Monday, December 26, 2011

The Lights

On December 26th, we ventured downtown to see the lights with Heather+Peter and family and Peter's sisters and their families.  It was the perfect opportunity to see the lights as Temple Square seemed a little less crowded than it does on any given night before Christmas.  We got there in the late afternoon and the early evening light made it another perfect opportunity to try out my new lens.
Clara was all bundled and ready for the cold
Family photo by the reflecting pool and nativity

Cute Richardson girl cousins - such sweet and lovely girls

Henry, Zach, Jed

Lights reflecting

Hadsome husband (though a bit blurry)

The view from the top floor of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building

Cute Harriet
Jed trying to earn a smile from his cousin


Not sure what they were doing to Clara here, but it must have been amusing


Richardsons, Coes, and Halls

Just One Year

During the first year time seems so fleeting.  Babies change quickly and it's impossible to keep them in any given stage for more than a few days.  All around you are reminders that the time will pass quickly - even a line of Carter's clothing is appropriately named "just one year" (although Clara being on the small side, will still be wearing these for a few months yet).  When her birthday arrived we could hardly believe it.  What a year it has been - probably the happiest yet for our family.  We love our sweet baby girl and feel so blessed to be her parents!

For her big day, my only hope was to have her know that it was a special day.  And happily, I think she caught on right away!  As soon as she woke up, Spencer and I sang her Happy Birthday (this happened several times throughout the day) and she just smiled and giggled and danced and clapped.  We snuggled in bed for a while, had a peekaboo session and then headed to breakfast at IHOP with Aunt Carol and Clara's cousins Harriet, Jed and Henry.  She loves pancakes, so it was a perfect birthday breakfast.
Breakfast @ IHOP - not having the best hair day and super glazed-over from trying to squeeze a special breakfast in when she's usually napping
 Clara had a nap while Spencer and I spent the afternoon making the final preparations for her party that evening.  Things were definitely low key as far as parties go, but it was loosely based around a red, pink and white snowflake theme.  I saw an idea to make snowflake garlands a few days before the party, so that was our main decoration with some pink, red and white balloons.  Clara got a kick out of the balloons.
My mom and I made red velvet cupcakes on Friday with white chocolate snowflakes to go on top (super easy).  Clara had her own mini cake (I baked it in ramekins) as well.  I also decided last minute to make her a special little outfit for her party.  She had a cute tulle skirt attached to some leggings, a cupcake appliqued onesie and a party hat.  These were all super easy and hardly cost a thing to throw together.  The decor was complete when Clara's cousins showed up with a cute snowflake birthday banner they made for her. 

We had a great little family party with both sets of Clara's grandparents, Aunt Carol, and Aunt Heather and Uncle Peter and their kids who were in town from California.  Clara was definitely the star of the night.  After dinner we sang her Happy Birthday (yet again) and helped her blow out her candle.  She approached her cake much like she approaches cheerios - shoving handfuls in her mouth until she could hardly chew or swallow.  She burrowed a little hole in her cake and was not shy - she definitely enjoyed it!  After a few minutes I took it away, afraid that she might overindulge and get sick.  
Patiently waiting for her cake

Going to town on the red velvet!
The occasion was well documented.

What was left when I finally took the cake away.
When we all finished cake and hot cocoa, Clara opened her gifts. She got some great new books and toys, but I think her favorite gifts were clothes!  She loves clothes and will hardly let you pry a hanger from her fingers.  

After gifts we headed to the basement to watch a little movie I put together of Clara's first year.  It really just skims the surface of the footage we have of her - she is a very well documented little girl. But it was so fun to look back and see just how much she has grown and changed in the last 12 months.  

I have gotten SO many comments about how unfortunate it is that her birthday is on Christmas Eve.  People throw out unsolicited suggestions to celebrate her birthday in the summer or have something in January to commemorate the day.  But I have to say this was one of my favorite Christmas Eves ever (perhaps only comparing to last year when I had a brand new baby to snuggle).  I thought the whole day was just perfect.  Clara is a very special little girl and we love her so much.  Being her mother is one of the greatest joys in my life!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Clara

Today I was wrapping gifts (is it terrible that I wrapped most of Clara's gifts right in front of her?) and I decided to wrap up a box and then put her inside for a little photo shoot.  Happily she obliged and I got a few really cute shots.  So perfect for our little Christmas baby!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

the roaring twenties

A new decade has begun!  Last week I moved (effortlessly) from my twenties to my thirties.  As I've thought about the past ten years of my life - my twenties - I can't help but be thankful and a bit amazed at what an action-packed time of life it was.

This is mostly just for me - but here's a little summary of what happened in my twenties:


Studied Art History in England, Scotland, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Italy
Served an 18-month LDS mission in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Learned Portuguese
Traveled to Brazil, Czech Republic, Belgium, Spain, Greece, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, England, France, Austria
Biked Vermont with my dad
Lived in Clifton, Virginia; Provo, Utah; Portland, Oregon; New York, New York; Brussels, Belgium; Salt Lake City, Utah
Taught at the MTC in Provo
Graduated from Brigham Young University (debt free!)
Got internships at Nike, Euro RSCG, Mediaedge:cia, Obelis s.a. (managed to get paid or get a stellar job offer out of each one)
Got my first full time job
Fell in love
Bought my first car
Got married in the Salt Lake Temple
Honeymooned in Hawaii
Lost my job
Started my own business
Bought a house
Became a mother to a darling baby girl
Traveled to California, Oregon, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah
Visited lots of National Parks: Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Zion, Arches, Canyonlands
Ran my first (and second and third) half marathon
Went on a cruise to the Bahamas

It's hard to imagine that any other decade will compare, but I hear that life just keeps getting better.  So here's to that!

just some thoughts

Some nights, long after Clara is in bed, Spencer and I will sit at the computer and just look and look at pictures of her.  We can't help it; we miss her while she's dreaming in the next room.  It's hard to believe that she'll be a whole year old in less than two weeks.  I feel like this year has whizzed by with remarkable speed and despite my best efforts to hold on to every moment of her babyhood, our little girl is growing so fast.  She's already taken her first steps (only a few) and stands unsupported for longer spells each day.

I look at photos like this one and think, "oh, what happened to that round little face? and those jolly little cheeks?"
May 9, 2011
Her cheeks may have thinned out a bit, but her sweetness is ever growing.  Clara's never been an ultra-cuddly baby.  She rarely sleeps in our arms and most snuggles are reserved for when she's feeling shy around new faces.  But lately as she's grown a bit more attached to her blanket, she'll snuggle right into my shoulder after a nap.  I'll lift her out of her crib and she'll gently but deliberately pat my back as she lays her head on my shoulder.  It is, perhaps, the sweetest part of my day.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

50 Years - Part 1

This year Spencer's parents celebrated their 50th (!!) wedding anniversary, and as a huge treat to the whole family, decided that a Thanksgiving Disney cruise would be a great way to gather the family to commemorate the event.  We just got back on Sunday and I'm happy to report that everyone had a wonderful time.

Before even leaving town for the cruise we (Spencer and I and Carol Diane) hosted Spencer's parents for dinner on the day of their actual anniversary.  Since it was a Sunday, it was a perfect opportunity to have them over to our house and have a pre-Thanksgiving dinner. We weren't sure that a traditional meal would be available on the ship, so we got our fill of turkey and mashed potatoes before we even left town. :)  That night we gifted them with a book that we made, documenting each and every year of their 50 years together.  We designed it ourselves and then had it printed by MyPublisher (which I have to say did a lovely job).  We're hoping that it's something the whole family can treasure for a long time.

Don't you just love getting ready for a big trip?  All of the last minute laundry, packing, and check lists.  Squeezing everything you'll need into carry on luggage because there's no way you're paying $50 for a bag to fly across the country. Finding tiny bottles to house your favorite shampoo or the only body wash that agrees with your baby's sensitive skin.  Dropping the cat off at my parents's house with food, scratching post and litter box in tow, errands, snacks for the plane, check, check, check.  Getting last minute orders filled and boxed and shipped.  Of course, getting a call that our refinance was ready and they wanted to close that night was an added bonus.  Needless to say, when my head hit the pillow on Monday night I was relieved and ready for a vacation, if for nothing else than to recover from preparing for it.

On Tuesday, my mom came out to pick us up.  We said prayers and then headed off to the airport.  It's always a bit exhilarating and at the same time unnerving feeling to drive away from the house for a trip... Do I have everything?  Will our house be safe?  Will we get to the airport on time?  Will Clara do well on the flight?  The week before we left, a neighbor's home was broken into in the middle of the day, so we had reason to feel a bit uneasy as we drove off.  (Luckily everything was perfectly fine when we got home).  We got to the airport in plenty of time and with Clara in her stroller, we were escorted to the front of a long security line.  Of course they funneled us into the least functional mag and bag check and by the time we actually got through security the first line was non-existant.  :)  We met up with the Utah/Colorado portion of the family (everyone but the Richardsons, flying out that same morning from Orange County, CA) and did typical airport activities - took a walk through the terminals, picked up some cinnabon, and got everything ready to pre-board our flight.
Clara and Lulu getting re-aquainted in the airport while we waited to board our flight.

Sleeping in my arms on the flight

Outside Grandma and Grandpa's room at the airport hotel in Orlando

Sadly, the only photo of the three of us on the entire trip.

Orlando Airport at sunset from Bob and Carol's room
The flight there was direct and thankfully uneventful.  Clara fell asleep in my arms shortly after take-off and slept for an hour, even enduring a handover to Spencer when my whole right arm fell asleep.  Then we had three more hours on the plane to entertain Clara and she did really well.  Wiggly for sure, but she did great.  We arrived in Orlando, took a tram to another terminal and voila - our hotel for the night.  I've never seen a hotel inside an airport, but that's how they do things in Florida.  Spencer was sure it was the closest experience we could have to landing on the moon - never setting a foot outside.  We had a room looking down into the terminal, but Spencer's parents' room had a verandah to the outside.  We got some dinner at Sbarro, window shopped around the terminal and finally met up with the whole family.  We swam in the outdoor hotel pool and settled in for the night.  Or so we thought.  Clara had a rough time getting to sleep.  She had missed naps at that point and was exhausted, but just wouldn't sleep.  Our steller sleeper frantically cried for nearly three hours trying to get to sleep that night. At that point I was worried that the whole trip would be a nightmare and wondering if it would be worth it while dealing with a very unhappy baby.  Finally around 11 she fell asleep for the night.

We woke up, had a quick breakfast at McD's and gathered in the atrium of our hotel/airport terminal.  That's where a local news correspondent stopped us and asked about our t-shirts.  She decided that we were interesting enough to interview for her story on holiday travel and Bob and Carol were actually on the news that day in Orlando!  Here's the clip.

Carol getting interviewed by the news lady
This is what it would be like if we visited on the moon (ask Spencer).

We got in line at the Disney transportation desk, got checked in and boarded a shuttle to Port Canaveral.  The whole process was effortless and everything went super smooth.  Clara slept for about 30 minutes in my arms on the bus.  As we neared the Port you could see our ship, Disney Dream and it was enormous.  It is a new ship for Disney that just set sail for the first time this year.  We had read a lot about it, and were excited to see all of the features that made it a standout in the industry (even though this was my first cruise and I didn't have anything to compare it to).  One thing we were a bit skeptical of was the size.  A ship that holds 4,000 passengers along with 1,500 staff might as well be a small city.  We went through a quick security check and before we knew it, the staff was announcing/welcoming the Evans family on board, "hailing from California, Colorado and Utah."

Quick nap on the shuttle bus
Here we are in the port terminal with Minnie.  I guess people generally wait to board the ship here (like at the airport) but by the time we got there, our number was already boarding.  We didn't have to wait at all. 

Welcoming the Evans Family on board

On the ship

Now what?
Our "key to the world" cards.  These are used to get on and off the ship and pay for any

Immediately, the ship was very impressive.  The main entrance has a huge chandelier and the ship had just been all decked out for the holidays.  Garlands and lights literally decked the halls and an enormous gingerbread house made the air smell of Christmas.  The friendly Disney employees told us that since our rooms were not quite ready, we should go eat (one of the seemingly ongoing activities on board).  We headed up the buffet called Cabanas.  This was one of the only times on board that I really felt like it was super crowded.  I'm pretty sure everyone was at Cabanas and it was difficult to find a place to sit.  But there was just about every genre of food you could think of, and we dug right in.
Spencer & Clara on Deck 13 in Port Canaveral, checking out the Carnival cruise ship next to us.

By the Mickey Pool (one of 4 pools on the ship - this one is for kids)

More Deck 13
After lunch we decided to go explore.  Spencer, Clara and I headed to Deck 13 - the very highest deck - at the front of the ship.  It was deserted and it felt nice to enjoy the sunshine and quiet on our own.  We walked around quite a bit and saw the pools and various decks and watched the ship set sail from Deck 13, before heading to our room to get ready for dinner (time to eat again!).  Dinner that night was at the Royal Palace - a dining room designed to resemble the castles of Disney Princesses.  No detail was left unnoticed to make the experience exactly what Disney wanted it to be for its guests.  We were not sure how Clara would do with a 1.5-2 hour 5 course meal, but she did great.  She quickly caught on to the fact that cruises are for indulging and ate a LOT the whole time.
Hungry muffin
Since Clara seemed ready for bed by the end of dinner, we decided to forgo the show and get her situated in our room so she could get a good night of sleep.  Our requested Pack-n-Play was in our room when we arrived, along with a slipcover for the whole thing that helped darken her little bed a bit.  We had an alternative floor plan to the typical long and skinny rooms and it was so perfect for us.  It was like they took the long skinny room, cut it in half and put them side by side with a wall in the middle.  So we had two windows and we put Clara in the couch area.  It was so nice to have her own little area.

Our side of the room

Clara's side of the room

Grandma and Grandpa's room (adjoining)
Once we got to our room, she brightened up and got a second wind, so we headed out to enjoy the balmy air as we sailed for the Bahamas.  We put Clara in the bjorn and headed back up to Deck 13 and Clara was all smiles. She normally is pretty sensitive about wind (she doesn't like it and holds her breath in it) but she was giggling the whole time.  Spencer was also feeding her some soft serve ice cream, sot that probably didn't hurt either.  Everyone was at dinner or a show, so the ship seemed quiet and empty.  It was nice to have some quiet time out on the deck together.

The Aquaduck at night - all lit up

Clara and Spencer and soft serve

After we got Clara settled and she thankfully went right to sleep, Spencer volunteered to stay with her so I could go for a run.  Deck 4 of the was the only deck that went all the way around the perimeter of the ship and it was a walking/jogging track (with shuffle board courts as well).  Two and a half laps on this deck was mile, which really blew my mind - the ship was so big!  I ran two miles and it felt so good and easy to run at sea level (literally).  By this time we were really moving, so the water was just a few yards below me.  I thought it would be a weird sensation to run on a moving ship, but it was actually one of the only times I didn't notice the rocking and swaying of the ship.
This is what Deck 4 looked like in the daytime.  You run right under all the lifeboats and pray that they are securely fastened above you.
Our first little towel animal - so cute.
After my quick run I headed back to see how Spencer and Clara were doing.  All was well and Spencer was content to read in the room, so I headed back out with Carol Diane to check out the 18+ pool and hot tub area.  It was completely empty!  We had a couple of people get in the hot tub while we were there, but it was really an empty area.  The coolest thing was that the hot tub had a glass floor, and even though it was on deck 12, there was nothing below us and you could see the turquoise water rushing beneath you.  It was really neat.
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