twisted my back and it hurt.

Old age.  (You can't even fall off a chair any more without hurting yourself.)

Then Braeden was telling me about a friend of his.  He told me the boy she likes.  "Really?" I asked, "Him?"

He said, "Well she doesn't like him as a person, she just likes him."

There are worse things than feeling old.

Being a teenager, for one.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Times Square of the West Coast

This morning, on the drive from seminary to school, Braeden's friends wanted to know why he didn't go to the New Year's Eve dance.  He said, "Because I didn't want to."

I added, "It is hard to compete with the fun we had."

Of course, then the question was, "What did you do?"

We did our traditional cheese fondue followed by our traditional chocolate fondue.  There were games played and we introduced Geri to the hilarity that is The IT Crowd.  (She is patient to tolerate our collective sense of humor which isn't always...conventional.)

Our other New Year's Eve tradition, revered for years now, is the ceremonial ball drop.  It's a lot like what happens in Times Square in New York City.  Except we drop a basketball, on gingerbread houses.  To smash them.




Is there a chance there is more fun to be had on New Year's Eve?

Maybe.

But maybe not.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy new year

New Year's Day is a favorite of mine.  I love taking down my Christmas decorations.  I love decorating for Christmas, I love my Christmas decorations and I love boxing them all up again.

Maybe it's the kind of change I love.

I love the clean-slate-seeing-everything-through-new-eyes that changing things up brings.

On New Year's Day, I feel optimistic.  I have ideas and quiet dreams that I intend to chip away at. There are books to read, lessons to learn and to teach.

Last year one of my New Year's resolutions was to learn to play Pachelbel's Canon in D.  (I did a concert last night.  It wasn't fabulous.) This year I am going to try Forrest Gump Suite by Alan Silvestri.  It's hard.  It will probably take a whole year of my hit and miss practicing.

I also want to complain less and appreciate more.  I want to do more and do less.  (It depends on which things I'm thinking about.)  I want to get better at knitting.  (I could not get worse.  If I forgot everything I know, it would not be worse.)  I want to write more.  My "novel" is now 66 consecutive pages.

I want to get to the point that I don't feel like I have to put "novel" in quotation marks because it's just too ridiculous that I think I can write a "novel".

I am grateful for the year that was and grateful for a blank year of calendar days to fill up.  I reflect on what was hard and what I learned and I hope I'm a better person.

So happy new year.  I hope yours is a nice one.

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