09 January 2019

Christmas 2018

A few things I want to remember about Christmas and New Year's this year:

This was our first year to have a non-believer in our household. Partly because of that, and partly because I wanted our kids to have more tangibly participate in our charitable giving, we found a project we could all do together. We bought "home kits" for refugees being housed in the Salt Lake City area. We all went to the store together and found the items on the list. The refugee group also requested Beanie Babies animals for the children. I wanted each of my kids to choose an animal to donate. The store didn't have what we needed, but I knew they were carried at my local grocery store, so we headed over there. The boys chose Minion-branded Beanie Babies. Trixie chose Skye from Paw Patrol, which I think she has only seen once. All she knew was this stuffed animal was a pink doggy, and she wanted it.

Now, I made it very clear that these toys were NOT FOR OUR FAMILY. They all repeated it many times. Everyone seemed to understand this concept. The toys were set aside with the home kits, and they were not played with. A few days later I had time to take the donations to the center in Salt Lake City. I let Trixie hold "her" pink dog on the way up, and I let her come in to deliver it. She willingly gave it to the lady but seemed a little confused as to why she wasn't giving it to another kid since I'd been telling her ever since we picked them out that these toys were for other kids.

Then she cried the whole way home about her pink dog and demanded several times that I return to the refugee center and retrieve it. I did not.

After that she started telling us that Santa was going to bring her a pink doggy, and he did.

The dog has hardly left her side since Christmas morning. She even took it with her for her surgery a few days after Christmas (ear tubes in, adenoids out).

The boys woke us up bright and early Christmas morning. We made the awake kids line up on the stairs before coming down.

We had a nice time opening presents. I always let the kids choose things for everyone in our family at the dollar store. This year Ike used some of his own money to buy a nicer gift for Felix, and it was sweet to see him get so excited about giving a gift. I think next year we may do a name exchange and allow the kids to buy each other nicer things. (I may be sick of dollar store trinkets filling up my house.)

Felicia got some real presents, including a book about her first year. She also recieved that little blue bouncy hours, and she's rather afraid of it.

But what Felicia most loved was the domino she found under the couch. She carried it around all morning.

After breakfast at home, we went to Eric's grandma's house and hung out with Eric's brother, Andrew, and Eric's brother, Nathan, and Nathan's family.

Eventually we headed home and had our traditional dinner of chicken biryani with Andrew and with my friends, Priscilla and Joey.

Our post-Christmas break included lots of board gaming. Trixie had her surgery somewhere in there. We had a game night with Eric's cousins, and a game day with another cousin and his wife along with Janssen and Bart. We had previously celebrated New Year's Eve with this same group, pre-kids. We all toasted to no kids in 2006, and we all succeeded in no kids until 2010. We weren't together on New Year's Eve exactly this year, but I'm pretty sure we all could have toasted to no kids in 2019. (We have 11 kids between the three families. It was a little chaotic, but lots of fun.)

Eric's sister and her family come for a visit. (No pictures!) We stayed up way too late playing games.

It was hard to go back to real life when the break was over.

07 January 2019

Felicia: Eighteen Months

Felicia turned 18 months on New Year's Day. She is ready for nursery at church and has been going off and on for a couple of months. (Technically her first day of nursery is Trixie's first day of Sunbeams, but since we had Felicia going a bit early to nursery the girls did overlap a few weeks.)

Felicia's words include:
  • DA! (Always shouted, and always enthusiastic. Applied to many people, not just her dad.)
  • Ma
  • Buh-bye
  • Mmm (more)
  • Ashes, ashes (while spinning around)
  • All fall down (not really clear, but in the context it is obvious)
  • Thank you
  • Uh oh
  • Nigh-nigh (night night)
  • I do!
  • Peek-a-boo
  • Hi-ya
  • Hewwo
  • She might also say Ike's real name. It's still a little unclear.
Felicia is my most "into stuff" child. I can usually find her emptying cabinets and drawers or digging around in garbage cans for a tasty morsel. She also eats a lot of food off the floor. (Usually food that she just spent an entire meal time chucking onto the floor.)

Also, everything is a phone.

Felicia loves:
  • Eric
  • talking on the computer to Eric's parents
  • going outside
  • being picked up and held
  • wandering around and meeting people at social gatherings
  • going to bed
  • her binkie
  • running
  • the songs we sing for Family Night, specifically "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam" and "I Can be Valiant."
  • taking baths
And here are some pictures of her from the last six months:

Emptying cabinets:

At the Ashton Gardens:

Camping near and hiking in Arches National Park for fall break:

Family Pictures

02 January 2019

2018 - In Review

I feel like there's probably not a lot here that isn't already covered in social media and previous blog posts, but I do like to just have it all listed out like so.

2018 Highlights
  • So many trips! (See below.)
  • Trixie talks now. It came so quickly once it started coming, and she is like a different child now.
  • Running a 5K. (And now I'm training for a 10K.) This was either my third or fourth attempt to train with Couch to 5K, and I finally finished it and run even more now. It feels awesome (and still kind of weird) to actually WANT to go for a run.
  • Lots of trips to the aquarium.
  • Trixie learned to talk and got potty trained.
  • We got a new park right by our house.
  • More canoeing on our local river than ever before.
  • Ike started a piano class that has been good for him (and me!). He's learning theory, and having him in an environment where I am not the teacher/enforcer has been good for us.
  • Felix is enjoying kindergarten, and he's learning to read.
  • Big strides for both boys in swimming lessons this summer. Trixie and I also took a class together, which was tons of fun.
  • The boys and I read the first three Harry Potter books together, and I have definitely instilled a love of that series in my oldest kid. I consider that a parenting win.
  • Felicia learned to crawl, and then to walk, and then to run. She also says a handful of words.
  • I was released as choir director and am now the Primary secretary. For years I've longed to be a secretary of something because it's right up my alley, and now it's my thing!
  • I've also told about 700 people over the course of the last nearly-eight years since we moved into our house that I would love to help with/attend Young Women camp, and just two days ago I was asked to be on the stake YW camp committee. So, wishes being fulfilled over here.
Places in 2018:

  • Spring Break and Easter in Montana with Eric's brother's family.
  • Road trip to Seattle to drop off our kids with Eric's sister so Eric and I could go to Europe. Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, Lichtenstein (for 10 minutes), and France. I already blogged extensively about these places, but it really was magnificent.
  • Massive 5000-mile road trip to the Midwest and down to Dallas to visit my family. I added four new states to my list of states I've visited. (New to me: South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana. Other states on that trip: Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado.)
  • Fall break in Moab.


  • Our birthday visits to Cold Stone are firmly cemented. Nobody will let me forget to go. Eric skipped out a few times while he was cutting back on sugar to lose weight, but that just meant more ice cream for the rest of us.
  • We held our shepherds' meal in December. Historically we've only invited Eric's family, but with his parents out of the country this year, we invited friends, and it was great.
  • Fondue to celebrate the last day of school.

2018 Goals:
  • Finish Personal Progress - NOPE. I worked on it at the beginning of the year, and then it just kind of fizzled when I had some calling changes. I better get it done in 2019 if it's ever going to happen.
  • Edit and resubmit genealogy publication - Again, I worked on this at the beginning of the year and then never finished it. I probably need to recruit some colleagues for a little more hand-holding on this one.
2019 Goals:

  • Redecorate my living room. My friend, Molly, has already created a design board for me, so I have lots of inspiration, and I'm ready to go. (The biggest task in this project is getting Eric on board since this involves taping and painting, and he thinks our living room is fine as is.)
  • Run a 10K? Look, I'm not committing to this whole-heartedly. I'm sure I can do it, but I have some other work-out interest right now, so I might end up focusing on a faster 5K or something non-running-related altogether. But definitely I want to keep exercising.
  • Read more books on paper and Kindle. I love audiobooks, but sometimes I rely on them too much and use them to justify wasting time. (For instance, I spend a lot of time dinking around on my phone while listening to a book and then justify said wasted time by calling it "'reading.")
  • Read more books with my kids, especially chapter books with the boys.
  • Maybe get around to finishing up those 2018 goals. (And with commitment like that, clearly I'm on the right track.)

01 January 2019

2018 Books

In Summary:
Total books read: 79. Of those, 60 were audio, 11 were on Kindle, and 8 were traditional paper books. August was my biggest reading month, primarily because we went on a 5000-mile road trip and listened to a lot of books along the way.

The top 10% of books I read this year (rounding up):

  1. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson - It's #36 on my overall list below. It is such an important book.
  2. Educated by Tara Westover - It's #58 on the overall list. I could not stop reading this book and gabbing about it to Eric and anyone else who would listen.
  3. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech - It's #3 and #7 on my list. I had read it twice before. I read it for book group in January and was reminded again of how much I loved it, so I made Eric listen while I read it aloud to him immediately after I finished it. He's a good sport.
  4. Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor - #39 below. It's kind of weird that this book is in my top ten, but when I think about books that have made me think a lot, this is one of them. There aren't many children's books that have ethical dilemmas as real and striking as this one. You can have a real philosophical discussion with your kids after this one.
  5. Martin Luther by Eric Metaxas - #42 below.
  6. American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee - #33 below. This is a great non-fiction that has good flow in the narrative.
  7. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor - #9 below. I've thought a lot about this one since reading it. I'd like to read it to my kids one day.
  8. Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas - #63 below. For pure enjoyment's sake, this is a good one. It really is funny, and it's surprisingly heartwarming.

(I included the numbers as they are in the list below so you can read what I thought of it pretty soon after I read it. There were some that I have enjoyed more as time has passed. I don't know what that says about the book in its first read-through.)

In Full:

1. Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty* - Not my favorite of hers. More than the usual swearing/sex, and so many of the characters were just not likeable.

2. Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris* - It took me ages (literally a couple of years), but I finally finished this book. I started with a paper copy and eventually switched to audio. But I had to check out the audio several times before I finally finished it. I liked the predecessor much more. This one delves into the political machinations of his presidency quite deeply, and it was just hard to follow sometimes because I wasn't paying enough attention.

3. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech - Y'all, this was my third time to read this book, and I loved it even more than the first two times. I fed the baby at about 4 in the morning and then couldn't fall back asleep, so I just stayed up reading it, and when I was done I wanted to wake Eric up so I could read it aloud to him. I am just so glad my book group picked this one.

4. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell* - I didn't enjoy this at first, but it really grew on me. I could do without all the swearing, though.

5. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah* - Really gripping story with a lot of moving parts.

6. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling* - I am just having so much fun listening to this series.

7. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech - I know that this was already on the list for January, but as soon as I finished it, I started it again. I read it aloud to Eric, just like I said I wanted to in entry #3.

8. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli* - I had so many friends give this book 4 or 5 stars, but I just thought it was alright, not amazing.

9. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor* - I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Possibly my favorite part, though, was the message at the end from the author.

10. The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes - Y'all, sugar is just terrible for us. And we can't fully measure its effects on us until a few decades into our lives. This book was insightful and depressing.

11. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline - I really wanted to like this book, but some of the characters were so flat and some of the plot was so contrived that I ended up just really disliking it. Decent story, terrible writing. Anger inducing.

12. Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper* - This was a book group read that I probably would never have picked up on my own, but as soon as I was finished I put the second one on hold.

13. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling* - I liked this one better than I remembered. Listening to this series just gets me so excited to share it with my kids one day.

14. Peeled by Joan Bauer* - It was fine. I'll probably look back at the title years from now and not remember anything about it.

15. Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger - Read this one with the boys, and it took a while, mostly because we've had too many late nights over the last few months, so many nights we didn't read. This one ends on such a sweet note, and I had forgotten that.

16. Salvage by Angela Armstrong - I continue to be excited with the prospect for Angela's full-length novel. Great characters, intriguing dystopian world.

17. The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin - Predictable enough that Eric, only listening to my periodic plot synopses as we got ready for bed, called the ending when I was maybe a third into the book.

18. The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper* - I didn't love this one quite as much as Over Sea, Under Stone, but I put the next one on hold as soon as I was finished. How had I never heard of this series until recently?

19. A Week in the Woods by Andrew Clements* - I expected this one to be more like Hatchet than it was. Despite my misguided expectations, I rather liked it and was impressed with the character development. I'd like my kids to read this one someday.

20. How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids* by Jancee Dunn - Really enjoyed this one. It was so fun to listen to, gave me such great satisfaction that my husband doesn't suck, and gave me many ideas on how to improve in the areas where we could use improvement.

21. The Orphan Keeper by Camron Wright - Great story, but it took me a bit to get into it. I wasn't thrilled about the writing, but the story is really worth reading.

22. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling - I had a lot of fun reading the illustrated version with my kids. It was often over Felix's head (he's 5.5), but Ike (7) loved it.

23. Greenwitch by Susan Cooper* - Plugging along in this series and still enjoying it.

24. The Crossover by Kwame Alexander* - When I first started the audio, I wasn't so sure about this one, but by the end I really loved it and was sad it was over.

25. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling* - I have a hard time with Harry's moodiness in this one, and I always have, but I still am enjoying listening to this whole series again.

26. Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple - Mostly I just couldn't wait for Bernadette to go missing because she was so obnoxious. Once I knew that the author was also a writer on Arrested Development, I had a much greater appreciation for the humor, and I really enjoyed it.

27. Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen* - This one was just so sweet.

28. The Grey King by Susan Cooper* - I very foolishly let this one expire when I only had about 30 minutes left, then I had to wait for it to become available again, and for the last 30 minutes I was thinking, "Wait, what's going on?" So I might need to read a re-cap before I listen to the final book in the series.

29. Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer* - I kept thinking this one reminded me of Peeled (number 14 on this list), but it wasn't until I added this book to my spreadsheet that I realized it's the same author. I definitely preferred this one, but neither is a masterpiece.

30. Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper* - This was, overall, a satisfying ending to this series.

31. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling* - I really loved this one again, possibly more than the other times I've read it (twice?). The plot is paced well, and there is so much lead-up to the final book. I just really like it.

32. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard - So very meh.

33. American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee* - I was so enthralled by this I finished it in two days. I want to go spend all my time in Yellowstone admiring wolves.

34. Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos* - I just thoroughly enjoyed this one. It reminded me a lot of The Wednesday Wars.

35. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling * - Audiobooked on our road trip. I do love Jim Dale, and Ike wanted to listen to it again on the drive home. (It was Eric's first time to read the first book.)

36. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson - Man. Go read this and contemplate injustice in our society. It will blow your mind.

37. Running for My Life: One Lost Boy's Journey from the Killing Fields of Sudan to the Olympic Games by Lopez Lomong, Mark A. Tabb* - Great story, pretty terrible writing. I'm sure the co-author had a difficult task, but man, it was hard to listen to sometimes because the writing was so bad. (And probably hard for Eric and Andrew to listen to as well since I kept interrupting the book to give examples of why the writing was so bad.)

38. The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom - A good read. I finished the whole thing on my flight back from Europe.

39. Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor* - I was surprised by how much I liked this one. It presents a very genuine ethical dilemma. We listened to it on our road trip, and Ike seemed to really enjoy it.

40. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling* - It's been fun to re-listen to this whole series amidst other books. There were a lot of details about this seventh book that I had forgotten.

41. Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo* - Downloaded this for our drive home from Seattle, and we finally finished it about two weeks later. It was a good one for the whole family. (But I definitely preferred Shiloh.)

42. Martin Luther by Eric Metaxas* - Another great nonfiction for the year. I have a lot of respect for Martin Luther, and it was cool to read most of this before my Europe trip and then finish it a few weeks after. When I go back to Europe I'd like to do some more sight-seeing focused on Martin Luther.

43. Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary* - Such a fun book to listen to with my kids. I can't believe I've never read any of these before.

44. The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert - I'm not that crazy for chick lit to begin with, and this one is particularly bad. I stopped at page 109 then read the last few pages so I can discuss it for book group.

45. William Tecumseh Sherman: In the Service of My Country: A Life by James Lee McDonough* - An all-around really good biography. I didn't think it swung too far into hero worship, but it also didn't totally vilify Sherman for his weaknesses (and there were many). I found his rocky relationship with his wife fascinating.

46. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo* - This book was intense. I'm appreciative of the author's diligence in gaining a really in-depth look at a Mumbai slum and the people in it.

47. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling* - We listened to this one on audio during our road trip. It was Eric's first time to hear it in full.

48. My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett* - We'd read this one on our road trip in 2015. It was fun to listen to it again.

49. Elmer and the Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett* - I didn't like this one as much as the first.

50. How We Got To Now by Stephen Johnson* - This was such a fascinating book to listen to on our road trip. I loved learning about the progression of various inventions and how one idea leads to the next and to the next. I also loved the idea of the inevitability of certain inventions. So many problems affect so many people that somebody is bound to create something to solve that problem. They may not go about it in identical ways, but we'll get to the solution eventually.

51. The Dragons of Blueland by Ruth Stiles Gannett* - I liked this one better than the second, but probably not quite as much as the original.

52. Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary* - Eric is not that crazy about this series, which makes me sad. But I really enjoy these books, and so do my kids.

53. Shiloh Season by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor* - We liked this one well enough, but the first is definitely better.

54. The BFG by Roald Dahl* - Oh, how much we all loved the audio for this book! It was so much fun! We had all seen the movie adaptation of this one, but none of us had read the book. I'm sure we'll listen to it again on some future road trip.

55. The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley* - I enjoy Flavia de Luce, especially on audio.

56. A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley* - When you find some audio you enjoy, you just stick with it.

57. I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley* - I guess I just figure if you've got a series of audiobooks you like, you should just plow on through them.

58. Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover - Just go read it. It will blow your mind.

59. Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley* - I'm just going to keep plowing away through the audio for this series.

60. The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley* - I am pretty sure I liked this one even better than the first. I felt like so many stories of orphans really gloss over the emotional trauma, and this one delved right into it really well.

61. The Dead in their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley* - This one got pretty ridiculous (which is really saying something since this whole series is about an 11-year-old genius chemist/detective), and another book I've been waiting on came up on hold, so I'll be taking a bit of a break from Flavia now.

62. The Book of Essie by Meghan Maclean Weir - I was sucked into this book so fast and was really captivated by it. It reminded me a lot of the one Jodi Picoult book I read in that it handles current issues and looks at several angles of a tough ethical problem.

63. Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas - This was both hilarious and heartwarming.

64. On My Own by Diane Rehm* - Meh. Parts of this were good, but overall it was just fine. 

65. Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets* by Svetlana Alexievich - So fascinating, but so depressing. In fact, it was so depressing that I took a break from it to read Diane Rehm's book about grieving her husband of 50+ years. Rehm's book was positively joyful in comparison.

66. Seinfeldia: How  A Show About Nothing Changed Everything* by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong - I really wanted to like this book, but I thought it got tied down with the details of the show's creation. Given the title, I expected it to be more about the show's effects on culture. It does touch on that, but not to the degree I had hoped.

67. Reporter by Seymour Hersh* - I think Seymour Hersh did amazing things in his career, I just found this book surprisingly dull considering what his investigative reporting entailed.

68. Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott - So boring. I really wanted to like this, but big snore from me. I didn't finish it, but I endured enough of it to count it for the year's reading.

69. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins - It's a little long, but it's quite a good thriller-ish book (for its time).

70. Not My Father's Son by Alan Cumming* - This book is kind of hard to listen to because it deals with parental abuse, but it is so beautifully done. I loved hearing about Alan's journey on Who Do You Think You Are?. I've worked on many episodes (though not on his since I don't work on the British version), and so I loved hearing a bit more of his own background. I need to try to track down his episode now.

71. As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley* - Another Flavia book. They are getting more and more ridiculous, but I still enjoy them.

72. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling* - It took our family a while, but we finally finished this one. The movie is still way too scary for my boys, but we did show them a brief clip of the movie so Felix could understand the part with the time turner because it was confusing to him.

73. The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer - Rather slow at first, but I really liked it in the end. None of my book group co-horts made it through the slow portion.

74. Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mewed by Alan Bradley* - I am honestly getting a little tired of these. I need to find another go-to when I need a new audio book.

75. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah* - I loved so much about this book, especially the writing and the main characters. I thought the last third or so was a little ridiculous, though.

76. A Full Life by Jimmy Carter* - I knew so little about Jimmy Carter. I really enjoyed this book and learned he has written several others. I'm sure I'll read a few more of his.

77. Scarlet by Marissa Mayer* - I started this book ages ago, shortly after reading Cinder, and then time got away from me and I didn't finish it. I am so glad I finally got around to it. It's a lot of fun, and I went straight to the third book (Cress) when I finished this one.

78. Cress by Marissa Mayer* - Still really enjoying this series. The audiobooks are done so well. This may be a series I listen to again, actually. (I'm currently reading the last book in the series, and I probably will finish it first in 2019.)

79. Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater - This is just not that great of a read-aloud book. Felix found it endlessly boring, and it took us ages to get through it.

*Denotes audio-books.