Friday, December 26, 2008

An Awesome Christmas

Christmas this year was beautiful. We were blessed materially, but more importantly, we were blessed to be able to all be together for the holiday, happy and healthy. I was more emotional this year than usual, maybe partially because I know Holden will be gone next Christmas, but also because I have felt an incredible sense of gratitude for what we have. I really hope that I am the type of person who lives in such a way as to turn my blessings into blessing for others - that because I am blessed in a myriad of ways, I can help others find great blessings too. Sometimes I feel guilty about being blessed so abundantly.

I'm excited for the rest of Christmas break to get started too - we are leaving for a vacation to Utah, Idaho and Montana tomorrow - we are attending a wedding in Utah, but I am most looking forward to snowmobiling in West Yellowstone.

I got pretty much every thing my heart could have desired this year, but the best thing was my new furniture in my back room. What do you think? I think it makes the room look a lot more polished. At the same time, they are incredibly comfortable though (and they were an AWESOME deal so if I grow to dislike them in a few years I won't feel too bad about replacing them).

I hope all of you have a great week!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Happy 20th Anniversary!

It was our 20th Anniversary yesterday, we celebrated with a trip to Sedona for the weekend. We stayed in the most wonderful place and had the best time! We ate a lot of wonderful food, did some shopping, but mostly just relaxed the whole time.

Our little mini-trip started on Saturday morning with brunch at La Grande Orange here in Phoenix - it's one of our favorite little bakeries/restaurants - (if it seems this vacation revolved around food a lot you would not be entirely wrong - I'm on a break from the diet until after the new year and Kirk was on a quick break too - Kirk has lost 40 pounds! yes, food seemed kind of more important than usual).

On the way to Sedona we spent the afternoon at Arcosanti. Arcosanti is hard to explain. It's kind of an architects utopian vision of the world. It was interesting to visit and see some of the sustainable world ideas they have there. Mainly it was a lot like visiting a 70s commune that time has left behind. But the ideas and the architectural concepts are fun to learn about.

The place we went to in Sedona is called Adobe Grande Villas. It's an awesome little resort with very large suites and all the services of an attentive bed & breakfast. They fix a 3 course breakfast every morning and when we checked in, we had warm bread baking in our room. Delicious! Our suite had two fireplaces, one next to the tub and one in the main room. The bed was the most heavenly thing I've ever slept in! It was the perfect get-away just before Christmas. I HIGHLY recommend Adobe Grande Villas if you are ever in Sedona!

The next day we visited Jerome for a few hours. Some of you have been there with us before. It's a lot of fun - an old mining town, now mostly full of artists, hippies and harleys (the best kind of towns in my opinion!). We also spent some time at the galleries in Sedona around Tlaquepaque and downtown. We didn't buy any artwork though. There is a local artist here in Phoenix who is letting us come into his studio tonight where we are hoping to pick up a new piece.

We ate ate some amazing restaurants in Sedona which were recommended by the staff at Adobe Grande. It was the perfect get-away for 3 days.

We had a really great anniversary! It's been a great 20 years!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sometimes Bad TV is oh so very Delicious...

It's like brownies, really really good - possibly bad for you, but irresistible sometimes.

Most nights Kirk has total charge of the tv control. I give it over willingly as long as we can occasionally change the channel from "Deadliest Catch" or "Dirty Jobs" or "Survivor Man" to something I want to watch. Most of the time this results in Kirk quietly leaving the room to go paint something.

Kirk has been gone all week and I wait until my kids are in bed around 9 pm to start my really bad tv watching catch-up on the DVR. This year the following programs have made their way onto my "so bad it's good" tv list.

I first noticed "Blush" when Joel McHale started goofing on it on Talk Soup. It's ridiculously watchable. Is that Maxi Dude for real? Probably not, but it makes good television. I like the imagine I live in a world where people dress up as Mary Poppins on Crack for fun. It could be scripted reality parody for all I know, but it's still good entertainment.

Oh Rachel Zoe. How I thought I was going to love to hate you. But it's bananas because I love you for reals. So happy there's going to be a season 2.

Rumor has it Jeff Lewis is coming back for a season 3 of "Flipping Out". I really really hope this is true. I've been in Jeff withdrawals since early fall. Hire me Jeff. I already worked for someone like you before so I'm totally used to the abuse and I'm pretty good at it. See to me someone like you is just a really true to life psychology text come to life, and that's nothing but awesome everyday of the week.

You know I tried to watch those new york housewives but I just didn't get into it. I don't know. It just didn't have the silicone panache of it's California sister. But Atlanta? Oh honey, we've hit the jack-pot here. In your McMansions and your gawdy excess we see the roots of your trailer-park trashiness and it's purely lovely to watch (yes blondie, I'm talking to you).

The original housewifery decadence. Always delivers.

This show is silly and I somehow cannot buy the authenticity of it at all. Even though I know it really is the editor of Elle and that they are giving away actual prizes like America's Next Top Model...somehow I just can't tak you seriously? THESE are the best we can do for fashion interns? Please. Where do I sign up?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Children's Literature

This morning on NPR there was a discussion about why reading is becoming something that not many people do on a regular basis. Last year 80% of american families did not read or purchase a book. I questioned that statistic and dug around a bit and found it is accurate - the major publishing houses all bear it out. However because of the way the statistics were compiled, it may be off - it doesn't account for reading books you already own. But even still a recent poll by the Harris group suggests 1 in 5 american's do not read a book all year. Only a slight percentage read more than 10 books in a year according to their poll (around 6% of the population). That's astounding to me.

We're busy and we're "plugged in". But it's truly tragic if we quit reading. Reading produces children with higher IQs, higher self-esteem, and broader knowledge. Children who read have greater emotion depth and intelligence than those who do not. Even when controlling for family and background/socioeconomic conditions, readers score higher across the board on virtually all knowledge tests, IQ test and EQ tests.

Who are these parents who are not encouraging their children to read?

When I was a child I absolutely adored reading. Reading and breathing were the two things I did everyday. My fondest memories are of laying on my bed with a book, laying in the grass under a tree with a book, or reading in the backseat of the car on a family trip. Reading was my ticket to more exciting locale's than Rexburg, Idaho. Reading gave me the ability to imagine what life was like for kids who didn't look like me, didn't live in the country or the time that I did, had more money than me or less money than me. Children who had no parents or only one parent. Children who had perfect families and children who had terribly messed up families. Reading gave me empathy. Reading made me curious. Reading expanded my mind in ways no television show ever could.

I'm very happy that my 2 oldest children have been great and engaged readers. Holden loved books from an early age and though his ipod has now often replaced curling up with a book, I know his love of books will continue to serve him for the rest of his life. Brennan can't put his books down, somedays it causes problems - he doesn't sleep sometimes when he's really engaged with his book, I have to confiscate it at church sometimes when he sneaks it in, often his teachers think that he must be lying about how many books he reads when they look at his log he's keeping for class. I have to back him up, because apparently, many children lie about reading books.

Jordan isn't as big of reader, much to my chagrin. However, when she does get involved in a book, she's probably my most engaged reader. A book that happens to capture her attention completely excites her and she has to share plot-lines with all in hearing distance. She loves to read about tragic stories - slavery, pioneers, anything with personal hard-ship. I'm not going to give up on getting her to read more often.

Here are a list of children's books that have had a special place in my life. If you're stumped on gifts for children on your list this year - consider buying them a really good book. It's honestly my favorite thing to get, and has been since I was a kid.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak - Holden and I read this over and over and over again. Always he wanted "more mommy". Brennan loved it too and personified the main character "MAX" in ways that hit a little to close to home when he was a toddler. A beautiful children's book.

I loved the Little House books when I was a kid. I read them by the tiny orange light of my nightlight nestled up next to the wall heater in my room. I was fascinated with Laura's tales of frontier courage. But I identified more with her steadier older sister Mary. I was a Mary.

A Wrinkle In Time was adored over and over again. The librarian recommended this book at one of the summer reading programs my mom dropped me off at on Saturdays on occasion. She read a little tid-bit of it and I was hooked. All my children have read it and loved it as well. The over-all theme of love concurs over hate is beautiful.

These were another Madison County Idaho librarian assisted find. I think it was my first real introduction to science fiction. I don't read sci-fi often, but for a 12 year old girl, these were wonderful.

This book was one of those that I could read over and over again. The Secret Garden is a book every little girl (and boy) should read.

The Bridge to Terabithia is the first book that made me cry. I was in 6th grade and my mother got if for me for Christmas. My mother didn't always know what to get but she knew who to ask to get good recommendations. I loved this book, but the tragic ending had tears flowing down my face. I went into the kitchen to get a drink of water and my mom saw my teary face and was so concerned about what was wrong. When I told her it was the book I had been reading she got a wry smile on her face. She said "sometimes those are the best kind". She was right.

This is another book that Holden insisted I read him over and over. I used silly accents and acted the whole thing out like it was a play. I always loved reading to my kids when they were little. It was great fun.

This series of Great Brain books had me wishing I could be as smart as Tom. It was also the first time I ever had a chance to see what it might be like to live in a mormon community and not be mormon. A perspective that was very good for a mormon girl living in a 99% mormon community.

Another Science Fiction foray, these books in the Chronicles of Prydain series totally captured my imagination in ways that no books I've read before (or almost sadly since) had been able to do.

My mother had some old Nancy Drew books that she passed along. I loved reading books that my mother had read as a girl. I never saw my mother reading, but these books were evidence that one day, when her responsibilities and priorities were different, she had.

I had (and still have!) every single one of the books in this mystery series. I would check by the bookstore everytime we went to see if there were any new books. Before the internet, we had to actually go to the bookstore to see what was new. There was no happier day than a day with a new Trixie Belden book.

I read this later than some girls - I didn't get to it until 6th grade. But I surely did love it. I read the two sequels and loved them almost as much too. This is probably on my list of books to give Jordan this Christmas. She loves to watch cops and prison and detective shows and honestly, she behaves like she's a clone of Harriet, so I think she'll love it.

I read this over a Christmas break one winter and it's such a great classic of children's literature. I identified most with Meg. Jo actually got on my nerves a little bit.

Another WONDERFUL book that get's overlooked often.

Another one that Holden made me read him over and over. All my kids love it. "Alexander who used to be rich last Sunday" is great too.

I never really read these to the boys much, but Jordan adored them.

Oh to be Eloise. Nevermind the fact that she's been completely disregarded by her parents, but to have the run of the Plaza hotel? Divine.

When someone first recommended this as a book to read to my baby I thought they were nuts. Weirdish illustrations and it seemed like a pointless little tale. But babies, toddlers and pre-school children LOVE this book to an irrational degree. Such a great book to put a child to bed with.

I'm sure I've missed some of your favorites. Care to share?


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