Silly Women

So I need to vent and I'm going to do it here, for conversations sake of course- that is if anyone still reads this.
What the heck is with this "wear pants to church movement"??? It is driving me mental. I can admit there are some things about our church that make us different, a lot of them are more cultural than doctrinal, really truly. Tonight I am so happy that I don't live in Utah, or any of the places where the women who started this crazy facebook page live. I'm super extra happy with the fact that when I was in a leadership role over the women in our ward, we were able to basically tell the women "Wear whatever you want to church as long as it's your best and it's modest", I like that every activity didn't come with the mandate to wear a skirt. I like that we didn't have to stage a "pants protest" during sacrament meeting to let everyone know that "By golly we are not wearing skirts anymore, we are feminists and feminists wear pants!". Good gosh. The amount of eye-rolling I've done today has rivaled the total sum of the eye-rolling I did between the ages of 12-18, that's A LOT. My head hurts. What I have loved, and what I still love are the comments from women around the world, outside of the "cultural hub" of our church, their comments about how they wear pants/skirts/kilts/etc... and nobody says anything are so great.
Dear Utah church members, there is nothing in any current handbook that says women must wear skirts, I know because I had one of those blessed books and no man in his right mind would try to dictate that to a woman in this day and age, at least no man that I know. I go to church with lots of women that wear pants, or have worn pants. Heck I wear cotton tights with above knee-length dresses *gasp* and nobody says a word, are those tights not really pants? Any other day of the week they are... I know a few women who have worn dress pants because they have rowdy kids that they have literally had to crawl under and over pews to catch, and obviously a skirt isn't attire for dealing with kids that crazy. I know women that wear pants or even long skirts because they don't like showing their legs, or they really just hate skirts, had some traumatic experiences as children and will never wear a skirt again, etc... Who knows, but who really cares? Maybe in the bubble it's just another thing for people to nit-pick and criticize each other for, but where I come from if some wonderful lady wants to wear dress pants to church, I'm not judging her.
I don't think God expects any of us to come to church with some sort of agenda. I think He expects us to come to worship Him and His Son. Sacrament meeting, we've been reminded recently, is similar to a funeral service, in the fact that we're remembering our Savior and all that He did for us and continues to do for us. If for some reason it becomes a place for protest, don't you think that's a little disrespectful? If a bunch of women wear pants to church on Sunday, good for them. If the issue is reflective of a deeper concern on the part of a collective group of women, they should probably get together and find a way to reach out to church leadership, write some letters, talk to Bishops and Stake Presidents and use the channels that are there for communication, there are plenty. But please, don't pollute one of our most sacred rituals with your "pants protest". The fact that this is even happening is so silly since, once again, there's nothing anywhere that says you can't wear pants to church.
Rant completed.


Funny Conversations

Me: Kalea I like you, I think I'll keep you.
Kalea: Keep me? Okay but not in the dungeon, then my hair would be stinky.

Kalea: Mom what's that ring? (while tugging my engagement ring as if it might not be stuck on my finger)
Me: That's my special ring from Daddy when he asked me to marry him.
Kalea: And he cried? Boo hoo hoo
Me: Um no, not really.
Kalea: Oh, but you cried? Boo hoo hoo
Me: Well yes but not boo hoo crying it was more like happy crying.
Kalea: Oh happy tears... Boo haa haa?
Me: Totally like that

Kalea bawling her eyes out on the way home from Sunday dinner at our friends house: I want to say thank you!!! Sob sob I not want to go, i want to say thaaaaank you!
Me: You should've thought of that before you walked out the door and across the street to go trick or treating.
She will knock on doors and yell trick or treat until next october especially if the patio light is on.

At the beginning of the Disney movie Brave, Merida talks about changing her fate...
Kalea: Mommy I want to change my feets too, like Merida!

On the way to a Christmas party...
Me: Kalea can you see the temple on the hill over there?
Kalea: Yup!
Me: Who lives in the temple?
Kalea: Santa lives there with his reindeers and gives me presents!
Me: Silly girl, Santa lives at the North Pole with all his elves, remember? Who lives in the temple?
Kalea: Oh ya! Um... My prince is at the temple, he's waiting to marry me and then the scary dragons come...

Me: Kalea do you think you're getting a baby brother or a baby sister?
Kalea: Um, it's a baby sister.
Me: Oh, well Brynlee thinks it's a baby brother, why are you so sure it's a sister?
Kalea: Because I'm old.

I was browsing some kids clothes online the other day and noticed Kalea showing some interest, so I asked her if she liked a particular dress and she says, "Ummm, nope that's not for Kalea... Oh what about that one? That one is Kalea's". As if she knows what she likes, she's only 4?!?!?!

I got distracted before reading a book and Kalea thought she was being funny, it took me a long time to figure out she was saying
"Read the book dammit!" oh dear...


The One That Played Hard to Get...

I am so behind on this blog, mostly because I was feeling like I couldn't really post without alluding to this big excitement, and at the same time I was really worried that maybe it was all just a figment of our imaginations and somehow it just wasn't really true. It's been kind of a long couple of years in the baby department and I didn't want to be super upset if it wasn't for real.
I really couldn't tell you any magic secret except to say that when being on the pill stopped regulating my cycle, I felt like I needed to stop taking it. And then nothing happened, my cycle was still only 2 days long and we were thinking maybe that was it for us and any more kids. I was still thinking it would be good to get that referral to the fertility clinic to start that tediously long process of figuring out what the heck was going on, but decided to just wait a little longer, since nothing was happening.
For whatever reason I started asking other people how they managed with just the one or two they were able to have and putting out feelers to help me adjust, because there aren't guarantees that even the fertility clinic can solve the problem for you. Steve and I were both settling into the idea of our two girls and us- Steve being a lot more comfortable with the idea than I was, he encouraged me to go back to work, since we had some help with childcare and Kalea would be in school 3 afternoons a week.We joked that my plan to go back to work might "backfire", because last time I had done that I found out I was pregnant with Brynlee. So I decided to apply for my sisters reception job since she was leaving to go back to the States for school. I ended up getting the job, which I kind of wasn't excited about, but I was sort of looking forward to a break from the kids.
The week leading up to starting that job was awful, as we got closer to the day, I sobbed harder every night that I put the kids to bed, and I hadn't really cried like that um, ever, not even post partum. I worked one day and felt like that was really not a good fit for me or for the kids, even though we were in a really tight financial place. Anywho, the long and short of it is because I was going to work, we qualified for a really decent mortgage, then after one day I quit that job, Steve ended up quitting his job the next day and the mortgage is now kind of up in the air, so that weekend I went to the Dollarama and bought a $1.50 pregnancy test just to make sure I wasn't pregnant and it turns out that I was.
If I wasn't a person of faith I would think that was a cruel cruel joke, but it's been the hugest blessing. Steve's working regularly as his own boss, he's able to make a lot more money this way, and as awesome as it would be to be getting into a house right now, we're not too cramped quite yet. I wasn't wanting a 3.5yr gap between kids but now, knowing Brynlee's personality better, I can see that sometimes God's timing is a lot better than we think it is, and He knows what's best for us. I cannot imagine having a baby in the house right now, I would be a complete nutcase and Brynlee would be having major issues adjusting, she is a crazy person these days. By the time this baby comes, Kalea will be almost at the end of her school year and will have hopefully improved a lot with her speech and interpersonal skills, etc... and hopefully will have had her eye straightened. We'll have the whole summer to get to know this new little person and then in the fall Kalea will be in Kindergarten and Brynlee will be in Preschool 3x a week. We're so glad we live so close to school so we'll be able to walk without much of a hassle while it's still nice, and that Steve's able to have the flexibility to kind of set his own schedule enough to be able to at least help with shuttling little people around in the morning, etc...
Besides all of those great blessings, we are so SO thankful that the Lord has chosen to bless us with this answer to our pleadings with Him. Arriving at this pregnancy has taken a lot more out of me as a Mom than I really thought it could. There were some really negative thought processes happening for a while even knowing how much Heavenly Father loves us and has blessed us already. I still have a lot to learn and I'm grateful to have been able to feel His love through the process of working through those feelings/thoughts. What was really special to me was to finally feel like it was okay, accepting the situation and being happy with it and then being surprised with this blessing. We know and recognize the tender mercy that this is for our family, and we know that there are still unexpected things that could occur, you just never know what's coming, but we are grateful.
We are learning in our marriage and in our family, over and over again that our perspective has to be broader, that His will for us is greater than what we could conjure up for ourselves and that His timing works for our family SO WELL. We have no other choice but to trust Him and as we do, we see things clearer, we recognize Him more frequently and we have opportunities to grow in ways we didn't think we could, because we're allowing Him to work something in us.
We are especially thankful for the eternal family that we have and are hoping and praying for those close to us, who are struggling to have the opportunity to help influence and raise just one of these precious little people, through any avenue they can find. I hadn't ever had feelings of guilt about having kids or wanting more of them until I found myself pleading for just one more, knowing someone immediately close to us is pleading for it to happen just once. Now we add our pleadings to theirs and hope and pray that whatever their answer is, that it comes in the timing that's right for them, in the way that's best for their family.


Our Night at the Temple

There are few things in life that compare to the peaceful tranquility of spending time in the temple. This week Steve and I were able to take our girls INSIDE, for the open house of the new Calgary Temple. It's hard to put into words just how special that experience was.
Our ultimate goal in life isn't to convert a bunch of people to our faith, although that's a nice idea,
our goal is to be together as a family, forever.
The promises that we make in the temple help us to achieve that goal, through faithful obedience,
and hopefully our kids will want the same for themselves and their future families.
We loved being inside this holy place with our girls. We loved seeing Kalea's face light up as we explained different things to her. We loved watching her grab her sisters hand and walk the halls more reverent than we've seen her in the last 4yrs.
We loved the smiles on their faces as they spun in front of the mirror in the Brides Room,
where someday I'll help them into their "princess dresses". We loved hearing them chat to each other in the backseat on the way home, about how they love the temple, about the "sparkles" aka chandeliers, and hearing Kalea exclaim that she wants to go back.
Brynlee's take on it was a little different, she seems to think the temple is a castle and Jesus fights the dragons. She also thinks that the font in the baptistry is a pool and told us that she wants to go swimming at the temple... We have a little work to do on that one :)
If anything, we hope and pray that the girls remember the feelings they had inside the temple,
at one point I asked Kalea how her heart felt and she said "My heart is happy, Mom!"
It's true, in the temple our hearts are happy, if you haven't gone for a tour, I highly recommend it.


Thank You!

Kalea had her appointment at the hospital last week so we got to take in her birthday gifts for the Children's Hospital. I kind've spaced and didn't get a picture of her with the GIANT gift bag of toys, but the hospital did! It was really cute to watch her carry the bag up the stairs and put it up on the counter at the Foundation office. The ladies were so sweet and thankful, and when they asked Kalea about the bag she said very matter-of-factly "This presents is for the kids at the hopspital". Then they asked where she got the toys and she told them "For my birthday!", which totally made me a wee bit misty eyed. It was to die for cute. Thank you so much to all our friends and family, your donations are so greatly appreciated by us, but most importantly by the kids at the hospital. We've decided to leave our fund page open until Kalea's next birthday so if you ever have a hankering to make a donation to an awesome cause feel free to use her page to do so! www.childrenshospital.ab.ca/goto/Kalea.Stringham
What was so great about the actual process of giving was seeing Kalea so happy. It's hard to know if kids so young "get it", but this experience has taught me that she does. I was a little overwhelmed at how grown up she seemed and how much she understood. Later on we saw a little girl being wheeled around the hospital by her Mom, she had a feeding tube taped to her cheek going up through her nose and down into her stomach. Kalea asked what it was for and if she was okay, and Mom reassured her that she was just having her lunch through the little tube and that she was doing really well. It's sweet to see little kids so interested in each other, I'm hoping that Kalea learns to follow up with her own story too. Sometimes I feel like because she doesn't look "sick" people get annoyed by her questions, so we're trying to teach her that if she's going to notice something different about another kid there, she can tell them about her "funny eye". She also mentioned to the little girl that she brought presents to the hospital, so I think she was feeling pretty proud of herself.
Our appointment this time was with a doctor in Endocrinology. It was neat to see another wing of the hospital and for Kalea it's a lot easier to be well behaved when she's occupied with something new, so she loved finding the little table and chairs in the exam room. She felt pretty grown up and really, this appointment was a lot of talking amongst adults, so it was great that they had coloring stuff ready and waiting for her. She was weighed and measured and had a head to toe examination. They were really happy that she is in the 90th percentile for height/weight, it's a really encouraging sign that things are functioning normally. We still have to go and get all her bloodwork done which I am not looking forward to in any way. We will have to go first thing in the morning so that they can get an accurate measure of the hormones that they're looking for and to be honest, I don't know if I can stomach it, so that might be a daddy-daughter date. Needles are not my strong point in life. We are still in love with the doctor's at the Children's, they really are so interested in helping kids. They've referred Kalea to a pediatrician so they can make sure that she's being weighed and measured properly every 6mths and who will act as the point of contact for our whole team of physicians, we have a "case worker" who's in charge of referrals and test results, etc... She's the person we call if we don't hear from the doctors themselves and who can give us results, and she was super flattered that Kalea thought she was a doctor too. It's amazing how all these angel people just swoop in and take care of all the details. I leave each visit with about a million pieces of paper, and she noticed that I was kind've shoving everything into my purse and recommended this FREE binder that the hospital has that has spots for all the different info sheets, doctors cards, appointment sheets, test results/requisitions, referrals, etc... Bless her, she has saved my disorganized self from the nightmare of cleaning out my purse :) As a bonus, that day was the anniversary of "Annie's place" where siblings of sick kids can play while mom and dad take the sibling to an appointment, so they had cake and cookies, balanced out with some fruit of course. It was fun to reward Kalea with a little treat, she kept saying "Caaaaake? For my birthday?! Oh boy!" yes, she still thinks it's her birthday a month later :)


Let the Learning Begin!

I feel like I'm so far behind on this blog that I'm never going to catch up, so I'm not going to try too hard and I'm just going to start from where we are right now!
Kalea started Preschool 2 Fridays ago. I still find myself wondering what to do with myself and Brynlee in that two hour time span, mostly clean, but I find that Brynlee loves afternoon quiet time even when Kalea is home, so I get some reading done too, which is great!
Here's our big girl on her very first day of school! She was so excited to put her new school clothes on and wear her new shoes that we bought on vacation.

She let me do her hair without any fussing and was just SO excited to go, which was great. When we pulled into the parking lot, she finally showed a bit more of how she was feeling. Kalea says to me "Um, mommy, this is my school?" and I said "You bet it is!" and she says to me "Mommy, I'm scared!" But really, I think she was just nervous, when she's scared she usually starts to cry, and she did none of that! I signed her in and she met her teacher Ms. Sue and the classroom helper Ms. Julie, we found her name-tag which was thankfully her favorite color, green, so she let us pin it on and then it was time for me to go. That was a really odd feeling. Besides leaving her with grandparents/family or in Primary (the children's class at church) I've never really left her with complete strangers before. It's a good thing I had Brynlee to occupy me for those few hours because I might not have done so well if I had been all alone!
Kalea loves school. She is so excited when I come pick her up and I love that her teachers are so happy and excited to see her when I drop her off. They're a great fit for Kalea- it helps that one has a British accent, Kalea will listen to most people with an accent, so that's a plus!
We're also really excited for the help that is offered through the preschool. In Alberta, preschools can decide whether or not to have kids "assessed" at the beginning of the year to see if they're on track with their age group for motor skills, speech, etc... We've been increasingly aware of the fact that Kalea has a hard time with her speech and being understood, and were hoping that the assessments would happen right away and they did. The speech therapist was great and super patient with Kalea, it was hard for me not to laugh through some of Kalea's awesome behavior for her though! Part of the behavior, is a direct result of being frustrated with the testing, so we're excited to see how her behaviors change when she's able to understand and express herself more clearly. Kalea will get an aide in the classroom and at home for about an hour a day, which is great. We're excited to have some new friends and we're looking forward to seeing the progress that Kalea makes with their help this year. As always, we are extremely grateful for where we live in circumstances like this, knowing that we have access to funding and Kalea will be set with aides at no cost to us for at least the next year, it's a pretty huge blessing. Bonus points for Alberta Education!


Four Years Young

This little superstar turned 4 while we were on vacation! Kalea was so excited to be "on acation for my birthday!" Yes, she omits the "v" from vacation when she says it, too funny. Although the weather for her birthday turned out to be a little less than stellar, we had a lot of fun celebrating our 4 years of parenting Kalea. Here are 4 things we are loving about our fabulous 4 year old!

1. Kalea is turning into an awesome helper! If I'm washing dishes or doing laundry or cooking, Kalea is always right there saying "I want to help!", and she's actually a really good helper too! My favorite is when she sweeps the floor, she makes sure to sweep every last crumb into her pile and is always super proud of herself for it! She's also taken to helping Steve whenever he goes to wash the car or do something car related, she likes to be right in there with him, handing him wrenches or whatever he needs.

2. Kalea cares a lot about other people. No matter where we go, if she sees a baby crying or someone trip or drop something, she is always super concerned about them and usually runs over to help them. She is no respecter of persons, she'll help anyone. I'm pretty sure she was born with that instinct because I am sometimes a little slower to rush to someone's aid, I guess it's true that children are our greatest teachers.

3. Kalea loves animals. She is basically the dog whisperer and loves to watch people walking their dogs down our street and say hello to them . While on vacation she stopped every single dog owner we saw so that she could "make friends" with their dogs, we even met one from New York! Kalea is also a fan of cats/kittens. Before we left for vacation our neighbor got 2 new cats and Kalea has been asking for one ever since. The "mean" cat even lets Kalea hold her and cuddle her- so much for being mean! Kalea got to go horseback riding for the first time while we were in Montana. She was a natural and if you ask her how to make a horse stop she pulls on her imaginary reins while saying "whoa", it's pretty cute. She can be a little cautious around new things, but if it involves an animal, she warms up pretty quick, she wasn't one bit afraid of the horses.

4. Kalea loves to paint and color. A few weeks ago we had a thunderstorm so we drew pictures of the rain, etc... Kalea told me she was drawing a duck and I kind of glanced over to see if she was drawing her usual blobs, but it was indeed a duck! Proud mommy moment. She then told me she was making a duck-dog and added legs and a tail, sure enough it looks like a duck-dog. Kalea loves to have her art on the fridge and on the walls, anywhere that we can all see it so she can point out what she's made. It's fun to see her growing creatively, not just in her playing, but in her art too.

We are so happy with how Kalea is learning and growing, and the little person that she's becoming. We can't believe it's been 4yrs since she was born, it's gone by so fast. She is a great big sister and such a fun little girl to have in our home. We feel so blessed that she's ours and are excited to see what this year brings for her!

For Kalea's birthday this year she's forgoing gifts and fundraising for the Alberta Children's Hospital instead. A lot of people have been interested in helping us out and there's really not a whole lot that we need in regards to Kalea's condition, but we know a lot of kids at the hospital that need some extra loving. So, for the next month we're collecting new books and toys for the Children's Hospital which can be dropped off at our home, or you can make a donation via Kalea's fundraising page. At our next appointment we'll take all the books & toys to the hospital and Kalea will get her picture taken with one of those awesome giant cheques- she is very excited about that. To donate in Kalea's honor, click on the link below!



I think we all go through life weaving in and out of each others lives so intricately, that it's hard to see where one story ends and where another begins. I know that there are people who are meant to stay in your life as permanent fixtures, and some who are meant to drift in and out every so often. What I'm appreciating so much lately is having the clarity of mind that I do about who exactly I want to be here, as the permanent fixtures. There have been times in the past when that has been so confusing, but now it's just so clear and I feel like the "adult filters" have kicked in. Maybe it's the objectivity and perspective that comes with growing out of the drama of high school/pre-marriage, but I feel like there is a huge difference in how I assess people's intentions and the sensitivity of my b.s. radar. I also know what I need out of a friendship or any other relationship now, better than I've ever known it before. Ready for it? All that I require out of anyone is honesty. In fact I can't think of another single thing that I need out of a friendship more than that. Isn't that weird? Probably not, but indulge me. It's occupied a lot of my time lately, this thinking about honesty and assessing whether or not I'm being transparent in how I deal with the people in my life.I recently chose to follow up with my end of a friendship pact to give an honest opinion about something if my radar went up, based on the information I had been given by the party involved. The day came and I tried to avoid the full blown bearing of my soul, but the person asked for it and when they got it, they were super defensive and angry because, apparently, the information they had given me was so little that I "know nothing about anything", etc... What I realized in all of that was, it's so much easier to handle things like adults when we're all just honest about stuff, even just basics. I don't feel like friends are people who I like to hide things from, and I don't want my friends to feel like they have to hide anything from me. I don't have any desire to know full blown details, but friends generally share enough bits and pieces to give a full picture of a given situation, so when they're looking for help, they can get some sage advice. I want those permanent fixtures in my life to know they can trust me, and I want to know that I can trust them, but I also want the same for those people that come in and out. I can't offer more than that and I can't expect less. Nothing gets me more riled up than when someone is dishonest with me. I think I've been learning this honesty thing for a while, and I suspect this lesson is so important that it won't be stopping anytime soon. I haven't always been super honest with people and I see that the fruits of that have been pretty bad, people haven't always been honest with me and the fruits have been equally bad.This is all just a huge heads up in case anyone else in confused, HA.
Another thing I learned from this enlightening conversation is that my life has "been a breeze compared to" this other persons. I hope all my friends know that I would never in a million years ever think that on my own, but I want to speak openly to that particular point. I don't think that way, because I know some of the struggles that friends have had and I certainly know full well the struggles that I've had, but I understand why I get this life and they get that one. If my life appears "charmed" or "breezy" to anyone else, that's fine, I'll take it. The charming parts of my life are a direct result of choosing to surround myself with phenomenally great people, therefore, I have been able to have a stable network of people to bounce my crazy ideas off of. I've chosen to stay pretty open with everyone because I see the benefit of being honest with people who I know to be of sound character. I think and rather, I know, that it is dangerous to distance yourself from people who have been there for you through various stages of life experiences because those people know me well enough to see when I'm about to get hit by a freight train. I want people in my life who can help me check my ego at the door and call me on my crap and give me an honest dose of reality sometimes, because I've run into situations in life when I've really needed that. These are the same people who are genuinely happy to share in the awesome moments with me, and I won't apologize for how blessed my life has been because of these friends. If this life is as much about choices as they teach us at church every Sunday, then I feel really good about the ones I've made in regards to who's walking through life with me. I don't believe that this life is meant to be a singular venture, I don't believe that the only important relationship in this life is the one I have with my spouse, or with myself or with God. I am pretty dang sure that Jesus had at least 12 good friends to walk through life with, who He trusted and counted on so much that even in His death He knew He could ask one of them to take care of His own mother,  I think that's a clear indication that friendship is important. I am not perfect at this but I choose to cultivate those relationships because it's so rewarding and makes the burdens of my life so much lighter and the joys so much greater. There are a lot of friendships in my life that are very maintenance free right now, they kind of have to be while we're all raising small kids and live apart, but, we can sit down and pick up right where we left off and then we can go our separate ways for a few months and come back and do it all again. There's a lot of trust and honesty and understanding in those friendships, it's never awkward to sit down with those people and I like that feeling. I want that feeling in every relationship that I have. I don't ever feel the need to know everything about anything when it comes to those friendships because we share all those important good and bad things freely with each other. That's kind of what friends do. I hope I never lose sight of that.
Simultaneously weaving in and out.


Some Summer- A very long post

Pictures and stories from July 2012~ This has been one very full month!

1. Canada Day Long Weekend
Steve had to make his way up to Ft. McMurray after the long weekend, so we thought it'd be fun to take the kids to visit friends and family in Edmonton. It was great timing for a little break from our everyday life and we loved all the time we got to spend with people we love!
 Kalea has this new "thing" she does whenever I try to take pictures of her in her bathing suit, she does all these poses??? I have no idea where she learned any of these because the only magazines in our house are of the home & garden variety, and the only tv she watches is of the kid-friendly cartoon variety. Anyways, we all have natural talents right? LOL

We spent all day Saturday at Wizard Lake with Steve's uncle Wilf and his family, and Opa brought his boat out too! Kalea went for her very first tube ride, and Brynlee was a complete "water wimp" and freaked out too much to even make an attempt at a boat ride. She is such a girl sometimes.
 Really, this day of boating was all for Steve, the only time he got out on the water last year was at our family reunion, and it was short lived, so he's been crying about that for the last year. I'm glad his need for water time was fulfilled if only so I don't have to hear about it anymore :P
*Sidenote* Going to the lake is so different as a Mom, as in, it's a nice change of scenery but still a heck of a lot of work, am I right? I still had fun, but gone are the days of carefree sunbathing while Steve has his fun in the water...sigh...

The night that I arrived in Edmonton (Steve brought the girls up on the Thursday night and I came the following day) we met my best friend and her little family down at Kinsmen for some playtime. It was so fun to watch our kids play together and have fun at a place where we have so many of our own fun memories. Brynlee was dead asleep when we arrived so Steve plopped her in a swing and she gradually woke up (see bottom right picture), poor girl had no clue where she was in that moment, but she was real happy to be in the swing and I think she probably tried every single swing at the park that night. Crazy kid.

2. Calgary Stampede 100th Birthday
Early this spring I mentioned that it would be fun to go to the chuckwagon races and the grandstand show since in 7yrs Steve and I had never actually gone to any of the actual Rodeo part of the Stampede. My brother and sister had never been either, so Dad got us all tickets to go. It was awesome to get to see some of the action, and really that's what the Stampede is all about, that and mini-donuts, I am a sucker for those and they did not disappoint. This year, the grandstand show featured Paul Brandt and I found myself completely enthralled by the performances that accompanied each of the songs that he sang. It was really well thought out and well executed on all levels and I was super impressed. When he sang "Alberta Bound" I got chills, it was amazing to hear it live, in a crowd of people who "get-it" and I felt really proud and blessed that this is where I come from.
The best part about Stampede this year were the amazing fireworks displays that they put on at the grounds and 4 or 5 different locations throughout the city. So fri/sat/sun nights of the Stampede we got a great view of fireworks right from our deck! Pretty awesome! We don't know how we'll ever find such a perfect location if we ever move from here, we are SO lucky!

3. Cousin Time
This year Serena and her family moved from Edmonton to Raymond, but it was a long process full of stops in Calgary, Hawaii, Arizona and finally Raymond. The kids really missed their cousins, it's cute because they randomly ask for them, but sad when you have to explain that they are too far away for a visit. Skype is sure a lifesaver when families are all over the place! This day was so hot, the kids spent the majority of it outside playing and splashing in Oma and Grandpa's backyard. It was great and we're happy that our cousins are just a 2hr drive away now!
Some things that I've noticed about the girls lately... Kalea is starting to assert herself as the big sister and is letting Brynlee get away with less, becoming a little bit bossy, and definitely starting to play the blame game. Brynlee is very good at being the second child, she likes to make us laugh and get extra attention whenever and however she can, she loves to bug her big sister and reacts overreacts to EVERYTHING. They are getting a lot better at sharing and are starting to care more about each others feelings, in fact, Brynlee usually brings Kalea one of her toys as a peace offering when she apologizes for something. Kalea has a soft spot for her sister and when I explain that something Kalea has done has hurt Brynlee's feelings, she gets really sad about it. Being kind is a big deal around here. They are really good girls and love each other so much, they don't like to be separated for very long and when they are, they talk about the other sister almost the entire time! They also won't go to bed without each other, I've tried to send one or the other to bed early for disobeying around bedtime, etc... only it doesn't work so well because they start crying so bad for the other that it just becomes a huge tear-fest that no mama wants to deal with at that part of the day. Needless to say I feel bad for anyone who tries to wedge their way between these girls, they'll definitely have their work cut out for them!
That pretty much wraps up our July, next post we'll have to share all the fun of an all-day 4yr old birthday party- I'm still recovering from it and it wasn't even for my kid!


Probable Diagnosis

I'm trying to wrap my mind around how quickly our "probable diagnosis" came. It was about 5 minutes after I wrote my last post about how fun it is NOT, to see your kids go through hard stuff like being knocked out for an MRI. We have a "probable diagnosis" of something called Septo-Optic Dysplasia. I've waited to post or really talk about it because I needed a few days to get some basic research done. It's not life-threatening or anything, so we're really happy about that, but we're sad about some of the "not so fun" parts. Kalea has 2 of the 3 markers confirmed, and has been referred to Endocrinology to be tested for the 3rd, hopefully in the next few months. 1 in 10,000 births are affected by this disorder, so it's not super rare, but rare enough that scientists don't know much about the how/why it occurs, because it's almost completely sporadic, not hereditary, the mutated genes are recessive and in most cases both parents have to be carriers of a recessive gene in order for it to present, but there are almost no incidences of it occurring twice in the same family. That's crazy weird! If you hadn't noticed, this is all really fun for my inner science nerd, so if you're annoyed with all the biology of it, scientific terms and explanations, probably skip this post :) Also, I am 1,000,000% thankful for my Bio30 teacher, who 10yrs ago gave me my first glimpses of how amazing the human body is, and explained things so well that a lot of this stuff isn't foreign to me. All those diagrams that she made us learn and flashcards she gave us to help us study have all stuck with me and are making this all a lot less traumatic, I need to write her a thank you note.
Okay, here's kind of a brief summary of the markers we have and the one we're looking for,
1. Optic Nerve Hypoplasia: We've learned that the optic nerve in Kalea's left eye is underdeveloped ie. much narrower than her right, this means that instead of having over a million nerves/connections happening she has far less. This also means that the optic disc of that eye is much smaller than if it had developed normally, therefore it has a harder time processing images/focusing and that's why her eye wiggles or sometimes is very turned. Our next eye appointment will be all about what we can do to straighten/help that eye out. We know for sure that it is somewhat functional so we're confident that we have a great team to help us manage that part of things.

2. Missing Structure in the Brain: From what we understand from our phone meeting with the doctor, her brain looks great, but it is missing the septum pellucidum which is a membrane that separates the fluid filled ventricles of the brain. A lot of people are actually missing this structure and don't even know it, although it can be a contributing factor to certain behavioral disorders ie. ADD/ADHD- which if you know Kalea at all, we were already pretty sure we might end up dealing with anyway. Our job now will be really focusing our time and energy on figuring out which learning methods work best for her, keeping her focused when she needs to be and putting in some extra effort to reinforce the things that she does learn- like any parent does. This will hopefully speed up our referral to the Neurologist so that they can do some on-going testing to make sure that we're on pace with where Kalea needs to be, and so we can figure out what resources are out there for her if she needs them. In the picture below you can see the septum pellucidum- the dangly yellow part in the middle of the mint green- that's the part that Kalea doesn't have, so interesting.

3. Pituitary Hypoplasia: This is kind of the "big deal" of everything, and the thing we're worried most about figuring out how to manage, if she happens to have this marker. The pituitary gland works hand in hand with the hypothalamus and the thyroid to produce hormones that help the body grow, reproduce and create energy aka metabolize. If it's underdeveloped, Kalea will need hormone replacement therapy for the rest of her life, in order for her body to function normally. She'll be tested on a very regular basis for the growth hormones because they are the ones produced in the pituitary, and although at this point in her life she is pretty ahead of most kids her age growth wise, that could slow down at any time, so they monitor it really closely, and when it slows, we'll get to play doctor 6nts a week giving her at home injections. I can only imagine how fun that will be for us since I'm severely nervous around needles and Steve is not home for bedtime on a regular basis. Oy! In many cases, they can get a person to just a few inches shorter than what they would have predictably been, so that's exciting, since we've had nurses at immunizations tell us Kalea could end up being over 6ft tall, we'd be happy with 5'9 or 5'10, then I won't look so short next to at least one of my kids!
Anyways, that's kind of the disorder in a nutshell. Now we have a good idea of what we're dealing with and how to manage it, and we just wait to start the slew of specialist appointments that are sure to follow.
On a kind of related note, the Kinsmen Lotto is selling tickets throughout the summer, to raise funds to purchase a Next Generation DNA Short Sequencer, for the Alberta Children's Hospital. The sequencer helps doctor's identify genes that are responsible for pediatric disorders and can help doctor's tailor treatment specifically to the patient, it helps ease fears for families dealing with these disorders and gets the ball rolling faster on treatment plans. If you're able, it's a great cause to donate to, and you could win some awesome prizes! We love the Alberta Children's Hospital and know that Kalea, and many others are benefiting from awesome donations that have already made it possible for them to get access to amazing medical staff, and state of the art diagnostic equipment, in our case, an MRI that she otherwise might have had to wait much longer for. We are so SO grateful and feel so blessed to know exactly what we're dealing with and how to treat it and there are so many other families who don't, so we're going to try to be as proactive as possible for them too. We have some really fun ideas so stay tuned!
Cutest smoothie mustache I have EVER seen!



This has been an exciting few days for Kalea and us. On Friday Dr.Cooper called us after her office hours, to ask some more "general health" questions and she said to me, "I'll re-submit this so they'll probably look at it on Monday and then it'll be in the next few weeks that they call", sounded great to me. Steve was going to Ft. McMurray for the week, so I figured, "Oh good it'll still be a few weeks, so we don't have to worry." I was wrong. I got the call last Monday around lunchtime "Hi, is this Kalea's Mom? We'd like to have you come for her MRI tomorrow, is that okay?" Of course it's okay, but after I got off the phone I was in a bit of a daze, but snapped out of it pretty quickly when I realized Steve would need to come home. We did joke around before he left that he should probably just stay home since with our luck they'd call while he was away, I just didn't realize that our joking could possibly be a reality. We are feeling like a bit of an anomaly in the health world because of the speed at which things are going, but I think it's another evidence of God's care and concern for us in this particular situation, and we are so grateful. There have been, and continue be small miracles in this situation every day. It was really important to Steve and I that we both be there for the major parts of Kalea's treatment, I can do the doctor appointments on my own, but dealing with her when she's scared is more up Steve's alley, since he's not a super emotional person. We appreciate that he was able to turn around and come home almost as soon as I had gotten off the phone with him. Our appointment was made for lunchtime on the Tuesday, which made me nervous because Kalea loves to eat and snack throughout the morning. We tried to fill her up on Monday night and then she was cut off from clear fluids at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning. I was relieved that Brynlee woke up quietly and I was able to get her fed without Kalea being awake. Kalea slept in, I was actually scared that she'd sleep past 9 and not get her apple juice in, so I sent Brynlee to wake her up at 8:45! She NEVER sleeps in that late unless she's really sick, so we were sure happy to have time to get things organized and ready to go that morning without much complaining about hunger. She didn't really notice that she was hungry until we went to drop Brynlee off at our friends' house, so that was pretty awesome, and it was easy to tell her "You'll get a popsicle at the hospital" and distract her from the hunger pains.
She was pretty funny that morning, she insisted on bringing her little dear and her pocket-size Book of Mormon, in fact, she was pretty attached to both those things and she made me run inside before we left so I could grab her book. It's amazing to me how kids get so adamant about bringing specific things with them sometimes, but I'm glad that those specific things helped her feel calm. They were both great distractions while we were waiting and she was really serious about weighing and measuring them and obviously took her role as "nurse" quite seriously. We had explained to her that she would be receiving "magic fairy dust" to help her sleep so the doctors could take pictures of her brain and her eyes, so the idea of that was pretty neat to her. She was pretty enamored when Dr. L (the anesthesiologist) came into the room to prep us. Nurses in scrubs don't phase her, but as soon as he came in and started talking everything was "Yes doctor" and "Um, doctor can I have a popsicle?" etc... Somehow she was able to discern the difference between him and the nurses and she was willing to do whatever he asked. He told us that it might be a traumatic experience- and I've had friends see their kids get put to sleep for different procedures, so I kind of knew what to expect, but not really. At the doorway of the anesthesiology room, Kalea stopped and said "Um, no thanks doctor, I don't need magic sleepy dust, I'm fine" which was our first indication that she knew something was up. She wouldn't lie down on the table, so we sat her on the edge, close to the equipment so she could see what it was, etc... I haven't ever seen her so scared, her whole body was chattering, I've never seen her knees knocking quite so hard, and when she saw the mask? Forget it. They had her choose a "flavor" to coat the mask with so it smelled nice, but you wouldn't know it from her reaction. It took a nurse laying across her legs and Steve holding her arms to get her still enough to get the mask over her nose and mouth and she freaked right out. That SUCKED. If I had to do that without Steve there I would've been a hysterical mess. It only took 3 huge screams to knock her out, but then she was making these awful noises that they warned me about but are nothing close to what I expected. And then you give your kid a kiss on the cheek and walk away? It was the most awful feeling in the world, except that I trust all those people who I was leaving her with immensely. So I cried a bit on my way out the door, but Steve was awesome and just kept me moving which helps the tears go away since I didn't want to be walking around the hospital crying when, to the best of my knowledge, my child isn't sick like so many other peoples' children at the Children's Hospital. It's a really sobering feeling, to think of what so many families are going through there, and yet, you see all these happy faces, even the obviously very sick kids have the HUGEST smiles on their faces. So it didn't take me very long to snap out of that sad moment. On our way out they gave us a buzzer- you know, the kind you get when you're waiting for a table at a restaurant- so that made us laugh. We had a decent lunch and played a few games and went back to wait. The nurse who helped hold Kalea's legs was just heading out when we sat down so we chatted for a bit, and she gave us an update on where Kalea was and helped me feel better about the tears, haha. Nurses are great. We were so excited when our buzzer went off- way ahead of schedule from what they had told me on the phone. She spent a bit longer in the scan than they expected so they woke her up- they usually wait until they start waking up on their own, so that was pretty funny, I asked her how that went and she said "Oh that was fun, she definitely didn't want to wake up". Kalea loves her sleep that's for sure.

She was totally out of it when we got to the recovery area. No eye contact, very lethargic, in a completely different world that's for sure. She would randomly snap out of it though and say things like "I smell watermelon!" "Where's my flip flops?" "Where's my book?" etc... so we had some great laughs. She also refused to recline, so she was leaning quite a bit- you could really tell that the room must've been "spinning" in her mind. She ate her popsicle slower than she's ever eaten anything, the longest, slowest licks- she usually chomps them down really fast, so that was new for us. We had to remind her to keep eating and eventually the nurse was like, "Well Ms.Kalea, I think I'm going to trade you the popsicle for some apple juice to take home, you've been here long enough" LOL We were definitely happy to leave but Kalea was 100% uncooperative, she didn't want Steve to carry her at all and refused to sit in the wheelchair, so after writhing and wiggling through the hospital, Steve set her down to walk on her own. I haven't had much experience taking care of drunk people, but I had flashbacks to a few moments in life where the person really wants to walk and you're trying to just make sure there are no obstacles in their way and guide them on a fairly straight path back to the car. It was sure stressful! She also went through all the drunk emotions, super out of it then really nice, then super uncooperative and angry, then she wanted Brynlee so desperately she started crying, then when we picked Brynlee up she wanted nothing to do with her, etc... then we got home and she screamed that she didn't want to come home and screamed "I want NANA'S HOUSE! I am SO MAD!" The rollercoaster of emotions lasted until about 45 minutes after we got home, party. I was so happy when that was over. They said she'd be mellow for the rest of the day... ahem... she was completely back to normal once her emotions leveled out, I was happy but sad that she didn't want to cuddle with me.
That's pretty much MRI day in a huge nutshell. The doctor will probably have results this week and hopefully we have our appointment moved up so we don't have to wait until August to find out how things went. Thanks for all the love and prayers and offers of help, we appreciate it more than we could ever express.


Call Me Maybe... But If I Don't Answer, Leave a Message

Just a bit of a "first world" rant, if you will. Can someone please explain to me, why, with all of these fantastic technological advancements, nobody leaves actual VOICEMAIL on my phone??? It is driving me insane, if you call and I don't answer please LEAVE A MESSAGE. I hate checking the caller ID and seeing a bunch of missed calls and then wondering, hmmm do I call back and do the lame-o "Hi I see that you called me today, did you need something?" I thought voicemail was created to solve this problem... Sometimes I feel like nobody calls me except my Mom and my husband, and on most days that's actually true, so imagine the joy of coming home from a busy day and seeing names on the caller ID that are out of the norm and then the deflation that happens when you realize, I guess they didn't want to talk to me... sad day guys, sad day.
K, and just a funny tidbit from the dating years...
Once upon a time a girl gave a guy her phone number at a party to which she did not bring her phone, then the guy called her a zillion times over the course of a few days. The girl being somewhat of an, um, airhead, wondered who in the world from a 403 number would be calling her? It took a few days for her to just answer the call, and finally figure out who the heck was calling her, the rest is fairytale history, BUT a voicemail sure would've gotten the romance ball rolling a few days sooner. Just sayin'.


Eye Update

Well we had another appointment at the Children's Hospital yesterday. I can't believe we've been trekking out there for over 6 months now? Time flies. Kalea was so well behaved while we were there and I found myself noticing how much she's changed just since our visit in March. She was SO friendly with everyone, the staff and all the other patients and their mom's. Her favorite conversation starter lately is "What are you doing here?" and she used it lots yesterday. We kind of love going there, someday when her vision is all sorted out I think we're really going to miss seeing all those friendly faces. We lucked out and even got to see the hospital "I.T." guy bring in some new computers, which all the kids were pretty interested in. When we went to the exam room Kalea knew right where to go sit and says to Heather(optologist), "Now you get the dragon toy"- because they put these little dollar store toys on their lights so the kids will follow it, etc... pretty hilarious that she even remembered the dragon, luckily there was one in this particular room or I'm sure we wouldn't have had a very good visit. She cooperated really well for all of the "eye games" that we played and she even let Heather patch each eye individually this time to get a more accurate reading on her vision in each eye separately. That was HUGE, she's never cooperated very long for that, so we were all thrilled that she left it on and was fairly focused on what we wanted her to do. When she was done that part of the exam she was sitting in the big exam chair and I realized how much she's grown, she wasn't looking so small in it and then the following happened:
Kalea: What are you doing?
H: I'm writing my notes about how you did with your games today.
K: Oh...Heather?
H: Yes Kalea?
K: I love you Heather. (biggest squinty smile ever)
H: (all of a sudden much perkier than before) You are SO sweet Kalea, thank you!

This girl just melts me lately.

Anyways, we were grateful that we didn't have to wait nearly as long as we normally do this time around and while we waited Kalea just sat nicely beside me and ate her snack and then curled up next to me on one of the couches. This is SO not how she normally behaves, but it was so nice. We went in to see Dr.Cooper and talked about the drops we've been doing and there's no real big change in her vision in the bad eye since our last visit, so we can stop those now. It's kind of nice to not have to battle it out with her every day to do those anymore, she's starting to really not like them which is another sign that we've probably topped out at how much they're actually helping her. Patching isn't going to help things at this point either so we don't have to do that. So we are moving forward with what I guess are the first steps in the actual correction of the position of the eye. Our doctor has put us on the cancellation list for an MRI so they can get a look at what's happening with the nerves of the eye. This is a huge relief for two reasons, one being that I have been curious since the ultrasound I had with her when they freaked me out and pointed out some things in the brain that could've led to huge genetic disorders that she wouldn't have survived, and two because I've been feeling the need to speed things up for the last little while. We're lucky that we live in the city and we're especially lucky that we have the doctor that we do. She wasn't willing to just throw us on a 6mth waiting list and put us on the cancellation list because we can get the MRI in the next 2mths that way. She also asked me about Kalea's tics because the more "neurological type symptoms" that she can identify the faster we can get up the list. This is all great stuff for Kalea, and again, just more evidence of how aware of our situation Heavenly Father really is. All my prayers from the night before were answered and when the doctor was asking if I was really okay with all of this I couldn't help but smile and tell her that it was exactly the direction for treatment that we were hoping for. She gave us the option of a CT scan but because of the amount of radiation involved and the fact that Kalea would have to be in a super cooperative mood to hold still for us, we opted for the MRI. The MRI is great for so many reasons, they'll get the clearest pictures possible, she'll be "put under" so it won't be a scary experience, and lucky for us, they just got a new MRI at the Children's so she'll be going somewhere familiar to her, they'll give us 48hrs notice and we'll have the results by our next eye appointment in August, the week before her birthday.
I'm not immune to the thoughts of dread or fear that come along with having Kalea have an MRI. We're hoping for the best and that it really is just a weak nerve or something, but at the same time, the more research we do about these things the more possibilities that there are, and I have a sneaking suspicion that Dr. Cooper is curious to see if there might be more to this than just a vision problem and she's just not saying it yet. She asked me some interesting questions yesterday, so if everyone wants to join us in some prayers to get the MRI sooner rather than later- just in case there is something scary in there, we'd really appreciate it.
Until then we are just enjoying the weather (when the sun appears) and keeping ourselves busy with playdates and trips to the park/lake/temple (see below!)



I've been missing writing for a while now, not just writing about kids and daily events but actually writing with a purpose. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I've been going through all my old high school/college essays, and just missing school in general. It's kind of nice having someone hand me a book to read and then asking me a thought provoking question to answer in so many words/pages. I feel so weird sometimes. Anyways, I've thrown around lots of ideas for how to force myself to write more and people have suggested getting paid for blogging, etc... So I've been researching and all that fun stuff, haha and lo and behold, I don't write enough! As in I've approached some agencies and they like what they see but they want you blogging 20x in 90 days, minimum. So that's good to know now, I wish I had known that, oh I dunno, when Kalea was 1ish and I was blogging like a maniac about all her craziness almost every other day! So if anyone has any suggestions for things they'd like to read about, besides my children and their daily activities, please feel free to share your ideas with me. It'll be a fun "summer project" for me, right?


Bikram Kicks My Butt

Oh boy, last nights class was my first in a while and it dang near killed me. I have forgotten a few things about Bikram, haha or about how to prepare for it, I do this often with a lot of various activities.

Anyways, the mistakes are as follows:
I didn't eat enough yesterday
I didn't drink enough yesterday
I forgot how stinkin' hot that room can really be
I wore way too many clothes
I closed my eyes too much
I forgot my positive self-talking
I got stupidly frustrated with myself
I could not get my knees to participate properly in the locked position, seriously.
I forgot that it's hard, mentally and physically
I wasn't in the moment enough

BUT that being said, here are the good things:
I actually showed up like I said I was going to
I stayed in the room the whole time, even when I felt like I might puke/pass out/die
I left the house really early and got a solid 2+hrs of relative peace and quiet
While my first class may have been WAY easier, part of that was because I was so out of shape that my muscles were happy to be moving whatever which way I told them to go. This time my body was fighting me- but that's because I've been working it hard, and the muscles don't want to be stretched even though they desperately need it. Signs of progress!
I realized just how dehydrated my body was because I have been slacking at drinking all the water that it needs, so today has been all about refueling and bathroom breaks, Kalea keeps asking me what I'm doing every single time I go to the bathroom, I guess she's not used to me being in there that much besides to help her
My body feels much looser today than it has in weeks- huge blessing since everything has been feeling so tight- and when I say everything I mean from the top of my head to my toes, it's been crazy.
I had the absolute BEST, DEEPEST, MOST RESTFUL sleep that I've had in a looooooong time and didn't mind the girls waking us up at 6:15 as much as I normally do.
There's a palpable quiet after a class, when everyone is just sitting/cooling off in the hallway, it's kind of interesting to observe, those who are speaking, speak in hushed tones and it's not just quiet, it's reverent in the way that I think we talk about at church but, at least for me, I never feel like I actually achieve it, except after yoga- probably because I have no kids screaming/trying to run all over
When I leave the studio and walk out into the cool evening air I feel grateful for that experience, I just don't get that after any other kind of workout
My head feels more clear/alert/aware
I have almost mastered the floor series half of the class- which is great because that part of the class goes by SO fast when you know what you're doing and it involves a lot of just laying, relaxed on your back- which I am an expert at :)

And I will go again and probably love/hate it a little more and maybe get my butt kicked a lot more, but there's some weird part of me that likes the challenge so don't feel too bad for me!


Photo Books

I've had a few questions about the photo books that I've had printed, and I figured I'd give my opinions with what little knowledge I have about them. So far I've used Kodak, Shutterfly and Blurb.

To be honest the Blurb books I did seemed really over-priced for what they were- soft cover 8x8 and hard cover 8.5x11, I think. One was a gift for my brother while he was on his mission, since he missed Kalea's first year of life. I put some time into it, actually more time than I should have, and when he brought it home and I actually got to see the finished product, I was a little steamed about it, but such is life. I didn't really edit any of the photos and I found the colors to be dark and not as vibrant. Maybe I missed something in the process, but that was really disappointing. The hardcover one was a little bit better because I made sure to lighten everything in Picasa, but it didn't auto-save the last minute changes that I made and so it shipped in a less desirable format, but I was also rushed in doing that one and didn't have the best quality photos, etc... So meh, it was a learning experience and I'm glad I used that site to teach me because it's made all others seem way easier :P
Blurb is also the only company that I've ever paid full-price for a photobook from. They don't have as many, as frequent, or as good deals as some other companies, but I hear that they are really good to use for printing "Blog books", I have zero experience with that though. Also, they don't have tons of options for embellishing your page, but they have some cute background choices.

I actually didn't mind Kodak. It was REALLY easy to use, but didn't really have any bells and whistles. So if you want to just get your photos in a book, this is a great option. I did mine VERY last minute because I had a coupon that was expiring so I made really simple collages in Picasa and uploaded them to the Kodak site and then auto-filled the book and added simple captions. Kalea is looking at it in the above photo.
I also like using Kodak because they ship to a FutureShop near you, so I just went there to pick it up and it was SO fast, I'm pretty sure it was only a week. My coupon was also for a FREE book. I think all I paid was a few dollars for the shipping to the store. That was probably my favorite part of the whole thing.

I am addicted. I have so many books started with these guys. I love that there's almost always a good deal 30-50% off all the time? Sign me up. I made a really nice 12x12 book (pictured with Brynlee above) and was quite happy with the result, I used a 50% off coupon, so with shipping to Canada it was still under the regular book price.
Some of the photos that weren't the greatest quality turned out pretty decent and they have so many different backgrounds and embellishments that it seems kind of silly to use anyone else anymore. It satisfies the scrapbooking side of me and I like having so much control over what the end product looks like. There is an auto-fill option that I might try if we ever get really nice family pictures done, but most of the books that I'm doing require a lot of attention to detail as far as chronological order goes so I've only used that option so far. I also like the different color ways that they use and I'm a huge fan of all the different fonts. And it's easy to use. And they are always getting new themes, so it's fun to have a real choice between a theme like "Baby" and "Family" or for mother's day they had more modern options and more traditional/flowery options. I like that a lot. I like Shutterfly a lot. Can you tell?
Compared to other companies I think this is the most value for your dollar that I have found so far. I also like their options for cards, etc... not that I've used them for that yet, but I know many people that have/do frequently. I totally understand why.

Anywho, that's basically all I know about these companies in a nutshell. Hopefully that helps if people were looking for opinions on them!


I Hate Censoring Myself

Of late I've come to the realization that I've been censoring a lot of personal opinions in the last few years, maybe not on the blog, but definitely in "real life". It's annoying me and causing me to wonder where the heck all my fearlessness went? Ugh. Maybe that's part of being an adult? Choosing when and where to voice said opinions? I kind of miss not caring so much what people think or how they would react to what I have to say. Maybe that's why blogging is so cathartic for me, in the sense that I can get it out and feel comfortable knowing that most of the people who read this at least for the most part, understand where I'm coming from and actually know me, and love me anyway. There's a safety in that I guess. Maybe I need to make an effort to foster opportunities to have these conversations more often on a smaller scale... Anyways.
We were having an interesting discussion at church last week about being unified, and an individual made reference to the birth rates in the US (and they're similar in Canada) that half of all births are to un-wed/single mothers. The question was posed "What can we do to effectively help decrease that?" and right away I turn to Steve and say "Start pushing the use of birth control, or maybe teach how to use it for it's intended purpose and not just for helping teenage girls clear up their acne?" and Steve turns to me and says "Say it" and I didn't. And I didn't because I was scared of the reaction I would get, but I honestly think that's the most logical way to help the problem. I don't think teaching "abstinence as the only way" is working, in fact there's a lot of evidence in the world that it isn't working at all. There were lots of fluffy answers about teaching our children that sex is sacred and only to be used within the bonds of marriage, etc being unified in teaching that message in our homes, etc... and that's all great, but can we just jump outside of that box for a minute and realize that a great deal of kids that hear that message still find themselves caught up in those emotion-filled moments and 9mths later... So I don't completely buy into it, and I don't think it's fair to our kids to only teach them that one-side of the equation. I remember my Dad telling me, "The only thing you need to do with the pill is put it between your knees and squeeze" which was a light way for him to deal with a heavy subject I guess, but really? Sex talk: check. Can you imagine his horror when he found out I was ingesting it to help with my teenage acne??? That was a fun day, "They're prescribing birth control to manage teenage acne? Oh. My. Gosh." I dunno, sometimes the idealistic tendencies of grown-ups bothers me, especially that the older I get, the more I am viewed as a "grown up". Yes, ideally people wouldn't have sex outside of marriage, but they do, so why don't we stop pretending that it doesn't happen and start being more proactive? Am I the only person who sees it this way? I think I have more moderate tendencies in some areas, this being one.
Rant complete. Discussion to begin in comments shortly, I'm sure.


March & April

I feel like I'm not writing much lately, and it's true. I'm not writing much anywhere here or in the journals I keep for everyone, including Steve HAHA. I don't even know why. Life gets chugging along and then I realize that time isn't exactly standing still and here we are at the END OF APRIL??? How did that even happen? I don't know what it is about this year but I'm dragging. Maybe it's the lack of sunshine and the overabundance of cloudy skies? Maybe I'm just getting really lazy.... Anyways, here is a collage of a million pictures of what we've been up to.
Kalea and Brynlee are forming quite the sister bond, it's awesome. I love to see them play together, but mostly I like to see how they work out their arguments, it's pretty funny. I'd say Brynlee gets her way more often than not, but not until Kalea has tormented her. For example, we don't use sippy cups around here anymore but we have a few Powerade bottles that have the no-spill lid that the girls have adopted. Kalea couldn't find hers, so she stole Brynlee's basically right out of her mouth. Brynlee freaked out about it pretty quickly so I hid behind the couch and watched Kalea do the good ol' "Here Brynlee! Take it! It's okay, don't tell Mom!" Where in the world did she learn that? I'm now convinced it's just in every kids' genetic make-up. It was pretty funny, and I'm glad that half the time I don't really have to intervene- Brynlee is pretty dramatic, so it's pretty noisy all day, but it's not bad unless she comes to find me. They also refuse to go to bed without the other sister. Kalea is so smart that on the days when she's had a late nap and knows she doesn't have to go to bed yet, she'll still go to her room and pretend to go to sleep until Brynlee is snoring and then she'll come hang out with me and Steve for a bit before her real bedtime- how's that for sister love?

We enjoyed a visit from one of my best friends and her daughter last month. It was surreal to sit and watch our kids play together and get along so well, kudos to her I think her little one is one of the smartest kids I've ever met, and super outgoing. Kalea and Brynlee have enjoyed many a noisy dance party over the last few months too, usually while wearing my church shoes. Does it scare anyone else when their little girls are strutting around/spinning on 4inch heels? It's a test of my patience sometimes- it's the control freak in me, I just can't stop thinking that someone's going to break an ankle! It's super cute though, they love wearing dresses that spin and generally, even if I've dressed them for the day, they will find a way to revert back to a nightgown or play-dress without me noticing. Sometimes it's awkward when we have company and random articles of clothing find themselves under the kitchen table or flying down the stairs, such is life at our house. Easter was really fun for us with the girls this year. I didn't do so much leading up to it this year because I feel like my general overall energy is about a 2-3 on a scale of 1-10 lately, but I think I planned Easter Sunday perfectly. We woke up later than usual-thanks girls- had some breakfast, dyed some eggs had a bath, got ready and went to church, came home and distracted the girls with a movie while the Easter Bunny hid their loot. They did their hunt and then played the rest of the afternoon before we went to my parents' for dinner. Low-key and basically void of any stress. Since then, Brynlee constantly asks me for chocolate, no matter the time of day- even the other night transferring her from the car to her bed "Mommy, where's my chokmick?" PS she says chocolate so cute it's hard to refuse her. We've also been lucky enough to have a few days of SUPER NICE WEATHER! Wahoo! We got the sprinkler out on Monday because it was HOT, yes it was. It was so nice to feel the sun on our faces and see the girls fall back into their usual routines where water is involved, ie.shamelessly tossing their clothing aside and playing naked in FREEZING water. I have no idea where they get that from, I wouldn't even put my hand in the tap water it was so cold. Hopefully they won't be throwing clothing or diapers over the fence this year, that's always such a pain... Oh and Brynlee is finally getting her 2yr molars...Ahem... I give her medicine, cold stuff to chew on, she spends all day whining and crying and trying to nap and sleep all the while still whimpering... My head feels like it's going to explode from the sound of her, not that I don't love her, but her whiny sad voice is pretty grating on the nerves for everyone involved. Fun times.
I included one of my fun things in our picture collage. I still don't have a calling at church so they asked me to be on the decorating committee for our Relief Society party. It was a lot of fun, although I forgot to take pictures of everything when we were finished setting up, so the only one I managed was a quick snapshot before the food tables were attacked by hungry ladies. We made bunting and had giant balloons and made big coffee filter and tissue paper flowers for our centerpieces. It was a fun night, birthday party themed so we played some fun games and it was really nice to have a change of pace and a bit more contact with other adults! Sidenote, I am feeling super low energy lately, I'm thinking my thyroid must be out of whack or something. To avoid the question, nope I'm not pregnant, currently cycling and still on stupid birth control to regulate my cycle... Which worked for a bit and now I'm back to the usual, so probably time to make another doctor's appointment. I've noticed that I'm not getting the "high" from my workouts that I'm used to, but I'm still working out hard, and eating well and drinking lots of water, so I'm stumped. I found for a while that I wasn't getting the workout high until a long while after my workout was over so I had to switch from doing them at night to mid-morning, but now I'm getting nothing. Maybe I just need to change up the work out, if I can find any energy I will do that... Still losing weight though, so that's a good sign that it's working! I'm down 10lbs so far with not quite the effort that I was hoping to put forth, so that's not bad and seriously, I'm only doing 30-45mins a day, which seemed like a lot at first, but now it feels like no time at all, it goes by so fast. Now that the weather is turning I'm able to get out with the kids more, so that will hopefully help me get some more weight off through the summer. It makes such a HUGE difference being able to get outside, and with both kids out of strollers, now I'll be able to jog a bit while herding them down the trails, so that'll be fun.
I guess I should update on Steve too... He turned 31 in March and subbed by fluke for a volleyball team with an amazing setter who he now wants to be bff's with, so he is playing for them more often now. I'm just glad he's found someone who knows what they're doing so volleyball can be fun for him again instead of just an exercise in patience. Must be hard to be so full of athletic ability...Selfishly I'm just glad I don't have to hear about "so-and-so who likes to bash everyone even though she sucks the most out of everyone there" anymore :)
That's life at the moment, we are just gearing up for soccer season now and looking forward to a trip down to Cardston next weekend and a visit from my surrogate Aunty from England two weeks later.
Funny story, Brynlee is really interested in the clock lately so we were going around the clockface pointing to the numbers so I could get some pictures and the following happens:
Me: Brynlee, where's the number one?
Bryn: Right there (points to it, it's the only one she knows really)
Me: Good job! Hmmm let's see... oh, where is the number eight?
Brynlee: Oh no it's GONE!!!


Mischievious Little People

There was this time that I thought, "my girls seem to be growing out of their old tricks", but I was wrong. They are still the same crazy kids that were born to me, only their crazy antics seem to be saved for times when I am most stressed/busy/rushed/tired instead of just being an everyday activity. Let me illustrate for you...
Brynlee has found herself taking after her older sister, although instead of destroying my expensive scrapbooking supplies (ie. ink pads, etc...) she likes to paint herself with her sparkly paints. In picture 2 you will notice red stuff on the floor, that red stuff would be a WHOLE container of simulated bacon bits, seriously. I was washing dishes upstairs and all of a sudden I could smell bacon? At first I was thinking I was losing my mind and then I remembered the huge tupperware container full of food storage that we had inherited from my sis-in-law. The night previous I had asked Steve to put it in the storage room... it only made it to the bottom of the stairs- awesome. I'm happy to report that our basement has finally stopped smelling of bacon, a month later. Also, Kalea's hair was getting super long, and then she decided to hack different spots, so I cut it into a long-ish bob, not pictured. Cutting it myself was fairly therapeutic though, and now it goes more wavy/wild, so it's cute- besides the rooster bit on top, but that's her fault not mine.
I also was under the false impression that my kids didn't do crazy things in public anymore, really really underestimated Brynlee on that one. A few Sundays ago Brynlee and I ventured to church solo because Steve and Kalea were pretty sick. I thought to myself how nice it would be to get to pay attention since Brynlee is my easier child, BAHAHAHA! She sure had the wool pulled over my eyes. At one point she ventured away from me and ended up doing a full lap of the gym, squealing with delight. Awesome. When she came back to me I took her into the hallway to let her get rid of some energy. I foolishly thought that the chapel doors were too heavy for her to pull open, so when she ducked into a doorway, I thought she was just playing peek-a-boo... Yeah, nope. She ended up sitting on the comfy chairs at the front, next to the pulpit, and not just sitting there. I opened the door to flag her to "come here now!" to which she responded by patting the soft chair and saying "Mommy come sit with me" while a nice man in our ward was trying to bear what I'm sure was a heartfelt testimony. At this point I wasn't about to go get her because I knew she'd probably screech and be more disruptive than she already was, so I closed the door thinking she'd come to it because that's what she does whenever I close a door at home, I mean, technically her instincts are normally to run to a closed door and try to bang it open. Yeah, that didn't work. PS the whole time I'm waving her to come towards me, etc... the chorister (aka bishop's wife) and the organist (aka relief society president's son) are watching and able to see the exchange, I am pretty sure they were highly entertained. So after a quick "please inspire me with some amazing parenting skills" prayer I open the chapel door to find Brynlee leaning over the front of the pulpit area this time. Grrrreat, so much for being less disruptive. So I go sit where Brynlee wanted me to sit in the first place, when she turns around and comes towards me I pull her in close and whisper very sternly that "You will hold my hand and we will walk down the stairs and out that door, got it?" to which she cheerfully replies in the high pitched tone that only she can use "Ok Mommy!" For reals. Sorry if the whole thing ruined sacrament meeting/testimony meeting for anyone. Kalea NEVER did anything like that, I had no clue that Brynlee would have the guts to, especially with that many eyes on her, she was way too comfortable for her own good. Did I also mention that the Stake President was sitting with the Bishop too? The same man who at one point in my life was conducting a sacrament meeting where my phone went off in the middle of the sacrament being passed, to the tune of "crazy coconuts"? He must be so impressed with my contribution to "the rising generation" LOL If anything, my kids are always good for a laugh.


Mind, Body & Spirit

I have had many a conversation with myself that involved a lot of ingratitude for the gift of a body, but things have changed dramatically in the last 10yrs, physically, emotionally & spiritually.
A Spiritual Foundation: Or, what has always been in the back of my mind
From a young age I was taught that my body is an important part of God's plan for me. With this body I will be able to enjoy physical activity, food and even experience discomfort and pain. I will use my body to make sacred covenants and to serve those around me. If it's part of Heavenly Father's plan for me, I will be able to bring children into the world, and thus create new bodies for spirits eagerly awaiting their opportunity to face all that life on this earth has to offer them. My body houses my spirit and I will have a family, and no matter how the children I have come into that family, my body will house that spirit that has attributes central to the nurturing and care of those children. I was also taught the importance of respecting the gift of this body by not doing anything to defile it, or the spirit within it. I have been taught to care for my body by abstaining from substances that could potentially cause harm or result in addictive habits. In terms of food, I was taught the principle of "everything in moderation", and the importance of regular exercise.
These are the things that I'm also trying to teach my children, because I recognize now, just how important having those things ingrained in me has been to my own progression through some of life's learning moments.

PAST: I squandered a lot of time telling myself that I wasn't perfect enough in a lot of areas, mostly physical. How annoying! I went through a period of really harsh self-judgement although now, I can't explain why, other than the fact that I must've gotten really caught up in some worldly messages about what the body should look like. Around 21 I started to re-align my thinking and stopped being so critical of my body, and tried to enjoy it, not worrying about the scale or the calories and just enjoy having such a healthy body. During a stressful time, I lost a lot of weight and became concerned with how most people responded by telling me how great I looked... Scary since I was literally so emotionally worked up that I couldn't eat more than a handful of food at a time, and then would end up dry heaving if I cried too much when I went to bed- I had enough will power not to let myself throw up anything that I ate, but my body was literally trying to reject any amount of help I could give it. I was super concerned with what was going on with my body during that time, but instead of people asking me if I was okay- which I wasn't- they asked what my secret weight loss strategy was. That experience changed a lot of what I thought I knew about the body and I began to realize the connection between a hurting spirit and the body housing it. I became less concerned with how I compared to any other body and more concerned with getting my body healthy and strong again, and shocker, I started to obsess a bit about the number on the scale going UP so that I didn't look so emaciated. Once things were back on track emotionally, my body started responding, I started to enjoy eating again and my weight returned to normal. A small number on the scale doesn't mean "healthy" anymore than a big number necessarily means "fatty", that was a huge lesson. With this experience I also learned there is real power in connecting with yourself by using positive self-talk. I literally had to talk myself back to normal, and since then there hasn't been much room for the negative self-talk that used to invade my thoughts. I also wasn't as healthy as I could have been during my pregnancies, although by the time I was done puking with Kalea, I didn't have much energy to do much else other than lie on the couch. With Brynlee I kick myself for having a much easier pregnancy and not being as active as I could have been. I gained a lot with each of those pregnancies especially having them so close together, and that has made it a lot harder to "bounce back" like everyone said I would- ha thanks for the false hope people! Kidding, I was super lazy or I probably would have bounced back sooner.
PRESENT: I've spent probably the last few years on my own kind of "health crusade", discovering the things that work short term and aren't necessarily very healthy, discovering different kinds of workouts that I can do at home, trying and loving a difficult yoga practice and learning how to balance all that out with healthier eating. When I had Brynlee I gave myself a very HUGE time frame to get myself back to normal, haha I told Steve that I would be back in shape by her 3rd birthday if I didn't get pregnant before then, that means I have until November but with my 10yr high school reunion fast approaching, I'm hoping to be closer to my goal by the end of June. So far 2012 has been good for this on all fronts. I'm working out consistently now, my body is responding and I'm feeling way more energetic and sleeping better. I'm finding myself more willing to do for others because I have more energy to get things done. I'm not huffing and puffing up the stairs anymore and I feel like I have more energy to play with my super active kids. Scale wise I haven't lost that much weight yet, but physically you can see where I've lost inches and gained muscle, which is insane. Even at my "prime" I don't think I was this healthy/strong, or maybe I just blocked that out of my mind so I wouldn't feel bad about my current state. At any rate, I'm feeling much better now than I ever have, so that counts for something. I feel more balanced and more in tune with what I'm doing on a regular basis. I find myself more centered and open to promptings than I have been in the past, maybe that's because my mind isn't so foggy? I'm learning that the more I take care of my body, the more clarity I have in the things that I want to achieve as a parent, and the more ready I am to act when prompted or take time out to meditate, pray, read, journal, etc... Win win.
FUTURE: I'm hoping that I can remember the "body lessons" as I get older, and as my kids grow. I hope that if I ever do get pregnant again, I can go through it a lot healthier than I did with my first two so that I can feel better sooner than 3yrs later. Steve is finally jumping on my bandwagon, so we're hoping to do a 5k later in the summer. Much later because, as we all know, Allison is not a runner, the only reason this one is appealing is the fact that it's mostly about having fun and mostly NOT about how fast you are. So in prep for that we're going to start on of those "couch to 5k" programs. Should be a hoot, right? I think Steve and I are both realizing that at one point or another, both of us were a lot more active than we have been lately, and we've been "gifted" with very active children, and if we don't keep up with them then they might lose that desire to be active and turn lazy like us- gasps of horror! We are now much more interested in fostering that in them because we know how much it will add to their life experience, and ours- hello, I get to be a "soccer Mom" this year!
Basically, all this to say, we're on track to reaching some goals for a healthy and active lifestyle as individuals and a family. Hopefully our kids will appreciate the effort when they're old enough to understand it, for now we'll feel good that we're maybe teaching them something about how to take care of these awesome little bodies that Heavenly Father has given them.