Friday, April 30, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Happy Birthday to the amazing woman I call MOM! 

I have learned many things from this great woman, and I value her knowledge, wisdom and closeness to the Spirit more than I can say. 

Mom, you are loved and admired by so many, including all of us!  We hope your birthday has been just right.  You deserve the absolute best.  Love, hugs and kisses to you!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Monday, April 26, 2010

Costco, tamales and a happy memory

Today I bought some tamales at Costco. Now with how behind I am on this here blog, you may be asking yourself, "Valeri, why in heaven's name are you blogging about tamales at Costco?" Well, I'll tell you. As I threw them in the cart, other shoppers busily passing by, C & R whining in the front of the cart because, "he pulled my hair" and, "I didn't get enough of that last sample", and, "now I want out of the cart all together... actually, I don't", and so on and so forth, I had a distinct moment of nostalgia. And for that short moment, the hustle and bustle, the whining and grunting all disappeared, and I suddenly found myself re-living an old memory.

Now I'm a pretty sentimental person. I'm also a horrible journal keeper, which is the main reason I started this blog two and a half years ago! As I've grown into my adult years (that sounds so weird) and become a mother (that sounds even weirder), I've grown to love my parents on a whole new level. I've grown to appreciate the friends and counselors they were to me, the patience they found within themselves to hang onto me, their desire to see me succeed and fulfill my hopes and dreams, and most of all, the memories that were built from the many experiences we had as a family. With how busy life is, it's sometimes difficult to remember certain past times, or at least to find the time to sit and ponder them. So often I just feel like I'm racing to get to the next thing, and I don't really stop and appreciate moments from the past that are still dear to me. I decided a while back that I needed to be better about writing things down, not just about the kids' milestones and current happenings, but memories of the past - special, significant things that maybe aren't so important, but might make my children smile when they read about them in years to come. Not that this moment of nostalgia I had in the middle of Costco today will change Chloe and Ryan's lives forever, but it's still a happy memory that I'd like them to know.

So onto this memory I keep talking about! I've really built it up, haven't I?

Growing up in Vacaville, and within walking distance of downtown, we often took advantage of the local Farmers' Market, which was held every Saturday morning in Spring and Summer. We didn't go every Saturday, but a fair amount. I remember my mom coming here and there, but it was mostly my dad and me that made the trek. It wasn't a far walk from our house, and the process of getting there was scenic and wonderful. We'd walk down Buck Avenue and admire all the old mansions and the large blossoming trees. We'd breathe in the fresh morning air and, as always, enjoy good conversation. Sometimes we'd pick up fresh fruits and vegetables. Sometimes we would buy a bouquet of flowers to surprise my mom. Sometimes we'd just walk there to walk there, because it was that pleasant. But virtually always, we'd purchase a dozen homemade tamales and take them home for lunch. These tamales were so amazing, so authentic, and so perfect in every way - a real treat for us all!

So after that lengthy introduction, you may now be asking yourself, "Seriously? That's it? All that, for a memory of buying/eating tamales as a kid?" Perhaps the reason such a simple memory brought such warmth to my heart earlier today is because I don't get to see my parents as often as I'd like. I don't have the luxury of taking a walk around the block with my dad whenever I please. Maybe it's because I sometimes miss my hometown. Goodness knows it's been years since I spent any time there, and nearly a decade since I was there with my family. Maybe it's because in my adulthood, I look back at my childhood and appreciate how simple and easy it really was in comparison to the stresses and responsibilities I face nowadays. It's probably a little bit of all those things. But I think what it really comes down to is this! When all is said and done, the things we remember in our lives - the things that bring us joy, the things that bring warmth to our hearts and remind us that we are loved and that we are fortunate, are the simple things. Your delighted child, anxiously handing you a flower with no stem that she picked in the yard. A surprise visitor. Laughter over an inside joke that only you and the other person will ever understand. Your child's first smile.

Even though taking a walk with my dad and eating some tamales isn't that big of a deal, the memory of it, and even the memories surrounding that memory brings immediate warmth to my soul. No matter how sentimental we are, and no matter how amazing or terrible our memories might be, there has to be something we can each look back on, remember well, and smile about. I hope that, as my parents did, I am helping my own children build simple memories that they will look back on years from now, feel happy about, and want to share with their own children.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Chloe's Soccer Adventures

Last Thanksgiving, Neil and I started talking about possible Spring sports/activities for Chloe. She had expressed interest in swimming and ballet, and when Neil suggested soccer, she seemed equally pumped. We never really made a decision about where we would start, but agreed that since she didn't seem particularly partial to any one thing, it might be wise to let her try a little of everything. So that was November.

In early March, my friend, Camille, who was registering her Aly for soccer, invited us to register too so the girls could be on the same team. Chloe and Aly have been pals since birth, and have already done swim lessons and preschool together. Since we'd been talking about the possibility of soccer for a few months, and Chloe still seemed interested, we had no hesitation registering her. We went and bought all the needed things like soccer socks, shin guards, and of course, a pink soccer ball. She was so excited and ready, and Neil and I felt good about our decision.

Here's Chloe practicing in the backyard just before her first practice. Looks pretty happy, wouldn't you say?

Chloe's first practice was March 15th. She did really well until about the half way point. For starters, she was not fond of the rule that she could not touch the ball with her hands. Among other things, it quickly became evident that soccer might not be her cup of tea. She refused to play the latter half of practice, and instead pouted in my lap.

These were taken during her first practice, when she still thought soccer was fun.

And here's Ryan, watching on.

Future practices weren't any better than the first. Chloe fought it big time, pouting, whining, melting down and just plain refusing to play! At one practice, which I wasn't there for, Camille told me that the assistant coach approached Chloe at one point to ask why she didn't want to play. She had just plopped herself onto her ball, elbows on her knees, scowl on her face. Her response to the assistant coach was simply, "Ballet is so much better than this!"

I stole this off Camille's blog.

While it was obvious Chloe wasn't going to be the next Mia Hamm, Neil and I agreed she needed to stick with it until the end of the season. After all, we had talked with her about soccer for several months and on several different occasions. We didn't feel like it was okay for us to pay for and go to the trouble of getting her into soccer, only for her to decide right off the bat that she hated it and didn't want to play ever again. Maybe that's heartless, but it's what we felt was best. Neil finally told her that once the season was over, she could start ballet and never look at a soccer ball again. But until then, we expected her to try and enjoy it and give it her best. She seemed to think that was reasonable.

Chloe's first game was April 5th. She was definitely in better spirits then, but I think it helped that she was given a pretty green uniform to wear, and had several parents cheering her on. Again, in these photos, you would never know of our struggles, as Chloe looks like she's having the time of her life.

Notice Chloe in the bottom right picture. So typical. Not paying a bit of attention to the game, but smiling happily for the camera.

2 of Chloe's biggest fans...

More silliness and smiles...

Clearly Chloe takes the sport seriously, as she dances around with cones on her head (above). Also above are Chloe and life long pal, Aly. They are two peas in a pod.

I know pretty much all these pictures contradict the misery I claim we've endured these last few weeks. But before you call me a complete liar, let me share this one with you!

Here is the version of Chloe that claims,"ballet is so much better than this!"

My mom came out to visit last week, and was able to come to a game.
What a treat that was, although Chloe still refused to play the second half of the game.

Proud Grandma Jill with her favorite little people.

Overall soccer has been a good thing, I think. A few weeks ago, I wouldn't have said that, but since the games started things have gradually looked up. Chloe is so entertaining to watch. She really has no clue what she's doing on the field. She just runs with the crowd and giggles. I could probably count the number of times she's had contact with the ball. At least she finally seems to be enjoying it. After her game last Wednesday she told me, "Ballet is hard. It might be too hard for me. I might need to stick with soccer!" Funny, indecisive girl. Gotta love her.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Andersen Easter Festivities

We had a fun and busy Easter week. Here are some photos highlighting the various festivities.

The Saturday prior to Easter weekend, our Ward hosted a Breakfast and Egg Hunt.

Chloe getting pumped for the big hunt

Daddy helping Ryan with some of the trickier hiding places

The kiddos examining the goods

Chloe with friends, Abby and Kayla & Ryan with little friend, Carly

Not a couple hours after were home, our dear friend, Cindy picked Chloe up and whisked her off to an Easter Egg Hunt at her work. No pictures, but from what I hear, she had the time of her life.

This last Saturday, while watching the morning session of General Conference, Chloe painted Easter eggs. For the last two years I'd planned to start this tradition with her, but never got around to it. This year, I was determined, and succeeded. As a result, I had one happy girl!

So dainty...

...yet such a ham!

I'd say she did a pretty good job!

And then of course there was Easter morning. Here's Ryan and me just after we'd rolled out of bed. Not too flattering, I know, but he was being so snuggly that I demanded Neil grab the camera. It is so rare that I get a picture like this, as I'm usually the one behind the camera. I am grateful Neil captured this sweet moment.

Chloe was exploding with excitement to wake up to a trail of eggs in her room leading to her Easter basket.

Ryan's Easter stash was a little easier to find...

The Easter Bunny was very good to us, as were Grandpa(s) and Grandma(s). New clothes, games, balls and plenty of candy.

Later that morning some of our good friends came over to watch the remaining sessions of Conference and enjoy our traditional Easter dinner. There was so much food, we hardly knew what to do with ourselves. It was a wonderful, wonderful Easter!

I continue to find myself just amazed by and grateful for the opportunity I have to celebrate Easter with those I love, and for the knowledge I have of Christ's love for me. Each year that passes somehow brings me a greater sense of tenderness for and understanding of that knowledge. I am truly blessed. I hope you all had a wonderful Easter too!