Monday, November 30, 2009

Of Choirs, Mouthwash, and Superkid

Nice to see a few summer flowers on a cold, dreary day like today.

I had fun at church yesterday.  I'm always glad to be at church, but it isn't fun every Sunday.  This could quite possibly be because for the past while, the Bionic Man has not been able to sit with us during the congregational meeting.  He is in the bishopric (translation for non-Mormon readers: he is an assistant pastor) so he sits near the podium.  Many Sundays, just as I begin to enjoy the speakers, I see my husband wiggling his eyebrows and tilting his head in the direction of Superkid.....who, unbeknownst to me, is in the process of climbing over the pew, letting the baby on the pew in front of us feed her his cheerios, trying to somersault her way across the bench she is sitting on, or otherwise entertaining herself in some equally irreverent--not to mention dangerous--way.  The other two children have grown to be quite civilized during worship services, but Superkid still has a spirit that is too big to be contained quietly for long by her little body.

Anywho, perhaps it was the additional adult support on our bench provided by Aunt Lisa, who was visiting us for Thanksgiving.  She kept Superkid occupied during choir practice before church and during our congregational meeting.  (Thank you, Aunt Lisa!)  I really had a chance to listen to our speakers, and they had such well-prepared, insightful messages.  Always nice to walk out of the meeting feeling as if you've been to a spiritual feast.

Choir practice was fun yesterday, too.  Have I mentioned that I am the choir director?  I love being choir director.  It is so fun to tell people what to do, and not have anyone accuse me of being bossy.  Director=Boss.  I especially enjoy telling people to sing.  Sing loudly.  With feeling.  I even get to tell them when to breathe.  (My choir doesn't get to breathe unless there is a comma.  I'm very demanding.)

Of course, Primary definitely contributed to the overall good time I had yesterday.  Have I told you how much I love going to Primary?  (Translation for non-Mormons readers: Primary is Sunday School for children 3-12.)  I was in charge of the lessons for the two large groups of children (translation for Mormon readers: I did Sharing Time.).  We were learning about how service can bless ourselves and others, and how we can serve within our own families.  I had some of the younger children come up to the front of the room and play charades: they silently acted out an act of service while the other children guessed what they were doing.  One little girl pantomimed making her mother's bed.  Another little boy pretended to rock his baby sister.  The last child stood before the group and stuck his hands in his pockets, puffed out his cheeks with air, and moved his lips around a little bit.  I thought he had told me beforehand that he would be cleaning his room.....I wondered if this was how he cleaned his room (must drive his mother nuts!) or if it was just stage fright.  But the other children were enthusiastically guessing as this little boy stood there with puffed cheeks and I tried to decide what to do.  "I know!  I know!"  one of the children waved a hand, "He's using mouthwash!"

Remember, the lesson was on service.

The little boy un-puffed his cheeks and nodded proudly.  He was using mouthwash!  I really could have laughed a great, big, belly laugh out loud, right there.  Instead, I smiled widely, avoided eye contact with the other adults in the room, and said, "Oh yes, making sure we smell clean and fresh is such a good way to serve our families.  I bet your family is so happy when your breath smells good."  The little boy looked pleased as punch that he'd come up with such a profound act of love and service.  Mouthwash!

Superkid gave me one other fun experience at church, yesterday.  It was almost time for Primary to end, when she indicated that she needed to use the restroom.  As I waited for her to finish (which sometimes takes a long time, because Superkid often lets conversation and singing get in the way of the business at hand), I inspected myself in the full-length mirror.  I picked at a bit of dry skin on my face.  I tugged at my skirt and buttoned and un-buttoned my jacket, trying to achieve the ultimate illusion of thinness.  I frowned at the bit eyeliner that had smudged.  I worried about the length of my sleeves.  I sighed over my hair.  I wondered if I needed to get whitening toothpaste.  I turned from side to side, sucking in my stomach and trying to decide if yoga was doing anything for me.

After several long minutes of my silent self-criticism, Superkid flushed the toilet and skipped out of the stall.  She washed and dried her hands, and then turned towards the exit, facing the full-length mirror as she did so. Superkid grinned widely and stepped closer to the mirror.  She leaned towards it and took a good look at herself, smiling at what she saw.  "I look really great today!" Superkid told me proudly.  "Don't you think so, Mommy?"

"You sure do," I replied.

"My new glasses are really nice, and the hole where my tooth fell out is so cool!" Superkid said happily.

What a great lesson that was for me!  I want to be more like Superkid.  And I want her to feel that way about herself forever.  I want Endeavor and Justone to feel that way, too.  To be able to look in the mirror and not see things that need to be fixed or changed or things that bother us, but instead look to see someone special who has unique traits and feel great about it.  I wish I could bottle some of that healthy self-esteem, and share it.  There are so many of us that could use it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Funnies

It is just getting more cheerful by the minute around our house!  Here is the latest.

If you haven't noticed already, I'm a big fan of Sarah at Clover Lane.  I hope she doesn't think I'm some kind of cyberstalker.  I just wish she lived on my street so we could be neighbors, so her kids could play with mine or even babysit for me now and then, so she could give me decorating advice and help me paint, and I would be happy to loan her cups of sugar.  I've got lots of sugar. 

Sigh.  But since she doesn't live on my street, I have to enjoy her and her family and her house through her blog.  Today was hilarious.  Look at these wig pics

Now, I give you my proof of why Sarah and I would get along so well if she were my neighbor. 

This is my darling niece.  She came to visit us with her mommy and big sister this summer.  We had so much fun with the A Team.  Especially this little cutie.  I present to you Baby A.

Here is Baby A, enjoying her sweet potatoes in my kitchen.  Sweet potatoes can do a lot for your complexion, you know.

Now, here is Baby A, after her Auntie Ruth gave her a complete makeover at Build-a-Bear Workshop.
Bet you didn't know that sweet potatoes can make your hair grow fuller and thicker in just 30 days, too.  The purse was part of the makeover, of course.  Accessories are so important.
Sarah, I hope you are reading this.  What do you think, should we get Baby A and your Patrick together in 25 years?  They seem to have a lot in common.  (Families who make them look silly.)  Maybe not.  But you can still borrow sugar.

Baby A wonders if Auntie Ruth should be left unsupervised with babies in Build-A-Bear.
Baby A's mommy loved the transformation, however.  Angela always had a thing for Cabbage Patch Kids.

And the big question is..... blondes really have more fun?
Let's put our glasses on and really think about that for a while.

In the meantime, Baby A's mom decides to show her that there are other alternatives to being a blonde bombshell.
Like being a student at Hogwarts.  Blonde Expelliarmus!

Have fun this weekend!  Even if your kind of fun doesn't involve wigs.

Wow! I'm flattered.

I was nominated for a blogging award today.  Since I'm still pretty new at blogging, I'm not sure exactly what this entails, so I'm just going to follow the instructions.

Thank you, Stefenie of When Life Hands You a Broken Heart, who nominated me for the Hearfelt Blogger Award.  Stefenie is the mother of two little boys, one of them with a congenital heart defect.  I'm so impressed by Stefenie's efforts to take the challenges she has been given and use them to bless others. She has created the organization Cuddles from the Heart, an organization devoted to "making life better for children during their hospital stays by donating comforting blankets with an open heart."  I love that idea, since our family has been so grateful for the blankets that were given to our girls during many of their hospital stays.  They continue to be some of our favorites.  Way to go, Stefenie!

Okay, so the instructions tell me I should nominate up to nine other blogs and pass along the blogging love.  Which I have been meaning to do....but every time I go to nominate someone, I discover they've already been nominated by someone else! may take me a few more days to drum up some fresh, new nominees!

In the meantime, I just want to warn you that I'm going to take a few days off of blogging while I cook, clean, and entertain the troops for Thanksgiving.  Um, that made it sound like I'm going off to entertain soldiers with the USO.  I didn't mean "troops" literally.  I just meant that we'll have a lot of people eating at our house.  I'm so excited!

Of course, since it is a holiday and people are coming over, tradition dictates that I must also have some kind of medical emergency.  I've been trying to circumvent that by getting xrays and labwork done for Superkid ahead of time.  Really, she just hasn't looked right for the last few days.  She has no other symptoms except that she seems more tired than usual.  That could mean trouble, but so far all tests have come up showing....nothing.  So we're going in for an echo after Thanksgiving, and we already had an appointment scheduled with her metabolic specialist for next week.  I just know something is up.  I could be paranoid, but I absolutely should be, based on our track record with these things.  So it is great that our pediatrician and cardiologist totally jump onto the train with me when I say, "Something just isn't right."  Bless them, they are the best. 

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! 

Turning Frowns Upside Down

I'm grumpy this morning.

I have several reasons to be grumpy.  None of them are really all that important, but the fact they are on my mind is bugging me.  So I'm going to share them.  Don't be offended.  Feel free to skip to the end of this post.

1.  The Bionic Man called me yesterday, at the beginning of an already full afternoon, to let me know that it was "cakeathon" night at Cub Scout pack meeting that night.  Could I come up with something creative?  (See what happens when I make rainbow cupcakes just one time?  They get used to it, real fast.)

2.  Shortly after the Bionic Man called about the cakeathon, I had to go to my OB/GYN's for an uncomfortable test.  I'm not going to go into details, because we don't know each other well enough.  Test results were fine.  I'm fine.  I just think ultrasounds that don't include babies are zero fun, so I'm feeling grouchy about the fact that I had to be there.  (Don't worry, it wasn't like this ultrasound was supposed to have a baby in it.  I just think that variety is more fun and rewarding.)

3.  As I whipped dinner together and raced to get out the door to a meeting later that night, the Bionic Man mentioned casually, "Oh, by the way, tomorrow is the chili cook-off."  WHAT chili cook-off?  "The one at work," he told me.  "Do you think you could make that chili that isn't chili for me to take to work tomorrow?"  It is really not typical for the Bionic Man to spring stuff on me like this.  He knows better.  I don't know where the two strikes in six hours came from.  But since I refused to make the cake (hey, that test at the doctor's office hurt) I kind of had to smile through clenched teeth and agree to make the soup....if he would pick up the ingredients.

4.  It is 9 A.M. and I have to make chili.  Bionic Man picked up some of the ingredients, but not exactly the right ones.  I'm going to have to go to the store for more.  My kitchen is a mess.  My hair is a mess.

5.  I have to get Christmas organized in the next 5 days.  And Thanksgiving is at my house.

Sigh.  Okay, it is out of my system.  Now, I'm going to think of the words of one of my favorite Primary songs:
If you chance to meet a frown,
Do not let it stay.
Quickly turn it upside down
And smile that frown away!

No one likes a frowny face,
Change it for a smile;
Make the world a brighter place
By smiling all the while.

I'm going to turn my grumps upside down to gratitude.

Not sure why I chose a cat picture.  It was just so darn cute.

1.  The Bionic Man is such a good father.  I love that he's trying to help our son, Justone, have a positive experience with cub scouting.  It is so great that he'll check up on things and make sure we're ready for each scouting activity.

2.  My OB/GYN is so funny.  He makes me laugh hard.  And nothing that can't be easily fixed is wrong with me.  And guess what else?  The new guidelines for mammograms are that you don't have to have your first one until the age of 50.  I won't need to have that painful procedure for another 17 years!  That really makes me happy.

3.  I'm so flattered that the Bionic Man loves my Tuscan Chili enough that he wants to take it to share with his co-workers.  I'll share the recipe with you sometime.  It takes just like the Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana, only I add beans.  Anything with beans is chili, right?

4.  My kitchen is huge.  I'll find a place to make the chili.  I'm so thankful to have a home that I can use to bless others, even if big kitchen equals big mess.  I'm thankful that I have lots of hair.  It is long and thick, and long, thick, messy hair is better than no hair.  I can brush it.  Bedheads are really in, right now.  Circles under my eyes and messy hair will just make people think I'm a big Twilight fan when I'm at the store.  Problem solved: I definitely don't need to take a shower before I run out to the store today.

5.  It will be so nice to have Christmas taken care of ahead of time.  I'll really be able to enjoy the holiday season if I'm not stressed out.  And I love having Thanksgiving at my house.  I'm so glad my sister can come, and Thanksgiving just wouldn't be the same without sharing it with our good friends, the Clevs.  Even though we are far away from other family members, it is a blessing to have so many other wonderful people in our lives that we have learned to love like family.  Here's a shout-out to the Binghams!  We will come back to Connecticut someday for Thanksgiving, but we're going to have to bring the Clevs with us.  Hope you don't mind!

Ahhh, that's better.  Now I'm smiling.  What do you have in your life that you can turn upside down today?  Please share!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Good morning friends!

I'm going to speak to you from atop my soapbox today.  I promise to keep it short.  If you have absolutely no concern for the welfare of children with special medical needs, feel free to skip this post. 

If you have read my blog before, you know that I am the mother of two children born with congenital heart defects.  Li'l Angel's combination of defects were incompatible with life, so she only lived on this earth for a year.  Superkid is six years old, and lives and thrives today thanks to a prosthetic mitral valve, a blood thinning medication, our beloved team of medical providers, and many miracles.

Chances are that we are not the only family that you have heard of who has been affected by congenital heart defects (CHD).  You may not have realized, however, that congenital heart disease is this country’s number one birth defect and kills twice as many children as childhood cancer. 

Although many children--like my Superkid--now undergo successful heart repair surgeries, most will require special life-long care and face high risks of developing additional heart problems. Up until now there has been virtually no federal investment to address the research and education needs of the 1.8 million Americans now living with congenital heart disease.

One adult CHD survivor is Paul Cardall, a talented musician living in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Paul is a husaband and father who recently received a life-saving heart transplant at Primary Children's Hospital.  Paul is also the author of an inspiring blog, Living for Eden, and has become an activist in raising awareness about CHD and those who are affected by the #1 Birth Defect.  Today he posted information regarding his efforts to educate our country's lawmakers about a new bill coming before the Senate and House, The Congenital Futures Act. 

Paul Cardall meeting with Utah Senator Orrin Hatch.

Thanks to Paul for his courage and efforts to bring understanding to this overlooked issue. 

You can help families living with CHD by voicing your support for this bill to your own senators and state representatives.  By visiting the Adult Congenital Heart Association website, I was able to find the contact information for my own representatives and jet off emails to the three of them (there is a handy sample letter you can use to create yours) in less than thirty minutes.  I strongly encourage you to do the same. 

Please, please, help to provide a brighter future for the millions of children in America who are living with heart disease.  The risk factor for CHDs in any pregnancy is that 1/100 pregancies will result in a baby with a congenital heart defect.  With statistics that high, it is likely that if you aren't already the parent, grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, cousin, or friend of someone who has a congenital heart defect, then you will be someday.  I urge you to take a few minutes to voice your support to your legislators to improve the lives of children and adults with CHD.

Thank you!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Think of Nike....

I just got back from my local gym.  I am very lucky.  One of the churches near my home recently built what they call a "life center."  It's a gym, complete with indoor track, weight room, fitness classrooms, and a huge gymnasium.  They have marvelous classes: yoga, toning, aerobics, cycling, etc.  Anyone in the community can join, for a very low yearly fee.  I am so very, very thankful it is close to my house and cheap, too!

When Endeavor, Justone, and Superkid went off to school this year, I made some goals.  One of them was to spend some time taking care of me, something I hadn't been doing a very good job of.  Sometimes we moms do a better job of taking care of everyone else than we do ourselves.  We justify it by saying we're being unselfish.  But if we neglect ourselves long enough, someone is going to have to take care of us....which kind of cancels out the prior excuse of selflessness.  So that argument just doesn't cut it.

Back to my goal, part of accomplishing that was my plan to spend the majority of the time that Superkid was in half-day kindergarten increasing my level of fitness.  But can I be real with you?  It is sooooo very hard for me to get motivated and out the door.  We have some exercise equipment at home, but pushing myself has never been something at which I excel.  I get a much better workout when there is someone telling me what to do.  Still, it can be soooo hard to get myself out of the house and into the gym every day.  You would think that the high that I get from a good workout would be enough incentive, but for some reason it isn't.

So, for my own benefit, I'd like to share a couple of things I've found to be helpful when it comes to finding the motivation to exercise.  If you read a lot of magazines, you've probably heard some or all of these before. These are my personal faves, the things that really work for me.

1. Find someone to exercise with.  This only works if you can partner up with a person who is slightly more motivated than you are, or at least makes good on their commitments.  If you know they are going to be waiting for you at the gym or on your front porch, you are much more likely to get yourself ready and show up for a scheduled work out.  At this point I want to give a shout-out to Heidi, THE BEST Workout Buddy EVER!  (It really helps when your workout buddy happens to be getting her license to be a personal trainer, too.)  Sorry, Heidi, for some reason this was the only picture I could find of you running!

If your workout buddy moves far away, like mine did (I miss you, Heidi!), or you can't find anyone willing to join you, don't let that stop you.  Your iPod or MP3 can be your fitness friend!  Download some of your favorite tunes and don't let yourself listen to them unless you are working out

2. Find something you like to do for exercise.  I don't think I need to explain this.  If you like it, you'll do it.  The only thing I might add that it helps if you are willing to try things you've never done before.  A good instructor will be happy to do a little extra to help you get through your first classes.  There are so many DVDs out there with fun, new workouts.  And you can find instructions online and in the library for new routines, too.  Be creative!  There are a lot of non-gym type things you can do like climbing,

nordic walking,

and ballroom dancing.

Speaking of which, I love to dance.  All kinds of dancing, but especially Broadway style.  I'm just not a dancer, so I don't go around volunteering to perform.  It is not something that comes easily to me, but I still love it, and it is such good exercise.  I think ABC needs to do a show called Normal People Dancing with the Stars.  They could take normal people (like me!  pick me!) and partner them with a Celebrity DWTS's alum and professional coach.  And do the show the way they usually do it otherwise.  Since it was my idea, they can put me on the first season.  I won't wear anything skimpy, but I'm very willing to be spray tanned and tossed into the air.  I haven't figured out who my celebrity partner will be, though.  Any suggestions?  (Now, if next year ABC does this, look for my name in the credits.  If it is not there, you know they read my blog and stole the idea from me.  Send them a letter of protest!) 

Ahem.  Let's move on.

3. Get some something cute to wear when you are exercising.  There is nothing fun about getting dressed in ratty sweats and a stained t-shirt to go workout.  Especially if you have to look in a mirror at some point during your workout.  I've learned that a frumpy appearance breeds negative self-talk in any situation, and negative self-talk makes life difficult, if not impossible.  So do yourself a favor and find some comfortable clothing that feels and looks good.  Then, when you are in toning class and the instructor tells you to look in the mirror, you can...without flinching.  Instead you can say, "Wow!  This celery green top I'm wearing really makes my eyes pop!"  Your cute workout clothing doesn't (and probably shouldn't) have to be spandex.  It doesn't have to be expensive, either.  Target has a fantastic selection of fitness wear, which goes on sale at least four times a year.  There is always a clearance rack.  DON'T say to yourself, "I'll just use my ratty sweats for now, and wait to spend money on fitness clothes once I've lost some weight."  Previous experience has shown me that doesn't work.  Buy some, wear them until you shrink and then send them off to your local Goodwill with your blessing.

4. Invest in a good sports bra and footwear.  This will be hard for you if you have yet to discover the power of the Right Shoe.  But they can make all the difference.  It is much, much easier to maintain exercise habits if you are experiencing pain during your workout.  Wearing an unsupportive or ill-fitting bra and bad shoes can be painful--either during the workout, or after.  Physical therapists say that most stress-related injuries they treat could have been prevented with proper footwear.
Let me be frank: you won't find the right shoes at Wal-Mart.  Go to a specialty shoe store and have them watch you walk/run and fit you with the right shoe.  Different shoes are designed for different needs, and they can recommend the best one for you.  Does this sound expensive?  It can be, but the money you'll save in the long run (think beyond injury prevention, we're talking the big stuff: diabetes, cancer, and heart disease prevention!) is totally worth it.  You can go to a store like the Running Company and have them make recommendations for you, then go look for the same pairs of shoes online or at other stores.  Once you have a pair of shoes that works for you, clip coupons and watch for sales, so you can buy them at discounted prices.  Seriously, the right shoes make a huge difference!

5. Provide yourself with a fun non-food reward for a good workout.  And if you are really serious about maintaining regular exercise habits, then don't reward yourself with shoe shopping every time.  Currently, my reward for a good workout is my yoga class.

I heart yoga, seriously.  Yoga is one of the only things that truly helps me relax.  I know all those stretches look really bizarre, but a good yoga instructor will help you learn things at your own speed.  Learning to focus on your breathing really, really, really can help you relax.  It is incredibly therapeutic if you have any stress in your life.  So I plan my most intensive cardio workouts for the days I have yoga class.  I work hard before, and look forward to yoga the whole time.

All right, folks, that about covers today's topic. 

Think of Nike.....and just do it.  You'll thank yourself.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Something Special Sunday

Greetings, dear Reader!

Another busy weekend has passed.  I had good intentions of posting some fun things on Saturday, but the day got away with me....we had some little friends spend the night, I fixed pancakes for seven children, my kitchen really needed to be cleaned, Bionic Man and I spent some time putting Halloween decor back in the attic and getting Christmas Decor out of the attic, I went shoe shopping and bought the sweetest brown dress boots for me (on sale, with a coupon!), my kitchen had to be cleaned, and we needed a bunch of groceries.  Whew!  So, today being a day of rest, I'm going to post a few fun things today.

First off, if I haven't already, let me introduce you to the beautiful-beyond-description blog "whatever", by Meg Duerksen.  Meg is a mother of five, a talented photographer, a creative cook, and has a house that makes me drool.  I discovered her blog a few months ago, when we were looking for a dog: I did a search on "labradoodle puppy image" and Meg's blog came up.  Which is really random.  But I've had so much fun reading her blog and seeing her gorgeous images ever since.

This week, Meg inspired me to do two things.
1. Discover Picnik and learn how to use it.  If you don't know about Picnik, a website with free photo editing tools, you are really missing out!  Go there, and see all the fun you can have.  Visit Meg's blog for some inspiration on how you can use Picnik to make fun business cards.
2. Make cupcakes for the children at church to celebrate their success.  Meg has terrific instructions on her blog for making these rainbow cupcakes.  I used Meg's easy-to-follow directions to make my own Primary Color Cupcakes.  (My church's organization for children is called Primary.  The Primary colors are red, yellow, and blue.  Get it?  Primary colors?  Clever, eh?)  I made this fun collage of my version of Meg's cupcakes using--wait for it--Picnik!

Yeah, me!  Anyone who knows me really well should understand that to bake and learn to use new technology all in one day, let alone one week, is a big deal.  These things don't come naturally to me.  Thank you, Meg!

Speaking of Primary children, I must give a special mention to all the children I spend time with on Sundays.  We had our annual Primary Program today, which is a really big deal, and they were AWESOME!!!  The Primary Program is when the children ages 3-12 present the congregational meeting.  It is always my favorite Sunday of the year.  Mostly because there is so much entertainment and the Spirit is so strong.  There is something really wonderful about hearing children explain the plain and simple truths of the Gospel through song and in their own words.  There is also something wonderful about the fact that you never know exactly what will happen when the children are up there in front of everybody.  I was in charge of the program this year, and I must say it was a pleasure to watch the children perform.  This is my very favorite song from this year's Primary Program.  The theme was, "My Eternal Family."  I'm so thankful for my own family, all of whom were so patient this week as mom went a little nuts getting ready for the program.

Oh boy, I think it is time that we update this family portrait!  Don't you love Superkid's cheese, though?

Speaking of family portraits, let me direct you to two photography blogs that I have so much fun looking at.  They both belong to women I just adore, both of whom really have a knack for getting great shots of families and kids. 
1.  KD Portraits is the name of my sis-in-law Kristine's photography business.  She is located in Utah, in the Salt Lake valley.  If you visit her blog or look in her galleries, you'll see some really, really gorgeous images.  You'll even find some pictures of my kiddos.  Congratulations to Kristine, who has recently been awarded some prestigious professional awards.
2. Whitni Parker runs her photography business in the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas area.  She is the younger sister of one of my best friends.  I don't know if Whitni knows how much I admire her, but she is really one of my heroes.  Right after my Li'l Angel died, Whitni--who I had only met once--offered to turn some of our favorite pictures of Li'l Angel and our family into a memory card that we could give to the people who attended her funeral.  It was a project I didn't have the time or patience for, and Whitni spent her own time to make this beautiful card. 

Whitni had lost her own little girl not long before she made this, and it really touched me that she would help me to commemorate Li'l Angel's life in this way.  Thank you Whitni, for your sweet example of service!

Anywho, if the fairies ever leave a baby on my porch, I'm going to have Whitni come and take some newborn shots, because I love, love, love, the little cocoons she puts babies in. Then I'm going to Kristine for Halloween portraits.  And, if you need a great idea for what to wear for your next family picture, go here to see how my friend Nicole dressed her family for a photoshoot with Aunt Whitni.

Well, I have spent way too many hours of my day of rest playing with pictures.  Time to go get some shut-eye!  Hope you have all enjoyed your Sunday as much as I've enjoyed mine.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Holland for Couples

As you might have noticed, I really enjoyed getting away with the Bionic Man for a few days last week. We took this picture using the timer on our camera.  I think it turned out great, because I think I look great!  Bionic Man doesn't like the way his ear looks.  Minor complaint in comparison to the benefits of me looking skinny, so I've posted this picture anyway.

But the way we look when we are kissing is not supposed to be the point of today's post.  Well, maybe it is.

Sometimes, I think we married folk get hung up on the idea of a "picture perfect" relationship.  You know, the snapshot version you've seen of other couples' relationships.  You might be doing it right now, as in, "Oh, look at that.  Ruth and the Bionic Man are always doing the coolest things together!  He takes her on business trips and totally finds time for romance.  And she has the most fantastic hair.  My husband never takes me on his business trips.  And I can't get my hair to grow past my shoulders."

Well, you might not be thinking that, specifically, about us, but I have a feeling most of us have had similar thoughts about someone else.  And usually we base it on a "snapshot" version of their life: the time we saw them at a Christmas party, when we saw them through the window of a fancy restaurant, the time we saw them at church holding hands, or maybe it is the family portrait above their mantel.  We see these "perfect" moments, when everyone is happy, or dressed up, or on their best behavior.....and then, unfortunately, we use them as a measuring stick for our own relationships.

Stop it.  (I'm saying that to myself, too.)

The reality is--and I'm sure of this--every couple has their moments.  Their moments that they wouldn't want preserved in snapshot form.  Like when I backed the new van into the other car--didn't even check my mirrors--and the Bionic Man was so mad he couldn't speak to me for, ahem, some time.  Like when the Bionic Man spent days looking for the perfect Christmas present for me, gave hints of the thrills to come, and I opened the large box to find new cooking pots, and I was really, really offended.  Like when the Bionic man.....well, I think it is just better for me to let bygones be bygones.

My parents recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.  They still kiss each other hello and goodbye and goodnight, hold hands, and Dad never fails to open a door for Mom.  They compliment each other frequently, and they are an excellent team.  They are so right for each other.  But they still have their un-snapshot worthy moments!  I'll never forget one roadtrip we took together when I was in college.  I was sitting in the backseat as we made the two day drive.  My mom would make a comment, and my dad would look through the rearview mirror at me, and roll his eyes.  Later, my dad would make a comment, and my mom would turn to look at me and roll her eyes.  I thought it was hilarious, they kept it up the whole trip.  And then I noticed, after I had said something, that they turned to each other AND ROLLED THEIR EYES!

I just think that is a great example of imperfect unity.  They might not be perfect people yet, but they are perfectly imperfect for each other.  And they are not nagging at each other to become perfect, they are growing in that direction together.

And, whether you get it or not, that's my point.

To get that lovely shot of us kissing on Lovers' Point, the Bionic Man and I had to jump through a few hoops, so to speak.  Before we exited our car, we had to take off our nice shoes and put on our hiking shoes.  Since the Bionic Man hadn't packed any jeans, he looked pretty funny in his nice slacks and hiking shoes.  The rocks we are sitting on are quite a ways from the grassy park they jut out from, so the Bionic Man and I had to pick our way across rocks and crevices, trying to avoid the steep edges of the cliff that dropped down into treacherous waters below.  I had to sit precariously on a rather sharp rock while the Bionic Man figured out how the timer worked.  He didn't make it into the picture a couple of times.  I patiently waited for him to get it to work, while a seagull overhead used me for target practice.  (Fortunately, his aim was off.)  Bionic Man used his engineering degree to figure the camera out, tripped over several rocks as he ran to my precarious perch, we kissed, and then he asked, "Do you have any gum?"

Just remember, when you are viewing a snapshot of someone else's picture-perfect marriage, that you haven't seen the effort that went to getting there.  Be grateful for the journey you are taking to make your own snapshot moments, and find a way to treasure the fun of getting there.  I now have a sweet picture of the Bionic Man and I kissing by the ocean, but I have a hilarious memory of what it took to get that picture.

As we picked our way back to the shore across those rocks, we saw that someone had spray-painted a marriage proposal on the rocks.  "Ana, will you marry me?' the Bionic Man read aloud.

"I hope she said no," I sniffed.  "He spraypainted his proposal on scenery!"

"Yeah, who wants to marry a graffiti artist?" The Bionic Man agreed.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Rest and Relaxation

So remember that tiny picture I included in my last post?  Here is a better one.

Any guesses as to where it is?  I'll give you a little hint: it is where my handsome husband, the Bionic Man, took me away for some R&R last week.

Actually, I should clarify that.  For him, it was a business trip.  For me, it was rest and relaxation.  But I tried to make sure he felt rested, relaxed, and romanced when he was not at boring business meetings.

Whatever it was, it was with me and him and no one else (as in we left the kiddos at home) and we were in Monterey, on the California coast.

We stayed at this swanky hotel.  I think it was probably the swanky-est hotel I've ever stayed at, not being accustomed to travel without children.

It looked just like this when we checked in.  There was a golf course behind it.  We don't play golf (I have some very funny stories about the couple of times I've tried) but both the Bionic Man and I can appreciate a finely manicured lawn.  Especially one we don't have to manicure.  Our room looked like this:

....except we had a view of the lovely pool, not the golf course.  I can tell you, that bed was heavenly.  And I thought the triptych of wheat above the bed was really cool.  ("Triptych: a work of art, usually a panel painting, which is divided into three sections."  Can you tell I got to visit some art galleries and gained a bit 'o culture while I was away?)

Each morning we would enjoy our continental breakfast in this lounge.

Lovely.  And let me tell you, this wasn't just any continental breakfast.  This was the real deal.  See that doorway to the right of the picture?  That doorway led to gourmet delights.  Smoked salmon, artisan cheeses, flaky croissants and delectable pastries, bowl after bowl of fresh fruit and is a good thing I was only there for four days, or the Bionic Man may have had to purchase a third seat to get me home on the airplane.

And it wasn't just breakfast.  The hot chocolate was made with frothy milk and was available 24-7.  Believe me, I took advantage of that!  They had gourmet nuts and trail mix during the day, then trays of hors d'vours in the evening, followed by a nighttime dessert buffet.  Seriously, I wanted to take pictures, because the food looked so pretty.  But I never quite dared to whip out my camera in front of the other guests.  I think the upper crust frowns upon such displays of enthusiasm.

When I wasn't relaxing at the hotel (hey, I really did use the fitness room while I was there, to justify all the eating), I explored Monterey on foot.  It is a very pedestrian friendly city.  I had fun watching seals on fisherman's wharf

Window shopping on Cannery Row

visiting the historic adobes, and looking for alphabet letters in the architecture of Monterey.  (I'm trying to make one of those picture alphabets.  Or something.  I know for sure I didn't find all 26 letters.  But I found at least six.  Including q and z.)  By the way, since I haven't downloaded any of my own pictures yet, all these are from the internet.  But I actually went to all of these places!

Including this one.

This is the giant kelp forest tank at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  One of the events held for the people at Bionic Man's business function was a dinner at the Aquarium, after hours.  See that tank?  There were candlelit tables all around it.  And a California cuisine buffet, a pasta buffet, and a dessert buffet.  I tell you, it is a good thing I did a lot of walking when I wasn't eating.

I tagged along with the Bionic Man and a couple of his bosses to this lovely restaurant.

Too bad it was completely dark when we arrived, so that I couldn't enjoy the views from this very table.

I've had better food (ooh, clearly this trip has made me snooty) so it was clearly the views for which this restaurant is known for.  In the restaurant's defense, they did have several spotlights on the rocks below.  Which actually made it kind of creepy.  Especially when, on the way back, I realized the winding roads we were driving on were the same ones featured in that super scary black and white classic, Julie.  (I heart Doris Day!)

Anyway, once the Bionic Man had finished with business obligations, we got to do a little sightseeing together.  We enjoyed driving the famed Seventeen Mile Drive for views like this

and this

and then going down to Big Sur for some hiking.

We hiked to this waterfall.
The hike took us through some stands of redwoods.  I heart redwoods.  And I heart hiking to waterfalls with the Bionic Man.  The first time he kissed me was after we had hiked to a waterfall.  Sigh.

Anywho, I would just like to know what the Bionic Man and I are doing living in a state with no mountains, no redwoods, and no ocean.  Clearly, we must make our way to Pacific Northwest.  (We have plans to retire on the Oregon coast.)

The last day we were there, we went hiking and then stopped in Carmel by the Sea on our way back to Monterey.  It is a very picturesque place.  Full of storybook architecture and charm.  And art galleries.

We loved it.  It was sort of a cross between Disney and Europe.  Only less tacky that that description makes it sound.

We had our yummiest meal of the whole trip at this restaurant in Carmel.

Two words for you: cheese fondue.  Need I say more?

Anyway, it was a wonderful trip.  So nice to spend lots of uninterrupted time with my Bionic Man.  So nice to a have a short break from cooking and cleaning and laundry.  So nice to come home and be warmly welcomed by my darling children and Hunter the Dog.  (Was Hunter's greeting more enthusiastic?  I'm trying not to analyze that too much.)  So nice of Aunt Jessica to take care of the kiddos while we were away.  I know it was a big job, and I hope she still wants to have children.

It was like a really, really, long date.  Thank you Bionic Man!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Busy, busy, busy

Friends, I haven't given up on blogging.  I've just been very, very busy.

I had to get all my fall cleaning done before our big party.

I had to cook vats of chili and mac 'n cheese for our big party.

I had to help Ben with his extensive outdoor decor for our big party.

I had to do some serious clothing shopping for myself, due to an upcoming event.  (More on that later!)

I sliced the top of one of my fingers while I was making salad.  It is hard to type.
And this week I'm relaxing.  I'll tell you how later. 

Now, if you know where this picture was taken, post your guess in a comment.  (Sorry it is so tiny.)