I'm a little behind...

I've been catching up on old posts, so make sure you scroll down.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

I couldn't be more proud.

Two weeks ago at church, Bree apparently asked her Primary president when it would be her turn to talk into the microphone (Sunbeams usually just get asked to pray, but not give talks).  Sister Mounce smiled, and, pointing Bree in the direction of her secretary, said, "If you want to give a talk, just ask Sister Miller."  Bree went right over and said, "Sister Miller, can I have a talk?"  So Bree came home with a slip of paper that said she would be giving a talk on May 30th.  She was really excited.  When I asked her what she wanted her talk to be about, she just said, "Jesus and Heavenly Father."  Since we're on our second read-through of the Book of Mormon Stories, I pointed to the first story: "How We Got the Book of Mormon," and asked if she wanted to talk about that.  She got all giggly and agreed.  I printed out enlargements of the illustrations, and she's been practicing telling the story for the last few days.  I still can't believe how well she did giving her talk in Primary today.  The microphone wasn't working, but she talked loudly and clearly.  I only had to prompt her a few times, and all the kids were listening quietly as she narrated the pictures I held up.  It was all I could do not to burst with pride, and my parents who were able to come and watch, said the the drive was more than worth it.  I sneakily took my digital voice recorder up to the podium, so I could record the priceless memories (it's not as good as a video, but I was afraid a video camera would be frowned upon at church!).  I put together a slide show of Bree's talk with her pictures (her closing, "In the name of Jesus Christ, amen" got cut off...must find better editing software).

Thursday, May 27, 2010

First-timers

We have really been enjoying our season passes to the Phoenix Zoo.  Our membership allows us to bring friends for free, so I invited my friend Amy and her kids Calan, Cora, and baby Jenna.  Her kids had never been to the zoo, so they were really excited.  We managed to see most of the interesting animals before it got too hot.  And, ironically, Mason was the most excited when he spotted a common bird hopping across the path, and when that rabid squirrel almost climbed into the stroller.  Who needs exotic animals in pens?

We made a stop at the petting zoo, and my kids were familiar with the routine.  Bree always has to make the rounds to ensure that she pets every single goat in the barnyard.  And Mason's not so much into petting them as trying to make eye contact with them and saying "Hey, goat!"

We ended the visit with some play time at the splash pad.  Amy and I tried to stay in the shade, as the day had gotten quite warm by that time.  The kids had a blast.  I was surprised Mason lasted as long as he did, because he's usually too cold to enjoy playing in the water.  Eventually the shivers immobilized him, and we rounded the kids up to drive home.  Great day.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What a Getaway!

What an incredible week!  I'll start from the beginning.  Sometimes beginnings have to be rocky before you can get to the good stuff.  Our cruise experience started in the lovely Port of Los Angeles.  When I say lovely, I mean ugly and scary.  When we finally figured out where to park our truck, we were frustrated and hungry, and I left our vehicle praying that it would still be there and in one piece when we returned.  Check-in was surprisingly fast (we got to zip through the special "Balcony Rooms" line), and we didn't have to wait too long to get through security (I had to get wanded because of my belt or something, and somehow Chad managed to slip through with a pocket-knife).  Finally we were on the ship, and I can't even describe how excited I was to get to the Versailles restaurant and spot Rob and Jaime waiting for us!  We had a delicious lunch, and then we were off to explore the ship.  The first pictures are of us waiting to set sail.  I don't know what the hold-up was, but we watched both of the other cruise ships in the harbor leave before us. 

Luckily we had an exciting dinner experience reserved at the Teppanyaki Room.  We watched the Chef prepare our food Beni-Hana-style.  It was amazingly delicious.  The chicken, steak, and shrimp were tender and bursting with flavor.  We enjoyed grilled veggies, soup, and fried rice.  It was a great start to our week-long dining extravaganza.  And, um, speaking of extravaganza, the photo of our dessert-laden table is proof positive that 90% of the treats at the buffet look way more delicious than they actually taste.  We'd take a bite, suffer the disappointment, and then head back to the buffet to scout out a dessert with more promise.  The only cake that wasn't an utter disappointment was the flour-less chocolate cake, which was rich and delicious.  The dining experiences were widely varied.  We enjoyed room-service breakfasts, which were simple meals of cereal, fruit, and breads.  The rare times that we visited the buffet were as expected: good, but not amazing.  The free dining rooms were very good, depending on what we ordered (we'd always try each other's entrees and vote for who made the best menu choice).  We were a little miffed that they reserved the best food for the fee-based restaurants (Norwegian Cruise Line's "Freestyle Dining" drawback).  We paid the fee a few times, and loved the food from Teppanyaki, Le Bistro (French), Cagney's Steakhouse, and Ginza (Asian).  The Mexican restaurant did not impress me, but I do live in the Mexican food capital of the world.  Favorite foods included fresh-tossed Caesar salad, chocolate mousse, beef tenderloin, assorted cheeses, General Tso's chicken and more.  We seriously ate all-we-could-eat.  There was a 24-hour place with excellent chicken tenders and buffalo wings.  I was disappointed that the buffet closed before 10pm.  Isn't nonstop grazing what cruising is all about? 

Here we are posing on formal night.  I'm not sure what's going on with Chad's expression, but this was his best picture, honest.  I wore the beautiful dress my mom sewed for me, along with the shoes that I borrowed from my friend Amy and spray-painted gold to match (with her permission of course).
We LOVED our balcony rooms.  Honestly, the main reason we cruised Norwegian was because we got a great deal on the balcony room, which we've never had before.  We've only had interior cabins in the past because we're so cheap, and we didn't spend a lot of time in the rooms anyway.  But this cruise Chad and I spent a lot of time reading on the balcony, or just laying on the bed with the sliding door open, listening to the sound of the water.  It was wonderful.  You can see in this picture what the rooms were like.  They actually had a nice sitting area there, perfect for eating room-service breakfast or planning out our itinerary.
The second night of the cruise was the White Hot Dance Party, and Jaime and I had come prepared with plenty of white cruise-wear.  I had a blast.  I set up my camera with the timer, and we got a lot of strange looks as we posed for an unmanned flashing camera.  Chad and I never get to dance, and he tries to say he doesn't have any skills.  But when he got pulled into the center of the dancing circle, he pulled out some moves that I have never seen before.  I felt like I didn't know him anymore!  (Hot picture of me: courtesy of months of dieting and hours of sewing custom-tailored slacks!)

Here we are in the Spinnaker Lounge, which is where we often hung out.  During the week, we'd be in here at all hours, with 4 cocktail tables pushed together, playing Canasta, and listening to the mostly enjoyable but sometimes awful band.  The adorable pub next-door always had fresh popcorn, which we often snagged on our way into or out of the lounge.  And although these photos make us look like Bingo fiends, we only played one game, splitting up our single pack of bingo cards.  We didn't stand a chance against everyone else with their fancy bingo machines, each of which can play like 50 different cards at a time.  But we had to try it once. 
Our one excursion was amazing.  We took a boat to Las Caletas, which is a private beach across the bay from Puerto Vallarta.  Rob signed up for snorkeling, while Jaime, Chad, and I snagged some lounge chairs on the beach.  Jaime and I both enjoyed half-hour massages at a cute spa hut up the path from the beach.  That was the best massage I've ever had, hands down (and, okay, I've only ever had three, two of which were during this cruise, but still).  Jaime and I floated in the ocean until the motion got the better of my tummy, and then Chad and I worked on our tans while we read our books in the sun.  Jaime and I watched a chef make authentic seafood paella, and then we all enjoyed a delicious buffet lunch and yummy dessert.

This is us in Cabo San Lucas.  That place is gorgeous.  Chad and I had already been snorkeling here on our last cruise, so this time we walked into town to barter for some deals.  Take a look at the picture of Chad and Rob in sombreros.  Now, part of the photo got cut out when I collaged the photos, but in the original you can see the lady who runs the stand with a grouchy look on her face, saying, "Picture, three dollars."  Seriously?  What a killjoy.  Obviously Jaime snapped a photo anyway.  And below that you can see Chad and I bartering for some clay animal whistles for the kids.  She wanted $3 a piece.  We wanted two for $3.  She wouldn't budge.  So we found someone else who did.  And I found some vanilla for my mom, and a new pair of earrings for me.  Oh, and there was that cool magnetic-bead bracelet I got (it's a long strand of beads that you wind around your wrist, neck, ankle, wherever, and they magnetize and stay put).  Chad carried all the loot in his pockets.  Apparently he put my new bracelet in the same pocket as our ship ID cards, because when the security guard swiped mine to get back on the ship, it was blank.  What?  Oh yeah, magnets tend to erase magnetically coded cards.  Nice going Chad.  After another minute of futile re-swiping of both of our cards, she looked us up and matched our faces to the photos in the database.  Phew.  I'm glad we weren't stuck in Mexico over a cheap bracelet.

Jaime and I spent a lot of quality time in the ship's spa.  Chad and Rob actually went with us the first time, and we all took advantage of that day's spa special.  I had a body scrub and a facial, and the woman who did my treatments was very good.  Chad had a facial and a neck/scalp massage.  He was a little underwhelmed.  I think I'm going to book him with my esthetician here in Globe; she is a wizard at extracting pores (visible results might lend some credibility to the whole facial thing).  On the day we were at Cabo, there was another spa special that Jaime and I took advantage of.  I got a foot massage/reflexology, a back massage, and a facial.  It was very relaxing, and I was impressed with the reflexology (maybe it's not a pseudoscience after all...).  After our treatments we got to enjoy the spa's exclusive heat therapy room, watching Cabo disappear into the distance as we relaxed on our lounges, reading our books.

We loved the new experience of cruising with best friends.  Coming home was sad.  It's difficult not knowing when we'll be able to get together again.  But when you have friends this good, you know it won't be too long.
 
Mexican Riviera Cruise with Rob and Jaime
April 25th through May 1st, 2010

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Who needs the Geek Squad?

A little while ago our computer started turning off randomly by itself, and then wouldn't power up at all.  I was justifiably peeved because the warranty on this PC had literally expired one week prior to the start of the problem.  Dell's support center was not helpful, but no surprise there. I really just wanted them to confirm what I (and my computer-genius brother Adam) suspected was the problem.  Anyway, I did some research and some asking around, and decided that I was going to fix my own computer.  Kind of a big deal for me.  Adam recommended NewEgg.com as a great place to order computer parts, and I found what I needed: a new power supply unit.  (Apparently those things go bad all the time.  You would think one would last more than a year.  But whatever, Dell.)  So I ordered the unit, and today it arrived. 

Isn't it beautiful? 

Then I looked in my computer.
The inside of a computer can look pretty intimidating.  I know I freaked a little.  There are a lot of crazy wires and high-tech things in there.  But there was no turning back.  A few screw-turns and cable connections later I was done.  I cannot believe that little bit of labor would have cost me at least $60 to have someone else do!  And here I am blogging, using the very PC that I just fixed!  The new PSU works wonderfully and quietly.  And I now have 200 more watts of power than I had before to cover all my bases.  To quote Adam in his last text to me, "It's a great feeling knowing you got into the guts of the beast and came out victorious.  Plus your friends will be impressed."  Love it.  And love having my computer back!  I need to do some serious catching-up on a few shows.  "Ugly Betty," "Lost," here I come.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Gila Valley Temple

Today we took the kids to the Gila Valley Temple open house. I've actually never been to one of these open houses myself, so it was really neat to finally go. Bree was pretty excited to go inside the temple, and she was especially enthralled with the baptismal font. She kept asking if we were going to see someone get baptized.

The open house itself was so well organized. We started off in the neighboring church building, and we viewed a short video about temples and the history of this area of Arizona. I was impressed at how many volunteers were there helping as ushers and tour guides. And after the tour, we were brought back into the church cultural hall, which was decorated beautifully with large portraits of Christ hanging on the walls, and gorgeous furniture and props lining the walls, creating sort of a cozy lavish library feel (not a small feat in a gym!). There we enjoyed some yummy cookies before we left.

This is the smallest temple I've ever been in, hardly larger than a stake center, and it's all one level. It's one of the new designs where construction has been streamlined (shipping large precast concrete slabs to the site, ready to assemble), and of all the temples, it has taken the least amount of time to build to date. It is simple, but beautiful (I saved the pictures from the flier we got), and the kids were oohing over all the crystal sconces and chandeliers. The first ordinance room has a mural of the Gila Valley on the walls (not sure why this photo doesn't match what the mural really looks like; this area of Arizona is much more lone and dreary). There was a beautiful spirit there today, and I think the kids were aware that they were in a special place (I'm just inferring this because they were more patient and well-behaved than usual). I'm excited to have a temple slightly closer to us than Mesa, and if we could get family in the area to babysit, we'd only have to pay for 2 hours of sitting instead of 5!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Sandbox?

Right now the bed of our truck looks like a sandbox. I'm working on expanding my garden, so when I went to pick up the kids from my parents' (thanks Mom and Dad for watching them, AGAIN!), I stayed an extra day, and my mom helped me shovel and screen a load of sand to work into my soil (hooray for free stuff!). The sand won't get shoveled into the garden until tomorrow (I'm worn out for today), so in the meantime, the truck bed full of sand has provided an evening of unexpected fun for Bree and Mason. They were already filthy from playing in the dirt at Grandma's house, so I let them accumulate as much sand in their hair, shoes, underwear, and diaper as was humanly possible.
And yes, Bree is still wearing her nightgown. Am I embarrassed to admit that she's been wearing it for two nights and two days now? Maybe a little. But the fact that she adores the comfy nightgown that I sewed for her just makes my heart so happy. She doesn't want to wear anything else. I guess I'd better get started sewing the three other nightgowns I bought fabric for. Thankfully they are ridiculously easy to sew. I might have to make a few more for good measure, and let her wear them as play dresses. She is very particular about her clothes, and hates anything that isn't comfortable. Mason, however, is usually not picky about the style of his clothes. I do try to close his drawer quickly after I've grabbed whatever is on the top, or else he'll be pointing at something better that he's spotted. Tonight, before I could get the PJ drawer shut, he pointed, "Baseball!" So I grabbed the baseball PJs. But under that was the even more coveted, "Mih Mouse!" (Mickey Mouse). Thank goodness for small battles. It lets my children feel like they can win sometimes. Because sadly, despite their protests, tomorrow the sandbox will disappear. Sorry kids, but I'll be winning that one.

A Sneak Peek

Chad and I returned from our 6-day cruise to the Mexican Riviera on Saturday. We had an unforgettable time with Rob and Jaime. Here's just a tiny glimpse at what our week was like.

There was a little of this:

Some of this:

Not enough of this:
Way too much of this:And a delightful abundance of this:
More details to come...
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