Jan 7, 2014

12 Days of Christmas For My Wife

This year I did the 12 days of Christmas for my wife, Diana. I had a lot of fun coming up with items for each day. They are:
1 Step closer to a new van.
Fun 12 days of Christmas Ideas
We have been looking in to getting a wheelchair lift equipped van. However, in order to purchase the van, we need the money from the van we currently own. However, should we sell the van, we would not have an easy way to take the family to get the new van. However, one of the dealers I contacted agreed to pay at least whatever the car appraised for, so for the 1st present I went and got the van appraised so she wouldn't have to.

2 Containers of Non-Sweet Spheres
2 containers of non-sweet spheres - Fun 12 days of Christmas Ideas
We have been looking for some time for the "perfect" candy containers for the mantle. I found two of them at Hobby Lobby that are just the right size; not so big that there is more candy than I can afford, but not so small that 1 handful empties the jar. Then I filled them with sour balls.

3 Baby Racoons Treats
3 Baby Racoons Treats - Fun 12 Days of Christmas Ideas
My wife LOVES baby corn. I don't. She loves to eat them on salad, off salad, with a fox, in a box, on a boat, with a goat -- well, you get the idea.

4 "Cups" of snowballs
4 "Cups" of Snowballs - Fun 12 days of Christmas Ideas
This was one of my favorite ones, because I am hilarious. She needed new bras anyway, so I figured, why not make it fun(ny). I took 4 Hostess Snowballs and put 1 in each Ziploc bag in it's appropriate cup.

5 Implements of Inspiration
5 Implements of Inspiration - Fun 12 Days of Christmas Ideas
 My wife loves to write. So much so, she has written two 50,000 word books, both of which started out longhand on a legal pad. You can read about them on her website. She is one of the few people I know that has actually used up all the ink in the pen before losing it.

6 Beautification Products
6 Beautification Products - Fun 12 Days of Christmas Ideas
My wife is beautiful -- without makeup, with makeup, all dressed up, in sweats, in a box, with a fox, on a boat with a goat... sorry I got sidetracked. Anyway, two of my girls are constantly stealing her hair clips and headbands and then losing or breaking them, so I got her some replacements.

7 Heartwarming Items
7 Heartwarming Items - Fun 12 Days of Christmas Ideas

Diana hates being cold. I mean HATES! She loves anything that will warm her up, blankets, a fireplace, and hot cocoa. So, for day 7, she got 7 boxes of various flavors of hot cocoa.

8 Tipped Over
8 Tipped Over - Fun 12 Days of Christmas Ideas
8 on it's side is ∞. She loves scarves, especially in the winter, since they add an additional layer of warmth. For day 8, I got her an soft blue knit infinity scarf.

9 = 3 + 6 (36)
9=3+6 (36) - Fun 12 Days of Christmas Ideas
Diana loves Pringles. I don't. (are you noticing a pattern here?). There is something not right about slices of "potato" that all look the exact same. Nevertheless, she loves them, so that's what she got.

10 Packs of Dunkers
10 Packs of Dunkers - Fun 12 Days of Christmas Ideas
She loves Oreos. So do I. (yeah, the one exception to the trend that was going). We often have them together as a late night snack. They are so delicious with some ice cold milk.

11 Rolls of Fun
11 Rolls of Fun - Fun 12 Days of Christmas Ideas
Diana is quite the seamstress. She loves pattern making and altering and anything to do with sewing. Ribbon is often the 1 thing that makes a "regular" item unique and extra pretty, and one of the things she has the hardest times buying for herself due to the cost.

12 Danglies and a Holder for Their Friends
12 Danglies and a Holder for Thier Friends - Fun 12 Days of Christmas Ideas
 This was the most time consuming of all the gifts, and yet one of the most rewarding. I made the box about 18x23, then painted it black and mod-podged the background into the box. Next, I added the cup hooks inside for her necklaces. The original frame was white, so I added paint thinner to the paint to make it more of a glaze, painted the frame, then wiped it off. I attached burlap (for the earrings) to the frame on the back with staples, then attached the frame to the box with hinges. It turned out awesome I think.

What's the best gift you gave this year?

Sep 30, 2013

Developing Christ-like Attributes

I made this for my wife's Young Women's lesson. No reason to not share it. See other handouts at Photokapi.com

Apr 29, 2013

Go Forth Unto All The World

At work I had the opportunity for "innovation days." This meant I had two days to do whatever I wanted as long as I created something of value (though the definition was loose) and learned a new (or advanced an existing) skill.

I chose to work on the missionary efforts of my Great Grandparents Joseph and Elda Brown, and their posterity. I had worked previously on my Grandparent's generation, but felt that it would be much more meaningful if I got 1 more generation of data. Luckily, a majority of work had been done by a cousin as far as listing names, departure dates, mission names etc. However, it was not in the format I needed, and so I had to extract the data that was in a google docs spreadsheet into a MySQL database in the right order, find latitude and longitude information, break it down by family and create some additional fields, etc.

Once I had the database written and working, I set about creating the 3 dynamic pages I wanted. I had a handcart photograph I had taken while on trek last year, and used that for the background. Then, I created some artwork for the google maps pins, the header image plaque, and a checkmark.

After creating the home page with the scripture from Doctrine and Covenants 4, I created the mission list page. At first iteration, I just did a sorted database dump, but after some research, I figured out to dynamically make a database call and refresh the page using AJAX. This was a breakthrough for me, as I had never been able to accomplish this in any of the database projects I had worked on before, and opened a whole new realm of possibilities. I added filtering by family, direct descendant, male, female, couple, country, and state for the US and Canada. Then I added color coding based on the family they belonged to, and created the table that dynamically changed based on a dropdown list of options.

Next I worked on a map. I created different markers for Elders, Sisters, and Couples, and then using PHP/MySQL created a dynamic XML file that the API reads using Javascript and then plots them on an interactive map of the world It creates a list to the side of the panel that you can scroll through and click on individuals to see where they served. It also allows for clicking on the marker and showing who it was that served there.

Lastly, I worked on the timeline. Using and existing jQuery library, I dynamically created the JSON data it was expecting, and then formatted the data to the timeline, adding in the colors chosen for each family. It looks pretty amazing.

Overall it was a fun project to work on, I learned many things about several technologies I was unfamiliar with, and I created something that is both useful and interesting.



Interested in creating one for your own family? Let me know, and I will do what I can to help you set one up. (Be advised, some technical skill is required)

Please let me know what you think in the comments below.

Apr 16, 2013

The Single Dad (Day 6)

I woke up today at 7:03. Got the kids ready to go. Emily made my lunch and a take-along dinner for after school of peanut butter and honey on raisin bagels and chips and cutie mandarin oranges. It was raining a bit, so I was trying to figure out how to get everyone where they needed to go when Becca's bus came. So, I put her on the bus, took the boys across the street to Darrin and Kelly's, and then took the girls and neighbor boy to school. I headed off to work and worked until about 3:15 then came home. This time I beat the girls by about 15 minutes. I took the boys home and they played Legos, then the girls joined when they got there. Once Becca got home at 4:30, we headed off to Salt Lake to pick up Diana; her flight got in at 4:45. However, my Mom's car was at Richard's parents house (which is near Diana's parents), so he picked everyone up and brought Diana to her mom's house where we were waiting.

The kids were downstairs playing when she got there, so we talked for a few minutes. Then she went and said "Hi" to Becca. Her eyes lit up and she cooed for probably 2-3 minutes. She missed Mommy too. I don't know how much she understood of where Mom was or why she was gone, but she was certainly happy she was back.

Then I called each kid up one by one just saying "Come here, I need you for a minute." As soon as they saw Diana they ran to her and hugged and hugged her -- especially Ethan. He missed her the most I think. I had forgotten Becca's 5:00 feeding and Diana was starving, so we headed home. Diana ate her sack lunch on the way home and we talked about her trip.

When we got home, she pulled out some souvenirs she got for us; shirts for the boys, nail polish and hair clips for the girls that change color in the sun, and, of course, a Ziploc of seashells. By the time we got done with everything it was bedtime. We put the kids to bed, and watched a sitcom on Netflix, then promptly fell asleep about 10:30. We haven't gone to bed that early in I don't know how long.

So, here's what I learned from being a single parent for a week:

  1. I am perfectly capable of doing everything Diana does, but it is exhausting. I fell asleep on the couch more than once trying to read stories to the kids -- before bedtime.
  2. Even with a menu, figuring out what to make for dinner, snacks, breakfast and lunch is frustrating and slow. Who doesn't like what, why, and if I care.
  3. Once you are used to having someone in your bed, it's harder sleep when they aren't there. Even though I had more room and could stretch out however I wanted, it was less comfortable.
  4. My children can do more than I expected. On the days I was late, Emily and Grace let themselves in the house and were fine when I got home. They worked together (usually) to accomplish task I gave them, and even encouraged the boys to work with them.
  5. I love and like my wife. Not just like I like stuff or love my family. L-O-V-E. I missed talking about stupid things, laughing at nothing, and just being in the same room together. I wasn't jealous that she was off doing fun things while I was "stuck" at home. I was jealous because I wanted to be with her.
In summary, I am glad she got to go and decompress for a while, but I am SO glad she is back.

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6


Apr 15, 2013

The Single Dad (Day 5)

Woke up today at 7:15 got the kids ready for school. It snowed last night. I was going to try and take them to school but I couldn't figure out the best way to take them school and pick up the other kids before putting Becca on the bus, so I made them walk. It was less than 1/2 an inch of snow. Anyway, I took the boys to Aunt Deana's house and went to work. At 2:30 and Deana called and asked if I remembered it was early it out day. I didn't. So, I rushed to her house to pick up the boys but had to fill up with gas on the way. After picking up the boys I headed home.

On the way home I told the boys that tomorrow we were going to go pick up mommy at the airport.

Ethan said, "but I thought she was in Florida."

I said, "Yes but she's going to get on a plane and come home tomorrow."

Then Ethan said, "Is she going to jump out of the airplane with a parachute?"

"No, I said the plane will land and we will pick her up at the airport."

He's a funny little guy.

The girls got home before us, as did Becca, but luckily the bus drivers let the girls get Becca off the bus. The house was locked so the girls couldn't get in but luckily they only beat me by about five minutes, and Aunt Kelly was across the street.

When everybody got in the house we straightened up a little and they got out the Legos to play. I went to Little Caesars to get some pizza and breadsticks for dinner. After dinner, they did the dishes and then played Lego some more. I may or may not have fallen asleep on the couch for 1/2 an hour or so. Then it was bedtime Emily read the boys some stories, and I got Becca into bed. Then I watched a bunch of videos on YouTube until I got tired and went to bed. I am excited to go pick up Diana tomorrow. More than anything, I miss adult conversation in the evening.

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 6

Apr 14, 2013

The Single Dad (Day 4)

Woke up this morning about 7:15. The kids had Pop-Tarts for breakfast. I then realized that I hadn't showered in several days. Now, before you judge, I now realize why Diana says the same thing to me sometimes. I didn't forget, it just never made it to the front of the line of things that were necessary. Anyway, I showered, sent the girls to shower, then bathed the boys (who apparently had no clean clothes readily available) in luke-warm water. After the clothes crisis was solved (by which I mean I picked up some clothes off their floor and smelled them, yeah, I really did) and the heater had time to warm up more water, Becca got her bath. After about 30 minutes of hair curling, we were all ready to go by 10:03. Pretty impressive considering that church doesn't start until 11:00. We even made it and were in our seats by 10:35.


After church, we came home and had a charming lunch of cold cereal and grapes. Then we read books again for a while and I may or may not of fallen asleep reading to Ethan. But, in my defense, he fell asleep too. While we were sleeping Emily and Grace made rice crispy treats with lemon meringue marshmallows. Anyway, after we woke up, it was dinner time, and we had Ramen Noodles and Clementine Cuties. Then Darrin and Kelly came over to have dessert. The rice crispy treats were delicious. The kids finally got to bed around 9:00. Another day closer to Diana's return.

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 5 | Day 6

Apr 13, 2013

The Single Dad (Day 3)

I woke up today at 7:15. We got everyone dressed, Becca fed, and food packed for her, and headed out for donuts for breakfast. Now, I know you're thinking, Mom's away, we will just get treats all the time and keep the kids happy, but, they earned it. They have kept the house clean and helped out when asked so a treat is in order. Also, go find the Bill Cosby chocolate cake skit on youtube for more explanation. On the way to the store afterward the Taylor Swift song "Trouble" came on the radio, and when the chorus came on, I heard wails of "human goat" and "precious precious", check the links for the details. I have awesome kids.


After breakfast we went to Wal-mart to get some undershirts for the girls, pop-tarts, and cereal for breakfast tomorrow. Then we went to Old Navy and got some flip-flops for them as well. Becca was happy and when we got home we gave her the 11:00 feeding. Then Landon, Ethan and I read some stories, and it was lunchtime. We had homeade lunchables with cheese, Ritz crackers, bologna, and ham. After lunch, Emily and the boys wanted to play Legos, but Grace wanted to do watercolors. So they both did what they wanted.


Then the girls played Lego Batman on the Wii for about 45 minutes, while I read another story or two to Ethan. By then it was dinner time. (They build with the Legos for hours if I let them, and I did). Ethan got tired of waiting for dinner.


We had taco salad for dinner with Chili, cheese, and tomatoes. Then we had green grapes as a side dish and made oven s'mores. We were going to roast them over the fire pit, but it was raining. We put graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate in tin-foil and then baked them at 250 for about 7-8 minutes. However, after opening them the chocolate was quite messy, so we put them in the fridge for about 30 minutes. They were delicious.


Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6

Apr 12, 2013

The Single Dad (Day 2)

Woke up at 7:06. Morning routine much like yesterday, did another load of laundry. Emily made my lunch again. She left me a note again today.
Sent the girls off to school again at 8:30. Becca's bus was a little early 8:35, but we were ready, so she got on, I ate breakfast quickly, and off the boys and I went to Aunt Deana's house. We got there at 9:05, and she wasn't back from crossing guard duty at the elementary, so we waited a couple of minutes, I dropped them off, and headed to work. I spent most of the morning in a meeting, then the rest of the day trying to correct a bug in the software that long story short is related to the fact that the largest integer that can be represented in the software is 2 to the 31st power. That many seconds from January 1, 1970 is considered the end of time according to our current code. Anyway, I was in the middle of working on the fix when I realized it was already 3:30 and had to rush to pick up the boys to make it home before the girls got home.

I got clear out to the car when I realized I had left my iPad on my desk, so I had to run back up to get it, further delaying me. The boys were ready (thanks, Aunt Deana) and swinging on the porch swing when I got there, so we headed home. The girls were already home, but had come in, and were fine, and I beat Becca's bus by about 10 minutes. I changed Becca's diaper right as she got home, problem solved.

For dinner we had tomato soup. The kids really wanted to camp but it was supposed to be colder outside than originally anticipated, and I worried a bit about Becca making it through the night. So, we set up the tent in the living room.

Since we didn't get to camp outside, I rented a DVD from redbox. The Pirates. They enjoyed it, and I fell asleep several times so I must have as well. I would have stayed asleep longer if Ethan and Landon hadn't kept piling on me.

After the movie, they got in their PJ's and put their sleeping bags in the tent. Emily read some stories, including some pages of the Chronicles of Narnia. I checked on them about 9:30 and found this:

I might actually have a handle on this, but there are still 4 more days, including getting everyone to church and a whole Saturday together. We will see.

Day 1 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6

Apr 11, 2013

The Single Dad (Day 1)

Diana flew to Florida for an extended girls weekend in honor of my sister-in-law Sharon's 40th birthday. We dropped her off and she slept over at my mom's house Wednesday night so she could go together to the airport in the morning.

Day 1.
Woke up at 7:30 (as usual) and Emily (10) got breakfast for the boys and Gracie. Then she made my lunch. I found out at lunch time, she slipped in the following note.






Sent the girls to school at 8:30, Becca's bus came at 8:40. Took the boys over to my sister-in-law's house and headed to work. Arrived at work at 9:05 and worked until 3:15. Headed home to be there when the kids got home from school. Pulled up just as the girls were walking down the street to the house. Got Becca off the bus about 1/2 hour later and we talked about school and what they did for the day. Worked on some stuff for work to make up for having to leave early for a couple hours, then we had dinner. Dinner was hoagies on hot dog buns. They all enjoyed it but Ethan who refused to eat the bun. After dinner they played outside for a while and I did a load of dishes and 2 loads of laundry.

I also learned it is best to change Becca's diaper right when she gets home from school, not at dinner time. She completely soaked though. Lesson learned.

I tucked Becca and the boys in at 8:00, and the girls stayed up until 9 working on homework. Ethan needed some snuggle time and kept saying "I want Mommy to come home." After they went to bed, I had nothing to do, so I puttered around on the iPad for a few minutes, then watched a couple shows on Netflix. Fell asleep around midnight. Weird to sleep in an empty bed. Roomy, but weird.

Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6

Apr 1, 2013

Easter Thoughts


I miss my dad. A lot. Sometimes I think I should call my mom and ask her how he's doing. Then I remember. He's doing fine. I, on the other hand, miss him and wish he were here, healthy, and happy. I guess for now, I have to settle for just the last two of those.

How grateful I am for the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the sealing power of the priesthood to that provides that families can be together forever. It makes saying goodbye for a while easier, not easy, but at least easier.

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