Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Space Camp

Marty and Christopher are spending the week at Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. Nick gets to go to Day Space Camp and Mom and Dad get to spend a week at the pool at the Westin.

Marty has always loved Christa McAuliffe Space Camp in Pleasant Grove and has attended at least one session each summer since 6th grade. Then last year Dan had business in Huntsville and got wind of "real" Space Camp. We thought the kids would really like it.

The Christa McAuliffe camp focuses on "Trekkie"-type space missions that the kids use problem solving skills and teamwork to accomplish. Space Camp here in Alabama seems more science focused. We're excited to see how Marty and Christopher end up liking it.

Nicholas has loved his first two days at Day Camp. Both days after we picked him up we had to run a quick errand before heading back to the hotel.  Both times he's said, "Oh, no! I wish I was in sleep-away camp so I could be having fun all the time instead of sitting in the car!"

When we arrived on Sunday we got Marty checked in first. His rooms are in a large bunker style building. Each room houses 7 campers.
 They were pretty cool and Christopher was bummed he didn't get to sleep in "Habitat 1" with the older campers.  His dorm was next door but each room was larger with about 20 bunk beds per room.  Will they get any sleep?

Nick's report of space camp is that it's really fun. They've launched rockets, tried out the G-Force chair that spins you all around at 50 mph ("G" stands for Gravity, he told us) and went in a simulator "Star Tours" style.  Also they have really good lunches.

On Thursday he gets to go swimming in their man-made chlorinated lake. The timing's not good for the book we brought to read each night -- "I Survived a Shark Attack." It's a true story of a shark that swam into a lake and attacked a boy swimming.  I keep emphasizing that the lake at camp is chlorinated so sharks and fish can't live there. I'm still afraid of sharks, not only in the ocean, but I worry about them in swimming pools too. So I wouldn't be surprised if he gets nervous to swim in that lake on Thursday!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Brave Guy!

Today Nicholas had an endoscopy to look at his vocal cords. The first test to figure out why he throws up so much. Courtney and I have both had this test to diagnose our vocal cord dysfunction -- it's a small, flexible tube with a camera on the end that is inserted up your nose and down to your vocal cords. 

It's not fun. In fact I dread it. When Courtney had to have it, I was very sorry for her, but she's old enough and brave enough that I knew she'd bear it well.  I didn't think Nick could do it. He's too small, too young and gags so easily.  Courtney and are very brave and very calm with stuff like this and we both HATED it!  The thought of Nick having to do it made all my Mothering instincts say no!

I hoped they would be able to look at his vocal cords with the camera you just stick in your mouth. Also tricky, but a little easier.  But when we showed up at our appointment yesterday, they so casually said they were doing the camera -- up the nose and past the throat.  I painted on a smile and let the cute nurses do all the talking to Nick about how it's not so bad and he'd even get a prize after!!  (He was actually pretty excited about the slinky...)
Made it seem like an endoscopy is no big deal!
Guess what?... he did better than even Courtney and I did. They got a great video of his vocal cords and they look perfect.  He was able to "Hmmmm" and "Heeeeee" so they could see the vocal cords move. After the doctors were done, Nick was actually relieved that the procedure was so easy!!

The area around his vocal cords is quite lumpy which the doctor said is a sign of acid reflux.  We've got an appointment in a few weeks to take a look at his esophagus, biopsy, place an impedance probe and evaluate for reflux, allergies etc.  That one will also not be fun -- he'll be out with anesthesia, but the probe will require him to have a tube out his nose taped to the side of his face for 24 hours. Yikes!  I'm waiting to tell him about it until the day before. 

Look at his picture!! Isn't he the cutest?!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Courtney in Guadeloupe--Week 3

Today I was on the phone finding the roadshow script for a neighbor when my call-waiting rang. I couldn't answer it and then just after we hung up my cell phone rang. Someone is trying to get ahold of me and suddenly I remembered it was Wednesday and it could be Courtney!

I ran and frantically dug in my purse but just as I pulled out my phone it stopped ringing. I even said a bad word, but it was a very mild one. Yep, the number was a strange number! I called Dan's cell but he was on the other line. So I called Dan's office and had his secretary poke her head into his office and see if he was talking to Courtney and tell him to tell her to call me back when they were done!

Instead he conferenced me in.  Here's what we learned:
First she said, "What's happening at home?"
"Nothing out of the ordinary! Summertime, kids playing with friends etc.  Tell us about YOU!"

She said lunchtime French is getting easier. Still not her favorite, but she can think of things to say!

Guadeloupe is beautiful. They live in a small town. The center of town is just a short walk from their residence and is made up of about 4 stores. There is a plaza and park across from the internet cafe and a pay phone so they can walk over in the evenings and hang out.  Another street has a few more stores, but that's about it.

The food has been pretty good. Lots of rice, chicken and tuna.  Breakfast is fast and simple--toast with peanut butter and jam.

Everyone has gotten along really well but are ready to come home. She said there have been the usual issues when 28 people are all living in the same room for a month, but they've been small and no big deal.

This week someone was charging their phone and they got to listen to music for a bit and she was so excited!

She's had a great time but she's glad she gets to come home in a week.  She wondered if it was okay to throw away a lot of the clothes she took! Her jeans all have paint on them and everything is dirty.  (Luckily there is a mall attached to the hotel we are staying in in Alabama!)  She can't wait to have a phone again!

When they arrived in Guadeloupe, they stayed in a Bed & Breakfast on the main island before ferrying over to her smaller island the next day.  They'll do the same on the return trip, so that means she'll start heading for home on Tuesday.

These are photos from Last Year's group who traveled to Guadeloupe:

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Courtney in Guadeloupe--Mid-Week 2!

Got to talk to Courtney again during a surprise Saturday phone call! This time we had more time to talk but it was mostly business.  She wanted me to check her account for her online class so she wouldn't get dropped for inactivity and was making sure I'd followed up on a parking ticket (we've all been there) she'd got just before she left.

Also, her flight home from Guadeloupe changed and is arriving to New York two hours earlier. This would give her enough time to catch a flight that evening to meet us in Alabama instead of having to wait until the following day. Yay!  I also updated her on a friend who was in an accident and is doing much better.

That was it.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Gang's All Here (Except for Rach & Jer)

This week the whole fan-damily was in town and it was non-stop action! Bekah and Matt were here on their way from moving from Phoenix to South Carolina. Michelle & Brent were in town from Chicago for their annual summer trek to Utah. Christopher and Nicholas loved having cousins to play with from morning to night! I loved when they all got creative and turned the entire basement into a fort, including sleeping "rooms," "bar," and "massage parlor." (Sounds like we had a brothel in our basement, but in reality it was good, clean fun ;)  I'm not going to complain when the kids offer to massage my feet and back for a few quarters!!!

One night Grandpa and Diane had ALL the kids over for bowling, a movie and a sleepover. That left us adult kids a chance to all go out to dinner together. So fun! After dinner we came back to our house and sat in the backyard until late talking, playing basketball and laughing.

The next morning me, Michelle and Bekah and Dan, Brent and Matt got up early and hiked Mt. Olympus. To the Top. We are Awesome.  (And the most awesome part was when everyone was so sore the next day, I wasn't. Yay for me and my year of hiking.)

 Another day Michelle took Nicholas and Ethan to Sheree's and they all went Kayaking. I had Chris and Isaac and we met Bekah at the pool.

We had a few BBQ's and a sister's lunch for Sheree's Birthday. The kids had marathon "Minecraft" sessions and scared all the parents riding Christopher's new electric scooter. Also a night at the Bee's Game. So fun!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Courtney in Guadeloupe, Week 2

We waited expectantly for Courtney's next call, not sure if she'd call on the weekend or not until the following Wednesday.  Tuesday evening I got home and checked our caller ID and saw an unusual number...  Marty forgot to tell me that Courtney had called!!

Me: "Well, what did she say?"
Marty: "She was wondering what her AP scores were."
"Did you find them?"
"She doesn't have internet access so she had me log into her e-mail and I read her your e-mail you'd sent with her scores."
"Was she excited?"
"What else?"
"I don't remember."
"Are you Kidding Me?!?!"
(This boy has a lot to learn before he gets married. A woman likes DETAILS. Luckily he's only 15.)

"So how did she respond when you told her her scores?"
"Did she say, 'oh, that's nice,' or did she scream, "Wahoo!! Yay!!"
"She screamed like that."
"Can't you remember anything else?"

The next day she called again. And I was home and got to talk to her for 4 minutes until we were abruptly disconnected when her calling card ran out of minutes.

What she said:
She sounded very happy. She is sleeping much better. She wasn't sure if it's cooler or she's getting used to the heat. But she always wears her hair up in a bun because it's too hot to have it touching her.  She tried braiding it to look nice before going to a family's home for dinner, but it's so humid and sticky it's hard to get your fingers through your hair!

She has a good friend, Olivia, who she spends a lot of time with.

The other day a little boy found her and started singing "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes." It was the song she'd taught him the day before!

Some of the projects they've worked on are building a pavilion, teaching English and building a bridge. She thought they'd continue the bridge for the following week.

One night a week they pair up and go to dinner in a family's home.  She was dreading speaking French the whole evening but as it turned out, the Mom of the family asked her very simple questions that she could understand and easily respond to, "Where are you from?" "Do you have any brothers and sisters?" "What are their names?" etc. She said the mom was a good conversationalist and made the whole evening fun. They also had a daughter who was learning English and had been working in Montreal at the Gap and they had fun talking to her.

Our conversation ended with me saying, "The Gap? Did you say she worked at The Gap?"

And then the phone went dead. I waited for another 30 minutes to see if she'd call back.
But she didn't.
I figured she'd run out of minutes or time and that was ok. I hoped that at least. I assumed they hadn't had a massive earthquake or tsunami and our last conversation ever ended with me shouting into the phone, "Did you say she worked at The Gap?"

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Courtney in Guadeloupe -- Week 1

Courtney called on our drive home from Pagosa. Yay! Perfect timing since we were in the car altogether so she could talk to everyone!

Here's her report:
There are 17 girls and 7 boys. Everyone is so nice and they're having a lot of fun.  The counselors are great too. 

All the girls sleep together in one room "Madeline-Style" (...live 12 little girls in two straight lines...). BUT it's so hot and humid at night she can't sleep. (Growing up in a home without air conditioning, I have a lot of experience with trying to cool off at night. I told her to try laying a wet towel over her at night.  ...Those miserable hot nights I had growing up might have been for something if my daughter can benefit from my experience!!!)

The shower room is communal so it makes her nervous when the shower curtain doesn't hang correctly.  Everyone else thinks it's funny that it makes her so nervous!!  They get a shower every other day and she was thrilled that she got to shower that day.

She was also excited that she got to choose 10 items of clothing to be washed the next day.  But they wash their undies and socks daily in a bucket.

They are building a small gazebo covering a picnic table which has been hard, tedious work.  She's sawing metal.  The drinking water is also warm, not cold. (Interesting she'd comment on this because when she was in 3rd grade and we moved to Utah from California, her one complaint about her new school was that the drinking fountains didn't have cold water!!  Clearly cold water is important to Courtney!  She takes after her Dad!)

At lunch time they have a rule that they only speak French to each other.  She listens but she doesn't have much to say because she can't think of how to say it yet.  However, in just the few days that she's been there she's noticed she's already understanding more!

She was on her friend's phone card because she hadn't had time to buy one yet so she could only talk for 5 minutes, but she wanted to say hi to each of the boys after we talked.

So good to hear from our Courtney! As much as we agree with the policy of not calling home every day, we keep checking e-mail and voicemail to see if today is the day we get to talk to her!!  Can't wait to hear from her again!  Love that girl!

By the way, we also got her AP scores while she was gone... 5 on Calculus BC and 5 on Physics. Pretty Amazing!!

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

I'm Proud to be an American

 I don't think I truly appreciated--truly understood--how blessed we are to live in America, until last April when our fancy cruise ship happened across 23 Cubans in the middle of the ocean who were so desperate to live in another country that they were willing to set sail across the Caribbean Sea in a homemade boat, hoping to make it to Venezuela.

Our cruise ship stopped and sent out a life boat and offered help. Eventually they were taken aboard our ship and given food and water. Unfortunately that meant they had to be turned over to authorities in the next country we landed in -- Cozumel, Mexico -- and would then be sent back to Cuba. 

I cried watching the "rescue" then and I cry now every time I hear a patriotic song or sing the National Anthem. I am grateful that I finally understand how blessed we are to live in a free country.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012


This year at Pagosa we had a smaller group -- just Gram and Papa, our family (minus Courtney), and cousins Clark, Adam & Curtis and Aunt Kristin.  Kay is in college, JD was working, and Dunc was in Russia on a geography tour with some of his students.

We didn't have any problems with smoke from the nearby fires the whole time we were there and in fact each afternoon we got a thunderstorm which the area desperately needed.  I love the afternoon rain showers as well -- perfect time to take a nap or play board games with the kids!
Several marathon monopoly games this trip!
Dan snoozing!
We always look forward to fishing, shooting BB Guns, hiking to the falls, nightly campfires and riding the ATV's.  
The pond is ready for fishing again.

Fishing for Chipmunks! (With a marshmallow on the end of a fishing line)
Cowboy Golf

This year Uncle Marty brought a canoe up to camp, so for the first time we tried canoeing on Williams Lake.  We got a late start and got rained out before we could canoe too much, but each of the kids got one turn.

Marty is legal now! He had fun driving the jeep up to the falls and back!

A few deer kept appearing each day. Papa thought they made their home in the back yard by the trees.
Also a first, Kristin and I met Ed Toner, whose Grandfather homesteaded the Upper Piedra Valley where our camp is and who Toner Mountain is named after.  Like meeting a legend.

One day we cleaned out the barn and Marty, Clark, Dan & Papa took a load to the dump. While they were unloading, a big brown bear was working there too!  Apparently he's a regular. 

Gram found the dinner bell!
The last night there the boys lit fireworks for the 4th of July. Fireflies came to the party too!