I decided around June 3rd that I would continue posting every day of June. It took so much time and was made even more difficult by the fact that I was out of town for two weeks, one of which was spent in the mountains. I guess I wasn't really thinking ahead when I set this goal. Sam has been so supportive of my blogging obsession during the last month.

I felt like I was pouring every thought and feeling into the blog. It occupied many of my thoughts and even became stressful as I worried about not having enough time to write the post I wanted to do. I have had a hard time finding my purpose blogging since I very first started. Everyone else seemed to find their niche, (you need a niche to survive in blogging) and I was still wandering lost. I am not sure why it matters to me if/when I blog but I feel like I will regret it if I stop. I don't want to get behind or else I'll never catch up. I write in my journal for myself, I write here for others. But I love posting pictures. Even if I use only a fraction of the pictures I have of an event, it still results in extremely long posts. I never imagined blogging would be something I would come to enjoy, but I have really grown fond of it. I know I am not the most popular blog in the world, but this is what we are doing and these are the things I have been thinking about.

It sure has been a busy month...

Alex got older, and cuter, and sprouted some teeth. He is eating a balanced diet (based on his own food pyramid), has a few favorite games, and abuses Mommy.

Emily plans to cut her hair (if she can find someone she trusts). She traveled to Arizona and to a cousin's wedding. She robbed her sister and if you don't watch out, she might rob you, too. Emily got annoyed, which is not unusual. Emily is a very goal- and list-oriented person (which could be seen as an unnecessary talent): she set some summer goals and set some lifetime goals.

Sam loves himself and Emily loves him, too. She tricked him into marrying her, but they still belong together. He works hard and even though he is an old man, we let him party a little.

We celebrated an awesome Memorial Day, went on family dates, and saw a little bit of Pennsylvania. We celebrated our amazing fathers and missed a very amazing grandfather. We went to a kick-butt reunion. Vacation is nice, but we love being home.

Life is great. I wonder what next month will bring. All I know is that it will not be bringing 31 posts.


Our Fifth Home

It was hard to find an apartment that would do a short-term lease especially in such a short amount of time. We found a place that looked suitable and the premium for the short-term lease was not too bad. This is not the nicest apartment we've lived in but it definitely isn't the worst either. We were mostly excited about finally having a washer and dryer. Now that I have one, I have noticed that it seems like laundry never ends. Instead of just doing laundry for 3 hours on Tuesdays, I am doing laundry for an hour every other day. It is nice to always have clean clothes but (I cannot believe I am admitting this) I can see good things on both the side of having laundry facilities in-house and not having them.

The first time I used our washing machine and dishwasher, they both broke! They came and gave me brand new ones! I was so excited! I have a small crush on our washing machine because I think it is so cute. It senses how big a load is and starts itself. It makes me happy.


Caves, Berries, and Catch

We finally got ready for the day around noon on Saturday. We don't have very many weekends left here and figured we shouldn't waste another minute so we packed up and went to see a few things around here. Here are our adventures of the day.


Birth and Father's Day Festivities

I tried to convince Sam that Father's Day meant that he could spend extra time with his son while his wife slept. He wasn't buying it. Here are a few of the things we did to celebrate Sam's birthday and Father's Day.

I made his birthday cake and it was so delicious. He took it to work to share and everyone loved it. I got the recipe from here and she got it from here.

Chocolate Fudge Layer Cake
Serves 18

1 pkg. (8 squares) Semi-Sweet Chocolate, divided
1 pkg. (2-layer size) chocolate cake mix
1 pkg. (2.9 oz.) Chocolate Instant Pudding
4 eggs
1 c. sour cream
1/2 c. oil
1/2 c. water
1 tub (8 oz.) Cool Whip (do not thaw!)
2 T. sliced almonds

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Chop 2 chocolate squares. Beat cake mix, dry pudding mix, eggs, sour cream, oil, and water in large bowl with mixer on low speed just until moistened. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes. Stir in chopped chocolate. Pour into 2 greased 9-inch round pans.
3. Bake 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Coll in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Loosen cakes from sides of pans. Invert onto racks; gently remove pans. Cool cakes completely.
4. Place Cool Whip and remaining chocolate squares in microwavable bowl. Microwave on high 1 1/2 minutes or until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is well blended, stirring after 1 minute. Let stand 15 minutes to thicken.
5. Stack cake layers on plate, filling and frosting with Cool Whip frosting.
6. Garnish with nuts. Keep refrigerated.


Grandpa Merkley

Two weeks ago (12 June 2010), Sam's grandfather passed away. Death is in no way convenient but it was very nice that we were already in Utah and we didn't have to buy more flights to Utah. Sam was asked to share some memories at the funeral and below is what he prepared along with a few things added in that time did not allow for previously. Life is such a precious thing and from the things shared, I feel his grandpa used it to the fullest. I am glad I was able to meet him; he was also so sweet and loving to me.

I knew Grandpa's health was failing, but somehow I always thought that he would be there. Somehow I thought that he would defy the hands of time to be there to be a great-grandfather to my children. I wanted this because I have only fond memories of Grandpa. Because I am the oldest son in my family I was asked to be the representative of the rest of my siblings and share our memories of my grandpa.  One thing that was clear in my own recollections and was a recurring theme as I spoke with each of my sisters and brother was that we all loved him very much, and that there were no unhappy memories of Grandpa. Any time any of us grandkids think of Grandpa, it will always bring a smile to our faces.

Grandpa had a way of making everyone feel welcome and at home. Anytime any cousin brought a friend, boyfriend or girlfriend, or even just a neighbor to their house they were immediately welcomed in like family and given the same treatment. I don't think there's anyone that after coming to their home would not have happily come back. This may not seem that spectacular, but if you saw all the "interesting" outfits, crazy Mohawks, hairstyles, piercings, and tattoos that were regularly present on both cousins and visitors you'd be more impressed.  Most of these things we don't even really bat an eye at now, but my grandpa was 84 and from a very different generation and was still very accepting of everyone.

My grandpa was an English teacher and studied both English and Psychology in college and so he had a pretty impressive library. Bryan, my eldest sister's husband remembered how Grandpa always willing to let anyone borrow any book at any time. We never felt as kids that we were not welcome even though there were things that got broken because of our playing.  Grandpa would come and roughhouse with us instead of reprimanding our youthful exuberance.

There was never any doubt in my mind that Grandpa loved me, and that he wanted only the best for all of us. Each of my siblings mentioned this same sentiment to me in one form or another. I think you could ask any of the grandkids and they would all tell you that they secretly thought that they were Grandpa's favorite... I know that I'm the only one that was actually right when I thought that, but... what can you do? He knew us all so well, and it wasn't necessarily that he knew every detail of our lives; it was more on an emotional, and perhaps even spiritual, level. Anna told me about the time that Grandma and Grandpa came to her Christmas choir concenrt and as part of one of the songs she gave him Rudolph's red nose and to this day it is still on display in their home.

Grandpa always had something nice to say to everyone. I remember him always telling the girl cousins how beautiful they were, and to the boy cousins how big and muscular they were becoming. It was clear that he loved people and he was always more concerned with the well-being of others than his own. On that note, Grandpa loved Grandma. Anna's husband Spencer reminded me of an experience we had a few  Thanksgivings back where we were all going around the table saying something that we were thankful for, and Grandpa was cracking jokes throughout that weren't always coherent.  When it got to be his turn to say what he was grateful for though, he described his love and gratitude for Grandma very beautifully and succinctly. Some things don't deteriorate with age, and Grandpa's love and devotion to Grandma was one of those things.

Growing up we went to Grandma and Grandpa Merkley's house almost every single week, which meant there were times when we went there that maybe we were grumpy because of a fight with a sibling or a parent, or even for no reason at all, but as soon as we saw Grandpa, he could sense that we were unhappy and he would immediately take on the responsibility of cheering us up. Grandpa had a second sense of the mood in the room, and he was always quick to lighten it so that people could be happy.  Grandpa had a great sense of humor and was always cracking jokes and making people smile.

Speaking of our weekly Sunday visits, we now enter the food portion of my memories of Grandpa. I don't think I ever felt spoiled by Grandpa, but I'm sure he passed me much more illicit candy and treats than my parents would have liked. You know how there are some candies that because you eat so much of them you overdose and can't eat them anymore for a while? Twizzlers are like that for me. There was always a bucket of licorice waiting for us to eat at Grandma and Grandpa's house, and we loved it. We loved pairing a nice glass of water using the licorice as a straw with some of Grandpa's homemade popcorn. Yes, homemade popcorn, he actually grew the corn in his garden and dried it or whatever you do to prepare it to be popped.  I always thought that his popcorn was the best, but was afraid that I was biased. But then, an outside source, Bryan, confirmed our beliefs after his first experience eating it. The next food memory my siblings and I had was of eating ice cream out of waffle cones. Grandpa was always willing to dish out an extra scoop while our parents weren't looking. I remember eating watermelon off the rind and then throwing the leftovers back into the garden or into the vacant lot next door, we were never allowed to throw rinds around like that at home and we loved it, I think grandpa was even the one that started us doing that. I remember grandpa making homemade root beer that was so delicious that I drank until I had a stomachache and still wanted more. I remember eating turkey sandwiches the evening of Thanksgiving.

Grandpa was a very hard worker, and we as kids got to see that good example both through our father that learned it from him, as well as directly from the source. Grandpa had a gigantic garden and he worked so hard on that thing to make sure that we would always have fresh food to enjoy. Grandpa's yard was always so well-manicured and his flowers looked beautiful. The girls remember Grandpa giving them roses and how special that made them feel. Seth and Emily both remembered working on houses with Grandpa as he built them for his sons. Seth also remembers mowing Grandma and Grandpa's lawn and the shooting the breeze with Grandpa afterwards, which was one of his fondest memories of Grandpa. Seth loved hearing Grandpa's war stories. I think we all remember the story of Grandpa in his school days. He was being a little too mischievous and the teacher got so annoyed that she threw an eraser and Grandpa ducked causing the teacher's pet to catch the eraser right in the face. We remember the story of how Grandpa missed his birthday because he crossed the International Date Line and skipped his birthday entirely.

Grandpa got a little frustrated toward the end, and I think that this was because he felt like he was unable to help people any more. Grandpa never wanted to burden anyone, he was self-sufficient all his life and being the recipient of service instead of the giver was hard for him. Grandpa had a strong testimony of the church and loved sharing his feelings about the gospel with his family. He knew that the church was true and he applied its principles in his life. Grandpa had charity. I can't think of a lot of people in my life that I've felt like truly had it, but Grandpa did, and the fact that he was possessed of it at the end of his days makes me feel sure that Grandpa is in a better place now. I think he's looking down on us all waiting for the day when we will all be reunited again.


Aspen Grove

My mom's side of the family had an amazing week-long family reunion at Aspen Grove in Utah. Sam's supervisor was going to be out of the country so Sam was able to get a week off! It was such a fun vacation and I took way too many pictures thus resulting in way too many pictures here. I would like to say a special thank you to Matthew and Laura for giving me their pictures without which I would not be in a single one of these pictures. This has taken me so long to post because I had to sift through over 1,000 pictures to decide which ones to use.

As fun as this week was, it was challenging for me as well. I really don't like missing out on things. I am usually the last one to leave a party because I don't want to miss something. Leaving activities to feed, change, or put Alex to sleep was very difficult for me. It was also stressful because I was unable to get anything done. My to-do list just kept growing and growing (I am not very good at relaxing) and there was nothing I could do about it. I have now been home for a week and I have still not caught up. Sam can attest that I have just been very worked up trying to get caught up on everything. There were 263 items in my Google Reader, the house was a mess, I had two weeks of laundry to do, my sleep schedule was way off, and our refrigerator was empty. It was pretty awesome. We had only lived here for two weeks before I left so I was not even completely done moving in and taking care of forwarding and canceling things from Ithaca! Also, Sam's flight was delayed getting into Philadelphia so we didn't get home until 2:00am! Sheesh, vacationing is hard!

There were 41 people from my family there. On Monday, Sam's parents and two siblings were able to come spend the day with us as well. It is hard to get that many people together and yet we always seemed to find one another. It was amazing. I loved hanging out with everyone and it makes me happy how well we get along. The reason for this vacation was because my Grandpa Hilton turned 80 years old! My Grandma put so much time and effort into planning this trip for everyone and we really appreciated it. I doubt this will ever happen again so I savored the moments with the whole family around (minus four missionaries currently serving in Ukraine, Russia, Brazil, and Heaven).



























You belong to me...

I wrote on Sam's feetsies while he was sleeping.


Sibling Shoe Store

My sister, Michelle, is a shoe addict. She had collected so many shoes that she didn't even wear all of them! When I arrived at her house, she had rows of shoes she was trying to give away! My mom and I were fighting over them because they were so cute. I was able to get five very nifty pairs of shoes and have already worn four of the pairs (no use for snow/hiking boots right now). A few of these belonged to my other sister, Rachael, and it makes them even more fun to wear. Although, because the high heels belonged to her, it is a painful memory. :) My toesies were hurting on Sunday!

She actually had look-alikes of my favorite shoes but they were one size too big! I honestly considered stuffing toilet paper into the toes so they would fit. She said she was "too old" to wear them! Impossible! The best-shoes-ever are fitting for all ages.


Blogging Pet Peeves

I am unaware of any written blogging etiquette but there are a few things that really bug me about blogging in general:

1. Formatting pictures - Why does Blogger make this so difficult? Dragging pictures is hard, copying and pasting pictures is hard, aligning pictures is hard, and getting pictures in the order you want is hard.

2. "First comment!" - Why is it a big deal to be the first to comment on a person's blog? That is weird and it annoys me.

3. Word verification - It is always a nuisance but I understand why it is necessary (see #4). It only makes me really frustrated when people have it on private blogs.

4. Chinese comments - Does everyone get the annoying comments in Chinese where every "..." is a link to porn? I hate Captchas so much (see #3), otherwise I would put it on.

5. Comment responses - Sometimes I ask a question when I comment on a person's blog. I would notice they never answered the question. Then I would go back to their blog and see that they commented back within the comment section on their own post! Does anyone regularly go to a blog and read the comments that were left after you commented? This is so strange.

Some days these things make me really angry and other days they just bug me a little. I am sure I do things that bother other people (like complaining in every third post about how everyone else is wrong and I am right). Such is life.


It's like two Father's Days in a row!

Sam is becoming an old man! Today he turns 29 years old! Sam is the most tender-hearted guy I have ever known. Yet, when he gets competitive, he knows how to trash talk and he isn't afraid to do it. He is so loyal. He has the best sense of humor and it is so unique. He is an amazing listener; he gets home from his internship and just listens to me go on and on about how cute Alex is or how terrible it was that I didn't finish something I wanted to do that day. I don't deserve him but I'll be keeping him anyway! At least until he turns 30, that's pretty old and I may have to reconsider. :)


Padre, Otosan, Fuh-Chan

Dad (Padre),
   Thanks for being amazing. Eight kids: wow. I am working on my only one over here and some days he kicks my butt. I now know where I got my competitive spirit from! You definitely don't act like you are an old man!

Dad Merkley (Otosan),
    This Father's Day may be especially hard for you as you recently lost your own father. But thank you for being a great Father-in-Law to me. You welcomed me right into your family. I don't know how many marathons you have completed but I probably wouldn't believe it even if I did know.

Sam (Alex's Fuh-Chan),
   Today is your first Father's Day as a father. Alex sure lucked out by having you as a dad. One day he will be able to express his gratitude himself, but for now, thank you so much! You do almost everything when you are home and I feel like I am on vacation! I love you!


Monkey Bite

Monkey Bite [muhng-kee bahyt], noun, verb - maliciously using the thumb and index finger to pinch another person and inflict pain.

I was sitting next to Alex in the car and was feeding him. Every time I would put the spoon in his mouth, he would monkey bite me! I could see the bruise immediately and it got worse over the next week. He really is a little devil!

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