Sunday, April 29, 2012

Last Minute Mission Preparations and Grand Days Out for Kids

Mike and Landon went to see the Tigers play the Mariners at Comerica Park on Thursday. Landon lasted longer than last time. The weather was a bit chilly, but he was so excited to show off his Tigers T-shirt that he insisted on taking off his jacket. Good thing he’s so warm blooded!

After the game, he accompanied Dad to one of Dad’s work locations before they came back home so Mike and Hallie could take Diamond to Bloomfield Hills. On their way to the stake center they had dinner at Maggiano’s Little Italy in Troy. Diamond (now Sis. Evans) was set apart as a missionary to serve for 18 months in the Washington, DC South Mission (basically suburban DC, western Maryland, and eastern Virginia), and then she received her own endowment at the Detroit Temple. Hallie took her to the airport on Friday morning for her flight to Salt Lake, where she will stay with the family of a former SVU roommate until she enters the Provo Missionary Training Center next Wednesday.

Hallie and Mike aren’t quite old enough to have a daughter Sis. Evans’ age, but we got a small flavor of the sense of pride and accomplishment parents must feel seeing their child making choices that will set them on a positive life path. Sis. Evans has worked hard to get where she is, and we know she will experience a lot of personal and spiritual growth as she continues to work hard as a missionary. For all our scurrying around to help her get ready to go, we never took any pictures! Thanks to everyone who has and will chip in to send her on her way.
Sis. Diamond Evans
After Hallie sent Sis. Evans on her way, she came back home to pick up Landon for a Mom’s club gymnastics day out at Cutting Edge Athletics in Clinton Township.

On Saturday morning, we joined Sara, Jason, and Chase at Greenfield Village for the annual Day Out with Thomas. Weather had been cooperating better earlier in the week. However, in spite of the chilly threat of rain, the kids dove into the festivities.

But I don't want to play on the airplane!
Much better!

Someone's geeked out. 
Members of the Detroit Historical Society built a model railroad layout and let Landon try his hand at running the trains. 

After we came home and put Eliza down for a nap, Landon and Mike played some games. First we played a Thomas-themed game Hallie had found on one of her mom-to-mom sale outings. Landon won.

Then we played Wii Sports. The new TV and the extra space make for a better experience, at least for Landon. He trounced Mike at bowling.

A strike and/or a spare in 8 out of 10 frames. Wow!
Of course, Mike did beat the boy at tennis and golf, but who’s counting? 

The Young Women of the branch are raising money for Girls Camp this summer. This year they are offering babysitting services. We took advantage so we could spend a romantic evening . . . rearranging furniture in the kids’ rooms. The parents out there can relate. “Yes! Three free hours to actually get something accomplished together!” Once Mike finally gave up the idea of a shared office/Eliza’s bedroom, it was only a matter of time before his stuff had to go. Thanks, babysitters!

Later on, after the kids were back home, had wound down from their high energy, and had finally gone to sleep, we watched a movie in peace and quiet with the knowledge that the kiddos now have rooms of their very own. Hallie is busily making plans to thoroughly girlify Eliza’s expanded space. She hit upon her theme after finding an Eric Dowdle puzzle named “The Fairy Family” at Sam’s Club:
Image courtesy Dowdle Folk Art 
On a completely different and tragic note, a young soldier named Andrew Britton (Mihalo) was killed in action in Afghanistan on Wednesday. He was a 12-13 year old when Mike worked with him in the Young Men’s program before we got married. Mike didn’t know him very well, but he remembers Andrew as outgoing, happy, and vivacious. The kid had a lust for life that showed as he continued to grow up after we left Simi. What can we do but express our deep grief and gratitude to his family for their loss and his sacrifice? We are so sorry! Thank you so much!   

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Exploring Our Creative Side

So here we are at the beginning of another week. We didn’t have quite the same level of activity this week as we have in prior weeks, but we still had fun.

Hallie, Priscilia, and the little ones went to Detroit Kid City in Southfield. In a mini play city, Landon and Eliza used their imaginations to pretend at an automotive factory, bank, barber shop, post office, pizzeria, music studio, art center, school house, out in the country.

Among other things, Landon explored careers in fishing and hair styling:

Eliza contemplated her future as a pop diva.

On Saturday, Mike and Landon continued to explore Landon’s creative side by finger painting.

Thinking about what to do with the paintings as they dried, Mike remembered a creative idea for the home he’d seen on Pinterest, a gallery wall
Source: via Michael on Pinterest  
Here’s our version, with more art to follow: 

Not quite as sophisticated, but it gets the job done.

Mike and Hallie had an opportunity to explore art of another sort when Ben and Megan invited them to the Detroit Opera House to see Bizet's "The Pearl Fishers." Beautiful venue, and beautiful performance!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

We Have Moved . . .

. . . items from the dining room to the den and vice versa. Earlier this week, Hallie and Sara were talking about how Hallie wanted to make a school room within the dining room, and Sara mentioned that we should switch the dining room and den. Up to this point, we have used the room with the chandelier as our dining room because, well, it had the chandelier and because our home’s previous owners had used the space as a dining room. Hallie ran the idea by Mike, who at first resisted (he didn’t reject the idea, but he wondered what a den/family room would look like with a low-hanging central light fixture in it) but then warmed up to the thought of more usable space for the kids and their toys. Hallie had also hinted that in the future whenever we got a new TV the space would make it seem less in the middle of everything, especially once we got a smaller media unit. Mike figured he could change out the lighting fixtures without too much trouble. So, over a few days Hallie and Sara (with major help from Diamond and Priscilia) moved the bookcase and toy bins into the dining room and the credenza into the den. Mike even got into the act on Thursday when he moved the dining room set into the den and the TV armoire into the dining room. After moving everything, we now have an expanded family room and an intimate dining room instead of a large dining room and a crowded TV room/toy room/den. Thanks for the great idea, Sara!
Chase in the dining room prior to the move (the boxes are part of our attempt to organize and declutter)
Of course, Mike should have figured more was afoot than a simple room change with his birthday coming up (Friday the 13th this year, woo hoo!). Sure enough, after he came home from some work on Friday, a box with a new TV sat next to the armoire. Once Mike got over the shock of the unexpected big ticket item, he set to work seeing what it could do. Later on, Hallie, who had been resting upstairs, asked whether Mike wanted to go hunting for a new TV stand. We ended up finding exactly what we needed for less than we expected to pay at Art Van’s clearance center (Mike was pleasantly surprised). After taking the kids to music class and helping Jason with a small project at his and Sara’s, Mike put the TV stand together, and the family room was (for the most part) complete!

The windows frame things in nicely. Mike has bumped his head only a few times so far.
It's a small room, so it's a bit hard to see.
As we mentioned before, Mike had his birthday this week, and he spent a little time each day through the week indulging in some of his favorite springtime activities, including going to the Henry Ford Museum, having a picnic and flying kites with Landon and Eliza on Monday. 

Landon took some pictures with his new LEGO camera: 

Once we got to the Henry Ford, we took in the activities for Macy's 2nd Monday:

At first Landon didn't really want his picture taken. 
He said he'd get his picture taken if he could take Mike's.
Eliza fell asleep on the way there. This is how she spent most of the trip.
Afterwards, we went for our picnic and kite flight. At first, it looked like the wind wouldn’t cooperate, but after a while the weather got a bit more blustery and with the approaching storm clouds came a solid wind stream. Both Mike and Landon got in on the action. 

Landon was holding his own until a gust came that yanked the string holder out of his hand and sent the kite plummeting toward Lake St. Clair. Mike hightailed it toward the water and managed to get the string. After several minutes of winding, tugging, and cajoling, we managed to fish the kite, none the worse for its dip in the water, out of the lake.   
The kite has no rigid parts (it's just a sail and strings), which is probably why we were able to retrieve it.
Mike and Hallie got some couple's time in this week too as they celebrated Mike’s day at The Melting Pot with an all-American big night out. We rolled home three hours later, too full to do much else. . . . 

Hallie is continuing to recover well from her surgery. We appreciate all those who have provided meals and other support to us. Look at one of the cute cupcakes Joy gave us for dessert! 
Little Easter lambs. Almost too cute to eat! Almost.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Who Needs a Gall Bladder Anyway?

The week began in dramatic fashion as Hallie, still feeling lots of abdominal pain, went to a third ER (one with a CT scanner) at her primary care physician’s urging on Monday. Turns out she had a gallstone the size of a golf ball and a very inflamed gall bladder that had to get extracted, stat. While she was moved from the ER to the main hospital in preparation for surgery, Mike ran the kids on their errands.
Check out the sweet ride the kids found at the grocery store!
Landon was recently diagnosed with a mild form of sensory processing disorder (we have always thought he was a sensational kid. Now we have proof!), so he gets to go to physical therapy. We say gets to because therapy involves a zip line, giant swings, trampolines, shaving cream mixed with tempura paint, and a variety of other fun activities. We took Landon first to therapy and then to gymnastics, all the while keeping tabs with Hallie regarding her status and eventual diagnosis. Mike got the kiddos to bed as Hallie got settled into her digs at the main hospital with Sara’s welcome support. Mike and Derek went back in the evening to give Hallie a blessing and retrieve the Buick while Jen and Bryan looked after the kids. Sometime in the middle of the night both children made their way into Dad’s bed to share their slumber time. We think Eliza has been teething and/or sick. Poor girl! She finds it hard to breathe at night with all the snot. She seems to be sharing the love with Dad, whose symptoms have progressively worsened through the week.

The hospital scheduled surgery for Tuesday morning, so Hallie stayed overnight and Mike played primary caretaker for the duration of her stay. He and the kids came back to the hospital early Tuesday morning and ended up staying all day. Originally we thought she would go in at 10:30 for a 1 1/2 hour laparoscopic surgery and possibly be ready to come home Tuesday night. Nope. Surgery didn’t start until about noon, and it didn’t end until after 3. Hallie was wheeled up to her recovery room at around 5 PM. It turns out that Hallie is something of a medical rarity. When the gall bladder is removed, the surgeon cuts off a duct that takes bile from the liver to the gall bladder. Most people have one duct. Not so with Hallie. She is (was) doubly blessed. As a result, her surgery was not routine, as the surgeon had to figure out where the extra tube coming out of Hallie’s gall bladder went to and whether it was something that should not be cut. He came out and told Mike the whole story (with pictures). Gross, but fascinating!

Anyway, Mike and the kids did not expect to be at the hospital all day, so they took some small excursions to pass the time while they waited and while the delays passed. With a pager supplied by the hospital in hand, they bought Mom flowers and explored the corridors on the first floor. They ventured outside and clambered up poles. They even met a therapy dog! 
Who knew "drop the pager"could be so fun? 
Just hanging around
Eventually after Mom was out of recovery and in her room for the night, they headed home. No one slept well Monday night into Tuesday, but Dad and the kids slept like the dead Tuesday into Wednesday.

We thought Hallie might come home Wednesday, but by late morning we were informed that she would stay one more day. Mike came up to see Hallie before going to a work meeting. Later in the afternoon he took the kids along with Sara and Chase to the Easter activity down at the local park. We had beautiful weather for hunting for Easter eggs, petting farm animals, and dancing with the Merry Music Maker.

What do I do with this? 
Oh! I get it! 
Spontaneous friends
She's enjoying this.
No, seriously! Blame the photographer. She's enjoying this! 

Hallie was finally ready to come home on Thursday, and we were glad to show her that the house had not fallen apart in her absence. Kind friends had brought food, flowers, and well wishes in Hallie’s absence, and Dad had put the kids to work ensuring that all the chores were done and the house looked ship shape (with more than a little help from Priscilia). The remainder of the day found Hallie resting in the den or in bed while Mike continued trying to entertain the kids. Fortunately, the sunny weather has made digging around in the backyard a realistic option. We feel grateful for meals brought in, as this has made Mike’s task of getting something prepared with two kids underfoot very much easier.
Flowers from Grandma

Mike had a couple of errands to run for work on Friday, and Eliza came along while Landon looked after Hallie.

On Saturday, Mike attempted to take the kids to the zoo for the Easter activities there. Apparently most of metro Detroit also decided to go to the zoo, judging by the Los Angeles-sized traffic snarl leading to the entrance. Rather than spend an hour waiting to get into the zoo only to leave an hour later to pick up Diamond from the airport, Mike opted to take the kids to the local park. Strangely, almost no one was at the park (they all went to the zoo?), so Landon and Eliza played to their hearts’ content on the swings and other equipment. Mike tried to get his kite to fly, but the wind wouldn’t cooperate.

After Mike and Eliza picked Diamond up from the airport and dropped her off at her parents’ house (welcome back to Detroit, Diamond!), the kids participated in some pre-Easter activities. In the meantime Sara had dropped off a basket of scones from a local bakery and Landon was sure to make quick eating of his share of the scones. Mike and Hallie made sure to help him with their share as well. We made resurrection rolls (the marshmallow body “disappears” leaving the hollowed out pastry tomb behind) and dyed eggs.

We made a bit of a mess of our hands as we colored the eggs, and the mess got Mike to thinking (dangerous proposition). He decided to paint tattoos on his and Landon’s arms. By bedtime Hallie had two dashing pirates on her hands and kids hopped up on sugar.    

Easter morning brought surprises to both of the kids. They were so happy to see the baskets that were left by the Easter Bunny. When not in church Landon has been able to keep himself quite entertained with the new goodies he received, including a LEGO camera from his grandparents. Here’s a sample of some of his work:

Mom and Dad took a few too:

The week has wound down, and we are hoping for no more excitement for a while. Yeah, right.