Wednesday, December 26, 2007

my walk this morning




Forget bramasole.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

christmas morning





Lidia knit me the hat (is it "knit" or "knitted"?) and Bernie made the book with pictures she drew of me, complete with highlighted hair.

Monday, December 24, 2007

right in front of the dog food

We're lucky enough to have a great little neighborhood grocery store and I stopped by today to pick up a few things. That's where I found these guys. They sounded fabulous and I told them so. I bemoaned not having my camera. I got home, took care of the groceries, grabbed my camera, and walked back. They had just finished a number to a burst of applause. I asked if I could take their picture, and as you can see, they were very accommodating. Then they wanted to see the camera screen to see "how we turned out."

"Great," said the accordionist. "Right in front of the dog food."

I told them that was the great thing about it. I hadn't expected to find such a prize in front of the dog food. They were pleased with this response, and then told me about their glory days playing at the Flame Room of the Radisson Hotel in downtown Minneapolis.

cookies again


Sunday, December 23, 2007

feeling better

I have to admit I've been feeling a little scroogey this year. All the work of that Christmas party at church had something to do with it and then I got behind in all of my Christmas stuff.

Ever year I say I'm going to simplify. So, why don't I?

Here are some of the things I do for Christmas:
*decorate the house.
*make calendars to give my family and J's.
*extreme baking to give teachers at school, primary teachers, mail carrier, neighbors, friends, and anyone else I can think of.
*Christmas letter and cards sent out to 80-100 families. (Some were just sent yesterday, but if you don't get one this year, I'm so sorry!! We ran short.)
*make some of the gifts I give.
*help with the kids' "winter parties" at school.
*make loads of tamales. This year I said I would only make a few, but it took most of one day.
*the shopping, of course. The hardest thing is filling those blasted stockings.
*this year we've opened and read Christmas books for about two weeks leading up to Christmas.
*gingerbread creations.

I don't simplify, I only add more "traditions." Someone stop me! Most of these things I really enjoy doing, just not all squished into a two week period that also includes concerts, plays, and parties.

Next year I'm going to set some goals. I'll have the calendar, letter, and cards all done before Dec. 1. Maybe I can do most of the shopping before then too. This year J and I finally got to attend a performance of The Messiah and I want to do that again next year. (There were three other events scheduled for us that night. We had to skip them.) This year we wanted to go to Heart of the Beast's "Las Posadas" but didn't get to because J had too much work. This is another December challenge for us: It's always J's busiest, most stressful month for work. Another reason we should be simplifying.

So. I am feeling better. I'm beginning to feel that I can relax a little and enjoy. For some reason, the simple act of putting this new vinyl tablecloth on my kitchen table made me insanely happy. I love how it looks with the flowers.

Here is A Brief History of Christmas that puts it all into perspective. The modern way of celebrating with Santa and all that is pretty recent, while "Saturnalia" dates back to Roman times. I like Saturnalia! Now I know why I get so stressed out--I'm trying to celebrate two holidays at the same time. But really, I like that about Christmas. I think the pagan and the holy compliment each other.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

an assault and misrepresentation

A couple weeks ago I posted links to articles in the Wall Street Journal by Naomi Shaeffer Riley and Peggy Noonan. Both writers had positive things to say about Mormons, especially Riley, who had visited Brigham Young University while researching religious schools.

There is another Riley that works for the Journal. When positive things were being said about Mormons, he was seething inwardly. He couldn't stand it any more and finally spewed forth in yesterday's de Gustibus column.

The title of this little piece is "Church Separation." Mr. Riley calls the LDS church a "defiantly apartheid faith." Our church has never been segregated. Blacks and whites have always worshipped together at the same meetings. I don't think many other churches can say the same. Blacks have never been denied baptism or full membership in our church.

It is true that blacks were denied the priesthood until 1978, but it was always expected that they would eventually have it. Members all over the world prayed for it. My personal opinion is that the church leadership and membership were not ready for it until that time, and a big reason is because, as already stated, our wards were never segregated. If blacks had held the priesthood, there would have been the potential for them to have authority over mostly white congregations. Of course we don't see that as a problem now, but to suggest that a black bishop of a mostly white ward would not have been a problem in the 1950s or 60s is to not recognize the deep and abiding racism that prevailed amongst nearly all people, Mormon and non-Mormon, at that time. Again, this is just my opinion.

I can see why it bothers people that blacks in our church did not hold the priesthood until 1978. It bothers me. But I see it as reflective of the times rather than of our church.

Mr. Riley quotes the Book of Mormon, but it seems that he did not read the actual verse from the original source. I cannot otherwise account for his interpretation. He says that the Mormon church "denied blacks full participation based on doctrinal beliefs that whites are 'pure' and 'delightsome,' while black-skinned people are 'unrighteous,' 'despised' and 'loathsome' descendants of the biblical Cain, who was cursed for killing Abel." The verse that he is quoting does not refer to blacks but rather to a group of ancient people living in Latin America. There is no mention of Cain. As J wrote in his letter to the Wall Street Journal, Mormons commonly believe that these words actually refer to J's ancestors. However, rather than finding the message of the Book of Mormon offensive, millions of people from Latin America have embraced it.

Mr. Riley claims that we persist in teaching racism in our church. This is a very grave accusation and I am appalled that the WSJ even printed it. Mr. Riley also says that we have "never repudiated the teachings that supported the policy." (He refers to the false folkloric belief that blacks did not hold the priesthood because they are descendants of Cain.) This is also untrue. LDS apostle Bruce R. McConkie said after the 1978 revelation extending the priesthood to all worthy male members, "Forget everything I have said, or what...Brigham Young...or whomsoever has said...that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world." Amen.

Mr. Riley says something very strange indeed in his closing statements. He quotes Mitt Romney saying the following: "Look, the polygamy, which was outlawed in our church in the 1800s, that's troubling to me," he told "60 Minutes" in May. "I must admit, I can't imagine anything more awful than polygamy." And then Mr. Riley says, "Gee, I can." This was so ridiculous I laughed in disbelief. As one reader responded, "I had no idea Mr. Riley has the authority to pass judgment on which is worse, polygamy or racism. To compare such topics absolutely astounds me." Talk about apples and oranges.

Anyway. I am grateful to belong to a church that reaches out to all people regardless of color. Here I posted a link to the article The New Face of Global Mormonism about the growth of the Church in Africa. Here is another noting the special session held by the Brazilian senate to honor the LDS church in Brazil.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

2007

Some favorite pics of the whippersnappers from this past year:

Santa Bernie, Bernie and Felicity, Ten Dancing Princesses, Miss Thing

Marcus turns 7, Marcus w/ Papi, Marcus doing his weird thing w/ my hair, The Big One

Lidia as Writer, self portrait, at Irish Fair, recital

Georgie built, gordita, artist, archer

flamenco, witch, and young Anakin

mercado




A couple weeks ago I got to go with Marcus and his class to the Mercado Central in Minneapolis. It's a large building with many little hispanic stores. It was nice, though missing the fresh fruits and vegetables and not-so-fresh meats I associate with an authentic mercado. Also, it was lacking in smell.

Anyway, yesterday Marcus's grade at his Spanish immersion school created their own "mercado." They sold handmade greeting cards, worry dolls (those were gone in five minutes), and papel picado. Some of the children performed ballet folklorico and in Marcus's room, children sold views of powerpoints they did in Spanish about insects. It was great fun, and the children are sending the proceeds to benefit and orphanage in Guatemala.

chamber


Georgie is working on a design for her chamber orchestra's t-shirts. She drew this freehand first and then modified it on the computer.

Monday, December 17, 2007

get down with the three kings


I posted this last year. I'm making it annual. This is some of Lidia's artwork from preschool days.
I also found this looking at past posts: my New Year's resolution for 2007. I'd forgotten about it. I think I need a re-do.

Friday, December 14, 2007

submarine


In Georgie's science class the assignment was to make a "submarine," I think along the lines of a cartesian diver. Georgie made hers out of a pill bottle. She duct-taped a weight to the bottom and put marbles inside. Her teacher said it was the best-designed she'd ever seen.

Naturally I would have liked to include a photo of the engineer in this post. Georgie refused to let me take a picture of her. She said that all the photos I take of her turn out awful. I beg to differ. My proof: a beautiful photo of a beautiful girl.

So Georgie doesn't let me take her photo, she often will not wear a jacket to school, and she doesn't eat as much breakfast as I would like. She will be thirteen on March 1st and I guess this behavior comes with the age. (Who knew that teenagers are resistant to cold?) However, in almost every other respect we admire Georgie and are profoundly grateful for the example she's setting. She is making some wonderful friends at her new school. She thinks seventh grade is great. (?!) She enjoys her classes (though she would prefer to be studying real history instead of social studies) and she's getting excellent grades. She loves math team and she's taking high school algebra. She becomes more and more interested in cello and practices a lot. Too much, almost. She is civil to her siblings and doesn't complain when we ask her to babysit. She likes to be at home.

She is consistently making choices that will open exciting opportunities in her future. J and I would like to take credit for raising her to be this way, but we think it's more of an "in spite of" situation. And in the past year we've seen that our influence on Georgie has become negligible. I think her biggest influence for good in the past year has been her Young Women's group at church. The leaders and the other girls, especially the older ones. It's a small group, but a powerful one! Around Thanksgiving we were talking, rather casually, about what we are grateful for. Georgie said she was most grateful for her YW leaders and friends. She said she could not imagine life without them. She said words to the effect that the leaders were "really high quality." It was J's turn next to say what he was most grateful for, and he said, "Well, I guess right now I'm feeling most grateful for Georgie's YW leaders." We both teared up a little, reflecting on the selfless service of these leaders who have busy lives of their own. They love the girls, they love the gospel, and they magnify their calling.

The older girls in G's group move on to college next year and she will miss them dreadfully. It's not like they have gone out of their way to make G their best friend or anything. There is a big gap between twelve and seventeen. However, they've been friendly and included her. More than anything, their example of embracing all that is virtuous, of good report, and praiseworthy has had a profound effect on G.

If these are typical teenagers, I'll take a dozen.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

trip to macy's


This is the first time we take the Light Rail from the Mall of American to downtown Minneapolis. The girls really enjoyed it, especially Bernie.
We saw the Macy's window display. This year the theme was The Nutcracker.




Wednesday, December 12, 2007

coraline


"It is the most splendidly original, weird, and frightening book I have read, and yet full of things children will love." ~Diana Wynne Jones


"It has the delicate horror of the finest fairy tales, and it is a materpiece." ~Terry Pratchett


It was the second quote from Terry Pratchett that caught my attention when I glanced at the back of this book. I love fairy tales. Right now Lidia and I are reading H.C. Anderson's original stories. On the page after the dedication in British author Neil Gaiman's Coraline, there is a G.K. Chesterton quote: "Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten."


Coraline is very original, and definitely creepy. Yes, it made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, but this is my kind of horror. Delicate horror. And it has meaning. It is highly entertaining to read, but at the end you feel that you've learned something about courage and facing your deepest fears.


Lidia listened to it on audiobook and loved it. Every time I had to tear her away from it for chores or shopping or whatever, she'd say, "But it's at the best part! Really, this time it's the very best part!"


Highly recommended.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

happy birthday, mama ava

Check out this photo Karen posted of Mama Ava. Today is her birthday.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

mormons have cooties

We got our cable fixed a few weeks ago, so now I do something I have avoided in the past. I occasionally watch CNN.

I don't know why I do this. Everyone on that channel wears too much makeup and thinks too highly of themselves. They blather on. They get very snarky. Lou Dobbs.

It seems that every time I've turned on that station lately they've been talking about Mitt Romney and his Mormon problem. I'm sure you've all heard this about evangelicals not liking Mitt because he's Mormon, at least according to CNN.

If I have to hear the anchors and commentators and pundits and whoevers of CNN talk anymore about how secretive and strange Mormons are, how the majority of people would not vote for a Mormon, how worried people are that a Mormon president will be politically influenced by the prophet, and how Mitt Romney--comma--Mormon--comma must address this if he expects people to vote for him, I think I'm going to go bonkers.

I know. I shouldn't watch.

Anyway, here's who loves us: Naomi Shaeffer Riley of the Wall Street Journal. One of my favorite Journal writers. Here's what she said in What Iowans Should Know about Mormons:

The young men and women at Brigham Young University are among the smartest, hardest-working and most pleasant college kids you will find anywhere. (For better or worse, I have visited dozens of college campuses.) The student body lives by the Mormon principle: "The glory of God is intelligence."

Thank you, Naomi!

And here is Peggy Noonan, who writes about Romney's faith speech in Mormon in America:

Mr. Romney gave the speech Thursday morning. How did he do?

Very, very well. He made himself some history. The words he said will likely have a real and positive impact on his fortunes. The speech's main and immediate achievement is that foes of his faith will now have to defend their thinking, in public. But what can they say to counter his high-minded arguments? "Mormons have cooties"?

it's over





I am ward activity co-chair (the commitee effectively consists of the other co-chair and me) and last night we had our ward Christmas party, "A Night in Bethlehem." It came off much, much better than I thought it would thanks to the above and beyond participation of several families. I'm so glad it's over. I think my blood pressure has dropped and now I can get on with my Christmas preparations.

israeli folk dance






Lidia and her friends performed an Israeli folk dance at A Night in Bethlehem. Lidia is in the pink dress.

concert

Georgie's chamber group gave a Christmas performance at a retirement home yesterday. It was the first time we've heard them perform and they were great!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Sleigh Ride



Yesterday a friend who plays horn for the Minnesota Orchestra got us into a "Young People's Concert" as his guest. The orchestra does this series of weekday morning concerts for children. I tried to get tickets but they were sold out. Here is the program:

ANDERSON
Sleigh Ride
PROKOFIEV
Lieutenant Kijé Suite, Troika
TCHAIKOVSKY
"Russian Dance" and "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" from The Nutcracker
MOZART
The Sleighride, No. 3 from Three German Dances
HUMPERDINCK
Evening Prayer from Hansel and Gretel
STRAUSS
Overture to Die Fledermaus
TRADITIONAL
Brazilian Sleigh Bells
BEETHOVEN
Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Choral,Finale: featuring elementary school violinists as ‘choir’


Christmas music is my favorite. I love anything named "Sleighride," and I was ecstatic to hear the Mozart and Anderson pieces played by the orchestra. I'd never heard "Brazilian Sleigh Bells" and that was a lot of fun. Everyone was dancing in their seats! Dancers performed with the Nutcracker pieces and the audience favorite was the little acrobat girl in the Russian dance. The Strauss piece was a rousing march we got to clap to in certain parts and that also went over big.

My favorite was "Evening Prayer from Hansel and Gretel." We've seen the complete opera twice, last year with Georgie and Lidia, again thanks to tickets our friend gave us. The above photo shows the spirits of the forest portrayed by the Heart of the Beast puppets, who watch over Hansel and Gretel as they sleep. A few of the puppets were there yesterday and a brother and sister played Hansel and Gretel.

I don't know what it is about this piece, but every time I hear it I start crying. It's embarrassing. I've even heard it a couple times in the car and I've had to turn it off because I can't see through the tears to drive. I'm not sure that I've ever heard another piece of music that reminds me more of Heavenly Father's love for His children.

little scientist


She used up two bottles of vinagar and a box of baking soda. Lidia is progressing very well in her studies. She is diligent about getting schoolwork done in the morning so she can practice violin and Irish dance or listen to audiobooks in the afternoon.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

christmas traditions?


We make the cookies and tree ornaments. There are several days of tamale-making, of course. This year we're going to take part in a posada with giant puppets. Another new thing we're trying this year is twelve days of Christmas with books. On the twelve days leading up to the 25th we're going to open a gift-wrapped Christmas book every night and read it by candlelight.


I've learned of several other fun, exciting Christmas traditions while perusing my favorite blogs. Gabriela over at Living la vida loca is a recent discovery. This mom of four lives in "Big City," Brazil, and has lived in Venezuela and Mexico. She cracks me up and she has some really neat Christmas ideas. (And did you know this?: I have not broken a bone in my body save my left ring toe. Gabriela shares this distinction with me. I know that means something but I'm not sure what.) Cocoa at Chocolate on My Cranium does this Names of Christ unit study in December.


What are some of your old or new Christmas traditions?

august 6, donostia san sebastian




The Basques share with the Celts the privilege of indulging in unrivaled extravagance on the subject of themselves.

~Miguel de Unamuno quoting Ampere



My goal is to finish my Europe posts this month. Finally.


We were so delighted with Donostia (San Sebastian) that we ended up spending the whole day there instead of going down to visit the shrine of Loyola, much to the disappointment of Rosa, our hostess at the farm. ("It's a must-see," she said. "Just so you can learn of all the awful things you can do and still be made a saint.")

Donostia has this gorgeous, curved beach called La Concha. For some reason I didn't take any photos of it. I think I was getting a little burned out on taking photos. As you can see from the two photos of the Old City, it was thronged with tourists. However, the masses here didn't bother me like those in Barcelona. They seemed a little quieter and more refined. Then again, it may just be that the weather was cooler in Donostia and I felt more comfortable.

We ate chipirones en su tinta, squid in its ink, the most prized Donostian dish. Yum!! It was one of our favorite meals in Spain. As I walked around Donostia, I thought, "I could totally live here." It is a beautiful, smallish city. It has mountains and sea. It's green. The people love their land and keep it immaculate. There are many cultural offerings.

Both of us were very sad to leave Basque country from the Bilbao airport the next morning. I cried. On the plane we ended up sitting with a very personable British guy. Named Miles, even! He and his wife, who's Irish, and three children have lived in Bilbao for several years. They only speak English at home. The two school-aged children hear only Basque in the classroom, and yet the children have learned Spanish, he says. They can both understand and speak it. Isn't that fascinating? He says that they must have picked it up on the playground or just from the mostly Spanish-speaking culture around them. The Basques talk a lot about their own language, but my experience there is that you hear mostly Spanish.

We pelted poor Miles with questions about living in Basque Country the entire flight to London. He was a great sport about answering everything. Oddly, we spoke Spanish the whole time.

We would love to move there, but it would be very expensive for our large family. I don't think it's going to happen anytime soon.

What do you think about the Unamuno quote? Hilarious, no? After visiting both Ireland and Basque Country, I have to say I found it to be true.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

blackbringer

Magpie, granddaughter of the West Wind, is born of dreams. When Humans—"mannies"—start letting loose devils in the world, faerie Magpie and her band of rough-and-tumble, cheroot-smoking crows must start hunting them down. The tale takes its time in unfolding, with lovely echoes of its literary antecedents from Tolkien on down. Magpie also learns it is she who must keep the dark from swallowing the world. She finds where the dragons, and her ancient heroine, Bellatrix, have gone, and she wakes an ancient djinni.The tapestry of the world needs reweaving, and a blond, tattooed princeling needs a way to remake his malformed wings. This all braids together into a radiant conclusion. ~DeCandido, GraceAnne A. Copyright © American Library Association.

I first heard of Laini Taylor upon reading Shannon Hale's interview with her. I enjoy reading Taylor's blog and especially like her site "Not for Robots" about how to write a book.

I decided to give her book a go since I've heard such great things about it. I wasn't disappointed. I was hesitant to read it even after I'd picked in up at the library because the description sounded significantly out of my comfort zone. A fairy who hunts devils? Hmm. I liked Shannon Hale's fantasies because the fantasy element was small. And sure, I like Tolkein but for whatever reason I've always preferred books about humans rather than elves, trolls, or what have you.

I was surprised to find this book mesmerizing. Taylor says that she is a perfectionist on the Not for Robots site and I appreciated that in the vivid details of this rich, imagined world. The dialogue is in "punked-out pseudo-Gaelic" as one reviewer termed it, and it's fabulous. The setting made me sigh and wish I were nine again so I could sit on the banks of the brook by my old home and dream such things as I used to. (I begin to wonder if I could write fantasy? I've always wanted to write books that my children would love and they seem to like fantasy the best.) The good characters are likable and interesting and the villains various and sundry, though one is by far the most dangerous and evil. There is a lot of great mystery, action, and suspense. There are tantalizing glimpses here and there of Magpie's past spent traveling around the world with her archaeologist parents who seek to discover more about the power and intelligence of the glorious faerie past. I'd like a prequel.


The book even brings up some interesting topics for contemplation like the relationship between the creator and his creations, how our actions influence the tapestry of life, destiny and fore ordination, and the afterlife. At least, those were some things I pondered while reading this book.


Best line of the book: "She decided finally that it's not so bad to find out you have a destiny when it's something you were going to do anyway."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

debate

The Republican YouTube debate was so much more exciting than the Democrat debate a few weeks ago. They really went after each other. Too bad so much time was wasted on issues I care nothing about.

O.k., not that I don't care about abortion. I'm not going to go into my personal views on it because it would go on too long and take a lot of thought and careful writing for me to articulate it (thank heavens I don't have to speak in soundbites). I don't think that Roe v. Wade can be overturned in this country, but there is so much we can do to reduce the number of abortions. Why aren't we talking about that? Democrats don't because that would suggest they think women's choice should be limited. Republicans won't because they might possibly look pro-choice if they talk about anything except getting Roe v. Wade overturned.

I am getting so sick of the immigration talk. Not because I don't think there are some real problems relating to it, but because I have yet to hear anyone suggest a practical solution. To me, providing a way to legalization for those who are here seems like the only practical solution. Call me a flaming liberal. Yes, they did break the law when they came in illegally, but what are we going to do about it now? Send them all back? I know that is what some have proposed but I have never heard anything more ridiculous. Can you imagine? That would cost more than the war and would probably prove about as successful.

Politicians will go on and on about buying American goods and protecting American jobs. To me it looks like many of the high-paying blue collar jobs have moved out of this country and for good. Why aren't we talking about educating our citizens for a new and exciting future rather than holding onto a past that is obsolete? We're like five-year olds who don't want to give up the ratty blankie to go to kindergarten.

I don't seem to care who of the Republican candidates owns a gun.

Why no questions on Iran? Education? Health care?

I did like the Muslim woman's question about how the U.S. will repair its international reputation and specifically its bad rap with Muslims. I thought Guiliani's response was not so great. He said we will not blame the group for what a few individuals have done. To me that doesn't answer the question.

Huckabee had a good night.

Romney seems decisive, energetic, and intelligent. And he's so handsome. Unfortunately, he has a liberal past to deal with that I think will keep him from getting elected. I think that's turning into a bigger problem for him than the Mormon issue. I still like to think that people really don't hold it against him that he's Mormon. I like to think we've moved beyond that.

candy glass


Monday night we made these ornaments with Jolly Ranchers candy. It was a little messy and I wondered if it would be worth it but they did turn out pretty.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

the new face of global mormonism

Nigeria is half Muslim and almost half Christian, and proselytizing foreigners, from the United States to Saudi Arabia, are pouring millions of dollars into the African nation of 135 million to expand their faiths.
Ebiloma has sampled a range of them. He was born into a pagan family and still bears the scars of tribal markings carved into his cheeks when he was young. After attending Muslim schools as a child, he tried various Christian churches before finding what he described as "happiness and peace" in Mormonism.
Now, Ebiloma nodded and smiled as fellow Mormons told their stories. One woman described the joy of having her family "sealed," a ritual that Mormons believe ensures that families stay together beyond death. Another said she believed that tithing -- the Mormon practice of members giving one-tenth of their income to the church -- "would bring great blessings."
A third woman praised Gordon B. Hinckley, the 97-year-old church president in Salt Lake City, who followers believe receives divine revelations. "I know President Hinckley is the living prophet," she said, just as amplified clapping and stomping in a nearby Pentecostal church began drowning out more testimonies.
"It is quiet and more organized in here," Ebiloma said later. "In other churches, people are shouting at the top of their lungs, sweating so much they need a hanky. One thing I know for sure: God is not deaf."


Read the Washington Post article.

civic duty

A couple weeks ago I opened up a BYU Magazine to see there on the first page a call for alumni to remember their civic duty, inform themselves of the candidates and issues, and vote. Don't be cynical, it said.

I took it to heart and that night I watched the Democratic debate on CNN. I am sad to report that I am still cynical, but I begin to be fascinated by Hillary Clinton. When she was in the White House the first time I never took her seriously because she seemed so desperate to be taken seriously and of course I had to be contrary. I didn't think anyone else would take her seriously. Then people started hating her and I couldn't see reason for that. Not that she was beneath contempt, exactly, but I simply didn't think her worthy of much thought. And then she announced her run for Senate and I laughed. And then she won and I thought, "Those New York flakes" because that's what Mainers think. I mean, what in heaven's name did Hillary Clinton have to recommend her for a Senate seat? And then I started to hear that she was the Democratic shoo-in for the next presidential election. I didn't laugh but I did think, "Whoa, doggies! What is going on here?"

I am beginning to understand now why she is where she is. She is one savvy campaigner. She is one tireless campaigner. She is connected to Bill, who people cannot help but like. It really is too bad she does not seem fit for the office of president because I think she wants it more than any other candidate. She is becoming very good at making herself appear intelligent, decisive, and competent. I honestly wish that were really the case but I fear it is not. I think she would make a very poor president indeed. However, given our current presidential situation, probably most people are thinking it could not possibly get worse.

nana and grampie








My Mum and Dad just left and I'm so sad! We had a wonderful visit with them. They stayed ten days but it wasn't enough.

Marcus and Grampie played a lot of wii together. Marcus calls Grampie "Richard" and sometimes "Ricardo." There was a bowling tournament last night. Marcus is a bowling pro and the best bowler in the family, but he suffered a humiliating loss at the hands of Bernie. In the second photo of Grampie playing wii, you can see the character the kids made up for him on the t.v. screen. The white screen behind him covering our fireplace is a shade we pull down to project movies on.
Yesterday Nana, Bernie, Lidia, and I walked part-way around Lake Harriet. Bernie was not up for the whole loop. She complained of the cold the whole way.
When Nana and Grampie left this morning, Lidia was the only kid home. I didn't get a photo of them with everyone this time.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

frida


This morning Mom, Jorge, and I went to the Walker for the Frida Kahlo exhibit. It is really sad what she suffered physically and emotionally. She was in almost constant physical pain, sometimes terrible pain, because of injuries sustained in a bus accident as a girl. She was obsessed with Diego Rivera and his awful infidelities, including an affair with her sister, tortured her. She longed to bear children but suffered several miscarriages. It amazed me how she was able to turn this pain into beauty. Some of Kahlo's self-portraits are brutal but in all of them she has the same composed, direct expression. I wonder if she really transcended her pain to the extent that she appears to in the paintings. Was she that stoic? I read something that stated that Frida led a "full and passionate life." She was obviously passionate, but I think a major theme in her paintings is that her life was not full. Her dreams were thwarted.
I'm interested in reading more about her.

Friday, November 23, 2007

grateful


I should have posted this yesterday but didn't get the chance.


I'm grateful for husband who thinks I'm a babe and puts up with my crazy dreams. Not just puts up with them, but nourishes them.


For my children who teach me every day how to be kind, forgiving, loving, and wise.


For my kin, who love me in spite of my weirdness and even read this blog.


For the weird ways of my kin. Thanks merciful heavens we're not normal.


For the sun.


For a merciful Heavenly Father who hasn't given up on us.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

chocolate pecan



Can you tell I'm just a little proud of this pie? I made it yesterday using Nessa's crust recipe. We'll see if it tastes as good as it looks. The crust should taste good because it has enough shortening in it to grease... I don't know what. Words fail me. O.k., every commentor on this post must say what this pie has enough shortening in it to grease.
I've never tried chocolate pecan before. I randomly picked a recipe of the internet.
We have light snow today. Looks pretty.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

thank you

I wanted to thank everyone who included some suggestions for ficiton titles in their comments. Wow! Some I'd never even heard of, but I'm adding them to my list. As I try to broaden my reading horizons, it is so helpful to learn about other people's favorites.

I went with Blackbringer, a first YA fantasy novel by Laini Taylor. I first heard of Taylor in this author interview on Shannon Hales' website. I love Taylor's personal website and blog as well as her thoughts on writing in the Not for Robots blog.

I've only read four chapters, but I'm already very impressed with the writing. This is good stuff! No wonder it's so touted. It's about a devil-hunting fairy named Magpie.

clue


Nana and Grampie are visiting for a couple weeks, much to everyone's delight. Do you remember the board game "Clue?" My kids love it. That's what they did earlier this morning and now they're watching "The Sound of Music." Church starts at 1 pm for us.

recital

We had another recital yesterday. Lidia did great, as usual. Of all the performers, she was definitely the most relaxed. She has a funny habit of looking all around the room while she plays instead of looking down at her violin as most do. It's sometimes a problem because she gets distracted and then forgets what she's playing, but she did an excellent job yesterday.

I didn't do so well. This time it wasn't my bow hand that rebelled, but my violin hand. I played "Witches' Dance," a super easy song for me, but it didn't sound too hot.

I think I was even more nervous this time than for my first recital and that is discouraging. I was hoping it would get better.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

eclipse: do i like it or not?

Ave, my straightforward sister was not satisfied with my post about Eclipse. She wants to know if I liked it or not.

I feel like if I said either way, I'd have to qualify it. I did like it, but man! That Bella really annoyed me. She was weak and drippy, though worse than that, given to over self-analysis. I realize that may seem hypocritical coming from me, the queen of navel-gazing, but just because I do it does not mean I tolerate it in others. Also, I simply cannot sympathize with her passion for Edward. I have never been attracted to men who are better looking than I am. Maybe it's vanity, I don't know. No, I think very handsome men tend to be boring. I've always liked men who make me laugh. (I have to say I had no problem with the love triangle, because I was rooting for the ethnic one with the big smile. Probably no surprise there.) Also, Edward came off as smug, self-righteous, and controlling.

So then maybe I didn't like it. But! I did drop everything to read these books. True, I did not purchase them. I waited my turn for library copies of the first two and then borrowed the last. But I kept turning those pages. I thought the suspense was pretty good and I appreciated the action. I liked all the vampire and werewolves stuff.

Does that answer your question, Ave? :-)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

and now?

"I've only read a few pages describing Church leaders' attitudes toward blacks in the 50's and 60's. It's shocking to me, but I see that it was part of the times. These old men, educated and well-traveled though they were, were products of their conservative, insular culture."

I just reread the above statement from my previous post and I thought to myself, "So what's our excuse now?" The LDS church leaders of the mid-20th century truly said some outrageous things about black people. They took measures to keep blacks out of Utah, say nothing about giving them the priesthood. To say that most were not in favor of Civil Rights is an understatement.

No one would say those things today. However, I read recently in the Wall Street Journal about the school district in Massachusetts that tried to desegregate its schools. There was one elementary school of mostly black children in this community of mostly whites. Studies have shown that black children make notable academic gains when learning in classrooms with white peers. The district decided to reorganize their school boundaries so as to desegregate their schools. White parents were outraged. They took the district to court and the court ruled in favor of the parents. There was a June 2007 Supreme Court decision that ruled that desegregating schools based on race is unconstitutional.

Last spring our school district voted to redraw our school boundaries because we have a "racially identifiable" school in our district. I just got an email from the district saying that the board has reversed its decision based on the Supreme Court case outcome. In our community there was also quite a bit of opposition to desegregation.

So, we may say that we are not racist. We may say, "Heck, I'm a Democrat! Go, Obama!" We may say that some of our best friends are black people. We may say that LDS church leaders of the 50's and 60's were racist pigs. And we may say that we love black people, as long as they stay in their own schools.

bookshelf

A couple weeks ago I ignored everyone and everything for two days to read the third in the Twilight series, Eclipse. You've heard of these, right? The vampire and high school girl who fall in love? It is a hugely popular, best-selling series by Stephenie Meyers, incidentally a member of the LDS church. I think they're making Twilight into a movie. I can see why these books are so popular. Meyers is a genius at blending romance, suspense, and action. There are times when I get very tired of Bella, the heroine. She is weak and annoying. Actually, the other characters annoy me too, but character development is so far from being the draw of these books, it's not even worth mentioning. I applaud Meyers for coming up with such a unique fantasy series. I've never read anything like it.



I finally finished Dorothy Dunnett's Niccolo Rising. People rave about this series. The first sentence is brilliant: "From Venice to Cathay, from Seville to the Gold Coast of Africa, men anchored their ships and opened their ledgers and weighed one thing against another as if nothing would ever change." Whoo! I love it. The fifteenth-century merchant's world is gloriously alive in this book. I could see it, feel it, smell it. There are fascinating characters caught up in equally fascinating situations. I loved the frequent shifts in perspective. You get into everybody's head here. However, there are two reasons I will not continue with the series. First, there are too many characters for me to keep track of. There is a four page list at the beginning of the book. Second, Dunnett's prose obscures the action. I blame it on her because it makes me feel better. I don't like to think I'm not bright enough to follow what is happening. People have conversations and I don't know what they are talking about. They give each other significant looks and I don't know why. "What in Sam Hill is going on here?" I wonder. Sometimes I would find out a few pages or chapters later, and sometimes not.



I gave J David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism for his birthday and we're both reading it. I've only read the first couple chapters. David O. McKay was the tall, handsome, charismatic prophet of the Mormon church in the mid-20th century. Under his leadership the Church went from being a Podunk, Utah concern run by long-bearded polygamists to a world-wide, modern organization. The book takes an unprecedented look at how the highest leadership of the Church works. It is organized by topic rather than chronologically.



It is completely fascinating. J and I have been discussing it quite a bit. I've just started the chapter called "Blacks, Civil Rights, and the Priesthood." Wow. I've only read a few pages describing Church leaders' attitudes toward blacks in the 50's and 60's. It's shocking to me, but I see that it was part of the times. These old men, educated and well-traveled though they were, were products of their conservative, insular culture.



The "Free Agency and Tolerance" chapter was also an eye-opener. I didn't realize there was such controversy about the book Mormon Doctrine written by Bruce R. McConkie. When I was growing up, this book sat on the shelves next to the scriptures and was the resource sought after the Bible Dictionary or Topical Guide when preparing a talk for church. It was The. Mormon. Doctrine. Here is what President McKay wrote in his diary about it: "It was agreed that the necessary corrections are so numerous that to republish a corrected edition of the book would be such an extensive repudiation of the original as to destroy the credit of the author; that the republication of the book should be forbidden and that the book should be repudiated in such a way as to save the career of the author as one of the General Authorities of the Church."

The book was eventually revised and republished and according to the authors of this McKay book, "[It] became one of the all-time best sellers in Mormondom, achieving the near-canonical status that McKay had fought unsuccessfully to avoid, and setting a tone of doctrinal fundamentalism, antithetical to McKay's personal philosophy, that remains a legacy of the church to this day." Well! From what I read here it does seem that McKay was very tolerant of divergent beliefs within the Church. The information on the debate about biological evolution was also very interesting, though this is something I had read about before. Joseph Fielding Smith wrote an anti-evolution book called Man, His Origin and Destiny. He pressured the Church seminaries and Institutes of Religion to include it as a text in their classes. Three of the apostles at the time were scientists. They supported evolution and were vehemently opposed to Smith's book. McKay didn't make any public statements in favor of evolution, but it seems that he was inclined to believe it. However, he did not publicly oppose the book, and a result (according to the authors) Smith's views "came to be embraced by a substantial porportion of the church membership as the official position." I grew up believing it was so.



I'm excited to read more!



I haven't decided yet what to read next for fiction. I always like to have a novel going. But nothing jumps out at me right now.

Monday, November 12, 2007

making cake on sunday


historically speaking

We continue studying history as a family. On Saturday we read about the New Kingdom of Egypt. I read aloud about Thutmose I and his expansion of the Egyptian empire. However, Thutmose's conquest of the Nubians was not nearly as interesting to the kids as the pronunciation of his name. Why, of why, did I have to say "Toot-mose"? Why could I have not foreseen the hilarity and said, "Tut-mose" instead?

"Tootmost? His name was Tootmost?" asks Lidia. And the rest was history.

I had to switch to "T-Mo" for the rest of the chapter. Sheesh. You would have thought I'd learned my lesson by the time I got to "Tutankhamen."

"What? 'Toot-in-common?'" says Lidia.

Ay ay ay.

The worst was Sunday afternoon after stake conference. We were driving home and the kids said something that reminded J and me and about the prior afternoon.

"That is the only thing that our kids will remember about Egyptian history. 'Oh yeah, Egypt,' they'll say. 'There was this pharoah named 'Tootmost,'" I said.

"They won't even remember his real name!" J said.. "It's not 'Tootmost.' It's 'Tootmore.' Oh! I mean..."

He was not trying to joke. He really remembered it as "Tootmore." I started the silent laugh, alternately holding my cramped stomach and wiping helplessly at my streaming mascara. It was one of those times that I laugh so hard I cried. And I don't mean that my eyes watered while I laughed. They always do that. I mean I started crying and actually feeling sad. I stopped laughing. Maybe because my stomach hurt? (Am I the only one this happens to? Is that what they call "hysterics?") I thought we were going to swerve off the road because J was also laughing so hard he couldn't drive well. We were weaving.

Obviously it's not as funny in print. You had to be there.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

thoughts on early education article

I'm confused about how they divided the preschools into "social" vs. "academic" in the study cited in the article. Couldn't some schools be both?

I know that some preschools definitely stress the "social" aspects. Lidia went to a preschool like that when she was three. There was a lot of free play time and they focused on one letter per week. Lidia already knew the alphabet and she expressed disappointment that she wasn't learning to read.

That's when I started helping her learn (at her insistence) and she could read before she was four. In the article it says, "Researchers who've been marinating in reading studies for years say a tiny percentage of children - maybe 3 percent, maybe a little more or less - can be classified as truly early readers. These 3- or 4-year-olds understand phonics and context, and they will likely keep up their accelerated reading pace throughout their school years." Lidia fell into this category and she has kept up her accelerated reading pace. However, I still wish I had not taught her to read so early. Why? I think if I had waited she might have been more exited about reading. Lidia was a reluctant reader for several years. It didn't interest her very much. It was like, "Been there, done that." If I had waited until she was older to teach her, the excitement may have lasted longer. But who knows? Hindsight is 20/20. Lidia is now starting to enjoy reading again. She is very particular about what she reads, but when she finds a book she likes, she devours it.

Lidia's second year of preschool she went to what I suppose would be categorized as an "academic" preschool. She was encouraged to read, learn math facts, and study geography. She loved the learning part and did much better socially in that school where she seemed to have more in common with the other students. Marcus also went to that preschool. He had shown zero interest in learning the alphabet and didn't know all the letters when he started that September, just having turned four. Before Christmas he could read. The teacher thought I'd taught him and I thought she'd taught him. I don't think Lidia and Marcus were less enthusiastic about learning in first grade because they'd been to this "academic" preschool, in fact I think their experiences there helped them to love learning.

So, I have to say I'm surprised by those findings. They don't fit our experience. But maybe when they say "academic" they are talking about the bizarre, extreme places described in the article.

What did you think about the findings about the varying linguistic backgrounds of children coming from different socio-economic backgrounds? When I read that my first thought was what an enormous burden we place on our schools to try to make up for that via "No Child Left Behind" and the like.

I am in favor of art history being taught to elementary school children. In fact, it's more important to me that my children love and understand art than knowing the facts about all the stupid wars of the world. However, I had to laugh at the idea of teaching a 3-month-old about art with flashcards. To appreciate art, children need to first appreciate the beauty in nature, including the human body and realize that God is the ultimate artist. They need to enjoy their senses. That's what babies and toddlers should be doing rather than recognizing Cezanne from Monet. And when they are older they should see art in museums, not on flashcards.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

early education article

Rush, Little Baby
How the push for infant academics may actually be a waste of time - or worse


Anyone seen this Boston Globe article? A friend and fellow mother of early readers sent me the link.

Here are some tantalizing quotes that I hope will lure you read it (even though it's long) so we can all discuss :-):

"Temple University psychologist Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and two colleagues compared children in academically oriented preschools with those in socially oriented preschools. At age 5, those in the academic group knew more numbers and letters than their counterparts in the social group. But those gains faded away by around the first grade. And the kids from the academic preschools were observed to be less creative and less enthusiastic about learning."
...
"Carleton Washburne compared the trajectories of children who had begun reading at several ages, up to 7. Washburne concluded that, in general, a child could best learn to read beginning around the age of 6. By middle school, he found no appreciable difference in reading levels between the kids who had started young versus the kids who had started later, except the earlier readers appeared to be less motivated and less excited about reading." ...

"Across four years, the average child from a professional family would have heard nearly 45 million words spoken to them, the average child from a working class family, 26 million, and the average child from a family on welfare, 13 million. That means that compared with the affluent child, the poor child would be starting school with an astonishing deficit of 32 million words of language experience." ...

"In eight seconds, she flips through seven cards for seven composers, from Frederick Delius to Maurice Ravel, before beginning a longer riff extolling the genius of Claude Debussy and his "Sunken Cathedral" masterpiece. Her students, four boys and four girls wearing lavender overalls or jumpers and bearing familiar names like Isabel and Benjamin, listen attentively. They range in age from 5 down to 2 1/2." ...

"...Hirsh-Pasek argues that this heightened push for early learning might even slow down normal brain development through a phenomenon known as neurological "crowding," where information jams up the synapses in the brain that might best be reserved for more creative tasks in later years."

Monday, November 05, 2007

looking back

In a recent post I was looking back at my twenties and wondering why I'm happier now in my thirties. J and I were discussing it again and he was talking about how when we look back at times in our lives we perceive as difficult, we often don't remember things as they really were. It's almost as if we are looking at someone else with her load of challenges and thinking, "I could never do that." We project onto our past selves what we imagine we would feel now if we suddenly had those challenges. Yes, probably I did that to some extent, when I looked back at my twenties.

Maybe it wasn't so much about the challenges I had, but the way I felt about myself. I think I didn't know myself very well yet and hadn't discovered all my interests. I didn't know how to say no to something that seemed worthwhile and good. I didn't accept myself and I cared too much about what others thought. Not just what others thought about me, but what they thought about anything. I was so easily swayed, so attracted to every bit of perceived wisdom.

I think I may always be that way, to some extent. I am a Greek of Mars Hill, only wanting to tell or hear some new thing. Hey, maybe I'm doing it again. Maybe I haven't changed at all. It's just part of looking at my past self through this skewed perception. Maybe I was very happy in my twenties. Maybe happier than I am now. Who knows?

How's that for navel gazing?

Friday, November 02, 2007

fixing it

Oops! I read Montse's post on this but didn't see that she tagged me. Athena is more clever than I at coming up with funny ones but I'll give it a go.

It's supposed to be 5 life classes to "fix my sorry existence" but I'm including some self-help titles:

1. Counting Sheep: Beating Insomnia 999...1000...1001

2. Anti-Perfectionism 101-102 Accelerated.

3. Anti-Procrastination 99 Remedial.

4. How to Survive Being the Ward Activities Committee Co-Chair

5. The Moms' Book: How to be the Best at Everything. Lidia has The Girls' Book but I think there should be a Mom version. But maybe if I take the Anti-Perfectionism class first I can skip this one...

angry

I read this article from yesterday's WSJ while I ate breakfast this morning and it soured my stomach. I am so angry about it it brings tears to my eyes. I'm not sure why I'm reacting so strongly to this. Maybe because I also have three daughters.

It's about the whole casual s*x thing. How teenagers are ditching homecoming and the like for hanging out in dark basements. The demise of romance and chivalry.

This enraged me:

"Young women are longing for romance," says Laura Sessions Stepp, author of "Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue S*x, Delay Love and Lose at Both." She interviewed girls who considered it empowering to be dismissive of romance and casual about s*x. Later, many were beset with regrets.
Obviously, boys no longer have to call girls on Wednesday for a Saturday date. Now, college boys seeking weekend ho*kups send girls "U busy?" text messages at 2 or 3 a.m., and girls routinely rouse themselves and go, according to Ms. Stepp's research. Many girls spend the next day clutching their cellphones, waiting in vain for the boy to call.


Why in heaven's name would he call? The girl just demonstrated that she has zero sense of self worth. It would be more empowering for her to take money for such an act.

On the one hand I'd like to take these girls by their shoulders, shake them and yell, "Why are you so stupid?" On the other hand, I feel sympathy for them that their options are so bad, that's the choice they go with. It angers me very much that pop culture is telling them that ho*kups are empowering. I can't imagine anything more degrading. At least, I can't imagine anything more degrading that is put out there as acceptable and even normal. As in, there is something wrong with you if you have a problem with ho*kups.

I thought I would feel better after posting about it. Maybe I do a little bit, but not much.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

happy birthday to my man



I've started writing something lovey-dovey and then deleted it several times now.
I guess I'm not that confessional.
Happy birthday, Hon.