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.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Today

Sometimes I think about blogging, and then I feel all this pressure to "catch up" on all the things that have been going on, and as the pressure mounts, the desire to blog disappears, and then I just never blog.  So, rather than play catch up, I now present you with today.

I woke up about 30 minutes before I needed to, allowing for that glorious time when you aren't really asleep, but you aren't quite awake, and you just get to lay in bed, thinking about that dream you just had or what you're going to wear today or what you thought of the book you finished last night.  Glorious time.  Always a good start to the day.

We got Julia onto the school bus, and then Ella and I played a rousing game of Dinosaur Train.  Ella won.  Time to go to preschool.  We walk in the doors, and I remember that it's Friday, and Friday means show and tell, and we forgot to bring something to show and tell.  It's the letter C this week, and luckily Ella wore a hair clip.  I pulled that little clip out, declared it to be the perfect item to show and tell about, and by some miracle Ella agreed with me.  Crisis averted. 

Post preschool drop-off, I went for a lovely walk down by the river.  The leaves are all the most marvelous colors right now, and today was a windy day, which means the leaves were being blown off the trees and right into my path, so I was basically walking through fall.  It felt a bit magical, I won't lie.  And I got to listen to the most recent episode of Serial, which made it all the better.  (Follow that link, friends.  It's an intriguing little podcast.)

Then I made a quick stop at the library (to pick up the holds I've been waiting for months to come in!) before heading home.  Peace and quiet abounded.  Worked on a little sewing project.  Read a little.  Called my sister.  Time to get Ella.

Ella and I enjoyed a windy bike ride (Ella on the bike, me walking (and pushing the bike part of the time, unfortunately)), and then settled in to read together.  At some point, I realized that the words I was saying were not the words on the page.  Not even close.  For example, there are no ninjas in a fairy book, and yet I was talking about ninjas. This is when I realize just how sleepy I am.  So sleepy I start making up new stories that are a bit crazy.  Maybe a lot crazy.  And that is when I give Ella my phone, tell her to play a couple of games, and I close my eyes. 

30 minutes later, I perk up, and decide to bake cookies.  Oatmeal chocolate chip, to be precise.  I have this wonderful recipe (courtesy of my sister-in-law Melissa), and I think I've only made them about 3 times in the last 4 years.  This is because upon moving to Michigan, my cookies all turned out flat.  Giant cookie-pancakes.  So I gave up making cookies.  But I figured we lived in a new state, it was time to give it a go.  So glad I did, those cookies are divine, and NOT flat.  Don't know whether to blame Michigan or the oven in our apartment there.  We'll go with the oven, because I love Michigan too much to malign it in such a way.

Then things start getting really exciting.  Time to get Julia from the bus stop.  More cookies baking.  Out the door to a storytime.  Back home to change into costumes in preparation for the ward Trunk or Treat.  Inspiration struck for a trunk decoration.  Amazed at the possibility of actually decorating a trunk this year!  Off we went, to enjoy food, friends, and trick or treating.

The trunk decoration proved to be a big flop.  I lost a piece somewhere in my trunk, the wind blew things off, and in the end, we just sat by our car and gave out candy.  Oh well.  Next year I have this great idea for a trunk decoration...

And now here we are, kids in bed, dryer humming, and I'm gearing up to watch another episode of Lark Rise to Candleford.  This is the good life.  Not perfect by any means, but oh, so good.  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Summer

Today was the first day of school for Julia.  First grade!  I seriously can't believe she is old enough to be in first grade.  The girls came with me to Young Women tonight, and Julia noticed the Activity Days girls were playing volleyball.  It turns out I have never mentioned Activity Days to her, so I told her when she turns 8 she gets to come to activities like this.  She commented that that event is less than 2 years away.  I might cry over that one.

But that's not the point of this post.  The point is, summer is now over.  And what a summer it has been!  In June we were going strong on what I call, "Organized Activities Summer," where every day had an adventure, and we were always on the go.  We had visits to the library, picnics at the park, fun with water, planting a garden, trips to Cantigny Park (a family favorite), and even craft projects (!) that filled our days.  Every day something was on the calendar.

At the end of June, and on through almost all of July, we had, "Vacation Summer."  It started with a trip out to Utah.  Per Julia's request, we took the long way out there and stopped at Mount Rushmore.  That alone would have been worth the added 3 hours of drive time, but we also saw the Badlands, Martins Cove, Independence Rock, the SPAM museum, and Wall Drug, which were all new experiences for me.  I could have done without Wall Drug, but everything else was most definitely worth stopping to see.

While in Utah we hiked in the mountains, got sick, toured Timpanogos Cave, planned and cancelled a birthday party for Ella due to being sick, visited the zoo (minus me, because I was sick), ate at Cafe Rio (and didn't get sick!), made a trip to the temple, saw family and friends, and generally partied (while we weren't sick).  The highlight of the trip was seeing a whole slew of cousins, including the ones who came from Colorado just to see us!  And, of course, the grandparents.  I almost (almost) want to move back there.  Really, I just want my favorite people from there to move out here.  Though maybe not here, because I'm not 100% sold on Illinois yet. So I guess I want to live in the same town as all my favorite people, with that town yet to be determined.  Yeah.  That could happen, right?  Anyway, it was a great trip, even if that was an awful lot of driving.

Upon arriving home, we spent 2 days unpacking and doing laundry, only to repack and head to St Louis for a few days to spend time with my sister, Whitney.  Clark stayed home for this trip, so I squished in the backseat with the girls for the drive with my parents.  We had a great time seeing the St Louis Zoo, playing with my niece, and stopping in Springfield on the way home to tour the Lincoln Museum and eat Cozy Dogs.

After that jaunt, we spent 2 days unpacking and hosting my parents, and then I headed out to girls camp for 3 days.  I must admit, I was a bit hesitant about girls camp.  I wasn't sure how I felt about spending 3 days and 2 nights with a slew of teenage girls.  But when it was time to leave, I was not ready to go home, and sad I didn't stay the whole week.  I work with some amazing women, and we have a great group of girls.  Good times.

The next day my parents went home.  I spent about a week playing catch-up on all the housework.  And then we entered what I am calling, "Whiny Fighting Summer."  The part of the summer where everyone is ready to go back to school and get back into a routine.  I was out of ideas on anything fun to do, all Ella seemed capable of doing was saying, "I'm bored," multiple times before attacking Julia by laying on her, mauling hugging her, or copying her ("She's copying me!" "She's copying me!").  Julia responds by making whiny noises, running away, and crying.  We did a fair bit of reading (because that's easy, and I'm always up for another trip to the library), and for a couple of weeks we managed a bike ride around the neighborhood every day, but the vast majority of the days were spent fighting boredom with arguing and TV.  This is the part of summer I'd rather forget.

It all ends today, though.  Today we are back on track, going to bed early so we can wake up early, our lives revolving around the bus pick up and drop off.  And in a couple weeks, once Ella starts school, I can finally go grocery shopping by myself again - which sounds like an absolutely delightful treat! Bring on fall!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Monuments Men

I recently finished reading The Monuments Men.  It's tells the story of the men (and at least a few women) who were charged with saving the monuments, fine arts, and archives of Europe from the destruction of WWII, and the thieving hands of the Nazis.  A bunch of middle aged men running around Europe saving art.  I loved it!  (Just to be clear, it is non-fiction.)  I gave it 5 stars on goodreads.  I don't normally give out 5 stars, but this book completely deserved it.  Here's my goodreads review, for interested parties:

"I absolutely loved this book. It took me a while to get into it. The first few chapters I had a hard time keeping track of all the people, but by the end of the book I was enthralled. I couldn't wait for the war to end, and for the treasures of Europe to be found. I feel like the cause of the Monuments Men was deeply important, and I'm so glad to have learned more about it."

I had to post this on the blog, because there are a couple of passages of the book that I want to remember.  I actually bookmarked a couple of pages as I was reading the book, which I NEVER DO.  This is how good it is.  I think I would even read it again.  Which, again, I NEVER DO.  

First, this lovely passage:

"To save the culture of your allies is a small thing.  To cherish the culture of your enemy, to risk your life and the life of other men to save it, to give it all back to them as soon as the battle was won . . . it was unheard of, but that is exactly what . . . the Monuments Men intended to do."

That, right there, is what this book is all about.  Beautiful, isn't it?

The other thing I wanted to remember was the reaction of Eisenhower, Patton, and other American generals to their visit to Ohrdruf, the first Nazi work camp liberated by American troops.  Which had nothing to do with the Monuments Men, really, but everything to do with the war.  

"Ohrdruf wasn't a death camp, like Auschwitz, but a place where human beings were systematically worked to death.  Several survivors, shrunken to mere skeletons, pulled themselves up on shriveled legs and saluted the generals as they passed.  The generals walked on in stony silence, their lips drawn tight.  Several members of their staff, all of them hardened by war, openly wept.  The hard-nosed Patton, "Old Blood and Guts," ducked behind a building and threw up.  

"Every American soldier, Eisenhower insisted, every man and woman not on the front lines, must see this.  'We are told the American soldier does not know what he is fighting for.  Now, at least, he will know what he is fighting against.'"

Brings tears to my eyes every time I read it.  

Finally, the pictures in this book are beautiful.  Photographs of people and places and art.  I think my favorite is a picture of the Aachen Cathedral, obviously once a place of splendor, now shattered and reduced to rubble.  It's harrowing.  

I seriously love this book, and can't recommend it highly enough.  The first bit is a challenge to get through, but it is so worth it to push through so you can get to the good stuff.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

This kid. THIS KID. She is in full-on meltdown mode tonight. She didn't want to

This kid. THIS KID. She is in full-on meltdown mode tonight. She didn't want to leave stake choir practice. Then she wanted to go RIGHT NOW. Then when we left, she spent 5 minutes screaming that she wanted a drink, when there were no drinks to be found in our car. She lost a bedtime story over that one. And because of that she has spent the past 5 minutes crying and saying, "Darn it!" over and over. It's a 30 minute drive home. We might all go crazy.

Friday, June 06, 2014

First harvest! I don't know if I've ever been so excited about a bunch of leaves

First harvest! I don't know if I've ever been so excited about a bunch of leaves.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Curls

These curls are killing me! Muggy days always turn Ella into Goldilocks.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Lists

When cleaning out some of the boxes stashed in various places around our house, I happened upon a little notebook.  And in this notebook, I found a list.  2 lists, actually, titled: Things I Want to Do in My Life and Places I Want to See. 

In case you didn't know, I'm a list maker.  I make lists like nobody's business.  Lists of chores, lists of errands, shopping lists, and more than once I have made a list of places I want to see and things I want to do.  If you were to dig through our recycling, you'd find multiple lists.  Lists, lists everywhere!  So discovering that I had made these lists was not actually surprising.  The exciting part was realizing how old these lists were.  They were made before I got married, but after I graduated from high school.  My best guess is somewhere around 2002. 

So let's get to it, shall we?  Here are the lists (with commentary in parenthesis):

Things I Want to Do in My Life
  • Go to the temple (check!)
  • Get married in the temple (check!)
  • Read the Old Testament (check!)
  • Kiss the Blarney Stone (sadly, no check)
  • Have kids (check!)
  • Learn to drive a stick shift (check?  I have driven a stick shift, but not well, and not for more than a few minutes.  And I certainly couldn't go do it right now without some serious coaching.)
  • Have patience (some things never change)
  • Get a doctorate (Um, no.  This is where Shannon of the past is disappointed with Shannon of the future, and Shannon of the future says, "Oh well.")
  • Go to a World Series game (nope)
  • Learn all about baseball (I've learned some things about baseball, but all things considered, it's still not much.)
  • Baptize at least one family member in proxy (That's a negative.  We did take a couple of Clark's family names through the temple a few years ago, but we didn't do the baptisms.  And it was his family, not mine.  But, as he reminds me, we're related!)
  • Help at least one person find the gospel (Nope.  At least I don't think so.)
  • Serve a mission (no check here)
  • Run a 5K (check!)
  • Compose a song (nope)
  • Look through a telescope (Surely I've done this.  Surely.  I just can't think of anything specific.)
  • Learn to play cricket, and play cricket (What the what?  Why on earth would I want to learn to play cricket?)
  • See a moose (check!)
  • Read Nephi Anderson's books (I've read 3!)
  • Milk a cow (check!)
  • Be kissed in the rain (check, check, and check!  [I have a fabulous husband])
  • Grow tomatoes (check!  Hoping for a repeat performance this year)
  • Learn Portuguese (no.  This was one of my new years resolutions this year, but so far it's been a big flop.  However, this list item, along with get married in the temple, helped me peg down the year this list was written.)
  • Have Spaceman Spiff PJs (Well, who doesn't want Spaceman Spiff PJs?  But alas, they don't make them.  And I don't know how I'd make them.  If you have any ideas, send them along.)
  • Eat beignets and go to a jazz club in New Orleans (nope.)
  • Go to Die Fleidermaus (nope.)
  • See David Letterman (No.  And sadly I never will.  Well...actually I'm not that sad about it.)
  • Watch Swan Lake (No?  I'm not actually sure on this one.  I'm talking about watching it live, of course.  Maybe I went at some point?)
  • Go to the New York City Ballet (nope)
I think it's fascinating to see how my priorities changed, to see what things happened, and what things didn't.  Just fascinating. And list #2:

Places I Want to See
  • France (someday)
  • Ireland (someday)
  • Scotland (someday)
  • England (someday)
  • Italy (someday [obviously I need to get to Europe])
  • Arches National Park (check!  We went on our honeymoon, and again before Ella was born.  So DOUBLE check!)
  • Lake Powell (We drove by it, so maybe that counts.  As a fair skinned person, this is not terribly high on my list.  It's just asking for a 2nd degree sunburn.)
  • A concentration camp (tie that in with my future Europe trip)
  • Disneyland (check!  Though I had been there before I wrote this list.  I guess I wanted to go again...which I haven't done...)
  • Zion National Park - the narrows (um, yes.  Yes, yes, yes.  Haven't hiked up the narrows, but I've hiked all through Zion, and the very beginning of the narrows.  Perk of living in St George.)
  • The White House (no, but I can feel a DC trip coming in the next few years)
  • Mt Rushmore (no.  But we are going this summer!!)
  • Nauvoo (check!)
  • Carthage Jail (check!)
  • Liberty Jail (no.  Only a 7 hour drive from here...)
  • Kirtland (check!)
  • Palmyra - the Sacred Grove (check, and check!)
  • Norway (again with the Europe)
  • New York (state, yes.  city, no)
  • Canada (check!)
  • Mexico (nope!)
So, we're slowly checking off that list.  Basically I need to go to Europe.  Sadly, I think the time in my life to go to Europe is either10 years ago or 10 years in the future.  So we'll put a pin in that idea and see what happens.

This is a long post, but I found it incredibly enjoyable.  Do you have a bucket list?  What's on there?

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

The Unremarkable Update

There's this question that people ask, and I never know how to answer.  "So, what have you been up to?"  I immediately go into Shy Mode and end up saying something like, "Oh, nothing much.  We're pretty boring."  I don't know why I do this.  I guess I don't like talking about myself, I get all embarrassed and flustered.  It seems silly, I know, but that's how it is.  But when writing, I am free of all shyness.  I can write what I want, and even edit said writing (don't you wish you could edit speaking sometimes?).  And so I thought I would write a blog post about what my family is up to, since I haven't blogged for a while, and most of my friends don't live close by and probably have no idea what we do around here.  An update, however unglamorous the details may be. 

Let's start with Ella.  Ella goes to school 3 days a week.  She is in a preschool program at the local high school where students run the show under the direction of their teacher.  She LOVES it.  It's a short day, only about an hour and a half, but she is bursting to tell me all about it on the car ride home.  Last week the theme was "I like to eat, eat, eat."  They talked about foods they like and dislike, how things taste different, etc.  Ella brought home a paper with pictures of foods she liked and disliked glued to the appropriate column.  The dislike column was a sea of green.  That kid does NOT like vegetables.  I can't think of a single one she likes.  I keep offering them, and she keeps rejecting them (heartily, I might add). Anyway, it's great to see her learning new things and making new friends. 

We also hit up the library once a week for storytime.  Ella has been signed up for the 3 and 4 year old storytime, which is a drop off program.  This is FABULOUS.  I drop Ella off and have 30 minutes child-free in the library.  Heaven.  Her section just ended, so now we'll go to the multi-age storytime, where I stay with her.  I'll be awfully sad when I have no small children to take to storytime anymore - it's been a fixture in our lives for 5 years!  We all look forward to library day, and check out a ridiculous amount of books.  I have seriously been worried that we'd exceed the 100 book limit before.  Multiple times.  I love that my children love books as much as I do.

With the warmer weather, Ella and I have also been discovering new parks in the area.  She has reminded me that she is a big girl, and I "don't need to freak out anymore" when she climbs ladders, walls, etc.  It's delightful to watch her play, and to see her imagination take off.  She is forever telling me stories about Pinky, her doll.  Pinky is having an anniversary.  Pinky has 12 children.  Pinky has been on this street before!  Pinky can't come to Utah because she'll be taking a nap.  Pinky knows everything, and has an awful lot of experience under her belt for being a baby doll.

Moving on to Julia. As you may recall, we sold our home back in February.  Julia took note of this, and a week or so later began petitioning for full day Kindergarten.  She made a mental list of all the good things that would happen if we sent her full day.  I prompted her to make a list of the drawbacks too.  She presented all this to us, and we decided that it would be a good move to bump her up.  This was probably the best thing I have ever done for my Julia.  She has thrived in full day.  She has always been an astounding reader, way above and beyond anyone else in her class, but her writing has been lacking.  She now has the time to work on it.  When she doesn't rush through an assignment, it turns out she can actually write pretty well.  She now has recess, which means she gets to play with other kids.  She gets to eat lunch with her class.  She is just so much happier.  Our time together in the afternoon is much shorter, obviously, so she doesn't get to read as much as she'd like, and playtime has taken a hit, but she has grown so much in the past 6 weeks.  Worth every penny.

As I mentioned, Julia is an avid reader.  She has finished the Capital Mysteries series, and is now in love with Washington DC and US History.  She wants to go see Mount Rushmore this summer, which we might be able to swing on our way out to Utah.  She has checked out books about Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln from the library.  She also wants to go see Springfield and learn more about Lincoln. I love her enthusiasm, and can't wait to do all these things!

As for me, I try to keep the house running and the kids happy.  On the days when Ella goes to school, I have a bit of child-free time.  Once a week I volunteer at Julia's school, making copies, cutting out crafts, etc for the teacher.  Another day, I go grocery shopping.  The third day is "my day," which I either spend reading or shopping or something else I want to do.  Lots of reading has been going on in 2014.  And I love it.

I am also in Young Women, and that takes up every Wednesday night.  I am starting to get my bearings there.  I finally feel like I have a firm handle on what is going on most of the time, and I'm starting to get to know the girls better.  It turns out, I love this calling.  It's been more challenging than any other calling I've had, but I love that challenge.  I love preparing lessons, I love bearing testimony to these girls, and I love hearing their testimonies in return.  It's a good place to be.

I spend a chunk of time listening to podcasts while I clean or cook or walk.  My favorites: Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, This American Life,  RadioWest, General Conference talks, and The Dinner Party Download.  I find this is a great way for me to get a little variety in my life, whether it's a good laugh or my entertainment news or something a little more serious and enlightening.  What would I do without my ipod?  The dishes would never get done!

As for Clark, he has his own blog.  Though I can say that he spends a lot of time working and running and reading and being a good husband and father.  I hit gold when I married that guy.  We work so well together.  We just celebrated our 10 year anniversary, and marveled at the fact that it's been 10 years.  Unreal.

And there you have it, folks.  Consider yourself updated.  Any questions?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Winston

Way back in 2011, Julia expressed her desire to have a pet.  She would take any animal we'd give her, she just wanted a pet.  Honestly, I think she wanted a pet so she could say she had one when they talked about them at preschool.  In December, Santa worked his magic, and a betta fish came to join our family.  We named him Winston.

Winston has been a silent but strong member of our family.  He lived through two moves and even, at times, neglect, in the form of the murkiest water I've ever seen.  He spent countless hours in his rainbow cave, and was the champion of calm living.  The girls were sure to include him in drawings of our family.  I know he was a fish, and thus our physical interaction with him was limited, but we all loved him. 

It is with great sorrow that I must announce that Winston passed away this weekend.  He died sometime Friday night/Saturday morning.  Clark had high hopes that his Good Friday death would foretell an Easter Sunday resurrection, but that was not to be.  We said a few words, shed a few tears, and sent him to a watery grave.  Julia was particularly heartbroken.  She couldn't bear to watch the send off, and instead cried on the stairs.  She feels things deeply, that one.  Ella, on the other hand, wanted to see "dead Winston" and laughed at the idea of flushing him down the toilet.  My daughters look alike but act so differently.

Perhaps one day we'll move on and find a new fish, but for now we are content to hold on to the memories of Winston and mourn our loss. 

(I know it might seem a little ridiculous, but I really am quite sad that he's gone.  I see his empty fishbowl and want to cry.)

Monday, April 07, 2014

Storytime

Let me tell you a story from today.  It all started last night.

At about 1am, I woke up to cries of, "Mommy!  Mommy!  Mommy!"  I dragged myself out of bed, to find my darling 3 year old in the bathroom.  "I'm done and I pooped."  It occurred to me, in my foggy sleep-stupor state, that maybe we should start teaching this kid to wipe her own bum.

Hands were washed, and everyone went back to bed.  But a few minutes later, I hear the pitter-patter of Ella's feet come out of her room and to my room.  The door opens.  And Ella announces (not in a whisper): "I need to go to the doctor today."

This gets my attention, as you may imagine.

I begin my line of questioning.  "What's the matter?"

"I need to go to the doctor."

"Why do you need to go to the doctor?"

"I can't tell you."

"What can't you tell me?"

"I did something I wasn't supposed to do."

"And what was that?"

"I swallowed a coin.  My special gold coin."  ....aaaand cue tears. 

Let me go back in time a bit for you.  About a month ago, we were driving around, running errands, when Ella declares she is SO BORED.  So I glance in the backseat, find a green button, and tell her to play with it.  In hindsight, I realize that giving a child a button to play with may not be the best idea.  But desperate times, you know.  So she has a button.  2 minutes later: "The button!  It's gone!"

"Where did it go?"

"Down my froat!"

"Down your coat?"

"No, my froat!"

Throat.  She had swallowed the button.  After the initial panic wore off, I did what I usually do in these situations.  I called my mom.  I took her advice and called the doctor's office.  Of course, it was a Saturday.  These things only happen after hours.  So I left a message, waited for a call back, explained the situation, and was told that she would probably be ok, but to watch for any signs of abdominal discomfort, vomiting, etc.  I explained to Ella that she needed to tell me if she had any pain in her tummy.  She didn't, and 2 days later that green button came out the other end.  (True love is searching someone else's stool for a green button.)  We had a big talk about how we don't put anything in our mouth except for food, and that was that.

Until last night.  This explained her late night bathroom run.  She had remembered what happened last time, and was doing her best to poop that coin out.  After some tears, I asked if her tummy hurt.  "Yes, it hurts right here, I have to go to the doctor!"  I asked if she was sure she swallowed the coin, or if maybe she dreamed it.  "No, it was in real life!  I swallowed my special gold coin!"  (None of this is in a quiet voice, mind you.)  The special gold coin is some euro coin we found a few weeks ago.  Which makes things worse because I have no idea how big that is, or even what amount it was which would give us a clue as to the size of the mystery coin.  And so, again, I called the doctor's office and left a message with the answering service.  Not a moment after I hung up the phone, Ella says, "Well, I need to get some more sleep."  And heads toward her bed.

Now wait a minute.  2 seconds ago she was in pain and needed to go to the doctor.  Now she's fine and wants to go to bed?  I asked her if she was still in pain, and got some confusing response about how it used to hurt this much (arms spread wide), but now it only hurts this much (arms brought closer together).  At this point I am seriously questioning if she dreamed this whole thing up.  I began to probe further, but Clark cut me off saying, "I think I can talk her into pink monkeys in a minute here, let's just get her in bed."  Off to bed she goes.  I, however, get to stay up to wait for the return call, which I was told to expect within 15-20 minutes.  "If you haven't heard from her by then," the message-taker directed, "Call back."

35 minutes later I called back, and told them to forget it, this whole thing might have been a dream, and I am going to bed and putting my phone on silent.  I'd call our regular doctor in the morning. 

I did, indeed, call the doctor this morning.  He was concerned that the coin (if indeed there was a coin) could become lodged in the esophagus, and it is possible to have no symptoms when this happens, so he ordered an x-ray.  Ella quite enjoyed the x-ray.  I did my best to impress upon her that this was NOT fun, and she should NOT try to get another one any time soon.

I just got a call back with the results of the x-ray.  They couldn't find anything that would indicate a foreign body, and a coin would show up pretty clearly if it was there.  I still get to watch her closely, and take her in if she has any symptoms, but it's highly likely that she dreamed she swallowed a coin.

This is the part where we all breath a big sigh of frustration, mixed with a bit of relief, and go lock up all the coins and buttons.

The End.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

GC Success

General Conference with kids can be very challenging.  For the past 5 years, I've struggled with how to approach it.  I want to listen and learn, but I have 2 small children who also need my attention.  I want them to be quiet, but that is unrealistic.  Last fall I think I finally gave up any expectation that I would listen during General Conference, and thus I was not disappointed.  In fact, I was pleasantly surprised that I got to listen to some small portion of the talks. 

So I was going into this weekend with the same lowered expectations, tempered with a bit of hope due to the excitement levels of said small children.  We have been talking a lot about General Conference this week.  We have talked some about how we get to listen to the prophet and apostles, but mostly we've been talking about things we get to do during conference. 

One thing we've done for at least a year now is treat buckets, inspired by Simply Kierste.  Except they are kind of like the "low budget, non-cute" version, because honestly, would I ever create something that darling?  We use bowls.  And handwritten words on slips of paper, taped to the bowls.  With scotch tape.  High class, that's what we are.  We learned the first time we did this that it isn't a great idea to have a whole load of candy sitting out, because then you eat a whole load of candy and feel ill.  So now we mix it up with pretzels, crackers, raisins, peanuts, etc.  My kids really look forward to this, and they absolutely loved shopping for the treats and coming up with the words.  It's amazing how much it helps them pay attention.

We also pitch the play tent in the living room, so they can watch like the people of King Benjamin.  And print out oodles of coloring pages.  And pull out every puzzle in the house.  Basically any quiet activity we can think of.  And then, when that all fails, I've told the girls they can go play somewhere else, so long as Mom and Dad can listen to conference.  The only person they have to sit and listen to is the prophet.  That's the deal. 

I also took the time yesterday to talk with Julia (who has been praying for the prophet and apostles to do well on their talks all week) about how we can gain personal revelation from General Conference.  I told her that if she has any questions or concerns, she can get answers through the talks at GC.  And then I asked her if she had any questions.  She wanted to know why Heavenly Father and Jesus had to be in heaven instead of on earth, where they could help us better.  This led to a discussion about faith and how Heavenly Father and Jesus help us from heaven.  It was a beautiful conversation, and I am so grateful I could have that with my sweet daughter.  She is a thinker, that one, and has an amazing grasp on gospel principles. 

I have to say that today was a roaring success.  Everyone was in the living room for all 4 hours of conference, except when I bipped into the kitchen to make bagels (another conference-time tradition!).  In fact, while I was shaping said bagels, Ella came into the kitchen, almost in tears, asking me if I was going to watch the prophets.  I told her I was listening, and she said, "But you need to come watch them.  You're going to miss the whole thing!"  When I asked Ella at dinner what she thought of General Conference, she said, "It was so much fun!"  Did we have some moments where no one was listening?  Well, sure.  But on the whole, everyone was happy, quiet, and at least somewhat paying attention. At bedtime, both girls expressed that they were excited for tomorrow.  Excited!  For 2 more sessions of conference!  Unbelievable.  I am one lucky mama.

(Stay tuned for tomorrow's post where everyone was in tears and nobody listened to conference.  Because obviously that would happen after I posted about how awesome today was.)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Sold! (The Michigan Edition)

We closed on the sale of our home in Michigan today.  I've never been so happy NOT to be a homeowner anymore! (OK, lies, I was this happy back in 2011.  But then, this was not a huge hit to our bank account, so yeah, maybe I'm even more happy!)

I'll admit, there was a sad moment this morning when I was reminded of all that we left behind in Midland.  Selling our home is sort of the final nail in the coffin of our lives there.  We are (sadly) not going back.  There is no "Just kidding! We're not living in Illinois!"  We live here, and only here, now.

But that sadness was quickly overshadowed by the joy of NOT MAKING A MORTGAGE PAYMENT ANYMORE!  Think of it - we will have money leftover after we pay the bills!  Actual money!  Enough that we could actually buy something we want, and not just the things we need.  It makes me giddy.  A burden has been lifted.

I know what you're all thinking: "So, are you going to buy again?"  Not anytime soon.  Not for a very VERY long time.  Honestly, we probably should hold off on buying a home until we want to move.  That seems to be the way this works.  Buy a house, be forced to move.   I'm over the whole home ownership thing.  We're happy here in our little townhome.  We have plenty of space for our family, we don't have to shovel snow, we don't have to pay for any repairs.  Life is good here.

Sorry, Illinois.  You aren't getting my money in real estate taxes.  At least not for a while.  I'm beating you at your little game.  I avoid toll roads, use the library like a boss, and don't send my kid to all day kindergarten.  Shannon 4, Illinois 0.

Monday, February 17, 2014

YW

Back in November, I was called to be the Mia Maid adviser in the Young Women program.  And a couple months later I was put in as a counselor in the YW Presidency (January, to be precise.  Right after I had made all these goals for the new year.  Like blogging.  There went all my time!).  There is a word that has been floating through my mind since November: inadequate.

I have never felt inadequate for a calling before.  I think I'm pretty lucky to have made it this far, actually.  I have spent a number of years in music and Relief Society callings.  I did a couple stints in nursery back in Michigan, which were challenging, but I certainly didn't feel inadequate.  Working with the youth is a whole new ball game, and I don't have a clue how to play.

A little fact about me: I'm an introvert.  I like to think that I've gotten over being "shy," but I am intimidated by large groups of people.  I'd rather stay home and read a book than go to a party.  I enjoy being social, but with like 3 people instead of 20.  This means that I find it really difficult to get to know these girls.  There isn't much time for one-on-one interaction, and if there were, who would rather spend time with their leader than their peers?  Maybe that's just me, feeling "old and busted," but maybe not.  And if you don't know the girls very well, you can't help them.  It's hard to teach lessons on Sunday, to know what their struggles are, to know about their triumphs.  It's just hard. 

Let's add in the fact that I haven't been involved in the Young Women's Program in, oh, 14 years.  Since I was a young woman myself. Everything has changed.  Personal Progress is completely different, and I have no idea how it works.  There is the new curriculum.  There are activities and temple trips and camp (!) and all sorts of things I don't have a clue about.  I have no idea what is going on - and I'm supposed to be in charge! 

And finally: I feel a bit like the loser leader.  I'm not into fashion, or decorating, or hair and makeup.  I'm a frumpy lady, who likes to read.  I feel pretty different from the other leaders.  And then I wonder why on earth I'm here, and feel like I have nothing to offer.

 I keep telling myself to give it time.  In a couple of months I'll know the girls better, and then a lot of things will fall into place.  It feels a lot like going back to high school, and I wasn't exactly confident in high school.  I need to remember that I'm not a teenager again, I'm a grown up.  A confident, happy grown-up, with loads of life experience under my belt, a family I adore, and a solid testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Because that's what it's all about - it's all about sharing my testimony with these girls to help strengthen theirs.  And the more I think about that, the more I think, "I can do this."

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Happy New Year!

I'm only running a month behind here.  Could be worse.

We actually had a very fun new year, which is rare for the mother of small children.  Actually, let's be honest: it's rare for the Mormon.  There, I said it.  I remember vividly New Years Eve, 1999.  I headed downtown with friends, ready for a fabulous night out, and it was somewhat less than fabulous.  In fact, there was a moment when we all agreed that this would be much more fun if we were drunk.  Not because we wanted to get drunk, but because it was that disappointing.  Such is the life of a Mormon - have to find good, clean fun, even when the bad, dirty fun looks more appealing. 

(Maybe I shouldn't have just admitted all that, but I did.)  (Oh hey, I also like being a Mormon.  In fact, I love it. But it's not always kicks and giggles, know what I mean?)

Anyway.  This is all to say that generally, I find New Years Eve to be a lame holiday.  But this year Julia claimed it to be the BEST DAY OF HER LIFE.  That is pretty high praise.  But I think it was fully warranted.  Tell me if you agree.

Our "eve" started out in the middle of the day, with the library's Noon Years Eve.  What a great idea!  We had an adapted version of Stone Soup (New Years Soup), in which everyone brings something (love, success, good health, etc) to put in the pot. They had a "Book Drop" as the clock struck 12.  We toasted with apple juice.  We wrote things we were thankful for in the year past (a new job! a great library!) and things we hope for in the year to come ("to see a leprechaun!" "a new baby!" [poor girls will both be disappointed]).  We even spun the library wheel.  It was magical.  And the biggest surprise of the day was when Julia won a prize in the Make Your Own Hat contest by wearing her Hello Kitty winter hat - 3rd place in the Book Character category - a bit of a stretch, but we'll take it. 

I opened the prize envelope to find a coupon for a free ice cream cone at McDonald's...that expires on 12/31/13.  So guess where we went for lunch??  Between going out to lunch, getting ice cream afterwards, and playing in the Playplace, I had 2 very happy, very tired kids.  Which is great for the afternoon of Dec 31.  We headed home for a nap.

But wait!  There's more!  In the evening, we headed over to the church, where the Aurora Spanish ward hosted a big old party, complete with multiple pinatas, authentic Mexican food (the tamales were EXCELLENT), balloons, music, and dancing.  We all had a wonderful time.  However, by around 11:15, Ella was so done.    We went and sat by the bishop's office together for a few minutes, and I think she was on the verge of a total meltdown, so we made the executive decision to head home.  Julia was persuaded when we told her we'd have a countdown and toast at home. 

We came home, got everyone in their PJs, and discovered that it was 11:50.  Nobody was going to make it 10 more minutes.  Somehow, Clark's watch suddenly said it was 11:59.  A New Years Miracle!   We counted down, toasted with water in fancy glasses, and crashed.  But did I mention, the girls slept in their play tent?!  What could be better!

New Years Day we held the 2nd Annual Blockburger TV Marathon, wherein we let the girls watch a boatload of television on this day, and this day only.  Everyone was in heaven.  Not much more needs to be said about that. 

So there you have it.  2013 went out with a bang!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Christmas!



This was our 4th Christmas far from home.  I think we can all agree that there is something about Christmas that makes you want to be back home, where you grew up, surrounded by family.  I was homesick multiple times throughout December, and I was actually kind of worried that I'd have a major meltdown on Christmas day and ruin the holiday for everyone.  Thankfully, that didn't happen, and I couldn't have asked for a more lovely Christmas.

Let's begin with Christmas Eve.  I like to think of this as The Longest Day of the Year.  Generally, all the shopping is done by then, you are ready for the holiday, but the holiday hasn't quite come yet.  We have our Christmas Feast on Christmas Eve, but the whole day is spent moping around, eying the presents under the tree, asking if it's time to go to bed yet.  We decided that this was less than desirable, so we headed to the Museum of Science and Industry that day. 

Good.  Gravy.  That place is HUGE and EXCITING!  Our whole family had a wonderful time.  The science nerd in Clark was in Geek Heaven.  I kept finding little things relating to my newest obsession: The Chicago World's Fair (It's all because of this book.  I found it fascinating.  Go read it.  You'll be glad you did.  And then come visit us to see where it all went down!).  Ella adored the baby chicks, and while watching the eggs in hopes they would hatch, she was heard to say, "I could do this all day."  Julia thought the submarine was really cool, and has recently asked to "learn more about machinery.  Like the farm machinery at the museum."  This was definitely the perfect activity to occupy minds and wear out little bodies on the day before Christmas. 

We got home somewhere around 3.  I put the ham in the oven and started working on the other components of The Feast.  Julia and Ella were sent upstairs for quiet time, where they decided instead of being quiet they'd like to have a pool party.  Swimsuits were donned.  Blankets were spread across the floor to act as the pool.  Turns out the bed is the perfect diving board.  And why not, I say?  Why not have a pool party on Christmas Eve, while it's snowing outside?  Those Blockburger girls.  They are brilliant.

Post Feast, we read the Christmas story, lit the angel chimes, and ate birthday cake, in honor of the Babe of Bethlehem.  I think we did a pretty good job of sending the girls to bed full of the Spirit, understanding why we celebrate this day above all days.

Christmas morning was AWESOME.  5 and 3 are the perfect ages for Christmas.  Everything is magical.  Everything is exactly what they wanted. Here's a video of their first reactions.  Ella, in response to her Jake and the Neverland Pirate boat, is saying, "What?  What?"  Julia finds her Princess Teaset and says, "How did he know?" because she forgot to ask Santa for it in person, even though she wanted it so much.  Magic, I tell you.  Magic.

video

We took the approach of letting the girls play with whatever they wanted.  There was no schedule to the day, we could take our time opening the presents.  This helped with the Cinnamon Roll Fiasco, wherein I didn't realize until Christmas morning that the cinnamon rolls we wanted to eat for breakfast need to rise for 2 hours before baking.  I felt awful for about 5 minutes, and then?  Nobody even noticed.  We spent all that time opening presents and enjoying the day. 

Then we Skyped with my family and phoned Clark's, and spent the afternoon relaxing and playing and generally doing nothing.  It was glorious.  I was not homesick for one minute.  I was just grateful for my little family, and for my Savior, who made it possible for us to be sealed together forever.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Cold Day

No school today.  Too cold.  The high today is something ridiculous like -14, with windchill down into the -40s.  RIDICULOUS.  But, if it's cold, you might as well step outside to vaporize some boiling water.  (I really didn't know if it was going to work, and was worried that the boiling water would be blown back into my face.  Thankfully, that didn't happen.)

video

We tried to blow bubbles too, but the wind was too strong, kept blowing them away.  But hey, no school tomorrow either!  We can always try again!

Sunday, January 05, 2014

It's like I found a time machine and we are back in the 90s! This outfit was all

It's like I found a time machine and we are back in the 90s! This outfit was all Julia's idea: a beret, a black leotard, and some leggings. She's a fashionista, no?

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Resolved

Happy New Year! 

I'm not sure whether to write that 2013 was good to us, or that 2013 was rotten.  Unemployment was miserable, and our bank account is pretty pathetic right now, but I feel like we witnessed miracles for our little family.  We were blessed in a million small ways, and I came out with a more firm conviction that God hears and answers prayers, and that He has a plan for me.  So can I really call that a loss?  I don't think so. 

Last year I made a few resolutions.  I'm pleased to report I wrote something I'm grateful for in my journal every single day of 2013.  It was a year of thankfulness.  Oh, that made all the difference when life was launching grenades my way.  I don't plan on stopping, either.  I have so much to be grateful for, and every day brings new blessings.  That resolution was a resounding success.

I also kept track of all the books I read. I read 38 different books (2 were unfinished as of December 31), for a total of 10,703 pages.  Clark got up to 11,675.  I think those numbers are quite impressive.  We're readers, people.  READERS.  Now that I know about how many pages I read in a year, I can set a new goal to surpass that number.  11,000 pages, here I come!

Progress report on reading Book of Mormon as a family: we are almost through Alma.  While we didn't finish the whole thing, we read fairly consistently, and I'm quite pleased.  Sure, the girls aren't getting everything, but they are getting some things, and that's important.  New goal: finish it this year.  I feel confident this will happen.

As for the other goals, I am afraid I wasn't more patient, nor did I spend less time yelling at my kids.  We're putting those into the "Roll-over" category.  Or, more accurately, the "Never Ending Battle" category.  And yoga didn't really happen either.  Maybe those things are connected?  Hmm...

So what about 2014?  What lofty goals am I setting?  Well, I'm glad you asked.
  •  Reading 11,000 pages was already mentioned.  
  • And finishing the Book of Mormon as a family.  
  • It's high time I read Jesus the Christ by Talmage.  I'm not sure how I've made it to 32 years as a Mormon and not read this book.  Time to change that.  
  • Remember my 30 by 30 challenge?  Remember how I actually completed 25 by 30, and then one more by 31?  I am thinking it's time to chase down those last 4.
  • We're now an hour closer to a temple.  Monthly temple trips are a bit more feasible.  Time to make that happen.
  • Learn Portuguese.  When I say "learn Portuguese" I basically mean "learn some Portuguese."  And I'd love for the girls to learn along with me.  It's hard to say what I hope the end result will be.  We'll see how this goes.  
  • And finally, I want to blog more.  I have no family close by, and very few friends in this new place.  I need to tell my stories to someone!  And so, fair blog, you are the recipient.  Or at least, I hope you will be.
All written down like that, this seems like a long list.  But I think these are all things I can do, and in fact want to do. And since one of those goals is to blog weekly, you'll get to read all about my progress!