Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 in Review

It is the very last day of 2013! Today we're going to Disneyland. This is how I feel about that:


Time to look back at 2013! 

New nephews we gained: Max, Ezra, and Everett
Most fun date: Anniversary trip to Disneyland
Our favorite new restaurant: Stefano's Golden Baked Hams
Our favorite movies: Catching Fire and The Hobbit
Our favorite TV shows: Sherlock, Downton Abbey, Fringe, Doctor Who
Most visited parks: Yorba Regional, Jessamyn West, Hurless Barton
Zoos we went to: Orange County, Santa Ana
Beaches we went to: Crystal Cove, Huntington

And as for my 2013 resolutions:

How I did, in a nutshell

You might remember that at the beginning of the year I started a "happiness project." The structure of the project was to have one new theme each month with an overarching goal and individual resolutions, adding to my cumulative resolutions each month. And I really did like the structure of that project - adding something new each month kept my goals fresh in my mind and kept renewing them.

Unfortunately, the middle of March is when I got really sick with Zelda's pregnancy and stopped doing pretty much anything. As even normal daily tasks became too hard to do and I scaled back to the basics, the happiness project went out the window.

I picked it back up again in July, listing my very most important resolutions that I wanted to focus on. And you know what? Looking at that list from July, I did pretty okay on those resolutions for the rest of the year. Not perfect, for sure. We could still improve at family home evening and I want to go to the temple more this year, but I did okay. And I feel good about it. I made progress this last year.

What petered out that I want to try again

My weekly "What We Believe" column.  I did it once a week in September and October, and only stopped when Zelda was born and we were busy with a newborn. I enjoyed doing that series of posts and I want to start it up again. I think it would be best if I have a defined number of them to do (even if it's completely arbitrary) - like, twelve - so I'll be more motivated to do them, because there will be a finish point in the future. So, I should plan those and have my number and then go forth and do.

I also want to read more books. For some reason I just didn't read that many for the second half of the year. So time to read again!

Another thing I'd like to try again, if possible, is a book club with some of my friends (you know who you are, haha. I'll be sending you guys a message through Facebook.). We tried one last year and read and discussed the first book and read the second, but never found a time to discuss the second book and it kind of petered out after that. I think we could try it again if we structure it more. Perhaps one book every 2 months, picked out beforehand (like, we pick out the whole year's books at the beginning), and with a scheduled day & time for the discussion set beforehand (like we set February's discussion time at the beginning of January). So I want to try that again, if they're willing.

What went well

Our Captain's Log posts. These are the weekly posts that I've been doing that since September now, and I love them! They've really helped me keep on top of sharing our pictures and documenting what we've been up to. This blog is, first and foremost, a way to document our family's life, and the Captain's Log posts have been perfect for that. Since they're a scheduled thing every week, I make sure to do them. It helps me because I don't feel like I have to blog all the time, but I don't fall behind either. It's perfectly in the middle!

Another thing I've liked this year is this little red notebook I have. I've been using it all year - since right before the beginning of the year, actually, as a catch-all notebook where I write down everything I want to write down. Lists, ideas, appointments, notes, Ellie quotes - whatever I feel like. It helps me to not forget things. My brain forgets things easily. And I know they're there, and I know I've forgotten them, but I can't remember what they are. This helps me remember my thoughts. It's my brain on paper. It decreases my anxiety, because it greatly lessens the feeling I have all the time that I'm forgetting something. This notebook is my memory. Paper doesn't forget. It isn't any kind of resolution or anything, it's just sort of something I've been doing this year - writing everything down in my little flower notebook - and I love it.

What I want to do this year

Tune in tomorrow for my 2014 resolutions!

2013 was a great year that ended with us adding a new member to our family. We are excited for what the next year brings!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Captain's Log (Week 192)

Merry Christmas! I hope you had a really good holiday week. :) Christmas Eve and Christmas are really kind of unbeatable holidays.

We've had a good, albeit kind of out-of-the-ordinary, Christmas week. Jason's sister Tiffany and her family flew in from Texas last Friday, which is great. We have loved spending time with them. What's not so great is that the stomach flu (norovirus, more specifically) flew in with them. We waited a day to go see them, and thought we were safe, but alas. One by one we all fell this week. Ellie got sick on Sunday night, I got sick on Christmas Eve, and Jason got sick yesterday. Ellie's all better now, but Jason and I are still recovering. So that kind of changed our Christmas plans - we were missing half the family at Jason's parents' house on Christmas Eve, and we didn't go to my Grandparents' house on Christmas (we didn't want to give it to everybody).

So like I said, a bit out-of-the-ordinary. We've been a little bit sick and missed a couple regular traditions. But it's still been good. Here's what we did do this week:

What Ellie said this week

A couple days before Christmas Ellie found two colorful kleenex boxes in the hall closet and brought them to me. "Look Mommy! Presents!" Me: "Presents? Oh wow! Do you want to open them?" Ellie: "Yeah!"

At some point this week, when we had taken off Ellie's clothes and diaper to do a clothes-change, Ellie jumped up and said, "I'm covered in naked!" Today she said another variant of that when she soaked her clothes with water: "I'm covered in cold!"

Ellie was reading a Berenstain Bears book this week, and pointing to the different bears: "Bruder Bear, and Sister Bear, and Jocelyn Bear, and Papa Bear."

Putting on her tights for church on Sunday - "Oh! Big sock!"

As I was moving a pile of books off her bed: "No Mommy, don't do that."

"Ackla!" (She said this over and over again last night as I was putting her to bed, and laughing and laughing like it was the funniest thing ever. I kept saying it back, and she would crack up. I love her laugh.)

Last night Ellie and I were looking at a book about Native Americans before she went to bed. On one page, she pointed to a Native American chief  and declared, "That's a Mormon." Oh, okay. (Thinking about this later, we think she must have got this from her illustrated Book of Mormon that we read to her often. We tell her we're reading the Book of Mormon, and the illustrations in it naturally look like Native Americans, so, yeah! She made the connection. Good to know she's listening to something as we chase her around her room doing scripture study.)

Another book that we were reading, Ellie was pointing to the words on the page and saying made-up words as she did, "reading" what was there. Then she took my finger, pointed it to the words on the page, and said "Count with me!"

On Christmas night before bedtime Ellie and I were playing with her new play-doh set. We made long, cylindrical pieces of play-doh come out of the top of this palm tree that's part of the set, and Ellie picked one up and cupped it in her hand. Speaking softly, she said, "Look, it's a caterpillar. It's okay, little guy." (Stroking it with her other hand.) "He's sleeping. Shhhhh." (Then she made snoring noises.)

And finally, as we were saying her nighttime prayers last night, Ellie contributed to the prayer of her own accord for the first time. I was saying, "Dear Heavenly Father, Mommy and Daddy thank you for Ellie -" and she added, in a whisper, "And Zelda."

Also, a few bonus quotes from our niece Aubrey this week:

(This was the very first thing Aubrey said to us when we saw her this week, after they had flown her from Texas.) Aubrey, shaking her head and sighing: "I have so many sisters."

Aubrey (age 6), to James (Jason's dad) while teaching him karate: "Just do your very best, and however good you do, I'll be proud of you."

What we did this week

On Saturday we went to the Thomas's house to see Tiffany's family and to have a birthday for Brynn, their youngest daughter.

Tiffany and the babies :)

On Sunday we went to church, came home for Ellie's nap, then went to the Thomas's again for Michael (Jason's brother)'s birthday dinner. Everyone came over, all the siblings and spouses and cousins, and it was great.
The girls before church. :)

Also, at one point at the night, Ellie ran into the room looking like this:


On Monday, we spent a nice morning at home and then played with the cousins more in the afternoon and evening.

This is Aubrey and Jason, as drawn by Aubrey. (Aubrey's on the left, Jason's on the right.)

Christmas Eve:

This first video of the normally very, very active Ellie, taken on the morning of Christmas eve, illustrates how tired the stomach flu made us all at different points before this week. We took Christmas Eve morning very easy. :)


These next couple videos crack me up. ("I want an oooorange!")


Later that day we went to Jason's parents house for the traditional Christmas Eve get together. We played with the cousins and all got penguin pajamas. 

Aubrey with her chalk drawing of a Christmas tree and a plate of carrots and onions for the reindeer
The girls installing a palm frond as a "Christmas tree" in the dirt
Nana telling the nativity story
On Christmas we woke up and unwrapped our presents by our little Christmas tree. We went to Jason's parents' house after that, and then my Dad and Debbie's house, and then came home and relaxed for the rest of the day. It was a good day and Ellie loved unwrapping presents. She was usually more interested in unwrapping the next gift than in pausing to see what she had just unwrapped. :) When we got home, though, then she got interested in her new toys and spent the rest of the day playing with them.


Yesterday Ellie played with her cousins more, and we're headed over there right now to see them one last time before they go back to Texas.

Again, I hope you had a great Christmas. :) Enjoy these last couple day of the year!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

House Tour

Here's our house! I think I mentioned when we moved in in the beginning of October that I wanted to post pictures of what it looked like. I took these pictures of our apartment over the last week, during moments when each of these rooms were clean. (Let me tell you, it looks a lot different the day after Christmas. It looks like it exploded. :))

Here's our family room:


Our kitchen:


Ellie's toy shelves:


Another view of our kitchen:


Our desk area/Ellie's art area/Ellie's high chair area/our extra shelves with kitchen stuff area:


Ellie's room:


Our room:


Sunday, December 22, 2013

What shall we give to the babe in the manger?

I always love the last Sunday before Christmas. I love it because the music at church is always extra special that day - we get to sing so many of the Christmas hymns and listen to special musical numbers. And, at least for me, Christmas music brings the feeling of Christmas like nothing else can.

I saw this video yesterday, and loved it. It's a beautiful rendition of "What Shall We Give to the Babe in the Manger?" by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and it's got a great story to watch that goes along with it. It brought happiness into my heart and I hope it does to yours too.

"Easy Canvas Prints" Canvas Review

*Disclosure: I was given a free 8x10 canvas print by Easy Canvas Prints to do this review.

So, I've been thinking about canvas prints for a long time. I've seen them in friends' and family's houses, and I really like them I think they're a really cool way to display family pictures. I haven't ordered any before, though, because they tend to be expensive and there are so many companies to choose from that I haven't been sure where to start.

My sister-in-law Shelley posted about Easy Canvas Prints a while ago. I was also able to talk to Easy Canvas Prints (you can find their website at www.easycanvasprints.com) and get a canvas to review. I was very excited when I ordered it a couple weeks ago; my first canvas! The turnaround time was really great (very fast production time and shipping) and it arrived just a couple days later. Here it is:


Here's a close-up shot of the print quality:


And the sides:


I wish I had some other canvases to compare this to so that I could give you a more thorough review. I do like the canvas, for sure. It's a very cool medium and I like the way the image wraps around the sides. It's a cool display piece and doesn't need any kind of frame to stand out.

It's different from photo paper prints, though, in saturation and shading (especially noticeable around the faces when looking at it from certain angles). And I don't know if that's just how canvas prints are (the way that light reflects upon the ink on the canvas), or if that's how something about this certain company. Again, I wish I was more experienced with canvas prints so I could tell you.

My favorite photo book resource, Photo Book Girl, has started to review canvas prints as well. Here's her canvas reviews page (she hasn't reviewed many yet, but she does list many companies that do canvas prints): Canvas Print Reviews. And here's her canvas print deals page: Canvas Print Deals.

So again, if you'd like to check out Easy Canvas Prints, their website is www.easycanvasprints.com. They also have some affiliate companies that do custom printing, www.buildasign.com and www.alliedshirts.com.

Have you ever made a Canvas Print? What company did you use? Did you like them?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Captain's Log, Week 191

Hi everyone! Time for this week's Captain Log. I'm excited for how close it is to Christmas! Jason's sister's family flew in from Texas this morning, and we can't wait to go over to his parent's house and see them. In the meantime, here's what we've been up to this week!

What Ellie said this week

On Sunday I was standing in the kitchen. Zelda was lying on a blanket on the floor in the family room, and I could see her over the counter from where I was standing. Ellie went over to where Zelda was lying and began nudging her around with her foot. "Ellie, are you kicking Zelda?" I asked sternly. Ellie looked up at me and with a big smile on her face said, "Yeah, I kicking her!"

Today (this morning, actually) Jason's sister Tiffany and her family flew in from Texas. Ellie and I had this conversation yesterday about everyone who was coming (Her cousin Emily, a.k.a. "Emmy," and her parents Michael and Shelley live down here in California):
Me: "We're going to see all your cousins tomorrow! We're going to see Aubrey..."
Ellie: "And Emmy!"
Me: "And Mikayla..."
Ellie: "And Emmy!"
Me: "And Skylar..."
Ellie: "And Emmy!"
Me: "And Emmy..."
Ellie: "And...Shewwey!"
Me: "And Brynn..."
Ellie: "And Shewwey!"
Me: "And Shelley..."
Ellie: "And Michael!"
Me: "And Michael..."
Ellie: "And...Jexi!"
Me: "And Aubrey..."
Ellie: "And...Aubrey!"
And then she finally went on to repeat Aubrey, Mikayla, Skylar, and Brynn's names.

And yesterday:
Me, rubbing my collarbone: "Ow. Ellie, mommy hurts right here."
*Ellie leans forward and kisses my collarbone.*
Me: "Did you kiss me and make me all better?"
Ellie: "Yes, I kiss you and make you all better."

Oh, also, there was definitely a time this week that Ellie referred to Zelda as "your sister."


What we all did this week

Ellie turned two years old on Saturday. We had a little family birthday party over at Jason's parent's house, with pizza and cake. Ellie had fun. When we all sang her the happy birthday song, she sang it too (it's one of her favorite songs). She liked her jungle cake; after we handed out pieces of cake to everybody, she and her cousin Emily mostly just played with the little plastic animals that had come on top of the cake. Ellie kept taking this one animal (a white mountain goat thing), dipping its feet into her piece of cake's frosting, and sucking it off.


Singing the happy birthday song with everybody:


Blowing out her candles (with help from Daddy):


And eating the frosting off the plastic animals' feet:


Here are some pictures of Zelda the next day, on Sunday:


On Monday night we had the annual Smith family Christmas party. It was at my dad's house, and all my aunts and uncles and cousins came over and we had a good time. We had dinner:


And had the white elephant gift exchange (in which there were no less than three copies {including one we contributed} of the calendar "Men with Cats"): 


And did the acting out of the nativity (This was the first year I've been in it for several years; I've been old enough to opt out for a long time, but this year we were low on numbers and also Ellie needed my help to get through it. So I was a wise man, and Ellie was an angel.):


On Wednesday I was in our kitchen, cleaning, when I looked over the counter into the family room where Ellie and Zelda were and I saw this:


Zelda actually didn't seem to mind at all, so I didn't intervene. Later that day both the girls ended up on the cuddle couch:

Yes, Zelda is wearing one of Ellie's onesies as a pair of pants. Ellie insisted.
This is Ellie "hugging" Zelda. She also gave her a kiss and told her, "I love you, Zelda."

On Wednesday we also made and decorated Christmas cookies. I used this recipe (just the cookies, not the frosting) and they turned out great! Were easy to make, cut out, and bake, and tasted really good. Decorating the cookies was fun, but a challenge - Ellie frosted a couple, then decided that she really just wanted to eat all the sprinkles. 


And lastly, Ellie watercolored more this week. Sometimes on the paper, and sometimes on herself. Here she is yesterday morning:


Oh, Ellie. :)

And as a very last thing, here are some videos for the grandparents: