Author: Lala
•Sunday, April 03, 2016
We have had a number of changes over the past year since we posted last, in particular regarding our jobs.

During 2015, Lala was starting to think about getting back to work, and she began reviewing her engineering materials and topics. She downloaded AutoCAD Civil 3D and started working through a many-hour training online. However, when she found a job posting in St Petersburg late in the year, I encouraged her to apply for it, even though she hadn't done as much training and studying as she felt she needed. Of course, she got the job! We found out right before Christmas. Almost three months in, she's been doing great.

Meanwhile, in November, Amex announced layoffs for most of our office in St Petersburg, including me. It actually turned out to be fantastic news. I am glad I took the position at Amex, since I learned a lot of important things for my career, but I was not satisfied there and never felt comfortable, nor as competent and productive as I had hoped. With the layoff, though, I had plenty of time to look for a new job, train, and study. The severance gave me time to focus my job search on downtown St Pete, where I wanted to stay.

The four-week gap between my jobs was not quite as relaxing as it could have been. I was sick most of the time, various kids got sick for a while, and I had the uncertainty of waiting to be accepted at my new job. But I did spend time studying at Station House St Pete and getting some relaxation in.

I am two weeks into my new job at PowerChord, where I am making a bit of a career shift. After 12 years immersed in Microsoft technology, I will now be using a Mac, developing in Go, and targeting Linux containers running in the cloud. I'm very excited by all of these technologies and learning opportunities, and by the new team. The layoff gave me a much-needed psychological kick, and I was ready for a change.

Between Lala's new job and the severance from Amex, my brief unemployment actually coincides with some significant financial progress. We are finally paying back my parents the money we borrowed when we bought our house, and we are now putting some savings away.

So a lot of things are looking up for the Sorensons! We'll post more about the family and kids in the next post in the next week or so.
Author: Lala
•Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Talia is two today! It kind of feels like the birthday is overdue, because she has been acting like a two-year-old for a little while now. She's talking and understanding so much, exploring and playing, asserting her will, and even being pretty social. It seems she wears the badge of the "family extrovert."

We have been having fun listening to what she can say. Before two, she's said things like, "Mom, glasses not working." Check out this conversation:

Talia: Uh, oh!
Mom: What's wrong?
Talia: Messed up song ABC, sad.

Lately she thinks is really funny to say "I tricked you!" We think it's something she heard from her sisters and she doesn't really know what it means. We hope that's true because a lot of times lately our conversations go like this:

Talia: Daddy, I love you.
Dad: I love you too, Talia.
Talia: I tricked you!

She likes to do puzzles and is good at matching animals and shapes to where they go on the puzzle board. Sometimes Lala takes the kids to school, with Talia coming along. She will sit right down and look at the bigger-kid books and toys and want to stay. We will give her a few hours of preschool each week next year, and we think she will love it!

Carl has still been taking the twins to preschool on the bus, but this week no one is going because the kids all got chickenpox. This is even after they had vaccinations for it; apparently it has been going around lately. Lala has been doing lots of art with the kids, letting them play outside, and reading lots of books with them. The kids like to play with play dough and stickle bricks. The twins especially looooove looking for bugs. Talia loves books, and she loves to eat the cherry tomatoes from the garden in the front yard. With the kids, we have lots of lessons about resolving conflict, how to deal with problems without yelling or fighting, and about being caring for people.
 Talia's birthday cake
Say cheese!
 She found both the socks and shoes and put them on herself

Princesses before the Frozen Disney on Ice show
 
 Mikelle and her chicken pox

Author: Lala
•Sunday, November 30, 2014
(By Carl)

As most of you know, small children demand a lot of time and attention and tend to monopolize a couple's social life. It can be stressful and exhausting taking care of them, especially dealing with whining and complaining.

Some of the resources we have read about helping children be happy suggest that some one-on-one time with the children is important. They need to feel like they are heard and have parents who listen and care so they can be happier and more cooperative and pleasant.

We have been having a lot of family time the past half-year. We are trying to do one-on-one time (which is difficult for Lala at home with three kids, and Talia climbing on everything). In a broader sense we are simply accepting that the kids need attention, that this life phase will only come once, and that it makes for happier parents to intentionally invest the time with kids instead of making the kids demand the time and attention.

   

Above, Lala on mother-daughter date nights with Rianne and Mikelle. With Rianne it was a Sanderlin school family night with fun activities (she had a lot more fun than her expression would suggest). With Mikelle it was playing at the park downtown and getting a treat. On one of my (Carl's) outings with Rianne, she wanted to help me pick up litter downtown and had a blast with it.

One way I can have more fun, happy time with the kids is with our new morning routine. I have often been taking the kids to school in the morning via a walk on the Pinellas Trail and a bus ride on the PSTA route 23. We have had some very fun and silly mornings this way. After dropping off the kids at school, I can take the next bus to my new job downtown.

  My new commute

A morning when Lala and Talia came to see us off

People usually ask if I save money by taking the bus. It's possible, but the downtown job location and the bus commute really are lifestyle choices that make me happy.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday we took a trip to the aquarium in Sarasota. On the way back we stopped at a park near the Skyway Fishing Pier. We saw a beautiful sunset, though the kids completely ignored that because they just wanted to stand on the rocks and sing. 

Lala at the park at sunset

Tonight we listened to Christmas music while the kids and Mom set up a tree and decorated it.
Festive evening

We usually have the kids in bed around 7 pm for something like 12 hours of sleep (which means we're home early). We give them healthy food (usually), time to run around and explore and play, we roughhouse and be silly, teach them lessons about science and language and Jesus, let them draw and help cook, and go on outings. We're trying to set aside time for dates as a couple, too. It can be rewarding and fun, and we think we're doing a decent job for them.
Author: Lala
•Sunday, June 22, 2014
This Spring we had an opportunity to visit Ft. Lauderdale for the open house for the new temple. I took several days off of work so we could go mid-week. We booked tickets with Amtrak, a hotel, and got a car for while we were there. It wasn't the cheapest way to do it, but the train was an adventure we don't get every day, and I'm not a big fan of driving.

The open house was interesting - not as well organized for making plans as we would expect, and we felt that things were not very well explained in the tour, but it was a valuable experience. It will be quite a while before the twins can be inside a temple again, so we felt like it was something we needed to do. The dedication.
 

Our Spring adventures also consisted of new biking and swimming opportunities. We bought a trailer so I can take the twins out, and we got a bike for Lala as well. She has been practicing and getting more comfortable biking, since it's not something she's done much of in her life.

 Rianne

 Mikelle

Also, Lala and the twins have been taking swimming lessons at the Y. They are all making good progress at becoming comfortable and competent in the water. It will be so nice if they can all become deep-water safe!

Author: Lala
•Saturday, February 01, 2014
(By Carl)

So I have been meaning for a while to write up a summary of all the things that went on last year, since it was such an eventful and intense year for us. There are some ways we were challenged and forced to grow, we experienced significant life events, and had some very happy times. Four years into our marriage, Lala and I came come out of last year closer and happier together than ever before.

2013 was a year of expenses. We started the year in a fancy shmancy high-rise apartment. To cut expenses and get more room for the baby that was coming, we began looking for a house and we did buy a beautiful one. Of course there are a lot of up-front costs that come with buying a house, even if the monthly expense might be lower. We bought six nice appliances brand new, and paid to have laundry connections added in the garage and an outside vent hole cut for the over-the-range microwave fan. We paid for movers, bought paint, a rug, a manual lawnmower and yard equipment, etc. Then of course we had to continue paying for our apartment for two months until the lease ended. After all that, all of the monthly savings from housing were immediately swallowed up by preschool tuition, since the kids started that in September.
We lived on the seventh floor of this building.
Some of the things that we miss in our old apartment are the pool and sunsets.
Breathtaking view from the porch of our old place.


Our new house

We closed on the house July 25 and moved in five days later.

Back in February, we bought tickets for Lala's parents to fly from the Philippines, bought medical insurance for while they were here, bought a phone, and made a car down payment, all on one credit card bill. Later in the year, we bought a security system for the house and flew everyone to Illinois for Christmas. A year of expenses! Fortunately we were able to do all of these things with savings, income, and low-interest-rate debt, and many expenses will go away in 2014.

More significant than the financial events were the stresses and struggles of the summer. What a summer! Our baby Talia was born May 19 in a fortunately straightforward C-section. We had been scheduled to close on our house four days before, but that ended up being delayed for over two months because of title problems. So we had a lot of uncertainty while that was pending. Two weeks after Talia was born, I was called to be Elders Quorum President in our branch at church. This is a struggling quorum to say the least.

At work, we had chaos all summer due to a new managed IT services provider and a new CIO. I had no credibility with this new leader, who managed to alienate every single person in the IT department with a "shoot first and give lectures later" approach. Two days before our house closing he said that all scheduled telecommuting would be canceled, leaving me with basically a choice between the house and my job. He apparently told people that my team didn't do anything and he could replace us all tomorrow with five new people. While he has since decided to be nicer and now believes I do provide value after all, I still count the months left in my employment agreement.

Talia, our baby, has been a very easy baby generally, but she did turn out to have a milk allergy. Lala tried very hard to adjust her diet so she could continue nursing, but eventually was forced to stop. Within the space of a few weeks:
  • We got word that telecommuting was ending and I needed to eventually find a new job if we wanted to live in St. Petersburg
  • We closed on our house and moved in
  • We were in the throes of toilet training the twins 
  • The twins began preschool
  • Lala tried to adjust her diet so she could nurse Talia despite the milk allergy
  • Lala became terribly sick, probably due to the stress and diet affecting her immune system and strength, such that she could not eat anything for days and had pretty much a liquid diet for two weeks. She still had three small children to take care of. The nursing ended and we began buying a special formula.
  • Just as Lala was recovering, I experienced sudden sensorineural hearing loss. I went to bed fine August 24 and woke up in the morning permanently deaf in one ear.
In the midst of all of these stresses and more, the most difficult thing for me was dealing with whiny and fighting children who made messes and could not obey instructions. I learned something this summer about my own mental and emotional limitations. I have a bit more compassion for people struggling with whatever they struggle with, because I discovered that I myself just could not cope well with something as basic as children.

The terrible twos really are terrible, and they last into the age of three. However, we have seen over the past six months that the kids are now learning how to entertain themselves and how to play the game (if they cooperate with parents, they get privileges and everyone is happier).

When I came home from the doctor with my prognosis on September 6, that my right ear would probably never again hear anything useful, it seemed almost laughable that I would have such a random "crisis" right in the middle of everything else. Was God piling on, or punishing me? Or testing me or teaching me? All I knew is that I had things I wanted to accomplish with my life, service I wanted to give, and being bitter was pointless and silly. I decided that the most constructive reaction would be to go home and have a Family Home Evening with my family, which I did (Family Home Evening is a church-encouraged family night). That day seemed to be a turning point, as both my mental state and the stressors calmed afterward.

We think that after we got married, Lala had some depression and a lot of mental adjustments to make. She had a life-threatening pregnancy, then postpartum depression and two babies to take care of. By the time she was recovered from that, she began another pregnancy. So it makes sense that she is finding herself happier than before.

She really is a rock-star wife and mother. Every day when I realize that I am actually married to this woman I feel exultant and I am astonished at how blessed I am.

Author: Lala
•Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Time definitely seemed faster when you are not watching it. It's hard to believe that it's already eight (almost) months since I gave birth to my dear Talia. A lot has happened since then. It was a blessing to be with her when she first rolled over or attempted to crawl and glad that I could capture some of those special moments and share with all of you.

Taken around first week of December:



Dated December 12, 2013:



Author: Lala
•Sunday, November 17, 2013
Carnivals are fun, especially to three-year-olds. We had been to a carnival before when they were really young, and we were right to think that they would definitely enjoy a carnival visit more now that they are a bit older.

 Mikelle and Rianne got really excited when they saw the rides from afar.
 Merry-go-round was the first thing they rode on and it was a hit!
 I am not a fan of carnival rides but took courage to ride the Ferris wheel. I was disappointed though because it only went twice on a very very low speed. Both M and R were a little scared but they definitely were brave enough to sit with me and look down.

 We went early so there were not a lot of people at the carnival. The girls tried this ride and the operator was a bit too nice to have them there for such a long time that Carl had to tell him that the girls were probably done.
 The "Going Bananas" obstacle course / fun house (above) was a hit, though they had to make three attempts at it due to two potty trips. They spent a lot of time playing in the fun house with dad. I wondered for a while what had happened since there were a few groups that had been through the house several times and I still hadn't seen my family come out. 
 This part was a little difficult for little kids so dad had to hold them while they try to walk in it while the tube turns.
 I am personally not a fan of roller coasters but apparently my girls are. Mikelle definitely enjoyed the ride.

 Rianne couldn't wait to have her turn and she was so happy when she finally did.
Talia was happy and content in her stroller.
 
Mikelle wanted to ride the one like this but of course we didn't let her. I am just glad that I don't have to worry about who will go with her for now, at least.
Author: Lala
•Sunday, November 17, 2013
On October 18th, my girls took part on a simple and beautiful wedding ceremony of my good friend Raquel to her fiance Jeff. Raquel had asked if they could be their ring bearers. I was hesitant because my girls are a little shy around other people and I wasn't sure if they will be willing to do it. I said yes and hoped that with practice and preparation and maybe with little bribe of a treat, they would walk to give the couples their rings during the ceremony.

I had fun making the girls' dresses to match Raquel's wedding color, yellow. They had so much fun wearing it and pretending to be princesses days prior to the wedding. Mikelle would even climb on the couch to sing and dance "like a princess", as she calls it.

It was a beautiful sunset wedding by the beach and I have to say that Mikelle and Rianne did very well as ring bearers. Making them smile for the pictures was a challenge but they were cooperative and patient during picture taking nevertheless. I had to explain to them a number of times what they are supposed to do and what they can expect and they had fun practicing it at home. They did what they were supposed to do during the wedding and was happy when they finally got their treat, a lollipop (I know it's not the best way but it did the trick!).

Mikelle (left) and Rianne waiting for their turn to walk
 Marching
The vow
The bride and the groom
 (From left) Myrna, Raquel (bride), Rianne, Mom, Mikelle and Melinda
 Talia with Ate Myrna who has an amazing talent of putting her to sleep
With Tita Melinda
 Mikelle is all happy
Upside down Mikelle
 Rianne had fun playing in the sand while waiting for the ceremony to start
 I love her smile
 My pretty Rianne
I'm glad their dresses looked good on them
 I love this girl
 My girls are growing too fast
 Dad accompanied them during picture taking with the bride and groom
With friends

Here is the video of the wedding. Congratulations to Raquel and Jeff!!