18 December 2010

Little Funny Guy

Five Things Sam Does that Genuinely Make Me Laugh:

1. Chants "no no no no" while pulling Mommy and Daddy's books off the bookshelf
2. Puts the handle of his spoon in his food, then puts the scoop end in his mouth
3. Waves his arm like he's conducting when we sing hymns or when he hears the Tab Choir
4. Walks around giving kisses to his sock monkeys
5. Pretends he's ready to get up from his nap, but belly flops onto his Snugaphant when we try to pick him up

07 December 2010

Jingle Bell Rock

So I bought Ryan a mini-donut maker for Christmas. I was pretty excited about it. You see, when we were first married, Ryan tried to make Spudnuts a few times, but they always tanked. Plus, he loves making new family traditions. I thought we could start a new tradition of eating mini-Spudnuts. But then the machine came, and it was pretty small. Also, Ryan (the snoop) found out what I was getting for him and informed me that you can't make Spudnuts with it. So we ultimately decided to send it back and get a better present, because we both decided the thing would ultimately end up collecting dust. I was able to sell it on our Amazon store for a good price.
Well, I know Ryan likes art projects. He also likes looking at neat houses. I thought I could get him a model house kit type thingie and we'd build it together. Those were pretty expensive, however. Then I remembered something we saw the first time we drove out to Utah for General Conference. It was April 2007, and the ZCMI mall hadn't been demolished yet, so after GC we hung out in the mall for a while with my friend Scott. At the mall, an old man was selling wooden models of the Nauvoo temple. I remembered that Ryan really loved it, so I tried to find one for him. I successfully managed to find one, and promptly ordered it, feeling pretty pleased with myself.
For some reason, Ryan was snooping around our Amazon account AGAIN and saw what I got for him AGAIN. When he got home from class, he told me he already had the Nauvoo temple model. As it turns out, my memory of that trip to the ZCMI mall was faulty: Ryan loved those models so much he actually bought one. And we still have it in a box somewhere. And of course by the time he told me this it was too late to cancel the order on Amazon.
So pretty much Ryan is not getting a Christmas present this year.

30 November 2010

Made it

As in, I Made It Through NaNoWriMo.
I finished my 50,000 words this morning while Sam took a nap and Ryan was in class. My novel isn't finished, but let me tell you: It feels amazing to know that yes, I can conceive and execute an entire book.
Thanks for all the love and support, friends. I appreciated the encouragement and the writing dares! Ryan told me every day that I could make it, and I'm glad I didn't let him down.
I already have an idea kicking around for NaNoWriMo '11- can't wait!

27 November 2010

NaNoWriMo Dares

Let me just say, it is hard to write 50,000 words in a month. I've hit several slumps over the past 4 weeks. Last night was particularly bad, so I decided to cruise around the forums on nanowrimo.org to see if anyone could provide me with inspiration. One of the fun things to do during NaNoWriMo is to dare other writers to include crazy things in their novels. It's definitely a good creative exercise, and can help boost your word count. So I took some dares. Here's what I got:
-Have someone say "two lefts don't make a right" and have someone else say "but three do!" (it's a Relient K reference.) The whole scene was good for 306 words.
-Mention Albania. Bonus points if the character has no idea where Albania is. 76 words
-Use the phrase "And suddenly, lesbian vampires!" 112 words
-Have someone solve a Rubik's cube. Include their internal dialogue. 163 words
-Have a character buy something they saw on an infomercial. 97 words
-Include an argument over which is better, pirates or ninjas. 94 words
-Mention the Colorado Rockies baseball team. 193 words
-Have the main characters see my family at some point in the story. 58 words
-Include zombie pandas and blueberry elves. 204 words
-Feature crows and fighting cats. 188 words

I have a few more dares coming down the pike that I haven't used yet, but the total so far of how many words I owe to dares is 1,391. I will be accepting more dares on my Facebook page, but you only have until the 30th to get them in!

23 November 2010

Guest Post- Lindsay

Our last guest post for November is from Lindsay Caldwell. Lindsay's son is one of Sammy's best friends, and Lindsay is one of mine! Check out her blog: http://jcaldwellcrew.blogspot.com/
*******

I can look upon my memories of Thanksgivings past with fondness: warmth, love, family and—what seems to take over the entire holiday itself—a bounty of delectable dishes. I remember cooking and baking with my mother for our Thanksgiving dinner. How much I helped and whether or not I stayed around to wash the dishes, I cannot say. I hope I was a good girl, but I have my suspicions that I could have been found on the couch post-supper. I am grateful that along with a great feast, my parents taught us that God is good and that all blessings stem from Him. We were greatly blessed to have plenty and I remember grocery shopping to provide a proper Thanksgiving feast for those who could not provide their own. My parents did not forget the important message of service that goes along with a thankful heart and for that I am grateful.


Life is so busy; one month bleeds into the next, and before we know it the holidays are upon us and we haven’t taken the time to reflect on the reason behind the celebration. That is what I want to avoid; thanksgiving is not just a dinner party. It is a time to reflect, pray, serve and spend with our loved ones. Jeff and I are so glad we live close enough to our families that we can eat our Thanksgiving meals (one with each family—lucky us!) with them. We know living close by will not be the case in a couple years, so we cherish it now.


One tradition Jeff and I have started this year to help us remember the reason for the season is our Thanksgiving Journal. Each member of the family writes down at least one thing he or she is grateful for each day for the month of November. This exercise has helped us to feel the spirit of thanksgiving and has opened our eyes to the small blessings that might have gone unnoticed had we not be watching for them.

21 November 2010

Excerpt #3

Once again, I am procrastinating instead of NaNoWriMo-ing. I have 1000 more words to write in the next 2 hours...
*****

It’s starting to get late. Coy wants to go into the casino and try out his poker skills. I’m hesitant. I have no idea why I’m so uncomfortable all of a sudden, but it doesn’t really seem like I can just tell him no. Wordlessly I follow him into the casino. It looks fancier than the one at the Stratosphere. Coy joins a table, and I hover behind him. I hope no one thinks we’re trying to cheat. I make sure my eyes don’t wander. Coy’s first bet is pretty low, which I find reassuring. As the game progresses, I can see that he has a decent hand. Good enough to win, anyway. Coy gives me a kiss for luck. I smile at the other people at our table. A guy our age who is obviously drunk says “Can I kiss your girlfriend for luck, too, man?” I blush, embarrassed. Coy winks at the guy and says he can if he wins the next hand. I swat his shoulder playfully. Luckily for me, Coy wins again. He increases his starting bet on the next hand, but I see he’s got nothing. He tries to bluff, but the other players see right through him and keep raising the bet. He folds, and excuses himself from the table.

I hope he’s not mad. I look up at his face, searching for clues to his mood. He looks back at me and smiles as if he knows what I’m doing.

“Uncle Jack was right,” he tells me. “My poker face is hopeless.”

“At least you had two good hands,” I say soothingly. “How much did we win?”

“We?” he teases.

“Good luck charms are entitled to fifty percent of all winnings,” I inform him.

“Ah. Well, we lost the last hand, so I’m doubting your luckiness.” I think he is pretending to be disappointed.

“Okay, we’ll split it forty-sixty and call it even. Final offer.”

He laughs. “How about we get dessert and I use the rest to pay for the room?”

“Deal.”

There is a small cafĂ© that sells gelato on the way outside, so we grab a treat to go and watch the fountains one last time before heading back to our hotel. The walk back is much more spectacular, as the dark has fully settled in. The lights are a sharper contrast, a rainbow of electric explosions. We walk more slowly than we did on the way down, stopping to point out our favorite displays. Even though it’s late in the evening, the air is still warm. It must be 90 degrees out here. We get back to the Stratosphere and head straight back to our room. Coy remarks that Uncle Jack probably managed to get in bed by himself, so we should be quiet in case he’s asleep. When we open the door to our room, the lights are on. No Uncle Jack in bed. Coy checks the bathroom. No Uncle Jack there, either. We face each other, and I can see that Coy looks frustrated.

“Maybe he went back to the buffet,” I suggest. “Or went to the shops.”

“Maybe he’s getting married in the Chapel in the Clouds,” Coy says, dripping sarcasm. “He’s at the casino. Of course.”

“But he said he wasn’t going to gamble!” I protest.

“No he didn’t. He told you to relax, he didn’t actually say he wouldn’t gamble.” Coy throws himself facedown on one of the beds and groans.

18 November 2010

Check me Out

To keep up the guest posting trend, Mary asked me to write a post for her blog after she wrote one for mine. You can read it here. After you read it, check out her photography website! You'll love it.

16 November 2010

Guest Post- Mary

Mary is a friend of mine from the Village. She is a fan of Utah football and is a talented photographer! Her blog contains updates on her life, neat photos she's taken, and various musings on the world. Check it out: www.maryplusvince.com
********
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year. Actually, let me try that again: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year (tied with Utah’s Pioneer Day). Yes, I love it more than Halloween, the Fourth of July and even Christmas! Unusual, right? But I love it. The fact that it’s an autumn holiday, my favorite season for many reasons, adds to why I love it so much. Add in family + food, and it’s a no brainer for me! It’s true love.

I think my love for Thanksgiving truly began back when I was in high school. My sisters and I watched this show called “Everwood” and they had a Thanksgiving episode where their tradition was to make a “Family Thankful Book”. What a great idea, I thought! So – I attempted to get all 7 of my siblings and their spouses and kids and my parents to tell me a few things they were thankful for, so we could make a book too! I wasn’t overly successful, and I think we only got the book partially made. Bummer! But! A few years in a row, I tried again … still not getting everyone’s lists. In 2007, I was finally successful and our book was made! I love looking back at this book because it’s like a little time machine! We added photos and pretty paper, and voila! Family Heirloom! I hope to keep this tradition alive and will keep trying each year. I know some years I may not get it done, but that’s ok. Even if we only have one every couple years, I’ll count that as a success.

Behold, excerpts from the 2007 Cleverly Family Thankful Book:






Another favorite tradition of mine is that my family goes bowling every year on Thanksgiving morning. This traditional also started when I was in high school. One of my sisters was dating a guy, and this was a tradition in his family. So, that year we decided to do it too! And we’ve done that one every year since! It’s such a random tradition, but it is so much fun! You’d be surprised just how many people actually go bowling that morning, too! We always have to get there super early to ensure we get a few lanes for my big family!


To me, Thanksgiving is such a special holiday. It’s cozy and warm; it is filled with family and fun. It is also a wonderful time to remember all the beautiful things in your life, remember all your blessings. Plus -- the food is amazing! I don’t think you can get any better than that, in my opinion!

13 November 2010

Excerpt #2

I am big-time procrastinating tonight. I caught Sam's cold, feel like junk, don't wanna write. So here's another excerpt from my NaNoWriMo attempts.

Coy’s face lights up when we come out. He is wearing a shirt and tie and… his tie has purple stripes like my shirt! He waggles the tie in my direction. “What are the odds?” he quips. Parked in our driveway is a bright blue van. It reminds me of the Mystery Machine, from Scooby Doo. Coy laughs when I tell him this, and informs me that this shade of blue is Uncle Jack’s favorite, so he had the van custom painted. My dad sits in front next to Coy, who is driving. I crawl in the back to sit by Uncle Jack.

He shakes my hand. “Are you ready for your next show?” he asks me. Auditions for our fall play, Dracula, will be held at the end of August.

I am definitely ready for a break from the theater, so I roll my eyes and make Uncle Jack chuckle by exaggerating my response of “Absolutely not!” My dad entertains us for the rest of the ride by retelling a story about two little kids destroying the children’s section of the library while their mom read a magazine with her headphones in. I make a mental note to up my childbearing age to 32.

We have dinner at my dad’s favorite steakhouse. I don’t like steak, but I think my dad chose it for Coy and Uncle Jack. I stick to a loaded baked potato and a salad. My head still hurts a little, so I try to drink as much water as I can. Uncle Jack eats his potato with a look of rapture on his face.

“I love potatoes,” he declares. “I mean, really, is there anything as delicious as a classic, Idaho-grown potato?”

“Steak,” Coy jokes. I decline to respond to that, sucking down another quarter of my glass of water.

My dad looks thoughtful. “How do you know,” he asks, “if the potato really came from Idaho?”

Uncle Jack peers at the menu. “It says so on here.” He points at the description of the various side dishes the restaurant offers.

“Yeah, but how much do you trust what it says on those menus?” Dad counters. “How is some copywriter in Texas going to know if the potatoes actually came from Idaho?” Uncle Jack and Coy have both stopped eating, and both sets of blue eyes are staring at my dad as if he is trying to answer one of the great mysteries of the universe. Dad keeps going. “It seems to me like the only way to guarantee that you are eating an Idaho potato is to drive to Idaho, go to a potato farm, and ask the farmer for a potato. Demand the genuine article.” I want to demand that we talk about something else, but I decide not to be rude. Instead I gnaw on a crouton from my salad and look around at the other diners.

Uncle Jack gets a wistful look on his face. His tone of voice is dreamy. He says, “I’ve always loved Idaho potatoes. Maybe I should actually drive to Idaho and eat one.”

Coy laughs. “You can call the Make-a-Wish foundation. Don’t they help people like you achieve their dreams?” Uncle Jack smiles.

“I think they help kids. Besides, I could do it myself. Boise is only, what, 9 hours from here?” The couple at the table across from us are feeding French fries to each other. I frown, thinking that I have never fed Bryce a French fry. Or anything else, actually.

Coy leans back in his chair. “So let’s do it. Let’s go get you your genuine, guaranteed Idaho potato.” Uncle Jack and my dad both look skeptical. I start to pay attention to their conversation again. Coy continues. “Seriously. I don’t have to be back in Chicago until the middle of August. That’s plenty of time to go to Boise and come back.”

Uncle Jack slaps his hand on the table, startling the French fry couple. “Why not?” he exclaims. “Let’s do it! Let’s go this week!” He and Coy share an excited high-five.

“Can I come?” I surprise myself by asking this. My dad also looks surprised. Uncle Jack stretches his arms out wide. “Of course!” he cries, still excited by the prospect of the trip. “Of course!” Coy grins at me.

I have no idea why I want to do this. I do love potatoes, but I’ve been content not knowing their origin for the past 22 years. I do enjoy spending time with Uncle Jack and Coy, but I can see them when they get back. I think I’ve never done anything as spontaneous as drive to Idaho simply for the fun of it, and right now I feel a little reckless.

11 November 2010

Guest Post- Andrew

For our first guest post on our blog, we're featuring Andrew Newcomb, husband of one of my grad school classmates. Andrew maintains his personal/family blog with help and input from his wife, Tara. Check out his blog: www.absolutelyandrew.com
*******
When Kara approached me about doing a guest post on the topic of Thanksgiving, I was honored. I did have my reservations about the topic, however. I’m not anti-holiday by any means--I just tend not to blog about them. Simply put, my blog is the result of a one night stand between Dooce and Hacker News, adopted by mommy bloggers, and kidnapped by Perez Hilton before escaping with Alexander Supertramp. OK, so maybe I had a little too much fun with that description, and to be clear, I am not a bastard child. On the contrary, I come from a wonderful family rich with holiday tradition.
When my wife, Tara, and I were married a little over a year ago, there was one detail that I had not fully realized. (Actually, there were a lot of things, but for the emphasis of this piece, we’ll pretend that there was just one) That was the opportunity to start new traditions. In the beginnings of our marriage, people kept asking us if we had started any traditions. Finally it dawned on me: the book is ours to write! We can celebrate the holidays however we feel like. I love the family traditions that I grew up with, and I know Tara feels just as fondly about hers, but the freedom to mix, match, and most of all, create new traditions for our family is incredibly exhilarating for me.
Last Thanksgiving came just months after our
wedding and a big move from Omaha, NE to Salt Lake City. Needless to say, we had been through a lot in that short time. A doctor told me that getting married, switching jobs, and moving are some of the three biggest stressors a person can face. Fortunately, that Thanksgiving, we had a lot to be thankful for. All of our prayers had been answered.
Far from family and closest friends, we endeavored to celebrate a holiday that typically calls for digging the leaf out of the closet and cramming tons of family and friends around the table, quietly, just the two of us. It was amazing. Although we may have felt slightly ashamed when telling others of our plans, quick to explain financial logistics keeping us home for the holiday, privately, we were excited about it.
The feast, in particular, was the object of our awe. This is something that we had taken for granted for our entire lives. Although we may have played helping rolls from time to time (haha, get it?), that turkey, and the meal in general, had always been someone else’s responsibility. The concept of taking it on ourselves was daunting and exhilarating.
We went all out--turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, veggies, and of course, pie. It was by no means easy. I think we spent half an hour alone wrestling that metal clamp from the turkey legs so we could remove the gizzards, and ended up eating at least two hours after the planned time. But none of this mattered! There was no one to impress, no one expecting to eat right at 2. And the food turned out amazing, and so much more rewarding to eat knowing that we had made it together. The next day, the food was still amazing. 3 days later, it was pretty good, and 5 days later it was decent. 2 weeks past, when we were still pulling turkey out of the freezer, it was OK, but I could have gone for a burger.
Now the big question: Did we start any traditions on our first Thanksgiving together? It’s hard to say specifically. Traditions are not always objective. I guess I may struggle with that stupid turkey clamp year after year, but I’d like to say that that won’t become a tradition. We did turn the “I’m thankful for...” activity into a drinking game. I think it’s safe to say that has solidified itself as a Newcomb family tradition, although, when we have kids, we may have to change drinking to eating brussel sprouts or something. Also, Husker football is, by default, a Thanksgiving tradition.
In conclusion to my conclusion, I’ve had many memorable Thanksgivings in my life, but last year's spent with my wonderful wife has by far been my favorite. It will be a story we tell our kids year after year until long after they’re sick of it.

Epilogue:
Did you know that there is another
Reynolds Tribe? Completely unrelated. So I think.

09 November 2010

Thanksgiving Memory #1

To celebrate November, a lot of my friends are using Facebook to share one thing they are grateful for each day. I love how November is a month of remembering things we are thankful for, spending time with our families, and eating good food (love that part). I wanted to get into the spirit of Thanksgiving on my blog, and asked some of my friends to write a guest post for me sharing some of the things they appreciate about this season. Be on the lookout! It will be nice to "hear" some other voices for a change.
One of my favorite Thanksgiving memories is from a family trip to Hawaii. I don't remember how old I was, probably in the 12-14 range. We took some time off of school and had a fantastic vacation. However, my sister and I were a little grumpy about not having a big Thanksgiving dinner that year. On Thanksgiving morning, my parents joked that they were going to take us to Denny's for our Thanksgiving meal. Cassi and I were horrified.
Now, grown-up Kara laughs at pre-teen Kara for even thinking that my dad might set foot in a Denny's. Really, it's laughable. But my parents can play the straight man comedy-wise when it really matters, and play it they did. As we pulled into the parking lot at Denny's, Cassi and I shared a look of despair. And then my parents steered us into a nice restaurant next-door. Psych!
Now, as I recall, the food wasn't that great. However, our family was together, we were on a gorgeous island having the time of our lives, and my parents pulled a really great prank. It is a Thanksgiving I'll always fondly remember.

06 November 2010

Excerpt #1

This is a "snippet" from my novel, approximately 5,500 words past the snippet on my NaNoWriMo page.

Our dress rehearsal is terrible. Ellie has run out of base and lipstick, which means a hurried rush to restock so Phil can see how the actors look under the lights. The high school band sounds great, but plays so loudly that Steve constantly has to readjust Maria’s microphone volume. Gretl von Trapp has a sore throat, and I’m pretty sure Rolf tried to grab my butt as we crossed paths in the tunnel. Phil claims that all these calamities (except the possible groping, I’d rather die than mention that to Phil) foretell a smash hit on opening night, so we all cross our fingers that he is right. On opening night, Dad and Uncle Jack sit together in the row with a big open spot for Uncle Jack’s wheelchair. I can see them through the small gap in the curtain on Stage Left. Coy and I are dressed all in black- black shoes, socks, pants, long-sleeved tees. We don’t wear black caps because we both have such dark hair it would be pointless. In a moment of giddiness an hour before the curtain goes up, Coy writes “Backstage Goddess” on the back of my shirt with a black Sharpie marker. With 10 minutes to go, I pull my hair back into a ponytail, and send Coy through the tunnel to Stage Right. Phil leads the actors in a “shake out” where they all stand in the green room and shake wildly to release the nerves. Even Captain von Trapp participates, and this is his 5th show with us. Everyone is full of energy.

And of course, Phil’s prediction comes true. Opening night is amazing. Coy, Rolf, and Captain von Trapp manage to change the sets in less than 3 minutes. The band doesn’t drown out Maria. No one tries to cop a feel before they are herded onstage. After the show, my dad gives me pink carnations, as he does every opening night. Uncle Jack shakes my hand and tells me he can’t wait to see it again tomorrow night. Coy and I exchange high-fives that turn into hugs. The whole cast is on fire.

Hope it made you laugh!

05 November 2010

National Novel Writing Month

In November 2007, I worked for an independent bookstore (the Reader's Cove). I was in charge of setting up special events. One of the things I was asked to schedule was a "write-in" for NaNoWriMo. We gave free coffee to a bunch of people who hung out in our cafe all afternoon working on this mysterious NaNoWriMo. My interest was piqued.
National Novel Writing Month is about literary production. It's about taking a story and sticking it through. It's not about writing the next Harry Potter, or making money. You spend the entire month of November being creative- 50,000 words worth of creativity. To write 50,000 words in a month, you have to write about 1,667 a day. This means that every day you just write and write and write. No time is spent on editing. To win, all you have to do is finish your quota of 50,000 words by midnight on November 30th.
This is the first November since I heard about NaNoWriMo that I haven't been in school. My friend Ian is participating, and it is thanks to him that I am a NaNoWriMo this year. A chance glance at his Facebook profile reminded me (on October 31st) about NaNoWriMo, and I made a split-second decision to participate this year.
I took a story idea that I've been kicking around for a year, and decided to expand it. So far I have written over 10,000 words, putting me ahead of the game. If I complete all 50,000 words in time, this is the shirt Ryan will let me buy as a reward. I'm pretty dang excited. At least for now. Some days it is really hard to write. That's why you are supposed to tell as many people as possible about it so they encourage you! Consider yourselves my official encouragers.
You can learn more about NaNoWriMo at their website: www.nanowrimo.org
Check my progress and read an excerpt of my potential novel on my author profile page.
I will blog about my progress periodically, and I may even step way out of my comfort zone and post more excerpts. Keep in mind that this is unedited work, written in a frenzy while Sam naps. Be kind.


04 November 2010

New Mexico Trip

Sam and I visited my parents last month in our first lengthy separation from Ryan: 9 days! We had a great time sightseeing around their new home, eating yummy food, and generally being spoiled.
White Sands National Monument is about an hour away from their house, and it is definitely worth the drive. It features huge gypsum sand dunes that look like snow from far away because they are so white. We climbed around in the sand, and borrowed sleds from 2 guys to take a few trips down the hill.
video
My parents' next-door neighbors have 2 English bulldogs. Sam hasn't really spent time with any dogs since he was 6 months old, so they were like a whole new experience to him. He LOVED the dogs and kept making these really cute snuffling noises at them. video
We also visited a corn maze, which had lots of other activities like slides and hayrides. We took a hayride to the "U-Pick" pumpkin patch. Sam enjoyed touching all the pumpkins. He even carried a little white gourd around with him, so of course we had to get it for him (luckily it was free).
It was a lot of fun, and I can't wait to take Ryan there for Christmas. I want to go sledding again!

31 October 2010

Happy Halloween!

Recap of last year's Halloween: We had a ward Halloween party, that you were supposed to wear costumes for. I had a 4-month old baby, and was VERY excited about it, so I spent all of October working on a family-themed costume idea:
This year, I was not having an energetic October. I felt like it would be lame not to dress up, since we had done such a good job last year, but I really couldn't muster up enough excitement to go buy stuff/make stuff. Plus, I was out of town for the Halloween party, and Ryan had to work over Halloween weekend.
But then my mom bought Sam a pair of denim overalls. By some stroke of luck, she had also sent us a hand-me-down red sweater and red baseball cap. Now, if denim overalls, red shirt, and red hat don't instantly suggest a costume idea, you clearly are not part of my generation...
So I had this great costume idea for Sam, but Halloween falls on a Sunday this year, and I didn't feel like taking Sam out on the Sabbath (after all, he's one. he's not going to put up a fuss).
However, I live in a magical place called Utah, where if a holiday falls on a Sunday, it gets celebrated on Saturday (remember Independence Day?) That means everyone went trick-or-treating on October 30th! On October 29th, I decided Sam was going trick-or-treating, gosh darn it.
Okay, back to the costume. If you haven't figured it out yet, shame on you.
It's-a me-a, MARIO!!
Ryan drew the mustache. We let Sam carry the plunger around the whole time because it was the only way to keep him from yanking off his hat.
We were only out for a half-hour, because Ryan had to go to work, but we had so much fun. Sam was pretty clueless at first, but gradually he figured out he could knock on the door, then reach into a bowl and get CANDY. He wasn't as good at letting go of the candy to put it in the bag, but what did I expect?
I recently returned from visiting my parents in New Mexico. It is... not Alaska. But we had a good time nevertheless. I think I'll do another post sometime with some of the videos and pictures from the trip. But for now...
Happy Halloween from The Reynolds Tribe!

15 October 2010

You can't always get what you want

Pregnancy is an emotion-filled ride. It's nauseating (at least for me), it's scary, it's thrilling. When it ends before you want it to, it's heartbreaking.
Last week I announced on our blog the exciting news that we were expecting our second child. I mentioned that I had an upcoming prenatal visit where I could compare how much weight I lost with this baby compared to with Sam. I was close to 12 weeks. Our doctor couldn't find the baby's heartbeat with the Doppler, which he assured me was normal this early in gestation. We pulled out the mini ultrasound machine, "just for fun". I joked that Ryan was going to be so mad that he stayed home with Sam and missed an ultrasound.
The mini ultrasound showed no heartbeat, and no fetal movement. Our doctor called in the attending physician, who confirmed that she couldn't see it either. I got rushed to the diagnostic center for a full ultrasound. It took the tech there about 30 seconds to confirm that the baby had no heartbeat, and had stopped growing about 3 weeks ago. She told me she was sorry, but that it was unmistakable that "my child had died."
Can you die without ever really being alive?
I know from my training in perinatal genetics that miscarriages, especially first trimester losses, are fairly common. Logically, I get that. But the irrational side of me never ever thought I'd be one of the women sharing that common experience.
The days after we got the news were pretty awful. My body still hadn't let go of the pregnancy, so I was still nauseous and exhausted. I had to take medicine to induce the actual miscarriage. Feeling so betrayed by my body was one of the hardest parts for me. Just waiting around for it to happen was awful.
This next section is not for the faint of heart or stomach. I suggest skipping to the next paragraph if you are either.

No one tells you that having a miscarriage is not like having your period. After taking the medicine, I hung out on our hide-a-bed with Ryan, waiting for the bleeding to begin. I felt cramps for a while, which I had expected. We were watching a movie, and I got up midway through to see if anything was happening. Without realizing it, I had bled all the way through to the pad of the hide-a-bed. I ran into our bathroom. As soon as I sat down, I lost two huge blood clots, which no one told me would happen. I think I got a little hysterical at that point. This was all that existed of our baby, and I was supposed to just... flush it away? That is, I think, the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I kept telling myself that the baby died weeks ago, and no spirit inhabited that clump of tissues. But it was still hard. I didn't prepare well for it.

It has been a week now since we found out. Things are getting better. My nausea vanished, and I am trying to make our apartment a home again, something I neglected when I was sick. As my friend Lindsay put it, work is one of the best ways to move past grief. It is still really hard to tell the people who ask me how I'm feeling (because everyone asks pregnant women that question) that I feel fine, physically, because I'm not pregnant anymore.
My sister called me after my mom gave her the news, and cried with me on the phone. She asked me if it felt like I had lost part of my family. What I couldn't say through the tears is this: Those family members who die are not "lost" to us. My family will last forever, every single member of it. I won't get to hold this baby in my arms and say hi after an exhausting, triumphant labor, like I did with Sam. I may have to wait 60 more years to meet this other member of my family (although if I keep eating junk food the way I do now, it might be a lot less), but meet him or her I will. And not just a passing "Oh hello, oh you're that baby? Well great, enjoy heaven", but I will meet them as their mother, who will fill the role of their mother in the eternal life to come. I know that this is true.
As that great philosopher Jagger once said, you can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need. I needed love and support, and to feel like I wasn't going to be left to suffer alone. I have received so much from my wonderful friends and family. Thanks for the flowers, Lindsay. They really cheer up my apartment. Jessica, only you could say "Kara, this really sucks about your fetus" and make me laugh instead of cry. Thanks for the ice cream. Elisa, I can think of no one else I'd rather eat Panda Express with on the day we found out. Somehow, you knew I wasn't ready to talk, and I really appreciate how you let me have a normal dinner and not an awkward one. Mom, thanks for telling the rest of our family for me. It was hard enough to say it on the phone to you. I wouldn't have been able to say it 5 more times. And to all the rest of my friends, thanks for the hugs, and the sorrow I saw in your eyes. Thanks for being sad for me.
Sam is happy to have his mommy back. I think he was really bored with me the past 6 weeks, when I could only watch him play instead of playing with him. I'm really grateful that he is so oblivious to what's going on. It makes it easy to lose my own feelings in trying to make him feel like the most special person on earth. Which of course he is!
Ryan is my rock and my anchor. He accepts my feelings, and always tries to give me what I need. I don't think there is another person out there more perfectly suited to being my other half. I am truly blessed to have him as my husband forever, no matter what.
Don't be sad for me for too long, friends, because I plan on being happy again real soon. We don't move on, we move through, and we come out at the other end stronger, better people.

06 October 2010

Blog Hiatus

It's been so long since I updated our blog that I probably don't have any faithful readers left. I understand, guys. My parents came to visit after my last post. They drove from Anchorage to Northern California, dropped off my sister and our dog at school, then drove to Utah to see us. After a couple weeks of Mom sleeping on our couch while Dad was at work, they drove to their new home in New Mexico. Pretty sweet road trip, right? So I didn't blog while they visited, and I didn't blog after they left because...
...I'm pregnant again!
And just like with Sam, I am really, really sick. It takes all of my energy just to be conscious and stand up. Instead of playing with Sam, I have a pillow on the floor of his room, and I lay down while he throws toys at me. Occasionally he dogpiles me, which is adorable except when he lands on my stomach. I don't really cook, unless baked potatoes count. I did make spaghetti last night, and it wiped me out. When I get exhausted, I vomit. I do manage to do laundry, but our apartment is a mess. I've lost weight, in my hips and thighs, which is pretty sweet. Last time I lost 12 pounds by this point in pregnancy. I have a prenatal visit on Friday, so I'll see then how much I've lost this time. Probably not as much. How did I get through my first semester of graduate school like this? I honestly have no idea.
But enough of the pity party. This time around, instead of keeping the pregnancy a secret (which was hard last time considering I threw up in public frequently) we told our Relief Society president right away. The wonderful women of our ward mobilized instantly. We have had dinner brought to us, our dishes washed, and our son babysat. Elisa has been amazing about making dinner at our house, then cleaning up. My mom sent me a Jamba Juice gift card so I could get my fruity cravings satisfied. And of course, I have the most amazing husband on the planet. If I die from hyperemesis gravida, you can fight over him, single ladies. Ryan just washed all our dishes and cleaned up after Hurricane Samuel's spaghetti tornado. He changes poopy diapers when I can't handle the smell. He brings the laundry in from the line when it's dark outside. He goes grocery shopping. He takes out the trash. He watches Sam while I take naps. And he does it all while going to school, working full-time, and preparing to be a Seminary teacher. I may not remember what it is like not to feel like death warmed over (it's been more than 6 weeks since I felt "normal"), but at least this time of trial makes it clear to me how blessed I truly am.
Sammy and I are flying to New Mexico on Friday to spend some time with Mom and Dad. Sam is quite the seasoned traveler. This will be his 6th airplane trip, and New Mexico will be the 9th state he has visited. New Mexico is a new one for me too, actually. As soon as I find my transfer cable, I'll put up some pictures of us.

19 August 2010

Literary Discussion: The Hunger Games

Excitement is sweeping the young adult literary nation this week as they count down to the August 24 release of the final book in Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games series. Personally, I haven't looked forward to a book release this much since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out in 2007.
I have resisted the Hunger Games books for about a year now. I recall reading on Stephenie Meyer's website that she loved the book and couldn't put it down, but I was in grad school and pregnant at the time and didn't have a lot of free time left for reading. Now that school is over and Sam doesn't require my constant attention (ha ha), I have had a lot more time for books on my hands. I requested The Hunger Games at the library, but was number 155 on the list to check it out.
One hundred fifty-five? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I knew instantly that I was missing out on something good. No way I was going to wait for 154 slowpokes to finish the book before I got a crack at it. My good friend Mary responded to my Facebook plea for help, showing up at our apartment with both The Hunger Games and its sequel, Catching Fire. That was a Monday night. I promised Mary I'd try to get the books back to her in a week.
It took less than 24 hours. That's right, almost 800 pages, devoured overnight. That's how good these books are. I stayed up Monday night reading as fast as I could, and pretty much ignored Sam and Ryan the next day (they got over it). So let me say, without further ado- READ THESE BOOKS. The third one, Mockingjay, comes out next Tuesday. I am number 285 on the library's hold list, though Mary assures me I can borrow it from her when she's done with it.
At this point of the blog post, you should stop reading if you haven't read Hunger Games yet but think you might. If you've read the books and like overanalyzing them, read on.
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First of all, what struck me immediately about the books is how dense Katniss is when it comes to interpreting the feelings and motivations of others. She pretty much assumes that the world is a certain way, and has great difficulty seeing past her own viewpoint. This is a very handy strategy used by Suzanne Collins to intentionally deceive us in order to twist the plot. She's not the first to use this strategy. Remember in the first Harry Potter book, how Harry is absolutely convinced that Snape is trying to steal the Sorcerer's Stone? Because the book is written from Harry's perspective, we are unable to consider the possibility that someone else might be after the stone. When JKR reveals that it's actually Quirrell, we're blindsided. And good thing too! How boring would it have been to suspect Quirrell the whole time and be right? No, readers enjoy being wrong. Suzanne Collins enjoys misleading her readers into being wrong, and bravo to that, I say.
Here are a few examples: In Hunger Games (THG) when Katniss is saying goodbye to her friends, Madge insists that she take her mockingjay pin, not only to the Capitol, but into the Hunger Games arena itself. Why? It doesn't seem to be a bit odd to Katniss, but if you reread the scene it certainly stands out as a little bit weird. And how about Cinna constantly removing the pin from Katniss' discarded clothes to return it to her? Why should he give a crap about her pin? Again, Katniss glosses over how odd this is, but we as enlightened readers should not. By the end of Catching Fire (CF), the mockingjay has become the symbol of the rebellion. Madge and Cinna (if he's not dead) probably both have big parts to play in the coming book, as shown by their attachments to the symbol of the rebellion.
Another example along the same lines: In CF, Plutarch Heavensbee, the new Head Gamesmaker, shows Katniss his watch with mockingjay hologram during a dance. Katniss, with her disdain for all people associated with the Capitol, assumes he's just another idiot jumping on the mockingjay bandwagon. And then at the end of the book, you find out that Heavensbee is part of the rebellion! Katniss was surprised, but I was not. By then, I had learned what an unreliable narrator Katniss is, and decided not to trust her opinions about people.
If you have time before Mockingjay is released, go back and reread THG and CF. Don't trust Katniss' evaluation of things, and you'll find that a lot of the surprises in the books make sense. I expect that as Katniss is growing up more and more, she will become a more reliable narrator, and we'll see more careful thought from her in Mockingjay. I'd love to hear your thoughts on Katniss as an unreliable narrator and predictions for the 3rd book in the comments!
And I also can't wait to see what will happen re: Gale and Peeta. Yep, I'm a sap.

09 August 2010

Veggie Pasta!

Our fave next-door neighbors, the Andersons, went to Europe today. As a thank you for driving them to the airport, they gave us the perishable food from their refrigerator. I got mushrooms and tomatoes, which I hate but Ryan loves. Tonight is Ryan's friend Martin's last night in town, so we invited him and his wife over for dinner. Martin is Muslim, so he can only eat meat prepared by other Muslims.
Free veggies+enforced vegetarian guest= Pasta a la Kara! I sauteed onions, red peppers, asparagus, and mushrooms in olive oil, and tossed it with spaghetti. Top with tomatoes and grated mozzarella cheese... heaven. I abstained from the tomatoes and mushrooms, and thought it was delish. So there you go, friends. A simple, healthy, delicious meal.
In other news...
Sam is a hilarious kid. He recently discovered this stuffed monkey that he's had since he was a couple months old. He wrestles the heck out of that monkey. Sam is not one to play lying down, but not when it's monkey time!
We are moving into our two bedroom apartment in exactly 1 month! We are incredibly excited! Right now, Sam sleeps in a pack and play at the foot of our bed. It's hard to get into our room late at night to go to sleep without waking him up. And if he is awake, he probably looks something like this:
Or sometimes this:
If our kid played baseball, I'd call him Sammy So-sad. GET IT?? MWAH HA HA.
And finally, the summer semester is over, which means I now officially have a master's degree. I want to be addressed as Master Reynolds for the next week. Thanks guys.

30 July 2010

Taco Neck

When you eat a taco, which way do you tilt your head? I always tilt to the left. I tried tilting my head to the right at dinner tonight while eating tacos, and it just felt weird.
Which way do you tilt your "taco neck"?

In other news...
Today has been a disappointing day for The Reynolds Tribe. First off, I had another bout of insomnia last night and didn't fall asleep until 3am. Sam had a bad night too, and kept waking up, meaning we all got less sleep. Ryan and I were both grouchy from less sleep, and had a fight. We found out that we can't move into the apartment we want to, even though our friends want to switch with us. I didn't get the job at ARUP. Sam has been cranky all day, probably because he didn't sleep well. I have a migraine.
But we've had good things happen too! Dr. Pfitzner said that Sam's head growth is normal and didn't charge us for the appointment. The library had 5 of the books I wanted, and both Knuffle Bunny books for Sam. Ryan and I made up (and he made a cute "I love you" sign colored like a giraffe!) We had tacos for dinner (yum!) I got to give a tour of our apartment to an engaged couple who is moving in to the Village soon, and they were really nice. I ate a bunch of chocolate chips. Sam went to bed without a fuss right at his bedtime. Season 1 of Lie to Me is on Netflix Instant Play.
Overall I think I will put this on the good day list.

28 July 2010

Family Pictures part 2

We got our next set of family pictures! Katie Boyack took us to Wheeler Farms for our "photo shoot". There are lots of wooded trails to walk, and plenty of scenic places to take pictures. For this set, we were going for a relaxed, down-home kind of feel. We brought Ryan's cowboy hat and our trusty ukulele. Katie got so many cute pictures of Sam playing with the uke. Not an easy thing to do! If you need a photographer in the Salt Lake Valley area, check out Katie's photography site! We are so lucky to have photographer friends.
Hug-a-mommy!
Ukulele lesson
Our cute little cowboy!
This picture just about sums up our relationship :0)


Baseball... Cold showers

Utah doesn't have a major league baseball team, but it is home to the triple-A affiliate team of the LA Angels. The Salt Lake Bees stadium is not too far away from where we live. We had a lot of fun going to games before Sam was born, but haven't taken him out yet. Our friends the Broadheads have season tickets, and they gave 2 tickets to us so we could take Sam to a game! We chose to watch a game against the triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies (woot woot!). Season tickets are right by home plate, so we had a great view. Ryan brought his glove to protect us from foul balls. It rained off and on while we were there, which got our clothes wet but couldn't dampen our spirits. The game started at 7pm, which is when Sam goes to bed. We only made it through 4 innings, but we had a great time!
Eating snacks
Trying to stay dry

25 July 2010

Family Pictures part 1

Our family has had their picture taken not once but TWICE this past week. We asked my good friend Katie Boyack to take our anniversary pictures for us. Shortly after that, our friends the Loudons asked to take pictures of us before they move next week. We were happy to oblige. With their move coming up, the Loudons made sure to get our photos back to us ASAP, and I have a few favorites to show you here! If you are in the Memphis, TN area and need a photographer, be sure to check them out!
Ryan wanted to go for a 1920s, urban feel. I think the Loudons picked out the perfect spot!
I don't remember posing for this picture- candid shots are fantastic!
I love my Sammy!
Best buds clowning around!

Sam is so excited to walk by himself.
I think this captures Sam's soul- a little mischevious, but overall the sweetest thing ever!

24 July 2010

Happy Pioneer Day

Pioneer Day is a Utah thing. The holiday celebrates the arrival of the Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley. This is our third Pioneer Day in Utah, but actually the only one we've been physically in Utah for. Some of our friends had Friday off. Ryan, sadly, did not get any time off work. I don't have a job, so I couldn't expect any benefits from Pioneer Day (besides FIREWORKS!).
And then I got called for Jury Duty.
My week of being on-call for JD starts Monday. However, the courts have Monday off as part of the extended Pioneer Day holiday, so I have one less day of waiting around! Hurrah!

In other very exciting news...
Sam has started walking! He's only been doing it for about a week, and he thinks it's about the coolest thing ever. He holds his hands up by his shoulders and does his "I'm excited!" hyperventilating thing while taking tiny steps. Stinkin' adorable. Oh man. I love this kid.
Ryan and I had our 2 year anniversary on the 17th. That was a Saturday, so we had just enough time to go out to lunch as a family before Ryan had to go to sleep before work. Then a few days later Elisa watched Sam for us so we could go out on a REAL DATE. I honestly can't remember the last time Ryan and I went out alone to do something fun. We ate dinner at a restaurant without having to constantly entertain anyone (ie Sam) and then saw Despicable Me. It was fantastic.

12 July 2010

Gross

There are things in our apartment that are, quite frankly, gross. I was mentally listing them off this morning, and it made me laugh. If you like to be amused and slightly shocked, read on.

1. Sam's high chair: Ryan broke it a few months after we bought it, so it needs replaced. After Sam grows out of it, that thing is gone. As a result, I'm not as anal about cleaning it. There are crumbs in the crevasses, and dried food on the legs from Sam flinging food.
2. Sam's Snugaphant: Snugaphant is Sam's stuffed elephant. He snuggles it hardcore at night, and really likes to take his binkie out so he can chew on the tail. This thing has a rattle in it, so you can't wash it. I do try to wipe the grime off with baby wipes, but Sam-saliva is apparently unconquerable. I would get him a new Snugaphant, but first I have to ask my grandma and grandpa Huelin where they bought it. Hopefully not some obscure East Coast store.
3. Our bathroom: Hasn't been cleaned in a while. Will be rectifying that tonight. Sorry.
4. The plastic bags under our sink: There are probably close to 100. Our next-door neighbor wants to take them from us because they use them at her work, but for some reason I have not yet packed them up for her. I have no idea what the hold-up is. I want them gone.
5. The kitchen trash can: Always has poopy diapers in it. Need I say more?

Home, gross home.
Sam and Snugaphant. Fortunately, the tail is not in Sam's mouth.

04 July 2010

Happy 4th of July!

I love Independence Day because people choose to celebrate with FIREWORKS! which may be one of my top 5 favorite things in the world. Actually, let's make that list now:
1. Brownies
2. Roller-coasters
3. Fireworks
4. Baseball
5. Reading a book

See, fireworks DID make the list! And obviously this is a list that excludes people. It's more of a "material" or "worldly" top 5.
I digress...
Last night Sam and I met up with Elisa and Heidi to watch fireworks in Sugarhouse Park. Now, this is only the 2nd fireworks show I've been to in Utah, but I must say that Utahns do fireworks right! It was an amazing show. Sam, who thrives on new experiences, was not fazed at all by the fireworks. In fact, on Sam's top 5 list:
1. Lights
2. His "Snugaphant" stuffed animal
3. Binkies
4. Opening cupboards
5. Hissing

You can see that Lights are his favorite thing. Fireworks are big, exciting, loud lights. Sam and I laid down and looked up at the big lights. They held his attention for a few minutes, then he would wiggle around and try to climb on Elisa, then he would watch again. It was an exciting night for the little guy. I missed watching fireworks with Ryan, however. We have watched fireworks together 3 of the past 4 Independence Days. Poor Ryan, slaving away at the hospital so we can buy toys and oatmeal. I got a second fireworks show tonight. Our apartment complex is up the mountain from the rest of Salt Lake, so I could see several shows going on tonight. I don't know why, but I can't resist fireworks!
Last Thursday I took Sam to "Book Baby" at our local library. They read books, sing songs, and dance! I think I'll keep taking Sam, he needs to learn how to socialize without grabbing faces.
Back in May, I applied for a genetic counseling position here in Salt Lake City. As mentioned earlier, Ryan and I felt strongly about staying in SLC for a little while longer, so I turned down a position in Pennsylvania. We were pretty excited about this opportunity in SLC. I had a phone interview with HR, with the next step being an in-person interview with all the people involved with genetics in the company. A few weeks had gone by since the phone interview, so I called to check in and was told it would take a few more weeks. So after letting a few more weeks pass, I called again. The HR guy told me that I had not been selected for an in-person interview. I was crushed. It's one thing to not be selected for a job because you aren't the right person, but to not even get a chance? That was a new experience for me. Ryan and I were both very disappointed, and fairly concerned about our little family's financial future. After all, toys and oatmeal are expensive.
About a week after this let-down, I got a call from a woman who works in the office with the genetic counselors. She was calling to schedule my in-person interview! I was very confused, and timidly told her that I was informed by HR that I was not going to have an in-person interview. She was very upset and told me categorically that I was being considered all along for the position, especially being local and everything. I even got an e-mail from one of the GCs apologizing for the mistake! What a welcome surprise! I am interviewing over this Thursday and Friday, and have the opportunity to present my research as part of the interview process. That means giving my defense again. I am looking forward to it. After all, I think our research is pretty cool. Ryan and I would appreciate your thoughts and prayers this week. This job would be pretty ideal for us.
This is the first Sunday I haven't made brownies since the Sunday before Memorial Day. Weird.