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It is no secret that winters in England are long and dreary.  Last year seemed particularly long so we decided to try to break this winter up with a sunny holiday over the New Year.  Our travel friends, the Ashton’s, had the same thought so we narrowed down some possibilities of warm destinations and settled on Crete, a small island of Greece.

As the trip came closer, the weather reports weren’t very promising, but we kept our fingers crossed.  It was no use; our “sunny” holiday was destined to be a ‘wash-out’, but you can’t win ‘em all so we made the best of it.

We decided to plan our days according to the weather, so site-seeing was saved for those days that looked less menacing.  Looking at the sites in the surrounding area, we decided we really needed three days out.

Outing 1:  Knossos

Knossos, which was over an hour and a half drive from the villa, is considered the oldest European city.  It was the capital of Minoan Crete.  According to Greek mythology, the palace at Knossos was commissioned by King Minos and designed by the architect Dedalos.  Both these men have their own stories in Greek mythology.

cami knossos

Cami Braving the Rain

After Dedalos designed the labyrinth palace, King Minos imprisoned him so he wouldn’t give away the palace’s secrets.  But, Dedalos was a great inventor so he built two sets of wings for he and his son (Ikaros) to fly off the island.  Dedalos warned his son not to fly too close to the sun because the wax on the wings would melt.  Dedalos didn’t listen and fell to his death in the sea.

boys

Caleb & Dallin

The Palace of Knossos is also associated with the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur.  According to legend, King Minos required 7 young men and 7 young women to be delivered to him every 9 years.  They became the sacrifices of the people to the Minotaur who lived in the Labyrinth.  This continued until Theseus killed the Minotaur and made his way back out of the Labyrinth, using a ball of yarn one of the young women had given him.

ruins in the rain

Theseus was so excited to sail back home to his father, Aegean, that he forgot to change the color of the sails (which was the pre-arranged signal of whether Theseus had survived or died).  When Aegean saw the black sails, instead of the white, he assumed Theseus had died, so threw himself into the sea.  This is why the sea is named the Aegean Sea.

Kids at Knossos

“Clustering” Children

However many of the legends are true to this area, the ruins and restorations still being done, are awe-inspiring.

storage jugs

HUGE Clay Storage Pots

columns

“Upside Down” Columns

Arthur Evans, a British Archaeologist, is the one who bought the site and began excavating it in 1900 before beginning the restoration. 

sir arthur evans

Sir Arthur Evans

The on-and-off again rain didn’t damper the kids’ spirits.  Even though the younger kids weren’t too enthralled with the ruins and other artifacts, they were quite interested in the roaming peacocks, the big rain puddles, and finding ‘crystal rocks.’

crystals

“Crystal Rocks”

We also couldn’t leave Knossos without adding another picture to Caleb’s “Handstands Around the World” book.

handstand

Caleb’s Cretan Handstand

We began to discover on this first outing just how difficult it would be to find places to eat in the non-tourist season.  Many restaurants close down during the winter and you can’t depend on TripAdvisor to lead you to a good one. Chances are, by the time you get there, you will discover it’s closed.

We did find a great review in the nearby city and called ahead to make sure they were open and could take our party of 11.  We had an interesting time trying to weave our cars through narrow streets and then find parking, but we finally arrived at the waterfront, just in time for some blue skies

traveling kids waterfront

“Stephash” Buddies

We did enjoy the restaurant and the personal experience we had.  The Greeks love their food and the experience.  We were also pleasantly surprised to be given free dessert of fruit and then native baklava.

hole in the wall eats

The Best Restaurants are “Holes in the Wall”

Outing 2:  Chania

Chania was touted as a quaint town with a lighthouse so we thought it sounded like a great outing.  Surely, it would have lived up to its ‘quaint’ description in drier and warmer weather.  We began finding ourselves consistently say, “This would be really neat in the summer.”

google maps

What did we do before SmartPhones?

We arrived in town as soon as the rain hit.  We wandered around some cute alleyways, trying to navigate to the town centre.

back alleys

Back Alleyways

The alleyway walks were fun, as we tried to keep the younger kids from jumping in puddles or getting too wet.  In the end, we realized there was no hope for it, so we did a few ‘puddle jumping’ shots in front of Chania’s most recognizable landmark, the Church of the Trimartyri.

jumping in puddles

Puddle Jumping in Chania’s Square

Wet and cold, we wandered around to find a place for lunch.  As many restaurants, the Green Eye, had primarily outdoor seating.  The food and menu were amazing, but we will probably remember our experience of sitting under the heat lamps and trying to avoid the torrential downpour, more than the food.

Sadly, the weather didn’t improve any after lunch.  We decided to try to go out to tour the lighthouse on our way to the car, but walking along the harbour, we quickly realized that was not going to happen.

waterfront walk

Storm in the Harbour

Our tour of the lighthouse and the fort opposite were definitely ones to be done from afar.

lighthouse

 Braving the Elements

 

Outing 3:  Arkadi Monastery/Driving Tour

The owner of the villa we were staying in, had told us about a great driving tour around parts of the island, but with all the rain, we knew the roads wouldn’t be the best for that drive.  So, on our last outing, we did a shortened part of the driving tour, starting with the Arkadi Monastery.

monastery

Holy Monastery of Arkadi

The Arkadi Monastery is considered a national symbol in Greek history.  In 1866, there was a Cretan Revolt as the Greeks tried to fight off the Turks.  During that time, 943 Greeks (mostly women and children), sought refuge in the monastery.  As the Turks attacked the monastery, those hiding inside the magazine room were instructed to light a fire.  This caused an explosion that killed all the Greeks inside, as well as those Turks who were invading.  It is claimed to be a self-sacrificing act that caught the attention of the world.  A bullet from this 1866 revolt is still visible in one of the trees inside the fortress.

winter bare
Winter Months at the Monastery

girls monastery

Trying to Stay Warm

The highlight of the monastery for the kids was the many cats they befriended.  They named each of them and could tell you about their temperament.  It will be funny if the cats are what sticks out the most for the kids about this trip.

cats

Monastery Cats with Hannah

The shortened drive we took after the monastery wasn’t as windy as the full drive would have been, but we still had some kids feel a little ill.  As we drove over the mountain, there was a different feel to it – we actually saw a little bit of blue skies!

other side of the mountain

The “Other” Side of the Mountain

We had hoped to use the other side of the mountain as our lunch stop, but, true to the rest of the island, it was really hard to find anything open.  This side must be more of the touristy side, as it literally was a ghost town.  The kids wanted to get out of the car for awhile and try to skip stones even though it was super windy and cold.

 

skipping rocks

Skipping Stones

Villa-Bound

Even though the weather was less than ideal, we were really grateful to be with friends.  We had a great week, playing things by ear, and just hanging out.

villa doors

Our Villa

The kids were not deterred from enjoying all the amenities of the villa.  Any moment of sun or letting up of the rain, and they wanted to be in the villa’s pool.  The water was heated to an extent, so they were constantly checking it to see if it was suitable.

cold swim

Pool in the Villa

chattering teeth

Teeth-Chattering Cold

At other times, as we hung out in the villa, we had plenty of games, a puzzle we whipped out in 1 day (!), and plenty of movies to entertain us.

puzzle

1,000 Piece Puzzle + 11 People = 1 Day to Complete

One evening, the adults even went out into the little village to get a sense of where we were staying.  We were able to see the bells that woke us up our first morning there (as it was Sunday) and rang in the New Year as well.  Being right next door, it felt like they were just above our bedroom windows.

village bell

Village Church Bells

We continued to follow the path up the village slopes, and came to a pedestrian gate.

uphill path

Pedestrian Path

We had a great view of the little village set into the hill, with the sea just beyond.  It was amazing to see how little one village can be to house 300 people.

village view

Panoramic Village

This definitely wasn’t the holiday that we had planned, but we still got to see Crete and spend some down-time with friends.  Sometimes you just need something out of the ‘norm’ to be a success.

Christmas in London 2015

After having a delayed Thanksgiving, we always feel like we’re in a rush to get our Christmas things up so we can maximize the entirety of December to feel festive.  This year we started from the outside and worked our way in.

The kids’ school often has craft days.  I usually make note of them and find something better to do with my time.  However, when I saw one of the upcoming crafts was making a real Christmas wreath, I made note, and made sure I was one of the first to respond!  This was definitely something I could use!  The process was a bit slow, starting with one wire wreath form, creating the shape with moss, and then building on top with the branches.  Then it was time to decorate it all!  Wow!  I definitely have more of an appreciation for the time and effort it takes to make just one of these.

Becca's Wreath

The Finished Product

I couldn’t wait to come home and hang it on my door – my first ever Christmas wreath.  It will be a sad day when it starts to fall apart and it needs to come down.

wreathed door

Looking Festive

We ended up putting our Christmas tree up on the same day we celebrated Hannah’s birthday.  We were happy to do it another day, but Hannah used her ‘executive birthday powers’ and decreed that was what she wanted to do with her day.  So, we happily obliged.

building tree

Building the Tree

One of my favorite parts of getting all the Christmas boxes out are sorting through the ornaments.  Each holds a special memory – either for the person who gave it or from the country we visited when we bought it.  I also love that between a couple aunts’ giving each child an ornament each year, the kids will each have quite a collection of their own ornaments to take with them when they leave home . . . carrying those fond memories with them wherever they are.

ornaments

Sorting the Ornaments

I love that as years go by, putting up the Christmas tree becomes faster as the kids are more involved and know the ‘routine.’  If only we could ever get to that point when taking down the tree and other decorations!

decorations

All Decked Out

The rest of December was full of more Christmas preparations.  I have officially decided that I will always feel like I’m rushing around for Christmas gifts, trying to beat international shipping dates, or feeling pressured to get our Christmas cards/letters out no matter what date it is in December.  To avoid those feelings, I am convinced I need to be done BEFORE Thanksgiving!  Someday . . .   What would it be like to have a relaxing December?

I’m not sure if the increase in ‘mom taxi’ miles in December is very relaxing, as Christmas displays and performances were prepared for.  However, it was very fun to be able to watch the gym’s Christmas Display and see Caleb’s team in action.  This was the first year that their performance time only entailed dancing and tumbling – no apparatus (rings, high bar, etc.).  Aside from the Disney themed Tarzan costumes for the opening number, the boys had a great time in their hip-hop dance (even though they performed it 10 times over one week’s time), decked in black sweats and hoodies.  Having a young, ‘hip’ coach has been really fun for these guys . . . and it’s always a crowd-pleaser as well.

caleb's gym diplay

Boys’ Squad in Opening Number

Cami had her turn in the spotlight as her ballet company performed for a Russian group at an all-day event.  They broke their performances into two blocks throughout the day, so we attended the first block.  The girls did a great job and, having done these dances for years, they are quite polished and can help out the younger girls as they come into the group.  The only drawback in these performances is that the announcing and other events are done solely in Russian.  But, Cami enjoys the dancing and that’s what it’s all about anyway.

Cami's Dance

Cami

Back on the home front, we still had our traditional gingerbread house to decorate.  The concept of building one gingerbread house as a family sounds quite ideal, but by the time we get done, we wonder why we tried to do it in the first place.  “Someone” always wants the icing when “someone else” has it.  The candy “someone” wanted to use is now gone because “someone else” used too much of it.

gingerbread house

Perhaps next year we should all do our own (if we can find graham crackers in the UK).  But, in the moments that everyone was happy and had what they wanted, we had a great time.

many hands

Many Hands Make Light Work

It did take a friend to get us out of the house and try something new this holiday season – a true British tradition:  attending a carol sing-a-long.  We attended one in the Royal Albert Hall with Anton Du Beke and Erin Boag, ballroom dance stars (also known for their show ‘Strictly Come Dancing’).

royal albert hall

Outside Royal Albert Hall

The dancing and music were a lot of fun, but the carol sing-a-long was pretty amazing to me.  Christmas is still a very respected holiday here in Great Britain.  As any carol that spoke of Christ was announced, everyone automatically stood up to sing it.  I was amazed, and frankly, brought to tears on a number of songs.  There is nothing like an auditorium (with amazing acoustics) filled with people singing about Christ’s birth.  Truly memorable!

inside royal albert

Final Number of Sing-a-long

After our sing-a-long concert concluded, we walked down the street to eat dinner in a Lebanese restaurant, before heading back up the same street to the chapel for a special Family Home Evening in the Visitor’s Centre.  Sometimes it is pretty surreal to live where we do.

family nativity

Stephenson Family Nativity

Our amazing missionaries shared their talents telling stories, dressing us in costumes, woodwork, dancing, music, baking, etc. for a great evening.

christmas eve game

Risk

Our Christmas Eve was pretty quiet and is definitely one of my favorite days of the year.  As our big Christmas Eve meal was prepping, we had time to play Risk for the first time as a family.  Emma and Caleb pretty much obliterated all of us, but now we know how to play and will do better next time.

christmas dinner

Our traditional English dinner of roast beef, roasted potatoes, and Yorkshire pudding was delicious!  No, we didn’t have brussel sprouts, but enjoyed asparagus (which most of us eat) instead.

christmas pjs

Christmas Eve PJ’s

Christmas Eve isn’t complete without the telling and acting out of the Nativity story, opening up new pajamas, and watching a Christmas movie together.  Cami, our die-hard Santa believer, had to check on NORAD to see where Santa was before we went to bed.

tracking santa

Checking on Santa

santa's goodies

Treats for Santa and the Reindeer

With older kids, we enjoy a little bit of a lie-in on Christmas morning.  We all decided 8:00 a.m. was a good time to get up and start our day.  Thank goodness those 4:00 a.m. wake-up calls are behind us!

morning tree

Tree on Christmas Morning

I’m still not very good about taking pictures during our gift-opening as I’m just relishing it all.  But, I made sure to get a shot of the ‘before’ scene, with everyone’s stockings spread over the room, surrounded by their wrapped stocking gifts and one unwrapped gift from Santa.

christmas morning scene

Living Room Scene

As the kids get older I’m sure Santa has a hard time knowing what they want, even with their notes they write him.  But, overall, they were all pleased and surprised with their gifts.  Emma got a small Polaroid camera; Caleb got Beats headphones; Hannah got a new soccer ball, goals, and ball pump; and Cami got a Boogie Board.

camis reaction

Surprised and Happy

As it was our first Christmas with Keira, we were a little unsure with how she’d do.  She did okay with having the tree out, as long as ornaments were above her line of sight.  We didn’t put any gifts under the tree until Christmas Eve, just in case.  Overall, she did really well.  She was a little questioning of the gifts on her bed, but was excited for new toys.  The only Christmas mishap we had was when Keira found Caleb’s Beats case on Caleb’s desk.  That was quickly chewed up, but it could have been worse . . . and Caleb quickly replaced the case with some of his Christmas money.

keiras gifts

Keira’s 1st Christmas

It was a great Christmas in London.  We are always conscious of not having family around during these holidays, but we are very grateful for each of them.  We are also very grateful to get to spend Christmas as a family.  We realize the years of having ‘just us’ is coming to a close in a few years.  Kids will be going on missions and starting on their own life adventures.  We hope our home will always be full of our children, their families, and happy memories as each Christmas comes.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Card

Seasons greetings and happy holidays from the Stephenson family. This month we celebrate our fifth anniversary in London and continue to enjoy this wonderful city, as well as its accessibility to the rest of the world.  During 2014 we returned to the United States to see family, hiked the Great Wall in China, camped in a ger (tent) in rural Mongolia, relaxed on a beach in Portugal, and retraced Dracula’s footsteps in Transylvania (Romania).  If that wasn’t enough, we also took advantage of the cultural events in London, including musicals, plays, sports, and concerts.  Above all, we were delighted to have friends and family visit!

cami card

Cami turned eight in April and was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  She started school in January and enjoys the extra curricular activities, such as cooking club and piano.  She continues to dance and won first place in the school talent show.

hannah card

Hannah just turned 12 and advanced into the Young Women organization at church.  She loves school, and like Cami, all of the extra activities.  This year she played soccer, basketball, and track.

caleb card

Caleb started school in September and ended Becca’s 16 years of homeschooling.  He’s constantly training as a competitive gymnast, including the week he spent in Pennsylvania at gym camp.  Chris, Becca, and Caleb toured Greece together to celebrate his 13th birthday and enjoyed the sites of Athens, as well as hiking Mount Olympus.

emma card

Emma turned 16 this year.  In addition to regular classes, voice lessons, and guitar, she participated in a field trip to France and Belgium, an EFY youth camp, and a solo trip to see Grandpa and Grandma in California – where she received her driver’s permit.  Now we just need to find a time to practice on the right side of the road.

keira card

This year we succumbed to relentless kid pressure and “finally” have a dog.  Keira is a poogle (cross between poodle and beagle) and we love her.  Becca and Keira have become close through long walks and time alone at home.  Becca has also had various callings in the Relief Society at church and currently is the primary chorister.  She joined her parents for a short trip to Paris during their visit this year.

chris becca card

Chris continues to travel through Europe for real estate development work and serve in the stake presidency at church.  Becca planned a wonderful surprise party to celebrate his 40th birthday this year. It’s amazing how quickly time marches on.

Catch-ups are Due

Somehow life has continued to move forward without slowing down to catch up.  Posts on the following are up and coming, ASAP:

  • 1st Annual Nevin Reunion
  • Stephenson Reunion
  • Mongolia
  • Beijing
  • Tour of Big Ben
  • Kids “Month” in the West End
  • Family Pictures
  • 1st Day of School
  • Chris’s 40th Surprise Party
  • Romania
  • Emma Turns 16
  • Halloween
  • Thanksgiving
  • Gymnastics Competitions
  • School Plays
  • School Sports

 

I got to go to IGC (International Gymnastics Camp) again this year.  It was as awesome as it was last year and almost nothing had changed.

Dad and I left on the Saturday before camp started.  We flew into New Jersey and drove to visit my former coach and see his new gym, but we only got to see his wife.  We drove over to Aunt Wendy’s house in Pennsylvania to stay for a night before we drove to camp.  It was really good to see Aunt Wendy and Uncle Dave again.

With (Great-)Uncle Dave & (Great-)Aunt Wendy

On Sunday morning, we said goodbye and left for camp.  Their house is really close to camp, so it didn’t take very long.  As soon as we drove in, I felt so happy to be back, but I also felt a tiny bit nervous.

Arriving at Camp with Dad

I got checked in and went to my cabin that I was going to be staying in for the week.  I was put into cabin 11, the oldest boys’ cabin.  So I had age 14 and up cabin-mates.  It was really cool because both of my counselors were Australian.  After I got settled in, I played cards with one of my counselors and cabin-mates.

Cabin-mates / Counselors / Celebrities

On check-in day, we always have cabin cheers and the theme of camp for my week was ‘Space Week.’  Our cabin cheer was singing “Here Come the Men in Black” and then one of my couselors shot a screaming monkey toy into the air.  It  was a really funny cabin cheer.

Men in Black

Cabin Cheer

Celebrating

After that, we went to screening which is how we get put into groups.  We only get tested on High Bar, Floor, and Pommel.  I got 10 on Pommel and on floor I was remembered  so I didn’t have to do anything to get a 9+, but on high bar I only got an 8+.  I still made it into the 1st training group and enjoyed training with the boys.

Pommel

Getting Instruction from John Orozco

When we were warming up before we started the screening, one of the coaches (Mischa) came over to me and I recognized him from when we used to train together in New Jersey.  It was really cool to see him again after we moved 4 1/2 years ago.

Get-to-know-you Activity

The whole week, I really wanted to work on my ‘under sumi’s’, but on Wednesday, my back gave out so the only thing I could do from Wednesday to Friday was pommel.  It was really disappointing, but next year, my back will hopefully be better.

Chilling with My Training Group

Overseeing Training

Since I was having problems with my back, I knew I wouldn’t get the ‘Most Dedicated Gymnast’ award for my group this year like I did last year.  So I was really surprised when they called my name for the award.  I think it must be because I went to the gym during every recreation period and did conditioning.  Each day I took one of the other boys with me, but no one wanted to condition with me every day.

Most Dedicated Gymnast

The celebrities that week were Oksana Chusovitina, Svetlana Boguinskaia, Paul Ruggeri, Josh Dixon, John Orozco, and Jana Bieger.  It was s0 cool to meet them and take  some pictures with them.

Oksana competes for Uzbekastan and her son was in my cabin which was a really cool experience.

My Cabin-mates

I can’t wait to go again next year.  I hope I have a lot of new skills to work on by then.  I also really want to see all the coaches again.  IGC is always fun.

We started the school year with two girls going to school – a high schooler and a middle schooler.  We ended the year with three girls in school – one in high school,  one in middle school, and one in lower school.

“Before and After” – First Day/Last Day

Next year brings even more changes as all four kids will be in school!  Can’t wait to see the fun they’ll all have!

In January, I started going to the international school that my sisters were going to.  I was really excited and loved my new teacher, Ms. Babb.

Me & Ms. Babb

I made lots of new friends.

Shonali, Me, Sofia, & Eliza

One of our fun activities for the school year was a Family Fun Day.  We were able to go to the school and do lots of outdoor carnival things.

Me on the Climbing Wall

Me on the Trampoline

One of my favorite classes was art with Ms. Kiratz.

Showing Off My Chalk Drawing

I was excited to bring all my art projects home at the end of the year to show my family.

My Art Portfolio

We also went on some fun field trips.  We went to Central London, a Victorian School, to Black Park, and the Natural History Museum.

Ms. Harrison Giving Us the Rules for Black Park

Hanging Out with My Friends

The UFO Swing

Building a Troll House

Tree Forts

Me, Saffa, & Hannah

For our end-of-school party, we had a scavenger hunt to find clues for us to figure out what our treat would be.  I was on a team with Beatrix, Yuma, & Kai.

Finding Our First Clue

Even with following the rules of not running, we were the first team back and found that we were having Banana Splits!

Unscrambling the Clues

Ms. Babb and Ms. Harrison had a little ‘graduation ceremony’ from 2nd grade and gave us treats.  I’m excited that both teachers are moving up to 3rd grade next year so I will still recognize the teachers.

Our Graduation Treats

I had fun getting to know new friends and finding out where things are at the school.  It’s a lot different from homeschooling, but now I think I’m ready to show others around the school as a ‘buddy’ when new kids come.

This year in school I was in 5th grade, which is the first year of Middle School.  My homeroom teacher was Mr. Canton, who is retiring after 35 years of teaching. Near the end of the year we threw a birthday party and the theme was Tex Mex.   We had a great year and one of my favorite activities was going to our extended field trip, PGL.  It’s an outdoor camp that helps us gain confidence and push our limits.

PGL was a couple hours away from school in a beautiful country area.

Echo Peak

My favorite activities at PGL were the giant swing and the trapeze.

“Car Wash” with Annelies

Getting Ready to Go on the “Giant Swing”

On the Giant Swing you could choose how high you wanted to go.  Then it was your job to pull a string to let you down.  Having to pull that string was very scary as you knew what came afterward.

Being Lifted up on the “Giant Swing”

Other activities at PGL were the Obstacle Course, Rock Climbing, Zip Line, Geocaching, and Absailing.

Obstacle course

Going Up the Pole to the Trapeze

I GOT IT! (Twice)

I also participated in two sports this year – soccer and track.  Soccer was definitely my favorite, as I was allowed to play in the 6-8th grade games. In track, my favorite field events were long jump and high jump. My favorite track events were 100m and 200m races.

Me and Hëloíse

Starting My 400m Race

Finishing 2nd Place

Me and Some of My Teammates

High Jump (I got to 200m)

Long Jump

400m Relay

Me and My Mom

At the end of the year, we had an awards ceremony for the whole middle school.  I got the award for the ‘Most Principled 5th Grader’ as well as an award for ‘5th Grade P.E. Girl.’

My Award Certificates

Also at the end of the school year, we had a school-wide ‘Family Fun Day’.  It was really fun because you got to spend time with family and friends, with extra activities that were brought in.  My favorite activities were surfing (on the surf simulator), rock climbing, and the trampoline. There was also soccer, shops, cake walk, face painting, and henna-painting.

Elise, Edith, Ava, Luna, Camila, Halle, Hëloíse, and Me

Surf Simulator

Climbing Wall with Cami

On our last day of school we had a half day with a kick ball tournament. It was really fun. At the end of the tournament we had snacks and signed yearbooks. When it was time to go some of the us girls got emotional because many of our good friends are leaving this summer.  It was hard for me to say goodbye to the very first person that I met when I started school.  But, I know new friends will move in and I can still keep in touch with my old friends.  I can’t wait until sixth grade!

So this year I was in ninth grade . . first year of high school, first year of seminary.  Seminary was fun.  There were about three kids on average there a day.  I had 99% attendance.  I was champion for the quickest scripture mastery skills.  Another boy and I ended up having a competition; he is seventeen and the champion in his ward.  I don’t remember what I got but he got two right.  There are more than 20 scripture mastery verses.  When I got home after the last day of seminary and school I found this sign on my door (as well as tons of paper hearts and balloons.  It was all very cool.):

Sign on Bedroom Door

At school the classes got harder.  The teachers are getting really intense.  My favorite subjects were: Math, P.E., and Biology.  My math teacher was the coolest teacher in the world and in P.E. we mostly did fun contact sports.  Biology is always interesting and I love to learn about everything that has anything to do with the subject.   This picture shows a couple of my art projects.  The bat was my final exam.  His name is Marty Gumball.  My friend named him.  He now hangs in my room.

Art Projects from the School Year

This picture jumps to the end of the year where we had a family fun day.  I promise I have more friends than my buddy Vandi there, but she was the only one that showed up which was great that we got to hang out one on one.  They had some cool rides at Family Fun Day but a lot of them had either an age limit or had you going high.

Vandi & Me

Sorry this post is so short.  I either can’t remember what happened or I blocked out most of the year.  Overall my school year was pretty good, and even though most of my friends are leaving the school and I only have one friend staying, I’m excited for next year.

We had a lot of changes this year in our homeschooling.  We started the year with both Caleb and Cami at home, then in January when Cami went to school, Caleb and I had to adjust to a new way of homeschooling.  It was a bit of an adjustment for both of us, but we had an enjoyable time together.

One of the things I wanted to do with Caleb on his own, was work in more field trips.  It was a bit hard getting him motivated to want to do them, but I think we found some fun ones.

Google – London

We were actually invited to tour Google by one of our friends who works there.  It was really neat to walk around the office and see the fun things they have set up to make it a relaxing and productive environment.  Everything from break-out rooms to ping-pong tables to snack-attack corners to an amazing cafeteria with almost any food you could possibly imagine, as well as a library, workout room, and nap areas.

Official Name-tags

We did have an amazing experience during our tour and were so grateful for the Bruce’s to invite us!

Truly British Google

Caleb will tell you that one of the field trips that wasn’t up to par was one I had booked at a small theatre in London for a presentation of ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’.  I actually thought it was an amazing 3-person production, but the large amounts of grade school kids there for their own field trips didn’t help Caleb feel it was age-appropriate.

Downward to the Tube

My redeeming grace was that after the show Caleb and I were able to take a short walk across the Tower Bridge and meet Chris for lunch.

Approaching the Tower Bridge

Scoping Out His Pictures Whilst on Tower Bridge

Our last field trip was to the Royal Institution, for  a lecture on space, which we happened to be studying at the time.

The Royal Institution Entrance

Again, a great topic to listen to, but most of the audience was younger than Caleb making him feel out of place.

Michael Faraday

After the lecture, we wandered down to the basement of the building to walk through the small museum.  This building is actually where Michael Faraday did many of his experiments, like those for electro-magnetism, which he is known for.

Maybe one of Caleb’s favorite field trips was a spur-of-the-moment one.  On the morning of Five Guys opening in the mall, Caleb got all his school work done and made plans to meet friends from church for lunch.  So, we made our way over and avoided the crowds for a great early lunch.

5 Guys Grand Opening

One of our last and most memorable field trips is one that Caleb and I stole away to Paris with my parents when they were visiting.  One of the perks we are definitely losing as Caleb heads to school in August.

Acceptance E-mail

Caleb is still trying to weigh how he feels about this new stage in his life, but we feel it’s a good time for him to break into the school scene as an 8th grader.  It will be a great transition year as he prepares for high school and all that entails with his training schedule and other commitments.

As for me, it will be the first time since I became a mother (almost 16 years ago) that I won’t have any children at home during the school day.  It may be time to rediscover some long-forgotten hobbies.

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