Archive for November, 2008

A few years ago, on a bus ride in Sweden, I asked my sons what they aspired to be when they grew up. The youngest was barely talking so he only smiled. The other two immediately replied, “I’m going to be a daddy when I grow up.” Trent immediately started telling me the details of his future which included 5-10 children, a very cool car for his wife, and a very happy life. Walter wasn’t ready to jump into the fray with a large family, but aspired to one maybe two kids. Frankly, I was astonished at their answers. I hadn’t expected that the greatest hero in their life was their Dad. I know better now. I went home that day feeling a little wiser and more humble. I’ve never forgotten that conversation.

Yesterday, a different conversation with Walter reminded me of that talk years ago. We’ve been struggling with Walter quite a bit. Walter had forgotten some of his homework and I was reminding him of the consequences of his action. I reminded Walter that he was very bright: he could recite his alphabet at 2 years old, memorized 50-page books at 4 years old, could add and subtract up to 10 when he was in Swedish kindergarten (a feat that none of his classmates could match), etc. Then I told him about his dad making goals when he was young and how achieved those goals. We started listing the ways Walter and Brent were alike. Walter got really misty-eyed as he contemplated being like his dad. I felt like he walked away from the conversation with goals and a feeling that he could make a success out of his life.

Being hopelessly sentimental, I started crying, thinking about what a tremendous father my husband is. He really is completely engaged with his children. We’re all the better for it.


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Sometimes I feel like a walking advertisement for birth control. Last week was particularly bad. I was in a parent-teacher conference meeting with my oldest son’s teacher and all four kids. Finding an afternoon babysitter is expensive and difficult. The meeting was important because my oldest son is really struggling with various issues. I was trying to talk with the teacher while the boys ran around the classroom, writing on the board and my 2-year old threw two tantrums. It was a fine mother-of-the-year moment. And I felt like the teacher was saying to herself, “NOW I understand the problem. It’s the mother who cannot control her kids.” I slunk out of the meeting feeling lower than a giraffe in a dying hole. (Just a little Madagascar 2 humor for you.)

I feel completely stumped about this current challenge. And worse, I feel inadequate to tackle the problem. The mother-worry gnaws constantly at my mind and my stomach. I think I might trade these days for the days of little ones all over the place. It certainly was less complex.

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My day so far

Early this morning I woke up and realized I couldn’t open one eye as it was glued shut. I was pretty tired so I ignored and went back to sleep. Later that morning, I woke up again and realized that I probably had an eye infection because my eye did not feel very good. I sleepily informed my husband that I probably wasn’t going to church today because my eye was glued shut. After washing it, seeing how red the eye was, I definitely decided to stay home. I am in the primary presidency and I didn’t want to be responsible for spreading around pink eye. It felt strange to miss church when I wasn’t really that sick. I did go back to bed after helping get the kids ready for church.

While dozing, I heard rustling noises and footsteps in the kitchen. At first I thought wildly that dh had come home early. But then my memory kicked in and I remembered my landlord was coming over to do a bit of work on the house today. I had told my landlord last night we wouldn’t be home so he wasn’t expecting his tenant to be in the house while he was working. What could I do? I hid my head under the covers and hoped he didn’t walk into my bedroom. I didn’t want to scare the poor man. But then I started to panic because last night my husband said that our landlord wouldn’t come in the house. I was halfway through cleaning because I didn’t want the house to be a wreck when he came over. I cleaned the upstairs portion but left the basement in a disastrous state. There were a lot of toys thrown on the ground and it wasn’t vacuumed. So now I worry he thinks we’re pigs and will want us out of the house. Oh well. What’s done is done.

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My 6 Unspectacular Quirks

To April over at www.pbburrow.blogspot.com
Here are the rules: 1. Link to the person who tagged you and comment in the comment section on their original “quirk: post. 2. Mention the rules on your blog. 3. Tell 6 unspectacular quirks about you. 4. Tag 6 bloggers ( or more) by linking to them. 5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged.

1) I obsess about crumbs and dirt on hardwood floors. I have calmed down a bit on this since moving to New York. But in Sweden, it was really bad and I would constantly sweep my floors.

2) I prefer regular food to candy and sweets. If you gave me the choice between a sandwich and cake, I would choose the sandwich. I’m just not a big sweet eater. Of course, that doesn’t mean I object to a good piece of dark chocolate.
3) I would prefer to spend money on paper or books as opposed to clothes. Although I do like pretty clothes. But somehow I feel that the money is better spent on beautiful paper or a good book.
4) I’m an argumentative person. This isn’t always a good thing. And it really frustrates my husband because he will bring up a point and I argue against it, even if I agree with the original point.
5) I really like baking bread and making soup. Soup is so wonderful because you can be very creative with ingredients and still make a delicious meal without a lot of work. It is very fulfilling to make bread and nothing tastes better than warm bread.
6) I like driving and listening to country music. I much prefer country roads to big freeways with a lot of traffic. But anyhow, driving and listening to country music reminds me of my childhood home and my family. And that makes me happy.
I tag Trisha at www.thecaspers3.blogspot.com, Jessica at www.mcauliffebunch.blogspot.com, Christina at www.handsfullmom.blogspot.com, Jenna at www.cnjking.blogspot.com, Julie at www.castroclanfamily.blogspot.com, and Tiffani at www.princess-and-bear.blogspot.com





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 I think the publicity information about this book is misleading for many reasons.

First, the back cover promises to tell the true love story that inspired the novels of Jane Austen, implying that the story is a central theme of this book. Certainly, we do learn about Jane Austen’s brief romance with Tom Lefroy, but it covers, at best a few pages of the actual text. Much of what follows seems speculative at best and fiction at worst.
Secondly, the book bills itself as an biography. Certainly, biographical details of Jane Austen’s life are included. However, I think it would be more accurate to describe this book as an analysis or intrepretation of Jane Austen’s novels.

Aside from these complaints I had, I find the book to very informative, nicely written, and interesting. I thought that Jon Spence’s analysis of Austen’s works was perceptive and very interesting. He drew many parallels between the letters of Jane Austen and characters and events in her novels. Jon Spence interprets Austen’s novels in relation to actual events that took place in her lifetime. He spends a lot of time describing and discussing the romance between Jane’s brother, Henry, and their cousin, Eliza and its implications in Jane’s fiction. The connections between the family history and the novels certainly are plausible but not factual, so I felt that the term of biography was a stretch.

I felt like Spence tried very hard to reach for the actual personality and character of Jane Austen. I think he made a decent attempt at capturing it, but again, his comments and conclusions are biased and may not necessarily reflect the reality.

Spence explores how Austen may have explored her own feelings about family members and experiences through her novels. I think this is a reasonable conclusion to come to and one that he backs up with thoughts from Austen’s own letters and careful readings of Austen’s fiction.

Spence seems pretty intent on discussing and exploring the concept of sex within Austen’s books. He doesn’t discuss this in a crude or tawdry manner. He raises legitimate questions about the novels as well as events from Jane’s life. The implication being that Jane observed the relationships of her own family and friends and was aware what was happening.

Toward the end of the book, I felt like Jon Spence was really stretching when he made the claim that Austen had been very unaware of the implications of marriage and pregnancy for women. I found that really hard to swallow given that the social expectations of a woman during that day was that pregnancy naturally followed marriage. Jane was aware of the dangers associated with pregnancy as any woman would have been aware. I felt like Jon Spence was trying to make a case that Jane was glad toward the end of her life that she hadn’t married because she never could have written her novels. I don’t know if she ever felt that way and I didn’t feel like Spence really convincingly argued that train of thought. I do agree with Spence that it is highly unlikely Jane could have written the majority of her novels if she had married and had children. The demands of marriage, pregnancy, and mothering were too difficult for extra activities such as writing.

Overall, I do recommend this book. I learned a lot about Jane Austen, her history, family history, and character. I thought the interpretations of Austen’s novels were perceptive and interesting. I think it is well-worth the time reading if you have an interest in Jane Austen.

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As a civically-minded and short-budgeted individual, I signed up to be an election inspector. I had the pleasure of being trained on the top-secret Image Cast voting machine. It had to have been top-secret, because the machine was so badly executed no one wanted to use it. In an effort to relieve the minds of faithful voters everywhere, I will now divulge what really goes on at the polls.

At 5:30, I arrived at my polling location at an small old schoolhouse. I walked in on a very intense catfight between poll workers as they vigorously debated the proper procedure for voting protocols. The nails went out and hair went flying until the argument fizzled. The other election inspectors had worked the polls together for years and enjoyed the argument as a refreshing wake-up call. I was a bit late so I set about trying to get the machine ready for the 6:00 a.m. starting time. Things were pretty chaotic as we couldn’t locate the red bag, key to all things official and absolutely vital to starting the machine. I made some frantic phone calls to the county election officials and then took out the papers I had from my training class. A careful read-through led me to discover the infamous bag and we got down to business. Soon we had the machine humming and beeping. The other workers scurried around taping signs, pinning flags, and moving tables while two early voters waited for the polls to open.

At 6 a.m., the polls opened and the day began. Meanwhile, an enterprising inspector turned on the heat. The old boiler, not properly maintained, spewed forth quantities of oil fumes leaving us dizzy and light-headed. We opened the windows and turned on the fans in a countermove leaving me feeling like a popsicle on laughing gas. When my head stopped spinning and my fingers started to thaw a bit, I waited for potential voters to use the machine.

While I waited, I put together some beautiful cards from a kit I received in the mail. After stretching a bit, I moved on to Christmas albums I am putting together for my in-laws. Around 8:30, I left to go vote in my own election district.

When I returned, I took out my project again and worked happily while snacking, chatting and watching the people drift in to vote. We had a good turn-out with about 85% people voting. People trickled in, asked for directions and then cast their votes. We had a lively discussion about the cost of the image cast machine and all its faults. Two poll workers voted on the machine which confirmed our doubts about the machine. The machine is difficult to use, slow, and complicated. It was designed for the handicapped, but seems remarkably unsuited to their needs. The consensus was that it was a huge waste of money. I heard new conspiracy theories about voting and ballots and was given great websites to confirm the conspiracies.

After this diverting discussion, I finished my projects. I then moved onto reading a novel, which I finished. I moved onto my second novel and finished it. Then we packed up the polls and went home.

Riveting, wasn’t it? I had the best day of my life scrapbooking and reading. I didn’t have to wash dishes, make beds, clean bathrooms, change diapers, wash marker off walls, help with homework, or cook. It was, in short, the best vacation I’ve had in a LONG time and I was paid to do it. As for the other poll workers, they were envious that they didn’t bring projects to work on.

Now doesn’t that make you want to work at the polls?

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