Monday, December 20, 2010

Five Ways to Enjoy the Spirit of Christmas

Christmas time is hectic!! Everyone is busy decorating, buying presents, baking, and attending parties. It's a great time of the year but sometimes it can be a little too much. I've been trying to keep in mind the true meaning of Christmas and not worry about the little things that can overwhelm us if we let them. I'd like to share five things we've done as a family that have really helped us have the spirit of Christmas.

1. Decorations. Keep them simple. This year, we mainly decorated our living room with a tree, nativities, and a few other items. I went ahead and ordered myself a nativity set because I didn't really have one. Well, we have a one-piece display that included Joseph, Mary and Jesus that we bought the year we were married but I've always wanted a set that included animals and other people. Having the new set as a centerpiece on our mantle was really nice!
2. Treats. It's so fun to make treats to share with others! I stuck to a few relatively easy to make treats like pretzel turtles, dipped pretzel rods, and peanut brittle. By far the most popular treat was the pretzel turtles! Everyone who's had them has raved about them, which was great because they literally took minutes to make. I made almost 150 of these yummy things.
3. Meaning. I've been telling my kids that Christmas is about Jesus; we're celebrating his birthday. We've been reading different scriptures that talk about the birth of Jesus every night this month to help us focus on why we have this holiday.
4. Family Time. We've been doing a few activities as a family that have been fun and festive. We attended a nativity open-house and Christmas play put on by the Stake activities committee. Our ward put on a breakfast with Santa that was very well-done but not too elaborate or extravagant. We went and looked at Christmas lights that various people in our community have put out around their homes. Some people have some spectacular light displays!! We're also looking forward to a trip to see Dan's family in Michigan.
5. Cards and Gifts. Gifts are always the big thing for Christmas so it's been really hard not to go overboard. To help in this area, I've actually been setting aside money a few months before December so we won't be taking all the funds out from this month's budget. Also, I should've gotten our cards out earlier but it didn't happen so I'm not going to stress out about it. However, I've decided to make sure I mark when I'd like to send them out next year so I can be better prepared.

I'd love to hear about how you've kept the spirit of Christmas!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Photocards

Disclosure: This post is in response to Shutterfly's 50 free photocard offer.

I'm a little behind on sending out Christmas cards this year. With Facebook and email, it seems rather old-fashioned and costly to send letters or cards in the mail. But, I love getting pictures and letters in the mail from people. I enjoy hearing from family and friends and catching up on what they've been up to this year. I do enjoy getting the email updates too but a card, picture, and/or a letter just seems so much more personal.

The downside to sending out cards and letters is that it seems to take so much longer than you think it would. Also, there are so many options. You could do a letter with a family picture, a photo card, just a plain card with a handwritten note, or, a homemade card (which is really personal). I'm very much leaning toward a photo card this year. In the past, I've written letters and included photos, which is a fine option. I just feel like I don't have enough to tell for a letter this year. Also, I feel like I say pretty much the same thing every year so it's time to do something a little different.

I've been impressed with the photo cards Shutterfly has to offer this year. As I look through the many designs and layouts for Christmas Photo Cards that they have, I find it hard to narrow down to just one design. There are also many pricing options so you can pick one that fits your budget. Here are a few designs that I really like.

I love this design because you can write a little update on the kids. Since I have two kids, this would be perfect.

I like how you can put three pictures on this one. The background is very nice. I think "Oh Holy NIght" is one of the most beautiful Christmas songs.

Simple but so very cute!

This might be my favorite. You can list ten things about the year - perfect for me since I don't have much to say!

Ooh! This one lets you write a little letter along with the pictures! Hmm... it's going to be hard to decide which design to go with.

Christmas photo card to

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


We had a wonderful Thanksgiving! My parents came on Monday and stayed over a week. It was great having them here. I know the kids enjoyed it as well. Here are some highlights from their visit:

* Dan and I planned to go see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Wednesday night. I'd seen the show times in the paper a couple days before and it was the perfect time, 8:15 PM. We were able to get the kids in bed by 8 and had plenty of time to get there. We got there AND... they told us that the times were different for that night because of the opening of several new movies. The next showing was 10 PM. We left disappointed. We could've gone back and seen the movie at 10 PM but we didn't. You know you must be getting old if you don't feel like staying up late, even for a movie you really want to see.

* Our Thanksgiving Day was great! We decided to keep our menu traditional this year and it was not as stressful. However, as seems to be the case with most of our Thanksgivings, this one had a couple of memorable events. In the late morning, as Dan was beginning to make the rolls, he felt water dripping down on him from the ceiling. We have an exhaust fan that vents out of the kitchen through the roof. The fan is right above the stove. At first we thought it was snow melting and dripping through the vent cover. Then we realized that it must be the warm moist air from the kitchen condensing inside the cold vent. In any case, we lost some time trying to figure out a way to prevent the dripping water from getting into the food we were making. I'm sorry to say, we didn't get any pictures!!

After lunch, we were able to catch the Harry Potter movie. Loved it! It made me want to re-read all the books.

* Every year in Cheyenne, there's a Christmas parade. It starts at 5 PM so all the floats are lighted with Christmas lights. Luckily, this year it was as cold as usual. We watched it from the same spot we watched it last year because it's not at the beginning of the route so we had more time to park the car and get there. Ellie was so funny - she clutched the candy she got in her hands and wouldn't let go for anything. Her poor little hands were freezing cold!

* I was assigned to speak in church that Sunday. My topic was the creation. I found an Ensign article by Bruce R. McConkie and based my talk on it. I learned SO much preparing for my talk! It was nice that my parents were there for my talk, even though they probably didn't understand much of it.

* The day before my parents left, we went to visit the Wyoming State Capitol. It was my first visit there myself. We got a tour and it was neat to learn more about Wyoming history. I learned that the state of Wyoming was the first government in the world to grant women the ability to vote and the first state to elect a female governor.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Crazy Morning

Do you ever have crazy mornings?? Or, am I the only one?

This morning was crazier than ever. Ellie woke me up at 3:30 AM and I had a REALLY hard time falling back to sleep. So, I didn't get up until... 8:01. School starts at 8:35. SO...

I got up and pulled on my gray sweat pants and a gray shirt - the first one I saw in my drawer. Yeah, very stylish. I didn't care. I was in rush mode.

I got Ellie up. Fed the kids cereal. Used the bathroom. Helped Charlie pick out an outfit and told him to put them on. Thank goodness he can dress himself now! Got Charlie's lunch together while he got dressed and brushed his teeth. Dressed Ellie. Got her socks and shoes on. Fixed Charlie's hair - his hair is always a mess in the mornings and needs lots of water and gel.

I look at the clock and see that we have 10 minutes to go. Yay, we're not going to be late!! Until...I realized that my car keys which also includes my house key were missing.

I must've left them in Dan's car last night and he's already at work. I search for the spare key - do we even have a spare house key??? I grabbed the spare car keys and all the extra keys from the key drawer. None of them worked on the garage door, which is not attached to the house and has a separate lock that uses the same key as the house. Which I don't seem to have at the moment. I tried the emergency key hidden in a special location, which has a combination lock which didn't want to open. Meanwhile, the minutes seem to speed by and we've missed the first and second school bells. Finally, I figured out a way to get in the garage.

I got the key for the lock to the back gate and grabbed the garage opener and hurried the kids out the back gate and opened the garage door using the electronic opener. I speed (or try not to speed) to the school which fortunately is less than a mile away. We go in the office so we can get a tardy slip, our first one ever! Whew!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

This is SO cool!

I'm a geek at heart. I love learning about how stuff works and hearing about cool things that are being developed. I love listening to NPR and learning about different subjects like the science of cooking or why the annual performance review should be ditched. One of my favorite NPR shows is Science Friday where guests talk about science-related topics.

I really enjoyed the one time they had Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway, on the show talking about the FIRST robotics competition. He wanted to get kids excited about science and engineering so he started this competition where kids had to build these robots and have them compete each other in playing games. I wish I could've participated in something like this when I was a teenager. It sounds SO fun! Here's a video of Dean Kamen talking about FIRST:

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!!

Our ward had a really fun Fall Festival. The kids loved the little games set-up all around the church and, of course, getting all the candy.
We carved our pumpkin the night before Halloween. Charlie helped with the design. He was totally excited when we put it out on the porch with a candle inside.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


I lost my purse!! Your prayers that I can recover it would be appreciated!

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Today, my friend and I did the Cheyenne Schools Foundation 5K. Both our husbands were not available to watch the kids so we took them with us! It was fun! My time was about 5 minutes off my usual because I was pushing an extra 90 lbs. It was windy and kind of chilly but we did it!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

PTA Adventures

So, I joined the PTA. I read somewhere that the kids that do well are the ones with involved parent. Well, I'm nothing if not an involved parent! Well actually, I've always wanted to be in the PTA and I was curious what it was like. Okay, so the first meeting was a little disappointing. I was a few minutes late and wondered if I'd find a seat. I was expecting the cafeteria to be filled to the brim with parents, standing room only. Like in the movies. Not so. There were a couple of long tables with the PTA officers facing two rows of ten chairs. A little over half of the chairs were filled. After me, a couple more people came - one of them was the principal. Oh, and it was all female, which I expected.

They started talking about all the stuff they're doing. It's pretty much all fund-raising stuff. The first big activity was the Fall Festival in October. It's like a carnival. There's going to be food and games. There will be baskets that are raffled off. The baskets are to contain stuff donated by people, organizations, and businesses. They started asking for committee heads - I refrained from volunteering. Once upon a time, I did a lot of heading up of organizations and got burnt out so I decided to be a helper but not head or leader of anything. One mom volunteered to do the decorations and somebody else offered to help her. Another mom offered to do the food. Baskets are next. That sounded like A LOT of work. I just sat there. Certainly someone else would volunteer. A someone did! Hmm... I do want to help! Another person said she'd help with that. Oh good! I said, "I can help you with that too!", now that there are two other people involved and I don't have to be in charge!

So, I talked to the mom in charge of the baskets. Her name is Laurie. I saw her in the school yard, while dropping off and picking up Charlie. She assigned me to call the restaurants in town. Perfect! I can do that! It took me a while, a couple of weeks actually, to get around to calling them. My daughter got two colds and I was busy with stuff. But, finally I got the phone book out and made a list. I decided to pace myself and just call ten places a day. My first day was pretty disappointing - I got two places to donate gift certificates. After that, it seemed to get easier. I had a script and it was friendly. I didn't care if they said no as long as they weren't mean about it. Just about everyone who said no was nice about it. EXCEPT for this one place....

It was this Italian place in one of the back streets across from the mall. Dan and I had gone there once on a date. We had to wait a long time to be seated and a long time for our food. The people behind us in line had raved about the place. I didn't think my food was anything to write home about but Dan thought his was pretty good. However, he didn't think it was good enough for the wait. He said he'd never go back there. I would've given it another chance... Well, now I know that I would never set foot in that place again!!

I called this place and told the guy who answered the phone that I was a member of the Henderson PTA and that I was calling around for donations for our fall fundraiser. Did he know who I could talk with about this?

He said, "That would be Al* but he's not here right now." I asked when he'd be in and he told me.

So, at the time that he'd be in, I called Al. Al answered the phone. I gave him my schpiel.

He asked, "Linda, do I know you?"

I was puzzled. For a minute I thought he knew someone named Linda and that he was thinking I was her. So I said, "No, why?"

He said, "I don't know you and you're calling me. Why would I want to do business with you?"

All I could say was, "Okay..." and something to the effect of I was calling all the restaurants in town, blah, blah, blah.

He said, "I only do business with people I know and who help me."

Well!! I was speechless. When I found my words, I said, "Okay. That's fine! Thank you!"

When I hung up the phone, I was literally shaking and tears came to my eyes. I couldn't forget the meanness in his voice and felt utterly flabbergasted that someone could be so cutting. I mean, it wasn't like I was demanding anything. He could have just said, "No, thank you."

I told Dan about the incident. He told me that he'd heard rumors that this family who owned the restaurant were from "Jersey" and that they were tied to the mob. The business was probably just a front for their "activities." Dan said that if I'd told him I was going to contact this place, he would've told me not to bother. Hmmm! That explains a lot!!

I talked Laurie about this the next day. She told me that the owner was a convicted child molester. Yikes!! Well, I'm glad he didn't donate anything then! I don't want to do "business" with anyone like that!!

So, the moral of the story is - Being on the PTA can be quite an adventure! I'm actually excited to help out with the projects and activities of the PTA. I want to support the school and make it a good place for all the kids, especially Charlie. But, you know, I am going to be careful what I volunteer for in the future and be prepared to meet some "interesting" people!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

First Day of Kindergarten

It was Charlie's first day at Kindergarten today. I can't believe he's old enough for school! He seemed pretty excited to go. I'm just so glad he took this new, huge milestone in stride. I think it helped that he's had so many different experiences with going to classes like Nursery, Sunbeams, CTR 4, gymnastics, and preschool. Both Dan and I think that attending preschool was key to helping him be prepared to going to Kindergarten. It was just a stepping stone for him.

We live close enough to the school that Ellie and I were able to walk there with him. We were actually a little early so the kids got to play at the playground right next to his classroom. When it was time to go inside, I helped him find his seat. He actually said, "Mom, why are you still here?" Where was the little boy who had such a hard time going to Nursery and Sunbeams?

Many other moms I've talked to have told me about how they just cried the first day they took their kids to Kindergarten. Maybe there's something wrong with me because I didn't cry. No tears. I did feel a little sad but I think it helped that I had Ellie so I was busy with her this morning. It was nice to have some one-on-one time with her. Also, I felt good knowing that I'd done everything I could to help his first day go smoothly. He actually got the teacher I requested for him because I'd heard so many people rave about her. So, that was a comfort to know he was in good hands. Ellie and I went to the school and at lunch with Charlie, which was another source of comfort for me just to know I can go and spend a little time with him if I wanted to.

Lastly, I'd always enjoyed school so I feel that it would be a good experience for him too. I'm just excited for him to start on his educational adventures! It was just fun to walk him to and from school and to see all the other school kids there.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A New Calling

I got a new calling! I was beginning to think the Bishopric had forgotten about me because I was released from my Nursery calling several months ago and hadn't gotten a new one. I still had my calling on the Enrichment (um... Relief Society Meeting?) Committee but it doesn't seem to count since we haven't been having very many activities. Although I am also in charge of playgroup, which technically isn't a calling but I do have to coordinate it and attend every week.

Anyway, we're in the midst of many changes in our ward since a new ward is being made from our ward and the other ward that meets in our building. We've already had about 6 families move out this summer and add at least 10 active families that are being taken because of the new ward and our numbers have diminished significantly. So because of all the changes, people are being shuffled around and everyone is going to have to step up and do more work. We got asked to meet with the first counselor in the Bishopric and I had a feeling that it was me that was going to get a calling in a certain organization. I won't get sustained until Sunday and there's kind of an unspoken rule that you don't tell people what you're called to until after being sustained. But I just wanted to say that I'm really excited for this new calling and opportunity to serve. It will be a challenge but a blessing as well. It's kind of exciting to be on the front row of growth in the church!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


As I'm sitting here in front of my computer, I'm supposed to be doing stuff - laundry, dishes, sweeping, packing, etc., etc. But, I'm procrastinating and wiling away the minutes doing meaningless things.

This month has been a difficult month. It's gone by pretty quickly, which is good since a lot of times time seems to go by slowly when things are not going well.

I got some sad news on the 4th of July. My dad got shot. Fortunately, he's okay now. He was in the hospital for 10 days and has been recuperating at home. But, yeah, that's the kind of news that stops you in your tracks. I have been feeling fine - I mean, I feel terrible that it happened but I'm okay. You never want something like this to happen to your own father. It's unthinkable even though it happens everyday. Just not to anyone you know and love. You hear it in the news and you don't really think about it. You never wonder how it affects the people it happens to.

Well, I know now.

I'm relieved he's okay. But, even though I'm okay and he's okay, I think deep down, we're all a little shaken. I haven't been sleeping well. The past few weeks since I got the news, I've been having difficulty falling asleep and getting up in the middle of the night and not being able to fall back to sleep very well. It's been better lately. I think it's just the shock of the news and my mind processing it.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

18 Years Ago

18 years ago yesterday, I was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was the most important decision of my life.

I was fifteen-years-old. I had questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? What is the purpose of life? Is there life after death? These are the questions many through the ages have asked. I was trying to find meaning in my life. I felt depressed - I think it's a common feeling among teenagers trying to figure out what life is about and how they fit into the big picture. I am grateful I received my answers.

On an Easter Sunday, I was flipping through the channels and saw part of "The Easter Dream", a production by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At the end of the program was an offer for a free video, "Our Heavenly Father's Plan". A free video? Cool! I called the 800-number to request it. A few weeks later, two young missionaries delivered the video and shared the first discussion with me. I felt the spirit. They taught me the gospel and I accepted it. The message they taught me answered all my questions.

I am a child of God. I am here to experience life and to choose whether to follow God and Jesus Christ. Each person on earth has a purpose and a mission. Because of the Fall of Adam and Eve into mortality, a Redeemer is necessary to provide a way back to God. Jesus Christ is the only person qualified to perform the atonement which allows us to overcome mortality and gain eternal life.

The truths and principles I learned have guided my life since then. My conversion has literally changed my life for the better. The teachings of the gospel has helped me to become a better person and to make better decisions. I was able to face my challenges with greater perspective and to not let them discourage me too much.

Before I joined the church, I didn't understand the role of women. Even after baptism, I didn't think too much about it. However, through the years I have come accept that because families are essential to Heavenly Father's plan, the most important thing I as a woman can do is to be a mother. Of course, there are some women who do not have the opportunity to be mothers but they are still valued. The idea that motherhood is sacred and divine became evident to me when I became a mother myself. Contrary to our society's views, motherhood is not a denigration of womanhood. Men and women are equal in the sight of God and neither is less than the other. Husband and wife work together to make the family a successful unit of society.

I am grateful that I found the truth when I did. Because of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I have been blessed with strength to endure my personal trials. I have joy and peace in my life. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Joseph Smith, Jr. was an instrument in the hands of God in restoring the Church of Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon is the word of God, as is the Bible. Thomas S. Monson is the prophet today.

Monday, June 28, 2010


We recently got back from a trip to my old stomping grounds in Maryland. It's always a treat to go home and be among family and friends. This was Ellie's first trip to visit Grandma and Grandpa Chu. My parents and my sisters have been to Wyoming so it's not their first time seeing her. It was however the first time some dear friends and my Aunt Rose got to see her, which was very fun.

We got to stay with the Fergusons, a wonderful family for whom I used to babysit. Their three daughters are now grown up; their youngest, Michelle, just graduated from high school. It makes me feel old that the kids I babysat for are all graduating from high school and going to college! The Fergusons lived a few minutes drive from my parents' so it was very convenient.

Our trip started off with a little more excitement than we'd expected. First off, right out of Cheyenne we missed the exit to the highway down to Denver which led to a 10 minute detour. Luckily, we had left home with plenty of time to get to the airport for once (most people know we're usually running late). When we got to the airport parking lot, I suddenly realized my driver's license was not in my wallet. Usually it is but this one time it wasn't because I'd taken it out a couple days earlier and had put it back in my purse but not in my wallet. When I was packing, I didn't pack my purse and just brought my wallet. Dan thought that for sure I wouldn't be able to board the airplane without a photo ID and that we'd have to reschedule our flights. He suggested that we just leave the luggage in our car and take the bus to the airport terminal to get our flights rescheduled. I said that we should just bring all our luggage just in case they do let me on the plane. Amazingly, when we talked with the Southwest agent about the situation, she said that Southwest doesn't require a photo ID to fly and that the security personnel would just do additional checking on me. I was so glad we brought our luggage along anyway and didn't have to pay extra money to reschedule flights which we would've had to do if we left our luggage in our car because there wouldn't have been enough time for us go back to get the luggage.

So, with a sigh of relief we got to the departure gate in time for our flight. However, our adventures were not over! On the airplane, Ellie got sick and was very fussy. We didn't know what was wrong with her. She cried a lot and wanted to be held. Then she threw up. Fortunately, we'd traveled enough with our kids that we were prepared and had packed a change of clothing for everyone. I cleaned her up as well as I could and changed her soiled shirt. Everything seemed fine for a bit, although Ellie was still a little fussy. A while later, she threw up again. This time it was a bigger mess and I didn't have another clean shirt. So, I used one of Charlie's shirts. It was obvious something was wrong but we still were clueless. So, I just held her and tried to get her to drink fluids and be as comfortable as possible. By this point, I was looking forward to getting to our destination ASAP! However, we had a stopover in Cincinnati and then another one-and-a-half hour flight to Baltimore. After the stopover, we continued on in the same plane to our destination. I was not surprised when Ellie threw up a third time. What a mess!! I got to clean it up again because Dan was sitting across the aisle from us. With no clean shirts left for either child, Dan had wisely decided to wash the first soiled shirt since it wasn't too badly soiled. So, by the time we needed it it was pretty well dried.

Sorry to bore you with all the details of our trip there! We were just glad to get there in one piece and to look forward to having our visit go a lot better than our experiences thus far. The next day we were able to take her to a walk-in medical clinic and have a doctor look at her. They couldn't tell what was wrong - it was probably a virus. We figured as much but wanted to have her checked out just in case, especially because she was wheezing a little and seemed to be taking quick breaths. We got a nebulizer for helping her inhale some medicine for the wheezing. We only had to use it a couple times but that seemed to help her breathing get back to normal.

Anyway, we did have a great trip overall. Besides seeing my parents and sisters, we also got to see my dear friend, Jaya. I'm so glad we were able to see her since she is super busy. Jaya and I were best friends in the fourth grade and have been good friends since then. It's amazing that we've been friends for so long despite living in different states and leading totally different lives. Seeing her again made me realize why we are friends and that we will remain friends always. She is a great person!! Love you, girl!

It was wonderful to spend time with my family. We were crazy enough to go down to DC one day. It was SOOO HOT and HUMID!! I'm not used to the climate anymore. We went to the Museum of Natural History and the Air and Space Museum. I can't believe how many people were at each place - it seems like there weren't very many people all the previous times I'd gone. We didn't stay long at the Air and Space Museum because the kids were just really tired and Ellie needed a nap. Before we went to the Air and Space Museum, we saw a carousel and I went on it with Ellie and Charlie. Ellie just LOVED it and cried when we had to get off.

Aunt Rose was off on Monday so we went to lunch with her at the Wheaton Mall - a place at which I've spent a lot of time as a teenager. On the way from the restaurant to the park, I showed Dan the neighborhood where we lived when I was a child. It was strange to see all the changes that had been made since my family and I moved to the house where my parents live now. The Catholic high school right by the apartments we lived in has been replaced by a new development of townhomes. There were more storefronts and other buildings in the area. The library still looked the same though! Ah, what a trip through memory lane!

After lunch we went to the park. Ellie was really excited to see that there was a carousel there and, of course, the kids got to ride on it with my dad. There was also a miniature train and we rode that too. I had ridden on it as a child. Charlie was in heaven! I was amazed that it was about 10 minutes long - a lot longer than any little train ride I'd taken Charlie on.

We also got to see some wonderful friends of mine from church, the Connors, the Fergusons, and Charlene Weaver, who was in Young Women's with me. Brother Connor was my seminary teacher and my employer for one summer. I also babysat his kids during high school. Sister Ferguson was also one of my seminary teachers and Brother Ferguson used to drive me to seminary. Can I just say these are amazing people? I count them among my eternal friends.

Charlie was excited to have his own little backpack to bring whatever he wanted on the trip. Guess what's in it?
Sid and Melody Connor. Sarah Connor & Charlie

Ellie on carousel in DC. Charlie in spinny thing on carousel.

Dan & kids at lunch with Aunt Rose. Kids with Grandma and Grandpa Chu.

On the train ride, Aunt Rose in white hat & shirt. Another carousel ride!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Our New Lawn

We have a new lawn!! When we bought the house, we weren't too excited about all the rocks in our front lawn. We love greenery and so after a couple years of talking, we finally acted. We debated for a long time about how to get it done, whether to do it ourselves or contract it out. I'm so glad we decided to have a landscaper do the work because we did not have the skills, tools, or time to do a good job on this project.

Here are the before and after pictures. Sorry they weren't taken around the same time of day so there are shadows in the before picture.

It took 4 or 5 guys at least a day to get the old grass and the eight tons of rock out. I'm sure just this part of the job alone would've done us in!

It's so nice to be able to look out the front window and see green grass instead of ugly rocks and weeds. I love it!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend

We had a great weekend! Friday, the 28th was the last day at Charlie's preschool. They held a graduation that evening in which all the parents got to watch their kids perform songs they'd learned throughout the year. Charlie did not want to perform so he sat by me in the audience and sang most of the songs. I wasn't surprised because he has yet to go up to the stand when all the kids sing at church. I hope this is a phase because he sings very well and usually knows the words. I am so glad Charlie had a good experience in preschool; it'll make the transition to Kindergarten this fall that much easier.
Charlie and his preschool teachers, Miss Cathy and Miss Barbara
My little graduate!

Dan's brother, Andrew, and family came to visit for the weekend. We had a wonderful time with them! The kids especially enjoyed being with their cousins. On Saturday morning, we had a pancake breakfast and then we went to downtown Cheyenne. It happened that this weekend was Depot Days, an annual event celebrating Cheyenne's railroading heritage. There were lots of activities related to trains, which as you know is my son's passion. Charlie's two boy cousins, Nathan and Matthew likes trains too, so it was a great activity for all. We chose to go to the Union Pacific Roundhouse Openhouse. This is where the public gets to see the steamshop, where workers repair steam engines, and the Roundhouse where they house many engines and railcars. It was thrilling to be able to see the old steam engines up close. They were humongus! The adults enjoyed learning more about the inner-workings of the steam engines and some railroad history from one of the UP employees.

Later that day, we grilled some tandoori chicken, one of our favorite recipes. It was our first grill-out of the year and turned out very nicely.

On Sunday, we attended church. Before dinner we went to our favorite park and took a walk around the lake. The kids enjoyed seeing all the doggies and playing at the playground. I heard a group of people speaking Chinese and asked them where they were from. We ended up talking a while in Chinese. It's always a surprise to find Chinese people in Cheyenne because there aren't many here. Actually, there aren't many of any ethnic people in Cheyenne, except Hispanics. I miss the diversity of other places.

On Monday, Andrew and his family left. We were sad to see our guests leave. Charlie was especially sad and even a few days later he'd say that he was sad the cousins left.

In the evening, we had a barbecue with a few friends from the ward. All in all, it was a wonderful weekend!!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Happy Birthday, Charlie!

Yesterday, Charlie turned five. As trite as it may sound, I really can't believe how quickly he's growing up! In the weeks leading up to his birthday, I've been reminding him that his birthday was coming up. He would say he didn't want his birthday to come. And, when people asked him how old he would be on his birthday, he'd say "four!" and deny that he would be five. I figured out that it was because I had told him that after he turned five, he'd be able to go to kindergarten. He really loved preschool and didn't want to go to kindergarten. I think he thought that the moment he turned five, he'd have to leave preschool and go straight to kindergarten. It's interesting how kids think of time. Well, I think he's accepted the fact that he's five because he now says that he's "five years old". I'm sure it helped that he got to go to preschool on his birthday.

As mentioned previously, Charlie didn't just love trains, he LOVES trains. I can't remember when it all started but I do remember the early days of him learning to eat solid foods and lining up whatever was cut up for him on his plate like train cars. So, it was very appropriate that Grandma sent him a locomotive cake mold. I thought it'd be fun to bring the cake to share with his preschool friends on his birthday. Since I'd never used a mold for a cake before, I made a practice run for playgroup on Friday.

So here's the trial cake:
And here's the one I made yesterday for Charlie's preschool:
I must admit it wasn't as hard as I thought it'd be. The hardest part was greasing the pan, which took a very LONG time because of all the nooks and crannies. Charlie got to pick where he wanted the different colors of frosting. That was the funnest part!

I was too lazy to make the cake a THIRD time so we had the leftovers of the preschool cake for our little family birthday party. Charlie wanted pizza for dinner so that's what we had! I loved that I didn't have to cook but I would've enjoyed making something at home for him if he wanted. Not having to cook and do too much clean-up was a bonus.
He got to pick out his birthday gift from us at Target. It's a remote controlled GeoTrax train. I'm glad I let him pick because I wouldn't have thought to get this toy for him. I thought he would've wanted a Thomas train because he loves Thomas. But maybe he chose this one because he already has several Thomas & Friends trains. It's so fun to watch him be so happy playing with a toy he really loves.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


I had planned to have playgroup at my house tomorrow morning. Charlie's birthday is coming up and I wanted to have a small celebration with our playgroup friends in our home. I was going to put up a few decorations and make a train cake with the locomotive cake pan my mother-in-law sent us... Charlie loves trains; it's his passion.

Anyway, my husband called from work to tell he'd have to go into work in the middle of the night. He used to have to go in at night about once a week and I never could host playgroup. Now that he has a new job, it's rare for him to have to do that but it happens. I couldn't believe that the one time I actually planned to have playgroup at our house he has to go in the night before. I wasn't happy about it.

Later I was on the computer and I read about Stephanie Nielson. When I got on Facebook, I saw a link for a YouTube video that a friend had posted. I watched the video and was touched. I changed my mind about playgroup and decided that it wouldn't be so bad to have to do it at the church. Now I don't have to clean my house or worry about decorations! I'll still make the cake.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Lost and Found

I have a bad habit of losing things. I've lost my wallet a few times and luckily have been able to find it each time except once. I looked everywhere I could think of but couldn't find it so I had to go through the routine of calling the credit card companies and getting my driver's license renewed.

A week or so ago, I lost my cell phone. I hadn't had much luck finding it in the house or the car. Last night, I just felt like I should look in both cars. So, I combed through Dan's car and my car. Not only did I find my phone (yay!), I found some other stuff. I wonder how long that's been in there? Can anyone guess what it is??

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Amazing People

Recently, I finished reading two books about people who are inspiring and amazing. These two individuals were just human beings but what made them great was the love they had for others and how they showed that love. Their lives were great because of how they chose to do the things they did.

The first book was Glimpses into the Life and Hear of Marjorie Pay Hinckley which is a compilation of Sister Hinckley's own words as well as those of friends, acquaintances, and family members. These recollections allowed me as an outsider to really see what Sister Hinckley was like as a person. They showed her as a real person with an extraordinary ability to show love and kindness to everyone with who she came in contact. I felt inspired by her positive attitude, faith in the Gospel, and the personal touch she gave to loved ones and strangers alike.

The second book was Three Cups of Tea which is about a man named Greg Mortensen, who after suffering personal loss decides to help the impoverished people of Pakistan build schools. He accomplished this by much personal sacrifice - the kind of sacrifice most people would not be willing to do. The way he worked with the people demonstrated that each culture has its own way of doing things and that when we respect other cultures, they respond. I enjoyed not just the story of this man's journey in fulfilling his promises to the people in the remote part of northern Pakistan but also the understanding of what life is like and who the people are on the other side of the world. This book shows that peace in the world can be achieved more effectively through education than military action.

After reading these books, I wondered to myself if I could do what these people did. What would I be willing to sacrifice for the people I love, let alone those I've never met, whose language I do not speak? Am I content to sit in the comfort of my own home and focus on my daily activities while the world passed me by? I know that what I'm doing everyday for my family and the people around me is important. However, am I willing to stretch beyond my boundaries and give more of myself? Would I be willing to work at a job knowing that most of my paycheck will go toward a cause that wouldn't benefit me or my family as Greg Mortensen did? Would I be willing to patiently endure while my husband spent most of his life traveling and attending to the affairs of the Kingdom of God as Sister Hinckley did?

Well, my path is not the same as Sister Hinckley's or Greg Mortensen's. I know that each of us has our own path in life and that the important thing is to do our best with what we have. I hope that I can be just as willing as these people in offering of myself in whatever mission is mine to accomplish in life. For me, that may be doing yet another load of laundry without grumbling or substituting (for the third time in a month) in primary without wishing I could attend Relief Society instead. Or, getting through a day without yelling at my children...but with showing patience and love.

Monday, April 5, 2010


We've enjoyed a wonderful Easter weekend. It was General Conference weekend so we reveled in the fact that we could stay home and watch it on TV. We made breakfast on both days - waffles on Saturday and pancakes on Sunday. We were able to watch all the sessions except the one on Saturday afternoon and the kids behaved relatively well which was great! The kids loved looking for the things the Easter Bunny brought and hid for them. They also loved the gifts Grandma Schmidt sent in the mail.

We've decided on a new family tradition: watching a family movie with popcorn. We did it on both Friday and Saturday evenings, we started a movie and continued to watch it the next evening. We're still not done with the movie... The popcorn did not last long as you can imagine.

After an Easter feast, we finally dyed some Easter eggs. A great end to a great weekend!

Monday, March 29, 2010

My Thoughts

I'm not sure about this blogging thing... I find it difficult to put a lot of my ideas and thoughts in writing in a place where I know it might be read by family and strangers. One reason is that most people would find what I have to say or write about quite mundane and uninteresting. Another reason is that I don't have the time necessary to compose and edit a piece I feel would be enjoyable yet informative - perhaps I setting my expectations a little high in this regard. One last reason: A lot of times, I censor myself, especially when it relates to political issues because I know politics is an emotional and controversial area.

As far as politics is concerned, I have only ever been able to talk about it with one dear friend of mine without feeling anger and frustration. In fact, we talked about it yesterday evening and I came away feeling like we were both on the same side even though I know we disagree on many aspects of the issue we discussed. Interesting isn't it? I think our discussion was calm and rational only because we have such a good relationship with each other that we were trying to understand rather than change the other's opinion.

So, hopefully I'm not going to offend anyone here but here's my take on Healthcare Reform: I feel that we do need to change the current state of healthcare in our nation. It's ridiculous that the wealthiest nation on earth has millions of citizens that do not have access and/or cannot afford health care. It's ridiculous to me that an insurance company can raise premiums at will - that recently, an insurance company in California increased premiums by over 30%. How about the fact that most personal bankruptcies are a result of high medical bills? And, our emergency rooms are being used as urgent care facilities by the uninsured which is dangerous for people who really need emergency care and also increases cost of care for everyone. These are just a few of the problems we have in our current health system.

Now, whether or not the bill just passed by Congress is the right solution is arguable. I know that many people around me believe that it's the first step toward socialism. I agree that forcing people to do something is not a good idea. It's too bad that the politicians can't seem to work together toward a real best solution. I feel that there was too much ego and money involved. The whole process wasn't about finding the best solution, it was about power and perception and even deception. Would it be too much to ask that everyone involved be rational? Probably.

My only idea is what my friend suggested - that we put all the engineers in charge of solving this problem. I like it. We could use the Six Sigma methodology. Here's the Six Sigma methodology as defined by Wikipedia:
Six Sigma seeks to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects (errors) and minimizing variability in manufacturing and business processes.[2] It uses a set of quality management methods, including statistical methods, and creates a special infrastructure of people within the organization ("Black Belts", "Green Belts", etc.) who are experts in these methods.[2] Each Six Sigma project carried out within an organization follows a defined sequence of steps and has quantified targets. These targets can be financial (cost reduction or profit increase) or whatever is critical to the customer of that process (cycle time, safety, delivery, etc.).[2]
Part of Six Sigma is identifying all the causes of defects and then choosing those that would have the highest impact and lowest cost. So if we applied it to the health care problem, we could list the causes of high cost and then work on the areas that would reduce the cost for everyone. By reducing the cost of health care we make it more accessible to the lower income population and more affordable for everyone. The government would not have to spend billions of dollars to help people buy health insurance.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Spring Fever

It is gorgeous outside! Sunshine, 50 degrees. Looking out of my sunroom windows, I realized they desperately needed cleaning. So, I grabbed the glass cleaner and some newspaper and went to town. Initially, I meant to just clean the big picture windows but then I saw the smaller windows and decided they had to be cleaned as well. Our sunroom is surrounded by windows on three sides so it was no small task. "Any job worth doing is worth doing right" as the saying goes! I did cheat a bit - I cleaned the outside of all the windows and only did the inside of the two largest windows.

Here's the before picture of the outside of some of the windows:

And, here's the after:
Earlier, I scrubbed the kitchen sink and the stove top and vacuumed the sunroom. Could it be spring fever?

It might also have to do with the carpet cleaners being here to clean the carpet downstairs. Here's the story for those of you who haven't yet heard my tale of woe:

On Valentine's Day, we called some plumbers to unstop our main drain in the basement. We'd noticed the problem the day before but it wasn't too bad and we didn't want to pay the premium charges for getting it fixed on a weekend. Also, I was sick as a dog and was in bed all day. But, by Sunday, the utility room had flooded from the kids taking a bath so Dan called around and got some plumbers to come out in the afternoon. One of the guys broke the clean out which was located in our guest room closet downstairs. They couldn't figure out what was causing the slow drainage so they stuffed a rag in the clean out and left for the night. Unbeknownst to us, dirty water flowed into our guest room every time we flushed the toilet. Keep in mind, I was still sick with some sort of stomach bug and was going to the bathroom more than usual. The next day, they came back in the late morning and fixed the problem but the water/sewage had to be cleaned off of the carpeting. We rented a Rug Doctor and Dan cleaned the carpet as well as he could. Unfortunately, there was still a residual smell in the carpet.

It took me a few weeks to finally talk to the plumbing company to get them to fix the problem. I'd been sick with the stomach bug and two colds in the meantime so I didn't really have the energy to deal with it but this week I managed to get my act together to have take care of it.

Anyway, maybe having the carpet cleaners here inspired me!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What I found in the middle of the night...

Ellie has a new habit - a very bad habit. It started about a week ago during naptime. I was glad it was just during naptime...

Then, one night I checked on her and this is what I found:
I was glad that the sheets were clean and dry. Unlike the times when her bedding was wet or poopy. I'm thinking it might be time to get her to wear big girl underwear.

I do it!

Ellie loves to do everything herself. Brushing teeth, feeding herself, putting on a diaper... the list goes on. One day, I clipped Ellie's fingernails. Well, of course she had to do it herself...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Chinese New Year

We love celebrating Chinese New Year! It's a great excuse for a party and we love making the food. This year we had invited the missionaries and a family with whom we are friends. Unfortunately, our friends weren't feeling well but we still had fun with the Elders. As per tradition, we made dumplings. This year, I decided to also make a shrimp stir-fry. Served with rice and some mandarin oranges (for good luck :-) ) and we had a feast!

The Elders enjoyed learning to make the dumplings. I was pleasantly surprised that Ellie kept asking for "more orange, please"! We had given the kids some mandarin oranges in nursery several weeks ago and she didn't touch hers...but this time she decided she likes them.
Elder Sneary and Elder Yee

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Big Girl

This week has been especially hectic - mainly because I've been looking through the paperwork for benefits through Dan's new job. Sometimes it is a full-time job to keep up on our financial affairs! Hence why I'm finally getting around to putting up pictures from our little celebration for Ellie's birthday.
I love this face! Charlie's showing how much he's enjoying the cake.

I can't believe Ellie is TWO! It's amazing to think that this time last year she hadn't even started walking yet. I love watching her grow and figure things out. She is all girl. She loves taking care of her baby doll - feeding and changing her. She enjoys getting dressed up in her dresses and fancy shoes on Sundays.

I giggle to myself when I see her putting on her pretend lipstick.

Here's Ellie helping me sweep our kitchen floor.

Ellie loves her daddy!

She's tickled to have figured out how to open and close doors. Nothing's safe from her now!
Ellie loves having a big brother!