Summer

Aug. 14th, 2014 08:58 pm
olmue: (me sketch)
I'm SO glad for summer! We needed it so so so so much. Leaving town for the mountains was something I HAD to do. And even after we came back, it's been good. We've been able to go running, we've been able to go swimming, our kids have gone camping and canoeing. My oldest has been able to practice driving (er...not as much as he needs to, thanks to all the activities, but it's a start). We've been able to read. My 14YO and I restrung my old guitar today because he wants to learn. (He is our music?-no-thanks boy, so this is an interesting development we want to encourage.) He also started cross country today (that's running, not skiing, in case you're wondering--August is the only month snow has NOT been recorded in this place)--our first kid in an organized sports program. So far, so good. I am kiiiiiiinda losing my mind with the encroaching school schedule, but if I can live through the crazy early mornings and late nights, I will hopefully be able to get some good writing in once school starts, too. I have a book that just needs to come out, and I can't wait for some uninterrupted time to sink into it. We still have a couple weeks' worth of school registrations, dentist visits, and school shopping, though. And I'm hoping to fit one more hiking trip in, too. (I've heard some great thing about the area a couple hours east of here in Minnesota. Flat, yes, but TREES.) We'll see.

Good luck to all starting school now, and good luck to all gearing up for September!
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Table Rock is what everyone calls it. Table Mountain is what's on the official map. The trail starts at 7000 feet and ends at 11,109 feet, spitting you neatly out right under the nose of the Grand (as in Grand Teton). It's a GORGEOUS hike--and straight up! We all felt the altitude hit at some point. And once it starts to "level out" (haha), you're so high up that the easiest stroll really does take some effort. But it was so beautiful!! Especially for those of us who have been mountain STARVED all year (and that is all of us).

I don't know who strung the banner. It's been there a while.

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After this point there were not so many pictures, as a few waves of a storm came up (it caused HEAVY flooding in nearby Rexburg), and we were trying not to get hit by lightning. We had to ford a fast-moving river and get back before we got torched and/or our relatives called search and rescue. But we all made it back and it was quite the hike!
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We did a couple of hikes in Teton Valley. One was up Darby Canyon, where in the 1950s, a group of hikers from a nearby girls' camp got hit by lightning and died. We hiked to the monument and then up to the Wind Caves, which are kind of cool--a waterfall comes out a cave in the side of the mountain. We tried this hike when our oldest kids were toddlers, and let's just say that it's a lot easier to hike when you don't have to carry everyone! It was slightly hazy and buggy, but the wildflowers were gorgeous on all the hillsides.

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A few southern California pictures. Up in the hills above Santa Barbara, looking down towards the ocean, and also the inside of a Chumash painted cave up there:

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A mix of pictures from our travels this summer. (Travels are not yet over--the kids all have various camps this month.)

Theodore Roosevelt National Park (southern unit--there are three unconnected parts to this park) in western North Dakota. It smells very nice, of grasslands!

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We're back

Jul. 19th, 2014 01:40 pm
olmue: (me sketch)
We toyed for a bit with the idea of driving from Idaho to Devils Tower (no, there is no apostrophe, and yes, it bugs me, too) and then up through South Dakota, but it would have taken a long time and our boys have a trip early Monday morning. So instead, we drove straight back to North Dakota, which is 1000 miles. In one day. Yes, we are insane, but the kids handled it pretty well. And now we are digging ourselves out and trying to remember how this town works. When you've lived somewhere less than a year and then leave for nearly six weeks, you start to forget basic things about it.

The time away was WONDERFUL. We camped in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We saw friends in Lancaster, CA, visited family in Santa Barbara, CA, and saw fireworks and went to the beach and went bouldering. My husband went to the UK for ten days for a pair of professional conferences. My 5YO played Legos with his same-aged cousin, and they and the next-younger cousin took swimming lessons together. We went up to Utah after that and saw my sister and the kids filled up playing with those cousins. We took walks and played at the park and went to a couple of museums at BYU and even stopped to sing a song in the wonderfully echoey tunnel. We went up to where we used to live in Idaho and played with my SIL's little neighbors (who were lying in wait for us and kept coming to the the door to play with our kids). We swam in her pool and went to the temple and visited our old church congregation (two days before they had a massive flood that they are still rebuilding from). We saw friends from grad school who live there now, and my kid got to see their old friends. I got to meet Sarah Williams, who I've known cyberly for YEARS--not to mention all the places we've been at the same time, only not quite at the same place. And we watched quite a few world cup games. YAY DEUTSCHLAND!!

Then we went up to Teton Valley (Idaho/Wyoming border) and floated down the Teton River with second cousins, visited with my 98YO grandmother-in-law, let all the kids play with the rest of their cousins, hiked to the waterfall in Darby Canyon, and climbed Table Rock (11,000 feet). We also spent a day swimming at String Lake in Grand Teton National Park. It was SO NICE. The only people we didn't get to see were my parents, who live in Arkansas. We all really needed time to spend with our relatives, to be at a higher altitude, to smell lodgepole pines, and to fill up on mountains and nature. I apparently have a mental/physical need to visit mountains every now and then, and I was getting pretty low, and needed a fix. :)

On the way out we drove through part of Yellowstone (on the 191), and saw a moose drinking from a stream, and also a grizzly bear strolling along! Later on, in North Dakota, we saw a coyote cross all four lanes of the interstate. And then near Fargo, we saw the most spectacular lightning show I've seen.

Now we're back to 3/4 of a house and 3/4 of a job, but at least we had a chance to fill up some of the holes and get some mental nourishment while we were gone. And our house actually wasn't a thousand degrees when we came back, and the dehumidfier went back on after the power was off in town here, so the basement isn't moldy (er, any more than usual, I mean), and mostly it just smells like Extremely Old House and not Floody Mold (like our old neighborhood--yikes!!! People we know in Rexburg had water fill their basements and burst out the windows, and in our neighborhood itself, the city sewer pump was overwhelmed and half the houses have sewage backed up in their houses. Not sure if it was just water or also sewage at our old house, but ewww!)

I'll put up some pictures when I get a chance, but right now we have no food in the house and we need to stop eating the snack food.

Idaho

Jul. 13th, 2014 12:13 am
olmue: (me sketch)
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We're in Idaho. I LOVE Idaho. Even when it's raining. We signed up to go on the rafting trip some of my husband's aunts and uncles put together. They did it a couple years ago and our kids thought it sounded like fun. My husband stayed home with the 5YO and I took the other kids. It was fun. But very cold and wet! It POURED on us. But it was SO beautiful! If you have ever been inside the Rexburg temple, there is a room covered with murals of a river and marsh grass and herons, and you turn around and see Grand Teton at your back. I swear we were in that place today. (Minus the heron--but a moose did swim right across the river in front of one of the rafts.)

I also went running, just to test the waters when it comes to altitude. I'm pleased to report that while yes, I felt the altitude (we've been living at 840 ft last year and we are currently over 6000 feet), it went better than I'd expected. Which is a good sign, since we want to do some hiking next week (notably a trail that goes up to 11,000 feet).

Then tonight we headed back to the lodge for dinner and visiting. We also watched a recent independent movie about Ephraim K. Hanks, a 19th century pioneer/mountain man/adventurer who also happens to be my husband's ancestor. He was in the navy and traveled the world, and he did pony express for many years, but his most well-known act was helping save a bunch of handcart pioneers who were trying to emigrate to Utah and got caught in an early snowstorm in Wyoming. Many rescuers turned back, but he felt like he needed to keep going, bringing provisions and praying for a buffalo that appeared and which he shot and brought along. I think what he found was somewhat akin to what first responders in refugee situations might find, only in extreme frostbite/hypothermia/starvation mode. He was able to rescue many people because he was prepared for disasters already (pony express/all that traveling) and because he stuck with it and didn't give up. At the end of the film were blurbs about what happened to the various real life characters afterwards. I don't remember what the last line was, but my feeling was something on the lines of, "All of you in this room are Hanks. Go and do likewise."

We came home to watch the supermoon rising over the Tetons. And now we're smelling the thousands of lodgepole pines in the breezes wafting down from them mountains. My favorite smell! I wish I could take it with me.

Summer

Jun. 21st, 2014 07:13 pm
olmue: (me sketch)
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We're off visiting family right now. It's SO nice. It's actually summer! It was winter right up to the moment the kids got out of school, so it almost feels like we've suddenly swapped hemispheres or something. I love being in a house with up to code electricity, two toilets, fully functioning plumbing, and walls and windows that aren't ready to collapse. (It did take me a while to get used to a level floor in the bathroom.) I am grateful every day that I don't have to smell the stinky sugar refinery that lives across from our house of horror. A little concerned that we'll go back and find the basement full of water, as they've had nearly 5" of rain this month alone, and even a little rain runs through the bad window frames and into the basement. But that's not anything I can do with at the moment, so I try not to think about it.

More than the much-needed relief from the house, though, is just the chance to see many of our relatives. We've always lived very far from everyone else and never really got it when people would say that they missed their families. But now we know. We lived near my parents for a couple years, then moved near some of our sisters and near enough to ancestral homelands that my husband's parents could see us as they drove up to see their own parents. And now...we just live way. too. far. away. I think we lived closer to them when we were in Germany than where we are now; North Dakota just feels like the end of the earth. My in-laws have such a wonderfully calm and peaceful house and they are used to small children in large quantities, and as soon as you walk in the door, you are overcome with such a peaceful, relaxing, welcoming feeling. Plus, one of my BILs lives nearby, and so my youngest has his co-conspirator cousin to play with every day. The only drawback is my husband being off at a conference in the UK. He's having a nice time, but we will all be glad when he comes back.

Meanwhile, everyone is very into the World Cup. Many of our favorite Germans are back (Mueller! Ötzil! Schweinsteiger! Lahm!), and we are all hoping for a German win. They're playing rather well so far. But we have enjoyed other games, including the happiness of Honduras scoring their first goal at the World Cup in 34 years. Maybe a lot of the things I'm trying to do haven't worked out, but I do love seeing someone get something they've been working so hard at for so long.

In writing, I have much of a draft done, but I have to insert a whole plot line into it, and it's tying my brain into knots. I can feel it rising inside me, and I *almost* have hold of it--but not quite. This place always makes my brain spark and fizz, but at the same time, I'm trying to visit, not hole up like a hermit. But I feel like if I can just get the pieces put together, the writing of it won't be too hard. (Or rewriting, more like--instead of revising, I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to start from scratch and add in scenes as they apply to the new structure.)

In reading, I picked up Harry Potter Page to Screen: the Complete Filmmaking Journey, by Bob McCabe, from the library. Wow. VERY cool book. It's all about how they made all of the films. I don't want to make movies. But I'm always fascinated to learn how people tell stories in other formats. I think that working on that film must have been the MOST fun (and possibly the MOST challenging) project a lot of those people have done. Imagine getting an enormous budget and being told to make a whole world--whether or not it appears on the screen in the final cut. We're talking incredible inventions of costumes, architecture, animal creation, etc. Most of it was NOT CGI, which means they actually built these things--like Buckbeak, or the basilisk, or the Forbidden Forest, etc. Then you have the actors, who are putting themselves into the characters (and a bit of the characters are getting into them, too), and all of these people working together to bring a story to life. I've heard many times writers describe writing as if they're catching hold of something that already exists somehow. That's exactly what it feels like to me--like these are things that exist on some plane, and we bring them into the world, clothe them in a physical way that people around us can understand. It feels like channeling, like inspiration. Like a gift. And when you create like this, it brings a lot of joy (once you're done with the tearing your hair out part). And reading the comments of all of these people, the ones who made the Marauders' Map, or who hand bound all the textbooks in the films, or created the Black family genealogical tapestry, or invented and painted on Sirius Black's tattoos, or found the place in Scotland where Hogwarts truly exists, at least in spirit, I could feel that joy of hitting the right note, of bringing just the right detail to life.

Sunny

May. 20th, 2014 09:42 pm
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Well, our house is still yucky and we still only have a 9-month job to look forward to in the fall. But it was sunny today! And I think all the school assignments are in. Whew!! And at least one family is glad we'll be here next year. My 9YO has a friend down the street whose dad teaches Norwegian in my husband's department, and given that he and his wife have done their time adjuncting, they know how it is. (Side note: this friend and her family are COOL. Both parents are writers; the mom has done several American Girls books and some nonfiction. They've taken their kids to live in Norway before. The older sister is the age of my oldest and also does music. The younger girl is smart, loves to read, and looks like Legolas's little sister. I've thought all year that the dad was actually from Norway--he speaks 100% Norwegian with the kids, and sounds authentic to me. But no! He learned Norwegian in college. I am amazed. And envious. And curious HOW he did that--because adults learning foreign languages can almost never pull off a native accent, and yet even most Norwegians think he's a native.)

Anyway. Language learning geekery aside, the 9YOs had to read some of their poetry aloud at school today, and I'm really impressed by my daughter's poem--it's unique and voice-y and just really good! Which made this writer mama proud. I could tell her friend is the child of writers, too, though--because she said that no matter what else my daughter does, she'll also be a writer. (Because she obviously understands the er, requirements of being a writer. Like having a paying job on the side! And also the ability to write no matter what else you're doing.)

I'm SO glad to have thing winding down. Tomorrow will be busy and my oldest has finals to deal with. But I think all the homework and projects are done. It was just so nice to hang out with my family tonight. My husband and second son made cookies, the oldest and middle kids played violin/cello duets, and I read Harry Potter to my younger two kids. It was just a nice day. And hey! Spring is on the way! Now that school gets out for the summer in a few days, it hit 68 degrees and there are leaves just starting to come out on a few trees! Ah, North Dakota... :/
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Here's a fun one: Woodland Critters ABC, by Patience Mason and Robert Mason. Patience makes these very cool creatures out of acorns and other found woodland items, and they jut have funny personalities I've never seen anywhere else. This is a whole alphabet book made up of them, beautifully photographed and laid out on the page. It's really quite attractive, and fun to look at, even for kids who aren't quite up to the reading part yet. (And for older kids, too--my kids enjoyed going through it.) I love the notes at the end that explain where all the different parts were found, and encouraging kids to find what might be in their back yard to make their own creature. Here's a link so you can check it out yourself.
olmue: (me sketch)
Uh, yeah, this was not the week for my hold on the film version of The Book Thief to come in. (See previous entry.) I watched it today because I wasn't sure how general interest it would be for my family. (It's rated PG-13 for its Nazi Germany theme.) It's based on the book by Markus Zusak, who I had the pleasure to hear speak at a SCBWI workshop in Munich one year. It's a hard book to read, but I think they did a nice job converting it to film.

The story: a German couple take in a little German girl whose mother can't care for her (the parents are communists and probably don't last long afterwards). The girl, Liesl, is illiterate at first, but has a book she swiped from the grave digger when her brother died on the train and was buried by the tracks. The new father, Hans Hubermann, teaches her to read with it, and gradually draws her out until she has a real family again. The mother, Rosa, takes a bit longer--she is rather sharp around the edges and has the most fantastically colorful vocabulary, besides. The next door neighbor boy, Rudy, befriends her as well, even as the other kids make fun of her for not knowing how to read. And somewhere in there, the Hubermanns take in a Jewish refugee, Max, who they hide out in the basement. The book is narrated by Death, so you know right off that most of them do not survive. It's about the horrible thing humans do to each other, and yet the truly heroic things they do in the face of adversity, as well.

The mayor makes a brief appearance in the movie, I couldn't help but be struck at how much he looks like Vladimir Putin. Argh. Why can't people just get along? Why can't they be nice to each other? Ukraine, Nigeria, even comments on internet articles. Is it so hard to leave other people's possession alone and respect their dignity and be kind?

The father in the movie, Hans, looked SO much like my Czech grandfather who I never met. Really, really striking similarities.

And I appreciated the use of German in the movie (which is mostly in English). They used German wherever they could get away with it, and a German accent whenever not, so your mind has the feel of German.

Still. I understand why my husband gets upset at seeing Nazi-era propaganda in the course of his German studies (he's a professor). I love that place. I love the people there. And the people now are very different than the ones who were present during the war. My sense is that today's Germans find racism and attacks on human dignity much more repugnant than Americans, at least if you look online. (Republican vs. Democrat, religious vs. not, race divides, etc.)

Overall, I'd say the film is well done, but the rating is accurate. Younger children who can handle made-up monsters would find this frightening (even though the violence is kept at a minimum, given the subject), plus the pace is a little slow and thoughtful. But now...now I definitely need something light and funny and completely meaningless, because I think I'm full up on my yearly quotient of sad.

:(

May. 3rd, 2014 05:33 pm
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I was going to write a post about diversity in kids books, and how we need it so that kids like the ones I work with in the nursery at church can feel like they can be heroes, too. One little girl moved back to Korea recently, but I also have a highly creative Samoan kid, an African-American girl with a sly sense of humor, and a little Cree girl who wants to play princess every week. When the weather is good, a Philippino boy comes from the wilds of Minnesota. And there's a little blond kid or two who show up occasionally, too. These kids love books, and I want to see them the heroes of their books.

But all that has sort of been washed out of my mind by the news that my funny little friend Lizzy, age two, who already had a wicked sense of humor and who loved pouring water on herself and sneaking up on people and every so often just needed a random person's lap to sit on and a hug--that when they went to wake her up this morning, she had passed away. My mind hears the words, but my heart is having a hard time believing it, even though two different people have called me. Her parents are no strangers to sorrow, but certainly did not need any more. All three of their kids are adopted after they weren't able to biologically have any of their own. While working on adoption, they took in foster children, and still do, with a long-time teen in their house and occasional short term foster care of other kids, usually to give the regular foster parents a break. They're the kind of people communities long for, and you could not get better parents. I feel horrible that they have to go through this. Not to mention her 4YO sister and 8YO brother.

I do actually believe that this life is not the end, that the spirit is eternal and that someday we'll all be resurrected. I've had experiences where I've felt the reality of this very strongly; it's not just because someone told me so. And when you look at it that way, Lizzy's had a pretty wonderful life. She got two years with a family who was ecstatic to have her, with smart parents who made her a priority. She brought happiness to tons of people and passed away easily, without pain and trauma, it appears. And I do believe that someday they will have a chance to pick up where they left off. But it doesn't mean it doesn't hurt right now. And man, tomorrow is going to be hard. :(

Spring

Apr. 30th, 2014 08:26 am
olmue: (me sketch)
Well, currently there is no snow on the ground, which is kind of exciting. (A snow/rain mix is predicted today, but pay no attention to the weather forecaster behind the curtain!!) We've had a bunch of rainy days interspersed with bright sun, and things are greening up. It's kind of exciting (and looks very unnatural!).

Last weekend I drove my older kids to Bismarck for a youth trip to the temple.* I'd never been to Bismarck before, and it sure was nice to get out of town (despite the four hours' drive). It's not exactly the scenic time of year yet, with everything still brown, but once we hit Valley City, we started to see ever so slight variations in topography. To quote Lynn Rae Perkins in her book As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth, North Dakota's landscape is er, "subtle." Even so, with every hill I could feel every single cell in my body rejoicing. I am, a thousand times over, NOT a flatlander!

Monday we had the most spectacular dumping of rain, to the point that when I opened the door at the top of the basement stairs, I could hear water rushing downstairs. No, it wasn't a burst pipe. It was a WATERFALL gushing down the basement walls. The rental agency told us the basement leaked when we moved in, but yikes!! Now every time I go downstairs I feel the urge to bust into Coldplay's Every Teardrop is a Waterfall. I'm SO glad I don't own this house, and I hope it stays standing as long as we have to live in it.

Yesterday was gloriously sunny, even if it wasn't terribly warm. I reread part of Ann Lamott's book Bird by Bird, which is funny and insightful when it comes to feeling frustrated with the challenges of writing. Then I had an insight and wrote a 2300 word scene (out of order) for a book I've been stuck on. So that was good. Plus I went running, which is always nice (and hopefully it won't be another two months before I can go again). Just one of those days where you feel highly productive, so you write it down because not every day is like that!

In kid news, I have a kid trying out for a violin solo today and another kid trying out to be a television newscaster for school next year. The solo seems like a normal thing in my scope of thought, but I never would have thought of being a newscaster. My 12YO is way more self confident than I ever was, and has a wide range of interests I never even thought of at that age. My 13YO is busy holding down the fort as the only boy in his English class, and the 5YO is loving kindergarten and enjoying me reading Harry Potter to him. Last night I made egg rolls, and he was amused by the fact that some of them were crab and some of them...were goyle (pork). And the 9YO is busy with books. "Mom," she said last night about a book she was reading, "I like the plot, but the voice just isn't doing it for me." Maybe she's been hanging out in the writer world a bit too much??

Off to bring everyone everywhere. Have a great day, everyone!


*Unlike regular church buildings, which are generally open to anyone and get used for everything from church services to potlucks to basketball games, temples are open much less often and admittance is by recommend to make sure that people going have their lives in order and can bring a spirit of peace to the place. Marriages "for time and all eternity" are performed here, as opposed to "till death do us part," families are sealed together, and baptisms are performed by proxy for family members who may have died without the opportunity in life. We believe that these people can choose to accept or reject the work done on their behalf, but the opportunity is there if they want it. I guess in general terms, it might be a bit like Catholics lighting a candle for someone they care about.
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Last week we had the most classic blizzard ever. Usually we just get ground blizzards here (not much new snow, but a lot of wind stirring around whatever's loose). This time, we got a foot of new snow at the same time we had high winds. We were out of school for two days. AGAIN.

Today, though, it was 70 degrees! So much snow melted that you can see the old Christmas trees that were frozen to the curb back at the beginning of the year. It was also warm enough that car thieves didn't have to worry about their footprints giving them away. Someone stole a van from a grocery store parking lot, only whoops! There was a five year old in it. (NEVER LEAVE YOUR KIDS ALONE IN THE CAR!!!) As a result, the city police put three schools on lockdown while they chased him. They found the van and the kid, but not the guy.

Of course, tomorrow won't be that nice, but we enjoy it when we get it.
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I don't actually remember what green looks like. And 66 inside/13 outside is starting to feel warm and pleasant to me now. One of my son's friends (high school) wears shorts to school every single day, and I'm starting to see that as a real possibility. Maybe we should move to Greenland next...

My kids are finally all back in school today, too. YAY!! The 5YO has been home for quite a lot of days, but I think finally he's ready to go back. Still has a bit of a cough, but it's not very frequent, and he's certainly feeling a lot better. In the meantime, though, there's been an awful lot of Scooby Doo and Frozen at our house. The kid can recite almost the entire script of Frozen, complete with all the weird reindeer and Norwegian store clerk accents. Which means I've watched it a fair number of times this past week, too.

Some movies or books lessen with each time you watch them, but I have to say that I liked it the first time, and it's grown on me even more. The at is just SO beautiful! I look at ice every single day, and have gotten in the habit of noticing the details of light and ice, light and snow, frost and snow, clouds and ice, clear and ice--you name it, if it's got ice, I've seen it. And they really, really captured it. I love how they really paid attention to local details--the horses, if you notice, are all Norwegian Fjords (they have the black stripe in the middle of their blond manes.) Even as cartoons, the people LOOK Norwegian (I live in the state with the highest population of Norwegians in America and know of which I speak. :) ) And I swear Arendelle is based on a real place (google Sognefjord or look at this picture). Love the music (although perhaps a break from That Song would be okay by now...ahem). Love how the opening song (with the ice cutters) encapsulates the entire plot, as my 16YO pointed out. Love how the last musical line of the movie is the sisters song, only turned happy. I love the expressions on all the characters--the thing I love to draw most of all is humans,and the oh-so-accurate expressions of all kinds of feeeeelings leaves me with that same sense of, very cool! and man, I will NEVER be able to do that! that I get from a very well done book. And I love all the many different levels of truth in the story: how some things AREN'T easy to fix, and you have to do it Rubik's cube style (Elsa running away let her develop one part of her--but it wasn't the final solution by ANY means). How true love is not kissing the first boy you meet* but "putting someone else's needs before your own." And that line in the middle of the trolls' funny song keeps coming back to me whenever I see people in turmoil of their own making: "People make bad choices when they're mad or scared or stressed./ Throw a little love their way, and you'll bring out their best." So true. Everyone needs that tattooed on their brain when dealing with angry people.

The thing I really wish was real, though, is the way the snow magically lifts into the air and disappears without any flooding. Now that's some magic/technology we need in this place! :) Happy spring to those who have it!


*Ahem, it is perfectly fine to marry the first boy you meet, but maybe let some time go by to get to know each other before you get engaged. *whistles*

On books

Mar. 17th, 2014 12:45 pm
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Winter's still not over. See all past entries of winter for a recap. (It was zero yesterday morning when I got up. WHEN WILL IT END???) My husband (university) has spring break, but not the kids, so we can't flee for warmer climes. Besides, we've had various sick kids, but all of them are in school today. *knock on wood* Now I think I'm getting whatever it is.

Anyway. Some reading going on here. Firstly, Kung Pow Chicken, by Cyndi Marko.

Kung Pow Chicken #01: Let's Get Cracking! Cover It's like a graphic...chapter book? My 5YO loved it and ran around yelling Kung! Pow! Chicken every night for several nights. We're looking forward to more in the series.

Second, Words of Radiance, by Brandon Sanderson:

Words of Radiance (Stormlight Archive #2) CoverSecond in a projected 10-book series (The Stormlight Archives; The Way of Kings was the first one). It's the largest book Tor can bind in one volume, apparently. So if you are into extremely epic fantasy, look no further (just do watch you don't drop it on your toes, though--broken toes hurt.) There are a LOT of characters in here to keep straight, but you won't forget the major ones. Jasnah's ward Shallan knows she has to get to the Shattered Plains to give some information to Dalinor, the king's uncle, that will help in the war against the Parshendi. Dalinor isn't the king, but he keeps having visions of a coming disaster (the return of the Voidbringers, who almost destroyed the world in a past age), and is looking to the coming of the Knights Radiant to fight against the Voidbringers. And Kaladin, born low-caste but noble in spirit, is having growing pains over becoming the hero he's meant to be. I actually liked Kaladin's character arc the most. There are some awesome chapters for him towards the end. :) If you don't love Big Fat Fantasy, then this isn't for you--but if you're a Sanderson fan (or haven't tried any but like Big Fat Fantasy, though you should really start with the first one), you'll love it.
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I have not exactly been the queen of posting this winter, mostly because people get tired of hearing the same thing every day (ie WHEN WILL WINTER END??!!). Basically, every day looks just like this:

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This is at the park I drive by several times every day. I see all the sunrises and all the sunsets because of all the events before and after school (plus, just school--my district has no buses and I have five kids in school). It looks like a scene at the beach, doesn't it? Except...100 degrees colder. (It was -5 when I took this photo.)

Everyone who is not Lakota in this state is Norwegian, which pretty much means Elsa rules every day all the time. We've had 24 days since December where the HIGH did not get above zero, and some of those highs were in the double digits below. You remember Polar Vortex Round 1? We were in that bulls-eye where the windchills said -70. Don't talk to me about Antarctica.

Still. The snow is kind of pretty, as long as you don't touch the air too long. I've started running (all three days of it; today I had to rest so I don't get shin splints), and we're gone skating a couple times. We have the next two days off of school, and as long as it's above zero, we'll probably try skating again this weekend.

Needless to say, it's been a good winter for reading and writing. Speaking of, I have a kid waiting for me to finish off part 1 of Bedknob and Broomstick. Stay warm!
olmue: (me sketch)
Our heat is back. Whew! It was getting reeeeeally cold around here with the thermostat set so low!

So today I had a meeting with my 16YO and the counselor. They have four counselors at the high school, one assigned to each class, which I kind of like, since it means that one counselor gets to know the kids and can oversee their total progress. As part of that, each kid and parent has to meet with the counselor to sign up for next year's classes. Sigh. I get the feeling we keep jamming the poor woman's mind. We moved from a school with trimesters to a school with semesters, and they are veeeeery tied up over how many hours your backside sits in a class here. As a result, I've now had two discussions over the required speech class that my son took in 9th grade (as a trimester class, in which he gave the same number of speeches they give here in a semester). They decided to count it. Again. He is also off track on math, and the class he needed didn't even show up on the schedule, and we had to write it in. (He started algebra in 7th grade and they don't start until 8th here.) And then there's the whole bit about PE. PE was required in jr. high but NOT high school in Idaho. Here, you need 1.5 credits of it. We don't know how long we'll be here (the tenure track search that was on when we came was nixed by the new provost, and while it sounds like the department would still like my husband to be around to cover their classes, it really all depends on the administrators who are several levels removed.) So what happens if we move somewhere where they require PE every semester, all four years? It would be really stupid if my kid had As in every advanced AP class, but couldn't graduate because some school in the past didn't have PE... At any rate, I need to train my kids not to confuse counselors by suggesting we might move. Yes, it's a reality. But people who have never lived outside a 90-mile radius get really confused by things like that. Sigh.

Well, anyway, he has some classes picked out for if we're here next year.
olmue: (me sketch)
I feel like all my posts are about the weather, but it's been rather extreme this winter! Even the locals say so. We're in the midst of what is supposed to be the worst storm of the season. Everything in town was canceled today. We are starting to lose it in here! The wind swirled and the snow rolled past and we played board games and some of the kids watched The Wizard of Oz (they had never seen it, and thought it was...er, rather strange and melodramatic). And more baking. I hope we fit through the door once spring comes, but there is literally nothing else to do. And now tonight it's supposed to be 23 below zero, wind chills to -50. AND if that's not enough, a main gas pipe that brings us most of our heating gas ruptured up in Canada yesterday, and the power company is asking everyone to set their thermostats as low as possible to make sure everyone has at least some heat. We haven't set it quite as low as they'd like (55-60) because it's already only 61 at waist height, and it's significantly colder on the floor. I don't want the pipes to freeze. But man, talk about bad timing!

We've sure been doing a lot of reading, though. I stayed up late the other night to read RJ Anderson's latest faery book, NOMAD. It was lovely. (It follows Ivy, who's a piskey, banished from her home and still trying to convince her people that the cave they live in is slowly poisoning them. Meanwhile, she's in exile with Martin, half-faery and half-spriggen, who would like to find his own people. But it's she, not Martin, who keeps having dreams about a spriggen boy from hundreds of years ago...) One thing I think Rebecca does especially well is writing deep emotion for characters who hold their feelings in tight reserve. Trust me, that is NOT an easy thing to do! The only frustrating thing is that after book 2, the rest of the series isn't available in the US, so I've had to order from Amazon UK. But at least that works.

Now the difficult task of getting a bunch of kids in bed for school tomorrow (if we have it) who aren't tired because all they've done is sit and eat cookies all day... Wish me luck!
olmue: (me sketch)
It's so pretty and sunny out! I've decided I like snow that stays on the ground until spring because it throws the light around and makes it all much brighter and cheerier than if it all melted in between and was just brown. Of course...we are running out of places to PUT the snow. As I told my husband, we need the berm expansion pack... Unfortunately, the temperature started out around zero today and has been falling ever since, with the most wicked wind chill. I think we're down to -11 real, -36 wc? Brr! It's too bad--it looks so nice outside, and I sure wish we could go skating at the park, especially since today is a holiday and all. Ah, well--better luck in May? :)

Took a friend to the hospital today for a finger amputation. Worried about some old neighbors from Idaho, whose 6YO backed against a stovetop that was cooking, and set his shirt on fire, and now has severe burns on his back. He had skin grafts today, and...ow. The friend with(out) the finger is cause for worry, but she's an adult and hopefully this will prevent something worse. But the little boy, I just can't get out of my mind. He's the youngest of I think six kids, and I'm pretty sure it would be a lot harder to get through this if he didn't have every one of his siblings there to cheer him up and help him out. (And it was the 7YO who raised the alarm and the 12YO who put the fire out in the first place.) He looks a bit like my own 5YO and his next-older sister is a clone of my kids' cousin, so every time I see photos, it hits me like a parent. If you're into sending prayers for random children you don't know, little Cooper could sure use some.

Anyway, I'm very glad that everyone at our house is well (knock on wood!). When not worrying about other people in the hospital, I've been doing a series of critiques and also trying to revise my own stuff. I sent off my last crit today and my head is bubbling with things I've been learning. I think I need to find a book I don't need to crit, though--I need to relax for a moment in a story where I neither have to write nor edit it nor solve any of the plot issues the characters may have created, but rather, sit back and just enjoy someone else figuring it out. :) Then I'll be ready to hop back in and see what else I can do on my own book. I hope I can figure it out soon; I'm eager to write something new!
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