Friday, October 25, 2013

Cousins + Ducks

One of our absolute favorite things about living in Las Vegas is being close to Jay's sister, Amy, and her family. We live on opposite ends of town, so we don't get together as often as we might like, but we usually see each other at least a couple times a month. 

These pictures were taken at a park near Henderson on Morgan's first birthday. I can't believe she's already a year old--time has flown.

Kate loves her cousins, especially Jeremy--she thinks he is pretty cool. As they have gotten older, they've gotten better about playing together. They both still have a hard time letting go of possessiveness (pun intended). We're working on that. (Check out Jeremy pushing Kate's stroller.)

Morgan outgrew her colicky stage months ago and is such a happy, good-natured little baby. I love her toothy grin.

The bike is Jeremy's, but he didn't want to get out of the stroller, so Kate and Morgan took turns riding it (with a little help from their dads).

I'm not sure what it is about ducks, but kids love them. Really, so do I. I love ducks. There is something endearingly awkward about them. We brought a bag of cheerios that the kids alternated between eating themselves and throwing to the ducks.

There was a pull-up bar along the walking path, so of course we had to stop. Jay and Amy shared the bar, I failed to complete even one chin-up, and Erik schooled us all by doing at least 20.

Kate and Morgan did a few, too.

Kate rode around on Jay's shoulders for part of the time and seemed to enjoy her bird's-eye view. 

I have to say, this outing produced some great pictures. It is unfortunate that I am not actually in any of them. Jay enjoys taking pictures, too, but Kate prefers to be with him, so I end up manning the camera most of the time.

I suppose it helps to have such cute little models (or big ones, in Jay's case).

It's at about this time of year that I decide living in Las Vegas isn't so bad--the weather has been lovely. We turned off our AC the last week of September and haven't turned it back on since.

I am so in love with this little girl. She is my absolute favorite.

Maybe I'm a bad mom, but I had to take a picture of Kate's little crack. I love how innocent and oblivious she is. 

It was a beautiful day.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Real Issue

If you have not yet watched this video, please do. Not only is it funny and nonpartisan (really, no political group is mentioned, bashed, or blamed), but it is also deeply alarming and explains the national debt and budget situation in a way that's easy to understand.

This is probably the first time in my life I have been completely UNpartisan (not to be confused with NONpartisan, which has a more neutral connotation). Maybe ANTIpartisan is a better descriptor. I am so over politics and games and mudslinging. I hate the GOP for choosing to take a stand NOW--it's too little, too late, and it's punishing regular people. I hate the libs for smugly putting policy and politics over practicality, and I hate that they're in no hurry to compromise because they like that the shutdown makes the republicans look bad. The whole situation is so tacky and is an excellent example of why I think politicians have no souls. 

I have strong opinions on party politics, Obamacare, social security, medicare, medicaid, and government organizations and their employees and their ridiculous pension and benefit packages, as I would hope most Americans do. But honestly, right now, none of that stuff really matters to me because as passionate as I am about all of those issues, those concerns are completely eclipsed by the staggering problem that is our nation's financial situation. Regardless of how good or bad certain legislation makes you feel, you can't argue with math. Math has no passions, no bias, no agenda. And the simple fact of the matter is that our government is spending itself (and us! and our children! and our great-great-great-great-great grandchildren!) into oblivion. They have dug such a deep hole that there is quickly becoming no possible way out, which makes us have to pander to countries like China, and--let's be real here--does anyone want CHINA involved with how our country is run? 

And, sure, I'm concerned about the national debt. But my MAIN concern is that it's growing! That our government has a "budget" that runs an enormously huge deficit every year! That we will never actually get to start paying down the national debt because our government is making minimum payments on their maxed-out credit cards at the same time they're applying for new ones. Except on a HUGE scale, and they have no bank to slap them in the face and say, "Your spending patterns are unsustainable. We refuse to enable this behavior any longer."

Imagine you make $40K a year; that's a decent wage. Now imagine you SPEND $70K a year. And not just this year, but next year, too. And the year after that. And so on. So, every year, you're taking on another $30,000 in debt. After a certain point, you're not going to qualify for credit cards or loans anymore (as you shouldn't, because let's face it--you're out of control). Even if you cut back on your spending, even if you cut back $15,000 a year--heck, even if you cut back $29,900 a year--you're still piling up more and more debt. There comes a certain point where you're in so deep there's no way out, and our government is way PAST that point. The difference between your imaginary situation and our country's is that the government owns a printing press they can use to just "make" more money. Which is great for them, but really sucks for the rest of us (and the rest of the world), because flooding the market with money spikes inflation, making your money worth less, driving prices up, and disrupting the global economy (which I do not pretend to understand the mechanics of). 

So, while I know we all have different opinions and diverse political leanings, we as a people need to cheer when the government cuts funding for things, even when it hurts. At this point, I don't much care what gets cut, because, frankly, EVERYTHING needs to be cut. We are in a mess. We were all super judgmental about Greece when the people rioted about austerity measures even though their government spending was out of control, and here we are in the same situation. Bring on austerity. Bring on "reforms" that actually slash spending instead of spiking funding. Once our yearly budget and spending is under control, we can pick up the pieces and focus on making the money we do have stretch farther by being more efficient and practical. 

This current shutdown, this inability of our nation's leaders to compromise or see issues without partisan glasses on is sickening. Decisions need to be made that are unpopular. Maybe these politicians won't be re-elected if they make their constituents angry, but when did governing become all about winning elections? It's time to take responsibility, to put the nation's future ahead of party lines or pet legislation or well-meaning but deeply impractical ideologies. It's time to be honest and practical about our nation's finances. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Cabin Trip for Conference Weekend

Last weekend, we went to my parents' cabin for General Conference. The weather was beautiful, and the weekend was lovely. Kate loved spending time with Grandma ("Mama") and Grandpa ("Bapa"). She loves them both, but she especially has a connection with her grandpa. She also loves Sadie ("Saysie"), my dad's dog.

It was about 60 degrees outside. My mom is always freezing, and Jay never is, so it's funny to see them standing next to each other with Mom all bundled up and Jay in shorts.

I love General Conference. It's like a holiday. General conference means family time. Watching talks while wearing pjs and snuggling on the couch. Sticky buns on Sunday mornings. Girls' night during the Priesthood session. Inspiration. Lots of snacks and tasty lunches between sessions. The past few years, it's meant cabin trips and crisp mountain air.

When I was a kid, I felt like General Conference lasted a long time. We used to watch it with my cousins, usually involving sleepovers and discreet naps during sessions. I always have something work on while I watch: I remember coloring on storage boxes, sketching portraits of the speakers, knitting or crocheting, and playing Spider Solitaire, all while taking notes and listening to the talks. The past couple years, I've edited pictures.

Here are a few highlights I recorded. (They are in my own words, based on what stood out to me in different talks.)

David A. Bednar:  As we live the law of tithing, we often receive significant, subtle blessings that are easily overlooked. Such blessings can only be discerned if we are spiritually attentive and observant.  

I love that our church does not encourage shunning of those who choose to leave. I love how compassionately he gave them the benefit of the doubt.

Seeds of doubt can grow to trees of understanding.

Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.

Jeffrey R. Holland: If the bitter cup does not pass, drink it and be strong, trusting there will be happier days ahead

The Lord sees weaknesses differently than He sees rebellion. When He speaks of weaknesses, it is always compassionately.

God does not look on sin with any allowance because He knows what it takes to become like Him. His expectations of us are high.

Russell M. Nelson: Death is only premature for those who are not prepared to meet God.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Me, Jay, and my dad ran the Bryce Canyon Half Marathon in July.

I've always wanted to run a marathon. It probably has something to do with being the daughter and sister of marathoners and waking up at 5:00 am with the young men and young women of my ward for ten years in a row to volunteer at the St. George marathon. We passed out cups of water and Gatorade at mile marker 25, and believe you me, we saw some pretty disturbing sights. Many runners were staggering by that point, their motions jerky, their eyes glazed. Some had blood on their clothes from chafing. Despite the somewhat masochistic nature of the event, I thought it was inspiring. I vowed I would run the course someday.

{Jay carried the camera during the race and snapped this shot}

Fast forward ten years later. I have trained for a marathon twice: The first time was right after my mission; I injured my knee two weeks before the race on my 14-mile run. The second time was two years ago; I stopped training around the time I got pregnant (I'd only worked my way up to 6 miles and hated every second of it). 

{Before the race. After this picture was taken, Dad and I didn't see Jay for over two hours}

I'm not sure how Jay talked me into running with him this year, but we signed up for the Bryce Canyon Half Marathon together and started training. Running is hard for me. It hurts. But we kept going, usually three mornings a week, with Jay pushing Kate in the jogging stroller and leaving me in the dust. He was kind enough to run with me for part of the time (a true sacrifice when you consider he is almost twice as fast as me). And, almost imperceptibly, I got better. I didn't improve much in the time department, and every run still felt pretty brutal, but I didn't hate it anymore (it was more of a resigned dislike). 

{Before the race; about 5:45 a.m.}

I was afraid to run so far by myself--I didn't know if I could do it. Jay wanted to be speedy, so I asked (well, begged) my dad to run it with me. His "out of shape" is still better than my "in shape," but he sacrificed and stuck with me clear to the end.

The weekend of the race, we stayed at a cabin just outside of Boulder, UT. It was remote and beautiful. The day before the race, Dad took us on a pretty grueling eight mile hike to a lake so we could fish.

Dad taught us how to "jig" for fish. I caught two, Jay caught none, and Dad caught about 15. Turns out there is more skill to fishing than I realized.

We were in a big hurry to make it back to the cabin quickly, and I overexerted myself. My quads burned so much while I was lying in bed that night that I was worried I wouldn't be able to run the race the next day.

We woke up at three the next morning, threw on our running gear, and stumbled out to the truck. It was an hour and a half drive on deserted, winding roads. I can still see the truck headlights cutting through the darkness, illuminating dozens of tiny field mice and rabbits scampering across the road. Through some crafty maneuvering, I think Dad only hit two.

The beginning of the race was perfect: cool temperatures, gorgeous views, stunning sunrise. I felt pretty good the first couple miles, high on adrenaline and the thrill of running with so many other people. By mile two, my quads were burning. By mile five, my knees were hurting. I had to stop and stretch every couple miles. Other than my sore muscles from the day before, I felt good, but I worried about injuring myself. Eventually, though, around mile eight, all my muscles were so tight that everything kind of hurt equally, and it wasn't so bad. 

Dad and I saw a lady break her arm around mile 10: she was running backward along the median line, offering encouragement to her teenage daughter who had fallen a bit behind. I called out a warning right before she ran into a large cone, but it was too late and she fell spectacularly. We stopped to offer assistance, but it was quite apparent that she had broken her wrist, so we moved on and Dad alerted the emergency response vehicle when we passed it. Dad also secured a banana for me from some people he knew along the route right when I was getting hungry and shaky, so he's basically a hero.

The last few miles were pretty brutal. It got hot fast, and there was no shade. I was so tired, but I had a few goals that kept me going: 1. I didn't want to finish last. 2. I wanted to run at least as fast as my sister did a few years previous. 3. I wanted to catch and pass a guy from our home ward who was a few hundred yards ahead of us.

With my dad's help, I accomplished all three. I battled some serious nausea for the last mile or so, but I made it. Dad (literally) pushed me into a sprint for the last tenth of a mile or so, at first grabbing my hand and pulling me, then putting his hand on my back and propelling me in front of him. 

We crossed the finish line at two hours, thirty-two minutes. It was significantly slower than I'd hoped to run it, but all things considered, I was just happy to have finished. If I ever run another half marathon, I won't go for a long hike the day before and be a bit more hardcore about my time (my running app said I spent over 12 minutes stopped to stretch throughout the course, but my quads sure needed it!). 

I am so grateful to my dad for running with me--he made a hard task enjoyable. He may have ruined me for future races, though--I'm not sure I want to do another one unless he does it with me!

It was a beautiful weekend and a great experience (even if I could seriously hardly move the rest of the day). It was a good reminder to me that I can do hard things and that working toward goals is important and fulfilling.