Friday, December 23, 2011

watch out dental school, here comes Brad T. Andersen

Three years ago when Brad applied to dental schools across the country we were sure he'd get into at least one. He had a great application - tons of volunteer and shadowing hours, a good DAT score, good letters of recommendation, a well-written personal statement. We had just gotten married, were still in college, and assumed that only the best awaited us when life would go exactly how we planned. When the news came in December of 2009 that he hadn't gotten into any of the 12 schools he had applied to, he took it at face value and was determined to apply again next year. He spoke with a member of the admissions committee who told him some things he needed to work on that would better his application and assured him that next year he'd be golden. He quickly found a job in Atlanta that he could support his little family with, and after graduation we made the trek across the country and moved our small amount of belongings into an apartment that we were positive we'd only be in for one year. We felt like we were in limbo. We knew we would only be staying there for one year, so everything we did in the meantime almost felt like a means to an end - just something to pass the time.
When June came around and it was again time to apply to dental school, Brad made all the changes on his application he needed to, sent it in, and was called back for an interview. We knew this was the year. We even went to Augusta and looked for cute little houses to move into, because we knew we'd be going there so we might as well go ahead and start thinking about where we'd live. December came around again, and we were both devastated to find out that he had once again not been accepted into dental school. To make matters worse, when he spoke with the admissions committee they couldn't give him one reason why he hadn't been accepted. They even told him that he should have been, but there wasn't enough room for everyone. I couldn't help but think, "Why him? Why not reject someone who had only applied once? Brad deserves this!"
When Brad and I first met each other I had no desire to date him. I thought he was a great guy, but I just wasn't interested. But nine months later after much persistence, dedication, and determination on his part we did end up dating. My wonderful and optimistic husband showed those same characteristics when going after another thing he wanted so badly - dental school. June 2011 he once again applied for dental school. He knew this was what he wanted, and he wasn't going to give up until he got it. He had done everything he possibly could; all we could do now was have faith and lots of patience.
On December 8th at 11am Brad got a call on his cell phone. He immediately recognized the area code from having conversed with the admissions committee so many times in the past two years. He knew they were either calling to tell him he had gotten in or that he had again been denied admittance. Sitting in his cubical at work he nervously answered only to be told that he had been accepted!!! He was so excited he couldn't get any work done the rest of the day.
I had been volunteering in the NICU all day and went to go pick him up from work. We drove home, I changed into pajamas, and he told me the great news. I made him wait in the bedroom as I hung up a banner I had been diligently working on for the past couple of weeks.
  Please ignore the pajamas. Brad conveniently waited to tell me after I had already changed. Also, I think it's hilarious that Killer is in the bottom of this picture not even paying attention to what we're doing.

That night we took dinner up to his parents' house and surprised them with the good news, and they took us out for dessert afterwards. The next night Brad and I went out to dinner at his favorite restaurant here in Atlanta to celebrate again.
I loved watching Brad go through all the documents he's saved over the years dealing with dental schools. He happily threw away old rejection letters and things he didn't need anymore. He made a pile of books to give away to some other unlucky student preparing for the DAT. He was so excited, and I was so excited to see him so happy. This good news has been a long time coming, and Brad will be the first to tell you that it has been one of the hardest trials in his life. While we don't know why the Lord put us on the path he did, we do have some pretty good ideas, and I'm sure throughout the years we'll come to understand even more. But for now, we're just happy to finally start the next chapter in our lives that we've waited so long for.
To inquiring minds who wanted to know more details than we knew at the time, Brad recently got his official acceptance letter in the mail. It came certified mail. Some guy brought it to our doorstep, and I had to sign for it in two different places. School starts August 19th, but he has be there August 15th for student orientation. As of right now, we still don't know what our plans are for when we'll actually move to Augusta, but we still have a while to decide.
Brad has said time and time again that this was all he wanted for Christmas. Too bad I didn't know sooner, I wouldn't have bought him anything :) Merry Christmas to Brad!

Brad & Courtney

Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Last Halloween we really wanted to have a MarioKart theme, but it was way too late and there just wasn't enough time to put anything together. So we went as this.
This year we were ready and waiting for Halloween. We meticulously planned our trunk decorations, because we were determined to win the Trunk or Treat competition. We got to the church, ate dinner, decorated our trunk, and were then told we weren't eligible for the competition. WHAT!? We parked right beside the Young Men's president, and the youth [not the presidencies] were in charge of handing out awards. He nonchalantly mentioned to us, after we spent tons of time decorating, that it probably wasn't fair for us to compete since I'm in the Young Women's presidency. BUMMER...We were so upset, but the show must go on (and we weren't about to take down everything and go home). I'm not gonna lie, our trunk was da bomb.
Just in case the picture doesn't do it justice, let me explain everything we had going on. Spider webs, of course. But Brad also made huge spiders out of tennis balls and straws. The two you can see the best are right below the ghosts, which Brad also made. The orange twinkle lights could be seen from a mile away in the dark parking lot, and the black light was what made our trunk the most popular of the night. Everything we put in the trunk glowed. We had little pumpkins we drew faces on with yellow highlighter. We had a huge pumpkin candy bowl, some awesome scorpions, and some very neat highlighter water (again made by Brad). As the kids came I gave them candy and then drew either a heart or a smiley face on their hand with a highlighter. Then they got to hold their hand out near the black light and see it glow. This was seriously the coolest thing they had EVER seen in their little lives. Just imagine if you had never seen a black light before. They were amazed. One of the moms came up to me the next day in church, and said, "When we got home last night I asked my daughter what her favorite part of Trunk or Treat was and she said, 'Seeing the heart on my hand glow.' She really loved your trunk!" She wasn't the only one either. Some of the kids completely forgot about their candy and walked off without getting any. Several times during the night we had traffic jams, because one or two kids just couldn't get enough of looking at their hand by the black light and were holding up the line. It was great. I mean that's what Halloween is all about - making kids happy. (Truth be told, I totally marked on their hands just to see if they were coming back multiple times for candy.) Well, the youth decided they wanted to give us a prize. The YM's president said, "Oh sure, why not? You obviously put in the effort." YES!! We won second place and a $10 gas card. Brad searched in vain for the car that had won 1st place but it was nowhere to be found. We [and everyone else who thought we should have won] still think it was rigged since we won last year as well. So we'll just say we won again this year. I don't feel bad about that at all.
Before I get to our costumes I'll show you how we made the pumpkin candy bowl. It was super duper easy. Brad cut the pumpkin almost in half. It was more like he just cut the top third off. Oh, and the pumpkin we got was more long than wide, so we put it on it's side to cut it. Then he scooped out the insides and cut tiny triangles out all along the edge of the pumpkin. Then I got a plastic grocery bag and lined the inside of the hollowed pumpkin. To keep the bag in place, I stuck sewing pins around the top of the bag.

And the finished product...drum roll please...
Alright, I know you've been waiting for it. Here are our costumes, dog included.
 Toad, Princess Peach, and Yoshi. 

Killer seriously HATED her costume, so we only made her wear it for the pictures. But she sure was cute.
And just in case anyone out there is wondering how to recreate these costumes for themselves. It's super easy and super inexpensive. 
Killer wore the same costume she wore last year, which meant we didn't spend anything on her's. At the time I think I bought it online for $15 or $20.
We headed over to Goodwill to pick up almost all of Brad's costume. His pants are a pair of white scrub bottoms that still had the tags on them. We decided on this pair mainly because there were perfectly clean (I still washed them though, don't worry) and because he'd wear them again for pajamas or just laying around the house. Having a second use for something definitely makes spending money on it a lot easier. The vest we also found at Goodwill. It's actually a black vest with a blue lining, so we turned it inside out and altered it down to his size since it was an XXL. Then he just wore a long-sleeved button-up white shirt. The hat was actually pretty ingenious, if I do say so myself. We got his scooter helmet, covered it with a piece of a white sheet (which we bought at Walmart for $5, but we also used some pieces for the trunk ghosts and we still have some left over to use at another time) and used fabric glue to stick the red dots on it. Overall I think we probably spent about $10 on his whole costume, and everyone knew exactly who he was the minute they looked at him.
My costume was probably the most expensive. I bought the dress at Goodwill a few months before and wore it to the roller derby finals. I also had to buy the pink long-sleeved shirt I wore underneath for about $7, but it's something I will [and have] worn again. I put on some white tights underneath and wore my awesome pink sneakers. I bought the white gloves at Target for $5. The wig was also a Target purchase for $15, which was way cheaper than anywhere else I looked. Most places were charging $30-$40 for the same kind of thing. But if you have blond hair then you won't even have to worry about it. The crown came from the dollar store (thanks for the tip Sara!). It was originally silver and had a nasty pink feathery thing around the bottom. I took the pink feathery off and painted it gold. All-in-all I'd say we probably got everything for Princess Peach for around $40. But like I said before, most of it I'll use again or wear on a normal day.
So, there you have it. Super easy, super cheap, and super creative.

And, just for fun, here are some more pictures.

We went over to David and Susie's for Halloween night to hand out candy to the trick-or-treaters there. Susie was a big fan of the long blonde/pink hair. She said when she was little she used to tie scarfs around her head and pretend she had long hair because her's never grew much longer than her shoulders. So sad. I couldn't even imagine what that would be like. Right now I've got more hair than I know what to do with. I wanted her to have lovely dreams of little Susie running through flowery fields with her long hair flowing behind her, which is why we now have this picture:
Sweet dreams Susie!

Happy Halloween!

Toad, Princess Peach, &Yoshi

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lake Powell

September seemed to be a whirlwind of a month. Only two days after my birthday Brad and I flew to Las Vegas to meet up with his family for one of the best vacations we've ever had. I kept telling people we were going to a family reunion, and Brad kept correcting me and saying we were going on a family vacation. Apparently a family reunion means a 100 people (80 of which you don't even know), team building (or should I say family building) exercises, lots of hot dogs, and custom-made matching family t-shirts. Our Lake Powell family VACATION was nothing like that. At all.

Lake Powell is one of the prettiest places I've ever been. It's seriously like a little oasis in the middle of the desert. We drove 5 hours from Vegas to Powell and not once did we see a tree or a single drop of water. Then all of sudden we turned a corner and there was a huge lake right in front of us. Definitely a breath-taking sight.
We rented a house boat for the week and Uncle Mike and Lindy brought their boat and jet skis.
Although none of the plans for activities during the day came to fruition, we all had a great time just hanging out on the boat or on the beach relaxing from the stresses of everyday life. Brad and I were constantly out on the boat or racing on the jet skis. I even learned to wakeboard (ok, not really. I just got up on the wakeboard and crashed like 3 seconds later, but, in my defense, I had never tried it before in my life. So I think I did pretty good. However, I'll probably just stick with skis from now on.)
There was a slide off the back of the house boat, and Chloe and I went down it probably about 1000 times, no joke. We also made friends with the huge carp that liked to hang out underneath and right beside the boat. They probably knew there were 5 little kiddos on board, and they would get some yummy scraps that accidentally (or not so accidentally) got thrown overboard. Chloe also let me take her out on the jet ski, and we got up to a whopping 14 miles an hour before she got scared for her life. But we sure did have a blast going super slow.
One afternoon some of us were able to get out and go over to West Canyon for a little hike. This was most definitely the highlight of the trip for me. The boat ride to get there seemed almost magical. We had high canyon walls on either side of us and bright blue and green water beneath us.

The further we got back into the canyon the more constricted the waterway became. We were more than careful as we slowed down to a crawl and everyone had their hands out ready to guard the side of the boat against the rocks. We finally tied up, climbed out, and got started on our hike. For the whole trip I hadn't seen any sign of vegetation other than a tiny brown srub, but it seemed like we had stumbled upon a tiny forest in West Canyon. There were trees and bushes all around.

Since Valeri didn't come on this hike with us Brad took over as acting photographer. I think he got some pretty good shots.
 And here's one of us:
On our way out of the canyon we ran over a log (we didn't see said log and we were going super slow). Well, turns out that it bent the prop so badly that we had to idle the whole way back to the house boat. Two hours. Poor baby Katie was starving and the only thing we had was a sucker I carelessly threw in my backpack before we left. That sucker entertained her for almost an hour though. She loved it! Of course we had no cell phone service so we couldn't call anyone back on the boat to let them know what happened. We just idled and idled the whole way home. By the time we got there Neil, David, and Mike were looking for the search and rescue number because they were sure we had gotten lost. Luckily we all made it back safe and sound, which is more than I can say for the boat. For the rest of the trip we had used the jet skis to get around.
Brad and I loved the West Canyon hike so much that we decided to go back the next day and explore a little more. After a few miles we found some awesome narrows that we had to swim through to get to the other side. It was some of the coldest water I've ever been in. The narrows were surrounded by high canyon walls and the path was only a few feet wide, which meant it never got any sun. It was also stagnate, disgusting, and smelt like cow manure. We also smelt like cow manure when we were through. If you've ever swam through a water-filled canyon you'll what I mean when I say I was completely banged up by the time we were through. It's pretty much impossible to see anything underneath you, which means occasionally you swam right into a huge rock just below the surface, which means I did it every 5 seconds. When we were out my knees and ankles were a bloody mess, and I was praying they wouldn't have to be amputated due to some nasty disease that got in the cuts. But it was amazing. The other side was another forest full of trees and plants and flowers, and I even think I heard some birds chirping. Unfortunately we didn't have a waterproof bag for our stuff, so we had to leave the camera behind, but we got some great pictures of the other parts of the hike.
 neat editing, courtesy of Brad Andersen
 Keens were our best friends on this trip.

We slept outside (mainly because we don't have a baby which means we don't really need a bed, and since Brad is the youngest we get last dibs on everything) and got to see the stars. I've missed being able to see the whole night sky lite up with stars. There's nothing quite like a desert night, in that regard.
Sleeping outside also meant lots of bugs. If all the lights on the top deck were turned off they weren't too bad, but even if one little headlamp came flickering on the bugs were immediately swarming. Here's a picture of them congregated off the back end of the boat where one light was on. It's hard to distinguish individual bugs since they move so quickly and their wings were reflecting the light, but you get the point. Insane.
 I woke up with bugs entangled in my hair, and I'm sure I swallowed enough to fill my quota for the next 30 years. We went to bed when the sun went down and woke up when the sun came up. We took baths in the lake and played till our hearts' content.

 We got to experience good food, a birthday party, great company, and some serious tantrums.
Thanks to all who made it possible!
photo courtesy of Valeri Andersen

And a special thanks to Mike Powell who graciously stopped the car in St. George on the way back to Vegas so we could partake in some long overdue Cafe Rio!
 photo courtesy of Valeri Andersen

Love, Brad & Courtney