Saturday, February 28, 2015

She's a Cougar!

…and I mean that in the best way possible!   

Late last night, Cami got the exciting news that she was accepted to Brigham Young University  in Provo, Utah for this fall!   

Although it makes us sad to think of her living so far away, we couldn't be more proud of her and the hard work she has put forth to get her where she's at today!    We are especially proud knowing that BYU received a record number of applicants this year, which means it's all the more of an honor for her to be admitted!  

Her "tweet" from today explains best about how she feels about it.      

Way to go,  Cami!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What We Do For Fun

So what do we do for fun around our house?    

Here's a little glimpse:   

As a family, we love reenacting cooking shows from the Food Network.    My kids (all of them) beg for us to do these on a regular basis.  Glen and I find them a little draining, and especially dread the massive kitchen mess that always ensues, but we try to humor them about once a month or so.  Most of my kids are now better cooks than I am and it's been fun to see even Ellie and Adam stretch themselves to create really tasty (and even beautiful) food without recipes.   I like to think that their future spouses will thank me profusely someday.
Adam, Emma, and AnnaLisa were the judges this time.  Mommy was the first one out and Daddy was the winner.  

Ellie plays dress-up with her friends.  Dress-ups lately have gotten a lot more sophisticated than the fancy princess outfits of her younger days and now they usually involve some elaborate role playing in a historical time period.   This day it was a princess and Little House on the Prairie mash-up where Ellie was  "poor Rapunzel"  and Hannah the faithful servant girl who tried to help Rapunzel.  There was no electricity and they had to use candles and cook over a fire.     

Adam plays strategic board games.   Give him any strategy game and with practice, it won't take long until he will be the new family champion! This day he was playing 10 Days In Europe Game , but "7 Wonders" is his current favorite.  We play games together as a family at least a few times a week and for sure whenever we get together with the "S" family!   Adam also just started an every other week chess club with some local homeschoolers, since he can't talk any of his sisters (or mother) into playing that with him.  

Emma makes fancy breakfasts.   The breakfasts shown below are not for a special occasion of any sort. She just really seems to enjoy that quiet early morning time in the kitchen to create beautiful and delicious food.  

 I tote kids around to their doctor's visits, classes, etc., and try to take advantage of moments to spend special time with a kid whenever I can.    Yesterday Ellie had her appointment with a seizure specialist (also known as an epileptologist) downtown, so when her appointment was finished and I realized we were only about 2.5 miles from the National Zoo and still had a couple hours before the next kid had somewhere to be, it was a no-brainer.   The zoo was empty, the animals were active, and there were zoo keepers everywhere eager to share information about the animals to anyone who would listen.  We learned all about how they track pandas in the wild and best of all got to watch the very cute baby panda playing for a while!    

Cami makes cupcakes.  This clearly isn't a surprise, but perhaps the fact that after 3-years of being in business that she still regularly fills big orders for people and that she's still willing to make special orders for mom, may be a bit more of a surprise.  She recently held a big sale for her entrepreneurship class and sold 11-dozen cupcakes (on left) and  a week later was still willing to make these "brainy" cupcakes for me to share with friends celebrating another friend's anniversary of overcoming brain cancer.

Glen makes chocolate covered strawberries!    Okay, so this was just for Valentine's Day, but it was such a sweet gesture and so much more interesting than showing a picture of him watching BYU sports, that I had to throw it in.  

I had to laugh to see how many of our family's past-times involve food.   What can I say?  I think I'm raising a family of foodies!    Even Spencer sends me pictures of meals he's proudly prepared for himself….complete with the  budget friendly ingredients of beans and rice!  
One of Spence's culinary creations

So what do YOU do for fun in your house?  

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Snowy Day

This has been a weird wintry week where we had church cancelled  last Sunday, school and all school activities cancelled 3 out of the 4 days (Monday was already a holiday), mutual cancelled, church basketball games cancelled, 2 parties cancelled, and swim team cancelled.    And it's been snowy enough today that it's looking somewhat likely that church will be cancelled again tomorrow.   

I definitely have missed the routine, but won't complain about the opportunity to sleep in all week.  I also have really enjoyed the extra time to spend with the family.  The kids have still had to do some school work and chores all week, but with everything else cancelled we've definitely had plenty of time to play too!   In addition to playing outside a lot together, we've also been playing board games and watching movies.    

So today when it started snowing earlier and more heavily than they expected, I got the random urge to take a photography walk around our neighborhood.     

Here are my favorite shots from today (and a few from earlier this week): 

Remind me how many days is it until spring again?  

Friday, February 20, 2015

Colder than _________?

Quick name all the  cities in the world you can think of that are known for their cold weather and check out their temperatures from last night.    Here's the list I came up with:

Cold Cities Listed in Order by Latitude
for comparison's sake, Washington DC is 38.8951ºN

Fairbanks:   (64.8436ºN), 21ºF
North Pole, Alaska:   (64.7511ºN), 20ºF
Nome, Alaska:   (64.5039ºN), 17ºF
Reykjavik: (64.1333ºN),  30ºF
Anchorage: (61.2167º N), 32ºF
Helsinki:  (60.1708º N), 36ºF
Oslo:  (59.9500ºN), 41ºF
Saint Petersburg: (59.9500ºN),   37ºF
Stockholm:  (59.3294ºN),  41ºF
Glasgow: (55.8580ºN),  38ºF
Moscow:  ( 55.7500ºN), 30ºF
Copenhagen:  (55.6761ºN), 37ºF
Calgary:  (51.0486ºN), 45ºF
Bozeman:  (45.6778ºN), 46ºF
Boston:   ( 42.3601ºN), 17ºF

You'll notice that most of these cities  are 17º+ further North in latitude than Washington DC (with the exception of the American cities), which means at minimum most of the listed cities are 1200 miles further away (Moscow) from the equator than Washington DC  and the most northern cities listed (like Fairbanks) are 2200 miles further from the equator than we are!

But look at the temperature  here in the Washington DC area this morning:


That makes the temperature here more akin to these Siberian cities:
Perm, Russia (SIBERIA): (58.0000ºN),   -6ºF
Krasnoyarsk, Russia (SIBERIA): (56.0167ºN), -13ºF

and my frigid hometown:
Minneapolis:     (44.9778ºN), 5ºF

But thankfully not quite as cold
South Pole, Antarctica: (90ºS),    -48ºF

The Washington Post declared that "the Eastern US is by far the coldest place in the world compared to average today".   Another article declared that today's cold breaks a 120-year-old temperature record!

What can I say?   It feels like the winters of my childhood.  

Except that Minneapolis is slightly warmer today and  school here is canceled again for today (which is a very rare occasion in my home state).  Our county has literally had one single day of school all week (Thursday) and even though only 1/5 of my kids goes to public school, it seriously messes with our routine when school is canceled.

On the bright side though, my kids have figured out how to harness the  dry powdery snow and make a  cool sledding track.  The cold doesn't seem to keep them inside or slow them down a bit…

and you will probably not be surprised to hear, that despite it being the coldest day in 120+ years,  that Adam is still wearing shorts.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

It's Happening!!!!!

Three years ago, Spencer was stuck in a hospital room for more than half of his junior year of high school while he battled for his very life.    On one of those days dark days in the midst of chemo treatments, blood transfusions, and bone marrow biopsies,  a nurse mentioned a wonderful organization  that gives hope to kids like Spencer by granting them a wish.

Spencer was 16 and fighting a disease that doesn't have great odds, so when representatives from Make-a-Wish showed up in his room to find out what his wish was, he….


He wished to be as far away as humanly possible from where he currently was.    

His wish, though heartfelt and sincere,  seemed like it might be too extravagant, especially for someone who comes from a big family and we worried that they would tell him to tone his wish down to something more reasonable.    Make-a-Wish, however, didn't even blink, told us to get passports, and that our trip would be soon after his treatment ended.

But then we waited, and waited, and waited…and didn't hear a single thing more until a couple of months ago when they told us to send them some dates that might work for our family to finally take his trip.

It had been so long since we heard from them, we honestly didn't know if his trip would ever happen.   Finally a couple of days ago, though,  we got the letter we've been waiting for!   We received confirmation for our flights and a note that our itinerary is being finalized.  

We are leaving in just a couple of weeks to finally take Spencer on a journey to the other side of the world.   A place we weren't sure he'd live  long enough to see, not to mention ever be able to afford to take him to ourselves.

We are seriously giddy with excitement and now want to give back in a small way to the foundation that's making this trip happen.

On March 26 (only about a week after we return from our trip), there will be a fundraising walk at the Mosaic Center in Fairfax and we would like to invite you to join our team.  A small $10 donation will register you to be a part of our team.   We'd love it if you could join us on the walk, but welcome you to be an honorary member even if you live far away!      Click the link below the picture to join!

Stay tuned for more details coming soon and in the meantime feel free to guess where we're heading.  (those of you who already know are exempt from guessing)


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

In the last 24-hours….

1.   It snowed 4-inches of dry, powdery snow, which meant that seminary and school were canceled today!   The snow wasn't quite as good for sledding as the kids like, but that still didn't stop them from playing outside in it for hours on end.  
2.  Ellie has cooked 2 gourmet meals for herself (gourmet by 9-year-old standards anyway) and helped make dinner too.   I am grateful for the time I've spent over the years to teach the kids how to work in the kitchen.  It often means a bigger mess in the short-run, but has paid huge dividends in the long run, by having a house full of kids who are not picky eaters in the slightest and enjoy helping in the kitchen.    

3.   Cami and Emma have made their own homemade exfoliating creams and are now giving each other facials.
4.   I've had 2 kids whining at me about how unfair it is that they have to do math on a "snow day".  Happily everyone persevered and we won't have to do double math lessons tomorrow.

5.  We shoveled out from our underperforming snowstorm.   Glen shoveled the driveway early this morning, then the rest of us shoveled the rest of the cars out later this morning.    We didn't shovel so we could go somewhere though (other than Glen who still had to go to work), but so we could move the cars out of the way of the sled trails.
6.  I've done some coordinating on a fancy  event that I'm helping with  and I'm feeling decidedly unfancy and underqualified to have anything to say about it.  

7.  Cami made a batch of homemade marshmallows, then dipped them in chocolate, wrapped them up fancy, then brought some to friends (and left the rest of them at home for the aforementioned "fancy event").  I think she should be helping with the fancy event instead of me.  

8.    Ellie has reprogrammed the Siri app on my phone to stop calling me "Emma" and instead call me "Walla Walla Buster Brown". 

9.  We got good news!  (stay tuned for more details)  


These pictures are just random snowy day pics and have nothing to do with our good news! 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Day-by-Day in California

While we are experiencing very anti-California weather right now, I thought I'd take this opportunity to reminisce about warmer days, and finish up blogging about California.  I took over 1000 pictures while we were in California, but rather than boring you all with a gazillion more blogposts about our trip, I'm combining most of the rest of the pictures into this one long post.   There will definitely be some more pics that pop up in future posts, but this will be the last big one that recaps our trip.  This post will also be the guide post to our trip and below you will find summaries of what we did day-by-day with  links to the applicable posts. 

In the meantime, we are now hunkering down for some real deal winter weather (for the DC area) over the next few days.  Today the high was 15º,  it was very windy, and church was canceled.  Tomorrow we are expecting 4-8-inches of snow and it's beginning to feel a little like late-autumn weather where I grew up in Minnesota.    

Day 1:  Arrive to LV, drive to CA, sleep!
We were so exhausted from rushing to get out the door on our trip a day earlier than we'd planned, that all we wanted to do when we arrived to my sister's house was to sleep.   

Day 2:   Chill morning, Crescent Bay at Laguna Beach in the afternoon
My kids were so absolutely enraptured by the novelty of being at the beach in the middle of winter, that they did not stop smiling the entire time we were there.   My California native niece and nephew, on the other hand, were totally bored by it.  Beach trips all through the year are not new or novel for them, and  they would have much rather been there with their friends than their long-lost East coast cousins.   I felt bad that we stayed as long as we did, but my kids were soaking it all up to the hilt!   

Day 3:  DisneyLand
It was my kids' very first time visiting a Disney park and they LOVED it!   We had locals telling us to expect 1-2 hour waits on some of the popular rides, even in the off-season, but somehow we never had to wait more than about 10 minutes for any ride.  We attributed it to going in the middle of the week and the whole measles' bad publicity.   There were several rides closed (It's a Small World and the Matterhorn being the two most disappointing), but it was so fantastic being able to actually enjoy our time, instead of waiting in lines, that I think we should never go back, so as not to ever ruin that sense of perfection that we have in our minds!  

I had no idea what to expect with this "twin sister" park to DisneyLand, but it exceeded our expectations in every way.   The lines were slightly longer than they'd been at DisneyLand, but that meant we never waited longer than about 25 minutes for the most popular rides and still walked right up for most rides.   The rides are larger and more age appropriate for  my kids and it's a lot more themey than DL.  They had "lands" and rides based on Disney movies that were breathtakingly realistic.   Cars Land was AMAZING and probably our favorite!    The recreated Radiator Springs, complete with the bluffs in the background,  was so cool and contained some of our favorite rides of the day.  Some other favorites included the Frozen sing-a-long and the Aladdin musical.   Aladdin's actors were Broadway quality and the special effects were out-of-this-world!   That show alone almost made it worth the price of admission! 
Day 5:  Los Angeles (LaBrea Tar Pits (see below), Griffith Observatory)
 In my opinion, the museum at LaBrea Tar Pits is way over-priced, so we opted to stay outside and explore the grounds instead.   Too bad it started raining right when we got there.    It was blue sky and sunshiny when we left my sister's house, so we were woefully unprepared for the unusual California rainstorm.   We ran around looking at the tar pits, the excavation site, and some informational signage they had around the grounds, but truth be told, the rain shortened our stay dramatically.    Timing-wise, though, it ended up being perfect for heading to the Griffith Observatory.   It stopped raining on the way there and we arrived just in time to enjoy an absolutely spectacular sunset.   The observatory is completely free and, in my opinion, the absolutely best way to enjoy Los Angeles…from up high!  

Day 6:  Balboa Island, Newport Beach, shopping
Cami had visited Balboa Island last summer with Kristina, and couldn't wait to introduce us to it as well.  Its narrow streets, cute little shops, and cottages made for a very picturesque town.  We ate lunch here, got a famous "Balboa Bar" at one of the many shops touting theirs as the original, then headed across on the ferry to Newport Beach.  Once again, my kids were completely in love with the idea of swimming at a beach in January!  The waves weren't as good for boogie boarding, but we definitely enjoyed a lovely afternoon there!

Day 7:   Church
It was great to attend church for a week without a single shred of responsibility.   Ellie felt right at home being the only girl in a crazy primary class of all boys.   At home there's usually one other girl, but the craziness and the being outnumbered was not a new feeling at all.   Adam joined in a very large and boisterous Deacon's class that gave him a newfound appreciation for his own large and slightly less boisterous class at home.   Emma and Cami enjoyed  being introduced to a whole new group of Californian young men.   After church we headed home where Emma cooked up a gorgeous rendition of Chicken cordon blue!  
Day 8:  San Diego, La Jolla, trolley tour (see below), Coronado Beach, Mormon Battalion (see below), San Diego Temple
What can I say?  We loved San Diego so much, that every single one of us left there wondering how we could talk Glen into us moving there for good.   La Jolla Cove beach and Coronado beaches were our favorites yet.   La Jolla was rocky and definitely not as great for swimming, but was picturesque with its gorgeously blue water, was peaceful,  and had sea lions!   Coronado's sands were amazingly soft and somehow flecked with gold specks (which apparently are actually mica flecks).  It was a stunning sight to see and we fell in love with the wide, flat beach and shallow waters.  Our only disappointment was that we were not prepared to swim.   We took a trolley tour to see more of San Diego than we otherwise would have, and ended up grateful that we did.  It was the trolley guide that introduced us to Coronado and the stunning Balboa Gardens.  We ended up not having enough time to explore the Gardens, but even the view we got from the trolley was breathtaking and satisfying.   We ended our day in San Diego with a stop at the lovely San Diego Temple located in the town of La Jolla.   The grounds aren't as large as you'd expect, but it definitely ranked up there as a favorite for all of our family.    Next time we visit California we may plan to spend two days in San Diego instead of just one! 

Day 9:  Pack, Newport Beach temple, drive back to LV,  LV temple, fly home
We didn't try to accomplish anything this day except some last minute laundry and packing.   It took a lot of juggling to arrange everything to fit the strict requirements of the airline on which we were traveling, but eventually we got it all arranged and left my sister's house in early afternoon.   We gave ourselves plenty of time (9+ hours) to travel what should have been about a 4-hour trip back to Las Vegas.   It was good that we did, because traffic was frustratingly slow and we ended up not having a moment to spare after our two very short side trips to visit temples.   On the way out of town we stopped at the Newport Beach temple and once we got there we visited  the Las Vegas temple.  They're both very beautiful in very different ways, and we loved that we got a chance to see them. We had hoped to also have some time to walk down the Las Vegas strip to see some of the cool looking landmarks (Eiffel tower, Statue of Liberty, a huge pyramid, etc), but alas we had to enjoy from the car and rush to the airport for our red-eye back home.  We lucked out with one empty seat next to us, which meant that Ellie got to lie down and actually sleep.  The rest of us, however, got a very fitful couple of hours of sleep (if that).  


La Brea Tar Pits: 


San Diego Trolley Tour:  

Mormon Battalion in Old Town San Diego:


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