Sunday, November 20, 2011


Over the summer, I signed the kids up for swimming lessons at the YMCA pool.  Because it costs about the same amount to pay for a membership and the lessons as paying for the lessons alone without a membership, I decided to just sign up for the membership so that our family can take advantage of the other activities offered.

At the back of my mind, I was also thinking that I could get back into swimming.  I have had an interesting relationship with the pool since elementary school.  When I was in the 4th grade, we took a two-week swimming course at one of the few schools in the county that had a pool.  I remember having fun jumping into the pool from the side.  Fifth grade was our last year in elementary school and to celebrate graduating from elementary school, the teachers arranged a pool party.

We were enjoying ourselves in the pool splashing and playing Marco Polo.  Then, a few of my friends decided to go down the water slide.  I thought that would be fun to do and my friends encouraged me.  So, I climbed up the ladder and slid down into the water.  That's when I realized two weeks of swimming lessons was not enough to give me the skills I needed to go down the water slide!  I didn't know what to do and so I did nothing.  I kept going down, down, down...  Luckily, a lifeguard came to my rescue and pulled me out of the water.  I was scared and mortified.  Since then, I'd had a fear of the deep end of the pool.

Fast forward to sophomore year in college.  I had to take some PE classes to satisfy the university's graduation requirements.  I decided I needed to learn to swim so I signed up for a beginner swimming class.  It was nice to know I wasn't the only one who couldn't swim!  I barely passed the class only because I managed to just tread water a little bit.  That was really hard for me since we had to do it in the diving pool, which had one depth: 12 feet.

Fast forward again.  Now I'm married and have a one-year-old.  I wanted to do something to improve my health and I decided to get back into swimming.  I took swimming lessons at the community center.  At the first class, the teacher asked what level we are and I told her I was intermediate.  She asked my group to use the kick-boards to warm up.  So, I got on the kick-board and start off down the pool.  At about the middle, I got tired so I decided to stop to take a break, not realizing that it was deeper than I'd thought.  So, I floundered and had to be rescued by a lifeguard.  What little confidence I had gained from my college swimming class was wiped out by this unexpected incident.  I nervously continued the class at the beginner level.  Luckily, the teacher was patient and understanding.  I was eventually able to swim laps again and started going on my own to swim laps at the pool.  The deep end was still scary but I managed to push my fears aside.

That was almost six years ago.  Last month, I again decided to get back into swimming.  I'd been working out and running regularly and felt pretty good about my physical fitness.  With winter approaching, I felt like I needed to find another activity to be involved in so I wasn't running on the treadmill inside all the time.  So I signed up for private swimming lessons at the YMCA.  Every pool is different; some pools start at three feet and have one corner that's deeper, other pools start shallow at one end and drop down to 12 feet about halfway.  I found myself having to re-acclimate myself to the water and to the configuration of the pool each time.  This time, it took me a couple of lessons to be able to swim in the deep end.  I was determined to get over this fear and went to practice on my own in between lessons so that I could make better progress and get my money's worth from the private sessions with my teacher.

For the past few weeks, I've been going to swim laps early in the mornings instead of running because it's not fun to run in the cold, dark, and windy Wyoming dawn.  I am not where I want to be yet but I know that with time and practice, I will improve.

Friday, November 4, 2011


This is the first tooth Charlie lost. Before this, he actually had to have one tooth pulled on Halloween - worst day to have that done to a kid! That one was a molar so you can't see the gap. Isn't he so cute with his missing tooth?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

First Day of First Grade

Today is Charlie's first day going to first grade. I can't believe how fast summer went and that my little boy is not so little anymore!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

How to Ace the GRE

When you are focused on a goal, you have to prioritize everything accordingly so you can accomplish it.  Since I signed up to take the GRE back a few months ago, I have put most things on the back burner.  Blogging was one of those things.  There were still things that had to be done like taking care of my family, my church calling, housework, etc.  But high on my list was preparing for the test which was a challenge given that it had to be worked around the other things in my life.  When Charlie was in school it was pretty simple since I could just study while Ellie was taking her afternoon nap.  However, once school let out I found it much more difficult to find time to study.  We were busy with swim lessons, story time at the library, and play dates at the parks in the mornings.  During Ellie's naps, Charlie would usually want to play a game or need my attention for some reason.  I admit I have put on a movie for him more than once in order to get the quiet I needed to focus and practice.  It is for that reason that I scheduled my test for the week after school let out.  Unfortunately, my math score was not high enough to be competitive with the average score of those entering grad school in the program I am considering so I signed up to retake the exam this month.  That was not the best time since it's summer and I had even less time than before to study.

Luckily, I had learned from taking the test the first time that I didn't have to study for the verbal section and could just focus on the math section.  I reread the sections about math in the GRE study guides I had and practiced solving math problems, lots of math problems.  One very important thing I learned about the scoring method was that omitting questions was highly penalized.  On the GRE, you cannot skip questions.  The computer does not allow you to skip questions - it forces you to pick an answer to a question before you can move on to the next question.  However, if you run out of time, you will not be able to complete all the problems.  The problems at the end that you don't answer will count against your score.  One of my study guides said that the percentage of the problems you miss for that section is subtracted from your score.  For example, if you would've gotten a score of 660 but you missed 3 out of the 28 problems for the math section, your final score for the math section would be 590.  (3/28=11%, 11% of 660 is about 70, subtract 70 from 660 and you get 590.)

Another key to doing well on the math section is to work carefully so that you get as many questions right as possible, especially in the beginning.  The GRE is a computer adaptive test, which means that the questions you get are based on how you answered the previous questions.  The first question is usually of a medium difficulty level.  If you answer the question correctly, the next question you get is more difficult; however, if you answer the question incorrectly, the next question is less difficult.  You want to get the more difficult questions get them right because they lead to the higher score.  The computer is constantly guaging your score based on how well you solve each problem and the difficulty of the problems.  However, since each subsequent question is based on your performance on the previous problem, the earlier problems have more bearing on your overall score.  Therefore, it's important to do the best you can on the first ten problems.

Finally, I believe that another key to doing well on the GRE is to relax.  There's no doubt it's a challenging exam and most people get stressed out about it.  However, if you are too stressed out during the exam, your stress will distract you and keep you from doing your best.  I knew that I needed to relax the night before the test so I didn't do much studying.  I looked over a couple things but other than that, I didn't think too much about the test.  I spent most of the day cleaning my house and that evening my husband and I went on a date and then rented a video.  I went to bed at my normal bedtime.  In the morning, I went for my usual run, which is a big stress-reliever for me, and got ready for the day.  My test wasn't until 12 noon but I had a two-hour drive on a busy highway, that in itself is stressful as well.  (There's a long story related to my having to drive two hours away for this test which I won't get into right now.  Suffice it to say this added to my stress level and I feel pretty good that I was still able to to do well on the test despite the long drive and added stress.)  I just kept thinking that there wasn't anything I could do about having to drive that far so I did my best to stay calm and think positive.  I told myself that I was ready for the test and that I would do just fine.  Another positive thought running through my mind was that I would be done by the end of the day and that I could enjoy the rest of the summer with my kids without having to worry about this test anymore.  Also, if I didn't do well, which wasn't likely since I had done my best to prepare, it wouldn't be the end of the world.  Life would go on, I could pursue other avenues and interests besides grad school.

The test consists of a 45 minute analysis of an issue essay and a 30 minute analysis of an argument essay.  There's a 10-minute break and then a 30 minute verbal section and lastly, a 45 minute quantitative (math) section.  For me, the issue essay is a challenge because the issue is worded very broadly and you have to think about it and write it in 45 minutes.  The argument essay is a little easier since you're just critiquing an argument and poking holes in the assumptions made in the argument.  This exam seems to also be a test of one's patience and endurance since it lasts over two-and-a-half hours. 

During the test, I made sure to take deep breaths and focus on the questions rather than how I thought I was doing.  Also, I did my best to be comfortable: I wore comfortable clothing, adjusted the chair, took off my sandals, and took advantage of the breaks I was given.  Finally, the test was over!  The computer asks me whether I wish to report my scores before it would let me see my scores.  Of course!  There wasn't any other way to see how well I did.  If I didn't report my scores, I would never know how I did and I would have to pay to retake it.  Why would I want to do that?  Then, I was asked to select the schools to which I wish to send my scores.  After all that, the computer shows me the verbal and quantitative (math) scores.

Finally!  I was pleased to see that my verbal improved by 20 points and that my quantitative score had increased by 130 points, which was significantly better than my score from last time.  Now that the test is over, I can look back and see that all my efforts had paid off and that my strategy of completing the test and relaxing had helped me do well on the test.  I may not have aced the test but I came pretty close!

Sunday, June 26, 2011


You know what?  I don't think I'm blogging is one of my talents...  Good thing I don't have a large audience!  :-)

Speaking of talents, I've really been thinking about what my talents are.  Some people are blessed with many talents which are readily apparent but I'm really having a hard time coming up with my own list.  It's really troubling me.  Some people have talents that are visible like playing a musical instrument, singing, acting, leadership, being confident, etc.  It seems like they were born with these gifts. 

For me, the only thing I feel like is a natural gift is a sense of direction.  If you were to plop me down in the middle of a strange place, I'd do a pretty good job of finding my way around.  You could maybe count languages but the only language I feel completely fluent in is English.  I speak some Chinese but my vocabulary is limited and while I've tried to improve that skill, I haven't made much progress because of time and energy limitations.

Even things that I feel I might be good at seem to take a lot of effort.  I studied engineering in college.  I had to study really hard and didn't really feel like I was as good as the other students but I thought did okay.  I would like to go back to grad school eventually and get a master's or maybe even a PhD.  I do love learning and would also like to make some contribution to the field and to society.  So, I've taken the GRE which is required for admission to any graduate program.  With a degree in engineering, you'd think I would get a high score in math but I got an average score.  I'm retaking the test in a couple weeks and hope my math score is much higher so I'll be a competitive candidate. 

I know I have talents.  God has given each person talents.  I just need to discover them and develop them.  What are your talents and how did you discover them?

Friday, March 4, 2011


My kids are just growing up too fast!

Charlie is getting to be a great reader.  He loves to read and asks to read the scriptures and other things.  He figures out most of the words, except the big ones.  His Kindergarten teacher has told me that out of a list of one hundred words, he knew ninety-nine of them.  He's also doing addition.  I thought Kindergarten was where you learned to color and count?

Ellie has decided in the past couple weeks that she's ready to use the "big toilet" and has been regularly going in it.  She was excited to wear her big girl underwear but now has decided she still wants to wear diapers.  It's probably because she's had a couple of accidents.  So, we just take it off when she wants to go potty.  She especially loves the family bathroom at the library because it's got a regular toilet and one that is the perfect height for kids.  It's really nice that she's willing to use public bathrooms.  I'm thrilled that this interest in potty-training is not the result of me pushing her but her own desire.

Friday, February 25, 2011

This Week

The last full week of February is National Engineer Week.

It's a week when engineering is celebrated as a profession.  Most leaders in the fields of engineering try to educate the public on the impact of engineering on our daily lives.  Even as an engineer, I sometimes marvel at the the things I use on a regular basis.  The other day, I heard a guy on the radio talking about how even something as simple as a pencil is not something one person can produce very easily.  It takes a variety of resources, most of which require engineering, to produce a pencil.

One very important goal of many engineers is to encourage school children to go into engineering.  There is a term called STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, and math.  It is a term used to describe the technical fields that many consider "nerdy" and many people tend to think that they're not smart enough to do those types of jobs.  That is a myth.  The fact is that jobs in STEM are for anyone who enjoys being creative, playing, problem solving, and social.  Yes, nerds are social!!  I know because I'm one of them and I'm married to one too.

It's crucial that we as parents and adults break down the stereotypes of STEM and help children, especially girls, see that science and math are not boring subjects and that they are smart enough to learn those things.

In honor of Engineer's Week, I went to Charlie's Kindergarten class to talk with them about engineering and what engineers do.   I read a book called Engineering the ABCs, which lists an item that is made by engineers for each letter.  Then, I talked to them about rockets, which requires lots of engineers to design and build.  After giving them a simple explanation about how a rocket works, I brought out pop rockets that I had made (one with Charlie's help, see picture above) and told them I was going to launch it.  Because it was freezing and snowing outside, we had the students stand by the windows inside while I launched the rocket outside.  The children erupted into cries of "Whoa, that was awesome!" when I returned to the room.  I had given the teacher a couple of coloring pages that had the ABCs and things that were created by engineers that started with each letter.  While they colored, the teacher showed a video of the Space Shuttle Discovery launch from yesterday.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Ellie is three-years-old!  Her birthday was a couple weeks ago.  We celebrated as a family with dinner, cake, and presents.  She has definitely grown up in the past year!  She likes to put her own clothes on and even sometimes insists on wearing big girl underwear.  We haven't been pushing her too hard to be potty-trained, thinking that it would be easier when she decides she wants to do it.  Lately, she has been showing more interest: asking to watch the Elmo's Potty Time DVD, telling us she wants to use the potty, and actually peeing in the potty a few times.

We love this girl!  Ellie is delightful to be around.  She loves to take care of her stuffed animals and makes sure to wrap each of them up in its own blanket before placing them in her bed so they can take a nap.  Ellie has a passion for blowing bubbles.  She has a great sense of humor and loves to say to Charlie: "Tickle me and run!"  She's developed a love for reading books and playing the Thomas matching game.  And, she's picked up a knack for using the computer (thanks to Dan and Charlie).  Last but not least, she has a big sweet tooth!

Happy birthday to my sweet little dumpling!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


(This was written in the middle of January.  I'm way behind on the blog!!)

We went to visit Dan's family in Michigan for Christmas this year.  Traveling is just rough for us since it's a two-hour drive to the airport and our trips this year have been marked by sick kids throwing up multiple times in the car and airplane.  But, crossing our fingers that lightning wouldn't strike thrice, we prepared for our trip.

Fortunately, this time we were as prepared as can be with IDs, plenty of diapers, and changes of clothing in our carry-on bags.  We left with plenty of time for the drive down to the airport, parking, riding the bus from parking to the airport, going through security, grabbing a bite, and boarding the plane.  Everything went pretty smoothly except the two-hour delay in Chicago.  But, that wasn't too bad because there was a play area for the kids and we had time to get dinner.

The only other snag was getting the cold so we were not as energetic and didn't get to do as much as we wanted.  Oh well, it was winter and staying nice and warm inside was nice.  We had a lot of fun seeing family and running into friends.  Charlie and Ellie sure enjoyed playing with their cousins!!

Here are some of the fun things we did:

Celebrating Christmas

Charlie getting ready to sled.  Sorry this was the only pic I got of sledding!

Tobogganing!  Charlie and his cousins loved it so much they went down at least 5 times with Uncle Dale.
Whee!  These hills were seriously steep - Charlie, Brenden, & Josiah were so brave!

I love how Charlie's hair is flying here.
Decorating a gingerbread train.

Celebrating birthdays for Kyler, Brenden, & Dan.

Friday, January 14, 2011


I just read a post on a friend's blog about her son drawing on the floor with a pencil and it reminded me that I have some art work on our dining wall to take care of.  This was drawn by Ellie several weeks ago...  I can't believe I keep forgetting about it, even though it's right there in the dining area where I can see it as I walk by and as I sit down to eat - literally hundreds of times.  It didn't even occur to me to clean it up before I had people visiting.  I guess it's just part of the decor now and it's almost a shame to get rid of it.

I was pretty upset when the first time I saw it.  I guess it's my own fault for leaving the marker where Ellie could get to it.  Now, I'm realizing it's not that big of a deal.  I'm remembering a talk President Monson gave, in which he said: "If you are still in the process of raising children, be aware that the tiny fingerprints that show up on almost every newly cleaned surface, the toys scattered about the house, the piles and piles of laundry to be tackled will disappear all too soon and that you will—to your surprise—miss them profoundly," (General Conference October 2008 ).

Thursday, January 13, 2011


I've decided to start another blog.  It's about books and it's called Cheyenne Bookworm.  Check it out!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year, New Adventures

Happy New Year!!

Every new year, I look back and wonder how the last year went so fast. It's true that time speeds up as you get older. I often wonder if I've done enough but that's probably the wrong way of looking at things. Sure it'd be great if I accomplished some great feat. But I need to think about whether I've done my best at those things that matter most to me.

One of the things I wanted to accomplish last year was to be healthier. I know that most of us wish we could lose 10 pounds and I still wish that but losing weight should be the result of a healthy lifestyle and not an end in itself. Because what happens when you do lose the 10 pounds? What's next?? More often than not, they come back and we're back in the cycle. But if we focus on developing a habit of eating healthy, exercising, getting enough sleep, and learning to deal with stress then we're on the road to a healthy and strong body. We will feel good physically, mentally, and emotionally. We won't worry about those 10 pounds and we can free ourselves to focus on other important aspects of our lives. We will be able to tackle life and accomplish our goals.

I feel good that the one thing I did consistently was exercise regularly. I started using exercise videos to do cardio and strength-training exercises last January and have stayed with them throughout the year. There were a few days and weeks when I slacked off due to illness, travel, and blood donations. Other than that, I exercised 30 - 45 minutes a day, six days a week. You would think that I would look amazing with all that exercising but, alas, exercise is only one part of the fitness equation. I still need to work on eating healthier. My main problem is: I LOVE FOOD. Period.

We all know New Year resolutions tend to go by the wayside after a few weeks. It's because we have high hopes of turning over a new leaf with the start of the year but reality sets in and we cannot sustain the effort required to meet our unrealistic expectations. This year I will take small specific steps everyday towards meeting my goals. Instead of saying I will lose 20 pounds, I'm going to exercise at least 30 minutes a day, six days a week and be more aware of the quantity and quality of food I eat at each meal. The long-term goal is to have a strong and healthy body so that I can better fulfill my roles as mother, wife, church member, etc.

Other goals I have are:
* Be more focused with my time. I will only spend time on things that matter most: spirit, family, home, health, skills, talents, and service.

* Learn 5 Chinese characters a day and spend 20-30 minutes a day reading and studying Chinese. Eventually, I will be able to read the newspaper without having to look up 50% of the words.

* Practice playing the piano 15 - 30 minutes a day. (I never had the opportunity to take piano lessons as a child but have always been interested. This will actually fulfill a Young Women Personal Progress requirement! My long-term goal is to be able to play church hymns.)

* Spend at least 15 minutes a day reducing clutter. Be careful of the stuff I buy - ask is it something I really need? Do I have space for it? Does it fit in my budget?

Basically, I'm trying to be careful not to overdo. I'd love to hear what your goals are!