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.