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


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


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.


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


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


"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.


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:

Sleigh Ride
Lieutenant Kijé Suite, Troika
"Russian Dance" and "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" from The Nutcracker
The Sleighride, No. 3 from Three German Dances
Evening Prayer from Hansel and Gretel
Overture to Die Fledermaus
Brazilian Sleigh Bells
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


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."