Sunday, November 14, 2010

Viva Las Vegas!

You gotta love a convention that has an M&M World nearby! Brett had meetings in Las Vegas, and although it is not really my kind of town, I found a lot to gawk at and even admire. I was on a mission to find anything "lovely, virtuous, or of good report or praiseworthy." I actually found quite a bit to enjoy. The floral arrangements, for one thing in Vegas are AMAZING!

They are bigger than life and use real flowers! One of my favorite hotels is the Bellagio. It ranks so high because they change their atrium by the season. When we were there in the spring, it was all butterflies and springtime flowers. This time, it being October, the theme was centered around pumpkins and gourds. They even used Chili Peppers for red borders. Who would've thought of that?

We stayed at the Venetian. It is very Italian inspired and has the Phantom of the Opera music piped in everywhere.

The Phantom is one of my favorite shows and Brett got us great tickets. We were sitting just under and off to the side of the huge chandelier that falls down during the show. It was an amazing performance, the music, the sets, the costumes...awesome! I have had the music running through my mind now for weeks...and that is a good thing!

Our room had a amazing view of the Mirage hotel, with it's erupting volcano, and the Sierra Nevada mountain range just outside of Las Vegas. We went with Dave and Barb Stapleton. Since I had just recently been to Vegas, I played tour guide for Barb on one day, giving her an overview of the strip. We found a lot of photo ops and walked for miles! Then on the other days, after some sightseeing in the morning, I got to sit in our gorgeous hotel room and organize photos on my computer, while overlooking an amazing view.

On our last night, Brett and I decided to try The Cheesecake Factory. There are many great places to eat in Las Vegas, but we had never eaten at a Cheesecake Factory. We were a little overwhelmed by the selections, but we were pretty hungry and finally decided. It was hands down the best food we had all week! We had even eaten at a 5 star restaurant one night (in a business deal, Brett got a voucher for anything we wanted at Piero's Italian restaurant. Dave and Barb came and it was pretty ritzy). But The Cheesecake Factory is now one of our favorites. Too bad there isn't one in the Tri-Cities. Or maybe that is a good thing, considering how amazing their Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake is. What a way to end a great get-away vacation!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Wide Open Spaces

Wide open spaces...that is Eastern Washington in a nutshell. There is a river or two winding through these open fields of grain, grapes and potatoes, but mostly it's wide open. In the spring, the grasses are green and the wheat has yet to turn its golden color. By fall, the fields have been harvested and there is the rich aroma of grapes ripening on their vines. For a girl from the Rocky Mountains, this barren landscape has not always been beautiful. I love pine trees, Quaking Aspens and rocky cliffs along side the road. Parts of Utah are dotted with pinion pines and sagebrush, but the higher elevations with dense greenery were always my favorite. So to say that the drive between here and Spokane has been beautiful to me might come as a surprise. But we have been going to Spokane at least 2-3 times a month on Saturdays for the past 2 years in the spring and fall to watch Kolby and Melissa play soccer. We have split time with them each, as they rarely are both in Spokane at the same time. Occasionally, Melissa is in Seattle while Kolby is in Spokane or at home. This has given Brett and I a chance to spend one on one time with each of them, and also time with each other while they are playing and warming up. It means no yard work gets done, or work around the house for that matter for March through June and August through November. Our garden has been pathetic, but we are growing children, young adults, and an eternal marriage first. There will be time for all of that, but for now, we enjoy the scenery and it is beautiful.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Canoeing at Camp Z

Camp Zarahemla

Chillin on the Columbia

Thrill rides at Silverwood....

Sunday, August 22, 2010

BanClan Reunion 2010

I think a tradition is just something that happens, people have a great memory of it, and so they do it again and again. Before they know it, they wouldn't go without it. It would be breaking a tradition! No one really knows when they began, they just did. I think we started a tradition: a BanClan Reunion. When the kids start living far away and the times you get everyone (everyone possible) together seem less and less often, when you are together, it seems like a reunion. I hope it starts that way anyway. Even so, it was hard not to think something or someone was missing. He was. But Braden is much happier where he is, doing what he is doing. For right now, we are just practicing this reunion thing until he comes home and we know how. By then, maybe we will even have t-shirts!
Darci and Joe came up to check out a few PT schools, so we decided to pack as much in one week as possible: amusement park...check, water park...check, day on the river, complete with beach time...check, camping complete with s'mores, hiking and canoeing...check. Somehow between all of these, Darci and Joe visited University of Washington (and the "gum wall") in Seattleand Eastern Washington University in Spokane. They have more schools to see, and tests to take before they know where they will land, but we are glad they fit us, and our reunion, into their schedule.
We also registered Kolby and Cameron for Richland High and Melissa for Carmichael Middle School. We are done with elementary school! Wahooo!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pioneering to Utah

July arrived with much anticipation in our home. Excitement, apprehension, nervousness, you name it, we were feeling it. Braden entered the MTC on July 21, 2010. He was set apart as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to serve in the Mexico, Mexico City East mission on Saturday evening. From that point on, he began to follow the mission rules: no tv, radio, newspaper, etc, and 10:30 lights out and 6:30 up for the day.
It was a great experience and we hope to repeat it at least 2 more times! One thing President Meyer counseled Braden to do was to find out why he was sent to this mission. He gave him a beautiful blessing and, yes, I cried. Then on Sunday, Braden gave his "last talk before he leaves on his mission" in sacrament meeting. We used to call these "Missionary Farewells". He gave a great talk and Kolby was the youth speaker. Both were great. Then we headed to Utah!
We stopped to visit Grandma and Grandpa Andy on Sunday night, as arrived in SLC on Monday. On Tuesday we met Darci at the Salt Lake Temple to do a session. It was really neat to see a live session. We had not been to the Salt Lake Temple for about 20 years. A lady in the temple even showed us the spiral staircases my grandfather had worked on and made a table from the leftover wooden chips!
Then we played like tourists, but stuck to Church related things, like Deseret Book and the Joseph Smith: the Restoration movie. We met my brother, Doug, who works in the Joseph Smith Memorial building in the Family Search department. No, he is not searching for his family, he is helping make the programs that help us search for our ancestors! When we went to dinner, we asked a valet for directions. He looked at Braden and said, "Missionary, huh? Where ya going?" When we told him, he told us his son was turning 19 in September and he really wished he would go. He was hoping he would, but wasn't sure. Tender Mercy #1-recognition of the blessing of a son worthy and ready to go on a mission.

Wednesday came very quickly. We headed down to Provo and took pictures before the crowd of missionaries were to be dropped off. Darci and Joe met ust before their work/classes began. Braden was tolerant of the pictures, but I think he was anxious to get into the MTC, not just stand agonizingly close.
We killed some time before his 1:30 entry time by going up to Sundance ski resort and going to the distribution center. Then the time had come. We were very anxious as we drove up. As we drove in, there were hundreds of missionaries in white shirts to greet us. They were happy and enthusiastic. It was an amazing feeling as we entered the MTC grounds. It was like walking through the doors of the temple and straight on into the Celestial room. It just wrapped its arms around us and buoyed us up. Braden had given hugs to his Cameron, Kolby and Melissa before we got in the car, so Cameron manned the camera while Kolby and Melissa peered over the back seat as we took out his luggage. We hugged him, told him how much (if you can in less than two minutes) we loved him and were proud of him, and he was off, waving with a big grin. We headed to somewhere we could change our clothes and cry. The RB. Brett and I had a good meltdown. You don't really run out of tears, you just take a deep breath and wait until they revisit you again.

Joe had told us he could give us a tour of Now I Can, the place he works, so we went over there. It is an amazing place. They do physical therapy for children, mostly those with Cerebral Palsy. They have creative ways in intense therapy that help these children make great strides. It is a wonderful organization and a great place for Joe to work.
We couldn't leave Provo without a Jamba Juice. So we headed to the Jamba Juice next to Legends. While we sipped on our smoothies, (Strawberry Surfrider is the best by the way) we went next door to look at the sports memorabilia. A man said to us, "I'm just giving a tour, would you like to join us?" It was a real behind the scenes tour of BYU football. We saw the training room, the taping room, the videography rooms, the coaches meeting rooms, the team meeting rooms, where they overlook practices, the weight room, all connected with halls full of statistics and information on past and present Cougars. We saw the Heisman Trophy and the Cotton Bowl Trophy, as well as the National Championship Trophy. The only room we didn't see was the locker room! On one wall, there was a really neat display. It was a giant map that listed all the players who were serving missions all over the world. Their name was listed as well as the mission and the flag of the country. VERY COOL! No one was in the Mexico, Mexico City East Mission from the football team, though. Tender Mercy #2-the opportunity to see behind the scenes and know that many young men put their lives on hold for such a great cause.

When I was a kid, we went to the Days of 47 Rodeo in the Salt Palace. It was the biggest rodeo around and a highlight of the year. We got tickets for Wednesday's show and Darci and Joe met us in Salt Lake for some bull riding and dirt slinging fun. It was a great show and the cowboys and animals were all very good. The funniest part was the cow milking. Those cows did NOT want to be milked and the cowboys had a hard time catching them and getting any moo juice from them. It was insane!
On Thursday, we went up to Park City to see the Olympic Park. But before we got there, we decided to drive by my high school, middle school and the house I grew up in. When we pulled in front of 2370 East 6780 South, Salt Lake City, we stopped and I explained what was next door (a field) when I grew up there. A woman came out of (my) house and Brett rolled down his window and apologized, saying I was just showing the kids the house I grew up in. She said, "Are you an Anderson?" Surprised, we answered yes. It turns out that the man who bought the house from my mom and dad when they moved to Idaho married the daughter of their best friends! And her mom happened to be visiting that day. She invited us in and plied us with cookies and ice cream while we talked about the neighborhood and my parents. The house looked great and still had some of the custom touches my dad had made, like a cornice over the kitchen window and the custom mailbox out front. It was so cool to see the basketball court that we played for hours on and the Peonies my mom had planted so long ago. Tender Mercy #3- a reminder of a great childhood provided by loving parents who are still thought highly of after so many years. You take home with you wherever you go.
The Olympic Park was pretty cool. It was hard not to keep thinking that Braden would really love to see this! We watched the skiers in 90+ degrees ski down a carpet ramp and up into the sky before landing in a pool of water softened by bubbles just before they land. There was also a zip line and the Alpine Slide. We ended the day by doing some school shopping at the Outlets and then headed to our hotel. We stayed at the StayBridge Suites in West Valley City and it had a mini water park. It was nice to relax and cool ourselves down.
Friday was a super fun day: we headed to Lagoon. We spent the first few hours at Lagoon A Beach, their water park. There are several tube and body slides as well as a lazy river.
Then we headed for the rides! Melissa was particularly brave and rode most of the rides. Darci and Joe met us for a picnic and some rides as well. Darci was glad we were there to ride with Joe so she didn't have to go on Samarai or Wicked. I tried Wicked for the first time...and then went again! WOW, what a ride. Exhausted, we headed to the hotel to begin the journey home again.
Before leaving the Salt Lake Valley, we went to the Hill Air Force Air Museum. There are all kinds of planes and missiles on display there. We tried to find a B-52, like the Day's Pay, but there are very few left.
We headed to stay at my Mom and Dad's on Saturday night. We went to church with them on Sunday, and believe it or not it was a missionary homecoming. Oh how we look forward to that day for us. The missionary was great and talked about the importance of prayer in both missionary work and our daily lives. We found more tears. Tender Mercy #4-there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it is wonderful.
Every time we went a little further away from Provo, it made me think "this is as close as I will be to Braden for the next two years...." I think one of the hardest parts about him leaving is the influence he has on our family. He is such a peacemaker. He can tease and get away with it because we know he loves us. He can sooth over little misunderstandings between others. I think we all tried to be a little better around him. He wasn't always like that, something during his senior year in high school and during his freshman year in college taught him that. They are definitely Christlike qualities that will suit him well on his mission. We will watch and grow with him over these next two years.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

School's Out for the Summer!

School is out and the lazy days of summer are upon us. Whoever said summer days were lazy was nuts! Melissa does swim team Monday through Thursday at 8 am, Kolby is doing B.E.A.S.T. (Bomber Endurance And Strength Training)Monday, Wednesday and Fridays at 8 am, and Cameron is doing yard work for a friend every morning before it gets hot. Then there are trips to the library, friends houses, and soccer continues on in the evenings. At least there is not the pressure of homework due and lunches to make ahead every day. So, yeah, summer is a bit lazier than the school year. We are also spicing it up with Cameron and Kolby going on the Scout Encampment at Camp Fife for a week in June and EFY in July. Melissa is going to a Steel Drum Camp as well.
The biggest excitement of the summer comes smack in the middle: Braden enters the MTC on July 21st. We are planning a week trip in Utah to take him down so he can see Darci and Joe and Grandma and Grandpa Andy.

All these milestones: Melissa graduates elementary school, Kolby leaves Middle School, school's out for the summer, Encampment Week, one month til MTC.

The other day as I was taking Melissa to swim team, there was a lone jogger along the path on Keene Road. He didn't look like Braden, but I still got a lump in my throat. It kind of hit me all at once that he was leaving. I guess as long as school was in, his departure was a long way away. Then school let out. I had a "moment". My friends with missionaries out say I will have more. Just carry kleenex, they say. I will. I don't think it was even the thought of him being gone that made me sad. How can I be sad for him when he is doing the Lord's work, something he had looked forward to and prepared for all his life? No, it wasn't that he would be gone and far, far away. It was that this chapter in his life, running easily along paths he has run so often, for so long, is coming to a close. I know it will never be the same for him. It wasn't for me when I left home, it wasn't for Darci when she left. I just have to remember that it won't be the will be better. And we will both have the memory of a young man with so much ahead of him running down the path.