Wednesday, November 13, 2013

In Love With a House

I've always been a journal keeper.  I was inspired at a young age by reading the accounts of my own family members and feeling and imagining what their everyday lives were like.  I started writing my own stories, thoughts and dreams for my future while young, in hopes that I could maybe inspire or enlighten those who would come upon them later.

Even as a girl, I gave myself a few rules:

  1. Be honest
  2. As much as #1 might allow, see and record the positive
  3. Wherever I might be in the normal ebb and flow, record my testimony on the last pages of each book I filled
My high school journals are filled with stories of friendship, the dramas of the cheer squad, lists of names for my future children, and even every once in a while, secrets about whatever boy I might be quietly adoring at any given moment.

It is that last item that soon changed the rules for me.  It seemed that any time I liked a boy enough to commit our relationship (which may have simply been saying hello in the halls) to print, something would go bust.  There became a pattern -- once I'd write a boy's name in my journal, he'd get a girlfriend or I'd learn he had a judgement or character flaw I didn't admire or he showed some unkindness.  

Admitting in my journal that I had hope for a true love was a curse.  So I stopped.

For years and years and years I recorded every detail of my life except who I might be dating or interested in.  Finally, in a wild and crazy fit of confidence ten years ago I took my chances and wrote only this:  

December 7, 2003
Michael Hansen kissed me tonight.

The curse, of course, was broken.

I suppose now I'm having another wild and crazy fit of confidence.  I've refrained from admitting in print something I have the highest and greatest and noblest of hopes for, afraid I might curse myself again.  But I know now of a surety this is a forever thing, so I'm no longer nervous to record it.  Yes, I've fallen in love again -- this time with Michael by my side.  

I've fallen in love with a house.

On the same day, 18 months ago, that our sweet Millie was struggling in the hospital, our dear friend and realtor called to tell us a crusty old home in our ideal location had a new sign out front.  He warned us if we didn't decide immediately, we'd lose out to someone in the long queue placing their offers.  We're not immediate kind of deciders, so I know now it was a true blessing I was so preoccupied with the welfare of my baby to bother -- I told Michael to give it a shot and see what happened.

I can't even recount all of the miracles that unfolded in those 48 hours, but it ended up like this:  my baby survived, and we owned a house we'd never even peeked inside of.

Here we are, a year and a half later.  Plenty has happened since then:  we designed a new home and, after remarkable effort to save some portion, razed the old one.  Our foundation is poured, and framers are -- at this very moment -- scrambling to get the structure enclosed before the dead of winter.  We have sold our current home, our honeymoon and potty-training and learning to be a family house, to a beautiful new family who is allowing us to rent back for a season.

I have more to share, like amazing pencil sketches from our architects and the story of the fire department running drills on the old structure and just how emotional this process has been (so far!).  But it feels good first to just admit it.

I am in love.


Saturday, June 29, 2013

American Birthday Girl

Sophie turned lucky number seven, although we feel like to fortunate ones, just having her around.  You know what they say about small packages...  I tell you what -- this kid is a good thing!  

Art is this lady's passion, in a way I haven't seen before.  She can smell a colored pencil or oil pastel or watercolor a mile away, and is compelled to pick it up and put it to creative use.  She also loves science and nature.  

Here's a funny tidbit: she's a selective thrill-seeker.  She gets uncomfortably shy around new people, yet there's never any hesitation when it comes to thrill rides at amusement parks or watching movies with a spooky edge.

Kiddo is up for a good time, but she's also got an internal maturity about certain things.  For example (and I'm sorry this is a little graphic): she is an incredible barfer.  She has fantastic timing and aim, with no sort of afterdrama.  She just takes care of it.  Sometimes I don't know until the next morning that she's been sick.  With my own history, I consider this a little miracle from God that she was born this way.  And she's particularly watchful and sensitive to her sister, whether Millie is hurt or busted by Mom.  She's ready with a tender back-rub or hug.  She was also born with an unbelievable memory.  

We've been impressed recently with her thoughtful problem solving techniques.  Sometimes she'll plan ahead when she anticipates a sticky social situation by explaining to us what her game plan for a fair resolution might be.  A few days ago, she faced the awful situation many adults encounter -- she had to choose between two great things.  It was difficult to watch this kid wrestle internally, but we let her.  She made a choice, and explained her rationale.  It was awesome!

Favorite books:  anything she can read herself.  Favorite movies:  anything with Haley Mills.  Also the Pirates of the Carribean series.  She really wants a bunny for a pet.  

For her birthday un-party, Sophie asked if we could just have a few neighbor friends over with their American Girl dolls for a picnic.  Ummmm.... yeah!  We chose an all-American patriotic theme.  Same deal: short and sweet and simple.  And again, decor just fell out of the sky, by way of a collection of American Girl paraphernalia coupled with dollar store treasures and leftover wedding flowers (in adorably perfect vintage containers) in just the right colors that our friend offered up that very day!  Can you say "meant to be?!"   

Cute girls and their dolls enjoy a simple picnic on gingham blankets: grilled hot dogs, watermelon and Sophie's favorite sour cream & cheddar chips with vintage sodas.

Our retro wagon

Here's what is left of our activity.  We made vintage style patriotic crowns the girls could take home and wear for the 4th of July, with miniature versions to decorate for their dolls.  Within moments, the table was strewn with metallic ribbon, ric-rac, flag motif emblems, tulle and sparkly stars.  Instead of guiding the girls in any particular creative direction, we let them be personally inspired!

This was one of those last-minute-the-guests-are-coming-and-mommy's-reviewing-the-sewing-machine-owner's-manual deals, but oh boy, was Sophie proud to have matching outfits with her Caroline doll!

Did I mention this girl would take apple pie over fancy cupcakes any day?!  Here she goes again, making a wish on a crumble crust birthday pie!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Birthday Fairy

Sweet Millie turned four this summer!  She has truly graduated from toddler to little girl.  She remains the most affectionate and validating little person I've ever met; it is as though her default language is compliments, snuggles and "I love you"s.  Her trademark blonde bob is befitting her cheerful personality.  

Favorite books:  Princess Baby, Kiki's Blankie, Millie's Marvelous Hat, Rainbow Fish and anything by Mo Willems (but particularly That is NOT a Good Idea!).  Far and away, her favorite movie is "Babes in Toyland" with Annette Funicello.  It is so sweet.  Purple is her clear choice for anything with color -- clothing, crayons, game pieces, candy.  

She still sucks her thumb to sleep at night and snuggles with her blankies, though we've made a rule they must stay in her bedroom now.  We don't mind a few soothing tools but we don't need a Linus, after all.  Soon, these habits may change, as the doctor reported she needs a tonsillectomy.

She's so tall and leggy, she once reported her preschool teacher told her she should be a "baskee-ball girl" when she grows up, but with her femininity and sparkle, I think she's more likely to put those legs to use in ballet.  Still, who knows?  Millie is a child whose interests and strengths are still to be discovered.  I can't wait to watch her grow!  

This year, we opted for a short-and-sweet neighborhood playdate with the girls instead of a blowout birthday bash.  I committed to spend very little money and the fewest man-hours possible, and just make it about Millie.  From a stash of dress-up wings I picked up at the dollar store a while back, a fairy theme grew.  The day before I stumbled upon a few ridiculously inexpensive little whimsical woodland fairy village type pieces, so I added a little decor to the day, with plans to add them to our new garden in the future.  It was the simplest and most relaxed celebration to date -- and it was so great!

Pixie homes were tucked in our front planters, with little wooden ladders for fairy access.

Our front door, with banners made of images of flower fairies from a vintage children's book I found online and a wreath featuring the birthday girl.

Started off with coloring pages, as usual

We had a simple craft activity -- I nabbed some tree branches from our other property for woodland fairy wands.  Each girl affixed a tulle ball on top and tied a few ribbons for extra magic.
Then, the ladies used their wands for a fairy hunt Sophie coordinated all on her own.

Our supply/display table with more woodland fairy villages -- including a darling windmill and a garden bench!
She seems happy with her digs.
Multitasking fairy wings -- I hung them as a decorative overhead banner, then passed them out as favors. 
On our way to the bakery to pick up a cake, the girls excitedly asked if they could bake one instead.  You know what?  I just went with it.  I turned the car toward the grocery store to pick up a mix, pre-made purple frosting and a few random embellishments of Millie's choice.  It turned out the be such a fun experience to create this cake!  It was just what she wanted!
Make a wish!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Figuring it All Out

I'm not really figuring it all out.  Just blog stuff.

Last year for Christmas I got a new computer.  I had trouble navigating how it changed my blogging routine, so I just stopped doing it.  And that's ok, because the primary purpose of this blog is not for public consumption.  However, my family journalling (which is the primary purpose) fell into a dreadful funk.  

Now I've tackled a few of the glitches.  That means (slowly) performing maintenance on my family documentation.  If you're a Reader reader, you may get things way out of order.  Sorry.  But so glad I'll be able to save a few more memories for our little fam!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Least Awesome Day of My Life, or First ER Visit

Millie had a terrible incident recently.  She spent the morning with her father (he even took her to Mommy and Me dance!), but when we reunited in the afternoon, she acted extremely out of sorts.

Within an hour, her legs swelled up and hardened.  She stopped walking.  The swelling spread to her fingers.  She was obviously in desperate pain, which broke my heart.

With great concern, we rushed her to the pediatrician, who advised us she probably had a clot and needed to go to the ER of Primary Children's Hospital immediately.  Worst drive of my life, our first trip to the emergency room for a child.

It didn't get much better there -- doctors looked her over, murmured amongst themselves, then rushed out of the room to put face masks on.  Apparently there was concern of meningitis.  After hours of testing, she was diagnosed with HSP, a vascular disease caused by a renegade virus that causes her blood vessels to leak fluid, causing swelling, particularly in the lower extremities.

The support staff at the hospital was phenomenal, bringing her any movie she wanted, blowing bubbles with her while they inserted the IV, even offering her pink nail polish.  Doctors prescribed pain killers and sent us home late that night, suggesting the symptoms would improve within weeks.  We were naturally relieved, considering the alternatives, though we were sad she was hurting so badly.

Another layer of despair as a parent was watching how heartbroken Sophie was that her little sister was so sick.  She visited at the hospital for a brief time, and I've never seen a little human so maturely concerned for a loved one.  Millie was still pretty overwhelmed when Sophie arrived, but calmed with her sister near.  It was a sweet, powerful moment.

A few days later, we heard from her pediatrician, who had so thoughtfully checked in on her situation with doctors while we were in the hospital.  We aren't home free, he advised -- half of HSP kids end up with serious kidney problems.  For the next number of months, we'll take Millie in for urine and blood pressure testing every other week to make sure her kidneys are functioning properly.

She isn't quite her jolly old self, but getting closer.  Neighbors have come to visit and check in on her and bring her cards and gifts.  The Mommy Trauma of the suggestion that my little one might be in serious straights was so heavy, I've had serious trouble shaking it.  Definitely makes me grateful.

This was the only light moment of the night, when we were told she could return home.  I honestly don't know how she mustered this moment, really.  This was the least awesome day of my life.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Elder Howell

It was a February Farewell Fiesta, to wish our "nephew" goodbye as he left to serve the Lord for two years.  Every night since, and at most meals too, our girls bless Tommy on his mission in Mexico.  I'm sorry, but when did that adorable little guy with overflowing compliments and sweet patience grow up?!

My iPhone wallpaper features the above photograph, with two of my favorite men.  I'm planning on it staying there for 24 months, reminding me constantly of one of the happiest days of my life.  Michael had just received a new calling that required him to stay for extra meetings, so he showed up to the farewell late -- in costume!  Such a great moment!

We were blessed to be with Tommy on the tender night before he entered the Missionary Training Center.  It was quiet and inspired and beautiful, when a busy home normally bustling with oodles of friends and family became a sacred place.  We shared our favorite Tommy moments, which was a teary-eyed mistake.  It is hard to explain how special this kid is, and how much he's done and sacrificed and experienced to get to this point.  He means the world to us.

You know how they say one person really can make a difference?  Tommy has made a difference in our lives, and I know he's changing lives in Mexico through his upbeat attitude and strong work ethic and funny personality.  So far we've sent him a bunch of emails, plus a Christmas package that never arrived.  Apparently I should've indicated our contents on the customs slip as "religious material," instead of "toys and gifts."

Michael and I feel like this is the closest we'll ever get to sending a son or brother on a mission.  I'll be honest -- it hurts a little.  Sometimes a lot.  That's been a big surprise.  I knew I'd miss Tommy terribly at parties and our little family dinners, but he's really gone.  Far away.  We are so, so proud of this kid.  Can you tell?!

Friday, February 17, 2012

When in Rome... Ski!

* Remember, these are from last year.  I have nearly identical shots with children a year older that I'll post soon.  Still thinking I'll catch up...

When in Rome...

I figure the best way to thrive in a wintry state, as we do, is to find a pastime to keep us happy and active that helps pass the time during the cold months.  It is quite a bit of work to get the girls skiing, but I'm finding ways to be positive about it.  Being outside in the mountains really is quite therapeutic, and I'm finding I really do love it!

Millie accompanied us as we took Big to her lessons at Alta, and begged to join in.  She's too young for regular lessons, so we just brought up a pair of hand-me-downs and drug her around.  After just a few paces, she insisted on doing it herself!  It is comical to see such a little body on the slopes.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Concert Date Night

I love Date Night!  Sophie got involved this time, helping me pick my outfit and joining me for makeup.  (note -- she did not actually go out of the house looking like this, but I didn't mind allowing her a little supervised creative expression).  Doesn't it feel good to get dressed up, accessorized and perfumed for a night out sometimes?!

My Christmas present to Mister was two tickets to Brad Paisley at the Maverik Center a few weekends ago, and I'm glad he chose to use his Plus One on me (wink)!  Our seats weren't bad, but they were seats, so we got a little jealous of the revelry closer to the stage on the floor.  We know all his songs, after all, so we were in the mood to party!  Lo and behold, I saw an employee handing out spare floor tickets, and I ran after him to get some!  Score!

Turns out, we were placed near the sound booth, where Kimberly Williams-Paisley (of Father of the Bride) watched the show with her special guest, "Cam" from Modern Family.  Even better, partway through the show, Mr. Brad walked through the crowd to a mini-stage right next to us!  See how many people are between me and the stage?  One -- a security dude.  So fun!

Also loved opening acts, The Band Perry and this cute little dude...

What a blast!  Made me feel young again, certainly reminded me how much I love to spend time with my husband.  Oh my goodness!  Speaking of reminders -- guess who showed up in sparkles for the duet "Remind Me"?  Yup, Carrie Underwood!  Wow, she's beautiful and such a good singer!

The only other time I've seen Brad Paisley live was a totally different experience.  I was homesick living in New York City, and there wasn't even a country music station on the radio to comfort me.  A small ad in a local paper mentioned Paisley would be performing for only a cover charge at a little dive, so I rounded up a few fellow interns (and our faculty advisor!) and we went.  There were maybe only fifty people at the show, and I remember he introduced a song he wrote for his new girlfriend who was there with her parents -- Kimberly Williams.

I've also seen Scotty McCreery live, an event I've never journaled but really ought to, from the balcony of the American Idol stage last May with these gals --

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Magnum Opus

"What is that nifty little thing? Did you make it?"
"I did indeed," replied Charlotte in a weak voice. 
"Is it a plaything?" 
"Plaything? I should say not. It is my egg sac, my magnum opus." 
"I don't know what a magnum opus is," said Wilbur. 
"That's Latin," explained Charlotte. "It means 'great work.' This egg sac is my great work- the finest thing I have ever made."
 -- Charlotte's Web, E.B. White

There once was a wise, gentle spider who did great things.  Miraculous things, like spinning pronouns into a web, eventually bringing great notoriety to her barnyard and saving her friend from becoming bacon.  Funny thing is, by the end of this children's classic dedicated to Charlotte's magical feat that no spider has ever done before and will probably never do in the future, she admits she has created a work of art even greater.  Her magnum opus: her children.  

I guess you could say I've spun words into webs myself, given my profession.  Probably no life-saving miracle words like Charlotte, but I suppose not the kind of garbage Templeton rips from a box of soap flakes, either.  And like that sweet spider, the finest things I have ever made are my two daughters.

Art takes many forms -- sculpture, architecture, music, fashion.  Not all great creators will paint on the canvas of parenthood.  And plenty of geniuses (Michelangelo, da Vinci, Picasso) have made masterpieces across multiple disciplines.  It's just, for me, motherhood is my medium of choice. 

Simply, I love being a mom.  In The Success Principles:  How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, inspirational author Jack Canfield guides people to fulfilling their destiny, using the stories of those who have made millions of dollars or landed their dream home or finally bought a yacht or lost double-digit pounds.  As I read it now, all I can think about is how my great dream, where I really want to be, the picture of my ultimate life, my grandest achievement, is standing beside -- no, embracing -- a beautiful, wholesome, smart, happy, unified, strong family.  That's my vision of success.  

After all, in the Passion chapter, Canfield says:  "No doubt you know or have met people who are passionate about life and enthusiastic about their work.  They can't wait to get up in the morning and get started.  They are eager and energetic.  They are filled with purpose and totally committed to their mission.  This kind of passion comes from loving and enjoying your work.  It comes from doing what you were born to do.  It comes from following your heart and trusting joy as a guide.  Enthusiasm and passion come as a result of caring about what you do.  If you love your work, if you enjoy it, you're already a success."

I'm committed to being an elite network news producer.  I aim to be a great friend, a fine designer, an exceptional sister and a decent baker.  By admitting motherhood is my most beautiful work, I'm not suggesting other areas of my life are not important, too.  Motherhood is not a distraction; it is like a highlighter to the pages of my biography, adding color and brightness to all I do.  

Laundry is lame, ear infections are evil, and grocery store tantrums stink. so.  super.  bad.  I have hard days.  I've been exhausted for nearly six years straight.  Still, watching my children master a new skill or demonstrate kindness even when it is difficult or ask to read the same book over and over at bedtime -- those are like beautiful brush strokes to me.

I may not master my craft.  I doubt I'll win a special award at the county fair.  There's no gallery in Manhattan that will hang my work on a blank white wall.  But maybe, hopefully, a few people will see that I have discovered what I love, followed my passion and created something I am proud of.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Resolve 2012

The tradition of celebrating the New Year at the cabin has become pretty tender to us.  We love "escaping" to the quiet simplicity of nature in the wintertime.  As in years past, the girls spent much of their free time being free -- playing out in the snow, building puzzles, watching old Disney flicks, playing kitchen, working on craft projects.  Michael built a fire every day.  I practiced new recipes.

We intended on a brief trip, but discovered a leak that required a full day's work from Michael and a long drive to the nearest town for hardware supplies, so we were stuck an extra day and night and portion of the following day.  We made the most of our trek to town; I made an irreverent obstacle course of construction cones for the girls in Lowe's while Daddy hunted in the plumbing aisle, and we purchased a sled.  On the winding roads back to the cabin, we stopped to snap a real live bald eagle not twenty yards from us.

We made a simple little party of New Year's Eve (note to self:  next year, remember the sparkling cider and party hats/blowers), eating homemade cheese pizza while we each recorded 3 goals and 3 predictions for 2012 and reflected on the goals and predictions of previous years.  This has become a routine we really look forward to.  

With the three goals, I usually choose one New Year's Resolution as my focus.  I keep this resolution simple, with a delicate balance of intense personal stretching and the potential that I might actually do it.  I also want it to become a life habit, not just a year-long affair that gets dumped when Dick Clark's next broadcast comes back around.  Last year's goal to ride in Little Red was completely thwarted because the race sold out in moments, so I'm bummed about that one, but that was out of my human control.

A few months ago, inspired to learn more from the man who married us, Elder Joe J. Christensen, I came upon one of his BYU addresses called Resolutions.  Wow, so good.  I have read it about eight times.  I'm also re-reading The Success Principles by Jack Canfield, and though it has one or two suggestions that don't fit with my personality, nearly every page has some choice ideas for improving myself and my station for the most noble of purposes.

This year, I chose as a New Year's Resolution to adopt an old adage.  Seriously considered "An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away," but finally committed to:

Early to bed and early to rise makes a (wo)man healthy, wealthy and wise.   

By someone's calculations on the almighty Facebook, if I wake up just a half hour earlier each day, I'll have 7 1/2 extra waking days in 2012.  I'm willing to give that a shot.  I figure with better sleep, I'll be more productive, organized and fit.  Happy, too.  Well, not at the moment my new alarm goes off.  After that.