Friday, November 27, 2009

Giving Thanks

Our Thanksgiving weekend began late Wednesday afternoon, when Ryan and I went to see “The Blind Side” with Rara & Papa. For anyone who may not know the story, it is the true story of Michael Oher, an extremely poor young man (one of many children of a single mother), who is taken in by a wealthy family. They help him leave his old life behind and begin a new life of academics and sports. He graduates from high school, attends college, and now plays for the Baltimore Ravens (Ryan was excited that we just saw the Ravens' stadium a couple of weeks ago).

We saw a couple of friends at the movie. As we talked about it after, one said, “Doesn’t it make you want to go out and do something nice for someone else?”

The past few years, Ryan and I have taken food to the Bountiful Food pantry. Last year, as we were walking in with our food, several young families with kids Ryan’s age were walking out with food. It helped Ryan see that REAL people and REAL kids benefit from what we were doing. However, there are a couple of families in our own neighborhood who are greatly in need. Several weeks ago, Ryan and I talked about the possibility of anonymously delivering food to these families. We had tithing settlement with our bishop on Sunday (for those of you who don’t know – that is when we talk with our bishop about our financial donations throughout the year), and I mentioned our idea to him, including the families we were considering. He said that one family had received some church help, but not much, and the other family had declined help from the church. He thought it would be great if we wanted to deliver food to each of them.

So, Wednesday night, after the inspiring movie, Ryan and I (with Papa as our “getaway” driver so our car wouldn’t be recognized) delivered very large boxes of food to these families. When we got home, we talked about the characters in the movie, and how poor they were. We talked about the single mom, and the choices she made in her life that led her to that point with her children. We talked about some of the choices of some of the “friends” in the movie, and how it affected the rest of their lives. We talked about how blessed we are, and the importance of “paying it forward.” Ryan always tells me how happy he feels when we do things for others. Me, too!

Thanksgiving Day was a lot of fun. We all met at Rara & Papa’s and had dinner there. Here is Frances’ picture of all of us at the table.
Alice & Claire LOVED watching Copper through the windows. It was almost as good as being at the zoo!Marc & Frances decided to go see a movie, so Ryan & I and Rara & Papa tended Alice & Claire. It was fun being with them for so long! We brought Copper inside since it was getting cold, and put him in his crate. Alice & Claire enjoyed watching him and touching his nose.We also had fun playing together in the toy room (formerly known as “Ryan’s room”).
I am so thankful for my family. I am thankful for the sacrifices they have made for me over the years. Most of all, I am thankful for their love and support, through sad and difficult times as well as through happy times.

On “Black Friday,” I did most of my shopping online. I got some great deals on things, without getting up at horrendous hours of the morning or fighting crazy crowds. I LOVE the Internet! I got $130 worth of boots & shoes at Famous Footwear for $56, and over $200 of stuff at The Children’s Place for $42! Between a “woot off” at a couple of weeks ago, and my Black Friday shopping, I think I’m just about done!

I did venture out to Radio Shack. They had a FREE BlackBerry Curve with a T-Mobile service extension in their ad. I actually looked online to see if I could do it there, and I would have been able to, but they didn’t have my current service plan listed. Everything else was about $15-$20 more a month, so I decided it would be worth it to go in. I was able to extend my plan and get this lovely phone FREE!I was even able to pick something up for Marc & Frances that they wanted. And this was all at about 11:00 am with NO crowds!

Friday, Marc & Frances and Ryan & I also went to see “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” together at Jordan Commons. Alice & Claire stayed with Rara & Papa while we went to the movie. Ryan & I decided that we liked “The Blind Side” more than “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” but the stop-motion animation was wonderful, and there really were some hilarious parts (perhaps more for adults than for kids). It was fun to hang out with Marc & Frances a little bit more, too.
I'm thankful that I was able to spend so much time the past few days with my great family! We always have a lot of fun together!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More Entertainment from Alice & Claire

Alice & Claire got new carseats. As with most kids, they have been endlessly entertained by the BOXES. Frances posted this funny video of the girls on YouTube. I thought I'd also share it here. Enjoy the chuckle!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ryan's Fall Poem

I have been so busy with school lately that I haven't posted for a while. I'm sorry. Hopefully this cute post will make up for it.

Ryan was given a "Thanksgiving Packet" last week to work on until tomorrow, their last day of school this week. One of the pages was called "Autumn Artistry," and gave the students a general overview of how to write a Fall poem. For example, it told students where to put 3-syllable words, 2-syllable words ending with "ing," etc. Here is his cute poem...


Halloween, Thanksgiving

Enchanting, Inspiring, Comforting

Wonderful colors and smells

Celebrating holidays and giving thanks. of my favorite pictures of this Fall to go along with it...
Happy Fall, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Washington, DC Trip, Part 3

The last couple of days of our trip were my favorites. I was done with my classes, so I was much more relaxed. We were also staying with Rara’s friend, La Rene, at her house, so it was much more comfortable than a hotel. In addition, we had a built-in tour guide!On Thursday, October 29, La Rene took us north to Baltimore, Maryland, to Fort McHenry. Fort McHenry is where “The Star Spangled Banner” was written. This is an aerial shot of Fort McHenry from the University of Maryland website.We went into the visitor’s center, where we were directed into a small theater to watch a short film. The film was narrated by an actor playing Dr. William Beanes, who was held captive on the British ship, HMS Tonnant, with Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812. After telling the story of the Battle of Baltimore, and the circumstances under which The Star Spangled Banner was written, a single male voice started singing “The Star Spangled Banner.” As more and more male voices joined in, a curtain opened to our right, to reveal the large flag flying over Fort McHenry. It was very stirring, and just about everyone in the theater was a little bit emotional.As we exited the theater to go out into the fort itself, we were able to meet up with Angela and Dalton McGhie. Angela was one of my college roommates at BYU, and now lives in Laurel, Maryland.Ryan and Dalton had a great time exploring the various areas of the fort…They also enjoyed doing the Junior Ranger activities and earning the Junior Ranger badge.We said good-bye to Angela and Dalton, and had lunch in Baltimore. Then we drove back toward DC. On our way up, we had passed the Washington DC temple, and took this picture from the car on the freeway…On our way back toward DC, we decided to stop at the temple. Here are a couple of pictures we took outside…There was an absolutely amazing exhibit in the visitor’s center. They had huge pictures taken by the Hubble telescope, along with scripture quotes. Here are a few of my favorites…Ryan also enjoyed an exhibit about the Stripling Warriors…That night we went back to La Rene’s house and had a wonderful dinner and relaxing evening.

On Friday, October 30, we ventured south to Mount Vernon, Virginia. It was absolutely beautiful! We also enjoyed a brief film in the visitor’s center there, recounting some of the important events of George Washington’s life. Here are a couple of pictures from the visitor’s center…

The grounds were gorgeous. Here are the mansion, the garden, and the greenhouse…We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the mansion, but this picture from the Mount Vernon website reminded me of something that we found very overwhelming. As we were climbing the stairs and holding on to the banister, Ryan said, “Mom, do you think George Washington touched this banister?” Why, yes. He absolutely did. And we were touching it now.We enjoyed sitting on the porch overlooking the Potomac River, just as George Washington probably did hundreds of times.

As we approached the tomb of George and Martha Washington, the gentleman there told us that if we hurried, we could look in. There had just been a wreath-laying ceremony, and the gates that are normally closed were wide open. We were able to look right in, almost close enough to touch…We were also able to visit the Slave Memorial on the Mount Vernon grounds.As we were walking back toward the visitor’s center and our car, we were told that there was a drum and fife band playing on the front lawn of the mansion, and that there was a crew filming. We were able to stand across the road and watch for a while. It was so cool! Seeing the drum and fife band, dressed in their Colonial uniforms, playing on the front lawn of Mount Vernon, made us feel that we were there during George Washington’s time!We enjoyed walking around the various gift shops, and then decided to eat lunch there. They had a full food court with fast food, but we opted for the more formal restaurant. We were so glad that we did! The most delicious thing was the Mount Vernon Peanut and Chestnut soup. They actually gave us the recipe, so I will post it. It was delicious! Ryan even tried it!

One Washington, DC site that was at the top of my list to see was The National Archives. As I described in an earlier post, we missed the Archives on Wednesday. Friday, we had enough time after Mount Vernon to stop in. We were able to see The Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights, and The Constitution. YEA!!!Ryan even "stumbled upon" some Top Secret information!That night, the night before Halloween, we went on a walking ghost tour of Washington, DC. I had found it online, and we thought it would be a fun way to end our trip. We started near The White House and Lafayette Park.We walked around several blocks surrounding The White House and heard about the Steven Decatur house, the Octagon, and The White House, among others. It was a lot of fun, and the perfect Halloween activity!

We flew home on Halloween. I think Ryan was the only kid on the plane! As we got on the plane, the pilot and co-pilot invited Ryan to sit in the cockpit for a few minutes. He was thrilled!
We had such a wonderful time seeing everything in the Washington, DC, area. The best part was sharing it all with my family.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Washington, DC Trip, Part 2

Sunday, October 25, I began my courses at 7 am! There were about 800 students there, but they divided us up into schools (Education, Business, IT, Health Professions), then by specialization area within each school (adult ed, instructional design, etc.), and then tracks (how many colloquia we had attended). Here is my cohort group: PhD in Education, Instructional Design for Online Learning, Track 1. We all had all of our classes together, and got to be great friends. We have already figured out which courses we have together next quarter, and are going to try to plan our Track 2 colloquium together.I learned of a colloquium tradition – that students are given a pin that represents their track. They passed out the Track 1 pins to us. Guess what it said? “I CAN DO THIS!” Isn’t that funny? Apparently I’m not the only one who feels that way!I had given Ryan & Rara & Papa some ideas for activities that would be appropriate for Sunday. Since we didn’t spend any time in Arlington Cemetery at all on Saturday (due to the rain and the time), they took the metro directly there, and did the Tourmobile tour of just Arlington. For those who haven’t been there, it is huge, so having some form of transportation around to see everything is a great idea.They saw the Kennedy graves and Eternal Flame…And were fortunate enough to see the changing of the guard at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier…When they finished at Arlington, they went to the Holocaust Museum. They all reported how touching it was. I had a similar experience when I went.

On Monday, October 26, I again had courses beginning at 7 am. Ryan & Rara & Papa, now metro pros, took the metro to the Smithsonian stop and went to The Air & Space Museum. Ryan drove a flight simulator with Papa as a passenger, and apparently was a pretty crazy driver. I may delay a driver’s license! They had a lot of fun, and Ryan reported that this was his favorite of the Smithsonian museums. Monday night, I was able to go out to dinner with my friend, Jason. He lives in Alexandria, just a few minutes from our hotel. We enjoyed dinner at a Caribbean restaurant, and then had a great time walking around the streets of historic Alexandria. It was a fun evening, and was a nice break from my intense coursework.On Tuesday, October 27, the fam went to the Natural History Museum & American History Museum. After the movie “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian,” Ryan has been excited to go to the Natural History museum. He wasn’t disappointed.Ryan’s school class has been talking about gems and other rocks. His teacher encouraged him to find the Hope Diamond at the Natural History Museum and take a picture of it to share with the class. He was happy to follow through with that assignment.He was also fascinated with the butterfly exhibit, particularly the one that landed on his head!On Wednesday, October 28, I only had classes until 11:00 am. I checked out of the colloquium, and then we checked out of our hotel. Rara’s friend, La Rene, had come to the hotel that morning and picked up our luggage to take to her house. When I was finished with my classes, we took the metro back into DC. We had tried to schedule a tour of the Pentagon, but hadn’t submitted our request soon enough for security clearance. So we just quickly hopped off the metro at the Pentagon stop and walked around for a few minutes. We were able to see the plaque that was dedicated to those who died at the Pentagon on September 11.I WAS able to schedule a tour of the Capitol with Senator Bennett’s office, and that was scheduled for Wednesday at 2:30. We took the metro to the Capitol South stop, and had a quick lunch at the Cannon Office Building (House of Representatives) cafeteria. We walked by the Library of Congress and Supreme Court, and then met at Senator Bennett’s office in the Dirksen Office Building (Senate offices). The amazing Capitol Visitor’s Center has been completed since I was in DC last. It is beautiful!
View of the dome through the skylight…Philo T. Farnsworth statue…King Kamehameha statue…Replica of Lady Liberty on the top of the dome…Ry, Rara, Papa with Brigham Young statue…
Ry pointing out the place where Abraham Lincoln’s desk stood in the old House of Representatives chamber, now Statuary Hall…Some of my cool pics of the Capitol Rotunda…Senator Bennett’s office also gave us tickets to sit in the Senate Chamber or House of Representatives Chamber for a while. We went to the House Chamber, where they were discussing Health Care reform. Ryan was pretty excited when we heard on the news last night about the House of Representatives and the Health Care Reform Bill. He said, “We saw them talking about that!” Regardless of your political views and feelings about it, it’s always great to see kids make that connection.

The empty Visitor’s Center as we finished our tour…I had seen online that The National Archives closed at 7:00 pm on weeknights. That made me happy, since almost everything else closes at 5:00 or 5:30. So we started walking to the Archives building along Pennsylvania Avenue. We started hearing sirens. A LOT of sirens. They were getting closer. I said to Mom, “Hand me your camera,” just as THE PRESIDENT’S MOTORCADE drove toward us and turned the corner right ahead of us! I took a picture, but it’s blurry, and just caught part of the limo, so I’m not going to post it. But it sure was fun to see the whole motorcade!

When we got to the Archives building, the sign said that the SUMMER hours were until 7 pm. They close at 5:30 the rest of the year. We got there at about 6:00. We were disappointed that we didn’t make it to the Archives on that day, but excited about what we DID see!

We took the metro to Arlington, where La Rene picked us up and took us to her house. She cooked a yummy dinner. It was nice to be in a house with real food, rather than in a hotel with restaurant food!