Friday, December 30, 2011

My Year in Books (2011 version)

I set a goal of reading 100 books this year.  I only got to 67 but I'm feeling pretty satisfied with that number.  I enjoyed quite a few good books over the past year (in my opinion).  There were only a couple I really wished I hadn't picked off the library shelf.

My recommendations:

If you have time for just one book this year - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (By Rebecca Skloot).  A true story about how science and medical privacy have been affected by and influenced the lives of the Lacks family.

The self help book that has been most referenced by the other self help books I read this year - The 5 Love Languages (By Gary Chapman).  I think there's a little something for everyone in this book, whether you are happy with your personal relationships or not.

Need a gift for an up-coming graduate - A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future (By Michael J Fox)

Looking for a feel good, girly series - Try the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (By Ann Brashares)

Two books that I was not crazy about:  The Red Garden (By Alice Hoffman) and The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (By Aimee Bender).  Both left me feeling like perhaps I missed something while I was reading them.  Who knows, maybe you'll enjoy them and share your thoughts with me.

The Complete 2011 list:
1. Carolyn Dufurrena - Fifty Miles from Home
2. Robert Goolrick - A Reliable Wife
3. Paulo Coehlo - Brida
4. Darrell Huff - How to Lie with Statistics
5. Eion Colfer - Artemis Fowl: The Atlantic Complex
6. Louis de Bernieres - Corelli's Mandolin
7. Stieg Larrson - The Girl Who Played with Fire
8. Kevin Leman - 7 things he'll never tell you but you need to know
9. Sarah Palin - America By Heart
10. Stieg Larrson - The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
11. Shannon Hale - Book of a Thousand Days
12. Kristin Hannah - Firefly Lane
13. Anna Quindlen - Every Last One
14. Will James - Smoky the Cowhorse
15. Jamie Ford - Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
16. Louis Sachar - Holes
17. Gary Chapman - The Five Love Languages
18. Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
19. Dale Carnegie - How to make Friends and Influence People
20. Brandon Mull - Beyonders: A World Without Heroes
21. Dean  Koontz - One Door Away from Heaven
22. Jane Austen - Persuasion
23. Arto Paasilinna - The Year of the Hare
24. Richard Adams - Watership Down
25. Jean Auel - The Land of Painted Caves
26. Erin McKean - The Secret Lives of Dresses
27. Alan Bradley - A Red Herring without Mustard
28. Michael Scott - The Magician
29. Michael Scott - The Sorceress
30. Jodi Picoult - My Sister's Keeper
31. Paulo Coehlo - The Zahir
32. Clare Vanderpool - Moon over Manifest
33. Karen Maitland - Company of Liars
34. Alice Hoffman - The Red Garden
35. Michael Scott - The Necromancer
36. David Ebershoff - The 19th Wife
37. Marisa de los Santos - Belong to Me
38. Kate Jacobs - Knit the Season
39. Frank McCourt - Angela's Ashes
40. Todd Burpo - Heaven is for Real
41. Elizabeth Berg - The Last Time I Saw You
42. Greg Mortenson - Stones into Schools
43. Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman - Good Omens
44. Alejandro Junger - Clean
45. Frank McCourt - 'Tis
46. Tina Fey - Bossypants
47. Ben Mezrich - The Accidental Billionaires
48. James Patterson - Cradle and All
49. Charles Martin - Chasing Fireflies
50. Christopher Moore - Island of the Sequined Love Nun
51. Rebecca Skloot - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
52. Rick Riordan - The 39 Clues Book 1 - The Maze of Bones
53. Maggie Stiefvater - Forever
54. Ann Brashares - My Name is Memory
55. Carlos Ruiz Zafon - The Shadow of the Wind
56. Aimee Bender - The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
57. Ann Brashares - The Second Summer of the Sisterhood
58. Ann Brashares - Girls in Pants - The Third Summer of the Sisterhood
59. Christopher Paolini - Inheritance
60. Jan Karon - In the Company of Others
61. Khaled Hosseini - The Kite Runner
62. Michael Scott - The Warlock
63. Michael J Fox - A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future
64. Philip Pullman - Lyra's Oxford
65. Philip Pullman - Once upon a time Up North
66. Ann Brashares - Forever in Blue - The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood
67. Meg Meeker - The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers

Scenes from this Christmas


Someone turned 4


Cookies were made


Little bit of fun was had

Newmans came to visit


Nerf guns happened.  Lots of nerf guns.


There were very happy children


And then we ate meat pie.  And it was delicious.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cookie days of one kind and another

One of our Newman family traditions around Christmas is for all the girls to get together and make cookies.  It's always a fun filled day with good food, hot drinks, a lot sugar, and some face-to-face family visiting before the holiday and hectic traveling begins.  Some years there are those that can't make it and they are always missed.


Kristine, Karyl, Noah, Nicole, Donna, Marsha, Kayla, Phyllis, Debbie,
Emmers and Zeke


Noah is new to cookie day this year (his birthday is Dec 24th) and we had our first ever best decorated sugar cookie contest.  Emmers won....hence the santa hat holiday cheermeister hat.

Burrito said he'd help with the no bake cookies as long as his hands didn't get dirty and as long as Kayla hand fed him tasty bits from the leftovers in the bowl.   Well played, burrito, well played.


We have been making new friends in our own neighborhood.  So I shared the super secret best, ever sugar cookie recipe and we had our own little decorating party. 

The only things missing this year was my favorite sister and red hots for snowman buttons.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Kite Runner

Do you know what a kite runner is?  A person who chases after the kites that have had their string cut and is free flying through the sky.

I guess I need to do some reading up on kites in general.  I'm from the kind of family that we used to get kites as gifts on Easter morning and after church services we'd pack a picnic lunch and head out to the salt flats to fly our new kites.  They were usually diamond shaped, brightly colored plastic deals with long spools of string to let loose and send our kites high.  It was fun but mostly the focus was on getting your kite up and keeping it there.

I do not quite understand this competitive kite flying.  Where the goal is to cut others' strings and be the last kite in the air.  Or the practice of chasing after the loose kites and keeping them as souvenirs.  I assume it's like finding a stray golf ball just outside the golf course fence or catching a foul ball at a baseball game.

All kite flying aside, The Kite Runner was a fabulous book.  Written by Khaled Hosseini and published in 2003.  It details the friendship of Amir and Hassan, two boys from different sides of the Afghanistan tracks.  It's set during the fall of Afghanistan's monarchy to the Russians, the fleeing of refugees to America, and the rise of the Taliban to power.
It's also the tale of Amir's struggles between honor and saving his own skin and how he comes to terms with the demons that haunt him at night to be good again.

I loved the book so much I'm afraid to watch the movie.  What if it's not as good? 
Has anyone watched the movie?  What do you recommend?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Eager Anticipation


A little girl hiding behind the Christmas tree (she really is the only one who can fit back there) with her diary, crayons and a letter to Santa Claus.

FOUR


Me: I think we should cancel your birthday.

Burrito: No mom

Me:  But you are aren't a baby anymore and that makes me sad

Burrito:  Mom....babies don't even have teeth

(game over...how does one argue with that)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Inheritance

This post could also be titled "Ugh! When trilogies turn into four books"

The last of The Inheritance Cycle, written by Christopher Paolini, is finally out.  It's been a long wait.  And you might have heard about how I feel about waiting...waiting gets my goat.  Seriously.


Write faster dang-it!!

I would much rather pick up a series at the end so that I can blow through them without stopping.  Unless it is something like Flavia De Luce.  Now there's a girl I love to wait for.  Each book is a stand alone entity.  Not like Brisingr which ends practically mid-battle.  Are you kidding me??  The books are great reads I just prefer they were more complete by themselves.

Eragon, the first book, was originally published in 2002.  Brisingr, the was-going-to-be-the-last-but-now-it's-not book, was published in 2008. 

And let's not even get started about the movie.  But the husband has a good point.  Now that the set is finished maybe someone will remake the first movie and do the rest up properly.  They have great potential.

What is it about you ask?  The short version is that they are quite like Lord of the Rings but with dragons added in.  So much so that while watching Return of the King last weekend I kept mixing up my character names between the two. 

Things in common:
dwarfs
vaults of souls needed to aid in the fighting
power being corrupt and needing to be destroyed before it can be restored
Men folk falling in love with elves
epic battles
creepy looking, evil bird creatures

You know...the usual. 

I ended up with a few unanswered questions that led me back to wikipedia when I finished reading.  While there, I realized that I should have done a refresher before I read Inheritance because there were a lot of side plots I had kind of forgotten about during all this waiting around I was forced to do. 

A word of advice:  Consider the audio version for this series, it's chalk full of funky spelled words and strange pronunciations.  You won't be sorry you did.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The last time...

The last time I got clobbered by a cold this wicked was 2000.  How do I remember?  Because I had just jumped onto the Harry Potter bandwagon.  The moment my last scantron bubble of the semester was darkened with my trusty No. 2 pencil, I collapsed into a pile of blankets, kleenex, and a nyquil induced haze. 

It was awful.  I didn't go to work for a full 8 days.  And I don't think I got out of bed for 7 of those days.  Between wakings and coughing I read the entire Goblet of Fire book cover to cover.

Except this time, there is a job that can't keep, and little people that need snuggling, but I do have a good book to keep me company. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Someone get this girl a Globe

The Girl: Mom, how do you draw South America?

Mom: Let's google it

The Girl: Mom, How do you spell South America?

Mom:  You know what you need.....a globe. 


I don't much care for the movie Up.  It's straight up sad.  The first 30 minutes I find myself crying my eyes out.  And so I choose not to watch it.  The boychild got it into his little head that as soon as we got home from Grandma's turkey dinner he could watch it. 

Me:  Did you say we would watch Up when we got home?

Husband: No, Did you?

Me: No!

And then they watched Up and I took a 96 minute bath.

First Week of Advent

We are waiting, we're waiting, we're waiting.

Waiting for Christmas morning, waiting for Burrito's birthday, waiting to be old enough to have our very own horse, waiting for the sickness that has descended onto this house to clear.

There's a pretty good article over at Catholics on Call.  The tale of two benches.  You should go read it.  My little paraphrased version here doesn't do it justice.  The short version is that you can go through your life as one of two benches, a bus bench or a park bench.  A bus bench is a stepping off place.  We are there for single purpose, waiting on the next step.  We are checking our watch, making sure we have all our belongings just waiting for that bus to roll in.  We don't notice our surroundings or the people that pass, all we are focused on is getting on that bus.  You don't sit on a park bench for the same reasons.  You sit on a park bench to enjoy life.  You take a time out from the hustle of life and deadlines to notice and appreciate the gifts that God gave us.

This is the first Sunday of Advent.   This Sunday we acknowledge Isaiah's prophecy from the old testament that the messiah is coming.  And we wait and prepare our hearts and find a nice park bench to sit on while we wait. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Shadow of the Wind

If I was a book quitter....I'd have quit this book.

But alas, I am not.

Even when they are a real stinker.  I find myself holding out hope that something miraculous will happen and I will find something to enjoy within it's pages.

The Shadow of the Wind came highly recommended.  It was written by Carlos Ruiz Safon in 2001.  It became an international best seller and was translated into English in 2004.  I checked this one out on audio since I am currently reading (legitimately reading...according to my sister) The Glass Castle.  So, The Shadow of the Wind, 16 discs.  That's a lot of listening even for me.  The first half of the book seemed slow paced.  I found myself daydreaming as I listened.  I seriously thought about not finishing the book.  But then somewhere around disc 10, I had a change of heart.  Soon I was guessing outcomes, cheering for Fermin Romero de Torres the sidekick and comedy relief of the story, and booing the villainous, corrupt police officer.

For someone who half listened to the first half of the story, I was pretty proud of myself for guessing the two big plot reveals before they were spelled out for the reader.  I like that. 

After finishing the book I'd recommend it too.  With a warning that the first part is a little slow.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Tis the Season

I've been feeling a little Grinch-y this year.  Neither family wants to continue the Christmas traditions we have become accustomed to and so I'm thinking of starting my own.  Or just randomly making them up.  I have a few ideas and a few are still stewing.  A few months ago, I came across this War on Christmas article and it has been on my mind ever since.  I've been silently waging my own Christmas battles for the past few years.  So many around us immerse themselves in Christmas from the day after Thanksgiving until that can't possible stand it and Dec 26th all the decorations come down.  Someone always asks me why the heck our tree is still up and decorated on January 4th. 

The twelve days of Christmas really don't start until Christmas day.  And they end at the Epiphany, the 6th of January.  This year, I think I will participate in advent more and leave the anticipation and excitement of Christmas to Christmas.  Having a child's birthday just 6 days before Christmas is probably a good deciding factor too.  I don't want him to feel like his birthday is lost in the hustle and chaos that is the holiday season.

This year, there will be no black Friday shopping, advent will be fully embraced, the tree may not get decorated until just before Christmas.  And all will be right in our world.

Monday, November 21, 2011

How the Halloween Costumes turned out

Introducing......
The Yellow Knight and Gollum!


Burrito has informed me that I still need to get him a yellow feather for his helmet.  Maybe I could knit/felt one for him. 
Apparently I forgot to buy the magic sticky stuff to make the fake elf ears stick onto Gollum.  So they are bobby pinned onto her little ears.  She's such a trooper.  I offered to staple them....she didnt' think I was funny.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My Just In Time Gloves

I decided I needed some fingerless gloves for winter.  Thank goodness they are done, there is snow on the horizon.  This was my first attempt at the cable stitch.  It turned out nice, but it was soooo slow going.  And there might have been a little swearing every time I dropped a stitch.

I'm glad I can check cable stitching off my list.  Now back to regular knits and purls.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Sometimes I pick which book to read next by browsing the stacks at the Library.  Sometimes I pick something that was featured in the parenting magazine.  Sometimes books catch my eye out of the weekly Barnes and Noble emails. 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot landed on my parenting magazine, Barnes and Noble, and random facebook post.  I suggested it for book club a few months ago but it wasn't the lucky winner that month.  But I read it anyway.

I absolutely loved every page.  There's still time yet, but it might just have been my favorite book this year.  I don't think I made the connection that this was a true story before I started reading.  And I admit that before reading this book I didn't know the origins of HeLa cells.  I have dabbled in microbiology and cell culture in my scientific career but it's not something that is routine for me.  HeLa cells, it turns out, have the unique ability to multiply and survive indefinitely as long as they are given the needed growing conditions.  This differs from other cell lines in laboratories which have a definite lifespan.  The whole longer telomeres are the key to living forever theory I suppose.

The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks is a story both of how the cells were taken without her knowledge and discovered as well as the impact it has had on her family and her children.  It also details the struggles of the scientific community in advancing research, collaborations, and tissue ownership.

I have been hounding the husband to read it.  I'd like to know if it is as fascinating a book to a regular person as it was to me, a science dork.  He has not yet.  And seeing as how he is bffs with the librarian and has a smoking, hot of the presses copy of Inheritance, I guess I'll be waiting a little while longer for his thoughts on the matter.

But you should read it.  Consider it a science homework assignment.

My Name is Memory

If you loved The Time Traveler's Wife I predict will devour this book.  I know I did.  I loved it from the first chapter and couldn't put it down.  That hasn't happened since oh say....the last Harry Potter or Eclipse.

My Name is Memory was written by Ann Brashares.  The same author as the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.  It chronicles the lives of Daniel.  Daniel is a rare soul in that he remembers all the many lives he has been born into.  There are a handful of others like him in the world and he encounters them from time to time.  It's also the story of his encounters with his love, who does not remember him from life to life.  She has been many people, but the story revolves around her life as Sophia and present day Lucy.  Their time together is interrupted by disease, war, other people.

I loved absolutely every bit of the book except that it's a cliff hanger.  I wish I would have known that going into the book.  Rumor on the googlebox is that it is a potential trilogy?  With no titles or publication dates or confirmation from the author.  I hope that there is at least another book, otherwise my imagination is going to run wild.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Take a walk with me



The quirky thing about siblings is that even though we all grew up in the same family and under the same roof, we all have our own point of view of the family happenings.  As childhood compatriots they share in the joys of summer, of playing in the irrigation water on a hot day, in the excitement of trick-or-treating and getting the crap scared out of you at a spooky neighbors house.  In the anticipation of Christmas morning.  But also in the mundane living that is life.  When it seems the parents are being cruel or we are utterly bored out of our minds on an idle Tuesday afternoon at 3pm.  It's part of growing up to have an older sibling stick up for you when you are having trouble at school AND to have that same sibling tell you to stay out of their room or quit touching their stuff.  The bonds forged then last long into being a grown up and the spaces and distance that replace the few steps down the hall to their bed on a dark night. 

Staying in touch isn't always easy.  This is the same group of characters that will need to band together when we are drawing straws on who is going to take care of the parental units and the plethora of things that will need to be sorted out someday.  And so, I carved out some time in a busy fall schedule to visit my brother.  Because I needed it, because he needed it, because my children needed it.

This is the brother that playfully (or at least part playfully and part naughty older brother) would lift us little kids up and dangle us off the edge of the roof by our fingertips. It was fun, it was challenging to see who could hang on the longest, it was frightening when he would walk away and act like he was going to leave us there forever. This is the brother that would take my side against my older siblings during snowball fights and even out the score a little. I was glad to always be on his team.



These are the moments that Emmers will remember someday.  That Uncle Steve taught her how to do the monkey bars.  That Uncle Steve gave endless shoulder rides and took her to see elk one day.  That Uncle Steve taught her how to use side reins while riding horses.


And Burrito will remember being pushed on the tire swing and driving the tractor and that Uncle Steve has the coolest rope swing ever in his garage.

Christmas is coming

Finally chose a Christmas card for this year!



Stationery card
View the entire collection of cards.

Monday, November 7, 2011

On A Cold and Drizzly Sunday Afternoon



I think the brain washing is working.  I have a little scientist in training.  There's even been a request for a lab coat.  Please note the hot pink safety glasses that occasionally double as swimming goggles.  Also, apparently NASA has won the lottery.  There are rocket ships all over outer space.  The girlchild said she was planning her trip to Mars to collect soil samples.  The bug magnification device is set out for official scientific use.  As I scrubbed dishes and washed linens the girlchild was busy labeling her earth and running up and down the hallway asking how to spell this or that. 

The Girl: What else Mom?

Me: I think that about covers it.  You got Fernley, China, India, New York.  What else do you need?  (Notice I did not suggest she write Australia...that'd take 6 days for her to spell out)

The Girl: But I still have all this space.

Me: Don't forget about the ocean.  Did you know that there's more ocean that there is land? 

The Girl:  Good idea mom.  Then I'll fill in the space with islands.  Seven of them.  Like Hawaii.

I particularly love that Fernley and Asia look to be about the same size.

No Shoes, Sunday Service



Burrito: Mom, did you hear that?

Me: What?

B: Father Bob said Jesus is dead!

Me: I know.  He died so he can open up the door to heaven for you.  Now Shhhhh....people are noticing you have no shoes on.

The Husband is off on a business trip.  Can you tell? 

I didn't discover until we were already at church that Burrito didn't have shoes on.  Not sure what the policy is on that.  Glad I can provide some entertainment free of charge.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I left my heart at the Spragpole Museum-Bar-Cafe

While I was up North visiting my brother, we took a short day trip to Murray, Idaho

Seriously, the cutest old mine town ever!  Well...we do have a few gems closer to home but this one is definitely in the running.  It even made it's way onto the wishful-maybe-we'll-retire-there-someday list.  Right next to Austin or Ely, NV. 

We stopped first at the Spragpole Museum-Bar-Cafe for lunch.  I had the most amazing huckleberry milkshake ever! I had to fight the milkshake coveting children off with my long ice tea spoon and honey-BBQ chicken wings.  I also distracted them by making them count the deer antlers around the bar between bites of huckleberry deliciousness.

After lunch, we toured the attached museum.  It was like going home again.   The best part was being there with my big brother and being able to say "Dad has a forge just like this in the backyard" and "I think this is the exact some ugly troll made out of moss that is still in the front entryway at home".  It was an odd assortment of wood carved animals, old apothecary jars, blacksmith tools, ivory elephants, collector edition miniature cars, and giant wooden saint statues.  And it got me thinking.  (LIGHT BULB.....in my best despicable me voice) We could just put out a donation jar and let people take self guided tours of Hal's house when he's gone.  I kid, I kid.....mostly.


My brother was kind enough to send me home with bags of frozen, wild huckleberry.  And we recreated the huckleberry milkshake, many times over, at  home, possibly before we got the vacation unpacking done.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A miscommunication and a good read

The work running club is working out pretty well.  We have been getting in some good runs and a little visiting too.

One day, there was talk of school, and little kids, and Halloween costumes and something called Chasing Fireflies.  The first hit on the googlebox was a novel by Charles Martin.  Always up for reading suggestions, I promptly requested it from the library.  Turns out though, that we were really talking about a website with ridiculously cute (and a bit expensive) Halloween costumes.

Chasing Fireflies begins with a suicidal woman and a young boy.  She throws him from the car seconds before being hit by a train.  A journalist named Chase Walker is assigned to find out who this mystery boy is who doesn't speak a word, shows signs of severe physical abuse, but can draw amazing things with a pencil and paper.  The book is a mix between this young boy's story, flashbacks to Chase's own childhood in the foster care system, and the man who took them both in, Unc Willee.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, especially considering I was supposed to be looking for Halloween costumes when I found it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

When Opportunity Worms it's Way in

The life cycle of a manduca sexta according to the 5 year old.  

Sometimes it's nice that I work at the University and can teach my minions that Science is cool.

Rails to Trails

Second half marathon this year - check

I beat my first half marathon time by 9 minutes.  Pretty excited about that.  I feel like I could have/should have run the course faster though.  I will admit I got pretty tired the last two miles and had to push myself.  But I didn't really train as much as I should have for this race.

What's that you're shouting in my ear, ghost of Coach Cole? Garbage in, Garbage out.

Yeah, I know....and I solemnly swear to practice more for the Tinkerbell Half Marathon.  Mostly because I plan on stopping and taking pictures with the Disney characters this time so I will need to be extra speedy!

This course has special meaning to me.  The Bizz Johnson trail is an old railroad converted to a trail for feet, bicycles, and horses.  Our family has spent many camping adventures at Goumaz.  I've bicycled up and down the trail several times but this was my first ever foot race there.  Even with the lanterns in the train tunnel to light the way I still got a little spooked and found myself wishing I was out the other side.  It's hard to run faster when you can't see the path in front of you. 

I'm off, to get a few more miles under these feet today.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Triple Dog Dare Don't



Whilst hiking amongst the ancient cedars I happened upon a bright orange mushroom. 




So naturally I tried my very hardest to talk the boy into eat it. 
 He said no. 
I called him a chicken. 
He said no.
 I triple dog dared him (I was led to believe from A Christmas Story that triple dog dares always work).
He said no.



I wouldn't have really let him eat it of course, but it was curiously, bright orange.  And it made me wonder what would happen if you did.  But then it'd probably taste like a mushroom and I wouldn't really like it anyway.  As I am not really a fungus eater.


If I had been more prepared for the cold or the rainy day I might have stayed out in the cedar forest all day. It was absolutely beautiful.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Watch Out Blue Hairs

My 'old soul' little girl

The other day I caught the girlchild playing bingo by herself.  And she wasn't just playing bingo, she was playing 6 cards at the same time. SIX.  And no, brother cannot have just one to use for himself.

She's going to be one tough, old lady some day.

And speaking of old souls....I'm reading My Name is Memory right now.  I'm loving every word.  I kind of want to lock myself in my room all weekend just so I can finish it.  I wonder if the bingo crowd will miss me??

Thursday, October 20, 2011

10K at the Lake

I can't believe it's been 3 weeks without a post.  It's been busy in my neck of the woods.  There's been races and fall vacations and plans for fabulous Halloween costumes.....I hope.  How does one dress a 5 year old up as Gollum anyway??? 

Last year I ran the Tahoe 5K.   It was my first official race since hanging up my high school running shoes and shorty shorts.  You can catch up here if you missed it (the race not the shorty shorts...those are not an option any more).   This year, I signed up for the 10K.  Well...technically I signed up for the 5K but the boy encouraged me to be brave and run the 10K instead, so I did.  He's up for coach of the year award. 


Can't you just see Meg Ryan on her City of Angels bicycle here


The course starts at Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe and runs down to Pope Beach.  A scenic trip through the trees and along the beach.  The only goal I had was to finish the 6.2 miles in under 60 minutes.  Last year my time didn't get recorded.  I was pretty sure I had placed in my age group so after waiting around for the awards ceremony and not getting to stand up on the little podium I was a little disappointed.  Turns out they lost my tag number.  I would have gotten third.   This year, I decided it didn't matter so much.  I was going to go out there and have fun and try to make my time goal.  If I hadn't been wearing my garmin watch I think I might not have made it.  The real time pace tracker is a great motivator, I'm pretty much in love with it.

The boy ran too! Holy surprise batman!
Final time: 58 minutes.  Yay!  The boy finished in 1 hr 04 minutes.  I'm so proud of him.  6 miles with no real training at all.  Afterward we met up with some friends for brunch and frozen hot chocolate...delicious!


A few days after the race they posted the official times.  What do you know, I got second in my age group.  Dang!  I didn't hang around for the awards ceremony this year because I thought there was no way I was up for an award.  Who knew?! 

You know what this means?  Next year, I need a little first place medal.  But will I run the 10K or go for the half marathon.....decisions, decisions.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Egg Beaters 1 - Zeke 0

When I was a little girl my best friend in the whole world lived all the way across town.  And I say it like that because when we used to ask for sleepovers, either set of parents would wrinkle up there noses and say,

"Maybe later, they live all the way across town."

And there would be no arguing with that because A - walking wasn't an option and B - I'm pretty sure I wasn't up to the two wheeled bike option yet.

So, on those rare sleepover adventures we made sure to get into as much mischief as possible.  We tromped through the snow chasing cows or who know what we were really trying to do, in the summer we'd swim in the water trough with the mosquito eating fish, and in general just eat candy until I was sick to my stomach. 

One very hot summer day we decided to make a potion consisting of raw eggs (a lot of them), dirt and a mayonnaise jar.  Shaken, not stirred of course.  And then left for far too long in the shed behind the wood pile.  For reasons I cannot recall today, I accidentally dropped the jar and it shattered in the shed. Causing the stinkiest, most gag worthy mess that had to be cleaned up before I went home for the day. 

And to this day I cannot lay eyes on scrambled raw eggs without feeling like I might toss my cookies at any moment.  It has also resulted in me absolutely needing to have my eggs cooked to death before I eat them.

Today on my honey-do list:
Buy the husband egg whites

Standing in the egg section at wal-mart I remember that I'm allergic to that eggy smell and I start to get panicky.  There's a cute old man trying to make conversation about how they don't have the kind of eggs he likes and I'm speed reading the boxes of egg beaters because one is regular and one is southwest and what does that even mean??  Isn't it just eggs in a paper carton.  I give the old man and half smile and book it out of that section before something embarrassing happens.  All the way up to the cash register and out to the car I can feel the eggs sloshing around in that paper carton and am trying to convince myself that throwing up is not an option. I get in the car and as I'm putting the egg beaters in the refrigerator it dawns on me, the husband did not ask me for egg beaters....he asked me for egg whites....and I epic failed on that one.

Monday, September 19, 2011

You Say Tomato, I Say Tooth Fairy

The girl-child has lost her first tooth. 

yes...sometimes I do comb this child's hair, just not today

She's 5.  Isn't that a little bit early?  Is it because I have been adamantly refusing to believe that my babies are growing up and will no longer need me to snuggle them?  I've threatened to quit feeding her.  Didn't work.  I am laying the groundwork so that I can be like that mother in Love You Forever (by Robert Munsch) when I'm an old lady.  Still needs work.

The girl-child has always had a thing for tomatoes (see video):


See that.  She how little and cute she used to be.  Even at the age of 2, Emmers could be found red handed in the garden shoveling tomatoes into her mouth like they were actually something tasty.

Back to the tooth....the girl-child is eating tomatoes out of grandmother's garden.  Why?  Because the dad planted 34 tomato plants in the garden this year.  Not 3 or 4, 34! I know what you're thinking.  Why would anyone do that?  Maybe he has some sort of massive tomato canning, getting ready for the apocalypse plan?  Nope.  Well, except for that metal shipping container out back, but let us not get into that.  The official answer is:
So that, when I want a tomato, there will be one out there, waiting for me, no matter what.

So to recap: Girl eating tomato, girl feels like dirt is in her mouth, girl spits dirt out onto the ground, girl realizes her tooth is missing....oh, crap!  And then the husband saves the day and finds said tooth because he knows that I do not need to write another letter to the tooth fairy explaining that I may or may not of caused my brother's tooth to come out and we can't find it.  I'm not doing that, again.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Stones into Schools


Stones into Schools is the sequel to Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea.  The book is written in a way that you could randomly pick it up and read without having first read Three Cups of Tea.  I think you would lack the appreciation for just how hard Mortenson worked or what a long way he has come on this journey to promote peace by educating people though. 
The timing of this book was completely random but I'm glad that I am reading it now, when the world is remembering the 10th anniversary of September 11th.  The truth is that we are all changed because of that day.  Even if we'd like to think we aren't.  I find myself jumping between thoughts about this book and Charlie Wilson's War and how we got to this place.  It's forgotten sometimes and worth remembering that there are people in Afghanistan that don't support the Taliban and are eager for schools and the possibility of a better life.

Three Cups of Tea detailed the difficulties of making the promise of building a school a reality.  There was a lot of focus on the physical challenges of actually getting building materials to off the map places and getting the school built.  I felt that Stones into Schools focused more on the political challenges of building schools in Afghanistan without the help or support from the country's ruling body.  The chapters detailing the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the Central Asia Institute's move to make earthquake-proof schools were probably my favorite from the book.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A mini vacation

Also on the agenda (besides running) while we were visiting California:

The Ocean - Check
Due to some random and remote natural disaster we couldn't go swimming in the ocean because of the crazy waves and shark sightings.  The kids had a good time splashing around and trying to jump over the waves as they rolled in.  We even found some pretty cool sea shells.


Survive the long car ride - Check
This year I let the kids pack their own car entertainment.  The girlchild's back pack was completely full of easy reader books.  Burrito brought his periscope to....ummm....spy....on things???  Who knows.  We also loaded up the ipod with a ridiculous amount of disney kid songs.  I would have to say that this was the most pleasant trip yet.  Not too much whining, no throwing up (always a bonus), the kids pretty much entertained themselves.
Hang out with Patches - Check
Everyone's favorite Aunt Jani is down to just one tortoise at her house.  It's a highlight of the trip to feed him small children's fingers bananas and sit outside and enjoy life at a tortoise's pace.


Medieval Times - Check
I marched my children right up to the front gates of Disneyland and didn't let them go in.  I'm working on my award for wicked-est mother of the year...I'll let you know how it turns out.  Why?  Because this family only goes to Disneyland on even numbered years.  We can't be breaking with traditions here.  As a conciliation prize we checked out Medieval Times instead.  My kids were sold on it the second I said they were going to have to eat with their hands because there were no forks in the medieval times don't you know.  Burrito was so fascinated with the show that he didn't eat a bite of his $40 dinner.  Which ordinarily would have earned him a night in the stocks but we let him slide this one time on account of his absolute adorability. 

And now...I must get back to trying to find a yellow knight costume for the kid for Halloween.  Maybe this wasn't such a bright idea after all...

What's the matter with these boys

This is the Dad in Hawaii, 2006, in his beach wear.





And Burrito, sunny California, 2011


Friday, September 9, 2011

Checkmarks and PRs

Run a half marathon - check
Don't die while running said half marathon - check
Try really hard to not be the last one to cross the finish line - check

Instead of our usual Labor Day weekend plans (which involve the most amazing ribs, little people birthday parties, small town parades and oodles of candy), the boy and I drove down to Anaheim so I could run in the 6th annual Disneyland half marathon.  I attempted to take pictures along the course so that the boy could feel like he got to see all the cool behind-the-scenes at Disney things I got to see.  But I was so impatient to get that third checkmark up there that my feet kept running and most of the pictures were blurry.  (Don't worry Husband...I'll make it up to you in January). 

I did end up getting a decent one of the Sign Shop,
in the back of the park kind of behind the rivers of America.



There were so many people starting the race that the first 4 miles flew past without much heart pounding or heavy breathing, either that or I was too distracted by all the characters and fun toons blaring over the sound system.

While I was training someone told me that at mile 6 people start to hurt.  At mile 8 the bottom drops out for a lot of first timers.  So I made sure I carried beans with me and stopped at all the powerade stations.  Miles 8, 9, and 10 came and went and I was still trotting along.  I started really watching the time at mile 11.  Apparently running and math aren't my strong suit.  For some silly reason I decided that once I hit mile 11 I only had one more mile to go...one more mile to go.  I can totally do this.  And if I hustle I'll beat that 2 hour 30 minute mark so I can start in the corral next time.  Just one more mile to go....

Except....I didn't really have one more mile to go.  I had 2.1 and 20 minutes to go.

Damn you mile 11




If I hadn't have been up since 4 am, I might have had the foresight to take the uneaten sports beans out of my shorts first and not take my "I finished and didn't die" picture in front of the sanihuts...maybe next time.


The official stats are:

13.1 miles in 2:30:37
Overall ranking 5,319 out of 12,785 finishers
2,779 out of 8,368 women
512 out of 1,410 30-34 year olds.



I'll be returning in January to run in the first ever Tinkerbell half marathon. 

New goals:
faster AND take pics with the characters


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The 19th Wife

Faith, I tell them, is a mystery, elusive to many, and never easy to explain.



Last year, I read Escape by Carolyn Jessop.  The account of a woman who fled Zion with her children to escape her life as a polygamist wife.  I was shocked by the down hearted tone of the book and the rampant child abuse.  It was the kind of story that after putting it down, any mother would shake her head and think "that's just not okay".  The Fundamentalist LDS' have been in the news off and on since then, as Warren Jeffs goes through trial.  It's hard to imagine what a life in a polygamist community like that is like. 

The 19th Wife was an easier book to read for me.  Maybe because I knew that parts of it were fiction, or that in general it presented the broader picture of what life was like and how polygamy came to be in the Latter Day Saints.  It is a historical fiction novel by David Ebershoff, detailing the life of Ann Eliza Young from birth into a polygamist family through her very public divorce to Brigham Young.  It also combines a modern day murder mystery centered on a high ranking polygamist family.  The 19th Wife was the kind of book I couldn't put down.  And when I finished the last page I wanted to know more.  I wanted to know which parts were fact and which were the fiction added in.  I found myself spouting off "Did you know...." questions to anyone who would listen to them.  For instance, did you know that Joseph Smith was only 39 when he died?  And that the jail where he was being held was stormed in the night and he and his brother Hyrum were shot to death?  And that is why/how Brigham Young became the leader of the church?

I think this book might make it into my top 5 favorites for this year.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Rafting 2.0

Last year, a group of friends and the boy and I went rafting.  It was a two day adventure down Cache Creek.  We had a great time.  I had a little too much fun the first day but doesn't that make for the best kinds of stories anyway.  I may or may not have accidentally set the husband's sandwich bread in the river instead of on the raft as I lovingly made his sandwich for him.  But don't worry, he ate it - soggy bread and all.  On day 2 of the trip, I may or may not have forgotten to take the wax paper off the cheese before I made the sandwich in an effort to make up for day 1 and soggy bread sandwiches. 
The rafting itself was a blast.  We only got dumped out of our raft 1 time and we scored a pretty nice double barrel super soaker.  It was the kind of trip where before we even got home and unpacked the truck everyone was talking about doing it again.



And so we did!  Hopefully it will become a yearly tradition.  This year, I solemnly swore that there would be rules!  Set up beforehand and followed accordingly.
Rule #1: Sunscreen, lots of it.  Applied more than once the whole trip.

Rule #2: Under no circumstances whatsoever should I drink anything handed to me by the boy's cousin.  He's the devil.

Rule #3: Do not set tent up on a ginormous rock that you will regret sleeping on the entire night.

Rule #4: No tandem puking.  For many reasons.  Some of them being: dinner, glow stick dancing, and so that I can enjoy the giant community bowl of oreos


We had an equally good time this year.  Fell out of the raft a few more times that I would have liked.  And once it happened at the top of one of the harder rapids.  A little bit of scary-ness later and it's back to all smiles and laughing.  Still a little bit sunburned and we really should have brought an air mattress to sleep on but I'm not complaining. 
I think I'll start my don't forget list for next year right now....

Friday, August 26, 2011

The first of many

Growing up, my mother used to look so forward to the first day of school and getting some piece and quiet from the 5 of us, that it was like Christmas.

There were made to order breakfasts and gifts under our pillows when we returned from school that day.  Even the kids looked forward to it.  Long into our college years we would remind our dear mother that school was starting and we should be rewarded for being such good studies.

This week, the girlchild started Kindergarten.  As excited for her as I am, I wish I still have a few more years of school-less children to take random middle of the year vacations with and not worry about what they are missing in school.  Soon she'll be reading and writing and doing complex math and I'll be saying, I don't remember how to do this or that, it's been soooo long.








A good friend told me how she took first day of school pictures with her boys so they could see how they grew and changed each year.  So, here is my first, first day of school with my kids picture, many, many more to follow:

Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner

One more check mark for my bucket list this year.
In an unusual-for-me lucky streak, I won two tickets to Katy Perry from a local radio station.  Free!  And the second best part is that I didn't have to compete in anything on-air or embarrassing.


It took a little planning and a lot of driving (thanks Hubster!)  but we pulled it off in an already packed weekend.  Left work early, got to drive down with some of our favorite friends, oogled the Dutch Brothers coffee shops along the way. 


We sat behind a couple of teenage girls...it was entertaining.  Homemade outfits, ring pops, light up bracelets, dancing.  I told the boy to take good notes because soon those sorts of activities would be happening in our own house. 



The Finale...

As the husband observed while we were waiting for the show to start, it was overwhelming attended by women.  Hardly a man in sight.  Mostly Moms with daughter and friends in tow.  Someday that will be me with my girlchild....probably at Taylor Swift.  Or, maybe I'll let the Dad take her.

After the concert was over we high-tailed it back to Sacramento for the 2nd annual best-time-in-your-life-ever weekend rafting trip.

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