Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas Surprise

There was a small hole in the bottom of the dog food bag. A bit of dog food spilled out on the garage floor. Utah Dad went out to feed the dog and came back in a few minutes later.

"You cleaned up the dog food in the garage, right?" he asked me.


"Someone did. Or some THING. Something probably got in the garage when you left the door open the other day."

The spilled dog food continued to be "cleaned up" over the next week. Utah Dad continued to accuse me of cleaning up the mess trying to make him believe there was a creature dwelling in our garage. I wish it was just a joke. When that bag of dog food was gone, we stored the next bag in the house and for the last month we didn't have to actually see the signs of an intrusion.

Traditionally, we set up and decorate our Christmas tree on the Monday following Thanksgiving. Yesterday, Utah Dad pulled out all our Christmas decorations from the garage. (You see right away where this is going.) While I was busy fluffing the branches of our hand-me-down fake Christmas tree, Utah Dad was going through a big box of decorations. He pulled out our stockings (handmade and individualized by my mom),  the children's Fisher Price Little People Nativity set, and the star for the top of the tree. As he continued to dig through the box he discovered that a decoration (I still can't figure out which one) had been shredded into very tiny bits of fuzz.

I freaked out. "Get it out! Get that box out of my house right now!" I did the "I-hate-rodents" creep-out dance while my kids laughed at me. I feel about mice/rats/hamsters/gerbils/opossums as Utah Dad feels about spiders. If you know Utah Dad or any of his family members, you will understand what I mean.

Utah Dad went through the remainder of the box on the front porch outside. Most of the decorations went in the garbage. As he reached the bottom of the box, he opened the door and invited the rest of us to have a peek. There was a huge pile of dog food and in one corner was a warm and cozy, formerly-a-Christmas-decoration nest (it's inhabitant was possibly a relative of the Easter mouse that tried to take up residence in our bedroom closet in a previous mouse overrun house--a story for another time). Out of the nest poked two beady little eyes and a whiskered nose. I ran back inside where I did the creep-out dance again.

Amberly thought the mouse was cute. Neal told me about some of his friends who have rats and mice for pets. What the heck is wrong with people? I'm getting the chills as I sit here.

Reminded of the Easter mouse, Utah Dad decided not to kill this mouse and just dumped it over the back fence (so it can come back). Ewwww.

We did eventually get around to decorating the house for Christmas. I keep waiting for another rodent to jump out of the tree National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation style. I'd be the lady screaming hysterically while jumping on the couch.

Monday, November 29, 2010

I'm Thankful for . . . Thanksgiving

I must conclude the thankful season with one final post about our fabulous holiday. My family (with the exception of one brother and his wife who had to work) gathered at my parents' home for the Thanksgiving celebration.

One great grandma. Two grandparents. Six siblings. Six fabulous in-laws. Nineteen children under the age of ten. One bun in the oven. Thirteen dogs (my sister has Bullmastiff puppies for sale). Seven horses. Five cows. One cat.

The women (and a kid or two) prepared the meal. I quite enjoyed an abundance of girl-time hanging out in the kitchen with my awesome sisters, sisters-in-law, mom and grandma. Our menu was quite traditional but very delicious:

Turkey (My mom was in charge of the meat, potatoes and gravy.)
Glazed Ham
Mashed Potatoes
Awesome Sausage, Apple and Cranberry Stuffing (My contribution which turned out even better than usual this year--I added extra butter--shhh.)
Yam Casserole (My other addition--no leftovers--must quadruple next year.)
Creamed Corn (I'm not a big corn fan but I tried my sister A's creamed corn this year and was converted)
Green Bean Casserole (since I hate green beans--ya, not a vegetable girl, Utah Dad insists that my sister-in-law M make this every Thanksgiving. He loves it.) 
Macaroni and Cheese (my sister-in-law A prepares this southern dish which is traditionally served at her own family Thanksgivings. We're so glad to have her and the macaroni and cheese in the family.)
Pom Pom's Raspberry Jell-o  (my sister K recreated our step-grandma's famous and delicious jell-o concoction. It's the only thing Neal ate.)
Rolls (my sister-in-law K went home to her house to bake the rolls. I'm pretty sure she also took a nap.)

While we cooked the men took care of the babies. Not a bad deal, obviously. The other kids were left to themselves which was not entirely good--imagine 15 kids left alone in the basement. I don't need to say more.

Notice that one brother is just tending a stuffed animal (albeit a precious stuffed animal) and there is another brother (just his jeans make it into the picture) that does not have a child on his lap. Where were his kids? Being naughty with some of mine one of mine--guess which one.

 Since it was so frigid outside, the kids had to bundle up warm to go out with Grandpa to feed the cows and horses. It was too cold for me, so there are no pictures of the kids outside. I have such cute nephews.

 Lilly didn't get to bring her piggy to Grandma's house. Fortunately, Grandma had a bull. Lilly believed it was a piggy even though Thomas repeatedly pointed out to her that it had horns and was actually a bull. Since Lilly was sick and especially whiny all weekend, I was thankful for the bull and for a patient Grandma who was willing to play with her.

Our holiday continued on Friday with our traditional "Pie Party" with my dad's brother and sister and their families. Instead of hosting the get-together at their home this year, my parents reserved their church building. We met there in the afternoon (the women barely made it back in time--who knew there were so many places to shop in my home town?) for bread bowls filled with a variety of delicious soups and every kind of pie you can imagine. I am talking about a lot of pie--cream pies, pumpkin pies, berry pies, chocolate pies, apple pies, pudding pies. Mmmm-mmmm.

One year my aunt had recently moved back to Utah with her family. Jokingly, I told her that we had a "pie-per-person policy" for the pie party. She took me seriously. I did feel a little guilty when each of her twelve children arrived that night carrying a pie.

The "pie-per-person policy" is a joke. But just barely.

I love that my family has this additional tradition. It was so much fun to visit with cousins and aunts and uncles that I usually only get to see on Facebook and their blogs, even if I had two whiny girls hanging on to me the entire time.

Do you have any other traditions besides the Thanksgiving meal? Did you make something especially yummy for your Thanksgiving meal? I hope you all had a fabulous weekend.

Adopted Ed - Book Review

In honor of National Adoption Month (which is almost over--good grief, November went by too fast) a new book for children is hitting the shelves: Adopted Ed by Darren Maddern, a first time author. In rhyming prose, Adopted Ed tells the story of little Ed who is adopted as a baby. As he grows, he learns that he is adopted and his parents give him the strength and guidance that he needs to overcome teasing bullies. His parents remind him that adoption is an act of love.

Maddern's book Adopted Ed would make a great book for any child who is adopted and for any child to understand adoption. My children, who aren't adopted, really enjoyed it. They have friends who are adopted and I hope that this book will help them understand the blessing and joy of being adopted.

Adopted Ed is simple, sweet and humorous as well as emotional with charming illustrations. It's well done.

I received a copy of Adopted Ed from One2One Network in exchange for my honest opinion. I have a chance to win prizes but not additional compensation has been received.

The Winner of the Gratitude Give-away

The winner of the Gratitude Give-away--a copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is . . .

Chantele Sedgwick who said:

"This is our book club read for next month. I'm excited to read it! :)"

Lucky you. Chantele, send me an email with your address so you can get your book and start reading it right away. I hope you love it.

Thanks to everyone who entered and to all my new and old followers. Hope to see you around again.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ella Minnow Pea - Book Review

My friend Jen recommended that I read Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. Because I have loved everything Jen has suggested, I immediately ordered the book. I read the delightful novel yesterday while I cuddled a sick little girl again.

The story of Ella Minnow Pea (say it out loud) takes place on the fictional island of Nollop which has been named after the man who coined the typesetter's favorite phrase: "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." which includes every letter of the alphabet at least once with minimal repeats. On the island of Nollop the people learn and value language as they honor the author.

Letters begin falling from the town memorial and the Town Council bans their use. Would it be a big deal if you could no longer use the letter "Z"? (Could you live without pizza?) As the letters are banned from the town, the author ceases to use them in the book. Meanwhile, Ella is determined to save her homeland from certain linguistic and physical ruin.

This book is a clever use of letters, words and language. I LOVE the vocabulary--real and created. While the book is a love letter to language it ultimately becomes an interesting parable about totalitarian governments and senseless laws as well as the dangers of worshipping any one over God. It is a charming, quick read.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I'm Thankful For . . .

Lilly woke up last night with a croupy cough. It's never good for kids to be sick but fortunately I was still awake and could take care of her without stumbling around in a half asleep state. I took her into the bathroom and ran a steamy shower. It calmed her quickly and then she insisted on a bath. After her bath, she got dressed in her cozy, footy jammies and snuggled with me in my bed. I read her the entire stack of Little Critter, Berenstain Bears, Maisy and Spot books. Finally, with some Vicks Vapor Rub on her chest and the humidifier running in her bedroom, she went back to bed and slept the rest of the night.

I sometimes have a hard time getting a chance to cuddle with just one child at a time. Someone else is always trying to push the other one off my lap as they battle for my attention. Last night, it was really very nice to just have some quiet time with Lilly. She's so darling and sweet.

Lilly loves to draw. She loves all farm animals but pigs are her favorite. She has such a funny way of talking and she regularly cracks us up. She knows that she's funny and she is always trying to make her siblings laugh.

For a long time she has referred to my parents as "Grampa and Grampa". We always assumed that she heard the difference but she couldn't say it (she can't pronounce her own name). But then at dinner the other night we were talking about going to my parents' house for Thanksgiving. Lilly has been counting down the days and she commmented, "I can't wait to see the Daddy Grampa and the Mommy Grampa."

I am so thankful for my silly Lilly -- my middle princess.

City of Veils - Book Review

I won a copy of City of Veils by Zoe Ferraris from Goodreads.com several months ago and I finally received it in my mailbox early last week. I have been anxious and excited to read it.

The murdered body of a young woman has washed up on the beach. The murder was obviously brutal and while the police are investigating they do not hold out much hope of solving yet another murder of a young woman. Katya, a medical examiner, is determined to help solve this case and calls on the help of her friend Nayir.

The fast-paced mystery takes place in the city of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and the setting takes center stage. The setting and the culture is fascinating and some times frightening. As a woman, I couldn't help but be overwhelmed by the lack of freedoms granted to women in that country. A woman must walk behind her husband. She can be arrested for not covering in public. There are segregated areas in homes--one for men and one for women. The lists go on. The characters in the book, from the ultra-conservative Muslim to the American woman in Saudi Arabia with her husband, are shaped by the culture and surroundings and offer unique view points.

This book definitely inspired me to reflect thankfully on my freedoms in this country and my relationship with my husband. Boy, am I thankful to live in the United States of America.

City of Veils is well written and is a heart-pounding tale of intrigue and duplicity. I would have enjoyed it even more if I'd had time this week to just sit and read it. It begs to be read in a single sitting.

There is an occasional use of crude language. Other than that, the book is a relatively clean read. While I received this book for free, this review is my own honest opinion of the book and no other compensation has been given.

Monday, November 22, 2010

I'm Thankful For . . .

One of the panels in our vinyl fence blew out during that crazy wind storm on Saturday. Utah Dad has fixed panels before but this one was going to require some extra work and he hadn't gotten to it yet.

The door bell rang this morning and I ran downstairs to answer it. I was surprised to see Tom standing on my front porch. "Hi," he said, "I was driving by and noticed there was a panel missing in your fence. Would you like me to fix it for you?"

"That would be fabulous," I replied. Tom went to the backyard and had the fence nearly fixed before Utah Dad could put on his shoes and go out to help.

Tom is the owner of Zions Fence. We hired him to install our fence over three years ago. He did an amazing job and takes pride in his work. We have been very satisfied and happy with his work.

I'm so thankful for small business owners that go the second mile--especially for Tom.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I'm Thankful For . . .

Today was our Primary Program in Sacrament Meeting. The three older children were sitting on the stand, so Utah Dad and I chose a small side pew to sit on with the little girls. We had great views of Neal and Thomas so that we could see them sing and give them the occasional reminders to be quiet. Amberly was positioned right behind the organ so we could only see her when she stuck her head up and waved a few times.

There have been years when the Primary Program brought tears to my eyes and when I first sat down I realized my mistake in not preparing with a few tissues. You know there's nothing more precious than hearing your children sing about Jesus. Turns out, I didn't need tissues this year.

Thomas had the wiggles. The serious wiggles. He got out of his seat a dozen times. In fact, the only time he actually sat in his seat was when the rest of the children were standing and singing. Half way through the program, he knocked the girl behind him with his chair and was sent back into the audience to sit with us. He burst into tears and was removed to the hallway. His teacher, who is the most patient man on the planet, retrieved Thomas from the clutches of his angry father in time to say his part.

Neal had an unusual burst of dramatics during the song where all the darling children sang and did sign language. I don't know what Neal was doing--some form of demented miming. Just plain weird.

Amberly had been upset all morning because she hasn't had a speaking part in the program for three years in a row. We explained that if every child had a part, we would be sitting there for a week. But then, she had a part. I almost missed her. I glanced up from wrestling with Lilly and Amberly was standing at the podium saying a small line. I nudged Utah Dad who was glaring at Neal but he didn't look in time.

Meanwhile, Molly got her head stuck between the wall and the pew and started screaming. I got her out but she was still rather traumatized and Lilly was angry that she wasn't old enough to talk in the microphone.

Neal and Thomas got to spend an hour after church sitting on the couch while folding their arms and listening to Utah Dad read McConkie. Hopefully, they'll remember that next year.

I am thankful for the Primary leaders and teachers who put up with my crazy children each and every Sunday. You really are amazing. Here's to you!

Saturday, November 20, 2010


I see my brother Wes all the time. But it's not really him.

One time I was waiting for a connecting flight in the Newark, NJ airport. My brother was sitting just two rows over waiting by himself. "What in the world was he doing in Newark, New Jersey?" I wondered. He was living in Utah at the time. I got up to go talk to him. Just as I was about to call his name, I realized it wasn't actually him. I noticed that the New Jersey version had a tattoo on his arm. Other than the tattoo, he could have been a twin.

I saw Wes in the parking lot of Costco today. I did a double take because he doesn't live nearby. He was with his wife and they were loading their boys into their car. I started to walk over to say hello and ask him why he was in town and hadn't come to visit me. Then the wife looked up and I saw that it wasn't really Kristina. This random woman sure looked like her. And the kids sure looked like my nephews. And the dad sure looked like my brother. It was an entire double family.

In similar news, a woman approached me in Costco today. She knew my maiden name. She was in my ward while my dad was bishop. I was a teenager. I had absolutely no idea who she was. She told me her name and I did remember her. She was friends with my younger brother Nate. She is a twin and now I can't remember which twin.

I was surprised that she recognized me. The good news would be that maybe I haven't changed that much since high school. The other not-as-pleasant but more likely possibility is that I just look a lot like my dad.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I'm Thankful For . . .

It's been nine weeks since Thomas started preschool, which means that it was my turn to teach the little rascals at my house again. There are seven boys and one girl in our preschool. Each one is adorable and rowdy

Tuesday morning the children descended on my house. The front area was littered with muddy shoes, jackets and kids backpacks. They gathered on the couch and resisted the urge to jump. We were learning the letter "R" this week so we talked about rats (they're mostly boys, after all). We even made rats out of paper, googly eyes and pipe cleaners. We were also learning about triangles. For snacks we ate Ritz crackers, Red Vines and drank root beer.

Today we learned about rhyming words and the colors of the rainbow. We mixed colors using water and food coloring so that the kids could see how red and yellow make orange.

I'm thankful that Thomas can participate in this preschool. Thomas LOVES it. I'm grateful that he has good friends. And I'm very thankful that I only have to teach the kids every nine weeks.

I'm especially thankful for Thomas, who is sweet and cuddly. He makes me laugh all the time. Sunday morning while I was combing his hair, he watched himself in the mirror and said: "I look like I did when I was a kid."

Breathing Lessons - Book Review

I'm a fan of Anne Tyler. I think she is one of the most interesting character writers out there. Her characters and situations are realistic and true but she has such insight into human nature that she can make anything from adoption (Digging to America) to marriage (The Amateur Marriage) interesting.

I found a copy of Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler at the library book sale last month and I snatched it up. I finally got a chance to read it this week. It is similar to the other books that I've read by Anne Tyler, in that the main characters, Maggie and Ira, are just a normal married couple.

In Breathing Lessons, Maggie and Ira take a quick day trip to attend the funeral of Maggie's best friend's husband. While in the car, they deal with several marital and family issues that have been secretly or subconsciously bothering them--their youngest is headed to college in the morning and their son is divorced and separated from his child.

Tyler writes dialogue so well and real, that it's almost uncomfortable for the reader. It seems almost voyeuristic--spying on your neighbor's life. Have you ever looked at a married couple and wondered 'how in the world did those two end up together'? Tyler writes tales about how some marriages happen, why they fall apart or how they manage to stay together. Even though Breathing Lessons was written and published over twenty years ago, the story still rings true because it shows human nature. The book is well written and I enjoyed it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gratitude Give-away, I'm Thankful For . . .

I spend my days at home with short people and I work in the nursery at church with more short people so I don't get a lot of adult interaction. You know how it goes. I crave conversation with my adult friends And I love when they leave comments on my blog. I am really very grateful for you--my readers and followers.

To show my gratitude to my followers--YOU, I am participating in a "Gratitude Give-away". I am giving away a copy of a The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I recently read this book and I really really enjoyed it. You can read my review *here*.

This give-away will start at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, November 17th and close at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, November 28th. To be eligible to win the random drawing for The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society you must leave a comment on this post and be a follower of Utah Mom's Life Blog. Simple! If you're not already a follower, just become one. This contest is only open to residents of the US. The winner will be announced on Monday, November 29th.

Be sure to check out the other blogs participating in the "Gratitude Giveaways".

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lecturing Elna

Last night while I was driving home from the grocery store I was thinking more about the book I had just finished--The New York Regional Singles Mormon Halloween Dance by Elna Baker. I often spend a lot of time pondering what I read in the days and weeks following and occasionally even change my mind about whether or not I like the book. I reviewed it the other day and I did enjoy it.

After the kids were in bed last night, my little teenager friend stopped by to have me proof read her high school English paper. While we were visiting, Utah Dad mentioned the book and I realized right then that I would not want my young friend to read it.

I stand by my earlier statement that Elna would make a great friend. I would really enjoy being friends with her. I know we'd have a great time hanging out.

However, if I was Elna's mother, (fortunately I am not nearly old enough to be her mother) I would have to sit her down for a little lecture. I'm sure she'd just roll her eyes and make fun of it in her next book or comedy routine. But because mothers are immune to the eye roll, I would continue. At the risk of sounding prudish this is just a brief summary of how the lecture would go:

I know you're an adult. You make your own choices and I really respect that.
Besides the swearing--which blah blah blah, you already know--you are a little too preoccupied with sex. Actually, a lot too occupied with sex. I'm sure that at twenty and single, I too was too preoccupied by sex (the thought of it). I was also very naive and didn't know half of what you just mentioned in the book regarding sex. OK, to be honest, at 35 (I am too young to be your mother) and married for 14 years I still didn't know about a quarter of what you wrote about. Now, granted I live in Utah and you live in New York City. I understand that we are in very different worlds. And if I was still single at 28, I might have been even more preoccupied with it but it seems to me that you are missing the point.

Really, really missing the point.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I'm Thankful For . . .

Utah Dad and I are always trying to think of ways to save money. A few weeks ago, we had this crazy thought that maybe we should try margarine. It costs way less than butter and it seems like butter just keeps getting more and more expensive. So, we bought some margarine as a test.

Tonight, I went to the store and bought seven pounds of butter.

We'll have to figure out another way to save money.
I'm thankful for butter.
I'm thankful for a grocery store. I'm thankful for a funny little car that smells like a rotten strawberry milk shake from a daddy/daughter date a few weeks ago because it got me to the store and back tonight.

. . . Featuring Norah Jones - Review

Norah Jones's newest CD release  . . . Featuring will be available in stores tomorrow--November 16th. I received a copy to review last week and have listened to it several times since then (it's playing right now). I'm a fan of Norah Jones. I like her sultry smooth voice and her warm style. This CD is a unique compilation of Norah's collaborations with other artists over the last ten years. The songs are very comprehensive and inclusive and she works with a wide range of artists in various music styles from Willie Nelson to Q-tip.

Because of the diversity, I liked some songs more than others. For instance, I really liked the duets with Ray Charles, Willie Nelson and others. While I didn't like the song with Outkast. It's simply a matter of musical preference. Overall, the CD is good and shows the full spectrum and diversity of Norah Jones's musical talent. It's a cool collection.

**This review if my honest opinion. I received a copy of the CD from One2One Network. For posting my opinion of this CD, I am entered to win one of five $50 gift cards.**

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance - Book Review

My mother-in-law keeps a basket full of magazines in the guest bathroom at her house. When I'm there, I have two choices--The Ensign or People. I can read The Ensign at my house so I usually pull out the latest copy of People when I've locked myself in the bathroom for a few minutes. It's just one of my little guilty pleasures.

The older I get and with the lack of regular television, I find that I really care less and less about most of the people featured in People Magazine so more and more I just read the book reviews. Last year, I read a book review for The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance. The review was positive. The title was catchy. I'm a sucker for long, unique book titles. I probably won't remember them exactly but they do intrigue me. And of course, I was curious about "Mormon" in the title, since I am one.

A few weeks ago, at church, I mentioned the book to a friend. She went right out to Barnes and Noble and bought it (she buys new books--who does that?). Even though she has a Kindle, she bought the real paper book version so that she could loan it to me when she was finished. I read it this weekend.

Elna Baker, the author and I are both Mormons but the similarities pretty much end there. I'm married. She's single. She lives in New York. I live in Utah and have spent one single day in New York City. She's genuinely funny and spontaneous. She likes pretty clothes and going out on the town with fascinating people. My husband claims that my sense-of-humor is dying. I live in my robe and I spend most days at home with my kids.

I found Elna's memoir of trying to live as a Mormon while single in New York City very funny and very refreshing. Elna is funny. She sees all the possibilities in life. She gets herself in crazy situations. I laughed out loud a few times. (I could have typed LOL and it actually would have been applicable. Are people really actually laughing out loud every time they type that? Just wondering.) I read the first section to Utah Dad who thought she was funny too even though he told me to be quiet so that he could read his own book.

I did all the things that Elna accuses young Mormon women of doing--getting married by 21, settling in Utah and having a bunch of kids, but I think that anyone who dated at all can at least relate to the ups and downs of her world. Elna is open and honest and writes about just about anything--her faith, her weight-loss, her sexuality--and it's a fun ride. Like my friend said (also a married mother) "I want her to be my new best friend."

The book is not exactly squeaky clean and you might not want to mention this book to just any friend at church. Just saying.

I'm Thankful For . . .

Saturday afternoon we deep-cleaned the kids' bedrooms. We pulled out all the junk under the beds. We put every book back on the shelf. We made sure every puzzle had all its pieces and every game had all its parts. We lifted the couch in the boys' room and put all the Lego's in the Lego bin. We voted on whether or not to keep every stuffed animal. We are a sentimental bunch and most of the fluffy friends made the cut (Aunt K gave them animals for Valentines Day, Christmas, Easter, Birthdays, just because she visited . . .). We also pulled out any remaining baby toys for donation and broken toys to just throw away.

I was in the girls' closet going through things and I found a bunch of doll clothes that belonged to a doll that Amberly had donated several months ago to the nursery toy drive. "Amberly, since you no longer have the doll, should we donate these clothes too?" I asked yesterday.

"What!?" she cried in her very high-pitched shrieky voice. "Those clothes belong to Too Big."

"Too Big" is/was the name of the doll that had previously been donated. Amberly got her for Christmas when she was 18 months old but the baby doll was too big (thus the name) for her to carry. Occasionally, Amberly would drag the doll to me so that I could put the clothes back on it but usually she preferred to play with her much smaller and more manageable baby doll--Babya (who still sleeps on her bed each night).

"You decided to donate Too Big to the nursery this summer. Don't you remember?" I reminded her. (The doll had a soft body so the nursery couldn't keep it and it then got sent on to DI. I didn't tell Amberly this part.)

"What!?" The shriek was even louder and more high-pitched. Then, Amberly burst into tears. "I loved her. I miss her. I would never donate Too Big."

"But you did." I replied matter-of-factly. It's not as if she's missed the doll for the past six months. She didn't even remember she was gone. Utah Dad poured on the sweetness. I was unsympathetic after she'd been sobbing hysterically in her bed for over an hour while clinging to the doll clothes (which she took to bed last night and hugged while she was asleep).

**Note: While I do encourage my children to go through their toys and occasionally throw some away or donate them, I never pressure them to give anything away. If they express even the slight bit of sentimentality, they can keep it. I'm not cruel. But really, Amberly decided on her own to give Too Big away. Even if she doesn't remember it now.

You might wonder how this story is ending up in a "I'm Thankful" post. I know. It's seems a stretch. I am thankful that the kids' bedrooms are finally clean for one day. Utah Dad has been threatening them all day that they better not mess them up. I'm realistic to know that by tomorrow they will be a mess again.

I really am thankful for my beautiful daughter. Yes, she's dramatic. Yes, she's overly emotional. But she's also extremely sweet and thoughtful. She'll play with her younger siblings for hours--creating fanciful pretend worlds (they miss her desperately when she goes to school). This afternoon she had them all pull on a pair of underwear over their clothes (the called them "outerwear") and they instantly became super heroes or super villains. Amberly carried a vacuum attachment tool and called herself "Super Clean Girl". I convinced Super Clean Girl to clean off the kitchen table.

Last week, (I can't believe I haven't mentioned this already) Amberly's painting won in the school PTA Reflections Contest. She won a trophy, a new box of crayons, some candy and an envelope full of free coupons to local restaurants. Amberly's painting will now go on to be judged at the district level. I stuck my camera in my purse without my usual camera case to go to the award ceremony and forgot the memory card stuck in my computer. D'oh! Even so, we're very pleased that Amberly is such a fabulous artist (she creates art at such a pace that I'm afraid we'll need to rent a storage unit to store it all--heaven forbid I throw it away).

Today, I'm thankful for my beautiful, smarty-pants, overly dramatic, artistic, Baby Doll-Girl.

Amberly and Too Big - Christmas 2004

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I'm Thankful For . . .

I was thankful yesterday.
 I just had such a busy **great** day--involving a heavenly massage, an evening with wonderful friends, chocolate and caramel--that I didn't get a chance to blog last night.
 I am thankful for days like yesterday, for good friends and I'm especially thankful for Utah Dad who watched the kids and ultimately made yesterday possible.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Am I Not A Man? The Dred Scott Story - Book Review

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff was the honored speaker at the fundraiser dinner for Childhelp that Utah Dad and I attended a few weeks ago. I knew he was a passionate speaker, attorney and politician but until that night, I didn't know that he was also a writer. We left that night with a free copy of his book: Am I Not A Man? The Dred Scott Story.

Dred Scott was born a slave in Virginia in 1799. Eventually, his masters, the Blows, would move to Tennessee and then to Missouri. After the death of Mr. Blow, Dred was sold to Dr. Emerson, a military doctor. Dr. Emerson was sent by the army to Illinois, a free state, and he took Dred with him. Later, Emerson was transferred to Minnesota, another free state, where Dred met and married his wife Harriet.  Back in Missouri and in close proximity to the Blow children, who love Dred, he learned of a law in Missouri, that once free (as he was in Illinois and Minnesota, even though he didn't know it) always free. Dred and his group of white supporters and friends filed in court for his family's freedom. This set forth a series of court battles that would end in the Supreme Court of the United States and ignite the anti-slavery passion of Abraham Lincoln and the country.

Shurtleff tells Dred Scott's story in his historical novel. Much of the book reads like a novel but there are also sections that are more like historical narrative or biography. Personally, I enjoy histories and biographies, so I didn't mind. Shurtleff not only tells Scott's story, but includes the history and political wrangling involving slavery and the expansion of the United States during the mid nineteenth century. The book is well researched and the law put forth in terms simple enough for the lay-man (me) to understand. I was surprised and impressed with the moonlighting author's ability to write and write well. He succeeds in showing the strong character of Dred Scott and made him come alive in the book.

Dred Scott and his court battles became famous and propelled the country toward the election of Abraham Lincoln, the ultimate battle over slavery and eventually the emancipation of all slaves. His story is vital to our history as a nation and should be known and studied by us all. Shurtleff gives us a well researched, interesting and well written way to learn more about Dred Scott.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I'm Thankful For . . .

On this Veteran's Day, I too, like so many others, am thankful for those brave and honorable men and women who serve and have served in the United States armed forces to protect this great land. I'm grateful for their families too who sacrifice so much while their loved ones are away.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Happy Haul-idays from Chronicle Books : You and I Could Win Books Worth $500

You know I love books. You know I love children's books, so it's not as if I could really pass up a chance to win a pile of books from Haul-i-days with Chronicle Books worth $500! Chronicle Books is an independent publisher that offers bright, colorful, creative and innovative books for children (they have books for grown-ups too but I love the childrens books most). My kids and I own and frequently enjoy several books published by Chronicle Books. We especially love the boxes of letter block books and learning block books that Neal got for Christmas when he was just a baby--read them or build a tower. They really are irristible. I dare you not to pick them up--even if you're a grown up.

So, if I win the contest for a 500 dollar book shopping spree, this is the list of books I would pick: (If I win, one of you will win these books too.)

Olive, the Other Reindeer

Deluxe Edition
By J.otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh

A Nutty Nutcracker Christmas
By Ralph Covert and G. Riley Mills
Illustrated by Wilson Swain

Frank Was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance
By Keith Graves

Out of Sight
By Pittau & Gervais

Ivy and Bean Boxed Set 2
Books 4, 5, and 6 Boxed set
By Annie Barrows
Illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Rosie Flo's Kitchen Coloring Book
By Roz Streeten

A Long Piece of String
By William Wondriska

By Suzy Lee

Day & Night
By Teddy Newton

Prisoners in the Palace
How Princess Victoria became Queen with the Help of Her Maid, a Reporter, and a Scoundrel
By Michaela MacColl

Creature ABC
By Andrew Zuckerman

It's a Money Thing!
A Girl's Guide to Managing Money
By The Women's Foundation of California
Illustrated by Susan Estelle Kwas

Other Goose
Re-Nurseried and Re-Rhymed Children's Classics
Retold and Illustrated by J.otto Seibold

Walk the Dog
A Parade of Pooches from A to Z
By Bob Barner

Vunce Upon a Time
By J.otto Seibold and Siobhan Vivian
Illustrated by J.otto Seibold

The Castaway Pirates
A Pop-Up Tale of Bad Luck, Sharp Teeth, and Stinky Toes
Story and pop-ups by Ray Marshall
Illustrated by Wilson Swain

The Lonesome Puppy
By Yoshitomo Nara

An Egg Is Quiet
By Dianna Aston
Illustrated by Sylvia Long

Emily's Balloon
By Komako Sakai

Little Pea
By Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Illustrated by Jen Corace

Twelve Dancing Princesses
Retold and illustrated by Brigette Barrager

The Ivy and Bean Secret Treasure Box
Includes Book 1, Book 2, Book 3, and a Cool Secret Surprise!
By Annie Barrows
Illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Fairy Tree House
By Saviour Pirotta
Illustrated by Susanna Lockheart

52 Cool Tricks for Kids—Revised Edition
By Lynn Gordon
Illustrations by Susan Synarski and Karen Johnson

Cook It in a Cup!
Quick Meals and Treats Kids Can Cook in Silicone Cups
By Julia Myall
Photographs by Greg Lowe

Eric Carle Animal Lacing Cards
Ten Cards and Laces
By Eric Carle

My A to Z Recipe Box
An Alphabet of Recipes for Kids
By Hilary Karmilowicz
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

The Enchanted Dolls' House
Handprint Books
By Robyn Johnson

Sylvia Long's Mother Goose Block Books
16 Board Books in a Box
Illustrations by Sylvia Long

To be eligible to win the books from Chronicle Books you must leave a comment on this post. The winner of the Haul-i-days with Chronicle Books will be announced on December 15th. I'm feeling lucky, so don't miss your chance to win some new books too!