31 December 2008

I did it!

Met my goal of indexing 10,000 names this year! Actually, I exceeded it by 32, making 15,032 names total. I kinda want to make next year's goal 12,000, which would be 1,000/month, but I think I'd better just stick with 10,000 again because I don't have a nursing baby to keep me at the computer for hours at a time.

27 December 2008

Where's my crystal ball?

I want to know when the RIF will happen. I want to know how long we'll have once they announce it. I want to know for absolutely sure whether or not James will lose his job (pretty sure on this one). I want to know what (if any) position they will offer him within TYC. I want to know where that position will be.

I want to know if a Youth Counselor position will open up in Concord within the next few weeks. I want to know if James will get an interview for that Court Counselor position in Charlotte that he applied to. I want to know if it would be worth it for him to fly out there just for an interview.

I want to know if we're moving to North Carolina, or possibly some other place in Texas just until the end of the summer and then to McAllen if he got the South Texas College teaching job. I want to know for sure when/if we'd lose the Axia thing if he took that job.

I want some idea of what the future holds. It's been 3.5 weeks of nothing but questions, questions and more questions. The closer we get to getting some answers, the more nervous I get.

Sigh. At least tomorrow is Sunday. Sounds like I need it, right?

Christmas Eve

Elizabeth had been so enamored of stacking/restacking and distributing/redistributing the Christmas presents that we had to take them from under the tree and lock them up in the library for a while.
On Christmas Eve we let her put them back under the tree.

As you can see, they didn't stay under the tree for long. Both girls got tons of enjoyment from all their gifts while they were still (mostly) wrapped.

As bedtime approached we let them open their matching Princess PJs and Daddy read The Christmas Story (I can't wait until they're old enough to start acting it out!).

Elizabeth was determined NOT to go to bed. She was not leaving her treasure hoarde! We let her sleep like this for a couple of hours before Daddy carried her to bed, protesting loudly even half-asleep!

But of course she had to go to bed so Santa could work his magic. (Pretty gender-balanced for a house of 2 little girls, don't you think?)

19 December 2008

I just indexed Edward Cullen

Ok, this is too cool! Working on a batch of Massachusetts death records from 1915 tonight I just indexed an Edward Cullen. Cause of death? "Cerebral Hemorrhage"

Yeah, not making this up!

16 December 2008

"You can't stop the signal"

Mr. Universe isn't the only one hooked into everything anymore.....

I have my new toy up and running. I'm on "exploding appendix" duty at the hospital with a youth, so here is my chance to hack into the hospital servers and discover what really happened to the Reavers....

....err, I mean, I can use the hospital's free wi-fi link to go only and find things to do for the next 12+ hours. Yes, I just barely got home from work when I got the call, but hey, it's overtime that has to get paid, and I get to work on my Axia College stuff, watch movies, and take a nap all on the clock!

11 December 2008

Amelia dressed herself

Well, she brought me each item of clothing piece by piece after her bath this morning and insisted that I put it on. Too cute!

Oh, and my 16.5 month old is wearing 3-6 month pants in this picture and the length is perfect.

09 December 2008

Educate me

It's been a not-s0-fun week of sickies around here, so I've spent most of my time letting Amelia nap on me while I poke around looking for jobs and houses. (Being stuck at the computer because Amelia won't sleep away from me brings on flashbacks to last year at this time!)

One thing I've realized in doing this is that I don't know how much to budget for utilities. Of course this is something that varies and I understand that, but I really don't have much of a clue, which is crazy since I've lived out on my own for 15 years now! But I've always lived somewhere with (mostly) paid utilities.

In Denton I paid electric and that was it. So I know how much electric costs for a small one bedroom apartment with the only occupant gone all day (and how much it is when the apartment sits empty for a couple of months at a time while you jaunt across the country). I also know that Mom and Dad's electric bill can be higher than their mortgage payment. But that's a HUGE range! So, say James gets that job in Concord, NC and we are living in a 3 bedroom house. Probably an older one, so not the best weatherproofing. What am I looking at for electric? And some of the houses have gas heating...would that make a big difference in price?

Then, what else is there? Water? What does that run? (Katie and Chad need not reply!)
Trash? The only time we've "paid" for trash was to get a sticker in Madisonville so that one of our cars (wisely chose James' car) could drive into the dump and drop off our trash.

Anything else? Phones and internet I know about (sure hope we get good cheap high speed wherever we end up). TV we probably won't end up paying for (just buying a converter box).

Just trying to work out hypothetical budgets in order to know how much we can afford for rent, but that really depends on how much we are paying for other utilities. Of course James has to get a job first (and technically he hasn't even lost his here, yet) but I'm trying to do what I can now to figure out the possibilities (no use getting a job we can't live off of). And, yes, I'm largely obsessing over gaining some kind of illusion of control. Humor me.

05 December 2008

Here ya go, Olivia

Here's our Routan Baby. Have to say, I think ours is cuter than yours. But I guess I'm biased.

03 December 2008

I was afraid of this

Central Office in Austin just went through a round of RIF. E-mail came out today extending it to the facilities. They want Case Manager loads to be 16. After working with an overloaded caseload and a CM shortage most of the 3+ years we've been here, loads are currently at an all-time low and number of CMs is at an all-time high. Looks like at least half of the CM positions will be cut...and there is still a very real possibility of the facility, if not the entire agency, being shut down.
James has a phone interview today with Axia College, to be a part-time online instructor for the University of Phoenix. All of their instructors are full-time professionals, working in the field they teach. We were looking at this as a way to really escalate our debt snowball, but now we really may need it just to help make up for the housing benefit here. When we have job-hunted in the past we've found that James could get a similar salary elsewhere (about 40,000/year) but having to add rent/utilities into our budget is obviously a huge hit.
So please pray for us at this time, and if you know of any good jobs (hopefully without losing any semblance of family life/church attendence, i.e. not dependent on crazy schedules/massive overtime) for someone with a Masters in Criminal Justice and 3 years experience in Juvenile Justice...let us know!

02 December 2008

Elder Wirthlin passed away

From the LDS Newsroom

SALT LAKE CITY 2 December 2008 Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, the oldest living apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,died last night, age 91.
Elder Wirthlin had gone to bed at his Salt Lake City home, and died peacefully at about 11:30 pm of causes incident to age. His oldest daughter, Jane Wirthlin Parker, was present. A member of the family had been staying and caring for Elder Wirthlin, whose wife, Elisa Young Rogers Wirthlin, died in 2006.
He had continued to work at his office right up until the Thanksgiving holiday.
Funeral arrangements will be announced.

19 November 2008

Our "swingset"

Mom and Dad gave the girls baby/toddler swings for Christmas last year and we hadn't ever found a way to hang them up. We don't have a swingset and don't want to get one because we never know when we might move (ha, ha). We've got tons of trees, but no branches right for the job.
Anyway, while they were visiting Elizabeth pulled the swings out of the garage and the girls did their best to enjoy them on the ground.

James even managed to be a human swingset for Elizabeth for a little while before his arms gave out.

Grandpa suggested running a pipe across the roof of our house to the roof of the neighbors' house, but Granny came up with a better idea, using PVC pipe and the old clothesline pole. All it took was a trip to Home Depot and a little work by James with the drill and the girls now have an awesome swingset!

Elizabeth might like it just a tiny bit. Seriously, it's just the thing for our sensory seeking little girl. Monday morning Granny pushed her in it for quite a while and she came in and fell asleep on her own, which very rarely happens. This kind of activity is very organizing for Elizabeth.
Amelia, on the other hand, hates it. She loves to watch her sister, but otherwise she'd rather just walk over and talk to the neighbors' dog.

18 November 2008

Another food post

So much to catch up on now that Mom is back in Blythe. Going to start with an easy one. More food! We made dutch oven pizza (16 inch, of course) for dinner Sunday night. Just a basic pepperoni pizza in the dutch oven for everyone to share and then DIY pizzas in the regular oven to take home (the Sister Missionaries were over again).
Anyway, the first batch of pizza dough wasn't turning out too great, so I made an extra, and we ended up with Pizza Hut in our kitchen before the night was over.

I finally found/devised a pizza crust recipe that's a keeper.

Forgiving Pizza Dough

3 tsp yeast

2 tsp sugar

2 cups warm water

Mix together and let sit until creamy, about 10 minutes.

Add in the following:

4 Tbs olive oil

2 tsp salt

2 shakes garlic powder

2 shakes italian seasoning

3 cups flour

Knead in another 1/2 to 1 cup flour as needed to make a nice dough. Let dough rest for about 5-10 minutes, then roll out your crusts. If you're making a bunch of DIY pizzas it works great to roll them out ahead and stack with wax paper in between.

Other recipes I've used were too yeasty and the crusts turned out too fluffy. This dough was perfect. Even the last batch didn't rise too much. That's why I called it "forgiving." Your timing doesn't have to be perfect.

05 November 2008

What do you cook in a 16 inch dutch oven?

How about 5 Cornish Hens?

We wanted to get a dutch oven for our anniversary this summer. Started looking on Amazon and found one that was 62% off. The information was a bit fuzzy on the size, but it seemed to be a deep dish 14 inch , based on the quarts. Maybe a big larger than we needed. Still, who could resist 62% off!

Turned out to be a standard 16 inch. It is HUGE! So we hadn't used it yet. James decided he wanted dutch oven cooking for his birthday dinner. He found a dutch oven recipe for Cornish Hens, calling for 5 birds. Perfect! You don't cook that in your normal 12 inch dutch oven! And we were having the Sister Missionaries over for dinner, so one for each adult and one for the girls to share. Actually, I ended up sharing one with the girls and the missionaries took home the rest of theirs in doggie bags, along with the leftover one.

I think we might do this again when Mom and Dad are here. It's such a fun meal with great presentation appeal. Also thinking a 16 inch dutch oven would be great for pizza.

Oh, and we have a nice brick fireplace type thing on our back porch. It's a homemade contraption and quite cool. But even that wasn't large enough for this monster dutch oven! Fortunately it has a metal top, so I used it as a charcoal table and that worked out just great. I put some more coals inside the brick fireplace and threw on some foil-wrapped potatoes, which I replaced with the dessert (lazy cobbler...chocolate cake mix, 2 cans cherry pie filling, 2 sticks butter, butterscotch chips) half-way through cooking the chicken.

01 November 2008

More Halloween

I was the flower that the ladybug landed on, which turned out to be quite accurate as Amelia was fussy and clingy all night.


Elizabeth couldn't have cared less where Mommy and Daddy were all evening as she was in her element, playing with the big kids and just generally running around in the crowd. We probably should have kept a better eye on her, but James was busy running things and Amelia was glued to me, so we were just grateful Elizabeth was happy.

Even after everyone else was done with the "cookie walk" Elizabeth tried to keep going. I caught her drawing a "winning number."

During the "Trunk or Treat" portion Amelia started perking up a bit and actually let me put her down.

Photobucket Yes, I DO need two suckers!

She liked the laughing skull.

On Halloween night she practiced walking with both pumpkins AND wearing Mommy's shoes.

Elizabeth wouldn't pause long enough to take a picture once after leaving the house and it was too dark to take it from a distance. But I did get this darling picture when they came back. Even just our little neighborhood of employee housing was too much for Amelia. She insisted on carrying that huge rubber duckie the entire time. Elizabeth was invited into one of the first houses, so after that she walked right in every time someone opened the door. Cute girls, if I do say so myself. So excited for Granny and Grandpa's visit next week!


Elizabeth in her element

Happy Birthday, Bryce!

I just CANNOT believe that my BABY brother is 19! Love you, Hotdog!

30 October 2008

Our Halloween

Well, we don't have any big plans for Friday (unless a Well Woman Exam counts as big plans), so I count last night as our Halloween. It was the Branch Trunk or Treat. First, our "trunk" decorated by James.True to the character of Bob the Builder, Elizabeth spent the first part of the evening "building" with the poles James brought for the scouts.
The scouts/YM did a "group costume" as modern-day Stripling Warriors and even performed for the Branch.

This is as far as I got before getting some bad news about a friend's daughter being in the hospital. I'll finish up soon.

21 October 2008

General Conference in word art

Read more at LDS Media Talk

Three topping pizza

Last night we had James' favorite 3 topping pizza. It's a combination I probably never would have thought of on my own, but I love it too. Usually I'm a supreme (or even all veggie) fan, but if it HAS to be THREE toppings...here it is:


What would your 3 topping pizza have?

18 October 2008

Amelia's First Steps

Amelia has been obsessed with walking ever since she learned to crawl. We've spent the past few months walking around the house hunched over as we hold her hands and she walks all over the house. She is very insistent on walking and goes where she wants to go. There is no compromise with Amelia.

Last night, I got her to use a walking toy we received a while back for Elizabeth which was never used for walking. At first, Amelia didn't want to let go of my hand, so she walked around with one hand on my finger and one hand driving the toy. Then I showed some tough love and made her use both hands on the toy.

After some fussing, she discovered she could do it by herself, as fast as she wanted to. Steering isn't the greatest, but it was still all Amelia. So we got the camera to watch her.

And we caught her taking her first steps, not counting a few tries over the past few days that were more of a controlled crash than a true walk (though they were progress).

Amelia spent the rest of the night exploring her new mobility, before switching back to crawling or Daddy support because she was getting sleepy and fussy.

11 October 2008

I love my Shark

We don't have a dining room and can't fit a table in the kitchen. Do you know what a pain it is to have a 1 year old and a 2 year old eating over carpet?! Add to that the fact that Elizabeth freaks out if I so much as approach the closet where the vacuum is kept and it's, well, a mess!

Enter the Shark cordless power sweeper. Even a slob like me finds it easy enough to pick up and do a quick sweep after each time we eat...at least now that I've made it a rule that we put all the toys away right before each meal. Our living room is so much more liveable now.

Chocolate cake for breakfast

Hey, James is on a scout overnighter. We deserve some fun, too!

I didn't make the frosting and I made it in a bundt pan. Will definitely make it for a potluck sometime as it turned out yummy AND pretty.

And, yes, I thought of Bill Cosby.

10 October 2008

1 word Western Union style

1. Where is your cell? Security
2. Significant other? Christie
3. Your hair? short
4. Your mother? mom
5. Your father? dad
6. Your favorite thing? useful
7. Your dream last night? fire
8. Your favorite drink? milkrootbeer
9. Your dream/goal? delayed
10. The room you're in? office
11. Your fear? failure
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? unPyote
13. Where were you last night? home
14. What you're not? home
15. Muffins? chocolate
16. One of your wish list items? lightsaber
17. Where you grew up? army
18. The last thing you did? report
19. What are you wearing? uniform
20. Your TV? home
21. Your pet? wildcats
22. Your computer? phoenix
23. Your life? stuck
24. Your mood? frustrated
25. Missing someone? oops
26. Your car? deerhunter
27. Something you're not wearing? hat
28. Favorite Store? Dragon’s Lair
29. Your summer? hectic
30. Your favorite color? blue
31. When is the last time you laughed? Wednesday
32. Last time you cried? dunno
33. Who will/would re-post this? Christie
34. The place I go over and over? homeworkchurch
35. The person who visits me (Regularly)? dunno
36. A favorite fruit? apple
37. A place I would rather be right now? airplane

08 October 2008

Story Time

At the beginning of the summer we started going into Monahans on Wednesday mornings for story time at a bookstore owned and operated by a couple of branch families. Elizabeth had a blast playing (especially with the big boys) afterwards, but never paid attention to the story and stayed over by the toys, doing her own thing.

Since school has been back in session attendence has really shrunk and of course it has been younger kids. The past few weeks it's mainly been the Nursery and Sunbeam crowd and the lady who does it has really focused on reaching and including each one at their level and has had lots of hands on stuff. Obviously that's been great for Elizabeth.

Today a bunch of people from a Baptist mom's group came, so we probably had a dozen kids. Several of them were playing with the toys when we arrived (we were a few minutes early!) and Elizabeth joined in. But as soon as it was time to start she ran over and sat on the mat!
She paid attention the ENTIRE time! Sure, she stood up a few times, tried to sit too close, and tried to grab the book a time or two, but she STAYED! That was huge!

She also enjoyed the songs and nursery rhymes ande tried to join in. She will now let me sing Old McDonald and Twinkle Twinkle (Elizabeth has a thing about singing, usually).

Oh, and another new development in Elizabethland is that she has suddenly learned the alphabet. She can say/sing it in order and also identify each letter out of order. Still struggling with colors, though!

04 October 2008

Kansas City area?

Did I just hear President Monson announce a temple in the Kansas City area?

What is about 20 minutes from Kansas City? Independence.

Now, I'm assuming he didn't just announce THE temple...but, wow!

And Rome, Italy? How much longer will the Pope be Catholic?

02 October 2008

Busy day on the town

It's been a week since our run to Midland to get a new computer monitor. I'm about used to the widescreen thing now. While there James asked if there was anything else we needed. Well, if we stayed longer we would have had to go out to dinner (already had it mostly ready at home), probably would have missed Earl and The Office, and my back was hurting from walking Amelia all over the place (she's obsessed!)...besides, it was the end of the month and that's never a good time to spend money (except on ESSENTIALS like computers, obviously). So even though it seemed crazy to drive over an hour just to spend 10 minutes in Best Buy and come home...that's just what we did. There wasn't anything else we couldn't live without for a week.

Except that there was.

So Tuesday (couldn't even make it to Wednesday when we'd be going as far as Monahans for storytime anyway) I packed up the girls and went to Odessa. I decided to make the best of it and leave the regular grocery shopping for our planned trip on Friday and actually shop for things I wanted.

It says a ton about how much Elizabeth has grown up this summer that I dared to take her into Hobby Lobby, without another adult, with Amelia. I was prepared to cut and run, but it went amazingly well. It helped that it was still early and they were fresh (Amelia got her morning nap on the way there). Elizabeth was quite taken with the little cart and held onto the side and walked along with me like I'd trained her or something!

I'd thought we would go to Wendy's for lunch since it's right there, but Elizabeth deserved a playground after that performance, so McDonald's it was. Got there right during the high school lunch rush. UGH. Another potential disaster. I stalled by heading to the bathroom first, but the line was still to the door when we got out. I knew if I let Elizabeth into the play area no lunch would be eaten. So we braved the line, I simplified our order (a 10 piece chicken nugget meal turned out to be just right for the 3 of us), and getting our Sprite right away saved the day. Elizabeth took it right over to the nearest table and settled in.
Once lunch was eaten, we headed over to the play area. One 4 year old girl and her mom. Perfect! Someone to play with, but not crowded. We had a very enjoyable time and even left with minimal negotiations.

At this point I knew I was really pushing my luck. But we headed to Wal-mart and I treated myself to the clearance fabric tables. I take after my mom and already have way too much fabric from my teaching days, but just can't help but lust after more, especially if it's just $1-2/yard!

We almost didn't make it out of there, and I mean that literally. James left a worried voicemail on my phone when he got home early and we weren't there, asking if I needed him to drive out to wherever we were and help. In June Elizabeth had a meltdown at the mall near the Dallas Temple and I couldn't get her out to the van forever and James caught a ride with a friend he'd run into there! Just a couple of weeks ago Grandma Blair had to use all her strength to carry an hysterical (extremely overtired) Elizabeth out of Wal-Mart.

Thankfully I saw the signs and we made it to the checkout before she snapped. She actually climbed back into the cart so I was able to hurry. I looked down while loading our purchases onto the belt and saw this.

Even the bumpy ride out to the van didn't phase her, nor unloading.

Transferring her to the van did wake her up but I was ready with a juice box and mini cookies that managed to calm her down. Amelia soaked herself in apple juice and slept the whole way home. Overall, a good day.