Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Back to the Grind & Three Cups of Tea

It's always hard to get back to your regular schedule after a week of fun and lots of tasty food, but we're attempting it. Yesterday I still wasn't ready yet and the girls and I worked on decorating for Christmas and did the grocery shopping but that's about it. When I got Addie up in the morning her ear was draining fluid so we had to go get another prescription filled - this one for ear drops - but today she is seeming much much better - finally! - poor baby. Ella got to paint a little ornament for the tree (we put it up Sunday - earlier than normal for us but I was ready to get it done this year and wanted us to all be here to do it together).
She has complete creative freedom over the ornaments on the bottom portion of the tree and I love to see where she has moved them. Yesterday she collected all the Sesame Street ornaments and hung them on a single, now drooping, branch :-). It has been fun to have Ella sooo excited for Christmas this year, although she was a little confused and thought Santa was going to come Sunday night after we put the tree up. She was ready to make his cookies right away! We are going to attempt a gingerbread house this year (per request of Ella) so we'll see how that goes :-). Today we are back to our real daily schedule...we made it to the gym this morning and now Ella is at school. After I post this blog I may actually try and do some laundry while Addie sleeps (or maybe she'll wake up instead :-)!

I did manage to read the last chapter of my book Three Cups of Tea yesterday as well and now have moved on to writing Christmas cards (although we still need to take the picture for them). I really enjoyed the book - it reminded me of the types of books I read for my major and helped me remember why I loved my studies (International Development) so much. I think that although it can be extremely depressing to face up to the staggering amount of suffering that takes place in our world, it is equally inspiring to know that one person can truly impact the lives of so many. The book tells the true story of one man, Greg Mortenson, who was a mountain climber that after a failed attempt at summiting K2 ends up lost and in a tiny village in Pakistan. He comes to love and respect the people and promises to come back and build a school for their children (after witnessing the current state of their non-existent education system). One school has now turned into hundreds and their efforts have expanded into building vocational centers, health centers, etc. He recognizes early on that through educating the women of the villages, sometimes frowned upon in these Muslim areas, you can impact generations. I wrote a few different papers in college on the importance of educating girls, who stay in the village and pass on that knowledge to their children, as opposed to boys who often then leave their villages in search of better jobs and opportunities. Adding another interesting element to his quest to educate the children of these remote regions was the tragedy on September 11th. He started his projects in the 90's and continues today and it was interesting to read about the events in Pakistan and Afghanistan where he was working leading up to and following that day. I highly recommend the book. It definitely gives you a whole new perspective and makes you appreciate that there are people who are willing to put themselves out there to help others. I know when I left Uganda after my semester there I had great intentions and wanted to help the people there, but you get overwhelmed by how much you think it takes to make a difference and wrapped back up in your life and it kind of gets pushed to the back of your mind. Thankfully there are people like Greg Mortenson who don't give up and keep fighting for what they believe in to make our world a better place for all of us.

(The next book for our book club is The Lost, A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Houston Thanksgiving

We drove back from San Antonio Thursday night and went to my grandparents' for lunch the next day (my grandfather's delicious pulled pork sandwiches). My great-uncle and his family come out every year for Thanksgiving so we were able to see them, Mack, Kayley and my cousin Mick (who I hadn't seen for years).
Me with the boys (Mick on the left, Mack on the right)
With Kayley...Addie was still not doing well at all and had no energy (and a high fever). It is so sad to see them so unlike themselves. I also wasn't feeling that well, but when you have one day to see everyone you make the most of it. We played our family favorite game: Scum.
We of course had to take our family picture for my parents' Christmas card when we are all not feeling our cutest :-)(not to mention my hair lady couldn't fit me in before the holiday for my highlights...but I get them tomorrow - yeah! I'm need them desperately!) We took TONS of pictures so we could increase the odds of getting a good shot of everyone and I think it turned out well. Mack left for FL early the next morning.

Saturday was our doctor visit day. I took Addie in to her pediatrician where she was diagnosed with an ear infection (although she never touched her ears like they had been hurting) and I went to urgent care and was diagnosed with strep throat. So we began our recovery and Ella spent some time with Aunt LeeLee before she caught her flight back to UT that evening. Saturday night Ella was having a hard time going to sleep (we're still getting back on schedule after San Antonio) and Mike went in to talk to her. She told him she didn't want to go to sleep and he told her everyone has to go to sleep - even mom and dad. She replied, "But I just want to be awake all the time."

Sunday Ella had actually fallen asleep for her nap but Addie woke her up and she wandered into our room. I was getting ready and told her lay with Mike while I finished. When I came back out I found her all curled up and sound asleep again - it was so cute and very unlike Ella.
We hosted one more round of scum at or house later that night. Mick didn't have to head back to USC until today so we got to visit with him a little more which was nice.
This is Scott's amazing hand from that night...what is most amazing is that he was in the position of Scum when he got it (and those of you who play this game know that scum is always dealt the worst hands - that's just how it goes).

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Mack's Running for Office

My little brother Mack (aka: Mark Partridge Miner :-) is running for his first political office. He is still living in Florida and is running for St. Johns County Commission Dist. 3 (R). You can check out his website here or over on my sidebar where I've added it. Good luck Mack!

San Antonio Thanksgiving

Here are the highlights of our San Antonio Thanksgiving...
Mike and I went on a real date to Austin - just to eat at Baja Fresh (yes, we drove 1 1/2 hours just to eat and then turned around and drove 1 1/2 hours right back). It was nice to have time with just the two of us and made me remember our pre-baby days when we enjoyed Baja Fresh meals in Utah. It was soooo nice to not have to worry about feeding anyone else while I enjoyed my meal!
While we were gone the rest of the gang had a fun filled day at the San Antonio Children's Museum.
Ella has talked about it a lot since and had lots of fun exploring (despite an upset tummy due to her still present issue with pooping in the potty).
Addie enjoyed making messes as usual.
And tried to look big next to the huge chess set. She's so cute :-)!
They had a little mini-airplane too - just like a real one I'm told. It sounded like a really fun little excursion for the girls! Thanks Meema and Papa.
We also had a serious ping pong/pool tournament while there - with the winning team taking home the $50 pot. We did a double-elimination bracket (this was serious business!) alternating pool and ping pong.
I was not on top of my ping pong game but did surprisingly well at pool (not typically my forte). I was so amazed at my sudden pool playing skills that after one of my amazing shots went in :-) I was overcome by excitement and jumped into the air, jamming my pool stick into their ceiling. Woops! Luckily it didn't break through the dry wall and just a left a little mark - a reminder of my craziness or my astonishing talent - depending on how you look at it :-).
Mike and I made it to the championship round against Chrissy and Steve but eventually lost in pool (it was a close finish, coming right down to the 8 ball shot at the end...I of course missed and set them up for their victory shot).
The girls always get a kick out of the Freeman dogs, Rembrandt and Rusty. Addie was especially entertained this trip. I would walk out on the porch with her, the dogs would run up to us and she would just let out a big belly laugh.
Aunt Brittany and Ella...we got to meet her boyfriend Ili on this trip as well which was fun. We had heard a lot about him and it is nice to now know who he is!
Addie got sick on Thanksgiving day (I did too and we both made trips to the doctor today - I'll write more about that later) and was so lethargic that she just layed on us. She NEVER does this - so it was cute to have a cuddler but so sad because we knew she was definitely not feeling like herself! In Freeman terms her little "lights were out."
The whole clan. Mike's friend Josh and his wife Stephanie were there for dinner as well. She is expecting their first child in the spring (a boy!).

Our trip was tons of fun and went by sooo fast. I managed to accomplish almost both of my goals (I have 3 more chapters of my book) and we were able to relax quite a bit (although we didn't get quite as much sleep as needed - Ella had a hard time going to sleep when she could hear us all having fun and Mike and I would stay up late with everyone but still have to get up at our regular hour with the girls).

We love having both our families so close together. Ella takes so long to warm up to people and was so at ease this trip that it made me very thankful we are able to see them many times through out the year instead of just on holidays. Our children will be fortunate enough to have strong bonds with their all their grandparents (and aunts and uncles) and Mike and I both truly enjoy hanging out with each others' families.
I'll post about our last 2 days back here in Houston with my fam later.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Recap and Happy Thanksgiving!

Things have been busy (as usual) so I'm catching up on some posts now while I sit in a silent house - it's very relaxing, I had forgotten how nice it is :-). We drove out to San Antonio last night to visit Mike's family for Thanksgiving and right now Mike, his dad and Chrissy are golfing and Ella and Addie just went to the park with his mom and Chloe - I'm free for a moment - yeah! I have two things I want to get done while here and I have some help with the girls and freedom from most of my daily acitivies... 1. Finish the book I mentioned recently (Three Cups of Tea) and 2. Write in Ella's journal (when her baby book ended at a year old I decided I needed a way to keep track of her continuing achievements and obstacles. I had heard of people keeping journals for their kids but that seemed like so much work, so I write a recap of the month on her "month birthday" and it has been the perfect thing for me - it gives me a deadline to write by (the 13th comes and it's time) but doesn't overwhelm me).
Here are a few pictures from the end of the week:

I'll post pictures from our trip when we get back. Mike's longtime friend Josh and his wife are living in Houston while he is in school and they are coming out here for dinner also so it should be a lot of fun. Then we're driving back to Houston Thursday night to see my family (Mack and Kayley will both be in town, my Great-Uncle and his family and hopefully my cousin who I haven't seen in years also).

At Gymboree right now we are taking donations for St. Jude's Children's Hospital and because of that and the obvious time of year we are supposed to be answering our phone "It's Thanks and Giving time at Gymboree." A cheesy way to answer the phone? Yes. But it did make me think about the word Thanksgiving in a way I hadn't before. I obviously think of it as a time to be thankful for what I am blessed to have in my life but I really like putting the emphasis on the giving part of the word also. It goes hand in hand with feeling thankful...if we are truly thankful for what we have we should want to give back to others as well.

So, Happy Thanks and Giving to everyone! Enjoy your tasty meals and your visits with family and friends!

Santa's letter

Ella "wrote" her first letter to Santa last week and it was VERY exciting for her :-)! I took a picture of it before we mailed it because it was really cute. The first part of the letter I didn't prompt her at all, I just asked, "What do you want to tell Santa?" The second half I asked her some questions like if she had been good or if she wanted to tell him what Addie wanted since she can't talk yet. I tried to just write exactly what she said without fixing it. We put it in the mail on Friday and Ella can't wait for Christmas now :-). I just can't believe it's time to start thinking about the holidays already!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Relief Society Getting to Know You Game

Saturday morning we had our Visiting Teaching conference at church and I was in charge of the getting to know you mixer at the beginning. I feel extremely out of my element doing these types of activities for all the ladies - I'm so used to working with the youth - but luckily my grandma and mom are very experienced and were able to get my ideas flowing. I thought I would post the activity online to help anyone else looking for their own ideas :-). I bought a bunch of colored candy canes (we had discussed lollipops too, but candy canes were easy to find at this time of year) and typed questions on strips of paper that I taped to the bottoms, rolled around and then stuck into the jar. My mom helped me a ton by lending me the jars and making them cute with her ribbons! I put 12 candy canes in a jar and the questions were either fun (Tell us about your most unique job./If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?), visiting teaching and church related (What is your best visiting teaching memory?/Name your favorite temple.), or getting to know you (How many brothers and sisters do you have?/Who do you most admire?). One person would pick a candy cane, read and answer their question and the rest of the table takes turns answering the question too. I like how this works out because it gets you into more of a conversation about the question as opposed to one person saying something and that's it (also if you don't love your question it's not the only thing you get to talk about ). Breakfast was served and we played the game while eating which worked out well. We of course didn't get through all 12 questions but I think it was a success overall.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ella's Dance Class

I brought my camera to Ella's dance class yesterday and it ended up being a great motivator for her! She loves to check out the pictures and videos of herself on the computer and I think she tried extra hard so she could see them later. It was definitely the most successful class so far - for all the girls. I told Leesa afterwards, "You actually had more than one child following your directions today!" Now that Ella knows more what to expect and what to do in class she seems to be enjoying it a lot more.

Here are some videos of their warm-ups...

(I totally had a record of these songs when I was little and loved them! The first time she played the CD I couldn't believe it:-)

The girls always end up behind the bars while waiting for their turn. One of them will do it and then the rest follow.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Big Girl Shopping

Today was the first time I put Addie in the super-cool-in-every-child's-eyes car shopping cart. Luckily I had my camera with me and was able to take a couple pictures. Both girls loved it...although I did have to remind Ella a couple times to use her own steering wheel :-).

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Park Day with Dad

Mike had the day off on Friday so we took advantage of the nice weather and spent some time at a park. I went a little picture crazy (surprise!) – here are some of what I took:

Ella had fun pushing Addie in the swing:

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Pumpkin Patch - AGAIN!!!

Thursday we went to Dewbury Farm again with Ella's joy school group. Ella was ecstatic to go again - I, on the other hand, felt one trip was good enough for the season :-). We had a good time though. When Mike got home that afternoon Ella told him, "I went to the farm with all my friends!"
The hay ride took us to a different pumpkin patch full of teeny pumpkins and all the kids got to pick one out for free.
Addie was most interested in eating hay again, of course :-).
Ella and Annie were ready for the corn train and walked off holding hands - I grabbed my camera quickly to capture the moment.
Lauren and Ella on the huge jumping pad (Ella was really excited to do this until she got to the top and realized how high it was).

Friday, November 9, 2007

Lunch date

First, this is a picture I just thought was cute of Ella "climbing" a tree in our backyard Tuesday night. (Mike sets her in there and she thinks it's really cool for a little while but then gets scared and wants to get down)
Wednesday we had lunch with my friend Katherine from when I worked at the resale shop. We have both since quit but get together once a month for lunch still to keep up on what is going on in our lives (and compare notes on all the reality shows we are addicted to). She is so sweet and always thinks of Ella - bringing her a dessert treat to our house or having something fun for her at their house. This time Ella got to decorate cupcakes and LOVED it!
Addie was getting tired by the end, and a little fussy, so Katherine gave her a cupcake to hold. She quickly discovered that it tasted quite delicious and devoured the whole thing :-)!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Cute Talking

Yesterday Ella and I were watching video clips of when she was little (something she LOVES to do!) and I came across these two. They were so cute I thought I'd share them. In the first clip she is 19 months old and in the second she is 22 months. My favorite age so far is definitely 1-2 when they start talking and understanding things and are still sweet all the time! Then I didn't want Addie to feel left out so the last one is from last night. I was putting her lotion on after her bath and for some reason she was in an extra tickle-ish mood :-).

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

I Did It!

The ladies in my ward recently started a book club. Although I haven’t actually attended yet (I missed the book picking meeting and the first “book meeting”), I am trying to keep up with them...because I am going to the next one no matter what! The first book on our list was To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, which I just finished today (only 2 weeks late)! I am so proud of myself for finishing an entire book! This is the first one since Addie has been born! I started 3 others at various points, but life gets crazy and distracts me so it is nice to have something like this to keep me on track.

I do know that I supposedly read To Kill A Mockingbird in high school, but I remembered nothing from it other than the main character’s names. It must have been one that I read parts of and used Cliffs Notes to fill me in on the rest. Anyway, I really loved it this time around. If you haven’t “read” it since high school like me, I highly recommend it! I was particularly struck by what an amazing man Atticus Finch was. If the name was a little more normal I may even add it to my list of possible baby names for the future.

The next book on our list (for the meeting on November 29th) is Three cups of tea: One Man’s Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson. If you are looking for something to read, join in and we can blog about it together - it sounds really interesting. Here is the synopsis from half.com:
“Greg Mortenson recounts his experiences as co-founder of the Central Asia Institute, a nongovernmental organization that, since the 1990s, has done exemplary work in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where it has built and operated schools and improved public health. He tells how, by working side-by-side, the villagers and the staff of the CAI have overcome challenges, drawn on strengths, and worked toward breaking down the ignorance and prejudice that might otherwise have divided them. It has not been easy and the need is great, says Mortenson, and underscores the fact that the positive work of NGOs like the Central Asia Institute can go far in fighting terrorism.”
(I’ll keep you posted on the list we’re going through, I was very impressed by the variety books selected! They also emailed the other books considered that didn’t make the cut – I’ll post that one of these times too)