California Thanksgiving

 - by Brittny

Thanksgiving this year found us down in Southern California.  I can’t say it would have been my first choice to make the long trip while 34 weeks pregnant.  In fact, shortly after I found out I was pregnant I informed my mom not to expect us to come down for Thanksgiving… and definitely not for Christmas.  However, about a month before Thanksgiving, my little brother Jayson announced that he was getting sealed that weekend.  I was NOT going to miss that just because I was pregnant!  So we decided we’d suck it up and make the trek.

Since we had recently bought a new van we had enough room to accommodate our family as well as my sister’s family so that they could come as well.  It was also to my benefit at that stage in the pregnancy to have the more space that our van would afford over our Corolla.  My sister arranged to get off work on Monday at 3pm so that we could get on the road before too late.  That morning I was trying to get us all packed up and cleaned up but between a bad back and some pretty regular preterm contractions that I’d been having I was disinclined to push myself too far.  Eric of course had to get work finished before we could leave so he was in the office and wasn’t able to help me get things in order.  So I puttered around the house and got as much done as I could without either aggravating my back or inducing contractions.  Luckily Eric was able to come home early and help get things finished off. We ended up leaving a little later than we’d intended, but (if we’re honest) probably not much later than we expected.

We knew that even with the extra space in the van it would be a tight squeeze in a 7 passenger minivan with 4 adults and 3 kids.  I’d hoped that we could fit all three full sized carseats in the backseat, but we had no such luck.  We ended up putting Danny and Skylar (our 3 year old nephew) on the sides of the backseat in regular carseats and squished poor Sam in the middle of them with his booster seat.  Unfortunately we’d used the anchor system for the bigger carseats but there was only one anchor in the middle of the backseat so the bigger carseats sorta leaned in too.  Luckily Sam was a really good sport about it but I still felt bad for him, he definitely got the bum end of that deal.

The majority of the trip was relatively uneventful.  Each of the boys sat in the back with headphones and a tablet and the adults rotated between listening to different programs together, or separately as couples or on our own with headphones.  That is until we were about 2 hours out from our destination, when our nephew Skylar puked all over himself.  So we pulled off to the side of the road and tried to clean things up as best we could without any supplies at 1am.  Then we drove a little further, negotiated for a Subway plastic sack for him to throw up in and inched our way back to Thousand Oaks.  It was a pretty miserable way to finish off the drive.  I was less tolerant of the situation than I would normally be as my gag reflex during the pregnancy was far below what it is normally.  In the end we did make it back to my parents’ house alright and were glad to be there.

Skylar was sick for the next day but then seemed to get better.  We spent the next couple days lounging around at my parents’ house (a kid’s paradise), going to the beach and making Thanksgiving preparations.  Thursday was (of course) Thanksgiving, and the day was well spent preparing and eating food and counting our blessings.  I don’t think there’s anything in this world that can make me feel as grateful as just being with family.  I feel truly blessed to have the most wonderful family on all sides – older generations, younger generations, through blood and through marriage.  I can’t think of anything in this world I could want more than to get to be around them.

On Friday we were very busy making all of the wedding preparations.  My brother and his wife had eloped and we didn’t get to celebrate their marriage at the time so my parents planned a reception for them following the sealing ceremony on Saturday.  Jayson has always been a bit of a picky eater so coming up with something fun to eat at the reception that still bore his seal of approval was a bit of a trick.  They settled on Chinese food, which was pretty fun.  My mom tried to make most of it herself to save on the cost, so Friday found us cooking up lots of rice and chicken and going to several stores for different ingredients.

Saturday morning came and we got everyone ready to go down to the temple without too much incident, except that Kyle was sick and couldn’t come with us to the temple.  Luckily, he’s not old enough to attend the sealing anyways, but we were all a little bummed that he couldn’t be there.  He’s been fighting with some pretty intense health problems recently  so we all assumed that his pre-existing problems were acting up again and didn’t think much of it.

On the drive to the temple Danny was a bit of a pickle.  We were almost to the temple when we heard him dump out an entire bag of dried apples in the backseat.  Not just a little sandwich baggie, but a big gallon sized bag of apples that Taylor had dehydrated herself.  Luckily we’d already eaten the better part of the apples, but we were still rather upset with Danny for dumping them out.  So we demanded an apology from Danny.  After refusing a few times he said, “Well, I not am sorry.  I not will say sorry.” in a tone that was so matter-of-fact that we had a hard time not busting a gut laughing.  What a punk!  We threatened all kinds of different things, but his response was the same, “I not am sorry.  I not will say sorry.”  That kid is hysterical, and he’s going to be the death of me :P

The sealing itself was just beautiful.  I don’t remember all the things that the sealer told Jayson & Ashley, but I remember the feeling that was there.  There was a certain feeling of elation at finally getting to be there and having this ceremony performed for them.  I think everyone in the room felt like they had been a part of that journey in some sense or another and we all felt like we – not just they – had made it to the finish line.  Of course this wasn’t at all the end, it’s the mark of a beginning, but I think we were all grateful to have been a part of the journey that got them to this point.

After the sealing we went outside to wait for Jayson and Ashley to come out.  Just ahead of them was a couple who had also scheduled their sealing for that day.  However, they’d gotten the wrong license from the state and weren’t able to be married that day!  Their family had all come in from Mexico and around the country for their wedding, only to find out they had the wrong paper work and couldn’t be married that day at all.  Isn’t that about the saddest thing you’ve ever heard of?!  Apparently there are a few different kinds of marriage licenses that the State of California will issue, and one is more of a license to co-habitate, but not to be married (I don’t understand it either), and that was the license that they had gotten.  So they took all their pictures, and were going to go have their reception that night… but they wouldn’t be able to be married until Monday when the county offices opened up again and they could get the right paperwork.  They still all looked so happy and I think they were having a good attitude about the whole thing, but my heart broke for them.  Luckily the temple president said that they would open up the temple especially for this couple on Monday so they could be sealed (temples are closed on Mondays).  I still can’t get over that situation.  Can you imagine showing up for your wedding and being told you couldn’t get married that day because of a clerical error?!!  I would have been devastated.

Anyways, after Jayson and Ashley came out we did some pictures.  The photographers had a hay day following around Sam, Skylar and Danny.  They looked so cute in their little suits walking around like little men.

Picture credit: Erik Hokom Photography

There’s something about Danny’s stance in this next picture that I find just hilarious. It reminds me so much of Eric’s dad, I’m not exactly sure why, but it *really* does.

Just in case you looked at that last picture and thought, “Oh Brittny, you big baby, you weren’t really all that pregnant, quit whining.” Uhm, no really, here I am sideways. I really was THAT pregnant :P

After pictures we had to race back home so that we could get all of the food ready.  My parents had to stop Diddy Riese for the cookies and ice cream for the reception (they opted to make ice cream sandwiches with legit cookies and ice cream rather than having cake) but Eric and I went back to the house to start making LOTS of fried rice.  When my dad got home he immediately went up to his room and laid down dead.  He was starting to feel sick just like Kyle had been that morning.  My mom wasn’t feeling too great either but had to press on to get all the preparations done.  I was sent out to a Chinese restaurant in Newbury Park for some of the food and lost my phone on the way, making me late.  But in the end we all made it to the church with all the food and the reception was lovely.

Towards the end of the reception Cody made a quick exit and made it as far as mostly through the Relief Society room before he lost his cookies.  We sent him home to get changed and go to bed and the reception wound up pretty quickly shortly thereafter.  That night my mom, dad, Kyle, Cody, Ryan, Taylor and Ashley all came down with the stomach bug.  We think it’s the same bug that Skylar had at the beginning of the week.  Not exactly the perfect ending to the perfect day :P

We had planned to leave for Utah the next morning, but with Taylor and Ryan so sick we went back and forth on leaving.  Plus, with the rest of the family so sick, we were sure that our little family wasn’t going to be immune to it for long.  The *last* thing we wanted was to get 3 hours down the road and all fall ill and be too far to turn back but still with the prospect of 7 more hours in a car.  We hemmed and hawed for awhile – at one point we decided we’d stay until Wednesday – and finally we decided to just bite the bullet and go.  We left Taylor and Skylar behind as Taylor was too sick to travel and could come back to Utah with my dad later in the week, but we took Ryan with us as he was on the tail end of the bug and needed to be back in Utah the next day for classes.

The first couple hours of that drive were agony.  We felt certain that we were at any minute going to be sick.  I had an especially scary time of it since there’s a lot of movement near your digestive tract while being pregnant.  Every time Maeli would kick me I would think, “uh oh, this is it, I’m coming down with the plague.”  We made it all the way to Baker when Danny threw up ALL over.  We were able to pull over and clean everything up but it was pretty nasty.  With my weakened stomach from pregnancy, and Ryan’s weakened stomach from the bug we were in bad shape.  We cleaned up as best as we could, bought an air freshener and a pack of dryer sheets and soldiered on.

Surprisingly, we made it all the way back home without anyone else getting sick.  And I think poor Danny might have just been a little bit carsick and was very upset that we deprived him of food for the rest of our journey (but can you blame us?).  We’ve chalked our good fortune up to our family’s daily regimen of Emergen-C, we’ve hardly been sick this winter (knock on wood) while we spent almost the entirety of last winter being sick.  It might just be the placebo effect, but even if it is, we’ll happily take placebo effect over being sick!

So, that was our exciting Thanksgiving adventure.   We were definitely thankful to be a part of the whole experience, and especially thankful to have escaped the stomach bug!

A Sabbatical State

 - by Eric

I’m back-dating this post to fill out some major gaps in our poorly-kept family blog in 2013. While working at Adobe, once every five years, each employee is granted about a month of work off to do whatever they want,  whether it be a personal project, personal development, or extended vacation time with absolutely no expectation of availability from the company during the hiatus. It’s a fantastic idea, one that I fully endorse and support.

Usually these sabbaticals are taken in pursuit of some grand vacation or side project, but mine was a bit different. Instead of focusing on one solitary project, I split the time up into multiple weekly activities.

The first week consisted of dedicated family time with the 4th of July celebrations and everything going on with that. Nothing too exciting, but definitely a relaxing time to be had by all. During this time, I also started work on a fun little side project that I had been wanting to do for some time now. I never have enough time to play with the violin and enjoy music, so I thought I would make a cover music video, complete with a violin descant. A lot of brainstorming and initial work happened during this week, too.

The second week of the month focused on Scout Camp and swim lessons for the boys.  Being able to go to the pool every day and work with them to get comfortable in the water is something that means a lot to me given my storied past with learning to swim. And then of course in my new capacity as the Young Men’s president, I got to go up and have some fun supporting the boys working to get cool merit badges like shotgun shooting, boating, and aeronautics.

I wish I could have gone skeet shooting, too!

The third week was dedicated to recording, filming, and editing my cover video of Backwards by Matthias. I had been following his work for some time on YouTube, and I was really impressed with his skill and desire to create clean, enjoyable content. This video ended up encapsulating many aspects of expression from my life, including my time spent in Taiwan and attempts to broaden my creative horizons with video editing. All in all, I’d say it was quite the cathartic experience. You can watch the end result here:

The fourth week consisted entirely of a family reunion and trip to Disneyland. It was a lot of fun to include Daniel in this trip as well as let Sam enjoy the experience more as a four-year-old. I am sure we will have a whole separate blog post about that experience, so I won’t go into many details here. Suffice it to say, everyone in the family had a lot of fun, and we are so very grateful that Granny and Grandpa Hansen made it all happen for us!

The last week of July and first part of August was spent with more Young Men’s President duties. I spent all day Monday and Tuesday providing Priesthood support at the Young Women’s Camp up at Mutual Dell. I’ve never been so involved in YW Camp before, so I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. The girls seemed to enjoy how dedicated us adult males were in learning how to make wristbands and painting rocks during craft time, and we all had fun trying to outperform each other with progressively unique tricks on the zipline.

The YW sure know how to do breakfast!

On Wednesday, we loaded up the truck and packed up my car with bikes and boys to head down to Moab, UT for the high adventure. It was an incredible three days of biking, rafting down the Colorado, and hiking up canyons. It also justified the purchase of my new mountain bike in June, so now I have less of an excuse to get out on the awesome trails around our neighborhood.

Troop 1336 hiking up a canyon in Moab, UT

All in all, it was a very hectic month, and while a lot of it was spent in either family activities or volunteering efforts, I feel like it was time well spent.


Becoming a Minivan Family

 - by Brittny

*SPOILER ALERT* – This is the van we ended up with :)

With the impending addition of a third baby Eric and I knew that we couldn’t continue for too much longer as a one car family.  At least, not when that one car was a Toyota Corolla and we would have all three of those kids in carseats.  We knew we wouldn’t need it until close to the arrival of the 5th member of our family but I decided to start looking in advance so I could figure out exactly how much we needed to budget out for a van and be prepared for that eventuality.

In June we took a trip down to California to see my family while Eric was at a conference in Los Angeles.  We were planning on purchasing a used van and I thought it might be worthwhile to look at used vans in California.  I figured that we could get a better condition used van there since it wouldn’t have been driven on icy, salty roads like vans in Utah.  So while Eric was at his conference my mom and I started looking around online for vans in the area.  I had thought that I probably wanted an Odyssey or a Sequoia, but as I looked at the different vans more closely I found that those vans were not worth the price difference to get them.  Eventually I honed in on the Dodge Grand Caravan.  Both Eric’s parents and my parents own Grand Caravans and we’d driven them around before and liked them.  The major selling feature was definitely the stow ‘n go seating.  That is a feature that is awesome beyond words in my opinion.  The ability to turn your van into a truck without having to leave the seats behind is SO useful.

While my mom and I were shopping around we decided to look also at what a new van would cost, just for comparison’s sake.  We found some in the area that were listed at $19,500, which was only just a little above what I was expecting to pay for a used van.  Since that seemed worthwhile to look into my mom called the dealer to see if that price was really for real and make sure there weren’t any special qualifications that were assumed to get that price.  The dealer assured her that $19,500 was the price, no catches.  So we made a field trip with the kids down to the dealership.  We found the vans and they looked great, took a test drive and it seemed like a pretty good option.  Then as we talked to the dealer he said that to get that price we’d have to meet some qualifications – like being in the military.  We were pretty disgusted to have been told one thing to get us down there, and another once we were actually there.  Needless to say, we left and did not come back.

So we did a little more searching and found another dealership that was offering the same van for $17,500.  That was absolutely insane!  We did a lot more vetting of the van and the price before going down, but after several emails back and forth with the salesman we determined that it was completely legitimate.  When Eric came home I showed him the van and what we’d found out.  The van had no fancy bells and whistles, but we weren’t planning on getting any of those anyways.  The price was so incredible, especially for a new van.  So we decided to go down and investigate.

Unfortunately, we left just before 5pm on a Friday afternoon, and we had to drive all the way through Los Angeles down to Huntington Beach Dodge.  That drive takes about an hour and a half in good conditions – rush hour on a Friday is not exactly good conditions.  It ended up taking us 3 hours to get down there.  On the way down my phone was acting really weird.  It had been having some problems before but as we were driving down it was really struggling.  I tried a few different tricks to try and get it to work, but by the time we reached the dealership it had given up the ghost completely.  I couldn’t even get it to turn on, despite having a charged battery.  Eric played with it too but he had no more luck than I did, which means it was *really* dead.

Since it had taken us so long to drive down we decided we should probably hurry over to the dealership despite not having had dinner yet.  We met with a different salesman from the one I’d been emailing with but after some searching he was able to find us the van from the online listing.  It was, as promised, not super fancy, but new.  We drove it around and everything looked great.  We decided that we would buy it.  How could we pass up the deal of having a van that was such an awesome price and still brand new?

As we were going through the paperwork we discovered that the reason the van was such an awesome price was that it wasn’t truly *brand* new.  It had been purchased but the financing hadn’t gone through (or something similar) and so the van had been returned within a few days.  So the van did have almost a thousand miles on it, but that’s pretty darn close to brand new, and for the price we’d gotten I wasn’t about to complain.  Still, I felt a little bit swindled to not have found out about this until we were in the process of signing the purchase paperwork.  I feel like their classification of it as a “new” van was misleading.    Aside from the price that we got I have to say that I was not at all impressed with the way Huntington Beach Dodge did business with us.

We continued on through the paperwork until we got to the financing part of the deal.  We had a decent chunk of the money we needed for the van saved up, but since we hadn’t been planning on purchasing a van for another 6 months we knew we’d have to finance some it at least in the short term.  One of the deals they had listed online was that they were offering 0% financing on their loans for some period of time.  I had figured that looked like the best deal we’d ever find for a loan so I hadn’t done any research on what else was available.  When we got to the financing we found out that the deal was only available if we didn’t take some other promotion that they were having which was saving us a thousand dollars or so on the price of the van.  Clearly it wasn’t worth getting 0% financing at the cost of $1000.  So we filled out the forms to have them run our credit and find out what sort of deal they could make for us.  While they were running their numbers we quickly used Eric’s phone to secure a loan through our bank.  They were running a promotion that would get us our financing at an introductory rate of 0.79%.  We looked through how to use the loan and it was so easy, they would immediately wire money to the dealership and we’d be all set to go.  When the dealership came back with their financing it couldn’t hold a candle to what we’d obtained so we obviously wanted to go with the loan we’d obtained through our bank.  The dealership’s financing guy (who we’d already felt was just kinda greasy, the stereotypical used car salesman type) then started telling us that they wouldn’t accept that loan, that we had to have a cashier’s check, they couldn’t do wire transfers etc.  We talked to our bank later about what happened and they told us that the dealership was just screwing with us.  This is how they do all of their auto loans and it is never a problem.  The only reason the dealership would’t take our money was that they wanted us to use their financing so they were being intentionally difficult to put us in a hard spot.  I think he just came up with whatever answer would make it so that we’d have to use their financing.  He knew it was past banking hours so we couldn’t go to a bank, and that we’d driven a long way and weren’t likely to do it twice, and we were unlikely to walk away from such a great deal.  We were extremely frustrated and felt like they were being totally unreasonable, but we also knew we were getting a killer deal on the van so we decided to just take their financing and re-finance when we got home.  But we were pretty ticked.

Anyways, the rest of the deal went fine, and we were finally out of there by 10pm with our brand new van!  But we were STARVING.  Especially since I was 11 weeks pregnant at the time and still very much so in the throes of “morning” sickness – not eating for that long was not going over so well with me.  So Eric and I were all ready to go out to eat and celebrate our new purchase… but of course most everything was closed at that point.  So we settled on a romantic evening at McDonald’s – wahoo.  After our dinner we decided that Eric would drive the van back to my parents’ and I would drive our Corolla.  Of course, my phone was totally out of commission so I didn’t have the luxury of my GPS to get me back (not good for a directionally challenged person like myself).  We quickly wrote down the directions that we got from Eric’s phone and just agreed to stick close to one another on the drive back.  Luckily Eric had a spare iPhone in his backpack that I could use to listen to my book on the way back.  I know, that sounds totally crazy to anyone who knows us that Eric would have anything made by Apple on his person, but he had it from work to help him test different features on some projects he was working on.  The phone didn’t have cell service, but I was grateful to at least have something to keep my attention on the boring drive back.

So we hopped in our vehicles and headed back to the freeway.  We didn’t get very far before everything STOPPED.  Apparently the 405 freeway was closed and the backup was insane.  As we tried to navigate onto the freeway I quickly lost Eric in the zillion cars that were all stopped at the same point as us.  So much for sticking close together.  I missed the first place that I could have turned off for a detour since I didn’t realize what was ahead of me.  The detour took 2 hours just to get back to the freeway.  It was brutal!  It was all the worse for not being able to call Eric and let him know where I was.  I was certain that he had made the first detour, or had used his GPS to get him better directions to get out of that mess and was probably well ahead of me.  I was also convinced that with how long it was taking me, by the time I got home my family would assume I was dead or extremely lost.  Being lost would be totally par for the course, my family used to joke that if they’d let me drive up to BYU from California on my own I’d likely call from the Mexican border saying “I don’t remember having to go through Mexico to get to Utah…”  While that would have been a slight exaggeration… my directional abilities really are that bad.  It’s incredible how debilitated I felt without my smartphone that night.  The next day found us at the Verizon store to purchase me a Galaxy S4 so we wouldn’t have these problems anymore.

It again took 3 hours to get home and I didn’t get back to my parents’ house until about 1:30am.  Eric had beat me but not by as much as I had expected.  He too had missed the first detour so we’d been stuck pretty close to one another most of the way back.  I was glad that they hadn’t yet called the police to try and find me.  Eric and I sorta collapsed into each other, not totally believing the insane ordeal we’d gone through.  We were very glad that we’d gotten such a great deal on our van, but man, what an experience!

Hurricane Danny

 - by Brittny

You wouldn’t believe that such a cute face could cause so much destruction.

Today as we were sitting down to dinner I was telling Eric about all the destruction just Daniel has caused today.  As I went through the list *I* couldn’t believe how long it was – and I was there for it!  If you ever come over to my house and wonder why it is such a mess here is a list of most of the mischief Danny has gotten into since he woke up this morning –

  • I woke up to find 5 pieces of bread jammed into our toaster oven (which I had fortunately unplugged the night before)
  • As we were just about ready to head out the door for a visiting teaching appointment, Danny climbed up on the kitchen counter and managed to get himself all wet.  Oh, and also the counter where my cell phone was charging, getting both the cell phone and charger wet (fortunately no damage seems to have been done to either of those electronic devices).
  • While I was making soup for dinner tonight and had walked away to let it simmer, he climbed up on the counter and dumped a whole cutting board full of kale on the floor.
  • He threw the spice jar of paprika to the floor forcefully enough to break it
  • He got into a package of spaghetti noodles and broke quite a few all over the floor
  • Sam pulled out the eggs from the fridge to play “egg-y mess”.  Fortunately I found him before he could start actually playing this game.  However Danny found one of the empty egg shells that was still in the container and proceeded to smash it into a million pieces on the carpet while I put the rest of the eggs back in the fridge.
  • Sam and Daniel got into the upstairs bathroom and filled up the sink with water, soap and a whole roll of toilet paper, which obviously was unusable afterwards.
  • I attempted to make some home made granola bars this afternoon.  They turned out more like granola cereal so we put it in bowls and were eating it that way.  Danny took his bowl and dumped it on my rocking chair.
  • Later while I was making dinner, Danny found crushed red pepper flakes on the counter and dumped the WHOLE jar into that granola
  • In the afternoon Daniel asked for some chocolate milk.  I made him up some.  A little while later I found that he and Sam had taken the container of chocolate powder and dumped a bunch of it on the counter.  I confiscated the container and put it on a high shelf.  Sam then opened the pantry, climbed up and pulled it out and started feeding the chocolate powder to Danny using the lid as a spoon.  Oh, did I mention that Danny didn’t take a nap today?  Anyone want to guess why?
  • Danny found pens multiple times today and used them to draw on the doors of our entertainment center.
  • A picture on our fridge of Eric’s parents fell down during the day.  Danny found it and ripped a corner off.
  • For Easter Danny received some bubbles.  He found one of the three bottles and dumped it all out on the kitchen floor (at least that’s basically soap right?)
  • While the granola bars were cooking this afternoon Danny found the jar of peanuts and dumped quite a few of them out on the floor.
  • Recently Danny has figured out opening doors, and of course his favorite is to go out of our front door.  I had been able to deter him for awhile by engaging the dead bolt since he can’t reach that high.  However he’s found that by using his ride-on Lightning McQueen toy he can pull it up to the door and unlock the front door.  That of course meant that one of our activities this afternoon was repeatedly bringing him out of our front yard, especially since he didn’t have any pants on over his diaper.

There was more, but as you might imagine, I’m exhausted from trying to keep up with him all day.  So I can’t remember the others.  And yes, all of those things happened just today.  We ended the day by him throwing a HUGE fit, hitting me repeatedly and going into time out, and finally just passing out in my arms.  Please bless that he sleeps for a looooooong time tonight.

Family Pictures

 - by Brittny

A few months ago I posted about how we’d done some family pictures down at the LA temple for our 5th wedding anniversary.  When we were getting ready to do so I posted on Facebook that we were looking for a photographer in the LA area and we offered that we could work out an exchange with the photographer that we could hook them up with some Adobe software in exchange for the shoot, since Eric is an employee and gets a sweet discount.  We made a different arrangement with Mary and those pictures turned out great.  My college roommate’s mom – Lavon Maiersperger – saw my post as well.  She doesn’t live in Southern California so couldn’t do the temple pictures for us, but she was interested in making an exchange with us for pictures another time.  (I feel like I need to explain why we did pictures twice in one year.  It wasn’t at all because we didn’t like Mary’s pictures – we love them!  But we weren’t about to turn down a chance to get more pictures of our cute boys!)

We decided the best thing would be to meet at our house and then take pictures in some of the surrounding area.  We live where there’s a lot of open space and it’s beautiful at this time of year.  It seemed like a good way to minimize travelling time and get the best chance of happy boys for the pictures.

So, on the morning of our pictures I had just finished ironing my shirt when the doorbell rang.  I unplugged the iron and Danny and I ran down to let Lavon in then dashed upstairs to do the last few things.  As I was finishing taking out my curlers I heard Danny from the other side of the house scream out in pain.  Danny is our curious climber and he’s frequently locking himself in rooms, climbing up places that he can’t get down from, pinching himself in hinges etc.  So, I wasn’t too worried at first because it’s usually just something minor.  But I went to see what was the matter.  He was holding his hand, but nothing looked too wrong with it at first and I couldn’t see what he had done.   Then I realized that he’d just come out of the laundry room and that the iron, which had been on the ironing board, was on the floor.  I still didn’t know if the iron falling had just scared him, or what, but I took him to the bathroom to run his hand under some water just in case.  Sure enough, he’d burned his hand, and done a good job of it too.  He had redness that went across the whole pad of his hand that slowly turned into a massive blister!

Sad blister! As you can see, this was one of the ways we could convince Danny to smile at first was by taking his picture with Eric’s phone (a camera he’s used to). Look at that cute cheesey grin!

Not exactly the best way to start a picture day.  We figured there wasn’t too much more that we could do for him once the burn had been cooled down and put some aloe vera on it so we decided to go on with trying to take some pictures.  We drove down our block to where there’s a really pretty lookout into Utah Valley.  It’s one of our favorite places to go on a walk to as a family.  During the summer we try to take nightly walks that culminate in going to “see the valley”.  At first Danny didn’t want to get out of the car (he wanted to drive drive!), but we did eventually coax him out and got a few pictures taken at that overlook.

It didn’t last too long though and we soon decided to return to the house and try to let him run his hand under some cool water some more.  We figured we’d see if we could get it under control and then maybe try to take some more pictures.  It’s a decent drive to get up to our place so I was hoping to get Danny happy again so that we hadn’t wasted Lavon’s morning to drive up to us, just to have to reschedule.  While Danny played in the sink (which made him very happy, and our guest bathroom very wet) Sam went out back and Lavon got some pictures of him in our backyard.  Sam was being a major punk!  He wouldn’t smile for anything.  The pictures turned out really cute but not exactly showing a happy Sam.

We did finally get Danny happy again and brought him outside.  We put him and Sam on the grass and they were rather cute together.  Then our neighbor’s cat, Spook, came over and Danny was thrilled!  He *loves* our neighbor’s cat and his face lights up whenever he sees Spook.  It was awesome that Lavon was able to capture some of these looks of pure joy that Danny has.  Looking at the pictures you would think it was Sam who’d gotten his hand burned instead of Danny!

We might try again to see if we can get pictures of our family with everyone happy and smiling at the same time, but honestly, I love these pictures!  I love that they’re all taken in our own backyard and really show our boys personalities – blisters, frowns and all.  Thank you again Lavon!

(I don’t know if the full photo album is public, or if you’ll at least be able to view it all if you’re friends with either Eric or I but here’s the link to the full Facebook album)

The Art of Crime

 - by Brittny

I’m starting to re-think my grand plan of going to Costco and Home Depot with my boys today.  In the little while that I let the boys play in the car while I was gathering my stuff and wrapping up a couple things Daniel started a life of petty crime as a graffiti artist.

Then while I quickly ran the sharpie into the house he found a pair of scissors and I made it back just in time to stop him from cutting his nice pants to shreds.  I didn’t even know we *had* either of those things in the car, let alone where to find them! Guess it’s time to go through my pins on cleaning to see if the link with the hints for getting sharpie out of anything really has ideas that work…

Update: I tried the idea from that link of using sunscreen and it totally worked.  There are only a few places where you can somewhat tell there might have been something drawn on, but really it was a miracle cure.  I just used Kroger brand spray on sun screen, a little bit of rubbing and a paper towel.  Magic!

If you put a Brittny in charge of food storage…

 - by Brittny

If you put a Brittny in charge of food storage…

She might start watching for sales.

If she starts watching for sales…

She’ll probably notice that pasta is on sale this week.

If she notices that pasta is on sale….

She’ll probably want to buy some.

She’ll start to buy some.

She might get carried away and purchase upwards of 50 packages.

When she gets home, since she had a long and traumatizing excursion to the store, she might be too tired to put the pasta in the basement right away.

So it will sit in bags outside the basement door.

If the pasta is sitting in bags outside the basement door, a Sam will probably discover them.

If a Sam discovers the pasta, he will inevitably bury his brother in the packages of pasta while his brother lays there placidly.

(Luckily, the end of this story doesn’t end that they destroy the pasta and we need to watch for it to go on sale again… yet :)

And the Day’s Winner Is…

 - by Brittny

So yesterday was an interesting day.  We’ll just start at the beginning and you can see what you think.

The end of the year is approaching and we as a primary presidency have been scrambling a little to get our primary program together.  So on Monday night I stayed up a little bit later getting the responses from our kids compiled so we could write our script during our meeting the next day.  It was a big task, and while it took a good chunk of time to get through, it actually wasn’t as bad as I’d thought.  It still meant that I didn’t get to bed until after 1am, and since Danny hasn’t been sleeping real well lately, I knew that I’d pay for my late night the next day, but it seemed worth it.

The next morning Sam woke up at his usual 7am and came in to wake me up.  Luckily he managed to wake me up without waking up Daniel so I was able to crawl out of bed and get downstairs while Daniel continued to snooze.  Lately our morning routine has been that I’ll come downstairs with Sam, get him a bowl of cereal and turn on PBS kids.  Then I go back to bed and get another hour or so of sleep.   I fully intended to do that on this morning as well, however I started working on getting more things arranged for our presidency meeting and ended up staying awake as well.

Around 9am Daniel woke up too and we started to get everyone ready for the day.  By 11:30am I was feeling really good about myself – I had laid out clothes for myself, fed everyone breakfast, dressed Sam, cleaned the kitchen, gotten our meeting agenda prepared, prepared the conducting sheet for Sunday, distributed a better format of our babysitting co-op calendar and done a review of our family budget!  I was definitely feeling like I was the winner of the day!

I hopped into the shower with Daniel while I let Sam watch some PBS Kids.  After showering we dressed, dried my hair and got it into curlers, all by 12:30!  For me to curl my hair on a weekday is an accomplishment in and of itself, even though it doesn’t take super long finding those extra 5 minutes to throw the curlers in isn’t as easy as it might seem.  We grabbed Eric and headed downstairs to have some lunch as a family.

As I started to make myself some leftover enchiladas Danny was starting to get a little fussy and (as usual) the only thing he wanted was to be nursed.  So I sat on the rocking chair and ate my enchilada while Danny nursed, trying to spill as little of my lunch on him as possible.  When I’d finished eating I started to print out my last few items for our presidency meeting (our rocking chair is placed where I have access to the computer).  Unfortunately I had run out of paper in the printer and even after adding more the computer and printer were being finicky about actually printing my documents.  Luckily Eric saved the day and got it all worked out.

Meanwhile Danny had fallen asleep so I went and laid him down in his bed.  I had been planning on taking him and Sam to our neighbor who was hosting co-op babysitting that day, however, since Danny was asleep and Eric was going to be home we agreed that I would leave him home.  If he awoke while I was gone Eric could take him down to our neighbor’s to join Sam.  My meeting was at 1pm and as it was already a little past that time I raced out the door with Sam, dropped him at co-op and got to our presidency meeting.

Our meeting was very productive and we got a pretty good start on our program script.  We wrapped up right at 3pm when I was supposed to be picking up Sam (luckily co-op and our meeting were both in our neighborhood, so I was right on schedule).  When I hopped out of the car to pick up Sam I couldn’t find the co-op tickets that I’d grabbed before I left.  Somehow between leaving home and our meeting they’d gotten lost.  I could have driven 5 houses down, picked up some tickets, and driven back to get Sam but I decided I didn’t want to make them wait any longer for me and I’d drop tickets off later.  When the door opened I was surprised to see that Daniel wasn’t there, although I was glad since that meant he was probably at home still sleeping and would be quite pleasant for the rest of the day.  I gathered my Sam and we headed home.

As I opened up the door I discovered that Daniel was not, in fact, still sleeping, but downstairs playing while his dad ate some lunch.  When Danny spotted us walking through the door he ran over to give a great big hug to… Sam!  Danny gives the best hugs, but it’s fairly rare that they are granted to his big brother.  I think Danny must have missed having Sam around for the half hour that he had been awake.  It was SO sweet to see that affection between those two boys.  They really are awesome brothers and I’m so glad to have them.

Sam was hungry so we fixed him a snack while I worked on some things on the computer.  Daniel has gotten into a stage where he LOVES to climb and get into things.  Especially if he can find the worst things to get into.  So naturally, while I was working on the computer I had to periodically take him off of the table/chairs/counters, deter him from climbing up and dismantling  or turning on our stove,  and calmly remove from his grip the knives he had procured from our knife block.  Never a dull moment with Danny around!  Finally I decided that since the day had over all been a success, Danny was getting antsy, Eric  wouldn’t be expecting an early dinner, and we’d been needing to do a grocery run since Thursday that I would round up the boys and head to the store.

It took a little while to get everyone ready, find shoes etc.  We made it out to the car and I realized that I needed to grab a few more things out of the house, including Sam’s baby doll – Tinkey -so we could avoid a meltdown.  So we got out the door probably around 4:30, still not too bad considering I was doing this with a preschooler and a toddler.  I plugged in my phone so that I could listen to my book during the drive.  We hadn’t even left the neighborhood when I realized that Sam was way too quiet, and he hadn’t yet had his nap for the day.  Crap, even the short drive to the store, if Sam was that tired  he’d be fast asleep before we reached the store.  So I insisted that he sing songs with me as we drove down the mountain.  He protested that if we sang loud songs then “we were going to wake him up”… but that was kind of the point.  There’s no way I could let him take a nap after 4pm if I wanted any chance of him going to sleep that night.

We made it to Smith’s without Sam falling asleep and I knew once he got out and walking around he’d be ok.  So we got into the store and found that they were unfortunately out of the shopping carts with the attached kiddie cars in the front. Sad, but not a big deal.  I grabbed a regular cart and Sam got a child sized cart.  I put Danny in my cart and Sam put Tinkey in his and we headed inside.  As we got inside Danny was getting squirmy so I went to buckle him in and discovered that the male end of the buckle was missing.  So I pretended that I was buckling Danny in by sticking the fabric part of the belt into the other end of the buckle, knowing it wouldn’t hold him, but that it might give me a few minutes of him being tricked into thinking he was stuck in the shopping cart before he’d insist on being carried.  Our shopping was fairly uneventful, Sam occasionally wandered into the aisles and got in other people’s way or rammed his cart into me or tried to put Starbursts into his cart, and Danny got tired of being in the cart and convinced me to take him out a few times to “help” me push the cart from my arms (note: this is in fact of negative helping value as it means I have to grapple with a toddler and push with one arm, in case you weren’t sure) and kept having to be re-seated in the cart as his climbing instincts told him that he MUST stand in the cart despite mom’s opinions to the contrary.

Finally we had gotten everything on our list and made it to the checkout.  As we loaded up the belt Danny wanted to be taken out of the cart but I insisted that he stay in the cart until we made it to the end.  I was nearly finished unloading my cart when I had a sinking realization – the other thing that I was supposed to grab from the house when I went in to get Tinkey, was my wallet.  I quickly rifled through my purse and realized that I had in fact made it all the way to the checkout line without my wallet.  I finished loading the groceries onto the belt and went to the front.  Danny was trying to get out again but I quickly re-seated him as I turned to the cashier to ask if they could put the groceries on hold while I ran out to my car to get my wallet.  As I was starting to tell her this I see Danny in the corner of my eye stand up in the cart and look over just in time to see that him lunge out of the cart and go head over heels right onto the hard floor.  He lands right in the middle of his forehead with a loud SMACK.  Horrified, I quickly pick him up and snuggle him to my chest while trying to assess the damage.  His nose is bleeding and he has a huge bump already forming in the middle of his forehead.  The cashier works quickly to procure some paper towels, sends her bagger off to get some ice, and her supervisor closes off the lane so we aren’t rushed while taking care of the situation.  Another checker comes over to help reassure me and tells me, in a very kind way, that I should I have had him buckled in – which I assure her I would have except that the buckle was broken.  Of course, that doesn’t make it any less my own fault, I could have gone back and searched for a cart that had a fixed buckle, but it didn’t seem like it was worth the effort at the time.  I feel awful, and hate the feeling that every person in that part of the store is now watching and judging me with my screaming, bleeding son who I should have done more to keep safe.

Danny's bump

This was the best picture we could get that shows the bump Danny ended up with. It’s not discolored so it’s a little hard to see, but if you look at his forehead you will notice that there’s a big round bump in the middle of it.

When I’ve finished assessing Daniel and have decided that – while he’s still crying and bleeding – he’s going to be just fine.  The bump is nasty looking and his nose is still bleeding, but just normal bloody nose.  It doesn’t help that he’s been congested so all the blood is mixed with copious amounts of snot.  The blood is all over and he doesn’t want to let me touch him to clean it up, and is instead wiping it on my arm and chest when I can’t catch him to wipe it off first.

I finally finish telling the cashier about my wallet situation.  She makes arrangements with her supervisor to have the groceries put on hold while I run out to the car to search for my wallet.  I’m fairly certain that I’ve left my wallet in my diaper bag from the day before, so I haul out my two boys – one still bleeding and crying, the other off in la-la land – out to our car to search.  As I go through the car I realize that I’ve taken my diaper bag into the house and it’s not in our car.  This never happens.  I am the world’s worst person at taking the diaper bag back into the house. Many times I’ll put it in the car for church on Sunday and the next Sunday when we’re getting ready for church – it’s still in the car.  So for me to have taken it in after a single outing is totally unheard of.  Unfortunately, this means that my wallet is sitting at home next to our rocking chair.  Shoot.  So I call Eric and have him text me the information for one of our credit cards on the off chance that they might be able to type in the information on their computer.

As we’re walking back in, Danny still whimpering and bleeding a little bit, Sam spots his old nursery leader who works in the Fred Myer inside our Smith’s.  Sister Hong is one of the world’s most wonderful people and she keeps a stash of candy and fruit snacks with her so that when she sees kids she knows at the store she can give them a treat (note: this is not WHY she is such a wonderful person, just one of the many examples).  So of course Sam has to stop and say hi.  I recount our story to Ming-tzong and she commiserates and gives fruit snacks to both of my boys.  She doesn’t know it, but she was the hero of the day – those fruit snacks were what finally helped Danny to calm down and be somewhat happy again.

We walked back to the checkstand and from there over to customer service where I was told for sure that they would need to see the actual card to be able to process the transaction – not surprising, but it had been worth a shot.  So I quickly text Eric to ask him to come down with a credit card.  The store manager comes over and has me fill out an accident report while we wait for Eric.  They offered to get Danny a drink or something, but the fruit snacks have been enough to settle him back down.  I do just want to note that the employees of the Smith’s were SO helpful, professional and kind through this whole ordeal.  I’ve been impressed with their friendly service since the first time I went to this store and yesterday’s experience was no exception.  Even though they could have berated me for being a terrible mother who doesn’t buckle her child in, or been frustrated with me for being the idiot that leaves their wallet at home, they were truly very kind and understanding and helpful – for which I was very grateful.  It made an awful situation just a little bit easier to deal with.

After the accident reports were finished we still had to wait a few minutes for Eric to arrive.  Finally our knight in shining armor arrives on his noble steed – or Eric in his helmet arrives on his scooter, the details are a little vague at this point :P  As he walks in he’s looking at the checkstands for us and finally sees us at the end of the aisle at customer service.  He still doesn’t know about Danny’s fall until he gets to us and I explain what happened.  At this point, despite the paper towels I have to clean him off, he has blood spattered across his face and there is some on my chest and arm – we probably look like we’ve just come from a murder.  Danny jumps into Eric’s arms and I think all of us are glad to see him with us again.  Eric pays for our groceries and I’m gratified to find out that once we put in our membership rewards number our total drops from $205 to $130 (pasta was on sale for $0.50/bag from its usual $1.50 so I had stocked up for our food storage).  A savings of $70 is a small consolation prize for what we went through, but better than nothing!

We go out to the car and get all the groceries packed up.  I’m grateful Eric was there to help load up the kids and groceries since I’m a little exhausted at this point, and it’s always easier managing the whole process with two people rather than one.  Finally we’re in the car and I’ve given Sam his donut that he earned for being relatively good at the store.  Sam doesn’t always get a donut on our shopping trips but we’d passed by the bakery case on our way into the store and he had asked for one.  I made the deal that if he was good we could maybe get one, knowing that if he didn’t see it again we’d probably escape without them.  Unfortunately my poor planning had made it so we ended up back by the bakery section right at the end of the excursion and since things had gone relatively well I couldn’t really refuse him.  I’m really grateful now that we had gotten the donut especially after everything else that we went through, it seems like a nice way to mediate the whole experience.

As I hop in the car I decide to listen to my book to help calm my nerves a little bit as we drive back home.  When we get about two minutes out of the parking lot I remember the reason I hadn’t listened on the way down – I’m supposed to be keeping Sam awake.  I look back at him but it’s already too late, Sam is totally passed out, donut in hand.  We get home and I lay him on the couch in hopes of a short nap, then I put the groceries away and start pulling out food for dinner.  It’s nearly 7pm at this point and Danny’s getting tired and hungry.  So we stop pulling out leftovers and sit down on the rocking chair and he nurses to sleep.

After putting Daniel in his bed I get Eric to come downstairs for dinner, we wake up Sam, eat dinner and watch some TV.  I’m of course a little worried about Danny after his big fall and a bit concerned that he might have a concussion, even though he’s been acting like his normal self, just tired at the end of a long day.  I’m grateful when he wakes up so we can examine him a bit more in the comfort of our own home.  He is just fine, his only souvenir from our adventure is a big lump on his head, but otherwise is no worse for the wear.

Finally it’s time for bedtime, I get Sam to bed, get some cleaning and work done, and finally around 11:30 I take Danny up to bed as well.  I had every intention of going back to my own bed after nursing him to sleep, but the next thing I knew I woke up from a nightmare in Daniel’s bed at 4am, guess the day wore me out too!

So, while the day started well, I’m going to say that yesterday’s winner was not in fact myself.  Luckily today and tomorrow are days that are devoid of any outside commitments or errands so I will happily stay locked up at home  with my two kids just cleaning and doing at-home things :)

By the way, if you read my personal blog as well and read this post about our adventure at the swimming pool, please don’t call CPS on me.  I promise most of our adventures have no accident reports and go off just fine.  We go to the pool and Wal-mart and Smiths and the park all the time without any major mishaps.  When they do happen I feel some catharsis by blogging about it, but I promise I’m a better blog than my blogs might make me seem!

The Magic of Costco

 - by Brittny

So recently Eric and I have been debating whether or not to keep our Costco membership.  We don’t go super frequently and when we do it seems like we end up buying lots of things that we don’t really need.  Not things that we don’t *want* mind you, but let’s be honest, I probably would have survived just fine without a box of 72 mini quiches.  Originally I had justified our membership because it was supposedly the cheapest place to get diapers, however our boys don’t do well in Huggies or Kirkland Signature diapers and Costco doesn’t carry Pampers.  For just about anything else we just don’t have enough people to really justify the massive bulk purchases.  So we’d decided to at least let our membership lapse for awhile and wait until we next really felt like we needed it.

Our Sam is what you might call a picky eater.  In fact, I’ve recently noticed a pattern in the foods he will eat.  Pretty much everything he eats is a combination of a carbohydrate and cheese.  Macaroni & cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, pizza, crackers & cheese, english muffins with cheese, nachos, rice with cheese, goldfish crackers, etc.  Those are his main staples (yes I realize that he gets the cheese eating gene from the Anderson side of the family and that his mother is totally to blame for his poor eating habits *hangs head* ) and I have a hard time getting him to eat just about anything else.

However, today I realized that Costco has magical powers.  When we walked into Costco today Sam was telling me that he was SO thirsty, so I told him I’d get us a “cool fruit drink” (aka a berry smoothie) on our way out. Now, back in August I bought a Blendtec blender and we have, consequently, had a lot of smoothies around our house.  Sam won’t touch them with a 10 foot pole.  But when we got it at Costco it was the best thing he’d ever had!  He excitedly drank it the whole way home.

Tonight he wanted more of his “cool fruit drink” so I offered that we could make a smoothie in our blender.  Sam helped me get the fruit and juice in the blender and I even let him push the button.  But when I gave it to him… nothing.  He didn’t even touch it.  In the end I had to drink the whole pitcher of smoothie myself.

When we go to Costco he will eat *anything* the sample ladies are handing out, or anything that comes from the takeout window up front.  Eric had mentioned this to me before, he got Sam to eat all kinds of things while on an adventure with him.  I blogged about this phenomenon a little over a year ago, but without actually realizing it.  However, if we buy those same things and bring them home, we might as well be trying to poison him!

So, the upshot is we might have to hang on to our Costco membership for awhile.  At least until we can convince Sam to try new foods at home…


Come on get in the boat, fish!

 - by Brittny

Today was a momentous day.  Today we received, what will hopefully be, Sam’s last shipment of diapers.  Wahoo!  We plan to give potty training a go once Christmas is past.  However, that wasn’t the most exciting part of the day.  The exciting part was that those diapers came in a great big box!  What toddler boy doesn’t love having a huge box in his front room?

So, of course, I put the boys in the box to let them play around.  Sam hadn’t yet gotten to the stage in life where he hops in a box and it immediately becomes a racecar/spaceship/secret bunker etc.  So when I asked him what it was he looked at me like, “Uhm, a box, duh mom.”  So I suggested that maybe it was a boat.  That was immediately a hit!  He started to pretend he was going to the promised land (yes, he’s watched the Animated Scripture videos a few times :) ).  He then told me “Mom!  Float. My. Boat!”  Which I thought was a pretty hysterical request.  He also asked me for a “rower shovel” (more commonly referred to as a paddle, I like hearing how Sam describes things that he doesn’t know the names for!).  It’s so much fun to see these little kids’ imagination come to life!