Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Friends at last...

I wish I had snapped a few photos sweet Claire during the first 5 days of my trip--all I had to do was look at her and she would scream and turn the other direction. She had a runny nose too, and I was the lucky one to come at her with a kleenex way more often than she was comfortable with. Slowly, we warmed up to each other, and by the end of my trip, we were friends. It may have been that she didn't have any other options of people to be with, but I took what I got. We even shared some creative sloppy kisses and lots of laughs.
This picture is me with Liv and Coleman just before my sis Lindsey took me to the airport. I was so lucky to have good friends and family to take care of my kids during the day so I could go to help Lauren. And of course I have to mention my Ry, who did all the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and kid care on the weekend and evenings so I could go.
This is me with Claire just before our outing to the store the day before I left--it was high adventure at the Super Wal-Mart. I've never had a cart so full in my life, but I guess I've never shopped for a family of 8 before either. All the shoppers and employees were so friendly (way to go North Idaho!) and made so many comments on how cute and well-behaved she was. I probably could have been a little more forth-coming and told them she was my NIECE and not my daughter, but I was just thrilled that she was happy, so I didn't want to spoil the moment.
This is me with Grace, Claire, and Lauren the morning I left. Doesn't Lauren look great? After a near-death experience (her 3rd in a few short years) just a week before, I think she looks spectacular. She is one strong woman with some pretty important stuff to do on the earth, because she keeps living through some harrowing moments.
Here is sweet baby Grace Ella. My camera does a funky flash thing for a few seconds before snapping the picture, so we didn't get any photos without her trying to shield her eyes from the light. This babe is so mellow and calm, which is a huge blessing for Lauren. I was half-tempted to hop the border to Canada with her, but alas, she belongs with her mama and brothers and sisters. If only we could get their clan to move back to Utah!

When it was all said and done, it was a week of work and fun and sleepless nights, good conversations, and thankful prayers. I am so glad I could be there for Lauren. I know she'd do the same for me or any of our other sisters if we were in her shoes. It gave me a lot of perspective about empathy and stepping in to someone else's life. Lauren's family is so blessed to have her, she is amazing in so many ways, and we are all grateful that she is still here with us.

Quiz for the day...

You Are Black Pepper

You may be considered ordinary by some, but you're far from boring.

You elevate the mood of any discussion, and people miss you when you're not around.

You are secretly very dominant and powerful. Most can only take you in small doses.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sleep well, Tinkerbell....

This is how I say goodnight to my Liv, and she responds with "You too, bugaboo." To Coleman, I say "All set, Boba Fett?" (his favorite bad guy from Lego Star Wars), and he says, "All set, Mommy Fett" or some other nonsensical response. This is after family prayers and after we do our belly bounces and after I have tucked them in with lots of hugs and kisses. This silly bedtime routine is one of the things I miss most about being home with my cute kiddoes this week.

I flew up to Spokane, WA on Friday to help my older sister Lauren who had a life-threatening emergency c-section of Thursday night. She found out Wednesday that she had placenta previa and Thursday she staretd to bleed out. Very luckily she was in the hospital, or it is unlikely that she or her sweet baby girl Grace (fitting name!) would have survived. She lives in northern Idaho (Sandpoint) and has five other children--Claire is just barely one and she has decided that I am her arch-nemesis. Lauren came home from the hospital tonight and is doing okay, but still really weak and tired. I have learned lots of things while on this trip:

  • I am not cut out to live 15 miles away from shopping areas, nor am I cut out to live down a dirt road.
  • I am not cut out to be in charge of teenagers (heaven help us all when Liv and Coleman reach that stage!).
  • I am really bad at guessing how much food I need to prepare for more than 4 people (you'd think with a catering background I'd be better, go figure!).
  • I really don't like bugs, mice, or other animal wildlife. I keep expecting to glance out the window and look at a wolf or bear (hasn't ever happened to me, but it has happened here before).
  • I am spoiled in many, many ways.
  • I am definitely a city girl.
  • My "overwhelmed" feeling with my own dishes and laundry and stacks of mail and papers pales in comparison to what I've experienced the last few days.
  • I'm not so sure what to do with newborns anymore.
  • I used to think I had "a way" with young kids. I was wrong.
  • I really don't like being away from my little family, for many reasons, including missing our bedtime routine.
Basically, to sum it all up, I am woefully unprepared and ill-equipped to live my sister's life. She does it well, graciously with a smile, and loves it. She is amazing, for so many reasons, and her children and husband are very blessed that she is still around. I am glad too--she's my sister and one of my closest friends--and although I've been stretched in many ways while here, I am so glad that I can help in some small way.

**Do you have any silly bedtime routines?
**Would you be able to (or want to) live out in the woods?
**What store would you miss most if your only shopping options included gas stations, Hallmark, or SuperWalmart?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Teaching Moments

My good friend Lula Mae over at A Force For Good invited me to collaborate with her on a monthly series on her blog called "Faithful Thoughts". Below is my post for this month--check her blog in the next few days for the other two contributions. Both ladies are amazing and full of great insight. You won't be disappointed!

This month I wanted to talk about teaching moments with our children. It has been said that children are like sponges and soak up everything around them, which is very apparent to me with my children.

In our family we have some formal opportunities to teach—family home evening, family scripture study, and family councils—but I find that the informal opportunities come up more often and are generally more effective. Children’s very nature of being inquisitive and eager to learn opens up so many opportunities to impress on their little minds the important things of life. My kids are still young (4 ½ and 6 ½) so their questions are still pretty simple, but we’ve tried to set a precedent of answering all of their questions simply and honestly, so that as they grow older they will always feel they can come to us and that we’ll be straight with them.

Some of the best times for teaching occur during our family meal time. There are studies that show that families who eat at least one meal a day together have children who are much less likely to engage in premarital sex, use drugs and alcohol, cheat, and a participate in a whole slew of other bad stuff. Right now, with young children it is pretty easy to make sure we eat together often. I know that as they grow older and their schedules get more demanding, it will be more difficult, but I am committed to keep family meal time a high priority. Just the other day, Olivia asked me at dinner how eggs become chicks. This turned into a good opportunity to open the door to talk about where babies come from—not a subject that I feel particularly comfortable talking about, but one I definitely want my kids to hear from ME, not kids on the playground and definitely not from the media.

Another great time for teaching occurs when we are traveling in the car—I admit freely that I use our DVD player in the van to entertain them more often than I should, but when we have it turned off, the kids really want to converse and ask questions. Conversation in the car can and should be times that we teach our children.

Another opportunity for teaching comes when we are watching TV with our children. I am not advocating in any way that we allow our children to watch the smut that fills the airways in the later evenings, or even most of the material that is on daytime TV (those news shows cover some pretty heavy topics!). However, the children’s shows that our kids watch bring up subjects like bullying, serving others, being kind, people with different challenges, and other issues that I want my kids to learn about. I love that on “Dragon Tales” a brother and sister have to learn to get along while they have adventures with dragons in a very imaginative land. I love that on “Higglytown Heroes” the kids learn about different professions and ways that people help each other out. I even love that my kids are picking up a bit of Spanish from Dora and Diego. Again, not advocating that we use TV as a babysitter (guilty as charged), but that we can use TV shows as conversation starters.

Of course all of these and others are great ways for us to vocalize teachings to our children, but I also believe that much of their learning comes from watching us and seeing how we live, speak, and act. Their little ears hear what comes out of our mouths when we talk with friends or family or even the guy on the freeway that cuts us off. They see how we react when a loved one is going through a hard time or when a neighbor is in need. They learn how to be polite by observing us being polite. They watch how we fulfill (or don’t) our community and church responsibilities. They see how we show love to those around us. They mimic me in action and word, which shows that they learn by watching me, for better or worse. This isn’t to say that I am always the greatest example for them, but I hope that by being aware that they are watching and learning and soaking it all in, I can be better.

**Can you think of other great teaching moments?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Dip Ahead

Hooray for fruit! I referred in my last post to loving fresh fruit with fruit dip, here are a few favorites:

Bit O' Honey Fruit Dip

8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
English toffee bits (Skor)

Beat cream cheese, sugars, and vanilla together until smooth and creamy. Stir in Skor bits (available by the chocolate chips). It's also yummy with Heath bits which have chocolate!

Yummy Fruit Dip

1 7 oz. jar marshmallow cream
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 to 2 cups powdered sugar
1 to 2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract

Use a hand mixer to blend marshmallow cream and cream cheese. Blend in powdered sugar, vanilla, and almond extract. Serve with fresh fruit.

Strawberry Dip

Dip washed, whole strawberries in sour cream, then in brown sugar. Delicious!

Cool Whip Dip

1 small pkg. instant vanilla pudding
1/2 to 1 cup orange or pineapple juice
1 tub cool whip (thawed)

Use a fork or whisk to mix pudding and juice until it's smooth, thick, and pasty. Fold in cool whip. Serve with fresh fruit or mix with fruit cocktail and mandarin oranges for an easy fruit salad.

**Do you have any good fruit dip recipes (feel free to share the recipe in the comments)?
**What's your favorite fresh fruit?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Me! Me! (I've been tagged!)

My cute sister-in-law Laura tagged me a long, long time ago and I just got tagged again by my friend Sally with something similar, so I am sure it's the universe's way of saying you all want to know all about me :). I sort of combined the two to give you these gems about me:

What I was doing 10 years ago:
1. Finishing my mission in Chile, I was in Belloto!
2. Training Hermana Bryson from Layton. Like the other missionary I "trained", I am sure that I learned much more from her then she did from me.
3. I spent a Sunday morning being mad at the members in our ward for being late, late to church and not opening the gate or building. Turns out, we had forgotten daylight savings time and arrived a whole hour EARLY.
4. Wondering what on earth I was going to do when I came home.
5. I spent much of my time savoring the friendships and yummy foods, treats, sights, and sounds of Chile. I was already starting to feel sad for all that I was going to leave behind.

What I was doing Five Years Ago:
1. Enjoying Olivia (1 1/2).
2. Incubating Coleman (thanks, Sally for the great term incubating :)).
3. Getting ready for a trip to Disneyland with Liv while Ryan ran off to Chile with his mission comp Russ.
4. Serving as RS Enrichment Counselor (hardest job ever!).
5. Still wondering what gender Coleman was--neither of our children liked to show their goods to our ultrasound techs.

1. Updated the Utah Breastfeeding Coalition website.
2. Went to Olivia's freezing cold soccer game.
3. Ran errands during my gloriously free couple of hours, although I missed Eliza who usually spends Thursday mornings with me, but she didn't come because she was sick. I hope she and her mama get better soon!
4. Worked on bridal shower invitations.
5. Watched great TV with Ryan (The Office, Scrubs, 30 Rock, and 4400).

Five Things on my To Do List today:
1. Paint my toenails.
2. Clean house for guests that are coming tonight to watch kiddoes while Ry and I run away for a day.
3. Laundry (every day? Come on!)
4. Deliver Coleman to his lunch date with his bethrothed (Addie).
5. Go to Costco.

Five Snacks I Enjoy:
1. Haagen Daaz dark chocolate ice cream bars.
2. Frozen Thin Mints.
3. Great Harvest oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.
4. Sour apples and sour peaches (best candy ever, really hard to find!)
5. Fresh fruit and yummy fruit dip (I have several good recipes, I'll post them soon!).

Five Things I would do if I were a Billionaire:
1. Buy a new house and pay off mortgages of family and friends
2. Go to Italy (Ryan and I would really like to go next year for our 10 year anniversary).
3. Nice, cushy college fund for kiddoes.
4. Set up vacations for the rest of my life.
5. Shop til I dropped (furniture, clothing, home decor, you name it, I'd buy it).

Five of my Bad Habits:
1. Clutter!
2. Perfectionism (I know, it seems that clutter and perfectionism cannot go hand in hand--which indeed causes great strife in my soul).
3. Emotional eating.
4. Judging others.
5. Procrastination--maybe it's a good habit? I seem to work better under pressure, so I usually don't do things until the deadline is imminent.

Five places I have lived:
1. Spokane, WA
2. Novi and Birmingham, MI
3. Riverside, CA
4. SLC and Logan, UT
5. Storrs, CT (for an internship in college for 2 months)
6. Chile (had to throw it in, the most exotic place on the list!)

Five Jobs I've Had:
1. Meier's Prime, baby (catering, deli) Once I went to a flower store and the employee sniffed and asked if I smelled pizza. That would have been ME smelling like pizza. Nice.
2. Food science lab tech at USU.
3. Nutrition Through The Life Cycle lab instructor at USU.
4. WIC dietitian and clinic manager.
5. Mom (best job ever, though the monetary compensation is lacking :))

Five TV shows: (So hard to narrow it down, I love TV, but I'll list that which we are enjoying currently)
1. 4400 (Sadly, a cancelled series, but we have been loving it)
2. Battlestar Galactica (Yay! New episodes started last week!)
3. Lost (Sometime soon there should be another new episode, right?)
4. Medium (Yes, that would be FOUR science fiction shows, in a row. Never thought I'd be a sci-fi fan, but there it is... I love Allison and her very normal marriage and family and life. It's cool too that she's a psychic)
5. The Office (hooray, it returned last night with a hilarious new episode)

Alright, so now I'm supposed to tag five people--but I'm having a hard time deciding who... if your name isn't on the list, but you want to play, please do! If your name is on the list, and you really just don't want to play, that's okay too, no offense will be taken :).


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Sweet Liv

My sweet Liv just lost her first top tooth (bottom two have been gone for a couple of months, after we realized that she had shark teeth growing in behind them!). She is already almost 7 years old, which is so hard to believe. There are so many great things about my Olivia, and her nickname "Sweet Liv" fits her well because not only does she have a sweet tooth like mine, she loves to help people in any way she can.
Sometimes Liv and I like to dress alike. Just yesterday when we were talking about families we know with twins, Coleman said, "We have twins in our family, because Mommy and Olivia like to look the same."

Olivia likes to help around the house, well, she usually likes to help around the house. She puts her clothes away, but sometimes gets sidetracked figuring our which outfits go together. She's really good at putting silverware away and helping with dinner and the dishes. She and Coleman were talking about what it would be like when they were older and married. They decided that Olivia and Coleman's wife would make food and do dishes while Coleman and Olivia's husband played on the Wii or Playstation. I tried to let them know that the girls could play too while the men worked, but Olivia was insistent that she would be happier working in the kitchen, because video games are "you know, boring." I couldn't agree more! That said though, Olivia is really good at most of the video games she does play. Liv is a really good friend to all those around her and is always looking out for people that might need extra help. She listened to Elder Ballard's talk with me again and since then has been intent on saying thank you for any little thing I do for her. She has a strong testimony of the gospel and loves to share it during our Family Home Evening. She loves to help take care of younger kids and plays really well with her brother. Last summer when she cut all her hair off, she donated it to Locks of Love, which was a really cool thing to do. For these and so many other reasons, I'm so glad that Liv is mine!

**Additional thoughts: since when do 6 year olds have crushes and boyfriends? She brought home a note from school today from Cade's friend which said "Cade has a crush on you, do you have a crush on him?" and last month had a note from Ethan which said "Olivia, I love you SOOOOO much." Now she's faced with a monumental decision--Cade or Ethan? Goodness!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Conference April 2008

I love General Conference weekend. This time around, I was waiting for the "one talk" that was just for me--there were so many wonderful ones, and I felt that so many hit home, particularly the talk by Elder Ballard. I loved that he quoted Anna Quindlen:

"Author Anna Quindlen reminds us not to rush past the fleeting moments. She said, "The biggest mistake I made as a parent is one that most of us make. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs... I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing--dinner, bath, book, bed--I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less."

I also loved the questions he posed:

"What can a husband do to support his wife and the mother of his children?
First, show appreciation and give more validation for what your wife does... notice things and say thank you more often.... schedule some evenings together...
Second, have a regular time to talk with your wife about each child's needs.
Third, give your wife a day away now and then--just take over the household and give your wife a break from your daily responsibilities.
Fourth, come home from work and take and active role with your families...

"What can a child do?" (I loved how he invited the children to listen carefully)
Pick up your toys... make your bed... help with dishes, and do other chores without being asked. Say thank you more often.... most of all you can put your arms around your mother often and tell her you love her."

I love that although we have to wait a very long time until the Ensign comes out, we can listen to talks from General Conference already, and by tomorrow, they will be available online in text form!

**How do you make sure to treasure the doing rather than the getting it done?
**Were any other talks particularly inspiring to you?

Coleman's Quips (04/06/2008):

I don't want you to donate me. (After a discussion on people's bodies being donated to science for research purposes)

Mom, you should become a chef, because then you would be a good cook!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Easter 2008

One thing that was new this year was coloring eggs--we usually do it at my mom's house, but this year we did it at home. None of us like hard boiled eggs (although Coleman was dead set on trying one, he was sure he would love it--he's a pretty picky eater, so I was sure he would NOT love it, but we let him taste it anyway--he was not impressed!).
Not a usual Sunday activity, but Ryan thought it would be fun to take some pictures on the trampoline that we inherited from his parents when they moved (thank you, thank you!!) although I'm still hoping we get pads and a safety net for it before I'll feel a little safer having it. Love Liv's bouncy curls!

I love this picture of Cole studying his shadow.
Handsome dad and kiddoes.

**Did you do something special to teach your kiddoes about the real reason we celebrate Easter?
**Are you ready for sunshine???

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

On this day...

...nine years ago, I went to a mission reunion with my mission buddy Boyce. We were going to start some rumors by holding hands and acting like we were dating, but chickened out in the end. While we were there, a tall blond guy sitting on the stage said to me, "Aren't you Hermana Cole?" with not too nice undertones. He had to remind me that he was Elder Harper from Tooele, and then he reminded me how we had met about two years before on the side of the road near Coquimbo, Chile.

He likes to tell a different version of the story, but I'm the one with the blog, so this is the one you'll get. It was his first transfer, and he rode the bus overnight to the northern part of our mission (Chile Vina Del Mar) where he believed his companion would be waiting for him. The problem came in that he never actually spoke to his new companion, and the bus route he was on dropped him off on the side of the highway rather than at the bus terminal in town, where ALL the other missionaries were dropped off and met by their companions. He didn't know the difference, so got off the bus, with his luggage and sat and waited for his companion to arrive. He saw a truck pass by with four Elders, who waved and went on their way. Enter me. I had just picked up my new companion (who had had the sense to call me and make arrangements to meet at the terminal) with a member in her little red Toyota Tercel. It was a small car, but as I looked to the side of the highway and saw a tall, blond gringo with an overcoat and two suitcases, I was pretty sure it was a missionary, and that maybe he needed help. I asked the hermana to stop, and as we pulled over, I rolled down my window and confirming that he was a missionary, asked him, "Elder, where's your companion?" Of course my intentions were only to help the poor, stranded missionary and I really tried to muster compassion, wondering if his companion was on his way or if he might need a ride. The missionary, however, believed that I was calling him to repentance for breaking rules and being all by himself (something silly about a mean tone of voice, a glare or two, etc. etc.). Despite all of that, he accepted our offer to drive him to the bus terminal, so we packed him and his luggage in the already crowded car and delivered him to his companion. The next day at our zone meeting, we met again and when I found out he was from Tooele I asked if he knew a certain guy that had broken my heart just before my mission. He said he played soccer with his brother and that he was a cool guy. I didn't like him very much after that (in addition to the fact that most of the Elders were really immature anyway) and his dislike for me grew as well. He thought I was bossy and snobby and all-around not very nice. I was transferred out of the zone after a month, and he even wrote in his journal about my testimony, that I had said how surprised I was to actually have learned something from the Elders.

Fast forward to the mission reunion... I hadn't realized how much he disliked me, but his question, "Aren't you Hermana Cole?" made it all clear. With fresh eyes and no mission rules, I thought he was pretty cute (okay, really cute) and I guess he thought I was pretty cute too. We spent some time talking to our mission president's wife (Hermana Killian) who asked which one of the Elders I was going to marry. We all laughed and she asked Ryan and Boyce what fields they were going into--Ryan was studying computer mumbo jumbo and Boyce was going to be a teacher, so Hermana Killian said I'd be better off with Ryan, since he'd make more money. It was all really humorous. After the reunion Boyce and Ryan and I ate pizza at the Brick Oven with another Elder (can't remember his name, someone from Alaska?) and I invited them to breakfast and to watch General Conference at the duplex on Sunday morning. I have to confess, I wanted to have lots of cute boys at my house that morning because there was a guy from the singles' ward I was trying to ditch, but I also thought Ryan was really cute. We didn't end up listening to too much of General Conference, but Ryan and I really hit it off. After a few short months, we went to Hermana and President Killian's house to tell them we were engaged, and although they were happy for us, poor Hermana Killian was so distraught for Boyce because she was sure he was in love with me.

Nine years later, I am grateful that Ryan had the guts to approach me at our reunion, even though he was pretty sure he didn't like me at all.

Now that we've been married for so long, we are both assured that our first impressions were dead-on--I'm bossy, and he's just a bit immature (see previous post on April Fool's pranks)--but we love each other anyway and are so glad to be together. Here's to nine years, sweetie!

**Do you remember what you did nine years ago today?
**Could I have had any better luck at my reunion?

April Fool's Funnies

Yesterday we woke up to upside down pictures, clock's turned off or with the wrong time (military time, or as Liv called it "Limitary Time"), corn pops in the rice chex box, purple milk, Olivia's stuffed animal collection staring me in the face in my bed, missing towels when I got out of the shower, bowls and glasses in the wrong spot in the cupboards, silverware missing (in the oven!) and one Daddy who couldn't stop laughing at his jokes. At bedtime the kids also found books, toys, and shoes in their beds and under their pillows. Olivia was disappointed that she didn't get MORE jokes played on her, so next year, we're in for more fun! She "got Dad back" by emptying his basket of clean socks in his side of the bed and she and Coleman spent the day telling silly jokes and yelling "April Fool's." They were both disappointed to learn that April Fool's Day is only a one-day holiday.

**What did you do to celebrate April Fool's Day?
**Any great ideas for us next year?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

And the winner is...

Traci!!! I only wish that I could bring them to you myself because I desperately want to get out of town and see you and your cute Lucy, but alas, I am still Utah bound, so I'll have to mail them to you. It seems fitting that Traci's name was drawn randomly, because just today Ryan and I got a piece of really good mail from her--thank you Traci!

I wish I had enough time and materials to make cards for you all... but thanks to all for playing... and stay tuned for another drawing to come your way soon!

Coleman's Quip (3/30/2008): We were going to have banana cream pie for dessert and I asked if he wanted some. He said he didn't like it and I told him he'd never even tasted it before, so how did he know? His response: I tasted it in heaven, and I didn't like it there, so I just gave it to you. At least the kid's got a good memory, right?