So proud of my girls

2014
04.23

Can I just brag about my girls for a minute. I just printed off their report cards, and between the three of them, they earned 24 A’s. There were a couple of minuses in there, but no matter about that.

Jenna got a 4.0 for third quarter, so she was especially happy to get the straight A bonus!

Megan got a full tuition scholarship to Snow College, PLUS an art scholarship. She’s still not terribly excited about going to college, but we’ll work on that. She also won several awards at the school art show the other day. One girl walking by saw that her sculpture had won something, and she said, “Oh, this is by my friend Megan. She’s amazing!”

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Natalie is also the editor of the Jr High yearbook and has worked hard getting those kids in line. I’m excited to see the yearbook.
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They are good kids and I am very proud of them.

(I’m proud of John, too. I don’t want to sound like I’m not bragging about him. I’ll do that in a later post, of course).

Happy Spring

2014
04.19

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We are all happy that it’s nice weather for spring!

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Things are blooming everywhere, the tulips are up and the grass is green.

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And what’s this? New additions to the backyard gang? Stay tuned for more.

Happy Easter!

I get to ring bells in an Easter program in Provo tonight, then also ring with the Tab Choir in the morning. Fun!

Bryce Canyon

2014
04.13

Bryce Canyon is AMAZING. I think it would be stunning in any kind of weather. The days we were there for spring break, we had sun, rain, wind and snow, all in the same day.

I don’t think I would EVER run out of beautiful sights to take pictures of. We found this log with our initials carved in it. How sweet is that?


Jenna was near the edge here, and I freaked out a bit, yelling at her to get back. The kids made fun of me for it for the rest of the trip. Nice, aren’t they? A mother gets worried that her kids are going to fall off cliffs, ok?


Besides the stunning rocks, there are some amazing trees. Loved this one.


Since the day was overcast, we didn’t get many of the brilliant reds, but we did get some gorgeous views of the winter and snow.

When we went out to this point, it was SO windy. We asked someone to take our picture. You probably can’t tell, but we are freezing at this point.

Natalie’s hair was a bit wild.


There weren’t many opportunities to get a blue sky, so when I found one, I had to snap away.

We didn’t do much hiking, but at sunrise or sunset (can’t remember which one) point, we went down the trail a bit. Because the view was stunning.


That’s me, by the way.

AT our last stop of the day, we wanted to get a family picture all together. Tried the timer thing but there was nothing to rest the camera on. Ryan tried putting it in a tree.
Let’s just say that didn’t work. But some hikers came by eventually and were more than willing to take a picture for us (most people were). Should have brought my picstand, right?

Splash

2014
04.13

While I may have left a not so glowing review on priceline about the Quality Inn in Mesa, the bright spot of my review was the pool. The pool made a splash.

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If they put as much effort into cleaning and maintaining the rooms as they did the pool….

Someone swam there every day. There’s John and his cousin Danny having a great time playing in the pool. If our activity got too hot or we had some free time at the hotel, we always knew we could swim.

And it got too hot for us every day.

There were nice deck chairs, some shade, even in the heat of the day, and it was especially nice in the afternoon. I did swim, but I spent most of my time poolside, reading a book or taking pictures of the kids.

And, bonus, Arizonians do not swim until it’s over 100 degrees. Really. So, there was hardly ever anyone else out at the pool. And if they were out there, it was just relaxing in the deck chairs, not swimming.
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So it was kind of like we had out own private pool. Hopefully as our memories fade, we can laugh about the crappy things and remember the good times of the vacation, like the pool.

Why I might not be using Priceline in the future

2014
04.08

I read a post about how you can save a whole bunch of money using the name your price option on priceline.com. I studied the hotels, the maps, read the tips, and did a bunch of research about what hotels are where, then tried to place my bid. In Bryce Canyon, we got a decent room at Ruby’s Inn for about $25 dollars less than the listed rate. And the room was nice enough and we almost all fit (there was the issue of the blinking light bulb all night that made it so I couldn’t sleep and had nightmares about the room catching on fire and us having to evacuate, but that’s just me and my crazy light sleeper ness).

But when we got to Mesa to the Quality Inn, things weren’t so smooth. I checked in and found that for the low low price that I had PRE-PAID, we were given a single queen studio. Just a queen bed and a bathroom. No couch, no pull out anything. Hmm. 6 of us on one queen bed? I explained politely that this was my first time using priceline, and that since it didn’t let me choose my room size, was there any way we could have a room with at least two queen beds or a bed and a couch? Front desk lady was not very understanding and explained that what I paid for was one queen, and I would have to call priceline and see if I could change my reservation. So I called priceline right there in the lobby, and they called the hotel for me and tried to help negotiate a better room. She would not budge. I ended up paying the hotel an extra $53 dollars to upgrade to a room with two DOUBLE BEDS and a pull out couch. Fine. Done. I wished that there was a manager or just SOMEONE ELSE to negotiate with, but it was just her. The perils of checking in on a Sunday afternoon.

As we hauled our stuff up to our room, we figured it wouldn’t be THAT bad and we could figure something out. Ryan said, “are we only staying 5 nights? I thought we were leaving on Saturday.” Another mistake on my part. I had not reserved enough days. No way am I going back down to the lobby to ask if we can reserve one more night. We’ll figure that out later.

Can I just say that a double bed is not big enough for two overweight large adults? Let’s just put that out there right now.
And not only is it a double bed, but it’s RIGHT up against the wall.

As we went to make up the beds and put the kids to bed, we pulled out the couch to see that it’s broken. There are no springs connecting the bottom of the bed, and part of the support thingys are not there. What to do, what to do? We called to the front to ask for sheets and blankets for the couch bed, and also told them that the springs were missing, the bed was kind of broken. The girl at the front desk just said ok. 45 minutes or so later, and we are so tired. Ryan and I went down to the front desk to at least get the blankets so we can make up the broken bed and go to sleep. At the front desk, the girl said, “Didn’t you call down to request those blankets?” yes. Yes, we did. And now we are here in person to collect them.

“You said the bed is broken? our maintenance man isn’t here after 6, so I don’t know what we can do about that” she said.
I wonder why she didn’t just say that on the phone? At this point, I just wanted to dang extra blankets and we would make do with a broken pull out couch. But she said (kind of grudgingly), “Would you like to switch rooms?” IS THERE another room available? She looked it up and realized that the room next door to ours was empty (From the looks of the parking lot, it didn’t look like the hotel was very full at all, so I wasn’t surprised). We said, that yes, we would change rooms. Ryan texted the kids from the lobby and told them to pack up their stuff, we would be switching rooms.

Maybe they gave us the oldest yuckiest room they had just because we were priceline customers. I don’t know.

This room isn’t any bigger or nicer than the other room, but it does have a newer couch that is not broken. We were able to quickly get all of our stuff out of the room, empty the fridge, bring stuff over to the other room, and get the couch bed made up in pretty quick time.

(I don’t even feel bad that they’ll have to clean two rooms for us. Is that wicked of me or what?)

Exhausted, Ryan and I laid down on the DOUBLE bed. It’s about half the size of our California King bed at home. I love my bed at home. I love my mattress. I love the fact that I am not wedged between a wall and my sweet husband and that I can actually sleep. Every time one of us moved, then it woke the other one of us. Really. I could NOT get comfortable, and was terribly cramped. After several hours of tossing and turning and disturbing Ryan’s sleep as well, I flipped so that my feet were at the head of the bed and my head was at the feet. This put my head away from the wall just a bit, and gave me a little room. Ryan, of course, was a bit shocked when he reached over and felt a foot, but it was the only way I could get any sleep at all. I thought about sleeping on the floor, but–ew–. Plus there weren’t any extra blankets for that, so I stayed in that darn small bed. When it was finally morning, I got up. Let Ryan get an hour or two of sleep without me smashing him.

Night two at this hotel we got organized and fared better. We borrowed two twin air mattresses from Robin, and kicked the kids out of the other double bed. That left Ryan and I a bed each. Greedy? Possibly. Necessary? Absolutely. We slept MUCH better. The kids didn’t mind so much sleeping on the floor all in the same room, although we had to move around all the existing furniture to get it to fit.

The redeeming qualities of this quality inn, however, would have to be the breakfast, and the pool. The kids are loving swimming in the pool every day, and although it is a tad bit cold, it’s a beautiful pool area. Also, free breakfast for 6 of us is certainly nice. And waffles? Yum.

So, that’s our experience so far. Not sure if we are going to book this hotel for one more night, or just go somewhere else. Somewhere that I can choose before committing to paying.

Sorry, priceline, you may have lost my business.

Festival of Color

2014
04.01

In India, Holi announces the arrival of spring and the passing of winter. The festival breathes an atmosphere of social merriment. People bury their hatchets with a warm embrace and throw their worries to the wind. Every nook and corner presents a colorful sight. Young and old alike are covered with colors (red, green, yellow, blue, black and silver). People in small groups are seen singing, dancing and throwing colors on each other.

I have seen the pictures, and we have driven by the Krishna temple in Spanish Fork, but we have never been able to go before. This year, I told Ryan that we were going. He uttered something of a groan. Ryan doesn’t always catch the enthusiasm with which I like to live my life. But that’s ok, he has other strengths. And he was willing to go along with it. The kids had seen pictures, but none of us really knew what to expect.

We drove to Spanish Fork and parked our car at the Fairgrounds. I had read that the shuttle bus was the way to go, so we paid for our shuttle tickets and entrance and got on the bus in our white t-shirts.

The bus dropped us off a ways from the site, but it wasn’t a long walk. On the way people were selling water, white bandanas, and face masks, all for $1 each. Everybody’s got to make a buck. WE noticed so many parking lots in farmers fields. At $5 a car, I’m sure they make a nice haul for these two days of the Festival.

We got there right before 11:00 and thought we wouldn’t make it onto the hill in time for the 11:00 throwing, so we stood back a bit to get some pictures.


White, right?
Not for long.
When they throw, it’s like little puffs of color all over.

Of course, my friend, Erin, who is a photographer with a good camera, gets a shot more like this. I’m not sure if hers was later in the afternoon, or what the conditions are, but I love the vibrant colors in that shot!

We made out way up to the temple. As we would pass people, little by little we started getting more and more color on us. People just put some of the chalk in their hand and toss it as you as you walk by, or they even smear it on your face or shirt. Someone threw some color right in Ryan’s face, and it took him a bit to blink it out and get so he could see again. No personal space, really.

And if you play with the color settings on the camera, whether intentionally or as you are stuffing the camera in your pocket, you get some funky pictures.

We didn’t purchase the little bags of colors, because the line was long and we are cheap.
Besides, we thought there would be plenty of people throwing their color.
We were right.

When we got into the crowd on the hill, there was music, dancing, singing. We even held hands and did some jumping. We are all different, but equal, they said. While it may seem a bit weird to some of us, it wasn’t way out there. There was nothing said that was offensive or takes away from my own beliefs.

Finally it was time for the big throw. They counted down and then everyone threw their colors. Cleansing, welcoming of spring.

I didn’t try to take pictures while we were in the cloud. It went dark for a few seconds because of all the chalk in the air. After about 30 seconds, it was a pinkish haze.

Instead of vibrant colors, all the colors got a bit muted from the thrown colors.

As we walked out and back to the bus stop, there was a stream of colored people walking out, and a stream of white people coming in.

I should have remembered the garbage bags to sit on in the car. I also should have remembered the baby wipes.

Oh, well. Maybe I’ll remember those next time.

It’s Tuesday now and one of the kids at school asked me if I had green in my hair. Do I still have green in my hair? Natalie has pink and orange in her hair, close to her scalp. Lasting benefits, I guess.

It was a fun activity for a Saturday. I’m so glad we were able to go.

I can think of better ways to save $26 a month

2014
03.27

On Monday we did a little yard clean up. Clipping dead stuff, raking leaves, etc. We filled up a couple of our garbage cans with yard waste, so I sent Megan and Jenna to take it to the green recycle place in Lindon. They loaded up the truck and off they went.

Half hour later I got a call from Megan. I had a had time understanding her. She was pretty upset. The truck had died and she couldn’t get it started, and she was stuck off to the side of the road on the freeway overpass. I told her not to panic, that I would be there in 10-12 minutes.

Car problems, argh. About a year ago we had a similar experience with the truck not starting when we were at the dentist’s office. You can read about that SUPER FUNNY experience here. It has been running fine, but didn’t pass inspection in November until we bought a new handle (due to that lovely dentist’s office experience) and a new emergency brake.
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So it was $500 bucks in repairs so that the dumb thing would pass the safety inspection. I was ready to just let it go then, as I have been several other times through the years, like when we replaced the clutch about 5 years ago. But, it has run like a champ for many many miles.

But not that day. I got in the suburban and hurried down to meet her. When I pulled up, there was a nice man in his car parked in front of them. He had helped them push the truck over to the side of the road, and then said he would wait there until their parents came. What a nice man. Ryan got there at the same time as I did. Seems she had called dad first and he left work a bit early to come to the rescue. But it took both of us to help out. Me, because I drive the suburban. Him, because he got to drive the truck as I towed it back home. Megan got to drive the Kia home, and once we had the tow rope hooked up, she took off.

I have never towed a car before. Not super fun. Ryan had never driven a car being towed before. Also not super fun. We had an open phone conversation going the whole time, commenting on when we needed to slow down and stop, etc. The tow-ee is driving VERY close to the tow-er, and ther is a risk of being rear ended if you aren’t careful. Well, I am a careful driver, and we went pretty slow. The 21 minutes it took to get home felt much longer.

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We got the truck home, breathed a sigh of relief, and then Ryan did some investigating to see if he could figure out what was wrong. His best guess is a cracked engine block (I think…help me out and correct me here, Ryan, if you are reading this) and that’s not something that would be cheap to repair. We haven’t done anything about it, haven’t taken it anywhere to see if it’s something else that could be fixed, yet. Maybe we will. I don’t know.

It will be sad to say goodbye to that truck. We bought that truck the first year we were married. Before we had kids, before we had a house, before we had anything, really.
We used to cram a car seat in the middle seat and take Cole on outings in that truck.
Both Cole and Megan have learned to drive in that car, and learned the valuable skill of driving a manual transmission. Everyone should learn that!
It has hauled countless truckloads of mulch, grass clippings, garage sale finds, tress and plants, and the list goes on.
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No, it’s not much to look at, that’s for sure.

But it is 24 years old, after all.
We aren’t exactly sure how many miles are on it.
Funny thing about the odometer.

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I don’t know if you can read it, but that first number is between the 5 and the 6. Some years ago the first number started turning with the other numbers, so instead of 175K it said we had 475K or something like that. So we don’t really know how many miles it has driven, but let’s just say it’s a lot. Over 250,000, I would think. That’s a lot of miles.

Since we aren’t driving it and don’t know if we will ever drive it again, I cancelled our insurance on that vehicle. That’s a savings of $26 a month, right there.

Not the most efficient way to save a few dollars.

Do not spray on things you like

2014
03.25

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It was a warmish day today (55 degrees, I think) and I already had the chickens caged up because Ryan had put fertilizer on the lawn and I would like to give it a day or two to settle before the chickens come out and disturb (hopefully not eat) it, so I mixed up a batch of round-up in the 3 gallon sprayer. As I was looking at the instructions to see how much of the concentrate to mix with that much water, I read, “Do not spray Round up on plants, trees or flowers that you like.”

Now that sounds really obvious, doesn’t it? Don’t spray weed killer on the plants you like. But as I am spraying those grasses and weeds, I ALWAYS end up spraying something I didn’t want to spray, especially in the early spring when the tulips and daffodils are just green.
Some of them are hiding in there with the grasses that I am trying to get rid of. Sometimes they get a squirt on them.

As I read that warning, I was trying to think of a great analogy with life and parenting. After all, conference is coming up in two weeks, and I have been listening to last session’s talks to get myself ready for conference. I’m sure Dieter Uchtdorf could come up with a wonderful analogy about that. Oh, wait, it’s not an airplane or related to travel. Ok, President Monson would have a great story about taking flowers to the widows and could have tied that in. Me? I didn’t come up with much. Except be careful where you spray, cause you will kill your flowers as well as the weeds.

Perhaps that warning should pop up in our heads before we say something rude or sarcastic, especially to our kids. “Do not spray on things you like”. Even if you are mad, even if they deserve it. Even if they come home from school and their bad mood immediately kills the happy mood in the house. They do not need us to spray bad or angry words at them. We do, after all, like our kids. Hold your tongue. Share kindness and love with them, maybe that will help their bad mood.

Last night, it seems we were all doing ok, until it was time to get ready for bed. The girls all went upstairs. Some to get ready for bed, one to pick up her laundry. Some kind of shouting and shoving ensued, and before I knew it, doors were being slammed, and there was some stomping away. Big Sigh from Mom. Didn’t we just have family home evening and go on a bikeride and then watch brother bear together? Didn’t we just learn that you need to forgive your brother because you never know when he might be turned into a bear? Come on, people. Good night and good riddance, I thought to myself. But I couldn’t let it go. Someone was hurting, and I needed to see what I could do to help. I went to the door slammer’s room with a peace offering of a cookie. (I had hid the cookies we made the day before because, frankly, if I don’t hide them, they are GONE in about 10 minutes and then we have no cookies for lunches.)
“Hey,” I said, “What’s wrong?”
“Stuff.”
Hmm, that’s not much to go on, but I tried to comfort and reassure that we loved her, even if it didn’t seem like we did, and even if we weren’t pleased with the door slamming and the stomping.

Do not spray on things you like.

What do you know, I DID make an analogy. Not like you’ll hear in conference or anything, but it’ll work for the blog.

transformation

2014
03.21

I didn’t take a substitute job today because I didn’t want to. I just wanted to do some spring cleaning at home, and enjoy a bit of time without anyone else there.
So, once I got the kitchen cleaned up a bit this morning, I put on my painting clothes (no, there will be no pictures of me in my painting clothes, thank you very much) and went to work on a project I started back before the Taiwanese girls came.

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I think I know why I like painting so much.
Just think.
For about $4 in paint, I can take a small piece, and with a few afternoons of work, I can transform a table, or a dresser. I can take a plain or ugly table, and make it cute again.
With a little more time and money (ok, quite a bit more time and money), I can change a room. I love that. I can change it.

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Here’s the table before I started. I took it out to the porch to sand it because it had some water damage and needed quite a bit of sanding.
See that cute kitty who was helping me?
Good kitty. I’m sure she was wondering what I was doing.
This table was actually given to me by a friend. I quite liked it in white but decided since I was going to paint it I might as well paint it a cute happy color. If I don’t like it I’ll just give it to one of the kids for their rooms.

I wish I could transform other areas in my life with just a can of paint and a brush.
Don’t like your hair? Paint it.
Don’t like your body? No problem, let’s just paint it up nice and we can make it younger and thinnner, with no aches and pains.
Aren’t happy with a relationship with a friend or a loved one? There’s a paint for that.

But darn it. Life is not fixed by a can of paint.
To change your life, your body, your relationships, that takes work, and effort, and commitment, and sometimes tears.

Maybe that’s why I love the transformations I can do with paint or fabric so much.

Zoo day and more!

2014
03.17

On Saturday we took the family plus our guests to Hogel Zoo. It’s been several years since we have been to the zoo.
I guess it just got too expensive, too crowded, too far away? I don’t know. But since we had 8 people, we just bought an annual pass, so we can go again a few times this year.

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First we found Taiwan on the rotating water earth ball.

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We loved seeing all the animals. At each animal, we would ask the girls how to say the name of that animal in Chinese, and we would practice trying to make our mouths say those sounds. For example, elephant is dà xiàng. But we of course say every one wrong, so the girls got a good laugh out of our trying.

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My favorite animal is the giraffe, which in Chinese, is cháng j?ng lù. But you have to make your inflection go up and down or else it’s some other word. There’s a reason I don’t speak Chinese.
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The one animal name we WILL be able to remember without looking it up is the tortoise. Oogway. Yep. Like in Kung Fu Panda.

See the resemblance?

No?

Look harder.

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Even though it was colder than we would have liked,
(Brrr when the wind was blowing)
we had a fun time.

The kids were mostly not whiny.

Mostly.

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We even rode the $2 per ride Carousel, which I have never let my kids ride. I know. When we have exchange students we splurge, since we are getting paid to host them, we use that money to do fun things as a family.

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When we left, John really wanted to go to the This is the Place Heritage Park. Since we bought an annual pass for that one last spring, we only had to pay $3 for an extra guest, so we took the girls over there, too. There isn’t much open until the spring season starts in April, but we still enjoyed our visit.
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I don’t know if the girls understand much about the pioneer history here, but we explained some. And the train conductor’s tour was interesting (this driver went slower and told us more about the different locations) He even took our picture to put on the Pioneer Park Facebook page.

On the way home, the girls were pretty tired.
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We were all pretty tired, and even a little sunburned. So we had a couple of hours at home before we loaded everyone up and went to dinner at the girls choice for their last evening out in America–In and Out Burgers. I don’t know why this place is such a big deal, but everyone seems to love it.
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We had a fun time.

Sunday morning the girls got loaded up nice and early as we had to get them to their meeting place at 8 am. Off they go back home. We had a great experience hosting this time, and we hope the girls remember fondly their time in Utah. So we say
zài jiàn
goodbye

to our Taiwanese girls. We hope to meet again.