Thursday, December 17, 2009

A new spin on an old favorite

I post this with no intention to make light of what is one of the most moving and powerful pieces of music ever created.

However, I must admit the coordination this takes is quite impressive, and I found it highly
entertaining. Celeste, Melinda, and Dan - I thought you would particularly like it
(if you haven't already seen it).

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Argentina: Residencia Faiek

UPDATE (11/27/2009): Donations still welcome!

Adam and I spent a week and a half of the month of October in Argentina. There were many purposes to the visit: touring Adam's mission, reuniting with old companions and friends, and getting my FIRST South American passport stamp. The focal point of the trip, however, was to further the long-held dream of helping members of the church in Argentina, specifically in the area of education. This venture started shortly after Adam and I were married when he, along with other like-minded individuals, started a website entitled Bellota a Roble (translation: "Acorn to Oak," the title of which comes from when Elder Melvin J. Ballard dedicated the land of Argentina and prophesied the the church would grow as an acorn to an oak tree). After a few minor projects (a successful series of GMAT classes organized in Buenos Aires to help LDS students seeking entrance to the MBA program at BYU), the time has come to start the next venture.

Education in Argentina proves an interesting dilemma. We had many conversations with people on the topic - people in all walks of life, some members, others not. The consensus is that the system is broken. While Argentina has public universities which are very affordable on paper (a mere 90 pesos - or US$25 - per year for tuition), the professors are often on strike; the class buildings are terribly rundown because there is no money to fix them; and class schedules are assigned such that you could have one class in the morning, another in the afternoon, and a third in the evening. Those facts, combined with a culture where part-time work does not really exist, the economy is depressed, and very few people are wealthy enough to go to school without having to work, make it so that Argentina is a land where only 7% of the population finish with a university education. Within the membership of the church, the numbers are even lower (an estimated 3-4% completing university level studies). LDS students are often coming from families where the parents were not university graduates, so the expectation does not exist that students will complete their studies. In addition, there is increased difficulty if a student has the responsibility of providing for a family.

This is where Residencia Faiek comes in. There is a National University located in Cordoba, where there exists a massive student population. We spent some time in Cordoba, which is a BEAUTIFUL city, complete with a rich history, classic architecture, a plethora of cathedrals, and a strong Institute program. An Argentine named Federico Sanz (from Adam's mission) is doing the groundwork to establish an LDS dorm (or residencia) in Cordoba for students attending the university there. It will start small, with just one apartment of 6 male students all agreeing to abide by essentially the same standards as the BYU Honor Code. While this doesn't solve any of the immediate financial concerns individual students might have (they will be paying rent), these students will provide a support network for each other and will commit to finish their university education as one of the qualifications of participating in the residence.

This residence begins in January with the start of a new academic year. This is fundraising month for the residence. The goal is to raise US$6,000 to cover the costs of acquiring a lease and furnishing the apartment. If you are looking to contribute to a good cause this Christmas season, and you would like to help strengthen the members of the church in Argentina, here is the website you can go to to donate. However, there is some urgency. The donation window is open only until November 21; after that it is time to sign the lease!

As I said, Cordoba is a beautiful city. Here are a few samplings of the sights. And now, a walk down the lanes of Cordoba with Adam and Marie...

All of the rainwater collects in a central canal system.

This is a gorgeous new art museum, formerly a women's prison. It was to open the end of the month, so we didn't get to tour it, but the grounds were beautiful and already it serves as a gathering place in the center of the city.

Directly behind the art museum is the Iglesia del Sagrado Corazon (Sacred Heart)

This is the Manzana Jesuitica (Jesuit Block). Education has long been a central purpose of the city of Cordoba; as long ago as the 16th century, Jesuit priests had set up universities in this area. The buildings now serve as a private high school.

Here's Adam in front of another magnificent iglesia:

This is the residential district by the National University. It is the equivalent of BYU's "south of campus," but much bigger. There are many shops, and it is a lovely, tree-lined area.

Here are Adam and Fede in front of one of the administration building at la Universidad Nacional de Cordoba.

Heidi Sanz (Federico's wife - an amazing woman), Fede, and Adam in front of another university building. (Notice the lack of grass - a trend in South America).

We stopped by the Institute one evening so Adam and Fede could tell the students about Residencia Faiek. They were excited about the opportunity, confirming the interest and need for just such a project. This is the game room where the kids hang out after Institute.

Here is the room where Adam and Fede presented to the students. (Note the web address on the whiteboard.)

Remember how I said Cordoba is a beautiful city? Well, at night it becomes absolutely MAGICAL.

If you made it this far in reading a rather lengthy post, I'm impressed! And here, lest you should forget, is the web address for donations to the Residencia Faiek. You can also follow that link to learn more about the venture and the history behind its name.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fun Fall Craft: Leaf Pictures

I love living near my mom. She is a fabulous Grammy, and my kids LOVE to do projects with her. The other day, we made leaf pictures. Emma and Grammy took a leaf walk with Aunt Trina to gather all the colorful supplies necessary. Then, we assembled the leaves into whatever picture or pattern suited us individually. Here are the steps in case this was not one of your childhood crafts:

Step 1: Put leaves on a piece of wax paper in desired arrangement.

Step 2: Put a second piece of wax paper over the top of your leaf picture.

Step 3: (Parents only, please): Put the wax paper and leaves between sheets of newspaper and, using a hot iron, heat the entirety of the leaf picture. Note: Do not leave the iron on too long. A simple once-over will do. Otherwise, the wax paper gets TOO hot and won't stick.

Step 4: Cut the perimeter of the leaf picture to your desired shape.

Step 5: Display with pleasure and pride! I love having leaf pictures decorate our windows in the autumn. Encased in wax paper, the leaves keep their color longer, and they look a bit like stained glass. Thanks for a great day, Grammy!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

In case you missed our Facebook announcement...

Wride Baby #3 is on its way!!! We've switched insurance companies, and one thing I am loving about Kaiser is that every time I have an appointment, I get to see a little snapshot of my baby. In a month's time, this Wridecito has gone from being a cute little baby blob to this adorable little thing. It is miraculous to me that something so tiny can already look so complete.

Junior was jumping around during the appointment and even took the time to wave, which Emma was REALLY excited about. That little girl cannot wait to have someone to mother.

(Upper photo: profile of our cute baby, Lower photo: baby waving)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Feeling Nostalgic

For the past two years, we've joined together with some really good friends for a preschool co-op. 2 boys, 2 girls, great dynamic, and FABULOUS moms each taking a week's turn to prepare lessons and crafts for the kiddos.

Here's the 2-3 year old group ("the other" Spencer, Michaelyn, Avery, and Spencer):

As they got bigger, the group changed a bit as some moved on to a formal preschool. Here's the 3-4 year old co-op group on "P Day":

When it came time to make plans for this school year, I thought we'd look into one of the preschools held at a local high school where HS students help to teach the class. I sent Spencer and Adam to check it out, but in the back of my mind I was still thinking that another year of co-op was a good option. I like having Spencer around and was having a hard time believing that he was really old enough to go to school. He came home from the preschool orientation SO excited that it quickly became apparent he was ready to move on. Now my little man looks forward to the three days a week when he gets to put on his Batman backpack, don his new Spiderman shoes and head to school.

Again, Spencer is lucky to be surrounded by good friends. Three of the four members of last year's co-op are in the same preschool class, and there are two additional kids from primary (the children's class at church) that are also in the class. Spencer and Luke have formed a pretty tight friendship. We carpool; they both like Spiderman; and they sit at the same table at preschool. Here's a picture of the buddies on their first day.

Every time Spencer comes home from preschool, I get a debriefing on all the great things he did at school. It's become one of my favorite times of the day. I love to see how excited he gets about learning, and he often plays the games he did at preschool with Emma when she gets up from her nap.

You're growing up, Spencer, and we are sure proud of you!

Another note: Leading up to the first day of preschool, Spencer asked for a Father's Blessing. It was very special to see how reverent he was through the blessing. As we drove up to preschool, I could tell that he was feeling a little nervous, and he started telling Luke about the blessing he had received. Spencer took comfort in that and found the courage to face the first day.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Weekend at White's Ferry

Just up the road from our cute town is White's Ferry, the last operating ferry still crossing the Potomac River. (There used to be 100). Just on the other side of the Potomac is the C&O Canal (or what remains of it), so the ferry offered a major boost to the VA economy as it enabled farmers and merchants to sell their wares in DC before the good spoilt.

We had a visit from John and Michelle this weekend, and we took an afternoon excursion across White's Ferry. John and Michelle are great company, and we LOVE hanging out with them. We're just sad that they are headed back West soon with a job transfer!

John brought his fishing poles, so we got this shot of him in his natural habitat. The fish weren't biting in the shallow water, but now that Adam has his VA fishing license purchased and ready I see some good, quality fishing in our future under John's tutelage. We'll be posting fishy stories in the future.

Michelle and I were watching this awesome butterfly. Worth a picture because of its unusual wing tips at the bottom. I was amazed it let me get this close to take the photo; no zoom necessary!

Michelle took this photo of Emma and me sitting on the "comfy rock." We sat back and relaxed while the menfolk were fishing.
All in all, a great trip and definitely worth a return trip. (Next time, we'll remember some cash so we can rent canoes. In MD, cash is still king. They haven't quite caught onto the "credit or debit" scene.)

Fun with the cousins

We had the best week with our cousins. Emily and the kiddos came down from NYC to spend a week while Maddie took some swim lessons. Even though we couldn't get Spencer into the same session (lame, because one kid never showed up), we still had LOTS of fun at the pool together. The kids loved the freedom that came with being in floaties. Spencer and Maddie held hands and kicked around the pool together. We had a great time doing choo-choo trains all 5 grandkids (we miss you, Harrison!) interspersed with games of ring-around-the-rosy, Pop! goes the weasel, and alligator. Emma LOVES her aunt "Em-a-nee" (Emily), and I think it is safe to say that the boys still have a cousin crush on Emma. As for Spencer and Maddie, they are inseparable.

So...when are you coming back??? We miss you already!

Emily with the boys: Ryan (top) and Daniel (bottom)
Spencer showing his independence in the water
Maddie spent all her time (except the 15 minute breaks) in the deep end of the pool. No fear!
Emma helped bury our friend Aliya when we were up at Cunningham Falls in MD.
Strike a pose!
Emma and Ryan digging in someone else's hole.
Maddie and Spencer holding hands, kicking around the lake.
Daniel and Maddie take a break for lunch.
Daniel and Ryan are almost three! We celebrated early by singing "Happy Birthday" and blowing out candles - twice.
Spencer the speedster
Emma the twirler
Bike-riding the the cousins

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Adam turns old(er)!

Adam is four months younger than I, so every time he reaches a birthday it is a celebration for me too because he eases off teasing about my being older than he. We had a fantastic celebration this year. The ENTIRE family (or at least those in town) on BOTH sides (Wride and Cummings) came to Sunday dinner to help wish Adam a HAPPY BIRTHDAY and to share his scrumptious cake. (He has the same birthday cake every year: angel food cake with 3 layers of whipped cream + berries (raspberries this year) as the frosting. It comes from the Lion House recipe book, which I received as a bridal shower gift from Adam's mom with a birthday sticker next to the cake recipe. That has been a GREAT gift!

Spencer volunteered the army candles leftover from his birthday, so Adam had a theme cake after all.

Spencer loves his Daddy. He made this VERY special birthday hat (with writing on the inside saying "It's your birthday, Daddy. I love you").

Emma was on hand to help out with cake time. She loves Daddy too!

On Saturday, Aug 1st, we pre-celebrated by getting together with my cousin John, his wife Michelle, and their friend Brian to kayak on the Potomac near the monuments in downtown DC. Adam's been on a kayaking kick lately, so this fulfilled a big birthday wish...and it was a LOT of fun too! We have decided we need to take all who visit on this excursion. Parking was easy; rental was cheap ($8/hour); the view was fantastic. Find out more about Thompson Boat Center here.

Strong, handsome, and now just as old as his wife. Love it.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Blogworthy Spencerism

Spencer just came to me and said, "Mommy - you have to come see this funny thing that I do. I 'under arrest' Daddy and tell him he's in trouble. Then he has to see the judge and I tell him that he's 'handcupped' because he ate too much candy."

We're really into jokes these days, and this scenario sure tickles Spencer's funny bone. I went in to watch him act it out because I found myself amused by his phrasing and was even MORE entertained when he exited the room (after performing the "under arrest") and reentered as "the chief judge" to pronounce sentence.

Any guesses where we are in our family scripture reading right now?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Spencer's Testimony

Spencer taught the lesson tonight for Family Home Evening. We played the game that is found in the centerfold of The Friend magazine, read scriptures about prayer, and Spencer closed the lesson with his testimony. This is the basic gist of what he said; I only wish I could capture the manner in which he spoke. It was with such fervor, and he went around to individuals to look them in the eye as he spoke. We decided he would make a good pastor...or missionary. Of course, it left his mother teary-eyed. This is one special kid.

"I want to tell you my testimony. I know the church that we go to is the true church. And God is there, even though you can't see him. Prayers are when you talk with Him but you can't see Him. And He is hearing your prayers. And when we go to church and have the bread and water, it's not like a 'sangwich' because it's there to help us remember Jesus. And it's the sacrament."

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I miss you, Kristan!

My cute cousin Kristan Ruby Lusvardi passed away early yesterday morning after a car accident. I've spent the time since finding out drifting in and out of different stages of grief. I've spent a fair amount of time crying and mourning, gathering with family to share remembrances, thinking about how this girl could light up a room with her smile, recalling her kindness and devotion to my sweet Grandpa, praying for those of us who are left behind, reflecting of those in my family who must have greeted her on the other side, and looking forward to when I will get to see her again. I find myself feeling especially grateful for the Atonement, the peace found in turning to the Savior, and the opportunity I had this last week to study up on this topic in preparation for a lesson I taught on Sunday. The teacher always learns the most, and this lesson was very timely.

Kristan - we miss you. Did I tell you today that I love you? Because I do...and I wish you were here.