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Monday, October 31, 2011

Candy and costumes

My mom is anxious to see some Halloween pictures, so I am going to take a detour from my massive-blog-catchup-2011 and post something recent.

I decided early on that I wanted Halloween to be low key this year. I wasn't going to make any costumes, and we would reuse anything we could. Logan wanted to be a red Power Ranger, and I lucked out by finding his costume for $4 at a garage sale in September. (A little steep for a garage sale, if you ask me, but still better than buying it new or making it.) Savannah--always having to keep up with her brother--wanted to be a pink Power Ranger. Well, I wasn't as lucky with her costume. I never did find anything at a price I was happy with, so I convinced her being a super girl was just as good.

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Isabelle got to wear Logan's old duck costume. I am pretty sure this is the warmest Halloween costume alive (it's practically a snow suit). Go figure Halloween was the warmest day we've had in weeks. She was sweating when we took it off.

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Our niece was in town so we got to share the excitement with her. I love her roar. Isn't she the cutest tiger you've ever seen?

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We went trick-or-treating to a few neighbors while it was still light out. I love trick-or-treating early; you don't have to be afraid of things jumping out at you AND you get first pick of the candy. :) We scored some good treats... a couple full size candy bars and a HUGE bag of kettle corn. I love my neighborhood.

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Gracie's Gang - the race

Several months ago I posted about a race I was helping organize to raise money for a family member with leukemia, but I never came back and wrote about the actual race day.

On the morning of August 13, the Gracie's Gang 5K for Leukemia Awareness took place. It was a great day for a race, and despite a few minor hiccups, everything went off extremely well. The support and encouragement we received from all avenues was incredible. It was such a sweet tribute to little Gracie, who has already endured so much in her short 2 years. Our family really bonded together during the planning and execution of the race, and I can't thank them enough for all their hard work. Unfortunately, cancer has hit home once again, as my father-in-law was recently diagnosed with rectal cancer. At this difficult time, I think back at how our family rallied together for Gracie, and I know we will do it again for my father-in-law.

Now, for some fun pictures from the day of the race.

My amazing sister-in-law, Amy, who had the drive to get this whole idea off the ground, sorting through shirts with my brother-in-law, James.

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Jeff's cousin, Landon, setting up the balloon arch in the windy hours of the morning. The greatest challenge was keeping the wind from blowing the arch into the grass and popping the balloons.

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Me in all my glory.

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Our amazing sponsors. The logo in the middle was designed by my sister, Paige.

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The kids getting ready to ride the race course. Did I mention it was windy?

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Picketing for Gracie. :)

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And we're off!

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Our very official race timer.

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The finish line. I was so pleased with how the balloon arch turned out!

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Raffle prizes. Orange is the color for leukemia, so our race was had a lot of orange in it (shirts, ribbon, table cloths, etc.).

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My uncle's company makes KT Tape, a must if you have any sports injuries. He was gracious and donated several rolls of tape as well as enough samples for all our participants.

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Gracie's Gang was a huge success, one that would never have happened without the help and hard work of tons of people. I learned a ton in the process, but I think my race organizing days are done. :)

P.S. A huge thanks to my sister-in-law, Katy, who took all these pictures.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Change

I had intended to save this post until I had caught up on the rest of my blog, but that could be weeks away and this is something that I need your support and help with now. This year has been one of many ups and downs for our family. I haven't blogged about it too much because it seemed too personal, but now that time has softened the memory, I am ready to share our story with all of you.

Back in May, Jeff abruptly and unexpectedly lost his job at Gexpro. It it still painful to recall, but the bitterness has mostly faded and now I just feel sadness when I reflect on the events that took place. The whole experience was so strange, and so uncalled for, that we strongly believe this must part of a broader plan that we just cannot understand yet.

For three months Jeff sought work, but in today's market, every position had hundreds of applications. Finally in August, he had three offers come through at once. We spent hours weighing each position, trying to decide which was best for our family, and finally chose a job with Praxair. It was a good, stable job, but it came with a 45+ min commute (something we were no stranger to).

As the weeks went on, I could tell Jeff wasn't happy at Praxair. Don't get me wrong - Jeff is the greatest provider in the world. He would work at a sewage plant if that's what it took to provide for his family and he would never complain about it. But Jeff has always had big dreams when it comes to careers and when his job is not challenging him or providing him with social stimulation, it really affects him. He really tried to give this job a chance, but we both knew it was never going to be everything he hoped for in a career.

Well, not long after beginning at Praxair, the idea for a new opportunity was planted. Jeff's cousin had recently started working for a company called Imagine Learning and had nothing but good things to say about it. He recommended Jeff apply for one of the sales positions. Interested, Jeff began the application process. After a looooooong string of interviews, we finally had an offer letter in our hands. This job was totally different from anything we had ever known before. It was going to require our family to come together like we had never needed to before. It was exciting and new, but also unknown and intimidating. For three days we discussed and researched and prayed and searched like I have never done in my life. (Seriously - even more than when I decided to marry Jeff. I guess that was an easy decision. :) ) And at the end of it all, we decided to take the job.

So why am I telling you all this? I realize this is dull and depressing to most of you. And you could probably not care less what job Jeff has, as long as he has one. Well, here's the kicker: this job in not in Utah. Despite a million ties we have to our currently location, we are going to pick up everything and move our family 1300 miles east to a place we have never been. It breaks my heart to think of the family and friends we will leave behind, but I know this is the right thing to do. We still haven't decided on our exact location, but it will be somewhere in Oklahoma or Arkansas. Right now our top choices are Tulsa, Oklahoma City, or NW Arkansas (Bentonville/Fayetteville area). We could really use some insight if you have any, especially into the Oklahoma cities. Our expected arrival is early January of 2012.

I am so grateful for the internet and the ability it has to make the miles seem a little less. I know there are days ahead when I will feel alone and will regret having given up the wealth of friends and family we have here. But-- as silly as it seems-- to know that I will be able to read your blogs and see pictures of those I hold dear is such a comfort to me. We are really looking forward to this move and the changes it will bring, but I will need you to remind me of that when the bad days come.

In the meantime, maybe I should just take a vote. Should we live...

...here? (Oklahoma City)


...here? (Tulsa)


...or here? (NW Arkansas)

July in a post

I'm beginning to realize I'm never going to get my blog caught up if I separate each and every event into its own post. So here's a random conglomeration of some random things we've been up to that have no relationship to each other except that they all happened in July.

First off, I spent a night with some of the greatest ladies in the world. Back before we had kids, Jeff and I bought a townhome in a neighborhood where we didn't know a soul. In the two years we lived there, we made lifelong friends with our amazing neighbors. Even though it's been almost 3.5 years since we moved out of that neighborhood, we still keep in touch and get together frequently. We have shared a lot and come a long way since we all met, and I'm pretty sure we will continue to do so forever. I was so giddy in anticipation of this "slumber party" that we had together. It was like Jr. High all over again. And it did not disappoint. Great food, great company, and nonstop laughter = perfect girls night.

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Did I mention we stayed in a beautiful cabin overlooking Scofield Reservoir? Perfection, I'm tellin' ya.

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Next up: t-ball pictures. When the day of t-ball team pictures came around, I kind of spaced it and forgot to order any. Logan was distraught, so I told him I'd take some pictures of him when we got home. I've mentioned it before, but I loved watching Logan play t-ball. I thought it was going to be totally boring, but it was so fun and the games actually went by really fast. I am looking forward to many more years of Little League.

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Of course, Savannah wanted her picture, too. Don't you love her wild hair? Poor child got my unruly genes.


Lastly, we took advantage of a free coupon to go visit the Kennecott Copper Mines. I've lived in Utah for 9 years now and this was my first visit. I was a little disappointed in the whole experience; I had hoped to get a little closer to the trucks and the mine itself. I guess I understand why you can't, but it is hard to get a feel for how ginormous the trucks really are without standing right next to them. Oh well, the kids enjoyed it and it was free, so I guess I shouldn't complain.

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That was our July in a nutshell. Now I'm only 3 months behind on my blog!

P.S. Did you notice my new blog header? My cousin took some amazing family photos for us and I am so, so pleased with how they turned out. There are more where that came from and they WILL end up on the blog, just be patient!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

4th of July Hike

The morning of July 4th, we woke up early and met up with some family to hike to the "the cross"-- a metal cross perched on a hill behind my in-law's home. As part of the group were some of Jeff's aunts (his mom's sisters) who are all somewhat twisted-ankle prone, but we took the steep parts slowly and somehow made it up and back without a single injury. It was a great, albeit windy, way to start our Independence Day.

The whole gang, minus Jeff, who was taking the picture.
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Heading back down. Not sure what Jeff is doing, but I am sure he was trying to be funny.
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Aunt Dalene taking the "slide" approach to a particularly steep stretch.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Summit

For years now Jeff and I have talked of hiking Timp together. Yet each summer comes and goes, and we never do it. This year, I was determined to go. We tempted fate by waiting until October to hike it, but we made it just in time. The weather was absolutely beautiful that day. We started hiking just before sunrise. The first hour Jeff had to corral me along so I wouldn't stop every 10 feet to take pictures. The leaves were showing the first signs of fall and I just couldn't help myself. We decided to hike the Timpooneke trail--I had only every hiked the Aspen Grove trail--and I think it was definitely the prettier way to go.

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About halfway up we ran into a surprise--my brother! He and his friends had hiked to the top for sunrise and were now on their way home. Shortly after that we made it to the meadow, famous for it's plentiful wildflowers. Unfortunately, we were a bit late in the season for flowers, but it was picturesque nonetheless in that it gave us our first view of the peak. Here we are in the meadow with the peak behind us on the left and the saddle on the right.

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Some treacherous switchbacks and a few mountain goat sightings later, we found ourselves at the saddle. Many hikers stop here and turn around, and I understand why. The views were amazing, and the trail only got worse from there. I have always teased Jeff for having a paralyzing fear of heights (he gets sweaty palms in Spiderman movies), but I didn't realize I had a pretty bad fear as well.

(View from the saddle, looking down on Utah Lake.)
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We stood there looking at the trail to the summit, contemplating whether it was worth it. From what we could see, there were steep drop offs on either side, and it wasn't a short hike. We still had about 45 minutes to go.

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I knew if I thought about it too long, I wouldn't go, so we took a leap of faith and started up. We soon encountered "the stairs," a set of short, steep, and sheer switchbacks. I had to crawl on all fours the whole way up! My blood was pumping so hard I could hardly keep from shaking. Ironically, Jeff was totally fine through this section.

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The rest of the trail wasn't as bad after the stairs. Our aching legs forced us to concentrate less on the height and more on getting to the top. Willpower and determination eventually got us there.

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Even resting at the top my legs were still shaking. I tried to capture the view looking over the edge, but this still doesn't do it justice.

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It was pretty spectacular to look over the valley and mountains from up there. Timpanogos is the second highest mountain in the Wasatch Range. We felt like we could see forever from up there. I have heard it is notoriously windy and cold on the top of Timp (my one other time up there testified to that), but it was calm and warm for us that day.

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Looking down on our house (and Provo, Orem, and Pleasant Grove).


We thought we had accomplished the hardest part by making it to the top, but coming down was much, much harder. Strangely, the steepest parts weren't nearly as scary coming down as going up. But the hike was physically harder on the way down. Neither of us had good hiking shoes, and our feet were crying out in pain with 2 hours left to go. Plus, we packed too much water, and Jeff's shoulders were feeling the effects of carrying it around all day. (For future reference, on a mild day, 3 water bottles per person is plenty.) When we finally made it back to our car, we both nearly cried in relief.

Despite the physical strain, it was a memorable and amazing day. I loved having 8 hours with my husband, away from kids (thanks Grandma and Grandpa for keeping them!), work, home, football, and any other distraction. I would love to do it again, but probably not for a few years. :)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Back

I can't believe I've gone a whole month without posting on my blog. In the 4+ years I've been blogging, I have NEVER gone an entire month without a post. I am so behind now I don't even know where to begin. I don't think I can blog chronologically - there are too many recent events I want to blog about before I forget them. I guess I'll start with the reason I've been MIA for the last several weeks.

Around June, I started contemplating returning to work. For the past 18 months, I had been a 100% stay-at-home mom. Having now done both, I can authoritatively say that being home with your kids the entire day is way harder than being in the office. Although I loved being home with my kids, I also missed the intellectual challenge and social interaction of working. I thought if I could find some part-time (<15 hours/week) or maybe even temporary (1-3 months) work, it might be enough to satisfy my working needs (not to mention boost our savings) without taking me away from my family too much.

I sent off two emails to previous employers. One was to my old manager at the LDS Church. When I quit my job there, I had mentioned that I would be interested in short-term work in the future. In my email, I asked if he had any small projects that I could come work on for a bit. I didn't hear anything back from him, so after a few days, I tried another avenue-- I emailed the head of the Statistics department at BYU, Dr. Scott. I asked if he had any evening classes that needed teachers. This time I got a response almost immediately. He asked if I could come in and talk to him.

A few days later, I found myself in Dr. Scott's office. He explained to me that he had several daytime classes that needed professors and would I be willing to teach a class during the day. The idea appealed to me and seemed to fit well with my kids schedules, so I agreed. This was just what I had been looking for, and I was really excited (and intimidated) by the thought of teaching.


Shortly after accepting the position at BYU, I got a phone call from my manager at the Church. One of the women on his team was having a baby that week, and he needed someone to fill in for her until she came back from maternity leave in 2 months. I was torn; this, too, was a great opportunity, but the timing was not ideal. If I were to work this position, there would be a month of overlap between the two jobs. But I wanted to take it for several reasons, one of which was to keep my skills sharp so if I ever needed to reenter the industry, I'd be able to. So I decided to do it. I knew September would be a crazy month, but it would only be a month. Often in life when approached with hard things, I just remind myself that I can do anything for an hour/day/week/month (select appropriate period of time).


Last week I finally wrapped up my job at the Church. It was such a great experience and I am so glad I did it. I was able to work with the Missionary Department, one of my favorite customers. I was surprised how quickly things came back, but also how much had changed. Both my manager and I came away from this experience already planning how we could arrange a similar setup again in the future. I am glad it is over because it really was too much to work both jobs, but I would do it again if I had to.

Meanwhile, teaching at BYU has been a huge learning experience. I am teaching an introductory course on Bayesian statistics. I've had to really study and prepare for each lecture, and there have been a few times in class that I've had to admit that I didn't know the answer to a question, but my students have been great and the other professors have been a huge support.

It is such a relief to have more time in my day again. I have great hopes to have my blog updated soon! Stay tuned for more to come!