Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Dear Family and Friends:

As 2009 comes to a close, we review the year with gratitude for the many blessings we've enjoyed. We are mindful of the people who may have faced job loss, health problems, and other misfortune. Despite the ups and downs of life, it is comforting to know there are caring people all around willing to strengthen and support us. Our year has been busy but unmarked by any earth-shattering events. That is definitely a good thing!

Charlie is four-years-old and lets everyone know this fact! He started taking gymnastics in the spring and is loving it. He enjoys building towers and railroads. Charlie is a great helper to his family. He helps set the table, makes sure Ellie doesn't get into things she's not supposed to, and dresses himself. Charlie is learning new things all the time! He loves to spell and can spell his name as well as Ellie's. He knows all about the letters and the sounds they make. Another thing Charlie loves to do is sing. We enjoy Charlie and his great personality.

Ellie, 22-months, has grown so much this year. She went from crawling to walking to running. Her bright smile brings cheer to everyone around her. Ellie loves doing everything her big brother does. She loves to talk and laugh and sing. Her favorite songs are “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, “As I Have Loved You”, “I Am a Child of God”, and the alphabet song. Ellie is also a great dancer. She and Charlie have a lot of fun dancing to the music on the piano. We just love this sweet little girl!

Dan continues to work hard at Echostar as a network engineer. He's usually the go to person when others can't fix a problem. He's great dad and husband. The kids are always glad when he gets home from work. When not at work, Dan's busy working around the house. He's very handy when the computers break or if the garage door doesn't work. His latest project is fixing drywall and painting it.

I'm just trying to keep up with it all! I love being mom to two great kids. They are the joy of my life. I try to keep balance in our schedule and to enjoy this time while they are little. We have three things we do every week: gymnastics, story time at the library, and playgroup. When the kids are napping, I get to work on my hobbies: exercising, learning more about personal finance and investing, reading books, and blogging.

So, that's what we've been up to this year. I hope you are all well. We'd love to hear from you and to keep in touch. We are grateful this season for the Savior, Jesus Christ, and for the meaning he gives to our lives. May you and your family be blessed with peace, joy, and happiness now and in the new year.


Love,

The Schmidts
Dan, Linda, Charlie, and Ellie

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Parade

The holiday season is a wonderful time of year, especially with little ones. I love the decorating, making treats, and all the other activities we do with the children. Even going to Lowe's to get the stuff we need to fix our kitchen walls turns into a family activity. The kids love looking at the Christmas displays they have. Charlie's favorite thing to look at is the Christmas village with a moving train going in circles.

Our first event to kick off the Christmas season was the Cheyenne Christmas Parade. We thought we were going to miss it because although we arrived in the downtown area on-time, it took a while to find parking. Finally we parked a couple blocks from the Wyoming State Capitol and I asked a passerby whether we were far from the parade route. I was pleasantly surprised by the reply that we were very close to it because the parade passed the State Capitol. So, we didn't miss much when we got there. Despite the freezing cold, I think it must have been literally freezing temperatures, there was a good crowd along the route.

I read a neat story in the paper about how they started having the parade. Since we're Michiganders, it's fun to know that this parade was modeled after a parade in Michigan. The couple who got this parade started had been driving back to Wyoming through Michigan when their car broke down and they had to stay overnight in Marshall, Michigan. They found out there was a parade and enjoyed it. It was held after dark and all the floats had lights on them. When they got back to Cheyenne, they thought it would be neat to have a parade like that here. The woman has been involved with the parade planning for the past 17 years.

We were really cold but enjoyed the parade nonetheless. I was glad we had a blanket to keep the kids warm! I couldn't believe it lasted over an hour!! The parade organizers did a great job getting different businesses and organizations to sponsor floats. It was wonderful to see the community coming together for this event.One of my favorite floats was the one where they had this huge flame coming up.
Here are a few other floats with pretty lights.



Saturday, December 12, 2009

Shutterfly Stinks!

Hope you don't mind if I vent a little. Also, I want to share this so no one else has to go through the frustration I felt. Here's a synopsis of what happened:

We were at the mall and decided to get a picture of the kids with Santa. Great idea right? Yes until we decided to buy a picture package that included a gift card for Shutterfly. I thought how great it would be if we got the digital image of the Santa picture and uploaded it to Shutterfly and ordered a bunch to send to friends and family for Christmas? Well, little did we realize that it wasn't as great a deal as it seemed. I did upload the picture to Shutterfly and proceeded to try to order the pictures. The card was for $20 but you had to use it on an order totalling $20 or more. Also, even after I did try to make an order meeting the minimum dollar requirement it gave me an error. So the order didn't happen! By then I had wasted more than two hours just trying order some cards and pictures... (GRRRR! Visualize face turning red and steam coming out of my ears!!!)

So, sorry you may not be getting any pictures from us this year! But you can check back on this blog to see the cute picture of the kids with Santa and an update of our year. Thanks for listening and allowing me to let off some steam!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What I'm Grateful For

Around Thanksgiving time it's natural to think of things for which we are grateful. President Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said: "Our realization of what is most important in life goes hand in hand with gratitude for our blessings" (October 2008 General Conference).

When I think about what I am grateful for, President Monson's statement rings true. These things are truly important to me... Here are a few:

* My relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ
* The atonement of Jesus Christ
* The restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ and all its ordinances
* My husband
* My children
* Inspiration by the Spirit
* My health
* A home
* Extended family members
* Friends
* Temples
* Opportunity for education and learning
* Good books
* The beauty of the earth
* Living in a free land
* Motherhood
* Life

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 6, 2009

New and Surprising

Recently, we've had a few interesting experiences...

1. Two snowstorms in October- Having lived in Cheyenne for 2.5 years, I thought we'd seen it all: high winds, hail storms in July, highways shutting down in winter storms, etc. But, a snowstorm the first week of October beat it all. I'd never seen snow in October before, let alone twice! Apparently, the amount of snow we got last month was the average amount of snow this area gets in one winter.

Our backyard after the first snow storm:
After the second snow storm:
2. My first auction - A friend had told me about an auction in town and I wanted to go see it for myself. She was supposed to come with me but spaced it. I was nervous but decided to go by myself anyway.

It was definitely an interesting experience! I made a an embarrassing mistake on my first bid and won a box of sheet music for $65. That was a lot more than I wanted to pay for it! Seeing the shocked look on my face, the auctioneer was kind enough to redo the bid. Someone else got a steal on the music once I was out of the bidding. I did get a swivel rocker for $10, a chair for $5, and VCR for $5.
3. A new bed. We finally got around to getting Charlie a twin bed. Can you tell what he thinks? We were worried about him falling out of bed but so far so good!
4. A trip to the park - It's the beginning of November, hardly a time you'd think of going to the park. Well... apparently in Cheyenne anything is possible! It was gorgeous and 66 degrees so we made sure to spend it out of doors. I took the kids to our favorite park in town. We took a little walk and afterward my plan was to let the kids play at the playground. As we ended the walk, I suddenly remembered that a new children's garden had just opened at the park so we went there to see it. What a great place! The kids loved all the neat water features there. It was really hard to tear the kids away.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Trunk or Treat



I LOVE HALLOWEEN!! My favorite part is seeing all the kids in their cute costumes, especially my own. Would you believe I bought Ellie's at 5:20 PM on Halloween? Charlie wanted to be Thomas the Tank Engine again this year and fortunately we were able to borrow one from a friend.

Traditionally, our stake does a carnival at the stake center. They set up games and activities in different rooms. The kids get candy as prizes.It's so fun for the whole family. Unfortunately it was canceled because last year there was such a huge turnout it became a fire hazard.

Luckily, we still had our ward's trunk-or-treat last night. It was even better because it was combined with the ward that shares our building so we had a bigger crowd. The kids got tons of candy. I think we have enough candy to last us the whole next year.

Easy Jack-O-Lantern

Here's how you can do a jack-o-lantern in 5 minutes:

Grab a pumpkin and some permanent markers, any colors you want. Draw face on pumpkin with child's help. Take picture. So easy and cute! No mess!

Notice the red ear? That was Charlie's idea.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ready for Potty Training?


I wish!!

Ellie has really become mommy's girl in the past couple months. She just wants to be with me all the time. It's quite flattering and sweet but can be very inconvenient sometimes. Like when I'm using the bathroom, she would insist on coming in with me. Then, she'll sit on the little potty, making sure the lid is off.

Even when Dan's holding her, if she sees me she'll want me to hold her. I know I should enjoy it and bask in this sweet adoration because I won't always be so loved. I guess I don't mind if it means an early interest in potty training... Well, one can hope, right?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What Happened to Autumn???

We had our fourth snowfall last week! The first few were light but this one was a big one. I don't remember ever seeing snow in October.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Clean, Dirty

It's funny how children can differ so much, even within a family. Charlie seems to have a streak of OCD. I probably shouldn't say this in jest since OCD is a serious problem for some people. He's the only child I know of who hates being dirty. He loves washing his hands. It's not that he does it all the time but at times when one should wash hands, like after using the bathroom, he enjoys the whole process: turn on the water, put soap on his hands, rinse. He just likes to be clean. This morning, we had leftover waffles from yesterday. As usual, he asked for a rag (moist washcloth) so he could wipe his hands and face in case get got syrup on himself.

Ellie, on the other hand, doesn't seem to mind being dirty. She freaks out when I try to wipe her face and hands clean after meals. It's not that she doesn't like to be clean because she enjoys washing hands and taking baths. I think she just doesn't care as much about being clean all the time as Charlie does.
Here's a picture of Charlie and Ellie after eating pudding. Notice how Charlie's face is practically spotless (and just to be clear, I did not wipe his face or hands before taking this picture!) and how Ellie has pudding all over her face. Even after I thought I'd cleaned Ellie up, Dan discovered she still had pudding in the creases of one of her eyelids.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

LOL

I wish I was better about recording the cute and funny things my kids do. Dan told me this story when we were going to bed last night.

We were at the farmer's market yesterday. I must have been at a different stand at the time while Dan kept an eye on the kids. A lady was trying to get people to buy her tomatoes and was calling out her prices. When he heard her, Charlie ran up towards her stand and shouted, "Team Geotrax, all aboard!" If you have a little boy who loves trains, you'd know that that's from the theme song of a video about trains. I couldn't help but laugh out loud when I heard about the incident. I love how my kids make me laugh all the time.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Waipo and Waigong

In Chinese, Waipo is what you would call your maternal grandmother and Waigong is what you would call your maternal grandfather. My parents were here for a visit this past week. Charlie and Ellie loved having them here. Charlie kept saying "Waipo and Waigong" constantly. I think this is the first time they were both able to take a long trip somewhere together for fun.

There wasn't much happening this time of year in Cheyenne but it was nice to just relax. We enjoyed going to the park, the library (which is amazing by the way), and to Ft. Collins. It was great to have my parents here because they did the cooking half the time! Ellie, who loves going outside and walking down our street, was really glad to have someone willing to walk with her. Charlie said it was nice to have Waipo and Waigong come and visit us. I'm really glad they came too!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Yea for Dan!!

Dan studied computer science in college. He realized that his school was not strong in the area on which he wanted to focus - computer networking. So, after getting his degree he took classes specializing in Cisco networking and got two professional certificates which instantly made him a lot more marketable. Those tests were beasts - for the first certificate he only had to take one test but for the second certificate he had to take FOUR tests. But his hard work paid off and he was able to land a good paying job mainly because of this second higher level certification (and because he's a great problem solver!).

Well, there's a catch with these professional certifications: you have to renew it every few years, which means taking more tests. You only have to take one test to renew before the expiration date but if you don't do it before the expiration date, you have to retake ALL four tests. Talk about torture! Anyway, he's worked really hard to study for the exam between working full-time, taking care of his family, and dealing with health issues. But, he never gave up and just kept trying when most people would have thrown in the towel.

Once again, he has overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. He passed his test today. I'm so proud of him!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Flow

Yesterday, I went running. I LOVE running. I could do it everyday. But, alas, I don't often have time to be able to go running. Also, when I am able to do so, it's not the ideal time because most of the time it's the middle of the day and the bright, hot sun is beating down on the barren landscape of our town - which is 6062 feet above sea level, almost 1000 feet higher than Denver. There's not much shade to speak of. I'm usually out of breath. I'm really sweaty. My eyes sting from the sweat mixed with sunscreen running down my forehead. Despite these discomforts, at the end of my runs I'm always glad I did it.

Luckily, my run yesterday evening was very pleasant. It was after 5 PM and the sky was overcast. In fact I had felt a few raindrops but I wasn't going to let that keep me from enjoying a little me time. Usually, when I go for my runs I have a goal to run at a certain speed so I could get back home as quickly as possible to tend to my family. While that was in my mind, this time I chose to consciously enjoy myself and to not push too hard. The words "just do it for fun" kept running through my mind. I seemed to notice that my gait was smoother, that even though I was running hard I didn't feel like I was too out of breath. Near the end, I was going up a steep hill, at which point I normally would've felt like walking but instead I kept going and felt like I could've gone on running forever.

That feeling is why I run.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I Won!!

Okay, most people will probably not consider this very exciting but I've recently discovered a new investment product - bonds. We have some savings with Zions Bank and they have a website called Zions Direct where they sell fixed asset securities like bonds and cd's. I've never considered investing in bonds before but I got an email about a 1-year corporate bond with a yield of 5.35% which in today's market is phenomenal. Also, I learned that 5.35% is the yield if you choose to pay at par but if you decide to do some bidding, the potential yield is about 2% higher because you could end up paying a lower price. Of course, depending on the rating of the company buying a corporate bond is not without risk. Because the bond I'm buying is being offered by Zions Bank and I've always had a good experience with them, I feel relatively comfortable taking the risk.

So, today I got a message that my bid for the number of shares I wanted was accepted! And my rate is 7.1%!! We'll see how it plays out but I'm pretty excited to have learned something new and to try this out.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Too Bad...

This year I planted a small (tiny) garden. We have a small yard so I wasn't very ambitious. In a corner of our flower garden, I planted some snow peas and a few bean plants. We have two rectangular wooden planters on the patio in which I had planted green beans, broccoli, and spinach. Then, I've also planted two tomato plants in pots. I wasn't expecting too much since our backyard is shady and those areas where I've planted are the main spots that get sun throughout the day.

Just when the spinach was ready to be eaten, I discovered something unfortunate. One day, Ellie was playing with a small label she'd peeled off one of the planters. It turns out, the planters were built using treated wood - as in treated with chromated copper arsenate, which was used to prevent rotting. So, this means my spinach, broccoli, and green beans are not safe to eat. Oh, well! At least I found out before we started harvesting the green beans. Darn, I'd been looking forward to fresh homegrown green beans!

So, the moral of the story is, if you have anything in your backyard that's made of pressure treated wood, find out what it's been treated with so you can take proper precautions. Most pressure treated wood for residential use is now safe but it's best to be sure. We will be dismantling our planters soon and we have our kids wash their hands after playing outside.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Grandma Schmidt

Dan's mom came out to visit this past weekend. We really enjoyed having her here and doing some fun things together. The kids loved being with Grandma Schmidt.
On Friday, we went down to the Denver Zoo. It was probably the hottest day ever - temperatures reached 99 degrees! Even though I lathered on sunscreen a couple times I still got a little sunburned. We had a great time though! Can you tell what Charlie's favorite thing was?
Grandma picked the busiest time of the year to come to Cheyenne. Every year for 10 days near the end of July Cheyenne hosts the largest outdoor rodeo in the world: Cheyenne Frontier Days. Our little town of about 57,000 doubles in population and every hotel is at capacity. Traditionally, we go see the US Air Force Thunderbirds airshow which features six F-16 doing amazing acrobatics and formations. We also go to one of the parades which march on 4 different days. The third thing we always do is go to the carnival which is open everyday from 11 AM to midnight. This year, we took Grandma to the parade and carnival on Saturday, the day before the end of the rodeo. I wish we could've gone to the rodeo as well but we just ran out of time. Maybe next year!

The carnival was a blast! Of course, Charlie had to go on the train ride. He got to be conductor. Ellie was too young for most of the rides but was able to ride on the crousel. Charlie was sure he wanted to go on the ferris wheel. He first went on it at last year's carnival with Dan. This time, I got to go on it with him. Let me tell you, it can be scary even for a grown up! I managed to quell my nerves enough to grab an aerial view. Charlie was really brave to go up on this scary ride.
After the carnival, we walked around the chuck wagon area where we sampled food from chuck wagon cook-off. We also discovered the Indian Village which features Native American displays and crafts.

We were all sad when it was time for Grandma to go home. The sweetest thing was when Charlie said to her, "Grandma, I don't want to let you leave."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Shelf Reliance

Does anyone know anything about Shelf Reliance? It's a website that sells food storage and emergency preparedness products. If anyone has had experience with their products, I'd love to hear about it!

Apparently, they do weekly giveaways and this week they're doing a drawing for a 72-hour kit for two.

Being prepared in an emergency is definitely something I could always improve on!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Preschool Decision

I've made a decision... Well, sort of. After a lot of thought and prayer, I've realized that I'm not ready to send Charlie to preschool. It's ironic that I was so worried about him being able to make the adjustment to going to all-day kindergarten when I'm the one that will be having a hard time sending my baby off into the world. I remember a friend of mine who'd always say how sad she was when school started in the fall because her kids would be off to school again. At the time, I was amazed to hear her say that because I thought it made life easier when the kids were out of the house. Now that I have my own kids, I've realized how quickly they grow up and how precious is that time you have with them. It seems like nowadays society pushes kids to grow up even faster.

While I'm sure preschool can be a wonderful experience, it's not a requisite experience. However, I know every child is different and it's a personal decision for families whether to send their kids to preschool. I've decided to try to do preschool at home for a couple months. However, I've left myself the option of sending Charlie preschool if that doesn't work out. I'm looking forward to spending more time with him!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Preschool

Since Charlie seems to have a hard time with new situations (see Change and Progress), I'm starting to worry about him going off to kindergarten next year. In Cheyenne they have all-day kindergarten. That is a LONG day for a 5-year old! I thought maybe I'd sign him up for preschool this fall as a stepping-stone for kindergarten so he can get used to going to "school" and being in a learning environment outside of our home. I've heard great things about a preschool called Discovery Unlimited here in town. The director of the preschool has been doing it for over 20 years and I have friends who have sent their kids there. People have signed their kids up a year ahead of time just to get a spot.

During the summer, she has drop-in days and she said we were welcome to go to see how Charlie would like it. So we went to check it out yesterday. Charlie actually did fine. I stayed for a few minutes and then left when he was occupied. Charlie was a little sad when he noticed I was gone but the director was able to distract him with a different activity. I was pleased that when I asked him if he wanted to go back he said "yes".

Well, now I'm not sure what to do! Either Charlie has gotten better with dealing with a new situation or the preschool was set-up so well that kids just feel comfortable being there. On the one hand I don't want send him to preschool if I don't have to, however I also want him to have opportunities to learn and develop skills academically and socially.

What do you think? I'd be interested to hear other moms' experiences with sending kids to preschool. Was it a positive experience? What were the benefits and drawbacks?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Summer Fun

I'm a little behind on my posts. No excuses though. I really enjoy blogging but to be honest it's not at the top of my to do list right now. Taking care of myself, my family, and my home often leaves little time for anything else. And that is okay. I've accepted that there's a time and season in life for everything I want to do. That said, here are some fun things we've been doing...

Superday: In Cheyenne, the rec department puts on a wonderful event called "Superday" to highlight all the great activities that are available in this town. There are 5K/10K walk/runs, a bike race, a judo tournament, a volleyball tournament, etc. It's held at the largest park in Cheyenne where booths are set up for all sorts of things. There's an area where local artists and crafts people sell their wares. Another area has clubs and organizations sharing information. There's a children's carnival. And what's a great event without food? Superday is just a fun day for the community to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather at the park.

We love going to Superday. I wasn't ready this year but next year I plan on doing the 5k run. Charlie had a lot of fun going down the huge blowup slide and going in the bounce maze. The carnival was great too. The Lions Club gave free rides in their miniature train. Both Charlie and Ellie loved it. We finished off our superfun by walking through the booths for freebies and grabbing lunch.


















4th of July:
We had a pretty laidback 4th of July. There was a kiddie parade downtown so I took the kids. I didn't expect much but I have to say the kiddie parade was a disappointment. I thought maybe there'd be at least few floats but all we saw was a group of parents walking with their kids in decorated wagons, bikes, strollers, etc. I guess I just had a different idea of what a parade should be!!

After the parade we headed to the park for a barbecue with a couple of friends. We expected the day to be warmer but it ended up feeling a little chilly! That's Cheyenne weather for ya, you just can't be too surprised by it. Anyway, it was a beautiful day and we were lucky we decided to do a barbecue for lunch instead of later in the day when a huge rainstorm occurred.

Monday, June 22, 2009

My Dad

Yesterday was Father's Day and I meant to write this post then but never made it to the computer. I've been thinking about my dad and his influence in my life. As a kid, you never really appreciate your parents and what they do for you. You kind of take your parents for granted. At least that was true for me. But now, I am an adult and a parent myself and can look upon all that my parents have done with a better understanding. So, it is with this improved perspective that I see my parents as amazing people who willingly and literally sacrificed all that they had for their children's benefit.

I can't talk about my dad and exclude my mom because they did it together. They both did their best to provide the basic necessities and more for me and my sisters. The first thing they did was to give us life. Which is not necessarily something for which one usually thank his parents but I specifically want to mention it because I am grateful to be here and to be alive. Being born is the most basic thing about life and it is not a small thing, especially if you're Chinese. In China, you're only allowed to have one child but my parents somehow got away with having three. My mom told me it was because they were in a rural area - I don't know if that meant they weren't watched as closely as those in more urban areas.

Living in rural China, neither of my parents had much schooling. To go to any kind of school, you had to pay tuition and most people ended up just going to school for a few years if they're lucky. My dad got through high school and my mom only attended elementary school. Despite the lack of educational opportunities, being educated was important to my parents. When my sisters and I were born, that was their hope and dream for us.

My dad actually came from a pretty well-to-do family. One of his uncles was a doctor. His father was a computer programmer and his mother was a congresswoman in Taiwan. Unfortunately, he was born in a time of civil war. This was when the Nationalists and the Communists were fighting for control in China. His parents were involved with the Nationalists who fled to Taiwan in defeat. He was just a baby then and ended up being left behind with a relative. Eventually, he was adopted by a couple from the countryside of Guangdong Province. His adopted father had been a teacher. I think he was one of those people who got sent to live in a village as part of the Cultural Revolution. The idea was that to make everyone equal, those who were more middle class had to be retrained to live like the common person. The Cultural Revolution was a social disaster to say the least.

So, my dad was raised by this couple. He and my mom had an arranged marriage, which was very common in rural China. They had three girls - I was the eldest. The other thing about the Chinese is that having a son is more highly desired than having a girl. One of the reasons is that traditionally it is the eldest son's duty to take care of the parents in their old age. If you had a daughter, you had to pay dowry to marry her off and she became a member of someone else's family and took care of her husband's parents. Also, it was considered more important to educate the males. But, my parents only had girls and they thought it was important that we get educated.

When I was about 6 years old, we left the village and moved to a city the the north. My grandfather, my dad's biological father, had found him after years of searching. By then, my grandparents had been divorced, my grandfather had remarried and he and his family had moved to the United States. My grandfather wanted to bring us to the US so we would have better opportunities. This was literally a dream come true for people in my parents' situation. So, we moved to the city while we waited for all the paperwork to be processed. It took two years - that's bureaucracy!

After arriving in the US, the only line of work my dad could do was to work in the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant. Today, nearly 24 years later, he still works 12-hour days at a Chinese restaurant six days a week. He had to work to provide for our family. My sisters and I lived in one of the best school districts in the country. We all did well in school and graduated from college. One of my sisters just got a master's degree from Columbia University.

Our lives are immeasurably better because my parents were willing to leave all behind in China. I am profoundly grateful for my dad's example of hard work and sacrifice so that my sisters and I could live the American dream.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

First Haircut!

I finally had enough of Ellie's hair hanging over her eyes. She wouldn't let me put hair clips or ties in her hair. So, yesterday, I gave her her first haircut. It wasn't easy!! She kept moving and trying to grab the scissors. I had to get behind her and grab the portion of hair that needed to be trimmed. At first I thought it looked okay but now I feel bad. Luckily, hair grows so in a few weeks it'll look a lot better!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Catching Up

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind. As it turned out, Charlie was sick on the day of the rescheduled birthday party so I ended up canceling it. It was questionable whether he was contagious at that point but my conscience told me I'd feel bad if anyone else's child caught the cold from him. We did have some fun decorations and many guests were kind enough to drop off the gifts. I was glad to be able to hand out the party favor bags and give away all the cupcakes we had. Charlie took the whole situation in stride and enjoyed seeing guests at the door. He loved his presents and had a great time making little pompom worms with me.

The next day was spent doing laundry and getting ready to leave for our trip to visit Dan's family in Michigan.

We had a blast during our vacation! Charlie loved being with his cousins and seeing Grandma & Grandpa Schmidt along with Uncle Dale, Aunt Julie, Uncle Andrew, and Aunt Cindy. The first few days, we were all able to get away to the coast of Lake Michigan. The whole crew, except the grandparents, got to stay in a beautiful house in the woods. It was just a joy to spend time together doing simple things like cooking, chatting, playing, and going on walks.


One funny story we'll be able to remember years from now is how Ellie got scared of one of her cousins. They're both about a year old and he's very loving so he was always coming up to her trying to give her hugs. She wasn't used to that kind of attention from someone her size so she would cry every time he got close or if she saw him. Near the end I think she kind of decided it wasn't that bad.

Later in the week, we were able to visit a children's museum I'd heard rave reviews about. The kids loved it so much, it was hard to tear them away after a couple of hours.

We also got to visit our favorite gardens in Midland. It's always on our list of places to see when we're there. It is beautifully landscaped with flowers, bushes, and trees. There are many hills, paths, ponds, and streams to explore and a children's garden where the kids love to play.

Before we knew it, we were on our way home to Wyoming. It was sad to leave but we're looking forward to seeing everyone again on our next trip. I'm so glad we were able to make more fun memories and strengthening bonds with our extended family.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Crazy Week

It seems like Murphy's Law has been hard at work this week. I feel like things undesired/unexpected have just been piling on...

~ Dan's been sick and have been home everyday but Monday. I don't know about the rest of you but it really throws me off my game when my husband is hanging around the house. Not that it's bad to have him around but it's not fun when he's sick as a dog and can't do much.

~ I finally got a haircut on Saturday but it didn't turn out like I'd hoped. I have such a hard time finding a good hairdresser for my type of hair here.

~ I lost my wallet. Really this time. I went grocery shopping and realized as I was checking out my big ol' cart of groceries that my wallet was not in my purse. Searching all over did not recover it and so I ended up staying up til close to midnight Saturday night cancelling our credit cards. Then, I had the "fun" experience of taking two active little kids to the DOT to get a new license.

~ Ellie's been especially fussy at night and wouldn't go to sleep very well. We discovered she had a fever of 102. Charlie also had a slight fever. I ended up taking the kids to the doctor this morning and had to reschedule Charlie's birthday party we'd planned for tomorrow.

~ So, I'm looking at an incredibly busy week next week as I prepare for a birthday party, Enrichment, and packing for a trip next week!! I'm exhausted...

Thanks for letting me throw myself a big pity party!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Eighth Anniversary

Yesterday was our eight-year anniversary. I'd been thinking about it in the week before but for some reason didn't think of it again until yesterday. That's when I realized we'd scheduled to have the elders over for dinner last night. I must be getting old, I can't remember things like I used to.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My Addiction

Yesterday afternoon, I was able to spend 15 minutes at the library, alone without kids. A rare treat! Of course, I quickly got lost browsing in the new adult books section. I found several books that looked interesting and checked them out. Since then, I've been enjoying reading and feasting on my new finds.

For me, books are like food. I eat them up. I can't remember a time when I didn't like to read. One of the things I remember enjoying as a kid was our regular trips to the local library. I'd check out a stack of about a dozen books and devour them over the next two-to-three weeks. Then, I'd return them and get another stack.

This afternoon, I was able to spend a delicious hour with a book about creating spaces in our homes. The author is self-taught artist and designer but not an interior designer. She shared her experience with buying a house and making it her own. It wasn't your typical interior design book and gave me some great ideas on the process of creating spaces that are livable and enjoyable and not just for show.

I love all kinds of books: fiction, non-fiction, history, business, finance, self-help, mystery, young adult,... Usually, I'm reading at least two or three books at a time. Right now, I'm reading Jean Chatsky's The Difference, Jason F. Wright's Recovering Charles, a book about ETF's, and a couple others.

Why do I read? To learn new things or new skills, to understand the world better, to be entertained, to get away (take a mind vacation), and to see someone else's point of view.

I also love to read to my kids. There are some amazing illustrated children's books. I think the love of reading is a gift a parent can give a child. Charlie loves it when I read to him and he loves to "read" to himself. We always read a story before naps and bedtime. Ellie's still young and won't sit still to be read to but she loves looking at the books we have around the house. I often find her sitting on the floor turning the pages of a book she's found.

The only downside to my love for reading is that it's akin to an addiction. If I'm really involved with a book, I have a hard time putting it down. Sometimes, I feel the urge to keep reading even though housework or other things are calling for my attention. I tend to get lost in the story. I find myself intending to read just 15 minutes and the next thing I know, it's been an hour. So, I have to watch myself. Despite their addictive nature, books bring me joy!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Progress


Ellie is teething. She has had two bottom teeth for the longest time but recently more teeth have been coming in. A few days ago, it looked funny because she had another bottom tooth coming in and one on top also coming in on the right side. But since then, the second tooth on top appeared suddenly and another one sprouted to the left of her bottom ones so it's more balanced now. Her appetite has been terrible and she's been very fussy. I've basically stopped buying baby food because she won't eat any of it. It's like she's decided she's not a baby anymore and refuses to eat anything mushy - except for the applesauce. I don't know why I've been buying baby apple and pear sauce when I could've started feeding her apple sauce months ago! Unfortunately, there's not too many things she can eat with just a few teeth. I'm looking forward to her getting more teeth so she can expand her menu.

I've learned something new about Charlie. He definitely has a hard time with being in new situations. I caught a glimpse of it when he freaked out the first Sunday he went to Sunbeams. It took him a few weeks but he did finally get over it and now he tells us all about how he got to go to "primary school." He loves singing the primary songs they're learning this year. The other night, he sang "My Eternal Family" and got all the words and the tune right! I'm hoping he inherited the Schmidt genes for music.

Last week, Charlie had to be in another new situation and reacted the same way as he did with going to Sunbeams initially. I signed him up for a once a week gymnastics class through the city's rec department. Last Monday was his first time going and he just bawled. One of the instructors had to hold him and he wouldn't stop crying for at least 25 minutes. He kept saying he didn't want to do gymnastics. I kept reassuring him that he didn't have to do it and that if he wanted to go back to class, I'd go with him. I also told him we could just sit and watch with him. By the end of class, we made it to sitting at the doorway.

So, Sunday night, I made sure to remind him we were going to gymnastics on the next day but that he wouldn't have to do anything and that I would sit and watch with him. Monday morning, I reminded him about class again and told him that he could just watch with me. He seemed to be okay with the idea but said over and over that he didn't want to go. I almost decided not to take him then because I didn't want to make him do anything he was uncomfortable doing. However, I'd already paid for the class and I wanted to give him a chance to realize it could be fun. I told him that if he behaved, I'd let him have a piece of gum after class. Well, he did great! He watched with me but I kept encouraging him to try doing all the things the other kids were doing. He did try a couple of times but kept running away or sitting by me. Finally, when the instructor was showing the kids how to jump on the trampoline and letting the kids take turns on it, Charlie just joined right in! I was really proud of him for overcoming his fears and felt good about giving him a chance to do it on his own terms.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On Being Older and Other Things

I'm 32 years old. Just saying it makes it official, right? Ever since my late twenties, I've been too busy and too caught up in my life to really think about my age. Now, if someone asks me - no, no one usually asks me because most people think it's rude to ask about someone's age, especially if it's a woman - I meant, if a form asks for my age, I usually have to do the math and then confirm. Although, I think a friend did ask once but I wasn't offended, I'm not offended if anyone asks my age. Anyway, before I turned 30, I'd always thought it was SO old, so grown up. Even now, I still think it's old and have a hard time thinking of myself as someone who's over 30. I still feel like I'm 25, young and invincible, sometimes. Until I look in the mirror or try to go for a jog and realize I don't look or feel so young anymore. I'm not trying to be depressing because there are some great things about being in my stage of life.

For example, I'm still young enough that even though my retirement portfolio took a huge hit, like minus 40%, during this economic downturn, I still have what financial experts call a long time horizon so my risk tolerance is pretty high (i.e. I have time to recover my losses...I hope).

Also, if we were to have another child, I'm still under that threshold of 35 when they say you're at higher risk for having complications and you have to take all these tests for genetic problems.

On a different note, my computer area in our basement is a disaster area. It really looks like a tornado has gone through it because I have jumbles of papers and receipts on my desk and my table AND the floor. Cleaning it up has been on my to do list everyday for the past two weeks but for some reason, it's still here. Every time I come down here to do it, I end up checking my email or getting on Facebook, or doing anything else BUT what I intended to do. I really thought I'd have it cleaned up by the the time the appraiser came yesterday morning but it still didn't happen. I was mortified when I saw him taking pictures! I don't know why I'm having trouble cleaning it up.

Why I'm Angry

With so much going on in the economy, it's easy to be scared and confused. How did this terrible thing happen? How is this going to affect me and my money? What's going to happen next? How long will the recession last?

I don't know the answer to the last three questions but I'm angry about how it all happened. It all happened because in 1999 Congress deregulated the banking industry, allowing commercial banks and investment banks to "consolidate into a single institution which had essentially free reign to offer everything from passbook savings accounts to speculative financial investments such as commodities trading and credit default swaps. It is the credit default swaps that got us in trouble when the housing mortgage market collapsed. Suddenly, banks lost billions of dollars on their books and people couldn't get the credit they needed for their day-to-day activities. So, then the government bails out these banks because they are "too big to fail." The very people who got us into this mess is getting help from us, the American people. Many ask, "Well, who's going to bail us out if we lost our jobs and our retirement savings and now we can't pay our bills?" The same banks who are getting bailed out by us are now increasing our credit card interest rates.

And now, the big banks are saying, "We are big and strong, we don't need the bailout money. We were forced to take it but now we're returning it because we don't like the restrictions that come with the money we took. We want to pay our executives unreal sums of money and bonuses and to h--- with everyone else!" Except, what the big banks didn't say was that they screwed up big time and that the very people they're paying huge salaries and bonuses to are the same people who created this crisis in the first place. The banks are trying to tell the government that they don't want to be told what to do. Well, the president, the treasury secretary, and the Fed Chairman need to stand firm and not back down. The government runs this country, not the banks.

And another thing: In a situation like this, it's natural to just want to blame somebody. Well, it's not just one somebody that's culpable. There are many people who bear responsibility:
  • the investors who want big returns, not caring how it got there,
  • the banks who thought they were so smart to come up with such risky and complicated investments,
  • the people who couldn't afford the huge homes they bought,
  • the lenders who sold the subprime mortgages,
  • the Congress who decided to relax laws regulating banks, and
  • the regulators who were supposed to be the watchmen.
Maybe we all just got a little too greedy and too complacent during the good times.

That's my two cents!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Easter Fun

Easter is my favorite holiday after Christmas. I love, love Christmas but I love Easter just as much because there's no presents involved and it's so fun for little children. Also, my finding the gospel makes Easter that much more meaningful to me. I mentioned in a previous blog post that my conversion began with making that phone call to get a free video on Easter Sunday. (See Time Out for Women.)

Two of my favorite things to do with my kids on Easter are hunting for eggs and decorating eggs. Last week, we held an Easter Egg hunt for our little playgroup at church. After the hunt, we had a brunch with fruit pizza, cut up apples, muffins, and a bunny cake. I was the one that made the bunny cake and I had such fun making it! I saw the idea in a magazine and decided to make it because it looked so cute. Now, I'm not a baker - I can do it but it's not my favorite thing to do. My husband's the one that usually makes the cakes so this was kind of a big deal for me. For some reason, I loved the whole process of baking and decorating the cake. I even enjoyed getting all the ingredients from the store! Here's what it looked like.
Decorating eggs is a tradition we've had even before Charlie was born. Last year, I found a neat idea for making unique designs on the eggs using reverse-stenciling. If you want to try it out, go to the Family Fun website.

We haven't dyed our eggs yet for this year but here's how they turned out last year.
I also look forward to having a special Easter dinner with my family on Easter Sunday. We will have ham because it's not something we normally eat and it's on sale. I've been craving my mother-in-law's yummy rolls so we'll probably have that along with a couple other side dishes. Mmm, just thinking about it is making me hungry. I can't wait for dinner!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Movie Review: The Freedom Writers

This was the most interesting, thought-provoking, and inspiring movie I have seen in a long time. This is based on a true story. Hillary Swank was the executive producer and also the lead role as Erin Gruell, an idealistic new English teacher at a Long Beach high school. She is given a class of inner-city ninth-graders who face unbelievable racial/ethnic problems and the school administrators have already written them off as failures. Despite a rough start, she is able to engage her students and helps them see themselves and each other in a different light.

I love this movie because it shows how a great teacher can influence her students. It's also a lesson to the audience about the importance of seeing each person as a human being and that when we do so, we are able to bridge the divide between ourselves and those we percieve as antagonists.

I highly recommend this movie but just to warn you, it does contain some rough scenes and language.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Grateful for the Cold!

I never thought I'd say this, but I'm so grateful for the cold weather that has suddenly swept through Wyoming. Last week, we had spring-like weather with sunshine and above 60 degree temperatures. My tulips were coming up and the grass even started looking a bit green. When I heard that it was supposed to snow yesterday and that it would be freezing cold for a while, I was so sad!! I had hoped that, just for once, spring might come early here. Spring in Wyoming usually comes near the end of April or beginning of May. I guess I got fooled!

Well, now I'm actually glad it's cold! Our fridge broke down over the weekend and we weren't able to get a repairman out until this morning. The freezer still worked so we were making as much ice as we could to put in the fridge and keep the food from spoiling. I wish we had realized it was broken before I went grocery shopping on Saturday! It turns out that the controller for the defroster is broken and the airway from the freezer to the fridge is blocked up. The repairman replaced the controller and said that we had to defrost the freezer for 24 hours in order to clear the blockage. So, all our food is outside the backdoor, which is nice and cold. Isn't this a lovely picture of the contents of our fridge? Most of the blue plastic food containers have ice in them, for keeping the food cool inside the fridge when I bring them back inside tonight.