Sunday, September 26, 2010

Birthday Boy

The floor is almost back to its original color, Rhode's bum is no longer blue, and I am officially ready to celebrate all things Rhode!

Rhode is too cute for his own good. He has the most amazing knack to make you laugh at the moment when you are just as mad as you can get. Part of it comes from his pretty impressive verbal skills. He speaks so much more than Scarlet did at this age. It saved him the other day when he took a good whack at his sister but then followed it with, "sorry sissy, I be soft!" and gave her a little cheek caress.

He loves to eat, especially banana and pancakes. His absolute favorite snack of all time is M&Ms, which he calls num-e-nums. I ran out of the coveted potty treat recently and tried to switch him onto gummy worms. Instead of complaining, he just starts every pee in his underwear before reporting he needs to go. I am catching on quickly and will be restocking as soon as possible.

He is really potty trained. It is just about the best thing ever. Some days he is in more of a cooperative mood than others but he hasn't worn a diaper during the day for over a month.

We celebrated his birthday with his favorite meal, breakfast for dinner with our friends, the Stouts. Pancakes, sausage, orange juice, Rhode was in heaven.

As anyone willing to look through my archives would discover, birthday cake making is not my forte. I really can't explain to you why I haven't just sucked it up and bought a cake but I just can't seem to give up. I learned how to do marshmallow fondant recently and really felt the need to give it a try. To commemorate his favorite treat, I attempted to make an M&M cake.

Why do I torture myself?

It was crazy. I didn't leave myself nearly enough time to complete it, I ran out of powdered sugar and my fondant was still crazy sticky, my butter cream frosting was strange looking, my food coloring was NOT turning into the shade of green it should, people were on their way over and every inch of my kitchen was covered in powdered sugar (probably why I ran out...) and to top it all off, the person I look to to solve all of my domestic nightmares was enjoying a relaxing afternoon nap with her young children and NOT answering my phone calls to talk me down from my multiple cake ledges.

But, in the end, it was a cake, and I can very easily state it is my best birthday cake attempt to date. Luckily the bar is still low enough that I should be able to surpass myself with little effort for many years to come.
Hey, Rhode thought it looked like an M&M. That's what matters right?

And, miracle of miracles, it actually tasted pretty decent.
Jon informed me a few days later after downing the last piece that fondant was "the greatest thing I have learned to make so far." Really? Ok....

Rhode was getting a large present this year, and in the chaos that was his cake making, I didn't exactly get it wrapped. So while people arrive and kids were shooed into the backyard, Jon slipped his present into his room for the later big reveal.

Unfortunately, somewhere through the evening, I kinda forgot it was there. And nobody really thought to stop the kids when they made their way upstairs after dinner.

By the time we clued in, the kids had already had some significant playtime with Rhode's birthday surprise.
Yay! Look at my new coloring easel! (Rhode! Look at the camera while you fake surprise!)

That's better.

He then continued to receive present throughout the week. The Stouts got him a Cars backpack with his very own mini lightning mcqueen. And then, to make us all look pathetic in our present giving, grandma Peggy's gift arrived in the mail.

The anticipation...
The reveal...
Getting situated and finding the big red button...

And off he went!
His first automobile crash took place just moment later.
Luckily, all survived including the poor trash bin and no harm done.

It is a pretty sweet little toy. Unfortunately for Scarlet, and ultimately for me, it is not a two seater and Scarlet surpassed the weight limit before she turned two.

Rhode decided to share anyway.

And when I reached my "it's my turn" limit for the day, we got creative.
They love it. They have also finally mastered the art of having a "secret toy". I am all about teaching my kids to share, but, sorry, I am really not willing to designate an entire play date to delegating out turn times to multiple children. Not. Happening.

And now I really officially need to get the Cars movie so Rhode can realize how excited about his presents he really should be!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Just Not in the Mood

The plan was to take this Sunday afternoon and blog about Rhode's second birthday we celebrated this week.

Well, to be honest, I'm just not in the mood to be singing his praises or celebrating his "two-ness" at the moment.

It might sound cruel, but I think by the end of my post, you might be on my side.

Let me back up a little...

I have gotten back into cooking lately, trying to switch up our dinner meals and be a little more creative. It cumulated into an effort Thursday evening to make homemade ravioli. I cooked all afternoon. The ravioli was painstakingly created along with a plum quick bread and a huge batch of cookies to be frozen for future use.

I was rolling the final batch of cookies to stick in the freezer when I noticed Rhode's cute little bum sticking out of the refrigerator.

"Rhode, what are you doing buddy?"

Yes, those are finger holes.

Ordering pizza sounding good to anyone else?

Then we come to last night. I was gathering pajamas and finishing other chores upstairs when Scarlet came running up the stairs.

"Mom, Rhode did something bad and made a BIG MESS!"

"You are gonna be SO mad," she added.

My mind raced as a cruised down the stairs. What would it be this time? The cereal box again? The flour container? Maybe something benign like the silverwear?


I'll let pictures speak their thousand words.

His mouth and teeth were also an insanely bright blue.

Scarlet asked curiously, "Rhode is that stuff yummy?"

"Yes," he replied as he stuck his finger in a puddle and licked it up.

Here's hoping mom will be in more of a birthday blogging mood next week. I can't help but wonder how much my mood will depend on how long my floor has a greenish tint.

OK, I must add this to my post.

Top 10 ways it could have been worse - By: Grandma Peggy

#10 - It could have been on the carpet.

#9 - Scarlet could have joined him in his shenanigans. Be grateful she acted appropriately by tattling even though Rhode will never trust her again!

#8 - It could have been toxic.

#7 - It could have happened when I was there and I would have had to clean it up.

#6 - It could have been permanent and then your little man would have had to go live with a remote Maori tribe with other similarly tattooed children.

#5 - He could have been turning 12 instead of 2 and that's a whole other kind of naughty that preceeds hurting small animals.

#4 - He could be strangely incurious - showing absence of intellectual inquisitiveness or natural curiosity, i.e. obtuse.

#3 - He could be ugly and then you wouldn't have cute pictures of that precious face and that adorable bum.

#2 - He is now qualified to be President of the United States because he knows what it's like to be colored. You can't put a price on that kind of experience!

#1 - It could have been poo.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My Physical Feat of Mountainous Proportions

I just successfully completed the greatest physical feat of my life so far. My muscles are screaming and my legs are totally and completely sunburned, but I am officially very proud of myself.

Unfortunately, to truly explain my feat, I have to go back a bit the story... many eons (months) ago.


Jon has been an avid runner from the beginning of our marriage. I was never interested in joining him. He tried to get me on a run numerous times. I planned on defying him for the rest of our married lives.

Then, I realized I could not seem to lose those baby pounds. I was sick of all of my ill fitting clothing and being so completely out of shape. It was about the same time my good friend, Cynthia, was facing a similar plight. It was she who decided we would solve our problem by becoming runners. We made our decision right around the end of November, set some goals for ourselves, and got to it.

I decided my goal was to be able to run three miles straight by Christmas. I would surprise Jon by going on a run with him Christmas day.

I would have given up after running my first block if it weren't for Cynthia.

I don't know how anyone sticks to an exercise regiment without a buddy. I had to take the kids with me in my pathetic double stroller. They whined the whole time and they made even the slightest incline so hard to get up. I hated it. I hated feeling out of breath all the time, I hated having to push myself to just make it to the next pole without stopping, it was miserable.

But I kept doing it. And it definitely got better. I was so proud of myself when I made it through my first mile without stopping. It took me much longer than I'm willing to admit. About a week before I was supposed to reach my goal, I was still only able to go about two miles without having to stop and catch my breath.

Then, I got the chance to run without the stroller. My world changed.

It was a million times easier! By Christmas Eve, I was able to print up the map of the path I had been running and recorded 29 minutes, our fastest time, and wrapped it for Jon to open Christmas morning.

He was completely surprised and very excited. We got into our jogging clothes and hit the street (thankfully with Jon pushing the stroller) for our first run together. It was going well until Jon started making comments like "you have a great marathon pace" (not a compliment when you are only running 3 miles) then comparing my speed to the very large people he had previously run with.

From then on, I stuck with the running partner who was more impressed by my speed. Cynthia and I would get up before our kids and head out several days a week. She started training for a half marathon so I helped her stick with her training regiment. At this point, I still really didn't like running at all but I was losing some weight and, occasionally, I would have a great run where I seemed to be able to breathe forever and that was really satisfying. At my peak, I ran eight miles with her.

Then she moved across the country.

I tried to convince myself this would not be the end of my training regiment, but it definitely was. I probably got out once after she moved and it was a pretty pathetic effort.

It could very well have been the end of the story if it weren't for Leslee.

Leslee is a runner. She was looking for someone to train with her for her second marathon. The morning of our first run, I was convinced it would be our first and our last. I had already lost most of acquired running skill plus, even at my best, this girl could kick my butt.

She won't admit it, but I am sure she was less than impressed with my first effort. But, she stuck with me and before I knew it, I was helping someone else training for a race, this time a full marathon.

We have been training all summer. We crawl out of our beds at 4:45 am four days a week and hit the pavement, or the track, depending on the day. When we first see each other, we usually agree that neither of us would have gotten out of bed if we didn't know the other would be waiting for us.

Her marathon is now three weeks away. To clarify, I am most definitely not marathon ready. We run her little runs together and I help her the best I can with her speed work but on her long run Saturdays, I had to check out early when her miles got into the high teens. But I did go my farthest distance, 12 miles, before I kind of messed up my knee. I have had to take a little running hiatus while I figure out how to keep my left knee from throbbing every time I start moving.

The truly sad part about my new injury is I was finally starting to enjoy running. Every time I come home from a run, Jon asks me if I had fun. I always have to tell him fun is just not the right word. Lately, I have found running to be challenging but rewarding. I even occasionally want to run. Pre-injury, I had talked myself into signing up for a half-marathon. Jury's still out on that one though.

Main Story

Jon has been doing a lot of hiking this summer including 3 different trips up Mt. Charleston. He really wanted to take me. I was not totally against the idea but it meant getting a babysitter for like 10 hours so it took some planning time. After all of my running, I really felt like I could handle the hike physically if my knee would hold out on me.

I picked up the babysitter at 4:45 and we were out the door by 5 a.m. Saturday morning. We had a backpack full of supplies (that Jon was going to haul) and we were ready to go. At the beginning of the trail, there is a map. Our trail headed up one mountain then saddles across to Mt. Charleston, heads to the top of the peak, then saddles another mountain and then loops back around where we started. The map said it was an 18 mile hike, would take 12 hours to finish and was "extremely difficult". I was a bit concerned by that.

Not only was I concerned, but I was cold. It was 40 degrees on the mountain! I have not been that cold in the longest time. It is always a weird feeling when your limbs are numb but you are sweating too.

The path started at a straight incline. And it kept climbing and climbing. I was breathing fast within 10 minutes. When Jon told me we had hit one mile, I wanted to smack him with my running shoe and hop straight downhill with the other back to the car. But, we kept moving. Jon said we were moving pretty quick, but I just kept thinking, if I slow down I am just going to be on this stupid hill longer.

We finally reached our first elevation point where we would cut across to Mt. Charleston, a much more level path.
I was pretty excited about making it that far. It was a spectacular view. It was also at that point that I noticed my fingers had doubled in size. We don't know if it was the vast amounts of sodium we ate the night before (asian food) or what but both of our hands were huge. It would have taken the Jaws of Life to get my wedding ring off.

You can see the peak we are heading for to the left in this picture.

We moved along smoothly until we got to the part where we actually had to summit the mountain. That part involved highly inclined switchbacks that took you back and forth up the face of the mountain. We increased about 100 - 150 feet in elevation with each turn. It was torture! It took every ounce of muscle I had just to keep one foot moving in front of the other.

Right as I turned the last corner and saw the top of the mountain, I knew I could make it. I wanted to fall in the dirt and just sleep for a few hours, but I knew I could make it. It was at that moment that I passed a woman coming down who just looked outdoorsy. She asked us where we had hiked from, and when Jon told her, she said, "Wow! You guys are great hikers!"

I wanted to kiss her.

Sadly, I was so out of breath, I think I managed a slight grunt. But that woman made my day. We had made it to the top in 4 hours and 17 minutes.

It was the fastest Jon had made it to the top, and that made me feel pretty good too.

Supposedly this is the only "on top of a mountain" pose Jon has.

We ate a quick lunch and it was time to head back down. It was a lot warmer by this point, in fact this is about the time I started getting sunburned.

I was looking forward to the downhill part. It just sounded sooo much easier. And it was. Occasionally the path took us uphill for awhile and the mountain and I would be fighting a bit at that point, but then we would continue back downhill and we would forgive each other.

I felt so good going down that we even ended up jogging most of the way back. We cruised down the path, each hiker we passed was amazed that we were already on our way down after having started where we did.

Then, that darn knee of mine started bugging me.

Then, Jon claimed we only had about two miles left. That turned out to be four miles.

It was in those last two miles that I really struggled. Every muscle hurt. I kept jogging only because walking seemed to hurt even worse. My knees hurt, my muscles burned and I was just exhausted. I had felt such a "hikers high" only minutes beforehand only to drop so fast and feel like I couldn't keep moving if my life depended on it. That was a rough moment. But, I kept moving.

It really helped when Jon finally admitted that he was much more tired and hurting than he looked. It gave me more of a boost than I would have expected and we made it to the bottom. Our final time was seven hours and 20 minutes. 40 minutes faster than Jon's fastest time.

Jon went to get the car while I stretched my legs. While I was waiting, an older man who we had passed and talked to earlier stopped me and asked if I was a trained speedwalker. I laughed and said, "No just an amateur hiker trying to keep up with her husband." He then explained to me that I had the natural hip movement of a speed walker and should maybe look into it.

That is the second time someone has compliments my natural hip abilities. First, when I was 12 when Grandma Earl told me I had nice birthing hips and now at 26, the hip movements of a speed walker. Way to go hips.

Today I am a wreck. I am surviving on ibuprofen and I look ridiculous trying to walk downstairs. But, I did it. I completed my greatest physical challenge to date. I am more proud of my accomplishment than I thought I would be. I even managed to impress my very athletic husband.

The only downside is, now he is planning our next couple's high adventure. I might have started something really bad...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Kids in Motion

Rhode has decided to be two a tad bit early. He is really getting into a regular fit throwing groove. He now pulls out what we have dubbed the "demonic no" which is a loud and throaty, drawn out no that just gives you shivers up your spine.

When he is in the midst of one of these fantastically fun tantrums I send him to his room until he is calm. I just had to capture on video his latest way of telling me it's time for him to come out of his room.

Scarlet just wants to sing the day away. We have started learning new primary songs during FHE and she remembers them forever. Here is her latest sampling of tunes.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

So, what exactly is a Suda-Duda?

That is the mystery of the Nielsen household these days. Scarlet was really into listening to "Single Ladies" a month or two ago and, during one of her 'ask a million question' sessions, she said, "mom, I'm a suda-duda!"

Gibberish it was not. Suda-duda has a very defined definition and set of characteristics... I just can't figure out what they are.

Here is what I have deduced through some subtle detective work so far

1 - When Scarlet has her hair done especially pleasingly, she looks just like a suda-duda

2 - When Scarlet is in her princess finest, including heels and crown, she also resembles said suda-duda

3 - Suda-dudas do not act like babies, they do big girl things and don't whine

4 - When you are married, you are no longer a suda-duda, but occasionally if mom is having an especially good hair day, she gets to be an honorary suda-duda.

Suda-duda has been dropped into casual conversation regularly at our house. She just throws it around at anyone who walks into the door, "Ashley you look like a suda-duda today!" and then walks away leaving the recipient of the high honor confused as to whether to be flattered or very offended.

I... don't get it.

But I did get to celebrate my non-suda duda status on Friday for my 5th wedding anniversary.

Five years was a big number for Jon and I. When we first got married, we promised each other that we would not be Las Vegas lifers. We gave ourselves five years to figure out what the future held for us and move on from the desert.

We are still here. But, in our defense we are doing a lot of future figuring out. We have extended the deadline another two years (when Scarlet starts kindergarten) to get the heck out of dodge. Now we are accountable not only to each other but all 5 of my blog readers. Guys, I'm counting on you!

I have always said, and will continue to always believe that God has a very real sense of humor. Missing our 'leave the state' goal brought two very interesting new situations into our lives

1 - Our three year old air conditioner bit the dust. Big time. We were told there was no reason for it to shut down, being as young as it is, it is just a dud. Great timing huh? Right before Labor Day weekend... our house is just one step below sweltering. Fall, it is time to come and it is time to come now. Ya hear?

2 - Jon got a phone call from our brand new Stake President who asked for a meeting the day after our anniversary. After a brief meet and greet, Jon was called to be the new Stake Young Men's President. I don't think I have ever seen my husband shell shocked.

His first comment to me was, "I have NO idea what a Stake Young Men's President does."

But he is excited. He is really sad to have to leave the young men in our ward but hopefully he will still get to work with them a lot.

And lastly, we have finally moved our home de/construction to the front of the house. Hopefully the finished product will be documented soon. But last night, we permanently left our mark on our home.