Friday, February 19, 2010

Oh, what do you do in the wintertime...

When the snow falls unceasingly...

We decided to make one of our snowed in afternoons into a cupcake party. Thanks to the foresight of the folks at Wegmans who thought to put Valentines cupcake mix and frosting on an endcap they knew I would walk by (and who put it on sale), we were well prepared for just such an activity. We invited the next door neighbors to join us, and they brought a few friends with them, so it was a merry gathering indeed. Here's the group with their works of edible art.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Texting while Driving

A friend of mine sent me a sobering story about one individual who was texting while driving. Follow the link to see the video. Definitely worth the time it takes to view.

Sunday, February 7, 2010 more

A friend of mine had a great idea this Fall. Instead of signing all our kids up for the county's soccer program, we put $10 towards buying t-shirts and trophies and got some dads to volunteer to coach our group of 10. We met once a week for practice, which ended in a scrimmage of sorts (or as close as you get with a team of 4-year-olds. Adam was the assistant coach, and Spencer found soccer practice to be a highlight of his week. Emma and I loved it too, since we got to hang out with the other soccer moms and kids.

Practices took place in the open area behind Grandma and Grandpa's house. It was SUCH a success that I think we are going to try t-ball in the Spring.

Halloween 2009 and the last of the binge blogging

Halloween 2009 brought with it a series of celebrations. First, there was the preschool party, where Emma was thrilled to join Spencer in the dressing up, games, and treats.

Next, there was the ward party/trunk or treat. Here is our crew in costume. Adam and I even got in on the fun, dressing up as doctor and patient from the game Operation. Clever, eh?

Finally, we made a Halloween Day outing to Pumpkinville. It turns out that is a great way to beat the crowds. Almost no one was there, so we had the place virtually to ourselves.

We braved the hay ride with these fine folks. There had been a lot of rain, so the trailer nearly bottomed out in the mud ruts through which we drove. We were so glad the Lusvardis kept the tradition of coming out to go trick or treating and that the Aedos were able to join in for some Pumpkinville fun as well.

We made sure to get the traditional costume photo before heading out for trick or treat time. These little ones knew just how to do it!

Trick or Treat!

And, finally, no Halloween would be complete without stopping by to see Grandma and Grandpa...and pick up a few more goodies.

Stitches and Dancing

Spence has some scar stories he'll get to tell the rest of his life, so it seems that we would be remiss not to document them here. His first round of stitches came back in October 2009 right before Adam and I left for Argentina. Fortunately, he was well cared for by a doctor who is a friend of ours, and grandparents in our absence. Round #2 came right before Thanksgiving (the Sunday before, in fact). Spencer was skating on the kitchen floor in his Sunday socks and rammed his head into a bench. It created an impressive hole, tearing through his eyebrow and even a layer of muscle; it was remedied only after 3 layers of stitches (15 total) in the emergency room.

In other news, Emma is our dancing queen. As soon as we started the Christmas music, she dubbed the rug in front of the computer, her "dancing rug" and regularly was found there rocking out to the tunes. A friend of mine is doing a dance class starting next week for 3 year olds and has invited Emma to take part. She talks about it regularly and tries on all the dance costumes she has in preparation for her class.

Thanksgiving 2009

I'm bummed that I don't have a single photo of our most excellent Thanksgiving at the Wride's. Grandpa Barnard was in town for Thanksgiving this year, and we made sure to have graham crackers and milk with Great Gpa B, in keeping with tradition.

Another Thanksgiving tradition that started with Gpa B is the turkey trot. Turkey day found us making the rounds at the local middle school track. Daniel, it turns out, is quite the endurance runner. I think he ran 3 miles before tiring out. The rest of were a bit more leisurely in our athletic pursuits, but we did get the heart pumping and the appetites up for all the good food that followed. Before leaving the field, we even had a mini football game.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, we went to see a production of "The Nutcracker" at the Kennedy Center. It was Maddie's first time going to the ballet, and she was fantastic. She has told Spencer he can go next year because by then HE will be 5. We also saw the McGanns, from our neck of the woods, at the performance. This was exciting because we made a mention in Eva's blog!

Candy Lane at Hershey Park

In early December, we went up to Hershey, PA to visit our good friends the Jurgensmeiers. Darin is up there for his residency, and Linsy is one of my college roomies, so that is our original connection. They are some of our FAVORITE people, and we had a blast exploring Hershey Park with them. Spencer had a great time playing with Tate, and Emma loved helping baby Beau in any way possible.

Now, Jurgensmeiers, when can we convince you to come to VA for a visit??

Snuggies and Scooters

Sometimes, you come upon a themed Christmas. This year's are worth a mention.

On the Wride side, all the grandkids got new scooters!

And on the Cummings side, it was a Snuggie Christmas. That's right - the blanket with sleeves!

Christmas 2009

Let me tell you a little story. I married Adam, master of surprise (need proof? Just ask me about the details of our engagement story). I love Adam, and every time a gift-giving opportunity comes up, I think about how much fun it will be to get him the PERFECT gift and see that PERFECT moment when he opens the gift at the appointed time.

Well, I give up. I cannot succeed in surprising him. It is NOT meant to be. Seriously. Here's the recent track record...

A few years ago, Adam mentioned in passing that he would love to have one of the old Atari or Nintendo systems. I didn't make a big deal of it, but tucked that little piece of info away and started scouring ebay. We were in the early stages of entrepreneurial life (translation: no money), so I got creative and looked on Freecycle too. I had a few leads, but nothing came through. After months of searching, there it was: an original Nintendo system with a few games to boot! We were leaving town the next day for an extended stay with some CA relatives, so I engaged the help of my awesome mother-in-law to procure the package. She tucked it away to save it for Christmas. Six or seven months pass, and one Saturday evening in November while I am busy preparing a lesson for Relief Society, Adam decides he is going to do a good deed and goes up to clean out the garage so his dad can park the car inside since the mornings are frosty. He quickly returns, exclaiming, "Look what my mom has had all this time!" I look up to see him holding the box with the Nintendo, Super Mario Bros, Duck Hunt, Tetris, the controls...even that little gun thing. I am so distraught that he has discovered it that I can do nothing in the way of covering my disappointment. "Oops," he replies. "I wasn't supposed to find this, was I?" Fail #1

More time passes, and Adam's birthday rolls around. I decide to get him a Roku - which is a great little box that enables you to view Netflix "Watch Instantly" on your television. We have a tradition of family movie night that Adam started and all of us love, so it was, once again, a perfect gift. We had moved out of the Wride's basement, and since Adam works from home I made the stealthy decision to have his gift sent to the Wride's home instead of ours...just to avoid him answering the door when the package arrived. Well, we still go to the Wride's house for dinner once a week. You guessed it. The UPS guy just happened to have some late deliveries that summer day, and Adam just happened to be the one to answer the door, look at the label on the package, and immediately he saw the company name at the top: ROKU. "Um, Marie...I think this is for you." Fail #2

This Christmas, I decide to give it another go. Adam's work laptop is dying, and I know that it is one of his resolutions for the year to make a MAC his work machine, so I make the arrangements. His parents and I decide to go in together to get him a new laptop. I pick out the right one, hide all of the e-mails of confirmation and put Adam on strict orders not to check credit card statements or e-mail accounts. I again have the computer shipped to the Wride's house in hopes of better success this time. It arrives without Adam suspecting a thing. Then, one day in early December, he comes out from the office all cheery and announces, "Guess what! My boss is going to buy me a new laptop as a Christmas bonus! And I get to pick it out!" I try to summon up a normal, happy response because I really am quite proud of him. He works hard, and it is always good to be recognized for that...and OF COURSE I am happy to let his boss pay for the laptop since he's offering, but there it is. Fail #3. That night, we go over to the Wride's, and Adam gets to open his present early...

So, I have officially given up hope of trying to surprise Adam. However, that does make moments like this all the more cherished. He DID NOT expect this fun Argentine soccer jersey. See! An actual, legitimate look of surprise.

He was happy with the gift, and I was happy with the reaction.

Here is Spencer playing with the Geotrax Santa brought. It was hard to get him to pose for a picture. He was so intent on making new tracks and maneuvering the trains that we got more focused photos than anything.

This is Emma with a fun book from her cousin Maddie. This book combines her two great passions: books and music. It has a little piano at the bottom so you can play songs of your own or follow the music in the book to play the princess songs. It's been an absolute favorite!

Here's a little overhead of the Christmas morning extravaganza. I love spending Christmas with the Wrides. They are all great, giving people, and it is fun to celebrate with them. (In fact, we were having so much fun with everyone after staying over Christmas eve, we spent the next two nights on an air mattress in the basement just so we wouldn't miss out on all the good times!) Anyone for a repeat performance sometime soon? We miss you all!

Air and Space Museum

Eager to find indoor outings that would get us all out of the house but enable us to stay out of the cold, we settled on a Wride family trip to the local Air and Space Museum. Spencer and Maddie had a good time matching the pictures on the descriptions of what we were seeing to the actual missiles, etc. on display. Harrison and Emma did a good job of running Grandpa through the paces in the rafters of the museum, and Emily did an awesome job of keeping up with Daniel and Ryan. (Emily - did I ever tell you, you're my hero???)

A grand time was had by all. A special thanks goes out to Brock, Kate, and Laura who, without the nudge of parental responsibility, played major roles in entertaining and keeping track of 6 children.

Johnson cousins

Because the Cummings' home was quite full over New Year's, we got to play host to my sister Jenny and her family. She and Nathan live up in NJ and have two little ones: Issac and Lily. We stayed up REALLY late talking and laughing the first night, and had a great time with their family.

Here I am (I know...uber-prego looking, but this is baby #3) with my cute sis Jenny and her baby Lily.

Isaac was so happy to be reunited with his buddy Grandpa B. They spent a lot of time together when the Johnsons lived in UT, and that bond continues to be strong one. (Gpa used to serve Isaac muffins and grapefruit on a near-daily basis, so they share lots of good memories).

This is one of my favorite moments, captured on camera. My mom and dad really love being grandparents. When we all showed up at their house, they scooped up little Lily to get some cuddle time and both were a little teary-eyed to hold their sweet granddaughter again.

Once everyone had said their hellos, it was time for some more present opening. Christmas occurred in stages this year. Each time a new segment of the family would show up, it was time to open the gifts that were to and from those individuals. Here's a little snippet of the opening action.

And finally, another favorite picture from our visit with the Johnsons. Emma was so thrilled that she and Lily were "same, same" in their heart outfits. I can see these girls being close as they grow up. On the Cummings side, these are the only two girl cousins as of yet, and since it looks like our next baby is a reinforcements in sight.

New Year's Eve 2009

Just a note for anyone who is just starting to read. I am binge blogging today in reverse chronological order.

New Year's Eve we split between our house and my parents'. We started with a day of games, food, and fun. Then we headed back to our place with the intent of putting the little ones down for bed so we could stay up and ring in the New Year. Cousins Isaac and Lily were quite was Emma. All three were tuckered out after a long day. Spencer, however, came down in his pajamas when the rest of the family showed up to continue the party. He remembered staying up last year to drink sparkling cider and stuff 12 grapes into his mouth at the stroke of midnight. When a 4 year-old kid has a memory this good, and his negligent parents let him stay up as a 3 year-old, what are they to do but repeat the pattern? So, Adam went off to Harris Teeter to buy some last minute party supplies (how could forget the grapes!), and we all put on our game faces until countdown time. The high school aged kids were all the at the New Years' dance, but we got to hang out with all of the grown kids. Aaron even joined us on his way home from working some crazy hours at a DC law firm, and Melinda's friend Breann hung out with us as well. (See...we are cool enough for college kids).

Games we played waiting for the New Year:
Don't Break the Ice
Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots
That one that starts with M...the one Sarah always wins

What else am I missing, gang?

Here's a quick snapshot of our group about to drink cider and eat grapes at midnight.

New Year's Day 2010: Picture Perfect

We were lucky enough to see just about everyone on both sides of the family at some point during the holiday season. On the Cummings' side, it was never everyone at the same time, but I'm realizing that as the family continues to grow, that becomes more and more difficult. I am resolved to be happy seeing whoever we can, whenever we can. (Beach week, anyone???) I love being a part of this big Cummings clan.

New Year's Day, we celebrated by basking in laziness. We got together at the Clagett St. home for games, food, films, and fireworks. The film of choice this holiday was "Cranford," a recent BBC production and probably my favorite series. It's even giving "Pride & Prejudice" a run for top billing in my book - no small feat!

Here is the cast of characters (at least those who were able to be there at dinnertime):

Grammy and Papa

Michelle and Greg (the newlyweds)

Isaac, Nathan, and Jenny (sorry I caught you mid-blink, J)

Celeste, Trina, Joel, Sarah, Emma, and Adam

Grandpa Bezzant and Celeste

Heather and Melinda

Marie and Dan

Uncle Dan was an absolute favorite with all the nieces and nephews because of this fun game. Since it was cold and snowy out of doors, Uncle Dan became the indoor swing. Others took a turn to help with what would otherwise have been an incessant line of hopeful children, waiting for a turn.

Emma snuggles up to Dan to check out his Itouch. This girl LOVES technology, and she navigates tech toys with authority.

I love this photo. When we were outside to watch Aaron's South Carolina firework display, this group snuggled up. It represents the inseparables. Spencer tagged along with Trina pretty much all day, and I can count on one hand the number of times all week that I saw Greg and Michelle apart.

Grandpa Bezzant is a Christmas regular, and we wouldn't have it any other way. He's a mover and a shaker, this year tackling a Williamsburg/Jamestown/Yorktown trip with part of the fam. He's also about the smartest fellow I know, with an amazing memory for detail and ability to figure out how everyone he meets connects in some way back to the good folk of the San Mateo ward. He runs the Bezzant B&B in Orem and puts us up every time we visit Utah. LOVE you, Grandpa!

Another fun moment captured - Melinda, who is a musical genius by my reckoning, let Emma climb up to play piano with her and proceeded to play song after song at Emma's request (all by ear). We love you, Lin!

The Great Library

Morning Update: Here is the end result of the kids' library project. These kids LOVE books! It reminded me that Emma's first word was, after all, "book."

Wride B&B

One major benefit of living for in the Larsen home is that we get to entertain house guests! We had a fun visit from the Gardner family who moved away from our area last fall. Spencer and Emma got to spend a good amount of time with Cole (age 5) in particular since Cheryl and I served in the Relief Society Presidency together and would have weekly meetings. It was a very happy reunion for all. Spencer was SO sad when they had to go home, so we are hoping for a repeat visit soon. The Gardners know how to raise some really good boys. A big thank you to Jim and Cheryl who let Emma follow them around all weekend.

Emma, Cole, and Spencer

Adam, Marie, Kyle, Cheryl, Jim, Derek, Spencer, Emma, and Cole

We're still accepting reservations at the Wride B&B...let us know when you are coming!

Teeny tiny

Emma is the earliest riser in our family. When I return from seminary, she has either woken the boys or waited to hear the garage door open to call out, "Mommy! I'm awake!" Some mornings, we are quiet enough that we have our morning girl time without waking Spencer up. This photo is from one of those mornings.

Lovie loves all things "teeny tiny." She also loves her babies. For Christmas, her cousin Lily gave her a "teeny tiny" pack-n-play, which is set right next to Emma's bed so she can put her babies to bed. This particular morning, Emma and I decided we would make pancakes for breakfast. Emma wanted "teeny tiny" ones for her baby, and I was only too happy to oblige.

My baby with her baby:

Play Dates

Our kids are super lucky in that they have many good friends in our area and, particularly, in our congregation at church. A few fun playmates came over the other day for play dates, and I snapped some fun pictures.

Spencer and Luke in the midst of a marathon 5 1/2 hour play date. These two are amazing...they play WITHOUT argument. I kept checking in just to make sure things were still going well. They have the best imaginations and are similar enough in interest that when one suggests a change in their play, the other one always seems to think it is a good idea. We love Lukie.

This is a new development. My friend Sandra suggested we start getting our girls together for a weekly play date. I jumped at the chance since I had dropped the ball on being organized enough to do a co-op preshcool for Emmy this year. (There's always next year, right?) The girls have had a blast playing with all things pink. Remarkably, they both get along really well even though both have had to fend for themselves in the midst of only brothers. They are strong girls, and good friends. Sienna - thank you for being such an awesome friend! Emma loves having play dates of her very own. (The first time I dropped her off, she made sure to tell Spencer, "This is MY play date. You're not coming." Too often, Emma is the one left in the car while Spence runs in to a friend's house. The tables are finally turning in her favor.)

In the absence of outside friends, my two kids play like the best of buddies. Most mornings (after breakfast - food makes a big difference in the level of peace), I am amazed at how well they take turns. Spencer is a very protective brother; he takes such good care of Emma and has such creative ideas for play. Emma, in turn, likes to tag along and mother him when permitted. Emma is more of an independent spirit while Spence requires a companion before he will venture to another floor of the big house we currently occupy. Emma is happy to oblige. At present, they are upstairs. Already this morning they have made a tent out of chairs and a blanket, set up a library by putting books between the rungs in the banister that lines the stairs, and at any moment I expect them to break into one of their other standard games: jet planes, flap-flap (where they pretend to be birds and jump off stairs to fly), or doggy. (Emma goes by the name "teeny tiny pink puppy," and Spencer by "Woof-woof").

I love these kids!

Before and After

Since church is canceled today due to inclement weather, I decided I'm going to invest a little time in recording some of our family stories. I'll work backward from present day and see how far I get, given that all the usual distractions are still hovering around. (Have I mentioned before that my kids LOVE the computer...especially when I am on it). For the moment, they are happily engaged in what has become a ritual Sunday morning activity: watercolors. Spencer, per custom, is still in his pajamas, while Emma has donned her pink shirt and skirt. She refuses to come down for breakfast until fully dressed for the day. In addition, she picks out her own clothes and most of the time matches quite nicely. She has strong opinions in these matters, so if you see her in a lime green skirt and pea green shirt...just go with it. They are both green - therefore, they match, and she will readily remind you of that fact.

Watercolors have ceased to be captivating, so in an effort to involve the kiddos, we'll post their commentary with the pictures that follow.

Emma: "That's Emma and Spencer and a bag. So, there's tigers in that place, and Lukie was in that place. So, that's it. Do another picture, Mommy!" (My addition: Spence and Emma were so cute when we were getting ready for Spencer's preschool carpool one day that I decided to take picture. They were snuggled up on the carseat booster. Little did I know this would become the "Before Preschool" picture. Scroll down to see the "After" one.)

AFTER preschool, this is what greeted me at the doorway. My friend Meagan dropped off the kids. Her son Luke is one of Spencer's best buddies, and we took the opportunity to take a little photo of the tiger cubs. Spencer loved this look SO much that he slept with it on so he could show everyone the next day. We even skyped with a few family members at Spencer's request so we could share his look. When Emma woke up from her nap, Spencer ran in to greet her. She was terrified that we had sent a boy to preschool and that he came back a tiger. She wouldn't let him within a 10 foot radius for a full half hour. After that, she adjusted nicely to having a tiger for a brother and they played out their stories for the rest of the day.

Spencer: "Once upon a time, Spencer got painted as a tiger. I did it at preschool. And I, Spencer, played with Luke. We were playing with tiger cars. Really deep in the bucket (at preschool), there are some tiger cars. GROWL! SNARL!!!
(We need some video to capture how truly he has mastered the tiger sound).