Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Morn

Somewhere in the back of my mind I have this crazy and naive idea that life should look like a Norman Rockwell painting. The calm, cooperative, playful nature of children, moms wearing aprons while pulling fresh baked bread out of the oven, and Santa with a big long beard being watched by trusting yet anxious little eyes. As I look back over my childhood, I try to identify where this idea came from. After a short time I realize that of course no one has a life that is that idyllic or picturesque, but despite the disparity between dreams and reality those feelings can certainly be created.

For me it was when Grandma would let me cook with her. As the other kids were running and playing, the adults were playing Rook or talking football or doing needlework or planning last minute shopping trips, I was in the kitchen with Grandma making something yummy. She always had time for me and she always let me help her. If there was nothing that needed to be made, she would figure out some sweet treat or another that we could make together. In doing so, that magical feeling of Christmas evolved. It was a feeling of being loved, of being important, and of spending time with people who made me feel like I was one in a million. The twinkly lights inside and outside of the home just accentuated it.

It's harder (and more rewarding) to prepare for holidays as a new family. Not to mention I tend to stress out easily. Too easily in fact. I was worried about being able to create the feelings of joy and elation that I imagined in my mind while in the home of new family that I hardly know.

The gifts were all hidden prior to Christmas Eve which made the magic of Christmas morning all the more powerful. Kids awoke to find piles of gifts where there was once open space. I haven't a single picture from the morning. Not one. I literally sat on the couch and watched all the enthusiasm unfold without so much as one click. Very unlike me. Between the awe of Christmas morning, the Christmas Eve pajama scavenger hunt, gingerbread houses, craft projects, the 12 days of Christmas (all done by Grandma), and just being able to play with cousins, the elusive perfection of Christmas seemed to be felt by all the children. Which made me realize: the magic of Christmas is often the magic of having a Grandma.

Part of me feels a little sick at the thought that I didn't take a single photograph. Instead I will have to make due with the Rockwell-esque pictures preserved in my mind as a memory of this, our first Christmas as a family.

And this:

Hopefully your holidays were just as memorable.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Ducks BBall

...or how to steal pom-poms from the college cheer squad.

You guessed it. We headed out to the ball game again. This time we were all together though, which made it all the sweeter. We had told bribed the kids that if they were super-duper good that day that they would get to open a Christmas present early.

Oh, yeah (the sound of Yello and a Twix commercial suddenly come to mind). You'd better believe that for a few sweet hours we were all powerful, almost super-human parents with the most obedient children known to man.

When they unwrapped their gifts, they found these matching pink Ducks Fan Club tees. Normally we avoid the matchy-matchy thing since they are definitely individuals and we'd like to preserve that - but this was an acceptable deviation from the norm. They like pink. And ducks. And pink ducks.

Then at the arena we bought them each a pom-pom to fully enjoy the experience.

The general student seating area includes that right adjacent to the band, which means right in line of sight for cameras. The girls dancing in their pink duck shirts and flailing pom-poms was caught on camera multiple times, which always brought squeals of delight and encouraged goofy behavior during every break in play time.

So I started taking pictures. His Hotness has a better camera than I do so I've sort of exercised my wifely co-ownership opportunity and confiscated it for a while. The only problem is that while his lens is far better, mine is a wider angle. Meaning my beloved self-portraits don't work with the nicer lens. I got pics of those of us who were sitting...

...and the girls when they gallivanted down the stairs to greet Puddles...

...and Jellie-Bellie when she ended up with one of the cheerleaders pom poms. We're still not entirely sure how that happened. One moment she was kid-flirting with Puddles, the next she's running up the stairs enthusiastically waving the metallic balls of fluff. 

It seems they had traded their fluff - but I'm not sure Puddles realized she was going to take off with them like that. Soon after he came to reclaim them.

After we took the game from N. Carolina we headed out for our typical after-sports ice cream where we ran into one of the cheerleaders the girls had been talking to. Fun times. This being all together stuff is incredible.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A seemingly normal day

So, the kids are still doing homework even though it's the Holidays. In truth I'm really glad that Jellie-bellie's mom wants her to do some school work while she's here because Squirt got a little behind right before the break and like a mean mom I'm making her do the homework regardless of whether or not she can still get credit for it. I know, I'm heartless, and it's triggered a fair amount of drama. I can already tell she's going to get tired of hearing "In our house we work hard."

Which makes the other moments all the more sweet. That's how this whole business of raising little people seems to go; crazy and insane followed by tender and glorious.

Today we had a laid back sort of day. Dancing, tickling, playing games with neighbors and other such joyous things. His hotness came home from work early and brought some hormonal balance to the mix.

Who knows what was going on here to illicit such facial expressions... I can't get past how big Squirt looks compared to all the other kids, and how much Little Squirt has grown since summer. 

Are you making your kids work over the holidays or do you think I'm crazy? So far, it's working and I can't see my ideas changing anytime soon.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

All together

It started out by adding new ornaments to our tree, followed by decorating a Gingerbread guy, playing, making dinner, watching a movie, and then peacefully bidding farewell to the day. 

Attempting to get a shot of the girls modeling the new aprons I made them... One owl and one peacock. They were just too happy to goof off together...

The kids had a blast decorating Ginger-guy. Surprisingly, they ate very little candy during the process. Not none, of course, but far less than I'd have guessed.

Little Squirt's choice of dinner: Chicken curry and rice, homemade rolls, and spinach salad (Granted, the spinach wasn't little Squirt's idea.). We'd made chocolate ice cream but after Ginger-guy we forgot all about it and will save it for another day.

It is impossible to describe the volume of giggling that has ensued. Certainly there will be no silence in our home for the next three weeks. How fun it will be!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

One term down... threeve to go.

The subject is an SNL Celebrity Jeopardy reference... but I digress.

Anyway, I did it. What did I do you might ask? I survived my first term as a PhD student at the great University of Oregon. What do I get in return. Other than being able to see my family a lot more over the next month, I get to do it all over again in January. Only this time it will be exponentially more difficult. This term I only had 2 classes, 2 seminars and 2 labs that I TA'd. For spring term I have the exact same thing, except for three slight changes.

First, I will be running my own study (effect of PFO on core temperature during exercise... basically if you have a hole in your heart does that increase your body temperature during exercise. If you want to find out if you have a hole in your heart and/or you want to find out what your VO2max is, let me know. The great thing is you will get paid to do my study!). Thankfully my study is relatively simple, but we are trying to get a bunch of people to participate.

Second, the classes I will be taking are much more difficult, well at least one of them will be more difficult.  I know this because I will be taking the advanced respiratory physiology class the term before I take the intermediate respiratory physiology class. How smart is that?

Finally, my wonderful advisor from CSUF and I are wrapping up getting my thesis in manuscript form. We are hoping to have that done by my birthday in February. That would be a pretty sweet 35th birthday present.

What does this mean. I will be spending time in my little office/dungeon for most of the 10 weeks starting on January 9th. I wonder how that post will turn out?

Anyway, getting back to my original topic - Fall Term 2011. It was an absolute blast. I love what I am doing, I love what I am learning, I love the people I am working with, I love my new friends, I love having a dungeon of my own, and I love being in Oregon. More than anything I love being able to come home every night to a woman who completely and utterly spoils me. I wonder how long it will be before she realizes that I am the one that married up. :)

I can honestly say I have never worked such long hours as I did this term. If you have seen my gpa, you will know I didn't do a whole lot of work at BYU. I definitely never worked this hard when I was with Maintenance Warehouse in San Diego. I had moments of working this hard when I was at SDSU, but that was more like a day here, and a day here, and only in combination with having a full-time job. Progressive had its moments, but they paid ridiculous amounts of money for an easy job (No wonder they laid off a ton of people). My Masters' program was difficult at times, but that was because I was going through a divorce, trying to be a parent to Ellie, and too many really long weekend trips. However, the demand wasn't insane as I was able to get through the program in about 18 months. Oh how my life has changed...

Generally speaking, when school is in session I am here from 7:00ish until 6:00ish Monday-Friday. To date, although I know this will soon change, I have yet to come to school on a Saturday, especially since I can' t use the Farmers Market as an excuse to not go up to school.

So how I am surviving this craziness? It's rather simple... my family, my faith, running, mini road trips, and my friends. The good food we eat most nights doesn't hurt either. Seriously though, there are some people who thought I was crazy to marry a girl just over six months after I met her on December 31, 2010 (That's right I haven't even known Micha for a year yet), and then somehow convince her to move a thousand miles away from her parents, friends, newly purchased house, and job. Hopefully she never comes to her senses, because I know having her here with me has made this journey a lot more fun, and a lot easier to handle.

So until I ramble further, have a most excellent Christmas season.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pretty on the outside

It was Christmas morning somewhere around 1986 in my Aunt's huge basement great room. The tree was illuminated in all it's shining massive glory. I had never seen a tree so glamorous outside of a department store, nor one so large. The tree my parents decorated each year was an old 1970-something artificial with the wiry scrub brush branches and topping out at an impossible 4 feet tall. By the time I reached age 10 even shrimpy little me was tall enough to surpass the tree. It was then that the tree was placed on top of an old cardboard box to mimic one with a greater stature. Her ornaments were limited edition artistic creations, ours were homemade.

Being at my Aunt's house was magical. Where my parents were frugal, thrifty, and minimalistic, she was glamorous, trendy, and prioritized quality in what she owned. In the Christmas gift rotation, that was the year she had our family for gifts. It was always exciting to see what Aunt Nancy would pick out for you because her taste was impeccable and everything she touched seemed to be filled with immeasurable value. This year the impossible happened: the largest, most glamorous looking package under the tree was for me.

That never happened! I was never the one who got to open the fancy boxes! As it was carried my way, I could not help but be filled with excitement and anxiousness over what I may find inside. As I untied the wide satin ribbon and peeled off the heavyweight metallic wrapping paper, I found the most beautiful fluffy white teddy bear wearing a red bow.

I was 10-ish and I had loved teddy bears since I was a young child. This one moved into my room in a place of honor and was the crowning glory of my collection. Seldom played with, I didn't want to mar the perfection that he represented.

Since then, I've always been fascinated by packaging. Even a simple gift can be made all the more special with a little elegance in the packaging, but coupled with that I have absorbed my parents frugal nature. At the store, I will always buy the least atrocious of the cheap wrapping papers and I will always wait for ribbon to be on a serious discount. Then there is the time it takes to make them pretty...

This year, I have that. Not the money, but the time. So as I look under my tree this year, this is what I see:

Word search gift tags. I made these in September and then a couple weeks ago saw on Pinterest that someone had made word search wrapping paper. I like this better as it's more versatile and easier to print. The packages are wrapped in paper grocery sacks with a scrap of ribbon and some felt/paper flowers. The tags? After toying with illustration programs I found the easiest way to do them was in Excel. True story. 

These are more old school. Plain wrapping paper, wrapped in white curling ribbon (only because I have about a million miles of it and want to use it up). The holly leaves/berries are cut out of felt and hot glued onto the wrap. Yes, I wrapped half my packages with hot glue this year.

These are potentially my favorite right now, and this idea I did get from Pinterest - though I didn't pin it I just saw it and said "Huh. I can do that." It's just paper hearts folded in half and glued to form flowers. Again, hot glue heaven going on here.

Isn't that fantastic? I'd love to do this with double sided card stock but again, I'm just using what I have on hand already. The paper is a striped plain brown paper found at Target in the gift card aisle (not by the other wrapping papers) and the green spotty stuff is from American Crafts Christmas card stock package about a million years ago.

Then my crowning joy this year (now that the chaos and stress has lifted somewhat) is in our friend/neighbor gifts. We decided months ago that we wanted to give fresh pasta and so I've been trying different methods for drying it. It gets quite brittle when it dries so I really hope some of the rigatoni are still tube-like when people cook it.

In 24 hours I made 11 batches of fresh pasta. Then a couple more the next day, and I'll make a few more this afternoon. I dried it in a 150 degree oven on cooling racks for air circulation. The Merry Christmas font is from Fonts for Peas, the bird tag tutorial is from Under the Table and Dreaming. Behind the tags we provided one of our favorite recipes to use the pasta.

For the brown paper I sliced off the pleated edges of paper lunch sacks and fed it through our printer. I absolutely love how it turned out.

It's really fun; having time to hand make gifts and try to doll up packages somewhat. It sure does make it feel more like Christmas to me when I get to invest myself in things this way. Now I'd better run, I have about 36,247 more projects to get to!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Weekend update

We lived through the demon called finals. And yes, that's a we. Squirt and I just had the blessing of not being the ones to take the exams. Technically we've been done since Wednesday, but I've been so preoccupied with Christmas projects that the weeks stress didn't lift until the weekend. How did it go? Well, I may be a bit biased but I'd say the Hubs rocked it. Like, totally.

Friday we had our Holiday party at church where Squirt demonstrated that yes, she likes sushi. At least the simple stuff with rice and cooked shrimp. Hey, it's a start! I haven't had the guts in introduce eel yet.

Then Saturday, we headed to our favorite free time release - Ducks BBall. The boys beat Fresno State though they gave us some concern about that from time to time. Squirt took pictures and we had no choice but to use a flash and seem washed out and weird looking. This time we didn't get up close and personal with Puddles and we were not dancing enough to be placed on the marquis. Finish the evening off with ice cream and it was a win.

May the Holidays officially begin!

Monday, December 5, 2011


It's a well known fact that life is not predictable. That most (if not all) of us end up living a life that is so very different than what we imagined when we were young and impressionable. I mean really, is there a single person that you went to High School with who has ended up exactly how/who/what/where they imagined? I doubt it. But I think we can all look at life and see numerous beautiful things and amazing opportunities that they wouldn't have dreamt of.

For the last several weeks I've been babysitting this little munchkin three days a week. Today as Squirt sat and read books with her, my heart just filled with incredible awe and I was taken back with appreciation for the little things I wouldn't have predicted in my life.

I'm grateful that not finding a job means I get to be home every day when Squirt gets off the school bus. I'm grateful that we are here in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest and that the sun continues to shine sporadically, despite the rumors I've heard from neighbors. I'm grateful for mutually beneficial arrangements that are truly answers to unspoken prayers, and I'm grateful that my Squirt gets to be around younger children and have the chance to play and be silly with them while at the same time being her extremely compassionate self. And I'm doubly grateful that our two Squirts will get to be together again in less than two weeks. (Even though that sentence started with a conjunction and I'm actually selfishly anxious for Little Squirt's arrival because I miss her something fierce.)

Last week I was in a pretty deep funk and I still can't figure out why. This weekend I tried to re-focus on the good things in my life in order to implement a self-issued attitude adjustment. As a result blessings have been on the mind lately, but it struck me hard today as I watched this moment unfold. Life catches us by surprise continuously, but it can be a most beautiful thing.

Friday, December 2, 2011


It's one of those days where I feel like saying something. I feel like finding something personal and moving to shout out with passion and enthusiasm. I feel like baring my soul and sharing the deepest innermost parts of who I am, and being at peace with the complete openness. 

However, I can't think of what to say. 

I ought to blog about our lives and I ought to tell you how awesome life is (it really is). I ought to take gobs of pictures and do crazy projects with Squirt and share the recipes I've been playing with, but instead I sit here quietly, my mind a blank state.

The Hubs and I had one of our bi-monthly date nights last night. That is something we have made a priority and I'm soooo glad we have. Usually we get one hour to ourselves every other week when Squirt goes to a girls activity group through church. We make the most of that hour. Last night was Mezza Luna Pizzeria and it was quite tasty (though maybe not quite as much as the most awesome pizzeria in Victoria). Mostly though my selfish side loves that it's time when the PhD is in the background and we get to be just us. It doesn't last long, but it's so very worth it.

In that spirit, happy Friday everyone! May your weekend greet you joyously with the rest and respite from stress that you may be in need of.