A whole bunch about us you may have never wanted to know.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Moving to Germany ...

Paul's Christmas break was VERY short indeed. In fact, he only got off half of Christmas Eve, all of Christmas and was back at work the next day. It barely even seemed like a break ... especially since our girls were throwing up on Christmas Eve! In any case, the holiday seemed so short this year. Today Paul is at work, although he does get New Year's Day off. I think after that his next holiday off is Memorial Day!!!

When I worked doing public relations for SAP (a big software company), we worked with a bunch of co-workers in Germany where SAP is based. Needless to say, they get A LOT more holidays there than we do here! It seems at least once a month -- sometimes more -- they said they weren't going to be in the office because it was a "bank holiday." That's right -- if the banks were closed, then they didn't work. And the banks seemed to be closed a lot.

One of the women nearly died when she found out that I was working up until my baby was born, and therefore working AFTER my due date. She said that in Germany they get a year off of maternity leave, and much of it is paid. HELLO! With Tyler I hadn't even worked at the company for a year yet, so the HR personnel informed me that my job may or may not be waiting for me when I returned! Fortunately I knew that my manager wouldn't replace me, but legally she could have. And even at that I had off only six weeks with him, with only 1 1/2 days paid disability. Six weeks! Do you realize how short that is with a baby?!?

When I was pregnant with Zachary they had improved their HR skills, AND I had been there a year, so they said I could take up to four months off (the three required by the Family Medical Leave Act plus an additional one required by the state of Oregon, where our other main office was located). Turns out I didn't come back after the four months, but the company still cashed out my personal time off I had accrued during maternity leave. So, I felt very blessed with that company.

Paul's not so lucky. First of all, he gets no maternity leave at all! ;) I guess that's a given. At his last company he got a week of paternity leave, but he has to use vacation for any paternity leave now. Working for a small company has its advantages, but there are definite disadvantages as well. I guess having to work Christmas Eve is one of them. And seeing as we don't speak a lick of German, I guess we'll stay put for now.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas pictures

This year we decided to have a smaller Christmas than we normally do. It turned out great, and the kids didn't miss a thing. We're thinking we'll have to do that a lot more often.

This is a picture of the boys in the jammies I made. I made two sets, and this was their least favorite of the two:

(They wore their favorites on Christmas day, as you'll see in the pictures.) I was glad they turned out so well, and the boys loved them. They loved even more that I had used the extra materials to make a sleeping bag for their favorite animals.

Becca's main gift this year was to be able to wear make-up. We had told her she couldn't wear it until she was 14, but as a Christmas gift we gave her a certificate to allow her to wear it early. We also gave her eye shadow and implored her to wear it sparingly. So far, so good ...

Tyler and Zachary got a bunch of new Legos, including some that were already put together into various creations. They love them, and they're very excited about each getting a new game for our Game Cube. However, we couldn't have a Christmas without Tyler getting a new piggie. They're getting harder to find (since we already have so many), but here is his newest one, which is called (ironically) Cutie Pie.

Zachary got a bunch of new dogs as well, including one that looks a bit like his cousin's favorite dog, Buddy. Becca also made new pillows for each of the kids, and they loved them. Here is Zachary with the doggie pillow Becca sewed for him.

Shayla was as happy as could be getting twin babies. She had a few other gifts, but she didn't want anything to do with them once she had her twin babies and a stroller. She even tried feeding a peanut to her baby, which was adorable. Our boys had dolls and never played with them like that. In any case, she looks much older in this picture. Maybe that's her "maternal instinct" coming out ...

And now for what you've all been waiting for: Did Paul like his present? And what was it? Well, Paul's favorite computer game is Civilization IV. So, I got him an expansion pack for the game. Am I nuts??? In any case, he FINALLY liked a gift he received. Miracles never cease!!! He also got his anniversary present a bit late, and I think he liked that too ... although it's still in its shrink wrap. However, since it's less than a week after Christmas, we'll give him a break ... for now ...

And as for me, I had the camera, and therefore got no pictures of me opening presents. I got a membership to Gold's Gym (thanks Paul and DirectPointe), a griddle (thanks Hilary) and a trimmer for scrapbooking. When I was doing bills and saw the Costco receipt for a trimmer, I called Paul to find out why he bought a new beard trimmer without telling me. That gave him quite a laugh and kept me very confused ...

Hope your Christmas was as merry as was ours!

What REALLY matters

Hilary found out last week that her husband is being laid off between now and Jan. 7. What horrible news right before the holidays. She's having a great attitude about it and exercising her faith well. They've been very blessed to always have something work out when situations like this have happened in the past.

The day after Lee was laid off I found out that a friend's wife was in the garage of a house that blew up, killing the two people inside. It made me so emotional to think how close she had been and what she had to witness and experience. I called Hilary and say, "Who cares if Lee doesn't have a job! He's alive!!!"

I have these reminders again and again about the preciousness of life, and yet somehow it doesn't sink in enough to really make me be who I need to be. Does anyone else have this problem? I know what I can do to improve, and I want to do it, but then I just don't -- because of tiredness, busy-ness, or forgetfulness (emphasis on forgetfulness)! How do you truly change your heart when you get so busy doing laundry, making dinner and keeping kids happy that you just forget? It's not even that I'm too busy with extra-curricular things that we can cut out ... although I'd love to cut out making dinner most nights! :)

Anyway, I've been pondering for several days how really important it is to live our faith, to serve others and to be the best us we can be. And it is essential to cherish every moment we have with our kids and family members. Of course, it's always easier said than done, especially when the kids drive me nuts!

However, I hope that when next Christmas rolls around that I FEEL like I've done better and improved my relationship with the Savior. After all, that's really the most important thing we can do in this life -- build our relationship with the Savior and teach our children (through words and example) to do the same.

I'm grateful to have so many inspiring friends and family members who love me and motivate me and pick me up on the days I'm feeling down. Thank you. I love you all!!!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Wizard of Ozzzzzz

So, we got to see Tyler in his school play The Wizard of Oz. This was an elementary school production, so I thought it would be a lot of fun to watch the kids. Tyler was a munchkin, so I thought it would be a really cute part. After practices he even laughed for me the way they do when they're hiding in the bushes in the movie.

Well, I think I had my expectations a little high. The munchkins marched in to the song "Celebrate good times, c'mon!" (not sure of the real title), which was cute. They were holding lollipops (which I didn't recognize until I was told), and when they got on stage they laughed just as Tyler had practiced for me. However, that was all the munchkins did (except for stand there looking bored) until it was time for them to march back off to the same music. Can you believe that? They didn't even sing any munchkin songs. In fact, there wasn't a song in the entire play as best I can remember (assuming I didn't fall asleep! :).

The skit tried to include many kids, and even had something like 10 Dorothys. (Does more than one Dorothy = Dorothies?) Anyway, it was no wonder that I heard kids were getting bored at practice. Tyler had practice two times a week for an hour each. All this to march on, stand there and then march off? Sigh ...

I was just glad I had to endure it only once. Mind you, watching Tyler march in so excitedly was worth sitting there through the rest of the "production." He had so much fun, especially since he got to tell Becca that she wasn't the only one in our household who was in a play. This picture Paul got of Tyler marching in is definitely priceless.

Of course, Tyler was the cutest and best munchkin in the whole production. And even better -- it's all over.

Monday, December 17, 2007


So, I forgot to mention a funny about our visit to Pike Place Market. There is one particular place (right behind the pig) that is well known for throwing fish. Although other places do it as well, somehow this one has become the "famous" one (can anyone say location, location, location!).

You other moms may know about the PBS Kids show Postcards from Buster. On one of his visits to Seattle, he goes to Pike Place Market and sees this place where they throw fish. Anyway, my boys are always excited when they see Seattle stuff, so when that Buster was on they watched intently.

So, when when we were at the place Buster visited, I said to the boys, "This is the place Buster got to throw a fish!" One of the workers must have felt sorry for me and felt the need to set me straight. "You know, actually Buster didn't really come here, just the kids did." How does one react to such news? Maybe I should have started quite an argument insisting that I had seen it on TV, and therefore I knew it was true. (Paul and I use this theory often -- if it's on the Internet or on TV, then it MUST be true!)

Instead I decided to turn the tables and put the pity on him. I whispered, "You know, actually Buster isn't real --he's just a cartoon." I hope this wasn't akin to breaking the news about Santa or the Tooth Fairy. And if any of you wonder what I'm talking about wrt Santa ... well ... huh? What are we talking about? Oh yeah, fish ... Santa usually doesn't throw fish ... at least I've never seen him at Pike Place Market ... :)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Santa Visit

So yesterday we made our annual visit to Santa. I give my kids one shot at the big guy (and I get one shot at a cute picture), and then we call it good for a year. Now, Tyler's getting old enough that visiting Santa is fun for him. Sure enough, the only problem we had was getting him to slow down when telling Santa what he wanted. Here he is giving his list:

And although I knew Zachary would be nervous, I figured he'd probably follow Tyler's brave example and at least sit on Santa's lap without problem. I couldn't be certain, though, once he was on Santa's lap whether or not he would say a word. My family gets quite a kick out of how he will just stare you down sometimes instead of talking to you. But he did talk to Santa. I think the following picture is proof. :)

Now the gamble in the whole event was Shayla. I didn't even know what to predict she would do. She's been a little 'fraidy cat for most of her life as far as strangers go, and she was classifying stranger as anyone not in our immediate household. Lately she's been opening up a lot more with other people and has figured out that some of them will even pick her up a lot more than Mommy does. But I figured she'd still be nervous around such a strange stranger. I was wrong. When Zachary was on Santa's lap, Shayla walked right up to him and looked up as if to say, "I think it's my turn?" Of course, when we put her on his lap I think she realized that it may be a little scary, so she went into some unknown "zone" and tuned us all out. I tried to get her attention to take a picture, but we couldn't get her to even look my way until they rang some jingle bells behind me to get her attention. However, she didn't even flinch! I couldn't believe it.

Last year she wasn't old enough to even care, but we have two classic pictures -- one of her pulling Santa's beard while he's looking at us taking a picture, and the other of her and Santa looking each other like they're checking each other out.

This year Santa was wearing a real Santa outfit, too. The past few years we've found several Santas with Christmas-themed shirts and suspenders, but not the whole sha-bang. One year we even looked in three different places, and each Santa was wearing a different Christmas-themed shirt. What??? Anyway, this year's pictures made me happy -- especially since we had to wait in a very short line to get them. And of course the only reason we have to get the annual pictures with Santa is because my scrapbook wouldn't be complete without them!!!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Perfect Gift ...

So, I think I have the perfect gift for Paul for Christmas. I'm really excited to have thought in my brilliance of this gift. Of course, I can't tell you what it is, because Paul reads the blog regularly (thank you, dear). However, with my excitement comes great doubt. You'd think that I'd know whether or not he'd like it and therefore could subside any doubt.

Little do you know our gift history this year. For all occasions I have thought I had the "perfect" present, only to be met with sure disappointment. He had mentioned that if he had an iPod he could download podcasts and listen to them in the car. So, I bought my sister's "gently" used iPod from her and was excited that I actually was giving him something he wanted. That bum barely even smiled when he opened the gift. It was an iPod shuffle. And he'd need some gadget or the other to actually make it broadcast on the car radio. So rather than buying the gadget and happily listening to podcasts (all while thinking of his thoughtful wife), Paul let the iPod sit unused. (Anyone want a used iPod?)

So, right before Father's Day his company handed out a book/DVD/CD called The Secret. It's something about positive thinking, but I can't tell you since it's a secret. ;) Anyway, he said that he realized that he preferred listening to that to listening to news and talk radio all day. So, his brilliant wife decided that the perfect Father's Day would be other CDs he could listen to in the car. I got the new John Bytheway book on tape, "Supersonic Saints" about LDS pilots and some of their amazing experiences. I thought this was a definite winner. And I knew that he loved the movie "The Other Side of Heaven," so I got that on CD as well. (I had purchased the book a while back for Christmas and that sat there unread until I finally read it.) Anyway, I figured these would be exciting for him. When he opened them, he did smile, although he was definitely not excited. So unexcited, in fact, that one of the two is still in its plastic wrap covering. Can you believe the rudeness? (Paul, you know the password to this blog if you feels the need to defend your actions.)

So, every time I saw the unwrapped CDs, I would ask if he really wanted them or if I should just return them. He insisted that he would get around to listening to them one day. I'm so glad they're loved. Anyway, for our anniversary (#7) last month, I re-gave him the two CDs since he hadn't yet opened them. Why get him a new gift when the last one is still in perfect condition and UNUSED?!??

One of them got opened on our long drive to Washington at my prompting. The other still sits in its OEM shrinkwrap, if it can be called an OEM product. :) I told Paul that if he doesn't open the CD before Christmas then he's getting it as his only gift. That would stink, because I think I may have the perfect gift for him ... although obviously I've been wrong before ...

Saturday, December 8, 2007


One of our Christmas traditions is to get new P.J.'s every year on Christmas Eve. Now as a mom I understand more why my parents started the tradition. 1) We need new pajamas every year, so why not make getting them fun?; and 2) Then you look at least a little better in those Christmas morning pictures.

I decided this year I would try to save a little money and sew the p.j.'s for my boys. I was just going to make p.j. bottoms, but then I had enough extra material to make tops, too. However, I didn't have enough for sleeves, so I had to buy additional material for sleeves. Then I remembered that I had forgotten to buy ribbing for the necks. Turns out the fabric store near us doesn't have white ribbing. I settled for a knit fabric and am hoping it will work.

I think the funniest thing about making these jammies is that as I was cutting out the different prints I noticed again and again the material saying, "NOT INTENDED FOR USE IN CHILDREN'S SLEEPWEAR." I laughed every time I saw it. Obviously I'm making jammies -- and I'm hoping the children will wear them to sleep!

I'm not too worried, though. During a childbirth class when we were expecting Tyler six years ago, a fellow classmate was anxious that she had bought an outfit that said it was not intended for sleepwear. She panicked about putting her baby down for a nap in this clothing. The teacher assured her it was okay, and that children's sleepwear had to meet certain flammability requirements. Then a couple from Europe asked, "Flammable? Do you mean fire?" When the teacher answered in the affirmative, they looked at her like she was nuts.

That was the first time I also realized how nuts we are here in this country. If my baby is in a fire, the non-flammable p.j.'s are sure not going to save his/her life. So, I'm not going to worry about putting my kids in non-flammable clothes to sleep. That would require me to actually put them INTO pajamas every night. I'll focus instead on seatbelts, vitamins and no running with scissors ...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Pictures, pictures, pictures!

Paul was able to download something onto our computer desktop so that it always shows the time, a notepad, a calculator, today's Dilbert comic, and pictures. Not just any picture -- it scrolls through all of our pictures. And we have A LOT of pictures.

Let's face it -- have you ever really seen me anywhere without a camera in hand or nearby? I am a photo freak. I attribute this to Sis. Parkes on my mission. She made me realize that I'd rather throw away a picture I decided I didn't want then regret not taking one. Now, I guess I can call her the real photo freak -- she'd take pictures of ANYTHING! (Yes, Cylena, you are nuts!)

However, the photo bug got in my system. Ever since then I'm the one taking pictures. And the more I take, the pickier I get. So, I take my kids to photo studios to get pics, and I just tell the photographer how to pose my kids and what angle/zoom I want. I can either be a photographer's dream or nightmare -- depending on how well the kids are cooperating. I can't afford the really good photographers, so I'm stuck going to JC Penney. They usually do a good job, but I mostly go there for the high-quality prints. Paul and I dream of buying a Canon Rebel, but we don't an extra $800 to $1,000 around. When we do, though, we're done with professional photos. In fact, one day I hope to get a little professional training and specialize in photos of families and kids.

Anyway, this photo feature on our desktop reminds me of why I take so many pictures. I LOVE looking at them and remembering so many good, happy times. Just while sitting here typing this I have seen pics of Rebecca trying on a wedding dress, Paul holding Shayla on her blessing day, Madison on her baptism day, etc., etc., etc.! What fun memories. I'm not good at writing in my journal, but my photos will hopefully tell enough of the story that you won't miss too much from my life ... except what I look like since I'm usually the one holding the camera. :)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Christmas Season ...

Well, we never found our tree stand, but we did get a new one from my sister. So our tree is up and looking pretty. And thanks to Paul's mom and Hilary, we already have presents under the tree! So far no mishaps with an 18-month-old, either ... why, oh, why do I feel the need to jinx myself ...

So, last blog I complained about the traffic during Christmastime. It's true, I don't really like the crowded roads or stores. However, I failed to mention how much I LOVE this season! I love how friendly and giving people are in December. Can you even imagine how awesome our country would be if people were that kind and giving all year round?

We also got our first real snow of the season this weekend. That definitely makes me feel more in the Christmas spirit. Of course, I associate snow with Christmas since I grew up in Utah. However, I am SO grateful that the Savior was born in the spring in the Middle East instead of a snowstorm in Utah in December.

Speaking of this sacred event, I've recently had a new insight into His birth. We've always seen and portrayed the innkeeper as being rude or heartless for turning them away from the inn, which had no room. However, inns at the time were basically just a big room where people gathered to eat and sleep. So could it be possible that the innkeeper actually was a very kind-hearted, good man who offered a place for Mary to be out of the public eye during childbirth? I can't imagine how awful that would be to deliver a baby in front of a bunch of strangers. How much better to have privacy during such a sacred moment.

Of course, I'm not saying a stable is where anyone would want to give birth. And now that I've had babies of my own, I can't imagine how wonderful Mary was to give birth without a midwife or her mom. However, I'm sure she and Joseph were inspired to know how to safely deliver the Savior into the world. What a wonderful, blessed, amazing thing it is that we get to celebrate every year!

By the way, I got this insight from an awesome series of historical fiction set in the time of the Savior's ministry. It's the Kingdom and the Crown series by Gerald Lund -- I highly recommend it. I don't particularly enjoy Lund's writing style, but the insights I have gained about cultures of the time have helped me appreciate and understand the New Testament even more. (I read them years ago and am starting them again now.)

Anyway, I hope you all enjoy all the great things that happen during this wonderful holiday season. And most of all I hope you remember He who we celebrate.