Monday, June 11, 2018

Moving to Seattle

Yes, it's official. The Kobersteins are pulling up stakes and moving out of state!

 I will be leaving Google Mountain View and heading to the Seattle office to work for Cloud Billing. Danielle has been looking at houses for what seems like the past 4 years straight. In the end we decided to try our luck in a new state. It was a joint decision with the family to make the move out of the area to somewhere it might be a little easier to raise our 4 kids. While I am very excited for the change I am also very sad to be leaving behind my childhood home here in the Bay Area. I will miss frequent visits from Mom and Dad Koberstein and Severson and our various siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, and friends in the area. You will all be missed!

 It has been a hard decision to move. We ended up choosing Seattle because we are able to find a place there that meets everything that we wanted. We really did try to find a way to stay in California. Everything we looked at in the Bay Area area required us to compromise something important to us. Long commute, worse schools, or tiny run down house. We chose an area in Redmond, WA that has all the good things we were looking for: schools like Danville, a commute like Palo Alto, and housing prices like Newark.

 It's odd when you make a decision like moving. You try your best to figure out how it will change your life but I find it nearly impossible to actually know if a big life change is going to be better or worse. It seems like the things that have the biggest effect on your life are often so small that you cannot anticipate them fully. Maybe your neighbor just doesn't get along with you. Maybe your new job will be much more rewarding. Maybe your children will fall into a circle of friends who are up to no good. Hard to say. That said we are fairly confident that we are going to love Washington. So far it has been great every time we have visited. I already have a long list of things I want to do in the area and the people I have met have been nothing but kind. The excitement we feel about our new home makes the sadness we feel about leaving our old home easier to deal with.

 It has been a lot of fun living in the Bay Area. I remember when Dr. Ng, my professor at BYU, suggested that I apply to Stanford because I had a good chance getting accepted and it was close to home. I then had to ask where it was located and was surprised to find out it was in Palo Alto! After being accepted for a Computer Science masters program, Danielle and I moved back to the Bay Area for grad school, never thinking we would stay long past graduation.  All we could "afford" here was one bedroom at my in-laws house! But the housing bubble popped at just the right time for us to take advantage of, and thanks to generous support from family, we bought our first house.  And I found out the hard way that you shouldn't move into a new home without your wife. Danielle still teases me about moving into our first home without her!

 A lot has happened since we moved into our Juniper Ave. home. We have had two additional kids born! Each a delight to our family.  I've had jobs at two big companies, each one teaching me and helping me progress. I have learned how to rock climb and found a life long belay partner in Devon Child! I became a long-distance runner and conquered multiple marathons and even a 50-mile ultra! -- dragging my brothers Lynn and Weston along for the ride (and even Danielle a little bit). We have loved together, laughed together and cried together.  It has been a great home for us.

 And so, with many fond memories and dear associations, we bid farewell to California, looking ahead with excitement and some anxiety for what we will be like as Washingtonians!

 And if you ever find yourself in the Seattle area please, come by for a visit. We would love to have you over and have a guest room at our new house just for you!


 PS: For those interested I am planning on biking from here to Seattle 100% self supported. I'm a little nervous about the audacious goal I have set for myself so I would not object to a few Strava kudos to encourage me to keep on pedaling and not quit half way there.


Friday, June 08, 2018

Happy Birthday baby!

It's been a big year for my birthday girls. Xochitl turned 8 in April; Dawna turned 12 last week, and Jade turned 5! My mind is spinning with big kids!!

My five-year-old Jade is imaginative, loving, and absolutely adorable! She's been looking forward to her birthday all year. Every time we go to any store and she sees something that strikes her fancy, she says, "Get this for me on my birthday!" Unfortunately, I couldn't buy out Target, Party City, Michael's, and Toys-R-Us for my daughter's birthday, so we had to pick and choose just a few things. Still, the night before her birthday, she told me exactly how her morning should play out:

"When I wake up, I'm going to open the window covers and then I will see a beautiful unicorn in the window.  You could tape it if you want, or you can just lean it in there. Then, I will come out and see my breakfast and my birthday presents."

I, for one, was glad that she shared this vision with me, because there's NO way I could have come up with that on my own. And of course, with such specific ideas in mind, it was no problem making her birthday morning wish come true! She found a rainbow unicorn card in her window, had presents lined up along the fireplace, and delicious blueberry pancakes with bacon and apple juice!
The only trouble was timing... usually, Jade wakes up around 8:30am, just after the big girls go to school. But as a special treat on her birthday, Jade woke up at 7am... oops.  So, her breakfast wasn't really ready when she got up, but she accepted my tardiness with understanding.

She also had a perfect vision in her mind of her hair-do for the day: "I need five ponytails. In a diamond shape like a crown. Then the ponytails have to get together in the middle to one big ponytail." ... I did my best... and she seemed pleased with my efforts:
(Really can't go wrong with those awesome curls!)

We had a relaxed morning of opening and enjoying presents, with local company stopping by to read new stories together: Fancy Nancy!
Later that afternoon, we had a party! Jade had previously made arrangements with Mandy Pim to have a swim party at her backyard pool. We also found a zebra pinata at Bro. and Sis. Wiggin's Grocery Outlet store.
I am generally not a fan of pinatas... big sticks mixed with little kids scare me... so I made a "string pull pinata" game, which only lasted about 30 seconds... but at least nobody was getting swung at... and everybody loved the abundance of Air Heads and Blo-pops that filled our little striped friend.

We also had a "treasure hunt" in the pool. Jon and Jake (the dads at the party) tossed a variety of coins into the pool and the kids had to dive in and get them.  One coin had zebra stripes on it and was exchanged for a little zebra prize. Grace Ringlein found the right coin and won the game! Everyone else still got to take home a few coins. Everyone thought the game made perfect cents (sense...get it? teehee!)

Jade is showing us how grown up she is every day. She loves practicing piano, reading and writing, and counting. She loves for us to play ponies with her and enjoys sibling and friend time, especially when they are willing to join in the game! She is going to make a fabulous five-year-old and an impressive kindergarten student! I just hope I am ready for that...yikes...


Saturday, June 02, 2018

My baby's not a baby.

Dawna turned 12! Oh. My. Goodness! I had a hard time sleeping the night before her birthday as I contemplated how much she had grown and changed since she was born... and how much I've changed since she was born (not a super flattering thought...)
And Now...

Don't blink! Babies grow fast!

Dawna celebrated her birthday on Friday by taking Sara, Hope, and Lizzy to the Peak to go climbing.

Then we went out to ZenSen sushi. Sara and Hope were not taken with the food... As the girls watched the little plates go by on the conveyor belt, Dawna voraciously grabbed and devoured piece after piece... all while her friends looked on and one commented, "I'm just looking for something edible." It was a cultural experience, to put it mildly.

After sushi, we returned to the Whitfield house for watermelon cake, requested by Dawna.

The best part of Dawna's birthday celebration was Saturday morning. Sara and Mandy joined us for a trip to the Sacramento Temple for Dawna's first experience with baptisms for the dead. Incidentally, Sacramento is the only temple Dawna has been in before... as a baby, she came with me in a front pack to the open house!

Elder Grandpa Koberstein shared 7 family names with us for the day. Among them were 3 Korsch sisters from Germany and two Koberstein girls: Anne and Mary.

And after all that, I nearly blew it... I was so sure my recommend was in my wallet... but it was not! Between all our moving hustle and bustle, I must have packed it with my temple clothes. Shoot!! Temple workers saved the day by calling in to our bishop or stake clerk or someone... whew!!

It was very special to me as a mom to be with my daughter in the temple. To me, the temple is heaven on Earth, so peaceful and beautiful, the place I feel most centered and confident in understanding who I am. It is God's house. Witnessing Dawna's desire to go to the temple grow over the past year and seeing how she sacrificed climbing time this week to make sure she had time to get her recommend was very uplifting to me as a mom. Maybe I'm doing something right... or maybe (more likely) she just came that way.  Dawna has always been an angel baby and continues to be an angel baby... or angel child... but now a tween... soon a teen!!

And as a final bit of growing-up fun on Sunday... Dawna and I shaved our legs together!
Welcome to young women's!

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Overs and Unders

There's always a first time for everything, right? Well, after having kids for 11 years, we finally took  our kids to Disneyland for the first time! I was very nervous about going to Disneyland. I know it's commonly branded as the "Happiest Place on Earth," but I was pretty sure that with my aversion to crowds, simulacra, and standing in lines, I'd have a hard time creating an enjoyable experience.

However, I am happy to report that it was overall a very fun experience! I'd like to report on some of the things that OVERwhelmed and UNDERwhelmed me about our days at Disneyland.


My biggest fear about going to Disneyland was imagining that we would be spending hundreds of dollars in admission, and then spend 90% of our time waiting in ridiculously long lines for a 10 second ride... Well, I am glad to report that I was completely OVERWHELMED by how well that park handles the thousands upon thousands of people that come daily! Many rides, like Buzz Lightyear and Haunted Mansion, never stop running--the cars on the tracks just move slowly while you walk along a conveyor belt to load and unload the ride. Other rides, like Pirates of the Caribbean, the Jungle Cruise, and Indiana Jones, just load and unload such massive amounts of people that the line moves at a reasonable speed the whole time. Pirates of the Caribbean was the most stunning example of this. Approaching the ride, I could see many switchbacks and twists and turns and stanchions guiding the queued crowd... and yet the sign at the end claimed "Wait time from this point: 15 min." I did not believe it. I was fully expecting to wait twice or three times that length. I kept and eye on my watch, however, and we were never standing still for more than a few moments in that line. It was exactly 15 minutes from that sign to our arriving at the beginning of the line! I was truly impressed. Disneyland KNOWS how long their lines are! Plus, their rides are all a decent length of time! Some as long as 10-15 minutes! Which makes a 20 minute line wait seem all the more worth it!

Also, I was OVERWHELMED by how well the FastPass system worked! It's a truly brilliant idea that makes you, in essence, able to wait in two lines at once! We utilized the FastPasses very well on the first day and were able to hit Buzz Lightyear, Rockets, Star Tours (in which Dawna was pegged as the rebel spy), Space Mountain, Matterhorn, and Nemo Submarine all before noon! Unfortunately, our second day was less successful with the FastPasses... we spent much more time in line then... but still got everyone's first choice experience accomplished.

The completely immersive experience is totally OVERWHELMING also! There is SO much attention to detail in every part of the park! There was hardly even any cobwebs or dust to be seen, even in the line waiting areas of the attractions. I particularly loved the rides like Guardians of the Galaxy, which put you in the middle of a narrative and part of the story. They utilize very low lighting in a lot of their attractions to make the experience more intense and immersive... which is great, except it's impossible to take any good pictures of those details... I guess that's why we have YouTube commercials...

 Lastly, I was OVERWHELMED by how, in many ways, Disneyland is a genuinely happy place. The workers seemed encouraged (or required) to stay positive and cheerful (as evidenced by one worker's song: If you're happy and you know it, get off the handrails!). Those dressed as characters spend a few individual moments with each group of kids and actually talk to them and ask questions. Dawna had a lovely talk with her childhood favorite: Cinderella
We met two other princesses that day as well (as requested by Jade): Ariel and Snow White

But in addition to the characters and workers, even the masses of patrons are generally happy.  While waiting in line to meet the princesses, one sweet little girl fresh from the Bibbidi-Boppity Boutique happily shared her sparkles with Jade--who then happily shared them with me. 

And did you know that wearing Mickey ears is a totally normal thing there? They come in more varieties than I could have ever imagined! We had fun spotting them all day--Chewbacca Mickey ears and glowing Halloween ears were some of our favorites! 

And we may have had a run in with the Dark Side: 


And while there were many wonderful things about our Disneyland vacation, there were a couple things that were frustrating and disappointing...Like the inconsistent or incomplete information on park hours... Does it open at 8 or 9? When does it close? 6pm? 8pm? 11pm? And why do Disneyland and California Adventure (two parks that are literally 100 yards apart) close at different time?? And does a bottle of water really have to cost $5?? I was thankful that they allow park visitors to bring in outside food so you don't HAVE to buy the super expensive stuff inside. 

Nemo's Submarine ride. Totally underwhelming. Maybe it's because I remember it as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or maybe it's because I'm a snotty SCUBA diver that has seen all that fake stuff for real... 

Also... the Monorail and the Jedi Training show were closed and cancelled due to heat... Come now, Disneyland, you're in southern California--how are you not prepared for heat??


At the end of the day (or two days) of Disneyland and California Adventure, I thought it was a wonderful place to spend a vacation with our family! I would even go so far as to say I do recommend Disneyland as a great place to visit! So glad Jon had this "team-building" event so we could all enjoy our Disney adventure!


Friday, September 29, 2017

Happy 33 to Me!

Oh Happy Day! Adele came to visit for a couple days between her trip to Taiwan and her trip to Utah! This amazing niece of mine brings fun and happiness wherever she goes (don't let Jade's focused face distract you, she really is having fun!). 

She read stories to Jade while Larry was in class--this one was a library book about Claire the glass-wing butterfly.  I can't help but remember that we named Jade Claire very first after she was born... and then Leanora, and then Jade... random bit of Koberstein family trivia there... anyway, back to Adele...

 Dawna and Adele still share a very special bond as sister-cousins who lived together for two years. Nothing is too embarrassing for them to try together--for example, Adele is trying to get her humming to register on the ukulele tuner clipped to her nose... no luck. So...
 ... Dawna has to try it. Also no luck... but lots of giggles..

The last day Adele was with us, she and Dawna took on the very grown-up job of babysitting all of their younger siblings (7 in all) while all of us parents went out to dinner and then to an escape room in Santa Clara! We were gone about five hours and they had all the kids fed, read, and put to bed when we all got home. 

I called this my "birthday party" even though it wasn't really planned as such, and came a week early. But really, a good steak dinner, an escape room, and lots of friends is the best fun any 33-year old girl can ask for! I had the good company of Becca and Isaac Snow, Angela and Andrew Ringlein, Emily and Jake Biesinger, and Paul and Becca and Aaron and Emily Severson for our attempt to escape detention. 
It was a pretty good escape room. The progression was very dependent on interactions from the staff (who were all very nice, but not excellent actors), which is a different style than the others I've done.  I think I prefer the stand-alone type where there are mechanisms that are more independent of interaction or interference by escape room staff... 

We finished the scenario in 64 minutes! Not quite fast enough to make the wall of honor, but still a good time... especially when I discovered the cool reflecting ceiling picture I could take! (Sorry Becca Snow! You were on the bar...)

Well, friends, thanks for coming to my party! I'm ready to turn 33 next week!

Labels: , , ,

Friday, September 22, 2017

Dad's Book Club: The Glass Castle

Time for me to read a grown-up book. My friend Angela R. suggested this as a good read, plus there was a movie coming out and we've been feeling jealous of Dawna's book/movie club. So I borrowed a copy from Sis. Garrett, who impressively remembered to bring it to the first day of school and give it to me when I was picking up the girls!

This is a fun and moving book to read. At some points, you laugh, at others, you are aghast with disbelief and anger, and still others you are moved to tears.  Rex, the father of the Walls family, is filled with ambition and ideas, but lacks the qualities necessary to bring his visions to life. Unable to keep a job long, his family is pushed from place to place. Sometimes, the kids thrive, other times, they are victims of terrible circumstances. I loved the experience of pulling a piano through the house.  I loved Jeanette's creativity and resourcefulness in making her own braces. I loved the way the Walls children had to bond together to overcome and rise beyond what their parents offered them. 

I came away with a feeling of gratitude for Jon and my own dad as they are excellent provider for my family (past and present) and also both are super fun dads. They have all the positive qualities that Rex exhibits in the book without the frightening and sometimes sickening experiences that he exposes his children to. 

We went with the Ringleins to see the movie after Jon and I sped read the book in a week. I think the movie was just OK. It painted Rex in a much kinder light than I felt he deserved based on the book.  Still, I couldn't help but picture Haymitch Abernathy most of the time... (actor crossover from Hunger Games...) 

Bottom line: I would definitely recommend the book, but feel more ambivalent about the movie. 

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Empty Sea (AKA MTC)

Why do we send our young missionaries to the MTC (Empty Sea) to become fishers of men? (teehee!)

No better way to celebrate my mom's birthday than going to tour the new additions to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, UT! Heather and I and six of our kids joined us on the tour. 

 We learned that the Provo MTC is one of fifteen centers around the world. We got to see the cafeteria, gym, dorms, classrooms, and study areas around the campus.
 The new building has many beautiful murals portraying scenes from the scriptures. Here's two hopeful future sister missionaries! It was also fun to imagine their cousin, Sister Amanda Severson, now serving in Perth, Australia, walking these halls just a couple months ago.
 Two more missionary hopefuls.  These boys are halfway to missionary age (my goodness, where does the time go??) and they loved exploring the maze of halls and rooms throughout the MTC.
 Xochitl's favorite area was this calm studying area. She loved the decor on the walls and the scriptures on the squares--kind of like a treasure hunt for the scriptures. We waited here for a short film in one of the classrooms.
Heather had many great memories of the MTC to share with us. Here she learned Spanish and many principles of gospel teaching for her mission in New Jersey.  I didn't spend time in the MTC before my mission. Our training involved many hours of rehearsal time with the Nauvoo Brass Band.  However, I did spend many hours in the MTC as a BYU student. My upper level Spanish classes required us to volunteer using our language skills, so I decided to go to the Training Resource Center at the MTC and pose as an investigator for the missionaries learning Spanish to practice with. There were some comical moments in the TRC, but more than anything, no matter the reason, the MTC is always filled with the spirit inviting you to try to preach the word to all the world. I know the missionaries that are trained here are called by Heavenly Father to serve His children all around the world. It's a wonderful place!