Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Aeryn's 2012 End of Year Interview

I asked the same questions to Aeryn and it seems that she has inherited my inability to pinpoint one favorite on many things. It's such an unfair question at times when there are so many things to like. It's fun to see how different they are, even though they both like a lot of the same things too.

Nicknames:  Angel, Squirt, Angel Cake, Sweetie Angel, Aer-Bear, Aeryn-bearyn
How old are you? 9, almost ten! 1 week from being 10
What is your favorite color? Purple, blue
What is your favorite animal?  Wolf
What is your favorite book? Monster High
What is your favorite TV show? Pound Puppies
What is your favorite movie? Monster High
What is your favorite song? Call Me Maybe, Love Song
What is your favorite food? Spaghetti and Lasagna
What is your favorite drink? Chocolate Milk!
What is your favorite breakfast food? Cereal
What is your favorite outfit? Black sparkly dress, and pink fuzzy trapeze shirt
What is your favorite game? Uno Attack
What is your favorite toy? Monster High dolls
Who is your best friend? Takala, Page
What is your favorite thing to do? Playing imaginary Monster High dolls
What is your favorite thing to do outside? Play soccer and watch basketball
What is your favorite holiday? Christmas, Halloween, and Valentines Day
Why do you like Christmas? It's when Jesus got born
What do you like about Halloween? I get candy
Why do you like Valentines Day? Because it’s all about love
What do you like to take to bed with you at night? Shannon my teddy bear
Where is your favorite place to go? Chick-fil-A
What is your favorite restaurant? Chick-fil-A
Where would you like to go on vacation? Wyoming to Yellowstone
What do you want to be when you grow up? Vet and a doctor
What was your favorite thing we did in 2012? Making curry, hiking, going to the cinder cone, Yosemite, all sorts of hiking stuff.
If you could do anything you wanted in 2013, what would it be? Go back to the cinder cone again, and to Yellowstone.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ellie's 2012 End of Year Interview

I've seen a growing trend of asking kids interview questions on their birthday. I have not done this, but decided that it would be a good New Years activity. At this point it looks like we'll have both girls every year for New Year's Eve so this is my attempt at starting a new tradition. The days are just packed when Ellie is here (not to be confused with the Calvin & Hobbes book of the same title), so it didn't happen until the day she was going to fly home. It was fun to have a few minutes with each of them to find out what they say they like. I was a little surprised by a couple of the answers, but most were right in line with what I expected.

Nicknames:  Ellie, Jessie - sometimes, Jellie-bellie, ladybug
How old are you? 6
What is your favorite color? Pink
What is your favorite animal? Koala
What is your favorite book? Yurtle the Turtle
What is your favorite TV show? Phineas and Ferb
What is your favorite movie? Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
What is your favorite song? I am a Child of God
What is your favorite food? Mangoes
What is your favorite drink? Apple juice
What is your favorite breakfast food? Pancakes & Waffles
What is your favorite outfit? Dresses
What is your favorite game? Ticket to Ride
What is your favorite toy? Baby {A stuffed toy she and I made this past summer. She drew what she wanted and I did my best to sew it}
Who is your best friend? Kaylyn from school
What is your favorite thing to do with Kaylyn? Play on the playground, play on the swings
What is your favorite thing to do at recess? Ride bikes! {Her school has bikes in the pre-K play yard that they can use during recess}
What is your favorite thing to do outside? Run around and ride bikes, and play soccer
What is your favorite holiday? Valentines day because it makes people happy
What do you like to take to bed with you at night? Baby
Where is your favorite place to go? Oregon
What is your favorite restaurant? Soup Plantation {I thought for sure she was going to say Panera.}
Where would you like to go on vacation? Oregon!
What do you want to be when you grow up? A Pediatrician
What was your favorite thing we did in 2012? Yellowstone!
If you could do anything you wanted in 2013, what would it be? Go to Oregon!

Monday, January 14, 2013


Well, the day was a success. We all survived and Squirt had an exhausting, good, awesome, happy, sad day (her words). Sad because she didn't get to talk to her Noni very long since our house was loud, but all those other things for everything else. They sang to her at school, we went to Ihop for dinner, and had friends over for cake and ice cream. Fun times.

Now, can we all please go to sleep? I am tired. 

Saturday we had a friend party (that I may write about in the next day or two...) but I was a slacker and bought cupcakes from a local bakery. Yesterday I decided that I needed to bake this girl a cake for today. On my Pinterest boards, she saw one with a cute fondant owl and we decided to go for it - though it ended up with my own twist. It just isn't a birthday without a homemade cake.

Our house was overflowing with people and it was fantastic. One day I like to imagine we'll actually have room and seating for all the people who come over, but at least we are all in the same small apartment boat here. Everyone was so loving to Aeryn and it was really fun to have all the kids around. We haven't seen people much since the Holidays took us all different directions and it was nice to reconnect.

I think she liked it. I know I love the black and white candles a little more than most rational people love candles.

And.... wish!

She opened her gifts with Ellie watching via Facetime. This was the moment Jim realized that he could "tickle" Ellie with a wiggly finger over the camera and she would still erupt in laughter as though you could really reach out and touch her. Awesomesauce. Aeryn made out pretty well! A jewelry box, clothes, a Monster High doll she didn't have yet, earrings, new scriptures, lip glosses and nail polish. Quite an amazing day for the little lady. 


Ten years ago today, I became a mother. It doesn't feel like it's been a that long, and yet when I think of the many things we've experienced together it almost feels like it has been much, much longer. Oh, how the time has flown. I have to constantly remind myself that it only gets better, if only to avoid focusing on the fact that we're more than halfway done with her living at home. I'm anxious for her to have a great life, but I'm not quite ready to be in the background of that life.

In the past decade I have learned more fully than I would have guessed that love is something you cannot truly describe. It is more than a feeling, a verb in the truest sense, that pushes us through the moments that desire, comfort, or enjoyment cannot. I've seen my own weaknesses more fully than I care to, and made more mistakes than any one person ought to. It's been hard and brought me to tears on many occasions (like right now) but it's also been the most beautiful, indescribably amazing thing I've ever experienced.

As a child all I wanted was to be a mom. It didn't occur to me that I could be *more* than that because I held my own mother is such high esteem (when I wasn't a normal, obnoxious kid) that I couldn't believe anything else could be as wonderful. She loved being a mom more than she loved anything else on Earth so I just knew that was what I wanted for my own life. Of course I had other dreams, like working at NASA, being an F/A-18 Hornet Pilot for the Navy (thanks to a promotional video my dad had that made it look really glamorous), performing on Broadway, and the longest living ambition - being an advertising account executive. In the back of my mind I was always analyzing my dreams to see if they would allow me to be the kind of mom I wanted to be, which meant that eventually all of them faded to nothing because I couldn't allow myself to pursue something with that level of time commitment.

Then came the day I heard the word "infertility" for the first time. I was crushed beyond description. I was in the middle of bidding farewell to my own mother and was told I may never get to be one myself. The world seemed really bleak and I beat myself up wondering why I hadn't had more grand ambitions so that my life could still hold some meaning if being a mother wasn't able to pan out. It was a rough couple years as I wondered what my future would be and I secretly begged my Heavenly Father to let it all work out. I wanted to trust Him, but I was terrified of relying on my own hopes rather than inspiration and didn't let myself believe it would work out. When I found myself in the doctor's office for my first pre-natal checkup a mere six weeks after being told I would probably never have children, I still held myself back from believing it would be ok. I consciously removed myself emotionally for most of the pregnancy, convinced that something would happen and I would never meet my baby. When I saw her move on the ultrasound, I broke out sobbing in the doctor's office. It was too miraculous for words.

The day she was born was pretty unremarkable. A normal winter day in Phoenix that I had expected to work. She clearly had other plans and after 15 hours in a delivery room she made her appearance. I could not help but stare at her as the doctors cleaned her up because I still could not believe it was real. I was a mother. Me!

Now, ten years later, I still get choked up when I think of it. This journey has been such an emotional one, and I doubt it will ever stop being so. She means the world to me. I am nowhere near the mother she deserves, but I'll keep working to get there. Maybe by the time she's a grandmother I'll have this parenting thing figured out.

In tradition, here are some of my favorite moments from this past year with my Aer-bear.

When she was little, we used to go to concerts for some of my local musician friends. At age 4, she was taught to "rock on" and still gets really excited whenever there is live music. This was a hilarious moment filled with pure joy.

This year she made huge strides in the water. She has been terrified of water for years, which I attribute to her continuous ear infections, but this year got comfortable enough that her favorite part of swimming lessons is diving from the edge. This is a huge improvement.

She was so excited at the school's jog-a-thon this year. I loved watching how she would jump at the balloons on every lap.

This year was the first year I didn't get to participate with the trick-or-treating. Rather, I participated with our neighbors walking around with them and their kids while Aeryn ran around the apartment complex with her friends. It was a little hard to let go of that, but she had so much fun with it that it was worth it.

Over Spring break we took the girls camping. It was cold. For the first day or two there was no squashing the enthusiasm of just being together. I love to see how much she adores Ellie and plays with her.

This past year has been a rough one. She's had some issues with tantrums and finding her place within new family dynamics. Since mood swings are fairly common, this family picture is representative of reality and one of my very favorites. She didn't want to do, well, anything and frankly I think it's really funny.

Who can forget the Rollerblades? My favorite part about this is how she bought them herself for $2.50 at Goodwill and was so excited she wanted to skate around and show all our friends.

This trip is one of the most talked about things we've done. Aeryn has a thing for volcanoes (which I wish the science teacher in me could take credit for) and though it usually takes some bribing to get her up long hikes, she LOVED climbing this cinder cone at Lassen Volcanic National Park.

At the end of 3rd grade her class did book reports on Magic Tree House books. She was assigned Mummies in the Moonlight and had to build a tree house to represent the story. I really struggled to not be a control freak on the building because I found it to be such a fun project. It turned out really cute and she was really proud of it.

This is one of my proudest moments. Aeryn is unfortunately the recipient of my lack of both athletic coordination and any sense of competition. During one of the summer track meets at Hayward Field, she chose to run the 400m. The excitement was tangible and she put her heart and soul into that run only to come in dead last. It broke her heart. She just cried and cried. When it was all said and done, she still chose to go out and run the next event anyway. I'm so proud of her for pushing through and trying even when it is hard. Running is not a natural talent for her, but she still ran her hardest at every week's meet regardless of how she was going to place. I have so much to learn from her.

Bring it on, age 10. If history is any indication, it's bound to only get better.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

My Cute Kids

Forgive me for bragging, but I think my girls are pretty stinking cute.

The day Ellie was going to fly home we made sure to get some pictures before she left. The girls just wanted to have lunch and change their clothes but humored me for a few minutes in the interim. They often protest, but once the camera comes out they ham it up and make the best of it.

I'm sure boys are pretty fun too, but I am a little bit biased toward my goofy girls.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Normal Day

Ellie is much better at riding her bike. She loves it and can easily start by herself now.

The neighbor kids are crazy, as always. Side note: this boy's family will be moving this summer and I am not really happy about it. His mom has been warned not to use phrases such as "When we move..." in my presence. I don't like swearing.

I cannot keep this girl's hair looking normal. She's got my barely wavy hair on most of her head with tight spiral curls at her temples. Between the humidity and using a normal hairbrush, she ends up with masses of fuzzy hair all day long. Anyone have brilliant ideas how to work with natural curls in humidity? I'm at a complete loss.

Ellie has decided that this is her new photo face. I asked why the pout and she just said that she thinks it is really cute. I thought you had to be a teenager with a cell phone and facebook account to make faces like this.

Another normal day. We need more of these.

Monday, January 7, 2013


I have been saving packaging materials for a while. It's easy to do around Christmas with the way our family utilizes Amazon. I'm pretty sure I often look like a crazy hoarder, but there is always a purpose in mind when I accumulate a collection of otherwise easily overlooked/recycled materials.

Years ago Aeryn and I coined what we call the bubble-pop-hop, which consists of jumbo bubble wrap and ABBA. After laying all the bubble-type materials all over the floor we blast Mama Mia and just start jumping.

It's over by the end of the song, and suddenly everything fits in the recycling bin more easily.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Homeward Bound and a Case of Mistaken Identity

New Year's Eve came as the day we were all going to fly home. Jim, Ellie, and Me from Cali and Aeryn returning from Texas. The three of us were to land three hours before Aeryn so I could be there to meet her plane. I was a little bit anxious just because I like to be in complete control of life (which almost never even pretends to happen) and we'd had so many delays on our trip out. I kept my calm and I'm pretty sure no one really noticed my internal nerves since we woke up just after 3 am and had stayed up until at least midnight. The lines were longer than we expected and I started to worry, which is when it happened.

We stepped up to the kiosk to print boarding passes and wouldn't you know, my ticket was reserved using my OLD LAST NAME. 

Now, I am not the one who bought my ticket so it was a little bit surprising to realize that my own husband didn't remember that we share names now. We were lucky enough to get someone on the phone who switched the name so that my drivers license would match and I could actually get on board but I can't pretend it didn't put fear into my heart for a little while. 

The flight was uneventful, except for being able to witness the most incredible sunrise I've ever seen. There are no words to describe the vantage point... seeing the gradual glow creeping over the curved horizon and the band of illumination steadily getting wider. At one point there was a bright red stripe hovering over the horizon that made me nearly deplete my phone battery taking pictures. 

Even then, they don't begin to do it justice.

Then it was our family Christmas (no pics), dinner, and unpacking. We had promised the girls to stay up until the new year, which was fun but insane on our part. Long story short, we all made it even though it meant that we were all up for 21 hours. Surprisingly there were no meltdowns either.

We were a little wiped out the following day. 

On the 2nd we checked the mail and found a Christmas package from my own parents addressed to a strange set of people we don't know...

Which means that within two days I found that both my husband and my parents forgot my last name. It's not like it's still our first year married. At least I remember who I am, and at least Aeryn has received enough packages at this address that the office girl recognized the last name and didn't return the package as is their policy when the name doesn't match the lessee. So Happy New Year! Perhaps my resolution this year will be to monogram half my house so no one forgets who I am. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Very Non-Traditional Christmas Part 3

After a couple days on our own, we met up with Jim's parents and Ellie-girl in sunny San Diego. Yes, this made for a little bit of driving. When we picked up the jeep in Death Valley and the rental guy asked where we were staying the night I think he was a little caught off guard by our answer. He clearly doesn't know us very well.

No one really had a plan what to do. In fact we didn't even know we were going to San Diego until the day before. The in-laws were home from a trip with a week to spare and decided to meet us in Cali so they could spend time with Ellie - and maybe us too a little bit.

Jim and Ellie are always extra-schmoozy for the first day or two being together again. No one can blame them, I mean it would kill me to be away from either of them too. They are some of my favorites you know.

Aren't good, loving dads just the sexiest thing? Grrrr.

There were several seals sunning themselves on the sand at La Jolla Children's Cove. We saw quite the show as they swam through the water and shimmied themselves across the sand.

Every time the waves came in the seals would stretch their tails straight up in the air, all in unison.

This bird was fascinating to watch. He (or she... does anyone know?) was retrieving poor, helpless bugs from the sand with one swift movement and it was amazing to see how long his (or her) neck could stretch.

Jim took Ellie down close to the waves and they got splashed pretty good a few times. All I could think of was the increased danger due to stronger waves in the winter and I spent a little while with an anxious pit in my stomach really hoping that neither of them would wash out to sea. They didn't, btw.

He's such a good dad I can hardly stand it, even if he's a ton more adventurous than I am. I'll chalk that up to being a guy.

There was color, and greenery, and near-warmth, which was a dangerous combination for enduring the eternal grayness of Oregon.

I'm just kidding, a little. I really love Oregon, but I was reminded that I like the sunshine too.

Ellie got to run around a park for a while and we had some really good food. Then we headed to the LA area to spend some leisure time with extended family for a couple days and go visit some Oregon friends who recently relocated there. As weird as it sounds, the second half of the week was more stressful for me than the first, even though there wasn't really anything to worry about because we spent most of the time relaxing. It seems I just prefer being busy. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Very Non-Traditional Christmas Part 2

My Christmas present was to cross something off my bucket list. Yes, I know that I said we weren't doing gifts this year and we didn't - at least not tangible gifts that will end up cluttering our apartment. My, ok OUR gift this year was to cross something awesome off our National Park list and my life's bucket list.  Death Valley.

Whaaaaaat? You may be asking. 

Yes, I have dreamt of going to Death Valley for no other reason than to see the racetrack. The idea of mysterious moving rocks is just too interesting to the physical scientist nerd in me. 

We rented a jeep and headed out on the 2 hour 4WD trek to the playa. Jim looked pretty studly driving a jeep, in case you wondered.

See? You don't have to take my word for it... they really do move.

It would be much more awesome if we could see them move in real time, but at present no known person has ever seen it. The trails are visible for years though since the playa receives so little precipitation.

On the drive out I was filled with the type of anticipation that makes you wonder if you're building something up too much and will really be disappointed.

The answer to that was no.

Look! A rock!

The sun was really high in the sky and quite intense. While it made pictures really a bit of a challenge, it did cause clear reflections on the playa which caused the trails to show up really well. When I tried to shoot in shadow the trails barely appeared, so intense crazy pictures it is.

From a distance it doesn't really look like much other than a bunch of random rocks resting on the playa. It's pretty surprising though to think that all those little rocks are there because a little rain and wind get together to start a party.

Look, a Joshua Tree! We had to take a picture to make up for the other park.

We stopped at Badwater Basin on our way out of the valley and it was quite a sizable salt flat.

Filthy, but sizable. The thing that I found to be most interesting here is that the areas of highest foot traffic appeared stark white, while the areas void of traffic were the most dirty. The thing other people find most interesting is that this is lowest point in North America with an elevation of approximately 282 feet below sea level.

In case you need a visual of exactly what that means, there's a sign! Jim will attest to the fact that I nerdily discussed the fact that sea level isn't constant so what on Earth the elevation deal really means is up in the air. Then he pointed out that I'd have to call into question every elevation measurement ever recorded and my head hurt just thinking about it. So, I conceded. We'll go with 282 below and call it good.