Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Books I read in December 2013

No Biking in the House Without a Helmet by Melissa Fay Greene ****

Hands down the best memoir I've ever read.  This was a great book about a great family.  The author and her husband had 4 biological children then adopted 5 more.  I loved every single person in this family.  I wish they were my neighbors.

Beautiful Day by Elin Hildebrand ***

I didn't like everyone in this book.  Not by a long shot.  Some of them acted terribly.  I did like the overall portrait though.  It was of a loving family (that didn't always get along) on the wedding day of their youngest sister.  I love family dramas (but not so much in real life...).

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis ***

I read this book aloud to Mark for school.  (We actually read a lot of books, I mostly just mention the ones I exceptionally liked.)  We both liked it.  It was about a young man growing up in China.  He was apprentices to a coppersmith.  He got into all sorts of scrapes but always learned his lesson and came out on top.  It's a good book for 5th grade boys (and their moms).

Telling the Bees by Peggy Hesketh *

I didn't like this book.  I didn't like the characters or the weird meandering style.  I read it because it was compelling enough at the start and then I was stuck at an appointment and read and read and then I only had 100 pages left so I persevered to the end.  There was a lot of beekeeping information in the book.  More than I really needed.  Except without it there would have been more of the rambling and stingily doled out story and I certainly didn't want that.


Real Life and Liars by Kristina Riggle **

I can't give this book a ringing endorsement because for one thing it was a little crude and rude at times and I don't like that.  Also, the characters were mostly self absorbed jerks.  Besides that, it was pretty interesting and thought provoking.  Even though I didn't necessarily like the characters, I did find myself rooting for them.

Monday, December 30, 2013

My turn

During the holidays, my writing group has been posting holiday stories on our website.  (They're good--you should go read them.)  This week it is my turn!  I have written a New Year's story

It is a serial story so go back and check every day this week and you will be able to read more.

Friday, December 27, 2013

A lot to be thankful for

Christmas was wonderful.  I am grateful for all the blessings in our family's life.  I am grateful for the Savior, Jesus Christ, whose life and Atonement matter more to me than anything else.  That knowledge makes everything else better.

I loved exchanging presents.  I loved talking to my parents and grandma and each one of my siblings on either Christmas day or Christmas Eve.  That in itself was a present to me (and no small feat--Tabor and I talked 1 hour and 22 minutes...and I think I still have more to say).

I loved seeing my boys sprawled on the floor, building Lego sets.

In addition to the boring and grown up gift of a gas card, Braeden wanted a Lego set for Christmas.  He said he loves to build with Legos with Mark on Christmas day.  I told him that was just like getting Mark an extra present because once Christmas is over, Braeden won't play with Legos again.  Braeden didn't care.

Adam and I morosely talked about the fact that in two years, Braeden will be serving a mission and won't be home for Christmas.  On Christmas Eve the two of us sat looking at each other, heart broken.  Where has the time gone?  We are helpless to stop it.

I'm going to stop minding the endless milk consumption and the clamorous footsteps of my big boy and all the dishes he breaks.

Quick!  Stop the hourglass.  I want my charming, long-limbed, clumsy, curly top boy to stay around.


Here's Emma while the boys were building:

She traded off reading her new book and playing her new guitar.

In the late afternoon we went to Geri's.  We laughed a lot (a lot) and ate a lot (I got the end cut of the prime rib!) and I even cried a little when Geri mentioned her gratitude for Linn's contribution to the family that we are still blessed by.

Another sigh.

We exchanged more presents and came home with a van load.

It is wonderful to be loved in the world.  Gifts and phone calls and delightful food and gentle teasing and a lot of laughter make me feel loved.

And I'm grateful.

We had a lot of nice gifts and plates of goodies delivered to our house.  This may have been my favorite.  It was from one of Braeden's friends.

Yes, it's a cantaloup.  I think it was his answer to the pineapples our family delivers to our friends and neighbors...

Thursday, December 26, 2013

It's a wrap

On Christmas Eve, Adam and Braeden were wrapping gifts (for me) in plain sight on the kitchen table while I was baking cinnamon rolls.  The gifts were (of course) in Amazon boxes so I couldn't peek inside.

(Need any Amazon boxes?  We have ten thousand.  More or less.)

They decided to use up scraps of previous wrapping endeavors.

There should be a joke here about how many men does it take to wrap a Christmas present but I don't know.  It apparently takes a rather big piece of tape.

They probably don't have a future in gift wrap.

And then there's Emma.

Someday she'll be a mother so she DOES have a future in gift wrap (like it or not).  She'll be good at it.

Adam does excel at gift tags.  They make me laugh every year.

Braeden gets the prize for brevity though:

To: M
F: B

Or in other words To:  Mark  From: Braeden.

Who has that kind of time?

More on Christmas later.  If you could see the state of things at our house you would know that I have no time to blog.  Time to start digging us out from our celebratory cyclone.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Joy to the world

Yesterday I was at the grocery store with what seemed like the rest of the entire world.  It occurred to me how happily we disrupt our regular lives and routine for Christmas.  It is a Big Deal and I can't think of anything better.

As I surveyed the crowds in the aisles and check-out lines, I thought that love was what was motivating each one of us.  We want to show love for other people on Christmas so we buy and prepare special foods, we purchase gifts, we wrap them, we daydream about happy reactions.  We deliver treats to our friends and neighbors.  It is all motivated by love.

And I think that is the perfect way to celebrate Jesus Christ's birthday.  It was He who said love thy neighbor as thyself.  I think it's wonderful that every Christmas, we do just that.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:11

Merry Christmas from our house to yours!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas movies on my computer

The only time I watch TV is when the computer is hooked up to it.  Everything I watch is from the computer.  Here are two movies we watched this weekend that I highly recommend.

Mr. Stink

It is a short British movie (under an hour).  It is quirky and funny and heartwarming which are three of my favorite things.  The movie reminded me of something Roald Dahl would have written.  Also, that is Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham (from Downton Abbey).  I didn't recognize him until nearly the end.

We also loved Silent Night

It is about the man who wrote the song Silent Night, Joseph Mohr.

It had a wonderful message and was set in Austria.  The whole thing was absolutely beautiful and I'll never hear Silent Night again and not remember it's beginnings.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Notes from homeschooling Mark

There's a family in my neighborhood that has five children that are mostly home schooled.  I am jealous of this family.  Every time I see some of the children outside during the day, hair disheveled, wearing mismatched clothing, I feel jealous.

(Disheveled hair and mismatched clothing is the birthright of home schooled children everywhere.)

I wonder at such times why my rotten children had to grow up and go to school.

It's possible I have abandonment issues.

But I still have Mark.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a lot.

Mark knows where the superglue is now so he decided to repair one of his broken Christmas tree ornaments.  While untwisting the lid, he accidentally squeezed the tube.  He got glue all over his fingers.  He glued some of them together (despite my earlier warnings)!  Under soap and water I was able to get them apart.  He still had glue on his fingers. A lot of glue. 

He got tweezers and had a marvelous time picking glue away.  I told him to just leave it and it would eventually go away.  Mark loves getting tweezers and picking at things though.  (I do too--we are wannabe dermatologists.)

Later, Mark needed to write a business letter for school.  I told him he could make up a query and write it to any company he wanted, real or imagined.

Here's what he came up with:

We are waiting to hear back from Donny.  I have a feeling it will be valuable information for the future.

Mark loves to make up jokes.  They almost always involve an explosion.  Sometimes they're funny though.  The other day at lunch he asked me, "Do you know why Swiss cheese has holes in it?"

"No, why?"

"Because the cheddar is so sharp."

At the time he was eating an original quesadilla of his own creation.  It had several kinds of cheese, roast beef and ham on it.

Mark is one of those people that likes to restate what they've learned.  Braeden's kind of the same way.  I think, "Yeah, I just told you that..." but then I remember they like to restate. 

In science we learned that when you listen to a seashell and you hear "the ocean" you are really hearing the whoosh of your blood reflected back at you.

(As an aside, I refuse to believe that.  I am like Braeden in that way.  According to his teacher, he announced in physics class that he doesn't believe in science.  Me neither.  The ocean sound is in seashells.  Don't dash my dreams, science.)

Mark restated what he'd read but with his own spin.  He said, "The human satellite dishes, or some little things we like to call 'ears'..."

I am glad Mark's around to spice up my days with his unique Markness.  Sometimes I feel a little apprehensive about what his Markness does to the rest of the world.  Is the world ready for a Mark?

He told me his scout leader is going to Brazil for a few months for work.  (I already knew, the whole primary president thing...)  What I didn't know is that apparently, if he doesn't make it out alive, Mark and his friend Fletcher are going to go to Brazil to avenge their leader's death.  Also, in the event that occurs, Mark gets his leader's cell phone and Fletcher gets the laptop.

Glad that's all decided...

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The bears take a stand

Emma was slightly offended by my bear post.  She didn't appreciate the way I described Alderwood.  Also, she thinks we need more girl bears.

Emma got the bears riled up and now they are in revolt.

And you thought it was only on Facebook that people posted political messages...

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Snowflake Lane

Braeden's friend Dana is a dancer at Snowflake Lane in Bellevue this year.  It was a good excuse to go and see the spectacle.  We took Grandma Geri with us and headed out for an evening of festivities.

Dana's mom, my friend Lisa, gave us detailed insider information about where to see Dana so we staked out our area in enough time to take pictures.

Then some of the characters came along and it felt a little like a parade at Disneyland except no Pirates of the Caribbean or Small World...and it was free.

Mark was hesitant to approach the characters until he learned they had candy.

Braeden has never been hesitant about anything in life.  Ever.

It started "snowing."

And the dancers came out.  Dana was adorable and we loved watching her.

Adam took some pictures from a different vantage point.

(Speaking of Adam, he said that a few people in the crowd tried to shove their way past him and he just stood his ground...he's an immovable object.  Braeden on the other hand, was right next to me for awhile.  Every time someone shorter than him came along, he let them in front of him.  I could understand little children but he let full grown men and women in front of him too.  This is just to say, usually our kids are nicer than we are and I don't know how that happened--because they didn't get it from us obviously.)

After the show, we met up with Dana in the spot where Lisa had instructed us to go.  She was still adorable and gracious.  Unfortunately I only snapped one photo and Dana's eyes are closed. 

After leaving Bellevue we went back to IKEA because when we were there a few weeks ago, we forgot one of the shelves we needed for our new configuration.  We seized the opportunity for some more meatballs and lignonberry sauce...

Not a bad way to spend an evening.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Remember when

Sunday we were driving and reminiscing.  Someone brought up the time Braeden was expelled from school.  Home school.  "Why?" Mark wanted to know.  He was too young to remember.

"Because I hit Mom," Braeden said.

"What!?!" Mark sputtered.  And it is surprising.  Braeden is by far our most mellow child.  Even most mellow children can have tempers though.

Mark needed to hear the whole story and I had forgotten about it so here it is.  It probably should have been one of my "31 Stories."

It was during school and he was mad at me about something or other.  I don't remember exactly how old he was.  I am guessing somewhere in the neighborhood of 8-10 years old.  Young enough that it wasn't really scary that he hit me (it would be scary now), but old enough that, unlike when your two-year-old lashes out, it wasn't OK.

I remember that he hit me and I immediately went in my room and called Adam.  He said something that surprised me, almost as much as Braeden hitting me surprised me.  He said, "I'm calling my dad."

Adam said that Braeden was expelled from school.  Before I knew it, Linn was knocking at the door, there to pick up his eldest grandson.    Braeden wasn't allowed to be home schooled until further notice, he had to go to Grandpa's.

Braeden loved his grandpa.  It wasn't exactly like throwing Br'er Rabbit in the briar patch though.  Braeden said it was the worst day he ever spent with Grandpa.  He cleaned the garage and did some stuff in the attic.  When Adam picked him up on the way home from work, Braeden was in the yard, pulling weeds.

Braeden, of course, was forgiven and never did anything like that again.  Like I said, most mellow child around here.

Thinking about this story reminded me that I miss Adam's dad.  A lot. 

I'm not sure, but Braeden may do something rash and out of character again if it meant he got to spend the day with Grandpa Linn.

He wouldn't even mind pulling weeds all day.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Ups and downs

On the downside, Emma came home from school Friday in distress.  Her cell phone wasn't working.  The screen was scrambled and unresponsive.  The tragedy!  I assured her that her dad would deal with it.  (In our division of labor, anything with an apple on it is under his jurisdiction.)

On the upside, Friday was also the day Emma got her contacts!

It was exciting.  She wanted me to take a picture to send to Braeden and Adam as we were on our way to the van.  Emma almost snapped an elastic on her braces her smile was so wide:

On the upside, earlier in the week Emma and Braeden both had a callback for the musical.  On the downside, Friday Braeden was asked for a second round of callbacks and Emma wasn't. 

Anxiety ensued.

Saturday morning we checked email and facebook every 10 seconds.  Just to see.  (It's hard to be very productive when you are checking email and facebook every 10 seconds.)

Finally, FINALLY, the cast list was posted.  Braeden called down the stairs and Emma and I bolted up the stairs to find out the verdict.

Braeden was cast.

Emma wasn't.

It is a much smaller than usual cast, about half that of the previous spring musical.  No freshmen or even sophomore girls were cast.  The competition was incredibly fierce.

None of that really helped.

Braeden, Adam and I all descended on Emma to comfort her.  She stood up and walked down the stairs. We called after her.  "I'm going to play the piano," she said, her spine straight.

I followed her down the stairs and insisted she talk to me first.  I wrapped my arms around her and we sat on the couch together and cried.  The top of her head got soaked from my tears.  Heartbreak is contagious, especially when your children are involved.  Adam and Braeden came in the room too.  We tried our best to soften the blow to our dear disappointed little one.  Braeden pulled her to his chest and promised she was talented.  She was loved.

Then we let her play the piano.

Later, Emma told me that she felt bad that everyone comforted her and no one made a big deal out of Braeden getting a part.

Where did I get these kids that are so kind to each other?

On the upside, Adam had been messing with Emma's phone and determined that we just needed to buy her a new one.  I told Emma that it was unrelated to her not getting cast in the play.  I told her that she was not getting a new phone because she had been disappointed.

(Frankly though, I don't think it hurt.  I know how Adam feels about his little girl...)

We went to the Apple store and found a parking spot right out front.  On a Saturday.  At the mall.  In December.  It was momentous.

The Apple store took forever like the Apple store does.  At one point a really creepy looking guy came in and I felt a visceral reaction.  I had to get myself and my daughter away.  I whispered to Adam, who was talking to the Apple store guy, that we were leaving.  Emma and I ventured in and out of nearby stores.  In Coldwater Creek we perused the jewelry.  Emma found some earrings she thought I should buy because she thought they looked like something I would like.  Then we found a pretty matching bracelet.  I had Emma do the math to find out what the sale price was.  In the absence of Adam it is handy to have Emma to quickly do math.  They are both math ninjas (which is preferable to me thinking I'm a math dunce).

Emma and I had a lovely time together.  I love my girl. 

Emma had a birthday party that night to attend.  On the way, she said, "This has been a dramatic weekend."  She's right.  There were a lot of highs and lows.  It's hard to be disappointed.  (It's hard to have your children disappointed and to be powerless to fix it.)

It's wonderful to be loved though.  It's wonderful to be resilient.  It's wonderful to go play the piano after you've had your little cry.

It's nice to know that life goes on.

Friday, December 13, 2013

A round-up of unrelated items


Here's a movie you should see:  The Christmas Candle

We like to go to a movie on Thanksgiving evening.  Our kids wanted to see Catching Fire but I didn't.  I don't know, I wasn't in the mood to watch a movie about children trying to kill each other.  Our children were not happy but when you're the mom and dad and the ones buying the movie tickets you have a little veto power.  The Christmas Candle was a feel good Christmas story.  It was better quality than a Hallmark movie but not really destined to be a blockbuster either.  We liked it.  Susan Boyle was in it and sang angelically like Susan Boyle does.  Also, Susan Boyle was not cast for her acting prowess.

But that lady can SING.

Our kids agreed as we walked out of the theater that is was good.  I was happy to support something uplifting rather than violent. 

Emma went with a friend to Catching Fire the next day so everyone was happy.  (She was the main one who wanted to see it after all.)

Sunrise--I love it.


Awhile ago Emma invited Freja over to help her make sock puppets for a school project.  These two delight me.

They are creative and quirky and extremely supportive and kind to each other.  They laughed the entire time and it was a delight to be in the same room as them.


Emma sang a song she composed at the choir concert!  I will get a recording of it sometime and post it.  Her courage astounds me.  Especially when I consider that she is too shy to be comfortable ordering in a restaurant.

At the concert, Braeden sang a duet with one his friends, "Baby, It's Cold Outside."  I wondered, "Did they pick the tallest and the shortest choir members to sing?

Later when the rest of the choir was on stage I realized, yep, tallest and shortest.


I don't have the stamina or disposition or courage to handle the week of auditions.  It is too much for this drama mama.  I've decided I need to be sedated.  Wake me up when the spring musical is cast and I'll deal with the outcome, whatever it is. This weeeeeeeeeeeek.  I may not survive...

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Once and for all

Every year when we pull out the Christmas bears, there is a moment of amnesia when we can't remember one or more of the bears' names.  We try to reconstruct the order and we always eventually remember but inevitably we decide that we have to do something so that we can remember all the bears' names.  I've batted the idea around of embroidering labels for each of them.  That would be lovely but so far I haven't had vast expanses of time in December for embroidering...

We always go to my blog to help us solve any sort of memory quandary.  My blog has become the definitive source of history for our family.  Braeden said I should do a post with all the bears, once and for all.

So here it is.  I've posted about the bears here and there but this post will be the one I add to every year.  As long as the internet doesn't explode (is that even possible?) we will have our Christmas bears' names recorded for our posterity.

(You're welcome, posterity.  We won't have vast sums of wealth to leave you but we will leave you with the names of our bears.)

1995:  Smith--the bear who started it all.

Adam bought him at Smith's grocery store in Provo.  He didn't know what he was starting.  Also, Smith has the distinction of being the ugliest bear.  He's not unloved though.  He used to have a bell around his neck that Braeden chewed off as a toddler. 

1996: Fergus--one of my favorites

Adam bought him at the BYU bookstore and delighted me with this handsome bear.  Also Fergus may be my favorite because he's the last bear that was for me.

Not that it's about me.

(Why isn't it about me?)

1997: Mystic

We got him in Mystic, Connecticut on a magical day we watched Santa come into town on a tugboat.

He used to have more of a tassle on his hat but it was chewed on.  (Who needs a dog when you have children that chew on everything?)

1998:  Hobee

Hobee is another sentimental favorite.  Braeden loved Hobee and named him "Ho" because it was his name for Santa and "bee" because it was his name for bear.  (It also turned out to be Braeden's name for baby.  A few months later he named Emma, "Bee Emma.")

1999:  Millie

Our first girl.  She was named after the millennium.  She is also Emma's favorite.

2000: Connor

From La Connor, WA, he became Mark's favorite.  He's super soft and sort of ugly but then you look at Smith and you know Connor--or any other bear--will never be that ugly.

2001: Cardamom

We got him at IKEA and he was named after the spice that makes Pulla--a Finnish sweet bread--so delicious.

Poor bear is crooked and one of his legs and one of his arms is longer than the other but I don't hold it against him.

2002: MacIntosh

I look at this cute bear and fondly remember the Christmas Mark was born.  Adam bought this little guy at a flower shop and he was named because of his apple green bow.

2003: Stilly

We got Stilly when we lived in Granite Falls along the banks of the Stillaguamish River.  I love the Stillaguamish River.  I hated living in Granite Falls.

I don't hold it against Stilly.  I love his expression.  He looks at me like he knows I hated Granite Falls.

2004: Alderwood

This poor bear is our least favorite.  He's from Build A Bear and there was a dispute at his arrival because Adam liked to be the one to acquire bears and I thought it would be fun for the kids to be involved at Build A Bear.  Poor Alderwood is the result.

If he weren't so unlovely we may not hold it against him but no one seems to like him much.

Sorry buddy.

2005:  Stewy

Adam reclaimed his position as the bear guy with Stewy.  He called the kids down to dinner and put a pot on the table.  They took off the lid, expecting soup and inside was Stewy.  He's named after stew.

He's little and cute (despite the blurry picture).

2006:  Shasta

We got him the year we went to Disneyland.  We named him after Mt. Shasta in Northern California that we drove by.  Sometimes these names are stretches but that doesn't stop us!

I love his pot belly.

2007: Noah

The valley flooded the year we got Noah.  I love his rain gear.

I love that we live on a hill so we didn't need to build an ark when the valley flooded.

2008: Lumi

Lumi means snow in Finnish and it snowed A LOT the year we got Lumi.  Adam left him on the doorstep next to a pile of snowballs he'd made with a little tea light glowing inside (he learned how to do that in Finland).  It charmed us all.

2009: Lad

Lad was named in memory of Grandpa Linn--Linn Adam Davis.

He is sweet and I love his sweater.

2010: Geyser

Adam bought this bear at a gift shop when we went to Yellowstone the summer of 2010.  Way to shop early Adam! 

2011: Cashmere

We named her--because of the apples on her dress--after Cashmere, WA where we stopped on our way home from Lake Chelan to get aplets and cotlets.  It's a pretty little town in the middle of apple orchard.

Cashmere is a pretty little bear. (And aplets and cotlets are disgusting but some family members love them.)

2012: Missy

Missy is named after the Mississippi River in memory of the year we went to Nauvoo (and many points in between).

Missy kind of looks like a drowned rat.  She's cranky but I like her sweater.

2013: Earnest

Named in honor of the play that took over our lives this autumn.  Also, according to Braeden, he is named after Ernie from Rudolph--Ernie the elf who wanted to be a dentist, not make toys.

The Hangers On:  Snow and Flake

We got these bears the Christmas I was (hugely) pregnant with Braeden.  My grandma gave them to us.  They are not in the same social class as the rest of the bears (they aren't truly Christmas bears) but we let them stick around anyway.


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