Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the GIFS...

For two years now Mr. Jason James Sandvik, sometimes referred to as Jay Jay, JJ Smokes, JJ Cool S, has been rocking his role as husband in chief. And since he brings me so much marital bliss, I thought the best way to return the favor would be by telling him some of my favorite parts of our marriage. Through GIFs.

1. Your Reaction When I Turn off the Lights

2. The Way I Feel When You Talk About Women's Rights

3. You Watch All the Foreign Documentaries with Me

4. The Feeling I Get When You're the Big Spoon

5. How Excited I am for You to Come Home

6. The Way You Back Me up When I'm Arguing

7. You Always Know Whether I Want Chocolate or Peanut Butter

8. You Get Along with All My Friends

9. The Way You React in All the Right Ways to My Stories

10. How You Can Even Make Exercising Fun

11. That You're the Hottest Hufflepuff I Know

12. When You Wear Backwards Hats

13. How You've Turned into an Animal Freak

14. When You Pick up Hank's Poop on the Walks

15. That You Love Salads

16. The Way You Check the Closets Every Night

17. How You're More Honest than You Are Straight

18. You Know I Mean Business When It Comes to Food

19. You Look Good in Whatever You Wear

20. But Most of All I Just Can't Get Enough of You

I didn't know two years could be this good, and I can't wait for a million more.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Growing Up, Down, and Sideways

For so much of my life I was a really good journaler. Every night I would lay down on my bed with my newest, sparkly gel pen and record for all my posterity my hopes and dreams of filling out a bra and casting voodoo spells so that the boys might one day grow taller than me.

But don't worry posterity, I wasn't completely one dimensional. I could also fill volumes with the tributes I gave in loving memory of my first dog, Belle. For years after she died -- and I'm not kidding when I say years -- I would end every journal entry with "I love you Belle." Repeated 10-50 times depending on how melodramatic I was feeling that night.

And while historians aren't exactly going to find my journals useful for anything other than tracking the evolution of Lisa Frank merchandise, it was always good to be in a habit of spewing all your embarrassing thoughts out to a source that couldn't think you were crazy once you were done. Plus, it gave you a really good excuse to buy more gel pens, like the milky ones that could write on black paper with and made you feel like you were in space. Or something.

Then I got this blog and thought I would be so forward thinking by ditching the paper trail and recording all my thoughts on the worldwideweb instead of keeping them behind a literal lock and key. But now that I am no longer using witchcraft to make boys grow taller I guess my journaling seemed a little less purposeful and I slowly fell off the journaling train.

This whole preamble is essentially to explain to myself why I should feel really guilty that I haven't recorded anything now that I am doing things cosmically more important than going to Bath & Body Works. Most specifically our summer in Cincinnati.

So now I would like to take the time to chronicle some of those things that have happened while we were in Cincy just in case my posterity wants to look further than the Lisa Frank journals.

Growing Up

A few weeks ago we took the big step of buying a new car. Our dear old CRV started giving us all sort of lip and bad mouthing us behind our backs so we decided he had to go. The fact that the drive shaft terrifyingly broke right after we got here (and mere yards from us getting on the freeway) and the AC went kaput also helped us shove it on its way. So now we upgraded to the Acura MDX that Heidi, Jason's mom, gave us a great deal on and we are feeling super grown up to have a car with four matching hubcaps.

To add to our grownup swag from the new car, we also went to DC for a week and got our knowledge on at every museum we could get to. When I was a kid, family vacations usually meant one of two things: hiking, or going to museums. And as a snotty pre-adolescent who just wants to go to Disneyland, neither of those options were exciting.


But along with puberty came a huge crush on museums. So Jason and I spent the majority of our days on a natural Smithsonian-high. We even got my dear friend Anna, who basically runs the Hirschorn, to give us a personalized find-the-Harry-Potter-in-modern-art tour. And planetarium movies narrated by Liam Neeson and Whoopi Goldberg on the house!

We stayed with my aunt Jolie and uncle John who were the best of hosts and even took us to Baltimore for a day. The Orioles lost, but the harbor was beautiful and dinner sublime. Jason and I also got to see his friend from home, my friends from London and Jerusalem, and even some friends from freshman year. Mormons are ALL up in our nation's capitol. Just one more reason I'm proud to be an American.

Growing Down

But this summer hasn't been all about adult things and jobstuffs. We've been making sure to keep our inner kid alive. Cincinnati has an absolutely phenomenal zoo that, though I hate to admit it, blows the Hogle Zoo right out of the water. We got to feed giraffes, watch bonobo monkeys get freaky, and see a huge bird knock a guy into a little pond. They even had a shalom garden! And the bird house was too cool.

But the coolest kid thing we have done here -- BY FAR -- has been Cedar Point. About a million years ago I saw Cedar Point on the Travel Channel right after I got my wisdom teeth out and I don't know if it was the vicodin but I absolutely fell in love. So I made a vow to myself that someday we would go there. And that someday was a few weeks ago.

Cedar Point says it best.
 We planned it out like amusement park bosses and absolutely killed it. And I must say that there can't be anyone that is more fun to go to an amusement park with than Jason James Sandvik.

Like a true recovered bedwetter he was more than a little nervous about each ride. So as the roller coaster would be climbing or getting ready to shoot us off Jason would be giving himself a good old-fashioned pump up chat before he would scream all the way down. So I spent most of the ride laughing so hard I could barely concentrate on the fact that I was going 140 mph.

On this ride Jason shakily said "I'm doing it!!!" as he put his hands in the air.
Also, check out that guy's shirt. Some seriously classy clientele.

 Growing Sideways

For the most part, I have been growing sideways on this trip. People here are serious about their food and I don't take that lightly. Although I'm not crazy about Cincinnati's famous Skyline Chili, I have loved about every other thing I have eaten here. Including Cincinnati's own Graeter's ice cream which is just too amazing to describe. They sell it at Kroger (Smith's for the Utahns) grocery stores so if you can, GET IT. You will not regret it. It's even HRH Oprah's favorite ice cream!

We also went to a grocery store called Jungle Jim's which was unlike any grocery store I have ever seen and, I'll wager, anything you have ever seen. Seriously though. It makes Trader Joe's look like a Food 'n Stuff.

Lest you think I'm exaggerating, know that Jungle Jim's HAS ITS OWN MONORAIL. There was so much imported pasta that there was a whole section devoted to gnocchi. The produce section on its own was easily the size of a Costco and was filled with so many fruits and vegetables I had never seen before that I felt like 50 Cent when he saw a grapefruit.

But there could have been none of that and I would have still been singing its praises because of all the cheese. Aisles and aisles and aisles of it. Whole sections were devoted to cheeses from different countries. You better believe I was dancing through those aisles like this:

But the summer isn't over yet! We still have a few more days here and then a few in Chicago before we cross the Rocky Mountain curtain and go back home.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Father's Day, Fatherhood, and Why Women Should Have the Priesthood

I might not be the only one, but ever since this last Sunday, I have been thinking a lot about fathers.

I have been incredibly lucky to have a really great father. I know a lot of you are under the impression that your dad is the greatest but -- and there is no easy way to say this -- well, you are wrong. My dad is.

I remember many late nights where my dad would stay up playing Pretty Little Princess with us. If any of you don't know what Pretty Little Princess is, you need to get your hands on a time machine, go back to 1992 and get in on this action. It was basically monopoly but instead of buying boring things like properties and houses, you earned fabulous sterling-plastic clip-on earrings, luxurious cubic zirconium beaded necklaces, and of course the petrochemical golden crown inlaid with sticker gems.

My dad also was such a good dad that he once bought me what I'm pretty sure was lingerie from a yard sale because I wanted it for dress up. And don't even get me started on how awesome his bed time stories were about when he was a little girl with long golden curls and a white pony.

In case it wasn't obvious, my dad raised all girls. So even though braiding and Barbie-playing didn't come natural to him, he still indulged us because he knew it would make us happy. Because he knows his daughters.

I can't imagine our Heavenly Father is any different. While none of us remember exactly what our Heavenly Father is like, it is safe to say that He possesses all the qualities that we know and love in our earthly fathers.  And since I know how great my own dad is, I love talking about fathers and their eternal roles in the family.

Which is why I love Father's Day.

On Father's Day we get to focus on the abiding gifts that men are able to develop and use as they progress to become Heavenly Fathers themselves. And since men and women are equal partners in the eternal scheme of things, I think men are often pushed out of the spotlight when we speak of raising children.

Don't get me wrong, mothers are absolutely fantastic. I miss my mom everyday and am so grateful for all the mothering I got. She instilled in me a great love of people, learning, and--most of all--good food. But I wouldn't have become the person I am today without both the love from my father and my mother. This is because being a father is more than just being a provider and a priesthood holder. The fact that my father holds the priesthood only enhances his roles as a spiritual patriarch of our family. But  this does not mean that priesthood is a complementary binary to motherhood.

Any toddler who has taken a bath with siblings, cousins, neighbors (gasp! yes. The level of required familiarity for bathing was on the lower side for toddlers in the Thomas household) knows that boys and girls are made differently. And, without going into too much detail about the birds and the bees, it is safe to say that women's role in bringing children into this world is a bit more intense. Because of that, it is often implied that women are inherently the more intense parents.

But I think this is a seriously flawed way of looking at our roles as parents, and ultimately the roles of our Heavenly Parents. And since the Prophet Joseph Smith taught that "If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves" (TPJS, p. 343) this kind of pondering is well worth the mental exertion. So just because the woman cooks the baby, it does not mean that she holds a more emphatic role as a parent. In fact, if that were true, Heavenly Mother must be a more significant parent than Heavenly Father. This is a point I don't think many would be willing to concede.

Comparing motherhood to the priesthood is a bit like comparing apples and doorknobs. Or doughnuts and taxes. One does not replace the other, or even act as the other's counterpart. LDS.org defines the priesthood as "The authority and power that God gives to man to act in all things for the salvation of man."

Some of you might point out the first "man" in that sentence as clearly something that is meant strictly for men. But if we use "man" as referring to specifically the group of people who possess both an X and a Y chromosome, then priesthood only allows for the salvation of that same specific group. Now if we use "man" as referring to all people regardless of gender -- as, alas, we so often do -- then it means that priesthood is not only nonspecific to the masculine gender, but isn't even specific to fatherhood.  

Now imagine a family where both mother and father can be examples of worthy priesthood holders. Or where a stay at home mom is able to give her child a priesthood blessing if a medical emergency comes up. Priesthood wouldn't supplant the roles of motherhood, just like it doesn't take away from the roles of fatherhood.

I know that women having the priesthood would be different. And some of you are probably even thinking of stronger words than "different," but isn't that good?! We believe that God will prepare us "line upon line, precept upon precept," so why should anyone expect that we have already received every revelation we need? Should we call up President Monson and tell him that he can retire? Because if we don't believe in ongoing revelation then we have no need for God's mouthpiece on earth. And while you're at it, let's rescind every change that God has ever mandated for this earth.

But you can't do that. Because everything God has created for us has been about progression and building upon things that are already good and true, starting with the separation of the light from the dark. So not only should we expect things to change, but we should be open and excited for the changes! After all, who knows how long Adam was out and about naming things before God made Eve. I'm sure Adam didn't complain about that change improvement.

So instead of seeing women's ordination as changing the church, think of it as adding to the truths that we already have.

Receiving the sacred ordination of the priesthood would only enhance the unique gifts each mother brings to her family, but it would do more than that. If both women and men were to hold the priesthood then we wouldn't have to pretend like women should hold a higher parenting role than men do.

If you believe in a Heavenly Father and Mother who love, nurture, and guide equally, then it only makes sense that our earthly roles should prepare us for that. I love both my heavenly and my earthly fathers and am so grateful for the roles they play in my life.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Paris... of the West

DISCLAIMER: When I was uploading pics from my camera to my dear old mac, something happened which I thought only happened to other people -- the pictures DISAPPEARED! Seriously. Okay, not all of them, but all of the best ones! Of course I still have random pictures that I took from the LaQuinta in Cheyenne, WY but about every third photo vanished. So after pouting to Jason for the better part of an hour, and verbally abusing my computer/camera, I have put on a stiff upper lip and decided to post the pictures I do have. In other words, I hope you have really low standards for this post.

As of last week, Jason and I have become Parisians.

In a way.

Last year, Jason and I decided we wanted to get out of Utah and take a little adventure. I hadn't gone on a study abroad for over a year and was just itching to get out of the 801.

SECOND DISCLAIMER: I really love Utah. I love the people, the landscape, the temples, the grid-system, the fry-sauce, everything. I really can't say enough good things about Utah. And if you say anything negative about it expect to hear an angry tirade with the phrases, "greatest snow on earth," "zion," and the definitive "this is the place" multiple times.

That being said, I am a creature who thrives on change. Consequently, growing up in one city for the majority of my formative years, going to college there, and then going to more college there is just a little much. I want to explore. We decided that since Jason is a much more marketable individual, he would apply for internships during the summer and we would just go wherever the wind would take us. Except we had ruled out the extremely-rural winds. We wanted an adventure, but not an episode of The Simple Life.

Hank's fav position: breathing in my face.
When Jason was offered an internship in Cincinnati helping professional athletes put on summer sports camps, we were all for it. Then, whenever I was too sick of editing diet pill articles at work, I would look up things about our soon-to-be-home. Did you know Cincinnati has the 4th most accessible parks in the nation? Well, you do now. And, more importantly, Cincinnati was dubbed "The Paris of the West" because of its exceptional architecture.

Guilty picture of Hank after he whined the. whole. night. long. in Cheyenne.

Now that we are out here, I must admit it is amazing. While it cannot rival the beautiful Wasatch front, Jason is so happy to be back in a place that is green again. Apparently the thriving populations of sage brush and tumbleweed in Utah don't do it for Oregonians. But the riverfront is so fun, the downtown is one of the cleanest I've ever seen, there are beautiful, old homes everywhere we go, and our apartment is 18 minutes from everywhere. Seriously -- a geographical oddity.

Beautiful Bella, the goldendoodle of Omaha.

It is definitely an adventure, though. Our apartment is on the border of two very different neighborhoods. One is absolutely gorgeous and full of well-manicured, historic homes. The other is less so. The Kroger in that neighborhood has full-time police escorts, and there have been multiple prostitute sightings. The drive shaft in our car just happened to break off (just a couple blocks before we got on the freeway #tendermercy) in that sketchy area and let's just say we wished we had Hank to be our chaperone.

We also did some pretty cool things before we got to Cincinnati.

For my birthday Jason got us a gourmet cooking experience.
That fire was intended. Double chin was not. 

It was a monumental birthday for Jason! He turned 24 on April 24th and so I forced him to have a golden birthday party.

He also rented a puppy. Because he is perfect.

It was mainly an excuse to eat good food while outside -- Jason's favorite things! -- but we even had an appearance from a real-live hobbit!

I was really happy.
But I had just gone to the dentist, so I was having trouble expressing the right emotions.

Also, we got to eat gold cake for weeks since I made multiple practice cakes because I'm kind of neurotic.

After the third leg of our drive out to the great Mid-West, we stopped in Chicago and had a little time to explore the more dog-friendly parts of the windy city. Let's just say you would never know how many wild bunnies there are in Millenium park before you are walking around with a born predator tied to your wrist. Somehow Jason and I managed to keep our arms attached to our body. Loose-leash walking is a myth and anyone who tells you otherwise is just trying to make you feel like a bad dog-owner.

Pretending to be Cubs fans. Except for Marin, who is a legitimate fan because she looks great in all Cubs gear.

Then I was a really terrible wife and let Jason go on to Cincinnati by himself while I had a weekend with some of my best friends from my London study abroad.

We don't mess around when it comes to food.

So many good things happened as a result of that study abroad -- like starting this dear old blog -- but the absolute best thing was the people I met there.

So hard to get a decent pic from a stranger.
As we learned very well in London.

I still can't believe what a miracle it was that we could have 16+ girls share one bathroom and we would not only still like each other by the end of 4 months, but we would love each other so much that we come together from all different parts of the country to laugh at the same jokes, eat bucket loads of calories, and go through anthropologie and J-Crew sales racks like there is no tomorrow.

Vegetarian hot dog.
Real hot dog.

Seriously, though. Fall, 2008 was the most magical 27 Palace Court has ever been. I know there are many from other semesters who would beg to differ, but I just don't know how semesters like ours could happen twice.

So much love.

Those who weren't there were dearly, dearly missed. Just keep putting that money aside for when we all go back to London together. I've already packed my nighties!

Oh and here's a bonus pic of me being really embarrassing to reward you for making it to the end of this really long post: