21 August 2019
Arizona... a place to visit but not to live. At least in my opinion. I had the opportunity to go to Phoenix for a day with my boss to do some work stuff. I had some fun noting some of the differences between Arizona and Portland. In no particular order:
The temperature! OK, so this is a gimme but I completely failed to check the weather forecast. I just knew it would probably be sunny and warm. When the plane landed and I turned my phone on, I discovered it was already 98 degrees at 9:30 am, and the forecast was for 113! When I boarded the plane in the afternoon to return home, it was 114. Yikes!
- Kids' play structures built underneath big shady canopies. Yes, there are "covered" recess areas at Portland schools but I chuckled at the completely different reasons for the coverings. In Portland, it's to give the kids somewhere dry to play. In Arizona, it's to give the kids somewhere cool (and safe!) to play.
Color. In Portland, there is a lot of color. Most often it is green but in fall there is a whole rainbow of foliage. There are green spots in Phoenix but most of the landscaping is rock/dirt/other things that don't need water. From the air, pretty much the only green I saw was next to rivers when descending into Phoenix while everything around Portland is green.
It was fun to see cacti and palm trees I'll admit. I did find it quite interesting that some of the cell phone towers are made to resemble palm trees. The taxi driver called them "metal palm trees."
- Pools -- everywhere. I didn't get a picture from the plane but as we were descending, I saw countless pools. In some neighborhoods, I saw pools in every single back yard!
- Architecture certainly differs. It's very easy to see the impact of the Native American and Mexican cultures in Arizona.
My favorite picture of the day, though, was taken by my boss while we were ascending from Portland. On my side of the plane, I had a view of the city. On his side of the plane, however, was this.
24 July 2019
My children love to read. Actually, that doesn't do it justice. It's probably more accurate to say they are obsessed with reading. All three of them. The Harry Potter books are the big favorite currently. Cody has figured out which chapters of the books he likes the best and he will read those over and over. He'll also listen to those chapters from the audiobooks when in the car (to avoid carsickness), to the extent that he can quote his favorite lines. The day I bought the kindle version of the whole series and put them on the kids' Kindles was a very happy one indeed. It's funny sometimes to look back and remember how much Marisol loathed reading when she first came to us. She would put up a huge fuss anytime we tried to get her to read with or to us. Thankfully, she's had some wonderful teachers and opportunities which have helped to build her confidence.
So, why do I mention this, especially since anyone who reads this blog would already know that? Well, I was looking at some pictures today and saw one of Marisol reading a book to Cody, back in the days before Cody could read and I guess I got a little nostalgic.
9 June 2019
The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures
The above is a verse from Amazing Grace, at least the version performed by The Choir at Temple Square (previously the Mormon Tabernacle Choir). I'll admit that this song isn't one that I've ever sung in Church. It is, however, a well known and much beloved song for many, including myself. I love the message of how we, in our imperfections, have access to God's help through this life and can live with Him eternally after this life. Recently this verse has been rolling through my head. The last almost two years have been filled with trials for my family, sometimes feeling unbearaby hard. It's easy to complain during these kinds of times and feel we are being asked to do more than is reasonable or even possible. There have certainly been days and times I've wondered why all this has had to happen to my family, if we did anything that merits such 'punishment.' I'll admit I've felt abandoned at times. But even in those times, I found that I just couldn't completely turn my back on Him, my eternal Heavenly Father. Instead, I've remembered examples of others who were also put in situations that they didn't deserve.
- In the Bible, Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. Later, he was falsely accused and imprisoned. He could have given up but instead, he made the best of it, even to where he was put in charge of all the prisoners. The scripture says that Lord made anything Joseph did be successful. In time, he interpreted the Pharoah's dreams and saved not only the Egyptians but also the lives of the brothers who had sold him.
- Another example from the Bible is Daniel and his friends. For doing what he knew to be right (saying his prayers), Daniel spent the night in a den of lions, where an angel saved him. Later, his friends refused to worship an idol. When the king asked them about it, they boldly declared that they did not because they woshipped the God of Israel. They said God could save them from the king but were also willing to accept that He may not do so. In anger, the king ordered them thrown into a furnace, heated to such a degree that the men tasked with throwing them in died from the heat. When the king looked into the furnace, he saw that they three men were no longer bound and accompanied by a fourth. He summoned them and discovered they were not burned at all. They didn't even smell like smoke.
- In the Book of Mormon, a group of Christian converts escaped the wicked King Noah only to find themselves being subjected to his successor when a group of his soldiers lost their way while chasing another group. Instead of blaming God for their challenges, they turned to Him, praying in their hearts when vocal prayers were banned. In response, He eased their burdens such that they they couldn't even feel them on their backs as they submitted cheefully to their taskmasters.
- Much later, Joseph Smith languished in Liberty Jail for a few months, eventually crying out "O God, where art thou?" He was reminded that all these things give experience and that the Savior had already descended below anything we could experience.
On a completely different topic, Marisol celebrated her 12th birthday this last week. She's loves all things unicorn and seems excited for middle school - except that the first day of 6th grade is one day earlier to give them the chance to get used to the new building and schedule of changing classes. I think it's a little cute how she's worried about that before the last day of school for 5th grade has even happened!
23 May 2019
Ten years. On one hand, it feels like the time has passed in a blink while on the other if feels like it's been an eternity. The initial anguish of the loss has been replaced with an ever-present ache in my heart. Not so much that life can't be lived. There have been times of joy and fun mixed in with the sorrow. But the ache and longing do remain. The memories are revisited often.
I wonder what personalities Thomas and Kai have. What their talents and interests may be. I say 'have' because I know their spirits live on. I don't know why their time in their mortal bodies was so brief, but I do know that death is not the end. My twin boys are in the Spirit World, hopefully working hard to prepare those there for the eventual Judgement Day that must come to all. But I hope, perhaps selfishly, that they check in on me from time to time. That perhaps they are there silently cheering me on or bouying me up during those times when the weight of my struggles and difficulties feels crushing. When my time in mortality eventually ends, I hope and pray that they will be there to greet me with a hug -- or several years worth of hugs. That's actually saying something for me since - in general - I detest hugs. In spite of that, I really want to hug them, love them, talk to them. That'll happen someday.
For now, life goes on. Ten years may have passed, but the impact of their short lives remains with me. My children look forward to being able to meet their brothers someday. I look forward to having all five of my children together.
14 May 2019
When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know; But when you listen, you may learn something new. - Dalai Lama
I have this quote on Jake's fridge, along with several others. This particular one I chose because Jake can be a nonstop chatterbox of (mostly) nonsense. Seriously, he can talk for more than an hour to himself. When he first read the quote, his instant reaction was to find a problem with it - specifically that when we ask questions, we aren't necessarily repeating what we already know. Instead of just reflecting on the wisdom of the statement, he decided to attack the details. He does that a lot actually but I won't get into that here.
Cody read that quote today. He thought for a minute and then said "that's very, very true."
Two sons, two completely different reactions. Every parent of multiple kids knows that each kid is different. Not better or worse -- just different.
12 May 2019
Mothers' Day -- not really a day I was looking forward to this year. Jake is trying to mature but he often loses his temper, which he directs at me. Marisol is not a whit behind her brother in terms of having the stereotypical teenage attitude so her negative emotions tend to be directed to me as well. My husband was obviously remembering the amazing Mothers' Day surprise they'd all pulled off last year -- the memory of which seemed to cause some feelings of mourning that the foster kids are not here. Sometimes I think that only Cody actually loves me or even cares that I'm around. When I went grocery shopping yesterday, Cody announced his desire to get some flowers for Mothers' Day. He went over, chose the ones he wanted, and put them in the cart while saying he loved me. I'll admit it was a little weird to be buying my own Mothers' Day flowers but I didn't really mind since Cody had picked them out -- on his own and because he wanted to. No one told him to do it. He just wanted to do something nice.
So, my expectations for today were pretty low. Good thing too since no one tried to do anything. No breakfast in bed, no box of chocolates, no one offering to wash the backlog of dishes piled up in the sink. What there was, however, was a delicious BBQ dinner. I've learned in recent years that if I want something special for dinner, I need to plan on doing it myself. Otherwise, it doesn't turn out very well. I knew yesterday that I wanted a tasty dinner, so I got the needed materials. I knew the weather would be perfect for a BBQ. I was determined to have a special dinner, even if it was the only special thing that happened.
And it was delicious.
I guess I'm just recognizing that Mothers' Day isn't always the picture-perfect scene... and that it's good to make the best of whatever the situation presents.
One lady in Church today shared how she's had many different kinds of Mothers' Day over the years. There were those when she wanted to be a mother but hadn't had kids yet. There was the year she suffered from post-partum depression after having her first child a few weeks before. There were years she was pregnant on Mothers' Day. There were Mothers' Days when all the young children were crying and/or fussing in the morning while she tried to get them ready for Church. She's had the Mothers' Day phone calls from missionary sons serving abroad.
One speaker in Church said it pretty well today. He commented that there are moments when motherhood is rainbows and flowers, but most of the time, it's just plain hard work. He's got that right. It can be so very hard... but those moments that make it all worthwhile do come. Marisol sat next to me for a while today, just reading. Cody's grin just melts my heart whenever he gives me a hug and says he loves me. Jake was well-behaved for several days this last week.
As frustrated and impatient as I may feel at times, I do love my children and they love me. They may forget it sometimes, or fail to show it, but those times serve as reminders for how often I failed to fully appreciate my own mother. I know there were times when I was stingy with my gratitude for the many things she did for me, both big and small. I'm sure there were times when I was a royal pain. I only remember a handful of them but I'm sure there were more. There were undoubtedly times when I treated her with some level of disrespect or whined/complained when she asked me to help out with some household task. But all the while, she was there for me. And still is.
I love you, Mom.
28 April 2019
"Maybe some moments weren't so perfect
Maybe some memories not so sweet
But we have to know some bad times
Or our lives are incomplete." - from How Does a Moment Last Forever in the 2017 version of Beauty and the Beast
Opposition is to be expected in life. We'd never learn of the triumph of getting up if we never fall down, the blessing of health if we never got sick, the deliciousness that is ice cream if we never tasted the ickiness that is most vegetables.
But I wonder if sometimes we allow those 'bad times' to have more power over us than is needed.
Just a thought that's been rolling through my head.
5 April 2019
Life continues to march onward. The trees and flowers are in various states of bloom, which seems to be an annoyance to Jake because I keep taking pictures of the pretty flowers as we walk to/from school. Maybe I'll get the Q1 pic page made this weekend. We'll see. It's also General Conference weekend so that will keep us pretty busy too.
Jake had a grading day today. Since he recently complained that I don't spend enough time with him, I gave him the task of figuring out a way that I can spend more time with him (meaning quality time, not just time in the same room) while still allowing for 8 hours of sleep/night and 40 hours of work time. I think he'll find it's a tough task, though I am encouraged by the fact that he seems to want more time together.
Marisol has claimed my Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites book, even taking it to school to read becase she got so pulled into it. I remember falling in love with it myself, back when the series was a lot shorter. It seems that she's also bein sucked into the world of Hyrule Warriors with Cody and me, usually with the two of them taking turns but sometimes I let the two of them play together.
After Cody complained that he didn't want to go to school because "they are just doing 1+2=3. It's preschool stuff!" (not exactly accurate, technically they were learning how to do 10+20=30...), his teacher started giving him some multiplication sheets instead. He's much happier with the additional challenge. It seems some of his classmates have noticed and are trying to join him in doing the multiplication sheets. He says he's teaching "multiplication club" with a sense of pride. I wonder if he's going to mess up the lesson plans for his teachers in the next few years by exposing his classmates early to concepts they'd usually learn later.
20 March 2019
Marisol's youth group was involved in a service project yesterday, doing some packing at the Food Bank. In the days leading up to it, she was moaning and groaning about how much she didn't want to go, how it would be boring, etc. I'll admit it made me remember when I was her age and thought the same thing about service projects. Fortunately, I also remembered how I was usually glad that I'd gone, even if I'd gone under diress, so I didn't give in to her whining. She went to the activity. Then, last night, she signed the family prayer. In it, she expressed gratitude that she could go to Young Women's, something she often says after an activity. Afterward, I asked if it was just habit that made her say that or had she actually had fun? The sly grin that stole across her face said it all. I know there will be other times when she won't want to go to something but she'll have this one to look back on and remember the joy she felt from serving others.
Cody has worked his way through the entire Harry Potter series, including the script for the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play. Yes, he listened to some of it in the car sometimes and we read some together at bedtimes, but he easily read at leat 3/4 of it all himself. He's in first grade. His classmates are reading much smaller books with some getting into simple chapter books. A few weeks ago, Cody complained that he didn't want to go to school. Eventually he explained that what he really didn't want was to sit through math class where they are doing simple addition and subtraction. Recognizing that he was bored and needed a challenge, I reached out to his teacher who has started giving him some multiplication worksheets. So, clearly he is excelling at school.
Jake recently had some issues with possible misuse of his school-issued Chromebook, so his teachers and I agreed to have him do without it for a while to see what would happen. His grades and participation in class have both risen noticeably. I've seen him actually doing some homework at home, which is funny since he rarely used his Chromebook for homework anyway. My husband mentioned that when a certain local private school gave all the students an electronic device, everyone's grades went down, which seemed to surprised the school administrators. I love technology but I really wonder about the idea of having it schools. I think it's great that Jake's science class got to design cars (that were then 3D printed) that would use a micro:bit sensor to measure the force of impact or that he has a class that does some basic coding. But at the same time, I know that the students spend time playing games or surfing the internet when they are supposed to be working on homework. Learning discipline and how to use technology is undoubtedly important but I wonder if there's a better way than by giving all the kids computers.
17 March 2019
Happy St. Patrick's Day! I know some families make a much bigger deal about this particular day than we do - building leprechaun traps and stuff like that. I think we mostly just make sure to wear green and call it good. It was quite cute watching Cody as he thoughtfully selected his tie for church, picking the one that was a solid green color.
Cody has had one particular tooth that's been very loose for more than a week. It finally decided to come out this morning, to Cody's sheer delight. I think it's quite cute how he still has the two holes from the last two teeth (though the adult teeth are starting to poke through) and now has a third one. Pardon the chocolate muffin remnants-- Cody wanted the picture to show his grandparents immediately and I was still sort of waking up.
I'm officially the parent of a teenager. It doesn't really change anything since both Jake and Marisol have had the typical teenager attitude for some time, but at least now I can officially say that at least his is because he's a teenager. He seemed to enjoy his birthday. I was using my phone to Skype with my mom during the cutting of the cake and only now realize that it means I don't have a picture... but we did celebrate with him.
I think I'm finally kicking this sinus infection thing out of my system. Still have to cough every once in a while but not nearly as often anymore. Good thing because the lack of my running workouts has been getting to me...
6 March 2019
I made it back to work. A few days later than originally expected given I came down with a sinus infection but I did make it back. I'll admit I'm excited to get back to doing the cool stuff that I'm paid to do but at the same time, I will miss the abundance of extra time. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to keep myself entertained for the whole 10 weeks but I'm happy to see that I was able to pursue some personal interests, learn some new things, run a lot and enjoy weekly lunches with Cody at school.
1 March 2019
It's March. When I left work just before BYU's Bowl Game in December, March felt like such a long way off. Now here it is and I find myself on the last day of my vacation (except for a weekend). Funny how time works that way. I was able to do a bunch of things on my 'sabbatical to-do list' but not everything. I'm a little bummed that I put off the indoor skydiving and then couldn't do it because of watching sick kids and/or snow days that have popped up. Maybe I'll have to make sure to do that for my 40th birthday which is quickly approaching.
25 February 2019
What? The seventh week is done? I only have one more week off?!?
- Only ran 13.5 miles due to caring for a sick kid and such.
- On Presidents' Day, Jake and I did a bunch of work on the farm. We trimmed back a lot of blackberry bushes, pulled the ivy off of the black walnut tree and some other misc tasks outside. Jake was a decent sport about it even though I know he didn't like the physical work.
- Ate lunch with Cody at school, which he loved. I think he's really going to miss that when I go back to work. I know I will.
- Cody came down with a cold on Friday so he stayed home from school.
- I feel like there were some other things but I can't think of them... oh well.
18 February 2019
Sixth week done. I'm still enjoying the time off but it is getting a little harder to find things that I want to do which aren't just video games. Nothing wrong with video games in moderation but I dont want to spend my entire sabbatical playing them.
- Ran 28.81 miles! The average run so far this year has been just over 8.5 miles. I'll be hard-pressed to keep that up once I start working again, but I sure am enjoying it now.
- Part of the above was a 5k event held on a very chilly morning. I don't normally run with a sweatshirt on but I did for this. Afterwards, I was steaming quite a bit -- literally.
- Did what felt like 15 loads of laundry. Marisol has been hiding candy in her room and the ants found it, so we had to clear out her room and spray it -- and wash all her clothes. How does she have so many items of clothing??
- Took the van in for some needed maintenance work. That's always fun, right?
- My weekly lunch date with Cody coincided with Valentine's Day, so I brought him a special lunch (from McDonalds). His class party was just after lunch recess, so I stuck around to watch as the kids ate a ton of candy, played Bingo and admired the Valentines they'd received from each other. I feel sorry for the library teacher who had them right after the party...
- On Friday, I did my workout and then gave myself permission to do nothing but watch Netflix until it was time to get Jake from school. It was a wonderful, lazy afternoon.
With President's Day today, the kids are all off from school. Here's what things look like on the kind of morning when the kids don't have to hurry anywhere. I love how the cat is sitting at the table...
11 February 2019
Fifth week done -- only three more left!
- Ran 26.87 miles! Again that's something to be proud of since I spent one day this week caring for a sick child. She's better now.
- All the kids had a 2-hr delay for school on Tuesday, due to icy road conditions. We were 'supposed' to get a big snowstorm over the weekend, but it seems to have hit east Portland rather than here, though we did some snow. Since our church building is in east Portland, we ended up not having church yesterday -- which gave me the opportunity to sleep in without having my alarm clock set. Oh how I enjoyed that. So did the rest of my family. When I did wake up, only Cody was already awake, happily reading.
- Ran into some issues with the Raspberry pi when I was trying to test out some new HATs, so I ended up wiping the microSD card and installing all over again, but it seems to have cleared up some issues I saw late last week. And the HATs are pretty awesome too!
- Had my weekly lunch date with Cody and his friends. There's starting to be quite a jostling for the seats around me when his class arrives and finds me there.
- The big task of the week was purchasing and then installing blinds for the condo, something my brother has very much wanted. He's a bit of a hermit and wants his room as dark as possible...
- I love the blackberries that grow on our property, but they are thriving a bit too much, so I spent some time whacking some of them. Still more to do but it's nice that I did enough that it is a noticeable improvement.
- Our excitment with Hyrule Warriors continued as we atually went into "Adventure Mode" to see what it was. Like "Legend Mode", we can do it with two players. Basically, there are a number of 'worlds' which are laid out like a map. Only the first square is accessible, which provides some challenge to be done (like beating 300 enemies in 10 minutes). If done quickly enough and with little damage taken, the squares around it become available, each of which has their own challenge. And so on. We even discovered that this is where we can actually unlock the new characters and weapons for which we've been seeing placeholding slots. How fun!
We had a rather eventful evening tonight. Just as we were finishing up dinner, the lights all turned off for just a second and then came back on. So, we quickly made sure everyone had a flashlight, just in case. Then Marisol mentioned that she'd seen a flash outside and was seeing red sparks of some kind. Heading outside to investigate, we discovered (with the neighbor across the street) that a branch had fallen on the power lines over the driveway of the neighbor next to us and the branch was burning. Clearly the line was still live. Not long after, a series of bright flashes lit up the sky and our house went completely dark. I happened to catch some of the flashes on a video on my phone. Then, while trying to take a picture of the burning branch, I happened to get a photo of another bright burst. Needless to say, we were all watching (from a safe distance) and we took advantage of the opportunity to remind the kids to never approach a downed power line. We spent the rest of the evening alternating between watching the workers outside (Cody was really excited about the firemen) and reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The dog was terribly unhappy because, in the absence of power, two of the smoke detectors decided to yell about dying batteries. She wouldn't rest at all until she had dug herself a hole among Cody's stuffed animals and snuggled in, with her head on my lap, even after Fox removed the offending batteries.
3 February 2019
Fourth week down. What all did I do this week?
- Ran 24.79 miles - which is awesome considering that two of those days involved watching kids who were out of school.
- Spent $10 at a nickel arcade, playing a bunch of video games. There wasn't quite the variety I would have wanted but it was fun anyway.
- Did some more experiments with my Instant Pot: steak and potatoes. Since I'm experimenting, I did them separately. The potatoes were perfect, the meat was a little overcooked. I'll have to drop the cook time on the steak next time.
- Had lunch with Cody and his friends again. I laughed when one of Cody's friends picked a seat and then, upon noticing I was there, hurridly came over to sit next to me. :-)
- Took advantage of a dry spell to burn a bunch of debris that has been piling up in our fire pit.
- Played Hyrule Warrios with Cody. We managed to unlock Hero mode and realized that it can be multiplayer, meaning we can both play at the same time -- helping each other!!! Our enjoyment of this game has just shot sky high! Cody has been particularly excited when the Gold Skulltula appears and he can go and get it while I keep battling the bad guy. He also gets excited when there's one bad guy and we are both beating up on it.
- Did some more tweaking with my Raspberry pi. I made an alias so that the kids will be able to play the math game that I wrote for them, which makes Cody quite happy. He keeps wanting to play it on my laptop but I'm usually on my laptop so that doesn't quite work...
Both Marisol and Cody have really gotten into the Harry Potter books. Even though he's only in first grade, Cody has read his way through the first four books already, though I will point out that I did have the pleasure of reading a chapter or two here and there to him. Just before bedtime, we can all usually be found in Cody's room with me reading out loud, the kids listening, Dad doing whatever he's doing and the animals snoozing. It's good family time.
27 January 2019
Third week down.
- Didn't run a single mile. Instead, I spent it fighting a cold. Such is life.
- Launched the new design for this site!!
- Did some more playing with my Raspberry pi, including getting VNC working so I can actually log in and work on it with my laptop. Perhaps this will end up being a 'headless' device (not connected to mouse, keyboard, or monitor).
- Ate lunch with Cody again. It was funny in that several of his classmates were excited that "Cody's mom" was there. Cody, himself, was later than normal since he'd forgotten his lunch box in the classroom and had to go get it, but his friends were only too eager to keep me company until he came. And after he came too.
- Went to Jake's concert. It had been scheduled for before Christmas but had to be rescheduled due to threats being sent to the district at the time. His choir teacher told us all to pretend it was Dec 19th as some Christmas songs were sung.
- Experimented with cooking a chicken in my new Instant Pot. It was quite juicy and tender, though it could have used some more seasoning. The house smelled delicious too!
- Finished another book on my Kindle -- kind of a weird one.
- Finally got Cody's new fluoride prescription called in -- which seems hilarious in the timing since he ended up losing two teeth in the last two days! Obviously that's not from a lack of fluoride but still...
21 January 2019
Second week down.
- Ran just over 30 miles, including a half marathon.
- Ate lunch at school with Cody
- Read a whole book on my Kindle!
- Created the 2018 groups of pictures for the website
- Played a fair amount of video games. Cody has taken a liking to playing Hyrule Warriors with me.
- Did a LOT of playing with my Raspberry Pi
I got a surprise when I arrived for the Half Marathon and found out I was one of 20 "Runners of the Year" from Uberthons. It must be because I participate in a lot of their events. It's certainly not because I'm fast.
12 January 2019
It's been a great week. The kids went back to school and I had the first official week of sabbatical. Technically my sabbatical started during Christmas break but for purposes of this blog, I'll call the first two weeks "vacation" and the following eight weeks "sabbatical". So, what did I do?
- Ran 27.44 miles
- Updated my recipe book with recipes I've used for years but never consolidated into one place
- Set up savings accounts for the kids (which grandparents requested months ago...)
- Actually went to a restarant that I've seen many times but is only open for breakfast and lunch. It was delicious.
- Watched the two Fantastic Beasts movies, including the second one in the theater!
- Got the new Super Mario Bros U game for the Switch the day it came out and played it without feeling guilty!
2 January 2019
It's safe to say that 2018 did not "go as planned" for my family. We're continuing to do the best we can with some very hard situations. Hopefully 2019 will bring more answers than questions, more comfort than chaos, more peace than peril.
I was able to hit my goal of running 633 miles in 2018. :-) Looking for 650 or more in 2019.