06 January 2018

Felicia: Six Months

New Year's Day was Felicia's half-birthday.

A few things about Felicia this month:
  • We started sharing our food with her at meal times, and she thinks that is awesome. Now that she knows what is going on at the kitchen table, she is very eager to join in.
  • She holds on tight when you hold her. I call her my little koala.
  • Felicia still cannot roll off her belly, and she gets angry about that.
  • Everyone comments on her big eyes. They either say she looks surprised or observant. (I have noticed that people who tend to be more negative will say she looks concerned or worried. Generally positive people will describe her in more positive ways, such as the aforementioned adjectives.)
  • Because of her wide open eyes, I call her my little bush baby.
  • We bought her nothing for Christmas. She thought that was just fine.
  • I love wearing her in the Ergo.
She is getting to be such a fun age, with the ability to interact, really use her hands, and start to move around a little bit. I know these next few months will bring so many more changes, but I just want time to stand still so I can still cuddle Felicia to sleep every day.

 Also, she loves her toes.

02 January 2018

2017 - In Review

It's my annual wrap-up. In the past I've felt like a lot of what I write in my yearly review was covered already in posts, but since I've post so infrequently this year, it's like it's all new!

2017 Highlights:

  • Baby Felicia was born. We just love her. (And she looks more like me than my others, which also makes me so happy.) (I also got a new nephew this year.)
  • Eric finished his grad program! No more grad school! More salary! Hooray!
  • Trixie's cardiologist said he doesn't even need to see her in 2018! We'll go back around January 2019.
  • Ike has made great strides on the piano. He doesn't always love it, but he's getting to a point where he can practice something until he gets it right, so he understands the concept that hard-fought things are often worthwhile.
  • SOLAR ECLIPSE. I took all four kids by myself to Jackson Hole. It was amazing. I already have 2024's on my calendar. We'll be in Dallas for that one.
  • I am going to be on an episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?" in the spring. (I filmed it in early October.)
  • Work changes are always happening, and I'm really happy with my current setup.
  • I feel like I'm finally in a groove with ward choir (I'm choir conductor) where I sort of know what I'm doing. We actually did multiple musical numbers on Christmas Eve instead of just one, like last year.
  • Eric did three weeks at summer camp this year, including one week where I was super pregnant and nearly everyone came down with a stomach bug. The other two weeks were post-baby, and we all survived.
  • We bought our minivan, Sylvia.
Places in 2017:
  • I went with Heather (former roommate) to Priscilla's wedding in Newport Beach, California. [Tropical Storm] Lucifer tried to prevent us attending the temple sealing, but he was thwarted.
  • Spring break in Seattle!
  • Jackson Hole for the eclipse, and then again a few weeks later for my nephew's mission farewell.
  • I went to Los Angeles for the above-mentioned filming. My hotel was in Hollywood, which is pretty cool.

  • We kept up with Cold Stone, except for my birthday, where we just plum forgot! I was so upset when I realized it, but I was recovering from strep throat on my birthday and life just really got away from me that week.
  • The other birthdays in our family were pretty low-key (even the actual birth-giving day was pretty mellow). 
  • Eric and I celebrated our anniversary as a "family birthday," which was a lot of fun.

2017 Goals:
  • I'm not finished with Personal Progress, but I am still working on it. Definitely should finish in 2018.
  • I wanted to focus on getting steps in, and I did really well until about April. I started having a lot of contractions when I treadmilled, so then I took it easy for a few months. And then I had a baby.
  • I did submit some writing for a genealogy publication! They sent it back and told me some corrections I need to make, and I still need to make those and re-submit.
2018 Goals:
  • Finish Personal Progress.
  • Finish making those corrections on my genealogy piece and re-submit.

01 January 2018

2017 Books

Full list of 52 books is below. In summary, my top books:
  • The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon Reed
  • The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
  • The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Steadman
  • Abigail Adams by Woody Holton
  • The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
  • Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan
(I know that's more than my usual 10%, but I couldn't narrow it to five.)

A few things I'm excited for in 2017:
  • Angela Armstrong's full-length novel. I really enjoyed the novelettes (see December), and I'm not just saying that because she is my real-life friend! 
  • More Harry Potter. I've really enjoyed re-listening to them as my turn comes up on the audio holds.
  • Funny in Farsi, which is one of the reads for my book group this year.
  • More Liane Moriarty because she is my guilty pleasure.
  • Possibly introducing my boys to Harry Potter this year.
My lowest month was April with two books (when I started having too many contractions and stopped walking on the treadmill daily). And then it's like I had a baby the first day of July and spent hours and hours and hours nursing her and had plenty of time to read a whopping eight books that month.

Other stats: 25 audiobooks, 21 on Kindle, leaving 6 as paper copies. I love it when I make good use of my Kindle.

1. The Help by Kathryn Stocket - I had read this back in 2010, and I was happy to read it again this year for book group. It really does deserve all its praise.

2. Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh* - I couldn't stop talking to Eric about this book. I was both fascinated and terrified by it. It's a sociologist's stories of his experiences studying an inner-city street gang in Chicago in the late 80s and early 90s. (Warning, there is a lot of foul language, as well as sexual descriptions when he's talking about prostitution.)

3. Born With Teeth by Kate Mulgrew* - I'm not sure there could be a lifestyle so dissimilar from mine, but I was really interested in the adoption/reunion aspect of her story. As happens sometimes for me when reading biographies of Hollywood people, I got a little bogged down with the name dropping of industry people. I don't think it was actually gratuitous, it's just I have such a limited knowledge of celebrities that it was very lost on me.

4. Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman* - I read and loved one of her books as a youth. This one was fun too, but I may be too old to fully appreciate them.

5. The Rules of Inheritance by Claire Bidwell Smith - Most of this book was just painful to read, not because of the writing but because of how depressing it was. It ends with a very hopeful and optimistic future for the author, but wow, it was sad.

6. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling - I went in with low expectations, and they were adequately met. I do want to re-read the HP series now.

7. The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson* - I really loved just about everything in this book. I loved the characters. I loved the reader. I loved the time period and the writing. There were a few plot elements that were predictable, but overall I really liked it.

8. The Princess Bride by William Goldman - I read it a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. I liked it this time too, but not as much. It was still fun to discuss it with book group. And then we showed it to our boys that weekend for a movie night.

9. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown - This will probably be at the top of my list of best books for 2017. I loved all of it.

10. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Steadman - I really loved this book and didn't want to stop reading it.

11. Esther the Wonder Pig by Steve Jenkins* - Apparently there is this famous pig, and the owner wrote a book about her. I didn't realize that was what I was getting myself into when I quickly downloaded this book one morning. At least it was mercifully short.

12. The End of the Road by Tom Bodett* - This was an enjoyable one to listen to.

13. The Pony Express in Utah by Patrick Hearty and Joseph Hatch - I live near the Pony Express trail, and I really knew almost nothing about the Pony Express. This book was more like a photo album with historical details, but it satiated my desire to learn more about this trail that runs by my house.

14. The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon-Reed* - If you have talked about books with me any time in the last few months, you have heard me rave about this book. It is long, so it took me a long time to get through it. It was so thorough and interesting, particularly in using historic documents to provide context for the time period and the relevant geographic regions. I would actually love to go back and read a paper copy someday so I can review the end notes since it would be fascinating from a historian's perspective.

15. Answers Will Come by Shalissa Lindsay - This is a great book about relying on faith when we encounter gospel questions for which we do not have answers.

16. A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman - This was a fun read. I chuckled throughout. Most of the characters were over the top, but that is part of what made it fun.

17. All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister* - While I could appreciate that this offered viewpoints different than my own, and it certainly made me think about single women in America, I also found it frustrating. The author has a clear agenda, and in promoting her agenda she frequently degrades women who have chosen to marry and have children rather than pursue careers. The tone was derogatory toward women who have made that choice, and that bothered me, even though I am not necessarily one of those women.

18. Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan* - A funny and entertaining one to listen to. It made me want to eat all the food.

19. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder - This was a read-aloud with the kids. It took us a while to get through it. The boys didn't like it as well as Little House in the Big Woods. I had to edit out some ugly things about Indians, but it also gave us a good chance to talk about Native Americans and how poorly they were (and still are) treated by the U.S. government.

20. Abigail Adams by Woody Holton* - I really loved learning more about Abigail Adams. This book is written well, and as a historian I was constantly amazed at the sheer volume of correspondence we have from Abigail Adams, not only to husband John, but to many other relatives and friends.

21. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett - I really loved this one at first, but I felt like it wrapped up rather quickly and without any real challenges to the characters. Still, it was sweet.

22. First Women: The Grace and Power of America's Modern First Ladies by Kate Andersen Brower* - I listened to this one almost non-stop for a few days. I really knew very little about any of the first ladies, so nearly everything in this book was new to me. I especially loved learning more about Rosalynn Carter and Betty Ford.

23. Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman* - This book is about Charles's and Emma's relationship, despite their very different religious views. I found it very inspiring in regards to being a wife and mother.

24. Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan* - The audiobook was great. The book is about a few characters who are musicians, so having the accompanying music throughout was excellent. Everything ties up in this one just perfectly, which was a bit over the top for me, but I still really enjoyed it.

25. An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski* - This was one of those books where I was constantly astounded at the kind of lives some people live. This book made me wonder what more I can do to help those in our society who need help.

26. Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich - This was a great read. And is it a little ironic that I read it almost 100% while breastfeeding my newborn and rocking her to sleep?

27. The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty* - I had read a couple of her others and liked them quite a bit, so I added this one to my phone without even reading anything about it or checking up on its reviews on Goodreads. I really enjoy this author, but I can't recommend her universally since there is a fair amount of swearing and references to sex.

28. Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar - I loved this book (and the whole series) as a child. I had recommended it to Eric to read to his class. He finally heeded my counsel when a substitute teacher suggested the same book. There were times when he was reading it aloud to his class that he laughed so hard he cried. I decided it was high time to read it with my boys. They enjoyed it, but some of the humor had to be explained to them. (Also, I wrote a little message to Louis Sachar relating this story to him, and he sent me a reply. I talked about it to pretty much everyone I knew for about two weeks.)

29. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes - This is some chick lit I can get behind.

30. The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron* - I don't understand why this won the Newbery. I only bothered finishing it because it was so short.

31. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - I had read this before and read it again for book group. I loved it again the second time around.

32. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows - I chuckled my whole way through this one. It was seriously fun.

33. Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink* - I'm sad I didn't discover this one until adulthood. I loved listening to it with my boys.

34. Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting by Karen Markham - There was a lot in this book that could benefit me as a parent. I even noticed changes with my kids when implementing small techniques. Of course, not all of it resonated with me, but I've come to expect that with parenting books.

35. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling* - Jim Dale really is a spectacular narrator for the audiobooks. I'm going to listen to the whole series again, and I loved listening to this one so much that I listened to it in about 2.5 days. I can't wait to read it with my kids.

36. Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande - I couldn't put this book down. I didn't like it as much as Being Mortal, but I still really liked it.

37. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas - I found this book totally gripping.

38. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart - I wanted to start this book over again as soon as I finished it, and I don't think that's ever happened to me before. I found it thoroughly amusing while still delving into some serious topics.

39. Philomena: A Mother, Her Son, and a Fifty-Year Search by Martin Sixsmith - This book was heavy, but I plowed through it because I found the story of Anthony/Michael so interesting, both in terms of his lifestyle as a gay man in the 80s and 90s and because of his legal work regarding political redistricting.

40. The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty* - I just really enjoy her characters. I took every chance possible to listen to this book.

41. Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell* - I love Sarah Vowell, but this book was all over the place. Nothing super memorable for me.

42. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier - I enjoyed this just as much as the first time I read it. I'd like to see the movie again, and since I'm not pregnant, maybe I could stay awake for all of it.

43. Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty* - Well, I'm just on a Liane Moriarty kick, aren't I? I didn't enjoy the characters quite as much in this one, but that is more of a personal preference rather than her not doing them well. (Meaning, they are done well, I just didn't feel like any of them really clicked with me.) I did enjoy the plot, even though it took a long time to reveal what happened at the BBQ.

44. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling* - I am just having a lot of fun audiobooking this series again. I do think this is probably the weakest of the series. There is just too much going on, but I noticed a lot of the foreshadowing and clues about Voldemort while I listened.

45. Complications by Atul Gawande - I liked it, but I didn't think it was as strong as the others. I didn't feel that there was a really good tie from beginning to end. It seemed more sporadic than the others.

46. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton - A book group read that I happened to have read about a year ago. I still think it's great, and I'm always shocked when people say they haven't read it. It's so short. Just go read it, already.

47. Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry* - I've read The Giver about 100 times, but I'm just now reading the other books that go along with it. I liked this one a lot, but I did have to stop and check midway through to verify that this was the "sequel" to The Giver. Apparently we see those books come together more in the next book (which I've already downloaded and expect to appear on this list when this post goes live).

48. The Quin: A Gen2K Novelette by Angela Armstrong - Full disclosure, Angela is my real-life friend. This "novelette" and the next one (see below) made me rather excited to read her book that is coming out soon. I like the world she's created, and I like that, at least these first two characters we've met, are likeable and funny.

49. Missive: A Gen2K Novelette by Angela Armstrong - See above. Both of these are super short. (I'm not actually sure why they aren't one volume, actually.) Nevertheless, I'm interested in this Gen2K world.

50. Messenger by Lois Lowry* - Besides The Giver, this one is my favorite of the quartet. Matty is a great character, and I loved Christopher as well.

51. Son by Lois Lowry* - I loved all the parts about Claire but felt a little let down with the climax of this one. Still, the overarching theme of valuing relationships over everything else was touching.

52. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (adapted by Nancy Fletcher-Blume) - Even for an abridged version, my boys had a hard time following this story. Lots of characters without much character development (probably due to the condensing of the text).

*Denotes audiobooks.

29 December 2017

Christmas 2017

I want to capture a few moments from Christmas this year that I want to always remember (and share with my family who lives far from me).

We had our fourth-annual shepherds' meal the Monday before Christmas. We usually try to do it earlier in the month, but I ordered usable oil lamps from Greece, and I waited until they arrived before we had our dinner. I looked at ordering some from Amazon, but none of the ones I found were actually usable; they were just meant for decoration. Anyway, I love my lamps. LOVE. And we didn't set the house on fire, so it was a win.

Last year I bought Trixie an adorable Christmas dress from somebody for about $10. It still fit this year. Then my brother brought me all of his little girl's old clothes, and suddenly we had two more in her size. I had Trixie in one of those dresses at every opportunity. Getting a decent picture of her in the dress proved to be the challenge.

After church one day in the dress from last year:

Ward party in the green dress:

 After church on Christmas Eve in the other red dress:

Isn't Felicia adorable too? She only had the one red dress, but she wore it well. (Trixie wore it two years ago.)

My father-in-law retired this month, and when we went to his retirement lecture we happened upon some event going on in the same building where Santa was, so both boys got to see him very briefly. Ike is wising up to the Santa business, and thanks to watching Home Alone for the first time, he told me that he didn't see Santa, but he did see one of his helpers.

I am the [totally inadequate and underqualified] choir director in my ward. This year we usually had practices at our house. We had amazing turnout this year as we prepped for our Christmas Eve program. The Priests' Quorum (young men aged 16-18) were being bribed to attend, which meant I had way more basses than ever and I ended up begging my ward for sopranos to balance them out.

Trixie enjoyed having people over. She loves attention, and she loves to lead music. One day she brought her giraffe costume (best $10 I ever spent) downstairs and had somebody put it on her. Then she pushed me off my stool (I need it when I conduct in the chapel, and I like to practice on it so I don't fall off) and led the music herself. And even though I look horrific, here's a funny photo:

On Christmas Eve we went to Grandma Great's house for dinner. Eric's mom bought these adorable little nativity costumes a few years ago, so the kids stood around while we read the Christmas story from the Bible. Trixie was an adorable angel.

Santa brought Nerf guns and bullets for the little boys. They were confiscated for misuse (shooting at each other resulting in a welt on one little boy's neck) within a couple of hours. We've already had to set pretty strict limitations on what can be shot at (targets that are not living things). (Who would have guessed that weapons would lead to these kinds of problems?????) (Answer: Eric knew. He told the boys that Santa doesn't deal in arms, but I told the boys Santa would deal in arms if mom and dad said it was okay, and mom and dad said it was okay. FOOLISH. Last year Santa brought them light sabers. We really need to be more restrictive on what toys that man brings to our home.)

We bought Elise this little puppy that she can pull along by his leash. She adores it.

This past summer a friend gave Eric this 1868 edition of Harper's Weekly. I had it framed for him for his Christmas gift.

But his real gift was all these little soldiers, which he claims are for the boys. These are the same soldiers that Eric and his brothers grew up playing with. They are 1/72 scale soldiers from the Napoleonic wars. Eric spent hours making these buildings out of blocks, rock walls out of tiny rocks from our back yard, and little fences too. He also adapted the model trees he bought to stabilize them.

For Christmas day I made chicken biryani (an Indian dish that is very Christmasy because it has cloves, cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon), and we took it to Eric's parents' house. (This has been our tradition for a few years now, and I love it.)

We opened a few gifts at Eric's parents' house and played all day. Eric's mom instituted a new tradition that she grew up with. She has a cookie jar full of pennies, and each child gets one turn to reach his hand in and grab as many pennies as he can. Then he gets to keep them. It was a hit.

Eric's uncle Robert was also there for Christmas day. He and Trixie have a special bond, and he has been very generous to us. He came back the day after Christmas to give Trixie another Christmas present.

Also, the day after Christmas, when we got Trixie out of bed she ran downstairs to see if there were more presents to open. She isn't quite old enough to understand Santa this year, but she definitely understood the concept of presents, and it was fun to watch her.

The rest of Christmas break has been full of cousin time. We have loved being together with very few obligations.

11 December 2017

Ike is Seven

Somebody praised me this past weekend for keeping up with my blog, and I thought, "Uh, if writing birthday posts qualifies as keeping up, then thanks." With that said, last year it took me a few months to write Ike's birthday post, and this time it's only taken a few days!

For his actual birthday we went to Chick-Fil-A (because I had a gift card). Then we drove around to see Christmas lights, particularly a couple of local houses that have lights that sync to music. The day after his birthday was my father-in-law's retirement lecture at BYU, so we went to hear him speak. Afterwards we had a big lunch, and everyone sang to Ike for his birthday.

Ike's middle name is FUN. (It's not actually, but maybe it should be.) He loves to play, especially with friends. Playing is what motivates him to get his work done. At seven years old, Ike has a handful of responsibilities around the house. He makes sure his laundry is where it goes (whether that be the dirty clothes basket or, if clean, then put away in the closet and drawers). He helps with the small rubbish bins around the house. He puts away the dishes he can reach, wipes down the table, and sets the table for meals. He puts his own toys away and does a lot of general helping as needed. Yesterday that involved holding a very tired and crying baby while I cleaned up the house and prepped it for the ward choir to come practice. He also practices piano, sometimes happily, but sometimes not. It depends a lot on what he is learning. Here we are playing a little duet we've been working on. (P.S. I love PianoMarvel. I haven't talked to you about it, it's probably because we don't talk often enough. It is a great program.) (When I try to link to the website, it just won't work, so we'll do this the old fashioned way: https://www.pianomarvel.com/).

When Ike isn't playing with friends, he likes to play with his brother. They have been taught in the ways of their father and enjoy setting up detailed battles with army guys. I'm sure they play other things too, but they are usually in the basement, and I don't really know what goes on down there.

Ike is a great student. He reads well, and his teacher praises him as the Eagle Scout of her classroom. We had Ike work on writing all summer long, much to his dismay. (I really didn't want him to regress in reading and writing over the summer. Reading, I think, is easy to keep up with, but not so much with writing. I don't think there are many reasons for a kid to sit down and write unless that kid really enjoys it.) When he started the school year his teacher said he had the best handwriting in the class.

Other highlights from the last year:

  • He finally lost a tooth! (And then a few more after that.)
  • Ike learned to tie his shoes. We had tried to motivate him, but ultimately it was his first grade teacher who provided the adequate motivation to get him to learn. (I don't even know what the motivation was, but it worked. Once he was ready to learn, he learned in about 10 minutes.)
  • He learned to swim. He's not spectacular, but sometime in the summer's swimming lessons things started to "click" for him.
  • He's a great hiker.
  • He is such a huge helper with his little sisters. He really loves them.
  • He started reading with inflection, and he doesn't sound like a robot anymore. (Again, thanks to his first grade teacher!)
  • We finished his soccer season in the spring, and now we're just taking a break from all extracurricular things.
  • We discovered he has a pretty bad horse allergy. It's a bummer.
I love my little boy, and stereotypical as it is, I can't believe how big he is getting. He is so full of excitement for life. He has a lot of questions and likes to ask me lots of "what if" questions. He still holds my hand when we go places, but I'm usually the one to initiate it.

And here are some pictures:

Spring soccer with a very pregnant mom coach:

Holding his newborn sister:

For our family reunion my father-in-law had the grandchildren memorize sections of "The Living Christ" and recite it. Here is Ike helping his little brother with his lines. (We had practiced both parts so much that Ike and Felix knew each other's parts, but I think Felix froze up for a second.) (Mom still remembers their parts too.)

From a hike to Stewart Falls:

The day after his birthday in the Skyroom restaurant:

01 December 2017

Felicia: Five Months

Oh how I love this little girl. She is a pretty mellow baby, especially after she's eaten. Except, not RIGHT after she's eaten. Immediately after she's eaten she seems to always be really sad that it's over.

She loves to grab her feet and is getting better at using her hands. She loves to hold onto my clothes or hair when I'm holding her. She also frequently reminds me of Ike because she balls up her fists and holds her hands to her chest, like Ike used to do.

Felicia still loves snuggles. If she is not being snuggled and we plop her on the floor, she immediately rolls to her belly. She is content on her belly for a bit, but inevitably she gets frustrated after a few minutes and cannot seem to remember anymore how to get off her belly. She has also learned to rotate while on her belly. I think there is a slight chance she'll be crawling within a month.

I posted a picture of Felicia on Instagram, and my brother created this side-by-side of his daughter at about 17 months. People frequently ask me who she looks like since she doesn't look like the other kids. She looks like me and my side of the family, as you can see!

This month I sleep-trained Felicia. The sleeping arrangements we had going on in our family were just ludicrous, and it was time to get her to sleep for more than an hour at a time in her own bed. We are all sleeping better now. Except naps. Her naps are still terrible.