Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Hogwarts Halloween

Halloween is the perfect time of year for REAL wizards (along with Hedwig, the Owl) to mingle with the Muggles on Eastwood Drive and remain undetected. Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall, Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Hedwig paraded the neighborhood (and the Brookfield Zoo a week earlier) casting spells and collecting memories.

Mrs. Weasley (Grandma Van Camp) hand-crafted fine robes and hats for the young Hogwarts students prior to their adventures. And because Diagon Alley's prices on this year's supply list exceeded the students' allotted Galleons, they opted to create their own ties, wands, and Nimbus 2000s using Dumbledore's secret supplies.
Mr. Weasley (Grandpa Van Camp) accompanied the group up and down endless streets on the chilly night, using his superior knowledge and keen observation of Muggles to strategically skip houses and maximize their time and energy. (Unfortunately, Harry had left the Marauder's Map in his trunk back at Gryffindor Tower.) Hermione's time-turner did help a little by adding an extra hour to the evening.

Hedwig happily fluttered around, but was grateful to shed some of her feathers as soon as possible.
While at the zoo, the wizards even had time to study up for their Magical Herbs Class.

And rescue their mascot from the Slytherin Serpent.

Professor Sprout even allowed them to carve faces into their final projects (as long as they helped clean up the Great Hall afterwards).
Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Happy 1st Birthday Cienna!

The house is full of extra energy (more giggles, frequent jumps for joy, tons of hugs, and lots of love) on birthday days. Spontaneous bursts of "Happy Birthday Dear Cienna..." could be heard regularly throughout the day. Cienna felt overly smothered on several occasions, but endured it well.

It's hard to believe our little one is now one. Kirsten said several times today, "Is Cienna REALLY 1?" And then she proceeded to list all the reasons why it seemed impossible..."She doesn't have any hair. She only says a few words. She still drinks Mommy's milk. She still crawls alot. Her onesies still fit. She's the same as when she was zero." I, for one, am grateful that our little baby didn't turn into a woman overnight. :)

Apparently, Cienna's sweet tooth hasn't matured quite yet, either (or maybe she's trying to set a good example for her family). She pushed the beaters from her cupcake batter away and begged for green beans. She loves the bland taste of rocks, wood chips, and dirt. And we frequently have to pull crayon bits and the erasers from the tops of pencils out of her mouth.
Cienna received the typical 1st cupcake with frosting and sprinkles as part of her birthday celebration...but wanted nothing to do with it. She didn't taste it, play with the frosting, or even come close to succombing to the temptation to eat a sprinkle. She also rejected her 1st Orange Julius (a Smith Family birthday treat)...she did have 4 siblings who were happy to share her portion though.

BUT, Cienna LOVES pizza. And she happily ate almost an entire adult slice all on her own.

Happy Birthday Cienna! You bring such true joy into the hearts of your parents, your brothers, your sisters, and all who know you!!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Utah Trip 2009

We recently returned from a great vacation out to Utah.
The moving walkways...
having your own personal tray that opens and shuts with the simple flip of a switch...
and finally being able to eat the "suckers for the air-pane ride"
probably would have been vacation enough for 5 excited kids (and their parents).

But we did some other fun things, too...

We visited with Brent's family and over half of his nearly 50 Smith cousins at 2 different wedding receptions.

The kids got bench-pressed by Uncle Kevin.

We built the Great Human Pyramids.

We hung out with old high school buddies and the next generation of high school buddies.

We hiked up Y Mountain (a family tradition when visiting Utah) with Amy's old BYU roomates.

Brent got a sore foot on the trip...we think this might of had something to do with it. (It's a very steep hike...apparently too steep for our 2-year-old to handle physically and emotionally alone!)

The girls wore purple nightgowns with Nana.

We had Cousin Camp 2009 (actually 2nd Cousin Camp) with Joel and Karen's kids. They have 2 girls and 3 boys for us to match up with. The pairing up was fun to watch.

We climbed waterfalls,

and canoed Utah Lake.

The highlight of my trip was watching our 3 oldest bravely take the canoe out alone...on their first day of ever holding a paddle.

It's very satisfying watching your children accomplish new things...but it's also lonely to stand and watch them go into unchartered waters without you. I wish I could've been a fly on a life-jacket, listening to their chatter as they navigated through the reeds.

But I had this cute, smiley face to enjoy on shore! Allison loved being in a life-jacket.

We visited Temple Square.

We played for 4 days with Cousin Kylie, which turned into another Cousin Camp!

We carved initials into Uncle Brian's lawn.

And we took LOTS of pictures to carry these priceless memories long into the future.
Thank you to all the Friends and Family who helped make this trip GREAT!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Ten Years with an Amazing Man!

Brent and I are celebrating 10 years of marriage today.

Here is a tribute to the man I love…

The only challenge in being married to someone as wonderful as Brent is coming up with words to describe just how wonderful he is. Whenever I stop to think about the man the Lord led me to 10 years ago, I literally feel speechless...and grateful.

I’ve been stopped many times in the last ten years, often by friends and family and just as often by random people who feel this same sense of speechlessness after interacting with Brent even just one time. They usually say something like, “You are so lucky to be married to someone like Brent,” or “My kids LOVE your husband,” or “If anyone can do it, Brent can do it” or “There’s something about your husband’s voice,” or even “I wish I could find someone just like Brent.” I can sense their lack of knowing how to phrase my husband’s near-perfect aura. I usually struggle to know how to respond. But I do know exactly how they feel.

Brent is compassionate. The first thing I noticed and fell in love with about Brent is how he genuinely loves everyone. I quickly learned that his biggest hobby is helping people. If Brent has spare time, he finds great joy in seeking out those in need and finding ways to fill voids in their lives. (The kids and I have been the lucky recipients of much of his spare time for ten years…but I’m well aware of the principle “where much is given, much is required,” so we try hard to share him with the world whenever possible.) Brent is comfortable giving his time to infants, children, teenagers, adults, elderly, the sick, the poor, and the homeless.

Brent is a man of action. I also learned quickly that while Brent is very patient, he also knows when to act and what to do. He knew he wanted to marry me before we started dating, so he quickly asked me on a date to get things rolling. My roommates remember his bold and confident way of starting relationship chats without necessarily waiting for them to leave the room so we could be alone. We were married just 6 months after we met, and if I’d known then the happiness we’d share during the last 10 years, I would have understood Brent’s vision and urgency.

On one of the first nights in our first apartment, I randomly commented that the garbage can didn’t fit under the sink. I was surprised then (but wouldn’t be now) to see Brent dig out his razor blade and cut off the top of the can to make it fit “just how my sweet wife wants.” That garbage can has now fit under the kitchen sinks in five states. I don’t think I can ever part with it. It’s timeliness in our marriage makes it one of the first tangible symbols of my husband’s willingness to serve me.

When we were first married, I heard all the stories about husbands who leave the toilet seat up, make a mess of the toothpaste, and leave their socks lying around. It didn’t take long for me to realize my husband was different. He not only closes the lid, but he wipes it down when necessary. He purchased a toilet brush before we were married in prep for cleaning the inside of “our” new toilet. Isn’t that thoughtful? Brent not only has toothpaste tube cleanliness mastered, I frequently find my toothbrush lathered up and ready to go if he beats me to the bathroom in the evening. And he not only puts dirty socks in the right spot, he also does dishes, changes diapers, and actually makes the bed (instead of just pulling the sheets up like I do). He tells stories to the kids at the dinner table, wrestles with them on the living room floor, and sings to them in their beds at night. Brent’s hobby is helping…and he does it so tenderly and with complete humility.

Just a couple of weeks ago, a friend called to let me know Brent would be home a little later from a meeting they had just attended together because he had seen Brent’s car pulled over on the side of the road helping a lady with a tire-change. He was in a suit and had 3 of our kids in the car with him. But if he can help, he always will.

Brent manages his time so well. I think if my kids had a father who came home and quickly shoved them away to wind down, they would stop competitively yelling out the day’s accomplishments the minute he walked in the door. The high volume and excitement levels of our children during the hours that Dad is around speak loudly for the type of unselfish magnet my husband allows himself to be. When Brent comes home, his mind and his heart are home, too.

Brent is a hard worker. The way Brent plays with the kids before bedtime, one would think he has nothing else to do. But after dinner and bedtime routines, he’s willing to stay up into the night to continue work or unfinished projects. Brent also enjoys remodeling and has the kids (and sometimes Mom) thinking that pulling up an old floor, laying a new roof, or painting a room is one big fun family activity.

Brent loves so completely. I am a better person now than I was 10 years ago. Some of the things I’ve improved on over the years are weaknesses Brent pretends never existed. He looks past flaws and with open arms lends a shoulder to cry on, or hands to serve with. Anyone can feel safe with Brent. In all the years we’ve been married, I’ve never heard him say a negative thing about anyone…and that’s the honest truth.

Brent is a Christian. Hands down, the biggest blessing in being married to someone as wonderful as Brent is how well he helps me feel the love of our Savior Jesus Christ. He exemplifies the Savior in so many ways. I get to see every day a small glimpse of the kind of love, mercy, and sacrifice Jesus has for me and my children. My testimony of Jesus Christ has grown so dramatically thanks to my amazing man.

And together, our greatest hope and joy is to serve our Savior all of our days.

Cheers to the years ahead and on into eternity!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Happy Birthday Allison!

Cheers to our wonderful 2-year-old!

Life is so SO FUN with a little one this age!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Kenny's Baptism

A day Kenny (and the rest of the family) has been anticipating for many years now finally arrived! Kenny turned eight (March 13) and chose to be baptized by his Dad (March 14) to follow the example of Jesus Christ and promise to live a life pleasing to Him. Family and friends from near and far came to share the special day with us.

As a parent, it is remarkable to participate in a child’s growth. From the time they are infants, children have this powerful way of teaching those around them how to be better. From the time Kenny was a small boy, we’ve recognized his strong understanding of right and wrong and his sensitivity to choosing the right path toward eternal happiness. We’ve noticed that as we’ve nurtured Kenny, he has responded to our love and acceptance of him and grown into a young man capable of so many amazing things already. He understands his duty to God. His determination and self-discipline in growing spiritually, mentally, intellectually, and physically are inspiring to us. What a great example Kenny is to us and to all of his siblings!

Brent and I both remember our baptism days…so many years ago. We each feel grateful for stepping onto a path that has led to countless eternal blessings already. Not a day goes by that we don’t feel grateful to be members of Christ’s church on the earth today. It’s wonderful to see that same glow in Kenny’s eyes.

Kenny—may you continue to seek the peace and joy that comes from leading a life of humble obedience, service, and love toward God and your fellow man.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

King of the High C's

Arr! Kenny had the great opportunity to be part of the stellar 2nd Grade play, “Pirates,” at school last week. (Yes, we are homeschoolers, but the boys attend the local elementary school part-time for PE and music and a few extras…it’s working out wonderfully!)

The amazing music teacher does a musical with every grade every year. Kenny auditioned for a speaking part and was chosen to take on one of the lead roles as the KING of the High C’s…basically the King of the Pirates whose beautiful voice is supposed to help the pirates win a singing contest until he gets laryngitis at the end. Kenny had several lines to memorize as well as a few vocal solos. He did a fantastic job! Way to go Kenny!!

He had a great time wearing the fancy costume that was custom made by Grandma...thanks again, Grandma!
We're sure it will be worn by generations to come...

Monday, February 16, 2009

I’ll Never Need to go Skydiving

Brent went skydiving after turning the responsible adult age of 18, and his grandmother went skydiving when she turned 75…and I must say my preference in staying close to, if not on, the ground is a disappointment to the Smith gene pool.

BUT…I do feel comfortable with my contribution to the family tree, and I’m relieved that I’ll never have to go skydiving to maintain my confidence level. Instead of jumping from a plane, I bravely took 5 children (an infant who gets hungry frequently and often needs head-to-toe diaper changes, a toddler who is prone to random wandering and typical tantrums, and 3 older ones who did an excellent job of trying to be mature (that was their end of the deal) but are still likely to bicker about who’s first and tattle about who’s touching who at least a few times…) to the Chicago Field Museum ALL BY MYSELF!

I psyched myself up for the event when the kids showed a renewed obsession with dinosaurs last week, AND the Museum offers Target-FREE second Mondays for all exhibits (this excursion took place last Mon.). With a small window of opportunity, I had to think fast and ignore any rational thinking. So, the kids and I packed lunches and forged ahead. I did have second thoughts as the plane ascended, I mean as I fought unfamiliar downtown Chicago traffic with a van full of kids for over an hour (Brent says I would've gotten there quicker if I would've used all the lanes on I-90, but I stuck with the right one).

The jump was successful…the sights were breathtaking and the oohhs and aahhs were priceless, and though our feet were sore when we landed, we had a fabulous time! We did have to opt out of heading next door to the Shedd Aquarium to take advantage of their free Monday event, which would’ve maximized our parking/gas cost. But we were happy to go home. (Thankfully, memories of my dad dragging my brothers and I down “one more street” on Halloween to maximize the night of free candy was still fresh enough in my mind to help me make a wise decision with my own children).

The patience required by all parties involved (including museum employees and other museum guests) for such an endeavor is monumental, but the memories were well-worth the physical and mental exhaustion. And of course...once you've experienced being on top of the world, you can always say you've done it...even if you don't plan on doing again anytime soon.

Meeting SUE was the primary goal...and she looked great!

She's the largest, most complete T-rex skeleton ever discovered.

The kids were also quite fascinated with the Egyptian display...especially the real mummies.

We entered a "shrinking machine" and experienced underground life with enormous, moving bugs.

Allison's favorite part was pushing any and all of the red buttons in the entire museum.

Special Thanks Go To:

The double stroller.

My parents who gave us the double stroller this last Christmas.

The kind lady who helped my carry the double stroller up about 100 stairs to enter the museum.

The information specialist and security guard who showed me an alternative exit on the ground floor.

My wonderful children!!

And of course, my husband, for promising to jump with me next time.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Daddy-Daughter Date Night

After 371 days of waiting, the Daddy-Daughter Princess Ball arrived...again.

The Prince did such a good job of sweeping Princess Kirsti off her feet last year at her first Princess Ball (a fundraiser by a local high school), that she’s been day-dreaming about dancing in the palace lined with knights on another Princess night with Dad ever since. Throughout the year, Kirsti would randomly say things like, “I like dancing with Daddy. When is the next Princess Dance?” while she was getting ready for bed at night or even while digging in the mud with her brothers. She asked Grandma for a wedding dress for her 4th birthday last July in prep for the BIG night (which happened yesterday). She associates princesses with weddings and dancing and happy endings thanks to Disney, so she was very appropriately dressed. Hopefully she’ll always want to marry someone exactly like her Dad…the song “Butterfly Kisses” comes to mind.

The Prince arrived at the front door and the exchanging of flowers commenced.

It was a wonderful chance for our gorgeous, confident middle child to get a night with her Dad all to herself.

Allison thought she was getting ready to “go,” also, and based on her response when the dancers disappeared into the night, Daddy will have to take two Princesses next year…and eventually 3.