Friday, November 16, 2012

Gratitude Day 16

Today I am grateful for:

1) The events of 7 years ago today, which forever changed our lives for the better.

2) Feeling emotionally lighter and more at ease than I have in a while.  Since the results of the election, I have found myself more invested than ever in reading and educating myself on our president, his administration and the many issues and challenges our country is facing right now.  Unfortunately, of the hours I have spent researching, the most valuable lesson I have learned is that there is a fine line between educating yourself on politics and allowing it to consume you.  In the end, I found that it was doing more damage than good; making me bitter, resentful, cynical and just plain negative!  And worst of all, I felt very separated from the Spirit and from the sweet values I hold dear and rely on for strength.  Yesterday I had an unpleasant discussion with some friends, some of whose views differ from mine.  It was such a rotten feeling to have opened my mouth when I should have practiced tact and then to watch what unfolded, all due to my heat of the moment anger.  THAT is when I decided it was time to replace the garbage with something uplifting.  What started out as awful, though, actually ended up being good when one friend and I found common ground and were able to talk pleasantly.  My heart was softened and I was greatly humbled by her example to politely disagree but not tear me down in the process.  This morning I woke up feeling a weight lifted, and a greater desire to be like that friend: to not pass judgement so easily, to give others the benefit of the doubt, and more than anything, to be Christ-like.  Another thing I have learned in all of this, as I've really searched my soul, is that sometimes it is best to just say a prayer and move on!  :)  

3) My morning with Ryan, again.  I am positive I have been grateful for this before.  :)  He is just such a joy to have around that I can't help being grateful every single day!  Today I was determined to make every minute of our morning count before preschool.  We came home from dropping Chloe off and immediately played Yahtzee, followed by Ants in Pants.  Then we put together two puzzles.  Of course, Ryan lost interest about a third of the way into the second one.  He also helped me vacuum, and put the apple juice boxes into a bag to take to preschool for their Thanksgiving feast.  I so enjoy hanging with that cute boy.  He is my little buddy, and I honestly don't know what I'm going to do when he enters kindergarten.  At one point this morning I asked him, "Would you stop growing already?"  He replied, "I can't!"  When I asked, "Why not?", he replied, "Because Jesus would be mad if I stopped!"  Love him.  Here are some pictures of the fun he and I had today.
Caught red-handed!!
He wanted his hair to be "silly," so we spiked it.  Love his boots and honest expression.
Doing show and tell at preschool.  This is definitely one of Ryan's favorite things.
My view leaving Ryan's preschool to drive home.  Isn't it heavenly?  LOVE Land Park!!
This photo speaks a thousand words.  What a little stink.  But how can you resist that smile?  Oh, I love him.
4) Talking to my grandma on the phone, which is something I have not had a chance to do in almost two months!  She took a fall back in September and spent several weeks in a Rehab facility.  Since then she has had virtually every type of therapy you can imagine.  Physical, occupational, speech.  It was quite traumatic for her (rightfully so), and given the fact that she's about to turn ninety-six, I'd say she's handled it pretty darn well!  So, long story short, she moved into my parent's house on Tuesday.  She had finished her time at the rehab place but wasn't enough improved to go back to the assisted living place where she lived.  It just made the most sense that she move in with my parents, and they have been WONDERFUL with her so far.  I am so amazed and impressed by their goodness.  It makes me cry to think about what loving hands Grandma is in.  It kills me that I'm not there to help, but I think about her and my parents constantly, and am praying that all continues to run smoothly.

Among other things, Grandma has struggled with talking on the phone, and outright refused to do it.  I think part of it stems from being on oxygen 24/7.  That cannot be comfortable!  Anyway, I was chatting with my mom tonight and suddenly I heard grandma's voice!  Somehow my mom had convinced her to talk to me.  We weren't on the phone long, but it sure was wonderful to hear her voice.  I have MISSED it!  She is such a sweet soul, and has brought me many moments of comfort.  She sounded a lot weaker than she ever has before, but I could still sense that sharp and determined spirit in there, which I so deeply love.  Chatting with her was definitely one of the highlights of my day.  When my mom came back to the phone, she said, "Do you know how special you are that she'd talk to you!?"  I had to chuckle.  Pretty special, obviously! :)
This was taken at the end of August, just before Grandma's fall.  We took this just before saying goodbye.  Hope I get to see her again very soon.

5) A late night board game with Chloe.  Apparently, she decided to catch a cold just in time for her birthday tomorrow.  She was pretty miserable when I tucked her into bed, and I listened from across the house, to her sniffles and even tears over the next 45 minutes.  I came in a few times to check on her, give her medicine, etc., just hoping that at any minute she'd fall asleep.  Finally, when all else had failed, I decided to try one last thing.  So I went into her room and asked if opening a birthday present a day early might help her to feel better.  Boy did that work wonders!  She proceeded to open a board game we'd gotten her, which naturally led to us playing the game!  It was great, and so spontaneous.  She was in much better spirits when we finished the game and said goodnight, and now she's sound asleep on my bed. :)

Can I also just quickly say that I am grateful for Instagram!!  What a fast and easy way to share photos!  I am using my big camera less and less for the every day stuff because this is just so much easier!  The quality doesn't compare, of course, but with how little free time I have anymore, convenience plays a huge factor.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Gratitude Day 15

This one will be short and sweet.  Today I am grateful for:

1) 30 darling first and second graders and 1 awesome teacher!  Ryan and I brought blueberry muffins into Chloe's classroom today in honor of her birthday this Saturday, and Mrs. Winston had the kids figure out Chloe's age based on a mathematical problem.  The problem involved the less than/greater than/equal to concept.  I swear those kids are smarter than I am!  I loved the way she made something "fun" educational as well.  She is SUCH a wonderful teacher.  Chloe adores her, and so do we!

2) My Uncle Alfred and Aunt Grace.  You can read some background on them HERE.  One of the reasons I was excited to move to Sacramento was so I could be closer to them.  They have been in my life since before I was around!  David "Alfred" met my dad in the military even before my brother was born, and they were instant friends.  It has been so cool getting to see them regularly, and watching their bond with the kids develop and grow.  The kids just assume they're family, as they should!

Alfred and Grace came over last night for dinner and it was perfect.  Grace even helped Chloe with her homework and gave the kids baths.  She looked like she was having just as much fun, if not more, as the kids!  That meant more to me than she'll ever know.  It is so nice having them just a short five minutes away.  Living hundreds of miles from family makes me especially grateful for this.

3) Soup!  Any kind!  There's just something about it that makes me feel warm and cozy and home!
Corn chowder with chilies & good old chicken noodle.
4) The rain.  The scent, the cleanliness, and its sign that a California winter is near.  We've had a little rain  throughout the week, and are expecting quite a bit more going into the weekend and early next week.  Call me crazy, but I wouldn't care if it rained every single day.  I love it that much.

5) A washer and a dryer.  Enough said!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Gratitude Day 14

Today I am grateful for:

1) This little man, a.k.a. walking fashion statement, who always insists on helping me pump my gas.

2) The alone time I spent with Chloe between 1:05, when she got out of school (minimum day), and 2:30, when we had to pick up Ryan from preschool. It amazes me how much better Chloe behaves when it's just the two of us. It was very pleasant, indeed. After we picked up Ryan, the kids played at the park for a while.    

3) Love notes to piano teachers, written in unexpected one's theory book!

4) Facetime with Neil during Chloe's piano lesson.

5) The generosity and talent of Chloe's piano teacher and her husband, who painted this canvas for her birthday. It meant THE WORLD to Chloe, and to me. Very thoughtful. She will treasure it forever.  Thank you, Brother and Sister Rook!

That was our day in a nutshell!  And I'm grateful for it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Gratitude Day 13

I'm not gonna lie.  Today was a pretty frustrating day.  The kids were rotten, didn't listen well, whined, bickered, lacked gratitude; the normal things that I'm sadly accustomed to, but not to the extent I experienced today.

Chloe had her well-check up this afternoon with a new pediatrician.  Her appointment was at 3:00, but we had to be there at 2:45 to fill out paperwork.  By 3:30, with paperwork long completed, the wait was beginning to get old. And it showed by the kids' behavior.  What started as poking each other and giggling quickly transpired into the two of them circling me, while chasing one another, exhausted and out of breath, yet still managing to squeak and squeal just enough to capture the attention of those nearby.  Most who noticed the kids just smiled and gave me an expression of empathy.  But one man took it upon himself to tell Chloe and Ryan that this was a waiting room, and that they needed to stop running.  Oh, joy.  I wonder if he knew we'd been sitting for 45 MINUTES STRAIGHT!  Thankfully, it was only five minutes later that Chloe's name was called and we were FINALLY accompanied back to exam room 9, where we waited some more!  By the time Dr. Grace finally made it in to see us, I was in a pretty foul mood.  The kids would not keep their hands off of anything, including each other, and it seemed like none Chloe's responses to Dr. Grace's questions were in my favor.

Dr. Grace (while asking Chloe about her eating habits): "Do you drink a lot of milk?  Or do you eat cheese or yogurt?"
Chloe: "Um, not really."
Me (surprised and appalled by her response when she eats a TON of cheese and yogurt and drinks a couple glasses of milk a day): "Well, Chloe, to start, you have cereal every morning.."
Chloe: "Today we had pancakes."
Me: "Okay, MOST mornings, you have cereal for breakfast, then a string cheese, sliced cheese and/or yogurt for a snack, not to mention milk at dinner."
Chloe: "I don't like the yogurt you just bought at the store."

Not only was Chloe speaking inaccurately, but she was making me out to be a desperate, positive-recognition-seeking mother who wasn't giving her child enough calcium.  Dr. Grace smiled through Chloe's remarks, so hopefully she didn't think I was a complete lunatic of a mother.

When the exam was over, Dr. Grace asked if I wanted the kids to have their annual flu vaccine.  I agreed, but of course that meant I now had to register Ryan as a new patient, which took another solid 15 minutes.  By the time we finally got out of there, it was 4:52.  That's just over 2 hours for a basic well check-up and two flu vaccines!  Needless to say, all three of us were grumpy.  And hungry.  So we stopped at Noodles and Company because it was relatively close, BOTH of my kids will eat it without a fight (and I desperately needed no fights), and, well, it just sounded good.  I was already irritated with the kids due to their rambunctious behavior and disregard for my authority, which I suppose I couldn't fault too much considering the 2 hours we spent sitting for practically no reason.  Still, I was irritated.  When we pulled into the parking lot and the kids started spouting off what they wanted, I told them that they would each get the entree of their choice, but that they would NOT be getting their own drink.  Sorry, but spending $1.79 for a small soda per child just doesn't appeal to me, and I wanted to establish upfront that it wasn't going to happen tonight.  Either they would share a drink, which I was perfectly happy to provide, or they could EACH have THEIR OWN water.  Immediately Ryan announced he wanted Sprite, while Chloe demanded that they have fruit punch.  I quickly concluded that unless they could agree on one or the other, they'd both be drinking water.  Ryan wasn't happy, but got over it before we'd even walked into the restaurant.  Chloe, on the other hand... Well, let's just say she did NOT act like a seven-year-old for the next twenty minutes.  Oh yes.  We had the whole crying match, complete with stomping up and down and almost (one tone down from) screaming at me that she wanted fruit punch, NOT water.  By this point it had become an issue of principle.  What kind of mother would I be to reward this ridiculous behavior, to give in and say, "Okay, go ahead and have the fruit punch after all," just to get the kid off my back and/or escape public humiliation.  I tried explaining this to her, but it only made things worse.  Just looking at her made things worse.  She clearly just wanted to be left alone, with a cup of fruit punch.  

After ordering our food, I brought the kids their waters, to which Chloe scowled and then cried out, "I. DON'T. WANT. WATER."  When after another 2-3 minutes things were only continuing to get worse, I decided it was time to leave.  So I had our food made to go and we walked out.  I don't know how I managed to stay calm all this time because I was honestly ready to beat my daughter senseless.  But as we pulled out of the parking lot and drove away, I explained that her behavior was unacceptable, and that it would have been a poor parenting decision on my end to let her have the fruit punch after the toddler act she pulled in the restaurant.  During the next 5 minutes we sat in silence.  Then, suddenly from the back seat I heard a faint and pitiful voice say, "I'm sorry, Mom."  Chloe then acknowledged her poor choices - really seeming to get it.  This brought me some comfort.  We talked a little more and I reassured her that she was loved and that there would be plenty of chances to show me that she could make much better choices.  By the time we got home, everyone was back to his/her happy self again.  We ate our dinner, did homework, practiced piano, read for 30 minutes and prepared for bed.

Wow, I was not planning to go into all of that.  I am positive I have put my readers to sleep, and for that, I apologize.  Let me get back on track now with my gratitudes of today.  They are as follows:
1) A healthy daughter, who weighs 46 pounds (25th percentile for weight) and measures 46 inches (25th percentile for height). :)

2) Pancakes.  These are the very pancakes which today took the place of the milk-filled bowls of cereal Chloe couldn't seem to remember that she eats for breakfast about 98% of the time.

Last night, Chloe asked if she could make pancakes in the morning.  So I let her.

3) Clean, crisp air and beautiful Fall weather.

4) Technology of today, which allows me to get where I need to go, be reminded of my to-do's, most of which I'd honestly forget without them, and facetime with my husband, who is in a different country.

5) Ryan's sweet little voice and the way he says, "Sure!" and "Thanks!"

And the other "cute" things he does, like this:

This is what happens when I leave the powdered sugar and this four-year-old darling unattended at the dining room table.  Have some powdered sugar with your pancakes, Ryan.

And finally, here are the best quotes of the day:

While at Walmart, I was asking Ryan if he'd given any thought to what he might get Daddy for Christmas.  When it became apparent that he might need a little coaxing for ideas, I added, "Is there anything you think daddy might like?" to which Ryan replied, "No, I think kids are the only thing that like toys.  Not grown ups." :)

Tonight, after pouring what was left of Chloe's milk into his glass of milk and Chloe overreacting (she must have been really sensing that milk-neglect she gets at home - ha!), I said to Ryan, "Please tell Chloe you're sorry," to which he replied, "
But Mommy, I'm tired of talking."

Then later, after I'd tucked the kids into bed for probably the third time, and was walking by Chloe's room, where both she and Ryan lay, the kids did what they do virtually every night: found any excuse possible to prolong the time before they dozed off to sleep.  They are relentless!  Here was one attempt documented:

Chloe: "Mommy, I know 3 synonyms!  Bye, goodbye and bye bye!"
Ryan: "Mommy, I want to tell you a question!  When I wake up, can I sleep in for a long time?"
Chloe: "Can we have ice cream for breakfast?"These 3 announcements were made in the order above, one right after the other.
Then a few minutes after that, upon Ryan deciding he now wanted to sleep in his bed and Chloe now wanted to sleep on his floor, Ryan asked me to heat up his rice bag.  We're talking 40 minutes after we have said family prayer and I have kissed them goodnight.  Very much fed up by this point, I say, "NO, Ryan!" to which he replied, "But my tiger is cold and needs a rice bag!"

Oh, my life.  It is not an easy one.  But it's a wonderful one. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Gratitude Day 12

I realize I'm missing a lot of days here.  It's because I have pictures and/or more in-depth explanations I want to include in those posts.  I have an ongoing draft with all the days you don't see published yet, and promise to share them all soon.  :)

Here are the things I'm grateful for today:

1) No school!!

2) Chloe's blessing on breakfast, and the remarks which followed:

"I like saying 'Our dear, kind, and gracious Heavenly Father' [when beginning a prayer].  Is that more polite than saying 'Our Father in Heaven?' Or 'Dear Heavenly Father?'"
"I think they all have a similar message, Chloe.  Any one of those is a beautiful choice."
Chloe: "Hey, and they're all synonyms!" :)

3) C.S. Lewis' wise words.  The combination of truth and eloquence with which he speaks is inspiring.  I am comforted every time I read his writings, and can't wait to 
hug him in Heaven some day.

4) A play date at the park with one of Chloe's classmates, her younger brother, who is a month and a half younger than Ryan, and their parents, with whom I instantly felt a connection.  Great, great people.  Both doctors, which at first intimidated me, but then quickly dissolved.  It's always fun making new friends.

5) These two monkeys:

And yes, Chloe has a shirt on her head and Ryan is wearing nothing but underwear and a cape.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Gratitude Day 7

First off, Days 3-6 are in the making, and will be posted shortly.  They've each been written, but need pictures to accompany.

Today (Day 7) I am grateful for:

1) A gentle, understanding, and knowledgeable dentist, who happens to be a 49ers fan, too!  

2) A father, mother, and mother-in-law, whose wise and hopeful counsel provides peace to my discouraged heart.

3) Kind and giving children, who think of others and not just themselves.  Today Ryan took it upon himself to select from a vast supply of Halloween candy, 2 Hershey's bars, 2 suckers, and 2 even-numbered snack-sized baggies full of m&m's, to give to his preschool teachers, Miss Rachael and Miss Merin.  Planned and executed by Ryan, 100%.  Sweet boy.  And a couple weeks ago, Chloe, out of the blue, decided to sew a doll blanket and pillow for her teacher's daughter, who is Ryan's age.  Mrs. Winston pulled me aside the day after Chloe had delivered the treasures, letting me know that her daughter would not go anywhere without that blanket and pillow and that Chloe's thoughtful act of kindness meant so much to both her and her daughter.  In Mrs. Winston's words, "I appreciate Chloe's giving heart."  Sweet girl.

4) A phone call, first, from my mother-in-law, requesting to talk to Ryan to wish him a happy birthday, followed by a phone call from my mom, calling to tell me Ryan's birthday card will not be getting to him in time for his birthday tomorrow.  Clearly, both Mama Susie and Mama Jill weren't quite on a ball today, as Ryan's birthday is neither today OR tomorrow, but FRIDAY.  I gave both of them a hard time but quickly assured them that they weren't the only ones who had gotten it wrong.  My mom explained that she thought today was Thursday, and knew Ryan's birthday was Friday, the 9th.  I believe her.  She is crazy with remembering special dates like I am.  I love these two women in my life, and am honored to call them each "mom," even if they do get mixed up with their favorite grandson's birthday.

5) Clean sheets, which I am on my way to bed to enjoy.  'Night!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Gratitude Day 2

Today I am grateful for:

1) The ability to think creatively.  Now if only that spark didn't wait until the day before a birthday party to kick in, I'd be in a better frame of mind right now, and probably in bed sleeping.  It's like writing a church talk or preparing a lesson.  I never get my inspiration until 24 hours (or less) prior to the deadline.  Thank goodness I can take a nap after Ryan's birthday festivities tomorrow.

2) General Conference, and the ability to watch and listen from the comfort of my home whenever I please.  We weren't able to see all four sessions live last month, but as I've found moments of quiet, I have enjoyed the convenience of catching up on talks here and there by the click of a button.  Tonight, as I filled goody bags for tomorrow's birthday guests, Dieter F. Uchtdorf serenaded my living room.  Last year, the night before Chloe's sixth birthday party, I did the same thing, and ended up listening to more than half of Conference from the month prior.  What a blessing to have this wonderful material and wisdom right at my finger tips, any time and for whatever purpose I need it.

3) My girl friends.  This evening, Misty and Lorilee drove through Sacramento on their way to Chico where they are doing a color run tomorrow morning.  They stopped and grabbed me for dinner, and it was great - just what we all needed.  When I got home I told Neil how I missed having really good friends close by. I have made a few here, and one in particular is extra special, but nothing can be compared to the connections I made in Ripon.  As much as I don't like being farther away from those friends now, I am grateful that we are close enough that we still make the effort to stay in touch.

4) Alone time with Chloe.  After school today, Neil was home and so I snuck off to do some birthday shopping for Ryan's party.  I really wanted to go alone, I'm not gonna lie.  But Chloe BEGGED me to let her come.  So I did.  And it was perfect.  She was such a delight, and we had some good quality girl time.  During our drive home, she said, "Mom, Adam and Eve were lucky."  When I asked why, she said, "Because they got to heaven first and got to spend a lot more time with Jesus than we will."  It sometimes amazes how she can think through something so complex.

Ryan, 4 weeks old
5) Photos.  Well, duh!  Of course I'm grateful for photos.  But it isn't just the photos themselves, it's the precious memories attached to them.  Today I spent a little time perusing older pictures of Ryan to display at his birthday party tomorrow.  It struck me, as I sat there smiling at his sweetness, the power of a photo.  Isn't it amazing how a single glance at one you haven't seen in three, six or eighteen years can instantly take you right back to the day it was taken?  I love that.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Challenge accepted, Beth: Gratitude Day 1

My sweet friend, who was once more of a "that's-what-I-want-to-be-like-when-I-grow-up" figure (young mother and teacher at my mom's school), has a blog that I follow and love to read.  People tell me I'm a good writer.  HA!  BETH is a good writer.  I could read her blog all day long.  Doesn't matter the topic.  She always sucks me right in.  In fact, if she wrote a book about the most boring event in our nation's history, I would still read it because she'd written it.

Among her amazing posts was one I stumbled upon tonight, on my way to bed.  In it, Beth mentioned a simple little word called gratitude.  You can actually read the post here, if you'd like.  Trust me, you will not be sorry you did.

At the end of said post, she challenged her readers to write down 5 things they are grateful for each day during the month of November.  Now I've heard of the gratitude journal concept in a variety of forms, but unlike the others, who inspired but did not convince, Beth succeeded in all aspects, and I accepted her challenge.  My blogging efforts have been down right pathetic as of late, and ironically, part of the reason for that is because I have felt ungrateful, and naturally lacking a desire to write about it.  The ironic thing is that it's often in our darkest hour that we recognize what we have, when we make the effort to look.  And writing is a good way to do that.  Said Beth, "On one of the worst days of my life I could see the beauty in that day."  And it's because she chose to write down the 5 things she was grateful for, even though initially she couldn't imagine coming up with even one thing!  I want to be better about seeing the beauty.  Sometimes I do on my own, but other times I need a reminder to look for it.  I think this is a great start to getting back on track with blogging and also having a more positive perspective so that I better recognize the beauty in an ugly situation.

Since it's late and I'm exhausted, I'll make tonight's list a short one and simply mention the first 5 things I'm grateful for today that come to my mind.

1) Neil.  In all forms.  His common sense, positive attitude, hard-working nature, patience, and the fact that he loves me and tells me so every single day.

2) Halloween is over.  Don't get me wrong.  I like Halloween.  But I'm glad it's over.  I am finding that the older my kids get, the more is expected of me around the holidays.  Halloween this year was no exception.  I was up until 3am night before last punching gift tags, making endless batches of muddy buddies (okay, four) and dividing them between 50 cellophane baggies for the kids' classmates.  Then there's the rice krispie treats I signed up to bring to Ryan's preschool Halloween party (because all the other sugary crap they were given wasn't enough), not to mention the batch of homemade rolls I somehow took it upon myself to offer to bring to a Halloween party we attended that night.  Why do I over-commit myself?  I suppose I could blame it on sleep deprivation.  Anyway, the kids had their fun, ate their candy and junk, got to knock on lots of doors, and I'm grateful that we're done for another year.

3) My faith.  This is something I've relied heavily on these recent weeks as election season has heated the country.  I have many friends whose political views oppose my own, and it has been difficult to not allow this reality to discourage me.  My faith, however, has not only strengthened my beliefs, but it has offered comfort as well as a greater desire to spread love, even to those who aren't so loving right now.

4) Lay's Kettle Cooked Jalapeno chips and Pepsi.  My weakness.  And, sometimes, when I'm tired but have to finish edited photos for a patiently-awaiting client, my strength.

5) Chase Ian Fleming, who graced the earth with his presence for the first time seven years ago today.  Born to a loving mother (and father), who had wanted him for a VERY long time.  This mother I speak of happens to be my best friend, so it's safe to say I was just a tiny bit overjoyed when I received that phone call around 9:00am on November 1, 2005 announcing Chase had come, and was, as Wendy described, "beautiful."  Happy Birthday, Chase!  I am thankful for you.

It really doesn't take much digging to think of 5 things to be grateful for each day.  Hopefully I can stay on top of this during the month of November.  It's gonna be a busy one, between the kids' birthdays, Neil leaving the country for a week, Thanksgiving, and other holiday preparations.  But I certainly don't need to write a novel every night, so I think I'll be just fine.  Until tomorrow...  

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Full heart

Tonight, Neil and I had a little heart to heart about something that's been on my mind, plans we've considered, our future, etc.  One of those talks.  There have been some extreme changes in our lives these past 2 months, including the re-alignment of Neil's territory, a move, selling our home, getting settled in a new area, doing our best to ensure happiness for the kids, despite the changes, and so much more.  With the chaos that's unfolded, there's been little time for heart to hearts.  So this one, I suppose, was overdue, and thankfully, productive. 

The details are irrelevant to this post.  Really I just want to say, because the fullness in my heart is so fresh, that I am eternally grateful for a husband who sees past my faults and just loves me.  From day one, Neil has done this.  He's just loved me, through it all.   

I recently stumbled upon this quote, and was amazed by how closely it resembled Neil.

“What really matters is that he will love you, that he will respect you, that he will honor you, that he will be absolutely true to you, that he will give you the freedom of expression and let you fly in the development of your own talents. He is not going to be perfect, but if he is kind and thoughtful, if he knows how to work and earn a living, if he is honest and full of faith, the chances are you will not go wrong, that you will be immensely happy.” - Gordon B. Hinckley

Happy 10th Anniversary, Mr. Andersen (37 days later).  Thanks for loving me.  I love you, too.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Happy Birthday, Courtney!

Please excuse my absence for the past month and a half.  We've had just a few things going on.  :)  More on that later.  For now, because I was a lame sister last year and had every intention of writing a birthday post, THEN DIDN'T, I must, before midnight tonight, pay tribute to my youngest sister (in-law - minor detail), who celebrates yet another birthday today!

Courtney Andersen: a girl who says it like it is; who knows what she wants and goes and gets it; who sends out thank you cards, even when it's not expected or necessary; who helps her niece with homework during family vacations (and shares her lollipops with her nephew), who knits and cooks and bakes; who, in two years, will be one wicked occupational therapist, and who, in two more years, will be the proud wife of Dr. Andersen, DDS.  Courtney remembers special dates, flosses her teeth daily, values the important things in life, loves her husband and dog, and is a great addition to our crazy family.

I'll have you know, Courtney, that we ate pizza for dinner tonight, followed by a freshly baked batch of pumpkin pie bites for dessert.  Let's just say, you weren't only celebrated in the South today.

When I said crazy, I was not lying.  It would not be the same without you.  {Lake Powell - September 2011}

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Tilden Park

Last Friday, the kids and I went with Heather and JD to Tilden Park in Berkley.  If you've never been, it's a great place to take your little ones.  This was our second time, and the kids loved it just as much as they did the first.  We rode the steam train, twice, played on the playground, fed the farm animals celery and lettuce, and rode the merry-go-round, also twice.  The kids had a blast, and it was wonderful being out of the heat.  On the drive up, there's an area to your left, where you can enjoy a stunning view of the San Francisco Bay.  Wish I'd captured it, but there's always next time.  Here's what I did capture!
That last shot of Ryan has to be one of my favorites of him to date. It tells such a happy story. Love it. It was a really great day. I am so glad Heather lives less than an hour from us.  We've enjoyed so many fun times in the two years we've lived in Ripon. Thanks again, cousin, for a fun last summer outing! 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Zoe London

Last Friday, the 27th, I spent a fair amount of the afternoon and evening at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto, where my friend, Janea, gave birth to sweet little Zoe London.  She had asked me weeks prior if I would photograph the birth, and naturally, honored and delighted, I said yes.  For as long as I can remember I've wanted to witness a birth, not to watch the bloody gore of it (I saw that in 10th grade Health class, not to mention experienced it firsthand with the birth of my own two), but to just be in the room when it happens; to witness reactions, facial expressions, the bonding between mother and babe, and simply take part in the wonderful and spiritual experience.  I have also, especially for the past six months, grown to love the idea of birth photography.  I am actually to the point, now, where I'd consider doing it solely if enough opportunities presented themselves.  The idea of capturing raw footage of such a glorious occasion, being surrounded by happy people anticipating the long-awaited arrival of a sweet, perfect, new baby, and being able to provide these people with treasured photos they'll hold dear to their hearts forever sounds rewarding beyond measure.  No huge concerns about exposure, perfectly posed shots or coordinated outfits, but rather the real and now of those precious and tender moments, which SO INSTANTLY vanish.  It seems there's a new movement with birth photography, and I really would love to hop on the bandwagon.
Well, while Janea wanted to attempt a VBAC, in the end, she had a c-section (for reasons irrelevant to this post).  The hospital had extremely strict rules, including only allowing 3 visitors in the room at a time, which explains why I spent several hours sitting in the waiting area surrounded by some of Modesto's most interesting residents.  At one point I was able to go back while Jared and Janea waited on the final word from the doctor.  I snapped some pictures, then headed back to the waiting area.  Shortly after that I came home for a couple hours.  Then, just before Janea was wheeled in for her c-section, I headed back.  I was NOT welcome by hospital staff to attend and capture this part of it, which we were all bummed about, but rules are rules.
And after little miss entered the world and Janea was taken to recovery, back I went to snap more pictures, this time of big brother, Taylor, meeting his new baby sister for the first time.  It was just so neat.  All of it. And, on a side note, I can now say I have watched Olympic Opening Ceremonies from a hospital waiting room!

Thanks, Jared and Janea for allowing me to be a part of this very special day for your family.  And welcome to the world, sweet Olympic baby girl, Zoe London!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Teeth and cucumbers

Chloe has been eyeing our two largest cucumbers for a week now, begging me to let her pick them.  Each day, though they've grown significantly both in length and width, I've felt that they could use more ripening.  Well, yesterday when we took a peek and noticed their monstrous size, I decided it was time.  The kids were delighted and each picked one, then proudly displayed them for a picture!

I didn't measure them, but I'm sure they exceeded 15 inches in length.  Despite the healthy size, however, I still worried that they weren't dark enough in color.  But I worried even more that if they got any larger, they'd start to split or rot.  Well, I got it wrong all the way around, unfortunately, because they were terribly bitter to the taste, at least a good 4 inches on either end.  I don't know if you've ever eaten a bitter cucumber, but trust me, it's very BAD!  I was sad, but thankful that the middle sections of each were fine.  Upon further research, it appears I let the cucumbers sit on the vine too long, hence the bitter taste.  Lesson learned!  This morning during our morning inspection, we picked 3 more cucumbers that were about half the size.  I just ate one and it was wonderful!

Here's another bit of exciting news from yesterday!  Chloe lost her second tooth!  This morning I snuck in her room while she slept to make sure the tooth fairy had paid her a visit.  Thankfully, she had.

And here's this morning's harvest! 

Every day I've had this garden I've learned something new. Yesterday's lesson? Don't let the cucumbers sit on the vine too long. Today's lesson? Our watermelons will likely need to be twice the size of the 13 inch baby above before they're ready. I didn't know how large they were supposed to be before harvesting because the little label/tag I stuck in the ground when I planted what was then 2 tiny stems has disappeared in the madness of my watermelon jungle. I don't even know what type of watermelons these are, again, because I can't find the tag, but since we literally have two dozen more (no exaggeration), I figured it wouldn't hurt to experiment with this one. I think after my experience yesterday with the cucumbers, I worried, too, that if I let the watermelons sit too long, they might have adverse events like the cucumbers did.  I lifted this watermelon off the ground, smelled it, knocked on it, and inspected it just as I inspect watermelons at the grocery store.   It appeared to possibly be ready, so I just figured why not and snapped it off the vine.  Well, upon cutting into it, I instantly knew my assumptions were premature, and that I should have let it bake for at least a week longer, and possibly more. It was completely white inside and flavorless. Oh well.  It still looks pretty sitting on the table with the rest of my garden goodies.  I read a few days ago that you shouldn't plant cucumber and watermelon next to each other because cucumber can give watermelon a funny taste. I surely hope this is incorrect, or that I'm just lucky because that's exactly what I did. Their vines have even intertwined. Again, I am learning something new every day.

The largest of the zucchinis exceed even the 11 inch one we discovered upon coming home from our Yosemite trip a couple weeks ago.  That's right.  This bad boy measured over 13 inches!  I would NOT have let it grow this large had I noticed it before today, but it just blended in so well with the rest of the plant that somehow I missed it until this morning.  It's a touch seedy on the inside, but not bad at all, thankfully.  I have more zucchini than I know what to do with, but have actually managed it pretty well.  I have several cups of shredded zucchini in my freezer ready for bread, spaghetti sauce or anything else.  And I'm trying to cook with it whenever I can.  It is so good for you, and I'm trying not to let ANY of it go to waste!

And the Andersen garden adventures, and, well, adventures in general, continue...

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Just another summer night

We've spent a fair amount of the summer in our yard.  Between the garden and pool, the kids have found countless ways to entertain themselves.  Last Thursday night was like any other; first tending to the garden, then slowly migrating toward the pool.  Between the warm air, perfect light and happy kids, I just had to sneak in the house to grab my camera.

I will certainly miss these warm summer nights.  I mean, how can you beat swimming until 8:30pm?  And while we're asking questions, how is it possible that school starts in one week?  Ahh!!  It goes too fast!