Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Jaguar Prophecies - Book Review

I'm sure that as we get closer to the winter solstice of 2012, a date commonly thought of as the "end of the world" based on ancient Mayan calendars, we will be inundated by even more books and movies depicting conspiracy theories regarding the destruction of the world.

The Jaguar Prophecies by Phyllis Gunderson is a novel about an archaeology professor, Matt Howard, who through mistaken identity receives an invitation to a solar show during the fall equinox in Mexico. She misses the show but does have an encounter with a shriveled old Shaman, is drugged and wakes up with the tattoo of a jaguar on her inner arm. She is marked and now has the task of warning the world about the destruction to come.

Howard is a unique protagonist for this genre. She's female and not exactly attractive. She's a mother of a surly, pubescent girl and not necessarily winning any mother-of-the-year awards. She's sort of witty in a sardonic way that comes across as inappropriate in most situations. She's not exactly smooth. But she's likable.

The writing is even and the author is good at building suspense. I was sucked in by the first few pages. Unfortunately not much happens. Howard learns a lot about the various prophecies and astrological signs of the end of the world whether she wants to or not. It is pretty interesting and you might be inspired to get your food storage (if you weren't already inspired by the prophet). But there's not a lot of action and I wouldn't exactly call it a thriller.

I won an advance reader's edition from and the book will be released to the general public in November 2010.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dog Sled

My children are currently disobeying my "no toys downstairs" rule and have built a dog sled in my family room. The sled was originally pulled by a line of diminutive Snoopys but eventually every stuffed animal in the house (we have way too many) was needed to pull the heavy load of children and supplies.

Can you tell what we've been reading lately? I love when my children play literature-inspired games.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Acqua Alta - Book Review

The tidal flow combined with the rainy seasonal weather causes the acqua alta in Venice, Italy. The high water covers the sidewalks and flows into the bottom floors of buildings. The Venetians are used to it and don their high boots to walk through the city.

Acqua Alta by Donna Leon takes place in Venice during the flood season. This mystery novel is part of Leon's Commissario Guido Brunetti series but can stand on it's own. In Acqua Alta he is intrigued by a case involving a former acquaintance and Chinese art expert who has been beaten in her luxurious apartment by apparent burglars. The case becomes more mysterious when a colleague at the museum is murdered.

Leon's style is fluid and the descriptions of a wet, darker Venice are lavish and rich. Brunetti is a likeable detective who also plays the role of family man. He cares about the victims of the crimes and isn't as jaded as some literary detectives.

I rarely read mysteries. I'm not sure why because I really enjoy them. I had a good time with this one.

I won a copy of Acqua Alta from one of my favorite literary blogs : A Reader's Journal.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Winner of the CSN Gift Certificate . . .

And the winner of the $40 gift certificate from CSN Stores is:


Congratulations! I hope you have a great time shopping. Send me an email at so we can get you your prize.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Possibility of Everything - Book Review

A memoir, The Possibility of Everything , by Hope Edelman is the story of one mother's willingness to do anything to cure her three-year-old daughter who has recently developed an imaginary friend and some disturbing behavior. This mother is extremely intense and frankly the child's behavior didn't seem that different from most other three-year-old children. Honestly, I kept waiting for the child to do something really crazy. However, as a mother, I can't judge this mother's intuition that something else besides an overly active imagination and a strong-will is affecting her child.

The family travels to Belize on vacation and ends up seeking help from a shaman and a local healer. At this point, the book becomes a travelogue. My nephew served his mission in Belize, but it has never occurred to me as a vacation spot. However, after reading the lush descriptions of the jungle, ocean, friendly locals and the ancient pyramids in neighboring Guatemala, I'd really like to visit some day.

The author begins the book a jaded New York intellectual who believes in nothing and ends by believing in anything and everything. Edelman writes honestly and has the tendency to be overly critical of herself.

In the end, the daughter gets well, the troubled marriage is strengthened and a mother gains faith. Who is to say how and why? It may have been the spiritual healer and the herb and flower baths. I, personally, am leaning toward moments when the family finally connects with each other such as while pretending to fly to the moon on a swing near the ocean.

Edelman writes:

Whatever I need--what we need--is right here on this swing. Sitting. Playing. Now. And I realize, in this moment, that this is how a family grows. Not by the addition of more children or through the race to endlessly accumulate more or from my constant attempts to guard against loss, but in ordinary moments like this one. Deceptively simple moments that manage to be worth everything while appearing to be worth nothing at all (pg.300).

And that's why I kept reading. Because I too am a mother. Because I too would do anything for my children.

Adventure Base 100 - Out and About in Utah

We have so many things to do this weekend that I'm not sure we'll be able to fit everything in. However, here is one event we definitely want to do -- at least with our own cub scout.

To celebrate 100 years of Boy Scouts of American, Adventure Base 100 is coming to Utah. It will be at the South Towne Mall Parking Lot in Sandy on Friday, September 24th (that's tomorrow) and Saturday, September 25th from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on both days.

This 10,000 foot, traveling exhibit is open to all members of the community and will include a ropes course, a multi-sensory IMAX-like scouting experience, a museum featuring artifacts from a century of scouting, as well as a talent show and an opportunity to learn more about scouting.

More information can be found at the website: Watch a video about the exciting experience at

Oh, and it's all FREE! This is something you are not going to want to miss, especially if you have Boy Scouts or future Boy Scouts in your house.

Monday, September 20, 2010

CSN Stores Give-away!!!

I'm not much of a shopper. Hate it, actually. When I need to buy something I must have lots of information and I rarely make spontaneous purchases. I have to do my research, especially if I think I can buy the item cheaper somewhere else.

With my aversion to shopping, combined with the distance my house is from any stores, obviously I do the majority of my shopping online. I buy everything from books (of course) to dog houses online. I can find an item that I'm interested in, research it, think about it, come back several days later and order it. And I love when the FedEx or UPS truck stops in front of my house and I hear that fantastic sound of the box landing on my front porch. Ahhh!

Recently, as I've been looking for ways to update my blah family room, I've been checking out the end tables at CSN Stores. Wow! They have a fabulous selection. Have you heard about CSN Stores? If you haven't and you like to shop online, you really need to check them out. They sell everything from furniture to baby gear to pet supplies and almost everything in between. You'll be hooked.

CSN Stores is offering a $40 gift certificate to one of my lucky followers. I don't know anyone who couldn't use that!

Here's the basic rules:

1. You must live in the US or Canada.
2. You must be a follower of Utah Mom's Life Blog. If you're not one already--become one. It's easy. Leave a comment.

For additional chances to win, do one or both of the following:

1. Blog about this give-away on your blog or post about it on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Leave a comment.
2. Check out CSN Stores. Come back to this post and leave a comment about what you would buy with the $40 gift certificate if you were to win.

The give-away will be open to entries until 11:59 pm MST on Thursday, September 23rd. The winner will be chosen using the random number generator and will be announced some time on Friday, September 24th when I wake up.

Good luck!

P.S. Happy 14th anniversary to Utah Dad.
 I love you!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I Wish . . .

. . . every young mother could have been at the Relief Society Retreat last night.

We enjoyed the hours of visiting and laughter with friends free from the demands of husbands, babies and children (whom we love and missed); the fabulous food prepared by a few dedicated men; the cool, fresh, mountain air, and loads of treats.

We were also blessed to feel the sweet spirit of Sister Beth Elmer, a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as she shared her experiences and testimony with us.

But the most amazing part of the evening was hearing the special women of my ward and neighborhood bear their testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the love they have for the families and their honest and sincere desire to be true Handmaids of the Lord. We are different and unique. We have been blessed with various talents and abilities. We each struggle with individual trials and it was a bonding experience to hear women share their silent or perhaps not so silent burdens. It is not always easy to be mothers, but we all want to be with our families forever. We all want to raise children to grow strong in the gospel. We all desire to be obedient to the commandments. We all want our testimonies to grow. We all want to serve and lift each other. We all want to feel the Spirit more in our homes. We are all sisters. We are united by the gospel and by this desire to be better. To do better. And then to try again tomorrow if we fail today.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Yesterday afternoon my children were playing in the backyard. They came in later completely covered in mud and promptly took baths and got in their jammies. Thomas was upset with me when I wouldn't let him go back outside in his clean pajamas.

Thomas: "You are going to have to go away. I don't want a mommy any more." (Said in a completely calm, rational voice. I think it would have flustered me less if he'd been screaming.)

Me: "I'm leaving tomorrow afternoon." (I've really been looking forward to our Relief Society Retreat this weekend.)

Thomas: "No. I think you should leave now."

Me: "I can't go yet. I have to finish folding the laundry."

Thomas, thinking: "You know, you could stay, if you would be nice to me. If you're going to be mean to me, you'll need to leave right now."

Only four more hours until I leave for the retreat.

At least 24 hours of visiting with my friends. Laughing. Relaxing. Breathing the fresh, hopefully cooler, mountain air. Staying up late. Eating delicious food. I think I definitely need this break.

Apparently, my kids need a break too.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Good Part of the Day

Yesterday was one of those horrible, no-good, very bad days. Nothing big went wrong, just a lot of medium-sized bad things that piled up to make a very grouchy mommy by bedtime. None of the problems even involved my children and I felt completely rotten when my sweet Lilly whispered at bedtime, "I'm sorry I made you mad today, Mommy." I hugged her and assured her that I wasn't mad at her. And when I finally fell into bed last night, I was grateful that things hadn't been worse.

Miraculously, my old-fashioned cell phone was actually charged and in my purse so that I could call Utah Dad and get the directions to the DMV after wandering around with a confusing address for awhile. I don't know why I set off without consulting Google.

Thankfully, I already knew how to quickly fix a nurse-maid elbow before Lilly could scream too loudly at the DMV. (Why do my children fall limp when I'm holding their hand? She wasn't even throwing a fit and I swear I didn't pull hard.)

Fortunately, the car behind me narrowly missed slamming into the back of the minivan when, with my mind on the annoying and expensive government bureaucracy at the DMV (enough said), I chose to slam on the breaks at the yellow light instead of go through. I really try to be a conscientious driver and I HATE when I make mistakes. Thomas berated me from the back seat for going too fast even though I hadn't been speeding.

Remarkably, Neal actually felt that the meeting with his teacher and his parents went well.

Amazingly, Neal and his boat, that we hastily helped him put together yesterday afternoon because we'd forgotten about the Pack Meeting Raingutter Regata which the other kids and I skipped, took third place.

Gratefully, the sheriff's deputy, who stopped by in the evening to tell me that a neighbor had complained that my dog was barking at 4:30 in the morning, was very understanding and kind. To my neighbors, I'm truly very sorry that my dog was annoying you. If I had heard her I really would have taken care of the problem. I'm not sure how I didn't hear her barking since my bedroom window was open and I was awake with Lilly from four to five in the morning because she wet the bed and had trouble getting back to sleep on the couch in my bedroom.

And finally, I was especially appreciative and truly grateful that at the end of the hectic, stressful day when the kids were finally in bed, I could relax and finish reading The Help. I'm so thankful to the fabulously thoughtful writers of two of my favorite blogs, Booklogged from A Reader's Journal and Candleman from Live and Learn, who sent me a copy of The Help so that I didn't have to actually read American Slavery - American Freedom just yet. I'm anxious to talk about The Help, but I'm going to wait to publish my review until after my book club meets next time.

So far, today has gone better and I am so so looking forward to my ward's Relief Society Retreat this weekend. It couldn't come at a better time.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sleep Tight

As my children get older, it is getting more and more likely that I can actually have the elusive night of uninterrupted sleep. It is, I suppose, one of the benefits of not having a tiny baby around. Molly has been sleeping through the night for well over a year now, and is actually one of the best sleepers in the house.

Since we took the swimming pool down for the summer and my kids aren't spending three to five hours a day in the pool, there have been a lot less wet beds--as in none. Did you know there was a tie between swimming and bed wetting? I didn't, but it sure became apparent when Thomas, who never wet the bed before, suddenly started soaking his sheets every night that he'd spent the day in the pool. He told us that he was dreaming he was in the pool. Does this mean that he regularly pees in the pool?

Lilly wakes quite often, screaming from nightmares. Usually Thomas or Amberly are being mean in her horrible dreams. Fortunately, she just needs a drink of water and a kiss and she can generally go right back to quiet sleep.

Amberly stays up late, trying to secretly read her books by the light of her closet, the moon, or the night light. But once she's asleep, she is dead to the world and the screaming of her dreaming sister/roommate.

Just like most moms, I've gotten used to responding to requests in the night from my children. They need their blankets straightened or help going to the bathroom. They have a bloody nose or bad dreams. It's too dark or too light. They're too cold or too hot. They wet the bed or threw up on the pillow and in their hair (my least favorite). The moon or the sunrise is just too cool for me to sleep through. They need a drink of water or another kiss.

Saturday night I awoke to Thomas's sweet breath on my face (freaks me out to suddenly wake up to their little faces just inches from mine). He usually wakes Utah Dad so I was surprised. I was even more surprised by his request.

"I have ear wax," he said.

Ear wax at three in the morning? That's a new one. I cleaned his ears, even though they were cleaner than usual, tucked him back in his bottom bunk, gave him a drink of water, a hug and a kiss and went back to bed. He was the only one to wake me up.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Power of One - Book Review

It actually took me a while to read The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay. Utah Dad and I recently borrowed the first four seasons of Seinfeld on DVD from our neighbors. The last three weeks, we've spent the evenings vegging in front of the TV with some nostalgic laughter. Since my usual reading time was used up, I had to find snippets of time to read such as while I was waiting in the car in front of the school, in the bathroom, or the five minutes my kids were playing without fighting. In spite of that, I really enjoyed the novel.

The Power of One is the story of Peekay, a young boy growing up in South Africa during World War II. After being tormented by an older bully and his stooges during his initial year of boarding school (why would anyone send their small children to boarding school--if you've been exposed to any literature at all you know boarding school is clearly a horrible experience at best), six-year-old Peekay determines to become the welter-weight boxing champion of the world. With hard work and mentoring from some unique and genuine individuals, Peekay is driven by his ultimate goals. In the meantime, Peekay transcends local racial strife to become beloved by all races in South Africa. Peekay is a true "outlier" as described by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers. He is also likable and great fun to cheer on.

The writing is splendid. In a single scene, Courtenay takes the reader through a multitude of emotions without feeling manipulated. The book is full of humor, love, sorrow, pain and joy and still doesn't feel contrived. The characters are unique and intriguing--Peekay is coached, taught and enlightened by the grizzled African criminal; the German ex-patriot professor of music and the beautiful Jewish intellectual. People are simply drawn to Peekay's sincerity, determination and potential. He is fiercely loyal to those he loves. There is something magical about this boy.

The setting is exotic and teaming with stories of racism, adventures and chances. Courtenay is, quite simply, a natural and gifted story teller.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Book Give-away on a Favorite Blog

My friend and aspiring author, Annika, writes a fantastic blog about her adventures as a writer and a mommy of five young children. Right now, on her blog Munchkin's and Manuscripts she has posted her interview with author G.G. Vandagriff and is giving away a copy of Vandagriff's book The Last Waltz.

Be sure to check out Annika's blog for a chance to win.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Thomas turns Five

Thomas had a pretty eventful fifth birthday. It was also his first full day of preschool. We had the preschool at our house. Thomas and I are involved with a Joy School type preschool this year. We've teamed up with several other moms and kids in our neighborhood. I have to admit that I was a bit scared to have eight kids between the ages of 3 and 5 at my house (not including Lilly and Molly, who also hung around) but it wasn't bad. It really wasn't bad at all.

We were studying the letter "S" so we learned about snakes and had Skittles. For our snack time, the other kids sang Happy Birthday to Thomas and then enjoyed chocolate cupcakes with sprinkles. I think Thomas really enjoyed hanging out with new friends.

For dinner, Thomas chose stroganoff keeping with the "S" theme. He ate off the "Celebrate Plate" and we took turns saying nice things about him and listing all the things we love about him.

After dinner, we measured the kids on our growth board. It's become a tradition to do our family's yearly measurements on Thomas's birthday which also coincides nicely with the beginning of the school year. All the kids grew a lot this year.

After the other kids went to bed, Thomas got to stay up late. He and I drove to Wal-mart so that he could pick out his birthday gift. He really really wanted his own scooter. He also got a new helmet. When he got home, he had a few bites of ice cream (not much of a treats kid) and went to bed.

This morning, he was so anxious to go "scootering". We went outside even though the wind gusts were blowing down all the garbage cans in the neighborhood and there was a major dust storm. He looked so cute.

To meet Thomas is to love him. He is such a cuddle bug and his sapphire eyes are just too much. I can not believe he's already five years old.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Book Buying Hiatus

About a month ago, I ran into D.I. to look for something while my family waited for me in the car. I didn't find what I was looking for, but I did come out with five books. I only spent six dollars, so really Utah Dad wasn't upset about the money. He reminded me of the three shelves of books in my bedroom and the stack of books on my night stand that I still have to read. And then he forbid me to buy any more books until . . .

I read a book of his choice.

I agreed (after all, I had plenty of books to read already).  He has accused me several times of cheating because there have been several book packages in the mailbox since we made the deal but I had previously ordered them, or won them from and of course, (thank goodness) I  preordered Mockingjay.

I've been good and I haven't bought any books since we made the deal. (Scholastic Book Orders don't count. Right? Those books are for the kids.) But now I want to buy The Help to read for the book club. This morning I told him he better pick that book for me to read. He spent some time looking through his book shelves for the perfect choice.

Utah Dad's books fall in three categories: historical, political, or religious. I enjoy the scriptures, biographies and narrative histories but I don't usually choose to read academically interpretive histories (aka text books). But I guess I will now.

I've got to hurry and finish reading The Power of One so that I can start reading American Slavery - American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia by Edmund S. Morgan (doesn't that sound exciting) so that I can buy and read The Help. Oh boy.

I think this might be an indication of my book addiction problem.