Friday, December 30, 2011

2011-- Month-by-Month

Here's a little glimpse of what  I may have put in the Christmas letter this year.  You know if 4-page single-spaced letters were still in vogue.  (they were at one point, right?)

January--We ate too much, exercised too little, and survived the ill-timed Commute-a-geddon snowstorm.  With numerous tales of hellish 8+ hour commutes, we've never been so grateful to live within walking distance of the Metro.


February-- Lara has become a certifiable wintertime wimp and breaks down and buys a "happy lamp" to help cope with the dark days. 
March--Our baby turned six.

Lara bores the world when she publishes a list of 101 random things about herself.

April-- After living a mere 2 hours away for 14 years, we took our first ever trip to Philadelphia during Spring Break.  We had a great time seeing all the historic sites, visiting an old friend,  and testing out the Philly Cheesesteaks, so I'm sure it will not take us another 14 years to get back there.   
We visit a bird sanctuary in Philadelphia and see some adorable baby owls.  Adam's second grade teacher has lit a bird-watching bug in us and we think it's one of the coolest parts of our trip. 

Lara wakes up on her birthday to her first cold sore in several years.  It was a lovely indicator of the day.

Spencer anticlimatically turns 16 and does not get his license and does not go on any dates. 

May--On a rainy day drive home from dropping the kids off at school after seminary, Glen totals our 2002 Corolla.  Thankfully, he is unhurt (other than his pride) and insurance pays us a mere $600 less than what we paid for it 8 years previously when we'd bought it on Ebay. 
June--We replace the Corolla and with another Toyota Sienna.  We figure that if we were going to replace one car, that we might as well replace the one that gets driven the most, so we now own two minivans.  We have mixed feelings about the new level of nerdiness this acquisition has raised us to, but I can't deny that it's nice having Spencer doing his practice driving in a 10-year-old Sienna rather than a new (or much smaller) car. 

Glen turns 40.  I'd like to say that it was a fun day and that we celebrated properly, but it wasn't and we didn't.  In fact, I daresay that this day easily goes into our family lore as the worst birthday in the history of mankind and that we still can't talk about it without one of us (usually both of us) getting irritated. 
July--With Girls Camp,  Youth Conference (Trek), EFY, and a High Adventure trip along the Appalachian Trail--it was a busy month for the teenagers of the house. 

Shlepping kids to swim team and youth conference planning keep the parents hopping.

Lara starts school supply shopping for 170.  It's her pet project for the elementary PTA and although it's a wildly successful fundraiser, Lara does not even consider doing it again next year.  

August--We sit front and center at the Kennedy Center and watch Wicked together as a family.   It was wickedly awesome. 

We embark on an epic road trip--Minnesota for Lara's 20-year high school reunion and a little anecdotal swearing, North Dakota (just to say we'd been there), South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore and Rapid City, Island Park, Idaho/Yellowstone to stay in a family cabin, then on to Nauvoo for a mad dash tour.
We had a great time together, but we were a little disappointed to have missed the big DC earthquake.  We did cut our trip short and rush back to make it back for the completely anti-climatic Hurricane Irene. 

September--The kids head back to school (Spencer-11th, Cami-9th, Emma-5th, Adam-3rd, Ellie-1st) and it is the first time that Lara does not have any kids at home with her during the day! 

Lara runs the Ragnar relay with 11 friends--200 miles, everyone runs 3 legs.  It turns out to be a fun experience and most importantly gives Lara the bug to keep running. 
Glen and Lara get called to be Stake Youth Conference Directors for summer 2012 in Palmyra, NY.  We are petrified, but excited. 

October--Cami runs on her high school cross country team and Lara gets teary and nostalgic for her own harrier days whenever she attends one of Cami's meets. 
After months and months of listening to the soundtrack nonstop, we take the family to an amazing performance of Les Miserables at the Kennedy Center. 

Afterward, Ellie can sing, "Castle on a Cloud" word-for-word, British accent and all. 

November--On a long weekend, we take the entire family and go on our first youth conference scouting trip to Palmyra.  It is a productive trip that gives us our first true glimpse at all that needs to be accomplished over the next several months.

Lara and Glen run the Richmond half-marathon together.  Lara was left with a bruise the size of a pancake on her hip afterward, but since she's taken almost 20 minutes off her previous best time and the bruise healed quickly, it's all good. 

Ellie's neurologist decides to discontinue one of her medications and almost double the amount of her other.  The numbers of seizures she has on a daily basis has dropped significantly in a matter of a couple weeks.  Additionally,  she seems more energetic, more creative, and she's having a much easier time in math.   Apparently her brain is enjoying not being interrupted every couple of minutes. 

December--Lara foolishly embarks on another goody-a-day posting schedule on her recipe blog.  It serves as a time-consuming distraction for her and has effectively caused the house to become a pitiful disaster and  delayed her Christmas shopping to epically late proportions, but hits on the blog are at an all-time high (19,000+ hits this month), so whatevs.
Lara finds the most spectacular Christmas pajamas EVER!
Spencer gets moccasins for Christmas.  They are awesome. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Card Confessional

I felt like there were some slight misunderstandings pervading from our Christmas letter & card this year, therefore I have put together the following list of de facto disclaimers. 

rough draft of letter (not quite complete): (inserted 3 years later)

You'd think that after a lead-in like "Alleluia" that we'd have something exciting to put here.   

So instead we'll treat you to the latest and greatest news about our in-depth health news...

Well, Glen's tooth really...blah...blah.....and Ellie's EEG....blah...blah....

Okay, okay.  Now that we've got that out of the way, we'll get on to the really juicy stuff you've been waiting for.
We're fine.  The kids are fine. The dog is fine.  The house is even fine after the ginormous 5.8 DC earthquake.  Too bad our Corolla is not fine and now we own two minivans, which is not fine either. 

And since I just can't resist, here's some more boring stuff:

Spencer's (16) driver's license is eagerly awaiting the completion of his Eagle scout project, which has yet to be started.  After just a few short months, we are pleased to announce that Cami (14) is already a pro at getting up for early morning seminary.  Her secret?  Four alarm clocks.  Emma (11) is a 'tween' in every sense of the word.  'Nuff said.  Adam's (9) third grade homework has successfully introduced a new stress and decibel level into our home, the likes which have never before been seen.   Ellie (6) loves to talk and dance and talk and draw and write and run and color and talk some more.  In fact, it seems like the only time she ever stops is when she's having one of her numerous absence seizures, a topic which she will happily and matter-of-factly talk to anyone about.  Lara (28) is young, amusing, and humble as ever as she wends her way through the busy life of parenting five kids.  Glen (40) is still the hottest man in DC and although he has no idea why he let his  wife of 18 years write the Christmas letter each year.  

a)  I am not actually 28 years old and I did not start birthing children at age 12.  I'm actually 22ish.   I simply froze my age in time after having Spencer. Sorry for the confusion. 

b) Despite me mentioning the "ginormous DC earthquake of 2011", which may have led some people to believe that we felt it ourselves, it actually occurred while we were out of town.  Our house, as mentioned though, was fine with nary a picture askew.

c) Although our family silhouette/sunset/jumping photo looks like it was taken in an exotic locale, it was, in fact,  taken in the middle of a child's playground in Rapid City, South Dakota.

d)  I've had several people ask me who our photographer was for the jumping shot, but since he did not properly introduce himself to us, we just call him Random Guy Walking By (heretofore referred to as R.G.W.B.).  I took pictures of R.G.W.B.'s family in exchange for him taking a few of us, but I humbly admit that the pictures I took turned out much better than R.G.W.B's. 

e)  Glen has never truly wondered why he lets me write the Christmas letter each year.  He willingly lets me write it each year,  because he knows dang well that it's the only way it would ever get written or sent. 

f)  I have no idea what sarcasm is.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Day in the Morning

When we discovered that Christmas day was going to fall on Sunday this year, I had all sorts of mixed emotions about it.  In a way, it's nice to be at church on Christmas, and enjoy the music and messages on the actual day.  But in another way, it's hard to interrupt the Christmas routine and get all dressed up and go somewhere in the middle of the celebrations, especially since we're totally the kind of family that usually stays in our sweats all day long on Christmas. 

  For some random reason, the kids did not wake up until after Glen and I had showered and we had turned on the light in their room (about 7:00am).   Then they eagerly ran to their stockings and to check out the tree.  There was much hooping, hollering, and shaking the gifts, but because our ward starts at 9:00am, their time was limited and we went quickly to bathing, eating a quick breakfast,  and getting ready for church.  It took a little more nudging than usual to get them out the door, but they did surprisingly well keeping on task.   After all was said and done though, I actually ended up liking the way going to church broke up the day.

Here we are, all ready for church...
The music and talks were excellent, albeit a tad on the long side, and I liked that we got to see many of our friends on Christmas day.   As I stood greeting families at the door of the chapel while I handed out the programs, I loved that several children bubbled over in excitement to me as they eagerly told me of the Christmas festivities they'd enjoyed before church.  I love conversations with little people! 

As soon as we got home, it was a race to get on our pajamas while Cami threw together a slightly more elaborate breakfast.  We took advantage of having my sister, AnnaLisa, in the house and did a little photo shoot while it was cooking.  Thanks, AnnaLisa, for the awesomest Christmas morning photo ever.  :)

After gobbling down some Orange Breakfast Bread and the ensuing clean-up, the kids were getting anxious to start some present opening.  Ellie spent the time making sure our new Christmas goose (hand-sewn by Sister Smith) was comfy cozy in the bed she'd made for it. 
Then, finally, it was onto the part everyone was waiting for...PRESENTS!  

  Glen is always the gift distributor and he picks a rotation (usually oldest to youngest) for opening whatever gift he chooses for them. 

The kids appropriately oohed and ahed over their gifts. 

Sometimes a little overdramatically (especially considering it was a box of crayons that she'd just opened)...

Emma had been hard to shop for, but it definitely seemed like she was as happy as a clam about the everything...

Apparently Cami loved her gifts as well...

Spencer was a little less demonstrative than his sisters, but he also seemed to enjoy the moment...

Adam is a kid who likes to give all of his gifts a try before moving onto the next one.  He had three Bionicle kits put together before the present opening was even finished and this Bop It toy has proved to be a fun distraction for kids and adults alike over the last two days. 

After opening these boots, Ellie was way too excited to keep her pajamas on.  She changed clothes no fewer than 4 times after this picture was taken.  Each outfit, of course, sported these same new boots.

We were thrilled that AnnaLisa was able to join us for the day, although she looked a bit out of place wearing her church clothes all day...

After an hour or so, the gifts were all opened, the kids were trying out their new goods, and the older kids and adults spent some time doing this....
Not me, though.  I couldn't sleep, because I was too excited and wanted to play with my new toys too (a new lens for my camera).


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

Today started off as a pretty busy day of normalcy...

6-mile run that turned into a 4-mile run/walk
last-minute Christmas shopping
copying the programs for tomorrow
grocery shopping
wrapping the last few presents
welcoming some handbell carolers

Then this evening, Glen made us a simple dinner, we opened our pajamas, got comfy cozy, and we did our traditional Christmas Eve program--singing songs, reading scriptures, and eating treats.

Then the little ones went to bed, Mom and Dad got busy doing Christmasy stuff, while Spencer and Cami were getting a little too snoopy...

Now we're watching a very weird movie and anxiously awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus....

Merry Christmas! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ellie's improving!!!

More than a year after her diagnosis with Childhood Absence Epilepsy, I am pleased that to be able to tell you that Ellie is finally seeing some improvements!
After the unpleasant side effects she experienced during the first few months of taking the medications, the neurologist had been approaching her care with caution.   Finally in November she was having so many seizures per day (every couple of minutes),  that we felt like we just had to be more aggressive with her treatment and hope for the best.  

With our negative report and her teacher's worry that her seizures were starting to interrupt the class (because she had started clicking her tongue during the seizures),  the neurologist made a plan to double her dosage over a period of a few weeks.  We were a little tentative about the big increase, but knew that we had to give it a try...for Ellie's sake. 

Much to our surprise, not only have the numbers of seizures reduced significantly, but she has also retained her energy and sprouted a creative/focused streak that we've never seen before.

It seems as though her brain is so thrilled to be interrupted so many fewer times a day, that she literally cannot contain her enthusiasm for expressing herself in creative ways.  For hours each evening she writes books...

makes her own dolls...
 transforms paper plates, boxes, and toilet paper rolls into beautiful creations... 
and even bakes her own pies...
All completely of her own accord.    

We know she still has a long path in front of her, but we're excited to see a side of her that's been hidden away for a while!    Yay!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tacky, Annoying, Excellent, Tedious, Phantom, Red Roses, Sitting Still Angst

This weekend:

We went to see some Tacky Christmas Lights with friends, then finished up the night at a nearby Krispy Kreme.  After just two years, it's quickly becoming a family favorite Christmas tradition for us.


We went the temple visitors' center and thoroughly enjoyed the Sandra Turley concert.  Besides the concert though, it turned out to be a very annoying experience.  It was way overcrowded and  after waiting in line to see the international creche exhibit for  over 45 minutes,  a big group of people cut in front of us, and didn't respond at all when we tried to show them where the end of the line was. In a moment of magnanimity and not wanting to cause a scene at the temple, we decided to leave the line and make sure we got good seats for the concert.    Next year, we will definitely not be going there on the weekend before Christmas. 

Cami gave a talk in sacrament meeting on how small and simple things can make a big difference.  She did an excellent job.   Click here to read her talk. 

Glen and I ran for 8 miles on Saturday.  It was still cold and tedious, but definitely an easier run than last week.

We did a little Christmas phantoming (in broad daylight no less).  My kids enjoyed doing it a little too much!
We celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary a day early with some cooking, cleaning, shopping, and a dozen red roses.  :)

After more than two years, I spent one of my last Sundays as a nursery leader today.  While I'm feeling like it's time to move on, I'm already dreading the sitting still for three hours (something I'm not very good at) and I know I'm going to miss those little ones like crazy!    Glen was released last week from his calling and with my release coming up, now it's time to dive in headfirst to our stake Youth Conference calling....aaaaaaaaahhhhh!!

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