Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2011 in Review - Mass Chaos in a Blog Post

Rats! It's 2012 and I'm still not done recapping 2011!!! That's okay though because I still contributed far more posts to this thing in 2011 than I did the previous year. Sometimes we have to measure progress in inches and not in yards. Why do we not use the metric system here in the states? It just seems silly. The math alone is so much easier. Anyway, this will have to just be a huge mass recap that will take us to December:

1) Jen and Adam do massive amount of yard work. Our back yard is fenced and it was landscaped with shrubs, mulch, and cement curbing along the fence line, and around the house. Unfortunately, the previous owners did not take care of it and we needed to replace everything. After we got Hero we decided we wanted more room for her to run and a little space for a container garden. It took all summer to get the landscaping cleared out and leveled for the sod we put in. I unfortunately don't have any pictures of the final product, but we're not done anyway. It's maybe a little hard to see, but the below pics show all of the ripped out landscaping:

This was all of the cement curbing we ripped out before it was hauled away:

It's still very much a work in progress. My goals this year are to stain the fence, add the garden, flowers, plant a tree or two, make sure Hero doesn't ruin the lawn, and possibly extend and stain the patio because, you know, dream big.

2) We said goodbye to Amelia. Amelia was the silver Saturn I bought when I was fresh out of college in 2002. I was so proud of her and also clearly still in my car naming stage. We had some good times and poignant moments together she and I. However, Adam and I knew that we would need to replace her sometime in the next few years and why not do it now when we still have two incomes? We replaced her with fun, zippy little Subaru Forester and we love it! Sorry Amelia, but I feel better knowing you're with someone who will still appreciate all of your good points.

3) I got bangs! My hair's so now! (What movie is that from? 10 points) They probably won't last long, but it was a fun little change for a while and thus noteworthy.

4) Adam and I went on a Thanksgiving cruise with his family. We left on a Saturday and came back the Sunday after Thanksgiving. It was just lovely, lovely, lovely. Jenny and Ben took much better pictures than what I took below with my iPhone, but at least it conveys the major parts of our wonderful trip!

Don't you love Adam's below outfit? It's kind of like a mullet. Business casual-like polo shirt on top and an athletic event down below. Please be aware he doesn't dress this way in public. Anyway, all of our cabins were next to one another and we had them open up the balcony partitions so it was like having a nice, private common area for the family. I loved just sitting and reading on our balcony! The downside was the chain smokers who were in the room right next to ours.

Here's a beach shot from Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas. I love beaches, but I have a little bit of a shark phobia. Seriously, I've told friends not to swim too far out before. At this beach, though, the water was so clear, I had not a care in the world. The sand was like baby powder and it was so great to lay in the sun and swim! Adam and I rented a paddle boat and went all around the little bay area we were in.

Who's this handsome sandwich getting ready for a day at the beach?!

Oh, look! Another beach! Next stop was Grand Cayman. Adam and I were beach fiends this trip. We just hung out at Seven Mile Beach and did a little shopping right before we got back on the ship. This beach was lovely, but I swear I've been to prettier ones at this same port on previous cruises.

I bought a hat in Grand Cayman to protect my aging skin. This is right before it flew off my head and I made a nice spectacle chasing it. Yep, still got it.

I think my favorite port and shore excursion was in Mexico. Adam's parents booked us a private tour of the Mayan ruins at Koba and Tulum with LDS tour guides. They are a husband and wife team and run a company called Alma's LDS Tours (wife's name is Alma). They were so great - very knowledgeable and they set up a fabulous lunch for us and arranged everything with the tours. It was awesome! The below pic of Alma and Miguel is actually our second stop at the Koba ruins. The site is huge and so spread out that you ride bikes to see all of the ruins. I loved it!

There were several towers/pyramid type structures with steps going up to the top that you can climb. We climbed the tallest one. At first it seemed like no big deal, then I got about a quarter of the way up, looked down, realized I was climbing up something with only a rope in the middle to hold on to and the fear set in. I looked at Adam and declared my intention of going no further. Why tempt fate? Then I saw all these other people, many of them older than I was and possibly less graceful (is that possible?) and I decided to give it another try. I made it to the top and it was kind of a defining moment for me. Seriously. Here's what it looked like looking down from the top.

A triumphant Jen. One of my favorite kinds of Jens.

Adam, annoyed that I'm taking this photo, smiles halfheartedly. He's at the base of what we climbed.

Here are some pics from Tulum. It's also pretty neat and right next to the ocean. I'd been here before when Lis and I went on a cruise so it was fun to see it again.

More Tulum.

Our stop before Mexico was Roatan, Honduras. If you enjoy going to a place that has been entirely created by the cruise lines, and is crowded with just more of the shops you've seen at every part, this is your spot. It may have been the rain that poured on us. It may have been the fact that Amber lost her hat in the water when we were on the sky coaster thing. I'm not sure.

Heading to the beach at Roatan, just before the rains came.

Once we got back to Fort Lauderdale, we had one more excursion planned before our plane left. We went to the Everglades and did the air boat ride thing and communed with the alligators. This was one that wandered over to the wild life preserve. Up close and personal.

Et voila! This is 2011 up to December. I may not have it in me to talk about December.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 in Review Part 4 - A Week Apart in California and a Tribute

The above photo has absolutely nothing to do with Adam being in San Francisco for a week in June while I was in Newport Beach, but he didn't take any photos while in San Francisco, not being a photo taking kind of guy so I thought this would be a good substitute. Pretty freaking cute, right? I mean, if he had attended my elementary school instead of somewhere in a suburb of Cincinnati, I never would have lost my heart to Peter F in the fifth grade. Adam would have had me from the start. So what was Adam doing in San Francisco? And why was I in Newport Beach? I'll tell you! Adam was sent there for work to attend WWDC, which is the big Apple conference in San Francisco. You know, the one where Steve Jobs (may he rest) would wear his black turtle neck and unveil new Apple products? That's the one. Anyway, this trip coincided with the beginning of my slow time at work where it really is imperative for me to take time off to preserve my mental stability. I thought about tagging along, but since he was going with another co-worker and would be in workshops all day long, not being the type that really likes to wander around unknown cities alone, I really wasn't sure what I would do with myself. I could go visit my parents, but didn't really want to fly alone and was only looking to be gone for about 4 days. So I called Lis.

Anyone who has spent a reasonable amount of time with me since 1997, knows that one of my best friends in the whole wide world is a girl named Lis (pronounced Liz). I met her the same day I moved into my dorm at BYU on a hot day in August 1997. I had just said a tearful goodbye to my brother and parents, my roommate was no where in site (she wouldn't show up for another week), and I was trying to distract myself by hanging up pictures on my bulletin board, when this cute girl with short blond hair poked her head into my room. Our conversation went something like this:

"Um, hi, I was asked by the RA to let everyone know we're having a floor meeting in a few minutes."
"Oh, okay. Thanks!"
"You're listening to Barenaked Ladies! I love them!"
"Really? Me, too! I've seen them like four times in concert!"
"That's awesome! Well, I'll see you around!"

She left and I remember thinking, "I'm going to be friends with that girl." I need to point out something before I go on. In 1997, few people outside of the Northeast knew about Barenaked Ladies and it was long before they released their lame mainstream albums like Stunt. They were considered cool were I came from. I just want to reiterate that this is before they were cheesy. We became fast friends after that. Lis is the coolest. She's unflappable and confident. She's kind and upbeat. She's smart and cultured. She's introduced me to Jane Austen, countless TV shows, and various fashion trends. She's influenced my political and world views. She's seen me at my best and worst. Here's a photo of us in our junior year with all of our other BFFs at the time. We're both wearing stripes:

Here we are (with our one of our other BFFs, the lovely Kimberly Neves) in 2001 when we graduated.

This was taken in 2004 (ish?) with the rest of our roommates in the huge house in Holladay we lived in. Lis and I were roommates in four different houses in Salt Lake before I got married. Yes, in this house there were nine of us. Yes, it was crazy.

So there's a brief photo time line. I have much better photos for such a topic, but these are the ones I had readily available in my computer. There are other friends I've been fortunate to meet whom I love oh so dearly, but no one else has been as much a part of my life for so long as Lis. Adam was just reading over my shoulder and says I've gotten way off topic, but it's an important thing for this blog to take note of. Some people don't have a "Lis." But I do and will be forever grateful for that.

So to make a long story short, Adam was going to San Francisco and I needed something to do. I called Lis, who teaches and was off for the summer, and we made our plans. We found a good deal on flights to Orange County. There was a vacation package with what looked like a nice hotel just down the road from Newport Beach and off we went. The flights went smoothly, the hotel was nice (aside from the mile walk to the parking lot), the women in Newport reasonably matched their stereotypes on TV, the sister missionaries could be seen walking around, and we got in some nice beach time in perfect weather. Almost too perfect. In spite of putting on SPF 55 sun screen, I got a sun burn of legendary proportions the first day. That kind of put a damper on my visions of sun bathing the entire time and it was a good thing we had buddy passes to Disneyland to pass the time. These are terrible pictures of us, but life's like that sometimes:

Walking down main street.

Sleeping Beauty's Castle. This was my first time in Disneyland. I've been to Disney World about 4 times, but not since I was 9. I think that Cinderella's castle is the prettier of the two, but Sleeping Beauty was always my favorite Disney cartoon so this was a big moment for me.

A nice photo of one of the beaches we stopped at. On our downtime, we watched episodes of Parks and Recreation and I read Bossy Pants by Tina Fey, a perfect vacation read.

So that was our week at opposite ends of California. I did really miss Adam. He had a fun-ish time on his business trip but it was nice to get back. It was also nice to get back to Hero, who decided to catch pneumonia while we were gone. Apparently dogs can get pneumonia and Hero would, of course, be the dog to get it. Something I didn't mention before is that Hero is rather prone to illness and accidents. She's like Beth from Little Women or Tiny Tim. Hopefully she grows out of this...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

2011 in Review Part 3 - House Guests

So - another big event for the Zundel Ard's was visiting of my mom, sister and two of her boys, and my brother and his family in March. I can only hope that it was as nice for them to visit as it was for us to have them there. It was a varied lot with many different agendas and opinions of how time would be best spent (particularly when catering to two three-year old little boys and one 15-month old), but we managed to get the important things done: 1) Lots of good natured ribbing around the dinner table; 2) Wende's birthday lunch; 3) An eventful shopping trip to Ikea and the Sundance Outlet - Tianna is very good at helping out when someone has a seizure in the store; 4) Surviving toddler melt downs at Cafe Paesan; 5) Family Meeting up at Grandma's house; 6) Saving Hero from Connor and Connor from Hero (when he was eating Goldfish crackers).

Of course I took few pictures. In fact, there were only two worth showing:

Connor and Liam aka the Puppet Master and the Future Rescue/Construction Worker

I really think Connor needs his own reality TV show. I would watch it. This kid has charisma as evidenced by the below musical number. Sorry for my loud cheering at the end. It's what aunts do. I really liked how he would lay back on the couch at different points during the song as though he was actually looking at the stars. Nice.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

2011 in Review Part 2 - Hero

Oh, my. Two days in a row? Yeah, that's right - I am committed to my review of 2011. Today I get to blog about one of my favorite things or rather creatures....animals....canines....dogs I own:


Boy do we love this dog of ours. One of my first posts of this year rather sheepishly announced that we bought a yellow lab puppy in November 2010. Two weeks into that decision, I was wishing we hadn't. More than a year later, I miss her when we go on vacations, smile whenever I see her, and spoil her to an absurd degree. Replacement child? Possibly, but I don't care. Adam did ask me the other day how old she would need to get before I stopped calling her "Baby Girl." (I don't think he's a fan of that nickname) I told him probably never. I can't help it. We are possibly the worst dog owners ever - at least I'm pretty sure that's what my parents think. We do everything you're not supposed to do. We let her lead the way on walks, sleep on our bed, and we feed her people food. Not all the time, mind you, and only healthy stuff like fruits and vegetables, but yeah. Please set your judgment aside. She's happy and we're happy. That's what matters right?

When we went to NY to celebrate Christmas with my family last year, we boarded her at this place where they socialize the dogs and let them play together during the day. Hero loved it. She loves other dogs. When we take her on walks and she sees other dogs, she wags her tail and cries because she wants to play with them so badly. Because of our full-time work schedules, we decided it was only fair to start taking her to a dog day care place. Yes, we're those people. It's embarrassing, but I'm mostly over it. Maybe I already mentioned this? Anyway, since February, 3-4 days during the week, Adam drops her off before work and I pick her up after work from this place in South Salt Lake. It's great - she plays all day and then Adam and I don't feel so guilty and don't have to spend hours playing with her when we get home because she's been couped up inside all day. It's not a permanent solution, but while we both work 40 plus hours a week, it relieves a lot of stress and she loves that place. As soon as Adam gets ready to go in the morning, she's bouncing around and jumping on him to make sure he doesn't leave her behind. She has been known to whimper if we're not fast enough getting her out of the car to go inside. Here are some other things about Hero:

1) She's a great source of exercise. This dog will play keep away with you as long as you have the stamina. She's relatively good at hide and seek. She loves her walks around the neighborhood and going over to Adam's parents' house to play in their huge backyard.

2) She's obsessed with socks - she knows exactly where to get them. In a laundry basketful of whites, she can separate the socks from the rest of the clothes and unmentionables with surprising ease. She mainly uses them as a way to get attention and play keep away.

3) She loves peanut butter and will do pretty much anything for a treat - not so unusual, really.

4) She's a cuddler. Her preferred relaxing position is anything where she can be touching me or Adam. This is not so great at 5 in the morning when suddenly I feel dead weight on my legs or her head dropping on my stomach, but at least she's courteous enough to wait until 5.

5) She's afraid of anything with a motor sound. The vacuum cleaner and the lawn mower in particular.

6) She needs more training. I really do intend to work on that. But she doesn't have an aggressive bone in her body, according to a trainer we were using for awhile. Adam and I just have problems being consistent - it's good we've realized this now.

7) She loathes baths and getting her nails clipped. Adam has to sit in the tub with her while I pour water on her and he lathers her up. This is all done with a pathetically beaten look on her face.

So that's that. Some people will not understand all of this affection for a rather troublesome collection of fur. And that's okay. You can skip the below visual chronology of her life so far below. Forgive my grainy iPhone pics!

This is from February 2011. The halo in the picture is inadvertent yet miraculous

This is one exhausted puppy after one of her first days at day care

Vanity is unfortunately one of her failings

She joined me once for my evening prayers. This is legit - I really was praying and she jumped up beside me resulting in Adam taking the picture. If only my pajamas were more stylish!

Payback on Adam. I told you - she really will sleep anywhere as long as she can be touching someone

This was taken last Saturday. She is also afraid of the Christmas tree and needed some reassurance when we were putting it up.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

2011 in Review Part 1

So begins my epic summary of 2011. Epic primarily because I haven’t done a blog post since February. I could just give up on this whole blog thing. I mean, obviously I’m bad at it, but I really do like keeping some sort of a record since my journal writing tendencies are also completely abysmal. So here we go!

Instead of going chronologically, I’m going to summarize the year based upon events. Sadly, the dominant theme for the Adam Ards’ this year is failed attempts to hear the pitter patter of little feet. Or is it? Yes and no. I personally think the dominant theme for 2011 is better reflected in resilience, scrappiness, hope springing eternal, etc. In a nutshell though, Adam and I tried two rounds of IVF this year. Once in January/February and again in July/August. The first round resulted in a miscarriage. The second round resulted in two ectopic pregnancies and two surgeries within a week of each other. No risk that they’ll forget who we are at the fertility clinic! I have started dozens of posts, some only in my mind, about what has happened. I know that I’m under no obligation to touch on the subject at all, but it wouldn’t feel like this blog is about our family, currently consisting of Adam and I, if I didn’t. These experiences have been heartbreaking and significant. They have changed us permanently and therefore deserve to be acknowledged.

The IVF process is a draining one, particularly when you do a second round within a few months of doing the first round. You start with birth control pills to essentially shut down your body from doing its own thing. Next come the injections. The first time we did the standard thing: one injection in the abdomen for about a week or so, then add two more also in the abdomen for at least another week. Then come the daily ultrasounds to check your progress. Once, you’re ready, there’s the egg retrieval and the beginning of the daily progesterone shots in the back side. Don’t be fooled, those progesterone shots are by far the worst part. You recover from the egg retrieval after a few days and in the meantime get a phone call from the lab telling how many eggs they were able to fertilize and when they want you to come into to transfer then back into your hopefully hospitable womb. Oh yeah, and your husband has to provide a sample and take some antibiotics, too – they really like to make sure everyone feels involved. That’s a very general overview of the process.

The first time around, I reacted very strongly to the drugs and they had to retrieve on the earliest day possible to avoid hyper-stimulation in my ovaries. They were able to retrieve about 28 and of those about 19 were mature enough to be fertilized. Out of the 19 or so fertilized, there were about 6-7 that survived and of those only 3 were really considered good enough to transfer. They transferred two and we opted not to freeze the other one that survived since there was only one. The miscarriage occurred on March 31st. We were told that there was no specific reason it happened and therefore there was no reason to not try again when we were ready.

The second time around, in light of my first response, they elected to change up the injections and triggers typically used to get me to the egg retrieval. It seemed to work fairly well because they didn’t have to retrieve quite as early and we were hoping the quality of embryos would be better. Bizarrely, only two embryos survived this time, but they didn’t just survive – they were considered stellar qualify embryos so we transferred them with high hopes on my birthday at the end of August and well, you already know the rest. We found out about the first ectopic on September 16th and I was finally able to get back to work, resuming my normal life without the prospect of children on October 3rd.

So, as you can see, this took up a large chunk of the year. So much so that I can hardly believe it’s December. But it is. It’s funny because even now I experience such a multitude of different reactions when I think about everything that has happened. There’s the hand-wringing, teary eyed Jen who wants to sink to her knees with her face to the sky screaming “why did this happen!?” Seriously, why? That’s the weak Jen that now is only acknowledged during moments of extreme fatigue when the other Jens are off their game. There’s the Jen who shrugs her shoulders and says, “it is what it is and I can’t change it so I must accept it.” This Jen almost feels like laughing when she thinks about it because seriously, have you even heard of such bad luck? Then she secretly worries if there’s something wrong with her for wanting to laugh. There’s also the Jen who somehow knows that this is going to be okay. She has no idea how things will work out, but she knows that God is aware of her and her struggles and will be with her. I was told that in a priesthood blessing during the pain-filled night before the first surgery. For the most part, I’ve never doubted that and have had countless other experiences since then to reaffirm this simple, but precious fact. That’s where the peace comes in and where hope springs eternal.

So there you have it – this has been a big part of our year. I really do feel like we haven’t been beaten. We don’t know why this has happened, but we have grown closer together as a result of it and we know that we’re meant to raise children. We’ve just got to figure out what to do next. We’ve had very positive visits with our doctor. The thing we’ve learned through all of this is that I can get pregnant. A lot of people with fertility issues can’t, even after multiple IVF cycles. Although we’ve been very unfortunate in the outcome, it’s a promising thing that I’ve had two positive pregnancies as a result. Based on what they know about me and Adam’s tests, our doctor is very optimistic. We’re also considering adoption so……we’ll see.

We’re so grateful for family members and friends and neighbors who have reached out and shown us so much love and support. My co-workers have been positively angelic. One friend gave me a list of over 200 hundred names of people who fasted for me one Sunday. Adam and I got spoiled by our neighbors and by my mom when she came to help out. You have all been the major blessings in our lives this year.

Stay tuned for some other moments in 2011 that will, I promise, be a little less heavy than this fun guy. Fungi?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Game on, Wende

My dad told me the other day that I'm not longer the favorite because Wende has more recently updated her blog. Game on. This will be a less exciting, pictureless post. I'm going to talk about work. Yep, work.

I kicked butt at work today. In January, I felt like I was losing some ground. I was upset about a decision made that affected the work I was doing. I was already emotional that day for unknown reasons and I went into the bathroom and cried. I couldn't help it. I hate crying at work. I want people to think I'm tough. I've cried at my current job at least 4, maybe 5 times in 4, almost 5 years. That's not bad, right? Usually I can get away with it and no one knows. One time, I even crawled under my desk and stayed there until I was composed. To be fair, my grandma had just died, I was dealing with a particularly obnoxious co-worker over the phone, and my desk was much more out in the open than my current cubicle so what choice did I have? Okay, I'm digressing again. So, the point is, usually no one knows about it, but this time I got caught by my manager who was very graceful about it and legitimately felt bad about the situation. He did lose some points though when he told our director. Since then, I felt like I had lost some ground in some way. But last week, I took the initiative to do something major for the weekly meeting I run and it totally paid off. I would go into more details, but it's boring and I'm already bored with this topic. But still.......I kicked COB butt today. That's all you need to know.

So that brings me to something else. The obnoxious co-worker who made me cry after my grandma died (to be fair, she didn't know about my grandma)? She's actually responsible for at least one other Jen crying moment. Guys, I'm not a wimp, really! I'm not going to get into it, but you would cry too if it happened to you. (Ha!) Well, anyway, we eventually came to a sort of mutual, if slightly grudging, respect for one another and we work well together and I don't think she'll ever bring me to tears again. Here's the thing though: I recently found out that we are distantly related! What the what?! You just never know who you're related to. I think she was a little thrown by that news too. Here's the other thing: I recently lost one of my earrings at work and they were my favorites and she was nice enough to help me look all over my cubicle, in the bathroom, and down the halls. She even used a flashlight and a yard stick and all I was using were my eyes. I don't think she was doing that because she knows we're distantly related. I think she was doing it because she is a really nice person after all and it just took me awhile to realize it. Food for thought.

Okay, now, I'm going to blog about the day last fall when people kept saying mildly offensive things to me all day, but didn't realize they were doing it. It was seriously a strange day.
The first instance: I was going to lunch with the people in my section at work and was talking to this one guy about politics. Normally I avoid that topic at work because well, sometimes it's best. However, he started talking about the current political climate and I made an argument for how things are far too partisan nowadays and how politicians need to overcome party politics, etc. Then he proceeded to tell me that he had that same opinion before he really started studying the issues and getting informed. Huh.
The second instance: I was putting books together for my weekly Wednesday meeting. It's tedious work and involves putting copies in binders, etc. This older guy who works on the other side of the floor in a different division came over and said, "well they finally found something you're good at." What? You mean filling binders? I really think he was trying to be funny/make conversation since he really has absolutely no idea what I do, but well.....
The third instance: Shoot! I forgot the third instance exactly, but involved one of my good friends at work implying that I was never on-time. This post is unraveling. There were seriously one or two more instances all in this one fateful fall day. It really was funny and no, I didn't cry.

Okay, so here's the thing. There's a lot of negative in this post about work. I didn't mean for it to be negative, I was just thinking about things at work that I've found humor in recently. I really can't think of a more rewarding place to be. I feel like I work for an organization that truly changes lives for the better. I have witnessed small, but real miracles and I wish I could talk about that more, but I probably better not on a blog. Plus, I get to eat lunch outside in the spring and enjoy tulip time in the plaza. Does it get any better than that?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

One more thing....

How could I forget the fact that my visiting teacher, who was the now non-existent activities committee chair, drafted Adam to be Santa Clause at the ward Christmas party!? Oh, I think that's one of my favorite memories of last year. He told me later that he would've have paid someone $100 to take his place, but he was a good sport about it. We didn't bring any stuffing for the Santa suit so we ended up using a little kid's coat - not the best for a regular tummy shape. Also, anyone who is in charge of such things should know that Santa suits need to be dry cleaned every year. Adam said the suit smelled pretty bad when he put it on. No wonder some children cry when they have to sit on Santa's lap...

Last but not least, I had to include this video of Wende's boys over Christmas. It's not the best quality since I used my phone, but these boys have the comic stylings of the three stooges and they begged me to do videos for the last 3-4 days of my trip.