Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Rest of Summer 2017

I thought after all the reunions and church-related camps that I would have that Summer Feeling - lazy, doing what we felt like doing. It never happened. We did some cool stuff, though. Let's start with Bridget.

We had to push a birthday party for Bridget to almost the middle of July! We got it done, though - an afternoon at the outdoor pool with five of her favorite people. I didn't bring a camera. Rude. Then pizza at Pizza Pie Cafe.
 These three (Bridget, Kodi, and Clara) spent a lot of time on the diving boards.

I found a cute picture of my nephew Brennan on my Instagram account and it reminded me that we watched Macey and Brennan overnight in July. I have forgotten EVERYTHING about babies. Almost everything. They were fun and Bridget was the best helper ever, so that made it easy.
 Sweetie Pie Brennan

Sami and Bridget before getting on the bus to Clear Creek.

Months ago I spent an hour on the computer and on the phone with Bridget's friend Sami's Mom, Alicia, trying to get the two of them registered for the same week at Clear Creek Camp. It was very dramatic. The two of us refreshed the page, submitting our information over and over again only to get denied at different points in the process. BAH. Each time we refreshed the page to try again, we could see how many spots were left in the weeks we were hoping to get. We finally chose the week of July 24th since they seemed not to be going as fast. Bridget and Sami were in the Pot Gut Hut at Clear Creek Camp! For MONTHS Bridget talked about Clear Creek. Sometimes she would start in the middle of the conversation in her head that Brian and I couldn't hear. I started assuming she was talking about Clear Creek when that happened. She and Sami did jobs for me and some of the neighbors to earn money for Clear Creek. Two weeks before the camp, Alicia spent EIGHT HOURS braiding Bridget's hair to look like Sami's. Getting ready for Clear Creek was not a joke.
Bridget putting the finishing touches on her critter can.

Let's get real, though, Clear Creek is a five-day camp near Scofield and Bridget has never been great at sleeping in her own bed, nevermind a bed miles away from her parents. The kids stay in cabins and do crafts and activities and go on field trips. They have no contact with their parents and the only word I got was an email from the camp director every night of the camp with a bunch of pictures. I had to find my baby in those photos and let my imagination go crazy, which it did. In the first email I had a hard time finding Bridget in the 30 or so pictures. When I did she was wearing a sweatshirt that doesn't belong to her and it was raining. "Why isn't she wearing the rain jacket she brought?" I wondered. (When I picked her up on Friday the first thing she told me was that she puked all over her jacket after getting off the bus the first day. Oh! That explains it! It's just the worst thing that could happen, nothing to worry about there.)
Bridget fresh off the bus from Clear Creek. Her brothers care.
On the last night of the camp I couldn't find Bridget in ANY of the photos from their field trip to a ghost mining town. I totally panicked. Bridget explained to me later that she was "crying so much" that she made sure she wasn't in any pictures so I wouldn't worry. Mission not accomplished. Even with those terrible reports, Bridget LOVED Clear Creek. She chose to focus on all the good stuff - the friends, the sparkly traps, the amazing crafts, the donuts, the awesome camp counselors who could do back flips. She even said she wants to go back and be a counselor herself. That's kind of an awesome idea - she can tell the kids who struggle, "I puked on the first day and I still loved it!"

I signed Emil and Colin up for a week-long soccer camp during the same week Bridget was at Clear Creek. It was sponsored by the Real Salt Lake soccer team. They spent the last 10 minutes every day learning the fight song.
Emil getting his shoe signed on the last day of camp.
Emil's new smile. 

We got through August by going to the outdoor pool a lot and the kids came with me on some of my newspaper assignments. School started on a Tuesday and on Monday was the Total Solar Eclipse. I had decided we could just enjoy our 85% or whatever view and that would be fine. I couldn't get my hands on any glasses, so that was lame. My Mom texted me on Saturday, "You should come." So I did! It was just me and the kids - Brian had started his new job just the week before, so he had zero time off. After church on Sunday, we packed up and headed to Pocatello, Idaho. My Dad's cousin Holly was there with her family, but they were heading to Rexburg on Monday morning so they would be in the totality zone for the eclipse. Holly, her husband and their kids ALMOST made me decide to go to Rexburg and really see the coolest part of the eclipse. The first day of school was the very next day! What if we got stuck in traffic coming home?! (And we would have - it took them almost 7 hours to get from Rexburg to Pocatello after the eclipse.) We made do with our 99% view and eclipse cookies and American Girl Dolls wearing sunglasses. :)
My Mom is the Cookie Grandma and she does not mess around!
Grandma Peggy hooked us up with eclipse glasses. She and Bridget were getting the dolls ready right up until the last minute.
We put jars of water out on the porch during the eclipse to create some magical water. I think it was black magic, though, and I gave mine to the tomatoes when we got home. 
We walked to the playground up the road from my parents' house. This is close to 99% of the eclipse - it was almost noon, but it was eerily dark and our shadows were very stark.
Weird light. 
It was only a moment at 99%, then the moon was on the other side of the sun. When Colin found out that was all we were getting he threw his eclipse glasses to the ground and stomped off. Hahahaha! Grandpa Bob applied the classic quote to that exit, "Fine eclipse this turned out to be!"

We hurried home before the eclipse was totally over and we beat the Idaho Falls/Rexburg crowd. It took us the normal amount of time to get home. I'm so glad we did it! It was weird and wonderful.

The very next day was the first day of school! Bridget started sixth grade and the boys started first grade. They're so big!
 Cutest outfit ever! After we took the braids out her hair was so thick and healthy.
Pencil earrings.
Emil is wearing a shirt that says Don't Trust Atoms, and on the back, They Make Up Everything.
Cute Colin. He is a reading machine! He was READY for first grade to start.
First day of school porch shot.
Posing with Clara and Millie at the bus stop.
Colin is very faithful with goodbye kisses.
Every truck that went by was honking at the kids and I thought it was so cute that they were wishing them luck on their first day. No, just the brothers doing the "honk your horn" gesture.
There they go. 

I miss them, but the time away from each other has been good, I think. Bridget, Emil and Colin all love school. I haven't figured out how to maximize my time yet. I'll get it!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Summer Book Report: May, June, July, and August 2017

Let me start by saying that I thought I was only a month behind on my book reports. Bother. I've read some interesting stuff, though, and I don't want to forget all about those books. Especially since I kind of already have...

1. A Quiet Life in the Country (Lady Hardcastle Mysteries #1) by T E Kinsey

I grew up reading Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon mysteries. Lady detectives are my jam! I have always thought that I would make an awesome detective. Lady Hardcastle has moved to a small English town with her maid, Armstrong. She is somewhat recently widowed and Hardcastle and Armstrong (very masculine names, I just noticed) have had adventures before that they allude to. The two women are friends as well as being employer and employee. It's a relationship that the upstairs and downstairs people find inappropriate.

On their very first brisk walk through the country, Lady Hardcastle and Armstrong find a body hanging from a tree. What?! Yeah, a little convenient. But there are fun clues like the tipped over stump being too short for the man to stand on and still be hanging from the rope. The game is on for the two women.

It's a fun, harmless mystery with no questionable language, some humor, and nothing gory. I enjoyed the audible version, although I did have a hard time keeping so many characters straight.

2. Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

I can't remember where I saw this, but on some list Fifth Business was called a classic in Canadian literature. What? Canadians have classic literature?! Just kidding! Of course they do. Why wouldn't they. I love reading classics from other countries to get perspective. I'm not sure yet what this book says about Canada, though.

The narrator of Fifth Business is a man named Dunstan Ramsay. He's a war hero, a teacher, a scholar, and a magician. More like a connoisseur of magic and miracles. Ramsay's life path is diverted one day when he is a boy and he dodges a snowball with a rock in it. The snowball hits the preacher's wife, Mary Dempster, who is very pregnant, in the head. Mary is never the same and Ramsay has the guilts like no one in the history of ever. Mary goes crazy, the baby is premature and sickly, the marriage gets ugly. Ramsay tries to help and he's bad at that.

Luckily (?) Ramsay goes off to World War I where he miraculously survives a terrible battle. After the war Ramsay comes back to his hometown. His interest in saints and miracles and magic has made him an easy mark for bullies. For some reason he stays friends with the kid who threw the snowball, spoiled rich guy "Boy" Stauntan. Ramsay is Boy's confession booth for their whole adult lives. Boy is as bad at being an adult as he was at being a kid. Boy marries the prettiest girl in town, makes a lot of money in plastic (I think - I know he made money), cheats on his poor wife and does a weak imitation of a father to his kids. Why does Ramsay stay friends with such a man? Because Ramsay is Fifth Business!

"Who are you? Where do you fit into poetry and myth? Do you know who I think you are, Ramsay? I think you are Fifth Business. You don't know what that is? Well, in opera in a permanent company of the kind we keep up in Europe you must have a prima donna - always a soprano, always the heroine, often a fool; and a tenor who always plays the lover to her; and then you must have a contralto, who is a rival to the soprano, or a sorceress or something; and a basso, who is the villain or the rival or whatever threatens the tenor.

So far, so good. But you cannot make a plot work without another man, and he is usually a baritone, and he is called in the profession Fifth Business, because he is the odd man out, the person who has no opposite of the other sex. And you must have Fifth Business because he is the one who knows the secret of the hero's birth, or comes to the assistance of the heroine when she thinks all is lost, or keeps the hermitess in her cell, or may even be the cause of somebody's death if that is part of the plot. The prima donna and the tenor, the contralto and the basso, get all the best music and do all the spectacular things, but you cannot manage the plot without Fifth Business!"

Isn't that awesome?! And Ramsay does do most of those things that Fifth Business does. I found the second half of the book much darker than the first half, but it was pretty dark all throughout. Not vulgar, but dark. So interesting and a really great ending.

3. Moonshot by Brian Floca

This is another brilliant historical non-fiction picture book by Brian Floca. This time he's brought his poetry and amazing illustrations to the story of Apollo 11. Floca manages to describe the roar of take-off and the silence of the moon so well that it made me a little emotional. When I read this to Emil and Colin and I had to pause to pull myself together they both turned their heads quickly to see what was wrong with me. Nothing! Just reading a good book. :)

4. Hero of the Empire: The Boar War, a Daring Escape and the Making of Winston Churchill by Candice Millard

Candice Millard is one of my favorite authors. She writes about stuff I want to read! And she's really good at it. Thanks to her I know what a Boer is! (A person living in South Africa who has English, Welsh, Portuguese, and Spanish ancestors.)

Even when he was very young, Winston Churchill wanted to be prime minister of England. His plan was to be awesome in a battle setting. That was his ticket! He tried to put himself in the most dangerous possible situations during colonial wars in India and the Sudan, but no dice. It was as a journalist covering the Boer War in South Africa in 1899 that Churchill finally had his moment.

Churchill is on a train (sitting duck for the enemy) that is derailed and everyone is taken prisoner, including Winston. It's not the worst prison - the Boers wanted to prove to the Englishman that they were not savages. Churchill wrote letters home and complained to everyone who would listen, and some who would not, that he should not be a prisoner of war! He's a journalist, not a soldier! But wait, he had a gun and he was leading the soldiers away from the train wreckage to safety... Churchill hears a couple of friends planning an escape and he's suddenly part of their plan. He's so loud, though! He's going to ruin everything! Ha! And he lives up to his reputation.

But! Churchill does escape and it's so thrilling I couldn't even stand it. Who knew?! Just like when I read about American heroes, Churchill appears to have been groomed for a long time to be at the right place at the right time having the right experiences to mold him. This is just a really cool book.

5. The Emperor and the Kite by Jane Yolen

"Largely ignored by her own family, Princess Djeow Seow spends her days playing with a kite made from paper and sticks. But when the Emperor is imprisoned in a high tower, only the Princess can save the day, flying her kite high up into the sky to rescue her father."

My boys are mesmerized by books like this. Something about another culture and the stakes being high for a kid speaks to them. The illustrations in this one are amazing.

6. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

I saw a trailer for the movie of this that comes out in December. It looked so stylish and cool and I love Agatha Christie mysteries (my jam, again). Then I saw that Johnny Depp is in it and I thought, "Meh. I'll read the book." Why is he so puffy and gross now?

Anyway. A train, the Orient Express, gets stuck in a snow drift and messes up a murderer's plan to kill a guy and get away with it. Now the murderer has to deal with Hercule Poirot being a passenger on the train and being awesome at solving mysteries. The crime is laid out, every person is interviewed, the reader has a reason to suspect pretty much everyone.

I have to agree with another sassy Goodreads critique of this book - it's not my favorite Agatha Christie because there is NO WAY to solve the mystery. It's SO convoluted! Come on! I enjoyed it anyway, but I like to at least have a chance of solving the puzzle.

7. Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel

This kitty loses it when she's told that her favorite foods are all gone and she's left with only 26 yucky vegetables in alphabetical order. In her rage, the kitty eats homework, bites Grandma, claws the curtains, and so on until she gets to letter Z.

Colin reads everything. Out loud. He reads every minute he can before school, on the bus, after school, in the van. I try not to stop him, but sometimes he needs to get dressed and eat and other stuff. I couldn't contain my laughter when he was reading this book. It was cracking him up and he had to stop and laugh several times. Adorable! It's fun to have a kid who is obsessed with reading.

8. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

This is a book about the refugees who made their way to the ships who would take them to safety. Sepetys focuses on a little group whose paths converged along the way. Each of them has a terrible story of loss and some have regret added to their loss. It's gut-wrenching and then it gets worse. They're all desperately trying to get on the ship the "Wilhelm Gustloff," an intended luxury liner that could accommodate 1500 people. More than 10,000 refugees were crammed onto the boat, which was then torpedoed by the Russians. Thousands of people died. I'd never heard of it. How could I have never heard of it?! I've read lots and lots of books about WWII, fiction and non-fiction. That's still crazy to me!

This is Young Adult Historical Fiction. I happened to ask one of my 12 year-old friends what her favorite book was and she said Salt to the Sea. What?! This is pretty heavy stuff. The author does a great job of putting us there and giving us different perspectives that are usually left out of official histories.

9. What She Ate by Laura Shapiro

Along with lady detectives, food stories are also my jam. We eat every day. We have strong rituals and memories that surround food, but it's never the focus of biography or life story unless the biography is about a chef.

I'm FASCINATED by everything that has to do with a food story. Preparing food for someone else is an act of love. Just last night I made rolls, roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, and steamed carrots with fresh basil. Few things give me more satisfaction than the perfection of that particular Sunday dinner. Making that meal well is my favorite way to show my love for my family.

In What She Ate, Laura Shapiro combs through William Wordsworth's sister Dorothy's diaries to get her food story. When Dorothy was young and living in a cottage with her brother while he wrote, she mentioned food in her diary at least every day. They had a garden, she got fresh bread from a local bakery, they got meat from a neighbor with a farm. Happiness! Later when William gets married, Dorothy no longer talks about food, but she becomes obese and a "victim" starved for attention. I find that so interesting.

My favorite sidebar in this book was in Rosa Lewis's food story. Lewis started out as a scullery maid and worked her way up to being the most celebrated chef in England during the Edwardian days. Lewis had nothing good to say about any of her contemporaries, but she gushed about Juliette Gordon Low's cook. (Juliette Gordon Low is the founder of the Girl Scouts. She was married to William Low, they had lots of money and they traveled the world. Gordon Low was from Savannah Georgia and she was born in 1860. Her cook was an African American slave.) I tried to find the cook's story, but it didn't exist. Isn't that remarkable, though? Southern food is very distinct and specific and they're proud of it. But, whose story is it? The slave cooks who made it? The people who ate it? What does the food say about them? (I found a book that is next on my To Read list about this very subject! I can't believe it exists!)

I thought the best chapter, food story-wise, was Eleanor Roosevelt's. She got into the economics of food for the home, but she was never a good cook. She and Franklin didn't even dine together. Eleanor employed a cook who was TERRIBLE at the White House and I think it was her way of sticking it to Franklin for cheating on her. Food is love. Food is also not love.

10. Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Raul Colon

Marie Tharp's father was a mapmaker and she was taught to think big. Tharp looked at the ocean as a puzzle that needed to be solved. No one had ever tried to map the ocean floor, but Tharp wanted to try it. She spread out a huge piece of paper and researched all the measurements that had ever been made of the ocean floor. Slowly she put the puzzle together and made the map.

The book ended a little too abruptly, I thought. But, the illustrations are AMAZING. They look like they are part of a map. And anytime I can introduce my children to women like Marie Tharp, I'm happy to do it.

11. The Prestige by Christopher Priest

I watched the 2006 Christopher Nolan movie with Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale that was "based" on this book in August. Actually I watched it one and a half times. It was on while I was having a sew day and I couldn't find anything else. I kept pausing in my work and watching it. I have a hard time watching movies when I'm not doing anything with my hands. But I was completely engrossed in The Prestige.

In fact, so engrossed that I needed more. I listened to the Audible version of the book. It was the same basic story, two rival magicians in the late 19th Century who play escalating pranks on each other. The book starts in the 1990s with descendants of both magicians still feeling the effects of this long ago toxic relationship. 

The movie came out 11 years ago, so I'm not spoiling it by saying that Christian Bale's character achieves his greatest illusion, The New Transported Man, by being identical twins with his double. The "trick" is always the simplest solution, but audiences want to be amazed so they come up with crazy theories about how the things are done. Same in the book - Hugh Jackman's character (Robert Angier) is so convinced that it's actually Alfred Bordon reappearing in another place on stage that he becomes obsessed with trying to figure out how he did it. 

There is a very key difference in the book about how Angier tops Bordon's Transported Man. It still involves electricity (which was new at the time), Nikola Tesla, and creating a facsimile of himself that needs to be disposed of. But the difference BLEW MY MIND. The movie gave me the cold chills, but the book had such an unexpected twist. I don't know. It was deliciously spooky. Halloween reading!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Searle Family Renion

Where was I?

We got home from Lava Hot Springs on a Thursday and on the next Saturday we had a reunion for Brian's Mom's side of the family, the Searles. We figured it had been about 18 years since the last Searle reunion! Brian fondly remembers going to his Aunt Jerry's house and playing in the pool with all his cousins. It was fun for him to be back at Jerry's house visiting with his cousins and watching our kids play in the pool.

Jerry and her daughters set up the pool area with umbrella-ed tables and there were even misters under the main area. (It was so very hot that day!) The food was so good! All the favorites were there - chicken, crab salad, seven-layer dip. Each of the Searle siblings got up and introduced their families. We heard a couple of fun stories about Grandpa Searle. Jerry hired a Hawaiian Shave Ice place to come make shave ice for us. Nothing has ever tasted so good to me!

My assignment was to take photos of the families who came. Not everyone there knows me very well, so the sarcastic comments were minimal compared to what I've experienced with my family. Ha!
This is the Condie family, Phil and Jerry are seated in the middle. A few of the grandkids had already been in the pool and I put one of them on Phil's lap. Woops! Jerry is the oldest of the Searle siblings.
This is the Don Searle family, Phyllis and Don are seated. Again I made the mistake of letting a wet kid sit in Grandpa's lap.
Brian's Mom is the third child and this is her family. Not everyone, but pretty close. We're missing Jed and McKade. We're the mean parents who made our kids wait to go swimming until after the pictures.
Sandy is the baby of the family and there she is with her husband "Pete." I knew this, but Pete's first name is Harold. Denise and her sister both married Harolds! That's funny to me. :) Everyone calls Sandy's Harold "Pete." Their last name is Peterson. The first time I heard that Brian had an uncle Pete Peterson I was like, "No."

Here they are, Don and Edra Searle's kids: Don Searle, Jerry Condie, Sandy Peterson and Denise Kunze. I want you all to think of someone you know who is 85 years old. Jerry is 85 years old, you guys! #grandmagoals
Here they are with their spouses. That's cousin Sheree next to Denise and Harold.
This is Nedra. She is Denise's aunt. Nedra came with Uncle Tex, who took off before I could get his picture.
I think maybe Don is telling tales out of school here. It's a safe bet.
You can tell Brian gets a kick out of his aunts and uncles. Can you see all those beautiful flower pots around the pool? Those Condie ladies have class!
Brian and his cousin Curt look like the could be brothers. Brian definitely favors his Mom's side of the family.
Denise is close with all her siblings, but especially her sisters. I had to sneak a photo of Sandy smiling and I could only do that when she was with Denise.

We loved seeing everyone and hearing stories we haven't heard for a long time, or ever. Brian comes from a hard-working, fiercely loyal, generous family.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Official Family Photos

Remember how Melissa did all the family and individual pictures for everyone at our family reunion? I do! I'm going to post them here because then they'll be in our blog yearbook.
Is there a computer screen big enough to see everything in this photo?! So many people! Let's see if I can name them all (from left to right): Rob, Claire, Ian, Moira, Marco, David, Gabriel, Makenzie, Claire, Ruby, Weston, Jen, Ben, Henry, Ethan, Taylor, Lilja, Noah, Adam, Emma, Banks, Allyn, Denham, Aron, Peggy, Chance, Bob, Bryce, Matt, Vivien, Katy, Anya, Evie, Helena, Eliza, Emil, Brian, Nicole, Colin, Bridget, Harrison, Jeff, Miles, Chloe, Melissa, Lori, Brennan, Aaron, and Macey. What do I win?!

Our family was toward the end and my kids were very patient. And no one destroyed their clothes! Melissa was able to swap Emil's "blah" face for the smiling one and put it on the photo where everyone else was smiling. The magic of Photoshop!