Monday, January 19, 2009

Ammon Loses Another Tooth!

Our blog is now officially photo-less. Our camera is bubble wrapped up in a box and sits patiently waiting for somebody to take it to the post office so it can be mailed to the Panasonic Service Center for repair.

So a few nights ago, when Ammon lost another tooth, I felt kind of sad that there would be no photo to document the exciting event (it's his fourth tooth lost, but every single one has been quite a big deal!). We sat at the dinner table and Ammon started wiggling his very loose bottom tooth. It's another one where the adult tooth broke through before the baby tooth had time to fall out. He's like a shark... with multiple layers of teeth! He sat there wiggling it, grossing us all out because it was just sooooo loose. Jacob encouraged him to push it all the way forward, which he did. Then all the way backward... which he did again. Pop! It came out -- just like that.

Just two nights later, Jacob was cleaning out Ammon's pile of papers that came home from school and he found this picture. He must have drawn it a while back when he lost the two front teeth, but it still says it all! I don't feel sad about not having a photo anymore!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Stop... and Listen to the Music, Watch the Rain Fall, Admire the Eagle, Watch the Wind Dance Across Puddles, Enjoy Being With Your Kids...

I am guilty of deleting many forwarded emails. My alone time on the computer is precious. I'd rather get on to the "real" emails, to my blog, to some project I might be working on or to the apartment work I have to do. I'm not sure exactly why, but I opened a forwarded email today, sent to me by my friend Lisa from Idaho. Thank you, Lisa.

It was very timely for me, as I just had the "opportunity" to spend two full days with all three of my children (Ammon and Abe have strep throat so Ammon stayed home from school and we haven't gone anywhere except the doctor's office). During these two days, I had many thoughts about the frustration I could vent in a sarcastically written post about our many mishaps, arguments, fights, and other not-so-pleasant experiences.

Instead, all I can write is that I should have stopped to enjoy the extra time playing with my children. Should've, would've, could've... right??? I will repent and try to do better tomorrow.

Appropriate confession: At one point during the day today, I was yelling at my kids about how they needed to hurry and pick up their toys. I was fed up with being inside our messy home, looking outside at the dreary gray sky and hearing the rain fall onto the ice-covered street. My kids, on the other hand, were not listening to me. Instead, they were just standing at the window fascinated by the way the wind blew across the huge puddles in the street, forming ripples that awoke their imagination into creating an "invisible speedo man" who was running back and forth on the puddles in front of our window. I made them leave the window and clean up their toys.

This article from the Washington Post is long, but fascinating. I also watched the Youtube video. And finally, here is the abridged version of what it's all about. (Sorry for the blue font... I tried my hardest to change it, but failed.)

A Violinist in the Metro
- Something to Think About......
A man stood in the lobby area of the metro station in Washington D.C. and started to play the violin. It was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.
Three minutes went by and a middle-aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, then hurried up to meet his schedule. A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and continued to walk without stopping.
A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but then the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work. The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother pulled him along hurriedly, but the boy stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head back toward the violinist all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, witho ut exception, forced them to move on.
In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people actually stopped and stayed for a while. Twenty-seven people gave him money, but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected about $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any other recognition.
Obviously, no one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the finest classical musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, and he played it with a violin worth $3.5 million.
Two days before this performance in the subway, Joshua Bell had sold out at Symphony Hall in Boston where the seat price averaged $100.
This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by The Washington Post, as part of a social experiment about perception, taste, and priorities of people. The outlines were: In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?
One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the finest musicians in the world playing some of the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing every day?
May you take the time in 2009 to experience
the beauty of the sights and sounds that surround you.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Three Boys and a Princess

My doctor gave me the option of going to Anchorage for what's called a "targeted" ultrasound. I will be almost 35 years old when I deliver the baby, which almost puts me in a higher risk category. I agreed to have the ultrasound (a trip to Anchorage, a cool high-tech ultrasound, a chance to find out the baby's gender, and of course, a confirmation of the baby's state of health... I couldn't resist!).

The appointment started with a meeting with a genetic counselor. She asked me a bunch of questions about my family history (both my and Jacob's sides) and drew a diagram as I gave her the answers. Then she reviewed the results of a quad screen blood test I'd had done about a month earlier. Not only were my results negative (for chromosomal abnormalities in the baby) - they were actually very, very negative.

Next, we (I was joined by my friend Gina) went into the ultrasound room. This part, of course, was way, way, way cool. After having had ultrasounds with three other babies, I now kind of know what I'm looking at on the screen. However, I was still amazed at how much information the doctor was rattling off to her nurse. I just silently sat in amazement that she could see so much from just one image. For example, when she looked at the baby's brain, she listed off a whole bunch of measurements and findings, including the lateral ventricular atria, choroid, cavum septum pellacidum, thalami, ventricles, cerebellum and cisterna magna (yeah... a mouthful, I know!). For the heart, she was able to evaluate the situs, rate, rhythm, chamber size, outflow tract size and orientation, and pulsatility index of the ductus arteriosus. Also included were the axis, pericardium, valves, septae, and aortic and ductal arches (yes... I'm cheating by looking at a list they gave me of what the examination included). In short, IT WAS AMAZING!! The end result: the baby shows no signs of Down syndrome or trisomy 18.

At one very quick point, the doctor asked me if I wanted to know the baby's gender. I hardly had time to answer, "Yes," before she said, "It's a boy," and quickly moved on to check out some other cool stuff. Both Gina and I were amazed at how quickly and how confidently she made this assessment. She did go back later, slowed down and let us newbies see some evidence. THE BABY IS DEFINITELY A BOY! When I told Jacob that it was 100% boy, he had his doubts: "It can't be 100%... there's always room for error." I guess I'll just say that I'm certain enough that I'll be preparing for a boy!

I got home early enough to catch the three kiddos still awake. Ammon and Abraham both guessed that the baby was a boy. We watched the DVD of the ultrasound and closely examined the pictures. It was a very cool experience. Now, we're being more serious about searching for a name (the kids have had some interesting ideas... even Ziya!) and getting ready for May 15.

I'm posting two pictures of the ultrasound and one of the cute little boy outfit Gina helped me find to celebrate (Gina and I both thought the moose theme was very appropriate for our little Alaskan boy). The first picture is a 3D image of the baby's face. It was hard to get a clear shot because he had his face buried in the placenta the whole time (snuggling against it like a pillow!) and he was also constantly nestled against one of his hands (by his mouth on the right side).

We're all very, very excited and happy to know that our baby is healthy and that we will remain a family of boys with a princess in the middle!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

You Know It's Cold When...

A day or two after Christmas (I'm too tired right now to do the research to verify these dates and exact temperatures), our temperatures dropped... and dropped... and kept on dropping. We hit -20 degrees and we thought we were going to die. This happened last winter, too (at the end of January) but if I recall correctly, it only lasted for a few days. So when I saw it happening again, I felt cold, but I wasn't too worried about it. Well, the low temperatures lasted throughout the whole Christmas break. On New Year's Eve, I took a picture of the thermometer in our car reading -22 degrees. That was the lowest I'd personally seen since living in Alaska. Now my camera is broken (thanks to my little Ziya) and I have not been able to snap more pictures (like when I dropped Ammon off for school today and it was -32 degrees). We're three days back into school and we have not warmed up one single bit. As a matter of fact, the last two or three days have only gotten progressively colder. I'm hesitant to say this (again, because I'm too lazy to verify any of it), but I don't believe we've hit anything above about -15 degrees since those days after Christmas. AT LEAST IT FEELS THAT WAY!!!

Thus, the title of this post:
  • My little die-hard outside player, Ammon, only lasts about 2 minutes each time he insists on playing on his hill (which is really the huge snow pile that the plow has made from our parking lot snow). The two or three times he has attempted, he comes in very bravely stating, "I just can't do it. It's waaaayyy too cold!"
  • You start to wish that it would warm up to at least zero degrees.
  • Any and all moisture in your nose immediately freezes when you step outside. This is gross, I know, but it's very, very true! You just take a step outside, do a little sniffle and for a second or two, your nostrils stick to each other. And I won't even go into the details about talking to somebody outside for a while and having to look at the frozen booger hanging off their nose the whole time.
  • Speaking of standing outside talking for a while... you have a hard time forming words after just a few minutes. It's like your face wants to freeze into just one position and all the mouth and facial movement that conversation requires becomes increasingly more difficult the longer you stand outside.
  • You spend more gasoline warming up your car than you do going wherever you have to go. As a matter of fact, after only about a week or so, our Suburban is running near empty... and I haven't gone anywhere... AT ALL (just school, the store, church... all within about two miles of where we live!).
  • Church is truncated to just one hour, Sacrament meeting. The rest of the meetings are canceled because the furnace pooped out and half of the building is freezing cold.
  • You can't see a face on the noble crossing guard at Ammon's school. He is covered from head to toe in arctic gear. I'm surprised he can see well enough to know when there's a kid waiting to cross!
  • The home teachers are given a special assignment to call all of their assigned families to make sure that they are warm enough.
  • Schools don't let the kids out for recess. I think the district's weather policy is that if it's lower than -10 degrees, the kids have to stay indoors. Do you realize what this means? You just spent two straight vacation weeks indoors and your kid is dying to get back to school for recess... only to find that there is none! I don't know how the teachers do it! I don't know how I'm going to do it if this keeps up for too much longer. Talk about CABIN FEVER!!!
  • You burn your fingers opening a door without a glove on. It's the weirdest sensation. It burned for about 1/2 hour when all I did was touch the door knob for about 2 seconds.
  • You have to plug in your car to keep the engine from freezing. A neighbor who went away for the holiday season left her car unplugged. It wouldn't start when she got back so she had to plug it in for two days straight before it would start.
  • Your four and six year old children have a perfect understanding of negative numbers. About a month ago, when we tried to introduce the concept to Ammon for his homework, he was very, very confused. Now he gets it... EASILY!
  • Some water pipes in the apartment building froze. Our life-saver maintenance hero purchased some space heaters to try to thaw them out (mind you, these are for rooms that are already heated!). A few hours later, the parking lot was converted into an ice-skating rink as the pipe burst and water gushed everywhere, immediately freezing, of course. The entire building's water had to be shut off while the necessary repairs were made. Now the new space heaters are staying on round the clock. We're still crossing our fingers!
  • I heard on the radio (a few days ago) that the last time Anchorage temperatures stayed below 0 degrees for more than 14 consecutive days was in 1917. I can't wait to hear what kind of records Kenai is breaking... especially since I'm pretty sure we're significantly colder than Anchorage is right now.
  • Your friends start writing posts like this one entitled "Drastic Temperatures Call for Drastic Measures." (They're escaping to Hawaii... luuuccckkkyyy!)
  • You spend 20 minutes of your precious time just to write a post about how cold it is.
I could probably go on and on (and I may add more to this post after I lie down for the night and think about it some more). The point is, it was -32 degrees when I dropped Ammon off for school this morning. That is 64 degrees below freezing! We are supposedly going to warm up tomorrow or the next day - all the way to 18 degrees above zero. I'm not going to believe it until I see it though. A 50 degree change in just one or two days is kind of hard to believe.

If you can't tell, I'm just a tad bit FED UP!!! If I were a cussing woman, I would probably cuss.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Christmas Eve and Morning

I grew up with tamales for Christmas and Jacob has fond memories of the Lebanese food that the Munyers always had. Well... I don't know how to make tamales and Kenai cuisine does not offer us any Lebanese food, so last year, we decided to preserve the food portion of each of our cultures in our own simplified way. We like to call it TACOS AND TABBOULEH! We did it again this year and it was yuuuummmmmyyyy!

After dinner, we did our Luke 2 reading and re-enactment, and then the kids got to open one present. Unfortunately, they misunderstood and thought that they'd get to open ANY one present... we stuck to our guns and made them open only their pajamas. This wasn't as exciting as the light sabers they knew they were getting (Jacob wrote "To: Jedi Knight in Training" on their gift labels and they figured it out!). There was a tiny bit of disappointment that mami didn't get the sewing done (or even started, for that matter) and the pajamas were purchased and not totally matching each other. But we all survived. We put the cookies and carrot sticks out for Santa, wrote him a brief note and went to bed.

Ammon was up twice during the night. Abraham, on the other hand, walked right past the tree and had no clue what was going on for several minutes. We woke Ziya up and let all the fun begin.

I made a collage, but I also put the exact same pictures in a slide show so that grandmas can snag a few if they want to.

Family Nativity

Once we finally got all the costumes situated (I especially like the black Darth Vader capes serving as wise men's and shepherd's cloaks!), we re-enacted Luke 2. It was quick, but special. We tried really hard this season to keep our focus on the true meaning of Christmas, but it got tricky when Christmas Eve actually came and the kids knew they were going to get to open one present.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed taking a few very special minutes to remind our children of the miracle and great blessing that Christ's birth really is in our lives.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Preschool Christmas Celebration

We hosted Abraham's preschool Christmas celebration. I found a really cute Nativity poem with Christmas songs to sing intermittently. The kids came prepared with their costumes and they did a great job. It was all very sweet.

We also did a craft and ate carrot sticks (in commemoration of Santa's reindeer, who also need to be remembered on Christmas Eve). I did let the kids help me with the many goodie plates we'd received. They were in heaven and I was relieved that I wouldn't have to eat them all by myself!

They Did and Said the Darnedest Things This Season!

Decorating for Christmas

Christmas decorating for us has been very, very blessed since we've lived in Kenai. We moved here with NO Christmas decorations and NO desire to buy and accumulate a bunch of stuff that we'd have to deal with getting rid of or moving in just a couple of years. For two years, an angel sister in our ward literally handed us her boxes of Christmas decorations (TREE AND TRIMMINGS AND ALL!) while she went to Arizona to spend the month with family. This year she has moved away and I wondered what we would do.

I was thinking about what we'd do for a tree when into my remembrance popped (or was inspired?) an image of an artificial tree crouching in a corner in a dark, cold, untouched for years storage room here at the apartments we manage. Jacob went to see if all the pieces were there and lo and behold! we had a tree! I found red and gold bulbs at Joann's for about $2.00, our star was a primary lesson project that Ammon had brought home several weeks earlier and we made red "doves" from the Friend magazine (scroll down to "Bird Ornament"). Our only splurge was getting really cute "Alaska" ornaments for the kids at the craft fair (to add to our Fred Meyer's after Christmas clearance Alaskan ornaments from last year). A cute old lady makes them from bread dough. I love that they are of little Native Alaskan children (Ammon's is on a whale, Abe's is on a little raft playing with a seal and Ziya's is picking berries) and I love that they were made by a real Alaskan lady. A couple of $1 boxes of lights completed our tree. After we got everything up on the tree, Ammon and Abe had fun playing with the camera taking all these close ups of the ornaments.

The same angel sister who loaned us her decorations also gave us this 24 days of Christmas hanging decoration. I've struggled with being creative about what to put in the tiny little pockets. For two years now, we've used it for about a week and then my creativity dwindled and it went forgotten. This year, with the help of the Friend magazine again, I knew exactly what to put in each pocket. I printed this page from the Friend (see the "Activity") and cut out the scriptures to read for each day. They fit perfectly in the pockets, they kept the focus on our Savior and not on candy treats each day, and the kids were excited about it for the whole month (well, almost... we started about a week late!). We missed some days, but it only leaves us room for improvement next year. I actually "laminated" the little scriptures with contact paper and I hope to make this a Christmas tradition for years and years to come.

My talented quilter friend Krista showed me how to make these stockings last year (the kids added a random stocking we had for the baby... he or she will hopefully have a matching one next Christmas), but we didn't have anywhere to hang them. Thanks to our dedicated Enrichment leaders, we had a fantastic Super Saturday activity this year and I made this wood board with vinyl lettering on it.

How could I almost forget my least favorite Christmas decoration? This was a white elephant gift that we got at a staff party our first Christmas here. It almost got snatched away from us (wishful thinking)... This rock n'roll Santa sings and dances when you clap your hands, or when you walk by or when you breathe. Thankfully, in his third year in our home, his performing abilities are dwindling and I actually didn't have to hear too much of him this season. Whew.

When I actually stop for long enough to think about things, I realize just how blessed we are. I know that Christmas decorating shouldn't be such a big deal, but when kids are young, it kind of has to be. I'm just thankful that He who knows the very details of our lives blessed us in so many little (but huge) ways.

Christmas Comes to Kenai

For the past two years, I have jetted to Anchorage with friends right after our Thanksgiving meal for Black Friday shopping. This year, I decided that since it very well could be my last Christmas in Kenai, I'd very well better stay in town and experience the local festivities! I'm so glad I did this! I got to experience the big craft fair held at the high school. A friend from Church actually asked me to work at the craft fair as "undercover security." I got to walk around for hours on end and pretend to be shopping. Really, I was looking for shoplifters. I never was too clear about what I was supposed to do if I encountered one; thankfully, I didn't have to experience that. I did enjoy walking around and looking at every single item at the craft fair... several times over! It was also very good exercise. I wizened up the second day and wore tennis shoes for the event!

Later in the evening, we met the Maws and Johnsons and crammed into the Maws car for the light parade. I just looked online to see what the temperature was that night and the weather page is telling me that it was 32 degrees! I don't think so! It was much, much colder. The wind was blowing and it was actually quite miserable. Fortunately, there was room for me to stay in the heated car with Ziya and Holly. The floats (I'm being generous calling them that) were alright. The kids loved them and I kept reminding myself that this is what was important! Santa appeared on a fire truck - this was their favorite.

Afterwards, we all walked the 1/2 block distance to the Visitor's Center where they had a humongous pile of wood palates for burning a gigantic bonfire. We'd been watching the wood pile up for several weeks so we were excited to see just how big the fire actually got. We were not disappointed! Where, oh where, was the camera??

Some of us walked to the coffee hut to get hot chocolate while Jacob and the boys played with about 100 other Kenai kids on a huge snow pile. It was like a city snow ball fight. They loved it. I got away as quickly as I could! After a while, we all met up again at Holly's dad's office for indoor box seats to watch the fireworks! This was also a lot of fun.

It was a fun way to start off the holidays. We got our tree and decorations up at home and we were all ready to let the joy begin! Oh, and lest I forget, I did actually get to do some Black Friday shopping... Soldotna style! Kaarin and I hit Joann's, Fred Meyer's, Gottschalks and TrustWorthy. Exciting stuff.

Ammon's Christmas Program

This year Ammon participated in his first Christmas program. His school puts on a big program every year, but kindergarteners don't participate, so this was his first time. He was excited, but I could also tell he was nervous. I was nervous for him as well. I know he doesn't like to be in front of big crowds and this crowd filled the high school auditorium!

We took this first picture next to the giant snowman decoration that he made. I love the snowman's ears! The walls were plastered with these. All of the kids were very proud of their wall decorations.

In this group shot, Ammon is at the very top left corner of the group. He and his friend Anna have stood next to each other in every single program they've done since kindergarten. They are very proud of being the tallest in their group! I like it cause I can always find him easily!

This is the part that made me get tears in my eyes. Ammon had a part playing a song on a xylophone. Ms. Larson, the music teacher is amazing. In this one little song, I could see that she taught these kids so much about music (rhythm, notes, synchronization, etc.) and instruments (their instrument "etiquette" was impressive).

And we couldn't leave the program without snapping a picture of Ammon and Jimmy, one of his best buds. This is the same boy that bit Ammon a few times at the beginning of the school year. I love that kids are so forgiving!

Little did I know that this would be the closest we'd ever get to having a "Santa" picture this year! Every time we had an opportunity, the kids just shied away. I tried to tell them that Santa might get his feelings hurt and not bring presents, but this didn't seem to faze them. They got as far as getting in line for a candy cane, but when it came time to sit on Santa's lap, they refused! Oh well.

Even sadder than not having a Santa picture, is that Ziya wasn't even in the attempted picture! She was with Leaca and Raquel burning a 103 degree fever! Our angel friends lovingly watched her so that we wouldn't have to miss the program. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thanksgiving 2008

We spent Thanksgiving with our good friends, the Chadwicks. Youngs and Hatches were also there, along with the missionaries and a couple other of the Chadwicks' family friends. We started the day early, meeting at the Nikiski High School gym to work up an appetite. We all started a friendly game of dodgeball, but when it started to get not-so-friendly, the little kids went to the other side of the gym to play kickball. This is where I hung out and had a great time! I love these blurry pictures of Ammon and Abe running. They had a grand time. Even Ziya got some really good kicks. I also managed to snap this picture of Jacob on the ground just after somebody must have clobbered him with a ball.

We moved the party to the Chadwicks' home and feasted big time. We contributed some of my all-time favorites: funeral potatoes, my mom's yummy yams, Erin's artichoke dip and a new recipe pie that I tried -- a white chocolate pumpkin cheesecake! Ymmmmm! All of the food was divine. The company was fabulous. The game (Snerts, I think it's called) was challenging, but fun (I'm not much of a card player!). The kids had a terrific time running and screaming and playing with Owen and Tate. Jacob loved talking local high school sports with Lee. All in all, it was wonderful!

Diggin' for Gold

I was just looking through a bunch of pictures and these made me laugh out loud. We have been working on teaching better table manners in our home (ha, ha!). One day, I got fed up and just told the boys that if they couldn't behave, they'd just have to leave the table. It must have been one of those evenings for me because on this particular day, Ammon got up and left without an explanation. He kept peeking around the corner and then he'd run away again busting up with laughter. I was starting to get annoyed and was trying to explain that this was WAY more disruptive than just laughing at the table (no, I don't teach my kids not to laugh at the table!). Anyway, this happened about five times before I realized what he was laughing about. Ziya was sitting there picking her nose... INTENTIONALLY trying to make him laugh hysterically and get into trouble. We all started laughing uncontrollably and she kept right on doing it, loving the attention.

Side note: those cute little baby boy clothes hanging in the background are for my friend Tiffany (well, they're actually for her new little Connor). Seeing as that's a Thanksgiving picture hanging on the wall and the little outfits are still hanging there today, I'm realizing that it's probably about time to give them the gift... and stop waiting for the stars to align when I actually remember to get a cute "boy" gift bag and a card. Tiffany, maybe you'll finally get these on Sunday... even if you get them in a grocery sack!

Irony... Good Intentions... The Story of My Life

I think it's kind of ironic that the picture and title sitting at the top of my blog for the past month has been "Just Do It"... and I haven't been doin' it! But I'm determined to start the new year off right... even though it is just about eight minutes before officially being the 2nd of January. I AM starting this post on THIS, the first day of 2009!

Now I think I'll just start looking through all our pics and deciding where I should try to start!