Monday, March 29, 2010

Don't Judge Me by My Cover

Confession:

I don't love reading.

Until recently, I didn't even like reading.

I haven't read a ton of books in my life.

I don't like this about myself.


I used to love to read. As a child, I was an avid reader who looked forward to the Scholastic newsletters and school read-a-thons. I'm pretty sure I ate more personal pan pizzas than anyone else thanks to Book It. In junior high, I couldn't keep my nose out of Babysitter's Club, Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High books. Then came my obsession with horror fiction novels. Enter R.L. Stein's Fear Street series and all things Christopher Pike.

Something happened near the end of junior high. I stopped reading. I'm not sure if I read everything my favorite series had to offer or if I simply grew out of the genre, but one day I just wasn't reading anymore. In 7th grade I read the UNABRIDGED edition of "Les Miserable." That was a mistake. 1200 pages burned me out. When I handed in my book report Mrs. Porter (shout out to my favorite junior high teacher) said, "Wow, you read all 600 pages!" Um, no I read 1200. There's an abridged version??!!

From then on, I was Cliffs Notes Queen. I just couldn't get into books. In high school I tried, but I always got distracted with seemingly better things to do. Before I knew it, it was the day before the book report or test and I was scanning Cliffs Notes to catch up. You should see the library of Cliffs Notes sitting on the shelf in my parents' basement. It's impressive. Er, not so impressive.

In college I really had better things to do. I was swamped having a social life 90 hours a week. No time for reading. More Cliffs Notes. Although Cliffs Notes weren't nearly as abused because I wasn't assigned too many books to read at BYU. It was more textbooks. Too bad they don't make Cliffs Notes for American Heritage.

There are a handful of books I honestly read cover to cover in high school and college. Some for class, some for recreation and some I really enjoyed: "Grapes of Wrath," "Wuthering Heights," "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood," "Bridget Jones' Diary," "The Da Vinci Code." I got into these books and told myself I should try more books. But the practice never stuck.

It may have something to do with my personality. I love to multi-task. My happiness level has a direct connection to my productivity level. I never felt very productive reading. I can't do anything else with a book in my hands. Every time I would sit down to read I would think of all the other things I could be doing and the book would be set aside.

I have a problem sitting still and calming down. I'm usually 75% through a massage before I really let go and enjoy it. I'm getting much better at this, but for a long time, I struggled. So relaxing into a good book was hard for me.

I'm a slow reader, which obviously doesn't help.

Then enter my profession: broadcast journalism. I made a living reading A LOT of text. Newspapers, magazines, wire copy, press releases. The last thing I wanted to do in my off time was more reading.

Times have changed. I don't work in the news anymore. I'm learning to relax (I'm even taking a real VACATION next month!!). I'm becoming a reader again. And the best part is, I really enjoy it.

The change came unexpectedly. About a year and a half ago I was in a major funk. Anderson was six months old and I had the mom thing pretty well figured out. We'd been in our new apartment about two months and I was finished unpacking and settling. I felt this void, this boredom. I kept asking myself, now what? After some confusion and much analyzation I defined the root of my problem: I was lonely. So lonely. I needed friends or at least hobby. Preferably both.

I took action. I planned a BFF World Tour. I signed up for a photography class. I beefed up my blog. I weaseled my way into a group of girlfriends. And I joined a book club.

The book club was kind of a surprise. During my funk, I read this post. The last part made me cry. Not because I wanted to be a reader, but because I wanted the intelligent discussion, the adult conversation and most importantly, the friendships that can come with a book club. I wanted it so much it hurt.

I actually prayed to find a book club.

Within a week, our primary president randomly emailed me, inviting me to join her book club. I was thrilled.

Funny how life works. I joined the club not really interested in books themselves, but dying for girlfriends. I didn't find friends in the club. Sure the girls are nice, but they're not girlfriends. We've had some okay discussions, although most meetings leave me wanting more debate, less niceties. More heat, less fluff. But surprise, surprise, I learned I liked to read! Who knew that would come out of a book club? Lately, I've found myself less interested with the books my club is selecting, so I don't know how much longer I'll stick with the group. But I am so grateful I joined! The club did important things for me. It got me reading. It introduced me to books I never would have picked up on my own. Most importantly, it gave me a deadline. I had to commit to and finish a book. That meant I had to prioritize reading. I actually put "read insert-title-here" on my To Do list every day. When I read, I checked it off my list and that made me feel productive and happy.

I am now proud to present the list of books I've read in the last 13 months. I started including pictures (this post was feeling a little text heavy and I know some people ((Hi Mom and Allison)) get blog-ADD if pictures aren't included. Hmmm... maybe this not reading thing is genetic?), but that was a LOT of pictures. Instead I'm including a picture if I really liked the book, which pretty much means 3 or more stars on my unofficial 5 star scale.

FEBRUARY
"Suite Francaise" by Irene Nemirovsky
1 star

MARCH
"Wait 'Til Next Year: A Memoir" by Doris Kearns Goodwin
3 stars


APRIL

"Stolen Lives: 20 Years in a Desert Jail" by Malika Oufkir
*This was my pick. So I hosted and led the discussion.
3 stars




MAY

"Who Moved My Cheese?" by Spencer Johnson
2.5 stars

JUNE
/JULY
"The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I read only half of this book. I found it slightly entertaining but mostly formulaic and repetitive, so I quit.
1 star


These selections were all club books. In August, I traveled and decided to read what I wanted to read. When I returned I joined only in club selections that interested me. Otherwise I read my own picks.


AUGUST
Club read: "Galileo's Daughter" by Dava Sobel
I read: "Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger
4 stars




SEPTEMBER
Club read: "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson (I really want to read this book!)
I read: "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak
4.5 stars




OCTOBER

Club read: "Paris to the Moon" by Adam Gopnik
I read: "Love Walked In" by Maria De Los Santos
3.5 stars


NOVEMBER
Club read: "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak (Score, I'd already read it!)
I read: "I am a Mother" by Jane Clayson Johnson
2 stars


DECEMBER

Club read: "This I Believe" by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman
*My pick. I hosted and led the discussion.
2 stars


JANUARY

Club read: "Mrs. Pollifax Unveiled" by Dorothy Gilman
I read: "Girl in Hyacinth Blue" by Susan Vreeland
2 stars

FEBRUARY

Club read: "Wives and Daughters" by Elizabeth Gaskell
I read: "Happiest Toddler on the Block" by Dr. Harvey Karp
2.5 stars

MARCH

Club read: "The Time Machine" by H.G. Wells
I read: "Firefly Lane" by Kristin Hannah
4.5 stars



Next up: "Waiting for Birdy" by Catherine Newman. This book came highly recommended from my dear friend Emily P. (If you're keeping track, she's the original shamrock belly girl and it was her sister who wrote the book club post that made me cry.) Emily says this is the perfect book to read while expecting baby number 2.

I plan to take a stack of books on my vacation next month and pretty much do nothing but sit on the beach and read. I'd love your recommendations!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cousin Explosion

For years there were no Weiler grandchildren.  My parents were sad. 

Then came Anderson.

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15 months later, Lincoln followed.

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They’re pretty much the best of cousins (except when they get each other sick).

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Last fall Allison announced she’s expecting this spring.  In January (on my birthday!) she baked a cake to reveal her baby’s gender.

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Inside of the cake=pink!  IT’S A GIRL!

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DSC_0160-1DSC_0155-1The girls are pretty excited for a girl.  Shout out to Mom’s nose strap.  (It helps her sleep.  She was ready for bed.  It was late when we cut this cake.)

 

Allison and I are 7 1/2 weeks apart.  She’s due May 17th.  I’m due July 8th.  Here we are with belly shots, back in January,  at 21 1/2 and 14 weeks respectively.

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So that makes 2 cousins now and 2 on the way.  But wait for the twist… guess who ELSE is preggers?  Cheryl!  She did a great job keeping this pregnancy on the DL from almost everyone (including our Mom!) for months.  She’s made it to 16 weeks and both she and the baby are 100% healthy!  She’s due September 3th.  If you’re doing the math that’s 3 new grandbabies in less than 16 weeks.  Best friend triplets for life!  That will make 5 grandchildren in less than 2 1/2 years.  My parents are beyond happy.  Oh the fun.  Oh the craziness.  Oh the joy!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lucky

After Lincoln’s sickness, between Anderson’s sicknesses, before Harley’s sickness and just before my sickness got really bad, we all got lucky. Lucky enough to feel better for about 36 hours. Lucky for us, the Whalen’s St. Patrick’s Day party fell smack dab in the middle of our illness respite.

Years ago, at one of the famous Lind St. Patrick’s Day parties our dear friends Emily and Joe showed up like this. It was amazing.

HPIM0691 HPIM0692Emily was nine months pregnant at the time. If I remember correctly she gave birth about two weeks after this party. She really rocked that belly and everyone loved it. I tucked away her great idea and thought, “If I’m ever pregnant on St. Patrick’s Day, I’m totally stealing that costume!”

Five years later, here I am, pregnant. So just as I said I would, I stole her idea. I didn’t pull it off nearly as well as she did since I’m only six months pregnant, and in this case, I think it’s kind of the bigger the funnier.... Buuuuuuut, here it is:

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DSC_0005-2 We adorned the kids in green and silly accessories. Yes, Lincoln is wearing a pin that says “Pass the Beer.” We thought this was hilarious.

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We had a great time eating delicious Irish-themed food, visiting with friends and playing games.

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The night ended with a spirited game of Texas Hold ‘Em. Adam was the big winner. I love this picture of him.

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Thanks for a great party Sean & Shauna! Happy St. Patrick’s Day to one and all! My gift to you: a promise you will never again have to see my bare belly during this pregnancy. You’re so lucky.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

2.5 Kiddos

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For eight days I've been babysitting my 8 month old nephew, Lincoln, while his parents vacation in Costa Rica. My mom pointed out I am caring for four people 24/7: me, Anderson, Lincoln & fetus. That’s a lot.

Some days I was Supermom. We successfully tackled the park, playgroup, Costco, the library and McDonalds. (Confession to Cheryl: Lincoln may or may not have had and LOVED his first french fry.) I got the kids to nap at the same time, which was amazing. These were great days.

Unfortunately these days were in the minority. I think there were two of them. Most days I just wanted to die. I believe I can handle two children. But this particular experience has been one of those rains-then-pours weeks. You know, the weeks where all kinds of crazy, unusual, BAD things hit the fan all at once. It's also the week Harley is super stressed and extra busy at work and school. One of those weeks.

Our lowlights include but are not limited to:

*Eye infection manifesting in thick, green goop: Lincoln.

*Eye infection (viral conjunctivitis?) manifesting in thick, green goop followed by one eye puffing up and half shutting: Anderson.

*Constipation: Lincoln.

*Making up for constipation with 5 poopy diapers in 12 hours: Lincoln.

*Pooping in the tub: Anderson.

*Bleeding diaper rash: Lincoln.

*Violent vomiting in the middle of the night. For two nights: Anderson.

*Jealousy resulting in hitting and many time outs: Anderson.

*Night waking (and crying): Lincoln.

*3AM move to our bed: Lincoln.

*3AM move to the couch: Harley.

*Two “pee-pees” on the carpet: Anderson. (No we are not potty training. We’ve just been a little slow getting everyone dressed after baths.)

*Third head cold in 6 weeks: Me.

*Loss of voice: Me.

*Jar of baby food shattered. Glass and pureed wild Alaskan salmon everywhere: Anderson (while trying to feed Lincoln).

*What I believe to be the beginning of Braxton Hicks contractions: Me.

*Afternoon nap REFUSAL: Lincoln.

*Afternoon CRANKINESS: Lincoln.

*Hundreds of cell phone minutes spent freaking out to my mom: Me.

*Learning to climb into the crib, meaning it's only a short matter of time before he learns to climb OUT of the crib: Anderson.

*An entire bowl of fabulous cocoa pebbles doused in whole milk dumped EVERYWHERE on EVERYONE minutes after baths: Lincoln.

*Only 3 showers: Me.

*Countless viewings of Sesame Street DVDs: Everyone.

*11 loads of laundry: Me

*Waking others up: Anderson and Lincoln.

*Not enough sleep: Everyone.

*Unexpectedly quitting the pacifier: Lincoln. (Gasp! Harley and I are 100% untrained in this. I’m serious when I tell you we really don’t have this problem with Anderson. HOW do you calm a baby without a the cure-all-crying-be-gone “tat”?!?!?!)

*This just in: Full-blown fever, chills and other flu-like symptoms: Harley.

Now for some I’m sorrys.

Apologies to my friend, Katie: I didn’t take your two children Friday night for six hours while you went to the temple. I just couldn’t do it. Sorry.

Apologies to the Elders: I refused to let Harley go on splits with you the one night he was able to come home early. Sorry.

Apologies to our friend Eric: My house is not usually this messy. And you should know, some days I really do get dressed, put on make up and a bra. Frozen pizza isn't usually doughy in the middle. I can cook a frozen pizza. An ugly, bra-less Diva served you gross pizza in a messy home. Sorry.

Explanation to all you judgers at Costco: I'm sure a woman lugging a 23 month old on one hip and an 8 month old on the other hip, with a 6 month pregnant belly jutting out looks pretty ridiculous. Thanks for staring. You should know: they’re not all mine.

Cheryl and Ryan get back tomorrow. First thing on my To Do list: sleep. We get Lincoln again in April when Cheryl and Ryan go to Mexico for a week. I’m sure it will be much better that time. Everyone will be healthy then. I mean, this can’t all happen, all at once, again right?

Good thing they're both so stinkin' cute. I sure do love these faces.

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***UPDATE: Not 30 seconds after I published this post, I heard Harley throwing up. He did not make it to the toilet. On the bright side, no children were awakened (at least, not yet) in this latest lowlight.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Massiveness that was Utah: Part 4

I turned 30 about two months ago.  (Yes, we were still in Utah.)  Ugh.  Sounds pretty old, right?  In the weeks leading up to Dirty 30 I behaved in each of the following ways trying to prove I’m relatively immature and not that old:

1.  I painted my nails very dark.  My in-laws called it power ranger blue and asked if I was trying to get in touch with my 80’s roots.  I called it Navy and insisted it’s in style.

2.  I broke down in tears for no good reason during a family card game when my brother said something slightly insensitive.  Maybe it was that thick comment?  Don’t remember much except suddenly being in tears.

3.  I jumped at the chance to eat my birthday lunch at my alma mater, BYU.  Who goes to Provo to eat with Zoobies on her 30th birthday?  Apparently I do.  Why?  I love, Love, LOVE the Cougareat’s L&T Wraps.    Chef salad on tomato wrap, 2 scoops of ranch with a wheat roll, please.  L.O.V.E.!  My time to get to BYU to tap a wrap this trip was running out, so when my dad was heading to Provo on my birthday to fix my sister’s car, Harley and I happily tagged along.  Sure we felt a little out of place but worth it for that wrap!  We kept asking my dad if we could pass for super-seniors and his answer was, “Uh… NO.”  (Except remember how Harley is kind of a super-super-super senior right now?)  We ran into my famous second cousin in the WILK (you’re never too old to escape BYU without seeing someone you know) and topped the experience off with my favorite BYU treats.  It was awesome.

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As much as I dreaded turning 30, the birthday itself was fabulous.  After lunch and a few P-town errands, we headed home, showered and I actually caught a little nap.  Hi, old age.  Nope, we’ll call it pregnancy instead.

Harley told me to be ready for a date at 5:30.  Little did I know he had dinner reservations at one of our favorite Salt Lake City restaurants.  He also surprised me in the car by blasting tunes from my new favorite CD.  Great gift!

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The night was wonderful.  Just me and Harley and a meal in peace.  No interruptions.  Delicious food.  Romantic and sentimental ambiance.  I loved it.  I thought we were completing the evening with a family cake and ice cream party.  What I didn’t know is Cheryl and Harley had been plotting for weeks to stage a SURPRISE party for me.  I walked in my parent’s house to see my family around the cake and my first reaction was, “Anderson, they let you stay up!”  Then I saw Carter dart out of the living room.  Following him came a dozen of our closest friends yelling “surprise!”  I was surprised!

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 Family tradition:  a Pillsbury funfetti cake with Betty Crocker rainbow chip frosting (the combination is key) in the shape of a 30.  Thanks Mom!

The best part of this party was it included almost every one of my favorite Utah people.  With a few exceptions, all my Utah VIPs were there.  The girls in the picture below include my sisters, a childhood friend, college girlfriends and adult married-life friends.  I adore each of these girls and nothing makes me happier than having them all in the same room at once.  I’ve come to realize gatherings like these only happen a few times in your life.  Your wedding is one of them.  I always tell a bride-to-be to take a moment on her wedding day, look around and appreciate that everyone you love is in one room at the same time because it will likely never happen again.  That moment was one of my favorite things about my wedding day.  The next gathering, on that scale, might not be until your funeral.  Morbid, but true, thought.  Sometimes between your wedding and your funeral you get a handful of occasions when a few of your choice loved ones, otherwise unconnected, connect… just for you.  Here’s what it looks like:

DSC_0084-1 Allison, Haley, Becky, Taryn, Lisa, Nicole Diva, Cheryl, me, Kelly Diva & Alyssa

What gets better than that?  Seeing my friends fall in new-found friendship with each other!  My high school bff Sara and I used to explain this miracle with our stellar algebra skills:

  A (friend #1) = B (me)B (me) = C (friend #2)

Therefore, of course, A = C!

We thought we were so smart.  This equation played out right before my eyes at the party and you can see it manifest in the picture below.  Nicole & Kelly go way back to our Diva college days.  But both of them only recently met Becky.  They’d been hearing about each other for a long time.  Finally Nicole and Becky met last summer (after coincidentally,  Becky took Nicole’s old job), then Kelly and Becky met at the party.  As you can see, they hit it off.  To me, this is a little taste of heaven.  The people you love coming together and loving each other.  Happiness!  I love this picture!

DSC_0076-1DSC_0078-1The guys bonded too. 

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So, 30.  You started out pretty fabulous.  We’ll see what the rest of  you brings.  A HUGE thanks to Harley & Cheryl for making my day so special!

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Massiveness over.  Yay!  Did you miss it?  It’s all right here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Massiveness that was Utah: Part 3

We trekked to Jerome, Idaho for a week with the Kings. Have I mentioned I love my in-laws? Good, we have that covered. We ate great food. We opened presents. We played games, including “Guess My New Year’s Resolution,” which was quite funny with this group. We watched movies. We went to movies. We shopped. We laughed.

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Our most memorable event: sledding. The Kings are much better sledders than the Weilers. The Weilers use a kneeboard, some rope and muscles. The Kings use actual sleds, some rope and a 300 horsepower pick-up truck. The King way is much better. Almost everyone, including two pregnant women and my MIL with a bad knee, showed off mad sledding skillz. Very impressive.

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DSC_0648 Anderson and his cold face were in top form.

This was the first time Harley’s entire family had been together in 3 1/2 years. It was wonderful to have everyone under one roof. Anderson’s favorite thing? Skeeter Reed, the dog. To this day when I ask Anderson what he dreams about he tells me, “Skeeter. Skeeter and Jeddie.” (Jeddie=Harley’s dad). We have this little exchange every morning. Every single morning.

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We made a group schlep to Springville, UT to visit Debby’s parents and partake in the annual Hellewell Christmas Bingo Party/White Elephant Gift Exchange. Anderson found and LOVED Great-Grandma Jan’s marble works.

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We attempted a family photo shoot. The silly shots outnumber the serious ones.

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DSC_0732DSC_0730 Katie, Janna, Harley, Jim

DSC_0737 DSC_0741 DSC_0744 DSC_0749The whole family. Where applicable I will list our Texas-style names: Back Row L-R: Jim Ed, Wendy, Anderson, Harley Joe, Alex; Front Row L-R: Ed, Janna Gail, Debby & Kooter Lou

Next Christmas we’ll really get our southern on. There are big plans to spend the holidays with Ed’s extended family in Texas. Yee-haw!

Catch up on massiveness here. Just a little more massiveness still to come.