Ella is officially too young to have a friend. Kids her age are supposed to be into parallel play. But, I think that she and Bella must have known each other from the pre-mortal life because they are best friends. That's all there is to it. They love each other. They greet each other with hugs and kisses whenever they see each other. And while there is mostly parallel play, there is also turn taking and sharing and more advanced play. Our friend Amber took this video of the girls while Ella was playing at her house a few weeks ago.

Last week I caught them playing this game with a plastic lion, that, for whatever reason was reducing them to periodic fits of giggles... I hurried and got out my video camera, thrilled with the great footage I was getting, until I realized that I never pushed "record". Sad.

Anyhow, here it is, for the world to see. Ella and Bella, Best Friends Forever.


Merry Christmas. We are enjoying a White Christmas break from our 70 degree weather in Texas while in New Hampshire with Paul's family.

And to those who read my blog for juicy tidbits like when we are out of town, feel free to take whatever you wish. Our car is at my Mom's. Please take that first. We keep the TV in the downstairs closet. It is too ugly for the public. Good luck finding anything else of value. I'd try Craigslist if I were you.


Our joyful child.

No nap today. Ella went to nursery for the first time. And loved it, I might add. By the time choir practice ended and we ate something it was four o'clock, and it seemed silly to put her down for a nap three hours before bedtime. So, Ella hung out with Paul and I while we worked out the kinks in the Christmas program. (Paul is the ward choir director.)

Can I just say that my child is so amazingly joyful? She bounced around the room, just thrilled to be a part of life. Jumping and laughing and teasing and chasing, so pleased to have two parents in the same room. Paul asked me today, "Is every child as happy as Ella?" And I have to say that I don't really know. Probably. Although, I have to say that Ella has an abundance of exuberance.

In any case, it was a wonderful day, despite my emotional preparation for the worst. Ella was just darling. We should skip naptime more often. Although, she was relieved to finally go to bed. Just before Paul took her upstairs to get her dressed for bed, she rummaged through a laundry basket and held out a pair of jammies. It was time.

Only two more Sundays like this, and the Christmas program will be over and we can start coming home from Church at a decent time. It is worth it though, the program will be beautiful, and it has been so fun to see it coming together. I'm just putting this out into the Universe, but I'm open to being ward choir director anytime. It has been such a unique and uplifting experience simply watching. I'd love the chance to do it again.


Good Morning!

Can life really get any better than this? I woke up this morning to a little girl giggling in my ear. She was so pleased she found us in a dark, quiet house, I suppose. I lifted her into bed with us, where she turned over and said, "Dad! Hi!". Except when she says 'hi', it is disyllabic, sounding like this: "ha-eee". Honestly, it is just not fair for all the other families in the world that I got the cutest girl ever in existence.



I have long felt that the true test of parenthood is dealing with vomit. Or, as I like to call it, "throw-up". I haven't called it that since I was a kid, but when I found Ella coated in it Thursday night, throw-up was the term I used most. Maybe it was the fatigue, maybe the memories of childhood illness snaking through the haze of the night, but whatever it was, I kept calling it throw-up and feeling a little bit like a ten year old.

Ella has spit up maybe a total of five times in her entire life. So, really, I have very little experience dealing with bodily fluids that weren't really meant to be expelled. But, I knew my time would come. Every parent must learn to deal with throw-up (yep, and I'm going to keep calling it that) with grace and poise. Or at the very least, without puking all over their child during a time of need. I like to pretend that because I am pregnant I have a weak stomach, so that Paul has to do all of the gross stuff. But, during the whole episode, I only dry heaved, maybe twice. So, don't tell Paul.

All in all, it wasn't too bad. I dragged an extra mattress into Ella's room, and we snuggled and watched a movie on the laptop for a while. (The Happiest Millionaire, actually.) I caught a few more pukes in a bucket, and eventually she fell asleep and has been her happy, loving self ever since.

So, now you know. I have arrived. I am a real parent. Bring on baby number two.


Thanks, little helper of mine.

We bought a toddler bed for Ella. Mostly because we didn't want to buy another crib, and we don't have room for a twin bed (that we already own, but is not assembled) and a crib. We discussed several options before going the toddler bed route. The most memorable option being "Why don't we just put the twin bed mattress on the floor in the front entry-way at night, and stash it in the closet during the day, and Ella can sleep there." You may be able to guess whose idea that was.
I promptly informed Paul that it doesn't matter how poor we are, Ella is not a hobo. She gets a bed. And imagine the bitterness that might begin mounting when a new baby comes to take both her bed and her room.
I picked up the bed last night and Ella and I put it together this morning. It took me about seven minutes to realize that it did not matter where I hid the screws. She would find them and play with them, so I gave up. She was the keeper of the screws.

Until I was finished assembling the bed. Shen then took the screwdriver from screw to screw making sure they were all tight enough.

What a great helper I have. She took a nap on her new bed this afternoon. It was about half as long as usual. I'm hoping that's not a bad omen for what's coming tonight. Wish me luck!


A day in the life...

It's eleven o'clock and we're picking up before we go to bed. And before I put away Ella's play stroller, I realize that I want to forever remember that her favorite thing to push around is not dolls, but footballs. I have, in fact never witnessed her using it for doll, although I tried to show her it's intended use several times in the beginning. Instead footballs and sippy cups occupy the seat of honor. Occasionally a few of her other toys get a turn. But mostly footballs. You have to admit, they fit perfectly.


Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah.

Yes, that is brown sugar. And no, we're not really sure how much she ate before we realized what she had discovered. I do know that in the thirty seconds it took to get a picture of her in the act, she took at least three handfuls of the stuff. And she was in the kitchen for several minutes alone when I thought she was just playing with the mixing bowls. I'm trying not to think about it.

Although, I can't say I really blame her. I myself used to eat straight powdered sugar. But at least I had the decency to hide in the garage while doing so.

I am still giggling at the whole situation. Way to take matters into your own hands, Ella.


I put Ella's hair in pigtails on Sunday. It was darling. Until we got to church and realized she pulled one out. And for the life of me I could not find that tiny hair elastic anywhere in the car. So then I tried a ponytail. But there is simply not enough hair for that. So the end result was the dreaded "pigtail hair"-- which is like hat hair for girls, only worse. Now I know. Bring extra elastics to Church :)



Not quite a year ago, when my sweet Ella was much too young for me to even consider having another baby, I was rocking her to sleep and I just really felt like a new little spirit child was ready to join our family. I could have sworn it was a little boy spirit. And I was so not ready for another baby, boy or girl, but I knew it would be time sooner than I thought.

I decided that I would wait until Ella turned one, and then we could try to get pregnant again. Paul agreed to this plan... but only because, he later informed me, he thought it would take six months to get pregnant the second time, because it took six months to get pregnant the first time. Someone did not explain how the reproductive process works well enough to Paul. He knows now. We got pregnant a week before Ella's first birthday.

So naturally, my thoughts turned to that quiet morning last winter, when I knew a new baby would join our family sooner than later. And I was just sure little Max was speaking to me from across the veil (metaphorically speaking I mean. It was more intuitive than spiritual.) And so I was really excited for this ultrasound, to confirm my women's intuition.

Well, Paul and I have decided that if Max ever wants to join our family, he is going to have to wait. Because Charlotte got here first. And it is too bad that he was so busy poking around in the Spirit World to jump on the last mortality train, because we don't have another one leaving for a good long time. Like five years. Some families can have all of their kids right in a row, but that was not our plan. I made an exception for Max once and I'm not going to do it again :)

But we are thrilled that Charlotte is coming to join us soon! I love having sisters, and we can always hope that Ella didn't inheirit her mother's or her father's propensity to torment and shame her younger sister. We are glad Laurel and Carolyn are so resiliant. Let's hope Charlotte has the same strength... and that she won't need it.


The cat's meow.

We found a halloween costume for Ella. I think it's darling. But she keeps trying to pull it off. I think I'll make her wear it every day until halloween so she can get used to it. That's what good mothers do.


Mother's Day Out

I think that sounds like such a nice name for a day. To me it invokes visions of getting your nails done, or going to a day spa, or perhaps spending frivolously at stylish boutiques. And the day can be a restful and relaxing one, because you know your child is safe in the care of your local Baptist Church. Being nurtured by her teachers, and learning valuable social skills. Although, she will probably not take a very good nap, or eat very well, from missing you all day. Ah, the burden of motherhood, to have a child so dependent upon your every action.

Not. Because, first of all. Ella naps BETTER at Mother's Day Out. Yep. Better. Sleeping on the floor, with a bunch of other toddlers. And does she miss me? There is no evidence to support this theory. I spent the entire first day of Mother's Day Out thinking that I had better pick her up early, because she must be so anxious without me. Not so. She was happy to see me, though. Which was nice. And then, the next week, I agonized all morning before Mother's Day Out that she would have a minor breakdown when she realized she was at 'that place' again. "She won't want me to leave," I thought. Hmmm. Not a second look back. Maybe because their toys are cooler than ours.

I know I am supposed to be proud to have raised such an independent, well-adjusted child, who is confident that her mother will come and pick her up at the end of the day. But really, could she at least miss me as much as I miss her? The car seat looks so lonely back there when she's not in it. And where is that independence when I am cooking dinner? That's what I want to know.

And another thing. There are no spa days for me. I am grocery shopping today. (Which may seem a similar luxury without a toddler in tow. But still.)

Ah well, At least she is being nurtured by the Baptists. It's a pretty nice place. They even have an outdoor playground. And I have no worries that she will adjust well to going to nursery when she is finally old enough. And maybe she will see the other kids talking, and realize she can do that too. And, admittedly, I can't wait to go to the grocery store and not use one of those huge carts with a toy car on them, because those are harder to drive than they look. And there is always the hope that Paul will graduate, and we will be making so much money that I'll have a maid, and a regular appointment at the spa... scheduled of course, at the convenience of the Baptist Church.


I caught a glimpse of myself tonight in a public restroom.

I hope everyone else can tell I'm pregnant. Otherwise, I don't know what they are going to think is going on in there. I somehow (due to my high mirrors, I suppose) had deluded myself into thinking that I wasn't really showing. Surprise! Thanks, public restroom.


6/6/06: In Remembrance

Well, I've got to say 9/9/09 was a day like any other for me. I had this hope that a day defined by such powerful digits would yield powerful results. Alas, it will go down in history as a day that I don't really recall.

6/6/06 on the other hand. That day will live in my memory forever. How vivid my memories are of that fateful day. It was my day off work. A weekday. A great day for errands. I awoke without a care in the world, until, as I was driving through Provo, a strange sight befell my eyes. Weirdos. All over the streets. Hmmm. Perhaps, I thought, I do not venture out enough on Tuesdays for me to be familiar with this picture. On to the Mall. Where I was shocked to find more! They were out in droves. Dressed in black. Heavy eye makeup. I was having flashbacks of Laurel's high school friends. (And Laurel for that matter.) Goths do not go to the Mall! What is going on here?! Every store I hit, every purchase I made was punctuated by the wanna-be walking-dead. Until I went to the bank. I needed to order checks for my new account. It was there that I asked the date. And like the sun rising on a dark world, my day began to make sense. Ah. It is the 6-6-6 groupies. They are gathering.

The bank let me choose the starting check number on my new order of checks. I decided upon 666. It's good to be a groupie.


Dear Reader,

I love maternity clothes. I thought I didn't. But I do. What I am trying to say is, I'm pregnant. Which, we were so ready for, and then we moved, and I just felt so overwhelmed by life, that it kind of took the joy out of it for a while. And then my clothes stopped fitting. And we all know I don't really like clothes anyway. And we're on temporary insurance, which means I have to self-pay at the doctor, so I haven't gone. So, we don't actually know if it's a baby in there. It could be a turtle. So I was waiting to post this exciting news until someone with a degree said, "Yep, it's a baby."

But here's what happened. I got out my box of maternity clothes on a whim. 'Cause my pants are a bit binding. And my shirts ride up a little. You know. And I tried them on. And guess what! I have good taste. I like those clothes. They feel great! Why do I not ALWAYS wear elastic pants!?

And here's the other magical thing that maternity clothes did. I no longer look awkward in the mid-section.

I glow.

Yep, right there, from the belly-button out. And fifteen minutes of wearing maternity clothes before bed made me more excited about being pregnant than I have been in weeks.

(As a side note: I cannot wait until this sweet baby joins our family, and have felt that way since long before we got pregnant. But, our life has just been so tumultuous, I did not know if I could successfully parent two. Because parenting has felt like a failure as of late. It has been a rough transition.)

So, as of tomorrow, I will officially don maternity clothes. And because this step will enable complete strangers to know about this totally intimate process that is happening to me right now, I wanted to make sure that all of the dear ones to my heart find out first.

This baby will be a springtime baby. My guess is early March. If you want another guess, I think it will be a boy, and that we will name him Max. But if I am wrong, you can laugh at me later. Because I would love a Charlotte (because we would call her Charlie). And if we have a turtle, we are gonna have to move. Because that guy will need a back yard.

My heart and prayers go out to both of my Kates. I love you both like crazy.

Weekend update.

I have always wanted to use one of these shopping carts... but Ella always seemed too little. The moment was finally right last weekend. And let me tell you, she loved it. Although she did throw Laurel (who was driving the cart) some dirty looks when her steering wasn't up to Ella's standard.

Ella officially walks, even with shoes on. Still lots of falling involved, but it's getting to be less and less. My cousin Davis wanted to make sure I posted this monumental milestone on the blog. It's been such a work in progress (walking) that I'm not really sure when mostly crawling transitioned into mostly walking. She's just getting so big. She has about ten words that she is using regularly. So that's fun. And basically , she's just a really fun baby.

Happy birthday to Paul today! He's 28. But I like to round up to 30. He is doing great in his MBA program, and he didn't lose that dedication to studying that used to drive me crazy. Now, I'm just glad he works hard. I can take sixteen months of anything. And honestly, it's been really doable. Paul leaves for class at about 8 am. He comes home sometime during the day to eat supper/dinner. And then he typically is back on campus until 10pm or so. It's a lot of work, but the couple of hours during the day really makes a difference, we can just have family time and be together. And then we have some alone time when he gets home. Sometimes he studies here in the evenings, but it's harder for him to get as much done. So, we just kind of take it as it comes. It's not a ton of time together, but it helps that we had a really cohesive summer and spent lots of time with each other. And it helps that I knew what I was getting into when we started this program. They were very clear about their expectations. So, we'll be graduating in just over a year and that makes it really exciting.


Potatoes are a girl's best friend.

While patiently waiting for me to cook dinner, Ella discovered our bag of potatoes. I suppose it was bound to happen sometime, one can only be content with the contents of my cupboards for so long. She is now amusing herself by lovingly carrying this brown beauty around the house. I think I even saw her using it as a phone. That's when you know the potato has reached its full potential, when a girl can hold it up to her ear and have a pretend conversation on it. Thanks, Dinner, for making this moment possible.


Wear and tear on the toothbrush.

For the first time ever, Ella has stopped fighting me when I brush her teeth! Her reward is playing with the toothbrush to her heart's content. Yes, that includes letting her brush my teeth whenever she wants.


My daughter is obsessed with shoes. Which I find funny, since I do my best not to wear shoes if at all possible. So Ella crawls around the house doing her best to fit whatever shoe she can find on her foot. All we have laying around is sandals, and I have to say, that she is a trooper for trying. But it's hard to really figure out where your feet are supposed to go without the huge hole in the middle. I think, come winter, she will have more success.


Another attempt at blogging from my phone.

So, Ella really wanted to try and use silverware tonight. She was reaching for it the whole meal. She made a valiant effort initially. Peas are notoriously hard to keep on a spoon. This was the method she finally adopted. Put the spoon in the pan. Use the other hand to actually get the food. Sweet success.

I find myself surprisingly not busy!

We have officially moved into our new home in College Station. (And by moved in I mean that all of our possessions are inside the house... no guarantees on which box it might be in.) Paul started school on Tuesday. He has two weeks of orientation, which I like to call Summer Camp for Graduate Students. I think he's had a pretty good time. I must admit that the heat has come as a bit of a shock to him. He wrote an email to his parents that described it in this way:
"Boy is it hot. I'm in air conditioning all day so it's not too bad; but when I walk out the air feels like a wall. A very hot wall that wants to suffocate me until I die."
I myself feel relieved to finally be oppressed by the heat again. All that wishy-washy warmth in Idaho... it was hard to tell if it was really summer. Ella and I have gone to the pool every day, I think. And honestly, when you're not wearing clothes, the weather is great! Mostly we stay inside, and try to park in the shade. I do have to go to the grocery store at least once a day, because it is really hard to build up the basic things in one's fridge. And you just don't think about it until you need it.
Ella is almost walking. I'm not really sure what is holding her back, actually. There are moments where she just does it successfully, and then the next minute she's back to the drunken sailor moves. We're not being very pushy this time. I figure she sees us walk all the time, so I can just lead by example. She does love to hold my hand and follow me around the house, or lead me around the house, depending on what's going on. Talking is also a work in progress. She said "more", maybe six times at breakfast two days ago, and now refuses to try it again. Back to the point and squeal method. She kind of marches to her own drummer. If she's in the mood she'll try words, even hard words like strawberry and banana, but if not, she is a pretty effective communicator, so she reverts back to the old standby.
Actually my favorite part of Ella's development right now is that she frequently wants to sit on my lap and read books. And on a regular basis, she lets me read the whole book to her. (For most of Ella's life, I have had to finish the book on my own, just to see what happens.) We have been trying to read books with her since she was tiny, but mostly she would stare off into the distance, or squirm, or outright cry. And you would think to yourself, have the baby book authors ever tried reading a book to a baby? Or do they just wish they had in retrospect? Well, she has arrived. And it is so fun. We probably read ten books a day, maybe even fifteen. (I mean, often it's the same book ten times, but I think that's normal.) It is great. I love reading with her. And the funny thing is, her favorite book right now is about Texas. It might be the dorkiest book I have ever read, but I am growing fond of it. It features oil wells and mariachi musicians, prairie dogs and rattlesnakes. Oh yeah, she is embracing her Texan heritage.
As for me, I am fine. I'm excited to get a calling and start meeting people at church. There is a playgroup in our ward but it's suspended until school starts. We had the missionaries over for dinner this week. It was successful and slug-free. I have already visited the farmer's market twice. Life is good.


Pictures have arrived!

Ella in her birthday outfit from Sudie.

Feeding Shiner, Grandma's new puppy, some of her pimento and cheese sandwich.

Ella's birthday party. A swim party at Grandma Polly's.


I was going to wait for pictures...

but it's taking too long for Laurel to send them. We spent several days in Texas last week. The original purpose of the visit was to attend my grandma's surprise birthday party. (And can my family party!) But the timing was almost miraculous because about two days before we flew out there we decided to attend Texas A&M in the Fall. It was down to that or Notre Dame. And I'll tell you, we really couldn't decide for a while. Texas offered us this wonderful scholarship package. But, we kept saying to ourselves, "but... it's Notre Dame!!" (ND also offered us a scholarship, but because tuition is $40,000 a year, it takes a lot more scholarship to make it affordable.) Because we got our acceptance letter from ND before we even applied at A&M we were pretty much set on going. So it took us a while to mourn the loss of becoming Fighting Irish, and living amongst Catholics. (Bring on the Baptists, baby.) We kept going back and forth, until finally we did a spreadsheet. (It was my idea, not Paul's, ironically enough. But he did insist on color-coding it. Oh, Paul.) And I know that many of you will be surprised to hear this, but it was me who was concerned about the budget, not my legendarily thrifty husband. (It's hard not to be enamored with Notre Dame.)

So, A&M's MBA program begins earlier than I ever would have imagined, and we are now moving in four weeks. AHH! And I will be at Girl's Camp for one of those weeks. And Paul will be in New Hampshire one of those weeks. (He decided he needed a turn to traipse around the country while being a stay-at-home dad. I did go to Texas, like, four times in the ten months I was home with Ella. It's only fair.) So, off we go.

In other news, Ella is now a full year old. (Pictures of the happy event when Laurel emails them to me.) We have green raspberries on our bushes, so we will definitely have raspberries before we move. And we have a buyer who is seriously interested in the house, and two back-ups. So, even though many people thought we were crazy, it turns out Heavenly Father had this worked out all along.

It is just mind-boggling to reflect on the last three months of our life. It has just been a whirlwind of highs (the Spirit, quietly guiding our lives) and lows (anxiety, stress, insecurity, depression, uncertainty). It's easy to say now that it's all working out, but I truly feel blessed to have experienced this. Heavenly Father's hand has rarely been more apparent in my life. I have watched Him take care of my family and maneuver us so so far from where we expected to be. This whole experience has been a miracle.


Slow and steady wins the race.

Well, we've taken down the safety gates. This was originally Paul's doing, because I still cannot help but follow Ella up and down the stairs just in case. I have to admit however, that she just maneuvers those stairs without any trouble. So Paul takes the gate down during the day and lets her have free reign of the house. I'm trying to go with it, because he gets to do things his way since he is now the primary parent. Baby steps.

In any case, I walked upstairs to find my sweet darling like this the other evening. Oh how I long for the days when she would just play with a measuring cup. I was okay with the progression to needing the whole plastic cooking stuff drawer. But climbing all the way in? Oh well, she is now tall enough to reach the third drawer up, where we keep the plastic bags. This is way better than collecting zip-locks strewn about the house.

When I plugged in my camera to upload the drawer photo and looked at all of the other pictures on there, this was my exact thought: "Oh! We went to California!" It was only a week and a half ago. Life really is moving that fast.

I took off Ella's shoes and socks at the cold, northern coast because of my firm belief that everyone needs to know the feeling of sand in your toes. She loved it.

And who can visit Northern California without hitting up the Jelly Belly Factory!!

The redwood forest was incredibly peaceful... until we arrived and my daughter's screeches resonated throughout the wood. One cannot doubt her enthusiasm.


Feeling a little sluggish?

We had the missionaries over for dinner the other night. It was Paul who really summed up the evening: "Well. That was not our finest moment."

It all began with homemade pizza. Naturally when they arrived we had not yet put it in the oven. "Don't worry, Elders, we'll get you out on time!" Well, I used a new dough recipe that was just not holding together very well. So it took a while to get the first pizza in the oven, but finally we did and then we all sat down to start on the salad. "Elders, this lettuce was grown just a couple of miles out of town." I love buying local foods, and I am just so proud to buy local, so I was bragging for quite a while about the salad, and the Co-op, and the Farmer's Market. Well, I'm starting to feel pretty good about myself. I served up a great salad, the pizza should be done any minute now, and I'm calming down from the "pre-dinner panic". (Does anyone else get that feeling when they have guests?)

All of a sudden, Paul shows me his plate. I'm staring at his half eaten salad, wondering what I am supposed to be looking at. It takes about seven seconds for me to see it. A slug. Slugging across the dinner plate. Clearly glad to be free of our locally grown lettuce. And that's when I started screaming like a small child. I do not usually freak out. I'm okay with bugs of many varieties. But it's because I expect them to crawl into my house when it's cold, or fly in when it's dark, or whatever. But who expects a slug to crawl out of your salad?! Not me. So I flipped.

Well, the Elders were amazingly relaxed about the whole slug experience. After I had calmed down, one even said, "You know, it's pretty funny when you think about it." I wasn't in that place quite yet. I'm getting closer.

Well, we were done with our salads. (Obviously.) The pizza should have been done several minutes ago, but it was just taking forever! We wait and wait and wait, until Paul realizes that we turned the oven off after heating the pizza stone. Oh. That would be why it's taking twice as long as usual. Luckily, the rest of the evening goes pretty smoothly.

Paul assures the Elders that all pizza toppings (tomatoes, peppers, olives, onions, etc.) were grown at corporately owned farms, and are therefore slug-free. Thanks, Paul.

Finally, at about ten after the hour (we didn't get the Elders out on time) we sit down for the spiritual message. It was very nice. Until they asked for a ride to their next appointment because they are already fifteen minutes late! AH! Sorry, Elders! We rush them out the door into our car, which is littered with toys and books and purses and blankets from the last road trip. Ah well. Chalk another one up for experience.


I was going to post a picture of Ella playing with her new baby doll, but when I caught her racing around the house with a truck, I decided this won. What a well balanced child I have.

Updates... not too much. This week we're planning on going to California, Davis and San Fransisco, if all goes well. Paul has an MBA interview at UC Davis. I found an organic pick your own strawberry farm near there, so hopefully we'll come home with delicious strawberries. It has been kind of nice to roam the country with Paul so he can attend grad school interviews. Good Times.


Bed head and other news.

I am pleased to announce that Ella's hair is long enough for her to have bed head when she wakes up. I have included a picture for your viewing pleasure. Don't get me wrong, there is still plenty of spareness on the scalp, but where it has come in, it is quite nice. With any luck we may even get a little curl in her hair... one day.
Paul had an interview with a Notre Dame alum today. It was fantastic. They really hit it off. For me the high point was when he said, "I'm going to call Notre Dame and tell them to get you on board." It always makes you feel good when people are clamoring over your husband. We are still waiting to hear back from several schools. Next weekend is the UC Davis interview, which I am thrilled about. I can't wait to pay a visit to Davis, even if most of the people I knew well have moved on (I was in the student ward there). I am hoping that when we get there Paul will feel this burning desire to move to California, because right now UC Davis is his bottom choice. It is my top choice, I think, based solely on climate. Notre Dame... well, let's put it this way: it's colder than Idaho. I didn't even know that was possible. The average high during the hottest month of the year is 83F. That is positively sinful. Sigh.
As for me, I am fine. It's been a rough couple of weeks. This breadwinner stuff isn't all its cracked up to be. I was called as ward camp director, which is really fun. But there is an element of bittersweet because I am really worried about being away from Ella for so long. Paul says he'll come up to camp every day if I want him to, which makes me feel a little better, but with work and camp I feel like I am being forced to let go of the infant stage before I am really ready. I know Ella is old enough to be without me for a few days... but it's just hard. So that's my life. I mean there's other good stuff happening, too. I am really enjoying playgroup, and so does Ella, which is nice. I have great clients at work. We have a couple who seems genuinely interested in buying the house. My husband is cleaning the kitchen really well, when I thought he was going to stop after he finished the dishes. So, there are lots of positives right now, but, like I said, it's just been a rough couple of weeks.
Sorry about the long periods in between posts. I can't promise it's going to get any better this summer. But in the fall, life should calm down a bit. Right?


Drumroll please...

Paul is finished applying for graduate schools!! (Unless we have to resort to the backup schools, whose applications are due later in the summer.) It's the essays that were all the work. The last school we applied to (Notre Dame) was the easiest by far, because we just cut and paste from all of the other essays that Paul wrote for the other schools. They only had one original essay question, out of four. It was: "What, outside of work, inspires you?" My question is, is anyone inspired by work? I am not. At least not the kind that people pay me for. I wish I could get paid to be inspired.
I have considered starting my own church for this very reason. I think I would make an excellent preacher. I liked doing the full-time religion thing, too. The mission was great. Unfortunately, starting a not-true church just might not have the same appeal. Yeah, I guess I'll stick with Truth.
In any case, we are done for now, which really opens Paul's schedule up for: HOUSEWORK!! Yea! He is the stay-at-home parent! No more bathroom cleaning for me, friends. No more vacuuming, or sweeping. And luckily, I never did dishes before, so I am anticipating a pretty sweet lifestyle. Just in time for Mother's Day.


Bring on the heat.

We are in Sunny Arizona this week for Paul's interview at ASU. Carolyn, Paul's sister lives here, so this trip has turned into a fun weekend with her. His interview went great, and we've spent our time basically enjoying the beautiful heat.

Today we visited a hotel resort, and enjoyed the luxury therein. And by visit I mean, snuck in. In our defense, it should have not been so easy if they really didn't want the public to take advantage of their marvelous amenities. They had a lazy river, complete with complimentary tubes, and a waterslide. Ella was too short to ride, but we all took turns holding her so everybody got a chance to go. Seriously fun day. I have a feeling it was made even more fun by the fact that we really weren't "supposed" to be there....

Sweet Ella fell asleep half-way through, so we wrapped her in towels and let her nap on a lounge chair while her Aunt Carolyn sunbathed.

We live a good life.


For the Love of Kate.

One of my old roommates, Katie Jackson, tagged me in her post "10 Things I Love About My Life". Due to the craziness of Paul taking the GMAT (he did great by the way), and me starting a new job (which is fine), and both of us working on the house to get it ready to sell, I didn't read her blog until Sunday morning, and I didn't have time to blog until tonight. I've never done one of these 'tag' things before. But here goes.

Ten Things I Love About My Life (Not Top Ten, just ten):
1 - I love that I have a house filled with plants; they have been making me happy all winter. I love living things.
2 - I love that Ella is a crazy crawling baby who loves to be on her own, but that she is still not too independent to climb onto my lap and cuddle with me for a while.
3 - I love that my husband is done studying for the GMAT! We actually get to interact on a regular basis!
4 - I love the Sun.
5 - I love watching Dancing with the Stars with Paul, because we spend the whole episode critiquing the performances and theorizing about what will happen next. It's the best show to talk through.
6 - I love that we showed the house to a perspective buyer tonight. Life is exciting.
7 - I love the smell of chlorine... it reminds me of summer and swimming.
8 - I love having such a spotless house. I told Paul we should put our house on the market at least once a year, that way we have to throw out all the stuff we think we need but we don't. :)
9 - I love Reed's Dairy ice cream, and the Farmer's Market, and walking to the Library on Saturdays, and all of the other summer activities that we can start doing again.
10 - I love my bed. I have the most comfortable bed ever. In fact, I think I will go there.

Thank you and good night.


Our Sunshine Celebration.

We had a picnic. We cleaned out the garage. We laid on the hammock. We put the indoor plants out for a "spa day".

We live a sweet life.

Our Budding Musician.

Ella has always enjoyed sitting on our laps and "playing" the piano. She now has figured out that she can experience the pure joy of music all by herself. What a precocious child!


I feel so used.

I have been religiously unplugging my cellphone charger while not in use as of late. This behavior is a result of a very convincing commercial I saw on TV while staying in a hotel (since we don't have TV, hotels and the internet are my main source of commercials). I trusted those energy savvy children who informed me that cellphone chargers continue to use electicity while waiting to be used to renew your cell phone. And I have been feeling like a champion of the enery-concious cause as of late, because I am doing my part by unplugging my cellphone charger. I even surreptitiously unplug others' chargers when the opportunity presents itself. It's for the greater good, right? Well, Paul did a little research, which is probably a smart move when you're getting your facts from television commercials, and guess how much energy we are saving a year. Four kWh. Which means that due to my vigilance in unplugging our cellphone chargers, we are saving twenty cents a year! Twenty cents! A year! This is ridiculous!

Why are we making commercials about this!?! Why are we not making commercials about walking more, or growing gardens, or buying locally grown foods, or purchasing used items, or any number of things that by doing only ONCE in a year would save more energy than unplugging our cell phone chargers in that same year! Now these are things that I already do, but for the other folks out there who are looking for a low-hanging fruit kind-of way to celebrate Earth Day, I feel like we're giving them a false sense of security. I can save the planet just by unplugging my cell phone charger? Done!

So, basically, I'm going to continue doing my part for Mother Earth, which I believe includes constantly looking for new ways to cut back, but I'm going to stop being a cell phone charger vigilante. Even if it is out of spite for that TV commercial.


A quick update on life.

It is 11:05pm and way past my bedtime, but I have not been able to wrestle the computer away from my husband for a week and a half. In his defense, he is using it for noble purposes. Paul has decided to attend graduate school in the Fall, so he is studying like crazy to take the GMAT next week. It's kind of a long and insane story, but he quit his job a week and a half ago and has been making a big push to be ready to apply before he misses all the deadlines for the good schools. (I checked out Sam Houston State, and we have until August to apply... let's just call that our back-up. Really really far back.) We have one application in to Arizona State University (they have agreed to accept a late GMAT score). And several more schools in the works: University of California Davis (where I spent 9 months of my mission, that was my idea) (but it has an excellent MBA program as well), Texas A&M, BYU (sigh, I really don't want to go back to Provo), Idaho State University (in case our house doesn't sell), and Oklahoma State (Go Sooners!) (Another back-up). So, I am still at home with Ella full time while Paul prepare to sit his exam, and then on Wednesday, April 15, I begin full time work, and Paul will get to be the full-time dad for a while. So we are still reeling from the last minute decision, but feeling really confident and positive about the whole thing. Paul and I have agreed that we are not really sad about leaving Idaho, but we will dearly miss the wonderful friends we have made here, and our cute little house with its beautiful yard. But there will be other yards, and hopefully our next yard won't have snow on it for six months out of the year. Now it's 11:20pm and I am getting desperate. I need to sleep. I'll post again when I can lure Paul out of the office and commandeer the computer for my own selfish purposes.


Church Antics.

Ella's new "trick" is blowing through her mouth to make a raspberry sound. She got this from me, because I give her tummy raspberries every time I change her diaper to get her to lay still. Well, on Sunday during Sacrament Meeting she decides to practice this newfound skill. Of course Paul eggs her on by making the same sound softly in her ear, and she loves that. What we did not consider was that our pew was surrounded by little kids. So as soon as she starts blowing, so do the other kids. Suddenly there is a chorus of raspberries from our end of the chapel. No less than six children have joined in the fray! There is spittle running down everyone's chin (because they are a little bit young for spit control). Parents are hushing and shushing, except for Paul, that is, who continues to do his part by softly making raspberries in Ella's ear. I was amused.


Mac and Tomato Juice.

Paul's family grew up eating a dish that is called Mac and Tomato Juice. If you can guess by the descriptive title, it consists of maccaroni noodles, tomato juice, and (the secret ingredient) cottage cheese. This meal dates back to the childhood of Paul's father, as far as I can tell, and every branch of the family has its own twist on the meal; some include cheese, some really pile on the cottage cheese, others go heavy on the tomato juice, making more souplike in consistency. I was skeptical of the fare early on in our relationship, but I have grown to love it. (Think lasagna, they are realtives. Except lasagna is a little classier than its cousin M&TJ.)

Well, mark this date down in history. Ella had her first taste of Mac and Tomato Juice this very night! And let me tell you, she is a fan. (Which is a good thing, because if you truly understood the loyalty and love that the Christensens have for this traditional fodder, you would understand the high likelihood of being disowned that would come with any expression of distaste for the meal.) Well, I took pictures, and here they are.

And as a bonus I have included her first foray in to sprouts! (Thanks to the Idaho Falls Co-Op who had sunflower sprouts on sale, and to the Davis California Farmer's Market who introduced me to this yummy treat.) Sorry about the blurriness. She moves constantly when she eats. Actually, she just moves constantly, it's just worse when I'm trying to get a close up :)



I gave a talk in church today.

And here it goes.

I want to begin with a brief personal story, because in some ways this was a very difficult topic to prepare to speak on. After Paul and I had dated for several months, I received a very powerful revelation that the Lord intended me to serve as a full-time missionary. This came as quite a shock, since Paul and I were already very much in love, but I honored that revelation and moved forward. In the months preceding my mission, I faced a number of emotional obstacles; many questioned my decision to serve a mission, noting that women are counseled to serve missions only when there are no immediate marriage prospects. I believe someone even asked me if I had prayed about this decision. (It’s a funny thing not to pray about.) In addition to this, my father passed away unexpectedly during this period, making me yearn for the blessings and comfort that come only in being sealed together as an eternal family. I felt heart-broken that I would be leaving this man I loved so dearly, and knowing that we may never have the opportunity to experience an eternal relationship. I mention this only because for a few brief months, I was an exception to the rule. Knowing that the Lord had a specific plan for me made it easier, but not easy, to listen to doubt-filled remarks, lectures on eternal marriage, and my own emotional weaknesses.
My topic today is Celestial Marriage, and I was constantly reminded of the exceptions that are all around us: those of us who have not yet had the opportunity to marry, or whose marriages have ended in divorce, or those of us who are earnestly seeking eternal marriage while our spouse is content with the more worldly variety. Russell M. Nelson stated “Through the years you will note that apostles and prophets teach the rule. We don’t teach exceptions to the rule. Exceptions are left to individual agency and accountability. The Lord knows we live in an imperfect world.” I pray that each of us today will feel only the sweet assurance of the Spirit of Truth, but for those of us who are reminded of personal pain, I ask you to go to the Lord and seek for a glimpse of his eternal plan for you. Allow his Spirit and love to wash over you and guide you continually back to him.
The title of my talk today comes from a little jewel I found in the Proclamation on the Family. It reads, “Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.” It’s such a small statement, but with such grand implications. I think the key to this is the word founded, implying that the foundation of our families must be built upon the teachings of the Savior. Helaman explains the blessings of choosing this sure foundation in Helaman 5:12. He tells his sons,
“Remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”
Elder Russell M. Nelson tells a story that echoes this principle.
Years ago when Sister Nelson and I had several teenaged daughters, we went on a raft trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.
The first day was beautiful. But on the second day, when we approached Horn Creek rapids and saw that precipitous drop ahead, I was terrified. Floating on a rubber raft, our precious family was about to plunge over a waterfall! Instinctively I put one arm around my wife and the other around our youngest daughter. To protect them, I tried to hold them close to me. But as we reached the precipice, the bended raft became a giant sling and shot me into the air. I landed into the roiling rapids of the river. I had a hard time coming up. Each time I tried to find air, I hit the underside of the raft. My family couldn’t see me, but I could hear them shouting, “Daddy! Where’s Daddy?”
I finally found the side of the raft and rose to the surface. The family pulled my nearly drowned body out of the water. We were thankful to be safely reunited.
The next several days were pleasant and delightful. Then came the last day, when we were to go over Lava Falls, known as the most dangerous drop of the journey. When I saw what was ahead… I reasoned with our family: “No matter what happens, the rubber raft will remain on top of the water. If we cling with all our might to ropes secured to the raft, we can make it. Even if the raft should capsize, we will be all right if we hang tightly to the ropes.”
That we did. We crossed those steep, rough rapids—hanging on for dear life—and all of us made it safely.
Brothers and sisters, I nearly lost my life learning a lesson that I now give to you. As we go through life, even through very rough waters, a father’s instinctive impulse to cling tightly to his wife or to his children may not be the best way to accomplish his objective. Instead, if he will lovingly cling to the Savior and the iron rod of the gospel, his family will want to cling to him and to the Savior.
This lesson is surely not limited to fathers. Regardless of gender, marital status, or age, individuals can choose to link themselves directly to the Savior, hold fast to the rod of His truth, and lead by the light of that truth. By so doing, they become examples of righteousness to whom others will want to cling.
The longer we look, the more we will find on the principle of founding the family on the Lord Jesus Christ. What we must determine now is what a Christ-centered marriage looks like. While pondering on this, I immediately thought of the many Christlike attributes that would lead a marriage toward this definition. Faith, hope, charity and love, virtue, knowledge, patience, humility, and diligence are just a few of the attributes of Christ that we can emulate in order to improve ourselves and our relationships.
But even more than that, a marriage centered on Christ will also be centered on the principle of repentance. I think the Bible dictionary illuminates the concept of repentance by calling it “a change of mind” and “a turning of the heart and will to God.” It goes on to declare that without repentance “there can be no progress.” I am reminded of Billy Joel crooning “Don’t go changing to try to please me.” And it seems that he has missed this crucial doctrine. Indeed it is not only our marriages, but our entire lives that must be fixed upon this godly change.
A Christ-centered life takes advantage of the magnificent blessing that the Atonement brings us; the ability to change and grow and progress every day; that yesterday’s shortcomings, mishaps and failings can be forgotten and improved upon, and we can begin each day as a new person, “born again”. Marriage is a constantly evolving relationship, an unceasing journey toward each other and God. Russell M. Nelson tells us that “temple marriage is not only between husband and wife, it embraces a partnership with God.” I have seen the marriage relationship depicted as a triangle: husband and wife on the bottom two points, and the Lord at the apex. I love this visualization because it is easy to see that as both partners grow closer to the Lord, they also grow closer to one another.
We taught a couple on my mission who seemed relatively happy and in love; we did not notice anything amiss in the relationship. So, as always, we were excited to teach them the principle of eternal marriage. You can imagine my surprise when one partner expressed disinterest in this set-up. He said “I don’t think there is anything wrong with going our separate ways in the next life, maybe we will want to stay together, but maybe we will have different goals and needs, and we will be ready to move on.” I left their home perplexed. Why would anyone want a relationship to be so transient? Looking back, I think it involves this principle of eternal marriage. Celestial marriages are founded on the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. The goals of husband and wife are the same, to receive exaltation in the kingdom of our Father, to be perfected in the Lord Jesus Christ. We do not have to worry about having different desires in the life hereafter or in our earthly lives, for as we grow closer to the Lord, we grow closer to each other, creating an eternal relationship.
To truly reap the blessings of this principle, we should understand the priority marriage must take in our daily lives. Russell M. Nelson shares his observation,
As I meet with priesthood leaders, I often ask about the priorities of their various responsibilities. Usually they mention their important Church duties to which they have been called. Too few remember their responsibilities at home. Yet priesthood offices, keys, callings, and quorums are meant to exalt families. Priesthood authority has been restored so that families can be sealed eternally. So brethren, your foremost priesthood duty is to nurture your marriage—to care for, respect, honor, and love your wife. Be a blessing to her and your children.
I notice that we, as women, sometimes allow the many responsibilities of motherhood to eclipse our responsibilities as wives and companions. Our relationship with our spouse is second only to our relationship with God. And yet, is that how it is treated in the day to day hustle and bustle?
How easy it is to forget this divinely appointed relationship is not merely a convenience designed to ease the burden of children. “The Lord God said, It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him.” From this scripture comes the word “helpmeet”, which we usually use to mean wife. But the original meaning is clear, “I will make him a help meet for him” meaning “a helper suited to him, or worthy of him”. Men and women are designed to complement each other in every way. I love how the Lord tells us the creation story in Genesis; He begins with the simplest, most basic creation on the first day, Night and Day, and progresses onward gaining in complexity, Earth and Seas, grass and herb, fish and fowl, and the beast of the earth. Finally, God creates Adam in his own image, and then noting that “it is not good for man to be alone”, He creates Eve. Adam realizes quickly that he and Eve are meant to be one, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh”, making the Lord’s crowning creation not man or woman, but the eternal partnership between husband and wife. “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”
The Lord designed eternal marriage not only to benefit individuals and families, but to fulfill a major role in his divine plan. Doctrine and Covenants 49:16 reads, “Wherefore, it is lawful that he should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation.” How powerful is that?! Seeking out a celestial marriage in this life enables us to play an immense part in God’s eternal plan for humankind.
I want to end with a story in Matthew 19. This is where the rich young man approaches the Savior and asks “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” The Savior outlines for him the commandments he should be keeping, “Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” And the young man replies “All these have I kept from my youth up”. His situation is like many of ours, we know and understand the commandments, and we are actively seeking to follow our Savior. The key to this story lies in his next question, “What lack I yet?” And just as the Savior answered his query, so can we receive the Lord’s answer to our own question of what we now lack. I encourage each of you to return home and ask your Father in Heaven, “what lack I yet?” and wait for his answer. This is our most important tool in cultivating our celestial relationships. We can know how God would have us move forward, and use his promptings to strengthen our marriages and ourselves.
I know God lives, and that his divine plan has provided a way for us to live as families forever. Jesus Christ is our Savior, and our only way home to our Heavenly Father.


It is for real this time... I think.

Well, this time, I think it is really spring. (Unlike last time.) How opportune that it happened on the first day of Spring. Happy Equinox, everybody! I discovered some crocuses peeking out from their winter slumber. The actual reason I planted crocuses was so that they could be an indicator of the arrival of Spring. It is often hard to judge in Idaho when you rely strictly on the weather. Ella and I ate lunch with the back door open, sitting in the Sun this afternoon. It was gorgeous! And I wore flipflops ALL DAY LONG!! It was in the low sixties today, and my seasonal affect disorder made me feel like everything in the whole world was wonderful. We walked to the library, and Great Harvest Bread, and the local Co-Op. And basically I haven't been in this good of a mood since August.


The Bull Auction.

Well, friends, today Paul, Ella, and I attended a Bull Auction, and it was thrilling. I am not even kidding. You know how when you are in a crowd, and you feel the energy of that crowd, and so even though you have no interest in buying or even looking at a bull, you still feel the universal aura of excitement about an impending auction? Well, that's what it was like. We went and had a yummy lunch (beef) for the pre-auction. (I was hoping they would grill up one of the cows from the herd they were auctioning today, but I realized pretty quickly that that would have been a very expensive meal, we are talking about $5000 bulls.) And then heard a real auctioneer do his thing. It was positively musical. It was even cooler than on the movies. This guy was amazing. I have included a video below (Lot 98). Thanks to Frank (owner of the Riverbend Ranch and Melaleuca) for inviting all of his employees to attend.


Just the two of us: My weekend with...

Ella. Yeah, I know, I should have brought Paul for a romantic weekend away... but he was decidedly tired of traveling, so Ella and I headed down to Provo to see my mom and Archie, who were in town visiting Ella's brand new (sort-of) cousin. (To the McLauchlins: Are our children cousins? I'm okay with it if you are.) Sophia Anna McLauchlin, who you can read more about here.
The irony of the weekend is that I brought two different cameras (video and still) and took no pictures! But it was a nice, relaxing weekend. I stayed at Grandma Christensen's house and got to go out to breakfast with her and Richard and Jess, but the rest of the time I spent at Chase and Christina's. Todd and Lisa came too and we had quite a party. I'll tell you one thing, those McLauchlins sure know how to eat. I'm basically still stuffed from last weekend. :)
I am home safe and sound now, with a husband who tries to convince me that he misses me, but I think secretly enjoys his bachlorhood when he can get it :)


My Pride and Joy.

Today, my wildly intelligent child actually crawled all the way around the couch to "find" me hiding there. Beauty, brains, and physical prowess! This just goes to show what I have suspected all along, Ella is very gifted.

PS I tried to repeat this game and get it on video, for those of you (you know who you are) who are harassing me about capturing her her crawl on video. She clearly decided that what she found the first time wasn't exciting enough to make another trip. So she stuck with the shoe. Maybe one day I will be able to cajole her into crawling on command.

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She Crawls!

Not with the smooth fluidity of an experienced infant... but I can definitely define it as "crawl". The past month or so when people ask if she crawls, my answer would be, "[pause] Well... sort of?" Because, she really gets around, but it wasn't crawling in the traditional sense (i.e. going forward). No more gray area, folks. Ella has joined the ranks of the mobile!


The Art Fair.

Our last day in Phoenix we went to this amazing art festival with nearly five hundred artists, and more funnel cake than anyone could hope for. The finer points of the day: Ella had a cold and Paul and I both wore black shirts, which resulted in abundant snot marks all over both of us. A disgruntled sandal-artisan complained to us that no one was buying his wares, send a salesperson next time. I got a signed poster of the local sherriff who is famous for tough punishments (They have a jail composed entirely of tents. In Phoenix. In the summer.) He wrote: "Ella, stay out of jail. Sherriff Joe" I'm going to frame it for her room. Cowgirls need to be living on the edge of the law, in my opinion. Last, but not least, we ate fresh fried potato chips. Yum. So good. We spent the whole day laughing and talking and enjoying all of the fun stuff that was on display. (Without buying anything... not even sandals.) Yeah for vacation!

In order of people looking at the camera:

Paul, Jess, Carolyn, Chad, Susan.

Am I a blogging machine or what?

Well, it's official. Ella loves to swim, as I knew she would. We had a blast at the pool, and although the weather wasn't that warm (mid-seventies), the pools are HEATED! So it was basically just perfect. It is our new plan to "winter" in Phoenix yearly. Or we could just leave our frozen home permanently... We'll see. :) Here is a picture of Paul, Ella, and Auntie Carolyn (read: "Ahhhn-tee"). Ella got a new tooth in Phoenix, she starting repeating syllables (she is a pro at da-da-da-da, but refuses to go the ma-ma route), so that is her exciting developmental progress. One last Phoenix post and our vacation is over!

Wish they all could be Arizona girls.

For those of you who haven't figured it out, this was a looong vacation. After spending ten days in Texas, we flew to Arizona to begin Vacation: Part Deux. Another seven days of fun in the Sun. Our goal was to not return to Idaho Falls until Spring hit... (No such luck, for those of you who are wondering. However, there is less snow.) While in Phoenix we got to meet "The Boyfriend", Chad. Ella likes playing with his shiny hair. We behaved like gluttons that night, satisfying our large appetites with half-price appetizers at FLO'S Asian Diner. Thanks, Flo. Here are Paul, Ella, Susan, and I on our hike, where we worked up our massive appetites.


Here we all are at the Chihuly exhibit at the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix. (Susan was taking the picture.) I like this one because I think it makes Paul look pregnant :) That is Ella in there, she is just taking a nap. Chihuly is a glass sculptor and they displayed his work among the Cacti and so forth at the Botanical Gardens. This trip was Susan's idea, and I admit I was a bit skeptical, but it was seriously amazing. We spent the whole day there, ate dinner, and came back after dark to see the glass sculptures lit up. It was a beautiful day. We could not have asked for better weather.

Grandma Polly's House

Well, if you can't tell, Ella was thrilled with all of the dogs she met on vacation. Here's Ella and Kayla at Grandma's house. Incidentally, I'm not sure why Paul took this picture, but it's the only four generation picture I got during the trip... so there you go :)

We spent a fun and relaxing day at Grandma's, hanging out by the pool (still too cold to swim), having lunch with Laurel, and then a fun family dinner, with yummy fresh shrimp, they have things like that in Texas, you know. :) Above we have Joy Lea, Jessica Joy, Ella, Joy, and Laurel Beth... one of these things is not like the other :) But we like her anyway.


Two's company... five's a crowd.

Well, Mom and Archie spent a romantic weekend in San Antonio for Valentine's day... the only catch was they had to let Ella, Paul, and me come along. Really, though, is there anything better than a long weekend in the sultry heat of San Antonio, accompanied by three marvelous tag-alongs?!

So we saw the sights, we walked the riverwalk, we remembered the Alamo, we took about a million pictures (mostly Paul and Arch). The one above is courtesy of Paul. And then had an intimate dinner on Valentine's night at the Golden Chick. It was, unfortunately, the only restaurant in LaGrange (home of the "best little whorehouse in Texas") that did not require a reservation. I think Mom and Archie were really glad we came...


Vacation so far.

Ella's first rain storm. Nice and warm.

I personally think Paul makes a great cowboy.

I found my Valentine's Day gift. Hopefully the Houston Museum of Natural Science will be willing to part with it.

It's hard work being on vacation.