Monday, August 30, 2010

Mockingjay - Book Review

I want to write a spoiler-free review of Mockingjay. I'll do my best.

I just read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire for the first time this summer which turned out to be a good thing because I didn't have to wait so long for the third and conclusive volume Mockingjay.

I don't usually stay up late into the night reading because I like sleep even more than I like books. However, I heard so many good things about The Hunger Games that I chose to read it on a night while Utah Dad was gone camping with the boys. I read it all that night. I couldn't put it down. It was completely enthralling. It took me two nights to read Catching Fire--only because I had a cold and eventually the Nyquil took over and I had to stop reading. It was even better. They were both pure entertainment.

I was excited and anxious to read Mockingjay. I preordered it from and my copy arrived early last week. I finally finished reading it Saturday night. Which means, that while I did enjoy most of it, I didn't find it as gripping as the first two.

What I appreciate most in the first two books is the adrenaline-pumping action of Katniss's adventures of survival during the Games. Mockingjay lacks so much of that. Katniss didn't get into real action until the last third of the book and then just when it was getting good, Katniss and the reader are left incapacitated and in the dark yet again.

I don't mind how the book ended. Really, it is fine. But I feel like the ending is abrupt. There could have been so much more. Ultimately, I am disappointed with Mockingjay. I don't feel that the finale lives up to the first two books.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Secret Garden - Book Review

I usually choose the books I read aloud to my children based on what books Neal would enjoy. However, Neal was gone visiting his grandparents for a few weeks in early August and I decided to read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett aloud to the other kids. I had never read it before *gasp* and I've been wanting to. I hoped that Amberly would enjoy it.

We were all immediately captivated by the story of the rotten, unloved Mary growing up in India. After being orphaned by cholera, Mary is sent to live with a reclusive, crippled uncle-in-law in a sprawling manor in England.

In literature, there is not a much more cryptic setting than a large English mansion filled with hundreds of closed-up rooms and surrounded by locked and hidden gardens. Add the unsettling sound of wailing coming through the walls at night and it's a genuine mystery.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. The words flowed easily from my tongue as if poetry and I delighted to read it aloud. I especially had fun attempting to imitate the broad Yorkshire dialect of several characters. Burnett's use of gentle sarcasm and irony reminded me of C.S. Lewis's style in the Narnia Chronicles. The descriptions of the garden were exquisite--capturing the coming of spring perfectly. It made me want to plant something pretty. I thought the message beautiful and inspiring.  I am a new fan of Frances Hodgson Burnett and if my husband was currently allowing me to buy new books, I would order The Little Princess (love the movie versions) right away.

My kids, while they listened attentively for the first half of The Secret Garden, seemed to lose interest once the first mystery was solved. Amberly appreciated the tale the most, as I expected, and once he returned home Neal eagerly joined us for our evening readings even though he had apparently read it in school last year and thought it was "a stupid, boring book". I'm afraid that my children's appreciation for great literature has been overshadowed by Pixar, Harry Potter and the like and will need to be cultivated more in this house. I, for one, look forward to it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The First Day of School

Even in the summer, I regularly put my kids to bed by eight o'clock. I like a routine and I love early bedtimes. Since it was the night before the first day of school, we had our devotional at seven; the kids were in bed by seven thirty and then we turned their reading lights off at eight.

I swear, it was like Christmas Eve. Every half hour until midnight Neal or Amberly would come out of their bedrooms to tell us that they just couldn't sleep. I'm sure the insomnia was caused by a mixture of excitement and nerves, but they were driving me crazy.

Utah Dad and I set the alarm clock for the first time in months. Waking up before eight is going to take some adjustments for us.

I have mixed emotions about the first day of school. It's exciting to send the kids back. They have new classes, new teachers, new friends, new opportunities to learn and grow. They have a fresh start. I loved school as a kid and I can't help share their enthusiasm. Thomas will enjoy being the oldest around the house during the day again. He liked playing with the older kids for awhile but lately being bossed around seems to be wearing thin. I'm looking forward to a routine again.

At the same time, we've had a great summer. I do enjoy having the kids around all day and being able to go play whenever we want to. And as much as I like the routine, I also loved the free and fun nature of being able to stay and visit with friends and family late into the night if we wanted to.

Anyway, Neal and Amberly started school this morning. Utah Dad took Thomas and Lilly with him when he drove Neal to his school. We promised Neal that we wouldn't make him do a carpool this year. I'm sure I will regret that decision at some point. I can hardly believe he's a big fifth grader. Mary and I walked Amberly to her school this morning. She's going to be in a second/third grade split class and she was so excited to find that many of her friends from the neighborhood are in her class. Amberly has been counting down the days until school for weeks. For her sake especially, I'm glad it's finally here.

Here's to a great year!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I Love Red Vines

I'm not sure how Molly managed to get her hands on so many Red Vines last night in the car but she definitely enjoyed them.

P.S. I love Red Vines too and I also love the built-in car seats in my minivan.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Family Room Update - Part One

My front room needs some serious design help. I lay on the chaise part of our new couch and look at this wall and shudder. It looks old to me--like old people live here. Now, I know I just had a birthday, but really, I'm not this old.

So, the couch stays. It's new and we like it. I hate the throw pillows though. The wall color (sort of a wheat grass yellow) stays. We got four gallons of Benjamin Moore paint for free from my in-laws' reject pile. It was FREE. It stays.

The picture on the wall belongs to history-loving Utah Dad. I love history too. I love the picture but not really on my family room wall. I need something else on the wall. Something contemporary. I need a new lamp. I need some new throw pillows. I think we could freshen up this room. I just wasn't sure how to do it.

Earlier this week I stopped in for a visit at DownEast Home. I love the DownEast Basics clothing stores (don't we all). I shop regularly for clothing and tees at their locations on Foothill in Salt Lake and at the South Towne Mall. The only problem--and I mean only problem--with the DownEast Basics is that we all love it so much that we often see ourselves coming and going at church. But, I digress . . .

Anyway, I knew that they sold furniture at DownEast Home. My sister bought a gorgeous black square table there a few years ago. But I hadn't actually been in the furniture store for years. So, earlier this week I met with Tiffany at DownEast Home. She showed me around the store and filled me in on their products. I already knew that they carried and sold outlet furniture and linens for several popular national brands at outrageously discounted prices. Tiffany informed me that DownEast Home also designs, produces and sells several of their own furniture lines. Which means that you can get an entire matching set. Even if you have to save up and buy one piece at a time.

DownEast Home also has decorative items and there were several items that caught my eye to help update my family room. However, I'm a slow shopper. I have to see it; go home and think about it; talk to Utah Dad; and then go back to buy it. So, I didn't buy anything yet. But I will.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

When I was five:

I loved kindergarten and drawing pictures. Nothing was better than a new box of crayons and a big pack of blank paper.
I liked kittens and horses.
I only had three brothers then and really really wanted a sister.
I thought boys were gross.
Man, life was simple.

When I was fifteen:

I was a sophomore in high school.
I had braces.
I was just starting to get boobs.
I was definitely very geeky.
I liked to sing and play basketball.
I read  Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice and A Farewell to Arms. *sigh*
I was pretty boy crazy.

(I thought maybe I had conveniently lost this picture, but then, I found it. Hmmm.)

When I was twenty-five:

I had been married to Utah Dad for four years.
I was living in New Hampshire and spent my weekends exploring New England.
I liked my job and got to travel a lot.
I got to dress up but I still didn't have any style.
I was obsessed with scrapbooking and wanted to open my own store.
I got to work with the young women.
I prayed for a baby every day.

(I've had braces again since then.)

Now I am thirty-five: (as of today, I can no longer say that I'm in my "early thirties")

I am the stay-at-home mom of five darling children.
I am a wife.
I own a cute, little home in the middle of nowhere, Utah.
I spend my days doing laundry, washing dishes, singing lullabies, kissing boo boos, and giving hugs.
I am training a puppy.
I am a photographer.
I am obsessed with books and blogs.
I work in the nursery.
I pray for my babies every day.

Friday, August 13, 2010


I've been teaching myself how to use Adobe Illustrator (the learning curve is slow) and started playing around with my blog header. Let me know what you think. Is it too cheesy?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

One Final Ode to Breast Feeding

Molly is weaned. I'm not sure she's fully aware of it yet. But she is. She's nearly seventeen months old now--more a toddler than a baby--so it was time.

I love breast feeding. For me, it has been a joy and one of the things I will miss most about having a baby. I nursed all of my children until they were 16-18 months old which means that during the last nine years I have been nursing for just shy of seven years. And since I was pregnant before weaning three of the other four babies I was pregnant the rest of the time. I weaned Amberly when she was 18 months old (it was the only way I could get her to hold still long enough to cuddle) and got pregnant with Thomas the next month.  With the exception of a few supplemental bottles when Molly was a newborn, I breast fed all five babies exclusively for at least their first six months and primarily for the first year. This mostly joyous and incredible period of my life is at an end.

I have nursed my babies nearly everywhere--on airplanes, in restaurants, in parks, museums, at parties, and meetings. I never nursed during Sacrament Meeting. I preferred to leave Utah Dad to wrestle with the other kids while the baby and I retreated to the lounge to listen to the talks through the piped in sound system. I did nurse during a stake conference and a regional conference in the Conference Center. I became quite proficient with covering myself with a blanket or just my shirt. I'm sure I've flashed people occasionally but fortunately most have been decent enough not to say anything. I only recently purchased one of the trendy covers with the dumb names.

While I know all the benefits of breast feeding for babies one of the main reasons I breast fed was because it was so convenient and perfect for me. I loved not dealing with the hassle of bottles and formula and pumping (lucky to be a stay-at-home mom). At night and in the early morning, I love cuddling in bed with my newborns while they nurse and I sleep. I love rocking and nursing the babies before bed while I serenade them with Primary songs and lullabies. I especially love snuggling and nursing my babies while I read a great book.

I must admit that I won't miss the toe-curling pain of latching on a ferocious newborn. Fortunately, I never had to deal with the horrible pain and sickness of mastitis. I always had plenty of milk for my hungry babies.

Now, I have to come up with a different use for all that Lansinoh. I get to shop for regular bras. I can wear dresses. I'll have to find a new excuse to drop everything and read a book during the day.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Summer -- "Our" Dog

Summer, in May 2010:
Summer, July 2010:

I haven't written much about Summer, our yellow lab puppy, because in spite of being the cutest puppy on the planet we haven't been exactly sure how much we like her. We love her. We just don't always like her.

We love that she cuddles. We don't like that she sometimes nips at us.
We love that she'll play fetch. We don't like that she digs holes in the yard.
We love that she's always happy to see us.
We don't like that she's so excited that she regularly knocks Lilly flat.
We love that she doesn't do her business in the house. We don't like that she does it all over the yard.
We love to take her on walks. We don't like that she is either pulling us or we're pulling her.

You get the picture. She's still a work in progress.

Today we had her spayed at the local veterinarian clinic (poor thing). We just spent a lot of money on her, which means we've just made another commitment to her. I think she'll be part of the family for awhile.

P.S. Don't believe Utah Dad if and when he tells you how much he dislikes her. He's really quite smitten.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Brooklyn - Book Review

Utah Dad recently traveled for business. I talked to him on the phone one evening and sheepishly he mentioned that he had spent some extra money. Curious, I asked how much and he apologized profusely for spending full price for a book. I certainly wasn't going to get upset that he bought a book. While I prefer to buy used books, I'm not opposed to buying them new occasionally. I just wanted to know which one.

It turns out that Utah Dad didn't read more than twenty pages while in his hotel room, but he brought the book home for me.

Brooklyn was absolutely delightful. Unobtrusive and subtle, Toibin writes the story of Eilis Lacey, a young Irish girl. Through arrangements made by her mother and sister, Eilis leaves her small Irish town and family to emigrate to America in the mid-twentieth century. She is sponsored by a priest who finds her work and a room in Brooklyn. There she finds love, an education and a future. But the lure of home is strong and she must finally decide for herself what her future will be.

Toibin writes so well that the reader hardly notices the masterpiece he is delicately creating. While I was reading the novel, I found myself comparing his style frequently to Henry James. Later, I discovered that Toibin is best known for his novel The Master which portrays the life of novelist James. I only wish I could write like that.

The most wonderful thing about the book is the naive and sweet yet complex character of Eilis. She lets others make her decisions. She lives life carefully, trying to please everyone and offend no one. She is a completely believable character.

Reading this novel is much like getting cozy before a fire and listening to a grandmother tell her story of young love. There is nothing flashy about this book. It simply rings true.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Bed Shell

Coming Soon:

A New Invention from Thomas Ideas Inc.

The Bed Shell

You wear it on your back (like a turtle shell) and you carry it with you all day wherever you go.

Then, if and when you get tired, you can just lay right down and take a nap.
Anywhere. Any time.
Oh, and it helps if you just wear your pajamas all day.

That's my type of invention.