Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dropped Shoe

One school is down. We found out today that Avram wasn't accepted to Duke. Not entirely unexpected, as they only have a four percent admittance rate in the Religion program. Last year our first response was an acceptance, and although I highly prefer that, I do still hope that there will be more positive news later.

NOTE:
Since posting, we have also received an email from University of Wisconsin-Madison saying that Avram was accepted! He'll receive a letter with more information soon. It didn't say anything about funding yet, but because it's a public school, Avram will have to fill out a Fafsa first, and things like that. Still it means we're not going home in a bag! And here I was wondering if we should have come to Oxford. At this rate of hearing, we'll have everything discovered by tomorrow, although I don't think my heart can handle much more ups and downs.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Long Wait

Yesterday I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. What other shoe? Nothing specific, just feeling like there should be news of something, mail concerning an important matter, something. Avram woke up this morning convinced there was going to be something important on the Internet when he did his morning ablutions on it; an email, some news, something. Of course there was nothing; just the usual smattering of impersonal emails from groups he signed up for long ago.

Despite our best efforts, I believe Avram and I have fallen into the long wait syndrome; we've applied to doctoral schools what seems like eons ago, and now we're walking around half hoping, half expecting that today will be the day, that an email, a phone call, a letter might come. That an interview will be extended, an offer made, funding included. Anything to let us know that our six schools are still considering us, that they care, that they didn't automatically chuck our application into the trash after having a hearty laugh over it.

Although the last deadline for applications was a mere two weeks ago, we both approach every new day with a half-veiled, even from our own consciousness, hope that today will be it, today will be the day that breaks the silence. And yet the silence stretches on - the sound of silence can be many things, one of which I put forth is waiting for news of applications.

Yesterday I broke down and for the first time checked one of those web sites where applicants gather together, anxious to at least talk about nothing together to pass the time, instead of waiting it out alone. Although some aspects of the site were daunting; there is a list where people can put the results of their applications, and people have begun to list acceptances and interviews (and rejections) - although mostly centered wholly in the scientific field, which finds out early compared to the humanities. Yet there were a few interviews for English and Philosophy, and I wondered if not having heard from a school for an interview, specifically Duke, which we know does them, means that we're out of the running.

Yet there were positive aspects to the site as well; after reading forums where anxious applicants stated that they had never wanted anything so much as these applications to work, and that pursuing a doctoral degree was the most important thing in their life, it was nice to remember that whatever else, Avram has Lydia and I and the gospel to give meaning to his life, and not a degree alone. That we know we're here on this earth for a higher purpose than to get a good financial package for graduate school, that in the eternities people won't put Ph.d. after their name anyway. As well, that we've been praying throughout this whole process, and fasting, and that if our life takes a different direction than what we thought it would, that the Lord is over all, and can see the end from the beginning much better than we can.

In a recent church news (week ending Dec. 29 2007) I read an article about a family where the father had applied to medical school in Utah, and they fully expected to get in. Instead he was rejected, and they ended up moving to Philadelphia where he went to a graduate program, but not medical school, there. After moving there she had problems with her pregnancy, and four months later gave birth to a son with a rare medical condition. There were only two hospitals in the country trained in the disease in all of America, and one was only a half hour away in Delaware.

I love stories like this, because it makes me feel much better about our own uncertain future. I don't think that we'll have as spectacular a story of the Lord's guidance in where we go/don't go, but I do know that as surely as he guided that family where they needed to be, he'll guide ours. And if there isn't a specific place he has in mind for us, then he'll show us that as well.

Last year we didn't find out about the first school that we got into until in February, so there is still plenty of time for good news, and in fact it would be odd to get an offer this early anyway. I try not to second guess where we'll go; last year I was constantly looking at the various housing situations at each school, and other information for living there. The one school I looked at the least is where we are, because I never thought that Avram would get into Oxford (he didn't either), so this time I'm not even bothering trying to figure things out until we know.

The shoe will drop, the big email will come, and someday, someday soon in reality, we will know. Just not yet.

Monday, January 28, 2008

In Memorium

I've been meaning to write a post on a religious subject for a while now, ever since I read Elder Ballard's commencement speech given for Fall 2007 at BYU-Hawaii about using technology to spread the gospel and our knowledge of it. He specifically mentioned blogs, and so I wanted to post about religion, and have even attempted to do so, but it has taken President Hinckley's passing to galvanize me.

As I've read some of my friend's blog entries about President Hinckley, I repeatedly read how he was "their" prophet, and I feel the same way. The first prophet I remember dying was President Hunter, and then President Hinckley's subsequent sustaining. In 2002 when he dedicated the Nauvoo Temple, the session I attended (via satellite) he stated that he was an old man, and didn't know if he would return to Nauvoo. I recall several conversations at that time, wherein I worried that this was his goodbye speech. In 2004, when his wife Marjorie died, everyone seemed to hold their breaths as to his health, but President Hinckley carried on, just like he had after the Nauvoo temple was finished.

The article in Deseret News that I read early this morning (Avram's dad called us at a quarter to four in the morning to let us know) mentioned how when he had a press conference when he was ordained Prophet, and they asked him what his "theme" would be, he said, "Carry on, yes, carry on." Although now many, including I would associate his tenure as prophet with the explosion of temples on the earth, I think that the phrase 'carry on' also aptly represents his term of service; just like President Hinckley personally carried on in his life, passed when many thought that the Lord would have released him, the church has carried on remarkably during the last twelve years.

As I read this article, it went through, bullet by bullet, the changes and advancements made under President Hinckley, and although I've lived and come of age during all of these items, I had no conscious idea that all the small announcements in General Conference had added up to so many things. To me it was a testimony of President Hinckley's divine calling of prophet; that through revelation he had been led to take the church through so many changes to help us grow and stay strong.

Like the other young adults my age in the church, I've long felt that President Hinckley was "my" prophet. When my grandmother died when I was eighteen, I cried and cried. Not for her; she was 91 or so, and righteous, and both husbands that she had had during life were waiting for her, so I knew she was doing wonderful. No, it was for me, and for the loss of my childhood that I felt. That sounds rather dramatic, but my sister felt the same way, too. That we had grown up close to her, and that with her gone, a part of our youth had irretrievably left as well. This morning as I lay in bed digesting the news of President Hinckley's death, I cried a little. Once again not because I have any doubts as to where he is now, nor to the succession of the church. Rather, I cried because President Hinckley has been the prophet of my coming of age, and with his passing I feel a personal epoch in my life as my young adult years pass too.

Friday, January 25, 2008

My Chronic Doofality

I am a doofus. Complete and utter. I thinks it's chronic.

Yesterday, while napping with Lydia, I dreampt of an old fashioned donut. The kind that's a slightly irregular round circle, with lots of slightly hardened glaze on, that has lots of little edges to catch and pool the glaze. The kind that tastes delicious with a nice glass of milk. The kind that is definitively American, and not found in Britain at all.

Except there is a Krispy Kreme's here in town. And they do have old fashioned donuts - they're even sour cream ones. But every Krispy Kreme donut is a pound ten (1.10 british pounds), or $2.20. Which to me is way too much for a donut.

So after I woke up, I stayed in bed dreaming about these donuts, OFD for short, until I finally got up. An hour later found me on the internet, looking at donuts, and donut recipes, and chatting with Michele, who was sitting in the cougar eat at the time, and was so influenced by my loving descriptions of OFDs that she went and bought herself one at that very time. She ate it on my behalf, which I appreciated, but did not solve my craving. Finally I found a good recipe online that used both sour cream and buttermilk, so was clearly the height of luxury.

Luckily last night was grocery shopping night, and so I bought any missing ingredients, and came home very excited about my donuts in potentia. I know that homemade donuts are never the same as storebought, but I hoped that this once the stars would align and they would come close.
This morning I carefully pulled out all of the ingredients beforehand, like a good chef, and I made the glaze ahead of time, so that it would be all ready when the donuts were coming out, and I wouldn't get flustered. I carefully transposed the ingredients to British measurements where needed, and then I assembled my dough. I used an old recipe, so it just states 'add flour until it makes a soft dough.' I did just that, and then cooked them, glazed them, and ended up with countless donuts. It turns out it was a large recipe as well.

After they had cooled Lydia and I tried them out, and they were a bit tougher than I was expecting, and nothing really at all like the OFDs that I had been craving, but they were still donuts, and still good, so I had a few, as did she. OFDs use a cake batter, that is usually pretty yellow, and these ones were a pale white, which I thought a little odd, but all of my cooking is odd in England, so I didn't really worry about it.

It's only now, long after the donuts are made and cooled, that I thought about cleaning up, and thought of clearing the table for lunch. One of the things on the table is a carton of eggs...that I pulled out for the donuts...and never even opened. I somehow missed that step, and then because I had to add an indefinite amount of flour, I didn't notice that something was missing. So now I have fifty plus donuts in my kitchen without any eggs in them, that I can't give away, now that I know they're deficient. Being cheap, I can't throw them away (and they're not bad; just not amazing).

Avram offered to bring me home an old fashioned donut from Krispy Kreme, so that I could get the proper flavor, at least, but then that would make me a complete doofus, not just mostly one, so I declined (at least until the current donuts are long gone).

Sometimes you would never know I've been cooking for over 16 years.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

All about Avram

I wanted to write a post about Avram. I'm not always very good at telling Avram what I appreciate about it, or why he's so cool. Often we'll read/hear other wives talking about their husbands in such positive ways, and I wanted him to feel on the receiving end of that. A blog may seem a very randomly public way to do this, but really this is my journal (I haven't written in my real journal since I started this blog, so this is it). Also, then everyone around us can know how I feel about my husband.

My favorite thing about Avram is probably how he acts as a father. When we met and dated and got married, I never saw him around children, and although we knew we wanted a large family, and that we both loved children in theory, I had no real preparation for what kind of father he would be. I needn't have worried, though, because he is the best father I've ever observed up close. Now, for those married girls with children this isn't against your husbands at all; I think that the measurement of best isn't exclusive at all; every father can be the best. He's so patient with Lydia; much more patient than I am. Also, he loves to play with her. They rough-house on the bed most nights, and he colors with her a lot. Lydia actually loves to watch him color more than she even likes to color herself. She'll set him up coloring, and then supervise him while she plays around him. He gets up with her in the mornings, if I'm still groggy in bed, and gets her cereal with her. Also he's a wonderful dad because he loves to spend time with the family. I don't think I'll ever have to worry about Avram making our family a priority; he's very good about setting aside time apart from studying to play with Lydia, or talk with me (although we have a horrible habit of starting interesting conversations right when we go to bed, so we stay up for hours lying in bed talking past midnight, although for most of the evening any talking we did was all small talk).

Another thing that I love and appreciate about Avram is how he includes me in his academic life. I think it's easy to disassociate yourself from your husband's career. The funny thing is, I find myself doing it, and I even studied what he did in college! So I appreciate how he'll make sure and discuss matters from his major; not just personal concerns, which of course is good too, but he keeps me up to date on theories, etc. Like this Wednesday he went to a lecture on the medieval Kariaites (a Jewish sect) can teach us about biblical pronunciation, and came home and summarized it for me, including explaining the handout.

A third thing, which is especially relevant right now, is how hard he works to support us. Back in Provo he worked about 18 hours a week, while taking 18 credit hours (and getting As in every class; I can brag about his grades, which are way better than mine ever were), as well as applying to graduate schools, helping at home, being vice president in the SANE club (the club that was associated with his major, Ancient Near Eastern Studies), etc, etc. Here he's been looking for a job since we came, and didn't give up, although it was a very depressing search. Then today at long last he got a job! He got the data entry job for the Oxford University Press, and he'll work 12 hours a week at 6.50 British pounds an hour. For once the exchange rate is with us, because that equals out to 13 $ an hour. Additionally he's doing the work for his masters, and studying French and Greek on the side (I get to be his taskmaster, which I actually enjoy. I set his readings and lessons and quizzes. He's reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in French, and is almost done with the second chapter; he reads about two pages a day. In Greek he's reviewing what he already learned two years ago, and then he'll finish learning the grammar by the end of the school year). This may sound like an odd way to support his family, but the better he is in school and languages now, the more prepared he'll be in Doctoral school, and to get a job as a professor when the time comes.

When I met Avram, he was always very considerate about helping clean up after Cooking Guild, which was held at my house every Friday. When I moved that year out of a house that hadn't been thoroughly cleaned this millennium, and then was sold and bought by a much more picky owner, so it had to be completely cleaned out, and I was the last of my roommates to move out, so a lot fell on me, he was one of the people who came over and helped me clear out the kitchen and clean it. After we married, I found out that he did all this, while secretly hating doing dishes, and so for most of our marriage he has cooked a lot, but not really done dishes. But since moving to England, Avram does dishes every day, as well as still cooking a lot. He loves to spice dishes, and is always sampling the spices of a sauce to see if the correct balance is reached. Also, since our New Year's goal of keeping the house continuously clean, instead of letting it get messy, then clean up a lot, and following that cycle forever, he's much better than me at doing the small pick-ups every night of Lydia's toys, or messes, which make such a big difference for keeping the house clean (we've actually done really well on this goal; I think because we're approaching it more as a different way of living in our house than just a nagging reminder).

Spiritually he's also taken charge of making sure we read the scriptures together every day. We had gotten out of the regular habit, and so read them in spurts and starts for much of last year, but mid-December we decided we need to not just read the scriptures most of the time, or some of the time, but every day, and since then he's gathered us together, usually at eight pm, to read. I love it when he does priesthood leadership like this in our home.

Finally I love how Avram loves me. From the time that we started dating, almost four years ago, I've always been the one in our relationship to have second thoughts or guesses, always measuring Avram up to an impossible non-existent idea of what husbands ought to be like, or what I felt I always "deserved" from a man/relationship. As most of you well know, he bore through this waffling through our entire dating and most of our engagement, but somehow still decided he wanted to marry someone who could barely make up their mind. Even since our marriage I've still had periods when I've wondered about every alternate reality and choice I could have made, but through all of my silliness, Avram has always been a firm pillar in our relationship, always loving me, always sure in us and our marriage. Although I'm sure I usually take this for granted, I really love how strong he is in his love for me, and his knowing that it's right for us to be together. I sometimes tease him, and ask if when he was fighting for a chance to marry me if he thought I would be like X once we were married, X usually standing for being lazy, or an impatient mother, etc, and he always tells me that he loves me, and lets me know that he wants to be married to the whole me, many faults and all, as much as he wanted to marry me back when he only saw the more exciting, positive sides of my personality.

I could go on, but I'm sure I'm already gagging some readers, so I won't. Summed up simply, I love you, Avram.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Weird Pregnancy Thoughts

This is a weird pregnant lady post, full of weird pregnant lady thoughts. If you read this blog for rational, well written posts, read no further. Don't worry, I don't plan to always post about my pregnancy/baby, because then I'd be like those moms that can only talk about their children; very boring.

Lydia when she was born weighed only 5lb 7oz, which is a full two pounds under the average. It turned out that I had some infection in my placenta with a long, unpronouncable name, and that's why she was small.

Fast forward two years, to now, where in England if your baby is under 5lb 8oz then you are considered high risk in you pregnancy, and they monitor you more, with extra ultrasounds and visits to specialists in the hospital. (When Avram found out about this, he told me I should have lied about Lydia's weight. Thus, when even my strait-laced husband is driven to sin, you can understand what a bother these visits are, when we have no car, and so getting to the hospital is quite a production). My normal midwife visits are wonderful; I walk to the surgery (local clinic) - about a 20 minute walk. There's no wait at all, my Midwife Marie acts as if there's all the time in the world (when she was scheduling my next app. at my last visit, she was concerned at how busy she would be that morning, with two other app.s scheduled in addition to mine - she usually has one app. per hour), she does everything herself, and loves Lydia being there. Really, about the dream neo-natel visits.

At the hospital there is a massive room absolutely full of pregnant women and their husbands/screaming children (not that I mind them being there; Avram and Lydia were both with me). We waited for over an hour, and when I was seen, it was for about five minutes, wherein basically I was told that I had to find out what infection I had had with Lydia, and then booked for another appointment in six weeks. Not the same experience at all. Of course, I don't blame them, or mind; I know that they can't really do anything until they know why Lydia was small before, and that the high risk clinic happens only on certain days, and so there would be a back-log of women. It's just that I like being at my local surgery better.

I dutifully sent off for my medical records, which arrived today. It turns out that my placenta had chorioamnionitis. I looked it up on the web, and was very sobered by what I found; that if they discover the infection in you earlier, they will immediately deliver the baby, that if your baby is infected with it, they can die. Also that this has been traced to cerebral palsy in the baby. I had no idea, mainly because I had never managed to remember the name long enough to look it up. Lydia was napping, and Avram was in class, and I just read this in shock, never having realized how much could have gone wrong with Lydia, that I never knew (as far as we know she wasn't infected at all). Regardless for how scary this all was, as far as I can tell chorioamnionitis isn't genetic, nor is there a specific cause for it, and I shouldn't be any more likely to get infected this pregnancy.

To me this means that they should let off on the extra visits and ultrasounds (these are also at the hospital), but I'm afraid that they won't view it the same at all. I really don't mind these, though, as long as they still allow me to have a home birth. Since the beginning of this pregnancy, when I viewed homebirths as a weird choice to make, I've really turned around, and am very excited to have my daughter at home. And as long as they've checked her size and whatnot recently, they'll know that I don't have chorioamnionitis, and so it shouldn't be an issue. But you never can tell with the medical community.

I've been reading about homebirths in the UK, and often the sort of women who have them are the sort that emphasize that the medical professionals can't force you to have your baby in a hospital, etc, etc. But I'm not really the kind of person to tick off all the people helping me have a baby. Also, being that I'm having her for free, I don't want to leave a bad taste in the mouth of the British NHS of arrogant, sponging Americans. Also, on this same website, I learned that some mothers like to keep the placenta. Kind of weird. Then I learned it's often because they like to eat it, that's right, EAT it. Ewwwww. Ewwww. Eww. It all seems ritualistically cannabalistic to me. On the other hand, maybe it's supposed to. I don't know. I feel very connected to the birth and Lydia, and it didn't take eating a pound of liver/haggis like stuff to get me there. So I take all of these crazy women and their demands with a grain of salt (which makes me think of the eating again...).

I like the idea of a home birth because on the NHS system, you share a room with three other women after the birth. Not my idea of fun. Also, we have no way to get to the hospital, and my labour with Lydia was short enough that I don't mind laboring at home, and then we wouldn't have to figure out rides there and home, and visiting, etc, etc. I am a little concerned with a home birth, because then what do you do while waiting for the baby to come? That sounds silly; labor, of course. But without all of the time taken up in getting to to hospital, settling in there, it just seems like the labor will feel longer. That's all very far away, and it drives Avram crazy when I focus and focus on something that I can't do much about anyway, remembering that when I was in labor I didn't do anything (from an outside perspective; I didn't talk, move, etc. Inside I felt very active). I know that I listed a lot of this before, but it helps me to think it all out, maybe it's weird pregnancy hormones that like it.

In a more focused time, the other day Avram was reading Little House on the Prairie to me while I knit, and he read the chapter when the Ingalls cross a river, and it rises midway through and Jack their dog who's swimming alongside gets lost. Laura that night asks if Jack went to heaven, and Pa says that he does. I began crying during this part, which is somewhat silly enough, but made much worse by the fact that I had read this book countless times, and knew, knew mind you, that Jack didn't drown, but in fact finds the family on the other side of the river in the next chapter. I felt very pregnant right then.

Thus ends my way to pregnant post.

Monday, January 21, 2008

By the Sweat of Thy Brow...

Avram has a job interview! Everyone should pray for him, because it's the first interview he's had, although he's applied to lots and lots of places here. It's for a data entry job for the Oxford University Press, and the interview is this Friday. I'm trying not to get my hopes up too much, because I know just having an interview doesn't necessarily mean anything, but it would be so wonderful if Avram got the job. Then our financial worries would be over, because we originally counted on him getting a job here, which isn't that weird to expect; at BYU, there were always jobs to be had, if you were willing (true, they might be food service or custodial, but I've done both, and they're not that bad). At Oxford, it is apparently too much to expect to get a job. For one thing, there isn't a central campus really; all of the 39 colleges are self contained, and then the departments, where classes are held, are separate as well. All of downtown Oxford is sprinkled with various and sundry collegiate pieces, none of which are centralized organizationally even. And they don't hire students for support staff anyway.

I think it's because up until very recently, say post WWII, that people who weren't upper class came to Oxford as well. That means for the last 700 years or so students here didn't need to work for their living, because if they could afford to go to college, they could afford a lot, and wouldn't need to work a day in their life, let alone while at school. If this seems odd, reflect on the fact that Avram's college, Queen's College, didn't let women in until twenty years ago. Oxford is not a place for radical change. Even today, although students come from all walks of life, it is still not customary for students in England to work while in school. As an American, this is all very odd to me, and I find I prefer a school environment that encourages students working. For one thing, then the jobs that are available have student friendly hours. Here, if you apply for a job, they want a lot of hours out of you (one problem with finding a job here; Avram can't work all the hours they want, usually).

Because of generous gifts and loans from family members, and because of much frugal pence pinching, we've survived thus far, but it would be very nice to not always buy the cornflakes, just because they're only 39 pence, or to get to have enough money to eat past March 1st (we will anyway, once our tax refund back, don't worry, we're not going to starve). Today I found the mother of all mortars and pestles, where the mortar was probably a full eight to ten inches across, and the pestle was like. Well, the mind fails, it was so large. A massive, massive carrot, maybe. Anyway, it was made out of granite, and you're probably wondering why I'm bringing this up right here. I'm bringing it up, because if he got this job, then I could buy this mortar and pestle for my souvenir, and my life would be complete. Whatever wasn't complete, I could just take, and grind up in my mortar, after all. (It was 15 pounds, which isn't bad, for here).

So everyone pray for Avram.

In a side note, they told us to plan for living expenses of 600 pounds a month, not including rent. In our original estimations we calculated for this amount, being good obedient people. Being frugal (okay, fine, cheap), non-drinking Mormons, we only use about 300 pounds a month, so at least we're way under budget in our extremities.

In an Avram related note, first, if you haven't been checking already, Avram has resumed posting, so check his blog out. Second, he's done applying to colleges, so we're just in the waiting stage now.

As names go, currently Avram doesn't want Aurelia at all, which makes my heart bleed, and other appropriately dramatic sentiments. On the other hand, he'd really like to name her Jane, and I'll only consent to Jane for a middle name, so I guess we're in the same boat.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A Rose by Any Other Name

I've never had problems thinking up possible names for my children. I remember throughout my teenage years depositing such lists in my journals at various times. I even remember once staying over in Manti after seeing the Manti Pageant with Martha and friends, where Martha and I not only thought up numbers of children (and I think some names), but even names of respective spouses as well. My future husband was to be Nate Ackerman. Oh, well, I suppose said Nate is doomed to wander the eternities alone. I've thought of various names with boyfriends, fiances, and my husband.

When Avram and I were dating, in one single half-hour conversation, we came up with eight names. I'd record them here, but unfortunately that journal's in Virginia. After that experience, I thought scornfully of couples that couldn't figure out what to name their children; after all, Avram and I had thought of eight names with no problems. We'd even done middle names, too. Among these was Lydia Elizabeth, Alexander Richard, Reuven Samuel, Hyrum Seth, Charity Anne, and Miriam Laiya (or Leia, or Laya or some other spelling that reflects the Hebrew pronunciation of Leah).

Then, we actually got married, and I got pregnant. It turns out that Alexandra is something like number 15 on most popular boys names, so that was out. And everyone we knew was using the name Elizabeth, so that was out. Avram secretly hated the name Charity, because he doesn't like naming girls after virtues (he threatened to name another daughter Chastity), but of course being politic, and also doing anything he could to get me to marry him, he didn't mention this at the time. (He also didn't tell me until we were married that he absolutely hates green beans, and doing dishes. Of the two he's since repented of the latter, and now faithfully does dishes all the time. To be honest, I never told him how obsessive I am about finishing a book once I've started it, or even just my obsession in general with hobbies/activities (currently it's knitting).)

And although Hyrum and Reuven are still up for names, we first have to name our first son so his initials will be ARS, so they're down the list, especially since so far we're 0 for 2 for boys. We did stick to at least one half of one name on the list, when we named Lydia, but that's more because I had wanted to name my first daughter Lydia after my maternal grandmother, Lydia Marchant Sorensen Merrill, for long before I ever knew Avram than anything else. After Lydia was born, another complication arose, when I completely changed my mind on our theme of names. We had decided, in that not so fateful conversation of yore, to name all of our hypothetical children names from the Scriptures. Well, this went okay for one child, but then I decided out of nowhere that I felt too constricted by this decision, and that made the remaining okay names on our list even less favoured.

This brings us to today, where I'm pregnant with our second daughter, and now none of these eight "perfect" names are any help at all. (Miriam should still technically work, but I just haven't felt like this name works for me with this baby). Oh well for our one mind, and our superior powers of reason and intellect. Now were like all the other couples I know, who are scrambling around trying to think of some name. I think the difference lies in that it's comparatively easy to list of names that you like, or have meaning to you, and even relatively easy to agree on them. But then once you're talking about a real, living person, who's going to bear this same name through the eternities, and all of a sudden no name is good enough, or fitting, or whatever.

My mother always needed a reason to name us. Sometimes this was familial, in Soren (after her maiden name, Sorensen), Thora Florence (after my paternal Great-great grandmother, and great grandmother respectively), or Mary Evette (after my father's parents, Mary, and Everette. Other times they were after people she respected; Camilla after Camilla Kimball, or Neal, after three different Neals (I think one may Neal Maxwell, but I'm not sure). She told me once that when she named me she didn't even particularly like my name, but that it had a good enough reason behind it that she went forward (and likes it now).

Now, I wouldn't go that far, to name my daughter a name just because it had a reason, but I would like a name that means something more to me than I liked the combination of vowels and consonants. For one thing, at least with Lydia, I've gone through times of doubt when I've wondered if I really should have named her Lydia, or whatnot, and it's always been a comfort to me at these times, that I love my grandma Lydia, and wanted to honor her with a Lydia. Being that we're in England, the reason, or theme we'd come up with is a British name. However, just knowing that I want an uncommon (this is another thing; both Avram and I, probably because of our own names, really like names that are unusual, although not made up or anything), traditional, old-fashioned British girl's name hasn't helped me thus far.

The one name that has stuck out to me, when I've thought of it, is Aurelia. It's not technically British, but it has been used in Britain, and I've always loved the name. There's only one catch; it's Lydia's middle name. We gave it to her back when we were planning to give all of our children scriptural names, and so it was out, but now that we're not, I dearly want to use it. I've thought of plenty of other names that I love; Gweneth, Lucia, Eleanora, Elaine, Arabella, Adela, etc, etc, but none of them have stuck at all. I just can't imagine this daughter with any of those names. But then we'd have to change Lydia's middle name, and that's complicated, and everyone would think I'm weird for not being able to come up with another name, and so having to plunder my first daughter's name.

We've never called Lydia "Lydia Aurelia," or really used her middle name much, but Avram does feel like it's attached to Lydia, and so that, combined with the technical complications of changing Lydia's name has him unconvinced that this is a viable idea. But I don't like any of the name alternatives we've been able to think of thus far. And more and more, I want a name that is not only uncommon now, but has always been uncommon, so that suddenly when our daughter is a few years old her name doesn't go through a popularity boost. Lydia's name is too common for our liking (it was 126th most common girl's name in the US the year she was born). So a lot of the names that just naturally come to mind don't work, because even if they're uncommon now, they were usually very common 50-100 years ago, which based on how these cycles work, means that they will be so again. Bertha would probably be the exception to this, but this name was never in the running, so there you go.

I know that I'm still almost four months out from delivery, but I really want to think of a name before she comes, because first I would like a name to associate with her, but also for practical reasons; we have to name her the day she's born, because we need to get a passport as soon as possible, and I don't want to be stressing when I name her, so she ends up being named Murgatroyd or something just because it's what I could think of at the time.

In other baby news, we are now planning on having a home birth. I never thought I would want one, let alone have one, but it's nice to know that when I go into labour, it's on everyone else to get to me, and not the other way around. Without having the car, it really feels much less stressful to have a homebirth. And hopefully I'll have a shorter labour than I did with Lydia even.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

My High School Curriculum

Avram and I have talked lately about what sort of curriculum we would institute if we were over a private school, charter school, homeschooling, etc. Specifically we've been talking about high school, because at this level it's advanced enough to have a variety of subjects, instead of elementary school, which is so basic that it's not that exciting to think about, at least not to me. This is ironic, because if I were to homeschool, it would only really be through eighth grade, because most of high school subject I don't think I'm really qualified to teach, so I'd have them take college classes or something.

Now, we have talked about hypothetically perhaps homeschooling our children, but are by default planning to send them to public school, unless something happens to change our mind. I should specify here, and say my mind, because Avram, being home schooled himself, is all for us homeschooling. Being myself a product of public education (except for the last couple years of high school, but I hardly count those against the eleven years in the public system), I liked it, and thought it went fine, so that alone tends me towards public school. More importantly, I would be the one homeschooling, and I'm not sure that I want to spend most of my time for the next twenty odd years spending all day teaching my children. Don't get me wrong, I love Lydia, and whatever children may come along, but I'm kind of selfish, and have always been secretly excited at the thought of my children getting old enough to be in school, so that way I can focus on the younger children and pursue educational/household/personally enriching hobbies for myself and family (emphasize self here).

This being said, I find planning curricula to be very exciting, at least to my socially starved self here in England. As a note, I don't think that this curriculum is all encompassing; it covers what I think is most important, and there aren't choices/options on what to take, because it wasn't designed that way.

First, since I know the least about this, is science.

Freshman - Biology
Sophomore - Physics or Chemistry
Junior - Chemistry or Physics
Senior - AP (or appropriate college class level taken at a local community college) Biology, or AP Physics (ie, with Calculus), AP Chemistry, or some other science, like Astronomy.

Math:

Freshman - Geometry (assuming they had Algebra in Junior High)
Sophomore - Algebra II
Junior - Trig and Pre-Calc for either half year or whole year.
if half year, than begin Calc second half.
Senior - if began Calculus before, then continue with Calculus to do B/C . If not, then do Calc A/B, or Statistics

History

Freshman - Peoples of the World. This would be like a cultural geography/anthropology class that goes through the major cultures of the world, both through history and currently. Also the kids would learn where countries are. Like who reading this knows where Djibouti is? I learned in my freshman geography class.
Sophomore - World History. This covers from invention of writing to 1500 AD. It would cover the whole world, not just the west. But would of course specialize on west of the Indus.
Junior - American History
Senior - World History, 1500-Present, focusing on the west/Europe/etc.

Language

Freshman & Sophomore - Latin
Junior & Senior - Either two more years of Latin or first two years of; German, French, Spanish, something exotic if available.

English

This is by far the most exciting subject for me, and so I've spent the most time fleshing it out.
First, every grade will do Shakespeare, and then in addition focus a literary theme. This is just literature, because I assume every grade will have essays. Lots of essays; they were a pain to write, but the more I wrote, the better and more able I was to formulate my thoughts. Five paragraph essays (which my teachers always said would be the norm in college, but wasn't at all. In fact, I only ever had one teacher who had five paragraph essays on his tests, and he also required the first sentence to be 35 words or shorter, but to at the same time include all the points talked about in the essay. I wrote a lot of first sentences that were exactly 35 words for him.... Regardless, I think it's good for helping a student to plan out how to say things, and be concise, etc.), Literature essays, essays written in class, take home ones. Lots and lots. Also, every grade would have grammar, but I don't know of the various demarcations/classifications of grammar to make a list off the top of my head, so maybe RoseE or Matt, two English majors, can supplement one.

Freshman -
Shakespeare: Romeo & Juliet (I don't even like this play that much, but you do have to read it; also as Avram points out is its accessibility; high schoolers understand going behind your parent's back for love), A Midsummer Night's Dream
American Literature: This isn't a complete list, but Huckleberry Finn, A Scarlet Letter (a pain to read, but one has to. Why, I don't quite know, but you do), "Fall of the House of Usher" and other depressing Poe short stories, The Great Gatsby, Age of Innocence (Edith Wharton), something by Hemingway, probably something by Willa Cather, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Sophomore -
Shakespeare: Julius Caesar, Much Ado About Nothing.
World Literature: Gilgamesh Epic, The Shipwrecked Sailor (Egyptian), The Odyssey, Greek myths from Bullfinch (or Theogony, if up to it), Selections from Journey to the West, Beowulf, Selections from Canterbury Tales, Selections from the Mallory (King Arthur stuff), Inferno, Other good stuff I can't think of right now.

Junior -
Shakespeare: Macbeth, King Lear, Taming of the Shrew
English 18th-19th Century Literature: Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, A Tale of Two Cities and one other Dickens (David Copperfield or Great Expectations, probably), poems from Wordsworth, Coleridge, Tennyson (including Idylls of the King), the Brownings, especially Sonnets from Portuguese, "The Importance of Being Earnest"

Senior -
Shakespeare: Hamlet, Othello, A Winter's Tale or Twelfth Night, and a history play, probably Henry the V.
World Literature, 1800-Present: Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment, Don Quixote, Les Miserables, Really complicated/long 19th British novels like Middlemarch maybe, Something German, but I don't know what (maybe Sarah can help here), and other complicated works.

So as I write this out, I realize how many flaws it has, like perhaps it would be better to mix up the themes, and do each year by difficulty level, but I don't know.

Do any of you, my readers, have any opinions/thoughts/ideas/alternate curricula?

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Saga Continues...

A few days ago I received an unexpected phone call, from British Customs. They had my camera (in hoc, it felt like), that Matt and Sarah had so kindly sent back in care of Matt's mother from Qatar ( for more information, see Sarah's blog). Unfortunately, the representative I talked to didn't know how to get the camera to me because of weird customs rules, because they couldn't prove that the camera had already been in the UK, and so were concerned with its origins, with why it had been in Qatar, and load of other bureaucratic issues that to be honest I didn't really understand, and I secretly suspect they didn't either. If I could come up with a receipt of purchase (on a two year old camera that had been a Christmas gift from my In-Laws, mind you), then maybe she could do something. Needless to say, I found it to be a frustrating phone call, not knowing that old and used cameras sent internationally warranted such a bother. Eventually the woman said that she knew of no way to get me the camera unless they charged us an import tax, of up to 20 pounds, which is 40 dollars. At this my heart sank, because it was all a funny story until the British Government wrung us dry to "import" a camera. Even telling myself that they were letting us have a baby for free in their country didn't make me feel better about England at that moment.

The woman told me that they would call back, and then I could pay the tax. I awaited the phone call the rest of the day, but it never came. Avram and I thought of various things that we could do to make them give us our camera, but they all involved ridiculous schemes, such as going to London in person, that would probably end up costing as much or more than simply paying the tax, and as we realized this we wondered if that had been the government's sinister plan all along; let the poor, unsuspecting foreigners in, and then sap them dry with hidden taxes. A little paranoid, true, but we were feeling attacked, by bureaucracy, if nothing else.

The days passed with nary a peep from any official, and Avram and I had just decided that they had chucked our camera into the trash, or something, when it arrived in the mail. The box was there, with no tax needed or owed, and very neatly, where Matt's mother had written the contents of the package, and the worth (75 dollars), someone had marked it out with a permanent black marker, so officially and bureaucratically the box carried...nothing. All in all, we feel much more kindly disposed to bureaucracy now, if a little curious if this is how, in a land that practically invented the concept of bureaucracy, government officials deal with problems they don't want bother with.

"We have a man on death row (which they probably don't even have here; excuse my inaccuracies). Rather than deal with all of the paperwork, lets just neatly black out this little box that says, 'killed little old ladies on the subway,' and let him go free...." So I'm rather silly in equating my little old camera with serial killers, but in my delirious relief of both having our camera back (must keep the grandmothers happy) and of not having to pay for the privilege made me rather giddy in the moment.

Thus, the saga of our little camera, that has traveled the globe comes to an end, and to seal this story I present a propitiatory picture:


In other musings, I'm rather surprised and proud, although I don't know why, because it doesn't actually reflect on me at all, of how many people have done the same tag that I did; to date it's seven out of the people on my links. I think because they were good questions, actually.

Relating to that; Don, I have read The Loved One (I found it in your library, actually, and thought it sounded like a nice, pleasant romance or something, which was my first mistake), although at the time, when I was about 12 or so, I was completely unaware that Evelyn Waugh had written it, and in truth probably thought he was a woman. Your comment threw me into a tizzy, because I had carefully repressed that book, because what in truth was subtle British humour, etc, etc, completely missed me at that age, and I was just profoundly disturbed by the book, especially the scene where the pet cemetery guy is checking to see if she cremated properly...I'll probably need a sedative to sleep now. So I exaggerate. It's amazing what a book read at the wrong age, or with insufficient understanding can do to one. For example, I first read "The Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka around then as well, and also have yet to recover from that reading either.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Tagged

I've been tagged by my newly refound friend Martha, so here goes.

What I was doing ten years ago: I was fifteen and and eighth grader at Glendale Middle School. I had a huge crush on Kamrin, but nothing happened. Also, I was on the yearbook staff, and thought I was cool and the top of my game (many, many laughs).
EDITOR'S NOTE: I don't know how come I can't do math. After I published this post, I realized that ten years ago I was fifteen, but, in fact, I was a freshman at East High School in Salt Lake City. I did still have a crush on Kamrin (I shall forbear futher comment), but the rest of my life differed significantly. I was a nobody in a school of 2400, although I did have all A's thus far, and spent my time wondering why the "East Siders" were so different from us lowly "West Siders." I played the violin in the school orchestra, and honestly can't remember much else. I had a good group of friends; Melynda, Martha, Glenn, ah, those were the days, my friend.

What I was doing five years ago: I was a sophomore, 20 years old, at BYU, and was engaged to Gui to be married in June of 2003. Yup, that didn't work out either. Not much guy luck thus far, huh? I was also President of the Quill and the Sword, a medieval history club at BYU.

One year ago: Married to Avram for a two years (finally, success!), and had a one year old daughter, Lydia. Avram was finishing his last year at BYU, and I worked full time as a babysitter for three kids, plus Lydia. Also, just like this year, Avram had just finished all of his graduate school applications, and we were beginning to wait to see where we would get in.

Yesterday: Cleaned the house, in an effort to accomplish our New Years goal of picking up after ourselves and cleaning the house every evening. Also made British Chicken pie, which was good, but I made the gravy too runny. And I read half of Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh (who's male). It made me think of my friend Matt for some reason. (Matt, if you're reading this, do you enjoy the novel? I did. I finished it today). Lydia and I colored together as well.

Five snacks I enjoy: Cheese and Jacob's Cream Crackers (the ones that Wallace eats in Wallace and Gromit; very good), Apple slices and Peanut Butter (a staple of my pregnancies, because of the protein in a snack form), Oranges, Andes Mints, and Bread and Butter and Cheese (I just re-read the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and for some reason Middle Earth makes me want to eat the above three items, along with cold meat and apples. Maybe it feels like travel food, or something. So I've been eating a lot of them, lately, while I read).

Five things I would do if I had a $100 million. Tell all of the graduate schools we just applied to, because if you have the money to fund your own education, they're more likely to admit you. Then, of course, pay for Avram's doctorate. Secondly, I would plan lots of trips while we're here; to Scotland, Ireland, Europe, etc, etc, Israel and go sight seeing and souvenir buying until my head explodes or our daughter's born, whichever happens first. Thirdly I would give a bunch to the Church's PEF fund; I love it, and that it's humanitarian work focused on education. Also, in charitable giving, I would fund my parents on more missions, because they want to serve more if they can. Fourth, I would pay off all of the schools that gave Avram or I scholarships; Wayland, BYU, here. Then I would set up an endowment scholarship at BYU probably, but maybe here, for married students, because we're married, and I always wanted to find a special scholarship for us, but there wasn't one. And Fifth, I would buy a house that we could live in for doctoral school, and then I could paint it, and decorate it to my heart's content. Also buy new furniture, but new furniture that's old. I love antique furniture.

Five places I would run away to: Salt Lake City, Provo, Israel (the holy sites), Middle east if I took Avram with me, so that way he could finally see Karnak, and the Karak des chevalier (sp?), etc., and then Prince Edward Island.

Five TV shows I like: I don't watch TV, but we do have Fraggle's here on DVD, and I like watching it. I like Full House, too. They still show it on cable, and it reminds me of my childhood. Other childhood TV shows; Bobby's World, Animaniacs, and Tiny Toons. But I don't watch any of these except for Fraggles.

Five things I hate doing: Cleaning the Bathroom, specifically the toilet, Calling people on the phone that I don't really know, Confrontations, Washing the after dinner dishes after I've spent a long time cooking a great meal (that's when I get Avram to do the dishes), Putting Lydia to sleep when she doesn't want to.

Five biggest joys of the moment: Lydia; she's always a joy (except for end of previous question), Having Avram home so much during the Christmas break, Having a bunch of good books to read, Looking forward to our new daughter, and sightseeing in England.

Five people I'll tag: Whoever feels up to it.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Very Journal Like (Random and Variagated, like Ice Cream)

As our "vacation" comes to an end, perhaps I will become better at posting. Avram's been home since early December, and still has one week until school starts, although he hasn't been idle the whole time; he has had six schools to apply to, and two large papers to write, but now he's almost done with both tasks. Regardless, life has not felt very hurried in the past month, and so my posting has gone down as well (plus Avram spends a lot more time on the computer when he's home more, go figure). I, sadly, have been more idle than less, much of the time. For one thing, one child and a one bedroom apartment only need so much from two stay-at-home parents.

As I said before, I spent much of the early break knitting. Lydia became very interested in this hobby, and attempted knitting herself on the completed sample I did
When she tired of that, Lydia found other uses for the needles, among them dancing tools.
Speaking of dancing, Lydia received a gift of an iTunes gift certificate from the Reeds for Christmas, for music that makes her dance. Avram has spent much time looking up music and sampling it out on Lydia, and so far we've come to either "No," a children's album by They Might be Giants, and which Lydia can sing along to the title song (she learned the word "no" on Christmas Eve, along with "mine"), or the Fraggles soundtrack, seeing as she got a Gobo doll from her Grandma Shannon, and she loves the Fraggles.

Lydia loved Christmas, albeit she played more with the boxes of the presents than the presents themselves since she's received them, in very toddler-like fashion. Among other greenery, we had our Christmas tree up on a table in our Living Room
Lydia also met Santa at the ward Christmas party
Her posture about expresses what she thought of him, too. Here's us as a family at the party.
I've also been meaning to report on my pregnancy. According to Camilla's request, I have a couple of "belly" pictures.
Me at 17 weeks. I hadn't really started to show yet. Here's another of me at 18 weeks.
As I reached 20 weeks, and the baby has grown up past my navel, I've started to show a lot more, and would venture to say even strangers would probably guess I'm pregnant. Although I'm still telling people I'm pregnant; we've been slow about telling people this time, I think because we don't know people as well here as we did in Utah, and so it's more random to tell them. And because it's winter, I'm always wearing a coat anywhere, so it's really not obvious at all. We found out we're having a girl on December 31, and although I know some want it to be male, even I could see on the ultrasound that she was female (although of course I know it can always be wrong, and until I see the baby myself, I won't be 100% sure). We want to choose a British name, but we're a little stuck beyond that. I like Gwyneth, and we both like Gwynafar, or Guinevere in the English spelling, and not Welsh. Also, we're thinking maybe Lucia, which isn't strictly speaking British, but Lucy is used here a lot so it's kind of British. Avram likes Jane. I like Jane, but more as a middle name. I would love a first name and a middle name that sounded nice together, so we could call our daughter both together, like Lydia's cousin, Lily Jane is. I think short middle names work best for that, like Anne, maybe. And I do love Anne of Green Gables. We'll find something eventually, though.

Here in England they have a cutoff, and if baby's are born under 5 lbs 8 oz, then in a subsequent pregnancy, the mother is considered to be high risk, so I had another appointment at the hospital on Jan. 2nd, because Lydia was only 5 lbs 7 oz. My placenta had an infection, it turned out, when Lydia was born, and so I have to request my medical records from America, and have them sent here, so the doctors here can see if they can do something about it. In the meantime they've prescribed extra ultrasounds and doctor's appointments at the Hospital, in addition to my midwife appointments locally. My next ultrasound is on February 13, but I hope when my records come from America, they can leave me alone, because the Hospital is a pain to get to from here, and thats where the extra appointments and ultrasounds are. Plus I don't think it's something that's preventable, because after Lydia was born I asked my midwives if they was something I could do to prevent the same thing from happening again, and they said there wasn't. Of course, if the extra ultra sounds do help somehow, then it'll be worth it.

Other than all the appointments, my pregnancy is going well. I'm considering possibly having the baby at home (assuming that I do get taking off the high risk list). In America, it's practically illegal nowadays to do that, but here it's very normal, and at my first midwife visit the apprentice was even trying to talk me into it, I think. We've been worried about getting to the hospital in time, what with having to get a ride, and also getting Lydia taken care of too, and then I only had a six hour labor last time, so it'll probably be shorter this time, and I want to do a natural labor again, so being at home wouldn't change not having pain relief. Of course, then we'd still have to have someone come be with Lydia here (we'd send them down to the commons area of the house), because I want Avram with me, much as he wishes he could just take care of Lydia. And then even in the middle of the night, it would be someone else's problem to get here, and not mine to get to them. I haven't discussed it with my midwife, but I have an appointment with her on Wednesday, so we'll see what she thinks.

I'll leave you with Lydia.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

It's a Girl!