Sunday, January 30, 2011

Change It Up!

One of my all-time favorite Disney movies is the Mighty Ducks series with Emilio Estevez (who Paula Abdul proposed to with her song Will You Marry Me Boy? you didn't know that!) and one of my favorite lines from the movie is in the second one, when Michele, the team's teacher, is passing as the Coach since Coach Bombay fails to show up. Unaware of how to switch players who look fatigued, she finally figures it out and screams, "Change it up!"

That's precisely what I was thinking to myself this afternoon as I washed the dishes with our tattered scrub and sponge in one. I'll admit, I don't boil the sponges as much as I should (maybe twice in the last 5 months?) and I just learned you can microwave it for a minute after ringing it as dry as possible for the same objective of disposing bacteria in it. But really, like toothbrushes that are recommended to be changed once every three months, I should change it up.

This made me think about other things we should change up to keep 'em so fresh and so clean. I thought about my scripture study lately, which has been surprisingly attentive and uplifting. Part of it is because I'm over the first trimester constant exhaustion, but more importantly, I've devised a way to keep myself interested in what I'm actually studying! I am actually seeking to study more than to read, which unfortunately, is what I used to do. While reading before, I would often nod off and forget what I was reading and read until I got to my time goal, but now that I'm more focused on the end goal of what I'm studying for or trying to figure out, I have been more positive and always left feeling like I learned something.

Another example is cooking! Okay, okay, truth be told, I'm not exactly the best wife when it comes to cooking (and I only just you tubed how to properly dice an onion...and have yet to try it out!) . But with so many examples all around me, how could I not try to be better? So inspired by everyone who does cook and does plan their weekly menu (you know who you are), I have begun doing so myself. As I do that, I have noticed it's important to change it up from week to week. We can't just have the same food Monday through Friday every week, as tempting and easy as that makes my life, I have to strive for more so we keep it fresh. That doesn't mean we don't visit our favorites often... because truth be told, we love our sloppy Joe's and pizza...and whenever Cafe Rio is in the house (hehe), we eat it all week long!!

I guess changing it up is good if we do it with the intention of keeping ourselves on our toes, remembering to change it to help ourselves. On the flipside, I won't stop going to my favorite Thai restaurant just because I want to change it up, but I might be more open to trying some new places from time to time. However, if they all pale in comparison, I know where to go for some good Thai food. Can you tell I'm hungry? I guess it's time to change it up, from the couch to the kitchen for some snacks before dinner. Miam! (that's yum in French in case you didn't already know).

Changing it up!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Things That Matter Most

When I was single, my weekdays were filled with important decision making. I could either go out with friends for dinner on the town or go work out and grab dinner on my own. I would entertain the former every now and then (definitely for birthdays or other special celebratory occasions) but I was drawn to the latter for what it offered me. Endorphins from working out and a healthier meal which overall, made me feel better.

While in San Jose, though only 45 minutes from the BFF, we always hung out on weekends which normally included a trip to Trader Joe's for some flaxseed veggie chips and hummus, a sleepover watching crime drama shows, talking about life in general, falling asleep around 11, and then waking up to a Dailey Method class, a trip to the nearby (20 minutes away) Equinox for some cardio, a shower in the uber classy and clean gym facilities followed by lunch at Santana Row and some shopping! It was wonderful. Very simple, routine and fulfilling. We began to feel more adult like as our conversations turned away from that which was happening in Us Weekly and we abandoned our former ways of standing in a grocery store's magazine aisle for hours reading Entertainment trash and instead browsed the stores beyond our means (though we didn't buy, the store personnel actually greeted us as if we were real potential buyers!). We talked about how we barely had time to follow the Media these days, and bonded on our search for the perfect job and what that would be, and how we would depart from our Corporate America jobs which we had been doing since graduating from college. At night, Grace would return to the City to see her boyfriend and I would retreat to my humble Corporate apartment to eat dinner alone and watch some TV. On occasion, I would go out with the co-workers but I never had as much fun as I did with Grace, and fatigued from the day's events, I soon began politely declining invitations to go out with other friends.

Such is life now that I'm married. We have things that we prioritize each week such as eating dinner together every night possible (outside of Andy's call days or late work nights for me), Monday family home evening, Church meetings every Tuesday, a Friday date night that includes dinner out and a trip to the Westside, Church on Sundays, near daily working out, daily scripture study and a daily early retreat to bed (except for the weekend, we sometimes stay up until 12 AM on those days!) which means there isn't really time for anything else. We make exceptions (for BYU basketball games, work related recruiting events, visits, family dinners out, etc.) but usually, only if they happen to fall on the two days we don't have regularly set plans or if we can squeeze 'em into our existing planned days.

That being said, our schedule makes it difficult to plan for anything else and lately I've been mulling on it. True, our schedule includes things that matters most and I have seen nothing but good come from it as I am consistently fulfilled by the simple and important things, even if it is routine and lends little to no room for alternative options BUT, life will change when Baby J joins us... and then what?! I mean, if Andy isn't around, who will watch the baby while I shower or wash the dishes or work out? My daily reminders from my subscriptions to the What to Expect, Daily Kick, and The Bump newsletters do not speak to such things! I've been asking other moms of their experiences, and it all varies. Everybody does it a bit differently, so as it turns out, we must be flexible in adapting, not be so set in our ways that we stubbornly fail to see the joy and simplicity of changing up a routine for the better. I suppose as long as the things that matter most are still the foundation of our lives, it won't be so bad. Still, my paranoid self likes to "plan" and sometimes you just can't plan for everything. You can only hope that the things that matter most are so embedded in your lives that they are the support you need to shield you from whatever comes your way. So until then, I guess I can only stick to that and have faith that the Lord will take care of the rest.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Does That Make Me a Bad Mother?

Everyone gets really excited about a nursery. I am so excited for our baby, for our future family and for the countless hours of sleep I will soon be missing but swear it matters not because my life without the baby is unimaginable.... but a nursery??... that I am not! Instead, I dream about a work out room, complete with a mirrored wall, an elliptical machine, a treadmill, some colorful yoga balls, exercise balls, a bosu ball, a ballet bar, and some free weights, maybe even a television in the corner to keep me company as I work out. Pure bliss.

I know it's part of preparing for the baby.. but besides a changing table, a crib, some cute LIGHTWEIGHT stuff to hang on the wall (because earthquakes and dropping frames in the baby room are no bueno), and some storage bins for the clothing (because I like to put things inside of boxes and those boxes inside of more boxes and I'm not a fan of clutter), my thoughts turn to directing that energy towards decorating a cute young boy's room when he's old enough to enjoy it. Will he like cars, motorcycles, trains, sports or comic books enough to decide that is the theme his bedsheets, rugs, and posters will be? Will there be a "I want to go on a mission someday" framed on the wall along with photos of our family? Or will there be clay imprints of his hand and a wall marking how tall he is every year? Those are the exciting thoughts I have when it comes to decorating his room.... but a nursery... bleh. Double bleh.

We had thought about painting the walls (because white is so dull), but now I'm over it because we'd have to figure out when I could be out of the house, etc. and I want to do it myself! Plus, the current framed Sports Illustrated magazine covers look pretty nice on the wall for a boy, right? Maybe we'll change one of 'em to the feature that will be done on Jimmer! Our first real obstacle is to move the current desks and bookshelves into the guest room (we are sooo lucky for the extra space we have in our very subsidized living space) and we have a couch that someone can chill on while they feed the baby (that would be me!) that would go perfectly with dark wooded furniture. The other obstacle is getting it. My mom has offered to cover the costs but I still have to find time to go pick it out myself and get reimbursed for it... and that sounds like a lot of work I'd rather put off. But then... when I get too large... I'll be in trouble. Nursery, you are my enemy today. Fitness room, you are my dream for tomorrow. I hope that doesn't make me a bad mother before my baby even arrives!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Something Other Than Gas

As of today, I am officially 24 weeks and 1 day prego.

Update: I can still see my toes, I can still work out (with modifications for any exercises on my back) and I can still say the nausea has not returned! My legs are swollen, normal pants are now uncomfortable to sport (I have one pair of prego jeans, a lot of dresses and make use of my stretchy gym pants often), I have gotten one bad calve cramp (hopefully not more!) overnight, my bathroom trips are down to two during the night (at one point it was three or four!), and it is increasingly harder to get out of bed using my abs - instead I just roll over to my left (sad story).

I'm beginning to feel the baby's kicks more and more, and Andy's felt it from the outside too! His first kick was on Christmas morning but since I hadn't felt it before, I wasn't confident it was him. It feels like little spurts of gas or as my sister-in-law analogized from someone she once heard, as if you were in a pool and someone swam or walked by you leaving you ripples in the water, only inside of you! It's crazy that there is a form of life inside of me... something other than gas. Just plain crazy!

Here's a photo update of the bump - part deux!

The baby is definitely getting larger! Photos don't really say much, just take my word that everyone is telling me, "Ohhhhh you're pregnant?!" or... "When are you due?!"....

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Weird Things We Do

When I was finally old enough to use the bathroom on my own, I would often spend a long time washing my hands. I was mesmerized with the soap. I would lather my hands so much that if I clenched my fingers together in a prayer like gesture, and then slowly released my thumbs and pointer finger carefully, I could create a HUGE bubble and then just stare at the rainbow of colors swirling around. I would pop the bubble by bringing my fingers too far apart, start over and make another bubble. It absolutely fascinated me.

Likewise, I would get a bottle of Elmer's white school glue, put a big blob of it on my hand and just wait patiently. If I waited long enough for it to dry, I could peel it off carefully and somehow, this was entertainment to me. I did it over and over again, always looking forward to the dry glue I'd get to peel off.

At work, I often mutter to myself outloud. Those who have worked with me long enough know this and make a note of it to the more novice team members around. "She just talks to herself every now and then," one staff assured the other. I guess I do... just never realized it. I do the same thing when I'm on my own grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning,, etc. One might observe me from afar and think I have an imaginary friend or something along those lines.

So it leads me to wonder... what will my kid be like? Will he also pick up my weird ways or will he come up with his own?

Isn't it interesting that we're all created with so many different talents, challenges, and situations... yet ultimately, we are all loved the same, regardless of how different we are? How sweet it is to have a loving Heavenly Father who does not think of the weird things we do, but instead looks to our efforts as well as our works.

I hope I am able to remember that when future kids do some weird things. They may pick up on some of my habits.. or Andy's... or the rest of the family. Who knows?! Oh well, it's just the weird things we do that make us who we are. And really, they aren't that weird after all.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Asian Drying Rack

I first learned how to use a dishwasher a few years ago when I was living in San Jose for a short term assignment in my own sweet Corporate living space. The sad thing about that? Not only was I in my mid 20's, but my best friend, who had also learned a few years earlier, had to teach me. You see, growing up, both of us came from Asian families who rarely used the dishwasher the proper way - to clean dishes. Instead, it was a very appropriate and large drying rack - to dry dishes already washed, used daily and only used the way it was intended for special occasions (think large parties with many guests and no paperware).

These days, I have begun to understand why that practice is actually useful. With only two of us in the family, using the dishwasher means waiting almost a week before it's full. Meanwhile, we are without certain utensils and drinking glasses, and after a few breakfasts, most bowls. So recently, I've concluded the Asian drying rack is back in our house and have been using it to dry things. The only exception for the dishwasher is when we have guests over and a lot of dishes are loaded into the dishwasher at once.

Doesn't it just tickle you funny that old tricks can become new ones? That things we once knew, but maybe did not think much about, can emerge as you naturally realize it just makes sense? That is how the Gospel is to me. It's as if I have always felt a closeness to God and Jesus Christ but never really knew why. It's as if I have always known what is right and what is wrong but of course, can justify either or. It's as if I have always known life had more purpose than eat, drink and be merry but wasn't sure if I wanted to accept that. It's as if I knew I once lived with Heavenly Father, but acknowledging it would mean so much more responsibility than before. It's as if the Gospel and everything it stands for was just a reflection on a mirror standing right before me... but a mirror just a little dusty and grimy, one I had to polish before seeing clearly. But the reflection was always there... I just couldn't see it completely until now. So I suppose it's not really as if, but it actually is indeed.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Nightmare in Atlanta

Sometimes, we think the Spirit is talking to us. Most times, we are unsure if it's the Spirit or ourselves. Sometimes, we should listen more closely. Most times, we only recognize it was the Spirit afterwards.

Yesterday, I had a flight at 2:20 PM from Los Angeles to Atlanta for a two day training, instructing on the new database the Firm uses. Upon remembering part of my weekend would be spent travelling, I was ridden with disappointment. Since Andy is on a new rotation, he had only one day off per week and luckily for us, it lands on a Sunday for the entire 6 weeks. A red eye flight was out of the question since Atlanta was so far east and I was instructing versus participating.

So after two hours of Church on Sunday, Andy and I begrudgingly returned home to grab my stuff and head to the airport. While in the car, I noticed a flurry of emails from the other instructors noting a bunch of flights had been cancelled flying out to Atlanta. Hopeful that my flight might also be cancelled, I checked when we got home and sadly, it was still on time. We googled Atlanta weather and cancelled flights, noting due to severe weather a lot of flights had been delayed or cancelled....but apparently, not mine! So off we went to the airport and along the way, I kept calling the Delta helpline, asking if the flight "might" get cancelled. Success was not mine.

Once at the airport, I just had a bad feeling - a gut instinct you could say. Angry passengers ubiquitously filled the waiting areas complaining loudly about their cancelled flights and current ongoing attempts to get onto another flight. I sat there, still hanging on to the hope that my flight might get cancelled and that I might be able to spend the rest of Sunday at home with Andy. Again, to no avail, the flight continued to show as "on time." Simultaneously, the baby was going insane inside with kicks. He just kept kicking me! I tried to find a secluded seat and pray for help, for any guidance on whether I should just go home or wait to take the potential flight. I justified that if not all the learners or instructors arrived in Atlanta, then I might not be needed. I then justified that if the training was delayed for any reason, there was no way I could extend my travels to Wednesday. I paced around the airport, texted Andy with updates and got my hopes up when they changed us to another gate without a plane. In a few minutes, they clarified that we were still at the same gate and before I knew it, our flight was boarding.

Once on board, the flight attendants made a pregnant girl cry. They told her that her purple bag should be taken up the aisle (where passengers were still boarding) to find more overhead space, and then upon not finding any, they asked her for her seat ticket which was all the way back at her seat about 5 aisles from the last row. Frustrated and on the verge of tears, she marched back to her seat to get the ticket, brought it back to the flight attendant at the front of the plane, outraged by why a silly ticket was needed to check her bag! The flight attendant apologized but confirmed it was just procedure but the pregnant girl stormed back to her seat, and tears burst out. It wasn't fair! First, she had to travel on a Sunday, next her flight didn't get cancelled, and now, the stupid flight attendant took her bag and she would have to pick it up at the baggage claim. What was the point of packing light?!

After I calmed down from the hormonal uproar, I felt bad for the girl sitting next to me who just watched me cry unceasingly for about 10 minutes during takeoff.

During the flight, something with the main cabinet electronics went wrong and the sound and screen went out. This was not a good sign, in fact it was an omen of what was to happen. We landed safely, but my adventure had just begun. Luckily, another co-instructor was on the same flight, because had he not been, I am unsure where I would have spent the night.

We received word from the other instructors who had landed earlier that there were no longer anymore taxis on the street. We obtained my luggage, headed for the MARTA (Atlanta's public transportation train station) and waited for a train in the cold. Then, the train came and we got on. But then the train stopped and we waited for 10 minutes before we were told to get off. Then, we waited in the cold again for another 15 minutes until another train came. Then, we got onto the train to our transfer station and then we waited another 10 minutes. Then, when we finally got to our exit.... the fun really began. Imagine a street of all white snow and some mere footsteps and two lines on the floor where our luggage was being pulled. That was us for two blocks... it seemed so close, yet so far... and yet more white and more white. I can't imagine how the pioneers did it - I walked two blocks and my fingers were frozen when we finally arrived and I thought I would get frostbite (yes, I'm paranoid).

I knew I shouldn't have come to Atlanta! My nightmare in Atlanta might have been avoided had I listened more closely to the Spirit, except I couldn't quite distinguish what was the Spirit and what was me making excuses not to go. Oddly enough, I don't think it mattered much because when I didn't feel the Spirit confirm to me that I should leave and go home, it was still safe because at least I had the co-worker to lead me to the hotel. Had he not been on my flight, I'm unsure where I would have ended up or if I would have known what to do once the taxis were not available! So I guess my nightmare in Atlanta wasn't THAT bad. Although, once at the hotel, I didn't sleep well either. So I guess that's when the real nightmare happened because 5 hours later, I am teaching a class of 54 with 3 other instructors and I am kind of tired. Just slightly.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Bump It

My friends have been asking to see the growing bump and I have attached a progression of the bump but as you can see, it really depends what I eat, what I wear and how much is food versus baby. I look particularly slim during week 19 but part of that is the amazing slimming Lululemon pants I am wearing (which is why it is worth it to splurge a lil bit on great pants!) and week 20 is immediately following Christmas (mmmmm and all the meals that came with it!).

I have acquired a love of dresses, much more comfortable than pants and probably something I can wear post pregnancy (you know the empire loosey goosey look!) and also, I can use it for work, casual and Sunday best - all I have to do is pair it with appropriate accessories, shoes and normally a sweater for work.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Happy Friday At Long Last!

I don't believe I have ever felt such excitement for Friday as I do today! It has been a very long and eventful week for me at work. Upon returning, (forgive me for the list that is about to come), I have: done my normal scheduling and conflict resolution duties, taught a brief orientation training, attended a gruesome required technical update training, prepared and attended a 3.5 hour partner meeting, prepared and attended a 1 hour manager meeting (that somehow seeped into 1.5 hours for those of us in the office once the phone participants had departed), prepared (this one was the WORST) the slide deck for a market team all-hands meeting, including locating members for a panel discussion, inserting videos into the slides (yes, I know how! isn't it amazing?!?!), and most difficult, securing the In-N-Out truck for our lunch before the meeting.

The In-N-Out truck was the biggest challenge. First, I had to creatively think of how to get raffle tickets to all of my team and considering most are not in the office (we work at different client sites), I thought I had it solved when I sent out a pdf with a ticket I designed myself, which participants would print ahead of time. Little did I know I would have two more problems arise. #1 - Building management sent us a note that the Grand Street (where we intended to have the truck sit) was closed due to bridge remodeling. #2 - After personally going down and realizing it was not closed, I was informed by the In-N-Out crew that I was supposed to get a permit from the City of LA so they could park in the metered area. OOPS! What now?! I wanted to be proactive and try to do something but I honestly had no clue what to do. I went upstairs to talk to my representatives from the Firm who work with building management but one was away from his desk and the other had someone in her office and did not seem to notice me waiting outside. And then, without knowing what else to do, I said a lil prayer. Now, I don't normally pray for Heavenly Father's assistance as it relates to work issues (I only ask for a positive attitude and help being honest in how I interact with others), but I'd say this was a pretty explicit prayer for help. And though many might view it as good luck or a coincidence, I am quite sure the result of a "nice cop" driving by the In-N-Out truck, deciding to give them a fake permit so nobody else would bother them, is the help of Heavenly Father. I am quite sure the "nice cop" got a prompting and just followed it and how grateful I am!

A burger and a half later (I know I'm not eating for two... but come on, it was free In-N-Out and there were no fries because everything is fresh and the truck isn't big enough for potatoes), the meeting was all set to go (complete with nametags placed in alphabetical order and a rather complicated partner raffle), the teeny tiny screen was working, the speakers were semi-working, and our meeting was ready to go! I'm glad we only have all hands meetings once a quarter, anything more would be exhausting.

Unfortunately, due to the day's exciting events including a work happy hour following the meeting, I left my computer locked in the office and forgot I needed it to prep for the live meeting I am hosting today at lunch. And as such, I am currently on hold with an outsourced PwC help member from Bangalore, because my name change (effective 5 months ago) is still creating issues with work stuff and I was unsure how long it would take to resolve. Despite the difficulty I am having understanding him and his redundant questions, I am so excited that it is Friday and NOTHING can bring me down! If all goes well, my eight hour day will end at 3:30 PM. That's like a whole other day left for me!

This week reminds me of the fact that joy does comes with hard things so be diligent, persevere and get it done! Overcoming difficult obstacles provides a feeling of accomplishment and that reminds me of how hard it was to change when I decided to join the Church. It reminds me of habits or routines I had that I had to work at and were not easy... but that ultimately, I had such joy from it. True happiness and true bliss.

Posted By SupaFlowaPowa

Thursday, January 6, 2011

We Are Sleep Deprived

How does one sleep on their side effectively after they are 20 weeks pregnant? I'm told the baby won't be able to breathe appropriately if I don't sleep on my side but I'm having a very difficult time! Waking up three times in the middle of the night is not so effective and tacked onto the week's worth of long meetings and things to do is very hard! The only thing nice about not sleeping well is that I'm up so early to get ready and am able to respond to so many work e-mails and even blog a day or two in the AM. The bad thing is that I want to sleep before I have no option!

Andy is also struggling. Having gone from the Family Medicine rotation of 4 half days and one full day that began at 8 and ended around 6 to 2 weeks of luxury called vacation with no wake-up deadlines (exclusive of travel and ski days), he is finding it difficult to wake up in time to make it for his 6 AM start, even with our 10 PM sleep time!

So I suppose we are both in trouble. If we can't even get some sleep now, what happens when the baby comes?!

The only comfort seems to be, we have been very prayerful in asking for help upon return to work and school this week and thus far, despite the crazy schedule we both have, it has been doable. In fact, I am more energized, I even take time and care to do my hair and look presentable (for a while, my coworkers were commenting that I just "looked pregnant" and "a mess"). Andy has also commented that in spite of not having enough sleep and feeling fatigued constantly, his team has been great and he has had it pretty easy so far.

Since today is his first duty on call, and my longest day by far, we will see where we actually land by the end of the week. My guess? Asleep in the Temple on Friday night.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Our Blogs are Merged

FYI a ton of old entries from Daisy's old blog, Daises Without Thorns, just got added to our family blog so she will not be posting on the old blog anymore. Happy reading!

I Resolve To....dun dun DUN!!!

When it comes to new year resolutions, there are some staple ones I have had since I was a kid and have never yet been able to fully meet them.

1) Do the splits
2) Stop biting my nails

To my credit, I have had naturally grown pretty nails at one point, but the habit of biting 'em keeps returning and I have yet to overcome it fully (I will chew off nailpolish, fake nails are gross to take off and the closest I came to doing the splits was the high school dance team which I quit after a year.

An additional resolution I remember from my early tween years was to find a guy I could be interested in. At 5'7 in fifth grade, there were not many boys at school I even looked at (yes, I'm superficial but it's one of those things I will admit when it comes to height). I remember every year wondering when I would find Mr. Right. Over the years, Mr. Right would have more qualities tacked onto him and by the time I was 25, he had to be so many things...

1) Tall
2) Intelligent
3) Hardworking
4) Reads
5) Funny
6) Good family values
7) Good moral values
8) Considerate
9) Listen to my type of music

Luckily, I did find Mr. Right and he had 8/9 of the above (we listen to different music) but in reality, none of those qualities were as important as one I didn't even have to begin with.

Imagine my surprise when I realized Mr. Right's qualities were not as important as Heavenly Father and His plan of happiness and the qualities that came with that knowledge. Imagine my surprise when pursuing someone with the above qualities meant nothing if he did not have a firm foundation in the Gospel and a strong testimony of Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. Imagine my surprise when the once turn-off qualities of being too religious became a question of how faithful is he?

Never in my 25 years growing up had I been to Church regularly with my family and never had I imagined my Sunday routine consisting of 3 hours of Church (it's fun and goes by quickly on most days if you are spiritually ready) followed by uplifting and spiritual activities to keep the Sabbath Day holy (lately it's reading gospel non-fiction, writing letters, blogging, journaling, spending time with family, helping others, etc.). Never had I imagined I would have companionship study and prayer with my husband everyday. Never had I imagined I would have what we term weekly "companionship inventory" (stolen from the missionaries and then from Genny's blog post about her and Dan doing it) to go over how we are doing and how we can improve, family home evening (we sing a hymn, open with a prayer, go over our weekly plans, share a spiritual message, do an activity, close with a prayer and eat a treat) once a week or conversations about life and the Gospel. Never had I imagined how easy things would become if you just remembered to keep the Gospel at the center of the relationship. Never had I ....

I often think of the past, not to reminisce on it, but to remember the contrast of dark and light. I was in a room with less light, and unknown to me at the time, it was darkness compared to the light I have now. The best example is when you're in a dark room for a while and your eyes adjust. At first, you are unable to see anything but over time... you start to see just fine. That is, until you are shown the light and then, to your surprise, you were barely seeing even at the point where you adjusted whilst in the dark.

This year, as I look over my resolutions and how many of them pertain to developing myself spiritually, I am shocked at the changes. Though they are real, I sometimes forget how great the Gospel has changed my life because I have become accustomed to the light. I hope I never forget and never take it for granted.

This year, I have goals that are categorized into three areas: mind, body, soul (as copied from the goals set forth by my father-in-law's bi-annual challenge). I encourage everyone to come up with goals and though you may not reach all of them, I am confident you are better off for trying because though I am still unable to do the splits (and will have to wait until post baby to continue trying) and still unable to always have beautiful and unbitten nails, I am inching towards that day by stretching and only having ugly nails two-three weeks out of a month. If I can do it, so can you.

Monday, January 3, 2011


Isn't it funny how the first day back to work or school always seems the worst? Somehow, all my workload seems to have accumulated over the past two weeks and is hitting me this week. Regardless of how much I have to face, I am positive that it will be a good (though tough) week! I am confident if I go in with a good attitude, try to uplift others and be honest with whomever I come in contact with (including angry managers and partners considering our lack of staff and turnover over the holiday period), everything else should be okay. I also am hoping I remember to choose the right. CHOOSE THE RIGHT!!!!!

Happy first day back at work in 2011. Woo-Hoo!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

She's a Sunbeam Now!

When we were in Salt Lake for Christmas, our oldest niece thought she was a sunbeam the Sunday following Christmas. Devastated that she had another week to go, she balled and balled until she couldn't anymore. So it was with great joy that I squealed at Andy across the Sunday school classroom today when I remembered that today was Sophie's first day as a sunbeam!

I didn't get a photo of her in her Sunday best dress but as you can see from the photo, her hair is curled for the extra special day!

I'm not sure if every child is as excited as Sophie was to be a sunbeam but I am taking notes in the corner, of the example her parents have been to me. Here are some of my notes thus far:

#1 My nieces are always, hands down, the best dressed girls at Church. When Church is over, they immediately change out of their dresses into play clothes (which may sometimes also be another cute "not Church" dress). What I like about this is that the girls recognize early on, even from something as minor as what they wear to Church, that they must be reverent as indicated by their special Sunday best dresses. Upon leaving Church, Sophie is always asked to change before she can eat or play. Cunningly genius, my sister-in-law also further sustains the depreciation of these cute adorable dresses while emphasizing the spiritual importance of being at Church. It's a small simple thing but in many aspects, the girls are taught, from a very early age of why it's important to dress appropriately for Church in Sunday best.

#2 Our nieces always have quiet books to keep them company throughout Sacrament, HOWEVER, nothing can be removed from the Church bag until after the Sacrament is passed. This emphasizes the importance of partaking of the Sacrament and although it is probably just bread and water to them now, they hear the prayer and they are learning, very early, that it is the most important part of the hour.

#3 If our niece acts up, she is taken from the Chapel SANS Church bag goodies. This means princess fun stays inside the Chapel but time out is outside of the Chapel. It's something so minor but so many times, I have seen kids outside with their parents playing with a toy. I think, it's not a big deal, but then I recognize, it is slowly creating a habit where the kid can just hang out outside.

These are but three simple notes I have taken but I am excited for it and cannot wait to follow the examples they have given me.

My First Christmas as a Phillips

I'll be the first to admit, I was a bit homesick while in Utah for Christmas this year. It was my first ever Christmas as Andy's wife as a Phillips, and though I was excited to be with his family (now MY family too!), I was shocked when I felt a longing for my Chou family one night. To my disappointment, when I called my parents and brother to wish them a Merry Christmas, I found out my brother's Christmas dinner was provided by Jack in the Box and my parents were spending the night dancing with friends (they got into ballroom dancing after my stint in college). I knew of my parents' plans but I didn't expect my brother to eat dinner alone. I know that didn't bother him as a few years back, the two of us spent Christmas in the Cheesecake Factory, but still it bothered me now.

As I sat and pondered, unable to reconcile the wonderful Christmas I was having with Andy's family in Utah and my brother's fast food Christmas in California, I started thinking back to when we had our last family Christmas celebration. The recent years were a blur but the memories that stuck out most of Christmas time with the family dated back to years of my youth. When we were all kids, Christmas was more special and family oriented but as we grew older, it seemed to lose meaning. No longer did we have Christmas lights, wrapped presents under a decorated Christmas tree or even the fire roasting chestnuts in the background... and gone was the magic of Christmas that came with our own family traditions.

This year, as I became more aware of a Christ centered Christmas and what it really means to celebrate the birth of our Savior, I also realized that for my Chou family, the only time we seemed to truly celebrate as a family was when we were younger. The intermission through adult life leaves a gap that I am excited to try to help fill when Christmas will be spent with my family and the first grandchild or wai-sun once Baby Phillips is born. I can only hope that our example will bring the Spirit to my family and help build a foundation of faith, patience and diligence as we will need all of the aforementioned to persevere when the family only expects to eat together and then go off on their separate ways.

This year, I contrasted more the differences between a family raised in the Gospel and a family not. We read the Christmas stories from the Bible and the Book of Mormon, opened gifts, had a feast of food, and played games. Unlike memories from family gatherings before in which adults rarely played with us (except for the one year we got Uncle Andy and Aunt Jessica who was still the new girl he just met to play three games of Monopoly with us), the whole family gathered together. If anything, the teens were the ones hesitantly refusing to partake but begrudgingly participating.... while the adults, myself included, reveled with joy and laughter.

A common thanks we often give is for the gospel in our lives. My first Christmas as a Phillips helped me grow in my love for that gift as it will now be a part of my life as we raise our child and formulate our own family traditions. How grateful I am for that and how drastic of a difference I already am able to witness of life with and without the gospel. How did I get so lucky? How was I in the right place at the right time, with all the balls falling into place when I decided to investigate the Church and check out I'm not quite sure, but I'm thankful for it and humbled by the experience and the gift of truth that I will now be able to pass on to my posterity and share with my family.

BYU shirt for our son!

My first stocking... I am 28 and this is my first stocking... EVER!

My cute nieces!  

I hope my kids are as cute and sweet!

Just Like My Grandma Used to Do

One of my favorite things to do growing up was to rearrange the furniture in my room. It didn't involve much except shuffling books off of bookshelves (I had three which also served as a backboard to my bed), moving all my ceramic goods into a safe haven, rolling the twin bed and occasionally removing the desk drawer items and clearing the top of the desk in order to move it. My parents never discouraged it, and in fact my mom said I got it from my grandmother who loved rearranging furniture and living spaces as well.

With the upcoming addition to our family, conversations have been floating in the air about how to free up space for the baby's room. Ordinarily, a task such as this would be simple considering we have three bedrooms, but upon consolidation of our stuff after I moved in, we came out with seven couches total. I know that's a lucky number but think about it... SEVEN couches and we only have ONE living room. On the bright side, entertaining was easy and everyone always had a seat-- but on the flip side, our house a walking nightmare of couches galore (couch in the guest room, couch in the study, couch in our bedroom, and four couches in the living room/kitchen).

Unable to sell a set of the couches for a reasonable price on Craig's List (the LA market for couches is pretty lousy considering a ton of dealers are on there selling their new couches for $200), we left everything as was and didn't consider much until the baby's room became a topic of conversation. We knew we had to move some stuff and unload ourselves of some couches, but how we were not sure.

And then upon returning from Utah where we spent Christmas, something came over my husband. Two days after we returned, he awoke from a nap in the afternoon and declared very succinctly his plan to clean the house. I thought this meant tidying things up a bit (having a lot of couches lends to clean laundry sitting there often), but instead he started moving furniture around the rooms. To my disbelief, he was talking about clearing our living space of some couches (which we had been talking about for months but never gotten around to) and using the guest room to store some of our extra stuff. I immediately jumped on board to help but being pregnant, I wasn't able to do much except cheer him on and provide him with my expertise on proper placement of furniture (as I do have years of experience) which meant him moving things back and forth (only twice... maybe?) to get the right position for every item. It was quite a task but in the end, it was an amazing face lift to our living room in mere hours!

And then, to top it off, we found a beautiful dining room set from World Cost Plus Market, where we had $500 bucks of free money (courtesy of our favorite talk show host). We quickly listed our existing dining table on Craig's List, got a response within literally five minutes, and a buyer within another hour and a day later, and a sweaty and handy Andy later, we had ourselves a brand new dining table set!

And I'll tell you a secret, I can't wait to get home now! I always loved our home but now it feels JUST right for the new year. Not too spacious, not too cluttered, but JUST right. Now I'm ready to continue making goals both spiritually and physically, ready to execute on those goals in our new home, ready to host our family for some holidays, and ready for the changes left to update our study into a baby room (a project for another day... small steps...)

It's a great way to start the year and it has made me so deliriously happy to be home! I love our new living room and our new dining room! I can't wait to see what we pull out of our pockets for the baby's room!