Thursday, December 31, 2015

Our 2015 Month-by-Month!

Here's a glimpse of our 2015 broken into month-by-month highlights!   Read to the end to find my big announcement. 

January--We found  super cheap plane tickets to CA and introduced the kids to their first taste of DisneyLand!

February--Cami got accepted to BYU!

March--Spence's Make-a-Wish trip finally came through and we all went to NEW ZEALAND!!!!

April--Emma went on her 8th grade trip to Turkey!

May--Spencer hit his 3-year mark of being in remission from leukemia!

June--Cami graduated from high school, gave the valedictory speech, received several scholarships, and in general left HS with a bang!

July--I spent my third year in a row at YW camp!

August--road trip to Idaho, Colorado, and Utah!  We enjoy spending time together as a family  before dropping Cami off at BYU.

September--We went to Michigan to witness what turned out to be BYU's biggest football flop of the season.   On the bright side, we got a super cute picture of our family, which had it included Spence and Cam, surely would have been on our Christmas card this year!

October--I stayed completely awake through all four sessions of General Conference and took detailed and colorful notes.  

November--Epic girls' trip to San Diego to celebrate my sister's 40th birthday, which was awesome,  even if it did mean that I lost my brain afterward.

December--Glen and I went on an awesome anniversary trip to NYC.  

And, finally why you're all reading this far in the first place, I have decided that after nearly nine years that it's time for me to retire from regularly posting on this blog.  It's simply too much of a distraction for me and less of a joy than it once was.  I still may post here occasionally for out-of-the-ordinary occurrences, but I will no longer  be challenging myself to blog about the day-to-day happenings in our family anymore.

Alright, can stop cheering now.

 I will truly miss this blog as an outlet and definitely miss the connection I feel from it.  

Now I will leave all of you, dear readers, with a little Lara silliness in the form of a video we made for my dad's fake birthday today:     

22-Years of Us!

On December 18th, Glen and I celebrated 22-years together by taking a trip to New York City!   My sister watched the kids and we left the hustle and bustle of home and drove to the uber hustle and bustle of the Big Apple!  

It's only four hours from home, but NYC has a culture all its own that gives it a bit of a foreign feel.

We thought these billboards in Times Square were especially cool. 

This was the view from our hotel window, which  meant that our room was light as day all night long. 

We ate good food, watched "Something Rotten" on Broadway, got some shopping done...

and watched the Christmas Spectacular performance by the Rockettes, which happen to feature one of the coolest nativity scenes we'd ever seen in our entire lives! 

After that we braved the cold and the wind and took a tour bus ride and ferry boat around town.  
It was a great way to spend our anniversary and made me extra grateful for Glen.  He's a good, kind, hard-working husband that still makes my heart go pitter-patter!

Stay tuned for one more blogpost later today with a BIG announcement....


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

True Awesomeness!

  This is my Young Women's team:   
back row:   me, Kelly (1st counselor), Kim (secretary), Cindy (personal progress specialist), Corinne (assistant beehive adviser)
front row:  Rochelle (2nd counselor), Laura  (laurel adviser), Ashley (mia maid adviser), Katie (assistant beehive adviser)

   These ladies keep me afloat with their friendship, hard work, creativity, and general awesomeness.    I've been in this calling for 3-1/2-years now and I am more grateful than ever for their willingness to be my partners in loving and serving the 34 young women we have in our ward.  

Thanks to these wonderful women and to each of the wonderful young women that brighten my life tremendously.   

♥Morgan♥Ana♥Elena♥Emma♥Auli'i♥Allie♥Nadine♥Anna W♥Sidney♥Mikayla♥
♥Marina♥Miko♥Courtney♥Rachel♥Ashley♥Anna B♥Annika♥

And thanks to our Savior, Jesus Christ, whose birth and sacrifice provide the reason why we do what we do in the first place.    

I am grateful for this Christmas season that reminds me of the great blessing it is to have a knowledge of the beauty and simplicity of God's great plan.   I love the gospel and find comfort in the peace and perspective that it brings me.


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Top Ten of Christmas 2015!

10.   It was 70º and humid!
 Now I'm a Minnesota girl who actually doesn't mind a white Christmas, but, hey, if it's not snowy, then why not warm enough for short sleeves?   It was awesome! 

9.  I didn't cook!
We used to try to do a fancy meal either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, but a few years ago, I followed the lead of my friend, Karen, and opted for simplicity and low stress.  Now we go out on Christmas Eve (this year it was Cheesecake Factory) and eat something easy on Christmas Day.  We still have a nice family dinner and our Christmas in Bethlehem dinner sometime during the break, but it's so much more enjoyable not doing it on Christmas!

8. We played games!
...and got a few new games, including a funny, weird game filled with lots of childish potty humor called Exploding Kittens.  

7. It was filled with gloriously wonderful music!
We have the best ward choir director EVER (no exaggeration) and are surrounded by exceptionally talented people.   The Christmas music was definitely one of the highlights of the season.

6.  Our Christmas devotional!
I copied these booklets filled with scriptures, music, and beautiful pictures from a friend several years ago and they're still one of my favorite elements of our Christmas traditions.

5.  Christmas card love!  
Not only did I have way too much fun writing our letter this year, but I am loving our full mailbox!    Stay tuned for a blogpost with  our card and letter soon (just in case you didn't get a copy in the mail)!

4.  Awesome Christmas pajamas!
When I bought them back in October, I had no idea that we would actually need short-sleeve pjs for Christmas, but as it turned out, it was serendipitously perfect!   And, as a bonus,  we looked cute in them, if I do say so myself.

3.  Exclamation marks!!!
I often have to hold myself back from punctuating every sentence with exclamation marks, but fun holidays, like Christmas, give me the perfect excuse to be unapologetically exclamatory!!!!!!!!  

2.  Everyone was happy!
Last year we had some jealousy/disappointment amongst a couple of the kids, which was very discouraging to us on several levels.  This year, to our delight,  everyone was happy, grateful, and content.

1.  Having everyone home!
By far the best part about this Christmas is having all seven of us together.   Now that Cami lives across the country and Glen works long, crazy hours, I treasure these moments more than ever.   


Monday, December 21, 2015

She's Back!

Cami finished with finals on Friday, got her teeth fixed this morning...

and finally arrived back home this evening.   

We are all very excited to have her home and look forward to spending the next couple of weeks with the whole family together!      

We missed our Cami girl! 


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Of Elves, Santa, and True Love

Our snitchy little Elf on the Shelf, Delph, caught some incriminating material on my camera last night....

Oops!   That's me smooching Santa Claus who dropped by for a quick early visit. 

Glen needn't be too jealous though, since I went out in public with him looking like this....

he should know now (if 22 years of marriage didn't already demonstrate it)  that my love for him is true and allegiant.

And Santa's beard was too tickly anyway.   


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Family Update without the OCD

 When I write our Christmas letter I get in a zone.  My family can tell you that I'm very intense during the writing phase and get kind of obsessed with tweaking it and making it as different as I can from  the average letter.   It's a process that I enjoy very much, but after I start sending them out, I invariably notice something I don't like about them.  Sometimes it's a weird word I used.   Or  something about the design that I don't like.   Or whatever.  This year it was both of those.   

Besides the weird word issue and the design that didn't look quite as good on paper as it did on my computer screen, this year I felt like some details were lacking.    So I decided to take to the blog to issue a more informative update on our family.    The one I might  have sent if I didn't suffer from Christmas card induced OCD.    


Glen:   Glen was hoping that the sale of his company (not that it's actually "his" company, but the company he works for)  would herald in a less  demanding and stressful work environment for him, but alas it has not.   He still works more hours than he ever has in his life and we are both really hoping for some changes this upcoming year that will help him to find a better family, self, spiritual, work balance.   He works with the deacons at church and enjoys that a lot.  His goal is to lose 45-lbs by his 45th birthday in June.  

Lara:   I am still YW president (and have been for 3-1/2-years).  I absolutely love the calling and know that it will be a tough adjustment when I do get released, which almost certainly will be sometime this upcoming year.  I am still homeschooling Emma, Adam, and Ellie and am enjoying our first year to not have any kids in public school.   I love to go on long hikes whenever possible and am constantly badgering people to join me on my hiking adventures.  I

Spencer (20):   It's weird having Spence home again, but we really like being able to see him on a regular basis.  He keeps himself pretty busy between work and friends.  Right now he's looking into some growth options (including travel) that he could potentially pursue this upcoming year.   His health remains good, however both of he and I retain an increased anxiety about his health this time of year, since Christmastime was right in the zone before his diagnosis (4-years ago) when he was so sick.  Kudos to Spence for choosing the coolest Make-A-Wish ever and letting his family accompany him on a once-in-a-lifetime dream trip to New Zealand.

Cami (18):   Cami graduated from high school with all sorts of honors and scholarships bestowed upon her and is now absolutely loving BYU life.  We are really, really excited for her to come home for Christmas next week.   She has done very well in her classes and has enjoyed being on her own for the first time.    She is having some major dental work done right after finals, because doing it in Utah, rather than here in Virginia, is going to save a few thousand dollars.  (alleluia!)   She's already let me know that she really hopes to do some babysitting while she's home, not necessarily because she needs the extra money, but because she's really missed spending time with kids while she's been away at school.  Her plan is to head on a mission this summer.

Emma (15):   Emma is our only true morning person in the family and, ironically, she's the first one who's gotten the benefit of the later early morning seminary start time (since our district delayed the start time of high schools this year).     She absolutely loves seminary and wakes up early to give herself plenty of time to get ready, read the scriptures, and to make a wholesome breakfast.   We love her daily singing performances and her ability to stick to the things she sets her mind to.   She has taken a few cupcakes orders since Cami left, but most recently she's taken a job cooking meals a couple times a week for a local family.

Adam (13):  Adam's schedule has gotten significantly busier this year and he seems to really thrive on the  busyness.  Besides Rubik-ing, he loves to ride his bike, play soccer with his friends, and do practically anything to avoid having to write his weekly essay.    He's become quite adept at strategy games and is always looking for opportunities to wrangle someone into playing with him.  His current favorite games are 7 Wonders and  Dominion.  Lucky for me, he is the kid most game for joining me in my hikes, which is great since I very much enjoy his informative and scientific conversations!  Adam and Emma have both been recently called as family history consultants in our ward, which has lit them both on fire doing their family history, but especially Adam.

Ellie (10):  Ellie has recently taken a job as a mother's helper.  She's naturally very nurturing and she loves that she's getting paid to do something she enjoys so much.   She has plowed through and finally finished all the Harry Potter books, which was a relief to me, because they served as a huge distraction for too many months.   She is now contemplating what books to start reading next.     I consider her the only true extrovert in our family and it's a delight to watch her natural ease with connecting with people of all ages.

And on another note.....

Here's the family picture that did NOT make the cut onto our card this year.  It's not the best picture of us as a family, but I designed a hobbit-themed card with it and really liked that it showed we were somewhere cool.   Unfortunately every person I showed it to before ordering thought that it was a nativity scene, rather than a hobbit house, which pretty effectively made my hobbit references look sacrilegiously out of place.


Why did I write and publish two blogposts on the same day?

It's because I set a goal for myself back in August to publish three times a week and I stuck with that goal religiously until last week when I was in the throes of Christmas carding.   I didn't want to let another week go by without reaching my goal, so today is getting two!


Lara's 5 Commandments on Writing a Christmas Letter

These "commandments" could probably be better classified as "Lara's Philosophy on Christmas Letters" than actual commandments, but they were so much more fun to write in scriptural language that I got a little carried away.

#1  Thou shalt not skip writing a Christmas letter because "nothing exciting happened".   Almost every year, this thought briefly crosses my mind, but then I remember that there is nothing more boring than a letterless Christmas card, except no Christmas card at all.

#2  Thou shalt avoid using trite clichés like the plague, because, heaven help us, I may be off my rocker, but I don't want people to know that I've lost my marbles.  We're all in the same boat anyway and this commandment is making zero sense whatsoever.    All I'm really trying to say is that for the love of all that's good, please avoid starting your letter with woeful reminiscings on the passage of time.

#3  Thou shalt not write a letter that filleth both sides of a paper with excessive verbiage.  A letter that spills onto both sides of the paper  should either use a large font, clever writing, or  a bunch of pictures...or even better...all of the above.

#4  Thou shalt think outside the box and not limit yourself to a formal letter style.   Over the years we've done a  top ten list, our year in NUMB3RS, a fairy tale, a list of what we're grateful for, a WANTED poster, and this year a toy catalog.    None of them would win any creativity awards, but I like to hope that at least I've done my small part in preventing Christmas card induced narcolepsy at least.

#5  Thou shalt not make the entire letter a list of the fabulous accomplishments of your awesomely perfect family.  Even if you are awesomely perfect and haven't so much as sneezed all year, believe me when I say that no one really wants to know it!    This isn't really an issue for us, since we are decidedly awesome, but faaaaaaaaaaaaar from perfect.   Even still I need to remind myself that listing out our accomplishments is just portraying a very small and unrepresentative piece of who we are.  


Stay tuned for our Christmas card/letter reveal and a behind-the-scenes glimpse coming soon!


Monday, December 7, 2015


After months of committing myself to posting here  at least three times per week, I have fallen off the wagon the past week or two!   


Am I sick?   Are my kids sick?  Do I have too many parties to attend?  Too much shopping?    


It's because of this....

It's Christmas card time!!! 

It's my favorite time of the year and despite all the time it's taken to create them, I've very much enjoyed making this year's card and letter.    Now everything is printed, our card wall/door is starting to fill up,  and I've finally got my first batch in the mail today. 

Be prepared for some serious awesomeness, er, maybe it's more like silliness coming soon to a mailbox near you! 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Good/Bad News

The bad news is that my washer is old and my dryer has been on the fritz for the last few months.

The good news is that we've had a mild autumn with lots of sunshine and nice temps, which has made drying clothes outside on a clothesline actually pretty pleasant.

The bad news is that it's gotten cold and rainy lately.

The good news is that there was some pretty good deals on washer/dryer combos this past weekend.

The bad news is that they incorrectly installed the washer and our laundry room flooded after the first load of laundry.

The good news (I thought) was that everything was under warranty and they would certainly bend over backwards to make their brand new product work properly.

The bad news is that I was wrong. And Sears sucks. And I now have a perfectly functioning dryer and no washer and they can't come until Monday to fix it.

The good news is that it's cold and rainy, so washing my clothes outside in the meantime should be a breeze.

Thanks, Sears!


UPDATE: the contractor who installed our washer yesterday randomly called us this evening looking for a lost tool. We didn't have the tool, but he jumped into action and came immediately to our house when I told him we were having issues. He stayed (on his own time) and waited through an entire wash cycle to see what the issue was. It turns out that a drain pipe was jostled during installation and likely caused the problem. Nothing was officially fixed, but some adjustments were made and hopefully the issue has been solved for now. I still am unhappy with Sears who didn't seem interested in helping us at all, but Ernesto (not a Sears employee, but a private contractor) came to the rescue and is the hero of my day!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Art in Real Life

Recently while studying Mary Cassatt we decided to recreate two of her paintings in real life...

Ellie was a willing model who enjoyed the challenge...

Our dog not so much. Rocky wanted nothing to do with being on an empty chair, so Ellie gave up and let him cuddle with her!  

What else are we doing?  

* Cami went to California for Thanksgiving, made a dozen pies for the big day, and recently started a blog. 

 *Ellie and I did a presentation about her seizures to a local Cub Scout troop tonight. They were learning about how to treat people with disabilities or that are different from them.  Ellie was a happy participant and rocked  answering all of their questions! 

*Spencer had yet another double ear infection this past week that left him extremely hard of hearing.   Thankfully his hearing is improving now that the antibiotics are kicking in.   I've got him an appointment for an ENT next week to get to the bottom of these new ear issues.  

*Emma is loving all the Christmas music out right now and spends a couple hours each day playing the piano and singing.   I love it. She also recently took a job cooking dinners a couple times a week for someone.   It's a great job and she is really enjoying the challenge.  

*Adam is our main worm caretaker, our resident fix-it guy, my most challenging child to homeschool, our puzzle solver, and joke other words, he makes me laugh, cry, yell, thank, and cheer on a regular basis!   

*Ellie is half-way through the 7th Harry Potter and couldn't be more excited about it! 

*Our Elf on the Shelf is back in business.  He had a little more reluctant  entrance this year, but I guess he's here to stay for a few more weeks.  

*Glen is on a quest to lose 45-lbs by his 45th birthday (in June) and he's made some good beginning strides towards that goal.   

*Taking his lead, I am avoiding sweets right now. 

*Madeleine, the inspirational AML fighter from London that I've recently connected with, is not doing well.  Please keep her in your prayers.  

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