Tuesday, December 30, 2008

9 Days in Paradise

We just go back from our nine day cruise on the Norwegian Jewel. Here was our itinerary:


We had a fabulous time on our vacation although we had a few bumps getting there and back. I could go on and on about our vacation but I'll try to keep it as brief as possible since super long blog posts are never fun.

Day 1: We were supposed to fly to Miami and spend the night. We were flying standby. My dad is a Delta retired employee and we get flight benefits where we can fly standby for a very reasonable price. We monitored the availability on flights and figured we'd be ok. Well, a huge storm hit the entire eastern half of the United States. A lot of flights were cancelled and rerouted and the space that was available evaporated. We made it to Atlanta but could not get to Miami. We rented a car and drove 11 hours through George and Florida and got to Miami at 3 a.m. We drove in the worst rain and wind I had ever seen in my life. We were hydroplaning all over the place. We counted 36 Waffle Houses and went to a scary gas station where the clerk was behind plexiglass.

Gassing up the rental car somewhere in Florida.

Day 2: We returned our rental car, picked up our bags from airport, and boarded the ship. We napped a bit, hooked up with our friends who were also on the ship and had a good dinner and went to a show. We had been upgraded to a room with a porthole window, so that was cool.

Leaving Miami


Our room



Day 3: Another day at sea. The weather was a little chilly - wind and clouds - so we stayed inside. We shopped and went to a couple seminars. It was formal night so we dressed up and enjoyed a good dinner and an entertaining magic show.


Dinner on formal night

Day 4: We stopped in Samana, Dominican Republic. The tour we booked took us on a speed boat to a beautiful national nature preserve. There were beautiful islands, limestone caves, and rock formations, and lots of wild birds. We toured a couple of the caves and saw some ancient cave drawings. The caves were dark, unpaved, and had random two-by-fours nailed as makeshift handrails. It was awesome. When our tour was over, we went into Samana Town by ourselves. We found a quaint resort where we shopped and enjoyed lunch. I had chicken nuggets and Justin had a cheese burger that came with a fried egg, ham, cucumbers as well as the typical toppings.

Mangroves

On the speedboat

There are cave drawings behind me if you look closely.

Day 5: Our next stop was Tortola, British Virgin Islands. We took a ferry to another island, Virgin Gorda, and visited the Baths there. The Baths are an area of beach that is dotted with massive boulders. They make for interesting scenery and also make fascinating mazes. There was a maze area called Devil's Beach. It was so incredible. I wish I could go back and be the only person there. We snorkeled and Justin saw a flatfish. After our excursion we shopped at a flea market.

The Baths at Virgin Gorda




A view of Tortola from Virgin Gorda


Justin posing in front of the Norwegian Jewel

Day 6: Now for Antigua. Our tour bus drove us half-way around the island to Stingray City. We learned a bit about the stingrays and saw some cool creatures they had caged (monkeys, iguanas, turtles, and tropical birds). We took a boat out to the reef and jumped in the water and swam with the stingrays. We fed them squid. Justin and I both wound up with "stingray kisses." They have very strong suction which is how they get their food. So our stingray kisses, or bites, were more like intense hickeys. Justin's was much worse, but they ended up being our favorite souvenirs. We had a fabulous lunch in a quaint little cafe. It was fabulous.

Monkeys

Our stingray kisses. Justin's is pretty obvious. Mine was a red circle around my wrist bone.


Stingray City, Antigua

Day 7: We sailed away from the Caribbean and into the Atlantic Ocean to Barbados. We snorkeled over two shipwrecks, one from 1995 and one from 1919. There were tons of great fish and the ships were fascinating too. We spent a little time (far too little) on a beach. Oh my goodness. It was amazing. The sand was like powdered sugar and had a pearly pink hue to it. The water was so incredibly warm. Wow. Then we toured the island by bus. The natives are very proud of their connections with Tiger Woods and we saw where he was married, the entrance to his house, and the golf course where he plays when he is in Barbados. We saw a bunch of monkeys frolicking on the golf course just like squirrels would run wild on a golf course here.

About this day there was an outbreak of gastrointestinal sickness. The ship shut down the self-serve buffet and took a lot of sanitation precautions. Luckily we never got sick.

A pirate "hideout" at our excursion


The Scotland District of Barbados

A wild poinsettia plant


On the eastern side of the island where the Atlantic surf is too dangerous for any swimmer.


Sunset taken as we left Barbados.


A monkey on the golf course (there are 2 more under the tree)


The entrance to Tiger Wood's house.

Day 8: Our last stop was at the beautiful island of St. Lucia. We had a fairly easy going day. We took a bus tour around the island. We saw banana plantations and some gorgeous scenery. St. Lucia is famous for it's towering peaks, the Pitons, and the world's only drive in volcano (it's steamy like Yellowstone - no lava anymore). We drove into the mountains and swam in a natural warm pool being poured from a warm waterfall. And the best part about these natural mineral springs was that they didn't smell like sulfur. It felt so good. We enjoyed some delicious sword fish, scones, and golden apple juice (also called Spondias mombin, jocote, or Spanish plum).

On the way back from the waterfall, I realized I was missing my credit card and my room key card. We figured they fell out of my camera case. We looked everywhere and the tour guide was kind enough take the bus back to every place we had stopped for pictures on the way down so we could look for my cards. By the end of the tour I was quite upset. Although we checked the bus we checked again, and found both cards in a crevice behind my seat. Phew!



St. Lucia


The famous Pitons and the town of Soufriere


The mineral waterfall we bathed in. It was so wonderful.


In front of the Pitons.


Our ship in Castries Harbor.


Day 9: We enjoyed a lazy day at sea. We slept a lot and ate dinner twice! The food was so good! We were so spoiled with three course breakfasts and lunches.

Justin with a towel elephant on our bed.

Day 10: Another lazy day at sea. Since we had to disembark the next day, we started packing that afternoon. As Justin was packing he bent over to pick something off the floor and stood up into the metal frame of the fold down bed (which was put away against the wall) and split his head open. He wound up going to the infirmary and getting four stitches from a kind South African doctor. Of course he had one heck of a headache for the next few days.

Justin's owie. Can you see the stitches?

Day 11: We disembarked the ship and took a cab to Miami airport. Since we were flying standby we were at the mercy of open seats and since we didn't have access to the world while we were on the ship, we didn't know how bad travel would be. I guess it hadn't stopped snowing the entire time we were gone. We stood by for two flights out of Miami, and got the second one to Atlanta. Once in Atlanta, there was no way to get to Salt Lake no matter what. I had my dad, my brother Brad, and my sister Julie working like crazy trying to find someway to get us home. We stayed the night in Atlanta and called into work.

Day 12: Brad found a flight for us. We could get a direct flight to Jackson, Wyoming. First we had to change our itinerary to get on that flight. We got to the airport 2 hours early and got in a huge line at the ticket counter (there were MANY passengers who had been stranded because of the weather). While in line, I called Delta and was on hold for 45 minutes. We finally got someone on the phone when we were about halfway through the line. The Delta agent on the phone made a big deal about Justin's confirmation number, but not mine, but she said she changed both our destinations. I was leary, so I called Julie and she checked online and saw that my destination had not been changed. We were running out of time.

Julie was able to work some magic online and got my destination changed. I ran to the kiosk and printed out our new tickets. We had 20 minutes to get to our gate in one of the largest airports in the world. Justin got flagged for a random search at security. We took the train to our terminal and our gate had to be at the very end. We ran as fast as we could and we were the last people on the plane.

We made it to Jackon and my brother Jordan drove out in his Jeep to pick us up. But as we were driving a blizzard hit. The highway we were on was closed. We saw a jack-knifed truck and stopped to offer help and put chains on the Jeep. We continued our drive in pure white out conditions. It was terrifying. It took us six hours to drive the 90 miles from Jackson to Idaho Falls. We picked up our bags from the aiport and drove home. Our neighborhood streets had not been plowed at all. We got stuck in our cul-de-sac and then we got stuck in our driveway (there was at least a foot of snow there). We left our car there and dragged our bags through all the snow at midnight just to get inside. It felt so good to be back in our beds and see our pets again.

This is what we came home to! This was taken at the Jackson airport.

We have so much gratitude to those who helped us get home. It was seriously a Hays family effort to get us back into our bed. Every member of my family helped us to get home. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

Although it was a pain to get there and back, our cruise was wonderful. If you've never taken a cruise, do it! They are so relaxing. No worrying about directions, driving, getting lost, finding places to eat, prices of meals, and so on. Again, congratulations to my hottie hubby for his Master's degree. Hope you enjoyed your gift!

Monday, December 29, 2008

I'm Back

I made it back. Barely. And I really mean that. I have almost three weeks of writing and pictures but I just wanted to say that I am here. I hope you all had a very happy Christmas. We certainly did. I can honestly say I am so glad to be back and if I could, I wouldn't leave my own home for a very long time.

"It's a dangerous business, going out your front door." - Bilbo Baggins

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Good Day

Justin is finished with school. He is now a Master of Mental Health Counseling. All day he's been insisting I call him "Master". He deserves it. I'm so proud of my man.


As a graduation present, we are going on a cruise. Tomorrow. We got a screaming deal on a 9-day southern Caribbean cruise. We're off in 4 hours. Guess I better get some shut-eye.

I just published a belated birthday post about my dad. I have started one for my brother Brad too but I haven't been able to finish it with all the packing and planning. Brad, I promise I will finish it when I get back and post a cute picture to boot.

As for me, for the next ten days I'll be hanging out here:
And here:


And here:

And here:




Feel free to be jealous.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Happy Birthday Dad!

Dear Dad,
I'm sorry that I didn't get this post done on your birthday a couple weeks ago. I'm behind on everything lately. I just wanted to share a few of my favorite memories with you.

1. I remember going to work with you once when I was little. I think I was preschool age. I don't know why I went to work with you, it was a one-time experience and I sure felt special. I remember bringing color books and My Little Ponies and playing in your office. I also remember trying to draw a star like my preschool teacher Mrs. Call always did. I couldn't figure it out, so you taught me how to draw a different star - two triangles overlapping each other (a Star of David, really), but I was so happy I could finally draw a star!!

2. I remember you listening to beautiful opera records in the living room and reading along with the books to follow the story. How weird to just sit still and listen to something for entertainment! Your example made me appreciate and love beautiful music.

3. One time, Mom took Julie and Jordan to Brawley to visit Aunt Marianne over New Year's. I don't remember where Brad and Stephanie were, but I remember just the two of us being "left behind." I was so upset that I didn't get to go to California. You took me downstairs and we played Hangman on the T.I. computer. Instead of feeling left out that I didn't go to California, I realized that it was a treat to have you all to myself.

4. Last summer. Camping. Citronella candles. Moths. Need I say more?

5. You took just Julie and me camping. We stayed in the blue tent. What a brave dad to take two small girls and an army of stuffed animals camping!

6. You have a few signature dishes that I will always associate with you: stir fry, eggs benedict, twice baked potatoes, and milk, bread, and sugar.

7. I always felt like the daughter of royalty whenever we traveled. No matter where in the world we went, people always knew you (in the airports, at least) and treated you with respect and warmth. This realization came to me after one of your work acquaintances recognized you in Venezuela.

8. Once when Julie and I were fighting, you punished us by making us sit on chairs in the living room right in front of each other with our knees touching until we could be civil to each other.

9. I have many memories of you doing special things for Mom like taking her to a hotel for your anniversary or getting tickets to Les Miserables. Or even going to all over town trying to find the perfect ibuprofen bottle.

10. You introduced me to the joy of dominoes!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Follow up

I had a few people ask for the recipe I used for my yule log cake. It's basically a sponge cake with filling and chocolate frosting. You can use any flavors you like. Here is the recipe I used.

Also another question I got was where I got my gift certificate to. Well, I didn't say because I only cashed in my paper certificate for a real gift certificate today, but I got it for Target. Good for Christmas shopping! It ended up being $40. Not bad for baking a cake. By the way, I would suggest not to do as many holly leaves as I did. Way too much work!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Bûche de Noël


Before Thanksgiving my department had their annual dessert party. I really wanted to win ($25 gift certificate to the place of my choice for a dessert, heck ya!) so I went for the least populated dessert category: most creative. Anyway, I made a Bûche de Noël, or yule log cake. They are a French tradition taken from classic yule logs, but since many people no longer need to (or even can) burn a log on Christmas, they make this fun cake instead. It's a chocolate sponge cake rolled up with cream cheese filling. I made two cake rolls and pieced them together to look like a log. Then I frosted it with chocolate icing. I dragged a fork through the icing to make it look like bark and I decorated it with "snow" (powdered sugar) and "holly leaves" and "berries" (gum drops). I did win the most creative dessert. People were pretty impressed. They were afraid to cut into the cake. Anyway, I thought it turned out great. And it tasted good too.

November Pictures

I haven't been very good at posting the last few weeks. Just kind of needed a break I guess. Plus I've been way busy. In the middle of November my oldest sister Stephanie came up for a visit. We realized it was the first time one of my sisters had come up just for a fun visit without a purpose like a holiday or on the way north. It was such a great weekend. She brought both of her boys and one of her girls with her. The weather was beautiful and golden - crispy fall weather. We played disc golf at the park, went to the dairy for ice cream, had some fun dinners (including grilling inside which set off all the smoke detectors). The whole weekend was full of perfect, memorable days. Thank you so much for coming up, Steph!

We stayed local for Thanksgiving. We went to my brother's house. This was our fourth or fifth Thanksgiving with Jordan and Cindy. This year was perfect for once. No cooking mishaps or raging tempers. No football games either which is a plus for me! We invited Justin's brother Jon and nephew Haiden since Jon's wife had to work all day. We had a great dinner, we kept to tradition and watched all the Friends Thanksgiving episodes, played wii and watched Elf. Great fun for all. Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving too!

Here are some random pictures for the past month or so (although Haiden's birthday was in October as was the company Halloween party).

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Twilight: The Second Time Around


So Justin and I went to Twilight today. He loved it (of course he's also read all the books). It's been so long since he read the books - and he only read them once unlike nerdy me - so he didn't really even notice any of the differences. He really, really liked it. The only "complaint" he had was that the vampires should be more menacing when they hiss.

And I have to say, I liked it a lot better the second time around. I think the first time I kept comparing it to the book and after sleeping on the differences, I was able to watch the movie again and embrace those changes and enjoy the story. I even like Rob Pattinson's performance much better.
Also, did anyone else think that the "Son, remember who you are" line was a hidden Mormon message?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Twilight Review (Caution: Teeny Spoilers)


Okay. So I am a nerd who took off the afternoon and went and watched Twilight with my girlfriends. It was a fun afternoon with the girls. Even though any Friday afternoon off work and out with the girls would be fun, I'm sure the movie possibly has something to do with it. Here are my biased and emotional comments about it. I'll try to be vague about the movie because I don't want to ruin it for anyone, but beware. There are spoilers.

Did I like the movie?

YES.

But I like a lot of movies. There are seriously very few movies I don't like. I am easily entertained. Heck, I'm watching Scare Tactics right now. Easily entertained, folks, easily entertained.

Problems:

Like any book turned into a movie, there are small details that kind of bug me. The kitchen was not painted yellow like Bella's mom had done. The high school was one big building instead of a the small series of independent buildings that made up the classrooms.

Like any book turned into a movie, there was so much condensing of the plot and exposition. I felt like this movie was especially rough due to this. There were some scenes that were suddenly dramatic instense without any kind of lead up. I felt the movie was a good companion to the book but I honestly wonder how well it will come off to someone who hasn't read the book.

Favorite scenes were changed. Like the restaurant/drive home from Port Angeles scene in the book. And the meadow scene. I read an interview with Stephenie Meyer a couple weeks back. She said that the director wanted to take out the line "And so the lamb fell in love with the lion" but Meyer fought to keep it in because it was such a popular, anticipated line. All I have to say is: and the meadow scene wasn't popular and anticipated??? That was your dream that inspired the book!

Casting complaints. I've always been ok with Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson because they were cast before I ever read the books, so I pictured them. I think all the cast was mostly on. The one that bugged me the most was Jasper. He is not attractive at all. In my head, he has this Legolas vibe--gorgeous, silent, majestic, and standoff-ish. Also, I would imagine Alice more petite. I think she's taller than Bella.

Edward's hair is too crazy. Alice is too tall. Jasper is too plain.


Yummy Legolas. I've never seen blonde look so sexy. He's introverted, intuitive, powerful, and oh so delicious.


Better choice for Jasper, no? (Trent Ford)

Acting complaints: Edward was weird. Flat, almost. I know he's stoic and so controlled, but he also has an obvious temper and a devious sense of humor. I think I only saw Edward smile once. If he's just found the love of his life (and his whole family knows this because they've never seen him this happy) he needs to show it! Rob Pattinson is British. His American accent is accurate but...it's a little Marlon Brando. Which is kind of sexy, but doesn't seem to fit. With Edward being from the the early 1900's I'd almost expect him to have a twinge of the British accent - a more refined dialect from a different time. Also, he wasn't that heart-melting and dazzling. There are several scenes in the book (and a couple in the movie) where he turns on the charm and the females turn to puddy and he gets whatever he wants. Did not see this at all.

Cheesy Effects (or lack thereof): Didn't like the "fast" movement of the vampires. Rather have them just appear. The first time we heard Edward growl in Port Angeles was awesome. Later in the baseball field with Laurent, James, and Victoria, the hissing between all the vampires was ridiculous. I could hiss more menanclingly. I really didn't feel a dangerous, threatening vibe from ANY of the vamps. I'll admit I'm a Buffy the vampire slayer fan, and I don't want to compare apples to oranges, but in Buffy, I love the vampire growls and the way they move and fight. Much more dangerous.

Random Weirdness: Where were Bella's pants in the kissing scene? Edward's Volvo is not nearly as sexy as it was in my head. I guess that's just how they look. Just looked like a shiny station-wagon to me. Edward had a reflection. In the books, Edward didn't have one. (Remember the prologue to New Moon when Bella sees her old self mimicking her actions and she thinks it's her grandmother but it's actually her aged self in the mirror and Edward not being in the reflection?) Edward in his prom clothes -- he's a very proper young man. I think he'd do up the top button of his shirt. The cinematography was too tight. I really wanted the camera to zoom out, let me get oriented, and then go for the tight visuals.

Things I loved:

Casting/Acting: Loved Charlie! I thought he was rather flat in the books. Just a necessary character (a teenager needs a parent, right?). He was golden in the movie. He was the source of so much humor. I LOVED Charlie. Jessica was PERFECT. Loved Esme and Carlisle. Loved Bella. I was worried about Kristen Stewart. She usually plays this mature-for-her-age, jaded type girl, so I worried about her pulling off Bella's innocence and klutziness. She nailed it and also pulled off Bella's maturity and depth. Oh, and Jacob is adorable. I am totally Team Edward, but in the movie, I might just be Team Jacob because Edward was played so weird and Jacob is so adorable. The chemistry between Bella and Edward was great. The kiss was way steamy. Also loved Bella's appearance. In the book, I knew she was a natural beauty, but I had problems picturing her attraction since she was always in a sweatshirt and jeans and had a ponytail. Bella in the movie had many different and pretty hair styles and cute clothes. Loved Rose's attitude.

Expected scenes that rocked: Trying on dresses in Port Angeles. Loved the cleavage references from Jessica. Good stuff. The scene when Bella goes to biology class for the first time - her hair being tossed by the fan, Edward's reaction - it was great. The ballet studio - James breaking her leg. Wow! They went all out there.

The flashbacks/dreams: Since the story has to be condensed for a movie, the flashbacks helped fill in the gaps and exposition.

Effects/Action: The action was great. The baseball scene was fun. The ballet studio scene was fun. The car crash scene was different, but worked. I was always confused by the description in the book and hoped the movie would clear up some of how the cars and Edward were situated, but they simplified it. Which is probably good. But I guess I'll always be confused. I've heard that a sequel isn't in the bag yet. It really depends on how well Twilight does. But they are TOTALLY set up for a sequel between references to Edward's leaving, Jacob wolfing out, and Victoria's revenge. It did not end happily ever after all wrapped up in a bow. The sparkly vampire skin was WAY better than I imagined. It was always so cheesey in my imagination with the books. This was a total improvement. Very cool.

Changes to the script: Loved meeting Jacob and Billy Black earlier in the story. REALLY loved that Laurent, James, and Victoria were a menace before the baseball game. I always felt that turn in the story in the novel came out of left-field. So their continuous menace improved the story for me. Loved seeing the details of James's dispatching.

Little gems: Pepperspray. Shotgun. Billy and Charlie's relationship. The little easter eggs - the appearance of Little Brown & Co. on the Google search and Stephenie Meyer's blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo. Bella's constant yet unemphasized klutziness. The way Charlie treated Tyler after the "almost" accident.

Random things that I don't have an opinion about: I never saw Bella cook for her father once. Bella wore one converse sneaker to prom instead of a high heel. Bella knew Edward was taking her to the prom and wasn't upset about it and didn't have her dashed expectations about not getting turned that night. Edward's hair was way crazy. I looked for the deep blue v-neck sweater. It never made an appearance. Bella's Lullaby was lovely, but it was never said that Edward wrote that song for her.

Conclusion:

It isn't as compelling at adaption as the Harry Potters and Lord of the Rings movies, but it is definitely a better adaption than the catastrophes like Da Vinci Code and Count of Monte Cristo. I think it makes a good companion to the book. If you are expecting the book word for word and scene for scene in visual format, you'll be disappointed. If you're up for a fun story and open to changes, you'll probably enjoy it like I did. So take a chill pill. Calm your raging teenage hormones and go see a fun show!

(P.S. I think I'm going to see it again tomorrow with my husband. So it's definitely worth dropping $15 to see it again.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Honoring All Who Serve


How do you thank those brave men and women who risk everything for my freedom to grumble about early morning church? For my freedom to read celebrity gossip? For my freedom to enjoy political cartoons lampooning leaders I don't like? For my freedom to choose my own future? For my freedom to make my own fortune? For my freedom to sleep soundly every night?


Thank you just doesn't cut it.


I am proud that my family is full of these brave men and women. I love that I can take pride in my family's patriotism. So to my family members who have set this fine example, thank you. I don't know all the branches of service or all that these people were involved in, but I did my best. Hopefully I didn't miss anyone.


Richard Belcher, Afgahnistan

David Belcher, Army

Heather Belcher, Army

Joshua Belcher, Army, Iraq

Lachlan Belcher, Air Force

Jericho Belcher, Iraq

Clyde Harris

Tom Suggs, National Guard, Iraq

Ray Spencer, Korea

Steven Belcher

David Hays, Army, Korea

David Hays, Jr.

Bradley Hays, National Guard, Desert Storm

Brett Maeger, Air Force, Vietnam

Dennis Belcher, Reserves

I also believe my Grandfather Hays and Greatgrandfather Hays also served.

I looked up some info on Veterans Day and learned that not only is it a day to remember our veterans, but also a day dedicated to world peace, which I think is noble. So, here's to world peace!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mom!

You were usually behind the camera instead of in front of it. This is the first picture I have of us together. I was 2 months old. You are so beautiful and glamorous. But for the record, those glasses are hideous. Why would you do that to yourself?

Dear Mom,
I'm glad I can call you mine. I'm grateful for the crazy, kooky memories, the wisdom, and love. Ten memories of you:

1. You would take me to reading groups at the library and often to Carsten's Bakery afterward for a brownie. I distinctly remember a particular time holding your hand and walking down the cement ramp to the library entrance wearing dress up high heels. They were clunking and echoing so loudly I thought the librarian would refuse to let me in. It's great you'd let me go out in public like that. I wouldn't have the imagination I do today without you.

2. Once in high school, Dad was out of town and you let me throw a big party. I couldn't even count how many kids were there. You set up the TV outside and a bunch of kids piled onto the tramp to watch a movie. What a cool mom!

3. I remember when you made that darling white and powder blue dress when I was in preschool. I tried it on. I was very upset that it didn't have a little detail like the dress pictured on the pattern (I think it was satin bows or rosebud appliques). You stayed up all night adding that detail for me. I love you for that and I still kick myself for being so ungracious.

4. I remember going fishing at Blacktail right before the high school pageant. You brought my talent competition costume on the boat and sewed it by hand so you could be on the family outing and still get that done. I hope I was more gracious that time.

5. When the creepy man at Arctic Circle slapped my hand and accused me of trying to steal his wallet, you put him in his place. I'd never seen you so fierce!

6. I remember eating lunch with you at Mi Casa and confessing all my tumultous feelings of my first love. I was afraid you'd laugh or play it down like I was too young to know what real love was, but you didn't. You were so cool about it. You told me that young love is very real and very strong. Thanks for that.

7. Once, we were watching the VH1 Video Music Awards and Will Smith was singing his latest hit. You asked me what the name of the song was. I said, "It's called Getting Jiggy With It." And you said, "Don't you mean Gettin' Jiggy Wid It?" like a rapper. It was hilarious.

8. I remember when the neighbor boy Adam destroyed the snow bunny Faye and I made. You went nuts! You chased him all over the neighborhood and demanded he rebuild it. Which he did.

9. One of my very earliest memories - so early that it's quite vague and faded - is of being in the front yard while you planted marigolds.

10. You let me skip school quite a lot. You must've had a hard time letting your baby go, so anytime I wanted to stay home with you, you'd let me.

I love you, Mom. Have a good one.

It's Been One of Those Days...

I hold my composure well, I believe. For the most part. I am not some bitter chick with contempt for all those with children (biological or otherwise). I am not a phony. I don't flippantly pretend not to care about my infertililty and that my husband's and my successful careers and fatty paychecks just make up for it all (btw, they really aren't that fatty). I think I have a good balance. I acknowledge and embrace this trial. I let myself be humbled by it, and I can't deny there have been some beautiful, spiritual moments that I would not have experienced any other way. But I have my days. And today is one of them.

About 4 weeks ago, we got an email from a teenager I will call M who lives in another town an hour away. To make a long story short, one of our pass along cards got to this girl and she wanted to meet us although she was still unsure of what she wanted to do. Her 20 week ultrasound would be on November 6 where we live and she would like to meet us then. Then she found out that my hubby sometimes works in the town where she lives and she was willing to meet us sooner if we would go there. So I tagged along with my husband and we met M and had a great time. I can't imagine it going better. She said she was still unsure, but if she decided on adoption, we were the couple for her. She still wanted to see us again on November 6 when she was in town. We'd do lunch and maybe go to the ultrasound with her. So, today is November 6. And we haven't heard from M since that night four weeks ago. Although we had her phone number and left her a message on Tuesday, there was no response. She's disappeared. I knew this was a possibility. Especially since she was still unsure and was not going through an agency to help her with those decisions. And maybe we'll hear from her again in the future. But I just want to say that it sucks. I usually hold up pretty well, but I can't deny that it's disappointing.

And then there was this...

A few days ago I posted some stats on adoption and I got a pretty nasty comment posted anonymously. It shocked me when I read it, but I moderate all my comments so I just didn't publish it. My first inclination was to address every aspect of it and defend myself but I decided that it didn't matter. I don't know this person and their opinion really isn't going to change my decision to adopt and I won't be bothered by it. I have nothing to defend. And while I still feel that way, I am also feeling angry because of this. I don't feel like I have to defend myself. But I don't want to inadvertendly protect this person either by deleting their comment and pretending it didn't happen. So for all the world to read, this is what they wrote:

Adoption sucks.

You might believe that adopting a child will be the same--and it might be for you, but you will always be a fake mother to the child you steal from another woman.

Why not go with God's plan, and remain childless? Just becuase you can't have a child doesn't mean you are entitled to another woman's flesh.

WWJD?

And here's what I have to say to that:

SHAME ON YOU. You have issues. And they are not mine. There has obviously been some pain or wrong in your past that is not my fault. Shame on you for spreading your poison. Who do you think you are to judge me under the pretense of God? Now the curtain has been pulled. Your pettiness and ignorance are exposed. SHAME ON YOU.

Life is hard enough without vicious, nasty people making it worse. I am in a mood today. Even my dogs can tell.


"It is just as cowardly to judge an absent person as it is wicked to strike a defenseless one."
- Lawrence G. Lovasik

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Voting

First, the warm fuzzies...

I voted today. And I got choked up doing it. Lame? Not at all. I thought of my former boss Walt today. His family fled from Russia with basically their clothes on their back to escape communism. They made it to the Philippines where lived for several years waiting for an American family to sponsor their immigration. (On a side note, Walt was born in China and spend the first four years of his life in the Philippines. He's had an interesting life.) I remember Walt telling me about coming to America and seeing the Golden Gate Bridge all lit up. He told me about the first time his father voted - he came home with tears of joy and gratitude streaming down his face. I have another friend named Jared who was born in South Africa, spent his childhood there, and his family had to flee to New Zealand for their safety when he was a teenager. He is passionate about America and our freedoms and opportunities here. He is married to an American, but has not been able to become a citizen yet. It pains him that he can't vote yet.

So I thought of these two stories as I voted and I admit that I got choked up. I am proud to be an American. I take so many things for granted. It's rare to see the patriotism Walt and Jared have in natural born citizens. I want to change that - starting with me. I really think the first step in this is to be grateful and thankful. And I am grateful that I voted. And it's not lame that I got choked up.

On another tangent...
I never really thought that people outside my family and small circle of friends read my blog. I got some anonymous comments today in response to the adoption statistics I posted yesterday. I am glad to know that my post promoting adoption awareness has done just that. That's what this month is all about. I'm happy that I've made a difference, however small.

Monday, November 3, 2008

November is National Adoption Awareness Month


Did you know...


  • That about 2% of American women place their babies for adoption?

  • That there are 40 million abortions worldwide every year?

  • That there are 3.3 adoption seekers for every adopted baby?

  • That 60% of people in America have a personal connection with adoption?

  • That about 150,000 adoptions take place every year in America?

  • That birthmothers have higher educational aspirations, are more likely to finish school, and less likely to live in poverty and receive public assistance than mothers who keep their children?

  • That birthmothers delay marriage longer are more likely to marry eventually, and are less likely to divorce?
  • That birthmothers are no more likely to suffer negative psychological consequences, such as depression, than are mothers who rear children as single parents?
  • That adopted children score higher than their middle-class counterparts on indicators of school performance, social competency, optimism and volunteerism?
  • That adopted adolescents generally are less depressed than children of single parents and less involved in alcohol abuse, vandalism, group fighting, police trouble, weapon use and theft?
  • That adopted adolescents score higher than children of single parents on self-esteem, confidence in their own judgment, self-directedness, positive view of others and feelings of security within their families?
  • That seven percent of children adopted in infancy repeated a grade, while 12 percent of children living with both biological parents repeated a grade?
  • That compared with the general child population, children placed with adoptive couples are better off economically?
  • That adopted children do better in educational attainment than single parent children and children raised by grandparents?
  • That adopted children enjoy a quality of home environment superior to all the other groups?
  • That adopted children have superior access to health care compared to all other groups?


*These statistics were gathered from childwelfare.gov and research from an article published in USA Today.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

All Hallows Day

Sorry I missed posting last night on Halloween. The creepiest story in the comments came from Liz:

Our friend had served in mission in Chile about 3 years ago. While he was there, one of the missionaries in his district became very interested in Cain. Who knows why, but he became obsessed. He would stay up reading and studying about him. He would try to find books or anything about him to learn more. One night, him and his companion were jolted awake and saw a HUGE dark figure standing at their doorway. They couldnt tell who or what it was; the only thing they knew was that they sensed pure evil. They immediately got out of bed and called their mission president. When the mission president arrived at their apartment he was FURIOUS and completely laid into the missionary that had been studying up on Cain and who had basically opened the door for his evil spirit. He told him that he had invited evil into their lives and that he needed to stop immediately! He then blessed the apartment and ordered any evil spirits to leave.

My sister Stephanie also told me a story over the phone about her husband Jeff's mother. Jeff's father died suddenly in an accident at home. During the days following his death, Jeff's mother experienced horrible disturbances--drawers slamming, doors banging, the phone ringing with no one on the other line. After a couple days of this chaos, the phone started ringing again. Jeff's mom was sure no one would be on the line again but answered the phone anyway. It was their bishop who knew nothing of these strange happenings. He told Jeff's mom that she was in danger of evil spirits and that she needed to gather the children and get out of the house now. He would be by later with other priesthood members to dedicate the house.

Also, read Justin's comment about the disembodied voice recorded at our college theatre. I can vouch for his story. All voices are accounted for when a very close whisper of "Hey" is heard right near the recorder. Very strange.

Well, I hope you all had a good Halloween and may the sugar rush last for days!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New Hair, Ghost Stories, and More

Remember, leave a comment with your personal encounters with the beyond (see the previous post for more info). On Halloween, I'll post the best ghost story!

I got a new hair cut yesterday. I love my salon. It's called The Defining Line. If you live where I do, I highly recommend it. It's a little on the pricey side, but it is entirely worth it. I've been going regularly for over a year, and my hair is more amazing than I ever thought it would be. It's late notice, but if you go during October, they are doing a food drive. You get $1 off your service for every can of food, up to half the cost of your service. Nice! Anyway, I wanted to keep my length, but I was getting a little bored, so...Amy gave me bangs!



I'm still getting used to them. What do you think? Do I look 13?

Here are some pictures from Jordan's Halloween Party, my birthday, and my Halloween party.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Do You Believe in Ghosts?



I believe in ghosts. Spirits. Angels. Demons. Whether they are all the same thing (people passed on) or different varieties of the same thing (people passed on), I believe in them. But I've always been a bit skeptical about haunted houses and spirits with unfinished business. I think spirits, specially good ones, have plenty to do in heaven, so kind Grandma Blanche really isn't going to be hanging around waiting to tell me something, or took a wrong turn at the tunnel with the light and is somehow lost in her old house. But I don't want to get too deep into my totally fallible ghost theories.

What I really want to say is this...I'm starting to wonder if my house is haunted. I'm not totally believing in it yet--I'm still a skeptic. But here is what has made me think this. When we moved into this house, I started having night terrors. I wake up in the night screaming. It's not caused by a nightmare. Justin will wake me out of it, I'll feel silly for a second, and go straight back to sleep. With a nightmare, there are reasons why you wake up terrified--the axe murderer with a hockey mask, a slight case of nudity at Walmart, a surprise presentation in front of the entire company. You wake up with these horrible visions in your head, your heart is racing, you're sweat glands are in over drive, and it takes you a second to realize it's just a dream. After several deep breaths, and perhaps a bathroom break, you lay back down and after awhile, you calm down enough to go to sleep. Those are nightmares. Night terrors are not like that. Just screaming. No memory of a bad dream. No extra time needed to calm down and go back to sleep.

So, like I said, they started when we moved into this house. I researched them a bit. Funny thing, they are pretty rare in adults. Little kids usually have them and grow out of them in a couple years. I started having one, maybe two a month. Now it's about two a week. I had one last night that I don't even remember. But sometimes, I do remember a bit of what sets me off. It's a tall figure of a man by my bedside. Tall. Like six and a half-feet tall. No features. More like a shadow man, for those of you familiar with paranormal terminology.

Justin says I'm crazy. It's all in my head. Well, sure, I agree. Just a figment of my imagination. Stress. Something else. But then, lately, there have been other things. My dryer went on a couple weeks ago for no reason. Hasn't done it before, hasn't done it since. Lights turn on and off. I will think the lights are burned out, go to change them, and they turn on. Or one of the weirder things is that we have a light in our hall that has two lightswitches that control it. Basically, for the light to be on, one light switch is up, one is down. When they are both down, it is off. When they are both up, it is off. So, the hall light went out--all three light bulbs--last week. We played with the switches. It was not working. Later that day, it came on. When both light switches were down. So now the light switches are all backwards, but the light is working. All three lightbulbs. Weird.

So I just asked Justin casually the other day if the house might be haunted. He said no. The house is only about 14 years old. Too young to be haunted. He wouldn't even consider the idea. Well, I think he's jealous. He's more into ghosts and the paranormal than I am. So I think he's jealous that a ghost would bug me and not him.

I'm not saying the house is haunted. I'm not saying the night terrors aren't caused by stress or a misfiring neuron in my brain. I just think it's wrong to entirely black out a possibility, as slight as it might be.

But now I want to know...do you believe in ghosts? Write me a comment with your opinion or experience. Halloween is coming up, this is the perfect time for it. I'll post the best story on Halloween.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ways to Help with Adoption

As more and more of our family and friends learn of our plans to adopt, many have wondered, "How can I help?" We are definitely not above help so here are some ways! :)

First: Help us advertise. It's estimated that one half to two thirds of all adoptions are independent adoptions. That means that the adoptions are done without the help of an agency. Although we are having an agency advertise for us, we still need others to help us get the word out. We created a pass along card for this purpose. Hang one on your fridge. Give one to your church clergy. Take them to your local women's shelter or family planning clinic. Give one to your ob-gyn. Hang one in your office at work. You never know who will see it who knows somebody who wants to place a baby. Put this blog address on your blog. Do a little post about us: www.justinandlarahope2adopt.blogspot.com

Second: Please be an advocate for adoption in general. If you are a member of the LDS church, please become familiar with the Church's policy on adoption (while the word from the prophet is clear, there are still a staggering amount of single teen mothers in the Church). Support friends and family who are going through unplanned pregnancies and encourage them to consider adoption.

Third. Donate. We've already had so many people generously give us money, gifts, and used baby items. These gifts are so helpful and meaningful. Adoption is humbling in so many ways, and this is definitely one of them. We've had so many people ask how they can help support us financially that we have created an account through PayPal to provide an easy way for all of you to safely donate to our fund. We have already spent over $2000 out of pocket in the last three months and we will probably spend around $10,000 more by the time everything is said and done. So at your request, I've added a link on the side of the blog for those who would like to donate money. If you would like to donate anything else, we humbly thank you. Just leave us a post.

On a different note, one of our pass along cards is showing some promise. There is a woman Justin works with, we'll call her J, whose son's girlfriend, M, is pregnant (the current boyfriend is not the father). M has been considering terminating the pregnancy, but J convinced her to consider adoption and gave her a pass along card. M checked out our blog and emailed us and asked to see us. She lives in the state, about an hour away, so we made a trip last week and took J and M out to dinner. I can't imagine the meeting going any better. M is still unsure of what she would like to do, but she says that if she decides on adoption, we are the family for her, she doesn't want to look at anyone else. So that is the good news. The bad news is that she can still decide to terminate the pregnancy or she can decide to parent. She is 17 weeks pregnant and due in late March. She is coming to Idaho Falls for her 20 week ultra sound the first week of November and wants to see us again then. So we are praying for her at this time. Our agency says to prepare for a failed adoption attempt for every child, so while we are hopeful, we are still guarded. Adoption papers cannot be signed until 72 hours after the birth of the baby, so there is plenty of time for a mother to change her mind.

So while our contact with M is exciting, we still need your help advertising and promoting us. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all your support!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me




In celebration of my 27 glorious years on this planet I give you permission to honor me in one of the following ways:



  • Watch Finding Nemo


  • Treat yourself to a massage


  • Enjoy gourmet shellfish


  • Buy a pair of novelty Halloween socks


  • Eat a ton of raspberry sticks


  • Refuse to do the dishes or lift a finger at all


  • Blog on your new laptop


Happy Birthday to me!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Our Trip to St. George

The first week of October we drove to St. George, Utah, to visit my parents. Julie and Aaron happened to be in St. George at the same time making work contacts for Aaron. The weather was very lovely most of the time. We spent a day boating at Sand Hollow Reservoir. We enjoyed tubing and playing on the beach. Later in the afternoon, Julie, Camden, and I went on the tube, but the weather started to turn a bit. We all got soaked with cold water on the tube and Camden hated it. Needless to say it was a short ride. Aaron did a little wake-boarding. Then Justin and Aaron went on the tube and had fun witha wild ride and coordinated a fantastic bail out which sent the tube into the air 30 feet.

We enjoyed two fantastic plays at Tuacahn theater. We saw Les Miserables and Big River. They were both extraordinary and I am so glad we went! It was so worth it. I've seen Les Mis twice before--in Salt Lake and Seattle, both by Broadway companies. This was the first time the rights to Les Mis were released, so it was not a Broadway company at Tuacahn, and it was the best show I've seen. Maybe it was the excellent seats or the cool mountain air, but it was amazing. Big River was so fun too. They actually flooded the stage and made it rain for the Mississippi River ambiance. The actor who played Huck was so energetic, I got tired watching him. He totally seemed like a kid.

We had a good weekend overall. Mom and Dad hitched a ride to Salt Lake with us. Then we drove up through Logan Canyon in an attempt to see some fall colors. It was dusky, but we were able to see some beautiful trees. It was a long drive, but fun.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Hoping to Adopt

We are officially on the waiting list for A New Beginning Adoption Agency. Taking a bit of inspiration from this lady, I created a pass-along card. I've given these 4x6 cards to my family friends and asked them to put them on their refrigerators, hang them in their office, give them away to others who might know somebody, etc. If you would like to help Justin and me out with this word of mouth advertising, leave a comment with your address and how many cards you want and I'll send them!





We've also created a separate blog as a profile for people who want to learn more about us as adoptive parents. Check it out! Spread the word and hopefully we'll be parents sooner rather than later. If you want, please post this blog link on your blog for everyone to see: http://www.justinandlarahope2adopt.blogspot.com/.

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