Monday, August 16, 2010

Adventures in Primary

Do you remember that movie "Adventures in Babysitting"? I used to think that movie was so funny.

Anyways... Mark and I have loved teaching Primary for the past year or so. We are currently teaching the CTR 4 class (i.e. kids ages 4 turning 5 during the year). Yesterday, we were in the Junior Primary Sharing Time listening to some really neat presentations. They had members from the ward dress up with shawls and tell us stories as though they were people from the Bible who had witnessed miracles performed by Jesus Christ. A really great lesson that seemed to be going over well with the kids, based on the unusual quiet in the room. One woman ("Martha")stood up and told us about how her brother Lazarus was raised from the dead (see John 11-12). She very vividly described how Lazarus then walked out of the tomb/sepulchre, still wrapped in his burial clothes and with something still covering his face. I started thinking about how scary that really could have been.

Suddenly, from the back of the room, we heard... "was he a zombie?"

Oh my. I love my calling. Good question kid. I'm glad we got that straightened out.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Favorite Books of the Year (and probably longer)

I love reading. I always have. I remember watching my mom read all the time. She loves reading to relax. She prefers the mystery novels, a la Mary Higgens Clark. I learned from her the wonders of diving into a good book and losing yourself in another world. Or just forgetting what's going on around you and relaxing for a few hours. Both of my parents encouraged us to read often. Going to the library was always a trip, starting with trying to collect all the books we had to return. The books were loaded into our square laundry basket. Yes, you heard me correctly. Who borrows just one or two books from the library? We would stack them high in our laundry basket. Probably around 20 or 30 for all of us. I loved searching the shelves for new books to read. I have fond memories of Sweet Valley Twins (and High), R.L. Stein, Babysitters Club. All the classics. I felt so grown up when I would occasionally need a book from the regular library (i.e. not the juvenile section) and I had to walk up the stairs to the mass of books waiting. Some reading experiences will never be forgotten. I have a very vivid memory of reading in my bed while eating the chocolate peanut butter Girl Scout cookies, whatever those are called. I even remember the vague plot of the book I was reading... something about fairies and another world or dimension or something. I remember crying as I read the chapter where Dumbledore dies in Harry Potter #6. I was lying on my bed at Campus Plaza, unable to put the book down, while my friends were hurrying me from the front room so we could go somewhere. I had to find out what happened. I also remember forcing the five youngest in my family to sit down and let me read them Harry Potter, despite their protests. I knew they would love it. Another thing you should probably know about me... I don't know how people can read and actually enjoy non-fiction. I need some adventure and excitement and drama. Some magic. I read for pleasure.

Okay, enough reminiscing. I wanted to let you all know my absolute and utter favorite books that I read this past year. For more details on my book list, you can join and become my friend. I am in love with that website now. In no particular order, here are the top three best books I have read this past year:
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (and I really should include the two other books in the trilogy... all very good!)

I absolutely loved this book. I haven't been this pulled into a fantasy series since Harry Potter. I mean, I know I loved Twilight, but honestly this writing and J.K. Rowling's writing is just on another level. The storyline and the characters in this series are so well-written. Definitely not for young teenagers due to the violent nature of the books (good luck making these into PG-13 movies!). I had heard about these books before, but didn't know what the fuss was all about. Let me tell you, the fuss is all real and all worth it. Although in retrospect, I was glad I ended up reading them just a few months before the last book was released. I went crazy having to wait even that long. Also, this was a series that Mark and I read together and he loved them as much as I did! Another reason I know how much these books affected me... I cried while reading them out loud to Mark. It's a little more embarrassing to cry in front of someone instead of just in the comfort of my own reading session. But it happened during both of the first two books for me.
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

This book is seriously adorable. I read this the longest ago so it's hard to remember all the specific feelings, but I loved this book. I loved the way it was written, just as letters written between different people. I cared so deeply for the characters and what was happening to them during this difficult time (post WWII England). A must read.
  • The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

Oh my gosh I love this book. The storyline, the characters, the writing- it is all magnificent. It is set during WWII in Germany, which can be a very difficult subject but one that can be very important as well. I think that the voice of the narrator for this book is absolute genius. The book is told from the perspective of Death. Not the Death we think of who looks like the grim reaper. It's a Death who simply has a job to do. Who doesn't revel in the unpleasantness going on around him. A Death who is sympathetic to those who are suffering. It's very poignantly told. The way it was written did take a little bit of getting used to, but I ended up loving it. It was also odd to me how I could still be so emotionally invested in certain events, even when the Death narrator had already told us what would happen. It seemed like that would be spoiling the ending, but oh gosh that was not the case. I was glad that I was reading the end of this book in the privacy of our room with the door shut. I love my husband, but I was hoping he wouldn't come in to interrupt. I was so involved in the ending. I believe I sobbed for the last 30-50 pages or so. Literally sobbing. Not just tearing up. I had to work to control myself so Mark wouldn't hear my sobs and come in and interrupt. I needed to be involved in the story and the characters.

The Fourth with the Family

Mark and I traveled home to Yorba Linda for the weekend of the Fourth of July to hang out with our Abbott family. We had so much fun spending time with everybody and celebrating. We watched the fireworks at Greg and Devon's house again. It's always especially fun to see our little nephews and nieces. Baby Ben had gotten so much bigger than before. We were also glad to be present for baby Stevie's second birthday party. We have the cutest families!

Papa and Stevie were being so cute together, laughing and giggling!

Birthday Boy Bash

After getting the house cleaned up, we were able to finally celebrate Mark's birthday!! I love Mark. He is my best friend in the world and I am always thrilled to spend time with him. For his birthday, Mark and I decided to finally check out the Santa Cruz Mystery Spot. We went the day before his birthday because his birthday landed on a Sunday this year. The Mystery Spot is located up in the Santa Cruz mountains. Apparently it's a place where secret mysterious things happen due to some crazy natural phenomenons that scientists aren't able to explain. We had lots of fun and the area was absolutely beautiful.

The Mystery Spot has some weird gravitational things going on. When our tour guide put down the pictured board on a certain spot, one side appeared to be higher. Then, when he put a pool ball on the board, it actually started moving what appeared to be upwards. So apparently it was actually downwards because the gravity was pulling it that way. He even used my chapstick to prove that it wasn't just their weird ball. Really weird.

Mark posed outside the house that fell down the side of the hill after being firmly constructed, just to stop at this spot. They believe it stopped here because this area must be the center of the weirdness. Our tour guide told us one theory of why the area has weird gravitational pulls may be due to magma under the earth's surface.

Mark standing up straight on the table in the house. When you stand up straight, you actually appear to be leaning super far over.

Can you tell what way the gravitational pull is?

Heather posing in the house doorway.

Chilling in the Santa Cruz mountains after our amazing tour.

The next morning was officially Mark's birthday, and here's his official first birthday picture!

Opening presents later that day.

I made lemonade pie instead of cake because that's what Mark likes. Unfortunately, I couldn't find our candles, so I just used the only candle we had. Happy Birthday Handsome!!!

Our Very Own Gift of the Magi

I love marriage. I love those little moments when you realize how blessed your life is and how amazing everything is when you get to spend forever with your best friend. Just such a moment happened the Friday before Mark's birthday. I wanted Mark's birthday to be fun and relaxing for him. I also knew that our house desperately needed to be cleaned. As probably most of you can attest, cleaning the house becomes a weekend chore when everyone is busy with work and school. And let's just say that we hadn't cleaned for at least two weeks before this... sad to admit. When I got home from work on Friday, I had a few more hours before Mark would be back from his afternoon class. I put things into high gear and went crazy on the house, trying to get everything taken care of before Mark got back so we could just relax and play over the weekend. I swept up the kitchen and felt a little surprised that I swept up only so much grossness. I had thought it would be worse. Awesome, maybe we aren't so messy after all. Feeling better about ourselves, I continued mopping and dusting and cleaning counters and all that jazz. Then I vacuumed, sure that I would pull up an enormous amount of more grossness. To my surprise, it actually turned out to be a fairly light vacuuming day. So weird and so awesome. I quickly put the house back together and eagerly awaited Mark's return. When he came home, I was so excited to show him what I had done for him (never having been good at keeping presents or nice things secret). I told him everything that I had done, to which he just gave me a small smile and said "so you really swept and vacuumed today?" Being a bit surprised by this response, I was quick to answer in the affirmative. At that point, Mark told me that he had already swept, mopped, and vacuumed the apartment earlier that morning before his class. Even right before his birthday! I'm so grateful for him! We both ended up laughing when we realized how "gift of the Magi" that moment was.

While I think this story is sweet, I do realize how sad the state of our apartment must have been to still have things to vacuum and sweep up twice in one day. Vaguely depressing. It usually isn't that bad though, I promise!

Basketball Date

I recently found a website ( that talks about planning dates and keeping the romance alive. It's so stinkin' cute. It's given me a few ideas for future dates and gotten the wheels turning. During the NBA playoffs, with Laker madness going on, I was again reminded of how much my husband loves basketball. After thinking about it, I decided I could put together a fun basketball themed date. I decided to plan the date for the weekend before the Lakers game 6 and 7 (not gonna lie... I wanted to make sure there wouldn't be any sad basketball feelings if the Lakers did end up losing... but that wasn't a problem anyways!)

That Saturday, Mark was gone during the morning taking a few hour long test for his MBA program. I knew he wouldn't be having the best Saturday morning ever and it gave me enough time to get everything planned and ready for him. So it was the perfect day for a fun date!

First of all I downloaded some jock jam songs to play during the date and get us in the competitive, fun mood. I ran a few errands and then got to work on my invitation. That's one thing that I think is really cute about my new website... they typically make cute invites for their dates. Just another thing to get excited about. So I made a basketball ticket (see picture below) for our ESPN (i.e. Extra Special Private Night) Basketball Date with his name and the time. I left the ticket taped to the doorknob so he would find it when he got home. I also made a schedule based on an actual basketball game and then titled each one with ESPN shows. Hehe, I know, too cute. I left the schedule with instructions to "get in his basketball gear and get ready to rumble" on a pile of his basketball clothes. When the time came for the date to start, we both got into our basketball clothes, turned on the jock jams, and started on the schedule... I'll add some details below on what we did for each part.

Pre Game (i.e. NBA Countdown): I had looked up some Lakers trivia to ask Mark.
First Quarter (i.e. NBA Shoutaround): A round of horse with our nerf basketball set.
Second Quarter (i.e. Saturday Primetime): Mark and I took our basketball game outside to the streets! We went to a park nearby to play some real basketball. I had brought some Gatorades to drink, which turned out really helpful because it was so warm. We shot around and warmed up and then played a real game. Mark totally won everything we played. He's so good at basketball and I'm... not quite as good. It's okay, we each have our own strengths. I also brought our camera with us to the courts so we could take pictures for our own "playing cards." Here's some of our pictures...

Halftime (i.e. NBA Coast to Coast): On our way home we picked up some pizzas for dinner.
Third Quarter (i.e. Outside the Lines):
We looked up the video "Dazzling Dunks and Basketball Bloopers" on youtube. Mark had grown up watching this funny movie and I've definitely heard it talked about often in the Abbott household.
Time out (i.e. Pardon the Interruption): We gotta shower sometime. We actually ended up doing this before we watched the movie, but this was the originally planned order.
Fourth Quarter (i.e. Midnight Madness): no comment :) I love marriage!
Post Game (i.e. NBA Live: Bring It Home): And then for treats, I thought we got a little sweaty and dirty playing basketball, so why not a "dirty" treat. I found this recipe somewhere and Mark absolutely loves sour gummy worms, so I had to try it. It's simply instant chocolate pudding layered with crunched up Oreo cookies, topped with some gummy worms. So yummy! We ate our treats while watching a movie, because everything actually went much faster than I had originally planned and I started the date super early. The only movie that we own with a slight basketball twist is "Three Ninjas." Remember that part where Rocky and Colt play basketball with the bullies for Emily's bike? Yep, I sure do. How they spot the bullies 9 points out of the 10 required and then beat them hands down. Awesome. "Rocky loves Emily."

This date was fun to plan and sooo super fun to spend time with Mark!! I'm definitely going to plan some more fun dates in the future!

June Family Extravaganzas 2010

Once again, we had a lot of family time during June, so I'll give some brief info and mostly just let the pictures do the talking.

Early in June we were able to travel down to Yorba Linda for baby Katelyn's blessing. It was so neat because all of the Abbotts except Randy and Sandy and clan were able to be there. We love getting to see our family on such a regular basis and seeing our nephews and nieces grow up.

Later that month, Heidi and Seth came to visit us! We felt so lucky to have them visit, especially because they had flown into LA, rented a car, and driven up to spend only two nights with us just to drive right back to LA. We were so grateful that they made the huge effort and enjoyed hanging out with them. They are such fun people! On their one full day in the area, we went to San Francisco and saw the sights.

Half Marathon Madness

So sometime last year I decided to make the crazy goal of running a half marathon. Actually, I know exactly when I made that fateful decision... after watching the Biggest Loser finalists run a whole marathon. I figured that if they could push themselves and run a full marathon, then I certainly could run a half. Doesn't that make sense? I suppose it would except that at the time I hadn't been running in awhile and that I really dislike running. I quickly realized this, but not before I had already told several people about my goal. You know how they tell you that you should confide your goals in other people? Yeah, it works. Total motivation. No one wants to tell everyone they're running a half marathon and then not come through. So at some point I was stuck. Come heck or high water, I was going to run a half marathon.

To start with, I asked for a pedometer for Christmas. That's the first step after all. I would need to know how many miles I was running. Then I used my birthday money to buy new running shoes, seeing as how the running shoes I was using before those were at least 7 years old. Once those two were purchased and stowed away, I looked up half marathons around the area and decided to run one on Saturday, June 5th. It was going to cost a pretty penny, but it was a goal and you gotta do what you gotta do. Last step... I created a 12 week training schedule by comparing a few template schedules online. Wait, there's another last step... actually start running. Ugh. It did help that I finally figured out how to listen to my iPod while running. For some reason my ears are weird and/or I'm just weird. The ear buds don't stay in my ears if I jostle around. Thankfully I had an awesome sweat band to hold it in place. Bright red with stars on it. Then I finished off my outfit with bright red shorts and a bright orange tank that Mark gave me. Lots of prep work... and then finally comes the actual running.

About halfway through my training program, Mark started running with me occasionally. I asked him if he wanted to run the whole training program and the half marathon with me and he said yes! It was kinda sad how I had to work up to 7 or 8 mile runs and he just joined at that point and it was a piece of cake for him. At some point, we realized that Brett and Becky were blessing their baby Katelyn the weekend we had planned to run the marathon (hehe, I still hadn't paid the money to run in the official race). Almost all the Abbott family were going to be there and we would have felt sad if we couldn't have made it. I thought about it for awhile and I realized that my goal was to run the length of a half marathon at one time, not necessarily to run an official half marathon. Besides, it was going to end up saving us a lot of money. So, because of that, we decided to continue training and then run on June 12th.

However, while we were running on May 22nd, which was going to be our last long Saturday run before the big one, we started our run planning on a 8-10 mile run. About 3 miles in though, I realized that I could either run 10 more miles that day and be done with it, or I could run 13 more miles again. Mark being the stud that he is agreed to my surprising proposal that we just run the whole thing that day. It ended up being crazy hard and probably would have been easier if we had planned on it beforehand. Because we hadn't planned on it, we started later in the day than we would have (i.e. it got pretty warm), we hadn't eaten a ton for breakfast, and we hadn't brought any snacks and/or liquid with us. We ran a 5-mile loop (that did include running from our house to the library and a park with a drinking fountain at least) twice, made a very quick stop at our apartment for some water, soda, and Ghirardelli chocolate (for the sugar), then followed by our favorite 3-mile loop through the neighborhoods by our house. We were so thoroughly exhausted. Those last few miles were terrible. I will admit that we did walk occasionally throughout, every two miles or so. Once during training we ran 7 miles without stopping and it just killed me. After we got home, we got some Gatorade from the 7-11 next door to our apartment and basically just collapsed. My body just felt like it was shutting down on me, while Mark felt pretty sick to his stomach. Eventually I got up enough energy to make us some potsticker snacks and we decided to go out to eat at Outback for a reward later that night. Here's some pictures right after the run...

Some things we went through during our training and run:
  • Shin splints - Heather
  • Sore knee (from a previous injury) - Heather
  • Gross blood blister toes - Mark
Good times, but definitely not to be repeated. I realized that I enjoy small runs (i.e. 3 miles), but long miles are not for me. My poor body just starts shutting down.

May Family Extravaganzas

Seeing as how I'm so far behind and for some reason still believe that someday I can get caught up... I'm going to give very brief explanations and mostly just include the pictures.

We were able to visit with Kevin and Rachael while they were staying in Sacramento at the beginning of the summer. It was so much fun to see them, especially because we got to finally meet our new nephew, baby Ben.

Then we were so glad to have Ashley and Dave come visit us for several days. They are so fun to hang out with and put up with us, even when we were boring and had to work. Thankfully we were able to hang out during the evenings and spent a day in San Francisco. Umm... sorry again about swearing when we were going up that huge hill with complete stop-and-go traffic and cars in front of us were dying and turning around. I got super stressed out. I really usually don't swear!

To finish off our May Extravaganza, we went down to Visalia to visit Brett and Becky and kids, and to meet our new niece, Katelyn! We always have such fun hanging out with their family. Their kids are so cute and baby Katelyn is no exception!