Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas - Random Pictures

This Christmas certainly didn't turn out like I expected. It's been over a week now since things have been normal around here. The snow went from sort of fun, to almost crazy. It's Christmas morning and Bob is hobbling around on a sprained ankle (from falling on the ice) making his first attempt at tamales.

The weather really started getting bad on our anniversary, the 18th of December. It snowed hard and the roads were terrible. We had planned on going out to dinner because we have a 4 wheel drive truck that does well in the snow. Unfortunately, we can't say the same for others and once we gave up on a sit down restaurant, we found all of the fast food restaurants were closed too. We finally found KFC open and we brought that home for dinner. We ate while watching Wheel of Fortune. How romantic!

With all the snow what are boys going to do except play Halo? Jacki and Heather went out to do some Christmas shopping while I stayed home to work. Connor and Corey stayed at our house and Connor played with the guys. Terence was on line talking through the TV from his own house. While they were doing this, Corey only made it out of the doggy door and onto the deck twice to eat snow. Funny, the guys didn't take any pictures of that.

Yesterday Jason and I went to Bellevue Square to do some last minute shopping. When we got to the parking lot we noticed a whole lot of snow in the back of the truck. We built a snowman and dug through my purse for accessories. Our snowman stood guard while we were shopping.

Jason and Brooks have this crazy game called Pocket Shock it. It's kind of like a Russian Roulette game where the loser gets an electric shock through their hands. They are out of their minds if you ask me.

A kinder / gentler Connor hugging his GG bear, one of his favorite toys and a gift from his Great Grandma (hence the name GG).

With the snow on the roads, the big family Christmas Eve celebration turned into more of a birthday for Bob. The kids hung streamers and balloons and everyone wore a funny hat. No worries, we had a fire extinguisher handy when we lit the candles on the cake.

With all of the toys in the house, Corror opted for being pushed around in a crate by his Uncle Brooks. I love the picture of Brooks with his thug hat and the little pointy birthday hat on top of it.

Corey is waiting for his turn.

And Jacki is just Jacki...need I say more? And without a single drop of alcohol

So that brings us to now. It's about 10:00 am on Christmas morning and the snow just keeps falling down. Notice the sodas in the flower pot on the deck? Nice! There is about a foot of snow on the ground and we definitely have our White Christmas.

Friday, November 28, 2008

So Much to be Grateful For!! Thanksgiving 2008

This year for Thanksgiving, we decided to drive to Provo to see Jason, Heather and Brooks. We started out with a 14 hour drive. We rented a big 8 passenger Suburban which we managed to fill to the gills with food (including a 22 pound turkey in a bucket of brine), luggage, a high chair, several laptop computers 2 carseats with their occupants and 5 adults. Connor calls the Suburban Grandpa's bus. It was surprisingly not that crowded. Connor (barely 2 years old) and Corey (10 months old) were amazingly good considering they were strapped into carseats the whole way. We went through 2 Eloise movies, Finding Nemo and The Little Mermaid.

We arrived at Heather and Brooks' apartment just after 1:00 am. We dropped Jacki, Terence and the Boys off there. Brian went home to Jason's apartment and we went to the Courtyard.

The next morning we were back at Heather and Brooks' home by 9:00 am to get Bob's famous brined turkey into the oven.

Connor loves the stepstool in the kitchen which made him just high enough to see what was going on.

Corey enjoyed getting to know Heather while she fed him some oatmeal.

With so many people, you barely notice the kids climbing across the furniture.

Most of the men walked to the park for a while to throw a football around and let Connor play. They also went to pick up some borrowed tables and chairs which came in handy for dinner.

Matthew (Tijs) joined us for his first Thanksgiving since coming back from his mission in Tijuana. It was so nice to get to talk with him and learn about how he is doing. He bonded with both Corey and Connor.

Matthew not only played with the kids, but he did some potato mashing too. Thanks Tijs!

Of course there were cameras everywhere.

I thought we would keep things simple with 11 people in the apartment, but Heather had planned ahead with traditional Thanksgiving decorations. We had plenty of room for everyone.

The food was delicious and the company was great!

Brooks contemplates the meaning of life in the glow of the candlelight.

After dinner, there were bodies and blocks spread across the floor. Pie anyone?
I'm so glad we decided to make the trip to spend Thanksgiving with the kids. We have so much to be grateful for.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Celebrating 27 Years of Jacki!

Today is Jacki's 27th Birthday!! Jacki is one of the joys of my life. She sometimes tries to hide it under a tough exterior, but she is one of the most compassionate people I know. She is determined and strong willed but she uses that strength to serve others. Jacki lives the VanderHoeven Machine philosophy of not just talking about what would be fun or a good thing to do, she actually does it.

Jacki is an amazing wife and mom. If you ever want to get something done, Jacki is the right person to put in charge.

Have a fabulous 27th birthday Jacki!! WE LOVE YOU!!!

Mom and Dad

4th and 4th? Pickleball Points!

Ok, if I have the rules right I open my 4th folder and post the 4th picture and then I have to explain what the picture is. This photo was taken at Oma and Opa's house in October of 2001 and it looks like Adrian is doing a pretty good job of scoring pickleball points on Sarah and Laura. He does come dangerously close to touching his victims however, which would disqualify him.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hiring a Van and Driver - It's the Way to Go in Mexico

I had this post saved in my drafts, I just haven't had the time to finish it. Ok, it's been a long time since we took our trip to Mexico, but I thought I would share some pictures anyway.

Our flight home from Mexico was on Friday morning, October 31st at 6:00 am, so we spent the last night of our trip in Cancun. On Thursday, we had scheduled a van service to take us from the Barcelo, about 60 miles to the Hotel Zone. We decided that rather than break up 2 days, we would hire a van and driver on Thursday and then after our time was up we would have them take us to Cancun.

We found on the internet before our trip and decided to go with them. Tello, the owner of the company took us from the airport to the Barcelo and we enjoyed the service so much we decided to book the day trip with his company (which consists of Tello and his employee Raul). For $160 we had a huge van all to ourselves. Tello told us to book a car because he doesn't have any cars. That meant for the price of a car, we would have a van.

Raul, our driver, told us all about the local culture, food, and just about what it is like to live in Mexico. Our first stop was Coba (emphasis on the last syllable according to Tijs) where we were determined once again to climb the pyramid.

Coba is not just the tallest pyramid on the Yucatan Peninsula, it's a whole city of pyramids estimated to date back to about 500-900. It's way out from civilization and the area today has about 1,100 people living there. It may seem like it takes a long time to get there, but it's well worth the drive.

Once you get there the work is just beginning. There are ruins, including ball courts, right near the entrance, but you have to rent a bike and ride a couple of miles over dirt trails and roots to get to the big pyramid. It's definitely a jungle. There are various ruins along the way, in fact, so many that you tend to look right past them. A lot of the site is still unexcavated. It's 42 meters to the top of the big pyramid, so about 12 stories. The stones are uneven and the site is not OSHA approved. There is a single rope you can use to steady yourself but I don't think it would save your life if you tripped.

After touring Coba for a couple of hours we were ready for our next adventure. Pam told us about the cenotes in the area and that was what we wanted to do. Raul had asked some of the other drivers what we should do. He told us for $9 USD each we could see 3 cenotes and zip line into a sunken cenote. That was perfect.

We drove through a small village behind the Coba site and into the jungle. We stopped at the side of the road where there was a thatch hut. There were no other tourists anywhere to be seen. When we parked a small Mayan man went into the thatch hut and pulled out the zip line equipment. We hiked a little way into the jungle and strapped on our life lines.

We were not so sure it was safe and Jared decided he wasn't going to do it. He would walk down to the bottom of the cenote and take pictures. In the picture to the right you can see the Mayan zip line operator helping me in to my harness and Raul, our driver in the background. We were still a little leary so we asked Raul if he wanted to take Jared's turn. Once we saw Raul go, we figured we wanted to go too.

It was fun jumping off the side of the cliff and into the cenote but take a look at the picture below. The drop zone was a rigged wooden landing with an old mossy, moldy matress at the end. You can't see it but if you are short, like me, you also had to stand on 2 cinder blocks stacked on top of eachother to be high enough to unhook from the line. It was actually funny how primitive the ride was, but it was also a lot of fun.

After our zip line adventure we went to 2 more cenotes. The first one was a gorgeous cave with stalagtites and stalagmites, but it was not the best swimming hole. It was a little shallow.

The third cenote is the best swimming area. It was deep and cool and the water was the most beautiful blue color. Even though it was a lot of stairs to climb, it was amazing.

There was a bus load of dutch tourists there and some of them were jumping off of a platform way up high. I understand Tijs did that last time they were there. I wasn't that brave.

After all of our climbing that day we wanted to do something a bit more relaxing. Raul kept telling us about a turtle sanctuary on a beach not far from Tulum. It was late in the season but sea turtles lay their eggs on the Caribbean beaches and the facility is run by students who label and protect the turtles. He wanted to show us the baby sea turtles but there were none to see. The beach was one of the most beautiful I have ever seen though. There was one person, a student sitting on the beach. It was completely undeveloped except for the pens where the sea turtles were protected.

The day ended with a very long drive back to our hotel in Cancun. We bought food from a street vendor at a traffic light to end an incredibly fun day. At the hotel we had some really good authentic Mexican food. Yummy!!!! They have the best salsas in Mexico!

Let's go back!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Let's Go Around the Table

It's one week away from Thanksgiving and as I was walking my dogs the other day, I started thinking about the many blessings I have.

I actually had a hymn going around in my head (Sweet Hour of Prayer) and it reminded me of our amazing family. Thanksgiving was Mom's favorite holiday, she said so every year.

Let's face it, it's been a bad year for sports, politics, Dad's pain, and to top it all off, Vicky still hasn't been voted off of "The Biggest Loser" (what a creep!). But somehow, with all of that, I'm still incredibly happy and life is pretty darn good.

I was reminded of the huge Thanksgiving celebrations with our family. But instead of the celebration growing this year, with new additions to the family, we are going to be a bit more scattered than usual.

Don't get me wrong, I'm very excited to be packing up a rented SUV with 7 family members and driving down to Provo to spend the holiday with our kids, but at the same time I'll miss the celebration at Pam's house.

It goes something like this. We all spend a day or 2 preparing for a huge meal with Bob and Jack each making a turkey (and comparing whose is better), Judy making her yummy fruit salad with pomegranate seeds,

Pam making her cream puffs, and makes a steak or roast for Dad, and everyone else filling in with everything else. We are not a patient family, so there is no waiting for food. We have plenty of appetizers.

When we finally sit down to eat our meal, Dad talks about how wonderful it is that we are all together (he is right) and how blessed our family is. He asks Ady to offer a prayer and then the kids all say "Oh no, not turkey again" followed by Pam telling the kids that they can prepare their plates after the adults. When most everyone is done, we go around the table and tell something we are grateful for. That can take a while, since we are all so blessed.

So....I thought maybe this year we could use our blogs to "go around the table". I didn't want the season to go by without telling my family how much I love you all and how grateful I am for you and the influence you have had in my life and my kids. I'm so excited that you will all be part of my grandkids lives too.

I thought that in addition to the obvious (although it certainly bears repeating), I wanted to be more specific and go back to my thought at the dog park the other day. I was thinking, while singing to my self, about the Sunday afternoons we used to spend in Mom and Dad's living room singing hymns (sometimes badly) while Mom played the piano. I could do that for hours and I really miss it. Dad would be laying on the floor, sometimes tossing a ball or his socks in the air and catching it, but he would always be singing. I have to admit, bad voice or not, singing in the living room is one of my fondest memories.

How about you? What are you thankful for?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Limhi's Tour of Tulum

We tend to take a lot of vacations to sunny, warm destinations. If we need an excuse, we say it is because we need a dose of vitamin D, which comes from being in the sun. We just returned from a 6 day trip to the Mayan Riviera where we stayed at the Barcelo Maya Tropical Beach Resort. It was our second time there and several family members have been more than once too. The first time we were there, it was just after a hurricane had hit and done a lot of damage to the grounds. This time, the grounds were perfectly manicured with thousands of coconut trees and tropical plants. There wasn't a blade of grass out of place.

On the second day of our trip, we went to Tulum. It is about 25 miles from the hotel so we took a taxi. During the drive I took our brand new camera out and played with it. We even took pictures of the driver going 120km, which was a bit over the speed limit.

It wasn't until we had hired a guide and were on the tram that we realized that the camera had been left on the cab. To make a long story short, I tried hard to recover the camera but never did. UGH! Oh well, we had a fabulous time anyway and we had a second camera with us.

There are several brothers who conduct tours at Tulum and at other archeological sites on the Yucatan Peninsula. When you go to Tulum, there is a little thatch hut near some of the stores where you can ask for a guide. If you ask for an LDS guide, you will get one of those brothers. Last year Mosiah was our guide and there were several non-LDS people on our tour. This year we got a private tour with his brother Limhi. Limhi told us that his mother was a costodian in a church building when she was pregnant with him and he was literally, born in the church. There are 9 brothers and 3 sisters and among the brothers we know of Nephi, Lehi, Helaman, Lemual and Limhi. A very interesting family. Limhi's tour includes his own speculation to some extent, but his testimony is strong and he had some very intersting stories about his experiences. The picture above is us standing at what Limhi called the tree of life.

There are buidings where the sun comes through holes on certain dates including the equinox, solstice and in the case of the picture Bob is holding, on April 6th.

Limhi told us that buildings were painted and he showed us how certain flowers changed colors when they were burned, and that was how they made the paint.

There were several almond trees and Limhi showed us how hard it was to open and get to the nuts inside the shell. He told us that Helaman's Army was so strong from eating almonds. He suggested 7 almonds every 2 hours.

At the end of the tour he told us stories about President Hinckley, who he had met on 3 separate occasions. We had a great day in Tulum.

More on our trip later......