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!

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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! 


Thursday, July 06, 2017

Big Words

So, what are we doing this summer? We're learning some big words. Like Maxillofacial Surgery and Maxillary Osteotomy.  Jon undertook this adventure to fix his bite and his teeth once and for all! After many months of braces, x-rays, impressions and models, and many classes and consultations...
(It looks like we robbed the pharmacy, but I promise, all of those were prescribed!)
...operation day arrived! The surgery was at the Richmond hospital (not super close to our house, so many thanks to my Beccas and my in-laws for taking turns watching all my kids for a full 24+ hours).

Friday, June 16
Chillin' in pre-op. Jon looks super cool in his temperature controlling surgical gown, I.V. tube, and ... hair net? I'm not totally sure what the purpose of the cap is since he was totally shaved bald anyway...

This is where I said goodbye and headed out to wait. The surgery itself was about two and a half hours.  I saw many nervous families in the O.R. waiting room and didn't want to hang around there too long, so I went out for a walk, grabbed some food, etc... so by the time I got back into the waiting room, I was only there for about 15 min. before Dr. Fallah came out to report that everything had gone as planned, and Jon was slowly coming around from the anesthesia (and yes, I did have to look up how to spell that...). 

And what was the surgical plan exactly? Well, skip ahead if you're squeamish... but here's one surgeon's description:

"The operation is all carried out from the inside of your mouth so that there are no visible scars on the skin of your face. A cut is made through the gum above your upper teeth to gain access to the jawbone. The upper jaw is then cut with a small saw to allow it to be broken in a controlled manner. It is then moved into its new position and held in place with small metal plates and screws. The gum is stitched back into place with dissolvable stitches that can take a fortnight or even longer to fall out."

Sounds fun, right? Needless to say, it was quite a relief to hear that everything had gone well. 

So once all that was done, Jon was moved to a recovery room upstairs. I caught up with him just as the nurses were finishing up getting him settled with ice packs, oxygen and humidifier mask, IV with antibiotics, saline, and morphine, sequential compression devices on his legs, heart rate monitor and blood pressure cuff. Yeah, he was pretty attached to that bed for a while. 
He also had these cool snap thing stuck all over his chest and ribs... I'm not really sure what they were for... some kind of monitoring, I'm sure, but I'd never seen the like... they reminded me of Larry's Snap Circuits Electronics set.  
I felt a little emotional coming into the recovery room, seeing Jon, who is always so capable and strong, in so much pain and hardly able to stay conscious, hardly able to talk with his teeth wired shut. With his eyes barely open, he reached for my hand and squeezed it three times-- our little code for "I Love You."  I pulled up a chair and we settled in for a long night.  
Of course, it felt like every time Jon was just getting to sleep, it would be time for more meds or vitals or vomit or something, so really there wasn't a lot of rest happening. But I did get very creative about sleeping in a folding chair.

Saturday, June 17
Early in the morning, Jon finally felt like getting up and going for a walk (a requirement for dispatch from the hospital), so he got untethered as much as he could and used the IV stand as a sort of walker. After one short lap, he was ready to lie down again and drink some broth, which he said tasted like liquid steak! ...  I guess after eating nothing for over 24 hours, vegetable broth could taste like steak...

Look at that smile! :)
By 11am Saturday, Jon met all the criteria for release from the hospital, so one at a time, all the monitors came off and we were ready to head home.  

Sunday, June 18: Happy Father's Day!
Our reclining couches have been put to good use since the surgery.  Jon was supposed to sleep with his head elevated for two weeks following the operation, so we've had slumber parties in the living room every night! 

Also, for ten days with his teeth wired shut, Jon was on a liquids only diet. My BlenTec was used many times each day, to add some variety to the steady intake of Ensure shakes. Some blended recipes were quite delicious, like Reese's peanut butter milkshakes, apple pie milkshakes, and yogurt smoothies. Some things were good, like seven-layer dip puree, broccoli cheddar soup, and mashed potato soup.  Other things were a little strange, like potato salad soup and BBQ chicken puree (SO NOT RECOMMENDED!) And still other things were downright bizzare--like the gelatinous blob that was created after putting a whole cup of noodles in the BlenTec... Also not recommended... unless you're entering a science fair. 

As an added bit of bonus fun, since all his "food" had to be slurped through his teeth, nothing could be too hot or too cold. So milkshake and soup alike were served at a sort of tepid room temperature. Try drinking something with your teeth clenched shut sometime... it's interesting. And then be grateful that you don't have to do that for ten days straight. 

Tuesday, June 20
As rest improved, so did Jon. By four days post-op, he felt well enough to sit up and strum... and hum a little through clenched teeth. 

Wednesday, June 21
First day out and about! Not even a week after surgery, Jon and I got out walking in the wetlands. 
The smile is getting better :) 

Friday, June 23: One week after surgery
Feeling good enough to play Legos with the kids... and then clean up the Legos with the kids ;)

Sunday, June 25
No pictures, but Jon was brave enough to stand and "sing" with my ward choir (remember his teeth are still wired shut) so Bro. Ross wasn't the only one in the men's section... Everyone in the ward was super impressed! 

Monday, June 26
Best. Day. Ever! The wires holding his jaw shut came off and were replaced with orthodontic rubber bands. The bands are strong and still hold the jaw still, but at least he gets to take them off to eat! 
 Ironically, at Dawna's ortho appointment the same week, she got to start wearing rubber bands too! So nice to share these experiences with daddy! And now he has an even better open-mouth smile!

Jon had a lot of interesting observations about his teeth and jaw once they were unwired. His whole eating structure had changed.  In the past, his front teeth met end to end (this is not ideal) so a lot of chewing happened in the front of his mouth instead of the back. And suddenly, he had to re-learn how to chew--because his incisors were cutting like scissors, as they should, and his back molars were grinding, as they should, but this was a new feeling for him. I got questions such as "Do you chew on both sides of your mouth or just one at a time?" and "What does your tongue do while you're chewing in the back?" Honestly, these were things I'd never thought about and I had an opportunity for introspection on my eating methods... I tend to chew on one side of my mouth at a time, and my tongue acts as a sort of blockade for either side while I chew. Take a moment to consider how you eat. It will be revealing :)

Friday, June 30
A mere fourteen days after surgery, we got out to enjoy the beach! No swimming of course, but a nice dip of the toes and jaunt up and down the shore put him in good spirits! The swelling has improved a lot, the stitches are still hanging around, but overall, this tough guy has made quick work of recovery! He's eating more and getting up and around more each day. Next week it's back to work :( I'm going to miss having my hubby around all the time, but I guess it's time to move on to our next great adventure...
 ...with a great smile! 

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Friday, June 09, 2017

Four for now...

Good morning, four years old! 
Jade wanted to continue our tradition of bringing breakfast in bed for the birthday kid. Pancakes and bacon were her request!
 Jade is a very active girl.  She loves going to open gym at "Nastics-for-day" (aka gymnastics), loves swimming, climbing, and really loves riding her bike--which was upgraded in size for her fourth birthday!

 Jade's other love right now is My Little Pony. She got two new ponies: Cherilee and Applejack, as gifts from her siblings, and then had a somewhat impromptu "Pony Picnic" with some little friends on Friday (who says babysitting can't be fun??). Adelyn, Conrad, Jade, and Sage were the 3/4 year olds, and they were accompanied by siblings Larry, Jack, and Zyna... and Adelyn's mom. The kids enjoyed some coloring, dancing, and "Humpty Dumpty Pony Pie" games.
 Her chosen menu was: PB&J sandwiches, quesadillas, veggies, and mud and worms for dessert :) Thanks to Nana for sending the "4" candle. It went perfectly with everything! Simple, last-minute, but delightful birthday fun!

Also, she's been saying for a while that she'll "climb to the bell" when she turns four. And she did just that! On her fourth birthday, she climbed all the way to the top of the auto-belay at the peak and rang the bell at the top! (movie is a little long... she had quite a few "resting" moments arching her back all the way and tossing her curls...) 

I love this smart, sassy, curly-headed princess of mine! But don't be in too big of a hurry to grow up...


Tuesday, June 06, 2017

"It's not every day your young [lady] turns eleven..." -Hagrid

...and for that reason, there's nothing else I could possibly do but create a Harry Potter escape room birthday party!

First off, many humble thanks to Angela Ringlein for helping me see this project through to the end and bringing the sparkle and shine to everything there! And many thanks to Miss Hannah Reeves, whose beta testing of the puzzles, riddles, and codes was vital to the success of our escape room! And thank you to the Lock, Paper, Scissors site, which provided an excellent escape room blueprint!  It was a lot of work, but WOW! what a fun and awesome way to spend a couple weeks! (especially if you have an angel of a daughter who's turning 11 and loves Harry Potter :)
(she said we could match...I must still be a cool mom!)
The other secret to our success was the folding/expanding accordion walls in most LDS chapels (not to mention the foyer furniture there also...). Perfect place to put a few bike locks... and a great way to have a progressive room!
I'll do my best to not include any spoilers in my description, in case you want to try our escape room some day... it does require a fair amount of Harry Potter knowledge, as per design, but one HP guru per group is sufficient to succeed.

So, according to "Lock, Paper, Scissors," to make a good escape room, one must "sketch out a story line" for your room to follow... so here's mine: 

"It's an ordinary school night in the Gryffindor common room. Among the students reading, studying, and chatting, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger are playing wizard's chess! Now, we all know that Ron is the superior chess player, but we also know that he's the six of seven kids, and his chess set is a hand-me-down that has seen many many games of chess.  As such, just as Ron is about to win, his queen misses Hermione's king... and smashes instead... her time turner! In a whirl of magic and hourglass sand, everyone in the Gryffindor common room is transported one week into the future!  

"You now find Hogwarts School of Wichcraft and Wizardry in an uproar, on the verge of closure, because 6-9 Gryffindor students (depending on the size of your escape room group...) have seemingly vanished for a week! Albus Dumbledore will be announcing the closure just before dinner in the great hall in exactly ONE HOUR! You must get out of the common room, complete all of your missing homework, and make it to the great hall before the announcement is made if you are to save the school!" READY??? GO!!!

The Common Room: 

 Announcement board...
 Arm chairs...
Basket of S.P.E.W socks, bookshelf, and chess game...

Curiosity piqued?? :) So was theirs... 
This is Dawna's birthday escape crew... (we actually ended up running the room four times over the weekend, but this is the only one I took pictures of)

(I loved that many of the kids came in costume!) 

But that's not all... because remember that part about missing a week's worth of classes and having to make up the homework?? Well, enter the...

Hogwart's Classrooms! 

(ok, so it's like 4 classrooms smashed into one little space... deal with it...)
 Looking to the right... (notice the 5 additional locks on the second accordion wall)
Looking to the left... interesting... 

The design of this space turned out to be really fun as the chairs served as a kind of maze they all had to maneuver around as they worked... now for a few close-ups...
Transfiguation (also a mysterious locked chest below the board)
Potions... (actually had a cooler setup later, but missed getting a picture)

Ancient Runes

Divination (it's a crystal ball, ok?)
And... I didn't get any pictures at all of my kids working on this section... lame... note to self: bring a designated photographer next time...

The birthday kids made it through the room in a respectable 1 hour and 10 min., which wasn't enough to save Hogwarts, but plenty for having a great time! I did catch the moment of final escape into the Great Hall (it's not a great video, but I love the excitement of the kids!)

Once they made it through, the kids got to enjoy a lovely Hogwart's dinner, complete with chocolate frogs and heaps of fried chicken :) 

(on a side note... the other groups made it through the escape room in 1 hr. 27 min., 58 min., and 1 hr. 6 min. All the other groups besides the birthday party kids were a mix of kids and adults.  All in all, for my first escape room, I think my timing was pretty good!)

A very happy birthday to my lovely intelligent daring and darling daughter Dawna! Thanks for lighting up my life always, and especially around your 11th birthday! I may have a new obsession now... 

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