Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 in Review

This year was a busy one for our family, and we saw a lot of changes. At the beginning of the year, we were living in our little yellow house in Grand Island. Ruthie was this big...
...and she still had red hair!

Early in the year Tony decided to change his major to Spanish and business, so at the end of February we ended up moving to Omaha, just a few blocks away from my parents. We spent the months of February and March packing, moving, unpacking and generally remembering how much we hate moving. I kept busy as a substitute teacher for the Sunbeam (3 year old) class in Primary, while Tony worked and started taking placement tests for school.

In April, Ruth and I drove out to Ohio to visit Tony's sister and her family. We stayed for more than a week and had so much fun spending time with Jenny, Mike, Marcie, Leila, Janalee, and their various friends and family.

After we got back from Ohio, Tony and I received callings in our ward. I was called to be the Young Women secretary, while Tony teaches the 14/15-year-old Sunday School class. At the end of April, Tony and I were matched with a little brother, Brandon, through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. We love hanging out with our little brother. Here he is working on a fort in our living room:

In May, Tony and I celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary, I turned 24, and we got to see my younger brother, Zach, graduate from high school. Tony started summer classes at UNO. We also had fun planting and tending to our first garden.

In June, Ruth celebrated her first birthday! We had a nice party at my parents' house, and it was lots of fun! Here is Ruth after her second cupcake:

At the end of the month, we went up to Minnesota for a fishing trip with my parents. It was extremely windy that week, but we had a good time anyway.

In July, Tony turned 24! We went out to Ogallala, Neb., to camp out at Lake McConaughy with our friends, the Olbrichts. In the two or three days we camped, I think we experienced something like five thunderstorms. It was insane. But the company was good, and so we had a lot of fun.

At the end of July, I started watching Jack on a regular basis, and we really enjoy seeing him every week.

In August, Tony bumped up to full-time school once again. We had a busy month celebrating family and friends' birthdays and going on various outings. Ruthie also started walking around this time.

In September, Tony and I ran the Grand Island Half Marathon. We finished in a little more than 2 hours, and, unfortunately, didn't get any pictures. Tony has already mentioned wanting to run it again this year, so we won't forget the camera next time. :) While we were out in Central/Western Nebraska, we also paid another visit to our friends, the Olbrichts.

In October, Tony and I went to a Nebraska football game. Tony also got the ball rolling on his new business, Gardner Translations. For Halloween, Tony and I were Kip and Deb, while Ruthie wore her daddy's old Halloween costume and made a very cute leopard.

November brought us the chance to visit Tony's dad, step-mom and brother in Utah. We flew out for a weekend, and we were so glad we did. Utah was beautiful, and we loved seeing our family.

In December, we bought our first house! We are planning to close in late Feb. 2010, assuming all goes well with our loan. Tony started working full-time at U.S. Cellular. Ruth turned 18 months old, making her old enough to go to the Nursery class at church (YAY!!!!!). However, she hasn't been to Nursery yet because of illness. We also had a couple of snow storms and a wonderful Christmas.

This year has brought a lot of surprises and blessings. I cannot believe how big my little girl has gotten! I took this picture of her the other day:

My little blondie has grown so much, it's amazing. Her hair color changed, she has teeth and she walks, talks and feeds herself. I can't wait to see what new things she learns and how she grows in 2010.

We are looking forward to the new year, which we will be ringing in the same way we did last year - in North Platte with some good food and exceptionally good friends. We hope you have a wonderful new year, as well. We'll post our resolutions in 2010!

Farewell, 2009!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A White Christmas

Hello, everyone. Christmas has come and gone, and it was a year to remember. I don't think I can adequately explain on here how stressful this Christmas was for me, mostly because of our home buying process and issues related to that, as well as last minute Christmas shopping and a cold/flu bug that we just can't seem to get out of the house. However, I can say that we have seen so many miraculous things this Christmas, I am amazed. I just know that Heavenly Father answers prayers and gives us what we need.

With that said, we had a wonderful Christmas. It all began on Dec. 23, when Santa visited my parents' house. He brought Tony and I a 26" flat-screen LCD TV! We were speechless. Here it is all set up in our basement:

Tony also got a new power drill and some tools, while I got a sweater, necklace and a few other items. Ruth got a lot of clothes, a book, a teddy bear and this neat toy that's too hard to describe:

She loves that toy. Then, on Christmas Eve we went and visited my Dad's family out in West Omaha. In case you haven't heard, we had a big blizzard here, and it started Christmas Eve. There were some giant snow drifts around, but luckily my parents own two four-wheel drive vehicles and let us ride in one on our way out to visit family. Once again, Ruth got a ton of clothes and toys while we were out there.

Christmas morning came, and Santa had made a stop at our house.

Tony got some new ties, the new Spanish translation of the Bible, and a giant battery-powered Nerf tommy gun. Ruth got A TON of stuff from Santa and Grandma Christensen, including a Nintendo Wii, wood blocks, a Zhu Zhu Pet, books, a snow globe, Christmas ornaments, etc. I got a George Foreman Grill and Pampered Toes. Also, Grandma and Grandpa Gardner sent Ruth a beautiful quilt, dress and pillowcase and a wonderful movie compilation of photos from our trip to Utah.

That day we were supposed to go over to visit Tony's mom, but because of the blizzard that was still taking place, we weren't able to make it out there. It was disappointing. Since my parents live a couple of blocks away, we borrowed the Jeep overnight and had to snake our way through the neighborhood to find the best streets to get to my parents' house. We ended up spending the day with my Mom, Dad and younger brother and eating our way through part of a prime rib roast. Since my Mom's side of the family couldn't make it on Christmas, yesterday my parents had everyone over to enjoy more food and good company. Our Christmas ended up being four days long! Now, I feel like we need a bigger house just to hold all of our stuff! I think this week I will go through the toys and whatnot and get bags ready to take to the thrift store.

We are so very grateful for all that we received for Christmas, including the chance to see and talk to family and friends. And we are especially thankful for the opportunity to reflect on the Savior.

The snow was so bad that they canceled all church meetings today except for the 1 p.m. Sacrament meeting. It's pretty rare for them to cancel church! Since I'm not feeling well (I'm the last to be hit by the bug circulating through our house), we are just going to stay home and relax.
Here is the view outside our front door. In case you can't tell, we got well over a foot of snow (on top of the snow that fell a couple of weeks ago).

I hope you all had a wonderful, safe Christmas and are able to reflect on 2009 as you get ready for a fresh start in 2010! I'll post my year in review in a couple of days!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Toybox grade: "D" for quality, "B" for effort, "A+" for good intentions.

The Anthony and Meredith Gardner family patriarch here, reporting on one of the most interesting, fun, disappointing and stretching activities of the last few months.

I decided a while ago that I wanted to build Ruth - and her future siblings, and no, we are not pregnant - a toy box. I was thinking Christmas, but Meredith was thinking "finished-soon-space-saver." Once decided, I went with my father-in-law to Menard's and bought what I thought was enough wood to make the box, based on square footage calculations.

Mistake #1: You cannot purchase lumber based solely on total square footage calculations if you are constructing a three dimensional object.

So, needless to say, I didn't buy enough and didn't find out until I was done cutting all of the wood to size... or at least, everything I could cut to size.

Menard's isn't exactly close by, but I went back. I purchased more than enough wood to finish the project, some gorilla glue for the bottom and other gluables, and just to be sure, I bought a large enough piece of glued pine to serve as the lid once cut to size. (It is actually the prettiest piece of wood on the box.)

Once everything was cut to size, I realized I would need fasteners.

Mistake #2: Wood doesn't just stick together. You need fasteners.

 If it wasn't already more expensive than I had planned, 3/4" nails weren't going to be enough, so I went down to the ACE hardware nearby and purchased four 3" framing screws to take care of fastening the bottom to the box. Turns out you need to drill great big pilot holes if you want to do that, and I didn't have a drill to do so. So I went back to ACE again and bought 3/4" soft wood screws. They worked like a charm!

While starting to frame up the box, I noticed that my planks were mostly bowed.

Mistake #3: Planks that are not checked adequately for flatness tend to be bowed.

I had very few flat lengths. On the flat lengths, I fastened them with nails. The bowed, I used screws. Result: a menagerie of alternating nails and screws at the fasten points.

With plenty of nails and screws and glue, the box is finally framed up and assembled, except for the lid. Before adding the lid, I decide to sand and buff the wood in preparation for a staining. I got to involve our little brother Brandon (paired through the BBBS system), which was fun. We got most of the box stained, and upon first glance, everything seemed to be going well.

My wonderful wife inspected it, but it turned out a lot worse than I thought. She found tons of drippies, lots of sander chewspots (you know, those places where the 60 grit sanding wasn't quite erased by the 160 sanding), and plenty of gaps in the wood that were eyesores.

Mistake #4: Never assume that gaps are not eyesores, and that drippies aren't noticeable.

Result? Gaps stay, sanded staining, buffed it down lots better and stained again. There are still chew marks, but little to no drippies. I finished the lid, attached it, cracked it down a glue seam while attaching the friction hinge, and voila.

Now, some of you reading might say, "Wow, what a negative post!" Well... I admit, I view this project in a lot of negative light because I view a lot of myself in it. I really wanted to just make a box for Ruth and the kids with my own two hands, but was too prideful to stop and say, "If I'm going to do this, I'm going to admit that I have no idea what I'm doing for the most part, and I'm not going to settle for less than near perfect."

This was a really good experience, and I know that Ruth and the other kids are going to like it. I can repair the lid since it only busted slightly down a glue seam, and the friction hinge can be replaced with a specific toy box lid support. I can put slats on the underneath of the lid after clamping to prevent further seam splitting and I can always sand it again and refinish it in the future.

This was a really good experience, and I'm glad to say I was able to embark on it. I believe the benefit outweighs the cost of production.

Friday, December 11, 2009


'Tis the season of change, and winter is bringing many changes to our little household. The first major change of the month began on Monday, when Tony began working full-time at U.S. Cellular instead of part-time. Tony worked full-time for U.S. Cellular for much of the time we lived in Grand Island. But when we moved to Omaha, there were no full-time positions available. We thought it would be better for Tony to work part-time anyway, especially with his full-time school schedule. Part-time employees still get full benefits. However, when this full-time position became open, Tony decided to interview for it and take it if offered because we could really use the extra money. Well, Tony had a great interview, was offered the increase in hours, and took it. With both school and work, Tony has been gone a lot this week. It's especially tough on the days when he has school all morning and then goes to work from noon to 9 p.m. because he only gets to spend a few minutes with Ruth. I can tell it's wearing him out after the first week. (It doesn't help that he's trying to prepare for finals week.) Since Tony is spending more time away from home, I am trying to do my part to handle more things around the house. There are things I would normally ask him to do that I just try to do myself now. We are doing what we can to organize our time, synchronize our schedules and spend quality time together. As the weeks go by, I know we will all adjust, and the heavy work/school load won't last forever.

The second big change that has happened this month was the first major snowstorm of the season, which really threw a wrench in things. We had our week all planned out, complete with workouts and family time, but we've had to replace formal workouts with snow shoveling and some family time with extra drive time.

The third change, which is by far the most exciting, is that we are now under contract to buy a house! Here are a few pictures:

It's very cute, has a huge back yard, and is only a few blocks away from where we currently live. It needs a lot of updating (think really old wallpaper), but Tony and I are excited about putting some work into this place. Our lease on our current house isn't up until the end of February, so our closing date is about a week before our lease is up. Our mortgage payment will be within $10 of our current rent payment, but the money will go into our own investment instead of just vanishing into someone else's pocket. We are stoked about becoming homeowners and are crossing our fingers as we wait for our loan to go through!

I'm sure this month will bring many more changes, and we'll keep you guys updated!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Happy December

Happy December! One part of me feels like this year just began, but then another realizes that A LOT has happened over the past 11 months. In a few weeks, I'll post a year in review, complete with pictures!

In other news, Ruth is teething. And I mean she is cutting A LOT of teeth. It's making her really grouchy, too. Over the past week or so she's started hitting and kicking pretty regularly. She doesn't hit hard, she mostly just swings her arms around when she gets frustrated and/or tired. It's like she just really wants to punch something. Sometimes Tony and I get in the way, and then its time-out time. We started time outs a few weeks ago when Ruth kept stealing her friend's sippy cup after I told her many, many times not to. We did very few at first (didn't need to do many), but now time outs occur on an almost daily basis. I try to use them for the more serious things - hitting and kicking - and shrug off or ignore the other stuff. She pretty much only kicks when I'm changing her diaper, and I've decided to just ignore it, so hopefully she'll quit once she sees she can't get a rise out of me for it. I think time outs are serving their purpose, though. I just hope all the teeth cut soon, and I want her to grow out of this hitting and kicking stuff!

I have a lot to do for the holidays! We haven't decorated yet, but we hope to do that tomorrow. I also need to finish Christmas shopping, but I'm mostly done with that. Yesterday I made a list of all the things I need to do to get ready for Christmas, and that has helped me feel less stressed.

We are also continuing our house hunt. We have decided we want to stay in our ward, and we put in an offer on a house this morning. We might not hear back for sure for a few days (I think the owner works for the railroad), but hopefully all goes well! Here is a link for those of you who want to take a look.

Happy weekend, and Go Big Red!!!