Nov 30, 2019

Love Grizzlies Hockey!

One of the things we wanted to do in Canada was see a hockey game. Hockey is such a big deal there! But when we tried to buy tickets to see the Toronto Maple Leafs play, the cheapest ones we could buy were $250 CA (which is a little less than in the US, but not enough to put it into our budget after we already spent a bunch on other things).

So way back in July, we all did the summer reading program through our county library and the Grizzlies gave the kids all free tickets to one October/November Hockey game and the parent tickets were reduced. We got 8 of us in for $45 (that's US $, but it is still way less than $250 CA).

We have had tons of snow today and the roads were slick and icy, but we managed to get to the Maverik Center without mishap. We were on the 8th row, so we could see everything! It was a good game. The kids enjoy the craziness and the fighting. One guy from the Grizzlies was actually ejected from the game for making a guy from the other team bleed.

Hockey is not my favorite sport by any means, but I love taking the kids to interesting and different activities, so every year we are excited to see at least one game. And one of my favorite parts about it all is that they donate free tickets into the county library system. The older I get, the more I appreciate business that are willing to help build our communities.

Wow! I didn't know my tongue was so long! You look beautiful, Scout!

Nov 28, 2019

Dear Shutterfly, Please Help Me!! UPDATED!

UPDATE: We talked to Shutterfly and they are trying to help Nate. No guarantees, but they are trying to get the book to us by Monday so Nate will have it for his presentation! Thank you, Shutterfly, for being so understanding!

Dear Shutterfly,

I am a Senior at Utah Valley University. I wrote this book for my Capstone Project so I can graduate with my BS in University Studies, Emphasis in Education. I know my book is long, almost 100 pages, but I really need it by Tuesday, December 3rd so I can use it in my presentation. 

It is about a 2nd grader named Evan who has Autism. Evan has a hard time making friends or even not just throwing tantrums in class. Then a boy named Samy Kind cares about Evan and becomes his first friend.

Please, Shutterfly, my mom and my sister worked more than 20 hours each dropping the pages one at a time into your program. The formatting got all stripped so they had to put things in all over again. Like 5 spaces for every tab. 

We thought that your super duper "get it in 2 days" expedited shipping would work for us! We even added a few extra days to make up for the holiday and we gladly paid the $67 extra dollars so we could get my book before my presentation and now tracking says it probably won't come until the day after it is over.

Please, Shutterfly! I really need my book on time! I have to work really hard hauling enough freight at Walmart to pay over $200 for this book already. I worked so hard on this book! The story is about me.

My name is Nathan Evan Christensen and I have Autism.


Nov 25, 2019

Guest Blogger - My Adventure Talk by Dog Walker

Dog Walker and Puppy Lover were asked to speak in church, so my sweetie and I went up to see them. We also brought along Grandpa, Baby Doll, and Curly. It was an early morning and I had stayed up way too late, but I love listening to them so we were definitely not going to miss it.!

Puppy Lover was a little shy about posting her talk here, but Dog Walker was happy to share. I hope you enjoy learning a little more about him.

I’ve been asked to speak about a talk from last general conference when Elder Uchtdorf told us what it’s like to have an adventure. He explained with an analogy, based on a fantasy novel called The Hobbit. Now I don’t know much about The Hobbit, but in one part it explains that a lot of people are given the opportunity for adventure, but they would usually take it for granted. Many people would rather have a chance to just slothfully relax their lives away by eating so much of the same food they enjoy, sleeping in as much as they want, avoiding hard work (just to avoid the pain that comes with it), and believing they’ve already learned enough and think they don’t need to learn anymore. So a lot of people would think that having an adventure is overrated. But one character was asked to go on an adventure and he takes the chance. He knows that it won’t be an easy adventure and that he would have to face the dangers and challenges that are yet to come when he embarks. But once the adventure is over, he would be able to come back again.
The story of the Hobbit is like all of us who have been sent on this Earth to learn, grow, and gain experience in our surroundings. Heavenly Father has sent us all on an “adventure” just so we can experience good and evil and learn to choose good for ourselves. He knows that we are all going to make mistakes on our mortal adventure as well as have trials to help us gain happiness along the way. Elder Uchtdorf said, “We learned how much God loves us. He gave us life, and He wants us to succeed. Therefore, He prepared a Savior for us. ‘Nevertheless’ our Father in Heaven said ‘thou mayest choose for thyself for it is given unto thee.’”
Whenever we hear that Heavenly Father said “Thou mayest choose for thyself for it is given unto thee,” He means that we want to make good choices and be careful about the choices we make. But, there are a lot of us, who may take that eternal advice for granted. For example, many of us might like to have a life that’s easy, and we might believe that it’s part of Heavenly Father’s Plan of Happiness. On the contrary, all my life, I’ve been told that a simple and easy life is actually not following Heavenly Father’s plan, but it’s following Satan’s plan. Satan wants us to think having an easy life brings pleasure, joy, and happiness when it actually brings remorse, regret, and even arrogance. Living the life of the “natural man” only leads to unhappiness. 
We all don’t want to be like Satan when it comes to realizing that trying to seek for an easier life would usually end up being way harder than it should be. For example, when I was a kid, there were times when my parents assigned me and my siblings chores to do and a lot of us would complain about how hard the chores were. So without the parents noticing, we would usually try to make a very quick straighten up and then we would tell our parents that our chores have been finished up. They would inspect the progress that had been done, but then they would notice that things are stuffed under furniture or even put into the corner of the room. They would tell us that it’s unacceptable to be shortcutting, because that just makes the house a lot messier and it would eventually get harder and more time-consuming to clean up decently. It’s been going on for a very long time, ever since I remember. It’s like shortcutting on housework tasks just became a family tradition!
I had to learn about the importance of hard work in other ways in my life. I’m pretty sure that when we were in Heaven with our Father, He asked us about the challenges we might want to face during our Earthly Adventure. I don’t remember choosing to be Autistic, but I believe it is something our Heavenly Father knew would help me learn and grow in this life. At first the challenges were difficult. Not being able to communicate with my family or understand the things they were trying to tell me was probably the hardest part. But eventually, by the time I was about 9 years old, I stopped quoting movies and I learned to have actual conversations although even now sometimes I share a movie quote or two without noticing. My adventure took an interesting turn when I was introduced to scouting. At first, I was afraid and I didn’t want people to look at me or make a fuss about me. I hid under the table while they presented my awards at pack meeting, but I was always so excited to have them. After a while, I was able to stand near the cubmaster with my back to the crowd of parents and scouting families, but I was learning to deal with my fears and by the time I was old enough to receive merit badges, scouting was my life! I chose the adventure this time even though some people didn’t think I could do it. I wanted to earn ALL of the merit badges! I started working really hard and around all of my other school, sporting, and church activities, I worked on merit badges. I would bring the merit badge books to church and copy passages and draw pictures to help me remember what they meant. I was determined to complete my adventure! When I was finished with all of the traditional badges and my Eagle Scout was complete, many people thought I might abandon my adventure, but I didn’t. I knew that my parents would be disappointed in me if I gave up before I completed my goals. I knew I would be disappointed in myself if I gave up. On that very last day, at my final Court of Honor, when I received my 132nd Merit Badge, I was so proud and happy. My family, my scoutmaster, my friends, and mostly my parents, were all happy too because my scouting adventure was over and I had completed what I had promised to myself and to my parents that I would do. 
Completing a hard goal always helps us feel happy about what we have accomplished; we learn how to be more productive, and we also feel blessed for the things that we do in everyday situations. We have been told, according to Elder Uchtdorf, that “The Savior invites us, each day, to set aside our comforts and securities and join Him on the journey of discipleship.” He means to say that we shouldn’t let laziness and distractions fill our lives, but that we should dwell on spreading the gospel and thinking about the Savior, Jesus Christ, who died for all of us and was resurrected so that we can return to Heavenly Father again. Even when we die, that doesn’t mean we’ll be comfortable and relaxed in Heaven, but that we’ll likely have happiness and joy while we still help spread the gospel in Heaven. Learning and growing never stops, but it continues on, even after death.
After I finished my scouting adventure, I was discouraged and I didn’t know what to do because it felt like my adventure might be over, but my parents reminded me that I just had to find a new adventure that would also require hard work and effort. So I served as a Church Service Missionary and I went to college. I learned to create and follow other new adventures, each of them requiring hard work and effort on my part. I’m still learning how to work hard and be happy and grateful for all the many things I’ve been blessed with. Another adventure would be getting married to my beautiful and amazing wife. She and I have been married for almost two years now. I’m still trying to finish school and the semester is almost over. Finally, after 7 long years, I will earn my Bachelor’s Degree. But like I said before, that adventure might end, but I’m sure a new one will begin. Maybe Allie and I will have a kid or two and (according to my parents) that will be a real adventure for both of us! 

I would like to bear my testimony that having an adventure is part of life and that we should be happy with the blessings and obligations that Heavenly Father has given us. If life were always easy, we would never be truly happy. Joy comes from following Jesus Christ, and when I see Him again and my loving Heavenly Parents in my true final Court of Honor, I want Them to be proud of me, to know that I did my best with all that I have been given. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Nov 23, 2019

Christmas Boutique

Hey, if you are in the area today, stop by our Christmas boutique at my friend, Heather's house. We have some amazing deals! 

Nov 22, 2019

Giveaway - Last Chance!

OK, this is absolutely your last chance to enter! Winner will be chosen before Thanksgiving and Smile Brilliant will reach out to you personally. My sweetie has decided the toothbrush will be his permanently (I can't even get a chance with a different head...)

Wish I could enter...

GIVEAWAY! For your chance to win one of these amazing toothbrushes, please enter by clicking here. Now if you don't win and you still want to try this awesome toothbrush, you know I can hook you up with a discount code. Simply log into the Smile Brilliant website and when you are checking out, enter the code:  20twelvemakesadozen to save 20%.

Good luck and happy brushing!

Sleeping Beauty

My cute Baby Doll is a Cat in Sleeping Beauty this weekend. It is her first ballet without one of her sisters or Curly around and it has been a little different for all of us. For me, I have to drive her all the way out to Herriman on Wednesday and all the way through Friday this week and twice on Saturday.  For her, she doesn't have anyone to turn to when she is afraid, has a question, or is just plain lonely.

But if you have some time this weekend and you live here on the Wasatch Front, please support our non-profit production.

Nov 20, 2019

Our Grand Adventure - Returning Home

Ah yes, we did come home... it was late Sunday night before we finally got off the airplane, picked up our luggage and made our way to the pickup spot. But wait, I'm beginning at the end... let me start over.

We got up pretty early on Sunday morning, packed up our hotel room, and checked out. We drove along the road that passed right by all of the falls, looking for a place to park and wishing we had left our car snug and safe at the Hilton.

Finally, we paid $20 to an attendant at a tiny lot so we could get up close and personal with the falls. They are so massively beautiful! I can't even begin to describe the wonder and amazement of stand about 5 feet above that powerful surging water. Maybe pics will help.

I wanted you to see all the ice we were walking tthrough!

After we left Niagara Falls, we started on our way back to Detroit so we could catch our flight home. My sweetie knows of my fascination with the Great Lakes and he planned one last stop on the beach of Lake Erie. It is so peaceful and we spent a few minutes walking along the beach and picking up shells for Baby Doll.

It wasn't long before my sweetie was stressing the drive, so we took off, this time on our way to leaving Canada for good (at least for this trip!). I'm not going to get sappy today since I have already heard about it from yesterday, but I am going to bombard you with the rest of my pics.

Nov 16, 2019

Our Grand Adventure - Niagara Falls, Canadian Style

We have seen so many cool things today, I hardly know where to begin, so I want to apologize ahead of time for the very long post and extra pics.

So we checked out of our little condo near Barrie and we headed for Toronto. We still had a couple of things on our CitiPass so we decided to do one of them. The Casa Loma was practically on our way to Niagara and my sweetie definitely had a castle on his list.

We loved the castle!! My favorite part was actually the Girl Guide display... the lady who owned the castle was the Girl Guide Commissioner for all of Canada. She held receptions in her quarters where she would give out the Silverfish, the highest adult pin for Girl Guides.

That was all a happy surprise though. We had no idea when we went there. We walked the tunnels so we could see the antique cars and we climbed all the way up 2 flights of a scary spiral staircase so we could be on top of the turret.

After the castle, we got back on the road and my sweetie surprised me with a stop at one of the little parks I had wanted to do yesterday. We walked right up to Lake Ontario! It is so beautiful; just extending for miles and miles until it melts into the gray blue sky.

Then we climbed back in the car and drove along the QE Highway toward Niagara Falls. The most amazing part of this highway happens when Lake Ontario is surrounding both sides. Now one side is the bay and it is possible to see buildings, but the other side is the endless cobalt sea. We drove about a third of the way around Lake Ontario and got to see it from the other side, and it was still just as beautiful. Honestly, I love the Great Lakes. I'm not sure why I feel so drawn to them. I don't even feel that way about the Great Salt Lake and I've lived near it for most of my life.

But I digress...

We drove into Niagara about 5:30. The GPS messed up and drove us on a wild goose chase, but it turned out to be just perfect because we got to see nearly all of the Christmas lights that had just been turned on for the Winter Festival. It's a lot like the lights we drive through in Spanish Fork only the path is longer and Niagara Falls in raging in the background.

My sweetie splurged on a Fallsview room at the Hilton with his membership points and honestly, it is amazing! We can see the Canadian Falls and the United States Falls. We have a huge pane window in our room on the 43rd floor and from here we can see nearly everything.

At 8:00 pm they even shot off fireworks over the falls. I didn't take any pics because I was video calling with the kids and letting them watch what was going on outside. I love that my sweetie and I have had this opportunity to go tripping together, but there are sure a lot of things I would love to share with my kids and this blog is the best way to keep the memories forever.

When we finally got off the phone with the kids, we walked down the Casino tunnel and found food at a place called Famous. You know I haven't been that impressed with Canadian food in general and once again I was disappointed, but this time I spoke up.

Our server's name was Eric and he went out of his way to make sure we didn't leave his restaurant unhappy. He told me to Yelp about the bad salads and when my sweetie complained about his mashed potatoes being dry, he brought him a whole plate of new ones that were definitely much better. When he asked about my meal, I told him that peas were not sauteed in the US. He wanted to fix it and I said my sweetie's mixed veggies looked better and he brought me a whole plate of freshly steamed broccoli, zucchini, peppers, carrots, and cauliflower, all drenched in just the right amount of butter.

I was in heaven! It was the best thing I have eaten since I left the US over a week ago!! Not only that, Eric packed us a huge piece of carrot cake to eat back in our room and he didn't charge us a thing for any of the changes. I don't know if we just got the most amazing server on the planet or if Famous treats all their customers this way, but I highly recommend them and will definitely go there again if given the opportunity.

Back in our room, we swam in the jacuzzi tub and then watched the lights bounce playfully off the water of the Niagara. OK, my sweetie watched the Falls while I shared all of this with you. Tomorrow we drive to Detroit and then climb on another plane and fly home. In a week or two this will all seem like a dream. But my heart will be forever changed toward our Northern neighbors. I will wear my Canada hoodie proudly and maybe even a little reverently. Oh Canada, for a few short days we called you home... thank you for letting us be part of you. That part we will never forget.

Our Grand Adventure - Orillia

We got back to our condo pretty late on Thursday night, so it's a good thing Friday was our down day. I knew we didn't want to run nonstop since this is supposed to be our vacation, but there are so many things to do and see around here that we didn't sit around for long. My sweetie had an idea about how we could see another lake so we punched it into the GPS and took off.

...after we cleaned up the kitchen, of course.
The weather has cleared up a bit here, but there is still about 6 inches (Li'l Bro you can do the conversion this time...) of snow on the ground. This part of Ontario is interesting. There are little pockets of cities here and there and scattered homes in most places that aren't covered with trees. Looking at the map, we had no idea that we were heading for a place that was well-populated. What looked like a deserted point was actually a long row of mostly small homes all bunched up with their backs against the water.

We finally drove down to what promised to be "water attractions" and we found a nice little park with a boat dock and what was likely a little beach when it wasn't covered with snow. All of the little summer shops were closed up tight with signs that read "See you next season!" and similar things. So we drove on.

Our little town was actually quite big and called Orillia pronounced O-relia (I asked someone just to be sure) and as you know, Relia is a family name. I quickly texted Scout to let her know since it is her middle name and she was quite excited at the prospect of a town named after her. Since it was way past lunchtime, we started looking for somewhere to eat, and we found a main street that reminded us of our own hometowns. We settled on "Chinese Canadian," a decision we would come to regret, but they had restrooms so that sealed the deal.

Those are called sweet and sour chicken balls. My sweetie had a lot of fun with the name...
After we paid way too much for sub-par food, we decided to explore the shops, Unfortunately, we like shopping way more than we should and several hundred dollars later, we climbed back in our car to make our way to Barrie. My sweetie had purchased some studs for his shoes (like for tires) and he had the wrong size so we needed to exchange them.

We had already decided that if things worked out, we wanted to see the new Ford vs. Ferrari movie. After a frustratingly long wait for customer service in the WalMart, we almost changed our minds, but at the last minute we quickly drove to the theatre and bought tickets. I was hoping to hear from Crafty since it was our time to Skype, but after about 30 long minutes, she emailed me to say that she was having trouble with her phone and we would only be able to email today. For me, even that was sporadic. We finally gave up and she said goodbye right before the movie started.

We enjoyed popcorn and treats right up until the last 10 minutes of a rather long movie. I'm recommending you leave about then if you see it. The movie and all of the old cars was amazing! Sadly, you can't change truth and this one was historical for the most part, but I don't want to give anything away.

We drove back to the condo, ate leftovers and packed so we can check out on Saturday morning. We have the condo for one more day, but we decided that we want to see Niagara Falls from the Canadian side tomorrow and my sweetie doesn't want to drive all the way back up here since we will already be much closer to Detroit.

I don't have many pics today, but I should have plenty of amazing ones of the falls for tomorrow. See you then.

Nov 15, 2019

Our Grand Adventure - Lake Ontario

The Great Hall and Skywalk kept us warm and dry.

Ok, my post is a little misleading... I didn't actually get to see Lake Ontario up close, but I did see a whole lot of it from the CN Tower! But wait... I am getting ahead of myself. When I left you yesterday, we were just bedding down in the ginormous Chelsea Hotel. I have to say that the room wasn't bad, but when I got up, my back hurt terribly! Of course, you know I'm a bit picky when it comes to hotel beds so I was glad we didn't stay there a second night. 

We got up pretty early, checked out of the hotel (but not the parking) and took the subway to Ripley's Aquarium. It is probably the best aquarium I have ever seen and I have been in quite a few good ones. The water was right over the top of us as we rode on a moving sidewalk around the largest exhibit that included sharks and giant sea turtles.

My sweetie was impressed with the size of the jellyfish and of course I had to take a pic of a stingray just for Sport. They had some huge ones! Although I'm pretty sure the one he tangled with in California was of the smaller variety.

After we left the aquarium, we walked across the plaza to the CN Tower. My sweetie was excited for this one. I had made a reservation for us to each lunch in the 360 Restaurant, a fancy eatery that costs a fortune but rotates around the 131-story tower so you can see the entire view while you eat. Actually, the tower is taller than that; it is the 9th tallest building in the world, but we only went that high. Some crazy people do go even higher...

The tower took us a little longer than we had planned and we got stuck in Friday night traffic leaving the parking garage. I had wanted to stop at one of the little parks so I could see Lake Ontario a little closer. Hopefully that can happen for us in a couple of days. Our last destination for the day was the Toronto Temple.

First glimpse of the Toronto Temple.
They have a limited schedule, so we were afraid we might miss the session, but we got there just in time to change and be asked to serve as the witness couple. The temple was beautiful and amazing, a mini Jordan River temple and their brand new paintings are so different and so perfect.

After our session was over, we stopped for gas and a burger on our way back to the condo. I'm not super impressed with food in Canada. It's probably just that I am so spoiled with amazing cooks all around me, but if I lived up here I would have to have a constant supply of Bounty bars to keep me from wasting away.

More tomorrow. We have another down day since we are old and we have to rest once in a while...

Nov 14, 2019

Our Grand Adventure - Toronto

We wanted to get on the road early, but that didn't happen.  Mostly my fault; I can't seem to adjust to the time difference. The drive to Toronto just kept getting longer and longer too, and with construction/weather, we didn't arrive at the Ontario Science Centre until almost 2:00. Since the Centre closed at 4:00, that didn't give us much time.

This is what our drive looked like until we got a good part of the way to Toronto. Pretty, huh? Reminds me of a song...
"Over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house we go..."
We started out with a star show in their little dome theatre. I didn't know that Polaris was not always the North Star! The constellations over Toronto are way different right now from the ones over the Salt Lake Valley. This huge globe was not their dome theatre. It was massive!

My sweetie's favorite displays were the one on Diabetes and the interactive hall with all the engineering stuff (no surprise there). I liked the ones on races and babies. Did you know that "of all the thousands of genes that make up the human genetic code, only a tiny fraction influence skin color"? Neither did I! Although I have always known that we are all brothers and sisters and when all is said and done, none of that matters anyway.

But I digress...

We left the science centre right before they turned out the lights (not really, but almost!), and we drove into the downtown area to check into our hotel. We decided to spend the night here since there are so many things to see and do and we didn't want to drive that hour and a half back and forth. The hotel we are staying in has almost 1400 rooms! But we only needed one and the price was good.

This is the view outside our hotel balcony. We are on the 9th floor.
After we got all checked in, we spent a little down time before we walked a couple of blocks to the subway station, bought return tickets, climbed into the subway, rode 3 stops, got off and then walked a couple more blocks to the Meridian Hall. We had tickets to see the rock opera, "Another Brick In the Wall." The venue was fun, an old time concert hall with tons of seats. It was the opening night for the opera and we were fortunate to have empty seats next to us. The opera itself was a little edgy for us, and at one point I averted my eyes although I don't really think I would have seen actual naked bodies on stage, but the giant screens behind the action also told the story and I didn't want to take any chances. (This is my one quick commercial about the evils of pornography... stay away from it... it is addictive and can ruin lives and break hearts.)

We were some of the first people seated. Pics weren't allowed after the show started.
But I digress... again...

When the show was over, we walked 2 blocks back to the subway station... you know, all the things we did before except for in reverse. When we reached our final stop, before we walked our couple of blocks, we stopped at a Tim Hortin's in the station to grab a quick bite of dinner. It was ok, but not quite as exciting as we were hoping considering we have seen these all over Canada and we were expecting something miraculous.

On the subway
Now we are back at the room and I just got off the phone after talking with the kids for nearly 40 minutes. My sweetie is sleeping and I guess I better get to bed as well. We have SO many more adventures planned for tomorrow!!

You're coming back to hear about them, aren't you?