Saturday, December 2, 2017

Family Pictures

One thing I've always wanted to do in Jacksonville is take family pictures at the beach. But all in all, I've been too cheap to take family photos very often in the past (read: I've never paid for family photos). But my good friend Enge is so talented and so reasonably priced and just so wonderful that we finally got our lovely, pink-tinged, salty, windy, happy family photos on the beach.

And I love them! I tried to pick just my favorites to post here but that's still a lot, so just bear with me. 

Darling girl. 

Isn't this ocean-battered pier just so cute? Props to Enge for finding it! 

I love this one. So happy to have captured all her happiness. 

Collecting shells. 

Just look at this handsome guy. Greg is a pretty photogenic dude. Enge took one picture and was like "Well...that's perfect." 

Now, I'm not so photogenic. After about 200 tries we got a decent picture of me, though. Yes, the wind on the beach blew out my curls, and I was too lazy to do fancy pancy make-up (not that I really know how?) But I like this picture of me anyway. It looks like me. 

Fun fact: I made Brynn's dress! I have this fantastic book from Oliver and S called Building Block Dress. It teaches you to alter a dress pattern in basically any way you want, and I love it. I knew I wanted to do mint and pink, and I found this material on sale and decided to go for it. It only takes me a couple of days to whip out a dress now! A far cry from five years ago when I had pretty much no idea how to work a sewing machine, much less read a pattern. I'm kinda proud of myself, and now I can make exactly the dress I want for less than $10. 

Gosh, we love our little family. And we love living in such a beautiful place. Florida is good to us. This sunshine-soaked place is where we need to be right now, and I'm so glad we have pictures of this beautiful time in our lives. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Books - Post 6

I'm way behind on my book posts, people. Some of these I feel like I read ages ago. So here's just a quick trip through my reading life lately.

The Magnolia Story - Chip and Joanna Gaines. Cute. They're so likable.

When Breath Becomes Air - Paul Kalanithi. If you want to read an extremely powerful memoir, read this. Paul Kalanithi was a neurosurgeon diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He and his wife made the brave decision to start a family. Such beautiful lessons about life, death, and our relationship with God.

The Conscience of a Conservative - Jeff Flake. I went to High School with some of the Flake kids, and he was my representative growing up. Although I'm pretty sure that tons of people--both conservatives and liberals--will HATE this, I just so wholeheartedly agree with his assessment of the floundering of the Republican party, and I appreciate Flake's desire to speak the truth even though there will probably be very real consequences. When did we become the party of xenophobia and nativism? Stop it, guys. Just stop it. Nationalism is not patriotism, and stating this "is not an act of apostasy" but "an act of fidelity." A great read to understand the Trump years and what changes we can make, even though, like I said, I'm pretty sure lots of people I know will hate this.

The Stranger - Camus. Meh.

The Omnivore's Dilemma - Michael Pollan. Got kind of political at times but I probably should have expected that. I agree with Pollan that we have lost touch with our eating roots, and I should have more awareness of where my food comes from. Very interesting.

The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls. A re-read. Heartbreaking and mind blowing, one of those books that everyone should read at least once.

The Revenant - Michael Punke. Grizzly bears and fur trappers and revenge and stuff.

Hillbilly Elegy - J.D. Vance. My pick for a family book club. I totally understand why this book has become so popular. Such an important read. It's basically a memoir about family life in white working class Appalachia written from the perspective of a man who left and went to Yale Law. A great read to understand the Trump it just me or do I sound like a broken record? Sad and raw and real and critical to understanding America now, I think.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Faith Not to Be Healed

It's been a hard couple of weeks.

Stuff with my calling that is stressful and I don't know how to fix. Greg has been gone a lot for hurricane cleanup. Though she was once almost fully potty trained, Brynn has regressed so much that she's back to wearing a diaper full time because I can't even handle it anymore. So I feel like I've failed her, which is not true but is also not easy to stop obsessing about. Feeling sad about fertility and reproductive health stuff, which I have so little control over. IVF gave us a small illusion of control, but it was just that...sort of an illusion. A beautiful illusion that gave us Brynn so quickly, but still. Anyway. You know. This kind of stuff.

Yesterday was also the four year anniversary of having Austin and Daniel. I miss them. It was hard. It is all okay, but it was still just hard.

Yesterday Greg got home a little later from work (it's quarter close) and Brynn had literally been whining and screaming at me for an hour and a half. For some reason she refused to nap yesterday, and she didn't sleep good the night before either. Usually she's a great sleeper. So I was frustrated and tired and sad and Greg told me to go get in the car and have a snack. He bowed out of mutual that night (which I felt a little bad about) and then he finished giving Brynn her dinner, put her to bed, washed all the dishes, cleaned up all the toys, etc, etc. He is really the best.

And I got a cookies and cream milkshake from Chic fil A and sat in an empty parking lot doing nothing for an hour.

And as I sat there, I thought, Why does everything have to be so hard? Almost immediately, I told myself that my life is beautiful and is really not terribly hard at all considering what others in the world must go through. I also remembered that Hard is Good.

But still.

I didn't come to any lovely conclusions and I don't have any grand epiphanies to share. I've been focusing on the advice given in General Conference from, I think, Elder Hallstrom and praying for the faith NOT to be healed. It feels like a good portion of my adult life I've been praying for this, with all of the different things that come with polycystic ovarian syndrome. And maybe as time goes on, maybe I'll get better and better at it.

That's what I have for right now, and I think that's probably enough. It is what it is. If everything were always easy I guess life would be pretty boring. And it's funny how the gospel works. The more I pray for faith not to be healed, the more it brings a kind of healing, and probably the best kind of healing of all.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Books 2017 - Post 5

Seven Years in Tibet - Heinrich Harrer. Read this for the Zollinger family book club. It was so interesting because I didn't know anything about Tibet. They practiced polyandry there when Harrer was there in the woman married to a bunch of different men. Also the Dalai Lama is cool.

Ross Poldark, Demelza, Jeremy Poldark, Warleggan - Winston Graham. Okay, so I might have gone through a *slight* Poldark obsession this summer. It all started by watching the BBC program first, and then when I finished agonizing over all the episodes I went to the books. But I first had to decide if I even wanted more Poldark in my life because I was SO MAD at the protagonist. Seriously, I have never been so emotionally involved in the decisions a bunch of fictional characters make in my life. Maybe Harry Potter. Anyway, the books added a lot of clarity and detail and background that just didn't fit in the show, but is it weird if I say I almost liked the show better?? Something so rich and so beautiful about how Ross and Demelza were portrayed on screen that I didn't feel in the books. Was it the music, the Cornwall scenery? Not sure. There are EIGHT more books in the series but I have only read up to the part where the show stopped. Don't worry, Season 3 is available in America on October 1. Anyway, I am thinking I will stop reading now because I would almost rather watch it than read it??? It's like I don't even know who I am anymore. I am so curious to see what happens next. There is a lot of potential to demonstrate real forgiveness and redemption here (YEAH ROSS YOU MESSED UP).

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood. Maybe the book that made me think the hardest since I did a bunch of analyzing and researching and writing on lit in college. Some may read this as a critique on Christianity but it's not. A few passages really hit home to me...Do we classify women based on their fertility? Hmm. Can't say I haven't thought about that before. Some really good characters here, and I like the fact that the book forces you to interpret so much for yourself.

The BFG - Roald Dahl. Another book club. I read this as a child but I don't think I appreciated the whimsical, funny, intelligent play with language before.

My Story - Elizabeth Smart. This book was so hard to read, because it is true and I remember it happening. I almost cannot believe that such evil exists in the world. I am amazed at how Elizabeth Smart handled this, and how she can write about it. When she came home, her mother told her not to spend time feeling sorry for herself, because that was just allowing her captor to steal more time from her. I think I would have been ticked if I had heard that. Sometimes we feel so justified in feeling sorry for ourselves. Um, I feel sorry for myself all the time. ALL THE TIME. But Elizabeth writes about how she just made a choice to find happiness, which is amazing after you read about the things that happened to her. It has given me new resolve to just not look for reasons to feel sorry for myself. It was also a beautiful reminder about how our God never leaves us comfortless.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Stuff We've Made for Our New House!

Greg and I have been over here gettin' our craft on for our new house. It has been crazy amounts of fun to build and make things for a place that is our very own. I even feel like I am more inclined to bake things totally from scratch than I was before because my kitchen is no longer itty bitty. And I have a CRAFT ROOM where my sewing machine is always set up, so I sew a little more often as well. I don't know why pulling out the sewing machine and putting it on the table was always such a deterrent to sewing before. I think I'm probably just lazy. 

But anyway, I finally made this little plastic bag holder thing. I don't know about anyone else, but underneath my sink has always been a Moist Abyss of Plastic Bags. Where Walmart Goes to Die, if you will. Well, not anymore! Used a cute flour sack kitchen towel and hung this up in my (overflowing) pantry! Now I just pull one out whenever I want. 

Greg has been very productive in our handy dandy new garage. Having a garage is all levels of awesome, I might add. Greg got a Kreg Jig for his birthday (at least I think that's what it's called. I dunno, something like that). So now he can make cute little pocket holes and build furniture left and right! This little bench was his first project and I think it is darling. If you ever need to find me and Greg on a Saturday, there's a good chance we will be at the neighborhood Lowe's, weeping and wailing and gnashing our teeth as we dig through the piles of lumber like a couple of crazy people looking for the best and straightest boards. Brynn just stares at us like, whatever parents. 

Greg and I also got crafty and made this little hanging plant holder thingie. 

I love it! Sometimes Pinterest is a wonderful thing. I just wanted something cute to put above our bed, and I love the look of green growing things all in a row. We fixed mason jars and hose clamps on this board and it is perfect! I even love the way the hose clamps look...kind of industrial-ly. Chic and rustic-ish. Obviously I have no idea what I'm talking about, but I do just really like this a lot. I didn't even buy anything to put in the mason jars, I just use clippings from my boxwood bushes. 

I also made these curtains! Total cosh: $3. Not kidding. I used a pack of towels from Ikea, and I didn't even use all the towels.

I was going to take a bunch of picture showing how I did it, but that is just exhausting and so it didn't happen. And come on, no one wants to read my amateur sewing musings. Basically I just cut up the towels and pieced them back together to make it cute. 

At first I didn't like how it turned out. I wanted them to be more full. But the longer I have them I think they are kind of perfect. Just simple. 

You will notice in the above picture that my kitchen is a TOTAL WRECK right now. I mean, I'm not super prompt on the dishes but even I have some standards. Well, the kitchen is a mess because today Brynn and I canned salsa! 

Canning is scary for me because I just feel like I am running around my kitchen burning my hands in hot water and spilling ingredients and re-reading the directions off the Ball website. I have no clue what I'm doing. Therefore, I proudly refer to the product above as "Botulism Salsa." Fingers crossed I don't kill my family. I figure the more I do it the easier it will be? That's gotta happen eventually right? 

So we still have some furniture to make to fit the nooks and crannies of our new house, but it is really starting to come along. We had our first mini house crisis last night and I must say we came out of it extremely proud of ourselves. After we put Brynn to bed we realized the carpet in the hallway was damp...and just getting wetter. At first I thought Brynn had an accident on the sly but then we were like WHERE IS ALL THIS FLUID COMING FROM AND HOW COME IT WON'T GO AWAY. We started investigating our AC, which was leaking onto the foundation. After poking around and saying things like "Uh, I dunno, should we screw off that little plate thingie there?" to each other we figured out that our condensate pipe was backed up. Exactly how did anyone survive as a homeowner before the internet? It is a mystery to me. 

Long story short, Greg ran to Lowe's and got a wet/dry vac and bright and early this morning we sucked out all the algae that had clogged the hose. We were like, YAY US!!! Apparently random algae is something that happens in Florida because of the crazy humidity. How are we supposed to know that? I'm from The Surface of the Sun, Arizona, for crying out loud. Anyway, we didn't have to call a repair person and now we own a shop vac! So win/win. 

It is a lot of fun to experience these new things with my family. Adulting for our new house is pretty rewarding. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Birthday Girl!

Someone had a birthday this week at the Zollinger home! Actually, two people have birthdays this week around here, because tomorrow Greg turns the big 2-9. Only one year til he reaches 30, people. This stuff is serious.

Anyway, all musings on how old Greg is getting aside, this little girl is now officially two! She talks up a storm. Anything that is small is called "baby." As in, when the rainstorm is ending, "Awww, baby thundah, toot!" Anything that is a baby is cute. She calls bows on her clothes butterflies, but only some of them, because, well, not all bows look like butterflies. She is starting to get old enough that she loves playing in her dresses and loves to choose them out herself. Her favorite foods are nacks (fruit snacks), anything with cheese in it, and tookey (turkey). Also she loves tandy (candy), it is so nummy (pretty sure you can guess that one). Anything remotely related to fruit is an apple. Also sometimes potatoes and beans are apples too. She LOVES swinging at the park and would do it all day if I would let her. She is also starting to do things like pretending to be different animals and crawling around the house roaring or whatever. It is so awesome to watch her spunky little personality unfold.

I still can't believe that she was born a whole 2 years ago. Time flies. She gave me a little present on her birthday and fell asleep in my arms before her nap. She hasn't done that in a long time but it was just what I needed to remind me that even though she's getting bigger, she will always be mine.

Last year Brynn was a bit confused about the whole unwrapping presents thing, but this year she dived right in. With her blankie, because...well, I'm not sure. We live in Florida. It's 1000 degrees with 939% humidity.

She got some bottles for her dolly, some books, a puzzle, and some clothes. So a pretty good haul. She also got this set for her dolly...a stroller, swing, and little bed. We spoil her I think. Oh well. She's really cute. SHE NEEDS PRESENTS. Plus, look how much she likes it! She loves anything that has to do with her baby. 

Grandma and Grandpa also got her this little trike, which she found as soon as she woke up and loves. 

She also got this little dress that I made. It was fun to do, although she still needs to grow into it a little bit. 

Fishy cake! And baby fish cupcakes. 

We had a little play group/party at the splash pad with some friends. Brynn refused to play in the splash pad, which was weird, but again, there were swings there, and swinging is life. 

It was a great day to celebrate our little Brynn Eliza. 

I don't mean to get overly sentimental here, but this little girl really saved me two years ago. She was the first child I got to take home with me, the first one I fed, the first one I woke in the dark to hold. We are learning and growing together and I love her so much it almost aches. She is beautiful and strong and of my friends called her fierce, and that fits her. Well, Brynn girl, I love you fiercely, so maybe that is where you learned it. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Books 2017 - Post 4

I've gotten a little behind blogging about books with our move and everything, so here's a little catch up post!

Babylon's Ark - Lawrence Anthony. This was written by the same guy who wrote the book about elephants on his game reserve. When the Iraq War came to Baghdad, Anthony hopped on a plane to save the Baghdad Zoo. He was the first civilian allowed into the city, and even though a high percentage of the animals had been killed by bombs or killed for food by rampant looters, Anthony was able to save most of the remaining animals, including a herd of man-eating lions who had been kept in Saddam's palace. This book gives an interesting perspective about how war touches civilian lives.

A Walk in the Woods - Bill Bryson. So I can't decide if I liked this book or not. Bryson writes about attempting to walk the 2000+ miles of the Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. I loved the parts about the trail's history because there were some fun little tidbits of American folklore. But guess what? They don't even hike the whole trail, and at the end of the book, the author is like, "We got to know the trail and spent a lot of time on the trail so we basically hiked it." Um, no you didn't.

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury. A Zollinger Book Club book. I thought some of Bradbury's observations about technology in culture were so spot-on. I didn't find myself really drawn to the characters but this book really makes you think. So many nuggets of wisdom. I will always remember how at the end of the book, the keepers of the literature head back to help those in a city that has just been totally bombed out. They are the only ones who remember Shakespeare, and the Bible, but rescuing humanity is more important, ultimately, than safeguarding the books. Books and literature are only valuable if they help us remember and learn what is really important.

Flags of Our Fathers - James Bradley. A good book to read around Independence Day. This book is about the six flag-bearers who put up a flag on Mount Suribachi. The picture that was taken became iconic for so much more.

Three of the men who raised the flag were killed within days. Sometimes we only hear the life stories of the men who came back from war, so I think it's important to learn about the background of common soldiers who didn't come back too. The twist here is that just a few years ago, they figured out that the man whose son wrote the book was mis-identified, and wasn't actually in the picture. 

Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt. A pulitzer prize winning memoir about a boy growing up poor in Ireland in the 1930s and 40s. I love memoirs, but this one got rather crass at the end and seemed to lose substance to me as it did so. I skipped a few parts, but the coming of age story was memorable.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

So We Bought a House

When we moved to Florida for the first time (technically we've moved to Florida three times), we didn't think we would be here long. It was for a co-opt and we were just excited to explore and go on adventures and experience something different. I mean, Utah is cool and whatever but FLORIDA IS FLORIDA.

You get the picture.

Since then, we've been really on the fence about what we wanted to do for Greg's graduate school. Education is so important to us and he's always wanted to do an MBA, and he even considered doing a Ph.D. in managerial accounting as well. So I guess we always tentatively planned on going back to school full-time either next year or the year after. And you know, we were okay with being all poor again and doing apartment living for another 1048 years.

But this past spring we've had to reevaluate some things. Greg likes his job and his company and THEY STILL DO PENSIONS, WHAT? Also J and J will help pay for a master's degree if he works while he's doing it. And, it just so happens we live very close to one of the best part time MBA programs in the country, which is the University of Florida in Gainesville.

And, guess what? We have embryos here. (Like a lot of them. Funny story...PCOS women who do IVF have tons of eggs and therefore lots of embryos, they're just not very healthy). We've been struggling (again) with the 'build our family' thing and it was super stressful to feel like we were on a time crunch or we had to move our frozen children across the country or we had to be okay with not having kids through the two years of an MBA or whatever. It was all just stupid.

So one night we were talking and one of us said maybe we needed to just stay here in Florida for school and quit being on the move for awhile. And for the first time in a long time, we had some peace. It felt right.

Well, if you are going to stay somewhere, it is super annoying to rent. So after a couple of weeks of looking we put in an offer on an adorable little house, negotiated a little bit (AHHHHH), and we've found ourselves in a great little neighborhood just having a blast putting our first home together. We didn't even need to leave the ward.

Excuse the mess. Brynn's been playing and I'm too lazy to clean it up. That's the best excuse I have. But look at my cute fireplace. 

Backyard! Yay! 

With all the moving and a few pieces of new furniture and stuff, Brynn's been very helpful. She loves to play with Daddy's tools. Here she is repairing(?) her crib. 

Kitchen! This was when the other people were living here. It looks different now because we painted over the lime green wall. I could go take a picture of it, but again, I'm very lazy. 

Speaking of painting, choosing paint colors is literally the hardest thing I've ever done in my entire life. This is me trying to paint our bedroom a buttery yellow. (Isn't the wainscoting fun?) I'm not sure we ended up with the right color but eventually you just get sick of painting. For the record, we went with Cornstalk lightened by 10% and then with some white paint dumped in. It was a very organized process, not a desperate late-night thing the day before we moved at all. 

The rest of the house is gray. We painted the ENTIRE house before we moved in, with some help of our dear friends the Leishmans who now own our souls. Doesn't the gray look truly horrible on top of this pink? Funny story, Brynn's bedroom was two-toned hot pink, and the paint had sparkles in it. I mean, I didn't even know you could buy paint like that but now I know. 

I'm sure we'll be sharing some more pictures soon, because we've really been having so much fun making this house our own. Greg's already been building some furniture in our garage (!) and I've been blowing all sorts of money at Hobby Lobby. I'm going with farmhouse decor which I think just means going rustic and putting cotton stems all over the place?? Who knows. All we know is that we love our little yellow farmhouse in Jacksonville. 

It's good to be home.