Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Card?

Don't worry, she was all smiles once Santa gave her an M&M filled candy cane.

This picture seems a bit similar to the last picture on this post! Let's face it, I've gotten quite a few pictures of her with a face like this!

To show that at least she is consistent, here is her first Christmas with Santa Claus in 2007: For obvious reasons, we did not bother with the Santa thing in 2008. I thought this year might have been different! I guess we'll see what 2010 has in store.

Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"NT" and a milestone not recorded

Evi's cousins like to spell some of their responses, such as "n-o". Well, after hearing this answer a bit, I think she started to try to spell it too, but whenever she heard anyone say, "n-o", she replied with "n-t". This started a few days ago, and now it's mostly become a game--someone will say, "Hey, Evi, "N-O", to hear her enthusiastically say, "N-T" with a smile. It's only sometimes used as teasing when her 4 year old cousin really means no, but only hears "n-t" over and over. Aahh, my smart little one has already learned how to tease. Great.

Evi also had a milestone of sorts on Saturday, but it happened too fast to take a picture. That, and I was still reeling over my shock of the day. I went to get my hair cut--I was ready for something new and totally different. I got that, and I'm still adjusting and deciding how I feel about it, so there won't be a picture for a little while. Then I figured since I had the courage to cut all my hair off, I could have the courage to get Evi's hair evened out. Since she had any hair growing at all, even minimally, the left side has always been longer than the right. Of course I never wanted to do anything about it, because it has taken so long for any of it grow at all! I was apprehensive, but I bit the bullet and got her hair cut. Her first haircut at almost 3 years old, and 1) you can't tell a difference in the length at all (thank goodness) and 2) it looks quite nice. But it maybe took 2 minutes and she was sitting on my lap. By the time I realized to get the camera out to have a picture taken, the cut was already completed and I wasn't sure I wanted to record my new cut just yet! Even if there's no picture and I didn't save any of the hair, I'm still glad I got that done. Life still moves forward and we can just enjoy the moments we have!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The irony

In the last post, I mentioned the nice man who told me I was a good mom. The irony of that story was that I had almost the opposite experience on a previous flight in either November '08 or April '09. I was flying with Evi when she was not on her best behavior, and I was the mom who said her name a lot in frustration and was almost at my wits end a few times. Well, a helpful dad of a baby nearby decided to try to give me parenting lessons and asked me if I had tried positive reinforcement with her. He kept going with more advice and how to impliment it; I tuned him out but tried to be polite until he was finished. I do try to be positive with my child, but a contained child who refused to sleep was too much for that day. The good with the bad, I guess. I had one man try to teach me how to be a better mom, and later another who thought I was doing just fine! We all have our good days and bad days, toddlers and mom's included!

Oh, and just a sampling of how my daughter can help me work on my patience and positivity:

This is what I woke up to yesterday. It serves me right for trying to get some more sleep.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A nice stranger, and a princess

A few days ago, Evi and I flew to Utah to visit with my family. We flew on Southwest; the airline with no assigned seating. I always make sure to check in early so we can be in the first boarding group, because I always hope for our own row. Turns out, it was a full flight and every seat was to be taken. We had our aisle and middle seat, and we lucked out to get a super nice guy to choose the window seat in our row. When he sat down, he said, "don't worry, I like kids." I said to him, "you must if you chose to sit by a toddler on a 5 hour flight!" He started telling me how he was a Pop-Pop himself and it kind of put him in grandpa mode to be by Evi. Well, the flight acutally turned out quite well. Evi was pretty well behaved, but when she wasn't making the best choices, I only had to talk to her to get her to make a better choice. The first time our window neighbor heard me correct her, he gave me a thumbs up and said, "good job, mom!". Maybe 3/4ths of the way through the flight he told me that I was a good mom. I thanked him, and told him that I really appreciated hearing that, because sometimes I don't feel like it. He said, "no, you are a good mom. We are are own worst judges and don't let that get in your way. You are great with your daughter." It meant a lot to hear that. It may have helped my case that there was a couple across the aisle from us with a toddler and a baby, and the mom kept scolding her daughter (that's how I learned the little girls name--I heard it a lot). That couple also referred to Benedryl as "candy" to the kids as they were getting their doses before take off. Besides all that, it was nice to just have a stranger give a really nice compliment.
As for the princess part of the title, a few days before we left, Evi got to have her face painted like a princess. We went to Chevy's on a Monday, and apparently that's face painting night. I thought there would be no way she'd sit still for it, so I asked the artist to just do something simple. To my amazement, she was perfectly still the entire time and absolutely loved her princess paint and jewel. In fact, for several days after, she wouldn't let me leave the house until she pretended to paint my face just like her princess look. Complete with the instructions to close my eyes so she could apply the "sprinkles" (glitter). I love her imagination and have such a fun time make-believing with her.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The car drama

Back in August (on my mother's birthday no less), my car was hit. I wrote about it in this post. It was very much the other drivers fault, and her insurance started working with me right away. My initial impression was that this was a great company (I had never heard of it) and they were going to take care of everything. I felt that way until: 1) I asked to meet them in Beltsville when the car was being looked at so I didn't have to go to Waldorf, and never got that call, and 2) I got the call saying they were offering me $980 for my car. WHAT??? I actually couldn't even talk to the woman on the phone, I was so upset. I kept my cool for awhile, then lost the ability to hold my tears back, and I told her I'd have to talk to her when I had calmed down. $980 for taking away my old, but perfectly reliable car. At the moment she called, I was actually on my way to WALDORF to pull out my remaining personal items from the car that I didn't get the day of the accident. So I continued on to the car, got my things, said my goodbyes just in case, and went on with life.

Fast forward two months, and things still weren't resolved. I wouldn't accept their low offer, knowing my car was worth more than that (although they did add a whopping $36 to the total after I sent them a picture of my radio face plate). They told me they compared my car to "local market value", but when you look up my car in the local market, you won't find it. The closest comparison vehicle to mine that they used was over 200 miles away; they failed to mention that to me. Plus, as I read over the report they sent me, I also noticed the three cars they compared mine too were not only not local, but they were ALL listed on the market BEFORE my accident date. That tells me that they didn't try very hard and took the lowest numbers they could. It seems to me that if a car has been on the market for 2 months (which 2 of them were), the price could have been lowered to try to sell. I brought this to my adjuster's attention, saying that I felt like they should use cars listed on or after my accident date, plus sent her SEVEN more comparison cars that I found listed from my "local market" (I say that in jest, because there was not a '93 or '94 chrysler concorde for sale within a 250 mile radius of my zip code). Did I mention that the lowest sale price of any of these seven cars was $1,500?

That finally got a ball rolling in my direction. Actually, the initial person who gave me the quote was no help at all. I spoke with her supervisor and she is who actually got me more money for my car (only once I provided more comparision vehicles though). It was such a headache. For awhile, we debated on whether or not to try to keep it. Our good friend Ubong works for an insurance company and we were on the phone with him a lot asking questions and getting advice. I sent pictures out of the car to him and a few other people with the question: any chance you think we can salvage this? The overwhelming answer was no. Cut your losses and take the money. Well, that's why I kept up the fight to get something. So about 3 weeks ago I finally got my check in the mail, for just under $1400. Much better than $980. Would have like to get more for it, but still, what I did get is probably more than we'd get if we tried to sell it on our own. Sad though, because I had no intention of selling it. The intention was to drive it until it didn't drive anymore.

We're going to try to make it on one car, since we live so close to campus. Ron either rides a bike, walks, or I drop him off, so we can get by with one car; we think. Before he died, my dad told me that we should skip the funeral and take a family trip to the Bahamas. I told him we'd consider that for the one year mark. I told my sisters he said that, and who knows, that might actually happen (well, maybe not the Bahamas specifically, but a family trip maybe). So I joked with Erin that Dad paid for the car, so it's only fitting that I use the money for it to pay for a family trip that was his suggestion. We'll see; who knows? And actually, this pregnancy now changes things a bit...I'm due to deliver mid-May. Dad died June 5. Not sure about a tropical vacation with a 3-4 week old and the recovery. Oh, and side note on the pregnancy: I was pregnant the day of the accident, although didn't know it at the time. The doctor assures me that it wouldn't have hurt the baby. As for all the emotions about losing the car and the initial low offer, I'd like to believe that they were intensified due to the pregnancy hormones!

Lessons learned about dealing with insurance companies: don't expect them to have your best interest; read everything they give you about your car evaluation; do your own research; and don't take their first low ball offer! It was eye opening. I wish it didn't happen, but I'm glad it's over.

A final goodbye to "Grandma":
Side view of the damage, plus the rear door that I didn't even realize was hit until seeing pictures:

It's kinda dark, but I had stickers on my visors. The one in the middle on the driver's side says "Michelle" and the passenger visor got a smiley face and rainbow. They had been on since college. On the right: the sticker Evin brought me from her mission in Brazil, and some Hawaiian turtles. Sadly, I cut off the BYU-Hawaii sticker that's on the back window. You can see the bottom of it. Guess I need to go back to Hawaii to get some more stickers for our car!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I'm doing a poll. Please weigh in!

This post will also serve as a bit of an announcement, as well as a poll. Ron and I have been discussing a conference he has the option to attend in May (Memorial Day weekend). I don't think he should go, and he thinks it would be fine, so I told him I'd take it to the blogging world to get other opinions.

Why don't I think he should go away Memorial Day weekend? Because we're expecting this delivery on or around May 12th:
His Points:
-He'll take Evi so I won't be alone with a newborn AND a 3 year old
-It's only 3 days, not a week
-When Evi was 3 weeks old, he tore ligaments in his ankle and was unable to walk without crutches for several weeks, and I did "fine" then (his words. because if you ask me, I didn't do "fine", and he was at least there to help me change diapers and other sitting down things).

My Points:
-Being left alone with even just a newborn (without the 3 year old) can't be a picnic
-I'll still be healing from birth
-I'll have no help
-He'll be in Florida; not a distance that he could come home early if there's a problem
-That's still the time that I'm not supposed to drive or lift anything heavier than the baby, and doctor's instructions are to get all the rest I can.

I don't know, maybe I could deal with it. But do I want to? It would be nice to not have a 3 year old around for a few days, but I'm not quite sure I how feel about losing my helper at the same time.
He said he'd get the opinion of his (male) professor who has two kids--ask him what his wife would want him to do with a 2 week old at home in that situation. I told him I'd ask the blogging world. Please weigh in with your thoughts!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Halloween

I almost skipped Halloween this year. I was going to make Evi a penguin costume with some basic thrift store buys, but since I was sick, I never went shopping and had no energy to do much. I was still sick on the day of our ward Halloween party and figured, since we didn't get her ready for that, we'd just skip the actual trick-or-treating on Saturday also (thinking Evi wouldn't miss it if she didn't realize it was happening). Little did I realize, she would indeed enjoy it. Ron thought we should take her, and thanks to Frugalityville, I learned that I could look for a $2 costume from Old Navy on the day of! We chanced it, and found a super cute lion costume that would also fit her next year. It was pretty cool that ALL of their Halloween stuff was $2 so we got a few different items!
She looked great, and she loved being a lion, and LOVED trick-or-treating. We first went to see Ron's grandmother and had some dinner with her, then went to his aunt and uncle's neighborhood to see them and go around for candy. The neighborhood is pretty close-knit. Many of the neighbors turn into a family and they spend time at eachothers homes, and it's just so nice to see that. It makes me want to live there too! Anyway, Evi loved it, got lots of "trick-or-treats" (candy), and I was so wrong about her not caring about Halloween this year! I learned my lesson and won't try to skip Halloween again! I've rationed her candy intake, but she keeps asking for "trick-or-treats". In fact, this morning, that was the first thing she asked for!


Not a conductor

Well, this post doesn't have much to it, but I figured I needed to update.
In church, I work with the young women. Last night we had a big group meeting with all the young women from the area called Young Women in Excellence. It's a night to celebrate all the accomplishments of the girls over the last year. I got a call the night before, asking me to conduct the music. My answer was that I really don't know music very well, but I could probably muddle through (since I was asked, I didn't really want to say no). I got there, looked at the song, and it was 4/4, and that I could handle, so I was ready to go. It turned out that there was a misprint on the program and the actual song was 2/2. Easy right, just wave your hand up and down. Well, I never quite had the right tempo (good thing the pianist wasn't going off of me), and I found out afterward I was waving my hand the wrong way (in, instead of out). And, it seemed that the only people watching me were people who know music, but at least I smiled my way through! I was happy to look at the program and see that there was no closing song!
The program was nice. We have one girl, and we combine with another ward with two girls. The three of them sang a song together, and it was beautiful, and quite touching. We asked them the Wednesday night before if they wanted the leaders to sing with them or not, and they decided that they could do it on their own. Of all the young women who sang songs last night, ours were the only ones who sang alone, without leaders. I was quite proud of them and really enjoyed listening to them.
That's about it. I'm not sick anymore, thank goodness. I was left with a bit of a cough longer than anything, but that's mostly gone too. I think the flu has left our home, hopefully for good. Maybe now I can finally start exercising again!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Still sick

It's Thursday night and I'm starting to see a glimmer of hope for getting better. I last wrote on Sunday when I said that I was starting to feel a little better. About mid day on Monday it was getting difficult to breathe. I had rapid shallow breaths and couldn't get enough air. After multiple calls to my doctors office, and not getting a person any time (including waiting on hold for 40 minutes at one point), I called my sister. I figure if you have 3 kids, that qualifies you to give medical advice, right :)? We tried an emergency care place near our house, and they didn't take my insurance, then finally got ahold of my doctors office. What do you know, even though they actually were still open at 5:30pm, they didn't have any appointments available to someone who was initially getting over the flu but then got worse and was having trouble breathing--and walking. So we headed to Holy Cross to wait in the packed emergency room. PACKED.
We waited, and waited, and waited, and waited and waited some more. I finally got called back and had a bed in the hall since all the rooms were filled. My fear was I'd spend all that time waiting and they'd tell me to rest and drink plenty of water and there was nothing to do for me. So when the doctor told me I needed fluids, my heart sank because I thought she was telling me to drink more water. But she said I needed an IV and they were going to put antibiotics in it to treat for bronchitis, since I have a history of that nasty illness and there was a good chance my cough from the flu would turn into bronchitis. As the IV was dripping in my arm, I slowly started to breathe better, thank goodness. It turned out to be worth it, I think, even though the wait was miserable.
Ron's mom came to the hospital around 9 I think, and she took Evi home with her so she could finally go to bed. The emergency room (especially in the thick of flu season) is not really the best place for a curious 2 year old. Since we didn't get out of the hospital until after midnight, Janet said we could leave Evi there overnight and get her in the morning. Since Ron wasn't feeling great in the morning either, she kept Evi until after her nap and brought her back in the afternoon. It was so nice and so appreciated to just be able to rest and not try to take care of Ev too.
Now it's Thursday and I'm finally feeling better. I had a doctor's appoitment today so I had to leave the house, but I think it was too much too soon. But, there's still a great glimmer of hope and I am so glad. I have one more day of antibiotics for the coughing (although I'm thinking more would have been nice) and I actually have an appetite to eat again! Woohoo, I'm on the road to recovery.

Now a funny Evi story: She didn't want to eat her dinner tonight and as she was squirming to get out of her chair, I asked her why she didn't want to eat it. Her answer, "somebody sneezed on it." Ron and I both told her that it was fine and no one sneezed on it, so what does she do? "AAAA-CHOOO", right on her food. It was a fake sneeze, but where did she come up with that?? Ron had to turn his head away from her so she didn't see him laughing at her ingenuity. Just thought I'd share :).

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Joy of Motherhood

If you read my last post, you know that I had a rough Wednesday night. Tuesday or Wednesday I started getting a runny nose. Then after my Wednesday night, it took forever to fall asleep because my mind was just racing, and when I woke up on Thursday, after restless sleep, I felt awful! This is where "the joy of motherhood" comes in...all I wanted to do was sleep, but Ron had to go into campus and Evi was raring to go.

Since the weather was nice, I took her out for a walk, and she pushed her baby stroller. But every time Ev wanted to stop walking and "stretch" or do anything else, I felt like I was going to fall over. Our walk ended early and we went to the park--she played while I sat on the bench feeling awful-weak, runny nose, burning in my throat and chest while I coughed. She was having fun and all of the sudden as we were going home, she came to me and clung to my legs. I carried her inside and set her down to get her lunch. She made herself comfortable on the couch, wouldn't eat her sandwich, and then fell asleep on the couch. Well, maybe for most kids, this is no big deal. My child has never fallen asleep anywhere but her room. She won't even fall asleep in my bed. I was starting to think she was feeling kind of awful too (she had a runny nose and a bit of a cough too). I put her in bed, ate my own lunch, and hoped to sleep.

During my possible nap time, I get a call from the car insurance people. I've been going back and forth with them for over a month on the amount they're offering me for my car. The short version is: the accident was on August 28. I have not been satisfied with the amount they were offering for my totaled car and finally got to speak with a supervisor and did my own research. I sent them what I found, and finally the amount went up. I've learned it's always important to do your own research!! So I didn't get to fall asleep, but at least I got good news from the insurance people, FINALLY.

Then, all of the sudden, Evi was awake! She barely slept an hour. By then I was finished trying to have energy, and plopped her on my bed watching a movie while I was in and out of sleep, almost counting the minutes until Ron would come home. I don't think he realized how ill I felt, because he had so much to do and stayed a little later to try to get everything done that he could. I was thinking about "the joy of motherhood" during this time. I have to be there for my child, no matter how I feel. Ron is a wonderful dad and would do anything for us, but there are some times that he really can't just drop his day to stay home. It's not like I could have called anyone to take Evi, because she had some illness too, and I didn't want her to spread it. So the two of us were stuck together, on my bed :). I called Ron about an hour after his class ended and basically begged him to come home as soon as he could. Like I said, he would do anything he could, because he came home shortly after that, even though he had a lot to do.

I love being a mom and staying home with Evi. This has been the first time I've been really sick with her and it isn't the most fun part of stay at home motherhood! Mom's take care of the sick kids, and spouses too. But what happens when the mom is sick and no one can stay home to take care of her? That's all part of the job, I guess. It was a rough Thursday, but we made it through. I don't think I emerged much from my room once Ron was home though :).

I made a doctor's appointment for Friday morning since I felt so awful, and it turned out that Ron was starting to feel pretty awful too. Terrible for him, but at least somewhat beneficial for me, cause we could take turns with Evi! I got to go to the doctor alone, and I felt like I'd fall asleep at the wheel after another sleepless night. Turns out, I have the bug, FLU. I got to wear a lovely mask at the doctor's office, and the doctor wore one too. I asked if it was swine flu, and the doctor said they didn't know because the test was simply if you have influenza, not what type, I guess (it's a bit of a blur to me now). Since I had it for more than 24 hours, there's nothing I can really take for it except for tylenol. Wonderful. At least I know what it is.

Now it's Sunday night (well, technically I guess it's Monday morning since it's past midnight) and I've had 4 down days. I don't feel as awful as I did Thursday and Friday, but I'm still not well and have no energy. I'm finally sleeping better at night. A few nights ago, I tried to sleep, but gave up the effort at 4am. There isn't much on TV worth watching at that hour, in case you're interested. Ron has it and has been here with me since Friday. We've been sort of tag teaming with Evi, one of us sleeps and one of us is with her. She's had more TV time in the last 4 days than she's ever had all at once. I hope she can adjust to when we're well again! Evi has something, but not as bad as us. She had a flu shot, but she still has a congested cough and runny nose. My sister pointed out that her flu vaccine wouldn't stop H1N1, so it's something we've been paying attention too. I called her doctor on Thursday and they said they don't need to see her unless her temperature reaches 102. Well, I might just give them a call tomorrow, just to be safe.

I'm hoping to send this bug on it's way out of our house as soon as possible. My sore throat is slowly fading, but I still have a nasty cough. I have no energy and I feel shortness of breath after small movement. This is coming from the girl who just went running last week for 50 minutes before all this sickness came around. What a nice way to enjoy the beautiful weather----sick in bed inside all day!!!!!! I must say Evi is just amazing because she's been dealing with her sickie parents like a trooper. Now if we can all be better, that'd be the next great step!

Oh, and to make this story even better: I went to the doctor 2 weeks ago for a well visit and intended to get a flu shot, but they were out. Nice. Hope everyone else feels better :)!

P.S. I almost forgot about all of the drama from the previous post, since my mind has been previously occupied. I guess that's the course it's set to take, I forget about it and move on.

P.P.S. Our internet has been down since Friday sometime (I think). Tonight is the first we've had it back.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Dad would be proud"...

...that's what my sister told me tonight, after telling her about my night. You see, I am not a "yes man", and neither was my dad.

A few years ago, I served in my church and loved what I did and who I got to work with. However, there was a person who would have rather had a "yes man" in my position, and would have had it that way if it weren't for someone else saying that I should stay right where I was. As things come up, if I see a problem worth saying something about, I will voice my opinion.

When we moved to Memphis, there was a huge softball tournament that women weren't allowed to play in. The first year, 2006, I didn't do anything about it because 1) it was literally the day after we arrived in Memphis for the first time, and 2) I was 4 months pregnant. In 2007, a few weeks out, I started asking questions if women would be "allowed" to participate this year, and got a "no". I wrote a letter to the powers that be, and brought up my several concerns. Not necessarily trying to change their policy, but more to bring to their attention that there ARE women who like to participate in competitive sports. Anyway, so I didn't even bother going that year since I wouldn't be allowed to play. Wouldn't you know it, in 2008 (when I was already in Maryland), they were kind enough to put together a woman's softball game. No, the women couldn't play with the men, but at least they made an effort to include them (although I don't think I would have played, because part of my point in wanting to play with the men was to have some competition, not just leisure). I sent my dad the letter that I sent to the "powers that be", and he said I was following in his footsteps, and proud of me for sticking up for myself.

Well, there are other stories from over the years, but this leads me to tonight. I am aware that some of the people who may read this blog may also know some people involved and therefore, I would really like to just keep this short; to what effects me. I am again serving in my church and recently stuck up for myself and those that I serve with. Although others share my opinion, I guess I had the loudest voice, because apparently now I'm the 'bad guy'. What I think happened is that too many people got involved with very minimal communication, and it all came back to me being the cause of the problems. I asked questions and stuck up for my organization, and I thought things were happily resolved, but I learned tonight, quite by accident, that I was wrong. As I was walking through the hall to hang up a sign, I overheard two WOMEN talking about ME. IN THE CHURCH. GOSSIP ABOUT ME. One of them I have known for years and she was saying some hurtful things about me and my unwillingness to help and making brash assumptions about me and my character. Well, I continued walking, hung up my sign, then that same woman who I've known for years thanked me for my help. I told her I heard everthing she just said about me and I didn't really appreciate it. I tried to correct her misconceptions and really tried to explain the truth of what was going on and how there was a giant miscommunication. Not sure if it made any difference, but I left there fuming mad. So angry, and really hurt. As I was talking to Ron about it, I realized that this all came about because I'm not a yes man. I saw a problem and voiced my opinion. I then said, "I need to call my dad!" He's always the first I'd call when something like this happened, because he had unconditional support for me, PLUS, of course it would make him proud to see his daughter be firm in a sticky situation (I'm pretty sure he'd support me even if I was wrong, just cause he was that awesome. He'd probably just help me see the error of my ways :)). Since I couldn't call my dad, I called my sister, who is also a lot like dad in that way. I thought that she'd either put me in my place and tell me I'm wrong, or wholeheartedly agree with me. When I relayed the whole story, she told me she's so glad I did what I did, especially confronting the women talking about me, and that I had every right to say all the things I said. Well, I'm glad to have that support, but that still doesn't change the minds of everyone who thinks I'm awful. But the funny thing my sister told me was that she's no longer notorious in only her ward, but the whole stake because she's had to take an issue to the higer level! At least mine is only in 2 wards in our stake so far :). Leave it to those Packer girls to make all those waves!

Since this has been weighing so heavily on my mind tonight, I thought I'd write it out. We'll see how this plays out. I know I have a lot of room to grow, and I still haven't quite learned when it's ok to just keep my mouth shut in situations, but at least this time, I feel like it was right to stick up for myself. It just hurts, plain and simple.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Drive Home--Stopping in Nauvoo

Hopefully this is the last chapter of the report on the Utah trip! So we left Utah in the late afternoon on Wednesday, July 29. Our main plan was to stop in Nauvoo, Illinios for a day or afternoon, and to see what else we had time for. You see, I had to teach a lesson in church on the upcoming Sunday, and Ron and to start teaching a class on Monday, so didn't have a whole lot of time.

We arrived in Nauvoo around 2am Friday morning with the hopes of finding a hotel. I had the AAA books so we could find a hotel, and we discussed stopping before we got to Nauvoo, and staying at a cheap motel somewhere and then just driving into town in the morning. It was my bright idea that with all the people in for the Pageant, there would be lots of hotels to choose from, so we continued on. When we arrived, we saw 3 hotels, only one of which was OPEN that late! Their rates were $100 per night, even with the AAA discount, and that didn't even include a breakfast or anything (I'm all about the continental breakfast). Ron was ready to sleep in the car, but we just made our reservation. When the clerk was checking us in, he told me that he had to put us in for the following day (Friday to Saturday rather than Thursday to Friday), since it was already past midnight, but we would still check out at 11am. But it turns out that he basically booked us for the next night and gave us a night for free. Because I went to check out at 11am, and the woman told us we're not due to check out until Saturday. I explained everything that happened with the guy checking us in at 2am and that we were supposed to check out at 11, and she just said, "as far as we're concerned, you don't need to check out until tomorrow". That ended up being exactly what we needed and then we could enjoy the whole day in Nauvoo, and see the pageant. As it was before, we wouldn't have been able to stay for the pageant.

While in Nauvoo, we took a horse pulled wagon historical tour through the town and saw a lot of the homes and buildings of some of the LDS pioneers of the time. The Nauvoo Temple is beautiful and just shines at the top of a grassy hill. The LDS Saints were driven out of Missouri and settled in Nauvoo in 1839 and overcame amazing obstacles to make it a beautiful city (a big change from the swamp land they started with). Although at the time, it seemed that all they had were obstacles. To be in the city and to phyically see the fruits of their labor was a moving experience for me. I know the set up of the city now can not be exactly what it was like then, but I still felt impressed by what we saw as we learned about the challenges and spirit of the settlers of the land. We didn't go in a ton of the buildings and houses, but we learned how the bricks and guns were made, about the mail system (which wasn't stellar) and lots of other physical things about people of the 1830's. Tough times for sure, even tougher for people who were just trying to find a place they could follow their own faith! After doing some of the tours, we drove a bit out of the town and went to the old saints cemetary. We were the only people there and that was possibly one of the best parts for me. It's wonderful to see the homes and buildings and learn about the history, but those are recreated. The cemetary had tombstones from that time. As I read the names and dates on tombstones, I imagined what the circumstances were and how the family was, etc. My mom told me about the cemetary and I'm so glad she did, because we may have overlooked it, as many of the other tourists seemed to do.

Since we got to keep our hotel room, we went back to try to give Evi a nap (without much luck) and after dinner we headed to watch the pageant, "A Tribute to Joseph Smith". Since Evi didn't sleep, she wasn't the most still 2 year old during the show, but then Ron figured out that if she was right infront of the stage, she was content. So he had her up in front for awhile, and amazingly, she fell asleep on him and we both got to enjoy the rest of the pageant. I couldn't help but think of friends I had that have been in the show over the years. I was just imagining what it would have been like to see the McGraws up there singing and dancing! The show basically followed the settlement of the town and the building of the temple. At the end the actual temple up on the hill was illuminated and was just a perfect ending and so amazing. I was so moved as I sat there watching and impressed by how much those people sacrificed (and would continue to sacrifice). Ok, I could keep going and going, but I'll sum it up to say I'm very glad we could stay the whole day and finish our visit up with the Pageant.

As we headed out, we stopped in Carthage, Illinois, the home of the jail where Joseph and Hyrum Smith were held and killed by a mob of men. I'd say that completed the trip. Before the tour, we watched a video. We were then taken into the house. If I remember the details right, the jailer lived in the home with his family and the jail was upstairs. We went in all the rooms and ended in the room that the mob broke into to shoot Joseph Smith. The missionary leading the tour asked all the children to fold their arms and reverently sit on a rug while the adults sat around the room. When Evi saw all the bigger kids doing that, she folded her little arms and sat right with them. It was pretty cute. The home had a few owners before the church bought it, but the door to that room still has two bullet holes. Hyrum Smith was shot in the face, likely as he was trying to hold the door shut with the other men. Seeing the holes in the door made it pretty easy to visualize it happening. Joseph was shot and fell through the window. Being in that room really completed the whole trip--the touring from the day before, the pageant, and finally the jail.

If you want to learn more about Nauvoo, check out this site. I left there feeling so glad we made the stop and I feel like I learned a lot, and grew spiritually.

Since I had to teach on Sunday, we drove non-stop that day and got home at about 4am. I slept for a few hours, then went to church to teach my lesson. I was actually really excited to teach it too, after listening to a talk by John Bytheway in the car, I was able to use some of his points. Although tired, it went very well and I was glad to have that opportunity.

It was a great trip with a great ending and I'm so glad to have had the chance to go. Being in Utah without my dad had some challenges, and Evi kept asking where Papa was, but we needed it. It was great to be with my sisters and my mom. It was equally great to have the time with Ron and Evi. Family is the best!

Since I had lots of pictures, here's a slideshow of the stop in Nauvoo.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Part two

July 23: After we left the caves, we headed back to Salt Lake to change our clothes and go to the Oquirrh Mountain Temple open house.
*My friend Daphne is currently living in Salt Lake for her job, and she was able to come with us. We went to high school together and have always remained close friends. What a random chance that we're both from Maryland, but we get to meet up in Utah for a night!
*It was beautiful to walk through the temple and see all the beauty it's filled with. Strange though, to see it filled with so many people!
*When we walked past the baptismal font, Evi sat on the floor, took off her shoes and tried to make a run for the "pool". When we stopped her, she cried and struggled to get free because she just wanted to go swimming. It was tough for her to learn that it wasn't a pool!
*It was a neat experience to get to attend this open house. I have never been to one, and I think it's great that the Church lets the public view temples before they are dedicated. Especially neat that the kids get to attend as well!

Friday 7/24
*Family dinner at Tucano's, again. When I went out in April, we went to Tucano's. When we were all there in June, we went to Tucano's. Now we were back in July, and it was time for Tucano's again. It's a Brazilian style restaurant where servers bring meat around and as long as you still want more, they keep bringing you a variety. It's kinda pricey, but if it's your birthday month, you get a free meal (good marketing, because each time we went was for a birthday, and we had a huge group each time!). Well, it was fun to be with the family, but I think I am finished with Tucano's! At least we found out that Evi loves the beef brisket (dipped in ketchup, of course).
*After dinner, we all went to Amy's house. Kris' family was leaving the early the next day, so Ron and the boys had video game fun while the rest of us enjoyed our time together. Ron actually stayed overnight so they could stay up late doing their male bonding video game thing.
Saturday 7/25
*Mom went to work and Ron and I called Amy to see if she wanted to "hike the Y". It had been years since I had done it, Ron never had, and I think Amy had only done it one time, or not at all. Since it had been so long, I seemed to remember it as more of a walk than a hike. Well, I was reminded that it was a little more than a walk in the hills! It was early evening when we got started, and with a 2 1/2 year old, you can't quite go the pace you'd like! We walked down in the dark :).
*We took a nutty detour, supposedly to save time. Instead of walking around a switchback to get up, we cut through a steep incline STRAIGHT UP the mountain. There was a trail through that way, we thought we'd save time. I think we were wrong, but it added to our experience! Ron climbed up that part with Evi on his shoulders. Nutty.
*Ron, Amy and I EACH twisted our ankles, which was actually quite funny. Painful, but hilarious that we all did it. Good thing Evi made it out ok!
*The view from the top is fantastic. You feel like you're on top of everything (even though there are taller mountains right behind you)!
*After playing around with some of the features on our camera, I learned that I could get some cool looking night shots!
*Little Ceaser's $5 hot and ready pizza on the way home was a great way to quench our mountain climbing hunger!





July 26: Dinner at Erin's and lots more family time.
July 27-28: Ogden
*We got to stay with Ron's grandparents for a few days. They have a great deck off the back of their house that gets a cool breeze, so we spent a lot of time chatting and eating out there. We went to eat together, grilled steaks, and enjoyed our visit.
*Evi found a permanent marker after her nap and decided to color the rug in front of the dog cage, rather than come upstairs and join the family! Fortunately, most of the marker actually came out, but man she had me nervous.
*Ron's grandparents suggested we go see The Proposal. So we put Evi in bed and headed off for a rare date! The funny thing is, Ron never would have voluntarily gone to see a "chick flick" on a night out, but I think since his grandparents suggested it and offered to tend Evi, he was in. I thought it was pretty funny, so I'm glad we got to go!
*Evi absolutely adores their dog, although I'm not sure the dog feels the same! We ran around with the dog outside, and even fed some of the neighbors horses some carrots. I know that Evi had a wonderful time visiting her great grandparents!

Wednesday 7/29
*Time to head home :(
*Stopped off at AAA to pick up some maps and tour books for the trip. I was NOT going to drive all the way home without some learning along the way!
*I was in no hurry to leave and ended up doing a bunch of yardwork before we left. Mom had a huge plant over growing the sidewalk, so I found some clippers and started trimming it....and that started a snowball effect of yardwork! Amy had come up too, so she joined in the fun....until she accidently clipped right through the extension cord :)!
*Mom had come home from work early, so we got some more time together with Amy and Mom. Eventually, we were on our way :(


*Of course there were trips to Cafe Rio and Jamba Juice in there, but I didn't document them. But they were yummy, of course!
*It was a fantastic trip and so worth while. I am so glad we decided to still go, even though we had already gone out in June for Dad's funeral. I, of course, can not get enough family time. Ron is just super supportive and I know he enjoyed the trip also (plus we got to see his family too!). Evi adores playing with her cousins, "the boys" and I'm so glad she had the opportunity. It was good for our litte family also. Having all the time together was really important to us and, dare I say, I would do the drive again!
I'll do our drive home post next, since we had our big stop in Nauvoo. One parting shot from our walk down the mountain. This was after I figured out some of the features on the camera and I love this picture of my smiling girl!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Part 1 of the Drive to Utah

On July 16, we started our family drive to Utah for a vacation. Since we were both able to go to Utah in June for my dad's funeral, we debated whether or not to go out in July (although it was pre-planned). We never found a good deal to fly, so it was always: we'll drive or not go. In the end, we decided to go and I am so glad for it. It was such a great trip, and I really needed it. We left Thursday afternoon and arrived on Saturday night.

Highlights of the drive:

*Evi did extremely well, despite the circumstances of sitting in a car seat for 3 days straight. She reached previously unheard levels in her screams on this drive also, but those moments were shortlived. Overall, she was pretty happy playing with her toys, "reading", sleeping and eating in her carseat. Thank goodness. We actually stopped at McDonalds for food (something I haven't done in YEARS), and the happy meal toy (a mini beanie baby ronald mcdonald) kept her entertained for so long-with the help of a funny voice by me and flipping and flying through the car!

*Ron and I memorized the order of all the US Presidents. You would think that I would have done that in high school, when it was required for me to do a report on each president every week for my AP US History class. Nope. But maybe now Mr. Shwartz would be pleased! Just before we left the house, I grabbed some playing cards, and happened to get the deck of US president flash cards that I've been lugging around since 11th grade (and I don't think I've actually ever used them before now). They came in handy and killed a lot of drive time for us!!

*We stopped at Fort Bridger, in Wyoming (only about 2 hours from Salt Lake). I was so ancy from being in the car for so long, I needed some place to stop. We hadn't made any major history/learning stops (something my family always did on drives) for one reason or another, but mainly because our time was limited. At that point in the drive, though, I needed to see something. We happened upon Fort Bridger and explored the grounds of the old trading post turned pioneer settlement turned army post. It was quite extensive and Evi certainly appreciated running all around...until the mosquitoes attacked, and then we hightailed it back to the car. So at least we had one little history jaunt on the drive!!

*The best part?? Arriving here: It's not the house I grew up in, but it has become home.
*Sunday 7/19: we had a huge family dinner at Amy's house. Erin's family had already left for Bear Lake, so it was Krisin and her 3 boys, Amy and her two step daugthers, our mom, and us (side note, Amy's husband wasn't there because he had already been deployed to...Afganistan). Much chaos ensued, but also much fun.

*Monday 7/20: Ogden, then BEAR LAKE!! On the drive north, we stopped in Ogden to visit with Ron's grandparents. He decided to surprise them rather than call, so we showed up and certainly did just that! His grandmother answered the door and saw Evi first, then me, then finally Ron and it hit her who was dropping in on them! We had a good laugh about that! We chatted with them for a little while, and Evi enjoyed playing with their dog, and then we headed up to meet the rest of the family at the Lake.

I had never been to Bear Lake, and it was beautiful!! It's in northern Utah and the Lake is actually part in Utah, and part Idaho. Our hotel was lake front and everything about it was fantastic. As soon as we got all of the cars unloaded, everyone changed into swim suits and headed to the water. Everyone decided to rent a seadoo right away, which was a huge hit. We had it for 2 hours and certainly got full use of it. I actually wasn't going to go since I had been before, but I'm glad I did. It was so much fun!!!!

Evi was content as can be playing in the sand and splashing in the water with her cousins. There was a small pool of water that was perfect for her to play in and I really didn't have to worry too much about her down there (even though I still did). We topped off the fun afternoon with a great dinner together and then game playing. One thing to count on when we all get together is lots and lots of games and laughs. What a fun first day.


*Tuesday 7/21, Day 2 at Bear Lake: We rented a boat for 8 hours no time was wasted! Justin (Erin's husband) had to leave mid-day for a work trip (but spent the morning boating), Kristin's husband had already gone home to Minnesota and Amy's husband was off defending America's freedom, so Ron was elected as the official boat driver for the day! Haha, actually, not really, that's just how it happened cause none of us really wanted to do it, and he really enjoyed it. So he spent, literally, 8 hours on the boat. When I made sandwiches for Evi and me, I thought I'd take one out for Ron since I wasn't sure when he'd come in for a break. That ended up being quite fortunate, since he never came in for a break! We had a tube and skiis with the rental and by the end of the day, Nathan and Joel (14 and 16 years old, to the day. They share a birthday, two years apart!) were doing tricks on the tube (standing up, twisting, just being dare devils). Too bad no one had a camera for that, because they looked pretty cool! In between the boating there was more fun on the beach and enjoying the water and sunshine. After dinner, again, more fun games, of course :).

Picture 1: Evi and her cousins. Picture 2: 4 games of spit. Nathan is grinning because he thinks he'll beat me in a game. Nope!

*Wednesday 7/22, Day 3 at Bear Lake: We tried to ride multiple seater bikes and it didn't work so well. We rented 2 bikes that seated 4/5 adults and 2 kids, with 4 pedals. I was on a bike with Ron, my mom, Sam, and Nathan, with Evi and Timmy in the front kid seats. We kept pedaling and pedaling and didn't really feel it working so well, yet Ron and Sam said it was really difficult. Turns out, something was wrong on the gears and the left side was doing all the work, while the right side was a breeze. So instead of an hour rental, we had the bikes for about 20 minutes (as we circled the block to take it back). Kris' kids suggested that we use the money for the bikes and rent a seadoo again! We got our money back and headed back to the beach. It was a nice idea, but at least because of the bum bike, we got to have more sea doo fun and one last afternoon of beach fun!
The story behind the first picture is that Evi easily learned how to escape our room and wander into the hall. At one point I couldn't find her anywhere and several of the adults started looking in the hall, outside, all over. This time, she didn't escape. Her cousin Joel was reading to her in bed. If you look closely in the second picture, you'll see Ron running after the escapee, Evelyn. She just wanted to go to the beach again :). This was taken from our balcany. How could you not want to run there?

Thursday 7/23, Check out day: We checked out of the hotel and headed north into Idaho to visit the Minntonka Caves. Correction: Ron took Sam, Joel and Nathan to Ogden to go shooting with his grandfather, and the rest of us went to the caves. The blip from the website is: Enjoy a guided 90-minute, half-mile walk into this beautiful cave. Be prepared for the 400 steps up and down in the cave and bring a jacket, since the cave is cool at about 40 degrees year round. It really was a fascinating cave with amazing natural structures everywhere, set in the mountains of Idaho. I carried Evi on many of the stairs up and down, mainly because she would hold up the group trying to do them all herself. But, she made a great effort and did not want to let go of her independence. She also thought it was pretty funny to stick out her tounge, make the zerbert/rasberry noise, then say, "pass gass" and laugh. Oh yes, she did this a great many time and thought she was hilarious. I'm not sure what the other people on the tour thought! Dad would have loved the cave. Mom opted to stay out of the caves, given all the stairs and her bad knees. So inside it was myself, Evi, Erin, her 3 boys, Kris and Amy. It was definitely a good suggestion to head up to the cave before leaving for home.

With that, our time at Bear Lake was over. Ron is itching to go back already!

This is just part 1 of the trip posting. More to follow!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

My sad day

On Friday, August 28th, I had a sad, sad day. I've mentioned my car on this blog before....it's not the best looking car, and it's old, but man is it durable and in it for the long haul. Well, I'm afraid the long haul might have ended yesterday on Route 1. I was headed towards the beltway entrance in my lane that was MOVING, when a woman headed the other direction thought she could go through 2 lanes of oncoming traffic to make her turn. I had no where to go to avoid her, as another car was waiting on the side street to turn. I braked and still tried to steer away, but she got me along the driver's side. And in an instant, my reliable 16 year old car, affectionately (and appropriately) named Grandma, could likely be dead.
I tried to pull it off the main road to not hold up traffic, but the wheel wouldn't go. I got out, and the wheel was shattered, along with most of the car surrounding the wheel. I was shaking and stunned. I had to sit back down because I felt like my legs couldn't hold me up. I haven't been in a real accident since 1994, so this was new territory for me. I called Ron and he came right away with Evi (fortunately she was not with me in the car), since I was about 3 minutes from home! I was trying to think of all the reasons in a accident when you shouldn't call the police, because I didn't want to waste anyone's time. But, I figured since my car wasn't drivable we fit into the ok category for calling.
The first officer (of 3??) asked if we wanted to change the tire and try to drive it home like that, or should we call a tow truck. DUH. I told you I was shaking and stunned. I didn't even think of that as a solution. However, Ron figured that with the car being in the road still and with the unknown if it would drive safely even with a new tire, it would probably be a better/safer solution to have it towed (and since it wasn't my fault, the other driver's insurance would take care of the cost). So I emptied most of the contents of my car and sadly watched it get loaded onto the truck. And it wasn't just towed away, it was taken to the POLICE IMPOUND lot. Why? I know the police called the tow company, but why not tow it to a garage?? Ron asked the driver if he could take it to a garage for us instead of the impound, and the guy said it was likely totaled. I believe his quote was, "I'm not an adjustor, but I've been doing this a long time. With the age of the car and the damage, the cost of fixing it will likely cost more than the value of the car." I'm not gonna lie, I cried. I was very sad to think of losing my car.
It's just a car, I know. And really, with me not working full time anymore and living pretty close to campus, we can probably do just fine with one car. I think this just came too close to losing my father. He and my mom bought the car 9 years ago (from a bank--it was repossessed) so I could drive it at BYU when I lived 20 minutes from campus. Since my family has labeled me "the emotional one", it shouldn't be a surprise that it made me quite emotional to lose the car that my dad bought. It's just too much right now.
The good things are: I walked away. I am fine. Evi was not in the car. I got to go home and at least we have another car. The other driver wasn't injured, neither was her passenger. I was not at fault and her insurance will (at least so far they seem to) pay for everything.
Since it was on Friday, nothing will really happen until Monday or Tuesday. I went to the tow place today to give them the release for the car, because the other insurance company is going to tow it to another location--in WALDORF. From Beltsville to Waldorf. Apparently there is a holding fee where it presently is, so their adjustor can't just go there--they have to take it where they take totaled cars :(, and where they don't have to pay a daily fee. The guy on the phone said they only take cars there when they are 99% sure they are totaled. I guess there's still hope....I'll find out more next week. I tried to just go look at the car today, and couldn't even do that. No access to the vehicle until it's paid for. What a mess.
And the other driver? Hardly any damage to her brand new Rav 4. Why is it brand new, you might wonder? Because she got in another accident earlier this year that totaled her previous car (yes, it was her falut).
Here are some pictures I got from my phone.

In this one you can see scratches all down the rear passenger door. I didn't initially realize that she hit me anywhere besides the front.


Saying goodbye. Ron was telling me to come on and get in the car, but I was tearfully watching this take place. Emotional, I know.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The origin of the look

Michelle, 2 years old____________________Evi, 2 years 4 months old
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