Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pics of the brick wall

Here are the pics of my brick wall. Yes, this is the new studio entrance on the North side of my house. The door was installed (by an idiot) during the summer, which started this entire project. Many months later, the end is finally in sight.

Here's how it went, starting with the prep on the drywall...

... and the finished product! Obviously the mortar is still wet in this pic (especially on the left side) and it dried much lighter.
Since finishing the wall I've done more painting, had the nightmare with the floor, the electrician has done his finish work, and the custom cabinets have been built and installed.
I finished with grouting the bathroom tile floor late last night. Mike hung trim in the salon, so it's putty and paint today! Our plumber will be here in the morning. Could we really be that close? It seems like a lot still.
Not to mention the mass amount of snow I've got to shovel off the driveway... thank goodness for ALEVE. And lots of it!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho... it's off to work I go!

I went to work last night (hopefully for the last time) and it made me so excited to think about having my own studio. Being able to go downstairs instead of fighting Christmas traffic and winter weather.
I have put so much into this project of mine... it's by far the biggest thing I've taken on in a long time. From designing the floor plan and electric needs, to building an interior brick wall... I've honestly lived the term 'blood, sweat, and tears'.
Mike was able to do the framing, and had some help from my bro-in-law. We decided to hire out the electrical work, plumbing, and HVAC. Even thought Mike did all of these things in our last house... to expedite the process, and because Mike doesn't seem to have any free time. ever. If Mike worked only on Saturday's... it may be a few years before we finished it up.
I think the greatest accomplishment I've had... the brick wall. The biggest flop... the floor. I bought the brick from a Mason on KSL. When we picked it up, he gave me a quick explanation of how to use mortar and wished me luck. I bought the brick for 1/4 of what it costs, and the mortar was something like $7 a bag. So 20 hours and four days later... I couldn't hardly walk and certainly couldn't put my arms above my head... but I was done! I literally just mixed up the mortar, cranked up the iPod and took a leap of faith. Although it was more like throwing myself off a cliff into the valley of the unknown... just praying I land on my feet. I knew once I started to trowel that cement on my walls there would be no turning back. Luckily... it came out how I had wanted it to.
Which brings me to the floor.
I didn't feel like this was going to be jumping off the cliff, I actually wasn't very worried. (Maybe I became overly confident after the brick) I wanted to stain the concrete an earthy 'slate' type color. I wanted there to be variences... darker and lighter... looking very much like a natural stone kind of thing. Well... I had alot of variables. We had to move the plumbing, so the concrete had been torn up in some areas, we also had the typical basement floor cracks. The newer cement had not been filled in evenly (we had a contractor from hell... my 5-year old could have made the floor move level than he did) so my palette was not ideal. Still... I wasn't too worried.
My problem was the color. The cement didn't absorb like it should have. So after washing the concrete (took 1 day to wash, 1 day to dry) then using an acid to etch it (one FULL day to put the it down, then mop it up, and 1 day to dry) I put down a stain that turned out too blue... not gray.
So after consulting an 'expert' at Home Depot... I decided to put down another stain on top of the blue. Something more brown to neutralize the color. (1 day to apply, 1 day to dry) Well... it was a red-brown... so I got a purplish floor.
Now I will admit that I'm a stickler when it comes to color. I wasn't looking for perfection... but I had an idea in my mind, and was nowhere close. So I proceeded to use a stripping solution, which turned the stain into a sticky thick goo. It came up in some places, but not in others. I was left with a complete disaster! (not to mention ANOTHER two days wasted) Scrubbing the floor and scraping the goo left me so incredibly sore and nasty gross.
My solution was to fork out more cash and get a laminate floor from IKEA. It was cheap as far as flooring is concerned, and I just wanted a floor that would look nice. So I went with the rustic wooden laminate. It looked awesome with the brick! and the paint on the walls! It was a beast to lay... due to the uneven concrete areas... what should have taken me 2-3 hours, turned into 6-7 hours. I just did my best and got the floor done. It looked nice, and the uneven spots weren't noticeable.
The next morning I walk in to find that as the material climatized... the uneven spots had bowed up, and any piece not properly fitted popped up, separating itself. Like little springing slats over two areas.
Up until this point of the entire project I had experienced a range of emotions and feelings... I had been very angry with a contractor. Extremely sore from physical labor. Super tired from too many long days. I felt guilty for neglecting my children through much of this project. I had gotten sick from running down my immune system. And I had been happy with results, surprised at the things I had accomplished, and excited to see the end coming soon.
For the first time... I was now devastated and hopeless about the stupid floor. Mike kept saying "it's just the floor" and I would think "YES! the floor! that's a huge part of the room!"
As I tore up the already-cut-laminate-pieces-I-couldn't-return, I actually fumed. My blood was boiling so hard I thought my head would explode! It was actually therapeutic to rip those boards off the floor and throw them across the room.
I laid in bed and as the thought of the money I had wasted on the floor added up in my mind... I put the 'tears' into the 'blood, sweat, and tears'. I was spent! And out of ideas.
Mike and I were leaving for almost a month... and we had been on schedule to complete everything before we left. I was getting too stressed and decided to put it all on hold until we got back.
We finally came home on the 8th, and I finished the floor a few days later. I went with a solid concrete paint. The color isn't my favorite... in fact, I think it clashes with the wall color... but at this point it "is" what it "is". Nobody will be bothered by it but me.
So as of today... we are getting the cabinets hung and installed... hopefully this week, then Mike can finish the trim and hang the doors. Then the plumber can come hook up the water and we are GOOD TO GO! I can't wait!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Disneyland 2010

The girls and I headed to Disneyland (sadly, without our brave leader Mike) for an adventure! My Mom and lil' sis came along as well.

I arranged a suite with a kitchen. NO EATING IN THE PARK! Is a rule of ours... as well as NO SOUVENIRS! Which means that all we contribute to the park is our cheap deal on tickets... and our wonderful selves!
That first day we went grocery shopping for the week, then picked up my sis from the airport. (She flew in that morning) Then we finally headed to Huntington Beach. This is one of my favs, and when I lived in OC I frequented this beach often... okay, when I should have been in school. But really? How do you go to school on a beautiful warm day knowing there is a beach 15 minutes down the road?!

The kids LOVED it! We could have skipped Disneyland and spent everyday at the beach for a week. (Take after their Mom!)


That evening we went to the park just for the fireworks. We went back to the hotel to get a good nights sleep... we had a few long days ahead of us! (Little did we know the heat was going to try and shut us down)

We came in... started on the right... and hit it all. I had to take them to Captian EO. The best moment was at the end, when I said "Wow! He is such an icon!" and Lexi said "What?!... that was a boy?"
We were working the 'FastPass' system timing things just right so we never got held up, or had to go back somewhere.
Sophie could ride everything except Indiana Jones and California Screamin'... she was pretty devastated. Her favorite ride was the Tower of Terror. We rode it three times in a row... and again the next day.
I have to say that one of my favorite things about my girls is that they did NOT want to stand in a line to see a princess. You would think in a family of girls that we might do the 'princess thing'... but seeing a girl in a dress and make-up... talking like a chipmunk... just doesn't give you the same adrenaline rush as those coasters do! I will admit that I have never been a big fan of Disney Princesses. There are very few of them that I think are good role models. A few of them aren't helpless, ditsy, drama queen's. But I just haven't ever been a fan of the idea that girls should just sing songs and wait for a Prince to make their dreams come true. So my girls are deprived.
I have to say that we did have opportunities to see Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and the girls even got to participate in a show with the Toy Story soldiers. But no lines for the lame princesses.... thank goodness!

The girls were SO excited to just be there! They had no demands or expectations... just so happy! They really are the most amazing kids, sometimes going to public places where I see other childrens' behavior is the best thing for me. I wouldn't trade them for any other kids in the world!

We made so many memories, and had such a great time. I know that these are the times I will treasure forever. I will someday look back and remember the smiles on their faces and the excitement in the their eyes... it really is a magical place!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Trying to catch up

(yes, I'm posting this... it's been sitting unpublished since October...)

I realize it's been quite a while since I've written. As the days go on, I get more and more behind, the thought of catching up is a bit overwhelming.
Many things have been going on. Kids back in school, Mike's new position at work, switching work to my home, church calling (yes, I have one!), school volunteer drama, housework (or lack there of), personal conflicts, family, weight battles, friends, and my usual up's and down's.
I love fall General Conference, despite the weather changing. There were some specific things that hit home for me. Parenting instructions, inspirations to grow my faith, and personal challenges.
One thing I took to heart was the challenge to get to bed early and wake up early. Something I have really never done in my lifetime. But I'd love to make that change.
I'm hoping that things will slow down a bit so I can catch up. I was that person who would check blogs and think "I really wish they would post!" I would hear people say "I'm just so far behind" and I would offer my advise... "just start new! don't worry about catching up!"
... guess it's time to take my own advise!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ode to Fabric Softener

(My Mother never used fabric softener... never. So this is a new world for me! I used fabric softener for the first time in May. I'm so happy it doesn't bother the girls skin!)

Oh how I LOVE the scent of you...
I feel all fuzzy inside when I open the cupboard to see your sleek and sexy curves.
You are called 'simple pleasures', and you live up to your name.
I think I could just sit and smell you all day.
They should make you into a candle... or a lotion.
I must admit... I can't really tell what you do for my clothes... but it doesn't matter.
You almost make me want to do laundry... almost.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

"Thanks for noticing me"- eeyore

I haven't written in a while because I've nothing positive to say. I've been stuck in a slump the last bit, and I can't quite get out of it. I feel like Eeyore... pessimistic and down in the dumps.
I've had plenty of things to pull me out, but I can't pinpoint why I got so down in the first place.
So here is what's going on...

The budget thing is pluggin' along. I'm not sure if it's contributing to my depression, but I'm hanging in there. I've stayed within my cash allowances, and I'm learning to go without some luxuries. I'm learning that I HAVE to make a plan before entering any store, and I have to stick to my list. I have to calculate as I go... so I don't end up with a cart full of things I have no money for.
The girls used their allowance to buy themselves desks, so I was proud of them for being so wise with their spending.
I think I've realized that being upfront with them about our change in finances is good for them. I've just said... "No, we don't have money for that" or "Sorry, it's not in the budget" A few times it has concerned Cori. She said "Are we going to run out of money or something?" and it gave me the opportunity to tell her that even if we had the money to spend, we really need to look at if it's worth spending it on. I feel like this budget is forcing me to stop and think about things more. I have to really consider if I want to buy something extra, and I have to consider what other things I might want to spend it on instead.
Anyways... just my own learning process. I never thought running out of olives would cause such insight in my life. I found myself mulling over a decision of whether I buy the olives... even if they aren't on sale... or wait for the sale... or just buy one can now... or buy five cans, because who knows when they'll go on sale? It's not like milk, bread or eggs! The fact is... I didn't realize what a staple olives were at our house! Olives... a luxury or a necessity?!

The kids are back in school. My baby goes to Kindergarten on Wednesday... crazy! The girls all have good teachers. School supplies only cost me an arm and a leg. SERIOUSLY! Between their individual needs, classroom cash donations, and donated classroom supplies... it added up. I need to make a note for next year, so I can set aside some extra cash.
I had great plans before school started... getting organized and ready for everything. Didn't happen. Then I imagined that as soon as the kids were gone all day... I have the house immaculate! Yeah... fat chance. I can't figure out what I'm spending all my time doing... but I have no time... and a messy house.

I ran a 5k race for Wasatch Mental Health. Heaven knows we all need better mental health! But it was a great cause and a beautiful morning up the canyon.
I've had a 'girls night out' with my old High School basketball team. And an evening on the lake with another group of fabulous women. (On a side note... I was tubing, going fast enough to flip the tube and hit the water hard enough I lost my swim bottoms! Luckily they were still around my ankles, and I was decent by the time the boat came back around.)

Life is good. I just need to pull my head out and cheer up. I think that summer ending is harder than I expected. I'll get over it, it's just a cycle I gotta get through.
When I get depressed I get mad at myself. I'm angry because I feel like being aware of my cycles should mean that I can combat it. Like I should be prepared for the battle. I get down in the dumps and look back to July and think... "how did I do all of that?" and "how was I running on 4-5 hours of sleep a day" because now I can't get enough. I force myself out of bed after 10 or 11 hours and try to get enough caffeine in me to get through the day.
But I try and put on my 'happy face'... one day at a time. Can't wait for another high.

"Good morning, Eeyore," said Pooh.
"Good morning, Pooh Bear," said Eeyore gloomily. "If it is a good morning, which I doubt," said he.
"Why, what's the matter?"
"Nothing, Pooh Bear, nothing. We can't all, and some of us don't. That's all there is to it."
"Can't all what?" said Pooh, rubbing his nose.
"Gaiety. Song-and-dance. Here we go round the mulberry bush."
(A. A. Milne...from book Winnie the Pooh)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Show me the money!

Oh me, oh my!
The past couple weeks have been eye opening... pretty much a good slap in the face. I didn't think I was blowing money out of my butt, but I totally was.
I'm doing the 'cash envelope' method. So every two weeks (when Mike gets paid) I get a set amount of cash in 5 different envelopes...
Grocery
Food Storage
Household
Kids
Entertainment
We have done the cash method in the past... but not specifically divided. So things would come up and I would have a good excuse to throw my debit card at it if the cash was gone... because it wasn't 'grocery' related. I've decided that it's better to be realistic about the amounts we need in each category, or I just end up over spending anyways. Mike puts gas in the vehicles every two weeks... or more often if I've had to drive more than usual. Everything has to be categorized, or I have to pull it from somewhere else.
I started the first two weeks with regular paper envelopes... but...

I spent $3 at Wal-mart and bought an organizer... this one is the same as mine, but it's been covered in cute fabric, maybe I'll do that this week... instead of shopping.
It's nice because I can keep it all in one place, and it will hold any coupons too. The only thing I've noticed that really sucks is coin change... I have no where to put it. I thought maybe I'll just start keeping it in a jar by my bed, and when it looks like there's a good amount in there, I'll use it to treat myself with something!
As I spend the cash in each category, I put the receipt in it's place. That I way I can look back and see what I spent the money on... I also have it handy if I need to return anything.
I have surrendered all my cards... ALL OF THEM... the only plastic I get to comfort me is my pretty little Costco Card. (Which I've decided is the devil!) I'm embarrassed to admit that this is like taking away my security blanket. I feel like I'm standing naked on the street corner!
I think that shopping and eating are my challenges in this life. I wouldn't trade them for other trials or temptations... but the deeper I look into myself, the more I realize how much I comfort myself with these things. It's not healthy that a pair of new shoes can make me feel emotionally better when I'm having a bad day. Or a great deal on a new shirt can make the world a better place to live!
I wish this was an easy problem to fix. I know that like dieting, spending money will be a battle forever. Just keeping my mind in a healthy place as far as what are 'needs' and what are 'wants'.
I must say that it feels so empowering to have some control over things... this week at least. I realize there will be times that are harder than others. Expenses come up that are not planned, emergencies and such. I've already realized that there is always SOMETHING that comes up. Anything from bringing food to a party... to Lexi's toes coming through the top of her tennis shoes! There's always something! The only way to plan for the unplanned is to not spend everything in the envelopes. Those sayings about 'burning a hole in my pocket' are accurate about me... if I have it, chances are I'll spend it. Now I'm learning that my new security blanket is knowing that I HAVEN'T spent everything, and there's something there if it's needed.
So the envelopes are good. When the cash is gone... it's gone! If something else comes up it will take some thought and discussion.
My coupon clipping and bargain hunting skills are coming in handy. I just gotta keep it up! (Just like dieting!)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Knowledge of his plan

It's been a tough week.
I attended a funeral for an 8 year-old boy Friday, and a baptism for an 8 year-old boy Saturday.

August 7th we had our Fife Family reunion. I helped my grandma plan, and carry out, a reunion for a grundle of us... some local, some coming from Idaho and California.
It started early, picking up things needed, taking everyone to the lake... and ended in my grandparents backyard that evening with a movie under the stars.
I decorated, set-up a bouncy house, made snow cones and cotton-candy, and truthfully I was exhausted!
Our family is the same as any other, we have our share of 'crazies'. The dynamics of different people is always interesting and I have to admit... there are people I love to see, and others I have to prepare myself to tolerate. (thank goodness for prescription drugs!)
After a crazy day, I was ready to write a post about my frustrations and vent about those family members who make me want to never attend a reunion ever again... but then all the petty and trivial issues were put into perspective.
Sunday I received a phone call that there had been an accident, and my cousin Jacob was being life-flighted to Primary Children's. A couple hours later I received the call that he had passed away.
I drove up to the hospital to pick-up my Mom and Grandma, who had been up there with my Aunt and Uncle.
Their sweet little 8 year-old had been playing in his room and accidentally got himself tangled up, and had strangled himself. The same little boy, so full of life the day before! I couldn't even imagine... it could have been one of my girls. It all seemed unreal.
When I got to the hospital, my Uncle wanted me to see him. All that could come out of my mouth was "I'm so sorry". Their pain was beyond comprehension.
My Aunt and Uncle have four boys... Jacob being the youngest. Their oldest two sons are both on missions, one in California and the other in Brazil. They are one of the closest families I've ever known.
Friday was the funeral. My cousins were both able to come home, and both spoke at the funeral. My Uncle also spoke. It was so powerful and so sad. They kept it positive, but I think that anytime you see parents having to bury a young child... it just doesn't seem fair.
My Uncle said something I will never forget. He said "I have no regrets. We laid it all on the table." And they really did. They are a family that doesn't hold anything back. Jacob knew how much he was loved! His parents and brothers showed him love everyday of his life. I really want to live my life that way. If I were to lose one of my children, I would want to be able to say that... no regrets.

My sweet nephew decided to become a member of the church today.
It was bittersweet to think that the two boys were only months apart... one now in heaven, and the other receiving the gift of the holy ghost.
Nate has been Cori and Lexi's best friends since the minute he was born! They are three pea's in a pod, and he used to call them his "grills".
I'm so proud of him, he is such a great kid!
I felt honored to be a part of this special day, and I know he will bless the lives of so many.

I just have to express my love for my Father in heaven. I don't understand why things have to happen the way they do. It doesn't make sense... I wish I could have more answers.
All I know is that I'm grateful to have the knowledge of the plan of salvation. To know that Jesus Christ died for us, so we can live again.
I know this life is not the end... that we will see our loved ones again... and what a great day that will be.
I'm so grateful to be a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. To live in a time when the gospel is here in it's fullness. I'm so thankful for a prophet to guide us.
I feel especially blessed to have my family... my sweet children. I don't know how long I will have them, but I'm reminded that they could return to their Heavenly Father at anytime.
I'm thankful that Cori and Lexi have chosen to be baptized, and have the desire to live righteously. I'm thankful that 'families are forever'.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The best 12 years of my life!

Mike and I celebrated our 12 year anniversary... man does time fly when your having fun.
In so many ways I feel that my life really started when I met Mike. He has been my 'rock' and has taught me to love... and how to be loved. I hardly remember life without him... and yet I feel our actual wedding day was only a couple years ago.Not a week goes by without me still wondering how on earth I deserve this man!
I didn't grow up with much of an example as far as husbands and fathers are concerned. I never would have imagined that I could find someone... let alone be married to someone so amazing.Mike and I are as different as night and day, and yet we fit like two puzzle pieces. My weaknesses are his strengths and he has a way of 'handling' me... which says a ton.
I pride myself on being strong and independent. I feel the need to never 'need' or depend on anyone! Mike has a way of breaking down my walls and showing me I can depend on him.
He has taken such good care of me for the past 12 years, and given me a life I never dreamed of. He works so incredibly hard for our family, and couldn't be a better father.
He is that 'tall, dark, and handsome' man... athletic, strong, super smart, hard-working, spiritual, kind, gentle, loving... man of my dreams. Actually much better than I ever dreamed!
Mike and I have been blessed with many opportunities to travel. Over the past 10 years we have seen so much of the world together. There is not another person I would want to share those experiences with. I love spending time with Mike, just the two of us.He is my best-friend, and my eternal companion. I look forward to the years ahead... as our family grows and changes. There's nobody I'd rather grow old with.

Monday, August 2, 2010

My new quest...starting at Qwest

So anyone who knows me me well, knows how hilarious this is for me. I have an idea...I have a new itch.

I've always considered myself a somewhat frugal person... well, maybe the word frugal isn't right... thrifty. I've been rather creative with saving money, especially with my home decor and clothing. I will admit that my saving money on clothes helps with the fact that I buy twice as many clothes (or four times as many) as I should. I got on a coupon kick last year and LOVE (and obsess) over saving grocery money.
So I've been inspired by so many others over the past year or so. People who have really cut back and simplified their life. I know some change comes from necessity, but I truly believe that everyone could find ways to cut back.I told Mike that starting Jan 1st 2011... I'm taking a challenge to really cut out ANY and ALL unnecessary spending. I started telling Mike all the 'fluffy stuff' we were going to go 365 days without. We've talked about everything from getting rid of TV to cutting out fountain drinks. (only the 75 cent 2 liters... don't worry, I'm not cutting soda totally out... I'm not really for that yet!)There was an Oprah re-run on Thursday that I took as my final sign. Why am I waiting until January? If I'm really going to commit... why not start with things I can change now?!I want to keep a record of everything I'm changing, goals I'm setting, and progress along with set backs. I realize this means airing a bit of our financial 'dirty laundry'. Mike and I have been real smart in some areas of our finances... but not smart in others. We are far from perfect, and I won't pretend that we have anything figured out. What seems like 'frugal living' to some may be total excess to others, this is a personal challenge I'm taking.I know the road will not be easy... I know that there will be times I breakdown... and I know there will be times I absolutely HATE it. I'm excited to see the kind of accomplishments we can achieve with some discipline and dedication!
So I'm happy to report my work today...I called Qwest this morning and talked to the nicest lady... Betsy. I told her I was looking to cut back our month-to-month expenses. She was so happy to help! She didn't try and talk me out of anything or try and sell me anything new.
(Now... first off... I will admit that I have not been involved in our family's finances. In fact, I haven't known Mike's salary for the past few years. He pays the bills and I get an allowance. The allowance works fine... except when I keep a debit card in my wallet. So this is a world I have not been a part of for a long time. I'm rather upset with myself for going all these years without being involved... but the truth is, I'm not good with managing money. But that's got to change.)
We 'bundle' with Qwest... which saves us a bit. Mike's work pays for our Internet and I was under the impression that we had the basic home phone service. We canceled long distance because we can use our cell phones... so I didn't think there was much to cut back. I was wrong.
A basic land line in Utah is $12 a month. Now add taxes...ridiculous...and it's actually $20 a month.So our $25.99 a month service (before taxes) was NOT basic. I asked for the basic package, and only added caller ID for another $9.
Betsy was awesome... and said that she could give me a couple loyalty promotions (to which I thought "what the *#$! are loyalty promotions?! and why have I not gotten any before?!!!" but it came out of my mouth to Betsy as "thank you so much!") 50% off our home phone bill for the next 4 months... AND... $30 off our TV for 3 months. (our TV is through Direct TV, but the discount comes from Qwest) WHA-HOO!

Now speaking of TV...
I called Direct TV... and I talked with Jared... who was no Betsy! He was bothered with me and kept trying to talk me out of things.
We had a package that is no longer offered, so it was a pretty good deal... but... there was still a lot we didn't need. I dropped us to the lowest package that still had ESPN and HGTV. We dropped the additional sports package (big sacrifice for Mike) and canceled the protection plan. I also stopped service on the DVR in the basement and have to send back the receiver (they send you all the stuff to send back the receiver... prepaid shipping label and all!)

Qwest home phone service: from $40.61 a month... to $29 a month Direct TV: from $99.92 a month... to $61.99 a month
Loyalty discounts: total over the next 4 months... $58 for phone and $90 for TV

GRAND TOTAL :$49.54 a month... that's $594.48 a year. And an additional $148 for... loyalty.

I'm not going to pretend that we are making huge sacrifices around here. I realize that many people live without caller ID and HGTV. I'm just cutting back the things we really don't use anyway. I was SHOCKED at the things we were paying for... things I didn't even know we had... let alone were paying for!
We still live in excess... I know that. There's lots of work to do... lots of learning.

So there it is... my progress for today.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

She's crafty... she gets around... she's crafty

So I wouldn't normally do this...
because there are about a zillion crafty blogs out there, and I would not ever imagine I could create anything 'blog worthy' to compete. But...
I just wanted to journal my newest turn out of my 'time saving' craft.

At first I was a bit ashamed of this, because I thought it took the thoughtfulness out of gift giving.

However I got the idea when I met Mike's mother. Anyone who knew her knows that she was about the most thoughtful person on earth. (At least that I have ever met!)
She never missed a person's birthday, she wrote a 'thank you' card for anything you ever did for her or gave to her. She was so 'on-the-ball' with that stuff I just hoped to achieve a tiny portion of it someday.
One day she told me that she had a 'gift basket' that she collected gifts for all year. She would always have gifts on hand to give. Mike said he remembered someone coming to the door with a gift for her, and she'd say "Just a minute..." and arrive back seconds later with a gift to give in return.

Like I said... some people might think it is impersonal... but I have found that I actually give a lot more, and can be more thoughtful, because I don't have the overwhelming task of running to the store every time I think of someone.

So I started picking up small gifts and getting enough on had to feel prepared for those unexpected moments. It truly is much more cost effective and very efficient.
One of my favorite places is Pioneer Party in Lehi. I went in for the first time about three years ago and now I visit a few times a year. They have the funnest and cutest assortment of gifts, and I get tons of ideas to go home and make things. (for about 1/3 of what I could buy them there!)




So I needed a couple gifts last week and decided to spend the day stocking up... making tags, wrapping, and putting together small gifts for my 'gift basket'. These are a few of my favorite...












My sis-in-law made me one year's worth of Visiting-Teaching-message-holders last year (two for each month) so that I can print out a quote, get a small treat, and throw it in one of these envelopes...

Now I just have to do better at being a consistent Visiting Teacher :(

She makes the absolute cutest gift tags, cards, and just about everything... she even sells them around Christmas. That's Talent!

So there you go... my secret is out! Hopefully this doesn't discredit my gifts... I hope all my loved ones know I still care about and think about them just as much (or more) than the rest... I'm just trying to simplify my life so I can try and be a better person!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bear Lake 2010


So we had our annual Bear Lake trip this past week. This year we had "the house" at the resort. Since we are getting so big... 20 of us were there... we got a little house all to ourselves.
We arrived on Saturday and got settled. That night the girls and Mike went swimming at the pool. The kids had a blast and wore themselves out.
The next day we went to church. Church is always an experience there. It's such a popular vacation spot, and sacrament is PACKED. If we don't go 30 minutes early, we end up in the primary or relief society room watching on an old television. It's like Stake Conference... but nice and short. This past week was 'raspberries days' and the 24th of July weekend. It was quite busy!

Then we decided to hike the Minnetonka Cave. We weren't able to hike Timp, so this was a fun cave to visit. Cori wanted to be a Geologist when she grows up, so she was fascinated by everything. It's kind of funny that we've gone to Bear Lake for the last 9 years and never visited. I'm really glad we went! (I just wish I could find a patch for the girls packs)

Monday we spent the day at the Lake. We got down there early and had a great spot. The morning and afternoon was nice and sunny. The air stayed cooler the entire trip... so it never got really hot. In the later afternoon a pretty big storm came through.
Lexi tried to ski, but a big storm kicked up. I'm not sure I could have even skied in those swells!
I braved the cold weather and went out in the lake to help her. (In my wetsuit, of course!) She's so awesome for even having the guts to get out and try in that weather.

Mike took the waverunner in and about died in the storm. In hindsight we should have just pulled it up on the shore and called it good. Luckily he made it safe.
The kids swam again that night at the pool... all the playing made for great little sleepers!

Tuesday was great weather. The kids tubed and got their fill of the Lake before we headed home that evening.

It was a fun... and busy... trip! I'm very grateful for the opportunities we've had this summer, but I'm so happy to be home, and not going anywhere for a while.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bountiful Baskets

I found a new co-op...


It's 1/2 fruits and 1/2 veggies. No meat... but I was struggling with the different cuts of meat from the other co-op. (I guess we are boring 'chicken breast' people!)
It's every other week instead of once a month. The food lasted two weeks, so it worked out just right.
There are options every month to buy other things... fresh salsa, tamales, flats of berries, bushels of fruit and more. Most come in quantities to share. If anyone is every interested, I would love to share some things!

Nothing better than cheap and healthy!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Camping is intense... in tents

We spent the weekend up the canyon with Mike's siblings.
I haven't been sleeping well, so I went on a walk both mornings as soon as the sun came up. The first morning I walked with Lexi, and the second I walked by myself. There is nothing better than the mountains and everything being quiet. So peaceful! All I could hear was the river and birds. I wish I could start everyday that way!
This picture puts into perspective how huge the mountains around this campsite are...We got up there Friday evening and set up camp. After putting the kiddos to bed, we stayed up late talking.It's always great to visit with Mike's family... lots of great laughs... Bushman's childhood memories... Norm-isims... and memories. Since Mike doesn't remember his childhood (seriously) I think he especially loves being reminded of the great times he had growing up.We planned lots of activities for the kidlets... but as always, playing in the dirt and torturing ants seemed to be the best thing to occupy them.

They went on a scavenger hunt, made tie-died bandanas, made snack necklaces, did the Jr. Ranger workbooks, and there was a great family water fight!

We got laughs for our monstrous tent... and I gave Greg a hard time about his new portable condo... oh, I mean trailer. (So fancy pants!)
We kind of cheated on Saturday, came down the canyon for shaved ice and spent a bit in Greg and Anita's freezer box (aka their house) But we headed back up for another great evening around the fire.
It was a great weekend with fun people, awesome food, and fun times. I can't wait to do it again soon!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sophie's Birthday


So my sweet little Sophie turned 5. (Not to be selfish, but my baby turning 5 was quite a kicker for me!)

It's crazy to think that it wasn't that long ago when she was my 'stinker' who I struggled with on a daily basis. Her strong personality and stubbornness was just as dominant as mine... and the combination was difficult. But through some love, parenting books, workbooks, and class... and many prayers... she has changed dramatically over the past months!She is now my most sensitive child! She is so sweet and loving. She needs to be treated 'with care' and mimics the tone I take with her. So... if I am patient and loving towards her? She is patient and loving right back to me! It has been a wonderful year for her and for me.

She has taught me so much as a mother. I've always believed that she came to this earth pre-programmed with the knowledge of how to push all my buttons. Now I look at her and see a spirit who was probably my best friend in heaven. We are so much alike, and she has such a spunky little spirit! I feel so blessed to have her in our family.She had her '5 year-old friend party' this year. Since my kiddos only get friend parties at 5, 8, 12, and 16... this is a pretty big deal.

I really wanted to keep a tight budget for the event, and I was shocked at how far I stretched my $100 dollar goal. I'm obsessed with HGTV, so when they 'design on a dime' it gives me warm fuzzies! I tend to get the same fuzzies when I use my coupons, get a good deal, or save money.
The theme was 'Sophie's Carnival' and I made some digital invites (no envelopes). So here's the breakdown...
Invites: free

Bouncy House: free
Trampoline: free
Pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey game :$0.99

Snow Cone Machine: free (given to Lexi for her birthday 2 years ago)

Snow Cone Syrup: free leftovers
Ice: $3.50

Capri Suns: $8.00

Corn Dogs:$9.50

Soft Pretzels: $8.50

Nacho cheese: $6.00
Cotton Candy Machine (rental): $55.00
Face Painting: free
and of course... the Hose: FREE
Grand total... $91.49

It was a ton of fun, and all the kids were great! Cori and Lexi were awesome helpers, and they loved helping with organize the kids games.

I learned that not all children love silly string as much as I do, boys will get their face painted if it's a mean animal or there can be blood involved, I don't have any shade in my backyard, and a hose makes ANY game cooler! (literally)

That night for our family party, Sophie opened gifts from us. She got new clothes for Kindergarten, and told me last night when I was tucking her in "Mom... all my presents are very important to me.... even the clothes are important to me." Goodness I love that kidlet!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Subdued


Subdued: (adjective) lacking in vitality, intensity, or strength

This would be the word I could use to define myself more recently. I feel like I'm going through the motions... not necessarily unhappy or not content... just subdued.
I've been living on an average of 5 hours of sleep these days. Feeling like life is moving forward and I'm not quite present. I'm here, just not fully engaged. If my life were a painting I would be in muted watercolors... somewhere in the background. I feel transparent.
The strange thing is that it hasn't made me any less productive. In fact, waking up earlier than normal (and not being able to go back to sleep) has helped me get things done. I'm moving forward... but it's as if I'm a passenger.
I have busy weeks, busy days, and July is a crazy busy month. Maybe I will feel normal when things slow down a bit.
I do worry that my new philosophy of "fake it till you make it" is taking a toll. Being happy on the surface, putting a smile on, or just giving off the impression that everything is fine is supposed to get me through the time until it is all true.
All my laundry is clean... just sitting on the couches. Besides that... my house mimics my feelings. Everything seems okay on the surface, just don't look too hard.

Writing is my struggle against silence. Do I stay silent? I can try... but sometimes I have to write.

I want to fix it. I want to fix me, but I want to fix the things around me that I have no control over. In looking back, the last few years feel like a decade. The past 6 months feel like years and years.
So much has changed... my relationships with people, my feelings about family, my circle of friends, my testimony of the gospel, my faith... in people and myself. Some things have gotten better, and some have taken a turn in maybe a wrong direction.
So what happened?
I can remember a time... not that long ago... when I was in a real good place. A place with friends, a calling that I loved, I was loving myself... accepting myself. What happened? How did life take a turn... after all, I am the driver! (not a passenger)
I told Mike that I feel like I'm being punished. Punished maybe by God, by people who have abilities to help me, by some family, and by some friends... and truthfully by myself I guess.
There is a soft chair in my therapists office.. it's been calling my name for months. I just keep thinking things will get better. Accepting that they won't, feels like giving up.
So what the hell happened? I don't know.
I recently had an experience that took me backwards. I once again felt betrayed and mostly confused as to how I got in the situation. After trying so hard to move forward, I feel like I'm taking 1 step forward, 2 steps back. I'm not progressing... emotionally, mentally.
It's not like I have a horrible life. It's not like I have the struggles I see others going through. The fact is that my struggles and challenges cannot be seen. Which is why I feel the need to fake it. If my loss of faith in people showed as a monetary loss... or my feelings of betrayal were open wounds... or maybe if my pain were big scars on the outside of my body, it might be easier to deal with? or easier to get over?
For a long time I was scared of happiness. I didn't ever want to become comfortable. It was scary to let my guard down, because so much of my life was just surviving. I like chaos... it makes me feel safe. So I guess I grew comfortable over the past years. I let my guard down... let people in... trusted. I got complacent and my life became still. Now I'm trying to build up some type of safety net again. And as much as I'd like to give people the "benefit of the doubt" I've been knocked so far from what I thought I knew.
I can say that I'm not angry with God, we actually have gotten rather close. Mike and I are as close as ever, and I adore my children. Should that be enough? Am I reaching for things that shouldn't matter?
I used to believe the saying that when "God closes a door, he opens a window". I don't think that God closes doors on us. People close doors. And we can open a window... if we can find it. I just need to find my window before I lose myself in this room.

I'm so tired of disappointments.


Sand Hollow

So we ventured away from Flaming Gorge this year and opted for some warmer water. I am a real pansy when it comes to cold water, so I made a push to try something new.
Everyone teases us and call our tent the Taj Mahal... whatever!

(yes... this is Mike cooking our brawts with pliers... improvising!)

We got down there on Wednesday afternoon and set up our tent. It was quite warm, but cooled off when the sun set.We spent the next few days enjoying the 'red rock' and red sand. It was great! I thought the sand would stain everything but it didn't at all!


Addi collected shells!


Cori made some wicked cool drip castles!

The water was a whopping 77 degrees... I was tickled! One thing though... we pulled up and there was a nice sign that said "Swimmer's itch is ACTIVE" Fantastic! Mike and I just busted up laughing. Pretty much, there's a parasite that lives in the water. Less than 7% of people get it... up to 72 hours of itch, hives, etc. Luckily... we were part of the 93% who didn't have a problem!


Lexi and Cori both tried water-skiing. Lexi was determined to get up... but couldn't get skis legs to stay together. She was so close! I think by the end of summer she'll have it!
The kids tubed and played on the beach all day. Mike and I played on the Honda and I water skied. We threw the football and just relaxed. I LOVE the water... there's nothing better than a beach!
Lyssa says it all here! The last night there we had crazy wind. The Taj Mahal collapsed on us and we ended up in a dive hotel at midnight. Can't complain about a $60 room! We tried 5 hotels... all were booked!
So the Taj Mahal already had a duct taped pole... but I'm afraid it's going to be deemed uninhabitable. It was a good tent... it's been a good ride!