Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Good Read

So, each month I attend this very curious book group. It's made up of some women in my ward, some women who used to be in the ward, some women who are friends with other women that may or may not have ever been in the ward, and a few who no one is quite sure where they came from. The strange part for me is that I am the youngest in the group by probably 20 years. Don't get me wrong, I love going. The women are fascinating and wonderful and the discussion is always great. It's just that it is always a little strange to feel like such a little kid (at age 30) in a room of people where no one really knows anyone, really.

Anyway, my curious little book group read this great book this month that really touched me and I wanted to recommend to anyone interested. It's called This I Believe

It's a collection of short essays gathered by NPR over a 50 year time span about what people believe. It's not as much about what people believe religiously as it is what people believe is the real way to find happiness and meaning in life. It's about all the little things that truly matter to people; everyday experiences that change lives, thoughts that lead to action, or just reevaluating what brings true happiness. It's about being nice to the pizza guy, it's about believing in the good of mankind, believing in our country, believing in yourself and at the same time, believing in your duty to serve others.

It had so many good little mantras to live by scattered throughout the book. Here are some of my favorites:

"In my humdrum life, the daily battle hasn't been good vs. evil. It's hardly so epic. Most days, my real battle is doing good vs. doing nothing." - Deidre Sullivan

"I believe in imagining a life, and then trying to live it." - Jane Hamill

"I am repeatedly struck by the healing power of connection created by being fully there in the quiet understanding of another. I believe in the power of presence, and it is not only something we give to others. It always changes me - and always for the better." - Debbie Hall

"My story is really my mother's story - a woman with little formal education or worldly goods who used her position as a parent to change the lives of many people around the globe. There is no job more important than parenting. This I believe."

"It is in giving that I connect with others, with the world, and with the divine." - Isabel Allende

"I believe in the 50-percent theory. Half the time things are better than normal; the other half, they are worse. " - Steve Porter

"What would happen if we listened to children as much as we talked to them? Or what would happen if even one generation were raised with respect and without violence?" - Gloria Steinem

"i hope that there are always things that we don't know - about the physical world as well as about ourselves...I believe in the exhilaration of standing at th boundary between the known and the unknown." - Alan Lightman

" I don't believe anyone can enjoy living in this world unless he can accept its imperfection. He must know and admit that he is imperfect, that all other mortals are imperfect, that it is childish to allow these imperfections to destroy all his hope and all his desire to live. Nature is older than man, and she is still far from perfect. Her summers do not always start promptly on June 21. Her bugs and beetles and other insects often go beyond her obvious intentions, devouring the leaves and buds with which she has adorned her countryside. After the land has remained too dry for too long, she sends relieving rains. But frequently they come in torrents so violent that they do more harm than good. Over the years, however, nature keeps going on in her imperfect way, and the result--in spite of her many mistakes--is a continuing miracle. It would be folly for an individual to seek to do better--to do better than to go on in his own imperfect way, making his mistakes, riding out the rough and bewildering, exciting and beautiful storm of life until the day he dies." - Oscar Hammerstein

"I believe in the ingredients of love, the elements from which it is made. I believe in love's humble, practical components and their combined power." Jackie Lantry

Okay. I could just keep going. I'll just say that it is really good book full of little jewels to ponder. Although I know what I believe religiously, and that I am sure it shapes me as a person, I think there are a lot of other forces at work that make us who we are and determine how we find happiness. It made me really want to sit down and write an essay myself. I am stopped by the knowledge that I could never express myself as well as the writers in the book, and that would frustrate me. Maybe someday when I feel a bit more eloquent....not today.

So I ask you...what do you believe?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Snow slugs and angel bums

Today was one of those days that reconfirms to me why I was MADE to live in this state. I think that if I was born anywhere else in the country, I would have eventually ended up here...predestined, I think. Why? For most of the reasons you can guess: mountains, red rock deserts, four seasons, 31 flavors of Jello at Smiths, BYU (HA HA HA - ok not so much...). But the number one reason? I LOVE SNOW! Love it. I like to be inside all snug and warm, watching it come down, and I like to be out playing in it. So when I hear there is a big storm coming, I get all giddy. I don't even know why, really. I like to ski but I am by no means an AVID skier...most years I only go downhill skiing once because it is so crazy expensive. But I still love the white stuff.

So today I was in heaven. Over a foot of snow fell at my house. This is how I savored it: snuggling with my girls under big blankets in the morning, tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, digging (literally) out the driveway with my hubby, taking the girls sledding and then home for some hot chocolate and dinner. (Do you have one of those indulgences that you know you shouldn't have because it ALWAYS makes you sick but do it anyway? Sadly, that is hot chocolate for me. I would drink it everyday if I could...but I can't).

The best part of the day was definitely sledding. There is a great hill at a park near our house and it was the spot to be today. We took turns taking the girls down on the sled. Jane had a blast. She even went down by herself a couple of times. I was a little worried about Allison getting cold and cranky but I think she fared the best of all of us. She was all smiles. I had her bundled in this puffy, light green, down snowsuit and when she insisted on getting down and crawling in the snow, Jevan declared we were being attacked by a giant, green snow slug. She really did look like one. Of course, I have no pictures to prove her slugginess because I forgot to put the memory card back in the camera. Grrrrrr.

Jevan and Jane got in a snowball fight, which mostly consisted of Jevan tossing snowballs at Jane's belly and her laughing. She got him back by throwing a handful of snow down his back when he wasn't looking. And finally, he tried to show her how to do a snow angel, but as he was pointing out the various body parts in the angel she latched on to the bum part (of course... she is my husband's daughter) and so they are now officially 'snow bums'.

Anyway, that's all. I just wanted to let you all know that I believe in snow and that it is good and true and lovely...and never meant to go down your back; that's just cold.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Birthday Boy and Rockstar

My husband truly loves me. Want to know how much? Lots and lots. Want to know how I know this? Here is all the evidence you need.

1. So several weeks ago, my friend Sarah calls me and says she needs to go Vegas for a friend's wedding. Her husband can't go so she wants to know if me and the girls would like to go with her, make it a weekend, go to Zions or Bryce, etc. I am semi-excited, loving the idea of a trip, cringing at the thought of two little wee ones in Zions as we hike in the cold and mud and such. I tell Jevan about the idea and he tells me it is a great idea, but not to take the girls and leave them with him. Just me and Sarah? A girls weekend out? Really? Really, he says. He says it would be good for me (he has been witnessing me slowly going insane. There has been so much sickness going around at our house that we have all been trapped in the house for what feels like years). Over the next few weeks I ask him again and again if he is sure and he insists that he is. He loves me.

2. What is the weekend I am supposed to go? Oh, yeah,...that would be his birthday weekend. He still insists that I go. He says that it is just a day and we can celebrate it the next weekend.

3. So, after battling much guilt, I do go and have a fabulous time. It has been a long time since I have had just a girls weekend out and it was a blast. Sarah is just the type of friend you would want to spend a weekend with; easy-going, adventurous, fun, and never runs out of things to talk about. I feel so comfortable with her.

Friday night we drive to Mesquite and stay the night. Saturday, we drive to Vegas and while Sarah goes to her wedding, I cruise Vegas and wonder why in earth no one has dropped a nuclear bomb on the place (okay, at least the downtown strip part...sorry to everyone who loves Vegas....just my opinion). After the wedding we go to In and Out Burger (yum), and then toTrader Joes (hooray!) and stock up on all the good stuff. We then get the heck out of that city and head to St. George where we shop the outlets for a while and Sarah tries desperately to make me try on clothes that are at least somewhat stylish and make me look like a girl (it's a really tough job...i'm destined to look like a tom-boy in baggy pants, I think). Then to dinner and onto our new hotel..the Days Inn in Hurricane(pronounced, for all you out-of-towners, Hurr-eh-kun). Stellar place, let me tell you. We were most impressed with all the pieces of hair that were made into the sheets on our bed, the carpet that looked like it hadn't been cleaned since 1890, and the lake of sticky stuff on the nightstand. I kept dreaming that there were bugs eating my feet. Our mantra? "$39.99 a night!"

Sunday, we headed into Zions and hiked Angels Landing (well, almost; we got to the part where you hang onto the chains as you climb. It was super icy and we had to convince ourselves that it wasn't worth dying over...Sarah would have attempted it but I chickened out because I had multiple voices in my head from people I had talked to before the trip saying "Now, Emily, you have a family...don't do anything stupid.." Darn voices. They won this time...) and then hiked to the Emerald pools where a waterfall coated everything around it with a snowy mist. We went back to St. George for dinner and had Mongolian Barbeque (an awesome concept: you get a big bowl and get to fill it with all kinds of veggies, noodles and meat, then dump a bunch of sauce on it and it is stir-fried fresh before your eyes. So good. Back at the hotel we hit the hot tub and then watch chic flicks, eat chocolate covered blueberries and I fall into a blissful sleep. So wonderful.

4. I come home to a peaceful, CLEAN (isn't that amazing? I can barely keep it clean) house, with happy kids and a sick husband with a bad head cold. What a trooper.

He loves me huh? He really does. And I love him back. Lots and lots. Thanks Jev. Happy deserve the best birthday year yet.

More Zions pics:

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

New Year, New Look!

The all new, 2008 model, complete with driver side airbags...and fancy background pages. Whaddya think? Too busy? I spent way too much time on it today but at least I learned a bit more about how to mess around with my blog. I feel all techno-savvy. Right. I know all the digital scrapbookers are out there thinking "oh...poor have no clue...." but I say it is much better than the plain ol' nothin' it was before.

Ok. New Year Resolutions:
4. More posts, less novels. Stop cowering to the blogger gods in charge of placing pictures where you want them.
3. Finish a full course triathlon. (I'm with you, KayLynn!) Also, finish a sprint triathlon with Jevan (yes, he really has committed - we just gots to teach the boy to swim).
2. Really accomplish some of the many "be a better person" goals I have set for myself...I won't list them all here. Sadly, the list is way too long..what does that say about me? Yikes.

#1 Goal: Appreciate everyday I have with my amazing little family. My kids will only be little for so long, looking at the world with continuous fascination and excitement. I need to be breathing them in, loving life along with them, letting things go, letting everyone in unconditionally, thankful that I'm the one who gets to spend time with them, to be the center of their world for such a fleeting moment in time.

That's all.

Oh..and here is my Janeism for the day:

(For dinner, I fixed a sweet and sour stir-fry with tofu. Jane hasn't had tofu since she has had the ability to really talk.)

Me: "Jane, you haven't eaten much of your dinner. Can you eat some more? Do you know what this is?"(pointing to the tofu)

Jane: "What?"

Me: "It's tofu."

Jane: "Dog food?"

Me: "No Jane, TOE-FOO"

Jane: "Dog food?"


Jane: "No Mom, it's dog food."

Me: "You think?"

Jane: "Yeah Mom, it's dog food."

Jevan: " Jane, you are a girl after my own heart."

I try to be healthy and find meat alternatives and this is the thanks I get. Fine then, it's corn dogs tomorrow. Humph.

Was that Christmas that just happened?

So I have a serious procrastination problem. I like to blog but if I let it go too long then I get overwhelmed by all the things I wanted to post and just keep putting it off. Granted, our December was a bit crazy with all holiday festivities and also all kinds of random illnesses running through our family, but let's face it - I'm bad at being frequent and short. It is one of my top 5 New Year resolutions, though!

But now I have paid dearly for my laziness. Here's where I will write out all our Christmasy adventures complete with cute pictures of sledding and unwrapping presents and such....oh wait, did I say pictures? Oh yeah, about those pictures...they be gone. They were stolen. Yup, really. This week Jevan took a business trip to Detroit (aptly, the crime capital of America) and had EVERYTHING stolen out of his room. That included his laptop that just happened to have a memory card in it with all our Christmas pictures. Sad huh? If only I'd downloaded those pictures earlier....*sigh*. But I shouldn't complain - Jevan was the one that didn't have underwear for days.

So, shamefully Marie and Jim, this post will have no pictures. Oh yeah - and sorry to Sarah too who says she only reads blogs for the pictures.

Christmas Highlights:
(Long winded because they are being used as a journal entry too - just a word of warning)
Week 1: Getting ready for the ward party that we are in charge of. I have all new appreciation for people in charge of big events. So. Many. Details. Truly a TON of work. We were working on it for weeks before. It was a pretty big stress for us because A) we had never planned anything this big before, B) we were flying completely blind; there was no folder or paper or anything outlining what needed to happen or what worked in the past or what didn’t (I am going to make one for our is so hard!) and C) we had a pretty lousy committee up until the day of the party. On the day of the party, a couple stepped in that had been Ward Activities leaders a few years back and they ended up being invaluable. I think we pulled it off because of them. We did a Reading-Christmas-Stories-by-the-Fire theme, complete with a living room set-up, a fireplace that you plug in that looks real, and a grandpa reading Christmas stories. It all went reasonably well. We were told to plan for 150 and had over 200 people show up. Luckily, the food held out but we had to scramble to set up more tables and chairs. I had a huge knot in my stomach and was so glad when it was over. It was hard to be in charge and chase down 2 little kids at the same time.

Week 2: Start trying to get ready for Christmas. I did just a little bit of shopping. Grandma Diane had a cookie party at her house and Jane had a blast decorating Christmas cookies with her cousins. I also had some Christmas pictures of the two girls taken in their Christmas dresses. As of today, I still have yet to go to the studio and look at them! By the middle of this week, both the girls start getting sick and all Christmas preparations pretty much stop. We are stuck in the house. I manage to go x-country skiing with my dad one Saturday afternoon which was wonderful. I love skiing with my dad.

Week 3: Girls still in varying stages of sickness. Jevan takes Jane to see the lights at Thanksgiving point with all her cousins. I try one night to meet Marisa and kids to go see the lights at the zoo. Right as we are getting there, an all out blizzard descends on us. We wander for a little while until we are all snowmen and then hop into the car only to wait in traffic for almost an hour because all the roads are crazy. We give up and go to my mom’s house until the roads are clear. At the end of the week, the Christmas madness begins. We took Jane sledding for her first time on that Saturday and she absolutely loved it. She had no fear and would even go down the hill on the sled by herself! That night was Jevan’s grandma’s Christmas party and for the talent show, Jane sang Jingle Bells for everyone (although she was convinced that the chorus was an entirely different song altogether so she refused to sing it after the first verse). Sunday was Christmas with my family up at my sister Steph’s new house. Her house was so beautiful, all decked out in Christmas, so bright and warm and new and wonderful. I have to admit I was so envious! Again there was a talent show and Jane sang Silent Night. All the kids opened up their Christmas jammies that night and we got pictures (that we no longer have…*sigh*).

Week 4: Christmas Eve was with Jevan’s family. We had lots of good food and opened presents. We also threw together a little nativity with any random dress-ups we could find. It was so funny. Jane was an angel straight out of the 60’s, complete with a funky polyester dress and scarf headband. Both the girls got blankets from Grandma Di and Jane loves hers. She sleeps with it every night. Christmas morning we opened presents. Jane’s present from us was a play kitchen which she thought was pretty cool. We gave Allison a bunch of smaller toys to keep her busy. Both girls each got a new outfit and some books. Then we went up to my mom’s house and opened our stockings and the presents to the girls from my parents. My mom gave Jane my old Cabbage Patch doll that I bought when I was in second grade. She cleaned him up and got him some new outfits. Jane loves him. He goes everywhere. She named him Wally (which can be quite confusing because it is so close to Allie…but she is quick to correct me when I get mixed up about who she is talking about). He pretty much stays in his pajamas because she has a tough time dressing him (she can’t even get herself dressed) and for some reason, she likes to keep his little bum exposed, mooning everyone wherever he goes. My mom also gave her my old doll bed and a doll stroller. Jane is in heaven. Wally now eats breakfast and lunch in the chair next to Jane and HAS to have a bib on with food in front of him. When I sing to her at night, I always have to ask Wally what he wants me to sing. It makes me laugh and strips me of my dignity at the same time.

That Friday was another insane day. We had 3 parties all on that day. The day started with all of the extended Woolley clan coming to our house for family pictures. We’re talking 40 people crowded into our living room and downstairs. It was a Woolley reunion for Jevan’s grandparent’s 80th birthdays. Next was a birthday reception at Asian Star. Then my highschool friends had a lunch party. It was so fun to catch up with my friends that I don’t get to see nearly enough. Then it was back home to cook and clean because we were having Jevan’s highschool group of friends over for dinner. It all worked out wonderfully even though it was so busy. Everyone liked the dinner and we did a white elephant exchange in which we gave out my “breastpump” aka clown horn that we had to buy in Mexico. We got a Richard Simmons exercise video in return. Sweet! It was a crazy day.

Next up was New Years. We were all sick again by this point – Jane and Allison mostly, but I was starting to come down with something too. This year we went to Jevan’s aunt Michelle’s house. We almost didn’t go because we had sick kids, but Jev’s family convinced us we needed to come anyway. It was a lot of fun and Jane completely shocked us by staying up and playing with her little cousin, Calvin until 2am! 2am! I have no idea how she did it. She slept in until 10:30 the next day.
New Years day we didn’t want to spend in the house, even though we all didn’t feel so well, so we went to Millcreek Canyon. We hiked up the canyon in hopes that we could sled down. We put Allison in the Bob Stroller and Jane walked. Sledding didn’t really end up working though because there wasn’t a steep enough grade. We just pulled Jane down on the sled which she loved until a happy, hyper little hound dog decided to cover her face with dog kisses. After all, she was right at his level. That made her cry the rest of the way. This little activity is the only thing we have pictures of.
The rest of January, or at least the past two weeks we have spent sick. Jane came down with croup, Allison got a nasty ear infection, I got hit with a head cold that would not quit. Jevan just barely got this cold and is battling it now. It is a doozy. But I am finally feeling better and starting to feel human again.