Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010: A Year in Photos

2010, what a year!
 In January we visited Grandeur and Grandest in Utah and were lucky enough to go to Kangaroo Zoo (972 times)!  Our never-stop jumping boys think this place is heaven on earth!

 February brought a return to Caracas and Isaac's first, first day of school.

He loved school and was excited to participate in a celebration later that month.

February was also the month of the biggest birthday party ever.

 March's highlight was a glorious trip to sunny and beautiful Aruba.

 April began with Easter celebrations at the Embassy and,

 at home.  Cute kids, huh?

 Then we took a trip of a lifetime to Greece.

 Everyone, Mommy, Daddy, Grandeur, Grandest, Caleb and Isaac, had a fabulous adventure.

 On the way home, we stopped in Madrid for a few more days of vacation and a lot more fun.

 In May we made one last visit to the petting zoo in El Hatillo.  It was favorite kid-friendly destination in Caracas and the boys will likely never again get to feed camels and ostrich.

 In the midst of finishing up our tour in Venezuela, the boys also "graduated" from school in June.

 We will miss Tamanaco, but are happy our boys had the chance to go to such a great school.

 July was moving month.  We sorted and sold and tossed and sorted and sold and tossed some more.  We still have too much stuff, but we're definitely getting better at this moving thing.

Here's a picture of our apartment building in Caracas, the pool mocked me for 2 years.  Full of lovely, wet water while nothing came out of the tap.  I will never not be grateful for running water again.

 August:  Goodbye Venezuela!

 Hello: USA!  We visited Grandma and Grandpa and went to Bishop's Castle, the Royal Gorge, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and played until we were giddy.

September saw our return to Washington, DC, and the beginning of our quest to see it all before we leave again in 2012. 

 The boys love, love, loved the Air and Space Museum in DC and the annex in Virginia.

 September was also back to school month.  Caleb's new school is terrific.  He has great teachers and we are thrilled with everything about the school.

October was all about hayrides,

pumpkin patches, and


 November was very busy, beginning with a visit from Grandest...

 ...and ending with a visit to the Botanical Gardens on Thanksgiving morning.  In between we went to the zoo, the arboretum, the American history museum, and a couple of monuments

Phew, December at last.  We had our first snow and the kids can't wait until the next one.

Finally, we celebrated a magical Christmas in our new home.

Adios 2010, thanks for the memories.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

We love Washington, DC, #7

True confession: I don't love art museums.  I mean, I love them, but I don't LOVE them.  Don't get me wrong, I get it.  Art appreciation, that is.  I understand why something is beautiful or important or ground-breaking, even the modern stuff, which I'm not as appreciative of as I probably should be (read, Rothko "Orange, Brown," seriously?).

But, truthfully, I'm more of a quantity versus quality lover of art.  I prefer a blitz approach.  I don't need to read the placards to feel like I've seen the works.  And, I don't need to gaze intently, slowly moving closer and further away from the canvas every time.  I mean, sometimes I am struck by something and I stop and ponder, but usually I just walk purposefully through each exhibit hall from one end to the other, pausing only occasionally.  Example: I "did" the Prado is about 2 hours -- that's just how I roll.

Kenny on the other hand is more deliberate in his approach.  He likes to read EVERYTHING and go slowly, very, very slowly.   

Luckily for me, the arrival of children means when we go to art museums we blitz them, period.  Poor Kenny.  I suspect this means that we will be returning to most of these museums once the children have left the nest.  But, in the mean time, a visit to art museums these days requires a very specific approach with clearly defined rules.

1) Lots of build-up about how fabulous it is going to be before we even depart.

2) More excited talking in the car intermingled with pointing out "cool" stuff on the drive over.  Eg. "This artist uses _________ in his paintings.  Maybe you'll be able to see some?  Hey, look at that fire truck!"  Or.  "Would you like to be able to paint ________ too?  Wow, do you see that yellow sports car?" No correlation required, just needs to keep their excitement level up. 

3) Promises of a fun reward to those who enjoy themselves and behave whilst viewing the art.

4) Limiting ourselves to one exhibit or just a few rooms of the standard collection.

5) Very stern conversations about art museum etiquette (i.e. TOUCH NOTHING) as we enter the galleries.  Strapping into strollers is a totally appropriate part of this step.

6) Once inside, zero in on anything they might be interested in or recognize and play that up. Talk about the ones the kiddoes "like" while the adults take in the other pieces hoping for another kid-friendly one to come along -- i.e. something other than a portrait.  View all multi-media presentations.  Head off whining, "I'm bored" and signs of meltdown with reminders about what comes after the museum, including all escalators, elevators, automatic or revolving doors and stairs between you and the exit.  Also, play up the obligatory museum fountains and be sure to bring along some pennies for making wishes.

7) 30 minutes later, leave.

PS: Consider yourself very lucky if you manage a photo of the outing.  2 photos and you deserve a gold star for your superior parenting (i.e. luck).

With these rules in mind we went to see, not 1, but 2!! (yes, we were overly ambitious), exhibits last week.

The first was at the National Gallery of Art to see an exhibit of several Giuseppe Arcimboldo works, whom many have called the father of surrealism.  No photos allowed, so click on his name to see what we saw.  It was a fascinating collection, we all enjoyed the paintings on display, particularly the boys.

Larger than life rendering of Arcimboldo's "Winter" to whet our appetites

A poster of "Vertumnus" welcomed us inside

Remember the fountains from step 6? We saw both of these going and coming:

They even had a moving sidewalk with cool spaceage lights to help us keep things interesting

Foolishly, we next headed to the Smithsonian Museum of American Art to see an exhibit showcasing Steven Spielberg and George Lucas' private collections of Norman Rockwell sketches, paintings, drawings etc.  The exhibit was closing the next week and was packed.  The boys reached their limit only moments after arriving and though we forged on, it was not a pleasant experience for anyone.  And, the collection was enormous.  I assumed private collection equaled modest size, not so much.  I guess I should have realized that if one has enough money to buy a small country, then 40 or so Rockwell's (each) should be an easy lift.
Again, no photos allowed, even the following was met with rebuke:

 Fun piece on the way in/out of the exhibit.  Can you decipher the message?

We ended our day with a trip to McDonald's and a stroll through a Christmas market so by the time we piled back into the car, everyone was smiling.  Next time, we'll be smarter, one museum, period.  On the other hand, they both took 2.5 hour naps after we got home.  So, maybe it wasn't so bad after all?  No, it was.  One museum, period.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Dearest Friends and Family,

As we reflect on both this last year and the miracle of our Savior's life, we are overwhelmed with gratitude for our innumerable blessings and His atoning sacrifice.

This year has been a busy one.  We spent most of the first 6 months of 2010 preparing for our move to Washington, DC, and are so thrilled to finally be back "home" surrounded by people and places we love.  In the midst of our move, we were also lucky enough to do some traveling and add a few more countries to our total, including, Greece, Spain, and Aruba.  We are living the life we always dreamed and each day brings us more joy than the last.  We are very blessed with two healthy, happy boys who astonish us with their energy and delight in all things.

Caleb is an extremely helpful and sensitive soul.  He is kind and protective.  He loves to play and run and jump.  He enjoys school and is becoming a better reader everyday.  He has newly discovered super heroes and Star Wars characters and never tires of fighting and beating the bad guys.  He is a perfect first child and is very patient with his less than perfect parents.

Isaac is funny and smart.  He loves to help in the kitchen and is always ready to stir, mix and pour.  He has an insatiable appetite for just about everything, especially food.  He loves his older brother more than anything and always wants to be where he is.  He always says please and thank you and whenever he is asked to do something, his first response is "sure."

Kenny is loving his new life as a student of all things Chinese.  He is getting up to speed on what his new job will be and looking forward to immersing himself in the language beginning next summer.  He traveled so much while we were living in Venezuela and has really enjoyed a quieter, more flexible schedule since returning to the US.  He loves his boys and is always up for a wrestling match, a reading session or cuddling with them under the covers.

Linsey was sad to leave her friends in Caracas behind, but is daily reminded of how much she loves running water.  Though she misses her maid, she is happy to do laundry and wash dishes whenever she wants without wondering about the water situation.  She is also enjoying being a student again, after a decade long hiatus.  As a graduate student in government at Georgetown University, she has found that going back to school, though difficult with two little kids, is very rewarding.  But, as much as she loves school, she is already looking forward to graduation in the spring of 2012.

And, speaking of 2012, though more than a year away, that is when we will be moving to Beijing, China, for 3 years.  We are so excited to have 18 more months in DC before then, but are still very much looking forward to that move.  Please come visit, we'd love to have you.  Really.

Our greatest blessings this year have come in the form of continued good health and prosperity.  We are humbled by the abundance we enjoy and mindful of the responsibility to be generous with others.  We are grateful to our Heavenly Father for the many gifts he has blessed us with and for each of you.

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and hope that your 2011 will be bright and bountiful.
Isaac and Caleb in their 2010 Christmas PJs
Love, Kenny, Linsey, Caleb and Isaac

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas, Mom!

Random Act of Christmas 14: We took our nanny and her son with us to see the zoo lights at the National zoo.  They had never been and likely would not have gone because of transportation limitations.  They enjoyed themselves, and it was more fun for us with friends along.

Random Act Of Christmas 15: I dropped off several research papers for friends who had already gone out of town for the holidays.  The professor wanted a hard copy from everyone well after classes had finished and I volunteered to be the drop-off person.

Random Act of Christmas 16: We have an air mattress we've been holding onto just in case...then we heard about a foster care organization that was collecting mattresses so siblings in the system could spend the holidays together.  We were more than happy to pass along our mattress as we couldn't conceive of a better use for it.

Random Act of Christmas 17: We left a present for our postmistress to thank her for being so diligent.  She comes everyday without fail and is always pleasant and friendly.  I know she gets paid to do what she does, but no one pays her to do it with a cheery disposition and she deserves to be thanked for that and her diligence.

Random Act of Christmas 18: We donated several items of clothing to a local public school.  Their kindergartners frequently don't make it through the day with dry clothes and they have struggled to provide appropriate changes of clothing.

Random Act of Christmas 19:  We sent gifts to school with Caleb for his teachers and teachers aids.  I'm new to the school scene so I don't know if this actually falls into the "random act" category of if it's more of an implied expectation.  Either way, we did it and they were grateful.

Random Act of Christmas 20:  All month we've been taking a friend with us to church.  Her car is thousands of miles away in CA and she would have had to brave the very cold temperatures on foot to and from the metro.  We really enjoy her company so this was an easy one for us, though it did force us to get up a bit earlier Sunday mornings.  She is moving next month and we are grateful we had that little bit of extra time to spend with her before she heads west for good.

Random Act of Christmas 21:  We haven't actually met any of our new neighbors, so we made Christmas goodies and delivered them to the other five apartments in our building.  Sadly, not everyone was home, but hopefully this will serve as an overture to future conversations and friendships.

Random Act of Christmas 22:  I have a couple of students in my program who are from far away (i.e. China and Korea).  They will not be going home for Christmas so we have invited them to spend tomorrow with us.  

Random Act of Christmas 23: Today we will be delivering a plate of goodies to our local fire station.

Random Act of Christmas 24: My friend is asking for donations on behalf of a very sick little boy.  Just a $1.  We put one in an envelope and sent it to him.  Click here for more details.

Random Act of Christmas 25: We gave a donation to the Salvation Army Santa standing in front of our local grocery store. 

Merry Christmas, Mom.  As usual, this was definitely more a gift to me/us than to you.  It was harder than I thought it would be to get to 25, but I suspect that probably means I need to work on being more charitable.  Everyday I thought about what I would do to provide service to someone and as a result, found opportunities to give I would have otherwise overlooked.  Thanks for making this a part of our Christmas season.  You're a great Mom, the best I know.  I/we love you.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Santa Claus is Coming in 3 Days!

Christmas happenings at our house of late:
 Presents for school teachers.  They left the house like this and were delivered to the teachers sans ribbons and tags.  Caleb was too excited to be bothered with keeping them looking pretty -- I'll remember that next year.

 A visit to Zoo Lights at the National Zoo.

 All bundled up and enjoying the scenery.  
Isaac, per usual, not looking at the camera.

 This is a recent tradition at the National Zoo and 
I think we will make it one of ours too.

 I thought the lights were very impressive and plentiful, but the boys were far more interested in the naked mole rats exhibit.

 Thank you to the makers of gingerbread house kits.  The boys love to decorate them, but I just don't have the motivation to make the gingerbread myself.

The finished product.  Looks good enough to eat, no?  
Okay, so not so much, but we had fun creating it, nevertheless.

 A rare shot of Isaac cooperating for the camera.

We've been reading a Christmas story every night this month and the boys have LOVED unwrapping each day's book.  These are not all new books, by the way.  We just wrapped up the Christmas stories we already owned, added a few more, and voila, 25 days of Christmas stories.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Christmas Miracle

Okay, so I'm probably overstating it with the title, but not every miracle has to be of the world events shaping sort.

Once upon a time, there was a relatively new, and still quite lovely, oven.

image from here

This oven boasted an almost pristine, ceramic cooktop.  It was beautiful and cooked like a dream to boot.
image from here
There were also, a matched salt shaker and pepper grinder 
from Williams-Sonoma.  Nice, huh?

They all lived quite happily in a modest kitchen in the northeast.  
Until one night, something terrible happened.  Someone,

turned on the wrong burner and walked away.  
Suddenly, the salt and pepper set looked like this:

image from here

and smelled even worse.  Someone else, 

discovered the melting mess and hastily grabbed a metal spatula,

image from here
some paper towels, and,
image from here
a kitchen sponge and tried mightily to save the cooktop from permanent damage.
image from here
But, it was too late.  The damage had been done.  The salt and pepper could not be salvaged and had to be thrown away.  And, the cooktop, well, the burner was covered in a layer of quickly drying acrylic.  The cooktop was left to cool in the fleeting hope that its original glory could be restored.  In desperation, the internet was consulted and a possible solution seized upon.  Using this special tool (okay, so it's just a glorified razor blade),
image from here
 and this truly miraculous product,
image from here
 mere moments later, the cooktop was transformed to its former loveliness...maybe even better.  The miracle product was then applied to the entire cooktop surface and all sorts of other blemishes were scraped away, forever.  

Did you know there are over 2000 official uses for this product?  It can do almost anything.  I mean, don't leave it alone with the kids, but if you've got gummy residue somewhere, look no further.  After our cooktop incident, I will never doubt its power again.
WD-40 gave us our very own Christmas miracle, a small one, sure, but a miracle at Christmastime nevertheless.  Now, go get your can -- everybody has one -- and attack that (fill in the blank) you gave up on long ago, you'll have your own Christmas miracle too.

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