Monday, August 22, 2011

9 is Quite Fine

Alysee turned the ripe old age of NINE this year. When we found out we were having a little girl nine years ago my heart did flips. We had wanted a little girl so badly to join our family. Alysee's pregnancy was not an easy one at times. I had preterm labor to battle and my midwife determined that Alysee had gestational retardation -- meaning she wasn't growing in utero the way she should have been. Two weeks before Alysee was due I was in the hospital having a stress test done. At the end of the test my midwife said that if I would like to stay and have the baby that day I could. I called Birch giddy with excitement and he said, "Ah, I was going to clean the bathroom today and then do a wheel chair evaluation later on." I was like, "Are you kidding me? I want this baby out now and the toilet can wait." Birch later defended myself by sharing that he was so caught off guard that he wasn't thinking right.

Here's a little blast from the past:
(I can't believe how much Chloe looks like Alysee)

Alysee's birth was wonderful (and painless--isn't that what makes it wonderful). She was so tiny and sweet right from birth. Alysee has grown some since (not too much, though) and she is still so sweet. She stands her own and will never be forgotten as the "middle child." Alysee is loud, very spunky, sensitive of others, and forgiving. She loves to read, make lists (you should have seen all the lists I was given the months prior to her birthday of her birthday wishes), great teacher, loves to go to school, loves animals, and loves to stay up late and sleep in the next day.
Alysee's birthday was celebrated over two days since the boys were gone to Sheep Lake for part of her birthday. She chose Dutch Baby for breakfast, mini corn dogs for lunch, and dinner the following day was each person making personal pan pizzas and watching the movie Rio together. Alysee wanted to make homemade Whoopie Pies for her dessert. These babies were fun to make but so sweet. I think each child ate like two bites and then save the rest for the next day.
With each birthday list Alysee gave me prior to her birthday the list got shorter and the number one item was written larger -- A NEW BIGGER DESK. Her little IKEA desk just wasn't cutting it anymore. I procrastinated a bit finding the perfect desk but the night before her birthday I finally found it. That night Alex and Tyler added a fresh coat of paint and Birch put on new knobs. Alysee felt like she had gone to heaven when she woke up on her birthday and saw her new desk in her room. So fun to make a little girls' dream come true. Love this girl!!!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Voyage to Sheep Lake

Several years ago it became tradition that Birch and the older boys would join Mark Cox and his boys for a memorable weekend camping. Over the years there have been two other families that have sometimes joined in on the fun. Keeping with tradition the dads and boys began planning this year's trip in late spring. The last couple of years they have gone to Sheep Lake.

June 30th our lives all changed. Mark died of a brain aneurism leaving behind his five young kids, sweetheart, and a whole heck of a lot of people that love him. The Cox family is an extension to our family and Mark is like an uncle to our kids. One of the things that both of our kids expressed soon after Mark passed away was were they still going to be able to go on their Sheep Lake trip.

We all promised the kids that this tradition was going to live on...now in remembrance of their daddy. Birch and his brothers go on an annual backpacking trip in honor of their dad and now our kids will be able to keep Mark's memory alive each year as they hike in his honor.
Mark and three of his boys - picture taken in 2010
The kids all love to talk about how cool is was that Mark fed the squirrel out of his hand last year - picture taken in 2010
Mark was well-known for his "trail buddy" that he invented to lighten the loads of his kids back. He now will have other opportunities to lighten his kids loads from the other side. - picture taken 2010
This year Uncle Lance (Brooke's brother) was elected to share in the joy of this year's voyage to Sheep Lake. Birch said he was so kind and good with the kids.
The two mile hike to the camp spot was started just at dusk. They had to set up their tent by the flashlight.
The next morning everyone warmed themselves by the fire.
Nate chowing down on his instant oatmeal.
As soon as the air got warm the kids all went hunting for the perfect stick to carve. Nate spent hours working on his stick.
Stripling Warriors - can I brag a bit? We really both do have such wonderful kids. They are good examples to their friends, they honor their family name, and they lean on each other for support. Could you ask for better friends for your kids to have?
Nate kept this smile going even with his loaded down hiking backpack.
My dad started the Polar Bear club years ago -- even without Poppi's pressure the boys know that when there is water you must emerge yourself--no matter the temperature. Tyler said the water was FREEZING! I believe it because there was still quite a bit of snow in areas.
Alex was the first to take a dive.
Peer pressure can be a good thing -- these boys all ended up in the frigid water.
Nate tried a little spear fishing.
On the hike back down the kids had a great time doing a little bum sledding on a snow patch. Alex went down a couple of times.
Birch said that he was really touched when Nate's best buddy Chase lost his stick and Nate gave him his without hesitation. Isn't that was friends are for?
I love this picture because to me it is like Birch is saying, "What's up -- yeah, these are my boys and I am dang proud of them."
The older boys all sprinted down the end of the trail and collapsed at the end.

Everyone came home tired, dirty, and full of fun stories. Birch said throughout the weekend the boys would say, "Remember when..." and share a special or funny memory of Mark. Several of the kids shared that they couldn't think of a better way to remember Mark then by going on an annual hike in his name. Mark will always be missed but his memory will stay strong and alive within our family!

Friday, August 19, 2011

You can do it!

He finally did it! We all knew Coopy could ride a bike without training wheels if he would just give it a try. Months ago Alex taught Coopy but he fell so for months his bike sat un-ridden due to fear. A couple of Saturdays ago Birch pulled out all the tricks and offered to take all the kids out for "Donuts with Dad" if Coop was just give it a try.

Not long after we had this...
Coopy is like a speedy demon now. He goes off jumps, stands up while riding, and turns sharp turns.
Way to go Coop!

Here's a little video for your enjoyment.

If you can't view it here click on: http://youtu.be/LH-MKo1fTEc

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sweet Fairy Sisters

As I mentioned earlier, I LOVE shopping at Spokane Discount whenever we go to Spokane. This store is a real dump on the outside and not much of an upgrade on the inside. But in its' walls lies treasures that I can never seem to get enough of. This store gets all of Costco's last year's items -- everything from clothing, furniture, electronics, and food. They have the best deals if you hit them at just the right time.
These two little ladies look so sweet in their new peasant dresses ($4/dress -- yes, I must brag). Unfortunately, the neck is a little low and wide on Alysee's dress (mom, what am I going to do without you being my seamstress when you are gone on your mission?).
These girls love each other to the brim!
Alysee is SO patient with Chloe. Chloe (and her friends) have lost Alysee's ipod, eaten all her "hidden" candy, broken several tea set pieces, written on her treasured papers, and made a regular mess of their room to clean. Alysee is quick to forgive and make Chloe feel special. They are lucky to have each other. I relish my relationships with my sisters and I'm so glad my girls will have each other forever.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Birthday candles, Sweat, and Water

August brought Birch and me one step closer to reaching our over-the-hill mark. It's strange to me that I now remember when my parents were turning these same years. In fact, Birch is celebrating his twentieth high school graduation this year. I totally remember going with my dad on a road trip to Spokane to celebrate his twentieth high school reunion. I thought it was so cool hearing about my dad from all his high school buddies.
Anyway, Birch turned 38 years old. The actual birthday was nothing to shout about -- it entailed going to work, running to the DMV to renew our licenses over lunch time, back to work, coming home for a quick dinner, and then heading to the church for Bishopric responsibilities. Yee Haw!!! Birch was super excited about his gift from my parents and me -- a Jet Boil camping stove.
Perhaps to prove his old age isn't slowing him down, Birch signed up to do a triathlon with two of his brothers in Coeur d'Alene. The brothers all wrote to each other regularly about their training or lack of training prior to the race. I think it is safe to say that although these boys have all "grown" up their are still quite competitive against each other.
Birch borrowed a really groovy red tank top wet suit for the one mile swim. He was pretty worried about the swimming portion of the race.
Of course, he ended up doing just fine.
While the boys were off doing the race, the kids and moms were playing at the park, taking trips to the porta-potty, and eating these yummy treats. Birch had put together these cute little bags for each of the cheerleaders. The food was a lifesaver since we had to wake up all the kids at 6:30 am to make it to the race on time. The donuts, candy, and satsumas were a perfect breakfast.
After the one mile swim portion Birch jumped on his bike for the twenty-four mile grueling "widow-maker" ride. Apparently the name was quite appropriate for the ride. We were lucky to get all these great pictures because Kelly (the fabulous photographer/cinematographer brother) chased the boys down on each portion of the race. This picture is extra cool because Kelly didn't realize at the time that Brent, Birch's brother, was directly behind Birch.
The last leg of the race was a six mile run. Normally running is one of Birch's strengths, but about two years ago Birch hurt his knee playing ultimate frisbee at the Oregon Coast. He babied his knee for a year and was finally was able to run without pain. But about a month before the triathlon Birch hurt his knee again playing basketball. By the time of the race he was only able to run about a mile and half without having to walk due to pain in his knee. I wish I had a picture of Birch running up to me at the end of the race and tearfully telling me that his knee didn't hurt one bit during the race. He truly feels that it was a miracle. It was such a wonderful reminder that the Lord hears our prayers even for things that are not eternally important.
Fan Club!
The tired but very happy brothers!
Not that it matters who finished first...(who am I kidding). The eldest brother wins again! Really all their times were super close.
Very proud wife.
I celebrated my birthday with a drive to Spokane for the race, several hours at my favorite store "Spokane Discount" (think all of Costco's stuff marked down 93%), and having a delicious dinner with my extended Ditto family. Birch surprised me with this beautiful pearl necklace. I love it!!
We stayed at Brent and Deena's house while we were in Spokane. They just built a beautiful home so we were lucky to be some of their first guests. The kids all played together like a dream so us adults enjoyed just hanging out together. Birch and I did a little family photoshoot one afternoon. We were also able to attend Addison's baptism and Maren's baby blessing.
On our way home from Spokane we took a pit stop at the Moses Lake Waterpark. We all had such a good time. Alysee was brave and tried going down the big water slide.
Chloe, Coopy, and Nate had a ball on all the little slides and being alligators in the water. We rarely ever saw Alex and Tyler. They were off conquering the whole water park. What a great way to break up our trip home!


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Two peas in a pod...traveling to St. Louis and Historical Nauvoo

Birch and I just got home from a splendid trip to St. Louis, MO. The trip was inspired by Birch needing to acquire quite a few hours for his continuing education requirement to keep his Physical Therapy license current. I couldn't miss out on the opportunity to have some alone and couple time so I joined in on the fun. Of course, the trip wouldn't have been possible without my parents, Birch's mom, and my sister watching the kids during the week we were gone. THANK YOU FAMILY!!! As I have said before, I really feel these annual trips are the glue that helps keep our relationship strong and holds us together during the drought times when we seem to only pass each other on the weekends.
The first three days I spent literally lounging in bed. I read two books, watched the entire movie of Scarlet Pimpernel, took naps, and watched TLC. It was pure heaven! Birch would come back to the hotel for lunch and then at night we would head out into downtown St. Louis for some night fun.
We were able to slip in a short little "cruise" down the Mississippi River in an old steam boat. It certainly wasn't the highlight of the trip but it was interesting (luckily I bought it cheap from a Groupon). This was our first real experience dying in the humidity. It was incredible! I have never sweated so much in my life!!
Another night we were able to catch a Cardinals baseball game against the Astros. We had super-high cheap seats but it was fun to catch all the Cardinal's spirit.A friend had told us about this strip steak house that we HAD to go to. It was walking distance from our hotel so we decided to indulge one night. We ordered "The Beast" which, if eaten solely in one sitting, would be rewarded by being free! Birch and I split this 48 oz. steak--we made a dent in the meal but would have had plenty to share. Fun memories!Birch really enjoyed learning about the historical heritage of St. Louis.
Birch was dying to go to the top of The Arch. I wasn't sure that I wanted to spend the money for both of us to go up, but in the end we decided to go together. It was a crazy experience. Here you can see Birch sitting in the elevator pod that slowly rocks/lifts you back and forth up to the top of the arch. Then the elevator opens and you can spend some time looking out the windows that show miles and miles of St. Louis.

This was our view out of the arch window. You can see that a Cardinals game was going on. You can also see the hotel that we stayed at "The Drury Hotel at the Arch."

Another night we hopped on the metro to go to the St. Louis Science Center to see the Body Worlds and The Brain exhibit. During our hour there we were able to view more than 200 authentic human specimens, all preserved through the process of Plastination, the specimen preservation method invented by Dr. Gunther von Hagens. It was an adventure getting there (think walking over two miles in flip flops in extreme humidity and 95 degree weather). We both really enjoyed the exhibit, though I think it is safe to say Birch ate up the whole thing.
Saturday afternoon we picked up our sweet yellow banana rental car and headed to Nauvoo, Illinois (about a three hour drive from St. Louis). Nauvoo is a historically significant town for our church, where the church grew considerably and suffered much heartache from religious persecution. We checked into our quaint bed and breakfast about 6 pm and got ready to catch the last showing of the year of the Nauvoo Pageant.
The pageant was phenomenal!! The acting was awesome and the set was pretty cool too.
Sunday morning we enjoyed a tasty breakfast at our bed n' breakfast and then headed to church. After a nice sacrament meeting we started exploring the old Nauvoo town. Birch and I had both been to Nauvoo about 25 years ago, so not only were our memories slim but so much more has been restored since that time.
Birch and the blacksmith were quick friends. We came home with six horseshoe nail rings for the kids -- a memento that I treasured myself from so many years earlier.
The Nauvoo temple was rebuilt about ten years ago after it had been destroyed by the mobs and nature 150 years earlier. It was so magnificent!
We stuffed ourselves at the Nauvoo hotel's buffet.
This is the site where all the limestone was quarried to build the temple. Birch and I are laying on a sunstone -- I believe that thirty sunstones were still in good shape after the destruction of the original temple.
This is Emma and Joseph Smith's home (the natural wood side). The other white side was built by one of their sons. I thought it was kind of funny that even though the two houses are totally connected together the son painted his side different.
Monday we started the morning with another delicious breakfast at our bed n' breakfast and then we were able to do a temple session at the Nauvoo temple. It was a really special experience for us!
Then we packed up and headed to Carthage, Illinois. This is the town that Joseph Smith was martyred in. This picture is the jail that Joseph and his brother Hyrum were shot at.The original door and the three gun shots holes are still very visible.
I love this picture that Birch took through the gunshot hole. You can see the window that Joseph Smith fell out.

http://www.stlmag.com/Blogs/Look-Listen/August-2011/Review-Seven-Brides-for-Seven-Brothers-at-The-Muny/7BF7B_02.jpg
Then we drove back to St. Louis for our last night and checked into our hotel. After checking in we drove to the Muni Theater. It is an amazing outdoor theater that hosts Broadway musicals all summer long. We were lucky enough to catch the first showing of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers." The first 1,500 guests can sit in the free seating section -- we showed up extra early and were able to take advantage of this great offer.
It was SO hot (like 95 degrees at 8:30 pm and super humid) -- we were each sweating like pigs while we "pigged" out on our pizza. The production was SO good!
Out last day was spent canoeing down the Meramec River. This was the hottest day of our time in the midwest -- it was 111 degrees. We hopped in and out of the river to cool ourselves off throughout our float. It was a really calm river and felt very secluded.
A little sunning break from our canoe trip.Birch doing a back flip off of a rock ledge.

After our float we dried off and headed back to the St. Louis airport. We didn't get back home until after midnight but found our children all sleeping. The next morning we found that they had decorated several of our windows with "welcome home" messages--it was really sweet. It took all of about two seconds to be back to our regular routine (and possibly missing sleeping in, someone washing your dishes for you, hours to read silently, snuggle time with my husband, daytime adventures, and being a bum). Lucky for me I was able to think of our trip for the next week since I came home with bed bug bites all over my lower legs. Sweet! Thankfully it looks like we did leave the buggers in St. Louis but man were those bites itchy and gave me the creeps!!!

I LOVE my man!!!!