Sunday, January 31, 2016

2015 Memories

(2014 memories here; 2013 here)

These memories come from the jar we keep on the shelf. Anytime something funny or happy happens, we write it down and stash it there. At the end of the year, we take an evening to eat something yummy and read through them (this year we made "puzzle" sugar cookies, that would have fit together like a puzzle had I used a sugar cookie recipe that didn't expand so much when baked. They tasted great though!).

As usual, most of them were said by Nikolai, because he is the funniest person in our home. 

24 January:

Catherine: I love you SO much!
Nikolai: *With a gleam in his eye* I not love you so much?
Catherine: Oh! Why?
Nikolai: *grinning* Because I'n a bad guy!

(side note: part of why I love these written memories so much is because I can see just how much Nikolai's language and personality have changed in a year!)

14 February:

(Trying to button closed Nikolai's pants)
Jesse: I'm sorry if that pinched you, bud. You might be getting too big for these pants.
Nikolai: Yeah. I use clothes from your drawers.


1 March: 

(Jesse and Nikolai are playing hide and seek)
Nikolai: (looking for Jesse) Hey our baby, you know where daddy is?

This memory is really special to me because it was the day we came back from the hospital after having Miriam. We were in the throes of newborn hard stuff and anxious about how Nikolai would react to sharing mom and dad. Jesse instigated this game of hide and seek to regain a sense of normalcy, and had been including Miriam in the game by asking her if she knew where Nikolai was. When Nikolai imitated him and asked her where daddy was, something in me relaxed, and I started to think that maybe the siblings thing would work out.

5 May: 

Nikolai: Mama, you'll play the train game with me? (talking about Ticket to Ride)
Catherine: Sure, we can play after dinner.
Nikolai: With Daddy?
Jesse: Sure, I'll play too.
Nikolai: And Miriam can WIGGLE a little bit!


12 May:

Nikolai: Am I big like you?
Jesse: Not yet. You're bigger than you used to be, but it'll be a long time before you're as big as me.
Nikolai: *pauses* Couple more days?

17 May:

(Jesse usually puts Nikolai to bed, but he was working on something this evening)

Catherine: If you're on a roll, I'd be happy to put Niko to bed.
Jesse: Yeah, I'll take you up on  that. 
Nikolai: I sink you said a wong word. You mean quiet time.


18 October:

Nikolai: Anytime is a good time to break open acorns together. 

10 November:

(At bedtime, something Nikolai puts off sleep by telling us "one last secret." This was one he told Jesse)
Nikolai: This year, you and me and Miriam should make a big big machine, a rektanglar machine, and it will spit out TOYS. So many TOYS. It will be the best present ever.


27 November: 

(after reading the story of the Good Samaritan)
Jesse: So Jesus is teaching us to try to take care of people.
Nikolai: Yeah! But I can't take care of too many people, because that would know me over! *flops on the ground*

2015 was really good to our family! We are definitely bringing our memory jar to Moldova and we're excited to see what 2016 memories we have :)

Saturday, January 30, 2016

And back again

While in Utah, my mom and Megan and I took an afternoon to go shopping for my brother Aaron's wedding. He and his fiance Jake have picked some lovely wedding colors, one of which was a lovely rich burgundy color that is pretty in right now. We decided to capitalize on that fact and found some great tops to wear for wedding photos (and on sale to boot! good thing we didn't wait til May to look). 

Also, it was a really fun excuse to hang out with my mom and sister, which is one of my favorite things ever.


Doesn't Megan look swanky in that hat? Seriously, I wish I looked that amazing in hats. She's incredible.


I tried on this flower crown as a joke but then fell in love with it. So now I own it and want to wear it all the time. (And bless Jesse's heart, when I came home and showed it to him, his first response was not "I love you my silly wife" (which would have been completely acceptable and understandable) but "you should wear that every day." BEST HUSBAND EVER).

We had lunch together after a pretty successful shopping venture, and I had this moment where I looked over at these two incredible women that I'm related to and my heart swelled with so much love and joy that I thought it would burst. They are vivacious and rich and wonderful people, and getting to spend some time with them was beyond perfect.


Speaking of girl time, while we were there Megan decided she wanted to color her hair! We went subtle (she's never dyed her hair before!) with some low-lights, and it turned out great! Also, it was incredibly fun and girly and brought back many happy memories of growing up together, so that was a plus too :)


Aaron lives just 20 minutes from my parents so he got to come up tons, which was the best! After sitting and chatting late one evening, Megan, Aaron and I realized that at some point, Aaron had become the tallest and we now formed a sort of staircase if we stood in order from shortest to tallest. 


We arranged ourselves thusly and took a series of selfies, each better than the last. When we looked at them, the one below made Aaron laugh really hard, which made me laugh really hard. I hadn't used the bathroom in a few hours and I forgot to cross my legs (mom fail!) so then my mom bladder failed me and I peed my pants. And then the fact that I'm a 26 year old woman and that I was peeing my pants just made me laugh harder, which made me have even less control of my bladder...you can see where this is going, right?

Needless to say, I had to change my pants. Needless to say, this is now one of my favorite memories.


Before I arrived I organized a big family birthday party and made sure everyone could be there (without telling mom). We have five January birthdays in our family now (Mom, Albert, Jake, Nikolai and Joshua) so I wanted to get everyone there to celebrate.


Luckily, everyone was able to come and it was so good to see everyone! 

After dinner and cake and ice cream, we played paper telephones, which was so funny that it made mom cry. Always a win in my book.



One last memory. Megan and Garett got a Wii U for Christmas so we spent an afternoon playing Mario Kart 8, which was super fun. At one point I stopped to take care of babies so Nikolai got to play, which he thought was the BEST THING EVER. 

Here, he and Megan are lost in concentration:


And then we headed home! We had some shenanigans with delayed flights on the way home too, but luckily we found out about them before we went to the airport, so while it made us arrive home later (after midnight! blech!) at least we didn't spend as much time in airports as we might have. 

My cuties, watching planes as we waited:


We had a really short layover in Chicago and had to go through an underground tunnel from one terminal to the other. It was lit with these incredibly beautiful rainbow lights, and I really wanted to take a picture of it but all I got was a series of super blurry, trippy photos like the one below. But in retrospect, the photo below is kind of what flying with two kids felt like: lovely, because I love them, but also weird and what time is it anyways? What time is it where we are flying from, and what time is it where we are flying to? Did we have dinner? Did we miss dinner time because we were in the air? Should we have taken naps? What day is it? What is happening? WHO AM I?!?!


So in summation: it was a lovely trip. We are glad to be home, and we miss our loved ones!

Friday, January 29, 2016

There

Our stay in Utah was fantastic! It was SO good to see my parents, Uncle Jack and all of my siblings, and I feel like we had some really quality times together.

The time difference was a little hard on Nikolai, making him tired early in the evening and awake early in the morning, but he adjusted pretty quick. 

One night before he adjusted, I went in to go to bed (we shared a bed) and found him asleep half on the bed and half on the couch next to the mattress. Obviously I moved him to a less back-aching position, but I had to take a picture first:


Nikolai picked up his friendship with Uncle Jack right where they left off, and they had a blast playing together. We even got some fresh snow while we were there, and Uncle Jack was awesome enough to take him out and build a "penguin house" (Niko's words) with him. 



They also spent hours playing with stickers, after which I found Uncle Jack literally covered head to toe in stickers. Bless your heart Uncle Jack, you're the best friend Nikolai could ask for :)


I LOVED getting to know my sister's son Joshua more! He's just 7 weeks older than Miriam but I hadn't seen him since he was 3 months old, so it was awesome to get to play with him. He and Miriam were wary of each other at first, but they eventually hit it off (which is for the best, because Megan and I are going to force them to be best friends whether they like it or not! So they may as well like it).


 My mom enjoyed getting to see some of her grandkids, and I sure loved seeing her with them.


More to come tomorrow!

4 times zones and an ocean

Three months ago I decided that I wanted to fly to Utah with the kids to surprise my mom for her 60th birthday, and 2 weeks ago we finally got to do it!

I was a little apprehensive at the idea of flying with 2 kids by myself, but it actually went better than it could have. Wait, I mean the kids were better than they could have been--we actually had about 10 more hours of travel than I planned on and an extra flight, so that was worse than expected.

Basically, our first flight was late taking off, causing us to miss our connecting flight. So, instead of having just two flights and getting in to Salt Lake at 11:40, we had three (and got to fly through all 4 time zones!) and got in at 8:20.

 P.M. 

Which was 10:40 PM eastern time. And we woke up at 4:30 AM eastern time.

It was a very long day.

But let me back up.

Mostly we passed the time on the plane with two things: Snacks and games/videos on my tablet. There was a smattering of new coloring books, stickers, and toys, but those really didn't hold a candle to the almighty Electronic Device. 



But hey, it was effective! And that freed me up to make sure Miriam wasn't screaming like a banshee, and occasionally I even got to look out the window!  


Sunrise? I think? It's place in the order on my phone suggests it is sunrise, not sunset, though we saw both from a plane that day so it's hard to be sure.

Anyways, our many flights and long layovers meant we got to see several things I had not intended to see that day. 

Exhibit A: Super impressive George H.W. Bush Statue in the Houston Airport, with Bush striding confidently into the future, jacket slung over his shoulder and a book under his arm (the Bible? Do they have bound copies of the Constitution? WHAT IS IT).


Exhibit B: The Pacific Ocean. Though I didn't really want to see it, it was definitely lovely.


Thankfully, by our very last flight poor Nikolai was pooped and was more than willing to put his little fox neck pillow on his neck and fall asleep. Though, funny story, beforehand he kept wanting to turn on the overhead light and I told him he had to wait until Miriam fell asleep. While he waited to be able to turn on the light, he declared that he was sleepy and grabbed his pillow. When he was almost asleep, he turned to me and blearily noticed that Miriam was asleep, and muttered "you forgot to turn on the light Mama." "Just a minute" I whispered back and BAM! He was asleep. Silly boy.


At last, we made it to Utah! I had been texting my mom for a few days, telling her that I had mailed her a present and to be on the lookout for it. Even though we got delayed, I stuck with the original plan and texted her that the package was out for delivery (along with "what? this late at night? that's weird") and then texted her to say it had been delivered when we knocked on her door at 9:30 PM. She has a good poker face so she didn't look that surprised, but she was glad to see us and we were sure glad to see her!


This post is long enough so I will post more about the trip in 2 more posts!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Miriam: 11 months

Our awesome Miriam is 11 months old today! Here are some things I want to remember about her:

Sleeping patterns: We've finally gotten to a semi-normal sleep routine! She naps twice a day, usually at 10 and 2 or so, though that varies, and she usually goes to bed at 8:30 and wakes up at 7:30 (though I suspect she'd sleep longer if she didn't share a room with Nikolai).


Eating patterns: This month Miriam breastfed for the last time and never looked back. Honestly, she's way less hungry and grumpy now that she gets enough food (formula), which is nice. She is still eating any and every grownup food she can get her hands on (which is a welcome change from her big brother, who says no to any and every grownup food he sees). 


New discoveries she made: Growling and wrestling! We wrestle with Nikolai a lot and Miriam LOVES joining in. When she does, she often gives a little growl to let us know she's playing, which is ADORABLE.


Accomplishments: ALMOST walking. Like really, she could be walking if she wanted to (and frequently does 4-5 steps at once just to taunt us ;D), she just doesn't feel like it. Also, she grew two perfect (and SHARP) little teeth!


Places she went: To Utah to surprise Grandma for her birthday! This little lass survived 5 flights and was incredibly behaved (for an 11 month old). 


Special Memories: Wrestling, stomping her feet when she's happy, and throwing her very first tantrums! The sweetest example is probably one evening when Jesse and Nikolai went downstairs to play legos (they have been banished to the basement because of my fear of babies choking), leaving Miriam and me upstairs. Miriam, upset to be left behind, crawled over to the basement door and sat next to it. She flailed her arms and yelled at the top of her lungs for a little while, then crawled over to the door and pounded on it with her tiny fists, shouting all sorts of baby nonsense about how mad she was to not be included in all the fun. It was adorable and terrifying, as we've realized she's inherited the same temper Jesse and I had as children. Uh oh! ;)

Yay Miriam!

Niko turned four!

Hooray hooray, our boy is four!

We've sort of been referring to Nikolai as for for about a month (we try really hard not to be *those people* who round their child's age up way in advance, but he really felt four for the past month) so it's nice to be able to finally call him four.

I think I need to do a little birthday interview with Nikolai to ask him his favorite things, etc and preserve some of who he is right now. Four seems like a really incredible age and I'm excited to see who he is becoming and really want to record some of that. I will do that soon and post that it some future date, but for now, I'm going to write ad nauseum about his birthday party.


Nikolai has been on a Star Wars kick for a month or two so I rolled with it and we had a Star Wars themed birthday party. Nikolai helped me color some star ships to hang from the ceiling (the rainbow Death Star below is one of his masterpieces) and I used painter's tape to make a hyperspace jump on the window. 





I wanted to make a few treats for the kids to munch before we played games, so I spread some colored frosting on pretzel rods to be light sabers (two purple ones for Mace Windu! You go Mace Windu!) and I just happened to find a Star Wars jello mold at the grocery store the day before, so I made a bunch of those too. Also, Nikolai LOVED them so that was a win.



Ok, I'm only including the next picture because Jesse's photo bomb is the best.


8 of Nikolai's friends were able to come, and we had a blast playing Star Wars Says (simon says but with things like "fly on Rey's speeder" and "walk like C3P0"), Hyperspace red light green light, and doing a Star Wars themed treasure hunt ("look for the next clue in a place where Han Solo might have a juice box (and definitely not shoot first)"). 


It was pretty chaotic, but I think it went really well!


I got a little ambitious and made an R2D2 cake! It's just cake mix and store bought frosting, but I made marshmallow fondant for the decorations. Oddly enough, because the shapes were so geometric it was actually super simple to cut out and put on the cake. I am incredible pleased with how it turned out! 


I made some cupcakes too, just in case we needed more cake, but they ended up being leftover. Mmmm!


And a blue stripe of cake in the middle:


 I had about 2 days to plan the party (in between when I got back from visiting my family in UT and Nikolai's birthday) but I'm really pleased with how things went. Most important, I think Nikolai LOVED having all his friends come over and having a fun time with them! Happy Birthday Nikolai!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Books I read in 2015

(2014's list is here)

I'm not sure how I managed it, but I read a LOT in 2015! I'm actually not really sure how I had time to read so much--I think mostly I stayed up way too late finishing excellent books and spent a lot of days sleepy because of it. 

Just for fun, here's some statistics:

Total books read: 58

Stand alone books: 43
Books that are part of a series: 15

Non-fiction: 18
Adult Fantasy: 5
Adult Fiction: 13
YA Historical Fiction: 1
YA Sc-Fi/Fantasy: 17
YA Dystopian: 2
YA Graphic Novels: 2

Average length: 298 pages

Total pages read: 17,286

Here are the books I read, listed by month (the ones I've posted pictures of were my favorites):

January

1. Cress by Marissa Meyer. This was the continuation of a series I started in 2014. I really enjoy the series and I look forward to reading the final book very soon!

2. The Stranger by Albert Camus. This was a book club read picked by my friend Nycole and I really enjoyed it! 

3. Baby Catcher by Peggy Vincent. This was a memoir by a midwife who started her career in the 60s when midwifery was just getting its feet back under it. Reading this while pregnant gave me a lot of confidence in my ability to have a VBAC and made me grateful for my awesome midwives!

February



4. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. This was a half realistic, half fantastic tale of a childless family living in the Alaskan back country in the 1930s (I think?). There was a lot of beautiful snowy imagery and some lovely, understated magic that I really loved. This is one of my favorite books from this year!

5. South of Superior by Ellen Allgood. This was another book club read and I only finished it because I wanted to be able to discuss it at our meeting. There wasn't anything particularly offensive about it, it was just boring and fairly poorly written. 

6. This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spencer. This was the second book in a series by these authors that introduces a fun futuristic sci-fi world that I really enjoyed spending time in. 

March

7. Fairest: Levana's Story by Marissa Meyer. This was a semi-stand alone novel that accompanied the series that Cress is a part of. It gave some background to the main villain of the story and made her a bit more understandable, something I always enjoy. 

8. Man without a face by Masha Gessen. This is a must-read biography of Vladimir Putin. Jesse and I spend a TON of time talking about Russia and Russia-related stuff so this really helped me enjoy our conversations more. 

9.T aming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare. Another book club read, but this one I loved! I didn't read a ton of Shakespeare in high school so it was fun to broaden my horizons beyond just Romeo and Juliet.

April



10. Words will break cement by Masha Gessen. By the same author as the Putin biography, this was an account of the Russian social activists in the group Pussy Riot. 

11. Code name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. This YA Historical Fiction novel follows two female British air service agents in WWII. I really cannot say enough good things about this book. It was one of my favorite reads this year!


12. The Bishop's Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison. I tend to stay away from fiction by Mormon authors that is geared towards Mormon audiences and this book reminded me why, though from the opposite side as usual. I see pretty keenly many of the problems in the church but Harrison seemed to feel like she needed to bring them all up in one book, and it felt incredibly forced. I really wanted to like this book but I was incredibly disappointed.

13. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. This book club read followed a young man who decided to go live on his own in the Alaskan back country and was eventually found dead there. We ended up having a fascinating discussion about following dreams, responsibility to family, and benefits of taking risks. 



14. There Once lived a woman who tried to kill her neighbor's baby by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya. This collection of short stories is billed as "scary fairy tales" and does a great job of toe-ing the fantasty/realism line. The stories are set in Russia and have some lovely Russian folk tale elements that I really loved. 

15. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby. This played along those same realism/fantasy lines that I apparently really got into this year. The writing was really great and eerie and awesome.

May



16. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. This was my book club pick for the summer and for me at least it was SO GOOD. Bradbury writes about what it's like to be a young boy in rural America in the 1920s through a series of episodic chapters. The writing was astounding and some of his beautiful springtime imagery comes back to me almost daily. 

17. Hey Natalie Jean by Natalie Holbrook. A blogger I read and really enjoy came out with a book of essays, but it ended up being mostly recycled content from her blog. It made me glad I checked it out from the library instead of spending money on it.



18. The life-changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo. It's pretty cliche to say but this book was LIFE CHANGING. It definitely changed how I see stuff and helped me ease back on some of my hoarder instincts. 

19. The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal. I don't remember much about this YA Fantasy book now but I remember really enjoying it at the time! If I remember right, there was some great character development and some interest religion/magic that was fun to read.

June

20. Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst. This YA Fantasy novel had an awesome premise (desert magic, people being inhabited by gods, etc) but the ending was really unsatisfying and it unfortunately tainted the rest of the novel for me. I've been bummed about it for months. 

21. The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie. I always love a good Christie mystery and this one was very satisfying. 

22. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult. Another book club read. This one was an enjoyable read until the last 6 pages, when the author made some major, unexpected decisions that ruined the whole book for me. Very frustrating.

23. Eat Well, Lose Weight, While Breastfeeding by Eileen Behan, R.D. This book made me realize that I didn't actually want to lose weight that badly (not badly enough to stop eating cookies every day, at least). 

24. Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. This and the next book were my attempt to remember what happened in the first 2 books of the series before I read the final one in the trilogy. They were very fun to re-read!

July

25. Princess Academy: Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale. See above.

26. Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale. Guys, I always love a good Shannon Hale novel. This one tied up the series in a way that was satisfying and unexpected, which is always a good combination. 

27. Detroit City is the Place to Be by Mark Binelli. This was my attempt to learn more about Detroit, a city that I like but don't know a lot about. This book by former-native Binelli was just what I needed.

28. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Sisneros. Excellent book club read that prompted some great discussions about race and the experience of growing up. Very enjoyable. 



29. The Word for World is Forest by Ursula LeGuin. Jesse is a big LeGuin fan but this was my first! It's an older book so the writing was somewhat different than I was used to (think Asimov-style sci-fi language) but I really enjoyed this one. 

30. Stung by Bethany Wiggins. Lest you think I love everything I read, let me present to you this very disappointing dystopian novel. I actually have no idea why I finished this one at all.

August

31. Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. I have always loved the Miyazaki film adaptation of this book and the novel itself was similarly superb. It was fun parsing out differences between the book and film and getting to enjoy the characters anew.



32. Book of Mormon Girl by Joanna Brooks. This memoir of what it's like growing up as a Mormon woman really spoke to me. I loved it so much that I immediately bought a copy so I can write in the margins. Very, very good. 

33. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. This is another classic that I feel like I ought to have read in school growing up but somehow didn't. We read it for book club and it was very thought provoking.

34. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I really, really wanted to like this futuristic sci-fi novel but I really, didn't. I liked it enough to finish it, sure, but overall it rubbed me the wrong way and I don't remember it fondly.

September

35. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. This novel played along those same realism/fantasy lines but wasn't executed as well as I would have liked. 



36. Summers at castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn. This was a really fun fantasy novel by an author I like but haven't read anything from in awhile. Very enjoyable.

37. Flunking Sainthood by Jana Riess. Riess' memoir of trying to be a better person of faith through religious practice was enjoyable and thought provoking. 



38. The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra. I got this book for free through Blogging for Books and loved it! It was a collection of short stories based in Russia that stretched from the 1910s until now, with a series of characters that are all connected in some way.

October

39. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. I re-read Seraphina so I could remember enough to read the second book in the series, Shadow Scale. It was delightful to re-read it and still enjoy it just as much as the first time!

40. Grace is not God's backup plan by Adam Miller. This modern paraphrasing of Romans was short and sweet and just what I needed. 



41. Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman. The sequel (and final book in the series) to Seraphina, this book had a wider scope and very satisfying character development. Very, very good.

42. Divergent by Veronica Roth. I was looking for something to read in between other books and thought I'd give this popular book a try. Wrong choice. Not good.



43. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. This book was set in the same world as the Grisha Trilogy that I enjoyed so much last year. It followed different characters and was centered around a heist, and it was really fun to delve back into that world I enjoyed so much the first time. The only problem was that I thought it was a standalone book until the final 2 pages, when I realized with a jolt that it was the beginning of another trilogy. While I'm very excited to spend more time in that world, at the time I was very frustrated and may or may not have yelled so loudly that I woke up Miriam. Whoops.



 44. Tacos: Recipes and Provocations by Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothman. I got this cookbook for free from Blogging for Books and it is AWESOME. Never before have I been tempted to spend 3 hours in the kitchen making tacos but the recipes in this book are so good that I've done so every 3 weeks since I got this book. SUCH GOOD TACOS.

45. Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. This was a book club read, and for me a re-read of a book I remembered loving as a kid. If anything it was better this time around!

November



46. Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix. This was a mix between historical fiction and fantasy and it was SO FUN. The main character's magical emerald gets stolen and she goes undercover as a man in Regency London to find it. Very fun, especially for fans of Regency era (think Jane Austen) novels. 

47. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. I had read this book club read in high school but really, really enjoyed re-reading it as an adult and discussing it with my amazing book club ladies.



48. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff. Think teenagers in love in the midst of a zombie space opera and you've got a good feel for what this book is like. Surprisingly, it was extremely fun!



49. Accidental Saints: Finding God in all the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-Weber. I first heard about this book on NPR and was super excited when I scored a copy of it for free through Blogging for Books. The author is a tatooed Lutheran pastor in Denver who helped me rethink who it is that God has given me to love (read: everyone, even people on the opposite side of the political spectrum from me). This was a really excellent book.

50. Why not me? by Mindy Kaling. As an avid Mindy fan I was glad to finally read her second memoir. She starts out the book being very flippant and lighthearted but ends it with some hard hitting thoughts about race, being a woman, and love. I really enjoyed it.

December



51. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. This YA Graphic Novel followed some interesting characters and had great art. It's my first ever graphic novel (unless you count some Manga I read in high school) and I loved it. 

52. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. This was our December book club read (and the first Lewis book I've read that wasn't part of the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe series) and it was fantastic. We had an amazing discussion about our perspectives on heaven and our lives now, and I think we all left feeling like we had learned something from each other. 

53. Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Lyman Bushman. I started this biography of the founder of the Mormon church in August but at 560 pages it obviously took me awhile to finish it. I found it very informative (though quite slanted to Bushman's perspective as an active Mormon) and was glad to have read it.

54. New Testament -- King James Version. I have been teaching the New Testament in Sunday School this year and set a goal to read the whole book while I went. I finished it in the nick of time!

55. Letters to a Young Mormon by Adam S. Miller. Since I was apparently on a theological kick this fall/winter, I decided to read this one as well. Miller writes on a series of topics as though he's writing to a young friend for whom these topics are very relevant. I found his words uplifting and he definitely changed the way I think about some things (oddly enough, the thing he changed for me the most was food! Weird, huh?)

56. Lumber Janes by Noelle Stevenson. Another graphic novel by Stevenson. Short, sweet, and fantasy-laced, this one was enjoyable and I can't wait for the second one to be available at my library so I can read it too.

57. Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. The final book in the trilogy, this book was mildly disappointing. I kept thinking that perhaps I should have re-read the other two books first, because I felt like I was missing details that would have made this final book more fulfilling. It was alright, though. 

58. Cultures of the World: Moldova by Patricia Sheehan and Lynette Quek. This was, oddly enough, a Juvenile Fiction book that was just at my attention level. It has a lot of really great information that took me a step above Wikipedia in understanding the country we're moving to next year! 

I felt like my reading was a lot better balanced this year. I read way more non-fiction (and enjoyed it, to boot!) and more classics, which is always good. I'm a little nervous about reading in 2016--I'll need to switch to e-books when we move overseas in August! I'm not a big e-book fan (I think I've started a few and never finished them...) but I don't know if I can live without reading so I will have to learn. To my e-book fan friends: any tips and tricks for liking to read e-books?