Thursday, January 17, 2013

2013: A Year of Big Changes

It's a new year.  Big things are happening.  BIG!  Already!  Not even one month in.  They involve new hair, new eyes, new ears, new feet, and new everything in miniature.  Here are some details:

1)  First things first, at the start of the year, and after a few particularly itchy, out of control hair days, I decided to submit myself to the third-annual epic shave-and-buzzcut.  Sometimes it seems odd that I would do this shearing in the dead of winter, when most creatures of the world grow their hair out for their winter coat, but it's nice for wearing beanies and running indoors too, and it's like a clean slate of short hair and no beard for a new year (though I promptly start to grow them both out).  I think I can pull the look off though, when I used to be chubby it made my head look tiny, but now I think it's actually slimming, and of course if there's one thing every dude wants to be, it's slim. (Or something.)

2)  Almost thirteen years ago, when I suddenly realized while reading Hamlet for a Humanities class that the small text was looking a little blurry when I read with one eye (since I was lying on my bed, the best possible way to stay awake while reading Shakespeare) and realized that my lifelong perfect vision had somehow been compromised, my also lifelong wish of wearing glasses (I don't know why... my brother had them... maybe I was jealous?) came true.  I still really like wearing glasses and how they look on me, but ever since my favorite frames broke and I had to get new ones which were nice and flexible but seemed much more susceptible to scratches, which were annoyingly visible while reading and watching TV (why do the scratches have to be RIGHT in the middle of the lenses?), and ever since becoming husband to a girl who wears contacts, I've been thinking about it.  Really, those scratches were kind of the tipping point, though the inability to wear sunglasses at Disneyland without either doubling up (which makes for a few interesting vacation photos) or going without specs and therefore suffering a headache by early afternoon had a lot to do with it too.  So when The Wife was planning a checkup to order more contacts, I decided to up the ante too, at least to have the option.
So now I'm rockin' the lenses!  It feels really weird to look at myself and not see glasses on my face after all these years (especially with the haircut, I hardly look like myself anymore), and it's also quite an adjustment to feel these little pieces of flexy flimsy plastic clinging to my eyeballs, which at a certain time in the evening MUST be removed.  I'm getting much better at putting them in and taking them out, though for the first few days I felt a little like Daria when she tried to make the switch.  It kind of changes the whole landscape of your face, you know?  I did have this little stint with colored contacts for Halloween one year, but this is significantly different (they weren't even prescription... it's probably the furthest length I've gone to in order to perfect my Harry Potter costume, though dying my hair black was pretty far too).

3)  Also about thirteen years ago, I joined the ranks of the mobile-ly communicative and joined our family cell phone plan with my very own brickphone.  I loved that old phone very much, including its dinky little Lord of the Rings ringtone and primitive games (what is better than Snake II?), and though I didn't use it a LOT a lot, it was really nice to be able to communicate with my loved ones with such convenience.  I went through a couple of them, dropping them occasionally in the toilet or taking advantage of eventual upgrade options.  When I left on my mission we all commiserated our cellphone loss, suffered from phantom pocket buzzes, and rejoiced when the mission president announced that the missionaries would be carrying cellphones.  Then when I came home from my mission, I started using my very first flip phone, and until that point the smartest phone I had ever had.  It took (blurry) pictures and played (very few) songs!  I could even use a real live mp3 as my ringtone.  And now, after being home for almost five years (WHAT) and married for over three years, The Wife and I have finally decided to follow through with our oft-discussed plan of branching out on our own and getting our very own family plan, complete with new phones (I'm finally off your bill, Dad!).  We looked around and decided to go with the Family Mobile plan from Walmart.  It's pretty inexpensive per month, has ZERO contract, and the phones were free with a special they were running.  It's also run by T-Mobile, which is encouraging, since I've been using them for years, and then it's an established service provider, not like WalFone or something like that.  And I finally am not using a dumbphone anymore!!!  Though I have loved my dumbphones in years past.  We're still getting used to what our new phones can do (Words With Friends!  Sensitive touch screen technology!  Dice With Buddies!  Internet right on the phone!  Aaaangry Birrrrrdsssss!) and how long they take to charge and how quickly the battery can drain (seriously, the old phones last for days and days on like 20 minutes of charging), and I've already had to do one factory setting reset (*grumblegrumble*... I hope this doesn't become a habit).  Apparently our phones aren't the fanciest ever, but they're perfectly suitable for our needs, and after all, they ARE telephones first.  I was always worried that if I starting using a smartphone I would be one of those people who are constantly glued to their phones in public and had to check their email and news every ten seconds (even during the midnight showing of the last Harry Potter movie, guy in front of us...) and could never go back (and maybe I can't), but I think I'm going to be able to handle this new mini-computer, especially since our plan includes ridiculously small amount of data transfer, but enough for us.
Neat, right??  Sure it has its issues, and the internal memory is incredibly low, but for newbs like us, it's pretty much just right.
And here I am with the requisite bathroom MySpace photo, featuring new hair, new eyes, and new phone.
4)  Since I'm already talking about new things, I might as well mention that my running footwear has changed recently too.  I was shopping for new shoes and I saw these orange and gray ones that looked good, were very light and fairly inexpensive, and were amazingly flexible, which is something I always look for -- ask The Wife, I usually grab shoes and try to squish them in half, and if they don't bend very much I put them down and move on.  So these ones were pretty squishy, and really comfortable, so I decided to give them a try!  Little did I know (and not at all were they labeled) that they are minimalist shoes!  I don't really think it's necessary in life to run barefoot, but I have been intrigued by Vibram Five Fingers shoes in the past, though I hear you need to kind of ease into using them or you could get injured.  Well, I probably should have eased a little more into these too, even though they're not completely minimalist shoes, since regular use for the first few days, though initially leading to really great runs, also led to really great blisters and VERY painful arches for several days.  I started interspersing their use with my previous shoes, and by now I have really come to enjoy them, and even prefer them.  I could probably start wearing them exclusively by now, and I might do just that.  I may even order a few more pairs for when these run out since the word on the street is that they're not going to be available for much longer for some reason.
They are great!  I hear they also come in blue.
And now, last but absolutely not least...

5)  This little guy:
Last fall it came to our attention that something was growing inside of my dear wife, and after a couple of home tests and a few visits with the proper professionals, it was confirmed that our little family was expecting an addition in late spring 2013.  (And yes, we have already announced this on Facebook, and our art blog, and also Julie's blog, but I had to put him on here too, of course.)  We were cautiously excited, and hesitant to spread the good word around just yet after what happened around this time last year, but by the time Thanksgiving came (about, oh, 16 or 17 weeks or so?) we were ready to at least tell our family, and by Christmastime, the word was out, including the big announcement on our Christmas card.  (And yes, this means that The Wife was about six weeks along when we went on our Epic European Tour...  and yes, that means she had her first experiences with pregnancy pukiness during our travels... I promise next time we cruise we'll go when you're not pregnant, Wife!!!  Though of course she was a great sport anyway.)  Last week we just crossed the halfway mark, and though The Wife has been a champ through all of her morning/afternoon/evening/night sickness, she's really glad to be feeling more like herself again, and we're especially excited that we've been able to feel (and even see!) its little bumps and kicks.  The first time I felt it for real I just about lost it and had to shout it out to the Facebook world pretty much immediately.  Last week we had our ultrasound visit, where we were finally able to see a nice, clear picture of our little boy (yes, boy!!!) for the first time.  Everything looked great and healthy and normal, his heartbeat is strong and hearty, and based on the views that the technician was able to get, it is most definitely a boy (I'll spare you all the more, erm, revealing photo, though it was a delightful sight for us to see at least).  It's funny because I thought it was a girl for the longest time, I even unwittingly referred to it as "her" and "she" several times, but in the last couple of weeks we were starting to think it might be a boy after all, and then that was my final guess, and then I was finally right!  I almost always guess wrong when people are having little ones.  How nice that I guessed right on our very own, though now I doubt it will ever happen again, ha ha.  When we asked our friends for their guesses as to what it would be (I hoped it would be a human, Julie would have been happy with a kitty), it seems like most others guessed girl too for whatever reason, and although Julie is slightly intimidated at the thought of a wee boychild, it feels right, and now I can't imagine ever having thought it was a girl.  It's so amazing how much you can see with those machines, from bones to brain and muscle tissue, and of course that beautiful little beating heart, with all four chambers.  It's also amazing that The Wife is able to build this child's every physical and anatomical attribute by basically just existing (and also by HIM just existing).  Evidently the pains we took to remove the notorious tennis ball etc. from The Wife's insides paid off, and we're certainly glad of it.  It's terrible to lose a child, no matter at what stage of the pregnancy it happens, and maybe even worse to have trouble getting pregnant in the first place, so we sympathize with family and friends who are undergoing similar experiences, but we're also just so relieved and glad that the time has at last come for us.  (And like I said, she has also blogged about this moste exciting news on her blog, which you should read, since she IS giving the greater contribution to this collaboration.)

SO in May we will be welcoming this little fellow into our home.  My plans of taking a little girl to meet her favorite princesses at Disneyland and drawing winged unicorns to keep her entertained and occupied have been replaced for now by plans of taking a little boy to drive alongside Lightning McQueen and drawing superheroes, and I couldn't be more stoked.  And we'll have another man to carry on the family name!  (For those wondering, we do have a few choice names we're still thinking about, but we aren't quite ready to reveal those...  for the time being, Julie has taken to calling him Humboldt [the temporary girl name was Frangipani], or, of course, what he has been known as for some time now, The Infamous Speck.)

So yes!  Changes!  2013 is going to be a stellar year.  I'm a daddy!!!  XD

Does it seem silly to blog about my firstborn son and boychild in the same post as announcements about cellphones and running shoes?  Well... I'll just call it economical and efficient, and they are all pretty big changes...  Though sometimes tells me #5 will be the biggest change of all.  I can't wait to meet you in person, my son!!!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Christmas Happenings 2012

I really must do my Christmas/New Year blogpost already!  It's been sitting patiently waiting in very unfinished form for several weeks.

This year The Wife and I were feeling in a particularly festive mood.  There have been a lot of Christmasy goings-on, so we decided to participate in several of them.  A lot of these are thanks to Julie's planning and research on local events, so well done, Wife.

• Decorating!

After Thanksgiving was good and over it was time to get the tree.  My friend Mike recommended we get one at Costco, which his family had done in recent years to some satisfaction.  So we did!  And we also bought a membership while we were at it.  (We did Sam's Club for a couple of years, decided to give Costco a try this time, which is good because CHICKEN BAKE.)
Step 1: Hope it looks okay when you unbundle it
Step 2: Unbundle it and heave a sigh of relief (and rotate it until you find the best angle)
Step 3: Put lights on, and buy more to compensate for its massive size
Step 4: Etc. etc.!  We called it Thorin.  You know, from Les Miserables (as Julie likes to say).
It's our biggest tree yet!  So big that I had to go out and buy a couple more strings of lights to cover it adequately.  It was kind of strange to pick one out when it's all bundled up like that, but it turned out to be pretty good.  And I finally figured out how to put up the lights and make them stay up!!!  We bought some of those adhesive wall hooks and they worked perfectly!  I mean, there were a couple of casualties while I was getting the hang of it, but finally they stayed up and I didn't have to worry every time we came home that the lights would be dangling again.  YAY.  And they will probably stay up until next year when it's time to put The Wife's Halloween lights up again.
Our lights and snowflakes.  We are the most festive place in the complex!
Julie also had the idea to make some ornaments for the tree and snowflakes to hang up in our window, which turned out really great!  The internet is most handy when it comes to things like this, and it was great to find some fun and interesting patterns, since my makeshift snowflakes have always ended up rather pitifully.
Julie made some of these for her mama.  They look so pretty and wintry.
She made a little fleet of these for her other family, and they look so charming.  Now and then she is fairly craftsy.
• Utah Valley Handbell Ringers

Julie saw a notice on a website for local Christmas events that this handbell choir was doing a free show in the Provo Library, so we invited Mom and Dad to join us for it, and it was very fun and festive.  They played a variety of Christmas tunes, and there was even a sing-along portion.  And it's apparently a very popular event, as it was completely full, after having turned away many people from their first performance!

• Ward choir Christmas program

I was made choir director just a couple of months ago, so I had a very short time to get a choir and a few pieces together for our contribution to the Christmas program, and it turned out really nice!  (I was glad that I wasn't responsible for an entire program of pieces like last year, what with the limited time to put it together and all, and it was nice to have a variety of pieces in the program too.)

• First Presidency Christmas Devotional

We watched it, and it was nice, and as usual, the choir was my favorite part, ha ha.

• Alfie Boe with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Speaking of the choir, we always love going to the MoTab's Christmas concerts, but when rumors started circulating that ALFIE BOE (you know, Alfie Boe...) was going to be the guest singer, we were like MUST GO, and then Belinda was ever so nice to get us tickets, and we went!  It's always a good show, and this year was no exception, and Alfie was one of our favorite guest stars ever!
Smile, Wife!
Smile, husband!
Theeeere we go.  We took the train all the way up!  It took FOREVER, but I didn't have to worry about weather or traffic or parking, and then I could finish my book instead of concentrating on driving.
Wheeee, Alfieeeee!  And yes, Wife, Bring Him Home IS on the program!!!  (He's the only person who really makes her like that song.)

• Haxton Manor

The next weekend we redeemed a great LivingSocial deal that Julie gave me for my birthday (you know, nine months earlier... and just a few days before it expired... we know how to take advantage of those things).  This English-themed bed & breakfast in Salt Lake City turned out be quite charming.  It was a renovated old house with lots of British decor, with breakfast specially prepared and served either in our room or at the dining table (we had it both ways, since we stayed two nights) with the very nice lady working there that night.  On Saturday we walked down to Temple Square to look at the lights and do lots of shopping, and saw The Hobbit at the Gateway theater (more thoughts on that... maybe it should have its own blogpost...), and in general enjoyed being cozy during the lovely snowstorms.
Chooooow Truuuuuuck...  We love it.  We always look it up when we're going to SLC to see where it's going to be.  Root chips!  Special thanks to the lady behind us in line who offered to buy our hot chocolates!  (Not because we couldn't afford them, just because she was nice, and maybe in a hurry?  I don't know.)
Oh, Bag End.
Welcome welcome, won't you come in?
If I had realized how cold it was going to be I would have brought my heavier coat.  And some gloves.  And a hat.
Kuv yog Hmoob.
Julie insisted the silky robe was for the lady, but it was just so comfortable!  I decided to wear it anyway (mostly because she wanted the terry cloth one).
Taking a little photo tour of London.
What a nice tub!  But, erm, the bathroom had no door.  (That li'l curtain doesn't count.)  Just because?...
Reading a little Dickens by the fireplace.
Us and Dobson (?).  This guy is really creepy to encounter in the dark of night when you're trying to find your way around an unfamiliar old house.

• Grandmother's Christmas party

She had it!  It was fun.

• Christmas River Cruise

 Like we did for Halloween, we found a Groupon for this little (freezing) cruise down the Provo River.  It didn't have pirates like it did in October, but it did have Santa Claus rowing a canoe and Christmas Shoes (a.k.a. one of the worst Christmas songs ever) playing along the shore.  It didn't have as many lights as we expected, or had been led to believe, but it was still festive and fun.

• The Nutcracker

We went to see this last year, performed by the Utah Regional Ballet at the Covey Center in Provo, and enjoyed it so much that we decided to go again, and invited Mom and Dad so they could share in the fun.  It's always a festive show, and it's so great to hear a live orchestra play those awesome songs.

• Watching fun Christmas movies and reading Christmas books

We actually watched a few Christmas (or Christmasy) movies this year!  Some of them were good (While You Were Sleeping, Muppet Christmas Carol, Home Alone), others not quite as good (The Nutcracker Prince, One Magic Christmas, neither of which hold up very well seeing them again after all these years), and I also read some seasonal books (a couple versions of Dickens's classic A Christmas Carol, and two spin-off stories about Marley, one that was not so good and one that was great).

• Timpanogos Symphony Orchestra's Christmas concert

We went to see Cami's orchestra's Christmas concert, with guest solo violinist Jenny Oaks Baker, and it was really fun and interesting.  She had some very unique arrangements of well-known Christmas carols, and she played them all right!


•  Christmas!

And then it was Christmas for certain.  And it was soooo snowy!  We decided that instead of going to Missouri this year (just sooooo expensive!  Though we were sad not to see Julie's family), we would just hunker down and enjoy a Christmas in our little home, which was very nice.  We had the usual family shenanigans (fondue at Cami's on Christmas Eve, gathering at Mom and Dad's on Christmas Day, boys-against-girls puzzle competitions, pajamas for the kids, etc. etc.), and Julie and I really enjoyed our last Christmas with just the two of us...
For meee!
For herrr!  I C U, Wif!
Weee, stockings!
Hurrah, piano music drifting through the house at last!
She REALLY likes this flavor of Ramen...  And it's pretty much unavailable except online.  Well, you have a year's supply of it now, Wife!  (Ha, more like a couple months, the way she loves it.)
It always ends up looking like a lot of presents under the tree after all.
And as a stroke of genius on the part of your truly, The Wife was given her very own Settlers, a family favorite that we can now play right at home!  (This was one I was somehow able to keep a complete secret.)
She likes it.
Ummmm, how well does this girl know me?!?  I ask you.
•  Cousins' Christmas party

We attended the annual Barrett side Christmas party at the Frisbys', where Julie presented her MOST scrumptious orange chocolate cake.  It was some kind of spectacular.
Her first bundt cake, and it was perfect!
Mmmm... we were so glad there were just a few slices leftover for us to take home.

• Les Miserables

Umm...  I both liked and also kind of hated it.  I think this could also very easily be its own future blogpost.  For now, see what I said above about Alfie Boe and Bring Him Home.  Yes.

• Wups

Then there was a lot of snow and icy roads and this happened:
But really, it's a good thing that barrier was there or I would have slid right off the cliff.


(Originally this was a category more vaguely titled FOOD, but this bird deserves its very own recognition.)  Julie won a turkey in a drawing at work, and it's been a goal of hers for quite some time to roast a chicken of some sort, so this was the perfect opportunity.  So she roasted it up and we ate it and IT WAS (surely!) THE MOST DELICIOUS TURKEY EVER!!!  I know I'm not being disloyal to my mother for her many years of delicious turkey preparing by saying that The Wife's first turkey was a resounding success.  We ate SO SO much of it all by ourselves and kept thinking that we maybe should have invited people over to eat it with us and then were just like, nvrmnd and kept eating it.  It was just... so perfectly cooked.  And I carved it!  And we finally were able to put our electric carving knife (which I forget we even had) to great use.
(I told her I was glad it didn't turn out like the Griswolds' Christmas turkey, which reference she didn't get, never having seen that movie all the way through [I know...], though of course I never thought it would!)

• New Year's Eve in Park City

And then as a nice little P.S. to the whole season, I had weeks before bought tickets to see Kristin Chenoweth in concert in Park City on New Year's Eve, so we thought we would make an event of it by getting a room at the Homestead and staying up there for the night.
I guess we missed out on family happenings, but I suppose I didn't realize we had such firm traditions for this holiday.  The show was fun and she's just extremely talented (though I would have had a few different numbers on the program, but that's just me, and at least she sang this), and it was nice to stay up late watching The Twilight Zone/House Hunters marathons on TV until we kissed at midnight and promptly thereafter fell asleep.
Like we do.
Photo tour of our room!
Just conducting a little business.
A hide-a-bed!!!  OMGoodness.
We heard those icicles falling occasionally during the night.  That would hurt.
So cozy!
 • New Year's Day

And then the New Year's Baby came after all!  Even though we weren't home to receive him until later that day.
Aaaaand then we start to take things down.  *sigh*
PHEW, that's a lot of happenings.  It was such a great Christmas, and with great news to share with all (see previous Christmas card post, as well as a quickly forthcoming post with more details...).