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Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday

Happy Black Friday! This is the first time in a few years that I stayed home and enjoyed my warm bed. It was lovely. We had our shopping done before today (except for the jammies I mentioned a bit back), and I didn't see anything that even tempted me. I saw some things that would be fun to get, but not enough that I'd want to go out in the cold ...

Our Thanksgiving was wonderful! I feel blessed beyond measure for my wonderful husband and great kids (who I haven't messed up too much yet :). I love my parents and appreciate the great example they have given me for years. I love my siblings and their kiddos even more. And I'm grateful my kids have cousins who aren't weird. ;) Most of all I'm grateful for the Plan of Salvation and that I have been blessed to have the fullness of the gospel in my life. What an awesome opportunity to know so much about the Savior and to have the gift of the Holy Ghost in my life to help me be the best wife and mother I can be. There aren't words enough to describe what a sacred blessing this is in my life.

Anyway, I love spending time with family, and we got to spend Thanksgiving with my parents, one sister's family and my two younger brothers and their families. I didn't even get pics of Ryan's cute girls since one was sick and another is shy enough I didn't want to scare her away from playing by snapping pics. We did, however, get a picture of Austin with his newest cousin James:

We also got a picture of their older cousin Kylen when he stopped by for a short time. I thought Rebecca would appreciate this picture of Austin trying to get Kylen's ear:

(And no, this isn't why Kylen is crying -- he just didn't want to sit down for that annoying camera lady!)

Anyway, Shayla and Zachary came home with very cute Thanksgiving day crafts from school. Zachary made this great turkey (which was supposed to be the T-day centerpiece but his ditsy mom forgot to grab it as she said she would):

Shayla made these cute things at pre-school:

(She went back and forth between wanting to show this turkey to everyone and eating it immediately! :)

And in the midst of this wonderful holiday, my baby turned 8 months. Here he is with his buddy Austin:

Last weekend provided the first really good snow. Shayla was thrilled and got her snow clothes on immediately. Zachary and Tyler were too busy playing in the basement to care. That made me sad to see they're old enough that they have lost some of their excitement. But then when Shayla went out Zachary quickly joined her:

BTW, that carrot is from our garden. Funny, huh, that we have a garden carrot to plant in the snowman?!?

What did Austin think of his first snow (which you can see in his hair)?

And on to the fun of this weekend -- it's rivalry week! This is the week BYU versus U of U, and we're hoping for a big win! It's the last time the two teams are in the same conference, so we'd like to end it on a high. Last weekend when Paul said he was going to watch the BYU game Shayla said, "I better get on my BYU clothes!" She definitely makes the cutest cheerleader BYU has:

Go, Cougs! We'll be cheering for you even if we miss the beginning of the game (due to a baby blessing in the morning).

Monday, November 22, 2010

Miscellaneous Monday

Another week has come and gone. Does anyone else feel like time is seriously just flying by?!? I teach once a month in Relief Society, and every month I feel like it hasn't really been four Sundays (sometimes five) since I last taught.

Speaking of church, there was a funny thing that happened in sacrament meeting. The speaker was a high counselor in our ward. He wanted to point out that the talks can be for each of us, and that we shouldn't think to ourselves, "Boy, Brother Brown really needs to hear this talk!" I was laughing, but at least there are two Brother Browns in our ward, so not everyone would automatically think of my hubby. Then the speaker saw the other Brother Brown and said, "Oh, I'm not talking about you, Jess. I'm talking about another Brother Brown." I was laughing so hard. I was in the mother's lounge at the time, and the other mom in there said, "Well, I guess he means your husband." When I started the Relief Society lesson I asked how many had thought of my husband during sacrament meeting, and half of them raised their hands. So funny. But maybe it got my husband to listen to the talk on gratitude ... ;)

My fitness challenge is over today! I did pretty well -- I lost 10 pounds. I gave up a bit at the end, but I'll take the 10 pounds. I have another challenge starting Jan. 3, so spread the word to anyone you think would be interested. We had one participant lose more than 30 pounds! And there were 10 of us who lost 10+ pounds. So awesome. I'll be starting another challenge on Jan. 3 (rules at http://minus200club.blogspot.com/2010/10/points-tally-new-rules-for-2011-hot.html), so spread the word to anyone you know who has weight to lose.

And now on with pictures ...

This is what you get when you have a big sister to play with all day:

And this pic makes me think I'm going to have to resurrect my Cookie-Monster birthday cake idea for someone's first birthday:

And here's a picture of Becca at Sadies:

See how happy she is when she's not driving? ;) She might just be a passenger forever at the rate we're going. She didn't pass the test for her learner's permit, and I think she's too scared to take it again. On the one hand I want to force her to do it so she realizes she can do hard things. No, this isn't really hard, but she's a HORRIBLE test-taker and is letting that scare her into not taking a test she can pass if she'll just study instead of thinking she knows it all and taking it without reading the material. On the other hand, do I want to push her to do something that is going to cost us more money for insurance -- especially when (notice I did not say if) she totals the car? Not really ... so for now I'm letting it slide. I think, though, next year she's not going to get rides from us much in hopes she will then be motivated to start driving herself. Teenagers!

And this past week I had the joy of taking pics of my new adorable nephew!!! I was only going to post three, but there are five instead. I had to narrow it down from my 75 favorites ... :) Can you believe that hair???

We're sure looking forward to Thanksgiving and spending time with family. I hope you all have a great turkey day yourselves!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Miscellaneous Monday

Well, we've been busy and we've been sick. I guess that's my excuse for not posting for a bit.

My family took turns being sick. It all started with Austin a week ago Friday night. This is what happens when you throw up while you're a baby and in the kitchen:

The next night Tyler was throwing up, and in the middle of the night Shayla was throwing up. Sigh. Then Monday Zachary came home and he threw up Monday night -- and unfortunately didn't use the Heaving Helper we have, but tried running upstairs instead :(, then Tuesday Paul came home and he was throwing up. Becca went to bed early because she wasn't feeling well, but fortunately she skipped the throwing up, and I was blessed to avoid it altogether. Phew!

On to better news ...

Paul is only two weeks from starting school. He's giddy. I'm excited for him and nervous for me. Doesn't help that the night he had to take a "pre-test" the boys were goofing off and needed some discipline right as Shayla was crying about not wanting to go to bed and Austin was fussy and needed to be fed. It might just be a long three years ... :) But the good news is that they accepted all of his previous college credit and certifications, so he has nearly half of his credits met already. That'll definitely cut down the amount of time he has to go. We're also excited that between a pell grant, scholarship (hopefully!) and his work reimbursement, we won't have to pay a cent. I'm really happy about that part. I also quite like that he'll do most of it from home, so even if he is busy with school he'll be here.

I've been busy (addicted) to finding free digital scrapbooking goodies on blog trains. I even found one that is from LDS designers (ldsblogtrain.blogspot.com) and has an LDS focus. I found one (blogtrainblog.blogspot.com) with beautiful colors and an Orient theme this month. There were something like 97 designers who participated. Needless to say, it's time for a trip to the Orient so I can have pics to scrapbook! ;) My brother is trying to get a trip to Japan put together with students at his university (he teaches at Coastal Carolinas in beautiful Myrtle Beach), and the trip would be 100 percent free for students. Unfortunately he can't fill the spots! I guess the caveat is that they have to do research while they're there. I keep telling him to sign me up, but somehow I still haven't gotten on the list ... ;)

Becca had another date this weekend. It was Sadies, and she went with a huge group. (Now that she's done with it she realizes why I kept advising her that smaller groups are better -- the logistics of picking up 14 people for one van takes a long time!) She had fun, although I think she was more going on the date to meet our rule of going on two dates in between (meaning she has to go on two dates with other people before she can go on a date with her crush again :). The good news is she got a shirt out of it. She's always wanted this style of shirt and was thrilled to find it. We took it in so it had more of a "girl" cut to it, and she loves it:

Of course, I didn't get a picture of her and her date together since she was the one picking him up ...

Tyler has enjoyed reading this year tons. He read the entire Percy Jackson series (which I still am working on), and he is all of a sudden interested in reading. His teacher has a "100 club" that you get into if you read 100 hours during the school year. If you do so, he'll buy you ANY book on the face of the planet. (Last year he spent hundreds buying books for those who made it -- more than $100 on Star Wars books alone.) Tyler made it last night! I think he might even be the first one in his class, because he hasn't heard of anyone else making it. He was thrilled, and I was soooo happy that he's finally enjoying reading. Finding books for boys just isn't nearly as easy as it is for girls. It took us years to finally get Becca reading, but at least she somewhat enjoys the same books I do. But boys are different, so I'm glad some authors are realizing that. Now we're going to move onto 39 Clues, which we've heard good things about. I should have bought them from Scholastic while they were cheap, because we might be on waiting lists at the library for quite a while. :)

Austin is still as cute as ever. Surprise, surprise. :) We took some pics of him and his cousin Gavin, who is 6 weeks younger. Austin was sooooo tired that he just sat there while Gavin tried to get his ear. (Normally he would have at least smiled at Gavin while his ear was grabbed. :) It's just fun to see them finally seeing each other and responding to each other. Boy will they be trouble-makers when they get a little bigger ...

My sis showed me the cutest way to make designs/words on shirts, and I am thrilled! I found shirts at the dollar store, so I made shirts for Shayla's pre-school before our last field trip. I am in love with them. I have also made some onesies for a friend that I'll post later. So exciting and pretty easy. I would love to post a pic of her with two friends all wearing their shirts. It was soooo fun and cute!

And the bestest news yet -- I'm an auntie again! My baby bro Dustin and his wife Heidi gave birth to the sweetest little boy on Friday night. He is adorable! Just look at that hair:

Off to another week. Can anyone else believe it's already mid-November!!! Good thing my Christmas shopping is DONE!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Miss Forgetful Pants

So, I oftentimes feel like my brain just doesn't work right lately. It seems that there is at least one thing per week that I forget. Last month I had a meeting at the school that I remembered about all week -- until the day of the meeting. Then I remembered right as it was ending. Ugh!

I feel like I do that often enough that it is pretty frustrating. Usually if it's on my calendar I'm good, but then there are things (like the meeting I mentioned above) that were on the calendar and somehow I still spaced them.

If you haven't learned by now, I have a theory about why moms get so forgetful. You see, I have to do the thinking for all of my kids and usually my husband. Otherwise they don't remember things like appointments, lessons, homework, etc. So, in reality, I have only 1/7 of my brain for myself. No wonder if feels like so little!

So, I started thinking about it and realized that I really have A LOT to remember every week. Most weeks I remember all of this:

- Feed the kids a healthy breakfast before school
- Make the kids lunch on days they don't want school lunch
- Make dinner EVERY night :)
- Feed Austin every four hours
- Feed Austin solids once or twice a day
- Remind Paul to take lunch everyday
- Get Becca to Young Women's
- Get Shayla to pre-school twice a week (and teach every fifth week)
- Get Shayla to dance once a week
- Scouts (for Tyler and us)
- Do the laundry so everyone has clean clothes
- Go grocery shopping when necessary ... and know what I need to buy
- Piano lessons for Tyler
- Return library books before there is a fine
- Wednesdays are early-out days, so I need to be home so the kids can get in the house
- Checking on and doing homework with the kids every night
- Getting the kids to bed at a reasonable hour
- Watch the Biggest Loser on Tuesdays (okay, not necessary, but the one show I do watch -- and I've already forgotten three times this season! :)
- Make sure the kiddos do chores so the house doesn't look like a complete disaster
- Park play day

These are just some of the "normal" things. Then when you start throwing in helping in the kids' classes, doctor/dentist appointments, visiting teaching, etc., it's no wonder I forget a few things here and there ... especially since the above list isn't written on the calendar. That would be just depressing! Today I have nothing written on the calendar, and I'm loving that. Let's just hope I didn't forget to write something down that I'll regret forgetting later! :)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Operation Snuggle

So last night I was told not to forget to tell about Operation Snuggle, because it's annoying when someone says they'll tell a story later and then never do. Well, with how my memory works, I better get on it or there's not a chance of remembering to post it!

How do I condense 6 weeks of pure trickery delight? Let's see if I can do it ...

So, Hilary is big on Christmas and generally puts her tree up in November -- even before Thanksgiving some years. I told her when we were roommates that it was illegal in our apartment until after Thanksgiving. So, on Black Friday we got a tree, put it up, and had a Christmas party. After the party she was sitting a little close to a guy, and someone said, "You better watch out or President Jenkins will think you're dating!"

President Jenkins, our fun branch president, was intent on seeing who in the branch were turning into couples. He would watch who sat by whom each week, and he'd even watch who was intentionally not sitting by whom so nobody else would notice. He generally had a feel of the branch and disappointed people when they'd start dating and he wasn't surprised.

Anyway, somehow then the idea was hatched: We'd get everyone left at this Christmas party in on a joke to make him think a bunch of us had started dating. This was a very long-term prank (six weeks), and we were excited. We drew names out of a hat to determine who would start "dating" whom. We had to re-arrange a couple to make it more realistic, but this is how I ended up fake dating Paul.

Over the next weeks we would have conversations in front of and with our beloved branch leaders to lead them to believe that we six couples were dating. There was also a little hand-holding here and there, and the one couple who was really dating faked an engagement. This scam was to go through the branch Christmas party, where we would do a skit to reveal the whole joke.

We took fake engagement pictures of each couple and put them together in a photo collage with pictures of temples and sayings about friends. One of the slots also has a "title" that says: Operation Snuggle 1999.

It was going great until the day before the skit. That's when it hit me -- this was a really mean joke! Pres J has been so happy with all the recent dating in the branch, and we're going to devastate him. Oh, man -- what did we do?

So, the big night comes. We had the skit videotaped ... too bad the sound isn't very good. Anyway, we re-enacted some of the scenes that were more blatant attempts to get everyone to think specific couples were dating. Then we said something like, "How could this have happened? Was it in the water? Did Terry spike his break-the-fast cake? No, it all started back at a Christmas party in November ..." We re-enacted the scene of the idea coming forth, including the part about revealing it all at the branch Christmas party in a skit. At that point we all looked at the audience to make clear this is what was happening now.

We then had each couple come on stage and break up. Hilary (who is a lot more dominant than the guy she was paired with) said something like, "C'mon, Will -- let's go ..." He cut her off and said, "I'm sick of you being so bossy! We're through!" Lee's new "interest" said she couldn't go out with him anymore because she got sick in his plane and couldn't get over that. (Hilary and Lee are now married, and she experiences no turbulence problems when she flies with him. :) I told Paul he had to shave the goatee or we were through. He chose the goatee. The dating couple came on, and the guy said, "Bekki, my mom wants her ring back."

Then we called Pres J up on the stage and presented him with the collage of pictures. He LOVED it. We had him. He said a few of the couples weren't as believable, but he totally fell for me and Paul, Hilary and Will and a couple of others. In fact, as I mentioned, when he got the collage and walked off stage, he said, "I know Paul and Denise are dating for real, though!"

It was a blast! In fact, two Christmases ago I typed up all the e-mail correspondence we'd had back and forth (all the Snugglers) and gave it to Hilary for Christmas. I sent a copy to all the Snugglers and Pres J. He LOVED it and said that was one of the best Christmas presents he'd had in a long time -- he had no clue how much was going on behind the scenes with all of us. To this day he has the collage hanging in his home office right above his desk. After all, it's not often someone pulls one over on Pres. J.

BTW, Paul and I officially started dating on April Fool's of the next year. Pretty fitting, huh? :) Oh, and there were plenty of people who just didn't believe that we were really dating this time ... We had this problem when we got engaged, too. Why don't people believe us? Some of the doubters are starting to become convinced ... ;)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

10 Years

Ten years ago today was a huge day in our lives. It was the day Paul and I entered the Salt Lake Temple as best friends and exited as eternal husband and wife. It was awesome.

I was a bit "old" compared to LDS standards when we got married (26). I had already served a mission, graduated from college and embarked on my career. Hilary and I had moved up to Seattle because it sounded cool. Really -- that's why we moved there. After locating an apartment, we called the stake president to ask about the local singles' ward. He informed us it started at 1:30 p.m. Much to our embarrassment, he was wrong about the time and it actually started at 1 p.m., so we walked in 30 minutes late. What a way to make a first impression! (Good thing I wasn't worried about that at the time.)

So, after sacrament meeting we started talking to a guy to find out how to get our records transferred there. Turns out he had the forms in his pocket ... and his name was Paul. I noticed his beautiful eyelashes right away, but I definitely was NOT interested.

Paul and I became pretty fast friends. He was a geek who could put geeky things into English for me, which helped a lot with my job doing high-tech PR. Hilary and I used him for his cable so we could watch BYU football. (I think this was much to his delight.) I found out he had a crush on a certain girl and tried for months to set him up with her. (That backfired a little bit. :)

In Nov/Dec we played the joke of the century (as we call it) on our branch president. "Operation Snuggle" was a ploy to get him thinking a bunch of us were dating. We even took fake engagement pics for a collage for him (which, by the way, still hangs on his office wall to this day -- ours is below). I'll definitely have to tell about that one day -- it was awesome. When he found out it was a joke, he said he said he wouldn't believe that Paul and I really weren't a couple. Funny thing is we weren't ... until four months later. :)

Fast forward five months and Paul took me up to Snoqualmie Falls to propose. It was beautiful. I had no idea getting engaged would be such a spiritual, exciting experience ... and here it was happening to me. I had dreamed of this experience happening, and yet somehow when it did happen it was still better than I could have imagined.

Two months later we were flying down to SLC to get married in the Salt Lake Temple. We had many family and friends to help us celebrate, which made it an even better day. I hear it was cold that day, but somehow I didn't notice. :)

We jumped right into life as a married couple -- less than a year later Tyler was born and I had cut my hours at work to be home more. Paul had his first "real" job. Now 10 years later we have five children (!!!!), are on our second home, have me staying home full time with the kiddos while Paul supports us, and are happy as clams can be. (And because of the saying, I'm assuming clams can be pretty happy!) Okay, that might have seemed like rambling to you, but it was a fun trip down memory lane for me. :)

We were able to celebrate our 10th Anniversary last month with a little getaway. We had no kids, no worries, and not a lot of plans. And we loved it!

Today will be a day just like most others -- he'll be at work, and I'll be doing routine mom things: Teaching pre-school, going to a Relief Society meeting, making dinner, doing laundry, etc. And yet in the back of my mind it will be an awesome day because of the memories of the past 10 years. It's flown by and been forever at the same time. Thanks, Paul, for making this "lifetime" so wonderful ... and for making the last part of my former lifetime (singledom) so much fun. :) I hope it's a great day at work!

(I think we look pretty much the same, but I guess now that you have pics you can decide for yourself. :)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Family Pictures

So we have carved pumpkins, taken Halloween pics, and finished our family pictures. However, I'll spare you all the pics ... especially since most of you have seen them on Facebook already. :)

Anyway, last year we kind of skipped family pictures. Well, we took a few, but we didn't try very hard to get good ones. We took great ones of the kids as individuals and together, so we were fine without getting a new family photo. Let's face it -- we were freshly worn out from our addition, we knew it would be outdated soon with the addition of Austin, and we've got a lovely family picture hanging as a canvas on our wall -- and we won't pay to get one of those done anytime soon (I won the one we have).

So, this year I wanted pictures again. Not only had I been rebuked for having an outdated one on my parents' wall (no Austin), but I am big on pictures ... in case anyone hasn't noticed.

So the first thing to do is to coordinate shirts. My, oh, my -- who knew so much stress could be involved with one picture! I didn't want to buy any new clothes this year (we're trying to get out of debt in only one year, so no new clothes that aren't essential!), so we had to see what we had. It's funny trying to coordinate clothes we already have and hope they'll look fine!

Then we had to pick a day. The first day we picked poured. It wasn't supposed to rain until evening, but it rained all day. Oh well. Attempt number two was going to be it -- but Austin isn't on a totally firm schedule, so we had to get the others ready enough to go when he woke up, but not ready too early that they'd get their clothes dirty. I'm sure none of you have ever experienced this stress ... ;)

Anyway, we remembered the camera and tripod. Phew. Only problem was that when Paul went to set it up he realized the memory card was missing. Oops -- last time I uploaded pics I hadn't returned it to the camera. Sigh. Good thing we have a spare -- we just can't take as many pics on it. That's okay -- it's just one group of family pictures, so we should be okay.

The sun was bright, which isn't good for shadows and sunspots. But we managed. Then cute little Austin was intent on picking grass and trying to eat leaves, so he's not looking at the camera for one picture. Oh well. It was our family that day, and I think it turned out pretty well all things considered.

I don't know that we'll ever have the "perfect" family photo, but I think we managed pretty well considering we didn't have a photographer. The kids (other than Austin) were old enough to look at the camera and smile anyway, and no amount of noise, persuasion or singing would distract Austin from that fun ground.

With that I guess I'll post my favorite after all: