Thursday, January 29, 2015

Spelling Bee

Bee Hives, Opelika, AL (painted in Waterlogue App).
Friday afternoon, Nate comes home from school and tells me he has qualified for the school spelling bee. I am ecstatic. Only two kids from each class have earned this honor. This is huge. This is the boy who was at odds with the public school establishment up through 3rd grade (he got in-school suspension the sixth day of kindergarten, for Pete's sake). This is the boy that has been diagnosed with a working memory deficit and ADD and "slower processing speed". This is the boy that struggled with spelling in 3rd grade. He has always been bright, but he has grown by leaps and bounds the last year and a half. I am so proud!

We couldn't be farther from LA, but still I have visions of him jumping rope to the rhythm of words like "obsequious" and "antediluvian" while Laurence Fishburne sits behind a desk in a leather swivel chair and coaches him.



***** I was in the class spelling bee in 7th grade. I made it to one of the final rounds and got eliminated on the word "gangrene". I spelled it like the color green. That would kind of make sense, wouldn't it? I have never forgotten the actual spelling of the word, or the bitter taste of disappointment. I decide that I am going to do what I can to help my sweet boy succeed.

***** On the way home from church Sunday we start quizzing Nate on spelling words. My husband keeps pelting ridiculously difficult words at Nate and I keep saying "he's in fifth grade". I don't think he'll be asked to spell "oligonucleotide" or whatever other behemoth of a word that dad has thought up. "Spell restaurant" says dad. It's too hard. Nate is afraid to even try.
"I'll give you a clue," I say. "It has some letters you can't hear."
He begins tentatively:
 "R---E---S---T---A---U---R---A---N-----G-H-T?
My dreams of him participating in the Scripps National Spelling Bee go up in a puff of smoke, but we all have a good laugh. It was actually a really intelligent guess given the clue I gave him. I think he's probably on his way to being a darn good Boggle or Scrabble player.

As we continue on our drive, dad decides it is high time that the little boys learn to spell "Mississippi". We all chant "M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I" for a couple of minutes until Specs pipes up from the back seat, giggling, "I like the 'PP' part."

My life may not be the stuff that movies are made of, but it can be pretty entertaining nonetheless.

Epilogue:  Nate participated in the spelling bee this past Monday. He came in a respectable 7th overall; he ranked 3rd out of the other 5th grade spellers. He was eliminated on the word "daughter" which he insists he spelled "D-A-U-G-H-T-E-R," but maybe he was misheard. I'll never know because I didn't get to attend due to a previous commitment. At any rate, he got to use that "G-H" that didn't work out for him in "restaurant".

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

New Beginnings: Embark

Around a year and a half ago I was asked to lead the group of girls at church from the ages of 12 to 18. I do this in a volunteer capacity and there are a few other great women who help me with this assignment. The program is called Young Women. Aside from Sunday lessons and midweek activities there are a couple of big programs a year for these young women. The program at the beginning of the year is called "New Beginnings" and it is a nice event that the girls who are turning 12 this coming year are invited to attend along with their parents and the other young women. We talk about the Young Women program and explain a really vital element of the program called "Personal Progress". Personal Progress is a  way for young women, their parents and leaders to set goals in specific areas (the Young Women values: faith, divine nature, individual worth, knowledge, choice and accountability, good works, integrity and virtue) that will help them grow and mature spiritually. 
The church also chooses a scripture for all the youth (young men too) to focus on during each calendar year. The scripture this year is from a book of scripture in our cannon called Doctrine & Covenants. It is from section 4, verse 2:


We decided to focus our New Beginnings program around the same scripture with a theme of "Embark."
Some of my ideas came from Pinterest. This is no secret. I like to think I'm good at executing other people's ideas and putting my own spin on them. I hope those women with the original creative ideas won't mind. I know on those rare occasions when I do get some creative genius, I am excited to share my ideas with others.
So first, to give credit where credit is due:
Creative inspiration for the scripture print: here (sorry, when I repinned it there wasn't an original source) and here
Creative inspiration for the decorations and favors: here, here and here.
I came up with the ideas paralleling Personal Progress with embarking on a journey, on my own.

So, now that all that business is out of the way, here's the fun stuff--pictures from our event.


We kept the refreshments simple. We wanted mostly finger foods. We had chicken salad sandwiches on croissants, two kinds of chips and dips, vegetable and fruit platters and the cutest sailboat cupcakes that my friend Liz made. We had water with lime slices (you know, to help prevent scurvy. Haha!) and lemonade on a separate drink table.


I love maps and globes and when you embark on a journey you have to chart a course so we incorporated those things into the decorations.


This was my husband's grandpa's suitcase. I filled it with visual aids for my talk and things that the young women and parents might like to see up close afterwards.



I found a map in the library and I loved the way the map looked in the inspiration that I linked above so I put it up with magnets and sketched out the first part of the scripture theme above it.


I wanted to have some kind of small favor and I thought life savers would be perfect since we were using boats as a big part of our decorations. I found these cute little mintbook covers on Pinterest so I made a bunch and had them in an apothacary jar at one end of the food table.



The cute sister missionaries in our area had come earlier in the week and helped me make paper boats so we had those scattered around the room as well.


Lots of people helped with all the work and providing the food, so it was a lot of fun and a big success.

Here's the run down of our program:
The meeting was presided over by our bishop and conducted by one of the young women.
Opening Hymn--Master, the Tempest is Raging
Opening Prayer--given by one of the young women
Young Women Theme--everyone stood and recited it together, lead by one of the young women
Youth Scripture for the Year--lead by one of the young women
Presentation of the Young Women Logo and Motto by one of the young women
Explanation of Personal Progress by me
Remarks from the Stake Young Women President
Remarks from the Bishop of our ward
Closing Hymn--As Zion's Youth in Latter Days
Closing Prayer--given by one of the young women
Refreshments


My talk paralleled the different aspects of embarking on a journey and elements of the Personal Progress program. I'm just going to sum up so you can get the gist of it.

Embark on Personal Progress
Personal Progress is a journey you are going to take through your years in Young Women. This is a lot like other journeys. You will need some help along the way and you will need a few things to make your voyage a happy, successful experience.

1. Passport--your personal progress book; you get stamps in your passport by completing goals (value experiences or value projects) and having your YW leaders or parents sign off on these.
2. Travelogue--your journal. Use it to keep track of where you have been and the experiences you have.
3. Map, Globe or Compass--this helps you know where to go. In Personal Progress your compass will be prayerfully considering value projects and experiences. The standards in For the Strength of Youth will also help keep you on course.
4. Tour Guides--Young Women leaders, your parents and priesthood leaders will be able to help you, point out opportunities and show you the sights along the way.
5. An itinerary--allow time regularly to work on Personal Progress. Plan to complete 1 value experience a month and 2 value projects (10 hours each) a year to stay on schedule. Your itinerary also includes coming to youth activities and Sunday meetings.
6. Lifesavers--for a safe journey you need to be equipped with a flotation device. The 8 Young Women values, when practiced and lived will keep you afloat.
7. An Anchor--provides stability and keeps the ship from drifting. Jesus Christ is our anchor. Following Him and reading his teachings in the scriptures will anchor you.
8. Souvenirs--mementos to remember your travels through Young Women include certificates, the Young Womanhood Recognition award (a beautiful gold or silver medallion) and the Honor Bee (a cute little bee charm)
9. A destination--our ultimate destination is to return to live with our Father in Heaven on day. Other ports of call along the way include callings, service opportunities, missions, and temple ordinances.

Personal Progress is the vessel to transport Young Women to where they want to be in this life and in the life to come.

I had several of these things as visual aids in the suitcase on the table at the front of the room.

We had some young women that weren't able to make it and it is always sad for them to miss out, but I think the ones that were there had a good time. Now we can breathe easy. At least until the next big event. :)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Confessions

  1. I keep wanting to like red velvet cake but I'm always disappointed. I recently bought some red velvet cake ice cream and I'm sitting here eating a dish of it wishing it was just plain old chocolate.
  2. Driving in traffic seriously brings out the worst in me. I often drive too fast and I sometimes call people rude names when I'm driving. 
  3. I used to bite my nails to the quick when I was a kid. At some point in my later teen/early adult years I quit, but sometimes when I am nervous or scared I will still chew on them--I just don't bite them down like I used to. 
  4. Of course I think my husband with his full head of thick, handsomely graying hair is the best,
    but I have some celebrity crushes and I noticed recently that there are an inordinate number of older bald men among them: Patrick Stewart, Michael Jordan, Sean Connery, Peter Gabriel, Terry O'Quinn. There are also a fair number of Brits on the celebrity crush list. I am kind of a sucker for an accent.
  5. I don't dislike them, but I think The Beatles are overrated and I can only think of one song by Elvis Presley that I even like ("A Little Less Conversation", in case you are wondering.)
  6. Speaking of music, I am notorious for mishearing lyrics. For example, the first time I heard "Stairway to Heaven", I thought Robert Plant was singing "and there's a wino down the road." Also, it wasn't until this past summer that my brother-in-law set me straight on "Kyrie". All these years I've been singing it "carry a laser down the road that I must travel..." Go ahead, laugh. I'm ridiculous, I know.
  7. I am impatient. I punched a hole in my older boys' bedroom ceiling yesterday. Not because I was angry, but because they have a dropped ceiling and I wanted to know what's under there. I should have waited until we had the money to replace it with drywall, but like I said, I'm impatient. Now they have a hole in their ceiling and no way for us to fix it until we get our tax return. Oops.
  8. Sometimes I can hear a mouse in my ceiling. It creeps me out a little, but not nearly as much as bats. Or head lice.
  9. I am rubbish at stress management. I often over-react or freak out. Case in point:
  10. I put mayonnaise on my hair and left it there for two hours on Saturday night.
Whaaa? Yes. You read that right. Mayonnaise. "Why?", you ask. Because even though I had two different people check my head (including the school nurse at my kids' school) and assure me that I was/am lice free, I couldn't stop itching. So, Saturday I had had enough and I decided what could it hurt? Supposedly if there are any lice, the mayo smothers them but you have to leave it on long enough to work. The Minnesota Department of Health says eight hours. The nurse at school said two. I figured two would be enough to give me some peace of mind and maybe at least moisturize my scalp so I wouldn't be so itchy. Plus I couldn't really bear the thought of spending eight hours smelling like macaroni salad. 

Any real mayonnaise will work. I just happen to prefer Hellman's so that's what I had on hand. If I ever do this again I'll just get the cheap stuff.

I slathered it on all over my hair. I just took globs of it and rubbed it into one section of hair at a time making sure to cover all my hair and scalp thoroughly. I covered my head with a shower cap to hold in the heat and prevent messy mayo drips and set my timer for two hours--plenty of time to play some Trivia Crack and watch some Netflix with my boys.
I had to shampoo my hair a couple of times to get all the mayo out, but let me tell you, I was amazed by how silky and shiny it made my locks.

After shampooing, I just combed it out with a nice wide toothed comb because it was a little tangly still and I didn't want to break or tear my hair. 

I have used an apple cider vinegar rinse on my hair before too and it also helps with shine. And the smelling like a salad thing.

I just labeled my jar and I'll keep it in the fridge until next time. If you don't want to put cold mayo on your head just let it sit at room temperature for 20 minutes or so. You aren't going to eat it so I would guess you don't really need to be worried about salmonella.
After combing out my hair, I blow dried it since I was going to bed and didn't want to sleep on a wet head.
Here it is the next day. I took a car selfie for you since cars always have good natural light. See how shiny it looks?
 
And here is one more. And my final confession: I think I have great hair.
So what do you think? Would you ever use mayonnaise on your hair? I think I will use it again the next time I need a deep conditioning treatment. Hopefully there never will be a next time that my kids get lice.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Happy as Kings

Last week I wrote a blog post about bliss. I have been making an effort to survive the January blahs by focusing on what makes me happy. I know we are only in the second full week of January but it has been a pretty rough start to the year so far. On top of different health related issues, the weather is retched--bitterly cold and  often gray. And my husband has been putting in crazy hours in the lab so there's that too. I don't want to sound like a whiner, but really? Anyone else out there having this stellar of a January?

Anyway, the point of all this is that despite all these unfortunate events, I'm in reasonably good spirits. Oh, I have my moments (there have been a couple of all-out bawl-fests in the last couple of weeks), but for the most part I'm still able to get myself out of bed in the morning and not snap at my family too much. I'm going to chalk my keeping my sanity up to a few different things: good friends that let me vent without judgement, a ready supply of chocolate, a little daily dose of scripture reading, my newly cleaned out attic where I can retreat from the world and watch a little Downton Abbey on Sunday evenings and counting my blessings. I really have so much to be grateful for.

I grew up with my mother reading poetry to me at bedtime. I love this couplet from Robert Louis Stevenson's book A Child's Garden of Verses.
The world is so full of a number of things.
I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings.

It inspired me to create this print. I already did a simple print with my previous post, but I wanted to do this one as well. You can download it for free by clicking on the image then right click and "save image as". I usually save to my desktop then I know right where it is when I am ready to print it out.

I know it's a little girly. I have sons, but I thought I'd print it out and put it in my craft room in the attic as a reminder to myself. If there's interest in a more boyish version let me know in the comments and I'll see what I can do.

P.S. I updated my about me section and made myself a new blog banner. Check them out!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Bliss

I love podcasts. This American Life, Serial, Snap Judgement and Radiolab are my favorites. I listen to them while I clean or cook or fold laundry. They make me feel smart and keep me company in my quiet house until my boys get home from school and the house is no longer quiet in the slightest. Today I was catching up on some older episodes of Radiolab. In particular I listened to an episode titled "Bliss."

Here is a free 8x10 print for you from me.

It starts with a story about a Swedish man, Aleksander Gamme, who is on an Antarctic expedition. In this video he is going through a bag of supplies that he had previously cached. He is on day 86 of the expedition and quite hungry. It's in Swedish but it doesn't matter. This transcends language. Be sure to watch it all the way to the end.



Wasn't that great? I have watched it half a dozen times now. It made me smile and laugh and it also got me thinking: what is my idea of bliss?

 For my sons, bliss is:
"All the lights are off. I'm listening to music and I don't have any homework or any obligations to anyone." He is a 16 year old boy. Enough said.
"When people are not annoying. Seafood. My magic scarf." He got an awesome black and cream plaid scarf from American Eagle for Christmas. He says it's magic because it keeps him warm even when he isn't wearing a coat.
"Spinach. Or my birthday." My kids are a little weird.
"Having Minecraft on the iPad." He says this because I recently deleted it. I don't like how addicted my kids get to it.

For me bliss is extreme happiness, but also peace, a feeling of well-being, and spiritual contentedness. Here are some of my blissful things:
  1. Curling up with a good book
  2. Falling asleep to the sound of rain
  3. Crunching through leaves on a bright, crisp autumn day
  4. Beautiful music
  5. Fresh sheets, line dried if possible
  6. Cold, cold water to drink on a hot day
  7. Soft, warm socks on a cold day
  8. Daffodils, lilacs, hydrangeas and a host of other fresh flowers
  9. The sound of the ocean
  10. Looking at the stars on a clear night
  11. Walking barefoot in thick grass
  12. Laughing until my stomach hurts
  13. Being with my family--snuggling with my children and hearing them laugh
  14. Finding a handwritten letter or a thoughtful package in my mailbox
  15. Date night with my husband
  16. Fresh raspberries or peaches; perfectly fried bacon; chocolate; pretty much any delicious food--I just love food--I'm an emotional eater and this is why.
  17. Creative time--time to write or to make something crafty
  18. Going on a walk when the weather is pleasant
  19. A chatty phone call with my sister or a dear friend
  20. A great bargain; getting a fantastic deal on something makes me giddy
  21. Hitting all the traffic lights green when I am in a hurry
  22. Blue skies in the winter
  23. A leisurely stroll through a museum or a botanical garden
  24. New stationery
  25. Getting a clean bill of health for me and my family after having to face one of my worst parenting fears earlier this week
And there are so many other things that make me blissful too.

What are your blissful things?
Here's to finding our bliss in the cold, dark days of January.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Introducing the 2015 Word of the Year...

Each year for the last few years, I have chosen a word of the year. The word gives me focus and serves as a more general reminder of specific goals I set for myself. I have been thinking about my word for 2015 for a couple of months now. I have considered several words: "work", "happy", "adventure", "better", "change", etc. among others, but ultimately I decided on "fearless". I feel like fear has held me back in so many areas of my life. Even as I was rereading this post, contemplating whether to hit publish and share my word (and my fear) with the world, I hesitated. Do I really want to commit to being fearless this entire year? Is fearless a good enough word? Will people think I chose this word because I'm a Taylor Swift fan? (For the record, I'm not. I don't dislike her, but I really am not all that familiar with her stuff. I didn't even know she had an album titled "Fearless" until I was looking for fearless quotes on Pinterest. But I digress). I am not a risk taker. I don't like change all that much. I have a serious aversion to any kind of confrontation. I have been perfectly happy in my comfort zone. Until recently. Some things have happened that have helped me recognize a need for me to step outside that comfortable bubble, both for my own well-being and for the welfare of my family. I think I need "fearless" as my word to help me with what is before me this coming year.
via
There are things I need to do--changes I need to make in my life in order to be the best version of myself. I feel that I do have a mission in life, but I am still struggling to understand exactly what that mission is. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. I have no doubt that being a wife and mother is my greatest calling, but I also think there is more that I am supposed to accomplish. I recognize the vital importance of keeping my four boys fed and clothed; I am not discounting these mundanities. It is almost a full time job just to keep up with the laundry around here. Still, in a short while I will have a son heading off to college and a mission and his brothers will be following more quickly behind him than I care to admit.
via
I have so much fear: fear of the future, fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear that I am not good enough, fear of showing too much of myself to the world, fear of reaching out to others, fear of rejection. It is exhausting. I don't want to be afraid anymore. Fear has kept me from being my total authentic, honest self. And I don't know why. 
via
I am a woman of faith. Or at least I try to be. I love the scripture that says, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (2 Timonthy 1:7) God doesn't want me to be fearful. He wants me to be faithful! He wants me to rely on Him. And he wants me to succeed. The scriptures actually have quite a bit to say concerning the subject of fear (or more specifically, of not fearing). I'm looking forward to studying more of their wisdom on the subject this year.
via
I'm an introvert. I'm not apologizing--just explaining. I think sometimes my discomfort in reaching outside of myself translates into fear. I had a friend tell me once that her initial impression of me was that I am very serious. Ha! Those who know me the best know that I can be serious but that is not who I am all the time.  It might take a little more time to get to know me, but it is worth it. If you don't already know, I am pretty amazing. Oh, I'm not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I do have a lot to offer. I am a good and loyal friend. I am a nurturer. I am creative and talented. I am dependable. I am funny. I am a good listener. I try to do the right thing. I love Jesus. And starting now, I. Am. Fearless. (or at least I'm working on becoming so).

More FEARLESS inspiration HERE.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Fall Photo Shoot

This year I decided to forego school pictures. I have lived places where you can see a proof of the photo before deciding to buy, but around here you pay first and are stuck with whatever weird/unfortunate face your kid decides to make when the school photographer says "say cheese" (my friend Megan's 3rd grade school picture sporting plastic vampire fangs is a cautionary tale, albeit a hilarious one). Don't get me wrong--this unpredictability is part of the charm of school photos. My nephews and nieces had some priceless ones this year. You can't buy those kinds of memories. Oh. Wait. Yes, you can (for only $40 a kid!). But, I've never been much of a gambler and I'd rather not spend our money on photos of my boys with painful fake smiles and sweaty hair because they had P.E. or recess before it was their class's turn for pictures (yes, this has happened to us before). These photographs are going to be gracing our family room walls for at least the next year, so I want them to show my boys' personalities and be somewhat pleasant to look at. So, last Monday on Columbus Day (no school!) I bribed all four of them with promises of food, (of course) to let me take a bunch of pictures at our favorite scenic locale.


I'm an amateur. I have a decent, but not great camera, but I do have good looking kids (if you'll pardon my saying so), and I was reasonably happy with how the pictures turned out. Now I just need to decide which ones I want to have printed. I took well over 200 pictures (digital cameras--a blessing and a curse) because there were roughly 150 photos where one or more of my children a.) had their eyes closed, b.) were making a weird face/talking, c.) weren't looking at the camera or d.) all of the above. Anyway, I managed to narrow the final choices down to these.

First the individual portraits:
Danny #1

Danny #2

Nate #1

Nate #2

Joel #1

Joel #2

Seth #1

Seth #2
And now the group shots:
 Group Photo #1

 Group Photo #2

 Group Photo #3

 Group Photo #4

 Group Photo #5

 Group Photo #6


 Group Photo #7

 Group Photo #8
I'd love to hear what you think. I'm having a tough time deciding. Which ones should I have printed? Chime in with opinions in the comments, please. Also, grandparents, take note: I will accept requests for your favorites as Christmas presents this year. They won't be a surprise, but I'm sure you will love them anyway.

And just for fun, here are some of the many, many outtakes--the best of the worst, if you will.
Clockwise from the top:
The Something-on-the-ground-is-more-interesting-than-the-photographer shot
The Picking-the-nose/This-is-torture shot
The Stifled-yawn shot
The Quit-distracting-your-brother shot
The Photographer-doesn't-know-what-she's-doing/This-pose-was-obviously-a-bad-idea shot
The Everyone-is-doing-something-weird-in-this-picture shot

The boys were getting tired toward the end, but we actually had a pretty fun time. It was a beautiful fall day and in between photos there was plenty of playing and running around. We laughed a lot too. I'd do it again, but probably not until next year. Or the year after that.

Do you buy school pictures or have a professional photographer do photos for you or do you just bite the bullet and do it yourself? Tell me in the comments.