Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Nine...um, Make That Two Days to Go

Hello everyone,

The Short Version: I haven't had much time to write (and have even less today), so I will attempt to summarize but still end up going on and on. I had an OB appointment and my induction date was moved up to Thursday, so I'm having a baby in less than two days. Wow. No stress or anything.

The Long Version: I was going to write a fantastically funny update, covering Dave's last trip to Singapore and Taiwan and including various hilarious adventures such as trying to get to church early for a choir run-through (with the kids while Dave is in a foreign country) and in my rush trying vainly to squeeze around the car in the garage despite the huge protrusion from my belly... or when Jared's friend Connie, on the way to the Science Museum, asked me (bless her heart...), "Why are you so fat?" But... extra time has not been plentiful for the past little while, especially today.

Today I had my usual OB appointment. I am to the weekly appointment stage of pregnancy. Three weeks ago I was dilated to a 1. Two weeks ago I was dilated to a 2 (yes, shocking, I know for a Rogers female). Last week I was dilated to a 3-- even more shocking! At this appointment I was still at a 3, but the baby's head was much lower and my cervix was starting to soften. So... something is happening.

But, on to the interesting turn of events today..... At my last appointment I talked to my doctor because I have been itching like crazy, not just on my stretched-out stomach skin, but everywhere-- on my arms, legs, hands, feet, back. She said there was a chance that my itching could be caused by this pregnancy-related liver thing, so she had my blood drawn to check. When I went to my appointment today, it turns out that the test came out positive and I have cholestasis of pregnancy: basically it's a liver disease that only happens in pregnancy where pregnancy hormones mess up the flow of bile to the gall bladder, so you build up bile acids in your liver and bloodstream. It's main symptom is severe itching, but it isn't dangerous for the mother, just annoying, and it usually goes away when you have the baby. But it can cause stress on the baby's liver and there is an increased risk for fetal distress or stillbirth, so you need to either be monitored closely or consider being induced early. Since we know the baby is big already and I'm already starting to dilate and get ready for labor, my OB recommended moving up my inducement. So I am having the baby on Thursday-- in less than two days. Of course this has not caused any extra stress for me, since I'm already TOTALLY ready... (ha, ha) OK, so I spent most of today on the phone trying to arrange babysitting, choir substitutes and change my mom's plane tickets. You would think after having two babies already that this would be old hat.... but I'm still nervous, worried that I'm not ready, afraid I've forgotten to purchase some immensely important baby item, and wondering how I'm going to handle having three kids and how I will deal with an infant that doesn't sleep through the night...... But, I'm also excited and glad that I don't have to keep waiting and itching. =]

So to summarize the rest of our lives since my last update, we have had a good couple of weeks. Dave had a good trip to Singapore and Taiwan (this means that even though he had no free time the entire time he was there and had to stay up all night preparing presentations, he got to come as scheduled on his scheduled flight). Jared and Camryn have been hard at work at their various writing projects and building three-dimensional creations out of paper and scotch tape. Jared has built an impressive paper rocket and a lovely diorama while Camryn has made a 3-D representation of our house and two of our neighbors'. Camryn labeled her and Jared's beds with post-it notes that inform the reader "NOB UESU LAWD" and "ULAD NO GRWLS." In case you aren't fluent in Camryn-ese that is "No Boys allowed" and "No Girls Allowed."

Jared and Camryn both came home from school with a guide to writing Native American (or as Jared would write: Nate Uv Amerikan) word-pictures-- very historically accurate, I am sure . Jared wrote a story with words and Native American pictures. He then tore the sides of the paper and crinkled it up "so it would look old." The story, destined to be a classic, goes thus:

"The Soree [story] of the man and woman and boy.

"Owns [once] opon a time ther was a man and woman and boy and they wor verey [were very] wise. Ther name was Dave Karen and Jared they wor good. They wor Sad becas [were sad because] they had no fish. they livd neer a river. neer the river ther was a egol and a trtle [eagle and a turtle] and a bear. the man and the woman and the boy did not no that the bear was ckuming [coming] and then they got eatin [eaten] the end of the storee of the man and woman and the boy." (You have to picture this with Native American word pictures once or twice a sentence...)

So the kids were ready for Thanksgiving. We spent a lovely Thanksgiving day with some friends, enjoying great food and especially the fact that we didn't have to cook all of it.

Jared must have decided that Dad isn't working hard enough, because he keeps making him "homework" which he assigns to him with a due date. Yesterday, Dave had his class so he didn't get home until late. Jared wrote daddy a letter, which he sealed in a manila envelope and addressed:

to: Dave
Frum: Jared.
Haws Number 17919 swht, Fone
number 503-825-184

The letter read as follows:

"To: Dave.
"Love: Jared.

"Dear dave you don't hafe to do you'r home work. but you can do the home work and mom ses shes haveing a babby in ten days Jared."

So those are my random notes on the past few weeks, skipping taking the kids to see another stake's production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and lots of other adventures that have been excluded from this epistle (to the relief of many, I'm sure). =]

So, off we go to the hospital at 7:00 am on Thursday to meet the newest member of our family.



Notes of the Week:
Jared wrote: "If I was the sise of a dinucore this pensool wood be very smol. [If I was the size of a dinosaur, the pencil would be very small."
[Translation from Camryn-ese: My mom is special every day. I love her. ?? to me every day. I love her ?? she loves me every day.]

P.S. You can tell a child who owns a Wii because they spell "Me": "Mii." =]

Sunday, November 4, 2007

K Kid vs. the Conference Call

Hello everyone,

I'm trying to figure out where I left off in my last update. I guess I will summarize.... On Tuesday, the 23rd, some friends threw a baby shower for me. It was really nice and lots of fun, especially since I never had a baby shower for Jared. However, I made the mistake of daring to make Cheddar Corn Chowder for dinner before I left. I hadn't made it in a while, but was inspired by our fall weather to make something warm and homey. This concoction is basically vegetables in a white sauce mixed with 2 1/2 cups of cheese-- yes, not exactly on the American Heart Association approved list. I personally like it, despite it's abundance of saturated fat and I assumed that my children would actually like a soup that was really cheese sauce with a few vegetables thrown in. Camryn liked it and gobbled it down, but Jared found it so disgusting that he refused to eat it, even if it meant not playing Wii after dinner. (That's how you know it's REALLY bad.) I guess you just can't win.

Dave spent some of his bits of free time watching the baseball playoffs and the the World series. He was engrossed by the drama of the Red Sox vs. Rockies-- could the Red Sox win it again? I was engrossed by the fact that so many baseball players spit all the time, right in front of the television camera. Almost every single time the camera focused in on a single player, within seconds he would favor us with a great big spit wad, up close and personal. What's the draw? Maybe baseball players are all big fans of Beauty and the Beast and just want to be able to sing like Gaston, "I'm especially good at expectorating...."

So now that I'm thoroughly into the 3rd trimester of pregnancy, my body won't cooperate with anything and I basically sound like a seasoned hypochondriac: I'm tired, my back hurts, I can't lift anything more than 5 lbs., my stomach feels funny, my legs won't lift, I'm short of breath, my joints hurt, I have false contractions, I can't squat without hurting myself, I can't roll over, my head aches, I need to sit down.... I've probably said this before, but it really irritates me to have an uncooperative body interfere with my planned agenda for the day.

Last Saturday it was finally sunny, so Dave and I set out to remove the huge pile of mulch from driveway. In the process of doing this gargantuan task (with which I, unfortunately, was very little help), Dave decided that it was time to get rid of the mud patch from where we shortened our deck and lay sod. This sounded like a reasonable ambition after having a large mud-wallowing area in our yard for about 6 months, so Dave ended up rototilling the mud patch, adding in dirt, rolling it down with a roller and planting sod. I did some really hefty work, like sweeping the deck and picking up leaves to put in the yard recycle bin-- and I was STILL exhausted at the end of it all. Right around dinner time when we were trying to finish up, Dave had -- guess what?-- a conference call for work. So he had to drop everything and talk on the phone for more than an hour. By the time he was done it was completely dark outside. Undaunted by the dark, Dave kept working until about 9:00pm to finish enough so he could return the rental equipment.

Meanwhile, after feeding the kids dinner, it was time to take the kids to the tri-ward trunk-or-treat (everyone parks their car in the church parking lot and hands out candy from their trunk--- just what we need, more free sugar for the kids). So I went to help change the kids into their costumes. Jared was going to be Superman and Camryn was going to be Snow White, but as we went to get into their costumes, they both started lobbying for a costume change-- Jared wanted to be a Knight and Camryn wanted to wear her princess dress from last year. Now this shouldn't have been a big deal (since we already had the stuff for those costumes), but we had PLANNED for them to wear the other costumes-- and I was secretly afraid that anyone looking back at our Halloween pictures would think that Camryn was a princess two years in a row because I was too cheap to buy her another costume. I finally talked the kids into wearing their pre-arranged costumes, and I took the kids to the trunk-or-treat while Dave worked like a madman on our yard. So after an exhausting day of work, the kids went to Trunk-or-Treat, we had grass in our yard instead of mud (after six long months), but.....the mulch pile on our driveway was still there.

On Sunday we had to be to church early to rehearse for a choir number. Just as we were about to leave, Dave had to send an email for work, so I left with the kids and he said he would meet us in a few minutes. All of Sacrament Meeting went by (including a very lovely choir number, if I do say so myself), but no Dave. He finally found us at the end of Sacrament Meeting. When I asked where on earth he was, it turns that he had come to church twice but both times ended up having to go home for work and for a conference call. Finally on the third try he was able to stay at church for the rest of the meeting. So that was that. After church we went home and had choir rehearsal, and then had some friends over for dinner who wouldn't mind the fact that our house was not perfectly clean. After a busy Sunday, I was ready to settle down for a nice relaxing dinner, but at about 5:30, guess what???? A Conference Call!! Yes! Our favorite friend, just in case Dave ever thinks he's unwanted or un-needed at work we always have our friendly conference calls to boost his self-esteem. So my friend and I prepared dinner and did the dishes while Dave conference-called and her husband did his home-teaching. Her husband finally arrived around 6:20. We called Dave for dinner, but the conference call was still going..... We finally just ate without him and Dave finally joined us at about 7:20, just as we had started clearing the dinner dishes.

On Monday, Camryn got to wear her Halloween costume to preschool. By this time, she was again excited about being Snow White. For Family Night, Dave went to his class and I did my weekly team-up with my friend Ranell (whose husband also works late and travels a lot)-- we did pumpkin carving, had dinner and I gave a lesson on the armor of God (complete with play armor I had found in our dress-up bin during costume negotiations).

On Tuesday, we had our enrichment voice class--which was really fun, and Jared had mad science. When I picked Jared up, his mad science teacher informed me that Jared and another boy had gotten into some trouble during class-- for making farting, ahem... tooting noises with their armpits. Yes, my well-mannered son who makes armpit noises and can burp the alphabet. I wasn't quite expecting for this part of being a boy to come so early. We finished the day with an exciting trip to Safeway, pancakes for dinner and putting the kids to bed early.

On Wednesday I went in for my final ultrasound with the perinatal specialist. It was an all-around fun morning. There was a scheduling misunderstanding between me and the babysitter I had lined up, so I found myself with 5 minutes before I had to leave and no babysitter. I quickly found another babysitter and left only to hit a traffic jam. I finally made it to my appointment late and went to check in and it turned out that they had recorded my appointment wrong and I wasn't on the schedule for that day (no, I had not mixed up the date-- when they tell you your appointment is on Halloween you can remember it). After waiting for a while, they finally squeezed me in for an ultrasound. Everything on the baby looks good and he weighs 6 lb. 6 oz. already. The specialist said that while you can't guarantee anything, his gut is that the baby is probably fine.

After a much easier time getting home, I picked up Camryn and wrote thank-you notes for baby shower until Jared got home from school and started having several consecutive meltdowns (along the lines of, "Camryn won't let me organize her trunk or treat candy!"). Dave was going to come home and take the kids trick or treating while I handed out candy, but when I called Dave at 5:30, guess what!!!! He had a conference call that was going to start around 6:00!! Just when I thought his work didn't love us anymore. So I took kids trick or treating while Dave took his conference call and left a bowl of candy on the porch. Now, I was in a little bit of a bad mood to begin with, plus I was cranky that we had to just leave the candy out on the porch-- you know the first group of boys that comes along will dump all of it in their bags-- and we had even bought really good candy this year. But it couldn't be helped, so I got the kids' coats and set out the front door. Just as we were about to head down the street, I saw bunch of teenage boys with very creative costumes (try sweatshirts and jeans) coming down the street, headed toward our house. I was already in a bad mood, but the thought of our candy disappearing within 60 seconds of me leaving it out just made me mad. So I dawdled with Jared and Camryn on our front walk until the group of boys got to our house and started to take huge scoops of our candy. I immediately thundered, "Drop that candy right now! This is my house and the sign says take one or two!" Apparently even teenage boys know not to mess with a pregnant lady, so they sheepishly put back their scoops and took two. So our candy was saved from being gone 60 seconds after I put it out (of course it was all gone by the time we got back, but still, it's the principle of it that matters). The kids had a great time trick-or-treating despite the fact that the velcro holding Camryn's shoe on came undone about every two minutes. Dave finally finished his conference call and was able to join us.

And so went our week... On Friday I took the kids to the Science museum in town with a friend. On Saturday, after the morning ritual of the kids playing Wii with daddy, we attacked the yard again and actually managed to get the pile of mulch off of our driveway. So after a Sunday of choir practice, substituting for organ and Dave substituting for Primary pianist, I am writing this update. And guess what Dave is doing as I write this update.... He's on a conference call....



Quotes of the Week:
Camryn: Some people just wear tights on Sundays, but Snow White wears tights on regular days too. Snow White also wears lipstick on regular days.

Jared: For his homework he had to complete the sentence "I Feel Important When..." and then write another sentence. He wrote: "I feel important when I look cool. I feel important when I hear cool music." [Aaaaack! What am I teaching him as a mother?]

I was putting the kids to bed tonight and didn't have time to read scriptures to them, so I recited a scripture and had them repeat after me, like we do for our family night scripture. After we finished, Camryn wanted to say something. Camryn: "Mommy, say what I say: Alma the Younger... ["Alma the Younger," I repeated] was a very good prophet.... He kept the commandments... and had faith in the Lord... Chapter 21..... 59." Jared: "Mom, was that a real scripture? If it was real, that was amazing."

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Travelogue Finale: Kauai

Hello everyone,

Yes, now that it has been two months, I can write the final chapter of our summer travels and write about our trip to Kauai. Yes, it was at the end of August, and yes it seems basically irrelevant now, but here it is....

Picking up where I left off, on Saturday, August 18th we drove home from the Rogers Family Reunion in California. We arrived home at 1:30 am, went to church on Sunday, then on Monday Dave flew to Kauai for his work conference. He spent the week going to seminars, doing projects, working on the terrace overlooking the pool and ocean, going to a luau, etc (I know, sounds like a rough week of work). I spent the week without him vainly trying to clean up the house, helping with an Enrichment cooking group activity, and generally trying to stay sane. On Friday, August 25th, I took the kids to stay with some friends and off I went to Hawaii. It was a long flight, but I pleasantly diverted myself until we arrived in the Honolulu airport. I had to change planes to catch my inter-island flight to Kauai. Even with my fabulous sense of direction and maps, the signs mapping out the different terminals and where the Wiki-Wiki Bus stops were that took you to the terminals were absolutely unintelligible. I did, however, eventually figure out where my Wiki-Wiki Bus stop was and caught my plane to Kauai. The flight to Kauai was short: you basically take off, they throw juice at you and you land. When we landed in Kauai at 5:30pm I was surprised to see that unlike the crowded and un-navigable Honolulu airport, the airport was a small one-story series of buildings surrounded by palm trees-- it was basically a series of waiting rooms, a few luggage conveyor belts and a small security checkpoint at the front-- as crowded as a snow-cone stand in December. I made my way down a short hall to get my luggage and saw a familiar face: Dave met me at the airport, so we picked up my luggage, got our rental car and were off. We drove to Lawai (a small town near Poipu and the south shore), checked into our bed and breakfast and then went to get pizza for dinner, after which I discovered that I was still on California time and ready to go to sleep..

After sleeping in until past 7:30 or 8:00 Saturday morning (yes, I was still on California time) we went off to the beach. We borrowed snorkel stuff from our bed and breakfast and went straight to Poipu Beach for my very first attempt at snorkeling. Dave jumped in and was successfully snorkeling immediately. I spent 10 minutes trying to figure out how to walk over sand dotted with lava rocks with flippers on and waves hitting me before I got out the requisite 10 feet into the water. Then, while Dave splashed around, telling me how great it was, I spent 30 minutes attempting to snorkel and feeling like a complete failure. Every time I stuck my face under, I would try to start swimming only to have my mask fill with water immediately. I tried an infinite number of mask adjustments, repeatedly getting my eyes stung by the salt water, before finally trading masks with Dave. Only then did we realize that I was not a snorkel incompetent-- my mask was broken and THAT was why my mask kept filling up with water. We went and rented snorkel equipment for the rest of the week and the returned to Poipu for Snorkeling Take 2.

This time I got in the water, stuck my head in and immediately started swimming around. This wasn't so hard after all! We saw all kinds of tropical fish, right in calm waters about 15 feet from shore. When we finally got out, there was an endangered Hawaiian monk seal sitting right smack on the beach about 10 feet away from us (apparently he frequents that spot, because they had signs up warning not to touch him and little posts with rope to stake out his nap spot so people wouldn't bother him). After a great morning of snorkeling we went to lunch at Keoki's Paradise-- complete with grass hut booths and "hula pie." Then we drove to see a blow-hole (where a wave comes in and water blows up out of a rock-- this one even made a moaning sound when it blew) and browse a botanical garden before going snorkeling again. This time we went snorkeling at Lawai Beach-- on the South Shore right by the Beach House restauarant. This beach had much higher surf so after a challenging snorkel session we went home exhausted.

We were going to go to the Beach House Restaurant for dinner until we realized that we were both so tired from snorkeling that we would rather just veg. So, on the way home we went to store to pick up something for dinner and groceries for sunday. We considered having salad until we saw that a normal-sized bag of romaine was $7. Hmmm, maybe a salad doesn't sound so good after all. Luckily we eventually found some stuff for dinner and even some locally-grown lettuce that was a bit more affordable. I really wanted to get something Hawaiian-ish for a treat: what would be better than a box of Macadamia Nut Cookies!! We decided to pass on the Pepperidge Farms and try to go with something more local and authentic-- after all we were in Hawaii. I grabbed a box of cookies in the bakery, but upon further examination we found they were from Ogden, Utah. Hmmmm. Not as exotic as I had hoped. So I looked until I found a different brand of cookies in the bakery-- only this time they were from Tualatin, Oregon. That was a little bit too much. Fine, no treat. So we went home, made soup in the microwave, and vegged in front of the TV to relax our tired muscles until we went to sleep.

Sunday we woke up to... pouring rain (and the sound of roosters, of course--- they wander wild all over Kauai). We went to church in Kalaheo, came home for lunch, then drove to the west side of the island to see Waimea Canyon since it had cleared up a bit. The first lookout we made it to was spectacular: red rock cliffs dotted with waterfalls, the canyon half-filled with misty drifts of clouds. But then it started raining. Hard. The last two lookouts were a total whiteout. We could have had a busy K-Mart in front of us instead of one of the most gorgeous views of the Pacific, but we wouldn't have been able to tell. We took a picture anyway and went back to our inn (where it was sunny and clear, incidentally). We made a quasi-gourmet dinner (how 'bout that frozen lasagna and microwave vegetables!) and ate on our balcony overlooking lush forest. After dinner we drove to Poipu Beach and walked down the beach as the sun was setting and the moon rose (yes, it really is as romantic as it looks in movies). We then went to the Hyatt Resort and walked around, just to have a peek at how the other half REALLY visits Kauai (BTW, they have several swimming pools surrounded by a series of waterfall/stream pools and picturesque bridges, several amazing expensive restaurants-- including a restaurant underneath a thatched grass roof surrounded by water and tiki torches, and wooden swings in the immaculately manicured gardens where you can sit and contemplate the beauty of the white-sand beach in front of you).

On Monday, we checked out early and left for Waimea on the west side to check in for our boat tour of the Na Pali Coast (which you can only see by boat, helicopter or hike). For the first little while we cruised in the beautiful Hawaiian sunshine past fairly boring uninhabited pristine white-sand beaches and distant views of the forbidden island of Ni'ihau. Then we saw a sea turtle and ran across some spinner dolphins who swam closer and closer to our boat until they were literally right along side it. Finally we got to the Na Pali coast where we cruised past miles of surreal green thousand-foot cliffs. It was absolutely amazing-- we saw miles of gorgeous, jungle-covered cliffs; beautiful untouched waterfalls and beaches; and went into a sea cave (in our boat) to a spot that broke through to the sky with sheer rock cliffs on all sides. It was incredible! Then we snorkeled in a protected cove in the ocean, ate lunch and went back to Waimea. We made a stop to get shave ice with Macadamia Nut Ice Cream on the bottom and browse the souvenirs, before setting off for further adventures.

That afternoon, we went to Kipu Falls, making sure to drive through the tree tunnel near Koloa on our way. There's a small unmarked path off of a little road that takes you to the falls. You have an easy 5 minute hike through jungle and then you reach a 15-20 foot cliff and waterfall that feeds a beautiful green pool of water below. On one side there is a rope swing, where you can swing into the water (someone has attached a metal ladder to the side of the drop-off, making it easier to get back up to the top). So Dave took several swings off the rope swing and hurled himself off the waterfall cliff into the water (I actually caught this moment on film...). I really wanted to try the rope-swing, but finally decided that it was probably not the smartest thing to do when you are 6 months pregnant (Note: Baby- I hope you appreciate what I go through and forego for you!). So I just climbed down the ladder and swam in the pool beneath waterfall. Dave and I both took advantage of the chance to sit underneath a waterfall with it flowing over you (one of those things I've always wanted to do for some reason). Later that afternoon we drove to see Waimea Falls and Opaekaa Falls. We went for a quick snorkel at Lydgate Park, where they have a cove where you can snorkel protected from the waves by a barrier of huge rocks. There were tons of tropical fish-- at one point I was surrounded by a whole school of silver fish that all turned and looked at me. We finished the day by checking into the Marriott (hooray for corporate discounts!) and having dinner at Duke's Restaurant, eating fabulous fresh seafood while overlooking the ocean surrounded by tiki torches. Yes, it was a rough day.

On Tuesday we had a quick breakfast overlooking the Marriott pool (which is the largest pool in Hawaii-- a huge circle with a bridge over it and five different hot tubs sitting under roman-columned patios), we left for our Helicopter Tour of the island. This seemed like quite a splurge to me, but our guidebook said that going to Kauai and not going on a helicopter tour is like going to the Sistine Chapel and not looking up. So we temporarily ignored the budget and common sense and went on the tour anyway. It was amazing: we got to see Waimea Canyon, "Jurassic Park" falls, the cliffs of the Na Pali coast (from a completely different angle), and the crater beneath Mt. Waihale (the wettest spot on earth). The crater was my favorite part-- we were surrounded by sheer cliffs covered in green tropical foliage with thousand-foot waterfalls all around us on every side. Wow.

After our helicopter tour, we headed out to explore the North Shore. We assumed our typical battle positions: Dave driving our little rental car down the two-lane roads with me madly flipping through the guidebook trying to find and navigate us to our next adventure or eating spot. We stopped to get a hamburger for lunch from the highly recommended Duane's Ono-Char Burger, which turned out to be little more than a roadside shack-- and mmmm was it good... perfectly grilled burgers with pineapple and teriyaki and melted cheese. Yum. We stopped by a farmer's market and got lilikoi (passionfruit) and starfruit for 25 cents a piece (by far the best 25 cents ever spent-- fresh starfruit is so yummy). We also stopped at Tropical Taco (I couldn't make up my mind between it and the burger place, so we went to both) and had a fresh and filling fish burrito. Then we went to Tunnels Beach, the supposed mecca for snorkeling nirvana in the summer months. I have to say, it wasn't far from the truth. It was amazing snorkeling. We saw tropical fish, big fish, swam through beautiful canyons of coral and even saw two sea turtles. One of the sea turtles we swam with for about 5 minutes-- it was incredible. The beach itself wasn't bad either: beautiful white sand in the sun with jungle covered cliffs in the background.

After our snorkeling outing we made a trip to Queens Bath. You take a 10-minute easy walk through the jungle and on lava rocks along the coast until you come to a perfectly calm pool of salt water in between the rocks, with the occasional wave splashing over the rocks and trickling into the pool. We swam in the pool with tropical fish (of course) as we watched the waves crash on nearby rocks and the sun set. Then we had a late dinner of --what else-- incredible fresh fish at Coconuts.

Wednesday dawned, and alas, it was our last day in Kauai. After checking out of our hotel we got apple turnovers at a bakery for breakfast and then made a mad dash to the North Shore to try to snorkel at the famed Ke'e beach. Unfortunately, despite my mad navigational skills and Dave's death-defying driving techniques, there is no way to "dash" on slow two-lane roads that go across one-lane bridges until you reach the end of humanity. We did finally get to the beach (which is literally at the end of the road) , but the minimal nearby parking lot was completely full, so Dave dropped me off and parked the car. We ended up losing each other for about 20 minutes as I walked up and down the beach and then finally went back out to the edge of the parking lot just as Dave arrived at the beach from another direction and started walking up and down it himself. We finally found each other and had a grand 20 minutes left to explore one of the most famous snorkel spots on the island before we had to leave for our Kayak Tour of the Wailua River. Luckily we knew where to get lunch: at our favorite hamburger shack-- Duane's Ono-Char Burgers. We did actually (barely) make it to our Kayak Tour. We shared a kayak and rowed up the Wailua River, stopping for a swim at a swimming hole with a rope swing off a tree (which I had to forego-- again-- Did I mention that you, Mr. Baby, should be grateful at my great sacrifice?). We also went on a hike through the woods and to the "green room": a space that is entirely surrounded by walls of green (like a huge room made out of plants) before rowing back. We had dinner at Cafe Cocco, a cute health-foody/gourmet restaurant, with good food and cute ambience (Albeit a little less than I would expect for a place that was almost $20/plate-- we're talking plastic lawn furniture on gravel, outdoors with a little bit of mood lighting. Welcome to Kauai...). But, it did look like it would be fast enough for us to eat and still make our plane. We even took turns changing out of our swim clothes in the bathroom while we were awaiting our food (yes, it was that casual). Then we stopped by Wal-mart for another mad dash to get souvenirs and large pillows for the red-eye flight back to Portland. We took way too long and so were very stressed as we returned our car and raced to get to the airport with not even remotely enough time to spare..... except I had forgotten that this was Kauai. We raced into the airport, toting luggage and pillows in hand and there was one person in front of us at security, so we made it through and walked three doors down to our terminal in about 5 minutes.

So after our stop in Honolulu to change planes, we were on our way back to Portland, armed with huge Wal-Mart pillows for the trip. We spent the first few days back home lamenting the end of the trip and mourning its loss.... "I miss Kauai. I want to go back," as we comforted ourselves with Kauai Cookies and Dark Chocolate-Covered Macadamia Nuts. And thus was our trip and the end of our summer travel adventures.


P.S. As I wrote part of this (a few weeks ago....) Camryn came in with dress-ups on: a bright sequined turquoise-blue dance costume, a purple-sparkly fairy apron, purple and cream head bow, purple shoes with fur and roses and "Bull's Eye" (the horse from Toy Story 2) on over it all. Very creative.....

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Singing In The Rain

Hello everyone,

As you can tell by the time in between updates, I have been spending plenty of time relaxing, getting my toenails painted and having regular massages. (I wish....) Wow, I can't believe that October is flying by so quickly. My cooking adventures have been limited to making treats for choir, where I have been exploring anything relatively easy that can be made with pumpkin (two-ingredient Pumpkin Muffins, Pumpkin Pie Dessert Squares, Pumpkin Bread, Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares, etc.) Maybe pumpkin is just my latest pregnancy craving of choice.

The week after General Conference was super-busy, but it was great to have Dave back from his travels. I accompanied a lady here in Sherwood who was getting ready for the District Metropolitan Opera Auditions and some other big auditions. She wanted to get the nerves out of her new arias by singing them in some prep recitals at old folks homes. So I had a really great, fun, paid opportunity to do some real accompanying again.... which would have been great except that she scheduled all three recitals in one week. So I had a week of scrambling to find babysitters on three different afternoons, trying to get into performance clothes and look respectable on a weekday, go and play on random pianos with varying levels of in-tune-ness (one of which had an interesting key-clicking percussion feature) and then get the kids and try to pick without missing a beat. Yes, an exciting week. But it was fun and the audience was appreciative. We just had little setbacks like trying to wait for the care center "drama club" to get out before we could begin or trying to get the staff to postpone setting the tables with utensils while we were performing.

During the rest of the week, we threw in a parent-teacher conference for Jared, 3 days off of school for Jared and a field trip to the pumpkin patch, during which I realized with increasing frustration that despite my efforts to be a self-sufficient woman, my body increasingly objects to any imposition, however small (like a pumpkin....). So yes, I'm to that point where I basically can't lift or do anything useful requiring effort... and it ticks me off. Why should a little thing like being pregnant have to interfere with my ability to comfortably tote my children's pumpkins to the car? On Saturday, Dave and I took advantage of a little bit of sun in the midst of our weeks of rain and wet to work in the yard. We had a unit of mulch delivered to our driveway. I set out to prove that I am not useless and still can work with the best of them.... so I weeded while Dave shoveled and wheelbarrowed mulch and then I spread it around with a rake.... and I completely overdid it and put myself flat on the LoveSac with a backache for several hours that evening. It seems that not even determined effort can overcome the physical effects of pregnancy (like being winded from squatting and standing up again) and I had better learn to accept it before I do something stupid and hurt myself beyond bringing on acute exhaustion.

On Sunday the 14th we had yet another Sunday of primary program run-through, and it went pretty well. Then we had choir that afternoon and it was great! Apparently a few people actually read my email about being disconsolate at a turnout of 5 adults the previous week-- we had one of our best turnouts ever! (Of course, most of these people weren't there the next rehearsal, but it was at least temporarily exciting).

On Tuesday, Jared started a Mad Science after-school class. I figured I could handle something where I only have to pick him up at the end (instead of having to drop him of too....). So far he loves it. Their last class was on gravity, so he made a yo-yo ball out of a punching balloon, salt and rubber bands to take home. Definitely cool. On Tuesday morning, I started a 3-session "voice class" enrichment group, to help people who want to be better singers learn the basics of vocal technique. It was really, really fun. A few of the ladies looked at me funny (like, "You're not actually serious that you want me to do that, are you?") at some of the vocalises and exercises, but I think everyone enjoyed it, had fun, and maybe even learned something. And who knows, maybe they will come and support choir with their newfound mad singing skills.

On Friday I went to volunteer in Jared's classroom while Camryn was at preschool. I helped with reading groups. It was actually really fun to see what they were doing. They split the kids up into groups and had them read (as a group and then taking turns) a book about plants and answer comprehension questions. The book was more challenging than I expected (a pleasant surprise) and it was fun to see Jared, although he was not one of the three groups I worked with. I was so proud to see Jared happily sitting in a corner doing free-time reading in a chapter book until I saw his selection: "Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy." So much for great classic literature...

Speaking of literature, Jared and Camryn are both still into book-making. They staple a bunch of pages together and start writing (usually forgetting to fill in most of the pages in the middle). Jared's latest creation is "Ubowt Stars" (with pictures of stars all around the title words). It goes like this: "Chapter 1. Stars r sporcklee and shinee. I also woch stars. There or menee kindes uv stors. By Jared [Translation: Stars are sparkly and shiny. I also watch stars. There are many kinds of stars.] Although he did write "Chapter 2" on the inside, he hasn't brought us the next exciting installment yet. He has, however taken care of copyright concerns. On the back it says,
"Made in 2007. Made in ingglish."

Camryn has made a book called, "I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus," with lots of pictures. The title page has a unique brand of spelling, but is still somewhat recognizable: "IIM THRIMEN TO BE LIC JEZ.(no spaces in the original)" The next pages have three girls with a sun; a portrait of Moroni on top of the temple; two stars with "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" written in Camrynian all around them [HAW I WUDPR WUT YO R UP UBUV...-- with a much less decipherable spacing and some unconventional ordering of words]; and two other drawings.

On Friday night, we had a practice for the Primary Program and did our final run-through. So I spent yet another hour of jumping up and down, waving my song signs and trying vainly to get the Primary kids to look at me and sing instead of talking. We did a special musical number for "I Know that My Redeemer Lives." We were using a two-part SA arrangement and having the primary sing the first verse unison, a group of primary girls and their moms sing the second verse in parts and then for the 3rd verse having the primary kids sing the melody and the small group sing the harmony. This would have been great and wonderful and fabulous, except that we only had half of the moms for the rehearsal (none of whom sang the descant part) and the missing moms had their copies of the music with them so we only had 2-3 pieces of music for nine people. So we got through it, but not in a particularly glorious fashion.... Luckily, I have learned from having done this several times to not worry about inconsequential things like a train-wreck performance at the run-through (we had rehearsed it successfully at a previous date, so I at least had some hope). After only a minor amount of last minute changes, the run-through was done and the kids went off to watch a movie with popcorn.

On Sunday, the performance came around and it actually went well. The kids actually noticed when I held up the sign and signaled for them to stand up, they sang well (for the most part) and everybody actually showed up for the musical number, which went fine. We alsodid "Listen, Listen" with two sets of resonator bells and did a small group number of "Faith" with a flute. And it went well AND it's over! Jared and Camryn both said their parts ("This is called the great apostasy." and "I'm trying to be like Jesus by sharing my toys.") loudly and clearly. Jared didn't pick his nose the entire program and Camryn's only spontaneous contribution was improvising hand gestures to every song that she sang. Yes, an all-around successful performance. And I got to go to Relief Society when it was done for the first time since I've been released from Primary.

Going back to Saturday, Dave and I again attempted to get our yard ready for winter, despite dire forecasts of rain every single hour that day. At a point mid-morning when the rain let up, we set out with wheelbarrow, shovel and rakes to try to rid our driveway of the three-foot pile of mulch that had inhabited it for a week. Wisely, this time I limited myself to spreading the mulch and cleaning up the deck. Unfortunately, our back yard was soggy marshland from the previous week of rain, so it was difficult to get around in the yard without ruining the grass of getting ankle deep in mud. Yet we persevered. It started to rain a little bit, but we were undeterred. But then it started pouring. Dave went inside -like most normal people would. I, on the other hand, discovered that I actually have some of my dad in me. Why on earth would you go inside when you could keep working in the yard during a torrential downpour? (Although I guess I was gardening and cleaning up and not doing electrical wiring.) So I doggedly, determinedly stayed outside until all the mulch back there was spread and every piece of junk was cleared off of our deck. I was going to start chopping up some branches we had sitting in our side-yard to go in the yard recycle bin, but sanity did at last hit me again and I thought better of it and went inside. That night (after several successive unsuccessful attempts) we finally had a babysitter scheduled and went out on a date.

And so the weekend passed.... Monday dawned bright and.... sunny??? I took Camryn to preschool, ready to attack my dirty hand-dishes and scour my house. As soon as I came home -raring to go- from dropping her off, I... clonked on the LoveSac until 15 minutes before it was time to pick her up. And so our day got off to a vigorous start. I did eventually do my hand-dishes, before taking advantage of our temporary sun. Dave has been taking a class on "Managing Innovation" at work on Monday evenings this fall (I think they figured he might be bored so he'd want something to fill in some extra time). So a friend (who also has a husband who was working late) and I took our kids to the pumpkin patch and to the park, then had family home evening and got Quizno's for dinner. (Note: You would think that taking your kids out to dinner instead of cooking at home would be nice and relaxing, but we spent the first 15 minutes we were there trying to keep the kids from grabbing chips until we were sure they came with a kids meal, trying to get an order out of them while they were running around playing hopscotch on the colored tiles, and then trying to actually read and comprehend what was on the menu-- in between demands for chips or juice-- enough to order something ourselves. We did eventually overcome these obstacles and succeed in getting everyone food and having a fun time.)

And there we are. Hope you all are having a great week. Love,


Quotes of the Week:

(when we were going to Costco)
Jared: "Mom, I want to buy some cobweb decorations for Halloween. Let's get them at Costco."
Me: Jared, I'm pretty sure they don't have cobwebs at Costco." [we drive into Costco parking lot] Wow, the parking lot is full.
Jared: Maybe they do have cobwebs.
Jared: "That sign says, "Take home a fresh pizza."
Camryn: "Daddy, I like it when you go to work, but when you are at Singapore I miss you!"
Jared goes to Hopkins Elementary School. The "Hopkins Hawks" have three rules: Be Safe, Be Respectful, Be Responsible. One day Jared was THRILLED because he got a "Hawk High-5" for sitting still and listening during class. At home, he tried to tell me how exciting the was and what the three rules were about. Jared:"Mom, you have to be safe, respectful and responsible. Safe means that you don't run in the hallways so you don't knock anyone over. Respectful means that you aren't mean to people. Responsible means that you really want a "Hawk High-5."
Jared:"Dad, what's 'The Office'?"
Dad: "It's a show about work."
Jared: "Oh. I don't know anything about work." [I'll second that!]
Jared filled out a self-evaluation sheet for his parent-teacher conference:
Things I do well...." "writing, studying, sitting quietly" [...really?]
Things that are hard for me... "Not getting glue on my fingers. not scrieecing" [not screeching]
Goals: "Penguins, building"
Academic: "Science"
Social: "Bing nice"
Jared found a piece of paper for making shopping lists. It says "Things I Need" at the top. He filled it out, along with his name...

Shinee rocks [shiny rocks]
yumee stuf [Yummy stuff]
a drivres lisins [a drivers license]
MY own Mashis [My own matches]
A bosr [a bouncer]
Rele hockee [real hockey]

P.S. I have included scans of Camryn's picture of Moroni on the temple, Jared's "Things I Need" list, and the front page of Jared's star book.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Reply to "Rehearsals and Reversals"

“Uncle Nate” (Nathan Rogers) wrote:

Quotes of the Week:

Camryn: "Uncle Nate is my favorite uncle because he always has juice boxes."

-- Victory is mine!

Camryn: drew a sign that says: "CROCUDILZNRBIU" (Crocodiles nearby you).

-- Only 4 and already knows how to TXT MSG

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Rehearsals and Reversals

Hello again,

Life has been forging onward in our household. We finished up the week of September 16th with yard work and all kinds of interesting stuff that I won't bore you with because I can't remember.... On Friday night, Dave and I decided to rent a movie. So we underwent a discussion/negotiation where he suggested a certain action/suspense movie and I suggested a certain "drama" (which Dave would call an "undramatic drama"). Dave decided to go with my movie, the "undramatic drama," which -ironically- Dave found to be very good and I fell asleep in. In fact, on any given night if we haven't gone to bed by a certain hour I will just go comatose on the LoveSac. On Saturday night, we rented Dave's movie-- I stayed awake this time but Dave and I both agreed that the movie wasn't so great.

On the 23rd, we had a typical relaxing Sunday: someone came over before church to rehearse a solo I was accompanying for. We went to church, I accompanied the solo, I helped with the run-through of the Primary program during the 2nd hour and then practiced songs with the Primary kids and two small group numbers during the third hour. We raced home from church, made treats for choir, fed the kids lunch, had choir at our house, had our home teachers over and collapsed in exhaustion at the end of it all. Maybe this explains why I'm usually not good for much on Mondays....

On Monday I met with a local voice teacher/opera singer who needs me to accompany her for some opera arias so she can do some "mini-recitals" at an old folks home to get her nerves out before auditions. We went over her music-- including a beastly-looking Ravel aria. It was kind of cool to be doing some real accompanying again, although now I actually have to be able to actually play something that's challenging.

On Tuesday, Dave and I both had come down with a fairly bad cold. Luckily I had the advantage of being able to stay home and be a bum. I canceled everything I had that day and finished the afternoon by watching "The Parent Trap" on the LoveSac with the kids. I guess there are some perks to staying at home. By Wednesday we were back into things. Jared had pajama day at school on Wednesday, then the long-awaited "Fun Run" on Thursday, and no school on Friday.

Dave had been preparing all week for his upcoming trip to Singapore by trying to "get on Singapore time" (translation: staying up until 3:00 or 4:00 am working and still going to work the next day). On Saturday the 29th, Dave left for Singapore. He was a little behind schedule, so the kids and I drove him to the airport so he wouldn't have to park his car. We left at 8:30am for the 45-60 minute drive to the airport for his 10:10 flight -- but first stopped at the bank. It was about 8:45 when we actually left Sherwood to try to make his international flight. But I have long since learned not to stress about petty little details like this. I just go along and see how things turn out. And it turned out that he did indeed make his flight.

The kids and I stopped at Great Harvest bread on the way home and then had a mostly quiet day of housecleaning. I attempted to get Jared and Camryn to clean their room several times, but to no avail. But there was a period of about 40 minutes while Jared and Camryn sat on the LoveSac and Jared read books to her. It was so sweet! Jared was quite impressive- he read "Ten Apples Up on Top," "Look Out, Kindergarten, Here I Come" (from the library), and "The Berenstain Bears Go to the Doctor" all by himself-- with no help at all. It's so cute-- and shocking-- when occasionally they do get along. =] On Saturday evening I went to the Relief Society broadcast and dinner while Jared and Camryn went to a friend's house to play. The meeting was good and it was nice to relax without kids. Jared saw a "Jimmy Neutron" movie at his friend's house and apparently found his new hero. All day at church the next day he was giving out self-made invitations to kids to join his new "Jimmy Neutron club" to meet on Saturdays at our house. He was set with a complete agenda down to the minute: they would play, have snack, and do what they wanted for x number of minutes each (and I'm assuming part of it would somehow be associated with "Jimmy Neutron").

Sunday was pretty much crazy. The choir was singing in church that day. I woke up at 8:30 to get the kids ready and work on choir stuff. I dragged all kinds of paraphernalia to church with me: resonator bells, choir folders, primary book and my folder with the primary program and musical number stuff. Of course it was raining and a bunch of the stuff fell out into a puddle when we got to church. We had a very brief rehearsal before church and then sang our musical number. It went really well, since we had a collective turnout of everybody who has ever shown up once to choir over the past three weeks. =] (Funny how that always seems to happen....). During the 2nd hour I helped run through the primary program in the chapel and I tried vainly to get the kids to actually pay attention when I signaled to them to stand up. During the 3rd hour we rehearsed songs, I practiced with a small group for the program, and then ran back in to go through "Listen, Listen" with bells and "I Know that My Redeemer Lives" with the a different accompaniment with the rest of primary. As soon as church got out, we had a rehearsal for a small group for the program for "I Know that my Redeemer Lives" (which several people forgot about, of course). Then I raced home to get the kids lunch and make treats for choir. It sounded like a great day to make my 2-ingredient pumpkin muffins, but then realized that I had opened a can of Pumpkin Pie Mix, not pumpkin, so I made pumpkin squares instead. Then I hurriedly attempted to find some activities for kids to do inside (since it had been raining for a week straight) before people started arriving.

It was a VERY sad and discouraging choir rehearsal-- only 7 people showed up and two of them were 12 and under. I did eventually get an accompanist about halfway through. We had two not-so-confident sopranos, one EXTREMELY quiet alto, 2 tenors (1 inaudible) and 2 basses (1 a loudly-not-quite-right-on-the-pitch fellow). So the end result is that we will NOT be performing at our next Sacrament Meeting with the amazing ward almost-octet.

So I cleaned up, made the kids grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner and sat and stewed about it the rest of the night. I know it really is partially my fault for being obsessive and having unrealistic expectations about choir in the first place, but it's really frustrating when I feel like I'm doing everything I can to make this work and to make the choir GOOD, but no matter how much I put in, you get the same mediocre result as every other ward choir on the planet. I guess I just hoped that providing babysitting, making treats and making rehearsals move quickly might actually make a difference-- that maybe I would have the chance to teach people to be better singers, to sing real music and to have a quality musical experience. I don't want to give up hope and just accept that ward choir is and always will be mediocre, but it's hard to know what else to do. I am ticked off at everyone for not coming when I'm putting so much work into it, but I know that is stupid because lots of people are doing their best and just overbooked already (But do they think I'm not??? What do they think I do all Sunday afternoon??? Do they think it's easy to clean up my house, make treats, have music ready and have a bunch of people over while I'm pregnant and my husband is out of town???). It's just hard to make any progress as a choir when you have basically an entirely different set of people each week-- you have to redo everything again at the next rehearsal. How am I supposed to schedule a performance when I have no idea if anyone will come to any given rehearsal? GRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!

OK, there, I'm done with my rant. So I spent Sunday night writing a scathing email to send to my choir email list-- comparing our poor attendance to offering lame cows and wilted lettuce as tithing-- which I wisely did not actually send. Instead I wrote a much more tame email describing how difficult it was to have a rehearsal with nobody there and could we please really make an effort to come? Despite my attempts to be calm and conciliatory, I had to include my latest poem:

Ode to Choir

Last choir rehearsal was our smallest yet.
We were almost down to the ward quartet
While I know it's tough to get out for some
would it be too hard to actually come?


So I survived the weekend despite my choir trauma and I did get Jared on the bus on Monday and eventually got Cam to preschool. I had another rehearsal with the singer on Monday and she feels ready to go ahead and perform the pieces-- even the horrendous Ravel.

In my attempts to forget about choir during the new week, I decided to instead focus my efforts and frustration on my less-than-tidy house. Where to start? The stinky downstairs bathroom? The pile 'o' dishes in the kitchen? Or the algae buildup on our bathroom sink? Dave suggested a new business idea based on the impressive crew that cleaned out his plane during a stopover in Korea: www.50koreanhousekeepers.com -- guaranteed to clean up your house as fast as they clear out a plane or your money back. Yes, 10 minutes or less, that's what I need.

So I attacked the house with a vengeance. This was partially fueled by the fact that a friend that hadn't been to our house in almost a year was scheduled to come on Wednesday and she wanted to see all the painting that I have done upstairs. Which would be great except that would require her SEEING the upstairs. Apparently I do have some shreds of pride left, because the thought of her seeing the piles of papers and clothes to be sorted in our room, the scraps of paper and scotch tape covering the floor of the office (along with the masses of random papers to be filed) or wading through the knee-deep toys and junk in the kids room was more than I could handle. So attack I did-- I scrubbed all three bathrooms, vacuumed, dusted, surface-cleaned, got rid of two garbage bags of trash and DI stuff in the kids room, cleared out every pile or speck of paper in our room, removed from the hallway every toy obstructing the stairs and removed all traces of paper and scotch tape from the office. I did eventually get Jared and Camryn to help pick up their room-- using threats of never playing the Wii again. In fact, for all that I was not sold on buying the Wii in the first place, I am definitely getting my money's worth out of it. Jared comes home from school and immediately asks to play the Wii. My response is, "After your homework and piano practice are done." Suddenly he is HIGHLY motivated to do homework and piano and he shoots through them with minimal reminders or supervision.

So now our upstairs is totally presentable and respectable.... and it really doesn't feel like my house. It feels a little bit weird. I think maybe I kind of miss seeing the piles of stuff around. And to top it all off, my friend's daughter got sick so they didn't end up coming after all. So then, my house was cleaned, I was too sick of housework to do any further organization, and I really wasn't sure what to do with myself for the next few days. The other trips where Dave has been gone for a while have been fairly stressful, but this one has really just been boring and lonely (maybe I should have sympathized a bit more when he stayed home while I traveled for two weeks this summer). Not that I couldn't do something useful like organize the things that just got shoved into a closet, but I really have no desire or motivation left. So maybe I just need to wait for a mess to build up and then I can feel useful again?

Dave emailed me Thursday to let me know he'd made it from Singapore to Taiwan and during his one-day stopover there, there was an approaching typhoon. Yes! Would his plane take off? Would he be stranded during a tropical storm? More suspense and excitement!!! He did actually make it on his plane and leave Taiwan. Luckily, Dave made it out when he did-- Taiwan has since been hit with a tropical storm with giant waves, big power outages and four people killed. After a one-night stop in San Francisco at my parents', he flew to Salt Lake to be there for Conference this weekend.

So today, Jared and Camryn and I watched conference. We ate "Conference Rolls" (cinnamon butterscotch rolls) for breakfast and J and C did conference activity books. Their favorite thing was Conference Bingo, so every two seconds they were asking me, "Did they say a word that we can color in?" Camryn was surprised during the first congregational hymn ("Come, Come Ye Saints"): "This is like Woody and Buzz!" [Dave used to sing a bedtime song to Jared and Camryn called "Woody and Buzz" which he sang to the tune of "Come, Come Ye Saints": "Woody and Buzz, they a-are pretty good friends! Woody's a cowboy, Buzz is a space ranger..."]

They were very excited to see Grampa Bruce speak. Jared was particularly impressed: "Grampa Bruce is on TV?!!? How did they do that??" After his talk was finished and the next speaker got up, Camryn asked, "Is he Carter and Madisyn's daddy?" "No," I replied, "their daddy is Uncle Shawn." She answered, "Well, is Uncle Shawn going to give a talk too?" I'm not sure they quite got the whole thing, but they were excited nonetheless. After going stir-crazy this afternoon (Jared couldn't quite figure out why nobody came to his Jimmy Neutron club), we went to Sweet Tomatoes for dinner where Jared enjoyed the all-you-can-eat pizza, jello, ice cream and brownies. And thus our life goes.....

We hope you all are doing well. Love,


Quotes of the Week:

Camryn: "Uncle Nate is my favorite uncle because he always has juice boxes."

Camryn (during the dinner prayer): "Please bless that the machine in Singapore will work."

Camryn and I were looking at a picture of a baby inside a mommy's tummy) Me: "That's the tube that gives food to the baby from the mommy." Camryn: "I see the tube. But don't feed the baby coleslaw."

Jared: "Mommy, you need to cut Camryn's hair in 12 minutes or less so she can make it to the Jimmy Neutron club..... Mom, you only have 11 minutes left. ..... Mom, are you hurrying?!! There are only 10 minutes left!!"

Jared: (about his tinkertoy car): "Mom did you see my invention? I really like to try new inventions." (then later) "Camryn ruined my invention and it was my best invention ever."

Camryn: drew a sign that says: "CROCUDILZNRBIU" (Crocodiles nearby you).

Jared: "No mommy, that's not how you say 'I' in sign language. My teacher says it's this way and she's smarter than you." [Ouch! Um, excuse me?]

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Travelogue Part 2: New York, New York!!

Hello everyone,

Right now I am pondering on the pointlessness of writing this particular update. Assuming that people WANTED to hear about our trip to New York in the first place is one thing, but to imagine that there would be any still interested in reading an account of the trip two months after the fact is really quite presumptuous. Nonetheless, history must be recorded, and so I will write on.

I left off my last account as we left Boston on Sunday, August 5th for our 4 hour drive to New York. After numerous turnpike tolls and an inexplicable number of Sunday afternoon drivers causing massive traffic jams, we eventually made it out of Massachusetts. We stopped at a rest stop during our stop and go traffic. Oddly enough, there were a HUGE number of cars parked there. It turns out that this was not just any rest stop-- it was the "we will turn your potty break into a souvenir and fast food extravaganza!" rest stop. It was a huge complex with stores and multiple restaurants that was jam-packed with people. I guess we figured out what Massachusetts folk do on a Sunday afternoon: they go for a lovely, slow drive in traffic and then pick up an "Auntie Anne's" pretzel at a mega-rest-stop.

We did eventually make it to New York. No sooner did we catch a glimpse of the miles of skyscrapers in the distance, when I started chanting, "I love New York!!! I'm so excited!" But before we could enjoy ourselves, there were perils to be braved. I courageously volunteered to brave New York traffic and so led our expedition into the city. Here we encountered yet another unique driving experience. Instead of randomly wandering paved cow-paths, there were streets that were 5 or 6 lanes wide, filled with cars changing lanes at a moment's notice and honking at you if you did not know exactly where you were going. Despite the perils, we eventually found our way to our lodging: a little place in the East Village called 2nd Home on 2nd Avenue, nestled on the 3rd and 4th floors above a yoga studio. Reviews of the place said the rooms were nice and the prices were great, so we found ourselves in front of an unlabeled red door that led up two flights of stairs to the inn. Our room was indeed very nice, but part of the deal for getting cheap lodging in NY was having a tiny shared bathroom down the hall from our room. Yes, more adventure! I sat in the car while mom and Alisa checked in and then we went off to return our rental car.

The car didn't need to be returned for a couple of hours, so I decided to take mom and Alisa on an impromptu driving tour of New York City. The combination of me darting in and out of lanes in New York City and the worry that we wouldn't get our rental car returned in time raised mom's blood pressure quite a bit. Mom finally convinced me that it was time to return it and then we faced a very perplexing task: finding a gas station in Manhattan. Mom had the brilliant idea of rolling down our windows and asking the cab driver next to us at the stoplight. Unfortunately the percentage of cab drivers who speak English well enough to be intelligible over traffic noise is few and far between, so it took us a couple of tries before we finally met with success. We finally found a gas station (in the bottom floor of a multi-story building, of course) and triumphantly returned our car--without the car or us damaged. Then we set off to a subway station to buy a pass and head back.

Unfortunately, we went into a station that only had uptown trains. We went back up and crossed the street to get to the station with downtown trains, but our subway passes wouldn't work. The lady at the counter explained that you have to wait 20 minutes before you can use your pass again at the same station. So we stood there in the subway station, watching trains come and go, for 20 minutes before we finally could board a train downtown. Standing in a hot, musty, un-air-conditioned, interesting-smelling subway station for 20 minutes in August is not my idea of fun, but it passed soon enough and we made it home.

Monday morning we set off on our first day of adventure. We had a delicious breakfast at Noho Star-- where Alisa and I shared Brioche French Toast and Goat Cheese Scrambled Egg Bruschetta with Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomatoes (yes, this is the NY I'm talking about!). Then we set off to meet Marissa Ereksen (one of our mutual friends from the music program at BYU). After we met up we walked around Soho for a while. We especially enjoyed the gourmet market Dean and Deluca where we got to sample $30 sea salt with truffles and admire cupcakes with frosting dahlias on the top and intricate 1" marzipan animals that sold for $6 each.

After getting our fill of window shopping, we set off to see Grand Central Terminal. Then we took a train uptown to get a hot dog. Yes, a hot dog (but it's Julia Child's favorite hot dog). After braving the heat of the tiny un-air-conditioned Papaya King, we enjoyed our delectable hot dogs and had some of the weird fruit drinks they make. Mom managed to spend $10 (at a $1.50 hot dog store) trying to get food that would meet the requirements of her food plan-- and she still had to get more vegetables after that. =] (Sorry, mom, I just had to make fun of that.) After our hot dog stop, we took the subway back to midtown and did a little walking tour. We went through the Parker Meridian Hotel and saw Carnegie Hall before we came to that most incredible of all NY destinations: the Steinway store. Yes, we spent a leisurely hour or two reveling in the beautiful instruments surrounding us and playing pianos that cost more than a small house. It was heaven on earth.

After our stop at this sacred mecca, we headed for a whirlwind tour of downtown: Wall Street, Federal Hall (site of Washington's inauguration), Trinity Church (National Treasure, anyone?), the World Trade Center site, St. Paul's Chapel and, of course, Century 21 department store. Then we got on the subway to Brooklyn, to get a pizza of course. But not just any pizza-- New York's best pizza at Grimaldi's. After devouring our delicious basil and ricotta pizza, we went down to the pier and got AMAZING ice cream from Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory and enjoyed the beautiful view of Manhattan and the Brooklyn bridge. Then we were back on the subway to get Marissa back to the bus terminal in time to catch her bus back to D.C.

By this time it was very late and mom was about to starve. Unfortunately for her food plan, the only thing they sold at Grimaldi's was pizza, root beer, wine and beer. Sorry, not even a salad. So mom still had not eaten. We got her a fabulous (if somewhat belated) dinner at Better Burger before embarking on a night tour of Times Square, Herald Square, walking by the Empire State Building and going to Walgreens. By the time we got home we collapsed in absolute exhaustion.

Tuesday morning dawned hot and humid. After catching a quick breakfast, we were off again. At this point in our trip, we found that there was a slight difference in travel strategy between mom and I. My idea of "conquering New York" was seeing as many sites, art museums, and eating at as many cool restaurants as you possibly can in the allotted time. Mom's idea of conquering New York consisted of conquering Macy's-- all 9 floors. Well, we had to compromise: our tour was short on art museums and mom only got to conquer 7 of the 9 floors, but all in all we worked it out well. Mom spent several hours at Macy's helping Alisa resurrect her post-mission wardrobe, while I wandered about randomly (clothes shopping is far less entertaining when you're pregnant). By the time I could convince mom that we REALLY didn't need to see the last two floors of Macy's it was well after lunchtime.

We decided to go to somewhere close to our apartment and so went to Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill. But--- it closed about 5 minutes before we got there. After unsuccessfully trying to find an alternate venue for our meal, we took a cab to a teeny Mexican place called Itzocan that was fairly close to our apartment. It was rated a 24/30 for food in the Zagat guide, but when we got there it was well past lunchtime and were the only ones there. We sat in the kitchen-sized restaurant, ordered our food and waited.... and waited... and waited. Here I started to get frustrated. I was responsible for choosing this place and we waited for an interminable 45 minutes in a not-so-snazzy-looking hole-in-the-wall, wasting away our afternoon when we could be seeing more sites....... and then our food came. Pan-roasted stuffed chicken breast with goat cheese, vegetables and red mole sauce, a quesadilla with shredded beef, mushrooms, baby greens and cheese (THE best Mexican food I have ever had) and a quesadilla with pumpkin flower, chicken and monterey jack cheese. Some things are worth waiting for-- even in NY.

We went back to our place and got ready to go to a broadway show that night. Of course "on the way" there we went to Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral and then walked by Radio City Music Hall and NBC Studios. Then we saw a performance of "Wicked"-- it was so good. Afterward we across the street to Thalia and had a very lovely but overpriced dinner-- we were quite shocked that the mushroom ravioli was actually better than the fancy beef dish. After our expensive and stylish meal, mom still hadn't filled the requirements of her food plan, so we took a train to the upper west side to Cafe Mozart, where mom got a very healthy green salad and fruit and Alisa and I had the other wonder of New York: Vesuvius Dessert (brownie crust with layers of chocolate mousse, chocolate cheesecake, chocolate ganache and whipped cream---mmmmm). Then we walked by Lincoln Center and the NY temple before taking the subway home.

On Wednesday we woke up at 5 am to the sound of New York being bombed. It turns out that we were not under attack-- it was only VERY LOUD thunder, lightning and pouring rain. By the time we woke up again it was clear and sunny and hot: 95 degrees with 97% humidity-- no that is not a typo. We went in the subway station to take a train uptown to the art museums, but before long we figured out that that particular subway line was closed because of flooding. As a result, huge crowds of people-- including us-- were herded through the station with people squeezed to the very edge of the platform-- not for the claustrophobic. We finally took an alternate line and got breakfast on the way to see Central Park and the Frick Collection. We walked through part of Central Park and got to the Frick only to find out that it was opening an hour late due to transportation delay. We didn't have enough time to wait around, but hey-- no prob-- we'd just take a taxi to the Met instead. Unfortunately, we looked and looked and no free taxi was to be found anywhere. We started to get worried about making it home and making our taxi to the airport in two hours, so we went back to 5th avenue to catch a taxi or bus. There was not a single taxi free, the buses were jam-packed with people and there was extremely heavy stop-and-go traffic. We timed ourselves and found that we were actually walking faster than buses. We popped in to see Tiffany's on our way back to the subway, took a circuitous route home and did indeed make our taxi to the airport. Our caution and haste were wasted, since we ended up waiting forever at the LaGuardia terminal (more Sudoku, anyone?). We did finally leave LaGuardia, got some yummy Mexican food on our stopover in the Chicago airport and made it back to the Bay Area, where we went to get Alisa officially released as missionary and then were home again.
Thus began the Rogers Family Reunion: all of the Rogers siblings/spouses/cousins were together for the first time in about two years. In the next few days, Dave flew in from Portland, David and Leah and their family flew in from Texas and Martin and Lindsay drove up from LA where they were working for the summer. We put together a family musical number for Alisa's homecoming and Alisa gave a great talk.

Then Monday morning we were off to Sly Park, a campground at Jenkinson Lake in the Lake Tahoe area. We set off in the motor-home and minivan on a 3-hour drive to rest and relaxation, towing two sailboats behind us. I was particularly excited about this part of the vacation: Dave was taking time off work and there would be no internet connection or cell phone coverage. Yes!! We got to Sly Park and set up camp at an awesome campsite right on the lakefront.

At this point, I started to realize that it had been several years since I had actually been camping. There were no flush toilets-- only spacious wooden outhouses inhabited by germs and flies. The campsites, while very beautiful with lake views, were covered in a fine layer of dirt that instantly covered anything it touched. We hadn't been there five minutes before Camryn was sitting in the dirt and playing in it like sand. I started to become very tense, envisioning a week of taking dirt-blackened children to germ-covered potties. I realized that this was not going to be a very fun trip if I spent my time being germ-phobic and picturing ruined outfits, so I decided to accept the fact that everything that we brought-- kids included-- was going to be covered in dirt for the next few days and IT WOULD BE FINE. And it was.

And so we had a great trip. There's not a whole lot to write about. We sat in the lake on floaties, lay in the sun on the shore, went sailing on one of Nate's boats, ate yummy food at camp, roasted marshmallows on the fire, played cards or watched a movie in the motor-home at night and then repeated the next day. It turns out that we did have cell phone coverage at camp, but we didn't feel that it was necessary to disclose this particular detail to Dave's office. =]

We managed to have two minor adventures at camp. We attracted huge swarms of bees every time we made food. Dave and I set out one morning to buy yellow-jacket traps and also came back with a bug zapper-- a tool shaped like a small tennis racket that would zap a bug with an electric shock when you hit it. It became the popular new sport of the trip-- to see who could zap the most bees and flies at lunchtime. One of Nate's boats capsized on the last day of camp-- with Dave and Leah inside it. Luckily Dave and Leah fared better than the boat-- which needed some major repairs afterward.

We drove back to Milpitas on Thursday. I spent Friday taking an afternoon on the town with Jen (Dave's sister who was staying with my parents for the summer) while Dave caught up on work stuff. We spent a lovely afternoon and evening touring the Stanford Art Museum (which I am ashamed to say I never saw the inside of in the entire four years we were at Stanford--despite it being only a 1/2 mile away), getting dinner at a cafe and taking Jen our her very first trip to Trader Joe's (grocery shopping will never be the same again). Saturday we drove back to Portland, arriving back at 1:00 am. And Monday morning Dave was off on a plane to a conference in Hawaii (I know, work can be so tough).

And there I will leave you, coming back at some point to write the exciting conclusion..... Hopefully in less than a year after the fact... =]


Thursday, September 20, 2007

It's Time To... Mom My Ride

Well, yet another week has passed. And now that we have gotten settled into school I have started yet another round of cooking adventures-- ha, ha-- NOT. No, we have been as busy as ever and are subsisting on such culinary wonders as Costco ravioli, Costco potstickers, potato bar and waffles.

On Tuesday, I believe I set some kind of world record: I went to mall for black skirt and came away with.... 1 black skirt. Yes, I know it's hard to believe. But before I make myself sound too virtuous and frugal, I have to say that I had several things on hold at two stores, but I just didn't have time to decide what to buy before I had to leave to make sure I was home to get Jared from the school bus. As it was, I drove down our street just as the school bus was coming up, so I guess it was a good thing I left when I did, and I'm sure Dave appreciated my self-sacrificing frugality, even it was outside-enforced.

On Tuesday night we had a GREAT relief society enrichment night. We had a guest speaker who spoke about depression; then they had a demonstration where we all made lavender bath salts and bath fizzies. Meanwhile they had a sign-up for everyone to get massages from two massage therapists (from the other ward) and then they finished it off with a chocolate fountain for dessert. It was quite the fun night-- chocolate and massages-- hard to beat.

On Wednesday morning while Camryn was at preschool, I had got together with one of my friends from the piano program at BYU to play duet music. We have been trying to practice to put together a little mini-concert of duet pieces, despite the obvious setbacks ( i.e. children). This rehearsal was much better than our previous ones as we had both actually practiced a little bit beforehand instead of just bashing our way through. Amazing the difference that makes.

On the way home, I borrowed keys to look at the music at the stake center and see what needed to be done to organize and sort it (which I did with some others yesterday morning). Unfortunately, I unintentionally offended a few people by my audacity to a) Look at the music unattended (which actually belongs to two wards-- not the stake) and b) Suggest that we buy enough file folders to actually organize the music in the cabinet. After writing an apologetic email and just offering to buy the folders myself, the storm blew over and all is well.

On Wednesday night, I finally talked Dave into going and looking at a minivan that I had found for sale on craigslist. On Thursday morning, we bought it. Yes, Dave and I have taken the final step of parentifying our lives and now are the proud, if somewhat less cool than before, owners of a minivan. If this seems a bit sudden, yes it was. Although I have been tracking used minivans on craigslist since early this summer, I quickly figured out that to get anything with less than 100,000 miles on it was pretty much out of our league. I did my research on consumer reports and the three minivans they recommended were the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and Mazda MPV. We had long been coveting an Odyssey or Sienna (and apparently the rest of the parent world has been too, judging by their high resale prices), but I started looking into the MPV also, since they are not as expensive.

A few weeks ago, I noticed a 2000 MPV on craigslist, but it seemed ridiculously low priced, so I thought there must be something wrong with it. It was still there this last week, so I called on it. No, it didn't have a salvage title or crash damage, but it was missing one of the captain's chairs on the middle row. Other than that, it was fine-- clean title, 72,000 miles, looked nice. Then I realized with how low it was priced (over $1000 under low blue book), we could pay for almost half of it by selling one of our other cars. Then I called an auto salvage place and found that you can buy a replacement captains chair for $125. Done. I was sold.

So then came the task of selling Dave..... Me: "Dave, I found a used minivan on Craigslist, it's a great deal and it's in good condition." Dave: "Well, that seems like a good price. Having a minivan would be nice, but how exactly are we going to pay for it? We don't want a car payment right now." Me: "I have it figured out right here: we sell one of the cars, take a bit of savings, etc., etc." Dave: "Well, OK, maybe we could make it work. But we need to make sure of something: is this really a need or is it a want?" Me: [?*@!?*!@*?] "Well..... I suppose TECHNICALLY speaking it's not exactly an urgent ABSOLUTE need. I guess THEORETICALLY I could squish all three kids into the back seat, LEANING over Camryn to buckle the baby in, with no cargo room for trips and no way to take even a single extra person in the car with us.... Or I suppose we could wait until after the baby's born and hope we find another good deal...." I finally convinced Dave to look at it.... and buy it. I felt quite triumphant that the next two cheapest MPVs that I could find were roughly $2000 more-- and had either a salvage title or 50,000 more miles. To be completely honest, I felt very blessed to have this fall into our laps. We had pretty much written off getting a minivan until next year and then suddenly, it just happened.

So thus began our crazy weekend. Thursday morning we went to sign on the minivan and pick it up. Meanwhile I listed our Toyota Corolla on craigslist, thinking it would take a little while for it to generate notice. I got my first phone call within 5 minutes of posting it. Oops. So we bought the minivan, I dropped Dave back off at work, took the minivan to emissions, got gas and a car wash, traded cars with Dave at work, took the corolla to get washed and took it home to clean it and start showing it to people. Meanwhile I tried to field upward of 10-15 calls or emails about the car all day and schedule times to show it, making sure I had time enough to clean it first.

I wanted the car to sell quickly so I listed it at the price I wanted to sell it for-- despite Dave's suggestion to put it a few hundred higher. The very first person to call me dropped by in early afternoon and "wanted to buy the car." This was great. He looked at it, test drove and then offered me $400 below what I had listed it. "Not a chance," I replied, "I listed it at the price that I wanted to sell it for." "What about $300 under?" No. "What about $100 under?" No! So I assumed that we were done, but he didn't leave. "What if I give you X amount in cash?" "No. I will accept what I listed it at. I've had 15 calls and you are the first person to come by." So he stood hanging around while I started cleaning out the minivan (one of the perks of buying a car that's a great deal is that it probably needs deodorizing-- in our case it was wet-dog smell that we had to get rid of). Finally he came up to me and said, "I think I want the car. What if I give you a $200 deposit and then I'll come back later to decide." By this time I was getting sick of this. "No. If you want the car, buy it. If you're not sure, come back later."

So to summarize, this man stayed on our driveway for 2 1/2 hours. First he discovered that the car's tags were not current. So he wanted that resolved before he bought it. It turns out they really were expired because although we had done emissions, we needed to have the car insured before registering it and then brought back in to be "officially" registered in our names, which step was -- ahem-- forgotten. But it wasn't a big deal-- we had the title -in our names- and it would just require a $50 extra fee. Then he said, "Well take off the $50." I probably would have if he hadn't annoyed my so badly and sat on my driveway for the whole afternoon. So I said no. Then, "Well what if it doesn't pass emissions?" "The emissions place is 2 miles from us. If you're so concerned, take it there now and see if it passes." So he took the car again, came back 20 minutes later and said, "I didn't go to DEQ, but I called my wife and she decided she didn't want it. Sorry for your time." And there went almost 3 hours of my life.

While I was enduring this endless negotiation process, Camryn and Jared teamed up with one of the neighbor kids to make a Flower Stand on our driveway. They picked some of our ornamental oregano (no, not your typical choice for cut flowers) and made a sign that said, "Flawrs-- $5 or 5 cents." After disappointing levels of interest, they decided that Camryn and Sophie should get dressed up as princesses and then wave and pose at cars as they passed by. I was too busy to wonder if I should be worried by this behavior, but it kept them busy, despite their lack of sales.

So I guess by this tortuous process I realized that I am not cut out to be a used car saleswoman. I got to hear lots of sob stories... like the teenager: "I'm saving the money for it myself," or the down-on-my-luck: "I really need a car and I don't have that much money-- I only have this much," or my favorite: "My car caught fire and burned to the ground so I really need a car and I was hoping you could knock a couple hundred off the price." We did sell the car on Saturday (to someone who had his previous car stolen), for asking price minus the $50 and I was greatly relieved to be finished with my first experience in car sales.

The impetus for Jared's innovative flower sale came from the desire to raise money for his school "Fun Run." I just have to mention in passing how much I HATE school fundraisers. Jared came home from school one day SOOO excited because if he raises ONLY $250 for his school fun run then he gets a skateboard (actually, he would be in a DRAWING for a skateboard) and if he raises $1000, then he gets some huge prize and this is just so great. So first he starts raiding his jar with birthday money and then asking to go door to door and pestering me to start saving so he can reach his $250. Now, at the risk of sounding unsympathetic and scrooge-ish, do they really expect me to let my 6-year-old go door to door collecting money? All the people that we could ask to donate already have kids that go to his school-- or some other school having its own fun run (like Camryn's preschool). And besides doesn't it seem like they'd make a lot more for the school if they didn't spend so much on prizes? Why can't I just write a donation check and be done with it? And why do they have to get my 6-year-old so excited about prizes that he talks about them constantly and pesters me all day long. So we took a trip to target.com and found that you can buy a skateboard there for $15 or $20. End of discussion.

In spite of my lack of school spirit, on Friday I volunteered to assemble hamburgers for the Hopkins School BBQ. It was actually kind of fun-- assembling 800 hamburgers in an hour and a half. And in the process I finally figured out why school hamburgers taste so bad. For this "barbecue," they used pre-cooked hamburgers, which they heated outside on a grill (to give them some credit). Then they brought them into the kitchen where they reheated them in an oven until they had reached a certain internal temperature. Then we scrambled to put them on buns and trays and then they were covered with plastic bags and put into a warmer for the next hour or two. Yum!

On Saturday we cleaned house and yard and bought three trees for our backyard-- all of which fit into our minivan, I might add. Sunday was my first performance directing our ward choir and it went quite well, despite not having a ton of people. Aside from that, we are pretty much just plowing along as usual.

On Tuesday, I had another ultrasound with the perinatal specialist. When the doctor came in to talk to me about the ultrasound, he said that if he had never seen a scan of me before, he would have said that the ultrasound was of a perfectly healthy normal baby. This doesn't rule all problems out for sure-- as the baby gets larger, it gets harder to see and measure the nuchal fold-- but it is definitely VERY good news. The doctor was extremely positive (for the first time). We appreciate those of you who have kept us-- and the baby-- in your thoughts and prayers. Meanwhile, I think the baby is practicing cardio kick-boxing. He's an active little guy-- and he's already 3 lbs.

After this week of adventure, I must have been worn out, because after lunch yesterday I hit the LoveSac and couldn't stand up again for several hours. =]

Quotes of the Week:

Camryn: "Our house is beauty-ful! Let's stay there forever."

Jared: "If you do $1000 for the fun run, you get the biggest prize ever! So mom, you'd better start saving."

Camryn: "When you play Wii baseball, if someone catches the ball you get an out. But sometimes you get a single."

Jared: "Mom, do you want to buy some flowers from me? They cost either $5 or 5 cents."

Camryn (in the dressing room at the mall): "Why did God make all of these walls?"

Jared: "I don't get hurt anymore because I'm 6." "I get to eat more treats than Camryn because I’m 6."

Camryn: "I miss marty-dog. He's the best dog."