Tuesday, December 30, 2008

You Know You're Married To An Engineer When...

He creates a spreadsheet to calculate more realistic "Bank Offers" while playing the Deal or No Deal card game.
  
I must admit, it made the game a whole lot more fun...until Olivia and I turned down an offer for $335,000 and ended up with $10 in our case.  Good thing it was just pretend...

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Reflections

I can't believe another Christmas holiday is over...it happened much too quickly.

Here are a few of the highlights of the past week:

My version of holiday baking this year. These mixes are always a hit!


The annual Nativity re-enactment on Christmas Eve. This year, it was written and directed by Olivia. Grant played his part of Shepherd very well...his paper sheep behaved perfectly. Jack and Olivia then sang "When Joseph Went to Bethlehem" and I cried. 


Opening new jammies is a Christmas Eve tradition.


We went outside and sprinkled "Reindeer Food" on the lawn (a mixture of oatmeal and green glitter) so the reindeer would be able to find our house, and enjoy a little snack while Santa was taking care of business.


The wound caused by Grant tugging on a stocking...not realizing they were supported by solid brass stocking holders. Luckily, no emergency room visit was required.


Grant LOVED riding the new "quad" brought by Santa. He mastered steering pretty quick riding around the halls and kitchen of our house. Now we're placing bets on how long until he builds a ramp at the end of our steep driveway and takes his skills to the next level.


We all took turns opening presents, with Jack and Olivia taking turns playing 
"Santa" and handing out the gifts.


After all the presents were opened, we had a yummy breakfast. Then it was play time!  Lots of new things to occupy our time!


A new basketball hoop for the driveway will get lots of use. 
Jack & Grant are becoming pros already!


Olivia took this picture herself with her new camera! The dog & sunglasses are new too...


After playing outside, inside, and everywhere in between, a nap was in order.


Cooking Christmas dinner in my new "Heavenly Hostess" apron...a gift from my wonderful mother-in-law.  It was one of my favorite gifts this year!


My Christmas present - a new kitchen table. It seats more than 4 (necessary for a family of 5!) and is absolutely beautiful. I love it!

More than anything this Christmas season, I am thankful for my family.  We are healthy and happy.  We have a home, plenty of food, and all the luxuries that make life comfortable.  

I am thankful for Jesus Christ and for his life...a gift that makes all this pale in comparison.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Why We Don't Give Birth To Two-Year-Olds

This has been a week where I'd consider trading my toddler in for a lump of coal. Between the fits of independence (everything from getting dressed to taking out the trash to buckling/unbuckling in the carseat warrants a scream of "I do it all by myself!"), potty-training accidents, and the messes he makes on a daily...no make that hourly...basis, my patience is worn thin.

I had a ball of yarn sitting on my stairs yesterday, just waiting for me to make a trip upstairs to put it away. Guess who found it...and  took it on a trip around the house...

Yep, you guessed it!



Through the kitchen, around the table...

across the hallway...

around the fireplace...

and back through the kitchen!

And then he smiled at me, hugged me and said "I yuv you mommy" and I thought "Terrible Two's?  What's that?"



Sunday, December 14, 2008

Olivia's Broadway Debut

Olivia is participating in StarStruck Theater's production of The Wizard of Oz.  She has a role as a munchkin and a poppy.  It has been an amazing experience for her, and we have seen her confidence and abilities increase greatly.

This past week, we received a call from a lady in our ward asking if Olivia would like to participate in our Christmas party program, singing a song from Wizard of Oz.  As a munchkin, she's singing "Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead"...not exactly Christmas party fare.  But she also has learned "Somewhere Over The Rainbow".  Olivia was written into the script and given a dozen or so lines to memorize, which she did perfectly!  And when it was her time to sing, she rocked the house (I know, I sound like one of those obnoxious stage moms.  I can't help it.  I'm proud...and I thought she was amazing!)


video

The stage was decorated like an Arctic Wonderland, and the kids all did a great job.  After Olivia's singing, she was in costume as a penguin (she's the one in the red skirt, of course!)


It makes me happy to see her blossoming into a confident, talented, capable young woman. Even now, I don't know that I'd have the confidence or courage to stand up and sing in front of 200 people without a single waver in my voice.

Broadway, here she comes!

All Aboard!

The Niles Railway operates a Holiday Train each year at Christmas time. It's an old steam-run engine, and all the cars are decorated inside and out with holiday lights.



Friday night, with our good friends the Olsen's, we boarded the train for a ride.




Grant was mesmerized by the whole evening. He loved the lights, the whistle of the steam engine, the caroling, the hot chocolate...who could blame him? Hard not to get in the holiday spirit when surrounded by so much of it!



Jack made it just over halfway before drowsiness kicked in. It didn't matter that there was no real place to lay down, or that people were talking and singing all around him. That boy can sleep anywhere!



We had a great time...and were all ready for bed by the time we arrived back at the depot!


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Conversations with a 5 year old




Yesterday while driving home, I had a conversation with Jack that went like this:

Jack:  Mom, if you and dad get divorced, I want to live with daddy.

Me:  Jack, daddy and I aren't getting divorced.  And if we did, and you lived with daddy, you'd have to go to day care all day every day, because daddy works really hard and is gone all day.

Jack:  Would I go to Eagle's Nest (the after school care program at his school)?

Me:  Well, if you lived with daddy, or mommy got a job, then you would have to go to Eagle's nest after school because I wouldn't be home to take care of you.

Jack:  Well, I think you should get a job then.

Me:  Why?

Jack:  Because I want to go to Eagle's Nest.

(then I pause for a minute while trying to figure out how to answer)

Jack:  Could you get a job by Friday?  Because they have movie day and popcorn on Friday at Eagle's Nest, and I want to go.  

On The First Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me...

An overpriced Noble Fir.


Growing up in Oregon, we had easy access to lush, beautiful Christmas trees, of every variety.  Each year in early December, we'd load into the family van and head out to one of several local Christmas tree farm.  We'd trek through the woods, looking for that perfect tree, which we'd then saw down, trudging back through the woods to our van to take it home.  And we usually paid under $30 for a huge tree!

After living through 13 Christmases in California, I've grown to appreciate those trees even more. When we go to our local tree lot, I always ask where the trees come from.  The answer is always the same...Oregon.  Only we pay more than double than what you'd pay to chop it down yourself!

Over the years, I've dragged Steve all over the place trying to capture that feeling of the "do-it-yourself" tree experience.  One year, when I was newly pregnant with Jack, we made the 3 hour drive to Apple Hill to a tree farm.  After over an hour of searching, we discovered that most of the trees bore more resemblance to a Charlie Brown tree than the Norman Rockwell I had in my mind.  So we settled for a halfway decent fir, tied it on the roof and headed back home.  
Olivia (4 years old) running down the aisles of a tree lot

I've finally realized that our local Home Depot or OSH Hardware store lots are the best bargains, and in the end, it doesn't really matter where we buy our tree, it's what we do with it that counts.


So after we untie it off the roof and bring it in the house, we lovingly adorn it with ornaments acquired through the years.  

Ornaments made by my mom when I was a little girl.
Made in 1979, this one is supposed to be me, with my favorite pastime...a book!

Ornaments bought commemorating a special event or occasion.  


Ornaments purchased each year for each child, which will be given to them 
as they fly the coop and start their own holiday traditions.

This is Jack's first ornament, bought when he was just a couple months old.

This year, we switched back to the retro-globe-lights of my childhood.  When they turn on, that's all you see...and it's beautiful.  


So while we may be missing out on the experience of trudging through the mud in search of the perfect tree to chop down, each year, as we add the ornaments that celebrate our lives, we watch the mediocre, overpriced tree from the hardware store transform into the Norman Rockwell of my dreams.  

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me A Match!

In June of 1996, I moved to San Bernardino, CA.  I was engaged to be married at the end of the month to a guy I met while on my mission to the Canary Islands.  We had a long distance relationship after we both got home, and based on our comfort and friendship with one another, I mistook that for something much deeper.

With just 3 weeks to go until the big day, all the preparations had been made.  I had a dress, the invitations were mailed, the reception planned completely.  Once I arrived in Southern California, my doubts began to increase exponentially.  At first, I assumed it was just normal jitters.  But it quickly became apparent that it was much more than that.  

As I was trying to figure out our relationship, I went to a temp agency to find a job.  I went on two interviews.  The first was to a Budweiser plant.  The second was to a small engineering office.  I interviewed with a man named Richard, the office leader.  Both interviews went very well.  I was qualified, personable and fit the job requirements perfectly.  Both offered me a position.  The jobs were nearly identical.  The pay was the same.  As a practicing Mormon, I felt I had a moral conflict with the beer plant.  So, I took the job with the engineering firm.

When I walked into the office the first morning, an incredibly handsome man was setting up a computer at what would become my desk.  I was momentarily speechless.  I quickly gathered my wits and introduced myself.  He stuck out his hand, and said "Hi, I'm Steve Whitaker."

(Steve, circa 1995)

Over the next few days, my engagement unraveled completely.  I was a wreck.  I didn't want to turn around and move back home - I was embarrassed to admit that I had called off my wedding.  But I didn't know a soul, other than my fiance and his family.  I found a girl in the single's ward who was looking for a roommate for 3 months.  I figured this would give me the chance to figure out what I wanted to do.

As I went to work each day, I found myself intrigued with this Steve guy.  I tried to listen closely to his office conversations.  Was he married?  Did he have a girlfriend?  I began to piece together an image of him in my mind.  He had a house in Huntington Beach.  He drove a Porche.  He was a surfer, and owned a 60's-era Harley.  

When I flew home to Portland for the weekend of my non-wedding, my parents asked me what my future plans were.  I had no idea.  I remember telling them "There's this guy at work that is extremely intriguing.  He's handsome, smart, successful, and I think he's a total player.  But I'd sort of like to find out more."  My parents FREAKED out...with good reason!

Over the next few weeks, another employee in the office named Wendy started befriending me.  She asked me questions about my broken relationship, and told me Steve was available.  She was persistent, and made it quite clear that she thought we'd be perfect for each other.  She quietly and subtly passed information to both Steve and me.  In mid-July, I found a folded note on my desk.  It said something like this:

"Alyson,
I'm not sure what the status is between you and your boyfriend.  But I know you're new in town, and probably don't have many friends.  I'd like to show you some of the sights, if you're interested.

Steve"

I was shocked.  I passed a note back to him in his office saying "That would be great!"

We had our first real date on July 11, 1996.  We went to El Torito for dinner.  It was the best first date of my life.  There were no lulls in conversation.  We had much in common, and many similar interests.

He brought me back to my apartment, walked me to the door, thanked me for a fun evening, and shook my hand.

I went inside, completely twitterpated.  And yet, absolutely terrified of getting into another  relationship so soon after calling off a wedding.

Over the next several weeks, we spent more and more time together.  We tried to keep things completely professional at work, which wasn't easy.  I remember one day going into his office to give him a message, and taking a couple steps backward as we smiled at each other.  I turned around to walk out of his office, and ran smack into the doorway.

About 6 weeks after we began dating, my temporary employment position was up for review to become permanent.  Steve and I had discussed the options, and both of us felt like it was in the best interest of our relationship for me to resign and look elsewhere for a job.  When I told Richard I was resigning, he smiled with a gleam in his eye that let me know he suspected the real reason behind me leaving.  He later told me that he knew what would happen from the moment he met me.

When we got married the next year, we invited both Richard (the boss) and Wendy (the matchmaker) to our reception.   

 Over the years, Steve and I have often talked about Wendy, and the influence she had on us and our early relationship.   She moved on to another company, and aside from the yearly holiday card, we lost contact. This past summer, she and Steve reconnected through work.

This past weekend while down in Southern California, we had dinner at Wendy's house. Richard and his wife were there as well. It was so much fun to see both of them, and to hear their sides of our love story. Wendy was so excited to see us happy together, and to meet our 3 little ones...a direct result of her matchmaking.


Of all the people who have influenced the course of my life, I am most grateful to Richard for offering me a job, and to Wendy, who knew before we did that Steve and I were a match made in heaven.

First Kiss

(I'm the towhead on the left)

I was an exceptionally shy girl, when it came to boys. In 8th grade, a boy asked me to slow dance during a school dance, and told me I looked beautiful. I couldn’t go to school for a week after that, for fear I’d see him in the halls. My mom finally wised up to my morning illnesses and forced me to face my fears.

In 9th grade, Rob K. asked me to go with him to the 9th grade graduation dance. I made my dress. It was white, with a dropped waist and pleated skirt.  The neckline was lower than we had anticipated, and I remember being a little self conscious.  

We went as a group to Nona Amelia’s Italian Restaurant for dinner, then parents drove us to the dance. I remember slow dancing to the song “Lady in Red”, with Rob changing the words to the "Lady in White".  Oh so romantic... When his mom drove me home, Rob walked me into the house.  As we stood awkwardly in the entryway, he gave me a hug, a tentative kiss (my first) and asked me to “go with him”. I said yes.

The next week marked the end of the school year. I was leaving before the last day of school to go spend a few weeks in Arizona with my dad. On my last day, Rob walked me home. We got to within a block of our home, and stopped to say our goodbyes. When Rob leaned in to kiss me goodbye, he was a little more passionate and probing than I was. My sensitive gag reflex kicked in, and I proceeded to throw up. On him. I ran off, completely mortified and embarrassed. I wanted to die.

Rob called and wrote me at my dad’s house, I couldn’t/wouldn’t talk to him. About 2 weeks into my stay there, I finally got the nerve to write him a letter and “break up”.

When school started in September, I was terrified of seeing Rob again. I was at a big high school, starting my sophomore year. As luck would have it, Rob was in my geometry class, and sat right behind me. I couldn’t even acknowledge his existence until about midway through the second semester. We never discussed what had happened, and as far as I know, he never told a soul. I’m sure it was not his most proud moment either! Now, more than 20 years later, I just look back and laugh. I’ve come a long way…