Friday, October 17, 2014

Today

Sometimes I think about blogging, and then I feel all this pressure to "catch up" on all the things that have been going on, and as the pressure mounts, the desire to blog disappears, and then I just never blog.  So, rather than play catch up, I now present you with today.

I woke up about 30 minutes before I needed to, allowing for that glorious time when you aren't really asleep, but you aren't quite awake, and you just get to lay in bed, thinking about that dream you just had or what you're going to wear today or what you thought of the book you finished last night.  Glorious time.  Always a good start to the day.

We got Julia onto the school bus, and then Ella and I played a rousing game of Dinosaur Train.  Ella won.  Time to go to preschool.  We walk in the doors, and I remember that it's Friday, and Friday means show and tell, and we forgot to bring something to show and tell.  It's the letter C this week, and luckily Ella wore a hair clip.  I pulled that little clip out, declared it to be the perfect item to show and tell about, and by some miracle Ella agreed with me.  Crisis averted. 

Post preschool drop-off, I went for a lovely walk down by the river.  The leaves are all the most marvelous colors right now, and today was a windy day, which means the leaves were being blown off the trees and right into my path, so I was basically walking through fall.  It felt a bit magical, I won't lie.  And I got to listen to the most recent episode of Serial, which made it all the better.  (Follow that link, friends.  It's an intriguing little podcast.)

Then I made a quick stop at the library (to pick up the holds I've been waiting for months to come in!) before heading home.  Peace and quiet abounded.  Worked on a little sewing project.  Read a little.  Called my sister.  Time to get Ella.

Ella and I enjoyed a windy bike ride (Ella on the bike, me walking (and pushing the bike part of the time, unfortunately)), and then settled in to read together.  At some point, I realized that the words I was saying were not the words on the page.  Not even close.  For example, there are no ninjas in a fairy book, and yet I was talking about ninjas. This is when I realize just how sleepy I am.  So sleepy I start making up new stories that are a bit crazy.  Maybe a lot crazy.  And that is when I give Ella my phone, tell her to play a couple of games, and I close my eyes. 

30 minutes later, I perk up, and decide to bake cookies.  Oatmeal chocolate chip, to be precise.  I have this wonderful recipe (courtesy of my sister-in-law Melissa), and I think I've only made them about 3 times in the last 4 years.  This is because upon moving to Michigan, my cookies all turned out flat.  Giant cookie-pancakes.  So I gave up making cookies.  But I figured we lived in a new state, it was time to give it a go.  So glad I did, those cookies are divine, and NOT flat.  Don't know whether to blame Michigan or the oven in our apartment there.  We'll go with the oven, because I love Michigan too much to malign it in such a way.

Then things start getting really exciting.  Time to get Julia from the bus stop.  More cookies baking.  Out the door to a storytime.  Back home to change into costumes in preparation for the ward Trunk or Treat.  Inspiration struck for a trunk decoration.  Amazed at the possibility of actually decorating a trunk this year!  Off we went, to enjoy food, friends, and trick or treating.

The trunk decoration proved to be a big flop.  I lost a piece somewhere in my trunk, the wind blew things off, and in the end, we just sat by our car and gave out candy.  Oh well.  Next year I have this great idea for a trunk decoration...

And now here we are, kids in bed, dryer humming, and I'm gearing up to watch another episode of Lark Rise to Candleford.  This is the good life.  Not perfect by any means, but oh, so good.  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Summer

Today was the first day of school for Julia.  First grade!  I seriously can't believe she is old enough to be in first grade.  The girls came with me to Young Women tonight, and Julia noticed the Activity Days girls were playing volleyball.  It turns out I have never mentioned Activity Days to her, so I told her when she turns 8 she gets to come to activities like this.  She commented that that event is less than 2 years away.  I might cry over that one.

But that's not the point of this post.  The point is, summer is now over.  And what a summer it has been!  In June we were going strong on what I call, "Organized Activities Summer," where every day had an adventure, and we were always on the go.  We had visits to the library, picnics at the park, fun with water, planting a garden, trips to Cantigny Park (a family favorite), and even craft projects (!) that filled our days.  Every day something was on the calendar.

At the end of June, and on through almost all of July, we had, "Vacation Summer."  It started with a trip out to Utah.  Per Julia's request, we took the long way out there and stopped at Mount Rushmore.  That alone would have been worth the added 3 hours of drive time, but we also saw the Badlands, Martins Cove, Independence Rock, the SPAM museum, and Wall Drug, which were all new experiences for me.  I could have done without Wall Drug, but everything else was most definitely worth stopping to see.

While in Utah we hiked in the mountains, got sick, toured Timpanogos Cave, planned and cancelled a birthday party for Ella due to being sick, visited the zoo (minus me, because I was sick), ate at Cafe Rio (and didn't get sick!), made a trip to the temple, saw family and friends, and generally partied (while we weren't sick).  The highlight of the trip was seeing a whole slew of cousins, including the ones who came from Colorado just to see us!  And, of course, the grandparents.  I almost (almost) want to move back there.  Really, I just want my favorite people from there to move out here.  Though maybe not here, because I'm not 100% sold on Illinois yet. So I guess I want to live in the same town as all my favorite people, with that town yet to be determined.  Yeah.  That could happen, right?  Anyway, it was a great trip, even if that was an awful lot of driving.

Upon arriving home, we spent 2 days unpacking and doing laundry, only to repack and head to St Louis for a few days to spend time with my sister, Whitney.  Clark stayed home for this trip, so I squished in the backseat with the girls for the drive with my parents.  We had a great time seeing the St Louis Zoo, playing with my niece, and stopping in Springfield on the way home to tour the Lincoln Museum and eat Cozy Dogs.

After that jaunt, we spent 2 days unpacking and hosting my parents, and then I headed out to girls camp for 3 days.  I must admit, I was a bit hesitant about girls camp.  I wasn't sure how I felt about spending 3 days and 2 nights with a slew of teenage girls.  But when it was time to leave, I was not ready to go home, and sad I didn't stay the whole week.  I work with some amazing women, and we have a great group of girls.  Good times.

The next day my parents went home.  I spent about a week playing catch-up on all the housework.  And then we entered what I am calling, "Whiny Fighting Summer."  The part of the summer where everyone is ready to go back to school and get back into a routine.  I was out of ideas on anything fun to do, all Ella seemed capable of doing was saying, "I'm bored," multiple times before attacking Julia by laying on her, mauling hugging her, or copying her ("She's copying me!" "She's copying me!").  Julia responds by making whiny noises, running away, and crying.  We did a fair bit of reading (because that's easy, and I'm always up for another trip to the library), and for a couple of weeks we managed a bike ride around the neighborhood every day, but the vast majority of the days were spent fighting boredom with arguing and TV.  This is the part of summer I'd rather forget.

It all ends today, though.  Today we are back on track, going to bed early so we can wake up early, our lives revolving around the bus pick up and drop off.  And in a couple weeks, once Ella starts school, I can finally go grocery shopping by myself again - which sounds like an absolutely delightful treat! Bring on fall!

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?