Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Princess Aven turns 4!

Aven turned 4! I can't believe how big she is getting! We spent the weekend celebrating her birthday for three days straight. We were very happy to have Grandma and Grandpa Terry here to help us celebrate.

We started the weekend of festivities by giving her a princess birthday party with her friends from church and Joy School. As the guests arrived, they set right to work constructing a princess castle out of marshmallows and frosting.
As they completed that, we moved to a game of hot potato with balloons. If the music stopped while they were holding the balloon, they got to pop the balloon and get the prizes from the inside. Aven didn't like the balloon popping sound but the other kids seemed to enjoy the game. We had put candy bracelets, rings, and lipstick inside the balloons. We had a few princes and knights at the party but even they put on the bracelets and rings.
After the balloon game, I did a puppet show for the kids to tell them a story about Princess Aven. She was cursed by an evil witch, who turned her invisible. This made Princess Aven and all her friends very sad because it was hard to play together when they couldn't see her. The only way to break the spell was to find magic dragon eggs and bring them to Princess Aven. Her friends loved her so much that they went on a quest to bring the magic dragon eggs to her. While I told the story, Zoa and Drake ran ahead of us to the park to hide the "dragon eggs", which were actually Easter eggs full of candy and little bottles of bubbles.
After the story, we went on a princess walk to the park in our neighborhood where Zoa and Drake were waiting for us. They explained the rules of the dragon egg finding game and then let them find the eggs.
Drake was the dragon chasing them while they found the eggs. Once all the eggs were found, they still wanted to play at the park and be chased by the "dragon." Since it was such a beautiful day, we let them play for awhile before returning to Aven's castle.

Aven talked about her princess cake for months before her birthday actually arrived so it had to be special this year. I just ordered one from Wal-Mart, rather than Cake Boss, but Aven was thrilled with it and so excited to see it. We sang to Princess Aven, she blew out her candles, and we all ate our cake and ice cream.
After cake, she opened her gifts from her friends. She really got some nice gifts and has had a lot of fun with them since the party.

After gifts, we danced to music and then froze when the music stopped until all the kings and queens arrived to take their royal children home. It was a fun and exhausting couple of hours.

The celebrations continued through Sunday, her actual birthday. We had a special Family Home Evening lesson by Drake about friends and birthdays and then opened more presents and ate more cake and ice cream. Zoa and Drake pooled their funds to buy her some squinkies. If you don't know what those are, feel happy that your kids have moved on to a different stage of life.

Grandma and Grandpa Terry gave her a headband with long hair attached, which she has been wearing almost nonstop since she pulled it from her gift.

Grandma Terry also made Aven this new quilt for her bed and the beautiful silky nightgown she is wearing below. Knowing she was getting the new quilt I planned to finally paint her room so it would match her new quilt. I went and chose paint colors and gave her the sample cards in a gift bag. She was not at all impressed but I think she will be excited once that actually translates to paint on her wall. She even still has birthday money from her Nana to spend so there is no reason all her dreams won't be realized.
It was a perfect few days for our little princess, except that we were missing Ben so much as we celebrated.
I am very grateful for little Aven. She is a bright pink ball of sunshine and has certainly brightened up our family. I am looking forward to all of the adventures of this upcoming year for her. Four is one of my favorite ages. Fun!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Liberty Port Bike Rides

Ben has been underway for about a month now. He has been to two liberty ports. The first was in Portugal. He said much of what they did was very Americanized but he did take a day to go for a bike ride with his riding buddies from the ship. They rode about 40 miles to the Western-most part of Europe, pictured above. He said he enjoyed the day very much.

The next liberty port was in Turkey. Some time between Portugal and Turkey, he was recruited to sing in the ship's choir. When they first got to Turkey, there was a ceremony with the Turkish people during which Ben sang with the choir. They went on tour buses to some sites but the highlight, once again, was a bike ride through the countryside. The pictures below show the sites he saw on his bike ride in Turkey. He said the day was perfect with 70 degree weather.
If you look in the background of the picture above, you can see the Enterprise sticking out of Ben's knee.

I am always happy when he has a chance to get off the ship and see something besides the gray paint he is constantly surrounded with on the ship.

He's off!

Here we are at Ben's work station.

Eating breakfast in the cafeteria on board the ship.

On January 13, despite rumors of delays or cancellations and CO difficulties, the "Big E" left on deployment taking my sweetheart with it. Families of deploying sailors were invited on board to sample a typical breakfast that our loved one would be trying to choke down for the next 6 months and to say goodbye. The week leading up to this day had been a difficult time for me emotionally. I could barely think of this day and the moment I would have to walk away from Ben without tearing up. It was every bit as difficult as I thought it would be.
Aven, not understanding too well what was going on, was just excited to get to preschool and a play date with a friend that day. The other kids and I spent the day comforting each other, rather than going to school or other responsibilities. We had lunch at a pizza place and went to see a movie. By the time the movie was over, we were feeling a bit better. It got our mind off things for long enough to let us get our emotions under control. Things are definitely better when Ben is here but we have been able to fall into a routine. I definitely feel the strength of the Lord propping me up and comforting me. I wondered in that week leading up to Ben's departure how I was going to be strong for my kids, let alone the sisters in my ward who need me as well. I know now that I won't be strong on my own but that the Lord is aware of my situation and will give me the strength I need to do those things He needs me to do. I am so grateful to be part of the Lord's work and for the blessings that come as I strive to serve Him to the best of my ability. I continue to pray He will keep Ben safe as I look forward to my reunion with my eternal companion in July.

16th Wedding Anniversary

On January 6, Ben and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary. Early in the afternoon, this edible bouquet came for me. I was absurdly excited because I had always wanted one; they always look so yummy. I was very surprised because Ben and I had a special date planned to go to The Melting Pot together to celebrate our anniversary. We enjoyed our dinner together very much.
It has been a wonderful 16 years together. Of course we have had our ups and downs but working through things together is rewarding and we have learned a lot from each other. I am grateful for my good husband.

New Year, New Look

About 4 months after jumping in to my new calling as RS Pres, I started finding grey hairs! I have to blame it on the calling and not my age. I'm not that old yet, am I? On New Years Day, I decided I would dye my hair. I was sick of grey and sick of being blond. I determined that a brown with definite red undertones was the color I most desired, bought the stuff, and set Ben to work on changing my hair color. (What a good sport!) It turned out much more red than I wanted initially, making me feel very self-conscious as I gave a lesson to the sisters in my ward and introduced our new theme for the year. After a couple of weeks, however, the red toned down quite a bit and it is pretty close to the color I originally intended. I like being a brunette and will probably continue to turn myself into one with the help of color from a box.

Check out the new look!

The 9th Annual Birthday/New Year's Eve Bash

We thought our traditional birthday and New Year's Eve party would not happen this year because Ben was scheduled to work that night but he was able to get it off last minute. We called some close friends and they happily trekked to our house to help us celebrate and keep the tradition alive. We are so grateful for good friends that are willing to help us celebrate, especially since we don't have family near by. We ate cake and ice cream and opened presents and then played games and ate junk food to celebrate New Year's Eve. The tradition is simple but we always enjoy it and appreciate those who come to help us celebrate.
I really can't believe Drake is 9! He is a great little guy. He is so smart and always has something creative or interesting to tell us. We love him and feel blessed that he is part of our family.