15 December 2012

Pickle Movie

There's a Christmas tradition that my family looks forward to every year. On Christmas Eve, my mother hides a pickle ornament on our Christmas tree, and on Christmas morning, everyone races to find it. The winner gets a little extra present, plus bragging rights.
And since bragging rights are the real present, let me just say that I have found the Christmas pickle every year for the past five years in a row. I made this little video in case you are interested in being your family's Pickle Champion, too.

13 November 2012

Heading to the spaceport

Yet another excerpt:

            Fourteen and a half minutes later, Rex banged on the window of the Beetle. Violet unlocked the doors and he jumped in, tossing his backpack and a duffle bag in the back seat.
            “Be careful!” Violet yelped. “Mr. Skittles is back there!”
            “You brought your cat?”
            “I had to! I don’t know how long this is going to take!” Violet shot back. “I couldn’t just leave him.” She headed north. Once on the highway, she asked, “So what did you tell your mom?”
            Rex coughed slightly. “Don’t be mad, okay?”
            “Why would I be mad?” Violet asked, puzzled.
            He sighed. “I told her we were dating and I would probably be spending the night in your dorm room this whole week.”
            “What?! Rex Thompson!” she yelled.
            “I said don’t be mad!”
            “I cannot believe you,” Violet grumbled.
            “I can’t believe you,” Rex countered. “You’re going to try to break into an alien spaceport and you care if my mother thinks you’re my girlfriend?”
            “Point taken,” Violet said. “But come on. Ew.”
            Rex shook his head. “Unbelievable.”
            They drove on. A little over an hour later, they reached the turn-off from the main highway.
            “Mercury Highway?” Rex laughed. “That’s got to be an alien joke.” Violet just shrugged.
            “I guess it means we’re going the right way,” she said, gripping the steering wheel. She could feel her nervousness increasing. What if they couldn’t get on the base? What if they were breaking some alien law and they got thrown in alien jail? Would that be worse than Earth jail?
            “Violet,” Rex said, breaking her out of her thoughts. He reached across the seat and rubbed her shoulders. “It’s okay.”
            Finally, they pulled up to the guard station. Violet rolled down her window.
            “Just like at McDonalds,” Rex whispered.
            “I never eat at McDonalds,” Violet hissed.
            They heard a hiccup from the guard station. A head poked out of the window, and a flashlight shined in their faces.
            “Identification, please,” the guard intoned. Violet wrinkled her nose at the smell. She glanced at Rex, who shrugged and pulled his driver’s license from his wallet. Violet handed her license over, too.
            “I need your planet of origin cards,” the guard said.
            “This is our planet of origin,” Violet said shakily. The flashlight shined in their eyes again.
            “What the…?” he said. “You’re from Earth?”
            “Yes…” Violet replied. She started getting nervous again.
            “We’re visiting her godfather, Berkeley Waters,” Rex called from across the car. “He’s meeting us at the spaceport.”
            “Oh,” the guard said. He sounded noticeably relieved. His voice suddenly changed. “Hey, is that cat for sale?”
            “Uh, no,” Violet said quickly. “It’s a present. For my godfather, you know.”
            “Worth a shot,” the guard said. Violet squinted up at him, trying to read his nametag.
            “Could you please let us in now, Mr. Ninford?” she asked.
            “Oh, yeah,” he said, scratching his armpit. “Force field’s down. Go right ahead. Follow the signs for parking, and then get on the walkway to get to the shuttle.”
            “Thank you!” Violet called as they drove through. She rolled up the window, and both she and Rex burst into laughter.
            “I am pretty sure that alien was drunk,” Violet laughed.
            “I can’t believe we got in!” Rex gasped. “We’re going to go to space! Like, for real, outer space.” They looked at each other, grinning like maniacs. 

Hash browns?

Here's another excerpt from my NaNoWriMo work. I'm too tired to write, but copying and pasting seemed like a surmountable task.

            Berkeley was awoken by housekeeping banging on his door at nine o’clock. “Housekeeping” appeared to be a loosely applied term in this hotel; the maid wore jeans and was in the process of smoking a cigarette while she eyed him saucily from the doorway. Berkeley had fallen asleep fully dressed, so he picked up his bag and left after asking the maid if he’d missed the complimentary breakfast. She was still laughing when he walked out the door.
            Back on the road, he stopped for a fast food sandwich. It was highly unsatisfying, but it filled his stomach. He made a notation in his travel notebook. This morning, his hand was perfectly still. Berkeley felt confident again as he sped toward the shuttlefield for the spaceport. The squat buildings of the supposed Earthling military base were barely visible up ahead. A high electrified fence surrounded the complex; its only point of entry was marked by a small guard station with a yellow mechanical arm blocking the road. Berkeley knew the yellow arm was just for show in case an Earthling tried to access the spaceport; an invisible force field was the true means of keeping people out of Area 51. Pulling up to the small hut, he held out his credentials to the guard, who looked bored. Berkeley also switched off his white-vision cufflinks; they were unnecessary here.
            “Berkeley Waters,” he announced to the guard, handing him his Earth identification card, his planet-of-origin identification card, and a hefty amount of Martian currency. The guard, who Berkeley could tell was originally from Mercury from his dark skin tone, raised an eyebrow at the pile of bills.
            “I’m looking for a kidnapper,” Berkeley informed him in hushed tones. “Someone abducted an Earthling woman Friday night, and I’m tracking him down. What do you know?” 
            “Look, how many times have you been here?” the guard asked him sarcastically. “You prove you’re extraterrestrial, we let you in. I don’t check the trunks or nothing. It’s not my job to see if people are smuggling things into the spaceport. Talk to Customs.” He started to slide the window of his station closed, but Berkeley persisted.
            “Come on,” he pressed. “Anything out of the ordinary the past two nights?”
            The guard shook his head. “I wasn’t even on duty then. I’ve been off since Thursday. You want to talk with Ninford, he did nights this weekend.”
            Berkeley scribbled the name down. “Where can I find him?” he asked eagerly. The guard stared at him. Berkeley rolled his eyes and fished around the backseat of his car.
            “Energy drink?” he offered the guard. “I hear they’re pretty good.” The Mercurial accepted the drink. Berkeley waited patiently to hear Ninford’s whereabouts. The guard gave him the same blank stare.
            Berkeley looked wildly around his car. He hadn’t completely finished his breakfast. He crossed his greelae, hoping the guard liked Earthling fast food.
            “Hash browns?” he asked.

06 November 2012

NaNoWriMo Time

It's November, which for some people means no shaving, and for me means participating in National Novel Writing Month. Writing a novel (original fiction of at least 50,000 words) is something I've always wanted to do, and NaNoWriMo has helped me meet my goal the past two years. Here's an excerpt from the first 5,000 words of this year's novel, a sci-fi romp titled Berkeley Waters, Intergalactic Detective:

            Berkeley got up and paced around the small room. Ordinarily, he would be doing paperwork for various cases he had coming up. Alien tourists on Earth were always getting into trouble over currency, personal space, and parking tickets. There was usually no shortage of extraterrestrials to shepherd through Earth’s legal system. Granted, many of them skipped atmosphere without ever showing up in court, but they knew they wouldn’t get back on land if they had outstanding legal problems. And for most members of the Sol System, visiting a planet that was completely ignorant of the rest of the universe was too good to pass up.
            He sighed. Janet was too efficient at the paperwork. Everything was finished, and now he had no new cases. Usually on a day like this, he’d be looking into more serious crimes ignored by the Earthling policemen, but his case against the Verbanski brothers of Jupiter was going nowhere, and he was in no mood to be frustrated. It was already a frustrating kind of day. He woke up on the wrong side of the bed, as the Earthlings said. He was out of toothpaste, which made no sense because he had plenty the night before. He suspected he was eating it in his sleep. Mint was one of his favorite Earth flavors. But in his sleep, he couldn’t taste it. What a waste.
            Then he had come to work and failed to enjoy coffee for the hundred and ninety-first day in a row. Janet wasn’t wearing anything especially provocative, and was extra snippy with him for making her work on a Saturday. His contact at the spaceport never replied to his supra-e-mail about a potential sighting of a known catnapper from Venus. And finally, it was another sunny day in Las Vegas. He was tired of sunny days. He wondered how much trouble he would get into for taking his little planet-hopper through the clouds to sow some rain crystals over Nevada. He was in the middle of calculating how far away from the spaceport he’d need to be to avoid detection when his computer beeped. It had taken a few modifications to be able to receive supra-e-mail on an Earth computer, but it was well worth the trouble. He eagerly read the mail, but his face fell as soon as he realized it wasn’t about the rogue catnapper.

04 November 2012

Fried Pickles, or The Most Forgetful Weekend of My Life

First off, here's a picture of The Reynolds Tribe's first Halloween in Laramie: 

That bright shiny ribbon was attached to a balloon that Sister Williams gave to us. It's still floating around our house!

My parents had a lot of extra time share points this year, and they generously offered to use some of them so that we could have a mini-vacation. So we spent the weekend in Estes Park, Colorado, at the Historic Crags Lodge. As always, my job is to pack, and Ryan loads everything in the car. We left our house around 2:30pm on Friday afternoon, feeling good about our weekend. We were about five miles away from Fort Collins, our first stop, when I realized we forgot to bring a stroller or a baby carrier to transport Benjy around for the weekend. Strike one for Kara. We did a little shopping and eating in Fort Collins, and called some of our old college friends who were still in the area until we found someone able to loan us a stroller. The Brinks are our HEROES.
We headed up to Estes Park and checked into the lodge. The friendly lady at the front desk handed me our room key, and then gave me the code to the swimming pool gate.
"Isn't the pool closed?" I asked. "I thought the website said it closed on November 1st."
"It used to," she informed me cheerily. "But we just built a brand new heated pool and spa, and they are open year round." I didn't pack our swimsuits. Strike two for Kara.
We had a two bedroom suite with a mini kitchen all to ourselves. It was decorated in a charmingly rustic style that we all loved.

The wardrobe in Sam's room

Even the toilet paper holder was faux-logs!

We spent Saturday morning walking around downtown, looking at cool shops. While Ben took a nap after lunch, the rest of us explored the lodge. A wedding was being held there that night, so the dining room was beautifully decorated. We couldn't go in the pool, but the hotel had a bunch of FunNoodles and a water ball, so we played with those instead.

The view from the lodge. The big white building is the famous Stanley Hotel, where the movie The Shining was filmed.

After Ben woke up, we decided to go geocaching around town. Both of the caches ended up being kid-unfriendly: one on a busy road, the other a hundred feet or more up the side of a "mountain". I found both on my own, so I still count the trip as a success. With some navigational help from my dad, we were able to drive out to a ranch where Ryan's dad worked in the seventies. It's now on the Colorado Historic Register. Then we went to dinner. In typical Reynolds fashion, we picked a place to eat, drove there, read the reviews in the parking lot, decided not to eat there, then spent 30 minutes trying to pick a new place to eat. We ended up at the Rock Inn Mountain Tavern, and while it was more expensive than we wanted, the food and service were both fabulous (no that is not an excerpt from my Yelp review). Ryan went in first to make sure it was kid-friendly, and by the time the rest of us got in, the waitress had already set up a booster seat for Sam and brought us a high chair to put Ben's car seat on. We went all out and ordered an appetizer- Ryan picked fried pickles. They were fabulous. Sam loved them. I loved them. Even Benjy sucked the breading off of one and cried when it was over. Our burgers were great, and our dessert was fantastic. We went back to the lodge feeling very full and happy. I was especially happy because I didn't have to look at the check.
We gave the boys baths, and watched some TV in bed together, and went to sleep! And that was our trip. The next morning (that is, this morning) we got up early and got ready for church. We were in such a rush to get back to Laramie that I left Ben's bowl of peas and our milk in the fridge in our hotel room, which of course I didn't realize until we were twenty miles away. Strike three for Kara. We made a brief detour in Fort Collins to return the stroller, and made it back to Laramie in time for church. Mini-vacations are great!

01 October 2012

Welcome to Laradise

Some marketing "genius" came up with the nickname of "Laradise" for Laramie. Right... (definitely said in Dr. Evil's voice)

While it may not be a paradise, for the Reynolds Tribe, Laramie is fast becoming our home. We are completely unpacked (well, except for the pile of Ryan's clothes that we need to buy a dresser for...). Our new house is awesome. It has two levels, and TWO BATHROOMS, plus a washer and dryer. We love it. It was worth coming out here just to live in this place. I haven't taken any pictures yet, so maybe next time we will show off our new space.
We've been keeping busy here in Wyoming. Ryan doesn't work at the hospital on weekends anymore (obviously), so we have much more family time. Here's a recap of what we've been doing:
Now that we live so close to Ryan's family, it is much easier to get together with them. For Ryan's birthday, the "Other Reynolds" all came up to Laramie for a visit. We even had enough space for all of them to spend the night! Richard slept outside, but that was his choice. I did offer him a place indoors.
We have been down to Fort Collins, where we went to school. It is so different now than it was 4 years ago. Old Town has exploded. Our reason for going was to buy tap shoes for me (yeah, I tap dance now) but we also got to see some friends and eat at Pizza Casbah.
Then we took the boys to a Rockies game. The Rockies are terrible this year (oh, to relive the glory of 2007), so by the end of September none of the regular starters were in. Which meant we didn't feel bad about leaving early when our kids got out of control.
This ridiculously over-priced ice cream cone kept Sam entertained for half an inning

Look how good our seats were! Thanks for the tickets, Mo!

This picture pretty much sums up the evening

Part of Ryan's new work responsibilities includes observing early morning Seminary classes from Rawlins, Wyoming to Sidney, Nebraska. When he has to go really far away, the Church will pay for Ryan to stay in a hotel, which means mini-vacation! We went with him to Scottsbluff, NE last weekend.

Sam loved having a queen-sized bed to himself

Benjy, however, slept in his bassinet like always
Don't worry, B, you could have had to sleep like this:
Which was how I slept the last time I stayed in a hotel

At least he had a comfy nap

We had fun swimming in the pool, stuffing ourselves with free breakfast, and jumping on the beds. On the way home we stopped at a McDonalds in Cheyenne so Sammy could visit the playplace (guess what? Laradise doesn't have one).

Benjy entertained himself with the paper bag. Why do I bother buying toys?

And that's what we've been doing this month. Sorry I've been such a slacker. I promise to do better this month...

The Soap Opera Experiment

I watch a lot of TV.
Part of it comes with the territory of spending the vast majority of my day in my house, alone (or at least, bereft of company that can speak in complete sentences), and the other part is a lifelong fascination with the "dramatic arts", be it film, TV, or the stage. Here's my list of primetime viewing must-sees:
New Girl
Go On (could I BE any happier that Matthew Perry is back on TV?)
The Big Bang Theory
The Mentalist
and my British imports, Downton Abbey, Sherlock, and Doctor Who.

In the summertime, when primetime essentially shuts down and gives its time to idiotic nonsense (eg any reality TV show), I get a little fidgety. This summer, I decided to try something new: a soap opera.
I picked The Young and The Restless by accident: it happened to be on right after The Price is Right. Soap operas are often picked on for being so different from "regular TV", and I wanted to find out why.

Neil and Harmony

First off, the amount of characters (not guest stars, but actual well-developed characters) on a soap is mind-boggling. I think it took a month before I was confident that I could recognize and name every character on Y&R, and remember their connections to every other character. And because characters marry and divorce and change their names for other, weirder reasons, you just refer to them by their first names.
Time out: did you know that soap operas are so-called because the radio stations that originally broadcast them were often sponsored by companies that made soap? True story.

Nikki and Jack

Soap operas are broadcast five days a week, in contrast to primetime shows, which are only once a week. They don't take a break- no summers off. This means that the writers are on a tremendous deadline to churn out stories. I think that's probably why the dialogue is often stilted. Plus, due to the heavy serialization, a fair amount of each show is given over to exposition, which always seems clunky no matter what medium it's used in. A day in real life frequently equals one soap opera day, so the action moves pretty slowly. Instead of a complete scene between characters, scenes are often brief, ending with a dramatic pause (which in my brain usually gets filled in with dun dun DUN). The scene is resumed later in the episode.

Michael and Lauren

Soap operas are a dying breed. In fact, only 4 remain on daytime television. General Hospital is the longest running soap that is still currently on TV. It's been on since 1963. There's another insight into why the storylines on soap operas are frequently ridiculous: They've already done everything normal! Probably several times! No wonder characters are constantly backstabbing each other, "coming back to life", and becoming amnesia victims (which happens every time someone hits their head- two characters had amnesia on Y&R from June-September).
The last thing I want to touch on is Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome. Babies get born a lot on soap operas. But how fun are babies? I mean, in real life they are great, but on TV? Meh. They can't get amnesia, so they must be no fun to write for. So frequently a child or teenager will get SORASed. For example, Abby on Y&R was "born" onscreen in November of 2000, which should make her 12 years old. However, the character is now 24, with a revised birthday of November, 1988. A 24-year-old Abby can get into much more interesting hijinks than a 12-year-old can. And the crazy thing is that you just have to accept it. No one takes notice when a new actor comes along to portray a character (which happens a lot during contract negotiations). In the soap opera universe, nothing has changed.

Daniel and Phyllis
Does she look old enough to be his mother? They are only 14 years apart in age...

Now that primetime TV is back to normal, I'm saying goodbye to my soap. It's comforting to know that it will be there next summer if I get bored again, with all the same characters (just in different relationships). Meanwhile...  

03 September 2012

New Family Photos

We had our family photos taken one last time in SLC before we left. The great Amanda Penton kindly obliged by meeting us at Wheeler Farms one morning and steering us around the charming farmyard. We are so excited to finally have some photos of our family of FOUR! Here are some of our favorites:

Yes, this "b" got chewed on

For some reason, we didn't have a letter K... so I got the chair for my solo photo

29 August 2012

Little Man

Just like Sammy did, baby Benjy has a lot of nicknames. Here's his list:
Nicknames for Benjamin Wood Reynolds

Benny Boy
Benny and the Jets
Baby Ben
Mr. Kicks
Benjy Beluga
Little Whale
Benjy W (pronounced "Wuh")
Baby Brudder
Bonji (that's Sam's)
Little the Precious
Ickle Precious

He even has a whale shirt!

27 August 2012

Paper Mountain

The upstairs portion of our house is 90% unpacked. The downstairs is more like 60%. 83.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot.
Like I said in the last post, we had professionals pack up all our things. Professionals, apparently, use copious amounts of paper to pack all boxes. And in the Ryan Reynolds Method of Unpacking (TM), you don't clear debris away after carefully unpacking each box. You just shove it all in one place until your wife flips out and makes you take it down to the garage.
Sometimes the pile gets so out of control that there is nothing to do but take pictures.

Hmm, what is this?

Claustrophia levels are high

Very high

19 August 2012


Moving is laaaaaame.
Ryan and I have been married for 4 years now, and our home in Wyoming is the 5th place we've lived together in that short amount of time. Our first move was from Colorado to Utah, and we packed and moved ourselves out there. For this interstate move, the Church paid for everything, included having the moving company put things into boxes for us. It was amazing, but Ryan and I kind of felt like slackers just hanging around our house watching them work. Sammy went nuts when he saw the moving truck and all the boxes. He was so excited! We had to keep the boys out of the way so the packers could work uninterrupted, which took some creativity.
Benjy took a nap in the garage

The next day, the giant moving truck came to load all the things that the packers... packed. Sam once again was thrilled. 
No, that entire truck was not just for us. We used less than half of it.

So by mid-day Tuesday our house was empty of everything not traveling in our car. 

Ryan and I slept on an air mattress; Sam slept on the floor. Benjy was the only one who had his regular bed.

Wednesday we cleaned the apartment so Del wouldn't have as much to do before the Andersons moved in.

Hard working huss!

Early Thursday morning, we left! Farewell, Utah! You were good to us. 

The "six hour" drive to Laramie took MUCH longer than it needed to, thanks to Benjy and Sammy's combined efforts. But we finally made it, and celebrated our move by eating at Pizza Hut... like, inside Pizza Hut, the way we did as kids. Definitely going to be a family favorite of ours.

Don't cross the streams!

16 July 2012

And Now for Something Completely Different

As you all probably know, Ryan was hired by our church to teach Seminary last fall. (to learn more about Seminary, click the link.) As an employee of Seminaries and Institutes, Ryan has a few career paths he could head down. In Utah and a few other places, he would have the option of teaching Seminary full-time. Outside of Utah, he could coordinate volunteer Seminary teachers and teach at an Institute (for college-level students). To do that, however, you must have a Master's degree and several years experience teaching Seminary. While we were visiting Ryan's family in Colorado, a position opened up at the Institute at the University of Wyoming, in Laramie. We joked around about it, and Ryan applied, even though he doesn't have a Master's or even a full year of experience teaching.
Friday night we got a phone call asking us to take the position.
We were absolutely dumbfounded. On paper, Ryan wasn't at all qualified for the position. We were told, however, that the people responsible for making the hiring decision had felt very strongly that Ryan was the person who needed to be out there, even over other applicants with Master's degrees and experience. We feel very honored and blessed that they have so much confidence and trust in Ryan. He really does try his absolute best as a teacher, always thinking about his students and how he can help them. We took the weekend to think and pray about it, and we made sure to attend the temple to feel that greater clarity of mind. Even though Laramie is not the "ideal location" for us (no offense, Wyoming), the job is exactly what Ryan wants to be doing, and an opportunity like this probably won't come along again for several years.
By this time next month, we'll be in Wyoming! Ryan's work is paying for him to go out and find a place for us to live, they are paying for our move (including the moving company packing for us), and they are even giving us a little bonus to cover unforeseen expenses. It's all happening very quickly. The boys and I are going out to New Mexico for 10 days to visit my family, so we have very little time left in Salt Lake. I've got a long list of things I want to do before we leave!
Look out, Laramie. The Reynolds Tribe is coming to town.

15 July 2012

Trip to Colorado

We went out to Colorado to visit Ryan's family for Independence Day. Most of them hadn't met Benjy yet, so the visit served two purposes. We left Salt Lake at 5am on the 3rd. The kids slept most of the morning. We stopped at Little America so I could feed the baby. Ryan and Sam got ice cream cones (lucky!) Ryan let me drive part of the way, so I listened to Soup on my iPod to help me stay awake.
Blankie, check. Shade blankie, check.

Playing Angry Birds on the Nook

We stopped in Fort Collins so we could visit the Institute. We got the kids dressed and ready for the day there. Then we met our friend Katie during her lunch break and went to a restaurant right off campus- just like being in college again! Except, you know, with the munchkins in tow. We also visited the Reader's Cove, the independent bookstore I worked for my last semester of school. They were closing for good that week, so we bought a couple books to help them out. We also met up with our friend Mark. A productive side trip!
Down in Denver, we got to hang out with Ryan's family. Rusty and Chrissy once again opened up their home to us. They are so generous. Sam had so much fun playing with his cousins. I remember playing with my cousins as a kid, and how that always felt like the most fun ever.
To celebrate Independence Day, we took the boys to the (not-so) nearby town of Byers for their parade. I'd never been to a small-town parade before. We loved watching the fire trucks and floats drive down the main street. Sam loved the candy they threw to us. We had lunch with Ryan's mom, then all headed back to Rusty and Chrissy's. We went geocaching as a family, a first time for Ryan's mom.

Back at the ranch, we played our traditional game of SceneIt, boys against girls as always. Ryan and his brothers played video games at night after the rest of us went to bed. On the 5th we went to Heritage Square, a "family entertainment village" in Golden. They have an alpine slide, lots of carnival-style rides, and various vendors in a town square setting.
The only ride Sam really liked, not that you can tell from his expression!

Chrissy and the girls

Sam got on the Ferris wheel kicking and screaming. Eventually, though, he liked it.

Chrissy's dad owns the old-timey photo shop, Professor Goodbellows' Old-Time Portraits. If you've never done one of those photo shoots where you get dressed up in the old-fashioned clothes, you really should. It was a blast.
We were so lucky all the kids cooperated- even Benjy!

We went swimming that night. Poor Sam, he was totally terrified of the water. We made him get in anyway. He clung to my back while I swam around the pool, crying the whole time. Benjy, however, loved the water.

The next day we headed home. We spent some more time in Fort Collins before really getting on our way. This time, the kids were not as content to sit in the car. We made a long stop at Little America to have ice cream and play on the playground so Sam could get his wiggles out.

It took us almost 12 hours to get home from the time we left Denver, with all the stops we made. We were exhausted when we got home, but so happy that we made the drive. It's great to be with family!