Thursday, December 18, 2014

21 Years!

21-years ago today, on a beautiful sunny and cold Colorado morning,  Glen and I were married in the Denver temple.  We were young, but very much in love and so excited to be starting our new lives together.   
December 18, 1993

In those 21-years we've...

earned 3 college degrees
(Lara {BS}, Glen {BS, MAcc})

had 5 kids
(Spencer, Cami, Emma, Adam, Ellie)

lived at 6 different addresses
 (1 in Utah, 3 in Baltimore, 2 in Virginia)

owned 1 house
(where we currently live)

been in 4 different wards 
(C H 1st--3-years, Tow./Luth.--2-years, Hamp.--1-year, Vi.--15-years)

owned or leased 8 cars 
(some of them better than others)
(Dodge Shadow [93-96], Ford Taurus [96-98], Toyota Camry [98-02], Toyota Sienna #1 [02-14], 
Toyota Corolla [03-11], Toyota Sienna #2 [11-?], Lexus [14-?], Honda Accord [14-?])

totaled 2 of those cars
(Glen x1, Cami x1) 

owned 1 Christmas tree
(bought it at a Black Friday sale when we were first married)

lost 6 grandparents
(only my paternal grandmother is left)

had 1 kid diagnosed with a life-threatening illness
(He's 2-1/2 years in remission now!!!!) 

had 1 kid diagnosed with a chronic, life-affecting illness
(Ellie told Cami just yesterday that she was glad she didn't have to worry about driving 
when she was older, because the thought of driving made her nervous.  I hope she feels the same in 7-years.)

had 4 surgeries performed
(Spencer x3 {central line placement and removal, appendix removal}, Emma x1 {eye surgery})

homeschooled each one of the kids for at least one year
(actually we're in the middle of Emma's year right now)

had 5 broken bones
(Spencer x2 {finger + toe}, Adam x1 {foot}, Ellie x1 {ankle}, Lara x1 {toe}) 

had 6+ pets
(2 hermit crabs, 2 gerbils, an assortment of fish, 1 dog

been on countless road trips together 
(as a family we're up to 42 states, we only have SC, GA, FL, MS, AL, LA, AK, and HI left)

changed approximately 22,812 diapers
(averaging 5 per day, 2-1/2-years per kid)

21-years later…
we're older, grayer, heavier…

and more in love than ever!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Week in the Life

A few of the snippets from this week 

I spent 6 hours helping Ellie and Adam clean out their room--including the deepest darkest corners of their closet.

Ellie is so excited about her newly cleaned room that she's spending hours a day in there and  bragging about it to every person she sees.

I thought I was wildly hilarious when writing our Christmas letter this year and I am hoping that it comes off as at least slightly funny and not totally stupid.  Because I was worried that  my attempt at humor may be a little too goofy for  some people, I'm sending edited versions  or letterless cards to some people.  My goal is to have them all out by the end of the weekend.

I fell sacked-out, sound asleep at Cami's orchestra concert, totally missing the grand finale. 

Our (Ellie's) Elf on the Shelf is back on the prowl.   Stay tuned for a blogpost coming soon!

I have a new favorite cookbook and it has reignited my excitement for trying new recipes again!   I've made out-of-this-world rugelach (pastries), the best meatballs ever, and spaghetti squash tacos that we've made three times already and I still daydream about the next time (tomorrow)!  

We went to a couple's white elephant gift exchange tonight and one of our two shabbily wrapped gifts ended up being the very first one chosen of the night and the other ended up being the very last one chosen.

Another picture of the 4 east coast siblings from our weekend trip to Massanutten

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Weekend Away!

When we moved out East almost eighteen years ago, no one from my side of the family lived within 1000 miles of us.   It didn't take long though, before they started realizing how fun it was to be near their favorite oldest sister (and what a fantastic area Washington DC is), and we had regular visits from them through the year.   Before long, my siblings realized that merely visiting us wasn't enough, and one-by-one they started moving here.   Over the course of the last couple of decades, all of my siblings except one has done a stint living in our area for at least a year or two.   

And for the last several years, I have been very blessed to have three of my seven siblings live within an hour of us.   I enjoy being able to share special occasions with them and I absolutely love that my kids consider their cousins to be their friends!  Their proximity to us has been an incalculable blessing to our family and I  love  having them nearby. 

And that is why we are so sad about Matt and Karey (and Jack and Lincoln) picking up and moving to England last week.  While I'm thrilled for them to have that kind of an opportunity, I am sad because we will miss them dearly for the three years they'll be gone.   Jack and Lincoln are like the younger siblings Ellie never had and all of us enjoy their snuggles and youthful energy!

Before they left the country, they decided that in order to maximize the time they spent with family, that we needed a little family weekend away.    Since none of us have houses big enough to host all of our families at once (7 adults and 11 children), they decided to rent a house in Massanutten where we could spend an entire weekend together under the same roof!  

The house had beds for every single person and although too short of a time, it was a very fun weekend with lots of laughing, games, and giggles!

Everyone ate up their Uncle Matt time….

and their time with this little cutie!  He's a sweet little guy who melted our hearts with his narrative of all that was going on around him.  You could literally see the wheels of his brain turning as patched together very advanced and deliberate sentences.  We will miss Jack!  

The kids also really enjoyed the time they spent with Lincoln.  He's quite a bit younger than our kids, but has similar interests (Legos and nature) that make him a fun guy to hang out with! 

Spence and Cami got caught up on some sleep!

It was a fun weekend  and we really enjoyed the time we got to spend together before Matt and Karey left.   

We saw them again one more time before they left, then we dropped them off at the airport on Thursday night.

We will miss them dearly!  

In the meantime, we hope maybe to make a little trip to visit them sometime while they are there
 and we are strongly rooting for them to move back this way when they return! 


Friday, December 5, 2014

Gratitude Week #1

Every Thanksgiving our family does an activity of some kind to help us to focus more on gratitude.   We've done gratitude trees, a blessing box, going around the table, etc.   Although the actual activity varies somewhat from year-to-year, the concept has always been very similar.   This year we decided to try something a little more personal.

Shortly before Thanksgiving, Glen and I issued a challenge to our family to keep a daily gratitude journal through the end of the year.   Being a person who has always enjoyed keeping a journal anyway, I  have found it to be a surprisingly exhilarating challenge!   I think most of us are pretty good at listing off the obvious answers of family, God, and home when asked to name the things we are grateful for, but I have loved the challenge in finding something note-worthy in each and every average day.  Even the days when I am so busy I can hardly think straight.    Or I'm hormonal and grumpy.   Or  just plain tired! 


Here's a glimpse at my  journal:

Day 1--(11/24/14)--I am grateful for a gorgeous day with unseasonably warm temperatures.   The kids and I went on a long walk and enjoyed being outside together.  

Day 2--(11/25/14)--I am grateful for Spencer’s good check-up today at the oncologist.  This appointment marks almost 30 months in remission and I am thrilled for his continued health.

Day 3--(11/26/14)--I am grateful for the beautiful snowfall and the opportunity to get a lot of things accomplished around the house.  

Day 4--(11/27/14)--THANKSGIVING DAY--I am grateful for a beautifully peaceful day, a family who loves to cook,  and lots and lots of delicious homemade food (made by the family who loves to cook).  

Day 5--(11/28/14)--I am grateful for leftover pie, which if you didn’t know makes for a great lunch!  It was also fun to see the excitement of the kids as Glen put up the Christmas tree!

Day 6--(11/29/14)--I am grateful for the opportunity I had this afternoon to help someone in need.   I am also grateful for good friends and the time we spent with them this evening.   

Day 7--(11/30/14)--I am grateful for the testimonies of those around me.   I’m not one to get up to bear my own testimony very often, but I am inspired by others and always leave testimony meetings with a stronger desire to do better.     

I am also grateful to live very near one of the best hospitals in the DC area.  It was a HUGE blessing when Spencer was sick and proved to be a great blessing today too, when I took Glen to the same hospital to address his odd symptoms.


Day 8--(12/1/14)--I am grateful that all of Glen’s medical tests have come back normal and that he can return home from the hospital this evening.   It was a stark reminder of how hard it is to have someone in the hospital and I am extremely grateful for Spencer’s, and everyone in our family’s health.  

Day 9--(12/2/14)--I am grateful for our ward’s book group and the opportunity it gives me to stretch my mind to read great books that I probably would never naturally be drawn to.   We read “Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President” by Candice Millard, a nonfiction book interweaving the lives of James Garfield, Alexander Graham Bell, and to a lesser extent Garfield’s murderer.   It was a fascinating read and I am ever in awe of authors who can present nonfiction material in an engaging way that draws you into the story so fully.   I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion and left with  a newfound appreciation for how far the medical field has come, as well as for some great men and women, none of whom I previously knew much about, who have made our country and world a better place.

Day 10--(12/3/14)--I am grateful for the opportunity to take a 20-minute nap this afternoon.  It’s not often that I let myself check-out like that, but today it was a necessary evil so that I could continue functioning on an even minimal level.   I consider early morning seminary to be a huge blessing, but boy does it make me tired!

Day 11--(12/4/14)--I am grateful that we got to spend time with Matt and Karey and family today before they took off this evening for their 3-year stint in England.  We will miss them very much.  

Day 12--(12/5/14)--I am grateful to live so near so many amazing places--both cultural and historical!  Today we saw a performance of the Nutcracker performed by the National Ballet at Catholic University.  Although I was somewhat familiar with the story through the kids’ storybooks, this was the first time I’d ever seen it performed.    We all agreed it was cool to watch, but even already knowing the storyline, the story was very confusing to follow without any words

I am also grateful to have wonderful ladies to work with in YW.   We had a presidency meeting today and once again I am in awe of their hard work and dedication to not only serving the young women of our ward, but also to living the gospel every day!

Day 13--(12/6/14)--I am grateful to have gotten caught up on some housework.  After a couple of “off” weekends, our house was pretty much thrashed.  I’ve been a step-behind the housework all week! I finally got a bunch of laundry done, the kids finally did their Saturday chores, and I’m hoping that the dishes are done with overflowing out of the sink.  

I am also grateful for good friends who not only are kind, but thoughtful too.  

Day 14--(12/7/14)--I am grateful for a wonderful day at stake conference, for the opportunity we had to take long (and brisk) walk around Burke Lake.  I am also grateful for the two bald eagles we saw as we were walking!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Riddle Answers (aka the Day of Stern Warnings)

I'm pretty sure no one would have ever gotten this riddle right unless you happen to live in our house, but  here are the answers to the few of you who might actually have been a little worried about us.  Thanks for your awesome guesses, H!   The offer still stands for whomever figures out how to rewind the clock to simpler days.  

I started today in a courtroom, spent most of the rest of it at the hospital, and then just made a frantic 9:00pm mad dash to the grocery store for sugar and cream cheese. What was going on today?   


1.  Why was I in a courtroom?   Cami had been served a summons (by a policeman showing up at our door) to go to court because of her traffic accident in August.    Monday was her day in court.   Thankfully the judge was kind to her, dismissed the charges, and sent her on her way with a very stern warning to be a better driver.

2.   Why did I spend most of the day at the hospital?  Glen almost passed out at church on Sunday (while bearing his testimony).   Because nothing like that had ever happened to him before, I took him to the ER to rule out anything serious going on.   The doctors immediately admitted him and spent about 30 hours performing a myriad of tests on him.   Everything (heart, lungs, blood, blood pressure, etc) all came back totally normal and he was finally released on Monday evening with a stern warning not to skip breakfast anymore.

One of the worst parts about the whole incident was that it happened very publicly, which is the only reason why I am even mentioning it here on the blog.  Not a ton of people noticed the incident actually happening, but then when the bishop called on Glen to comment in the third hour of church and we were already gone,  apparently one of my friends very frankly replied to everyone, "Glen almost passed out and Lara took him to the hospital."    That's when the texts and phone calls started like crazy.    

On the one hand, it was great to see the outpouring of love and concern for his wellbeing, but on the other hand, it was a tad embarrassing to have his little health scare so widely known.   We even had Glen's parents worriedly calling him from Colorado, because Glen's aunt, who is in our ward, had told them.   I opted not to tell my family until it was over, just to avoid unnecessarily alarming anyone else.  We figured a couple hundred worried people was plenty, at least until we knew whether there was something actually worthy of worry going on.

He is now feeling almost 100% and the only restrictions he was given, was to not use his right arm for two days because of a procedure they did to him.  The worst part about that is that means he can't drive, which means that yours truly is acting as chauffeur as he goes to and from work (20 miles each way).  I  actually really like the extra time I get to spend with him in the car, but I am already really, really sick of traffic.

3.   Why did I have to make a mad dash trip to the store for sugar and cream cheese at 9:00pm?   Cami had two big cupcake orders at the same time and did not realize until 9:00pm that we were totally out of sugar and cream cheese.   In a family that has a food storage, running out of a staple like sugar is almost unheard of.   Then again, if I were to try to have an entire year's supply of sugar in our house, it would probably take up an entire room.  With her cupcake business and all of children's predilection to baking, it's absolutely obscene how much butter, cocoa, eggs, sugar, and powdered sugar we go through at our house.     Thankfully it's not us eating all of it.

I was not very excited by the late night (by my standards) trip to the store and Cami ended the day with a stern warning to better stay on top of her ingredient supplies, so that I can replenish them when I'm grocery shopping anyway.  

Monday, December 1, 2014

A True Riddle

I started today in a courtroom, spent most of the rest of it at the hospital, and then just made a frantic 9:00pm mad dash to the grocery store for sugar and cream cheese.
This picture I took of the beautiful sunrise in the mountains of Virginia 
has nothing to do with the rest of the post. 

First person to guess what the heck was going on today gets a big yummy prize (and a contract with me to work as a mind reader).

Then I have a gazillion dollars to the first person to figure out how we can go back in time about five years and freeze everything to when life was a whole lot simpler!

Go ahead and guess….

PS  Everyone is fine and no one is in jail.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Little Christmas Miracle

After having Spencer at home for a whole wonderful week, the kids and I drove him back to Harrisonburg this afternoon.   Before dropping him off at his apartment, we stopped by the Harrisonburg Walmart that is right by campus, so we could get his cupboards and fridge restocked.   It had been a long drive there and by the time we got to Walmart, I was more than a little antsy to get back on the road, so we could be home by dark.

We filled the cart with all sorts of overpriced convenience foods that I only rarely buy for our family, but are ideal for a busy college student who doesn't have time to cook.   Half an hour later we wheeled our way to the long lines at the front of the store.   We  eventually found a checkout stand where it appeared that an order was just finishing up and we started unloading our cart onto the belt.   It didn't take long to realize though, that there was some sort of dispute going on with the cashier and the customer.  It was a young hispanic couple with a brand new baby.  The tiny infant didn't look like he was more than a few weeks old.  The young parents, speaking in barely understandable English, were trying to explain to the cashier that they thought that the cost of the baby swing they were purchasing was $40 cheaper than what it was ringing up for.   I, in my haste to get home, quickly removed my items from the belt and moved to the next register over.

A few minutes later,  as we were finishing checking out,  I got to witness a little Christmas miracle…right there in the checkout stands of a small-town Walmart.    By this time, the cashier had gotten louder and more argumentative with the young couple and was quite rudely telling them that there was no way that Walmart would ever mismark a price that drastically.  Then when a manager came back and confirmed that the price was indeed $149 (and not the $109 that they thought), the cashier only a little too gleefully started in on an "I-told-you-so" retort to the family.   The couple looked stricken and told the cashier, "Never mind," on buying the swing and started to walk dejectedly away.

That's when a ponytailed woman in sweats, three kids in tow, swooped in and paid for the swing with her own money.  She did it quickly, gave the young mom a quick hug, wished them "Merry Christmas," and walked out just like that.

It was a beautiful scene that I will remember always.


Friday, November 28, 2014

Bosom of My Family

"...the happiest moments of my life have been the few which I 
                  have {spent} at home in the bosom of my family."

Thomas Jefferson  penned these words in a letter to a friend over two hundred years ago, but they still ring true to me today.   With Spence at college and the kids growing older,  it seems like the days of our family all being together are fleeting and  much fewer and further between than I would prefer.  That's why I cling to days like today, when our entire family is together.  I feel an overarching sense of warmth and peace when we are all together under the same roof again.  

Our Thanksgiving this year was quiet…in a good way.  We spent the morning listening to Christmas music on Pandora, while we all cooked and cleaned and prepared for our Thanksgiving feast.  Every person made their own contribution to the meal and it seriously warmed my heart  this afternoon to look up and see almost my entire family working together in the kitchen.  

Glen made and carved our bacon-wrapped turkey and then made delicious gravy out of the drippings! It was our favorite turkey recipe yet and I have a feeling that this will be making a repeat on our Thanksgiving menus in the future! 

Emma made the fresh cranberry sauce that ended up the perfect balance of tart and sweet.

Cami made the stuffing from scratch, including using homemade bread. Then her and Adam also worked together and made the lemon meringue pie.   Cami may be a cupcake baker extraordinaire, but it was cute to see how darn proud she was of that pie! 

Emma made the mashed potatoes, chocolate pie, and cranberry sauce.   AnnaLisa brought the sweet potato rolls, peanut butter pie, and roasted brussel sprouts.   Cami made the stuffing and lemon meringue pie. Adam helped peel the potatoes and was general kitchen assistant.  Glen made the turkey and gravy.   Ellie made the pumpkin pie.  And I made the apple pie (and cleaned….a lot).    Spence was the only one who didn't do any cooking, but lucky for us he brought his charm and appetite to the table.   

I felt kind of dumb when I glanced at Glen's Facebook page this afternoon and saw all the fancy place settings, complete with nametags and napkin rings, that most people do for Thanksgiving, but what can I say?   We are about as UNfancy people as you get and the fact that we actually used {mostly} matching table settings instead of paper plates was a huge step up from normal for us.
…and I should probably stop peeking at Glen's FB!  

We celebrated an early Thanksgiving (blogpost is coming) this past weekend with my local siblings and their families, so AnnaLisa and her roommate, Sandi, were our only two guests this year.   They were delightful company and with all the delicious made-with-love food, it really was the kind of day that memories are made of.  My heart is overflowing and I wish you the same sense of contentment and peace that we felt today.  

Happy Thanksgiving!     

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

He's Got Platelets!

At every single appointment since Spencer's treatment for acute myeloid leukemia ended in June 2012, he has been found to be low on platelets.  The doctor never seemed overly worried about the low levels,  but we sometimes wondered if it was a sign of there being some underlying problem or something.   

Today we officially got to stop worrying about it!  This afternoon he went in for his oncology appointment (two months overdue) and he had the best blood levels we've ever seen!   Of course we never knew what his blood levels were pre-leukemia, but I imagine they probably looked a lot like today's results…totally normal in every way!   :)   


WBC:  7.49, RBC:  4.56,  HGB:  15.3, PLT:  204


Here are some pictures from the day:  

As per usual, Spence was quiet and a bit worried before his appointment.    
Me?   I just look tired and old, with freakishly white teeth.   

I love that they still give him fun bandages after drawing his blood! 

And here he is with a thumb's up for another awesome appointment!  

 A perfect way to start off the week of Thanksgiving!  

Monday, November 24, 2014

First Lego League

The FIRST LEGO League (also known by the acronym FLL) is an international lego robotics competition organized for elementary and middle school students (ages 9–14). I heard about FLL through one of my homeschooling email groups and after researching a little about it, decided that I would love for my kids to be able to participate on a team. I looked into joining a specific team, but the dynamics of when and where that particular team met were not right for our family. Then I thought of starting my own team, but got overwhelmed with all the details it entailed. Finally, I found out that my friend Rachel was starting a team and still had room for my kids to join. Yay!

We thought that being on an FLL team was going to be all about Legos, engineering, and programming, but once we got into it we realized that those aspects were only a small portion of the experience. It's also about team-building, problem solving, community outreach, creative thinking, and a whole lot of practice. We met for 3-6 hours a week and at the end of the season we barely felt like we were scratching the surface of what we needed to know. The other two families' kids had all had previous experience with Lego robotics, so we felt like we started the season several steps behind everyone else.

The other team members were patient with our inexperience and Rachel was an extraordinary coach who taught us and helped everyone to have a good experience. This past Saturday, the season came to an end with an all-day tournament and we finally got to see our season of work pay off.

During the tournament they had a few different match-ups against other teams for the robot to complete the assigned tasks. Each round was only 2-1/2 minutes long and each team's score was based on how many tasks were accurately completed by the robot in that period of time. Our team's philosophy was short programs that did just a task or two at a time. It wasn't as time efficient, but it increased the likelihood of the robot not getting off task. Each member of the team contributed to the programming and helped with the competition table dynamics.

But the robotics aspect only constituted a third of their potential points.

The competition also included a team-building activity and several interviews with the team members. They were given the opportunity to show how they worked together as a team and were asked in-depth questions about how their team incorporated the FLL Core Values into their practices and competition.

The final aspect of the competition was their team's presentation. They presented a play about music appreciation, which may seem a little funny in a lego robotics competition, but it went along with the theme of learning, which was the overall theme of this year's competition. They also got to tell a little about the community outreach they did at the preschool a couple of weeks ago. Their presentation was a cute little play that involved a retelling of the Good Samaritan and Ellie singing the song from the Lego Movie, "Everything is Awesome!"

Even with the interviews, presentations, and head-to-head robot competitions, there was still a lot of sitting around between events for the day. In the meantime there was lots of giggling, practicing their robot transitions….

and even some snuggling!

Our team (the Orange Oranges) was not even close to winning the tournament, but with the wide variety of ages and experience levels of our team members, they did pretty darn awesome. Their robot scored over 100 points and that was with every single team member being able to participate in every single aspect of the competition.

It turned out to be a whole lot more work than we expected it to be, but in the end it was one of those challenging experiences where everyone learned a ton, made new friends, and stretched themselves academically and socially.

In other words, it was worth every second of it!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sibling Love

Other than the extremely unflattering cut of the shirt I am wearing, I absolutely love this picture of Pete, Nate, AnnaLisa, and me.   This was taken a few weeks ago when my brother Nate came to town.  He's a world-traveler, always zipping around to somewhere crazy on the globe.   That day he was on his way to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and right now he is at Torres del Paine in Chile. He is only 13-months younger than me and although he is living a much different lifestyle than me (in that he's never-married), I am always happy when he finds time in his busy schedule to come visit his Virginia siblings.  

Although my family is scattered all across the country, I love how close we still are.  
It's one of the joys in my life and it makes me sad to hear of families that don't have the same kind of tight-knit connections that we do.   I consider all of my siblings (and parents) to be among my best friends, and I love that every single one of them makes visiting and connecting with their siblings a priority.  

My family is not perfect, but I am proud to be a Crain and pray that my own children will one day find the same joy and comfort in the relationships they have with their siblings as I have had with mine.  


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Counting the Ways

How much do I love working with the Young Women at church?

Let me count the ways...

                                              1.  Anna  B.                                     2.  Allie

                                    3.  Morgan                                           4.  Anna W.

                                         5.  Emma                                             6.  Elena

                                         7.  Maeve                                                 8.  McKenzie

                                         9.  Aubrey                                               10.  Ana

                                      11.  Sidney                                                  12.  Marina

                                       13.  Katy                                           14.  Cami

                                        15.  Annika                                               16.  Mikayla

                                  17.  Rachel                                                 18.  Miko

                                   19.  Lola                                                  20.  Kelly

                                         21.  Ashley                                                22.  Alexia

                                 23.  Courtney                                             24.  Maria

25.  Kate 

The girls are hard-working and faithful young women who inspire me on a daily basis.

And I love the wonderful ladies I work with as well….

                               1.   Sister M.                                                  2.  Sister W.

                              3.  Sister D.                                                  4.  Sister M.

5.  Sister W.  

6.  Sister H (no picture)                        7.  Sister G (no picture) 

  I am blessed to be able to spend time with them each week...
   …even when that requires wearing a hairnet and a lunch lady uniform! 
Dressed as lunch ladies for YW in Excellence
The menu for YW in Excellence
19 of the 25 Young Women in our ward
Mikayla, Ashley, Courtney, Annika, and Alexia
Rachel, Miko, and Anna at YW in Excellence
Kelly, Annika, Cami, and Katy

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