Monday, December 28, 2009

What's in a Journey?

Karen and I celebrated 10 years of marriage today. On my facebook status, I noted a few highlights of our journey--10 years, 6 kids, 4 states... Let me tell you about two other journey's.

On Friday, December 18th, I left work at the normal time of about 5:30. And I went directly home. But what usually takes about 25 minutes turned into over 4 hours. I didn't get home until close to 10pm. There was a snowstorm here on the east coast. And it wasn't your typical snow storm. It started at 4pm and came down about 2-3 inches per hour. By the time I got on the road, traffic was really bad.

But I had lived in Idaho. I've driven in Utah and through a whiteout in Wyoming (remember that, Dad?). I was well-prepared. And my car had good tires. I started to get concerned when I was traveling on I-64 and drivers were going 20 mph. The roads are flat and straight on I-64. Keep moving, people!

I took my exit...went about 10 miles...and the traffic came to a stand-still. And this was on a country there weren't many options.

It was bad. The snow was heavy and there were several inches on the ground. Cars were coming from the other direction so I figured the curvy hills were passable up ahead. After about 30 minutes and only moving a few inches, I rolled down my window. The sound of falling snow helped calm me. I was frustrated with whoever was ahead of me causing such a traffic jam. The guy in front of me got out of his truck several times trying to look ahead. The cars going the opposite direction were moving much slower now. One guy had his window rolled down and stopped to inform me that there was no way anyone was getting over those hills up ahead. So I turned around and kept my window rolled down. I was only moving about 10 mph. If someone else had their window rolled down I wanted to provide them the same information I was given.

I started to flash my lights. I've learned that's what people do in the country when the road is impassable up ahead. I don't know if anyone benefited from my warnings. I got back on I-64 and went a comfortable speed of 35 mph. I took the next exit. Although a more traveled road, this one was even worse than my first route. And I was further from home. It was a complete standstill. By this time it's about 7:30 and I had called Karen several times to let her know I was ok. But now I realized this was a very dangerous situation.

I was tempted to stop at the hotel and stay the night. Then Karen reminded me about a back road (I'm already in the country, folks! A backroad to the country road is not a great road even in good weather...). But that option was better than sitting. So I made yet another U-turn and headed for the back road.

It turned out to be a good idea because few people were driving on it. I was driving through about 8 inches by this point so I took my time on the winding road. I watched several trucks slide right off the road. I tried to stop for the first one, but my car began to slide so I kept going. One guy was standing on the side of the road next to his car. I slowed just enough to make sure someone was coming for him.

I had to make a sharp turn and slid off the road myself. Fortunately, the stop sign literally stopped me from going too far. With a quick prayer and a little experience, I was able to reverse and get back on the road.

By 9pm, I got within 3 miles of home. I passed through a four-way intersection I would have been at 3 hours previously had it not been for the original backup. But at this time, no one was coming from that direction. It was complete darkness down the road I was on only 3 hours earlier. It was a bit eerie to look down that road and see nothing but blackness. I wondered where all the cars were.

It was a standstill again. But I was close to home. At this point, it began to feel like "The Day After Tomorrow" or "Independence Day." People were abandoning their cars and walking. And those on foot were moving a lot faster than those in cars. It was surreal.

I had been in the car for 4 hours. At one point, I was on a curve with a slight incline. As I crawled along, my car began to slide sideways. There was nothing I could do. The snow had melted and refrozen so much that I had absolutely no traction. And this is where I left my car.

I walked the remaining 3 miles my work shoes...with nothing but a coat. A mother and her daughter had just run off the road ahead of me and they were grateful for the company. We walked together. There was a foot of snow on the ground. We meandered through the line of cars following tire tracks when we could. Men on four-wheelers were out trying to help those ahead get down a steep hill and then up the next one.

Looking back, I was grateful I slid off when I did. That was the safest thing. I dug my car out 3 days later.

Sorry for the long post--but I have to make the analogy. And I'll keep it short because I think everyone can come to their own conclusions. But my marriage to Karen and this ordeal trying to get home a couple weeks ago...all of our experiences in this life are only to help us get back to our Heavenly Home--to God. There is symbolism and discoveries and analogies all around us.

I had driven in bad wintry conditions before. I was well-prepared. I have dealt with trials and had experiences that have prepared me well for this life. But sometimes the path I take isn't the right one...for whatever reason. And the Lord encourages me to try a different path. And if others can benefit from what I have learned, it's my obligation to warn others. And there are many paths we can take in life. Sometimes their only purpose is to teach us patience; others might have a more profound impact. And then at some point during our lives, we need to choose to take the road less traveled. At some point in our lives, we take that journey...however long or learn faith. It's an individual journey. But we always have access to family and home. We might slip off the road. But what's important is learning and continuing to move forward. Then, when we get close to Home and we think it's almost over, another trial may occur. And we adapt and work harder and press forward. We might gain some friends along the way. We're given opportunities to serve and allow others to serve us. And in the end, if I have the right perspective, I learn that the trial was better than not having one at all. I learn that what I though was another trial...was actually protection; a blessing. The Lord blesses us through challenges.

It felt so good to walk through the door of my home that night.

Two days later I went for a drive to see how my car was and I recorded these two segments (I've only posted one because blogger and the second video are not getting along...):

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Pajamas

Tell the Christensen kids to strike a crazy pose and this is what you get. James got hidden in all the craziness. But he's in here...somewhere. I think... And Eliza can sleep through anything. Aunt Laurel got everyone matching pajamas (mostly matching--do you realize how difficult it is to find the exact same pattern for 8 different sizes???). We think she did pretty darn good. And the kids were happy. Here's Luke doin' a little dance. Uh-huh. Oh ya.
And James. He's a man of many emotions and expressions. Not sure what he's begging for...but it was a good shot.
Here are the five oldest all in a row. Luke is gettin' down again with some new dance moves. Peter is showing his most serious approval. James is wanting one front tooth for Christmas...could be two any day now. Anya loves to be surrounded by her boys. And Mark is...well, Mark. Good kids all around.
Now this picture is one that just makes you laugh. I can't look at it without letting out a little giggle. Luke is as happy as can be. He relishes every chance he gets to hold baby Eliza. And Eliza is freakin' out with those wide eyes. She knows she is in unstable hands and never knows what to expect when her "big" brother gets close. Love it.
And here we are. Christmas Eve with mostly matching pajamas. At the very least, they are all well-coordinated. Thanks Aunt Laurel for the pjs. They are extremely comfy. We'll put them to good use this winter.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

O Holy Night!

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining; it is the night of the dear Savior's birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. Fall on your knees, oh, hear the angel voices! O night divine, O night when Christ was born! O night, O holy night, O night divine!
Since moving to Virginia, we took our kids to the Washington, D.C. temple for the first time. To see it at night time and with the Christmas lights...we're hoping it made an impression on their young minds. It was cold...but well worth it.
One of the senior missionaries sitting outside the visitor center had a Santa Clause hat on...just like James. I should have taken a picture of the two of them together. The senior missionary was thrilled to see another "Santa Clause" that night. :)

Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother, and in His name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus rise we, let all within us praise His holy name. Christ is the Lord, then ever, ever praise we; His power and glory ever more proclaim, His power and glory ever more proclaim.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Guess Who Came To Visit Last Night?

Today is St. Nicholas Day. And he came last night to get the kids wish list, see if they've been good or not, and let his reindeer have a little snack for their long journey. It's a tradition Karen discovered years ago. And we're considering making it a bigger deal in the future...shifting the Americanized tradition of gift-giving to St. Nicholas Day so we can be better about celebrating the spiritual purpose of Christmas. St. Nicholas gifts are meant to be shared, not hoarded for oneself. It's the start of the Christmas season. The kids left their shoes at the door with a plate of cookies, carrots, and a cup of juice.
Anya is convinced she heard bells and saw lights last night.
Here they are enjoying what each other received from St. Nicholas.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Wrath of a Child

There's a reason we have more boys than girls. But how I love my two little girls.

Anya is...well...Anya. She can amaze you with her natural mothering skills...with her knowledge of God and the scriptures...with her sensitivity to meet others' needs before her own. It's wonderful and an honor to be her father.

But when you cross her...or when she thinks you have crossed out. It's such a drastic change from her usual behavior that I catch myself wanting to laugh (which has gotten me into trouble as well). Today I had to reprimand her for a minor incident. And she went to her room and shut the door. --Nothing unusual.

I proceeded with my day and went outside to cut the grass for the last time this year (yea!) and rake the leaves...all bazillion of them! :) Within the first hour, all of the kids were outside playing in the yard...including Anya. When I finished the yardwork we played a little tag and threw the frisbee around. Anya was playing like normal.

I went inside with Luke and Peter while the older kids stayed outside a little longer. And Karen shared this note with me that Anya had taped to her door. I can't wait to see what the teenage years bring! Seriously...I can't wait!

Friday, November 27, 2009

I'm Thankful For...

Being able to watch our kids grow. Although we can't always discern everything he's jabbering, Luke is starting to communicate in sentences. It's so cute to hear two-year olds. Luke's big on names right now so we regularly go through everyone in the family. And we got him saying Eliza for the first time ever today...and the tape was rolling. Now if we can only capture one of Eliza's smiles on camera. Hopefully we'll be able to share that soon.

Yes, we have 5 other children. Luke just happens to be extra blog-worthy lately.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Luke Preston

Here is Luke's two-year picture. He's a keeper. :)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Our Rock Band

This is mostly for Grandpa C. He wanted to see what this Rock Band thing is all about. So here it is. Keep in mind that they are amateurs! Mark's band is "Halfbloods." He got it from some book he's been reading. James' band is "Alphabet Explosion." We'll do this again in a few months after they've had some experience. We'll see how they progress. These are short snippets...when they're professionals I'll be sure to roll the tape longer.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater

Peter has been associated with pumpkins since his birth. Partly because his birthday is the closest to Halloween. And partly because his name just goes so well with pumpkins. :)

He turned four a little over a week ago.

And what would a blog posting be without an updated picture of Eliza. Granted, this picture is now a couple weeks old...but isn't it a cute outfit? :) Baby girls are so fun to dress!

And now to the pumpkin part. Each of the kids got to choose their design. James chose my favorite. And Mark chose his favorite. :) Good for him, I say.

Peter and Anya. Karen carved Anya''s like a troll going trick-or-treating. I was very impressed!
On Halloween, the Christensen's play many traditional games. And because it fell on a Saturday, I got to participate. Yea! The first game was bobbing for apples. Apparently, James is the reigning champion.

Another game is eating a donut suspended in the air with a string. No hands allowed!
Luke doesn't get the whole eating without hands concept. So he enjoyed a donut his own way.

There were a few other games as well. It was a fun morning.

This year's costume theme was inspired by Mario Kart Wii. Here below are Mario, Princess Daisy, and Luigi.
Here, Mario is demonstrating how to properly pounce on Koopa Troopa. What we couldn't get in a still photo was Koopa Troopa being forced into his shell and sliding along the floor. :)

I must say, Peter got the best end of the deal with this costume. Do you see how incredibly cool his tennis shoes are?!? They're green! And they're so cool. I'm jealous.

Toad might very well be my favorite of the bunch. It took a lot of work to convince Luke to keep the hat on. And I'm glad he finally conceded. He's a very cute Toad.

And here's the female counterpart to Toad--Toadette. How cute is she?!? Pigtails and all.

If you've seen the cover to Mario Kart Wii, you'll recognize this last shot. It was so fun! The kids got a lot of positive comments from people at church, work, and on the street Halloween night. They were a hit. Karen continues to impress.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Old videos, new laughs

I was looking through some old video clips today and found this one of Mark. It's a good example of the plus side to his sneakiness.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Birthdays and Blessings

Ok. The first picture has absolutely nothing to do with this post. But are those not the two sweetest faces you have ever seen?!? Seriously. We are so incredibly happy that our kids love each other (most of the time). I think Anya is the best big sister ever. And who couldn't love Peter? We've had a lot happen since we came home with Eliza. Two birthdays and one blessing to be exact. So here's a visual history of the past few events.
Mark turned 9 at the end of September.

Eliza Rose Christensen was blessed on October 1, 2009. Both sets of grandparents were able to be here for the special day.

We broke tradition...and it wasn't an easy thing to do! All of our other children have been blessed in Grandpa Christensen's home. Living in Virginia presented a distance challenge. So Eliza was blessed in our home. But both sets of grandparents were here...and family is all that matters. Traditions are over-rated! :) It's kind of cute that Anya snuck in the picture. But it's fitting. She was probably the most excited for Eliza's arrival.
And then we celebrated Luke's birthday on October 5. He turned 2. Good thing James is in the background of this picture. All 6 kids are represented in this post. Whew! We wouldn't want anyone to get a complex about being left out. :)

So that is what has been happening the past month. We have one more birthday before all the holidays hit. I'm sure we'll have more to share soon.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Everyone is home!

I'm not sure why...but it was really fun to have a full van. Eight seats and each one of them is filled. Crazy. :) We brought Karen and Eliza home from the hospital this morning. The bassinet has been set up in our room for the past month or so. It's nice to have somebody to place in it.
And our "baby" is no longer our baby any more. It's amazing how much bigger and older the former baby looks when you place him next to a newborn. Luke loves Eliza and can't get enough of her.
He's fascinated by Eliza. And so are we.