Saturday, December 29, 2007

Auto Mechanics with Alyssa and the Chipmunks

The brakes on our car began to sound like fingernails on a chalkboard. They needed some work. Since this kind of thing can take some time, I decided to take the car to Sears so I could hang out at the mall during the procedure.

I selected Alyssa to be my mall buddy today. We had a great time, and I let her call the shots. We ate a pretzel, looked at the Disney store, and rode on the merry-go-round.

The time estimate on our car was long enough that we decided to take in a movie. The only one I really thought she would like was Alvin and the Chipmunks.

I have to agree with one of the reviews I read - it wasn't as bad as you would think. Because I expected to hate it, I was pleasantly surprised and actually kinda liked it.

Mr. Coffee and Me

Santa brought me a Mr. Coffee Cafe Motion for Christmas.

Since we don't drink coffee at our house (although I could probably use it some days) I was a little confused at this gift. Then I realized it could be used for making hot cocoa. We don't often drink cocoa either, but that's mostly due to the fact that it's a pain in the neck to make, especially on the cold but rushed school mornings when a cup of warmth would do the most good.

This little appliance takes the hassle out of cocoa making and provides the perfect cup every time. Just add water (or milk) and the correct amount of cocoa, turn the timer, and the little motor spins and stirs while the heating element adds just enough thermal energy.

Getting the right temperature for tender little mouths has taken a few tries, but now that the correct warming time has been worked out, we will never again have to deal with too hot, watery cocoa with large clumps of unmixed powder floating around on top.

We have also run through a batch of hot cider. As I see it, the possibilities are endless.

Thanks, Santa. And thanks for the Stephen's Mint Truffle, Michael and Sally. It was the perfect mix to work out the bugs with.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

What Happened to Boxing Day?

Christmas Day was great. Boxing Day - not so much. It turned out to be "Doctor Day" instead. Kara had two doctor's appointments, and I took the girls. We were in the two offices for a combined total of five hours. Not a good way to spend the day after Christmas. The girls were not pleased. I'll have to admit, I wasn't either.

But as soon as we escaped, Kara took Anna home to play and I went to Ikea to celebrate Boxing Day by buying some more metal boxes for storage. While there, Alyssa and I got dinner. She got the shrimp and egg open faced sandwich - two of her favorite things.

At home, Anna was using her Bratz Stop Motion Video Camera. She has never watched a single episode of Bratz, but she has been interested in stop motion video for years, and she's been having a great time.

The camera holds 40 frames. With the new 1Gb SD card, it will now hold 26,500+. At 4 frames per second, that's around 110 minutes of video - longer than many features films. That should keep her busy for a while.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Despite some last minute scrambling and tossing nearly every tradition out the window this year, we have managed to pull together a pretty good Christmas anyway.

We decided not to have Kara come home for Christmas, so the girls and I made plans to spend Christmas at the condos in Dallas with her. We were unsure just how to fit the tree and presents into her room, especially with all of the accompanying smells - take a good wiff of that wrapping paper; it's got some punch to it.

The solution was getting permission to use a room that is temporarily empty. I drove home in the truck yesterday to finish my wrapping duties and pick up the tree. It's not a tall tree, and with the top removed it fit into the back of the truck intact.

Anna had made a bunch of origami ornaments for the tree, and the girls and Kara redecorated it. They then helped me put all of the presents under the tree (except for the ones Santa brought later that night).

This arrangement worked out very well, because with the girls in a completely different unit Santa was able to do his visit well before midnight. And with the "out of sight, out of mind" phenomenon in full swing, it was nearly 10:00 before we finally started ripping paper.

Santa was kind to us this year, as were the grandparents. Here's a brief smattering of the loot:

Alyssa got a minivan for her doll house. Always a back seat driver, Anna helped out.

Anna got Deal or No Deal, which she taught Kara how to play.

I got a polished ammonite and an airplane ornament (we have the whole set).

There were quite a few other good things under the tree, but I won't bore you with the details. I will simply say that we had a good Christmas day, and hope you and yours enjoyed the same.

Monday, December 24, 2007

We've Been Elfed

And just in time for Christmas.

You used to be able to watch the dance here.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Christmas Tag

To prove that I'm not just trying to kill off the tags, I've picked up an "I tag everyone" Christmas Tag from Nicole.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper for all but the most odd-sized presents.

2. Real tree or artificial? Artificial.

3. When do you put up the tree? Traditionally the weekend after Thanksgiving. This year halfway through December.

4. When do you take the tree down? What? I have to take it down? Grumble, grumble.

5. Do you like eggnog? Absolutely. The really rich stuff we dump straight into the ice cream freezer. Eggnog ice cream is amazing with a good pumpkin pie.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? I got a kitten from Santa at the Ward Christmas party. My parents worked it all out, and it was really, really cool.

7. Do you have a Nativity scene? A plastic one for the porch, a ceramic one for the mantel, and a little acrylic one the kids can play with.

8. Hardest person to buy for? Me. Yes, lately I have had to buy for myself, and man am I tough.

9. Easiest person to buy for? Alyssa - a couple of trains, a Spiderman shirt - Piece of cake.

10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Maybe not the worst, but possibly the most unfortunate was the snowsuit I got for my 11th Christmas. The winter in Omaha was quite mild that year, and I think it only snowed twice. By the next winter we were living in Hawaii. 'Nuff said.

11. Mail or e-mail Christmas cards? We get some of each. We used to mail cards religiously. Maybe I'll try and send an e-card tomorrow.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? The Muppet Christmas Carol. Irreverent and funny, yet true to the spirit of Dicken's original in all the important places. "Light the lamp, not the rat!"

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Sometime in July. I try to pick things up on closeout throughout the year. Before July, it's a birthday present. After July (September for Anna) it's a Christmas present.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? I regifted a present to myself one year. I got a little ornament from my boss at work. Christmas eve I discovered that Santa had failed to give me an ornament in my stocking like everyone else. The kids hadn't seen this ornament, so I put it in the stocking and gave him the credit.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Gingerbread.

16 Clear lights or colored on the tree? Clear for the main, "formal" tree. Colored on the kid's tree. This year, there are no lights on the tree.

17. Favorite Christmas song? O Holy Night.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? We're homebodies, although I would love to travel and experience Christmas around the world. I'd especially like to attend a Christmas barbie on the beach in Australia.

19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? Yes, but when I try I get in trouble with Anna. She says they already have names.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Star

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? One present on Christmas Eve. The rest Christmas morning.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Gosh-awful arrangements of otherwise beautiful Christmas music.

23. Favorite Christmas tradition? Watching a classic Christmas movie on Christmas Eve. There's something about sitting still and watching a holiday video late at night to calm down even the most excited child.

24. Up early or sleeping in? We negotiate a time with the girls before bed Christmas eve. I don't push too hard, though. As a kid, there was no such thing as too early.

25. Who hands out the gifts? Anna has kind of taken over that task. She's got the energy, and does it well, so what the heck.

26. Does Santa wrap your gifts? Yes. He uses special, exclusive Santa paper, and writes the recipient's name on the package in block letters with a black marker.

27. Do you tell the Christmas story? Yes, on Christmas Eve, we read it from the Bible.

28. Do you leave cookies for Santa? If we have any pumpkin pie, we leave that along with eggnog. Otherwise, it's cookies and milk.

Seven (More) Things About Me

I was tagged for Seven Things About me by Stephanie Humphries.

Rules of the Meme:
1) Link to the person who tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2) Share 7 facts about yourself.
3) Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4) Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

1. In my youth I had a freckle on my right earlobe, and it looked like I was wearing an earring.

2. Before I will wear anything, it needs to be washed. My wife and kids are the same way.

3. I still read the Honolulu Star-Bulletin online almost daily.

4. I've recently grown a beard again. It is much more gray than it has ever been in the past.

5. My beard really itches, but I can't shave it yet. It's there to camouflage the extra roundness in my cheeks. I'll shave in about 12 pounds.

6. For several years, I taught one computer programming class per semester at Utah Valley State College.

7. My LDS mission was in the Missouri St. Louis mission. I almost went the entire two years without serving in St. Louis itself, but my very last month I got transferred into the city.

I just never know who to tag - and so many of the blogs I read have been tagged lately. So I'm going to just cop out on tagging anyone. Again.

Friday, December 21, 2007

I'm a Winner!

Actually, there were five winners over at LDSPublisher's Christmas Story Contest. One of them was me! I'm very excited!

You can read my story here.

Congratulations to the other winners, and everyone who entered the contest. I enjoyed reading the stories.

The Equalizer and 60 Hours of Jammies

This morning when the girls went to school, I spread all of the holiday loot out on the bed and did a quick inventory. I've been picking away at the shopping for months now, but I wanted to make sure that everyone is covered, both as givers and receivers. Because although there really isn't anything I want for Christmas that will fit in a box, it simply wouldn't do to have Santa forget Dad.

I found a few inequities, which I fixed with a quick trip to the toy store - closing out the last of the gift cards in the process.

I am now just 1 (one) gift away from being finished. And maybe a few treats for the stockings.

On a completely unrelated topic, by the time Alyssa gets dressed tomorrow, she will have been in pajamas for around 60 hours. Not the same pajamas, but pajamas nonetheless.

This is due to the fact that today was pajama day at school, but she at first told me that yesterday was pajama day at school, so she wore pajamas two days in a row, plus three nights.

Good thing she has extra jammies.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Good Freezer Delema

I have some freezer dinners. I bought them before my trip, so the sitter could use them if she wanted to.

There are some left, and I'm using them on special occasions. Like today, where the occasion is that there are still dinners left in the freezer. That and we're taking a Christmas shopping trip to Wal-Mart.

The problem is that I put them in our good, big upright freezer, which freezes much colder than the one over the top of the fridge.

How is this a problem? I'll tell you.

I cook the food as long as the instructions say, but the instructions are designed for 20 degree F food. My food is at 0 degrees F. When the time is done, the food is not.

Just thought you'd like to know.

A Minor Christmas Miracle

Each year we buy Christmas dresses for the girls. Since they are both very particular about what they will wear (as in fit, not fashion), it is usually a bit of a challenge to find anything. And given their vastly different body shapes, I gave up long ago trying to find them matching dresses.

Well, yesterday I worked early and through lunch so we could have the whole evening to maybe finish this task. And here's where the miracle comes in - we found matching dresses at the very first store we went to (Macy's). Both girls like them, both girls look good wearing them, they were half off, and they are MACHINE WASHABLE! Double Bonus!

I will take better pictures later, but this gives you an idea, anyway. We then had time to shop for two pair of Sunday shoes, plus new tennis shoes for Alyssa (Spiderman, of course). Anna's shoes are a women's size 6. Yikes! Her dress is a size 16, which is as big as the girl's clothes go. That means next year she's into the Juniors sizes, and she's only 10!

Anna also got a few Christmas presents bought. One is for someone in Utah. As we were discussing this morning why the gift would probably not arrive until after the holiday, I realized just how much influence our Harry Potter bedtime stories are having. She said "That's five days. Is there no post on Christmas?"

Monday, December 17, 2007

10 Things About Me

I was tagged for 10 things by Marcia Mickelson. Here we go:

1. About ten years ago, three of my sisters all had their babies on the same day. I sent a little note to the Associated Press and, as a result, the story took on a life of its own. It hit the local news, national news, lifestyle feature pseudo news, and the talk show circuit. They were in papers around the world, had a full page in People magazine, were drawn into a Ripley's Believe It or Not cartoon, written into a textbook, and were interviewed by Oprah, among others.

The sad irony to this tale? The three births took place the day after my 30th birthday. Had the cousins been born a day earlier, I could have been part of the story. But as it was, fate robbed me of an appearance on Oprah by a mere 24 hours.

2. Speaking of cousins, Secretary of Health and Human Services and former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt is my second cousin. Our great-grandfather Thomas Dudley Leavitt had 24 children, so there are a lot of cousins out there.

3. Former Miss America Sharlene Wells Hawkes is also my cousin. Sort of. My mother's sister was married to Sharlene's father before she was killed in an airplane accident. Sharlene was born after her father remarried. However, we still claim her as our cousin. No word on whether or not she claims us.

4. Casey Elliott, who plays Daniel in the Liken the Scriptures movie Daniel and the Lions, is my first cousin once removed (meaning he's my first cousin's son - here's a table of consanguinity if you're confused).

OK. That's enough of the relatives. Back to me.

5. My Kahuku High School band was featured in the 1983 Citrus Bowl parade, and we marched the bowl pre-game show. Some friends and I made a sign on a king sized bed sheet that read "Aloha! We made this sign just to get on National TV!" We put all of the proper logos on the bottom, and I smuggled it into the game in my xylophone case.

We whipped it out during a lull in the action, and our goal was achieved!

6. My freshman year at BYU-Hawaii, I taught myself to play the tuba so I could get a job with the now-defunct Polynesian Cultural Center Brass Band. This action was in large part motivated by an unrequited attraction to a girl who danced in the PCC night show. Playing in the band didn't help this affair, however, and I'm not entirely sure how I thought it would. But the job turned out to be a lot of fun, anyway.

If you visited the PCC in 1987, or 1989-91, pull out those old video tapes. I might be on them!

7. When we sold our first house, we learned it had originally belonged to "Auntie Anne" of Auntie Anne's Pretzels fame. It seems that Anne Beiler's two daughters were moving back to Round Rock, TX, to open a store in the new Lakeline mall, and just for fun they drove past their childhood home, which we happened to be trying to sell. They ended up buying it back from us. The story made the local paper.

8. Our giant land yacht Gran Torino wagon, with automatic transmission, died just before I was to take my driver's test. It was replaced by a little Datsun 210 sedan. With a stick. Thanks to a steep hill in Kaneohe with a stop sign right at the top, I was allowed to take the driving test three times.

9. I was once a dues-paying member of the Teamsters Union. Pineapple pickers were automatically made part of the ILWU after 100 days on the job. As I only picked pineapples during the summer, I was well into my 4th year before becoming unionized. The pay raise I got was pretty nice - and it was even bigger than the union dues deduction that showed up at the same time.

10. I once had a job selling computers at a large computer store chain that went out of business and was bought up by another large computer store chain that will be going out of business at the end of this year. Those were six weeks of my life that I will never get back.

I now tag - you! Yes, you. You know who you are.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Some Christmas Stories for You

There's a Christmas Story contest over at LDSPublisher's blog. There are some pretty good stories there.

One of them was authored by yours truly. But I won't tell you which one - that wouldn't really be fair, would it.

I will tell you that mine is one of the baker's dozen in the unpublished author's category. Check 'em out. I'm curious to see if anyone can spot my voice among the entrants.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Business Trippin'

This has been a somewhat stressful trip for me. The work part of it has gone well, but Kara has had a hard time, and it was tough being away while she started back up on TPN.

Also, I have had a coworker along on this trip. This is good in that I have had someone to talk to and do things with. However, mostly what we have done is go to nice restaurants and eat good food.

Good food and stress go together really well. Except I now have guilt because I've been eating so well while my wife is getting food through a tube in her chest.

In addition, I'm going to lock the bathroom scale in a closet until around St. Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

On December 12, 1989...

I took my girlfriend for a walk to the little gazebo behind the Hawaii LDS Temple. We had gone there often during our courtship, but on this day I had a plan.

I sat her on the bench, knelt on one knee, and proceeded to spend the three longest minutes of my life trying not to pass out.

Finally summoning sufficient courage, I asked her to marry me. She said yes.

Get well soon, sweetheart. I love you.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Cleanupalooza a Major Success

Cleanupalooza ended a few hours later than hoped on Saturday, but by and large it was a great success. This type of event usually draws protests on par with those directed at the WTO and G8 summit, but Cleanupalooza was relatively complaint free.

Unfortunately, Guest Bedroom Gutting went into overtime, so Child Bedroom Floor Finding and the Halloween Decoration Roundup were canceled. We'll get 'em next time!

The girls and I drove to Dallas Saturday afternoon, and spent the evening and Sunday morning getting Kara situated and settled before my big trip. We also helped her try out a tanning salon, on the advice of her nutritionist. UV = Vitamin D. She was 2 whole minutes in a stand-up booth. We'll see how this works.

The girls and I raced to church Sunday, where I got them set up with the babysitter, and then I was off to the airport for a few days in Atlanta.

Our plane was delayed because the flight crew hadn't arrived. I offered to help fly the plane so we could leave on time, but with only 1 hour in my flight log book, they weren't terribly interested.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Great Cleanupalooza Festival

It's time once again for the Great Cleanupalooza Festival, that always exciting event aimed at preventing potentially fatal Embarrassmentitis.

The fun began last night with the Three Basket Laundry event, and continued this morning with Shave-And-A-Haircut. On tap for the rest of the day are:

  • Three Basket Laundry - Bonus Refill
  • Washing Of Alyssa's Thicker-than-should-be-legal Hair
  • Child Bedroom Floor Finding Expedition
  • Family Room Frenzy
  • Halloween Decoration Roundup
  • Guest Bedroom Gutting
  • ChiCaInWriMi (Child Care Instruction Writing Minute)
  • Business Trip Packing Sprint
The festivities are to run through early afternoon, followed by a mini-vacation trip to Dallas.

This fun and exciting event will undoubtedly be filled with the cheer and glee from all eager participants.

It's the not-so-eager participants I'm worried about.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

I Hate Mr. Murphey

Things can go wrong. I know that. This is the reason why I scheduled an extra three hours for this surgery today.

Those extra three hours ended five minutes ago. Kara is still not in the OR. It could be yet another hour before she is.

The problem is that there is nobody to watch the girls tonight. They are at our home teacher's house this evening, but I'm supposed to get them between 7:00 and 8:00. It should not have been a problem, but to get them by 7:00 I would need to leave now.

I can't leave Kara until she's done. I really, really don't want to leave her until she's stabilized. I don't know how long that will be. But I need to go home to my girls.

Let me just say, I am stressed.

Update 1: Kara was finally wheeled into the "Holding" area, and I'm in the family waiting room. The lady Kara is staying with here in Dallas is on her way to relieve me, so I can get home and take care of my other girls. Surgery started nearly six hours after it was scheduled. I have formed an opinion about this medical facility, and it is not particularly positive.

Update 2: I'm home. The girls are in bed. I'm not, but that's about to change. Kara called and sounded like she was doing OK. I have to go back to Dallas tomorrow. The car was having problems, and I didn't feel comfortable driving it home. I had a vision of the car stalled on the side of the road, and me kicking it. I left it in Dallas and brought the truck home instead. It just never ends.

Update 3: I spent the day with Kara yesterday, helping her get around. This line, though shorter, was actually more invasive to place, and for most of the day she had little use of her right arm. But on the whole she was doing much better than I thought.

TPN starts again on Monday.

Dear Santa; I want...

1 pack of elfa® Drawer In & Out Stops, #10030417. Please.

What do you mean, "Not for use with elfa® Mesh Drawers?"

Aw, nuts!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Surgery on Thursday

Kara is getting a central IV line put in tomorrow. It's similar to the PICC line she had before, but this one goes in under her collarbone rather than up her arm. It should work better than the PICC - we'll see.

We really want to get this line in before I leave for my trip next week, but it hasn't been all that easy. I drove to Dallas last Friday afternooon to go and meet with the surgeon, but when we got to the office we found that our appointment had been canceled because the doctor's surgery that morning went long. We were both very upset at the time, what with having to take time off work and find someone to watch the girls after school, not to mention Kara rearranging her appointment schedule to fit in this meeting.

But I'm over it now. Almost.

We finally got to meet with the doctor this morning, and it was really good. They set us up an appointment for tomorrow afternoon. Kara's understandably nervous about the surgery, as she reacts to pretty much every pain killer available. They'll be inserting the line under local anesthesia, but once that wears off there will probably be some pain involved, and no real way to ease it.

I've got someone to watch the girls after school tomorrow, but not over night, which we were hoping for. It would be nice if I could spend the night in Dallas in case Kara needs anything. She's working on seeing if someone else who's already there can help.

I pray everything goes smoothly. It's about time something did.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Nothing Like a Little Motivation

Next week I will be traveling. Rather than ship the girls off to someone's house this time, we have found a college student in the ward who will be able to come and stay at the house with them. This will work out very well, as we won't have to pack a weeks worth of gear for the girls to take, and their morning routine will be a little easier to keep.

However, due to recent circumstances, our home is - how shall we say - not quite house guest ready. Although it should be, and now I have a little extra incentive to get it that way. And I intend to give my daughters some extra incentives, too. After all, "this mess didn't make itself."

This will come in addition to at least one trip to Dallas this week, and probably more like two or three.

We had an appointment last Friday to meet with the doctor that will be doing Kara's line. I called an hour or so before I left to make sure the appointment was still going as scheduled. I got the machine, and left a message.

They didn't call back, even though the appointment had been canceled due to a surgery gone long. Having taken off an entire afternoon of work and finding someone to watch the girls after school, I was not pleased, to say the least.

Then it took me nearly three hours to get back through DFW Metroplex rush hour traffic.

I sure hope the appointment this week goes a little more smoothly.