Saturday, November 14, 2009

Halloween Piñata

I'm not quite sure how to upload a video to blogger with the new editor, so I uploaded our piñata video to Facebook and just embedded it here.

Halloween 2009

Our family was a little off this year for Halloween...we had the party on November 7th! Even though it was a week removed from the actual holiday, the party was great fun!

Marna and Selena did a fabulous job decorating.

These pictures don't really do it justice because the flash made it look so bright. In fact, the lights were dim giving an eery look to the room.

We had some great costumes.

Abby from NCIS

He wasn't even sure exactly what he was supposed to be.

Frankenstein's Monster
(of course Dad kept saying she looked more like the Hulk)

A vampire

A bat
Not pictured: a clown and a highway construction worker
We played Apples to Apples...

Had a cupcake decorating contest...

Demolished a pinata (I'll post a video of this later. Need to edit it together first)...

And bobbed for apples...

We find bobbing for apples in a tub of water to be incredibly disgusting, so we opt to bob for apples hung on a string without using our hands. It's much more fun...and sanitary.
Selena finished the night off with some snack scultping...

And promptly eating, of course.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Happy Birthday, Marine Corps!

Last Saturday, November 7th, Jeff and I had the unique opportunity of attending the 234th Marine Corps Birthday Ball.

It was so much fun to don our fanciest clothes and enjoy a fancy meal in the company of so many servicemen.

My brother joined the Marine Corps shortly after 9/11. While serving in 29 Palms, he met and married the love of his life, so the Marines have definitely been a blessing to his life. A few years ago, he was accepted into the officer training program which allowed him to work toward his undergraduate degree, which he will complete in May. We will miss him immensely as he leaves MN next summer to continue his training at Quantico in VA.

Since he will be moving, this was our last opportunity to attend the ball, so many of our family chose to support my brother in this unique way.

My brother with my parents

Our little sister and her husband


I didn't get good pictures of everyone, but my older sister's husband, my brother's wife (of course), and my brother's wife's cousin (from CA) all came out to the ball as well.

Everyone looked so fabulous!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Saturday night, Jeff and I went to our ward's Halloween party. I even got Jeff to dress up with me!

Here's our costume:

Can you guess what we're supposed to be??

Here's a close-up...

Did you guess from this one?

We had to explain our costume to many of the people at the party. If you haven't guessed it yet, here are a couple of clues.

Our names are Gene and Jean.
We are dressed in all blue.
We are two.

We are....

A pair of blue jeans!!

hee hee hee

We had fun at the ward party. I brought spider cupcakes for the cupcake decorating contest.

I got the idea from my friend's blog, Recipe Shoebox, and I think they turned out really cute!

Here are a couple of pics of the rest of the cupcakes.

Of course I thought mine were the best and was lobbying like crazy for people to vote for them. Jeff and I were helping with one of the games, so we didn't even end up voting!

Well, I didn't win.

Here's the winning cupcake:

(Sorry it's a little blurry. I neglected to take an individual picture of it, so I had to crop it out of a different picture.)

This lovely cupcake was entered by the Allison and Jeff! When she won, she said that Jeff made all the shoes by hand out of marizpan! I leaned over to my Jeff and said, "He made the shoes out of marzipan! How could I even compete with that!"

As I mentioned, Jeff and I helped out with a game. The kids had to throw little orange and black balls at a velcro Ghost dart board. It was fun to see the kids play this game--especially the littlest ones, who didn't quite understand throw and simply placed the balls right on the board. :-)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Radio Golf

Tonight, Jeff and I went to see Radio Golf performed at the Penumbra Theatre in St Paul.

Radio Golf is a play authored by August Wilson, who is an African American playwright with many awards and accolades. He is most well known for his "Cycle Plays" of which Radio Golf is the last in a series of ten. Each of the cycle plays depict for us a segment of African American life in the U.S. by decade. The ten play cycle starts in 1900 and ends near 2000, with Radio Golf.

Here's the blurb about this play from the Penumbra website:

"It's 1997 and Harmond Wilks wants to become Pittsburgh's first black mayor. His ticket to win the election rides on redeveloping the "Hill District," the neighborhood he grew up in. But when the past begins to catch up with him, secrets get revealed that could be his undoing. Harmond discovers that victory will come with a price. Join us for this timely look at race and American politics.

Starring: Terry Bellamy, James Craven, Abdul Salaam El Razzac, Austene Van, and Kevin D. West."

Jeff recently read this play for his English class at St Thomas. While going to see the play performed was not part of his assignment, it was something that we both desired to do.

We're both so glad that we went! Since Jeff had previously read the play, the character development became more alive, and he was able to better understand the motivation of several of the characters better.

The first act of the play was pretty lighthearted, filled with plenty of laughter. After intermission, the play took on a much more serious nature, and everything that Harmond Wilks had worked for began to crumble. His career, relationships, and life began to fall apart, leading to heated confrontations with his wife and best friend/business partner.

This was an excellent play. We would definitely recommend it to others, so if you're in the St Paul area and looking for something to do, the play runs for another week (until Oct 25), and I believe there are still a few seats available.

One of the highlights for us came after the play had ended. We hung around to see if we could catch any of the actors. We briefly congratulated Austene Van on the portrayal of Mame Wilks and expressed how much we enjoyed the play.

We also shook hands and spoke with James Craven for several minutes. His portrayal of Harmond Wilks was quite powerful. Jeff mentioned how much emotion he was able to put into the play that wasn't necessarily expressed in the written word of the play. He explained to us that bringing that level of human emotion was something that the acting company did. This is true of all plays. Those performing really bring it alive. He also commented that we should be sure to tell our friends about the play and that there were still some seats available before the final performance on the 25th. We were fascinated to learn that after a few weeks reprieve, this company was then going to Pittsburgh to perform the play as part of the Aunt Esther Cycle for the Inaugural Season of the August Wilson Center. Awesome!

We also met Kevin D West (Roosevelt Hicks). After telling him how much we enjoyed his performance, he asked Jeff what his name was and then introduced himself as Kevin West and said he was pleased to meet us. Wow!

It was incredible to meet these actors, and as we were leaving Jeff wondered out loud why no one else really stayed late to meet the cast. I don't think it is commonplace to do because we were the only ones except for a handful of people that personally knew the cast members. Jeff really felt that meeting the actors, shaking their hands, and introducing ourselves, really connected us to the play.

What a fun date!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ethics and Law of Rule in African Leadership: Case of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Tonight, Jeff and I had an opportunity to go and listen to Dr. Oscar Kashala, 2006 & 2011 Presidential Candidate, Democratic Republic of the Congo and National President, Union for the Rebuilding of the Congo.

It was fascinating!

I was really struck by the humility of this man. To him, those going into leadership must do it to serve the people. When asked, during the Q&A portion, how he intended to win the election when he was not in the country, his response was that his campaign was based on the people and the party in place. He is very well educated, holding an M.D., Ph.D., and D.Sc; He is an internationally recognized cancer specialist. Dr. Kashala is also a faculty member at several universities in DRC and in the US, one of which is Harvard University. On top of all that, he holds an executive position at an American pharmaceutical company. All of this is evidence leading to the assumption that he is humble, because of his willingness to leave all that he has accomplished in the U.S. to return to DRC (a very dangerous country - especially for a presidential candidate!). He seemed to really care about making changes in his country.

I was also struck by how human he seemed. After expressing gratitude to be at the University of St Thomas speaking and thanking many who helped make his lecture possible, he paused to say he needed to consult with his Communications Director because he did not have his speech at the lectern with him. This got a laugh from the audience. Throughout his speech, there were a few quips here and there that provoked subtle laughter from the audience. I thought it really helped to keep me focused.

Here are a few, sparse notes that Jeff attempted to take while listening to the lecture. I, of course, didn't bring anything to take notes with or on, but many of the same things struck me as well.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is very rich in resources.
It has the highest infant/maternal mortality rate in Africa.
87.3% unemployment rate
99% of the population lives in poverty, on less than $1/day.
Many families do what is known as "eating by rotation." (Ex. In a family of four, the parents eat one day, child one the next day, child two the next, then back to the parents).
Africa's colonial past has been devastating, leaving a power vacuum.
DRC is lagging behind Africa in development.

Ethics is a moral compass guiding one to what is right and wrong (can vary).

Rule of law enables obligation, rights, etc.
It allows for arbitration.
It is a standard of how to behave and punishment for failure.
It is necessary for an efficient society.
It is critical - no individual should be exempt.
It is crucial for economic development.

Leadership is the ability to compel all people to do what you believe is right.
It cannot be isolated from the people.

A major problem for post-colonial countries has been that the leadership that rose up against their suppressors was that of a particular caliber. When fighting for freedom, a different type of leader is needed from one who can operate a country. It is a different skill set. This has been problematic for many countries in Africa.

Service in government, at any level, is a privilege - and should be treated so.

What can't people with money affect change for good and take a leadership role for the community??

Good leaders must have some level of intelligence; the current president of DRC was educated only to the 4th grade level!

DRC is selling all its resource rights - mineral, water, forest, etc.

Congolese people are traumatized; rape is rampant; families are murdered.

Overall, Jeff and I truly enjoyed this experience and hope to take advantage of more lecture opportunities in the future. We also hope to somewhat follow the future of DRC. Dr. Kashala seemed to make a lot of sense to us, and we will be curious to see if he is able to get elected and affect the change necessary to end corruption and better his country!

Monday, October 12, 2009

All Settled In


We've still got a few totes in the livingroom. Most of them are empty and just need to be moved out to the garage.

It's really beginning to feel like home.

For those of you who may not know, we recently moved (again). Our new address is:
2057 Laurel Ave Apt 3
St Paul MN 55104

We LOVE our new apartment so much!! It is right across the street from campus, which makes it very easy for us to walk to class or the shuttle to Minneapolis (that's where my classes are). Plus I've been taking advantage of walking to the gym a few times a week to workout. It's been fantastic! I've discovered that my shins can actually handle running on a treadmill. Yeah! I can only hope that one day they'll be able to handle running on the street again. I miss running. Wow...what a tangent!

I've seriously been neglecting this blog, but I hope to get much better...starting NOW! Jeff and I have done lots of fun things this year that have not been documented, so I hope to get some posts up about some of our adventures this past summer (and maybe even earlier in the year as well).

I may not be able to blog every day, but hopefully at least once or twice a week.

Come back soon!!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Road Trip 2009: Leg 4

The morning after we arrived was Graduation Day. Mel woke Randy up by telling him that some of his friends had vandalized her van during that night and that he needed to come and see.

Of course everyone else knew that they were getting him up early to surprise him with a car for a graduation gift.

This video is hilarious. Check out how Mel had to point to the car for Randy to even look in that direction! 6:00AM was just way too early!!

After Randy's surprise, Jeff and I headed to Spokane to pick up his mom, Jerilyn, and Hannah our niece.

On our way back to Bridgeport, we stopped at Grand Coulee Dam. This was the 2nd dam we'd stopped at on this trip. It was incredible. It's amazing just how big and powerful these dams are.

We stopped at the vista point, a few miles from the dam. For some perspective on the size of the dam, the little holes that you can see kind of in the middle of this picture are so big that 2 semi-trucks could drive through them side by side!

Before returning to Bridgeport, we made a stop another dam: the Chief Joseph Dam. This one is actually in Bridgeport. In fact, Jeff's brother, Bill, works at the dam.
You can walk down stairs into the river. This was as far as I wanted to go. There are at least two or three more levels that are under the river.

Hannah and me at the bottom of the stairs

One of the main purposes of our trip was to attend Randy's graduation from high school. I brought my camera to the ceremony, but I didn't take a single picture! Terrible, I know.

The next day was Bridgeport Days. It's kicked off with a parade.

Here's a picture of Bill and his son, Billy, kicking off the parade with a half-track.The finale of the parade was some mariachi dancers. They were neat to watch. I took a video, too, but I was too far away to catch any of the music on the video, so here is just a picture.

There were a lot of cars and a couple of floats between the half-track and the dancers, but I didn't really get any pictures of them. It was a pretty fun parade--especially for all the kids in Bridgeport. There was a LOT of candy being thrown to the crowd.

Cousins RaeAnne and Parker wanted to show that they were glued at the hip (being good "buddies" using the buddy system as we walked from the parade to the park), but couldn't quite get their hips together.

There! That's better.

At the park, Eli and RaeAnne bought inflatable swords.

This was really fun! This tricked out car was actually in the parade! It would adjust its hydraulics while driving along the parade route; it was very cool to watch, but I didn't get any pictures during the parade. I was glad to see it parked like this when it was time to go.

Jeff remembers that they would always spill the Chief Joseph Dam during Bridgeport Days, but Bill informed us that it wasn't going to happen this year. We were totally bummed.

Imagine our surprise when we got a phone call saying it was spilling! We grabbed our shoes and were out the door so fast! It was quite an experience to see.

First, we when to the top overlook to get a great aerial view.

When we got down to the base, we were suprised to see some of our family had come to see the spill, too.

From Left to Right: Brianna, Hannah, Diva, RaeAnne, Sallie, Me

Here is a picture of Jeff down at the bottom of the stairs. With the spilling, he was able to go down about two more landings further than Hannah and I had the day before.

Sallie was not impressed. Every time the water was splash, she would jump back as far as she could. We tried to get a better picture or a video, but she wouldn't get close again.

After taking lots of pictures of the dam spilling, we rounded up most of the kids and headed to Alta Lake. It was fun to go swimming in a lake that was in the mountains. It was pretty awe-inspiring for this MN girl. We've got lots of lakes out here, but they are not nestled in the mountains like this one.
Back at Bill & Mel's, RaeAnne and Sallie had so much fun together! Here they are taking a rest. After a few days at Bill & Mel's it was time to head back home. Here are a few pictures from our home stretch.

Sallie would do this cute thing while sitting on Jeff's lap. She would tuck her head into the holes in our steering wheel. I wish we'd gotten a better picture. It was so funny!

We all know how much Jeff likes to get Sallie to sing! Here is a final video of the two of them singing while driving down the freeway.


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