Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Halloween 2014

This year, I had several occasions to wear costumes. I thought it was funny that for Bruce and Joanie's Halloween party, we were all matching in black. Bianca dressed like Audrey Hepburn this year, Portia's a black cat and I was a boring ol' witch.

Two nights before Halloween, we had Collin stay with us before we took him to the Provo MTC. He's serving a mission in Mexico. Here's a pic of Collin and Eric swinging by the ward Halloween carnival.

Bianca was there too. Here she is with her friends Maddi and Jordan. They had a rubber ducky booth at the carnival. 

For work, I dressed up like a crazy cat lady, which was fun because I didn't have to fix my hair for work or actually get dressed. We did a trick-or-treat for the kids again this year.

In the evening, I went out trick-or-treating with Portia, her friend Ashley and Ashley's mom, Michelle. We walked a ton, but it was a beautiful autumn night and it was fun to get some exercise.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Portia's still playing her cello

I love how Portia's cello teacher plays with her during lessons so one day I recorded them playing out of her note-reading book. It's a simple song but she's learning how to play with others.

And here she is playing with the other cellists during Cello Day at UVU this fall.

Since I've started working, Eric and I have both been working with Portia on her cello practice. I take about 20 minutes before school and work, practicing new Suzuki pieces and scales. She's finishing up Book 3 soon.  Eric does note-reading and Suzuki review with Portia when she gets home from school. Practice is not always easy but I think she knows we're spending the time with her doing it for her own good. Here is one of our not-so-good days but I thought it was kind of beautiful the way Portia's tear is running down the cello. She was probably arguing with me when I was making her re-do something she didn't play quite right. Am I crazy to spend so much time on this? Probably, but she really is learning a ton and progressing so fast!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Portia's Sweet Tooth

Portia's got her Daddy's sweet tooth. Here she is taking one of the first bites of her Texas doughnut.

And here she is after she finished the ENTIRE thing. Victory!

Friday, August 29, 2014

First Day of School 2014

Here's my annual first-day-of-school pic of the girls. Portia's heading in to 2nd grade a Westfield Elementary with Miss Jacobs as her teacher, while Bianca's an eighth grader at Timberline Middle School.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Lake Powell 2014

I'd never been to Lake Powell. I didn't know anything about it—how picturesque every corner is, how many little niches and corners there are and how fun it might be to spend a week on a houseboat there. Our family was invited to spend a week on Eric's friend Amy's new houseboat. I actually thought I might be able to work a couple hours each day. We didn't have Internet or cell coverage and once I accepted that, it was really refreshing to not worry about what was going on in around the rest of the world.

We got to go on the little boat, try out surfing and water skiing and pretty much spent the entire week in our swimsuits. No make-up, no hair to worry about. It was so nice.

Each family took on one breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's overwhelming to feedback over 30 people but so nice to sit back and enjoy when it was another family's turn to make the food. The girls brought along their instruments to practice a little each day and played in the talent show.  Here's Portia practicing her cello in our room (that little door is the cuddy where Portia and her friend Macy slept):

I also discovered paddle boarding and really liked how relaxing it is. When your surroundings are this beautiful, it's easy to be alone and just drink in all the natural beauty. One day, we went on the two boats and hiked up to Rainbow Bridge. Portia decided against the hike and stayed with Amy back on the boat, which is why she isn't with us in this picture.  

We stayed up late most nights, playing games, watching movies and talking. 

I'd love to go back again sometime!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Shakespeare Festival 2014

Bianca and I took our much-needed time away for our annual trip to Cedar City for the Shakespeare Festival. Twelve has been a hard age for our mom-daughter relationship and communication has been pretty much non-existent between us. So this was time we spent together just the two of us and it was really healing.

It's become somewhat of a tradition for us to stop at Subway on our way down and then we checked in to The Big Yellow Inn. We stayed in the same room we had before so that Bianca had her own room.

Then we went over for our first play, the matinee of The Comedy of Errors. I have to say this may be the funniest play I've ever seen. We were both rolling and laughing. And wow, it felt so good to laugh that hard. I love laughing!

We did a little school shopping for some basics, makeup and some clothes, and then had dinner at this Italian pizzeria called Centro for my very favorite pizza, The Bianca. It's wasn't quite as good as it was in Italy (the blue cheese was missing), but still very good!

Bianca and I went to see The Twelfth Night in the evening. So of course we went to The Green Show and Bianca got a bracelet for her souvenir. Bianca understood Twelfth Night better than I did because she had studied it in 7th grade English. I liked it though.

We went back to our B&B, did face masks and nails, and then went to sleep. In the morning, we were going to try out the lectures but it was raining. So we just ate breakfast and headed home.

Because we didn't get to see Measure for Measure as it wasn't playing on Saturday, we stopped back through on our way home from Lake Powell two weeks later. They're doing this thing at the Cedar City Shakespearean Festival where they're doing every single one of the plays in 13 years so I worried if we didn't watch it this summer, it would be quite some time before we got the chance to again. Even though I started taking Bianca when she was seven, I don't think Portia's ready for Shakespeare yet (although we did start reading "her" play, Merchant of Venice this summer). Instead, Portia and Eric saw a movie, but at least Portia got to attend her very first Green Show!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Saying Goodbye to JillyBoo

I know a lot of people think pets—especially cats—are replaceable. You wouldn't leave work because your cat is sick. Or be unable to get anything done because her breathing is labored. Yeah, I know I probably should have stayed more put together when JillyBoo didn't come inside one night in mid-July and then still didn't show up the next morning, but I couldn't.

Eric finally found her in one of our window wells and she wasn't breathing right. He put her in the car to take her to the vet and we learned she had pneumonia. In July? After a night at a animal hospital and an oxygenated kennel (and I don't want to talk about how much money), JillyBoo wasn't getting better. She couldn't breathe and her lungs were so full of fluid she wasn't sleeping, just lying there wide-eyed breathing so heavily it hurt to watch her suffer.

I left work a red-faced mess, and we put her down. I spent the rest of the day so upset I had a difficult time breathing myself. (Anxiety attack for a cat, really?) But I loved that cat. She was a real part of our family, and it is a real loss to us.

We buried JillyBoo in the back yard near our shed. You'd think we could have put a pet dying in perspective since we've lost much more significant things around here. Like a daughter and a father. But it doesn't diminish loss or grief. In a way, I almost feel like I was reliving a little of some of our previous loss. Maybe that's why it hit me so hard. I sometimes think I've gotta stop loving things that can die. But then what's life? Isn't the point to be able to love and be loved?

Yeah, I know, I'm waxing sentimental and am still not over losing JillyBoo. She really was an awesome cat who I adored. We got her as a kitten in 2010. I remember exactly the moment we found her. Eric had finally agreed to letting us get a cat and we wanted a female, Siamese mix with blue eyes. I'd been looking around for a week or so when the girls and I headed over to Petco and there she was—exactly what we had been looking for. She was sick with a terrible cold when we first got her (which I wonder may have weakened her immune system all along and caused her to die so early at just four years old).

So in an attempt to heal a little, here's a photo gallery of our beloved cat, JillyBoo:

She had a terrible cold when we got her (could it have been pneumonia then?)

Portia dancing for her audience (JillyBoo as a kitten)

JillyBoo did not like wearing things—she'd lay there and not move
(Bianca once bought her a dress for Christmas and that was torture.)
She loved sitting on our footboard and looking out the window
She LOVED spending time outside.
A selfie I found on my phone 
We're all missing her so much. We did end up getting a new kitten in an attempt to heal. This time it seems a little easier not to love so hard. This little guy is a handful. I don't think he'll be able to live up to our JillyBoo. We loved her so much we did try to replicate her...although not replace. He's a similar Siamese/Tabby mix Seal Point.

The Sarge

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summer camps—BYU and U of U in the same week?!?

Bianca did a week-long chamber group program at the University of Utah in June. Because she's our babysitter and would be gone that week, I also put Portia in a BYU gymnastics camp. I thought that would make things easier but when you're running one kid to SLC and another to Provo, it can be pretty crazy.

Bianca was put into a chamber group with some other string players from around the area. She LOVED her group. She said they were all so nice and she always had someone to talk to and sit by at lunch. This was her cute group.

Because I'd had to put Portia in two sessions of the gymnastics camp (the morning and the afternoon), that meant I had to drive to Provo every day to have lunch with Portia. It was fun but the driving was just too much. I always felt like I was scrambling somewhere and unfortunately even got a ticket one day. Still, I did enjoy my lunches with Portia. One day, Portia's friend Ashley came to lunch with us. These girls are silly, but have so much fun together. Here they are at Wendy's telling jokes.

And the answer to the joke is "a stick." I couldn't stop laughing—these two are so funny!

At the end of the week, Bianca's chamber group gave a performance. They learned this piece in a week. Bianca had been working on a different piece for months before and we found out their pianist was hurt just days before the camp started and had to learn a new piece. I love how professional these kids sound. It's really amazing!

After this week was over, the kids were finally able to get catching up on their sleep.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Belgium, Then Back to Ireland & Home

On the last morning of our stay in The Netherlands, I woke early and walked on the beach by myself. Sometimes I think it's hard to get quiet, alone, do-nothing time. I sat in the sand and watched the waves and listened to them and the seagulls and just enjoyed being alone. I love my family but sometimes I feel like I never get to be just by myself. The beach was strewn with jellyfish all along the water, little gelatinous blobs dotting the shore. Inside they were shaped like daisies or purple suns with rays. Because they're see-through, you can see their tentacles from above. Some were upside down, so you had to be really careful not to step on those. I returned, packed up the house. I loved this little house with the breeze coming through the window all night, hearing the bells chime at the hour and the little song they would play. I'm not sure what song it was.

I went to the tulip shop where they sold Miranda tulip bulbs (I had bought three packages super cheap) to ask if I'll be able to bring them on the plane. The shop owner looked at them, dusted them off with his hand and said definitively, "No soil. You're fine." I tried to get them back through customs, but sort of knew I wouldn't be able to. It still stung a little when they took them away. I really wanted to plant real-Dutch tulips in my garden back home.

We got in the car and drove to Belgium. We saw our last windmills.

We stopped in Brussels for a couple hours and lunch. I really didn't care for Belgium. We drove until we found an older part of town, parked the car and then walked around looking for lunch. We ended up at an Indian restaurant. So far we're 0-2 for Indian food in Europe. It's just not good there. Not seasoned well at all.

Check out the crazy art noveau building in the background

Driving in the crazy third-world-like traffic
We walked around a little, took lots of door pictures and ran out of room on my camera. We flew from Belgium and back to Ireland where we stayed in a boring hotel near the airport. In the morning, they did have a decent Irish breakfast at the airport and I tried Irish black pudding. It was nothing like what I expected, like a round sausage with oats in it...

I watched tons of movies on the airplane on the way back, slept a teeny bit and we ended up getting stuck in LA, which I was actually okay with because my sister Susannah lives just five minutes from the airport and my mom happened to be there. So I got to spend a quick night with my family. We woke up around 4am, still on European time.   We made it back Sunday morning.

 Brussels Doors