Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Utah Dad and I have a lot in common. We're both members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We were raised in the church. Our church ancestry goes way back--not as far back as some but pretty far. We went to seminary. We met at BYU. We're both Conservative Republicans (who don't watch Glenn Beck and are hoping that the elected Democrats will be wise enough to help the Republicans save the constitution). We almost always share the same political view. Our parents are Republicans. We both come from big families. I'm the oldest of seven. He's the youngest of seven. We both enjoy history, traveling (which we don't get to do so much right now, but someday . . .), foreign films, cooking and gardening, among other things.

Even with so much in common, we're still unique, opinionated individuals and sometimes our relationship takes a lot of work. It's not bad work and I'm not complaining. It's just that being together is not always easy. I think anyone in a meaningful relationship understands what I'm trying, probably not very successfully, to say.

When Utah Dad and I got married there was just one single relationship for the two of us to work on. We've tried very hard over the years to have a good relationship and we are best friends who spend most of our free time together. Occasionally we disagree. Occasionally we argue. Occasionally we're just "off". And then, since we share a common goal of eternal marriage, we put our heads together and try our best to get our "groove" back.

Then we had children. Neal was born. There were three people in the family and three separate relationships to work on. When Amberly was born we suddenly had four people in the family but six different relationships. The numbers keep growing. Now there are seven people in our family and twenty one different loving/tumultuous relationships going on in our small house. I think we desperately need more square footage per relationship.

The more children we have the more we understand the uniqueness of the individual. Utah Dad and I shared our genes with five children and yet they have each come to this world as different as they can be. They certainly share some similar physical traits and some personality traits, but for the most part they are five very different little people. They are also at various levels of maturity and the relationships that they share with each other can be very interesting.

For example, four year old Thomas and two year Lilly spend a lot of time together every day. Neal and Amberly are at school. Molly takes naps. And I'm not particularly good at scheduling play dates. Consequently, Thomas and Lilly get to play together--a lot. There are days when it is abundantly clear that they adore each other. They can play nicely and quietly for hours, building cities with Lego's or pretending to be a family with the doll house (as long as Thomas doesn't make the house have an "earthquake"). Their favorite pretend game right now unfortunately entails the demise of their parents. I don't know why it seems so appealing to be orphaned.

Other days we hear not-so-nice comments coming from the bedroom. "I hate you, Lilly!" To which she always responds in a taunting voice, "You LOVE me, Thomas."  Some days it is best if Thomas plays Lego's in his room and Lilly plays with the doll house in her room.

The other night just before bedtime we had finished reading from the Book of Mormon and we gathered in a circle on the floor to pray. The kids were being particularly and surprisingly good about kneeling quietly and folding their arms in hopes of earning some warm fuzzies. Utah Dad asked Thomas to say the prayer. He started a very thoughtful prayer but in the middle Lilly suddenly shouted "I wanted to pray". Thomas interrupted his prayer to literally fly across the family circle to tackle Lilly flat while he shouted "you aren't supposed to talk during prayers." Lilly got out her "claws" in defense and a little battle ensued practically on my lap while Utah Dad and I tried to pull them apart and made an attempt to return to the fleeting peace we had been enjoying.

Some day, I sincerely hope that my children will develop more loving and less tumultuous relationships with each other. I hope that while they are young they can learn to work out their quarrels without hitting and learn to appreciate each other's singularity (that's one of Neal's vocabulary words and I just had to use it).

I remember too many times from my childhood of holding a younger brother in a head lock and being afraid to let go because he'd hit me. We argued. We fought. I used my nails to dig half moon indents in their forearms. Today, my siblings are some of my dearest friends and my favorite people. Of course, my brothers are way too strong and big for me to get in a head lock now.

So, there is hope. There is hope that one day Neal and Amberly will share an intelligent and significant conversation that doesn't include name calling. I hope.

Monday, January 25, 2010

War and Peace : Book Review

For a few years now I've had a book club with two of my good friends from college. We take turns picking books, we read them and then discuss them online with IM and more recently by conference call. We have similar tastes, moral standards, and open mindedness so it has been enlightening and interesting to read and discuss books with them. I especially love talking with others who are as passionate about great lit as I am.

Last summer when we got together in person we decided to pick our books for the entire year (we're also a bit neurotic and organized--some more than others). Anyway, Mandi wanted to add Tolstoy's War and Peace to the list. It's the book that everyone is "supposed" to read eventually and none of us had read it before. We decided to give ourselves three months (November, December and January) to read the 1400+ pages of tiny print. This wasn't the first time we had read an epic tome. Marie picked The Count of Monte Cristo (so, so good) a few years ago.

I read Tolstoy's Anna Karenina a few years ago and I loved it. However, I admit that War and Peace was intimidating to me. It's so long. It sounds so boring.

I started reading War and Peace  in December. The first 100 pages were interesting. The second 100 pages were dull. And the book was heavy. It was hard to read it while I nursed Molly. I didn't think I'd finish it. I put it down over the holidays to read a book for the neighborhood book club. Determined to finish, I picked War and Peace up again in January. (I've been sick with a chest cold on it's way to becoming my yearly bout of bronchitis which has given me a good excuse to sit on the couch and read.)

Another 100 pages into the book and I was hooked. The characters came alive and the story was fascinating. In fact, the characters are so human as they fall in and out of love during their search for a spouse, that I could see them transferred out of their Russian early nineteenth century setting and onto the BYU college campus (minus the duels to the death). That being said, the setting is vitally important to this story and the history of the wars between Napoleon and Europe/Asia is all absorbing. I've cried (I don't usually cry during books or movies) and laughed and rejoiced. Essentially, I've experienced nearly every human emotion while reading this book. It's just that good. Not only that but Tolstoy was unusually wise (he does tend to pontificate some). His shares opinions on nearly everything. And Elder Bruce C. Hafen even cites War and Peace in his book on marriage titled Covenant Hearts (also a very good read).

Utah Dad would agree that the book is all absorbing. He is glad that my friends are reading it too so that I can discuss it with them and spare him (I really haven't spared him all that much). The cashier at Walmart's name was Natasha (a main character from the book) and I had to catch myself from becoming the crazy customer that she would tell all the other cashiers about during her break. I've checked on Netflix and there are several movie versions. One stars Audrey Hepburn (I think I can convince Utah Dad to watch that one with me). The BBC version is five discs long (he says I should watch that one while he's away at business meetings).

On a slightly different note--I've read several books over the past few years that have been translated into English from the original language and I've become fascinated and interested in translation. I personally have no gift for learning foreign languages. I took two years of Spanish is college and only know a few basic words (colors and numbers). Perhaps that is partly why I am so impressed by those who not only understand other languages well enough to know what is being said, they also know words well enough to understand the nuances and meanings well enough to translate and demonstrate the intent of the original author be it irony, sarcasm, sincerity etc.

For War and Peace, I read the translation by Rosemary Edmonds. Her translation was published years ago by Penguin but is hard to find now. I enjoyed her writing and found it poetic and lyrical. Utah Dad has a copy of War and Peace in his leather-bound, gilt-edged, very intimidating Great Books collection. This version is translated by Maude and is the version in most anthologies. I read some and compared it with the Edmonds translation. I found it good but perhaps less poetic. While many do not like the Garnett translation of War and Peace, I read her translation of Anna Karenina and enjoyed it. My sister-in-law got the latest translation by Peaver and Volokhonsky which is hailed by many as the great translation of War and Peace (the French is left untranslated in the text with English footnotes). By the way, beware of the version that claims to be the "original version". It is a translation of Tolstoy's rough draft and not what he intended to be published.

I doubt that it really matters which translation of War and Peace you read. The true greatness is in the story and words of Tolstoy. There are still a few months left of winter and time to enjoy this masterpiece.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Overheard Conversation

Four year old Thomas explaining to two year old Lilly why she couldn't watch Up yesterday:

"Today is Sunday.
Sunday is the day we go to church.
Church is where we learn about Jesus.
Jesus is God.
God is love.
God is kindness.
God is not fighting, hitting or pinching."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Shutting Out the Stalkers

No, I'm not making this blog private.

After living in our home for three years we finally hung curtains in our dining room window today. Not only did I go shopping, make a decision and purchase curtains (thanks to the moral support of a dear friend who accompanied me), Utah Dad and I actually dusted off the tool box and hung the rod and curtains on the same day. If my dad is reading this, he probably just fainted. This is a bit of a miracle. Really. We are not known for finishing projects.

And so to all my neighbors who drive on the new road right behind my house and have been able to look right in my window, you will no longer be able to see me dancing in the kitchen. I will miss the honks and the waves from passers-by each evening as we sit down to dinner. Ahhh, privacy.

P.S. We finally hung Molly's picture on the wall with the other kids' pictures as well. She's almost ten months old now, so it was about time.

Friday, January 15, 2010

An Observation

Whenever I start making dinner, everyone congregates in the kitchen.

Whenever I start washing dishes, everyone disappears from the kitchen.

Which gives me the perfect opportunity to "sneak" a bowl of ice cream.
(The pomegranate blueberry flavor from Walmart is my favorite right now.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Reviews and Ratings for Children's Literature

I've had a similar conversation with several of my friends lately. We each have children that are reading beyond their grade level and yet are still too young for some of the themes and messages in many of the books written for older children. Some of my friends read and screen each book before their children are allowed to read it. Others take a completely hands-off approach. So far, I've been some where in the middle.

Last spring Neal read every single volume of Harry Potter. I read the first one but not until after he had read it and begged me to read it too. I've encouraged him to read books like The Sign of the Beaver and Old Yeller because I read them and loved them as a kid. He wanted to read The City of Ember and I insisted on reading it first. It won my approval. But I didn't prescreen Holes or The Mysterious Benedict Society. I won't let my daughters read Twilight until they are in their older teen years. Hopefully by then it will be way out of date and they would think it "old fashioned".

I can't exactly explain my reasoning on why I read some and don't insist on reading others. My own to-read list is so long, I have trouble screening every book for Neal. However, knowing what they are reading is important to me. Yesterday, while looking for a good historical fiction book for Neal's next book report, I found an online service that could help me (and maybe you) have a better idea of what books are and aren't appropriate for our children.

Common Sense Media is a website that gives reviews and ratings for movies, TV shows, books, music, games and websites using child development principles.

The reviews for books include the age appropriateness, the main messages, and whether there are things for parents to watch out for such as substance abuse, violence, sex, language and consumerism. And of course there is a starred rating for overall goodness. After all, the book might not have anything bad in it but no one, especially a kid, wants to read a poorly written or boring book.

The website also allows parents and kids to add their own reviews and ratings of books they have read.
And I noticed that their reviews of movies are now included on Netflix.

I've just browsed through Common Sense Media Website a little the last two days and I can tell already that it will be one I reference often.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Coats and Steamers

Neal woke up early this morning and complained of pain in his right ear. I told him that I'd take him to the InstaCare after the Primary activity this morning and he went back to bed. When I went to check on him later, I found him in his bed crying. He said his ear was extremely painful and asked me to take him to the InstaCare now.  Utah Dad agreed to take the other kids to the activity while we were gone.

On the way to the IntaCare (best invention ever), I took the opportunity in the car to lecture Neal about not wearing a coat. The temperatures have been well below zero in the morning when he goes to school and we are constantly fighting to get him to wear his coat. He usually takes it off as soon as he's out of the house. I told him the cold air wasn't good for his ear and probably exacerbated the infection.

We only had to wait a few minutes for the doctor this morning. He reminded me of a combination of my dad and my stake president. If you don't happen to know my dad or my stake president, just picture a good looking but slightly grizzled from too much time in the sun without sunscreen, clean-cut cowboy/farmer that gives it to you straight. This guy just happened to have the letters "MD" behind his name too.

He checked Neal's ears and sure enough he had a moderate infection in his right ear. While the doctor wrote a prescription for an antibiotic, I brought up the coat issue.

"Nah," the doctor said. "He doesn't need to wear a coat. His grandma might think so, but the cold won't hurt him. He's probably doesn't feel cold and if he is uncomfortable he'll put on his coat. I rarely wear a coat."

Neal gave me that look--that you-were-wrong-hahaha look and I knew right then that I will never be successful in getting him to wear his coat again.

On a lighter note, after the visit to the doctor Neal and I went to Walmart to get his prescription filled. While we waited we got some milk and diapers. Neal noticed that they had the Coconut Creme flavor of Coffee-mate and he begged me to buy it.

My sister introduced us to "Steamers" two winters ago and they have become a favorite in my house since then. Thomas calls it "hot milk" and asks for it on the cold mornings. It's just milk warmed up (I heat it up by the mug full in the microwave) with a tablespoon or so of the Coffee-mate added. (By the way, Coffee-mate does not contain coffee. If the word "coffee" bothers you, get the other brand--it's good too.) We've tried lots of flavors. Italian Sweet Creme with a dash of nutmeg and Belgian Chocolate Toffee have been our favorites.

Until Today.

Today we came home and we all tried the Coconut Creme flavor. Yum. The boys liked it plain. I added some Chocolate Nesquik to mine. It made me feel all toasty inside.

It's cold outside. Really cold. We still have months of winter ahead of us. And unlike some of my luckier neighbors, I don't have a trip to the warmer weather planned. The truth is depressing. But it gets a little more bearable with the thought that I can drink steamers in the mornings. And I, at least, will wear my coat.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I Should Have . . .

Yesterday, I should have dressed the children and done the laundry.

Instead, we stayed in our jammies and I tried to teach Molly how to sit up.
(After all, it's embarrassing that her cousin the same age is walking around the furniture and her five month old cousin is sitting up like a pro.)

Yesterday, I should have cleaned the house. I did have people coming over for book club in the evening.

Instead, I built a blanket fort with Thomas and Lilly.

Yesterday, I should have made a delicious treat to share with the Book Club.

Instead, I let Amberly and her best friend bake and decorate butter cookies when they got home from school. (Grandma gave Amberly an apron and a cookie cookbook for Christmas and she's been so anxious to use it. Amberly changed her apron before decorating the cookies because she didn't want to get her special one dirty.)

It was a really good day.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sledding Crash Videos

Some of my family went sledding while we were together over the holidays. I had to post the action footage of one of my brothers and his son. They really are crazy. I hope you can hear it because my brother Nate's laugh is the best.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The New Year with Old Friends

We've been able to spend time this new year with our old (old as in we've known them for awhile) friends.

On New Year's Day, Utah Dad watched the kids for the afternoon while I went to lunch with Mandi and Marie. I've known them since my freshman year at BYU. Marie lived in the apartment next door and Mandi moved into my apartment in January of that year. They are both beautiful, funny and brilliant. Whenever Mandi comes to town (every six months or so) we try to get together. Our schedules were so crazy this holiday season we had trouble planning a visit. We had to convince Mandi to stay longer. I'm so glad she did.

We met at our usual meeting place of Mimi's Cafe and even sat at our usual table. We had a great visit. We got to talk about kids, families, books, work, church and all the things that annoy us. We've known each other so long that we're able to let our hair down and be ourselves.

I've been debating about posting this picture.  The nerve damage from Bells Palsy looks very obvious in this one. I rarely post pictures of myself, but I like this picture of the three of us together.

On Sunday after church, the entire family drove to Heber to visit with some of our friends from New Hampshire. The Kanes were our dearest friends while we lived there. They were surrogate parents. They made us feel welcome and they fed us lots of food.

Two of their daughters have settled in Heber and the Kanes came to Utah to spend the holidays with their girls. Heather was once one of my Beehives. Now she is all grown up. She's married and teaches at a private school in Park City. She's now the Laurel advisor in her ward. She has a lovely home and was gracious enough to allow my noisy crew to come visit.

We had a wonderful visit with the Kanes, the Winterton and the Ansteads. Sue cooked a delicious meal. She is one of the best cooks I have ever known. Her food defines "comfort food". Being with the Kanes is comforting, warm, like coming home to a big hug.

It was a wonderful way to end the holidays and start the new year.

Monday, January 4, 2010


The Tooth Fairy got to visit our house just a day before Santa. I had to post a pic of Amberly with her toothless smile.

Not-so-quiet Voice

I spent Saturday morning at the Salt Lake Library doing a photo shoot with one of my brothers and his family. That meant that Utah Dad was in charge of getting all five kids dressed and ready for our nephew's baptism. To help the process, I laid out clothes for each one on the couch in the loft before I left. I arrived home twenty minutes before we needed to leave for the baptism to find Utah Dad still in his pajamas and cuddling a screaming baby girl. Apparently they had some issues about getting some chubby frog legs in tights.

Amberly had helped Thomas get dressed and he was wearing a pair of flood slacks, a short sleeve dark blue and green plaid shirt and a mint green sweater vest. She was so proud of her sweet service that for a moment I considered letting him go to the baptism wearing the odd outfit. I thanked her and then changed him into clothes that fit and matched.

Utah Dad hurried to get ready and we were in the car and on out way with plenty of time. On the way, we tried to get into the proper spirit by remembering Neal's own baptism in July and talking about how important it is to get baptized. Thomas was especially excited and talked about how he would get baptized when he turned eight.

And then we got lost. We set out with only the verbal instructions to my brother's stake center. They were inadequate. Utah Dad wandered around the neighborhood streets while the kids looked for steeples and I tried to call my siblings on their cell phones. They had already properly turned them off because they were in a church. Fortunately one brother called to see where we were and helped us find the right church (we found a few other wrong churches in our search). My dad met us at the car to help carry in little children and we walked in just in time.

We found some empty seats in the middle and settled down to enjoy the meeting. I had forgotten that my sister-in-law had asked me to lead the music and had forgotten to bring my own Primary Song Book. I tripped over kids on my way to the front and then led the song whose words I couldn't remember.

After the talk on baptism, my brother and his son left the room and all the many children (cousins) gathered at the front of the baptismal font to watch. Thomas started his commentary in a not-even-close-to-church voice. "Wow! Look at the water! Here comes J---. Look there's Uncle N---." I hurried to the front to pull him from the crowd of kids. After a scolding, he promised to be quiet and I let him return.

But he still wasn't reverent. The baptism began and he continued. "I can see myself in the mirror! Look at the water!" I grabbed him again and headed out of the room. Of course, I was on the far side from the exit. On the way around the back of the crowded room, I had my hand (lightly) over Thomas's mouth as he continued to shout, "You made me miss it! You made me miss it!"

Once outside the room, he was punished and made to sit quietly with his arms folded while I attempted to explain his infraction. He just insisted that I had made him miss the baptism that he had really really wanted to see.

Afterward, I apologized profusely to my brother and nephew, who thankfully were focused on the baptism and didn't really notice the extra noise. My brother and my dad helped Utah Dad calm down and we enjoyed a lovely afternoon eating and visiting with my extended family.

And since then, we've been practicing his "quiet voice" with Thomas. Hopefully the next time our family has a baptism (in a year and half when Amberly turns eight), Thomas will not have to miss it.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Best of 2009

Yesterday evening at dinner we took one last look back at the year 2009 and we each had a turn to say one of the best things that had happened to our family during the year. Utah Dad and I went first. There was a lot of clapping and cheering as we discussed the good times.

1. Of course we are most especially blessed and thrilled to have our little Molly this year. She is so sweet and we love her to pieces.

2. On the Fourth of July, Neal was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We're so pleased and so proud of him. And he's so handsome too.

3. We all loved our trip to Yellowstone last spring. Does it get better than Yellowstone? We enjoyed seeing the wildlife and the thermal features. The kids were so well behaved which meant that I really loved the trip.

4. We all had a great time this Christmas and it made the list.

5. We made a few fun trips to Vernal, Utah to visit with my parents and family this year. The kids love to feed the horses and play with their cousins in the tree house and the back yard. Utah Dad and Neal also went down the Green River with my family during the summer.

6. We spent Thanksgiving with Utah Dad's parents and his sister and her family. The food was great and the company was even better.

7. We tried really hard to have Family Home Evening every Monday night. We had some really fun ones. Sometimes we went on excursions such as bird watching, hikes and picnics in the mountains, and visits to the Hogle Zoo, Thanksgiving Point and the Discovery Children's Museum. We also had some really good lessons. One of my favorites was the night Neal and Amberly pretended to be missionaries and taught the rest of us about the gospel.


8. Neal and Amberly played tennis, they played soccer and Neal learned to ski. Neal also became a cub scout which he loves. He and Amberly are both doing well at school. We delight in their personal accomplishments.

9. We grew a beautiful garden in our back yard this year and got a bumper crop of zucchini, tomatoes and peppers. Our pumpkins, corn, beans and lettuce were pretty good too.

10. We also did a few home improvement projects around the house. We painted both of the kid bedrooms and painted some of the walls in the family room. We still have a lot to do but it is looking better around here.