Thursday, December 31, 2009

A new way to spend Christmas

Christmas this year was fabulous, but different from Christmas past. This year, it was just me and my mom for the holiday! It was the first Christmas without my grandfather as well. It's weird (and cool) to think that I have eaten every Christmas meal with him since I was born! That's a LONG time!

Even with just the two of us, we kept up some of our traditions (but slacked on some as well). We were also very fortunate to have very good family friends invite us over for dinner on Christmas Eve and for a brunch on Christmas day! They are fun to be with and I really enjoy their company! Our neighbors also had a neighborhood gathering on Christmas Eve, so we stopped by there too. We were very well fed and didn't have to cook a thing!

It was a little quiet without lots of other family around, and not having to cook or clean up from a big dinner on Christmas day, my mom and I decided to go to Longwood Gardens and see their holiday display. We've had friends go for years and tell us how pretty it is, but we've never been! (Briefly: It's 1500 acres of beautiful flowers, trees, fountains, and a conservatory due, in most part, to the contribution by Pierre S. du Pont (1870-1954). Because it was winter, dark, and raining, we spent most of our time indoors. The conservatory is a maze of many many rooms with different flowers from varying climates and over all...It's incredible!)

The weather wasn't the best (rainy and cold), but we went anyway! Here are some pics which my camera does not do justice!
One of their holiday trees lined with beautiful flowers!
And another. How many lights do you think are on this?!!
From the orchid room: breathtaking!
You can see in this picture some raindrops in the camera. It was so beautiful watching the show timed to holiday music that we stood there in the freezing cold rain till it was over!

My mom and I! She's FABULOUS! :)

I look so tiny against this big and FULL tree!
Overall, even though I missed being around
other family members, this was a Christmas
I will never forget. It was wonderful!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

More holiday fun!

As the previous posting indicated, this holiday season was filled with lots of opportunity to ENJOY some typical and not-typical holiday "things".

I LOVED being so close to the temple here and being able to attend their
"Festival of Lights" a few times! The temple does an amazing job decorating the grounds in LIGHTS! (They even won "best lights" from an NBC4 voting contest this season!) But, every night for about 6 weeks they have different performers come and do a short holiday (vocal or instrumental) concert at 7 & 8 PM. Many people who aren't members come and attend, and it's just a wonderful evening--all for free! The visitor center has nativity scenes from around the world and is fully decorated for the season! I think I went to five or more concerts with different friends. Each one was a great way to end a long work day and feel the joy of the Christmas Spirit!

Moving on... next fun thing
was making a gingerbread TRAIN with the kids!
They did a GREAT job!
(They're in their pjs... hence naked stomachs.
The boys hate wearing shirts to bed!)

Another recommended "must do" during the holiday season in DC is to go to the Smithsonian Botanic Gardens and see their holiday train display and decorations. I knew the boys would love this... and we brought a friend as well! They had the monuments displayed as you walked into the gardens (see in picture below). The boys love being able to recognize the monuments and buildings!

Do you see the Washington monument
in the back? Jeremiah will point it out
whenever we see it in the car because
you can see it from almost anywhere in DC!

Then we entered the train display. They had all these "fairytale houses" set up and the trains would weave in and out of the different scenes.
The "Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe!"
The "7 Dwarfs House"
The "Elf Village"

They had about 20 scenes and the boys loved doing
the "seek and find" they had set up for the kids!
Of course, the trains were a big hit as well!

Moving on... on the way home we stopped to see Santa!
The local pharmacy had him visit.

A simple set-up, but Leo thought he was too old to be there. However, once he sat on Santa's lap he was excited to share his FULL list of what he wanted to the holiday :)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas on the Potomac

I love, love, LOVE getting recommendations from others about amazing places to visit or things to do. So, I am passing them on too!

I have been able to do more of these "new" things this year because I have the kids part of the time, and I want to enrich their lives (as well as my own!) And, I feel like that has really given me the opportunity to embrace the holiday season this year and actually take a step back and enjoy it! It's made a remarkable difference in my attitude too. I feel like the past few years I was just hoping to "survive" the holidays. It always seemed so stressful! But, this year, a new combination of things and events changed my approach to the holiday. And, I loved it! I even attempted making my Christmas cards this year, even though they were on the "easy" side when it came to craftiness level!

One recommendation for the holidays came from a teacher friend at church. She took two of her students to there and raved about how amazing it was! She was not exaggerating!
I am speechless. My words can not do justice to this exhibit or experience. It was magical!

TWO MILLION POUNDS of ice carved into a walk-through attraction of ten larger-than-life, three-dimensional holiday scenes, including a Nativity Scene with a 25-foot-tall ice angel and a Christmas Castle with ice slides standing more than two stories tall. It's only 9 degrees in there (and yes, they're not kidding!) ICE! is created by dozens of artisans who will migrate to the DC area from Harbin, China. It takes them nearly an entire month of 12-hour shifts to transform the refrigerated tent where the exhibit is held into a remarkable icy wonderland. (Learn more about it's makings here)

The first sculptures you see are of National Monuments in DC! Here's Jeremiah. He knows all the monuments well, by name, and thought this was SOOOOO cool!

A holiday scene... looks just like your living room, eh?
But, it's ALL ICE!!
We called this the "Happy Feet" scene. And we danced on our happy feet as we walked through! The detail on the penguins was incredible!
Ho, Ho Ho! Jeremiah was worried Santa might freeze :)
A life-size horse and buggy! We took a ride (in our imaginations!)

THE BEST part were the two-story high ICE SLIDES!

A nativity scene that was so intricately done.
I took pictures from 3 sides, but it was breathtaking!

Merry Christmas!!

After we left we went to the main building to thaw out. Inside there it's decorated beautifully as well! We got hot chocolate and a cookie and sat in front of the fountain watching a water show timed to holiday music. Then, we went to see their model train display where Jeremiah just stared for 30 minutes at the trains go in and out, round and round the town! Mrs Clause came to welcome us and gave us candy canes and then we rode the glass elevator up 18 flights of stars just so we could look down on this magical wonderland! It was incredible and being there with Jeremiah made it that much more fun and enjoyable! He's a light in my life!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bliss or Reality? I'll go with reality and thank the Lord for letting me have the ride.

I stole this quote from a friend's blog... but I LOVED it!

"Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he's been robbed. The fact is that most putts don't drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to be just people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is like an old time rail journey...delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, & jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas, and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride."

President Gordon B. Hinckley

Monday, December 21, 2009

Insightful thoughts

Recently I randomly found this article while looking for something else. It struck me not only because I find it a little humorous, but he makes some very valid and strong points. Excerts below... but I suggest reading it fully!

tragically ignorant
about something we once seemed to understand:

Even in the church, we postpone marriage later and later,
as if it were a particularly
unpleasant dental appointment.
There's so much to do first... Here's why it's a mistake:

We don't ever "find" ourselves.
Instead, in marriage, we make ourselves.

No, we make each other -- as a joint project.

We turn ourselves into a perfect fit. Our self is the marriage, and our part in it. There is no "I" without the "we." ...

Romance is nice. But it is biological in origin.

That dizzy head-over-heels feeling is a species of losing your mind, and most of the time it lasts only as long as the chase. What we keep forgetting is that in marriage, as opposed to romances, you aren't marrying the thrilling wonderful perfect Someone you're looking at right now.

You're marrying the man who decides not to have the dazzling career with the high salary, refusing promotions and transfers so the kids don't have to change schools. You're marrying the woman whose body doesn't bounce back after the third baby, so she's no longer slim and attractive by the standards of the magazines.

You're marrying the migraines and the hemorrhoids and the heart attack and the cancer; you're marrying the irritable, forgetful, lazy, thoughtless, sarcastic, distracted, too-busy days as well as the Kodak-happy ones.

You're marrying the one who works with you to raise the retarded or crippled child, or stands with you at the graveside of the child who dies.

You're marrying the one who can't find work after the company folds or he's laid off; you're marrying the early Alzheimer's, the diabetes, the obesity, the pain of conflict and the struggle of forgiveness.

The foundation of that isn't some ideal of romantic love. It's a commitment based on the goals you share. And real love, married love, is not what you start with -- it's what you create together along the way....

All marriages are between strangers. And sometimes it's the boring man who'll make the best husband, the plain woman who'll make the best mother.... Compared to the thick, strong fabric of married love, romantic love is a Kleenex. You can't make anything out of it. It's disposable -- there's always another in the box.

Now it's the application I need to work on :)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pictures from storm

As you will read in my post from yesterday, we got some snow in DC. Some snow... Ok, yes, it was a significant amount. 2 feet or so. It is pretty when it falls, but I still haven't developed that loving relationship with it yet :) The pics promised from this post are below.

But, I just remain in SHOCK that school and gov't are canceled tomorrow. I drove here, there and everywhere today. The roads improved and can totally support traffic. If this was Boston we wouldn't even have a two hour delay. People just keep going with their lives. But, here? It's crazy!

LIFE completely STOPS!

I could go insane and stir crazy
if this happened frequently.

Buck up people.
Life needs to move on!!!

May we all be a little more "hardy"
like our friends up north
and out west
is my holiday wish this year!

About mid-day Saturday... but it just kept
going for 24 hours straight!

The street. People were out walking in it all day!
No cars, of course, so you just stroll down!
About 9 at night... another two inches fell after that.
A view of my front door and our neighbors holiday lights....
Ok, I'll give it to you, it's kind of pretty :)

But, I'll refrain from mentioning how sore
my arms and back (oh - and those quads)
from shoveling!!!!!!!!!!!

(or, maybe I'll just mention it :)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A curse from Old Mr. Winter? When will my heart change?! Not in the near future!!!

I feel like I am cursed or that Old Mr. Winter is following me everywhere I go and will not leave me alone until I change my "heart" and actually enjoy the winter, especially SNOW. I feel like I am Scrouge in "The Christmas Carol." In "winter past", I have fond memories of snow storms when I was young and carefree. All it meant then was days off of school, hot chocolate with my family and sledding in our yard.

But, then in "winter present", Boston killed all joy I ever felt about snow. I have nightmares about panic attacks on finding a parking spot on the "odd" side of the street so my car didn't get towed, and then after the storm making sure my car was cleared off within 24 hours or else it would be towed, or finding parking spots days and weeks after a storm because the roads were too narrow and there was never parking to be found. Or, even just the winters in general. The brutal cold and harsh wind that just went through you to your core and never left! Or, what about those many bedrooms I had where I would have frozen all winter long except for the saving grace of space heaters? Yep - I'll admit it. There were many times in Boston where I was Scrouge because of a winter storm that blanketed the ground with ice and snow.

Well, Old Mr. Winter, I REALLY am trying to change my attitude! I thought by coming to DC and having less harsh winters, I could one day embrace the joy I felt as a child in enjoying snow! But, when you start off a winter with a RECORD breaking snowstorm that entirely shuts the city down, it's hard to start feeling that "love for the snow" again! However, my mom did point out to me that I don't have to worry about parking spots, tickets, being towed, etc. And, she's right. That is a wonderful thing. Now, I just need to embrace the idea of enjoying shoveling!!

The ONE thing I do give Boston credit for is its ability to clear the streets during and after a storm. This is something that VA struggles with BIG TIME.

So, trying to change my thoughts and feelings about snow. It is pretty when you look at it from the inside out... but I might feel differently about that in a bit when I have to go out and shovel out my car for the 2nd time today :)

What will "snow future" look like for me? Gosh, I hope and pray it's different than it looks like today :)

Pictures will be posted tomorrow when I get back to my "other house" ...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Timing... keeping the view on eternal!

I was reminded of a talk on Sunday by Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Timing,” Ensign, Oct 2003, 10–17. After re-reading it, I felt like it was so pertinent to my life and that he made some points that I want to read over and over again (as reminders because my memory is so short!) I condensed his comments, so if you're interested in reading more I highly recommend the entire article! I am just posting what's below as easy access for me to go back and read what I thought was most important

"The Lord has His own timetable.... The first principle of the gospel is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith means trust—trust in God’s will, trust in His way of doing things, and trust in His timetable.

As Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said: “The issue for us is trusting God enough to trust also His timing. If we can truly believe He has our welfare at heart, may we not let His plans unfold as He thinks best? The same is true with the second coming and with all those matters wherein our faith needs to include faith in the Lord’s timing for us personally, not just in His overall plans and purposes.”...

In our service in the Lord’s Church we should remember that when is just as important as who, what, where, and how. We prepare in the way the Lord has directed. We hold ourselves in readiness to act on the Lord’s timing. He will tell us when the time is right to take the next step. For now, we simply concentrate on our own assignments and on what we have been asked to do today.

It is not enough that we are going in the right direction. The timing must be right, and if the time is not right, our actions should be adjusted to the Lord’s timetable as revealed by His servants....

Because of things over which we have no control, we cannot plan and bring to pass everything we desire in our lives.... Important mortal events that depend on the agency of others or the will and timing of the Lord... cannot be anticipated or planned with certainty....

[Our] commitments and service can anchor [us].... [Our] commitments and service can also inspire and strengthen others. Wise are those who make this commitment: I will put the Lord first in my life, and I will keep His commandments....

If we have faith in God and if we are committed to the fundamentals of keeping His commandments and putting Him first in our lives, we do not need to plan every single event—even every important event—and we should not feel rejected or depressed if some things—even some very important things—do not happen at the time we had planned or hoped or prayed.

Life has some strange turns....Stand ready to accept the Lord’s planning and the agency of others in matters that inevitably affect you. Plan, of course, but fix your planning on personal commitments that will carry you through no matter what happens.

The most important principle of timing is to take the long view. Mortality is just a small slice of eternity, but how we conduct ourselves here—what we become by our actions and desires, confirmed by our covenants and the ordinances administered to us by proper authority—will shape our destiny for all eternity."

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Washington Wizards V. Toronto Raptors

It's been a long time since I have been to a professional basketball game, but last night I had the chance to take the boys! Through school, I (as the guidance counselor) received a letter from the Wizards allowing us to acknowledge outstanding students for their hard work! The student received a free ticket to the game and a free dinner, and then their guests got tickets and dinner at a reduced price! So, we gave out the letter to some fabulous student and I decided to nominate Leo as an outstanding first grader! He tries so hard, always has a great attitude about school and homework, and does his best! BUT, he also LOVES sports! This was perfect for him!

So, off we go! As luck would have it, my mom was also in town because my brother and his fiance were in DC for the weekend for a "Welcome Weekend" with his new company (they'll move here in March so he can start!). Their evening activity with the company was to go to the game as well, and so I got my mom a ticket to come too!

We got to the game early and the boys were excited! Besides the basketball, teams always have fun stuff to watch on the court during time-outs and half-time, etc. They were mesmerized! Even after I got the dinner for them, I couldn't get them to focus on eating! Tey just were glued to the game! ... and so was my mom!

Unfortunately, the Wizards didn't have a great first-half. They were never ahead, and sometimes behind by quite a bit! But, it ended in overtime 109-107... they lost to the Raptors. :( It was fun to just be there though! Here are some pics...

Well, I wouldn't say our tickets were ground-level!!!
Leo and Jeremiah - all SMILES :)

Me and my mom :)

So, just wanted to add the last two pictures from Thanksgiving. Leo's personality shines in the one below! He's such an amazing and fun kid!!!