Thursday, November 22, 2012

The end of 1st Grade for Spencer

In my catch-up blogging, I couldn't go without a mention of Spencer's excellence in his first grade year. The first grade puts on a special patriotic musical evening at the close of the year. Spencer was one of 4 kids from his class selected to speak a memorized part. He marched up when it was his turn, said his part, and with stiff arms at his side, returned to his place. (The kids had been warned not to wave or cause any distraction, and he took this direction very much to heart). We were so proud of you, Spencer.

This is Spencer with his first grade teacher, Mrs. Smith. I really enjoyed getting to know Mrs. Smith by volunteering weekly in Spencer's classroom. It was a great opportunity to see how Spencer interacts and performs in a classroom setting as well. He is kind, respectful, and a very good friend to others. 

Here is Spencer with two buddies at the end of the year luau-themed party. Miles is on the left, Jason on the right, with Spencer showing off his surfer moves in the middle. 
Congratulations on a wonderful 1st grade year, Spence!


Just a few random pictures of things I want my kids to remember. 

John is very intent when playing. He likes to get close to the action, laying on his belly to be more closely engaged with the lego guys and "wee-ooh" fire engines. He'll maintain this position for extended periods of time and has an impressive attention span as he makes up the stories for his cars and guys to act out.

This is just silliness, but whenever I fill the car with gas, I pass the time by making funny faces at my kids through the window. They mimic the faces back. I get the best responses from the fishy face. 

Spencer continues to be a lego master. Take a look at how he recreated Clifford. Amazing! What's more, it only took him a few minutes. 

Here's a photo of a fun play date we hosted with a new friend up our street. She and Emma were having trouble deciding who gets on the kindergarten bus first, who sits with whom, etc. We decided it was time to have some positive interaction, so we invited our friend and her mom to come over and decorate sugar cookies with us. Ever since, the girls have been kind and respectful toward one another. 

John got in on the decorating action too. 

This funny boy LOVES rain boots. Unfortunately, the only pairs we own are pink with leopard print and rainbow-colored. Doesn't stop him. Little man wears them with confidence. 


My cousin Cameron Lusvardi just returned from his mission to Italy. On his way home, he and his parents stopped in VA so we could keep up a long-standing tradition of going to the pumpkin patch together. They used to live in Centreville, VA, but now live in Utah, so it takes a bit of planning to keep the tradition alive. We're so glad they made the trek. We love the Lusvardis!

Emma has found her animal courage lately. Last year she would have nothing to do with the petting zoo. This year, she had sheep eating out of her hands and was petting lots of small animals. 

The hayride is always a favorite, and I took the chance to snap some pictures of the captive audience. 

Emma, Trina, and Spencer 

Cameron, Uncle Mark, and Adam 


Aunt Julie and Grammy

John, Marie (me), and Emma

Spencer is an expert hayslider. He tucks his body in to go fast and far.

Emma and John were a bit more tentative. They decided it would be okay to ride down with Daddy. After one go, John was done.

Emma, however, LOVED it and went many more times on her own.

This was a new addition - a perfect pirate ship. We spent a good chunk of time here watching the kids play. 

Here are John, Cameron, Trina, Spencer, Sarah, and Emma posing in the school bus cutout.

Trina, Spencer, Emma, and Sarah

We each took a little pumpkin home from our outing. Emma gave hers a bath and made it a place to sleep at the foot of her bed. 

Christmas Village

On the heels of a few exceptionally busy weeks and two out-of-town weekends, we needed a quiet Sunday evening to regroup. As we ate dinner together, Emma suggested that we set up the Christmas village. The Sunday before Thanksgiving seemed like a good time for that, so we set to work. Emma hauled the majority of the boxes from the basement, and John had a grand time stacking them once we retrieved the houses from the boxes. Adam and Spencer were on electrical duty, figuring out how to arrange extension cords under couches so as to avoid tripping hazards. John was my good helper to the very end, running back and forth from our set-up area to the basement stairs to bring the empty boxes and even helping to carry a few of the boxes down the stairs to the storage room. He is completely enthralled with the magic of this little village. Every year, Adam's parents give us new pieces for Christmas to add to the collection. This year, John's special favorites are the school bus, tractor, and fire house. There are a few "Ho ho ho's" (Santa figurines) in the mix that he loves to spot and rearrange as well. 

A little Christmas magic. 

Chocolate Cake

According to my recollection of my childhood years, when I passed off the chocolate cake song in the Bastien piano books, my excellent mother made a chocolate cake. That seems to me a tradition worth perpetuating, so when Emma passed off this song, we got to work. A triple chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate chips was the result. A delicious reward!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

48 hours in Texas

Last weekend, Adam and I took a quick trip to Texas. We flew into Austin for the combined purposes of visiting my brother Dan and attending a friend's Indian wedding. When we arrived, the compact cars had all been taken so we got hooked up with a Camaro. It was pretty fun to ride in such a sporty vehicle although my 7 month prego self missed the cushy suspension of my minivan. 

Dan had to work the Saturday that we arrived, so we set off to surprise him with a visit. We got in the right neighborhood but couldn't locate the exact rescue station, so he had to guide us in. He showed us around the station and ambulances. John would have been in HEAVEN with all the "wee-ooohs" we got to see. It was so fun to see my little bro in his element. 
We took Dan and his partner out to lunch at a local burger place and were happily munching on the In 'N Out style burgers when who should sit next to us at the outdoor picnic table but Ty Detmer and his family! A brush with one of BYU's greats. (Sadly, no pictures. We were all a little awestruck.)

Later that afternoon, Adam and I made our way to San Antonio to see a few of the sights before heading to the wedding dinner. Here we are in front of the Alamo, which is a free site to visit. It's in a picturesque, if somewhat touristy, section of town. (Why is there always a wax museum in tourist areas?) The Alamo is where Davy Crockett, among many others, held out against incredible odds for weeks before losing a battle against the Mexican Army. Made we want to watch the film Davy Crockett to catch up on a little frontier history, or at least the Disney version of it.

After walking through the Alamo and the attached gardens, we headed to the River Walk. It is a recessed section of town that feels like it has been plucked out of Venice. The riverfront is lined with restaurants, and pedestrians pass amongst the tables enjoying the view. We were happy to join the Saturday evening dinner crowd for a very pleasant stroll.

Adam at the River Walk. 

After our brief sojourn in San Antonio, we headed to our hotel to get all fancied up for the Sangeet, or pre-wedding dinner and celebration. Here we are with the happy couple: Jith and Jahnavi. Jith and Adam started at Deloitte on the same day and have maintained a friendship that has involved several "mancations" along the way - always involving a BYU football game. Jith is a fantastic friend; he has helped us move, brought our children gifts, hosted us for dinner on our way up to Chocolate Days last year, and is just an all-around great fellow. We were so pleased to meet his bride and discover that she is just as wonderful. They make a very happy couple. 

BIG thanks go to our neighbors across the street who, when they heard we were going to an Indian wedding, completely outfitted us with clothing for the event. We so enjoyed dressing the part. The Sangeet included delicious Indian food, very friendly guests, lots of singing and dancing, and henna hand painting. 

The next morning, we arrived at the Hindu temple at 8:00am to join in the groom's procession from the temple (where he had been in a prayer service) to the site of the marriage ceremony. 
 The ceremony lasted about 2.5 hours in all, and snacks were served in the middle with a specific part of the ceremony timed to the minute so it could occur at the most "auspicious" time. It was a completely different experience from anything I have ever seen. There were some very lovely moments in the service. I particularly liked watching the new husband and wife take their first 7 steps together, promising as they do so to walk together in life as they pursue the householder's life, strength, wealth and prosperity, pleasure and happiness, children and a long life, the joys of all seasons, and everlasting love.

Another favorite moment came when they took turns pouring brightly colored rice over each others' heads. Supposedly, the individual who pours first and fastest will dominate in the marriage. 

Here we are with Jith and Jahnavi after the ceremony. 

After the wedding, we met up with Dan to do a walking tour of downtown Austin. It's a great city. The capitol building is particularly striking.  

Here's Adam at the museum by the Capitol. There were many kid-friendly displays, and it brought the kid in all of us. 

Did you know that the good people of Texas added this huge statue to the top of their Capitol Building so that it would stand 15 feet taller than the U.S. Capitol. Yep. Everything's got to be bigger (or at least taller) in Texas.

Here are Dan and Adam inside of the Capitol building. The building itself was built using the funds of the Farwell brothers from Illinois who were given, in exchange, a huge tract of land (3,000,000+ acres) in the Texas panhandle that became known as the XIT Ranch. 
 Interesting fact: Texas has been part of six nations in its history. It has flown the flags of Spain, France, Mexico, The Republic of Texas (when it was its own country), the Confederacy, and The United States. 

We closed the day by walking around the University of Texas and then had dinner (my favorite casserole) and played games at Dan's apartment. 

The next morning, we found ourselves sampling some of the local breakfast burritos before catching a flight back home. It was great fun to spend 2 days in the Lone Star State. Thank you for being such a generous host, Dan! 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween 2012

Halloween was a busy, busy day. It started with a speech evaluation for John, who is a great communicator, but reluctant talker. We went on a little "Mommy date" to talk to some nice folks at the county office. John got to point at pictures, tell about what he saw, and play with lots of really great cars. I'm happy to report that he passed all the 2 year old benchmarks and even in the last week and a half (since I made the appointment) has demonstrated a major explosion in his ability to use and interest in trying new words. After our fun little play date with the speech pathologist, John and I stopped by Mom's Apple Pie so he could pick out a cookie. Every Mommy date deserves a little treat.

Since school had been cancelled Mon/Tues, Emma's class party had been moved to Wednesday. I am one of the room moms for Emma's kindergarten class, so I packed up the craft and goodie bags that we had created for the event and headed over for a "Scarecrow Party." Sadly, I forgot to take pictures, but it was a very successful party. Mrs. Fay, Emma's teacher, is super-organized and has most of the party centers planned out ahead of time. 

After school, I had a full afternoon of violin teaching, but we broke off at 5:30 to devour some Domino's Pizza and get set up for trick or treating. Adam set up his table of tricks, complete with black light and strobe lighting, and had kids touch cold spaghetti (brains) and gaze at a cauldron full of eyeballs before getting their treat. 

Here are our trick or treaters: Spencer the black ninja, Emma the 50's girl, and John the firefighter. 

Trick or treating was a big hit with all three of the kids. John would approach each door and say "treat." He was pretty charming in his little fireman costume and got a lot of comments. I was glad Grandpa was along since John sometimes wanted "up" between houses, and I'm already carrying one little boy full time these days. Grandma helped Adam man the trick or treat station at our house. Here's John at our neighbor's house just after he picked up the latest addition to his collection of candy.

Grammy and Papa have no trick or treaters this year since Trina has turned 12 and was at a youth activity. So, they stopped by to see our cute little costumed kiddos. They caught us just as we stopped by our last house and then got to observe the candy sorting and trading part of the evening. It was a hugely successful haul for these kiddos. Good thing they are such good sports about the "Daddy Tax" and the "Mommy Tax." Every time we pull out their treats, they come running to pay up. Love these kiddos!

If Ye Are Prepared, Ye Shall Not Fear

With Hurricane Sandy looming, we spent most of Monday in the comfort of our home. The kids were a little nervous as the wind gusted throughout the day, but we kept ourselves distracted by tackling a craft project that will become a Christmas gift for the Cummings cousin exchange. By evening, all the weather reports were suggesting that the worst of the storm would reach our area in the middle of the night. We didn't want to venture too far from home but did make it over to Gma and Gpa's house to keep our tradition of doing FHE together. We carved pumpkins together and had some missionaries on hand to help in the effort. 

Here is the end result. Spencer and Gpa did the one on the left; I traced the one in the middle but let the missionaries carve it; Emma came up with the design for the peace sign pumpkin, which I traced and then Adam helped her carve. John had a hand in scooping seeds out (and then putting them back in just for an added measure of fun). 

After our pumpkins were prepped for All Hallow's Eve, we headed back home to set up for a family campout in the basement. There are a good number of trees behind the house, some of which were already leaning. We knew that between that and the fact that the wind really whistles as it gusts 'round the corners of the house, we would all sleep more soundly if we were together and out of the reach of falling arboles. The kids took it on as an adventure, and it served to put at ease the concerns that had been mounting as the wind grew in intensity. While we got kids in pajamas and bedding downstairs, Adam had an ingenious family rule: each child had to be with a parent and a flashlight at all times. We took turns being runners, and our kids each took possession of their own little light source in case of a power outage. Armed with the knowledge that they wouldn't be left alone in the dark, they proved to be super helpful. Everyone was settled at a very reasonable hour; Spencer and Emma were asleep by 9; John was pleasant but awake for a LONG time, savoring the excitement of a change in sleeping quarters, but even he finally dozed off. I slept much better than I had the night before when I kept waking up wondering if the sump pump was still working or whether the kids were okay. I did abandon the air bed halfway through the night in favor of the couch. My 6.5 months of prego belly are too hard to maneuver at ground level.
  Other preparations we made that gave me peace of mind:
Extra blankets on hand in case the power/heat went out
Frozen food all piled in the garage freezer
Extra gallons of milk frozen to prevent spoilage and provide "ice" to the fridge or a cooler if necessary
Pitchers and bowls filled with drinking water
Bathtub full in a locked bathroom in case we needed extra water
All the laundry done and dried
Extra batteries, flashlights, and glow sticks
Generator test-started and extra gas on hand to run the sump pump if necessary

As it turned out, our area was not hit very hard by Hurricane Sandy. We still didn't have school on Tuesday because some parts of the county were without power and the gusts predicted in the forecast were to be formidable, but we spent the day visiting grandparents' homes, and I still taught some violin lessons.

Spencer and Adam ventured down to the nearby Goose Creek, which was measuring in at 8 feet ABOVE flood levels. Here's a photo of my little explorer. Hard to tell from this angle, but the water was well into the tree line. 

We feel very blessed to have weathered this storm, and our prayers go out to those whose lives and homes are still being pieced back together in the wake of a hurricane.