Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Week in Idaho

We're trying to get back into a routine after being gone for a week. Sophie's been particularly moody, whiney, and sassy (yes, sassy. I have no idea what she says, but her tone of voice says it all.) the last couple of days. I hope it wears off soon.

Sophie loved the attention she got from everyone, the space she had to run around in, and of course, playing with Abby (the cat). Abby, who's usually a pretty social cat, spent the last part of the week either outside or hiding in some remote corner of the house for fear of getting hit by balls, having her tail pulled or her eyes poked out. She was pretty patient with the brave little girl who used to be hesitant around her.

Here are a few of my favorite pictures pulled from our camera. (Yes, it came out of my purse a couple of times.)

Psst, Dad. Pick me up before I make a scene.

Typical Devin face. (my brother)

I'm going to ask you nicely to give me the camera.

Fine, I'll use my mean face to intimidate you. (This never works, by the way.)

That's it. I'm just going to take it.

On Thursday my sister went through the temple for the first time. And for the first time, everyone in my immediate family (except spouses) was there together.

It was such an incredible feeling. Something that I'm sure my mom and dad had wished for all of their married lives -- to be surrounded in the temple by all of their children. Yes, we all cried. Even my sister, who's usually the dry-eyed one.

The wedding was Friday morning, which happened to be sunny and warm. Pretty lucky for an Idaho wedding. The sealer who performed the ceremony was the same man who married Steve and me. Yes, we all cried again.

The newly wedded ones. Hillie's colors were hot pink and black, which I thought turned out really cute. Adam's black shirt, pink tie, and silver vest, however, flashed me back to the 80s. He pulled it off nicely, though.

Did I mention it was sunny?

The whole family. (I'm still not sure if I can forgive my siblings for getting married within three months -- before and after-- the birth of my children. Talk about being lumpy... and no nice comment you make will convince me otherwise. It's not really fair. My sister-in-law had her baby three weeks ago and you can barely tell. Sigh. I'll quit ranting now.)

I didn't put her in her nice dress until right before the reception. We still had the luncheon to go to, and if you've seen the way she gets food all over, you wouldn't have dressed her up, either.

Here's little Carter dressed in his tux. I wish he was wearing his jacket in this picture. It has tails on it. Priceless.

The reception was at the same place as ours was held. Hillie even had stargazer lilies in her bouquet like I did. And she was wearing my veil. (aw.) It was sort of a deja vu-ish experience, only I wasn't tied to a wall greeting everyone while my stomach desperately ached for something more than a mozzarella stick.

I tried to pick out some photos that showed off my sister's hair, dress, and flowers up close. Oh, was Sophie in those pictures, too? I didn't notice. :)

Eh, not the best picture of the three of us, but it'll do. We all look like we could use a nap.

Here's the cake. If you can't tell, it has frosting swirlies all over. This isn't fondant, either. I love this cake.

Here's a good one to end on. She's such a cute little stinker.

Little Carter was blessed on Sunday. I don't have pictures of the after party. Probably because I was busy packing. Sniff. Thanks for a great week you guys!!

Side note: There are a few of you who might remember who Duane is. I hadn't seen him since before my mission. He's in my brother's ward. Small world.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Ok, I'm not really missing. There are lots of people who know where I am. I just wanted to let you know that we made it to Idaho safely. We're doing our quarterly "Steve works in Utah while I visit my family in Idaho" trip.

Except there will be a wedding this weekend. Updates to come . . .

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Colored Pencils and Encroaching Tomatoes

Since Sophie's taken an interest in pens and drawing on paper lately, my mom gave me the idea of letting her play with some colored pencils. I think she had more fun dumping them out and putting them back into the metal tube. She drew a pretty good scribble, though.

On a completely unrelated note, I want to show you my tomato plant. I have almost zero experience with gardening, so when I found out that you can plant almost anything here, I decided now would be a good time to stretch my wings a little and get some practice. I planted a bunch of flowers on one side of the porch. On the other I planted one tomato, one bell pepper, six red onions, cilantro, basil, sage, thyme, and rosemary.

About 90% of that "bush" is one tomato plant. You can see the pepper plant on the right and the sage and rosemary on the front below.

The tomato plant decided that it was going to plow over the rest of the edibles and make its way into the house. There are probably measures I could have taken to prevent this. (i.e. not getting a ginormous type of tomato and planting it right next to everything) My poor pepper plant has two hopeful little nubs on it and the onions, though still growing, are flat on the ground. The sage and rosemary are still holding on, but the cilantro and basil have long since gotten stalky and gone to seed.

Yes, I used a tomato cage-thing-whatever-you-call-it. It's practically horizontal now.

Oh, and all of my flowers died except for two hot pink bougainvilleas, which I hear are sort of temperamental.

Two more summers to figure out what I'm doing in a climate that's forgiving. Maybe I'll just plant tomatoes. They seem to like it here.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Steve surprised me Friday with lunch and a movie. Oh wait, it gets better . . . a Sophie-less lunch at P.F. Chang's (drool) and a sorta-creepy-but-Christian-Bale-was-in-it-so-that-made-it-better movie aka The Dark Knight. That was the third trip to the theater we've had since Sophie was born. We don't get out much anymore.

Anyway, snaps to Steve for a great anniversary afternoon. :)

My mom sent me this card, and I had to show you since it made me laugh a lot. She knows me well and my aversion to sappy greeting cards.

Inside: Happy Anniversary!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Happy Anniversary! or How We Hooked Up: The Expanded Version

Five years ago today Steve and I were married -- almost three years to the day after we met. I have all of this written in my journal, but because it spans three years and lot of other things happened in between, I wanted the whole story in tact. For memory's sake. And because I refuse to scrapbook. I'm throwing in some pictures and journal entries, too (sort of embarrassing, but the whole story needs to be here, right?). Here we go. . . the longest post of my life.

Sunday, September 3, 2000 - Moscow, Russia

I'd been in Russia for a couple of weeks getting used to the culture, the smell, the food, and desperately trying to fight homesickness. I was with 10 other girls on a semester-long stay in Moscow to teach English with the International Language Programs (ILP). That Sunday we'd decided to go to church at the Russian branch and almost doubled their attendance. That night a few of us decided to meet at the church with the other members and ride a bus to a baptism being held in another part of the city. When we got there, the missionaries looked a little wary. Steve told me later it was mostly because we were a bunch of American girls - who most hadn't seen in over a year - and they didn't know why we were there. We cram onto the bus. ILP girls sat in the back, the members sat in the front, and the missionaries stood, a little cramped, where they could find standing room. The missionary standing right in front of me happened to be Steve.

Neither of us wanted to be too chatty for obvious reasons of him being on a mission and me a single girl, but we did talk a little. Steve wanted to know who we were and what we were doing there. So we talked about that, and a little about him. You know, the basics . . . "Where are you from?" "How long have you been on a mission?". Our conversation stayed pretty low-key, but I guess we'd made a good impression on each other.

Nat's Journal: September 10, 2000

"I went to the Russian branch again today. I suppose it doesn't matter where I go to church as long as I go, but I wanted to stay at the Russian branch instead of going to the International one because I wanted to learn more Russian and see what the Church is like in "infant" stages. But, I think a bigger reason why I wanted to go is the reason I shouldn't go. There's a missionary that I sort of have my eye on. I know i shouldn't go after a missionary (AND I WOULDN'T!) It's just that I'm afraid of distracting him from what he's out here doing. I don't even think he's noticed me that much (oh, yes he had), but we've had a couple of fun conversations (at the baptism last Sunday). I was really torn at where I should go for church, but I've decided to go to the International branch. I feel good about that."

I ended up going to the Russian branch most of the time anyway. Mostly because there was a girl we had been trying to get to go to church with us who lived in our building. Besides the casual, "Hey, how are ya?", I think Steve and I had maybe two more conversations the entire four months I was there.

This is one of my favorite pictures from being in Russia. These are some gardens in St. Petersburg. Hmm . . . that girl on the bench looks familiar. :)

The months went on and my experiences there (Steve aside) were some that I'll never forget. December rolled around, and it was time for us to leave. Ali, a girl in our group kept one of those books, similar to what a lot of missionaries have, that gets passed around right before transfers. Everyone writes a little something in it, leaves pictures, and contact information. So, Ali decided to pass her book along to the missionaries and Steve wrote in it, leaving his information with her. On our last Sunday as we were leaving, Steve came up to me and said, "I wrote my address in Ali's book. You can write me if you want."

At first I thought Ali was a giant flirt and was sort of embarrassed that she'd passed her book to them, but if it wasn't for her, and for Steve giving me the OK, I would have never kept contact with him after I'd left.

This is the only picture I have of both Steve and I while we were in Russia. From the left: three missionaries who I don't remember, Steve, Elder Parker, Ali, Elder um, going home soon, Brother & Sister Ballif, then Charlotte, Stacy, and me on the bottom.

After Christmas Steve was transferred to a different mission. The Romania-Bucharest mission includes a little Russian-speaking country called Moldova. Instead of sending Russian-speaking missionaries there, they pull missionaries from other Russian missions when they need them. Steve was chosen to go, and because the rules are different in that mission regarding email, I was able to write him that way instead of sending real mail. Every week I got a copy of the letter he wrote his family with a quick note at the top for me. And every week I wrote him back -- very cordially, no flirting. I promise.

Spring 2001

This went on for about four months. Then one week he wrote me, asking me to send him a picture. Heh. His excuse was that the girls in the English classes they taught were really flirty and he needed a picture of a girl so he could tell them he had a girlfriend. I thought, "Psh... ya right." But I sent him one anyway. Later (like after we were married) he told me that he really did have a problem with flirty girls, but the bigger reason for the picture was so he could see which girl was writing him. I had been writing him for four months and he didn't know which ILP girl I was! When he got the picture he told me that he was hoping it was me, but he wanted to be sure.
This is the picture I sent him. It was the most recent picture I had. You'd think the girls back in Moldova would have been suspicious because it wasn't a picture of Steve and me. By the way, I'm with Devin and Hilary.

Meanwhile, I was finishing up spring semester at Utah State and seriously considering a mission, which is a story in itself because I was dead set against going when I got home from Russia. The homesickness almost did me in. Here are a few thoughts I had at the time:

Nat's Journal: April 11, 2001

" . . . Another thing I've thought about, or person, rather, is Elder Perry. . . .he comes home in July, I think, which is right around the time I can put my [mission] papers in and go. You can only get to know a missionary so well when you're a girl, but I felt a connection with him that's carried over since I got home and has gotten stronger. He is
so focused and dedicated on his mission -- he's amazing! Anyway, what I'm trying to get at is . . . I want to see him when he gets home, but he lives in California. I don't know if he's even given that a thought or thought about dating me when he gets home -- he's got more important things to do."

Summer 2001

I finished the semester, moved back home to Idaho and decided to put my mission papers in. I got my call on June 21 to serve in the Austria Vienna Mission. I was scheduled to leave in September. This next journal entry is basically me thinking as I'm writing. Kind of random and so like a girl. Haha.

Nat's Journal: August 12, 2001

" . . . Elder Perry, well, now I can call him "Stephen"- which is way weird - got home last month. AND he's coming to Utah in two weeks to see his favorite [mission] companion come home and go to a mission reunion - which he invited me to. PLUS -- since I'll be endowed by then, he wants to do a session at the Salt Lake Temple. AHHH! I think being there and seeing him in all-white would probably do me in. OK, that was my first thought and I wondered seriously if I'd still go [on a mission] after spending a few days with him as a regular person. Then I thought . . . if I stayed home on the chance that we would date seriously and it didn't work out between us, I would really really regret not going [on a mission]. My heart usually rules my head in situations like these, but my head is gonna have to buck up and take control this time."

I went down to Salt Lake at the end of August -- the day after my mission farewell at church and two weeks before I was to enter the Missionary Training Center (MTC).

Nat's Journal: September 4, 2001

"I found Stephen's cousin's apartment and knocked on the door. When Stephen opened it we were both a little shy. We didn't know whether to hug or shake hands so we did neither. He hadn't shaved his goatee off. It was rather cute. :)"

After spending a couple of days hanging around temple square, and basically getting to know each other in person, it was time to say good-bye. Again.

"When I woke up Wednesday morning I was sick to my stomach. Not physically sick, but emotionally. I knew that in a few hours we'd have to say good-bye. Maybe forever -- who knows? We went out for breakfast then got pics taken in front of the temple. I helped them load some stuff then he walked me across a busy street to my car. We hugged for a second then when we parted he reached over and kissed me on the cheek, and I did it back. As I was pulling into traffic I glanced over and he looked back and waved. I do miss him, but I don't 'pine away' for him. I'm trying not to let my hopes get too high in case he's not around when I get home."

Fall 2001

I reported to the MTC on September 12, 2001. Yes, the day after 9/11, and yes, the same day we got married two years later. Leaving on my mission during the wake of 9/11 is another story.

From the left: Elizabeth (Greenhalgh) Marsh (my companion), Elise Fluckiger, Erin (Langston) Lowther, and me.

I loved Austria. I loved the simplicity of the life of a missionary. All we had to worry about was sharing what we loved most -- the Gospel. We never worried about having jobs or a social life or going to school. And everything we owned fit into two suitcases.

This was taken somewhere in Vienna. From the left: Andrea (Petrilli) Gehmlich, Becca (Storrs) Rowe, me, and Becky Christensen.

Winter 2001-2002

We weren't allowed to email the first few months, and Steve wrote me occasionally by hand. He was pretty busy and all. Especially since he had a girlfriend by then. Don't worry, it's fine. It's not like we exchanged vows before I left. Things were pretty lax. I was actually kind of funny how casually he said it in his letter:

Letter from Steve: December 8, 2001

". . . Yep, I moved out here to Utah. I'm going back [to California] in a couple of weeks to see my family, friends, and girlfriend again."

And my reaction, which turned out to be sort of a spiritual experience for me:

Nat's Journal: December 25, 2001

"That morning I was worried because I was in a bad mood. (Sometimes I wake up grumpy because Sis. Appel snores all night, and I can't sleep. Anyways. . .) I knew that if I felt like that I wouldn't be able to teach with the Spirit. So I prayed and asked Heavenly Father to help me overcome this and then I studied my discussion and looked up more scriptures. That morning I got a letter from Stephen (finally) and he mentioned his 'girlfriend'. Hmm. Normally something like that would have ripped me up, but I was still happy. The fact that he has a girlfriend doesn't bug me at all. I was so excited that I wasn't upset, I couldn't stop smiling for 20-30 minutes. Then at our appointment that morning the Spirit was so strong. It was incredible."

Of course I wanted details about her, and I must have asked him because in his next letter (two months later) he wrote a whole paragraph about her. But, there must have been a serious relationship talk between the time he wrote the letter and when he mailed it because he added a P.S. to it with some comments about them sort of breaking up.

When we were finally allowed to send email, he wrote a little more frequently -- especially the last few months. He also wrote and told me that he'd enlisted in the Utah National Guard. My first thoughts were, "Psh. I told myself I'd never marry anyone in the military." Funny how things work out.

Spring 2003

I came home on March 14, 2003. Because my parents had moved while I was gone, I had to speak in my new ward and then in my old ward the next Sunday. Steve and I got in touch after I got back and because he was living in Provo at the time, it was easy for him to drive up to visit.

Nat's Journal: March 23, 2003

"Stephen is coming up this weekend! I have to speak in my old ward and he wanted to be there. I'm kind of nervous because I'm still weird and more awkward than normal around boys. And because I don't really know what he's thinking . . . but probably the same thing I am. We're still just friends, but we'll see if there's anything else."

Needless to say, he made a good impression on everyone. Especially me. :)

Nat's Journal: March 30, 2003

"When I'm with Stephen, I don't feel all giddy and girlish. I feel content and comfortable -- like the Spirit is there (such an R.M. thing to say. Ha.). He gave me a big hug and kissed me on the cheek. He is so sweet! He got along great with my family. Especially my dad. He listened while my dad told him all about the Crater (family land used for grazing that my dad takes care of), and even kicked back and watched some basketball with him."

Summer 2003

With almost weekly trips back and forth between Idaho Falls and Provo, we managed to see each other often enough to realize things were getting serious. Here are a few thoughts I had a couple of months later. (This was good for me to reread, by the way. I forget things that I learn, which is why I write them down, but it doesn't do me any good if I don't go back and read them again. :))

Nat's Journal: May 13, 2003

"So yesterday I was waiting for Hilly to get out of dance class and thinking about all of that stuff about Steve. (Apparently I'd been nervous about something.) I noticed my scriptures sitting in the backseat of the car, so I reached over, unzipped them, and a few minutes later I found myself reading in Doctrine & Covenants Section 132 - The Eternal Marriage section. I'm not sure what I was looking for -- maybe a verse that said something like, 'And ye shall marry he who thou lovest.' Actually, I don't recall even seeing the word 'love' anywhere. It talks a lot about making covenants - almost making marriage sound like a business contract. I don't remember which thoughts came first -- that's how the Lord works sometimes, how He answers our questions. A few quotes I'd heard before came to mind:

'When the Lord commanded us to love each other, He knew we had control over it.'

'Don't pray to marry the one you love; pray to love the one you marry.'

Then I thought about wedding vows and promising to love and cherish each other. It occurred to me that it's more of an active love -- not passively waiting and expecting to stay in love forever. I know I've been in and out of love and crushes and that feeling comes and goes if I don't do anything to 'nourish' it. Then I thought about how important faith is in a relationship. Having faith in each other. Then I felt a bit guilty for thinking that Steve would just dump me later. I guess my fear of being hurt killed my faith. I guess the question isn't whether or not I 'truly' love Steve or if he loves me, but whether or not we're willing to keep the love alive. As far as I'm concerned -- I could see myself spending the rest of my life with him."

As far as Steve dumping me . . . I don't think that was on his mind. I found a few journal entries he wrote around this time. Luckily this story isn't just about what was in my head. :)

Steve's Journal: June 2, 2003

"I love being around her. As I was leaving, I thought to myself, 'I don’t like doing this, I don’t want to have to leave her like this too many more times, in fact, I don’t want to do it at all.' I would love to be around her all the time. What I haven’t figured out yet is how long she has felt this way – because I’m pretty sure she feels the same that I do – I think she saw something back a long time ago, when I still had no clue. Even the first and second times that I went to see her after she got home from her mission, I had no clue where things would lead. And right now, I’m not completely sure, but if things continue on the path that they’re on, my mom can probably FINALLY leave me in peace about, 'Are you engaged yet?' I’ve really grown to love her. Don’t ask me how, but I’m getting to the point that I don’t want to be without this girl. I do love her."

One interesting aspect of our relationship is that we never had a DTR talk. We never verbally agreed not to date anyone, or how serious we were, or the possibility of us getting married.

Steve's Journal: June 13, 2003

"At work, the guys thought it was the strangest thing that we haven’t talked about marriage not one time and yet I’m so sure about this. They’re like, 'Aren’t you going to ask her what she thinks first?' I’m like, 'Nope, I already know.' And I do, there’s not a doubt in my mind. We hint to it so much, and it’s something I’m sure we both want, I have no doubts that she’ll say ‘yes.’ At work, they say, 'Man, you’ve got more guts than I had.' Ya, well, some people just know. I’ve prayed about it a few times after I got back from her house last weekend, it’s just made me more and more excited about it. Everything I’ve been through the last few months has pointed me toward her – I know it’s right and I’m so excited about it."

A week later Steve bought a ring.

July 4, 2003: Idaho Falls, ID

Nat's Journal: July 6, 2003

"We were down by the Greenbelt waiting for the fireworks to start, playing cards and listening to Wayne Richards on 97.3 (the station that choreographs music to the fireworks) and suddenly he starts talking about a guy named Stephen who was in love with a girl named Natalie from Idaho Falls. Right about then Steve made me stand up and he got on one knee. He was totally nervous and shaking a bit. I'll never forget the way he looked at me. He told me he loved me and said something like, 'I don't know how to do this', and he asked me right there to marry him. All I could say was, 'I love you' and I reached down and hugged him. I think he had the ring out and asked me if I wanted to see it. He slipped it onto my finger and then he's like, 'Is that yes?' and I shouted, 'YES!' Then he picked me up and swung me around in a big hug."

We had originally thought about a December wedding, but opted (at the end of July) for September 12. There was a possibility of Steve getting deployed that fall and we wanted to make sure it wouldn't interfere with the wedding. (At that point, I think I was in denial. I really didn't think he'd ever have to go.)

By the time we nailed down a date, there wasn't time to get professional engagement pictures taken, so a friend of mine went with us to drive around Idaho Falls looking for something a little picturesque. The pictures weren't digital, so they don't look as good scanned in. We hadn't joined the 21st century yet.

Luckily our photographer had joined the 21st century. I couldn't have been happier with the pictures she gave us. All 1500 of them.
Happy Anniversary, Sweetie.

And here we are now -- five years, four addresses, two college diplomas, and 1.5 children later.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering September 11th

September 11, 2004 • Afghanistan

Yes, that's a bearded Steve. Thanks again, hon, for serving your country. :)

Sunday, September 07, 2008


Yes, his name is, in fact, Carter. Carter Ray Phillips to be exact.

I bet my Dad's buttons are bustin' off his shirt to have another namesake. :)

Welcome Little . . . Carter?

Steve and I are an Aunt and Uncle again! My brother Devin and his wife Andrea welcomed their week-late little bundle of joy last night. He weighed in at 8 lbs 9 oz and measured 20.5 inches.

My dad sent some pictures over and named the batch "Carter birth 9.06.08" with the comment, "They have not named him yet, but we hope it's Carter." I love it when my dad jumps the gun like that. It cracks me up.

Here are a few pictures of little . . . TBD.

Chillin with Dad.

The proud grandmas. (My mom's on the left, Andrea's on the right.)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Cake Wrecks

Does anyone click on the Blogs of Note? If you didn't notice before, they're blogs highlighted by the Blogger team located on the dashboard of your Blogger blog. I've found some goodies that way. Like Indexed and Ikea Hacker. Anyway, I found this one a few days ago and had to share. Those of you who've taken a cake decorating class might find this especially amusing.

The blog is called Cake Wrecks and basically pokes fun at professionally decorated cakes gone awry. Enjoy. :)

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Watermelon, Animal Sounds, and Core Training

Here are a few video clips of the munchkin that I've been meaning to post...

I mentioned briefly before how much Sophie likes watermelon. This clip was taken one morning when she ate three pieces of watermelon that size . . . after she'd already eaten breakfast. No matter how full she is, she'll never say no to a piece of watermelon. By the way, watermelon juice stains. I tried stain remover, bleaching, and washing several times and she still has faint pink spots on her cupcake jammies. :(

Sophie's favorite animal sound lately is howling like a wolf. Two of her animal books have wolves in them and she knows exactly what page they're on. She even recognizes the page right before and starts to get excited. (you'll see) In the clip she also does a bear and an owl for the first time.

Another favorite thing to do is sit on her purple ball and bounce. Steve sits on the exercise ball and they do core training together.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Labor Day in San Francisco

On Monday we decided to go to San Francisco and see a free Shakespeare in the Park play. They were doing Pericles (is that the same one you saw, Melissa?), which I hadn't heard of before. Interesting story. I'm glad they gave us a program with an outline because we only made it through the first hour or so. And that was after sitting there for an hour before it began. Sophie was way past a nap and sitting in the sun had worn us all out.

I should have taken a picture of the stage while we were waiting, but silly me, I forgot. We weren't allowed to take pictures after it started. Anyway, this is how we kept Sophie out of the sun. Well, for as long as she'd sit there and as long as the Cheerio & Goldfish supply kept up.

The park where the play was held was in the Presidio, which is where the Naval base used to be -- not far from the Golden Gate Bridge. We drove toward the bridge and stumbled upon this . . .

Sophie could care less about being there. She was nearly asleep when we dragged her back out of the car to walk around. Poor thing.

These headstones were bigger than most I've seen in people cemeteries. Crazy.

We thought the picket fence around these gave them a nice "Nightmare Before Christmas" touch.

This won my award for best name.