Friday, May 30, 2008

My Girls

Everytime Lucy has a bottle, Leland wants a cup of milk too. If Lucy is laying on a pillow, Leland will cuddle up next to her. If Lucy is in her highchair Leland will pull a pillow next to the highchair and lay on the floor next to her. It is so cute how much they adore each other.
Lucy's new favorite toy is the monkey backpack. She puts the tail around her like a necklace and drags the monkey around. It is really funny to watch her get upset when the tail falls off. Lucy is also standing a lot on her own. She hasn't taken any unassisted steps yet. I am fine with her taking her time.
This is our backyard neighbor. We see the groundhog almost on a daily basis now. He is a fast little guy, I finally was able to capture a picture of him.
I scored my first thing from Freecycle (thanks Deon for the intro). I got a HUGE box of 4T girls clothes all for FREE. I have done 3 full loads of laundry of the clothes I scored. Leland was very excited and kept pulling things out, saying "This is really cool!" "Look at the THIS!" They all are really great clothes. There are only a few things in the box that I will take to Goodwill.

What is Memorial Day?

In honor of today being the traditional Memorial Day, I would like to share some brief thoughts and history.

To many Americans, Memorial Day is simply the three-day weekend kick-off to summer fun. While I can definitely appreciate a celebration of the joy of the outdoors and good weather, I think it is important that we always take time to remember the actual purpose of the holiday. It is a great opportunity to teach our children about patriotism, genealogy, and history. It doesn't take much to honor those who came before us. It could be as simple as having the family put up the flag together with a short explanation of what Memorial Day means to each of us.

As you can see from other posts, we made sure to do something appropriate to celebrate the purpose of the day as well as a second activity to celebrate being outdoors (post coming soon).

For those looking for a history to share with their children, here is the brief history of Memorial Day that was printed on the handouts for our ward party:

Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day because it was a day set aside to honor those who died during the Civil War by decorating their graves. It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868, by proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic. Logan had declared that:

The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

During the first celebration of Decoration Day, General James Garfield (who later became president) made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.

By the late 1800s, many communities across the country had begun to celebrate Memorial Day and, after World War I, observances also began to honor those who had died in all of America's wars. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May (instead of the traditional day of May 30).

Today, Memorial Day is celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave. Also, it is customary for the president or vice-president to give a speech honoring the contributions of the dead and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Memorial Day - Part II - The Homestead

After spending the morning of Memorial Day honoring those who have fought for our country, the second part of our Memorial Day celebrated the outdoors. We officially kicked off our summer with a great gorgeous mini-road-trip to The Homestead resort in the Allegheny Mountains.

The Homestead is an absolutely amazing mountain resort founded in 1766. The building is a National Historic Landmark built around legendary healing springs. Today, The Homestead continues to offer unequalled hospitality, elegant accommodations and distinctive Southern charm. For those who have been, it is a Southern mountain version of the Hotel Del Coronado. It is located in Hot Springs, Virginia, less than an hour from our home in Lexington.

Although the mountain location is very rural, there are tons of fun things to do at The Homestead. The hotel boasts a world renowned spa, a bowling alley, a movie theater, shopping boutiques, and many lounges and restaurants. The 3,000 acres of outdoor activities include horseback and carriage rides, a shooting club, fly-fishing, miles of scenic hiking trails, indoor and outdoor pools, falconry, ski slopes, and more.

Perhaps most importantly, The Homestead has 3 championship golf courses, with the Cascades Course consistently ranked as the top mountain course in the U.S. The legendary Sam Snead was born nearby, began caddying at The Homestead at age 7, worked as an assistant pro at 19, and became a professional there in 1934.

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As you might guess from the video, to actually stay the night or take part in many of the paid activities is a small fortune. We enjoyed the Homestead the "free" way (some activities are free). We took a number of hours to stroll all of the halls and grounds stopping to see every ornate ballroom, beautiful restaurant, the spa and the other diversions. We enjoyed part of the free movie (Chicken Little) in the theatre, ate our picnic on the lawn, played croquet on the back lawn, visited both the indoor and outdoor pools, saw the fish in the fishing pond, and soaked our feet in one of the many healing springs in the gardens.

On our way home, we happened to find the BEST Mexican resturant located in the mountains of VA. Chuck is already plotting a reason to travel the 35 miles back to Covington to enjoy San Juan's.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Memorial Day

We had very fun and memorable Memorial Day. We started the day attending a Veteran's Memorial Event in downtown Lexington. There is a memorial in front of the courthouse honoring those from Rockbridge County in the Armed Forces. There was music, speakers, and wreath ceremony. It was a beautiful and very moving program. It was a wonderful way to remember those that have sacrficed their lives in order for us to live in a free country today.

Leland loves American flags ever since our friend Shana taught her part of the Pledge of Allegiance last summer. On Saturday morning, while at McDonald's, a gentleman wearing a VFW Marine Corps hat gave Leland a little flag. She has carried it everywhere with her for the past few days. On Monday she asked it she could place it along with the other little flags on the memorial. It was very sweet.
If you notice the gun with helmet on it in the background. The same man that gave Leland her flag carved that gun out of wood. I thought is was a real gun. It is an amazing piece of work.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Spring Olympics

We had a Ward Activity yesterday and it went great. The theme was Lexington Spring Olympic Games. We started with creating a team name and flag. It was a great time filler as people arrived late. The Boy Scouts presented the American flag and we all said the Pledge of Allegiance. Chuck then spoke for a few minutes about the origination and meaning of Memorial Day.

At our church building there is an outdoor pavilion which was great to use. The following games were spread out in the grass and parking lot. All ages got into each game. It was a lot of fun.

Individual Events
Javelin Straws: Throw a straw as far as you can.
Shot-Put Seeds: Spit sunflower seeds as far as you can.
Discus CDs: Toss a CD at the target for points (3 throws).
Broad Jump Smile: Broadest smile end to end.


Team Events
Ice Dancing Toes: Move the most pieces of ice with your toes.
Team Body Building: Build the tallest free standing structure out of marshmallows, toothpicks, and 4 pieces of paper.

We ate lunch and had an awards ceremony. I made "gold medals" for the winner of each event. I filled clear cellophane bags with an assortment of gold wrapped candy (snickers, Reese's, caramel kisses, werther's, rolos).

Everyone that attended had a great time. I think we had about 60 people.

There are only a few small things I wish would have gone differently. I should have been more specific with those that I had asked to be judges for the individual games. We had a hard time tracking down some people's scores that weren't written on the log sheet.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Aprons

My sister inspired me, so I made 2 identical aprons for some friends. I even figured out a way to fold them up and tie them into a cute package using the straps.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Lunch at 10am?

This morning Leland threw a HUGE fit, so bad that I told her that there would be no TV until after lunch (there's no way I would threaten ALL day). This threat was given at about 8 o'clock in the morning. (Disclaimer - I don't think LJ watches a ton of TV, but I need it to entertain her so I can work and make calls.)

At about 10 o'clock, while I was on the phone with my brother-in-law regarding work, Leland told me she was hungry. She went to the pantry and got out the peanut butter and honey for me to make her a sandwich. I was still involved in my phone conversation, but I made her a half sandwich and placed it on the table.

She sat at the table, ate the sandwich, put her plate in the sink, then came to me and said, "I ate my lunch Mommy, now can I watch TV?"

I started laughing so hard. It was hilarious. My smart and sneaky little girl.
I didn't give in. I then told her she had to wait until after I ate lunch.

So You Think You Can Dance?

Leland sure thinks she CAN dance, break dance that is. While watching a rerun of last seasons SYTYCD finale on MTV, they did a tribute type montage to all the breakers. Leland might be the next star B-girl.

We are so excited for the new season to start this week. We might just let Leland watch it so she can dance her little heart out.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Leland's First Fish!

On Wednesday 5/14 and Thursday 5/15, I took Leland fishing for the first time. For her birthday, the Benners gave her a pink Barbie fishing pole. I had convinced her to ask for one because I think it will be a fun opportunity to spend time together outdoors and get her excited about nature.

As my family knows, I am not much of a "fisherman". Fishing was too slow for my dad, so our outdoor sport was golf. As a kid, I went fishing sometimes with my cousin Ben and my uncle Bruce Kenney. Dad did take me deep see fishing with Scouts. I really became more interested in fishing while working for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, where I often took reporters out on the Chesapeake Bay. Anyway, for some time, I have thought it would be nice to learn to fish with Leland.

On Wednesday, the Barrett family (our friends with the twin boys Leland's age) took us to the Montebello Camping & Fishing Resort, which has a small trout pond where you only pay for what you catch. Unfortunately, we got there 15 minutes before closing and we didn't have much success. Leland still had lots of fun thinking that the bobber on the line was "her fish." Jason and I decided we would come back the next day with just the kids, so we talked to a family that was catching tons to find out what they were using.

On Thursday, we met at Wal-Mart where I did my patriotic duty and spent $40 of my $1200 economic stimulus check from GW. We bought bobbers, bait, split shot sinkers, a small tackle box, and most importantly a bass lure that looked like a grasshopper. As strange as it sounds to use a bass lure to catch trout in a pond, that is what the family was using on Wednesday.

I spent so much time at Wal-Mart that we didn't get to the pond until 30 minutes before closing. But that was plenty of time. I cast out a few of the kids' poles with some powerbait on the line, while Jason tied on the grasshopper lure.

Sure enough, the trout powerbait was unsuccessful, but the moment Jason helped Koa cast out that grasshopper, there was a fish on the line.
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Then it was Kai's turn. First cast, and a fish was on the line. Leland was so excited for her friends. It was so fun to see them all so giddy.
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Finally, it was Leland's turn. As she reeled in the lure, you could actually see the fish biting at it, but not taking it in. The second time around, the same thing... a few hits, but no real bite. On the third cast, she got a fish! She was so excited reeling it in and walking backwards to pull the fish out. Then, just as the fish was nearly out of the water, it spit out the lure and took off (check out the unbelievable video). She was not as disappointed as I thought she might be. I think because of all the excitement going on.
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We cast out the line a fourth time, and she quickly had another fish on the line. This time she reeled it all the way onto land. My daughter had caught her first fish! Leland is a fisherwoman! She was screaming with excitement. As you watch the video, you will also see that when the fish got on land, it got off of the hook and Koa said he wanted to "Bonk him" (put it out of its misery).
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Leland was so proud of herself and has been talking about it for days. Before we went fishing on Thursday, I took her to the library as part of our full day Daddy-Daughter Day. There we got 4 books on fishing and she has made me read them to her each day. Each day, after we read the books, she retells the story about "catching her fish with Koa and Kai and Jason." When you ask her how big her fish was, she sticks her hands out in the perfect length and says, "This big."
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Between fishing on Wednesday and Thursday, and Ashley being gone on Friday and Saturday, my week with her was a lot of fun. She is such a joy and I am so glad to be her Dad. Leland's fish story ended tonight when Leland and I skinned her trout and grilled it up. It was delicious and she ate most of it herself.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ashley's Girls Weekend

Every year in May, my 2 best friends from college, Liz and Kristen and I try to get together. This year we were trying to arrange a girl's only, no kids weekend. I thought it just wasn't going to happen this year, then on Monday I had a great idea. I figured out that Deep Creek Lake, MD was about the middle point for the 3 of us. I booked a 2 night stay at the Wisp Resort for the 3 of us.

Chuck was ready and willing to watch the girl's for 2 full days so I could have a weekend to relax. I think he and the girls had a lot of fun. He also realized how hard staying at home to take care of kids can be. He did such a great job and I never heard him complain once. Thanks for being so great Chuck! Love ya babe.

Liz, Kristen, and I met in Deep Creek around lunchtime on Friday. We started our weekend with a hike in Swallow Falls State Park in the misty rain. The mile and a half hike included 3 waterfalls, one of which being the highest in Maryland (63ft). It was crazy the amount of water that was coming over the falls. You usually can walk out close to the falls on the rocks (picture on left from their website), but that was not at all possible (picture on right the day we were there). There was one part of the trail that was washed out because the water was so high. We had to scale the rocks for a few feet to stay on the path.


On Saturday, we drove over to Cumberland, MD which is an adorable town, that Chuck and I love. We walked around the shops downtown, listened to a Bluegrass band, and relaxed by the river. We were so glad that the rain held off so we could enjoy a day outdoors. It started raining minutes after we got into our car.

We also got pedicures at the Spa in the resort, enjoyed several yummy meals/desserts, and watched What Happens in Vegas. It was a really funny movie too. It was such a fun weekend.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Our Visit to Maryland

We went to Baltimore for a few days to visit the Benner family and Shana who had come down from Chicago. Despite the rain that poured the entire weekend we still enjoyed ourselves.
Our first day, Christine and I took the 4 younger kids to the MD Science Center while Chuck stayed home to play Play Station 3 all day. Shana met us there with her nephew Evan. The kids had a great time digging for Dinosaur bones, playing with the boats and toys on the water table, and running around with each other and all the other thousands of kids that were there. Being a Friday afternoon, it was packed with crazy school groups.

We also enjoyed playing Rock Band, Settlers, and making yummy food. Thanks for such a fun weekend.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Papa and Grammy Visit Lexington

We were so excited to have Grammy and Papa come visit us for a few days last week. While they were here we did lots of fun things.

The plan was for them to arrive on Monday before noon and leave very early Wednesday morning, but on Saturday, they called to say they would be arriving at 2 AM on Sunday. We were excited to have them for more time, but I still had to finish my paper (see ealier post below).

On Sunday, after church whe went on a backroad driving tour on the way home. In the afternoon, I went to the library to finish my paper while Ashley, the girls, Grammy, and Papa had a big beautiful dinner. Later, they brought me some leftovers and I gave them a brief tour of my lawschool.

I ended up staying at the library all night and when I came home Monday at 7 AM, they were all still asleep. Grammy and Papa read my paper and gave suggestions before I turned it in at 9 AM. When they asked if I wanted to sleep, I said, "No way, I am pushing through and we are going sightseeing."

First, we went on a guided tour of Washington & Lee University. They really enjoyed seeing the historic colonnade, the upper campus and finding out more about the school.

After the tour, we stopped at the Reeves Center, and saw the collection of 4,000+ pieces of ceramic dishes(Grammy was impressed). We finished with a tour of Lee Chapel where we took a great picture with us and 'the General' and the flags of the south.

After going down to see Lee's crypt, we stopped at Traveller's grave (Lee's war horse) just outside Lee Chapel. On top of the grave there were tons of pennies all facing tails up. I went in to ask, "What's with the pennies?" The woman said that it is tradition for students to leave pennies for good luck in school. During exams, she said you will usually find carrots and apples as well. I asked why the pennies were all tails up and she said, "Well, you know who is on the other side of that penny right?" Then she grinned as if to say, "We really don't dislike Lincoln or the North, but it is fun to pretend like it."

After lunch and a nap, we went back out to do a longer driving tour of the area. We first stopped at Southern Virginia University in Buena Vista (pronounce Byoo - nah... don't get me started). SVU is a small, liberal arts school with a honor code similar to an LDS school; 96% of the 800 students are LDS. The main hall of the school is a beautiful historic building that was a hotel in early 1900s.

After SVU, we drove along the James River, stopping at an overlook with beautiful views of the river and valley. As you can see, everything is bright green at this time of year. Then we drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway stopping to see the gorgeous sunset over our valley.




When we got home from driving along the BRP, Ashley realized that her cell phone was no longer in the pocket on the strap of her diaper bag. At one point during the drive the girls were being fussy, so we pulled off the side of the road so I could get the diaper bag from the trunk to get the snacks out for the girls. We figured that it was at this point that the phone could have fallen out of the bag. By this time it was getting dark, but my dad and I headed back out to the BRP to try to find Ashley's phone (Ashley's note: I have an awesome husband. He went with no complaints). At the same time Ashley was on her knees praying because she really needs her phone and can't afford a new one, we found her phone lying in the gravel. Our home phone is programmed to ring differently when Ashley calls (it plays "Old MacDonald had a Farm"). When I called home from her cell phone, she was in the middle of her prayer, but by the sound of the ring she knew right away that I had found her phone. (Too bad this didn't happen when she lost her wedding ring).


On Tuesday, we started the day with a walking tour of historic downtown Lexington. After stopping at the Visitor's Center to see the promotional video and picking up a walking tour map, we were off. We had so much fun stopping in the shops and reading about the historical buildings that we completely forgot to take picture! (If you know us, that is a pretty big deal.)

Later, my dad and I played golf at Lexington Country Club. After golf, we met the girls at our favorite place, Boxerwood Gardens. We relaxed in the hammock, Leland played in the Bones Graveyard, I showed my parents the awesome NEWTS wastewater treatment system, and we took a walk through the beautiful gardens. It was very peaceful and gorgeous. The "popcorn" tree at the end of our walk was amazing. Of course, it wouldn't be a vacation with Grammy if we didn't get a picture of her on the phone.




That night we came home and played games (Ashley wants me to say how she won at "Hand & Foot" twice during their stay) and went to bed somewhat early because Grammy and Papa had to leave at 3 AM to make the early flight out of Washington, DC. With Amy's new job, they get to fly free, but on standby. We were glad that not only did they get on the direct flight to LA, but they were able to upgrade to first class for only $17!

Thanks for coming to visit us, Grammy and Papa!