Monday, June 23, 2014

Monuments Men

I recently finished reading The Monuments Men.  It's tells the story of the men (and at least a few women) who were charged with saving the monuments, fine arts, and archives of Europe from the destruction of WWII, and the thieving hands of the Nazis.  A bunch of middle aged men running around Europe saving art.  I loved it!  (Just to be clear, it is non-fiction.)  I gave it 5 stars on goodreads.  I don't normally give out 5 stars, but this book completely deserved it.  Here's my goodreads review, for interested parties:

"I absolutely loved this book. It took me a while to get into it. The first few chapters I had a hard time keeping track of all the people, but by the end of the book I was enthralled. I couldn't wait for the war to end, and for the treasures of Europe to be found. I feel like the cause of the Monuments Men was deeply important, and I'm so glad to have learned more about it."

I had to post this on the blog, because there are a couple of passages of the book that I want to remember.  I actually bookmarked a couple of pages as I was reading the book, which I NEVER DO.  This is how good it is.  I think I would even read it again.  Which, again, I NEVER DO.  

First, this lovely passage:

"To save the culture of your allies is a small thing.  To cherish the culture of your enemy, to risk your life and the life of other men to save it, to give it all back to them as soon as the battle was won . . . it was unheard of, but that is exactly what . . . the Monuments Men intended to do."

That, right there, is what this book is all about.  Beautiful, isn't it?

The other thing I wanted to remember was the reaction of Eisenhower, Patton, and other American generals to their visit to Ohrdruf, the first Nazi work camp liberated by American troops.  Which had nothing to do with the Monuments Men, really, but everything to do with the war.  

"Ohrdruf wasn't a death camp, like Auschwitz, but a place where human beings were systematically worked to death.  Several survivors, shrunken to mere skeletons, pulled themselves up on shriveled legs and saluted the generals as they passed.  The generals walked on in stony silence, their lips drawn tight.  Several members of their staff, all of them hardened by war, openly wept.  The hard-nosed Patton, "Old Blood and Guts," ducked behind a building and threw up.  

"Every American soldier, Eisenhower insisted, every man and woman not on the front lines, must see this.  'We are told the American soldier does not know what he is fighting for.  Now, at least, he will know what he is fighting against.'"

Brings tears to my eyes every time I read it.  

Finally, the pictures in this book are beautiful.  Photographs of people and places and art.  I think my favorite is a picture of the Aachen Cathedral, obviously once a place of splendor, now shattered and reduced to rubble.  It's harrowing.  

I seriously love this book, and can't recommend it highly enough.  The first bit is a challenge to get through, but it is so worth it to push through so you can get to the good stuff.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

This kid. THIS KID. She is in full-on meltdown mode tonight. She didn't want to

This kid. THIS KID. She is in full-on meltdown mode tonight. She didn't want to leave stake choir practice. Then she wanted to go RIGHT NOW. Then when we left, she spent 5 minutes screaming that she wanted a drink, when there were no drinks to be found in our car. She lost a bedtime story over that one. And because of that she has spent the past 5 minutes crying and saying, "Darn it!" over and over. It's a 30 minute drive home. We might all go crazy.

Friday, June 06, 2014

First harvest! I don't know if I've ever been so excited about a bunch of leaves

First harvest! I don't know if I've ever been so excited about a bunch of leaves.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Curls

These curls are killing me! Muggy days always turn Ella into Goldilocks.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Lists

When cleaning out some of the boxes stashed in various places around our house, I happened upon a little notebook.  And in this notebook, I found a list.  2 lists, actually, titled: Things I Want to Do in My Life and Places I Want to See. 

In case you didn't know, I'm a list maker.  I make lists like nobody's business.  Lists of chores, lists of errands, shopping lists, and more than once I have made a list of places I want to see and things I want to do.  If you were to dig through our recycling, you'd find multiple lists.  Lists, lists everywhere!  So discovering that I had made these lists was not actually surprising.  The exciting part was realizing how old these lists were.  They were made before I got married, but after I graduated from high school.  My best guess is somewhere around 2002. 

So let's get to it, shall we?  Here are the lists (with commentary in parenthesis):

Things I Want to Do in My Life
  • Go to the temple (check!)
  • Get married in the temple (check!)
  • Read the Old Testament (check!)
  • Kiss the Blarney Stone (sadly, no check)
  • Have kids (check!)
  • Learn to drive a stick shift (check?  I have driven a stick shift, but not well, and not for more than a few minutes.  And I certainly couldn't go do it right now without some serious coaching.)
  • Have patience (some things never change)
  • Get a doctorate (Um, no.  This is where Shannon of the past is disappointed with Shannon of the future, and Shannon of the future says, "Oh well.")
  • Go to a World Series game (nope)
  • Learn all about baseball (I've learned some things about baseball, but all things considered, it's still not much.)
  • Baptize at least one family member in proxy (That's a negative.  We did take a couple of Clark's family names through the temple a few years ago, but we didn't do the baptisms.  And it was his family, not mine.  But, as he reminds me, we're related!)
  • Help at least one person find the gospel (Nope.  At least I don't think so.)
  • Serve a mission (no check here)
  • Run a 5K (check!)
  • Compose a song (nope)
  • Look through a telescope (Surely I've done this.  Surely.  I just can't think of anything specific.)
  • Learn to play cricket, and play cricket (What the what?  Why on earth would I want to learn to play cricket?)
  • See a moose (check!)
  • Read Nephi Anderson's books (I've read 3!)
  • Milk a cow (check!)
  • Be kissed in the rain (check, check, and check!  [I have a fabulous husband])
  • Grow tomatoes (check!  Hoping for a repeat performance this year)
  • Learn Portuguese (no.  This was one of my new years resolutions this year, but so far it's been a big flop.  However, this list item, along with get married in the temple, helped me peg down the year this list was written.)
  • Have Spaceman Spiff PJs (Well, who doesn't want Spaceman Spiff PJs?  But alas, they don't make them.  And I don't know how I'd make them.  If you have any ideas, send them along.)
  • Eat beignets and go to a jazz club in New Orleans (nope.)
  • Go to Die Fleidermaus (nope.)
  • See David Letterman (No.  And sadly I never will.  Well...actually I'm not that sad about it.)
  • Watch Swan Lake (No?  I'm not actually sure on this one.  I'm talking about watching it live, of course.  Maybe I went at some point?)
  • Go to the New York City Ballet (nope)
I think it's fascinating to see how my priorities changed, to see what things happened, and what things didn't.  Just fascinating. And list #2:

Places I Want to See
  • France (someday)
  • Ireland (someday)
  • Scotland (someday)
  • England (someday)
  • Italy (someday [obviously I need to get to Europe])
  • Arches National Park (check!  We went on our honeymoon, and again before Ella was born.  So DOUBLE check!)
  • Lake Powell (We drove by it, so maybe that counts.  As a fair skinned person, this is not terribly high on my list.  It's just asking for a 2nd degree sunburn.)
  • A concentration camp (tie that in with my future Europe trip)
  • Disneyland (check!  Though I had been there before I wrote this list.  I guess I wanted to go again...which I haven't done...)
  • Zion National Park - the narrows (um, yes.  Yes, yes, yes.  Haven't hiked up the narrows, but I've hiked all through Zion, and the very beginning of the narrows.  Perk of living in St George.)
  • The White House (no, but I can feel a DC trip coming in the next few years)
  • Mt Rushmore (no.  But we are going this summer!!)
  • Nauvoo (check!)
  • Carthage Jail (check!)
  • Liberty Jail (no.  Only a 7 hour drive from here...)
  • Kirtland (check!)
  • Palmyra - the Sacred Grove (check, and check!)
  • Norway (again with the Europe)
  • New York (state, yes.  city, no)
  • Canada (check!)
  • Mexico (nope!)
So, we're slowly checking off that list.  Basically I need to go to Europe.  Sadly, I think the time in my life to go to Europe is either10 years ago or 10 years in the future.  So we'll put a pin in that idea and see what happens.

This is a long post, but I found it incredibly enjoyable.  Do you have a bucket list?  What's on there?

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

The Unremarkable Update

There's this question that people ask, and I never know how to answer.  "So, what have you been up to?"  I immediately go into Shy Mode and end up saying something like, "Oh, nothing much.  We're pretty boring."  I don't know why I do this.  I guess I don't like talking about myself, I get all embarrassed and flustered.  It seems silly, I know, but that's how it is.  But when writing, I am free of all shyness.  I can write what I want, and even edit said writing (don't you wish you could edit speaking sometimes?).  And so I thought I would write a blog post about what my family is up to, since I haven't blogged for a while, and most of my friends don't live close by and probably have no idea what we do around here.  An update, however unglamorous the details may be. 

Let's start with Ella.  Ella goes to school 3 days a week.  She is in a preschool program at the local high school where students run the show under the direction of their teacher.  She LOVES it.  It's a short day, only about an hour and a half, but she is bursting to tell me all about it on the car ride home.  Last week the theme was "I like to eat, eat, eat."  They talked about foods they like and dislike, how things taste different, etc.  Ella brought home a paper with pictures of foods she liked and disliked glued to the appropriate column.  The dislike column was a sea of green.  That kid does NOT like vegetables.  I can't think of a single one she likes.  I keep offering them, and she keeps rejecting them (heartily, I might add). Anyway, it's great to see her learning new things and making new friends. 

We also hit up the library once a week for storytime.  Ella has been signed up for the 3 and 4 year old storytime, which is a drop off program.  This is FABULOUS.  I drop Ella off and have 30 minutes child-free in the library.  Heaven.  Her section just ended, so now we'll go to the multi-age storytime, where I stay with her.  I'll be awfully sad when I have no small children to take to storytime anymore - it's been a fixture in our lives for 5 years!  We all look forward to library day, and check out a ridiculous amount of books.  I have seriously been worried that we'd exceed the 100 book limit before.  Multiple times.  I love that my children love books as much as I do.

With the warmer weather, Ella and I have also been discovering new parks in the area.  She has reminded me that she is a big girl, and I "don't need to freak out anymore" when she climbs ladders, walls, etc.  It's delightful to watch her play, and to see her imagination take off.  She is forever telling me stories about Pinky, her doll.  Pinky is having an anniversary.  Pinky has 12 children.  Pinky has been on this street before!  Pinky can't come to Utah because she'll be taking a nap.  Pinky knows everything, and has an awful lot of experience under her belt for being a baby doll.

Moving on to Julia. As you may recall, we sold our home back in February.  Julia took note of this, and a week or so later began petitioning for full day Kindergarten.  She made a mental list of all the good things that would happen if we sent her full day.  I prompted her to make a list of the drawbacks too.  She presented all this to us, and we decided that it would be a good move to bump her up.  This was probably the best thing I have ever done for my Julia.  She has thrived in full day.  She has always been an astounding reader, way above and beyond anyone else in her class, but her writing has been lacking.  She now has the time to work on it.  When she doesn't rush through an assignment, it turns out she can actually write pretty well.  She now has recess, which means she gets to play with other kids.  She gets to eat lunch with her class.  She is just so much happier.  Our time together in the afternoon is much shorter, obviously, so she doesn't get to read as much as she'd like, and playtime has taken a hit, but she has grown so much in the past 6 weeks.  Worth every penny.

As I mentioned, Julia is an avid reader.  She has finished the Capital Mysteries series, and is now in love with Washington DC and US History.  She wants to go see Mount Rushmore this summer, which we might be able to swing on our way out to Utah.  She has checked out books about Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln from the library.  She also wants to go see Springfield and learn more about Lincoln. I love her enthusiasm, and can't wait to do all these things!

As for me, I try to keep the house running and the kids happy.  On the days when Ella goes to school, I have a bit of child-free time.  Once a week I volunteer at Julia's school, making copies, cutting out crafts, etc for the teacher.  Another day, I go grocery shopping.  The third day is "my day," which I either spend reading or shopping or something else I want to do.  Lots of reading has been going on in 2014.  And I love it.

I am also in Young Women, and that takes up every Wednesday night.  I am starting to get my bearings there.  I finally feel like I have a firm handle on what is going on most of the time, and I'm starting to get to know the girls better.  It turns out, I love this calling.  It's been more challenging than any other calling I've had, but I love that challenge.  I love preparing lessons, I love bearing testimony to these girls, and I love hearing their testimonies in return.  It's a good place to be.

I spend a chunk of time listening to podcasts while I clean or cook or walk.  My favorites: Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, This American Life,  RadioWest, General Conference talks, and The Dinner Party Download.  I find this is a great way for me to get a little variety in my life, whether it's a good laugh or my entertainment news or something a little more serious and enlightening.  What would I do without my ipod?  The dishes would never get done!

As for Clark, he has his own blog.  Though I can say that he spends a lot of time working and running and reading and being a good husband and father.  I hit gold when I married that guy.  We work so well together.  We just celebrated our 10 year anniversary, and marveled at the fact that it's been 10 years.  Unreal.

And there you have it, folks.  Consider yourself updated.  Any questions?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Winston

Way back in 2011, Julia expressed her desire to have a pet.  She would take any animal we'd give her, she just wanted a pet.  Honestly, I think she wanted a pet so she could say she had one when they talked about them at preschool.  In December, Santa worked his magic, and a betta fish came to join our family.  We named him Winston.

Winston has been a silent but strong member of our family.  He lived through two moves and even, at times, neglect, in the form of the murkiest water I've ever seen.  He spent countless hours in his rainbow cave, and was the champion of calm living.  The girls were sure to include him in drawings of our family.  I know he was a fish, and thus our physical interaction with him was limited, but we all loved him. 

It is with great sorrow that I must announce that Winston passed away this weekend.  He died sometime Friday night/Saturday morning.  Clark had high hopes that his Good Friday death would foretell an Easter Sunday resurrection, but that was not to be.  We said a few words, shed a few tears, and sent him to a watery grave.  Julia was particularly heartbroken.  She couldn't bear to watch the send off, and instead cried on the stairs.  She feels things deeply, that one.  Ella, on the other hand, wanted to see "dead Winston" and laughed at the idea of flushing him down the toilet.  My daughters look alike but act so differently.

Perhaps one day we'll move on and find a new fish, but for now we are content to hold on to the memories of Winston and mourn our loss. 

(I know it might seem a little ridiculous, but I really am quite sad that he's gone.  I see his empty fishbowl and want to cry.)

Monday, April 07, 2014

Storytime

Let me tell you a story from today.  It all started last night.

At about 1am, I woke up to cries of, "Mommy!  Mommy!  Mommy!"  I dragged myself out of bed, to find my darling 3 year old in the bathroom.  "I'm done and I pooped."  It occurred to me, in my foggy sleep-stupor state, that maybe we should start teaching this kid to wipe her own bum.

Hands were washed, and everyone went back to bed.  But a few minutes later, I hear the pitter-patter of Ella's feet come out of her room and to my room.  The door opens.  And Ella announces (not in a whisper): "I need to go to the doctor today."

This gets my attention, as you may imagine.

I begin my line of questioning.  "What's the matter?"

"I need to go to the doctor."

"Why do you need to go to the doctor?"

"I can't tell you."

"What can't you tell me?"

"I did something I wasn't supposed to do."

"And what was that?"

"I swallowed a coin.  My special gold coin."  ....aaaand cue tears. 

Let me go back in time a bit for you.  About a month ago, we were driving around, running errands, when Ella declares she is SO BORED.  So I glance in the backseat, find a green button, and tell her to play with it.  In hindsight, I realize that giving a child a button to play with may not be the best idea.  But desperate times, you know.  So she has a button.  2 minutes later: "The button!  It's gone!"

"Where did it go?"

"Down my froat!"

"Down your coat?"

"No, my froat!"

Throat.  She had swallowed the button.  After the initial panic wore off, I did what I usually do in these situations.  I called my mom.  I took her advice and called the doctor's office.  Of course, it was a Saturday.  These things only happen after hours.  So I left a message, waited for a call back, explained the situation, and was told that she would probably be ok, but to watch for any signs of abdominal discomfort, vomiting, etc.  I explained to Ella that she needed to tell me if she had any pain in her tummy.  She didn't, and 2 days later that green button came out the other end.  (True love is searching someone else's stool for a green button.)  We had a big talk about how we don't put anything in our mouth except for food, and that was that.

Until last night.  This explained her late night bathroom run.  She had remembered what happened last time, and was doing her best to poop that coin out.  After some tears, I asked if her tummy hurt.  "Yes, it hurts right here, I have to go to the doctor!"  I asked if she was sure she swallowed the coin, or if maybe she dreamed it.  "No, it was in real life!  I swallowed my special gold coin!"  (None of this is in a quiet voice, mind you.)  The special gold coin is some euro coin we found a few weeks ago.  Which makes things worse because I have no idea how big that is, or even what amount it was which would give us a clue as to the size of the mystery coin.  And so, again, I called the doctor's office and left a message with the answering service.  Not a moment after I hung up the phone, Ella says, "Well, I need to get some more sleep."  And heads toward her bed.

Now wait a minute.  2 seconds ago she was in pain and needed to go to the doctor.  Now she's fine and wants to go to bed?  I asked her if she was still in pain, and got some confusing response about how it used to hurt this much (arms spread wide), but now it only hurts this much (arms brought closer together).  At this point I am seriously questioning if she dreamed this whole thing up.  I began to probe further, but Clark cut me off saying, "I think I can talk her into pink monkeys in a minute here, let's just get her in bed."  Off to bed she goes.  I, however, get to stay up to wait for the return call, which I was told to expect within 15-20 minutes.  "If you haven't heard from her by then," the message-taker directed, "Call back."

35 minutes later I called back, and told them to forget it, this whole thing might have been a dream, and I am going to bed and putting my phone on silent.  I'd call our regular doctor in the morning. 

I did, indeed, call the doctor this morning.  He was concerned that the coin (if indeed there was a coin) could become lodged in the esophagus, and it is possible to have no symptoms when this happens, so he ordered an x-ray.  Ella quite enjoyed the x-ray.  I did my best to impress upon her that this was NOT fun, and she should NOT try to get another one any time soon.

I just got a call back with the results of the x-ray.  They couldn't find anything that would indicate a foreign body, and a coin would show up pretty clearly if it was there.  I still get to watch her closely, and take her in if she has any symptoms, but it's highly likely that she dreamed she swallowed a coin.

This is the part where we all breath a big sigh of frustration, mixed with a bit of relief, and go lock up all the coins and buttons.

The End.