Wednesday, June 23, 2010

One Terriffic 2 Year Old!

We finally celebrated Derek's birthday 2 weeks after the fact. Since we were driving across Ohio on Derek's birthday, we didn't have a chance to celebrate. After a couple weeks, I felt really bad that we didn't even have cake or presents for his birthday. I was having a hard time trying to figure out what to get for him, he has plenty of toys. So, I bought him some pajamas and called it his birthday present. It works. He loved his cake. Ever since, if anything is cooked in a similar pan, he calls it cake (even though it's really enchiladas or something else).
Derek is such a fun, adorable boy. He's growing up so fast. He is learning to form sentences, even if half of the words are unintelligible to anyone but his parents (even we have a hard time with it sometimes). He knows his ABC's. He can count to 11. He's starting to sing songs, which is so cute. He recently started saying "Yes" or more commonly "Ya" in his cute little Derek voice. Before he would mumble a resemblance of yes. He is obsessed with trains. He plays with his train tracks everyday. He loves watching shows with trains. We can hear the trains blow their whistles from our house. Fortunately the tracks aren't close enough to hear the trains going by. We do see trains anytime we drive anywhere. He asks to ride the train all the time. He also started putting his hands on his hips and huffing. That's a funny one. I really don't think I do that, so I'm not sure where he got that one. Derek has really starting picking up on everything we say. He copies a lot of things we say. He loves to copy his big brother. Elliott isn't so fond of the idea. One bad word Elliott often says is "stinky bum." Derek will call Elliott that when he's upset with him or sometimes just for fun. He also will copy us when we tell Elliott what his punishment will be for not doing something. If we tell him he'll go to his room, Derek will say "Ei-yi go room." It's hard not to laugh when he does it. He has so many cute mannerisms that make him who he is. He is such a sweetheart, even though he going through those "wonderful" 2's.
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Random Notes about PA

Some random observations about the Allentown area:
  • the local library is TINY. It's a one room library, which doesn't work very well with a 2 year old. The first time there the librarians even whispered at the front desk. The second time was actually really loud, so maybe we'll be okay. I guess it depends on the day. I might try braving downtown to check out the library there.
  • there's at least one section of town - where the mall and lots of other shopping is - where you can't make left hand turns. You have to turn right in order to turn left. It's really frustrating, especially when you don't know exactly where you're going.
  • Reading (as in Reading Railroad) is pronounced Red-ing. There is a town called Reading, we are in the Reading Stake, and in Philadelphia there is the Reading Terminal Market. Who would have thought I (along with most normal people) have been pronouncing it wrong all my life. I looked it up and we can blame in on the Brits. Apparently there's a town in England spelled Reading, pronounced Red-ing.
  • there is no sales tax on clothing. Brent figured out that all "necessities" are not taxed - food, clothing, diapers, etc. It's quite nice. I guess that might mean we get slammed with income taxes, that's yet to be seen.
  • the "DMV" is bizarre. They don't really have one. You go to the Driver's License Center to get your driver's license, fair enough. But to register your car you have to go to these random agencies, who do everything from insurance to car registration. I guess the nice thing is there is no long line to wait in, but it's still weird. It's also really hard and more expensive to register your car if you have a loan on it. Again, that's weird.

Our New Home

Now that we've been here for exactly one month, here are some pictures of our new home. We're at the end of our row of townhouses, which is nice. We never hear our neighbors. The neighborhood is pretty quiet. There are a few kids, but we don't see them very often. Behind our house is a huge open field of grass. When we first moved here it was a huge field of clover, but then they started mowing it every week, so all we see is a small patch of clover here and there. Brent was really bummed when they mowed it. He loved the clover. I'm kinda happy it's gone because there were tons of bees out there. On Monday night I realized there are fireflies out there. It was the first time I had ever seen them. I felt like a kid, mesmerized by all the flashing lights. It was so fun.

The house is 3 stories. The bottom level has the door to the garage, a storage closet under the stairs, and then a big room with the laundry room and another storage closet attached. Originally we were going to use the big room as a play room, but we changed our minds and made it the living room instead. It has worked out really nice. My biggest problem about having the playroom down there was that it feels so far away and both doors to the outside are down there, which made me uncomfortable. So, we changed the typical living room on the second floor into the playroom and the formal dining room into the office. It's all a little atypical, but it works nicely. The playroom is very well used. It is covered in toys daily, usually with trains. Derek is obsessed! We decided it was finally time to get a new dining room table, since we actually have somewhere to put it. It's so nice to have a table that fits all of us and the food, with plenty of room for more people. I LOVE the kitchen. It is so nice to have counter space and cupboards!! There are even cupboards that hardly have anything in them. It's great. It's nice having the pot rack as well. The owner left that here for us. The third floor has the bedrooms. The boys have their own rooms. It has worked out well. The master bedroom is spacious with a wonderfully large bathroom with separate shower and bath. I also LOVE having more than one bathroom again with counters, cupboards, and drawers. We love our house. It's so nice to have space again.

The owner, a guy in his mid-twenties or so, left several things for us that makes it even nicer. He left the bookshelves in the playroom, as well as some decorative shelves in the playroom and entryway, shelves in the storage room and garage, and an extra freezer in the garage. He also left handsoap and toilet paper in the bathrooms, which was really handy when we first got here without our stuff, plus a broom and mop, which I didn't think I'd use at first, but it's nice to have a broom upstairs. Plus, there's a security system included. I love all the colors of the walls in the house. The paint makes it even more homey. The only downside is that the owner had a dog, so we still find dog hair all the time, on all the floors. Oh well. It'll disappear eventually I hope.

We can get almost anywhere in 15 minutes or less. Brent works 10 minutes away. Target and grocery stores are also about 10 minutes. It takes 12 minutes to get to church. The mall is maybe 15. The furthest thing is Sam's Club, which is still less than 20. It's taken some getting used to figuring out where things are. I still sometimes get confused as to where I am when I go different places. Our ward is really spread out. It's nice being in a "normal" ward again. There are 40-50 kids in primary, less than 10 in nursery. The youth program is pretty small, which is unfortunate for babysitters. There are a lot of young families as well as a lot of older people. We were surprised to find that our ward is fairly transient. There are a lot of families here doing medical residencies, so they are just here for 3 years or so. We have met a lot of wonderful people.
Brent started work last week. He didn't have much to do last week, but he's started in on some projects this week, even though he doesn't know what he's doing yet. He'll figure it out with some time. The company is great, he really likes all the people he has met so far. This Friday they are having a BBQ for everyone in the Career Development Program. On Tuesday we get to go to an Iron Pigs game (the local Minor League baseball team), with box seats and everything. That will be fun. Plus, he found out about a group picnic sometime later in the summer - for the specific group he's working in. So far so good. It's nice for Brent to be working again. The boys and I are still trying to figure out how to spend our days, but we're getting there.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Our Cross Country Adventure, Part 2

Tuesday took us to Omaha, NE. I changed our hotel reservation to a Hawthorne Suites - it was basically a studio apartment - for about the same price as the Super 8 was going to be. That was a good switch. It worked out well. We put Derek's bed in the kitchen. :) It kept him separated from the rest of us well enough. That evening I knew the boys just needed a place to run and play, get some energy out. We went to McDonalds for dinner, hoping the playplace would suffice. Elliott had fun, but Derek couldn't do a whole lot. So, we found a nearby park and just let them play. It was nice.

On Wednesday morning we headed to the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha. It is supposed to be the best zoo in the country. Surprisingly, the boys kept saying they wanted to be in the car instead of at the zoo. Regardless, we all had some fun. They had a great aquarium, where the sharks swim around you. That was pretty cool. My favorite part was the rainforest. It was huge and awesome. Just walking the dirt trail through the rainforest took a long time. It was really humid in there (as it should be). It was really amazing. There were animals, tons of trees, and waterfalls. It was a pretty impressive zoo.

After the zoo, we drove across Iowa. We spent a lot of time not on major highways, so we really saw lots of farm country. It was pretty and a nice change. We made it to Keokuk, Iowa, which is just across the river from Illinois. We stayed at the Fairfield Inn. We were there for 2 nights, so we wanted something nice. Plus, I got to spend the evening doing laundry. That's what happens when you're living out of suitcases for 2 weeks. They had a nice pool there. I went to Wal-Mart, which was in the same parking lot as the hotel, to get some swim floaties for the boys. They had a great time swimming.
We were really fortunate to have great weather on our trip. We avoided the rain all the times we wanted to do something outside, at least until Thursday. So, we headed to Nauvoo in the rain. It was really neat to visit Nauvoo and see where the early Saints lived and where so much happened in the early history of the church. We took a covered wagon tour to see all of the sites. It was interesting to hear about all the buildings and the people who lived there. After the tour, we went to the Family Living Center where we learned how to make rope, candles, pots, barrels, and more. We even got to make a rope to take home. Derek got to play with the pioneer toys. He was excited to sit on the sheep too. After the FLC, we were able to visit some of the shops. We saw the blacksmith shop, the tin shop, the bakery (where the kids were happy to get a cookie), the post office, and the gunsmith shop. A trip to Nauvoo wouldn't be complete without seeing the Red Brick Store. I am glad we had the opportunity to visit Nauvoo. I am so grateful for the pioneers who sacrificed so much for the truth of the gospel. It was disappointing to not spend as much time in Nauvoo as I wanted. The rain put a damper on things.

Later that evening, when we were back at the hotel, Elliott said, "I thought we were supposed to see the rocking horse." I felt terrible. He read in The Friend about the rocking horse that John Taylor made for his son and went back to Nauvoo to get after starting their exodus. We forgot to visit the John Taylor home. We made a special trip back to Nauvoo the following morning before heading to Carthage. I didn't want Elliott remembering that he went to Nauvoo but didn't get to see the rocking horse. He was happy to see it. We even got to take a picture next to it.
Carthage was amazing. It was a special experience to be able to visit the Carthage Jail and see where Joseph and Hyrum were martyred. We watched a video at the visitor's center before taking the tour of the jail. It was neat to be able to go into all of the rooms and see what it was like. We learned things we didn't know before. There was a very special Spirit at the jail. I'm glad we were able to have that experience together.
Elliott is standing in front of the window Joseph fell from as well as the door with the bullet hole from one of the bullets that hit Hyrum.
We were very surprised to see 3 different people that we know at Nauvoo and Carthage. Brent saw someone from the MBA program at Nauvoo. He didn't know him well. I ran into my old roommate Alison and her family. They were there for a friend's sealing the next day. At Carthage, we saw the Shirts family, another MBA family, on their way to OH for an internship. Who would have thought we'd run into anyone we knew in Nauvoo. We randomly saw the Shirts again the next day at a Service Plaza off the Ohio Turnpike. Crazy.
After Carthage, we made our way across Illinois. A friend told us about an awesome candy factory in Merrillville, so we made a small detour to check it out. It's called the Albanese Candy Factory. It was totally worth it. We got there in the early evening, so the factory itself wasn't really busy, but we were still able to see them making some candy. We also saw the robots sorting and boxing things. It was fun. The candy selection was incredible and delicious. We chose a few things to buy and then enjoyed eating them in the car. The gummy snake was pretty cool. It was 27" long for only 99 cents. Elliott picked out chocolate covered Oreos. They were delicious. Everything else was too. That night we stayed in Elkhart, Indiana (about half way through Indiana) at the Comfort Suites.

On Saturday we finished crossing Indiana and went to the eastern border of Ohio, where we stayed in Youngstown at the Comfort Inn and Suites. The hotel was the nicest because it actually had a separate bedroom. Of course it was the most expensive, but by that time in the trip we needed something nicer. :) Ohio was the most boring of all the states we drove through. There wasn't any variety to the landscape. We were just on the I-80 the whole time. There aren't really even normal exits on the turnpike. There are just service plazas you can stop at to eat or get gas or whatever. We were planning on swimming at the hotel that evening but then found that the heater on the pool was broken. Elliott and Derek didn't want to get in once they felt the water with their feet. I was glad because I sure didn't want to get in an unheated pool. We took the Wii along, so Elliott got to play for a while instead of swimming.
On Sunday we finally made it to Pennsylvania. We drove across the entire state. We live about 30 minutes from the New Jersey border. The drive was beautiful. There was almost nothing but forest the whole way. It was so pretty. We drove through the mountains to get from I-80 down to our new house. It was a nice drive to finish off our adventure. We were so happy to arrive. It was a long 9 days in the car. The boys did surprisingly well. Most days there was a little bit of complaining and/or crying, but really not too much. Saturday was Derek's worst day. It was his birthday and I'm sure he would have rather not spent the day stuck in the car. He cried for an hour or two, but we all survived. He did better again on Sunday. The boys spent their time coloring, reading, and watching movies. Elliott had some workbooks to do as well. Our friends, Mike and Lis, gave Elliott a fun bag of stuff to do and yummy treats to eat along the way. He loved it. Thanks! Brent listened to a 20+ hour book on CD and I read a new book called Mistborn. We all had things to do to pass the time. It was really nice to be out of the car when we finally got here. We had a good trip, but I'm not looking to do it again anytime soon.
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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Our Cross Country Adventure, Part 1

We left Provo the afternoon of Saturday, May 15th. We drove to Rawlins, WY, just a random place to stop that wasn't too far of a drive for the day. There was nothing special or very memorable from that stop. We stayed at a Super 8. The bathroom reeked of cigarette smoke and there was animal hair on the sheets of one of the beds. It wasn't a pleasant experience. Our original plan for our trip was to stay at Super 8's or something similar to save on costs. As you'll see our plans changed as we went. On Sunday we drove to Rapid City, SD. South Dakota is a beautiful state. We hit a crazy rainstorm, possibly hail, on the way. I was scared. Fortunately Brent was driving, but it was still scary. You couldn't see the road because the rain was coming down so hard. We stayed at a La Quinta. It was a fabulous hotel. There was an indoor waterpark at the hotel. It was nice to let the boys play. Elliott was brave enough to go on all the slides in the kids area. He almost went on one of the really big slides, but about half way up the stairs he decided it was way too high. He had a lot of fun. Monday morning we headed out to Mount Rushmore. What an amazing sight. That was one of the highlights of our trip. It was fascinating to see the mountain in person and learn about its creation. There is definitely nothing that compares with it. The avenue of flags is really cool too. It was fun to look around for different state flags. A couple interesting facts:

- Each president's face is as tall as the entire Great Sphinx of Egypt, measuring 60 feet from the chin to the top of the head.
- The president's noses are 20 feet long, each mouth 18 feet wide and the eyes are 11 feet across.
Needless to say, it is huge! Elliott had read about Mount Rushmore in a Flat Stanley book, so he was excited to see it as well.

View from the viewing platform.

View from the Presidential Trail.

The boys were good sports. Elliott did really well. Derek wasn't very interested in this visit and before we were done he had had enough.

After leaving Mount Rushmore we took a detour through Badlands National Park. For the most part we just drove through. We stopped at a couple of spots to see the view. It was spectacular. Badlands is one of the world's richest mammal fossil beds. It was interesting to see these huge formations out one side of the car and out the other side there were huge prairies. We even saw prairie dog settlements (I didn't get a picture of those). Pretty cool. Enjoy the view.

After our sightseeing was finished for the day, we made our way through South Dakota and stayed in a tiny town called Murdo. We stayed in another Super 8. The quality was better than the first one, but the boys spent a long time teasing/yelling at each other when they were supposed to be sleeping. It was then that I decided we needed something bigger for the rest of our trip. No more sleeping practically on top of each other. After our trip Brent's parents told us there was a tornado that went through Murdo just a day or two after we left. I'm glad we were ahead of the storm.
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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Goodbye Utah, Hello Pennsylvania

It was really hard to leave Provo, our home, our ward, and especially our friends. We took full advantage of our last week there to spend almost every evening with friends. I got to go out with the girls; we had a girls/boys night swap; and lots of evenings playing games. Our good friends, the Malmgrens invited us to sleep at their house our last night after the movers took all of our stuff. That was so generous (especially since it was Lis's birthday the next day). We had so much fun. We will miss all of our friends so much.

After 9 days in the car, we finally said hello to our new home in Orefield, PA (just outside of Allentown). We arrived on Sunday afternoon and our stuff came on Tuesday. The rest of the week was spent unpacking. Brent was amazing in getting all the boxes unpacked so quickly. It is so nice to have a house again with lots of space, room for everything, and especially a washer, dryer, and dishwasher. Hooray! It's a great home. The landlord left lots of shelving in the garage and storage room, plus an extra freezer in the garage. It's so nice to have places to put things. We went to our new ward this past Sunday. It's a fairly small ward, but seems really friendly. It was nice going the day before a holiday - there was a ward picnic for Memorial Day. It was great to be able to go and meet even more people there. There is a family in the ward here for the summer for an internship with Air Products (where Brent will be working). There are several young families. We are looking forward to getting to know people better and making good friends here.

I'll post all about our cross-country adventures soon...

Moving Time Fun

It was so nice to have movers take care of our move. I didn't have to do much of anything. They came on Thursday the 13th to pack everything up and then loaded the truck on the 14th. So, I had 2 days I needed to be out of the house. Brent stuck around the apartment to make sure everything went as desired. Thursday we spent time at the playground. Then Elliott spent the rest of the afternoon at a friend's house. On Friday I thought of taking the boys to a movie but of course there was nothing good at the dollar theater. So I asked Elliott what he wanted to do. He said Jumpin' Jacks, so that's where we headed after lunch. I called my friend Brooke and invited her son (Elliott's good friend) Dakota to go with us. I'm glad he could go, they had so much fun running around that place. They were absolutely crazy and had a crazy good time. Derek wasn't too sure about it at first but then I couldn't peel him away. It was fun to watch them play. I'm glad Elliott and Dakota had that last chance to play together. They played together almost every day. It's hard to leave good friends.

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Hiking the "Y"

We finally hiked Y Mountain our last Saturday in Provo. Brent and I had wanted to do it for a while and then Elliott said he wanted to, so it was a definite have to do before we left. I did it after I graduated from BYU. It was really difficult. Elliott did great hiking the whole way. I carried Derek on my back. That was insane, but we made it. I'm glad we did it, but I wasn't going to hurry to do it or anything like it again. It was a beautiful day and we had a beautiful view. We got really lucky to have nice weather since there had been a lot of rain that week. We had fun hiking together as a family.

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End of Season

Elliott had fun playing soccer again this spring. He was on the same team as in the fall, but fortunately they got a lot of new players. They only had 7 kids on the team in the fall which doesn't allow for playing on 2 fields at once (4 on each field), especially since all the kids usually didn't show up every time. This time they had 12 kids - much better! Elliott improved this season as well. He had an impressive final game. It was great to see him get really into it finally. Unfortunately he ended the game getting hit in the face with the ball - kicked by the strongest kicker on the field. Ouch! The 3rd picture is a little more accurate of how most of the season was spent - hanging out on the field with other teammates, not really paying attention to where the ball was. It was really fun to see him running so hard that final game and kicking the ball several times! Way to go, Elliott! Now for a break from soccer - Elliott really wants to try karate, hopefully it works out.

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