Thursday, January 29, 2009

My "baby" turns 4!

K loves the animals lately. She probably has about 15 of these plastic animals now that she takes everywhere, and she has named each one. Some include: Sandy (a horse), Angelina (a tiger), Stripes (the zebra), Spirit (another horse), Fluffy (a dog), Brownie (another horse), Sir Trenton (yet another horse), and three elephants - all named Ellie. I'm not sure how she keeps the elephants straight, but it is quite funny listening to her play, calling each of her animals by name. She asked for a barbie also. "You know how I wanted a barbie for Christmas and I didn't get one? So now I want one for my birthday."

I tried to put only 4 candles on the cake (makes perfect sense, right?) but she wanted a circle. It's hard to make a circle out of only 4 candles, so we just kept putting on more until we had a circle. I think there were 13. Her day, her way. It didn't really matter.

Then we realized why we should only have to blow out our age. It took her a few tries to get them all out.

There's a picture to treasure. They are all looking so old! 4 to 14. And finally a picture where no one is making a funny face. One more thing: kids say and do such funny things and I need to do a better job of recording them so I don't forget. K said something funny the day after her birthday. We've been telling her for the last year that she will get to go to school when she's 4. Well, she turned 4, woke up the next morning at the same time as the older kids (which is strange, since she's usually sleeping when they leave for the bus) and said, "I get to go to school now." It made me wonder if she thought I was going to put her on the bus that very morning to go to school. I think she would've done it! I hope it's that easy when it really is time for her to start school.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

D gets braces!

Before and after shots. Obviously he got a hair cut, too, somewhere in between! The before shot was in December and he got the braces on January 2nd. I can't possibly be old enough to have a child with braces - and going to high school next year. Wow! How did this happen?

And since taking these pictures, he got two teeth pulled (last week) as part of the whole process. Poor guy. I remember all of this and I'm so glad I don't have to go through all the teenage stuff again. Once was enough. It's funny how raising kids brings back all kinds of memories of things you went through.
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Thursday, January 22, 2009

A "Wicked" Adventure!!

Be aware... This is a very long post. I'm putting in so much detail mostly for my own record. We learned a lot of lessons on this trip, and I don't want to forget any of them!

For Christmas we got tickets to the broadway musical "Wicked" in Chicago! We were all very excited. The show was the next day, December 26th at 2 pm. And S's parents were coming with us. Our plan was to drive to Kalamazoo that day (Christmas), where we would open more presents, eat, sleep, then leave the following morning for Chicago. The drive to Kalamazoo was perfect. The roads were dry and we couldn't have been more excited thinking about being in Chicago the next day. We even watched the weather report for the 26th to make sure we would be able to get there. The report was 50's and rainy. Great! No snow to deal with. Yeah, right!! They didn't mention freezing rain overnight. We had no idea what was coming... We woke up the next morning to a layer of ice on everything. We could barely open the car doors, but we were going anyway! WE HAD TICKETS! It proved to be a challenge just getting out of the neighborhood, but we were on our way - 10 of us crammed into our 8 passenger car. We would just go slow. The freeway was slightly better than the city roads, but still very slick for certain stretches. Don't you just love black ice! About an hour into our trip we were approaching a curve and riding right next to a semi. S told us later that he felt no control going into that turn and was sure that we had some kind of divine help that kept us from sliding into the truck next to us. He slowed way down after that turn. Further on down the road was another turn. As we came out of it a terrible scene unfolded in front of us. On this three lane freeway, the two right lanes were taken up by a semi that had gone off the road. The back end was raised up off the road - it's metal parts at eye level to us. In the left lane was a minivan that was trying to slow down. There seemed to be three possibilities... 1. hit the semi, which would've taken off the right, top half of our car and maybe some of our heads, 2. hit the minivan, sending us both in who knows what direction, or 3. go into the ditch in the middle of the two sides of the freeway. These were not good choices. This was not part of our plan for the day! S said later that he saw all the different scenerios flash through his mind and the thought came clearly to him, "ditch the car." He was able to direct the car into the ditch where we slid perpendicular to the road. Right when our front tires hit the snow, his mom, thinking the car would roll , yelled out, "here we go!" Before going into the ditch his dad was ready to tell everyone to duck down ( the case of hitting the semi). I was surprisingly calm inside. I just knew we were going to be fine. Making it to the show was a different story. S tried going back and forth to get us out, but all it did was dig us further in. S and his parents worked on chipping away at the ice and snow so we could get out, while I got on the phone to AAA. A cop pulled over a few minutes later to tell us not to bother calling for a tow truck - there were no tow trucks available. I then turned to the kids and suggested that we say a prayer. Their response humbled me. They all said, "we've been saying prayers in our heads already." Still, I thought we should say one together, outloud. I asked D to say it - I was too emotional. He basically gave thanks for our safety, then asked for help in getting out of this situation. Not five minutes went by and a man stopped and offered to help. This might not seem that amazing, except that there was no one going that direction. We found out later it was because they had closed the road a few miles ahead. He was one of only a few cars that we saw. My husband started to tell him that we were fine and didn't need help. That's when I jumped out of the car to let the man know we did need help. Husbands!! He almost waved away the answer to our prayers! We managed to move our car forward enough for the tow rope to reach the man's car. With that little bit of extra power we came out on the other side. Mom and I both went straight over to hug this nice man and tell him he was our angel. We got his name - Carlos. He didn't want to tell us at first - it made us wonder if he really was an angel! We were on our way again, but going in the wrong direction! Chicago was getting further away. We stopped at a McDonald's to figure out what we were going to do. Muddy, wet, and cold we ate our lunch and watched the grim weather and traffic report. It was decided that we would just go back to Kalamazoo. That brought on a new round of tears from some of us. In the end, we tried one more time to get to Chicago. Traffic was so slow that we ended up turning around again, giving up once and for all, but ultimately grateful for our lives and unwrecked car. We were satisfied that we had made every effort to make it to the show.

Here we all are, trying to keep happy faces. You can see K is all broken up about the whole day! She and her dad were actually supposed to go to the Children's Museum instead of the play because K is still too young.

This is my "disappointed, but trying to be happy" face. These were the only pictures we have of the day's events. It was funny, once we got unstuck, S's dad said, "two cameras in the car and no one thought to take a picture." Those would've been great pictures! Stuck car, mud all over us, wet and freezing clothes... Oh well, we'll just have to imagine how it looked. I tried to joke with S when we got back to his parents' house. "Aren't you glad I'm still here with my head attached to my body?" He didn't think it was very funny. Okay, so that wasn't the thing to say to lighten the mood!

Lessons learned -
1. Don't depend on Michigan weather, leave plenty of time to travel in the middle of winter, and take advantage of good roads when you have them! We should've gone straight on to Chicago when we had the good roads and stayed in a hotel. Shoulda, coulda, woulda...
2. Our plans aren't always God's plans, but He is always aware of us, and answers prayers. Thank you, Carlos!
3. The fact that our family was safe was the most important thing - even more important than getting to see "Wicked".
4. Looking back, this really wasn't the tragedy that it seemed to be at the time. There are a lot of bigger problems out there for a lot of people in the world right now. Losing theater tickets, no matter how costly, really isn't that bad.
5. Wicked is still out there somewhere to be seen another time.... So is Chicago!! Giordano's pizza, here we come! (Some other time, that is!)

One last lesson I learned is that sometimes we can't let go of something so disappointing on our own. I prayed for the bad feelings I had to go away. I got my answer a few times. E gave the lesson for family home evening one night - she chose to read about gratitude in the "For the Strength of Youth" book. Then I saw a woman on TV talk about how she lost everything - her business, and all her savings. And finally, I ended up fasting and praying about it. That help from the Savior was what I ultimately needed to help me put the whole thing into perspective, simply be grateful, and realize it can always be worse... and is for many people right now.

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Christmas Highlights

We prepared the kids for a smaller Christmas in 2008 - fewer gifts. We wanted to focus on other things like spending time together. It worked out pretty well. We did some fun things. This is just a small part of our Christmas. The rest of the story will be told later.
The boys got racquetball racquets. I took them to the community center to teach them how to play and they are pretty good already. We all really enjoyed it and I can see this as something they do together often.
J got a bug vacuum. His room is in the basement and naturally there are a lot of "visitors" down there. He had gotten good at catching them in cups and other things in order to deliver them safely outside. Now with the vacuum he not only can catch them without killing them, but he can study them through the magnifying glass before setting them free, outside. He has something against killing the bugs. He doesn't get this from me!
Ni and E both got backpacks. How nice to get a new backpack in the middle of the school year. I try to avoid buying a lot of new school supplies at the beginning of the school year, but this usually means that new stuff is needed about halfway through.
Other highlights of the day - we had our usual coffee cake, scrambled eggs, and fruit breakfast before opening presents. This is a stalling tactic so that Dad can sleep a little longer. Actually we all needed to sleep longer - this year a couple of the kids thought it would be okay to get up at 1 am, wake everyone else up, turn on all the lights, and make a lot of noise. Note to self - tell Santa not to come to our house until 6 am next year so our kids will sleep longer!
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