Thursday, July 31, 2008

the way life should be

A friend and fellow Mainer was right when he said that once you cross the border from New Hampshire into Maine, the air smells fresher, the foliage is a lovelier shade of green, and even the roads are improved.

And what's up with the sunsets? In Minnesota, a sunset is usually pretty ho-hum. In Maine, it's always a production. Tuesday night as we made our way from Portland up to The Boondocks, the sun was very low in the sky. It wasn't setting yet, but there were strange cloud formations all around. The kids were dazzled and we decided that one cloud looked like a giant badger appealing to the sun god.

In college once I was telling a story and a southern roommate winced and declared (as in, "I declay-ah!"), "You're Yankeespeak grates on my ear." Yesterday after lunch we were lounging on the camp porch and I listened to my dad talk with a friend on the phone. I don't know how people can find the Maine accent "grating." I think it's soft and pleasant, at least as spoken by my parents. I don't think much of mine remains, and I miss it.

We didn't come home to Maine last year because J and I went to Europe. Not that I'm complaining. But it's so good to be home. Nothing ever changes here. In so many ways, it's "the way life should be."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

kidless week in review

Karen was curious about my kidless week. It got off to such a slam-bang of a start, she probably had high expectations.

Here's what I did:

lots of shopping
hung out at a friend's house and chatted
had lunch with another friend
walked 2xs around Lake Harriet with yet another friend
ate quiet, leisurely lunches
went to the library twice (Oh, beloved library!)
bought new tires for the suv
wasted an entire afternoon trying to get the suv's alignment done and oil changed (long, boring story)

Here's what I didn't do:

talk with my mom (I haven't had a chance to call you back, Mom. I've barely been home!)
pack for our trip to Maine
clean the house
catch up on emails

We're leaving in two days so you can imagine what I'll be doing today. That's right--we're catching the Star Wars exhibit at the Science Museum. Packing will have to take care of itself, I guess.

I was thinking that I probably shouldn't advertise on the internet that we'll be gone for a couple weeks. It's like, "Hey, theives! Come rob my house!" But then I thought, what would they steal? My 10-year old tv set? My "stereo" (a 20-dollar CD player)? My books? I suppose it would really suck if they took my computer, but that would be it.

Friday, July 25, 2008

tagged from the grey wall

I was tagged by Leslie, who is moving to London, the little minx. I plan on living the London experience vicariously through her blog and her sister Konga's.

Four (of the many) things I like about my spouse:
1. his mega-watt smile
2. his sparkly eyes
3. how non-judgemental he is
4. how he loves me

Four jobs I've had:
1. calf feeder
2. cow milker
3. day camp organizer for a women's shelter
4. Spanish tutor

Four movies I've watched more than once:
1. I Know Where I'm Going
2. It Happened One Night
3. The Graduate
4. Fiddler on the Roof

Four TV shows I watch:
1. Masterpiece on PBS
2. Seinfeld
3. What Not to Wear
4. Can't think of another.

Four places I've been:
1. Ecuador
2. Switzerland
3. Ireland
4. the Yucatan

Four people who email me regularly:
1. my sis
2. Hennepin County library
3. my book group
4. amazon

Four of my favorite foods:
1. avocados
2. shellfish (I could never make it as an Orthodox Jew)
3. vanilla yogurt with fruit and granola
4. arepas

Four places I would like to visit:
1. Galicia, Spain
2. Costa Rica
3. Scotland
4. London

Four things I am looking forward to in the coming year:
1. Seeing all my peeps in Maine.
2. Writing an awesome book. Probably a Newberry award winner. :-P
3. Doing irresponsible things while my kids are at school and can't see me, for example:
4. Eating donuts right before lunch.

Four people I tag:
1. Ave
2. my mom
3. dtv
4. linx

Monday, July 21, 2008


I had meant to post these photos of Marcus's birthday cake but didn't get around to it. He wanted a Tom and Jerry cake. That's his favorite show ever. I bet he's seen every episode a million times and yet he keeps laughing. As you can see, I managed Jerry but Tom had to sit this one out. Georgie did the little cheese, which you can't see so well in the picture but actually looked really cool. I googled Jerry, printed off an image, grabbed a black gel decorating thingy and voila. So when you first saw it, could you tell it was Jerry?
I am kidless this week. At least during the day. Georgie is at a church camp and the other three at YMCA day camp. They were so excited this morning. I hope it's fun for them.
I have loads of things I must get done before our trip to Maine next week, but I found myself having a long, leisurely chat with a friend this morning (adult conversation! with relatively few interuptions!) a leisurely trip to the library (no one pestered me to go home!), and a long, leisurely lunch on my porch. I've done nothing on my list so far. Is this what I'll do with my kidless hours this fall when everyone is off to school? Hmm. Maybe everyone will just have to adjust to Mom's life of leisure where absolutely nothing gets done.
One nice thing about having four kids quite close in age is that everyone has someone to play with. For years now every summer vacation I just send them outside or down to the basement to play. They have been really good about creating their own fun, especially when the alternative is a chore. We've spiced things up with trips to the beach or pool, zoo, and Children's museum. The end of the summer would come and we were all still cool. I couldn't relate to my friends mid- or late-summer complaints about their kids driving them crazy. Of course, for a few years we did homeschool so it's not like I had free, kidless time to look forward to.
All of that is over this summer. Things are not the same as they were. I don't know if it's because they're getting older or what. I do know that next summer will have a heck of a lot more structure than this summer. I didn't schedule much for this summer because, for one thing, I never have. Also, we had the flooring thing going on, grandparents visiting, a trip to Maine to plan, etc. But this summer my kids are different. Is it because they're getting older? The older two actually do very well finding things to do. Worthwhile things that involve no screen time. But they are not so interested in playing with the little siblings anymore. At least, not like they used to. And the two little ones don't seem to find worthwhile things to do. They are either being destructive, watching t.v., or using the computer. Sure, I read quite a bit to them. But I can't do that ALL the time.
We have twelve weeks of summer break this year. That's a lot of time to fill. I find myself wishing that it were much shorter. I think a 6-8 week summer break would be ideal. Then we could have longer vacations during the school year. What do you think? What does your ideal summer break and school year look like?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

mosaic meme

1. Calandria (Icterus gularis), 2. great sushi lunch!, 3. photo collection 010, 4. santarem bike - study in green red and black #1, 5. Joel Mccrea, 6. Late Night Decadence, 7. The Hidden Castle, 8. Galaktoboureko, 9. Untitled, 10. llibreria - bookstore - Amsterdam - HDR, 11. Dreaming Lioness, 12. a la audrey

Cocoa did not tag me for this. But I'm doing it anyway because it looks fun. I hope I'm not breaking some cardinal rule of the meme.

Here's how it works:
a. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
b. Using only the first page, pick an image.
c. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd's mosaic maker. Choose 3 columns with 4 rows.
The Questions:
1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. One Word to describe you.
12. Your flickr name. (kid version: favorite animal?)
If you like, consider yourself tagged.

Friday, July 18, 2008


A few nights ago I had a dream that I was looking at my Yahoo health news lines. One claimed, "Increased risk of Alzheimer's for children who learn to read at age 4." My heart sank and I thought to myself, "Darn! Poor Lidia and Marcus."

Guess what I did yesterday. I googled "increased Alzheimer's risk read age 4." The thing is, the more I thought about it, the more I wondered if it was a dream or reality. Does this happen to anyone else? Or is this indicative of mental illness?

It seems to me that I should be know when I'm awake and when I'm sleeping. Right?

When my parents were visiting in May I woke up one morning and started laughing about a dream I'd had. I dreamt that my mom had, when they arrived at my house, handed me a large ziploc bag of parmesan cheese. I got out of bed, still smiling to myself and shaking my head. I went downstairs and opened the door to the fridge. There was the large ziploc bag of parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

before and after

floor shots

Sunday, July 13, 2008

getting better all the time

This afternoon one of our children said that in her future family, she is going to right all the wrongs that have been done to her in ours. Or words to that effect. J and I both said how happy we were to here that. "That is the whole point," we told her. "Every generation should improve upon the traditions of the family they were born into. We look forward to seeing what you do better!"

This led to a fascinating discussion on how our children plan to raise their own children.

A few points:

Georgie will rotate places at the dinner table. She will have a big box. When she finds things out of place throughout the day, she will put them in the box. At 8 pm every night, she will throw the contents of the box into the trash.

Lidia's children will only be allowed to watch t.v. on Friday and Saturday. They will all play musical instruments besides the piano. They can play the piano if they want, but they have to play another instrument, too.

Marcus was particularly concerned with determining at what age his children will be allowed to use knives.

Bernie was the most loquacious about her future family plans. Her children will "go to church on Sunday and sit reverently. Then they will go home and sit. They will not be allowed to move all day. If they do something wrong, they will have to go to their father and he will tell them a story about a bad boy." (Bernie is listening to CDs of Little House in the Big Woods. A possible influence?)

author blogs

I don't have my blog links up anymore, but I want to post some of the blogs I frequent. First, author blogs.

Check out this quote I found on Shannon Hale's blog about fairy tales and stories:

"We all like astonishing tales because they touch the nerve of the ancient instinct of astonishment. This is proved by the fact that when we are very young children we do not need fairy tales: we only need tales. Mere life is interesting enough. A child of seven is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door and saw a dragon. But a child of three is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door. Boys like romantic tales; but babies like realistic tales – because they find them romantic. In fact, a baby is about the only person, I should think, to whom a modern realistic novel could be read without boring him.

"This proves that even nursery tales only echo an almost pre-natal leap of interest and amazement. These tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water."

"The Ethics of Elfland," Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton

I love Shannon's blog. She's funny and down-to-earth.

Another favorite author blog is Laini Taylor's. Like Shannon, Laini is generous about sharing her writing tips and advice. And she is so cool. I LOVE her hair!

My latest favorite is Kirsten Miller's. All of her posts are fascinating, without fail. When you go to the Kiki Strike site, click on "Ananka's Diary" to get to the blog. Slightly morbid, a bit paranormal, occasionally a touch gross, but always seriously hilarious. Weird, wacky, and wonderful. I don't know where Kirsten comes up with all of this. I got The Birds Barbie image from her blog. How fabulous is that?

Those are the only three I read regularly but I'm interested in adding more. Can anyone direct me to some good author blogs? I see that Brandon Mull has a very cool site for Fablehaven. And if you are an Inkspell fan, check out Cornelia Funke's.

Did you know that Shannon Hale, Stephenie Meyer, Brandon Mull, and Laini Taylor (I think) are the same age? They are all my age. The one I'm not so sure on is Laini, but I know she started her first year of college the same year I did.

Friday, July 11, 2008

more reading

I teach the adult Sunday school at church and this year we study the Book of Mormon. It has been wonderful to study it again. I read it from cover to cover two years ago, but it was just reading. I didn't take time to ponder much.

Do you want to know what one of my fondest wishes is? I would love to discuss the Book of Mormon with a group of people who are not members of my church. Like a book club-style discussion. I would just like to know what they think of it. People of our faith are notorious for trying to convert people, but I'm not that way. I mean, I think it's wonderful when people join the Church, but that is not part of this dearest wish. I long to see the Book of Mormon through fresh eyes, through the eyes of people who have not had years of LDS Sunday school.

Mark Twain famously called it "chloroform in print." It seems that he did read the entire book, so I'm surprised that he would think that. The chapters I'm studying now, the missionary travels of Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah, are very exciting. One of my favorite chapters is Alma 36, where Alma the Younger tells the story of his conversion to his son Helaman. This is one of the most beautiful examples in the Book of Mormon of chiastic structure. Chiasmus is an ancient Hebrew poetic form of parallelism. Chiasmus is very common in the book of Isaiah. It is also common in the Book of Mormon. Interestingly, this form was not "discovered" and written about by scholars until the mid-nineteenth century. Some people believe that Joseph Smith, a New York farm boy, wrote the Book of Mormon himself. This is pretty convincing evidence that he did not. Let's imagine for a minute that he did get hold of an obscure scholarly article about Hebrew literary forms before 1830. And then he managed to come up with some on his own. It would be genius, but genius is possible. Wouldn't early converts have pointed to the chiastic structures as evidence of the Book of Mormon's authenticity? Chiastic structures were not "discovered" in the Book of Mormon until the late 1960's. Read more about it here.


Someone told me recently that she rarely reads in the summer because she's outdoor doing summery things. I don't read quite as much in summer as in winter, but I must read. Always. I would shrivel up and die without books.

I never got a chance to post about Well-behaved Women Seldom Make History by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. It was such an interesting book, but now it's been so long I don't think I can properly discuss it. It was fascinating and well-written. Very well-written. (I tend to shy away from non-fiction because I don't seem to have as much luck picking out well-written books amongst those.) I never took a women's studies class, but if I were to ever teach one, this would be the curriculum. Reading this made me examine closely my own views on gender. It was interesting to realize that my views are not especially conventional. However, I would never call myself a "feminist." I dislike the word and most of what it implies. Evidently I care more about aesthetics than equality and justice. Is that wrong? I think that much of feminism is reactionary. Our culture dictates what is feminine and what is masculine. I've noticed that in every culture, men take the most prized qualities for themselves and leave women the lesser. For example, in our modern, western culture, logic and reason are prized. So is making money. So men are the logical and reasonable ones who make the money, and women are the intuitive, emotional ones who don't. But what if intuition and emotion were prized above logic and reason? So then women would be the more powerful, right? Somehow I think not. Men would take on those more desirable qualities. I don't know if I'm explaining this well, but I don't believe that it should necessarily be counted as "progress" to encourage women to be more masculine according to the dictates of our culture. I'm not sure how meaningful that is in the eternal scheme of things.

I do not have very conventional views about gender. I read Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, and laughed. It so did not apply to me. I have always embraced my masculine side. I do realize that most people in my church, for example, have vastly more conventional views than I do, but it doesn't bother me. Those views are based more on conservative culture than the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I had the opportunity to read A Severe Mercy again, less than a year after reading it the first time. It was one of our book group picks. I think this is one of my favorite books ever. J read it and loved it, too. This is a book about an unbelievably exquisite pagan love. It's a conversion story. And it's a story about the triumph of love over death. I'm going to read it every year. Here is a passage I shared in our gospel doctrine class on Sunday:

How strange that we cannot love time. It spoils our loveliest moment. Nothing quite comes up to expectations because of it. We alone: animals, so far as we can see, are unaware of time, untroubled. Time is their natural environment. Why do we sense that it is not ours?... Then, if we complain of time and take such joy in the seemingly timeless moment, what does that suggest? It suggests that we have not always been or will not always be purely temporal creatures. It suggests that we were created for eternity.

I've been rereading some chapters from the biography of Neal A. Maxwell, an apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints until his death in 2004. He was a highly quotable and prolific writer. Our C. S. Lewis. The chapters I'm looking at are specifically about his writing. The chapters are not completely laudatory, which is so refreshing. I learned that Maxwell was a G.K. Chesterton addict, sometimes to the detriment of his own writing style. I was fascinated to read in this biography written while Maxwell was still alive, his friends and peers express some distaste for his early writings. How telling that he had friends who knew they could be so honest, and this in an authorized biography.

I've read a couple of children's books recently that I liked very much. Fablehaven by Brandon Mull and Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher. Fablehaven is about a brother and sister who go to stay with their grandparents, only to find that they are the keepers of a preserve for mythical creatures. Great idea and very well-executed. This book has a lot of humor in it (so welcome in fantasy), and I loved the relationship between the siblings. Shadow Spinner is a fleshing out of the story of Sharazad of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights fame.

[not] without my computer

I didn't have access to my computer from Sunday through Thursday. It's a long story, too long for this brief post. I will say this: J managed to not kill himself yesterday replacing the main breaker in our fuse box. That's going into my gratitude journal.

I did realize over the past few days how deeply I rely on the internet. I went to the library twice to answer email and look up things. Forget about my washer and dryer, oven, refrigerator, etc. I felt the most desperate about not having my computer. It's a sad commentary on modern life, I suppose. At least, my modern life.

Going through email, I realized I've been bad lately about replying to questions in the comments on my blog posts. Sorry! I'll try to do better. Ave, J had about the same reaction I did to the Constance Wilde play. Michelle, it took me about six months to start seeing that little Sunday morning episode as humorous.

Saturday, July 05, 2008


I've had so many things I've wanted to post about lately. And no time. J's parents go home Thursday and then we have just over two weeks before we go to Maine. There are so many summer things to squeeze in before school starts! Still, I hope to write soon about what I've been reading, studying, and pondering. I feel so much more centered when I do that.

I wrote an article and submitted it to the "New Era" two years ago. It was published this month. If you want to read it but don't know my legal name (sometimes I actually think of myself as Calandria), write me at calandria4-at-comcast-dot-net.


Latina whippersnappers

We were invited to five Fourth of July parties this weekend, including our own ward breakfast/flag raising/race/bike parade. This is largely because we've served in many wards in this area because of moves or assignments. (Yesterday one kid asked Georgie her name and after she told him he replied, "Ah, yes. I've heard of your family. You have served in many wards." It cracked us up.) These are all Mormon parties. Mormons tend to be patriotic. We're skipping one of the parties tonight because we're a little hung over. I suppose I should say "partied out." Five out of six of us in this family are Latin, but that doesn't mean we want to party around the clock every night. Marcus woke up with a stiff neck and Bernie a swollen ankle.
J's parents are visiting, so I guess I should say that seven out of eight of us are Latin.
Here are more photos from yesterday. A few are from our ward breakfast and the rest were taken at the end of a point on Prior Lake--the ultimate Fourth of July spot.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

no big surprise

Your Inner European is Spanish!

Energetic and lively.

You bring the party with you!