May 30, 2012

School's out for summer!

Another school year has come and gone.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised; Kate was born the first week of school and now she's nine months old!  Am I the only mom who thinks the second semester passes much more quickly than the first?

Gavin's preschool ended a week before the big boys got out.  He was more than ready.  For the last month, Gavin had a hard time believing that preschool was a good idea.  Once at school, he always had a great time.  But getting ready was quite a chore, and he loved having Fridays off.  Gavin posed for a photo on his last day, and I couldn't help but compare it to his picture on the first day of school!

Garry took some fun photos of Zach and Tyler since I was still in Mesa on Friday.  Following those is a picture from the first day of school.

The kids have really grown since their first day of school back in August, haven't they?

This morning I had the boys write little recaps of their school year.  They made me smile.

From Tyler:

From Zach:

We are all glad for a break from the morning rat race , but we are still trying to find our groove with a summer routine.  It will come eventually, right?

Here's to sunshine and Popsicles and parks and swimming pools.  Happy summer!

May 27, 2012

The gift of friendship

While in Mesa I had two awesome lunch dates with friends.

First I gathered with some friends from high school.  Heather, Julie, Erica, Christa, and I seemed to pick up right where we left off 16 years ago (man, we are old!).  We laughed and laughed and laughed, especially after Chad joined us near the end of lunch.  He took the picture below.  We all had such a good time together!

I also met with dear Melanie a couple of times.  We stood in the blazing heat to take a crazy picture that didn't turn out very well, but that doesn't taint my fond recollections of our lunch, which wasn't nearly long enough, or her daughter's wedding the weekend prior.  Getting my "Melanie fix" a couple times a year doesn't come close to satisfying my need, but I'm so glad she moved to my hometown so periodic visits are possible.

I am truly blessed with wonderful friends.

Celebrating the graduate

My baby sister has graduated high school!  In the midst of the drama related to my parents' house fire, we were happy to celebrate Holly and her many accomplishments.

On Sunday we attended Baccalaureate at Mesa High.  Holly was relieved to wear her own cap and gown, which had been airing out all day and was amazingly free from its smoky smell by 6:00 p.m.  Holly accompanied a musical number during the program and posed for many pictures afterward.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, we attended two Senior assemblies.  As student body president, Holly conducted both.  It was fun for me to see her in action.  Holly also earned a scholarship through the Service Learning program and received the Principal's Award. She has done great service to her school and community during her years in student council.

Holly graduated from the LDS Seminary program on Tuesday evening.  Most of the family attended that graduation ceremony, and then we went out for ice cream.

My parents treated a party of 22 to dinner at Rosa's to celebrate Holly.  I didn't take any pictures, but we had a great time.

Mesa High graduation was Thursday evening.  Holly had a big cheering section in the stands.  We did the wave and hollered like crazy when my parents (seated on the field) were recognized because Holly is the sixth and last Dixon child to graduate from Mesa High.  My brother David, his wife Rachel, and I sang along (in three-part harmony) with the MHS choir when they sang "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."  And of course, we made quite a ruckus when Holly received her diploma.

I'm so glad I had the chance to participate in all of Holly's graduation festivities.  She and I had some good times together last week.  She was just two years old when I left for college, so I'm happy that we have developed a good relationship.  I am very proud of my little sister.

Fire update

Everyone who has heard about my parents' house fire last week seems to be clamoring for details, so here is an update.

My parents have excellent homeowners insurance and are well-covered for an event like this, but the restoration process is still staggering.  Two restoration companies (one provided by the insurance company and one called in by my parents) have assessed the damage and provided estimates called "the scope of work."  This covers reconstructing areas of the home damaged by fire, water and smoke, as well as restoring smoke-damaged personal belongings.  The contractors have taken measurements, crawled around the attic, and evaluated many things, both inside and outside the home.

Although the fire itself was contained to a fairly small area, it seems that smoke and water damage are extensive.  Both estimates call for completely reconstructing the three bedrooms upstairs, and possibly the ceilings in the rooms below them.  The insulation in the attic will be replaced.  Parts of the roof will be replaced.  The carpet will be thoroughly cleaned or completely replaced.  The entire inside (and part of the outside) of the house will be painted.  

Reconstruction is probably the least complicated part of the restoration.  Cleaning all of the belongings is a time-intensive, complicated process.  The insurance company will send people to photograph, inventory, and pack every single item in the house. Workers will account for every spool of thread, every can of food, every book, every shoe, every earring, every DVD, every instrument, every piece of electronic equipment--and everything else!  They will then take all of the belongings to a warehouse for assessment and special cleaning.  They will determine whether the expense of cleaning exceeds the value of the item, and either clean and return it or give a "replacement value" financial settlement.  They will keep items like electronics and the piano in climate-controlled storage until the house is ready to be occupied again.

At the moment, my parents are trying to decide which of the restoration contractors to use.  The bids didn't determine a clear-cut winner, so they are carefully weighing their options.  Once they choose a contractor, things like a timeline and details on permanent housing will emerge.  One contractor's reconstruction estimate was six to eight weeks. The other estimated four to six months.  Friends who have had restoration work done suggest adding a month or two to any estimate.  My mom says she'll be glad to be back her house by Christmas, which seems so far away!

Neil and Andrea Jones on my parents' street were kind enough to host us from the time of the fire until Friday afternoon.  They were so gracious and accommodating and made our stay so comfortable.  Ryan, my brother, had planned to move out of my parents' home in a few weeks, so he accelerated that effort and moved to his new apartment on Monday night.  After I left on Friday, Mom, Dad, and Holly moved to a Residence Inn (paid for by insurance), which they say is quite comfortable.  It has two bedrooms and two bathrooms, a living area, and a small kitchen.  They will stay there for a week, which should allow time to choose a contractor, develop a timeline, and find some long-term housing.  They are hoping for a vacation home close to their house so that they can monitor construction progress and maintain the yard through the hot summer.  

While I was in town, I was so moved by the outpouring of service and generosity towards my family.  Often it was the little details--like the pitcher of water Andrea provided in the fire's aftermath--that meant so much.  Colleen Shumway loaned me contact cleaning solution when my eyes were burning Sunday night and I couldn't get my own solution out of the house.  Mom is scheduled to attend stake girls camp on Tuesday and was talking to a friend about needing to borrow camping supplies.  She said, "I don't even have a pillow!" The next morning, four brand-new pillows and pillow cases showed up on the Jones's porch.  The McKay family provided dinner at their home twice, loaned blankets for saving seats at Holly's graduation, and washed laundry.  The Shumways fed us and washed laundry, too.  Eric, my brother, and his wife did literal mountains of our laundry, and Eric ironed an unbelievable number of shirts for Dad and Ryan.  Many people dropped off wonderful gifts for Holly, and Andrea decorated her room with graduation signs.  It was a big week for my little sister, and those things eased the upheaval.  I am probably forgetting some of the angels who helped us, but all of us were so grateful for their service.

My parents are amazing.  They have been unbelievably positive, happy, and cheerful.  In a very stressful, life-altering situation, they have been calm.  They have always said that life is not about the things you collect; it is about the people you love.  Over the last week, Mom and Dad have said many times that they have their family, and if they lost everything else, they'd be okay.  They are certainly acting on their beliefs and demonstrating great faith that things will all work out.  I feel so blessed by their incredible example.

On behalf of my family, I extend many thanks to those of you who are praying for the Dixons.  Thank you for your love and concern and support.  All is well.

May 23, 2012

Bride & Groom

One of the many reasons I came to Mesa this week
was to attend a wedding.
Karlie, the bride, is the daughter of my dear friend Melanie,
who moved to Gilbert two years ago.
The sealing was beautiful, the bride was radiant,
and the reception at my parents' home was perfectly lovely.
I am so glad I got to be a part
of such a special day for people I love.

Best wishes for your "happily ever after," Karlie and Andrew!

May 22, 2012

Nine months

Kate turned nine months old on Sunday.  It's amazing to think that she has spent as much time out in the world as she did in my belly.  The second nine months definitely went better than the first nine!

Garry took some darling pictures of our girl.  I can't get enough of them. They express her personality so perfectly, and I'm thrilled that he caught her smiling.

Kate is a busy, happy, beautiful light in our family.  She crawls, but mostly just to something that helps her stand up.  She often goes "hands free" when standing next to the couch, and she's starting to warm up to the push toys we have around the house.  I don't anticipate walking in the next month, but she could definitely surprise me.  Kate loves drawers and toilets and cupboards and shoe bins and toy bins and necklaces and earrings and long hair.  Pulling things out of place is her favorite thing (aside from standing).

Kate got three teeth this month.  The first two came on the same day...on top!  A few days after that her bottom left tooth arrived.  The other bottom tooth hasn't shown up yet, but we expect its debut any day.  Since the teeth broke through, Kate finally started sleeping through the night again!  She generally sleeps from 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.  {Insert a rousing round of the Hallelujah Chorus.}  On nights when she gets up once or twice, Garry takes care of her (bless his sainted heart).  It's amazing how much better I feel after a full night's rest.  Kate also takes a morning nap (quite flexible in time and length) and a terrific afternoon nap (usually 2.5-3 hours).

Kate enjoys taking walks in the stroller and playing in her exersaucer in the yard while the big people work or play.  She loves a light breeze.  She babbles as she watches the world go by.  She definitely likes to explore her environment.  She has become very hard to handle at church.  Only nine more months until nursery!  Haha.

Kate shows her excitement by kicking her legs and clapping her feet.  It's the cutest thing ever.  If she's sitting down, she bounces up and down on her bum or moves her legs back and forth, kind of waving them like butterfly wings.  If she's being held, she kicks and wiggles her lower half quite vigorously.  No hand waving or clapping yet, but her feet have the system down pat!  Things that elicit such a reaction are a parent's return after an absence and fun music.  Zach can also make her laugh like no one else can.  It's awesome.  Those two have a very special bond.

Kate weighs 20.8 pounds (82%), is 26.8 inches tall (23%), and has a head circumference of 19 inches (100%).  What she lacks in height, she makes up for in brains, apparently.  Her growth and development are right on track.

We sure love our little Kate.  She really is a joy.

May 20, 2012


Sunday morning began approximately one hour after Saturday ended.  It started with Holly rousing me from sleep and shouting, "Wake up!  The house is on fire!  We need to get out of here!"


When my brain finally caught up with my feet, six fire engines were on the street in front of my parents' house.  Half a dozen firefighters in full gear were running to the scene.  A huge hose was spraying water at the garage.  Dad stood next to me, running his hands through his hair, staring bleakly at the home where he had raised his family for the last 21 years.

The street was full of fire trucks.

Dad told the firefighters what started the fire.
The entire scene was surreal.  It was 1:00 a.m.  My parents and brother and sister and I were in our pajamas, standing on the street in bare feet, watching the firefighters do their work.  We watched as they walked into the house with pick-axes.  We stared as the ceiling of the garage fell in a shower of sheet rock, foam, and plaster.  We couldn't believe that the house was actually on fire.

As we stood on the neighbor's lawn, details of the fire began to emerge.  Around 12:30 a.m., Ryan and Holly were watching TV in the family room downstairs.  Dad and I had gone to bed around 11:00 p.m.  My mom retired shortly after midnight.  We were all especially tired that night, having spent the day preparing for and hosting a wedding reception in the backyard.  It was a glorious event (post to come), but needless to say, we'd all earned some sleep that night.  Mom, however, was restless.  Eventually she got out of bed, set on taking some Tylenol to soothe her aching feet and legs.  That's when she smelled something burning.

She went upstairs to investigate and found smoke in two of the rooms and hallway.  She quickly went back downstairs and woke Dad.  They ran back up together and found smoke pouring out of an outlet in Holly's room, which is just above the garage.  Dad immediately knew that the fire was in the attic.  While Mom called 911, Dad ran into the garage and discharged two fire extinguishers into the attic entrance.  As Mom walked out the front door, Ryan (23) and Holly (18) went outside with her.  Just as Dad emerged, they all noticed flames coming from the top of the garage door.  Ryan and Dad used a hose to douse those flames.  Holly ran back inside, this time through smoke, to pull me out of bed.  I had the presence of mind to grab my purse.

Then the fire engines came--all six of them.  They quickly got to work, and though it seemed to us that the fire was out immediately, they worked for some time before declaring the fire contained.  Meanwhile, we walked to the nearest neighbor's house, where a group of concerned neighbors was congregated.  A firefighter treated Holly for smoke inhalation.  Eric (another brother) showed up to help and support.  Neighbors offered jackets and shoes.  Eventually one firefighter went into the house and retrieved our cell phones and flip flops.

Several firefighters were inside, too.

Holly received an oxygen treatment on the neighbor's lawn.

Mom and Dad talking to a firefighter about the damage.

The last fire truck on the scene.

When things calmed down, the firemen took off their gear.

Eventually a firefighter briefed Mom and Dad on the damage.  The fire had started with an outdoor light fixture above the garage.  It had apparently been smoldering for some time.  The firefighter said that Dad's quick action with the fire extinguishers saved the house from burning to the ground.  Five more minutes and the roof would have been aflame, and little could have been done to save it.  As it was, Holly's bedroom, as well as the attic and garage below, sustained structural damage.  The entire house was full of acrid smoke.  The firefighters had cut the power immediately upon arrival, and a man from the city's electrical company had also come and removed the electricity meter from the house.  The home was declared uninhabitable.

The garage was full of foam and water and lots of damaged property.

Another view of the garage.

Foam dripping from the burned eaves above the garage door.

Collecting belongings from the house.

Around 3:00 a.m., the firefighters left.  Dad, Mom, Holly, Ryan, Eric, and I went inside to collect a few belongings, none of which were damaged, aside from the terrible smoky smell that permeated everything.  We picked up computers and cameras and toiletries and shoes and some clothes to wear to church later on.  We had many offers for places to stay, but we ended up at the bishop's house down the street.  I was the first to go to sleep for what was left of the night (around 3:30), but the rest were awake for at least another hour, just processing the experience and working out details.

Before I woke up at 8:00 a.m., a neighbor had picked up our church clothes (including slips, socks, and underwear) and taken them home to wash.  They were ready in time for us to attend church at 11:00 a.m.  Eric and another neighbor were washing enough clothing to get us through the week.  So many neighbors offered food and beds and helping hands.  It was really quite touching.  And people at church offered more of the same.

We spent some time in the house picking up a few more things--sunglasses, prescriptions, cell phone charging cables, and other random things--and also watered plants and the grass, since the sprinkler system was no longer functional.  I took the opportunity to snap a few photos, too.

The charred eaves.

A view of the garage and the damaged eaves.

One of the fire extinguishers Dad used in the attic.

Some of the damage in Holly's room.

More of Holly's room.


A view of the garage ceiling from below.

The Sunday paper still showed up.

This must have been the time that the firemen cut the electricity.

A fine layer of smoke dust covers everything in the house.
This afternoon Dad called the insurance company and started making a plan for damage assessment and repair.  Mom and Dad have good insurance and eventually things with the house will be restored.  However, we have all been deeply grateful for a loving God who was watching over things far more important than a physical home.  We are so grateful for the guardian angels who kept Mom awake, and for the ones who directed Dad to spray in the attic.  We are thankful we all escaped the house without injury.  We are thankful for the firefighters who responded so quickly, worked so ably, and attended to our needs so compassionately.  I am so grateful that my children are safe and sound in Colorado and were spared the trauma of this experience.  And of course we are thankful to the charitable souls around us who have pledged unlimited service at this time of crisis.

In a few days I will return to Colorado.  I'm sad I won't be here to help clean up the aftermath.  But I'm so glad to know that my family has each other, no matter the physical distance that separates us.  That's all that really matters.

pass it on!

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