Sunday, March 25, 2012

Enjoying spring

The weather has been glorious.  Fabulous.  Perfect.  I have LOVED it.  We've spent as much time as possible outside enjoying it.

Before it gets too hot.

And sticky.

And the mosquitoes come out.

Roasting hot dogs and s'mores around the fire pit.

Playing at the park,

preferably with friends.

Exploring at the creek behind our house.

Caroline loves joining big brother on adventures.

She is happy to play in the mud.

 Brandon always seems to end up IN the water.
Next time I need to just let him wear his swim trunks.

Riding bikes at Big Hill.

Also spent lots of time exploring.


B was once again irresistably drawn to the water.
This time he got STUCK in the mud.
"Are you just going to stand there and take pictures, Mom?"
Yes.  Yes, I am.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Reasons to celebrate

It has been a good month so far.  We've had three reasons to celebrate.

#1 Our friend, Chris, had his 40th birthday.
His wife, Tiffany, asked us to dress in our
very best old people clothes to celebrate with the old man.
We thought we looked pretty good.

But Nicolle nailed it!

Tiffany's ensemble was pretty sweet, too.

So fun to celebrate with friends.

After dinner and cake,
 we went cosmic bowling.
Tiffany and I got more than a few looks over our sweet polyester pants.
Or maybe they were just admiring our awesome bowling skills.
(We both scored under 70.  Ouch.)

#2 Going to the temple with Kitty
Our good friend, Kitty, went to the temple for the first time this month,
exactly one year after her baptism.  Exciting!
Andrew was sweet to stay home with the kids and let me
share this special day with Reggie, Evelyn, Kitty, Toni, and Connie.

#3 Andrew's great annual review at work
It has been a pretty crazy year for Andrew's job.  One of his bosses (who was great!) left the company, as well as several of his co-workers, while one was out on maternity leave.  He had to pick up a lot of slack there.  Plus, they just restructured the functions of HR, so he has had to adjust to all of those changes.
But he has done so with flying colors!
And his new boss recognized it with a great annual review.
 We had this banner waiting for him when he came home from work.
And Whit picked him a bouquet of "flowers."

Some of my favorite parts of the banner:
Whitney gave her dad a check +++++++++

Caroline  asked me how to spell AWESOME
and wrote this herself.
B's family portrait

We treated him to Japanese at Little Tokyo.
 It is apparently a first class restaurant,
because they give us warm towels while we're waiting
for our house appetizers.

Whit could work on a cruise ship.
She made a puppy dog out of hers!

Look at my delicious dinner box!

So grateful for excuses to celebrate.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spring soccer

I have made a conscious effort to not overschedule our kids.  And, up to this point in our lives, it has been great.  Especially with Andrew's church responsibilities, time together as a family here at home is a priority.

Well...this month that all changed.  We decided to let Brandon play spring soccer.  It has been interesting to see the other kids his age progressing much quicker in sports and we realized if he wants to make the team in middle school, he's going to need more time on the field.  So, we signed him up. 

When he played last fall, his team hardly ever practiced.  I think we had three practices all season long.  Brandon didn't mind that, but I felt like he was missing out on learning the fundamentals.  So I made sure to request a team that practices this season.  Well, you know that saying, "Be careful what you wish for"?  Holy cow!  So far, we have had practices/games three or four nights every week.  Phew.  It is exhausting.  At least for me.  I have become a taxi driver, running my kids here and there.  On Wednesdays, we go straight from Whitney's art class to soccer practice to cub scouts.  Luckily for the girls, both fields that we practice on have playgrounds right next to them.  And the weather has been gorgeous.  So they've enjoyed lots of outside time while B sharpens his soccer skills.

Brandon's on JT United this year.  It made me laugh when we our first game of the season was against his old team from the fall.  You know, the one that never practices.  And they KILLED us, 5-0.  Apparently the "no practice" thing is working for them.  We lost our second game as well.  And yesterday, we won our third.  Woo hoo! 

Brandon says he is loving this season because there are some good players on his team.  And because he's better this season than last.  He plays both midfielder and defender, but prefers midfielder.  He has had some really amazing plays, including 4 headers, 13 tackles, and an assist for a goal this season. [Brandon included that last line on his own.  I guess he got his dad's stat-keeping gene.]

Action shots

Looks like we caught 3 of his 4 headers on film.

I love this shot right after the header
with both boys looking for the ball.

Rematch against last season's giant.

Grandma and Grandpa S--We finally got to use our 8-foot poop poop!
And it was awesome!
We also found that it attracted every single child from the sidelines.
They used it as a tent and wanted to play in that little space behind
our chairs the whole time.  :)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Three 3-year-olds

I love three-year-olds.  They make me laugh.  I love their big hugs.  They can be difficult to parent at times.  I found that the "terrible twos" were a misnomer with my kids.  Because I didn't find myself wanting to pull my hair out until my kids were three.  But...they are SO cute.  I love how they still have a little baby fat in their cheeks.  Have all their teeth in and haven't started losing any yet.  Here are my cuties at age three.

I just want to kiss those cheeks.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Guest Post: Andrew and Michael Go to the Twilight Zone

Hello, Andrea’s blog readers, this is Andrew. Every year my buddy Michael and I go to a Charlotte Bobcats game and it is one of the most enjoyable evenings of the year for me. We’ve also gone to a couple of Carolina Panthers games, and every time we do things like this, crazy stuff invariably ensues. (Don’t believe me? Read this post from my old blog of when Michael and I went to the Panthers-Cardinals playoff game). We went on Friday and once again, crazy stuff happened and I felt the compulsive urge to do a 2,500-word blog post about it. 

The Drive to Charlotte
Michael and I have a lot in common. We both grew up in the church, served missions, and met our respective wives at BYU. We both have MBA’s and work for Fortune 500 companies. We both have three kids consisting of two daughters and a son. Both of our wives competed professionally on the World’s Strongest Man circuit from 2003-2006. Michael was Ward Mission Leader for several years in our ward since I have been Bishop and he now serves on the High Council. And, finally, we are quite possibly the two biggest fantasy sports dorks in the universe.

So, naturally, our conversation for the hour-and-a-half drive to Charlotte consisted of work, church, family, and mostly fantasy basketball. Our level of detail and dorkiness about fantasy hoops knew no bounds. Our conversations about the value of fringe NBA players like Ekpe Udoh, Bismack Biyombo, Ersan Ilyasova, and Rodrigue Beaubois flowed from our lips as through we were Einstein and Stephen Hawking pondering the complexity of the universe, or Bill Clinton and Chris Christie debating the genius of the new Taco Bell Doritos Taco Loco (the taco shell is made of Doritos!!!)

Let’s just say that if Michael and I had picked up a hitchhiker in Greensboro who turned out to be an unmarried atheist who hates the NBA, our non-stop conversation would have forced our passenger to light himself on fire and fling himself from the car by the time we reached Archdale.

Dinner in the Twilight Zone
We got to Charlotte at 6:00 p.m., plenty of time to get a quick bite to eat prior to the 7:00 tipoff. My new GPS and I are still leery of one another and have a rocky relationship, but I pulled up the list of nearby restaurants on my GPS and it said there was a Subway 0.4 miles away. My route updated to take us to Subway and I had to make a quick decision at an intersection – and, being me, chose the wrong street. 

My error put us back on a highway. My GPS adjusted itself in light of my mistake and told me to exit right, but I think my GPS is always lying to me so I willfully disobeyed and exited left. And, being me, this smooth move put us back on the freeway going the wrong direction.

We finally got turned around and my GPS led us back to Subway. Or it was supposed to, anyway. The GPS’s feelings must have been hurt and it was in a vindictive mood because when it said, “Arriving at Subway, on left,” we only saw laundormats, tattoo parlors, and H&R Block and such. Then, my petulant GPS said, “Hah hah, arrogant suckers! You’re on your own, jerks! You mess with the bull, you get the horns!” I was a little suspicious when the file name for my last Garmin software update was listed as “GPS-Update-Garmin-02182012-JerkMode”, but whatever.

Since the Subway did not really exist, I pulled up the GPS for other nearby restaurants and we found a Quiznos just around the corner in downtown Charlotte. We found parking on the street just around the corner from where Quizons should be and the parking was metered, but rather than feeding your individual meter, you have to pay at a centralized, high-tech pay station. The process was about as user-friendly as NASA’s pre-flight launch process for the Space Shuttle.

I inserted my two quarters and the LCD meter display flashed up, “You do not have to pay for parking after 6:00 on Friday.” Cool, I thought, and pushed the coin return button. Only it refused to return my coins. I stood there befuddled for a moment and pushed the button again, only my coins never came, so we left. I think if I would have stood there long enough a follow-up message would have flashed up which read, “Ah, you foolish dopes known as  ‘tax payers’, you are such chumps. Sincerely, the Gubmint.”

Since this is downtown Charlotte, restaurants like Quizons are on the ground level of larger buildings, so we never truly got a visual of the Quiznos restaurant itself, but we rounded the corner to where my GPS said the Quiznos would be, saw a sandwich shop, and opened the door.

As we entered Quiznos, time suddenly stood still for about fifteen seconds. Our surroundings seemed to be a little off. The time-space continuum shifted for a moment. After getting our bearings we looked at each other and said, “This isn’t Quiznos. This is Subway!” In that moment it was like we had entered the movie Inception and we would not have been surprised to see a runaway freight train barreling down Trade Street.

From my car I heard my GPS laugh and say, “Ah, you foolish men are such chumps. Sincerely, Garmin Jerk Mode.”

So, just to recap, our first Subway didn’t even exist so we went to Quiznos, which was actually a Subway that did not exist. Michael and I then eerily ordered the exact same sandwich – footlong Steak and Cheese, toasted, mayo and extra Twilight Zone sauce. Instead of chips we each ordered a side of cursed monkey paws. We then sat down and scarfed our dinner as the space-time continuum unraveled around us. 

I thought as we left the restaurant the woman who made our sandwiches was going to say something like, “When you tell people about your dinner, tell ‘em Large Marge served ya,” then cackle and disappear into the ether. This may or may not have happened. I was too scared to look.

The “Professional” “Basketball” “Game”
We entered Time Warner We-Gouge-Our-Customers Cable Arena still reeling from having dinner in the Twilight Zone. But the Twilight Zone was not done with us. As we entered the arena we were informed that tonight we were not watching the Charlotte Bobcats versus the New Jersey Nets. The Twilight Zone informed us that tonight was throwback night and we were watching the Carolina Cougars versus the New York Nets. The Bobcats players wore uniforms that said “Cougars.” New Jersey wore unis that said “New York.” 

The PA announcer called the Bobcats the Cougars all night long. The cheerleaders started the “Let’s go Cougars” chants. Michael and I suddenly felt like The Twilight Zone had transported us back to the late nineties and we were cheering at a BYU Cougars basketball game. The whole thing was confusing.

Normally when you go to a professional sporting event you are packed shoulder-to-shoulder with twenty thousand drunk, profane, volatile people, kind of like flying US Air from Philly to Boston.

But when the 5-32 Charlotte Bobcats (worst in the NBA) tip off against the 13-27 New Jersey Nets, the feeling in the arena is more like that of Will Smith living in downtown NY in I Am Legend – there should be a lot of people here, but there just aren’t. (And, sadly, just like Will Smith, Michael and I had to shoot and kill the albino fans who sat in the dark recesses of the arena before they emerged in the fourth quarter to eat us. The investigation is still pending, and on advice from my lawyer I will now stop typing.)

At tipoff, most NBA arenas are electric. The crowd is buzzing and you get goose bumps. But for a Charlotte (Carolina?) versus New Jersey (New York?) game, this is what you get at the tip:

Shortly into the game Michael notices Michael Jordan, majority owner of the Bobcats (Cougars?) sitting at the end of the bench. I zoomed in with my camera to get a few MJ picks just as he started to taunt somebody on the court with a “choke” sign. And MJ was not messing around. He was serious. It was another odd, Twilight Zone moment watching MJ do that from the bench. He looked like he might punch somebody, and it might have been one of his own players.

 And in that MJ-doing-the-choke moment I just happened to snap my all-time favorite picture:

We ended up watching MJ as much as the terrible basketball we saw on the floor. We saw him totally blow off the water bottle guy:

Pretend like he cared about his team by reading fake stat sheets (I think it was really a list of ways to spend a billion dollars):

And, finally, coming to the sad realization that he is an owner of the most pathetic NBA franchise in existence:

The “Game”
The only player Michael and I were excited to watch was the Nets Deron Williams. He is one of the best players in the NBA and he is the best player on my fantasy team this year. So what happens with D-Will? He gets injured in the second quarter, leaves, and never comes back.

Watching a Bobcats-Nets game without Deron Williams is like watching Cast Away without Tom Hanks - you can try to convince yourself that Wison is a pretty good actor, but in your heart you know he is just a stupid volleyball.

After D-Will went down, Michael and I watched ten “volleyballs” play for the rest of the game. It was easily the most disorganized, sloppy, pathetic, poorly-played professional basketball games we have ever witnessed. It got to be so bad that we just sat there making fun of what we were watching, a la Mystery Science Theater 3000. Guys were throwing up 17-foot bricks, airballing reverse layups, dribbling the ball off their legs with no defender near, getting called for eight-seconds in the backcourt. I coached our ward's Young Women's basketball team a few weeks ago and their offense flowed better than the Bobcats did.

In fact, Andrea found a Yahoo Sports! article in their "Ball Don't Lie" blog calling a sequence in this game, "The Worst Twelve Seconds of Basketball, Ever." Most of the game looked like that video clip.

The score at halftime was a rip-roaring, barn-burning 39-35.

Then, at halftime, the Bobcats brought out their aerial dunking team, which literally caused the biggest applause from the crowd of the entire evening. But the terrible basketball extended to the halftime show as the Bobcats mascot, Rufus Lynx, started things with a horrendous rim check.

In the third quarter Michael and I assessed who the five best players in the arena were. Here is what we concluded, in order:

1. Michael Jordan (owner, Charlotte Bobcats and hilarious bench-taunter.)
2. Kris Humphries (Kim Kardashian’s ex-husband, reality TV star, PF New Jersey Nets)
3. Tie – Michael and Me
4. Edwardo Najera (All-hustle NBA journeyman)
5. The sassy, excitable grandma sitting right behind us.

As Michael and I LOL’d at the terrible play we were watching from Section 229 in the nosebleeds a timeout was called. The Bobcats cheerleaders brought out the T-shirt bazooka, pointed it right at us, and fired. Again, the space-time continuum began to unravel. The Twilight Zone took hold.

The t-shirt missile was coming right at my chest at about eighty miles per hour!

Michael and I both went for t-shirt and it ended up in my arms like a tip-drill interception in football. I caught it without it hitting the ground! Sure, the odds of catching a t-shirt at a sparsely attended Bobcats game is about 1-in-6, but it is still cool to get shot at by a cannon at a sporting event.

The Bobcats ended up losing and the game. Staying for an entire Bobcats-Nets game is like finishing the Book Old Yeller - it breaks your heart and makes you want to cry.

The Ride Home
Our tradition on the ride home is to stop at a gas station and get some snacks, so I took us to a Raceway gas station just outside of Charlotte. I also really needed to use the bathroom. We could tell immediately we were in the wrong part of town when we read the hand drawn sign on the outside of the Raceway door which read, “No entering store with hoodies covering your face.” That either means most of their customers are armed robbers, very ugly, or both. In fact, I think we saw Nick Nolte there.

We cautiously entered the store wishing we were carrying switchblades, only to find out they had no bathroom. We went back to the car and were relieved to find that my 2002 Honda Accord had not already been stripped down for parts. 

We drove down the road to a Circle K searching again for snacks and a bathroom. As we pulled in we noticed the store attendant jiggling with the lock to the front doors, but he let us come in. I walked back to the bathroom and found a hand-written sign on the door – “BATHROOM, OUT OF ORDER, PLEASE!”
I walked to the front of the store and told Michael about the bathroom. The clerk overheard me and said, “Nah, go ahead and use it. Bathroom’s fine.” I started to ask a follow-up question with a, “But, are your sure….” then I just shut myself up, credited all of this to our Twilight Zone evening, and used the bathroom that could not be used. 

We finally paid for our drinks and snacks and were getting ready to leave. But the store clerk beat us to the door and for some inexplicable reason started jiggling with the lock again and ended up locking the door, and the lock got stuck.. We stood at the now locked doors as the clerk fiddled unsuccessfully with the now jammed locks. The clerk was getting flustered, looked up, and said, “The doors are locked and won’t come unlocked. I'm sorry.” 

Great, we are now locked INSIDE a gas station in the worst part of Charlotte. I started scanning the store for customers wearing hoodies and once again wished I was concealing a switchblade. 

The Twilight Zone snickered at our plight. My GPS mocked us from the car. And the clerk worked for a full minute or two before finally unlocking the doors and letting us leave.  

The Twilight Zone must begin/end in Charlotte, because the rest of the trip back to Greensboro was rather uneventful. Just more discussions about nerdy Mormon and fantasy basketball stuff. 

I can’t want to do this again next year with Michael. It is always one of the highlights of my year. But next year I’ll be packing a switchblade.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Out of the Mouths of Babes--February

2/3--Care Bear and I were grocery shopping for Super Bowl food today.  She said, "I'm gonna love our Super Bowl.  It's kinda like a bowl of super!"

Not quite a bowl of super.
But she was happy with the chicken nuggets.

2/4--Sometimes at the dinner table, we'll take turns telling jokes or stories.  Tonight Caroline said, "Let's tell macaroni stories.  Once there was a bowl of macaroni.  And then the lions ate it.  The end."  

In ALL of her stories, the main
character is eaten.

2/5--We have a new missionary at church.  When Brandon saw him, he said, "That guy looks like he should be in Twilight.  He looks just like a vampire!"  

2/8--The girls were playing together and Whit said, "I'm going to gather everything I need to go on a journey."  Caroline said, "I want to go, too!"  Brandon chimed in, "Can I be your nemesis?"  Unfortunately (?), Whit let him know, "I don't have a nemesis!"

2/12--Andrew and Whit were getting ready to play Scrabble for her "Big Girl Time" tonight.  She told him, "Scrabble helps your smarticle particle."

2/13--We have continued our annual tradition of putting out Valentine's mailboxes this month.  Caroline wrote a little love note for herself and put it in her mailbox.  Later, when she found it and "read" it she said, "That was so nice of me!"

2/15--A few hours into our long drive to Florida, Caroline offered up this suggestion, "Let's play hide and seek!"

2/15--Whit was looking at the dashboard of the van and asked,

 "Why is your Avery sign in our van?"
Now that she mentions it, the hazard triangle does 
look almost identical to
Avery's logo

2/18--When we walked into Hollywood Studios, among the many other guests rushing to get to the rides and shows, Caroline was watching the people and said, "Everybody looks busy!"  Yes.  Yes, they do.

2/19--We all had such a good time in Florida that it was hard to see it end.  During the drive home, Caroline said, "Let's turn around and go back to Florida."
Me:  "But Daddy has to go to work.  And brother and sister need to go to school.  And we want to be with them, right?"
C:  After thinking about it for just a second, "Me and you should go back."

Florida bound?

2/24--Noticing the vanity plate on the car in front of us, Whit said, "That license plate says BWEIRD...and that's my motto!"

I had no idea that was her motto.

2/26--At dinner tonight, we were talking about what we learned at church today.  Caroline learned about, "Wild dogs.  And if they're coming, go inside."  Apparently they're changing the curriculum at church to involve some survival skills?

2/26--Also at dinner tonight, Andrew started off a sentence saying, "Girls have more..." and Whit finished for him by saying, "taste buds?"  We all started laughing and she said, "Girls DO have more taste buds than boys."

Random photos of the month

Our only snow storm of the winter.

so far...

B's souvenir from Legoland:  Ninjago ice dragon

Jumping for joy on her field trip

W finished up another great season of cheer

The art gene is running strong in our family right now.
Caroline, who was drawing stick figures just 
a few days ago (or at least it seems that way)

drew THIS picture of herself in church on Sunday.
Look at those eyelashes!

Then I asked her to draw a picture of me.
I appear to have many, many teeth to my daughter.

B's masterpieces:

and a cool dragon.

 The most RANDOM character you could
take your picture with:
a green plastic army guy.
"Let's face it.  When the garbage bags come out,
we army guys are the first to go."

 I traced this heart for Caroline and then she cut it out
herself.  What is up with that?  Is she going to teach
herself how to knit next?

B loved this March madness soda display at Wal-mart.

After a LONG Saturday full of church meetings,
 we stopped at the mall and the kids asked to do this:
Uncharacteristically, we said YES.
They LOVED it.

 And B's abs were sore for the next several days.