Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

With love from Casa Cook!

Friday, December 23, 2011

'Tis the Season

Stellan has been helping to get us in the Christmas spirit with some help from his preschool. He's been making super cute art projects (the wreath banner made from green handprints is a keeper for sure), telling us stories and singing us songs. In case you have a soft spot for 4-year-olds singing together, here's an excerpt from his class's Christmas concert, plus a still in case you can't play the video:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Solstice!

Living in Florida, it can be hard to track the changing of the seasons. No changing leaves, no snow, warm(ish) year round. I've had to rely on more subtle cues to decipher these sorts of things. Luckily, this morning Stellan (who, like a good Floridian boy, generally scoffs at sleeping in pajamas and goes more for the underpants-only approach) helped me realize that winter is indeed upon us:

Monday, December 19, 2011

Rachelle Is 1 1/2

Yes, it's true. Rachelle is 18 months old. And she acts every bit of it. Don't get me wrong, she is still just as sweet and good natured and even tempered as ever. But she loves to get into things, take things she shouldn't have and then hide them behind her back while smiling mischievously, and insert herself into big-kid play. She pops out new words everyday and then looks at me with mild disdain when I act surprised. She loves to "read" everything, and will drop any toy to look at a book that catches her eye. She also loves to talk on the "phone", which is in quotes because anything can be a phone to her. She likes to strip off my wristwatch and hold it to her ear: "Hewo... Byeeee."
I've included a video for you at the end of the post, but first, to prove she is still the awesomest little girl in the world, here's an 18-month-old story. In LDS congregations, 18 months is the magical age when kids start attending the nursery instead of you having to schlep them to Sunday School with you. So a couple of weeks ago I was opening the nursery cabinets for our substitute nursery leaders and Rachelle was with me. She looked around, decided to take a seat and play, and then refused to leave. I guess she knew she was just about old enough and that she was ready. So I left her (the subs didn't know she was only 17 and a half months old!). She stayed the whole 2 hours without pouting, looking longingly at the door or crying. She just decided it was time to start nursery and did it. She's been going ever since. In fact, one of the leaders reported yesterday that she is the best picker-upper in the group. Awesome.
So here she is, my sweet RaRa. I love you, sweet thing!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Utah Bound!

Since we got married, Kevin and I have split holidays between our two sets of families. But this year, to avoid costs, holiday stress and various health concerns (not ours, and in the end nothing to worry about), we decided that we would visit Kevin's family in Utah for his dad's 65th birthday in November, instead of in December for Christmas.
We had a great time, as always. Stellan and Rachelle were super excited to spend time with all their cousins and aunts and uncles and of course their doting grandparents. We got to visit with family and also catch up with some of our transplanted now-Utahn friends (I'm looking at you, Flemings and Nelsons!). The fall was a unique phenomenon to my children, who don't remember snow and have never seen fall leaves.
An added perk of going in November was that I got to see my brother Matt on his birthday. He is at BYU, so a quick drive from West Jordan got us to his dorm room. We met his delightful girlfriend Carolyn (none of his other siblings have met her yet - ha ha ha!) and ate way too much Brazilian barbecue.
Dad's birthday party was super fun, and delicious with homemade enchiladas. Kevin's mom Susan put together a birthday bag of 65 fun things to keep him young. All the kids and grandkids were there and it was an event to remember.
When you read this, Grandma, please know that Stellan says to me, "I wish I was at Grandma's house" at least once a week.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Visit to South Florida

Duncan invited us to his birthday party. In Fort Lauderdale. So we went. Just for the weekend, of course.
We had an amazing time. We got to stay with the Odenwalders and hang out with our South Florida pals. In addition to celebrating Duncan's birthday, we were there for Kirk's birthday party too. We ate at Jaxson's, went to the Museum of Discovery and Science and had a barbecue at the Rondas'. It was basically perfect.
These were Stellan's first kid birthday parties. And they didn't disappoint. Kirk's was a paleontological wonderland for preschool boys - they made a dig site filled with plaster bones for the kids to dig up. Then they smashed them to find toys inside. Awesome. Duncan's party was a racecar theme, but not like you've ever seen before. They created a track that covered the entire area of a city park with a gas station, snack stations, an ATM and a car wash. And they begged, borrowed or stole (OK, bought on Ebay) an army of Power Wheels-style vehicles for all the kdis to drvie. They had a faux fast food (McDuncan's) restaurant area, an amazing cake, the best party favor bag I ever saw and way more fun than you thought could fit into an afternoon. Duncan's mom is an event coordinator and caterer, so 'nuff said. You rock, Tiff!
Mostly it was a great time for us to catch up with all the friends we left behind in South Florida. We miss you all tons, wish we had more time to spend there. Invite us back for something soon, OK?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

It's a Leia!

We have an important announcement to make: my hair is getting very long (for me, that is.) Oh, also we're having a baby sometime on or around March 20th. And thanks to an ultrasound after breaking my butt, we already know it's a girl. No, she will not be named Leia; it just goes with the shirt. And, in case you don't feel like doing the math, I'm about 17 weeks along. And finally, if this is big news to you, that's because we haven't told people. You're hearing it here first. Way to be in the know!
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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Baby No More

In the last few weeks, Rachelle has transitioned 100% to toddler. She climbs everything, moves chairs around to climb everything better, knows what we don't want her to get and tried even harder to get it, babbles all day long and is fascinated with her own interactions with the world. She is still so sweet and easy-going, she hardly ever cries when she falls and she laughs the day away, especially around Stellan. For your viewing pleasure, Exhibit A, a photo subtitled "Mischief Managed", and Exhibit B, a video Kevin took.

Baby No More from Krissie Cook on Vimeo.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

How I Broke My Butt

Yes, it's true. My tailbone is broken. Or fractured. The doctors didn't want to x-ray it because the course of treatment is the same either way.
But that's not the real news. You want to hear how it happened, don't you?
Yesterday was Kevin's day off. He was in the backyard doing some gardening (not something I help with, any signs of green in my thumbs have withered and died) and Rachelle was playing alongside him. So I decided to sit in the hammock in the mid-morning breeze on our patio. I observed out loud that the outside edges of the hammock were frayed from the most recent tropical storm, but upon further inspection of the center section of the hammock, I deemed it structurally sound. I rested peacefully, enjoying birdsong and rustling leaves, when a new sound caught my attention. It was the sound of ripping hammock behind me. I sat up quickly, so as to make a hasty retreat from the hammock, but I was not fast enough. Just as I sat up straight, the hammock tore off the stand, and I fell straight down onto the oversized hand screws holding the frame together below me. (Insert fat joke here.) I collapsed on the ground in agony, sobbing pathetically for several minutes. Kevin helped me up and I went inside to lay down. The pain was excruciating.
It still is. And the bruise is certainly blogworthy, but also indecent. I'll leave it to your imagination. And do feel free to say something about my broke @$$.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Tornado Warning

Today is Labor Day, so naturally we'll spend our holiday enjoying Tropical Storm Lee. Our town is under tornado watch, so we should be hunkered down in our home listening to the weather report on our emergency radio. Instead, we went out for breakfast at Burger King because they have a playground for the kids, who have been trapped inside all this rainy weekend. Clearly, the playground is unnecessary. All you really need is a couple of high chairs.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Stellan's First Day of Preschool

Stellan started school today. We packed his snack, put on his close-toed shoes and dropped him off. He got to the classroom, peeked inside, then ran in without looking back. We've since discussed how there will be a hug and a kiss before he can enter the classroom. Rachelle is doing pretty well with the change, although she keeps looking around for her big brother. When she doesn't see him, she runs over for a cuddle. I'd say it's going to be a good school year.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

NASA Launch

Because I'm a Solar System Ambassador for NASA, I got a special invite to the first post-shuttle launch. This one was for Juno, a probe headed for Jupiter. The invitation included my family, and since we're only a few hours' drive away from the Kennedy Space Center, we decided to go. Stellan had been to a shuttle launch a couple years earlier and had really liked it, so we took a chance and packed our bags.
Although it was crazy hot (Florida-in-August kind of hot), it was totally worth it. We got to skip the main entrance gate and head the VIP entrance. We saw the launch from the Saturn Center on a grassy hill instead of metal bleachers. We got cool info packets and posters. And the launch was great. It was delayed several times, each time for a few minutes, but launched about an hour after its originally scheduled time. And after the launch, we got to tour the Kennedy Space Center as NASA's guests.
We'll be keeping tabs on Juno over the next few years; it won't get to Jupiter until July 2016. The kids will be 9 and 6 by then; they'll be able to say they were there when it left Earth. Thanks, NASA!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Steward Family Reunion

Every 4 years, the Steward family (including my grandfather, his siblings and all their progenitors) gather for a family reunion. We've been going since I was a kid, and I have very fond memories of spending time with my cousins (closely and distantly related) periodically throughout my life. I missed the last reunion because it was 4 days before Stellan was due, so I was extra excited for this one. This year it was held at a family member's farm outside of Portland. It was amazing!
First of all, we did spend some time before the reunion in Portland. We saw some (not enough) of the sights and enjoyed the perfect weather (very welcome halfway through a Florida summer). We also got to see one of my mission companions, Janae, who lives a couple hours away. Oh, and just being on the "Left Coast" felt so good. People spoke many languages and had many skin tones, we watched a cooking demo where the chef highlighted ways to substitute sugar for agave (in case we were unenlightened about agave's natural superiority), and I didn't see a single Bible or anti-abortion billboard.
And then there was the reunion. It was so great to see my siblings (it was the first time in a long time all 4 of us were together), my dad (Maggie was unable to join him - we missed her), my aunts and uncles, my grandfather, my cousins and their kids (most of whom I met for the first time) and to hang out. The whole thing was very laid back and unstructured and far too short.
The kids had a blast, and it was so great to see them playing with their cousins and running around like wild hooligans just like we did when we were kids. I'm so grateful we have these reunions, and also for all the people who worked so hard to put it together. Can't wait for the next one!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Happy Birthday, Stellan!

Stellan is so ready to be 4. He's tired of doing little boy things and wants to be grown up already. He has started playing video games with Daddy, asks questions constantly (and is doing better at waiting for an answer before moving on the next question), helps with dishes, yard work and even sometimes with Rachelle, and says things like, "Sorry, Mom; I can't play with you right now, I'm busy doing Stellan work." Stellan Work includes building train tracks, marble runs and Duplo structures. He starts school in a few weeks, so I'm enjoying the last little while of our morning time together while Rachelle takes her first nap. I love you, buddy!
I'm not ready for big birthday parties yet, so I asked Stellan what he wanted to do for his birthday. His requests were simple: play with Luke and have a triangle cake. Done. I even threw in a bonus swim for being so easy to please. A good-sized collection of presents from grandparents and other assorted relatives rounded out the evening. I hope 5 is as fun as 4.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Rachelle Turns 1

My little girl is all grown up. OK, she's 1. Insert stock statements about how I can't believe how fast the time as gone, how big she is, how proud I am. All of those are true, and more. Rachelle is still as sweet, tender, loving and easy-going as ever. And now she's a big girl. Happy birthday, RaRa!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Growing Up Fast

Being away from Rachelle for a week really made me realize how quickly she's growing. Before I left, she was taking a step or two at a time (she took her first steps 5 weeks ago at play group). When I came home, she was walking herself all over the house like a drunken sailor in a diaper. She is still as sweet as can be and continues to earn the title "Angel Baby". She likes to parrot everything Stellan does, including building marble tracks and jumping into large bodies of water with reckless abandon.
So for you grandparent types, here's a quick video of Rachelle walking around. Don't worry, Stellan's "horseshoes with Mardi Gras beads" game only lasts the first few seconds.

Monday, June 13, 2011

While I Was Away...

While I was away at camp, Granny generously agreed to fly out from California to help with the kids. She is a super terrific person, and if possible, an even more amazing grandmother. The kids had a blast playing and reading and cuddling with her. She admits to having been pretty tired at the end of the day, which I totally understand, but you'd never know it to see her. I walked in from camp to find everyone in the backyard; Stellan was constructing a mud pool in our dirt pit, Granny was picking something up off the patio and Rachelle was crawling around looking 100% grubby and 110% adorable in muddy overalls. How does that Granny do it? She's a wonder.
She was here a couple of days before camp and a couple of days after, so we also got to attend the Billy Bowlegs Pirate Parade together and take her to our museum and the beach. We had such a great time seeing her, and now that she's gone, we are all in withdrawal. Thank you, Granny - we miss you so much already!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mom!

We are celebrating my mother-in-law's birthday today. There was a huge surprise party for her yesterday but we couldn't make it, seeing as we live 2,500 miles away. That is not a reflection on how we all feel about her, though. Susan is a remarkable woman and a devoted fan of the blog, so I'm sure she's about to be mortified by the nice things I'm going to say about her right now.
Susan, you are one of the most special people in my life. You've adopted me as your own and I'm so grateful. You are an amazing grandmother to my children and will always be my husband's mommy. We all appreciate the close attention you pay to our lives and your concern for our well-being. We love you so much and we miss you every day. Happy birthday!

As a special Cookie Jar bonus, I'm including the video I made for the surprise party. Susan, I know you will balk at this because you don't want everyone to see your old photos. Luckily, you don't know how to leave comments on the blog so you'll never be able to tell me to pull the video down. Sorry, but I just had to let the world see how fantastic you are.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Girls Camp!

You may start reading this post with trepidation if you remember my more recent girls camp blog posts here and here. I mean, after canoeing in a thunderstorm and camping during a tornado watch, what could possibly come next?
I'm pleased to report that camp was a breeze. I had virtually no assignments and my girls were perfect little angels. They kindly respected the "No Drama Zone" I initiated before we left for camp and a good time was had by all. Basically, my job was to make sure my girls got to their assigned locations on time and also to lead the astronomy certification. Check and double check. I also helped in the kitchen, where the friendly but overworked cooks literally sweated the days away.
I will say that I think it's a bit wimpy to "camp" in air-conditioned dorms, but I do see that there are many possibilities for disaster if we were to actually camp in Florida in June. So instead I'll just be content with my happy memories, a dozen new teenage pals, a little extra padding from such delicious food and the hope that I'll be back next year.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Camping With Kirk

When the Odenwalders called to say that they had a couple of weeks off and would we like to meet them halfway between South Florida and here for a few days, we said yes. So we met at Rainbow Springs State Park and camped together. It was very hot and pretty buggy, but the water was a cool 70 degrees and kept us refreshed all day long.
It was so great to spend time with them! Kirk and Stellan are of course friends for life, and Rachelle and Heidi were besties since before they were even born. Everyone got along great and we enjoyed good food, relaxing time in and near the water and a beautiful nighttime sky.
Amy, when are you guys free again?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Butterfly House

There is a butterfly habitat in a neighboring town, so I thought we'd give it a try. The trip went smoothly until we pulled into the lot and saw that not only was the Butterfly House next to the beach, it was next to a playground and a splash pad. After some convincing, we decided to see the butterflies first and then get wet.
For all of you in Santa Barbara, you should know that this little exhibit didn't come close to comparing with the Butterflies Alive! exhibit you can see now through mid-September. The Butterfly House boasted dozens of butterflies in their garden, as opposed to more than a thousand in Santa Barbara. Despite its modest scope, it was very beautiful and the docents were friendly and informative.

Recent Adventures

We have been pretty busy, so I've been quite remiss in the blogging. To catch you up on things I haven't blogged yet, here are the CliffsNotes:

-Kevin was captain of an on-base intramural volleyball team. It made us all miss Team Condor. To see how they fared, watch the slideshow.'
-Kevin had a birthday. We celebrated all day and all night and had lots of fun showing Daddy just how much we love him.
-Stellan had his "Show Off To Your Parents Day" at gymnastics. OK, it wasn't called that, but that's basically what it was. I've included a video of his performances at the bottom of this post for you grandparent types, and anyone else who has a strong resistance to boring-to-just-about-anyone-but-family-of-child-that-is-not-yours videos. I would like to point out that this took place less than 12 hours after we got home from a cross-country plane ride, so it's a miracle he was even standing.
-The McKneeleys came to visit us. Melissa served her mission in Houston with me and Kevin, and Stephen was the ward mission leader in an area where Kevin and I spent 7 months. 10 years and 4 kids later, here they were at our front door! We were happy to offer them a place to crash on their way home from their Disney cruise. Come by again soon, McKneeleys!
-We baked. I know, not a banner item for most families, but we're not really bakers. However, when Kevin was charged with delivering a cake for a coworker's birthday, I busted out my Food Network Magazine and we rocked that cake. Entertaining and delicious. Watch the slideshow for details.
-We have spent this week with Natalie and Amanda, daughters of a friend who is chaperoning Cub Scout camp with her son Devon. Stellan has had the best time ever with "The Girls", who love to play with him and his toys. We've been busy exploring the lake, rivers, parks, our backyard and Stellan's new preschool (starting in the fall). Today they are with their dad, and while I'm enjoying the downtime, I miss hearing them say,"Can we do your hair after we make flowers out of pipe cleaners?" Girls are so fun.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Father-Son Camping, Mom-Daughter Snuggling

Stellan and Kevin went on the annual Father Son campout with lots of friends from church. Things seemed dire on their way out of town, what with the torrential downpour and thunderstorm. But it stopped long enough for them to pitch a tent, eat some dinner and hang out with friends. It poured all night, proving that our tent is very close to waterproof, and then cleared up in time for morning adventures.

While the boys were gone, Rachelle and I spent pretty much the whole weekend doing what we like to do best - cuddle. Really. I just plopped her down in the living room with some toys and started reading The Hunger Games. She would play for a few minutes, then crawl over to me to snuggle. Then she'd play for a few more minutes and then she'd come over with her toy to snuggle while she played. Sorry there are no pictures, but I'm pretty sure no photo could do this weekend justice to the memory I'll always have of me and my super snuggly Angel Baby Rachelle.
When are you going camping again, boys?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Santa Barbara, I Miss You Already!

My dear friend Monica married Ian in Santa Barbara and she was kind enough to invite me. I was thrilled to share that happy occasion with them both. Their reception was at the Museum of Natural History, so it was like a double homecoming. The reception was lovely, I have reaffirmed how much I miss all my Museum friends and also how glad I was to have grandparents there to babysit my kids.
While we were there, we also got to see my sister Jenn and her kids (including brand new baby Noah - so precious!), go to National Astronomy Day (thanks for letting me a couple of planetarium shows, Javier!) and celebrate Mothers' Day with 3 of my 4 moms. What a great trip.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


46 months old and 46 weeks old. Exactly. Today.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tia Steph!

My sister Stephie is one of the most awesome and funny and smart and sweet people I know. So we were so excited to have her come visit us for a few days on her way to a work conference in Tampa. We had a great time together, and Stellan can't stop talking about all the fun things we did with her. Come back soon, Tia!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Because you grandparents just eat it up, here are some Easter photos of our family. If you'd like any prints, let me know. Special thanks to our photographer, Tia Steph.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Road Trip!

In case you didn't know, we live only an hour from the Alabama state line. So on a recent trip the Birmingham temple (the closest one to us), we stopped at the Florala State Park on a lovely Saturday afternoon. After such a nice time there, maybe I should cut Alabama a little more slack.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Angel Baby

Comes complete with halo. Perfect afternoon trampoline weather not included.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Choice And Accountability

When Stellan does something he shouldn't, I ask him to stop or to switch behaviors. If he repeats Bad Thing A, I then mention to him what the consequence for another repeat offense will be. It only took a few tries for this to degrade to this:

Me: Stellan, please stop Bad Thing A or Consequence B will occur.
Stellan: If you invoke Consequence B, I will retaliate by resorting to Bad Thing C.
Me: If you resort to Bad Thing C, you will then earn yourself Consequence D.
Stellan: If I am subject to Consequence D, you will suffer the wrath of Bad Thing E.

And so it goes. I've found various strategies to stop this cycle, because I really don't like encouraging his creative little mind to think of of the meanest naughtiest things he could possibly do to upset me. But sometimes he does come up with some funny stuff. Like this one from earlier this week:

Me: Stellan, you can either leave the store with me right now, or I will pick you back up next week when Rachelle and I come back. [Not serious about this threat, but close enough be being serious that it comes off sounding pretty truthful.]
Stellan: But if you leave me here, I'll have to take someone's car. And we live really far away from here, so it will take a long time to get home. And I'll get sleepy while I'm driving the other car and I'll fall asleep and crash it. And then I'll get hurt.

Good thing he decided to leave with me!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Life More Open

Our house is a bit older, and as a result, there are some things that occasionally fall apart. But after today, I'm starting to feel like I'm fighting a losing battle.
#1. Our mailbox is wide open. The door rusted off on one side, and then the other. Now the mailman just leaves the whole door inside the box with our mail.
#2. A big storm blew our trampoline net off completely. Now it sits wide open. Don't worry, we'll get a new one soon. Come check it out anytime - you can see it easily from the street because our gate is wide open - it won't close.
#3. Our door frames are pulling out from the wall. This nice open gap also means nails stick out of the frame, one of which left a nice bruise on Rachelle's forehead the other day. She is tough, though, and is using it as impetus to walk all the sooner. Yeah.
#4. This one's the kicker. Today our garage door broke. I don't mean the mechanism that opens and closes the door is not functioning; I mean the door is broken. As I was pulling out of the garage, the door came down on our car. I managed to get it back up with the help of a neighbor, but a bolt on a hinge that holds two panels together is toast, and some of the wood has splintered apart. The door is broken. Tonight we'll go to bed with the garage wide open.

Late night addendum: Apparently this is theme that transcends our household. Tonight at choir practice, I left Rachelle to wander the choir chairs under the watchful eye of the choir at large while I filled in for the missing pianist. She found an open mousetrap (this kind) and was discovered with it stuck to her face. Some kind sopranos swept her away to the bathroom for some soap and water, but stopped short when they noticed her skin coming off with the adhesive. Don't worry, she's been completely de-stickified quite humanely by a very attentive mother in a very soothing bath. Poor little mouse.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Not Forgetting Stellan

Lest you forget he is being lost in the shuffle, here's the latest on my brilliant Stellan:
  • He is taking gymnastics, and rocking. After his very first class at our new gym, they immediately bumped him into the 4-5 year old class, even though he was only barely three and half. Now, for the summer, they are putting him in the advanced 4-5 boys' class.
  • He got his first two-wheeled bicycle. (It was a steal at $7 from our local thrift shop; we then outfitted him with new training wheels, helmet and pads.) He's getting faster all the time.
  • He is loving words. He says them out loud to himself all the time, then comes up with rhyming words and sounds. He also likes to make up Spanish words.
  • He is kind of a know-it-all. At the park a couple of weeks ago, one of his girlfriends invited him to ride on the airplane with him. He responded, "Actually, it's a space shuttle." He then proceeded to prod her into agreeing and finally rode the shuttle with her.
  • He loves building things. We spend hours of our day with his multiple marble tracks, his car tracks, his train tracks and his blocks. One of his favorite things to do is construct a Rachelle-proof enclosure made of blocks to hide his marble in.When the weather is decent, his construction efforts extend to the dirt pile out back.
  • He says awesome things. Here's a good one: we were at our local science center, which we visit almost weekly. An older couple came through, explaining that their 4-year-old granddaughter was coming to visit and they wondered if she would like this museum. Stellan quickly told them about his favorite exhibits and reassured them that he loves our museum. Then he added, "We love it because we're Museum People. Right, Mom?" No arguments here.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Meet Rachelle

I'd like you to meet my adorable daughter, Rachelle. Not newborn Rachelle.

Not 3-month-old Rachelle.

Not 6-month-old Rachelle.

I'd like you to meet this Rachelle.

Today she passes a special milestone; this is the day I celebrate the fact that she has been in my arms as long as she was in my uterus - 40 weeks plus 1 day. She is more amazing each day. Rachelle is a sweet and loving baby, quick to flash a smile at her mama, her daddy or her big brother. She is much more quiet than Stellan was, but just as curious and eager to explore. She is furniture cruising, trying to stand on her own, eating more than her big brother does in a day and charming everyone she meets. I love her so much, and so I'm going to go all mama-crazy and show you how cute my sweet Baby RaRa is. You'll find a slideshow of some pictures I took on the trampoline while Grandma and Grandpa Cook were here. I've also included a video of a typical Rachelle encounter; I dare you not to smile when you see the look on her face. And finally, for comparison's sake, a photo of my daughter and a photo of her mother at a comparable age.

Friday, March 18, 2011

My Newest Nephew

My beautiful sister Jenn delivered a beautiful baby boy this morning. Noah, you are so cute! I can't wait to meet you.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Grandma and Grandpa!

Kevin's parents came to visit us for a week, and we sure had a great time with them. I loved watching my kids enjoy their grandparents, and Kevin and I were both really grateful for all their help around the house. We love to see them come, hate to see them go and hope they'll be back soon!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lightning Trip To Atlanta

When Viv said, "We're coming to Atlanta. Can you meet us?" I was 100% in. Then I realized she was getting there the day before my in-laws were coming to visit us in Shalimar. Perhaps the sane choice would have been to just scrap it, but I couldn't resist the chance to see Vivian and let Stellan and Levi spend some time together. So we drove to Atlanta (6 hours each way) for an overnight visit.
Viv's sister Carrie was kind enough to let us stay with her, and it was a party at Carrie's. She has a son, Theo, who is the same age as Stellan and Levi, so the first 2 hours we were there was just a blur of running, jumping and tackling kids. So great! We were thinking about going to the zoo the next morning, but it was raining so we went to the bounce house instead.
I am sad to report that I don't have many pictures. It was tough to get those kids to stay still! But I do have a video for you. I hope the joy Stellan felt at being reunited with his bosom buddy comes through.

In case you wanted to see that look on Levi's face again, here it is:

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Guess I Misjudged

While Stellan was napping the other day, Rachelle and I were playing, doing housework, cleaning up and generally having a good time. She started getting a little cranky just as I had to start on dinner, so I figured we could multitask; she could eat while I was cooking. So I popped her in the high chair with some Cheerios and started to work. Two minutes later I turned around and this is what I saw. Oops - tired and hungry sound a lot alike sometimes. Sorry, Rachelle.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Timber Lake

We went for a hike on President's Day to Timber Lake. Enjoy - the last picture is the money shot.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Around the House

In our blogging absence, we've been trying to keep busy. So here's a quick update.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Our Great Return

[Note: During the course of our awesome trip, our camera was lost. It was later found and returned, hence the blogging hiatus. Sorry.]

After 3 long months away from our friends in South Florida, we went back. Our friends were baptizing their baby daughter and were kind enough to invite us, so we came. It was a short trip (3 days) sandwiched by a 10-hour drive each way, but totally worth it. Enjoy some photos! And please, people in South Florida, give us another excuse to come visit - it was a blast. Finally, a special thank you to Jorge and Rosanna, who let us crash at their pad, at great cost to to their sleep, their home's cleanliness and their dogs' sanity.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Today at church Stellan's Sunday school teacher stopped me (uh oh) and asked, "Is Stellan your son? Because he looks just like..." This is when I expected him to finish with "his dad." I know, I know; he looks like Kevin. It's one of my favorite things about him. But I'm glad I bit my tongue because the next part made it all worth it. "He looks just like Jack Bauer."

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Because They Are

I had some extra pictures that didn't make it in to my other blog posts but I had to include anyway. They are in an album entitled, "My Kids Are Stinking Cute." Enjoy!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I Know, They're Spoiled

Not because I buy them lots of things. Mostly I buy my kids diapers. But I will tell you what makes my kids more spoiled than many - having so many grandparents. They have six grandparents (all living) and 5 living great grandparents. Almost all of whom we saw on this trip.
Since I know that these grandparents are the blog's biggest fans, I'd like to take this opportunity to tell you how much we love you and appreciate you. And to you California grandparents, I want you to know that my kids have been in serious withdrawal. Let's keep the Skyping coming!

Friday, January 28, 2011


One thing I miss about the West Coast is tidepooling. So while we were in California, I had to take advantage of an excellent low tide to head to Carpinteria State Beach with my very dear friends the "Spattersons". I used to babysit the boys when they were young, and it's so fun to see them growing up. I can't believe how awesome they all are. And the tidepooling was choice. Special thanks to Kathy, who took most of these photos (all the good ones are hers).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tar Pits

While we were in California, we caught up with some Florida friends who were also visiting relatives. Since they were in the San Diego area, it only made sense to meet up halfway - at the Page Museum of course. (This is the location of the La Brea tar pits.)
The Odenwalders showed up en masse - a big group of kids, parents, grandparents and even a great-grandma. Awesome! Most importantly, Stellan got to see Kirk and Rachelle got to hang out with Heidi. Oh, what a happy reunion!
Since then, we talk about our trip and the tar pits every day. Seriously. Every time Stellan sees a dark puddle, he wants to know if it's a tar pit. Also, he makes me tell him stories about animals that get trapped in tar pits. It obviously made a huge impression, although we're still working out the whole prehistoric-mammals-were-not-dinosaurs thing.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I Heart Cousins

Stellan is cousin-deprived, living thousands of miles away from any of his. But he loves them, and he got to see them while we were in California. They were obviously very cute together, and of course it's super fun to watch my brothers and sisters as parents. (They are all very good at it.)
Also fun was to watch my Uncle Rob's boys play with my son. You see, Uncle Robbie is only 9 years older than me, so when I was a kid at family parties, we would hang out because he was a kid too. Now his boys are a few years older than my son, and they play with Stellan like Robbie played with me.
I had an amazing déjà vu experience after Christmas dinner. Riley (age 10) said to Stellan, "Do you know how to put candles out with your finger? You gotta lick it like this..." And suddenly I remembered the Christmas I was 6 years old and Uncle Robbie was explaining the same thing to me. Family is awesome.
Please enjoy this slideshow devoted to cousins.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Christmas CliffsNotes

Our Christmas in Santa Barbara was a blast. The kids and I spent 3 blissful weeks with family and friends in my hometown. I spent lots of time at the Museum (I even gave planetarium shows while I was there). We went tidepooling, we ate yummy food, we shopped at Trader Joe's, we went to the nativity at the Mission, we did a semi-impromptu musical number in sacrament meeting, we watched bowl games on cable, we pawned the kids off on relatives.
But most importantly, we had a blast hanging out with the fam. In retrospect, the first week was a big build-up as siblings started arriving and we waited for more to come. Then there was the middle part, which was smashed full of love, hugs, jokes, presents and general merry-making. Then people started leaving, which was almost excruciating. I managed to see all 7 of my siblings over the course of the trip and also all 3.5 of my nieces and nephews, as well as 42% of my cousins (3 in total).
As Kevin put it, "It was so good to see all of you! We love you, we miss you."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Blogging Hiatus Over

Quick update:

-We spent the holidays in Santa Barbara with my family. It was awesome. Many photo albums to post. Details to expound.
-The kids and I stayed 3 weeks, Kevin flew in and out for a week in the middle. In case you were wondering, flying with a three-year-old and a six-month-old by myself was about as horrific as it sounds. Complete with missing flights and preschoolers escaping on the moving walkway with I was nursing Rachelle.
-We came home with colds that continue to linger. Don't be jealous.
-Having more Christmases than you can count on one hand totally rocks. Do be jealous. We made it last well into the New Year.
-Kevin finally got interim security clearance at his new job and is no longer sitting in a conference room doing nothing but watching FOX News all day. He now has a desk with 5 monitors (I have monitor envy) and is training on some of his duties until his full security clearance comes through. BTW, thanks to everyone who has been contacted by the FBI.
-Stellan started Sunbeams at church. (That means he has left the nursery and is now considered a real live kid and attends Primary classes until he turns 12.) Since I was just called as the 2nd counselor in the Primary presidency, that means we both went to Primary for the first time on the same day. He looked more cute and excited than I did.
-We're leaving again soon so I better stop being a slacker and get on with the blogging already! I gotta catch up with Christmas 2010 before Christmas 2011 is upon us.

Look for many blog posts to come. I'll try and limit myself to a healthy photo to text ratio.