Wednesday, June 03, 2015

You Said You'd Bake Us a Cake

Sometime back in March, we had a special family home evening in which I declared that we would be baking a cake.  And that was all the instructions I gave.  The girls were in charge of creating a cake with no recipe.  They put in all kinds of wonderful things.  I wrote it all down, but of course, I lost it.  It had sugar and milk and peanut butter and chocolate chips and marshmallows!  Their little minds were bursting with the possibilities of this amazing cake.  Then, while it was baking, I pulled out a real recipe and we made another cake, following the instructions. 

After they were both baked, I asked the girls which cake they thought would be better.  Julia immediately responded, "Oh, our cake!  Definitely!"  But upon tasting, it was clear that even with all that peanut butter and chocolate, their cake wasn't as good as the one done by the book.  It wasn't completely inedible, but it wasn't exactly what you'd call a cake.  (I swear we took pictures of this too, but can't find any.)  This was a great object lesson about following directions and keeping the commandments and how much better life is when we do.  So I thought I'd share!

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Pi Day

This year was the a Pi(e) Day of epic proportions.  3.14.15.  We even had shirts to commemorate the event:

And, of course, we planned a pie party.  As you do.

Look at all that deliciousness.  But then, Ella woke up sick.  So there went that party.  My only consolation was there was more pie for me.  But...I would rather have shared it with great friends.  I've been thinking we should do a make up pie day.  Maybe a 2pi day (6.28)? 

Monday, June 01, 2015

February 2015

Highlights from February: 

Clark had a birthday!  It was apparently very past paced, and thus blurry.  But I can tell you that we were all very happy to celebrate this amazing man in our lives.  He is wonderful.

Valentines Day!  We had heart-shaped pizza, and pulled out the tablecloth, cloth napkins, and fancy cups for the occasion.  Actually, I think we celebrated Clark's birthday and Valentine's Day the same night due to Clark's crazy work schedule.  Hence why he has the red plate. 

 Julia's V-Day cards were Star Wars themed.  We introduced our kids to Star Wars this year, and it was well received.  Julia's favorite princess is now Princess Leia, and both girls are always ready for a light saber battle.  My little nerd heart is bursting with pride.

 The local library had a traveling LEGO exhibit visit for a weekend, and it was AMAZING.  They had downtown Chicago in detail, a Simpsons Springfield section, numerous characters roaming about (Batman, Indiana Jones, Toy Story, to name a few), and my personal favorite: the stair car and model home from Arrested Development.  "You're gonna get some hop-ons."

 And finally, my kids are crazy!  We were all going a bit stir crazy by the end of February, courtesy of below freezing temperatures and Ella being restricted from the cold (she couldn't be colder than room temperature until sometime in March, thanks to that whole cold agglutinin disease mess).  Hence the trips to McDonalds (play place to the rescue!).  I don't know why Ella was wearing gloves on her feet, but it cracked me up.

Sunday, May 31, 2015


For Family Home Evening on night in December, Julia asked everyone to draw a picture of the Nativity.  We all complied except Ella, who is stubborn as all get out and colored something else.  It was actually a very sweet experience.  Julia enjoyed seeing her parents draw (poorly on my part, but sometimes your kids need to see you do something poorly), and I enjoyed seeing her depiction of the Savior's birth.  She even wrote "Away in the Manger..." along the top of each piece. 

A few weeks later, wanting to purge the house of all the piles of paper but not wanting to forget this experience, I took a picture of each person with their Nativity. 

At this point it became apparent to Ella that she had not completed this assignment.  Everyone else was having their picture taken, and she was left out. I didn't feel that bad for her, because I'm a jerk of a parent sometimes, and also because she was the one who wouldn't participate in FHE, she can deal with the consequences.

But then I did feel bad, so we grabbed a picture of her from school and snapped a shot of her holding that.  She is pretty cute, you have to admit, even if she makes me want to pull my hair out sometimes.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Walks in the Woods

Time to play a little catch up.  Ok, a lot of catch up.  Bear with me.

This winter was cold.  Bitterly cold.  We're talking windchills in the -30s and -40s.  Also this winter, I signed up for a Feel Great in 8 challenge, which is an 8 week competition of eating right and exercising.  My standard form of exercising is walking.  So I decided to pull on the snow pants, bundle up my face, and turn my regular sissy walking into extreme walking.

Every day that Ella went to school (3 times a week), I would drop her off and then head down on the path by the river.  It's a beautiful path in the summer and fall, and I discovered that it's also beautiful in the winter.  The frozen river, the freshly fallen snow, the complete solitude.  It was actually lovely.

Sure, I looked ridiculous with my giant scarf wrapped around my face, but no one was there to see it.  I had the path to myself most days.  Except for the 2 days I saw a coyote cross the trail.  Other than that, I only saw tracks, no people.  And I loved it.  I loved my eyes freezing from the cold, my scarf covered in miniature icicles from my breath.  I loved the extra work it was to walk through fresh snow, 4, 5, 6 inches deep. I missed the warm sun, but I found great beauty in the winter, even in the coldest of temperatures. 

Plus, you know, bragging rights.  I went for a stroll in -40 degree weather.  Not many people are that extreme.  (Or crazy.)

 I also used my skis once or twice.  We bought those skis when we moved to Michigan, thinking we'd use them all the time.  This winter marked the 3rd time ever.  Turns out The Great White North isn't so great with the white.  But those 3 times I've used them have been wonderful!  I think I must be some kind of winter fanatic.  Which sounds insane, I know, but I'd much rather be snuggled up under a blanket with a cup of hot cocoa than sticky and sweating while eating a popsicle under the ceiling fan.

While I have no pictures of it, I was also privy to the miraculous unfolding of spring this year.  Each week on my walks I'd discover sprouts and buds springing forth out of the barren winter landscape.  When I'd miss a day or two, the changes were even more stark.  We went from white and frozen and (as much as I love winter, let's face it) dead through the muddy thaw to green and growing and leafy.  That walk is now full shade, and full of bikers and runners and dog walkers.  Everything has come to life, and that in itself is a beautiful thing.  This summer I'm going to miss my walks in the woods.  But perhaps I can convince the girls to go with me, and then we can enjoy summer in the woods, sweat and ticks and all!

Sunday, January 04, 2015


Happy New Year! 

I have been thinking back on 2014 the past couple of weeks, as you do, and I finally took a look at my resolutions from last year.  Probably would have been a good idea to glance at them before December, but hey.  What's done is done.  So, let me tell you how things went. 

Did I read 11,000 pages?  Of course I read 11,000 pages!  I completely forgot that I had set this goal, and yet I still surpassed it.  The year ended with 13,651 pages read for me (13,746 for Clark, 44,677 for Julia) (Take a minute.  Look back at Julia's number.  Be amazed.  ... ... ... Ok, that should be sufficient.  Back to me.)  43 total, complete books read in 2014, in addition to 1 I finished at the beginning of the year, and 4 I have yet to finish, including the Book of Mormon.  That is a lot of pages, and a lot of books.  These numbers bring me great joy, as does looking back at the book titles I read this year.  I love reading.

Did we finish the Book of Mormon as a family?  Why yes, we did!  On December 31 we read the last chapter.  I really thought we'd finish it much earlier in the year, but hey.  We did it.  And I'm so proud of our girls for sitting through all that reading.

Did I read Jesus the Christ by James E. Talmage?  That's a negative.  Got to roll over this one.

Did I finish the last 4 in my 30 by 30 challenge?  Nope.  30 by 34...

Did we go to the temple every month?  Why no.  We did not.  But did we go to the temple more often than the previous year?  Why yes, we did.  Improvement, however small, is still improvement. 

Did I learn Portuguese?  Cute story. . . ("Cherith Cutestory?")  I made this goal, and was doing my best to follow through for about a month.  Then I was called to be in the YW Presidency, and that sort of sucked up all my spare time.  So I gave up.  But then, a couple months ago, Clark discovered this great little app called Duolingo.  I downloaded that, and have been fairly faithful about completing a lesson or two every night.  It's like a game, a language game/test challenge.  And I love a good game/test challenge.  So while I haven't spent the whole year on this one, I have been doing something, and I know just enough Portuguese to have secret conversations in front of the kids.  It's a work in progress, but I definitely know more than I did, and I can even speak in full sentences.  I'm calling this one a success. 

Did I blog more?  I would think that is obvious.  Big fat no.  In fact, I think I blogged less.  Rollover...

So what do I want to accomplish this year?  Well. . .

  • Read Jesus the Christ.
  • Finish my 30 by 30 challenge.
  • Go to the temple more.
  • Keep learning Portuguese.
  • Blog more.
That's a pretty good carryover from last year, don't you think?  But we have to add something new, so...
  • Read 50 books.
  • Be more present with my kids.  Stop thinking about what we are going to do, and start enjoying what we are doing.
  • Give more.  Be quick to observe needs in others, and meet those needs if I'm able.
I think that's enough.  Here's to 2015!

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Christmas In a Nutshell, and an Update

Let's start with the Ella update, because I'm sure that is on everyone's mind.  Ella is on the mend!  In case you aren't on Facebook, we came home on December 23, just in time for Christmas.  We have to keep her warm, no playing outside, and keep her hydrated (with room temperature drinks).  We saw the hematologist again this week on Tuesday, and her hemoglobin numbers continue to climb.  We aren't back to normal yet, but we are well on our way.  We see him again in 2 weeks. 

Having to stay in the hospital for 4 days was an experience I'd rather not repeat anytime soon, but of all the things to stay in the hospital for, this was pretty mild.  Ella acted like her regular self most of the time.  All the nurses kept commenting that she was the healthiest girl on the floor!  We even decorated her room to make it more Christmas-y, and between that and a few visitors, it was much more tolerable.  And, we felt an outpouring of love for our family, between phone calls and visitors and meals and help watching Julia, we were abundantly blessed.  How grateful I am for good people, both near and far.  We have some wonderful friends.

And then we were home for Christmas!  I was most grateful for that.  Christmas is a magical day no matter what, but I'd rather be home with my sweet family all together, than trying to haul everything to the hospital and spending the night apart. 

We decided a long time ago that everyone gets 4 things for Christmas: something to READ, something to WEAR, something they NEED, and something they WANT.  And then Santa brings a gift as well.  I love this setup.  It keeps things much simpler, and helps the girls to really think about what they want, knowing they probably won't get everything on their list.  Grandmas and Grandpas help round things out, but this makes things much more manageable and less overwhelming on Christmas morning.

I thought I'd share what was given, because a lot of time and energy was spent thinking up the gifts. 

For Ella:
Read: The Nutshell Library by Maurice Sendak, including One Was Johnny, Alligators All Around, Pierre, and my all time favorite, Chicken Soup with Rice. 
Wear: 3 pairs of tights.  This girl wears a dress or skirt almost every day, and her tights are all starting to wear out.  So these were desperately needed.
Need: A waterbottle.  A leak-proof waterbottle.  It has seen much use in the past week.
Want: A Frozen playset.  She was delighted on Christmas morning to see Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Sven, Olaf, and Hans, ready to play.  Delighted.
From Santa: Sydney Lee, an Our Generation doll.  The American Girl catalog made its way to our house this year, and both girls were thinking they would love one of those dolls.  However, our keen sense of thrift did not love the idea of one of those dolls.  Enter in Target and their brilliant knock-offs.  Everyone was happy.  Santa also left some socks in her stocking, as well as the traditional candy, and an orange in the toe.

For Julia:
Read: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien.  Julia is quite the little reader, so it was tricky coming up with something to give her.  We went with an old standby that both Clark and I loved when we were younger. 
Wear: A locket.  She decided she wanted one after she read the Molly American Girl books.  I didn't think this one would happen, until I remembered that I had wanted a locket too, when I was a girl.  And I had gotten one.  Which I never wear.  So I pulled it out, put a chain on it, and gave it to Julia for Christmas.  It melts my heart a little bit every time I see her wearing it.  It's certainly not heirloom quality or anything, but it feels like a special connection to my girl.  And she treats it like one of her most prized possessions, which makes it all the more special.
Need: A full set of scriptures.  Julia has had a couple copies of the Book of Mormon, but both have been lost to the ether.  We decided it was high time she got a new one.  And if we're giving a Book of Mormon, we might as well make it a whole set.  She was over the moon to get this, it was a total surprise, and I was over the moon that she was so excited about it.  Clark dug out his old scripture case, too, so now she is ready for church on Sunday.  She also pulls it out when we hold family scripture study, and the excitement to be reading out of her own scriptures is palpable.
Want: A matryoshka doll set.  Someone who served a mission in Russian visited the primary a while back and showed them a matryoshka.  Ever since then, Julia has wanted one.  We wrapped each doll separately, which only added to the fun.
From Santa: Jenny, an Our Generation doll.  See above about American Girl dolls.  Julia saw Jenny at Target around Thanksgiving, and decided that was the doll for her.  Santa was kind enough to bring it.  She also got a pair of tights in her stocking, as well as the traditional candy, and an orange in the toe.

For Clark:
Read: What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe.  He asked for this, so that was easy.
Wear: New tennis shoes.  We went shopping together one morning, and he picked them out.  Boring, but necessary.
Need: Jeans.  It got down to the wire on this one.  Julia and I stopped at an Old Navy on the way to the hospital one day to snag some.  Luckily he likes them, and they fit!
Want: A race.  This was tricky because I don't know what race he'd like to run.  So I basically went to the internet, found all the races in the area for the next 6 months that aren't on Sunday, and made a spreadsheet with dates, prices, length, etc.  I figured he's a sucker for spreadsheets, so he'd appreciate it.  He still needs to pick one, but I'm told he is working on it.
From Santa: A new computer!  From which I am typing this very blog post!  It arrived a week before Christmas, and Clark was THRILLED to have it!  Starcraft has been played.  He also got some new socks in his stocking, as well as the traditional candy, and an orange in the toe.

For me:
Read: Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan.  Because you can't go wrong with a book about food.
Wear: A new outfit.  This was purchased on the aforementioned shopping trip.  No surprises, but a good gift all the same.
Need: A 2015 calendar for the wall.  Julia thought of this idea all on her own.  Clark took the girls shopping, put it in the trunk of his car to hide it, and then with all the switching of cars at the hospital, I totally saw it.  But we pretended like I didn't. 
Want: White tank tops, for wearing under more revealing shirts.  My old ones were looking less white and more...grey.  So this was not only a want, but a need.  Crossover gift!
From Santa: A new griddle, to replace the mostly broken one.  I also got a phone case, some orange peelers, measuring cups, and replacement wires for our cheese cutter in my stocking, as well as the traditional candy, and an orange in the toe.

This turned out to be kind of a long post with no pictures.  (Of course there are no pictures!  Why would there be pictures of Christmas?  To be fair, I did take a few videos.  So I'm not a completely terrible parent.)  But this is all to say, we had a lovely Christmas, warm and snug at home, feeling grateful for the matchless gift of God's divine Son to the world.  Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Don't Freak Out, But...

So, the first thing you should know is that we are ok.  We are all doing fairly well, and everything is going to be fine. 

That being said, Ella is in the hospital.  But don't worry!  Remember, everything is going to be fine!

Here's the short version: Ella was admitted to the hospital on Friday night /Saturday morning with a low red blood cell count.  After running a bunch of tests, we now know that she has cold agglutinin disease, which means her immune system is attacking the red blood cells.  We are waiting for her levels to go back up, and then she can go home.  We aren't sure how long this will take, but she is acting like her normal self, albeit her normal self with very little sleep (read: cranky and bossy).

Here's the long story: On Monday morning, Ella had a pink eye.  We don't know if this is related or not, but it could be.  She got some eye drops from urgent care, and we went on our way.  On Thursday morning, she woke up with a fever of 103.2.  As the day wore on, the fever went down, but then I noticed that her urine was red.  We're talking dark red.  Glass of cranberry juice red.  Which, obviously, makes me think of blood.  And that is concerning.  So we went to the urgent care again.  They took a urine sample, decided it was likely a UTI, and sent her home with antibiotics, explaining that it is standard procedure to start someone her age on antibiotics before the lab results are in, just to be cautious.  Friday morning she wasn't much better, and in fact started throwing up.  Her urine was still quite red, and we spent all day resting.  Friday night, I gave her a bath, and noticed while drying her off that she had a distinct yellow tinge to her.  And her lips were very pale.  But she seemed better than she had all day, except for the yellow skin.  I left a message with the after hours doctor, and while waiting for a response put her to bed.  After calling back and discovering typo in my phone number, I finally talked to the doctor, who said, "This is not normal.  She needs to be seen.  But it can probably wait until morning."  5 minutes later, she called back.  She had looked at her labs and discovered that the results were in: no sign of infection.  So....that's not good.  And she told us to take her to the ER right away. 

Off she went, with Clark.  They were admitted to the PICU at 2am, met lots of doctors, ran lots of tests, and today one of those tests came back positive.  She has something called cold agglutinin disease, which is where the immune system attacks the red blood cells and breaks them down (hemolytic anemia).  So there wasn't any actual blood in her urine, just broken down red blood cells (hemoglobin).  And all the dead RBCs caused an increase in bilirubin, which makes her yellow.  We are still waiting for the results of another test to see if there is a specific cause of this craziness, or if it is an unexplained mystery why this started up.  Either we treat with an antibiotic, or we wait it out.  The thing they are looking for is the hemoglobin levels increasing.  Currently, they are decreasing.  So...we are waiting. 

Timing is pretty bad as Christmas is this week, and it's uncertain if she'll be home in time. The thought of Christmas in the hospital is pretty depressing.  So, if you could pray for our Ella, it would be ever so appreciated.