Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Great Deal!

So, in  my last blogpost I mentioned that we were in California right now.

How did that happen, you ask?  Well, let me tell you!

….it was with great persistence on the part of my sister, Kristina!

She has been really, really, really wanting us to come for a visit for a long time, but with college tuition payments to make, among other things, we weren't really feeling like that was something our budget could afford.

That didn't stop Kristina though.

She checked flight prices on an almost daily basis until something came up that was too good to pass up.   It was a super sale on a super budget airline for only $23 each way.

We figured that with such low ticket prices that the airline would nickel and dime us to death, but even with all fees, taxes, and luggage, etc included, the total for our FIVE tickets still only amounted to the price for one single ticket  on  decent sale on another airline.

Of course, it also involved a red-eye, flying out from the less convenient airport, and flying into an airport that required a 4-hour drive to get to my sister's house.

But, we're here!  

And we couldn't be more excited about it.

Except if Glen and Spencer were with us too.  That would've made it perfect!


I've already taken a gazillion pictures that I hope to share here soon, but they'll have to wait for another day!  In the meantime, let me tease you with a little weather comparison from here to home and a few snapshots of us taken on my phone!

Fun Fact:   I was born in Northern California.   I only lived there for about 9 months of my life, but I am a Californian by birth!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Hair and There, and Some Good Quotes

Read all the way down to get to the good quotes: 

By popular request, here are the before and after pictures of my hair…. 

Before:   long, thick, no layers, several inches of grown out gray/white roots, color that faded to blond

After (styled by the hairdresser):   a little shorter, thinned, lots of layers (which I don't love), darker color on top, color on bottom left alone

3 weeks later on a Sunday (styled by me):   already 1/2-inch of grown out gray/white roots (best seen  at the part), still trying to figure out how to style it.   Blow drying it and using a large-barrelled curling iron are the only ways I've found that work….too bad that would wreak havoc with my hair (and my time) if I did that to it more than once a week or so.   

3-1/2 weeks later on a beautiful sunny day in California (air dried, no styling):  

So the last picture is how my hair looks most days.   I love the color, but don't love how thin and layered it is now.   I usually only take the time to do anything with my hair on Sundays, so I need a wash and go style for next time!  

In the meantime, though, I'm missing this at home….

and instead am wearing short sleeves, capris, and looking out the window at this right now.   

Stay tuned for more details on the super great deal we got to get us here!!!   


Recently Overheard Quotes:   

"I like California because it has lots of pools, beaches, and lemons."    
Ellie (age 9)

Random young man at an indoor track meet to Cami:   "Do you have a bandaid?"

Cami:  "No, but I think the athletic trainers over there do.

Young man:  "Oh, because I scraped my knee just now….  when I fell for you."  

AnnaLisa (age 31), while trying on a complicated pair of sandals:  "I shouldn't be allowed to be an adult."

Kids eating lunch at the table,  trying to figure out the 5-uses of Kristina's "5-in-1 griddle":
a panini press…. a grill for cooking meat…. a statement piece for your bathroom?

"I'm glad I'm homeschooled so I don't have to learn gross stuff."


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Emma's Recital

Here's a video of Emma's voice recital from this afternoon.   The video was taken from across the room and it is hard to actually see her, but her voice comes through pretty clearly.   She was as nervous as can be singing in front of a crowd, but  in my opinion delivered one of the best performances of the day.  

I can't even tell you how exciting it is to have someone in the family who actually inherited their musical ability from Glen's side, who are known for their musicality.   Most  Crains (including me) are notoriously tone deaf, so this kind of talent is reason to celebrate!   

Way to go, Emma! 


Friday, January 23, 2015

My Thoughts on Introversion and Extroversion

Carl Jung was the psychologist who first introduced the concepts of introversion and extroversion.  He held to the theory that people had inborn tendencies that caused them to process the world in different, but predictable ways.   He defined extroversion as the tendency to focus energy outwards to the world of people, places, and things.   Introversion he described as the tendency to focus our energy  inwards to the world of thoughts and ideas.

Modern psychologists now know that  introversion and extroversion aren't so much as definitive labels, but that most people fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, often leaning one way or the other, but not fitting either definition exactly.  Additionally, psychologists have further delineated that a lot of what makes an introvert an introvert and an extrovert an extrovert, is not about social skills as much as it is where people gain and use their energy.   Introverts tend to rejuvenate by turning inward, extroverts by being with people.   It doesn't mean that introverts don't like social settings or being with people, or that extroverts never like being alone.  It's just that to an introvert social interactions can drain them and in order to regain their energy they need some time to be alone.  And that too much alone time for an extrovert can feel suffocating.   Most laypeople do not understand these concepts however, and there are many pervading societal misperceptions regarding the terms.

Extroverts often view introverts as anti-social or shy, while introverts see extroverts as demanding and loud.   While there are certainly individuals who fit those stereotypes, the truth is is that the vast majority of people, including most of the members of the family I grew up in,  exhibit traits of both to one extent or another.

Interestingly though, neither of my parents are anywhere near the middle.   They both lie on the extreme opposite ends of the spectrum and it's created some very interesting dynamics in my family over the years.   My dad is an extreme extrovert who absolutely hates being alone, loves making connections with every single person who happens to cross his path, and would love to host and attend dinner parties on a weekly basis.   If he had it his way, he would never even so much as fill up his gas tank without a companion to talk to on the way there.   My mom, on the other hand, is a very private person who, as long as she had a telephone to text and call her family,  I believe would be perfectly happy to live alone on a deserted island, with a library of books and newspapers as her only companions.    To her, people are best kept a distance and hosting them at your home is about as draining as life gets.

I personally believe  that with my mom's extreme need for privacy and alone time that having eight kids may have been a difficult challenge for her (correct me if I'm wrong, Mom).    She was attentive to our needs, but often would lose herself in books  and adamantly avoided discussing uncomfortable subjects.     On the other hand, I think that having all eight kids leave home eventually was a big challenge for my dad who really misses having kids to run to the post office with or to watch a show with him.    He liked having a multitude of companions to keep him company.

So with parents on both ends of the spectrum, we have quite a mix amongst us kids.   I think all of us tend towards the introverted side (needing that alone time to rejuvenate our energies), but we do have a pretty wide variation within those introverted tendencies.

On a scale of 1-10 with 1-being the most introverted and 10 being the most extroverted, I would place myself solidly at 4.5.   I definitely have a need to be with people and enjoy making social connections, but also definitely need my alone time (often writing here on the blog) to rejuvenate my spirits.  On the other hand, big parties / large conferences are a huge source of anxiety to me and I often will avoid going unless I have someone with whom I know I can partner up with.  

Glen is probably more like a 2-3 on the scale, a fact which has been something that we've had to work on in the 21-years we've been married.    His social needs are extremely low and I feel like with me leaning introverted myself, we often get in a rut of being pretty anti-social as a couple.  It doesn't bother him at all, while sometimes I feel discouraged at not having anyone to push me to reach out to others around us.  Sometimes even having the kids' friends over seems like a stretch for me.  After 21-years though, I think we're mostly in a peace about it now, and it helps to have a better understanding of the needs of an introvert (for myself and for him).

And I think that that's what makes the study of psychology so interesting and helpful.  I am fascinated with trying to learn about what makes people tick and I think that this kind of discussion is extremely beneficial in learning to work together in relationships.   When you know what their needs are and respect that, you can help build on each other's strengths.    For instance, Glen knows that I need my blogging alone time or I get grumpy.  He respects that and doesn't judge or question why I'm not doing something more productive.  Additionally, he knows that sometimes he cannot meet my needs for social conversations.   I love to talk and discuss issues, and he frankly often finds that kind of conversation circular and draining, so I've learned not to push him to participate when he is reticent about it.   Also, he has learned to be patient with my daily phone calls to siblings and/or parents and I am grateful that he understands that that sacrifice is something that helps fill a need for me and makes life less frustrating for him.  It's a win-win situation!

I found this graphic enlightening in my quest to understand my kids (and my siblings):
Graphic source:

 I think that it is a common notion that being an extrovert is somehow superior to being an introvert, however I firmly believe that this belief does a disservice to all involved.   There is no better or worse.   It's simply about learning to recognize what makes you and the people around you tick and then embracing the uniqueness of each individual.    It's the uniqueness that makes this world a beautiful place-- a world that would be very boring (and dysfunctional) if not for the different types of people who make the world go round!

Image source:

1.  "Most of us will be one or the other, but writing with your right hand doesn’t render your left hand inert. Similarly, an extroverted person can still do things that aren’t typically associated with extroversion. Meanwhile, introverts can learn to adapt to more extroverted scenarios, even if it might not come as naturally."

2.  "There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum."   Carl Jung

3.  "The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases."  Carl Jung


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Specialist for Ellie

Ellie is one of this blog's biggest fans.   She loves reading through the old blog books and thinks that a blogpost all about her is about as exciting as it gets.  She also loves to tell stories and  is begging me to start her own blog soon.  I'm not quite ready for that kind of commitment yet, but I am happy to shine the spotlight  on her for the day!

After having been through four different medications without success in the treatment of Ellie's  absence seizures, the neurologist just recommended that we take her to an epileptologist.   Apparently an epileptologist is a neurologist who went through years of  extra training to become an expert in epilepsy and seizures.   Since she's had negative reactions to two of her previous medications, I am hesitant to mess around much more with medications, but I am still quite interested to hear what an epileptologist has to say about her case.

In the meantime, Ellie is thriving being at home with me during the day.   Homeschooling is a great fit for her personality and I delight watching her learn at a pace that's perfect for her, then stretch herself in developing her interests and talents!

For instance, while we are learning about the Civil War in history, she has been carefully crafting an entire Civil War era community out of paper.   There are Union families, Confederate families, slaves, dishes, animals, food, buckets, houses, etc.  She has spent several afternoons (after her school work is done) coloring, cutting, and arranging them.  I feel like it's something she would  never have time for if she was at school all day, and it plays an important role in how she processes and learns these types of things.

 She has an incredibly long attention span for these kinds of activities and I am in awe at the sheets and sheets (at least 20 in full color) of people, furniture, and other objects she has designed and colored.  

She painstakingly cuts every item out and finds places for them in her community.  

Some of the details of what she's working on are minutely tiny. 

She talks about being a teacher when she grows up and it's clear that that is something that she would excel at, but I think she would also make a great author.   She loves stories--reading them and telling them!      Each one of the characters she has created  have a story of their own--stories of love, of war, of slavery.    It's a beautiful thing!  

Some other random tidbits about Ellie:  

She recently let Cami cut her hair.   She's not a huge fan of brushing her hair, so the shorter length makes it much easier for her to avoid mom's ever-annoying daily reminders for her to go do something with her hair.   

For Christmas she got Elsa and Ana clothes for her dolls, and  an Olaf toy.   She loves having her own Frozen characters now to play pretend with!    The blond doll was one I played with when I was a little girl.    

Here is a glimpse at the Christmas book she created and gave to the whole family: 

I don't have any pictures of it, but she also recently created her own endangered species horse museum, where you took a tour through the house and visited rare horse species.  She created the horses out of household objects and once again had a story for each one.   Her imagination and creativity are amazing! 

We sure love our Ellie girl!   


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Strange, but True

My life certainly isn't overly exciting, but with five kids, there's also rarely a dull moment.   Here are a few things that have been keeping things lively around here:
  • A hairdresser scolded me at my annual hair appointment for grossly neglecting my hair, then got excited at the blank slate that  my grown-out, but healthy hair provided for her.   She then proceeded to give me a blow-out color job and layered cut.  I don't know exactly what a blow-out color means, but I like it and it was fun to see how excited she was to bring me (and my hair) back into the 21st century.   I also really liked that the hairdresser had an opinion and am hoping to go back sooner than a year later, especially since she also informed me that my hair is now almost 100% gray.  Thank you Hepworth genetics and Spencer for that!  
  • I recently made about 300 mini quiches from scratch for a Relief Society women's conference and was rewarded with a 10-minute massage from a professional masseuse for doing it.    Seriously…sign me up again anytime!   
  • I woke up, got ready for the day on Saturday, then started to walk out the door when Emma complimented me on my shoes.   Surprised, because I knew I had put on tennis shoes,  I looked down and discovered that I was wearing one black and one brown shoe.   Thank goodness for kids to save me from own fashion ineptitude! 
  •  Emma really, really wants to be homeschooled through high school.  It was not our original intention to do so, but we are going through the process of determining whether that is a commitment we are ready to tackle.   

  • This afternoon one of my kids got frustrated with a sibling and  jumped on his  back in an attempt to tackle him.  My kids get frustrated with each other all the time, but this was a really unusually over-the-top reaction and I immediately started laughing at them and their dramatics.   Unfortunately I couldn't stop laughing even when the scene evolved into a made-for-televsion duel when the tackled sibling lost his balance after being tackled, sending both of them stumbling forward, and resulting in one of them hitting her head on the counter before falling in a heap on the floor.   Thankfully no one was really hurt--except for their pride--and I eventually pulled it together and gave them a good talking-to….with only a little laughing.  
  • I made a year's worth of monthly writing topics, and am trying to encourage my family to write an essay on the theme each month.  I am hoping to collect a lot of fun family stories and eventually print them into a book.   So far, though, my efforts have been wildly unsuccessful and the best work I've done with it in the first few weeks of 2015 is writing this silly  fictional account of a worst date ever for my sister.    I wrote it in an effort to get everyone's attention and get them excited to write down their own stories, but alas, I still haven't received even one story yet!     

Friday, January 16, 2015

Worst Date Ever

Mr. BM (actual initials) did not see what was coming, when he invited nice little Lara on a date to go golfing with him.

While I had never been golfing before (other than putt-putting), I was actually pretty excited about it.  Golfing doesn't look that hard when you watch the pros do it on television and I thought it would actually be a really nice way to walk and talk and get to know someone.

It would have been hard  for anyone to envision that a mere two minutes into our date, though, that Mr. BM would be flat on his back, eyes glazed over, and completely unconscious.  

  I had swung with exuberance thinking I was swinging just like the pros on tv, but apparently my form was a bit off.   And he was standing too close to me.  I had knocked him out cold with my very first swing of the club.

 People rushed from everywhere to offer assistance while I just hung back feeling rather sheepish! Thankfully he was only out for a minute or two and seemed dazed, but okay afterward.   Even without lasting injury, for some reason Mr. BM did not take my unintentional assault very well and he completely avoided me ever after that day.

Except for the one time he came to visit me at work a couple of years later, after I was married to Glen,  to randomly show me his new brain surgery scar, that so happened to be on the same side of his head as where the golf club had hit him.

He didn't say that it had anything to do with me (and to my credit,  it was a couple of years later), but still I've always wondered….


So, can anyone top that for a worst date ever?   If so, I'd love to hear about it!  

Thursday, January 15, 2015

About Me

This post is to remedy the fact that I don't have an "About Me" page on this blog yet!   You will find this linked in the top menu bar from now on.  


Hello, and welcome to our family blog!

I started this blog in 2007 at the encouragement of my family, who mostly lived far away, and wanted to keep up with the day-to-day "adventures" of us with our five kids.   I was one of the last of my seven siblings to start blogging, but am now the only one who still keeps it up on a very regular basis (more than once a week).  This blog has been my sanity through good and bad times, and I daresay that without it that I'd be a puddle on the floor right about now.  

Although the ultimate purpose of this blog is still simply to keep a record of our lives, I really have enjoyed sharing and connecting with other people in this way as well.   I am not a superstar at either, but I love photography and writing, and especially how I can use both together to tell a story!   I also occasionally think I'm wildly funny and you will see my silly humor shining through.  

   I am thankful to all of you who have stuck with me through the years, or those who are just joining in.    I love my family and I love blogging, and I'm glad you're here!  

See below for random facts about me  and some blogposts to help you explore this blog!    


10 Random Facts About Me: 
1.  I have been married to Glen for 23-years.
2.  I grew up in Minnesota, Glen grew up in Colorado. We met at BYU.
3.  We have five kids, ages 11-21 (as of December 2016). 
4.  We have lived in the DC area for over 17-years.
5.  We are active Mormons.
6.  I often blog while standing up.   I somehow feel less guilty about not doing housework if I'm standing at the counter blogging, instead of sitting at a desk or table.
7.  I am pretty low-maintenance and actually enjoy grocery shopping better than clothes shopping.
8.  I homeschool 3 of my kids right now. 
9.  I love to read, but usually only allow myself to read one book a month (this one's my latest).
10.  Although I carry my camera with me more than most people, I sometimes deliberately leave it at home so it doesn't distract me from enjoying the moment. 

Some links

Why I blog?
What this blog means to me?
10 Random Facts About Me

About Spencer's leukemia:
Telling Spencer
Glen losing his job the same week as Spence's diagnosis
The process of why we chose for Spencer not to receive a bone marrow transplant
Capturing leukemia in pictures
Trusting in the Lord
Removing the central line
Leaving the hospital 
Cancer's effect on our family (3 years later)

About Ellie's epilepsy:
Seizure first aid
Difficulties at school
Ellie's heartbreak

Why we homeschool all of our kids in 8th grade
 Why I decided to homeschool

Some Favorites:
My kids' favorite blog story
Favorite picture I've ever taken
Top Ten Best-Loved Children's Books
My husband's least favorite blogpost 
How to plan a birthday party (Lara style) 
Our family's list of recommended books
My wonderful family
Family travel spreadsheet (a couple years out of date)
A few of my favorite products
Fun things to do in DC with kids
One of my kids writes a song
Things I've been accused of
Things I've never been accused of

Hair disheveled, unbuttoned and untucked shirts, gray roots showing…this is us…in real life!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How Far Would You Drive for a Good Burger?

Glen has had a lot going on at work lately, which means that we didn't see much of him this Christmas break.     Even his nights and weekends were consumed with work and in the end he was only able to take three days off during the whole two-week break (Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day).  

So when New Year's Day rolled around and we'd hardly seen Glen, we decided to take a little family trip to Baltimore for the day.   Glen's first job out of college was at an accounting firm there in Baltimore, and we lived there in the summers of 1995 and 1996, and full-time from 1997-1999.    His company had corporate passes to the zoo, science center, and aquarium and as such we visited all three on a very regular basis when we lived there.     

Despite the fact that Washington DC is only about 50 miles from Baltimore, in the fifteen years since we've lived here, we've only trekked back to downtown Baltimore a handful of times.  Especially since without those lovely corporate passes to see the sites, the admission prices are astronomical!  

So when  my brother Tim purchased us a family pass to the National Aquarium in Baltimore for Christmas, we were all VERY excited!    It's been a number of years since we've been there, and it was a delight to go back and introduce the Aquarium to the younger kids!   

Because of the holiday, it was pretty crowded, but not so crowded as to hinder our enjoyment of being there together.   We  oohed and ahed  the whole way through, but especially enjoyed the dolphins,  jellyfish, and rainforest exhibit!  

It's not often that we visit places all together as a family anymore and we thoroughly enjoyed our day at the aquarium and look forward to going back a few more times this year! 

After our visit to the Aquarium, we did a crazy thing.   

We drove an additional 80 miles past Baltimore to Pennsylvania so we could  eat here...

It's called Ruby's Diner and Spence and Glen have had a bit of a fascination with it since eating there one time on the way home from a BYU football game.  

The kids and I ate there just this past summer when Cami was up in Philadelphia  at her leadership conference, but it had been a few years since Glen and Spencer had been able to.    We were all quite excited to partake in this very unhealthy, but delicious meal of burgers, sweet potato fries, and milkshakes (with a lactose pill of course).   I'm sure the employees thought we were a little crazy for having come all the way from Virginia for burgers and fries, but everything was pretty darn tasty and what the heck?  New Year's only comes around once a year and it was a fun way to ring in 2015!

    I slept most of the 130-miles back home, which meant I arrived back home well-rested, well-fed, and well-satisfied at being able to spend an entire day together as a family!  


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Life 3 Years Later

This day three years ago, was the day we got that fateful phone call that Spencer had leukemia.   It marked the beginning of one of the most difficult times we'd ever faced as a family and I still dread this time of year because of some of  the negative memories that it brings back to me.  Looking back on it now, though,  I see with different eyes that it was also a time when we felt the nearness of God more keenly than we ever had before.   I don't pretend to know all the reasons why God allows these kinds of hardships into our lives, but I do know that we are never, ever left alone during them.  Besides feeling acutely that God was very aware of the details of what we faced, we were also enveloped in the love of an entire community around us.  I will ever be in awe at people's kindness and generosity that was showered upon us during that time and we could never even begin to repay all that was so freely and lovingly given to us.

Thank you!   Thank you!  Thank you!

I'd like to say that we're 100% better people than we were before Spencer got sick, but I have to face the fact that cancer did a number on all of us.   Besides gaining 30-lbs and turning my hair grayer than ever, we are a little more jaded and a little less optimistic than we once were.  Although  I've always known that bad things happen to good people,  when they happened to us it made us all the more  aware of how possible the  bad is.   It doesn't just happen to other people…it already happened to us.   I never have been a pessimist, but after getting the "worst" news once, it somehow makes every potential negative outcome  seem more likely than it did before.

Another thing cancer did to us was shake our confidence as parents.  I've heard so many people in my life saying, "As long as they're healthy," about their kids and we have one with  refractive epilepsy (Ellie), another with severe eczema (Cami), another that needs another eye surgery (Emma),  and one who had a life-threatening illness that continues to hang over him and alter the way he chooses to live his life (Spence).  So what if they're not healthy?  Being a mom who has always been very health conscious--breastfeeding for 12+ months, keeping them away from the tv and other electronics, cooking mostly from scratch,  choosing whole-foods over processed, and making sure they get plenty of time to play outside--realizing that our kids are not necessarily the picture of health as our society views it, has made us  have to make a huge shift in how we process the world and view ourselves.   I know academically that I could not have possibly caused all these health challenges that they're facing, but I still constantly battle the feeling that somehow I failed my kids.

And I have to admit that I am not the same mom I was 3-years-and-a-day ago.

  For instance, I attribute our decision to homeschool Ellie and Adam as a direct result of Spencer getting sick.  It made me realize that childhood is too short and I felt very acutely that I did not want to waste any more days with my kids at school all day with my only time spent with them jam-packed into the hectic evening hours. Especially with how exhausting school was for Ellie.     I had homeschooled Spencer just for 8th grade and I thought many times during his illness how glad I was for having done it.   I knew that no matter the outcome of his treatment, that I had had my year reconnecting with just him and I would have no regrets about the time we'd spent together.   Slowing down is exactly what we all needed and I am thrilled to have several years at home with the other kids!

Spencer getting sick also helped us put away the extraneous things in our lives that were distracting us and  helped us to focus more on what was important.  I mostly stopped food blogging while he was sick and I never could let myself get back into it, because I couldn't convince myself that it was something that mattered one iota in the scheme of mine or anybody else's lives.  Same now with Facebook and other social media.  Not that those things are bad, but that they were distracting us.  

In these past three years, I have been trying very hard to live my life more deliberately.  It's been a more difficult transition than I would have expected, because I am naturally quite an unorganized person with lazy tendencies, but I can't lie….it's better now.  I feel like instead of a wiling my way blindly  through the maze of parenting five kids, often with far too many things on my plate at once, I am more controlled, more deliberate, and more likely to say, "no," when it becomes too much.   I want to be present for my children.  I don't care how many activities we're "supposed" to sign our kids up for.  I don't care that people think we're crazy for pulling our kids out of school.   We are choosing  the path that is right for our family and my only regret is that it took my child having cancer to give me the courage to pursue it.  

While I would never want to relive some of things we went through during that time when he was in treatment, I can honestly look back and say now that our lives our deeper and richer for having lived through it.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Thank You!

I just wanted to thank you all for your kind and supportive comments on this post.    I'd been tweaking that post for months and it really was a leap of faith to publish.   I may be adept at blogging about what we're up to, but I am decidedly not adept at blogging about how I'm feeling.   Thank you for extending your support to me.  :) 

On another note, here are a few more snapshots from our Christmas break….  

We finally made it to see the DC temple lights!  

 It's one of our favorite traditions of the season, but sadly we often get pretty frustrated by the throngs of people there, especially when we go to watch a show.  This year we missed the performances we were most interested in, so we opted to go low stress all the way.  We arrived right at dusk and
completely missed the long lines to see the international creche exhibit and thoroughly enjoyed our more relaxed walk around the grounds to see the lights.

This Alaskan nativity was one of my favorites!

Another one of the favorite things we did this holiday season was to participate in a musical performance at a local nursing home.  
It was us and four other homeschooling families, so every person got to be a full participant in the concert.  We sang several songs together, then Ellie sang a solo of "We Three Kings" while Emma accompanied her.    Later Emma sang, "O Holy Night."   Both did a beautiful job.  

Afterward we spent some time talking with the residents.  

I think everyone was a tad nervous about initiating conversations with total strangers, but the residents were so friendly that it didn't take long before they put us right at ease.  

It turned out to be a fantastic experience and a wonderful memory that we will cherish.    
Thank you to my friend, Rachel, for making it happen!


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

I Like Warm Hugs (and Snow Days)

Compared to where I grew up in Minnesota, the winters here in the DC area are pretty mild.   We generally get a handful of small to medium size snowstorms a winter, which usually completely melt within the week.    Because of the infrequency with which we receive snow, the government  doesn't devote a lot of budget or equipment to  take very good care of the roads and even an inch or two of snow can wreak havoc on driving conditions.   That is why we are one of those funny places where school gets cancelled at even a hint of snow.  Last winter, we didn't have a full week of school for two months straight because of the frequent small storms that kept coming through.   

So when I woke up this morning at 5:20am and saw an inch of snow on the ground and snow still coming down hard, I assumed that school would either be cancelled or delayed.    We've lived here 15-years and everything about the storm (the timing, the amount, etc) screamed for at least a school delay.   
But alas there was not.   

Thus began my very long day of trekking kids through treacherous conditions to their various activities, because there was no way I was letting Cami take the car that distance in those kind of conditions.   

While most people in our ward have a 1-2 mile commute to seminary and school, we happen to live in a weird boundary area which means that we have a 14-mile commute.   Yes, that's 14 miles EVERY SINGLE MORNING.   4.5 miles to the church, 9.5 miles to school from the church, and if I'm driving it's another 4.5 miles back home.  I know there are people who drive much further on a daily basis and I'm not complaining.  I am grateful to live in a fabulous ward, a great neighborhood, and in a top notch school district (even if only one of my kids is in school this year). 

 The problem is that today not a single stretch of those 14 miles was plowed.   

Not even the highway.

Cars were sliding everywhere.  There were crashes, buses in ditches, and tractor trailers jackknifing.  It was a stressful two hours of driving and I am up in arms that our school district, one of the largest in the nation, put their 100,000+ students, not to mention teachers and administrators in harm's way by keeping school in session.    Never mind that it was only 4-inches, wimpy by most people's standards--   the roads were awful and we had no business clogging them up with school traffic in the middle of the morning rush hour!    Then, because schools weren't cancelled, nothing else was either.  I spent far too many hours in the car today and it made me grumpy!

On the bright side though, the snow made for a perfect backdrop for the photoshoot that Ellie's been wanting to do.   

A few months ago she wore that turquoise sparkly dress, which is decidedly getting way too small for her, and had a little 2-year-old girl completely convinced that she was Elsa from the movie, Frozen.    Not that Ellie was trying to be Elsa, but the little girl heard "Ellie", saw the sparkly dress and convinced herself.   She followed Ellie around for an entire hour at a ward party….something that did not bother Ellie in the slightest. In fact, Ellie was downright tickled by the girl's innocent conjecture and has since made that dress one of her favorite dress-ups.     

Then Ellie got a little Olaf doll for Christmas and she had everything she needed to be Elsa for the next snowy day.   Emma curled her hair for the occasion and she eagerly went out in short sleeves and bare legs in the 25º temps and did her best Elsa impression.  

She kept a smile on her face for the first minute or so, but it didn't take long before I realized that she was NOT going to be singing, "The cold never bothered me anyway."   Approximately 1.5 minutes after I took these pictures, she was back inside the house in her warm cozy clothes again asking for hot chocolate! 

I can't lie though.  That smile pretty much made my day!  :) 

FOLLOW UP 1/7/15:  
School was delayed today and will be delayed again tomorrow.  

I'm not sure if they're guilt induced delays or due to the fact that wind chills are hovering right around 0º.  Either way, I'm not complaining about the two extra days to sleep in! 

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