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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


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.


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.

One great thing about living in London is that it is a prime place for visitors!  If people aren’t visiting London, they frequently do pass through, and we still get to see them for a short period of time.

We were so lucky to have the Lincoln family (from our Jersey City days) come through London as they traveled from Qatar to Scotland.  It helps that we have a couple Jersey City alumni in London to visit with!

Stephenson, White, & Lincoln Families

Another great thing about living in London is the opportunity we have to meet families who come through the BYU Study Abroad program as directors.  It just so happens we had a special connection with the family that came for Winter and Spring semesters!  The Otterstrom’s oldest son, Nils, recently married one of Chris’s younger cousins, Jessica.  Because we had that connection and children the same age, we became great friends.

BYU Centre with Otterstrom Family

We can add that a ‘could-be downfall’ to living in London is that we have to say goodbye a lot!  After having the Otterstrom’s in London for 6 months, it was really hard to say goodbye . . . after all, they were the closest link to family we have here!

Happy Father’s Day

We can’t even begin to describe the blessing this man is in our lives!  Chris is the hardest working, most spiritually humble, and conditionally loving man we know . . . and we couldn’t love him more!

We got to celebrate a week early with Chris for Father’s Day as he gave up his special day to be with Caleb, as he traveled to the states for a week of gymnastics camp.

Happy Father’s Day!!

It has been over a year since Caleb competed in any gymnastics competitions, as they have all fallen on Sundays.  He was really excited that Pipers Vale was on a Saturday and he could go to his first competition with his new coach.

Lining up for the Vault Judges

The boys all competed well.  Out of the three boys from Caleb’s team that went, Caleb was the only one to do all apparatus events.  The other two boys were just coming back from injuries and couldn’t compete in all pieces.  There is always disappointment when a competition only recognizes overall success, rather than each apparatus success.  So, out of all the boys that lined up for the final award ceremony, only 3 boys were awarded.

Final Line-up for Awards

After receiving the final score print-out, Caleb found he actually placed 2nd in the parallel bars and 7th overall.

Caleb, Will, & Dylan

With a new coach and being at the competition with his friends/teammates, Caleb’s stress-level was a lot lower than it has been in the past.  He was excited to be there and calm about what he needed to do.  Hopefully, this is the beginning of a new trend!

As our full house started to empty out, Caleb and I went on a little side-trip with my parents to Paris.  They had made plans to do a World War II tour through Normandy and Belgium, but didn’t feel touring Paris was something they could do, even though they’d drive right by it.  It didn’t take much twisting of our arms, but Caleb and I decided we would accompany them to Paris and show them the city – the perfect homeschooling field trip!  You can’t go to France and NOT see Paris!

Leaving St. Pancras Station

We left London on the Eurostar after dinner and were in Paris a couple hours later, via the Chunnel.

Boarding the Eurostar

We got to our hotel late, but were up first thing the next morning to fill our one day with as much of Paris as we could.

Eiffel Tower

First things first – the Eiffel Tower . . .

We knew this was a must, but the hard decision was when to go up in it.  We opted for first thing in the morning, and even though we were in a long queue before opening, it was the right choice.  As soon as the gates opened, we just kept moving and bought our tickets in no time, cleared security, and were up at the top before we knew it.

Gustav Eiffel – Engineer/Architect

The Inner-Workings

Paris – City of Love

Caleb Looks Down

City-view from the Eiffel Tower

Some of us assumed my mom wouldn’t go up the Eiffel Tower as she is severely afraid of heights.  But, she surprised us all by, not only going up, but going up all the way to the top level!

Proof that Mom was up the Eiffel Tower!

More Paris Skyline

It does help that there are cages all around so there is no danger of falling off.  Mom actually started to look happy to be up there!

Caleb with Grandpop & Grandmom

. . . And More Skyline

It seemed we had already worn Caleb out with the Eiffel Tower climb.

Caleb on Public Transport

Truth be told, because Caleb falls asleep so quickly, his body hasn’t had a chance to relax so as he sleeps his muscles twitch.  It’s actually quite funny to watch but during one of his twitches, he woke himself up and startled a girl sitting next to him on the bus!  I had the perfect vantage point and just had to laugh with them both.

Notre Dame

We got off the bus at Notre Dame and stood in the queue to go inside.  For the few times I have been in Paris and seen Notre Dame, this is the first time I had been inside.

Outside Notre Dame


We actually ended up inside during mass and caught the tail end of it.

End of Mass

Inside View

Joan of Arc

After we came out, we walked around to the back of the cathedral for a respite in the garden.

Behind Notre Dame

We had hoped to go to the Deportation Memorial behind the Cathedral, but the guard decided to go to lunch just as we were arriving.  It’s definitely on my list for next visit!

Lovelocks on Pont Des Arts Bridge

Notre Dame Cathedral

We took our cue from the Deportation guard and went wandering the streets of Paris to find the perfect lunch spot.  We settled on a cute little cafe with sidewalk seating.  I think the reality of being in Paris started to hit Mom at that point as she said, “Who would have thought that I’d ever be eating in a sidewalk cafe in Paris?!”

Louvre Palace

We were a bit bummed that we happened to be in Paris on the only day of the week that the Louvre is closed.  But, as the French say, “C’est la vie.”

Louvre Pyramid

Mom & Dad at the Louvre

New Addition to ‘Handstands Around the World’

We did take the long walk from the Louvre all the way to the Arc de Triomphe.  Once you cross over the street from the Louvre, the Arc seems in plain site, but it is very misleading.  We walked through the entire Tuileries Garden and kept going up . . . the walk was about 2 miles and took about 45 minutes.

At the Arc de Triomphe

Underneath the Arc is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with its memorial flame.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

We then decided to walk all the way back to our hotel, stopping along the way for dinner.

Retro Metro Sign

As we were walking back to our hotel after dinner, we took a rest on the Champ de Mars (the park area beside the Tower) and waited for the lights on the Eiffel Tower to be turned on.  Mom again commented about the surrealism of this day as she said, “Everything was just like I remember from the pictures in my high school French book.”

Eiffel Tower at Night

Then, just like that, our day in Paris was done – beginning and ending with the Eiffel Tower.  The next morning, we took a taxi back to the train station for Caleb & I to head back to London and for Mom & Dad to pick up their rental car and head to Belgium.

Gare du Nord Station

It was an amazing day to spend with my parents, and I’m so glad they didn’t skip it.  They would have felt bad afterward, if they had.  I’m so glad that Caleb and I could be a part of it!

Back in London

Mom and Dad returned to London a few days later, after having toured Belgium and Normandy World War II sites.  They had an amazing time and it was great to hear how they had found where two of Dad’s cousins had been buried.  The Normandy tour was the icing on the cake and fulfilled one of Dad’s bucket list items.  They were able to return on the night ferry to Portsmouth and take the train up to London.  They are truly seasoned travelers now!

The day after their return was actually US Mother’s Day.  It was such a treat to have Mom here for that.  As the UK had already celebrated their Mother’s Day, it was a little quiet on the national front but we were still able to celebrate with a British Sunday meal (roast, Yorkshire puddings, potatoes, etc.).  We topped it off with a very American fruit pizza!

Mother’s Day Dessert

We had two more days with Mom and Dad, so we tried to fill it with new sites.  The first day we went to the Royal Air Force Museum in London.  Before they arrived, I didn’t even know this existed, but Mom and Dad saw an advert in the tube and looked it up.

It’s actually a large complex with a number of different buildings and hangars to walk through.

Map of Complex

We tried to maximize our time, but there was just so much to drink in!

History of Flight Hangar

My favorite section was definitely the part on World War II and how the experience was in London.  These were the sites my grandmother would have seen!

Recreation of a Tube Wall

My grandmother was part of the Royal Air Force during World War II as part of the Barrage Balloon Battalion.  This is actually how she came to know my grandfather, who was in the US Army.  They later married and my grandmother became one of the many ‘war brides’ of that time period.

Barrage Balloons

We even found an old V2 bomb that had been disarmed and kept.  It was eye-opening to me to see how big it was!  One of the first V2 bombs landed a few hundred feet from our home here.  I can now visualize a little better how traumatic that whole experience must have been, and understand why our home now has a bomb shelter.

Heading Home on the Tube – Asleep Again

Caleb and I had to head back to meet the girls after school, but Mom and Dad stayed for a couple more hours to try to see a bit more.

The following day, I suggested we go see Hampton Court Palace.  Neither Mom nor Dad knew anything about it so they were quite interested to find it was the home of Henry VIII.

Hampton Court Palace

Caleb had a lot of school work to keep up with, since we’d had so many visitors, so he opted to stay home and get caught up.  I, however, enjoyed having a day-out with my parents.

Arriving at the Palace

We had a great time walking through the palace and gardens.  The day actually cleared up a bit while we were there and it was beautiful.

Palace Gardens

Perhaps it’s note-worthy to mention that from Mom & Dad’s visit to Hampton Court, as well as Chris taking his family there, the favorite part of the trip was seeing the kitchen!  Truly impressive!

Backgammon Training

With all the time that Caleb and I had with grandparents and family, the girls always found time to get their fill as well.  Grandpop’s favorite game is definitely backgammon, so it is always pulled out whenever we’re all together.  It takes the kids a few tutored sessions to get back up to par, but it doesn’t take long.

Cami’s Tutoring Session

Then pretty soon, they are giving Grandpop a run for his money!  He never was able to rank very high in the tournaments they held.  He must be a great teacher!

Cami Winning AGAIN!

It was an amazing few weeks with family!  We’ve learned that these moments are ones to cherish and we’re so grateful for the sacrifice everyone took to come while we celebrated Cami’s baptism!  It will be a time we remember always!

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