Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Books I Read in 2013

Heft - Liz Moore (Audiobook version)
I picked this one because one of the narrators was Kirby Heyborne. I was intrigued and thought it probably was a decent book if Kirby decided to read it. It was totally engrossing, but I was a bit surprised at the language Kirby's character used some of the time.

The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver (Audiobook version)
It was distressingly sad at times, but it was engrossing throughout. I listened to it on long runs while I trained for a marathon and I would get so wrapped up in the story that the physical exertion of running would seem to bleed together with the emotions of the book. I suppose this book is mainly read by women. I heard about it from my aunt and female cousins. I don't know what it did for them, but it made me want to be a better person.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - L. Frank Baum (Audiobook version)
How many times have we all seen this film? It seems dishonest to just watch the film and never invest the time to get to know the book as well. It was funnier than I expected. Here is a passage that made me laugh out loud:

The soldier with the green whiskers led them through the streets of the Emerald City until they reached the room where the Guardian of the Gates lived. This officer unlocked their spectacles to put them back in his great box, and then he politely opened the gate for our friends.
"Which road leads to the Wicked Witch of the West?" asked Dorothy.
"There is no road," answered the Guardian of the Gates. "No one ever wishes to go that way."
"How, then, are we to find her?" inquired the girl.
"That will be easy," replied the man, "for when she knows you are in the country of the Winkies she will find you, and make you all her slaves."
"Perhaps not," said the Scarecrow, "for we mean to destroy her."
"Oh, that is different," said the Guardian of the Gates. "No one has ever destroyed her before, so I naturally thought she would make slaves of you, as she has of the rest. But take care; for she is wicked and fierce, and may not allow you to destroy her. Keep to the West, where the sun sets, and you cannot fail to find her."

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald (Audiobook version)
My younger brother got into F. Scott Fitzgerald a few years ago and I followed his recommendation and read a collection of short stories back in 2010. I had always meant to read the Great Gatsby, but I hadn't gotten around to it. In preparation to watch the new movie, I listened to an unabridged audiobook during our trip to Kalispell. I enjoyed it immensely. I also appreciated how the movie stayed very true to the book.

Across Asia on a Bicycle: The Journey of Two American Students from Constantinople to Peking - William Lewis Sachtleben (Author), Thomas Gaskell, Jr. Allen (Author), Michael W. Perry (Editor)
My brother J gave me this one. It's part of an ongoing tradition of ours of sharing interesting non-fiction books about various travels and exploits. The sheer daring of this pair of explorers is a marvel. Also, they must have had uncanny survival instincts to come through the endless flow of craziness -- or they must have been insanely lucky.

Legends of the Outer Banks and Tar Heel Tidewater - Judge Charles Harry Whedbee
In preparation for our trip to North Carolina I ordered up a few books of Outer Banks folklore. Author Judge Whedbee compiled several volumes of legends and ghost stories that were really entertaining to read. He also wore a killer sweater for the dust jacket photo.

Life Annuities: An Optimal Product for Retirement Income - Moshe A. Milevsky
Every year I have to do at least 20 hours of continuing education credits for my CFA designation. This year I cranked out quite a few hours by reading this 150-page masterpiece on life annuities. It was strangely entertaining, and deserves inclusion in my reading list for the year.

A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II - Adam Makos & Larry Alexander
My brother recommended that I read this and I blasted through it while we were on vacation this summer. Amazing book about an elite German fighter pilot -- a man who had to figure out his own morals while fighting a losing battle for a cause he had never really believed in.

Brave Companions: Portraits in History - David McCullough
This book was on my sister's book club list and since we share a Kindle account, I could read it for free. It turned out to be a great book. I liked the essay format, because you could put it down for a few weeks and come back without really missing a step. I have a new appreciation for things like the Brooklyn Bridge, Teddy Roosevelt and the Panamanian Isthmus.

Bear Child: The Life and Times of Jerry Potts - Rodger D. Touchie
I bumped into the name Jerry Potts when reading an article about the beginnings of the NWMP, which later became the RCMP (Mounties). The article credited Potts as selecting the location of Fort MacLeod and being a key figure in making peace with the local native populations. R went to an elementary school named for Potts, so I was familiar with the name without knowing anything about him. Why not read the whole story? Wow. Honestly, they should have named more than an elementary school after this man. He was a key player in the success of the Mounties and the peaceful evolution of the Canadian West.

The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story - Elliott West
The book about Jerry Potts briefly described the 1877 campaign of the Nez Perce people to escape to Canada, pursued by US Calvary across 1,500 miles of mountainous terrain in harsh conditions. My dad had told about the Nez Perce before, so I asked him what book I should read to find out more. He recommended this one. The first half of the book describes the history of the people leading up to 1877 and the second half describes the 1877 Nez Perce war in detail. The great bravery and resilience of this people is amazing, inspiring, and ultimately saddening.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Nursery Graduation

Katie is no longer in Nursery. She is moving on to Sunday School. To commemorate the big day, her teachers signed a graduation certificate for her.

For the last 6 months or so she has struggled with going to nursery. She has struggled a bit with going to all of her various classes (ballet class, music class, etc), but she has been particularly spooked of nursery. We wonder if it's because she is nearly 3 years older than some of the smallest kids, and they probably don't follow the rules of sharing the way she would like. Of course, once she goes in, she seems to have a fabulous time. Anyways, she is ready to move on to the next step.

Everyone was dressed to the nines for this gala event, including Scott, who owned the red carpet in a charcoal 3-piece suit. He got this suit as a Chrismas present and he was very excited to wear it.

As the paparazzi's pink cameras fired successive salvos, he considered the proceedings with mysteriously distant eyes.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Fun and Games Chez Nous

We had everyone over to our house for dinner (GF Chinese food) and a game (Flapdoodle). This game worked pretty well with our group, even though we spanned an age range of greater than 60 years. Even the kids got into it, especially Adalia, who climbed on anyone any chance she got.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Day After Boxing Day

We stayed over for two nights -- Christmas Eve and Christmas Day -- and then we packed up our stuff on Boxing Day and went home to sleep in our own beds. The next morning was like Christmas all over again, as the kids woke up to discover the new toys that had been obscured during the craziness of the big day.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Karla's First Turkey

[Dec 25 2013]

On Christmas Day Jenny decided that it was time for Karla to learn how to cook a turkey. The training was very hands-on and Karla was hilarious to watch.

But she did it. Way to go, Karla.

Christmas Morning

There were 7 adults and 8 young children (including 1 baby) crammed into the basement Christmas Eve, so sleeping was minimal. Brad & Katie's air mattress was essentially flat by morning, so they were almost as anxious as the kids to wake up. However, you can't go upstairs until Grandpa has checked to see if Santa has already come. He loves to take his time with stuff like that, and it is hilarious to watch the kids squirm.

Santa Came!

Princess Candy Cane

A day or two before Christmas, Scott decided he wanted to write something to Santa. R suggested that the mail might not get to the North Pole on time, but he could leave a note by his stocking for Santa to read.

Christmas Morning, we noticed there was something written on the backside of the paper. Amazing.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve All Together

Everyone was together in Calgary for Christmas this year, so we gathered up lots of mattress pads and sleeping bags and headed over to Grandma & Grandpa's for two nights of celebrations, presents and treats. As per usual, Grandma had a full evening of fun and games planned for Christmas Eve.

Grandpa & the Kids

Listening to Grandpa

Who Knows Stuff About Christmas?

Ross & Michael - Baby's first Christmas


R & Katie

Tortilla Heads - Waiting for dinner



Katie, Brad & Karla

The Nativity Cast of Characters

Angel Katie

Impromptu Piano Recital - Alli can play Silent Night faster than anyone you know.

Scott Before Ode to Joy

Hayden Working Both Hands

Step Aside For the Professional - Jenny & R lead the carol singing

Two Turtle Doves

Four Calling Birds

Brad & Katie

Handbells for Every Family!

Christmas Bingo

A Christmas Tradition?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Learning to Ski

Last year we were a cross-country-ski family. We went once. Well, we went once as a family to Canmore (the time Katie's hair started on fire) and then Scott and I went one more time out to Shaganappi Point. Cross-country skiing seemed more attractive because you don't have to pay the high cost of lift tickets. Our kids didn't know that alpine skiing existed. Scott's favourite part was going down the hill, but he always had to climb it first. He had no idea that there was another way to get up that hill... until now.

We decided to go to visit the Kalispell cousins over the Christmas break. They are an alpine-ski family and they have seasons passes to Whitefish. I figured that we could find a cool spot to rent on the ski hill and make a real event of it. But it seemed that we should get our kids started on skiing before the trip so that they could keep up with their cousin counterparts. So we went to Canada Olympic Park for some training one evening after school.

The hill is only 10 minutes from our house and visible from Scott's bedroom window, so it's very convenient. It has cheap rentals and a really nice beginner area with 3 different conveyor-belt lifts that take new skiers up gradually longer slopes. I signed up Scott for a 90-minute beginner lesson while I worked with Katie. Basically, I pointed Katie down the hill and then backed up a few steps and had her ski into me. She crashed into me, actually. She loved that part, and she giggled every time.

After 40 minutes or so, Katie decided she needed a break. She was talking about going home. Instead, I offered to take her into the nearby lodge for a snack. We ate some fries and drank some ice water and then she was ready to get back on the slopes. From there, she was ready to ski for another hour or more.

A successful introduction to downhill skiing... and bobsleigh?

First Dance Recital

Katie had her first-ever dance recital. She started taking weekly ballet lessons in the fall and this was their "Christmas Showcase." The preschool group dressed up in pajamas and mouse ears and did a dance with candy canes.

Katie was very excited to wear her "costume" and perform. Lately she has been really fussy about going into her class. She clings to R's leg like she is petrified, but once she finally gets into the class she really loves it. We also wondered if she would get nervous on stage, like she did at the Stampede sing-along. Well, she showed no reservations about performing in front of a full house. Once she had her ears on she took off like a shot to go sit with her class.

The video was tough, since we were in the back row to watch and Katie was in the back of the pack for the dance. It seemed there was always someone standing in front of her. I was standing on our chairs to get a better view, but that made it hard to move sideways for a better angle. She looked absolutely adorable out there and she had such a good time.

Katie's dance was the first of 17 performances, but they moved along at a nice pace and she stood on our laps and bobbed along to every song, copying some of the moves that she saw. The evening started cute and it just didn't stop. Way to go Katie!