Sunday, December 26, 2010

White Christmas

It snowed today for the fourth time this winter, which is very unusual for this area, making global warming deniers like me snicker while we shiver. Today there was about a foot of snow-more than we have had in 21 years-causing church to be canceled. We enjoyed another day to be together and play with the Christmas gifts we didn't have time to enjoy yesterday. The snow will actually give us another day tomorrow as Ben won't have to go to work due to bad weather. Below are some pictures of the crazy people in my family somehow enjoying the snow. I opted out and watched from the window. Notice Aven had to wear a tutu, even to play in the snow. Those of you who thought 5 tutus for Christmas seemed excessive probably understand a little better now why we felt they were necessary.

I hope your fingers don't turn blue as you scroll through the very wintery pics below.

Christmas 2010

Christmas morning finally came! The kids were very excited for it this year. Aven, always extra full of energy, became a crazy ball of squeals the week of Christmas. She was tons of fun Christmas morning, though. She was excited to play with each present immediately and was often still absorbed in the present she had opened last when her turn came around again. Her gift highlights were the bin pictured below full of dress up clothes, 5 tutus (pictured below), Polly Pocket camper and doll with clothes, and pink and purple unicorn pillow pet. Drake's highlights were this HUGE Lego set, a bike and skateboard ramp (see video below) and wii games.

Zoa's highlights were makeup (check out the model quality beauty below), a rug to add color to her bedroom, and money for clothes. (We can no longer safely buy clothes for her. We just aren't cool enough.)

We are so grateful that we were able to spend Christmas together. We felt very blessed surrounded by the abundance of Christmas morning as we enjoyed being together. We will add this day to our store of good memories to get us through our upcoming period of seperation during Ben's deployment. We are especially grateful at this time of year for our Savior, the greatest gift any of us could receive.

Sights of DC: Capital Building and National Cathedral

The day after Thanksgiving we went to downtown DC with our friends. We went to the National Air and Space Museum and then toured the Capital Building. The tour was a bit difficult with our restless 3 year old in tow but it was fun anyway. I enjoyed being reminded of the statues and murals inside the Capital Building and the kids and Ben enjoyed seeing them for the first time. (Actually Drake and Zoa had seen it before but it was five years ago and they didn't remember.) George Washington from Virginia and Brigham Young from Utah were my favorite statues. Kind of neat that I can stake a claim in both states as home.

We also went to the National Cathedral that weekend, a first for all of us. This is a shot of the highest tower from the Bishop's Garden.

The highlight of the Cathedral was riding the elevator to the viewing platform in the highest tower. You can walk around and see all of DC from there. We could even see the LDS temple way off in the distance.

We all loved the stained glass. There was a lot of it and it was so beautiful. We also really enjoyed looking at the gargoyles on the outside of the building, though the cold kept us from doing that as long as we would have liked. Our favorite was the Darth Vader gargoyle, though he was difficult to see because he was so high up.

Thankful for Good Friends on Thanksgiving

We have been so blessed the past couple of years to have our dear friends, Bill and Whitney Warner, living in DC. It has really helped us to not feel so much like orphans out here on the East coast. If we get too lonely we can go visit "family" 4 hours away. This year Bill's parents and sister's family were here for Thanksgiving. I was a tad worried we would feel like we were crashing their family gig but we felt right at home. We enjoyed a couple of days cooking and relaxing and touring DC.
My dear friend Whitney is sitting next to me in the above picture. She really is as nice as she looks!

As you can see from Drake's demonstration, the food was as delicious as the company.

Christmas Party

Ben's ship does a formal dress Christmas party each year. This year, due to their deployment schedule, it was before Thanksgiving! It felt odd to dress up for a Christmas party that early in the season. All of our pictures ended up blurry, unfortunately, but this will give you an idea of how we looked. I must say I felt very elegant compared to all the cleavage and flesh of other body parts I was surrounded with. These girls really let loose once they take their military uniform off!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Fantastic Fall Colors

The leaves in our area were breathtaking this year. For weeks we were surrounded by brilliant, vibrant color. I loved it and was inspired to call my photographer friend and have her take updated family pictures. Below are some of our favorites. Enjoy!

Veterans Day

Ben and I decided we wanted to do something for Veterans Day this year that would help our kids to understand the incredible sacrifice that our soldiers make every day for us to be able to enjoy our lifestyle. I think that they make the sacrifice of giving up Ben so they do have some understanding but probably don't apply that to the larger picture. After learning that there was a Veterans Cemetery in our town and that they would be performing services for 10 unclaimed veterans, we decided that was just the thing we were looking for. We explained to the kids that these veterans didn't have any family to mourn them and that there would probably be few people there for them at this time and then drove to the cemetery, expecting a small crowd.

When we got there, I was overwhelmed to see that there was a large crowd. There is a group in our area called the Patriot Guard. It is a group of motorcycle riders that escort veterans funerals on their bikes and help perform the services. There were probably 150 bikes there plus many like us who came to be part of it. To me, the crowd represented the things that are right with America. When it really matters we do have the ability to pull together.
The ceremony was very solemn and precise, as military funerals are. I was happy the kids got to witness the respect that was given to these men who had sacrificed for our country. They felt the solemnity of the circumstances and behaved very well. As you can see, they enjoyed looking at the headstones for a few minutes after the service was over.

Aven's Surgery

In late October, Aven had a checkup with her ENT. While there, I requested a hearing test because it seemed that Aven was struggling a bit with her hearing-yelling rather than talking and seeming to ignore or misunderstand me often. The test showed that her hearing was just as bad as it had been before she got her tubes, which is why she had gotten the tubes. Since the tubes had since fallen out, we decided another set was in order. When kids need a second set, standard procedure is to also remove adenoids. Her fabulous ENT, Dr. Schroeder, and I decided to go forward with another set of tubes and an adenoidectomy. She went in to have that surgery early the morning of Nov. 8.

I was expecting her to be in surgery for about 45 minutes but it ended up being almost an hour and a half because it took them so long to get an IV into her little body. I counted the pricks post -surgery and there were 12! Luckily they knocked her out before trying to get an IV into her. They tried in both hands and wrists, both feet and ankles, the crooks of both arms, and finally got one into her bicep. She was covered in nasty bruises for about a week after surgery. Other than that, the surgery went perfectly.
She was very sleepy after surgery. Last time she went under general anesthesia, she woke up with emergence delirium and was completely, insanely inconsolable for about 2 hours while she thrashed around and tried to rip her IV out. I talked to the anesthesiologist about that and he said he would give her something to wake her up more slowly to help with that. The result was that she slept nonstop until about 5:00 p.m., then woke up for a snack and a drink and went right back to sleep until the next morning. At least she wasn't crazy like last time. I will take sleepy over crazy anytime.
Two days after surgery, Aven's neck hurt so badly that her head was stuck downward because she wouldn't use it. I called Dr. Schroeder who said it sounded like a syndrome that begins with "R" (she knew the name of course-I can't remember it) and that I should switch her pain medication to ibuprofen and she should feel better by the end of the week. By the next week she had improved but was still hurting so Dr. Schroeder wanted to see Aven. After seeing her she still felt like Aven's symptoms were due to the syndrome, which causes swelling of the muscles in the neck and just requires time to heal. It was rare when they used to scrape the adenoids out. Now that they cauterize, it is "extraordinarily rare." Dr. Schroeder, who cared for Drake through most of his ear episode, followed that up with saying, "but Aven is your kid so I guess I shouldn't be surprised." Quite funny if you know Drake's less-than-textbook-perfect ear history. Aven was feeling much better after about another week and is back to her old tricks but with better hearing. Hopefully the hearing will stay once the tubes fall out this time. She said a few times during the first few days after surgery, "I can hear now." Seemingly, there is enough of a difference for her to notice.


The kids had multiple opportunities to dress up this year. The first was for the Halloween party at our YMCA. Drake's story was that he got in a car accident on the way to the party and was so excited to get to the party that he didn't bother to go to the hospital. Zoa went to the party reluctantly and dressed up for it even more reluctantly so this rodeo princess costume is all I could coax onto her. She had already dressed up as a witch for her achievement days Halloween party at church but wasn't up for putting all that on again. Aven was a pink ballerina and looked absolutely adorable. She had a bit of an ear infection so she didn't feel well enough to participate in all of the games but did have fun dressing up as a ballerina.

Their next opportunity to dress up was our neighborhood party, which always begins with a costume parade down the main street in our neighborhood, escorted by all the Harley Davidson motorcycles that live on our street. Drake was sick so he couldn't go. Zoa got even more lazy than she was for the YMCA party and dressed identical to her friend so they could be twins-a cheater costume if I have ever seen one.
Aven decided to go a little more with the ballerina princess idea and added a crown and plenty of jewels. Our neighborhood party is always a fun time.
They also went trunk or treating at our church building. For that party, Drake changed his accident story and stuck with the accident victim motif. Zoa kept up the twin charade cheater costume with the same friend and Aven decided to be a full up princess and wore one of her princess dress up dresses. They got a TON of candy, which is what they look forward to so I guess the holiday was a big success.

Drake the Art Genious

In October, we received an invitation to attend an art show to view Drake's artwork in the art gallery of our local college. We went to the art show and found that Drake was part of a very exclusive group of students who had had a piece of artwork selected to be in the show. Each school in the district could only submit 3 or 4 pieces of artwork. Drake's sun picture was one of only 3 submitted from his school. It was very nice. I wished once we were there that we had made an effort to dress up a bit. The teachers were on hand to talk to parents and students and the college representatives were there. All were dressed up for the event and really gave the students who came a lot of attention and praise. Drake's art teacher loved that Drake had shown a lot of creativity as he created his sun, rather than sticking with a symmetrical format typical of other students. Drake received an Award for Artistic Achievement and a thank you letter from the college for "contributing to the overall beauty of the campus." After we viewed the artwork, there were catered treats for us to enjoy. Drake truly felt special.

Chocolate Galore!

In June we went to Hershey, PA for a little vacation. I had heard the air smelled like chocolate and the road looked like chocolate. The rumor about the air: false. The rumor about the road: true on the main road through town. The street lights are shaped like Hershey kisses, some wrapped and some unwrapped, which was cute. It just had the feeling of cute American town. We camped in Hershey park campground, which the kids thought was fun. Drake and Zoa slept in their own tent, which was exciting for them. There are two main things to do there: Chocolate World and Hershey Park. We did them both.
Chocolate World is Hershey's marketing extravaganza. There is a ride to teach you the process of making chocolate followed by the opportunity to buy all the Hershey chocolate you could ever want. After looking through windows while on the ride and seeing chocolate in all its various stages percolating right before your eyes, you are definitely ready for some chocolate. The kids thought that ride was so fun that they wanted to go on it several times. Good thing it is free.
Hershey Park is a theme park. It was much bigger than I was expecting it to be. It had several huge roller coasters, which Ben and Drake ran around and rode together. Zoa and I stayed with Aven on the kiddie rides. Zoa was having a chicken day. I think watching Aven on the rides was the best deal. She was so excited and happy about everything. There is also a big water park there that we spent several hours enjoying. It was a nice hot humid day so it felt good to get wet.
We also went to the Museum and learned all about Milton Hershey, who was an innovative and honorable man. It was great to learn about someone who wasn't a dirt bag and who used his success to benefit his community.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Aven's Crazy Night Wanderings

During the last weeks of school for the other kids, Aven seemed to want to graduate from sleeping normal hours. She was getting out of bed almost nightly to do something crazy, usually in the other kids' bedrooms. She pulled all the books off Drake's bookshelves one night so he woke up to a huge mess not of his making. She got a hold of some scissors and cut both her hair and Zoa's hair while the rest of the family, including Zoa, was sleeping. What a shock for Zoa to wake up to a chunk of Aven colored hair and a chunk of Zoa colored hair lying on her floor. Happily, Aven cut Zoa's hair in one of the few places that it would not have been a complete disaster and Zoa was able to hide it until it grew out. I really didn't know for awhile where I would find her in the morning because she would play until she got tired enough to fall back to sleep and then zonk out wherever she happened to be. The above picture is how I found her one morning, asleep on Zoa's floor. She is wearing a skort of her own, a top that Zoa had grown out of over a hoody that Zoa had also grown out of and non-matching flip-flops. The part you can't see is that she is also wearing a pair of Zoa's panties (she had ditched her diaper on the floor with her pjs) and Zoa's sports bra. I guess all that wardrobe planning tuckered her out because she promptly fell asleep spread out on the floor at the scene of the crime. Just when I was about to turn her knob around and lock her in her room at night, she began sleeping at night again, which wasn't as entertaining as her wanderings but definitely gave me more peace of mind.

Zoa Says Goodbye to Elementary School

I can't believe my Zoa is out of elementary school! She is really turning into a beautiful young lady. Her last day of 5th grade was emotional for me. They did a graduation ceremony and for some reason it was a tear jerker for me. We stood as the graduates entered the room and took their seats and she looked so tall and mature walking down the aisle to her seat. They next showed a slide show with pictures of the 5th graders throughout their elementary years. Seeing how much Zoa and her classmates have grown and changed made the tears prick my eyes all over again. Next came the solemn processions and calling of names as they handed each of them their "diploma." Zoa had a nearly perfect report card. My favorite part was the comment from her gifted teacher because it sums up Zoa very well. "Zoa works well with others on group projects. She is a leader among her classmates." I hope that as she ventures into middle school, she will continue to be a leader and help pull her classmates in a higher direction.

This picture is of Zoa with Mrs. Kirk, her 5th grade teacher. Mrs. Kirk was crying on the last day of school! After teaching 8 years of elementary school, I think any teacher that sheds tears on the last day must be phenomenal!

Drake's Last Day of 2nd Grade

Drake had a great second grade year. We were so proud of him on the last day when he brought his nearly perfect report card home along with awards for reading and good citizenship. Way to go Drake! He gave himself two huge hickies with the vacuum right before this last week of school.(see pic below) Luckily they were cleared up by the time he had to stand in front of the school to get his awards.

This is a picture of him with his teacher Ms. Waters. She told us she wished all her students were like Drake. That is a great thing to hear as a parent.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Candice's New Job

Last week I was sustained and set apart as the Relief Society President of my ward. It is funny that I knew it was going to happen for a week before it actually happened, yet it was still shocking. The week between the bishop calling me to this position and being sustained and set apart was a week of nerves, but also a week I will never forget spiritually. In many ways it was one of the most solitary weeks of my life. Ben's ship was gone most of the week and so I didn't have anyone physically present to talk to about all I was feeling and thinking. I did a lot of praying and listening to the spirit to try to discover what the Lord wants me to do in this position. During that week, Julie Beck, General RS President for my church, came to my building to do a fireside for all sisters in our region and a training for all RS presidents in our region. I was blessed to be able to attend both of those meetings, even though I was not yet official. I had been thinking a lot about where to begin this task the Lord has given me and found that the thoughts and ideas I had been contemplating most were confirmed by Sister Beck and the spirit that night. I am sure that those I was sitting with thought I had lost my mind because I could not control the flow of tears down my cheeks. It is difficult for me to be so wrapped up in the spirit and control my emotions. I had pretty much been crying all week but it peaked that night. I am so grateful for the priesthood and the setting apart blessing I was given last week. It has done a lot to calm me down and give me confidence as I do my best to follow the directions I receive from the Lord. I can feel that the Lord loves the sisters in my ward and wants me to do my best to serve them. I have faith that he will make up for the many areas I feel I am inadequate. This has been a busy initiation week, but I was happy to be faced with many firsts right away so that next time I won't be as nervous when I am faced with the same situation. I love the gospel and my Heavenly Father.

9-11 Pentagon Memorial

On our way home from DC from our Easter weekend, we went by the Pentagon to see the 9-11 Memorial they have there. The kids were definitely too riled up to behave in such a solemn place. The guard actually came and asked us to be more quiet. It is a big, open area with a memorial for each person who was killed on 9-11 at the pentagon. (So much room to run, which is where the kids got into trouble.) Each person's name is on their memorial and a metal line leads you to the year of their birth, making it easy to realize that two sisters were killed that day, the youngest just Aven's age and the other just a year older than Drake. I have thought about them a few times since my visit. I wonder why they were there in such a forbidding, intimidating place. If I had not been there with my rowdy children, I think I would have read the names on all of the memorials to try to find a father or mother and help solve that mystery. Stupid terrorists!

Arlington National Cemetary

The day after Easter, we were still hanging out in DC so we decided to take the kids to Arlington National Cemetery. Ben had never been there and when I took the kids during his deployment, they were very small. The flowers were all in bloom there so it was gorgeous. For some reason, I love the nice tidy rows of headstones in a military cemetery. It isn't that I love to think of all those lives cut short, but the sight seems to speak of a sacrifice that was made by them for something bigger than themselves. I am sure that not all of them enjoyed the rigid discipline of the military while alive, yet still were willing to conform in order to serve their country and now lie in rank and file just as they served in life. It is a place that commands a quiet reverence fitting to show respect to those who sacrificed for this country that I love so much. I think the kids even felt it.
Of course the highlight of an Arlington visit is watching the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The photo above shows the walkway we took on the way to watch that ceremony. Both times I have watched the changing of the guards ceremony, I was so impressed with the solemn respect the guards exhibit while tending to their duty. Their shoulders never slump and they never miss a step. They are carefully scrutinized by their commander in front of the public to ensure that their grooming and uniform are immaculate. I know the requirements of the Army to serve in that post are higher than those for other positions and the place has a reverent feel to it because they take their duty seriously.

One thing I wanted to do while we were in Arlington is take a picture of Zoa in front of the space shuttle Challenger memorial plaque. She is the exact age that I was when it blew up on national television. I remember very clearly sitting in my talented and gifted class in 5th grade watching the launch on tv and seeing the explosion. I am sure the shock I felt at such a young age was not as great as it would have been if I had been older but I remember feeling stunned and seeing the tears in my teacher's eyes. I felt so grown up and now my daughter is that same age. Time definitely flies.