"Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of. but do it in private
and wash your hands afterwards." --Robert Heinlein.

We've moved!

For the next two years (Summer 2014-Summer 2016) I'll be blogging our family's adventures in China at www.chinesemileposts.wordpress.com

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Mother's Day Book

Someone from Deseret Book contacted me to see if I'd like to review a copy of a new Mother's Day picture book for moms. I'm a mom. I love books. I love picture books. And I love the idea of books as gifts. So I said yes.

The book arrived in today's mail. It's a small, fun shape - less than 6.5 inches tall and 7.5 inches long. And it's a bright pink!

Once There Was A Mother by Emily Watts, Illustrated by Destin Cox

From the publisher:
"Mom" was the biggest word in her world.
It made her want to dance, and it made her want to hide.
And on some nights, when the house was dark and still and the moon peeked through the window, it made her wonder.
For every mom who has ever wondered if all the little things she does in a day make a difference, Once There Was a Mom offers hope and encouragement. Take it from someone who, like you, has read story after story, sung lullaby after lullaby, and even taken the batteries out of the toys once in a while! The truth is, little things are much more important than we may think. With contemporary, stylized illustration by artist Destin Cox, this charming gift book will bring a smile to the face of mothers of any age.

I read it to my 14 year old daughter and my 4 year old son (the oldest and youngest in the family who happened to be nearby when the mail arrived). My daughter said it was adorable. My son said it didn't have enough explosions (note: It had zero explosions).

I thought it was cute. It's definitely not a book geared to kids, but meant for moms... moms of all ages. It doesn't gloss over how hard it is being a mom, but it doesn't drag you down with how hard it is either. The page below is one of my favorites. My daughter and I both especially loved that the books the mom has are titled "Again" and "Again." And I love the artwork. Simple, but beautiful.

It made me smile. It made me tear up. Overall, this would be a cute gift to give to a mom for Mother's Day (coming up May 14th)! I would be happier to receive this than to receive chocolate. Well... who am I kidding, I'd like this AND some chocolate!

The book can be found here: Deseret Book

Friday, March 10, 2017

Shocking Cookie News

My senior year of high school, for a Personal Progress project at church I gathered favorite recipes, copied them onto cute cards, and filled a recipe box so I had yummy recipes to cook up at college. My dad is famous for his chocolate chip cookie recipe so that recipe was a must. His are delicious. Mine our delicious. But for years (21 to be exact) I've wondered why my cookies bake up flat (but still delicious) and his bake up ... not flat. Every few years we discuss this... melted butter vs. softened butter, etc. As far as I've been able to tell, we do everything the same. A few years ago, he switched to a new recipe and shared it. That recipe is also delicious, and halves more easily, so I switched too. For an event tomorrow, I need a lot of cookies and his original recipe makes more, so I reverted back to it. Again, I asked him about the melted vs. softened butter (the recipe says melted, but we both use softened). Then I asked him about oven temperature. I'm a more experienced baker now than I was before, and the 400 I have written down seemed high. He was shocked. He never bakes cookies above 350 or 375 so he checked his old recipe (clipped from the back of a bag of Mrs. Field's chocolate chips) and that recipe says 300! So I stopped texting him and gave him a call and made my parents read me the entire recipe. It's not the recipe I have written down! Where did I get this recipe. I've been claiming it as my dad's cookies for 21 years! But this does explain why our cookies always bake up differently. ;)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Thoughts I Can't Post on Facebook ;)

1. Why do people take vacations with other people?! I mean, I sort of get it, but I can't think of another family I'd want to go on a long vacation with (no offense) or another couple Jed and I should go on a getaway with (again, no offense). That doesn't mean there aren't families I like or couples I like, I'd just like my vacation to be MY vacation. The way I want it and the place I want.

2. Why do adults (without kids) go on Disney cruises!??! Also, why do they do this with other couples?!?

3. I'm intrigued by the number of only children I know who have lots of kids. Granted, maybe their parents wanted more kids and had fertility issues (I'd be an only child if my parents hadn't adopted my siblings), but for all those people having only one child, I'd pay attention to all the only children choosing to have more kids themselves.

I think that's it for now. I'm sure I'll be back with more random thoughts. :)

Wednesday, February 08, 2017


I don't know how authors spit out a book a year. Or even a book a decade for that matter.

I started this story at least 15 years ago.

Maybe in another 15 I'll have it finished.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Lazy Runner

I am not a runner. But if I'm going to do any form of exercise to be fit, running would be my first choice. The year before we moved to China we joined our neighborhood YMCA and with an indoor track, I could run year round. I was working up to running a 5K, which I never ran, but I could run/walk most of the 5K distance and I could run a mile straight without stopping/walking. This was a huge accomplishment. Every Friday in high school PE we ran laps and I'm pretty sure I never ran any part of one lap.
Then we moved to China. The air was bad. The weather was either hot and humid or cold and frigid. There was a track, but we lived on the campus and as foreigners, everyone would have known I was the loser who couldn't run. So I never got around to running. Fast forward two years and I go for a mile run with my 12 year old because he needs to record times and show improvement for a Boy Scout requirement. Ugh... all that work 3 years ago is wasted. I just ran like a 12 minute mile and my body is never going to recover! And now I have to work back up to running a mile without stopping. And being able to walk/run a 5K.

And I really need to because on top of being totally out of shape, returning to America has also been really bad for my weight. Before leaving China, I got really sick... like lost 8 lbs in a week sick. Yay for being skinny. It was the lowest my weight has been in years! Except then I returned to America and all the glorious foods here (dairy products alone!) and quickly gained that 8 lbs and an accompanying 8 or 9 more. This might not seem like much, and I'm not trying to be inconsiderate to people with real weight concerns... but this is the most I've ever weighed (non-pregnant) in my life! Everyone can relate to that right, no matter what the number is.

So I went from eating healthy meals but lots of treats and running 3 miles most days, to eating... in China, and never running, but walking a ton, to a pretty sedentary lifestyle. But I'm in Florida... I should be able to run outside all winter. Right?

So running and yoga... this is my new life and I need to accept it.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Isn't it ironic, don't you think?

I find it hugely amusing that 21 years ago, I was working myself up into a feminist frenzy over the youth activity at church for the young women. We were learning how to make pies. I don't know if a leader actually said, "so we could find a husband" or if a sweet leader just jokingly said, "boys like girls who know how to cook" or something of the sort to try to convince us teenage girls to show up. No matter what she said, I refused to attend that activity. Why should I learn to make pies to impress a boy!?!

Yet just a couple years later, as a college student, I did just that (but not with pies). I loved baking. I made cookies and brownies galore. None necessarily for boys, but I'm sure they were there and I wasn't *not* trying to charm them with my baking. I know for a fact a specifically made a cheesecake for a boy I was dating because he begged me to once he found out I could. And I probably wanted to impress him. And I know I made cinnamon rolls hoping to win the attention of some of the boys who lived in the house next door to mine.

What happened to that feminist teenager?!

She wasn't really a feminist. At least not in the modern sense of the word. Maybe back then, 1995/6, she was a little bit of a feminist. But somewhere along the line she realized that the modern definition of feminism is not that same as being feminine and having pride in it. And that's what she is. Proud that being female ISN'T the same as being male. It is uniquely different. I am uniquely different. That doesn't mean I'm less. That means what it mean... different but equal.

So now, I found myself a couple decades later teamed up with my 14 year old daughter learning to make pies for a project in the same youth program. A project I suggested to her and she embraced with enthusiasm.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

On Writing

I used to have so many ideas for stories, but as life, adulthood, parenting, family, etc. have all gotten in the way, even when I have an idea, I don't have time to flesh out the idea. I realized something this week. I was a horrible student (well, I knew that). But it was when I was a student that I had time (or used the time) to daydream the stories I would write. I'd sit in class or church or wherever I was, and daydream about the idea I had, and when I got a chance, write it down. I don't have time to daydream anymore! I'm a responsible adult, so even when I'm in a boring meeting, I realize I shouldn't be daydreaming, I should be paying attention. Sometimes I conscientiously make an effort to daydream out a story idea so I can sit down and type it up, I usually end up falling asleep. I'd be horrible at meditation! I'm too sleepy a person. Maybe I need to start attending boring meetings that are unimportant so I can daydream through them... and then write.

Update: An hour after I wrote this post, I came across this interview with Neil Gaiman telling people that if they want to be a writer, they need to get bored. Obviously, he said it all better than I did, but it's sort of the same idea! http://lifehacker.com/if-you-want-to-be-a-writer-neil-gaiman-says-you-should-1788961635?utm_content=buffer2c7dc&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Monday, November 14, 2016

This should be my every day "To Do" list

Wake at 7
Breakfasts/lunch prep
scriptures and prayers
blogging (family)
blogging (finish China blog)
blogging (fun)
Blurb book
personal scripture study
help kids with various school lessons (repeat, repeat, repeat)
prep ebay sale stuff
prep garage sale stuff
unpack/organize boxes
reading with Squidgems
preschool with Squidgems
healthy dinner
fun reading
scriptures and prayers
Go to bed on time

Plus millions of other things that I'm forgetting about. And millions of other things that I'm wasting my time on instead of doing the stuff I should be doing.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Back in America!!!

We're back!

The kids and I left Beijing, China on June 29 and Jed followed on July 8. We flew to California and over the month of July we visited my family cabin in Utah (California>Nevada>Arizona>Utah) and then made our way from my family in California to Jed's family in Ohio-towing a trailer (California>Arizona>New Mexico>Texas>Arkansas>Mississippi>Tennessee>Kentucky>Ohio). Then in August, Jed and I conquered seven more states in a 23 foot moving truck (Ohio>Kentucky>Tennessee>North Carolina>South Carolina>Georgia>Florida) to get to our new home in Florida!!

Then, back up to Tennessee for a family reunion with all of Jed's siblings and parents. Then back to Florida with the kids.

So... we've been a bit busy!

Unpacking. De-cluttering. Figuring out the kids homeschooling. Starting a new job (Jed). Finding our way around town and getting reintroduced to American grocery stores. We're keeping busy.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Reading Update

I'm doing a horrible job reading so far this year. So far I've read three books (See How They Run- Embassy Row #2, The Happiness Project and Corrupted).

And I keep adding books to my to read list:
The Out of Sync Child
Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight
Jekyl and Hyde
The Hound of Baskervilles
War of the Worlds

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Ten Year Anniversary

The ten year anniversary of this blog came and went with no notice. I'd made a note in my calendar that I should do something to celebrate, but I never came up with anything. :(

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

To Read in 2016

Last year I did a reading challenge (similar to the one found here). I haven't decided if I'll do a similar challenge again this year but I did compile a list of all the books I'd like to try to tackle this year. Chances that I'll actually read them all are low, but it's something to aim for. (edited 11/21/16: x = read, / = started or currently reading) (edited 11/7/17: # = read in 2017) (!!= read in 2018)

xCorrupted by Lisa Scottoline
Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
xAn Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear
#Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
x The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
!!The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
!!Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
x Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
Sherlock Holmes (The Hound of Baskervilles?) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler
The Time in Between by Maria Duenas
!!Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
/ The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
/ Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguru
Night by Elie Wiesel
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
x See How They Run (Embassy Row #2) by Ally Carter
x The Chase (Fox and O'Hare #2) by Evanovich and Lee
x The Wedding Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke
The Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
x Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan
x Soar by Joan Bauer
x Calvin by Martine Leavitt
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Jackaby by William Ritter
#Farewell to Manzanar by James D. Houston and Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
The Comeback Season by Jennifer E. Smith
Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs
/The Mindfulness Solution by Ronald D. Siegel
/Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski
/ Couple Skills by Kim Paleg, Matthew McKay, and Patrick Fanning
x The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
x The Big Tiny by Dee Williams

Monday, January 04, 2016

Book Review: My Leaf Book by Monica Wellington

Another beautiful, colorful book by Monica Wellington.

My mom is a retired reading specialist as well as retired Kindergarten/First Grade teacher, she's also a lover of picture books, trees and fall colors, so I asked her to read this book and tell me what she thought.

My mom loved it. The pictures are bright and beautiful. The story is of a girl out on a walk collecting leaves. The book not only teaches kids about the different types of trees and how to identify them by their leaves, but it encourages kids to get out and collect their own leaves to make their own leaf book.

As you can see by the above page provided to me by the publisher, the book sort of acts as part picture book, part reference book. The right hand page above is labeled "oak" and shows examples of oak leaves and gives the different characteristics of oak leaves. 

Growing up in California, seeing trees with leaves that change colors in the fall is rare. As an adult, I've lived in different parts of the country where the leaves change colors each fall... and I love it. I've even taken notes and drawn pictures of the leaves I love so I can remember to plant that type of tree in my yard someday. This book is a cute introduction for any budding naturalist.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Books: My Top 15 in 2015

These aren't necessarily my favorite books this year, although some are. Some were just really well written, or really made me think, others stayed with me. When I look through the list of books I read this year, these are the ones that stick out.

In no particular order:

The Martian by Andy Weir*
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce*
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr*
Emma by Jane Austen
I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson*
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
El Deafo by Cece Bell
Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
Death Coming Up the Hill by Chris Crowe
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt*
Still Alice by Lisa Genova

*contains the f-word (in some of the books, very frequently), or other questionable topics

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Read in 2015

Coming soon... my top 15 books read this year.

In 2015 I read 26,097 pages in 85 books (and short stories).

BOOK TITLE                                                                 AUTHOR

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and their… Brown, Daniel James
The Night Circus Morgenstern, Erin
The One and Only Ivan Applegate, Katherine
Casino Royale Fleming, Ian
The Westing Game (second time) Raskin, Ellen
Wonder (including The Julian Chapter) Palacio, R.J.
Pretty Little Liars (#1) Shepard, Sara
Bossypants Fey, Tina
Veronica Mars #1: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line Thomas, Rob and Graham, Jennifer
We Can Work It Out Eulberg, Elizabeth
Veronica Mars #2: Mr. Kiss and Tell Thomas, Rob and Graham, Jennifer
American Born Chinese Yang, Gene Luen
Weetzie Bat (#1) Block, Francesca Lia
Brown Girl Dreaming Woodson, Jaqueline
The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse (#6.5) Bradley, Alan
Death Coming Up the Hill Crowe, Chris
Betrayed (Rosato and DiNunzio #2) Scottoline, Lisa
The Rosie Effect (Don Tillman #2) Simsion, Graeme
Dad is Fat Gaffigan, Jim
El Deafo Bell, Cece
A Snicker of Magic Lloyd, Natalie
I'll Give You the Sun Nelson, Jandy
All Fall Down (Embassy Row #1) Carter, Ally
Etiquette and Espionage Carriger, Gail
Fangirl Rowell, Rainbow
Much Ado About Nothing Shakespeare, William
The Gift of Fear de Becker, Gavin
#scandal Ockler, Sarah
The Heist Evanovich, Janet & Goldberg, Lee
Just One Night Forman, Gayle
I Was Here Forman, Gayle
Bet Me Crusie, Jennifer
Red Scarf Girl Jiang, Ji-Li
People I Want to Punch in the Throat Mann, Jen
The Kissing Booth Reekles, Beth
Emma (2nd time) Austen, Jane
Pluto: A Wonder Story Palacio, R.J.
Read Bottom Up Shah, Neel and Chatham, Skye
The Cinderella Deal Crusie, Jennifer
As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust (#7) Bradley, Alan
Double Fudge Brownie Murder Fluke, Joanne
The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden Jonasson, Jonas
Attachments  Rowell, Rainbow
Saint Anything Dessen, Sarah
The Outsiders Hinton, S. E. 
Tell Me Bauer, Joan
Say What You Will McGovern, Cammie
The Beginning of Everything Schneider, Robyn
One Hundred Names Ahern, Cecelia
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore Sloan, Robin
All the Bright Places Niven, Jennifer
Charlie All Night Crusie, Jennifer
Fish in a Tree Hunt, Mullaly Lynda
Lost on Planet China: The strange and true story… Troost, J. Maarten
The House of the Scorpion Farmer, Nancy
Still Alice Genova, Lisa
The DUFF: (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) Keplinger, Kody
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl Andrews, Jesse
Bomb: the race to build - and steal - the world's... Sheinkin, Steve
Happy Again Smith, Jennifer E.
Royal Wedding (The Princess Diaries #11) Cabot, Meg
November 2014 Ensign magazine LDS church leaders
Ungifted Korman, Gordon
Everything I Never Told You Ng, Celeste
Dept. of Speculation Offill, Jenny
The Goldfinch Tartt, Donna
The Ransom of Red Chief Henry, O. 
The Truth According to Us Barrows, Annie
Life and Death in Shanghai Cheng, Nien
Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between Smith, Jennifer E.
The Martian Weir, Andy
Sorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot Wrede & Stevermer
Finding Audrey Kinsella, Sophie
Mudbound Jordan, Hillary
Book of Mormon Smith Jr., Joseph, translator
The Summer of Chasing Mermaids Ockler, Sarah
Before the Fall: Arrival (#0.5 Embassy Row) Carter, Ally
Mansfield Park Austen, Jane
Winesburg, Ohio Anderson, Sherwood
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry Joyce, Rachel
All the Light We Cannot See Doerr, Anthony
Go Set a Watchman Lee, Harper
The Silver Star Walls, Jeannette
My True Love Gave to Me ed., Perkins, Stephanie
Wuthering Heights Bronte, Emily

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

80s movie GIF

Without really meaning to, Jed and I started watching 80s movies that one (or both) of us has never seen. We started with Girls Just Want to Have Fun (Jed had never seen it) and then a few days later watched Footloose (neither of us had seen it). Apparently, we're not just watching 80s movies, we're watching 80s dance movies. What should we watch next???

While we were both kids in the 80s, we were also both kids with older siblings that were teens in the 80s, so these movies are hilarious to us.

This one scene in Girls Just Want to Have Fun was so hilarious to us that I said it needed to be a GIF. Jed agreed and I spent a few minutes the next day trying to figure out how to make a GIF. Here's the final result:

Click here

A Review: Crepes by Suzette, an app

 I LOVE Monica Wellington's book Mr. Cookie Baker (and the accompanying recipe is wonderful).

A couple years ago Ms. Wellington asked me to review her new book, another joy, Colors for Zena. You can read my review here.

An older book of Ms. Wellington's is Crepes by Suzette, a lovely picture book about a street vendor, Suzette, selling crepes from her food cart in Paris. This beautiful book has been transformed into an app available on both iPad and Android devices (here, here and here). The app acts more like an interactive story book than a typical app, but it is still good (probably better for their little minds) for entertaining your little ones.

Ms. Wellington was kind enough to provide me with the app for review. The app includes the book (either you turning the pages and reading it yourself or having Ms. Wellington read the story to you as you turn the pages).  The book can be read in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian or Japanese. The app includes two videos- one is Ms. Wellington in her kitchen making crepes and the second is a street crepe vendor making a variety of crepes. Also included is a recipe for crepes. There's a "map" and you can follow the book moving from page to page interacting with the story, or you can jump around the pages on your own. On each page, Suzette is pictured making crepes and when you touch the customers, they say, "Si vous plait," or other French phrases with real photographs of France as the backdrop (on the map, it tells you where exactly in Paris the scene is set). On the map for each page, there is extra information about that scene such as vocabulary, extra pictures of that location in real-life or information on the famous artwork alluded to on that page.

Since the app is intended for kids, I had my own children (aged 13, 11, 7 and 3) play it and report back to me what they thought.

My oldest, a 13 year old girl declared her favorite part as the video showing crepes being made. She thought the pictures were cute. And even at 13, she spent a good amount of time exploring all the things available to view on each page.

My second, an 11 year old boy. He also loved the video showing real-life crepes being made. He wanted to be able to click on the cartoon crepes and drag them to the customers. He spent the afternoon creating his own crepe shop our of boxes and folded up circles of paper.

Kid number three, also a boy, aged seven wasn't as big a fan. He thought it was a little boring, only videos and one book. He did explore it a little and seemed to enjoy aspects.

And last, a three year old boy, who loved listening to the book and making the people speak over and over again. He also loved that when you clicked on the ladybug, she also spoke, saying "Si vou plait."

The pictures are lovely as are the allusions to true pieces of art and the introduction to the city and culture of Paris. My only complaint is that there could have been more. It would have been fun to have the kids drag ingredients around to "help" make the crepe batter or help fold the crepes or pick toppings or fillings and then deliver the finished product to the customers. As for an age range, it is probably more for the 2-8 year old crowd (ignoring my grumpy 7 year old's review).

Overall, my family gave it 4.5 out of five stars.

Friday, July 24, 2015


I'm starting to get trunky about China. We've been here almost a year and by this time next year, we should be back in the States. I'm excited and wanting to make all sorts of plans, but we have no idea where we'll be living, etc. I want to wear high heels. I want to eat a healthier diet. I want to declutter our lives. I want to plan a trip visiting all our families. All things I can't implement well here in China. I also realized I need to lose 15 pounds so that I can then gain 10 back eating Double Doubles from In N Out and all the cheese, candy and desserts I've been missing.

Restless, antsy (2). Specifically, eager to leave or go home. Possibly referring to "packing one's trunks."

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A list of occupations every family needs

I've been compiling lists like this in my head for years. Each family (or "family") needs an assortment of professions within their ranks. Here's my list, what would you add?

Computer genius
Hair stylist (cuts and color)
doctor (preferably an orthodontist)
construction handyness
car repair expert

Monday, May 25, 2015

When the Kids Are All Grown Up

It's probably too soon to start planning for when the kids are grown up, my youngest is not yet three and we're not even positive we're done having kids, but I want to make this list anyway.

Things I want to do when the kids are grown up:

Get a degree in library sciences
Take creative writing classes
Take photography classes
Take culinary/cooking classes
Learn to quilt
Learn to arrange flowers

So far, that's all I have. What are your "the kids are all grown up" plans?

Saturday, May 23, 2015


I hate having things I love disappear out of existence. And I'm not talking of extinct animals, or about losing loved ones. This post is much shallower than that. I'm talking about favorite restaurants, foods, TV shows, etc. I remember as a kid loving the nachos at a place called Naugles. Naugles shut down when I was ten. Last year, the best Mexican restaurant ever, the one I've been eating at since I was three, the tiny cafe in my hometown, came very close to closing its doors for good. It didn't and I ate there every chance I got last summer when I was in town (when I wasn't eating at In N Out Burger).  With the current economy in the US, other than the job security of my friends and family, the one big worry I have is that the places I've come to know and love will go out of business. It happened to Borders. Remember how the Twinkie almost went away for good? It used to be that Krispy Kremes were opening all over and now the only one in my parents' county is closed. Last year, in Ohio, we had to drive 45 minutes away for our kids to experience a fresh Krispy Kreme donut. There used to be Kissables, they were little chocolate chip sized Hershey Kisses coated in a candy shell. Gone. I'm not cool with the things that I love going away.

And I know. I said things, but remember, I already said this post was going to be super shallow.

Here's the good news, the way TV and movies are in this digital age, even when a show I love gets cancelled, there's still a chance it won't be gone forever. Boy Meets World came back as Girl Meets  World. There's a new Full House in the works called Fuller House. Arrested Development came back with a Netflix season. Veronica Mars (I jumped on this bandwagon after the movie came out) used a Kickstarter to fund a movie (and then there were two books written, yes, I read them). Last week The Mindy Project was cancelled and just a couple of days later it was picked up as a Hulu show! And, The X-files series ended in 2002, the second movie was released in 2008 and they are now working on a new comeback miniseries.

I'm loving this digital era.

Friday, May 22, 2015


We decided to make a list of all the nicknames Little Guy has since he has so many. It's funny because he's probably the least on board with us calling him anything but his name but he's the one who naturally lends himself to having nicknames. On the other side, Buddy has been trying to convince us to call him Fanta for years.

Little Guy's nicknames:
[his name] - the last two letters +ey
Tiny [his name] - the last two letters +ey
His initials
His name backwards (he says he likes this one)
Eyebrows Johnson
Fritz the Spritz McGillicuddy, 3rd Earl of Tootington, Heir to the Cheerio Fortune
Donut Thief
Baby Stink Breath
Your Highness
Little Raja
Absent-minded Professor

The other kids wanted me to list their nicknames as well.

Princess Sparkley:
[her name] exchange the a for an e
Sweet Pea

the German version of his name
the Spanish version of his name
Bottomless Pit
[his name] + ber
[his name] + by

[his name] -the last two letters + ey
[his name] exchange the s for a b

Thursday, May 21, 2015


The students at the Chinese high school where Jed teaches have a huge assortment of nonessential-type classes to pick from. At first this shocked me because my experience with students of Asian ancestry in the United States was that they were focused, over-achievers when it came to academia and that type of person didn't seem to be the type who also took dance and art and chorus and German and gender studies classes. I expected these students to be completely focused on maths and sciences, mainly. The group of teachers who arrived with us included several PE teachers, a dance teacher, several language teachers and a couple of music teachers. There are also Physics, Economics, Chemistry, all types of maths and English teachers as well as a bunch more I don't even know about.

Discussing this with Jed the other day, I realized I don't even feel like I had the opportunity to take an elective in high school. I was on the "college prep" track. This meant I took English, science, math, history, and a foreign language each semester, all four years of high school. That's five classes in a six class day. For the first two years, I was also required to take PE. So for two years, no electives at all. Here are my classes, to the best of my poor memory...

Intro Physical Science
Spanish 1
Algebra 1

Spanish 2
World Civilization

Spanish 3
Geometry (I had to retake 1 semester) and then the second semester Child Development
Intro to Trigonometry/Algebra
US History

Oceanography/Marine Biology
Spanish 4
Economics (1 semester) and then Criminal Justince/Pre-law
Algebra 2

See, no room for a fun elective. And, as I remember it, this the "college prep" track. I had to have four years of English, four years of math, four years of science, two years of PE. I think history (beyond the first two or three years) and a foreign language (beyond one or two years) might have been my electives.  Child development was an elective and I only took it so I could make a doll out of a five pound bag of sugar and carry it around for two weeks. I remember my sister doing that in high school and I had been looking forward to it for years.

But otherwise, where's the fun in that?! Even when I got to college, when I had to pick an elective from a list of qualifying classes, I almost always picked the English option (and I was an English major). Aside from two semesters of beginning guitar and two wasted semesters taking "effective study habits" and "career development" or something (not sure why I took either of those classes), I didn't take any fun classes in college either. Well, fun outside of my major. I took creative writing, literature & film and young adult literature... all of which I loved. But no extracurricular type classes. I feel like I need to enroll at a community college with my kids in a few years and just take fun classes.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Changes in Photography

As I was out walking today, I saw students from the high school where Jed teaches out around campus with fancy cameras around their necks. I didn't actually see any of them taking pictures, but they were wandering around, looking, trying to find something to photograph for an art assignment. It got me wondering why I never took an interest in photography in high school.

To begin with, I'm not even sure my high school had photography classes. The only time I was aware of photography as a thing in high school was the handful of school newspaper photographers. I'm not artistically inclined, so I didn't go anywhere near art classes in school. But photography, that's the type of art I could embrace and maybe even be good at. I had a camera. A nice camera. But not a "photography camera," just a point and shoot camera. 

Then I realized something. When I was in high school, photography was a very different art form then it is today. It didn't involve computers at all. You had to have a dark room and chemicals and hang the photos to dry after you developed them. There was no screen on the camera to let you know if you'd gotten a decent shot, and if you didn't get a decent shot, all the time you spent developing the photograph was for naught. This. This is why I wasn't involved in photography back then. I have no interest in that sort of thing. I mean, it seems cool. I like the image created for the type of person who would be interested in developing photos. The same type who would have a bike with a basket as her means of transportation. I wish I was that person. I'm not.

So that is why I'm an extreme amateur when it comes to photography. I recently replaced my broken, maybe seven(!!) year old Nikon Coolpix camera with a newer, more expensive version of the same camera. I'd wanted to splurge and get a "photography camera," but then I realized I needed to wait until I could also enroll myself in a bunch of classes to teach me how to use it. Then... then I'll wander around with a fancy camera around my neck looking for stuff to photograph. I'm adding it to my list of things to do when the kids are a little more grown up and I have more time. That happens, right?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Defining Oneself

You know how any social media asks you to write a description, a few words that define who you are to the rest of the (digital) world? Sometimes it's nice to be free and open to the online world, more so than I am to the random acquaintances I am forced to mingle with at real-life social functions. But sometimes, it would be nice to have that little box describing who I am attached to me in real life too. I feel like socially I'm completely incompetent. Some days/parties/interactions are better than others, but in general, I don't see myself as a social person, let alone one who appears cool and put together when forced into interacting with others. It would be nice to have that little box, helping define who I am. When we go to work functions with Jed's colleagues, I'm the woman with four kids. Or the lady who homeschools. That's it. They have no idea of any other interests, talents, personality traits that I have, nor do they care. And I don't blame them, all I know about each of them is the subject they teach and the state/country from which they originate. But at an event where everyone thinks having four kids is nuts and they are all professional educators, it'd be nice to be known as more than the homeschooling weirdo with all the kids. Plus, in China, I'm limited by the other things I would typically use to define myself. It doesn't matter that I have a degree in English-teaching because I'm not using it. It doesn't matter that I love baking/cooking, nothing I'm doing here is noteworthy and I'm not bringing amazing creations to parties or events at school or church to show off in my little way something I enjoy, that I'm good at. So, while at times I do feel limited by a small box to define who I am: wife, mom, Mormon, homeschooler, baker, reader, etc. Sometimes it feels like an introduction to get to know me better.

Monday, April 20, 2015

"She's writing, she's writing, she's writing a novel..."

I've been writing again. Or trying to. Or editing. Or something. I have great ideas for books to be written. And I do a decent job writing some of the scenes, so much so that years later when I reread them I'm frustrated with the author (myself) for leaving them unfinished so I don't know what is to become of the characters.
Here's my problem, I don't have all day to sit around, day-dreaming the scenes I'll perfect after a few run throughs in my head and then put on paper (or computer screen as the case is these days). That's how I did my writing in high school and in college.
And editing. I'm working on a story I started so many years ago I don't even want to think about it. I finally erased the start date from the top of the document so it would stop freaking me out. I'm constantly changing things around, and editing the story parts that I have written so they make sense. And then there are so many scenes to add to make the whole thing come together and make sense (and be the length of an actual book). Then I go and do stuff like change a characters main passion in life, so I have to rewrite a bunch of things. Plus I'm still not sure which direction this story should take, how the guy should win the girl back, how hard she should resist, how it should all happen.
But I'm writing. That counts for something, right?

*Post title taken from the song, "Open Book" by Cake.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Winter Cold

I realized I'm more tolerant of cold weather leading up to Christmas and New Year's.  Now that both of those holidays have happened, I'm ready for it to warm up and I find that I've become much more impatient for the arrival of spring.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Favorite Books of 2014

I didn't read nearly as much as I normally read in a year this past year, so it feels like cheating to have a top ten.  Instead I'll just pick a few favorites.

The Rosie Project by Graeme C. Simsion

Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan

It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

The 100-year-old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by  Jonas Jonasson

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (and other concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Books by Kaling, Jonasson and Vizzini include swearing (including the F-word).  Books by Simsion, McCahan and Vizzini include some mild sexual discussion.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Chinese Mileposts

Okay, I'm not fully caught up on the Wordpress blog, but I have us arriving in China in addition to all the prepping for China posts I wanted to get on there.

Hello from China!

 The trip to China took twice as long as expected (our L.A. to San Francisco to Beijing flight became spend a day at LAX, fly to Houston, sleep in the airport, fly to Washington D.C., fly to Beijing), but we finally made it.  We have almost two weeks under our belt now and are surviving.

Here's my dilemma, how should I handle my blogs?  When we found out we were moving to China I started a Wordpress blog specifically for our family's adventures in China because I'd heard that Google didn't work well in China.  Now that we are here, and have learned a few things, Google and Facebook are working fine for us.  So do I continue with my family blog on Blogger and this blog, or do I use my Wordpress blog?  I'm leaning toward keeping up the family blog (so at the end of the year I can print it as a Blurb book which I've been doing for several years now) and having a China specific blog at Wordpress.  So this blog might take a two year vacation, unless I guess I have stuff to blog that isn't family related and isn't specific to China.  We'll see... 

Friday, July 04, 2014

Happy 4th of July: A List

Our 4th of Julys together:

Year          Lived in:              Saw fireworks at:
2001          California             from truck at Outlet Mall in Camarillo
2002          California             ?
2003          California             ?
2004          California              Camarillo Fireworks w/P cousins
2005          California              ?
2006          Kansas                   at the Mileses' house
2007          Kansas                   Fireworks show rained out at Royals game.
2008          Kansas                   Chesterfield, MO (w/ Grandparents M)
2009          Kansas                   Duck Creek Village, UT (no fireworks)
2010          Virginia                  Manassas fireworks show
2011          Virginia                  Driving home from Ohio, fireworks on drive
2012          Virginia                  Richmond, Squirrels game w/ the Ps
2013          Virginia                  on the levee in town, Ohio
2014           Ohio                      on the levee in town, Ohio

4th Parade - 9AM

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

The Office

Jed and I started watching The Office, season one, episodes one and two last night.  I believe it ran nine seasons.  We started watching sporadically around season seven maybe.  We didn't have cable when the show started and weren't as well versed on how to watch TV on the internet (maybe it wasn't even possible way back then).  Of course, we've seen random episodes here and there from different seasons of the show, but we haven't seen the entire series in its entirety like the rest of America.

Can I just say this, 9 years too late... it's so cute to see Pam and Jim at the beginning.  Especially since in season 9 Pam foresees all these marital issues and is worried that Jim is falling out of love with her, etc.  So it's super cute to see how head over heels Jim is for Pam at the beginning. And all along. 

It reminded me of something my sister told me a few weeks before Jed and I got engaged.  She told me how she noticed that Jed looked at me with total love and adoration.  Something that I couldn't see, I mean, I knew we were in love, but you never really just notice how in love someone is with you, right?  My sister told me how lucky I was to find someone who looked at me like that.  I am lucky.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Train GPS

Several years ago Jed's sister's family nicknamed Buddy "GPS" because they were driving him around in their car and he was directing them to our house.  Buddy has Jed's sense of direction, love of maps, and pays attention to where things are when we are driving around town.  We realized the other day that Squirt has "train GPS."  He can now recognize when our car is going in the direction that will cross over train tracks.  It used to just be that he spotted the tracks, or the railway crossing signs, but not he can actually remember where we are and where the train tracks are.  He starts yelling, "CHOO CHOO TRAIN TRACKS" at a very loud level of excitement.

Sunday, on the way to church, as we approached the tracks we had to stop for a train so I snapped this picture of the kids.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Oh, What Do You Do in the Summertime?

Before lunch is school/learning oriented:

finish up their virtual school courses to 100% completion
typing cd-rom
piano practice (PS)
Cub Scouts (Buddy)
Girl Scouts (PS)
Journal/letter writing
Handwriting practice
Library book reading
Clean rooms
Pack up toys (to stay/to China)
Learn Chinese

After lunch is mostly directed free time:

Go to the pool with Grandma.
Bike rides
Outdoor play (soccer, kickball, catch, sidewalk chalk)
jobs (Little Guy and Buddy - watering for G'ma)
Khan Academy coding (Princess Sparkley)
mini fieldtrips

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The end of our virtual school year

While we've been in Ohio this past year, the kids have been enrolled in an online based virtual school.  I love the curriculum (K12) but the requirements that go with it being a public school were time consuming and annoying.  I wouldn't do it again.  At least not in Ohio.  When we were part of a virtual school in Kansas (also using K12), it was much different. 

That being said, I am now embarking on the grand adventure of hunting down all the items that we need to ship back (free of charge).  I've already taken seven large, heavy boxes to the UPS store.  There are at least 6 more to go.  And I have no idea where the boxes that the kids' computer monitors arrived in went so I have to hunt down new boxes.  This was all much more exciting when we were opening boxes and unloading new stuff.  Now I'm constantly sending the kids to look for a graduated cylinder, a random book, a magnifying glass, etc.

And when it's all packed away and shipped off... we can start cleaning and organizing the kids' rooms and stuff which will lead to all sorts of planning, organizing and packing for China.  It's getting closer!  Ahhh!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Update on our move to Beijing

It's really happening... we're moving to Beijing, China.  We are now in possession of six passports (6 Visas are in the work).  We've received notice that we'll be getting a 4 (!!!) bedroom apartment on the campus of the school where Jed is going to be teaching economics.  We just bought a bunch of stuff (crib, crib mattress, shelves, Thomas the Tank Engine set, etc.) from the family who is vacating said apartment.  We bought our airplane tickets (LAX>SFO>PEK).  We're mapped out our drive from Ohio to California.  We've bought some suitcases at garage sales.  We've made lots of lists of stuff to take. We keep talking about a practice pack to see if we can fit everything. 

Are we fluent in Chinese?  No.  Do we know a few words?  Yes.  Does Jed plan on making us listen to Chinese language cds for the entire 11 day drive to California.  Yes.  Will be fluent in Mandarin by the time we land in Beijing?  Probably not.  

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Summer To Do List

Jed is opposed to the term "Bucket List," so this is our summer "to do list."

City pool
Strawberry Festival
3 mile Cub Scout pack hike
Farmer's Market (to hunt down the best Amish pecan pie ever that I had last year)
Farmer's Market in a different town
BK's for hot dogs and root beer floats
Bike ride on canal path
Arboretum (Cub Scout and Girl Scout tree recognition patch/badge)
Finish Wil-bear Aviation site visits (Nat'l Parks related to the Wrights award)
July 4th trip to Pittsburgh for Great Grandpa's birthday celebration (?)
Learn Chinese
Visit birds at local nature center
 Work on Cub Scouts and Girl
Kids: record on Goodreads all the books they've read since moving to Ohio*
Journal writing (for handwriting practice)
Little Guy - learn to tie shoes
Princess Sparkley - make popsicles
x and / flash cards for PS and Buddy
Cincinnati Zoo (?) (new African Wild Dogs exhibit)
Drive to California**
Move to Beijing ***

*We've kept a list, we just failed miserably at putting it all on Goodreads for them.
**California drive to do list coming soon.
***Beijing move/life to do list coming soon.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Introducing Squirt to Baseball

So, our family has recently become pretty obsessed with soccer, but we're still baseball lovers at heart.  We never made it to a Major League Baseball game last season, just a Minor League Potomac Nationals Game and a few MLB games when I was still pregnant with Squirt.  This season, we're not near a team we love, but we took in a nice Star Wars themed fireworks show for Buddy's birthday after the Cinncinati Reds game earlier this month and Squirt thoroughly enjoyed the game.  Well, at least he really enjoyed seeing giant baseballs and such.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Big Change

When we moved to Ohio 6 months ago we knew it would be temporary.  Jed would write his dissertation, we'd apply for teaching jobs and we'd go where the job offers took us.  Then Jed heard about a teaching position in China.  He applied.  I decided not to worry about it.  Then he got an interview.  I figured I still didn't need to worry about it. They offered him a job (but we didn't get the notice until two weeks after the initial offer was extended due to the school typing Jed's name wrong in his email address).  We had to decide fast.  And the decision... we're moving to China!  For two years, starting this August we'll be living in Beijing, the capital of China.  According to Buddy, one of the Pros of this move is that Beijing is like the New York City of China.  Unfortunately that just makes me more nervous.  I teeter totter between panic and excitement then remember we have nearly 6 months to figure it all out.  It'll definitely be an adventure, right?! :)

Here's Buddy's list of Pros:

Thursday, February 27, 2014


I'm happy with the types of eaters our kids have become.  We now have three kids who will eat salad!!  This is a huge accomplishment. And two who actually like it (Buddy and Little Guy).  Kid number four only has 10 teeth so I'm not pushing salad on him yet.  Growing up I had a best friend who would sneak food and eat it in her room leaving wrappers all over the place so her parents wouldn't see them.  I'm not talking teenage/eating disorder stuff, I'm talking when we were little kids and it was fun snacks/Halloween candy.  This always bugged me.  We definitely had struggles with getting our kids to eat what we wanted them to eat, but they've always been okay eaters.  Each with their own distinct preferences.  (Little Guy hates beans and cheerios but loves fruits and veggies.  Princess Sparkley is not a big fruit eater, hates tomatoes, and will now eat lettuce and carrots.  Buddy LOVES fruit but isn't a huge fan of tomato sauces.  They all initially hated soups and casseroles but have come around to liking them.) I didn't make them separate meals and I didn't force them to eat what the adults were eating if they didn't/wouldn't like it.  We adjusted our meals down to little kid taste buds.  If the adults were having tacos, the kids had quesadillas.  If the adults were having a pasta dish, the kids had plain noodles and cheese.  It worked for us, and in the long run, I'm happy with where we are now that the older kids are 11, 9 and 6.  Plus, they don't sneak food.  They always ask if they can have something and this isn't anything that I ever really required, they've just always done it.  I love parenting good kids!

Thursday, February 06, 2014


One of the youth activities at church when I was a teen was having a man from the congregation teach us how to speed read.  I was never very good at it but the idea has always intrigued me.  I once read Charley by Jack Weyland twice in a day so I could time myself the second time to figure out how many pages I could read in an hour.  I think it was about 100, but it's been a long time.

I just took this fun test:

Thursday, January 09, 2014

To Read

This isn't looking good. I asked for book recommendations on Facebook the other day since I finished the stack I got from the library to read over the Christmas break and I'm still avoiding Mansfield Park (which I've been reading on the Kindle since I was pregnant with Squirt).  Then I requested several from the library.  They all arrived at once and today I get to go pick up these:

Favorite Pinterest Recipes

I created a board on Pinterest of our family's favorite Pinterest/online recipes.  So far, it's only main dishes but I thought I'd share it here since it's been a long time since I've shared our weekly menu.

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