Thursday, March 28, 2013

Bear River Bird Sanctuary

Ask me what my idea of a perfect vacation day would be and this trip to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge (near Brigham City, UT) would pretty much encapsulate it all.  We were out in the fresh air, unrushed, and surrounded by one of the most idyllic settings on earth.  The only thing that would have made it better is if I'd had Glen and the kids with me. 
About a 90-mile drive from my parents' house, I had truly never seen so many birds in my entire life and I was so completely enraptured with the scenery that I could have stayed there for days on end. 
We took the 12-mile driving loop around the sanctuary and  I felt like a little kid as I constantly was yelling for my sister to stop the car so I could take a picture. 
The picture below is probably my very favorite out of the whole bunch and I'm pretty sure that this is a good glimpse of what heaven looks like. 

This ring-necked pheasant was as gorgeous as the scenery and I was glad to have seen it before we left. 

In the middle of our drive, it started snowing lightly which made the scenery and the close-ups all the more stunning. 

This straight stretch of road just called out for us to stop and take some portraits of each other.  I love this one of my youngest brother, Tim (the mountain man).

All three of us were having fun with our cameras...

Over the course of the drive we saw  tundra swans, clark's grebes, double crested cormorant, great blue heron, northern shovelers, Canadian geese, red-tailed hawk, ring-necked pheasant, a sandhill crane, American coots, magpies, American avocets, northern pintails, western meadowlark, lots of ducks (in many varieties), a deer, a gazillion birds that we didn't recognize, and rustling around in the bushes we discovered a friendly little skunk who couldn't decide whether to come closer to the car or to stay hidden!   We saw him peek out of the brush three or four separate times before disappearing again.   
 Don't worry....we stayed nice and safe in the car during that stretch of the drive. 

Our only disappointment of the day (if spending a few hours in such a heavenly place could be disappointing) was not seeing any bald eagles.  Other than that, it was awesomely awesome and I plan on visiting again as soon as possible.


PS  The reason why I watermarked these photos with "World Adventures of the Crain Family" is because I am also adding them to my family's travel photo blog.    It is definitely still a work in process, but with as much as my parents and siblings like to travel (and take lots of photos), it's a fun place to gather the photos all into one place. 


Monday, March 25, 2013

Great to Be Eight!

While I've been in Utah bringing my oldest baby out for a college visit, my youngest baby had the gall to have a birthday without me.  Besides making me feel really old all at once, I was sad when I realized that the best time in our schedule for this trip  would take me away for her 8th birthday and even sadder still when Ellie was upset about it.   In an effort to help me feel more a part of her birthday and to help Ellie feel better about it, I thought it would be better for both of us if we gave her birthday gift to her a little early.

Since the American Girl doll was the only present she had been asking for, I knew that she would be happy about receiving it, but we were a little taken aback by the reaction that we got.

 Since the invention of birthday gifts, there have only been five reactions that were rated the most passionate, the most sincere....the most dramatic.

This one left them all behind.

There was shrieking and giggling.  There was excited jumping up and down.  There was more shrieking and dancing around the room.  It was five minutes of pure unbridled excitement.

In nearly eighteen years of parenting,  that show of dramatics was by far the most enthusiastic and unbridled response to a gift that we've ever seen.

While Ellie was simply expressing her excitement and couldn't have known what her reaction would mean to me, but it definitely made missing her birthday a little less sad for me....even if I was kicking myself for not having the video camera out.

We sure love our sweet Ellie Bellie!!!!!

Happy 8th Birthday!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

this week....a day at a time

 At the end of each week, I look back and it often seems like every day is the same--too much time in the car, not enough time to get everything done, all the while being so very sleep deprived.   I laugh when I look back to when  the kids were young and  I was constantly searching for field trips and fun activities  to fill our day with.  Nowadays, I yearn for as little adventure as possible and more time to just all be home together.  This week, like most, was as crazy as they come, but then for as much as I hate to admit it, I know that these days with all the kids at home are fleeting and I long not to forget any of them--the good, the bad, and the boring.  

Here's a glimpse at our not-so-average week: 

Sunday:  Saint Patrick's Day dawned with lots of big brotherly pinching for those forgetful enough not to have worn green pajamas to bed the night before.  The girls, not willing to be pinched another second,  immediately remedied the situation and bedecked themselves in the greenest clothes they could find.  They were as cute and Irish looking as non-Irish people can be!

 In the end, Spence was the least Irish looking of the bunch with his barely green tie tucked into his blue sweater...  I guess that's why he opted for a good leprechaun hairdo instead.

Monday:  I had one of the kids stay home who clearly didn't really need to stay home.  I tried to be good and savor the time together, but I'm sad to say that at the end of the day I felt a little frustrated at all that I did not accomplish.

Tuesday:  Spencer passed his 9-month check up with flying colors and afterward we celebrated with lunch and treats out on the town.

Wednesday:  I tempered chocolate for the first time ever and Emma, Cami, and I made the shiniest, prettiest chocolate bonbons ever.  Emma ended up winning the day though and she won the grand prize among a bunch of grown women for her Crispy Caramel Bites.
While the girls and I were eating goodies all evening, Glen was at Spence's lacrosse game with Ellie and Adam.  Spence played well, but unfortunately his team lost again.   Upon our simultaneous arrival home at 10:00pm, Cami informed us that she still had an essay to write, which meant that every person in the family went to bed a good 2-3 hours past their bedtime.

Thursday:  After coating our kitchen in chocolate the day before, Thursday was spent coating it in powdered sugar.  I made 5 dozen cupcakes--two for the teacher appreciation luncheon, one for YW, and two for Ellie to share with her class for her birthday.  They definitely didn't turn out as pretty or as tasty as Cami's, but watching Cami has definitely improved my skills greatly  and I don't think they turned out too bad for a non-cake person like me.

After baking all day, visiting the school two separate times, and taking a quick trip to the electronics store, we went to the second grade musical called,  "Pass It On."  It was a  very darling performance and Ellie was pleased as punch about her solo part.  Although she had been practicing it excitedly for weeks,  when her teacher learned that the music teachers had given her a solo, he was so worried about her having a seizure during the performance that he almost gave the part to someone else. I begged him not to and thankfully she ended up not having any issues.  Check her out in all of her sparkly glory (in the outfit that Grandma Sandy had sent) at the :40 second mark.

  Friday:  Spence and I woke up at the crack of dawn and jumped on an airplane to Utah!  I dropped him off at BYU this afternoon for a weekend of campus touring and fun with his friends.  He just learned that he was also accepted to James Madison University (JMU), so we will also be taking a trip there in the next couple of weeks while he ponders this big decision he has to make.   In the meantime, I am enjoying a few days in Utah without the kids and trying to adjust to the fact that Spencer is really leaving us in a few months.  I am clearly having kid withdrawals though and I felt a little dumb when I realized that I've called home no less than a dozen times already.  Thank you to Glen who is holding down the fort at home and last I heard  was eating dinner with the kids at  IHOP at 9:00pm.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Nine and a half months after leaving the hospital, we are celebrating another clean check up!!!!!  The doc was worried when she saw his bruised up arms and legs from lacrosse, but blood tests were perfect and we just celebrated by cheating on Cami and enjoying some fancy cupcakes from a bakery.

Clinic Stats:
Weight 72.9 kg    WBC - 4.4     HgB - 15.2     Platelet - 154     ANC - 2130

Monday, March 18, 2013

He did it!

After months and months of training and fundraising, he did it!   

On Friday night we went to a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) inspiration dinner where Glen learned that, despite not quite reaching his goal yet, that he had placed third on his team of over 100 participants for fundraising amounts. 
After a pasta dinner to give the runners some good fuel, they had some speakers lined up to help inspire the team before their big race.    Immediately following a very entertaining writer from Runner's World (who also happens to be a huge supporter of LLS), it was Glen's turn to give a short presentation about the human side of the purpose of Team in Training.  Glen brought our family picture taken during Spencer's treatment and shared a bit of our story.  He closed by reading the "Little Soul," (that never fails to move me to tears) and thanked everyone for all they were doing to make a difference in the fight against blood cancers.  He returned to his seat and looked up to find the entire room giving him a thunderous standing ovation.  It was a proud moment. 
He went to bed that night with a nervous excitement about the upcoming race.  Saturday morning dawned early but happy, when Glen learned that overnight he'd met his fundraising goal.  It got the morning off to a great start and he was cheerful and chipper as he headed out with his brother in the wee hours of the morning.
I had every intention on going down to cheer him on and watch him finish, but alas our old car wouldn't start and I ended up having to  drive all five kids to their five different activities  (instead of Spencer being able to help with the driving).   At least I thought to take this one picture as he hopped out of the car on the way into the Metro station. 

Much to the happiness of 35,000+ runners (and a whole bunch of mulch haulers), the predicted rain and cold held off until the late afternoon and they actually ended up with a beautiful day for physical exertion--not too warm, not too cold, and not a drop of rain until it was all over.  Glen wasn't aiming for any specific time.  In fact his quote when asked is that he hoped to finish the race the same day he started, which I'm pleased to say he accomplished without issue!   

He and his brother came home exhausted and famished, but happy to be done.  We spent the rest of the day picking up kids from their various activities and trying to make sure that the marathoners did not starve.    Glen's brother Alex left bright and early on Sunday morning and now Glen is turning his thoughts to his 100 mile bike ride coming up on June 1st. 

Go Glen! 


Thursday, March 14, 2013

In the Media

I've decided to make a blogpost linking to all of the articles and media coverage that Glen and Spencer are getting right now.  I'll add to this list if/when any more articles pop up along the way. 

Glen's marathon is this Saturday and he is only a couple hundred dollars short of meeting his fundraising goal.  He's worked hard training and fundraising and I am proud of his efforts.  Please consider even a small donation to help him reach his goal by Saturday. 


Fairfax Times:  This article was actually on the front page of the Fairfax Times' website yesterday.   The print version comes out tomorrow. 

Fairfax Connection:  I hope Ellie forgives us someday for sending that picture of the kids to the paper.  We love the picture of everyone else, especially Spence, but that look on Ellie's face is priceless.    I don't know about a print version for this paper. 

Rock 'N' Roll Marathon:  This was the original article that got all the media coverage started.

Glen's Fundraising Page:   Help a good cause by donating to Glen's fundraising page for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society (LLS).  If you still need a little convincing, keep in mind that Glen sends wristbands to everyone who donates.  :)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Living History

When I was a a kid, I found history boring.  I tried to like it, but all the names, places, and dates just seemed to blend together for me.  I would memorize the details just long enough to write the paper and ace the test, then I would forget it. 

Then one day almost sixteen years ago we moved to Baltimore.  We didn't really expect to live out this way long and we visited as many historical sites as we could to live up our time here.  In the process of those weekend outings we gradually fell in love with the area and the history that came with it.  All the random tidbits I remembered from my youth suddenly started connecting together and making sense to me.   In the decade and a half since moving to the area, our family has visited many amazing places all over the eastern US--from Williamsburg to Boston.   

History to my kids is not the same as history was to me as a young student.   While I certainly read about  Jamestown settlement in a book, it didn't mean much to me.  In fourth grade my kids read about it, then visit it, watch reenactments, and they come back with a meaningful connection and memory that most kids never get to experience.  During their elementary years, they visit early American, Revolutionary War, and Civil War sites all over the area, taking separate trips to Richmond, Jamestown/Yorktown, Philadelphia, Baltimore, DC, and Gettysburg. 

They walk onto replicas of the Mayflower.  They see the Liberty Bell in person.  They visit Abraham Lincoln's cottage.  They walk through the halls of George Washington's home at Mt. Vernon and meet actors dressed in period costume who demonstrate what life was like during Washington's time.   They sit in the very hall where our Founding Fathers risked everything and penned the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.  They drive through the fields of Gettysburg and leave with a greater understanding of the importance of the events that happened there.   They get to taste history in a way that most people never do. 

Yesterday I accompanied Emma on a field trip to Gettysburg.  Although I had been there many times before, we saw places I had never before visited and  I was especially struck at how meaningful the events were that transpired there. 

It's a fairly rural area, unremarkable by most standards, and most likely easily forgotten except for the events that transpired there in July 1863.  Now the fields are dotted with memorials, cannons, and graves. Buildings throughout the town are marked with plaques and museums are devoted to telling the world about what transpired there.
I felt blessed to be there with Emma and blessed to be reminded at what series of miracles it took to preserve this land we live in.

How grateful I am for the men and women who have risked their lives over the years to defend our freedom. 
I am proud to be an American and proud to have kids that are learning from an early age what a privilege that is!


What to see in Gettysburg:

Gettysburg Museum and Visitor's Center (make time for the Cyclorama):   This museum is reminiscent of the Smithsonians and is very well done.   It may be a little boring for young kids, but the Cyclorama program is very cool.  It's a gigantic painting (shown in the last picture above) that encircles an entire room.  They have props set up around it that make it hard to tell where the props end and the painting begins.  They use lights and sounds with the painting to tell the story of Gettysburg.  It was the first time I'd ever seen it and I highly recommend it. 

Gettysburg Wax Museum:  The wax figures are a tad creepy looking (especially their eyes), but I liked how the figures were shown in many scenes leading up to and including the battle of Gettysburg.  It was perfect for someone who finds normal museums somewhat boring.  They also had a movie/wax figure enactment that was pretty cool to watch.  I liked hearing actors enact the Gettysburg address. 

Gettysburg Auto Tour:  You can either buy a cd from the visitors' center or even hire a tour guide to come into your car (this would be super cool) and you drive around the sites of Gettysburg while they are explained.  The cd tells you which way to turn and it's pretty hard to get lost. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Meet the Author

Every now and then you read a book that is so well-written and wonderful, that you just can't help but share the recommendation with everyone you know.   "The Count of Monte Cristo," was one of those books for me.  I read an abridged version in high school and adored it.  Then I read the unabridged version as an adult and loved it even more (except for the ending, which was much better in the movie version).   "Atlas Shrugged," was the same.  It was long-winded and painful at times, but so thought provoking that I literally discussed it with anyone who would listen for months afterward. 

This past week I found a book that's even better than those two.  And lucky for me, it wasn't long-winded or painful in the slightest.   It's called, "The Day I Met My Friend." 

Let me introduce you to one of the authors: 
Her name is Ellie and although not even quite 8-years of age, she has outshone the more experienced authors, Rand and Dumas,   and teamed up with her friend Andie (seen below with Ellie) to create a literature masterpiece all about friendship, collaboration, and perseverance. 

Their collaborative writing and artwork proved too tempting for local book publisher, Mommy Inc., and they were immediately commissioned for a first run publishing of four books--one for Ellie's family, one for Andie's, one for the school library, and one for their teacher.  The book is bound using durable  metal staples. 

Let's take a peek inside, taking note of full color artwork which was done in Crayola markers, crayons, and #2 pencils.  You will find both authors' artwork  and writing on every single page layout as they painstakingly created their book one page at a time, taking turns with the writing and illustrating. 

About the Authors: 

Ellie:  "I love books and the beautiful paintings.  I just love all of it.  I met my friend in first grade." 
Andie:  "I love books.  I like to draw pictures.  I like to play with my BEST friend Ellie!" 
Publishers interested in commissioning their own full-color copies of, "How I Met My Friend" are welcome to negotiate with Ellie about renting her copy of the book (for just 10 cents a day) and taking it themselves to the  illustrious local publishing company (aka Staples).   I hear that they are very kind to new authors and will publish  books at the very low rate of 49 cents per page, staples not included.   

Friday, March 8, 2013

A few things I learned this week..

 1.  Meteorologists are insanely incompetent and seem only interested in trying to hype / scare everyone into watching their station.  Seriously.   We got a hugely hyped forecast that predicted an 8-10+ inch snowstorm that ended up barely covering the grass and was mostly melted by the end of the day?  Nice. 

On the bright side, the kids got a day off of school, which meant they got to go sledding for the brief amount of time there was snow on the ground and build a snowman that met a soggy demise in the rain within an hour of building it.    I am now officially ready for springtime.  

2.  Doing Mad Libs with a 10-year-old boy can be pretty hazardous to your good senses. 

3.  Emma is an awesome planner.  She spent about 12-hours planning, shopping for, and preparing the food for New Beginnings.  She's using it as a 10-hour value project  for Personal Progress.  Look at how cute those Lorax Cupcakes turned out!!!!

4.  Being out of routine wears me out!  With one snow day, a 2-hour delay, Glen out of town, and kids home sick for 2 days, we are  living life on the edge of insanity.   I need some sleep and my weekend night owl teenagers don't seem very intent on letting me get it! 

5. Glen has really gained traction with his Team in Training momentum and might actually reach his $10,000 fundraising goal.  I am sad to admit that I was skeptical at first that he could do it, but he's soooooo close.  His marathon is next week


Random interesting tidbit:
Here's a link to a recent article written about Glen and Spencer.  As Glen's marathon nears, interest in Spence's story is starting to pick up.  They've got a couple more interviews this week. 


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Snowquester of Randomness

School is cancelled and I've got three pajama-clad kids all in bed with me.  They've got a rousing game of Wheel of Fortune going on the iPad and I am capitalizing on the unrushed morning to write a blogpost.  Glen had some important meetings to attend at work, so he braved the elements and headed into work.  Being the worrier that I am, I sent him with food, water, and a sleeping bag just in case.   I don't expect to see Spence and Cami out of bed until closer to lunchtime. 
We haven't had much snow to speak of the last couple of years, so the kids are quite excited by the expected 8-10 inches that are supposed to fall today.   They have grand visions of building giant snowmen,  exciting sledding escapades, and some catching up on their movie watching.  Mostly I was just excited to sleep in past 5:00am and have a good excuse to not get in the car today!  

I also hope to make some yummy treats with the kids.  After not eating refined sugar for an entire month, I am taking a short break before starting it back up again.  I am happy to say that my body is much more sensitive to sugar now and I cannot eat much before getting sick to my stomach.   Now I just need to get off my lazy behind and get back to exercising too!

On a totally different topic, yesterday I got this photo emailed to me from one of the office workers at the kids' elementary school.  It was taken last week on Dr. Seuss twin day.  Ellie had called her friend that morning to coordinate what to wear, but I never saw them together.  She had come home from school that day very tired and grumpy, so seeing this picture of her smiling and happy with her friend, just made my day.  Have I mentioned lately how much I love their elementary school?   We've had kids there for 12 years and I couldn't be happier with the teachers and the overall environment there.  It's a community that we feel blessed to be a part of! 

One more random thought.... I think it's hilarious that snowstorms are such a big deal around here that they've taken to naming them like they're hurricanes or something.  This one has been coined, "Snowquester," a name which cracks me up and makes me annoyed at the same time.  Much as I wonder what is wrong with politics these days that both sides just can't compromise a little and start making a real difference, I wonder why it is that we finally get our first real taste of winter right when I'm good and ready for spring to start?  And now it's raining and I'm annoyed that just like our broken political system, even our "Snowquester" is fizzling out without delivering the promised goods. 

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