Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Merry Christmas

What is it about December? How does it bring out the best and worst in people all at the same time? I will be the first to admit that December brings a high amount of stress to my life...the worry that I'm forgetting someone's present; the chaos of shopping among a zillion other moms whose children are all screaming in different pitches - creating quite a dissonant chorus playing in the background (and sometimes the foreground) of my shopping trip; the guilt I feel when my bank account plainly shows me that I cannot buy what my husband really wants for Christmas; the frustration when half of my window lights go out; the pain of burning my fingers over and over with matches (but I love my candles so much!); the pressure to make the toffee and the fudge and the cakes and the cookies; the list could go on and on.

HOWEVER, I must also be the first to admit that I smile more, think of others more, pray more, and hug my kids more in December than any other month. This Christmas season has been the hardest (for the single fact that Brian has been gone on interviews for the better part of it) and the best I've ever had. Two Christmases ago, I was touched to a new depth by our Savior's love for us...and each Christmas since, I have been blessed to remember those feelings. Those feelings this year have been no different - however, a wonderful new element has been added: the magic has returned.

When I take a minute to think about my favorite Christmas sights I've seen this year, the first one that pops into my head is that of McKenzie's bright, wide eyes, cocked head full of curls, and big smile as she hears bells from 'Santa's sleigh' or learns that "Rudolph wants a CARROT?" Her excitement is contagious for Carson who, though he might not fully understand why things are so exciting, is full of energy and laughter. And I am happier, too. Small things give me greater joy (for example: I was running on a treadmill at the gym earlier today watching an Andy Griffith rerun with closed captions, and as the opening music started, the captions read 'whistling sprightly tune'. I broke out in a huge smile when I read the word 'sprightly' and looked around at my running neighbors to see if anyone was accompanying me in my joy. They weren't... so I enjoyed the moment alone).

This is a wonderful season. Full of stress and angry people, yes; but as long as I don't become one of those angry people, there is so much joy to be felt, so much laughter to hear, so much good to see.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Alder Updates

Time keeps getting away from me - it's been much too long since I've posted! The nastiest part of the human mind is that it forgets too quickly, and all the wonderful thoughts, funny kid sayings and stories I've had in the past couple of weeks have soaked through the 'retaining' barrier into the 'I'll never remember that again' darkness. This is why I write in my journal...this is why I take so many pictures to scrapbook...this is why I blog. What I write, I remember. And I want to remember everything.

So - on to remembering!

* Brian flew out to Miami earlier today for another interview, and while we were all in the car on our way to the airport, McKenzie asked, "Where are you going again, Daddy?" To which Daddy replied, "You remember. Where am I going?"
"Oh yeah!" she exclaimed, "You're going to your Ami.........but Daddy, what's an Ami?"

* Carson's new trick: he has learned where his belly button is! This is a major thing for us - we've been trying to teach him body parts for a while now...and he seems to finally be getting it. :) The belly button is, by far, my favorite part of the body to teach to kids. His face is so excited when he lifts up his shirt - but the best thing about it is that he can't really see his own belly button very well because of his big, round he pulls up on his belly, trying to catch a glimpse! And both of my kids have insisted on finding everyone else's belly button after their own............what a funny thing! McKenzie used to call hers her "Bee-bupt". Carson also knows where his nose is. But we're having a hard time distinguishing between the 'eye' and the 'ear' - so many things to learn!

* Carson's first word: "Tickle" Could there be a cuter first word? And everything else is a "Da" or a grunt. We have a long way to go. :)

* McKenzie's new favorite animal: flamingo. She constantly calls her brother a 'little flamingo'. I'm not sure where she even learned about flamingo's, but once she found out there was such thing as a pink animal, it was bound to be her favorite. Our new library book has a page with flamingo's - it took a while to calm her down after she saw the picture.

* McKenzie's new favorite game: Charades. This mixed with her new favorite animal is quite entertaining. Here's a slide show of us playing Charades with her aunt Michelle while she was out visiting.


Sunday, December 2, 2007

Crazy Christmastime!

The day after Thanksgiving the Christmas decorations break through their boxes! Here's a little slide show of us all decorating for Christmas.

Dang Dishes part 2

Well, I finally did the dishes the morning after my last post. I recruited McKenzie's help to unload the first load from the dishwasher (yes, I had two full loads...), and as she was putting the clean silverware into the drawer, she said, "Yaaaaaaaaaaaay! Now we can eat with whatever we want, whenever we want!"

Maybe having clean dishes is more important to her than I realized..... :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dang Dishes

Okay, it's no secret: I hate doing the dishes. That is why, on days like today when my husband has been gone for two days, the cupboards are empty and the sink is full. There are two reasons that Brian's absence makes this so - number one: he does a fair amount of the dishes, and number two: I try to do better keeping them clean when he's around because he cares a little more than I do about whether we're eating green beans with knives, or soup with baby spoons.

The utensils drawer has been empty now for over a day, so we've been making do with what we can. We have a plethora of baby spoons that are saved for such occasions (because Carson will never succumb to eating only one mouthful of food at a time), so I whipped out the last three of those to eat our pancakes with tonight. About halfway through the dinner, McKenzie gave a frustrated little grunt and said, "Mom, this is just not working." I looked over at her trying to balance a normal piece of pancake on the tiny spoon and realized that she's probably right.

"Ummmm...." I tried to think of a solution..... "OH!" I said. We could stab our pancakes with toothpicks! "I have a great idea!" And I jumped to my feet.
I heard an excited little gasp come from McKenzie that made me turn and look at her. Her eyes were wide with excitement, and her mouth was open in a big smile as she said, "You could do the dishes!"

I laughed out loud for about twenty minutes after that. And even now, remembering her face, I'm typing through bursts of giggles. Maybe she's right... Maybe I should just do the dang dishes.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving thoughts and pie problems

This Thanksgiving was SO great - my sister Michelle came to celebrate it with us, and it made it the best ever. We made a FANTASTIC trial-run pumpkin pie the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and I was pretty excited to discover my unrealized pie-making potential. :) I awoke early on Thursday morning to prepare the pie crust dough so it could sit in the fridge for an hour while we went to watch Brian play football in the ward Turkey would have been much more fun had the kids actually enjoyed it - but as it was, they cried most of the time, forcing Michelle and I to return home a little earlier than planned. McKenzie was in HEAVEN as she helped us roll the chilled pie-crust dough, and she was tickled that I was actually going to let her play in the flour! (See the pictures below)

We finished the pumpkin pie and also made a lemon meringue to take to our Thanksgiving dinner.

After the wonderful meal, I was so excited to bite into my pumpkin pie...(we had already devoured the other pie in just two days)...but after the first bite I thought, "Hmmmm...this tastes a little weird." I took another bite and unconsciously wrinkled my nose, "No...this is DISGUSTING!" I quickly sifted through the memories of my pie-making that morning to see if I could figure out the problem.

Sugar. The brown sugar bag sat untouched as I made the filling. Let me give you a quick bit of advice...DON'T FORGET THE SUGAR! Whoops. I thought it was a funny color coming out of the oven. Oh well - at least the meringue turned out well.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007


There are definitely some major downfalls to living thousands of miles away from family...but...I have to comment on one of the best things about it: PACKAGES! Whether it's a holiday package or just an 'I love you' package, few other things light up McKenzie's eyes like the package. (For a while, the mailman was McKenzie's favorite person - now, it's the garbage man, but that's a different story.)

The latest package happened to come from Nana and Poppy in Thailand - and it was a huge hit! McKenzie didn't put this umbrella down for an hour after we opened the package, and still today (a week or so later) she'll pick it up and carry it around for a while almost every day.

And the balls - well, I'm a little mad about the balls because they're a pain to clean up. :) But, all the neighborhood kids seem to love them!

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you to Nana, Poppy, Grandma and Grandpa (alright, who are we kidding - thanks to Nana and Grandma!) for the countless packages we've opened here in North Carolina. They really do bridge the distance and strengthen the love-bonds. :) (And who says you can't buy love?)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Peaceful Chaos

Okay, I'll admit - yesterday was one of those days that I didn't feel like holding Family Home Evening. My energy level was not up to par - and if it had just been me, the night would have slipped away without it. But, thankfully, it's not just husband is the better half at things like this and, at 7:00, he cheerfully asked us all to "hurry and help me clean up so we can have Family Home Evening!" I felt like a grumpy teenager as I dragged my feet into the living room.

It seems to hold true that whenever we have FHE when I really don't want to, the spirit is easier to recognize. I think that's because FHE always fills me with the spirit - so when I go into it with a grumpy heart, I notice the change as I go from empty to full; whereas when I have a happy heart from the beginning, it's not as easy to appreciate the small increase. (Now, it's true that sometimes the spirit has to fight it's way through fussy/hyper children who don't want to sit!)

Generally, I love Monday nights! And, despite the rocky start, last night ended up being no exception. Carson is finally starting to participate in the fun songs - I had to get a video!


After our very short lesson on the temple, we took our OtterPop treats up into Mom and Dad's room for the activity of watching some of the Duke basketball game together. (Can you guess whose idea that was?) I was SHOCKED at how special the kids thought that was! We turned off all the lights, cheered for Duke and ate our OtterPops for about 10 minutes before we decided that it really was time to get the kids into bed. We said goodnight to the Duke team and turned off the TV, leaving us in total darkness. McKenzie jumped into Brian's arms and said, "Hurry, Daddy! Hurry! We need to get out of this darkness. Hurry....hurry...." I opened up our bedroom door and a little bit of light from downstairs met our eyes.
"Whew!" McKenzie said, "That was close. We almost saw a monster!"

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Something's different...

These poor trolls were subjected to McKenzie's haircutting skills while she was alone in quiet time. I just thought they looked really funny!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Sisters, sisters...

...never were there such devoted sisters!

In case you were wondering, this picture was taken just after Michelle's performance...she generally does NOT wear this much makeup!

As most of you know - I flew out to Utah this past weekend to see my sister perform in the musical, "Urinetown". She was EXCELLENT...and every time she sang, goosebumps popped up all over my skin.

She didn't know I was coming until about 45 minutes before show-time -- She came into her dressing room and found me sitting in her chair with flowers. She froze - mid stride - cocked her head at me with a dumbfounded look and tried to figure out what was going on. "You'd better be good tonight," I said with one eyebrow raised, "'Cause I came a long way to see this." Immediately the dumbfounded look exploded into life, tears danced in her eyes, and she jumped up and down exclaiming, "YOU'RE HERE!!! You're REALLY HERE!!!" We hugged and cried and I realized just how much I miss my sister.

We're in two different phases in life right now - me with my own little family and her living up the college dream. And sometimes I let that get to me. But this last weekend I realized that we're still the same two people who had 'sleepovers' in the basement together, and built forts out of couches and blankets to sleep in; who watched old movies together, and read the credits in English accents; who created a whole new world with our stuffed bunnies, Bucky and Jessica; who played tricks on our little siblings together. She's still the same sister I tricked into drinking paint water, and into choosing the messier part of the basement to clean, and into thinking the pink insulation in the attic would "suck you up and shoot you out the chimney." She's still the same sister I ran to when my parents were mad enough at me to ground me for a whole month.

Hawaii 2002

There is something almost tangible about the bonds among my family. Bonds that will stay strong - even though the six of us live in four different time-zones across the world - even though we don't talk to each other as much as I'd like.

Tubing in the rain 2003.................................Thailand 2006

My favorite part of the restored priesthood is the sealing power. Because I love my siblings - and I can't imagine a heaven without them.

Christmas 2005

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

More from Halloween

Here's a slideshow about our Halloween day (well, some of it anyway). The pumpkin at the end was carved entirely by McKenzie - all I did was draw the face! (And I didn't even touch up at the end...are you proud of me?) Enjoy!

Don't forget to click on the speaker!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

You Really Love Me!

In the previous post, you see that McKenzie is a fairy. Do not assume, however, that this was an easy decision...

On the contrary, McKenzie had her heart set on being a fox for two whole months before Halloween. So, for two whole months, I wondered, 'How in the world am I going to make a fox costume?'

Being the procrastinator that I am, I didn't start shopping for the kids' costume materials until two days before the ward Trunk-or-Treat party. To make a long story short, I spent two hours in Wal-Mart - most of it searching for a way to turn my daughter into a fox - before I came out holding three shopping bags and feeling like I was pointed in the right direction. I spent the rest of the day (literally, the rest of the day) sewing an orange towel into a fox-suit. I had pictures of foxes up on the internet to guide my sewing (word to the wise: be careful when you google the image 'fox'...I guess 'foxy' is pretty similar - yikes!), and finally had an outfit for her to try on. She tried the fox costume on and glanced over to the pictures on the computer. From that moment on, she dissolved into tears every time we mentioned that she was going to be a fox for Halloween. 'WHAT?' I thought, 'ARE YOU KIDDING ME?'

I tried and tried and tried to convince her that being a fox would be the coolest thing ever - I guess she didn't realize how closely a fox resembles her archenemy: the dog. I think she got scared when she saw the pictures... She kept saying through her tears, "Mom, I just want to be a people for Halloween."

So, I decided to give it a rest for the night and talk about it the next morning.

The next day I took her to JoAnn Fabrics with me to get a zipper for Carson's skunk costume. Again, I tried to plant it in her head that foxes are cool - but she never has been one to be distracted or swayed.

At first, it wasn't even an option for her to be anything else - I had already put the time into the fox costume and that was that. She could be a fox, or nothing at all. This attitude was very clear to McKenzie, and pretty soon more tears were shed. And then, my attitude changed. It wasn't her tears that brought about that change (though, looking into those sad eyes was heartbreaking), but a little thought inside my head that said, "Your mom would have done anything for you." I remember that feeling of love I felt when my mom sacrificed some of herself to help me be happy. And as McKenzie looked at me with those tear filled eyes in the middle of JoAnn's, the love I felt for her swallowed me whole. I thought, 'If sacrificing a small part of myself can give her a small whiff of this love, then I guess I'm willing to do it.'

Let's not pretend that I wasn't still frustrated, but, we started to brainstorm. All of her other ideas were either too expensive, or would take too much time (this is, remember, the day before). But, finally, we were walking down the isle with the chiffon, and sparkley materials when her eyes lit up and she said, "Mom! I want to be a fairy!"

'Okay, we can do that,' I thought. She had a fairy dress-up that Nana bought her last year, so we bought some beautiful cream-colored material to make a long-sleeved shirt to go underneath it, some blue glitter and some sparkley pipe cleaners to make a wand. She was in heaven!

Having children of my own, I'm beginning to see more and more of the small sacrifices my mom makes; I'm realizing that it's not in a mother's intuition to sacrifice willingly; and I'm starting to understand - she does it all because she really does love me.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trunk or Treat

Alright - I'm finally getting around to posting the Halloween pictures from our ward Trunk-or-Treat party. I am a huge fan of Trunk-or-Treating...what a great idea to have all of the candy in one, consolidated place!

Carson was the most adorable little skunk you have ever seen in your life...

And McKenzie was a beautiful fairy.

By the end of the night, Carson was practically asleep. But, with all that candy in her system, Kenzie was, well......NOT so asleep.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Looking Older

"Mom, I think I'm getting wrinkles," I said.
"Wow," she replied, "Nothing makes you feel old like hearing your daughter say she's getting wrinkles."

My friend came walking down our stairs, holding her sleeping child, and she paused to look at my bridal picture. "I love that picture," she whispered, "I can't believe how much younger you look! Isn't it sad what kids do to you?"

Ummmm, yes. Let me get this straight - you think I look bad enough that I should be sad about it?

Well, it's true folks - I'm getting older. The lines around my smile don't seem to go away anymore...even when I'm NOT smiling. My freckles are darker than they used to be - and somehow not so cute. My forehead has permanent lines, and I fear the bags under my eyes are here to stay.

I always knew that I was going to get old and wrinkled - and this never bothered me before. But I think I neglected the fact that I'm getting older every day. That 25 would look different than 20 - even though those 5 years haven't seemed like very long. So I'm coming to grips with the fact that I'm just going to get wrinklier. :)

This wrinkle-thought has started me thinking on beauty and how we are completely dependent on what our own society says is beautiful. When I became a MaryKay consultant (which didn't last long!) I went to a couple of training meetings early on. I remember my director saying, "Selling cosmetics is a smart business to be involved in because there will always be a demand. Even during times of depression - ladies will be discouraged that they can't afford a new they'll buy a tube of lipstick instead." Yes, in America lipstick is beautiful. Wrinkles are not.

At the ward Trunk-or-Treat party last Saturday night, I overheard a 'Napolean Dynamite' father ask his 'princess' daughter, "Are you sure you want to wear those shoes outside?" I glanced down and saw that each foot had four toes shoved into a tiny high-heeled princess shoe...the fifth toe wouldn't fit, so it was hanging out the side on it's own. Her back heel was hanging an inch or so off the back of the shoe, but she shuffled a few more steps (with her back hunched over to absorb some of the pain) and said, "YES, Dad. I want to wear these shoes!" I giggled a little bit and the father looked up at me, shaking his head, and said, "The price you women pay for beauty..."

But again, the interesting thing to me is that the price I might pay for beauty isn't necessarily the price someone else might pay, and it might seem down right ridiculous to someone from another culture. My parents visited the Hill Tribes in Thailand and sent these pictures to me. Beauty, to these Thai women, is having a long neck. From an early age, girls wear these gold necklaces around their necks - adding one each year - to give them beauty. They often have cuts and sores on their shoulders and chins from rubbing against the necklaces; and if they take the necklaces off as an adult, they aren't able to hold their own heads up because of poor muscle tone. This seems ridiculous to me. But I wonder what they would say to some of our ideas of beauty. "They cut extra skin off their FACES??" "They RIP the hair off their bodies with wax?? Wait...the hair off of WHERE??"

So, I'm going to make my own society that says: aging is beautiful. My wrinkles show experience, laughter, and wisdom. My bagged eyes show 'motherhood' and, with that, the selfless service involved. My dark freckles show beach trips, camping trips, and other sunny vacations. I don't look like I did when I was twenty because I'm not twenty.

And I'm okay with that.

Friday, October 26, 2007


With deep remorse, I must remove the University of Utah from our 'Potential Homes' list. It seems that they don't want another white, Mormon male gracing their campus.

On a happier note, Brian is enjoying the interviews he's done so far. He has another one scheduled for next week, and then many more in November and December. We're starting to feel more confident that he will, indeed, match somewhere...though the possibility of NOT matching is still a small concern. Wish us luck for these next two months!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Only The Good Die Young

It is with a heavy heart that I announce the death of our yoga ball. Oh, the countless nights it assisted us in calming Carson back to sleep...

It will truly be missed...

Goodbye, old friend. :(

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Come one, Come all to the Fair!

North Carolina's State Fair is SO MUCH FUN! They have rickety rides, delicious candy apples, and enough deep fried food to make you sick for weeks. (The deep fried food has always been my favorite part of the fair!) This year we took our kids along and, I must admit, seeing their excited faces was more fun than eating all the deep fried snickers and funnel cakes in the world!


McKenzie was in heaven with all of these rides! Top Left: Swings! - I always loved the swings at amusement parks - it was so fun to see McKenzie enjoying them! Top Right: Roller coaster! This shot was taken in motion - you should click on the picture to see it full-sized...her face is priceless! Bottom Left: This fun little car rode around a track and whipped them around the corners. Cameron and McKenzie screamed and laughed the whole time! Bottom Right: The train. This was the cool-down. Nothing very spectacular about this - unless you count the worker who looked as though he was trudging through molasses the whole time. (Look alive, man!)



Monday, October 22, 2007


One of the best things about being in North Carolina is autumn. Unlike Utah, where every tree is planted and every patch of green has been bought, North Carolina is consistently being threatened to be taken over by our chlorophyll-containing companions. I see landscapers cutting branches away from wires, pulling new little trees from the ground, and picking up acorns to discourage any unwanted growth. The highways and freeways are flanked by tall trees, and many roads are completely tunneled over by thick, beautiful branches.

This makes autumn incredible. I was driving down the highway last week searching for turning leaves, and as I came around a little bend in the road, I saw one brilliantly orange tree standing among great, giant evergreens. It was quite alone in it's flamboyance, and I thought to myself, "I feel like that tree." Not that I'm flamboyant in the least - but I do feel 'different' sometimes.
And, it's not always a good different either. I often say things that are dumb, naive, or not very well thought out - and those things tend to put me in an uncomfortable spotlight. And at those times, I wish my orange leaves looked a little more green.

But that little orange tree was never meant to be an evergreen. And it displayed it's orange leaves with confidence - and because of that, it was breathtaking. I hope that someday I will be able to display my orange leaves with confidence; to be who I am without apologies; to not be ashamed to ask questions about simple things I don't understand; to never pretend to be someone I'm not; to think before I speak...and if I don't, to apologize quickly and admit that I wasn't thinking; to understand that my differences will not be appreciated by everyone, and to be okay with that.

And ultimately, to someday realize that I am as spectacular as that little, orange tree...

Don't tell ME what's not funny!

On our drive home from the beach, McKenzie needed to make a pit stop in the middle of nowhere. Translation: we're peeing in the trees!

After Brian had taken her, he opened her door to put a laughing McKenzie back into her car seat. "McKenzie, it's not funny," Brian said as he buckled her in, "You peed all over my foot."
McKenzie didn't stop laughing and said very matter-of-factly, "Dad, it is funny...It's really funny."

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Emerald Isle

I could never spend too much time at the beach - provided with enough sunscreen, that is.

We sadly managed to escape without a single family picture - whoops! But we DO have individual pictures - so that'll have to do:

This might be one of my favorite pictures of Brian! It's completely candid...but looks so posed!

The kids were in love with Popsicles the whole time we were there. (Who isn't in love with Popsicles?)

The high winds made the waves SO fun for the kids to play in! There was a thick layer of foam left on the sand each time a wave would drag back into the ocean - McKenzie loved to stomp on all the bubbles!

Group Shots

I have decided that sand is a messy boy's dream.

McKenzie wrote her name in the sand - all by herself!

The last day at the beach is always the nicest...

Waving goodbye to the dolphins

The End