Friday, November 28, 2008

Movie night

Every Friday night it has become our family tradition to watch a movie and eat dinner in the living room (what a treat!). Dinner has evolved to be a regular: homemade Pizza. On this particular night we had at least four families. Ours, Jeremy, Denee and their kids, Alisa (Kirk had to work overtime) and their kids, and my mom and her three overnight childcare kids. I've had a fun time getting movies that I enjoyed as a child. Annie, Last Unicorn, Dark Crystal, Neverending Story, etc. We've also had fun watching the newer kids movies that come out. This paricular night we were watching Wall-E.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Era of the Jetsons

This is us talking to Uncle Paul and Aunt Alysa on video phone over the internet. We are using Skype which is a free service to all over the world so long as you are calling computer to computer. AWESOME!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

For Time and All Eternity

My friend Lucie got married in the Oakland Temple today. I felt very honored to be one of the only non-family invited to the sealing.

Lucie and I grew up together riding bikes, pretending we were mermaids and playing together in my doll house. Even as we got older and outgrew so many happy childhood pastimes we still spent time together. She and our friend Megan came with my family on vacation to places like the R-Ranch and Clearlake. We cheered for the loosing car at the races, shouting "GO 71!" each time the car would lap. Megan moved away to Texas, so Lucie and I flew out one summer to visit her for two or three weeks. Little did I know that that would be the start of Lucie's world travels. I couldn't even begin to name all the places that she's been, but I know for sure she lived in Alaska canning fish and went to an Eastern country as a teacher. Japan or Taiwan. I'm not sure.

After I got married I tried to interest her in Michael's best friend growing up. Seeing her now with her husband Daniel, I'm so glad she waited for the RIGHT one. They are so perfect together. Cut from the same cloth, if you will. He's been all over the world, too. I'm sure that their world travels will continue, only together now. While I know that's not the only thing that makes them perfect for one another, I still don't know Daniel that well yet. Despite not knowing the specifics, I can still see and feel the wonderful balance they are together. I feel so much joy for my dear friend, seeing them flow so effortlessly together. Looking so beautiful on her wedding day, she reminds me of Anne of Green Gables; pretty on any other day, but today outshining all the rest with grace and elegance.

I had to take Garrett with me since he is still nursing. My mother was going to watch him for me in the lobby while I went to the sealing ceremony. Since I already had a babysitter I decided to take Elle with me so that she could see a REAL princess. Every girl is a princess, being a spirit daughter of Heavenly Father, the King. Unfortunately not every princess knows she is one. For those who do recognize and honor their royal lineage I want to give them special attention in the eyes of my daughter. To be in the house of the King dressed as a princess on your wedding day...well, that comes after years of behaving like one.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Jerry's Surprise Visit!

Ethan and I were sitting on the couch reading about the Egyptian mummification process when there came a knock at the door. We weren't expecting anyone, so I thought it might be Michael's friend Jeremy who regularly drops by. I didn't recognize the voice as Jeremy's so I got up and MUCH to my surprise it was my cousin Jerry out from Oklahoma! Michael heard the screaming from upstairs.

Much to my chagrin the floor of the front room was thoroughly covered in toys, random socks & shoes, books and other kiddie paraphernalia. Oh, well... so much for keeping up appearances.

Jerry and the kids played on the front room swing. I'm not sure how to turn the video sideways so you'll have to forgive any crinks in your neck. What a FUN surprise!!!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Egyptian history

We are doing a unit study in Egyptian history. Ethan's interest got perked when he decided he wanted to be a Mummy for Halloween. I gotta run with what interests him! He found a very fun book at the library with lots of pockets, pictures and internal activities. I found a few other books on Egyptian history with really great pictures and checked them out. Today we finished up a project that we started a few days ago making an Egyptian King's burial mask modeled after the one belonging to King Tut. He's been begging me to work with the clay again. He had so much fun making his Greek cup last year. I made one too just because it makes more sense to lead by example than to throw orders around. Elle found mine irresistible and next thing I knew it was all broken up into pieces. Our next project is going to be making paper and then drawing Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gram -n- Garrett

We went to visit Gram today. Gram and I get along so well! We must have been cut from the same cloth. Unfortunately, the last time she saw Garrett was when he had his baby blessing. Michael went up that way to run some errands and stopped by Grams to fix her faucets. I was going to take the kids to the park, but when I realized that it's been too long and Gram was missing her baby we loaded up and made a special visit. Love Gram!!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Girls rite of passage

Aunt Kristi and Uncle James came to Grandma's house for Sunday dinner. Aunt Kristi had done her nails and wanted to have a manicure session with Elle. I'm not really that girlie. I've had my nails done once in my life. Right before our wedding. It's not that I wouldn't like to be more girlie. I think it would be awesome to have my hair done nicely all the time, or wear stylish clothes. I don't know if it's because I grew up with a bunch of boys or because my engineering nature is just all about practicality. In any case, I have a VERY girlie girl who insists on wearing pretty dresses and doing her hair just so. I'm glad Kristi was so willing to spend so much time with her doing the things that make her feel pretty and special.

At first Elle wasn't too sure about the nail polish. Just like with the tiger make-up I did it first to show her it didn't hurt. Kristi brought three kinds of polish. Pink, sparkly purple and dark red. I figured Elle would pick the purple one since it was sparkly AND her favorite color. I had my nails done in the purple. Elle surprised me and wanted the dark red like Aunt Kristi was wearing. I showed her how to let her hands dry on the table and hold very still while Aunt Kristi was painting.

It's been just a few days. Mine has already come off. My nails are very thin and don't take paint well because they just flex with my fingers and the paint pops right off. Elle has been taking care of her fingers. She calls them her princess nails. I'm so glad Kristi was excited to do such a fun girls rite of passage!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Faith durring the Hard Times

I've been hesitating to tell this story... I'm not sure if it's out of embarrassment or just trying to keep up appearances. I've decided it's a matter of continual faith and being thankful for blessings that I should share.

Looking at life from the outside is never how it really is. There are many families that seem to live a charmed life. What I don't know is that they too may be struggling with silent heartache,while everyone on the outside is coveting their apparent ease. Ironic, don't you think?

The whole blogging thing has kept me good about writing in a journal. The downside to a live audience is that certain frustrations, hard times and personal mistakes are purposefully omitted unlike a private journal. Privately, at least no one could criticize me for any of it until after I were dead. I doubt I'll care by then.

So, here goes...

In 2004 Michael left Lowe's to do construction full time. He got his contractor's license and was supporting our family doing various projects. For the last four years we've always made it. It was tight sometimes, but we did it somehow. We found out the hard way that the construction industry is fine tuned to the economy. Before anyone else even realizes anything is wrong we were feeling the pinch.

Michael had finished up a big construction job in December of 2007. Since contracting does not provide a regular paycheck I've learned to juggle and budget very carefully. We started out the new year with a considerable cushion. I figured we would be fine until he won another bid. Going from bid to bid and job to job is a careful balancing act, kinda like stepping stones across a big river.

We wanted to put bids out on some of the larger municipal jobs. However, cities required the contractor had experience AS the contractor. It was more complicated because bonds were required to cover the full amount of the bid. The only way to get experience as the primary was to bring in a partner with experience. It works kind of like a relay race I suppose, passing the experience baton. We had a hard time finding anyone who was willing to follow through on their initial enthusiasm.

Michael spent a lot of time putting bids together. We noticed that the larger companies were coming down into lower job brackets to bid. The bigger projects were getting sparse and the construction giants started underbidding little companies like ours. We couldn't compete. As the months into the new year pressed forward and no new jobs were coming I started to get nervous. That was about March.

Based on our monthly budget I knew we would run totally out of money by June 1st. I was pregnant with #4 who was due in July. We paid for our own health insurance. If we defaulted and couldn't pay the monthly premium I would be left in my ninth month without health insurance and a pre-existing condition. That would be either very expensive at the hospital or very dangerous at home by myself.

In April I found comfort in listening to General Conference. Elder Sheldon F. Child gave a talk entitled, "The Best Investment". In it he quoted President Heber J. Grant, “I want to say to you, if you will be honest with the Lord, paying your tithing and keeping His commandments, He will not only bless you with the light and inspiration of His Holy Spirit, but you will be blessed in dollars and cents; you will be enabled to pay your debts, and the Lord will pour out temporal blessings upon you in great abundance.

I grabbed onto that like a life preserver. Hallelujah! I can pay my debts! I made sure paying tithing was the very first thing as little side jobs and our oil change business helped extend our cushion out.

April was also the point of no return. Four months of bidding without winning a single job, no leads or referrals. It was time to throw in the towel and look for steady income with an employer. Michael started putting out resumes.

I have a four year degree in a highly technical field. Even though I've been out of it for a while we knew it was more likely that I could get a job before he did. I went looking online, sent out my resume and found someone who asked for an interview within a week... and in our own hometown. I felt like this was my perfect opportunity. I went to the interview ready with my stack of references. I walked in with my six month pregnant belly and I could see it on his face. He made up his mind. He couldn't say that of course, not without facing a potential lawsuit. But his body language gave it away. He did everything in his power to prove that I couldn't to do the job. He said that I should brush up and come back another time. I asked for the weekend to brush up. He said to give it a few months. Right. Have the baby, then we'll talk. I gotcha.

I cried all the way home. I was angry, frustrated, embarrassed, and most of all worried about what the next few months would bring. I was willing and able to work. I worked with Ethan up until 2 weeks before he was born. At the same time I knew that being pregnant was my greatest liability for an employer.

The choice was to either :

1. Go on as usual and pay all of our bills and creditors on time and run out of money just in time to have the baby.


2. Set just enough money aside to pay the health insurance till the baby came which meant other bills would be left unpaid and our credit would be sacrificed.

For some the choice may be obviously #2. For me it was a matter of, "Do I have enough faith to choose #1?" If I went with the safe option #2, I would essentially be telling God, "I don't REALLY believe you, so I'm going to handle this myself". We would recover financially having failed a test of faith. Paying tithing was not the issue. It never was. However, if I went with #2 and God came through like He promised, all of our interest rates would have already been jacked up to 29.99%. Too late.

If I went with option #1 I would be exercising overwhelming faith. However, if the Lord's promise didn't work how I, in my human frailties, thought it would, we could be facing hundred thousand dollar doctor bills and have to declare bankruptcy for sure.

At the beginning of May, Michael still didn't have a job and I couldn't get one. Door #1 vs. Door #2 kept swirling through my mind. Over and over and over... I only have enough to choose one. If I choose the wrong one it will devastate our family for years and in different, but significant ways. I was full of so much anxiety. I handle the finances and I felt the decision squarely on my shoulders. The question was driving me crazy and considering either option made me very depressed.

The first Sunday in May I had reached my breaking point. My time to choose what to do was up. Pay the bills or set money aside? I couldn't function anymore. We got to church and I couldn't face anyone. I asked Michael to take me home. I laid in bed and cried, totally overwhelmed.

Michael came home to talk to me. He told me the kids were still at church in their primary classes but were worried about me. The floodgates opened and I cried to him and told him everything that had been weighing on my mind. I resented being pregnant because I couldn't get a job and simultaneously hated myself for being resentful of my innocent baby. How come we keep working so hard and it seems like we're always just scraping by? Why does it feel like I'm being pushed to the edge? I hadn't told him of the choice and how much it had been torturing me until just then. It all came out.

I told him of the promise I'd heard during General Conference about paying tithing and being able to pay the bills. At that point he made the decision for our family, "Pay the bills as usual."

I blinked at him through my tears. I can live with that.

He convinced me to come back to church with him for the last half hour. I tried to clean myself up as much as possible, but I think my eyes were raw from crying. I'm the secretary in the Primary Presidency. When Debbie, the Primary President, saw me she asked if everything was alright. I told her that if I talked about it I'd loose it for sure. So long as I didn't have to talk about it, I could keep my composure.

She invited our family to dinner that night. It was...amazing! Debbie's husband Scott had cooked the venison that he got on a hunting trip in Utah for dinner. Debbie made homemade rolls, stir fried vegetables and steamed broccoli. But best of all we were with welcoming friends. It was so nice to have my burdens lifted by someone who was willing to hold them, not knowing what they even were.

Meadow and her children came to dinner too. The house was full that evening. After dinner I sat down at the piano and started playing hymns. Meadow sat next to me and sang. She has one of the most beautiful voices (which, incidentally, is why we asked her to sing at Daddy's funeral). We sang together the different harmonies. Be Still my Soul, Abide with me, Be Thou Humble, How Great Thou Art, I Need Thee Every Hour. Music filled the house. Sunday evening has never been so peaceful for me. I couldn't say that I was full of joy as others might have been, but I was greatly comforted and felt God's love. That was on May 4th. By May 15th Michael had been offered a full time job with Swinerton with a salary that did, in fact, cover all our bills. Our health insurance kicked in on July 1st, just in time to cover the children's dental appointments that I had made six months earlier. Garrett was born two weeks later.

There is no doubt whatsoever, for either one of us that God worked through and inspired good people in getting the job with Swinerton. It was an enormous blessing.

Despite all that's happened and the happy ending for that chapter in our life, I wonder why we have to go through this trial again so soon. Perhaps it's because Michael made the decision for me when I could not. Only God knows.

There was an incident on Michael's job site where someone got hurt. Michael used his law enforcement experience in handling several aspects of the investigation. Keeping cool, following protocol. Through evidence he found and witness interviews he determined conclusively that the man injured was lying about what really happened. That's good, because none of the safety protocol had failed. However, despite Michael's stellar performance and handling the incident, the customer's upper division lost 2% of their bonus and wanted blood. Michael was the fall guy. That didn't mean that he was fired from Swinerton, just that the customer didn't want him on their job site anymore.

Swinerton looked everywhere for another job to put him on. Michael has an amazing ability with people and a strong work ethic and Swinerton wanted to keep him. With the market slowdown, no new jobs were lined up and they were even loosing contracts due to lack of funding. They tried to get him into the sister company. Ironically they hired Michael's brother instead. A week went by with Michael at home while Swinerton scrambled looking for somewhere else to put him. Eventually they had to lay him off because there was no work. His boss came to the house to give him his last paycheck and a small severance. He told me that everyone felt just awful about what happened. One of the VP's at Swinerton went out of his way and called a colleague in the industry to recommend Michael for one of their jobs and gave him a stellar reference. Michael had an initial phone interview, but that hasn't really gone anywhere.

There are only a few big construction companies to apply to. He spent the first week submitting resumes.

Since then Michael has been using the time to study for the CHST. Once he has the certification many more doors will open up. I've been helping him with the math and science aspects of the study material. I'm grateful that I have that ability. I'm grateful I have been able to explain it in a way that he'll get it. He's got a better mind for memorization than I do which is great for that endless list of OSHA regulations.

Tithing is still first as we get money trickling in from the oil changes or other odd jobs. I'll keep paying the bills on time. I'm not falling apart at the seems like last time, but it'll be interesting to see how things play out and what God has in store for us. Each time it gets a little bit better.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

My Prop 8 Title of Liberty

Now that the days have past, I really wish I would have taken more pictures while we were out holding our signs.

Last weekend I stood out for 4 hours holding a "Yes on Prop 8" sign. First in front of Safeway and then in front of Raley's. Michael wasn't feeling well, so he stayed home with the three older children. Garrett came with me and slept in the front pack, just a happy little clam. I put a little sun hat on him and a Prop 8 bumper sticker across the front of the baby carrier. A few opponents told me I was embarrassing myself and my child. Meh...he's happier with momma.

I stood on the corner with Susan's husband Jim. As it turned out the Benicia costume competition was being held at the gazebo when we arrived. There were a lot of people, to say the least.

We had a "therapist" approach us who was really wound up. "Why do you support hate?" Without missing a beat Jim said, "We don't support hate."

"Why do you support bigotry?"
"We don't support bigotry."

He went on a bit more, and I tried to answer his questions respectfully and thoughtfully. It was the longest exchange during my time doing the sign waving. What was interesting is that, like the scriptures say, "A soft answer turneth away wrath"(Proverbs 15:1)...SO TRUE! He left us a lot calmer than he came in. I'm sure he was expecting a fight.

We had people honk and give us thumbs up as they went by and other people flip us off and shout "F*** YOU!" as they went by. Someone threw a coke can at Georgia. Fortunately it didn't hit her. Jim waved down a patrol car. Turns out that it is considered a felony. Wow.

"What about equality?!"


"You should be ashamed of yourselves! A**H***S!"

We did get friendly responses and people saying "Thank-you". Surprisingly enough, despite the negativity the experience was invigorating! We all went home from Safeway at about 12:30. I got some lunch and then headed back over to Raley's with Garrett to go some more.

There were a group of teenagers from the High School who set up on the other corner with makeshift signs. The negativity towards us was lessened, but I started counting their support and ours. It was about 2 to 1 in their favor. I sincerely hope that's not how the election goes. Their display only convinced me more that I am doing the right thing by keeping Ethan out of the Public School system. Here before me was the best example of socialistic indoctrination and brainwashing. I don't believe they understood what they were doing. They were just having fun, supporting what their teachers have told them.

One teacher at the high school was giving extra credit for every Yes on 8 sign stolen. A first grade class went on a field trip to a lesbian wedding. Not taught in schools? Right. Keep telling yourselves that.

Yesterday there was babysitting at the church so parents could both help out. I was hoping to stand with Michael, but Garrett wanted to nurse as soon as he arrived. Just as I left the Gay/Lesbian Club from the High School showed up with their teachers and set up on my corner It wasn't even a minute after I sat down in the car to nurse that it started to rain. Michael had come without any jacket. It was so warm and balmy a jacket would have been too hot. By the time Garrett was done the heavens had opened up in a torrential downpour. I couldn't wear Garrett in the rain, and my raincoat wasn't big enough for him to fit under. He fell asleep nursing, so I took him to the church to be with the other kids. I went home to get Michael's jacket and a dry set of clothes. When I drove by, Michael was standing there soaking wet in the rain stoically holding his sign...the lone man in a crowd of 20 other people around him shouting and waving "No on 8" signs.

I will always regret not stopping to get a picture of that moment. He told me later that he was getting a lot of whispers and trash talk from behind him.

Michael didn't want his jacket and waved me by. I got dressed in all my wet weather gear, got some lunch and went back out. The crowd of teenagers were obnoxious and flippant. The adults standing out on other corners were dignified and very civil. I talked to one lady and asked her how everybody got organized. She said an e-mail went out to let people know.

"So, do you know everybody here?"

"No, I don't know anybody over there, but we're all here together to do the right thing"

I know she was looking to get in a good jab, and in an uncharacteristic moment of having an immediate comeback I said, "Yes, we're all doing the right thing expressing our First Amendment rights"

Another woman was out jogging and stopped to join the demonstration. She stood next to all of us with our "Yes on 8" signs. I talked to her a little bit. She was very nice. When it was time for her to go, I thanked her for being civil as we stood together, "I really do appreciate it"

The "No's" got some angry response from one man who kept driving by telling them they were sick and perverted. I wish now that I had spoken up and encouraged him not to be hateful. I don't believe that Prop 8 is about hate or discrimination, and those who are vocal about it for those reasons, aren't really helping.

A lot of the kids went home sometime after lunch time came and went. Wet, cold, hungry...oh, well. There were two girls left sticking it out on the center median. I went with another "Yes" and stood with them. He noticed a sign in the street and when there was no traffic he retrieved it. He turned it over and it was a No sign. He asked the girls if they wanted it back, and they took it graciously.

We didn't have any competition the first week in front of Safeway, so the angry responses were much worse than when the No on 8 camp came to have their say. In a way, it was easier to stand with the opposition.

I appreciate the decency of those who stood by me with opposing views. I'm glad we could stand together without being hateful towards one another.

I ran to the church to nurse Garrett and then went to Raley's for the last half hour of sign waving. I stood with Meadow who found an unexpected rush in participating. She said she felt like Moroni holding the Title of Liberty, "In memory of our God, our religion, our freedom, and our peace, our wives and our children".

Ours is a unique fight. Who can deny these are the last days?...the signs are all around us. I will stand and fight as I am able. May the Lord come quickly.