You Sleigh Me


On Christmas Eve, we go to my grandparents' house in Phoenix. While there, we act out the nativity. I got coerced into being Mary since I am pregnant. My nephew Keaton was Baby Jesus. He wasn't really interested in sitting on my lap so Angel Alex decided to take his place. 



Alex was kind of confused on Christmas morning. I don't think he understood why we got out of bed so willingly when he woke us up. He quickly adjusted to the excitement when he saw yogurt covered raisins and we had a hyper little boy after that.


Alex was not as interested in unwrapping the presents as he was in playing with everything that had already been unwrapped. Once it was unwrapped though, he was bouncing from one thing to the next! He had to play with everything at the same time.


He was trying to use his new straw sippy cup just like his old ones which had to be tipped. He gets it sometimes but we are still working on this. The puzzle was one of his favorite toys but he didn't play with it nearly as much as he played with Keaton's new dump truck! Alex practically inhaled my pomegranates. I didn't expect him to like them but I was so happy to see that he did.


Alex (Sam) got me a new handheld mirror to replace the one Alex broke. I got Sam a new 9 iron to replace the one he broke. Michelle gave me a Pack 'n Play. I was so happy. I was incredibly surprised because I didn't think I would actually get it! Alex took his next nap in it and has been sleeping in it since! Sam's family has a tradition where they wrap little cereal boxes and you get to unwrap one and eat it for breakfast. You just don't know which kind of cereal you are going to get; some of them are not as good as others. Sam got Honey Nut Cheerios and he felt gipped. Apparently Honey Nut Cheerios are boring. He was envious of the people who got more exciting cereals but he was still glad he didn't get plain Cheerios (so sorry, Matthew).


After we finished opening presents, we got to call my brother who is on his mission in Ukraine. Alex got to talk to him for a few minutes, too!


Flannel sent home ties for all of the boys. The Neil boys got Ukraine ties and the in-laws got Russia ties with the hammer and sickle on them. There were a lot of questions at church about why the boys were matching and what the ties meant.



A Vegas Wedding

My cousin Chelsey got married in the Las Vegas LDS Temple. It worked out really well that we were already on this side of the country. I had only met Nate a few times but he seems like a nice guy and they are a cute couple. The wedding reception was beautiful. I did not feel like I was in a cultural hall at all. It was the most amazing reception I can ever remember attending. They thought of everything; they had a little corner with games and coloring pages for kids along with kid foods like mac and cheese and jello. Brilliant! I will probably be missing a cousin's wedding soon because we'll have a new baby around the same time as the date, so I was really glad we were able to go to Chelsey and Nate's wedding.









The Drive

We decided to drive to Arizona in order to save money. I think it is interesting that I was 25 weeks pregnant while we made this drive because I was 25 weeks pregnant when we moved to Akron and made the drive from Utah to Ohio. We started the drive from Ithaca on Sunday (12.12.10) around 10:30am and drove the seven hours to Columbus, Ohio to spend the night with Sam's family. Sam drove that whole day. It was nice to start out with a short drive and have a place to stop and rest. We stayed up too late that night but we planned our route for the rest of the trip. The weather in Columbus was the worst out of the entire drive. It was snowing and the roads were not plowed. As soon as we crossed into Kentucky, the roads were clear.


On the second day, I drove the entire day. In Kentucky, we stopped at a grocery store to find Ale-8-One. Sam learned about this product in school and he was excited to try it. He loves it. We looked for a KFC in Kentucky and did not see a single one even though we were in Kentucky for a few hours. So we stopped for dinner in Tennessee. After that, we took a 30 minute detour to Mississippi because Sam had never been there. It was about 14 hours of driving before I pulled over in Texas to take a nap on the side of the road for one hour. Alex slept through the night (and even slept a few extra hours) in his carseat. Sam took over and drove for one hour and then we were back on the side of the road in Texas where we slept for one more hour.


After our two hours of sleeping, I started driving again. I drove from the middle of Texas to our final destination. We got to Mesa around 5:30pm Arizona time. The last hour was pretty miserable and Alex was ready to get out but we weren't going to stop until we got to Mesa!


Alex was the best of all of us on this trip. I was tired, Sam was tired, and Alex was happy and playing in his carseat. When we would let him out of his carseat, he would dance and sprint all over the place but then we would put him back in and he would just deal with it. We did not have any music or movies playing. I forgot to bring him books and I only had one little toy car for him. He was telling us stories the whole time and it was so fun to play with him. He would fall asleep at his normal nap time and bed time. It was incredible. We only bought food twice and the other meals were things I had brought from home. I was so glad we were able to make it without getting a hotel. I am pretty cheap.

You may not be able to tell who is growling, but Alex now makes this hilarious sound. It cracks us up.


Merry Christmas

Recently, I have heard multiple people say that they hate Christmas because of how commercialized it has become. On the other side of the argument, a lady pointed out that she would rather have people talk about Christmas, even if for the wrong reasons, than ignore the holiday altogether. Since I heard that I have been thinking a lot about the focus of this time of year. I definitely get caught up in the commercialized Christmas but I have also found moments to ponder of the birth of my Savior and His incredible life and mission.

This Christmas has been a beautiful time for me to get to know Sam better. Through our trials (which seem hard now but I am sure I will scoff at the ridiculousness of them one day) we have become a stronger couple. I am learning to trust other people and rely on them. Sometimes I feel like I missed out on some major life lessons. Usually I am okay and I can depend on Sam's expertise. There are other times when Sam missed out on the same life lessons. It sure is miserable to learn them simultaneously. But we are learning and hopefully will be better for it.

We enjoyed the tree, lights, and gifts this season; but I am especially grateful for the time with family. The little graduate school bubble can become intoxicating. The perspective readjustment has been a great gift. My mindset has changed immensely since I have become a mother. During this Christmas season, I am grateful for the faith of Mary, the birth of her sweet boy, and the love, example, and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

Mary, did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding is the Great I Am.



We visited Skaneateles for the annual Charles Dickens Festival again this year. The weather was much better this time. It was so beautiful and I considered taking off my coat, except I didn't want to have to carry it around. We got to sing with characters from Dickens' A Christmas Carol, talk with Father Christmas, go on a hayride around the city, listen to Mama Goose tell us her tales, and watch a very cheesy magic show. It was a fun day and I am glad we found time to go before leaving for Arizona. It really helped us get into the Christmas season and we always like spending time together.





December in Ithaca

Before we left Ithaca, we had a few celebrations with friends. The Graduate Student Association (GSA) had a few activities. We went to a Christmas party late one night. Our friends who live in our building listened to a baby monitor that was in Alex's room. Is that legal? It worked really well and we were so glad we were able to go and visit with Sam's school friends.

Sheranians and Merkleys

I had to be to our ward Christmas party an hour early to set up so Sam and Alex went to the GSA bowling night. I sent the camera with Sam and put him in charge of taking pictures. This is the one picture he came back with.

Our ward Christmas party was really fun. The food was delicious. It was nice to see everyone one last time before everyone took off for Christmas.


We have two good friends (whose husbands are also in Sam's program) who graduated and moved away from Ithaca. We were so sad to see them go so some girls went out to ice cream a few nights before they moved away. We went and kidnapped Melissa and then went over to visit Amy later. Amy wasn't able to come out to ice cream because her husband was out of town so she had to stay home with her kids. These girls are such good friends and I am going to miss them so much next semester.
Melissa, Emily, & Amy; Rachel, Trina, Melissa, & Emily
Alex, Sam, and Dave; Amy and Piper


Cornucopia Week

We spent Thanksgiving in Columbus with Sam's sisters and their families. It was amazing to have a few days with Sam. Although he had lots of homework to do, it was still really nice that he was around instead of being off working somewhere else. We drove to Columbus on Tuesday (November 23rd) and drove back to Ithaca on Sunday (November 28th).

Ohio State has a tradition where students jump into Mirror Lake on campus before the Ohio State vs. Michigan game. Sam and Spencer (brother-in-law) went to watch the insanity. There were thousands of people there and it was freezing cold. There are some crazy people out there!


We found some pomegranates on sale for cheaper than they were in Ithaca so we bought two. They were delicious and I practically inhaled mine (and part of Sam's).


There were some problems with the kitchen sink as we were preparing Thanksgiving dinner. I thought it was a little funny since the same thing happened to our sink when the Warnicks came to visit us in Allentown.


Sam got to carve part of the turkey. He had never done that before so it was a big moment for him. Ellie, Anna, and I were very matchy on Thanksgiving.


After dinner we decorated some gingerbread houses. Alex really liked eating all of the candy. The next night, the adults decorated their own gingerbread houses after the kids went to bed.



The day after Thanksgiving we went to the US Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. It was really cool. Alex loves pointing and chasing airplanes in the sky but we do not think he realized that they were also the planes he loves so much.

On Saturday (November 27th) we went to a play area in the mall and the kids got to run around for a little bit. It was perfect to play inside since it was too cold outside. Alex loved playing on this skunk.



Something better

The past few days I have been losing my phone very frequently. Yesterday, I went until dinner time without even noticing that my phone had been on silent all day.

There is a good reason for this. Sam is usually the only person who calls or texts me. And we have been in the same room as each other all day every day for the last five days.

I love Christmas vacation. Arizona is beautiful. I am so happy to spend time together with my little family and my big family.


I just became infinitely cooler.

Last night, as I was drifting off to sleep, I had an epiphany. I can't believe I didn't realize it sooner. I had to wake up Sam so I could tell him how awesome I am. It might be a little confusing to explain. So if you use my nickname for the first part and then my initials of my middle and last name, it is...


Wow. I think that just made me so cool. I might need to change my signature to incorporate the awesomeness that is my name.



I have very mixed feelings about my freckles. There are times when I think they are cute and other times when I want to plaster my face with foundation so that you can't see them. I know that would look terrible, but as long as the freckles are covered then I would be happy.

Freckles add character, I guess. But part of that character is that I look really young. Most people guess that I am around 16. I have been getting that same guess since I was about 16! It is ridiculous! Freckles remind me of my family. And of Arizona. For those reasons, I love them. I just do not feel like freckles are a mature look. Sometimes I just want to look like the 22-year-old mom I am. I want people to know that I am Alex's mom and not his sister or nanny (people have guessed both of those). A good thing about them is that they help disguise acne. Or do I just look like I have a lot of acne all the time?

Emily and Sam, 2008

When I was swimming every day, my freckles looked much better. I know that more freckles appeared because of all of the time I was spending in the sun, but I was also much tanner and so they didn't seem as bad. Now I am whitewhitewhite and the freckles are taking over my face.

I have a really cute friend who has lots of freckles. She owns them, too. We have been friends forever and ever. Maybe the freckles help bond us. That made sense in my head...

Whitni and Emily, 2006

One day I am sure I will love that I look so young. But with Sam looking so old all the time, it sure would be nice if that gap could be narrowed a little bit. For now (and probably forever), I am the frizzy-haired, freckle-faced, extremely dorky, younger-looking wife and mother. I guess it is kind of cool to have my very own constellation of freckles.


Our Excuse

A few weeks ago, Sam had an interview where he had to go to the company's headquarters. It was only a few hours away so he drove there. The night before the interview, the company had a dinner at a fancy restaurant planned for all of the candidates.

Sam got to the city in plenty of time, but after he checked into his hotel and was getting dressed for dinner, he noticed that he didn't have any dress shoes. He hurried to the store to buy some shoes but he was about 30 minutes late to the dinner. (Bad impression, we know.) When he walked in, someone jokingly asked him if it had been a rough day. Sam laughed and explained that he has a young child who must have pulled his dress shoes out of his bag so he had to go buy new shoes.

I know Alex. This story is completely possible. Alex is obsessed with shoes and is always putting his feet in them, trying to walk around, or carrying them around. However, in this case, it was a lie. Sam simply forgot to pack shoes. Although I disagree with lying, I do agree that Sam's excuse does sound better than "I forgot my shoes."


Before I was pregnant with Alex, I promised that I would never use the pregnancy as an excuse to get out of anything. I held to that promise even after Alex was born. I cannot think of a time I have ever used Alex as an excuse to get out of something. As a false excuse, that is. I have had to leave things to nurse him or for his nap time but I have never made up an excuse involving Alex in order to get out of something. I am sure my day will come, I just hope it isn't for a long, long time.



Anyone who has spent more than 30 seconds around our family knows that we call Alex "(the) devil" more often than we call him "Alex." This came from saying he was a "Cute little devil." It probably seems odd to strangers, and maybe friends, but we say it without even noticing now. Alex responds to it just like he responds to his real name.

Alex has gotten into the habit of playing with things that aren't really kid appropriate. Such things as the toilet, steak knives, and bookshelves. Sam has started saying that things are either "N.F.D." or "F.D." This means that they are Not for Devil or For Devil. I am considering putting Post-It Notes on everything in the house so Alex can know what is meant for him; but I'm pretty sure he already knows. That's why he is a little devil!


My Lost Identity

Sometimes I feel like I have lost part of my identity. Some was taken by Sam and some more was taken by Alex. I guess not so much "Taken" as my identity is changing. There are parts of my old identity that I really miss though. I really miss sports. I did swimming and played softball competitively (tee ball at first, where it wasn't too competitive yet) starting around the age of six until I graduated from high school.



I would sometimes watch golf or tennis on TV on Saturdays but there were many sports that I was not really interested in, such as basketball and football. My husband, known to most as Sam, is obsessed with basketball and football. Most often, people assume that Sam is the sports-lover in the family. It is frustrating to me that my love for sports gets overshadowed by Sam's love for sports. It is like there is only one sports-lover allowed in each family.

When I was a senior in high school, some friends made signs to cheer me on during my softball games. It was so cute and I felt very loved. They even came up with songs involving our team name. We won the championship that year. My parents still have one of the signs hidden behind their bedroom door!

When I went to BYU, I took two golf classes. Although I am not very good, Sam and I really enjoying golfing together. 

So even though I do not usually shove my love for sports down other peoples' throats, I really love watching and playing sports. I am always up to attend a professional sports game and I love the whole feeling and atmosphere of sports.


I was reared by the Amish and I didn't even know it.

Once upon a time, I was talking to a friend and telling her about my childhood. She told me that it sounded an awful lot like I was reared by Amish people. My parents definitely weren't Amish, but I have laughed about that comment from her frequently since then. It is true that my parents did many things that were not traditional. A few things that come to mind are:

1. We used fructose instead of sugar.
2. I only wore hand-me-downs (which I grew up thinking were "hammy downs").
3. We were homeschooled until ninth grade.
4. They let us play on the roof of the house and pretend to shoot cars while they drove by.
5. My family members seem to collect guns but we aren't hunters.
6. The first time I went to the hospital for myself was when Alex was born.
7. We had rice milk or soy milk instead of cow's milk.
8. My mom had 7 out of 8 of her kids at home (all naturally).
9. There seems to be a general distrust/disbelief of mainstream ideologies.
10. We are very passionate about politics.

That being said, I think almost all of the things above are good. I would not change a single thing about my childhood. I was such a happy kid and I think I turned out fairly well. I wish I had paid more attention to the things they did so I could repeat them in my family.

While I was pregnant with Alex, my mom gave me all of her old maternity clothes. When I first saw them, I wasn't big yet so I thought they looked cute and I was excited for them. But then my stomach exploded. I wore her maternity clothes the entire pregnancy. Sam even told me I looked Amish and one day he said I looked like I wasn't even pregnant; I just looked big. So sad! I decided I should probably get different maternity clothes the next time so I didn't look so crunchy. My sister got pregnant so I gave her all of my mom's maternity clothes and only kept six shirts that I really loved. I feel like I am missing a box of maternity clothes somewhere though!

A few days ago I had Sam take pictures of me in the six maternity shirts I own. I am definitely going to have to get new ones because only one of these has long sleeves and I might freeze in my summer maternity shirts.



Sam's parents gave me a very generous gift card for my birthday so I can get maternity clothes but I don't know how far that will go. Maybe I can be a little less Amish. Or at least be understanding when you see me wearing the same clothes each week.



Sam and I are so different. A few days ago I asked him to come up with three things for which he is thankful. He responded, "Only three?" I guess I am the pessimist in the relationship because I expect things to go poorly and then am pleasantly surprised when they go well. I sometimes have a hard time seeing the good and instead focus on everything going wrong. Sam is helping me to stop doing this, but it is a new struggle for me. I never felt like anything was bad before! This Thanksgiving, I am especially grateful for a few things.

Sam is thankful for:
1. Babies. I am so grateful I have healthy and happy babies (wife, son, and fetus)
2. Family. A loving and supportive family makes such a difference in my life.
3. Holidays. Relaxing and spending time with family and friends is a sure way for me to be happy.

Emily is thankful for:
1. Tomorrow. I am not a perfect wife or mother. I am so glad I have tomorrow to try to be better than I was today.
2. Energy. This is mostly in regards to Alex. I cannot believe how much energy this kid has. He is helping me appreciate my health and body.
3. Pregnancy. I absolutely love being pregnant. I am so happy I have this chance again.

Alex is thankful for:
1. Sticks. These are all-purpose toys. It can be used as a weapon if someone tries to invade my turf. Or I can just wield it around and poke things.
2. Shoes. Mommy doesn't let me play outside without them and I think I would go crazy if I couldn't play outside.
3.Weight. Mommy spoils me and lets me eat whatever I want because she is worried about my weight. I especially like candy.


Our Sixth Home

We have now lived in this apartment for three months. I am not quite sure why it took me so long to take pictures of it. Maybe because it is always so messy. The reason I take pictures of our apartments is because I regret not recording what our first apartment looked like. I want to be able to show our kids the apartments we have lived in and not just the rooms we frequently took pictures of them in (the kitchen and living room). This is the first three bedroom apartment we have lived in but the rooms are small. We couldn't even tell which room was the Master Bedroom when we got there!

We really have enjoyed this apartment. I love the kitchen. It makes cooking so easy for me. The amount of cabinets and counter space really make me happy. The best part of this apartment is the community. I love that we can go outside any day and there will most likely be friends for Alex to play with and other women for me to talk to. I will miss that when we leave Ithaca. I dislike the mirror in the bathroom. It isn't the right height for me. It drives me crazy. It is so nice to finally have overhead lighting (in the bedrooms, at least). It has been a good place for us.







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