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Archive for December, 2008

Jason & Kolette

As many of you know, 2009 is going to be a big year for us.  After 16 years of marriage, Jason and I are finally going to have a baby in February.  Needless to say, besides the fact that I’m sure he will rock our world, it will probably be the most amazing experience that we ever have.

It’s very interesting to go from being just the two of us for so long to suddenly thinking about having #3 join our little family.  We have had many challenging circumstances in our lives that have caused us to need to put off having a child and then once we decided the time was right, we navigated through the ups and downs of In Vitro Fertilization in order to make it happen. (Click here and here to read more about our experiences.)

As a means of survival, I have spent many years putting up my own defenses regarding motherhood, not because I didn’t want it as a part of my life but simply because I wasn’t sure if it would ever happen for me.  As I talked about in this November post, I chose to be happy, pursue goals and experience life in spite of my plans for motherhood not being a part of the picture – but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t require mental effort and hard work to do so – in essence, I created an emotional wall of defense to block out the waves of sadness or longing that would inevitably come.

Perhaps for this reason or maybe it’s because we have lived so long without children that I have been very aware of each phase of this pregnancy.  I feel an intense wakefullness, you might say, in trying to embrace the good, the bad and the ugly of what is happening each step of the way (right now I am trying to embrace the fact that my belly is making it hard to breathe, I dread having to pick something up off the floor and I have insomnia).

I don’t know if I would have been this aware of the process if it had happened when I was 25 instead of 37 or if we hadn’t had to fight so hard to make it a reality.  That’s just the nature of struggling to achieve something – we appreciate it differently than we would have if it had been easy.

With those thoughts in mind, I have been documenting my experience differently than I might normally do.  I have spent more time writing about my feelings and thoughts along the way than taking photos.  I want to remember how it actually feels to go through this process for the first time – not just what it looks like.  I keep my journal on my computer because since my carpal tunnel surgery a few years ago it’s easier for me to type than write.

Journal

As our time winds down almost to the 6-week mark before our due date, I am becoming more and more aware of the changes that we will experience this next year of our lives.  People have often said to me, “Nothing will ever be the same once you have this baby!”  Sometimes they say it laughing, like it’s a funny joke that no one understands unless they are a parent.  Sometimes they say it with a bit of an edge, like they are thinking of all they would rather be doing instead of parenting.  Sometime they say it wearily, almost wondering when it will be over and they can get back to real life.

But the people I admire are the ones who say it with an air of wonder, with that sparkle of joy shining in their expression.  It’s like they are saying, yes, it is hard.   Yes it will change your life.  But there is nothing like it in the whole world and I’m so excited that you get to experience it.  That’s the kind of mother I want to be.  That’s the kind of father Jason wants to be.  And we have tried to start now with that attitude – embracing each stage along the way of the pregnancy.

So, as I think about 2009 I have decided that part of embracing the experience will be in recording it effectively.  I want to capture this year of our lives in a way I never have before – because it will literally be nothing like we have ever experienced before.

But I also know that it needs to be manageable in the process.

Therefore, I have decided to take the challenge of “Project 365″ that has been floating around the web over the last few years (click here for two women doing this who live 3191 miles apart, here for another version and here for tips).  There are many resources and a lot of talking about the idea if you just do a Google search for “Project 365″ – and the people making the commitment range from professional photographers to point-and-shoot novices.  Some people focus their photos on one type that they want to become better at taking, some just snap a “slice of life” and call it good.  The possibilities vary as widely as the purpose why each person decides to take the challenge to take a photo every day for 365 days.

I want to do this.  My in-laws gave us my first digital SRL camera for Christmas (Canon Rebel XSi) – I know, I know, it took me forever to move past the convenience of my point-and-shoot!  They wanted us to have it in time for the baby and when I researched cameras, this one consistently came up as a great option – high image quality but simple for beginners like me to learn.  I am committed to becoming a better photographer this year and Project 365 seems like a great way to track my progress, try new things and with the help of my neighbor who is a professional photographer, improve my skills.

Project 365

As far as an album is concerned, Becky Higgins has created a kit for sale starting January 1 through Lisa Bearnson’s Kit of the Month program specifically for this purpose.  It has special sheet protectors with slots for photos and journaling cards for each day.   Becky has posted a video on her blog here and here that goes through the contents so you can see them clearly.  After thinking about it for the last couple of weeks, I feel like it’s the right way for me to go this year as I face so many changes – something pre-made but adaptable to fit my needs.  I’ll be ordering it January 1 and starting it January 4 (Becky started hers this week – December 28 to get the first day of January in there).

But I have also decided something else.  I want to use Project 365 as a modified Gratitude Journal.  Each photo and journaling entry doesn’t have to start with “I’m grateful for…” but I want to keep that overall thought in mind as I look for the parts of my life that I want to record.  I am as grateful for small moments and little conveniences as much as big miracles in my life.  I want to try and capture them all.

A special Project 365 of Gratitude.  Because nothing makes us happier than being grateful – and I want 2009 to be our happiest year yet.

So check back for my latest daily photos and join me if you want.  You don’t have to start on January 1 – you can start any day you want.  You can even use Becky’s kit and start on a day other than January 1.  Start when it’s right for you because it’s a big commitment.  You don’t have to have a fancy camera – I’ll probably end up taking many photos on my point-and-shoot or my iPhone simply because I won’t have my SRL with me.  That part doesn’t matter – recording a little bit of life each day, a little bit of what makes us grateful, is what this project is all about.

But I do have a feeling that after Project 365 of Gratitude, “my life will never be the same again.”

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Our last Christmas as a couple - I thought that "happy pre-daddy holidays" was the perfect sentiment for Jason's gift tags

Our last Christmas as a couple - complete with custom tags I designed for Jason's gifts

We spent Christmas week in Park City, Utah with Jason’s family.   This has been a big year for the Hall family.  Jason and I got married 16 years ago and for 11 years I was the only “new addition” to the family.  His brother Brandon got married 5 years ago and they have given my in-laws 3 beautiful grandchildren to spoil.

But in 2008 we had two more weddings and both my sister-in-law Jayne and I are expecting in 2009.  All of that in addition to his brother Nathan and his wife starting the adoption process means that the Hall family is finally in the mega-expansion mode!  We had a full-house this year with new spouses joining the crowd and when we all come together for Thanksgiving next year we will almost have doubled the number of grandchildren.  It has truly been a year of celebration for our family.

Because we don’t get to see our nephews and niece very often they are not very used to Jason’s wheelchair but both Carter and Luke are old enough now to figure out how to maneuver climbing up onto Jason’s lap or stand on his wheel to get up close and personal.  They know that his power joystick is off limits (mostly because they don’t want to get run over if they play with it) and that it’s safer to give him a heads up when they are getting ready to hop on or off.

Luke became the expert of climbing up & down Jason's lap - he knew who was fun to hang out with!

Luke became the expert of climbing up & down Jason's lap - he knew who was fun to hang out with!

Carter found his favorite spot standing on Jason's wheel as he waited for Jason to blow a bubble for him to pop

Carter found his favorite spot standing on Jason's wheel as he waited for Jason to blow a bubble for him to pop

Jason has a gift of being able to make things work for him – figuring out how to do what he wants to do in spite of his disability.  After watching these little munchkins clamor all over him for the week,  I was reminded that our little guy will be no different.  Jason may not be able to pick our baby up from off the floor but that doesn’t matter – it’s easy to do that part for him.  As time goes on, there is no doubt in my mind that they will have their own special systems figured out of how to be together and connected in the way that works for this daddy-son team.  I can’t wait to see it all unfold.  They are going to be such great buddies.  As Jason likes to say, “He’s my man on the inside.”

This time next year will we really have a 10-month old?

This time next year will we really have a 10-month old?

Utah is known for having “The Greatest Snow on Earth” and last week did not disappoint.  It snowed like crazy for all of the Christmas skiers in Park City so I wanted to share our wintry joy (and 3 feet of snow in 36 hours) with all of you for today’s Download Day.

please click on image to download pdf

please click on image to download pdf

If you live someplace sunny and warm – then I envy you – but for those of you with white stuff coming down, I hope you love your snow days as much as we do here in Utah.

Enjoy!

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jason-birthday

I admit, with the holiday I completely forgot that it was Monday this week and therefore, had no Download Day.  But, the 26th was Jason’s birthday (Happy 38th!) and so as a treat for him, I created a birthday wish on his blog that you can download.

Just go to www.jasonhall.com and you’ll see a tag (in his favorite color) with multiple versions of it just a click away.  I’ll get back on schedule next week but I hope you enjoy this birthday bonus.

In the meantime, when you want to recreate Jason’s fabulous birthday Boston Cream Cake from the kitchen of my sister-in-law Blair then here is the recipe:

BOSTON CREAM CAKE

1 Duncan Hines Classic Yellow Cake Mix

1 c. heavy whipping cream

1 pkg. Jello Instant French Vanilla Pudding

1 c. whole milk

2 c. powdered sugar + 2 Tbs powdered sugar

3 Baker’s unsweetened chocolate squares

1/4 c. butter

2 Tbs hot water

Cake:

Make in two round cake pans per package directions.  Cool completely.

Filling:

Whip pudding mix, whipping cream, whole milk, 2 Tbs powdered sugar until stiff.  Refrigerate for half hour.

Glaze:

Melt chocolate squares in sauce pan.  Add butter, 2 c. powdered sugar, and 2 Tbs. hot water (more water if needed).  Stir often and keep on low heat to keep from burning.

Layer:

Place one cake on dish.  Cut across top to smooth if needed.  Pile filling in the center of first cake layer – does not need to go all the way to the edge.  Place second cake layer on next and press slightly.  Pour glaze over top of cake and smooth with spatula so that it drips over the edges.  Store in refrigerator.

Add candles whether it’s your birthday or not!  Every day can be a celebration, right?

It’s delectable – Enjoy!

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heart cocoa

As our families and friends gather together, especially when there are both kids and adults, we have an easy way to hit a home run with all the guests: have a hot chocolate “bar” ready in a moment’s notice.

Here’s what you need:

1.  cocoa mix (I put mine in a wintery container just to keep things festive)

2. hot water (I have a plug-in teapot that I can use right where I set up the chocolate bar)

3.  spoons for mixing (hopefully Santa got me the mini wire whisks I want for Christmas specifically for this purpose…it’s all I asked for!)

4.  mugs

5.  whipped cream (I use the canisters because everyone knows those are more fun)

6.  marshmallows

7.  chocolate sprinkles

8. candy canes

9.  anything else that you want to put into hot cocoa

BONUS: cider mix (give your guests the option for a little wassailing instead of hot chocolate)

Just set everything out on the counter or table and as people arrive for the party or when dinner winds down, keep the hot water coming and invite them to make their own chocolate concoction of delight.

Trust me, no matter what age your guests are, everyone loves a few chocolate sprinkles!

What would you add to the hot chocolate bar?

chocolate bar 2

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music mix

Looking for a quick gift that is totally personal?  I did this for a few of the women in my neighborhood that I do some work with and the response was unanimously “Oooohhh!”  That means “thumbs up” in case you weren’t sure.

Here’s what I did.

1.  Create a playlist of your favorite songs – could be songs that remind you of the person or just songs that you love.  I used songs that related to the strength of women in general.  It’s a mix to empower and uplift my friends and tell them how great they are.

2.  Burn a CD of your playlist.

3.  Create a cover for your CD if you want.   Even a simple piece of cardstock stamped or printed with the “title” of your CD works great.

CD

4.  Now comes the fun part – wrapping it so that your gift is elevated from a simple CD mix (which will be loved in itself) to a work of art.

5.  For Christmas, I love to attach an ornament to my packages.  I look for them at after-Christmas sales to use for the next year.  Think FLAT – you’ll have better luck wrapping and stacking if the ornaments are more flat instead of round.

6.  You can always make ornaments of your own but I like to have a stash on hand that I don’t have to make because the holiday season can be overwhelming as it is.  These snowflake ornaments are exactly what I needed for each package but here’s how I added the personal touch.

ornament

Using a 7gypsies metal tag, I mounted each person’s initial to the tag (for the “Giving Well” alumni – you already know how I feel about using names an initials on things!).  I then tied a ribbon through the tag, knotted it above the loop and tied it to the wire on my ornament.  Voila!  A totally personalized ornament that started as an ordinary store-bought one.

7.  In “Giving Well” this year I talked about telling the recipient the story behind the gift as a way to connect with them and make giving more meaningful.  To do this, I have created note cards to have on hand for all of my gifts.

notecards

Cut cardstock into 4″ x 6″ rectangles.  Use small scallop scissors to trim one end of each card.  Mount a 1″ strip of patterned cardstock across the top of each card.  I used We R Memory Keepers flocked paper for some added texture.  All I have to do is pull out a card and jot down a note for the perfect addition to my presents.  (By the way, I also made a stash of these to use as recipe cards with a little kick – I write the recipe horizontally).

8.  Tuck a card into each gift and tie a large ribbon around the CD – tying the ornament into the bow to secure it.  I like to look for deals on wide ribbon throughout the year and at after-Christmas sales.  You would be amazed at the impact that real ribbon (wired or not) can have when you are wrapping a gift.   It just makes people feel special to get a package using real ribbon.

There you go!

So, whether you try it this year or start planning for next year, creating a sense of care for the recipient through the package itself is part of the art of giving well (including last minute gift cards!).  These are the things of the heart – that personal touch that says, “You’re important enough to me that I am going to give you something beautiful!”

And if you’re anything like me – wrapping the gift will become as much a part of the creative process that we have inside of each of us as crafting a project might be.  Enjoy!

__________________________________________________________________

Post Updated December 19:

Comment from Megan H. :

Kolette, Would you mind sharing the songs you included on your playlist? Thanks and Happy Holidays to you and Jason.

Thanks for your comment, Megan.  I hadn’t shared the list on the post because since I am a Mormon, I used Christian music and I knew that it wouldn’t apply to everyone.  I will share my list here – most of them are found on iTunes and if you are religious (or not, for that matter) you might still enjoy them.

1.  One Good Woman – Cherie Call
2.  I Will Not Be Still – Kenneth Cope
3.  A Woman’s Heart – Jenny Jordan
4.  Amazing Things – Julie de Azevedo
5.  Because I Believe – Jenny Phillips
6.  I Know That My Redeemer Lives – Linda Rowberry
7.  Daughter of a King – Jenny Phillips
8.  When All Is Said and Done – Katherine Nelson
9.  Come Take Your Place – Hilary Weeks
10.  No Ordinary Girl – Cherie Call
11.  True to You – Jenny Phillips
12.  The Things I Know – Doug Walker
13.  The Maker’s Touch – Jenny Phillips
14.  Come In – Hilary Weeks
15.  Beautiful Heart – Brian Rhodes
16.  I Stand All Amazed – Katherine Thompson
17.  Stronger Than the Storm – Jenny Phillips
18.  One By One – Hilary Weeks

Thanks and happy holidays!

Kolette

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Coleman Family

Most of Our Group - Ready to Ride Like Mad!

We went to Disneyland for Thanksgiving this year with my family and today I wanted to give you a glimpse of what life is like traveling with a quadriplegic.  With me pregnant and Jason’s wheelchair a factor, we didn’t think we would do much more than watch the riders, enjoy the atmosphere, eat from various vendors and hang out with our family.  We did eat – sampling everything from the frozen bananas and Adventureland’s pineapple sherbet to the corn dogs and Turkey Legs (which were a little much for this pregnant girl!).  We also definitely enjoyed the atmosphere and did some people watching in the process.

But we should have known that my brothers and brother-in-law would dive right in and make sure Jason rode every ride his heart desired.  After going on the Jungle Cruise (which is totally wheelchair accessible, by the way) with the whole family, the men decided that we needed to take things up a notch and commenced to pitch in wherever and whenever to haul Jason in and out of the fastest, wettest rides in the parks.

The Guys on Space Mountain

The Guys on Space Mountain - Jason, wet from Splash Mountain, is hanging onto Kory for balance and giving the thumbs up approval

Jason is a quadriplegic.  This can mean a lot of things to each individual depending on where their break in their neck is and their movement.  Officially it means that he doesn’t have use of all four of his extremities.  This is true to a certain extent.  He has no use of his legs and no use of his hands but he does have partial use of his arms.  He basically doesn’t have the right muscles to move a manual wheelchair, using a power wheelchair instead and he has to be lifted in and out of his chair each day.  He has no use of his hands, meaning he can’t grip things but fakes it quite well by being able to partially move his arms.  This allows him to drive his handicap-accessible van from his wheelchair using hand controls.

When Jason first broke his neck, his therapists taught him the necessity of good posture even though he lacks trunk muscle support.  His wheelchair has special side pads that help him stay upright but most of his ability to sit straight in his chair is because he taught himself to do so 20 years ago.  His good posture makes more difference than you might realize as he is able to breath more efficiently and even looks better sitting up straight in his chair versus slouching.  His therapists were brilliant all those years ago.

So, to make Disneyland happen we had to take all of these things into consideration.  When we travel we rent handicap-accessible vans if possible.  I am the driver because they lack his special hand controls or lock-down device but they all have automatic ramps and space for Jason in the passenger side of the car.  Someone also has to take care of getting him in and out of bed and dressed each day.  Being pregnant, me as the lifter was not an option but instead of bringing our aide with us we decided to take our family up on their offer to do the lifting.

I use body mechanics to lift Jason – he is 6’3″ and about 180 lbs. but doing what is called a “pivot lift,” I can get him in and out of his chair quite easily.  In this case, I guided the lift but my brothers took turns doing the real work to get Jason in and out of his chair each day.  I handled the rest of his care – that part is not as strenuous.  I am grateful we have people who help Jason each day with his care but I loved the freedom that not having an aide with us gave to our vacation.

Uncle Jason and Our Nephew Jason on the Train

Uncle Jason and Our Nephew Jason on the Train

These same principles applied to each ride that Jason went on at Disneyland and California Adventure – except complicated greatly by the fact that the guys were moving him in and out of tight spaces, down into cars, over armrests, between railings  and up steps.  Each ride required a new plan, a new strategy as to what was the best way to get him in and out in the fastest possible time.

By the time our trip was over, they had learned that “legs first” was the way to go and that the Indiana Jones ride wasn’t worth the effort.  My job was to move his wheelchair out of the way while the men dealt with maneuvering and strapping him in.  Then the chair and I would wait the 30 seconds (Tower of Terror) to 3 minutes (Space Mountain) that it took to finish the ride before I would move the chair back in “ready” position for them to lift him back into.

dscn0539

Jason & I with Our Buddy Buzz Lightyear

Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed role.  My brothers are awesome and I loved seeing Jason’s face at the end of each ride – knowing that he hadn’t ridden rides like that in over 20 years.

And we found out very quickly that the hauling and lifting was well worth the effort – Jason was the instant Fast Pass to all the rides.  So, that just made it even more fun for everyone to stick with him!  Our nieces and nephews loved heading past all the long lines, knowing that if they were with Uncle Jason, they could ride everything twice as many times.

Jason’s favorite ride?  California Screamin’ roller coaster, of course!  Who doesn’t love those Mickey Mouse ear loops?  That one got multiple rides from everyone – including the quadriplegic who is really a kid at heart.

Cinderella's Castle

Jason was excited to for our baby's first trip to Disneyland!

What’s not to love about “the happiest place on earth?”

Mild-Mannered Cousins or Intergalactic Space Rangers?

Mild-Mannered Cousins or Intergalactic Space Rangers?

Belle

Belle, Me & My Niece Brynne

Disney Adventures

Our Niece Kenlee, My Mom & Nephew Ryan

Churros

Our Nieces Having a Churro Feast

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The holiday season is in full force right now and we’ve been receiving all kinds of yummy treats and goodies from friends and neighbors.  So, I thought that you might like an easy “From Our Family to Yours” tag that you could just print, cut out and attach in no time.

I’m curious – do you have a holiday tradition where you give the same thing every year?  Maybe you have a secret family fudge recipe or a special wassail concoction that has become the “gift of choice” for all your neighbors and friends?   Or maybe you think of something new each year that you want to give – spotting the idea in July and knowing it’s the perfect thing this holiday season.  Or perhaps you are the “A Little Bit of Everything” type who makes all kinds of cookies or candy and then offers a sampling to everyone to try.

What kind of holiday giver are you?  No matter what your approach is, this tag will work for any gift, any time.

From our little family to yours…Enjoy!

From Our Family to Yours

please click on image to download pdf

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