Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Reading Journal

Here are my most recent reads:

Murder at the Abattoir by F.S. Barrow
I actually edited this book, which was written by a friend of ours. This is the first in a series of novels that follow the adventures of Phillip Strickland, a retired FBI agent-turned-private detective. In one of his earliest cases as a PI, Phil finds himself investigating the disappearances of several young women, only to discover the very disturbing truth about where they've gone. As its editor, I'm rather attached to the book, so it's hard to be unbiased, but I thought it was a fun read. I really like Phil, the main character, and am currently editing the second book about him.

The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
This was an intriguing read. I loved the first third of the book, which I read mostly outside, stretched out on the porch swing in the warmth of summertime dusk. The author's writing style is very cheerful, descriptive, and endearing, and I loved the character that he created in Pi, a sweet, young Indian boy with a deep love for all things religious. The second third of the book, in which Pi's fortunes take an unfortunate turn, leaving him floating with a tiger on a life raft in the Atlantic ocean, was not as charming, but still interesting. The final third of the book wandered off into the realms of the absurd and I stopped liking the book altogether at that point. I'd still recommend it, though. The writing is too good to miss.

The Wheel of Darkness by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
I love any novel that includes Detective Aloysius Pendergast. Sometimes I'll just start missing him, like an old friend, and find myself checking out one of his books just to spend some time together. Preston and Child didn't disappoint with this one. I love their combined vocabularies and senses of humor and novel structuring and, of course, their characters, who, while they don't seem exactly real, are lovable inhabitants of the world of fiction.

1984 by George Orwell
This is classic, intriguing look at a totalitarian society carried to its logical extreme. I hadn't read this since I was 15, and it was an entirely different book from my adult perspective. Much more sex than I'd ever noticed before, for one, but I was also interested in Orwell's ideas about how power is gained and maintained over other human beings.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Oh my goodness. This book is truly a work of art. It is hundreds of pages of powerful poetry-like prose*, in which you stand as a compassionate witness of the lives of his characters during the second world war. This book helped open my heart more to the experiences of German soldiers conscripted unwillingly into the war, and it also reminded me of the ways in which the people of Europe suffered during this time. It is a story about love and loss and courage and resilience and innocence and loss of innocence. Read this.

(*I'll admit, at first the prose felt a little over-the-top, but once I settled into the rhythm, I loved it.)

The Negotiator by Dee Henderson
I ran into an old college friend at the local library and complained to her about the lack of selection. She quickly ran to the Christian fiction section, pulled this one from the shelf, and told me that I HAD to read it. So I did. It was okay. It was fairly predictable and super cheesy, but it wasn't an unpleasant read. If you're into light, adventure-filled, Christian fiction peopled with two-dimensional characters, this book is for you.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Third Wheel by Jeff Kinney
I read this at Soren's recommendation. (How fun is it that I have a kid who can recommend books to me???) It was actually pretty hilarious. I found myself laughing out loud frequently. I also read one of its sequels, Rodrick Rules, and didn't like it as much, but Soren assures me that it's not one of the better ones. He says I should read Cabin Fever next. I shall!

A Brief History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
I LOVED this book. With his characteristically personable and humorous personality, Bryson is the PERFECT person to research and write about science for the average person. He covers everything from atoms to evolution and does so in an extraordinarily engaging way. I particularly enjoyed his insightful history of science, which is packed with some hilariously quirky human beings. I was also surprised to learn how dogmatic science can be, and how difficult it is to introduce new models and theories into the mainstream.

Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
It took me a while to get into this book, but I'm glad I stuck with it. I learned a lot about life on board a British ship in the late 18th century and a little about precolonial Tahitian culture. Mutiny on the Bounty was not a quick read, but it was ultimately a very satisfying one.

Timeline by Michael Crichton
The book is MUCH better than the movie, if you were ever unfortunate enough to see the movie. It was a fun and interesting book, twining together quantum physics and medieval history.

Everything You Ever Wanted by Jillian Lauren
This is an adoption story, because I don't read enough of those at work.

Lauren is a gifted storyteller, someone you connect with quickly and easily. She honestly describes her journey from being a stripper and heroin addict to being a wife and a mother of a very challenging child. Her journey takes you on the road with her husband's rock band, through the trials of infertility treatments, into the heart of Ethiopia (where they adopt their son), and back into suburban LA, where they struggle through their first several happy but difficult years of parenting. I very much enjoyed this book and plan to read her first memoir, Some Girls.

It has been a very good six months of reading!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Stuff I Forgot to Include in All Those Catch-up Posts

On the way home from Physical Therapy. For some reason, Soren wanted to be REALLY close to his brother, so they're sharing a seatbelt here. As I recall, Liam eventually got annoyed with the breech of his personal bubble and a fight ensued. For for a little while, it was pretty darn adorable. 

Liam acquired some superhero goggles at a fast food restaurant run with Grandpa. He also found a tiny plastic squirt gun. The two combined for hours of fun and repose. 

 Stack of lovies. 

More shots from Liam's birthday.  

Occasionally the boys still like to be wrapped up like burritos.  

This was taken while we were moving into our new house. The kids had found some stuffing and were making themselves comfortable in the new place by making a mess in their new room.  

Soren loves his baby cousin Rebecca.

My parents gave us a new porch swing as a house warming gift. 
(Oh, right, maybe I haven't mentioned this? In April we moved into a new home in a neighboring town. We love the home and the town and the porch swing whole bunch.) 
Anyway, we've spent many a happy hour on the swing (Liam calls it "the outside chair,") including doing some serious reading. Can you guess what book this is from this illustration? 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Lies I Have Lived

I've never been a big fan of lying. I could barely watch Aladdin as a kid because the title character's compulsive dishonesty threw me into paroxysms of vicarious guilt and shame. "Just tell her the truth!" I would scream at him. "The truth is so much easier!"

I was right, of course. The truth is so much easier. Even if it's more painful up front, I've found that the day-by-day toxic IV drip of prolonged deception is much worse than the ripped-off-Band-aid sting of bald truth.

Which is why I'm not sure what possessed me when, as a 19-year-old, I told a boy I was dating that I loved classic rock artists like Bob Dylan and Tom Petty.

Well, that's not entirely true. I know what possessed me. I was trying to look cool.

He had asked me what kind of music I liked. At the time, it seemed to me that all the sexy boys were into oldish weirdish counterculturish hippyish music, and I figured I could score points by showing that I, too, enjoyed deep music, not all that shallow contemporary crap. In my mind, liking Tom Petty was similar to knowing how to skateboard or being a registered Democrat. It was edgy and attractive.

The truth was, I could not have named you a single Bob Dylan or Tom Petty song. Not a one.

"Oh yeah? Bob Dylan?" was the boy's amused response. "You would get along really well with my dad. He loves Bob Dylan."

Curses. No points scored for coolness there.

"Me?" he went on. "I'm more into Collective Soul and Alanis Morisette."

Double curses.  I was into Collective Soul and Alanis Morisette. But there was no turning back now. I had committed to my love of Tom Petty Bob Dylan Music, whatever the heck genre that was.

"Hmm," I sniffed, trying to come off as smugly tolerant. "Interesting. That stuff's okay too, I guess. We can listen to some if you want."

My vain foray into untruth was something I could have gotten away with, had this ended up being a quick fling, a few dates and then nothing. But of course, we got serious.

The first time I met this boy's dad, he was very excited. "I hear you like Bob Dylan!" he exclaimed.

"Oh man, do I ever," I said, my stomach breaking out in an acid sweat. I was worried he was going to want to start talking shop. Fortunately for me, the conversation moved in other directions. I was safe--at least for the time being. But I knew my luck wouldn't hold forever.

The very next day, I dropped fifteen bucks on a Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits CD. I listened to the whole thing in one sitting. It wasn't bad. Dude had some harmonica skills, for sure. And interesting lyrics. "Subterranean Sunset Blues" was pure poetry.

I kept the album in my car and listened to it on continuous repeat for weeks. When I had analyzed all the words and memorized a few pieces completely, I started to believe that I really was a Bob Dylan fan. Yep, that was me: a regular hip music aficionado.

I now felt more confident crossing the threshold of my boyfriend's parents house. We could now safely discuss Bob Dylan. I even passed a happy evening watching a videotaped Jethro Tull concert with his dad. (Who knew that the flute could be a rock instrument? And so artfully played by a fellow standing on one foot?)

Eventually, things with that boyfriend went sour. As the months passed, I started to sense that he hadn't been honest with me. Not intentionally dishonest, but I could start to see, in my limited 19-year-old way, that he had bent and squeezed and contorted himself into the shape of the guy he thought I wanted him to be. And as a result, in the end, neither of us knew who he really was.

When we parted ways, my Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits album went back to its home within the plastic sleeves of my CD binder. I don't think I've listened to it since.  

Stake Pioneer Day Picnic

Our stake put on a Pioneer Day Picnic and it was truly a good time. At one point Liam completely disappeared. Soren and I ran around desperately trying to find him, only to eventually realize that he had hopped a train. I should have known.

Here's my child, riding around in a toy train with complete strangers. 

At first, Soren was too cool for the train ride, but he finally gave in and went for a few circles around the park.

The boys in their new jackets. The Captain America jacket is proof that happiness can be bought. It's available in Target stores everywhere for just $18.99. I love to tease Liam about actually being Captain America, because he takes it very seriously. He will take off his hood and unzip his jacket to show me that he's actually just Liam. Soren also enjoys his Minecraft-themed "Creeper" jacket (never thought I'd have a kid who willingly referred to himself as a creeper). 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

To: Me From: Exhaustion

Dear Rachel,

The Tired here. I read what you wrote about me earlier. It's cute that you think I'm here as a teacher and a friend. Sad for you, I will only ever be your tormentor and arch nemesis. Bwahahahahahahaha! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

I kid.

I'm actually glad to hear that you've decided to welcome me into your life. I realize I'm not your favorite, but I'm not going anywhere for a while, and it's for your own good. I do have a few things I want you to learn. And since I'm aware that you spend your days editing internet articles, I'll put this into a format I know you'll be comfortable with. Ahem.

7 Things I Am Trying To Teach You By Keeping You Insanely Tired All The Time

1. Your worth is not dependent on your accomplishments. 
For too many years, you have judged your worth as a human being by the number of items you've been able to check off your to-do list by the end of the day. You must learn that it is who you are, not what you do, that gives you value, that makes you precious and irreplaceable.

2. Identify your priorities. 
I have taken away all but a few of your precious hours each day. I've done this so that you can understand that there are many ways for you to spend your time, but just a few that will feed your soul and make the world a better place. Figure out what (more importantly, who) is most important to you, and strip life down to those essentials.

3. Be grateful.
Appreciate the feeling of the earth beneath your feet. Relish the sound of your husband's voice as he reads Matilda aloud to your son. Enjoy the antics of your coworkers. Appreciate little hands tucked into yours. Marvel at a sunset. Savor a life lived without pain, without hunger, in freedom, in sunlight. Focus on what you have, not on what you don't.

4. Take it one day at a time. 
Don't think about all the things you need to do in a week, a month, a year. Write down the things you want to accomplish and focus on what you need to do today, just today, to meet those goals. It is true that "through small and simple are great things brought to pass."

5. Know that you can do hard things.
You are strong. You are a warrior. Even when life is hard, you can do it. Even when dreams are hard, you can chase them. Find a way. If a paraplegic can complete an Iron Man, you can write a novel.

6. Nurture yourself.
Give yourself permission to nap when you need to. Feed yourself good food, even when I tell you it would be so much easier to just eat cereal. Sit and read sometimes. Listen to NPR while you cook dinner. Dance with the kids. Allow music and poetry to percolate in your soul. Sit. Breathe.

7. Fear is not your friend. 
Fear is wrapped up in all of the above, in one form or another, but I will tell you now: fear has nothing to offer you. It will only ever hurt you, strip you of hope, leave you alone, and suck away your strength. Put it down. Walk away. Don't look back.

And that, my friend, pretty much summarizes the lessons I'm currently planning on teaching you. I'm excited for us to spend time together exploring these essentials. And who knows? Maybe more lessons will emerge in the process. But I promise you this: When we're done here, you will be glad I came. Because I will have made it possible for you to live a fuller, richer, deeper life.

You're welcome.

Your Friend,

The Tired

Beating the Heat

Sunday, October 11, 2015

I'm So Tired of Being Tired.

For the past three years, I have been tired. Really tired. Unnaturally tired.

Before I experienced this, if someone had told me that they were having a hard time because they were "always tired," I would have given them a cynical look and said, "Right. Always tired. Welcome to adulthood."

But it's different, this Tired that I have. The Normal Adult Tired, it's something you can live with. You know you'd sure appreciate a nap, but you've got all these things to do, and a little tiredness isn't going to stop you.

My Tired is different. I know, because I've experienced both. This Tired is like having weights tied to your arms and legs, like having a brick in  your chest, like trekking through mud while a giant cosmic hand presses down on you from above. You can power through it for a while, but eventually your spirit starts to tremble and all you can think about is collapsing on the spot. And you do.

Little things, like checking your voice mail or mailing a check to pay a bill, loom large like mountains. Big things, like painting the kitchen table or turning apples into applesauce, seem nearly impossible. You cry every time you see your son's scouting book, the symbol of one more responsibility that you just. can't. handle.   I watch in envious silence as women around me hustle and bustle and do all the things I wish I could do.

I have done everything I can think of to shake off this relentless exhaustion. I've seen doctors and had numerous blood tests run. (Everything looks fine.) I've tried eating a freakishly healthy diet. I've kept a gratitude journal. I've tried positive affirmations. I've begged God for healing. I've exercised consistently. I've taken supplements. I've switched from one antidepressant medication to another to another.

So far, nothing has helped.

In fact, it seems to be getting worse. It's becoming almost all-consuming. I hate it. I've wept and cried and screamed at how frustratingly difficult and overwhelming everyday life has become. I used to be a productive and active person. Now I do the bare minimum to get by. I'm too young to be so tired, I insist angrily to the universe. The universe stands quietly by. My kids need a mom who has vigor and vim, I shout. My voice echoes off the vast emptiness. I want to foster children. I want to give them a home, security, consistency--but I need energy to do that, I plead. Silence.

This Exhaustion seems hell-bent on staying in my life. For whatever reason, God has decided to leave it here.

So I've decided to change tactics.

I've decided to open my arms and accept The Tired into my life. As a teacher. As a blessing in disguise. As an opportunity for growth. As a way to build strength and courage. The wind, it can be cold and miserable, but it can also fill the sails of a ship and take you where you want to go.

I've decided to unfurl my sails and use this wind to take me to new and beautiful places.

I would tell you more about my new strategy, but I'm about spent for now. I'm going to take a nap. More later.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Camping Trip 2015

We took a little family camping trip this last June to Swan Valley. It was a short little trip (just one night), but successful, in that we all had fun and the children actually slept the entire night. (Well, they did wake up in the middle of the night to whisper-fight over their shared blankets, but they didn't even try to involve me or Abe, so I call that a win.) 

Activities included: 

A water fight between Abe and the children,

Sword fighting in a park in Swan Valley (after square ice cream was consumed, of course),

and a wrestling match in the tent (you can see evidence of our previous marshmallow roasting on Soren's shirt):

Besides all of this aggressive testosterone-letting, we also did a little walking, a little creek wading, and a little reading. 'Twas pleasant. Maybe next year we'll go for two nights. 

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Liam and Soccer

I have faith that eventually Liam's soccer pics will show up, but in the meantime, here's a blurry take of his first practice. He's the kiddo in the red shirt. He was very excited about his shin guards (they would make him run faster) and also seemed to feel very hip when standing with one foot on his ball.

His coach was really great. She took a lot of time to teach the kids about the rules and techniques of soccer and was very positive.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Menan Butte Hike

Apparently the Menan Butte (which is miles away from Rexburg) is also referred to as "R Mountain." (I suspect this is BYU-I's sad attempt to be like the real BYU, which has an actual mountain next to it with a letter representing the school. I'm assuming the "R" would be for "Ricks" or "Rexburg.")

 Anyway, we took the boys on the complete hike up the mountain, around its rim, and back down. It was a pleasant enough hike, and geologically fascinating, though sadly punctuated with much whining from the little people.

My "thinker." 
(Sadly, fully clothed.) 

Liam preferred to be carried the last several yards, but Soren and I raced to the end.  
He won, of course. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Getaway 2015

This year for our anniversary getaway, Abe and I went hogwild crazy and left the state. He wound up in Salt Lake City, where we took advantage of some great hiking opportunities. But don't worry, we haven't lost our vacationing touch. There was still plenty of lazy hotel lounging.

We don't have one of them there fancy phones that let you see yourself when you're taking selfies. So this series of photos shows Abe trying to explain how it's not going to work and then giving up and kissing me instead.

Brain Rooms

Last night Abe and I were lying in bed, talking and giggling way past my bedtime. (This is one of my favorite things about being married.) At some point--probably after I said something weird--Abe remarked that he would love to take a peek inside my mind. That started me imagining what it might look inside HIS mind, and this is what I came up with:

Abraham's Brain Room

It is a tidy room, lined with floor-to-ceiling mahogany filing cabinets, each neatly filled with information. Abraham himself sits calmly in a high-quality leather chair in the center of the room. The color of the light in the room changes according to what he is thinking about, and his thoughts fall tidily into the following four categories: Relationships (red), Technology (blue), Religion (clear), and Current Events (orange). The colors rarely overlap. He will often access materials in his files, but after he has referenced them, he will neatly put them back where they belong. It is a calm and orderly place. 

Then we discussed what my mind looked like. 

Rachel's Brain Room

A busy place. Papers swirl around everywhere, whacking me in the face periodically. A hamster runs on a wheel, repeatedly singing parts of a song over and over again. The whole place is pulsing with emotion--mostly love, but sometimes sadness, joy, frustration, gratitude, anxiety, elation, and anger. There are piles of rocks that represent my responsibilities and my to-dos. I run back and forth, moving them from one place to another, hoping that none get forgotten, hoping that I don't fall behind. I carry a lot of the rocks in a backpack. It is a heavy load and I quickly grow tired.  

Now You

I found this to be an entertaining and enlightening exercise in self-awareness. And now I'm curious. What does YOUR brain room look like?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Field Trip to the Zoo

Liam's end-of-preschool field trip was a visit to the local zoo. 

He was in some hurry, so we left the other preschoolers far behind and viewed the zoo at double-speed. No cooing over newborn babies or watching as the penguins got fed. Our mission was simple: to see all the animals and get the heck out of there.

He was also very serious about being in charge of the map. 

He did allot some time in for some photo ops, though. 

Liam had a wonderful preschool year with Miss Camille at Sunny Times Preschool. You can view more of the sunny times here

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Man Bun Ban: How It Represents Everything I Despise About Church Schools

First off, let me say that as a proud BYU graduate, and regular utilizer of BYU-I interns, I do have some nice things to say about schools owned and operated by the LDS church. They have lovely campuses filled with great people. They employ many passionate and interesting and intelligent and kind professors. The students are generally hard working and excited to learn. The clean lifestyle promoted by the church makes the LDS college experience unique in a wonderful way.

But there are definitely some things that irk me about church-owned schools, and this article, which has been shared with differing responses by several of my Facebook friends, re-lit an angry fire that has lain dormant in my heart since I left Provo in 2006.

The gist of the article is this: As part of its ongoing campaign to force students into complying with the visible components of the Honor Code, BYU-Idaho just laid down a specific ban on the "man bun" hairstyle. The justification for the school's recent Man Bun Ban (and any previous bans that have been made on other "deviant" hairstyles) is that the powers that be have determined that the man bun falls outside the dress and grooming standards identified in the school's Honor Code.

This ban represents everything I despise about church schools.

And the reason can be boiled down to one word: honor.

Honor is something that comes from within. It can't be forced from without. It can't be administered by an office. It can't be created with bans. If a student signs a Code of Honor, it should be up to that student to ensure that he or she is living up to that code to the best of his/her understanding and ability. It should NEVER be the school's responsibility to ensure that students are "living with honor."

In fact, it takes away from each student's personal dignity to tell them that they're giving their word of honor by signing the code, and then setting into place an "honor enforcement" system that clearly sends the message, "We don't trust you to keep your word."

Instead of focusing so much on forcing students to follow an ever-growing list of regulations and nit-picky rules, church schools would do well to emphasize the importance of integrity and keeping your word. Yes, this might mean that some people will interpret the man bun as being a perfectly acceptable hairstyle under the school's dress code standards. But is that really so bad?

Thursday, September 17, 2015


As I was packing lunches one morning, I noticed a slight discrepancy between the size of my preferred lunch and the size of Abe's preferred lunch. 

Rachel's lunch.  

Abe's lunch. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Pirate Day

The museum in Idaho Falls has been hosing a "Real Pirates" exhibition. To kick things off, the city hosted a Pirate Day in the downtown area. There were lots of fun things to do, but Liam was mostly mesmerized by this decidedly un-Piratey obstacle course. 

The National Guard guy supervising the blow-up course was really enthusiastic and kind. He quickly learned Liam's name. After he went through the course 1, 223,462 times (I counted), we went on a treasure hunt through a bunch of cute stores in the downtown area. It was a lovely day for just the two of us.

Meanwhile at home, Soren (who is too cool for pirates) spent some serious time reading his newest Tintin book. 


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