Thursday, May 31, 2012

Chloe's swimming adventures

Chloe tried out for the Ripon swim team back in March. The "tryouts" were more formality than anything, involving a simple lap across the pool to determine the kids' levels and capabilities. For the little ones who weren't quite to par, a swim camp was recommended. Chloe, who is a strong swimmer, had not been in the pool since last summer, nor had she been conditioned to swim laps, so she was naturally at a disadvantage. She did make it across the pool, but was all over the place in the process, and grew tired quickly. In the end, she was among those recommended for the swim camp, and completed it the following week with flying colors. She literally jumped for joy when, at the end of the camp, they informed her that she'd made the team, and immediately called Grandma Susie to announce the news. Susie helped coach the Saddlebrook Sea Horses for years, which is the team Neil and his siblings swam with growing up. Their pool sat within feet of their backyard, and naturally, as Susie still lives in the same house to this day, she continues to enjoy laps in that pool. Here are the cute Andersen kiddos in front of said pool in all their 1980s Sea Horse glory.

As the years passed, Jeff, Lori and Brad found passions elsewhere (gymnastics, diving and soccer - correct me if I'm wrong, sibs), but Neil kept up with swim and enjoyed it through high school. He has loved watching Chloe's passion for swimming blossom. She really does love it, as he did, and it's been a fun process watching the two of them get so excited.

So, back to TRYOUTS! {16 March 2012}
Despite the cold and wet weather, this little swimmer was ready to go!
Ryan was well-equipped for the rain.
A little stretching, a little pondering, and a lot of smiles.
Like I said, she was all over the place. But she made it!

FIRST PRACTICE {02 April 2012}
Do you like how the swim cap is on sideways? Yeah, that was my fault. I didn't know what the heck I was doing. But I quickly corrected myself. As for the ladybug, well, that's kind of a funny story. So my mom and I have this thing with ladybugs; always have. Don't really know how else to describe it. They've just always been special to us. And from the time Chloe was brand new she acquired the nickname "Chloebug." Since then, strangely, I have found that ladybugs appear, completely out of the blue, coincidentally on days when Chloe meets milestones or celebrates something special. I remember seeing one just after I'd dropped her off on her first day of kindergarten, spotted one on our front porch on her birthday (yes, in November!!!), plenty of other random times, and then, this - at her first swim practice as a Sea Lion - potentially her first of many! Funny little coincidence. Anyway, had to get a picture.
We corrected the swim cap mishap just in the nick of time...

TIME TRIALS {05 May 2012}
This was the day Neil and I discovered just what a time commitment (and wallet sucker) this whole summer swim team thing was going to be. Neil and Chloe arrived at Ripon High at 7:45am to get Chloe registered, then waited four hours and fifteen minutes before Chloe finally got to swim her first - yes, first - event: 25 backstroke. Unfortunately, the second event we'd signed her up for did not take place for another couple of hours, and we had committed to a church activity which was already a solid hour in, so we had to drop her from event #2 and split right after her first event. Thankfully she'd had enough, even though of the four and a half hours she'd spent there, she was only in the pool maybe 3 minutes.

Chatting with one of her coaches, just moments before her first ever race.
Cute little bum.

Getting ready... (she's on the far left in each above shot)
Chloe's second from the right in these shots. She started out strong and ahead, but fell behind at the end. If I remember right this event had 2 heats, and she finished in fourth or fifth place (can't remember for sure now) with a 54.23 second time. It was so fun watching her out there. She really knew what she was doing and didn't once allow nerves to get to her.

SWIM-A-THON {14 May 2012}

What's a swim season without a swim-a-thon, right? Similar to her jog-a-thon, Chloe went through a variety of emotions during the hour she was in the pool. She started out strong and determined, but about 15 laps in, had almost had it. There were giggles and smiles, there were tears, there were bathroom breaks, and there were pep talks. In the end, Chloe completed 30 laps, and I was very proud of her.

She was a real trooper! And notice, in the bottom right picture (above), that she's the only one left in the pool? Yep, typical Chloe. Not the first time this has happened. The younger group swim-a-thon was over by this point, clearly, and the older group was preparing to start, but not until little miss decided to make her way out of the pool. At practices it's the same thing. She's always the last one out. She finds any excuse possible to stay in the water as long as she can. Funny kid.

And she just looked oh-so-cute after she got out, that I had to snap these shots. Such a little lady.

FIRST SWIM MEET {26 May 2012}
Chloe had her first meet this past weekend in Tracy. Nothing like spending your first Saturday of summer vacation up and at it at 6am, right? Thankfully, we'd packed up the car the night before. We arrived in Tracy just before 7am, found a spot to camp for the day, got Chloe registered, and settled ourselves in!

Comfy in their seats (complete with umbrellas).  I love how Chloe's swim cap and goggles are smooshing down her eyes.

You can see both Neil (green shirt and hat) and Chloe in the above shots. These were taken just before her 50 free. A funny thing happened during this event. Her dive was flawless (as you can see), streamline was great, kick was strong. She just forgot one thing: to use her arms. I was standing on one side of the pool while Neil stood on the other, chuckling simultaneously at our cute daughter who really did a 50 freestyle…kick.

Here's a video of her 25 yard backstroke.  Her time was 44.66, so a 10 second improvement from time trials!  It was SO bright that I couldn't see what I was recording and I was juggling Ryan in my arms at the same time, so bear with me.  Oh, and don't mind the morons who kept walking by.

So we were at the Tracy meet for 7 solid hours. Needless to say, by the time we left, we were ready for ice cream. Thankfully, we had a Cold Stone gift card that Uncle D had sent the kids for Easter. And, conveniently enough, there was a Cold Stone within blocks of where the meet took place!

As you can see, swimming has kept us quite busy! We are loving it though. I can't even explain how satisfying it is to see Chloe out there. It seems like 5 minutes ago she was an itty bitty baby, and yet here she is now, competing for ribbons! It really is amazing how quickly time passes.
Love you, my little sea lion!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Chloe's jog-a-thon

Chloe's school hosted a jog-a-thon on May 4th. Chloe earned some pledges from family and friends, and was pumped to run her heart out. Ryan and I went to cheer her on, and even ran a couple laps with her. Chloe lost focus quite frequently, stopping to chat with teachers and/or parents, and grabbing a cup of water whenever one was offered to her. It was pretty hilarious, actually.  Then, about 10 laps in, she started complaining that she was tired. After a quick pep talk and reminder that those who sponsored her were depending on her to stick it out and run hard, she was back on course. She continued to have weak moments, but by the end had completed 19 laps. 
She loved running with Ryan, and he actually kept up with her pretty well.
Chloe with her cute friend, Anniston, and a view of the running track.
More running; more breaks.
Happy jogger with her punch card, totalling 19 by the end.

The jog-a-thon lasted one hour, which seems a little long for the kinders.  But I was really impressed by how well they kept up.  They were rewarded with popsicles for their efforts, and thankfully there was an extra for Mr. Ryan. 

A special thanks to Scott and Heather, Jared and Lori, Brad and Courtney, Ryan and Misty, and Carl and Lorilee for sponsoring Chloe and helping her raise money for her school!  We are all very touched by your generosity.  Be watching your mailbox for a thank you card. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Chloe's 1st piano recital

Chloe asked for months to take piano lessons.  We finally signed her up in March, and she has been thriving.  My brother, as a birthday present to Chloe, is paying for a full year's tuition.  Neil and I are still so incredibly touched by his act of kindness, and cannot thank him enough.  As a musician himself, he has seen Chloe's longing and desire to learn piano, so it truly was an inspired gift, and one we will treasure always.

Here's our girl at her first piano lesson on March 5th.  Her teacher lives half a mile away, so it's been very convenient.  Love this lady.  She is a dear friend of mine, whom you met here.

Chloe's first recital was last Saturday, the 12th. She was the first to perform and did an awesome job!
The above right photo was taken near the end of the recital.  I love how Chloe's holding Ryan's hand.  I wish they were always this sweet with one another.

Here's a video of each piece she played...

You can't hear her because she was speaking so softly, but she said, "My name is Chloe Andersen and I've been playing the piano since March.  I would like to play 'Morning Prayer.'"
"I will now play 'Sunshine.'"

Students and teacher!

And here we are!  The blue theme is simply a coincidence, or a happy accident, if you will.  I don't generally go to the trouble of color coordinating the four of us.  This just goes to show that sometimes lack of planning can be in one's favor!

It has been wonderful finally making regular use of our piano these recent months.  I have been learning right along with Chloe, and I think we'd agree it's been a fulfilling and bonding experience for both of us.  She is catching on so quickly, and even faster, at times, than I am.  In fact, about a month back I was correcting her on something only to realize she had it right and I had it wrong!  Hello!?  She ate that up, and rightfully so!  I am so grateful she has a love for music, a natural ear, and a desire to cultivate this great talent which she has so quickly grasped.  She will not be sorry. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mother's Day

I had a really sweet Mother's Day.  I awoke to two eager little people standing at my bedside, who when prompted, hopped onto the bed and presented me with a gift bag containing my Mother's Day treasures.  As we sat there together (Neil laying beside us, still half asleep), I could feel the fresh morning breeze and warm sun gently filtering in through the window blinds.  It was a comfy, happy setting, and perfect way to start the day. 

Chloe was especially excited, as she had put a lot of work and thought into her gifts.  She gave me a homemade framed picture of herself (taken by her teacher at school), a lovely card, which she also made herself, and a little finger print drawing.  The kids, with the help of their daddy, also got me some new gardening gloves and tools (which will arrive sometime this week).  Chloe then brought me breakfast in bed, which consisted of a toasted pop tart and bottle of water.  She was so gracious, attentive and determined to accommodate my every need.  It was pretty sweet.  During Sacrament Meeting, a couple hours later, she asked me, "Mommy, are you grateful you have me because of what I did for you this morning?"  :)

The talks and lessons at church were all beautiful, and I felt uplifted and divine. During third hour I got to go to Relief Society, which is not a common privilege since I'm normally in Young Womens. It was wonderful to feel loved and celebrated, and it was wonderful to reflect on the many amazing women in my life. At the end of church, the Priests came in and passed out red roses to all the ladies.

I took a long nap when we got home, and later, Neil grilled steaks. After dinner, we skyped with my family. My grandma and great aunt were at my parents' for dinner, so in addition to my amazing mom, I got to see and talk with them as well. What a blessing technology is! What a priceless Mother's Day gift to get to communicate so closely with these great women (and of course my dad and brother, too), even being hundreds of miles away. It was a perfect way to finish a nearly perfect day.

Every single day, without fail, the kids go check on the garden.  It's quickly become tradition, particularly after school when we've just arrived home.  The kids love seeing what's grown since the day before and if anything's yet produced fruits or vegetables. Well, yesterday, just before we skyped, Chloe went out for her daily inspection.  Not a moment later she came racing into the house yelling, "Mom, Mom!  MOM!  You've GOT to come SEE this!!!  Come on, Mom!  Right now!"  When I got outside, she pointed to our zucchini plant, which is easily 15 times the size it was when we planted it a short month and a half ago.  Beneath the leaves, was this!!  Our first tiny zucchini, and also the first fruit or vegetable to be produced in this garden.  I thought it was so cool that this discovery was made on Mother's Day, of all days, when we celebrate new life (and, of course, those who provide it)!  I LOVE gardening, by the way, and am quite positive I have found a new passion.  Happy Mother's Day to me!

I am so grateful to live a life which has always surrounded me with exquisite women.  I am grateful to come from such a rich heritage, and to have the opportunity to raise a daughter to be like these women.  I am grateful to be a women myself, a wife, and a mother.  It has its challenges, but it is such a divine gift.  I love the scripture that says where much is given much is required, and I wholeheartedly believe that applies to motherhood.  It truly is a privilege, but not one to be taken lightly.

"She is co-partner with God in bringing His spirit children into the world.  What a glorious concept!  No greater honor could be given.  With this honor comes the tremendous responsibility of living and caring for those children so they might learn their duty as citizens and what they must do to return to their Heavenly Father...A mother has far greater influence on her children than anyone else has, and she must realize that every word she speaks, every act, every response, her attitude, even her appearance and manner of dress, affect the lives of her children and whole family." --President N. Eldon Tanner

I love the wisdom and truth of the above quote, and the promise and reassurance of the one below.

"If you, mothers, will live your religion, then in the love and fear of God teach your children constantly and thoroughly in the way of life and salvation, training them up in the way they should go, when they are old they will not depart from it.  I promise you this; it is as true as the shining sun; it is an eternal truth." --President Brigham Young

I am so lucky to have these two little darlings in my life.  As much as they exhaust and irritate me at times, I would never EVER choose any other path or role than that of their mother.  The rewards surely outweigh the frustrations, and I know this will be more and more evident as they grow.


Happy Mother's Day and much love to all the amazing women in my life, mothers or not!  You know who you are!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A half birthday and a birthday birthday

My boy is 3 1/2 today.  Yes, I'm the mom who celebrates half birthdays (just like my mom does), and chances are slim that that will ever change.

Ryan is such a burst of sunshine in my life.  He is the easiest kid to love, and melts my heart repeatedly.  The sweet and mellow disposition he was born with continues to thrive, and every day I find myself just swooning over the darling little boy he is.  I simply cannot get enough of him.

I have another Ryan update post in the making, but for now, here's a picture to capture his 3 1/2 year-old little self.  He has been on a Bob the Builder kick lately, and so his little tool belt (which I made him for Christmas) and tools (which Grandma Susie bought him to be stored in said tool belt) has gotten quite a bit of recent use.

Upon taking the above picture on Sunday, I was reminded of a similar picture of Neil when he was around Ryan's same age.  It must be their similar expressions that surfaced the memory of this photo.  Isn't it amazing how closely they resemble one another?  When Ryan saw these today, he said, "Hey, that's me and me!"  I love it!  I love having a son who looks just like his handsome daddy.
I'm so glad I get to hang out with this kid every day.  He's such a treasure.   Happy Half Birthday, buddy! 

And on a side note, but an equally important one, happy birthday to my brother-in-law, Jeff!  He and I were talking cameras a month or so ago, and while I'm always up for any discussion involving that subject, I really enjoyed catching up with him, too.  Life gets so busy that we rarely make time for such things, so it was nice to take a pause and just talk. 

I think this picture, which I took at Lake Powell last September is an accurate representation of the FUN dad Jeff is. 

We love you, Jeff, and hope you've had a wonderful day!