Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Chloe Takes Off On Two-Wheels

Chloe started asking a few weeks ago if she could paint her bike a girl color.  Her little red bike has gone through all six kids but she decided that she really needed a girl bike.  We told her that after she learned how to ride her bike without training wheels we could take down the bigger girl bike off the garage ceiling and she could use it.  Five minutes later she had convinced Tyler to get the wrench and take off her training wheels. 
 Tyler was so patient with Chloe and spend an afternoon running up and down our driveway.
 Chloe made a lot of progress but still wasn't ready to take off.  A couple of days later she had Alex outside helping her build her confidence.
 After pouting a few times she was ready to have Daddy work his magic. 

 And she's off...
On Saturday I looked out the window and Chloe had gotten on the bike herself (big deal) and ridden out to the mailbox to get the mail. She put the mail in her little basket and road back to the house all on her own.  Several times a piece of mail would fall out of her basket and she would hop off and load her basket up again.  I know it is silly but I got a few tears in my eyes to see her be so independent and keep at it until she got it down.

Crazy to think all of our kids ride two-wheelers now!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Because of Him...Easter 2014

I will forever be grateful for a friend that asked Alex five years ago what our family traditions were for Easter.  His response, "Um...I think we have an Easter egg hunt."  She then proceeded to take pity on our family and invited us to our first passover meal. 

Since that time we have made the week prior to Easter a really beautiful daily reminder of Christ's life and his attributes.  We kicked off Palm Sunday with a tasty meal with our fake palm leaves on the table and then off to a wonderful youth concert celebrating Christ's life.  The following days we made sure to do something special even if it was only for a few minutes after dinner.  We "Egged" a few people's houses, made resurrection cookies, watched a neat video about Christ, gave service, and wrote daily on our L.O.A. (love one another) windows.

Sunday morning I was sure to blast the "Halleluiah" chorus to wake up the last few sleepy heads.  Birch gave a really nice lesson on the symbols of Easter to all the primary children at church.   We all came home from church at the same time (a real treat since Birch was called to be Bishop).
Easter Morning 2014

Sunday afternoon lunch -- our Jerusalem meal with the Andersens
We've kind of nicknamed this meal "The Nasty Meal" but I'm thinking we are going to need to amend that title as it was actually really yummy this year.  We dined on:  marinaded grilled lamb, tilapia, olives, parsley, Mediterranean couscous, dried apricots, pistachios, dates, figs, jicama, jerky, naan bread, resurrection cookies, green salad with sweet vinegar dressing, grapes, white grape juice, honey, pomegranate infused cranberries, and goat cheese.
The kids love it that we are all required to dress up for our Easter meal.  Some day they will thank me, right??

We had a fun little family Easter Egg Hunt with the Andersen ladies after lunch.  Hazel was in sugar heaven!!  She pretty much loves me!

Each child was allowed to find nineteen eggs.  Poor Mila ended up with THREE!  The older kids had the technique of hoarding as many eggs as they could and then at the end they counted to keep just nineteen of them.  
In the end, Mila ended up having her own private hunt with all the extra eggs the bigger kids had taken.
Birch and I were dying over Hazel's saggy diaper bum.
We sure love having the Andersen's back in town!!
A glimpse at our L.O.A. (love one another) windows.

Another beautiful Easter down!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Farewell to Uncle Luke

Hard to believe that our Uncle Lukey is graduating from college and heading off to Japan for his next adventure.  We're so proud of him for finishing his degree and following his dreams.  Luke is one passionate boy...wait, is he a man now?  It's hard to let him grow up. 

Luke has always been creative in the way he makes his money such as participating in medical studies that I wouldn't even think of doing for money.  I'm anxious to see what artistic dreams he follows in Japan.  I only understand about 65% of what Luke digs...music and art; I do love him 100%, though!!

 Luke has had the opportunity to be in several of the new bible videos that have been put out by our church recently.

I spent many years wiping this boy's bum, giving him baths, singing him "How many roads must a man walk down?" to bed, and cheering him on throughout his adventures.  Luke has always been an ORIG...I think these pictures speak for themselves.

  Japan feels awful far away so I'm grateful for technology!  Luke, keep a blog just for me PLEASE!!

The uniqueness doesn't fall far from the tree.
Coop and Uncle Luke love each other and have a special bond...uniqueness!!!
 Coop drew this picture for Uncle Luke of the Clone Wars characters from Star Wars.  

Luke is compassionate, a great cook, terrific masseuse, super fun uncle, talented, creative, and has such a thoughtful intellect about spirituality and ethics.

We're sure going to miss you Uncle Lukey!!! 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Alex...the journey from the baseball mound to the tennis court

Ever since this boy was two years old he has been passionate about baseball.  He's talked for years about how he was going to grow up to be a professional baseball player.  Our family has sat in the wind, rain, sun, and cold each season while Alex played his heart out on the field.  His first coach was his dad on the YMCA summer league, soon he was playing Little League, and then Junior High ball, and then last year he made it on the C-Team for the High School.  This year he started warming up his pitching arm and weight strengthening so his shoulder would be strong enough to hold out the whole season.  Alex was elated when he made it on the JV Baseball team at high school!

Probably around the Little League years is when we started to notice a difference with some of the kids on the team.  By the time Alex was on the junior high team their was a whole lot of bad language being thrown around by the teammates and even the coach.  The bus trips brought new filth with pornography on phones.  It started to become harder to play the game and not be affected by the crud that seems to be linked with the sport of baseball.

Last year Alex had a really terrific coach and we appreciated his effort to set the bar a little higher for the teammates.  Alex had opportunities to set an example in what movies would watch and even hard choices to make in not playing a couple of games in order to attend a youth church event.

This year Alex really wanted to make the JV team.  He LOVES to pitch and has really done a great job as a lefty pitcher all these years.  On the final day of tryouts Alex came home beaming when he had made it on the JV team.  Alex has always loved uniforms and was so excited with his new JV uniform.  One night about three weeks into the season Alex was working on his homework in the kitchen while Birch and I were cleaning up after dinner.  Alex just broke down in sobs.  Through tears he explained that the filth on the team was just unbearable.  He couldn't stand the language but even more the subjects that the teammates talked about ALL THE TIME.  Baseball had gone from his favorite time of the day to a time that he absolutely dreaded.  He was in a deep emotional, mental, and spiritual conflict as he was struggling with what he should do.  He knew that we had just spent $85 on his baseball gear and had just been in team pictures.  After talking together Alex decided that he wanted to confront the team and ask them to raise the bar in their standards.

Monday afternoon Alex went early to practice and spoke with his coach.  His coach was appalled to hear what the team was doing and hadn't suspected that it was as bad as Alex depicted.  His coach went and got the other three head coaches and gave them some background to the situation.  Alex was then able to share with all of them what had been going on and his desire to quit the team.  After several days pondering what to do he was given the opportunity to join the high school tennis team mid-season.  The first few days coming home from tennis practice I seriously thought his face would crack with how huge his smile was.  Alex has been on cloud-nine ever since he followed his Christian standards.

Alex wrote this email to his grandma:

Hey Grannie,

Sorry I haven't responded yet! Well the first week of tennis was AMAZING! I love it! I am really starting to get the hang of it and I have even started practicing with the varsity a couple of times. It is such a better atmosphere for me, less pressure, and everybody is very kind and I have been making some new friends!

On (last) Wednesday I had my first practice and then Thursday and Friday I played in 3 matches total! It was defiantly a learning experience and I look forward to the next one. I had to borrow a racquet for a couple of days while my new one was coming in the mail. It is awesome!! It has been nice for the rest of my family (especially for my mother) because practices get done at 4:30 and there is much less of a time commitment.
I never ended up speaking to my teammates as a whole, but I had a very nice conversation with my coach about the issue, he was supportive of whatever decision I decided to make and then he talked with the other coaches and had me talk to them about my decision. They acted "surprised" and told be they were sickened of what they guys were talking about/doing. Part of me didn't really believe them because of course they know what they do. Anyways, they told me to take a couple of days off and think about my decision. Of course I said I would but I already knew, felt what the right decision for me is. After that I had a couple other nice conversations with my coach, he told me he wanted a tennis schedule so he could come watch me and stuff like that. I did have the opportunity to talk to some of my teammates individually about why I decided to quit. They always responded, "we need you!" It made me feel good but I knew it wasn't the right place for me to be in.
I often think about the baseball field, the grass perfectly cut and the smell of damp dirt; my old home. And sometimes I long to be on the mound, delivering a fastball to the plate, and sending the batter back to the dug out. But I have a new home, its me throwing that fuzzy green ball up in the air, then striking it with all my might, sending it over to enemy territory beginning a new journey. A journey called tennis. This is what Heavenly Father wants me and this is where I am happy.
My Dad reminded me of a scripture in D&C 9:7-9. It is explaining the process of asking/ receiving revelation. I was having a hard time being confident of the decision I made. In those verses it describes have a stupor of thought, etc..  and I realized that by being excited to play tennis and starting something new, it was the choice that Heavenly Father wanted me to make.
I am so grateful for your support and I know that The Lord hears and answers our prayers. And he has a plan for us to give us eternal happiness.

Love, Alex
And so Alex ends his "professional" dreams of baseball.  We've reminded him several times that he'll have more opportunities to play baseball on intramural college and community teams.  He was asked to share his testimony in Stake Conference (spontaneous) and he bore such a strong testimony and shared how his decision to quit baseball has really strengthened himself spiritually.  He has a great confidence about him and beams with knowing he is choosing the right.

A little trip down memory lane....

On to a new era of tennis...
After just one practice Alex played his first match.  Luckily, he had had one week of tennis lessons this past summer by a wonderful friend.  She took Alex under her wing and gave him a private lesson and even lent a tennis racket to him for the first few weeks of the season until his new racket arrived in the mail.

Alex has been able to play on the Varsity team for a few matches.  He is constantly remarking at how polite the kids are on the team.  Last weekend a couple of teammates even invited him to go see a new Christian movie at the theater.  Talk about a change in caliber of character of teammates!  Alex is loving not standing alone!  Although, it was heart-wrenching for Birch and I to see Alex is such turmoil, I'm not sure I would trade the strength that Alex has gained in character and his testimony through this experience.  Now the kids are out on the driveway in the afternoon playing tennis together and begging on Saturdays to head to the courts.

Alex is a pretty cool kid...
I'm a proud Momma!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Coop, Truly As Awesome As He Thought He Was

Coop has wanted to play on an organized soccer team for several years now.  We do this dance in our family called the Balancing Act.  It's getting harder and harder to dance this dance as the kids get older and have more desires to be apart of activities.
 Much to Cooper's excitement we decided that he could play Upward Soccer this year.  Upward is a great program run by the local Nazarene church.  Upward is the world's largest Christian based sports program.  It focuses on developing the total athlete mentally, athletically, spiritually, and socially.   We've been so impressed with the organization and positive program this has been for Cooper.  It's not a really competitive league (though the kids are always keeping score) but each week the teams are learning a scripture verse and Christ-like attribute plus learning how to play soccer.

 Coop loves EVERYTHING about this program.  Just like Alex he is so into uniforms and loves how awesome he looks in uniform.
 Poor Daddy was chosen for the half-time game.  After spinning around this foam noodle and then trying to make a soccer goal he spent the rest of the afternoon feeling dizzy and nauseous.  Oh the things we do for our children!

After Coop made his first goal he broke out in full gangname style dance.  My kids were blessed with great self-esteems.  Ever since that goal I've heard parent's yell out -- "Coop, are you going to dance for us today?"

Such great sportsmanship on the team!   Go Dalmatians!!!