Monday, April 17, 2017

Julia, On Her 9th Birthday

Being Julia's birthday, I thought I'd write up a little brag post on this incredible child of mine.

Julia is brilliant.  She soaks up knowledge like a sponge.  I've decided to just ask her if I don't know something.  More than half the time, she knows it.  Especially if it's in a book she once read. 

Julia is a reader.  Any spare moment she has, she is reading.  She reads when she eats breakfast.  She reads when she comes home from school.  She reads while waiting for her turn in the bathroom.  She reads IN the bathroom.  She reads before she goes to sleep.  She reads in the car.  She reads, and reads, and reads.  And she loves it.  (In a related note, we are always accepting new book recommendations.) (On another related note, thank goodness for the public library and those wonderful, well-read librarians.)

Julia has taken to the violin like you wouldn't believe.  After 2 weeks, she told me she was going to be an orchestra nerd.  We never have battles about practicing, only reminders.  She told me the other day that she loves to play because 1) she is good at it, and 2) it calms her down.  I completely understand these feelings.  It fills my soul to hear that she loves music, too.  She has started a composition unit, and showed me the beginnings of her first composition.  (It looks great, by the way.)  I decided to test it out on the organ, to see how it sounded.  5 minutes later, I realize someone is playing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star on the organ.  It was Julia.  "When did you learn to play a keyboard?" "Oh, I'm just messing around."  She had pulled out her violin music and was full on playing a song.  Obviously she was meant to be a musician.

Julia always wants to learn new things.  A few weeks ago I asked her if she had anything she wanted to learn at Activity Days (church group for 8-11-year-olds).  She thinks for a minute, then her whole face lights up and she says, "Glass blowing!"  I love that she knows what glass blowing is (of course she does, she read about it in a book), and that she wants to learn how to do it.  If she was running the show, A Days would be fascinating.

Julia's knowledge of the scriptures and the doctrines contained therein is astounding.  She fully and completely understands the plan of salvation and how repentance works.  She knows without question that God loves her and that He has a plan for all of us.  This is one of my favorite things about her.  She just GETS it.  I love to hear her talk about what she has been reading in the scriptures or what her primary class is learning about, and to answer her questions about the gospel.  She decided to bear her testimony a couple weeks ago about how important it is to do the small and simple things that God has asked us to do.  Keeping the commandments isn't always easy, but it's simple, she said.  This marks the third time she has gotten up in front of the entire congregation to bear her testimony.  I think that is more times than I have done it since living here. 

Basically, Julia is amazing.  I often look at her and wonder where on earth she came from.  She is wise for her 9 years.  I love her sharp mind and her tender heart, and I can't wait to see the good she accomplishes in the world.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

52 List Fail

Friends, I had great plans for the 52 list project.  I was so excited to share a list every week.  I thought it would kickstart me into blogging again.  But alas, List 3 had some personal things on it I didn't want to share, and then. . . the wheels fell off.  So I guess I'm not sharing every list.  Sorry.

But let me make a list of things we've been up to the past few months.
  • We've greatly improved our scripture study as a family.  It might not happen every night, but it happens most nights.  And even though it's borderline painful to get Ella through her 5 verses every night (the scriptures are hard for a new reader, who also happens to have ants in her pants and loses her place every 3 words), I still feel the spirit as we read and share gospel truths.  
  • Julia had her first orchestra concert. My little heart burst as I glimpsed into the orchestra concerts of the future.  I can't wait for the next one.
  • I've been walking and walking.  On rainy days, I go to the mall.  On cold days, I wear my balaclava.   But I go on a walk just about every day.  Got to get to that 500 mile mark.  I'm currently at 140, so I think I've made a solid start.
  • I've also had weekly organ practice, and I'm slowly but surely making my way through all the hymns.  I even conquered the beast that is For the Strength of the Hills.  I barely made it out alive.
  • The girls sold girl scout cookies.  I only cursed the girl scout program a handful of times.
  • We finally went to the Lego Discovery Center of Chicago!  I wish we'd gone when the girls were a little younger.  But they still had a wonderful time looking at the Star Wars legos, going on the 2 little rides, watching the 4-D movie, and playing in the playcenter.  Then we all coveted the legos in the gift shop.  
  • Going along with the lego theme, the girls have been participating in all the library lego programs, and getting pretty creative with their builds.  I love that they can play with the buckets and buckets of legos that the library owns, and then the library cleans them up and stores them. 
  • Julia had her 3rd and 4th grade music concert.  They sang songs from different musicals.  These songs have been sung around our house for MONTHS, and I was glad to finally have the concert over.  Sadly, Ella is still singing them.  However, I did enjoy signing along in my head at the concert, so there is that. 
  • The girls did a few After School Enrichment programs, and I volunteered at a couple of them.  One of them was break dancing.  I tried a few of the moves myself.  My entire body hurt for the next 3 days.  I think 35 is a little old to start learning to break dance. 
  • We celebrated Valentine's Day!  Well, actually, Clark was out of town for Valentine's Day, and we still haven't celebrated it together.  But the girls and I enjoyed the day together.  It wasn't horrible.
  • We went to the Field Museum!  Along with the rest of the city of Chicago!  It was a free-to-Illinois-residents day, on a Saturday, and the weather was beautiful.  So everyone went to the museum!  We were exhausted by the end of the day, but it was fun to see Sue, the other dinos, the gems, and various other things.  Good times.
  • We had glorious weather in February!  We even went to the park (in short sleeves!) one day.  And we saw someone kayaking in our little pond.  That was unexpected.
  • WE WENT TO DISNEYLAND!  That deserves it's own post, but the short take away is: it was amazing.  Memories were made.

Pi(e) Day 2017

There is one glorious day each year wherein I make a plethora of pies, and then we eat them.  And we make passing mentions of pi.  But mostly, we eat pie. 

3.14 is one of my favorite holidays, and I take it pretty seriously.  This year we had our customary pie party, inviting some friends over to share in the flaky goodness.  I have a few tried and true pies that I make every year, but this year I tested some new recipes, and I'm pleased to say they were successes!  Here's the lineup:


This is my very favorite pie, and I make sure to freeze some of my Georgia peaches that I buy every summer just for this occasion.  It did not disappoint.  New addition: the star in the middle.  Shan got fancy with the cookie cutters.

Allen's Favorite Cherry

Allen is my dad.  This was his favorite cherry pie when he was a kid.  It was a family favorite when I was a kid.  And now it's Julia's favorite as well.  A graham cracker crust with a whipped cream/cream cheese base and cherry pie filling on top.  It always disappears quickly.  Bonus: Julia had to share her "favorite thing" at Activity Days the day after Pie Day, and she chose this pie.  We cut a big slice out for her to take to the gift exchange. 

Chocolate Pudding

This is the simplest of simple: graham cracker crust, chocolate pudding from a box.  Bam.  In fact, Ella made this pie.  She had requested a chocolate pie, and I often make a chocolate custard one, but on further probing we discovered that she would really be just as happy with chocolate pudding, and that saves me a lot of work so. . . we went with a box of jello pudding.  She loved it.  Especially when I let her have a piece for breakfast the next day.

Blueberry Sour Cream

I had been looking for a blueberry pie that I could use frozen blueberries in (since March is not exactly blueberry season), and this recipe was the winner.  It turned out pretty great.  Almost like a blueberry cheesecake.  I'll definitely be putting this recipe in my collection.

Hoosier Sugar Cream

This was the surprise hit of the night.  I had never heard of a sugar cream pie before, but I was really intrigued.  Especially when I read the recipe: flour, sugar, and salt; add cream and vanilla; bake.  What is this crazy magic??  How does this runny mixture firm up to become a creamy, smooth pie??  I don't know, but it was magic indeed.  I compare the taste to snickerdoodle cookie dough.  Very yummy.  Next time I might try it with nutmeg on top instead of cinnamon.  We have lived in a state bordering Indiana for 6 years, so it's like an almost-local delicacy.  Look at me, embracing the midwest!

 Our friends added to the spread, to make Pi(e) Day truly wonderful this year. 
The night ended with happy, full bellies, and happy, full hearts.  Pie and friendship is truly the best combination.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

My Favorite Characters from Books and Movies (List 2)

I think I've made it clear in the past that I am a list maker.  I have a running to-do list that I update every day.  I make lists of places I want to go, things I want to do, books I want to read.  Lots of lists.  So when I heard about the 52 Lists Project, I was IN.  I used some Christmas money to buy myself the journal, and I've already started using it.  I LOVE it.  It's a great Sunday activity, a way to give myself time to reflect and ponder. 

I also decided after flipping through the book that it would be fun to share it on the blog.  A weekly prompt, all in one little book.  What a perfect way to write more here.

List 1 was about my goals and dreams for this year.  I already posted a bit about that.  On to list 2.

"List your favorite characters from books, movies, etc"

  • Robert E. Lee (The Killer Angels)
  • Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (The Killer Angels)
  • Marie-Laure LeBlanc (All the Light We Cannot See)
  • Neville Longbottom (the Harry Potter series)
  • Elinor Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility)
  • Konstantin Levin (Anna Karenina)
  • Moana ("Moana")
  • Belle ("Beauty and the Beast)
  • Corrie ten Boom (The Hiding Place)
  • Lucy Pevensie (The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe
  • Jean Valjean (Les Miserables
  • Esther (from the Bible)
  • Jo March (Little Women)
  • Harriet Hamsterbone (the Hamster Princess series)
  • Nicolas (Le Petit Nicolas)
  • Matilda (Matilda)
  • Despereaux (The Tale of Despereaux)
  • Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables)
  • Marry Lennox (The Secret Garden)
  • Juli Baker (Flipped)
  • Calvin (Calvin and Hobbes)
This list was surprisingly hard to come up with.  First you have the problem of so many beloved books.  It's hard to keep track of all the books I've read and loved.  And then you have the added difficultly of finding a character that you love.  I could think of a number of beloved books wherein the characters weren't really people I admired or wanted to be like. 

Notice, more than half of these characters are women.  I love to read a book (or see a movie) with a strong female role.  I like girls with pluck, with gumption.  Girls who are unafraid to stand for what's right, or do hard things to help other people.  I find that particularly telling when I don't feel that way about myself.  Gumption and pluck are two words that would never be used to describe me.  I'm not very brave, and I don't like to be a leader.  Whenever I'm asked to take on a leadership role, my first thought is, "Well that's a terrible idea."  I much prefer to be the person smoothing things over, making everyone happy, from my nice comfy seat in the crowd.  Maybe I wish I was more like these characters I love so well.  Maybe I should work a little harder to be a little braver.

Or maybe I'll just read about it from the comfort of my bed.  I am in hibernation mode, after all.  That's what January is for, isn't it?

Who are some of your favorite characters?  Have you ever wished to be more brave?  Have you ever found a way to actually BE more brave?

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

2017 Resolutions

If you know me, you probably know that I love a good list.  There are practical lists (grocery lists, to-do lists) and there are fun lists (favorite books, best vacations, top 10 anything).  I feel like New Years Resolutions combine the two.  It's a to-do list, a list of goals you want to accomplish, but it's also a list of your hopes for the coming year, what you want to happen in life.  I think that's why I love resolutions so much - it's double the listy goodness.

I already blogged about how 2016 went, so let's take a look at how I hope 2017 will go.

Once again, I need to chase down the last items on my 30 by 30 list.  Clark reminds me that it's almost time for 40 by 40, so I've got to get on it.  The last three items are find a family name to take to the temple, learn to play all the hymns on the organ, and learn to play a new song on the guitar.  The last two are completely attainable if I put in the time.  That first one...I'm at a loss.  Going to need to call in some help on that one.

I ended my walking goal last year with a "sort of complete."  I want to make that a fully complete.  I will walk 500 miles.

Reading 12,000 pages was not too great of a challenge.  I'm upping it to 14,000. 

I want to pray more often and more fervently.  Finding quiet, uninterrupted time to pray has been a challenge for me lately, but I need to make the time.  I need more prayer in my life.

We recently finished reading the Gospels as a family, and starting reading the Book of Mormon again.  I hope we can finish it by the end of the year.

And speaking of my family, I hope to spend more one-on-one time with each of my children.  We only have 2, so it's easy to think they get all the attention they need.   But there is something special about one-on-one time with a parent that every child craves.  And hopefully it'll keep them talking when we hit the tween years.

Here's the concise list:
  • Find a family name to take to the temple.
  • Learn to play all the hymns on the organ. 
  • Learn to play a new song on the guitar.
  • Walk 500 miles.  This time, for real.
  • Read 14,000 pages.  (Yikes, that's a big number.)
  • Pray more often and more fervently.
  • Read the Book of Mormon as a family
  • Go on dates with each of the girls.
Happy New Year!

Monday, January 02, 2017

2016 Wrap Up

We did it guys!  We made it through that beast of a year, 2016! 

I know everyone has labeled 2016 as a horrible year, but on a personal level, it wasn't so bad for me.  We made more than one of my life-long dreams come true this summer by heading to Washington, DC.  We saw Gettysburg, Arlington, panda bears, all the monuments, museums, the Shenandoah river, the Appalachian Trail, and a couple of black bears (could have done without the black bears, though they did make it memorable).  Julia started up the violin and Irish dance (giving me much delight).  Ella finally realized her destiny by starting ballet and tap.  The transition to 3rd and 1st grade has been the easiest transition on record.  We squeezed in a fall trip to Utah, where we got to attend a baby blessing and take Julia to the women's session of General Conference.  Everyone was relatively happy, and relatively healthy.  It's been a good year.

I revisited my 2016 resolutions and discovered that I actually achieved quite a lot.  Here's the rundown:

  • Read Jesus the Christ.  
I DID IT!  It's been on my to-do list for years, and I finally did it!  The key for me was to accept that I was going to take it nice and slow.  I read one chapter a week, adding it to my Sabbath day routine.  Some chapters were long and required two weeks.  Some Sundays were full, and required that I read that chapter throughout the week. But by the end of November, I finished it.  And I'm so very glad I did.  I loved reading about the life of my Savior on a deeper level.  My understanding of who Jesus Christ was, and is, and His purpose and mission has grown immensely.  I'm so glad I finally took the time to read this book.

  • Finish 30 by 30.   
Ahem.  Let's break this down a bit.  As a reminder, I created a 30 by 30 list, and only finished 25 by my 30th birthday.  I got #26: Visit Chicago six months later (which is funny, because we live here now).  That leaves 4 more: Find a family name to take to the temple; learn to play all the hymns on the organ; learn to play a new song on the guitar; and learn to play the William Tell Overture.

So I didn't do all those things.  But I did do one: I learned to play William Tell.  I picked up that music in October and said, "This ends now."  I tried to play it every day, until things finally started to come together more.  And I conquered the beast.  Not to perfection, not to performance level, but I can play that dang piece of music, and I'm so proud of myself.

  • Blog more.
A quick scan of my blog archive tells me that in 2015 I had 16 posts, while in 2016 I had 32 posts.  26 of them were from Light the World in December, but...I did blog more.  Check.
  •  Walk 500 miles.
I attempted to go walking every week day that the girls were in school, but I didn't go every day.  In the end I recorded 430.8 miles.  But...I got a fitbit in August, which records all my steps not just when I set out to go walking, and it says I walked 500 miles, so maybe that counts.  Julia says it does. 
  •  Read 12,000 pages.
12,615 pages read this year.  Boom.
  •  Start my book blog.
I did start my book blog, and I love it, and I hope you love it too.  Bookburger. Check it out.
  •  Visit Chicago when it's not the dead of winter.
 We went to the Art Institute of Chicago on a lovely spring Thursday in April, fulfilling this requirement.  And I don't think we've been back since then.  I like the idea of the city, but I don't really like being in the city.  I don't like finding parking, or paying for parking, or dealing with traffic, or worrying about losing my children. Sorry Chicago. 

So there you have it.  I did just about all of the things I set out to do.  Stay tuned for the 2017 resolutions!