Sunday, August 31, 2008

happy couple

(photo by Galen)

I have had very little computer time lately. We tried to squeeze in a bunch of summer activities into these last two weeks before school starts. I wanted to post more about our Maine trip but haven't had the chance!

When we were in Maine my cousin Mal got married. When Mal was about three she asked me why I always call her Mallie Moses. I told her it was because one day we went down to the river and heard a odd sound. We looked around and in the cattails we found a basket, and in the basket we found a tiny baby we decided to name Mallie Moses.

Lots of friends here asked, when I told them we were going to my cousin's wedding reception in Maine, if my children were going to be in the wedding. No, in fact we didn't go to the actual wedding. Mormons are married in temples which we consider sacred places. Couples marrying in the temple often choose to invite only immediate family, which is what Mal did.

When J and I got married, the Boston temple had not been built, so we were married in the Salt Lake City temple. Only our parents and a few friends were able to come in because children are not allowed and our older siblings did not have temple recommends yet. I am glad that I chose to be married in the temple because the covenants we made there are eternal. However, I have to admit I did not especially love my wedding day. The Salt Lake Temple means a lot to the Mormon people and it is beautiful, but it did not feel like "my" temple. The temple was very busy that day and instead of feeling like a special bride, I felt like a number. It's like the Salt Lake temple is the Vegas of Mormon weddings. (I suppose that is a terribly crass comparison. Maybe I'll end up deleting that. Maybe not.) I felt lonely in that sealing room with only our parents and three friends. I would have loved for my whole family to be there. My siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins. It seemed wrong that they weren't present for the most important day of my life.

Anyway, back to Mal's wedding. We got to meet her new husband Mike, who seems like one heck of a guy. We like him a lot! The reception in Bar Harbor was a ton of fun. Thank heavens no alcohol was served. The Conners need no alcohol. You can see lovely, tasteful photos here and here. For the rest of the story, go here.

a grateful mom

Lidia and Georgie with cousins (second cousins? third cousins once removed?)

I wanted to write this down when it happened but I forgot, and now I don't remember all the details. The other night I was coming home late from something. I knew that J was not home and as I drove into our driveway I remembered that I hadn't done the dishes before I left. Great, I thought, I will walk into a big mess and have to clean that up while getting the kids put to bed.

Lo and behold, I walked into the kitchen to find Georgie and Lidia doing dishes and cleaning the kitchen! I couldn't stop smiling for the rest of the evening.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

the star of kazan

is my new favorite. It's by Eva Ibbotson, who has written many books for children, most of them fantasy, including The Secret of Platform 13, which came out a few years before the first Harry Potter book and has some similarities. Lidia is a big fan of this author. Ibbotson has also written romance novels. I am not a romance fan, but I really enjoyed A Company of Swans and posted about it here.

The Star of Kazan is A Little Princess meets The Wolves of Willoughby Chase in pre-WWI Vienna. I suppose you could call it "historical fiction," but it is so much more. It is, as one reviewed described it, "a sumptuous feast." Part of my enjoyment of this book came from how much the heroine, Annika, is like my Lidia. Annika is smart yet unpretentious and she loves to cook. Though her head is often in the clouds, she is happiest when accomplishing something of value. She is a pragmatic dreamer. It's almost as if Ibbotson knew Lidia and based this character on her!

Here is a quick plot synopsis by Eva Mitnick of the Los Angeles Public Library: Abandoned as a baby, Annika is found and adopted by Ellie and Sigrid, cook and housemaid for three professors. Growing up in early-20th-century Vienna, she learns to cook and clean and is perfectly happy until a beautiful aristocrat appears and claims to be her mother, sweeping her off to a new life in a crumbling castle in northern Germany. Annika is determined to make the best of things, and it takes a while for her to realize that her new "family" has many secrets, most of them nasty. With the help of Ellie, Sigrid, the professors, and friends old and new, Annika escapes from a ghastly fate and learns to face the truth about her relatives. Winding like a braid through this story is a mystery involving a chest of worn costumes and junk jewelry left to Annika by an old woman she has befriended. This is a rich saga in the tradition of Frances Hodgson Burnett, full of stalwart friends, sly villains, a brave heroine, and good triumphing over evil.

I'm not sure I can even express all that I loved about this book. The setting lives. Ibbotson was born in Vienna in 1925, but her family migrated to England when Hitler came to power. Her passion for Vienna comes through in the book.

The good characters, though believably flawed, are very endearing. This book says so much that is so true about human nature. The characters accomplish feats of daring that you never would have supposed them capable of, and yet their actions are always consistent with who they are. There are many implausible moments in the book, and yet it's all so believable. This proves to me that a book can have an exciting and even outrageous plot and yet still be considered character-driven.

The tone of this book reminds me of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. It's irresistibly innocent with some generous doses of sly irony. And it is so funny. Very subtly. Funny in the quiet way that people are funny. Again, there are dead-on observations about human nature. I was just thumbing through the book looking for some examples but it's not the same when you take them out of context.

A gypsy boy is a main character in this book. I begin to think every good book should have at least one gypsy boy.

The Star of Kazan was published in 2004. I looked up the 2004 Newberry winner. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. Ok, so I did like that book. But why no love for The Star of Kazan? Why not a Newberry Honor at least?

Friday, August 22, 2008

wild rumpus

We stopped by one of the coolest bookstores on the planet today: Wild Rumpus. Marcus (notice the missing tooth?) is heavily in to farm animals right now, so he was particularly delighted with the chickens. There are also three or four cats, a couple ferrets, chinchillas, various birds, and a rat. The creepy little hut in the first photo houses the horror books. One of the floor boards is pulled up in there and replaced by a piece of clear plastic. Below the board lurks the rat.
Today I just finished what is my new favorite children's book. More on that tomorrow.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


When I was in Maine there were many days that my insides hurt from laughing so hard. And it was mostly the fault of my sister, these two guys, and cousin Levi. They slay me. I would laugh so hard that I wouldn't be able to stop, I'd start crying, and then I'd have to run off somewhere to compose myself.

I have many photos of Conner clan hijinks in various venues. My cousin Mal's wedding reception in Bar Harbor, a Conner clan gathering the next day, and a bonfire at the farm after Marcus's baptism. I will put them up gradually because you can only handle that sort of thing in small doses. Some of the funniest moments were when we were just hanging out and talking. There was this one story DTV, Link, and Levi made up about how a certain birdhouse got nailed very high up in a tree in my Gram's backyard. That story and the vivid images my imagination supplied has popped into my mind at the most inconvenient of moments. And how am I supposed to explain why I am smiling?


Ave dared me to post "the fat arm picture." Ha, she probably didn't think I would post an unflattering photo of myself on this blog, but that's how much she knows. My mom took the fat arm picture one of the first few days we were in Maine. Ever after, when Ave and I posed for photos, we did "skinny arm," as exhibited in the second photo. Except Ave looks cool doing "skinny arm," while I look like I'm doing the funky chicken. I think Ave looks so good in the third photo, no (at least a little better than here)? I cropped myself out because it looked better without me.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

baptism at sebec lake

It was beautiful. Looking at these photos brings the feelings back and I get a little teary. It was even more wonderful having all the family there than I thought it was going to be. Marcus asked Uncle JW to speak on baptism. And then when Marcus asked Uncle DTV to speak on the Holy Ghost, he even requested that he wear the mohawk spiked up. He asked Uncle Link to give a prayer. Poor Marcus is usually surrounded by women, so it didn't surprise me that he wanted as many men involved as possible in his baptism program. Georgie offered another prayer, Lidia played a violin solo (very well done), and Bernie recited the fourth Article of Faith.

being un-pc

Georgie and Grampie rigged up this target.

Turns out Georgie is a really good shot. And Marcus shot a jug of water with the pistol and it exploded. Probably the proudest moment of his life.

I didn't get a chance to reply to the great comments on the Mainers post.
Ballerina Girl, how long did you live in Venezuela? I made arepas for the family in Maine.
Mama Ava, your gun story totally cracked me up. Are you a native Minnesotan? Didn't you grow up in Montana? You seem more of a western gal to me. ;-)
Karen, I wish I were more Maine-like too. I don't think I'm very Maine-like at all. I don't usually say what I'm thinking (besides on this blog), I like the city, I'm not very friendly, and I'm not much of a do-it-yourselfer. Evidently I don't even look like a Mainer. On two occasions, on finding out I'm from Maine, people have looked puzzled and said, "You don't look like you're from Maine." I should have asked them what they meant by that because it's bugged me ever since. Anyway, I may not look or act like a Mainer, but I love them.
Gabriela, I bet you would love Mainers and would have all kinds of funny observations about us.
ML, I think you make a good point that people are basically the same everywhere. That's why a Tibetan monk can read the Mr. Collins scenes in Pride and Prejudice, laugh his head off, and say, "I know a guy just like that!" It's human nature. But I do think there are interesting regional tendencies.
Auntie Lee, your Aunt in the Netherlands sounds like she was so cool. I wish I'd had the chance to meet her. Is that the one that had a tree planted for her in Israel because she helped a Jew during the war?
Ave, I like how you say that your in-laws are "charmed and startled" by Mainers. :-)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

hiking in acadia

The first two photos are on Cadillac and the second two on Dorr.


We saw the Star Wars exhibit at the Science Museum right before we went to Maine. It was so much cooler than I expected! It really liked the little videos about the different worlds of Star Wars and how they were conceived. The kids loved it, of course.

It goes through August 24th so don't miss it!

Monday, August 11, 2008


Auntie Lee commented that what she likes best about Maine are the people. I think that's what I like best too, at least one of the things I like best. You never have to wonder where you're at with a Mainer. They're pretty straight shooters. No one feels the need to put on a nice act. In Sunday school here I heard the phrase "friggin liberals." You would never hear that in my Minneapolis ward. Partly because most people in that ward are liberals and would probably choose another modifier to describe themselves. And partly because Minnesotans don't say things like that in Sunday school. It isn't polite. In Maine it isn't polite to not say what you're thinking. I mean, within reason. In Maine people are genuinely friendly and don't need to put on an act.

This probably sounds so full of it. I don't mean to be down on Minnesota or any other state or to suggest that Maine people are superior to those of other states. I just like Mainers. That's all. I like how independent they are and down to earth. I like how they don't feel they need to impress people. I like the things they talk about. I like the accent in which they say those things.

The kids have decided they want to move here. Marcus wants to get a house with a big pond full of frogs and a large field for target practice. My dad has been shooting with the kids. Bernie shot a 22. They are becoming so un-pc.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

stuff white people like

Probably every else has already discovered this hilarious site. I've seen it posted on a few different blogs but hadn't gotten around to reading it until now.

It seems I'm really white. I like many of those things. I'm saved from utter albinism because 1) I'm from Maine and we are different from other white people, and 2) I'm married to a Mexican and some of his ways have rubbed off on me.

I have a couple things to add to the list:

#107 Knowing your ethnicity.

If you are not white, white people want to know "what" you are. In fact, they are quite uncomfortable until they discover whether you are Korean or Chinese, Jamaican or Nigerian, Peruvian or Bolivian. Most white people realize it is not cool to ask you directly, so they will try indirect methods of ascertaining this vital information. "So were you vacationing in ----- or visiting... someone?" "Where did you meet your spouse?" "Where do your children's grandparents live?" "Do you know of any good ethnic restaurants?"

#108 Children of mixed race/ethnicity

White people think the offspring of people of two different races/ethnicities are more attractive than those of a single race/ethnicity. Kind of like mixed breed puppies.


Ok, I have one more.

#109 Safety precautions

White people show they are the best parents by taking extreme safety measures. If this means keeping a 78 lb. 7th grader in a car seat, then so be it. We have white people to thank for the very safe playground equipment now found in every single school and park in the United States. You can make white people feel more secure in their environment by making sure your children are using the playground equipment in the way it was intended.