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.