Wednesday, February 29, 2012

President's Day and Beyond

We extended our President's Day weekend into a week long trip to visit Aunt Joyce and Uncle Dave in the Outer Banks.

Unfortunately, we forgot our camera so we began experimenting taking pictures with my old school flip phone. They are a bit grainy, but at least we could capture some of the moments of this trip filled with great memories.

I walked with the kids down to the nature center, "The Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education", a couple times while Marc took some long bike rides. The kids love the stuffed animals and aquarium filled with fish. Abigail is currently loving birds, and on this trip I realized she makes a distinction between birds and ducks. If she sees a bird on the water, it is a duck. It she sees it flying, it is a bird. Smart kid!

We took a family bike ride to the beach, where Joseph's tire went flat and Abigail insisted on eating the sand.  Unbelievably, it was warm enough to spend some nice time walking and sitting on the beach.

Uncle Dave came with us to visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial. It was a freezing cold and windy day so we mostly stayed in the visitor's centers rather than venturing out to the flight field. On our way home, we stopped at the outlets and found some clothes and shoes for Joseph.

We had a great visit with Aunt Joyce and Uncle Dave. "The guys" went swimming several times at the indoor pool and hot tub. Joseph loved showing Uncle Dave his swimming skills. Abigail tried the pool once, but was not a fan. Joseph also loved watching Disney's Cars 2 with Aunt Joyce--and as always, hearing her stories.
We celebrated Uncle Dave's birthday (and Joseph's upcoming birthday)

One of our favorite days, we took a daytrip to the end of the Outer Banks.  We drove down and saw the Bodie Lighthouse, the Hatteras lighthouse, and then took a ferry across to Ocracoke Island where we saw the final lighthouse.  The ferry was great fun. On the way over, we didn't realize you could get out of the car so we were all in our van for the 45 minute trip. We ate lunch together, and Abigail and Jospeh were  We saw some huge sandbars that were coveredl like a blanket in black birds. The seagulls were following right along the ferry boat so I tossed a chip out the window to see if the gull would catch it. Indeed it did swoop and catch it, and looked like it was headed straight toward me for more. Joseph still laughs about how I started to panic and said, "Roll up the window, roll up the window!" I was afraid the bird was going to fly right into our car.  It was a really fun ferry ride. The way home we figured out you could get out of the car so there was much more exploring (but less laughing and togetherness). 
The ferry ride home from Ocracoke

As we waited for the ferry, there was a big parking lot filled with seagulls. Joseph chased them (which he has done for as long as I can remember) and Abigail walked up to them waving her little hand saying "hello!"  It was very cute. 
Joseph and Mom at the Ocracoke lighthouse
We loved the little island of Ocracoke. There was an interesting visitor center with a worker who was willing to answer Joseph's questions (always nice when we score someone who is up to that challenge. She was able to identify the black birds that we had seen blanketing the huge sand bars we had seen on our ferry ride). 

I was really interested in the demographics of the town and the groups of  new Hispanic immigrants and the island dwellers whose families have been local to this area for generations.  I was fascinated and ready to come live on Ocracoke and do an ethnographic study for my dissertation. I found the elementary school, a house for sale, and Marc said he'd love to work on a shrimping boat for a year. We stopped at a delicious little taco truck (Eduardo's taco--Eduardo was from Hidalgo, Mexico) and I chatted with Eduardo and then another man who worked at a nearby hardware store.Marc finally had to pull me away because we were about to miss our ferry.
Back closer to Corolla, we stopped at Oregon Inlet at the end of the day when the big recreational fishermen were returning to shore. We got there just in time to see them with this prize bluefish tuna.  We also got to chat with a researcher from the state of North Carolina who monitors the what is being caught and a researcher from the University of Maryland who collects bones from the heads of fish to see where the fish were born.  He waits on the docks to connect with the fishermen to get his "data."  Isn't the world fascinating?!?

February 19-25, 2012

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Connecting with old friends

Often on my trips to Missouri, I spend my time catching up with family. This time, however, I got off of the comfy couch by the fire a few times and made the effort to  connect with people beyond my family circle.

Johanna I. and Laura H. and I got together with our combined five and half children. It was great fun hearing about what has happened in their lives--graphic design consulting business, doula training, marriages, and babies. I loved meeting their adorable little boys. The only disappointment? I forgot to take a picture!

Mom also invited over friends to share a meal with us a couple times during the trip.  I was delighted to see Judy M., one of my former piano teachers and dear friends, as well as Cathy M. who is a friend of mom's.  Cathy always is a great cheerleader for my children.  What mother doesn't need another supporter?

I also went to breakfast with one of my high school teachers and mentors, Mrs. Berthold.  She is retired now, but as active and involved as ever. She told me about her travels and volunteering in food banks and political campaigns. I feel lucky to have had so many inspiring people in my life over the years.

Finally, I visited Veronica for the first time in 15 years!  Veronica is one of my oldest friends. She and I started kindergarten together. She lived in my neighborhood so we rode the bus together and shared many, many childhood and teenage memories together.   Veronica was also the smartest person in our school--elementary, junior high, high school--Veronica was a genius. Our sophomore year in high school, just after Veronica had been awarded a National Merit Scholarship, she left school. Veronica took her own path in life--I'm not sure if she ever attended college, but she has lived a fascinating life full of contribution and adventure. I absolutely admire her courage and tenacity in pursuing her dreams over the years--I can't think of anyone else I know who has truly defied convention and lived life on her own terms like Veronica has.  Veronica has lived in New Orleans and St. Louis. She married and raised four children, homeschooling each of them. She bought a home in the northside of St. Louis City and has worked for 10 years to build community in that neglected part of the city. She runs a community garden and participates in a local farmer's market. She presents, with her children, at community development conferences. She raises chickens in her urban yard. Most recently, she fulfilled a life long dream to open a coffee shop. She opened it in her northside St. Louis neighborhood and says that the purpose of the shop is to build community. While I was in town, I went to her coffeehouse with my children and my mother. I hadn't seen her for fifteen years and when I told her who I was, she choked up with tears in her eyes.  Her oldest son, 14, was working with her in the shop. I had never met any of her children so it was such a treat to meet him--and I was so impressed.   Mom, Joseph, and I had a delicious lunch. Even my non-eater Abigail was gobbling down Veronica's chicken corn chowder.  And we chatted with Veronica--catching up on all the years that have passed.  I enjoyed observing Veronica in action in her community--interacting with customers in a meaningful way. I learned about the Spanish language practice nights, artist demonstrations, music performances,and story times that are hosted at the coffeehouse. I have spent many years and thousands of dollars studying social work in hopes of "learning how to" do what Veronica is actually doing.

 It was one of the most delightful reunions I can ever remember having. I walked away from the coffeehouse with a couple conclusions:
  • If you are ever in St. Louis, visit La Mancha Coffeehouse 
  • Buck the system! Forget what other people say you have to do--follow your dreams!! You only get to live life once. But as Veronica warned me, "Following your dreams is a lot of work!" 
In all the ideas that I mull over regarding  our future, what I think I really crave is community and connection with people--exactly what Veronica has sacrificed to create in her life. I admire what she has done. I didn't understand when she left school when we were 16 years old. I still didn't understand when  we visited together a year or two later; I was definitely curious and wondered about the day to day of her life compared to my high-school, university-focused, "achievement"-driven daily life. I didn't understand about forging an uncharted path. But now, as a mid-thirties wife and mother, fully entrenched in societal structure and expectations, I think I am starting to understand what an amazing feat she has accomplished. Well done, dear friend.

January 2012

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Saturday in Missouri

Grandpa watched Joseph and Abigail while Mom, Catherine, and I went to visit a new department store Von Maur (which I would like to tell you has a posh mother's lounge--reason enough to go here).

Catherine, Abigail, and I went to lunch at Penn Station, (which I had seen advertised--those marketing ploys really work!) while Joseph went with Grandma and Grandpa to cheer on Ben at his (winning) pinewood derby. 

After the morning events, we all rushed out to St. Charles Main Street for the tail end of the ice sculpture festival. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saturday, February 25, 2012

My Joseph

Me and my guy at the Ocracoke Lighthouse, North Carolina. February 22, 2011
Joseph is going through a "phase."  Almost six years into this motherhood thing, I can say that with confidence, well at least hope.

He debates with me about everything. I like to foster independent thinking, but sometimes I'm afraid it borders on disrespectful to me and others.  Truthfully, it has been driving me a bit crazy.I don't want my kid to be that know-it-all brat. You know what I mean? 

Anyhow, I've been working with him on trying to be respectful in the way he shares his opinion or talks to people in general.  Here is one of my all time favorite quotes (from our recent time in Missouri):

After I told Joseph something, he was running to the other room and he said, "I already knew that."  There was a short pause as if he realized maybe he hadn't quite said the right thing.  We were in separate rooms so I couldn't see his face, but then he said, "But thanks for reminding me."  Oh, Joseph!!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Missouri Cousins

Joseph had a ball with his cousins.

 Luckily, Grace and Ally had an early release day at school while we were in town. They came over to Grandmas and the kids sat together like this and watched Dolphin Tale and then played playdough.

Shaia, Joseph, and Abigail bonded during this visit.  Joseph entertained Shaia by giving her rides in the Fisher Price car. I think he liked pushing her because she liked going faster than we'd let him push Abigail.   I enjoyed catching up with David while the kids played.

January 2012

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Catching Up

See pictures of Abigail's first bike ride back in October here

Friday, February 17, 2012

Aunt Rachel

At Rachel's Superbowl party February 5, 2012
I love this picture of the kids and Aunt Rachel--it captures perfectly how they are drawn to her like a magnet. They want to be where she is. )Too bad Abigail is blurry--she just can't stay still long enough for a picture)

Today Aunt Rachel took the day off work and met us on our walk to school and then spent the morning with Abigail and me. She read, danced, and played with Abigail and then joined us at baby story time. Aunt Rachel is famous around these parts. We're so blessed to have her. Every child (and sister-in-law) should be so lucky.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Happy Heart Day

The awesome thing about your children waking you up at 5:30 am is that you have time to make homemade sugar cookies with buttercream frosting--before school.

I used a new recipe that we really liked.  Oh, and the frosting was pink even though you can't tell in this photo.

Abigail and I went to Joseph's school for the party. He loved passing out his Valentines.

And Abigail enjoyed playing in the kitchen during the party.

And then the sugar rush hit--and we headed home for nap while the teachers dealt with these cute kiddos.

Happy Valentine's Day!
February 14, 2012

Monday, February 13, 2012

Blacksburg Visit

It has been three years since the December night we drove out of Blacksburg--two-year-old Joseph sandwiched in his carseat between boxes and suitcases, and I in the front passenger seat holding the vacuum which wouldn't fit anywhere but right up front alongside my legs.

In the three years since we left small town student life behind, I've often longed for the Blacksburg days.  Though I often search for houses online in Blacksburg, we've never returned.

For my birthday, we took a trip to Blacksburg to walk through memory lane. Joseph was a good sport to listen to us go on and on. We drove by our old houses, through campus and by Marc's building and the little spot we would meet to bring him dinner.  We showed Joseph the public library, the duck pond, the Huckleberry Trail--all the places he spent so many hours as a little one.

We didn't actually walk around downtown or around Pandapas pond or take a ride on the trail. We had forgotten how biting the wind in Blacksburg can be.

We visited The Floyd Country Store and heard some beautiful music. We shopped a little and enjoyed some treats--Joseph is still talking about his double decker ice cream cone and who can go wrong with the bakery's "carmel seduction" dessert?

We loved the hotel (Marriott really is nicer than the budget places!!) In the room, Marc pushed the kids around in the chair-on-wheels. Daddy entertainment is always the best.

We visited friends who just moved to the most beautiful home in the country. Their children are creative and smart and embody all that is good in childhood--dressing up the cat in doll clothes, playing with wooden swords, and big sister and little sister teaming up to create a restaraunt in the play kitchen. The children all immediately welcomed my Joseph and Abigail, who counted the visit as the highlight of the weekend. We sat in rocking chairs and talked chickens and goats while the children played. We will continue to dream of being like them someday.

We went to church in our old ward, where we were warmly welcomed (even from the pulpit at the beginning of the meeting). It was fun to see dear friends and familiar faces and hear the news of many who have also graduated and moved to other places. The teenagers I taught Sunday School are now married, returning from missions, working at neat jobs, approaching graduation from college. 

February 11-12, 2012

Friday, February 10, 2012

Another Year Older

Today I turned 35. A good age, I've decided already. I think I need to savor this year--when gray hairs can still be plucked out, when the wrinkles haven't yet won the war they are waging on my face, when I can still cuddle a baby and a boy who are all mine.

Fifteen years ago I turned 20--fresh out of my teens and enjoying the wonders of BYU as seen through the eyes of an midwestern orthodox Mormon girl.  I remember that birthday fondly--my sisterhood girlfriends (with the help of my brother, Dan) kidnapped me and took me to dinner at China Lily, which used to be on Center Street in Provo. We laughed and ate, and I reveled in the love of dear friends that cold night. Fifteen years doesn't feel that long ago. Fifteen years from today I will be turning 50. My Joseph will be 20.  These growing up years with him will be over--just memories. So, I really want to enjoy today. And tomorrow. And each one of these next fifteen years. And then I'll start on my plans for the next 50

A few days before my birthday with my mom

Thursday, February 09, 2012

16 months

She is a joy.

She is a chatterbox, a shameless flirt, fast on her knees, and as sweet as they come. She loves to dance, sing, read, play peek-a-boo, pretend to eat (but not really do it), and meet and charm new people. She packs quite a personality in her 1st percentile body.

We love our Abigail.  She helps me understand how people like my mother would ever have eight children. She truly brings us all joy.

February 5, 2012

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Joseph the Artist

When I picked up Joseph from school yesterday, his teacher told me Joseph's artwork had been selected for the Arlington County Elementary Art Exhibit.  He is invited to an "Artists Reception" tonight. I must admit, I thought my buttons were going to pop with pride!  I can't take any credit for it--I don't have an artistic bone in my body (and actually always felt a little guilty that I don't do arts and crafts projects with my kids). Joseph's talent definitely comes from Marc's side of the family.

Now, the truth is that Joseph has been covering every available surface with his drawings.  We would be smothered if I kept it all.  I guess I'm making excuses because....I throw his artwork away! Yes, I do  it when he is sleeping or at school.  More than once, he has discovered it in the recycle bin and brought it back in so now I hide it within something else before I toss it.  But I do take pictures of some of it. 

The first picture is Joseph and his masterpiece that is being showcased in the exhibit, then a few of his "early works" from kindergarten

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

It has begun

Today Abigail and I went to have lunch with Joseph at school.  She discovered the toy kitchen area so I spent much of the time watching her there instead of sitting at Joseph's table. He didn't seem to mind.  When it was time to go, Abigail pitched a fit!  I carried her crying from the classroom, through the school, and fought her arched back into the carseat! I have so many memories of carrying Joseph crying from playgrounds, libraries, etc.  So, now that phase has begun with Abigail. I actually find it to be rather adorable--watching her personality emerge and take shape, her opinions and will strengthen. I know I won't always find it so endearing, but maybe because I know it is a phase, or maybe because it is just the beginning, at least today I find it enjoyable.

Abigail also loved the play kitchen in Grandma Charlotte and Grandpa Bill's playroom:

Monday, February 06, 2012

Home again, home again

So, we're home from Missouri. I'll finish posting about our trip--still lots to say about that.  But, for now, we're back to reality.

Luckily, I like my reality these days.

This morning as I was making Joseph's lunch for school I told him I was sending chips in his lunch today. He was thrilled--he said he would match his friend who brings chips everyday (somehow, I can still get away with sending him baby carrots or apple slices). Then he asked me what kind of chips. I told him Doritos (left over from the awesome Super Bowl party Aunt Rachel invited us to last night).  He then said (I kid you not): "The triangle ones that are the same shape as the head of a praying mantis?"

Then, off to school.He rode his bike as Abigail and I walked behind him. She and I actually did a little running since we slightly behind schedule this morning. As we crossed the final street to the school, Joseph shouted out, "Thank you Mr. Crossing Guard. See you this afternoon," as he zoomed across the crosswalk (I think he is supposed to walk his bike, but oh well).   I love him. I love his enthusiasm and friendliness.  His teacher said they really missed him while we were gone. Of course, he beamed and basked in all the welcome back attention.

During the day with Abigail, I read her Goodnight Moon about 15 times. She is obsessed with it. She usually will read a stack of books with me. Not today. If I tried to read her another book, she would put Goodnight Moon back in my hands and point to it (and make noises until I started reading it again).  Also, if I tried to check my email, she would try to put Goodnight Moon back onto my lap. When Joseph got home, I decided he could practice his reading with Abigail.
I thought I was going to die of cuteness overload when she put her head right there on his shoulder!!!
February 6. 2012

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Family Time

The best part of our trip was just hanging out with family.

Abigail and Aunt Catherine are great friends. When we first saw Catherine, Abigail immediately wanted to go to her--and wouldn't come back to me!!!  I figured she must have remembered  when Aunt Catherine came to help me at the end of my semester when Abigail was just two months old.  She imprinted on her! 

My dad and Abigail do the airplane trick--and Abigail's famous surprise face.

Abigail quickly learned that Aunt Hannah is the go-to girl for tickles and wrestling!

Joseph loves Grandma Charlotte. We have an apartment building on our street. Joseph suggested we live in one apartment and Grandma Charlotte could live in the apartment across the hall from us. He'd like a bit closer proximity. Me too!

Joseph and Grandpa had fun building fires together.  There were a lot of tickle fights, too!
We love our family--near and far.
January 2012

Friday, February 03, 2012

St. Louis Arch

For the first time, we took Joseph to St. Louis Gateway Arch . It is a great cold, winter day activity.

It is really hard to grasp the size of the arch--here we are on the outside at the base

In the museum at the base of the Arch, Joseph learned about Lewis & Clark and their explorations of the newly acquired Louisana Purchase.  It is a good thing Aunt Catherine took the day off work and joined us because I was telling Joseph all kinds of false information.  Finally, I just turned the educational  portion of the tour over to Catherine and her fine homeschooling education while I hung my public educated head in shame :)  Seriously, it was so fun to have Aunt Catherine, Aunt Hannah, and Grandma all together for this trip.

Joseph and Abigail with Aunt Catherine

Isn't he hilarious?

We also watched the film about the building of the arch, which I find fascinating (and a little bit terrifying--no safety standards, it seemed) and which I thought Joseph would enjoy. He did.

Although he enjoyed seeing footage from the arch being built and learning about Lewis & Clark and buffalos and such, what he really loved was riding to the top of the Arch and looking out of the little windows.  He said the people looked like ants down below.

Joseph and Abigail looking out of the window at the top of the Arch.

In the tram on the way to the top

Another one of the tram ride

January 27, 2012

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Happy 11th Ben!

Joseph was thrilled to help celebrate Ben's birthday.  Joseph loves his cousins!