Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Books I read in July 2013

 Twenty Wishes by Debbie Macomber ***

This book was pretty good.  It was about a group of women who were all at sort of sad crossroads of their lives and they decided to make twenty wishes and make things happen in their lives.  It blends in my mind with the knitting book I read recently which was also about women who supported each other.  (But the knitting book was better...even though I can't remember the exact title.)  The characters weren't very believable in this book.  They always said the thing you expected them to say.

Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool***

We read this book for book club and those are usually good.  It is young adult fiction set in Manifest, KS.  A girl was sent there by her father and while she was there, she uncovered stories about him and the town.  It was good.  I like good YA fiction.

Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple***

This book was very entertaining.  It is set in Seattle and I enjoyed the satire of some of the people that inhabit Seattle.  Sometimes I laughed out loud and had to read parts to Adam.  It was an engaging story with funny characters.  The language was a little sketchy so if that matters to you...

The Lace Makers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri***

This was another good book.  It was set in Ireland in Glenmara, a small town that was sort of dying out.  A woman from Seattle was traveling and happened upon the town and ended up staying.  I liked the characters and I liked the setting.  The romance was a little suspect.  I like a romance that feels real.  I don't know how to write it myself but I recognize it when I read it.  (For example:  Pride and Prejudice: yes!  Romantic!  Twilight: no! Lame!)

1916 by Morgan Llewelyn **

This book was immediately interesting to me.  I like historical fiction.  This book is about the Irish Rebellion.  I loved the fiction parts of this book.  The history was too much.  It started to feel like homework so I quit reading.  In case you're wondering, why yes, I am shallow. 

Good in a Crisis by Margaret Overton *

I tried to read this.  I thought this time I'd actually read a memoir--which for some reason I want to do.  I try to like them and usually don't.  I liked the breezy style of writing and felt immediate sympathy for the writer.  Then she enumerated (over and over) all of the losers she met on and how she got WAY too intimate with them when she didn't like any of them--and went on to mock them in her memoir.  I quickly lost sympathy for her and gave up on the book.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The sun was shining

When the sun is shining I can do anything; no mountain is too high, no trouble too difficult to overcome.

Wilma Rudolph

Saturday afternoon we went to a Neilan family picnic.  (Geri's family)  We always have a nice time with our Neilan family.  They are kind and inclusive.  I'm always struck by how inclusive both sides of Adam's family are to me, the lowly in-law.  Then it occurred to me that maybe they are the normal ones and maybe my extended family is less than inclusive.



Besides the good company, it was a glorious day.  A Pacific-Northwest-pull-out-all-the-stops-perfect-July day.  No one does July like the Puget Sound.  You couldn't ask for better.

Adam didn't believe us but Braeden and I swear we saw seals

I made a bonus discovery.  I have the capacity to really stress Braeden out.  It turns out he gets very nervous when I get close to the edge of cliffs overlooking large bodies of water.  Really nervous.  Like grab my arm and pull me away from the edge nervous.

I tried to figure out a way to use this knowledge to my advantage.  (Because when your son is bigger than you and a licensed driver with a bank account, it helps to still maintain a little of the power in the relationship.)  Maybe we need to move to a house on a bluff overlooking the Puget Sound?  I wouldn't mind.

I took a sort of perverse pleasure in stressing Braeden out.  It's like payback for stress he's caused, past, current and future.

Then yesterday afternoon he came home after four hours of swim lessons and three hours of lifeguarding.  He was weary and hungry.  Between bites of food he told me about his first save.  Yesterday afternoon, a little girl was swimming.  She started floundering, then she started panicking.  Then she really started panicking and Braeden called a code blue--which is what you do apparently--then he jumped in the water and rescued her.  He held her flailing arms in his strong ones and told her she was going to be OK.  And she was.

Even though I had nothing to do with it--besides keeping the boy in milk so he can keep his strength up--it humbled me.  I won't tease him anymore by going close to the edge, because if I fell in, he would dive in after me.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Further proof

Saturday morning Mark was outside cutting up branches to put in the green barrel--it's where compost type stuff goes.  Mark loves nothing more than to have a pair of clippers in his hands so when I looked out the window, he had a smile on his face.  I could tell he was also thinking about something that made him happy.

I went out later to help him put all the clippings in the barrel and he said, "Mom, do you know what makes Dad such a good dad?"

I said, "What?"

He said, "He is interested, really interested, in what his kids are interested in."

Then he outlined all the ways his dad showed interest in his life.

I was happy that my--it must be said--fairly spoiled and self centered youngest child is so astute at the age of ten.  But really, my overwhelming thought was, I married really well.

When Adam and I walked around the BYU campus holding hands and he made me laugh and I thought I want this to be my life forever, I had no idea how smart I was being.

On Sunday, we will celebrate 18 years of marriage.  Eighteen years of me thinking I'm pretty smart.

Because I married him.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The best and the worst

Summer in Seattle is the best.  It really is. 

Getting mail from the high school about information for back to school is the worst.

Adam taking a day off from work to go to Girls' Camp with me to help with the Night Hike is the best.  He is helpful and heroic and funny and he sneakily played Words With Friends with me on his cell phone when things got boring. (No electronics!  Also no opened toe shoes and Adam wore sandals.  What can you do?)

Adam beating me at Words with Friends every ring ding time we play is the worst.

Coming home to my own bed instead of camping is the best.

Leaving Emma behind at camp when she didn't feel well and wanted me to stay with her was the worst.  (I tried to get her to come home with me but she said she "wouldn't be able to live with herself if she quit.")

Having Emma for a daughter is the best.

The carnage of Braeden and Mark being home all evening without us is the worst.  The dishes!  The scattered everything!

A dishwasher and making boys weed in the garden is the best.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Yeah, Mark's home

Mark came home Tuesday night.  We were head over heels excited to see him.  I felt like a missing piece fell into place.

(Then yesterday, Emma left for Girls' Camp and another piece fell out of place.)

Before leaving for work yesterday morning, Adam said, "Well, you can tell Mark's home."

Our entire house feels different with him here. He is loud and chatty and makes his presence known through his belongings as well.

On the floor of his room there's the book he finished reading on the trip, his glasses case and a new t-shirt from his trip, almost laid out like a display.  Why Mark?  Why?

Also there are Legos in this picture.  Because Mark=Legos

Gavin was here.  He and Mark hugged with so much exuberance they practically knocked each other over.  Then they talked fast, catching each other up on the news, then they plunked down to watch Dr. Who.  Because they aren't already weird enough.

Mark was cold.  I guess that's what happens when you've been on the beach in Florida and now you're back in Seattle where the temperature lingers in the 70s. He's wearing a long sleeved shirt and is under a blanket in this picture.  Gavin's been here so he's in shorts and a t-shirt.

Mark left his shoes at the bottom of the stairs because that way everyone could trip on them both going up and down the stairs.  He's thoughtful like that.

Mark's souvenirs were strewn across the floor.

Come on over and he'll give you a guided tour of the souvenirs.  He'll either give you the long version or the long version.

He had to pick up everything before he could get lunch.  Lunch = his currency.

Braeden, who is toiling away at his summer reading when he is home from work, noticed a big difference around here too.  Emma and I never quite demand his attention like Mark.  (I don't think anyone, anywhere, demands attention quite like Mark.)

When Adam got home, the house was still--Markified--and I had made him clean up several times.  He was talking nonstop and walking around eating a piece of watermelon.  I sent him to the kitchen table and Adam told me later that I seemed frazzled.   Was it because Mark is home?  Probably.  That kid is frazzling.  (And watermelon slices are a strictly sit down to eat unless you are outside sort of food.)  He is also loving and funny and cuddly and good company.

I'm glad my baby is back.  I missed him.  A lot.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My heritage

Today is Pioneer Day.  It's only a holiday in Utah but I grew up close enough to Utah and with enough pioneer ancestry to think of it as a day of significance.

July 24th is the day the Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley.  They had been driven from their homes and sought refuge in a harsh desert no one else wanted.

Today I think about my great grandma, Arvella Jaynes.  She told me family stories that made my ancestors real.

I feel like I've mentioned her on my blog before but I can't remember so here I go again.  She was my Grandma with the Brown Eyes.  Every time I saw her when I was little, she told me to take care of her brown eyes.  She is one of the first people I want to see when I go to heaven.

She had a hard life, her father died when she was three, she was widowed fairly young and she lost her only son, my grandpa, too early.  Her mother, Sarah, struggled to raise her three little daughters on her own before remarrying.

Sarah's mother was Henrietta.

Henrietta crossed the plains with the Mormon pioneers.  My grandma told me stories of her grandmother Henrietta.  She was five when she made the trek.  She would go to sleep hungry some nights.  My grandma would tell us that whenever we didn't want to eat something.  "Henrietta cried for a crust of bread."

My great grandma was all about decreasing your carbon footprint before it was a thing.  Waste not, want not was her mantra.

Another ancestor, Margaret Gardner, crossed the plains pregnant.  She gave birth 9 days after she arrived in the Salt Lake Valley.  The Salt Lake Valley was nothing more than a inhospitable sagebrush desert surrounding a lake too salty for anything other than brine shrimp.

I think of Margaret Gardner when I remind myself that I can do hard things.

Awhile ago Adam told me he was impressed with how much I could get done.  I told him it was because I was from pioneer stock.  They were hardy people, that's true.  They also called down the powers of heaven for help.

That may be the best lesson I can learn from them.  Work hard.  Then pray.  Then pray some more.

I love old pictures.  I love tracing cheekbones:

Eric Nelson, Arvella's father.  He was born in Kristianstadts Lan Sweden to Matts Swen Nelson and Elna Akeson

Ellen Arvella, born in Crescent, Utah to Eric Nelson and Sarah Jane Dowding

Braeden Linn, born to Thelma and Adam, in Provo, Utah
I'm pretty sure when Braeden left heaven to come to me, Arvella told him to take care of her brown eyes (and her cheekbones).

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Emma for the win


Emma decided on a goal.  She would read every Harry Potter book in one week.   I checked and that is 3, 674 pages.

For the first several days, she was reading a book a day and was still managing to keep a fairly normal schedule, especially Sunday, the day she started.  We went to church as usual.  We played Risk in the afternoon.  She still read all of book one (the girl has skills.)

The next few days were the same.  It seemed about normal, she was just reading a little more than usual.  She'd still take time to write.  She was still fairly engaged in family life.  She played the piano.

When she got to book 5, all 870 pages of it, she disappeared from the landscape.  Besides swim team, meals and a few cursory chores, she was reading.  She'd emerge from her room occasionally, bleary eyed and with a slightly stunned expression.

She kept reading.

Saturday, the last day, she had a lot of reading ahead of her.  We didn't make it easy on her by requiring her to help clean--really clean--the van and by taking her to a play (she read during the intermission).

She wrote a note at 1:27 a.m. that she was finished.  (I was long since in bed.)  She wrote, "This brings to a close Operation Boy Who Lived."

At first, I wondered if I should be letting her do this.  It didn't scream Good Mother somehow.  Then I remembered to revel in the uniqueness of the experience.  I had a professor at BYU, whose class I took because Marianne was a devotee of his.  He told us to revel in the uniqueness of experiences.  I thought of that the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college when I worked at The Burger Express, a little fast food restaurant in Wells, Nevada.  I was cleaning the drive-thru and pretty much hating it, but then I remembered to revel and I realized that cleaning a drive-thru at a fast food restaurant was (hopefully) going to be unique in my life.

Emma's only going to be fourteen for so long.  She's footloose and fancy free.  When else in her life will she be able to read all the Harry Potter books in one week?  Certainly not when she's a mother or when she has a job.  It's unique so I let her revel in it.

She'll be able to point to this summer as the summer she read.  And read and read.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Home improvement

A few nights ago, just for fun, Adam and I looked at pictures of a fancy house we knew of that was for sale.  For sale for more than we would ever pay.  It was just for fun.

I looked at it and it was beautiful.  There were soaring ceilings and Carrara marble countertops.  I told Adam it wasn't us though.  Us is our quirky and imperfect little house.  For example, I could not see either my sewn together rug or my curtains with fabric glued on in that house.

Embracing who you are in your house is kind of like realizing you have curly hair and you just need to live with it.

I am a person with simmering ideas and have to be creative to be happy.  Also, my attention span and patience are not the top of the list of my personality traits.  Marianne's the same way.  When I told her that I was painting my master bathroom but was holding off on buying the paint until the trim was done or I would paint the walls before the trim dried, she totally got it.

She recently decided to paint a table for her front porch.  She dipped into her creative daughter Desi's vast collection of spray paint not because she necessarily wanted one of those colors, but because they were there.  I totally get that.  So did Desi.

We get it from my dad.  My dad built my parents' house with plans he created.  He changed them along the way.  Every bedroom has a different pattern of wood on the walls. (Which are fabulous if you ask me.)  My dad built tools when he couldn't afford them.  He can make or repair anything with whatever is on hand.  I'm glad my dad is the way he is.

My mom is from the "Any job worth doing is worth doing well" school of thought.  She would caution me not to "half do" things when I was growing up.  I'm glad my mom is the way she is too.  People like me need people like her.  When I was 2/3 of the way through taping my bathroom to paint it, I ran out of painter's tape.  Janet had some.  She wouldn't start a paint project without looking to see if she had enough tape and I love that about her.  (Especially since she let me borrow it.)

The color ended up being different than I wanted.  I was wanting something the green blue silvery gray of sagebrush and I didn't really achieve it.

This is before, with everything cleared out:

And this is after with everything put back in:

I am not sure how I feel about the rugs now...
The top picture looks lighter than it really is and the bottom picture looks bluer than it really is but what can you do?

I got a new clock and a new mirror (which is not shown, it's opposite the big mirror).  When I was taking the old mirror down, I realized, this mirror is really ugly. 
One of my favorite parts of the room, and it has nothing to do with anything, is the door stop which I recruited from a top shelf in my boys' room.  Mark used to send marbles down it and watch them swirl but he's moved on to other interests and it makes a perfect little door stop.

With my other two bathrooms, the color is intensified because it's a small space so I purposefully chose a color that was too light, thinking it would intensify.  I didn't count on the window and all the white and the big mirror lightening the color.

It would have to bug me a LOT more than it does for me to redo it though.

Braeden wandered in to visit me a few times when I was painting.  He watched for awhile and said, "You seem like you're in your element when you do things like this."  He's right.  I love the deciding and the wielding tools and the changing things.

Then he said, "I told you it would be too light."

At times like that I tell Braeden that nobody likes him.  He always just gives me a big grin.  Because he knows that is not true.  I like him.  A lot.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Pizza quest 7

Our most recent pizza quest was at Elliott Bay Pizza which is Mill Creek.  (It was awhile ago...we are due for another pizza.)  We were picking up Braeden from work (this was pre-Loki) and Geri called us.  We invited her to join us so we could get another opinion.

Since we had one extra person, we took the opportunity to order one extra pizza.  The math adds up.  Sort of.

We ordered the cheese:

It was my favorite cheese pizza we've had so far.  It had sharp cheddar cheese as one of the mix of cheeses.  What's not to love about sharp cheddar?  Adam wasn't as fond of it as I was but I thought it was goooooood.

We ordered the Elliott Bay Special:

The crust and sauce were wonderful so that's always great.  Almost all of the specialty pizzas are heavy on meat and I usually don't like those types of pizza and wouldn't order them but they're pretty good.

Look at this.  The pizza quest is widening my horizons.

For our third bonus pizza, we ordered a pesto pizza with chicken and artichoke hearts:

We didn't officially rate it but I was a little disappointed by it.  I love pesto but there was maybe too much of it.  Also, the artichokes weren't marinated so not as flavorful as they could be.

It was still good.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Really, I want you home

You know the text when you get there, text when you're leaving thing you do with teenage drivers?

This happened.

In Braeden's defense, he has a flip phone and it's hard to text so he doesn't correct grammar or spelling.  Also, it's debatable whether or not he notices the grammar or spelling errors.
In my defense, the ( is really close to the ).

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mark and his spleen

Alternative title:  More Stolen Pictures

Yesterday I talked to Mark.  (Finally!  The little monkey didn't call me on Monday.  If you can imagine.)  He is having a great time.  He has a little sunburn (for which he apologized...have I guilted that kid into sunscreen or what?) and he told me he's getting a rash on his legs and the salt water hurts it.  Probably because he's been swimming.  A lot.

He didn't seem too worried about the rash though because he told me that he had had a rash around his spleen but it was all better now.

"Around your spleen?"

"Yes, my spleen."

"Do you even know where your spleen is?" I asked.

And then he was sort of noncommittal.  "Was the rash on your stomach?" I asked.

"Yes," he said. 

Here are some more stolen pictures I didn't take:

they look like two Cheshire cats

It looks like he's having a wonderful time.  Spleen rashes or not.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pizza quest 6

This is from awhile ago.  I am behind on these posts...

We have certain guiding principles as a family.  Certain truths that we can live by; words we could stitch on a pillow.  Well not anymore.  Even though I'd like to think that life is like pizza and even when it's bad, it's good, that is not true.

And it is demoralizing.

We had pizza that was bad.

It was so bad that even though it was pizza, it was not good.

Over a week ago, we went to #1 New York Pizza in Clearview.  It's on the outer edge of our geographic boundary for pizza restaurants.  I wish it had been outside the boundary.  Then I would never have tried the pizza.

We couldn't tell if it was open or closed.  They had a sign for each.  It turned out they were closed but willing to fill our order anyway.
It seemed promising.  We like New York style pizza.  We like the flimsy crust you have to fold over.

Also, it was sort of a dive.  Places like that are usually promising.

Adam became buddies with the owners.  He ordered the cheese pizza, then asked the guy to make him the kind of pizza he would personally like.  Adam said surprise me.

This sign was Mark's favorite part of the restaurant.
 Meanwhile the rest of us sat in the car and Emma taught me how to play Trees of Doom on my phone which is a game she downloaded.  I played for about 20 seconds but that is the limit of my interest level in games like that.

Adam emerged with fragrant boxes of pizza and we headed for home.  Braeden wanted to start eating in the car but you don't give rookie West Coast kids New York style pizza to eat in the car.  There's a certain skill involved in not getting it all over your shirt.

Once home, we each started with a slice of the cheese.

I thought it was OK (overly oregano-ed) but everyone else loved it (which is why overall, the restaurant scores high).  Braeden, who could win a prize for his speedy pizza inhalation, started on a slice of the "specialty" pizza before the rest of us were halfway done with our first piece.

He took one bite.

He grimaced.

Braeden, who has never met a piece of pizza he didn't like, set down the slice.

"You're not going to eat it?" we asked (in dismay).


So then Mark didn't even want to try it but he had to because we're having a quest here.

Mark took one bite of Braeden's rejected piece.

Then he passed it on to Emma.

She took a bite.

She handed it to me.

"Is it that bad?" I asked.

"Yes," she said.

So I took a bite of the family slice.

And yes, it was that bad.

The garlic was overpowering and there was just a bad mix of flavors.  Adam scraped part of it off and choked down a piece.

So either the guy at #1 New York Pizza has no taste buds or he had a malicious wish to give us nasty pizza.

We'll never know.

Monday, July 15, 2013

What Mark's been up to

Our house is emptier without Mark.  And a whole lot tidier.  There aren't Legos everywhere.  Or swords--that child is a sword carrier.  I miss him. I would gladly trip over his things.

Braeden and Emma have both wondered if I miss them this much when they're gone.  Yes and no.  I do miss them.  Things feel out of sync when someone is gone.  But they're older and gone more often so it doesn't feel quite the same.  Also, they're quieter and as big as he is, even Braeden doesn't seem to take up as much space as Mark does.

Friday Mark called me on his grandma's cell phone.  He had a head-ache.  I think it was a combination of jet lag, not enough sleep, not being used to the heat and lots of excitement.  We talked on facetime on our phones.  He was crying and it took all my powers of self control to not cry too.  I put on my best poker face and acted like my heart was not breaking.  I assured him he'd feel better.  When he said he missed me I told him he was going to have so much fun.  It about killed me.  I would have given anything to take him in my arms and rub his aching head.  I told him to put a cool washcloth on his head and lie down.

After I got off the phone I got very close to buying a plane ticket.

A little while later, Geri sent me a picture of him flat on his back, cloth on his forehead, mouth wide open, sound asleep.

Saturday morning I talked to him and he was feeling a lot better.  He had slept for 11 hours and that always makes an improvement.  He was chatty and enthusiastic and it was a relief.

I still wish there were Legos around here, scattered on the floor.  I asked Gavin before Mark left if he'd come over and be my emergency son in a pinch.  He said he would.

I have stolen some photos from Whitney that she posted on facebook:

At the Varsity Drive In

visiting Uncle Kelly at work

Monkeys in their natural habitat

again at Uncle Kelly's work, he works for a movie production studio--I think that's what you call it?

Saturday, they all drove from Georgia to Florida and they are staying on the beach.  Mark has been swimming in the pool and in the ocean and he is happy.  He told us at length how wonderful both are.  It makes it exponentially easier to have him gone when he's happy.

But it still isn't easy.

I miss my baby.

Friday, July 12, 2013

A pretty big day

Yesterday was Braeden's half birthday.  I struggled with gift ideas because next to Adam and Emma, he is the least materialistic person I know.  He doesn't want anything.  Except books.  Boring books.  He got a Billy Joel song book.  Then he got the Aeneid by Virgil, The Epic of Gilgamesh, and The Histories by Herodotus.  He is in the middle of reading The Illiad right now so he said he's going to stop that and then start with The Epic of Gilgamesh and work his way through them in chronological order.  He was as pleased as he could be with his books.  That would have been a depressing birthday present for me, as in, "You gave me homework?!?"

That wasn't the only part of our day though, after his morning swim lesson shift, I took Braeden (and Emma who was filling the role of side kick) to the bank.  He deposited his first paychecks.  He opened a checking account.  He got a debit card.

We drove straight from there to pick up Loki.  The new car.  Braeden (maneuvering long legs into place) and Emma climbed in (which is why Emma wanted to tag along).

Braeden was so happy, he gave a genuine smile.  He forgot to pose:

Before driving away, Braeden lowered his window and said, "It's on empty."

Good thing we got that debit card.

I told him I'd follow him to the gas station, because I needed gas too.

At the gas station I said, "OK, you know what you're doing?"

He said, "Yes, but watch me so I don't mess up and accidentally sell my soul to OPEC."

He slid his brand new debit card, the gas started flowing and the numbers started ticking up.  Braeden watched with more interest than he ever has at a gas station.  As the numbers rose, I said, "That's one hour of work.  That's two..."

He sighed sadly and said, "That really puts it in perspective."

The advantage of a little car is a little gas tank though.  It wasn't too painful.

I had to snap a picture when we were stopped at a light.  It was just so surreal to be following behind my two kids.

Emma assured me that she got all the radio buttons set while they drove.

So that's a relief.

Once we got home, there was a phone message from one of Braeden's friends and he promptly drove himself over to his friend's house.  But before he left, I took one more picture.  This time he was sufficiently recovered that he remembered to be silly.

We ended the day with a youth temple trip.  Since Mark is gone (sniff) I was able to go too.

Being in the temple with my children is better than a new car.

(Although this morning, when Braeden needed to be at the pool at 7:00 a.m. and I didn't need to drive him, that was pretty great too.)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Flying the coop

Early this morning Mark flew to Georgia with his Grandma Geri and his cousin Jackson.  The house feels empty.

Last night we snuggled for a little while.  He went and got a blanket because the boy loves his creature comforts.  I had my arms around him, feeling the little man's barrel chest he's had his whole life.  (Sometimes I wonder how big he'll be when it's all said and done.)  I had already given him all the motherly lectures:  sunscreen! manners! no whining! so it was time for the lying to commence.

Mostly lies of omission.  When he said that maybe he would be homesick and miss me, I deflected the idea and said that while I would miss him a little bit (lies!) I was excited for him.  I started talking about the white sands on the beach they're going to in Florida so that I would not start begging him not to go.

It was hard to act like it was all going to be wonderful when inside I was still wondering how I'd let him go.

But then I let him go. 

Because it's what we do.  We let them go.  We let them grab opportunities when they come. 

And then we torture ourselves with pictures like this:

Have fun and be good baby boy.  (And wear sunscreen!)


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