Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Letter 2010

I have to admit, as great as this year was, I am so glad to be done!! I think all of our little family looked at the end of this year as the time we could all finally be together for the foreseeable future. I feel a sense of accomplishment just making it to the end of the year! Right now we are in Arizona for two months before we ship off to Germany! (At least we think so... you can never tell with the military...) We are enjoying the warmer weather immensely! I went to the park with the kids the other day in a short-sleeved t-shirt!

Blake is glad to be home after spending the first half of the year in Iraq. He worked as a recruiter for a few months upon returning to Utah and then has been attending an intensive training course at Ft. Huachuca, AZ ever since. He has worked so hard this year in his career and we are so proud of him and all he does. He read a lot of history books while deployed and came back with a pretty impressive breadth of knowledge. Blake also had the opportunity to attend a few BYU football functions like Thursday's Hero, BYU Couples Night and a special Thursday's Heroes dinner. Being a huge Cougar fan, he loved every minute! Once he returned home for good, Blake and I were able to go to an event where we met Greg Mortensen and heard him speak. What an experience!! I don't think I have seen many people get a standing ovation before they even spoke a word. In case any of you missed it, here is the video of Blake coming home to Salt Lake City airport:

I have been keeping busy trying to keep my kids alive (much bigger job than one would expect), fixing up our home for renters, packing up the house for the move and some "just me" activities. Obviously the biggest event of the year was welcoming Blake home from Iraq. I am thrilled beyond words to have him back with us! You forget how stressed out you are until he comes home and the cloud you have lived under for a year has suddenly dissipated and you can see the sunshine again. It felt like a massive exhale. I had a piano recital this year in June and I recall being wedged in between the seven and ten-year-olds... at least that is how it felt in my mind. I definitely felt a sense of accomplishment when it was over. I also earned three of my karate belts this year, my yellow, orange and blue. It was VERY hard work and I was pretty sure I was going to die during the first test, but it was SO worth it! This was something I have wanted to get involved in since I was a child and really enjoyed learning so much. Other highlights include Blake sending me off to the Utah Shakespeare Festival (everyone should go!) by myself and going to the Orson Scott Card Writer's Workshop and listening to him speak for two whole days straight. Amazing!Logan is forever full of energy and curiosity. He wakes up at full speed ready to start the day. He started learning to read and I always marvel at how quickly kids progress when they put their mind to it. He loves learning about everything and generally going crazy. I often find myself watching him and thinking, "If I could harness your energy, I could take over the world!" (Not that there are any impending plans of world domination.... yet.)I am pretty sure he is the class clown at his school since every one of his classmates laugh whenever he approaches... like they are preparing themselves for the hilarity to come! He graduated from the Tiny Tiger program in our karate studio and I have really seen a lot of growth from when he started until now. We are very proud of him!

Chase is still our family teddy bear and loves to be silly and make people laugh. He has yet to learn his colors but he can identify at least 25 different dinosaurs and tell you the differences between them. Go figure. Speaking of dinosaurs... why talk about anything else in his presence?! Unless you are talking about trains... then it is ok. Chase was starting karate as we were leaving and loved calling himself "The Karate Kid" every time he put his uniform on. He is full of personality and always says the funniest things.Reagan is my giggler. She giggles all day long (when she isn't complaining about Logan, hahaha). She is a little smarty-pants and is already learning to read and doing basic geography. She loves princesses (I have no clue where she got that from) and dance. She had her first dance recital this year and she will pay rapt attention to the dance instructional DVDs we got her last Christmas. Right before we moved she was able to earn her purple belt in the Tiny Tigers program in karate, which was her goal when we started. She is so funny to watch when she is sword-fighting or flag-sparring because she is so busy laughing that she can hardly do anything. Reagan is a little spitfire and we adore her!

As this year comes to a close we fully recognize that we could not have gotten through these past two years without the support of our dear family, our amazing friends and incredible neighbors. You are such a blessing to us. It is hard for me to feel like I have taken more then I have given these last few years and I have learned a lot about letting go. You all have sent Blake messages (and packages) of support, put 30 American flags in out yard to welcome him home, helped me with my home/computer repairs, watched my kids, fed us, helped clean my house, gave a listening ear when I thought I couldn't do it anymore, and, quite honestly, kept me sane. All of you will be sorely missed and will always be an intricate part of our lives no matter where life takes us. We hope that this season finds you well and surrounded by those you care about. We love you all and wish you all the best!

Blake, Diane, Logan, Chase, and Reagan

Saturday, March 27, 2010

You're The Best! (ok, 3rd... but STILL!!!)

Today Logan participated in his first karate tournament. I had signed him up to compete in padded swords and flag sparring. He was out the first round in padded swords since he kept going for the kid's legs, lol. He has always loved flag sparring and did well. He placed third out of 20-25 kids. He was really motivated after seeing other kids getting trophies in the padded sword division and him getting just a medal. He kept telling me "Mommy, I want to win a trophy." "I really want a trophy." I told him that he could try to win one by taking all the other kids' flags and boy did he set himself to the task!! He did have a mini meltdown when he lost to the last kid, because he thought he didn't get a trophy. Crazy kid! He didn't care at all about getting taken out the first round of padded swords! (We had to address grace in defeat after the tournament, lol.) Ultimately, he was elated to have won a trophy and is very proud of the fact that he did it himself. This was Logan's first sport event/game that he has ever participated in and I am happy that he feels a measure of success.

As to the video... I have had this song running through my head all week as we were preparing for the tournament and I really couldn't help myself. It is a home movie, so it isn't really great quality. I saw parents out there with tripod set-ups! I kid you not!!! (When you see how packed these tournaments are and how there is no room to even walk, it seems ridiculous.) Making this was a hoot!! Here I pay homage to The Karate Kid with my own karate kid:

Friday, March 19, 2010

Thursday's Hero

Blake was honored on Thursday, March 18th for his military service (specifically, his deployment to Iraq). The history behind this was that a few weeks ago my brother Matt emailed Tom Holmoe. He is the Director of Athletics at BYU and told him about how Blake is a huge BYU fan and will be home for two weeks around the same time that spring football starts. Matt asked Tom if it was possible that Blake could watch a little of spring football since he had missed the 2009 season. It was just kind of a shot in the dark. Matt was surprised when Tom emailed him back that day saying they would definitely let Blake come. Matt called me very excited and so it began. We tried to keep it from Blake, but he was onto us about a week into coming home.

The day came and Blake's uncle Rusty was able to come with us. Patrick Hickman, a recruiter for BYU football, showed us around the football offices and we got to see Bronco Mendenhall's office and all the other staff (like Brandon Doman!). I was VERY impressed with their new facilities and their film rooms and team meeting rooms. They surround their staff and players with awesome resources. They showed us a highlight reel from their 2009 season. The good parts version... everything you want to remember, lol! We got to see the locker rooms, which are the nicest locker rooms I've ever seen. (Blake had me take a picture of Harvey Unga's locker. Hahaha...)

After the tour we were led outside to see the team practice. It was awesome to see the team running drills and playing a little scrimmage. Incredible really, to see all those players you usually only get to see from far up in the stands. We found out while talking to Patrick that he was from Stockton (small world!) and that he remembers well Atwater High and Beyer High's football teams.
After practice was over, the team huddled together and Blake was led over to them and he was introduced to them by BRONCO MENDENHALL!!! The following are Blake's memories of what happened afterward and then I will put in my memories.

Blake: Well, Vic So'oto and Matt Putnam (team captains I'm guessing) spoke for the team. They were incredibly nice and mature young men, and were both two of the biggest, tallest guys on the entire team. They both thanked me for my service and were all very appreciative of the military and what they do. Vic handed me a bag full of BYU gear, hats and shirts and other stuff. And Matt Putnam asked me to sign their team flag that they will have up for the 2010 season. They said that those they have sign the flag commit to live the honor code and conduct themselves as representatives of BYU. These players were very nice guys, knew about our family and that I was heading back to Iraq in a few days. I thanked them all for the experience, and was really humbled by the whole situation. It was all kind of a blur and quite a surprise. I had no idea I would be presented to the whole team and coaching staff, I had a great feeling of being undeserving of all of it. Oh yeah, I then got to lead the team in a 1,2,3 Go Cougars...and then all the players and coaches came by and shook my hand and said thank you. Chad Lewis (former Cougar great and Philadelphia Eagles All-Pro) was also there and came by and said hi.

The coaches were all there and came by and talked with us and were very nice. Bronco came by and said I needed a hat, so he gave me his (it was new and clean). I talked with Jake Heaps for a while (star Freshman recruit considered the #1 quarterback recruit in the country this year), who just wanted to stop by and thank me for my service. The entire team signed a BYU flag for me and everyone was nice enough to stop for some pictures.

It was a very humbling experience for me to be in that position, but as a fan it was so freakin' awesome!!! It was all very classy and generous of the team and everyone involved. Just have to give a huge thanks to Matt Bartholomew for his passionate and heartfelt email to Tom Holmoe or none of this would have happened.

Back to Diane: Vic So'oto first awarded Blake some BYU gear. His words were very kind. He said something to the effect that they were honoring the work Blake was doing in Iraq and know that whatever they are doing and how hard they are working, they know that the work the Army does in Iraq is much harder. He mentioned a few specifics that I was surprised that he knew (like his going back on Monday, and where he is serving in Iraq). Matt Putnam then had Blake sign the team flag and then gave him a team flag of his own that the whole team was going to sign. I was very impressed with the team and staff. Bronco stayed and talked with me for a while while Blake was shaking hands with the team. He even asked me where my twins were. Many of the staff, like Brandon Doman (we talked about 5-year-old boys, he has two, and holes in the walls, lol), and the players talked to Logan and I. So'oto gave his wrist bands to Logan and he put them on right away and was so proud. Many players stopped and chatted with us for a bit. It was obvious that the team takes an effort to know who their visitors are and make them feel important. It worked! Blake (and the rest of us) walked away from the whole experience a little choked up and very humbled. Besides a HUGE thanks to my brother, Matt, big thanks to Tom Holmoe, Pat Hickman and Duane Busby for setting everything up and taking such pains for us and thanks to Rusty for taking some great pictures!!! It was an amazing day and not one soon forgotton!!