Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas 2014

Happy Christmas, everyone!

(Seriously, that kid's face??  Forget about it.)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Annual Christmas Eve Journal Write 2014

Many years ago my sister initiated a tradition where everyone takes a minute during our sibling sleepover to write in their journal on Christmas Eve.  It was a good way to make sure we wrote at least once a year, and it also helped to pass the time while we were getting ready to (not) fall fast asleep.  Anyway, I don't really have that much to say right now, since I wrote just a little while ago, but I wanted to put something down anyway.

Wow, Christmas really sneaked up on me this year, though I guess it always does seem to suddenly be here after a long year of waiting.  But a lot has happened this year, and it's made the time seem to go by pretty quickly, which is both exciting and not so, because there's a lot of great stuff coming up, but there are also some things that I just can't believe are passing by so quickly.  I am amazed every day at how this little boy of ours is growing up and not being a baby anymore.  I was holding one of my 4-month old twin nephews tonight and I can barely remember when The Boy was that small.  It's good that he's growing and learning, and he's such a joy every day that I can't really say I'm sad about him changing and becoming his own person, but at the same time I already miss him. ANYway, it's Christmas Eve, and it's going to be really fun tomorrow to see him react a little more to Christmas and all that that entails.  Last year was fun but he didn't really get what was going on since he was so little, so it will be fun to see how this year is different.  We've tried to impress upon him, at this young age, the real reason for the season, and he's actually really good at recognizing Jesus in Nativity scenes and paintings, so I think that's pretty good (and it's not that he really gets the other aspect of Christmas anyway, though I'm sure he'll figure something's up tomorrow morning when new playthings appear before his eyes... though we definitely tried not to go overboard, though it's proven harder than we expected).  I've always loved Christmastime, and I've always been really happy to take time now and then to think about what we're actually celebrating, but sitting with my wife and little boy (and of course The Poppy in utero) as I tear up in front of Mickey's Christmas Carol, or watching him (gently) pull the ornaments and (not so gently) the beads off the tree and point out the star on top, or hearing him make the animal sounds and point out the "baby!" as we watch The Nativity makes it mean something fresh and new that I've don't remember ever really having experienced.  Jesus was born and lived on this earth, and The Wife and I have a sacred duty and wonderful opportunity to share that glorious knowledge with this sweet and innocent and darling little boy, so he can grow up with the same sweet assurance and hope for the future that we had as children (not to mention the magic and symbolism of Santa Claus).  So yes, Christmas is new all over again, though I don't have quite as much trouble falling asleep these days as I used to.

I guess that's all for this year.  It's late and we're watching the First Presidency Christmas Devotional while I write this (the music is always my favorite part), and then we'll get ready for bed and let Santa Claus do his thing.  Speaking of Santa Claus, I feel like I should mention that we watched this new TV program last night.  I'm a big fan of the musical, so it was really fun to see the music adapted into a new but somehow still classic Christmas special:

It's not perfect, but I really enjoyed it, on an animation level, and of course a musical one.  I've thought for the last few years that they should make a movie of the musical version (based on the movie, of course), but it always seemed so unlikely.  Well, this is just about the next best thing!  Maybe even better.

Okay, that's it! Jesus was born! He still lives! God bless us, every one!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014 (inc. 18 Months)

Well, The Boy has reached a year and a half.  He's such a big fellow, and he's funny and smart and adorable and a joy to all.

We were glad to spend Thanksgiving in MO with The Wife's family.  We usually go there for Christmas, so it was fun to be there for the November happenings and fun times instead, and it worked out great because we stayed until a few days into December, so we had a little taste of Christmastime there too.  (And can I take a second to say that I can't believe the difference in airline prices from one day to the next?  Come on.)  Our journey there was as perfect as can be, even though, or maybe because, we took a very early flight.  We were in St. Louis by early afternoon, after The Boy had a short nap on the airplane, and then we booked it south before the shenanigans at Ferguson grew to be too out of hand.
I wish I could travel in my jammies (The Wife wants the world to know she wasn't on her phone for longer than a moment here, that's just when the picture happened to be taken).
This boy loves a tiger.  We need one of these bad boys at OUR local library.
He was impressed with my latest batch of BCE.  He had a taste and was not disappointed.
We had a fun race on Thanksgiving morning.  I didn't know if there was one, but Marci looked it up, a few of us coughed up the fee (how did we used to pay for a race every month?), and it was a great time.  It was a cold morning, but once we were on our way we warmed up.  I hadn't done a 10K in a nice long while, so it was good to do another one (hopefully in preparation for some longer races next year?...).  We all three of us beat our personal goals -- I came in at 46:49, 7:33/mile, fourth overall and first in my division.  Not my best 10K, but my first in a few years, and a better pace than I've been running lately, so I'll take it!
Fun Thanksgiving Day race group!  The boys did the 10K, the girl did the 5K, and the kids were part of the cheering section.
We spent a great two weeks eating great food, watching movies, going on outings, enjoying family we don't get to see often enough.  It was so fun for The Boy to have so much attention from such willing and ready cousins and aunts and uncle and grandparents.  Every single thing the cousins did was hilarious to him, which was of course hilarious to them too.
A cool dude on his way to the zoo.  Note the truck and tractor, recent discoveries that he was unwilling to relinquish.  This is also the longest he has allowed those shades to sit on his face!
And then we made our way home, which was always a sad thing after a fun visit, but we had a good solid two weeks of vacation, and we had a lot of Just Dance, a lot of pie, and a lot of family fun time.  The flight back wasn't quite as delicious, mostly because of the four-hour layover and the 40-minute nap, but he was still quite a good little boy almost the entire time.
And now here we are at 18 months!  It seems crazy that he's already halfway to another year old (two??  Stop it).  He's going through some interesting phases at present.  He has close to a dozen teeth, those molars coming in pretty quickly, and his appetite is shifting a little bit too.  He still loves a banana at any moment, and always wants an avocado, even if it's just in his hand while shopping at the grocery store.  He eats mostly what we're eating, though he's a little pickier than he used to be (it also largely depends on his mood).  A few weeks ago he decided he just hated that high chair and refused to be calm or eat unless seated at the table.  So a booster seat was in order, and now he's happy as can be to feed himself at the table like his parents.  He usually folds him arms for prayers, though that's hit-or-miss these days, especially when he sees food on the table.  He's very active, a little tornado like usual, and he loves reading -- we really just need to get our own copy of Marla Frazee's Roller Coaster, we're keeping it from all the local libraries for more than our share.  His vocabulary has basically doubled in the last few weeks, and he's much better at recognizing things in books and in the real world and making connections and associations.  He clearly discerns the difference between cars, trucks and tractors, he's getting much more consistent about mommy, daddy, nana, papa, auntie and uncle, he's still doing his animal sounds, and also starting to say a lot of their names (tiger and duck are popular), and he's really good about things like hot, cold, in, out, up, down, and even saying things like, Uh-oh!  Tada!  I love you!  It was also probably helpful to be around his toddler cousin so much over Thanksgiving, because I think he was able to relate to someone closer to his size a little more and mimic her talking, even to the point of doing a couple of short sentences (Hi, kitty!).  Interestingly he's stopped doing some of his tricks as consistently, but I think that's just because he doesn't want to more than because he dropped the skill.  He'll still wave and blow kisses, often adding bye-bye.

Last Sunday we took him to Nursery for the first time, which has been the plan all along, but which didn't really hit me until that very morning, practically on the way to class.  We were so glad to see that he didn't make a peep of protest when we dropped him off, but I might have shed a tear or two.  He had a glowing report after, so we just hope this continues in the weeks and months to come.  I will also say that it was much more relaxing not to have to entertain him for those two hours, though I'll miss my Elders Quorum buddy.  And now we're heading in full speed ahead to Christmas time, and The Boy is already fascinated with the magical joys it's bringing.  We're determined to teach him who's who in the finger puppet Nativity on the shelf, and he's having a great time exploring the bottommost branches of our Christmas tree.

Picture time!
The Disney Indoctrination continues!
Snuggling with Mommy on a poorly afternoon.
He loved making various animal noises every time he saw the Beast.
This little tog zaum is so versatile!
Introducing him to my longest and truest Disney crush.

There is something so perfect about this picture.  He loved his Costa Vida dinner, that's for sure.  Straight to the tub!
There we go, much tidier.
Shakespeare on the savannah, Zero in hand.
Finally officially meeting his onetime ladylove.
Getting a little exercise while sightseeing in scenic Paris.
Go the distance!
That Toothless hat!  It's the best.
A little change from the usual weekend fare with General Conference.
He likes bananas, coconuts and grapes, that's why they call him Bobo of the Apes.
That crib hair wins.

It looks like he's a little more interested in the dinosaurs in hand than the ones on screen.  (Not that I blame him.)
Lawl, face of toast.
Llama face!  (We sure watched a lot of Disney movies over these three months.)
The littlest Survivor fan.
A fun party at the magical land of trampolines, courtesy of our real estate agent.  This place is definitely something out of one of my favorite and most recurring childhood daydreams.
So what does ohana mean again?...
Lots of machines in a few of these more recent ones.
See what I mean about that versatile stool?
Cows say moo, sheep say baa.
Christmastime is pretty amazing at Costco.  He loved being flopped upon these.
He's over his fear of the rah-rah for sure now.
Meeting the Robinsons.
This boy already likes ribs as much as his daddy (or at least gnawing on the bones).  Lucky thing, I didn't acquire a taste for them until many years into my life.
Just doing a little ironing!  That face!!!
So there's the Insta-rundown.  I feel like I'm in this really weird stage right now because he's SO much fun at this age, learning so much so fast and being so cute and funny, but at the same time I miss him as a tiny baby, and I also can't wait until he's a little older and having even more conversations and learn even more.  I guess the moral of this story is to be grateful for each stage while we're in it, and we definitely have been.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Blogkeeping -- Summer 2014

It's already time for another blogkeeping post!  That's what happens when I let it get out of hand.  Anyway, these are the movies watched from April 2014 (bottom) to early August (top).  So much The Amazing Race (and more to come!), a HP-athon, and starting to get to the BEST Disney movies with The Boy.

The Amazing Race (Season 3) **** 1/2 / Oliver & Company [r] **** / Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 2) [r] ***** / Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1) [r] **** 1/2 / Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince [r] **** 1/2 / Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix [r] ***** / Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire [r] ***** / Son of God ** 1/2 / Noah *** 1/2 / Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban [r] **** 1/2 / Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets [r] **** 1/2 / Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone [r] ***** / RED 2 *** / The Amazing Race (Season 2) **** / Bewitched [r] *** / The Amazing Race (Season 1) ** 1/2 / Endeavor (Season 2) **** / Great Expectations (2012) *** 1/2 / The Lego Movie *** / 24: Live Another Day (Season 9) *** 1/2 / The Great Mouse Detective [r] **** 1/2 / Robocop (2014) *** 1/2 / The Fox and the Hound 2 [r?] *** 1/2 / The Black Cauldron [r] *** 1/2 / Winter's Bone ** 1/2 / The Fox and the Hound [r] **** 1/2 / Anna and the King [r] **** 1/2 / The Rescuers [r] *** 1/2 / The Amazing Race (Season 22) **** 1/2 / Heroes of Cosplay (Season 1 - Part 2) *** / The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh [r] ***** / The Escape Artist *** 1/2 / The Amazing Race (Season 21) *** / Oblivion [r] *** 1/2 / Robin Hood [r] **** / The Aristocats [r] **** / The Bletchley Circle (Season 2) *** 1/2 / The Secret Life of Walter Mitty ***** / Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit *** 1/2 / The Amazing Race (Season 20) *** 1/2 /
The Jungle Book 2 [r] *** / The Jungle Book [r] *** 1/2 / The Amazing Race (Season 19) *** / Better Off Dead [r] **** / The Sword In the Stone [r] **** / 102 Dalmatians *** / 101 Dalmatians (1996) [r] *** 1/2 / 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure [r] *** / 101 Dalmatians (1961) [r] ***** / The Amazing Race: Unfinished Business (Season 18) *** 1/2 / Godzilla (2014) *** 1/2 / Maleficent *** 1/2 / Sleeping Beauty [r] ***** / Finding Neverland [r] **** / Hook [r] *** 1/2 / The Amazing Race (Season 17) *** 1/2 / X-Men: Days of Future Past **** / Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure [r] *** / Lady and the Tramp [r] **** / Peter Pan (2003) [r] **** 1/2 / Return to Neverland [r] *** 1/2 / Peter Pan (1953) [r] ***** / Alice In Wonderland (2010) [r] *** / Survivor: Cagayan (Season 28) **** / Endeavour (Season1) *** 1/2 / The Amazing Race: All-Stars (Season 24) **** / Alice In Wonderland (1951) [r] **** 1/2 / Grimm (Season 3) *** 1/2 / The Parent Trap (1961) [r] ***** / The Parent Trap (1998) [r] ***** / Ella Enchanted [r] *** / Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge (Season 1) **** / Cinderella III: A Twist In Time *** 1/2 / Cinderella II: Dreams Come True [r] ** 1/2 / Cinderella [r] **** / Bates Motel (Season 2) *** 1/2 / Resurrection (Season 1) *** 1/2 / Saving Mr. Banks [r] **** 1/2 / The Amazing Spider-Man 2 **** 1/2 / The Book Thief **** / The Bluebird [r] *** 1/2 / The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad [r] **** / A Mighty Wind [r] ***** / Melody Time [r] *** 1/2 / Fun & Fancy Free [r] *** / Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi *** 1/2 / The IT Crowd (The Final Episode) [r] **** / Ferris Bueller's Day Off [r] **** / A Good Woman *** 1/2 / A Cat in Paris ** 1/2 / Captain America: The Winter Soldier **** / The Trumpet of the Swan ** 1/2 / Savannah Smiles [r] *** 1/2 / Project Runway: Under the Gunn (Season 1) ** / Charlotte's Web (2003) [r] *** 1/2 / Charlotte's Web 2: Wilbur's Great Adventure ** / Charlotte's Web (1973) [r] **** / Make Mine Music [r] *** 1/2 / Endeavor **** / The Three Caballeros [r] ***

And here are the last fifty books, from the end of May 2014 (bottom) to mid-October (top).  I love a good Harry Potter read-through, after lo, these many years.

Fifteen Animals! (Sandra Boynton) ***** / The Return of Tarzan (Edgar Rice Burroughs) *** / Tarzan of the Apes (Edgar Rice Burroughs) ***** / Wild Orchid: A Retelling of The Ballad of Mulan (Cameron Dokey) *** / Fa Mulan: The Story of a Woman Warrior (Robert D. San Souci) *** 1/2 / The Ballad of Mulan (Song Nan Zhang) **** 1/2 / Hercules (retold by Geraldine McCaughrean) ***** / World Mythology: Hercules (Adele D. Richardson) *** 1/2 / The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (Victor Hugo) ***** / The Double Life of Pocahontas (Jean Fritz) *** 1/2 / Pocahontas (Nancy Polette) *** / Hamlet (William Shakespeare) **** / Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp (Philip Pullman, ill. by Sophy Williams) *** / Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp (Marianna Mayer, ill. by Gerard McDermott) **** / Beauty and the Beast (Max Eilenberg, ill. by Angela Barrett) *** / Beauty and the Beast (Marianna Mayer, ill. by Mercer Mayer) **** / The Little Match Girl (Hans Christian Andersen, ill. by Rachel Isadora) **** / The Little Mermaid (Hans Christian Andersen, ill. by Michael Hague) **** / Oliver Twist (Charles Dickens) ***** / How Do Dinosaurs Love Their Dogs? (Jane Yolen and Mark Teague) **** / Quidditch Through the Ages (J.K. Rowling) **** / Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (J.K. Rowling) **** / The Tales of Beedle the Bard (J.K. Rowling) **** / Dumbledore's Army Reunites At Quidditch World Cup Final (J.K. Rowling) *** / Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K. Rowling) ***** / Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (J.K. Rowling) **** / Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (J.K. Rowling) ***** / Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (J.K. Rowling) **** / Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (J.K. Rowling) ***** / Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J.K. Rowling) **** / Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (J.K. Rowling) ***** / Harry Potter: The Prequel (J.K. Rowling) *** / Orange Pear Apple Bear **** / Basil and the Lost Colony (Eve Titus) *** / Basil of Baker Street (Eve Titus) *** /
The Fox and the Hound (Daniel P. Mannix) *** / How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? (Jane Yolen & Mark Teague) *** / Miss Bianca (Margery Sharp) *** 1/2 / The Rescuers (Margery Sharp) **** / Boot & Shoe (Marla Frazee) ***** / The House At Pooh Corner (A.A. Milne) ***** / Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne) ***** / Robin Hood (Louis Rhead) **** / BabyLit: The Jungle Book (Jennifer Adams, ill. by Alison Oliver) ***** / The Second Jungle Book (Rudyard Kipling) **** / The Jungle Book (Rudyard Kipling) **** 1/2 / My Lucky Little Dragon (Joyce Wan) **** / The Sword In the Stone (T.H. White) **** / Sleeping Beauty (Jacob Grimm, ill. by Maja Dusíková) *** / Sleeping Beauty (Adèle Geras, ill. by Christian Birmingham) ****

Friday, November 14, 2014

One Time We Bought a House

I've been putting off this post for months now, but I think if I just sit and start writing it out at least it will have begun, and then it's much more likely to be finished.  The Wife already posted a very good summary/photo tour on her blog, and also a great rundown of some of our projects so far, but I've been planning this in my head all summer so I'm just going to get it down anyway.

So there we were in our 2bd/1bth townhouse apartment in Provo that we really liked, going along our merry way, but then one day little Bobo was not so little anymore, and we realized the shared nursery/office space situation wasn't going to work out indefinitely.  It was getting harder and harder to schedule naptime/worktime, and besides that we knew that before TOO long we would have another little one on the way (and also our landlords rather frown on people having more than one child while living in those apartments).  Also, our contract was about to be up.  So, we started our long and in-depth process of househunting.

I'll spare you the gory and tedious details, but in the end we talked to two real estate agents and two loan officers (one of whom worked at a bank, and one of whom was an actual loan officer and also a relative) and looked at over a dozen houses over a month or two, narrowed it down to a couple of frontrunners, and then decided on what features were most important to us, what we could expect considering our budget/desired mortgage (and learned the difference between settling and compromising), and finally, some three to four months later, and just in time for our fifth anniversary, decided on this place:
It's a 4bed/2.5 bath on a nice 1/3+ acre of land that has really been great so far.  The negotiation process was pretty tiresome at times, but luckily our agent Jared was really great to work with and managed a great deal.  The poor house was on the market for almost a year without a buyer, and after dealing with the seller and even our very first experience with its curb appeal it's not too hard to figure out why, but it's also amazing what a nice mow, a thorough weeding, and a fresh coat of paint in some key spots can do for the overall look of the place (and it makes you wonder why they didn't do that in the first place if they really wanted to sell...).  I guess it's because this house was waiting for US to come along and give it some love and attention, which we knew was all it needed.  It's so nice to have a place that's actually ours, and although homeownership comes with some (pretty expected) big differences compared to renting, we're up to the challenge.  Of course it's been an adjustment in some ways, but we thought, we're done with school, we have a little guy, we're ready to move on in this next big step.
This wasn't our truck, it was our neighbors', but it's always fun to be surprised by my mom and sisters smiling back at you on the back of a U-Haul.

We took care of a few things after signing and before moving in, including getting a few appliances and even painting The Boy's room before putting everything in it.  Then we rented a U-Haul for the first time ever (since we were moving farther than a mile west, which is what we've done for the last three moves), which I had fun driving, and thanks to some family and neighbors, and NEW neighbors, we were able to get out of our apartment and into our house in just a matter of two hours or so, which was awesome.  It took a little while longer to get unpacked and finish up with all our boxes, but it was great to get most of it done so quickly.  Moving in general is such a huge pain, and really ever since we moved into our last place I've been dreading it, but it was nice to have help and to just get it behind us and check off the big things, and then it didn't take too long to feel like we've lived here for a nice long while and for it to feel like home.
Yes, well... this was SOME of our stuff.  Oy, moving.

Such a good little helper.
Too cool.

Seriously, how often do I get to drive a truck this big?
I've been learning a lot about homeownership already, like what to do about a clogged toilet (answer:  don't throw a Sharpie down there in the first place, whoever lived here before and did that).  Thanks for all your help, Handy Matt!
We thought we might get a trampoline next summer sometime, but then Matt said he had one just laying around waiting to be put back together, and asked if we wanted it.  Yes, inDEED!
We really love the yard.  Actually one of the main things The Wife was looking for was space, so she could feel like she's not TOTALLY surrounded by neighbors and feel a little more like her home in the midwestern woods.  This back yard has a lot of, erm... personality, but it's been a lot of fun to get to know it better.  The neighbors keep saying that they've been praying for someone to buy the house and take care of the lawn, and it's true what they said -- turn the water back on and it actually does come back before you know it.  The first time we looked at the house we almost didn't even bother looking inside because the lawn was in such terrible condition, but even a mow of the dead grass and waist-high weeds made a huge difference, and a couple weeks of sprinkling and it was even better.  It still needs a lot of work, but it's in great shape to be a more or less blank canvas come spring.
Nursery no more.
This is where I spend a significant portion of my weekday waking hours, and it's nice not to have to work around an increasingly alert and aware toddler's nap schedule.  It's also nice not to have to worry about being too noisy for neighbors downstairs or next door, and to do whatever we want to the place, whether it's paint or plant or replace things or whatever.
Our housewarming party approximately two months after moving in was the impetus that finally persuaded me to put up our art wall.
I think Julie's talking to Melody at the bottom of the stairs.
So many delicious autumnal snacks and cheeses (sans cheese!).  Nice work, Wife.  Also, lawl, The Boy back there.
Mom and Dad reading Roller Coaster (a very favorite around here) to the little boys.  Thanks for the pictures, Matt!  I didn't take a single one.
Oh, there was also that time when we were THIS CLOSE to being on House Hunters...  Yes, Julie applied, and they actually wrote back.  They emailed back and forth a few times, talking about us and who we are and what we're like and why we're moving and what we're looking for, and in the end it was just a matter of timing.  They said we wouldn't be able to move in or make any changes to the house by a certain date, and that day was past our closing date, and we thought it was just better to go into our house as soon as we could (especially since our contract was about to run out, and I did try to extend for a few days, but that turned into a pretty big hassle and mostly it's just a terrible and annoying story about how our landlady said some really rude and unprofessional things to us about losing money on us [not our fault] and how they'll be glad to be rid of us [ideal tenants], and yikes, it wasn't pretty, and mostly I'm just glad we managed to recover ANY of our deposit).  If only HH had written to us sooner!  It's a shame it didn't work out with our timeline, because I am telling you, we would have been great TV.  And that makes the third TV show I've applied for (two of them twice).  One of these days!  Ha ha.

Anyway, that's about it!  We were so close to becoming TV stars, and we had some kerfuffles with landlords/sellers, and we're slowly working through our little project list, but the end result is that we' like our house.  Not long after we moved in The Wife's (almost) entire family were in town, and although it was tight, we all fit for a couple of nights, which wouldn't even have been possible at all in our last place.  Then, some two months after moving in, we finally had our housewarming party, and it was so fun to have a lot of guests, and to have a place to fit them all, and to have a great backyard where we could send the kids to play on the swingset and the rock wall and the trampoline (thanks, Matt!), just like I always pictured.  As I've said before, I hope we really love it here, because we are NEVER moving again!  (At least not for like ten years, ha.)

Written 3 November 2014.