Phoebe's Newfound Freedom

I got to bed early last night hoping for a good night sleep, which I didn’t get. The reason? Little Phoebe was exploring her newfound freedom just a few feet away, and her noises were keeping me awake.

You see, we’re watching Phoebe and her big brothers, Ashton and Cooper, while Shalae and Jon head east again for a visit with a potential graduate school. I’m not happy about the pending move, but I’m trying to be supportive as I can, which means we get to have the children for the next three days.

I never sleep really well the first night that we tend grandchildren. I usually get up and check them several times to make sure they’re OK. And that typical sleep disruption was worse last night because little Phoebe, who has outgrown her bassinet, was playing in her new port-a-crib, which we set up in our bedroom.

She found her new sleeping arrangements very amusing. In her old bassinet she could only roll over and roll back, but in the new digs she can twist and turn, tug at the netting, and do all sorts of fun things. So every time she woke up ready for a bottle, she spent at least a half hour checking everything out. I lay in bed listening, not able to sleep and not really wanting to interrupt what was clearly a happy time for her. Eventually she’d get around to deciding she was hungry, and she’d cry, and I’d feed her, and then put her back to bed. We’d both enjoy a few short hours of sleep before the process started up all over again.

I miss the sleep, but it’s hard to get to upset at a darling baby girl enjoying her newfound freedom!


Back from CHA

We just got back last night from our annual CHA trip. For those who might not know, CHA stands for the Craft & Hobby Association, and every year they have an annual “show” where vendors and manufacturers get together and show off their stuff. That’s the casual term for it, of course! (smile)

I love to go to the show and see what’s new and trendy. I’ll often see things that spark ideas for things Stampin’ Up! can do.

This year was no exception. It was a little smaller than in years past, and attendance was down a bit, but I still enjoyed it. I didn’t see quite as much “new” as I’ve seen in years past, but the atmosphere was exciting and upbeat, and there was plenty of creativity on display!

My favorite part of this year’s show was seeing a few demonstrators, who were there to get ideas. I loved chatting with them. I asked most of them the same question: What have you seen that you’re most excited about and what should Stampin’ Up! be carrying?

Their answers comforted me. While a few had some specific suggestions, the majority of them seemed to agree with one demonstrator, who said, “I love our product a whole lot more than anything I’ve seen here!”

Of course, we know that we have to keep our product offering timely and fresh, but it was nice to know that it appears we’re heading in the right direction. While there may be a few missing items on your wish-list, for the most part, we’ve got what people are looking for.

On a more personal note, another thing I really enjoyed about this year’s show was that Sterling was with me the entire time—we walked the whole show together! Our feet hurt at the end of each day, but it was nice to head back to the hotel room together, order room service, and watch a movie together. You can’t beat spending the day checking out what’s hot in the industry and spending the evening with your hot hubby!

Hats Off to Grandpa

Grandpa (Sterling's father) celebrated his 95th birthday yesterday, and we had a
wonderful party to mark the event.

For those who don't know. Grandpa (aka Ulysses Sterling or US or Uke or Mr.
G or Grandpa Great) is Sterling's father, and he's lived with us for the
past six and a half years. Sterling is the youngest of three children. He
has two older sisters; Alice died of cancer several years ago, and this is


One of Grandpa's grandchildren hosted the party at her gorgeous cabin up in
Park City, and there were about 60 people who came. It was a "Hats Off to
Grandpa" event, so we all wore hats, which was very fun! All the adults
received a commemorative T-shirt, which I thought was very well designed.

Because we don't all get together as often as we'd like--and don't know
everyone as well as we'd like--they had planned a great
"get-to-know-each-other-better" game, then we played a white elephant
birthday gift game, and they gave awards for the best hats in several
different categories. We ended the evening with a delicious dinner and lots
of fun visiting. It was a fabulous way to celebrate Grandpa's special day.


Oops--Forgot Bill

When I was working on the blog about my family tree, I called Mom Pat and
asked her to send me a current photo of her and her husband, Bill. She said
she would, and I planned on including it on the blog.

Unfortunately she forgot, and so did I. She came up this weekend, though,
and had one with her, so I¹m adding it now so you can see Mom Pat as she
appears today. Now the photos are complete!

My Big, Wonderful Family

Several of you have been curious about my moms—Mom Heather and Mom Pat—and you’ve asked how my family tree actually lays out. So I thought I’d explain it a little. (Warning: There are a lot of photos in this blog, and it didn't work to create a collage, so you'll have to do some scrolling. . . . )

My dad married Mom Heather in 1960.

They had four children; I was the oldest. After me came Kurt, Leslie, and Vonna. (Kurt and I are the kids in this picture.)

When I was five years old, Mom Heather and Dad got divorced. Then Dad married Mom Pat.

They had three boys: Mark, Chad, and Cody. (They only had Mark when we took this picture.)


Mom Heather was going through a difficult time, and so we lived with Dad and Mom Pat, who pretty much raised us. Mom Pat has always been a mother to me, and I’ve learned much from her. When I got a little older, I reconnected with Mom Heather (who had married Paul, who is shown in this photo), and we formed a real bond. I discovered that I inherited much from her.

Out of respect and love, I call both of these wonderful women “Mom” because they deserve the title and all it represents in so many ways.

Dad has since married two more women—not at the same time, of course! He married Jo in 1985; they later divorced.

Then he married Justine, his current wife. 

I admire and respect these women as well, but I was grown and married with children when they entered our lives, and so it seems very natural to just address them by their first names.

As an aside, Megan, our oldest daughter, is not my biological daughter. Although I love her, she is Sterling’s daughter from his first marriage. Growing up, she mostly visited us on the weekends and holidays, and she has never called me “Mom.” I understand and respect that as well.

Now, I’m not an advocate of divorce. I think it creates very challenging situations for everyone involved. However, I am proud of the way our family has dealt with this situation and the acceptance and love we have all learned to show. We truly do all feel like we’re one big, happy (most of the time) family. When appropriate, we’ve even all gathered together for certain events, and that’s quite the experience!

I've also included photos of each of my siblings, starting with me, and our spouses, just in case you were interested.

Shelli and Sterling

Kurt and Joni 

Leslie and Danny

Vonna and Sean

Mark and Monique

Chad and Eliz

Cody and Shelley

So, that’s my family tree in a nutshell. I’m so grateful for my family—all of them, every branch, twig, and leaf. I wouldn’t be who I am today or where I am today without them!


A Blah Day

I don’t have blah days very often, but today was one of those days.

I set the alarm for 8:00 just in case we didn’t wake up on our own (sure that we wouldn’t need it). So, when the alarm went off, I was shocked! I told Sterling we needed to get up and get going and then proceeded to go right back to sleep—I never sleep in like that! Needless to say, when we finally did get out of bed and Sterling was getting his dad ready for the day only to find him light-headed and unsteady, I was slightly relieved that I didn’t have to rush around to get ready for church (Sterling and I take turns staying home with Grandpa when he’s not up to going out, and it was my turn to stay home).

I’ve spent the entire morning in slow motion looking at hundreds of photos while trying to find a few specific photos for an upcoming post. The experience has been enjoyable and frustrating—enjoyable because I love looking at photos and reminiscing and frustrating because my photos should be better organized. Hence, another goal for 2009 is to have ALL my photos organized. Sterling even agreed that our office would be the perfect place to leave photos out (and locked up so the grandchildren can’t touch them) while I work on this huge project that just might take the entire year (that’s once we organize our already cluttered office, which is this week’s project).

This afternoon, I snuggled with Sterling in our “chair-and-a-half” and fell asleep, certain that when I woke up I’d have tons of energy to attack another project that’s needed to be done for months—writing wedding, baby, and condolence cards to family and friends. The nap was nice, but I’m still moving slowly and feeling rather groggy. So, I’ve set the cards out on the kitchen counter, and if I leave them out (it bugs me when projects are sitting out on the counter for any length of time), I’ll be sure to write a few each night this week.

Maybe my subconscious knows all the things I secretly have planned to accomplish this week and wanted to take a day off. I’m okay with that. Really I am. In fact, Sterling and I even watched a movie together while sipping on a fruit smoothie and nibbling on caramel popcorn—a rare occasion indeed.

Subconscious, enjoy today because tomorrow it’s full steam ahead. No time for any more blah days for a while. I have an office to organize!

Question and Answer Time

OK, I decided it was time to answer a few questions. I gather them as you ask them in your comments, and try to answer them when I can. So here goes—


When you were in Hawaii, what island did you go to and where did you stay?


We went to Oahu, and we stayed at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa in Waikiki. We’ve stayed there before, and Sterling and I both really like it. They have a great spa, and since we go there to relax, that’s important to us! We can walk to the beach and go out for day trips whenever we want. It doesn’t feel too crowded, but that might be because we spend a lot of time in our room or in spa! How’s that for an unpaid endorsement?


Why don’t you and your girls get help with cooking and cleaning so you have time for the important stuff?


My girls liked this idea! Actually, I love to clean (I know, I know, can you believe it?!), but several years ago I did give it up because it was one of the things I knew that someone else could do as well as I could. And something had to give! I loved the lady who helped me—she was a godsend. Unfortunately, she retired last spring, and I’ve missed her; she became a good friend. Thankfully, Mom Pat comes up from southern Utah every so often to help out with the cleaning now, and I’m so grateful for her!


As for cooking, I’d LOVE to have someone! I’d especially love someone to cook really healthy food. For years, Sterling has done most of the cooking, and he does a fine job. However (and I know he won’t mind me saying this), he’s very busy and usually starts thinking about dinner 10 minutes before it’s time to eat, and so his options are limited. In addition, Grandpa can only eat soft things, so Sterling has learned how to cook eggs in dozens of different ways. (smile)


Hopefully someday I’ll find someone who loves to cook fresh and healthy, with herbs and seasonings, and with a minimum of sauces and gravies. If I can find that person, I’ll grab him or her up quick!


How is Vonna?


She’s great! We see each other often, probably at least once a month, whenever I head down to Kanab. If you read my the blog about Grandma Pat’s Christmas party, you’ll notice that we had a shower for Vonna’s third daughter, who just got married. That’s kept Vonna busy. In addition, she and Sean are just finishing a house that they’ve had rebuilt, so she’s been supervising that. It’s exciting to see their new home almost completed, and I think she’ll be thrilled when that project is done!


How can we make the photos that you post bigger?


We’re working on that with our web professionals! We’ll keep you posted on what we find out!


Can guests attend Convention 2009?


We haven’t made that determination yet. Stay tuned, and we’ll let you know. . . .


How many people attended Grandma Pat’s party? Who plans it? Did Vonna go?


There were more than 60 all together—a large, fun bunch! Grandma Pat plans it, but she delegates meal assignments, and we all work together to help her out as much as we can. Vonna was there, of course!


How many siblings do you have?


I’m the oldest of seven. Dad and Mom Heather had four, and then Dad and Mom Pat had three more. We never differentiate between “step” or “half” or anything like that—we’re just seven brothers and sisters. Several of you have asked about my moms, and I’m planning to explain a little more about that in another upcoming post.


Does Stampin’ Up! support Courage Reins?


Stampin’ Up! donates rubber to the nonprofit organization, which Courage Reins turns around and sells for a minimum amount. If someone wants to pay more, they don’t complain!


Do your girls alternate spending the holidays with their in-laws?


Absolutely! We interview the boys before they marry our daughters and make sure they know the gig—even years are ours for Christmas and odd years are ours for Thanksgiving. It’s worked out well so far, and we are so grateful! I have heard about wives who always make their husbands go to their parents’ home for the holidays, and I think that’s sad. Our girls were raised knowing they’d be spending half the holidays with their in-laws! Grandpas and grandmas on both sides of the family need to see those darling children!


Now, we’re lucky because several of our girls have married local boys, so we actually overlap a bit, and while that’s hectic for the kids, it’s nice to see them more often than we might if they were out of town.


Just a note—someone commented about popcorn and how it’s dangerous for young children. (I had mentioned that we had popcorn several times over the holidays.) I appreciate that information. I wasn’t aware of the dangers associated with popcorn, and that reader was obviously as passionate about popcorn as I am about balloons! I’ve heard way too many horror stories about children choking on balloons and I will not have a balloon in my home with little children around! So thanks for sharing the information, and I’ll certainly be much more careful!

O Happy Shoes!

Today I had to share the story of my happy shoes with you. The story begins two days before Christmas when Sara was in town for the holidays. Shalae and Sara and I decided to go shopping.



We had all stupidly worn heels, and although we looked adorable (smile), we were dying by the time we got to Buckle, one of our favorite stores. So we did what every intelligent woman with aching feet would do—we bought flat, comfy shoes!


They’re not the cutest shoes; they actually remind me of slippers. But oh, they felt good! The minute we put them on, our feet were happy—so we called them our happy shoes. We felt so much better that we went out for dinner and enjoyed another few hours of mother-daughter time that we wouldn’t have been able to endure without our happy shoes.


Now fast forward a couple of weeks to today. Shalae and I set off today to shop for our family photo.


This family photo is a big deal; it’s the one that goes in the Stampin’ Up! catalog. And because I’m so Type A, everyone has to color coordinate, down to underwear! (Okay, I’m just kidding about the underwear.) But I’m not kidding about having to color coordinate, so I buy everyone one top or shirt once a year. They’re responsible for the bottom half.


The photo isn’t scheduled until next month, but everyone has to try everything on, so we have enough time to exchange and return, so we wanted to get a jump start on it. Shopping for everyone’s clothes can take hours, sometimes even days. Knowing this, Shalae and I had to make an important decision this morning. Did we want to look cute or did we want to be comfortable?


Well, as I mentioned earlier, sometimes I’m an intelligent woman, and this morning was one of those times. We went with the happy shoes, (we may even have to change their name to the shopping shoes) and the day has been wonderful! We’ve found more than we thought we would, and we’ve got the shopping just about finished—earlier than we had anticipated. You can all look forward to seeing our photo in the catalog next summer, and you’ll know that the day we bought the clothes was a happy one because we had happy shoes.


I wanted to add a quick side note. I found out today that I’ve been a bad girl! I didn’t realize that we weren’t supposed to post photos on our blogs of products that were in the new catalog until January 19, the date the catalog goes live. So the boxes I showed on my blog yesterday are actually forbidden pictures!


However, since I’m not selling anything, I’m hoping that my photos generate a lot of interest and hopefully drum up a little business for our demonstrators. For those of you who are customers, contact a Stampin’ Up! demonstrator come Monday (January 19) for the papers and products you need to make the boxes. And for those who are demonstrators, I promise I won’t post early again!


Our Last Day in Orlando

Well, we left early this morning, after a fabulous day yesterday—our last full day in Orlando. We had a great regional, almost a thousand people! Many of them stayed after attending leadership, and you could pick most of them out. They were the ones who looked happy but also looked like they were participating in Day 4 of a fun-filled but full event. Sterling and I were two of them! I had to change into my flat shoes as we left the convention center, and our walk back to the hotel was definitely slow!


Our Orlando regional had a nice mix of people—in addition to the leadership layovers (is it OK to call them that? I hope so), there were several hundred who were at a regional for the first time, along with many guests and lots of demonstrators who have been with us before and recognize the value of regionals.


In fact, I was talking to a group of demonstrators who have actually been with us almost as long as I have, and we commented that we had all learned something during the day that we didn’t know before. For instance, I didn’t realize that you could emboss on our vinyl or how to create faux leather with embossing powder. That’s what is magic about our events—there is always something new to learn and try.


I demonstrated stenciling at leadership, and wanted to continue with that theme at the regional. When I left for leadership, I hadn’t figured out what I was going to demonstrate at the regional yet, so I packed up a few things, hoping I’d be able to come up with just the right project. I knew I wanted to do Valentine projects for my family, so I threw in several sheets of the new Pink Flamingo Designer Series paper. Then, once I got to Florida, I saw the Box #2 and knew boxes would be the perfect container for a little Valentine treat. Shanna likes bolder, bright colors, so I knew that box was hers; the other girls tend to like the more traditional Valentine colors, so I went with those shades for the other boxes.

When I sat down on Friday night to focus on the boxes, it felt a little like one of those contests or challenges when they give you a fairly small number of things and tell you that you’re limited to only those items. I definitely missed my stamp studio—there were several times when I wished for something I didn’t have. The stenciling and ribbon worked nicely (I dyed the new Organza ribbon with craft ink then heat set the ribbon, curling some of it, with the heat tool), and I liked what I came up with. Of course, I will be adding hand stamped tags to each of these boxes before I send them off!


I am thrilled with the way both leadership and the regional went—it’s not often that I look back at an event and can’t think of one thing I’d change, but based on everything I heard and everything I saw, I think this is one of those times—thanks to all who participated in various ways. Although I’m physically tired and happy to be home, I am emotionally and mentally invigorated because I just spent almost a week with people I love very much—Stampin’ Up! employees and our demonstrators!


A Marvelous Time with Our Leaders

You know, I don’t use the word marvelous very often, but it fits as I look back on yesterday—especially our Managers’ Reception. I have to admit, I was a little nervous about this event. It was scheduled at Universal Studios here in Orlando, and I can’t say I was all that excited about spending the evening riding roller coasters, but I had so much fun! And everyone I talked to did too; in fact, several people mentioned it was the best Managers’ Reception they’d ever been to.


We boarded the buses at the hotel then headed off to the park. When we arrived, we were greeted with a red carpet and a live band—and things only got better from there. The park was closed, and we were escorted from the main entrance to the Marvel Super Hero Island, a special place where the famous Marvel comic book heroes come alive.


A divine buffet filled the street, and there was plenty of yummy food for everyone. The signs on the street were personalized, with the Stampin’ Up! logo all over the place. You know how in comics they have word bubbles with Pow! or Bam!? Those bubbles were all over the island, but they had replaced the comic-book words with words like Stamp! and Swap! It was very cool.


Spiderman and other super heroes (I don’t know all their names, but I recognized most of them) were mingling with our own Stampin’ Up! demonstrator heroes and posing for photos. The rides were all open, and there were no lines—an unusual and welcome experience in a theme park. People were jumping off one ride and running to the next one; a few people actually rode the roller coaster 15 times! It was so much fun to see the kid come out in everyone! And, as usual, our Events staff had thought of every detail, and the entire evening was a huge success.


Of course, that was the end to an entire day that was wonderful. Yesterday started kind of early, with an Advisory Board Reunion poolside breakfast. The omelet bar was tasty, but I enjoyed visiting with all the Advisory Board alumni best.


Our opening session went well, with several exciting announcements. One thing that people seemed the most excited about was the announcement of My Digital Studio, Stampin’ Up!’s own digital software. We’re not announcing any official launch date yet, other than later this year, but when it comes out, it is going to be so cool! I’m sure I’ll be posting more about that in the future.


One of the things I’m personally very excited about is our line of stencils, and I got to demonstrate that on stage. I loved preparing for my demonstration, and afterwards several people told me that originally they hadn’t been very interested in stenciling, but after seeing the projects and techniques I showed, they were looking forward to trying it themselves. I’m glad I was able to catch people’s attention because I think stenciling is a great way to decorate your home, as well as lots of other projects, including cards and scrapbook pages.


The classes on both days went extremely well, I think. I actually taught a class this year for the first time, so I didn’t have time to attend the classes yesterday, but since my class was only taught one day, I popped into the others today. Every class I went to—and every class I heard about—seemed well received, with training and material and information and ideas that people loved.


Our closing session ended on a fabulous note with Kathleen Passanisi—she was the best way we could have ended an already terrific conference. She talked about change, an underlying theme of several presentations (which wasn’t planned, by the way), in a way that was both entertaining and thought provoking. She was fast-paced, humorous, and timely; I loved her!


So, it was a long, full two days, but like I said, it was marvelous!


Off to Leadership

Well, I finally got dressed this morning, after spending most of the last several days in my pajamas and focusing all day long—and into the night—on Stampin’ Up!’s upcoming leadership conference.


I’m excited about what I’m doing at leadership, and I’ve had so much fun working on the projects for my main stage demonstration. But it’s taken a lot of time, and I have to admit I’m feeling a little stressed.


When I say I spent most of the past few days in my pajamas, I’m really not exaggerating. I did get dressed yesterday and attended church, and I got dressed on Friday night to attend our son-in-law Jon’s art show. I mentioned earlier that he’d graduated in December with a degree in photography, and he’s participating in a one-month art show/gallery walk in downtown Provo, Utah, that opened on Friday.


I went with Shalae and Jon and their children to check things out—loved the eclectic feel of the café/gallery and loved Jon’s photos even more.



Shalae read the blog recently and said, “Mom, you need to explain why you mention us so often in the blog! Your readers will think I’m the favorite or something!”


As I looked back on my posts, I realize I do mention her a lot, so I could see her point—they do pop up a lot! But the explanation isn’t because we love them more, it’s simply that they live closer and, in Shalae’s words, “We impose on you a lot!”


Of course, spending time with our girls and their families is never an imposition! I love every minute we spend with family. Shalae and Jon live only a couple of miles away, and they do drop by often. Sage and Jason are the next closest. They live only about a half hour away, but that half hour makes a difference!


So, that’s why you see Shalae and her family a bit more than the others!


Now, I’m heading off to leadership, and I probably won’t post for a few days. I’m still wrapping up a few details on a couple of my projects tomorrow, rehearsing on Wednesday, and the party begins on Thursday! I’ll let you all know how it goes—and hopefully I’ll see a few of you there!


Ringing in the New Year

I wouldn’t normally spend much time talking about the way we party on New Year’s Eve, but Sterling and I looked at each other and laughed when we read one of your comments on the blog, noting that you couldn’t wait to see how we rang in the new year. So I thought I’d share.

We rang in the new year last night with family in our favorite fashion—several hours early! (smile)

Sterling and I will stay up late if there are people at our house, wanting to make it a party. But last night all we had was Shalae and Jon and their three children. And for all the boys knew, it might have been midnight—because they definitely stayed up way past their bedtime!

To celebrate we made shape pancakes (stars and hearts—both the boys wanted stars), toasted with Martinelli’s bubbly (a holiday tradition), ate caramel popcorn while watching an episode of “Word World” (a PBS short cartoon series), and then waved to the kids as they headed home. They left our house about 8, which is pretty late for those three little ones.

Sterling and I weren’t too far behind. We didn’t get to bed way early, but we sure didn’t stay up until midnight either!

And today has been just as enjoyable. I’ve listened to Christmas music all day (probably the last whole day for several months, although I do sneak in Christmas songs all year long) and worked on leadership projects, while Sterling cleared snow off our driveway. No interruptions, no meetings or deadlines, not a lot of pressure. I’m excited about what I’m demonstrating on stage at leadership, and I’m having lots of fun trying out new things.

So there you have it—a Gardner family New Year’s celebration! Hope the details aren't too disappointing! And I also hope you all had a wonderful New Year celebration yourself!