Thursday, December 25, 2008

Family

First, the obligatory holiday greeting! We never sent out wedding announcements thinking, "We'll just send out a nice holiday card with a picture from our wedding..." but never got to those either. I promise to do better next year, and you will all have pictures of our baby girl wearing a goregous smile (because with Grant's and my genes individually, let alone combined, you know she's going to have one) and a headband with a really, really big bow or flower on it. I'm determined to build a wicked collection of headbands with humungous bows or flowers on them. Those are for the times I don't take her out in the onesie I saw at Wal-Mart and just know I'm going to have to buy that reads, "I'm a GIRL!"

We'll have a big, fun post on our holiday adventures. So far, we've managed a road trip that should take 5-6 but ended up taking almost EIGHT--and that was with GOOD traffic out of Chicago, and Grant and I have played Joseph and Mary for the first time a homemade nativity play (my nieces picking out parts for everyone figured I'm close enough to having the days accomplished until I give birth to give the appropriate effect).

As the time draws ever nearer (and although I'm not hoping that the doctor has missed the mark and I'll go into labor in two weeks instead of seven, I definitely want this bun to keep cooking I think I am nearing the as my dear friend from high school who recently had her first so accurately described, "Let's-Get-This-Over-With Phase") where our family grows by one, I'm ever contemplating what kind of family we'll prove to be as the years go by...

We'll Love them sooooo much. And we'll probably express that a lot, to them and each other. I'm worried that our kids will never invite their friends over because we'll still be making out in front of them when they're in high school. But, at least they'll know their parents are crazy about each other.

We'll have a boatload of Fun.
It might take us a while to figure out our own family traditions to share with them (we still haven't decided about whether or not to teach our kids about Santa--Grant's for it and I'm the Grinch but like we need to know now anyway--it'll be at least another 3 years before the one that's coming will even catch on) but we'll work it out. We'll work hard to teach them important things like Right and Wrong, the Articles of Faith and how to responsibly manage money, cook, clean and do laundry for themselves before they leave the house. But they'll also grow up knowing the ways of the Force (and that we never watch the director's cut of those movies), the difference between garden variety orks and the Uruk Hai (and that we always watch the director's cut of these), the deliciousness of Chinese food and at least a few token words and phrases in Spanish (Grant's mission language) and Hungarian (my mission language) respectively.

We'll mess up plenty too, but hopefully they won't come out of it too scathed for normal function in society. We are a little worried that they might think that "boobicles", "burnination" and "ingorify" are actual words...and we're worried about bigger things too like disabilites/diseases or any number of the personal challenges they'll face that we'll have absolutely no control over being able to fix...but we'll cross those bridges when we get there, I guess. And I reckon that they'll still be able to look back on a decent family life if we keep making sure we Love them and have Fun doing it.

But...I digress and I have been informed there are children who are eagerly awaiting a Christmas morning celebration, so I'll wrap it up there.

Merry Christmas to all!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Holy Cold!

Some time ago I wrote a blog post about insulating our house. Because it's not a real general appeal item I sort of decided not to talk about insulation more on the blog. Insulating my house is sort of a hobby of mine and I hate to force that on an unwilling audience. However, events this week have transpired that make it a lot more interesting.

In the first place, there's today. The weather outside is like something I (as a kid) never imagined human being have to live through. The high today is like 4 degrees. Right now my weatherbug thing says the current temperature is -2 outside. And it's really windy. Driven snow flying everywhere. The instant the air touches your skin, it's next to unbearable--it stings your skin in a way you didn't think cold could. You wear thermal underwear and lots of other layers and you still feel constantly chilled. Your car is seriously reluctant to start and then never really warms up. You just have to experience it to really know what I'm talking about.

It looks something like this


actually that's a picture from a previous snowstorm that wasn't nearly this cold. Amazingly people still drive around and do stuff in this weather. Actually we have had some fun as it seems pretty much impossible to get the car out of any parking spot without someone pushing from behind. There's simply no traction. Ashley can spin the wheels all she wants, but it's nowhere near as effective as putting a big strong burly man (yeah, I'm talking about myself) behind. I feel like I can almost push our little car out of a parking space with no mechanical help, thanks to the slickness of the road. Next time we go to any store we are getting ourselves a snow shovel.

This weather creates quite an interesting insulation problem. As you know I have insulated our windows with two layers of bubble wrap. Yet still the house has been really cold. In particular the room that we intend to put the baby in is uncomfortably cold. I mean, like below 60 degrees. Lately we have just kept the door closed since no one stays in there, but we are understandably worried about it as a baby room.

I have realized that in addition to the glass part of the windows, a lot of heat is lost through conduction through the metal frame of the windows. So I have started bubble wrapping the metal frames. As I was doing that I made what turned out to be a very important observation: there are cracks where the window framing meets the walls. Fairly significant ones People normally ignore these kinds of gaps because you can't see through them or feel air blowing through them. But that doesn't mean they aren't a pathway to the outside cold. We had some caulk left over from our battle against the mouse infestation here, so I spent a while caulking around all the joints of the windows in that room. We closed the door and went to sleep. This morning we opened the door, and the room is as warm as the rest of the house. Plenty comfortable for a baby. The difference between having a constantly bitter cold in our house, and especially in that room, and having a nice balmy environment was just a few cents worth of caulk and a few minutes of my time. And it even looks better than it did before.

In case I'm not expressing myself clearly, let me be more succinct. Caulk is my hero. After our Christmas travels we are going to get a few big tubes of caulk and go over all the window frames in all our windows, and maybe a few other places as well. I have a feeling cold air comes in through the gaps in the baseboards as well...and I know mice do. So cheap, and so effective. All things considered, a few drops of caulk were probably as important as all my efforts with the bubble wrap, if not more so. When we eventually get a house, I'm going to caulk every joint that can possibly be caulked, then I'm going to get outside caulking and do the same to the outside of my house. And then I'm going to do it all again.

So our apartment is now easily the warmest in the building since we all get the same amount of heat and ours is better insulated than the neighbors'. It's comfortably in the 70s (and we're working on getting it up higher) despite the temperature outside--in fact the inside temperature in our house is higher when it's colder outside because they turn up the heaters to try and keep our neighbors alive.

It's interesting how much energy is spent heating the house. You know it's a lot because everywhere there's no bubble wrap on our windows, ice and frost have formed on the INSIDE of our windows. We can walk up an touch open ice any time we want from inside our house without opening windows. So you know the radiator is putting out enough heat to be constantly melting that. It makes me wonder why the people who build buildings here in Chicago don't plan for the extreme temperatures more.

Anyway, this cold affords us the opportunity to do a lot of complaining and start a lot of conversation with people with whom we otherwise have little in common. It has taught us a lot about the value of different insulation strategies. Not to mention the value of a little hot chocolate and snuggling. :)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Video for Work

The other day I was having a bum day at work so Ashley made me a video to cheer me up. I loved it so much!



She makes that cutesy voice to cheer me up. And it works! But of course she's embarrassed about it so nobody say anything. :)

He cracks me up...


Grant's has an ENTP personality type, and any of you who know him likely have an idea what I'm referring to when I say that because he very often sits people down and gives them the test from the book and he's probably done it to you, too. He did it with me one of the first times we hung out, as he often does. Luckily, as an ESFJ, we're nearly a perfect match according to the book.

One of the qualities of your typical ENTP is the drive to explore new things, solve problems and constantly optimize. The stuff about cameras and insulation? Or our unblogged victories over the year and a half long mice infestation in this apartment and then successfully maneuvering our little car out of the bank it had been plowed into? The products of an ENTP personality. He finds a problem and then starts researching possibly solutions like mad until, and usually be means of his own design, formulates a plan to solve it. Like with the insulation.

Today he was further optimizing the attack on the cold in our apartment by spreading caulk along the edges of the windows and blocking any possible means of air to escape through the cracks, when it dawned on me: I've married my own dude from Man vs Wild.

Well, more like Man vs Suburbia, but you get the idea.

Suddenly I had an imagine in my head of being deserted for reals--it would be a hayday for him! And he'd totally conquer it all--getting water, permanent shelter, finding food. I have no doubt our family would be totally fine.

It is pretty amusing to see him in action, though. He just goes until he fixes it, and he finds pretty impressive means to accomplish it. I've never seen anything like it.

Then again, that's true about most of Grant's personality. I've just never seen anything like it...

And it makes me really curious about the personalities of our children.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Beaucoup Christmas!

(It's pronounced boo-coo. Don't ask me about the spelling, that's just how the French do it. Because they're kind of spikey and, well...kind of French.)

I think my earliest memories of Christmas Lights on Steroids come from the trip on Highway 59 between Ottawa (where we lived) and Lawrence (where my great-grandmother lived and all the family gatherings took place), KS. A few miles south of Lawrence, there was a house off the highway that really stood out from all the others with the quantity of lights and elements used--eventually they even had a fully lit sign that read, "Merry Christmas from the Smiths!" We also noticed throughout the years that the displays got more and more elaborate until one year abruptly they had disappeared altogether. We entertained many theories...maybe they moved? Maybe the neighborhood got together and signed a petition to ban it? Maybe the wife died and the husband was just too sad to keep putting the lights up? Who knows? It's a mystery to this day.

When I was in high school, a radio station in Kansas City sponsored a contest of "White Trash Christmas", and it just so happened that the winner of said contest lived not so far from my Dad's girlfriend's house. It was this huge house on a corner and they just went wild. Their display didn't have any order, it was just lots and lots of lights. The house was on a little hill and they had strings of lights just sitting on the ground streaming down from the house and ending with a set of lights still in the display case. It was pretty impressive.

In Jersey, there is a family on the street where my closest friend there lives who just goes to town on an Elvis-themed display. There's only one street that feeds into the little group of streets where she lives too, so often during the holidays it takes her a long, long time just to make her way down the street to get home. Crazy.

So I know that people can get "into" their Christmas lights and give the Disney Spectacular Main Street Electrical Parade a run for it's money, but nothing prepared me for this.

This is someone's actual display from last year. They actually timed it on a computer to music. I was stunned.

My favorites are the Amazing Grace and Carol of the Bells, but I haven't watched all the videos from this year yet.

I thought Grant and I were doing good with our tiny tree, two stockings and two strands of silver garland around our doorways...

Then again, I could see this becoming something he finds neat, gets into and learns everything possible about until he optimizes and masters.

Luckily I don't have to worry about that possibility until we have a house.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My Hero

So, I've gotten to know some pretty amazing people in my life. There's just been a steady flow all throughout, and I've looked up to them for their strength and capacity.

Turns out, I not only came from but also married into a family of really outstanding people all around.

I've never actually met this particular one, so I don't even have a picture to share, but we've gotten to know each other through our blogs, Facebook and emails and I've learned quite a bit.

*She's a return missionary, like me (Spanish speaking in South America, though I forget where...).
*She's a cloth diaper enthusiast (and a convincing one at that!).
*She's hiLARious (and introduced me to one of my favorite humor blogs)!
*She's my age(ish) and the mother of 3--an almost 3yo, almost 2yo and a 2 and a half month old (did I mention she had the last one at home?).
*I look at her in absolute awe.

Not only is she clearly an awesome mother, but each of her children has or is currently facing a major medical issue and she just handles it. She doesn't lie about being frustrated or that it's not hard but she doesn't let that stop her from dealing with it and getting done everything that needs to be done. Her blog reflects what I believe her attitude is--she just celebrates life. Yep, there are lots of challenges and just as she gets used to one another one seems to pop up and a lot of them are crazy things that no one else seems to have to deal with, but she still sees all that there is in the world to laugh about, find joy in and be grateful for. All that stuff that makes the challenges worthwhile.

Lots of people who read this already know about Danielle and what a neat person she is, but lots of you don't, so I thought I'd do my part by spreading the good news. Everyday we hear about people who are corrupt and do terrible, awful and sometimes unimaginable things...

But there are also Heroes out there.

Real live ones.

And Danielle is one of mine.

New Skillz


One of my friends from church ran into a crunch a while ago and she had an out-of-town emergency that she needed to attend to immediately and without any warning whatsoever. The only glitch was that she's an office manager for a dentist here in Evanston and would be leaving the doctor and the other girl on staff totally stranded to cover her hours. So, she asked me if I wanted to make some extra cash...just in time for the holidays and shopping for baby stuff!

I came into the office and met the doctor and got about an hour and half of training and then showed up on Monday morning and kinda just picked the rest up as I went along.

It was a neat experience--I did receptionist stuff like answer phones, schedule follow-up appointments with people who need more work or come back in six months for their next cleaning, call people and remind them to come to the cleaning they scheduled six months ago even just in case they didn't get the postcard they filled out on their way out the door after their last cleaning, do the billing stuff for all the procedures, print out and fax/mail in insurance claims, update the office books and individual accounts for all the services performed and payments received, get deposits ready for the bank, make calls to different labs and such. But because there is just the one doctor and she doesn't hire any hygienists I also learned how to break down, clean, sterilize and set up a room after a patient's been in, how to clean and sterilize all the instruments and where they belong afterward, how to record on a chart for her where there are fillings or cavities while she examines a patient for the first time, how to prepare all the stuff so she can take an impression of someone's teeth, and stuff like that. It was a very empowering experience to get into the groove.

I learned a bunch of stuff about the world of dentistry and made some extra money, all while helping out a friend. Originally it was only supposed to be a few days, but then almost a month later...but that's okay. It was fun.

It was very reminiscent of my nanny job to some degree. Although my primary function was to do the office work and help with other stuff non-office related but helpful to her that kept me busy, I also had a definite social function as well. She's a very nice, talkative lady and she kept me engaged all day. As a nanny, my primary function was to help with the kids and around the house, and I also helped with non-kids but very helpful to her stuff that kept me busy (I'm very supportive of being used in this capacity--they might as well be getting their money's worth out of me! Getting paid to read the whole Twilight series drove me NUTS about my job at the nursing home),but I was a social outlet there, too. Every single day she'd come into the room I was in and start talking to me and we'd spend an hour just chatting away about this, that and the other--"Oh my gosh, listen to what happened..." or "You have GOT to see what I bought for [insert child's name here]". It was actually very comforting at the dentist's, because turns out I miss that interaction. Granted, keeping the Greek dentist from the North Shore company has a very different flavor than keeping the Jewish housewife from Jersey company--but they're both fun and very nice ladies.

And it was nice because it sure sped up the day so I got to my favorite part of it all the faster! The end! There's a sweet little church song for children that opens, "I'm so glad when Daddy comes home..." and I find myself humming it quite a bit, especially in the late afternoon when I know it won't be long before Grant heads back to the train.

I can not wait to teach it to Kendra and get her as excited as I am for when Daddy comes home.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Editor's Note

So, last week my sweet husband posted this:



Here is the stream of thought behind the photography.

1) Grant appears in the kitchen poised to photograph me. I stop what I'm doing and give a little pose. 2) After he clicks it, I realize he doesn't take very many pictures he doesn't want to share and I gasp as I say, "Grant! The kitchen's a mess, I look horrible and I'm
making a bowl of ice cream and they won't know it's not for me!" 3) "I mean it, get out of here and stop taking pictures!" 4) "Grant, come on isn't it bad enough that I'm fat and pregnant?" 5) "Come on, please. I've even got this incriminating box of graham crackers in my hand..." 6) Hanging my head in defeat.

Getting an education

Turns out, I got pregnant and realized I didn't know jack about having a baby.

So what do I do when I don't know jack about something? Heh. God bless Google!

I do a fair amount of research and I've discovered several websites that send out week-by-week newsletters with information about what's going on with your baby, how things are developing, what's happening to your body, etc, etc, stb, stb ("stb" is the Hungarian equivalent to "etc").

The first one I found and signed up for almost immediately after confirming I was pregnant was the American Pregnancy Association. This site is by far the most formal--lots of good information on just about anything you want to know very detailed and specific. I sort of imagine a Martha Stewart-ish voice when I read the articles. The weekly newsletters amuse me because at the end of each one there is a section called, "Tips for Mom's Partner". Basically, every single week in a very nice way it says, "Shut up. Forget about anything you want. Pamper the dickens out of her. Worship the ground she walks on." And it gives some very helpful suggestions on just how to do that.

Then there's The Bump. The Bump is a little more colorful and a little more fun--it's kind of a community thing if you want to get involved, but it's also a lot of marketing. I get my newsletter every week but I also get several other emails on sales they're having and products they recommend. Yeah right, I married the notoriously spend-thrifty Farns and this is one way we're pretty compatible, buddy. Just give me my free newsletter. The information is pretty much the same stuff I learn from the APA, but they also compare the baby's size to produce, starting with a poppy seed and working up to a watermelon. Right now our little four-pounder is the size of a squash according to them. It's fun, but the sellsellsell vibe is a bit of a turn-off.

Then I found Baby Ga-Ga. This one is by far my favorite, because it comes in a couple of different flavors. One of them is, well...kind of obnoxious and yet still so on target! If you want you can research and get information in the Martha Stewart-ish/Miracle of Life context, or you can order it with a splash of up-front humor and reality-check. I prefer the later. And it's got the community option without the marketing, which I very much appreciate. I like the comical presentation of information and every week there is a little cartoon on the side that's hilarious. Actually, getting this newsletter this morning totally prompted me to write this post. I wish these guys wrote What to Expect When You're Expecting...it'd make learning about the horrific stuff less scary.

So, if you or someone you know is trying to get pregnant, is/are pregnant or someday planning on being pregnant--here are several different newsletters you can sign up for and you're sure to find one that's just right right for you, whether you have the Miracle of Life take or the Nitty Gritty take on bringing a person into the world.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas as a family

A year ago both Ashley and I were stuck in Chicago for Christmas. It was a lonely time for both of us, away from all family, so we got together to exchange presents and Christmas cheer.

It's a good thing we held our little party at her house because she takes a decidedly less grinch-like approach to the holidays (despite her attitude toward our friend from the North pole). It was a wonderful, beautiful Christmas for both of us.

Here is a picture from last Christmas:


Today we busted out the decorations. Thank goodness for Ashley and her decorations!

This year we are just getting started, but it's going to be great. Fewer presents, though. :)

Fun in the Kitchen

Lately Ashley and I have noticed that some things we do are remarkably white-trash-like.

For example, there's me cooking hot dogs over an open flame...on the stove


And then I noticed that since being pregnant, Ashley has come to love walking around the house in a fuzzy robe and sandals.

Here she is pregnant and essentially barefoot in the kitchen getting ice cream.




Haha, After the first picture she realized that she wasn't really dressed to be posted on the internet. Then she said she was going to look like a pig getting herself a big bowl of ice cream. She objected, and finally just let me take my pictures. She's such a tolerant girl.

It turns out ice cream was for me and she didn't even have any. But I just thought it was such a picturesque moment.

I love you, Ashley.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Scary story with a Happy ending

*Disclaimer--although this post starts with words like "pain" "worried" and "pre-term labor" and involves a trip to the hospital, everything is absolutely fine with me, Kendra and Grant*

Well, not long after I reported my fun of the Third Trimester Blues, I started noticing some things that started gradually but eventually got bad enough that I was in pain and worried. The Sunday before Thanksgiving, there was one spot on my left side towards the bottom of my belly that was really uncomfortable and although I had already felt it, Sunday it was much worse. After we got home from church it stopped being just uncomfortable and started being painful and I found myself sitting down double-over and breathing hard to find some relief while Grant frantically clicked through Google search results to see if he could find some piece of information that would be useful in helping me. We tried Tylenol, which seemed to take the edge off for a little while but when the pain came back in full force an hour later, we decided to stop messing around and call the doctor.

I was very surprised when my doctor's partner picked up so late on a Sunday evening (I caught him doing paperwork) but I spoke to him about what was going on and he said that it didn't sound like I was having contractions (because the pain was localized in one spot and lasting a long time), but told me to come into the hospital just in case and they'd put me on a fetal monitor and check everything out.
He said especially since it was my first baby. I kind of think that means, "Since you've never done this before and have no idea what you're doing or what's really going on, we'll make sure it's all okay."

Did we mention that if you drive south on the street we live on, after half a mile the road literally turns into the entrance to the parking lot of the hospital where I'll be delivering? Naaaice.

And, everything was fine. I was starting to feel foolish once they did put the monitor on me because by that point there wasn't any pain at all. Actually...it was kind of nice because a doctor came in and did an ultrasound so we got to see our baby again and everything is looking great and she's growing just beautifully--even starting to measure a little earlier than her first due date and she is for sure a Kendra Kay and not an Elliot Landon. They had us wait for an hour to test me for a UTI, which came out clear. We spent the time cuddled on the hospital bed listening to our baby's heartbeat. It was really neat to point out to Grant that whenever the beat was interrupted by what sounded like static, that it was the baby moving and I could feel it. He was really surprised to hear how much she moves around! I was a little too, because I can't feel absolutely everything she does.

But, the test came out clear and we were back home and in bed by the usual time. The experience was actually an overall pleasant one because we got to see the rooms in the maternity ward and they're really nice--they do the labor and delivery all in the same room. They just pull away the bottom half of the bed when it's time for the mother to start pushing--and there's a TV with a DVD player/VCR and a stereo, even a mini-fridge and everything. We were really impressed. We just snuggled and listened to our baby for an hour. I almost actually fell asleep.

However, the best part about it was we found the miracle cure for what ails me.

It's so simple, it's ridiculous.



WATER!

I've long since known and personally experienced that there are a few basic rules to taking good care of yourself.

*Get plenty of rest.
*Get proper nutrition.
*Get ample exercise.
*Drink plenty of water.

I've been pretty good about having all of those in check, especially over the last few months but we've kicked the water up a notch and have noticed dramatic results. I replaced my five or six 3/4 pint glasses with 7 or 8 3/4 quart glasses a day and ooooohhh my. We measured it out to make sure I'm not actually drinking too much, but when we asked the doctor she said I did the best thing by starting with water and taking Tylenol and that in the future I should just drink "as much as you can stand". So we took it to heart. Apparently although pregnant women should be getting at least 2.5 liters of water a day, pushing 1.5 gallons doesn't do you any harm.

Hardly! Right now the only thing that's bothersome about pregnancy for me is maneuvering my big belly. Literally. I feel awesome. I think I was already doing pretty well because I had the other things in check (I know we make fun of the number of supplements I take but I really do think they're making a difference), but now that this hydration thing is in check there is absolutely nothing stopping me!

I mean, I still waddle and even more with each passing day. There are times I literally catch myself with a strut that resembles that of Warwick Davis. There's also the simple logistics of having a pregnant belly--I still ask Grant to pick things up off the floor for me when he's around. And when I wake up in the mornings my lower back is usually pretty stiff, but I just get up and start waddling around and it loosens right up after 10 minutes and doesn't bother me at all for the rest of the day. Of course, there is still the frequent trips to the bathroom but that is a price I very, very gladly pay for the freedom from almost all other discomfort. No pain of any kind unless I'm not getting enough water and then all I have to do and guzzle a big glass and with in a few minutes...nothing. And since my belly is constantly so full of water my insatiable appetite has all but disappeared! It's a grand and glorious thing.

So, even though we were a little worried when the doctor said, "Come in" we are feeling soooo very blessed we did! Gosh, I can't imagine whining about that pain in my side for three whole months!

She's still not due for more than two months, so there's plenty of time for other things to pop up and give me grief but I'm enjoying this while it lasts!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Ultrasound

We got a dang scanner! Now we can share this picture of Kendra with the rest of you.


It's a couple of months old. She's much bigger now. Pushing three pounds, apparently.

Still small, though.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Predictability

The following conversation just transpired.

"Grant? My sweet husband, father of my child, Love of my Life..."

"It sounds like criticism is going to follow."

"Oh, no, nothing like that."

"Garbage?"

"Could you please?"

He's outside taking care of it as I type. In the rain, no less. I love that guy.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Death in the Family :(

A Sad Event

Remember flotsam, our betta? Remember how I was all jazzed about how the filtration system was going to prevent him from meeting the unfortunate end that most bettas in small fish tanks meet? *sigh*

Lately he hasn't been responding to our feeding and he has been hanging out just in one little place in the tank. We were worried about him so we looked up some common betta illnesses. Certain bacterial infections make their eyes pop out, fungus eats their fins, another fungus eats their face, something else makes all their scales stick out. Really scary. What's scarier is that within a few days he started exhibiting all these symptoms. He was attacked by several different fungi, parasites, and bacteria all at the same time. Every day he moved less and eventually spent all his time floating on his side. As the fungus on his head began to grow it was too much for him and we euthanized him in a ziplock bag of slushy cold water, which we then froze. We were near tears. Well, Ashley was...it was a pregnant moment.

I think at the end of the day, despite what anyone might say, fish are not meant to be kept in a little jar. They die. The betta I had as a kid in my 10 gallon tank with other fish and a real filter with activated charcoal and all that lived and lived with no health problems whatsoever. But every betta I see in a little bowl eventually stops eating and dies. No matter what kind of filtration, medication, and feeding you provide.

Hanging on to what we have left

You know what doesn't die, though? Frogs! Just like the little african dwarf frogs in my old aquarium that lived through accidents, pestilence and various forms of neglect without being any the worse for wear, our little froggy is going strong. So instead of buying a new fish of any kind, we got him two new little froggy tank mates and a snail to keep him company.

The good thing about frogs and snails is that the only have to eat once or twice a week, if that. And they don't cloud up the water as much as fish. Experts don't recommend any kind of filtration at all because the frogs don't really need it and the stirring of the water as a result of the filtration is likely to kind of annoy them. Further they are resistant to failing water conditions because they are just hanging around in the water, not breathing it. Want to keep a frog in some slimy mud? He'd probably like that...a lot.

Frogs are really gregarious in groups. They like hanging out on top of each other and they are amazingly cute. Our three frogs love chillin' together at that bottom of the tank. They are proving quite difficult to get a good picture of, but here are a couple of tries, including one of the snail.

Actually the tank seems much emptier now, although it has four inhabitants instead of two. The frogs are smaller and they hang out mostly at the bottom of the tank. The snail is, well, just a snail. We thought about getting a few guppies or a goldfish to provide a few more looks in the tank, but ultimately we are so sad at the loss of our betta that we don't want to put any more fish in our death trap. I wanted to put newts in there (I had them as a kid and they were awesome) but newts eat frogs. We'll probably get a live plant or something eventually. For now we changed the gravel to some red and white stuff that is much finer than the stuff we were using before. This means when and if we turn on the filter again, it will function better than it did before. Secretly I blame that big gravel for flotsam's death.

(edit: Actually they are much more mobile now after having been in the tank a few hours and feel like it's their territory. They are very active little guys and spend much less time at the bottom. We have fed them freeze dried blood worms and tubifex worms and they attacked them like a bunch of pirhanas.)

Consolation

We were sad, so we got ourselves some yummy chinese food. It's just the thing to munch on while we are doing some hard core kicking back on this, the first vacation we've had since I got a real job. Ahhhh.


And for Ashley, some prenatal vitamins...

Yum!

Giving Thanks

For our first Thanksgiving together, Grant and I went to a really nice couple's house from our ward at church who invited us over. It was fun--we were the cute, young ones around the table. Our hostess asked us to each go around and say what we are thankful for.

There really is quite a bit for me to choose from as I have always lived a very, very blessed life. Family, friends, health, prosperity, good fortune, the list goes on and on. But without a doubt, there is one thing that stands far out and it has altered the course of my whole existence forever and for the better.

Grant's Love.


He loves me completely and devotedly and in a way that often leaves me awestruck. Long before he asked me to consider it, I knew that he would be a good husband and I knew that we would be happy together, but the degree to which it's proved to be true continues to astound me. And the thing that makes me so Happy is how very, very Loved I feel. Being Loved like this is something that I've yearned for since I realized it could exist.

I have been giving thanks for it for quite some time, but it's significant enough that I don't think it's redundant to declare here too.

So Happy Thanksgiving, dear ones! I hope everyone has as much to be Thankful for as I do.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Name

Though we still could change our minds, we're pretty sure we know what we're going with. It's weird enough being married and having a baby on the way, but now she's got a name and she's that much more real.

It was a fun experience. Sooooo many names. And great ones too! Grant's only particular is that it can't be too common and my big thing is it can't be too weird. So pretty simple, right? Ha.

Though anyone who's already named at least one child already knows this, Grant and I are newbies to parenting and the adventures sure do start early... It was unbelievable how many names we had to veto because there's a close relative named that or we went to school with someone really nasty named that or it just sounds like the stage name of an unfortunate girl who makes her living doing things of ill repute.

But, thanks to the Internet, Danielle's posted fun and some good old-fashioned patience, we worked up a very well-rounded list. So, we got serious and began taking names off it instead of adding more on and narrowed it down to 3 names we both really liked.

They all seemed like very suitable choices to us, so Grant Googled them. Turns out not one, but two of the names we picked are also the first names of two of the three girls who star in the reality series "Girl Next Door". Which, though we weren't familiar with it off-hand, is a show about Hugh Heffner's three live-in girlfriends at the Playboy mansion. But we still really liked those names, so we plugged them in with our last name. No weirdness.

And, we have a winner!


Once we picked a first name, I suggested my mother's middle name to go with it because I liked the way they fit together. We weren't planning that at all, but I really love what we came up with.

Kendra Kay.

Pretty cute, eh? We think so. But we're madly biased about the awesomeness of our daughter already.

Just please, please, please nobody tell her we knew there was a Bunny running around at the time she was born and picked the same first name in spite of it. Does that make us bad parents already?

And for those who say babies should come with instructions, we found some really good ones. You might learn something too.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Don't Mess with the Pregnant Woman

I went to Sam's Club today, and I am not one to mess with circling a lot to get a spot fifty meters closer to the entrance of a store/mall so I usually park in the back by the gas station. When the weather was warmer, this served a double purpose as it was always in a shadow and saved me from the greenhouse effect. However, today--a day I've been feeling specially huge and waddley--as I pulled into my usual row I noticed a car at the very end pull away and there were no other cars waiting for it or zooming immediately in. So I decided this pregnant lady deserved rock star parking today, dangit.

When I came out of the club, I was moving very sloooowly with my full cart uphill. But I was cheerful because I didn't have far to go. I was still a distance from my car when a car zoomed up and hovered in front of me, waiting to see where I'd go.

Now, I would like to note for the record that I am a very empathetic driver. In fact, especially during the holidays when parking lots are constantly jammed, on my way out of a store or mall if I see people circling for desperately needed spots, I will regularly flag down a driver and signal them to follow me to my spot so they can have it.

But this parking lot wasn't like that. It was very, very far from packed. And I hadn't been moving very quickly all day because it was the end of one of those days when I'm pushing 7 months pregnant, so I didn't think it was fair to put pressure on me (or anyone in a similar condition in which they just have a hard time getting around) to rush and free up a spot when the lot was 2/3 empty.

So I did something a little less Christ-like than I probably should have. I pretended I didn't notice the car was waiting for me. I didn't change my pace at all as I waddled up to my car, fumbled with my keys, unlocked the back door and began unloading my items. One. By. One.

Which honestly is exactly what I would have done if I had parked by the gas station. Cross my heart. Sam's Club items are large, and so is my belly--which means I can't get more than one in an armload.

Turns out I bought mostly cold things and Ole Man Winter is a comin' so it was chilly out. So, of course, I needed to stop and put on my gloves. Very, very carefully. I might have even taken the left one off and put it back on because my engagement ring twisted in a funny way.

After all my items were loaded, I closed the door and fumbled to get my keys out of my pocket and lock it up--which I would have done anyway.

But then I had this giant cart and I had to put it away, so I waddled it over to the nearest corral. And I might have taken my sweet time putting my hat on and strapping my purse over me, which items were sitting in the front of the cart when I left the store.

This process took multiple minutes, and the car was still waiting for me. More than enough time for him to have just found another space and walked the extra fifty meters and already been in the store several times over.

So I didn't feel sorry for him and I still pretended not to see him. In fact, I don't even know if it even was a him or a her because I didn't give the car that much notice.

I fumbled my keys out of my pocket--okay, I admit all the key fumbling isn't typical and was a bit obnoxious of me--and got into the car. However, instead of immediately turning on the engine and driving away, I sent text messages. Not only a continuation of previous conversations, but I sent new messages to people telling them about the situation.

So, the car honked at me.

Yeah, right buddy. That's going to suddenly rush me after the past five minutes I've spent teaching you a lesson. My husband won't be home for almost another 2 hours and my battery isn't flinching. I got nothing but time. I'm in no hurry and you shouldn't be either.

And I stayed there. For several more minutes.

I'm not sure at what point the guy finally gave up and found another spot, but I hope I made my points clear.

1) Some parking lot driving behavior isn't only stupid, it's down-right rude. Like hovering over a spot in a lot that is NO where near full and waiting a long time for someone who's clearly oblivious to you.

2) Honking is annoying, unnecessary and also rude unless a life is at stake. Ever. And if there is a life a stake, what the heck are you doing at Sam's Club anyway?

2) Don't mess with pregnant women. Ever. On any level. This will only make the world at large, including your corner of it, a most grievous place.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Nesting, Farnsy Style

The apartment we call home has one feature that I was determined to have when I was apartment hunting a couple of years ago: building-provided heat. I know about myself that if I'm the one financing the heat, the result will be cold, cold winters. And I'd be miserable. It's not fully rational, but it's true. Unfortunately what we have is the old style steam heaters, with the *glug glug glug* and the wheezing. They turn on just a few times a day and they put out a LOT of heat.

Last winter the building had a policy of keeping the coldest apartment at a comfortable temperature. All the windows were old and really leaky to this meant turning on the heat really high. We live on the second of three stories--the warmest apartment--so we frequently had to leave a window or two open to avoid a slow death by heat exhaustion. I was fully expecting the same this year.

However, two things have happened. One is that the building replaced all of our windows with new windows that actually keep the cold out. The other is that they have decided to keep our houses at the lowest temperature that the law requires of them. In case you are wondering, that's a really low temperature.

Well, we have some sensitive roaches and tarantulas (not to mention fingers and toes), so living in a house kept just above 60 was not a good option for us. Yes, we have a space heater, but that would require us paying for heat. Again, not a good option. The other option is to make our house more insulated than any of our neighbors.

Bingo! Now that's something I can get obsessive about.

Preliminaries--The Basics

It turns out I find insulation very fascinating. After a few hours and days of research, I've had some really good ideas. First, I taped the back door shut. All around the frame, inside the door and out. We can use the front door if we need to go anywhere. This probably made the most difference because we were getting a steady breeze of cold air all around that door. It's inconvenient to have to take the trash out through the front door and all around the building, but it's very convenient to be able to take off one's shoes without fear of frostbite.

The back door also had several windows, which have been painted over but are always really cold because they are old and single-paned. We bought some Styrofoam insulation from a hardware store (that stuff is so cheap and great) and I installed it across all the glass parts of the door. Another victory for the Farnsworths. And the floor in the kitchen is always cold. Not sure why that particular room is that way, but clearly something wasn't insulated correctly. So we covered the floor in the kitchen with another type of foam. I think it's meant for gyms and stuff. It's intended to be walked on and it keeps the cold floor from chilling the rest of the house. Yay!

The Main Event: Bubble Wrap!

If you look at an infrared picture of a house from the outside (during winter) you will see that all the windows are red. This is because windows (doubled paned or not) are much better conductors of heat than walls are. I've seen statistics that indicate that ridiculously high percentages (like 30 or more) of the heat we lose from our house goes right through our windows. This is a bit of a problem because Ashley won't let me cover the windows with Styrofoam. She actually wants light to be constantly streaming into our apartment. So there has to be a better solution.

Well it turns out our problem is faced in spades by greenhouse keepers that live in cold areas. They lose a lot of heat through the glass and they can't cover it up without killing their plants. One of the best solutions to this problem is bubble wrap. That's right, packaging bubble wrap. It's not a perfect insulator, but it's a heck of a lot better than glass and it lets the light through just fine. Plus it's cheap and easy. You just spray a little water on the window, put the bubble wrap up to it, and it sticks and stays. When you want to remove it you just pull it off. Nothing could be easier. If you want to increase the thermal resistance of the window, you can put a second layer right on top of the first layer and it will stick with water just as well. Let me tell you, this was really fun. I can think of few things better than using something commonplace and surprising to conserve heat and money. I love it!

After completing the insulation of the windows, they kind of look kind of like frosted glass. You can sort of see out and in but the light is diffused. Still all the light comes through and not much of the heat gets out through them. With just one layer of bubble wrap, in fact, the windows can still be opened and closed without having to remove any insulation. And remember there's no tape and no glue used. I'm so happy with it that Ashley and I are probably going to get some more bubble wrap at walmart today and put a second layer up.

By the way, one of the most common window treatments in Chicago is to cover them with this clear plastic that sticks to the wall around the window and you blow on it with a hair dryer and it shrinks taut. It turns out the main purpose of that is to keep air from leaking in an out of the window (a big problem in these older homes and apartments). It works well for that purpose, but that's not much of a problem here since our new windows are tight and well calked. The plastic sheet also acts as something of a barrier to convection currents, but not much of one. The bubble wrap is better, and it allows you to still use your window if you so choose. Ashley was adamant about that because she is concerned about the possibility of burning something on the stove and not being able to open a window to let the smoke out. Not that that's a problem for us. And then there's the carbon monoxide our oven gives off. But our solution is just to use our toaster oven instead. It works very nicely.


Actually it's a little funny that we continue to insulate because our house is pretty warm these days. Ashley frequently turns off the heater or opens a window. I say that's just fine. I have no problem with opening the occasional window to let the excess heat out, but I do have a problem with the heat leaving of its own volition while we are cold and can't do anything to stop it.

Basking in the warmth

As Ashley has discovered, I tend to get a little enthusiastic (obsessive?) about this kind of project. I've spend a lot of time researching different ways of insulating a home. I can tell you that when we have our own home, it will be oh-so-insulated. I will probably build tight fittnig removable window insulators out of a variety of space age products and cover our windows in them in winter. That is, if we don't live some place super hot. In that case, lots of regular insulation and some of that reflective stuff. Anyway, this is a really fun and productive obsession. And it doesn't drive Ashley crazy in the least.

Sometimes I walk around repeating the words "bubble wrap bubble wrap bubble wrap..." She's amazingly tolerant of it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Third Trimester; Dun, dun, DUUUUUNNNNNN...

Well, one thing is certain. I sure am pregnant.

I like going through the album on Facebook that shows the progression 19 weeks, 23 weeks, 27 weeks...sometimes when I click through them I'm sure that Grant has made my pregnant pictures his newest photo-editing project and expanded the same picture several times. But my hair is different in each one, so that really is my body. There are a few things about that bump--it makes one heckuva a convenient rest for a cup when sitting back and lounging. But...I don't think my black coat is going to make it through the winter. Let's keep our fingers crossed that the ski jacket will. I have also officially started waddling. My arms swing out at weird angles to adjust to the new center of gravity our growing baby girl is giving me.

Grant likes the phrase "great with child" and he's often used it, especially when we first found out we were pregnant and it seemed so far away before an actual baby was going to show up. "When you're great with child..." Well. I'm getting a bit great, I'll tell you. There's a grocery store down the street from us and there are these metal gate things that go up about three or four feet with a small space in between. I used to avoid the vendors always selling something on the other side by sneaking through the gates...but that's been impossible for a while now.

Oh, but at least my weight gain is in check. Remember how I freaked out because the difference between my 4th and 5th month's appointments was 15 pounds? WELL, I showed that snippy little nurse (who, not to be rude, could stand to lose a few pounds herself)! ONE pound. Triumph! Which, by the way means that I did not gain any weight because a pound is what the baby gains in between the 5th and 6th months.

But wait! There's other fun besides my size. Water retention, anyone? I was just thinking to myself, "Wow, I really haven't had any problems with that..." after processing the story of my birth where my mother literally left the hospital 40 pounds lighter than when she went in--and I was only 7 of them. But about a day later I started to get some sweet, sweet cankles at night, I'll tell you what. Yesterday I wore some long socks that have some tight elastic at the top and I was horrified to see what happened after a day--the part of my leg below the socks was normal, but there was literally a 3/4 inch indention AT the sock line and my legs looked like elephant trunks above it. EW!! I guess it's still not too bad...I still have no problem with my wedding ring. I'm scared though, I still have three months to go.

Braxton-hicks. AWESOME. I didn't know what to expect or what was going on when it started (so far it's only happened twice but again, I still have 3 whole months of FUN left). The last time it happened I was in the middle of a conversation with a friend and she asked me to describe it. "Picture cramps on your period. Now, expand your uterus from the size of your fist to the size of a regulation men's basketball. Same intensity of pain, now spread over the whole dang basketball." Nobody tell my daughter I'm scared witless of delivering her. I think I won't be as nervous about the next ones...but I'm having some INTENSE fear of the unknown and the reality that I'm going to have to push a whole dang baby out of me. I was a nice, normal 7 pounds 6 ounces, but Grant was pretty close to 10 pounds and he came two weeks early. Gulp.

I was telling another friend of mine that pregnancy was awesome for about a month. I wasn't sick or uncomfortable or anything really negative and I had a cute little bump and I could feel my baby move and so could Grant finally. But then she started getting bigger and she's in the stage right now where she's packing on fat and baby's getting back and boy can Mommy tell. Sometimes it outright hurts when she moves. Especially when she kicks towards my guts instead of towards the outside world. OUCH. And fetal hiccups--that's interesting. But that kinda makes me giggle, I find it cute and it doesn't hurt so that doesn't bother me. And it is still pretty dang cool to sit around with my shirt up and watch waves roll under my skin.

You always hear about frequent urination with pregnant women, so I've been expecting it. What I never calculated was that it means your bladder is smaller, so there's less urine but more often. That drives me crazy! I burst in the door from being out positive that I'm absolutely about to wet myself and instead of 2 minutes worth of an intense GUSH with more pressure behind it than the water that comes out of our shower, it's this pathetic little dribble that is over before it begins. What?! I get THAT uncomfortable over a couple of tablespoons of liquid?! It throws me off so much...and it irritates me.

And seriously, my brain leaks out of my ears. If I don't write something down or do it IMMEDIATELY, it's anyone's guess when it'll get done. Sometimes I think I'm going crazy. I'm afraid that later when this little one needs me to get her ready for school and I'm pregnant with one of siblings that I'm going to dress her for the wrong season or without a lunch or something.

You'd think I could at least get some relief at night when it's time to sleep right? Well, you'd think wrong. Everything is uncomfortable. I end up spending a lot of time whimpering and it takes forevER to find a suitable position that doesn't just end up making me more uncomfortable. Oy. So rough.

But even with all my whining...I know I do have it pretty easy. My symptoms are normal though uncomfortable, and not exceptional or life-threatening. And I also have it pretty easy because Grant is so awesome in the let-me-do-something-to-make-you-feel-better department. He's a doting, wonderful husband and I'm so, so, so grateful for and to him. He makes this whole miserable pregnancy thing so much less miserable than it could be. Even though I don't hesitate to remind him, "YOU did this to me!"

He's pretty grateful that I let him and he takes such exceptional care of me, it's easy to let him off the hook for it. Usually.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Perks

So pregnancy...well, there's a lot about it that's an inconvenient pain.

BUT, there are a few things that are nice.

For example, with your wardrobe. If you're fat, and your belly sticks out of a t-shirt...it's kinda gross. I know, I've been there, I've seen my belly stick out of t-shirts and been frustrated to have to change them (or worse, to have not seen it in the mirror but in pictures later).

BUT, if you're pregnant, it's a whole new ball game. That belly sticking out of your shirt isn't gross, it's cute. Even if it's a tight shirt.

You still have to be careful though because even a cute pregnant belly can't allow you to get away with a nasty muffin top. That's just yucky, no matter how cute your belly is.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

New Hobby

Grant and I both came into our marriage with extensive DVD collections and I finally officially combined both of our collections and organized them. Grant alphabetized his movies, I was more keen on sorting them by genre. It meant a great deal to him, so I just alphabetized mine right in. I had already kept a running list of all of my movies on a word file, so I added his in while I was at it. Then the program automatically alphabetized the list, so my work was easy. I'm pretty dang proud of the results, even if it's not how I would have chosen to do it. After updating the catalog I discovered that Grant and I own 316 movies altogether. And to settle a long debate of who brought more, not even counting the ones that both of us had 164 came with me into the family. Not that it was a competition, but I just knew I did, so it was very satisfying to have documented proof.

We also came with overlapping tastes in movies, which has provided for much harmony in our union and we've made the most out of a Netflix membership. But I was mooching the beauty of his Netflix membership for quite some time before he got around to marrying me. :) When we combined our movie collections, we found we had 31 duplicate movies.

Seth was a sport and took quite a few of them off of our hands, but last week I listed the rest on half.com. When I made the switch from VHS to DVD, I used half.com to sell off the movies I replaced in digital format, so I have an established and perfect rating as a seller and it makes me the natural candidate to handle it. And Grant works, so I'm at home and have the time to prepare things to ship and get them to the post office.

It's such a little thrill to get an email with the subject, "You've made a sale!" And it's also nice to clear out stuff just taking up space anyway. I listed our movies the middle of last week and there's only a few left, which is awesome. But, that's because I have a strategy as a seller. When I list an item, I look it up before I list my price and I list the lowest price for the condition I'm selling it in. If I were more concerned about the amount of profit, I might not play this strategy but I don't really care about that. Right now, it's just collecting dust and even if I don't make as much as I paid for it originally, I'll still have more than I did when it was just collecting dust. So I make mine the cheapest and move my inventory really quickly. We also lucked out and only found that one of our movies had hit absolutely rock bottom price (which on half.com is $0.75) with an excessive number of other people already selling it. And it made a fun Happy Unbirthday gift for someone who'd never seen it. :)

So, in a matter of less than a week we made nearly $100**, AND cleared out almost ALL of our extra DVDs. Not bad, eh?


It's a bit addictive to sell things, and so much fun to realize you're making money that we started considering what else we could hawk off. Actually, we literally got up and running around the apartment looking for stuff. Then Grant realized he had quite a few expensive, and in many cases unused, textbooks collecting dust around here. We looked up a few and realized they were worth quite a bit, so he cleared his bookshelves as well and I added them to our inventory. It's not all textbooks, but still. When those puppies sell, they'll bring in enough to buy our baby furniture, no problem. Pretty rad, eh?

Such a great hobby! And we highly recommend it. Make money, clear space in your house and have a bunch of fun because both of those are so nice to do. So if you want any tips on selling your stuff--you know who to ask!

**$100 might sound like a lot in a short period of time. Turns out, we both had the Indiana Jones and Star Wars Trilogies which both sold quickly. Actually...I shamelessly admit I had 2 copies of the entire original Star Wars trilogy. It's not because I'm an idiot, it's because George Lucas is a wanker. When they were released originally on DVD, he claimed that the new director's cuts was all we were ever going to be able to buy. Well, I've been a Star Wars dweeb since I was 8 years old and even though I hated all the changes he made to the films, it's still Star Wars, so I bought it. Then several years later I came back from my mission and discovered that God in all of His goodness made way for a miracle and ole George decided to re-release the movies individually with the original theatrical version masterpiece and his personal makeover projects gone horribly wrong. When I got the new ones and the boys I babysat wanted to watch them, I taught them very carefully that if they ever watch Star Wars IV, V or VI to only watch the second disc with the theatrical release. I'll be darned if I raise my children or anyone else's to endure those altered heaps of cinematic torture when that second disc has the Quality on it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Perks of the Windy City


Ahhhh, Chicago. The Windy City. The lake! The museums! The shows! I hate this place. I moved to Chicago in 2005 with the family I was a nanny for and I'd just spent the past 3 years in New Jersey with New York City as my backyard playground. Nobody was overly impressed with what Chicago offered us. We also happened to move to a sort of Twilight Zone of a town on the North Shore where nothing seems...real. Life is like a colorized version of Leave it to Beaver and it took all of us a while to get acclimated--which is saying something because I'm from the Midwest, it shouldn't have been all that weird for me.

Seriously, if Chicago hadn't been the setting of meeting my husband and starting my family, it would have no redeeming qualities. The unbelievably cruel winters that last six months. I'm not joking, I wear sweaters from October through April (yes, through). The traffic--there are seriously only THREE major highways that go into the city. THREE. In a dang major metropolitan area! That means, if the one that goes in from your direction (and it's surrounded on water on one side so there's only three directions from which to enter the city) is backed up, you're toast. Guess how easily that happens? EVERY SINGLE TIME. Every beach on the lake has a price during the season, and it's extortion to ask for $8 to lay a towel down in the sand, so you can barely enjoy the lake besides the sensory experience of watching it. And the shows? There are like 4 at any given time which, I'm sorry, is pathetic after 3 years of Broadway. And since there are only 4 and it's the only professional theatre within a thousand miles, they book up pretty fast. Don't get me wrong, the shows themselves are great--I'm just not impressed with the selection. And, I can't really complain too much about the museums. I've been to a couple and the aquarium and they are pretty awesome--but still. They're no Met or Guggenheim.

But there are a few advantages of living in Chicago. And one of them popped up this weekend. Grant's parents traveled to Europe on Saturday for a family vacation with all of his mom's siblings and their spouses and as fate would have it, they connected in Chicago with a 4 hour layover. So we headed out to the airport and picked them up and had lunch with them. That little GPS was such a worthwhile investment! All we had to do was tell it we were looking for a nearby restaurant and BAM!

So, it wasn't much, just a couple of hours chatting at Quizno's. But it really hit the spot and totally made our week. We haven't seen them since the family reunion back in July and we got a chance to show off our car, our rings and the joy and major entertainment of our lives--our firstborn's bump! Jackie also brought a notebook with all of the letters Grant wrote home on his mission, which is a very neat family heirloom now.

I get such a kick out of the concept of our family. Grant's and mine. It's awesome.

And I really love being part of his. I have been super nervous about my in-laws long before I was even on the path to having any--before I even met Grant, much less started dating him several years later. That they'd hate me, think I wasn't good enough for their son/brother, etc. Then I joined the church and that complex really got out of hand, me being a tainted-by-the-world convert and all. However, I lucked out with an amazing set of in-laws whom I couldn't have designed to be more loving and welcoming towards me if I had sat down and made a list. So I really enjoy spending time with them, especially because I'm so new and haven't have many opportunities to yet. Not that I'll really get sick of it, either.

The nicest thing we got to show off was...us. We're just so dang happy (seriously, I'm not fluffing it up to look good on a Blog) and it's fun to share that with people.

As we drove back to the terminal to drop them off so they could catch their connection to Brussels Archie said, "Seeing you two has just really warmed the cockles of my heart." My sentiments exactly.

And who knew how delicious Quizno's is?


And it gave us another reason to like Chicago. :) So, to anyone else who happens to pass through, just remember that this is one of the few reasons we have to like it here and are very open to exploiting it.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Weight Loss Method....FAIL!

Grant and I have quite the blogging family and we discovered something we love on Grant's younger brother and his wife Seth and Kristina's blog. We recommend the G-rated version but it's pretty funny stuff of catching mistakes on signs, advertisements, translations, etc. but failing oh-so miserably to do their job.

Welcome to FailBlog!

Grant and I have started using the term, "FAIL!" as we've been telling stories and such and we even heard someone else using it to tell a story while we were out a couple of weeks ago.

We like to let time lapse between our visiting of the site so there's plenty of FAIL!s to keep us entertained for a while. Today's romp through FAIL!s has a clear winner of humor factor, and we wanted to share it because it's funny, clean and relevant to our family.


fail owned pwned pictures


That is one way to lose some weight fast...but I don't think it has anything to do with the tea.

Call me crazy.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Quality of Life

Grant and I have a mutual close friend who got married yesterday. As if I don't think about marriage enough without help from the influences of the outside world! I've been really excited for this couple who got engaged just before Grant and I got married...to an almost disproportionate degree. I've always been excited for my friends when good things happen to them but it was just ridiculous. I've been turning to Grant for the past five months with questions and comments like, and "Wow, I wonder if her brother will be back from his mission in time to come...gosh, I hope so." and "Do you think they'll sell one of their cars? That'd save them so much hassle with parking since they live in the city and they both ride the train to work." Oh, and of course with me and babies on the brain, "How long do you think they'll wait to have kids?" Stuff that is absolutely none of my business just completely randomly popping into my head and out of my mouth.

So, why is that? Why has this couple come into my mind so much and have I become so concerned about their situation? Besides my tender heart willing Good toward all mankind and all that jazz? I mean--people get married every day with siblings out on missions and why am I concerned about others' street-parking woes when I have enough of my own to deal with? It's a little above and beyond.

I think it's because of what has changed about my life since getting married. As far as activities go, not much has changed about what will happen to me today and what happened on this day six months ago. Both days I got up and helped get people out the door and onto their day's tasks, I cleaned up kitchens, made beds, took care of random chores around the places I lived. Later, I'll work out, take some time for homework, get dinner as ready as possible before actually cooking it and at a set time I'll go pick someone up from the end of their day and come home with them to start the evening routine. But what happens after that has really changed the quality of life for me today compared to this day six months ago.

At the end of the day, I'm not an appendage to someone else's family either retreating to my basement room for the night or scurrying off to fill up the time some other way. At the end of the day, I am someone's family and someone else is mine. And it is so MUCH BETTER.

So I think the reason I've been obsessing about our friend so much is that I'm super eager for her and her now-husband to experience what I've been getting for the past five months. An incredibly heightened quality of life.

Grant's mom told us on our wedding day, "May this be the saddest day of your lives!" And so far, it really was--because what she meant and what has happened is, "May every day after this be happier!" And as our relationship has started that transition from two separates uniting and becoming one whole...each day has made us both happier than the one before.

I asked Grant a little while ago what he thinks has changed most about his life since we got married. I figured he'd say something his lifestyle, like being on a working man's schedule or eating something besides frozen chicken tenders or sharing the bed. He stunned me when without hesitation he said, "Well, it has a purpose now."

And I realized that's true of me too. Grant's not just part of my life, he really is my life and I absolutely live for the time we spend together. I never lived for the time I spent in my room after work, or even for the time I spent with other people. In retrospect, it's difficult to pinpoint just what I was living for...

But it's crystal clear to me now, and it makes me so incredibly Happy.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Our Chicago Date

I am not really that much of a fan of trying new things when it comes to outings and dates. Since I've been in Chicago I've taken pretty much every girl on the same date to downtown Chicago to see some of the sights in Millennium Park and then to the art museum (it's free on Thursdays). The exception to that rule was Ashley. Maybe it was because she lived far north, or because her hours were always a little weird before we got married and we only had shortish blocks of time together (or late ones). I'm not sure why, but we never got around to my city date. So we did now!

Millennium park has a great big bean shaped sculpture. To me, it's the most recognizable symbol of Chicago.


Its mirrored finish means you get lots of crazy views of the city and distorted views of yourself. For Ashley, it also meant an opportunity to pursue one of her favorite hobbies...the hunt for pickable zits (one of the main things she like about me is that I have them)

One of the years that I participated in Academic Decathlon the theme for the art competition was the Chicago Institute of art. While we were there we got a good look at two of the pieces that I studied that year. It's always weird for me to see these in person after having studied them in books for so long. Here's Saint George slaying a dragon. It's strange to look at things that were painted hundreds of years before America was discovered. By the way the artist used real gold to paint the golden parts of this painting. They had limited resources in the dark ages.


And yes, the protrusion on this ceremonial hat is a phallic symbol. It brings a lot of power to the person wearing it, or for that matter the person standing next to it in a museum.


My personal favorite spot in the museum is the lower level, where they have the white marble sculptures. Sculptures speak to me more than paintings do, somehow. It just seems to me that artists that work in sculpture are much more able to create beautiful things than those that paint, in particular. I think this one spoke to Ashley. Or...something.


And of course, one of my favorite things to do with cameras is merge a number of shots together (five in this case, I believe) on the computer. Ashley was kind enough to appear twice in this one. We did another panoramic shot with a much wider angle and more pictures, but it's almost too wide to fully appreciate.


As a side note, the museum allows photography, but not the use of flash. The last camera I used did pretty well because it was pretty high end for a point and shoot camera, but the new camera really blows it away in terms of ability to take pictures in a low light situation. You'd have to really peep at the pixels to appreciate it. But as it turns out that's something I like to do.

We really enjoyed our city date, including the obligatory trip to Panda Express right across from the museum. It was nice to share a cultural experience and elevate our aesthetic senses a bit more.


So beautiful, don't you think? And the vase is very nice too.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Who We Really Are



I'm a Carlisle! I found out through TwilightersAnonymous.com. Which Twilight Male Are You? Take the quiz and find out!

I'm a Esme! I found out through TwilightersAnonymous.com. Which Twilight Female Are You? Take the quiz and find out!

Photographic Exploits

By the way, yes, my posts will always use a serifed font and Ashley's will always use a sans serif font. That way you can more easily tell who's writing...not that it's that hard.

Anyway...

We are officially kicked into high gear with the camera now. Specifically, our new lens came in. Oh, yes. Let the bokeh flow. I woke Ashley up to take a first picture with it (no flash used, and it was very dark inside).


So much bokeh, in such a small room. The new lens is great and sharp and it blurs the background like a champ but it does have one fatal flaw: it's mortal. In other words, it doesn't have optical image stabilization. Canon doesn't make any prime lenses with optical image stabilization. I don't know why, actually. But if they did it would probably be out of our price range anyway. So we're going to get a dang tripod.

And then I figured out how to make my own remote control for the camera by splicing a spare hands free cell phone cable and some cable for...I think a TV. It works like a champ


(The reason you can recognize my face is because this picture was taken using the old lens. Insufficient bokeh.)

Actually, Ashley doesn't love my invention. I don't know what she has against it. My first version was made of exposed wires that looked really scary. We're going to get a real remote control--like, without wires--for it soon.

It's actually a very cheap item, but I say if you can rig your own...

EDIT: We decided our second pick for this picture was too cute not to post. This is the face we make when we say "Oooooooooh." Which it turns out we do frequently.