Thursday, March 29, 2018

Quarterly Book Report: January - March 2018

1. Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reverso Poems by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josee Masse

One of the other picture books we love around here has a reverso poem by Marilyn Singer. I saw that she had a whole book of reverso poems with great illustrations and I bought it "for" one of the kids for Christmas. (It's for me, let's be honest.) The book has familiar fairy tales in poetic verse and on the facing page the same poem from the last line to the first with the punctuation fixed up so it means something totally different. My boys didn't realize it, but it made them think about language in a new way. Colin was especially intrigued with this book - he was like a detective figuring out a clue. Ha! Fun.

2. American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse

I don't read a lot of (any?) true crime and I can't remember why this one caught my attention. The author, Monica Hesse, is a journalist and I think that was part of what piqued my curiosity. She spent months researching the story where it took place, conducting dozens of interviews.

The crime was arson. Over the course of several months in 2008 and into 2009, someone was setting fire to old abandoned homes and buildings in Accomack County, Virginia. More than 80 fires! How could they get away with so many fires for so long? Vigilante groups set up fairly elaborate operations to try to catch the arsonist. Profiles were made - even a guy who worked out the block where the arsonist might live (he was right!). The volunteer fire departments were putting out multiple fires every night for months. They were at capacity - everyone was on edge.

Hesse set all this up so well. It really kept me up at night. I don't like to think this kind of crime spree can go unsolved for so long. Along with the chapters about the fires and the efforts to catch the arsonist, Hesse introduces us to the pathetic lives of the couple responsible for the fires. The woman was clearly the mastermind. How? Why? Because this is true crime, we never get a satisfactory answer to those questions. Interesting to note, though, that even though the profiles led practically to this couples' doorstep, they didn't suspect a woman or the hometown boy who was too dumb to pull it off.

Besides the psychology of the arsonists, which was a rich subject, the whole arson spree was made possible by a town full of once occupied homes that had been abandoned because the town was pretty much dead. There's no reason to be in Accomack County unless you live there. It used to be a tourist destination (one of the fires was at the once-loved hotel where presidents had stayed). Sad all around.

3. The National Cookbook by Sheila Hibben

"There are those who think a cookbook is just a book for cooks; and if that were so, there would, perhaps, be no need for an introduction to a manual on what the bright young men call the technology of the kitchen. But, as the months of compiling this volume have gone by, and I have sent and received hampers of correspondence with people interested in food all over the United States, I have let my spirits rise. I have felt as if I were writing not only a geography of this country, but a social study of its inhabitants, for I have been in communication with people who really believe that how we do things, as much as what we do, is significant - people who still hold that a thing, even an apple pie, must have style to be important."

Sheila Hibben and I would be FRIENDS! She published The National Cookbook to preserve the regional idiosyncrasies in American cooking. (It was published in 1932, by the way.) This 425 page cookbook with hundreds of recipes from all over America is one of the most interesting books I've ever read! It's out-of-print, naturally. I looked it up on Goodreads, and it's not there. First time I haven't been able to find a book on Goodreads! I found one copy on Amazon for $300. One of my friends works at the BYU Library and I asked if she would check it out for me. She did! The reason I even know The National Cookbook exists is because of Laura Shapiro's book What She Ate. Shapiro mentions it in the chapter about Eleanor Roosevelt.

There are so many things in this book. A "good" oven instead of a specific temperature. Bringing something up to "blood" temperature - I thought that was a little gross, but Brian guessed that it meant you wouldn't feel hot or cold if you touched it, same temperature as your blood. I wanted to try some of the recipes. A Pot Roast with Spaghetti from New York looked promising - it had familiar ingredients like onions, carrots, garlic, parsley, celery, tomatoes, spaghetti. Then I read the directions. I was instructed to do fairly normal stuff, if using the most time-consuming methods. Then it said to boil the spaghetti in "vigorously boiling" water for 20 minutes. That's when it dawned on me that even the products available in 1932 are very different from what I get at the store today. Too bad! One day I'll get a copy of my own and try a recipe anyway.

4. The Cooking Gene: A Journey through African Culinary History in the Old South by Michael W. Twitty

Michael W. Twitty is a wonderful combination of intelligence and talent. He does riveting cooking demonstrations using only what his Southern slave ancestors would have used, cooking the food they would have cooked with the equipment and in the kitchens where they would have cooked. Food stories and food history are one of my favorite subjects. When I saw this book I felt like Twitty had read my diary. The food story of the American South is a complicated one. Black slaves creating signature dishes from the crops and proteins available. White Southern women serving those dishes in their homes. I recently binged on a bunch of seasons of Top Chef. Chefs from the South cook "Southern" food - by that I noticed that often meant things like collard greens, seafood (shrimp), grits, biscuits, fried chicken. Their food seems to be a comfort and pride of both black and white people. Interesting.

I wanted to like The Cooking Gene so badly! But, I didn't. Twitty bounced around subjects and places, poetic musing and prose. What is happening?! I couldn't follow it. I'll go back to watching him on YouTube videos cooking in Colonial Williamsburg.

5. Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

This is a Battle of the Books selection that I bought last year because I liked the cover. Bridget and I started reading it in December, then we stopped and started again late in February when it got closer to the battle dates. Esparanza is a 13 year-old girl living in Mexico at a beautiful ranch. She's quite spoiled - especially by her father. In the first chapters, Esperanza's father dies in the fields and is brought back to the house. (This is in the 1930s, btw.) Everything starts falling apart for Esperanza.

Esperanza's mother doesn't inherit her husband's ranch because she's just a woman - don't let's be crazy. One of her late husband's brothers, Tio Luis, tries to convince her to marry him - her life would go on just the same as before! But Tio Luis is garbage and Esperanza's mother won't marry him. The house burns down and we're pretty sure Tio Luis has something to do with it. Esperanza and her mother, with the help of employees Alfonso, Hortensia, and Miguel, escape to California.

Most of the book takes place in the farms surrounding Bakersfield, California. Migrant workers lived in rough "camps" with their families and worked for pennies a day putting rubber bands around bunches of asparagus, cutting eyes out of potatoes, boxing up peaches, etc. Esperanza's mother gets very sick and has to be in a hospital for months and that means Esperanza, former spoiled rich girl, becomes a totally different person as she works to keep her mother cared for and saves money to bring Abuelito to California. The seeds of leadership are beginning to be sown in Esperanza as she witnesses workers who try to ask for better wages and more humane treatment get bused back to Mexico whether they are U.S. citizens or not.

This book is GRIM. Every night after reading a chapter or more, Bridget and I would sigh and wonder if anything good would ever happen for Esperanza and her mother and friends. During the last few chapters I was bawling like a baby. This is historical fiction, but this is a real thing that happened. There is a National Monument called Cesar E. Chavez National Monument near Bakersfield, California, that has museums and replicas of the camps where the migrant workers lived. I'm really glad this book was on the list for Battle of the Books and I'm really glad it has a cool cover because now it's one of Bridget's favorite books and I think it's made both of us better people.

6. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

"This, then, is the story of Lincoln's political genius revealed through his extraordinary array of personal qualities that enabled him to form friendships with men who had previously opposed him; to repair injured feelings that, left untended might have escalated into permanent hostility; to assume responsibility for the failures of subordinates; to share credit with ease; and to learn from mistakes. He possessed an acute understanding of the sources of power inherent in the presidency, an unparalleled ability to keep his governing coalition intact, a tough-minded appreciation of the need to protect his presidential prerogatives and a masterful sense of timing."

The Audible version of Team of Rivals is over 40 hours long, but it definitely doesn't feel like 40 hours. One of my favorite subjects of study is leadership and Lincoln really cracked the code on it. An early story in the book describes a high-profile case that was to take place in Illinois and the lead lawyer needing an Illinois man to help. People recommended Abraham Lincoln and the lawyer went to meet him. Lincoln was wearing ill-fitting clothes and he looked like a true backwoods bumpkin, but the lawyer was won over after only a few minutes and hired him to do the job. Lincoln spent hours researching case law and observing the judge who would preside over the case. When the case was moved to Ohio, Lincoln didn't realize that his services would no longer be needed so he kept working. He showed up for the trial, much to the chagrin of the lead lawyer and the Ohio man he'd hired, Edwin Stanton. Stanton was especially unimpressed with the gangly Illinois lawyer and went out of his way to show his disdain. Lincoln sat in the galley for the entire trial and afterward shook the hands of the men who had disregarded all the briefs he'd given them and turned their backs when they saw him coming at the hotel where all of them were staying. Lincoln told Stanton and the other lawyer that he'd learned a lot from them, that he'd go back to Illinois and learn how to be a lawyer now!

One of the ingredients to Lincoln's perfect leadership was his ability to learn from every experience, every defeat, every humiliation, of which he had plenty. The moment he won the Republican nomination for president in 1860, he sent letters to his rivals; Salmon Chase, William Seward, Edward Bates, Montgomery Blair. These men had looked on Lincoln as a puppet or a bumpkin. Chase and Seward in particular thought they'd be able to control him. Seward became one of Lincoln's dearest friends and Chase proved to be not as great as he could have been. After Lincoln's first few months in office, he recruited Edwin Stanton to be Secretary of War. So many egos! So many feelings! Every time Chase (Treasury Secretary) felt slighted, he would pen a letter of resignation to Lincoln. Lincoln would woo him back, soothe Chase's hurt feelings, and everything would go on. Lincoln needed the experience, the strength and the connections of all of these men to have a successful presidency. And Lincoln had no ego. (One of my favorite moments of the book was when Lincoln finally accepted Chase's resignation. Chase was caught totally off guard. It was the best.)

The chapters about the Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg Address, and getting the 13th Amendment into the Constitution were absolutely thrilling. The pause Lincoln took before signing the Emancipation Proclamation because his hands were shaking with the emotion he felt and he didn't want history to judge his signature to be uncertain. His process of writing speeches was illuminating - he'd have an idea, ponder it out, test verbalizing it on his secretaries or whomever was close by, then he'd deliver the words in perfect spirit. "It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

I believe it was the Thirteenth Amendment that completed Lincoln's mission on this earth. He'd had threats on his life before the Civil War was over. None were successful until after the legal end of slavery in the United States was accomplished.

Throughout the book there are examples of Lincoln's greatness and humanitarianism. It brought me to tears many times. He was truly praiseworthy - I am always seeking after that and when I find it, I cry with the recognition. Lincoln was a giant in every relationship in his life, in every circumstance. True leadership requires the depths of humility. Most people aren't capable of it.

7. The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester

Who knew the making of a dictionary could be so interesting! Simon Winchester begins each chapter of The Professor and the Madman with the definition of a word. And he includes the history of many words, too. That was a fun sidebar every time.

The dictionary here is the Oxford English Dictionary. THEE dictionary. Winchester describes it as being as big as a tombstone. Ha! Remember when Christopher said he would buy Rory this dictionary and then his credit card was declined? Let's all get past the fact that the little bookstore in Stars Hollow would definitely not have a tombstone-sized $2000 book for sale.

Anyway! How on earth could a person put something like this together? Every single word ever spoken in the English language, plus the first time it was ever used in print. Now there's something - the first time it was ever used IN PRINT. What if there were peasants out there making up words all the time and then some writer comes along and uses it and BAM it's a word now because it's in print? A person makes this dictionary by enlisting the help of a LOT of people. Dr. Murray, who became the lead man on the making of the Oxford English Dictionary, had bookstores put fliers in all their books asking for help from readers. One of those readers ended up being an American doctor and crazy person, Dr. William Chester Minor. Minor was imprisoned at Broodmor in England for killing a man. Dr. Murray didn't know for quite a while that his best dictionary helper was also criminally insane. When Murray did find out, he went to visit Minor regularly and became his friend. How refreshing! Minor had experienced some traumatic stuff during the Civil War in America and he had almost nightly hallucinations that people were coming into his room and molesting him or making him do horrible things. Minor's mind was full of strange traps, but he was very intelligent.

The Professor and the Madman is a short and interesting read (like me). Toward the end there is a very squeamish moment. Get ready. Or skip the end. You're better off not knowing, really.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Season of Changes Big and Small

It's harder and harder to do blog posts when I'm researching and writing stories for the paper and documenting our daily life on Instagram. It feels like it's already done. Then I see our "yearbooks" that I make out of this blog and it reminds me that I need to do it.

So far 2018 has meant some big changes for our family. The first was our ward splitting in January and our house was in the portion that went to a new (to us) ward, the 18th Ward. Brian was released from the bishopric and I was released from the young women. We went from one or both of us being gone three nights a week plus all day on Sunday to going to nothing for a few weeks. (We filled in the time with jujitsu for the boys and the school play for Bridget.)
 Daddy walking into the new building with Emil and Bridget.

You may recall Bridget got a puppy for Christmas, but she wasn't born until January 12. The breeder sent us photos every week and Penelope kept getting cuter and cuter. She got to our house on March 9. She's already less work than either of our previous outside dogs.
WHO'S A GOOD GIRL?! (Penelope on March 17.)

Emil and Colin at Jujitsu

In February we did all the usual stuff (piano students, birthday parties, jujitsu, violin lessons) and then we went on the road trip to Arches that I had been planning since last October. I saved the cash from my piano students and newspaper stories and paid for three nights at the Red Cliffs Lodge near Moab, Utah. We got there at dinner time and had a nice meal at the restaurant there at Red Cliffs Lodge. Then we went to our cabin right on the Colorado River. Aaaaahhhh!
Saturday morning (February 17) we headed to Arches National Park and waited in a LONG line of cars to get in. The whole reason I like to go in February is because the crowds aren't there, but February was unseasonably warm and everyone was there to take advantage. We got the kids' junior ranger booklets and hiked to Delicate Arch first. (This is the National Park I've been to the most, but we haven't been there since we got an NPS passport and the last time we were there Bridget was five and the boys were one.)
Delicate Arch is a sight to behold even with lots of people hanging around it. I'm always surprised to see people messing around a lot, though, because it's like a giant sink and a kid (or an adult) could go sliding into the drain hole if they're not careful.
The kids and I waited in line to get a photo under Delicate Arch and then Brian joined us and gave the camera to a guy. I know you can barely tell it's us, but it was genuinely thrilling to sit there. Colin is doing Sad Face for some reason. Someone always has to be the stinker.
It seemed like a shame to hike all the way up there and go right back down, so the kids got out their workbooks and did some ranger activities while we soaked in the view.
Right by our Capitol Reef stamp. :)
Emil offered to take the backpack (I wore it on the way up) and he and Bridget held Brian's hands most of the way back to the truck. It was so good to get away and see beautiful nature and bond! I love road trips! The Winter Olympics was still going on while we were in Moab, so we watched some of the events in our cabin and played fun games.
Somewhat balanced near Balanced Rock.
I can stand on my head. For a long time. I regretted not doing a headstand under Delicate Arch almost enough to hike back over there. (We weren't going to get a photo without other humans in it. I love that it happened to be this guy. Hahahaha!)
For one of their ranger activities, the kids were supposed to do certain poses by the arches they found. Done and done.
Brian and the kids had to run up a pretty steep incline to get to this spot, so this pose was in order.
On Sunday we attended the Moab 2nd Ward, then went digging in Brian's truck. A storm was blowing in and the wind was crazy! We went around a lot of tight corners and bounced around in our Sunday clothes.
My hair! Bridget's hair! So windy.
Colin's poses. Ha!
When we got back to our cabin we went to the river and Brian showed the kids how to skip rocks. We didn't spend a lot of time here because it was getting dark and cold, but when we asked the kids what their favorite part of the trip was, Emil said skipping rocks. :)
This is my screensaver on my new laptop. That rock Bridget is about to throw did NOT skip. :)
Monday morning we got packed up again and headed to Arches National Park. We'd made an appointment to hike in the Fiery Furnace. It was much colder and WAY more windy on Monday, so less people. But also, wind.
Before we could go on another hike, though, the Junior Ranger oath was administered. The kids did most of the workbook relaxing in front of the Winter Olympics on Sunday. The park ranger checked everything carefully and asked a bunch of questions. Colin mentioned he'd seen something hiking to Delicate Arch and the ranger said, "You hiked to Delicate Arch! That's all you needed to do!" I was really proud of all three of them - they know the drill at the big parks and they always have a great attitude about learning.
We wore hats and coats and I wore gloves. Still cold. Still got a mouthful of sand every so often. We kept trying to find our way into the maze, but I'm pretty sure we were on the outside of it the whole time.
My hat almost blew away twice! I've even got a ponytail holding it on! That was enough of the Fiery Furnace this time. We'll try it again later.

We stopped at a gas station on our way home and Brian called his Mom and Dad after getting a strange text from one of his friends asking how Hal was doing. Debbie had passed away on Sunday, but they waited to tell us until after our trip. It was a sad ride home thinking about such a heavy loss for Hal and Nate. The following Saturday was Debbie's funeral. Brian gave a lovely talk and I accompanied both musical numbers. It ended up being a really nice service, a beautiful tribute to Debbie's life.
Every time I was with Debbie I was reminded to be more loving to my children and more solicitous of Brian. She often talked about wishing she could cook for them and take care of them the way she wanted to, but her health in the last three years didn't allow for that. I'm really grateful I could know her. She made me a better person.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

December 2017, When All the Dreams Came True

I felt under control in December 2017. It was just a really nice holiday season and stuff got done in time. I tried to do an activity related to Christmas every day in December, but I didn't tell the kids I was doing it - just in case nothing happened. It worked! We read nice books, celebrated St. Nick, decorated cookies, made luminaries. Colin and I spent some quality hours at the Instacare on Christmas Eve, but that's become a tradition as well (being sick on or around Christmas).

One of our first celebrations was, of course, the piano recital. I had it at the Arts Center for the first time. It won't be the last - that was so easy! The room isn't very big, but the piano is nice and it's so close. Same price as both my other options. Sold! It was so long ago now that I don't remember much, but Bridget, Emil and Colin were all very prepared. I do remember feeling very proud of all of them. Bridget played The First Noel memorized (her middle name is Noelle). Colin played Silent Night, his favorite song. Emil played Jolly Old St. Nicholas because that was one no one else had picked. Emil and Colin played their songs memorized as well because their teacher lives with them.
I was in charge of a youth activity with a family history theme in December. I decided to have some treats from around the world and introduce the young women to Christmas traditions from countries where their ancestors are from. I've tried to include some of those traditions in our family celebrations, but this year I had some very legit stuff to go with our German and English Christmas traditions. (Colin and Emil were learning about Christmas traditions at school and Colin wore that St. Lucia crown home from school. Hahaha!) To celebrate St. Nickolaus Day we had the kids put one of their clean shoes outside their bedroom door to see if St. Nick would leave candy and gold or Krumpus would leave sticks. It was Emil's turn for the evening family prayer that night and he said, "Please don't let anyone steal our shoes tonight." Parenting win! HAHAHA!
They got the gold and the German candy. :)

We participated in Project Teddy Bear again this year. The boys each put a bear under the tree at Bank of American Fork in Lehi. I love that Emil looks so genuinely happy in this photo. :)
We went to Bridget's Christmas choir concert. The boys and I were on the front row. Bridget was the best one, naturally. :)

I made sugar cookies a couple of times during December and Emil helped with every part of the process. Bridget and Colin were only interested in decorating, which is great. (Our tree looks so pretty! I added three more strands of lights to our pre-lit tree this year.)
I covered a hand bell choir performing at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building and thought it would be fun for the kids to see too. I was 1/3 right.
In the lobby of the JSMB during December there were vending machines with items for people around the world. We bought three chickens! Coolest idea ever. 
Daddy and Colin walking out of a store at City Creek. Colin telling Dad everything. :)
We went from here to City Creek where we had lunch at The Cheesecake Factory, then split up so the kids could shop for each other for Christmas and birthday. I also found Brian's dream coat. (I realized that he is a coat guy over the last month or so. Now he has the perfect dress coat for his collection.)
The boys are seven years old now! I can't believe it. They opened presents after school and then we went to Salt Lake for a night at Little America, then skiing the next day. We took the train for no reason, it turned out, walked Buca di Beppo for dinner. I loved this photo of Colin opening a present from Grandma Peggy. She put it in one of her (many) American Girl product boxes. Emil and Colin thought for one horrible moment that they were getting doll clothes for their birthday. AHAHAHAHAHA! Awesome.
There we are on Trax.
December birthdays unite!
The wind-y road to Alta always makes Bridget car sick, so I didn't think much of it that Colin said he was sick once we got to the ski resort. Every time we stopped walking he'd lay down on the floor. Then he didn't want to go skiing, which he normally loves. I ended up making him a bed with two chairs in the lounge, with my coat for a blanket while Brian took Emil and Bridget skiing. It was a rough first day, but they've since had The Most Magical Day of skiing. How would they know if they didn't have rough ones too? Colin had the flu and it went on for the next four days.
Brian always stops at 7-11 to get everyone hot cocoa after skiing. Here's the thing about Brian - he's the kind of Dad who will do all this work (and it's the hardest work ever) so that his kids can experience amazing things. It makes me Olympic Cry and love him even more. It's easy to decide that certain things are too hard and too expensive to do with kids. I love that it's worth it to him (and to me) to give our kids memories that will be the foundation for their future well-being.

Family Christmas Party
Before we partied, we met at the amphitheater across the street from the Mount Timpanogos Temple to get some family pictures. This was my assignment and it stressed me out a little. It was raining while I was setting up and I had to find a spot that was kind of covered. Ah!
I needed to back up so I didn't have to stack people so deep, but the sidewalk dropped off right behind where the camera is. I would do a lot of things differently, but you can see everyone's face and that's a win.
These two are still a great-looking couple. :)
Kelsey, Olivia, Jed, Janessa, Dena, Darin, Brighton, Jake, and Shawn
 Front Row; Nick, Aiden, Kalvin. Back Row; Linzy, Nicolette, Diana, Kyle, McKade and Abby
Hal, Nate and Debbie

We had our traditional Christmas Party at Brian's parents' house on the 23rd (always the Saturday before Christmas). The fish pond was a hit again. :) We did the Dice Game as usual and I didn't try to get photos of that again because I like to not be on the job for some of the party. 
This makes me smile because Emil was like a dog chasing his tail trying to get to his present/fish on the end of his line. Thankfully Grandma helped him out.
The boys got magic tricks and joke books. :)
This is what Bridget was busy with during the fish pond.
The boys made very specific lists during the first week of December. When they sat on Santa's lap on December 23rd, they mentioned none of the items on their lists. Insert my face here.
Emil asked for Minecraft, which he became obsessed with on December 22nd. 
Bridget wanted to ask Santa for a dog and Brian even encouraged her to go for it, but she didn't dare. Probably because of me. I've been giving her a hard no on that for years!
Grandpa asked for and got a brand new truck! :)
This is the picture I got. Let that be a lesson to all of you.

Ah, yes. Christmas Eve at Instacare with my little buddy. As we were walking out the door to go to church, Colin coughed so hard he threw up on the floor of our bedroom. (Booo.) Brian stayed home with him because Bridget and I were part of five musical numbers in sacrament meeting. Emil sat with our friends, Lee and Janine Barnes. It was such a beautiful meeting and I was so sorry Brian was missing it. Bridget and her friends crushed their song. Every song made me cry with happiness. When we got home I took Colin to Instacare to find out if he had pneumonia. They did a chest X-ray and everything. It was the flu and Colin was at the end of it. Whew!
The kids and I made luminaries for Christmas Eve. We also played many, many games of Bang! (Emil is wearing the sheriff's badge, so that must have been one of the few games when he wasn't wailing in agony during the game.) The tea lights I put in the luminaries burned out really fast, so I went out to replace them when it was dark. I fell off the porch and I thought I'd broken my foot, or at least all of my toes. And my back hurt for two weeks! Never felt so old.

Christmas Day!
I still have a mental picture of what my childhood Christmas tree looked like on Christmas morning. :)
The kids opening Santa presents. They're wearing new pajamas they opened on Christmas Eve. I found Emil Nightmare Before Christmas pajamas. HA! I love that he loves that movie.
All of us got a ticket to a monster truck show in our stockings. (Note to self: Best Idea Ever.)
Okay, you guys. Brian and I gave Bridget this dog for Christmas. I'm not exaggerating when I say she's been begging for a dog for years. She watched a friend's dog for a week last summer and she was amazing with that dog. The reason I've been against it is because we've had dogs! Brian and I were both working and they were outside dogs. One time they busted into the house and ate one of my skirts. What. The. Heck. I was ruined for dogs after shoveling all that poop and having backyards all dug up. Bother! This is a small (the runt of the litter) shih tzu that will live inside. And I love Bridget more than I don't want a dog. We wrapped up some dog bowls and a photo of one of the puppies from a previous litter. She was so happy she cried. It was the best moment of Christmas. The dog was born January 12 and we'll bring her home on March 9.
I didn't realize until later that Bridget's dolls got a lot of presents. Even Emil couldn't resist buying her dolls a stuffed dog. How cool is this ski get-up, though?
We went to Grandma and Grandpa's to open more gifts. The boys got special belts from Grandpa for their birthday and cowboy boots from them for Christmas. Bridget got cowgirl boots. :) It was such a sweet Christmas Day! Everyone got something they really wanted and Bridget's happiness about the dog was infectious.

Taylor and Madison's Wedding
These two! We've had them over for Sunday dinner and shenanigans a few times and they make me happy. They restore my faith in humanity, really. They got married in the Bountiful Temple on December 29. I had the pleasure of taking Melissa and Aaron with me and my kids, of course. :) Brian has no time off at his new job so he couldn't take the day with us, but he came with me to the Meet & Greet for Taylor and Madison the night before they got married.
I dropped Melissa, Aaron, and the kids off while I found a parking spot. Melissa said the boys went over and plopped down on a bench right next to their cousin Henry. That's funny to people who know Henry. :)
Lee kids! Melissa, Aaron, Jen, Rob, and Me. Have you noticed that any time I'm with my siblings I'm smiling off my face? They are the most fun and the best. I love it when they come to my house. :) We missed the other three (Katy, Allyn and Makenzie) - Allyn was out of the country and Katy and Makenzie live on the east coast. Maybe that's why it's such a treat when we get to see each other. 
At the wedding luncheon my boys took more than their share of mint chocolate brownies. I pointed out to Emil that he took two before people had a chance to get one. "I only took one! It was cut in half." 
Grandma Peggy and Grandpa Bob dancing the afternoon away. :)
Ben and Jen. I'm only a year younger than Jen, but because Brian and I didn't start our family until we'd been married for ten years, Jen is way ahead of me when it comes to life milestones. I'm taking notes, man.
Eating wedding cake. :) I loved sharing such a lovely day with my sweet kiddies. They have a million cousins and I'm sure we won't make it to all the weddings, but we definitely want to. Congratulations Taylor and Madison!