Wednesday, November 17, 2010


5 years ago on this night, God sent us an angel.

And our lives have been blessed every day since.
Happy 5th Birthday, precious Chloebug!  We love you!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Quick glimpse

We've had lots going on.  I think the last of our boxes were finally unpacked on Saturday, which felt really good.  As we've now lived in the house nearly a month, we've grown aware of so many things we want to change.  It's a great house with a lot of potential, but so many things were poorly planned out and cheaply/sloppily done.  In time we'll get there.  In the meantime we are just getting used to this new California adventure and looking forward to gradually making this house feel like home.

Here's a quick glimpse into our lives over the last few weeks:

Neil's first house project
We have this funny cut out in the wall intended for an entertainment center and TV.  I wasn't a big fan of it because it was the type of opening that I felt needed a very specific sized entertainment center and TV to look at all decent.  Anything too small would just look dumb, but obviously anything too big just wouldn't work at all.  We do still plan to one day find the perfectly sized TV stand eventually, but for the time being, Neil threw together this built in a couple weekends ago. 

I'll be honest.  I was not optimistic when he described what he had in mind.  The idea of having our speakers and everything else just out in the open for everyone to see didn't sound very pretty.  But once we painted the wood white, found baskets to fit in the cubbies, and got everything placed just right, I'll have to say I really liked how it turned out.  Neil is so amazing with the ideas he comes up with.  It was even his idea to find baskets to hold our DVDs.  A very inexpensive solution to what seemed like an impossible dilemma.

Someone had a birthday!
That's right.  Our sweet little boy turned 2 on the 9th. 

He was VERY excited to see Thomas the Train on his birthday cake.

Playing with his second favorite toy, "Oody".

It is still so strange for me to say, "He's 2" when people ask how old he is.  I have another post on Ryan in the making along with plenty more birthday pictures.  Hopefully these two can tide you over until I get to it.

Jr. Kindergarten
So here in California, Chloe does NOT miss the cut off for kindergarten, which means we technically could have enrolled her when we first got here.  We decided to wait until next Fall though, just because we felt like all the recent stress of having her dad gone and then moving away from everything and everyone she knew was enough for her little 4 1/2 year old self to handle.

I've been looking into preschools for the last couple of weeks, and finally got her enrolled this week at a Christian school in Manteca.  They call the program she's in, "Jr. Kindergarten", as it's primarily for kids of her age group who have later birthdays.  She started today and goes Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 8:30-12:30.  She seemed to really enjoy herself today, and I'm looking forward to being back in a routine and preparing Chloe for the Fall when the real deal begins.

Here's our proud "Jr. Kindergartner", sporting her new backpack from Uncle Jim and Aunt Karen, which she's been anxiously waiting to use since last Christmas!  Can you believe she's turning 5 TOMORROW?

New Callings
The very first Sunday we went to church we were extended callings.  The Bisphopric didn't waste any time!  Neil is in Primary teaching the Valiant 10 class, and I am back in Young Womens again teaching the Beehive class (12-13 year old girls).  This is the third time I've had this calling in the eight years Neil and I have been married.  I keep thinking there must be something for me to learn if I haven't already learned the two other times I've worked as Beehive Advisor.  I really love my girls already (all 5 of them!), and have felt an immediate connection to each one.  I am so impressed with the youth of our ward in general.  They all seem so grown up and solid.  It makes me very happy and proud to be working with such strong young girls.  I taught for the first time on Sunday, and they were so responsive and eager to participate in the lesson.  Always a very good thing!  It's a great group as a whole (all the young women and leaders), and I look forward to getting to know everyone better.  I do miss Primary, where I was in our last ward, but I think this is where I'm supposed to be right now.

Gradually Ripon is feeling more like home.  I have good days and I have blue days.  This has been a much harder transition than I ever dreamed it would be.  Everyone keeps telling me to give it a year, so that's what I'm doing.

More pictures and updates to come.  Just wanted to share a quick glimpse into what's been happening 'round here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A solution to an indulgence

I really hate spending money on frivolous things.  And I especially hate the guilt that consumes me after I've given in and done it.  Food is the worst!  Do you ever find yourself out and about and pass that fast food restaurant that has your favorite such and such?  Or walking through the mall just long enough to catch a whiff of something that suddenly convinces you that whatever it is would really hit the spot?  You want it so badly, yet the pleasure only lasts as long as it takes to eat it.  And then you're $XX.XX poorer and feeling guilty that you gave into such an impulse.  Starbucks' Caramel Apple Spice is and has been my greatest weaknesses for months.  And especially this time of year when it flows with the season. 

Well, this morning I had a brilliant thought.  I actually have a lot of brilliant thoughts, but this just may have exceeded any brilliant thought I've ever had.  Rather than investing more mullah into this [ridiculously delicious] beverage, what if I just figured out how to make it myself?  Couldn't be too difficult, right?

RIGHT, actually

After checking around online, I found what looked like a legitimate recipe.  For anyone else who enjoys this stuff as much as I do, you know that warm cinammony taste of heaven I speak of.  And if you've attempted to make it yourself, you also know it's close to impossible.  Sure, any apple cider is good.  But there's a key ingredient that makes this stand above all the other apple ciders out there.  And until today, I didn't know what that ingredient was.

So are you ready?  Starbucks' very own Cinnamon Dolce Syrup.  I called the Starbucks here in Ripon to see if they sold it by the bottle, and you wouldn't believe it, but they do! 

So what did I do?  Well, I drove myself right over there and bought me some!

For only $7.95!

Here are the other ingredients needed to finish the job: 

Starbucks uses Tree Top Apple Juice, but Langers is what I had on hand.  I'm sure they also use their own special caramel sauce, but Smucker's does the trick just fine!  So for 1 cup apple juice, I added 3 teaspoons of cinnamon syrup.  Then on went the whipped cream, drizzled caramel sauce, and a perfect sprinkle of cinnamon.  It tastes EXACTLY like the real thing, but doesn't cost you the drive to Starbucks, time waiting in line, or 3 bucks out of your pocket.

Wanna come over and have some?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Halloween festivities

Halloween really crept up on us this year.  On the 28th, amidst the unpacked boxes and junk everywhere, I finally decided it was time to set it all aside and start thinking about costumes.  Since last Halloween, Chloe's begged to be a princess.  That hadn't changed, so princess it was!  And Ryan, well, he's still in that stage where he'll wear just about anything and be happy.  So I made it easy on myself and stuck him in the same elephant costume another cute little someone wore 3 Halloweens ago (see HERE).  He did fight it some, but every time he'd start to pull at it, we'd just remind him that if he wore it he'd get candy.  Worked like a charm.

Here are a few pictures from earlier in the week.  Well, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  We literally crammed everything Halloween into 3 days.  Under normal circumstances I would have had decorations up well before October 1st, and at least one trip to the pumpkin patch underway by the 15th.  Not this year though!  The only reason I managed to get the few Halloween decorations out that I have is because they were sitting in a clear tupperware container that was easy to spot and access.  Anyway, over the course of Thursday and Friday we did caramel apples and the traditional sugar cookies.

Friday we went to Dell' Osso Farms, where we road the train and picked out pumpkins.
If we're measuring in cuteness, then these two are surely off the charts!

Finding the perfect pumpkin.

Ryan L-O-V-E-D the "choo choo", and did NOT want to get off.  Can you tell?

Saturday evening our cul-de-sac hosted a Halloween party.  Coned off the road and everything!  Apparently it's quite the annual event, and something our neighbors have been doing now for a few years.  They had some activities for the kids, including face painting and a jump house, as well as food, music, and LOTS of people.  It was definitely not a quaint gathering, exclusive to the cul-de-sac residents only.  Oh no!  Over the course of the night I saw well over a hundred people.  We didn't last past 8, but neighbors and friends of neighbors were partying outside our door until midnight.  A friendly group, but I hope these late night parties aren't a normal thing in this neighborhood.  I have a feeling I'm going to make a really grouchy old person.  :)

Anyway, here are the kiddos in all their Halloween glory. 

Ryan was quite a hit.  All the little girls kept hugging him and telling him (and us) how cute he was.

And Little Miss Chloebug, the most feminine and dainty little thing you ever did see fluttered around like any ballerina princess ought to.  She was especially fond of her sparkly silver princess shoes, and pointed them out to anyone who glanced in her direction.

Back in August when Neil was here and we were still in Colorado, we came to an agreement that by Halloween we would be living under the same roof again.  At that point there was no light at the end of the tunnel.  We'd had zero luck selling our home, and the prospect of renting still scared us.  Yet even with everything against us, we were determined to be a family by Halloween.  And we did it!  We even beat our deadline by 10 days!  :)  And all in all, I'd say we had a pretty nice Halloween! 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

An unexpected diagnosis

I've had low back pain now for over 6 months.  Initially, I thought I'd overdone it lifting Ryan or some other heavy object.  As time passed it mellowed some, but remained present, varying in intensity depending on my activity and stress level.  It got bad the week of our move from Colorado, and then made a huge jump in the worse than bad direction two Saturdays ago when we unloaded the truck.  That night I couldn't even help Neil stand our dining room table up from its side after he stuck the legs on it.  Pathetic! Over the course of the next week I stretched my back a ton and tried to take it as easy as I could.  By the following Sunday though, I was in no better shape.  By the third hour of church I was wiggling out of my seat because it hurt so much to sit.  Monday morning I finally called a chiropractor, and that afternoon, with kiddos in tow, headed to his office.  We discussed medical history (which there wasn't much of), brainstormed possible explanations for the pain, tried 15 or so minutes of electrotherapy, and eventually, did an x-ray of my lower back.  

Now I'm no medical expert.  But it doesn't take much to see that things aren't sitting quite straight here.  This is a cropped version of the x-ray (which Neil took with his phone) so it isn't quite as profound as the real thing.  BUT!  It is still a very level shot of my lumbar spine and pelvis.  Notice anything out of the ordinary?  Perhaps the fact that my pelvis tilts up, or that my spine carries with it a lovely curve? 

Translation: I have scoliosis. 

Don't worry, it isn't as scary as it sounds.  The chiropractor classified it as "somewhere between mild and moderate".  Based on the tilted pelvis, he said he was shocked that I didn't suffer from back pain as a teenager or during my pregnancies.  He agreed that the posture and core muscle strength that ballet helped me to maintain probably saved me during my teen years.  As for my pregnancies, well, I guess I got lucky.

At this point our #1 goal is to eliminate the pain.  Then he would like to work on correcting the problem.  Because of the tilt, one of my legs basically functions as if it's longer than the other, and he wants to work on that.  Scoliosis is not generally a disease that can be cured entirely.  Our bodies do what they do, and rarely are they perfectly proprortioned.  But he feels that my case can be improved in time with proper therapy.  Yesterday I went in for my second round of therapy, and I will continue going twice a week until the pain dies down significantly or all together.  From there, we'll play things by ear.

I'm a little wigged out by the whole thing.  With all the recent changes in my life, this is just icing on the cake - icing that doesn't taste very good.  The chiropractor suspects stress is what finally triggered symptoms, and I think he's right.  As unpleasant as it has been though, I'm grateful to finally have answers.  It's a pretty unsettling feeling to be in pain and not know why.  I also think the timing of it all is ironic.  I mean this is right up Neil's alley.  He sits in on spinal surgeries all day, looks at x-rays just like the one you see above, and consults surgeons about the products he sells for patients with scoliosis or other spinal problems.  Neither the chiropractor, Neil or I expect that I will ever be a candidate for surgery (thank goodness for that!), but how funny that in all these years I've apparently lived with this disease, I'm finally diagnosed with it just 4 months after Neil's accepted a job working in this very industry.