Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Books I read in April 2014

Teresa of Calcutta by D. Jeanene Watson ***

This was a book Mark and I read for school when he was studying India.  Mother Teresa was amazing.  That's all.  It was an inspiring book and several times Mark and I would stop reading and just look at each other and say, "Wow."

babyproof by Emily Giffen**

This was a book about a woman who never wanted children.  Her husband didn't either, but then he did which rocked their marriage.  It was pretty good.  I mostly liked the characters and it reconfirmed how glad I am that I do have kids.  And Adam.

The Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher ***

We read this for school too.  LOVED it.  It's about a servant in the harem where Shahrazad told the sultan stories every night to keep herself alive because he was killing his new wives every day.  The book was compelling and even though almost every character was a girl, it kept Mark entertained.  That is saying something.

Longbourn by Jo Baker ***

I am usually skeptical of Pride and Prejudice spin offs because you are walking on sacred ground when it comes to Pride and Prejudice.  I liked this book however.  It's main characters are the servants at Longbourn.  The characters in Pride and Prejudice are there and serve as a backdrop.  There were twists in the plot that left me breathless.  There were whole parts I skimmed because they described gruesome war scenes.  No interest or courage for such things.  Good book though.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Last week, late at night--or it was probably early, early morning by then--I told Adam I wanted to be less crazy when I grew up.

He said, "Hah!"

Because he knows two things:

1) I probably won't ever get less crazy.

2) He will almost always know the perfect thing to say when I do get crazy so it's OK.

Have I mentioned Adam's a keeper?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Serious business

One of the things we, the booster club, have been doing for this musical is selling telegrams.  For a dollar people can fill out a telegram for someone backstage.  For an extra dollar they can add a candy bar.  (We'll do anything to raise money.  Those scholarships don't pay for themselves!)

It has been my job to help deliver the telegrams backstage during the second intermission.  I've been around these kids quite a bit but there is something different about being backstage during the show.  (I've never ventured back there before.)  I finally realized what it is.  There is a quiet intensity going on that is usually not evident with this group of really outgoing and loud and goofy teenagers.

I was there the night of rehearsal that the photographer took these pictures.  I witnessed the directors trying to wrangle all just pose nicely for the camera and it was like herding cats...

...really silly and attention seeking cats who are trying hard to make everyone laugh.  I felt a whole new respect for the directors and their ability to not just throw up their hands and quit trying.

Backstage, during the show, it is an entirely different story.  There is a thrumming energy but it's remarkably quiet.  People are changing costumes and reapplying make-up and adjusting hair.  Their animated faces that I just saw onstage are gone.  Instead, their expressions are serious.  They are concentrating.

The stage crew is also very busy.  They are hauling heavy set pieces, working in a silent choreography, dressed all in black, getting everything in place with precision.  Sometimes the telegrams are for them too.  When I hand them a telegram, they pocket it and keep moving.  They have a job to do.

The orchestra (and I think this is one of the best orchestras we've had) is the only relaxed group during the intermission.  They are in the hall when I give them their telegrams.  And they're acting like...teenagers.

After delivering the telegrams (which make the kids happy; a blip of a smile crosses their faces and then they get serious again), I go back to my seat.  The lights go down and the curtains open on a stage completely transformed from the last act.  The actors come out with alive faces and elaborate gestures and it is all quite stunning.

Seriously stunning.

all photos by the talented Sam Freeman

Friday, April 25, 2014

Library love

When I was a little girl my mom would take us to the Elko County Library.  There was a part of it that was sunken with two steps going all around the lower part.  I would gather up all sorts of exotic picture books and look at them while waiting for my mom.  Then, my mom would let me take home as many of the books as I wanted.  It was magical.

Sometimes we'd go to the cramped little Wells library which was a marvel in space usage.  There were a lot of books crowded in there.  I was sort of afraid of the librarian because she was old and had a scratchy voice but I also saw her as a benevolent fairy godmother that made it possible for me to take home books with the wave of her stamp pad.

I loved taking my babies and toddlers to story time at the library.  Braeden and I would go to the New Haven and Hamden libraries in Connecticut.  I'd cart Emma along too once she was born.  We went to the library during our brief stint in California and a week or so after we first moved to Washington, I was at the toddler library program with two-year old Emma and there was an earthquake.  I held her under a table and she screamed because she was scared and her mother was holding her under a table. (There wasn't room for me under the table because all the mothers were getting their kids under there so I was holding Emma under the table along with a bunch of panicked strangers.  It freaked her out.)

She got over it though.

Mark wasn't that great at toddler library times but he also got over that.  He hasn't been kicked out of anyplace for a while.  Juuuuuust about have him domesticated.

I get the most bang for my taxpayer buck at the library.  At any given time I have about five library books in my house and I usually have at least that many on hold. 

I love the library.

During Mark's swim program I go to the Snohomish library.  It is a palatial wonder compared to the tiny Mill Creek library.  I love it there.  I sit at a table by a big window and tap away on my laptop or pull out a book to read and it is quiet and marvelous.  When the sun is shining through the window it is pretty much paradise.

Yesterday, the couple at a nearby table caught my attention because they smelled kind of terrible.  They seemed to be somewhere in their mid fifties.  The man was reading a newspaper and the woman, who looked incredibly bored, was reading a Garfield comic book.  She'd read for awhile and then stare off into space.

I won't discredit the literary value of Garfield comic books though.  Braeden used to read them along with Heathcliff comic books during silent reading time.  It was all I could get him to read.  He eventually got bored with them, like I thought he would, and turned to other books.

The woman at the library may venture into more complicated tomes soon.  I would have pointed out a few interesting choices to her but my own children shun what I recommend so I didn't think I'd have much success.

As I was leaving the library, reluctantly because being there is the most sublime part of my day, I noticed an older man reading on a computer screen.  He caught my eye because the words he was reading were enlarged to about an inch tall.  He was reading so close to the screen he was practically touching it with his face.  I recognized the words he was reading.  It was the from the Bible.

I love the library.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

6th grade

This is a picture of my sixth grade class.  One of my classmates posted it on Facebook.  I'm in the front row, third from the left (looking glamorous in those big glasses).

I remember it so well.  6th grade.

Mrs. Swanson was my 6th grade teacher and I am a teacher because of her.

I'm standing next to my cousin.  We both--strangely--have almost matching sweater vests on.  We were both left handed and had the same last name but were otherwise different in nearly every possible way.  To my way of thinking back then, she was the success and I was...not.

That group is more or less who I graduated high school with.  A few of those pictured moved away and a few moved in to replace them but for the most part, this group of kids were in my life for 12 years.  I remember a lot of their birthdays still (it's a weird and useless ability).  Three of the boys pictured above have died.  Some of them were super popular and some of them were at the bottom of the social totem pole.  Looking at this picture, you'd never guess who fell in which camp.

Seeing the sweet and young faces of my classmates, I hope I was kind to them.  I think I was probably too caught up in finding my own place in the complicated social structure of sixth grade (which was mostly miserable for me) to think about being kind to other people, but I hope I was kind.

We were all-important to each other for a little while there.

I guess it's all made me think that the here and now seems so vital and like it's the Only Thing, but really it's not. People fade in and out of our lives with hardly a remembrance until someone posts an old picture on Facebook.

I just want to look back and remember having been kind.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My girl

I came home from Mark's home school swim program (at the swanky new aquatic center in Snohomish) and the big kids were home.  I had to do a few more errands and I told Emma I wanted her to come with me.

This is going to shock you but she didn't want to come with me.

I guaranteed a trip through the Taco Bell drive thru (Happy Hour, you know) and I told her I wanted to talk to her.

She relented.

We got in the van and she said, "OK, so talk."

So I did.  And she did.  I got her Taco Bell and at the grocery store she recommended a Caesar salad to go with dinner.  She spoke to me in French and I didn't understand a word of it.  We talked about our dreams--sleeping and real life.  I told her about a story I'm writing and she told me about her classes at school.

In her debate in English, her team debated a flat tax, her opponents debated a progressive tax.  The opponents compared themselves to Robin Hood and Little John.  In her debate Emma said to her opponents that comparing themselves to a talking fox and a bear didn't exactly lend credibility to their argument.

Emma is on the short list of the very best things that ever happened to me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Getting results

When you're the youngest child, I think you have to stake your claim, get what's yours.  Actually maybe you have to do that if you're anything but the oldest.  The oldest is doing everything that's new and (in the case of our children) fancies themselves the center of the universe that is the family.

As a toddler, Mark would grab my chin and direct my face his way if I wasn't giving him his due attention.  He refused to be babysat by the TV, despite my best efforts, while I was trying to homeschool.  He is uniquely equipped to not ever be neglected just because of his place as the youngest.

He lost a tooth the other day--which made me think, really?  How many more of those guys are you going to lose?  I'm not up on the process.

I don't know how reliable the tooth fairy is in your neighborhood but around here, I don't think there's ever been a time when the tooth fairy has successfully come the first night a tooth is left under a pillow.  She's a complete slacker.  (Those families with cute little pillows where you tuck the tooth in a pocket?  They put ours to shame.)

Friday night we got home late from opening night of the musical.  Mark had been at the school with me for nearly five hours.  He'd gamely been pressed into service carrying things and fetching things and he acting as doorman.  He sat by me and hooted and hollered for his brother onstage.  After the show he tapped Braeden's friends on the shoulder, regardless of other conversations they were having, and gave them a high five and congratulated them on their performances.

(I don't what to do about Mark; I can't get him to come out of his shell.)

While I was putting away things in the kitchen, Mark pulled a ziploc bag out of a drawer and then produced his tooth that had come out a few days earlier.  "I'm putting my tooth on the table," he said in a hint, hint sort of way, "To make it easier on the tooth fairy."

He didn't say, "Because the tooth fairy is lame."  (Which was kind of him.)

Monday, April 21, 2014

It came without bunnies

It was an exhausting week and then it was an exhausting weekend.

Friday and Saturday night we went to Braeden's play.  I didn't have super high expectations because it was opening weekend and Braeden, who usually errs on the side of optimism, was hesitant to do so.

It was wonderful though!  Such a great show.  The dancing, the costumes, the singing, the laugh out loud funniness...

Did I mention the dancing?

There are two kids in the cast that blow me away with their dancing skills.  I am looking forward to watching them again next weekend (and then the weekend after that).

Friday night Mark was a doorman, Saturday he was promoted to usher and I think we created a monster.  He was really into it.  I realized later maybe he inherited that gene from my grandpa who was a sheriff's deputy in his later years. (One difference is that Mark wasn't armed and my grandpa would have shuddered at the thought of not being armed.)

Mark had a flashlight and he designated himself security and went around outside, securing the perimeter and generally keeping himself occupied which is nice because he gets dragged to drama things a lot.

Here's a picture of Braeden and Leif in their costumes for the masquerade.  I am not sure who is photobombing.  These so it could be any number of them.

The picture makes me really happy because these two have been good friends for 10 years and they both look handsome and sing well and overall charm me onstage and off.

Here's an aside: During the tech week rehearsals I was walking backstage at one point.  I saw Braeden in one of his costumes and I said, "You look handsome."  Braeden walked into the make-up room and then a kid in the crew stopped me. 

He said, "I can have some what?"

I didn't know what he meant.  He said, "You said, 'you can have some...' and I want to know what I can have."

I swear these kids see me and they think of food. 

Saturday morning I felt like a zombie.  A zombie that had been hit by a truck.  All the busyness and different stresses of the week caught up with me.  We went to a lovely Easter brunch and Easter egg hunt at Geri's.  Geri instructed me not to bring a thing.  It made me feel like a slacker but was also very nice because of the whole zombie that had been hit by a truck thing.

We got home and got geared up for another night at the theater! (It is seriously such fun.)

Sunday morning I woke up before everyone else.  It was Easter morning and there wasn't a trace of preparations to speak of beside the food I had bought for our Easter dinner.  I hadn't pulled out any of my Easter decorations, we hadn't dyed eggs, there were no baskets or chocolate bunnies or anything.  I finally took the time to watch this video:

Suddenly it was Easter.  I felt like the Whos down in Whoville.  Christmas came to them without any of the trappings.  The Grinch learned that Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.

Easter means a whole lot more.  I sat in my quiet living room with the weak morning sunlight filtering in and I thought about all that Easter does mean to me.  I considered the love of my Savior, Jesus Christ and how it makes everything else right.  I turned on some music and went about my preparations for our Easter dinner which would be later.  The song "Be Still My Soul" was on my playlist.

My soul was still.  All the everything else slipped right away.  Because of Him.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Up next

I guess I'm out of things to say about our trip.  Next up?  The musical!  (a.k.a. The Thing that Takes Over our Entire Family.)

This week I've been on duty helping with setting up, serving and then cleaning up dinner for the cast and crew.  Luckily, there's a small army of wonderful parents that work together.  A few nights ago, a mother hurried in, dropped off a bunch of food and then literally ran out.  She called over her shoulder, "Sorry, I can't stay, I'm cooking for the Relief Society dinner tonight!"

These are the kind of parents I'm honored to rub shoulders with.  Salt of the earth, I tell you.

Tonight is opening night! Exciting stuff.  I've purposefully tried to distance myself from watching/hearing too much of the show.  I will watch it six times and it will be in my brain and infiltrate my dreams enough as it is.

The whole process is made easier by the fact that I have a driver to handle all the rehearsal transportation but it still is a big undertaking and disruption just like anything that takes over your entire family always is.

I have to say it's worth it though.  I love seeing the kids shine.  I love the camaraderie that happens between the kids and between their parents.  I like feeling like we're part of a community and we all have a similar goal:  one terrific show!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Home is where my mom is

While my parents were in Nauvoo on their mission, we went to Nevada a few times.  My sisters graciously hosted us and we were happy to stay with Marianne and be fed by both of them.

There's just something about a mom though.  It was nice to have her back and be staying at her house.  Since college, I have never stayed at my parents' house without my mom making me French toast on my visits.  It's my favorite breakfast and my mom knows it.

At one point in our visit, my mom lamented, "I don't know why there's never enough time to do anything while you're here."

Here's my mom's version of "not doing anything:"
Every day and every meal we ate like kings.

She took Liberty and Emma to town to teach them an organ lesson.

She and Emma sewed an apron.

She read to some of the little grandchildren.

We took walks together.

We sat on the porch and visited a little.

She listened to Mark's long and detailed descriptions of apps he likes.  She didn't act bored at all.

She squeezed in a little time working for my dad's business and checking in with her mother.

She and Braeden talked politics.

She had Adam teach her a lot about her new ipad.  (Here's a key difference between my mom and me.  I don't want to know how things work and she does.)

She taught piano lessons to her local grandchildren students.
She knit me a scarf.

We talked about good books to read and she loaned me a few.

That's just all I can think of right now and that is probably only half of what she did.  My mom is a force to be reckoned with.  She's a terrific mother and a fabulous grandmother.  None of her children or grandchildren doubt she loves them.  When I consider the quote by Oscar Wilde, "All women become like their mothers.  That is their tragedy.  No man does, and that is his," I think that if only I could somehow, possibly, through some miracle, become like my mother, I would be one happy girl.

Fingers crossed that is my tragedy.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The kids

The rest of you don't have to read this...

Since this is largely a record for my own use and my children's reading and rereading, here I will indulge myself a little.  I hate to brag...but it rarely stops me from doing so. Here's how I want to remember my nieces and nephews right now.


I stole this picture from facebook.  Clarissa is the pretty girl in pink right in the center. 

Clarissa was Mabel--the female lead--in a community theater rendition of Pirates of Penzance.  She was incredible.  I may have had my eyes fill with tears a few times because she knocked my socks off.  That girl can sing!

photo credit:  Braeden
Desi was largely absent from most of our comings and goings because she is a busy teenager.  She was busy with school and FFA and track.  It was in Idaho so we didn't see it, but while we were there she won the two mile race at a track meet and shaved a bunch of time off her personal best. (Marianne's high achieving children didn't fall far from the tree.)

photo credit:  Braeden
Liberty continues to be the baby whisperer.  All the little ones love her and gravitate to her.  If Ammon is the perfect brother, Liberty is the perfect grandchild--just ask my dad.  She also has more musical talent in her little finger than most people in their entirety.

photo credit:  Braeden
Hyrum is also amazingly musical and I love hearing him sing and play the guitar and piano.  I taught Hyrum how to make toasted cheese and he loved it.  I told him it was a journal moment and he went and wrote it in his journal.  Also I loved seeing him drive a horse with his little chariot.  He looked like a Roman.

photo credit:  Braeden (Clarissa's beautiful costume in the background...Marianne sewed it!)

Morgan rivals Liberty with the babies.  They love him too.  He told my mom he would go and live with Tabor and Katie because Charlotte loved him so much but he had to stay there and "do all his school work and other jobs."  I helped him one day with his schoolwork and that kid has a way of working himself into my heart.

photo credit:  Braeden
Carolina toted her doll Caroline around.  The few times she wasn't with her, Caroline had other plans which Lina outlined for us.  She has more sparkle and pizzazz than anyone I know.  I loved taking walks with her.

photo credit:  Braeden

Liliana is tall and thin like a model.  She is also a model child.  I was amazed that every time Olivia asked her to complete a task, she'd quietly and instantly get to work.  Her smile reminds me of Olivia's so what's not to love there?  I also liked seeing Lili on her horse, Ann. 

photo credit:  Braeden
Ruben.  He melts my heart with his glasses and imagination and the earnestness with which he does things.  I brought some DVDs and other stuff to give to my sisters.  (You know, getting rid of 5 things every day.)  I gave Olivia some American Girl movies for Lili.  Ruben saw them, naturally assumed they were for him, and offered to sell them to Lili.  I love that kid!

photo credit:  Braeden

Marcos always has an impish smile on his adorable face.  I think if he were my son, I'd probably let him get away with anything because of that smile.  I loved seeing him enamored with the pirates in Clarissa's play and I loved seeing a few of Mark's outgrown clothes on him.

photo credit:  Braeden

Ammon and Omar.  They are both young enough and I see them seldom enough that they were a little hesitant to be around me.  They are so cute I want to grab them and kiss their chubby cheeks but I don't think they'd like that very much.  I got Omar up from his nap one afternoon and sat in front of Curious George on TV long enough that he forgot I was his strange aunt he didn't know and he started talking to me about the animals on the cartoon.  I extricated myself from him after awhile to go help Olivia and I set him on the couch next to Ammon.  Without looking away from the TV, Ammon slid over to Omar and slipped an arm around his brother.

More facebook thievery.  Isaiah's in black on the left.
Isaiah is a superstar.  I loved watching him play basketball against some REALLY tough competitors.  Who knew AAU basketball could be so competitive for 11 year olds?  Isaiah's team played an older team because they had thrashed kids their own age so effectively the weekend before.  More than the basketball prowess though, I loved the shy smile and hug he gave me after the game, thanking me for watching.  Even more than that?  I love that he didn't want to play in the tournament on Sunday because he has made covenants (his words) to keep the Sabbath day holy.  I look at him and wonder how so much awesomeness could be packaged into such a skinny kid.

photo credit:  Braeden
Luke is another tall skinny firebrand.  The kids swam in Enoch and Jennifer's hotel pool in Boise the night before Isaiah's tournament.  Luke looked positively fragile with his skinny frame and light complexion.  Braeden was teaching him some swimming lessons and at one point, Braeden was towing Luke behind him and Luke was kicking his legs.  He had his chin jutted out in a determined way and I saw a glimpse of the 2nd grader who played basketball competitively against 5th graders.  He's a fighter.  There's nothing fragile about him.

photo credit:  Braeden
Tabor was talking about Savannah and said, "There's just something about a little kid with glasses."  Just looking at her makes me smile.  One afternoon she came and played with Olivia (Tabor's daughter, we recycle names) and Ruby.  They were beside themselves with joy at being reunited and I love cousin love.  I also loved watching Braeden slowly convince Savannah to get her face in the water in the pool.  She's a delightful blend of sweet and polite and scrappy and independent.

photo credit:  Braeden (Olivia on the left, Ruby on the right)

Olivia feels things very deeply and it is hard for her to live in the wilds of Boulder, UT when so many of her cousins are in Nevada.  A few weeks ago, she told Tabor and Katie, "I don't belong here."  They probed her for more information and she said she wanted to go back to Nevada to be with "her people."

It makes me happy that Olivia and I share the same people.

photo credit:  Braeden
Ruby and Mark were out on the swings and Ruby came inside and said, "Your...daughter..." then she paused, like she knew that wasn't right.

I said, "Mark?"

She said, "Yes.  He fell off the swing and is hurt."  (Mark + swings, usually = risk) 

I said, "I don't know if he'll be more upset that he's hurt or that you called him my daughter."

She thought a second and said, "Daughter and sons are the same thing, got it?"

I said, "Yes."

Charlotte is stoic as only a third born of two vivacious older sisters can be.  She patiently abides being held and cajoled by all manner of loving older cousins and aunts.

photo credit:  Braeden
We only saw Cormac and Azure one morning (and it was early so they were still in their pjs) so I sadly didn't get to spend enough time with them.  We did get to hear Cormac's rendition of the song, "Everything is Awesome" and just as we were getting ready to leave, Azure warmed up to me sufficiently that she gave me a few of her heartbreakingly adorable smiles.

photo credit:  Braeden

I love that Braeden took most of these pictures.  They were much better than any pictures I took.  He brings out the ham-it-up-for-the-camera in just about everyone.

I love all these kids!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Marks

one Mark teaching another Mark...marksmanship

When we were in Nevada, Mark was either outside on the swings or following my dad around.  My mom would say, "Mark..." and they'd both answer.

My dad would say, "Hey, Mark..."

Mark would answer, "Yes, Mark?"

The two Marks, in addition to shooting a real gun, made a gun out of wood and Mark toted it around all week.  At one point, I was making hodgepodge soup which is becoming increasingly clear as a favorite in our family; I think it's genetic.  I told one of my little nieces that was what we were having and her face lit up.  We were raised on the stuff and everyone loves it.  Anyway.  My mom sent me to where the cans were stored for the pork and beans and Minestrone soup (which are an integral part of hodgepodge soup).  My dad has created sort of a Ferris wheel that stores the cans inside the sun room wall.  (I should have taken a picture because that is an abysmal description.)  It was ingenious and I knew Mark would appreciate it.

He was in my dad's shop but I called him in.  He had been using a sander on his gun.  He had on a mask over his mouth and nose and was covered from head to toe in sawdust.  Also he was supremely happy.  Using power tools in Grandpa's shop is pretty much as good as it gets.

The wooden gun Mark made with his grandpa and the sword he made earlier out of a piece of wood he scavenged.  He's a big believer in the 2nd Amendment.

I showed him my dad's storage system and Mark stuck his head up inside it as much as he could to figure it out.  He reverently said, "Grandpa is a genius.  There's Einstein, but then there's Grandpa!"

Here they are on a horseback ride:

Mark's pale skin quickly burned in the Nevada sun so he borrowed a hat from my dad.

 The two Marks.


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