Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I heart NY

The trip got off to a rocky start. Despite the fact that I had just been reading an article about Hurricane Ike, I didn't process that a hurricane hitting Houston, where both my flight and my sister's flights were connecting could be problematic until Sarah called to ask if we needed to do anything about our tickets. We called the airline, who wouldn't do anything for us, and by Sunday night, I figured everything must be okay, checked in online for my flight, and tried to catch a few minutes sleep. At 2:30 am, my phone rang, with an automated voice of doom telling me that my flight had been cancelled. I immediately called the airline to try to find a solution, and dealt with several of the most unhelpful customer service reps I have ever had the misfortune to encounter. Long story short, they scheduled me on the 12 o'clock flight, which would put me in New York 6 hours later, not connect with my sisters (whose flight left on time, with no delays or problems of any kind), and ensure that I would be seriously sleep deprived by the time I got to Millionaire. I cried myself to sleep for a couple more hours, and when I woke up, checked my flight online again. Only to discover that it had been delayed another 2 hours, which would cause me to miss my connection in Houston, have to spend the night in the airport, and not make it to New York until 5 hours after I was supposed to be on set. Cue more hysterical crying and unhelpful CSR's.

But Bracken saved the day and hopped on the phone, finding me the last ticket out of Sacramento, and rushing me into the car to get to the airport. He was really the hero of the trip, because left to my own at that point, I was about to just curl up on the floor with a "do NOT resuscitate" sign. I sure do love that husband of mine.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, and I do have to say, my first view of New York was beautiful at night. I took my first taxi ride to the Lucerne Hotel, where my sisters were camped out watching Family Matters. They decided to wait to enjoy any more sights of New York until I could join them. They also presented me with a care package from my friend Missy. I looked through the items she sent, but didn't have the time to thumb through the little trivia book inside. This is important later. It was already almost midnight, and I needed to be at the studio at 7:30 the next morning.

We all walked over to the studio together. I was escorted inside where I spent the next 10 hours under heavy supervision. There were 8 other contestants that day, and we got to know each other pretty well as we sat in a 6 x 12 room together all day watching Millionaire reruns. We had to be supervised when we went to the bathroom, got food, or wanted to do anything else outside the room. Occasionally the phone in the corner would ring, and they would tell us they were ready for someone, but the whole day passed without them calling my name. At the end, three of us were told we would have to come back the next day. I met up with my sisters outside and spent of few minutes chatting with the families of the other contestants that they had spent the day with. Turns out we all had really great opportunities to be missionaries. By the end of the day, everyone knew we were LDS, and we were able to show them that we are (mostly) normal and answer a lot of questions they had.

Sarah, Katie and I went to dinner at a little New York Pizza place. Delicious. Then we walked over to the Manhattan temple and did some initiatories. The temple was amazing. You don't realize how loud the city is until you walk into the temple and the sound all stops. It was wonderful to attend the temple with my sisters.

The next day I didn't have to be the studio quite so early, and I was one of the first few contestants up that day. I can't tell you much about it, other than it should air on December 2, but they'll let me know for sure about 10 days in advance. What I will tell you is that the answer to the question I didn't know, the one that will haunt me forever, was in the little book of trivia Missy had sent that I didn't have time to read. I'm trying to figure out how to blame the airline for the lost time and recoup the rest of the million I would have otherwise won if I'd had time to study.

After the taping was over, we finally had time to explore the city. We braved the subways, which really didn't take much bravery at all. I was amazed at how easy they were, and how inexpensive they were to ride. We took the subway down to Battery Park, then rode the Staten Island ferry. We saw the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and were nearly accosted by a very bold pigeon. Afterward we walked up to Ground Zero. It doesn't really look different from any other construction site in the world, but the presence there is overwhelming. It was all I could to to keep back the tears. I can remember my experience that day, having moved to LA less than a week before, surrounded by talk that we would be next, and the fear my middle Eastern bosses had of retribution, but I can't begin to imagine what it was like to be in New York.

We took the subway back to our hotel, and learned that when you want to get off at
68th street, don't take the express train. We corrected our error quickly, though, changed our clothes, and hopped back on the subway to the Gerswhin theatre to see Wicked. I thought there was no way we would make it in time, but we got there 10 minutes early. New York mass transit is amazing! Wicked was amazing. I loved the show, but I have to admit, it did make me realize I've been involved in some incredible productions.

After the show, we walked to Times Square, then wandered Broadway looking for a restaurant Meredith had recommended. We didn't find it, but we did find a late night diner and I had a delicious Reuben sandwich. We then headed back to the hotel via Columbus Circle. I am amazed by New York City. We were three women, wandering the largest city in the United States at 1 in the morning and felt completely safe. It was amazing. We decided New York is a lot like a large amusement park for tourists. There's lots to see and do, it's clean, there are redes, and there are a lot of people. Honestly, though, it didn't feel nearly as crowded as I imagined it would. I seriously can't wrap my mind around how people actually live there, but I would love to visit again.

The next morning, Sarah left super early to return to Utah and resume her frantic life there. Katie and I got up fairly early and began our walking tour of NYC. We left our hotel on Amsterdam and W. 79th at around 8 and saw:
The Museum of Natural History
A big chunk of Central Park
Rockefeller Center
Secret Service, Snipers and police dogs awaiting the arrival of someone
Saks 5th Ave.
St. Patrick's Cathedral
H&M (Katie's Choice)
Grand Central Station
The Chrysler Building
Times Square again, with delicious gyros
New York Public Library
Macy's on 34th St.
The Grace Building
And finally, the Empire State building.

We arrived at the Empire State Building after having walked over 5 miles around NYC, wanting to go to the top, but seriously debating our time constraints and physical limitations (we were exhausted and hadn't sat down at all all day). We struck up a conversation with two older gentlemen working there, asking them how long the line was (45 min. at least)and whether or not there were places to sit while waiting. We went back and forth over whether or not we could really do it, when suddenly proud New Yorker Phil stepped up and said, "That's it, I'm taking you to the top." He didn't want us to leave NYC without seeing the view. He whisked us past all the lines, and straight up the 80th floor elevator, saying goodbye to us as we got on the elevator to the 86th floor, and collecting no money from us either! We couldn't believe our good fortune. He told us just to to a good deed for someone else that day. I realized that I was actually being repaid for returning the airplane tickets that had fallen out of another person's pocket earlier in the day. It was an amazing end to our trip to New York. The view was incredible, but the way we got there made it even better.

We rode the subway back to the hotel, stopping for a hotdog from Gray's Papaya on the way, then hailed a taxi to the airport. Katie and I were able to share the first leg of our flight, then split up in Houston. I returned home around midnight, grateful to see my family again, but having had a wonderful trip. I had such a lovely time with my sisters, and so many wonderful experiences. Despite the headaches and last minute changes, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

New York here I come!

So I'm headed off to New York tomorrow. I can't believe it's actually here. I've been frantically busy and nervous this whole week, but I went to the temple Thursday night, and have felt much calmer and have had a better perspective since. I'd love any prayers you'd like to send my way, especially on Tuesday, cause that's the day I hopefully become a millionaire. Wish me luck! (And Bracken could probably use some luck, too, what with the full time Daddy duty and all. I mean, he's a capable dad, but he's not going to get a break for 4 days.)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Camping at Sugar Pine Point

So here's some pictures from our recent camping trip with the Mills. We had so much fun. I'll write some more soon, but in the meantime, check out Ashley and David's blog.

Kids sing the darndest things

We were driving home from Grandma and Grandpa Mannion's house tonight, and Chloe started singing her favorite song of late.

I love my mommy
Oh yes I do-o
I love my mommy, I do
Oh mommy, I love you.

Then she repeats this with everyone she knows. Until she gets to Daddy. Then it changes to:

My daddy loves me.
Oh yes I do-o
My daddy loves me, I do
Oh daddy, you love me.

Tonight, since we had just left the company of her cousin, who can play a little rough, she added this verse:

I love my Syrus
He poked my eye
And then he bit me
Oh Syrus, he's a bad guy.

I laughed so hard I hardly noticed she managed to make it rhyme.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The skinny on Millionaire

Well, the skinny on Millionaire won't be me. Oh, I'll be on Millionaire all right, but I'm a bit frustrated with my prospective appearance. A couple weeks ago, right before I got the call scheduling my appearance on the show, I decided to finally commit and join Weight Watchers. I've been struggling with losing weight, and despite my best efforts to diet alone, I had actually gained a bit. So I began the plan, was really good about sticking to my points, and lost 2 pounds the first week. Hooray! And then I started to bloat. I thought, oh, it's just that time of month, the water will come right off as soon as my period starts. But it didn't.

And then I noticed my ankles looked like they were swelling. Which is kind of hard to tell on me since I have large legs. Usually, though, I do have ankle bones and I realized I couldn't see them. Or the bones in my feet. Or any indentations around my knees. Suddenly I put two and two together and realized that though the pain in my legs I mentioned a couple weeks ago had improved when I started taking iron, it hadn't completely gone away. No, it had moved down to my knees, making it almost impossible for me to squat or kneel, and unable to get up without using my arms. And then it had migrated down to my feet, causing them to ache and swell so much I can hardly put shoes on. And walking is not pleasant either. When I weighed in for my second week, even though I had stuck to my points strictly and exercised a lot, I had gained 3 1/2 pounds. I'm pretty sure it's all water.

I went into the doctor at this point cause I was a little freaked out. They did some bloodwork and it turns out the iron I took before wasn't enough. I am now really anemic, and hopefully increasing my iron more and adding vitamin C will help. I also picked up some water pills to try to stop feeling so sloshy.

I just can't get over the irony of the situation. I spend most of my time covered in dirt and food and snot and whatever combination of kid slime I've acquired in the average day. I often don't put on makeup and just slap a hat over my hair and call it good for the day, and it's fine with me. Vanity just doesn't register most days, and that's quite all right. But the one time I really want to look good, when I've been making the best effort I can remember to lose weight and take good care of myself, it all implodes. I realize that it all falls under pride, and the Lord wants us to be humble, but am I really asking that much right now? I just want to look good the one time I appear on national television.

It's not the first time the Lord has chosen to kill my vanity at a most inopportune time. When I was 16, my family moved to Utah. My entire life I had worn glasses, and been teased about them every time we moved, every new school I started. I was really unhappy about moving to Utah, but the one bright spot was that for the first time, I would be wearing contacts when I started school and wouldn't be stuck the the glasses label. The first day of school I was getting ready, and as I went to take my hard contact lenses out of the case, one snapped right in half. I was horrified. All I'd wanted was to start off the new school year looking nice, and there I was, stuck with glasses again. At this point, I would be totally cool with wearing glasses on TV, if only I didn't look like a beached whale.

Hopefully if I have to look bad, I'll get to win big. So here's the scoop on the Millionaire thing. I got a call inviting me to come be on the show on September 16! The date was a little awkward for us--we've got something big going on on the 20th, but it was kind of a now or never situation, so I went for it.

It's been crazy ever since trying to figure out lifelines and travel and trying to study all the random trivia in the world. I'll be heading out to New York on the 15th with both of my sisters! I'm so excited to be able to go with them. I don't get to spend nearly enough time with them, so just vacationing with them will be a thrill. I've also never been to New York, so that is super exciting. We won't be spending very long there, but I think we'll still be able to do a lot. I'll give you some of the details about the show after the taping, but I won't be able to disclose a lot until after it airs in November. I'll keep you posted about the air date. I'm super nervous. Suddenly I feel like I don't know anything, and when I play along with the show, I don't do nearly as well as I'd like to. I'm trying to have faith, though, that there's a good Mormon gameshow vibe in the air since there's finally a million dollar winner on Deal or No Deal, and she's LDS. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Happy Birthday Addie!

Addie is one now! She had a wonderful birthday, I think. She even got to play with her own toys occasionally. We're working on teaching Chloe that Addie has rights and possessions, too.

Opening her first gift.

Enjoying her loot and repeatedly saying hi to the baby on the box. I think she was the most excited about him.

New hat and glasses.

Reading a new book with Dad and Chloe.

Enjoying her ball popper.

We celebrated Addelicious' birthday on Friday, August 22, and had a party on Sunday August 24 with family and friends. Addie had a great time. The theme of her party was "loud" since that has been the main adjective of her life.

There was a megaphone cake for the party

And small megaphones filled with noisemakers for the guests

And her own megaphone cake.

And party hats.

And presents

And bucket baths at the end.

I can't believe my baby is one! It has been a fast year, full of lots of learning. Addie has definitely been a learning experience, and increased my testimony that our spirits existed before we were born. How else could two little girls with the same parents be so different? Addie has also made me rethink my parenting skills for the same reason

Here's a few examples of why/how:

Chloe slept through the night at 2 months/ Addie didn't start sleeping through the night until about 6 months, and still wakes up at least one night a week.

Chloe is a great napper, and will drop anywhere, anytime when she is tired. The other day she fell asleep while we were shopping, and I took her out of the car, shopped, and put her back in still asleep 3 DIFFERENT TIMES!/ Addie will not fall asleep, will fight a nap forever, and if she does nap, will often wake up again within 20 minutes. She will also wake up and be wide awake and talking immediately.

Chloe likes other people and other kids, but has always liked to do things by herself and been a little intimidated by crowds/ Addie works a room. She immediately starts talking to whoever is sitting near us at church, and will rotate to make sure everyone gets a bit of her attention. And she loves to say, "HI!" The other night I swear I heard her say, "Hi" in the middle of the night, and then go back to sleep. I just kept my fingers crossed that she wasn't greeting a burgler or something, because if I had gone in to check, she would have started a whole conversation with me, and I wasn't up for that in the middle of the night.

On Chloe's first birthday, she picked a little at the frosting on her cake, but was otherwise unimpressed. I had really been hoping she would totally dive in, but no, hardly a mess./ Addie gave me everything I was hoping for, twice. Check out the next two slideshows for the details.

Addie's First Cake

Addie's second cake