Sunday, September 19, 2010

Summer is over :(

It's still warm, but I think summer is officially over. School is in full swing, vacations are over, and I'm already planning for Christmas (church choir that is).
Melissa said we didn't do anything fun this summer, which made me look back and see why she said that. I had to admit that she didn't get to do as much fun summer vacationey stuff as she is used to (is that a word?).

We did go camping with her Dad's side of the family as usual this year.

It was hot as usual.  We stayed at a different camp site for the first time since we got married.

This year Anthony went up with the kids for one night without me (he usually doesn't make it due to work or looking for work or now because of shows).  Then I came up and he went home to do some shows, and I stayed one night.

Melissa loves playing in the the water, Jeremy loves playing in the fire, Anthony loved having his fan, and I love going home!  (I just don't love camping.)
Usually during the summer, the kids get to spend a few Friday nights at their Grandma's who has a big above ground pool in her back yard, and they spend Friday and Saturday swimming and playing with cousins.  If they don't spend the night, we usually go every Saturday anyway.

But this year there were too many people living at Grandma's, and she was not in the best of health, so it was inconvenient to have the grandkids there very much.  In fact, I think we only went a couple of Saturdays the whole summer.  They didn't even get to visit when their cousin from New Mexico came to stay for a couple of weeks.  They did spend a couple of nights when we went on our cruise, though.
We did go to a movie one night, but that's about it!  So when I realized that she was right and she didn't really have much fun during her summer vacation, I decided that we ought to do something about it.

So at the last minute, we decided to take a short family vacation over the Labor Day weekend.  I thought it would be fun to drive up to Yellowstone and show the kids that fascinating place and make a few more fun memories this year.  But we quickly found that all the motels in and around Yellowstone were booked (duh, the last holiday of summer - what was I thinking?) - and I was absolutely NOT going to camp.  We just about gave up on the whole idea, when Friday afternoon Anthony called one more place and found that they had had a bus load of people who had booked the weekend cancel at the last minute.  They gave us a deal on the room so that we would come, and even upgraded us once we got there.  Turns out it was a really nice motel right in West Yellowstone, close to the park entrance.

We drove all afternoon/evening and got there about 10:00 p.m.  The next morning we went into the park.  It was a perfect day, about 75 degrees, sunny and very few clouds in the sky.  Our first animal sighting was a whole herd of elk crossing the river.  We went to see Old Faithful and walked the looooooong boardwalk to the Morning Glory Pool.  We saw lots of pools, steamers, bubblers, splooshers, and a few erupting geisers along the way.  I was so happy to see that Morning Glory Pool was looking much more colorful than it did 20 years ago when I was there last.  It was a long walk, but we had fun and took lots of pictures.
The next morning we drove by Yellowstone Lake and up to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and the falls.  Along the way we saw lots of bison, some even crossed the road in front of us!  When we got to the falls we walked down to the trail edge to look down at the falls and the canyon.  It was very windy that day (the weatherman predicted snow by evening).  The wind made me too nervous to get very close to the edge to look down at the river, but I did get a few pictures and it was still as stunning as ever!
We decided to drive home through the Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole.  We stopped in Jackson Hole for dinner, but didn't stay very long.  It was a long drive home, but we stayed awake by watching for jack rabbits on the side of the road (we saw at least four of them).

It was a fun, albeit short, vacation.  I would have liked to stay one more day, but Anthony had shows on Monday.  Maybe we'll go back again some day and see the rest of the park.  In the meantime, here are some of our memories:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cruising!

This year was our 20th anniversary, and we celebrated by taking a cruise.  I took a 2 night cruise when I was in college, but Anthony hasn't - and he's been wanting to.  He watches the travel channel a lot and decided that we should take advantage of our anniversary and go.

We flew to Long Beach airport, took a shuttle to the port and boarded the Royal Caribbean "Mariner of the Sea" on Sunday, May 23rd at about 11:30 a.m.  Our rooms weren't ready till 1:00, so we were all ushered to the buffet for nch until then.  The food was good.
Our room was small, but with lots of mirrors and hidden storage didn't seem as small as I was expecting, except the bathroom (I've never been able to use a toilet and the sink at the same time).  Besides the bathroom, we had a closet with shelves, desk with chair, drawers and shelves, tv, small fridge, couch, table, queen bed with night stands.
The ship is huge!  There are 15 decks, we were on the seventh floor in an inside cabin.  There was what they call the "Promenade" which was an open area in the middle of the ship about three floors high, kind of like a mall area - a very high priced mall.
We loved the entertainment!  We got to go to a live show every night.  There was juggling, singing and dancing, variety shows, comedy, ice skating and music.  We also went to the "Name That Tune" games they had almost each afternoon.  They had 70's night, 60's, 50's, movie music, etc - and our team actually won once.  I went to a couple of Sudoko challenges, but I wasn't nearly fast enough!  We also went to some of the art shows and auctions.  Anthony found a Warner Brother's lithograph that he couldn't resist bidding on.  He won it and along with that got two more pieces for free!
The food was wonderful!  It was like dining at a 5 star restaurant every night.  We were able to book a cosy table for two in the main dining room which we attended each night.  Anthony tried escargot, and I tried several different kinds of fish.  Fresh fish cooked right is delicious!  We also went to the buffet for breakfast several mornings and afternoons.  We were also able to have room service for free and had breakfast delivered a couple of mornings and lunch a couple of afternoons after our excursions.
The ship made three stops - the first at Cabo San Lucas.  At this stop we took "tenders" or smaller boats from the ship to the pier.  We decided not to book a tour but just go to the beach and play in the water, so we paid $4 each for a water taxi to the beach.  Unfortunately the sea was so rough, we just about got pulled under.  We were so exhausted after fighting the waves, we decided just to go back to the ship and rest.
The 2nd stop was at Mazatlan.  This time we got caught by a time share spiel - they would give us a free taxi and tickets to the Aquarium and taxi back to the dock if we would just spend an hour "touring" their beautiful resort.  We decided an hour was well worth the two free taxi rides and tickets to the Aquarium, so we did it.  At least it was cool in their resort while we listened to their pitch.  Of course, we declined, but they came through with the freebies.  The Aquarium was smallish and older, but it was fun anyway.  We did a little souvenir shopping at the docks, and then went back to the ship for the evening.  Not a bad little excursion for free!
The third and last stop was Puerto Vallarta.  We had done okay on our last two stops, but this time I decided I wanted to book a tour so we were assured transportation and a guide who spoke English with other people from our ship so we would know we would be taken care of and not get lost or anything.  We chose the "Mexican Fiesta" tour which was $48 each (one of the cheapest tours available, yet still hard for my tight fist to pay for).  It included a bus, guide, tour of a Tequila factory with free samples (they thought we were weird when we declined), mexican fiesta luncheon with dancers, tortilla making contest, dancing horse, pinata, etc.  After the fiesta, we took a short walking tour along the boardwalk and downtown area of Puerto Vallarta and visited their Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral, then had a little time for more souvenir shopping.  The fiesta turned out to be really fun, the city was much nicer than the last two stops, and the tour was well worth the price.

We loved our cruise and didn't want the trip to be over, but of course the last day came.  We packed and waited for our turn to exit the ship.  We were towards the last of the groups to leave so by then it wasn't as crowded and the lines were very quick.  We went through customs in mere minutes, and at the terminal we were able to get a shuttle back to the airport fairly easily.  Once back at the airport (at about 10:00 a.m.) we decided to rent a car and do something with our day since our flight didn't leave to come home until 8:00 p.m.  We drove around looking for a movie we could go to, but nothing looked interesting.  By then we were practically at Disneyland so we had to drive by just for fun, and when we found out it would be almost $100 each to go for the day we bagged that idea.  Then we decided we could grab some lunch and head to the beach for a while.  We completely forgot that it was Memorial Day weekend and it happened to be the first really warm weekend they had had there and found that the beaches were jammed.  We drove along Seal Beach for a while catching glimpses of the beach between houses, but we couldn't find a place to park.  So we gave up on that idea.  Then I remembered that we could go to Downtown Disney for free.  At least I would be on Disney property and feel a part of the magic!  (Yes, I'm a Disney nut!)  We had fun wandering in and out of the shops and just looking around.  That was a fun end to a fabulous vacation.
I highly recommend cruising, and especially recommend Royal Caribbean - it was wonderful!
For more pictures of our trip, see the slideshow below!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Jessica's New Car

Well, Jessica didn't get the car she originally signed papers to buy.  She actually ended up getting a Suzuki Forenza.  The payments are a little less than they would have been for the Nissan and it's a lot "cuter".  Whatever.  Unbelievably, she got financed on her own as a first time buyer for 6.99% interest.  Nice!  Now I don't have to be a co-signer for her!

Bobo the Bunny

This is the new bunny - Bobo - who for now lives in the front room (I could just die).

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Things I learned from 2009

Here are ten things I learned in 2009 (previously posted on facebook):
#10 - Teaching children to want to do well in school is HARD!
#9 - Teaching children to respect their parents (or anyone for that matter) is HARD!!
#8 - Learning/studying something new at my age isn't as hard as I thought it would be (I passed my test and am now an ICC Certified Permit Technician!).
#7 - A new kitchen is totally worth the price!
#6 - Movies are rarely worth the new movie ticket price, but Star Trek was awesome!
#5 - Being patient with the little annoyances is almost harder than handling the bigger traumas.
#4 - Having a child become an adult can make you start to feel old, but having your eyesight change definitely does!
#3 - Blogging is not really a good substitute for keeping a journal, but it's better than nothing and it's fun to share (I finally updated mine - a lot!).
#2 - Walt Disney World is just as great with just adults as it is with kids!
#1 - When I feel all alone, and that the Spirit is far away, I learned that it's me that has pulled away. As soon as I do what I know I should, especially pray and exercise faith, I feel close to the Spirit and the Lord again.

My new year's resolution is to keep a better journal, a cleaner house, and a calmer temper.

Monday, January 11, 2010

New Bunny

Another bunny? Yep, that's what Anthony said - he needs another bunny! "What if Puff get's sick or worse? A magician needs to have a back up." Turns out that he wants to keep his show fresh and new for repeat customers and be able to produce a new bunny in a new apparatus. Besides, he's soooo cute. He's another tiny super soft rex, a kind of creamy orangey tan color. We thought of lots of names, but he decided on Bobo. He's a much calmer, friendly bunny. As soon as I find my camera, I'll post a picture.

The best thing about him, says Anthony, is that if he gets too big, he can trade the bunny in on a smaller one. Yeah right, like Anthony isn't going to get totally attached to this little guy like he has to Puff.  You just watch, next year he'll be asking if he can get doves!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Christmas 2009

I love Christmas! I love the decorations, I love Christmas trees and nativities and villages and snowglobes and nutcrackers and wreaths. And I love Christmas music. This year KOSY 106.5 played Christmas music 24/7 starting right after Thanksgiving. My boss asked my co-worker and I if we were going to listen to Christmas music all day every day until Christmas and we both unanimously answered, "YES!" We never got tired of it.
Preparing for Christmas is stressful however, and that stress starts in October when I, as music director for my ward, try to find Christmas music appropriate for an amateur choir with very few members, low bases and few tenors. Choir music just isn't written for low bases, I don't know why. Anyway, after I finally find a few songs for the choir, I also have to plan something for the Young Women and several smaller groups or specialty numbers. Coordinating all that is quite an undertaking. Just asking people is hard for me.
I found a song that I have liked for a couple of years. I wanted to sing it, but it was a solo and I don't do solos. So I decided to write an alto part to it and asked Jessica to sing it with me. She surprised me and said she would. Writing the part came very quickly and was so fun because it weaved under, around and even above the melody. Practicing with Jessica was actually a time of peace and even pleasure between her and I. It reminded me of when I used to sing with Mom. Sigh.
Once that was underway, then I had to plan the program - yes, I do the entire program too. This is my third year in charge. The first year I just had narrators reading the scripture story and plunked songs here and there - not too hard. The second year was about the story of the songs themselves - when they were written, why, by whom, etc. That took much more research and preparation, but I think it turned out great.
This year I didn't know what to do. I was feeling very overwhelmed and somewhat alone in the undertaking. I have been missing my parents and feeling the maybe imaginary pressure of being the head (oldest) of my family. I've struggled with my own children and husband and house, and feeling somewhat distant from the Spirit - kind of like "why must this be so hard and why aren't you helping me Lord?" I hadn't been reading the scriptures, let my Ensign subscription lapse, and would often fall asleep without saying my personal prayers at night. It's amazing how quickly those basics can become overlooked and undone. I realize now that it was me that had pulled away from the Spirit.
But I did pray for help with the program. I feel responsible for creating a spiritual, uplifting, touching program to make Christmas special for everyone, and I knew I needed my Savior's help. I paid close attention to a special Christmas Relief Society lesson that touched me. Several sisters were asked to read parts, each one of a woman in the Christmas story - Elizabeth, Mary, a shepherd's wife, the innkeeper's wife, Mary's mother, Joseph's mother. The words were a "story" but based on scripture and history and it was beautiful and really touched my heart.
It got me thinking about my program. I needed help and was prompted to look up the words of the prophets. So I searched the online Ensign archives and read a lot of Christmas talks. I found one called the Twelve Witnesses, which was about the actual witnesses of the Christmas story, their testimonies of the Savior's birth from the scriptures. It was wonderful and perfect for my program, so I re-arranged it and edited it and put together my program. It came together in one night. I fit the songs and some of the scriptures in and I felt it would be wonderful. Not me, but the direction of the Spirit was wonderful. What a testimony to me that the Lord loves me and knew the desire of my heart to put on a wonderful program for Him and the ward, that He would bless me in this way.
Many people have told me for weeks how much they enjoyed the program, how the choir sounded great, even that Jessica and I sounded good. I made my mother-in-law cry again, which is always a good sign. I'm so glad the Lord helped me. My prayers were answered. I feel the Spirit close around me again. My testimony has been strengthened.
I love Christmas!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

My New Title

When I first started my job, my boss asked if I would be willing to study and take a test to certify as a "permit tech." I said sure, but was slightly terrified. My co-worker kept referring to how hard she thought the test was, and how long she studied (an hour or so each night for months). Then the bottom fell out of the housing market and budgets were cut, so there was no money for classes or study guides or the test, so I was off the hook - for a while.

The building codes cycle every three years and the new code would go into effect Jan. 1, 2010, so I was encouraged to study and take the test before the new code went into effect. So I started. It was overwhelming. There were four books to study from including the Building Code book which has all the specific code requirements for everything in building - it's huge. But after help from my co-worker, study groups with other city's employees preparing to take the test and study guides to help me practice, I finally took the test on December 18th. I passed! I am now an ICC Certified Permit Technician (still don't know if I'll get a raise or not).

This certificate is not from passing my test. Each month I submit the monthly building report to several entities, one of which has a monthly newsletter with a trivia quiz (just for fun). Last month when I submitted my report, I also answered "the Big Question." The question was, "If it is dark in a certain place at midnight, what are the chances that it will be sunny in the same place 72 hours later?" A week later I got this certificate and a yo-yo in the mail - I was chosen the winner for the month from the whole country! My boss claimed the yo-yo.

Jessica and the Car

Jessica finally decided she had to have her own car! She got used to having her own car when I got my own car and let her drive my Dad's silver Toyota wagon that he had given me and had driven for years. When that car was almost dead (everything but the engine), I sold it and she was without car. She would have to ask to borrow one of our cars which got very difficult when Anthony started having a lot of shows in October and December and there wasn't a car available. She learned to take Trax to work, but didn't like bumming rides with her friends all the time to "hang out."

So she looked for a car. She wanted a cute, sporty, fast, cute car. I told her in her price range her requirements should be that is runs and is cheap. Well, she found a Toyota Celica, two door cute little car that had been turboed (that word just looks wrong). It was fast, it was cute, it had a deck (I found out that's a really expensive awesome stereo/cd/mp3 player), and it was cool. It was black (actually really dark navy blue) and looked very much like this one:

She had it exactly 10 days before she totalled it. She was coming down the freeway off ramp at 1300 South and was going through the light and right back up the onramp to get back on the freeway because that wasn't the exit she wanted. Evidently the combination of her going too fast, the steep slope and incline of the road, a dip or chuck hole in the road, and the fact that her car was chopped (closer to the ground than normal) - she bottomed out and was thrown to the side of the road impacting a UDOT utility box. She was unharmed, but the car was a total loss. Luckily she got the car for less that it's value, so the insurance coverage minus her $1000 deduction will pay for the car plus about $500.

She's already bought another car, though this one I think she's paying about $1000 too much for, a Nissan Sentra. Oh well, not my decision. I just hope she gets this one paid for before she wrecks it.

Our Cat Plays Fetch

We have two cats, one of which likes to play fetch. Really!

Her name is Pepper, but half the time we call her "baby," because she is so small she still look like a kitten. She like to play with pony tail bands, and she really like to play fetch with them. We found out accidentally when we found one on the bed next to her, knocked it on the floor, she jumped down and picked it up in her mouth, then jumped back up on the bed and dropped it again. Sometimes if we don't pay attention and notice that she is sitting on the bed next to a band, she'll pick it up and drop it right on our leg. It's the funniest thing - you just have to see it.

video

Friday, January 8, 2010

Magic and Santa

The busiest time of the year for Anthony is between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Not only does he do Christmas magic shows, but he also plays Santa. This is his third year playing Santa and he was excited because this year he has real Santa boots (instead of army boots or snow boots that he wore last year), and a real leather belt. He had several repeat customers and lots of word of mouth advertising. KSL classifieds help a bunch too. As far as I can tell he had about 22 appearances as Santa as well as 13 magic shows. This was a good month for him. The only thing I don't love about it is that he missed both family Christmas parties - after all, Santa is busiest on Christmas Eve!

Thanksgiving 2009

Loved Thanksgiving this year. Jen hosted and all five of our families were there. It was such nice weather, the kids even went outside and threw around a football or two. Dinner was great, dessert was great, family was great, games were even better. I love sitting around playing games after Thanksgiving dinner.

Here are some clips of our day:
video video

I just realized that next year will be an "off" year when we all go to in-laws. I will miss being with my family on that holiday. Maybe we can plan a get together for the day after Thanksgiving. What do you think?

Halloween 2009

Yep, I'm finally getting around to blogging about Halloween. Halloween being on a Saturday this year, the kids dressed up on Friday for the annual costume parade at school.

That night our ward had a "trunk or treat" activity at the church parking lot with bobbing for apples, donuts on a string and musical chairs. It was really fun.
This is Melissa with her favorite visiting teacher (mine actually) wearing "twinner" costumes, and Jeremy with friends.

The night was so cold I was wearing gloves, and at one point my camera slipped out of my hand and the strap was not around my wrist as I had thought it was. The camera landed right on the zoomed out lens, and has been non-functional ever since. I finally got around to taking the card out of the camera and downloading the pictures.