Tuesday, December 30, 2008


So, I finally got my book from the library. Yeah!

It was a little hard to get into at first, after reading six unrelated books between the second book and this one.

But now, the book is done (although apparently not the series. What a let down. I had no idea there is going to be a fourth book. Good thing though, since the ending would have been terrible if the third book was the final one.)

Anyways, I'm getting ahead of myself.

I'm calling these books the Dragon books. Technically, they are called the Inheritance Cycle (yes, "cycle," not series.) But the only people that know what they are called are the ones who've already read the books. But since everyone has seen the big, fat books with different colored dragons on the cover at Wal-mart, Barnes&Noble, or any other place you can buy books, that's what I'm calling them.

I read these books because I've been on a semi-fantasy/science fiction kick lately (with a little Austen mixed in.) They haven't reached Twilight or Harry Potter popularity, so I hadn't heard anything about them, and figured I could read them without anyone passing judgment (as comes with reading Twilight in a house full of boys. And I was intrigued once I heard that they were written by a home-schooled, 15 year old boy.

Brief synopsis (with minimal spoilers, hopefully): The main character is a boy named Eragon who finds a dragon and raises her. Unfortunately this act brings a variety of horrible things to happen to him and his family. He eventually finds himself fighting, side by side elves and dwarfs, against the evil king who rules the land and wants to kill Eragon and his dragon.

Hope that's brief enough for you.

So, first what I liked...
It has the epic adventure fantasy style of Lord of the Rings and Wizard of Earthsea that I love to read. The basic idea and adventure is intriguing. The books, especially the first one, is an excellent option for younger readers, for whom other fantasy books are too dark, violent, or otherwise "questionable." They are an easy read and fun.

Unfortunately, that is about there the list ends.
Especially during Eragon, it is painfully obvious that the author was only 15 years old when he wrote the book. While the writing itself is decent, the depth of characters is lacking. The characters, regardless of their age, have as much insight and strength of experience, as, well, a 15 year old boy.

The books could use a good editing. While I applaud Paolini for thinking through all the details of his story, there is something to be said about leaving something to your readers' imagination. (Seriously, an entire chapter on the making of a sword?) There are times when it felt like reading Numbers in the old Testament, when they are sounding off all the measurements of the temple. Okay, we get it already; it's a big building.

However, the thing that I disliked the most, to the point of distain, was Paolini's reliance on other, far superior fantasy writers. From the use of true names from Ursula K. Le Guin, to the surroundings of elves and dwarves from J. R. R. Tolkien, I felt that he stole many of his ideas from major fantasy series and had very little to offer that was truly unique.

So, in summary, will I recommend them? Um, not really. Will I read the fourth book whenever it comes out? Of course.

Monday, December 29, 2008

More Vampires

While waiting for the third book in the Inheritance series from the library, I had to have something else to read. (I'm still not reading Harry Potter again yet. I'm waiting until just before the sixth movie comes out.)

So, after meandering through my books, I decided to read Twilight again. I started just as I went to see the movie.

I used to have the definition that a good book is one that you can read over and over again, and the book loses nothing with each re-read. That you enjoy it just as much when you finished it the second, tenth, or fiftieth time as you did the first.

Clearly, I will have to work on that definition. Because I don't consider the Twilight series "good" books, as in the writing is not strong and it only appeals to a very narrow group of readers. But, I have to admit, that I enjoyed entering Stephanie Meyer's world of love and myth just as much the second time.

This time, I decided to also read the unfinished manuscript that Meyer had posted on her website. For those that don't know, Meyer started writing a fifth book, titled Midnight Sun, that tells the story of Twilight from Edward's point of view. She had sent unfinished copied of the work to several friends, only to have the pages posted illegally on the internet. Since then, the work has been on hold indefinitely. However, she created a link to the manuscript so that her fans could read the first part of Midnight Sun without feeling guilty.

So I read it. All in one afternoon.

Reading the story from Edward's point of view was amazing. It added such dimension to not just Edward, but Bella. I will admit, Bella is a character that, up until the fourth book, frustrates me to no end. She is selfish, silly, and manipulative. I will give it to her that she is only 17 years old, and thus "entitled" to act like a teenager, but still. She acts in ways to get everything she wants without sacrificing anything. Seeing her through Edward's eyes helped mitigate my dislike of her.

Maybe seeing someone (even a literary someone) through the view of love helps soften their flaws, as it does in real life.

Hearing Edward's thoughts created a character that, unlike the one Bella sees, has the thought process of someone born in the early 1900s.

I hope that Meyer decides to finish the book and publish it. I'm sure it will be well worth the wait.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

All Is Merry and Bright

I apologize for the posting hiatus. I didn't have the best access to the internet during our visit to the in-laws in rural Montana.

We had a lovely Christmas.

Christmas Eve was spent mostly on the eight hour drive from the Wasatch Front to the Bitterroot Valley in Montana. Thankfully, we had fantastic weather on the drive northward.

After arriving and settling in, we spent the evening
reading Christmas stories to the boys. Then, we tucked them in, not to be disturbed until 8 am Christmas morning.

Christmas Eve stories
(How the Grinch Stole Christmas, in this case)

Since our boys and their cousin were the only children at the grandparents, they opened presents by themselves in the morning. It was delightful to watch them squeal and "oh" over their presents. And that is why we try so hard at Christmas as parents, right? To make it as magical for them as we remember it being for us as children.

The face of a happy Christmas

Blaise, enthralled by his new, noisy toy

After a wonderful Christmas breakfast (my mother-in-law is a fantastic cook!), and Keith's brothers showed up from their own Christmas mornings with their families, we finally got around to opening the rest of the presents (at around 1 pm!). (Now, I know that I'm "all grown up," but still, waiting until the afternoon for presents is not the easiest thing to do.)

Overall, it was a wonderful trip. We played games with Keith's family, which of course, always gets a little out of hand. We visited with some of Keith's friends from high school. And the cold wasn't too bad.

Oh, yes. Blaise is very silly!
Making orange faces Christmas morning

The trip back wasn't as pleasant as the trip up, due to wind and icy roads. But thankfully, Roman and Blaise are fantastic travelers (especially with their car seats separated.)

So, a belated Merry Christmas. Hope the holidays were merry and bright for all of you.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Lights and Houses

This post is mostly going to be an apology for the lack of pictures.

Last night, my mom, a handful of siblings, Keith, the boys, and I went to Temple Square to see the Christmas lights.

Living along the Wasatch Front in Utah, this is a holiday staple. Every year, we bundle up against the cold, brave the ice, and wander among the grounds surrounded by trees draped in millions of colored lights. The effect is quite magical.
There is also a place to listen to the re-telling of the Christmas story.

Nothing puts me more in the Christmas spirit. And as the boys get older, they enjoy it more (instead of just being cold.) This year, their eyes were huge as they took in the lights.

Afterwards, when the 18 degree weather had taken it's full effect, my family came back to my apartment so share some cocoa and cookies.

(And here is where the apology is: I was all set to take some truly magical pictures, only to realized that the memory card for my camera was not in my camera, but at home. So no beautiful twinkling pictures of millions of Christmas lights).

Today, as I frantically wrapped Christmas presents and attempted to finish things up before we go out of town early tomorrow, it was obvious the boys needed some diversion.

So we set to work assembling a "gingerbread" house (actually, graham crackers, because no boys here like gingerbread.) We actually go quite ambitious, constructing a gingerbread church. The boys were quite proud of it.

These are the before pictures.

Roman, demonstrating the finer points of the gingerbread house's architecture

Blaise, fully impressed by the "final" result

I would love to show you some after pictures, but those would look like a series of tears and then some full mouths of graham crackers and Mike-and-Ikes, since the house fell down after Blaise rather enthusiastically decorated the roof.

I think we'll stick with a kit next year. Might not taste as good, but is much sturdier. Which, in this case, is what counts in this house.

Wrapping Up

Every year, I'm on the quest for the perfect wrapping paper. Something unique, gorgeous. Something that says the gift is from me.

I'm sure I could do it easier ways, just stuffing things into gift bags or using the closest Santa themed paper.

But this is my one time a year to show of any ounce of creativity I can muster. So I search through stores until I find the "perfect" wrapping paper. And then, I have to find ribbon and other accessories to make the perfect gift into a holiday work of ark.

This year's design:

(I wish that the scan had turned out better). This shiny paper lead to my color scheme this year: red and black. So my presents have this beautiful black on red bird pattern, wrapped with black satin ribbons. Fan-ta-stic!

The combination with the holly berries (picked up for a dime a piece at a pre-Christmas sale) with quite striking. A modern look, while still maintaining a very classic holiday look.

I'm quite proud of the final look. Who wouldn't want to open this?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Twas the night before Christmas

As the preparations for the holidays literally wrap up, I am starting to make plans for Christmas Eve.

Since Christmas will be spent with my in-laws, the traditions of caroling to candle-light until the early hours and the Christmas present parade will not be taking place (Trust me on this: not singing with my brothers-in-law is a very good thing.)

But I still want to have traditions that can be repeated every year with my children. Those include Christmas Eve stories. These are my favorite:

1. The Polar Express: Even though we don't do Santa in our house, this is my favorite Christmas story. The pictures are magical, the story line simple and heart felt. Even though neither my children nor me believed in Santa Claus, it almost makes me want to. The beauty of receiving confirmation of a childhood belief is so wonderful, it brings tears to my eyes every time is read the last few words. "...for those who truly believe."

2. The Night Before Christmas: Another Santa story, I know. But one that is as ubiquitous with Christmas as "Jingle Bells" and "Deck the Halls." The verses and mental images are the creation of an icon. The familiarity of the words is the perfect family tradition.

3. St. Luke's telling of the birth of Christ: Although the "complete" story is spread out over several gospels and several chapter, the story creates a sense of wonder. (My family traditionally does a skit every Christmas eve of St. Luke, there are never enough children to cover all the parts, and something always goes wrong, making the skit to the "inexperienced" look very irreverent.

4. The Velveteen Rabbit: While not completely a Christmas story, the beauty and child-like innocence of the story make it a perfect reading for the magical time of Christmas Eve. Especially, if you are so lucky to have one with fantastic illustrations.

5. My Penguin Osbert: A more light-hearted reading, the tale of a boy and his request to Santa for a real penguin is silly, wishful, and whimsical. Perfect for getting a few giggles into a rather serious, thought-provoking line-up.

I would love to hear any suggestions anyone has for other readings that I can add to my Christmas Eve line-up.

And maybe these will give some of you ideas for your own magical night before Christmas

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I'll be home for Christmas

Actually, I won't. I'll be in the great white North with Keith's family. But that's a different story.

I just got home from Nashville yesterday. Um, I mean, this morning. With the holiday traffic, the horrific weather, and some other mysterious factors, the last two times I was supposed to get in from a trip around 11 pm, my plane has landed around 1 am. Horrible. I'm tired of it. I wish that I was done with my interviews. (After all, I've done 8 interviews so far. And I have at least 6 left, and could have as many at 10; still not settled. And not the point of this post.)

I was interviewing at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. I'm keeping with my policy of not "publicly" sharing my opinions of programs until after my match list is in (around February.) So I'm mum about Vanderbilt.

But I really liked Nashville. Kind of hard not to when it was 70 degrees the day I was there. In December. Fab-u-lous! It's a "big" city, with a small town feel. And of course, music. (No, I didn't see anyone famous. But who knows: one of the five people I saw playing guitar in the Nashville airport might be famous someday.)

The campus of Vanderbilt was beautiful. (And no, these are none of these are my pictures.)

One of the main parks in Nashville has this parthenon. Kinda cool.

These are also a lot of churches in Nashville, some of them very beautiful.

But no matter now nice the place, or how beautiful, it is always nice to come back home.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hey Santa

We don't do Santa Claus in our house. Neither Keith or I ever believed in Santa. Before we had children, we discussed what we wanted to do for them. And we settled on no Santa.

This isn't entirely about keeping to the true meaning of Christmas. (Although that is important, and we talk a lot about it.)

It was more about not lying to our children. I remember my friends recalling the moments of their childhood when they realized that Santa wasn't real, and the devastation associated with that. I never wanted my children to go through that. And I wanted them to always be able to trust me, even in little things. The process of creating the hoax of Santa felt dishonest.

Anyways, this post isn't really about my family's take on Santa. It is about the magic of childhood.

Despite the fact that we don't do Santa, Roman wrote this darling letter to Santa. He just come home from school last week, pulled out a paper, and wrote this letter. (I am not going to translate his spelling; I want to be true to his writing. Just sound it out.)

Dear Santa,
I can't make up my mind what I want for Crismas. There is so mene toys.
I hope you eat lot of your cookies. So have fun dulivring your presints from the chimne. But I have a problam. I don't have one. So be quiet opening the dore.
I know you have a lot of elves, for evrey-one in the world.
Ho Ho. Merry Crismas.

I hope that the letter melts your heart, just as much as it did mine. And reminds you, that whatever you believe, this is still a magical time of year.

All I Want

As Christmas rapidly approaches (just 8 days left!), I've thought about what I would really want to open early Christmas morning.

My family always does a wonderful job, and Christmas is always magical. But today, I was thinking, "What if there wasn't a budget? What would I really want?"

So, here is my Christmas list, posted too late to make anyone feel guilty or obligated:

1. Digital SLR Camera: I've been reading reviews for months, and can't decided between the Canon EOS Rebel XS or the Nikon D60. I need to get into a shop and try them out and see which one feels better. While my digital point-and-shoot has been great, it is definitely time for an upgrade.

2. Whirlpool Duet washer and dryer (with storage stands): I know, appliances. Yes! It's not like there is anything wrong with our current washer and dryer. They work fine. But just look how pretty. And the thought of being able to stuff more clothes into a single load (all while using less water).

3. MacBook Air: I would like to say that I really, really, really need a laptop. And there are times that I do. Most of the time, it's just that I want one. So that I can blog at airports, check e-mail during incredibly boring days of radiology rotations, and Facebook during class. All noble causes. And it would also be nice to have to computers in the house. (And this one is so thin and pretty.)

4. Restoration Hardware Portman Sleigh Bed (in Espresso): After all these years, we still don't have a real bed. We've looked, of course, but haven't found anything that we really liked. Until now. This bed is gorgeous, with the dark wood, and shape of a sleigh bed, without being too curvy. And of course, it will be king-sized. The queen was fine, until the kids started sleeping with us, too.

5. Lasix: I'm sick of glasses and contacts, and all that. I'm done. Ready to actually see people when I wake up. That's all.

I think that I'm just going to stick with 5 dream items this year. So I don't look to greedy. Because I'm not really. It's just fun to dream.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Visions of Sugar Plums...

Well, actually, we were having visions of cookies.

I had set today aside for making cookies. (It had to be today, since I'm going back out of town for more interviews for the rest of the week, and then it is off to the frozen white north for Christmas when I get back.)

I can never decide what kind of cookie to make, so I made three kinds of dough: butterscotch chip-pecan, milk and white chocolate chip, and butter cookies. (I also wanted to make snicker doodles, but those will have to wait.)

I made the dough while the boys were at school, so there wasn't any disagreement about whose turn it was to stir or who had added more chocolate chips.

After braving the couple inches of new snow to pick the boys up, it was time to bake!

The boys scooped, and pressed extra chips into the tops, helped with the cookie press, and shook sprinkles. Halfway through, Blaise decided that he was good just eating the butterscotch chips.

Three fun-filled, sticky hours later...

Sweet success!

Aren't they cute cookies?

Let It Snow

Watching it snow. Cleaning my house. Listening to Christmas music.

And realizing with three to four inches predicted today, no one is coming to my party. More cookies for the boys and me.

Looks like it will be a white Christmas.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Secret Love

I have a confession.

I have a love affair with the ocean.

Living in the land-locked, desert and harsh winter state that I do, it is sometimes easy to forget how strong my feelings are towards the ocean.

But all it takes is a moment, a glance, and all those emotions come rushing back.

Recently, I was traveling for school/work, and was driving from Loma Linda, CA to San Diego. As I wound through the hills, ever nearing the ocean, I could feel my heart beating faster and faint butterflies forming in my stomach. Just like the moment before you know you are going to see the boy you've been crushing on.

And then, I make a turn in the road. And the world falls away. There it is...the ocean.

(I'll even admit that there were tears in my eyes. Which, like the rest of this, is completely irrational and even a little silly. But it still happens.)

I managed to find time between my meeting and my flight to make it to the beach. Best 2 hours of my entire four day trip.

I'm not sure how to explain my emotions towards the ocean. Walking along the sand, just letting the water cover my ankles, I feel at peace. I only lived by the beach (well, pretty close) for 18 months as a young child. But the pull is always there.

Here, I feel the most connected to my childhood.

The sound of the waves, the feel, smell, taste of the salty air.

I always say (and yes, I am getting old enough to be able to say, "I always say...") that everyone needs a dermatologist and a therapist. (Maybe I'll explain that sometime.)

This is the best therapy session. I don't think about to-do lists, excuses, the hectic pace that normally fills my life.

I think of me (and not in a selfish, egotistical way). I feel connected to myself. My thoughts are clearer, and I find that I like my thoughts (at least in this place.)

I've lived elsewhere most of my life.

But this...

It always feels like coming home.

Deck the Halls

The tree is finally up!

Our Christmas tree!
(Okay, yes it is a little bit crooked,
but that's to be expected with the boys
hanging ornaments and
playing with a huge plastic ball, right?)

(Yeah, it only took three nights to get it that way, but between running out of ornament hooks and being unwilling to fully decorate it with Blaise awake, it is completely understandable. Right?)

I LOVE Christmas trees. The family outing to pick out the perfect tree. The smell of fresh pine. The lights and decorations. The way it changes our living room from everyday to festive.

Keith would really like a fake one (because of the said yearly picking one out and maybe the smell. But mostly for the needles). I have managed to win the conversation by bringing up the fact we would have to store the tree for 11 months out of the year. And since we don't have room for a bike that I would use for at least 6 months, we definitely do NOT have room for a completely un-Christmas-y plastic tree.

Our Christmas tree is no prize winner. While I love decorating it, I wouldn't say that I am the most gifted at it (I have a sister-in-law who wins that category). The decorations are a mix between hand-me-downs, yearly acquisitions of traditional (now non-breakable) baubles, and of course, the boys hand-made school ornaments.

When the tree is set up (Keith's job), and the lights are on (my job), Roman puts the ornaments on.

Roman, hanging ornaments

And then when he falls asleep, I move them around. Oh, come on. Like most of you parents don't do the same thing. After all, he can only reach the bottom half of the tree and hangs them all at the very end of the branches. But I would never want to deprive him of the opportunity to participate.

And I don't move
all of them.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

New (Super-cute!) Addition

My sister Auralee just gave birth to her second baby on Friday, December 12, at around 5 pm in the evening.

A beautiful, healthy baby boy. 7 1/2 pounds.

The new addition to our family

Congratulations, Auralee! You look so happy, so peaceful holding your absolutely perfect, delicate baby. Snuggling him to your cheek to take in that glorious new baby smell. Smiling over his squeaky new baby cry.
To see you together, to see you so happy, makes me happy too.

Auralee with her baby
(who is yet unnamed)

There is nothing like a newborn. The softness, the sound, the smell. Drink in every moment.

Every new mother I visit reminds me of my own birth experiences. I'm sure it is the same for every mom. We remember the labor, the build up, the emotions, the unique circumstances surrounding our own children's birth. For me, these memories are some of the most vivid in my life.

Me, proud aunt, and Auralee
And darling baby

Welcome to this world, darling boy. You come into a family full of grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins who love you more than you will ever know. We cherished you fiercely from the moment we knew you had arrived; actually, even before. Our "circle of love" effortlessly has expanded to include you in it.

Proud, happy grandparents

Welcome, my darling nephew, and know that you are loved.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Greener pastures... I mean, beaches

I just got home from another interview trip.

This time to Southern California, to interview at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, Loma Linda, and San Diego.

Loma Linda isn't as close to the beach as I would like, but there are still palm trees.

Loma Linda: No beach, but still palm trees
(Oh, and smog.)

(Again, I am not discussing my opinion of programs here. At least, not yet.)

After interviewing at Loma Linda, I drove down to San Diego.

Everyone that knows me knows that San Diego is my favorite place in the world.

This is what San Diego looks like mid-December
Who doesn't love this?

At first, I didn't think I would have any time to go to the beach. I was upset, to think that I would travel all the way to San Diego and not make it to the beach. But my interview got over a little bit early, and I decided that I had plenty of time to go and get the best souvenir: a sunburn in December.

Pacific surf

The beach has lots of sea-weed on it
When I was little, we would look for brittle stars and shrimp
In the sea weed

I only lived at San Diego for maybe two years when I was little, but it always feels like home.
I was able to walk along the beach, pick up shells, play a little in the water, and enjoy the sand for over an hour before I headed to the airport. Which would bring me to the below freezing temperatures back home.

At least there is my darling family there. Home, best place of all. (Just wish home was a little closer to surfing.)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Festival of Trees

It is truly the Christmas season.

As a small, relatively "new" family (I am always comparing us, time-wise, to Keith's and my families), we are still in the process of forming our own family traditions.

For the last couple of years, it has included starting the Christmas season with a visit to the Festival of Trees. All the proceeds go to Primary Children's Medical Center. So, it's great cause. But more than that, it is fun. Wandering among hundreds of Christmas trees, remarking how creative people are, and getting ideas for our own tree. Surrounded by trees, carols, snacking on $1 scones, it is hard not to feel Christmas-y.

My darling happy boys,
having a great time.

We are always on the look out for our favorite tree. Last year, there was a tree covered with Transformer toys, and Roman was really hoping for a repeat. Unfortunately, there wasn't. But there was still plenty to "Oh" and "Awe" at.

There were a lot of Ute trees, not surprising considering how well the football team did this year. There were plenty of Twilight trees, also not surprising.

One of the Twilight trees.
(Unfortunately, none of the pictures do justice to the trees.)

Keith's favorite was a golf tree.

The golf tree.

Yes, the tree is made entirely of golf clubs.
Pretty cool.

Roman's favorite was a tree made out of wood, that was a marble tree. The tree was amazing; I could have sat there forever, just watching the marbles move down the tree, over and over.

Amazing wooden marble track tree.

There was also an amazing Chihuly tree, made, of course, entirely out of glass.

Amazing glass Chihuly tree
The glass, music and flashing lights creating quite a crowd.

Chihuly tree came complete with glass presents as well

There were also a variety of gingerbread houses, made by people who are as creative and talented as I wish I could be. (Pictures are just a few highlights of my favorite ones.)

Giant castle gingerbread house.
Still not sure how anyone could actually make this.

Amazingly detailed, gorgeous gingerbread house

Darling CandyLand Game gingerbread "house."
So well done.

Even without any snow, I felt the festival feeling completely in the Christmas spirit. Ready to go home and decorate my home.