Thursday, December 20, 2012

Puerto Rico, Baby!

It all began a month ago, when I realized our 8th Anniversary was coming up and I needed a break from reality.  (And we all know 8th Anniversary is the new 10th) Being paranoid frugal, like I am when it comes to spending Student Loans, I was thinking pretty simple.  Local.  I didn't really care where we went, I just wanted to get out and have some fun and be in love with my husband.  I didn't want to go to the Oregon Coast (even though I love the ocean) because I didn't want a quiet, restful, sleepy vacation.  I wanted to have some fun with my man.  Forget about our worries and laugh together.  As you probably saw on Facebook, I was considering a ski vacation.  (If you happened to be around the one time I tried snow boarding over 10 years ago you would know that there would be a whole lot of laughing on that kind of vacation.)  And then out of no where JT texted me from school saying "I am about to do something crazy".  He was referring to our vacation.  (And he obviously isn't as frugal paranoid as I am!)

Actually, JT was very aware that he recently sold a few houses (THANK YOU to everyone who bought houses this year!  I owe my Disneyland Vacation and Puerto Rico to all of you!! Really, thank you so much.) and had actual income to spend, rather than student loans.  He managed to keep the location of the vacation a secret from me all the way to the day we left. (When he accidentally slipped and said it in the car on the way to the airport! Luckily I was packed for sun- and not snow.)

And that is how I ended up in Puerto Rico, Baby!

It started out with an all night flight across the country and then south to sunny P.R.  With the help of Tylenol P.M. I snuggled in and slept for most of it.

On the flight! (Have I ever told you how much I LOVE flying?! And without kids? Wonderful!)
We arrived in P.R. to a nice muggy 86 degrees. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.  And headed straight to Old San Juan for delicious Puerto Rican food.  We had Mofongo and Tostones.  Sooooooo good.  Seriously, I could talk about the food for an entire blog.  Unfortunately I was not cool enough to take individual pictures of everything I ate :( Sorry, all of you foodies who just have to picture the heaven I ingested in your minds.

Old San Juan was beautiful.  Since we met, I have heard JT talk about how much he loved serving his mission in Puerto Rico and have looked forward to the day we could go together. (I did not think that day would come during P.A. school.) One of my favorite pictures from his mission is of a fort called "El Morro" that was used to defend Puerto Rico over 400 years ago. It is really beautiful.  Which you wouldn't know by looking at my pictures...

JT with the lighthouse in the background.

Us- with the ocean in the background.
me again
 I don't know whether to blame it on the jet lag, lack of sleep, or the fact that I was still completely in shock that I was actually standing on the Island of Puerto Rico! (seriously, it took me a whole day to settle in to the excitement and shock that I was at a place I have dreamed of going)  So, my pics the first day are lame.

I took this one from my helicopter.  Ok, just kdding, I borrowed it from here.  And this still doesn't do it justice.

After walking around El Morro for awhile we headed to the city part of Old San Juan.  The city is gorgeous.  It is very European (which I didn't expect) and every window has shutters, or a balcony, or some feature to make you smile (and if you aren't me, you would take a picture).  We spent a wonderful afternoon eating, walking, window shopping, and taking it all in.  There are fountains and statues everywhere.  And the streets are narrow and cobblestone. (Which actually reminded me a lot of Madagascar and made me home sick for my mission.)

This is one of the little squares, with the guy who sells "ice cream" - basically like sorbet.

Again, my photography skills are amazing. 

We took the evening to relax (and sit in insane traffic to get to our Hotel) before we jumped in to all the fun the next day.

When we woke up the second day (at 11:00, because we were on vacation and still tired from the flight) we headed to El Yunque the National Rain Forrest.  We decided to stop off first and do some zip lining.

The Rain Forrest (and it did rain a little at the very end- but it was warm so we didn't mind).

Me getting ready to zip- Yep, I am lame, and don't have one of JT. :(

One of the ziplines


Check out this Iguana on top of a tree! (And we were hanging in a tree above the iguana!)
Me, after I repelled down a giant tree. P.S. Our guide looked like the Puerto Rican McDreamy.  Can you see it??

Zip lining was really fun.  Partly because I was afraid of it.  When they gave us the instructions I thought it would be super steep and super fast and super scarey.  And this is why I love JT- he was so patient and kind and calm.  He reminded me that I was safe, and could do it, and was really sweet.  I love this about him.  I have a lot of anxiety (like a LOT) and most of it is irrational that I can't control.  He has always had a way of helping me and building me up so that I can do hard things.  Without making me feel dumb (I hate feeling dumb, I hate people who make me feel dumb) or like I am being a baby.  Remember how I said I wanted to laugh and have fun on this vacation? Check.

After the zip line we only had an hour for hiking in El Yunque.  So we hurried and ran up to some waterfalls. It was getting dark and we were the last people in the park.  Have you ever kissed under a  waterfall with your sweetheart, in the dark, when you are all alone and it is just starting to rain (a nice, warm, rain forest rain) and you can hear the coqui frogs starting to chirp?  I have.  It was one of the most romantic moments of my life.

We had to scamble up a hill for one of the falls.  But it was so worth it.

Remember how I wanted to get a way and just be in love with my husband? Check.

The next day we spent the day hanging around our resort enjoying the pools and the beach and the Virgin Pina Coladas.  mmmmmmmmmmm.  Then we headed back in to the city for some more absolutely delicious Puerto Rican food and a romantic walk around the city and along the beach.  *sigh*

It was such a wonderful day.  We jumped in the big waves.  That was really fun but it  scared me, I am a Washington girl!  We are use to Ocean water being freezing and never going in above our knees!   This was another time that we spent the day laughing  our heads off... until a giant wave took my tankini bottoms out to sea.  Ok, we still laughed our heads off while JT ran back to the hotel to get me a towel and I tried to keep hidden under the waves. Thank goodness I brought a back up swim suit!

Well, that was a million pics and only half of our Vacation.  I will finish this up tomorrow, right now I have to fight with my kids to get dressed up to go see Santa. :)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

If I Had Known Then

Monday will be our 8th Anniversary since JT and I were married.  (Can I get a Woot Woot?!)  That means we have known each other for about... 8 years.

You see, back in August of 2004 I was dating a pretty nice guy.  He wasn't my dream guy, but he was fun and sweet and not really my type.  It wasn't very serious, so when he decided to leave town for a month neither of us really cried about it.  We just kind of let things go.  Next time I ran into him, I was engaged.  To JT.

On August 17th 2004 we went on our first date.  We walked along the beach at Golden Gardens in North Seattle and ate seafood and ice cream.  Then sat on the dock at the lake by his house.  It was simple but really wonderful.  So wonderful that we kept dating, until finally on September 16th 2004 he took me to dinner at the Salish Lodge in a little private room overlooking the falls and after dinner as we watched the falls in the moonlight he got down on one knee and pulled a diamond ring out of his pocket.  I was sold. (But it wasn't just the diamond, I promise)

We had a long, long engagement to try to get to know each other better, since we only dated for a few weeks before he gave me the Sparkly.  So on December 10th, 2004 we were married for Eternity in the Seattle Temple (ironically located in Bellevue).   If you don't suck at math, like me, you know that was a grand total of 4 months from our first date to our wedding.

We literally spent our Honeymoon getting to know each other!  We loved it.  We went to Cancun and JT found out that I have a fear of riding bikes - which he helped me get over.  And I discovered that he will spoil me for the rest of my life.   And that he falls asleep everywhere.  On the plane, on the ferry, on the bus, waiting for the ferry.  I can't imagine what we did on our Honeymoon that would wear that boy out so much??? 

For such a short courtship you would think we didn't know each other that well. But I think we really did.  We talked about our pasts, our present, and our dreams of the future.  We seemed to have everything in common.  It was so easy to fall in love and to be in love.  And I felt like I knew him as well as I knew myself.

Then a few weeks ago I found out something new.  I thought I knew everything.  I thought we had a completely open and honest relationship.  I thought we had an understanding.  And I had to ask myself "If I had known this 8 years ago, would I have married him?"

While we were driving down the road he shocked me.  I was blissfully singing along with Wham! "Last Christmas" when JT muttered "I can't stand this song." 

Shock.  Horror.  Disappointment.  Loss.  Sorrow.  Confusion.  Betrayal.

I felt it all.  

How could he do this?  How could anyone not love Last Christmas??  Even in Madagascar they loved Wham! (I remember the Coca Cola truck driving around blasting it, and reveling in the beautiful sound of American music) It isn't Christmas till you hear George Michael sing about his poor heart thrown away on the Christmas before.  You share in his pain and cheer on his resolve to not let it happen again.  To be strong.  To give it to someone special.

In fact, I understand this song more than ever.  Didn't I give my heart to someone special?  


Well, I just got done doing a Pros and Cons list.  Turns out, the pros of being madly in love with me.  Being absolutely thoughtful and generous.  Getting out of bed in the middle of the night to get me a glass of water.  Supporting my dreams.  Making me laugh.  Taking me to exotic surprise getaways (only 15 minutes till we leave for the airport!!! I am SOOOOOOOOOOOO excited!).  Being my best friend.  Being the world's best dad.  And being all mine for Eternity seems to out weigh the cons: bad taste in Christmas Music.

I guess if I knew then what I know now, I would definitely still marry him.  (But I might have waited for the Christmas Season to really start so that I knew what I was getting into.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Go ahead, Pin It.

This will be our 8th Christmas together, and our 6th Christmas with kids.  We are still forming our traditions and figuring out how Christmas works for us. (You know, like which of our family's traditions we should keep, which ones we should make fun of, and which we should throw out.)

One thing I have always loved about Christmas is the decorations.  I always looked forward to my mom turning on our Barbara Streisand record and opening up the gajillions of boxes of decorations and finding places around our house for each one.   I loved a set of stained glass candle holders that we set in the window sill that looked so pretty to me when we lit the candles at night. I especially loved a little ceramic music box house with a tiny Santa Clause that could stand on the chimney.  But one of the best parts of Christmas were the advent calendars.  We usually made strands of candy garland with saran wrap and individual pieces of candy (carefully rationed to each of the 6 kids, if you know my mom).  It was sad to watch the candy disappear, but that just meant Christmas was getting closer!

A few weeks ago I saw a Scandinavian type Music Box Advent Calendar with little doors that open for treats.  It seemed like all of my Christmas dreams in one giant $150 dream!  Well, not quite.   You see, I have a problem buying a special keepsake like that at Costco.  I want it to have a memory attached.  Like buying it at Leavenworth on our First Anniversary (like the snowflakes on my Christmas Tree) or ornaments from our trip to Disneyland with the kids (also on our tree).  And, at this point in life, I am not spending $150 on an Advent Calendar from Costco.  (P.S.  Don't hate me if you bought it at Costco. I will still be jealous of your cool new toy.)

Since I didn't have $150 or the desire to buy a memory-less keepsake I took matters into my own cheap hands.  I went to pinterest and saw a cute felt tree that you could make for toddlers.  My kids love felt story stuff.  And suddenly I knew what I could make into an Advent Calendar! (oh, and now that I just copied this to my blog and actually went to the site it was from --- because you know on pinterest you never actually go to the site, you just repin the pic, right?-- it turns out they already had a felt advent calendar on the blog.  Apparently I did not invent this concept. But I totally made it cooler!)   And thus the creative juices began flowing....

(Apparently she knows how to take good pictures of her crafts and her clean hardwood floors)

I ended up deciding to combine the idea of the Felt Advent Calendar with a family tradition we have had of reading scriptures about Jesus every night before Christmas.   I think it helps us remember that the Christmas Season is actually about Christ and not Santa and Rudolph. And that we aren't just counting down to presents, but to the most Sacred Birth ever.

So here goes my Not So Tutorial.  (Because this isn't actually a craft blog and I don't do the whole tutorial thing.)

These are all of the "ornaments" I cut out.  One for each day counting down to Christmas.  They each have a scripture or short activity (written on the outside of the envelope) to read that night.  I just used felt and some little bling.  (It isn't a Christmas Tree without some bling.)

(check out my clean caret)

Here are each of the envelopes with the ornament inside.  Then each night a child picks one, we read the verses and talk then hang it on the tree.  (At first I tried to think of a way that they could each do one every night to avoid the fighting over turns.  Then I realized kids need to learn how to wait for their turn- delay of gratification -  and anyways, what's the Advent Calendar without some sibling squabling??)

I should have thought about taking pics of this before, so that I could write it in really adorable handwriting... or maybe with vinyl lettering.
Here is what it will look like with all of the ornaments on Christmas Day.

I don't know how the side got curled like that for the pic.  Maybe because I was wrestling 3 kids away from the finished product so I could snap a shot and they were excited and I was tired and the tree took the brunt of it.  I promise it is symmetrical and not all funky.

Here is what it looks like right now, having only had 3 days (and ornaments).

My photography skills are impressive.  Don't be jealous, you probably have other talents that I don't posses.  Like doing hair. (Oh wait, I rock that too.)  Or being really cool. (Yep, another one I own.) Ok, Ok, you just have to be happy with your own talents and not always jealous of me.

Here is a list of the cut outs and their Scriptures.  Although I totally recommend coming up with your own - since half the fun was looking up scriptures about the Savior and His birth that I think our family will love.  But, if it is the 4th of December and you didn't buy the Scandinavian Music Box Advent Calendar and you need to hurry and get something so your kids know when Christmas is, and you want to whip it out today during nap time because you have a 40% off coupon at Joann's that you don't know what to do with, and you don't feel like reinventing this, you can use my ideas.  (This is a Not So Tutorial after all.)

In no particular order, although I am trying to order mine a little.

Crown:  Psalms 47:7
Dove: 1 Nephi 11:27
World: 3 Nephi 1:13
Heart:  John 3:16
Manger: Luke 2:7
Candy Cane: Shepherds- Luke 2:8-17
Candle: John 8:12
Gift: Wiseman- Matt 2:1-2
Angel: Luke 2:9-14
Donkey: Luke 2: 1-6 (for next year I think I might lose the donkey and do one about Mary, we'll see)
Peace Symbol: John 14:27
Drop of Blood: D&C 19:16-19, 23
Tree:  Read the book Three Trees (my fave)
Stocking: talk about how Santa is nice to give us gifts, but the point of Christmas is the pure love of Christ and His birth
Hand (I traced Macie's hand for this one! so cute): service- Mosiah 2:17
Bread: Matt 26: 26-28
Cross: Matt 28: 5-7
"W": for Wonderful Isaiah 9:6
Star: Matt 2:9-10
5 Circle Ornaments:  each one is one of the people in our family, when they open that one we will play the I Love You Game and talk about why they are special to us and why the are special to Christ.

So, Scandinavian Style Music Box Advent Calendar purchased on a memorable occasion with spare money I have laying around, you will just have to wait.  This year- we are going with felt.