Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Can It Be True???

Boy do I have news for you! But, before I say anything, you may want to fasten your seatbelts because what I am about to tell you just might blow you away. Are you ready? Okay, here goes.... Our family actually took a vacation. Wait a minute, can it be? Did that really happen? Did we seriously just go on a family trip? No.....Somebody pinch me because it seems I must be dreaming. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Maybe I am being a bit overly dramatic right now and I'm sure that Neal is thoroughly embarrassed that I'm making such a big deal out of this. Whatever the case, this truly was a very significant moment for me because the time has come for it to finally be OUR turn to go somewhere fun. Can I just say, boy, was it looong overdue! As you know, for the last several years we really haven't traveled much with our family due to Neal's residency program. The reasons for this are: first off, it's not exactly fun to travel when you don't have money. Second, how fun is it to travel when your husband is so tired he can hardly keep his eyes open? Third, any spare time was usually spent keeping things up around the house. And, finally, how enjoyable would it have been to either travel by myself with the kids or run Neal completely ragged (because that's exactly what family vacations do) and then expect him to have a good time despite knowing that a trauma week awaits his return. Ugh. Yeah, not too fun so we opted to putz around our house on the weekends and dream of an easier life ahead. Well.....that and go out to dinner several times a week. Well, we HAD to have SOMETHING to look forward to, right? Of course right. I know, sounds like a justification if you've ever heard one. Regardless, I don't EVER want to know how much $ I've spent on eating out because I'd probably have an anurism.)

Anyway, the trip was great fun and it just felt so good to get away and share some quality family time together. (That just sounded exactly like somethingmy Dad would say. I must be getting old.)

Some of the highlights were:

*Dining at the Space Needle in a revolving restaurant. I didn't think you'd actually be able to see and feel that thing move!

(Note to self-- Don't ever promise kids you're going to go somewhere until you know how much the thing is going to cost! Holy cow that place was expeeeensive!)

Livy patiently waiting for her food. It's tough being a 2 year old!

Livy finally decides to take matters into her own hands and finds a way to entertain herself--much to the amusement of fellow diners.

Britton pointing things out to The Dev. xox

Big Brother helping Little Brother up to get a better view. So sweet!

Neal whispering sweet nothings into Livy's ear.

Got to have a picture with the whole fam!

I'm on--top of the world looking down on creation and the only da-da-da-da-da-da-da. Sorry, I thought that song was only appropriate but that's all I know of it. Ring a bell Sandy?
Check out that view!

* Walking up and down Pikes Market. There are a hand full of places that I think are the highlights of our country and this is one of them. What a unique and cultural place to be! You've never seen more beautiful flowers, fresher fruits and vegetables or more unique souvenirs. Oh, and the interesting people that park themselves on every street corner singing , playing their instruments or performing other random acts are truly remarkable. What entertainment--and it's free! The vibe there is absolutely intoxicating and you just wish that everyone could have a chance to visit such a neat place. It's also fun to watch the workers toss one another the gigantic fish. Apparently they even like to play tricks on unsuspecting customers. The fish that Britton is squating next to is attached to fishing line and when someone gets to close the workers yank it causing the fish...and the person to jump.

Devin especially loved the pigeons. I never knew a bird could be so smart! The term "bird brain" definitely does not apply to the pigeon breed. I swear that bird was doing as many tricks as a well trained dog and I'm not exaggerating!

We decided to give Britton and Devin $30 each to buy a special souvenirs. Decisions, decisions!

Devin decided on a mesmerizing water/sand.....thing.
He absolutely loves it and takes it everywhere he goes (including school)

Neal trying to play a replica of the world's first flute.

Livy decides to get in on the action and is pleasantly surprised with her ability.
SOLD! Britton decides to buy the flute....and I've been
hearing the beautiful music it makes ever since. Sigh.

* Hanging with the Atwoods. What a classic family! I'm still fantasizing about the molten chocolate volcano dessert Melanie made. (I'm in desperate need of the recipe and don't plan on sharing any when I make it either. Sorry.) What good times we had--I swear my cheeks still hurt from all the laughs. There's only one "Rigs"--that's for sure! The Atwoods are definitely some of our favorite people.

Oh, and thank goodness that their hamster survived an attack with a pair of scissors. Dearest Livy-Lou! (It was the only thing skinny enough to fit through the cage and she wanted to pet it. Yes, I about had a heart attack.)

Enjoying "Happy Hour" at "Ruth Chris" steak house with the Atwood's.

* Visiting the Science Museum. If Neal and the kids had their choice then we'd still be there. I don't think there's another museum in the country that has more interesting exhibits. The museum consisted of multiple buildings and a huge interactive fountain park in the middle. Neal and I rode a bike that was suspended high above the ground and balanced on a thin metal track. I couldn't stop squealing at the top of my lungs. Why do I do that? Do you even know how many scenes I have made when it comes to anything that's remotely thrilling? I just can't resist the urge to holler and squeal at the top of my lungs the entire time! (I have my Mom to thank for that one.)

Having fun with different illusions. What's with the illusion on Neal's pants anyway???

Livy was terrified the dinosaur was going to eat her. I can't even count the times she pointed to the dinosaur and said "I gonna eat you, I gonna eat you. Go away, Naughty Rarrrr!" (She calls them "Rarrs" because she can't pronounce "dinosaur."

This was the butterfly room. Devin is freaking out that the blue butterfly was trying to land on him. Too funny!

Devin soon warmed up to the butterflies and couldn't seem to get enough of them. Livy, however wanted the "Yucky-Buggy" to "go away!"

Devin making himself comfortable inside of a dinosaur footprint.

*Sleep deprivation. Not exactly a highlight, just a fact.




Neal carrying sweet Lu-Lu to the car. Sweet Baby Girl was absolutely exhausted!

There's nothing more celestial than a sleeping child. How I love my Livy and my Neal! xoxo

* Eating! I love vacations because there's just an unspoken rule that you can eat anything you want completely guilt free.

Devin and Britton are waiting anxiously as they watch their doughnuts being made in front of them. Talk about major grease bombs! Ugh.

*Consequences of said eating. This is the not so great part about consuming greasy foods. (This is also the story of my life. WHY??? I don't think I'll ever be able to understand the male digestive tract.) Anyway, I think Neal got the message.

*Trick or Treating. Need I say more?

Check out all those pumpkins. I wish I could say I carved them all with mykids but that is simply far from being the case.
Neal and Rigs looking mighty fine. This is no secret so I'll just say it now. Neal would make a very ugly woman. There. I said it. I'm so glad he's a man...for obvious reasons and I'll just leave it at that.

Poor little Livy was absolutely terrified at one of the haunted houses. The poor thing freaked out when an enormous man dressed up as an alien tried to greet her. Look how huge her eyes are! It's no wonder she woke up that night from a terrible dream crying "Yucky-Buggy, Yucky-Buggy!" I pray she's not traumatized for life...but boy was it fun to watch! Why is it so fun to see your kids get scared? I know, I'm cruel.

* Aquarium. It's no secret that I'm not the least bit into zoo's and aquariums. In fact, I pretty much have to muster every ounce of selflessness and unconditional love in order to endure 2+ hours of watching animals defecate, urinate, growl, and hump. The smells alone are practically nauseating but yet I try to do it once a year for the sake of the kids. Oh, and did I mention that I hate crowds? Yet another reason to avoid such places. That being said, I must admit that the Seattle aquarium is probably one of the very best in the country. The aquarium is actually situated on top of the ocean and has fresh ocean water pumped up to all the exhibits. They have a huge area where you can pet various star fish and other wild and crazy ocean life. Very cool...except for the two animal/plant things that looked and felt EXACTLY like private parts. I'm hoping it was just a coincidence that the male private part was situated right next to the female private part. I couldn't help but get a few laughs over it. haha! Sorry, no more crude.

(What a cool picture, huh!?)

I love my Neal! Britton took several shots of us and I have to admit that he is quite the budding photographer. This picture is one of my favorites because Neal has his little Sylvester Stalone lip going on. I loved that about him the day we met. xoxo

FINALLY, a few pictures with Neal.....smiling. An extraordinary feat has been accomplished here which is why I feel I must post these pictures for posterity sake! I never know when I'll get to have another picture taken with Neal smiling. Love you Neal!

* Jumping on the hotel beds. I don't know why but there's just something about going to a hotel that makes you want to jump on the bed. I managed to refrain but the kids couldn't get enough!

Naturally they want to jump wildly on the beds right at bedtime. Great. But I guess vacations are meant for breaking the rules a little, right?

Oh the simple joys of childhood!

Well, that was our vacation. Sorry I was overly thorough in discussing all of the details but I haven't blogged in so long that I fear I'm trying to make up for it. Anyway, I'm so grateful for the rare breaks in life when you can just step away from the daily mundane routines and make some wonderful family memories. We'd love to return there soon so if anyone wants to go to Seattle, we're game!

Sunday, April 5, 2009


Neal has been plagued for many years by a childhood trauma that only he and his brother Eric can fully relate to. This painful memory occurred when he was ten years old and involves the infamous......pinewood derby.

As a young boyscout, Neal relished in the thought of building the fastest car in the pack. Together with his Dad, Neal assembled his car in high hopes it would sweep the competition victoriously. Neal, Erik, and his Dad thought it would be a great idea to polish their car with lacquer to give their cars an irresistible shine. This would be the perfect finishing touch.

The night of the competition arrived and Neal and Erik anxiously awaited for their Father to come home from work and take them to scouts. It was around this time that the boys examined their cars only to discover that the lacquer was still a sticky wet sludge. Panic stricken, Erik and Neal looked to their Dad to remedy the situation who in turn decided that the situation called for a BLOW TORCH. Slowly the lacquer began to melt off....along with the brilliant paint job that was painstakingly and lovingly applied. Erick and Neal stood there gazing at the offensive impostor that once resembled a car destined to win the derby. Hoping that all was not lost, they scrambled to spray paint both cars in an attempt to cover the torched burns and prayed that all would go well on the track. Sadly, Neal and Erik's cars not only didn't win the race, but they both failed to even cross the finish line!

Neal left scouts that night with feelings of shame and embarrassment. He still vividly recalls walking home alone that night with tears plunging down his cheeks. Not only had Neal lost the race but he lost his pride as well. Perhaps the only solace that Neal found was through one word that seemed to echo in his head:


Neal vowed that one day he would be made whole again....through his son.

Last month Britton entered the scouting program and was given a block of wood to shape into a race car. Hours were spent researching the best designs together and talking on the phone with Neal's brother, Erik, who has since redeemed this boyhood trauma himself through his own sons. The secrets were uncovered and Britton and Neal set out to accomplish their mission of building the fastest pinewood derby ever known to race. Neal even felt it necessary to buy a $100 scroll saw to achieve the best design possible. Britton and Devin eagerly assisted Neal as he labored over carving an ordinary block of wood into a fleeting force to be reckoned with. The kids and I left for Utah for a couple weeks and Neal continued to spend many nights laboring over this fine piece of workmanship even taking it to the dental lab at work. Neal continued on his mission of drilling, melting, carving, measuring and weighing and sanding the race car during our absence.

We returned the day before the race with still much to accomplish. The axles hadn't been put on and the wheels had yet to receive a graphite coating. Neal had a 12 hour surgery the next day and raced home with only 20 minutes to spare before we had to leave for the derby. This scene unfolded with an eerie resemblance to Neal's experience 25 years prior as we were pushed for time. Like the previous experience we had no other choice but to throw some spray paint on Britton's car. The paint was drying as we rushed to the church with Neal's pockets full of emergency supplies for any possible scenario. Britton weighed in his car at exactly 5 ounces. Perfect! (Neal actually took the car to the grocery store the night before to check the weight on a produce scale.) While applying the axles at just the right angle, Neal pressed a little too hard and a chunk of wood broke off. Ahhhh! Britton looked at me as I tried to mask my panic and replied "Don't worry Mama. Daddy ain't no dummy!" This is a family phrase that Neal and Britton frequently exchange. Sure enough, Neal whipped out his emergency stash of super glue and all was well.

The races began. Each scout got to race his car a total of six times so that each car was raced on every track against every boyscout. This measure was taken to guarantee total fairness. It was so exciting to look at Britton's face....and then Neal's face as his/their car took first place every single time! Britton won six first place ribbons in all with each run down the track at less than two seconds. Britton couldn't be more proud and Neal was practically giddy! The awards were handed out and Britton absolutely beamed as he received the "Fastest car in the pack" award. This was such a fun experience for the whole family. Who would have thought that 25 years later Neal would finally know what it feels like to receive the "Fastest car in the pack" award. Needless to say Neal went to bed with a huge smile on his face. Oh, and so did Britton.

Neal fine tuning the car just minutes before the race.

Going for a test run.

Still trying to perfect things...

Super glue to the rescue! (Boyscouts are always prepared, right?)

Yet another test run. (Everything must be just right.)

Britton feeling pretty confident about the race.

Britton wins the race!

Britton's car is on the right. He's whippin' them all! Wahoooo!

Winning sure feels good!

Neal is reveling in the glory of first place!

Britton's car takes first place again!

Livy cheering on her brother! Gooooo Britton!!!

Britton eagerly collects another 1st place win!

Devin and Livy eagerly watch the races.

Another win for Britton!

Britton on cloud 9!

Britt admiring his first place ribbons.

And the winner for fastest car in the pack goes to...... BRITTON CURTIS!!!

Britton can hardly believe his eyes as he gazes at his new trophy.

Congratulations Neal! You've waited 25 years for this moment! xoxox

My two Champs!

Photo op with the winners.

Devin clearly had more important things on his mind. We love our Dev!♥