Thursday, July 31, 2014

Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

What a fun book to read.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It's a light children's book about a flying, superhero squirrel and his friend, Flora.  The characters are all really charming.  I loved them all -- all round and evolving.  I can imagine reading this with Callie one day.  It was fun but also touches on deeper issues in a very approachable way for children.  Friendship.  Family.  Love.  Courage.  Divorce.  Identity.  Self-esteem.  Fear.  Persistence.  Dedication.  Loyalty.  

One thing I loved was the format of the book.  Flora narrates most of the book, however occassionally we get a chapter from the squirrel.  (And the chapters are extremely short so you feel like you're accomplishing a lot by sitting down and reading 5 chapters!)  Every now and then, you get the story in a comic strip style as well.  It changes up the text a bit, giving good variety, but also having these tid bits of illustration.  It's so well done.

It wasn't until the end of the book when I realized the author was Kate DiCamillo (I just got it on my kindle without too much investigation) -- who wrote Because of Winn Dixie, which I also loved reading last year.  She's a skilled children's chapter book author.  If these 2 books of hers that I've read are an indication of how great her other books are...I love her.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

a difficultly beautiful birthday

I've been anticipating Samantha's 8th birthday for quite some time now.  And it wasn't with grand, happy anticipation.  What's so big about the number 8?  In the LDS church, it is the designated age when children have crossed a certain threshold of understanding -- when they are able to more fully understand right and wrong -- and so, it is when they are typically baptized in our church.  It's a significant time in a child's life.  They are old enough to say that this is what they want.  They understand what they are doing.  And, if that child does choose baptism into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then it is something that they really look forward to.  After baptism, they are given the Gift of the Holy Ghost.  It's a gift and a promise; if this child keeps her end of the deal by following the commandments and truly trying their best to be a representative of Jesus Christ in their thoughts and actions, then the Spirit will be their constant companion.  What an amazing gift.  A member of the Godhead will be with them at all times to confirm truth, to whisper promptings to their hearts and minds, to sanctify their efforts.

Samantha is eight.
She is my oldest child.
The one who typically leads the way, sets the example.

She did not get baptized.

Doctrinally speaking, I don't have an issue with her not getting baptized.  Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the innocent are protected.  His sacrifice is enough.  When I was younger, I needed to enter the gate through baptism...and most of us do.  But Samantha is perpetually innocent.  She doesn't even have the ability to sin.  She is one of the purest individuals living on this earth.  That is amazing.  And I should have been filled with more love and gratitude because of the simple fact that I live with an angel.  Instead, I mourned the fact that she didn't have the need for baptism.  We talked with our ecclesiastical leader earlier on in the year who informed us that there was no need for her baptism.  I struggled with this for months.  I cried about it.  But it was never about her getting baptized, because again, I fully understand and agree that Samantha is nearly as perfect as they come.  She will never sin.  She has no inkling of what malice or deception even is.  Her baptism was symbolic of how she would also never go to YW Camp, or to a dance, or...tell me how her day was.

So Sammy turning 8 was hard for me.  

Marcus asked if we were having a party for her.
"Yeah, we'll have family over I guess.  It's not like she's getting baptized and there's a celebration.  We'll just do it like we do every year."
I was such a grouch.
But Marcus quickly changed my mind and I got so excited.  All my sadness I put into a little party.
The goal was to have her surrounded by people who absolutely adored her.
We did Hawaiian flowers, pulled pork sandwiches, pineapple/coconut whips, rainbow cake, sensory sand play for the kids and coloring pages.
I was so happy and full of so much love.
Memory Lane
I am so in love with this girl.  Eight years has gone by so quickly.
We didn't have sand, but we had moon sand.  Close enough, right?

This picture was taken precisely .2 seconds before lasers shot out of Nate's eyes!

Not happy about something.

Sammy with Megan

Sammy's birthday cake.

I can try all I want, but I'll never get a really great cousin picture.
(World Cup in the back)

Sammy with her birthday tutu

Oh Sammy girl.  I love you so much.

Best picture of the night.  This moment probably lasted all of 1 second, but Marcus got it just in time, and I'll be forever grateful.
Sometimes you need a break from partying.

Our little family

So Sammy's 8.  And you know what?  It's no big deal.  She's still adorable and great and fun and perfect.  All that anticipation was completely ridiculous and a waste of time, but the feelings were very real for me nonetheless.  Celebrating our girl and the day she was born was just what I needed, I suppose, to remind myself that I really don't care that she doesn't do things like other kids her age...and never will.  What I really care about is that she's eternally mine and that she's here with us.  

That is something to celebrate.

I am so grateful.
My life is so full.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

San Diego 2014

If you aren't related to us, the abundance of pictures here may be of little interest.  But for us, oh this was a GREAT trip.  Well, it depends on what defines "great."  More than 1/2 of us got sick with a 24 hour bug which caused pretty violent vomiting.  My brother-in-law lost a fight with the ocean and its waves and broke his shoulder.  But, it was a week of swimming, hanging out with cousins, seeing the sites, and being together.  I call it a success.

Monday night we had a family photo shoot at the beach.  I'm excited to get those back and to see how those turned out.  Until are some pre-shoot posing pictures.  These were the warm-ups. 
Does Micah looks unsure of something?

Jackson loves Sammy and always would make sure she was included by giving hugs, sitting by her, and telling her he loves her.
Sammy is eyeing that celery.  Maybe she was hungrier than I thought.


Judge me.  Go ahead.  You can judge me.  But on Tuesday we went to Sea World.  And it was really fun.  Callie fed the seals and thought that was pretty awesome.

Getting ready to go on their first ride!

Micah is too small for the rides, so a good part of his day consisted of...this.

Ted and Ty, Marcus and Sammy

She's so cute

Hunter, Callie, Jackson

Obviously the girl sitting between Brayden, Marcus and Sammy...and Hunter, Callie, and Jackson knew she would be in my pictures.

Micah loved this little play area.  It was like walking on a big water bed.  He loved it.

It was either the jumping or the extreme heat that day that wiped him out.

Watching the dophins

Waiting for the show and NOT wanting to wait.

Sammy had her own special seating at each show that we took advantage of.  It made it so nice that we could just push her up instead of taking her out, carrying her to a seat, and trying to hold onto her squirmy body.  Plus it was super hot that day (with no shade...what's up with that?!), so holding her would have been miserable for us both.

Peggy, Ty (he IS can see his chin), Hunter, Jackson, Brayden and his grimace, Ted, Callie, Marcus and Micah sitting in the Splash Zone.  Callie, Marcus, and Micah moved up by me and Sammy before the waterworks began.  Wise choice for Callie.  She would have HATED being wet.

I'm in awe by these animals.  Let's take the captivity part out of it and just look at these huge, strong creatures.  They are beautiful and so powerful.  I could watch them for hours.

Feeding and petting the sting rays.

 Though I don't have a picture to document it, I need to share that Callie, our little Callie, road a big roller coaster at Sea World!  Marcus and I left the kids with Ted, Peggy, and Mom and Dad so we could ride the Manta.  It was fast and twisted and turned.  We were looking forward to riding it.  Just as we were about to get on, we look back and see Callie in line with her cousins with Lisa and Adam!  We couldn't believe it.  She was nervous, but was also really excited.  When Marcus and I finished the ride, we waited to see if we could see her.  While we waited, Marcus was just worried about her.  I was thrilled!  I couldn't believe she was doing this...something that is so scary for her.  I was really proud of her.  And really, the worst that would happen (in my optimistic mind) is that she'd be scared and then it'd be over.

When we asked if she loved it, she smiled and shook her head.  Then she confided in us that she had her eyes closed the entire time.  I was so proud of her!

After a long hot day, what's better than sitting on the couch and watching some tv?

Sammy nestled behind the couch cushions and was perfectly happy being surrounded by her family.

 The house we stayed in a was basically awesome.  It had this incredible pool and the kids loved...the young and big kids alike.  I was in that pool multiple times every day.  It was awesome.  I can't believe I don't have pictures of Sammy in there...but really, I was in the water all the time which makes it hard to take pictures.  But she LOVED it.  One day she was in the water with Grandma for about 2.5 hours straight!
Callie and Jackson contemplating the big jump

 The San Diego Zoo was pretty great, but I only saw a few things before I left with my mom and dad.  I was just too sick.  Marcus spent the day with Micah and Callie seeing the entire zoo while Mom and Dad watched Sammy and I recovered from being sick.

My favorite animal...the gorilla.  Always has been.  I'm so intrigued, wondering what they think, etc.  I love gorillas.

We thought of just using an umbrella stroller.  I'm soooo glad we brought the joovy.  It was warm and there was a lot of walking.  This was perfect for Callie to be able to sit and made for more enjoyable days.


Looking at the animals

Have I mentioned how much I love this girl?
I'm not sure how much Sammy gets out of places like this...all the touristy sites...but I can't imagine any moment without her.

Mom and Dad pushed Sammy's wheelchair while I tried to keep up.  I was going downhill really quickly.  I so desperately wanted to be at the zoo with Marcus and the kids.  I thought I could push through and just take breaks, but I was very wrong.  I barely made it home in the car without making a mess of the backseat.  But Callie ended up having a really good time there with Daddy and Micah...well, I'm sure he enjoyed it too.

We waited in line for about 25 minutes to see the pandas.  Was it worth it?  Maybe.  If I wasn't feeling so sick, maybe I would have felt differently.  They are pretty cute though.

Micah had a hard couple days deciding if he liked the pool or not.  One night, he made his way up the stairs that led to the slide.  Ian tried to keep him back, but he wanted to go down.  Ian asked if he could take him, and we said to go for it.

 Once the life jacket was on, Micah was feeling a little more unsure, but he wanted to do it.  So down they went.

And for a good 30 seconds, he just stayed there, floating, looking up to the sky.  He had the look of true fear plastered to his face before he was able to complain.

He didn't cry, just complain.
 And when we didn't get him out fast enough...he cried.

Callie loved the adjoined hot tub and spent a lot of time there.

Friday we spent the day with Chris.  We went around Balboa Park, which was really pretty.

Oh the service!

This one reminded me of the flowers in Alice in Wonderland.  Shouldn't this be singing to me right now?

I love catching my kids sincerely loving and taking care of each other.

I think Callie is one of the most adorable and beautiful little girls in the entire world.
I'm sure there are other cute girls around, but there's something about my girl when she gives that sincere, true smile.  When she jumped up onto this wall, there was this huge poof of air that filled her dress and it made her laugh.
I'm glad I caught it.

I had already been to the beach with Callie earlier in the week, but we decided to swim in the ocean instead of try her kite.  I had told her Friday was the day, so Marcus and Chris took Callie to the beach and the kite did fly!  In fact, it was quite a hit at the beach apparently.


He looks so tired!
Family vacations are hard work.

Do you think those goggles are working for Brayden?

 After swimming a couple hours, I sat Sammy down on the couch.  She got herself into this position and remained this way for about 45 minutes as she watched cartoons!
Is this kind of freaky to anyone else but me?

Not only did the house of a great pool, but it had a trampoline and a pretty sweet play house the kids played on every day!  Lindsay was frequently on the trampoline with Sammy, Micah, and/or Callie.

Callie working on perfecting the Mario

It was a great trip.  I love being together with my family.  The goal is to get together every other year, and hopefully that will happen.

Until next time family....we love you!


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