Friday, February 27, 2009

February in Texas

Freakishly hot today, so I petitioned for the kids to wash the car.

Libby liked the worms that came out. Ewwww!

Avery in the Middle of It

Why look on from the outside when you can experience things from the inside?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Why Austin? Does it Matter?

It's official.

Karina and I just got our Texas driver's licenses today. We moved here in June of 2008. The transfer is finally complete.

Here's the thing -- we don't really know why we're here. In fall of 2007 my mentor, Oliver DeMille, told me about a school in Austin, Acton MBA. He said that every time he thought of it he would think of me.

I went to the website. After reading just the home page, I knew that we would move to Austin. Without really researching it further, I called Karina downstairs to break the news to her.

And that was that. We made preparations and came to Austin.

After eight months, it's pretty clear that I won't be attending Acton MBA. At first, money was the issue. Now, I just don't think it's necessary for many reasons.

I did, however, find Wizard Academy and Roy Williams, which has been a pleasant surprise. But I wouldn't say that it's the reason why we were directed here.

I still don't have what I would call the definitive answer for that.

Here's what I do know: Our family has never been happier, stronger, and more full of faith. We've bonded with beautiful people. We've been blessed with opportunities to serve. We love our house and our ward.

We love sitting on our porch swing and watching our kids jump on the trampoline in 80 degree weather in February. We're excited to grow a garden this year for the first time in our marriage.

Our kids get to see homeless people and associate with kids and families of widely-varying faiths, ethnicities, and backgrounds.

Of course, they could have equally-valuable experiences elsewhere. And we do miss family.

But all things considered, we know it's right for us to be here. We just don't know why.

But does it matter?

Avery's Sleeping Habits

Avery has had a very consistent sleeping pattern for the whole 16+ months she's been alive. She's never slept longer than 2 hours at a time, and she sleeps with me because she wants to nurse all night long...and because I let her.

Avery has slept countless hours in my arms. Most people will know me as "the woman with the pink, big-flower nursing blanket around her neck."

No bottles, no binkies, not even a special blanky. I'm it!

We've grown accustomed to each other. It's not one-sided; we're both addicted to each other. Steve and I are fully aware of the monster we've created -- the squishy, joyous, huggy, loveable monster we've created.

It's been exhausting at times, meaning I've been sleep-deprived for 2 years (I'm totally counting pregnancy 'cause it's awful). But it's also been so totally bonding and special and sweet and natural.

I wasn't ready until now. She obviously hasn't been ready either. But it's time.

It started out like a typical evening. She nursed at 7:30 and fell asleep in my arms. I laid her down in her crib. She slept a whole two hours...awesome! But she nursed again at 9:30, then again at 10:30.

By 11:00 she was more than full and I decided to lay her down in her crib again instead of letting her thrash around the bed with Steve and I all night, which doesn't seem to bother Steve but I'm an extremely light sleeper.

And then, something wonderful happened. It was a gift. Or perhaps the start of something new?

She slept...and slept...and slept...for 8.5 hours she slept, through Libby crying out in the night because she was sick she slept, and through the morning light she slept...till a beautiful new day dawned, and didn't wake up until 7:30!

I'm singing "Wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles" right now.

Monday, February 23, 2009

"Scars are Cool"

Alex was super stoked to get this one the other day. See the great big smile?

He fell out of a tree, of course!

And ever since Barry & Trisha Perkins were here to show him just how high he can go and that he can get onto the roof too, he can now escape from Libby (and Mom) when needed.

He picks it to make sure it leaves a nice scar because - don't ya know - "Scars on boys are cool!"

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Most Important Decision You'll Ever Make

Who you marry is the most important decision you'll make in this lifetime.

When I was dating Steve, I told my mom, "I just can't imagine anyone more perfect for me."

Steve's not perfect, but he's perfect for me.

How did I get so lucky?

And I am convinced that it truly does have a lot to do with luck. I mean, we both happened to be married once before we met each other; we both happened to go to the same singles ward on the same day in St. George, Utah; he didn't have to completely suck up all pride, forgive me, and write me that unbelieveably romantic letter after he had broken up with me.

I've known people who were inspired to marry someone only to have it end in divorce many years later. I've known people who got married very young and are very happy. I recall the time when I realized that there are a lot of couples who look like they're doing great, but the truth behind closed doors is ugly.

There's also the opposite of that, which is Steve and I. We've had friends feel uncomfortable with our open disagreements, but it works for us to not hold our feelings inside where they stew, or are forgotten, only to come out later more fierce.

I am married to my true love, to my best friend, to my mentor and best adviser. He inspires me daily -- to serve more, to learn more, to be healthier, to work hard, to be devoted to a cause, to communicate better, to be silly, to have faith, to find happiness.

He makes sure I know I'm the reason for his being, that I get more beautiful every day, and that we're a team come what may forever and ever.

He's not posing for this picture.

If I could spend the day with only one person, it would be Steve. If I could go anywhere, it wouldn't make any difference to me unless Steve was there.

It just so happens that I found a man who chooses each day to be unselfish...for me...and for our kids.

If you've met Steve, if you've worked with Steve, if you're familiar with his family or any of his causes or projects, then you know what I mean by unselfish. He lives to make this world better. And I couldn't be prouder.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Blue & Gold cake for Scouts

The theme was fantasy; Alex chose to do a castle.

I was told that the boys are supposed to decorate the cakes to auction off so I let Alex do the bulk of it.

But, apparently, that's not really how it works 'cause if you would have seen the cakes there, they were incredible!

We bought the only cake there that was store bought and covered with a lid. If you were sitting next to the cake table and saw all the little fingers touching the cool cakes, wouldn't you?

The mess -- on the other side of the kitchen -- is the price we paid for all the time we spent on the cake. She's a rascal menace :)

Avery's words

She's 16 months old and says these eight words on her own:

Da-da (means Daddy, Mommy and good-bye)

Al-ts (means Alex and outside 'cause she loooove to go outside)

Na-na (means banana)



She does a horsey sound

Shoos (meaning shoes)

Ewww (ever since that time we found the poop)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A day in the life

Yes, I'm going to gush about my beautiful life. It's hard for even me to believe that I live the life that I do.

Our home is so heavenly to me.

I was on the phone with my mom in the morning, so Alex started getting breakfast ready. He's learned from his dad that listening to CDs helps chores seem less like chores.

Steve recently burned a new CD we all love and it's common for the kids to be belt out the words, or to take turns being the vocals, playing the "rocktar" as Libby calls it, or the drums.

During home school yesterday, as we sat down on the couch to do our devotional and read together, Avery who is 16 mos. old now can be quite a menace, albeit the cutest "little rascal" menace we’ve ever seen.

We weren’t sitting down for more than 5 minutes when I realized that all these events had taken place:

“Uh-oh, the gate to the stairs isn’t shut.” Alex was jumping up before I finished my sentence; he’s very protective.

“Libby, you can color with your crayons on the floor here.” She says, “I have to go up to the table or Avery will eat the crayons.” “Oh, yes, Libby you’re right.”

“Alex, can you get me a tissue?” (I’m at the end of a 2 week cold) And up he goes again.

“Uh-oh, Avery is ruining our book.” I reach to save it.

I say, “Hold this,” (our book) to Alex so that I can nurse Avery….again. She’s so addicted.

“What’s that sound?” Alex jumps off the couch to catch Avery scribbling with a pencil on one of our books. Thank goodness it wasn’t one of the 30 library books we have lying around.

I will get through one paragraph of our book and Libby will just have to interrupt to show me the colors on her page. “So pretty, Libby, like a rainbow.”

I read another paragraph and Avery will catch our sights as she’s giggling and twirling around in the middle of the floor. We look at each other and laugh. It will go on like this sometimes for 1 or 2 pages. I think Alex is sooooo patient.

Later, he said, “Do you want me to make lunch now?” I was starting to fall asleep on the couch ‘cause Avery was down for her nap and I’m usually up a lot in the night nursing Avery. “Yes, Alex, thank you.”

In Libby’s cute little 3.5-yr-old voice she says, “Alex, can you get me some cheese?” “Yeah, sure, Libby. I’ll get you some cheese and some applesauce. Do you want a half a sandwich or a whole sandwich?” He adds, “Mom do you want your sandwich toasted?”

Later still, during homeschool, Alex says, "Mom, the dictionary is like magic. You just find the word by looking for the letters, then you turn it this way and that way, and then there's the word. It's magic." Now, when we read, he stops me to look up the words he hasn't heard before. He thinks it's...well, magical.

We went to the park for 3 hours with some home schoolers for a Valentine's party. There was food, crafts, a sandbox, someone brought their drums (big hit!). There were dogs on occasion for Avery to go nuts over. And best of all, it was 75 gorgeous degrees.

I’m thinking to myself, Is this seriously my life? What a blessing. If I’m not the luckiest mom in the world, then I don’t know who is. The good news is, I think there’s a lot of moms just like me and that makes me very happy. I hope there’s millions of them.

Friday the 13th

Alex spend the better part of the day trying to convince me it was a bad luck day, even though he didn't even know what Friday the 13th was when the day started out. His evidence? Two specific unrelated events. See for yourself.

We don't have any pets; just a 16-month-old fresh out of the bath. And before my 16-month-old went to bed that night, she had learned a new word: "Ewwww."

Monday, February 9, 2009

Mormon Messages on YouTube

Have you seen these videos yet? They only have 8 up so far but it looks like there will be many more in the future.

Here's a good one:

What the Heck is an Earthship?

Imagine living in a home with no utility bills. Imagine living in a home that stays 70 degrees year-round in the harshest climates using no electric air conditioning and no heating other than the sun. Imagine living in a home that can provide all the water your family needs in a locality that produces 7-8 inches of rain water per year.

Imagine picking ripe bananas and oranges year-round from trees that grow inside your home in climates that get as cold as 35 degrees below zero (keep in mind that you are using no electric or gas heating at all, even during the coldest part of winter).

This isn't science fiction. It's a reality all across the world in earthships.

Karina and I are seriously considering building an earthship. Earthships are completely self-sufficient homes built almost entirely from recycled materials including discarded tires, cans, and bottles.

Earthship n. 1. passive solar home made of natural and recycled materials 2. thermal mass construction for temperature stabilization. 3. renewable energy & integrated water systems make the Earthship an off-grid home with little to no utility bills.
Biotecture n. 1. the profession of designing buildings and environments with consideration for their sustainability. 2. A combination of biology and architecture.

Michael Reynolds is the architect that pioneered them. There's an excellent movie about him called "Garbage Warrior." I invite you to watch it, but just to warn you, there is a lot of language in it from hippie construction worker-types.

You can also find a bunch of great videos here.

Considering the major trends, such as rising oil and energy prices, it only makes sense that we actively seek more sustainable forms of living. And it doesn't get any better than earthships.

What do you think? Are you ready to get off the grid?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Valentine's Day Daddy-Daughter Dance

Libby and I had SO much fun at this dance! Round Rock does it every year at the community rec center.

Libby was absolutely ADORABLE! We told her about it a couple weeks before and she was so excited to go.

Here are a couple pictures of us before the dance:

After Karina curled her hair she smiled and whispered, "I look like a woman."

We waited in line for 45 minutes for her to get her face painted:

She danced like she was the only one on the dance floor -- uninhibited, carefree, precious, glimmering like the Captivating princess she is. Lots of twirling, and she also figured out how to work the splits into her routine.

The last song was "My Little Girl" by Tim McGraw and I wanted to lift her up, hold her tight, and sing to her but she wasn't done fast dancing yet. "Stop singing!" she demanded and asked me to put her down so she could keep dancing alone.

Reading This Many Books Can Be So Exhausting!

First victim, Avery, our newest reader :)

Then it's Libby's turn to rest.

Our Little Readers

This year Alex has really improved his reading skills. He reads to Libby often and mostly tolerates her snuggling with him because Alex has never been a snuggler.

It's also normal for Libby to fall asleep during our morning reading sessions, but this picture is special because her arm is around his neck...that, and she's practically laying on him and he's not bugged about it...oh, and my couch and floor usually aren't that clean. He must really be into this book.

This scene is becoming more and more common around here. Alex is reading Rules by Cynthia Lord, which is a few levels above his current reading skills, but I read this book to him a few months ago, he loved it, and he's slowly pushing through it at the rate of about one chapter per week.

He'll stop to ask me what a word is from time to time, but I'm amazed that it's not more often than it is.

We're currently reading The High King, which is the 5th (and last) book in Lloyd Alexander's Prydain series. They were a gift from Uncle Wo at Christmas. He really loves them, and I know he'll be re-reading them until they fall apart.

Libby "reads" too. She's not just looking at the pictures. She's really talking out the story...or making something up.

For a long time we were reading Nancy Drew books and so whenever she'd pick up a book she'd say, "And Nancy exclaimed..." "Then Nancy explained..." "And her mom died when she was 2..." "But Nancy exclaimed..."

Compassionate Alex

Alex, at 9 years old, has a sensitivity toward the disadvantaged that I've rarely seen in children. He's particularly attuned to the needs of homeless people.

At least weekly, he independently mentions something we should do for homeless people. In fact, he even heads up little projects without us ever saying a word.

For example, the other day we finished off a large bottle of apple juice. He washed the bottle, filled it with water and put it in the refrigerator. "This is for the homeless people," he told me.

Karina was driving around town with the kids and they all got too hungry to wait to eat until they got home. Being that they had extremely limited funds for eating out at the time and very rarely had the privilege of doing so, they decided to get 4 hamburgers from the dollar menu at Wendy's: one for Alex, one for Libby, and 2 for Karina.

A short time later they pulled up to a stop light corner with a homeless man holding a sign that he was hungry and wanted food. Karina was just taking a bite into her second hamburger and was immediately struck with guilt and compassion and gratitude.

She rolled down her window and asked the man if he dared eat off of her partially-eaten hamburger. At the same time, Alex was clamoring for the opportunity to do the same thing. He was so eager to give up his half-eaten hamburger.

The man was thrilled to take it, saying that he would be grateful for anything, and as we pulled away he took a bite of that hamburger and looked like he was thoroughly enjoying it.

On another outing, Karina had put together treat bags for the kids, with chocolate and nuts and pretzels and other things. They weren't cheap. They were meant to keep the kids happy in the car for a long day of travel.

But sure enough, Alex spotted a homeless man across the way at an intersection and insisted that he give his bag to him. She told Alex they would catch him on their way back, but when they returned, he was gone. Alex said, "Let's find him."

They were looking all around, he just had to find this man, and sure enough, they spotted a man walking down a road that they thought was him. Karina was embarrassed to have to ask him, "Were you the man that was over on that street corner?"

He was! Alex was thrilled, and by then we were all inspired to put all our treats into one bag and give them to him.

There's rarely a time when we stop at a corner with a homeless person that Alex isn't looking all around the car for something to give to them, anything that may be useful to them.

Alex's Amazing Generosity

We had big, fat, juicy, delicious brownies sitting on the counter the other day for the kids. But we told them that they couldn't have any until they were done cleaning up.

Libby always has a hard time cleaning up. After awhile she decided that she just didn't want to clean. So she stopped. The natural consequence, of course, was that she lost her brownie "privilege."

And, naturally, she flipped her lid. Non-stop screaming and wailing.

After about five minutes of this, Alex couldn't take it anymore. So what does he do?

He tells Libby, "I won't have a brownie either."

This kid was drooling and aching for brownies. He couldn't stop talking about them. He had been imagining sinking his teeth and bathing his tongue in luscious brownies for hours.

He's a sweet-aholic.

Still, his concern for his sister trumped his sugar addiction.

Alex, you're amazing.

It reminds me of this quick video from Easter '08 when we had to park really far away, Daddy was lugging chubby Avery, and Mommy was carrying the video camera...but Alex was willing to be her knight...or her horse in this case.