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

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sledding fun

A couple of days after Christmas my kiddies got to go sledding with a bunch of their cousins. Let me tell you how much fun that was! And to have the long-zoom lens? Even more fun! (Or, in my vocab, FUNNER. I'm still bummed that's not a real word.)

Anyway, here is some of the fun we had ...

My nieces Madison and Savannah:


Niece & nephews Kimmie, Cris and Brett. Brett's sled got lost somewhere at the top of the hill:


BIL Mark with son Marcus. I love Marcus' face:


My cute, adorable Tyler showing off his 'lashes:
Nieces Kimmie and Madison:


Becca & Shayla. Look at Shayla's face:


Kimmie:


My bro Ryan looking like he doesn't need a sled. (Really it's just hidden in the snow being thrown up.)


What a cute pic of my little guy Zachary:


And a cute one of the intense fun he's having:


Paul & Tyler:


My sis Rachel having a blast:


Shayla loved making snow angels -- both with her back and her front!!! I'm sad Paul didn't get a pic of her doing it on her stomach since I missed it. Let's just say it got her VERY cold!


My niece Katie got too cold and had to go sit in the car:

But when more cousins came she decided to re-join the fun, here with Kimmie:

Tyler feeling accomplished:


Zachary LOVED going again, again and again:




Me and Shayla at the bottom of the hill:

It was a blast! My dad always brings a heater so we can warm our hands and faces at the bottom as we please. Those are the kinds of neat things we get to do now that we live by G&G Palmer!

Then again, if I'm going to mention cool things we do with G&G Palmer, I should mention that the night before sledding we did our annual pinatas. They way it goes is that the youngest in the family has the first try (there's a pinata per family), and once you hit a certain age (8 or so), you are also blindfolded. Here are the pics of my kids trying to get to their loot:
Shayla didn't want to try this year. We're figuring it was because the pinata looked a little too much like Dora ... :)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas was wonderful!

I have thoroughly enjoyed this holiday season, and I've so been looking forward to giving my mom her gift. I couldn't mention it before, because she reads my blog and I didn't want to spoil her surprise.
Remember me talking about going to Vegas and getting pics w/the sunglasses? (If not, go back to the Viva Las Vegas blog in October.)

Well, since we couldn't find the pineapple sunglasses in Vegas, we found them online and bought them. (We bought the Star Trek ones while in Vegas.) Anyway, I coordinated w/all the family members who didn't yet have a picture in them and took pics of EVERYONE -- all the kids and grandkids. This meant mailing them to South Carolina, Southern Utah and New Mexico. I got them back just a few days before Christmas so I could wrap them up and give them to my mom. Here are the pictures:


They may look kind of small, but I figured that was the best way to show 16 pictures of these 32 people who had their pictures taken. What I'm not posting is the two pictures we took of my sisters' dogs w/the glasses on.

I developed these pictures and gave a copy to my youngest sister who started the whole thing, too. I then took the pictures I printed for my mom and scrapbooked them to match her original pages she had done about the sunglasses.

Let's just say that she LOVED it! I gave her the sunglasses first, and she and my sister almost died they were so happy. Then I said there was a second part to my mom's gift, and I opened the scrapbook pages for her to look at while I gave my sister her copies of the prints. They LOVED them. I knew they would, and their reactions didn't disappoint.

In any case, that made my Christmas thoroughly enjoyable. I still can't believe all 32 people kept the secret -- most of them for six weeks now. It was awesome.

My family all loved their gifts as well, but describing them would sound boring in comparison to the fun we had giving my mom hers. Becca wrapped up a gift that said it was to be opened last, and when we opened it there was a card that said, "The greatest gift of all is given to you by Christ: The gift of Eternal life." It was a great reminder to everyone in our family about the meaning of this special season!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas letter

I got this written in time to e-mail, but I have yet to do it. Oh well, after Christmas people will have more time to read it anyway, right? Here it is a little earlier for those of you who actually read my blog. :) Merry Christmas!


I have decided this year not to kid myself and think I’ll send out Christmas letters via snail mail. So, I’m writing this e-mail update knowing completely well that I probably won’t get to “real” mail until my youngest gets into kindergarten. As of now, that’s three years away … but that is bound to be pushed back at some point …

This year has been a great year for the Brown Family! We have been blessed in so many ways, and we have had a very enjoyable year. We started the year being able to visit Paul’s brother and family in Phoenix. We had never been there before (except for Paul, who was born there), so it was a new, fun adventure. We especially enjoyed visiting with those cute Arizona Browns. A few of us got to enjoy the wonderful Easter Pageant there at the Mesa Tempe. It was awesome. We also got together with all of Paul’s siblings in August when his mom got married, which was a fun whirlwind vacation for us … especially since our kids stayed home. :)

In October we got to go on an awesome trip to Disneyland that was more fun than we can even express. BOTH boys were chosen for Jedi training, and they got to fight against Darth Vader. Seriously, how many young boys actually get to fight the real Darth Vader? I thought it was a total miracle for them both to be picked, and it was only one of the many fun, exciting things we did on our vacation. We can’t wait to do it again one day!

In any case, here are what our family members have been up to this year:

Paul earned his Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer this year, which is something he’s wanted to do for years. We are so happy for him! He found a great “boot camp” program in Phoenix and signed up for one that was during his birthday. He passed all the tests with flying colors – Happy Birthday! Anyway, he came determined to find a better job. Actually, he applied with only two companies, and he had two offers within weeks. He started a new job with TA Instruments in June. (It’s some company that makes microcalorimetry products or something like that I don’t understand.) He is their sole IT guy in Utah, which means he actually has a desk/cube now. We feel very blessed that it happened so quickly and that he really enjoys new things to do. His new job is a lot less stress and a lot more money – not a bad combo!

Denise has been busy doing the same ol’ things: toting kids to plays and soccer (no coaching this year), doing a gazillion loads of laundry, trying out new recipes, and trying to figure out how to best raise these great kids of mine. I am still very much enjoying scrapbooking and writing random nothings (usually) on our blog. This is also a great place to see awesome pics of our kids. :) I also stay busy with cub scouts, PTA, and other random “mom” things.

Becca has been very busy improving her thespian skills this year. She was in the chorus (singing/dancing extras) in her school’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. She also earned a spot on her school’s Shakespeare competition team, which enabled her to go down to Southern Utah University for a competition in September. She is very much looking forward to next year’s school play – Mulan, her favorite Disney movie. She enjoyed a short stint in the Mia Maid presidency (14- and 15-year-old girls) at church, which she enjoyed. She also was able to vicariously perform the baptism for her great-, great-grandma for whom she is named. That was an awesome experience for her. She is mature for her age, and we’re very appreciative that we have such a cooperative teenage girl. :)

Tyler LOVES soccer and got to play in both spring and fall. He also lost his first tooth this year, much to his excited surprise. He lost another one this past weekend, so he is in heaven with two teeth out. (Don’t mention to him that most 2nd graders have lost a lot more than that, but they also got their baby teeth sooner than he did!) He is such a sweet boy, and he is loving being able to read his Star Wars books on his own.

Zachary started kindergarten this year and is doing great. I was worried about him being too shy, but he’s being brave and actually talking to his teacher. She is impressed with how much he knows, so we’re glad he paid attention when Tyler was learning. He is still a great little artist, but his imagination is a little too great for his own good – he still has quite a few nightmares and doesn’t like to be on a different level of the house than anyone else. We’re hoping he outgrows this phase soon without growing out of any artistic abilities.

Shayla is as adorable as ever. She isn’t talking much, but we figure it’s because she sees no need to talk. Having five other people in the house to cater to her needs doesn’t require much talking! :) However, to make sure she can talk when she’s ready we have her in a program that is supposed to enhance her speech and pronunciation. She also LOVES to count (she can count to 12 … although it’s only intermittently correct) and trace anything and everything (yes, she’s moved beyond the boring ol’ hand tracing). She still has her adorable red hair (for now), and you can’t believe how many strangers stop us to comment on how beautiful it is. We feel blessed to have such a sweet, easy-going two-year-old. (Knock on wood quickly! :)

As mentioned, we have been blessed beyond measure this year and are very grateful. We always love the Christmas season and how wonderful people are to each other. We are grateful most of all for the precious reason for the season – not only for His birth, but for His life and example, His commitment through great suffering and trial, His resurrection, and His teachings that guide our lives and decisions even now, more than 2,000 years later. Our lives would not be the same without His powerfully wonderful influence and care. Merry Christmas to you. We hope your year has been one of peace and that you have a great 2009.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Oh, Christmas Tree!

I mentioned that we used to do real trees before inheriting a fake one from my older sister. However, what I didn't mention is our year that we WISHED we had a fake tree. I figure you can all use a humorous story right about now ... (This from an e-mail I sent out back in 2001)

All~ I'm thinking by now that you may have heard our horror Christmas-tree story. For those of you who haven't, here is the short version:

Paul's family has a tradition of cutting down their own tree (there are a lot of places here in Seattle to do that) and drinking hot chocolate. Well, we planned to go with them Saturday morning to cut our own.

Friday night we received a call from Olan Mills saying the pictures we had taken of Tyler had something wrong with the film, so we needed to come back in. We wanted them in time for Christmas, so we had to go in Saturday morning for re-takes. That meant we had to trust Paul's family to pick out our Christmas tree.

Now, Paul was a little worried since he said his mom likes to get them too tall, and his dad always picks ones with holes. I saw their two trees last year, and they seemed fine enough. However, he told his dad to make sure to get one no taller than Paul's mom. He also said to look around for holes. The next morning when I talked to Paul's mom, I said the same things. I even threw in a pitch about how we really wished we could come since this would be our FIRST Christmas tree, but that we had to get these pictures taken.

Well, when they delivered the tree on Saturday night, let's just say it was NOT what we were expecting. I'm not sure if you could say there are any holes, because that's pretty much all the tree is. (We're still trying to decide if we should water it or just let it die ....) Anyway, I haven't seen Paul's mom in a few days, but apparently she's had a growth spurt: We had to cut off five feet to fit it into our house.

Paul keeps saying we're not related to Charlie Brown, so I'm not sure why we had to get a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. When I told my dad, he said, "Well, at least you won't have to try to improve on this year's tree since ANY tree will be an improvement." So true!

Here are two of the pics I attached:


On this one you can see that we tried to place ONE ornament on the branch, and it was too much. So, we were sans ornaments with this tree:


My co-workers had a heyday and made sure to forward this e-mail to everyone on our team and even our client back East. Here are some responses I got from the pictures:

- "Think of it this way Denise, at least it won't shed pine needles all over your floor. At least Tyler isn't old enough to realize your tree is a little sparse."

- "Oh my gosh, Denise! I can't quit laughing! That is way worse than anything I could possibly have even begun to think of. Yuck!! H ow can you even call that a tree? I'm SO sorry, but this will make for a great personal history story!!! :)"

- "So was that the Christmas tree in the pics? If it was, I liked it. I guess his family was feeling a bit lazy and did not want to carry the thing. Either that or they pulled a heavy dose of sarcastic humor. I noticed that the thing did not have any ornaments -- looked too frail for any."

Mid-January I got an e-mail marked urgent from our client. It said, "I have an important project for you ... I was told you have a very interesting Christmas tree story with photos. I was told I must see this project!" Her response upon seeing the pictures? "Oh my! I can't believe that! I can only imagine what your first impression was ... to laugh or cry. Hey at least you were able to capture the moment. And as your father said, you will only have room to improve. Were you able to decorate the tree or would it fall with ornaments?"

Here's hoping your tree is better than ours was in 2001. :)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mom facts

I made quite a mistake today that I seem to repeat once in a while: I tried to take a nap. What is it about laying down on your bed that beckons all of the kids to your side? Shayla was up a lot the night before last, so I actually went and got in bed with her. And then last night I didn't sleep well because I was worried about needing to finish preparing my lesson for Relief Society today. So, I decided I deserved a nap.

Now, the second I put my head on the pillow Zachary came and asked for help finding his pants. I told him to find Becca or Paul and ask them to help him. Then when I was just falling asleep Paul came in and informed me there was someone at the door for me. Becca also came in to tell me since she was the one who had answered the door. I went and received a gift from a neighbor, and after a short chat went back to my bed.

Once again I was about asleep when I heard Paul come and lay down beside me. I was happy about that until I realized he had left the door open and I could hear every word/yell of the kids. Of course, Paul was sleeping soundly no matter how loud they got. He's got a talent for that. Then his breathing started to sound loud to me. Sigh. I also then started thinking that if he slept too much he wouldn't sleep well at night and therefore would make me not sleep well. So I woke him up to kick him out. Needless to say, I had to wake him up four times before I convinced him to get out of bed.

I thought that was it, and that I would then get some sleep. Once again right as I was falling asleep Tyler came in and asked if he could eat one of the goodies we had made. I also heard Shayla playing and laughing instead of taking her nap, so I figured it was useless to try to sleep beyond that. Yes, I took more than two hours trying to get a nap and probably got a total of about 15 minutes of sleep. That's the life of a mom.

Another funny "mommy" moment I had this week: When I was on the phone with Paul's brother getting the news about their baby and her delivery and complications, Zachary kept trying to get my attention. Repeatedly I shook my head and pointed to Paul for Zachary to realize he needed to talk to Paul. He kept trying to get me, though. Paul would say, "Zachary, she's on the phone. What do you need?" Finally when I got off the phone (45 minutes later) I explained to Zachary about the baby being in the hospital and that he couldn't interrupt phone calls and expect me to always be available. Then I asked him what was so important that he needed me. He asked, "Mom, are you thirsty" Paul and I laughed and laughed about that. I wasn't sure how to answer, so I said, "Sure." He said, "Then go downstairs." I thought maybe he had a surprise for me, so I went downstairs and got a drink. Then he joined me and said, "I'm really thirsty!" Turns out he was thirsty that whole time, and instead of asking someone to go down to the kitchen with him (since he's too scared to be on any level of the house alone), he kept asking Paul and Tyler if they were thirsty. When they said no, he kept coming back to me on the phone to get my attention. Kids!

Oh, and then there are boys. I "caught" my boys this morning making all kinds of signs that say, "I love you club" and "I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you." These signs were meant to trick people into coming into the room, and then the boys were going to scare them by jumping out yelling (Zachary) and waving their arms under a blanket (Tyler). Makes a mom so proud ...!!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Busy, busy, busy December

I love this season because of all the giving and Christian attitudes that seem to prevail nationwide. Every year I hear wonderful stories of miracles and service that just touch my heart. However, there is one thing about Christmastime that always bugs me -- people are TOO BUSY!

I was reminded of how "busy" people are when talking to my brother-in-law on the phone yesterday. He and his wife were blessed this week with a new little girl. Unfortunately, there were a couple of complications, so the baby now has an infection and is in the hospital, probably until Christmas Eve. Since they have three other children (ages 3, 2, and 1), they obviously need some help so Rob can go back and forth between the hospital and home. Jennifer's family (their only family nearby) couldn't get the time off of work, so Rob called friends and church members for help.

As he was looking for someone to watch the kids for two shifts (3 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the afternoon), he realized people were too busy to help. Two people actually told him that they had plans to go to the temple, and therefore couldn't watch the kids so Rob could go spend some time at the hospital with his wife and newborn. What?!? I told him they obviously needed to stand on the chairs from now on, because obviously the messages are going over their heads! (Fortunately my MIL hopped on a plane and went down to help, so now they've got it covered.)

Anyway, what is it with people getting so busy that they can't do what the season is all about? I'd like to think this is an isolated case, but unfortunately I know it isn't. We moved into our house in December, and I was shocked by the lack of response from neighbors and church members. Mind you, I now LOVE my ward, but we didn't have anyone offer to help us move in, nobody stopped by to welcome us, and I thought we had made the biggest mistake of our lives moving here! :) Okay, it wasn't quite that bad, but it was a little lonely and strange.

In any case, my plea is this: Don't get so busy that you don't enjoy the season and aren't aware of those around you in need. Think of how many times the Savior was heading somewhere and in being interrupted taught a lesson instead of being too busy on His way. Just remember (to quote Marilee), service is probably never convenient!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Economy isn't the problem ...

Is it me, or is anyone else tired of hearing about the problem with the economy? Don't people realize that the economy is NOT the problem? The problem is the lack of ethics and morals in the businesspeople of America and a lot of greed among everyone.

I'm not saying the economy isn't bad. However, the bad economy is a side-effect of the immoral, unethical and sometimes illegal practices of business people in American businesses, and of people being greedy and trying to buy more than they can afford. (Mind you, I realize this behavior isn't exclusive to our wonderful country, but that's my focus here.) If it weren't for people being greedy and "bending" the rules, sub-prime loans would not have taken off like they had. Then again, if people hadn't been trying to afford more than they could, then they wouldn't have been so willing to settle for a sub-prime mortgage. (Again, I know there are cases where they really are best, but they are the minimal.)

Anyway, where were the underwriters during these processes? And why were so many people able to make so much money off of such immoral behaviors? You know, where were the whistle-blowers? It's sad, really. And why did companies think these extreme amounts of spending would continue? What happened to saving for a rainy day?

So, now companies are anticipating worse years for 2009, and therefore are making layoffs early. Won't that create self-fulfilling prophesy? You know, so many people are laid off "in anticipation" that there really is less money to be spent, and therefore there really is less spending?

And don't even get me started on the American car makers. Remember just recently we had to pay $150 to get our blinker to work? Well, we now need another repair that will cost around $750. And this is on a 2005 vehicle!!! That is more than we've paid for ANY repair on Paul's 2001 Toyota, which we bought back in 2001. I'm sorry, but they shouldn't be bailed out for making junk. It's what's supposed to motivate companies to make quality products -- then people actually want to buy them. Yet the American car companies were more concerned about how much they could put in their pockets. Sigh ... (I'll also mention here that I've discovered through my experiences that foreign-made cars guarantee their seatbelts for life. American-made cars don't.)

Paul wants to know why nobody bailed out the .com companies that all went under. That was a bust for the economy, and I personally know many people who lost jobs and weren't able to find new ones during that whole fallout. Yet somehow the country survived ...

We're actually glad spending is down. Not because it helps the economy, but because people (as a whole) were overspending way too much, and credit was too easy to get. I've been predicting for more than a year that this would happen, because I heard last year that the national savings amount was negative 1 percent. That meant people were spending more than they were making. I knew it couldn't continue.

Anyway, I'm annoyed about all the talk about the economy and nobody pointing to what brought about this economy. Maybe America as a whole should re-commit to living within their means, and companies should focus on ethics/morals training as much as they do about diversity training. Just a thought.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Windows of Heaven

If you're LDS, then you know what December brings -- tithing settlement. :) This annual meeting with the bishop is generally pretty quick for my family. We say whether or not we have paid a full tithe (10 percent), and then he asks if there is anything we're in need of. We're usually good, so we're in and out pretty quickly.

Yesterday's meeting was a little longer. Apparently our wonderful bishop decided to be a little inspiring. (I also think he was late for a meeting and didn't mind missing a little more. :) Anyway, he started talking about the prophet Elijah in the Old Testament. He mentioned the story of Elijah approaching the poor widow to ask for food. She had so little she mentioned that she was going to fix the last meal for herself and her son, and that they would eat it and then wait to die.

The bishop asked why this woman, who was obviously one of the most in need, would be asked to sacrifice some of her food for Elijah. Was it to test her heart? He doesn't believe so. He believes that the Lord knew her heart, and that He knew she was the most in need of being blessed. We are taught in Doctrine and Covenants (130:21) that every blessing we obtain from God is by obedience to the law upon which that blessing is predicated. This poor widow had to do something to show obedience for the Lord to bless her, and that's why Elijah was led to her to ask for a part of her meager food. Of course, she was tremendously blessed for her obedience. "And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah." (1 Kings 17:16)

He said, however, that this a difficult principle to follow. He said as a bishop, if a woman came to him and said she could either pay tithing or feed her children, he would wonder what to tell her. However, in a recent meeting with other bishops in the stake, the bishops were posed this question. One bishop raised his hand and said, "I would tell my members to pay their tithing so they can be blessed." He then went on to explain his own experiences with tithing.

He was living in Ecuador and had a good job that paid $5 per week. When he joined the church and learned about tithing, he realized that paying 50 cents per week (10 percent) wouldn't be possible -- unless his family sacrificed food one day a week.

So, what did they do? Every Sunday as they took the sacrament they prayed that the bread would provide the nourishment they needed for that day and would help their tummies feel full. They went without food on Sundays for two full years. Then they were given a totally unexpected blessing and opportunity -- the chance to emigrate to the United States. Here they have a home, a car and a good job; but their greatest blessing of all is that their children have never had to be without food for even one day. This family feels their opportunity to be blessed in such a way came directly from their obedience of paying tithing.

I can't imagine that kind of sacrifice since we are really so blessed in this country. Paul and I could go without food once a week, even though we'd be hungry and cranky. We could even have Becca and Tyler do it, and they'd understand. However, how do you explain to kids like Zachary and Shayla why you won't give them any food to eat? And yet this family did it and testifies to others that tithing is worth any sacrifice. This makes me realize that there really is no such thing as sacrifice -- anything we do for the Lord that feels like a sacrifice comes back to bless us so much greater that we are once again indebted to Him for all He's done on our behalf.

Paul and I have not had to make such large sacrifices. We have made much smaller sacrifices, and as a result of these have seen the windows of heaven pour us out blessings (Malachi 3:10). When we decided that we would start being a one-income family so I could stay home with the kids full time, we knew our current income was not sufficient for our bills. However, we saved up in anticipation and had enough in our savings to supplement for several months after I quit.

We weren't too worried since Paul had been promised a big raise to accompany his huge promotion. However, that pay increase never happened. And yet we were blessed to be able to pay all of our bills for more than two years. Not all of the circumstances and extra monetary blessings were pleasant (four car accidents in one year -- all other drivers' faults!), but we felt blessed beyond measure to be able to pay all of our bills throughout these years. We know that paying tithing during this time was critical to our financial security, not to mention the other blessings that surely came into our lives during this time.

In any case, next time I am asked to make a sacrifice or feel like I'm being stretched a little too thin on the Lord's errand, I will try to think of the story of Elijah and the widow and realize that maybe the Lord is just trying to give me extra blessings for my efforts.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Funny little girl ...

Something funny is happening at our house. Can you tell what it is?

I walked downstairs to find this:


And a bit later I saw this:


Shayla has decided it is fun to trace everything, including people's heads. She's liked having her hand traced for months, and she loves to try to trace our hands. However now that has extended into other body parts and various items around the house.

Next she wanted Becca to trace her, so she laid across the paper:


Then she had Paul and Becca take turns tracing tree branches:


That is one funny little girl!

She started speech therapy this week. The lady said she re-calculated the numbers since she'd done them so quickly, so Shayla was actually 6th percentile and therefore qualified for the program. In any case, the lady came to our house this morning. Every time she showed Shayla a picture and asked her what it was, Shayla attempted to count the items. Sometimes she was right and sometimes she was not. She can incorrectly count up to 10. I'm so proud! ;) Anyway, it was hilarious. Maybe she misunderstood what the company's purpose is since its name is Kids Who Count. And count she did!

Oh, and Shayla's FINALLY happy again! I also am very grateful for modern medicine. She has been very cranky the past two to three weeks (including having a fever for about four days), and my mom finally convinced me to take her to the doctor even though the fever was gone. Turns out she had two ear infections and strep. Those are some serious reasons to be cranky! Now that she's being medicated, she's one happy camper, which makes us happy as well. :)

p.s. Zachary has strep as well, but at least we're no longer contagious!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Dilbert way of drawing for prizes ...

Do you know why so many people find Dilbert hilarious? It's because there is truth to so much of it!!! If you have worked in an office, especially a cubicle-filled, high-tech office, you know EXACTLY all too well what I'm talking about. I don't read it daily like that hubby of mine, but I do peruse it once in a while, and am reminded why it is that I'm glad not to be working anymore! (At least not working out of the home for a paycheck.)

Anyway, we had a Dilbert experience this weekend at Paul's company party. When we came in they gave us tickets to put into a drawing. They asked us to write our name on one half and to keep the other half (you know, the one that says, "Keep this ticket"). So, we got our names in the drawing for prizes. We saw the prizes, and there was definitely a plethora -- a LCD TV, a nice tool set, a digital picture frame, a couple $50 gift certificates to Outback, a bunch of $15 gift certificates for iTunes, some 1-lb Kara chocolates, and a few boxes of orange sticks. Yes, those yucky jelly-covered orange sticks.

We didn't want the orange sticks, so we got to work in the games. For "mingling" and answering questions from other people, we got more tickets. So we made the rounds and got lots of names. We were one of only a few to get an additional 6 tickets from our names. Yes! Then Paul and I both participated in other games and got probably another 4 tickets each. So, we were building up our number of tickets. We had a chance for a really good prize ... or so we thought ...

Turns out the way they did the drawing was a bit backwards. So, this is how they did the drawing: They drew out a ticket, and the first person they drew could say whether they wanted to pass or take the prize. There was only one prize allowed per couple. Then the second person drawn HAD to take the prize. This would work great if they started with the TV and went down from there. They didn't. They started with the small dumb prizes, so you can guess what the people with the most tickets in the drawing ended up with. No, we didn't get orange sticks. But don't be too relived for us yet -- we got raspberry sticks instead. I was SO BUMMED! Had we known how they were going to do it, we would not have entered our extra tickets. So, those who got involved like they wanted were "rewarded" with orange and raspberry sticks. One couple got to "pass" four times, while we were stuck with raspberry sticks.

The Dilbert-ness of this was emphasized when they came and took away your remaining tickets when you won a prize. What good did that do? They still drew out our names for several more prizes and then just threw them away. In fact, towards the end they were taking out handfuls of tickets and trying to find someone who hadn't won a prize. In the end they had to have the five prizeless people come sit at a table, picked the five best prizes left (there were more prizes than people there), and enter a new drawing. Sigh.

Mind you, if they had started with the TV and big prizes and we hadn't been chosen, we would have taken the raspberry sticks as a consolation prize. But to be stuck with them and not have a choice? I was annoyed. Definitely a Dilbert way to do it -- reward the person with the fewest tickets in the drawing. (It really happened that way -- the guy who won the TV had come alone, so he had half as many tickets as everyone else who came with a spouse/date.) Sigh. I guess my prize is having a spouse to go with, and to actually have a Christmas party to attend. Paul's previous company canceled their Christmas party this year right before announcing the CEO is leaving and the "cut-back" guy who is a horrible manager is taking over as CEO. Merry Christmas, DirectPointe employees!

On that note, we'll take our disgusting raspberry sticks and be grateful for Paul's wonderful job. (I told Paul he should stick a bow on the box of raspberry sticks and give it to his president as a Christmas gift. :)

Oh, and thanks to Marilee for the pilates recommendation. I was beginning to feel unloved in my comment-less posts! :) Good news for me, though. Bob from the Biggest Loser is coming out with a weight-loss yoga DVD. I've been asking for more than a year when he's going to do this since he is always touting the benefits of yoga. Apparently Hilary or Paul got sick of me asking and contacted the network to make it happen. Now I just hope it's good!

Friday, December 5, 2008

A little exercise advice ...

So, I've spent the year trying to get to the gym. However, it hasn't always been successful since I have to schedule babysitting (they have limited capacity for that), and my little Shayla seems to get colds a little too often!

On the days I don't go to the gym I try to exercise at home. I LOVE the Biggest Loser Power Sculpt DVD since it uses weights, and it lets you customize what you want to do. However, I'm getting sick of it (and the Cardio Max one as well), so I need to know what your favorite workout tapes are?

Someone last night mentioned to me that they love Jillian's complete workout dvds. I'm not a big fan of her on the show (Biggest Loser), but maybe they're good anyway. Any others you just really like? Help me out here, ladies!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Actually, it is only partially beginning to look like Christmas. :) People are putting up lights, the stores have holiday themes and music, but we're missing one important element for it to look like Christmas: SNOW! This isn't a complaint, though. I'm loving the "warm" weather.

However, since it is officially Christmas-time we put up our tree Monday night. This year (thanks to Hilary who braved Thanksgiving-day crowds) we have a train to go around our tree. The kids are SO excited about this, especially since Paul put up the train a few days before we got around to the tree:
Now, growing up I think I vowed to never get a fake tree. I love the pine smell of real trees, and they just seem to be a lot more fun -- I mean, we have a tree in the house! However, now that I'm one of the ones responsible for getting the tree, we're all about fake! Here the fam is starting to put the pieces together:
If we had a real tree, though, would we have gotten such an adorable smile from a girl who is giddy about her daddy putting together a Christmas tree?
And what would the kids have done for entertainment while waiting for the tree to be set up? With fake branches, they acted like they were light sabers and swords and "fought" until the branches were needed:
Anyway, the kids always have a blast putting on the ornaments. We've been fortunate to inherit some very cute ornaments from my mom (thanks for getting a smaller house, mom :). These are in addition to the ones they bought us when we moved into our new house three years ago and thought we were too busy to put up a tree. So, we're set for a while. Look at how happy Zachary is to help:
Shayla, Tyler and Becca had an assembly line going to get ornaments to the top of the tree. It was cute:
And in the middle of tree decorating, I guess it's mandatory to take a Star Wars break:
We have two Santa hats from forever ago when I had just moved to Seattle and Hilary and I needed a Christmas picture, and the kids love them every year:
Right after putting it on, Shayla sat down to talk to our Santa figure. It was adorable:
We also have two very cheap nativities that we let the kids play with. Yes, they're both made of glass, but we figure if they break they break. Oh well. In any case, Shayla pulled them out and was so excited to see Mommy, Daddy and "ME!" It was funny. I think we have plenty of time to teach her the true meaning of Christmas and that the baby in the nativities is in fact not her ...
Oh, and a little sidenote here. In case you're wondering what the deal is with Shayla's hair in these pictures, it is a post-nap version of this:
I don't know why I love this look so much, but I happen to think it's adorable. I'm thinking we've gotta start getting her the tangle-free shampoo or go for a cut!
Hope you all have a blast getting ready for Christmas yourselves. Remember what a precious season this is. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Internet safety

I am really happy, because Paul just installed a filter on our computer. I know that no filter is completely fool-proof, but let's face it -- without one sites we don't want our kids and husbands to see can pop up in a second. (I guess we really don't want to see them, either!) In any case, I feel a lot safer having a filter to catch many sites that concern me.

I am what you may call paranoid about pornography. However, in my opinion it is the worst addiction anyone can have. You can get nicotine or drugs out of your system, but you can never get images out of your head. I know, because I've been unwillingly exposed to it several times.

So, on that note, I feel a need to STRONGLY advise all of you parents to get your own filters, to have discussions with your children and to do anything you can to protect your children (especially your sons) from this horrible addiction. We have a family member who was exposed and addicted at age 7. AGE 7!!! That is how old Tyler is. I wouldn't even think twice about Tyler thinking about those types of things if it hadn't been for this family member. Let's just say this person's addiction ruined his marriage and a lot of other things in his life.

I came across a children's book at Deseret Book that I would recommend to all parents. It's called "The Trap," and it discusses a boy who saw inappropriate material at a friend's house. He talks to his dad about it, and his dad explains why we aren't supposed to see images like that. (He compares it to a hornet trap.) I think we'll read it as a family at least quarterly. This book also reiterates our very strict rule that kids aren't allowed on computers at friends' houses NO MATTER WHAT.

We are very open explaining to our children about "red zones" and why nobody is allowed to touch their red zones, just as they are not supposed to touch anyone else's red zones. This is also an easy way to explain pornography -- that they are not supposed to see anyone's red zones without clothing. I've heard other people say to their sons that they shouldn't see mommies without clothes on. It's a hard thing to explain to children, but it's a MUST in this world. We also explain to our children that if they ever do come across porn to let us know immediately so we can work together to make sure it doesn't happen again and to help them know what they can do to get it out of their mind as much as possible.

I have a friend who said her bishop recommends every couple have a discussion about pornography every month. EVERY MONTH! This helps them open up the lines of communication, and hopefully if someone is tempted their spouse can help them overcome the temptation before they act on it. Nobody is immune, so I hope you realize why I take this so seriously. (A different addiction, but someone at church yesterday mentioned a family friend who was curious and tried crack at age 60. Six months later he had lost his home, his job, his family and everything he had ever lived for because he was so addicted. It just confirms to me that Satan never gives up! That means we have to be as vigilant as ever -- probably until we die. :)

Another friend mentioned to me that priesthood leaders in our church no longer ask men and boys if they have witnessed pornography, but they ask when was the last time they were exposed to pornography. It's a sad world that we can't completely protect them from it. I know, because I've taken every precaution to protect myself, and I've been exposed by other people's bad choices and by mistakes online. Unfortunately it can take just one mistake for someone to get addicted.

Anyway, don't be surprised if this topic pops up again and again from me since I am vigilant about making sure my sons and husband are safe. I know women are susceptible as well, but for the most part pornography seems to be more addictive for boys and men. Please let me know if you have come across any good tips or tricks on protecting your children, or if you're interested in more of what I have learned.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thankful

I've been meaning for a few days to get on and express my gratitude for the many blessings we have in our lives right now. Sometimes I'm a glass-is-half-empty person, so I'm sure I don't express my gratitude enough for all that we do have.

In fact, recently I realized that I don't show my happiness nearly enough. I am a very content with my life right now, but I realized that maybe others don't know my happiness since I may not show it or express it enough. My MIL sings the "If you're happy and you know it" song by saying, "If you're happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it." That's something I hope to work on more in the future so that people can SEE that I am happy. (Because I always look ticked when I'm not smiling, maybe lots of people will think it's a huge transformation. :)

Anyway, on with the gratitude: First and foremost I am grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ. The knowledge that I have of our Heavenly Father's plan has given me direction and purpose in life. I am so grateful to know that a loving Father would sacrifice His son in my behalf. I am grateful for His power on the earth, and the knowledge that I can not only return to live with Them, but with the wonderful people I have as a part of my life here and now.

I am grateful for a husband who loves me tremendously, even on my bad days. He has been such a blessing to me and I can't imagine life without him. I am grateful that he is works hard all day without complaint and has looked to improve his career so that I can stay home with the kids. He is lovingly supportive in all of my new ideas, plans and theories. He is my best friend.

I am grateful that we have been blessed with great children. Although we have our moments (doesn't everyone?), we are really enjoying our time with our children these days. The older they get, the more fun they are!

I feel so blessed to have such wonderful parents. Seriously, I couldn't ask for a better mom and dad. They talk about serving a mission for our church next year, and I think I'll be heartbroken not to have them nearby! (Good thing senior couples don't have the same rules, eh? :) I have been blessed to be a member of a large family, and I love anytime I can get together with any of them. (We may even make it to visit you in S.C. one day, Brandon! But don't count on it for a few years yet ... :) And I'm grateful that I live near so many siblings now so my kids are actually friends with their cousins. I also have been blessed with friends who uplift and support me in so many ways that some of them feel like family.

I am grateful that we are healthy and happy, and I feel extremely blessed that we all have our mental health.

I'm grateful for so many other things that I just can't list -- you know, things like hot showers, soft beds, heaters and air conditioners, computers, the Internet, etc. People, we live in a really cool time!

Needless to say, I didn't want to let this Thanksgiving pass without using my little space on the Internet to express some thanks.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Guhment hulp peez for Sh'laaaa

So, we always hear that early intervention is the best, no matter what it is being discussed. I've wondered about Shayla's speech for a while, but I've been holding off doing anything about it while I waited for her to just start talking.

Well, I finally decided that I'd just bite the bullet and call Kids Who Count. They're a federally funded program that provides early intervention and education for children with various needs, whether health-related, developmental, speech, etc.

To make sure they're treating the right issues, they conduct three different tests. (Of course, these are three different tests done on three different days by three different people. This IS government we're talking here, so there isn't any efficiency.) The first test she had was developmental. She passed with flying colors. The lady had to keep going through her test until Shayla missed three in a row, and that never happened, even though they were into 5-year-old skills. She said Shayla didn't qualify for help in that aspect. I assured her that was fine, because my only concern was speech.

The next test was her health test. Again, she passed with flying colors. The lady was concerned that she had a cold and oftentimes kids with colds don't pass the hearing test, but this little angel did. I knew she would, because she hears the second I unlock her bedroom door and is out in a heartbeat!

So, the final test was the speech test, which is exactly what I wanted tested. Well, the first test determined two things: How much she understands and how much she says. Turns out her comprehension is a little above normal for her age. However, the amount of things she says is in the 23rd percentile, which is the same amount as a child who is 1 year 11 months. (Shayla is 2 years 5 months.) So, I was right about her being behind -- six months in that aspect. The lady informed me, however, that kids don't qualify unless they fall in the 7th percentile or less. WHAT?!?

So, she did a test on how well Shayla actually speaks. Guess how well she did on that? Well, she was in the 9th percentile. Still didn't qualify! That's gotta be the level of a kid who is about 18 months (my guess since the lady was hurrying and didn't say), which means Shayla is a full year behind and doesn't qualify?!? What's the deal with early intervention, then? Only for those kids who are so desperately behind that there's no possible way for them to catch up with this program?!?

Needless to say, I was a little disgusted. Mind you, this program is a cheap one (or free for many people) that is a service to the community. However, it has just confirmed to me that I do NOT want government health care. "I'm sorry, but the cancer has only infected 66 percent of your body, and we can't treat it until it's taken over 75 percent of your body." "I'm sorry you have kidney stones, but we've used our budget to treat those this year. Can you come back in January?" "Oh, you don't appear to be in as much pain as necessary to be treated. My scale shows you're only in the 93rd percentile for pain, and you have to be in the 94th percentile before we'll consider treating you." Sigh.

The good news is that the lady seemed really nice and said she would go ahead and see if she could admit Shayla into the program. She said that there was an obvious discrepancy on how much she understands vs. how much she says, so that she would make a judgement call on that and see if she could get someone else to agree (since they have to have two evaluators agree to admit her). Craziness.

In any case, I guess we'll see if it's worth all the effort. If we can get her talking instead of trying to decipher her speech, then things will be a little bit easier around here. Mind you, once we get her talking maybe she won't stop and we'll wish we hadn't pushed it! ;)

Friday, November 21, 2008

My little turkey ...

... shouldn't act so much like a turkey right before Thanksgiving!

Yes, little Shayla caused a little trouble this week. Mind you, she's usually pretty good about staying out of stuff -- not nearly as destructive as my boys were. However, this week she outdid herself.

I have a playpen at my mom's house that we just keep up in her exercise room. This room also doubles as the food-storage room and a little storage space for my brother. He has all kinds of books in there and a dresser full of Pez dispensers (he's been collecting for years).

So, when I went to get Shayla from napping this week, I noticed right away that one of the dresser drawers was open. Uh-oh. None of us ever thought she could get it open from the angle she was at and since it is a heavy drawer. But she did. She had in the playpen with her several Pez dispensers.

Then I saw the wrapper on the floor. I called to my brother and said, "Uh, oh Dustin -- you better come here." He looked and saw what Pez she had. Murphy's law or what?!? She opened his most valuable Pez -- an UNopened Donald Duck Pez dispenser from the 1940s!!! It's not even one we can replace, because nowhere online can we find an UNopened Donald Duck Pez dispenser that old. Sigh.

The only thing that saved her ...

... is that she's so stinkin' cute!!!

Poor Dustin took it very well and knows that Shayla doesn't know any better. We did all get a kick that she ate the 1940s candy ...

So now we've got to figure out what to do -- just pay him for how much he spent for it? Just trust him that it really is okay? Get a different, but also cool and valuable Pez dispenser?

You've gotta love these sticky situations our children create!

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's rivarly week -- GO BYU!!!

This is a very intense week in Utah. One where people's true colors come out -- whether they bleed red or are true blue. That's right -- it's the week of the Holy War. BYU plays University of Utah Saturday in one of the biggest games of the match-up. I'm sure you know our true colors, but in case there's any doubt as to who we'll be cheering for:


Now, even though this is a huge game (Utah is undefeated and ranked 7th; BYU has one loss and is ranked 14th), it's always a fun week preparing for the Holy War. There are PAGES in the newspaper touting rivalry history, match-up predictions and anything else you can imagine. The broadcast news has all types of interviews and stories. This year's Holy War is at U of U, which gives BYU an even greater challenge. Should BYU win, there is a three-way tie in the Mountain West Conference. Should BYU lose, we take third behind Utah (first) and TCU (second).

In the past 20 years, the scores are tied (10-10). In the past 10 years the scores are tied (5-5). This is a big one, and it feels like a kid waiting for Christmas to wait until Saturday to watch! I saw a press conference with Bronco Mendenhall (BYU's awesome coach) this morning, and he mentioned that he's limiting player contact with the media, because although they try to keep things the same during practices this week, people in the state aren't the same during this week. He said his first year of coaching at BYU, he had no idea the electricity that would happen during this game. (Maybe that's the only reason we lost. ;)

During the past two years, BYU has made last-minute plays to win the games. I mean AMAZING plays! Last year we even commented that there was no way they could do it two years in a row, and then they did. Are we pushing our luck asking for three?

In any case, just do NOT call our house Saturday between 4 and 8 p.m. Mountain time. If you do, you'll get our voicemail. (Oh, and the message about us not being able to find the phone? Irrelevant on Saturday -- we're choosing not to find the phone.)

I'm slightly annoyed that the Holy War (as it's been called for decades) is recently being called the "Deseret First Duel." Yes, corporate sponsorship snuck in and re-named it. Those of us who have lived here long know it's the Holy War, and it's going to be good! Looks like Wikipedia knows what I'm talking about -- here's the Holy War entry about the rivalry: "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_War_(Utah_vs._BYU)". I also just saw on Craig's list you can go in person -- only $350 per ticket!!!

By the way, isn't Paul absolutely lucky to have a wife who loves BYU football as much -- if not more -- than he does? In fact, one of the ways Paul and I became such good friends up in Washington was because Hilary and I needed a place to watch the BYU football games, and we found out that Paul's house had cable. Hilary asked me to take care of getting us there for the games, and the rest, as they say, is history ... :)

Go, Cougs!!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tyler Town ... and other stuff

Today was Tyler's "Invention Convention" at school. A few weeks ago we received notice that our 2nd grader was to create an invention, which would later be displayed during said convention. That was it. No details, no instructions, no theme. I didn't even know if the invention was supposed to be real (as in really work). Don't you love school assignments?

So, after debating a few topics we decided on "Tyler Town." It was a group of cards that Tyler designed that no matter what way they're turned, you can play cars on them. Make any sense? Either way, check it out:


He did such a good job on it! We listed what he'd like in his town, and then he drew it all. He used a toy car make sure he didn't make the parking spaces too small. In fact, he often could fit only one parking spot at each location, so his hospital says, "1 car at a time." This cracked me up.

I was pretty impressed with his work until I went to see what others in his class had invented. I really liked the welded pig piggy bank. That is one talented 2nd grader. And the robot that sucked up toys and sorted them into the right spot -- that was one brilliant kid. Jokes aside, I often wonder if teachers give kids these types of assignments as a test for the parents. I could name a few who failed in the "2nd grader" part of the assignment.

On to other lovely assignments, Becca has an assignment where she was supposed to write down quotes from me and Paul that are good life lessons. Mind you, she's had a month to do it, and in that time we've given lots of good lectures/lessons. However, none of those were recorded, so tonight she cornered each of us and asked us to say something wise. Not easy to do on the spur of the moment. I asked her to see what she had, and she had three quotes from me.

Let me take a little detour here. Most of my friends don't yet have teenagers. Thus they don't understand why it is I am often frustrated with Becca. My friend Julie said when she went to a parent night at school, one teacher described that early teens are reorganizing their brains at this stage of their lives, and to think of it as a file cabinet being reorganized. Then she said our favorite quote ever, "And sometimes files come up missing." Paul and I say that regularly to each other now (of course out of anyone's earshot).

Back to the quotes ... I looked at what she had written for me, and one quote said, "You don't have to know someone to forgive them." I know exactly what conversation she overheard, so I asked her what I had meant by that. She said she had no clue. So, she had taken one quote from my conversation and put it down (incorrectly, I might add), but had no idea what kind of life lesson it was supposed to teach. Sigh. Teenagers.

For those of you curious about what I DID say, I had been talking to someone about forgiveness, and I mentioned that you don't have to have to have a relationship with someone if you have forgiven them. I've been in more than one lesson where the topic of forgiveness comes up, and people always assume that if you have forgiven a person then you are friends again. Not necessarily so. We can forgive without ever having to encounter that person or open up ourselves for danger or abuse again. I explained this to Becca by mentioning her step-dad, who drugged her mom and invited drug dealers and users repeatedly into their home. Although Becca has to forgive him for what he did, that does not mean she needs to call and re-establish any type of relationship with him. That would just be stupid. By the way, I always point this out when these lessons come up, because I really think some people think you actually have to contact the person and talk things out to completely forgive them, which is not the case ...

I guess she (I) was right -- you don't really have to know a person to forgive them (like the person who cut you off on the freeway, the mail person who bent your mailed pictures, groups of people who protest against LDS churches for exercising their right to vote, or teachers who invent busy work and annoying assignments).

In any case, I am VERY happy that I am not the one in school. Who knows -- in a few years I may be the only one in the house not going ...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Paul's jokes

I'm glad to say that I married a man with a great sense of humor. He enjoys a good laugh and can tell some pretty funny jokes. In the beginning I thought his jokes were mostly funny because HE thought they were funny, even though they weren't. However, either his sense of humor is getting better (my bet) or I've just been with him long enough to be manipulated into thinking he's funny.

I still don't get his geek jokes and tell him to wait until Scotty comes over. I think after working at DirectPointe and realizing how much more his jokes were appreciated there, he decided to keep the geek jokes for the geeks. (I think I solidified this when he showed me some ad that he couldn't believe. They were advertising something like a video card, but the picture in the ad was a sound card or something. Can you believe the absurdity of it all? When he showed me I was waiting for the punch line. He had to explain what was so funny since I have no idea what different computer parts look like. Later he showed Scotty, who immediately started laughing and realized the ad company's mistake. Oh, to have geeky friends ...)

In any case, I usually don't write down Paul's jokes or one-liners, but I figured today I'd share a non-geeky funny with you. On Saturday Marilee mentioned that at Ricks College they wouldn't let you wear shorts, even if they were knee-length shorts. Paul said, "So Ricks was Anti-Nehi Levi?" Funny one, Paul. :)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Yes, I'm a scrappin' nut!

Okay, if you know me well you know that I love to scrapbook. I'm not into putting thousands of things on a page, but I'm into telling stories and showcasing my adorable children. I have the opportunity to scrapbook at least once a week with my mom and sister. We love this time and often talk about how we spend as much time buying and organizing our stuff as we do using it.

So, we have a new favorite product: rub-ons. We love them. We use them often. And we look for where we can buy more. We have a favorite rub-on designer: Fancy Pants Design. They are awesome! We got some of their stuff at the Scrapbook Expo in SLC in the spring, and we went back in the fall just to get more of their stuff. Oh, and the price is phenomenal at the expo -- only $1 for each sheet of rub-ons. Hello!

Anyway, last week I was checking their website and came across their clearance rub-ons. I am in love with most of them. However, they don't have a retail site, so they only sell to wholesalers. Hmmm ... doesn't help us since we're just pathetic scrapbooking junkies ... although if we resold our stuff we probably could make some serious money.

So I contacted our local store here to see if they could order some of the clearance items for us. They said they would, but that we would have to put in a minimum order of $300. They were charging us $2 for the rub-ons, so we'd have to buy 150 of them. We thought about this and realized we could just get them, re-sell a bunch to friends for $3 each, and we could make back $200 and each only be out about $35 for about as many rub-ons. It was a little risky, but we LOVE Fancy Pants.

Have any of you caught on yet that we're pathetic?!? :) So, right before we went ahead with the purchase I had the thought to call Fancy Pants directly. It took some swindling, but I got them to agree to let me come to their warehouse and buy directly from them. (Oh, and their price is $1 each and no minimum order.) I was giddy! However, they are located in Sunset, which is 90 minutes north of me ...

I called my mom and sister, and they agreed that we HAD to do it. So, my sister and I hopped in the car and drove through the snow to get some rub-ons. (BTW, while we were there he offered us rub-ons from the new line for only $3 each! They are at least $5 in the stores, so we were more than happy.) You should have seen us -- it was way better than any kid in a candy store, because there was no tummy ache afterwards.

Some of the snow going up was pretty bad. My sister and I said that as long as we got our rub-ons first, then if we died on the way home we'd sure die happy.

Simple Scrapbooks -- my favorite one and only magazine -- changed their Web site. I had posted a bunch of my pages on their site, but now they are no more. I have a few on their new site (which I detest, by the way), so I have fixed the link on the left of my blog if you'd like to peek. I'll try to post often, although yesterday when I kept trying to post it came up with error after error. In any case, notice the cool Fancy Pants rub-on (on the Z page) when you peruse ...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I am (stand-in) mother, hear me roar ...

**After writing this post I figured maybe I should start with a disclaimer: Although I am usually a patient person, I am losing that patience very quickly with Becca’s mom, thus the following post. I hope and pray that none of you ever have to deal with a drug addict in your family, because it really does kill brain cells and relationships.**

Do you ever just wish you could knock some sense into someone? That is totally how I feel about Becca’s mom, Jana. I had a discussion with her last night that just made me angry. In some ways I feel like I’m dealing with an ex-wife since we have another mom in the picture sometimes. Luckily for us, this mom is in another state and isn’t in contact too often.

In any case, last night on the phone I was REALLY annoyed with her. I was asking about the situation with Becca’s sister. Becca’s older sister Kylee had a baby in August; however, she isn’t competent enough to take care of this baby. Jana called us at one point and said the state was going to take away the baby since Kylee had tried to commit suicide while alone with the baby. We mentioned to her that we would like the state to contact us before placing the baby in foster care. (We feel through inspiration – not desire – that we are supposed to take this baby if given the chance.) When we mentioned that to Jana, she was excited at the thought and said that she would love for the baby to be with Becca instead of foster care. (None of Paul’s other siblings are able to take her, and his mom doesn’t want to.)

So, when I asked last night, I discovered that the baby is having her needs met, although through Kylee’s boyfriend’s mom (who they live with). In the past Jana has said that this grandma is not fit to raise a child, and the state wouldn’t find her competent to be the caretaker. So, I asked Jana about that, and she said that the baby was fine and that she’d prefer the baby stay with the grandma so she can see her once in a while. Now, I shouldn’t be surprised by this selfishness, but I was.

She then had the nerve to say that it was bad enough that we lived so far away that she never got to see Becca. That was the last straw in my mind. I told her to stop right there and reminded her that SHE is the reason Becca lives with us, and SHE is the one who decides not to visit. She then pointed out that Kylee had offered to pay for Becca to go up to visit them. I said there is no way I’m allowing Becca to go visit – not only do we not know Kylee’s boyfriend (who has a criminal record) or his family, but we also don’t know whether or not Jana is clean. Also, Kylee is very pushy and manipulative, and she is on Becca’s case all the time about her decisions (you know, crazy things like going to church and deciding she’d like to be a math teacher one day). I reminded Jana that she’s not strong enough to stand up to Kylee and that it would put Becca in a very unhealthy and scary situation. She insisted she would stand up for Becca, at which point I reminded her that she didn’t do it when Becca lived with her, which gave me no reason to believe she would now.

Jana said she was offended that I said we didn’t know whether or not she was clean. I informed her that when we saw her in August she was incoherent and out of it and looked terrible. She said that was her Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I told her I was sick of hearing about her excuses, because CFS does not put your brain out of commission like Jana’s was. (It also doesn’t make you disappear for hours at a time with no excuse … unless that’s a new symptom they added ...)

She thinks because she has all of these “illnesses” that nobody understands her. I don’t say “illnesses” to say that CFS, bi-polar or brain tumors are made up. I understand they are very real. I say it because Jana doesn’t have any one of them. She finally dropped the brain tumor claims after no doctor would agree to operate on her! Unfortunately her real “illness” is fear to do anything with her life. So sad considering she was the most creative person I’ve EVER met.

Although I was upset and told her a few things, I think I was “nice” considering the situation. What I didn’t point out was that Jana chose herself over her children when she started using drugs AGAIN (after being clean for 20 years); that she is the one who brought a drug-dealing man and other drug users into their apartment and lives; that she asked us if Becca could come stay with us “for a few days”; that she is the one who calls her daughter only twice a month, if even that; that when we make special DVDs or CDs from Becca she doesn’t even watch/look at them; that she has proven to Becca nothing more than that she is selfish, lazy and full of excuses.

I was so annoyed that she made it sound like we took Becca away from her. Now, don’t get me wrong – we love Becca and are very grateful that she’s with us and not with her mom. However, she came to us at the most difficult point of my life – we weren’t making ends meet financially, I had two little boys age 2 and 1, and my husband was suffering from very severe depression. In the midst of another person to take care of, I had to teach this 10-year-old the basics: How to wash her hair; how to change her underwear; how to brush her teeth; etc., all while listening to her talk about how her mom is the greatest mom in the world. I had to bite my tongue a lot those first few years. (How does a neglected little girl know any different?) It has taken us years to teach her character traits such as honesty (non-existent in a drug addict’s home) and social protocols as well as small things like how to chew with her mouth closed.

As I sat down to start typing this blog, I received a phone call from Jana. I wondered what she was going to say. She asked me about the boys’ favorite colors and mine so she could make us Christmas gifts. Then she said, “So how are things going there?” Hello. Do you even remember we had a conversation last night? And you want us to believe you are clean?!?

In any case, I’m glad Becca realized at a very young age that she wanted to be nothing like her mom and sister. I’m glad that she’s realized completely on her own that her mom … well … isn’t much like a mom should be. I’m glad that she gets to feel what it’s like to be a part of a family, and that she misses us when she’s away from home. I’m glad that she wants to stay with us and that she is making great decisions with her life. I often remind her that making good decisions now will be the best way to influence her mom and sister for good in the future.

In the meantime we just pray and hope from afar that Jana and/or Kylee will decide to stop with the excuses and do something with their lives. We also pray and fast often that if Kylee’s baby is to come to us that she does so VERY quickly before the second-hand smoke, neglect and constant bickering affect her permanently so she can have the chances and opportunities every child deserves.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It's a new day

Well, the elections are over. Do I hear a big sigh of relief everywhere? I am wondering what kinds of commercials the networks will play when there aren't so many political ads everywhere. (Fortunately I don't think we saw the worst of them since we aren't a battleground state.)

I wonder how much of this election boiled down to marketing. I think a lot of it did -- Obama spent millions more than McCain and had a flawless campaign. McCain spent less money, and his campaign seemed to never find a groove after announcing Palin (which, by the way, would have led me to fire the campaign manager a while ago). Makes me wonder what would have happened if they spent equal money. No matter what, they both spent WAY too much!

I also wonder what would have happened if we truly had unbiased media. I cracked up watching a few Saturday Night Live skits Monday night, because they had several skits about how Obama-loving the media was. I knew I believed that, but when it's so bad SNL is making skits about it, that's bad. They had one skit where the media were asking him questions during a so-called debate, and the questions consisted of, "Is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable?" and "I know I've been a little over the top stalking you, so my question is this: Are you mad at me?" It was definitely funny to watch.

The election didn't turn out like I had hoped, but I'm also hoping that Obama's campaign promises aren't anything he can make happen. Government health insurance? That sounds like the biggest mess I've ever had to endure. I can't even get a government office to help me get child support. I don't want to have my life care entrusted to them! And as for giving everyone a little stimulus check regardless of income, well, I'm definitely not game. We've got family members living off the government without doing a SINGLE thing, and I don't think they need any more of my hard-earned tax dollars. Oh, and how is more debt going to help the economy? That's what part of the problem is in the first place. Craziness. I just hope Obama's election isn't like sub-prime loans -- people didn't care about the risks, and look what they got.

On the other hand, it is exciting to realize that the first black man has been elected to the presidency. I wish so many hadn't voted for him for that reason alone, but it is a very historic day. I'm glad I am old enough to remember it and be involved with it. I wish he had been someone I really wanted in the White House so I could say that I did vote for the first black president. Maybe the next one ... or maybe the first woman ... or maybe the first black/Asian/latino woman ... :)

I am so happy that Prop 8 in California passed. Hooray for traditional marriage between a man and a woman. That is the way God intended us to live, and His plan is one designed to create happiness for His children. I think if homosexual marriage were to be allowed in California, other states would follow. Also, if homosexuals are allowed to marry, then other implications would follow -- marriages between relatives (brother/sister), marriages to minors, marriages to animals? As it is, many companies and the state of California grant benefits to homosexual couples, so they're not losing anything by losing this proposition.

In any case, we woke up to snow. Does that mean h-e-double-hockey-sticks is freezing over? ;) It's very weird snow -- it's all in little balls like someone broke up a lot of styrofoam, which makes me wonder if the heavens were nervous about this election, too. ;)

In any case, the snow makes Becca happy -- she has been so looking forward to it for a while. About a week ago she said, "I can't wait for it to snow!" We wondered why since she has to stand outside to wait for the bus. She said, "Because it's warmer when it snows." Huh? Paul informed her that it only seemed warmer because she actually put on a coat or jacket. (Other days she puts her arms through a hoodie but doesn't put it on so she doesn't mess up her hair.) She then went on to explain that the snow blocks the wind, so it's not as cold waiting for the bus in snow as it is without snow. I think if that were the case, Spanish Fork citizens would have created fake snow long before now just to get rid of the wind!!! Okay, don't know where teens come up with these bizarre and random ideas, but whatever! She got her wish, and she probably won't realize it's colder until next spring when her brain unfreezes from the snow!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Special Day

Do you all realize what today is? It's a special day that I look forward to every year. No, not the election -- we already voted via absentee ballot. No, what I'm talking about is our anniversary. As of today, Paul and I have been married for eight LOOOOONG years. I don't mean that in a negative way, just that it really does seem like we've been together for so much longer than 8 years.

Does anyone else's hubby have listening problems? Maybe I ought not open the floodgates here. Anyway, we agreed when we bought the camera that it would serve as our anniversary and Christmas gifts to each other. Then last week I reminded him when we discussed anniversary plans, and I said all I want from him is a nice card. Not a card that is nice, but a card with a nice message written by Paul inside. Apparently he couldn't think of anything nice to say to me, so he got me gifts instead. ;)

So, this morning Paul gave me my gifts while I sat there reminding him that we agreed not to give gifts. This would be different if he actually remembered those conversations and decided to buy me gifts anyway, but he had totally spaced any of these discussions. Therefore, I felt bad for not buying him any gifts when he had forgotten that we weren't going to. Oops. What a way to start the day!

We spent our 7th anniversary in the car on a road trip. I'd put that down as our second worst anniversary. This year I get to do laundry all day and then one of us gets to escort Becca to her Young Women's Excellence Program at church. Who knows, that may put this one into 3rd place. :) I think if you had asked us 8 years ago what we'd be doing for our eighth anniversary, this is not what we would have said!!!

So, Paul, since I didn't give you a gift this morning, I've posted here a poem in your honor:

When we first met, the sparks didn’t fly
But that sure changed as time hurried by
The K-9 was full of singles and fun,
But I still didn’t think it’s where I’d find “the one”

Our first little fling was only a fake,
But our friendship was easy – a piece of cake
And then our friendship grew into something more
Which surprised both of us right down to the core

Our y2k wedding was such a wonderful day
You make me sick in your own sort of way
We’ve had seven good years in our life together
I hope each year continues to get better and better

I love you even when I don’t fold your clothes right
I love you even when you keep me up at night
I love that you make cute kids and bad jokes
I love you immensely, and that’s no hoax

I love you for going to work so I can stay home
I love you more than I hate that dumb gnome
I love the fun we have watching our shows
I love you, Geek, right down to your nose

I love that you’re smart in places I’m not
I’ll love you no matter what president we’ve got
I love that you love me and hope you already knew
That my life would not be complete without you

** Disclaimer: Paul is a better poet than I, although he seems to have left that quality in the dust with his old girlfriends. ;) Happy Anniversary, honey, I love you!