Sunday, May 31

Freedom is not free

As you know, last weekend was Memorial Day. My friend Amanda was going to Washington D.C. for a friend’s wedding, so I went along as the travel buddy (she really just wanted someone to take pictures of her ☺).

On Friday, May 22nd, we drove to the Antietam National Battlefield and Cemetery in Sharpsburg, MD. This visit, which included a movie describing the events surrounding battle, cemented Abraham Lincoln as my favorite U.S. president. It was quite sobering to think of how many Americans died in that battle – fighting other Americans.

Antietam National Cemetery

Antietam National Cemetery

After Antietam, Amanda made a quick stop at the wedding (and I mean like 5-minutes quick), and then we were off to Mount Vernon. We had opted to get a GPS for the weekend since we were going to be driving quite a bit, and for the most part, it was great. However, after Amanda’s five minutes at the wedding, we seriously spent another 30 minutes in the parking lot of the hotel trying to get the GPS to find Mount Vernon as a Point of Interest. I finally ended up calling Mount Vernon. They had to give me their latitude/longitude coordinates. After all of that, the GPS did get us there in pretty good time, even with traffic.

On Saturday, we went to The National Mall. We started at the Washington Monument, walked to the National WWII Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, then around the Tidal Pool to the Jefferson Memorial.

National WWII Memorial

There were hundreds of bikers at the Memorials doing a Run for the Wall. This is one of my favorite pictures. I was crying at the drop of a hat all day (started at the WWII Memorial), and this was quite moving.

Korean War Veterans Memorial

After the monuments and memorials, we met another friend/co-worker (Allison) at the Smithsonian (she was in town for work). It was awesome to be back in an air-conditioned building after walking outside for hours – I think Allison’s comment when she saw me was “Katie looks dead.” I LOVED the Lincoln exhibition most of all. However, I was quite annoyed with this one family in particular whose children (we’re not talking young children here, but children old enough to know better) showed no respect for the exhibits (hanging ALL over them) nor for the other patrons who wanted to see the exhibits.

Lincoln's top hat he wore to Ford's theater the night he was assassinated

Sunday was another hot and muggy day. Amanda and I met Allison at Arlington National Cemetery where we took the tour-mobile around the cemetery. We were all dripping with sweat just standing in line for the freakin’ tour-mobile. After seeing the changing of the guard (an amazing honor, but how do those guys not sweat?), we decided this was all we could handle, so after lunch at an Asian restaurant near Allison’s hotel, Amanda and I headed back to Gaithersburg.

Since our flight home on Monday wasn’t until 5:00 p.m., we decided we had time to drive to Gettysburg. As we walked in Gettysburg National Cemetery, I realized how much I want to meet Abraham Lincoln! What an inspired man! It was a great way to spend Memorial Day – remembering all of those people who have sacrificed so much so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have today.

Peace & Light Monument

Gettysburg Soldiers National Monument - it was here that Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg address at the dedication of the Cemetery

Wednesday, May 13

Family Time

After returning to the States after two weeks abroad, I was able to spend some quality time en famille as the French say (with the family). Monday was my sister-in-law's birthday. Since I didn't get home until Monday, we went out to dinner on Tuesday.

My brother, Roger

My adorable Mom

My sister-in-law Michelle and her daughter, Kambray. For some reason, we were all trying to pick up ice cubes with our chopsticks. Bray had a really hard time.

Finally, success!

My brother Charles, and his wife Mariah

Wednesday, my nephew (Eric) and his wife (Carolyn) took my mom out for Mother's Day. Another nephew (Kris - evidently he now goes by Kristian, but I missed the memo) was able to come, and I finally got to meet his girlfriend - she's adorable! I got to hang with two of my grand-nieces (great-nieces?) - also so adorable.

Sunday, of course, was Mother's Day. My brother (the chef) and sister-in-law arranged a great party with delicious food. PLUS, two of my nephews were there with their families (one nephew all the way from Seattle). I am quite blessed to have such a great family! I really do love them all!

My nephew Matt, his wife Heather, their four amazing boys and my mom

Henry with his red mustache

Heather and Matthew

Eric and his daughter, Caty

Caty on the swing (I know, I know - you can't see the swing, but trust me)

Cute Carolyn, trying to NOT get her picture taken

Cannon and Luke

Swinging Abi

Sunday, May 10

I love Paris in the springtime

I know it’s been almost a week since I’ve been home (crazy how quickly time passes), but I did want to document my two days in Paris. When our travel coordinator made our travel arrangements to Austria, our return flight was through Paris. I asked her to check how much more it would cost if I stayed the weekend in Paris and continued my flight home on Monday. YIPPEE for me – it was only $30 more. So, I used some of my hotel points and hung out for a couple of days. It was SO refreshing to be in a foreign country where I didn’t have to start every conversation with “do you speak English?” (or else just NOT have a conversation) Whew. We landed at Charles de Gaulle on Saturday at about 8:30 a.m., and I got to my hotel at around 11:00. I made arrangements to have dinner with friends (see below) at 7:00, so I spent the day walking around Paris – I took a book and sat in a few parks and read. I love it. I, of course, had a list of things to eat – foods that I’ve missed: pain au chocolat, paris-brest, a religieuse, crepes, etc.

After having dinner with Nadia and Malika on Saturday, I spent Sunday with the whole family of sisters I had met on my mission – I love those girls. And it just so happened that all five of them were in Paris this particular weekend (one lives in Southern France and another one lives about 2 hours outside of Paris). It was Malika’s youngest daughter’s birthday, so we had a birthday party (after church) at Nadia’s.

Church was so much fun – and I was quite happy with the fact that I still understood most of what was being said. I had forgotten how international the church is in Paris.
The bishop is American
The Relief Society President is Ukrainian
They have missionaries called to France to teach the large Chinese population – so they have to learn French to get around France and Chinese to teach the people they’re called to teach. Crazy!

I really do love France – when I visit, I feel like I’m coming home.


Malika and Soleya

Malika and Nadia

Fatiha and Adam

Farida and Perle