Sunday, August 30, 2009

Utah Trip

I meant to post a witty, interesting travelogue of our trip to Utah but I don't think that I'll ever find the time. I might, but it's not looking likely. Here is a link to some of the pictures we took while we were there. We had a great time and really appreciate everyone spoiling us. We miss you all!

Friday, August 28, 2009

She's Still Alive

In case you were wondering, Abs is still alive. I apologize for my recent delinquency in posting pictures. In my defense, I just returned from vacation and started graduate classes. I have been busy. Benjamin, on the other hand, has no excuse. Although he shows no remorse, I will publicly apologize for his glaring pictureless posts that have so offended our fan club. His status as an author on this blog is currently under review. Hopefully he will correct his mistakes and follow correct blog procedures in the future. (Benjamin: Blog procedures include, but are not limited to: including a picture of our adorable child in every post irregardless of post content. Note: some of our "readers" don't actually read the blog, they just look at the pictures. We don't want to lose them.) :)

New tricks: She can say uh-oh and will look to the ceiling fan when I say "abanico" which means fan in Spanish.

Here are some pics. foreveryone who has been longing for them.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Health insurance reform information

Anyone who has been watching the news over the last several months knows that there is currently an effort to change the health insurance system in the United States. Just up front, it is not my intention here to engage in any persuasive rhetoric or regurgitate any superficial talking points. Anyone who knows anything about me probably knows my opinion on the matter. If you'd like my opinion feel free to contact me privately.

However, due to the huge amount of misinformation being promulgated through the media and other sources (on both sides of the political spectrum), I do feel compelled, as someone who is often asked my opinion about political matters, to offer some resources that are helpful in getting some basic information and facts about the legislation proposal, as well as some analysis of the various claims that are being made. Again, I'm not putting this information out in an effort to persuade, but merely to help educate. -- An NPR analysis of how the reform proposals will affect different groups, and an overview of the basic proposals included in the legislation. There's more to it than just the "public option" proposal. -- "Vetting the Health Care Rhetoric" by CQPolitics - goes through and assesses the "truthfulness" of some of the more outlandish claims being made. Equally critical of both parties. -- From the fairly well-respected and non-partisan "". Again, fairly equally critical of both parties. -- Another well-respected and non-partisan fact checker. Checks the validity of dozens of claims made by both political parties and rates them from "true" to "pants-on-fire".

Because we live in a democratic republic, there's not much that we can do to affect what eventually happens at this point. However, I strongly urge you to contact both of your senators and your congressperson to let them know your opinion on the matter (whichever way you feel). Now is the critical time.

Further, I strongly urge you to avoid superficial talking points that you hear on the news and read through the articles that I posted above before contacting elected officials or talking to friends or neighbors. A little education and moderation in our political rhetoric would do a lot of good these days...

"A Portrait of Mormons in the U.S."

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has recently conducted a massive survey of the American public (more than 80,000 respondents!) and last month they published a report entitled "A Portrait of Mormons in the U.S.". It's a fascinating statistical "snapshot" of the demographics, religious beliefs and practices, and social and political views of Latter-day Saints in America. It's worth a look:

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Eight Months Old

I tried to take an eighth month picture, but Abigail refused to sit still, so this is all I could get.

She is growing quickly and we love everything about her. Some of her new skills include: crawling everywhere, saying ma ma ma, waving bye bye, signing milk (she doesn't know quite what it means, she uses this sign to mean milk, more, bye, down, pay attention, etc.), pulling herself to standing on everything, walking with a walking toy, standing on her own for several seconds, recognizing when we are not in the room, falling asleep without a pacifier (sometimes), eating more solids including yogurt and chili, 'talking'as to tell us what she wants, singing, waking up in the middle of the night, clinging to mommy, following us around everywhere that we go, picking things up off the floor using her pincer grasp, wiping her boogers and her dinners all over her face, ears, and hair, successfully using her strong hands and arms to keep us from her mouth and nose, she can give five, she can drink out of a sippy cup.

Funny things that she does: she brushes her own teeth and is very thorough, she falls asleep by burrowing her head into the sheets while her bum sticks up into the air, she loves baths and kicks wildly when on her back in the bathtub, she turns into a zombie when we take her on walks (and runs) in the stroller, she enjoys swinging and laughs hysterically when you pretend that she has kicked you and you fall over, she signs "milk" with both hands at the same time and seems fascinated by the fact that her hands can move.

Sweet things: She cuddles into our shoulders when she is tired. She follows Katie around and is always trying to climb up onto her legs. She gives kisses all the time. She smiles when we come get her out of her crib. She cuddles up into us on the rare, sleep induced, times that we let her sleep in our bed. She'll calm down in the carseat if I reach my arm in the backseat and stroke her cheek.
Before we left for Utah I had professional pictures taken of Abs at Flash photography in the mall. A friend just started working there and as part of her training she had to practice on her friends. She took a lot of great pictures that I couldn't afford. I did, however, receive a free 8x10. I chose this pose because it shows off her face. I scanned it in so that everybody could enjoy.

Painting with Pudding: Take Two

This time I used real pudding (not pudding made with breast milk) and it went better. Abigail loved the stuff and kept stuffing it into her mouth. She couldn't get enough. I tried to model the whole "painting" thing and she only would try when there wasn't enough left on the tray to get onto her hand and then into her mouth.

Another Blanket

When my first nephew, Jeffrey, was born, I was so excited. I wanted to do something special for him. I had recently learned how to make blankets called Swedish Weaves and I decided to make one for him. I rushed and was able to finish it in two weeks, just in time for his debut. Later, I made one for my next nephew, and then one for the next, and then it became tradition. Thus far I have made nine for nieces and nephews and a few others for other reasons. This brings my total to eleven of the heart pattern. I also made one with this intricate tree pattern. It took forever.
I recently completed my twelfth blanket for my new niece Isabelle. I hope that someday she will know that the blanket came from me and that I love her. I really enjoyed meeting her in person this past week. She is perfect and so tiny. Here are some pictures of the blanket. The colors (pink, orange, and yellow) turned out really nice.I can't stop now, the nieces and nephews just keep coming. I guess I'll start on the next blanket as soon as Kimberly lets me know what colors she wants for her new little boy. :)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Reading for Fun Again...

I used to enjoy reading books. All through high school and college I read several books per month - mostly just for fun. Then came graduate school and I was assigned to read MANY academic books and journal articles, often for several hours a day. Suddenly reading was no longer fun. It was work. So when I wasn't doing homework the last thing I wanted to do was read another dreadful book. That lasted for the first three years of graduate school...

But then this summer I realized that I really missed reading books for fun instead of work. So I made a goal to try it out again, just to see what it was like. It was great. Big fan. I highly recommend reading books. Especially for leisure if you can find the time.

So here's a list of books I read this summer, just for fun:

1. "The Irish-Americans" by Jay P. Dolan - I actually read this back in March after eating some corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's day. Seeing all the Ireland coverage on The Today Show made me want to learn more about my 15% Irish ancestry.

2. "The German-Russians" by Karl Stumpp - A follow-up to the first book. I'm 35% German-Russian and figured I shouldn't leave them out.

3. "Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain - Katie and I visited Hannibal, Missouri (Mark Twain's hometown) on our way down to St. Louis for a summer trip. I realized that I hadn't read any Mark Twain books since high school. I actually had a hard time getting into it. It was hard for me to follow Twain's style of writing (spelling out the sound of the dialects instead of writing in standard English). But I stuck with it and started to enjoy it about half way through. I suppose I can see why it regularly makes the list of top 100 American books ever written.

4. "Cyrano de Bergerac" by Edmond Rostrand - I read this book probably dozens of times in junior high and high school (I was in the play in 9th grade). But I hadn't read it for several years, so I picked it up again. One of the most brilliant books ever written, I must say. Cyrano de Bergerac is my literary hero.

5. "Communion of Immigrants: A History of Catholics in America" - More family history research, with a slight ulterior motive of dissertation research! The anti-Catholicism of 100 years ago was just as bad as the anti-immigrant nativism of today.

6. "American Creation" by Joseph Ellis - His latest book on the American Founding generation. It's a collection of half a dozen or so short stories from America's early years - Valley Forge, the debate over the Constitution, the establishment of the early party system, etc. Throughout the book, the author tries to make a few key points: 1) the original debates were not over elitism vs. egalitarianism (the Federalists and anti-Federalists were both elitists, he argues), but over national vs. state sovereignty, and 2) the major failings of the Founding generation were the inability to curb slavery and the failure to come to a reasonable policy with the Native Americans, and 3) the major accomplishments of the Founding generation included creating one of the most stable political systems in history.

7. "Eaters of the Dead" by Michael Crichton - this was a very creative and fun book to read. It's set up as a "story behind the story". In it, the author creates a realistic historical narrative of an Arab traveling among a group of Vikings as he observes the events that eventually become legendary in the "Beowulf" epic.

8. "Island of Dr. Moreau" by H.G. Wells - garage sale purchase for $2. I figured what the heck. Interesting book - lots of religious imagery and philosophical illustrations of man vs. animal natures.

Let's hope it's not another three years before I find time to read something else just for fun!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Monday, August 3, 2009

Feast Before the Famine

It's time! We are ready to head home to see the family and to show off our fabulous baby. They are in for a wild ride now that she is crawling and getting into everything. It will be nice to have several extra pairs of hands to help chase her down.
Due to the fact that our entire blog audience will be seeing her in person, there is no reason for posting pictures. Sorry for the inconvenience to you wonderful people who actually read my blog (and Ben's) even though you aren't related and you don't have to. To help you make it through the drought, here are some of my recent favorites.
We watched Carl for an entire day recently and he was an angel baby. Lots of fun. He was so happy and easy to take care of.

Here Abigail is not wanting to share her toys or her water bottle with little Benjamin.
He loved the air conditioning and would let it blow on his face and it made his hair stick up, it was funny to watch. He also taught Abigail to be interested in the stairs, luckily she can't climb them yet.Abigail is much more interested in eating grass than playing in the pool. At least she eats her vegetables, right?

Here she is with Isla. They are only a week or two apart and they were excited to meet each other at storytime. Abs wanted her bow and pacifier clip.

We also rode the carousel that day. Abs liked it, but was a little uncertain when the horse started moving up and down. I was scared too. I don't remember when I last rode a carousel. I was terrified that I would lose my balance and let her fall. Luckily, we both survived without incident.
Here we are at the Johnson County Fair with the sheep. They were very loud and Abigail was fascinated. So were Ben and I. We were both scared to touch them. We don't know anything about farm animals.

And then we saw the pigs. They really do stink to high heaven. Good luck making it through there without losing your lunch. Ugh. Ben even let the stinky pig try to eat his shorts.

We are in Iowa, so we definitely plan to teach our little Iowan to drive a tractor. You can never start too early.

Here is a shot of Abigail outside of Ben's building at school. He watched her while I took my Spanish final. She had been awoken from a nap and it apparently took her a long time to wake up.
We were at a friends house on Saturday night playing games and Abs wanted to be in the middle of everything. The cheese dip and beans were fabulous. Ben starting giving her some beans and she loved them. He couldn't feed her fast enough. At one point she dipped her entire hand into the beans. Then both of us were frantically trying to hold her arm still while we wiped her clean. She managed to get it all over her eyebrow. If you look close, you can see her crusty brow.
Here she is eating corn on the cob. Sorry for the bad lighting. And no, there was no actual corn on the cob. It is so good here that we didn't share the corn with her, just the cob. Just kidding, I didn't leave any corn because I was worried about her choking. See, I'm a good mom. No worries. I can handle this.

More Garage Sale Finds

I need to stop going to garage sales. All I ever end up buying is toys for Abigail. The deals are great, but really, how many toys does she need. I have found a xylophone, a walking toy that makes popping sounds, magnetic alphabet pieces, a toy bus that sings the "wheels on the bus song,"a potty chair that fits on the toilet, a magna doodle (for church), and lots of other fun toys.
Most of these toys are hidden out in the garage and are only brought out when we have playdates. She will be surprised come her birthday and Christmas. :)
Several weeks ago I spent an entire morning looking for baby gates. I went to over twenty sales and found nothing (except some cute shoes and clothes that were a quarter each). We really NEED baby gates, so I was disappointed. Yesterday we went to one sale, and only because it was a block away. They had a baby gate for $3. We got it.
My favorite find was at the same sale. Ben let me buy this cute IKEA table and chairs. He talked them down from $15 to $10. I love them.
I also love this couch that I bought for Abigail over a month ago. Her cousin Katelyn has a similar one. It folds down in to a bed. This is where she slept on our camping trip and I just know she is going to love it. I am a little squeamish about having her role model be a scantily clad fictional character, oh well. I don't know if I am smart enough to figure out how to recover it.