Friday, December 31, 2010

Enjoying New Years Eve

Outside the Ordway Theater
For our New Years Eve celebration we went to St Paul to see Joseph and the amazing technicolor dreamcoat.  When we were at the State Fair this summer, the Ordway Theater was selling tickets to the 2 PM show today for 1/2 price so Eileen and I and Amanda bought tickets.  Then trying to come up with a Christmas present for our oldest grandson Gunnar we discovered we could buy one adult ticket to the same show and get one youth ticket free.  So we split the cost between Paige and Gunnar as a part of their Christmas present.  Tickets left did not match ours as we were dead center 10th row and Paige and Gunnar were in the balcony but they said they were good tickets - ours were fantastic.  The voices were great and we all enjoyed the show. 

Due to the weather forecast we left 4 hours early.  We arrived in two hours so we went to a Greek restaurant in the old Union Station and had a delicious lunch.  Leaving the restaurant we were pelted with ice and the ramp into the parking lot was ice covered.  Luckily when the show was over the weather had improved and it changed to rain at 22 degrees so it just froze on the windshield.  The trip was a little slow on the way home but the worst was the 30 MPH guy on the two lane road.  We made it home fine just a little exhausting for me driving in those conditions.

The videos below are from the high school Christmas program we missed.  The handsome young man in the tux in the back in our oldest grandson - Gunnar.

video

video


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wild Minnesota Weather

View out our front door
Tuesday our grandson Qatar came over to help me remove the snow from our patio.  He filled the wheelbarrow and I took it out through the garage and dumped it on the edge of the parking area.  It took 54 over flowing wheelbarrows to remove all the snow.
This year has been a bad one for icicles.
Driving is a challenge when it comes to intersections as it becomes quite difficult to see the cars coming.

The mail must go through but no one is buying newspapers.
We were having a record snow fall this December until today.  It warmed up to 39 degrees and started raining.    Much of the snow is now gone but tomorrow the low will be 1 and the high 24 along with rain in the morning turning to snow in the evening. What a fun New Years Eve as we have tickets to a show in Minneapolis tomorrow.  We are going to take it slow up and back with these weather conditions and only hope everyone else takes it easy too.

The temperatures and the rain have also added to our challenge with water in the basement.  One of the patio slabs decided to sink next to the house and thus tore the industrial grade chalking that used to keep water out of the basement.  Tomorrow I hope to find a chalk or other sealant that can be installed in wet freezing weather as the water is already too much in the basement.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

The actual painting is much better than this photo.
This morning we began our Christmas celebration early with a phone call with Kristi, Kylie, Elle and Cordie, then Steven and finished with a big family dinner at Lisa's.  Besides all the family in town and Paige who arrived this week, Lisa also invited the missionaries and the Martin's.  We all brought favorites so it was too much great food which means we all ate too much.  The 12 children age 14 and under did the Nativity to end the evening.  Before dinner, we stopped to visit a family who asked us to stop by (this is my first trip out visiting in two weeks).  To our surprise and pleasure, Arnie presented us with one his painting in appreciation or our friendship.  It is the perfect painting for us as it fits into our color scheme and we love the colors and the memories of Minnesota that come with it.  Since it fits so well here we hate to take it to Arizona but think we will take it for the memories.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Record Snow

For the past week the news has been saying we might set a record for snow in the month of December.  Not much of a surprise to us as we look out the windows.  In the lower left of the picture you can see the arm of one of our chairs - the first snow came while we were gone.  Last night they made it official - this December has set a new record for December snow - 37.5 inches.  So much for global warming in Minnesota.  They also said this is a new record for any month of the year - and to think it all came about before the first day of winter.  Oh what we have to look forward to!


Sunday, December 19, 2010

For unto us a child is born

A Light unto the Gentiles by Greg Olsen
Bishop White asked Amanda to provide the Christmas program for today's Sacrament Meeting.  Amanda asked Eileen to write the script and then Amanda put together the entire production with all of the narrators and the individuals to perform the musical numbers.  The first musical number was Ezekiel playing a beautiful arrangement of Joy to the World.  I have never heard such a beautiful arrangement of Joy to the World.  It made me feel so good to hear him do it so beautifully.  Next Gunnar sang beautifully Samuel Tells of Baby Jesus.  Every musical number was preceded by narration of either scriptures or historical fact about the time of Jesus birth.  Next a quartet of Eileen, Amanda, Brett and Gunnar sang Oh Come, Oh Come Immanuel.  It was beautifully done and while Eileen wasn't sure she would be able to sing she was as beautiful as always.  There were 10 more musical numbers and then Eileen and Amanda were supposed to do a duet, but Eileen's voice would not allow it.   It was sad as many people were looking forward to hearing her.  One even commented she should have sung because even her worst is still better than the best of the rest of us. 

With so many in attendance today it was wonderful that the reason we are celebrating this time of year was so beautifully told in both word and music.  We need to share the great truth of Jesus Christ and today was one of those special times that had to touch the hearts of many.


All is Calm

Kristi gave us tickets for last nights performance of All is Calm for our Christmas present.  It was a beautiful way to start the Christmas holidays.  All is Calm is an uplifting musical drama about the surprising 1914 World War I Christmas Truce which began on Christmas Eve. A nine member male choir together with 3 narrators create a beautiful production they refer to as musical radio theater (I suppose because there are no sets).  Using the diary entries of soldiers and beautiful arrangements of Christmas favorites, All is Calm tells both sides of the story, as men who had been trying to kill each other in the fields of France, spontaneously put down their guns, walked across no-man's land, and sang together.

While the show was very beautiful I think it was even more poignant for us as we had just learned about this Christmas Truce when we toured the World War I Memorial and Museum this fall.  There are even pictures of German and English soldiers celebrating Christmas together during this one and only Christmas Truce.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Missing the Christmas Fun

Cenny in similar dress as tonight.
Being sick prior to Christmas is no fun.  So far I have missed all the Christmas Concerts we enjoy so much each year.  It is fun to see the grand-kids perform and get better each year.  Eileen only missed the High School concert and has told me about the others.  Then tonight Cenny's Achievement Day group came by Christmas caroling (they were also joined by other youth and adults from Church).  It was fun to have them come by and feel their love but it also reminded me even more I want to be out enjoying the lead up to Christmas and doing something for someone else.  I was told to have patience as it was going to take a long time to get over this illness, but it is not easy being shut up this time of year.  I have a new appreciation for the many who suffer much worse than my minor illness.  I can look forward to better days when so many can't.  We have to be grateful for the blessings which we do enjoy and endure those challenges that do come.

Monday, December 13, 2010

THE Trip Home!

This is just some of the paperwork we collected on the way home!

We got up at 4 AM Sunday to catch our rescheduled trip home.  I checked Delta to be sure both legs were flying before going to the airport.  Woke poor Steven up with less than 4 hours of sleep to take us.  We didn't eat anything as it was early and we figured we could eat in Detroit as we arrived about 7:30.  We checked the boards and found our gate to Rochester.  After a long walk we were told at the gate the flight was canceled and go to rebooking.  When we got there the line was very long.  An agent told us to rescan our boarding passes as new flights would probably be available.  I did that 4 times in the hour or so we stood in line.  The first three were the same canceled flight, the fourth scheduled us to leave the next day about 4PM to Chicago, Minneapolis, Rochester arriving after 10PM Monday.  At this point the agent announced if you didn't want to wait in line there were phones to use.  No one ahead of us took up his offer so I did.  All that accomplished was to put us on the direct flight to Rochester Monday morning.  I took it and we went to baggage claim to request our luggage before finding a hotel.  We were told it would take an hour to get our baggage.  I went up to ticketing to print out our boarding passes for Monday.  The kiosk suggested there were 4 flights to Minneapolis we could request so I did and each one rejected me.  So I called reservations again and asked to be put on a flight to Minneapolis and was told they could not get us to Rochester would we like to go to LaCrosse.  I asked for Mason City and we got booked for that flight.  I went back to baggage claim to tell them we needed our bags quickly so we could get on the flight.  I was told one was already on aboard a flight to Minneapolis and the other waiting for a Chicago flight.  I told them our new flight schedule and they said to wait for the bag as it would be up shortly.  After 1-1/2 hours waiting we needed to get in line for boarding passes as the kiosk would not give them to us.  The line was so long it did not look good.  The three Delta agents telling us to use the kiosks would not listen to anyone about them not working and the need to get ahead of people with later flights.  15 minutes before our flight was to leave one of these Delta agents asked if anyone need to move up to make their flight,  I said yes as our flight leaves in 15 minutes to which he said too bad it is too late.  (We later found out that flight did not leave for another hours so we could have made it if he had moved us to the front.)  We finally made it to an agent 2 hours later and of course missed any connections to Mason City.  I explained all that had happened and said my wife is sick to which Eileen protested (she is at the Doctor as I write this).  The agent tried to find a flight and finally picked up the phone and turned away from us.  The next thing I hear is the agent said she hung up on me.  Then she said maybe she will call back.  We waited for several minutes and then she said Oh here comes the supervisor.  He went to work on the terminal for some time and Eileen said I have to go sit down.  We had now been standing over 3 hours.  After at least 1/2 hour he came up with a plan to put us on standby to Minneapolis and then seats on a late flight to Rochester in case we didn't get the standby.  He then said if we make the standby we should then check to see if we could get the earlier flight to Rochester which had seats.  He left and the agent went to work printing out boarding passes and flight coupons.  She then said I will give you the same for both Rochester flights in case you make it.  At this point the flight was leaving in less then 30 minutes and we still had to go though security.  We took off for the gate which besides security required a train and a long walk.  We made it just as they were calling up standbys.  I gave the agent my standby and said the supervisor told me to tell you this is a misconnected ticket.  She gave me a frustrated look and said you are on my list of standbys.  She called a few more and I was't sure we would make it but we did.  We pushed away from the gate and the plane would not start.  An hour later the plane started with mechanics help.  Then it was deicing to which the pilot announced good news we are next in line but they had to go refill the trucks.  An hour later we were ready to go.  We are now very close to missing the connection to Rochester.  I asked the flight attendant if we could have a cart at the gate to which Eileen said she didn't need a cart.  When we arrived in Minneapolis there was hope we would make the connection then the pilot said our gate is occupied so we have to wait.  Then when we got to another gate the pilot said we now have to wait to have the jet way dug out.  We finally got off and I waived down a cart and asked if he could take us to our gate on the opposite side of the terminal.  We made it time and then the pilot said we have to wait for the baggage handler as there is only one available. Then he announced we had to wait for a vehicle to push us back because the weather had put many out of commission.  We made it to Rochester just as Amanda arrived to pick us up.  She took an hour (twice as long as usual due to road conditions).  Our luggage did not make it so we headed home at 40 MPH and Amanda made us dinner of delicious pumpkin pancakes.  This was our first food because we were always unable to get food due to all the time in lines and there was't any on the plane to buy.  We had a total of one beverage the entire day.  It was not a good day made worse by both of us being sick.  We are very grateful to be home and to have gotten treatment from our doctors.  Our luggage was found and was supposed to be delivered today but they called and said the transportation company will not deliver due to the road conditions - hopefully tomorrow.

Last night I decided to take a few minutes just to start on the snow.
Then this morning I had to finish but only enough to get to the car.



Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mt Vernon and foilded going home!

We got up early this morning to go to Mt Vernon to see Gideon and his Cub Scout Troop lay a wreath at George Washington's Tomb.  We then toured Mt Vernon and had the special treat of seeing the 3rd floor which is only open at special times.  We also enjoyed the educational center.  George Washington was a very special person and we can all be grateful to him for this great nation of ours. 


Gideon

Steven and his future transportation.  George Washington used to rent camels for guest entertainment so they have one on the property during the Christmas Holidays

There are gingerbread replicas of famous houses this time of the year and here is Mt Vernon
We packed last night so we could enjoy a little time at Mt Vernon before heading to the airport for home.  On the way to the airport Amanda called to say our flight was delayed about an hour out of DC and she didn't think we would be able to fly from Minneapolis to Rochester.  A few minutes later Delta called - our flight from Minneapolis to Rochester was canceled and we were booked out of DC at 6 AM Sunday to Detroit and then Rochester.  We were just pulling into the airport and Eileen said lets fly to Minneapolis and then have Amanda pick us up there.  I called Amanda and she said she didn't think she could get to Minneapolis as the road reports were no travel.  I checked us in for the new flight and went back to the car.  I called Amanda and she said right after I hung up the flight to Minneapolis was canceled so even if she could have gotten to Minneapolis we could not.  So back to the apartment and lunch with 9 of us belted into the car.  Then as I was moving our suitcases back into the bedroom, Abby was starring into the room and I said - I"m sorry we have taken over your room again.  She gave me a big smile and came over and gave me a big hug and said it's OK I like sleeping on the floor.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Another Fun Day in Washington DC

Today we went to the U.S. Botanic Garden to see their holiday display of scale model historic buildings on the National Mall and Capital Hill.  The models are created with dried plant materials. The U.S. Capital shown here is composed of the following:  Dome - sycamore leaves, willow, seagrass twine, wheat, winged euonymus, fern leaves, kangaroo pods, screw pods, acorns, acorn tops;  Statue of Freedom and other figures - shelf fungus, corn husks, reeds, beechnut seeds, acorns, acorn caps, pine cone scales, grapevine tendrils, chestnut bark, beechnuts;  Facade - horse-chestnuts, elm bark, pine cone scales;  Columns - willow branches, with tops (capitals) of dusty miller;  Steps - horse-chestnut bark;  Windows - pear pods, cinnamon sticks, pine cone scales, wheat;  Lamps - eucalyptus seedpods;  Railings - winged euonymus;  Architectural details - acorn caps, wheat, bamboo, raffia, basket cane.  It took over 600 hours to create the U.S. Capital. 
U.S. Capital with Christmas tree to be lit up tonight.


The Garden Court contained all the model U.S. building - a total of 11 amazing models.  The East Gallery contained 13 buildings and monuments from around the world all interconnected with numerous railroads.  Peter and Eliza had the most fun in this room watching all the trains.

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Monday, December 6, 2010

Abby is 7

Tammy the receptionist enjoying giving gifts
Abby loved her Disney Princess dress
Micah is so talented putting this cake together in a very short time.
Abby wanted an American Girl doll but she was just as excited to have this Madame Alexander doll.
Putting together Nativity scenes with stickers
The kids put on sheets to become an Angle Choir
The next best thing to camels.
Saturday was quite the day with so many things to do here in Virgina.  Besides preparing for a huge Christmas Program at Church starting at 8 AM with decorating and rehearsals, there was the need to prepare for Abby's birthday party and making a very specific cake requested by Abby and then a specific dinner again requested by Abby.  Mixed in, the receptionist in their apartment building wanted to throw Abby a party.  To the credit of the receptionist, she saw everyone coming and going and suggested they just come down for gifts.  When we arrived she had so many gifts for Abby it was like Christmas and not to leave the others out she had bought each of them a winter coat.  With all that going on there was still the birthday party and off to the Christmas program.  Abby was so excited about her day and appreciated her gift so much.  It was nice for us to enjoy the Christmas Program because ours at home was Saturday too.  It was also nice for us as Steven sang several group songs and then a solo.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The White House

Eileen, Congressman Tim Walz, Rick
On the mantle of the State Dinning Room fireplace in The White House
North Portico of The White House
Library of Congress

Library of Congress

Library of Congress

Library of Congress

Reading Room of the Library of Congress

Capital and Washington Monument




Amanda toured The White House on Friday after Thanksgiving and called to say we should have gotten tickets as it was great and when we would be here it would be decorated for Christmas.  I called our Congressman's office and was told you have to apply 6 months to 30 days before you come and the absolute least he had ever seen anyone get in was 15 days which we had already past.  I said thanks and hung up.  Then I thoughT why not try one more time.  I wrote an email to the same office explaining we were coming to visit our son and family who were being assigned to Kuwait with the State Department.  I immediately got an email back saying there was no way to get normal tickets but they would see if there was a way to get us on a Member tour.  She asked for specific on each of us for clearance purposes.  Then Wednesday we got a congratulations email saying we would be met at The White House at 7:45 AM Friday by Congressman Walz who would escort us through Security.  He arrived right on time and was very nice and thanked us for our son's service with the State Department.  We talked as we walked up to security and had our picture taken and he said he had to get back to the Capital for a meeting and wished us well.  We had a great time going through The White House as it is a self guided tour with Secret Service that answer all questions including was the President in to which he said yes as that was knowledge he was allowed to say.  Obviously the Presidents trip to Afghanistan was a complete secret.  After the tour we went to The White House Visitor Center.  Highly recommend you don't miss this as there is so much more to learn about the history of The White House.  After almost 3 hours we walked to the Library of Congress which is one amazing building with fantastic exhibits.  Another don't miss when it DC.  By then our 5:30 AM start was getting to us and it was time to head back to Virgina and enjoy the family who had all gotten shots and were really hurting.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Another Minnesota Election Recount

I know Minnesota made the national news again with our recounts for several offices especially for Governor.  This time Eileen and I help with the recount.  It was an interesting experience that started a few days before with an on line training session for about 90 minutes.  We were given many examples of ballot markings we were to challenge but when we got to the recount they instructed us if the intent was clear not to challenge the ballot even if they used an X instead of filling in the oval.  My personal preference would be to reject all ballots not filled in per the instructions on the ballot but everyone used the same basis for challenging the ballots and there were few challenges.  The biggest challenge was keeping the Election Judges calling the right vote or putting the ballot in the right candidates stack - we had to be on our toes.  I don't think there was any intent in the Election Judges mistakes, just too many ballots and monotony.  I was shocked by the number of DFL participants who seemed to think there was some Republican conspiracy.  "You know the ballot counting machines are made by Republicans so they tamper with the counts" is just one example.  I had to hold my tongue a few times and just laughed at others.  The DFL had the lead and this was a recount mandated by state law because of the closeness of the votes.  There was certainly no conspiracy!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christmas in the Cities

Back row: Gunnar, JT, Santa, Cenny  Front Row:  Qatar and Zeke
Last Tuesday we were going to go to the Cities with Lisa and David and the kids, but I was not up to it so we missed out on a fun day.  Lisa came home with two photos of the kids with Santa and asked me if I could combine the two into one decent photo.  She had them taken taken feeling this was probably the last time they would all be together (Gunnar will be off to college this time next year).  The photographer was obviously not concerned about the quality of the pictures he was taking as in one only one person was looking at the camera and the other was not much better.  So here is the photo I put together from the two.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Great Thanksgiving with Family and Friends

Thanksgiving Day began most beautifully ignoring the 9 degree temperature (that is -13 for our Celsius friends).  Then it decided we needed a little more.  Our neighbors guest must have come expecting something better or just can't give up his shorts yet.

Eric and Vanessa had our family along with friends and the Elders over for dinner.  Qatar is helping by keeping the dog out of the kitchen.



Of course before dinner we had to enjoy appetizers and discuss the Black Friday sales.
Looks like Black Friday took over before the final dishes were done.  Oh by the way, Eric and Vanessa served up a delicious turkey and everyone else added special treats to make for a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner.