Monday, August 22, 2016

Mallory's Graduation

I was SO lucky to be able to jet out to NYC to help Mallory celebrate her graduation from NYU.  I'm so so glad I was able to be there to show her how proud I am of her and see her graduate in Radio City Music Hall.  It was beyond surreal and I'm indescribably proud of her.  I arrived the day before her graduation and we spend a few hours shopping and eating delicious food, of course.  We made a quick stop at this little supermarket near her apartment.  She calls it the "Jesus Market" because it's always blasting Christian rock music and has this tasteful sign on the door.  I love it.
 The next morning Mom and Dad arrived and we met up for a delicious brunch at Vinyl and a quick visit to NYU campus before heading back to shower and change for the graduation.  It was so amazing to walk in to Radio City and find our seats in this gorgeous, historic theatre and wait for MY SISTER to walk in with the purple-clad graduates.  So cool.  

 The graduation ceremony was great.  Fun speakers and just the right length.  Then I got all teary watching Mallory strut her stuff across the stage.  I can't really express how proud I am of my little sister.  She's been through an awful lot in the last two years living in New York City and going to a very difficult and prestigious graduate school to earn a degree that will allow her to help people as a profession.  I'm just so proud of the woman she is and everything she has overcome.  It was a beautiful experience to be in the room when she graduated.  One I'll not soon forget.
 Dad, Mom, and I with the graduate!
 Radio City Music Hall.  Unreal!

We celebrated after graduation with the best Indian food ever at Bengal Tiger.  So many good choices were made there, as per usual.
 The next day we met up at Central Park and found some bikes to rent for a couple of hours.  It was blissful.  The few hills were a nice little workout and the rest was a gorgeous breeze in our hair in one of the most lovely settings.  There was much picture taking and some conjecturing over what might be happening behind some crime scene tape.  
It was my favorite activity.  It was so much fun to hang out together while getting a little exercise and seeing so much of the park.  I'd do it again in a second.
 After the park it was lunch at the Halal Food truck and then cake from Magnolia in Rockefeller Center.  
 Next was a brief jaunt downtown to check out our favorite shoe store, Shoegasm and a few other spots before rushing back uptown to make it to our show.  
Alfie Boe was starring in Finding Neverland and we had to see him.  It was SO fun to see this show again and the company was pretty great too.  Mom and Dad were even patient enough to wait after the show with us to see if we could get Alfie's autograph.  Alas, he snuck out another door.  He must not have known we were there.  He would never have left us hanging like that if he knew we were there. 
Our last morning we met up and went to the 9-11 memorial museum.  It was so wonderful.  They did a brilliant job of taking you back to where you were and reminding visitors what was happening at the time.  The individual stories tied in with survivors, victims in the towers, fire fighters and passengers that wove together to give an overall timeline and picture of the day and aftermath was really well-done.  So powerful and painful at the same time.  This was a piece of the steel from the exact spot on one of the towers where the airplane struck.  It was horrible to think about how much impact it carried with it to twist this enormous piece of steel like it was just a piece of ribbon.
 Every exhibit really was so beautiful.  This one might have been my favorite.  The remains of many victims are behind this wall and the artist created this mosaic by painting hundreds of times his memory of the color of blue the sky was on the morning of the attacks.
The museum was so beautiful.  There were hundreds of deeply personal glimpses into the lives of the victims with items found in the rubble afterward and somehow, miraculously, traced to individuals and returned to the victim's families sometimes months afterward.  A beautiful tribute to the lives lost and the heroes proved and national sense of pride and unity that resulted from the senseless violence. 
After the museum Mal and I ran to Shake Shack to grab some lunch which we ate at the memorial before rushing back uptown.  I had to pack and Mal had to run to her first job interview!  Which she ended up getting a couple of days later!  
It was a great weekend to explore NYC with Mom, Dad, and Mal and to celebrate Mal's amazing accomplishment.  Thank heavens for my sweet Glenn and dear friends who stepped in to help with the kiddos so I could skip town for a few days!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Doha, Qatar

At the end of April we decided to go to Qatar with our friends and neighbors.  They were kind enough to let us crash their weekend away and it was really fun to tag along with them and explore a really cool new place.  We drove the 5 hours to Doha and were VERY ready to arrive.  Road tripping with four kiddos is no joke.  We arrived late Thursday night and got dinner at the mall attached to our hotel then I put the ladies to bed while Glenn took the boys swimming to get out some energy.  The next morning we attended the group meetings and the girls were a MESS for an hour.  It was a VERY hard hour.  They were both so wiggly and loud and the boys couldn't sit still or be quiet either.  It was awful.  We got them loaded in the car and before we even pulled out of our parking spot they fell asleep.
 I was so ticked that I just had to take a picture.
 From there we drove to the Villagio mall.  Yep, it's basically copied after the Bellagio in Vegas.  It's supposed to look like Venice, all the facades of the shops dressed up like villas, bridges and even a canal with gondola rides.  It was hilarious.  We went to the mall hoping to hit up Shake Shack for lunch but when we arrived we found that they weren't going to open for another two hours.  Chels and I thought it might be a good time for the men to go to the golf store across town that they'd been wanting to scope out and she and I would wander the Villagio with the kids for a couple of hours.  We hoped that we'd be able to explore some stores and have a good time and maybe get some snacks for hungry kiddos and then the guys would be back in time to have lunch at Shake Shack right when they opened.  It seemed like a genius plan.  But what we didn't realize, until after they left, was that EVERYTHING in the mall was closed until 1pm.  It was Friday afternoon.  Nothing opened until after mid-day prayer.  So we wandered a completely closed down mall. Chelsie and I with 8 kids.  Having little races, pushing kids in strollers and shopping carts, dividing up snacks we had in our bags.  And finally finding one opened toy store to wander.  For two hours.  It felt long.  But the kids didn't seem to mind much at all.
 I found this great prayer puzzle in a toy store.  I kind of wish I had bought it, but I don't know what I would do with it, really.  So a picture will suffice.
 The guys got back just as Shake Shack was opening and the food and shakes were definitely worth the wait.  Seriously, SO good.
Our next stop after the mall was the Museum of Islamic Art.  It seemed like an appropriate Sabbath activity and it did not disappoint.  It would have been a bit of a different museum visit if it had been 4 adults instead of 4 adults and 8 kids, but we really enjoyed exploring together and our kids get along really well.  The building was so beautiful and the gift shop actually had a lot of really amazing finds too.  It's frustrating living in Saudi Arabia when I want to buy little souvenir type things from the region to bring home to friends and family and Saudi just doesn't do souvenirs because there are no tourists.  So it was really fun to find some cool little gifts in their shop.
Taryn was FASCINATED with the drop to the ground floor.  The fact that the "railing" was just a thick piece of glass made it especially enthralling.  It made me nervous but she couldn't get enough of squishing her little face against the glass and looking straight down.
 I was so impressed with the intricate detail on ALL of the work from the ancient Islamic culture.  Gorgeous, detailed carpets, carvings, jeweled inlays on anything you can imagine, mosaic tiles, so much beauty and art.  It was strange to think that the culture represented behind the glass is the ancestor of the culture I've come to associate with neglect and lack or pride in real quality work.

 I was so busy chasing our little ones that I didn't take many pictures, but Matt was kind enough to take this picture of our bunch outside after.
 We went non-stop that day and didn't even stop to change out of our dress clothes. We were very sweaty.  Very, very sweaty by the end of the day.  
Our next stop was a souq just across the street.  It was very unique.  We wandered down a couple of long streets that were lined with cages of almost any animal you could name.  Most everything you'd see in a pet store and then a few more.  Here are the boys petting bunnies.  

 Birds of every kind, turtles, cats, puppies, rodents

 It was very neat and very gross at the same time.  We explored the souq for a little longer, found a spot to stop for ice cream, and then let the kids play at a really cool park on our way out.  We were exhausted and sweaty but it was a really fun, busy day.
This is just a funny pedestrian sign that we saw where the pedestrian was wearing a thobe.  I thought that was so funny.
 The next morning we slept in, got some breakfast, and then hit the pool for a bit before it was time to drive home.
The drive was only 5 hours but across the flat, grey desert it seemed longer.  The occasional camel herd sighting broke up the monotony.  Or maybe it seemed extra long because the little ladies both decided to absolutely, inconsolably lose it for the last hour of the drive.  I was reminded, once again, that I do not care for long car rides.  I get all stir crazy, cabin fevery when I'm stuck in a car for hours.  I get the same way on airplanes but I have a few more hours in an airplane before I lose it.  All the kiddos were very done at the end of the 5 hours but it was still worth it.  It was a very fast but really fun and full weekend with wonderful friends.  And we checked off another country visited, which is always incredible!

Spring Time

We had a lot of fun last spring and I couldn't let it go without documenting at least a little of it.  Beginning with Tate's Harry Potter birthday party.  He invited 8 buddies so it was ten little kiddos with Tate and Finny.  It was a little nutso but we had a really sweet YW come over to help crowd control and I think everyone had a lot of fun.
We started with an intro to the story and then student ID photos.

Then we had a potions lesson and made pet slime.

That was probably not the smartest idea.  It was super messy.  But again, really fun.
Then we did a charms lesson with wands and keeping a balloon afloat.  One at a time of course so no one got wand-stabbed.  Then it was time for presents and pizza.

And a very "special" birthday cake.  Made by Hagrid.
It was really fun to celebrate with a bunch of Tate's friends.  He's a well-liked little kid and has made some great little buddies.  I hope he'll remember the fun we had on his birthday.
On Easter weekend we had a little bit of Easter on Friday Sabbath which always seems weird since it's still two days before Easter...but what do you do?  Here are our crazies in their Easter Sabbath best.
We had the Larsons over for an Easter egg hunt in the back yard on Saturday. The two eldest Larsons came over to help hide eggs and were very sweet refereeing the consumption of eggs and making sure everyone had about the same amount.

The little ladies wanted to play too but they didn't really understand what all the fuss was about.  Until one of the eggs broke open and they got some candy chewed and sucked out of the wrappers.  And then it was very very important that they open ALL of the eggs and shove everything in their mouths.
We love our neighbors.  We got very lucky in that department.

Just a typical "welcome home" when Glenn walks in the door.
And the first swimming date of the spring in new little baby suits.  The boys took lessons from a girl in our group twice a week so we spent a lot of evenings at the pool.  Both boys improved a lot under her instruction, working on getting recognizable strokes and kicks down and building some stamina.  I think they did really well.
Just a couple of pictures from a kite flying day during spring break.

One of our favorite moments with the little ladies this spring was watching them discover flowers.  They'd pull them off the plants and then bring them to us.  I tucked one behind Kenna's ear and you could see their faces light up with this new knowledge.  "Oooohh!  That's what those are for!"  Then they spent the next several minutes picking flowers and putting them on their own heads or their sister's or bring them to us so we'd do the same.  It was pure girly darlingness.

And speaking of darlingness, every time this little lady lays her head on her high chair tray and smiles at me like that my heart melts into a puddle.
Taryn's favorite thing this spring was pointing her teensy finger at everything and saying, "ooooooo" in a tiny little awed tone.  So sweet.
We don't do a lot of painting around here so one day when Finny had sometime to paint he got VERY excited and kept asking hesitantly, "can I touch it?  Can I maybe paint one of my hands?  Can I paint both of my hands?"  And it ended up like this.  He was in heaven.
Taryn and Kenna have had so much fun this year playing with Finn.  It's been fun to have him home for one more year now that the girls are old enough to actually be buddies with him.  They adore him  and the feeling is definitely mutual.  Sometimes he'll cry when they go down for naps and say, "No, please don't put them to bed I want to play with them!"  It's been really nice that this whole transition to the middle child in a big way hasn't been too rough on him.

Tate discovered a couple of book series this spring and spent a lot of time after school buried in a book.  It's so sweet.  He devoured the Jedi Academy series and used his piano practicing "money" to buy a series from a book order called "Battle Bugs".  He also read a really big book called Grandpa's Great Escape which he really enjoyed.  Sometimes we laughed at him and told him to go outside and play for a bit.  One time when we made him go play we looked out the window and saw this.  So we had to sneak a picture.
Tate's also gotten very good at building lego creations and following the directions all by himself.  It's been so cool to see him just get completely lost in a project and come out sometimes an hour later with a new creation he is so proud of.  This one was a birthday gift from a friend and he loves that it has all the pieces to transform into three venomous creatures.
We spent way more than our fair share of sick days this spring.  It seemed like Tate or Finn were sick almost every few weeks.  The girls got sick a time or two but not like our boys.  It was ridiculous!
We had one more escape this spring to check out the other water park in Bahrain called Lost Paradise.  It's outside and much bigger than Wahoo but also much more expensive.  It was really fun to do once but I'm not sure if it will be a spot we frequent right now.  This is the only picture I took of the day.  Little Taryn winding down for a mini snuggle nap.