May 27, 2010

The Pilaf Standoff

NSG: (Walks bleary eyed into the dining area, retrieves dirty bowls from yesterday's breakfast that are still on the table (hey, give me a break, we were at a funeral in Mona all day and it was my night off last night), proceeds to wash them. Pauses, turns back to dining table, sees five portions of untouched rice pilaf from last night's dinner, neatly laid out on the table.)

NSG: OK, guys. Rice before oatmeal.

Bella: (face crumples...) NOooooo!

NSG: Yes.

MayMay: (Sighs, sits down at the table.)

NSG: Loli, is that your breakfast from yesterday? (indicating bowl full of nearly-untouched oatmeal).

Loli: (Guilty face.)

NSG: Loli, you need to eat your food. You're going to turn into a toothpick.

Loli: (makes face) OK, mom.

(20 minutes later)

MayMay: Mom! I'm Ooone! (barely discernable through chuck-huge mouthful of pilaf, bulging in both cheeks and smashed against roof of mouth).

NSG: OK. (removes clean plate, Starts ladeling oatmeal).

MayMay: I have to go to the bathroom.

NSG: Oh, no you don't. Go sit down until you've chewed and swallowed all that.

MayMay: (Jumping up and down) I harrrr Pah-tee! I harr-goooo--pahhh-tee!) (slight dribbling of pilaf down barbie pajamas)

NSG: I don't want any dinner in the potty or in the trash can, so you can go sit right now at the table until you're finished. And then you can have your oatmeal.

MayMay: (sigh of defeat) sits at table and begins laboriously chewing.

Bella: Mom! I'm done!

NSG: (moves in the direction of the kitchen, then checks herself. Points in the direction of plate, now ringed around the edges with a light layer of rice and vegetables. Takes fork, scrapes back into sizeable pile in the center of plate.) Nope. Finish, then oatmeal.

Bella: (face crumples for second time that morning.) OK, mommy.

NSG: (escapes to bedroom and nurses baby.)

(Five minutes later):

Bella: Mom, I'm done!

NSG: (Removes clean plate, grabs bowl of agave-d, soy-milk-ed six grain cereal and places it in front of Bella) Good job.

Bella: (digging in with relish) Thank you mom.

Loli: I'm done!

NSG: (Clears loli's plate from the table, gives her bowl of six-grain.) Thanks, Loli.

MayMay: (Laboriously chewing)

Jaws: (Staring mutinously at plate)

Squirt: (Running around living room with empty nerf-gun, clicking ferociously at random inanimate objects).

NSG: Squirt, go sit down and eat your rice. So you can have oatmeal.

Squirt: Six grain, you mean.

NSG: Six grain, I mean. Sit down.

Squirt: No, I want milk.

NSG: OK, you can have your milk and some six grain. But you have to eat rice.

Squirt: (calmly looks up at NSG.) Nope.

NSG: OK, no six-grain then. (retreats to room to finish nursing.)

(five minutes later):

MayMay: Mom! I'm done with my cheeks!

NSG: Good, MayMay! Yay. Ok, here's your cereal.

MayMay: (Pouts) I want milk on it!

NSG: There is milk in it. The cereal just soaked it up because you took so long. Ok, Ok... (pours a little more milk to prevent meltdown).

Jaws: Mom, I'm done!

NSG: (Glances at plate half-ful of Pilaf, pushed up against the salad from the PREVIOUS night, yes, we're working on giving our kids food poisoning. Either that, or it's just been a hectic couple of days and someone forgot to clear Jaw's plate... you decide which is more likely) No, you're not.

Jaws: (face crumples)

NSG: Look, I'll show you what you still have to eat. (seperates Pilaf from wilted salad so it stands on its own in a pile in the middle of the plate.)

Jaws: (Face brightens)

NSG: Goes in room to finish nursing baby

Jaws: (sticks head around bedroom door/barricade, left cheek bulging with food) Mah, mime oone!

NSG: Ok. Finish what's in your mouth, and you can have cereal.

(two minutes later):

Jaws: (Sticks head around barricade for second time) "I"m done!"

NSG: (slides bowl onto the table) Good job, Jaws. Squirt, are you done?

Squirt: (playing on floor, gives a wide-eyed, whimsical look) mom, I want sess-green.

NSG: (Confused glance.) Go eat your rice, Squirt.

Squirt: (face slowly stretches into outraged frown, piercing shriek)

NSG: Here, Squirt. look, I'll only make you finish half of it. Here, sit in your chair... I'll give you bites.

Squirt: (Screaming hasn't ceased yet)

NSG: Squirt, do you want airplaines or trains. (chugging forkful of rice toward mouth)

Squirt: (bats fork away, scattering rice across the table.) No trains!

NSG: Airplanes, then?

Squirt: No airplanes! I want, I want, I want... milk.

NSG: Ok, I'll give you a baba AND oatmeal if you finish your rice.

Squirt: Six grain!

NSG: Ok, six grain. Here.

Squirt: Nooooo!

NSG: C'mon. Milk, Squirt. On your six-grain. Ok, Just one bite. I'll only make you eat one bite.

Squirt: (desperately sad look, opens mouth slowly, looking tortured as if inviting a forkful of scorpion instead of delicious rice-cooked-in-broth-and-leeks-and-mushrooms that every grownup devoured the previous night)

NSG: (puts forkful of pilaf in squirt's mouth.)

Squirt: (Gags, heaves in an alarming fashion, leeks and mushrooms dribble down his front.)

NSG: (Scrapes up mushrooms with fork.) "C'mon, Squirt. Chew and swallow. one bite, that's it."

Squirt: (Weeping) But it's soooooo yuuuuuucky!

Rose: (Wailing, from the bedroom)

NSG: (sighs. Pries open lips with gentle-ish fingers, shoves forkful of veggies in, puts hand over toddler's mouth.)

Squirt: (gagging, heaving, then a swallow.)

NSG: Good job, squirt!

Squirt: (opens mouth, out come mushrooms and leeks, all over front.)

NSG: (Sighs). Good job, squirt. Here. (Places six-grain cereal in front of him, grabs bottle, pours in some grape juice, places that in front of him as well.)

Squirt: Smiles, starts shoveling down forkfuls of six-grain, takes a gulp of juice. "Thank you, Mom."

(Fifteen minutes later):

NSG: (Wiping table, discovers large scattered amounts of pilaf on Bella's chair.)

May 25, 2010

Homeschooling Triumphs

We have day sometimes that are frustrating. And days that are triumphant. They seem to cluster for some reason, these triumphs. Today was a particularly triumphant day because:

1) Jaws is suddenly forming numbers that look like numbers, on her worksheets.
2) I have a new routine with MayMay and Jaws to learn all the sounds of their letters and it seems to be motivating MayMay in a way she wasn't motivated before. OF all my kids, she's my most reluctant learner. But now, she has only 6 letters left to learn, and Jaws has 1. THey both get lollipops when they learn them all... great motivator ;) Yes, I do bribe my kids... I also give them a treat every time they finish a school book (that includes the readers that Bella is doing)
3) Bella is learning some sight words and she remembered ALL the words from last time even though it's been a week (yes I've been slacking) since we did them last. And she started a new reader, and is continually reading more fluently. Today she also did all her half-hour time-telling correctly, and her counting money worksheet.
4) Loli did her to-the-minute clocks all correctly today, and also did her negatives worksheet completely right on the first try. Her cursive is looking good, too, and she's starting to go off and read books all by herself for fun. (yay!)

I just had to list them. Because I need to be able to go back and read these on the not-so-encouraging days.

May 24, 2010

Things We Say

NSG: "When you make people sad then you make me sad."


"And then I make you sad."

May 23, 2010

Talk on Temperance

This was the talk that I gave in Sacrament Meeting today.


The first thing I thought of (which I am sure many in our church would think of ) is Moderation in all things— and it reminded me of an experience I had when Jeff and I were dating. You see, my husband is very passionate about a lot of things in life. One time we were having a discussion (of course we never argue, we just discuss,) and I quoted that whole “moderation in all things,” at him.

He looked at me for a moment, then said, “Moderation in all thigns. I’ve had that quoted at me a lot. Are you sure it’s in the scriptures?”

I said, “Of course it is… the D&C, I think.”

He said, “well when you find it in the scriptures, let me know.”

So I looked it up, sure I’d find it within a few minutes.

To my surprise, I found it was not in the index, not in bible dictionary.

In the Topical guide, there is an entry: listed under Moderation is this:
See Self-mastery, temperance, Word of Wisdom

Under those entries, the word Moderation is not mentioned even once.

Self Mastery: see also Abstinence, Temperence

I was getting a sinking feeling that I had lost the argument, but I thought I’d scour these entries to see if there was anything I could use to prove him wrong.

Entries that stood out under Self-Mastery:

1 Cor. 9:25 every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate

Mosiah 3:19 becometh a child, submissive

Alma 37:33 teach them to withstand every temptation of the devil

Alma 38:12 Bridle all your passions

Under Abstain, Abstinence: (See also self-mastery, the Word of Wisdom)

Acts 15:20 Abstain from pollutions of idols… fornication

D&C 49:18 Keep thyself unspotted from the world

88:124 Cease to be idle, cease to be unclean

None of these things sound moderate, to me.
In fact, where did this phrase, moderation in all things, come from?

I googled it.

Terence, Andria
Roman comic dramatist (185 BC - 159 BC):
Moderation in all things. He said some other wise things, like “Charity begins at home,”
And “I am a man, nothing that concerns humanity is alien to me,” (interesting, sounds kind of humanist,)
And also:
That is true wisdom, to know how to alter one's mind when occasion demands it.

So, these sayings are clearly interesting, perhaps wise, but certainly worldly—humanist, in fact. Terence was not a religious man, he was a humanist.

IN fact, in the bible, we are given several indications that moderation is not really what Heavenly Father wants from us. Consider this verse:

Revelation 3:16

So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Titus 2:14

Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

So clearly, Moderation is not something we are supposed to practice. Which makes sense. If Moderation in all things is true scripture, other things wouldn’t make sense. Try being Moderately chaste, or Moderately honest. Moderately following the ten commandments… it just doesn’t work.

But the closest thing, I think, to moderation—perhaps what people mean, when they quote this saying, is Temperance. What is temperance, then, if it is not moderation in all things? There are plenty of scriptures which say we are supposed to be temperate.

Here are some of them:

Galatians 5:23

Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Doctrine and Covenants 12:8

And no one can assist in this work except he shall be humble and full of love, having faith, hope, and charity, being temperate in all things, whatsoever shall be entrusted to his care.

So clearly, temperance is important.

But what is it??

I went back to the topical guide. Entry for Temperence:
See also self-mastery, Wine, Word of Wisdom.

(incidentally, no mention of moderation in this one.)

Ok so this is the second time I went through the process, preparing this topic, and found temperance classified with self-mastery and the Word of Wisdom, which is about self-mastery. And wine… that also implies self-mastery. Could temperance be self mastery?

Well… maybe that’s a facet of temperance.

This talk by elder Kent D. Watson at the November 2009 general conference gave me another hint at the true meaning of temperance with this story:

A few years ago, I was driving home from work when a large semitruck, traveling in the opposite direction, lost one of its dual tires. The tire flew over the median separating our lanes. It came bouncing down my side of the freeway. Cars were swerving in both directions, drivers not knowing which direction the tire would bounce next. I dodged left when I should have dodged right, and the tire took its final bounce right on the corner of my windshield.

A friend called my wife to inform her of the accident. She told me later that her first thought was of lacerations from shattered glass. Indeed, I was covered with beads of broken glass but did not suffer a single scratch. It was definitely not because of my driving skills; rather, it was because the windshield of my little car was made of tempered glass.

Tempered glass, like tempered steel, undergoes a well-controlled heating process which increases strength. Thus, when tempered glass is under stress, it will not easily break into jagged shards that can injure.

Likewise, a temperate soul—one who is humble and full of love—is also a person of increased spiritual strength.

Consider the process that creates tempered glass. It undergoes difficulty and becomes stronger. We all go through life with difficult times, sometimes extremely difficult challenges.

Thinking about this, I had another question. What, in the process of enduring challenge, makes it so that we are tempered, rather than broken? I mean, I have to think that some of these sheets of glass shatter in the tempering process. Or break, or something. I’m sure that, in the wrong conditions, the tempering process could serve to make glass weaker instead of stronger. So what do we need to make sure that, in the face of trial, we are tempered rather than broken?

Brother Watson said that a temperate soul is also humble and full of love. Is this a variable that results from the tempering process? Well, love likely does increase as strength increases.

Could these things that Elder Watson mentioned be important, though, in the tempering process?

Consider these stories from scripture:
1 Nephi Chapter 17:

2 And so great were the ablessings of the Lord upon us, that while we did live upon braw cmeat in the wilderness, our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong, yea, even like unto the men; and they began to bear their journeyings without murmurings.
3 And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and astrengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did bprovide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.

So one key to being “temperable” shall we say, to gaining strength in trial, is righteousness to the commandments. Sometimes this is very hard to do… sometimes when we have trials come upon us, we’re tempted to act out. Get mad. Do stupid things. But this is the most important time not to do those things… we can be blessed with temperance, with strength, if we don’t allow a trial to break us in this manner.

Here’s another example, in Mosiah chapter 21:

5 And now the afflictions of the Nephites were great, and there was no way that they could deliver themselves out of their hands, for the Lamanites had asurrounded them on every side.
6 And it came to pass that the people began to murmur with the king because of their afflictions; and they began to be desirous to go against them to battle. And they did afflict the king sorely with their complaints; therefore he granted unto them that they should do according to their desires.
7 And they gathered themselves together again, and put on their armor, and went forth against the Lamanites to drive them out of their land.
8 And it came to pass that the Lamanites did beat them, and drove them back, and aslew many of them.
9 And now there was a great amourning and lamentation among the people of Limhi, the widow mourning for her husband, the son and the daughter mourning for their father, and the brothers for their brethren.
10 Now there were a great many awidows in the land, and they did cry mightily from day to day, for a great fear of the Lamanites had come upon them.
11 And it came to pass that their continual cries did stir up the remainder of the people of Limhi to anger against the Lamanites; and they went again to battle, but they were driven back again, suffering much loss.
12 Yea, they went again even the third time, and suffered in the like manner; and those that were not slain returned again to the city of Nephi.
13 And they did humble themselves even to the dust, subjecting themselves to the ayoke of bondage, bsubmitting themselves to be smitten, and to be driven to and fro, and burdened, according to the desires of their enemies.
14 And they did ahumble themselves even in the depths of humility; and they did cry mightily to God; yea, even all the day long did they cry unto their God that he would bdeliver them out of their afflictions.
15 And now the Lord was slow to ahear their cry because of their iniquities; nevertheless the Lord did hear their bcries, and began to soften the hearts of the Lamanites that they began to ease their burdens; yet the Lord did not see fit to deliver them out of bondage.

As you know, this story continues with the people escaping by getting the Lamanite guards drunk, and going out a back way. The king pursues them but they get to Zarahemla and are safe.

Contrast that with this story:

King Limhi, one of the wicked priests of King Noah, has become a leader over Alma and his people.

Starting with verse 8:

8 And now it came to pass that aAmulon began to exercise bauthority over Alma and his brethren, and began to persecute him, and cause that his children should persecute their children.
10 And it came to pass that so great were their afflictions that they began to cry mightily to God.
11 And Amulon commanded them that they should stop their cries; and he aput guards over them to watch them, that whosoever should be found calling upon God should be put to death.
12 And Alma and his people did not raise their voices to the Lord their God, but did pour out their ahearts to him; and he did know the bthoughts of their hearts.
13 And it acame to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.
14 And I will also ease the aburdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as bwitnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their cafflictions.

The temperance verse—remember, tempered glass? Is this one:

15 And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did astrengthen them that they could bear up their bburdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with cpatience to all the will of the Lord.
6 And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage.
17 And he said unto Alma: Thou shalt go before this people, and I will go awith thee and deliver this people out of bbondage.
18 Now it came to pass that Alma and his people in the night-time gathered their flocks together, and also of their grain; yea, even all the night-time were they gathering their flocks together.
19 And in the morning the Lord caused a adeep sleep to come upon the Lamanites, yea, and all their task-masters were in a profound sleep.
20 And Alma and his people departed into the wilderness; and when they had traveled all day they pitched their tents in a valley, and they called the valley Alma, because he led their way in the wilderness.
21 Yea, and in the valley of Alma they poured out their athanks to God because he had been merciful unto them, and eased their bburdens, and had delivered them out of bondage; for they were in bondage, and none could deliver them except it were the Lord their God.

So what was the difference between these two groups of people?

The people of Alma immediately cried out to their God, the other group started by murmuring to their king.

The first group tried force, (their own strength, I guess you’d say) and lost a lot of lives in the process. Alma’s people, after praying, submitted cheerfully and waited for the Lord to tell them what to do, or to deliver them (this is not an easy thing in the face of trials.)

The people of Alma humbled themselves in the midsts of their afflictions from the very beginning. Eventually this first group also did this, and God allowed them to figure out a way to deliver themselves. I’d submit that, because Alma’s people were humble and submissive from the first, God delivered them and heard them from the beginning.

Not really a fun realization, in some ways.

Also the people of Alma immediately thanked Heavenly Father, and were not pursued.

Back to the whole Moderation vs temperance, thing: there is this scripture.

1 Cor. 9: 25 man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.

Now this sounds a whole lot like the Terrence quote. It might be the reason that some have equated it with the “moderation in all things” bit, and made moderation scriptural in their minds. But the problem with that, as we have read, is that temperance and moderation are not the same thing. Moderation is quantitative, basically the thought that if you strive too hard in any one area or do too much of one thing, you are unbalanced and therefore, unrighteous. But there are so many exceptions to this rule, in fact the whole gospel is about being unworldly, about striving hard to be righteous, and so moderation clearly does not work in the context of the gospel.

Temperence, however.

I guess the real secret behind Temperence is humility. It takes humility to keep the commandments, to pray and look to the Lord from the first, and to submit cheerfully. It also takes humility to thank God for deliverence.

Trials can harden you or soften you. A hard heart is not a temperate heart, and it will shatter under the impact of strain. A soft heart, though it seems counter-intuitive, is the strongest heart. And to me, that is the true meaning of temperance.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

May 21, 2010

New List of Classics

Chinua Achebe, Nigeria, (b. 1930), Things Fall Apart ****
Hans Christian Andersen, Denmark, (1805-1875), Fairy Tales and Stories
The Apocrypha
Isaac Asimov, Foundation *** 1/2
Jane Austen, England, (1775-1817), Pride and Prejudice ****
Honore de Balzac, France, (1799-1850), Old Goriot
Samuel Beckett, Ireland, (1906-1989), Trilogy: Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable
Ezra Taft Benson, An Enemy Hath Done This
The Bible
William Blake, Songs of Innocence and Experience
Giovanni Boccaccio, Italy, (1313-1375), Decameron
The Book of Mormon
Jorge Luis Borges, Argentina, (1899-1986), Collected Fictions
Charlotte Brontë Jane Eyre
Emily Bronte, England, (1818-1848), Wuthering Heights
Jean de Brunhoff, Babar
Richard Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling
John Bunyan, Pilgrims Progress
Albert Camus, France, (1913-1960), The Stranger
John le Carré, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Paul Celan, Romania/France, (1920-1970), Poems.
Louis-Ferdinand Celine, France, (1894-1961), Journey to the End of the Night
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Spain, (1547-1616), Don Quixote
Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep
Geoffrey Chaucer, England, (1340-1400), Canterbury Tales
Anton P Chekhov, Russia, (1860-1904), Selected Stories
Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express
Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey
Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Complete Sherlock Holmes
Joseph Conrad, England,(1857-1924), Nostromo
Dante Alighieri, Italy, (1265-1321), The Divine Comedy
Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Charles Dickens, England, (1812-1870), Great Expectations, David Copperfield
Denis Diderot, France, (1713-1784), Jacques the Fatalist and His Master
Doctrine and Covenants
Alfred Doblin, Germany, (1878-1957), Berlin Alexanderplatz
Fyodor M Dostoyevsky, Russia, (1821-1881), Crime and Punishment; The Idiot; The Possessed; The Brothers Karamazov
Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca
Choderlos de Laclos, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity & The Screwtape Letters
Bart D. Ehman, Misquoting Jesus
George Eliot, England, (1819-1880), Middlemarch
T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland
Ralph Ellison, United States, (1914-1994), Invisible Man
Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr Ripley
Euripides, Greece, (c 480-406 BC), Medea
William Faulkner, United States, (1897-1962), Absalom, Absalom; The Sound and the Fury
Gustave Flaubert, France, (1821-1880), Madame Bovary; A Sentimental Education
Federico Garcia Lorca, Spain, (1898-1936), Gypsy Ballads
Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Colombia, (b. 1928), One Hundred Years of Solitude; Love in the Time of Cholera
William Gibson, Neuromancer
Gilgamesh, Mesopotamia (c 1800 BC).
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Germany, (1749-1832), Faust
Nikolai Gogol, Russia, (1809-1852), Dead Souls
Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
Gunter Grass, Germany, (b.1927), The Tin Drum
Robert Graves, I, Claudius
Joao Guimaraes Rosa, Brazil, (1880-1967), The Devil to Pay in the Backlands
Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon
Knut Hamsun, Norway, (1859-1952), Hunger.
Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Thomas Harris, Red Dragon
Ernest Hemingway, United States, (1899-1961), The Old Man and the Sea, For Whom The Bell Toll
Gordon B. Hinckley, Standing For Something
History of the Church, Volumes 1-6
Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant
Homer, Greece, (c 700 BC), The Iliad and The Odyssey
Ted Hughes, Collected Poems
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
Henrik Ibsen, Norway (1828-1906), A Doll's House
Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady
The Book of Job, Israel. (600-400 BC).
Josephus (antiquities of the Jews, esp.)
James Joyce, Ireland, (1882-1941), Ulysses
Franz Kafka, Bohemia, (1883-1924), The Complete Stories; The Trial; The Castle Bohemia
Kalidasa, India, (c. 400), The Recognition of Sakuntala
Yasunari Kawabata, Japan, (1899-1972), The Sound of the Mountain
Nikos Kazantzakis, Greece, (1883-1957), Zorba the Greek
John Keats, Odes
Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness & Faith Preceeds the Miracle
DH Lawrence, England, (1885-1930), Sons and Lovers
Halldor K Laxness, Iceland, (1902-1998), Independent People
Elmore Leonard, Killshot
Giacomo Leopardi, Italy, (1798-1837), Complete Poems
Doris Lessing, England, (b.1919), The Golden Notebook
C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Great Divorce, Mere Christianity, Screwtape Letters
Astrid Lindgren, Sweden, (1907-2002), Pippi Longstocking
Lu Xun, China, (1881-1936), Diary of a Madman and Other Stories
Mahabharata, India, (c 500 BC).
Naguib Mahfouz, Egypt, (b. 1911), Children of Gebelawi
Thomas Malory, Le Morte D'Arthur
Thomas Mann, Germany, (1875-1955), Buddenbrook; The Magic Mountain
Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine
Herman Melville, United States, (1819-1891), Moby Dick
A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
John Milton, Paradise Lost
Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind
Michel de Montaigne, France, (1533-1592), Essays.
Elsa Morante, Italy, (1918-1985), History
Toni Morrison, United States, (b. 1931), Beloved
Shikibu Murasaki, Japan, (N/A), The Tale of Genji Genji
Robert Musil, Austria, (1880-1942), The Man Without Qualities
Vladimir Nabokov, Russia/United States, (1899-1977), Lolita
E. Nesbit, The Railway Children
Hugh Nibley, Approaching Zion
Njaals Saga, Iceland, (c 1300).
Patrick O'Brian, Master and Commander
George Orwell, England, (1903-1950), 1984
Ovid, Italy, (c 43 BC), Metamorphoses
Elaine Pagel, The Gnostic Gospels
Boris Pasternak, Dr Zhivago
Peartl of Great Price
Fernando Pessoa, Portugal, (1888-1935), The Book of Disquiet
Jean Plaidy, The Plantagenet Saga
Edgar Allan Poe, United States, (1809-1849), The Complete Tales, The Murders in the Rue Morgue
Marcel Proust, France, (1871-1922), Remembrance of Things Past
Philip Pullman, His Dark Materials
Francois Rabelais, France, (1495-1553), Gargantua and Pantagruel
Arthur Ransome, Swallows and Amazons
Mary Renault, Alexander Trilogy
Philip Roth, The Human Stain
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter
Juan Rulfo, Mexico, (1918-1986), Pedro Paramo
Jalal ad-din Rumi, Afghanistan, (1207-1273), Mathnawi
Salman Rushdie, India/Britain, (b. 1947), Midnight's Children
Sheikh Musharrif ud-din Sadi, Iran, (c 1200-1292), The Orchard
Tayeb Salih, Sudan, (b. 1929), Season of Migration to the North
Jose Saramago, Portugal, (b. 1922), Blindness
William Shakespeare, England, (1564-1616), Hamlet; King Lear; Othello, Sonnets
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Issak Singer, The Slave **1/2
Cleon Skousen, Thousand Years Series
Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith
Discourses of Joseph Smith
Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine
Sophocles, Greece, (496-406 BC), Oedipus the King
Muriel Spark, The Ballad of Peckham Rye
Stendhal, France, (1783-1842), The Red and the Black
Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island
Laurence Sterne, Ireland, (1713-1768), The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy
Italo Svevo, Italy, (1861-1928), Confessions of Zeno
Jonathan Swift, Ireland, (1667-1745), Gulliver's Travels
James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ
William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair
J.R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
Leo Tolstoy, Russia, (1828-1910), War and Peace; Anna Karenina; The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories
Anthony Trollope The Barchester Chronicles
Thousand and One Nights, India/Iran/Iraq/Egypt, (700-1500).
Mark Twain, United States, (1835-1910), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
John Updike, Rabbit series
Valmiki, India, (c 300 BC), Ramayana
Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Virgil, Italy, (70-19 BC), The Aeneid
C. Terry Warner, The Bonds That Make Us Free
Evelyn Waugh, Sword of Honour trilogy
H.G. Wells, The Time Machine ***3/4
Walt Whitman, United States, (1819-1892), Leaves of Grass
Virginia Woolf, England, (1882-1941), Mrs. Dalloway; To the Lighthouse
William Wordsworth, The Prelude
John Wyndham, The Day of the Triffids
W. B. Yeats, Collected Poems
Discourses of Brigham Young
Marguerite Yourcenar, France, (1903-1987), Memoirs of Hadrian
Markus Zusak, The Book Thief ****

May 19, 2010

Classics--I need your help

I had a stunning realization the other day, that I neglected in my list of classics to include those books that are religious in nature. I have already noticed that the books I'm currently reading are pretty humanist if not just secular. I'd like to have some religious classics, pertaining to LDS in particular, to add into my list. I've looked online and have found, unfortunately, that there is no list out there like the others I've found, of "books every LDS person should read" or "LDS religious classics" or anything. And yes, I know these aren't novels. But I think it's important that I'm getting some good reading in. So I have decided to make one myself. So far I've thought of:

The Bible
The Book of Mormon
Doctrine and Covenants
Pearl of Great Price
The Apocrypha
Josephus (antiquities of the Jews, esp.)
Jesus The Christ, James E. Talmage
Gospel Doctrine, Joseph F. Smith
The Bonds that Make Us Free, C. Terry Warner
Approaching Zion, Hugh Nibley
The Miracle of Forgiveness & Faith Proceeds the Miracle, by Spencer W. Kimball
Mormon Doctrine, Bruce R McConkie
An Enemy Hath Done This, by Ezra Taft Benson
History of the Church, 6 Volume Set
Lectures on Faith, Joseph Smith
Discourses of Joseph Smith
Discourses of Brigham Young
Standing For Something, Gordon B. Hinckley
Thousand Years Series, Cleon Skousen
Christ and the New Covenant, Jeffrey R. Holland
Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan
Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling,Richard Bushman
The Great Divorce, Mere Christianity, & The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis
The Gnostic Gospels, by Elaine Pagel
Misquoting Jesus, by Bart. D. Ehman

So... that's all I can think of right now. What would you say is an "LDS" or "Religious related to LDS scholarship/testimony building" classic? Please give me some ideas to add to my list so I can make my reading more well-rounded. I've decided no anti-mormon literature (skywalker jokingly suggested the Salamander Letters to be a classic related to Mormon doctrine, and while he's right I'm not sure I should be reading something like that if my purpose is edification.)

*edited to add* thanks for you suggestions so far. Dave, I added yours to the list. I was thinking of Standing for something last night, but my husband talked me out of it, said it's not a classic *yet*. But I agree it should be on there... it's a classic to me. :)

I thought of the Apocrypha. I've added a link for myself so I can buy it on Amazon when I come around to that one. Apparently there's old testament as well as new testament apocrypha, and then the dead sea scrolls of course.

I'm going to be so weirdly well-read when this list is done. Maybe I'll be able speak up in gospel doctrine class when it veers, as gospel doctrine classes do on occasion, into something extremely esoteric and somewhat unimportant :)

Adoption and Issues with the kids

Recently a family that I know of, who brought home their little girl at the same time we brought ours home, has had to disrupt their adoption. Their little girl is six, like our two girls currently are (MayMay's birthday was last week, and Bella's will be at the end of july. They are about as close together in age as two siblings can be.)

It has been breaking my heart. It has been making me anxious, wondering why the heck we ended up with such whole, unhurt children? Am I blind? Am I not seeing things I should be worried about? It has really added some stress to the last two days for me. I'm in a state of mourning when I don't need to be.

I've been searching myself and wondering why I have such a hard time accepting good things that come to me. When I married Skywalker, I felt like it was too good to be true, that I ended up with such a handsome, intelligent, funny, alternative, kind, mild-tempered, distinguished, friendly, loving person. How could this be? Surely something more was in store for me... for instance, I was sure he was going to get washed away on our honeymoon. So I asked him not to go swimming at the (admittedly rather dangerous) beach we visited, but instead stay and wade with me and be safe. I used to worry every time he left the house that he wasn't coming home again. I used to worry I'd find out something that threw him in a whole new, less-perfect light.

It hasn't happened.

It never will.

And it doesn't do me or my husband or my kids any good to be worrying that I'm being naive simply because there's nothing wrong.

OK, I've been hurt. There is that.

This last couple of years have been so healing for me. I never doubt Skywalker anymore. I just revel in the fact that he is so awesome and he's my husband, and I do my best to live my life worthy of him. I try to think of what might make him happy and do those things because he is that way with me.

With these kids, I need to do the same thing. Revel in their amazingness. they have come through SO MUCH (and I mean, not just starvation and sickness, losing their family, but some abuse, too.) My kids open up to me sometimes about Ethiopia and I'm amazed that the beautiful, simple life they lead there, and also horrified at what they've had to deal with. And they're OK.

Having said that, I don't think it's fair to me and my worrying mind not to admit it hasn't been hard, and there haven't been issues. It's also not fair to prospective adoptive families not to let them know there may be hard times, but your kids can still be OK and your family can get through it. I want to make a list here of the things our family has overcome in this, for this purpose. Because I AM being overly rosy and naive and inducing other potential adoptive families to be that way, too, if I sugar coat our own experience.

What we have dealt with:

1) Rejection of Skywalker. This has been the most gut-wrenching part of the whole thing for me, but it's almost gone. I still see one of my little girls get frightened once in a while around him, but I realize now there are reasons for that and she loves him sooo much and those moments disturb her just as much as me, when she feels them.

2) Entitlement. Crying, anger, almost deep mourning every time I say no to something they want. I've had to be kind of iron-fisted about this (not literaly, I do not punch my kids, of course) and say, if you whine you get to spend time away from us. Whining is too hard for me to listen to. This is also gut-wrenching in a way, because they come from a situation of having had so little, and I can give them so much. But you can't say yes all the time, not if you want to raise children that are going to be happy, functional adults. And not entitled spoiled brats (which does happen... it's easy to do. I could so easily see myself doing this with my adopted kids especially, it would be so much easier.) For a window into some of the dangers of giving kids everything in an adoption situation, read the article at this link.

3) Clingyness and "fake" crying, manipulation with smiles and overly dramatic sadness. This is actually a sign of attachment disorder, the shallow interaction/attempt to manipulate, and it's not fun to be on the receiving end when you're the parent and you see enough to know it's fake. One of my kids in particular does this. It's a survival tactic they learned when they were in situations where their needs weren't provided for unless they got more attention than the kids around them. This has subsided quite a bit over the months, except when my little girl gets in a stressful situation. But I've learned, when the giggles and big smiles and wiggly flirtatious "peek-a-boo-with-strangers" starts happening, that what she needs, is for me to pull her onto my lap and give her a big hug, keeping her close to my body, then maybe turn her toward me and help her feel secure for a moment or two, then redirect her. Sometimes she'll cling to me for a little bit. Mostly she can handle things now with redirection. The tough thing about this challenge is it makes it hard to take the kid seriously, and to enjoy the moments when she truly is being cute, and not manipulative. It engenders feelings of resentment... makes me, at least, want to shove the kid out of my lap and tell them to go away. But you can't do that... that's not what they need. And eventually, things get better. I'm being very, very honest here. Please don't judge me--these are all feelings, not actions (most of the time, at least.)

4) Hoarding and intense jealousy over "stuff." One of my girls feels a need to collect boxes, bags, containers of all types, and gather "stuff" she likes and keep it there. Over christmas this changed to "giving presents." She'd gather her stuff and make neat little packages out of paper and ribbons or rubberbands or string, and hand it to you... you'd open them and out would come a shower of buttons, papers with little drawings, hole-punch confetti, used up stickers etc. This is something that I have just watched. It hasn't interfered, in our case, with anything or made life difficult... so I'm just letting my girl heal as fast as she feels able. The jealousy thing, I've had to just discourage the whining and taking. When we first came home, she'd snatch stuff that wasn't hers and hoard it... I gave her consequences for this and made sure she understood that I didn't mind that she wanted stuff, and that she kept it with her in containers, it just couldn't be other peoples' stuff. And when someone else got something she didn't get and she got mad, I'd remind her of a time she got something others didn't, and tell her that whining wasn't making me want to give her anything. Sounds harsh. I probably need to find a better technique, or maybe eventually even figure out a therapy situation for this, as this is the only thing that continues pretty strongly out of all the discouraging behaviors we've had to deal with. It has also gotten better, though.

5) Strangers. My girls have learned to talk to strangers, because they lived their life among strangers for several months. I don't think it's attachment-disorder level socializing, as they stay close to me and don't go snuggle on laps or anything. But I have had to teach them about strangers vs family. I still have a problem anytime a new person comes into our home, though. SOmething about them being here, in our home, makes my girls think they're just as safe as any family. ANd we need to work on that... but then my biological kids do this, too. Especially if it's a boy that my sister-in-law brings over... which is a tad worrysome.

6) When they first came over, the kids did act out in small acts of violence on the other kids when they were upset or threatened. I gave (admittedly severe) consequences for this from day one. I'd put them in the room for about 30 minutes. They'd tantrum and throw stuff around in the room. One kid wrecked a set of drawers. But I can handle broken drawers, they mean nothing in the eternal scheme of things. Pretty soon my kids could recite this mantra. "no hitting. no biting. no pinching. no pushing. no kicking. no screaming in anybody's ear." And the problem tapered off pretty quickly.

So... I want to say this: my kids are AMAZING adopted kids. They are so good, and our issues have been so minimal. These things are all things that normal kids would do if they went through what our kids have. And they have recovered so quickly it's amazing... at 9 months post, we feel like things work out really well, our family is a family, and my bio kids provide just as much parental angst as the adopted kids do. It has evened out. We're a functioning, working unit... that is the goal of adoption.

Don't expect that your experience will be to turn poor impoverished orphans into little angels. Have you ever met any kids that were little angels all the time?

Don't expect to bring home kids who are going to be soooooo grateful for you and what they have now that they won't act like kids who've been uprooted and destabalized.

Adoption is hard work, and there's no getting around it. If you plan to adopt, expect the hard work. Expect to be enraged at times, disturbed at times, in a state of intense mourning at times, expect to be dazzled at times, touched at times, so full of love you could almost burst at times. Expect to be overwhelmed but also overwhelmed with love.

Anyway, that's my mental spew... do with it what you can. :)

May 17, 2010

Sesame Street Opera Classics

I love an opera singer who knows how to sing to Bananas.

Placido Flamingo will always be a timeless classic.

My favorite Sesame Street Opera clip involves two opera singers running around a library screeching at each other to be quiet. one is wearing a viking helmet and long braids. Does anyone know where I can find that clip?

ANd here's my other, very disturbing favorite :

May 16, 2010

Church going green...

I love our true prophets. Whether you believe in things like global warming or not, there is no way of denying that stewardship is a message that has been heavily preached in at least two of the standard gospels (old Testament and Doctrine and Covenants.) It's great to read about this, and to realize one more that the fruits of our church are good ones. Love.

May 15, 2010

experimenting with sushi...

some things I've learned.

1) roasted sesame seeds make everything just that much better.

2) Tempura veggies (zuchini, eggplant, mushroom) are delicious in sushi. Buy tempura batter, mix it up, mix some veggies cut in this slices into it and fry. So yummy inside a sushi roll especially with mirin sauce.

3) Speaking of which: Mirin Sauce. 1/4 cup mirin, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/8 cup sugar, boiled until it gets a little thicker. Mirin is something you can buy at any Asian food store. This is the sauce that goes on Unagi sushi, which is my absolute favorite but it's impossible to make at home without being really really yucky. At least so far.

4) Put as thin a layer of rice on the nori sheet as possible. Much yummier this way.

5) My previous sushi recipe had too much seasoning. Halve everything, and that's about as much as you need for the 3-cup recipe.

6) The secret is in the rice. For making great sushi rice: 1) Rinse as much as you can stand. Rinse until the water runs clear. 2) Drain as much as you possibly can when you're done rinsing, then let it sit for at least 15 minutes. 3) When you add water to the rice for the cooking, just barely cover the rice with water. 4)Do not let it cook too long! After the water is boiling, turn it down to simmer and then let it cook 10-15 minutes, or until the grains are soft but not slushy or goopey. 5) The point of fluffing is to seperate the rice grains from each other so you're not biting down on a dense glutinous mass when you eat your sushi. The secret is to sort of "stir" from underneath... take the spoon and dig it "under" the rice, lift up quickly, let it fall back into the bowl... thus "fluffing." Don't stir the way you'd stir bread dough, sqooshing all the rice grains together. Do all you can not to "squoosh" but to sort of aerate your rice. And use a fan if you've got one.. point it into the bowl toward your rice as you're fluffing.

Today I'm trying a new sauce recipe: 1/4 cup japanese mayo (found at any asian food store), 1 tb mirin sauce, 1/2 tb rice vinegar, 1/2 tb roe fish eggs and 1 tsp asian chili sauce. I'll tell you how it turns out! I'm hoping it'll make that sweet-spicy orange sauce that is so yummy on sushi.

May 12, 2010

The Time Machine

I'm still waiting for Hans. As in, Hans Christian Andersen, which is next on my list. In the meantime I read The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, which I randomly bought at the bookstore because it was there and it was cheap and it was on my list.

The Time Machine

This book illustrates the feeling that man had toward science back during the time of the industrial revolution. Technology was taking off; science was suddenly something that mattered in the real world. Everything was moving at a much faster pace, and so much more was possible than anyone had ever thought could be. These sudden rapid developments not only set the industrial world on edge, but also society. And people feared the changes. Science was something to be in awe of, something terrible and magnificent, something to be feared. Thus, science fiction during the industrial revolution tended to be a subgenre of horror fiction.

The Time Machine is a beautifully constructed story; simple and elegant in its plot-lines. Description that is succinct and pungent, as well as a minimum of character development, make the story and the picture that the author creates of future scenarios the entire focus. The story has a distinctly eerie flavor. You know, long before trouble happens, that this will be a horror story; in fact, the author prepares you for it with the typical foreshadowing phrases, eg, "little did he know," and "It would soon be discovered". This creates tension and dread that adds to the horror when one experiences the plot's climax.

The odd thing about this book is that it is so very short, and yet the story conveys so much. Honestly, I read this story, got to the end, and then looked at the thin little volume in my hand with almost disbelief. I felt like I had just read a two-inch thick novel by Vonnegut, or a 400 page Asimov. This indicates how good the writing is--the author conveys a memorable, satisfying story with vibrant imagery and somehow conserves his words to a point that it can be read in an hour.

There is a mild mention of sexuality in passing, but nothing explicit. The violence is implied, for the most part, though the suspense makes it feel more intense.
I would definitely reccommend this. I give it 3.75 out of 4 stars. (I've decided the asterixes just aren't working, sorry guys.)

May 5, 2010

The Slave

I've had a hard time organizing myself as to getting the right books on my list at the right time. My next book is supposed to be Hans Christian Andersen, Fairy Tales and Stories. It's ordered on Amazon and will be coming to me soon, I hope.

In the meantime, Skywalker went to a book sale at UCSF while we were down there a few weeks ago. He bought a volume of poetry by John Donne as well as The Slave, by Issac Singer. And this is not on my list, but it is a classic. I know, I know. Well, I'm doing my best! So I think I'm still following my goal. Anyway, here's my Blessay on The Slave.

The writing is ingenious. Somehow Singer just lets his characters Be; doesn't manipulate and twist them in any obvious way. They seem to evolve naturally, and are therefore believable.

I started this book with a bit of a raised eyebrow. The character, Jacob, is a Polish Jew. His village was massacred and he was kept alive but as a Slave, in another Polish Village inhabited by what Singer called "Peasants" or Polish Christians. He describes these peasants as unintelligent, idolatrous, and little better than animals in the way they live. They are constantly drunk, constantly promiscuous, filthy, diseased. He vividly pictures pork-eating on several occasions, and it seems to be a symbol of their uncleanliness.

Of course to a Jewish person, pork eating would be just that. And it seems, at least in the first part of the story, that Singer's point is that Jacob is far better than these filthy peasants. His life is in their hands, and because of their savagery, constantly in danger. This, to me, is a depiction of the "chosen people" doctrine that is so very important to the Jewish people. Jacob is set apart. In the story, he lives on a hill above and away from the village. His cattle are fatter (this recalls, to me, Old Testament stories of prosperity in God's chosen.) He struggles to live the Jewish law to the best of his ability and thus, does not become diseased, savage, and promiscuous as they are. His intelligence continues to be keen, and is even sharpened as he recalls huge portions of the Torah because of his desperation to live the law.

Things begin to shift a little when the character, Wanda, enters the story. She is unlike any of the peasants. She is refined, intelligent, and beautiful. She is loving and loyal to her father. She is in love with Jacob. He is attracted to her and sees her as Satan's temptation to him. Eventually he succumbs and hates himself (and by extension, despises her) for this.

When Jacob is freed, he goes off and decides to forget Wanda and his transgression, but he can't. For some reason he is drawn back to her. At this point the reader realizes that he loves her, though the character himself does not realize this; he is too caught up in his own world of shame, guilt, and fear for the future. One begins to see, in reading this story, that the main point may well be humanity over race or religion or practice. By Jewish law, Wanda is unclean and unable to enter Heaven and by extension, Jacob is also an outcast. But as the story continues, the reader realizes that Wanda is a saint, perhaps the most human of all the characters. She lives on love. She is not ashamed of her feelings. She is the most genuine of all the characters. Her only weakness is her dependence on Jacob, and even that is written to be a virtue-- because Love, and self-sacrifice in the face of Love, is something that our modern society values. Jacob becomes whole when he finally overcomes his emotional roadblocks and admits he loves her as well.

For me the most interesting thing about his book was Singer's description of the Jewish laws and how they were initially interpretations of the first commandments--the ten that Moses brought down. How what was once Ten laws then became a hundred, then those hundred became many hundred, until the Torah became so full of laws and commandments as to be nearly impossible to follow. Several times throughout this novel, Singer writes that the Jews in the communities that Jacob and Wanda visit only follow "one half of the Torah." He makes the statement that the rules for daily living, those involving cleanliness and the sabbath and all else, are much easier to follow than the simple rules of loving neighbor and loving God, and so these intricate, less important laws are followed to the letter while loving one's neighbor is forgotten.

In the end I think the message of the book turned out to be just this: The two great commandments. Love God, Love your Neighbor as yourself. Which is ironic, considering that this is the message of the New Testament. But I don't want to say that Singer came up with Christianity as the moral of his story, because let's face it. Christians are just this same way, a lot of the time: good at the multitude of less-significant rules, and neglectful of the ones that are truly important.

The violence in this book is graphic and disturbing. Pretty much as bad as it can get, but the story is about the massacre of the Jews in poland, so it's not gratiutous. There is also sexuality, but it is not descriptive or I guess I should say, explicit.

I'd give this book ** 1/2 out of ****, not because it's not a good story. I'm weighing classics against other classics here. I give this rating because I'm not sure how comfortable I feel about the beginning, the depiction of the Polish peasants weighed against the depiction of the Polish Jews. It feels a bit like prejudice to me, and while I think I might understand where the author is coming from (we have plenty of pro-mormon-anti-gentile literature out there as well) I can't agree with it.

May 4, 2010

Things We Say

MayMay: Mom, when I'm mom I will have a baby and put on her white dress and she will be so cute and you will hold her.

NSG: That sounds good. I love babies.

Jaws: Mom, I will have babies someday.

NSG: After you're married.

Jaws: And I can find a husband I like and we can get married.

NSG: That's right. You can go to the temple with him and get married.

MayMay: And kiss on lips. It's OK Moms and Dads Kiss on lips.

Jaws: Princesses like to kiss on lips.

MayMay: That's only on movies. Not in REAL life!!

May 2, 2010

A Semi-Innappropriate thought...

I had during Relief Society.

Lady Giving Lesson: "My mother taught me that that I should get showered and dressed first thing, because if your husband leaves for work and you're in pajamas, and he comes home and you're in pajamas again, he always sees you in pajamas. And there are lots of pretty women out there in the world who won't be wearing pajamas."

NSG: *Well, actually, most men like women best when they're naked. So maybe we should just always be naked, just in case.*

Should I have said it out loud? I kind of wish I had and yet I'm sort of glad I didn't.