August 21, 2009

Hey, that's DOCTOR to you (Part 2)

It has now been over two months since this day, but you can't have Part 1 of a blog post without following up with an additional part or four. Besides, the only differences in the way we look in the pictures is that Tessa has less hair and chub than she does now. Indulge me.

The day dawned gloomy, as June days often do in southern California. But for all the impending light drizzle, the set-up and participants came with all the pomp and circumstance one would expect at a smarty-pants school. The commencement speaker was the U.S. Secretary of Energy, Dr. Steven Chu, who did a nice job recounting our current environmental problems and how every graduate there was expected to fix them by the year 2030. Since there's no rush, I don't think the apocalyptic end of the world seemed as much a concern. Gee whiz, they're graduating from CalTech - let them go make money and THEN save the world.

My dad wasn't too fond of the speech, labeling it quite political for a day of regalia and pats on the back, but it's no secret he's not a fan of the current administration, so I just smiled and took the pictures.

Ted's parents were enraptured until the rain started falling, and then they took Tess and ordered me to different parts of the lawn to get pictures.

I was just so thrilled to get this picture, and relatively close enough so you can see. The names are called rather quickly, and the hooding happens in an instant, so without one of those fancy cameras where you can just rattle off 20 pictures in 3 seconds, I would have missed the moment. Technically, this is when he became a Doctor and began demands that I address him only as such, though he allows me to tone it down a bit by calling him Dr. LoverPants.

Ted's parents, brother, sister-in-law, and niece came from Utah to spend the weekend with us. And as in 60% of our photos, Ted's eyes are half-closed.

My parents and I were there, of course, and Tessa is wondering why daddy looks so weird.
That robe and cap will accompany us wherever we go now, joined by another in a few years. I wonder which one will look better...

Ted's younger brother, Peter, is starting medical school in Texas the same time Ted is starting law school in North Carolina. I'm so glad they're going through the same student loan woes we are at the same time, because it gives us people to complain with. Some of that complaining has already begun. Thanks, Kathleen! These two cousins got dressed together that morning and decided to wear the same thing. They're so twinny!

Had to throw this one in of Ted's greatest accomplishments. I have it on good authority that the one on the right was a lot more fun to get.

And on to the good stuff. DESSERT! Lunch afterwards was a fancy and delicious affair. You guys know my fetish with sweets. Had to do it.

And for posterity, Tessa used to have a smaller head and keep a pacifier in her mouth. This was only two months ago, but she sure has changed since then.

And my favorite, the first job of a newly crowned PhD.

August 18, 2009

First Impressions

It's been a whole week since we rolled on in to North Carolina, and I thought I'd offer up some first love affairs and such.

Best thing so far that I didn't have in California: There's a radio station here that plays basically everything in my collection. It's dubbed the "feel good" station, and they'll honestly play Bobby Brown next to Def Leppard. Therefore, I am in heaven.

Worst thing so far besides leaving so many wonderful people behind: Bug bites, and lots of them. I was crossing my legs in church, but had to just use the heel of my shoe to scratch all the bites on the other leg. Bah!

And speaking of church, I had a WONDERFUL first Sunday in our new ward. I didn't expect it to be that good, but Sacrament meeting was so poignant and great that it had me on a high for the rest of the day. We have an organist who, granted, is no Janet, but who plays as well as possible on the electronic organ she has to work with. Fast and loud, and good hymns. I heard today she's also the ward choir director. More on that later. The chorister left something to be desired, but at least nothing was going at snail's pace, and who looks at the chorister anyway?

There were three speakers and the Primary sang after the first two. All three speakers had prepared fantastic talks, well-thought out, and touched on things I'd either been thinking about or praying about over the last several months. The Primary sang "I Love to See the Temple" and I was honestly looking for the kids from Pasadena up there (especially Rachel M, who I later spoke with that night and who told me, verbatim, "Interestingly enough, Allison, OUR Primary sang "I Love to See the Temple" in Sacrament Meeting today, too. Are you sure you weren't there?" She's 5.), and got all teary because that's the song I sang for Tessa to get her to sleep the night before. Later on that night (the night before church), I'd had a dream that there were specific people in our home and they were heading toward Tessa's room. In my dream, I knew they were there, but had no weapon since we were on the 3rd floor and she sleeps on the 2nd. It was so disturbing that I got up at 3:43am to check on her, and there she was, snoring away.

So the 3rd speaker got up to speak - a native North Carolinian, and told us how he's been able to cope over the last year since they found their only son dead in his bedroom one night in August last year. It struck a chord, and the tears flowed. He was a man who had been a member a long time, but had never been through the temple. He felt inspired to prepare to do so, and in doing so, his wife joined the Church back in April. The day before he spoke, he told us he was able to do the temple work for his son, father, and father-in-law, and that he had no idea that he would ever be able to be happy again after those awful days a year ago.

I've heard stories like this, how a person is strengthened by a power greater than him/herself, and that by exercising faith in that power, huge obstacles are overcome and great happiness is achieved. But there was something different about this one. He spoke calmly, with no tears, and humbly gave all credit to his Heavenly Father. I thought to myself several times just how strong he had become after his refiner's fire, and I desired very much to meet and know him. I didn't get the chance that day, but soon I will make it a point to speak to him.

The rest of the day was a little more typical of many great wards, where the Sunday School lesson on marriage was well-prepared and people spoke up and offered their wisdom for the rest of us, and there were so many women in RS who introduced themselves and showed an eagerness to be friendly and invite me to the several things going on. Our Stake Women's Conference is happening next month, and we were encouraged to register for it online that night (I did). I got on the website and there were no fewer than 40 classes offered over the course of 3 hours. You had to sign up and reserve a spot, pay fees if you were doing crafts, etc. The whole thing was highly organized, and it was evident someone went to a lot of trouble to make this as wonderful a day for as many women as possible. I'm really looking forward to it. I signed up for portrait photography and yoga, but I don't have a mat. Could I just use a towel? :)

I've already received several communications from my new ward here, including an invitation to go on a walk this morning with someone who says we met, but I couldn't remember her. I didn't care. I gladly joined her this morning at a nearby park, which happens to connect to a beautiful trail through the woods. This was the scenery:

It was lush, gorgeous, and 1.5 miles one way, so we went to the end and back, pushing our baby strollers and talking nonstop. Some of the first words out of my new friend's mouth were, "Now, I know a lot of women come here and say 'well, my husband is starting a program in...', but I don't care about that right now. I want to know about YOU." What the heck? How did this girl know how narcissistic I am? I would just LOVE to talk about myself! We had a jolly time, and though the humidity made me sweat before I was actually exerting myself, I told her I'd love to do it again, and soon. She's the one who informed me about the ward choir director, and then asked if I was going to join. I told her I was considering it, but that there's always a stigma that comes with "ward choir", and that's been true for just about every ward except Pasadena. And I say that because, of course, I directed it. And they were wonderful. She said the director is very professional and puts on a Christmas "extravaganza" which, rather than turned me off, attracted me to join this Sunday. I'll report on that as well, I'm sure.

In smaller news, it took us a few days to get ourselves a functioning kitchen, so combine that with our 10-day road trip plus a few days before the trip being laid up in bed with a bad back, and that makes for about 2 1/2 weeks eating fast food. I had never been so excited before to cook, and this was our first homemade meal in NC:

And 8 minutes later, this was Ted's plate:

That's what I like to see: nothing but the pit.

In the midst of unpacking one day last week, Ted offered to drive me to his campus. It was a gorgeous and green day (they've all been), not too hot, and we were trying to take care of administrative things he needed to do before the first day of school: parking, ID card, etc. Well, it's a large and beautiful campus, just sitting right there in the middle of a massive forest, brick and stone everywhere. It was a little hard to find the office that took care of ID cards, so we asked a couple people and they led us here:

I turned to Ted and said "I didn't know you got accepted to Hogwarts." There wasn't even a sign on the door! But go inside and it wasn't a cathedral or anything - just your run-of-the-mill student ID card office. Go figure. More pictures of the campus later, but I tell ya one thing: this is no byu campus. The architecture is old and stunning, trees choking everything, and we even got caught in the rain. NC's first impression of me turned out to be how hot I can look in a wet t-shirt. I think they might consider keeping me around for a while...

August 16, 2009

6 Month Tessa

Tess hit her 6-month mark a few days ago, so I wanted to document what her most noticeable traits are so far. She loves eating, gulping, swallowing without chewing, staring at any food nearby, grabbing for mama and dada's plates, and just generally putting anything in her mouth. And eating it. The theme of our daughter? Serious gastronomy.

The other thing that she does REALLY well is smile profusely whenever Ted or I come into view, even if we just left the room for 30 seconds and came back in. Of course, if we come back in with food, the smile is accompanied by hyperventilation and flailing limbs.

So here is photographic evidence of all things boca.

Take THAT, American flag. Happy independence to you, too!

The other person she just beams for nonstop is Ted's sister. She's only been with Tess a few times since she was born, but Tessa gets irrepressibly giggly. We can't figure it out, because neither of us like her very much, but there you have it. Kidding, Anneli. KIDDING!

The day she turned 6 months, she bit me and opened up the wound she'd given me the day before from her razor-sharp chompers. My fingers don't get anywhere near that mouth anymore.

Notice the empty bowl AND banana peel. That was her lunch, and she's still leaning over and looking for more. And the fold that's forming on her wrist? Nothin' but love.

This picture was specifically for showing off her FULL double-chin. All the way up to her cheeks, baby. We have to put baby powder under her third one because it never touches air.

A common look:

The spoon is only halfway to her mouth, and she lunges for it. This is no shrinking violet, folks.

One of my favorite moments. I thought I'd see if she could wrap her chubby fingers around a blueberry and put it in her mouth like she can with her toys. So I placed a few in front of her. Total faceplant. Isn't this the same pose for all food-eating contests?

We only did this for show. She doesn't eat whole bananas. Oh wait. Yes she does. And she doesn't chew. And if we're one second late with the next little piece, boy, do we hear about it.

I wish I had audio for this one. The bottle was drained in about 3 minutes flat.

During the cross-country move, we were forced to pull off in random places and bust out the grub.

During a recent aquarium trip (thank you, Anneli - we LOVED the day), Tessa got a taste of her own medicine. She is very scrumptious and edible.

Especially for sharks.

Her poor toys.

So, Chubbsy is now pushing 20 pounds. Gone are the days of bathing her in the bathroom sink, though I tried.

Her first experience with prunes. She loved them, but I couldn't handle the diapers afterward, so it was her last experience until she can wipe herself.

And many thanks to Niki, who claims she "helped" me make this onesie for her, but who really did it for me. An homage to bacon. I haven't given her any yet, but one day, I ate a piece (or four) and then gave her a kiss on the mouth. She started sucking on my lips better than Ted does. That's my girl! Happy 6 months, my epicurean masterpiece!

August 13, 2009

Gaa! We're here!

This was my first look at North Carolina. Not bad! It's very green here, with lots of accents (Ted and I jokingly began speaking with a drawl, and now we can't stop) and rain. Yes, it is August and it has rained once a day since we got here. This post is to document the long and sometimes unexciting legs of our trip.

Georgia, obviously.

Ted and I got tired of driving, and Tessa seemed awake and willing, so what the hey?

We took a couple rides on this New Orleans streetcar. Both drivers were pretty rude.

This is one of the things I miss most about my mission in Georgia - the constant competition for the most clever marquee phrase. They should really have a competition for the best grammar.

And the owners of this here house collect bottlecaps in, well, their dirt.

An homage to our friend Adler. We had no idea he had some hidden timekeeping place in N'awlins.

All right. Where's my freaking pot of gold? We're on student loans here!

Very cool bridge somewhere in Louisiana (I think). I was heavily drugged at the time.

Lots o' water in the South. I believe this was the Mississippi Rivverr. hehe

For the record, we didn't meet one French speaker here.

Here was the famous diaper blowout in Alabama. I couldn't stand the smell, so I just took the camera and walked far, far away.

Where was all this bird crap coming from outside our hotel in Nowhere, Texas?

Oh. This explained the inexpensive rate.

I admit I was never enchanted in New Mexico. They's alls a bunch o' liars!

These next three photos show only 3 huge billboards of about twenty (not kidding) advertising this "thing?" that was supposed to get us all excited about something wherever it was.

Well, here was the thing, a gift/souvenir shop, very loosely termed a "museum", perhaps because of this "thing" they so wanted everyone to see. Turns out the thing was behind a locked door and you had to pay the cashier $1 to sate your curiosity. Ted and I decided it wasn't in our new Starving Student Budget, so we passed on it, and spent $4 in drinks instead.

So there you have it, folks! Our adventure-filled cross-country trip! I injured my back two days before the movers came, and it hurt so bad Annette came and took me to the hospital for an MRI the day the moving truck was in our driveway. As the four guys were taping up all our belongings, I was hobbling out of the door, off to downtown LA to get earplugged and examined by some clanging tubular magnets. The diagnosis? I have 3 compressed discs in my back and all the muscles around them are in serious spasms. Tessa's been very good about it, but she hasn't lost any of the 19 pounds she's carrying around to help me out at all, and Ted's been nothing short of wonderful. With rest and some serious narcotics, I expect to be back to normal in maybe a month or two.

The Cooling Rack

Baked goods are only half the story...