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

Saturday, November 29, 2008


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!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Blogging away ...

So, I've been blogging for just over a year now, and I must say I quite enjoy it. I do think this is hilarious, though, because if you've been with me from day one, you realize how dumb I thought blogs were when I was first introduced to them about 7 years ago ...

I'm happy to say that I finally can change my "Blogging Friends" title to say "Blogging Friends & Family" as some of my in-laws are finally joining the blogging ranks. I LOVE this way of sharing pictures and those everyday experiences we all have. Most of my blogging friends are SAHMs, so it's fun to uplift and support each other in this, the most important and difficult job in the world!

Thanks for those of you who read and those of you who update me on your lives via your blogs. And for those who missed it, please scroll down to see my cuties on Halloween. :)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Disneyland trip tips

So, after our wonderful vacation, I thought I'd share with you a few things I discovered that actually made our trip more enjoyable. These tips and tricks are specifically for Disneyland and most of them are specifically for people with young kids.

Hope they help you all feel as magical as we did in the Magical Kingdom. :)

Pre-trip planning and road trip:
  • This one I learned from my friend Autumn: If you have a child in nursery, quarantine them the Sunday before you leave to avoid sickness during the trip. I actually did this for the first time, and it was the first time we didn't have to use decongestant or ibuprofen on our trip. Sounds a little extreme, but I'm a believer!
  • Make your kids their own autograph books for the characters to sign. I bought notebooks at the dollar store and then printed out pics of characters to go on the front. (We also found Disney character pens at the Dollar Store.) If you're not feeling up to this, I noticed autograph books at the 7-11 by Disneyland for $2.99.
  • Create a packing list once and type it on the computer. I have done this for each of the kids as well as us, and it is a lifesaver! I just update with how many pants/shirts/underwear to pack and other changes necessary, but the basics are always the same.
  • Occupy the kids' attention in the car by giving each a clipboard with activities on their level (kids sudoku, car bingo, etc.). I have copies of a bunch of these for those who are interested.
  • Long road trips are ALWAYS better with a portable DVD player. :)
  • Prepare your kids to not ask for all kinds of souvenirs. I told my kids I would buy them a hat with their name on it, and that was it. I was honestly surprised when the kids really didn't ask for anything else.
  • Buy Disney shirts at Disney.com before you go. Liz gave me this great advice, and I was able to get 10 shirts and 4 pjs for $70! I didn't let the kids know I had ordered them and waited until we got to our hotel to show them. Therefore, they think the shirts are Disneyland shirts. Someone at Disneyland even asked us where we bought Becca's Tink shirt since they loved it.

Hotel advice:

  • Get a kids' suite. Our room was divided into two -- one room for the kids (couch with hide-a-bed, table, bunk beds, and TV) and one for us (king bed and TV) with a sliding door in between. It made it awesome to get the kids to bed in their own room. We also found that our suite wasn't too much more than a regular hotel room. (BTW, we stayed at the Portofino Inn and would recommend it to anyone.)
  • Our hotel didn't have a continental breakfast, as many in Anaheim don't. So, we brought instant oatmeal and bagels/cream cheese and ate very cheaply that way. (We made sure our room had a microwave and fridge.)
  • If you use Anaheim Transit to get from your hotel to the park, realize that you don't have to stay at your particular stop, and you can get on any number shuttle to go to Disneyland. Our hotel was the first stop, so instead of waiting at our stop we went to the corner across the street, which was the last stop. This meant that we were the last ones on when going to the park and the first ones off when coming back to the hotel.

Food tips:

  • Buy one meal in the parks. I did some research and found the cheapest places to eat so we could splurge without breaking the bank. (I have the list -- broken down by park areas -- which I can e-mail to anyone who is interested.)
  • While I'm discussing food, switch food if you don't like yours! You pay enough that you can do this. I got a piece of pizza that was kind of cold, and instead of just eating it I decided to switch and get a nice, hot slice for my $6. Another tip -- if you have the choice of pizza or pasta, definitely go with the pasta. Their pasta was actually very yummy. Pizza was doable. (By the way, this advice to exchange food you like doesn't apply only to Disneyland. You can do it anywhere you eat out. :)
  • Bring your own snacks and water bottles. This saved us. I brought more than I thought we'd need, and my kids burned through them after walking all day. When our water bottles were empty, we just filled them with the drinking fountains. One day in addition to water I brought a bottle of gatorade for each of us and then we got cups of ice in the park to pour them in. (On this note, they'll also give you ice water in a cup if you request it.) I brought trail mix, crackers, craisins, fruit snacks, granola bars, etc. I didn't think of it soon enough, but Crustables sandwiches would be perfect!
  • Go cheap for dinner. We ate every night (other than the night Hilary's sister fed us DELICIOUS pizza) at Subway and 7-11. The kids loved getting a sub, hot dogs or corn dogs, and Paul and I split a $5 footlong. We got two bags of chips at 7-11 that lasted all of our meals, so even with buying one meal at the park (which cost about $50/day), our food total was still under $300 for the week -- and that included Slurpees every night. (During our day at the beach the kids were giddy to get Lunchables, which was also very cheap. :)

Disneyland Magic:

  • Go in October! It was wonderful how short the lines were, and it wasn't too hot. The hours are shorter in off-season months, but with little kids, longer hours aren't going to get much use anyway. Oh, another reason to go in October -- cheaper gas prices! We were so happy to have spent only $200 to get there and back.
  • Disneyland and Cali Adventures both have maps that have kids' only attractions on them. This is especially useful at CA, because it is definitely geared to older kids. These maps aren't out -- you have to ask for them.
  • Disneyland has lockers right outside the park if you want to bring more of a meal than you want to carry around in the park. We didn't use these as we ran into no problems bringing our huge sack of snacks with a stroller to carry them, but I had no idea they were there until Stacey told me!
  • Lines are shorter near closing time. One day we went to the hotel for a couple of hours and then went back to Disneyland. I was amazed that the kids still had energy after "resting" for a couple of hours of downtime. Also, Toy Story Mania was a new ride so it had a longer line. We went during the last hour and had to wait only 40 minutes instead of more than an hour, which was how long the line had been all day.
  • Make sure all of you are wearing gym shoes. May be a duh thing, but I saw plenty of people there with flip-flops and other uncomfortable shoes!
  • Put your name and phone number in your child's pocket. My little ones don't know my cell phone number, and if we got separated they'd probably be too scared to remember it if they did. Therefore, every morning we put a piece of paper in each child's pocket that said, "My mom and dad: Paul & Denise Brown #801-xxx-xxxx."
  • Take a picture of your children each morning before you go to the park. Again, if you get separated, it will save you time in describing them, and you won't forget what they're wearing. (Of course, this doesn't work for my old-fashioned friends who still use film. :)
  • Buy souvenirs at a nearby Walmart or 7-11. We got Shayla a stuffed Minnie Mouse for only $8. The 7-11 also had backpacks, keychains, pens, etc. at a fraction of the cost.
  • When you first enter the park, take the train to another stop to beat the crowds there. We took the train to get to Toon Town (back of the park) quickly. Not only did we get there quicker than a lot of people, but we saved the kids' legs since they can only walk so much in a day.
  • You can NOT see it all in one day! We had three full days and still didn't see everything at Cali Adventures. Of course, with little ones everything takes longer. :) We highly recommend with a 3-day pass that you go for two days, take a break/breather day for one day to go to the beach, and then use your third day on the pass. You don't have to use them 3 consecutive days.
  • Fast passes don't have to be used within the window that's printed on the card. Sometimes we didn't make it back to use the fastpass until much later in the day. However, you can print one out every two hours, so don't forget to do that if you need to. (We didn't have to use fastpasses much because of the lack of lines.) Also, Roger Rabbit isn't networked with the other fastpasses, so you can always have a fast pass to it and to any other ride in the park.
  • Disneyland now has an awesome program where they give you a card (like a credit card) and any photographer in the park can take your pictures and add them to the card. This way you can get family pictures in a bunch of places, and then you can choose from them to get prints or buy a CD (for something like $60) of all the pictures. We didn't do this since we had enough of our own, but I thought that was really cool technology they were using, and I saw plenty of photographers around who could get some fun shots.
  • If you want to get picked for Jedi Training, make sure to jump around and yell a lot. Also, since they pick kids and call them up by the color of their shirts, I would recommend something other than blue or white. Standing in the front row or being held up high by mom or dad sure helps. Also, a shirt with Star Wars anything on the front also seemed to work for a lot of kids.
  • Rider-switch passes are a lifesaver! We found that the kids got to go on more rides this way. One of us would stand in line with the kids the first time (while the other waited with Shayla), and then the other parent could take one child back with them to ride again. If we were using fast passes, then we could use the leftover fastpass (from the adult who didn't go through the first time) to bring an additional child -- two of us with the rider-switch pass and one with the extra fastpass. If you have a child who isn't tall enough to go through and has a ticket, get a fast pass for them as well so next time you can take an extra person through as well. (Shayla didn't have a ticket since she was under 3.)
  • Walkie-talkies were very helpful since we don't have two cell phones. This way we could stay in touch about how close the other person was to the front of the ride. This also helped with picture-taking. We could give the other person a heads-up about what the person in the front of the ride was wearing or what the people in the car ahead of you are wearing. This helped a lot on Splash Mountain.

I am writing these down mostly for myself since we hope to make Disneyland a regular destination. However, because I know we won't go again for years, I figure I better write them down while they're fresh. Hope you find them helpful.