Monday, December 24, 2012

Holidays

Oh google, did you realize how many bloggers you would stop in their tracks by cutting their picasa storage space? Given, it takes about 5 minutes to create a new google account and add yourself as an author, but life has been too crazy for that. Sorry, everyone. I'm back!

Life has been crazy busy. Full of wonderful things, but crazy busy. I've started a new job working for an SAT prep company. I feel very blessed to have found a flexible gig with good people. I'm working 7 hours a week to start out, and all when Rob can be home with the kids. I've been spending a lot of time trying to remember this algebra stuff I haven't attempted in 8 years, doing all my training activities, and getting comfortable with the curriculum. 

Music has also been filling my life up with good things. I thoroughly enjoyed leading our ward choir this Christmas, and I also participated in a choir that sang for a nursing home. It has been wonderful to have these songs in my soul this season, and it has made me feel very connected to and grateful for my Heavenly Father.

We spent Thanksgiving with Rob's dad in South Carolina. We ate a lot of good food, slept a lot of good sleep, and had a lot of great conversation. If that's not a good vacation, I don't know what is. Hooray for great in-laws!
My wonderful mom came out for a week in December, and it was amazing to have her here. We saw the trains at the Botanical Gardens. We did insane amounts of Christmas crafts with Emily. We stayed up late watching Twilight (my mom and I, not the kids). We went to the mall. We saw the Christmas lights at the temple. I loved having her here. Now I just have to figure out how to get my hands on a transporter so we can do this more often...


My wonderful mom also watched the kids overnight so we Rob and I could have an early anniversary celebration. We went down to Charlottesville, where we toured Monticello, enjoyed the pedestrian mall, and made a glass ornament at the Glass Palette. I doubt I'll get a specific anniversary post done this year, but wow, do I love that man. It is wonderful to be seen exactly as I am, and loved all the more for it. It is wonderful to spend every day with someone who is so unbelievably good and kind. Life is very good with him in it.

Merry Christmas, everyone! I'm grateful for your love and friendship.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fall Part 2



We returned to Cox Farms this year for massive slides, delicious apple cider, animals and a fun hayride. We went last year, too, and it was fun to see how much we've changed in the past year. Last year, Elliot couldn't walk. This year, he was climbing hills, going down slides independently, and telling me all about it. The biggest slide was both of their favorites. I loved snuggling them on the hayride.
 My dad came into town for business again, and I neglected to take any decent pictures again. But we had fun going on walks, reading books, and riding the mall carousel (a fine tradition).



I took the kids to the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, which we've done three of the past four years. Um, this was the worst go of it. It was crazy foggy until noon (but it did clear up for spectacular views later in the day), and the kids spent most of our time outdoors crying hysterically about the gnats. Ugh. At least they liked the visitor center, and when I finally stopped forcing them to picnic and hike, the views from the car were lovely when we drove around. You win some, you lose some.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fall, part 1


DC life is expensive. Sometimes I find myself surfing Zillow and realizing how much lower my mortgage would be in, say, Tulsa, Oklahoma. But then fall comes, and I feel like I can never leave. Let me tell you, the east coast knows how to do fall. The trees are gorgeous and the fun is plentiful.

I'm going to break our fall activities over a few posts so I don't bore you too badly in one shot. 

The season kicked off with my favorite DC event, the National Book Festival. This year, I saw John Green, Walter Dean Myers, Lois Lowry, Tayari Jones, Geraldine Brooks, and Sandra Cisneros. I always leave the festival with dozens of ideas floating around my head, and feeling reaffirmed of the power of reading. And maybe a little bit depressed that there are so many wonderful books in the world that I will never have time to read (why yes, I am aware I'm weird). This time around, I'm thinking about the author/reader relationship, and the role of parenthood in writing. I can pretend that someday my thoughts will become a fully formed blog post.

 I took the kids apple picking. My shots of the actual apple picking sucked, but here is Emily ready to dig into the delicious apple pie I made with some of my apples. We're going back tomorrow.
 I tried the General Conference activity bag idea that is ubiquitous on pinterest (stick treats or activities in bags with different prophet/apostle/auxiliaries on it, and the kids get it when it is their turn to speak), and let me tell you: Best. General. Conference. Ever. I usually end the weekend pissed off that I spent eight hours in front of the TV without actually hearing anything the speakers said because my crazy children insist on singing loudly to themselves right in front of the TV. This time around, I heard TONS. The kids LOVED their bags and did their activities as quietly as you can expect a 1 and 3 year old to do them. For several days in a row after conference ended, Emily requested watching general conference again so she could do more activities


And, of course, raking leaves is always fun.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Elliot now

Wow, it is a lot harder to blog now that Emily's nap has disappeared. Sorry about the month-long wait. I'll hopefully cover some of our fall fun, but I wanted to do an update on Elliot's activities as well.

Elliot's most notable accomplishment is his talking. Holy cow, he is a good talker. He's doing most of the 3 year old milestones, and he isn't even two yet. Emily hit all her verbal milestones late, so it is a big difference, and I'm loving it. I know so much more about what is going on in his head than I did last go around, and it helps me know him and his needs better. I love when he just walks up to me and spontaneously declares, "mean spiderman take pizza away!" or that he can tell me why he's crying. He can play imaginative games, and it is fun to see what he comes up with. 

Elliot loves all things domestic. He loves to help me cook, unload the dishwasher, change the laundry, and especially wipe things down. I can entertain him for a long time at the doctor's office by handing him a kleenex and telling him to wipe down the chairs. But he gets his manly side in, too. He adores spiderman and dinosaurs, and he seems to prefer playing with little boys. 

As always, he loves being included. When it's my week for teaching or co-teaching preschool, he is in paradise getting to do what the big kids do. When Emily or other big kids come up with quirky games, he's very serious about trying to do what they are doing. He does love to color on his own, but I think any other crafty thing he does is just so he can do what the big kids are doing. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Emily now

Since I'm doing general updates, let's go for another, this time Emily style. Here's Emily rocking her shades and favorite hat for her first day of preschool. That's my girl. She's learning a lot there, and I'm proud of her.

Tool time with daddy is one of her favorite things on earth. Rob has been very good about including her any time he's doing a home maintenance project, and this shot is from when he set up an awesome FHE with assorted screws and bolts to tighten and loose and let the kids practice (well, Elliot just played with sockets the whole time, but he was happy). Her most recent project was helping break down a chair we needed to toss, loosening many of the screws and bolts (it had survived a few too many barf incidents to feel OK about freecycling it...).

Playing with blankets is her other deep love. She rolls them up and makes a "couch" (pictured). She spreads them on the ground and asks me to turn on music so she and Elliot can run in circles on them. She requests forts. She makes beds for Elliot using couch cushions. She plays peekaboo. She does anything she can think of that involves blankets.

Other than that, she gets really excited when I let her help me do laundry and unload the dishwasher. She's getting more confident talking to adults - she'll now whisper to most adults, not just a select few. We'll work on talking to them. She really enjoys singing. And she's growing and growing.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Life


Well, hello everybody. I realize it has been a long time since I've really talked about what I'm up to. I just share quirky things my kids did, give random opinions, or bomb you with mass quantities of vacation pictures. So here's what I'm up to.

I've been teaching piano lessons the past few months, and I'm about to take on a new family of students. Growing up, I didn't have much interest in music education, so I'm a bit surprised to be here. But I'm enjoying it. I like the one-on-one creative problem solving side of it. I like figuring out what gets a student excited, and how I can make a hard concept make sense. Sure, I do problem solving 24/7 with parenthood, but with piano lessons, the stakes are lower. I don't have to worry about them becoming drug dealers when they grow up because of my incompetence; the worst I can do is make them hate music forever.

I've been writing a biweekly YA book review column for an online publication. I'm writing under my full name, so I don't want to link it here, but if you're interested, friend me on facebook or email me and I can send you the link. I love books and love writing, so it is a good niche for me. It's nice to have a friendly forum where I can get some experience.

I just started doing a co-op preschool with some other moms in my congregation. I haven't taught yet, but I've been planning my lessons. Emily gets very excited about it, and keeps wanting to talk about things she learned there. :) She's also informed me she doesn't want me to teach her things; she only wants to learn in preschool. Glad to know I'm needed. The preschool also means I'm getting some one-on-one time with Elliot, and we're both enjoying that. Yesterday, he wanted to do a “dance party” for his “mommy time.”

Other than that, I've been trying to figure out this food storage stuff. Emily's been obsessed with crafts, so I've been trying to figure out how to do this crafty business (thank you, pinterest!). And as always, I try to squeeze in as many books as I can. That's me.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Myself, reflected


Emily is very much her own person (trust me, she doesn't love making crafts because she sees me doing them), but part of the fun of parenthood is seeing your own sayings and arguments reflected right back at you. For what it's worth, here are some recent ones:
  • Mommy, you can't wait to go use the potty! You have to go to the potty right away when you feel like you have to go!
  • Mommy, you can't be mean to me, because Elliot will see you being mean to me and think it's okay for him to do it, too.
  • You did it, mommy! You practiced, and practiced, and then you did it! I'm proud of you.
  • Don't cry, mommy. I'll go get you something to eat!  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Dear Extreme Couponers and Company...


Don't get me wrong – I admire what you do. I think on the net, you do save money, you work hard to save it, and it seems like you enjoy what you do. Good for you. But it is the way you talk about it that bothers me. You boldly declare “I only spend 50 dollars a week on groceries to feed my family of five. And look at all those silly people that actually PAY for peanut butter – I got mine for free!” Here's the thing. You may have paid $50 at the grocery store, but you did not pay $50 for the food you ate. There are all kinds of extra costs.

You did not just pay 99 cents each for those 12 frozen pizzas you bought. You are paying for the chest freezer that you are storing them in (several hundred dollars, depending on the size). You are paying for the utilities to store said pizzas in that chest freezer. Or the square footage in your house to have a large pantry. You are paying for the generator to keep said pizzas from going bad when the power goes out for three days. You paid for the newspapers you received to get those coupons, or the several computers you used to print out those coupons (2 per computer limit). And you paid the gas money to chase around to four different stores a week to get those deals. It adds up.

And have you ever gone to those sites that claim they only spend $50 a week on groceries, no coupons needed? When you read the fine print, there are all kind of extras. They don't pay for eggs because they raise their own chickens, and they eat eggs for breakfast several mornings a week. They have a bountiful garden and never have to pay for produce. But there are costs to doing that! Maybe you live somewhere rural with low property values, but I live on the East Coast. I have a tiny, shady lawn. Do you have any idea how much more I would have to pay to have enough property to grow the kind of garden that would satisfy my family's produce needs? Or to buy jars to can everything so I can eat fruit in February? Or to pull up the trees in my yard so there is a sunny enough spot to grow anything (we have a lot of trees out East)? Or how long I'd have to drive to work to live somewhere that my neighbors wouldn't kill me for having chickens? Yes, there are community gardens, but you pay for those, and spend gas money to get to them every day or two. Not to mention costs for fertilizer, seeds, bird feeder, pest deterrents, and the like.

Keep doing what you're doing – I'm happy for you. But stop acting like everyone could do what you do if they were motivated enough. I can't afford to save money like you do.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dress Like a Cow Day


I just got the pictures off my camera from when we did Chick-Fil-A's "dress like a cow day" a few weeks ago. If you dressed head to toe in cow apparel, you got a free meal. I love free food, and I love being a spectacle, so naturally, I was in! Emily had a great time taping her spots to her cow costume and mooing in it, and Elliot was very admired in his costume from Halloween. In a room full of cow costumes, employees came out from behind the counter to admire his cuteness (score!). We enjoyed our food and the play place, and had a grand time!

I hesitated a little before putting this up because I didn't want it to be interpreted as a political statement or anything like that. For the record, I've eaten both Chick-Fil-A and Ben & Jerry's in the past few weeks. I think business owners are humans with the right to their own political opinions, and unless they are discriminatory in their business practices, I really only care if I like their product. So until Ben & Jerry's stops serving conservatives or Chick-Fil-A stops serving gay people, I'll enjoy both of them, regardless of my opinion on the issue.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Random Olympic Thoughts

  • There's no better way to celebrate the human body's capabilities than sitting in front of a TV for four hours straight eating a bag of chocolate chips and watching someone else use those capabilities.
  • I'm much more Team Mom than Team USA. Now that I recognize how motherhood completely alters your body, I find it massively impressive these women can come back and compete on that level. Move aside, little 16 year old gymnasts. Lashinda Demus losing 50 pounds after having twins and coming back to get a silver medal in hurdles - now THAT'S a woman. 
  • What's with the blue tongues? I keep seeing them. Too much blue powerade?
  • I want to love soccer. I really do. It is the great world sport that millions of people around the world love. But not me. It is the one Olympic event that bores me. And you're talking to the girl that gets annoyed when those 9 minute swimming races or 20 minute track races go to commercial in the middle.
  • It has been fun to see what my kids like. Emily loves the diving, and stalls her bedtime like mad every night to keep watching it. Gymnastics bored her death. She kept asking me "is she going to jump off that thing yet? Is she almost done?" She also loves it when the athletes' families get excited. Elliot loves the swimming. Especially the breaststroke. Every time someone pops out of the water, he giggles and declares "SPLASH! SPLASH!"
So if you're into Olympics, what have you been enjoying?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Denver



We spent our first full day in Denver enjoying each others' company and recovering from our road trip with an epic number of bathroom stops (whoever it was that told me potty-trained life is easier than diapers has never driven cross-country with a three-year-old). I loved getting to just talk with my grandparents and catch up on life. 
On Sunday, we hiked with my grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousin in Rocky Mountain National Park, and got to see the oldest pine tree in the state of Colorado. I LOVE being in the mountains, and it was a great opportunity to just talk and laugh together.
I was very impressed with Elliot's ability to do the whole hike with us, but that wasn't nearly as impressive as my grandma doing it. I hope I'm that awesome at her age. 
We met up with Rob's mom, Cristie and her family, Steve and his wife Brooke, and his Aunt and two cousins at the Children's Museum in Denver. Denver has a fantastic children's museum, and we had a great time playing together. My highlight was watching the kids play with their uncles. Steve would chase them around and get them squealing with laughter, and Emily and Brendan made up an awesome fish fighting game where they'd swing around their "fishing poles" and try to knock the stuffed fish off each other's poles. She laughed so hard, and it was really funny to watch.
 :) We sure wore my dad out on this trip. He fell asleep in the middle of the children's museum, which is saying something because he's not one to nod off in public places. Thanks, mom and dad, for doing so many exhausting things to give us a great trip.
  
The next day, we went to the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster. I can proudly say I have now held a tarantula. Elliot's favorites were the turtle and the bird. Emily's was the play area (isn't that always how it goes?).

It was really fun watching everyone interact. When we went to the McDonalds playplace afterwards, Elliot and Abraham sat in a playhouse and just happily screamed together. My shy Emily was very excited to tell her oldest cousin, Sam, about what she was thinking about. Emily loved roaring like a lion at her uncle Brendan. Good times.

I felt like the vacation was the perfect blend of fun activities, down time, and time to just chat. We loved it!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Fun things in Omaha

We only spent three full days in Omaha, but we packed in some great stuff...

We drove over to have dinner with my Iowa grandma. It had been about three years since she saw Emily (which neither of them could remember) and had never met Elliot, so she really enjoyed getting to spend some time with them. I feel bad that we had just gotten off the plane, and well, I have shy kids, so they didn't interact with her very much. But my grandma got the biggest kick out of watching their giggly running and jumping around, and their messy ice cream eating. And I really enjoyed getting to talk to her and pick her brains about life with young children. My mom said that my grandma was crying happy tears when she walked her back to her room in the nursing home, and was telling everyone that she was so happy she got to take her great grandchildren to Burger King.
No visit to Omaha is complete without a visit to the zoo. We enjoyed riding the carousel, "digging for fossils," watching the bears eat celery and cantaloupe, and seeing giraffes (which are a novelty, as DC doesn't have them).
My highlight of the zoo was watching my dad and Emily play-banter about her cookies. My dad would do this awesome cookie monster "me so hungry" routine and beg for cookies, and Emily would laughingly taunt him with them and then take them away.
Omaha has re-done part of its waterfront, and it is lovely. My brother Doug took us there, and the kids played in the splash pad for over an hour. I loved getting to walk across the pedestrian bridge with my brother and just catch up.
 So happy and so wet.

My parents took us to Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City, and it was a blast. My kids love hiking, so they thoroughly enjoyed getting to walk around the trails. They have a big tree house there, too, which my kids enjoyed exploring.
The farm also had a great play area with drums and xylophones to play, a water feature you could send pine cones racing down, a small tree house to play in, and other fun stuff. It also had delicious apple cider.


It is hard to see in this picture that Elliot is playing in grandma's kiddie pool, but easy to see that he loved it! Emily still asks when she'll get to play in the Zebra pool again.

I also got to have dinner with my fabulous friend, Jen, who I hadn't seen for years. 

I'm glad I was able to pack in fun things with fun people who I don't see nearly often enough.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Time Together

We got back a few days ago from a fantastic vacation. At first, we thought we were just going to see my grandparents in Denver. Then my parents offered to road trip with us to Denver if we flew in to Omaha and stayed a few days, so I got to see my parents, older brother, and another grandma. Then Rob's mom, two of his siblings, and the seven children/spouses associated with them asked if they could drive down to meet us in Denver. Then, as we were driving to Denver, my younger brother called and said he got tickets off priceline and he'd meet us in Denver that night. Then an uncle and his two kids (unaware I was coming that week) decided to visit my grandparents at the same time. Wow! I gained 18 family member visits off all that slick maneuvering. It was a vacation packed with fun activities and lots of family, and I loved almost every minute (it isn't a real vacation unless somebody barfs, right?).

We did lots of fun and exciting things that I hope I'll get time to write about, but the best part of the vacation was just enjoying the company of people I love and don't get to see nearly as often as I'd like to. I crave the sound of my children laughing with their uncles, or those moments where my mom and I laugh so hard we cry. So, with no related text, and being far too lazy to make it into a nice collage or something, here are some pictures of us having a great time together:















*PS - I'm sorry to my readers in the Omaha/Denver area I didn't see. As you can see, we had a very jam-packed vacation, and I couldn't see everybody I would have liked to. Next time!

Friday, June 22, 2012

I love this pig


Most people go into parenthood with some Hallmark commercial image in our minds. Intellectually, we know there will be a lot of poop and not much sleep. But there is some kind of experience we want to have with these little people. We want to share their joy in learning to ride their bike without training wheels or meeting Cinderella at Disneyland.

My parenthood fantasy was snuggling up with my kids and reading a chapter of a book before bed. In my mind, they would say, "but mom, I don't want to go to bed" in a sweet whiny voices (not the usual hysterics that accompany doing something they don't want to do), and I would say, "but don't you want to read the next chapter of our book?" They would then get excited and eagerly snuggle up to me, and they would always beg me for another chapter when we finished.

I'm pleased to say this moment has arrived, and it is as sweet as I hoped it would be. I thought it wouldn't happen for a few more years, as chapter books seemed rather advanced for a three year old. But then I discovered the magic of Kate DiCamillo's Mercy Watson books. This delightful, toast-loving pig and her quirky neighborhood have adventures, broken into illustrated 3-6 page chapters. The tone is playful, and both my kids love them. They still stall like crazy at bedtime, but the "piggy book" is always a good incentive to hurry things along. My kids always beg for more chapters, and we love laughing together.

We only have one book left, and I'm seriously hoping something else will fill the void (maybe some fairy tale compilation or something?). Any suggestions?