Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Reading Habits

Several people have asked me recently how I find time to read since I am a mother to five young and busy children. First, I should clarify that compared to some, I really don't read that much. I know people who read much much more. I usually average about five books a month--more in the cold months and less when it gets warm.

I love reading books. It's one of my favorite, most relaxing past times. So I make time for it. Here's how (it's not anything spectacular):

1. I always have a book in my purse. (I still read "real" books. Others have electronic reading devices and that makes it a lot easier to carry your books with you.) I read in the car while I'm waiting for the kids to come out of school. I read in the waiting room at the doctor's office or the DMV. Whenever I get a few minutes, I pull out the book.

2. I read in the evenings after the kids go to bed. I rarely ever watch television.

American Idol? Never seen it. Biggest Loser? What's that?

When we moved to our house, we didn't have access to cable so we had to decide whether or not we would pay for satellite television. I didn't want to pay money for something that I would feel guilty wasting time watching. We have really enjoyed all the extra time that we found when we stopped watching television regularly. We still watch movies and we've had Netflix Streaming for a year now. We definitely watch more than we used to, but I still spend most evenings reading.

3. Occasionally, I'll read late into the night. I couldn't put down The Road or The Hunger Games. But I usually turn off the light by midnight. I love/need sleep more than reading.

4. I don't read much during the days, but if I have a moment when the kids are all playing nicely together and the laundry is folded and the dishes are washed (or sometimes even if they're not) and there's nothing terribly exciting happening on Twitter, I'll sit down and read my book. I have to put my sore, swollen feet up some time.

5. Also, I don't do a lot of creative outlets. I don't sew, scrapbook, or craft. I probably should, but I don't.

6. I read aloud to the kids at bedtime and whenever we take road trips (even just to Salt Lake). The little kids and I read books together randomly throughout the day. I love when Molly brings me a little book and says "read it".

Others have asked how much money I regularly spend on books.

I buy/own almost every book I read. I am currently in the process of designing more book shelves we're going to build in my family room. I'm very excited.

I'm also cheap. I rarely ever pay more than four dollars for a book (including shipping). If it costs more than that, I wait. I shop for books on Amazon.com and at used book stores. I love the semiannual book sale at the Salt Lake City Library. A few weeks ago, I got 17 books (most were titles that have been on my wish list) and I paid $12.50. I buy the kids books from the Scholastic book orders they bring home from school. Utah Dad participates in a book club too and he buys his books also. Utah Dad doesn't buy/read as many books as I do, but his are usually much much more expensive. However, we rarely spend more than $20 a month on books--for all of us.

I can't resist my favorite book store - The King's English in Sugarhouse. It's a good thing I don't live too close anymore. Going into Deseret Book is dangerous for both Utah Dad and me. And I always buy a book at the airport book store when I'm flying (which is hardly ever now). Old habits die hard.

Ironically, the books that I have paid full price for have been my least favorites: Twilight and The Shack. I got suckered by all the hype.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Midway to Heaven - Book Review

Let me just start out by saying that I LOVED Dean Hughes's Children of Promise series. I've read them several times. I've made Utah Dad read them and my parents. They're really really good.

So, I had high hopes for Midway to Heaven, my neighborhood book club pick for May. After all, they made it into a movie.

I read the first chapter while I waited for Neal to get his bottom braces on at the orthodontist's office last week. And then I put it aside and read Slaughterhouse-Five instead. I really didn't think I would ever pick it up again. But my friend wanted to borrow it and I figured I should give it one more chance before I passed it on to her.

Ned is still grieving his wife's early death, when his daughter brings home a "friend" for the Thanksgiving holiday. It is quickly apparent that David is more than a friend. Ned is immediately wary of David. He's too cute. Too smart. Too good at everything. Too good to be true. And definitely not good enough for Ned's daughter Liz.

I had to skim through this book. It was a cute story but it just didn't deserve this much and the conversations Ned carries on with his dead wife are too weird and repetitive--we get it, Ned' wife thinks he should marry again and she likes David. I ended up skipping them completely. I realize dads go through some of these emotions when their daughters are getting married (some more than others) but this dad is just too kooky. The conversations and relationships are unbelievable and forced.

True to form, this book is squeaky clean and it will probably make you feel warm and fuzzy.

Slaughterhouse-Five - Book Review

For years my only association with Kurt Vonnegut was from the Rodney Dangerfield movie Back to School. In case your husband hasn't forced you to watch it numerous times (help me!), I'll give you a quick synopsis. Dangerfield plays the part of a successful and rich business owner who goes back to college to help support his wimpy and struggling son.  Only, Dangerfield discovers that he prefers college-style partying to studying so he pays Vonnegut (playing himself in the movie) to come and write a paper about himself for his English course. He fails the assignment because as the professor (and love interest) claims, obviously Dangerfield didn't write the paper himself and whoever did write the paper didn't understand the first thing about Vonnegut.

My long-distance book club that I maintain with former college roommates added Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five to our reading list last summer, but we fizzled out and didn't get to it. So we decided to try it again this year. I didn't know what to expect. Honestly, because of the title, I have confused it with Sinclair's The Jungle for years. Surely it has something to do with our meat industry. Right?

It's not like that. At all.

Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five is funny and irreverent and shocking and hysterical and moving and poignant and seriously disturbing. I enjoyed every minute.

And just so you know, Vonnegut is a creative genius nutcase. Oh and he swears. A lot.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I Was (hardly) a Senior Hottie

Anxious to participate in Liz's (from A Belle, A Bean and A Chicago Dog) "I was a Senior Hottie" blog hop this week, I went digging in the back of my closet for pictures from my senior year of high school. I learned a few things.

1. I don't have in my possession very many pictures from that era.
2. That is a good thing.

I finally found the proofs from my senior pictures. I've scanned them so that I can share them here today. Because I'm secure and confident . . . (right). Get ready for a laugh.
What words come to mind?
Naive. Shy.

What is with the sweaters? I borrowed the jewelry from my mom-probably even the sweater. I'm guessing that I'm not smiling because I'm self-conscious of the braces. I had them all through high school and finally got them off just in time for the musical and graduation. Do you just love the shiny background? So 90's.

This is the picture that hung on my parents' living room wall until I got married. Thankfully, I could replace it with a mediocre wedding picture (but I'm not allowed to complain about that).

I wasn't satisfied with the first pictures and insisted on "re-takes" with a different hair style. This was the way I usually wore my hair. By the time I was a senior, I had ditched the big bangs (I could never get mine to stand up very well) and long permed hair. I think I had pink eye when this picture was taken.

I grew up a lot during my senior year and overcame a lot of the shyness. I had great friends and loved singing in show choir. I worked at the County Recorder's Office and woke up early for Seminary.

Here's my picture from graduation:

And I'm including my scrapbook page with a collage of high school friends. Because they really were good times (that I would never, never want to repeat) and obviously I look better when I'm smiling. I am so very pale, I glow in the flash of the camera. Notice my friends look normal and tan because we just got back from river rafting. I went too but I didn't tan. Hmmm. I apologize to any friends who might find their pictures on this page. I hope you don't mind that I'm "outing" you too. You're all beautiful but shall remain nameless.

It was fun and nostalgic to flip through my scrapbooks from high school. Good memories.
So, are you brave enough to share your senior pictures with the blogging world? Go dig through the attic or basement or call your mom. Find the pictures and link up. I can't wait to see.

22 Britannia Road - Book Review

Polish immigrant Janusz has established a home at 22 Britannia Road in Ipswich and he eagerly waits to be joined by his wife Sylvana and young son Aurek who have survived World War II by hiding in the forests of Poland. Thus begins the story in Amanda Hodgkinson's new novel 22 Britannia Road.

Janusz, Sylvana and Aurek are survivors. They are anxious to begin their lives again. But peacetime does not erase all the memories and theya all have scars and secrets that threaten to tear them apart when they've just reunited.

Aurek, who doesn't remember his father and has just spent the last six years alone with his mother, is jealous of his father as he takes his rightful place in his mother's bed. The jealousy and attempts at rebuilding a relationship, remind me of Frank O'Connor's short story by the appropriate title of "My Oedipus Complex".

22 Britannia Road is a powerful family drama full of betrayals, suffering yet ultimately forgiveness and redemption. Hodgkinson writes with wisdom and with a skill that makes her style completely disappear and the story and characters take over. Her characters are painfully human. As with other well written books about the fall-out from war, 22 Britannia Road is emotionally stirring and a compelling read.

I received a free copy of this book through the Amazon Vine program in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Waging War

I apologize for being so grouchy lately.
Since it finally stopped raining for a day,
I'm going to take out all my frustrations
on the dandelions in my front yard.
Wish me luck.
I hope I win this war.

By the way, these pictures were NOT taken in my yard.
Thankfully, my yard is not this bad--yet.
I took the pictures down the street at an unoccupied home.
Lovely isn't it.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Because I Said So . . .

After the disgraceful behavior displayed in Sacrament Meeting on Sunday, we are in "punishment mode" at our house this week. Amberly has been grounded from her favorite thing - play dates and Neal has been grounded from the use of all electronic devices such as the Wii and the computer. Combined with the wet, cold weather and the stress from a torn-up house, it's just generally unpleasant around here.

During this past school year, it has not been that difficult to encourage Neal to practice the piano each afternoon. He's really pretty good. He has advanced quickly and he likes his teacher. But even more than that, he knows that unless he practices the piano for a half an hour, he can't play on the computer, play the Wii or go shoots hoops with the neighbor across the street.

Well, now these "privileges" have already been revoked for a time. He's angry and he's lashing out by refusing to practice the piano. Every afternoon this week when he got home from school, he screamed and cried and stomped about the house. Until he realized that I was not going to give in. I'm the mom. After all the wasted time spent throwing a fit, he finally sat down and practiced for the required time.

Yesterday he tried another tactic - the logical argument. Do not be fooled by the calm reasoning of a nine-year old. He might sound like he's reasonable and mature. However, his logic is always flawed and driven by emotion he doesn't really understand himself.

"You are spending so much money every week so that I can do something that I HATE. Think about how much money you could save if you let me quit."

"I only have so much time after school and homework and you are making me waste it."

"Grandma let Daddy stop playing the piano."

"I'm already good enough."

"If you really loved me, you'd let me quit the piano and play the guitar instead."

"You only want me to play so that you can sit and listen to beautiful music."

"If you can convince me that one day I'll be grateful that you are FORCING me to play the piano," he threatened, "I'll practice the piano."

"I am going to remember this and when I grow up, I will prove you wrong."

We've been over these discussions plenty of times before. And clearly, there is no way that I can convince a nine year old that one day, perhaps when he's 19 or maybe not until he is 35, he really will be grateful that I provided piano lessons and strongly encouraged him to practice. Even though there is enough evidence to prove my point, he won't really care. He's nine years old now and he can't even imagine ever being twenty.

And so it came down to this (again), "Neal, you will sit down and practice the piano for thirty minutes today BECAUSE I SAID SO."

Seriously, the most handy words a parent carries around in the parental arsenal of phrases. It strikes fear and annoyance into the hearts of every child. I hated hearing it when I was a kid because I knew there was nothing more I could say. How would a child possibly argue with that? The mom has just had the final word.

I am the mom. I have thirty some years of wisdom on my side. While I do not profess to know everything, I can promise that I have a lot more experience and I'm a lot better at making decisions than my nine year old. It is my job to teach him how to make good choices but it is also my job to make some of those good choices for him. He doesn't yet have the capabilities and wisdom to decide everything for himself.

For example, Neal has the choice of what attitude he takes to cub scouts. He can choose whether he goes happily each week to his den meeting and has a good time or he can choose to go with an unpleasant attitude and have a miserable time. That is his choice. But I decide that he will attend cub scouts.

I could let him quit the piano. Heaven knows it would be a lot more peaceful around here. But I would be setting up too many negative patterns for his future and I will not do that. I will put up with the battles and I will win.

After I squelched the piano practice argument with the "because I said so" line, Neal fell to pieces and threw a tremendous fit. Then, he got to sit on his oh-so-boring bed until he was willing to come down and practice the piano.

I'm grateful to be blessed with very headstrong and passionate children. Hopefully, one day, they'll be grateful for their very headstrong and passionate mother and that she FORCED them to practice the piano.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Violets of March - Book Review

During all the craziness last week, The Violets of March by Sarah Jio was my escape. Instead of laying in the hotel bed worrying about all the mess and stress, I just opened the pages of this book and lost myself in the story.

I must admit that I went to great lengths to get a copy of this book. For some reason when I read an early review and heard that it would be released in May, I just knew I wanted to read it. Perhaps it was because my dear, dear college friend grew up on Bainbridge Island, WA and the island is the setting for this story. Or maybe I was just drawn in by the promise of a buried secret discovered in a long-forgotten diary. I'm a sucker for those kinds of stories.

Emily, the protagonist, is a gorgeous and best-selling author who is suffering from writer's block and her husband just left her for another woman. Hoping to heal, she escapes to her great aunt's home on Bainbridge Island. On this beautiful island, Emily discovers the old diary containing a mystery that inspires her to write. And of course, she just might find love again. Ultimately, it is a story of forgiveness.

There's nothing especially new or earth shattering in The Violets of March. It's a typical healing-from-life story with some romance and ancestral mystery on the side. It could have been a little longer. The story would have benefited from more character development. But also, I didn't want it to end because I liked it. I like it a lot.

Jio writes well. It is easy to get wrapped up in Emily's story and the story in the journal. I could barely put the book down until I finished the last sentence. Jio uses the setting to her advantage in building the plot. While Emily's story is rather predictable, Jio is successful at writing enough twists and turns into the story contained in the diary to keep the reader guessing until the end.

The Violets of March is a perfect book for the beach (in spite of the cold and wet, I believe summer is coming), to read on an airplane or at the hotel while your house is being cleaned up after a flood. If you're going on a trip, grab a copy and throw it in your suitcase. You won't regret it.

Maybe I can talk my college friend into taking a trip with me to Bainbridge Island this summer. I'll just make her read this book. It will probably be more difficult/impossible to convince Utah Dad.

After some mild begging, I received a free copy of this book from the publishers. However, this is my honest review and I have received no compensation.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Rather frequently when my group of neighborhood friends gets together for a girls' night the question is asked, "would you want your husband to remarry if you were - heaven forbid - to die?" (Only if she is not as cute, fatter, and doesn't have any of her own kids.) Before long the conversation (usually it's very late and there is plenty/too much levity) naturally moves on to the next question, "if your husband were to die - heaven forbid - would you remarry?" My answer has always been the same, "heck no, I'm anxious for the chance to be alone."

As a mother of young children, that illusive "alone time" is so hard to come by (I rarely even find myself alone in the bathroom) that the idea of being alone is quite pleasant. The last time I was actually alone was yesterday in the car when I drove to pick the kids up from school. It lasted about ten minutes. Heavenly.

On Monday evenings, after Family Home Evening and bedtime, Utah Dad and I have reserved the rest of the evening just for the two of us. No internet. No Facebook. No Twitter. No blogs. We spend the evening watching a movie together, or playing games or talking. We also read a chapter of a book that is quickly becoming one of our favorites--Covenant Hearts : Marriage and the Joy of Human Love by Bruce C. Hafen. It is definitely the best book on marriage that I have ever read and I would suggest it to anyone who wants to improve their own marriage or simply understand why  marriage is so important.

One of the chapters that we recently read together was titled "Abiding Alone, Abiding Together, and Bringing Forth Fruit".  Elder Hafen reminded me of the importance of being together. Even though I was mostly joking about being alone--I love Utah Dad and am grateful for our eternal marriage and our family--I was humbled and repentant after reading Hafen's words.

"The great trees grow not in each other's shadow. To grow--that is the point, the eternally inborn human need to become whatever we are capable of becoming. And it is exactly to enable our personal growth that our Father gave us the plan and the doctrine that bring us together, to each other, and eventually to Him. It is only when we lose our lives in that sense that we find our highest personal meaning--received, paradoxically, in our most generous giving. 'For whomsoever will save his life [the urge of a hireling for unfettered freedom] shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake [the shepherd is willing to give his life for the sheep], the same shall save it' (Luke 9:24). We lose our lives and then find them through following the Lord's commandments, which include marriage--a pattern designed precisely to promote, not prevent, our personal growth and spiritual freedom." (pg. 142)
Elder Hafen goes on to talk about how as we have a greater understanding of the gospel and we commit ourselves to our marriage, we find ourselves.

So, I need to be more grateful that I'm not alone. I'll continue to attempt to teach my children that when I'm in the bathroom, "privacy" is not something we enjoy together. I'm also looking forward to learning more from Elder Hafen. Get a copy of this book. I promise, you will love it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Long Drive Home - Book Review

Will Allison's second novel Long Drive Home is the story of one bad decision. One second. One reaction. And the many consequences that follow.

It could happen to any one of us and perhaps that is what makes this novel so powerful. Get behind the wheel of a car and suddenly many of us seem to forget that there are other real people driving the other cars on the road. The dangerous driver speeding and weaving in and out of traffic on the freeway without a care for the safety of others can make us angry. How do you react?

In Long Drive Home, Glen gives in to his road rage. He only means to scare the reckless driver. His one quick action will cause a deadly reaction by the teenage driver and set in motion a series of events and decisions that will drastically change Glen and his family's lives.

Will Allison writes well and has the gift of brevity, which is nice for a change. His style is simple yet brilliant and he has a deep understanding of the human mind and conscience. It is a powerful, frightening and riveting tale.

In this novel, Allison created believable and realistic characters and puts them in a situation where one man's ethics, responsibility and honesty will be tested to the limits. A person's true character and values emerge in the crisis and the natural instincts to place blame, to escape, and to hide the truth can unfortunately replace a person's integrity. A person's actions have consequences that affect others.

Honestly, it was at times a painful novel to read but it did inspire a lot of thought about how I hope I would handle a similar situation.  I've been talking with my husband about the various issues brought up in the book and because of the various topics to discuss, including roles and loyalty in marriage, Long Drive Home would be an excellent choice for a book club.

For those who care, this novel is also refreshingly free of possibly offensive material such as foul language and intimate scenes.

By the way, the cover of this book uses the same picture that a recently published YA novel used. Don't be confused.

I received a free copy of the book from the publishers in return for my honest review. I received no additional compensation.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Historian - Book Review

Because of several recommendations, I ordered and decided to read The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. It was long--just over 600 pages--but the promise of an exciting tale involving Dracula sounded so intriguing, I figured it would still be a quick read. Besides, I rarely shy away from a long book.

It was really long. I started reading the book before Easter and just finished it last week. There was just enough exciting plot development to keep me interested and I kept reading. I have to be completely fair and say that my malfunctioning brain (lack of thyroid medication--I'll write more about that later) probably played a large role in my frustration with the book. Also, I was reading a hardback copy of the book and it was very heavy. I love an actual book but I think this is a time when a electronic reader might have made the reading experience more pleasurable.

After finding a mysterious ancient book in her father's study, a young woman learns more about her father's studies of Dracula, the very famous and apparently very real vampire. Then, her father disappears and despite the very real peril, she sets out to find him.

Elizabeth Kostova is a talented and brilliant writer and this book is jammed packed with historical information and legend regarding the undead. Every detail is fully described. Much of the information is told through letters, documents and second-hand tales which slows down the action but is realistic as to an academic study of a subject. Every now and then something exciting and/or frightening would actually happen as the characters had a brush with a vampire and it would compel me to continue reading the book. The last 200 or so pages of the book were especially exciting and made the entire book worth reading. When I only had 75 pages left to go, I had to wonder how everything could actually be resolved in such a short space, but the ending is absolutely satisfactory.

I am not a fan of the current genre of vampire books, as you know, but I really did end up enjoying The Historian. Dracula is a terrifying creature in life and in death. Now, I'm inspired to get my hands on a copy of Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Treading Water

All weekend we promised the kids that we would take them swimming in the hotel pool. Since it wasn't really a vacation, we had other errands to run during the day and it wasn't until late on Saturday afternoon that we had time to swim. Then the skies darkened. The rain fell and the lightening flashed. The kids were devastated. Fortunately, we do live in Utah and within an hour, the storm passed and the sun came out.

For a myriad of reasons, my children don't have many opportunities to swim. But they love the water. Thomas, especially, took right to it and swam like a little dolphin. At one point, he kicked off the side of the pool intending to swim to his dad, whose attention was occupied elsewhere. Finding himself in the deep water, Thomas panicked. Utah Dad grabbed him quickly and he was in little danger.

Later, after we had dried off and changed for dinner, I asked Thomas what he thought about swimming. He answered:

"It was so much fun until I drowned."

His comment perfectly sums up my life right now. Since Easter weekend, we have had non-stop fun: Amberly's baptism, house guests, Hope of America, field trips, barbecues, family celebrations (my brother finally graduated from USU. Woohoo!), church activities, girls' nights, book sales, newspaper interviews, movie nights, Mother's Day, prepping of the garden and more. We've stayed up late so many nights.

While we've been having a great time, I've also felt like I've been treading water most of the time. It didn't help that I forgot to take my thyroid medication for over a week. Besides the symptoms of a sluggish thyroid, I've been excessively emotional. A conversation about my mother going back to school when I was young caused me to tear up. Even thinking about my dear friend moving from our neighborhood makes me cry. I was wiping tears away during the fifth grade's patriotic performance at Hope of America. Listening to my babies sing on Mother's Day had me weeping with gratitude. A thoughtful note from a "secret friend" evoked more tears.

Then . . . last Wednesday morning I noticed a wet spot on the carpet in the family room. I assumed someone had spilled water. In the afternoon, I wondered why that spot was still wet. Then, as I was putting the kids to bed, I noticed that the towel that blocks the door of the water heater/water softener closet (which is upstairs because I don't have a basement in my house) was sopping wet. I threw the towel in the bathtub and did a quick inspection in the closet. It didn't appear to be too wet and I couldn't tell where the water was coming from. An hour later, Utah Dad got home from the grocery store and turned on the light in the family room. There was a funny popping noise and he realized that the ceiling light was full of water. In fact, the ceiling in the family room was bulging from the water damage.

We quickly moved the couch to save it in case the ceiling caved in and made a call to our Home Owner's Insurance. Together, we determined that the water had leaked from the water softener, which we turned off.

Thursday afternoon, the guys from Service Masters showed up to assess the damage. The crews arrived later and suggested that the children not be in the house with the equipment. I made a reservation at the Hyatt Summerfield Suites (only place big enough to adequately accommodate the entire family) and hastily threw together a suitcase. While the kids and I were grabbing dinner and checking into the hotel, Utah Dad stayed at home with the clean-up crew. They pulled out the carpet and the baseboards in the loft and the kids' bedrooms. The carpet pads were tossed in the garbage. They also cut a large part of the ceiling out of the family room. Then they turned on the fans and the dehumidifiers. Utah Dad joined us at the hotel later when they were finished.

Friday morning, Utah Dad returned home to take the kids to school and let the guys back in the house. He worked all day in his closed-off office during the day while the temperature in our house rose into the nineties. After trying to entertain the little kids all morning, I came back in time to pick up the kids from school, move along the laundry which I had unfortunately neglected earlier in the week, and pack a better suitcase. The weather had finally turned warm and I had to search through the containers of summer clothes for swimming suits, shorts and T-shirts.

We stayed at the hotel Friday and Saturday nights too. While the rooms were really quite nice, having five kids in the same bedroom makes it rather hard for them to go to sleep. Utah Dad had to return home every day to allow the workers to get in the house and to feed the dog. Finally on Sunday morning, they let us know that the house was now dry enough and they could remove the fans and dehumidifiers and we could all return home.

The kids and I got home just after eleven am on Sunday morning. Ambitiously, I thought that we could all go to church at one. Then Molly threw up and Utah Dad volunteered to stay home with her. After all, I had to teach my Primary class and Lilly was supposed to give a talk in Primary opening exercises. The other kids and I got dressed and headed to church.

We sat on our usual row. My kids all rushed to sit next to me or on me. The battles ensued. I'm not sure why they suddenly want to sit so near me. It's not as if I've been very nice lately. My friends in the row ahead of me turned to inquire about the house. I gave them the update while I wrestled with children and my eyes filled with tears. And it was so hot! Suddenly, I'm sweating, crying and my kids are still fighting. The opening hymn started and I knew I couldn't stay. I grabbed all four and pushed them rather clumsily out of the pew, down the aisle and out the door of the chapel.

All the way to the car, Lilly cried, "but I have to give my talk." The other kids were scared. They knew that they were in deep, deep trouble. When we got home, Molly was already napping. The other kids immediately joined her with severe warnings that they would lose dinner if they got out of bed. Utah Dad dressed (because I was not going back) and took Lilly back to Primary so that she could give her talk. He claims that he whispered one thing in her ear and another mostly indecipherable thing came out. But she was thrilled to give her first talk.

I do love my ward. It is full of really fabulous people. I got a hug from a friend on my way out of the building; a phone call from another friend (who covered for me in Primary) after church and a plate of delicious banana muffins and a visit from my neighbor.

It's not as if my problems are really that big. In perspective, they're fairly minor. We've moved most of the furniture out of the kitchen and back to the family room. I've been washing, drying and folding laundry all morning and I feel much better after sleeping in my own bed.

Just like Thomas, I didn't really drown. And I'm ready to start swimming again.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mirror Mirror - Book Review

I'm sure it won't surprise you to know that we've recently acquired a lot of books. A LOT of books. As in, it will take me half a life time to actually read everything on my to-read book shelf.

Anyway, when Amberly brought home her Scholastic book order form from school a few weeks ago, I tried to restrain myself. I wasn't planning to order anything at all, but there was one book that Amberly really really wanted. One book. So, I ordered it for her.

Amberly brought it home from school yesterday afternoon. She and I read through the poems together. Then we read them again. Then she read them to Daddy. Then Daddy read them to Thomas and Lilly. Then Daddy read it to Neal. Even Neal liked it. Amberly read them again this morning while I braided her hair. Let's just say that this is a fabulous and very delightful book. You've never seen anything like it before.

Mirror Mirror by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Josee Masse is a book of reversible verse or "reversos" which were created by Singer. The poem is read one way down and then flipped and read up. The only changes are in the punctuation and capitalization. Read in this way, the poem becomes a different poem.

In Mirror Mirror, Singer uses this ingenious and delightful style to tell some of our favorite fairy tales--from to Cinderella to Goldilocks and the Three Little Bears. I love them all but one of my favorites is "In the Hood". The first poem is from the view point of Little Red Riding Hood:

In my hood,
skipping through the wood,
carrying a basket,
picking berries to eat--
juicy and sweet
what a treat!
But a girl
mustn't dawdle
After all, Grandma's waiting.
And here's the same poem read the opposite and way and from the viewpoint of the wolf:

After all, Grandma's waiting,
mustn't dawdle . . .
But a girl!
What a treat--
juicy and sweet,
picking berries to eat,
carrying a basket,
skipping through the wood
in my 'hood.
Clever, eh? These poems really are so much fun. We practice reciting them in the different voices which makes them even more delightful. I'm certainly not a poet, but I've got an itch to try some simple reversos. I think I'll encourage Neal and Amberly to try it too.

The illustrations are colorful and fanciful. They also add to the poems by using the idea of mirror images. This book is sure to become a classic and I certainly hope that Singer continues to write and publish her reversos. Bravo!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Living A Big Story: Spread Sunshine for Isaac

I'm trying to help spread the word for Laura and her friend Rachael who lost her little baby son Isaac just over a year ago. Be sure to check out Laura's beautiful post on her blog (one of my favorites) : Living A Big Story: Spread Sunshine for Isaac.

It only takes a moment to do something kind for someone else.

Zero to Sixty

Sometimes being a mom isn't that different from being a two year old.
Our moods can shift pretty dang fast.
Both Molly and I can go from this:

to this:

In a matter of seconds.
Watch out.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

I woke up late. Miraculously, my children let me sleep in this morning. They slept in too, probably because we got home so late from our trip to celebrate my youngest brother's graduation from USU on Saturday.

I stayed in bed for awhile even after we woke up. My bed is comfy and the children had ordered me to stay away from the kitchen. When I was finally summoned, I discovered a nice plate of perfect, golden brown pancakes topped with warm maple syrup. Neal and Amberly did it all themselves. I know, because Utah Dad, Thomas, Lilly and Molly were still in bed with me--poking me in the back with skinny elbows and knees.

And while Utah Dad didn't help the kids make my breakfast, he did clean up the kitchen afterward.

I got a pile of delightful handmade cards from the kids. Lilly gave me her card and told me: "This is a picture of you in the dungeon with the bad guys. Your prince has to rescue you. Daddy is your prince."

Thomas informed me later in the day, after a disagreement during the get-ready-for-church process, that on Mother's Day, "mothers were supposed to be nice to their kids". Apparently, I failed in that category this morning. There was definitely some yelling.

I suppose I should be grateful that the children fought rather loudly about who got to sit next to me during Sacrament Meeting. Amberly had already claimed one side. Molly was on my lap. Lilly, arguing with Neal, came up with an ingenious solution: "I'll sit on your lap and we can both sit next to Mommy." Surprisingly, Neal agreed and held Lilly on his lap for most of the meeting.

A lump came in my throat while I listened to my children join the hundreds of other beautiful Primary children as they sang to their mothers in Sacrament Meeting. And I simultaneously worried that Thomas would fall head-first off the stand. That boy does not hold still. Later in Primary, the children made flower pens to give their mothers. I got a full bouquet.

The men took over the Primary today so that all the women could go to Relief Society. It was our "treat" to hear a message from our bishop. (Warning: Don't mention the word "treat" unless it includes chocolate. Fortunately, they also handed out delicious mint truffles.) Our bishop spoke to us about being kind to others and to ourselves. He admonished us not to compare ourselves to the "snapshots we see on blogs". Don't do it.

After church, Utah Dad and the kids prepared spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. I'm not complaining. We just simply didn't prepare early enough for a great dinner. I blame myself. After all, I do the grocery shopping.

The kids and I played Mastermind before our evening devotional. We've had such a busy weekend that it was nice to get to bed on time and spend some relaxing and quiet time reading to the kids. We will finish reading Heidi some day.

It really was a lovely Mother's Day and I plan to buy myself a lovely gift later this week.

I hope you all had a wonderful Mother's Day too.

The Salt Lake Tribune Article

Really quick. Here's the link to the article about mommy bloggers in The Salt Lake Tribune yesterday. Be sure to read the entire article, I'm mentioned somewhere in the middle. There are pictures of me and the girls but they are at the end so scroll all the way through the pictures.

I hope you all had a fabulous Mother's Day!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Featured . . .

It's been a fun week in the blogger world for me. I feel a little overwhelmed. I was interviewed for an article that should show up sometime this weekend in The Salt Lake Tribune. I'm guessing on Sunday. The newspaper sent a photographer yesterday and I scrambled to make myself, the house and the little girls presentable.

Before the photographer arrived, Lilly whispered to me, "I have a funny feeling in my tummy." "Me too," I replied. I hate getting my picture taken. I am just so not photogenic so I really really hope they are kind to me.

Wanting to get a realistic picture, the photographer asked me what we would normally be doing on a Thursday morning at 10 am. "Well," I answered, "we might be reading books or playing games. I should be folding the five baskets of clean laundry that I stashed in the closet before you arrived." He laughed and said that he had seen a lot of freshly vacuumed houses. Oh ya. We totally ran the vacuum all over before he arrived. I took piles of paper work off my desk and hid it in my bedroom. I didn't get to sweep the kitchen floor but I kept him out of there. I am certainly not a food blogger. No business in the kitchen.

It wasn't too painful. Now I'm just anxious and a little nervous to read the article. Be kind. Be kind.

I'm also featured briefly today on a darling blog : What Dee Dee Wants and her one question interview about the best advice from my mom. Check out her blog. It's stylish and fun.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

MOM : A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps - Book Review

I heard the quick and familiar knock on the door a few weeks ago. The UPS delivery man was already walking back to his truck when I opened the front door and found another package on my porch. I opened the package to discover an absolutely beautiful book. The cover was red and the simple title in white caught my eye -- MOM.

  How could I resist this book? The answer is simple. I couldn't.

MOM : A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps edited by Dave Isay is a delightful collection of interviews about mothers.

I rarely listen to NPR so I was unfamiliar with StoryCorps. According to the introduction in the book, several years ago StoryCorps set up a small recording studio in Grand Central Station and then in other public places around the country. They were hoping that people would venture inside, interview each other and share their personal stories. The project was remarkably successful.

This book is a collection of thoughts, feelings and stories about moms that were gleaned from these interviews. When I first received the book, I read a quick story here and there when I had a spare moment. Today, I planned to do the same. Read a few stories. I became so engrossed and emotionally involved that I read the entire book from cover to cover. I became choked up at several of the stories and the words of love for their children and for their mothers really touched my heart. The book is also filled with simple words of wisdom.

Pam and Dan Pisner talk to their daughter about the decision to continue with the pregnancy after learning that Pam, using fertility treatments, was carrying quintuplets. Dan says:
"And then after you babies were born we were very busy, but we weren't doing any of those other things, and in fact could not even remember what those things were. But it wasn't important to us. What was important to us now was just being with you guys. Those other things must have been time fillers--because this is the real deal!"(pg. 75)
Tia Casciato Smallwood tells her daughter about her feeling of ending her cherished career to be at home with her young children. She says:

"...I don't think I learned how to be a real human being until I was with my children and suffered with them and watched what they go through. You would give up anything for them.  You would give up your life, your career, and your home. You unconditionally love them, and I think that is what made my life complete. So I never regretted it." (pg. 84)

Roselyn Payne Epps, a pediatrician, talks with her daughter, also a pediatrician. Roselyn says:

"You all have done very well. But I take no credit and I take no blame. People say, 'Aren't you proud?' My mother always said, 'Don't be proud; just be thankful.' So when you were coming along, I said 'I won't take credit because I'm not going to take blame either!'" (pg. 42)
Sisters express their love and memories for their mother who recently passed away after a battle with cancer. A birth mother tells her son the story of his adoption. A mother talks with her two daughters - one adopted and the other biological - about how she loves them both dearly. A son expresses his relief that he and his mother were reconciled before her death. A mother talks about her son who gave his life as a soldier.

The stories tap honest and deep emotion because they are true. As the people pour out their deepest feelings to family members that they trust, one can read into their very souls.

MOM : A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps would make a perfect gift and is in every way an expression of the amazing and tender emotions that mothers have for their children and children for their mothers.

StoryCorps also reminds us to take the time to interview and record for posterity the memories, thoughts and words of wisdome of our family members. The book includes questions that can initiate conversation, such as "What was the happiest time in your life?" or "How has your life been different than you imagined it?"

My grandfather was a storyteller. As a child, I loved to sit at his knee as he spun the yarns of his exciting life (some were probably slightly exaggerated). When I was in college, I bought dozens of blank tapes with the intent of recording his stories. But he was too sick by then to talk for long periods. The coughing would wear him out. He gave me a notebook that he had filled with his handwritten tales that I treasure but it is not the same thing as hearing his voice. And then he passed away.

In the words of Dave Isay, the editor, "Don't wait."

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. No additional compensation was received.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Utah Valley Magazine Cutest Cuties

Remember when I wrote about the privilege I had to judge the Cutest Cuties contest for Utah Valley Magazine? The newest issue of Utah Valley Magazine is out! Now you can see which local babies, the other judges/bloggers (Vanessa, Courtney and Chacoy) and I thought took the cake.

It really wasn't easy trying to decide which babies were "cutest". All the children were darling, beautiful and adorable. There were just a few that were especially squishy. Now, you can see which little kiddos we wanted to squeeze, pinch their cheeks and torture them with "auntie" kisses.

And I'm in the magazine. I feel so honored to be included with other very famous and awesome bloggers. Be sure to check out my brief claim to fame. Click *here* to link to the magazine.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Baptism Day

Amberly's baptism was scheduled bright and early at 9 am on Saturday morning. It was snowing, of course. It also snowed the day that she was blessed as a baby. We told her that it will probably snow on her wedding day too.

Amberly was baptized and then confirmed by Utah Dad. It was such a very special time. Amberly was glowing--she was so excited and so anxious. She has a very strong testimony of Jesus Christ and his gospel. She loves reading her scriptures and singing the hymns. I'm so very thankful to be her mother. She is a very very special girl.

  • I'm thankful that Utah Dad is worthy and holds the Priesthood so that he could perform these ordinances for our special daughter.
  • I'm thankful that my mom gave the talk on baptism.
  • I'm thankful for my sister who played the piano for the prelude and the hymns.
  • I'm thankful that my niece was willing to say the closing prayer even though we forgot to tell her that she was on the program.
  • I'm thankful for all our family members who traveled so far so early.
  • I'm thankful that my sister and her family left home extra early so they could bring my grandma.
  • I'm thankful for the members of the ward and stake who organize the stake baptisms each month. They did a fabulous job.
  • I'm thankful that the bishopric member forced me to share my testimony during the baptism instead of during Sacrament Meeting the next day.

  • I'm thankful that my house is still standing after we hosted a brunch following the baptism.
  • I'm thankful that everyone was patient and waited around for a long time for the potato casseroles to cook.
  • I'm thankful to Stacey from Stacey's Mothering Moments who sent me the recipe for Acini De Pepe Salad. It was delicious!
  • I'm thankful that even though two of my brothers and their families couldn't join us because of sickness, they are all feeling better now. (I'm also thankful that they didn't share the germs with us.)
  • I'm thankful that everyone was understanding when I skipped out early to go with my niece to the Salt Lake City Library Book Sale. (I scored some books that have been on my wish list for years. I spent $12 and came home with 17 books.) By the way, it's half price at the book sale today.
I'm especially thankful for my Savior Jesus Christ and for his gospel. I'm thankful for eternal families. I'm thankful for my dear, good husband and for my very sweet and beautiful little girl.